Debbie Abraham's Letter to the Chancellor
I am writing to you regarding the forthcoming Autumn Statement.
As our new Chancellor, you made a commitment to compassion in your fiscal decision-making. As co-Chair of the APPG for Compassionate Politics and Chair of the APPG on Dementia, I would like you to consider disabled people, including those living with dementia, in your pledge to be compassionate.
As a compassionate Conservative, I hope that you will not only protect disabled people from any further public spending cuts, but recognise disabled people as a group, protected under the 2010 Equality Act, who have been disproportionately and detrimentally affected by legislative and spending decisions over the last 12 years. This discrimination of disabled people has been recognised by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, who, in April 2022, announced it was seeking a section 23 agreement with the Government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to address this. I understand that, 6 months on, this still hasn’t been agreed.
Last year, the APPG for Health in All Policies, which I also chair, collated evidence of the health effects of DWP policies and spending cuts on children and disabled people. It provided evidence that by this year, £34bn will have been cut from working age support from the social security budget since 2010. From these disadvantaged families, the most disadvantaged households were those with one disabled adult and a disabled child, who lost £3 in every £10 or £6500 a year.
The fiscal decisions made by previous Conservative Governments between 2010 and 2017 in particular, added to the structural inequalities across our country and the vulnerability of key groups. And then Covid-19 hit and exposed this brutal reality.
According to the ONS, in England and Wales during the first wave of the pandemic, the most severely disabled women were 2.4 times more likely to die from Covid than non-disabled women and the most severely disabled men were twice as likely to die than their non-disabled peers. Even after ‘… adjusting for age, residence type, geography, socio-economic and demographic factors, health characteristics, and vaccination status this significantly greater risk of death remains for all disabled people remains largely unchanged across the three waves of the coronavirus pandemic’.
As Professor Sir Michael Marmot said in his analysis of the UK’s ‘high and unequal’ Covid-19 death toll, the key causes of this were the existing poverty and inequalities driven by 10 years of austerity including social security cuts.
However, the impacts of austerity and of Covid-19 are not behind us. They are still being felt especially by disabled people during this cost of living and energy crisis. I’m sharing with you the findings of the Big Disability Survey conducted by Greater Manchester disabled person’s panel. It is the largest survey of disabled people in the UK.
The report highlights the barriers disabled people face and states “disabled people in Greater Manchester are living under a threefold assault on their rights and quality of life: firstly, through austerity, then Covid-19 and now as a result of the ‘cost-of-living’ crisis”.
Several key areas of action are identified, starting with the need to increase disabled people’s income. The findings reveal that disabled people are experiencing shocking levels of poverty. Their recommendations include for the Government to:
1. ensure social security support is uprated at least in line with current levels of inflation (10.1%)
2. introduce a disabled persons cost of living payment of £150 for all disabled people
3. get energy suppliers to introduce social tariffs and remove additional pre-payment meter costs
4. stop the DWP acting as the debt collector for utility companies and others by deducting arrears from social security payments
5. provide Warm Home Discounts to all disabled people
Other areas of concern include the lack of decent, affordable, and accessible housing, social care provision, accessible transport and much more. The failure of the Government to uphold the articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a particular issue and, as you will be aware, was highlighted by a UN Committee in 2017 who investigated breaches by the UK Government. It is clear that many of those participating in the GM disabled people’s panel believe the Government’s lack of consideration of their human rights has not changed.
I would be grateful if you could provide me with a response that I may share with GM disabled people.
Specifically, on dementia, I was grateful to former Prime Minister Johnson for committing to funding for the ‘Dementia Moonshot’ in August 2022 after his 2019 manifesto pledge; however I understand that the delivery timetable for the £160m a year for dementia research hasn’t yet been defined. I’d be grateful for confirmation of this in the Autumn Statement.
Again, I am sure you’re aware that in addition to dementia being the leading cause of death in the UK, it was also the main pre-existing health condition in Covid deaths in the first wave (1 in 5 people who died of Covid had dementia). The prevalence of dementia will only increase and not just in the UK where by 2050 we estimate we will have 1.6m people living with dementia, but globally as well.
Last year’s Dementia APPG inquiry into research into the brain diseases that cause dementia and how we prevent, detect and treat them, left me with no doubt that the UK Dementia Research Institute together with our health and life sciences research sector more widely, could lead these developments globally. In addition to improving our health and wellbeing, this area of investment has the potential to contribute to our economy.
Similarly, this year’s APPG inquiry into dementia and the social care workforce Workforce Matters Report 2022 made it clear that we need a workforce that is specially trained and knowledgeable about dementia, the diseases that cause it and the care approaches that are needed to deliver quality care. I do hope you’ll be able to support the recommendations within this; in particular the call for a comprehensive People Plan for our social care workforce to deliver the specialist, person-centred care with and for people living with dementia, and their family carers.
I look forward to your response.
Please note that this letter and any response you provide will be placed in the public domain.
Debbie Abrahams MP
Oldham East and Saddleworth