Welfare minister told government is 'bullying' disabled people

By staff writers
October 9, 2012

While Conservatives trumpet a further £10.5 billion welfare cuts, a leading disability campaigner has told a minister to "stop bullying us".

Kaliya Franklin, who has been involved in the Spartcus Report campaign and other welfare rights activities, spoke out at a fringe event examining the government's controversial welfare to work programme.

Ms Franklin, who suffers from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, confronted face-to-face the welfare minister Lord Freud, who said his overall perspective was that "for most people it would be pretty damned good for them to have a job".

She told him "you are driving us away" by introducing more punitive sanctions on those deemed able to work by government - often directly against medical advice and assessment.

After having a one-on-one conversation with Ms Franklin, following the meeting, Lord Freud said that he had "heard what she had to say" and would reflect on it.

Critics say Lord Freud singularly failed to do this during the passage of the Welfare Reform Bill (now Act), which was forced through despite huge opposition from community groups, welfare experts, charities, churches, and most importantly impoverished and disabled people themselves.

Ms Franklin and her allies helped to inflict seven separate defeats on the Bill in its passage through the Lords, fighting all the way against what they saw as Lord Freud's determination to ignore them.

The government then used its coalition majority in the Commons to defeat many vital amendments to the Bill.

At this week's conference, Conservative managers are saying that the Liberal Democrats will buckle down and back their latest huge welfare cuts package, despite rhetoric to the contrary.

Detailed analysis of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) process operated by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and much-criticised contractors Atos indicates that people with disabilities are being treated in an unfair, arbitrary and heartless manner, say both critics and many of those who are being pushed through the system.

* E-petition to HM Government to stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/20968


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