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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Comrade you have fallen. Take my hand!

by John Maryon

AN IMPORTANT indicator of how caring and benevolent any society actually is, can be seen from the way in which it treats those with serious disabilities or suffering the anguish of mental illness. Those unfortunate men and women need extra loving care to enable them to lead as fuller life as possible and to live with dignity without financial worries. There should also be greater awareness that those who care for others need more support. In Britain today, however, essential services have been cut back and it has become increasingly difficult for those in need to qualify for support.

Benefit sanctions have been used on the flimsiest of excuses when the patient may have been too sick to travel or was unable make the journey to attend interview for another genuine reason. Premature deaths, including by suicide, are associated with benefit sanctions. Cuts to Legal Aid have made it more difficult for disabled people to challenge the unfair decisions.

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is a computer-based assessment programme for welfare claimants. The system is used to analyse the limited capacity for work component of Universal Credit (UC) and the legacy benefit Employment Support Allowance (ESA). A number of private companies have carried out the work on behalf of the DWP. The test has faced strong criticism with concerns that it may deprive genuinely disabled people of support. A number of people have sadly died within weeks of being found ‘fit for work’.

Universal Credit is a benefit claimed by 5.8 million people in the UK, of which 40 per cent are in work on low pay. The benefit replaced a range of other benefits, including tax credits, unemployment benefit and ESA, and is significantly less generous than the previous system. It was shown just how critically dependent those in poverty have become when ending the £20 additional COVID‑19 payment resulted in a large increase in the dependency on foodbanks.

If anyone who lives in a council or housing association, property has a ‘spare’ bedroom the housing cost element of UC may be reduced. This is often referred to as the bedroom tax. This measure has hit disabled people below the qualifying age for State Pension Credit. Many need specially adapted homes with extra rooms for equipment or separate sleeping. They are now supposed to seek smaller, unadapted accommodation or face higher rent charges.

The daily lives of those suffering disabilities are made more difficult by pot-holed pavements. Access to many public buildings can be extremely difficult for wheelchair users and a large number of railway stations do not have lifts to enable passengers to change platforms. The attitude of society must be changed, and awareness increased of the problems that disabled people have to face.

The New Communist Party has a firm commitment and makes a number of important calls:

The NCP believes that the pressures of living under Capitalism are responsible for much of the epidemic of anxiety and depression that is sweeping Britain and the Western world today. Money worries, long hours, job insecurity and social isolation due to changes in work patterns all contribute to the problem. All this is occurring at a time when Mental Health Provision has become the Cinderella of the NHS. Cutbacks to staff and facilities have not been matched by care in the community. Do-gooders just making an effort at Christmas to secure a better seat in heaven amounts to a denial of responsibility.

Mental health services are desperately trying to cope, and the problem is getting worse. Health trusts have been discharging patients into the care of GPs. who may not have the experience or resources necessary to deal with the challenges, or to private care providers. Drugs and psychiatric help can alleviate the symptoms, but when the patient returns to the environment of raw capitalism that may have contributed to their illness the condition could return.

The NCP calls for greater funding for mental health services to be improved and expanded. Those who care for mentally sick patients at home should be given more financial and practical help, including greater opportunities for respite. We must mobilise the working class to fight against the destruction of our health service based upon need not profit.

Communists believe that many mental health illnesses can be tackled by improved working conditions along with better support from both health and social services. The ruling class has been brutally effective in undermining working class collective consciousness so that workers can feel that they are stigmatised and alone. The NCP calls on the Labour Party and the TUC to campaign energetically for shorter hours, lower retirement age and radical improvements in social service provision.

Again, the notorious WCA to which mental health patients may be subjected has its negative effects. This test amounts to cruelty and can not only aggravate anxiety but also in some cases causes the condition to develop in those who did not have it.

The NCP calls for a big investment in facilities to assist those trying to break alcohol and drug dependency. More trained staff and better access to centres for rehabilitation. Proper care by professionals is needed. The patients should not languish in prison or be left to die on the streets. Drug dependency issues must not be regarded as criminal and should be dealt with by well-funded NHS and social service departments.

Communists agree that those people with long-term physical and mental health problems should be helped to develop their abilities as far as possible and become full members of society, but at their own pace. Above all, it is the removal of capitalism and its replacement by a caring, socialist society that can provide great benefit. Comrades who have fallen will find many helping hands when we turn our socialist dream into reality.