West Ham Archdeacon Elwin Cockett says disabled deserve our care


- Credit: Archant

In general, Great Britain is getting better at making provision for people with disabilities, I’m pleased to say. Things aren’t perfect, as anyone in a wheelchair will tell you, but improvements being made to public transport, for example, are well-thought-out and helpful.

Most people with mobility issues want to be as independent as they can. One key benefit, Disability Living Allowance, was actually introduced for the purpose of helping them to carry on working. Introduced by John Major’s Conservative government, it reflected the real costs faced by people living with a disability. It recognised that disabled folk often had to work reduced hours in order, for example, to attend doctor’s appointments and go for vital monthly blood tests. Most importantly, it was designed to help working people carry on with their jobs and being productive, rather than a burden on anyone.

In recent years there seems to have been a campaign to label those who are entitled to these benefits as ‘scroungers’ or even ‘benefit cheats’, and anyone with a ‘blue badge’ who can walk a few paces from their car get angry looks from passers-by. The truth is that when it comes to disability benefits, the level of fraud is incredibly low, and is tiny compared to tax fraud.

Perhaps the worst aspect of this atmosphere of suspicion towards people with disabilities is a change in the attitude of some employers who once were happy to make reasonable adjustments to their disabled staff’s working conditions. Some have become hesitant to make even small adjustments, citing costs or the needs of other staff as reasons.

The positive vibe of the 2012 London Paralympics seems a distant memory.

John Major got it right. We should not write people off just because they have a disability. We should be supporting them and enabling them to use their skills and knowledge for good. More from Elwin

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