With austerity Armageddon about to hit, the Tories have been on a calculated and cynical media offensive that confirms just how nasty these millionaire scumbags really are.
Sadly the range of vile attacks on disabled people that Monday ushered in were no April Fool. Over the past few years of ConDem assault on our rights and entitlements we have suffered the notorious Work Capability Assessment, cruelly designed and brutally run by private company Atos with the aim of pushing disabled people off benefits and the income they need to survive. Disabled people found fit for work related activity have been pushed into workfare and then sanctioned when they have been unable meet the conditions of their placements. To add insult to injury the harassment and destitution of disabled people has been justified by a narrative repeated and enflamed with relish by the right wing media that paints benefit claimants as scroungers and has led to a rise in hostilities towards disabled people and an increase in disability hate crime.
Now a whole host of new benefit changes and cutbacks are about to hit including:
– The bedroom tax (or ‘under-occupation penalty’)
– The end of Council tax support
– The benefit cap
– The scrapping of Disability Living Allowance and reassessment for Personal Independence Payments
– The introduction of Universal Credit
– The closure of the Independent Living Fund
Meanwhile benefits have only been uprated by 1% which is far below the rate of inflation.
Meanwhile legal aid for welfare cases has ceased which will leave many claimants unable to access representation to appeal decisions.
Before this government came into power disabled people were twice as likely as non-disabled people to live in poverty. Discrimination and prejudice against disabled people was rife in every aspect of live from unequal access to healthcare to discrimination in the workplace to prevalence of abuse and all too frequent occurrences of disability related murders.
This is the group of people the Tories have taken on and deliberately targeted to bear the brunt of the cuts. By 2015 over just five years disabled people will have lost more than 28 billion pounds in welfare while the poorest 21% of the population are carrying 39% of the cuts. For disabled people with the highest level of support need they are being hit 19 times harder than the average person in this country. After the new range of cuts hit even more people will be left with 0 or even minus income, dependent on food banks they cannot get to, facing eviction from their homes.
All of this is far from fair or decent.
The Tories therefore have to make a special effort to justify what they are doing and over Easter weekend we have had to endure the most sickening display of Tories at their worst. The frontbench, and Esther McVey, have been paraded one by one through the media pulling out their usual range of dirty tricks but with an audacity that, despite all we have been through, is yet able to shock.
On Saturday Esther McVey, Minister for Disabled People, denied people are disabled. On Sunday Grant Schapps pulled out Employment and Support Allowance figures as evidence of the success of welfare reform, celebrating how few claimants had been found eligible for the full benefit while endlessly repeating the mantra that people are being freed from a life trapped on benefits (freed by being pushed to their deaths?). On Monday Iain Duncan Smith assured everyone he could live on £53 a week if he had to. Then today George Osbourne talked at low paid workers in an attempt to stir up hatred against benefit claimants (while at the same time his government is looking to reduce the minimum wage).
The lowest point came with the release of the Daily Mail’s front page for 3rd April which cites the conviction of benefit claimant Mick Philpott for the manslaughter of his children as proof that the welfare system in the UK is broken (‘Vileproduct of Welfare UK’). As if everyone who claims child benefit turns into a murderer. It’s also not just disabled people and unemployed people who claim benefits, an increasing number of low paid workers are reliant on benefits as rents and costs rise while wages are drive down by schemes like workfare.
The timing of the Philpott court case and judgment that led to this story breaking is no coincidence. We know that the government uses the right wing to its advantage feeding in misrepresented statistics on ESA and DLA, but to use the tragic deaths of six children at the hands of an abusive father to score political points is just truly nasty.
It also shows that the Tories are scared.
We cannot let them dominate the news with misrepresented figures and statistics, stirring up hatred against disabled people and division between workers and claimants.
We must fight back.
Evict a Millionnaire – 13th April 2013 www.ukuncut.org.uk
Benefit Justice Summit 2 – 11th May, Westminster Central Hall, 11am firstname.lastname@example.org
To make a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission cite the demonisation and outright harrasment of benefit claimants as apparently taste and decency are not sufficient grounds for a complaint: http://www.pcc.org.uk/complaints/makingacomplaint.html