31/07/2012

Disabled People Worry About ‘Benefit Scrounger’ Discrimination

With a month to go to until the Paralympics, new research by disability charity Scope shows that almost half (46%) of disabled people feel that attitudes towards them have worsened in the last year.

Disabled people single out the tiny number of people falsely claiming disability benefits and the way their actions are reported as chief causes of public hostility. At the same time disabled people report that they are increasingly confronted by strangers questioning their right to support.

However, fraudsters are tiny in number compared to genuine claimants.

For Scope it’s impossible to ignore that the results comes as Government continues to focus the welfare debate on a few benefit scroungers in a bid to make the case for radical reform.

Disabled people demand more positive portrayals of disability.

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 be launching a drive to promote positive stories of ordinary disabled people. But, says the charity, the Government must play its part by telling the whole story when it comes to welfare reform.

Commenting on the findings, Richard Hawkes, chief executive of the disability charity Scope, said: “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. Disabled people keep coming back to the same concern: benefit scroungers. They single out fraudsters. They are concerned about coverage. They tell us strangers challenge them in the street about the support they claim.

“Yet fraudsters are a tiny minority of claimants.

“It is telling that these figures come as the Government continues to put the issue of weeding out illegitimate claimants at the heart of its welfare rhetoric.

“The facts and figures they release on welfare reform only tell half the story. Benefit fraud is rare – in fact more money goes unclaimed than is defrauded, and the new fitness for work test is shown to be failing miserably to accurately assess people’s likelihood of finding work.

“This backdrop of negativity will only make it harder for disabled people to overcome the many barriers they face when it comes to getting on with their lives.

“That is why the Paralympics presents a once-in-an-lifetime opportunity to stop this deterioration and leave a lasting legacy of improved attitudes towards disability.

“Scope will be working throughout the games to tell the stories of disabled people in 2012.

“We want the Government to mark the games with a new approach to welfare: tell the whole story when it comes to stats; make fundamental changes to the Work Capability Assessment and avoid repeating the same mistakes when it comes to the new assessment for Personal Independence Payments.

“Greater understanding of disabled people, the challenges they face and their achievements, should be the real Paralympic legacy we are all working towards.”

(GK)

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