Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. You may have seen on twitter earlier that David Cameron was keen to put a positive spin on the day, tweeting:
“An important day. Intl Day of Persons with Disabilities in the year when Paralympians changed our perception forever.”
So what have the government been doing for the perception and treatment of people with disabilities this year then? Well, there is plenty going on.
1) As of today, with seemingly no irony, sick and disabled people will now be forced into the Workfare scheme
I’ve argued elsewhere that Workfare is bad news for all workers, regardless of whether you are left wing or not. Essentially it means that big companies can keep wages at rock bottom, enhancing the level of job insecurity that keeps low paid workers compliant, by providing a free workforce. The scheme is systematically abused by the companies who have been involved in it, with benefits claimants released, job-free, after completing their “work experience”, only to be replaced with a new supply of free labour from the job centre. And now, in what can only be described as a brutal move from a government, people who with cancer, disabled people, and those with mental health issues will now be joining other benefits claimants in being forced to take part in Workfare, unpaid, for an ‘unspecified length of time’, with benefits withdrawn if they don’t. This is absolutely barbaric.
2) Disabled Remploy workers face the dole (and presumably Workfare) as the move to shut it down continues
While Remploy workers fight on for their jobs, the government are continuing with the move to shut down 36 out of 54 Remploy sites, meaning forced redundancies for 1,752 people. It seems incredibly ironic that where work which enables workers to contribute in a safe and effective way exists, it is being shut down, at the same time as the move to push disabled benefits claimants into potentially unsuitable workplaces (for free). Presumably all part of the bonfire of Equalities “Red-Tape” which continues to baffle me – the Eton Old Boys were winning by miles already, why do they have to tilt the playing field even more heavily in their favour?
You can support the petition to save Remploy here:
Campaign here: http://saveremployfactories.co.uk/
3) Hate crime against the disabled rising: government continue to stigmatise, with creeping norm of sickness being seen as synonymous with scrounging
Official figures show that hate crimes relating to disability have risen by nearly 25% in the past year. Whilst some of this has been linked to issues with increased reporting, and the EHRC have identified the problems with particular police forces in tackling the issue, there is no doubt that we are seeing an unnerving rise of cultural bile against the sick and disabled. Time and time again the disability narrative is being reinforced as one of contribution: “If people have not contributed, why should they share in success?” This government is characterised by a dangerous mix of neo-liberal individualism, where the self is all (and helping others is best seen in terms of choice and charity rather than social responsibility), and small-minded conservatism – a narrow, regressive view of equality issues, where the sick and disabled are demonised as free-loaders. It isn’t just in Westminster or in the tabloids, it is seeping out everywhere, and we should all be very afraid of what it means for us as a people, and for those amongst us who are now not only disabled by the world around them but under attack from the state.