There’s a huge drive to get benefit claimants back into work. We are told that working is beneficial for our health and wellbeing. But ours is a rigid job market that doesn’t often understand the need to make adjustments to applicants with disabilities and long term conditions. And so what was supposed to be a journey towards a better future has resulted, over the last few years, in the death of over 2,300 people whom the DWP deemed ‘fit to work’.
Many disabilities are, by nature, a picture that changes every day. So the person with arthritis may have better days or worse days, and it’s the inability to predict the pace ahead that many businesses (especially smaller ones, with a limited number of additional staff to cushion the impact) would struggle to adapt to. In addition to this, the number of roles with physical demands, whether it be carrying boxes, stacking shelves or visiting clients, is vast.
As a society, we should be embracing technology and thinking outside the box to provide stimulating jobs for everyone who wants to work. ‘Fitness to work’ as a concept is an attack to the dignity of people with disabilities, an attempt for someone who has not lived these conditions to determine what it means to live them. And so it must be stopped.
It is truly tragic that the reasons for the deaths of those claimants haven’t been recorded. Thousands of people have lost a friend, a relative, a neighbour, an acquaintance; and in the absence of robust data, the suspicion is there that the stress of their situation and the drop in income damaged their health and brought forward their deaths. Even if this wasn’t the case, how can someone be found fit to work, only to die soon after?