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The benefit freeze: taking from the poorest to give to the richest?

Debbie Jolly and Merry Cross from the Disabled People Against Cuts group, write that the Coalition’s promise to protect disabled people has been proven to be an outright lie
January 2013

Photo: Disabled People Against Cuts

The public were told that disabled people will be protected from the 1 per cent annual increase freeze on benefits. This is not the case at all. In the coalition’s own Equality Impact Assessment (July 2012) it states:

‘Of the households who lose from this policy, based on internal modeling, we expect roughly half will contain somebody who is classed as disabled under the Equality Act’. As the standard of equality impact assessments from this government go, this is an alarming revelation compared to the usual lacklustre attempt which routinely announces little impact for those policies so obviously set to cause additional devastation to disabled people’s lives and independence.

Before the coalition came to power, disabled people already faced some of the greatest levels of poverty in the UK. That had always been the case because of all the barriers to employment that we face. Cameron said he would protect those who are most ‘vulnerable’ and Miller, ex minister ‘for’ disabled people, said the coalition would support those with the highest needs. Esther McVey, the current minister against the disabled, has repeated the same hollow mantra.

Yet, we have seen attack after attack. Before Christmas the coalition announced that the Independent Living Fund (ILF) would close completely by 2015. This fund has for many years, supported people with the highest level of needs: who either need round-the-clock availability of assistance, sometimes including elements of nursing care, or help with the majority of physical actions.  It had already been closed to new applicants in 2010. For many the complete closure of the ILF will mean support is withdrawn as they will become dependent on local authorities, which, after billions of pounds worth of coalition cuts are unable to sustain adequate support. Some local authorities, such as Worcester and Wiltshire, say they may institutionalise disabled people as a cheaper option. All say that people will not get the same level of support from their local authority as they did under ILF.

The coalition assertion that disabled people will be protected is also shown to be an outright lie in other ways. The Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) that is claimed to be protected is not; only the support component of this is. The support component exists only for the smallest minority, representing around thirty pounds per week - the rest of ESA is subject to the freeze – thus the majority of disabled people on it will be affected, rather than protected.

The impact assessment does not manage to identify that disabled people are not a homogenous group, but fall into other groups affected too – nor indeed does the government rhetoric, preferring to portray us all as merely passive benefit recipients. Disabled people in work will be affected as tax credits are frozen. In addition, single disabled women will be more affected, as will single women who are also parents or parents of disabled children; there will be additional issues if they are from a black or minority ethnic group (since they already suffer from relatively poor levels of service in comparison to the rest of us).

Then there is the projected 500,000 people knocked off Disability Living Allowance in the changeover to Personal Independence Payment.  Did you know that AFTER the consultation exercise on this, the government quietly changed the qualifying criterion in relation to distance you are able to move (in a manual wheelchair or otherwise) to a mere 20 metres, from 50 metres? And that had already been halved from the criterion under DLA, which was 100 metres!

Already the much maligned Work Capability Assessments carried out by Atos have caused homelessness, suicides, and early deaths. In 2011, within just 6 weeks of the WCA, 10,600 sick and disabled people died. We await in trepidation, the 2012 figures. If the one percent freeze disproportionately affects the poorest (because they have to spend all their money and basics like food are rising steeply) then for disabled people it represents an even harsher blow, another cruel cut in real terms for subsistence existences. Expect the return of disabled people forced to beg on the streets.

The cumulative impact is huge; added to other draconian cuts it’s the most devastating attack on disabled people by any government in post war Britain – the same government that gives those earning more than £150,000 a year a 5 per cent tax cut.

And all because these cuts are necessary? No. Regular readers will know that the deficit never was as bad as we’ve been told and could easily be remedied by tackling tax avoidance, building homes and creating jobs. To support our cause, please spread this information far and wide.

