New research published today shows why reducing poverty among disabled people must be at the heart of any attempts to reduce overall poverty in the UK, as it reveals that almost half of people living in poverty are either disabled themselves or living with a person with disabilities.
The report ‘Disability and Poverty‘, commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and completed by the New Policy Institute thinktank, found that disabled people make up 28% of all those living in poverty in the UK, while a further 20% live in a household with a disabled person.
Researchers also found 31% of people in a family containing a disabled person are in poverty compared with 18% of people in a household with no disabled people.
There are just over 12 million disabled people in the UK – 6.6 million working-age adults, 4.7 million pensioners and 740,000 children – who account for 19% of the entire population.
Green Party Disability Spokesperson Mags Lewis said the report “shines a light on the dreadful inequality still facing disabled people in our society – and must be a wake-up call to Theresa May”.
She added: “Conservative austerity cuts affect disabled people six times more severely than anyone else; for example, two thirds of families affected by the bedroom tax have a disabled person in them. We are now seeing the effects of these policies.
“If the government takes this report seriously, it must scrap the bedroom tax, reinstate the Independent Living Fund, and reconsider changes to the Employment Support Allowance.”
Other key findings from the report include:
- Two-thirds of disabled people living alone are in poverty. More than half of disabled private and social renters are in poverty. Meanwhile, 44% of disabled young adults are in poverty.
- Disability benefits reduce the chance that a low-income disabled person’s household will experience material deprivation but their material deprivation is still higher than non-disabled households’ material deprivation (33% compared with 23%).
- The employment rate for disabled people (46%) is little more than half that for non-disabled people (80%). There is great variation in the disabled employment rate across the UK – yet barely any in the non-disabled rate.
- 73% of households containing a disabled person are working households but in nearly half of them, some of the working-age adults are not working. These ‘part-working’ households are the ones where the rate of poverty is highest.
- There is a big ‘skills gap’ between disabled and non-disabled people. 15% of disabled people have a degree compared with around 30% of non-disabled people. Meanwhile, 15% of disabled – but only 5% of non-disabled – 25- to 29-year-olds have no qualifications.
- Disabled people face many barriers to social participation. Work and accessibility outside the home are where the difference with non-disabled people is greatest. Most disabled people face barriers accessing leisure
The research concludes: “Reducing poverty among disabled people must be at the heart of attempts to reduce poverty in the UK overall. That is partly because disabled people face higher rates of poverty than the rest of the population. It is also because almost half of those in poverty are either disabled themselves or belong to a household in which a disabled person lives.
“Action to reduce poverty for disabled people must include both increasing resources and reducing costs.
“Increasing resources will come partly from higher employment, for example fulfilling the government’s ambition to halve the disability employment rate gap. Some argue that the focus in employment should be on retention rather than re-entry to work. Regional differences in the employment rate among disabled people must be addressed.
“Increasing resources is also about the social security system. This should ensure that disabled people unable to work are comfortably above the poverty line, after accounting for extra costs. The question of how disabled people in their roles as volunteers and carers could be better rewarded in the social security system should also be examined.
“Higher costs are a driver of poverty among disabled people. Evidence from our report suggests the particular role of housing costs, with high poverty rates for disabled renters. High rates of material deprivation among disabled people suggest a failing of the social security system in mitigating costs.
“Public policy must also consider how best to involve disabled people in guiding the decisions that affect them.”