Treating disabled people as a commodity.
New plans risk impoverishing thousands.
Various news sources have today been reporting research which has been carried out by the disability charity, Scope.
The research suggests that many disabled people risk losing essential payments under the planned changes to the benefits system. This risks placing already vulnerable people into even greater poverty. It risks placing those already hidden from societal concern at the furthest margins of our community.
In particular Scope says the proposed test of claimants’ need is flawed for focusing on the disability but ignoring relevant factors like housing and transport.
In some senses it’s a bit like the old social and medical model of disability discussions which are a must for everyone who is serious about disability equality and discrimination.
Put simply the old medical model looked at an individual from the perspective of their disability – it assumed that the person was less whole, not fit, not healthy, cannot contribute ,. Needs to be done to and done for. The old ‘Does he take sugar?’ idea.
A social model argues that the ‘fault’, the disability, the incapacity does not lie with the individual but the way in which both their physical and non-physical environment disables a person. John cannot access services not because there is an inherent fault with John but because he cannot climb the stairs to get into the building!
It strikes me that the present proposals and plans around capacity and around disability are based on an outdated medical model and more than that one which demands a tick box approach. No person fits neatly into the parameters of a square tick – we are all individuals all the more so when we have disabilities – so why does yet another benefits approach try to create a one size fits all approach which categorises, means, pigeon-holes and serves only to limit humanity and disable more?
Some 3.2 million disabled people, including children, receive the existing disability living allowance which is due to be replaced by the personal independence payment, which features in the government’s Welfare Reform Bill.
A new medical assessment has been drawn up that will be carried out on disabled people of working age, of whom there are about two million.
But, according to the BBC website, Scope, argues that the assessment “doesn’t take into consideration all the barriers that disabled people face in daily life”.
It highlights examples including unsuitable housing, inaccessible public transport, and a lack of informal support networks that “create significant extra costs for disabled people that in most cases are not related to the direct effect of an individual’s condition and impairment”.
Scope chief executive Richard Hawkes said: “We recognise that disability living allowance needs reforming and we fully support the government’s ambitions to create a more active and enabling benefit.”
Around the country this weekend there are demonstrations against the proposed changes which not only will place thousands into poverty but will do so in a demanding and discriminatory manner. I hope you can add your voice to them if you are nearby.
Dr Donald Macaskill
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