Campaigners Decray that Government Welfare Cuts Jeopardize Rights of the Disabled

The tremendous gains made by and for people with learning disabilities could be in great danger of being reversed by government expenditure cuts to welfare, a letter has warned from the Mencap president, Lord Brian Rix, signed by 100+ charities.

Addressed to the Guardian, the letter decries that fundamental rights and benefits people with learning disabilities now have could be lost if the central government continues to authorize cuts to social welfare expenditures. This would leave those with learning disabilities unable to live independent lives and instead be housebound.

More than six decades, social justice victories have enabled mainstream society to be much more inclusive of those living with learning disabilities through various communal interventions. But all that is now on the brink of being lost.

Since the 1950's when he was advised by many to ‘put away & forget’ his daughter who suffered from Down’s syndrome, Rix says he has experienced and seen tremendous advancement in how British society deals with people with learning disabilities. Today, more than 1.4 million people are living with these disabilities in the UK. The proposed £12 billion drastic cuts to social security, coupled with the indirect impact of funding reductions for the local government, could destroy social care for all these people and their families.

For more than five years now, authorities in England and Wales have been drastically cutting expenditures on portage. This is a speech-language therapy used to prepare kids with learning disabilities for mainstream schooling. Spending on short-breaks for care takers are also being reduced by half. In England, local authorities are forecasting a slash of more than £1 billion from social care services for the old and disabled this year alone. Approximately 600,000 people are also expected to lose their disability benefits within the next three years.

91-year-old Rix, who has first-hand experience with being a care taker for his late daughter before becoming secretary general and chairman of Mencap, also says that the slashing of benefits for the disabled is a clear indication of the government’s failure to fully understand what these people’s true needs are.

In its election manifesto, the Conservative party had promised to ensure that even the most challenging to care for get the kind of support they require to live fulfilling lives. A Department for Work & Pensions spokesperson said they are working on the overall benefits bill to ensure that the most vulnerable are protected. But Rix is skeptical, owing to the government’s track record with incapacity benefits, where thousands of the ill and disabled were erroneously listed as being fit for work.

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