application, Department, disabilities, disability, downplay, DWP, job, jobseeker, leaflet, Marsha de Cordova, Mike Sivier, order, Parliament, Pensions, point, political, question, Vox, Vox Political, work
A “well-intentioned” leaflet urging people with disabilities to mislead employers about their conditions has been withdrawn by the Department for Work and Pensions, after questions were asked in Parliament.
The official DWP leaflet, issued by a Job Centre in Dorset, told jobseekers to avoid using words like “chronic” or “depression” when applying for work. They were told to use “more general terms” and to avoid making things “sound worse than they are”.
It stated: “Avoid words that sound worse than they are, eg: chronic, degenerating, etc.
“You may find it helpful to use official diagnosis terms, eg multiple sclerosis, PTSD.
“Equally, you may wish to avoid terms such as depression, ME, or low back pain etc and use more general terms such as low mood or a mental health condition, a fatigue-related condition, an ongoing pain condition etc.”
Shadow minister for disabled people Marsha de Cordova raised the issue in a point of order in the House of Commons yesterday (Tuesday, October 8).
She said: “In essence, the DWP is encouraging disabled people to downplay their disability or health condition.
“It cannot be right that the Department expects disabled people to downplay their disability or health condition.”
Hours later, the DWP announced that the leaflet had been withdrawn.
A statement read: “This was well-intentioned local advice but has been withdrawn, as we would always encourage jobseekers to speak freely about a health condition or disability.”
The wording of the leaflet had been used before, in a “positive health statement” that was circulated by the Dorset NHS trust issued in 2013 – so it is reasonable to believe that the offending leaflet was produced in Dorset.
It was still against the law, though.
Under the Equality Act 2010, disabled people – including those with mental health problems – are entitled to protection if their disability has a substantial, adverse, and long term effect on normal day-to-day activities. It is therefore unreasonable to ask them to “downplay” their disabilities in any way.
So that leaves a thorny question still unanswered:
As the leaflet did break the law, and was passed to people who live with disabilities, who will be prosecuted for it?
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