The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has turned away disabled activists who wanted to deliver a campaigning Christmas card on behalf of 23,000 people who signed a petition calling for urgent changes to the welfare reform bill.
Representatives from The Hardest Hit campaign had told the DWP they would be delivering the card – designed by cartoonist Gerald Scarfe – but when they arrived, civil servants told security staff not to accept it.
The card features David Cameron as Scrooge – from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol – kicking away Tiny Tim’s crutch, with the caption: “Kicking away the support.”
Julie Newman, acting chair of the UK Disabled People’s Council, which jointly runs the Hardest Hit campaign with the Disability Benefits Consortium, said they had asked staff at the front desk of the DWP’s offices in Whitehall if the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, or someone in his office, was available to accept the card.
Instead, civil servants in Duncan Smith’s office told DWP security staff not to accept delivery of the card and to turn the campaigners away.
Newman said: “I was completely taken aback. What the government’s representatives have done is they have snubbed 23,000 people who wished to express their concern to the government about their day-to-day lives.”
Campaigners later successfully delivered the petition to Downing Street.
A DWP spokesman said: “It is correct that the security staff phoned the secretary of state’s office about the petition. It was purely down to a misunderstanding, confusion between the two people who spoke.
“It shouldn’t have happened, but I am not going to get into exact details of who said what.
“Once it became apparent what had happened we got back in touch with the Disability Benefits Consortium and said sorry.
“It was a misunderstanding. We are going to invite them back in [to deliver the card]. We are putting it right.”
The delivery of the card and petition were designed to coincide with the report stage of the welfare reform bill in the House of Lords, which began the previous day (12 December).