The UK is one of the worst-performing countries in the European Union (EU) when it comes to protecting disabled people from poverty, according to official figures.
The EU figures show that the UK is the 10th worst of the 28 EU member states on disability poverty, with nearly a third of disabled people (32.2 per cent) in poverty or at risk of poverty*.
This is above the average for the EU, which has 28.7 per cent of disabled people in poverty or at risk of poverty.
Other figures – also taken from the EU’s statistical office, Eurostat – show the UK in an even worse position, with disabled people facing a 15 per cent increased risk of poverty and social exclusion, the seventh worst in the EU.
The figures were released by the European Disability Forum (EDF), an umbrella organisation of disabled people across Europe, in advance of its new human rights report.
They were released on Tuesday (3 December), the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities, although Disability News Service (DNS) has not yet been able to independently verify them or examine them in greater detail.
Earlier this year, DNS obtained other new figures that demolished ministerial claims that the UK was one of the most generous countries in the world in its support for disabled people.
Rather than being one of the most generous, the UK’s spending on disability is below average for the 28 EU member states, those figures showed.
They also showed that the proportion of the UK’s economic activity (GDP) spent by the UK government on disabled people fell from 2.6 per cent in 2015 to 2.5 per cent in 2016 and 2017.
EDF said its new report showed EU countries had failed to ensure “proper protection and support of persons with disabilities, especially in the wake of the financial crisis”.
It called for improvements to disability assessments, an increase in disability benefits, and improvements in accessibility, support and services.
And it called on the EU and its member states to “honour their commitments to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and to ensure that all persons with disabilities are able to live with dignity in the community, with equal access and equal rights”.
One disabled woman from Bristol, Victoria, told EDF how she was struggling financially after losing her job because of her impairment. Her husband is now her carer and is also the carer for their son.
She said: “The disability benefits are so little that we have very little life outside of just surviving, we can’t afford day trips for our son or trips to museums, etc.
“I also have difficulty with travelling and am unable to receive a powered wheelchair, meaning my husband has to push me and a buggy which is just impossible so I have basically zero social interaction outside of my home.”
The Conservative party did not respond to a request for a comment on the EDF figures.
The Department for Work and Pensions was unable to comment because of the general election campaign.
*The figures are for 2018, except those for Slovakia, Ireland and the UK which are from 2017
A note from the editor:
Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations.
Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009.
Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…