Tuesday, 10 April 2012

When "the vulnerable" have everything to fear.

Many disabled people are currently living in fear since the welfare reform bill became law. Some benefits are due to be replaced with stringent new criteria which mean that many disabled people will no longer qualify for support. With social services cutbacks many will be left with no help whatsoever.

I am not quite in that position. I am among what the government likes to call "the most vulnerable" (a term I personally hate and would never use). Currently in receipt of the highest levels of disability benefits and having easily passed the new dreaded draconian Work Capability Assessment I am in the support group of what is called ESA and am not expected to be able to work again. Having seen the criteria for the new benefits it is clear that even being as harsh as possible, I should easily qualify for the highest rates of these too.

With the government having promised that the reforms will see more support diverted to the "most vulnerable in our society", you would therefore think I have nothing to fear.

You couldn't be more wrong.

I currently live independently.
As I live alone I receive an extra payment called SDP (severe disability payment) which helps cover the extra costs of care and disability.
However a large portion of this and my other benefits goes to social services and in return I receive direct payments, money with which I employ carers to help me with every day tasks such as getting dressed, washed, eating, shopping, etc.
My LHA (Local Housing Allowance) is upgraded to a 2 bedroom rate so that carers or family can stay when my illness is so bad that someone needs to stay overnight.
My flat was adapted 8 years ago so that it is wheelchair friendly.

When the changes start coming in next year, all this will go.

a) SDP is being abolished completely.
b) The 2 bedroom allowance is no longer guaranteed.
c) I will continue to have to pay most of my benefits towards my care. I cannot manage without it.

I calculate that I will be around £80 per week worse off (around half from SDP and half from LHA).
At first I might be ok. Apparently there will be a transitional protection as far as SDP goes, which means I will only be £40 worse off and might be able to get that together somehow. As time goes on however, that will be eroded by inflation and benefit freezes.

The second big issue is : I cannot manage without a second bedroom.
Even if I could, there are no wheelchair friendly 1 bedroom flats available for rent privately (I've been looking). As far as social housing goes there is little wheelchair accessible housing available and in any case I am not allowed a bungalow until I am 50, ie in 17 years time!

So I either have to go into non wheelchair accessible accommodation without provision for my carer or go bankrupt!

The only other solution is for me to go into a care home at the ripe old age of 35. Ironically this will cost far more than if I were to stay put and continued to be paid benefits.

Before the election David Cameron said "If you are sick, disabled, frail, vulnerable, or the poorest in society you have nothing to fear" 

Sir, please look me in the eye and say that now.

EDIT: On April 20th the following article was published explaining that cuts in Worcestershire are to change social serices policy and would henceforth push disabled people into care homes. I rest my case.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Open letter to the Opposition: Where are you?

The Welfare Reform Bill is now law.

As a result of the Welfare Reform Act, DLA is to be scrapped. Its replacement, PIP will be denied to an estimated half a million disabled people, left with no support at all.
Under this scheme, among many many issues consider just the following:
  • People who can move just 20m will lose their high rate mobility benefit, will be stripped of their car, yet still face an inaccessible public transport system.
  • People unable to bath or shower will be stripped of their personal care benefit as long as they can wash their face and under their arms. Personal hygiene does not seem to matter.
  • People unable to dress and undress themselves do not qualify
  • People who are incontinent no longer qualify for help to clean up clothes and bedding, regardless of whether they need it.
  • People requiring assistance to cook will no longer qualify for help. No information on what they are supposed to do is forthcoming.
Against a backdrop of social services cut, these disabled people will get no help there either and will now be left entirely without support.
    Where are you? Why are you not speaking out against this inhumane treatment of disabled people?

    As a result of the Welfare Reform Act, a working family who has to support a disabled adult unable to work now receives £100 per week less compared to an equivalent family supporting a child. This is despite the disabled adult having faithfully paid their National Insurance contributions throughout their working lives.
    Families with disabled children have just seen their benefit almost halved.
    This was done despite the fact that a third of disabled people already live in poverty.
    Where are you? Why are you abandoning working disabled families and disabled children to sink even further into poverty?

    The Independent Living Fund is closed to new claimants. Its continued existence is under threat. Social services are restricting care to all but the most disabled, cutting care to those who already receive it and increasing cost contributions to a point where people are unable to pay. As a result, many disabled people face an uncertain future and a possible return into institutions. Others already live in dangerous conditions and poor qualify of life through lack of care. This is only set to get worse.
    Where are you? Why are you not fighting for the reinstatement of ILF? Why are you not fighting for ringfencing of adult social services care money to safeguard disabled people's independence?

    Disabled people unable to work face a test unfit for purpose by a company unable to fulfil its obligations with a third of test centres remaining inaccessible. Seriously ill people with cancer, MS, parkinsons, strokes and heart disease, not to mention debilitating mental health conditions are being found fit for work and face a jammed backlogged appeals process.
    Where are you? Why are you not insisting the system be fixed before rolling it out to all claimants?

    A disabled person still classed as unable to work can now nonetheless be forced to work for free. Unlike healthy young people, this will be indefinitely.
    10,130 disabled people have already faced sanctions, with around 45% handed out to those with learning difficulties or mental health illnesses making them 50% more likely to be stripped of benefits. This is 50 times the amount of sanctions handed to non disabled people and reports are coming in that they are often targeted as an easy way to meet a sanctions quota.
    This will only get worse as the workfare programme is rolled out nationally.
    Where are you? Why are you leaving sick and disabled people to a system without hope and which will punish them unfairly?

    For the past few years disabled people have been the target of a concerted effort from the media and the government, portrayed as scroungers and fraudsters, with misleading statistics released and quoted as “evidence”.
    As a result hate crime is rising. In the past year alone disability hate crime has risen by 20% against a backdrop of an overall drop in hate crime. Many disabled people report living in fear.
    Where are you? Why are you complicit in this instead of standing against it?

    Disabled people need change. They need hope. They need representation. And they need it now before it is too late. WHERE ARE YOU?