Physical and sensory impairment

This section considers Physical and Sensory Impairment (PSI) in adults aged 18 or above.

The term ‘Physical Impairment’ refers to people who have one or more physical impairments. These impairments may be present at birth (congenital) or acquired at any later age, and may be temporary, long-term, or fluctuating. People with physical impairments may often have unique and multi-dimensional requirements. They therefore require tailored services to address them all in a person-centred holistic fashion.

The term ‘Sensory Impairment’ includes visual impairment (including blindness and partial sight), hearing impairment (including those who are profoundly deaf, deafened and hard of hearing) and dual sensory impairment (‘deaf blindness’). Sensory impairments may, like physical impairments, be either congenital or acquired at any age. They become more prevalent with age. Most sensory impairments develop gradually and are often secondary or completely unconnected to other disabilities.

Physical and Sensory impairment affects all age groups and all parts of the population, although some communities have higher incidence of chronic conditions. Some impairments and illnesses are particularly associated with ageing, while some people have a lifetime disability. Other disabilities are acquired, by either accident or disease.

What do we know?

Defining disability is complex and contentious however under the Disability Discrimination Act, an individual is disabled if four conditions are satisfied; having a physical impairment, of which the impairment’s adverse effect is substantial, the impairment’s effect is long-term and finally that the impairment adversely affects the person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

The social model of disability takes a slightly different stance and argues that disability is a result of the disabling nature of barriers and restrictions placed on people by society rather than a result of a person’s impairment or difference. This is a useful model in terms of helping develop more inclusive ways of living.

Barriers in society are not just physical, such as lack of ramps or accessible toilets, but can also be attitudinal. Attitudes in society based on prejudice or stereotype can also disable people. (Source: Scope)

Facts, figures, trends

Due to the broadness of definitions, it is difficult to exactly quantify how many people living in Slough might have a physical impairment. Projections using the Health Survey for England suggest that around 1,800 adults in Slough have a serious physical disability, this is predicted to increase by approximately 17% over the next ten years.

In the 2011 Census 6.1% (8,611 people) of Slough residents described their day-to-day activities as limited a lot by a long-term health problem or disability. The proportion of residents identifying long-term limiting health problems or disabilities is lower in Slough than in England as a whole.

(Source: Census 2011).

There are an estimated 61 adults under the age of 65 with a serious visual impairment in Slough, this is estimated to increase by almost 10% over the next ten years.

Hearing impairments can be categorised as moderate, sever and profound. While a large number of Slough residents are estimated to have moderate or severe hearing impairments (2,696) for only 24 adults under 65 years of age is hearing impairment described as profound. Hearing impairment in younger adults in Slough is expected to increase by 20% over the next ten years.

(Source: PANSI 2015).

As of May 2015 there were 5,350 people claiming either disability living allowance, incapacity benefit or employment support allowance, or severe disablement allowance, or a combination of disability and sickness benefits. Of those, 750 were claiming disability living allowance specifically, representing 0.8% of the working age population. This rate of DLA claiming is lower than the English average which is 1.1%.

(source: NOMIS web)

National and local strategies (current best practices)

The Equality Act 2010

This Act replaced previous anti-discrimination laws (including the disability discrimination act 1995 amongst others) with a single Act, making the law easier to understand and strengthening protection in some situations.

The Disability Action Alliance supported by the Department for Work and Pensions work collaboratively to, among other things, increase understanding of disability and raise awareness of support available.

The UK Vision Strategy (RNIB 2013-2018) sets out a framework for the development of eye health and sight loss services to; improve eye health in the UK, eliminate avoidable sight loss and deliver excellent services for people with sight loss, and to enhance inclusion, participation and independence for people with sight loss.

Action on hearing loss’s strategy: Taking Action has similar aims to reduce inequality and restrictions of choice, ensure access to information advice and support, as well as provide treatment to those with hearing loss amenable to treatment.

What is this telling us?

The ONS forecasts on POPPI & PANSI suggest that the numbers of physically disabled people and people with sensory impairment is much larger than those who directly receive services funded by Adult Social Care.

Although in the younger age groups the numbers remain fairly static with little or no increase expected based on trends, as would be expected the older age groups with physical and sensory needs will continue to grow.

What are the key inequalities?

Compared with non-disabled people, national reports suggest that disabled people are:

  • more likely to live in poverty – the income of disabled people is, on average, less than half of that earned by non-disabled people
  • less likely to have educational qualifications – disabled people are more likely to have no educational qualifications
  • more likely to be economically inactive – national research suggests that only one in two disabled people of working age are currently in employment, compared with four out of five non-disabled people. Evidence from the ‘Labour Force Survey (autumn 2001)’ shows that 68.1% of people of working age who had ‘difficulty hearing’ were in employment compared to 81.2% of those not disabled
  • more likely to experience problems with hate crime or harassment – in surveys, up to a quarter of all disabled people say that they have experienced hate crime or harassment (this number rises to 47% of people with mental health conditions)
  • more likely to experience problems with housing – nine out of ten families with disabled children have problems with their housing
  • more likely to experience problems with transport – the issue given most often by disabled people as their biggest challenge
  • more likely to experience problems with access to information & guidance relating to their condition and care.

What are the unmet needs/service gaps?

Generally there remains a need in this category to gather more detailed and accurate information on the use and take up of services by people with physical and sensory disabilities in Slough.

Recommendations for consideration by other key organisations

  • Ensure that all commissioners consider the needs of disabled people when commissioning services, particularly advocacy, access to employment, day support services and residential care.
  • Ensure that disabled people co-design service developments.

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