benefits

This blogpost is the third of a four part series, and the fourth part will be published tomorrow.

So, my friends, we established yesterday that the systems are going to be taking something of a hit as a result of coalition government. What about the people who depend on the state? What has the coalition government got in store for them?

By the way, I was going to cover students as well, but a) they aren’t at risk of death, tuition fees just piss me off and b), this article is long already. So it’s just the elderly and disabled being murdered today. But frankly, I think that’s horrendous enough really. See my analysis of the Browne Review on tuition fees if you are especially interested.

Who wants to support disabled people? Why can’t they just get a job?

A homeless person asleep in a doorway.

A floor marker for people with disabilities.

People with severe impairments or disabilities are rarely able to live without government support. 3/4 of disabled people live below the poverty line (which is a meaningless statistic in reality given the way the poverty line is calculated but should give you some idea of how much disabled people are disadvantaged in society currently, let alone in the near future). Changes that affect disabled people specifically are:

“‘Time limiting contributory Employment Support Allowance for those in the Work Related Activity Group to one year. This is aimed to cut £2 billion a year by 2014-15.’

Disabled people will be subject to an arbitrary cut off point of a year. After that, whatever their circumstances, they will not get any ESA income. This will be in the context of sharply increasing unemployment and while entrenched discriminatory barriers to employment remain in place, and indeed will probably grow as a result of the overall impact of the government’s policy.

Nearly a million people may lose ESA worth £91.40 a week as a result.”

Now, maybe you think that £90 is pretty high, but it’s really not if you have personal assistants to pay for and extra travel costs. Worse:

“This change will apply side by side with the government’s reassessment of all Incapacity Benefit/ESA claimants. People ‘assessed as fully capable for work will be moved onto Jobseekers’ Allowance.”

Now, what they actually mean by “assessing” people is that they won’t trust your doctor anymore to assess themselves, but make you turn up on a specific day to see an assessor specially trained to certify as many people as non-disabled as possible. So if you have crippling arthritis which comes and goes, but which makes it impossible to hold down a job for the long-term, and your assessment date falls on a day when you can walk and open doors, the government will not be sympathetic. If you have blinding, searing headaches that make it impossible to concentrate for more than a few hours, they will not know nor care. This isn’t being a doomsday preaching, by the way, it’s what happens now:

“the ESA assessment process itself has been strongly criticised as being overly harsh and very badly designed. Many people are being wrongly denied ESA entirely or placed in the ‘work related activity’ group. This includes people receiving chemotherapy, whom the government claims are protected by guidelines.” Link.

Yes, people receiving chemotherapy are “fit for work”. I have, in fact, had an argument with someone who seriously argued that people with non-terminal cancer receiving chemotherapy are perfectly fit to work independantly. He was, unsurprisingly, a member of the Conservative Party. I’m glad he made an allowance for people with terminal cancer.

Moving on from work, what about disabled people who can’t work at all? What are they up to? Have a story:

“”Page 69 of the spending review explains that because of “the urgent need to tackle the culture of welfare dependency”, people in residential care will lose the mobility component of the disability living allowance in 18 months time.

My mother-in-law, Margaret, is 87 and had polio in 1953. She served as a Wren in the war and brought up her family from a wheelchair. She and my father-in-law worked tirelessly for the British Polio Fellowship. She moved in with us when she was widowed 23 years ago and was grittily determined to remain at home as long as possible. But her disability caught up with her and a year ago she had to move into a nursing home.

The one thing that has made this bearable for us all is that the mobility component of the DLA enables her to lease a wheelchair-adapted vehicle through the Motability scheme. So she can come home and join her family for lunch, can be taken on holiday or to the shops, to weddings and funerals, to celebrations and special occasions. She has been able remain part of the community and at the heart of her family. Without this specially adapted vehicle, she cannot travel.

