Put disabled people at the heart of tackling poverty

Challenge Poverty Week is 7th – 13th October Follow @CPW_Scotland on Twitter

This blog first appeared on the Glasgow Disability Alliance website:

Put disabled people at the heart of tackling poverty

In 2016, The New Policy Institute, supported by Joseph Rowntree Foundation published a report explaining why disability must be at the centre of poverty reduction.

Statistics within the report are stark: almost 50% of all people living in poverty in the UK are themselves disabled – 28% – or live in a household with a disabled person – over 20%, totalling 6,500,000+ million people.

In Scotland there are:

  • Higher levels of child material deprivation in households containing a disabled person – at 20% – compared to households without a disabled person at 8%. Strikingly, many children in poverty in Scotland have a disabled person in their family accounting for more than 90,000 children – around 40% of all children in poverty in Scotland, (JRF, 2018).
  • Higher rates of food insecurity among disabled people – 18% – compared to 5% among non-disabled people.
  • Higher likelihood of living in relative poverty after housing costs with a disabled person in the household, i.e. 24% of families with a disabled member compared to 17% of families with no disabled members.
  • Lower educational attainment among disabled people, in a context where 25% of disabled people have low or no qualifications at SCQF level 4, compared to 10% of non-disabled people.

Disability both increases the number of people who are in poverty and the depth of poverty experienced- this is about money for sure but also poverty of life opportunities. Disabled people face interconnected barriers to gaining meaningful and adequately paid employment, skills and qualifications and practical support to participate. Poverty is increased by charges for care services and is further compounded by the UK social security system resulting in many finding themselves below the poverty threshold.

JRF Report concludes ‘efforts to reduce poverty must focus on the problems faced by disabled people, as well as involving disabled people themselves.’ GDA agrees and does exactly that!

One collaboration to tackle poverty and injustice experienced by disabled people is our partnership with Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council to reduce the disability employment gap. This bold strategy sets an ambition to increase the employment rate of disabled people of whom only 40% are in employment. This compares with more than 80% of non-disabled adults. The policy to halve the disability employment gaps is potentially transformative and stands out amongst measures to solve poverty for disabled people and our families.

Another positive solution is GDA’s ‘Rights Now!’ Project, funded by Glasgow City Council to mitigate impacts of Universal Credit. This accessible service secures rights and entitlements and puts money straight into the pockets of disabled people in Glasgow.

Critically, GDA’s role in supporting disabled people and building skills, voices and capacity for participation has ensured that a groundswell of disabled people in Glasgow are involved in decisions that affect them. But we also very much need allies and collaborations with an understanding of the reality and barriers disabled people face to help shine a spotlight on what needs to change and to plan actions!

The UN has declared the consequences of poverty and austerity to have resulted in a “human catastrophe” for disabled people. Health inequalities and poorer life outcomes have increased. We must hear disabled people’s voices and lived experience because they have been at the hard edge of cuts and have vital solutions to offer. By working together we can do things differently and create a better future for people in Glasgow and Scotland.”

We’ll be blogging about disability and poverty this week for Challenge Poverty Week to make sure that conversations put disabled people at the heart of plans tackle poverty. Watch out on Twitter and if you would like to support us, please sign up for our e-bulletins.

Tressa Burke

Chief Executive Officer