Emma Harrison, Mencap spokesperson, said:

Mencap is very concerned that the government, in its commitment to “work to promote a fairer society that rewards people who work hard, and pay their fair share”, risks forgetting those of us with disabilities who simply can’t work; ignoring those who employers don't want to employ due to their disability and those who save the country millions by caring for disabled relatives.

We fear that there is more to come on top of the £18 billion cuts to the welfare budget already announced.

In June’s Comprehensive Spending Review it is widely expected that the government will introduce a cap on benefit spending and that those who cannot work, including disabled people, will be hit yet again.

Just because you are of working age, it doesn’t mean that you can work. Many disabled people feel that they are paying the price for the ongoing economic downturn.

Case study

Danny and Sandy

Danny is a man with a learning disability living with his 53 year old fiancé, Sandy, in South London.

Sandydoes not have a learning disability, but was previously awarded benefits as she was deemed unfit to work due to a number of debilitating conditions including severe depression and anxiety, borderline personality disorder, osteo-arthritis, fibromyalgia and costachondritis causing pain and inflammation of the ribs, as well as various phobias that can be made worse by stress.

Until the summer of 2012 the couple got along nicely, “We help each other out,” Danny says.

“There are some things Sandy needs help with, like support to go out and about when she is feeling anxious, but I struggle with the bills because of my learning disability so Sandy helps out with that.”

Danny works part time at learning disability charity Mencap. “I got the job through Mencap employment services,” he explains “it’s the best job ever! I help out the press team with logging press reports and filing. I feel proud of the work I do, but they don’t push me to do things I can’t manage. Also I don’t think I could manage full time work with Sandy to care for.”

In August 2012 Sandy received a letter saying that she had to go for a medical assessment run by Atos to see if she was eligible for Employment Support Allowance (ESA.)

Danny supported Sandy to go along for the assessment where they waited for about 5 hours to be seen. “It was awful and everyone was really anxious” says Sandy. During the assessment Sandy was asked a lot of questions and asked to do some exercises. She felt that the assessor “started to listen after a while – I think he was realising what I was telling him and I think he could see that I was sweating.”

A letter arrived some time afterwards saying that Sandy had been awarded ESA but it did not say she had been put into the work related activity group (WRAG) which Sandy found out later meant she had been deemed ‘fit to undertake work activities to help her get a job.’

The couple found out about the WRAG when Sandy got a letter from the job centre saying that she had to go for an interview at the job centre and that she was at risk of losing her benefits if she didn’t. Danny is really worried about the effect this is having on Sandy, saying:

People don’t tell you what’s going on. You just get these letters. She can’t leave the house without me because she is so anxious all the time.

Danny continues:

She has lost Disability Living Allowance money as well – she gets about half of what she used to – and when she rang up to renew her freedom pass they said she is not eligible any more because you have to be on income support, not ESA. This means we have to rely on my money more and it is tight. When a big bill comes up we can’t go out and Sandy is stuck in the house most of the time.

The couple do not get any external support. Danny thinks that Sandy is not coping. He thinks she should be in the support group where she would not have to go for interviews. Sandy says agrees saying:

They’re pushing too hard, too fast. To the government we are just a statistic.

Notes to editors

For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact the Mencap press office on 0207 696 5414 or media@mencap.org.uk

About Mencap

There are 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Mencap works to support people with a learning disability and their families and carers by fighting to change laws and improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities. Mencap supports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want.

www.mencap.org.uk  

What is a learning disability?

A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities – for example household tasks, socialising or managing money – which affects someone for their whole life.

People with a learning disability tend to take longer to learn and may need support to develop new skills, understand complex information and interact with other people. The level of support someone needs depends on individual factors, including the severity of their learning disability.

Learning disability is not a mental illness. The term learning difficulty is often incorrectly used interchangeably with learning disability.