Under the Equality Act, provision was made by the Labour government to ensure legislations didn’t discriminate against protected social groups, which included disabled people.
However, the need for public bodies in England to undertake or publish an equality impact assessment of government policies, practices and decisions was quietly removed by David Cameron in April 2011.
The legal requirement in the Equality Act that ensured public bodies attempt to reduce inequalities caused by socio-economic factors was also scrapped by Theresa May in November 2010, who said she she favoured a greater focus on “fairness” rather than “equality.”
The Conservatives have since claimed to make welfare provision “fair” by introducing substantial cuts to benefits and introducing severe conditionality requirements regarding eligibility to social security, including the frequent use of extremely punitive benefit sanctions as a means of “changing behaviours,” highlighting plainly that the Conservatives regard unemployment and disability as some kind of personal deficit on the part of those who are in reality simply casualities of bad political decision-making and subsequent policy-shaped socio-economic circumstances.
There is a major inconsistency in the Conservative Government’s thinking right there.
“The Conservatives regard unemployment and disability as some kind of personal deficit” – basically, they say that each individual chooses to be unemployed or disabled… to under-achieve, if you like. That it is a character issue, not one that is related to their health or environment.
They point at people who manage to overcome disability or personal circumstances, and actually manage to make a living for themselves in spite of their infirmity or the economic situation in which they have been placed, and try to tell us that anybody can do it if they can.
The inconsistency is that, if some people can choose to be unemployed or disabled because that is part of their character, then it follows that some people can over-achieve – managing to make something of their lives despite any disability or whatever else might be affecting them.
They manage this, not because they are the norm, but because they are exceptional.
If the Tories aren’t taking that into account, then they are persecuting people on an entirely false premise.
Sure, some people might be playing the system, and some might be malingerers who only think they’re ill – but the vast majority are likely to be people of average abilities who need help to get out of a bad situation.
Instead of helping, the Tories have been punishing them. They are “casualties of policy-shaped socio-economic circumstances”.
Everybody with spina bifida can’t be Tanni Grey-Thompson. If only it were as simple as that.
Everybody with cerebral palsy can’t be Francesca Martinez.
Pick another celebrity who is known to have a health problem, be in physical or mental. Everybody with that health problem can’t be them.
Mostly, they’re just ordinary people who’ve been saddled with an extra issue to handle every day.
That’s why, when a government proposes changing the rules affecting them, it makes sense to check how they will be affected, in order to avoid discrimination.
The fact that the Conservatives have dismantled the mechanism for doing so – they are now claiming they cannot perform the cumulative impact assessment that has been requested, even though other organisations like NIESR and Landman Economics have done so and made recommendations to help the government follow suit – shows that the Conservatives are quite happy to discriminate against minority groups.
In fact, discrimination against minorities is their bread and butter; their mantra: Divide and rule.
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