Suppose the next government passed a law which stated that citizens are not permitted to go to work to earn their living, that they must only bath or shower at times when they are told they may, that they must not visit friends, go shopping or have trips to the cinema, and that they are no longer allowed to choose the times of day at which they eat their meals. How popular do you think that policy would be? How would you feel and react if such a law were imposed on you?
You may not know it, but this administration has passed just such a law. Oh, don’t worry, it doesn’t affect you, so that’s all right then. It actually affects around 19,000 of the most severely disabled people in this country. When this government came to power in 2010, a pot of around £330,000,000, the Independent Living Fund, was being shared between these people – that’s a little over £17,000 each – to enable them to employ carers whose role would be to support them in getting to work, managing daily living tasks and having a normal social life.
And our wonderful coalition government has decided that from June 2015 this fund will be abolished. There will be no requirement on local authorities to ring-fence any money to compensate these people for the loss of support from the Independent Living Fund. In fact, this is the government’s own assessment of the effects of the measure: “a large number of users will experience some reductions to the current funding they receive.” The truth is that most will be left without the means to go on employing the assistants they need.
Against that sum of £330,000,000 we can set all the money paid in tax by these 19,000 employees, all the money paid in tax by disabled people who were being enabled to work, and all the tax raised in VAT by people being able to go out and spend money in shops, cinemas, etc. – meaning that the saving to the country from this measure will be paltry, while the effect on the lives of severely disabled people will be devastating.
Nice one, Dave. I’m not a party political animal at all, even though I care passionately about justice. But this measure alone is enough to ensure that I don’t vote Conservative in the forthcoming election. The problem is, the Labour Party has now finally admitted that it will not reverse this decision if it comes to power. So I won’t be voting for Ed either.
This government has happily talked up the idea of “work-shy scroungers” as opposed to “hard-working people”. As a result of the media coverage of this ideology, hate-crimes against disabled people have escalated in the past 4 years. You are 3 times as likely to experience violence in the work place if you are a disabled person. The ATOS assessments intended to judge which disabled people are capable of work have been characterised by ignorance and prejudice on the part of the people carrying out the tests. And yet the richest people in this country have been cushioned against austerity.
God is a God of justice, and I believe that if we don’t rectify this ourselves, and start protecting and caring for the most vulnerable in our society, He will do something about it: “Therefore because you trample on the poor and you exact taxes of grain from him, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins – you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate. Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time, for it is an evil time. Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said. Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate.” Amos 5. 11-15