Less than a month since a U.N. report lambasted the Conservative government as responsible for creating a “human catastrophe,” the husband of a woman with tetraplegia shared his shocking story on Facebook.
Vince Paul Rodger wrote on his Facebook account that his wife, Julie, has had her Employment and Support Allowance taken off of her following a simple mistake on Mr Rodger’s part.
Mr. Rodger unfortunately forgot to take his disabled wife, who suffers from hypoxic brain damage, to the Job Centre for an interview and in a cruel lack of understanding her benefits were stopped.
This was despite Mr. Rodger writing to appeal the decision and request a new date for the interview. Mr. Rodger said his plea was rejected and that they were “sticking to the original decision,’ to remove Mrs. Rodger’s benefits. The decision was symptomatic of a government that defaults to bureaucracy and lacks any decency in issues that require sensitivity and humanity.
But now, the DWP have been publicly shamed into reversing their heartless decision. On Monday 19 September, Mr. Rodger and his wife went to their local Job Centre with a reporter from the local newspaper – The Selby Times. By this time, Mr. Rodger’s Facebook post had been shared and commented on thousands of times and the disgusting, faceless treatment of Mrs. Rodgers was picked up on by British independent left-wing media outlets Evolve Politics and The Skwawkbox.
Mr. Rodger updated his original Facebook post to read that, “after seeing Julie was unfit for work they managed to get in touch with the DWP to resolve the matter in hand; in a nutshell, they have reinstated Julie’s benefits.” Undoubtedly, the swift coverage of the event and the presence of a newspaper reporter, aided the matter. Yet, Mr. Rodger was still told that his wife will still have to do a ‘face to face interview/assessment with the powers [who] be to see if she is able to work.”
In September 2016, MP Debbie Abrahams, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, responded to another hypercritical U.N. report on the failings of the current government on the rights of disabled people, stating that, “[a Labour government] would replace [the current system] with a system based on personalised, holistic support.”
Just last week, Prime Minister Theresa May completely rewrote the script given by the grave UN Report at PMQs, instead stating that “over the time we have been in government we have been seeing more disabled people get into the workplace.” Sadly for the Tories, and triumphantly for any decent-minded individual Julie Rodger will not be one of those people. Nonetheless, May echoed her party’s official line, which was trotted out when she was in Japan talking trade and security with Emperor Akihito; that it was “inaccurate” and did not “reflect” the evidence the Conservative government provided to the U.N.
Since 2012, the Tories have forced 600,000 disabled people back into work and in January of this year a 56-year old man died because of it. In the last quarter of 2016 alone, 2000 people were wrongly declared “fit to work,” and on the way home from appealing such a decision, Lawrence Bond collapsed and suffered a fatal heart attack. It is characteristic of the Tories’ failure at the Department for Work and Pensions, and Theresia Degender, the chairwoman of the UN Committee, lambasted the numbers saying that “people are pushed into work situations without being recognised as vulnerable,” whilst a mental health charity also found through an investigation that the Work Capability Assessments were “caus[ing] permanent damage to mental health.”
An anonymous DWP employee told The Skwawkbox that “most of us are sick to death of seeing people…..denied a bit of dignity,” and said many are now leaving the department. “It [irritates] me when people tar DWP employees with the same brush; many of us disagree with these decisions and with the Tories, which is why so many people are now leaving.”
It caps a dreadful 12 months for the Tories on the issue of disability, and what is more criminal is that the UN pointed out the measures to be taken to improve the situation and they were ignored. So severe was the situation, Stig Langvad, an independent expert member of the UN Committee, published an 8-page document titled, "The Right to Independent Living for the European Commission." It showed the lack of faith in the Conservative government, stating "persons with disabilities are in our view not able to choose where to live, with whom to live, and how to live (in the U.K.)."