The WoW Petition Reaches 100,000 Signatures


A government e-petition, http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/43154 written by sick and disabled people and carers today gained over 100,000 signatures, meaning it can trigger a Parliamentary debate.

Francesca Martinez, who has been championing the petition, says:
“This is a hugely important issue because many disabled and sick people cannot go out and protest against these devastating policies. It is vital that those of us who can, join together to ensure these basic rights aren’t eroded away. With 83% of disabilities acquired, anyone can find themselves with an impairment, or as a carer, and we must make sure that people are adequately supported when in challenging times. This is what a civilised society does. Instead of demonising those on welfare, we should be proud to create a society that provides for everyone regardless of health or ability. We will never forget the many tragic deaths already caused by this government and we will continue to fight in the hope that we can protect those in need from despair, poverty and death. We’d like to thank everyone who signed and shared the petition, and we look forward to the next phase of Parliamentary debate.”

Rick B one of the originators of the petition says:
“In July 2012 I almost died because of how the government treated me, many have not been as fortunate. Another founder of the campaign, John Dyer, sadly passed away in November before we reached 100,000 signatures. So we are resolute to take this democratic mandate and pursue the cause of making justice for sick and disabled people and carers a reality.”

Michelle Maher another WOW originator says:
“I became involved because of my cousin who had been living with Parkinson's for five years, with osteoarthritis and diabetes. Her claim for DLA took eighteen months to settle and she was in sheltered accommodation when she had to attend a tribunal. She was frightened, stressed and confused by the process. Inhumane.”

The petition was promoted through social media by people directly affected by welfare reform, many housebound or bedbound. Getting signatures was difficult at first, with the public unaware of a growing national scandal.

Recently however, public awareness has grown due to stories like this;

A dying grandmother faced the stress of moving home due to the bedroom tax, http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/bedroom-tax-charges-means-sick-2789221

Macmillan Cancer Care revealed that due to benefit problems, a terminally ill cancer patient was offered a foodbank voucher, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24785115

Parkinson’s UK revealed that almost half of people with a progressive incurable illness are told they’ll recover, saying ‘A system which tells people who have had to give up work because of a debilitating progressive condition that they'll recover, is farcical and simply defies belief’
‘On top of this, many have their benefit removed after a year as an added 'incentive' to find employment. http://www.parkinsons.org.uk/news/27-august-2013/fit-work-test-tells-people-parkinsons%C2%A0theyll-recover

It is time for the Secretary of State to be held to account.

The petition, (dubbed the WOW petition as it was set up to resist the War On Welfare) calls for

‘A Cumulative Impact Assessment of all cuts and changes affecting sick & disabled people, their families and carers, and a free vote on repeal of the Welfare Reform Act.

An immediate end to the Work Capability Assessment, as voted for by the British Medical Association.’

The Welfare Reform Act 2012   http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2010-1/welfarereform.html
was proclaimed as ‘the biggest shake up in welfare for sixty years’ and Iain Duncan Smith personally described the changes as ‘aggressive’.

So it came as a shock to learn that for the people most affected by these changes, sick and disabled people and carers, no cumulative impact assessment had been carried out. The Secretary of State had no knowledge or understanding of, and apparently no interest in, how their lives were about to be turned upside down.

In a similar show of disregard for the welfare of sick and disabled people, the government has ignored calls from the medical profession to scrap the Work Capability Assessments (WCA) used to decide whether someone can receive Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

At their British Medical Association conference in June 2012, GPs called for the WCA to be scrapped ‘with immediate effect and be replaced with a rigorous and safe system that does not cause unavoidable harm to some of the weakest and vulnerable in society’. http://bma.org.uk/news-views-analysis/news/2012/june/scrap-work-capability-assessment-doctors-demand

The WCA process has been blamed for the deaths and suicides of people caught up in it, many of whom are denied the support they desperately need. According to the DWP’s own figures,

‘between January 2011 and November 2011, some 10,600 claims ended and a date of death was recorded within six weeks of the claim end.’ https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/223050/incap_decd_recips_0712.pdf

More recent figures on the deaths of claimants denied ESA cannot be obtained. The DWP decided to stop publishing them, and a Freedom of Information request was denied. Following this denial a number of people made similar requests, which were then described as ‘vexatious’.

Misinformation has abounded on these issues. The government, indeed the Prime Minister himself, has frequently and wrongly claimed that disabled people are exempt from the bedroom tax. http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/factcheck-cameron-wrong-again-on-bedroom-tax-detail

Grant Shapps claimed that ‘nearly a million people’ dropped their claims before facing a WCA, the implication being that their claims were not legitimate. This was completely untrue and he was rebuked by the UK Statistics Authority. http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2013/05/tory-boss-rebuked-over-partys-latest-misuse-of-benefit-figures/

In its own analysis of welfare reform, think tank Demos calculated that sick and disabled people will lose £28 billion in five years. http://www.demos.co.uk/press_releases/destinationunknownapril2013
This contradicts David Cameron’s promise to disabled people, ‘we will always help you,we will always stand by you’

In April 2013 Amnesty International condemned the government’s attack on the human rights of sick and disabled people. This went largely unreported.  http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/18320

In September 2013 the Dean of St Paul’s Rev David Ison presided over a ceremony in Parliament Square to remember the thousands of people who have died due to welfare reform. You can watch a brief video of the event here.

The petition is still open until the 12th December 2013. http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/43154

Thank you to everyone for signing, supporting and sharing. 

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