Disability covers a multitude of conditions and states from birth defects to mental illness, from paralysing accidents to workplace malfeasance.
Whatever the reason for a person’s disability if it is to such an extent that they cannot work we condemn them to a life of subsistence living with a big pay rise when, and if, they reach retirement age to 65% of the average wage.
These folks cannot pull themselves up by their bootstraps, work harder or smarter and gain the golden egg dangled before everyone else. Yes, they can receive state support but so did John Key and Paula Bennett. Neither were disabled. Both used it as a platform to create a life for themselves that can only be described as thriving. Those who cannot stand on their own two feet (many literally) get to scrape by at the behest of a WINZ office implementing the policy from above. Unlike John Key and Paula Bennett, they cannot advance their own circumstances without significant intervention and support. Even then we basically say to them;
“sorry you are afflicted and can’t work but we will add to it by giving you worry and stress about how to house yourself, pay your bills and survive a simple event like getting to the supermarket. Forget extras, or “nice to haves”, like a trip to another town to visit family or new clothes rather than stuff from the Sallies. Oh and if that isn’t enough we will dump you off your benefit due to sanctions and regularly question you to see if you are faking.”
ACC is available to those who become disabled through injury. They will build ramps to your home, adapt your car, put in wider doors in your home and pay you 80% of your salary before your injury.
But, if you were born disabled, you get a disability allowance. If your family are poor they can help you in terms of your physical needs until your needs require financial input or their backs fail from lifting you.
The UK introduced a benefits sanctions scheme a couple of years ago. So did NZ.
Perhaps we need to pay very close attention to the UK. First Key, then Cameron, now Abbott, clones all.
In recent days in the UK, people from food bank administrators to disabled groups have been urging MPs to ditch it.
Sanctions are a suspension of your payments for various job seeking criteria including not trying hard enough to find work, failing to attend an appointment.
Sound familiar? But not just sanctions are driving disabled people off support, so are other more duplicitous policies in the UK.
The Guardian last year published an article about the removal of the independent living allowance which impacted 20,000 people and ended up in Court. The article makes some interesting observations about the political motivation behind the decision which was hidden until the Court hearing.
In court 28 of the Royal Courts of Justice this morning, a decision was reached about the independent living fund. Worth £320 million a year, it’s currently controlled by the Department for Work and Pensions and intended to ensure that 20,000 people with severe disabilities can live as independently as possible. Following a consultation last year, the government announced that it was going to scrap it…
Challenged on the basis that consultation was insufficient the Judge ruled that as long as the Minister was aware of the implications it amounts to consultation.
That you could trample on whoever you liked so long as you were aware of which people you were trampling, and how severely?
But getting back to court 28. It’s an inaccessible courtroom, so the people who brought the action couldn’t get into the room to hear the verdict. I know, yet more leftie bleating – when am I going to just face the fact that this country is out of money and we can no longer afford for disabled people to be pandered to with their ceaseless demands for ramps and handrails and other apparatus which, in fact, already exists elsewhere in the Royal Courts of Justice. …
Louise Whitfield, of the solicitors’ firm Deighton Pierce Glynn, said of the verdict: “We would have expected the judge to grapple with the public sector equality duty more, it’s such an important issue. We’re talking about 20,000 people. It’s quite unusual to have a judgment like this. I have not had a judgment before where I have found it difficult to understand the reasoning.”
But politics often finds a way round judicial verdicts, and it’s towards politicians rather than judges that our ire should be directed. Certain points must be underlined. The first is that the closure of this fund runs utterly counter to any promise from any party in any manifesto, under the guise of austerity or anything else. Nobody said “we will claw public money back from the severely disabled”. Even politicians who make it their rhetorical stock-in-trade to portray disability as an elaborate benefit scam would not, indeed could not, be open about withdrawing money from people already wrestling with such disadvantage. So it’s important to keep talking about this: if a measure is so shaming that politicians won’t even broach it, yet it passes through anyway, it would be to all our shame if that went unremarked.
Second, the DWP lied about the purpose of closing the independent living fund. It didn’t admit that the money wouldn’t be there after 2015 until it was legally required to. Whenever this government comes out with an idea that sounds, for British politics, unusually unjust or barbaric or ill-conceived, it usually has its roots in the US (free schools, food stamps, dash for gas, shares for rights, privatisation of health services). What I mind the most is the readiness with which the government will now lie: the prime minister will lie about the national debt; the secretary of state will lie about immigration, the chancellor will lie about benefit claimants, they’ll be rapped over the knuckles by the Office for National Statistics or Office for Budgetary Responsibility, take their punishment and go straight out and lie again. So, in the words of Nicholas Tomalin, talking about politicians in a (real) war: “Never forget that they lie, they lie, they lie.”
Third, this is not about the money. A government that is prepared to spend £1bn on tax breaks for high earners’ nannying costs is not cutting £320m for practical reasons but for ideological ones. They want to shrink government, starting with those most in need. There must be Conservatives who are disgusted by this; they need to start making more noise.
Fourth, and related, this will probably end up costing more – another thing to emerge during the case is this warning: “Users are unlikely to receive the same level of funding after reassessment. This may undermine care packages and may mean that some users, such as those with particularly high care packages, may not be able to live independently in their own homes.” Louise Whitfield said, almost as if accustomed to a certain legal detachment and taken by surprise: “We are very, very worried about our claimants and what will happen to them if they lose their care. But here, you have to focus on the process”. The claimants have announced their decision to appeal…
They lost their appeal
There are too many articles and research documents in NZ and the UK to refer to here but this one, from 2013 in NZ is worth a read
If a society is judged by how it treats its weakest link, its most vulnerable, then we are all failing.