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Posted on 30 October 2012 at 14:33 GMT

Disabled people, family members and anti-cuts campaigners took a protest to the Atos assessment centre in Swansea, Feb 2012,  photo Swansea Socialist Party

Disabled people, family members and anti-cuts campaigners took a protest to the Atos assessment centre in Swansea, Feb 2012, photo Swansea Socialist Party   (Click to enlarge)

The 'hardest hit' are being hammered - fight all cuts to benefits and services

By a disabled activist

'The Tipping Point', a new report by the Hardest Hit coalition, points to the huge impact the Tory/Liberal government coalition's cuts to benefits, welfare spending and central government funding of local authorities are having on disabled people.

This latter issue is addressed in more detail in the recent 'Holes in the Safety Net' report by Disability Rights UK (DRUK), Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and the Children's Society, which points out:

The Tory/Liberal coalition claims that 100,000 families with disabled children, 230,000 disabled people who live alone, and 116,000 who work more than 16 hours a week will get Transitional Protection, ie their current benefit levels will be frozen until the much lower levels of Universal Credit catch up.

However, this could mean years of living on the same income despite steep rises in the cost of living.

Inadequate demands

Instead of opposing the introduction of Universal Credit, DRUK, CAB and the Children's Society only call for: a limited group of disabled children to have their additional support protected if the Con-Dems press ahead with their changes; additional support for childcare costs for families with disabled children; the introduction of a self-care addition to Universal Credit if SDP is abolished; and additional disability support for working age adults found 'fit to work'.

Hardest Hit Protest: Disabled people and their families protest in central London against government spending cuts, Sept 2012,  photo Paul Mattsson

Hardest Hit Protest: Disabled people and their families protest in central London against government spending cuts, Sept 2012, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

In the demands of 'The Tipping Point', the Hardest Hit coalition calls for disabled people and their families not to lose out in cash terms (which the Con-Dems have already guaranteed) and for the government to "urgently reconsider" the abolition of SDP and the disability elements of Child and Working Tax Credits.

It also maintains the fiction that systems designed to remove billions of pounds of disability and incapacity benefits have the capacity to change by calling for the WCA to be reformed rather than abolished.

Remarkably the Hardest Hit coalition also calls upon the government to learn from the WCA and ensure the new PIPs assessment is as fair as possible.

Supposedly the Tory/Liberal coalition can do this by taking into account the full range of disabling barriers and health conditions; make the assessment process as simple, transparent and proportionate as possible; and ensure robust evaluation and monitoring processes are in place.

Basic measures the Con-Dems have failed to take when implementing the WCA, as hundreds of thousands of people can testify to, to their enormous cost.

The leadership of the UK Disabled People's Council (UKDPC) and the charities running the Hardest Hit campaign have learnt nothing from the humiliation of the Lords peers in February whose strategy of making limited changes to the welfare reform bill was shown to be a failed one from the start.

Their amendments were voted down, and the 'financial privilege' rule was used by the Tory/Liberal coalition to prevent any further challenges.

Grassroots anger

When 5,000 disabled people and their supporters demonstrated in London on 11 May 2011, and then as many in regional protests five months later on 22 October, they were absolutely opposed to the welfare reform bill.

A mass campaign could and should have been built in every town and city against this bill. The limited demands and actions of the UKDPC, DRUK and the Hardest Hit coalition since May 2011 reflect the acceptance by a small layer of charity directors and activists that nothing can be done to stop the Con-Dems' austerity policies except minimise their impact.

The final demand of the Hardest Hit coalition is to call for "a lasting solution to the crisis in social care, which has endured years of chronic under-funding, by implementing the recommendations of the Dilnot Commission".

This means supporting the removal of social care from those with 'moderate' needs, accepting that people over their lifetime will have to pay tens of thousands of pounds towards their care and personal assistance, and only demanding an investment of 2 billion in social care when 1.89 billion has been cut by councils in the last two years alone.

Independent Living Fund

But what is glaring is the exclusion in 'The Tipping Point' of any demand to save the Independent Living Fund (ILF) which the Tory/Liberal coalition intends to close by 2015.

If this significant source of care and personal assistance funding for 19,000 severely disabled people closes, where local authority 'maximum expenditure policies' exist, those who need constant 24/7 support will be forced into residential care unless they get additional help through the NHS.

To stop the closure of the ILF means building a campaign that sets out to defeat the Tory/Liberal coalition.

If DRUK, UKDPC and the Hardest Hit coalition were associated with such a perspective it would raise uncomfortable questions for them about the failure so far to make any kind of dent in the Tory/Liberal attacks, and their unwillingness to campaign for the abolition of the misnamed 'welfare reform' policy and the WCA, and oppose the introduction of Universal Credit and PIPs.

DRUK's active support for the closure of the Remploy factories with the resulting sacking of 1,700 disabled workers illustrates where collaboration with the Con-Dems' agenda can lead.

Link all struggles

Disabled people and their families are already being hit very hard by cuts to local health, social care and community services; and cuts to incapacity, mobility, care and housing benefits are still to impact on millions.

By linking with the trade unions and the anti-cuts movement, opposition to the Tory/Liberal attacks can still be built that will stop and reverse them.

Whatever form opposition to the Con-Dems takes, it is vital that disabled activists also demand that the Labour Party drops its support for 'welfare reform' and the associated policies now being implemented, many of which originated under the Blair and Brown Labour governments.

At a local level we must campaign to build mass opposition to the cuts and for Labour-led councils to refuse to wield the 'little axe'.

Where they refuse, we must help build an anti-cuts electoral alternative through the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

The Socialist Party calls for:

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 30 October 2012 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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