BIG ISSUE NATIONAL VENDOR WEEK
LEARN MORE
Opinion

The DWP's record on disability benefits is a disgrace. We're here to shine a light on it

We have been overwhelmed with the response to our report on the DWP's track record of PIP benefits refusals for disabled people. It's time for a systemic overhaul

A person with a walking stick

Image: charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

This week we detailed the shocking reality many people with disabilities in Britain are facing. We reported that almost 90% of those who appealed after being turned down for essential  personal independence payment (PIP) were refused again on appeal. That is people who can’t work and have no other viable income. The payment is, at most, around £170 per week. Not everybody granted it gets that amount. And even if they were granted the benefit, they need to reapply regularly, just to prove again they’re disabled enough.

We asked readers to share their experiences of going through the application system with the Department for Work and Pensions. We have rarely had such a response. The volume was incredible and the details were shocking. You can read their stories here. I’m glad we’re able to shine a light on this little detailed disgrace. I hope by doing so, and making a fuss on their behalf, we can bring some change. But reality suggests this change will be hard to chisel and not seismic. 

Your support changes lives. Find out how you can help us help more people by signing up for a subscription

It all feels a bit austerity Mk2. Back then, remember back then, those days when the government decided the best way to meet the financial difficulties brought by the 2008 crash was to punish the poorest. Part of this was chancellor George Osborne and his strivers vs skivers narrative. It fixed the line firmly. You were either working or were on the make. There was nothing between. GET UP AND WORK, YOU SCROUNGER! THERE IS NO MAGIC MONEY TREE!!  

It allowed an environment to grow where anybody in need of state help was seen as either less, or worse, trying to take what you had paid for. Except pensions. DON’T TOUCH THAT TRIPLE LOCK, YOU CHANCERS! 

And while the narrative has shifted and it is those from overseas we’re encouraged to think of as sucking the marrow from the bone, there is clearly still malignant treatment of people who need help here. It’s just that it was less visible. Perhaps the feeling was that while we were distracted by small boats, or escalating food prices or Phillip Schofield we wouldn’t pay attention to a system designed to block rather than help those who need help most.  

Next week is Carers Week. It is clear there is also a massive problem for people in the UK who have had to become carers, perhaps through the illness of an older relative. They are filling gaps in the care-giving system for very little money and it is changing their lives dramatically. Yet they are frequently unseen and many times need to move from their own careers. Where do they fit in the resurgent strivers/skivers setup? 

Get the latest news and insight into how the Big Issue magazine is made by signing up for the Inside Big Issue newsletter

The need for an overhaul in how we look after those who require help to live is at a key moment. We must first rid the public space of the immediate knee-jerk suspicion that people are, to use that great Scottish phrase, at it. Stop pointing the finger and sneering that you see benefits cheats everywhere. Stop making people feel like criminals. We need to see that if help is needed, either for those with disabilities or those caring for people who can’t care for themselves, it should be provided. Treat people with respect, treat them with dignity and get money into hands so that people have personal agency to live their lives.  

The old chestnut about there not being enough money will come into play. Fine. Let’s dive into the allocation of resources, let’s look at money spent outsourcing essential services, let’s properly investigate the rewarding of money-spinning contracts and see who benefits. Because chances are it isn’t those on benefits. 

And keep sending Big Issue your stories and your experiences. We will keep building our community of the willing and the decent to support and make lives better.

Paul McNamee is editor of the Big IssueRead more of his columns here. Follow him on Twitter

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.

To support our work buy a copy! If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member.

National Vendor Week 2024

A celebration of people who are working their way out of poverty.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
It's truly heartbreaking how often food bank guests are punished because they can't find work
Volunteers at Earlsfield Foodbank sort food in crates in the middle of a church
Charlotte White

It's truly heartbreaking how often food bank guests are punished because they can't find work

Andrew Tate is the worst possible example of being a man
Sam Delaney

Andrew Tate is the worst possible example of being a man

Utopian visions of living are neglecting public housing. That must change
How a city of the future might look
Des Fitzgerald

Utopian visions of living are neglecting public housing. That must change

A night of karaoke and the life-affirming joy of belting out a tune
John Bird

A night of karaoke and the life-affirming joy of belting out a tune

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Here's when UK households to start receiving last cost of living payments
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Here's when UK households to start receiving last cost of living payments

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know