New Labour attacks the sick and disabled

Welfare reform

New Labour attacks the sick and disabled

THE NEW Labour government has plans to get people off incapacity
benefit. They claim that "it’s healthier to work than be sat at
home with nothing to do". Of course it is, but if you can’t work
why should you be harassed to get a job, which you’re physically
incapable of doing, for hours every day?

Mary Jackson, Doncaster

Incapacity benefit is £76 per week. Tony Blair earns over £3,500
per week. A full-time job at the minimum wage is only £180 but that’s
still better than the miserly sum this government condemns a ‘long-term’
disabled person to live on.

There have already been vicious attacks on incapacity benefit. Your
GP used to decide if you were fit for work, but the government thought
that was no good. Doctors may have spent years at medical school but
apparently can’t decide if a patient is too ill to work or just lazy.

The government have introduced a ‘Fitness for work’ test. Can you put
a hat on your head without help and bend and touch your knees? These and
other tests have nothing to do with whether or not someone can work.

I remember when South Yorkshire had a thriving industrial base. Three
steelworks, countless mines, wool mills, factories, offices – all within
travelling distance of my home town. But heavy work takes a heavy toll
on health and well-being.

Most of the middle-aged men in my area are worn out. Many are wracked
with arthritis or breathing difficulties, made worse through the stress
of living on the pittance called ‘benefit’. No-one wants to have to
manage on benefits, but there is no option. The mind is willing but the
body is wrecked.

If the government has its way and suddenly everyone is fit, where are
the jobs? There are some agency jobs on minimum wage but only 16 or 18
hours and the ‘dole’ considers that to be full time. How can anyone live
on £80 a week?

The attacks on incapacity benefit are being waged because after 12
months of sickness, claimants move on to long-term incapacity, in
recognition that any money left over from working life will have been
spent. But long-term sick and disabled people then get a slightly
increased benefit of about £20 a week.

This government seems to be saying that no-one (no ordinary worker
without private health insurance and a fat pension on early retirement
that is) could be too ill to work. They must be living on a different

Workers generally have to rely on the NHS with overstretched GPs,
where you wait months to see a specialist. The government is saying that
if you survive working-class life don’t expect us to pay you any benefit
because we want to save money. What for? To wage more wars? To give more
tax cuts to their business friends? It makes no sense to me!

Decent wages

WE LIVE in the fifth richest country in the world. Why then can’t we
afford to pay people who have worn themselves out working to build our
economy a decent amount of money to live, not in luxury but in relative

This latest initiative is intended to get a million people off
incapacity benefit, another million 50-59-year-olds off Job Seekers
Allowance (JSA) and 800,000 single mums back to work. There are
presently 1.5 million on JSA and 800,000 job vacancies – what happens to
the two million claimants who are to be forced in to jobs that don’t

The government plans include regular ‘back-to-work’ interviews and
tests, ill and severely disabled people will be forced to attend
JobCentres. If they refuse or cannot manage to get there, their benefit
will be cut.

Doctors are to be offered cash incentives to get people off long-term
sick – it used to be called bribery but now it’s a ‘legitimate
government incentive’!

What we need is massive job creation. To build enough houses so there
aren’t hundreds of thousands of homeless, to create decent leisure
facilities that we can all afford to enjoy, to build up the
manufacturing base that has been destroyed.

We need workers to receive a decent wage for their contribution to
building a society that benefits us all, instead of the privileged few
at the top. In other words we need to build a socialist alternative to
this corrupt system.