Disability Rights UK, a membership organisation representing over 500 NGOs across the country, has strongly criticised the coalition government's controversial Welfare Reform Bill.
Neil Coyle, Disability Rights UK Director of Policy and Campaigns, declared yesterday: “The Government’s removal of protections for some disabled people from the Welfare Reform Bill ignores the hundreds of thousands of disabled people directly affected, the hundreds of charities who have highlighted the potential devastating impact for disabled people and their families, the House of Lords who proposed additional protections and the Joint Committee on Human Rights who suggested the Bill will cause destitution.”
Disabled people are disproportionately represented among benefit claimants due to educational attainment issues, higher poverty, lack of accessible work and employer discrimination.
The Bill aims to cut 280,000 disabled people from receiving out of work benefits altogether and 500,000 disabled people to be made ineligible for a benefit designed to help with disabled people’s higher costs of living.
These plans have long term cost implications being ignored by DWP – including a substantial potential increase in (avoidable) NHS use and rise in demand for council social care services - which many disabled people are being made ineligible for due to council budget cuts.
House of Lords amendments had secured protection for some disabled children, disabled adults needing longer than a year to find work and disabled students.
Disabled people believed their fears and concerns had been acknowledged and addressed in the Lords, says Disability Rights UK, but but this hope has been removed in the Commons' demand for short term welfare expenditure cuts which ignore risks of higher future costs.
Huge political awareness has been raised around the WRB debate by the Spartacus Report on DLA and the social media driven Spartacus campaign led by disabled and sick people themselves.
A third of all disabled people already live in poverty, but the Bill will now enforce destitution for some families and individual disabled people, say critics. The amendments would merely have softened the blow of the cumulative impact of the Government’s cuts, they add.
Neil Coyle continued: “Disabled people remain the hardest hit by cuts. But the Government has completely failed to analyse the full cost of proposals. Cuts have consequences for disabled people and their families, but will also mean the NHS and councils experience higher costs through higher health, care and poverty needs. The Government has chosen to ignore long-term needs and costs in the short-term search for departmental savings.”
* Disability Rights UK: http://www.disabilityalliance.org/ 
* The recommendations of the Joint Committee on Human Rights report on the likely impact of the WRB on disabled people are online at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201012/jtselect/jtrights/233/... 
* Spartacus Report and campaign: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/spartacusreport