Tuesday 3rd November 2015
“The Government’s response to the WOWpetition can only be described as inadequate.”
Since 2012 nearly 200,000 signatures have been collected by 3 e-petitions that challenge the Government to demonstrate a duty of care towards sick and disabled people by assessing the cumulative impact on this group of the swathes of cuts inflicted on them by Government policies on Health, Social Care and Welfare. Until Friday morning the Government had claimed it was impossible to disaggregate the cumulative effect of their policy changes on disabled people but Friday’s response (View at www.wowpetition.co.uk) confirmed that it is possible to produce such an analysis but that the Government have chosen not to do one, presumably because “voters” would be sickened if they understood that austerity had been deliberately targeted at sick and disabled people. Dr Simon Duffy’s research for the Centre for Welfare Reform found that some disabled people have been subjected to cuts 19 times larger than the average. The Government’s own figures show the number of households with a disabled family member living in “absolute poverty” increased by 10% between 2013 & 14.
Actress & Comedienne Francesca Martinez said on behalf of the WOWcampaign, ‘The government have once again shown how little they care about investigating the impact their cuts are having on disabled people and carers, and how willing they are to continue to push ahead with their heartless ‘reforms’.
Debbie Abrahams MP, Shadow Minister for Disabled People: “I am appalled at the Government’s refusal to carry out a cumulative impact assessment into the effects of their policy decisions on disabled people.” and went on to dismantle the Government argument saying “It is simply incorrect for the Minister to state that only one model can be used to analyse the effects of a policy and I understand the Equality and Human Rights Commission have been in correspondence with the DWP on this issue. Disabled people deserve to know the impact of the Government’s policies on their lives and I will continue to press Ministers to produce a full cumulative impact assessment.”
Concerning the impact Government reforms are having on both families and carers, Carerwatch and Pat’s Petition commented Government’s Policies were having a “negative impact on family carers. Welfare Reform, NHS reform, loss of Legal Aid, cuts to local authority budgets, closure of the Independent Living Fund are placing unbearable pressure on families.
Specific mention is made in the Government’s response to the Health and Social Care Reforms. Professor Peter Beresford, co-Chair of Shaping our Lives and Professor in Social Policy at Brunel University commented: “Social care provision is in a parlous state and this is being made worse by ongoing cuts and welfare benefits restrictions. No wonder the UN is investigating the situation of disabled people in the UK.”
David Cameron believes his personal experience enables him to act in the best interests of disabled people but it is “on his watch” that the UN has launched its first ever enquiry into grave and systemic abuses of the Human Rights of disabled people. Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party said that the response to the WOWpetition “does not acknowledge the widely documented disparate effects of the greatly harshened benefits sanctions regime” and “The Government must surely be concerned that the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has launched an enquiry into the impact of welfare reforms.”
Whilst Government claims its “reforms are focused on supporting people to find and keep work where appropriate” they ignore people for whom work is not possible and rather than address prejudice in the workplace, their “Disability Confident” scheme appears to simply ask employers to be nice to disabled people. Sadly this leaves many disabled people capable of great things in the workplace either excluded or filling junior positions. Ellen Clifford of Stop Changes to Access to Work said “Over the past few years Deaf and Disabled people have experienced difficulties with Access to Work and cuts to their support that has seriously undermined our ability to stay in employment, with numbers of people pushed out of careers and jobs they loved.” The underlying hypocrisy in the Governments position in talking about the need to encourage “behavior change” is highlighted by the comments of Tory Welfare Minister, Lord Freud, architect of this attack on disabled people, when he said in 2014 that disabled people were “not worth” the minimum wage. How does that encourage employers to close the disability employment gap?
The WOWcampaign believes that now that this Government has admitted it is possible to assess the fairness of the austerity cuts targeted at disabled people the debate should now move onto whether it is right to make disabled people pay for the greed of the bankers. How we can make society fairer and more inclusive for all by giving all the equality of opportunity that the Government has committed to provide? Please sign our e-petition www.wowpetition.co.uk .
Notes to Editors
Active WOWpetition can also be found at: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/106068
The original WOWpetition is at: https://petition.parliament.uk/archived/petitions/43154
Signatures calling for Government to assess impact of its policies on disabled people since 2012:
e-petition 209681 – Pat’s Petition: 62,775 signatures; e-petition 43154 – WOWpetition1: 104,818 signatures; 106068 – WOWpetition2: 29,347 signatures. (at 11-30am 3Nov2015)
The WOWcampaign launched its new petition calling for the Government to “Assess full impact of all cuts to support & social care for disabled people”, 18 months after the original “WOWpetition” was debated in the House of Commons because little has happened since the debate, save for sick and disabled people being targeted by further cuts. During the debate The Minister for Disabled committed to working with Dr Simon Duffy  of the Centre for Welfare Reform to make the Independent Cumulative Impact Assessments carried out by him as accurate as possible but the DWP have not been willing to engage on this issue in good faith . It would also appear that Mike Penning MP also 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.”. The IFS have stated on numerous occasions that they do not hold that position.
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 people 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.”
John McDonnell MP for Hayes and Harlington 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.”
