Received from Berkshire DPAC
These are just some of the things that have impacted on disabled people – at a time of mass unemployment and recession.
The debate in the House earlier this month highlighted the appalling impact of the Work Capability Assessment ALONE on disabled people. People with the most serious and complex impairments can no longer apply for help from the Independent Living Fund, as this has been closed to new applicants. It will be closed completely in 2015, throwing its users on the mercies of local authorities who will apparently not have ring fenced money in their rapidly decreasing budgets to support this. As from April this year the government starts to remove Disability Living Allowance from anybody who is able to mobilise (I use this word advisedly since it includes people who can wheel their own wheelchairs) more than 20 m. They have reduced this distance from 100 m in one fell swoop and failed to put this figure in their consultation paper.
Despite the increasing numbers of administrative errors and technical problems within the DWP, which have caused deaths in some instances – one was quoted in the debate last week – and massive distress in many, many others, the government is also withdrawing legal aid for appeals by benefit claimants as of the 1st of April.
Then there’s the bedroom tax, penalising families of sick and disabled people who need extra bedrooms to cater for things like storage space for equipment, or where it is impossible for anybody else to sleep in the same room as the claimant. Meanwhile social care is denied to the vast majority of people of any age who need it, because local authorities are not receiving enough money to meet the real need.
And now they’re introducing new and frankly insane guidance to the WCA, as if it wasn’t bad enough already. Assessors will no longer be able to consider issues like the depression that often accompanies chronic pain for example, or the physical impact of medication for mental health problems. Why? Because the new guidance insists that people must only be assessed on either physical impairments or mental impairments. Furthermore assessors, who we know rarely have the qualifications or expertise to do so, will be allowed to IMAGINE that a bit of equipment or a type of therapy might help you – and deny you your benefits until you’ve tried them out. Please bear in mind this could take months, in the case of therapies and could cause actual harm in the case of equipment.
All of these lead to stress, anxiety, physical and mental ill health, especially because of cuts to benefits and available cash. They also leads to isolation, depression and in some cases suicide. Some people are told they are fit for work by ATOS but when they go the Job Centre, they tell them they can’t satisfy the requirements for Job Seekers Allowance and therefore will get nothing.
As we have seen, the Work Programme is utterly failing disabled people (Panorama 28/1/2013).
Which other group in society has been hit by as many cuts as these? How can the Government possibly justify its refusal to do a cumulative Impact Assessment? It is no surprise that the references to Nazi Germany’s treatment of disabled people are becoming more frequent.