For more information please go to: www.dpac.uk.net or follow on Twitter: @Dis_PPL_Protest

Debbie 11 January 2013, 11.34

I totally agree and sorry to say that whilst David Cameron’s disabled son was alive and receiving DLA and he and his wife carers allowance he was all for helping the disabled achieve a better standard of living then when his son died he did a complete 360 degree turn and went and protected his high salary friends and other rich people by allowing them to have legal loopholes to escape tax payment, this bedroom tax doesn’t apply to rich people’s homes even though if they did they could make 1.7bn in a year!!! If they closed the tax evasion loopholes they could save 70 million think it was in a single year whereas benefit fraud is only 10 million in 10 years…. I think the government need to take off their rose tinted glasses and try living for say 3 months on what they say disabled people can live on and pensioners all of them would be screaming to have their salaries back in under a week, just my opinion

S Crossman 11 January 2013, 12.13

Although almost recovered now, in 2009 I inadvertently caused myself excessive strain injuries to my legs (tendons/muscles). I attended an appointment with a person I was led to believe was a GP (we were new to the area and did not know the Practice/GPs there). I was not examined properly (but did not become aware of this until MUCH later), but blood tests were suggested (?!), I asked why and was told ‘MOT’. After return of tests I was sent for MORE – (I had been taking a Calcium/Vit D supplement which has affected test results – I HAD informed ‘GP’ I took supplements which may affect the results! – apparently I suddenly may have various things wrong with me which I had never even HEARD of before! I heard nothing more – STILL could not put a foot to the floor without pain (which had now spread upwards into my right hamstring and downwards (like our lives since these events!) into both calves, Achilles and feet! I called into Practice to enquire about test results – nothing. Eventually I made appointment to see ‘GP’ – I was really quite worried, and pain had worsened. Test results were normal (which, apparently, even after scaring me with various hypothetical problems previously!, hadn’t warranted a ‘phonecall just to let me know – and possibly even suggest following different avenues in order to discover the cause(s) of my pains and incapacities!) There was no suggestion of examination or further investigation and I was just left to cope. I am a single parent, we were new to the area, suddenly our lives had been HALTED! I could no longer play with my children, was in CONSTANT AGONY. Later in the year I asked to see another GP. Again there was no relevant examination – very little of the appointment had relevance to my pain and the effects the incapacities were having on our lives! I was given some sheets of information regarding depression (I actually have qualifications in Counselling so printing-off a number of sheets relating to symptoms, etc. was completely unnecessary!) I later (MONTHS LATER) discovered the ‘GP’ was a Registrar. I then noted the FIRST ‘GP’ was ‘salaried’ (and possibly not an experienced GP?) I changed Practice and saw a Locum! Was sent for Physio. Physio was highly possibly ANOTHER trainee! I was given some stretching exercises to do, these caused pain which I felt was not ‘good pain’. I telephoned the Physio Dept to make a second appt within 48 hours of my first and having been given an ‘open 4-week appt’ – I was told the Physio had taken annual leave (?!) and I would have to return to the GP for a NEW REFERRAL! I returned to Practice. GP had returned from holiday. First time I had met/consulted with him – he did not examine me nor, it seems, LISTEN to me, nor understand what I said! I was handed some paperwork, I followed the instructions, and I waited. I telephoned the Appointments Line – no appt had been made at that time. My pain and incapacities worsened by the day, my legs and feet were GROSSLY SWOLLEN and EXCRUCIATINGLY PAINFUL. I was left to struggle. I could no longer wear proper shoes – ANYTHING touching my feet/legs was akin to searing them with red-hot pokers! My lower legs felt EXTREMELY unstable and ‘loose’ from the joints. There was no one to turn to excepting the local GPs/NHS. I FINALLY, SEVEN WEEKS AFTER the GP appt was able to attend at appt – it involved a DAY’s OUTING!! My sons had to have absence (authorized at that time) from school and we were VERY fortunate not to miss the last bus for the return journey (we are fairly rural)! The appt – which I had thought was Physio – was not! I was X-Rayed! An MRI was offered but, as my sons would have to have another day’s leave from school I had to ask the school first. It was left that I should, instead, postpone the MRI and make another appt for three months ahead. There was NO TREATMENT offered other than this. I continued to struggle. Eventually, in May 2010, I attended an appt with a local Chiropractor (there was no one else I could find who I could get to). He was the FIRST PERSON to tell me my legs were INJURED and asked me how on earth I was managing to walk!! He wrote me a short report to take to the GP and said I needed to have the MRI to find out what damage had been caused. I sent a copy of the report to the ‘consultant’ I had had the appt with as I thought that would be the correct procedure – I heard nothing more about it! I requested an MRI appt. I received an appt for an MRI even FURTHER AWAY than the previous location!! I ‘phoned the MRI Unit, the lady there was VERY nice, she told me the scans were for both knees – ONLY the knees! I asked ‘what about the areas