Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Welfare Reform that MUST NOT go Ahead

Cameron and co are expecting us to all lie down and simply accept what they dish out. Clegg may beg for the drippings from the Tories plate to look important but many refuse and many are fighting back. A year of cuts, misery, rising unemployment and austerity measures aimed at making the weak, the poor and the low paid pay for the bankers crises, served up with the help and collaboration of the Lib Dems. Forgive us if we do not cry sympathy tears for the difficulties the Lib Dem M.P.'s now face. They deserve it.

Whilst train franchise companies give up their contract, to get out of paying back billions of pounds in loans they borrowed from the tax payers several years ago, in order to run a rail franchise business, we are told debt is bad and the budget must be cut. Well if private companies can renege on their debts then so much for the need to have responsible fiscal policies which mean cuts to reduce the so-called size of the deficit. They are the last people to lecture us on the importance of budget reduction policies. The rich are getting richer and certainly not sharing any pain that the rest of us are suffering. So much for "we are all in this together" rubbish.

Yesterday thousands united and marched under extreme difficulties to oppose the 2nd reading of the Welfare Reform Bill. The campaign continues and it is even more crucial that it continues to receive the widest possible support. Here is why the reforms must be stopped:

Welfare Reform that MUST NOT go Ahead

So, tomorrow is the 2nd reading of the Welfare Reform Bill.

I want to be very clear today about which parts sick and disabled campaigners feel are unacceptable :

1) Removing Disability Living Allowance mobility payments from adults in residential care. 
An adult who needs to live in residential care will have extensive needs and are often amongst the most severely disabled. The mobility component of DLA afforded them their only freedom, allowing them to choose to fund a power wheelchair otherwise unavailable on the NHS, or to pay for taxis or transport to get out now and then. Taking this away would leave the most vulnerable disabled people effectively housebound. There is no support for this change anywhere - charities, independent benefit reports and even the government's own advisers have called for this to be removed from the bill

2) Scrapping DLA entirely and replacing it with Personal Independent Payments (PIPs).
DLA is a very effective benefit with fraud rates of less than 1% (DWP own figures) It is already incredibly hard to claim and the qualification criteria are very narrow. The government have announced that DLA claimants will also soon face assessment and that the overall number of claimants will be reduced by at least 20%. The government's own advisory committee concluded that they could find no justification for this reform and have asked for clarification from the government.
If a benefit is already very efficient, yet a government announce a 20% cull before a single assessment has even taken place, we conclude it can only be a cost cutting measure that will ignore genuine need. 

3) Time limiting Employment Support Allowance (ESA, previously Incapacity Benefit) to 1 Year
Many people who need to claim ESA have "long term variable" or chronic illnesses such as MS, Parkinson's, Bowel Disease, Leukaemia or severe Mental Illness. These conditions often do not go away after a year and sadly, often get worse over time. A high percentage of those with these conditions are being found "fit for work" under ESA but after 1 year, if they have a working partner, they will receive no state assistance whatsoever. All of their benefit will be stopped, a loss of just under £5000 a year. 

4) ATOS assessments are "unfit for purpose" and a better way of assessing need must be implemented. ATOS are the private company charged with assessing over 1.5 million sick and disabled people during this parliament.
-They do not need to use trained medical experts.
-Up to 40% of rejected claims are going to appeal with up to 70% of those decisions being overturned.
-Assessments are humiliating and degrading causing great anxiety to those genuinely in need.
-Just 7% of previous claimants are being found unfit to work.
-Testimony from Consultants and GPs is often ignored entirely.
-People are dying before lengthy appeals can be heard.
-Even the professor who designed these assessments calls them a "complete mess"

There are other problems with the bill - capping housing benefit; re-classifying "mobility" so that those who use their wheelchairs too efficiently can be classed as "fully mobile"; removing an age related payment from ESA; scrapping the Independent Living Fund; cutting community care provision; cutting the Access to Work programme and many more - all of which will hurt sick and disabled people disproportionately, but the four points above MUST be addressed before the Welfare Reform Bill is passed.

They are causing or will cause real hardship.
They will not achieve savings as pressures will only be shifted to the NHS or social care provision.
They will increase homelessness, mental illness and poverty amongst this most vulnerable group of all
They will leave many in genuine need without support
They reduce the independence, standard of life and dignity of those we have a basic duty to protect.

Time is running out. If you think your MP may not yet be aware of these points, then please, send him this by email today. You can find email details for your MP here :

Again, please share this by using the Facebook and Twitter buttons on this site - we must tell as many people as we can before tomorrow. 

PLEASE help us to stop this before it's too late. Sickness and disability can happen to any one of us at any time and a democratic society owes a duty of care to those who are most in need.

Thank You.

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