Raising accessible home standards a key recommendation for transforming disabled people’s lives
The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) Disability Commission has published a new report that makes important recommendations to transform the lives of disabled people ahead of the publication of the UK Government’s Strategy for Disabled People.
Called ‘Now is the Time’, the report makes transformative policy suggestions across employment, education, housing, transport, and access to goods and services.
Particularly, the document stresses the importance of raising accessible housing standards, drumming up awareness of the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG), the need for vital home adaptations, getting more disabled people into work, and improving accessible transport infrastructure.
Established in 2004, the CSJ is an independent think tank that studies the root causes of Britain’s social problems and addresses them by recommending practical, workable policy interventions. The CSJ’s vision is to give people in the UK who are experiencing the worst multiple disadvantages and injustice every possible opportunity to reach their full potential.
Its latest report comes after the UK Government confirmed in April 2020 that it was working in conjunction with individuals with disabilities to develop a National Strategy for Disabled People.
This strategy, the government says, will remove barriers for disabled people to ensure they are able to fully participate in society. The strategy is intended to be published in spring 2021.
Ahead of the publication of this transformative strategy, the CSJ has made a series of recommendations across employment, education, housing, transport, and access to goods and services. The commission says that a holistic approach is needed to transform the lives of disabled people.
“The CSJ Disability Commission believes the recommendations it offers will go a long way to removing the barriers disabled people face, and as such will enhance their independence, financial stability, social inclusion and wellbeing,” continues the commission.
While the Access to Work scheme – which provides practical and financial support for people with disabilities to start, or stay in, work – has provided invaluable workplace adaptations, the report says that awareness of this scheme is low. Therefore, it advises improving awareness of Access to Work.
The CSJ also proposes mandatory employment and pay gap reporting for large employers to increase transparency and to help create more diverse workplaces.
Additionally, the report says: “Fourth, the UK Government spends £292 billion buying goods and services from external suppliers, but the employment of disabled people is only considered in central government contract award decisions above a certain size.
“The Commission recommends that the recent reforms to the Public Sector (Social Value) Act are extended to require all large public sector contract award decisions to take tendering organisations’ disability employment records into account, and to require organisations with public contracts to work towards increasing the proportion of disabled people within their workforce.”
The commission is also urging the government to review and reform the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) to make the process less bureaucratic and easier to access. This, it says, will ensure disabled students can access the support they need, without the process being lengthy and stressful.
The DSA is support to cover the study-related costs an individual might have because of a mental health problem, long term illness or any other disability. It can help pay for specialist equipment or non-medical helpers, for example.
Furthermore, the CSJ is calling on the government to raise housing accessibility standards for all new homes.
It highlights that data reveals that adapting a typical home costs five times more than making one adaptable at the design stage but only half of local authorities in England set targets for higher accessibility standards in large housing developments.
However, the report notes that home adaptations can be transformative for people with disabilities and that the DFG can help facilitate these vital adaptations. Despite this, the commission says there is lack of awareness of the grant and outdated means tests. Thus, it suggests that the government improves the quality and awareness of DFG adaptations.
According to the CSJ, accessible travel is a key factor in ensuring disabled people can live independently. It says that the government’s Inclusive Transport Strategy sought to make travel accessible by 2030 but accepted barriers would remain. However, the commission is arguing that this strategy needs to be much more ambitious.
It recommends: the introduction of free-to-use ombudsmen in each area of transport with a single access portal; campaigns to increase the awareness of disabled traveller’s rights; and increased oversight of the Rail Delivery Group.
It also advises that more ambitious improvements need to be made to the physical infrastructure of the transport system and, as such, says that regulations regarding the physical infrastructure to achieve independent travel are updated.