Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Disabled people are not scroungers.

Emanuel Smith - in today's Guardian - argues that most people claiming disability benefits are not scroungers and that Osborne is simply using them as a political football in this battle he has launched to move many people from disability benefits to unemployment benefit.

I am 54 years old and deafblind. I have Usher type II syndrome, which means I have partial hearing and extremely limited vision (progressive sight and hearing loss). All I can see is light and shade, and I have been registered blind since 1985. I would be very restricted in the type of work I can do, but am a keen volunteer. It would be very difficult for an employer to take me on with my complex limitations.

I worked for 20 years for the civil service before I was forcibly retired on medical grounds 14 years ago. I survive on incapacity benefits, DLA and a small pension (this is reduced as I only worked for two decades). Contrary to what many people believe, this really does not amount to much. I am also allowed to earn £80 extra myself, which I do by playing the piano in local venues.

This coalition government wants to speed up what Labour started and move me from incapacity benefit to employment support allowance, with no transitional relief. This could mean a potential extra cut of £40-50 a week. Add to this a rise in VAT, stricter requirements for DLA (which is awarded to help with the extra costs associated with having a disability, such as paying for communication support) and, suddenly, the "firm but fair" rhetoric used by the coalition government looks anything but.

Now, I am sure that there will be some people claiming disability benefit who are actually able to work, but the figures are likely to be small and the evidence put forward for their existence has been largely anecdotal, but that hasn't stopped Osborne from targeting them.

And, when one looks at Smith's breakdown of the figures it's hard not to conclude that Osborne's real aim here is financial. The problem I have with this is that he is targeting people who are already terribly disadvantaged.

And, as Smith argues, there are already much riper sources of revenue which Osborne is not seeking to target.
We are not scroungers; just vulnerable people who already experience higher levels of poverty and discrimination. Yet, this government wants to pile on more. How much more revenue would be generated if tax loopholes were closed and the bankers who got us into such trouble were forced to be accountable and, at the very minimum, pay back the enormous loans they took to keep their banks afloat and their inflated bonuses rolling in?
Osborne had many more avenues open to him; he could have raised income tax for the middle class and the wealthy, he could have scrapped Trident, but he appears to have chosen to let most of us off the hook whilst he looks for cuts amongst those earning the very least or those dependent on the state to survive.

I'm not surprised as this seems to be what the Tories do whenever they get into power. However, as Smith shows here, behind those statistics lie real people, people who are already dreadfully disadvantaged. They really don't need Osborne piling on any more.

Click here for full article.

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