submitted by Frances Kelly
Anyone with a long term illness or disability is already feeling the impact of the government welfare reforms. Incapacity Benefit has been abolished. Sick and disabled people are in the process of being forcibly migrated to Employment and Support Allowance. They are being subjected to Work Capability Assessments which are tests unrelated to their medical condition, tests which they do not understand and which have dubious validity.
The government target is for two thirds of sick and disabled people to be moved off the new replacement for Incapacity Benefit. This will be done by ‘helping’ them find work along with a regime of mandatory activity and threats and sanctions. If this fails they may hit a time limit.
The main impact on the lives of sick and disabled people is fear. Fear that the meagre financial support that they depend on will be withdrawn. Fear that they will not be able to cope with the requirements being put upon them. In many cases the stress is impacting on their health and making them less well.
It is the tone and focus of the report that is the real wake up call. As far as the government is concerned the impact of these reforms is not about the fear being visited on vulnerable people but solely about how much money will be saved.
Have the government completely abandoned any residual of duty of care to people with long term sickness or disability. Do the government now regard people who are disabled only as an economic burden to be minimised or otherwise disappeared.
Where is the compassion and concern for the lives of these people. Where is the assessment of how their lives will be turned upside down and made impossible as their only income is reduced and often time limited and stopped. Where is the covenant between the community and people who are disabled.
Fear and the loss of security, support and trust is the real impact of the introduction of ESA but shockingly these concerns are not raised in the Impact Report as the focus moves to saving money. The government has just wished all this fear and hardship away.