On 1 Feb a letter from Sarah Newton, Minister against Disabled People, was published in the Guardian. In it she cites figures to show spending on disability benefits is increasing and makes other claims to suggest the government are successfully “ensuring that whatever a disabled person’s circumstances, they are able to access personalised, tailored support”.
The Guardian chose not to publish either the DPAC or Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance responses but you can read them here.
“Minister for Disabled People, Sarah Newton’s, letter published on 1 February attempts to deflect from criticisms of the Government’s disgraceful record on disability by repeating amounts spent on social security payments. Out of context these figures tell us virtually nothing. That inflation exists and spending rises is hardly news. They are certainly no indication of how far spending meets need, of which evidence proves it to be well short in education as well as disability.
The Government failed to achieve George Osborne’s target of slashing the Disability Living Allowance by 20% in replacing it with Personal Independence Payment – a target based on a serious miscalculation of how many disabled people there are and how society would react to robbing us of essential support. That is to be welcomed but the hundreds of thousands who have been denied access to the new benefit since its roll out in 2013 is nevertheless shameful.
There is now overwhelming evidence of the adverse impacts of policies that target cuts on the most disadvantaged members of society. The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s cumulative impact assessment of welfare and tax changes since 2010 finds that the more disabled a household is, the harder it has been hit: for households with at least one disabled adult and a disabled child, average annual cash losses are just over £6,500 – over 13% of average net income.
Since taking office as Minister for Disabled People, Newton’s tactic has been to paint accusations of harm caused by welfare reform as unreasonable. The problem she has is that literally millions of the population have now experienced the degradation and senselessness of the benefits system since 2010, whether as claimants, family or friends to someone suffering under the punitive system or professionals within swamped support services. This means a huge base of lived experience that can’t be fooled by misuse of statistics, lies and spin. The further the disconnect between her statements and what people know to be true, the more people are waking up to the realities of a government that puts profit before people and the interests of an elite few above those of the many.”
“In her letter of 1 Feb – Minister against Disabled People Sarah Newton opines that the spending on disabled people is “more than either on the police, defence or schools”. If she is so concerned for spending in these areas one wonders why she has voted consistently to slash spending on them since first being elected to Parliament in 2010.
Any ‘Minister for Disabled People’ worth having should be questioning the impact that her own government’s cuts to schools (down by 8% per pupil since 2010) has had on access to education for disabled people. Instead she cynically implies that disabled people should be grateful for what we’ve got because according to some amateur accounting it is higher than a selection of other areas which have been hit with Tory cuts. Disabled People’s need for support is not responsible for the impact of the choices of Conservative governments to cut spending while cutting taxes for the wealthiest.
We are aware the minister includes housing benefit in her figure for spending on disabled people. This seems a little discriminatory as non-disabled people also claim housing benefit when they are unable to meet the costs of housing. Would the minister, for example, imply that school cuts are a result of non-disabled people’s unwillingness to be homeless? It would be unfair and disrespectful of the barriers we face to expect us to cease our demands for an end to a system that leaves many without the support needed to live in dignity and fearful of the next letter from the DWP, based on a figure including the amount the government transfers to the pockets of private landlords in housing benefit (one of the largest components of the spending figure she quotes). Any rise in the amount spent on housing benefit for disabled people is not a result of our need for support but of the government’s disastrous housing policy which has seen rents skyrocket.”