The architect of many of the government’s most unpopular and flawed welfare reforms, Iain Duncan Smith, has refused to apologise for “exploitative” comments he made about disabled people and employment.
The former work and pensions secretary (pictured) is reported to have told a fringe meeting at this month’s Conservative party conference in Birmingham that employers should take on disabled staff because “they often work longer hours”.
He also said that disabled employees “forgo quite a lot of holiday because they love the whole idea of being in work”, and “once they’re in work they actually produce more than most able-bodied people around them”.
The comments, reported in last week’s Private Eye, caused anger among disabled campaigners, who described them as exploitative, patronising and “appalling”.
Duncan Smith, the architect of the new universal credit working-age benefit system, and of many of the coalition government’s most unpopular disability benefit reforms, was addressing a fringe meeting organised by the Centre for Social Justice, the think tank he founded after his enforced resignation as Conservative leader in 2003.
He was joined on the panel by the current work and pensions secretary Esther McVey, a close ally, to examine the question of whether the Conservative party was “making work pay”.
Contacted by Disability News Service this week, a spokeswoman for Duncan Smith said that he was not going to comment on his remarks.
Asked to confirm that that meant he would not comment and would not apologise, she said: “That’s right.”
Carole Ford, a member of the steering group of the WOW campaign, said: “As IDS is refusing to apologise he clearly sees nothing wrong with his views.
“This effectively means that disabled workers are ripe for exploitation.”
She had earlier said on Twitter: “Did no one question the quality of the employers who allow their disabled staff not to take their full holiday allowance?”
Among the many others who criticised the comments on social media was the Centre for Disability Studies at the University of Leeds, which said: “There is frankly nothing about IDS’s comment that isn’t patronising, othering, and accepting of the idea that it’s okay to exploit disabled people’s ‘gratitude’ for having a job. It’s really appalling. We could go on.”
“They also say we are more ‘loyal’ and stay in same jobs longer – basically celebrating the outcomes of workplace discrimination and internalised oppression.”
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