Thursday, 12 January 2012

Let's put the welfare cuts in perspective

I've seen some reprehensible individuals recently arguing that cutting disability benefits is necessary for the sake reducing the deficit and that no one should be exempted from having to share the burden, not even the disabled. But that's a load of crap.

So let me put this in perspective for you. A friend of mine is Sue Marsh and I visited her this weekend. She suffers from a debilitating illness called Crohn's disease - essentially she regularly gets massive kidney stones in her bowels which need to be surgically removed and which cause all sorts of associated health problems such as pain, lack of energy, lack of appetite, etc.

She's suffered since this since she was a child but was repeatedly misdiagnosed and therefore struggled through school and university and then through work for a few years before her illness finally became too much and she had to go on benefits.

She currently gets contributory ESA because she made National Insurance payments when she was working.

Under the government's proposals, in a few weeks her ESA would end (because the changes are retrospective) and she'd be cut off from support. She's ill enough to be permanently unable to work but not ill enough to go into the unconditional support group. And because of that, there's no provision for supporting her.

And, because her husband works, despite also having to look after Sue and their two young children, and despite having spinal problems himself and having had two nervous breakdowns due to stress, they won't get any support. The only way they'll be able to get support under the government's plans is if Sue's husband gives up his job - the threshold for receiving support is a household income of less than £7,500 a year. But the support they'd then be eligible for is too little to support a family of four off of. The alternative that Sue's husband keeps on working and trying to support the family after Sue's ESA ends. But the fact is that they simply can't afford to live without the ESA payments.

And there's no alternative to the disability benefits system because Sue being long term ill makes her ineligible for things like JSA.

This is the catch 22 that the government's changes will put thousands of disabled people in. Not to mention the permanently disabled children who will be denied all access to benefits when they become adults (because they won't have been able to make any NI contributions) because of the flawed logic that assumes that their family (despite the fact that a lot of disabled children are in state care) will always be around and willing to look after them.

Protecting these disabled people would cost £400 million a year - an insignificant fraction of the amounts we spend on far less worthy causes.

Yes, we need to get rid of the deficit, yes we need to spend less money across the board. But it goes completely against the fundamental principles of this party to make people like Sue, who are already living with debilitating conditions and who are disproportionately likely to live in poverty, bear the burden of the cuts. They're already living right on the margins - how the hell can we expect to take even more away from them without it causing disaster?

I can tell you, I've never been more ashamed of my party than I am right now.

14 comments:

  1. The truth is that the government's proposed changes to disability benefits won't even save money. As you note, situations like Sue's could result in some people being forced to give up work because they can't make ends meet any other way.

    Then there are people who will lose the benefit designed to help them stay in work if the change from DLA to PIP goes through. Many of these people would have no choice but to become unemployed.

    Supporting unemployed people costs the state a huge amount more than providing necessary support to working disabled people and the partners of those who cannot work. In many cases the cost per person will more than double.

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  2. If the Governments argument is Lets get the Sick into Work.

    What Work?

    If able bodied souls are finding it difficult,remember Camerons recent speech about hearing the Unemployed,which is a pleasant change from calling them scrounging scum.

    IDS and his Ilk say,Loads of European migrants can come over here and get work.So IDS is proposing the sick can go picking potatoes then.Hobbling on their walking sticks down the farrowed land.

    Of course,most of what IDS,His Ilk,Cameron and Clegg says is B.S.

    This is a ideological ploy to lower workers expectations and rights so the Employers can get Low paid workers,preferably without employment rights,which is why the above attack Human Rights.

    To leave the sick and unemployed on a pittance will frighten to death anyone on Low Pay to join them.

    No doubt,in twenty years time,this lot will have Children sweeping the streets.

    People are being measured,solely economically.Work,Pay Tax,Useful.Don't do any of the above,then useless to a Neo Liberal Capitalist Society.

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  3. I have to ask... why are we saving money? To save the economy? Why? To save the Country? Why? To stop people's lives being ruinwed if it crashed???

    What is the point of saving money by ruining peoples lives?

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  4. All the amendment did though was extend the period to two years before means testing kicks in - which is pretty much as arbitrary for those who have long term / permanent illnesses or conditions. The real issue is the level of means testing, and at what point that kicks in. I have no problem with means testing in theory, but it needs to be balanced at the right level. Clegg's comments were at least mindful of the need to listen to the Lords, suggesting further possible concessions. This is the way parliament works (and what I think was very interesting was that almost half of the Lords abstained).

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  5. I'm just ashamed that we have come to this. And then Cameron gives these sickeningly quasi-patriotic, quasi-statesmanlike speeches about pride in one's country. And pride in the principles of fair play and decency that are essentials of being English.

    Cricket and all that stuff...

    I think I heard today that a spokesman for the government said that the Lords' (few) setbacks to the government's Bill will not stop them.

    Does that mean they will just ignore what the Lords said and overturn the defeats?

    I suppose that the Tories said in their manifesto that they would take an axe to all the people they are pleased to call "scroungers". They will probably be able to call in the parliament Act on that.

    Oh well... I expect when one of their sort has something like Crohn's, they simple set up a trust fund for them, and they can live happily in the South of France for the rest of their lives. So how can we expect them to know what it is like not to have a few millions in the post office Savings Account?

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  6. Could we have a big round of applause for George for his dogged campaigning in the Party on the issue of disabilty benefits - the fact that even a handfull of Peers are breaking the whip on the Welfare Reform Bill is testimony to his persistence.

    Yes I agree - it is shamefull that our Party have backed IDS to the hilt on welfare reform, even when the cuts are quite deliberately targetted at the most vulnerable and disabled people who have not chosen dependency or disengagement from the job market.

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  7. According to the Rich List the 1,000 richest persons in the UK increased their wealth in the last 2 years alone by £127bn, enough to pay off the entire budget deficit. I’m sure if we asked nicely, they could spare a dime.

    Source:

    http://www.leftfutures.org/2012/01/blairites-want-to-go-down-the-osborne-route/comment-page-1/#comment-9573

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  8. There are precious jobs for the fit and healthy.
    Its a crass and stupid attempt at saving money.
    The sick and unemployed should not be stigmatised, especially in times of high unemployment.
    I would comment on IDS but you would just remove it.

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  9. Why is it that the cut off for means-tested benefits is so low? the proposed cut off for children's allowance is £42,000 yet the cut off for the disabled is £7,500.

    People chose to have children. No-one chooses to be disabled. No-one is throwing themselves off low buildings or under cars so that they can live high on the hog on benefit payments which are already the lowest in the western world.

    Also what is so special about cancer that it warrants its own category? Other terminal conditions kill you just as dead but this doesn't bother anyone as much.

    ?

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  10. Hear hear Anon. Excellent point about the cut offs.

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  11. Anonymous Said,"Could we have a big round of applause for George for his dogged campaigning in the Party on the issue of disabilty benefits - the fact that even a handfull of Peers are breaking the whip on the Welfare Reform Bill is testimony to his persistence."

    Wholly agree,George is one of those special people that stand by their principles.If his Leadership had done the same they would be soaring in the polls.

    We need more people in politics like George who are unafraid to speak out.Of course,career politicians would do all in there power to isolate him.George gives a shit,that is the difference between him and those that just pay lip service.

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  12. Just wanted to say thanks very much for the nice comments about me - I'll do my best to live up to them :)

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  13. These bastards hopefully will not be returned into government. Someone said a few years back

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  14. ...someone said a few years back " Whoever get into office will not be returned for many many years because they will do the most vicious things"

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