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

Government plans to end ‘sick note culture’ demonise disabled people, say charities

Disability charities are asking the general public to sign a petition which calls on the government to stop demonising disabled people who cannot work.

The petition comes after a major speech by the Prime Minister last week. Rishi Sunak unveiled plans to end Britain’s “sick note culture” and create stricter benefits criteria.

James Taylor, Director of Strategy at Scope said Sunak’s plans constitute a “full-on assault on disabled people”.

PM says ‘sick note culture’ causing millions to be written off work

In his speech last week (19 April), Rishi Sunak said the government plans to tackle the rise in economic inactivity and ensure the benefits system is better targeted at “those with the greatest needs and extra costs.”

Sunak said the government will reform the benefits system by making the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) criteria stricter. He also suggested that some people with mental health conditions could be offered treatment (such as talking therapies and respite care) rather than payment.

The Prime Minister also announced plans to change the “sick note culture”, which he says has led to millions being written off work and into welfare with no support to get back into work.

He said the new fit note system will stop people being written off ‘by default’, and instead focus on what people can do with the right support in place.

Government proposals are ‘dangerous’ for disabled people

Mr Taylor has described Sunak’s proposal as “dangerous” and says it will not help to resolve economic inactivity.

He said: “In a cost-of-living crisis, looking to slash disabled people’s income by hitting PIP is a horrific proposal. Calls are pouring into our helpline from concerned disabled people.

“Life costs more for disabled people. Threatening to take away the low amount of income PIP provides to disabled people who face £975 a month extra costs isn’t going to solve the problem of economic inactivity. Sanctions and ending claims will only heap more misery on people at the sharp end of our cost-of-living crisis.

“Much of the current record levels of inactivity are because our public services are crumbling, the quality of jobs is poor and the rate of poverty amongst disabled households is growing.”

Charities call for a ‘kinder’ benefits system

For these reasons, Scope is calling on the general public to sign a petition which calls on the government to stop demonising those who cannot work, support those who want to work to do so, and create a ‘kinder’ benefits system.

The petition is supported by Z2K, Sense, Leonard Cheshire, Macmillan Cancer Support and Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID).

Richard Kramer, Chief Executive at Sense, said the demonisation of disabled people is “unbelievably damaging and unhelpful” and presents disabled people as ‘shirkers’ who don’t want to work.

“But this isn’t the case,” he said. “While employment isn’t right for everyone, many disabled people do want to work. Widespread issues, like negative attitudes, unfair recruiting practices and a lack of specialist assistive technology in job centres, stop people from finding work.

“Our research shows half of jobseekers with complex disabilities didn’t feel they had the right support and equipment they needed to look for a job.

“We’d urge the government to tackle these issues and offer better support as a priority, instead of focusing their time on scapegoating disabled and sick people.”

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