On the 18th December, 2012, a group of ill and disabled people hugely concerned about the impact of a succession of cuts to funding, benefits and the rhetoric from the Coalition government launched the “WOWpetition”. The WOWpetition - named because of a belief that there is a “War On Welfare”, calls for:
A Cumulative Impact Assessment of all cuts and changes affecting sick and disabled people, their families and carers, and a free vote on the repeal of the Welfare Reform Act.
An immediate end to the Work Capability Assessment, as voted for by the British Medical Association.
Consultation between the Depts of Health & Education to improve support into work for sick & disabled people, and an end to forced work under threat of sanctions for people on disability benefits.
An Independent, Committee-Based Inquiry into Welfare Reform, covering but not limited to: (1) Care home admission rises, daycare centres, access to education for people with learning difficulties, universal mental health treatments, Remploy closures; (2) DWP media links, the ATOS contract, IT implementation of Universal Credit; (3) Human rights abuses against disabled people, excess claimant deaths & the disregard of medical evidence in decision making by ATOS, DWP & the Tribunal Service.
Ill and disabled people, thanks to this Coalition government, are facing a fearful and difficult 2013 and beyond as the full range of cuts start to hit hard.
In April, the “Bedroom Tax” will come in to effect for those receiving Housing Benefit. This will mean that those living in a property where it is deemed that you have a “spare bedroom” you will lose 14% of your Housing Benefit, and 25% for two or more bedrooms. Despite overwhelming evidence and protests to the contrary, this Government decided to push this even on to disabled people, even though a spare bedroom is usually a place for wheelchairs or mobility aids or things needed to help a disabled person live.
The same month, many councils will be making changes to their Council Tax Benefit (CTB) rules after the Government made local government responsible for their own CTB arrangements in the Local Government Finance Act 2012. Whilst many councils are yet to announce how it will be affected, there are expectations of cuts of between 10-20% in many areas (my local council is proposing 20% but have not announced it finally as yet).
Then there’s the changes to Employment Support Allowance, the introduction of Universal Credit which is mired in rumours of problems - including rumours of monumental IT problems which have already led to a delay - and implementation costs and the replacing of Disability Living Allowance with the Personal Independence Payment which could mean thousands of disabled people losing a vital benefit at a time when their lives are already difficult.
Then factor in the rising costs of living - food, energy prices, petrol, clothes. All absolutely essential in these times and all rising above the rate inflation. Then factor in one final thing - the Government limiting benefits, including disabled benefits despite their assurances to the contrary, to 1% (equating to approx. 71p a week) and anyone can see how squeezed a disabled persons’ budget is.
It’s important to remember that disabled people - and yes, that includes myself - are not “scroungers”. In many cases we are intelligent people, people who wish with every fibre of their being that they could work, but who struggle, day in, day out, with immense pain and debilitating mental and physical problems that working is simply something that cannot be done.
For some this is temporary, a time of their life where some illness or injury has caused a disability which will heal. But for others that simply cannot and will not be the case. In either case, they should be supported, not persecuted.
It is a stain on our country that in 2013 the latter, and not the former, is how many ill and disabled people feel, and it is a disgrace that disabled people - and those in low incomes as a whole - are being made to pay for mistakes made by politicians and bankers.
I support the WOWpetition because of these reasons. I support the WOWpetition because I believe that a fair society protects its’ most vulnerable, it doesn’t push them in to poverty. And lastly, and most importantly, one final reason that is difficult for anybody to write…