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If you or a loved one have been affected by welfare reform, particularly changes to disability benefits and Atos Work Capability Assessments, the United Nations would now like to hear from you.
Raquel Rolnik, the UN special rapporteur whose report on housing and the bedroom tax was received so rudely by our government, is now widening her investigation into welfare reform generally. She would like anyone who can offer information to email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org Ms Rolnik is keen to hear personal experiences of how people have been affected. You do not need to know anything about the politics or the economics, just the personal effect it has had on you or your loved one. A report will be produced in March.
This development has been warmly welcomed by sick and disabled people for whom welfare reform has caused great suffering. Their own government has been almost completely deaf to their pleas for help, and abandoned many of them to penury. To know that the United Nations is actually taking an interest in their fate, and may even have some empathy for their suffering, is a very pleasant change from being alternately patronised or vilified by Secretary of State Iain Duncan Smith. Even the national mainstream media, which for so long has failed to give this national scandal the attention it deserves, is now taking notice.
You and Yours on Radio 4 recently highlighted the plight of seriously ill people who, having been placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) by the Department for Work and Pensions following an Atos assessment, are then told at the Jobcentre to appeal the decision as they are plainly not well enough to comply with the strict conditions imposed on WRAG claimants Or they may be declared ‘fit to work’, go to claim Jobseekers Allowance, find the conditions too onerous, and have their benefits stopped. They are left without an income. This includes people with terminal cancer or Parkinson’s disease.
The stress, misery and poverty caused has led to many deaths, and on 28th September these lost lives will be acknowledged and commemorated in London. A ceremony
of solidarity and remembrance will be led by disability activists, Occupy activists, the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral and Michael Meacher MP. At 1pm a delegation will deliver The Downing Street Demand to No. 10, in support of the demands set out in the WOW petition , including an end to the work capability assessments, as demanded by the British Medical Association.
The disastrous way the government’s welfare reforms have affected disabled people in the UK has now been condemned by Amnesty International, and is under close scrutiny by the United Nations. How much longer will the government try to maintain that all is well, and all that is needed are a few adjustments here and there? This argument is increasingly untenable, and may soon be condemned as untenable at the United Nations.
© Bernadette Meaden has written about political, religious and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor. You can follow her on Twitter: @BernaMeadenTweet