Thursday Truths: Philip Hammond – Divide and Conquer

This month the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond came out with a statement that hurt and angered many people with disabilities in the UK and wider. He said that people with disabilities who are in employment could be partly blamed for the sluggish productivity of the British economy.

This is a totally unacceptable and derogatory statement to come out with and myself and Frank Larkin from Disability Awareness and Equality call on Philip Hammond to withdraw his statement and to publicly apologise for the hurt he has caused.

This is the same Government that introduced Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and forcing people who aren’t physically or emotionally able to work and at the same time, cutting the benefits they need to survive and condemning them to poverty.

In the UK, there are 7 million people of working age who have a disability or health condition, but only 47.6% of adults with disabilities are employed, compared to 79.2% of people with no disabilities.

According to Disability News Service, nearly half of the PIP review saw award cuts.

The UK government needs to pick a narrative to speak from. On one hand they are saying that we are capable to work and cutting our benefits to force others into employment. With the other hand, they are saying that those of us who are in employment are a drain on the economy and partly to blame for the cause of the economic mess.

One would have to ask if another minority member was singled out in this way, what the public reaction be? For someone with a disability, it does feel that we are one of the last members of the community, where comments and segregation seems to go unnoticed or with minimum fuss. If you were singled out in a classroom for having green eyes, told you weren’t good enough to sit with the rest of the class and that you drag the rest of the class back, how would that make you feel?

I am a part-time employee, working 16 hours per week. This is because these are the hours I am only physically able to work. Anymore hours and it affects my health, both physically and emotionally. I would love to work more, but cannot. Yet I fear this Government will make me work more and then blame me for my poor work.

One reason I strongly believe is behind this statement is that I believe it’s the Government’s “Divide and Conquer” stragedy. If they want to push through what they believe is unpopular, they influence the public thinking by propaganda in the media. This time it is the turn for people with disabilities. They want the public to believe that it isn’t the banks’ fault or 1% to blame for the economic mess (which is world-wide, not restricted to the UK) and not the minorities or vulnerable in society, i.e. us the people who have disabilities. This can harden views and opinions towards people with disabilities and can in some instances, lead to a rise in disability hate crime.

Stand up and show that we will not be treated this way, show the world that you have a role to play in life. Show them that we are equals in society.

I am asking employers who see and read this blog to send us a picture of one of your employees with a disability and a statement of what they bring to your business.

Thursday Truth: Philip Hammond – Divide and Conquer

Dermot Devlin with Omagh Enterprise work colleagues – Sinead McKenna, Sharon Tracey-Collins, Jill McCormack and Mary MacRory at the Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards 2014 and Olympic Boxer Paddy Barnes MBE

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