Chamber UK hosted an interview between Marsha de Cordova, Labour MP for Battersea and Abdi Mohamed, the Public Affairs Manager at Scope UK. Marsha is a former Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities and Shadow Disabilities Minister.
Marsha is hugely passionate about the lives of disabled people in the UK – as someone who is registered blind, she empathises with disabled individuals who are incurring financial burden due to the cost-of-living crisis and is keen to push the Government to take action.
The cost-of-living crisis
The interview was kicked off with a discussion on Scope’s recent report which found that disabled families on average are incurring an extra cost of £975 per month. Talking about these findings, Marsha argues that the Government is letting people down. She states:
“Naturally, in this cost of living and energy crisis, costs are going to be higher for a multitude of different reasons. The government’s cost of living payment of £150 really in my view was an absolute insult and went nowhere near supporting disabled people enough in difficult and challenging times.
“We need to look at this in the broader context of we’ve had 13 years of austerity and there have been cuts to support for disabled people from social security to social care to the independent living fund. Disabled people really have been hit by Tory austerity, there is no two ways about it and they are being hit even more so now.”
Talking about her personal experiences as an MP, Marsha mentions that she had recently held a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament on financial support for disabled people. As part of that, a survey was given to disabled people which gave them the opportunity to share their own personal experiences of the cost-of-living crisis.
Marsha says that the results of this survey were “heart-wrenching” and “harrowing” with many people reporting that they were having to make decisions in regard to whether to keep their vital medication refrigerated or not and whether to eat or heat. This got De Cordova thinking more than ever about what the government can do for them. She said:
“Let’s take social security as an example, the government has failed, despite my calls, to uprate social security in line with inflation. But you’ve also got to look at the rates of social security and we know they are not enough. I am in favour of minimum income standards because they will take into account the additional costs that disabled people face.
“Then you have the additional challenge of being able to access support. People are having to fight tooth and nail and go to appeals processes to get the support they are entitled to. When you think about universal credit, the assessment process is flawed.
Should the government do more? Yes absolutely. Recently in parliament, they gave a statement to highlight this £150 cost of living support as if they were doing something great but frankly ask any disabled person if that will help and they’ll say no.”
In recent years, the Government has announced support packages to increase efforts to get disabled people into work. However, Marsha stands clear that they need to be more aware of the current barriers that are making it difficult for disabled people to stay in work long-term. She said:
“Firstly, we need to get rid of the myth that disabled people don’t want to work. What we have seen by this government is the disabled employment gap hovering around 30% and that has been the case for a decade.
“More work also needs to be done on employer attitudes. I feel the government should be focusing on that space. There shouldn’t be a cap on what support you need, and the scheme should be available for voluntary work too, and work trials.
“Access to work should move with you from job to job, too. You shouldn’t have to restart the process when you swap jobs. It shouldn’t take months on end for people to a) have an assessment and b) get the equipment that they need. At the minute there are delays that take 12+ weeks and that is a system that simply isn’t working.”
A long-term approach
While the suggestions outlined above all relate to immediate policies that can be brought into place, Marsha suggested that true change can’t happen until a long-term, wide-lense approach is taken. Explaining what that means, she said:
“We’ve got to think about our infrastructure and environment. When you think about public transport, making sure they are inclusive and accessible will take away practical barriers from people getting to work.
“Then there’s education – the government seems to like special schools but I’m not a huge fan. I believe there are spaces for them but if a child is disabled but can be educated in a mainstream school setting then they should be.
“The whole journey from childhood to adulthood needs to be looked at so that all the barriers that could be there can be removed. I’m not sure the government takes that approach because they promised a national strategy for disabled people that took years on end to produce and then when it did get published it was then challenged so now it’s in the courts.”
- Marsha De Cordova, Labour MP for Battersea and former Shadow Disabilities Minister, was interviewed by Abdi Mohamed about the government’s treatment of disabled people in the UK.
- Marsha highlighted the recent Scope report which found that disabled families incur an average of £975 per month in extra costs, and criticized the government’s £150 cost of living payment as an “absolute insult”.
- Marsha called for the government to do more to support disabled people, including uprating social security in line with inflation, introducing minimum income standards, and improving access to work by addressing employer attitudes and streamlining the Access to Work scheme.
- Marsha also emphasized the need for a long-term, wide-lens approach to addressing the barriers faced by disabled people, including making public transport and education more inclusive and accessible.
The issue of the cost of living for disabled people in the UK is a complex and multifaceted challenge. While the government has taken some steps to address the issue, more needs to be done to ensure that disabled people are able to live independently and participate fully in society.
Ultimately, it is important to recognise that disabled people have the same basic needs and desires as non-disabled people and that they should be able to access the same opportunities and resources. By working together to address the cost-of-living crisis for disabled people, we can build a more equitable and inclusive society for all.
Watch the full video here: