I just read an article in the Guardian about a disabled man who has been subject to awful discrimination and abuse by his own neighbour. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/dec/04/ian-birrell-prejudice-against-disabled) Now this is awful in any circumstance, but the really scary thing is that he was being targeted because his neighbour thought that he was faking having MS to claim benefits. This isn’t an isolated incident either, recently people with genuine disabilities have been called ‘scroungers’ and ‘fakers’, simply because of how the media and government are twisting facts and figures.
It’s true that there has been a large increase in the number of fraudulent benefit claims, but as the article states disability benefits have only a 0.5% fraudulent claim rate, which is far lower than other benefits. As the coalition are introducing more and more cuts, people are feeling the pinch, and it’s all too easy for the media to create a scape-goat. Now anyone with a disability who claims usually much needed benefits are subjected to suspicion and resentment by their neighbours or even strangers. This is wrong, and needs to end now.
There are approximately 10 million disabled people in the UK, which is about a sixth of the population. With this many people suffering from either a physical or mental condition, isn’t it about time we accepted them as just normal? Just because someone isn’t capable of doing certain things, or their brain works differently to yours, doesn’t make them any less of a person. We need to speak out for these people, because often they can’t speak for themselves.
My Mum was diagnosed with Parkinsons disease a few years ago now, so I have first hand experience of disability. The thing that struck me the most was how difficult it is to get any help. There are numerous forms to fill in, which a lot of disabled people may not be able to do, and countless appointments and meetings to go through before you can qualify for government help or DLA. The recent spate of cuts implemented by the coalition have fallen not just onto our quality of education, health care and so on, but also onto the quality of simply living for many disabled people. David Cameron has pledged to radically reform the benefit system (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/feb/17/david-cameron-welfare-reform-bill), and while he was quick to assure that those unable to work will continue to receive help, there have been mixed responses from disability charities and people who receive DLA as to where that will leave them. The tests and hoops one must jump through to be classed as unable to work now are ridiculous. Of course I understand they have to make sure claimants are genuine, but at the same time those most likely to be unable to work also have a lot of difficulty with things like filling in very long forms or spending hours on the telephone. As for me, I’ll be watching closely to make sure my Mum continues to get all the help she not only needs but deserves as well. If she could work Mr Cameron, she would, so please don’t penalise her for the fact she’s got a serious degenerative disease.