I’d be grateful if you could read Frances’ article on http://www.compassonline.org.uk/news/item.asp?n=14078#comments and add a comment to the comment section underneath.
And if you haven’t already, please sign and share Pat’s petition at - http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/20968
Read more at http://carerwatch.com/reform/
A question. What is the covenant between society and people with severe and enduring disability? What was it under the Welfare State and what has it been reduced to by the recent Welfare Reform Bills?
People with disability don’t know the answer. They know that their only income is being threatened and they feel that they have no way of protecting themselves. They are terrified. How does the rest of society – those currently fit and well – feel about this? It is being done in their name.
Compass understood long before others that Welfare Reform was re writing the covenant of the Welfare State and campaigned to draw attention to this. One of the first Compass campaigns was –
CarerWatch was born at that time on these Compass pages. We are a campaign group of unpaid family carers. We also have many members with severe and enduring disability. More recently our sister group – the Broken of Britain - was formed by people with disability.
However that is history. Despite our best endeavours the Welfare Reform Bills went through with support from both front benches and Incapacity Benefit is no more. Two million people with disability are being moved on to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and since October the brown envelopes have been dropping though doors summoning people with disability for tests which decide whether the state will continue to support them or not.
The philosophy of ESA is that most people with disability will move to work. An excellent aspiration but often unfortunately not an achievable one. Between the hope and the reality falls the shadow.
Millions of pounds will be spent on back to work programs that ‘help’ people in to work. Much as a lot of people with disability would like to work – the realities of finding and keeping employment with a disability are enormous. Until you have walked in their shoes you may not understand how enormous. No money is offered to employers to employ people with disability. Meanwhile sanctions and time limits withdraw money from claimants with disability. It’s a program of sticks not carrots and that creates fear.
The statisticians at Sheffield Hallam University – statisticians who have worked with the government on these reforms – have just sounded urgent alarm bells.
They say - welfare reforms could force 600,000 off incapacity benefit. Government measures ‘will impoverish vast numbers and cause untold distress.’
They say ‘The large numbers that will be pushed off incapacity benefits over the next two to three years are entirely the result of changes in benefit rules – the introduction of a new tougher medical test and, in particular, the more widespread application of means-testing from next April onwards. The reduction does not mean that there is currently widespread fraud, or that the health problems and disabilities are anything less than real.’
This report by Sheffield Hallam is a breath of fresh air. It finally brings facts to bear against the myths. The popular press like to believe the myth that people with disability do not actually have disability when fraud is measured at a minimal rate. The government like to believe the myth that finding and keeping work is a viable option for most people with disability. It isn’t.
These welfare reforms were one gigantic social experiment. They had not been tried out here. The model came from the US where the results have also been alarming.
So this was the state of play back in the economic good times. And then the world changed. We were hit with the economic tsunami and that was a double whammy for people with disability. The drive back to work was planned in times of economic prosperity. But the economic downturn created a perfect storm. The prospects for employment – always slim – disappeared.
And to make it so much worse - a widespread program of vicious cuts came in and whatever benefit or service is being cut – it will always affect people with disability disproportionately. This storm is strong enough to sweep them away.
The voices of people with disability, their carers and families often get fragmented and discounted. They are very vulnerable. The stress and fear as their only income is threatened takes place behind millions of closed doors out of sight.
But luckily government e-petitions were invented. And even if people can’t easily get out and about every one can make their voice heard in one place on a government e-petition.
Pat’s petition is for every one. People with disability, their friends, their families and people who want to live in a society that cares about its most vulnerable members. We need every one to speak up and support it through groups and organisations they have contact with.
This is a cry for help from us to you and it has to be loud enough to make the government hear it.
Sign Pat’s petition at - http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/20968
Read more at http://carerwatch.com/reform/