There have been some worrying developments in the UK lately regarding cuts to state benefits (welfare payments) for those with physical health issues. People with disabilities who are unable to work are now seemingly being harassed and penalised for participating in certain political and social activities. Citizens who suffer from physical impairments, including wheelchair-users, should be able to lead a normal life as far as they are able, which includes the right to participate in political rallies. However, it transpires that benefits have recently been stopped for certain claimants when it was discovered that they were attending public demonstrations.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), has been conducting investigations into fitness for work of the claimants of two of the UK state sickness benefits, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and Personal Independence Payment (PIP), a disability benefit. The DWP has requested police who attend demos to pass on to them details of protesters using mobility aids. Activists in wheelchairs protesting against fracking recently in Lancashire, England, have had their state benefits stopped, which has affected several claimants with permanent conditions. The rationale appeared to be that if they were physically able to attend protests, they were capable of work.
This latest draconian move is a variation on the standard PIP fitness-for-work assessment, where usually the first question at the interview is: “How did you get here?” The authorities seem to consider that if the claimant is able to walk across the car park, they don’t need PIP, and are thus capable of working. They then also apply this principle to public, political activities, the assumption being that if you are able-bodied enough to protest in the street, then you are not eligible for state welfare.
It has been reported that the police who are monitoring the demos check the backgrounds of all participants in these events, including car details, so it is very important that all legal and the correct documentation is available ready to be examined. Organisers of all demonstrations should advise attendees that they need to be very careful about coming to the notice of authorities, as it is the police who are tipping off the DWP about protesters in wheelchairs. This then triggers the investigations, and consequently, benefits are then stopped on the grounds that the claimant is “fit for work.”
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