We discussed proposed changes to Incapacity Benefit (IB) which could see thousands of Disabled People lose their entitlement to IB and be forced further into poverty.
Although James Purnell and the DWP have distanced themselves from articles in the media recently focussing on comments by David Freud (who is a government advisor on IB and Investment Banker) they fell short of trying to set the record straight in relation to his inflammatory comments. These are factually incorrect and reflect considerable ignorance about IB and Disabled People.
It was also unclear from the meeting how James Purnell and the DWP will deal with workplace and job-market Disability Discrimination. Their plans will in truth force many off benefits and into a very uncertain future.
A spokesperson for DAN said: “Disabled People with Invisible and Fluctuating Impairments will find this situation particularly difficult in terms of employers recognising their conditions and allowing them flexibility in the work environment due to illness. How can we find work in a job-market that actively discriminates against us?”
DAN representatives asked when the DDA will protect all Disabled People comprehensively. Anne McGuire told DAN “the DDA covers substantially all areas of disability.” She made it clear that the government has no plans to strengthen or make more effective the DDA. DAN wants and campaigns for anti-discrimination legislation with full powers of enforcement under the law.
DAN is disappointed by the platitudes we heard at this meeting. The outlook is very bleak. The DWP clearly intends to carry on as usual, discriminating against Disabled People. They seemed determined to ignore our expert and first-hand views about Welfare Reform. We were half-heartedly entertained, but not listened to and it was clear from this meeting that nothing will be done to change the DWP policies and practices unless we intensify our campaign in opposition to these so-called reforms.
A DAN spokesperson said after the meeting: “We will continue to campaign and use non-violent civil disobedience until the DWP and the Labour Government end their discriminatory and oppressive practices around Welfare Reform.”
Disabled People's Direct Action Network