Punishing the sick

While the UK Coalition Government has pledged to protect the vulnerable from the cuts, the truth for the sick and disabled is anything but. Yesterday, a group of disability charities – hosted by the Centre for Welfare Reform – launched the ‘Campiagn for a Fair Society’ to try and convince them to change their mind.

They focus on cuts to critical support and services for disabled people – namely:

  • 250,000 disabled people losing their entitlement to care services
  • Cuts of £2bn to the incomes of disabled people, mainly through cuts in Disability Living Allowance (a benefit that is given to people to help with the extra costs of disability)
  • The closing of the ‘Indepdendent Living Fund’, which helps 21,000 of the most severely disability people to live independently

I agree wholeheartedly with the Campaign – but why don’t they mention the changes to benefits for people who are too ill to work?  This is not *just* due to cuts in the general level of benefits, and the extension a harsh medical assessment of eligibility (see reports by the think-tank Demos, Citizens Advice, and the insufficient concessions by Government after a review). Perhaps the most outrageous cut is that sickness benefits will become time-limited to one-year if you have a working partner or any savings.

Many of us will become ill during our working lives, and if we’re lucky enough to avoid this, then it’s bound to affect our friends and family. (Even by my 20s, several good friends had had serious health problems). One of the great achievements of the welfare state was in providing security for this common yet devastating risk. And now this security is being progressively eroded, particularly for those who are falling down from a reasonable standard of living (rather than the poorest).

I don’t think the British people really want this to happen – despite punitive public attitudes to people on benefits. But the public awareness of these changes is minimal, and the disability lobby doesn’t have the glitz of the arts lobby, nor can it generate mass protests like the student lobby. For once, research might have a critical role on shedding light on the otherwise invisible deterioration of the quality of life of disabled people in the UK.

About Ben Baumberg

I am currently a Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy at the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR) at the University of Kent. I also helped set up the collaborative research blog Inequalities, where I regularly write articles and short blog posts. I have a wide range of (too many...) research interests, at the moment focusing on disability, the workplace, inequality, deservingness and the future of the benefits system, and the relationship between evidence and policy. You can find out more about me at http://www.benbaumberg.com
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4 Responses to Punishing the sick

  1. Alex Stevens says:

    This may be an expression of the ‘morality’ that Tim Montgomerie at ConservativeHome (http://bit.ly/hbBRkP) has suggested should guide government policy, which includes the statement: ‘work should always pay much better than benefits’. Note the ‘always’.

  2. Ben Baumberg says:

    That’s a slightly terrifying set of principles that Tim Montgomerie sets out. Ironically, the increased use of means-testing in the benefits system is actually a perverse incentive – in this case, for people not to save, and for disabled people’s partners not to work. Even if they don’t actually change people’s behaviour, it seems highly unfair to penalise people for this.

  3. rob8urcakes says:

    Try sending a letter to the Office of the Prime Minister asking for the estimated increase in the death rate over the next 30 years as a consequence of the cutbacks on government spending.

    I tried and got no answer. I only got a daft postcard thanking me for my query. They don’t want to address that question for some strange reason. I wonder why?

  4. Pingback: Atos Chief “Keith Wilman” The disabled persons number one enemy… « Dear England

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