Disabled activists use petitions website to make their point


A string of disability-related petitions are among the hundreds lodged on a government website in its first few days.

The idea of the e-petitions website is to provide an “easy” way to “influence government policy”, with petitions securing more than 100, 000 signatures “eligible” for debate in the House of Commons.

A series of petitions have already been lodged that protest about the coalition’s welfare reforms, including one – with almost 200 signatures – calling on the prime minister to apologise for “misrepresenting” the number of people found “fit for work” after the controversial work capability assessment (WCA) process.

Other petitions call on the government to abandon plans to scrap disability living allowance, to stop using the “profit-driven” Atos Healthcare to carry out its WCAs, and for the government to stop “vilifying” disabled people and using language such as “benefit cheat” and “scrounger”.

There are several petitions calling for stricter enforcement of the disabled people’s blue badge parking scheme, and others demanding tighter restrictions on the use of mobility scooters.

The disability-related petition with the most signatures so far appears to be one fronted by the charity The Children’s Society – and backed by disability and children’s charities such as RADAR and Disability Alliance – that calls on work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith to reverse his plans to cut support for disabled children through his welfare reform bill.

Under Duncan Smith’s plans for a simpler benefits system through the introduction of a new “universal credit”, the charities say the families of 100,000 disabled children could lose up to £27 a week each in benefits.

By the time a child reaches 16, their family could have lost £22,000, the charity says. By the middle of the website’s first week, the petition had secured nearly 1,500 signatures.

In the wake of the riots across London and other English cities, a petition calling for “convicted London rioters” to have all their benefits removed became the first to pass the threshold of 100,000 signatures, despite continuing problems with the website’s operation.

This petition will now be passed to the Commons backbench business committee to be considered for debate.

11 August 2011