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

Anger grows towards people on disability benefits

Dan Parton cut Dan Parton looks at some shocking new statistics from Mencap on disability hate crime linked to cuts to public services:

According to a poll by IpsosMORI on behalf of the charity, nearly half (49%) of the British public think that cuts to services and public spending may make people who receive disability benefits more open to abuse or attack. Furthermore, 61% believe that the focus on cuts may makesome people angry at those who receive disability benefits. Wow. I knew there was anti-benefit feeling out there, but not that much.

Mencap suggests this is down to the government’s focus on cutting public spending, but I wonder howmuch of this is also down to certain sections of the mainstream media that have had an anti-benefits agenda for some time – witness the wealth of ‘benefit scrounger lives in luxury’-type stories inrecent months. The focus of the benefits debate has been on fraudsters, especially those abusing incapacity benefit/employment and support allowance, although those receiving disability living allowance (DLA) have also been lumped in on occasion.

This is despite the Department of Work and Pensions’ own figures showing afraud rate of 0.5% for DLA. The government also hasn’t helped, withits stated aim to reduce the DLA budget by 20%, with the inferencethat some people are on it who don’t need it. All this just adds toa feeling of resentment among some of the wider public, who may seedisability benefits claimants as getting “something for nothing”.So, with this in mind, it seems incredible that the Equality Act -brought in last year to tackle discrimination – might be scrapped, if fellow charity Scope is correct.

Scope’s chief executive Richard Hawkes has noted that as part of the government’s Red Tape Challenge (which sounds like some sort of diet to me…) the EqualityAct, along with a raft of other rights to care services, housingand education, could be axed. That the government is even thinkingabout it is bad enough. Many people have fought for years to getequality for people with learning disabilities, and any suggestion that this necessary legislation could be dropped should be foughtvociferously. Prejudice is still out there – perhaps much less thanin previous years, but still there.

However, reassuringly, theresponses on the Red Tape Challenge website, and the number ofcomments in support of the Equality Act, would suggest that it willstay. But if you want to add your comment on the future of the act, click here. Times are tough enough as it is forpeople with learning disabilities who use council services – Community Care reported that an ADASS survey revealed £1billion worth of adult social care cuts are being made this year -without them having to face additional prejudice/abuse/hate crimefor having the temerity to claim the benefits that help them tolive their lives.

It is time for more campaigns to highlight howpeople who claim disability benefits need them to live their lives and that with them, they can make a contribution to society and arenot simply a ‘drain’ on it. With the level of anti-disability benefit feeling apparently out there, these campaigns are needed sooner rather than later.

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