So says Ed Miliband, while busy demonising a disabled benefit claimant he claims he met on the campaign trail.
So what exactly did Ed think he was doing with his example of the man on Incapacity Benefit? Since when has labelling an individual person as 'irresponsible' in a speech as head of the Labour Party, and through him disabled benefit claimants en masse, if not disabled people as a whole, not counted as demonising them?I am currently in the ESA Work Related Activities Group, presumably where Ed thinks that man should be. I had 22 years in a good job as a software engineer, I've been unemployed since the end of 2008, but for me to get a job now I first need an improvement in my medical situation, which has worsened since my redundancy: can't sit, can't stand, can't reliably use my left arm is a bad combination for just about any job you can think of. I have been chasing that medical improvement for the past 2 years, but progress is slow, we are barely holding things back from getting worse, never mind making them better. Yet even if I can get an improvement in my situation to about where I was when I was made redundant (i.e. to merely can't sit, can't stand), I face a situation where multiple employment consultants have told me I have no hope of a job in the private sector and not much more hope of a job in the public sector.
The problem isn't my willingness to work, been there, done that. The problem isn't my willingness to try and find jobs in a different sector, been there and done that too. My problem is finding an employer who is within my very limited commute radius of about 10-15 minutes driving (all my back will stand), and, biggest ask of all, who is willing to offer me a job no matter my disability and who has the flexibility to accomodate someone who will probably need considerable reasonable adjustments (such as needing to work in a prone position). And what goes for me also goes for the disabled person using a wheelchair, a guide-dog, personal assistants or whatever. The only irresponsible thing about our employment situation is not acknowledging the difficulties we face, both practical in terms of accomodations to disability, and discriminatory in the attitudes of recruiters and employers towards potential employees with disabilities.
Demonising us won't help, nor will driving disabled benefit claimants through harsher and harsher assessment regimes and 'Work Programmes'. 'The floggings will continue until morale improves' has never been the most productive of management techniques. We need someone to shine the harsh light of public opinion on the willingness of British employers to employ disabled people. They even collected the figures for us, trying to proclaim that less than 30% of them being willing to consider employing a disabled person was some kind of triumph of equality. Where is the political party willing to take up this opportunity, challenge the disablist attitudes and bring about a real change in the attitudes of employers, creating the opportunity for disabled people to take part in the labour market as equals? It certainly seems the contemporary Labour Party isn't up to the job.