I have received some campaign emails from constituents about the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak on people with disabilities and Scope’s Disability Report.
I agree that it is vitally important to address the key findings in Scope's report and I know colleagues in both the Department for Work and Pensions and the Government Equalities Office are working together with disability charities and businesses to produce practical measures that will transform the daily lives of people with disabilities and ensure they can fully participate in society.
The Government acted quickly to suspend all face-to-face assessments for health and disability-related benefits while also extending award periods, giving people peace of mind that their benefit payments would continue. I am encouraged that Ministers are protecting the health of individuals claiming these benefits, many of whom are likely to be at greater risk of severe Coronavirus symptoms due to their pre-existing health conditions.
Individuals who are living with a disability and are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable can access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS). The Government’s support package during the pandemic sits alongside a substantial set of welfare support for individuals with disabilities. The Government will spend over £55 billion in 2020/21 on benefits to support disabled people and people with health conditions.
There are also opportunities for positive change. The way many of us work has, for example, changed. Normalising working from home and other adjustments is one way we can emerge from this into a world which better embraces people with disabilities.
My view is that measures in the Coronavirus Act are temporary and proportionate to the threat we face. It is important that they will only be used when strictly necessary and will only be in place for as long as required to respond to the public health emergency. Local authorities are still expected to do as much as they can to comply with their duties to meet needs during this period, and the legislation does not remove the duty of care towards an individual's risk of serious neglect or harm. The legislation must not be used as cover for negating basic duties.
National Disability Strategy
The National Strategy for Disabled people is a key opportunity to enact changes that really makes a difference to people with disabilities. There is exciting work underway between my colleagues in government, disability charities and businesses to produce practical measures that will transform the daily lives of people with disabilities and ensure they can fully participate in society. The strategy will be ambitious and will support people with disabilities in all aspects and phases of life.
The National Strategy for Disabled People will build on evidence and data, it will also be based on insights from people’s daily experiences. The strategy will include existing commitments, like the increase in special educational needs and disability funding and careers advice, as well as identifying areas where further improvement is required.