Does the LibDem/Tory government hate disabled people?
Surely not! After all the Lib Dems are constantly banging on about creating a ‘Fairer Society’. And doesn’t George Osborne say, ‘We’re all in this together’? And yet, and yet ….
Earlier this month, our website reported the coalition government’s latest way of managing the education budget which involved cutting funding for the disabled. At present higher education students living in England, can apply for a Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) if they have one of the following:
– A disability
– A long-term health condition
– A mental health condition, or
– A specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia.
We reported that David Willetts, Minister for Higher Education, has proposed changes to the arrangement that specifically apply to computer equipment and specialist accommodation. The result would place the onus on strapped-for-cash universities to meet the cost but without appropriate additional funding.
Alex Sobel, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for the Leeds North West, is angry: “To expect already hard pressed institutions to fill the gap left by withdrawing government funding is frankly ludicrous. But it is fundamentally wrong to attack those who are already under most strain – though it is typical of this coalition.”
You can sign Alex’s petition against the cuts HERE..
From Bad to Worse – make that Terrible
Cutting university funding for disabled students is part of a policy pattern that stretches back at least to the bedroom tax. Now we have discovered something truly shocking that makes us wonder for the first time whether or not the accusation that Lib Dem/Tory government really does hate the disabled might be true.
Recent figures revealed by the BBC and accepted by the government show:
– 712,000 of disabled persons have been hit by a benefits backlog. These are people who are waiting for assessments for employment and support allowance (ESA);
– Of these, 394,000 are new claimants for ESA;
– 234,000 are existing ESA recipients whose reassessments as to whether they are still entitled to the benefit have been delayed;
– A further 84,000 are people still on incapacity benefit who have not yet been moved over to ESA.
So what does the Government say?
– Having accepted the situation is serious, Prime Minister Cameron, answering a question in Parliament about the backlog, said changes to incapacity benefit should be carried out “in a way that works well” rather than to an “artificial deadline”. This implies that the delay is a sort of collateral damage. So why did the DWP set a deadline in the first place?
– The DWP said, with its usual level of disingenuousness: “Incapacity Benefit reassessment has resulted in over 700,000 people looking for, or making steps to return to work – it is crucial that we continue this important process to ensure that people are not written off and we get a fair deal for the taxpayer.”
Naturally, the LibDem and Tory coalition denies any responsibility for the crisis. Mike Penning, Tory Minister for Disabled People and ex-Guardsman, blamed the delays on Atos, the contractor carrying out controversial fitness-to-work tests.
Passing the buck
We are used to this government passing the buck. For example:
– When huge swathes of Somerset and the Home Counties were flooded last winter the government tried to blame the Environment Agency. The Agency, however, was able to show that it had been pro-active but its funding had been seriously cut and its ability to act was limited. As this piece is going to post, members of the all-party Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) are criticising the government. The committee said they were concerned to hear from the Environment Agency that when the overall funding for maintenance went down from £170m in 2012/13 to £147m in 2013/14 “the bits that gets squeezed is conveyance work: that is, regular clearing, dredging and keeping rivers clear.”
– When people all over the country protest that public services in their area have been cut, the government says blame your local authority; they are making the cuts. But any fair-minded person knows the truth. Take Leeds for example.
– – Over a period of three years, three budgets and three autumn statements the Lib Dem and Tory coalition government slashed the amount of money that it annually allocates to Leeds to spend by £130 million to £310 million. This is a cut of 41%. This does not take into account inflation. The Lib Dem/Tory government is planning to take another £45 million next year.
“Not me guv!”
So whose fault is it that over 700,000 disabled persons are waiting for assessment or reassessment for Incapacity Benefit? Cameron and Clegg say, ‘Not me guv!!” and blame Atos.
This begs an obvious question; why did the government outsource the work to the French company Atos in the first place?
The answer is clear. As far as this government is concerned it doesn’t matter which private supplier takes over public services as long as …. it is cheap! This Del Boy government uses the principle of a Dutch auction to allocate contracts. The supplier that says it can do it cheapest gets the contract – never mind the quality feel the width.
This is the approach to out-sourcing (privatisation) that led to:
– two companies walking away from delivering the East Coast Rail franchise;
– G4S screwing up the 2012 Olympic games security contract;
– Serco’s out-of-hours GP services failure in Cornwall and so on and so on …
And so Atos is agreeing to end its contract early because, as an official from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) told MPs, Atos “couldn’t deliver the quality at the capacity we want”.
This is not good business for Atos, it is not good government
– but it is desperate for disabled persons who are struggling to manage their lives.
The way the Lib Dems and the Tories are prepared to shrug their shoulders and shift the blame on Atos and place more than 700,000 in very dire straits is the reason that some people are drawing the conclusion that Cameron, Clegg and their hangers on, like Leeds NW Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland, hate the disabled.
We couldn’t possibly comment except, of course, to say:
Britain Can Be Better Than This
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