Friday, 28 April 2017

Why Disability Benefits are Political - General Election 2017 (week 2)

I am amazed how some people claiming disability benefits like ESA and PIP can still be in ignorance as to why things are so bad for them, why they are being put through repeated tests, why they have been sanctioned and so forth.    For many they don't see the Welfare Reform Act brought about by the last Coalition government, consisting mainly of Tories (and propped up by the Lib Dems) as having any relevance to where they find themselves today.

I am amazed but shouldn't be. It has all been carefully choreographed by the Tories and the largely Right Wing media that supports them: Daily Mail, Sun, Express, Channel 5, often the BBC. It is in their interests to have the poor set against the poor, the working poor vs the out of work poor, the 'genuinely' disabled vs 'all those other people faking it', the poor vs the immigrants, the 'deserving' vs the 'undeserving', the young vs the old. You name it.  What you will never see from the Right Wing media is the obscenely rich vs the obscenely poor.  Because if all the poor united against the rich, there would be no more rich. So, the slow drip drip of poverty porn piped through our TV screens and newspaper, month on month, year on year, has softened people up, has made people turn on 'the other'.  Divide and rule they have us.  United we stand, divided we fall. It's as simple as that. And the Tories know it and have exploited it. They have the power, the influence and the money to carry it off. 

Many people are disengaged with politics and will come out with phrases such as 'They're all as bad as each other'. One person who said this recently in relation to disability benefits qualified it by saying that 'it was Labour that introduced Atos and Capita assessment'. While this is true to some extent, previous Conservative governments had paved the way long before under the likes of Peter Lilley. You only have to check Peter Lilley's name on Wikipedia if you're too young to remember (which I'm not) and you will find all the information you need, such as: "Shortly after his appointment, Lilley entertained the Conservative Party's annual conference by outlining his plan "to "close down the something for nothing for society" (I've previously written a blog on that myth too). Lilley also replaced Invalidity Benefit with Incapacity Benefit in 1995 "in the hope of checking the rise in sickness benefit claims. Unlike its predecessor, Invalidity Benefit, this new welfare payment came with a medical test that gauged claimants' ability to work."

Whatever you may think of New Labour and the other scandalous horrors that occurred under their watch internationally, they introduced a raft of measures at home to reduce inequality.  In terms of benefits, they introduced Tax Credits, Tax Credits for the over 50s, the Minimum Wage,  an extra £28 for disabled people on JSA, free Legal Aid for people on benefits and other people on low incomes, voted against the Bedroom Tax, reduced homelessness, introduced the National OAPs and Disabled Bus Passes and voted against the worst of the Welfare Reform Bill to name a few.  Many of these measures helped the poorest in society and many of them have been scrapped. Many more people have been found wrongly fit for work under this and the last government and countless lives have been lost needlessly as a result. You get more true negatives when you set the bar too high - that is too many ill people being found fit for work - and yet the government have been prepared to sacrifice lives in this way. And yet benefit fraud is as low as it gets, especially among disabled people and in any event there are DWP fraud officers to deal with that tiny amount of fraud.  It's not for anybody else to make that judgment.

Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to scrap the WCA and put benefits in line with inflation. He wants to bring back Legal Aid and get rid of punitive sanctions. He has promised the Waspi Women £155 a week, those women born in the 1950s and robbed of their pensions by a sudden hike in the pension age, denying them time to prepare for their retirement.  Of course, it's not going to happen the day after the day of the General Election. It takes time to pass new legislation and reverse existing legislation.  That is how democracy works.


It will certainly take time because the Tories have continued their onslaught at lightning speed since being the 2015 election. 

Since 2010, the Coalition and then the Tories, have made the WCA harder and harder to pass, they have replaced DLA with PIP, in order to cut benefits, they have denied people the immediate right to appeal against a wrong decision, not until they go though a Mandatory Consideration first. This was introduced as way of ostensibly cutting down the number of cases needing to go to appeal, but the cynical part of me knows that the real reason was so that fewer people would appeal.  Even before Mandatory Reconsideration, people dropped out before appeal stage.  Now with one more hoop to jump through, many more give up.  It is all too much when you are vulnerable, stressed, fatigued, in pain.  In a word, it is cruel to have added this extra hurdle.

