Viewpoint - Disability matters

Cliff Towson says the government’s changes to welfare benefits are putting people with disabilities at a further disadvantage.

As part of the government’s onslaught of new welfare legislation it has reviewed and undone the rights of disabled people.

Firstly, it has invented Personal Independence Payments to replace Disability Living Allowance and which are currently being rolled out slowly.

However, by 2015 the government intends that everyone claiming the benefit will be individually assessed.

We can hope for a change in government, or a realisation that assessing everyone is expensive.

Already ATOS has been funded £390 million for its role in the process.

CSP chief executive Phil Gray pointed out in a documentary on this subject that NHS services cannot cope with current demand so there is going to be no spare capacity for disability assessments.

Governments must realise that long-term degenerative conditions only get worse, cause more pain and disability and require more support.

Meanwhile, the new bedroom tax is also hitting disabled people.

They might need more space for carers to sleep, or be a couple that need to have separate bedrooms, not to mention all the other reasons people may need an extra room.

Following closure of Remploy’s sheltered workshops came the promise that monies saved would go into the Access to Work scheme, which supports people with disabilities to work.

But there is no evidence that this has happened. Again the government misses the point that in a recession getting jobs for able-bodied persons is challenging enough.

Proving prejudice against disabled people in recruitment is difficult, but we all suspect it’s there.

Earlier this year the CSP presented a motion at TUC disability conference requesting the TUC to lobby for job sharing in parliament.

Some disabled people would stand for parliament, and would probably get elected, but are put off because the stress of a full-time demanding role would almost certainly impact on their health.

There could be 65 disabled politicians in the House of Commons if you took the proportion of known disabled in the population.

So why not allow job sharing? It is allowed everywhere else.

We need to move our policy makers into the world that most of us live in. It’s time for change and true equality.

Cliff Towson is senior physiotherapist, a CSP steward, co-convenor of CSP disabled members’ network and a member of TUC Disabled Workers Committee. 

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