Theresa May announces overhaul of sick pay and housing for disabled people

An overhaul of sick pay and housing for disabled people has been announced by the Prime Minister.

Up to 300,000 new accessible and adaptable homes could be delivered every year, Theresa May believes, and reform of statutory sick pay should focus on flexibility and covering the lowest-paid.

The changes are among a package of measures announced by Theresa May to support the one in five working age people with a disability.

Mrs May said: “My determination to identify and tackle injustices, wherever they exist in society, remains as strong as ever.

“So I am proud to announce new measures to break down barriers faced by disabled people, whether in employment, housing or elsewhere.

“We all have a crucial role – businesses, government and civil society – in working together to ensure that disabled people get the support they need, and go as far as their talents can take them.”

Too many disabled people still live in unsuitable homes, Mrs May added, so the Government will consult on higher accessibility standards for new housing.

A new Equalities Hub will lead the fresh focus on the barriers faced by disabled people, which will work closely with user groups and charities to put their views and experiences at the forefront of any new policy.

Consultations will be launched on improving accessibility and enforcing current standards for housing in England, added Communities Secretary James Brokenshire.

He said: “Every person, whatever their ability or age, must have the opportunity to succeed in life – that means providing new homes that meet the everyday needs of whoever lives in them.

“However, too many of the homes built in the past have not lived up to this basic promise, which is why we’re looking very closely at strengthening accessibility requirements, including making them mandatory for all new homes.”

Consultations will also be launched on new measures for employers to support people with disabilities and long-term health conditions, and offering small and medium employers a conditional rebate to support those who manage staff on sickness absence and help them get back to work.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said disabled people encounter too many challenges and she will launch a Green Paper on improving support.

Ms Rudd said: “We want to change the landscape for disabled people and to make sure there is always a level playing field for them because all of us need an equal chance to live a life of opportunity and fulfilment.”

Other changes under consideration include new employee rights to request workplace modifications on health grounds, and performance standards for services to disabled customers for utilities like energy, broadband and water.

Richard Kramer, chief executive for the disability charity Sense, said the announcement was a “significant” shift towards looking at the lives disabled people want to lead, rather than just access to services and benefits.

He said: “Equality for disabled people is everyone’s business and cuts across all areas of policy and life, which is why we have been calling for and welcome this new cross-government approach.”

Mark Hodgkinson, chief executive at disability equality charity Scope, said half the UK’s 14 million disabled people feel excluded and are “too often shut out of work”.

“We have long called for a concerted effort from government to improve the lives of disabled people in this country,” he said.

“It is therefore positive to see recognition from government that a joined-up approach is needed and necessary.”

There are still “unique” barriers around housing and secure employment said David Isaac, Equality and Human Rights Commission chairman, as he welcomed the new unit to co-ordinate policy.

“It will help ensure the views of disabled people are better represented at the heart of government and will create a more coherent approach to improve the daily lives of millions of disabled people across the country,” he said.

Government support is “crucial” to ensuring everyone in society has the opportunity to thrive, said Mike Cherry, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) national chairman, welcoming the plans for sick pay and further support.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire.