In the wake of the Emergency Budget and the announced welfare reform, I have become somewhat concerned that some of the old disability myths are coming back into the public consciousness and being treated as if true which, I can only imagine, in people's minds justifies the reduction in benefits.
In an attempt to dispel some of the the disability myths, I have gathered some facts and figures from various sources that I hope will make at least some people think before pointing the accusing finger at disabled people bleeding the system dry.
There are approximately 32.6 million people of working age in the UK of which approximately 6.8 million have a disability as laid out by The Disability Discrimination Act 1995. This works out at about 1 in 5 people. In 2008 approximately 3.3 million of these people were in work and a further million would like to work given the opportunity. Now granted this may well have changed as the economic climate has changed significantly since then, but these are the most up to date statistics available. Therefore we are looking somewhere in the region of 2.5 million people who are disabled who are not working... of which I would conservatively guess at least 1/2 are unable to work, therefore 1.25 million people to save how many billions of pounds? It doesn't add up, therefore people in real need will be caught up like dolphins in a tuna net.
Reform of Disability Living Allowance will not get people back into work. I work and receive Disability Allowance after my stroke. It is not a means tested benefit and is in recognition that living as a disabled person is significantly more expensive than as a non-disabled person. (here I must credit the Benefit Scrounging Scum blog for that description and rationale of DLA as it is the best I have read anywhere else). Without my Disability Living Allowance it would be significantly more likely that I would not be able to keep my job as everything else in my life would become infinitely more difficult thus exhausting me and making me incapable of working, which would put me on benefits and render me unproductive.
Next, of the disabled population, somewhere between 5-20% of people are wheelchair users. yes I agree 5 and 20% is a rather large margin however this is difficult to measure too accurately as not every wheelchair user uses it all the time. The disability symbol has quite a lot to answer for with that particular issue.
Next, of the approximately 500,000 people who are registered blind in the UK only some 18,000 are braille readers. As soon as one loses their sight for whatever reason they don't automatically become fluent braille users as a means of compensation.
I won't bore you with anymore but needless to say I have merely scratched the surface, I haven't even discussed learning disablities, mental health disabilities and autistic spectrum disorders
Now I have no doubt that there are some people out there who are not as disabled as they make out to be, I also have no doubt there are a lot of disabled people out there who push themselves to the absolute limits of their abilities to maintain their independence and self-sufficiency and be productive members of society.
If this sweeping reform would only catch those cheating the system I would be happy in the knowledge we would all be all right, but as we stand at the moment I can't believe it and the worrying feeling that I get that society is scapegoating people on benefits, tarring people in genuine need and those cheating system with the same broad brush as the whole nation tightens its belt, will not only stigmatise people with disabilities, but genuinely disabled people will lose their much needed support in the name of reform and simplifying the system.