From the TUC

Disabled people and the cuts

03 Dec 2012, by in Society & Welfare

This is 3 December, the 20th International Day of Disabled People. As it happens, twenty years is about the length of time I’ve been involved with the campaign for equal rights for disabled people, so I’ve been in a reflective mood this morning.

So, how is our government celebrating this day? With an exciting new chance obligation to work for nothing.

Starting today, Employment and Support Allowance claimants on the Work Programme who “refuses to take reasonable steps to address a barrier which is stopping them working” can be directed to a mandatory work placement by Work Programme providers like A4E.

“Mandatory” means that anyone who refuses to take part loses some or all of their benefits. It isn’t immediately apparent from the DWP press release linked to above, but whilst mandatory work placements for non-disabled people are time limited, those for disabled people are indefinite.

It is genuinely worrying that your entitlement to benefit could depend on a judgement about what it’s reasonable for someone with your condition to do made by a representative of one of the more evil WP providers. There are already signs that some providers are “parking” people with “substantial barriers to employment”, so we cannot rely on the goodwill of every organisation involved in the programme. I’m glad to see that Mind has indicated that their opposition to mandatory work placements “applies to the whole of the Mind network, including our shops and local Minds.”

As the Remploy unions have pointed out, almost certainly we will eventually see disabled workers who had real jobs that have been scrapped by the government, forced into working for nothing.

Unfortunately, none of this should surprise us. There have been so many assaults on disabled people in the last two-and-a-half years, it’s easy to forget some, but when you add them up, it is a horrifying story:

  • The closure of 54 Remploy factories, with the loss of more than 1,700 jobs.
  • The abolition of the equality impact assessments that require public authorities to take into account the impact of their decisions on disabled people.
  • The closure of the Independent Living Funds to new applicants from 2010 and leaving the current beneficiaries to cash-strapped local authorities from 2015. (The ILF was created to protect the most disadvantaged disabled people from the last set of Conservative benefit cuts, in 1988).
  • Massive cuts in social care and other social services, including help for carers.

On top of all this, the assault on benefits has hit disabled people hard. One study found some disabled people are already as much as £2,000 a year worse off, and the worst has yet to happen. Disabled people lose out from the cuts that hit everyone – like the changes to benefit uprating, the cuts in Housing Benefit or the Child Benefit freeze. But the enormity of the benefit cuts that are specifically aimed at disabled people hasn’t yet been widely appreciated. By far the best report on this subject is the Hardest Hit coalition’s The Tipping Point. Here’s some of the key points:

  • Disability Living Allowance is being replaced by Personal Independence Payment, which will have a tougher eligibility test and will cut the total value of the benefit by £1 billion – half a million fewer people will qualify.
  • For people in the Work Related Activity Group (the majority) contributory Employment and Support Allowance will be limited to one year (currently it is paid indefinitely).
  • Universal Credit will pay families with disabled children substantially less than the current system: they will lose up to £24,000 by the time the child is 16.
  • Universal Credit will pay much less to people with severe impairments – up to £3,000 a year less.
  • Low-paid disabled workers will lose out, because the disability element of Working Tax Credit is not recreated in Universal Credit.
  • The Work Capability Assessment test for Employment and Support Allowance, introduced by the last government, was extended by the current incumbents. There are problems with the way it operates and the test itself does not treat blind people, people with fluctuating conditions and people with mental health problems fairly.

And all this has been connected to an “anti-scrounger” rhetoric that has led to a huge increase in hate crimes against disabled people.

Officially, the government has marked today with a series of video clips promoting role models to inspire young disabled people. Disabled people aren’t falling into deeper poverty because they lack ambition or role models. £9 billion of cuts count for a lot more than any amount of inspirational bunkum.

7 Responses to Disabled people and the cuts

  1. sandra
    Dec 3rd 2012, 6:01 pm

    geniside comes to mind,it was so different when david camaron claimed dla.i don’t ask anyone for anything my family help me.but my dla helps me get to hospital appiontments i hate being disabled but this evil goverment havent a clue,i am 60 years old the conned me out of my pension and i am being conned again,i wish camaron and osbourne nothing but bad luck!! there killing people and they should be tried in a human rights court for what there doing.were not scroungers most of us have paid our taxes and national insurance but that hasnt been taken into account.then they told you to save,i took there advise not my savings have to go back to the goverment in bedroom tax.i’v got 18 months to pay it untill i am now i have nothing after srimping and saving!! in all my years i have never known such evil and callous men.i would love to see them in the dole quew.but there again would milliband be any better? we need an old socialist party that took care of the poor instead of lining there own pockets

  2. After Atos
    Dec 3rd 2012, 6:09 pm

    If the Unions had supported and backed the disabled last year and before instead of saying disabled issues were not their interest and how they were for real people and real workers not those who do not work. supporting the same prejudice as others, we might have got somewhere. All last year I only got rejection from Unions and the most appalling pig ignorant ideas about disabled disabilities, women and carers and babies.

    I am surprised and shocked that unions who first started out by seeking to support their most vulnerable such as disabled miners, construction workers and fishermen and their bereaved and destitute should tell me over and over again how the Unions are not about disabled or me (luv) or women and children or disabled workers but for those who earn a living.

    I have worked all year and last year to support and account for the disabled going through the govt programmes and Atos assessments. I as a severe disabled have put myself out. just to be told by Unions and officials over and over again that people like me are nothing and not what the unions are about.

    I am ashamed of the unions and their disgraceful treatement and nasty verbal and even physical abuse of disabeld this year is a testiment to where they really come from. The prejudice of ignorance.

    I do not welcome any words or blogs from unions. They have not supported the disabled, women, nurses or their own members.

    Hate all the words. Fed up with them.

    Living in a cosy world where this never touches.

    You said you were not about me (disabled, abuse victim, female, carer and qualified nurse) Not sure what ticket you are running on?

  3. Allegra
    Dec 3rd 2012, 10:26 pm

    I suffered a stroke when I was 19 years old & this left me with left sided weakness & brain damage. Im being forced to go through the humiliation of the Work capability test. I went recently but the doctor was ignorant as the the affects of FRONTAL LOBE DAMAGE!! Its hard enough being disabled without the governments evil plans to make us feel even less of a person & part of society !!! Why not just line us up against a wall & shoot us?!

  4. John
    Dec 4th 2012, 1:24 am

    I wish that disabled people, carers, family & supporters including the unions [bearing in mind the comments said above about the attitude of some unions], students could all publicly show [like they did for the Disability Discrimination Act] what is actually happening to Disabled People & in this case the cuts, using austerity as a very convenient reason.

    The Spanish unemployed people are trying their best against the Conservative government of Rajoy with his austerity cuts against them, with repeated demonstrations in Madrid.

    Personally I do not think it will be pragmatic to expect the same to happen in London, but maximum publicity is needed on agreed days to show what is actually happening, possibly in the other major shire cities; by keeping this disability benefits issue continually in focus, using the media. The difference between DDA 1995 & the disability issues now, is that now everyone [apart from the rich] are affected by the economic crash of 2008 – caused by the banks, financial speculators, etc and not real working people.

    Was it not yesterday that Osbourne said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that: “The richest need to bear their fair share – and they will.” The obvious response to that is ´´When Osbourne, exactly how and when?´´

  5. Jane Clout
    Dec 4th 2012, 7:32 am

    This change was brought in in April 2012. If you are in the Work Related Group of ESA, and your partner earns more than the renumeration for 24 hours work at the minimum wage, presently just over £7,500, you loose your sickness benefit after 52 weeks.

    Thanks for laying it out as a whole. Many disabled and chronic sick people are now in despair, and the hospitalisation rate, the number moving into full time care and the number killing themselves is rising.

  6. Clare Fernyhough
    Dec 4th 2012, 10:37 am

    Thanks for this article Richard.

    I replied under another article about welfare reform last week, that I had been checking this site most of the year for articles about workfare, and I couldn’t understand why there were none. I thought that you particularly would have written one. My conclusion was that the TUC in general must be in favor of such outright exploitation. At least you have done the right thing with regard to disability workfare.

    I understand that many people consider that claimants should do something in return for benefits; I am ambivalent with regard to that. On the one hand, if these people worked for the appropriate number of hours equivalent to JSA and in a community setting, I wouldn’t be against that; on the other hand, when people have worked and paid into what was supposed to be an insurance system, for 30 years or more, then surely they are entitled to unconditional support? But, making people work almost full time, for JSA for multinational corporations, whilst their ordinary workers are having their hours cut, as well as no new paid work becoming available in these companies, is exploitative and plain wrong.

    As for disabled people in the WRAG, some have cancer and are very poorly with long term conditions. Over the last year 10,000 of them had sanctions applied and lost benefits. Hearing personal experiences from those people, they lost money because they were too ill to attend ‘work focused interviews’; some were actually in hospital. None of that mattered; no evidence of this accepted, so they suffered even more. Now we’re saying that the government will mandate these people indefinitely on the Community Action Programme, and by the way, it won’t be all community work, they will also be put to work in corporations. No doubt the figures who are sanctioned over the next year will rocket, along with these people collapsing at work and the exacerbation of their conditions.

    All these people will lose money next year just at a time when they will probably need more help in the home due to workfare making them ill. I pay back £3000 out of benefits for my care, and due to the cuts, I now have to pay out an additional £1500 for private care, oh and I have NO assets and NO savings; people often think that people like me get their care free. Due to the bedroom tax and council tax I will pay out another £13000 per year from next April. There is nowhere cheaper for me to move to as I already live in the cheapest area to rent in the country.

    Within 2 years, all of the rights and support that was hard won over decades is gone. We will now have to go cap in hand to relatives, friends and charities. Some people have no relatives or close friends, and many have plainly said that they will just commit suicide. This government will be directly responsible for those deaths, just like the 72 a week who are dying when they were told that they were ‘fit for work’.

    I am absolutely ashamed to live in the UK at this time.

    Thanks again for highlighting how disabled adults and children are facing the perfect storm of cuts.

  7. The latest assault on disabled people’s benefits | ToUChstone blog: A public policy blog from the TUC
    Jan 2nd 2013, 5:13 pm

    […] marked the International Day of Disabled People last month by noting the attacks the current government has launched on disabled people, including the closure of Remploy factories, […]