Thank you for contacting me about issues faced by people with disabilities.
I understand that disabled people and their families can encounter many hidden costs, from specialised equipment to travel expenditure.
You may be aware of the Government’s publication of the National Disability Strategy, which focuses on the issues that disabled people say affect them the most across all aspects and phases of life, including education, housing and transport.
I am also delighted to see the publication of the Health and Disability Green Paper and the opening of the consultation into shaping future support for disabled people. I would encourage anyone with an interest in this important subject to contribute their views before 11th October via: https://getinvolved.dwp.gov.uk/05-policy-group/health-and-disability-gr…
The Green Paper considers how to improve the DWP’s current services so they are better and easier to use, explore how extra support can help people navigate the system as well as what can be done to better support disabled people into employment. Spending in this area increased by almost 5 per cent in 2020 from £19 billion to £20 billion.
I encourage constituents to apply for additional support: through universal credit; through the increase in the discretionary housing payment; or through the £500 million hardship fund allocated by local authorities based on individual circumstances.
Disabled Facilities Grant: If a home needs to be adapted to meet a child’s needs, I understand that a Disabled Facilities Grant can be paid.
Better Transport for Disabled People
Like the Government, I want disabled people to travel easily, confidently and at no additional cost and I am encouraged by the range of measures that are being taken, across all forms of transport, to support this.
In 2018, the previous Government published the Inclusive Transport Strategy and I know the current government is committed to its implementation. The overall goal of the strategy is to create a transport system that offers equal access for disabled passengers by 2030, with assistance if physical infrastructure remains a barrier. The Strategy covers all modes of transport and includes over 90 individual commitments in total.
I share the Government's belief that it is essential that the lack of knowledge of passenger rights is addressed and I am glad the Strategy commits to taking clear steps to raise awareness. This involves working to ensure that all passengers know what service they can expect and have the assurance that reporting non-compliance will lead to enforcement action. Providing timely and high quality assistance services to disabled travellers, including those with less visible disabilities, is vital to ensure disabled people can travel with confidence.
I am encouraged that good progress has been made in this area. For example, the revised Disabled People’s Protection Policy (DPPP), now known as the Accessible Travel Policy (ATP) guidance, was published on in July 2019 and included enhanced requirements on all operators to deliver an accessible travel policy. The Office for Road and Rail has approved several of the ATPs submitted by train operators and these are available to view via both train operators and the ORR website.
More broadly, I welcome the new National Disability Strategy, published over the summer, which aims to provide more accessible housing, easier commuting and better job prospects for millions of disabled people in the UK. The strategy marks the first cross-government endeavour to improve disabled people’s everyday lives with legislation, policy and funding from across all corners of Government.
SCOPE - Passenger Charter: I was very interested to hear about Scope's suggestion for a Passenger Charter and, while I am unaware of current plans to implement this, I have no doubt that Ministers will be interested in the proposal. Ultimately, I believe that the Government's Inclusive Transport Strategy will adequately make provisions for improving awareness of rights for disabled passengers. Indeed we have seen some progress on this already. I look forward to seeing future progress and improvements in due course.
To help with travel costs, many councils offer free or discounted fares. Additionally, local councils have been allocated funds – via the Covid Winter Grant Scheme - to help those facing hardship, with a focus on families with children. I am encouraged that our Access to Work programme has been updated so that people can access a blended offer that provides support both at home and at someone’s normal place of work.
It is vital that our welfare system supports those who need it and would emphasise that £55 billion is spent per year on benefits to support disabled people and those with health conditions. I know my colleagues across government continue to monitor research and campaigning from a wide variety of sources as they consider the future of welfare and disability policy.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP