David Cameron and disabled children

By Bernadette Meaden
November 24, 2014

Food blogger Jack Monroe is under fire for alleging on Twitter that David Cameron ‘uses stories about his dead son as misty-eyed rhetoric to legitimise selling our NHS to his friends’ She has received criticism from Conservative MPs and a torrent of abuse from some Twitter users.

Ms. Monroe’s statement is a highly subjective one. Whether you regard Mr. Cameron’s references to his dead son in political speeches as cynical rhetoric or touching openness is very much a matter of opinion.

However, the way Mr. Cameron’s government treats disabled people, both adults and children, is not subjective. It is a matter of record, and of statistics. And the fact that Mr. Cameron is the father of a disabled child makes that treatment all the more difficult to understand.

Take Disability Living Allowance, (DLA) for example. It’s a benefit designed to help people cope with the extra costs of disability or illness. As Leader of the Opposition, David Cameron spoke of his own experience of applying for DLA for Ivan, and complained how complicated and difficult the forms were. He said that if he were elected, he would make it easier for people. That was very encouraging.

But what did Mr. Cameron actually do when he got into Number Ten? He cut the budget for DLA by twenty per cent, meaning hundreds of thousands of people, including children, will lose their benefit. When asked about this at Prime Minister’s questions, he denied this was the case, ( you can watch the video here ) again referring to his son’s disability.

DLA was renamed Personal Independence Payment and the application process was placed in the hands of a private contractor. It has become so chaotic that some people are now waiting over a year to get a decision.

It is apparent that Mr. Cameron’s government has specifically targeted disabled people for the harshest cuts. Despite the fact that according to the government’s own figures, in 2011/12, 3.7 million sick and disabled people were living in ‘absolute poverty’, over the course of this Parliament they will, according to Demos, lose a further £28.3billion.

It’s hardly surprising then that families with disabled children are being forced to choose between heating or eating, often to the detriment of the disabled child’s health.

And if Universal Credit is ever introduced, we will experience perhaps the cruelest cut of all. As Citizens Advice reports,
‘At present, families with a disabled child, for whom they are in receipt of some level of DLA, may be entitled to receive support through the disability element of child tax credit, currently worth £57 a week. Under Universal Credit…the proposal is to cut this support in half to just £28 a week.’

Somebody in Mr. Cameron’s government has actually sat down, looked at perhaps the poorest and most disadvantaged children in the country, and thought it was a perfectly acceptable idea to cut their support further. This would be extraordinary coming from any government, but from a government led by the father of a disabled child, it is inexplicable.

© Bernadette Meaden has written about political, religious 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. You can follow her on Twitter: @BernaMeaden

----------

© Bernadette Meaden has written about political, religious 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. You can follow her on Twitter: @BernaMeaden

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.