I understand that every statement has a context and that in context, Lord Freud, may well have been aiming to make employers consider employing more people with disabilities. However the one thing that no disabled person wants to feel like is a liability or a charity case. By paying less than the minimum wage what’s being be promoted here is that disabled people aren’t good enough to be paid the minimum wage because of their conditions. That is discrimination.
Surely the government needs to be working with companies to make more accessible positions for those with disabilities. If given the correct support people with disabilities are more than able to work like everyone else. I am not political but it appears that for too long governments have hid behind getting quotas of disabled people into work. Look at the bigger picture, make jobs more accessible.
I recently drove 189milies to undertake an interview to be a CSA with Lidl. I have previously worked with Sommerfield and Sainsbury’s as a cashier, receiving 7 customer service awards with Sainsbury’s in the space of 10 months. Yet Lidl along with other supermarkets operate with a multi skilled workforce. Now this is great, it is more cost effective due to staff having less down time, whilst learning more skills. However, non- busy periods would have meant myself, having to work in a different department, fulfilling roles which it is impossible for me to undertake. This became blatantly obvious to the management team at Lidl, one of whom, spent time picking their nails and looking around the room, rather than taking my application seriously. Yet on the bottom of their advert Lidl have the statement, we are an equal opportunities employer- Really? It’s far too easy to make such a statement. Just to clarify, I like everyone else can handle not getting a job, when I feel the grounds for this decision are fair. To add further weight to my statements, I have a friend who works with Asda as a checkout team leader, who is flourishing with the company and supporting his two children. If companies work with disabled people, we can make a substantial difference to a workforce.
If officials work with disabled people and ask our opinion on matters that impact on us they might actually find suitable solutions. This applies to so much more than employment. People with disabilities face a “premium” of £550 a month owing to extra transport, insurance and living costs, a charity has claimed.” That charity was Scope with their findings going on to say “that one in 10 disabled people paid more than £1,000 a month extra on their lives owing to their disability. The source of these statements can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-28482968 accessed online: 16th October 2014. These figures will hopefully further highlight how misjudged Lord Freud’s comments were.
A lot of these additional expenses can be put down to increased transport costs, taxis to and from work for example. This aspect could surely be improved with better public transport links. For example, I was in London a short while ago and not only was I refused entry onto a bus (twice) because the person I was accompanying had a pram but when finally getting onto a bus, I was shouted at by the driver. The reason for this was that the ‘token gesture’ of a mechanical ramp attached to the bus, had failed to retract, meaning that the bus was stuck in a stationary position.
Firstly, it would have been nice to actually have a ramp that I could get up on my own, without requiring assistance due to the severity of the slope and secondly it would have been nice not to be shouted at when the mechanism broke down.
Again there is a wider issue here, being that if disabled people were consulted during the construction of such mechanisms and during the construction of the polices which are attached to the use of public transport, then I am certain that somebody would have said, ‘look this plainly won’t work.’
In closing this article however, I would like to bring us back to Lord Freud and his misjudged comments. I would like to ask the general public the following question.
If you were unfortunate enough to have an accident and became impaired for a short period of time as a result, would you be happy to have your wages slashed to below minimum wage on account of being judged as not as capable as you once were?
Please answer this question whilst bearing in mind that living costs do not decrease because of misfortune.
Thanks for reading,
Matthew Emo, Founder of Devilishly Disabled