Tag Archives: Benefits

Welfare and Work Bill – our priorities in the closing stages

The Welfare and Work Bill that is currently going through Parliament is a big priority for Scope because it will have a major impact on the employment prospects of disabled people.

As scrutiny reaches its final stages in the House of Lords, and as set out in our last blog post on the Bill, Scope is focused on two key issues – opposing the proposed cut to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for some disabled people, and persuading the Government to report on progress in meeting their commitment to halve the disability employment gap.

Disability employment gap reporting

A key issue for Scope is requiring the Government to report annually on progress in meeting its manifesto commitment to halving the disability employment gap. The first clause of this Bill introduces a reporting obligation on the Government’s progress towards achieving full employment, ensuring Parliamentarians and the public are kept informed of progress towards meeting this target.

Scope believes that this should include a requirement for the Government to report annually on meeting its commitment to halve the disability employment gap, which itself set as a Manifesto commitment.

The gap between disabled people’s employment rate and the rest of the population has remained stubbornly static at around 30% for the last decade. The Government cannot hope achieve its objective of full employment unless it halves this gap. Reporting annually on progress towards doing so, will draw attention and accountability to this very welcome commitment, and will greatly help to prioritise its delivery by the Government.

This looks set to be the first issue that Peers debate then the Bill’s Report Stage starts later today.

Opposing reduction to ESA

On Wednesday, they will turn their attention to the Government’s proposed cut to Employment and Support Allowance for disabled people in the Work Related Activity Group.

In previous blog posts and Parliamentary briefings, we have set out how this proposed cut of £30 a week will adversely affect some disabled people, who have been found unfit for work by an independent assessment. The cut will disincentivise them from finding employment, and push them further from the labour market.

Two important developments have powerfully brought home this message to Parliamentarians recently. At Lords Committee Stage, Scope and our coalition partners in the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), supported Lord Low, and Baronesses Meacher and Grey Thompson, to review the impact of the ESA WRAG cut.

From evidence received from disabled people, as well as organisations representing them, the review found the proposed cut to ESA WRAG would make it much harder for people in this group to find work. This is because it would more difficult to be able to afford training, work experience and volunteering. Cutting benefits would also lead to stress and anxiety as people struggled to pay the bills, affecting their physical and mental health, according to the review’s findings.

It recommends that Government should not push ahead with the cut. Instead, they should put in place better support for disabled people to help them build up their skills and support to look for, and stay in, work.

Disabled people had the opportunity to communicate these messages face to face with MPs  in a lobby of Parliament a couple of weeks ago, which was attended by nearly a hundred members of Parliament.

The review and lobby of Parliament have generated considerable momentum behind the campaign to reverse the ESA WRAG reduction. Both independent and leading opposition Peers have signed up to amendments to scrap the ESA WRAG cut, and its equivalent in the Universal Credit system. Scope and our DBC partners are very hopeful that this will herald a vote against a reduction in ESA on Wednesday night in the House of Lords.

We will be live tweeting the debates on Monday 25 January and Wednesday 27 January, and you can follow proceedings live online on Parliament TV. Watch out for more blog updates on the bill as it leaves the Lords, and MPs consider any changes they have made.  

What will the Comprehensive Spending Review mean for disabled people?

On Wednesday, the Government announces its spending decisions for the next four years in its Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR). These decisions are likely to have a big impact on the lives of disabled people in this Parliament.

Here are three areas that Scope will be looking for the Chancellor to address.

Support so that more disabled people can find, stay and progress in work

The Government has set out an ambitious – and very welcome – aim of halving the disability employment gap. This was something that Scope had called on all Parties to do in the run up to the 2015 General Election, and both the Prime Minister and Iain Duncan Smith have said this is a priority for the Government.

Right now, the difference in the employment rate amongst disabled people and the rest of the population is 30%, and has remained static for a decade.

We know disabled people want to work, and are ready to do so. But this gap remains for a range of reasons – from a lack of suitable and available jobs, poor attitudes from potential employers and a lack of appropriate support to enter the workplace.

