The Conservatives’ latest plans to slash benefits for people with Parkinson’s – leaving them up to £1,500 year worse off – threatens to leave sufferers on the breadline after being subjected to a “crude tick-box assessment process” by assessors who don’t understand the condition.
On 2 March, MPs rejected pleas to review plans to cut disability benefits by a third. Stopping the decision at this stage would also have required the government to examine the full impact of the cuts on people with Parkinson’s and other degenerative diseases – something which the Conservatives have so far failed to do.
Parkinson’s UK Chief Executive Steve Ford said:
People with Parkinson’s, facing the devastating reality that soon they will have to stop working as their symptoms deteriorate, will be left reeling from this result. They now face the terrible prospect of surviving on the equivalent of Jobseeker’s Allowance when that heart-wrenching day comes. It’s now more important than ever that ESA [Employment and Support Allowance] assessments are vastly improved to take into account the progressive and fluctuating nature of Parkinson’s.
And now, research launched on 18 April reveals that nearly two-fifths of people with Parkinson’s are living in fear of being found out and feel that they have no choice but to hide their symptoms or lie about their condition to friends, family and employers. Others reported feeling ‘like their world had ended’, ‘like they were grieving’ or ‘like they didn’t know who to turn to’.
The study commissioned by Parkinson’s UK for Parkinson’s Awareness Week found that an estimated 42,000 people in the UK avoided sharing their diagnosis for fear of prejudice and social exclusion. At least some of this fear has proven to be justified – there are accounts of people with Parkinson’s being shunned and shut out of the workplace. As a result, many are at risk of being left in the double bind of being declared ‘fit to work’ despite reporting gruelling symptoms that render them unable to complete even the most basic tasks.
A paper authored by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) on 7 January found that prejudice against disabled people has increased, fuelled by government and media propaganda about benefits. Figures from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) support this, showing that hate crimes against people with disabilities have risen by a shocking 213% since 2007/08.
This can be seen as part of a wider attack on the lives of those living with degenerative disease. Following a freedom of information request, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) confirmed that disabilities and illnesses that are at risk of being classified under the ‘fit to work’ category include: strokes, brain haemorrhages, multiple sclerosis, brain tumours, motor neurone disease, quadriplegia, polio and cerebral palsy.
– Donate to Parkinson’s UK to support their campaign to raise awareness of the impact of welfare cuts on those living with the condition.
– Write to your MP about the impact that the cuts are having on disabled people and those living with illness in your community.
– Assist 38degrees in its campaign to mobilise support for public healthcare.
Featured Image via YouTube.