5 times the Tory government has let down disabled people

Five times the Tories have launched an attack on disability welfare and disabled peoples' rights


Yet again campaigners are fighting against Tory plans to cut back disability welfare and push through ‘dangerous’ and ‘cruel’ reforms under the pretext of cost cutting. 

It’s the latest in 14 years of being let down by UK government policies which the UN recently determined have ‘’violated disabled people’s rights” and had failed to eliminate root causes of inequality and discrimination. Here are a few examples. 

PIP benefit delays

Former Chancellor George Osbourne introduced the new disability benefit Personal Independence Payment (PIP) in 2013. In the years after it was introduced, delays and disarray in the new system led to huge distress with people having to wait up to 14 months for the benefit to be paid. At the time, a government committee accused the government of letting down “some of the most vulnerable in society”. 

The criteria for receiving the benefit was tightened under PIP, with more than 160,000 vulnerable people being denied financial help they once received under the new system. Others said they were made to feel guilty of fraud as a result of the layered bureaucratic process to secure payments. 

Disabled people left poorer

Disabled people have already lost an average of £1,200 a year between 2008 and 2019 due to cuts and reform, while research by the charity Scope found that households with at least one disabled member needed an extra £975 a month to have the same standard of living as non-disabled households, after benefits like PIP were taken into account.

However the government are ploughing on with their latest plans to change PIP, including toughening the eligibility criteria even more and replacing cash payments with vouchers. 

Pandemic failures

The UK government was found to have breached disabled people’s rights 17 times during the pandemic, research by Disability News Service (DNS) found. The news site said breaches ‘cost many lives’, in particular from delays in testing social care staff for COVID-19 and the decision to discharge hospital patients into care homes without testing. 

Repeated breaches of the Equality Act, ECHR and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities were found, as DNS said the list highlighted how the government ‘repeatedly failed to protest disabled people during the pandemic’. 

Promised Network for disabled people

The government agreed to set up a network in order to give disabled people a voice and to discuss issues that affect them. The Regional Stakeholder Network, with chairs in each English region, was set up to consult and provide feedback on government policy with the aim to make the government think about disability in its work. 

The caveat? Noone would be paid for their work and contribution to this network. Despite requiring weekly contributions and extra-curricular work, and at a time when the government was pushing more disabled people back into the workplace. Disabled columnist James Moore said he read it as “‘We don’t value your work’”. 

Benefit deaths 

The UN committee which exposed the UK government for violations of disabled peoples’ rights said it was  “appalled by reports of ‘benefit deaths’ referring to fatalities among disabled people in the state party, subsequent to their engagement with the process for determining eligibility for benefits.”

The report alleged a “correlation between the government’s initiative to reevaluate incapacity benefits through the WCA and an estimated 600 suicides over a span of three years”.

“The evidence received revealed a disturbingly consistent theme: disabled people resorting to suicide following the denial of an adequate standard of living and social protection, starkly contradicting the foundational principles enshrined in the convention.”

One example can be drawn in 2021 when a coroner concluded that flaws in the disability benefits system were “the predominant factor and the only acute factor” that led to the death of a young mother. 

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward

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