But if this gap is to be halved, the Government needs action which matches this ambition. For example, current back to work programmes have poor outcomes in supporting disabled people into work and these must be improved to ensure specialist, tailored support is available.

As the Chancellor is expected to give more detail about the ‘Devolution Revolution’ it is critical that this opportunity connects disabled people to local jobs and growth if he is also to ‘halve the disability employment gap’.

Tackling the extra costs of disability

Life costs more if you are disabled. Our research shows that disabled people spend an average of £550 on disability related extra costs each month.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and its replacement, the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), are in recognition of this. Scope very much welcomed the Chancellor’s commitment in the June 2015 Budget to protect these payments, and we will be looking for him to reaffirm this commitment.

But the Chancellor can also go further in making sure these extra costs are tackled and reduced. Last year, an independent inquiry by the Extra Costs Commission made a number of recommendations about how these extra costs can be driven down through action by Government, businesses, regulators and disabled people themselves. The Chancellor should use this opportunity to adopt some of the Commission’s recommendations to support disabled people as consumers and drive down these extra costs in areas like taxis and insurance. He could also adopt the Commission’s recommendation to get more disabled people online, supporting them to take advantage of online offers, information and advice.

Supporting disabled people to live independently

Social care is the support that disabled people need to get up, get washed, and get out of the house.

The care system is currently chronically underfunded, with £4.6 billion having been removed from the system over the last five years. According to the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, an additional £700 million per year is needed to address the social care funding gap, plus £2 billion over the spending review term.

Recently published Scope research shows the impact of this care crisis. Over half of the disabled people we spoke to who use social care (55%) can’t get the support they need to live independently. It is essential the Chancellor addresses the care crisis in the Spending Review, providing a sustainable settlement for the social care system, so that disabled people are able to receive the support they need to live independently.

The Government has also promised to do more to integrate the health and social care systems. Any announcement the Chancellor makes on how he plans to do this must consider disabled people and how integration will support their independence.

Like much of the country, Scope will be watching the Chancellor’s announcements closely. No other set piece political event over the next four years will provide a better opportunity for the Government to give disabled people an equal stake in our country’s future.

Four things we’ll say to MPs on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill

This afternoon, Scope is giving oral evidence to a committee scrutinising the Welfare Reform and Work Bill. It aims to achieve full employment in the economy and reforms a number of working age benefits that will impact on the lives of disabled people.

Scope will be putting forward the following four key priorities to MPs:

Halving the disability employment gap

Scope was very pleased with the government’s bold and ambitious manifesto commitment to halving the disability employment gap, taking forward a Scope pre-election recommendation, set out in our Million Futures report.   

In order to see this through, we want to see the government include a reporting requirement on halving the disability gap to clause 1 on full employment reporting. Getting a million more disabled people back to work, will be essential to realising the government’s vital aim on full employment.

Research for Scope set out in our ‘Enabling Work’ report shows the substantial economic benefits of even small increases in the disability employment rate – to give just one example, a 10 percentage point increase in the disability employment rate will grow Gross Domestic Product by £45 billion by 2030.

Oppose reduction in Employment Support Allowance payments to the Work Related Activity Group

The government is cutting the financial support provided to disabled people through the Employment and Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group (ESA WRAG).

We do not see this as an answer to halving the disability employment gap. Disabled people placed in ESA WRAG have been found ‘unfit for work’ by the independent Work  Capability Assessment. Rather than incentivising disabled people to find work, this will push them further away from the job market, and make their lives harder.

Improving employment support for disabled people

Research shows that disabled people very much want to work, but they face a range of barriers to doing so.

Scope wants to see the government bring forward detailed plans for the development of improved employment support for disabled people in order to enable them to enter, stay and progress in the world of work. Scope has a number of proposals on what specialised employment support should look like for disabled people.

Enhancing extra costs payments for disabled people

Scope welcomes the recognition in this Bill of the importance of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payments (PIP) in meeting the extra costs of disability. Scope’s research shows that disabled people’s extra costs average £550 a month, around £360 of which are met by DLA/PIP.

