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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 January 2008, 10:24 GMT
Disabled poverty 'hits millions'
Man in wheelchair trying to get on Tube train
Disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty than others
As many as three million people with disabilities in the UK could be trapped in poverty, a report suggests.

The study, by campaigning group Leonard Cheshire Disability, says disabled people are more likely to live in hardship now than a decade ago.

The group says the poverty trap is largely due to higher living costs - up to 25% more than for the able-bodied.

The government insists it is developing a long-term strategy to help disabled people lead independent lives.

"Disability poverty is one of the most significant and most challenging problems facing the UK today," said Guy Parckar of Leonard Cheshire Disability.

'Gaping hole'

The report, entitled Disability Poverty in the UK, finds disabled people are twice as likely to live in hardship than others.

Mr Parckar warns that, while deprivation faced by children and elderly people has received much government attention, the hardship of people with disabilities has not been recognised.

"The failure to specifically tackle disability poverty represents a gaping hole in the government's otherwise strong record on poverty," he said.

The report says more than a-third of children living in poverty in the UK live in low-income households with a disabled member.

Labour MP Roger Berry, who has tabled a motion in the Commons calling on the government to tackle disability poverty as a priority, has welcomed the report.

Mr Berry, who is the secretary of the all-party disability group at Westminster, said: "It's important to emphasise the urgency of the matter. We need to tackle disability poverty in order to tackle child poverty".

There have been times when I never thought I would have something as simple as food in the fridge or a telephone connection
John Grant

The report adds that, on average, the day-to-day living costs for basics needs such as mobility aids, care and transport for people with disabilities are 25% higher than for others.

It says disability poverty is not just about financial constraints but also about a lack of opportunity and poor expectations that can result from public attitudes.

The report wants to see a number of changes, such as Winter Fuel Allowance being extended to many disabled people.

It also wants a review of how disability benefits support those people who are not expected to work.

Low levels of employment are trapping people with disability in a cycle of poverty, according to the report.

Own business

John Grant, 53, who lives on disability benefits, suffered heart problems after a violent assault in 2002.

But despite a wide range of experience including working previously as a firefighter, paramedic and sales representative, he has been unable to find work.

He said: "I want to be self-supporting again. I don't want to be rich."

He added: "There have been times when I never thought I would have something as simple as food in the fridge or a telephone connection."

Mr Grant has now joined a Leonard Cheshire Disability/Barclays scheme which helps disabled people start their own businesses.

Disabilities minister Anne McGuire says her department is developing a cross-government five-year strategy aimed at giving more disabled people the chance to lead independent lives.

She said the government was "committed to improving the life chances of all disabled people, including the improving the opportunity to work, which is the best route out of poverty".

She added: "Our welfare reforms will extend the support we offer to help disabled people and those with health conditions into work.

"The new Employment and Support Allowance which will replace incapacity benefits this year, together with a new medical test, will focus on what a person can do, rather than what they cannot."



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