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6 February 2012
A Guardian front page story reports that six of the country's biggest disability charities are warning that the Government's focus on alleged fraud and over-claiming to justify cuts in disability benefits has caused an increase in resentment and abuse directed at disabled people. Some of the charities say they are now regularly contacted by people who have been taunted on the street about supposedly faking their disability and are concerned the climate of suspicion could spill over into violence or other hate crimes.
Commenting on the issue, Richard Hawkes, chief executive of disability charity Scope, said:
"If the Government's aim is to get people off of benefits and into work – then they appear to be shooting themselves in the foot. The often misleading facts and figures they release on welfare reform are playing directly into a media narrative about the need to weed out scroungers and bring down a bloated benefits bill. But this is only half the story. The reality is that benefit fraud is rare – in fact more money goes unclaimed than is defrauded. Our polling shows that this narrative has coincided with attitudes towards disabled people getting worse. Disabled people tell us that increasingly people don't believe that they are disabled and suddenly feel empowered to question their entitlement to support.
This backdrop of negativity will only make it harder for disabled people to overcome the many barriers they face when it comes to contributing to their community. If the Government is serious about getting disabled people into work and leading independent lives, perhaps they could start by painting a more balanced picture of welfare – and at the same time re-think welfare reform plans that will make it even harder to for disabled people to live their lives."