above and below the knees, where the pain was, and my left foot (which was EXCRUCIATINGLY painful – the agony of my right foot having subsided to a degree – I later wondered if this was due to the large, bloodied area that had appeared on my lower right calf – was that the muscle finally giving up and tearing/bleeding?) The lady told me I would have to go back to the ‘consultant’ to ask for a new referral!! I wrote to the ‘consultant’. The short version is, the ‘consultant’, although seeming, to me, to agree to re-refer then later refused. He wrote to the GP regarding my possibly causing them a problem re ‘breach date’!! The GP Practice Mgr then wrote to tell me I ’caused unnecessary work for the GP’ (?!!) and I was left to continue to struggle in agony!! The DEPRESSION this has caused!! The AGONIES I have had to suffer, and not being able to find someone who actually CARED enough to LISTEN and to EXAMINE me! Whilst incapacitated the gov’t here decided to make deductions to benefit – in effect taking away our furniture and clothing money (we had no furniture and very little in the way of clothing when we arrived here). I wrote to the DW&P here but they IGNORED my letters. When I ‘phoned them I found them INCREDIBLY RUDE and DISMISSIVE. I then had to attend a Lone Parent Interview – the Lone Parent ‘Advisor’ told me our furniture and clothing money had probably been taken from us because others needed it more (?!) and I should go to the furniture charity. She also suggested I apply for DLA. I did so. The DW&P sent a form to the GP (who had NEVER examined me and had only previously met me the once when he had printed-off the paperwork for the wild-goose-chase-appt). DLA was refused based on the report from the GP – I later requested a copy of the DLA form – the GP had obviously taken umbrage at having to complete a form – he had written RUBBISH on the form!! I requested copies of my Medical Notes – the various members of NHS personnel had written RUBBISH, FICTITIOUS SYMPTOMS, MADE ASSUMPTIONS and not written anything relevant at all! There are various communications I have copies of. I had to wait FIVE MONTHS for copies of the Physio Notes – and saw MORE INSULTING REMARKS in those!! I FINALLY was given an appt with a ‘consultant’ more easily accessible – it transpired the ‘consultant’ was another Registrar. He told me he had not bothered to read my Notes as they were a bit of a mess. I tried to explain to him WHERE I had pain/problems, but he dismissed my pains as non-existent and/or ‘irrelevant’! He proposed FOUR MRI SCANS! He suggested the AGONY of my left foot was nerve-related in turn related to my back!! I told him this was definitely not the case and the problems with my feet – especially my left foot – was tendons and ligaments-related. He DISMISSED this!! He then ‘allowed’ me only ONE MRI Scan – that of the right knee!! He THEN claimed he had had an idea, all along, of torn cartilage!! (Apparently I now have torn cartilage(s) – AND THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN CAUSED BY THE LIGAMENT DAMAGES AND INSTABILITY OF MY KNEE JOINTS!! – BUT HE HAS NOT ADMITTED TO THIS!) He notes ‘generalized ligamentous laxity’ – this was, in fact, due to the ligament damages!! However! I found his letters EXTREMELY INSULTING both of myself and my family. I changed GP Practice AGAIN, on the advice of a kind lady who lives close-by. The GP there DID NOT EXAMINE ME, raised her voice at my sons, said “So why don’t you go back to where you came from?”, wrote a sickness certificate and left me to cope. I requested an appt with an alternative GP who actually DID EXAMINE me, noted some tendon damage (of course, this was, by then MORE THAN TWO YEARS AFTER MY FIRST APPT WITH A ‘GP’ TO ASK FOR HELP WITH THE AGONIES IN MY LEG TENDONS AND MUSCLES AND FEET! I could not walk without pain, still. I FINALLY obtained an appt with a consultant – I had to PAY for the appt!! – but had had to have a referral from the GP. The GP made the referral based on the PREVIOUS consultant-registrar conclusion – WITHOUT CONSULTING ME!! – and when I discovered this and tried to correct this by writing to the consultant my letters were COMPLETELY IGNORED!! I attended the appt but he was not interested in what I had to say, nor the photographs of some of the swellings I took with me to show him! He told me he was not a ‘soft-tissue expert’ – so WHY had he accepted the appointment for me?!! I had explained in my letters the reason I had requested the appt (a local NHS employee who had seen me in agony on a daily basis had suggested I see him as she thought he would help me) – my letters were NOT on his desk at the appt and he did not wish to discuss anything other than torn cartilage and a quick examination of my knee – in front of a large window over which he did not bother to pull the blind!! – Although I did not remove my clothes, the unscreened window showed NO CONSIDERATION FOR MY DIGNITY AT ALL!! I was left to cope. I am now healing but it seems now with UNNECESSARY DAMAGES, a DEFORMED LEG (although this has improved HUGELY) and foot. I am now almost pain-free, for the most part and am coping with the depression – some days are worse than others. We have NO GP, NO ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE, we have to find a dentist as the local one believes we are fit only to spit blood, etc. from our mouths into the WC in the reception area! I have LOST ALL TRUST in the NHS – and MOST CERTAINLY in the DW&P! In fact, I now have NO FAITH in this country at all!! – nor have my children!! What an APPALLING way to behave toward a trusting patient, caring considerate person, parent of young children, and the children themselves!!

Susan 11 January 2013, 12.28

May I just add – re Debbie’s comments, above mine – I totally agree that this government ought to practice what they preach, but I would like to see it go further – I BELIEVE GOVERNMENT SHOULD BE PAID BASIC SALARY OF MINIMUM WAGE with bonuses added for ‘good works’ – ie if they do any good work for the citizens/their constituents!! Re: ‘Bedroom Tax’ – I had never even thought of that! – Yes! – why shouldn’t government be financially penalized for any extra-to-basic-requirement bedrooms? My family are, currently, having to survive (and pay an extortionate amount for!)in a ONE-BEDROOM plus dining-room/study flat which is described by the HA as TWO-BEDROOM and described by the local council as ‘adequate’. I am APPALLED by the way people are treated!! I would NOT want this government – I have NO FAITH in them and am fed-up with having life turned upside-down at the will of those who have NO CONCEPTION nor, it seems, CARE of the HARM and DISTRESS and STRESS and MISERY and LOSSES their ‘decisions/rulings’ are having on all of us who are left to pick up the pieces/jump to it when changes are made! This government are changing rules part-way through the game, it seems to me, for MANY people, and it is causing CHAOS and HARM!!!

Dr Doom 28 January 2013, 18.33

Sorry guys,
Its now to late to prevent a revolution. The stupid evil nazis have rammed through their three sociopathic bills. What do they amass to? Huge unemployment. Disabled people are thrown off benefits, they wont get jobs after a year. No. They will die. Workfare is a farce, bankrupting the welfare state. Universal Credit is a disaster rammed by the thick skinned IDS. When the computer fails people will get desperate. How will they feed their kiddies? Millions of people getting HB are employed. They will really suffer. The mentally ill will be the worst hit. Millions of severely ill people will go to the hospitals to die. The NHS is being restructured, it will just collapse, its already got big cracks. But there is a cherry topping to the cake of economic conservatism going haywire -the emergency services, all being massively cut. There will be huge fires, all over our cities. So what does it amount to – three national crises. But look on the bright side – no Tories after for 30 years. No more of the evil Grayling, no more inept Gove or inane Hunt.

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