We are concerned about the current and projected impacts on disabled people of the changes to employment and support allowance; the ongoing issues with the work capability assessment; the reduction in local authority social care expenditure; the replacement of disability living allowance by personal independence payment; the closure of the independent living fund and the cap on housing benefit (Report, 10 May).
These changes are having an adverse impact on the lives of disabled people and carers, and are likely to erode or remove control and choice over home, work and community life. We fear the changes are retrogressive, and may re-erect barriers to community participation and herald the return of a “feed and clean only” support culture.
We welcomed the publication of the joint committee on human rights’ (JCHR) 23rd report, Implementation of the Right of Disabled People to Independent Living, which calls on the government to publish a cumulative equality impact assessment of the effects on disabled people of current reforms. The JCHR considers this to be essential, given the government’s legal responsibilities as a signatory to the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (UNCRPD). There must be a commitment to the progressive realisation of the UNCRPD rights, however tough the current economic climate.
We hope the government’s response to the report, due by 21 May, will include a commitment to comprehensively assess the cumulative impact of all the reforms listed above on disabled people. Failure to do so raises the question of whether the government is meeting its obligations under international law.
Pat Onions (Lanark, South Lanarkshire) and over 36,500 signatures to the petition at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/20968, Jane Young Disability consultant and campaigner, wearespartacus.org.uk Linda Burnip Member, DPAC steering group Professor Peter Beresford Chair, Shaping Our Lives Dr Simon Duffy Director, Centre for Welfare Reform Richard Hawkes Chief executive, Scope Paul Farmer Chief executive, Mind Mark Goldring Chief executive, MencapSteve Ford Chief executive, Parkinson’s UK Rosemary O’Neill, Frances Kelly CarerWatch Kaliya Franklin Disability rights writer and campaigner Claire Glasman WinVisible Steve Griffiths Research and consultancy in social and health policy Peter Spencer Chief executive, Action for M.E. Paul Jenkins Chief executive, Rethink Mental IllnessDr Ben Baumberg Lecturer in sociology and social policy, University of Kent Dr Sarah Woodin Lecturer in sociology and social policy, University of Leeds Nick Rijke Director of policy and research, MS Society Dan Morton Social Workers Action Network Caroline Richardson Ouchtoo.org Norma Curran Values Into Action Scotland, Scottish Campaign for a Fair Society Sam Barnett-Cormack, Simon Barrow Ekklesia Teresa Catto-Smith, Carole Rutherford Act Now for Autism Steven Rose Chair, Campaign for a Fair Society Clifford Singer False Economy Pippa Mackie Chief executive, Kingston-upon-Thames CAB Ali Kashmiri Access Auditor, NRAC Karen Machin St Helens, Merseyside
• Iain Duncan Smith‘s view of people with long-term disabilities with lifetime awards as being “allowed to fester” risks feeding the rise in verbal abuse of disabled people, reinforced by an implied fraudulent 30% increase of 500,000 disabled people taking £2.24bn unmerited benefits (Disability benefits to be slashed, 14 May). The DWP has benefits fraud at 0.5%. Such propaganda doesn’t sit easily with the Home Office’s recent hate crime action plan.
The public needs to understand that most disabled people genuinely need this benefit, to help many maintain work supported by the £41.10 low-level combined DLA. It is an independence benefit, keeping people independent of (more costly) services. Those on low DLA are also impacted by most local councils’ cuts being no longer eligible for social care support.
Without DLA, many on low wages may be unable to continue working. Given the levels of national minimum and living wages (£243.20 and £288 per week), how can Iain Duncan Smith justify taking this or the £71.45 from long-term disabled people unable to work, leaving £71 or £53.45 (under-25s) per week? Could any of us without disability expenses manage such a loss? Many are likely to lose independence, with escalating needs forcing them on to local authority care support.
Chair, Campaign for a Fair Society
• It seems that Iain Duncan Smith has chosen the most unproductive way of dealing with disability claims. Forcing disabled people and those with chronic illnesses to attend fascist-style assessment centres does nothing to improve the public perception of his government.
There is a better way of dealing with this problem. As there are now Atos assessment centres scattered around the country, why not utilise these resources in a more productive way? At present the system is throwing money down the drain in a cycle of assessments and appeals. Atos centres could instead be used to offer specialised advice and support to disabled people in order that they can return to work. They could also be a place where potential employers could advertise job opportunities specifically for disabled workers.
Dr S Barlow
• Polly Toynbee describes government failure (Comment, 15 May), including withdrawal of disability living allowance. At a recent conference of people working in part of the voluntary sector, a wheelchair-bound woman with obviously severe disabilities spoke. She said she was able to do a limited amount of volunteer work for her credit union – a couple of hours a day – which had therapeutic benefits. The response of the DWP was, “If you are able to volunteer for eight hours a week, you can take paid work for eight hours a week.” She lost her DLA because she had undertaken voluntary work with her credit union.
The irony is that volunteering, the so-called “big society”, was the Tories’ flagship policy in their 2010 manifesto.
Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire