by In Wales
Tue Dec 7th, 2010 at 06:48:17 AM EST
The rumblings of the ConDem steamroller are nearing with remarkable pace. I've already commented on tuition fees, and as TBG puts it:
punching the poor in the face away from political and economic power.
The intention around benefit cuts serves to do the same in many ways - look at the risks identified for proposals to change housing benefits in a document the Government attempted to bury:
Ministers accused of 'burying' damning report on impact of benefits cuts | Society | The Observer
■ disruption to children's education and reduced attainment;
■ an increase in households with rent arrears, eviction and homelessness;
■ disturbance to support services for people with disabilities;
■ more overcrowded households;
■ a fall in private rented sector properties available to housing benefit tenants.
Rumours abound on professional's email forums about changes to criteria for Access to Work funding for disabled people:
ConDems cut funds for disabled workers to get free walking sticks, wheelchairs and hearing aids - mirror.co.uk
The ConDems caused outrage yesterday by secretly cutting funding for the disabled to get free walking sticks, wheelchairs and hearing aids.
New Department of Work and Pensions rules mean disabled people seeking work will not be able to get the equipment paid for by the state.
And now a consultation has been released with proposals to reform disability benefits:
Disability Living Allowance reform - DWP
This consultation seeks your views on the Government`s proposals to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with a new benefit - Personal Independence Payment. The Personal Independence Payment will continue to be a non-means tested, extra costs benefit. It will help disabled people remove the barriers they face to leading full and independent lives.
The common theme with these cuts is the lack of transparency. The consultation on Disability Living Allowance only gives the opportunity to 'influence' secondary legislation and has been shrouded in rumour and secrecy. Disabled people need to be involved with the drafting of the proposals if the Government are genuinely committed to empowering disabled people and giving them independence and choice.
Wrapping it all up in rhetoric is wearing incredibly thin now.
We are committed to a sustainable and fair system that allows people to work when they can and provides unconditional support to those who are unable to work.
The document talks about how the rising caseload is unsustainable and yet recommends that ALL claimants have their cases reassessed under the new benefit structure. People like me who have been granted DLA for life (because my disability will never go away) will also have to be reassessed. How long will people be backlogged in the system, given that public services are being cut and fewer staff will be available to deal with all the cases?
I've seen what has happened to people who have had their care packages and cases reassessed under the current system. The way people are being treated is appalling and frightening.
The document states that benefits should help people to be independent, to be able to work but proposes a system that looks at the medical angle, and takes into account 'aids and adaptions'. So let's say that some clueless assessor decides that I can 'hear ' well enough with a hearing aid they could conclude that I don't need the benefit.
There are many often not very tangible ways in which disability has an impact on people's lives. To fully appreciate those impacts you need to spend time on the assessment and to have a good understanding of the barriers disabled people face.
Social workers are already going into assessments with a mandate to cut. The proposals aim to signpost people to other forms of support (oh hurrah Big Society). Charities? Voluntary organisations who are having funding cut? Support groups, or projects that are miles away and inaccessible?
Since DLA was introduced in 1992, there have been significant improvements in medical treatments and in aids and adaptations that assist disabled people. Attitudes to disability have also changed. The introduction of legislation, for example the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and Equality Act 2010, to protect the interests of disabled people and prevent discrimination has helped many disabled people lead more independent lives. It is now universally accepted that disabled people should have the same choices and opportunities as non-disabled people.
Whoopee. Except that isn't my reality, and for a disabled person I've actually managed to achieve quite a lot. The legislation here contains the word 'reasonable'. What is reasonable for me to expect in terms of access? What is reasonable for a service provider or an employer to provide? It rarely falls in my favour.
Access to Work provision is being cut (without any consultation) which will make it much harder for disabled people to get jobs and to retain them, because employers already see them as being too expensive to take on even with the previous level of support to pay for adaptions and other support at work.
And all the time they keep banging on about how important it is for disabled people who can work, to work. All the action shows a profound disregard for disabled people and the barriers they face.
Evidence suggests that DLA can also act as a barrier to work, when it should enable people to lead independent lives, including having or getting a job. DLA is widely perceived to be an out-of-work benefit and receiving it appears to reduce the likelihood of being in employment, even after allowing for the impact of health conditions or impairments.
It is a non-means tested benefit, unconnected to any others that an individual may be entitled to if they are out of work or in work. Talk about twisting to suit the policy.
As I said on my facebook page:
Disabled=not enough power to do anything about our policy so let's target them for cuts, whilst putting pretty labels on it called 'fair', 'effective', 'supporting' and 'equality'. Say it often enough and all those stupid people will believe it...