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 I look forward to reading the Government's response to the attached consultation in due course.
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 welcome the new £500 million Household Support Fund for vulnerable households who need some extra support over the coming months with the cost of essentials. The new Fund has been available to councils in England since October with councils able to distribute funding within local areas to directly help those who need it most.
To help with travel costs, many councils also offer free or discounted fares, and I am encouraged by updates to the Access to Work programme which enable people to 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.
If a home needs to be adapted to meet a child’s needs, I understand that a Disabled Facilities Grant can be paid.
Although there are no plans to officially use the term 'people of determination' as has been done in the United Arab Emirates, I strongly welcome plans to develop a UK-wide campaign to increase public awareness and understanding of disability, to dispel stereotypes and to promote the diverse contributions that disabled people have made, and continue to make, to public life.
Finally, I welcome Scope’s recent event on 18 January. However, due to prior diary commitments I was unable to attend it, but please be assured that I have contacted Scope to request a briefing on the outcome of this important event.