By Anthony Faiola, Sunday, August 26, 1:12 AM
LONDON — Britain’s physically and mentally challenged athletes are preparing to take on the world at the Paralympic Games opening in London this week. But across this host nation, disabled citizens are also rallying against an opponent closer to home: the government.
Headed by a Conservative-led coalition on a fiscal crusade, Britain has fully entered the age of austerity in which governments across much of Europe have made dramatic cuts. As a result, advocates here are decrying what they describe as the harshest gutting of aid to the disabled since the “golden age” of independent living in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, when ramped-up benefits began offering them an exit door from assisted-care homes.
Hundreds of thousands of disabled Britons are seeing their benefits cut or facing the prospect of diminished or eliminated aid. More than 15,000 unemployed disabled people a week are being reassessed by a contractor to determine whether they are fit to work. New, stricter guidelines mean that Britons who can roll themselves more than 200 yards in a wheelchair or read Braille could be considered able-bodied enough to find a job.
At the same time, the government is sending letters to nearly all disability beneficiaries, including those gainfully employed, warning that they will also soon need reassessments for other types of aid that help them cover a variety of costs, including home health-care workers and wheelchair-accessible cars.
By 2015, the government anticipates a 500,000-person reduction in those receiving Britain’s primary disability benefit. The number of claimants now stands at 3.4 million, up threefold since 1992. The vast majority of recipients, officials note, have gone on benefits without ever having face-to-face assessments to test their level of need.
“It is a gauge of your capability,” Britain’s Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith told London’s Telegraph newspaper, referring to the reassessment requirement to substantiate disability claims. “In other words, do you need care? Do you need support to get around? Those are the two things that are measured. Not, ‘Have you lost a limb?’ ”
But rage over the changes is running so high among disabled Britons that a week of protests has been planned to coincide with the start of the Paralympics here Wednesday.
“The irony of all this happening around the Paralympic Games is extraordinary,” said Tara Flood, 46, a former Paralympics swimmer and gold medalist for Britain at the 1992 Barcelona Games. Flood, who was born with shortened limbs, received an official letter a few weeks ago warning of a pending reassessment, leaving her “terrified,” she said, of losing the $512 in aid she receives monthly to cover the cost of her car, which she drives to work.
“I would argue this is not about trying to get disabled people back into employment or off aid,” she said. “This is simply about going after a group of people the government has now decided is too expensive in these times. They are using the kind of ‘burden on society’ argument that is dehumanizing us. We have not seen this kind of talk here since the 1970s.”
You can comment on the Washington Post’s thread: HERE Tell our American Cousins the truth about UK ‘Welfare Reform’ – There are already vile comments on there quoting the Daily Heil – they need to be refuted with the truth.
3 thoughts on “As Paralympics start, Britain’s disabled decry cuts ~ The Washington Post”
Buddy24 COMMENTED IN THE WASHINGTON POST: 1:22 PM GMT 26th Aug 2012:
‘The cuts in services to persons with disabilities in Europe your article describes have happened many times and in a cyclical fashion. A few weeks ago horrific cuts were announced in Belgium and, shortly after that, in Denmark.
Thirty years ago, in 1982, independent living movement cofounder Ed Roberts was testifying before legislators about the effect of massive cuts in benefits and essential services to persons with disabilities.
Here is, in part, what he said.
“There is an atmosphere of fear and depression taking hold of the disabled poor in California. These people are fearful for their ability to survive. The disabled poor have great difficulty adapting to a reduction or delay in a service that is life-sustaining.
He urged the cuts be stopped. He gave several examples of what was happening, including this: “I heard about the woman who committed suicide because she couldn’t understand how she could live without her monthly benefits.”
Cuts like this are part of legislative history in many countries going back decades. Politicians want to take income and support services from the people who can least afford it. Meanwhile these same officials are promoting big ticket items such as sports stadiums, space missions, lavish perks and benefits for themselves, and corporate welfare.
You know, the stars at night look just beautiful from here.
We don’t give ourselves pumped up salaries and perks; for most of us something much more modest will do in a pinch. A coke, a sandwich, a roof over a place of our own, and a friend to talk to will do.
We don’t have high powered lobbyist talking with legislators on a daily basis to gain ridiculous subsidies for their industries, such as the $4 billion a year giveaway in the U.S. to Exxon Mobil, whose net profit each year is in excess of $50 billion dollars.
And while moving a ball around a field is fun, it no match for economic security for us, who are widely viewed the poorest group in every country of the world.
These politicians profess love for us, while at the same time they destroy our lives.
Lots of us can and do work. And a lot more of us want to work. Who in their right mind would not rather make a decent salary, instead of getting by with a tiny income from benefits?
However, if a person can’t earn enough to make ends meet because of a disability, and a that’s many of us, it is a human right to keep living with basic needs being met. Anything less is cruelty.’
It seems they have share of haters over there too. They typically seize upon any scrap that they believe will justify trashing anything they don’t want to hear about. This is the attitude we’re up against when people like ‘CivilLibertarian’ expose their Dickensian attitude to the poor and disabled.
8/26/2012 4:03 AM GMT
A threefold increase since 1992? Impossible without freeloaders gaming the system.
What’s sick is deadbeats cheating the system.
What’s sick are those deadbeats having the audacity to whine when their free ride is taken away,.
What’s sick are the Liberal enablers who have the gall to actually whine when these deadbeats are finally held accountable
I’ve made several comments to posts online at The Washington Post under my nickname ToggleUK to dispel many of the myths our american cousins seem to be under. Their lack of real knowledge as to whats happening here and their lack of compassion also..is breathtaking and mind-numbing..if only they could walk a mile in our shoes…This whole ATOS process is OBSCENE and Nothing short of EUGENICS..and I’ll do what little bit I can to fight it with every breath in my body!
Plus if anyone else reads this and feels the same way, please sign and please please share my petition with your friends at http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/End_UK_Welfare_Reform_Work_Capability_Assessments/?fFTTYcb&pv=2