Tories show fresh contempt for disabled people, by forcing through cruel cuts

Disabled people are set to be plunged deeper into poverty as the Tories have forced through their proposals to cut Employment Support Allowance (ESA) by £30 a week for those in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG).

The bill, which has twice been rejected by the House of Lords, will now move forward as peers have run out of options to defeat it. The Lords had proposed two amendments to the Welfare bill to protect disabled people against these cuts and argued if there were any cuts, they should be delayed until a parliamentary report into their impact was completed.

However, last week the amendments were rejected by parliament. Furthermore, the Speaker has designated the bill as having financial privilege which means the Lords have no further power. Financial privilege is a right parliament can use to overrule the Lords on matters of taxation and public spending. Lord Low described the cuts as “a black day for disabled people”. He further described the use of financial privilege as “a pseudo-constitutional technicality”.

Those placed in the WRAG are deemed to be too sick or disabled to work at present, but who are believed to be able to do so in the future and to engage in work related activities to help them return to work. The cuts will mean a reduction in benefit from £102.15 a week to just £73.10.

Research by the Disability Benefits Consortium – an umbrella group of disability charities – surveyed disabled people and found that 69% believed the cuts to ESA would cause their health to suffer. 28% of those who responded said they couldn’t afford to eat on what they were already paid.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, ignored a letter signed by 30 charities including Mind, Parkinsons UK and Macmillian, asking him to reconsider the cut as it will “push sick and disabled people further away from work and closer to poverty”. The letter further stated:

We call on the Government to listen to the damaging effect this will have on the lives of sick and disabled people, and immediately halt this cut.

Read on...

However, Duncan Smith has pushed on regardless, forcing the bill through, claiming he wants to “incentivise” sick and disabled people to find work. This is a ludicrous claim given the people on the WRAG element of ESA have already been found to be too sick or disabled to work at present.

Disabled people have suffered hugely under the Conservative government, not only through benefit cuts and sanctions, but through promoting the idea that many claimants are scroungers – an ideology which has been blamed for the dramatic increase in hate crime against disabled people – a 41% rise last year.

Recent statistics show that 80 people a month are dying after being found fit for work, and one in five benefit related deaths involved sanctions. Last year, a coroner found Michael O’Sullivan’s suicide was a direct result of the Department of Work and Pensions finding him fit for work, ignoring the opinion of three separate doctors. The coroner, Mary Hassell stated:

There is a risk that future deaths will occur unless action is taken . . . In my opinion, action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe that you and Jobcentre Plus have the power to take such action.

Sadly, instead of taking any action, the government is set to make things worse. This is callous cruel behaviour designed to punish those who are most vulnerable in our society. This disgusting attitude cannot be allowed to continue – and we should be ashamed to live in a country where this is acceptable. Whilst the Lords have to be praised for trying to defeat this bill, equally, it should be down to us, the citizens of this country, to force the government to change this policy, rather than relying on unelected peers.

Get involved:

Support Disabled People Against the Cuts, find out about their events and actions or donate and support their work.

Join the Health, Homes and Jobs march against austerity on 16th April.

Find a local group and get involved in your area.

Featured image via Flickr.

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed