Back in 2011 my father and I joined The Hardest Hit March on Parliament to protest against the cuts in welfare for the disabled. I was and remain deeply exercised by the broad stroke attitude to disability being taken by the government as part of the sweeping cuts and changes to the benefits system.
My sister, Holly, who has relapsing-remitting Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and who has been medically retired for some years, guest blogged for LLG.
Given that the situation for many in this country has worsened in the three years since, and with the news today that an Asperger’s sufferer was found dead weighing just 5st a few months after he was judged fit to work and had his benefits cut, I am re-running her post.
I hope this serves as a reminder that ignoring the plight of those least able to help themselves shames us all, individually and as a nation. Any civilised society must have humanity at its core or else we are all lost.
Over to Holly:
“In this Age of Austerity most of us have been grazed by shrinking budgets, but the knife is plunging deepest into one of the most vulnerable sectors of our society; those who are sick and disabled through no fault of their own.
Has there been an outcry? No. In fact the attempted blows to their much needed support systems has raised barely a murmur of sympathy from the chattering classes. Yet half a million people were mobilised to save our forests. Do we really care more about trees than the sick and disabled?
It would seem so. Vilified as scroungers, malingerers and even fraudsters, we the disabled have become an easy target. No one would argue that there are a few who abuse the system, but the scythe is being wielded so indiscriminately that all risk losing their safety nets. The first salvo in the battle against this supposed scourge of society was the abolition of IB (Incapacity Benefit) and its replacement with ESA (Employment and Support Allowance).
This fiscally obscene multi-million pound exercise replaces doctors with computers. Hardly surprising then that perverse conclusions are drawn: an ability to pick up a small empty box off a table shows you are capable of meaningful employment. Without context this ‘proof’ of ability means nothing.
Raw statistics about the initial results of these nonsensical inquisitions have been published as the first weapon in this ideological warfare. And these have been lapped up and regurgitated by the popular press who willfully ignore the obvious: that one of the real obstacles to employment for the disabled is a lack of both suitable jobs and flexible employers.
Next in the firing line has been DLA (Disability Living Allowance). This benefit (and how misleading is that word), which allowed many to live rather than barely survive, has been reformed in the same manner as Incapacity Benefit. Only a tiny fraction of the deserving are judged eligible for any type of help.
And for those who would seek to quieten me with cries of “Calm Down Dear. Not YOU”, yes ME and thousands like me; caught in a no mans land, where illness and disability renders us incapable of so much, yet not incapacitated enough in the eyes of government and the media to be worthy of support.”
Please take a moment to consider that those with disabilities are not malingerers or scroungers, but human beings, members of our society that need help. And remember, there but for the grace of God go you and me. (Look at that photo of my sister: she looks just like any of us. People with severe disabilities are around us all, every day.)