On Sunday 17 December, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions David Gauke appeared on The Andrew Marr Show. Marr questioned Gauke about the impact of benefit sanctions on those with mental illness. And it wasn’t even just those of us who’ve experienced the sharp end of the government’s benefits system that could see through his words. Even Marr pointed out [2:12]:
Part of the problem, perhaps, is that your department doesn’t really know very much about the effect of the sanctions that you’re in charge of on actual people.
But ignorance is no excuse. Because the impact is well documented. As Marr stated [3:05]:
In February, leading psychological and psychotherapeutic bodies called for the government to scrap its benefit sanctions. They wrote:
We see evidence…which links sanctions to destitution, disempowerment, and increased rates of mental health problems.
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Gauke also attempted to promote the Conservatives’ much-trumpeted mantra that they are helping disabled people into work. In fact, Gauke believes [4:00] that the benefit sanctions regime actually helps people into work because it “helps change behaviour”.
Meanwhile, in November, Theresa May claimed that:
I am committed to tackling the injustices facing disabled people who want to work, so that everyone can go as far as their talents will take them.
A personal perspective
But as a working disabled person, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Due to mental ill health, I am unable to sustain full-time work. I love my work and wish I could work more. This year, I lost my Disability Living Allowance when it transferred to Personal Independence Payments. As a result of this, I lost my entitlement to the disability element of Working Tax Credit. Both of these benefits were vital to supporting my life as a working disabled person. And this means, like so many other people, I am feeling far from festive as I approach Christmas with more debt than I can handle.
So this is a personal plea this Christmas to all government ministers. Please be honest. You are either woefully and inexcusably ignorant of the challenges disabled people face; or you genuinely don’t give a shit and would rather punish us so you can cut corporation tax and give tax breaks to the wealthy. But stop pretending you care. Actions speak louder than words. And your actions speak volumes.
– Support Disabled People Against Cuts.
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