Scope believes it’s critical the government to build on its commitment to protect DLA/PIP from cuts, by enhancing it through a triple lock so that it’s value rises by the higher of CPI inflation, earnings or 2.5 per cent.

You can follow Scope’s evidence session with MPs today via Twitter  and watch this space for a report back on the outcome of Scope’s lobbying on these issues.

Enterprise Rent-a-Car pledge to be disabled-friendly service and employer

Donna Miller is HR Director at Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Here she explains why the company has backed the recommendations from the Extra Costs Commission report, and pledged to become a disabled-friendly service and employer. 

Photo of Donna Miller, wearing a suit and smilingVirtually all large companies have mission statements that articulate something about their morality and beliefs.

We’re surrounded by brands who want to assure us that they not only provide an excellent service and great value for money, but do so with integrity, equality and inclusivity firmly in mind.

But behind the good intentions and overuse of buzzwords, it seems that there is a gulf between what companies claim to stand for and what they actually deliver to consumers.

The Extra Cost Commission has unveiled that people with disabilities pay an extra £500 a month for goods and services, which seems to be at odds with what companies assert about their ‘inclusive’ business practices. It seems that people with disabilities have to pay a premium to live the same life as others – hardly good value.

Enterprise company cars lined upI believe that Enterprise is different. Like other companies, we also have nice sounding words and phrases that make up our core values. They are at the core of every decision we make and that is why we are trying to make Enterprise a more disabled friendly service provider and employer.

As a service provider, Enterprise is firmly committed to providing disabled people with the same services at the same prices as other customers. We pride ourselves on our award winning customer service, which extends to everyone regardless of race, gender, religion, or disability. Furthermore, we have been taking practical steps to make our offices and branches more accessible where we can, but that’s not toStaff answering phone at Enterprise say that we get it right 100 per cent of the time.

Despite us making progress towards its goal of being the first choice for disabled consumers, we have quite a way to go. It’s a journey that’s made up of many steps, but we are absolutely committed to getting it right.

Serving the disabled community is the right thing to do from a moral perspective, which should be motivation enough for any business. However, treating disabled customers equally could also have some benefits for those companies that get it right.

The Extra Cost Commission has called on disabled consumers to make their collective annual spend of £212 billion heaAccessible carrd. Companies that listen to their disabled customers could find their ‘integrity’ and ‘inclusivity’ result in other well know business terms, such as profit, satisfaction, and loyalty.

I can assure you that Enterprise is listening.

Are you a business that would like to pledge to take on some of the Extra Costs Commission recommendations? We’d love to know. 

Struggling to make ends meet? Help is at hand

David Samson, a Welfare Benefits Specialist at the charity Turn2us. Here he explains how their benefits calculator, which is now hosted on Scope’s website, can help.

“We started to get behind on our bills and dreaded the post arriving. The stress of finances and day to day living was tearing us apart.”

This is how James – one of our users – described his situation before coming to us for help. James is disabled and unable to work, and he was struggling to get by on a low income. He felt confused about what financial support could be available.

As a charity helping people in financial hardship in the UK, we hear from thousands of people like James every day. We know that people can be hit by financial difficulties at any point in their lives for many different reasons such as illness, disability or caring for someone. Many are forced to live in cold homes or go without food as a result, yet there is often low awareness of what support they can claim, or sometimes a reluctance to ask for help.

One of the ways we help people in need is through our benefits calculator. This free and easy-to-use tool tells you what welfare benefits you could be entitled to, how much you may receive and how to make a claim.Woman on her laptop

It calculates entitlement to means-tested benefits including Income-related Employment and Support Allowance and Housing Benefit, and also highlights potential eligibility for non-means benefits such as Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment. The tool is fully accessible for disabled people, and can be used on a mobile phone. It also links through to the Money Advice Trust’s ‘My Money Steps’ service which provides free debt advice.

Through using the benefits calculator, James managed to make a successful claim for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), receiving £200 every fortnight. His situation is now more positive and he says: “Things feel more stable now and I’m far less anxious. I feel I can move on with my life and pay the bills.”

