At the beginning of September, Jeremy Corbyn, questioned the Prime Minister on why the United Nations Committee on Rights of Persons with Disabilities had described the current situation as a “human catastrophe”. In her response, The Prime Minister said “we have increased the amount of support that is being given overall to disabled people” but as the Canterbury CLP Disabilities Officer and as a disabled person myself this is not what I see.
I see people being devastated by losing the help they need through cuts to welfare benefits like ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) and DSA (Disabled Support Allowance), being put through benefits like PIP (Personal Independence Payment) instead which offer much less support and are not suitable for all and I see others denied support entirely. People stuck in a cycle of trying to survive and trying to succeed.
I see people facing assessments that have produced results which are a truly unfair judgement on those trying to cope with their conditions and that basically tells people if they are disabled enough to get help based on narrow, flawed and unequipped guidelines to deal with the variety of needs those with different disabilities have.
I see cases such as those of Luke Davey, 39, who is Quadriplegic, registered blind and has cerebral palsy. He lost 24/7 support which he had had for 23 years, and now his mother supports him when he is not with carers yet suffers from cancer herself; he lost his court appeal a few weeks ago.
Worse still, The Independent recently revealed that the government is spending £39 million of tax payer’s money on rejecting ESA claims whilst it has emerged that targets given to government officials were to reject four out of five initial appeals for some disability benefits . This is the Britain I see, and it’s disgusting.
4.2 million disabled people now live in poverty. Never did I think I would see such suffering our country, which has one of the richest economies in the world and it’s a disgrace.
On the issue of jobs, May states her government is committed to helping disabled people back into work, but this is hardly the case as, despite having committed themselves to halving the disability employment gap in a Green Paper released on November 2nd 2016 by the Department of Health and The Department of Work and Pensions, which found that “less than half (48%) of disabled people are in employment compared to 80% of the non-disabled population”, no deadline was set on this goal and, I like many other disabled people, have relied on charities for information on help we can receive.
Furthermore, on the Department for Work and Pensions main welfare to work scheme, the Work Programme, which supports unemployed people claiming JSA and ESA, data shows that, based on claimants’ self-assessment of disability, up until “June 2016, 35% of people without a disability have received a job outcome on the Work Programme, compared to 18% of people with a disability” .
I am glad the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has recognised that the UK government is failing disabled people, from the way our children are unsupported in mainstream schools, to those affected by reduced standards of living due to welfare reforms and benefit cuts, and the failure to recognise the rights of disabled people to live independently in the community.
The fact that the committee found that ‘Government policies have caused grave and serious systematic violations in the rights of disabled people’ and that the UK government has failed in protecting disability rights and to audit the impact of its austerity policies on disabled people should be the wakeup call the Conservatives need however, all we have had up until this point has been denial and an inability to accept the criticism, which, as someone with a disability, I find incredibly insulting and discriminatory. It was the previous Labour government who signed the UN Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities, and in the 2017 election Labour committed themselves to signing it into UK Law.
In the 2017 Election Labour launched a Manifesto with and for disabled people, key pledges included:
- Scraping the Work Capability and PIP assessments and replace them with a personalised, holistic assessment process which provides each individual with a tailored plan, building on their strengths and addressing barriers, whether finance, skills, health, care, transport, or housing related.
- To halve the disability employment gap by supporting employers retain employees who may have developed a long-term health condition or an impairment.
- Making it a requirement of organisations with over 250 employees to report annually on the number and proportion of disabled people they employ.
- Placing a duty on all higher education institutions to ensure that their courses are accessible to disabled students, including through scrapping tuition fees, course support and support for living costs.
- To reverse the cut to the funding to the Access to All programme, which was set up to improve accessibility to all of Britain’s railway stations.
- Increasing the Carer’s Allowance to £73 a week, an increase of 16%, in recognition of Britain’s dedicated, unpaid carers.
Labour are ready to put the needs of the many first and it was the Labour Leader who was fighting the corner of disabled people in the commons, while the Government failed to acknowledge the findings of the UN. If we really want to feel empowered and have the support we need, then it’s a Labour Government we need.