Violence Against Disabled People

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 12th January 2012.

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Photo of Anne Begg Anne Begg Chair, Work and Pensions Committee 10:30 am, 12th January 2012

What assessment she has made of the effect of Government policies on efforts to tackle violence against disabled people.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The Government take seriously tackling hate crime against disabled people, and violence in particular. We are meeting the coalition commitment to improve the recording of such crimes and working with voluntary sector partners to encourage more victims to come forward.

Photo of Anne Begg Anne Begg Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

Disabled people report an increase in the use of insults such as “scroungers” and “cheats” aimed at them, which reflects the language used by many media outlets when reporting the Government’s own welfare reform. What action will the Minister take to stop the Government adding to the perception that anyone on benefit is fleecing the system and is an acceptable target for such verbal attacks?

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I thank the hon. Lady for her question, because I agree that the use of such inflammatory language is not acceptable, and the Government will not use it at all. We believe strongly that it is the system that has trapped disabled people in a spiral of welfare dependency, and that is why the overhaul of the benefits system is such a priority. I hope that we can rely on her support for our work in that area.

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat, Carshalton and Wallington

May I ask the Minister to examine MAMA—“Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks”—which is a new system for reporting hate crime against Muslims, to see whether its use would be appropriate in relation to the reporting of hate crimes against people with disabilities as well?

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I am sure that we can learn a great deal from many different areas about how to improve the recording of hate crime, which is still a work in progress. My right hon. Friend will be aware of the work that we are doing with organisations such as Radar to increase third-party reporting of hate crime, but I will certainly take up his suggestion.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Shadow Home Secretary, Shadow Minister (Equalities Office) (Women and Equalities)

I know that the Minister is deeply concerned about violence against disabled people, and she will be concerned by the point that my hon. Friend Dame Anne Begg raised about reports of increasing threats of violence against disabled people. She will be concerned also about the fear of many disabled groups that that is being fuelled by the tone of some of the Government’s remarks and their approach. There is a fear that certain elements of the Welfare Reform Bill, for example, have crossed a basic line of decency. In that light, will the Minister look again at the measures that the Lords voted on yesterday, and particularly at the Government’s proposal to deny young people who have been disabled since birth and who cannot work the chance of getting contributory employment and support allowance?

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I thank the right hon. Lady for bringing up this issue. She is absolutely right that it is important that discussion of the Welfare Reform Bill is undertaken in an appropriate manner, although I think she is wrong in believing that the measures that we have put in the Bill are in any way adding to the problem. If we did not make the changes that are included in the Bill, which were voted on in the other place yesterday, where does she anticipate that we would make the substantial necessary savings?