Disability minister’s travesty of the truth

21/06/2015

Disability minister’s travesty of the truth

 

Justin Tomlinson’s letter (12 June) in response to Aditya Chakrabortty’s article (Disabled people have become human collateral in an ideological war, 9 June) is a travesty of the truth. One inaccuracy is his claim that under current government proposals closure of the independent living fund and transfer to local authorities will not take support away. The amount of funding being transferred to local councils is less than what is currently paid out to disabled people through the independent living fund. Local authorities also operate different eligibility criteria to the ILF which will exclude some disabled people from support. Thegovernment response to their consultation on the closure of the ILF said: “We expect that some users are likely to see changes in their funding packages as eligibility is aligned using local authorities’ criteria … Whilst some group 1 users may find that their levels of need will mean they are not eligible for support…”

There is plenty of evidence from the reviews and reassessments of ILF recipients by their local authorities that are taking place ahead of closure at the end of June that demonstrate the very real cut in support that transfer means. We are more than happy to share this with the minister, but responses to a number of requests to meet him on this issue have informed us his diary is too busy until October.
Linda Burnip Disabled People Against Cuts
Mark Harrison Equal Lives
Alison Playford Occupy London
Kate Belgrave 
Debbie Jolly Disabled People Against Cuts
Paula Peters Disabled People Against Cuts
Anita Bellows Disabled People Against Cuts

 My adult son is disabled. In the 30 years plus that I have spent caring for him, governments have come and gone. Most, until the coalition arrived in 2010, have been more or less benign towards those too disabled to work and dependent others. I read Aditya Chakrabortty with great sadness. It described accurately the distress and anxiety caused, which I have witnessed in others and felt myself.

Mr Tomlinson, the minister for disabled people, is concerned that I may be prey to scaremongering and “falsehoods”, but then assures me that transferring responsibility for providing the independent living fund to cash-starved local authorities will work out. Local government funding is in crisis. They rob Peter to pay Paul; volunteers staff libraries and museums. He says Atos was appointed by the last Labour government, but both he and I know that it came to grief and notoriety as the most troubled government outsourcing contract in history under the coalition’s harsh attempt at benefit reform. Mr Tomlinson has a record of voting against provision that would see more support directed to the disabled and sick. His ministerial appointment reflects the values of this government, which I and others like me have learned to fear.

V Boughton
Malvern, Worcestershire

 Justin Tomlinson seems unaware that large numbers in the disabled community are well informed; not least by my research, such as “The Influence of the Private Insurance Industry on the UK Welfare Reforms” (published online via ResearchGate). It has also escaped the minister’s attention that the hostile rhetoric frequently used by the secretary of state for work and pensions is widely quoted by the national press, and that disability hate crimes in the UK as reported by the Home Office Statistical Bulletin are now the highest ever recorded, as people react to the misleading and often extreme comments used in the safety of the House of Commons. The coalition government, and no doubt the new Conservative government, mirror the welfare changes adopted in the US almost 20 years ago. During the Clinton administration, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act was adopted in 1996 and continued under the Bush administration, which published the White House reauthorisation proposals entitled Working Towards Independence in February 2002. Bill Clinton’s promise to “end welfare as we know it” is being replicated in the UK, year on year. The DWP continues to resist publishing the updated mortality totals following a bogus work capability assessment, now conducted by US corporate giant Maximus, and the public continue to be kept in the dark as the UK moves ever closer to the US style of healthcare to be funded, eventually, by private healthcare insurance.
Mo Stewart
Disability studies researcher, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire

 The gap between the rhetoric of the new minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, and the true impact of his government’s policy on disability employment support is staggering. Tomlinson says: “I am pleased that recognising disabled people’s abilities and providing support to enable them to realise their aspirations is higher up the agenda than ever before.” The reality for deaf and disabled people is one where we are increasingly held back from fulfilling our potential, particularly within the field of employment, as a direct result of changes to government policy. On 12 March the DWP published proposals to limit spending on Access to Work, the government’s very successful disability employment support programme. The impact of this will be to set a cap on ambition, restricting the aspirations of deaf and disabled people with anything but minimal support needs and barring people from certain jobs and careers, not because they don’t have the skills but because they have an impairment. Meanwhile, employment rates for disabled people are still below the 2007 figure. We would urge the new minister to think again.
Geraldine O’Halloran Co-founder, StopChanges2ATW
Tracey Lazard Inclusion London
Jenny Sealey Artistic director, Graeae Theatre Company
Ellen Clifford Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)
Nicky Evans Secretary, National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters

 

 It is hard to know where to start, but if the minister believes the way Atos carried out the work capability assessments was a “significant improvement to the process” which ensured “fairer outcomes”, then he must be unaware of the many deaths which occurred shortly after people were declared fit for work; the profound distress caused to people who were far from well; and the high number of cases which went to appeal and won. He must also be unaware that disability hate crime has increased, not because of heightened awareness of the problem, but mainly because disabled people were recast as skivers and scroungers from the time the coalition government came to power.

Already local authorities across the country, including ours here in Essex, have advised all ILF recipients that their support is going to be reduced because there isn’t enough money available to provide it. Even the government’s own equality analysis on the closure of the ILF clearly states the likely adverse effect on disabled people and their ability to live independently. What hope is there if the minister for disabled people appears not know this?
Jan and Michael Cafferkey


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