As I’ve said before in this space, I blog about the welfare benefit reform and the austerity measures in Britain because, as a Canadian citizen, they deeply concern me. I worry about what’s going to happen to friends in Britain who have disabilities and rely on benefits like the Disability Living Allowance to help with the costs of the specialized equipment and attendant care that they need to continue to live in their homes. I also worry about the anti-disability rhetoric surrounding welfare benefit reform, because I hear it in Canada and the US, too. I’ve wondered if one of those countries will be next to make disastrous cuts to disability supports.
Disability Living Allowance Cuts
The Disability Living Allowance cuts and the anti-disability rhetoric reached an all-time high in Britain this week. On Monday, 500 000 people (1in 5 claimants) have started to live in fear of having their Disability Living Allowance cut off, including veterans. They may not be eligible for the stripped-down benefits program that will eventually replace the Disability Living Allowance, the Personal Independence Payments. All people on Disability Living Allowance will be reevaluated before seeing if will receive Personal Independence Payments, as one of Secretary for Ministry of Works and Pensions Iain Duncan Cameron’s problems with the system is that people are given “lifetime awards” for Disability Living Allowance. and never reevaluated, allowing them to “fester”. He blames this as one of the reasons that the number of Disability Living Allowance benefits claimants has risen 30% in the “past few years”.
Amelia Gentleman of “The Guardian” reports that disability advocacy groups believe that the 30% rise is for different reasons, and points to remarks (not made in the article, but that I have I’ve read before) that Duncan Cameron’s changes are to eliminate benefit fraud. The British government itself acknowledges that Disability Living Allowance Fraud is at 0.5, so substantially cutting or eliminating the benefits of 30% of the claimants seems excessive.
However, if you look at articles like this, you can see where people might get the idea that people with disabilities are just vindictive bullies out to get everything they can from whoever they can. And that if you look like a disability, you might just be pretending to get off work:
A couple of notes on Odones’ article:
- Those PETA-esque protest tactics (the fake blood, etc.) have apparently not been used by Hardest Hit since the ’90s.
- What is Odones’ definition of “fraud”? Does it include an alcoholic or a drug addict? If so, is it going to include a person who has committed a crime while in a manic state? When did disability become about morality and who made Odone the judge and jury?
- As far as I’m concerned, if you want to chain your wheelchair to public property, it’s as legitimate a form of protest as any. It’s not “bullying”, and it certainly doesn’t make you a member “powerful and extremist lobby”.
And if Christine Odone has witnessed people with disabilities “fighting dirty” – it’s because they’ve had to. Because no one else will listen otherwise, and because it’s our independence…our lives…at stake. She would fight too.
Thank you to Sue and and all the people using so many of their spoons to work so hard against what’s happening in Britain. You all inspire me.