12 Jul 2010

Disability benefits: letter to press

Here is my recent letter to press on this subject - I am deeply concerned about the impacts the Government's plans will have on many in our communities - and morally indefensible when you consider we are cutting benefits and services to some of the more vulnerable members of our communities but still supporting Trident which is costing a £1 billion a year with up to as much as a further £100 billion in costs as one estimate suggests....anyway here is the letter to Glos press.

Photo: Whiteshill llamas - nothing to do with this blog entry but they look great!

The Coalition Government's hasty plans for disability benefits are understandably alarming to many disabled people and their carers. Disability organisations fear that people will be driven into more poverty as their care and support is squeezed. The Disability Living Fund has already run out this year. The VAT increase will have a big impact on individuals but also organisations. The RNIB report it will mean £500,000 per year less for their support for visually impaired people. As the number of people seeking support rises, local services like Stroud Citizen's Advice Bureau, will be facing massive challenges.

The Government are proposing some positive changes to support disabled people back to work. However subjecting 2.6 million people on Incapacity Benefit to tests by doctors that do not measure ability to perform work functions (eg, typing, packing or sweeping) and fail to take account of disabilities where needs fluctuate, makes no sense.

Citizens Advice Bureaux advisors have already expressed "grave concern at the number of people unexpectedly being found fit for work." Indeed, of those found fit for work who appeal, 70% are successful. This will get worse as private companies look set to get paid for getting people off benefits. Research by CAB, which the Government seems to be ignoring, suggests that a large number of people with significant health problems will be moved on to Jobseeker's Allowance which offers no help with condition management and no support from advisers for at least six months.

Jobcentres, already creaking under pressures and facing massive job cuts, look set to become completely clogged up with people unable to work. As someone who has been in receipt of Incapacity Benefit and currently work with people with disabilities, I am only too aware of the unnecessary financial distress and emotional strain the system puts on many people. The proposed changes look set to make things worse. Forcing people off Incapacity Benefit when people can't work, robs people of help when they are in most need.

A far better use of public funds would be, to do away with the unnecessary bureaucracy of assessments, to end the privatisation of welfare where private companies gain at the taxpayers expense, to streamline the service and perhaps most importantly help employers create jobs for people with disabilities. When people work, they pay tax.

Cllr Philip Booth, Stroud District councillor for Randwick, Whiteshill and Ruscombe ward


Julia from Stonehouse said...

Well done for highlighting the issues. Reassessing disabled individuals like my son is a complete waste of resources. He is unable to walk and this will not change and is reflected in the receipt of higher rate DLA for mobility. Reassessing him will not change his condition.

Anonymous said...

Agree with last comment - it is a nonsense - thank you for writing about this.

Anonymous said...

Update from Corporate Watch: Government to pay 'poverty pimps' Atos Origin for benefits stripping.
Atos Origin has just been awarded a £300 million contract by the Con-Dem Government to continue carrying out ‘work capability assessments’. It is claimed assessments are to test what people can do rather than what they can’t. The real purpose is to strip benefits from as many people as possible. This testing system has already led to people with terminal illnesses and severe medical conditions being declared fit for work and having benefits cut. GP’s are ignored in favour of decisions made by Atos Origin’s computer. Plans announced for the scrapping of the Disability Living Allowance have also revealed that this intrusive testing is likely to be extended to everyone on some form of disability or health related benefit. To date around 40% of appeals against Atos Origin’s decisions have been successful.

On the 24th January 2011 the National Day of Protest Against Benefit Cuts: Day 2 will target Atos Origin.

Links: http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/national-day-of-protest-against-benefit-cuts-uk-round-up/ and www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2011/01/471881.html