Updated: Oct 27, 2021
Update: Our CEO, Ben Reed, who is a member of the Disabled Persons Organisation Forum has agreed with the response from the forum to the government's green paper on disability. Equal Lives are concerned that the government's approach to working and engaging with disabled people has been poor. This has led to solutions that fail to address the issues disabled people are facing. We hope that the new Disability Minister, Chloe Smith, will change this. Please click here to read the response.
Below is our original blog post about the Health and Disability Green Paper Consultation Event.
The Department of work and pensions (DWP) are currently consulting on their Green Paper, which contains several proposals about how to better support disabled people into work and to address some of the issues in the benefits system. Equal Lives attended a consultation event put on by the DWP to gather the views of disabled people on the proposals in the Green Paper. The event was one of 11 and took place in person, however there are online events available if you wish to attend. Disappointingly, it was very poorly attended by the public and voluntary organisations. The lack of attendees was a concern for us and we did enquire how well the event had been advertised. We were told due to restricted access they were unable to contact and invite claimants directly, but all local DWP offices were asked to invite local organisations and their service users. We were assured the online events have a much higher attendance. Perhaps COVID has left disabled people still feeling anxious about coming to events in person?
Lisa, our Membership Officer, had gathered experiences and thoughts from our members and fed those into the event. Unsurprisingly, they were not isolated cases and had been heard many times before.
The biggest issue the groups discussed was the total lack of trust between disabled people and the DWP. The move from DLA to PIP was made by Government essentially to save money on disability benefits, rather than being structured to find the best way to support disabled people with the extra costs of being a disabled person. Therefore, the process feels like a way to catch us out and find ways of not having to pay certain levels of benefit.
The whole PIP process is at best inaccessible, at worst it has denied some disabled people the support they need. It has resulted in people feeling anxious, undermined and, at worst, suicidal. The fact that the assessment process was contracted out to private sector providers, whose main driver is profit not best practice in supporting disabled people, is very telling.
We discussed the idea of the DWP creating a group very similar to the ESA Support group. You would be placed in this group if you had a condition or disability that severely affected you. If you were placed in this group, you would not be reassessed regularly and the choice about whether work might be an option sits with the disabled person rather than with the DWP. If you choose to have a conversation regarding employment, you should be able to do this without fear of repercussions of losing your benefit. There should also be the option to allow you to have an independent advocate at those meetings and someone completely independent to the DWP is vital to rebuild trust.
There was recognition from the DWP that more needs to be done to support employers to build more inclusive workplaces, but whether that will result in the practical advice and support that’s needed remains to be seen.
Overall, unless the Government is really prepared to listen to disabled people and to change the benefits system, so that it is not based on a presumption of trying to get something we don’t need, but to a system that is enabling and supportive of disabled people, then we wonder, what, in reality, will change when the Green Paper becomes Government Policy?
You can read the Green paper here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/shaping-future-support-the-health-and-disability-green-paper