By Natalie Leal for Welfare Weekly.
Comedian and actress, Francesca Martinez, is launching a new petition calling on the government to assess the full impact of cuts to support and social care for disabled people.
The petition organised by Martinez and the War on Welfare (WOW) campaign group has the backing of MPs from Labour, the SNP, the Green Party and Plaid Cymru.
People with long-term illness and disabilities have faced a number of changes to multiple benefits and support services during the government’s welfare reform programme over the past five years.
These include the closure of the Independent Living Fund, reductions to Employment and Support Allowance, changes to housing benefit, increasing benefit sanctions and the introduction of Personal Independence Payments.
Ms Martinez said the basic rights of sick and disabled people were being eroded.
She said: “We need to show the new government that their continued attacks on disabled people and carers cannot go unchallenged.
“The cuts have had a devastating impact on a huge number of lives and have left many people fearing for their future.”
This is the second time the group has launched a petition calling for an assessment of all cuts to support for disabled people.
The first WOW petition garnered more than 100,000 signatures and secured a debate in the House of Commons in February 2014. At the time it was hailed as a “significant parliamentary milestone – the first debate secured by disabled people for disabled people.”
However, despite a motion being passed calling for an analysis of the cumulative impact of the cuts on sick and disabled people, there has been no assessment with the government saying it would be too difficult to do accurately.
During the 2014 debate Mike Penning (then Minister for disabled people) said the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) had also said a full assessment could not be done properly and accurately enough.
The IFS have since stated they do not hold that position.
Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North is backing the new petition.
“I backed the last WOW petition and I back this one because we can’t stand by and let this Government inflict this scale of hardship and suffering on people with disabilities. It’s inhumane”, he said.
John McDonnell MP for Hayes and Harlington, has revisited the Back Bench Business Committee and asked them to schedule a further debate of the WOW petition.
“The motion was carried without opposition at the time, but 18 months on, we still have not had the assessment”, said Mr McDonnell.
He added: “I led the debate presenting the original WOW petition to Parliament over two years ago but life for people with disabilities has been made even harder by this Government’s cuts. This new petition will highlight the appalling suffering many people with disabilities are enduring still.”
Labour MPs Ian Mearns and Debbie Abrahams are also supporting the petition.
Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, offered her support:
“This government must not be allowed to get away without accounting for the impact of the continuing attacks on the benefits and services that disabled people are entitled to in a humane, decent society.”
Natalie McGarry MP, the SNP’s spokeswomen for Disabilities, said:
“The SNP backs WOW’s campaign calling on the UK Government to conduct a full impact assessment of all cuts to support and social care for disabled people.”
Plaid Cymru MPs, Liz Saville Roberts and Hywel Williams also confirmed they were supporting the petition.
Michelle Maher, of the WOW campaign said the group were devastated after the government failed to act after they managed to secure the House of Commons debate last year.
“After months of hard work by a small group of sick, disabled and carer’s we felt all those people who had put faith in the petition were ignored.
“As more cuts are being lined up against us without the Tory party knowing the impact on the individual we realised they wouldn’t do this willingly. We have to fight on as we are being plunged into the margins of society into absolute poverty.”
A spokesperson from the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We already carry out impact assessments on our policies.
“Our benefit reforms with the introduction of Universal Credit, will make millions of households better off”.
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