Today the WOWcampaign launches a new petition on the Government e-petition website, e-petition 1060681. It calls for the Government to “Assess full impact of all cuts to support & social care for disabled people”. The WOWcampaign have taken this action 18 months after the original “WOWpetition” was debated in the House of Commons because little has happened since, save for sick and disabled people being targeted by further cuts.
The “WOWpetition” was debated in the House of Commons on the 27th February 20142 after gaining 104,818 supporters. A motion put to the House, which called on the Government to produce an analysis of the cumulative impact of the Government’s cuts on sick and disabled people, was overwhelmingly passed. During the debate Mike Penning (then Minister for Disabled People) undertook to carry out several actions, including asking his officials in the DWP to work closely with Dr Simon Duffy 3 of the Centre for Welfare Reform to make the Independent Cumulative Impact Assessments carried out by him as accurate as possible. Since that debate nothing has happened. Dr. Duffy has been in touch with the DWP but has not been able to progress his work, and in an email of the 7th October 2014 he outlined his frustrations at the DWP for not being willing to engage on this issue in good faith4 .
It would also appear that Mike Penning MP misled the House during the debate when he stated “the Institute for Fiscal Studies has also said that that could not be done properly and accurately enough.”5. The IFS have stated on numerous occasions that they do not hold that position.6 Additionally, since the WOWdebate, the DWP’s own advisors, The Social Security Advisory Committee, have concluded that the Government could and should provide an analysis of the cumulative impact of its welfare reforms on disabled people7 and the Equality and Human Rights Commission and The National Institute of Economic and Social Research, recommended “that HMT incorporates breakdowns of the cumulative impact of tax and social security measures according to protected characteristics into its distributional analysis as a matter of course.”8
Francesca Martinez, stand-up comedian, actress and writer in whose name both the original and this new WOWpetition were submitted, said:
“We need to show the new government that their continued attacks on disabled people and carers cannot go unchallenged. We need to show the new government that their continued attacks on disabled people and carers cannot go unchallenged. The cuts have had a devastating impact on a huge number of lives and have left many people fearing for their future. With the closure of the ILF, the disappearance of DLA, the withdrawal of benefits and the disastrous WCA, the basic rights of sick and disabled people are fast being eroded. Anyone can become disabled or a carer at any time so it is vital that we all get involved in ensuring that the human rights of every person – no matter what their ability – are protected. We call for a cumulative impact assessment, and we will not stop fighting until these dreadful cuts, which have already claimed thousands of lives, are reversed.”
“The concept of welfare has been heavily demonized through a sustained media campaign which has resulted in a marked increase in disability hate crime and a growing rhetoric of blame towards claimants. We need to challenge this scapegoating, and remember that providing support for those who need it is something to be proud of – and what makes us a civilized society.”
John McDonnell MP for Hayes and Harlington, has revisited the Back Bench Business Committee and asked them to schedule a further debate of the WOWpetition stating
“The motion was carried without opposition at the time, but 18 months on, we still have not had the assessment.”
“I led the debate presenting the original WOW petition to Parliament over two years ago but life for people with disabilities has been made even harder by this Government’s cuts. This new petition will highlight the appalling suffering many people with disabilities are enduring still.”
Jeremy Corbyn MP for Islington North, also commented, saying
“I backed the last WOW petition and I back this one because we can’t stand by and let this Government inflict this scale of hardship and suffering on people with disabilities. It’s inhumane.”
Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, said:
“This government must not be allowed to get away without accounting for the impact of the continuing attacks on the benefits and services that disabled people are entitled to in a humane, decent society.
“The WOW petition had a big impact last time around, and this 2015 version is entering a new political climate, in which campaigners are getting together to fight against the failed policy of austerity that is making the poor, the disadvantaged and the young pay for the greed and fraud of the bankers, and in which the political winds are clearly, finally, shifting after decades of failed Thatcherite policies from successive governments.”
Natalie McGarry MP, the SNP’s spokeswomen for Disabilities, said:
“The SNP backs WOW’s campaign calling on the UK Government to conduct a full impact assessment of all cuts to support and social care for disabled people.”
and that the SNP
“continue to call for full powers over social security in Scotland to allow us to protect, support and empower people who need help, rather than pushing them into poverty with punitive cuts and sanctions as the Tories are continuing to do.”
Elin Roberts, Parliamentary Press Officer for Plaid Cymru commented that both Liz Saville Roberts MP and Hywel Williams MP have confirmed that they’re more than happy to support the petition.
Comment was invited from both the Conservative and Liberal Democratic Parties but none was received.
Increasing numbers of disabled people in are absolute poverty, hit by multiple spending cuts.
WOWcampaign believes that the last Government “targeted” sick and disabled people with their austerity agenda, with recently released figures showing 10% more disabled families are in absolute poverty after housing costs (the only statistically significant increase/ decrease contained in the release).9 More and more families with a disabled member are being forced into absolute poverty which, we argue, demonstrates how the Government’s austerity cuts are punishing sick and disabled people.
The impact of the myriad of spending cuts targeted at disabled people, and the withdrawal of support through often unreasonable benefit sanctions, has had a serious effect on the health of many, and may have even affected the life expectancy of sick and disabled people. However, this Government continues to withhold evidence, repeatedly delaying the publication of statistics relating to deaths following the withdrawal of support.
Debbie Abrahams MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth said it “‘beggars belief’ that Prime Minister David Cameron continues to back Mr Duncan Smith’s ‘inhumane’ sanctions despite a ‘mountain of evidence’ that … people are suffering and dying.” 10
We agree, and believe that if this Government is not going to act honorably and discharge its obligations in good faith, then we need to try increase the pressure on them to do so. Hence the new WOWpetition11.
2 Hansard 27 Feb 2014 : Column 423 to 474
3 Hansard 27 Feb 2014 : Column 470
5 Hansard 27 Feb 2014 : Column 470