Throwing Wheelchairs Off Balconies

Britain’s Persecution and Killing of Disabled People

shows a jobcentre

They Give, They Take Away

Giving

The 1997 Labour government introduced some policies which helped disabled people. Disabled people, women and minorities are hardest hit by poverty and so Labour’s commitment to end poverty was certainly a step in the right direction. However in the grand scheme of things, these steps fell far short of what was needed.

Also on paper (or during election campaigns) Labour’s signing up to and ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) leading up to 2009 would seem like a major step in the right direction.

Unfortunately while the UNCRPD has some radical articles, ratifying it only meant a country could be judged by it and criticised for not meeting it. As we saw in later years, this meant very little when the UN identified grave or systematic violations of the rights of persons with disabilities. The Tory / Lib Dem coalition government simply shrugged their shoulders, denied the veracity of the findings, and carried on as before.

In reality, Labour liked headline catching actions while they often played along to the MSM language of undeserving scroungers and layabouts. The language from Labour could often take on a sinister tone where doctors were accused of causing benefits crisis by “signing off millions with little reason” and with pejorative language, describing Britain as a “soft‐touch” for “work‐shy” people who “languish” on benefits.

Taking Away

In 2004 Tony Blair announced that he aimed to cut the 2.7 million people in receipt of incapacity benefit by one million listing this within his “seven key challenges facing Britain in 2004”. Work and Pensions Secretary Andrew Smith had resigned previously. It was claimed Smith sought to increase “help, advice and training” rather than bring in cuts. There was little evidence that the number of welfare claimants had actually increased, but rather they had been redefined, having previously been recorded as unemployed. The media tended to attack Labour for its treatment of disabled people, while in 2010-11 they tended to support the coalition persecution of disabled people. (1)

In 2008 the Labour party introduced Work Capability Assessments (WCAs). This replaced the doctor’s assessment of need for Disability Living Allowance and handed the responsibility to the DWP. This opened the door to non-professional assessment where unqualified DWP employees could carry out an assessment based on a questionnaire. Later the coalition would privatise the DWP and task them with reducing the number of claimants, introducing the draconian measures that led to mass persecution of disabled people.

Just before leaving office, the Labour party introduced the Equality Act 2010 which contained a section for protecting disabled people from discrimination. This however was very much a reactive act rather than proactive to bring about serious structural change.

The Coalition of Cruelty

Hostile Environment

In 2010 the Liberal Democrats formed a coalition with the Conservatives enabling one of the worst governments the UK had seen in a century and creating a platform for future Tory governments to destroy the very fabric of the UK. These governments continued to impose severe austerity on the British public long after banks were back to paying out enormous bonuses and much of the world had returned to normal.

Under the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition the attitude of the DWP changed from a mostly benign and helpful organisation into a hostile environment for all claimants. Apparently the Lib Dems took legal advice prior to voting for the welfare reform act and were advised that the sanctions were illegal, but voted for it anyway, knowing full well it would be later overturned in court (2).


CeaJay Clem – the DWP described her complexion was “normal” and that she “looked well”


The 2012 Welfare Reform Act introduced the “Claimant Commitment Pledge”. The pledge or work plan was defined as “regular specific tasks and training opportunities and the penalties claimants could face for failing to meet their responsibilities to get into work will be clearly spelt out”. These ‘tasks’ could include agreeing to apply for a certain number of jobs each week, taking part in ‘training opportunities’, furthering their education and other ‘tasks’ set out in a personal work plan.

The bedroom tax, introduced as part of the 2012 Health Act, had a terrible impact on disabled people. The tax reduced their disability payment by introducing a surcharge where it was deemed they lived in accomodation too large for their needs. The tax could only be avoided by downsizing to a smaller property. For disabled people this often left them with one of two choices. They could stay where they were, pay a bedroom tax and effectively have their disability payments reduced by over £600 per year or move to smaller accommodation which hadn’t been adapted for their needs. Moving to smaller housing would be treated as a change of circumstances which in turn would mean moving on to Universal Credit (UC). Moving over to UC would subsequently mean a wait of 6 weeks or more for payment and loss of disability premium. As there were realistically no properties available to move to anyway, the outcome for many disabled people was reduced income and a choice between food or heating.  

