Disabled Scots facing major barriers

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Progress towards real equality for disabled people in Scotland over the past twenty years is at risk of stalling unless a concentrated effort is made to tackle issues in housing, hate crime, mental health, employment and education.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has today published a report into life for disabled people across Great Britain. The report highlights a number of significant inequalities in Scotland including:

· Disabled pupils have much lower attainment rates and are more likely to be permanently or temporarily excluded.

· Disabled Scots are two and a half times more likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people (12.2% compared to 4.9%).

· On average disabled people in Scotland earn £1.10 per hour less than non-disabled people (£10.30 compared with £11.40).

· The amount of wheelchair adapted local authority housing has decreased. 17,000 Scottish wheelchair users are inadequately housed (15% of all wheelchair users in Scotland).

· There are widespread shortcomings in mental health services. The majority of Scottish Health Boards consistently fail to meet their 18 week referral targets for psychological services.

· Disabled Scots are less likely to feel safe walking alone in their neighbourhoods.

· Reporting of disability related hate crime increased by 20% in 2014/15 compared to the previous year.

Across GB there are specific concerns about the impact of UK Government employment support programmes such as the uptake of Access to Work and the Work Programme. In particular, non-disabled people are twice as likely to get a job through the Work Programme than disabled people (35% compared to 18%).

More positively the Commission found that:

· The number of disabled Scots taking up apprenticeships has increased from 0.3% to 7% in the last three years.

· Government action to mitigate the impact of the “spare room subsidy” or “bedroom tax” has enabled up to 72,000 people in Scotland to claim discretionary housing payments.

The report calls on Governments to place a new national focus on disability equality, so that the rights of disabled people are fully realised and to deliver improvements in their experience and outcomes.

Alastair Pringle, Head of EHRC Scotland said: ‘Today’s report places the disadvantages faced by Scottish disabled people into sharp focus. It raises important issues about the extent to which disabled people are seen and treated as equal citizens.

As one example 17,000 Scottish wheelchair users are inadequately housed. This stark figure led us to launch a full scale housing enquiry where we have asked disabled Scots to report on their experiences and the barriers they face to living independently. The strength and volume of responses already received indicate concerning signs about the scale of the problem faced by so many who are being denied full participation in Scottish life.

‘The Scottish Government’s disability action plan, and their commitment to putting dignity and respect at the heart of their new social security powers, are very welcome and I hope they will lead to improvements in the outcomes we are reporting on today.

‘We have a large pool of skilled and talented people who are unable to fully contribute to Scottish society - economically, socially or civically - because of avoidable barriers. This isn’t just a problem for disabled people it’s a problem for all Scots – we need to harness this untapped potential.’

The Commission’s Report ‘Being disabled in Britain: A journey less equal’ analyses the latest data on the experiences of disabled people in Scotland and across Great Britain in more detail than ever before, including looking at many different impairments, and sets out areas for urgent improvement.

The report covers six key areas of life (equal opportunities in education and employment; access to transport, health services and housing; and the persistent and widening disability pay gap) and finds that disabled people in Scotland and across Britain are experiencing disadvantages in all of them. Despite significant improvements in the law to protect the rights of disabled people, they are still not being treated as equal citizens and continue to be denied the everyday rights non-disabled people take for granted.