EDF Statement on Economic Crisis: Disabled People Must Not Pay for the Crisis

During the recent EDF Board meeting in the frame of the French EU-Presidency in Paris, France, the following Statement on Economic Crisis and Disabled People was launched:

Paris, 16 November 2008 – The European Disability Forum, which is the voice of more than 50 million European people with disabilities, calls on the European Council, Commission and Parliament and other European institutions and all the governments of Europe to ensure disabled people and their families do not pay for the worldwide economic crisis by the reduction in their income, benefits, employment opportunities or in cuts in support to our representative organisations.

The crisis was caused by the irresponsible lending and unacceptable negligence by those in charge of the financial institutions and regulatory bodies of the world. Governments’ response to the ‘credit crunch’ has been to create financial resources to bail out the banks. Now as this lack of confidence feeds its way into the general economic system it is vital that poor, elderly and disabled people and their families of Europe do not pay for this crisis. We already in a precarious position prior to the crisis, therefore call for a reflationary approach to spend more on investment in accessible infra structure, on benefits and the provision of tax relief, so that these groups can buy goods and services so improving the economic situation.

The world through the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities has only just recognised the urgent need to extend the international human rights law framework to disabled people. Society cannot afford to dilute its commitment to human rights including the right to employment and family life. Traditionally disabled people have been the ‘reserve army of labour’, ’the last to be hired the first to be fired’, seen as expendable at times of economic crisis. Disabled People, their families, the unemployed and the poor cannot become the scapegoat for a crisis not of their making. Already the worsening economic position has led to attempts to cut benefits in many countries such as Ireland, Hungary, Sweden and Italy.

The lesson of this crisis - the value of investing in people - is far more important than speculative investment and it benefits the whole of society and strengthens its resistance to such crisis driven changes. If the gap between the disadvantaged and the wealthy widens, it will cost society more in the long run. The EDF will ensure the equality and rights of disabled people come to the top of the political agenda in the forthcoming European Elections.

Cutbacks and mass unemployment will develop a fertile ground for violence, hate crime, undermine solidarity and produce dangerous attitudes for democracy. We call on all those with political and economic decision making responsibility to do all they can to ensure that disabled and poor people are treated with equality and their economic well being is assured by the measures they take at this time. Now is the time for strong action so that in 2010-European Anti Poverty Year- disabled people and other disadvantaged groups do not again come to the top of the agenda.