Devastating impact of cuts on disabled people
Summary: The general election is upon us. In 21st century Britain we like to think we live in an equal and fair society, but equality is hard won. There was a time when women chained themselves to railings for their right to vote, a time when gay people were imprisoned and when signs proclaimed “No blacks, no dogs, no Irish”. All have had to fight for their right to equality. Disabled people are fighting too, but not simply for equality – for their very survival.
A third of disabled adults already live in poverty. Disabled people and those needing social care have already been hit up to 19 times harder by cuts than others. Under the Conservative-led coalition every aspect of their support has been reduced, abolished or failed, costing the taxpayer and costing lives. But just weeks before the election we discover through a leaked document that the Tories plan £12bn more cuts to social security, including disability benefits (Report, 30 March).
The UN is said to be conducting a confidential inquiry into “grave or systemic violations” of the human rights of disabled people in the UK. If these cuts went ahead it would be a further breach of the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, which the UK ratified in 2009, with cross-party support. Every week we learn of more people who have lost their lives, many others will follow if more support is stripped away.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said the chancellor must specify how he will reach the targets. Yet George Osborne, David Cameron, Theresa May, Matthew Hancock and David Gauke have all doggedly refused to give any details before the election. Iain Duncan Smith has said: “We may, we may not, decide that it’s relevant to put something out there about some of those changes.” It is unfair and irresponsible to conceal changes that may heavily impact the lives of those who have already been hit the hardest. Perhaps they think disabled people are an easy target, because misleading articles and the rhetoric of “scroungers” and “skivers” has skewed public perception of people who need support. But more and more, people are becoming aware of how unfairly disabled people have been treated. The tide is turning.
Disabled people wrote an open letter calling on politicians to stop any further cuts which would increase their already profound social and economic disadvantage and asked the public to show their support. We, like those before us, are prepared to fight until disabled people are treated equally and difference doesn’t matter anymore.
Armando Ianucci Writer, director, producer, Bianca Jagger Council of Europe goodwill ambassador, Founder Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, Michael Sheen Actor, director, Peter Tatchell Human rights campaigner, Dominic Minghella Screenwriter, Aamer Anwar, Criminal defence solicitor, Human rights campaigner, Rev Andy Smith Ecumenical Dean of Telford, Richard Hughes Drummer, Keane, Sophie Christiansen Triple gold medallist, London 2012 Paralympic Games, Steve Peers Professor of human rights law, Jonathon Tomlinson GP NIHR research fellow, Eddi Reader Musician, Professor Peter Beresford Professor of social policy, Brunel University, London, Cherylee Houston Actor, Dr Sam Majumdar Consultant surgeon Dundee, Surgical advisor Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh, Francesca Martinez Comedian, author, campaigner, Deborah Bowman Professor of ethics and law St George’s, University of London, Terry Christian Broadcaster, Dr Simon Duffy Director, The Centre for Welfare Reform, Lisa Hammond Actor, Jonathan Bartley Green party spokesperson on work and pensions, Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers, Dr Kailash Chand, Rev Fr Patrick Brennan Priest, archdiocese of Birmingham, Cameron McNeish Broadcaster, author, Bill Bowring Barrister, professor of law, Birkbeck, University of London
Forgive my incredulity, but George Osborne refuses to be specific about £12bn of proposed cuts to welfare such as would transform the social fabric of the UK, and this appears to be far less important an issue than the role of the SNP, a perfectly legitimate British political party, in any future government. Is Labour not letting us all down by not hounding Osborne, demanding details, making it plain that if the turkeys do vote for this Christmas, it will be the type that even Scrooge would disown?
• David Marr’s article (30 April) is right in drawing attention to the danger of all the political parties shutting their eyes to the realities of the SNP. What he does not say is that if the Conservatives, with or without Lib Dems, form the next government, the breakup of the union is a certainty since the major further cuts to welfare will be totally unacceptable in Scotland. With 50-plus MPs, the push for an independent Scotland will be unstoppable. The consequences for the UK will be political chaos followed by financial chaos, especially as the EU referendum will be in the mix.
• The Tories and Labour continually use the term “working people” during the election campaign. The subtext is clear. This term is calculated to target the “employed” middle ground. What about those who do not fit this select definition? For instance, unemployed people, disabled people, sick people, asylum seekers and carers. The truth is that their subtle omission from this rhetoric merely reveals that the main political parties have abandoned all solidarity with these groups. In fact, both the previous and current governments have presided over the most draconian cutbacks to benefits and services that directly affect these groups. We do not need more scapegoating or divisiveness. We need a language and a progressive politics that embraces and involves the most vulnerable and powerless in our society.
Pontyclun, Mid Glamorgan
• Larry Elliott overlooks the most direct solution to the housing crisis (Report, 27 April): phase out housing benefit. It is estimated that housing benefit will reach £25bn a year during the next parliament. This amounts to a vast subsidy for employers who do not pay a living wage; for banks who can lend recklessly knowing that the government will always (one way or another) pick up the tab; and for buy-to-let landlords, who also benefit from tax relief on their already low interest repayments. Any other “industry” subsidised to this level would quickly be dismissed as a lame-duck enterprise. The savings over one parliament – more than £100bn – would easily pay to build the social housing the UK so desperately needs.
If the withdrawal were phased (probably by region and starting with London), any recalibration of the housing market would be sufficiently gradual to avoid a crash. This radical move will tackle the underlying cause rather than the inevitable symptoms of our building crisis.
Dr Mark Ellis
Source The Guardian
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