Not only this, the Tories have closed down the Independent Living Fund, they have introduced Council tax for the poorest and they have made legislation so that disabled people can be sanctioned - in fact, the more vulnerable you are, the more you are seen as an easy target by Job Centre staff who have to stick to their sanctioning targets. Several hundred disabled people are losing their motability scooters every week and 18-21 year old ones will not be routinely paid housing benefit.  The Tories have voted for disability benefits cuts in the ESA WRAG group by £30 for new claimants - £30 from a measly £100 a week or so!  People in the ESA WRAG group who have passed one of the most difficult tests in the world to pass - the flawed Work Capability Assessment (WCA) - and yet are still being punished because the government want to treat all out of work people the same (regardless of their limitations). And if you think you've been let off the hook because you're in the ESA Support Group, the New Health & Work Green Paper outlines plans to coerce this group too.  Food banks have rocketed since the Welfare Reform Act and yet the government denies there is any link between the rise in food banks and the change in legislation.

The third child 'rape clause' in order to qualify for benefits for that child is perhaps one of the most pernicious of the Tories obsession with what they call 'welfare dependency" (again, I did a previous blog on this too) and shows them to have plumbed the depths.  Anyone who thinks this is an acceptable thing to do in a supposed humane society is completely morally bankrupt and 'the nasty party' are well and truly back. In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon rightly called this measure 'obscene' and said Ruth Davidson had tried to shake off the toxic image of Westminster Tories but on this she had failed.

But I fear that many people will either vote for a party who doesn't have their best interests at heart because of half-formed ideas that 'they are all as bad was each other'.


A lot of myths abound, for example, the one about there not being enough money in the pot for everyone to have what they need but again people have been sold the politics of austerity for so long they believe it. But we are the sixth wealthiest nation in the world. We can afford to look after the sick and the vulnerable and let's not forget how many millions - if not billions - go unclaimed in benefits every year.  It is not about austerity but ideology.

Therefore we have to share the facts as to how disability benefits and ergo people's quality of life  will be affected according to who they vote for. Because if they don't vote for the party or parties most likely to help the disabled then they can't complain when the Tories continue the rest of their brutal destruction of the welfare state.







10 comments:

  1. thats a well written informative piece, lets hope these ruthless tory bastards will be kicked out, because many peoples lives will literally depend on it. VOTE THE TORIES OUT

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    1. Thanks. Yes we need to get the word out, too many people are unaware of what the Tories have done to the most vulnerable in society - even after all this time.

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting Eric

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  3. Labour is the party of unfettered immigration. By the time Corbyn has finished hugging refugees and asylum seekers, filling our country with the third world, what will be left for our poor, sick and vulnerable?

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    1. You are clearly one of those who have fallen for the Tory propaganda as I outlined in the post, Susan Lawn, you have fallen for the divide and rule rhetoric. Do you never question what an inhumane attitude that is to people escaping war and destitution? Hugging refugees? What, you'd rather they were beaten and kicked then? I have been campaigning for seven years since 2010 on behalf of the long term sick and disabled, I know exactly how people have suffered under the Tories and it has jack all to do with 'too many immigrants' - that's just another diversionary tactic.

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  4. That is an excellent, well researched piece of writing, Moggy. It should be published somewhere so that more people can read it. Susan, it is important to support the poor, sick and vulnerable, but we should never ignore refugees fleeing from their countries because they are too intolerable to stay there. Jeremy Corbyn is right to support them as well as the poor and disabled.

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    1. Thanks Ann. Absolutely agree about refugees. Humanity knows no borders.

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  5. An excellent peice, and I so hope that we'll be able to get this message across to as many people as we an before the elections! :)

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    1. Many thanks, Katy. Yes, getting the message out far and wide is definitely what's needed!

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