Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Chancellor refuses to apologise after “crass, damaging, discriminatory” claim

Leonard Cheshire Disability have led the backlash from disability charities and the wider public after UK Chancellor Philip Hammond provoked outrage by suggesting disabled people were less productive workers than others.

Mr Hammond was challenged on why productivity was stubbornly low during an evidence session at the Treasury select committee yesterday.

“It is almost certainly the case that by increasing participation in the workforce, including far higher levels of participation by marginal groups and very high levels of engagement in the workforce, for example of disabled people – something we should be extremely proud of – may have had an impact on overall productivity measurements,” Hammond told MPs.

The offensive comments came barely week after the government launched a new strategy to demonstrate their commitment to promoting greater access to work for disabled people. 

“Philip Hammond’s comments yesterday are crass, contradictory and damaging,” said Neil Heslop, the chief executive of pan-disability charity Leonard Cheshire.

“The comparatively low level of productivity in the UK is a long-standing economic issue. Scapegoating disabled people for this is ludicrous.”

“The reality, based on the government’s own figures, is that more disabled people are leaving the workforce than entering it — and they continue to be side-lined from employment opportunities at an alarming rate.”

Scope were among the first to respond yesterday, calling for a “full apology” which has yet to materialise.

“These comments are totally unacceptable and derogatory [and] fundamentally undermine the Government’s policy to get more disabled people into work,” said Anna Bird, Scope’s Director of Policy and Research.

Ismail Kaji, who has a learning disability and works in learning disability charity Mencap’s parliamentary team, said the Chancellor’s statement was “very discriminatory to disabled people.”

“For him to suggest any minority group is hurting the economy is not acceptable for someone in his position,” he added.

Earlier in the year campaigner Rosa Monckton, whose daughter has a learning disability, defended her own highly controversial claims that a minimum wage exemption would support more people with learning disabilities into work.

There remains very little support for this view.

The Fragile X Society have called Philip Hammond’s comments “disappointing and despicable” while Green Party leader Caroline Lucas has labelled them “shameful, baseless and unacceptable”.




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