Here is our response to the DWP consultation: Shaping Future Support — Health and Disability Green Paper
Response by WinVisible (women with visible & invisible disabilities)
We are a grassroots multi-racial organisation with a UK-wide network, enabling disabled women of different backgrounds and situations to have a voice. On benefits, we provide self-help information, peer support, advocacy and campaigning which has helped many disabled women win or keep hold of our benefit rights.
No cut to Universal Credit! #CancelTheCut which hits sick and disabled people, single mothers and children, 300,000 unpaid family carers, many of whom are mothers/disabled themselves, paid carers and other workers. Food, gas, electricity, council tax, delivery charges, all cost more. Many people depend on the added £20 for food and other basics, including disabled women, many of whom are also women of colour, discriminated against for disability and carer benefits.
Disability benefits should not be cut off. During COVID, thousands of sick and disabled people have been cut off benefits or hit by delays, due to lack of DWP staff or GPs not replying to provide medical evidence.
We are among disability organisations outraged at the Green Paper and the biased consultation. The independent DPO England Forum condemns the Green Paper as “not a reality-based document”, the reality is “a hostile environment causing many deaths, large scale poverty, exclusion, and human rights abuses that have been examined in detail and condemned by the United Nations.”
NO SINGLE BENEFIT and merger of assessments across different benefits which will leave claimants destitute or deprived. Disabled people now may at least get the other disability benefit if denied either ESA/UC disability or PIP. No expansion of private assessor companies’ powers to “decide” our entitlements — officially it’s the DWP who decides, but it’s based on their “recommendation”.
No to future benefit cuts with the excuse of “affordability of support” or of focussing benefits on the most severely disabled people (Work and Pensions Minister Therese Coffey, 3 October).
- We object to the definition of unemployment as “long-term inactivity” when so many people are struggling to survive, caring unwaged for ourselves and for others, involved in community and environmental work, volunteering, pursuing music, art, etc. Unwaged disability carers alone save the government £132 billion a year. The 2015 figures don’t account for the pandemic surge in unwaged caring work and the thousands more women who had to quit waged work to look after disabled and older relatives.
- The pay gap has worsened drastically. Disabled women’s pay is 36% below non-disabled men and below disabled men and non-disabled women (TUC, November 2020). Those of us who are disabled and women of colour face racism in employment. The genuine collective supported employment and opportunities there used to be, were destroyed in the name of mainstreaming (see the Remploy struggle).
- In the benefits system, “fit for work” is used to refuse sick and disabled people our entitlements and to cut spending. Secondly, the “work-related activity group” of ESA and Universal Credit puts harsh work conditions and sanctions on people who need to rest or recover. Sick and disabled claimants who are put on work conditions for disability benefits (whose benefit was cut from 2017), die at double the rate of the general population (DNS).
- No to the DWP being embedded across health and social care. Women with mental distress say no back-to-work agenda in NHS therapy. Medical treatment, independent living support must be free of any back-to-work pressure. No automatic sharing of medical records across agencies.
- Disabled mothers must not be denied disability benefits as a result of assessors saying that looking after children proves we are fit for work. DWP back-to-work pressure must not be put on disabled mothers caring for children on top of coping with our own ill-health and disability. No disclosure of disability benefit records to the family court. Disabled mothers and young people are traumatised by the separation and have to rely more on benefits.
- Scrap the Work Capability Assessment and Personal Independence Payments test, replace them with supportive benefits enabling us to live in dignity. Every day, claimants are cut off and mistreated by a brutal and automated system which is killing people. Elaine Morrall, Moira Drury, Errol Graham, Philippa Day, are among thousands who died after being cut off for “failure to attend” disability benefit assessments. Bereaved relatives are having to go to court to fight for justice.
- Institutional sexism and racism result in more disabilities, including after surviving violence. Our health conditions are dismissed, so we can’t prove our benefit needs.
- Scrap and replace Universal Credit (UC) – it cuts benefits through the waiting time, two-child limit, abolition of severe disability premium, and so on. Women/children of colour disproportionately suffer low income and institutional racism in the benefits system which profoundly harms our health. Sick and disabled women are subjected to relentless work-focussed interviews and delays not getting the disability addition.
- Family carers deserve payment. The workload of unwaged family carers skyrocketed during lockdown, when social care was officially deprioritised in the Coronavirus Act. While an estimated 13.5 million people stepped in during COVID and saved countless lives, there is not one penny to increase carers’ benefits.
- Increase Carers Allowance so it is a living wage or Care Income, and mainstream it beyond disability to mothers and other family carers, alongside support services of our choice with well-paid staff. We don’t want to be institutionalised or have professionals imposed on us in our daily life.
- Meanwhile remove restrictions on Carer’s Allowance cancelled out by benefits, pension, ESA, treated as a wage and deducted from Universal Credit (sign petition) and the way it is tied to DLA and PIP, threatening women’s whole household income when disabled teenagers are denied PIP.
- Abolish the total benefit cap which punishes tenants for extortionate rents. Those who can avoid the cap by taking waged work of 16 hours a week or more, already do so. Those who can’t avoid the cap are: disabled mothers, mothers of disabled children, women and children fleeing domestic violence who need time to recover, disabled women on ESA WRAG, and others.
- Cap landlords who charge extortionate rents, not our rent allowances.
- Abolish “No Recourse to Public Funds”. Reinstate benefits and the right to work for asylum seekers and other immigrant people. The hostile environment denies benefits to immigrant disabled women and children.
- Increase benefits so no one is punished or imprisoned for crimes of poverty. Baby milk formula, food and nappies are often shoplifted by desperate mothers. People coming out of prison must get decent benefits and housing. Families of prisoners must get financial help to maintain visits and relationships.
- Lower the retirement age and provide decent pensions. Sick and disabled women in their 60s worn out after a lifetime of work, waged and unwaged, are distressingly being found fit for work. In industrial or formerly industrial areas such as Durham, people need sickness and disability benefits 10 years earlier than in non-industrial areas, especially women.
Assessment of disability benefits
- Private profiteers – Atos, Capita, Maximus, G4S Jobcentre security — out of the benefit system.
- No to the merger of assessments and expansion of assessor companies’ powers.
- No to targets for refusals by assessor companies and DWP reconsiderations.
- No to denial of disability benefit through “inconclusive” interviews – paper-based assessments must be pursued.