Disabled people suffering from ‘benefit scroungers’ label
Tuesday 31 July 2012
A new survey shows that benefit-related discrimination has got worse over the last year, while television programmes reveal injustices in work assessment process
Almost half (46%) of disabled people feel that attitudes towards them have worsened in the last year, according to new research by Scope.
Disabled people cite the small number of people falsely claiming disability benefits (‘benefit scroungers’), and the way their actions are reported, as the main causes of public hostility. At the same time, disabled people report they are increasingly confronted by strangers questioning their right to support – 73% experienced the assumption that they don’t work. Over 80% say coverage about benefits scroungers can negatively affect attitudes.
“It is absolutely shocking that in 2012 almost half of disabled people feel attitudes have got worse and many have experienced aggression, hostility or name calling from other people,” says Richard Hawkes, chief executive of Scope. “Disabled people keep coming back to the same concern – benefit scroungers. They single out fraudsters. Yet fraudsters are a tiny minority of claimants.”
The results of the survey come as both the BBC’s ‘Panorama’ and Channel 4’s ‘Dispatches’ reveal injustices in the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) Work Capability Assessment. ESA provides financial help to people who are unable to work because of illness or disability, but some people argue that the assessments are unfairly finding people fit for work and ineligible for the benefit, as the government battles the so-called benefit culture.
'Panorama' revealed that hundreds of thousands of people are struggling with the system, which is at best frustrating and at worst damaging to their health. 'Dispatches' saw a GP go undercover at Atos, the company that carries out the Work Capability Assessment – while training, he was told more than once that the new ESA process is “meant to take people off benefit”.
Dan Scorer, Mencap's senior campaigns and policy manager, adds: “These issues have been raised with the government, who have been reminded of their responsibility to show leadership in promoting a balanced debate around welfare, and more positive images of disabled people.”
At a time when London is hosting the Paralympics and disabled athletes will be taking centre-stage, there is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leave a Paralympics legacy of improved attitudes. Scope will promote positive stories of ordinary disabled people, but believes the government must play its part by telling the whole story when it comes to welfare reform.