What disabled people need to know from the Autumn Statement
Our Director of Policy, Gemma Hope explains what the Autumn Statement means for disabled people.
It’s been a nervous wait for the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. For disabled people, soaring prices for energy and essentials have brought the cost-of-living crisis home. And the country’s social care infrastructure is stretched to breaking point.
On Thursday disabled people desperately needed to know what was going to be done and when. Do they know now, and is it enough?
Well, it’s a mix of good and bad news. The Statement fell short of offering the solutions disabled people needed to see. But it did acknowledge the severity of the cost-of-living crisis and the problems facing social care. And it took some steps in the right direction.
Three things you need to know from the Autumn Budget
Here are three key points from the Autumn Statement for disabled people.
1. Rising benefits
The government honoured its commitment to raise benefits in line with inflation next April. This will come as a massive relief to disabled people and others on benefits. It goes at least some way to addressing the cost-of-living crisis.
2. Support with energy costs
The government acknowledged that disabled people need additional help with energy costs, which is positive. But there was no attention given to the fact that many disabled people have particularly high energy needs because of managing conditions and running specialist equipment. The £150 payment announced to help disabled people with energy costs is already small. Worse, it doesn't account for those with higher energy needs, so it will help some disabled people even less than others.
The Energy Price Guarantee will continue for another 12 months. But the capped prices will be higher - bills will be an average of £3,000 per household per year. The result is a very mixed picture for future support with energy costs, and a lot of uncertainty remains.
Disabled people need a long-term solution such as a social tariff to make their energy bills manageable. Also, the Warm Homes Discount Scheme needs to be permanently restored for all people on PIP.
3. Social care funding
There was some much-needed funding for social care, amounting to £2.8bn coming by 2023/24 and £4.7bn by 2024/25. This is welcome, but falls dramatically short of what is needed to stabilise the sector. The Chancellor himself said that social care needed an extra £7bn per year when he was Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee. And the social care cap – limiting how much people are charged for care – has been delayed again. This means a bigger financial impact for many, especially those who need care for a long time.
As our CEO Ruth Owen wrote recently, the truth is that the crisis in social care will escalate until the government commits to implementing long-term reform. The social care sector needs to support all disabled people who draw on care, including those of working age. It is rapidly losing the capacity to do this safely. And truly fixing social care will mean doing more than just topping up shrinking resources with short-term funding.
Truly fixing social care will mean doing more than just topping up shrinking resources with short-term funding.
What’s the verdict?
Last week, we said the Autumn Statement needed to pass three key tests to help disabled people.
- Honouring the commitment to raise benefits in line with inflation.
- Announcing more targeted support with energy costs.
- Providing, at the very least, emergency funding to stabilise social care.
The government passed the first of those tests, which was good news to say the least. As for the second and third tests, the picture is far more mixed. The government has acknowledged the need the more targeted support with energy costs, but hasn’t delivered enough to truly help disabled people. As for social care, any funding is both welcome and essential – but again, there isn’t enough of it.
So we’re not looking at three failed tests. But we’re not seeing stellar results either. And frankly, given the stakes for disabled people, ‘stellar’ was the bare minimum we needed to see yesterday.
You might be finding cost of living pressures overwhelming. Remember, you're not alone and support is available. We've pulled together a list of charities and organisations that can provide support.