In the last financial year, we saw over 940,000 calculations completed on our benefits calculator – a 63% increase on the previous year. As economic difficulties and proposed cuts to welfare continue, the need for help is greater than ever and we expect this rise to continue, which is why Scope and other charities are now hosting it on their website too.

The calculator is continually updated to reflect the latest benefit changes, and has helped more many people to understand their entitlements at an uncertain time.

Woman with dark hair sitting on the sofa in her living room on a laptopHarriet supports her disabled adult son and was worried when his entitlement changed and his benefit was cut. Using the benefits calculator, she identified that he was eligible for additional support at £40 per week and says: “It’s taken a huge worry off of both of us. I’m so relieved my son can keep his financial independence.”

We would urge anyone who is struggling to take a few minutes out of their day to use the calculator to see what support they can claim for themselves or loved ones. Even if you have checked in the past, it is worth doing so again, especially if you have recently experienced a change in your circumstances.

Our research has shown the value of checking entitlements with 85% of households who currently claim benefits telling us that this extra income has helped with their bills, childcare costs and even avoiding debt.

So why not see if you might be eligible for help today? If you need any support with the calculator, you can ring Scope’s helpline on 0808 800 33 33 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, and someone can talk you through it.  

Disabled people should come together as ‘bold and loud’ consumers

Robin Hindle Fisher is Chair of the Extra Costs Commission, a year-long independent inquiry into the extra costs that disabled people face. As the report is published today, Robin says, “working on the Extra Costs Commission has been emotionally moving – it has helped me realise that I spent the first 54 years of my 55 year life effectively denying that I am disabled.”

Over the past year I have chaired the Extra Costs Commission, an independent body set up to look for market-based ways to relieve some of the extra costs that disabled people face as consequences of living with their disabilities.

The nature of these costs varies enormously across different conditions and from individual to individual. Examples include the costs of specialist equipment, such as wheelchairs, additional clothing, higher transport costs and higher energy bills, due to increased needs for heating caused by immobility.

Young disabled man shoppingThe disability charity Scope estimates that disabled people have to spend an average of around £550 per month on these extra costs, just to be able to live the same lives as others.  This compares with average welfare payments of £360 per month – leaving a substantial gap that disabled people have to finance. It is this gap that we have sought to reduce.

I have  enjoyed my involvement with the Commission enormously and I believe we have set out a number of recommendations that will have significant impact. One of the key recommendations is that disabled people, of whom I am one, should be prepared to be “bold and loud” about their disabilities. The Commission believes that this will help to make the spending power of the disabled sector, the so-called ‘purple pound’, an higher profile consumer phenomenon – and eventually drive down costs.

Disabled woman paying for shoppingI have found this “bold and loud” aspect of the Commission’s work emotionally moving. I have realised that I spent the first 54 years of my life (I’m now 55), effectively denying that I am disabled. What was it that drove me, a moderately ‘successful’ person (in terms of academic attainment, career advancement and material reward), to feel that I could not be seen as being ‘disabled’?

For a long time I assumed the answer was specific to me – maybe the result of my up bringing, that ingrained a strong ‘you are as good as anyone’ ethic in me. It affected me in a whole array of ways – how I dressed, how I strove for badges of conventional success, how I chose to interact with other disabled people – I didn’t.  It certainly affected how I explained my disability to my children wMum and disabled daughter looking at a tablet togatherhen they were young. Fearing that they would be teased, or worse, about their father’s physical deformities (they never were), I described myself as ‘special’, not in an elitist sense, but meaning just ‘different’.

Working on the Commission has helped me understand that I am not unusual. Many disabled people avoid the term, I guess fearing that they will be labelled by society as inferior to the able bodied majority. This denial is completely understandable – when I was growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s disability was stigmatised and society assumed that you were helpless, and quite possibly hopeless, if you were born or found yourself with physical, let alone mental, health issues.

