Disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) are set to play a key role in drawing up a plan to address disability poverty in Glasgow.
The call for an action plan is one of the recommendations from a report for Glasgow City Council’s Social Recovery Taskforce.
The report* by the taskforce’s Disability Workstream, which was co-convened by Glasgow Disability Alliance (GDA), points out that nearly one in four (24 per cent) of Glasgow’s working-age population are disabled people.
It concludes: “None of the major challenges Glasgow faces today can be solved without tackling disabled people’s poverty and unemployment.”
It makes a series of recommendations for public services, DPOs and other partners to tackle disability poverty and remove the barriers to employment that disabled people face in Glasgow.
The taskforce was set up to tackle the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on society and equality in the city.
GDA’s own research during the first year of the pandemic found that that 57 per cent of disabled people in the city were worried about money, and 47 per cent were worried about access to food.
The new report, by the Glasgow DPO Network and the University of Glasgow’s Dr Richard Brunner, says that the city’s disability pay gap – where disabled employees earn less than their non-disabled peers – is even higher than in the rest of the UK (24.8 per cent against 19.6 per cent).
It also points out that responsibility for some disability benefits has been devolved to the Scottish government, which provides an opportunity to ensure payments are set at an “appropriate level to meet disabled people’s needs and extra costs”.
The report includes evidence that emerged from an online event last spring which was attended by disabled people, public service and third sector workers, city councillors, and DPOs.
It heard of disabled graduates with qualifications but years of unemployment, disablism at job centres, and prejudiced job interviewers.
One participant at the event, who described how they were thrown into poverty after becoming disabled, said: “There seems to be so many obstructions put in your way just to get what you’re entitled to… I want somewhere I can live, that allows me to be able to get to some places like a library, or a shop.
“I’m not wanting the Earth. I just want to be seen as human. To be honest, the way I’ve been treated, had I been an animal, I would’ve been taken away from the owner.”
Tressa Burke, GDA’s chief executive, told the event that the pandemic had exposed the extent and impact of digital exclusion.
She said: “The internet is one connection, but connections to people and relationships are the things that sustain us all. Disabled people are so far removed from this.
“I was shocked myself when we realised that 60 per cent of the people we spoke to were digitally excluded.
“Disabled people aren’t looking for the Earth. They’re looking for some of what others have. It starts with the connections and relationships.”
A Glasgow city councillor said during the event that addressing disability poverty required action across public services.
They said: “I think poverty and the discriminatory issues were there anyway. The pandemic has simply shone a light on that.
“It’s a light that we cannot and should not want to put back out.
“We have to work out how to address and fix some of those problems. The council can’t solve everything on its own.”
The report calls for a plan to reduce disabled people’s poverty in Glasgow, co-produced with DPOs, and for action to increase the uptake by disabled people of financial support and advice.
And it suggests piloting a scheme that would maximise the uptake by disabled people of all eligible income-related support, again co-produced with DPOs.
Among the report’s other recommendations are for organisations including Glasgow City Council, local NHS bodies, housing associations, charities, and major private sector employers in the city to increase the number of disabled people they employ; and for these organisations to increase their disability equality training.
It also calls for pilot schemes that could allow disabled people to be in control of their own funding for employment training and support.
Brian Scott, GDA’s head of employability and anti-poverty, said: “Disabled people and those with long term health conditions make up at least 25 per cent of Glasgow’s population and implementation of the recommendations within the report could significantly reduce the poverty experienced by disabled people and reduce the disability employment gap.
“We are confident that the report gives key partners (Glasgow City Council, Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership, employers, etc) the solutions identified by disabled people themselves that could help them achieve our shared aspirations around reducing poverty and supporting more disabled people to enter and sustain good quality employment.”
Responsibility for implementing the recommendations will now pass to Glasgow Community Planning Partnership, which includes representatives of the city council, education, housing, NHS, business and other organisations.
A city council spokesperson said: “Tressa Burke from Glasgow Disability Alliance and Richard Brunner from University of Glasgow presented their report to the Glasgow Community Planning Partnership executive group on 27 April.
“It was agreed that the executive group would consider the recommendations in more detail at a future meeting and consider other community planning structures that it should be presented to, as well as the appropriate council committee.”
*Ending Poverty and Removing Barriers to Work for Disabled People in Glasgow beyond Covid-19
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