The hardest hit: Impact of cuts on the disabled

by Daphne Liddle

THE TUC Disabled Workers’ conference this week heard how the Con-Dem Coalition’s spending cuts are having a devastating impact on the lives of disabled people.

Speaking on Wednesday at the opening of the conference in London, TUC Assistant General Secretary Kay Carberry said: “These are profoundly tough times for disabled workers. The Government’s austerity drive is destroying jobs and cutting back the public services many rely upon. The NHS, social care and mental health support are all suffering real-terms cuts.

“As millionaires get a huge tax cut, disabled people are seeing their benefits callously withdrawn and whittled away. The transition from the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) will take a billion pounds out of disabled people’s pockets.

“The move towards Universal Credit, as highlighted by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, will leave nearly half a million disabled recipients worse off.

“The Government is destroying disabled people’s right to a decent standard of living, with so many lifelines under sustained attack.”

“What really brings this home to me,” said Carberry, “is the devastating impact policies are having on the lives of ordinary disabled people.

“People like 56 year-old David, who is registered blind, suffers significant hearing loss and is a diabetic. If the new criteria for the Disability Living Allowance are approved he will lose a significant proportion of his monthly income.

“David won’t be able to get out as much, he won’t be able to use his computer, and he will be more dependent on his family.”

The Government has added to the problems of disabled people who can do some work by closing Remploy factories throughout the country. Those who have been made redundant by these closures stand very little chance of ever finding work again.

few jobs

There are now hundreds of people applying for the few jobs that are available and disabled people face very little chance of getting them.

Thousands are falling foul of the Government’s Worker capability Assessment test — administered by the private company Atos that has made £500,000 at least out of helping the Government cut its benefit bill by re-assigning seriously sick and disabled people as fit to seek work.

This puts them on a lower level of benefit and requires them to prove they are making efforts to find work — a task most of them are just too ill to do. And if they cannot do this they lose all entitlement to benefits.

Hundreds of people judged fit to work by Atos have died shortly after, some of whom were terminally ill, some of whom are so stressed by the testing and the financial worries that their fragile health is fatally undermined and some because they commit suicide in despair.

Nevertheless two claimants who suffer from mental health conditions last week succeeded in winning a court case against an Atos judgement. A judge ruled the Work Capability Assessment puts people with mental illness, autism and learning difficulties at a substantial disadvantage.

The process is too difficult for many to navigate, a court was told. The Department for Work and Pensions has said it will appeal against the decision.

The law requires the Government to make reasonable adjustments to avoid discrimination.

At Wednesday’s hearing, the Upper Tribunal — which is equivalent to the High Court — was told people who have conditions that mean they lack insight can struggle to gather the right documents, including doctors reports, needed for a successful claim.

Lawyers for the two, whose identities have been protected, argued that where a claim is from someone with a mental health problem, it should be the Government’s responsibility to seek additional medical evidence.

Unnecessary

The biggest cruelty of these cuts is that they are totally unnecessary. The International Monetary Fund once again last week told the Government that its austerity cuts are too deep and that they are damaging rather than helping the economy.

Speaking at a press conference in London, the IMF’s deputy managing director, David Lipton, suggested the government should slow the rate of its austerity programme by bringing forward measures like infrastructure spending.

“It would be, in our view, useful for the economy for infrastructure and other measures to be brought forward to reduce the drag of austerity measures... and provide more support for the economy,” he said.