Although the stigmatisation is massively less pervasive now than it was 30 or 40 years ago, it is still having hidden effects. One of them is the reluctance that many of us still feel to accept the badge of disability. But I now think this reticence is serving us badly. It certainly reduces our collective consumer influence – and thus contributes to the extra costs we face. Hence our call to disabled people to be “bold and loud”.Disabled woman in a wheelchair shopping

Perhaps even more importantly, I believe our reluctance to be identified as ‘disabled’ is perpetuating the very stigma that we seek to avoid. I think we should take our lead from the gay and lesbian community and be prepared to ‘come out’ that we are disabled. I feel that until we do that, disability will remain ‘inferior’ in some people’s minds, ‘special’ in others’, rather than what it should be – just another version of ‘normal’.

Read the Extra Costs Commission report, published today. 

If I was Prime Minister – #100days100stories

Every day for the 100 days leading up to tomorrow’s election, we’ve published the story of a disabled person or parent of a disabled child. On the final day of our campaign, we asked Charlie Willis, a young disabled campaigner with the organisation Independent Lives, what he would do if he was Prime Minister.

There are more than 11 million disabled people in the UK. As the 2015 General Election dawns, disabled and non-disabled people alike will be voting tomorrow for those candidates that they feel will best represent them in the Houses of Parliament.

If I were Prime Minister, I would hope to be able to use the position to improve the lives of disabled people. With this in mind, there are four changes I would immediately propose, broad ideas with one common theme: empowerment.

No. 1: A diverse governmentCharlie at a computer

Firstly, open up positions of power to different identity groups. A government should be representative of the people it supports, including identities formed around race, gender, sexuality, class and disability.

The present situation is far from this ideal: the diversity in our country is not fully reflected in the diversity of the Government.

By improving this, the country can start to champion the needs of the many, rather than the needs of the elite few, by fair and equal empowerment in terms of rights, visibility, opportunities and respect.

No. 2: An accessible country

Secondly, make spaces accessible for all. Accessibility is not just about ramps into buildings, but about all spaces being adapted to public need. Many disabled people still experience significant barriers to transport, buildings and the countryside.

Disabled people with varying impairments should always be included in the design process of new transport and the building of accessible lifetime homes.

This would work towards a Standard of Accessibility, by reviewing the accessible standards of building regulations to include hearing loops, quiet rooms or Changing Places toilets. By making everywhere accessible, people are empowered to get involved and have a voice.

No. 3: Empower peopleCharlie standing with a stick next to a poster

Thirdly, protect independence through welfare. Some disabled people are feeling the effects of changes to welfare, personal budgets and constant reassessments of need.

For those who rely on support to live their lives, the consequences of further cuts could be severe.

A tax on the richest people in the UK, and higher corporation tax, would ensure a future for the welfare state with adequate benefits for all that required it. Local authorities, the NHS and schools would have more money.

This would protect those with the most substantial need, empowering others to live more independently, being able to afford true choice and control.

No. 4: A change in attitudes

Lastly, reform attitudes within, and outside, government. In recent years disabled people have been repeatedly scapegoated and victimised in all areas of society. Representations of identity groups are linked to the behaviour towards them.

Images in the media that show disability are often manipulated and disabled people are represented as “weak”, “faking it”, or “scroungers”. Perhaps as a result, disability hate crime is on the rise.

Therefore, education needs to be inclusive of difference. The world of disability is a reality that everyone, at some point, will come into contact with, but is seldom taught about.

Representing disabled people in a more positive and radical light will end this manipulation and allow the creation of individual, empowered, identities for all disabled people.

Final thoughts…Charlie talking to a woman

Ultimately, disabled people and the organisations that empower them need to focus on the fight for independent living, and move the discussions in government towards preserving our civil rights.

Disability is a political issue. As Prime Minister, discussing issues around power, accessibility, protecting independence and our attitudes towards disability would help all people, not just those with impairments.

Independent Lives is a user-led charity supporting disabled people in West Sussex and Hampshire.   

Find out more about our 100 days, 100 stories campaign and read the rest of our stories so far

Three things the new government needs to remember about disability – #100days100stories

Guest post by Josie from Bristol. Josie has a number of impairments which affect her health and mobility; she uses a powered wheelchair. She is sharing her story as part of our 100 Days, 100 Stories campaign.

