It is “entirely obvious” that the government’s welfare cuts are “falling entirely” on disabled people and families with children, according to a leading academic.
Professor Paul Gregg, an economic and social policy expert at the University of Bath, told a TUC seminar on the government’s cuts and reforms that disabled people were “very much getting the sharp end of the stick”.
Professor Gregg also dismissed government claims that welfare spending had spiralled out of control, and said that – prior to the recession – it had been growing at its slowest rate since the Second World War.
Professor Gregg, who conducted a review of personalised support and conditionality in the welfare system for the Department for Work and Pensions in 2009, helped design employment and support allowance (ESA) – the replacement for incapacity benefit – but has since been highly critical of the work capability assessment, the test used to determine eligibility for ESA.
He said he believed the coalition’s reforms were “entirely driven by cuts”, rather than by the intention to help people into work.
He said there should be no compulsion for disabled people to take or look for work and that instead they needed to be “supported, brought along”, while efforts to encourage them back into work should be “an entirely voluntary process”.
He told the seminar that the government’s welfare reforms were “making it substantially harder to build that positive agenda for trying to help people back to work”.
Professor Gregg also said it was “completely unacceptable” that the government was making no effort to track the progress of disabled people who had been found “fit for work” through the WCA, but would have been on incapacity benefit under the old system.
Disabled activist and blogger Kaliya Franklin, one of the authors of this month’s Responsible Reform report on how the government responded to its disability living allowance consultation, said disabled people were seeing a “perfect storm that threatens to undo all the progress of the last 40 years”.
She pointed to cuts to social care support at the same time as the reforms and cuts to benefits, increased disability hate crime and continuing calls for legalised euthanasia, while efforts to push disabled people into full-time employment were becoming “more and more punitive”.
She said: “If we continue down that road, although it sounds like hyperbole, we can expect to see many more deaths linked to these cuts because disabled and sick people will simply say they have no alternative and feel that life is simply not worth living.”
23 January 2012