Andy Shipley FRSA questions why the government is rejecting the welfare of its disabled citizens and failing to facilitate the valuable contribution they could make to society.
In a blog published on the Guardian Social Care Network, Academic Peter Beresford, asks “why is the government waging war on disabled people?” It’s certainly a question that many disabled people must be asking themselves, possibly coupled with “what exactly have I done to deserve this?”
Two weeks ago the first oral evidence hearing into the Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into PIP and ESA assessment took place. At the hearing, the Committee heard directly from disabled people about their experience of the application process and treatment by the contractors assessing them. All spoke of a system that is indifferent to their needs, lacking in empathy, possessing little or no disability awareness, and which appears just to be following a tick-box approach.
For me, I believe the problem is largely rooted in how disabled people are perceived by policy makers. For many of us who believe in the social model of disability, a policy agenda that sought not only to embed equal rights but also to facilitate the powerful contribution disabled people could make to UK society, by challenging the attitudinal, institutional and physical barriers, seems a no brainer!
The painful truth, as I see it, is that the government isn’t capable of seeing it that way. In its world view, disabled people just don’t seem to factor in its notion of society. Whilst older peoples’ care and housing, the gender pay-gap, young peoples’ home ownership and racial inequality are all measures of a “country that works for everyone,” disabled people are conspicuous by their absence.
I wonder if this is because it just isn’t in the DNA of current policy makers to understand the shift that happened in the 1990s and mid-2000s, characterized by the DDAs 1995 and 2005, the foundation of the Disability Rights Commission, the Disability Equality Duty, the Independent Living Fund and the 2012 London Paralympics.
Rather than embracing and building on these to further propagate the flourishing of talent and creativity these unleashed, we have reverted to a policy agenda which suggests that despite this brief blossoming, this government isn’t capable of seeing disabled people as anything other than recipients of care, or of welfare, or specialist housing, whatever it is, definitely something with an extra cost attached.
The recent Budget announcement, whilst offering some hope to those young people fortunate enough to be in a position to now purchase a secure home that meets their needs, did absolutely nothing for the hundreds of thousands of disabled people trapped in inaccessible housing, or having to survive with a few minutes of social care per day, or stuck indoors because the health service won’t give them the wheelchair they need to get out, or those wondering how they will afford to live, because a benefits assessor has wrongly assessed their eligibility for PIP or ESA.
Torsten Bell, Director of the Resolution foundation has described this decade as “the worst since the Napoleonic War.” This must acutely resonate for many disabled people, for whom the regard with which they are held by this government, and the treatment they receive from its agents, must appear reminiscent of the same period.