Wales

'Hardened' attitudes over disability, first minister warns

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Media captionMeg Kingston says some people only see the wheelchair

Disabled people are suffering from "hardened" attitudes as well as benefit cuts amid the debate about welfare reform, the first minister has said.

Carwyn Jones will tell a conference in Cardiff that the Welsh government is doing all it can to tackle prejudice and to help people live independently.

Disability Wales said disabled people were living in "daily fear" of cuts.

Some disabled drivers were even being challenged over their use of Blue Badges, the organisation added.

Stereotypes

Experts and support organisations will tell the conference that negative media coverage and stereotypes were fuelling hate crime towards disabled people already suffering from a loss or reduction in benefits.

Mr Jones said: "The UK Government's welfare cuts are having a severe impact on the lives of disabled people across Wales.

"We know that many disabled people feel that attitudes towards them have hardened as a result of the debate around reform, which is so often characterised by negative stereotypes and misunderstanding.

"The Welsh Government is doing all it can to challenge prejudice, tackle hate crime and break down barriers to independent living."

Image caption Benefit cuts can make it harder for disabled people to find work, campaigners claim

Actor, writer and disability rights campaigner Laurence Clark said he would perform a comedy routine which would "demonstrate the naivety and ridiculousness of human behaviour by seeing the world through my eyes".

He added: "It's getting more and more difficult to get funding for independent living, yet at the same time people are being taken off incapacity benefit and being told to get out and find jobs.

"The idea that benefit claims are a 'lifestyle choice' and that disabled people are a 'burden' is adding to the already stressful experiences of many disabled people who are undergoing significant changes in benefit as well as making it increasingly difficult for many to overcome the barriers they face."

'Responsible' debate

Disability Wales chief executive Rhian Davies said disabled people were living in "daily fear" of cuts to benefits including Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

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Media captionRhian Davies, chief executive of Disability Wales, says those who claim benefits are not scroungers

Disabled drivers with non-visible impairments were even being challenged by onlookers over their right to have a Blue Badge and to use accessible parking bays, she added.

"We want to change the public perception of disabled people and present an alternative narrative to prevailing stereotypes; to challenge disability hate crime and the negative impact of welfare reform," she said.

"We must achieve a more responsible public debate in Wales especially as the impact of loss of benefits and cuts in services unfolds throughout all our communities."

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