In 2004, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published a report entitled: “Disabled people’s costs of living: More than you would think”, which was the first study to provide a clear measure of additional costs for those living with a disability. Today we’ll be looking at this report, and in part two we will be discussing Scope’s 2018 policy report entitled “The disability price tag” and the House of Commons “People with disability in employment” briefing paper to understand how the cost of being disabled in the UK has changed over the last 14 years.  

We believe each disability should be considered on the personal impact it has on an individual’s life. For this reason, quantitative studies are often too broad to account for what is a very personal matter. We are using quantitative data from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the UK government to draw attention to a topic that we believe deserves to be researched in more detail. This article does not wish to undermine, diminish or assume details about the individual experience of living with a disability. Thank you for reading.  

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation – Disabled People’s Cost of Living 

The report, published in 2004 set out to contextualise the contemporary impacts of disability, starting with the government’s policies on disability. State benefits, for example, were used to emphasise the government’s acknowledgement that life was more expensive for those with disabilities, yet “the extent to which these benefits meet additional needs and costs is unknown.”  

Worryingly, during 2004, disabled adults in the UK were disproportionately more likely to be in poverty or on low income. We know from recent reports, this continues to be the case. Presumably, this is due to employment rates of just 49% (2003) for disabled people; the report stated that 47% of those unemployed with disabilities wanted to work, but barriers to entry were present. While some disabilities prevent work altogether, those who could work often face a number of disadvantages, such as “employer attitudes, discrimination, lack of suitable positions, general workplace access, lack of self-confidence, low pay and fear of losing benefits.” Another potential barrier to work in this period was education; according to the report, “disabled people are only half as likely as non-disabled people to have educational qualifications,” and, thus, are likely to either remain unemployed or be in low-paid jobs. This was an indirect cost of disability and resulted in disabled people having, on average, wages 20% lower than other employees.      

The report goes on to describe the various other indirect discriminations that affect disabled people. Public transport, for example, was outlined as “often inaccessible to disabled people” resulting in significant private transportation costs. This ‘lack of access’ theme frequently appeared, with extra costs suffered due to an inability to “shop around” and find the best prices. Likewise, disabled people with children faced further “ferrying” transportation challenges (centred around children’s recreational activities) which resulted in private transportation costs or, as the report points out, “additional costs for food.” Direct discrimination was also seen in the charges offered to disabled people for services like “life assurance, content and motor insurance, and mortgage facilities.”  

The report ended with some definitive numbers, broken down by the severity of disability needs of the weekly unmet costs of each disabled group. After establishing a weekly base-line standard for each group, the report found all disabled people had a minimum of £200 of unmet needs per week (£232 for high-medium needs and £200 for low-medium).  

2004 was a bleak time for those with a disability, and although we’ve barely scratched the surface, we hope you have a better idea of some of the challenges disabled people have faced in the past. Join us next time to see if and how times have changed.  

Are you interested in eliminating social discrimination? A Bachelor’s Degree in Health and Social Care Management (with Integrated Foundation Year) could be the course to help you fulfil your career ambitions. Contact our course advisors today to find out more, and be sure to join us for part two to understand if the environment has improved for disabled people.  

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