Sanctions

And so began the persecution of disabled people. There was a 60 per cent rise in the number of jobseekers having their benefits sanctioned; where a claimant can have their benefits cut or stopped completely for weeks, months or even years for failure to adhere to the jobseeker’s agreement. DWP statistics showed 38,969 decisions to sanction were later overturned following on appeal (3).


DWP: Amputee who has ’80p to her name’ facing eviction after disability benefits stopped

Rachel McCairns faces the prospect of losing her other leg and says benefit cuts could leave her homeless


A report from the National Audit Office in November 2016 made it clear that there was still no evidence that sanctions worked. The report found that sanctions which have caused thousands of claimants to fall into hardship and depression are being handed out without evidence that they were in any way effective. The DWP also failed to monitor thousands of people whose benefits were being cut or withheld while many are being pushed outside the benefits system.

By 2018 the sanctions regime had caused massive damage, with more than a million benefits sanctions imposed on disabled people since 2010. A comprehensive analysis by Ben Baumberg Geiger in collaboration with the Demos thinktank into the treatment of unemployed disabled claimants revealed that they are up to 53% more likely to be docked money than claimants who are not disabled. The study found that disabled claimants receiving jobseekers’ allowance – given to people who are out of work – were 26-53% more likely to be sanctioned than claimants who were not.

Those hit by sanctions reported that the disparity arose because jobcentre staff failed to take sufficient account of their disabilities. The study found that more than 900,000 JSA claimants who report a disability had been sanctioned since May 2010. People who claim a different benefit, employment and support allowance (ESA), and have been placed in a work-related activity group – which requires them to attend jobcentre interviews and complete work-related activities –can also be sanctioned. The research found that by 2018 more than 110,000 ESA sanctions have been applied since May 2010 (4).


Former sheep farmer Nick Barker, 51, was told he was fit for work, even though a brain haemorrhage had left him ­struggling to walk. He shot himself after the shock verdict by Atos, the ­private company drafted in by the Department of Work and Pensions to cut claimants.


Real People, Real Suffering

The persecution led to incredible levels of suffering. Once the government and the DWP knew their regime led to suicides, death by starvation or stress related early deaths and they failed to take action to reverse the process, they were guilty of those deaths.

It was estimated by 2018 the sanctions had led to 120,000 excess deaths. See the table here that describes some of the 120,000 deaths caused by DWP actions.


Jodey Whiting: DWP ignored five ‘safeguarding’ chances before WCA suicide

Follow the link here to find out more about the terrible treatment of Jodey


One of our own steering committee members suffered at the hands of the DWP. When she arrived for her DWP assessment she found it would take place on the 6th floor. In a wheelchair she was told she couldn’t attend an assessment on the 6th floor due to health and safety issues. She was also told that if she didn’t attend she would be sanctioned for failing to attend. Eventually this was resolved through the support of her Member of Parliament. But how many disabled people didn’t have an MP willing to step in and support them and how many were sanctioned because the DWP purposely created obstacles?


Father-of-three Kevin Dooley was a painter and decorator suffering from breathing problems caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Despite this in November 2018, Mr Dooley received a letter from the DWP saying his ESA would be stopped, and a subsequent appeal against the decision failed. Kevin became desperate and severely depressed. He went on to hang himself (7).


We could go on for pages detailing the cruelty of the DWP and the impact this had on disabled people. If you want to see a fuller picture of the scale of abuse then you can follow the link here. The link will open in a new tab.

The coalition implemented draconian measures and in doing so, with a psychotic casualness, heaped suffering on the heads of Britain’s disabled. Even after creating untold misery the Tory government went on in the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 to reduce benefits to disabled people even further (5).  

United Nations – UK Systematic Violations

Due to the UK having ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) the UN audited the UK progress against the convention once it was brought to their attention the convention was being broken.

