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How U.K. Benefit Cuts Are Harming People With Disabilities

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Society often tells us we are only deemed as successful by the hours we work and the amount we get paid to do so. My personal belief is that success is counted in laughter and self-care, and that love for your body comes above all. Don’t get me wrong – climbing up the corporate ladder requires commitment and dedication and an incredibly strong will. I will always be impressed by those capable of working long hours while managing all other aspects of life. However, I am part of the disabled community. Personally, I find that a full time job is too much for me and leaves me struggling greatly, unable to enjoy the other aspects of life.

Unfortunately, this applies to a great deal of the disabled population. The worst part is that they are still being forced into work. In the U.K. alone, each month at least 90 disabled and ill people are dying due to being declared “fit for work” when really they are not.

Between December 2011 and February 2014, 2,380 people died after their disability work benefit (known as Employment and Support Allowance) was stopped. The reason? They were found to be “fit for work” despite their illnesses and disabilities causing them serious health consequences when forced to do so. The amount of people with disabilities who are homeless has increased by 39 percent between 2010 and 2015. During this same time period, there have been more than 80 cases of suicide due to disability benefit cuts.

At the start of January 2017 alone, it was found that regulators are receiving more than 1,600 complaints regarding their assessment techniques and protocols. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) who are responsible for this will not publish the exact figures, so we are unable to know the full truth.

There has always been controversy surrounding the government’s capability for work assessments when it comes to both Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Both of these are benefit payments paid to those who are too ill to work or whose disabilities prevent them from doing so. They are payments to cover “some of the extra costs” caused by long-term ill-health or disability. Yet thousands are being misjudged, lied to and forced into homelessness due to their benefits being taken away. Some have even taken their own lives. How many people need to suffer until this is solved? How many figures have gone without being released? It’s an overwhelmingly scary thing to even begin thinking about.

Thankfully though, the DWP has come under more and more scrutiny over the years. Recently, three separate political parties have each declared that the government must act on the claims of dishonesty against the assessors paid to collate the benefit assessment reports. This was following an investigation completed by the Disability News Service, (DNS), the results of which were published January 26, 2017. The DNS examined over 20 cases and 100 complaints of benefit assessors lying in their reports. Examples of dishonesty include: refusing to look at other written medical evidence, refusing to list all of the medications the person claiming is taking, falsely accusing claimants of refusing to comply with examination, and wrongly stating that the correct assessment procedures have been completed.

Until these issues are properly addressed, many are left scared and in the dark when it comes to their disability benefit. To a person who is not disabled, these benefits are the equivalent of an income and are what keep many disabled people warm, fed and able to monitor their conditions. When you are unable to work, you expect your government to care about your well-being. I truly hope one day this will be the case for ours in the U.K.

In the meantime, please do not feel helpless or alone. There are many facilities available to you during a crisis, such as Welfare Rights, Citizens Advice, or your local Council Office if you feel they are compassionate towards your concerns. Seek advice online, from friends or family, or others in the spoonie and disabled community. Or perhaps you could be a shoulder to cry on, a maker of tea, or a virtual soft hug giver. You could share your story of discrimination or dishonesty. The more people are able to speak up, the better.

Never allow anybody to make you feel ashamed for needing help. Only you know the true extent of your condition. Never allow anybody to pressure you into working when your body tells you not to. Do not be made to suffer — you simply do not deserve it. Always stand up for injustice if you are able to.

Measure your success in laughter and self-care and the love you have for you and your body.

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Photo via Pixabay.

Originally published: February 28, 2017
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