The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced a ‘major’ policy shift on Sunday 29 July. But in reality, all it’s doing is giving back a benefit it took away from countless disabled people four years ago. One campaigner has called the DWP announcement “the very definition of fake news”.
The DWP: a good day to bury fake news?
The DWP and the Department for Transport (DfT) have announced changes to the Blue Badge parking scheme. It was originally launched in 1970 to allow disabled people to park without charge. But previously in England [pdf], people generally only got a blue badge if they have difficulty walking more than 50m, or if they have other issues with physically getting around.
Now, after a consultation, the DWP has said that the Blue Badge scheme will be “extended to people with ‘hidden’ disabilities” like autism and mental health conditions. Branding it the “biggest overhaul to the system in 40 years”, the scheme will now be available to people who can’t do a journey without:
- “There being a risk of serious harm to their health or safety or that of any other person (such as young children with autism)”.
- “It causing them very considerable psychological distress”.
- Having “considerable difficulty when walking (both the physical act and experience of walking)”.
But in reality, all the DWP and DfT are doing is giving Blue Badges back to people who they snatched them away from.
Giving with one hand…
As BuzzFeed documented, historically under Disability Living Allowance (DLA) autistic people and those living with neurological or mental health conditions, automatically got a Blue Badge if they received the highest rate of DLA. But after the DWP began rolling out the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) in 2013, this changed.
It introduced new rules in 2014 that meant [pdf, p17] anyone receiving PIP would only get a Blue Badge if they received eight points or more on the “moving around” part of the PIP assessment. This immediately excluded many people who did not have physical impairments; including autistic people.
So, in reality, all this DWP policy shift does is give back Blue Badges to people it previously took them away from.
…taking away with the other
The Canary asked the DWP for comment, but it had not responded at the time of publication. But the minister for disabled people, health and work, Sarah Newton said:
It’s absolutely right that disabled people are able to go about their daily life without worrying about how they will get from one place to another.
We’re taking an important step forward in ensuring people with hidden disabilities get the support they need to live independently.
Sunday’s press release from the DWP is the very definition of fake news.
The treatment of disabled people by the government over the last eight years has been shameful and cruel. The removal of blue badges… was divisive and utterly ignorant of what it means to be disabled.
Now we’re expected to be grateful that they… are returning blue badges to people who never deserved this callous cut… in the first place. We aren’t fooled by this duplicity. We demand our human rights be complied with. And we always will; even when they take the next step and remove those too.
The DWP’s cynicism cannot be overstated. It thinks it can roll out a policy on a Sunday morning, and people will simply lap it up. The department’s hypocrisy and callousness know no bounds.