There is no doubt that in the Election 2019, all parities are not paying enough attention to disability issues.
There has not been enough said about how the welfare state will be changed in the face of obvious failings. Labour have said a bit about scrapping universal credit but not enough.
The structural problems for the disability community are deep and long running. Services are disjointed and vast knowledge inequality exist.
For example, not enough working disabled people are claiming tax credits and not enough people are making the most of Access To Work.
That is to say nothing of ensuring disabled people have proper knowledge and access to the benefits, they should already being enjoying. This is particularly true of trains.
Addressing Disability Issues Should Be At The Heart of The Election
Disability is often seen and discussed as a special issue. It is not. When politicians speak about the crisis in care, pressures on the NHS or welfare reform, they are talking about disability issues.
The mainstream issues are disability issues. The difference is that disabled people are harder hit by these mainstream issues.
Lets clear something up right now, disability is something that will affect nearly everyone in their lives.
When we talk about the ageing population, the reason that is an issue is because ageing is associated with developing a disability.
This is why making things better for disabled people should be at the heart of any election debate.
Because they already are…
The Extra Costs Do Add Up
Scope has looked into the extra costs associated with being disabled and concluded that it can be as much as £550 per month.
That is a second mortgage or rent payment per month!
Where do these costs come from?
Well here are some examples:
- Running repairs to equipment such as mobility aids. A set of good quality wheelchair tires can set you back £90!
- Disabled people’s utility bills can be higher because of their need for consistent heating, power hungry aids and inaccessible transport.
However, here is the kicker as far as we are concerned, if you are disabled, it is often the case that what you NEED costs MORE.
Many of the best drugs are not available on the NHS and many private companies continue to ramp up prices.
The thing is small companies and individuals who trying to do good things.
Research and development take investment and resources. Not enough investment is coming from central government and the market isn’t interested.
The Free Market still sees this as a niche market.
There needs to be intervention in the market by the government and this should be on the election agenda.
We need to reduce the extra costs associated with being disabled. We need to tackle the price of specialist equipment. We need to offer subsidy for winter fuel payments, not just to the elderly but every disabled person who needs it.
Good Quality Equipment Costs Too Much
Wheelchairs, whether their manual or electric can cost a small fortune. A good manual wheelchair for an active user can cost anywhere from £2500 to £4500, and an electric wheelchair many thousands more.
Maintenance of these pieces of equipment can also be very costly.
The only time that I have been off work in the last few years was when my front wheel fell off.
Many of these things are out of reach for many disabled people who need them.
And that means, they disadvantaged, not by their disability but by economics.
Things need to change…
Currently, if you want to get a wheelchair, you have 3 options open to you:
- Go through the NHS, be prescribed a chair and take what they give you.
- Use the voucher scheme – the voucher scheme is where the NHS will give you a voucher to the value of what they would have spent buying a chair.
- Seek help from charities, foundations and other schemes.
The voucher scheme is postcode lottery, NHS direct option limits choice and many charities and foundations focus on children.
The bottom line is that it can be very difficult for many people to get good quality equipment, and many people just have to settle.
My Personal Experience
A few years ago, my chair kept breaking, and it costing me money and time.
I was self-employed so every time that I was off work because of chair problems, I lost money.
The problem was I’d only had my chair for 4 years and voucher scheme rules say that you have to keep your chair for 5 years. Unless your needs change…
Having looked into it, I realised that I could apply for an Access To Work grant to help with the cost.
I still needed an occupational to give a prescription.
So I thought that might be a bit of a problem. However, when I considered it, I thought, “you know what, my needs have changed.”
The nature of my work had changed, I was commuting more, going to far flung places in Yorkshire by public transport.
When I explained this to the OT during the assessment, she said that did not constitute a change in needs.
This is the crux of the issue for me.
Although my health condition had not really changed in terms of the physical nature of my Cerebral Palsy, the nature of my life had.
I was working more, travelling more and I needed a wheelchair to meet those needs.
It was a health issue. Working helped my mental health and travelling via public transport kept me physically healthy.
Eventually we came to an understanding and I got a prescription, together to with the Access To Work grant, I got a chair to fit my needs.
But it was a battle.
Here Is A Radical Idea For The Election
We need to make specialist mobility equipment cheaper and easier to access.
Because, good quality mobility equipment for children and ADULTS is one of the keys to unlocking more disabled peoples’ potential.
Having the right specialist mobility equipment can be the difference between disabled accessing their community, finding opportunities, potentially gaining employment and leading healthier lives.
At this election, we need to release more money from central government that will wipe out the inequality in the mobility market.
This means not just for manual and electric wheelchairs, but also add ons like power units and hand bike attachments.
Because sometimes, it is the add ons that make the difference.
But where does the money come from?
Well, one of the key problems here is one of production or the cost of production.
Many good innovations take a long time to come to market and too much of the R&D costs are bore through the innovators.
More money needs to be made available for development of new products in the mobility market.
Subsidises also need to be given to manufacturers on the cost of materials that need to be important. We need to give manufacturers every advantage to lower production costs.
They are consumers themselves and they believe in lower costs.
- Give more disabled people better access to high quality mobility products including add ons.
- Put more grants out there for development of new mobility products.
- Subsidise imports on materials for production.
- Challenge the REAL inequality currently in the mobility market.