Union leaders have been urged to “help stop the barbaric cuts to social security benefits for Disabled People and their families”, Welfare Weekly can reveal.
In an open letter to union bosses, disability rights campaigners claim disabled people have been forced to bear the brunt of welfare cuts, and call on Britain’s unions to “join us in solidarity” in the battle against austerity.
Campaigners say benefit cuts are driven by a Tory ideology to dismantle the welfare state and hand lucrative contracts to private companies, “with whom many in government have connections with”.
They say many disabled people want to work but add “many more are genuinely unable to do so”. Severely sick and disabled people are being forced to work unpaid and hounded into applying for unsuitable jobs to escape the benefit sanctions trap, say campaigners.
Welfare Weekly revealed last week how the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) fabricated quotes in a benefit sanctions advice leaflet aimed at sickness benefit claimants.
DWP ministers were forced into retreat as they withdrew the leaflet from the Government’s website and were targeted with a barrel of criticism and sarcasm via social networks. Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has since faced repeated calls to resign, as the DWP was accused of blatantly lying to the public by Labour MP Debbie Abrahams.
Chancellor George Osborne announced his intention to scrap the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in the summer budget. This, campaigners warn, will result in sick and disabled people losing around £30 a week in crucial financial support.
According to an analysis, the “cost of disability” equates to around an extra £500 a month. These are additional costs a long-term sick or disabled person may incur as a direct result of their condition, such as transport costs and the need to acquire mobility aids to help live as independently as reasonably possible.
Iain Duncan Smith will today announce his intention to overhaul sickness benefits to force more disabled people into work. Whilst it isn’t yet official Government policy, sick and disabled people will undoubtedly be left fearful for their futures. Those people are unlikely to trust Iain Duncan Smith’s promise to protect sick and disabled people who are unable to work.
The open letter, written by Gail Ward, also highlights how reductions in mental health services are leading to “further distress and harm to those affected”. Mental health trusts in England are forecasting significant cuts to their funding over the next four years, reports BBC News.
Furious campaigners say this represents “a fundamental human rights violation” against mentally disabled benefit claimants. They call on union leaders “to act alongside us to take action in any way you can to stop this madness and return us to a place where care & compassion is the ‘Norm’”.
They add: “As Campaigners we fight alongside your workers, and share your aims and goals to fight the Trade Union Bill, to stand with you on the picket line when your work conditions and pay and public services are under threat from more and more cuts.
“We ask you all to support our fight in your regional branches and support campaigners/activists in our communities, to ensure that our children and grandchildren will receive the support our parents did when we were young, where they can live in society that protects those who need it.”
No one is completely immune from poverty, destitution and disability, say campaigners. “We are all a pay packet away from losing everything. We are all an accident away from disability or serious ill-health”.