One of the key questions asked by our Atos Stories play is - what is wrong with getting disabled people out to work? After all, isn't that what disabled people want? Minister after minister will often preach these points, the reforms of the 2012 Welfare Act are all about enabling, empowering,preventing people from languishing on sickness benefits.
The answer is, of course it is, except that...
1. Despite the Disability Discrimination Act many employers still will choose a non disabled person above a disabled every time This is worse in times of high unemployment.
2. The nature of many disabilities (Crohn's Disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, mental health) mean people have periods of good health, and periods of poor health. For such individuals to be able to hold down a job, they need sympathetic employers. Employers who enable part time working, flexible work arrangements. Employers who ensure that the employee is not overloaded with work so they spiral into ill-health, and who are supportive when employees need time off due to a flare up of their condition. How many employers do you know like that?
3. Many work places aren't physically adapted to the needs of individuals with disabilities, chairs, lighting, ventilation can make a sick person sicker.
4. Some people who are just too sick to work. According to the DWP's own figures 32 people a week died between January and August 2011 after Atos found them fit enough to be in the work related activity group. In other words, they weren't languishing on a benefit deprived of the right to work. They were being provided with sufficient finances to live out their days in dignity and peace.
Without the right supports, without the right environment, without the right attitudes, work ALWAYS hurts.
It is time the wealthy millionaire non-disabled ministers in the Cabinet woke up to the fact. Otherwise people will continue to be put through an endless cycle of continual reassessment, and oh yes, they'll keep on dying too..