Making Rights a Reality for Disabled People

This is my response to Labour’s leaflet, “Making Rights a Reality for Disabled People“. It doesn’t cover all the issues or problems with the document, which I feel is mostly spin, but is a general response to Labour’s attitude in general. The Shadow Work and Pensions team have said the following, so please contribute your own views, especially on all the points I’ve probably missed:

We would be interested in your views on the key issues in this paper: Making rights a reality. Please contribute to the debate by responding to the questions overleaf, or telling us anything else you think would be valuable at byrnel@parliament.uk.
If you would like help contributing to the debate, or would like to receive this document in an accessible format please contact Cathy Sprent on 020 7219 6953 or sprentc@parliament.uk.

Making Rights a Reality for Disabled People

I have had a read of your document, and am very happy that Labour are making a move towards helping disabled people

As a disabled and chornically ill person, I am strongly in favour of having assessments for disability benefits – after all, nobody is more angry than the disabled and chronically ill, when people abuse and defraud these vital systems, which are a lifeline to us. However, the current tests are entirely unfit for purpose (as you quoted that 38% of appeals succeed – the number rises to between 70 and 90% when people are legally represented, which would indicate a far higher rate of incompetance) and desperately need to be changed. 

The main reason, I feel, for the problems within the assessment system is a lack of honest assessment of claimants – not necessarily any particular process (although there are no doubt many problems in the processes which need reviewing). Claimants are not assessed on their fitness for work, or their level of disability and care required – they are assessed on a target system of “we must reduce the number of claimants, whether they are sick or not”. Indeed, Cameron did say he intended to eventually remove 90% of claimants from receiving help – and that is the main problem. At least 89.5% of those 90% desperately need the help being removed from them, and will be endangered, perhaps to the point of death, by having that help removed. The fraud rate for disability benefits is less than 0.5%, so why remove such a high number from those desperately in need of help?

From an analysis of the figures, it is clear that there is no financial reason to reduce the budget for the sick and disabled anyway. Far, far more money (of an order of magnitude, I am told 400%) would be saved just by closing tax loopholes; far more money would have been saved by not reducing the higher rate of taxation from 50% to 45%; far more money would have been saved by reducing the expenditure claims of ministers in power – and many more things besides. There is absolutely no need for the vulnerable to bear the consequences of the banks’ crisis – and certainly not the majority of the cuts! Were it a situation where there was a universal need and implementation of austerity, falling fairly across the country so that no one group ended up unduly suffering, there would have been no outcry. But the poor, sick, disabled, young and elderly have been unjustly and unjustifiably singled out as those who must suffer under austerity, whilst the government reduces the burden on those who caused the crisis, and actually increases the deficit. And – what’s more – we know it. We know that the government has no right nor reason for carrying out these systematic attacks on disabled people. In this situation, why should the vulnerable face any cuts at all?

The “making rights…” leaflet reads well, but I feel (as do many) that it represents a false hope; just being pandered to. Labour’s actions have shown they do not really care or consider the vulnerable, and there is wide suspicion that now they are merely parroting sweet words in the hope of winning an election, not intending to ever follow through on them. Is not Labour policy to do exactly what the coalition government are doing, only a little slower? Surely that would result in exactly what the coalition government’s policies have resulted in – widespread unrest, the country crashing and burning… only a little slower. Labour need to provide a real alternative; not just the Conservatives in a red tie.

“We believe everyone has a right to work – and a responsibility to work if they can” is a statement which, I would hope, the majority of people would echo. However, given the policies of Labour, it seems to actually mean “we believe that everyone must work, even if they are too ill to do so, and should need no support if they are working because it proves that they are fully well in every way”. Of course it does not explicitly state that, but that is what people understand by this statement. The vast majority of disabled and ill people wish to work – indeed, I have never heard anyone express the desire to not work, who has not been able to work – but it must be understood that for many, it is simply not possible at all, because they are too ill and will never be well enough. It must also be understood, that many may be able to work, but they require a great deal of support to do so. They require DLA, because without it they cannot get to work, or function at work. Or they can only work in a very reduced capacity – perhaps they manage their household, but can do nothing else, or they can work 10 hours a week but any more would make them critically ill. These people need to be recognised, valued, supported – just as well as those completely unable to work, or completely able to work. Those with fluctuating conditions need support; often they are only able to work as a self-employed position (if they can at all) due to the nature of the illness, but the government has been removing the support for the self-employed, along with the support for other vulnerable people.They are also removing support from those working part-time – seeing perhaps, that part time work is out of laziness, when in actuality it is out of a poor job market, or being far too ill to work full time, or having to raise your children or care for a family member. Finally, it needs to be recognised that work is not the glorious cure for all ills. There really are people who are too sick to work, and who, if forced to work, will die. This could not have been made more clear, by the vast numbers of those who have died before their time, due to being declared “fit for work” when they were sadly not.

If Labour provided a real solution to the current problems, instead of pandering to right-wing politics as their recent government have done, they would be able to save the country that we love; the country that we paraded with pride at the Olympics, whilst the government tore it away under our feet. In the end, it is no good to deliver fine words and not follow through. Look at Scotland – the left-wing (as labour originally were, although from their actions and attitudes of recent years they are now decidedly not) government were voted in as a minority, but they kept their promises (such a thing has not been heard of in decades!) and followed through on every single thing they stood for in their manifesto. They did not lie to the people, and what did they get for their honesty and uprightness? They increased their voters – they overwhelmingly won their next election, instead of being ousted out in shame as Labour had been, and support for them is increasing all the time. They are not in power for the sake of power and glory, they are in power to do what the people of Scotland want, and that is why they are today more popular than ever. 

If Labour was like that, sticking to their true values, who knows how different the political climate could be. As it is, they are not, and so I won’t be voting for them – not unless they really change. I would rather “waste” a vote on a party who provided actual answers and a real way forward, than help doom our people to a hard fate.

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