Disabled people are not scroungers
Looking at the government’s vehement attack yesterday on incapacity benefits, coupled with their announcements about disability living allowance (DLA), and reducing staff at railway stations (which are vital for people with severe sight and hearing problems), you might be mistaken for thinking that it was we disabled people and the long-term sick who caused the recession and created the enormous budget deficit.
George Osborne is talking tough on incapacity benefits and suggesting that many recipients are fraudulent. There is no evidence to support this, other than a few, extreme anecdotal cases. He claims he will support the long-term sick and most vulnerable, but let’s look at it realistically.
I am 54 years old and deafblind. I have Usher type II syndrome, which means I have partial hearing and extremely limited vision (progressive sight and hearing loss). All I can see is light and shade, and I have been registered blind since 1985. I would be very restricted in the type of work I can do, but am a keen volunteer. It would be very difficult for an employer to take me on with my complex limitations.
I worked for 20 years for the civil service before I was forcibly retired on medical grounds 14 years ago. I survive on incapacity benefits, DLA and a small pension (this is reduced as I only worked for two decades). Contrary to what many people believe, this really does not amount to much. I am also allowed to earn £80 extra myself, which I do by playing the piano in local venues.
This coalition government wants to speed up what Labour started and move me from incapacity benefit to employment support allowance, with no transitional relief. This could mean a potential extra cut of £40-50 a week. Add to this a rise in VAT, stricter requirements for DLA (which is awarded to help with the extra costs associated with having a disability, such as paying for communication support) and, suddenly, the “firm but fair” rhetoric used by the coalition government looks anything but.
It’s time the government stopped using disabled people and the support we get as a political football. We are not scroungers; just vulnerable people who already experience higher levels of poverty and discrimination. Yet, this government wants to pile on more. How much more revenue would be generated if tax loopholes were closed and the bankers who got us into such trouble were forced to be accountable and, at the very minimum, pay back the enormous loans they took to keep their banks afloat and their inflated bonuses rolling in?