An inspection was carried out by UN investigators where they met with approximately 200 parties and collected 3000 documents. The investigation centred around the Welfare Act 2012, as well as in the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 and the impact these acts had on the welfare of people with disabilities. It was concluded both were enacted for reasons of austerity.

The UN Committee concluded that there is reliable evidence that the threshold of grave or systematic violations of the rights of persons with disabilities has been met in the State party.

The full findings can be found here in section VII paragraph E. The link opens in a new tab.

Over 118,000 Disabled people ”are facing injustice” by the DWP after being denied the right to compensation following its “blunder over benefit payments”, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) has said today.

The PHSO is calling on the Government to urgently rectify the injustice, something which it is so far refusing to do.

DR UK Policy Officer Dan White said:

“This error is coming off the back of the much-vaunted national disability strategy where a new dawn of inclusion, understanding and support was promised across all areas including from the DWP itself as it was quoted as saying:

 “The Department is committed to enabling disabled people to live independently”

 “Well these continual errors are giving the disabled community the impression that the paper is not in reality worth what it was printed on.

 “Without the benefits they are rightly allowed, there will be no independent living only disability homelessness and further, unavoidable heartbreak and deeper poverty.

“The DWP must compensate these individuals, without hesitation.”

Disability Rights UK, https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2022/january/over-118000-disabled-people-denied-compensation-dwp-after-benefits-error-cut

2019 EHRC Report

The Equality and Human Rights Commission produced a report (6) in 2019 looking at state of Human Rights in the UK as of 2018. The report was highly damning of the government’s record on Human Rights, particularly in respect of disabled people.

“Changes to the welfare system since 2010 have made life harder for those in poverty, and this disproportionately affects a large number of disabled people, women, and people from ethnic minorities. Child poverty and homelessness have also continued to rise”

EHRC

The commission noted that since 2015 access to justice has been severely curtailed due to cuts to legal aid and the disastrous impact of employment tribunal fees blocking people’s right to bring to justice employers who have flouted the law.

What Rise Will Do

It is Society

Rise will not only look to end the purposeful persecution of disabled people. It’s more than the planned persecution the coalition imposed. It’s about the daily struggle for the small things in life in a world where infrastructure is designed to serve the abled. Resolving all the issues with the DWP is only the beginning. We need to embed justice for all into our society. Disability rights are not an add on. They are intrinsic to a moral society for all.

We’ve noticed when parties talk about disability rights they often tag it into a list of other equality rights. This is not how disability should be treated. You can identify as belonging to any of the other equality groups and also be disabled. Bringing justice to disabled people is not only about an act to outlaw verbal abuse or discrimination. Much of the earlier section is about persecution by the coalition, the Tories and the DWP. But it is our society that let it happen. And it is us that need to fix it.

The Social Model of Disability – Nothing About Us, Without Us.

We will promote through our policies the social model of disability. The social model of disability turns our view of disability on its head and by doing so looks at it realistically. The model says that people are disabled by barriers in society, not by their impairment or difference. Barriers can be physical, like buildings not having accessible toilets. Or they can be caused by people’s and societal attitudes to difference, like assuming disabled people can’t do certain things.

The social model helps us recognise barriers that make life harder for disabled people. Removing these barriers creates equality and offers disabled people more independence, choice, and control.

Society should remove barriers as identified by disabled people rather than viewing sensible and rightful demands as troublesome and inconvenient. This must include barriers that discriminate against those with hidden disabilities, and this is why it is so important that the social model is defined and managed by disabled people. Nothing About Us, Without Us.

National Independent Living Service (NILS)

Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) vision on the future of independent living for disabled people was developed through two national consultation meetings and an online consultation with disabled people and DPOs in England. For independent living to be a reality for disabled people, we need a system that provides the right type, amount, quality and range of options and choices. The current social care and welfare systems are not up to the task and disabled people’s experiences of independent living are going backwards while being subject to a dramatic postcode lottery.

ROFA has produced a document ‘Independent Living for the Future’ their vision for a national independent living service, including an easy read version.

