Mobilising against the 'war on welfare'
Yesterday evening, an ever expanding group of sick and disabled people, carers and families launched an e-petition demanding an independent, cumulative review of the impact of changes to the welfare and benefits system.
There is a considerable amount of evidence that something terribly wrong is going on: from daily deaths of disabled and sick people pushed off the edge by stringency, right through to the 70% success rate for appeals against flawed work assessments when they are properly legally supported.
The government is continuing to press ahead with cuts and restructuring that effectively makes those with least pay for an economic situation brought about by some of the very wealthiest -- including, most recently, proposals to remove motobility assistance for people who can move more than a few feet outside their homes, and calls from a backbench Conservative MP to exclude disabled people from minimum wage protection.
Nevertheless, in other respects the huge propaganda drive to label all claimants 'scroungers', and those who cannot get a sustainable job 'skivers', is not working. Too many people know someone who is genuinely struggling. A recent Ipsos-Mori poll indicated that 69% of the public think that benefits should be kept level with inflation. MPs are being deluged with detailed complaints about the way sick and disabled people are being treated.
Most importantly, those on the receiving end are making their voices heard ever-more loudly. The 'war on welfare' petition is part of that process. Translating the depth of opinion among those who know what is really happening into cashable political pressure is, of course, a huge task. But breaking the larger silence and enlarging the circle of those who care and are prepared to act remains vital.
Ricky B, one of the initiators of the campaign, writes: "We urge you to sign The WOW Petition and convince anyone you can to sign it also.
"We need to get 100,000 signatures so we can bring our concerns before the Backbench Business Committee where we can push for concrete action.
"Whatever you may wish to believe based on the media you consume, the reality for those affected is a persistently abusive system that is destroying lives. I will say it clearer: people are dying because of government policy. Ask a GP, ask a social worker, ask a legal aid solicitor, ask a benefit rights advisor. The reality on the ground is horrific and worsening abuse and greater loss of life.
"So keeping in mind the words of the great Steven Biko: 'the most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed'.
"We have all fought our own battles to survive and now we ask all people of good conscience to join us in turning back this tide of cruel policy. Please sign the #WOWpetition and support all the disabled activist movements. There are lives in the balance. Get involved."
* The WOW petition and the link to sign can be found here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/43154
* Follow the initiative on Twitter at #WOWpetition and @WOWpetition
* Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WoWpetition
* Website: http://wowpetition.com/
* Ekklesia news and comment on WOW: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/WOWpetition
(c) Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia.
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