Why the struggle against 'war on welfare' really matters

On the evening of Tuesday 18 December, the WOW petition was launched. WOW stands for War on Welfare, and behind the petition is a community of sick and disabled people, carers, friends and families, who have come together via social media to start a resistance.

Spearheaded by actor and comedian Francesca Martinez, the petition aims to get 100,000 signatures to end the 'war on welfare' being waged by the government.

“It’s a scary, dark time for disabled people,” says Francesca Martinez. “Already a third of disabled adults live in poverty. That’s disgraceful and with the new cuts, that figure can only rise. It breaks my heart that some of the most vulnerable people in society are being demonised and used as scapegoats. It’s something everybody needs to fight against.”

The propaganda which has been used to win public support for massive welfare cuts in Britain has left many people feeling frightened, unwanted, and in some cases, suicidal. Time after time, the Work Capability Assessments (WCA) carried out by private company ATOS have been shown to be a grotesque farce, as seriously ill people die shortly after being declared fit to work. 

Growing numbers of poor, sick and disabled people are threatening to take their own lives, and in some cases actually doing so.

Just last week, @IanLaveryMP tweeted: "Very busy day ending in great sadness, reading a 54-year-old man's suicide note blaming the #wca and zero score. Couldn't face another year."

Also last week, the New Statesman’s Laurie Penny penned an open letter to a reader, entitled, ‘You are not a scrounger’. She wrote: "A few days ago you wrote to me and told me you were planning to take your own life. You told me that your reasons for this are: because you are frightened about what will happen to you when you lose the disability living allowance you rely on to live independently, and because you want to take a stand against the government’s assault on welfare."

The very next day, Minister for Disabled People Esther McVey announced in the House of Commons that when Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is replaced by Personal Independence Payments (PiPs), 
more than 300,000 people will have their benefits cut or removed altogether.

Anybody who can walk more than 20 metres will not receive the mobility element of the new benefit.

Now, imagine you can only walk about 30 metres before pain or exhaustion means you can’t go any further. Would you be able to rely on public transport? I doubt it. Without the money to fund a car, or taxis, or a mobility scooter, you would become housebound, and this is what will happen to countless thousands of people under the government’s plans.

All of this indicates why the WOW petition initiative is so vital.

* Sign the petition (http://tinyurl.com/cgjwx5f ) and promote it on Twitter using the #WOWpetition hashtag.

* Help push the debate on the impact of cuts on the disabled - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17590

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© Bernadette Meaden has written about religious, political and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor.

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