Rise fully support NILS and in government would work with disabled groups to make this a reality. Social care only deals with the immediate needs of disabled people and goes nowhere near meeting the need for an independent life.

See our short video that describes some of the issues with finding accessible housing.

Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People (UNCRPD)

We will give effect to the UNCRPD with particularly focus on Article 19 as this will put NILS onto a legal footing.

End Work Capability and PIP Assessments

WCAs and PIP assessments will be scrapped. Doctors will assess fitness for work and employment advisors will work with disabled people to ensure they have access to activities including work should they wish.

Policy hub

Below are some of our policies on disability justice as found in our policy hub. There are more cemented into our other streams, such as transport, housing, education, and health. Links to policies open in a new tab.

Policies – Disability

Policy IDPolicy
EQ099Promote through our policies the social model of disability throughout society
EQ100We will ensure that disabled people can be independent and equal in society, with choice and control over their own lives
EQ101Ensure all workplaces can support everyone including those with disabilities
EQ102End disability discrimination and update the Equality Act to introduce new specific duties including disability leave, paid and recorded separately from sick leave
EQ103Ensure private house renters must state clearly property accessibility status
EQ104Reinstate the Access to Elected Office Fund to enable disabled people to run for elected office
EQ105Adopt a British Sign Language Act, giving BSL full legal recognition in law
EQ106Work with employers, trade unions and public services to improve awareness of neurodiversity in the workplace and in society
EQ146Give effect to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
EQ147Stop the dehumanising Work Capability and PIP Assessments
EQ148Bring the DWP back in house and remove private companies
EQ149Introduce National Independent Living Support Service (NILSS)
EQ150Increase Employment and Support Allowance
EQ151Raise the basic rate of support for children with disabilities to the level of Child Tax Credits
EQ152
Ensure disabled people who prefer not to have a family carer receive required support
EQ153Provide an allowance on top of the auto tax credit for carers
EQ154Help disabled people by bringing back specialist employment advisors
EQ155Introduce help for disabled people to move between jobs more easily
EQ156Ensure all new builds provide access to all people and are made adaptable where possible

Policies – National Care Service

Policy IDPolicy
PS096Build a comprehensive National Care Service (NCS)
PS097Provide community-based support, underpinned by the principle of independent living
PS098Provide free personal care for all
PS100Social Care will be free for all as with other health services.
PS103Provide care packages to support both people living independently in their own homes where required
PS105Remove the distinction between health and care needs
PS108All Care Services will be publicly owned as part of the NCS
PS112Pay full-time carers

References

1. Bad News for Disabled People: How the newspapers are reporting disability). Strathclyde Centre for Disability Research and Glasgow Media Unit. [Online] https://www.gla.ac.uk/media/Media_214917_smxx.pdf.

2. Lindsay, Carol. A mistake from the Coalition years that we must never repeat. Liberal Democrat Voice. [Online] 11 May 2018. https://www.libdemvoice.org/a-mistake-from-the-coalition-years-that-we-never-repeat-57482.html.

3. 635,000 Sign New ‘JSA Claimant Commitment’ As Arbitrary Sanctions Continue To Hit Jobless. Welfare Weekly. [Online] 24 April 2014. https://welfareweekly.com/635000-sign-new-jsa-claimant-commitment-as-arbitrary-sanctions-continue-to-hit-jobless/.

4. More than a million benefits sanctions imposed on disabled people since 2010. Guardian Newspapers. [Online] 28 February 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/feb/18/disabled-people-million-benefit-sanctions-since-2010.

5. Welfare Reform and Work Act. They Work For You. [Online] 21 Mar 2018. https://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2018-03-21c.127.0.

6. Is Britain Fairer? (The state of equality and human rights 2018). EHRC. [Online] June 2019. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/812921/is-britain-fairer-accessible__1_.pdf.

7. Dad killed himself after DWP cut his benefits despite ‘chronic illness’ June 2019. https://metro.co.uk/2019/06/06/dad-killed-dwp-cut-benefits-despite-chronic-illness-9831939/


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