Horrified disabled activists have reported the work and pensions secretary to the equality watchdog after he seemed to blame incapacity benefit (IB) claimants for the size of the government’s budget deficit.
Iain Duncan Smith said in an interview in the Sun that he was “appalled” at how easy it had been in the past for people to claim IB and cheat the system.
He suggested that a large proportion of IB claimants were cheats, and added: “This is what the benefits system has become – a deep incentive for people to do no formalised work.”
And he said that Sun readers were right to be “upset and angry” when they see neighbours who do not work, because such “unfairness saps away at our sense of togetherness in society”.
He said Britain used to be “the workshop of the world” but had now “managed to create a block of people” who “do not add anything to the greatness of this country”.
He added: “They have become conditioned to be users of services, not providers of money. This is a huge part of the reason we have this massive deficit.”
He added: “We don’t want to talk about scroungers in the future, we want to talk about British people being renowned the world over for working hard.”
When asked to confirm that the comments were reported accurately by the Sun, a spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “If we were unhappy with the article in the Sun we would have gone back to the Sun, but we haven’t.”
She said ministers were “very clear that they want to help and support disabled people” but that “those who are assessed as being fit for work will be expected, with our support, to get job ready and into sustainable employment”.
Stephen Brookes, coordinator of the Disability Hate Crime Network, said: “I despair of any government, any minister, making such a comment, which apparently apportions blame for the current economic crisis on disabled people.
“I think it’s a travesty to make that kind of statement. It creates an environment of additional hostility and pressure when disabled people are very worried about their futures anyway.”
Both he and Anne Novis, another of the coordinators of the network, have reported Duncan Smith’s comments to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s inquiry into disability-related harassment.
Novis was at the RADAR awards this week where she, Brookes and their colleague Katharine Quarmby collected an award for their voluntary work fighting disability hate crime.
She said: “Disabled people make a huge contribution to society and yet we are being demeaned all of the time by this government.”
2 December 2010