In 2008, I was well and working as a nurse. Then I got ill, and just didn’t get better. I was eventually diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a neurological condition which causes pain all over the body.Close-up headshot of Josie, a woman in her late 30s

I then suddenly developed idiopathic anaphylaxis – life-threatening allergic  reactions caused by a range of things, from heat to pollen and perfume. It means I need to have a support worker with me when I go somewhere new in case I have a reaction.

My other health problems mean my mobility is limited, and I’m often ill in bed for several days at a time.

I recently got an electric wheelchair, which has been amazing and has given me some of my freedom back. I have two children who live with their dad, whom I see regularly. But I still do not have the support I need to live a full life.

Two days away from the general election, here are three things the next government needs to do to make sure disabled people are better supported.

1.  Social care should support us to live, not just to survive

At the moment, I get three short visits a day from a care worker to cook my meals, help me shower, and keep the house clean.

My basic needs are met – I’m clean and I’m fed. But I haven’t got any allocated support to actually get me out of the house. It means that some days I barely get to speak to anyone, let alone have a social life.

If I get an infection and have to ask my carer to pick up a prescription, I don’t get to have a shower that day. There just isn’t enough time.

I understand why we’re in the position we’re in economically, but I worry that there will be more cuts to social care, and I really can’t see where they are going to come from.

2.  Remember that benefits are people’s lifeline

There’s nothing in my life that can be cut. Every penny that comes in goes back out, and I have to budget very carefully. There’s no ‘fat to trim’, as politicians like to say.

If, for example, my benefits were taxed, the money would come out of my food budget. I wouldn’t be able to afford online delivery for my shopping – I’d have to send a support worker, and miss a meal or a shower.

Josie, a disabled woman, smiling with her teenage son
Josie with her son Olly (her daughter Chloe is in the photo at the top of the page)

There’s a belief among some people that many disabled people don’t want to work, or choose not to. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. I didn’t choose to get ill, I didn’t choose to become disabled.  I actually found it very difficult to come to terms with the idea of claiming benefits.

Soon I’ll be reassessed for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), and I’ll have to justify myself again – there’s always a huge fear that what I have will be taken away.

3.  Disabled people deserve a role in society

A little more support – for example, a support worker to go with me to new places – would give me so much more opportunity to take part in life, but at the moment that feels like an impossible utopia!

The loss of the Independent Living Fund has been a blow – people like me, who were professionals and could make a contribution with the right support, are being cut out of the workforce.

Working in an office or a hospital isn’t really possible for me, but I still have skills and experience that I would like to use, if I had the means of doing so.

I’ve watched a lot of political debates such as Question Time over the past few years, and I haven’t seen a single person speak who uses social care. There have been a few family members, which is good, but disabled people should have a chance to speak for themselves.

A question of equality

In the end, it is a question of equality. In a fair world, I would have the support I need to live my life, and the opportunity to fulfil my capabilities.

I’d be able to go out and have a social life. I’d have support to do some work, maybe based at home where I would be able to control my surroundings. Instead I don’t feel like I’m living, just existing.

Politicians should look at my situation and ask themselves: “Would I be prepared to live like that?” And if the answer is no, they should be ready to make changes.

Josie runs a website offering support to people with idiopathic anaphylaxis at www.iamast.com

Tomorrow is the final day of our 100 Days, 100 Stories campaign. Find out why we did it, and read the rest of the stories so far.

I’ve been tipped out of my chair and punched in the face – #100days100stories

Guest post from Simon Green, as part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign

My name is Simon Green, I live in Bridgend, South Wales. I have a condition called Neurofibromatosis, which along with a freak accident has resulted in me having to use a wheelchair for the past 12 years.

I am Chair of Bridgend Coalition of Disabled People, a Trustee with Disability Wales and Coordinator with the Disability Hate Crime Network.

