To understand the thinking behind the reform of disability benefits, we need to look at a Conference held in 2001, called ‘Malingering and illness deception’. The Conference papers were later published as a book, in which ‘the enthusiastic support of Professor Mansel Aylward [then Chief Medical Officer at the DWP] and funding from the Department for Work and Pensions’ was acknowledged.
When the ongoing process of cutting and restricting access to disability benefits began, we were told it was necessary because spending on them was out of control. A new report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) shows that, in fact, the exact opposite was the case.
In the last Parliament, people with disabilities who challenged government cuts were labelled extremists. Political opposition was weakened by a fear of being seen as on the side of ‘scroungers’. But with more cuts coming, perhaps that is about to change. As more and more lives are affected, awareness of just how bad these policies are is growing.
On Friday, when David Cameron stood outside Downing Street to address the nation, he struck a less strident note then he has for some time. He talked about giving the poorest a chance for 'training, a job, and hope for the future'. He seemed in his speech to be reclaiming the mantle of the compassionate Conservative he appeared to be back in 2009/10. I wish I could believe him.
Cuts in the UK have harmed many of the most disadvantaged, including people who are disabled or low-paid. If a Conservative-led government takes power, further reductions and privatisation are likely to have a harsh impact on middle-income households too.
People with disabilities or a long-term illness, having borne the brunt of welfare cuts in this Parliament, fear what will happen after the General Election. With the Conservatives promising a further £12 billion cuts without specifying where the axe would fall, they fear the worst.