New research by disability charity Inclusion Scotland confirms that disabled people are suffering stress, fear and isolation because of Welfare Reform.
Leading disability charity, Inclusion Scotland, surveyed hundreds of disabled people and then carried out face to face interviews with some of those affected to find out how UK Government Welfare Reforms were impacting on their lives. A clear picture emerged of disabled people living in increasing fear of losing their benefits and struggling to cope with a system that seems designed to deny them their rights.
One of the disabled people interviewed described the trauma of losing a friend who committed suicide after being found ineligible for benefits at a Work Capability Assessment – “They got him on a good day, they didn’t see him on a day when he was in bed crying and couldn’t get up. He pulled himself together as best he could for the medical and was told his benefits were stopping….three months later he was gone.”
Some of the research’s key findings were –
- Disabled people are finding the process of applying for benefits increasingly difficult and distressing. One interviewee explained: “I was having terrible anxiety attacks” (while waiting to hear about an application). “Suffering depression is part of my MS, but I was having anxiety like I had never experienced”.
- Disabled people have been left confused by the sheer number of the benefit changes taking place and the lack of reliable, accessible information about them.
- Disabled people are not receiving the help they need from overstretched Job Centre Plus staff. DWP staff simply do not have the time or skills to help learning, physically or sensory disabled people overcome the barriers they face in completing complex forms or searching for work.
- Some Job Centre staff are openly hostile towards disabled people and use derogatory terms to describe them. In one case a claimant was shown a tin of air freshener which advisers said they used because, “the people who come in here stink”.
- The political and media rhetoric about skivers and scroungers has left disabled people feeling stigmatised, vulnerable and isolated.
- Disabled women who have survived sexual violence and abuse are being failed by the benefits system which re-ignites the trauma of abuse,
- Disabled people increasingly fear losing their disability benefits and being plunged into poverty because their impairments and health conditions create extra costs which JSA does not meet.
Sally Witcher, CEO of Inclusion Scotland said, “What disabled people have told us confirms our worst fears. Welfare cuts are costing disabled people their health, their peace of mind and, in some cases, their lives”.
Dr. Rosalind Greig, the researcher who carried out the interviews said, “It was really distressing to learn just how many disabled people are living in fear not just of welfare cuts but of how their neighbours might be thinking of them as benefit scroungers”.
Commenting on the research the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Alex Neil, said: “This report highlights the Scottish Government’s concerns that benefit cuts have already affected some of the most vulnerable people in our society. That is why I am so concerned about the further benefit cuts that the UK Government are planning to inflict. It is unacceptable that disabled people are finding the process of applying for benefits so distressing. With our new powers we will do what we can to make the system fairer and simpler, we will re-establish trust and openness, and we will reject the stigmatising and divisive language that the UK Government has introduced. Until these powers are devolved we will oppose all further cuts to the welfare budget and any other reform which undermines the provision of care and support for disabled people.”
– Release Ends –
Notes to Editors:
- Inclusion Scotland is a national network of Disabled People’s Organisations which is funded by Scottish Government to engage with disabled people and involve them in the policy making process.It is a pan-impairment organisation which works with disabled people from all impairment groups i.e. physical, sensory and learning disabled people as well as mental health service users.
- 315 disabled people responded to the online research survey with another 60 providing ‘free text’ comments.
- 24 disabled people who responded to the survey then took part in face-to-face interviews to provide in-depth insights into how welfare reforms had affected them.
- The full research report can be accessed in the attachments
For further information or interviews contact –
Bill Scott, Director of Policy