Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/448/5341
Welfare Reform Bill scapegoats disabled people!
THE BLAIR government has brought out a new Welfare Reform Bill that aims to 'save' billions in incapacity and other benefits by forcing disabled people (among others) into poverty. MIKE HIGGINS (Sheffield Socialist Party) wrote this leaflet for a local demonstration against the bill.
THE DEPARTMENT for Work and Pensions have poorly thought-out plans to get one million people off Incapacity Benefit. The government are trying to divide disabled people into the worthy and unworthy poor.
They talk about work for those who can and help for those who can't. The reality is that New Labour plans to bully disabled people off benefits into low-paid, slave labour jobs, which are both exploitative and unsuitable. This isn't only an attack on disabled people but on the wages and conditions of all organised workers. Disabled people who refuse such slave-labour employment will have their benefits cut.
The problem isn't in our attitude towards working, it lies in employers' reluctance to offer us jobs. If New Labour were really serious about 'helping disabled people into work' it would do more to tackle the widespread discrimination against us amongst most big employers.
Where are these jobs going to come from? Will the government put money into the Access To Work Scheme (set up to provide equipment, etc to disabled people in employment) so as to ensure that any necessary adjustments are made to workplaces? If the government won't find the resources needed, the scheme won't work!
Why are we on Incapacity Benefit in the first place? Why did many of us lose our jobs when we became disabled people? Why do employers prefer to train someone new, rather than enable someone who knows the job to carry on working?
Why is the media now full of Incapacity Benefit fraud stories? We are the new scapegoats. First it was unmarried mums, next came asylum seekers/refugees. Now add disabled people to that list.
Why does New Labour assume it is full-time, long-term work that we want, are capable of doing and is available? Many disabled people have fluctuating conditions. Some of us have regular medical appointments. Some of us need adjustments in the workplace and/or support from work colleagues. If we work, our work patterns need to take these issues into account.
The Disabled People's Movement agrees meaningful jobs are a key to disabled people escaping out of poverty. But we say NO to being forced off benefits into low-paid work. NO to coercion and punitive cutting of benefits. NO to care charges. NO to their hands in our pockets.
We say YES to a flexible and realistic approach to all the issues of work and benefits. YES to disabled people's freedom to choose work. And YES to ending discrimination against disabled people!
More on the implications of the Welfare Reform Bill in future issues.
Stop privatising Jobcentre Plus
ON 4 JULY, the day the Welfare Reform Bill was published, Jobcentre Plus announced the privatisation of 'Pathways To Work' work in 60% of its districts during 2007 and 2008.
This includes plans to privatise areas of work for the Employment Support Allowance - the proposed new benefit replacing Incapacity Benefit. Areas to be privatised are 'back-to-work' support, some decision-making on sanctions and safeguards and, 'perhaps' work-focused interviews relating to benefit claims.
When Jobcentre Plus first said that 'Pathways To Work' would be privatised they said it was because Jobcentre Plus no longer had the people or the expertise to carry out the work because of the 17,000 job cuts and the 13,000 more to go by 2008.
They also said the Treasury had told them they couldn't have any new jobs for this work. Management had to admit that the private sector doesn't have the expertise either and would need time to acquire it!
The only place the private sector can get this expertise is from existing workers in Jobcentre Plus. This will mean further job losses and privatisation.
These proposals come hard on the heels of swingeing attacks on working conditions in a so-called 'modernisation' of human resources (personnel) policies. We must step up the fight against job cuts, worsening conditions and privatisation in Jobcentre Plus to stop further attacks.
In The Socialist 13 July 2006:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Youth and Education
Socialist Party campaigns
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party review
Socialist Party National committee report