The Socialist 12 September 2012
Build a 24-hour general strike
After the Paralympics...: Stop the Con-Dems' assault on disabled
With the Paralympics over, the Con-Dems attacks on the welfare of disabled people continue - such as the planned 20% cut in Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which many Paralympians rely on.
Chancellor George Osborne and home secretary Teresa May should not have been surprised at being booed by 80,000-strong Olympic Stadium crowds. Alongside the cuts, the Con-Dems' demonisation of disabled people as scroungers has resulted in record-high rates of disability hate crimes.
Socialist Party members comment on two aspects of the government's attacks.
Save the Independent Living Fund
Independent Living Fund user
On 13 September, Disabled People Against Cuts organised a 'Paupers' Picnic for Independent Living' in central London to raise awareness of Tory/Liberal coalition plans to close the UK-wide Independent Living Fund (ILF) by April 2015.
The fund was set up in 1988 as an extension of the social security and national insurance system. Following its closure to new applications in May 2010 and cutbacks in its central government grant, the ILF's 19,000 users now receive funding from a central pot of £330 million a year towards their personal assistance or care support.
This is used to employ personal assistants, buy help from a domiciliary care agency or fund additional support in Independent Supported Living schemes.
Each ILF user has a complex condition associated with their severe physical impairment and/or learning difficulty or autism. Many would, without the critical support of ILF funds, be living in residential care, relying on live-in volunteers or spending their day bored in the family home.
The development of the ILF revolutionised the social opportunities of a generation, and also meant the most vulnerable layers of people with learning difficulties could continue to live in the community or with their families.
The central fear of many ILF users was expressed earlier this year in parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights when John Evans, a leading activist in the European Disability Forum and European Network on Independent Living, raised his worry that he may be returned to residential care in 2015.
ILF users and their families understand that, with ongoing cuts to social care, transferring complete responsibility for large care packages to local authorities will lead many to being reassessed and the loss of essential support, particularly with the new development of maximum expenditure policies.
The ILF does not fit with the coalition's 'localism' policy or the resource-led personalisation process and personal budgets where a social care funding allocation is identified through a questionnaire rather than a detailed, personalised assessment by a social worker that ILF users are familiar with.
ILF users and workers have a huge amount to lose. They must conduct a vigorous campaign to save the fund, linking with the ILF administrative workers' union, the PCS.
They must also demand Disability Rights UK withdraws its support for the Con-Dems' localism and personalisation policy, and actively defends both the ILF and local authority services from any further cuts.
Don't cut our Access to Work
Access to Work scheme user
I recently found out I had to reapply for Access to Work, a scheme to aid disabled people in work and help them to achieve work tasks as an able bodied person would do.
My situation has not changed at all in the three years I have been working and my support has remained the same.
I was interviewed over the phone about my claim with many probing questions. I was asked if I could travel to work by bus instead of using a taxi. I have four taxi journeys a week as I work two days, and it gets me door to door. Buses are very infrequent: I'd have to get to work two hours early and not get home till two hours after I finished work - all for a three mile trip!
Could I change my working hours to fit? No, I'm employed for a certain amount of hours - I can't change it. It seemed they wanted to know every last detail.
I came off the phone feeling very shaky and highly intimidated by the interview. It felt like I was being accused of claiming for things I shouldn't. I don't earn much at work and only get DLA and working tax credits to make my income up to something near liveable on. I certainly can't contribute any more than I already am.
I pay 50p in every mile for my journey to work and can claim back the rest. I don't think this is too unreasonable.
If this government wants disabled people to work they need to support the necessary adjustments needed. All the rhetoric about scroungers and benefit cheats makes disabled people out to be on the fiddle all the time when we're not.
The vast majority of people, disabled or not, just wish to earn a living and live comfortably. If that means we need extra support, the government or the employer should make the funding available to meet our needs.
Kick out Atos
Atos, which was scandalously allowed to sponsor the Olympics and Paralympics, continues to 'assess' (ie cut) disabled welfare claimants in exchange for £100 million a year from the government. Over 1,000 people have died after having their benefits withdrawn due to Atos assessments.
Even parliament's own work and pensions committee has said that just mentioning Atos triggers 'fear and loathing' among claimants. Channel 4 speculated Paralympic athletes and volunteers intentionally hid the Atos logo on their passes for the opening ceremony.
It seems the company doesn't put much effort into training its employees. As one person tweeted: "When being assessed by #Atos my sister, who has Down's Syndrome, was asked 'how long have you had the condition?' Unbelievable but true." No wonder that many of Atos's decisions are overturned on appeal.
Disability assessment needs to be taken out of the hands of big business gangsters like Atos and be run as a publicly owned, democratically accountable public service.
In this issue
Fight against austerity
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party feature: TUSC
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party workplace news
Fighting NHS cuts
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Reviews and comments