David Clapson died with no food in his stomach, three weeks after his Jobseekers Allowance was stopped due to a benefit sanction. David, a 59 year old diabetic who had served in the Army and cared for his late mother, was desperately seeking work when he fell foul of the sanctions regime. The DWP said,
"Sanctions are only used as a last resort for a tiny minority who don’t follow the rules.."
When announcing a huge cut to Employment Support Allowance in his budget speech, George Osborne managed to pack so much that was misleading into only six sentences, it really merits some close analysis.
We thought long and hard about writing an open letter to Iain Duncan Smith. As a way of trying to influence government policy, this method would certainly not be our first choice. We believe in focusing on policies, not politicians. But we also believed we had reached the point where to appeal to Mr Duncan Smith as an individual, and to make a strong public show of concern, was necessary.
In the New Statesman, 25-year-old Rosie Fletcher recently wrote, "Disease isn’t like a gas meter. It has no notion of economics. It doesn’t switch off because you’ve stopped putting money in. This isn’t some kind of elaborate con I’ve been running … Cutting my benefits won't get me back into work. It will make my life smaller, more stressful. It will make me sicker."
We are pleased to note that in addition to reporting the letter from leading Catholics critiquing Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, over the appalling impact of benefit cuts on the sick, poor and disabled, the Daily Mirror has been persuaded to open an online poll on the subject - which has now gone viral.
To understand the thinking behind the reform of disability benefits, we need to look at a Conference held in 2001, called ‘Malingering and illness deception’. The Conference papers were later published as a book, in which ‘the enthusiastic support of Professor Mansel Aylward [then Chief Medical Officer at the DWP] and funding from the Department for Work and Pensions’ was acknowledged.
When the ongoing process of cutting and restricting access to disability benefits began, we were told it was necessary because spending on them was out of control. A new report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) shows that, in fact, the exact opposite was the case.
In the last Parliament, people with disabilities who challenged government cuts were labelled extremists. Political opposition was weakened by a fear of being seen as on the side of ‘scroungers’. But with more cuts coming, perhaps that is about to change. As more and more lives are affected, awareness of just how bad these policies are is growing.