Since the WOWdebate figures have been released showing 10% more disabled families are in absolute poverty after housing costs (the only statistically significant increase/ decrease contained in the release); The UNCRPD has launched an enquiry into alleged grave and systemic abuses of the Human Rights of disabled people; and figures showing 4,010 people have died after being found fit for work have been published.
House of Lords
- Baroness Sal Brinton (Liberal Democrat)
- Baroness Celia Thomas (Liberal Democrat)
- Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson (Cross-bench)
House of Commons and European Parliament
- Labour : John McDonnell MP; Jeremy Corbyn MP, Debbie Abrahams MP, Graham Morris MP, Ian Mearns MP, David Lammy MP, Clive Lewis MP, Lucy Anderson MP, Dennis Skinner MP, Andrew Gwynne MP, Michael Meacher RIP, Katy Clarke, Jude Kirton-Darling MEP, Lucy Anderson MEP
- Sinn Fein: Francis Molloy MP
- Green Party: Caroline Lucas MP
- Plaid Cymru: Liz Saville Roberts MP; Hywel Williams MP
Statements Received for this Press Release
Debbie Abrahams MP, Shadow Minister for Disabled People: “I am appalled at the Government’s refusal to carry out a cumulative impact assessment into the effects of their policy decisions on disabled people. This is an issue I raised in a Westminster Hall debate on the effect of the Government’s policies on disabled people in June and again during the Committee and Report Stages of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill in the Commons.
“There is still no detailed government assessment made of the combined impact of social security cuts to disabled people. This has created a clear gap in accountability for the Government, although we do know that last year, more than 300,000 additional disabled people were pushed in to poverty.
“It is simply incorrect for the Minister to state that only one model can be used to analyse the effects of a policy and I understand the Equality and Human Rights Commission have been in correspondence with the DWP on this issue. Disabled people deserve to know the impact of the Government’s policies on their lives and I will continue to press Ministers to produce a full cumulative impact assessment.”
During the Report Stage of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill on 27th October, Debbie said (Hansard, Col 252)
“Why have the Government not undertaken a cumulative impact assessment of the latest proposed cuts for disabled people, given that it is a requirement under the Equality Act 2010? I raised that point in Committee, and although I am grateful to the Minister for her response, she implied that only one model can be used to analyse the distributional effects of a policy. That is a flawed judgment. The Equality and Human Rights Commission is somewhat surprised by the suggestion that such cumulative modelling is not possible, given that it is undertaking its own cumulative impact assessment. I understand that the commission has written to the Government and highlighted the resources that are available to help them do that work, and perhaps when she responds the Minister will enlighten the House as to whether the Government have changed their mind.”
Professor Peter Beresford, co-Chair of Shaping our Lives and Professor in Social Policy at Brunel University commented: “The government again demonstrates its preparedness to ride roughshod over disabled citizens in rejecting the call for a full impact assessment of cuts to support and social care. It talks up the importance of evidence based policy and practice but refuses to act on its own rhetoric. Social care provision is in a parlous state and this is being made worse by ongoing cuts and welfare benefits restrictions. No wonder the UN is investigating the situation of disabled people in the UK.”
Actress & Comedienne Francesca Martinez said in response to the Government, on behalf of the WOWcampaign, ‘The government have once again shown how little they care about investigating the impact their cuts are having on disabled people and carers, and how willing they are to continue to push ahead with their heartless ‘reforms’. Their response makes us more determined to challenge their policies and fight to protect the rights of everyone, regardless of ability. We will not give up.’
Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett said “The government’s response to the WOW petition can only be described as totally inadequate. In acknowledging existing analytical tools cannot ‘produce a cumulative assessment of the impact of policies on disabled people’ it is acknowledging that it has failed to act to secure essential data. Its response ignores the strong conclusions of coroners in several cases about the impact of the Work Capability Assessment on vulnerable people, and the broader conclusions of campaigners on the same issue. It does not acknowledge the widely documented disparate impacts of the greatly harshened benefits sanctions regime on disabled and ill people. The government must surely be concerned that the United Nation Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has launched an inquiry into the impact of welfare reforms. It needs to act to turn around the grave concerns that launched that.”
Carerwatch and Pat’s Petition said they “are alarmed that constant changes from the government are having a negative impact on family carers. Welfare Reform, NHS reform, loss of Legal Aid, cuts to local authority budgets, closure of the Independent Living Fund are placing unbearable pressure on families. We believe the breakneck speed from the government to be dangerous, especially taking in to account that no one within government has assessed the cumulative effect of all these changes.”
Ellen Clifford, Stop Changes to Access to Work Steering Committee said: “Over the past few years Deaf and Disabled people have experienced difficulties with Access to Work and cuts to their support that has seriously undermined our ability to stay in employment, with numbers of people pushed out of careers and jobs they loved. Difficulties have ranged from payment delays, continuously lost paperwork and unacceptably hostile attitudes from advisers to the introduction of a cap in October next year which will discriminate against Deaf and Disabled people with high levels of support need, in senior positions.”
Twitter: @WOWpetition; Website: wowpetition.com; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; e-petition 106068 @ wowpetition.co.uk
 Hansard 27 Feb 2014 : Column 470
 Hansard 27 Feb 2014 : Column 470