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Axeman Osborne slashes disabled people's benefits
WHEN GEORGE Osborne announced £11 billion cuts to welfare spending in June's budget, disabled people and their families were shocked. But few could have been prepared for the sheer brutality of the further £7 billion welfare cuts in the spending review.
As well as being affected by changes to housing benefit and the way benefits and pensions are 'uprated' in the future, the Tory/Liberal budget made it clear that measures to move a million sick and disabled people off incapacity benefit over the next three years will continue and reductions in Disability Living Allowance (DLA) payments by £1.4 billion a year by 2014 will be made.
The spending review continued the bad news and included the unexpected announcement that Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will be time-limited to 12 months, except for a small number of the most severely disabled people that the notorious work capability assessment cannot define as being capable of paid employment.
In effect, chasing people off incapacity benefits and ESA is simply a way of reducing disabled people's income by about 20%-25% and has nothing to do with helping people into work.
Also, the announcement that 20,000 younger disabled people in residential care will lose their DLA mobility component will not only reduce their income by two-thirds, but also effectively end by slight of hand DLA as a universal benefit for disabled people under 65.
But rather than condemn these vicious cuts outright, New Labour's shadow chancellor Alan Johnson, in his Commons response to Osborne, said: "Where changes are fair, proportionate and encourage work we will support them as we have shown in respect of incapacity benefit, a reformed gateway for Disability Living Allowance and on upratings."
An unbelievable statement but consistent with the fact that a number of foundation stones for the Tory/Liberal welfare cuts were laid by the governments of Blair and Brown.
Just as worrying for disabled people and their families is the response of the UK Disabled People's Council. Rather than condemn outright the Tory/Liberal cuts as Inclusion London has done in a briefing published following 'Axe Wednesday', the UKDPC's post spending review statement says it has had discussions with the minister for disabled people, Maria Miller, and stressed the need for full impact assessments that will identify the effect the cuts will have on disabled people.
If King Canute was alive today, the UKDPC would no doubt have advised him to produce an equality impact assessment before the tide came rushing in!
Given the severe impact the Tory/Liberal cuts will have on the lives of disabled people and their families, anti-cuts campaigns and the trade union Public Services Alliances need to develop links with disability and carers' organisations.
Highlighting examples of how the cuts will impact on the most severely disabled people will demonstrate to many that it is the trade unions and their allies that will protect the most vulnerable, not Cameron or Clegg.
By an Employment and Support Allowance claimant
In The Socialist 27 October 2010:
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news