Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/511/3425
The Socialist 22 November 2007 |
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New attacks on incapacity benefits
WORKS AND Pensions (DWP) minister Peter Hain has announced new medical 'tests' from next October for people with disabilities to make it harder to qualify for incapacity benefit.
2.7 million people currently claim £7.4 billion a year in incapacity benefit. Many of them are people chucked out of work when the Tories destroyed industrial jobs but whose redundancy pay has gone.
Some have severe work-related illnesses such as emphysema, many are suffering from depression.
People with psychiatric illnesses make up 40% of those on incapacity benefit.
Katrine Williams, who is DWP Wales Secretary of the PCS union, speaking in a personal capacity, told the socialist: "The targets include getting one million people off sickness and disability benefits.
"Most of the onus of the welfare reforms continues to be on the individual claiming benefit and their 'responsibilities' rather than the government taking action to tackle the discrimination that people with disabilities face from employers.
"This government's welfare reforms coincide with savage job cuts and privatisation of essential services like New Deal for Disabled People and Pathways to Work in the DWP. This has a massive impact on the services we provide to the public.
"The DWP as an employer is far from satisfactory. In one year alone over 1,000 staff were sacked for being sick from the DWP.
"Many of our members who currently face the threat of compulsory redundancy are single parents, have a disability or have caring responsibilities and live in areas where it is difficult to find work.
"These are the very people our department with these welfare reforms is supposed to be helping back into work."
A GMB union survey a few years back showed "a direct link between high employment rates and low benefit claimant rates, and vice versa. Where there are jobs, there are low claim rates.
"The task for the government in seeking to reduce the number of claimants is to promote the creation of more jobs."
Instead, they attack their own workforce and bring in new attacks on sick, disabled and vulnerable people. These cuts will be fought.