Saturday 28 March 2015

Election 2015 - Quick, Get the Crips Out of the Attic...

In a perfect example of disabled people being thought of as solely useful as a PR gimmick, Esther 'they get better' McVey's electoral leaflet features a prominent picture of her alongside several of the disabled people from the charity People First England (which promotes the voice of people with learning disabilities) who campaigned for our voices to be heard at the Tory party conference.

Which is nice, as we were never first in her thoughts when she was Minister For Disabled People. Of course it would have been nicer still if she had checked they were okay with that, or if they even supported the Tories. Kaliya Franklin (@BendyGirl) of People First England (on the scooter next to McVey in the picture), noted "We expected the photo to be on a website, or even used by DWP. But not in party campaign material" and speaking through their twitter account (@People1stEng) People First England stated "It's positive to see voters with learning disabilities on the front of the former disability minister's campaign material. We want to encourage everyone to use their right to vote. So we look forward to a version of this leaflet in Easy Read. Campaign information should be accessible to all, especially when it features voters with learning disabilities. We'd like to make it clear that we are a non partisan organisation. We do not support any party or candidate"

So given McVey was so quick to take advantage of intellectually disabled people, will she be equally quick to take up their challenge to produce a version of the leaflet in Easy Read? (Not that DWP have ever been quick off the mark to produce any of their disability related documents and forms in accessible formats). And next time she wants to use disabled people as a PR gimmick will she pay us the courtesy of assuming we're adult enough to need asking for permission, not little children with a voice that doesn't count?

 (And it occurs to me that given the Tory gagging of charities under the pre-text of  limiting lobbying, it would probably have been illegal for People First England to campaign in such a party-political fashion, but McVey is perfectly okay with using them to do it for her without their permission).

Friday 27 March 2015

Tory Cuts: As Bad as we Feared

 When the Chancellor, George Osbourne, refused to detail in the budget what observers estimated as £12Bn of cuts required for his plans for the next parliament to work, we all knew the likelihood was the Tories were going to trash disability benefits again. Those cuts have now leaked, and they are everything we feared.

The proposed cuts (with 'savings' per annum where known) are:

Industrial Injuries Compensation Scheme: companies to be made to pay instead. Of course this then puts the onus on the injured party to sue their employer when they refuse to pay out. They're supposed to use an insurer, but consider the history of Unum Provident and their 'disability denial mills'. £1Bn

Carer's Allowance to be restricted to people eligible for Universal Credit. 40% of carers to lose eligibility at a stroke. £1Bn

Contributory Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and Contributory Job Seeker's Allowance (JSA) to be means-tested, meaning 300,000 families losing £80 a week (and then you get to a year and lose everything through time-limiting). £1.3Bn (Edited to add:) The Institute for Fiscal Studies have pointed out this effectively means the abolition of cESA and cJSA, all unemployment claims will be treated on basis of the means-tested basis of Income-Based ESA or JSA, meaning your National Insurance contributions mean nothing.

Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payments and Attendance Allowance to be taxed. £1.5Bn

Council Tax Support merged into Universal Credit.

Child Benefit only for first two children. £1Bn

Regional Benefit Caps to be introduced. Cameron already wants to cut the maximum benefits payable from £26,000 to £23,000, under this proposal only those in London would get that amount, the rest of the country would get less. (And to be fair to the Tories, Labour's Ed Balls is in favour of this one, though many Labour MPs aren't).

The comments in the BBC article are worth noting.

IDS's spokesman: "Officials spend a lot of time generating proposals - many not commissioned by politicians. It's wrong and misleading to suggest that any of this is part of our plan."

BBC: "The leaked documents were prepared by civil servants and commissioned by Conservative Party officials."

I think that's BBC-speak for 'Liar, liar, pants on fire!'