Disabled people facing government hostility in the UK

The British public have reacted to “a sense of betrayal of that so-called British value of fairness” (The hostile environment? Britain’s disabled people live there too, theguardian.com, 26 April). This “sense of betrayal” was only possible because the national press reported the plight of the Windrush scandal, but this is not always the case. Some of the press were happy to promote the exaggerated claims of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) which, during five years of coalition government, knowingly misled the public regarding “fake” claimants of disability benefit. Coincidentally, disability hate crimes increased by 213% during the coalition’s term in office.

Influenced by a US healthcare insurance “consultant”, who funded DWP-commissioned research used to justify welfare reforms, the work capability assessment (WCA) adopted the bio-psychosocial model of assessment which has failed all academic scrutiny. The WCA is used by the DWP to resist access to the employment and support allowance (ESA) sickness and disability benefit, which is the financial equivalent of jobseeker’s allowance, so there is no financial incentive when claiming ESA.

This DWP assessment totally disregards diagnosis, prognosis, past medical history and all medical opinion. Deaths of genuine claimants were always inevitable. There is a reason why the DWP has refused to publish updated ESA mortality totals since February 2014, as suicides linked to the ESA assessment climb. It’s time for this ideological DWP tyranny to end, and for the national press to stop disregarding another national atrocity impacting on disabled people.

Mo Stewart Independent disability studies researcher
Professor Woody Caan Editor, Journal of Public Mental Health
Dr Tanya Titchkosky Professor of disability studies, University of Toronto
Professor Peter Beresford Professor of citizen participation, Essex University
Dr Marion Hersh Senior lecturer, biomedical engineering, Glasgow University
Dr Dominic Griffiths Senior lecturer in Inclusive Education and SEN, Manchester Metropolitan University
Dr Anne Daguerre Assistant professor in work, employment and welfare, Middlesex University
Dr Simon Duffy Director, Centre for WelfareReform
Vin West Chair, Arfon Access Group

• The global crisis of poor vision affects 2.5 billion people (The long read, 10 May) but we could see progress within our lifetimes if governments, NGOs and the private sector take action. Poor vision, the world’s largest unaddressed disability, prevents children from seeing the classroom blackboard, traps families in poverty and entrenches gender inequality. The UN’s sustainable development goals look unachievable without tackling it. For those without glasses suffering from refractive error, the personal cost can be huge. The global annual bill in health costs and lost productivity is estimated at $3tn. But reducing the number of traffic accidents and increasing labour participation is the responsibility of insurers, employers, governments and, of course, eyewear manufacturers. Glasses may have been invented some 700 years ago but, with determination, we can provide vision for everyone, everywhere. At the first ever Global Disability Summit in London in July, Theresa May has an opportunity to show her own commitment – the time to act is now.
James Chen
Founder, Clearly – a global campaign to help the world see

• Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/may/11/disabled-people-facing-government-hostility-in-the-uk

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