Yesterday the Chancellor Philip Hammond suggested that a higher number of disabled people in the workforce has played a part in the “sluggish productivity in Britain’s economy”.
Debbie, from Scope’s helpline, who works with thousands of disabled people and their families every year, has this to say about his comments:
I first saw Philip Hammond’s comments yesterday, after spending the day doing training with the Samaritans on how to deal with suicidal callers.
This training has become necessary for our helpline.
We deal with calls and queries from sick and disabled people in deep distress every day.
Many times, we’ve exercised our duty of care by alerting the authorities of serious welfare concerns.
We’ve called the police, we’ve called ambulances, and had many conversations with safeguarding teams at local authorities across the country.
To see such derogatory comments made in this day and age sparked an anger inside me and many of my Scope colleagues.
I’ve worked in front-line advice for 10 years, and the past four years has been the most challenging and difficult time I’ve ever known.
For me, these comments are a new and massive blow to disabled people.
Disabled people who have already ‘failed’ at being sick and/or disabled according to ESA (Employment Support Allowance) and PIP (Personal Independence Payments) assessments now stand accused of failing the economy too.
These are the same sick and disabled people who have been punished for the financial crisis through brutal cuts to social care and welfare benefits.
As a helpline, we’ve fielded queries from thousands of sick and disabled people affected by welfare reform, including some forced into work when they’re clearly not well enough or able to. Many have been forced into destitution and an uncertain future.
This is only going to get worse with Universal Credit, and we’re already seeing an increase in these types of queries.
I’ve spoken to many disabled workers who have gone through the DLA (Disability Living Allowance) to PIP transition, and have lost out.
It’s incredibly hard to be a productive employee when you’re going through the stress of appealing a benefits decision. But disabled people do it every day.
They turn up to work and are the best that they can be under extremely difficult circumstances.
Like the stress of losing your Motability car and being unable to get to work safely.
Or the stress you feel if you can’t pay your rent, or don’t have enough money to eat.
The in-work support available to disabled people, such as Access to Work, has also been cut and is very difficult to get.
Going through these horribly complex processes consumes you, exhausts you and affects every part of your life and your relationships with others.
The detriment to disabled people’s mental and physical well-being has been evident to us, and is far too common in our work.
I am human, my colleagues are human, we hurt and we feel. Some of us are parents to disabled children, or are disabled ourselves, and it’s sickening to hear such nastiness.
Despite the anger and devastation I feel about these comments, I’m even more determined to continue fighting for Everyday Equality. I know that my colleagues feel the same.
We’ve had blow after blow in recent years, and this for me was the final straw.
We will rise up and we will continue challenging all of the injustices, and we will do this together until there is Everyday Equality for disabled people and their families.
We want to hear how these comments have affected you too. Tell us, tell your local MP, tell anyone who will listen.
Enough is enough.
Scope has written to the Prime Minister asking her to clarify her position and called on the Chancellor to withdraw his comments. We’ve also explained why his comments are damaging and inaccurate.