DR UK says the PM must stop scapegoating Disabled people for a failing economy

Fri,19 April 2024
News Benefits
The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak today delivered a scathing attack on so-called ‘sick note culture’ and that a life on benefits had become a "lifestyle choice" for far too many people.

As part of this, he announced that the Government is to consider shifting the responsibility for issuing the fit note away from primary care to “free up valuable time for GPs”, while creating a system better tailored to an individual’s health and work needs.

 A call for evidence will be published today to seek responses both on how the current process works and how it can better support people with health conditions to start, stay, and succeed in work.

In a surprise announcement, he added that the Government will also consult on a "more objective and rigorous approach" to Personal Independence Payments (PIP), particularly for those with poor mental health.

Much of the PM’s speech highlighted the increase in benefit claims associated with poor mental health, especially among young people.

He characterised his overall strategy as “about saying that people with less severe mental health conditions should be expected to engage in the world of work”.

This attack on Disabled people and those with long term health conditions was reinforced by Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride who said: “If you go to the GP and say you are feeling a little bit depressed, and you’re signed off, in 94% of occasions, a box is ticked that says you’re not capable of work whatsoever.”

However, there’s no evidence to back Mel Stride’s sweeping claim or for the PM’s that sick notes are being given out like sweets by gullible GP’s.

In reality, the rise in mental health problems is all too real.

There are over 1.9 million people currently on waiting lists for NHS mental health services. In January this year, the NHS recorded the highest referral numbers to crisis care teams since January 2019.

In addition, around one in four (24%) of the total population are disabled.

That represents an increase of 3.9 million people over the past decade.

Very few people if any willingly opt for “a life on benefits”.

Certainly not Disabled people.

Disabled people are far more likely than the general population to be in poverty – which might be because they are not able to work, and/or because they face unavoidable higher costs because of their disability. In addition, we face inadequate support in education, employer ignorance and prejudice and  barriers in the workplace.

Disability benefits should be alleviate poverty and allowing disabled people to live stable and dignified lives.

In fact:

  • The Proportion of Disabled people and people with a long term debilitating health condition is rising.
  • More working-age people in the UK are living with long-term health conditions than ever before.
  • For many, poor health means not being able to work.
  • There are currently more than 2.6 million working-age people who are out of the labour market due to long-term sickness,
  • This trend is set to continue – projections by the Health Foundation show that around 0.5 million more working-age people will be living with major illness by 2030.

Disability benefits are vital in alleviating poverty this and need to be raised to allow Disabled people to live stable and dignified lives.

Disabled people are almost three times as likely to live in material deprivation in comparison to the rest of the population.

Moreover, the Government has already announced plans to change the work capability assessment scheme and then scrap the work capability assessment altogether.

These reforms will include the abolition of the “substantial risk to physical or mental health if found not to have a limited capability for work related activity” eligibility criteria.

And devolving assessment of a disabled claimant’s capability for work to medically unqualified work coaches backed up by the threat of benefit sanctions.

In addition, disabled claimants could see their benefit reduced by £390 per month

Fazilet Hadi DR UK’s Head of Policy said “Once again the Government is targeting Disabled people for a failing economy.

Yet it is Government policies that have fuelled increases in disability and sickness.

Under resourcing of health services, social care, education, housing and transport,  are excluding Disabled people from opportunity and driving us into poverty.

Deepening poverty is driving increases in disability and sickness.

The Prime Minister’s approach to systemic inequalities caused by Government policies and underfunding of public services, is to further penalise, punish and threaten Disabled people living on inadequate benefits.”