My life changed straight away, I expected it to, but I did not expect that having to use a wheelchair would result in hostility, but sadly it did. I was verbally abused, called derogatory names and deliberately tipped out my chair, and on one occasion punched in the face. The guy who hit me used the excuse that “he didn’t think it was right for a f***ing spaz to be out with a pretty girl”.

Campaigning for changeMan in wheelchair smiling

I have spent the past few years campaigning for more awareness in relation to disability related harassment and have heard some horrific stories of both verbal and physical abuse against disabled people.

But over the last three or four years I’ve been hearing more and more about a very different type of abuse, and that’s language like ‘scrounger’ and ‘benefit cheat’, especially against people with more hidden disabilities.

And this is where I come on to politics! Now I would not for a second directly blame any politician or journalist for someone attacking a disabled person but I believe politicians and journalists need to be careful with the language they use.

The power of words

Man in wheelchair at a rally
Campaigning for change: Simon Green

The constant talk of cutting welfare, suggestions that the state of the economy is down to the number of people claiming benefits and phrases such as “Strivers verses Skivers” do not help – and can increase hostility towards the disabled community.

I get extremely angry when such comments are made as they do a huge amount of harm.

Disabled people have votes, and if party leaders want these votes they need to cut down on the inappropriate and demonising comments.

Find out more about the Disability Hate Crime Network.

For advice and support call the Scope helpline on 0808 800 3333.

Find out more about our 100 days, 100 stories campaign and read the rest of our stories so far

Suddenly, I’m treated as if I’ve had 30 or 40 IQ points knocked off – #100days100stories

Guest post by Cath, from Driffield, East Yorkshire. She’s sharing her story as part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign. Woman smiling

Three years ago, I developed a motor neurone disorder. There’s no definite diagnosis, except that it will keep getting worse and that there is no treatment – a pretty grim prognosis.

In practical terms, it means that in three years I’ve gone from being able to do cartwheels and handsprings to needing a wheelchair to get more than a few paces.

I’m really independent – militantly independent, in fact – and while there are more and more things that I have to get help doing, I’m fighting it off for as long as possible.

Loss of control

For example, I really don’t like being pushed in my wheelchair. The only time I’ve ever allowed it was when we went off-roading, and I got my husband Phil to hang on to the wheelchair so I didn’t fall into a ditch!

But when I get on a train using the wheelchair ramp, I find that often the person assisting you starts pushing you up the ramp without asking. In other situations, I’ve even been moved out of the way without being asked.

It’s very strange – obviously people are trying to help, but it’s very dehumanising. It’s a bit like asking someone for directions, and them putting their hands on your shoulders and pushing you the right way, rather than telling you. It’s the loss of control that I find quite terrifying.

Assumptions people make

It’s automatically assumed that you’re not capable of doing things.The number of times I’ve spoken to someone in the street and mentioned work, and they’ve said, ‘You work?’

It’s even worse now that my condition has started to affect my speech. All of a sudden I get treated as if I’ve had 30 or 40 IQ points knocked off – and by people who never treated me like that before, which upsets me.Woman in wheelchair outside in a park

Unfortunately I’ve spent a lot of time off work and recently had to stop. This is mostly because my employer wasn’t prepared to make reasonable adjustments for me.

I’m not able to talk about it at the moment as I’m going through an employment tribunal, but it has been hugely stressful, and wasted a lot of my time during a period when I was in a much better physical state than I am now.

Changing attitudes

The attitude of too many people is that disability issues are all about benefits and illness.Yes, many of us do need benefits – often because of all the extra expense involved in being disabled – but that doesn’t mean we are all just sitting at home doing nothing.

Disability isn’t necessarily the same as infirmity. You can be disabled without being ill, and if you put all the right adjustments in place, a disabled person can be just as able to work and take part in society as a non-disabled person. DSC_0076

As a disabled person working with children, I hope I help them see that we’re all different – disabled or not, we all have different things to bring to life.

And it should be noted that we have as many faults as everyone else too. We’re not little suffering saints, as many people expect us to be. We can be just as arsey as everyone else!

Find out more about 100 days, 100 stories, and read the rest of the stories so far.