Disabled People Are “An Afterthought” Say Lords

By: A.C.

It would appear that the oft-despised Lords appear to be a friend to people with disabilities.

In recent times they’ve played Parliamentary Ping –Pong – a Westminster Term for when legislation is passed back and forth between the Commons and the Lords- with various bits of legislation affecting disability.  

The Lords disagreed mightily as regards the Welfare Reform Act, which enacted the slashing of the ESA/WRAG and meant those assessed and placed in this category would lose £30 a week.  The Lords saw this and they stalled the legislation, causing the last Secretary of State for Work and Pensions , Iain Duncan Smith to use a guillotine procedure to ram the legislation through whether the Lords liked it or not. This clearly showed that IDS had no interest in disabled people – he only cared about his pet project.

The timetable of the Welfare Reform Act 2016 and its implications, are set out here.

The Daily Mirror  yesterday ( 23/03/2016) , published a letter from high–profile and leading  Christians through the Christian Organisation  Ekklesia, addressed to  Stephen Crabb.

To read the press release & comment from Ekklesia go here.

Ekklesia comments :

“Mr Crabb as a Christian believer, the letter highlights the centrality of compassion and social justice in the Christian tradition. It declares that “now is the time to take stock and begin to adopt a different approach” from that of cuts to benefits and welfare support for the most vulnerable.

Following Mr Crabb’s reversal of the cuts to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) overseen by his predecessor, Iain Duncan Smith, the open letter calls for further changes to PIP – including reverting to the previous mobility criterion, the ability to walk no more than 50 meters, rather than the current test of being able to walk no more than 20 meters.

Signatories also want the UK government to reverse the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) cut of £30 a week, to review the impact of benefit sanctions on the health of sick and disabled people, and to abolish the Bedroom Tax (spare room subsidy).

They further ask the new Secretary of State to “immediately examine the way your department [the DWP] has in the past responded to letters from coroners regarding the deaths of benefit claimants, particularly the Rule 43 ‘prevention of future deaths’ process.”

 To read the full content of the open letter go here.

Today the Lords issued a committee report which is fairly lengthy, and like all such reports should not be read before bedtime.  You can read the report itself here.   

Commenting on the report to the BBC, disabled peer Baroness Jane Campbell said:.  “nothing has changed since the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995.”

The thrust of the report is about the rights of the disabled following, the Equality Act 2010, and earlier legislation like the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 which was supposed to make life easier and more equitable.  

The Committee stated on a BBC report Disabled people are only an “afterthought” for the government, a House of Lords report has said:

“One of the committee members, Baroness Brinton, told BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today Programme ’ on 24 March 2016  :  “

“The problems faced by disabled people on public transport were among the “major failings” highlighted.

“That stops disabled people being independent,” she said. “Witness after witness demonstrated how either not bringing laws into effect or not enforcing them has had a major effect on their lives.”

The committee examined the impact of the Equality Act 2010, which brought together reforms over the last 40 years and applies in England, Wales and Scotland. The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 still applies in Northern Ireland but has been updated.

Its report, which consulted more than 200 witnesses including disability charities, disabled people, and businesses, said increased fees for discrimination tribunals had led to an “abrupt fall” in claims since their introduction in 2003 and should be reconsidered.”

To listen to the podcast of the Today Programme go here, where on the running order you can fast forward 25 minutes and the segment on the disabled is scheduled for 07:15.  A clip of the interview is not available as yet.

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