If she loses her mobility allowance, her car goes with it and she will be stranded in the nursing home. This will have a catastrophic effect on the quality of her life, quite out of proportion with the amount of money it will save the country.” Link

Honestly, this doesn’t even begin to cover the many ways the disabled population is about to be penalised for being disabled. If these cuts go through, thousands of people who currently claim disability support from the government are going to be stranded. Some will be prevented from working at all, others will be trapped in their own homes unable to leave. Some will die. What does Inclusion London have to say about this?

“We reject George Osborne’s claim that these cuts are either fair or unavoidable. The spending plans represent a choice: a choice to make disabled people and others who are among the poorest in society, already facing enormous discrimination and inequality, pay for an approach to deficit reduction which is riddled with the risk of creating a double dip recession.”

Yeah, biatch.

Hey, elderly frail people! Get a job!

An elderly couple. In Romania.

An elderly couple. In Romania.

As people get older, our bodies age so that we find it harder to move about. It becomes harder to judge distances, to react quickly to danger, and to recover from illness and injury. I’m 21 years old and I know this. The government, despite being run by older white men considerably closer to death than I, does not, it would seem:

“[The Comprehensive Spending Review] calls into question the ability of councils to deliver simpler and relatively inexpensive interventions – a grab rail in a bathroom, for instance – that can make the difference between an elderly person continuing to live independently or falling and ending up in a care home.

In fact, social care generally is being cut by 30% over the next three years. Even the government’s usual suggestion of charging people is redundant here (even if people could pay):

“On the level of charges, average means-tested rates for home care are already of the order of £8-£10 an hour. Some councils are contemplating increases of as much as 50% in the hourly rate and/or the maximum weekly payment. But the hard truth is that a 40% cut in funding would be almost £6bn: at present, social care charges of all kinds bring in a total £2.2bn.”

Of course, you could just not provide home care for the elderly. Charities and families will fill the gap, won’t they? Elderly people will be fine. The government will save money, won’t it? That’s all it’s really about, isn’t it? Isn’t it?

“We recognise that councils are between a rock and a hard place,” said Stephen Burke, chief executive of Counsel and Care, which specialises in information and advice for elderly people and their carers. “But cutting access to care and supporting fewer older people will only cost more in the long run. Older people will be left to struggle on their own and more will end up being admitted to expensive and often inappropriate hospital and residential care.”

“This will be the key. With up to 40% of elderly people in hospital beds placed there unnecessarily, and as many as 70% staying too long, there is a huge incentive for the NHS to use its supposedly protected funds to help out social care in its hour of need.” Link

Duly costing the government a fortune in care for the people who make it to the hospital, and costing numerous elderly people their lives and their dignity as their support is withdrawn and they are left to fend for themselves. What do you do if you can’t get out of bed yourself? What do you do if your arthritis is so bad you can’t call for help? This is so obvious and so dangerous (and expensive) it seems hard to believe that no-one in the government stopped to think about it.

Finally, have you ever wondered why the government keeps saying that the cuts are progressive? What are they basing that on?

“The BBC’s Stephanie Flanders points out that the government’s analysis ‘excludes a third of the benefit changes planned by the government and does not go up to 2014-15. The changes excluded by this are clearly regressive – they have the greatest effect, relative to income, on people at the lower end of the income scale.” Link.

…sneaky. One does wonder if fiddling the statistics is how Nick Clegg comforts himself at night.

Several people have argued to me that the best response to the coalition government is to join the Labour Party. Tomorrow’s post will therefore point why that’s a short-sighted idea. Join me then. Don’t join the Labour Party. :)

See also:

Why the Coalition is Going to Kill People Part 4: Other Parties Helped Them!

Who’s Affected by the Cuts?: Why the Coalition is Going to Kill People Part 3

What’s Affected by the Cuts?: Why the Coalition is Going to Kill People Part 2

Death to the Liberal Democrats! Or, Why the Coalition is Going to Kill People Part 1

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