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The UK government’s harsh treatment of sick and disabled people claiming welfare benefits has largely been backed by the media, with some exceptions. This has helped fuel increasing hostility to disabled people from the public. But, unusually, in late July, two prime-time television documentaries exposed the bizarre tests used to falsely find people ‘fit for work’, and the human cost to claimants and their families.
Here is the full text of the letter published in the Guardian (17 May 2012) from disability organisations and disabled rights advocates, backed by signatories from charities, NGOs, academics and others (including Ekklesia), on the impact of government cuts hitting disabled people.
Many people across Europe have recoiled from harsh austerity policies, which are badly affecting the poorest in society as well as ordinary families. But the UK government is determined to take the cuts even further. Half a million people will lose disability living allowance, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has proudly announced.
Why is the UK government so determined to slash benefits and public services for sick and disabled people and carers? Many people have pointed out the flaws in a harsh Welfare Reform Bill targeting those who are already badly-off.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's World at One, ahead of the House of Lords Welfare Reform Bill (WRB) debate today, Parliamentary-Under Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Maria Miller sought to sound reassuring and reasonable. But the key points she made were either highly debatable or plain wrong. And the stakes are high. The government is attempting to move from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to an untried Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and to cut around £2.7 billion from the benefits system for the most vulnerable people.
Talk about last minute.
Patrick Butler, Society Editor at the Guardian, has done a splendid job in providing rolling coverage of the report stage debates in the House of Lords on the Welfare Reform Bill. He is again coordinating a live blog today (17 January 2012).