I was doing some research on women across the UK as a whole, on a wide range of issues, when I came across the UK Women’s Budget Group Briefing on Disabled Women and Austerity. I was so horrified, as a disabled woman myself, about these figures that I had to say something. So, I am writing this brief blog to highlight some of the statistics and to hopefully spread a bit more awareness on the issue.
For context, in the UK as a whole, 14 million people have a disability. Roughly 20% of those people are men and 23% are women. Out of those 14 million people, only 7% are employed – often in low-paying jobs. This is where things start to become even more alarming.
- Disabled women earn 22.1% less than able-bodied men, and 11.8% less than disabled men.
- 26% of households with a disabled person are in poverty, comparted to 22% of in the overall households across the UK. Although this is likely an underestimation, as it does not take into account the estimated £570 per month of addition costs associated with a disability.
- The scope of disability benefits have been drastically reduced in the UK, with one of the biggest changes being the replacement of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
- Women make up 55% of claimants for disability benefits and have been disproportionately impacted by the narrowing of scope in disability support entitlements. As a result, benefit sanctions, degrading PIP assessments, lost income and the removal of any independence has been a reality for many disabled women.
- Disabled people, in general, have been disproportionately impacted by austerity cuts since 2010. Disabled women are set to lose 13% of their annual income by 2021 due to austerity and cumulative tax-benefit changes.
- Disabled single mothers are losing out the most from these tax and benefit changes since 2010. By 2021, they will have lost 21% of their net income if they do not have a disabled child and 32% if they do have a disabled child too. 1/3 of this loss is due to a shift to Universal Credit.
- Disabled people experience domestic violence at TWICE the rate of non-disabled people. ONE IN TWO disabled women experience it and face many additional barriers in seeking support.
- Spending cuts to adult social care and housing support has also disproportionately impacted them.
The above issues are really just scratching the surface of the daily discrimination disabled women face in their homes, educations, workplaces, healthcare facilities, government institutions and society more generally. Below are some real life examples of how disabled women have been treated by as a result of the narrowing of scope of disability benefits in the change from DLA to PIP:
- This woman, who is blind, had to sell her belongings in order to live due to the delay in outcome of her PIP appeal.
- This woman, who was sexually assaulted and left incontinent as a result, was humiliated by a PIP assessor and had her disability benefits removed.
- This woman, had to fight to get her PIP support restored, was called a ‘lying bitch’ by a member of DWP staff.
- Capita, the private company responsible for PIP assessments, had to pay damages to the family of a woman who died after being denied her disability support.
- This woman, who is paralysed, was denied her disability support and stated that the PIP assessment removed all her pride.
- Capita had to close a PIP claim after initially trying to use a 25-year old report against a women in which a government contractor called her “aggressive”.
- This woman, who suffered brain damage, waiting over two years and still had not received a decision about whether she was entitled to the disability benefit PIP.
- Legal costs, as of June 2019, had rose to £5 million due to the number of PIP applications in Northern Ireland that needed to be reassessed. This is not counting the thousands of cases that are yet to be heard.
These are just some of the cases that reached the news about the mistreatment of disabled women applying to support that they were entitled to. Disabled women are losing their independence, are living in poverty and are being actively discriminated against, abused and underpaid. We all need to be aware of this wide-spread systemic abuse. We need to ensure that our feminism is accessible and inclusive of these voices, as disabled women are already facing many more barriers each and every day. This is the discrimination we want you all to know about.
By Women’s Sector Lobbyist, Rachel Powell