Monday, 14 February 2011

A response to DLA reforms

Dear Mrs Miller,

I would like to voice my concerns over the proposed reforms to the Disability Living Allowance

1. Renaming DLA as PIP is a waste of time and money.

2. If the aim is to remove 20% of people from the benefit how is the eligibility criteria to be set?

3. The reforms take no account of those with fluctuating illnesses. Many conditions such as MS vary from day to day. One day could be a good one. One week could be good. The next could be awful.

4. DLA is NOT claimable simply by filling out the form. Medical evidence is ALWAYS required. Introducing mandatory testing is unfair, unnecessary, unjust and a huge waste of money. Paying millions to a firm to complete the assessment - as is done with ESA - is utterly criminal when claimants already have to provide evidence. You cannot claim it for a broken leg. You cannot claim it for flu. The condition must be serious. You should try to claim it yourself and see how far you get.

5. The fact that many claimants have been claiming it for years does not speak of a broken system. It says that many people have long term illnesses that won't go away simply because you want to stop paying. If you want to discern if these people are still genuinely entitled then write to their specialists. Because they WILL have one.

6. DLA does not stop people from working. In many cases it helps people to be able to work. If the benefit is taken away then many people will be forced to leave work and become reliant on benefits. This completely negates any money saved from cutting it.

7. Saying you want to direct support to those who need it most might sound laudable but it does not cut the mustard. If you take away support from those who don't fit the criteria then it is entirely likely their conditions will become worse and end up costing more in the long run than it does to support them now. Whilst also causing pain and humiliation to those who suffer.

8. Telling people they are unsustainable is an insult. Telling them they need to represent value for money is also an insult. No-one asks to be disabled. People don't make it happen so they can claim benefits. Living with a disability every day is a battle, a struggle to be independent and not a burden to others. Being told that you are unsustainable takes away that shred of independence and tells everyone that you ARE a burden.

9. DLA fraud has been estimated at less than 1%. Punishing the many to weed out the few is not a system that would be encouraged anywhere else. Even hardened criminals are judged to be innocent before being found guilty. These reforms are treating the disabled as guilty before being judged innocent.

I sincerely hope these ill informed and ill thought out reforms will be stopped. Those who suffer from disabilities already deal with enough. Don't make their lives even harder.

Yours sincerely

Helen *

*Don't worry, I did put my last name on the letter ;)

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Socialism - a dirty word?

This morning I started reading Naomi Klein’s book ‘the Shock Doctrine’. By page 7 I was so shocked, angry and appalled I gave it up, realising I was not in the right frame of mind to be reading it. Just that short amount however gave me a very useful, and very apt, phrase – ‘disaster capitalism’.

Disaster capitalism is what’s happening in the UK right now. With the people reeling from the recession at last May’s general election, the Tory Party was handed a golden opportunity – they could enforce their policies and blame it squarely on the failure of the Labour government. And the people would swallow it because it sounded right.
Freemarket capitalism is what led to the recession. The banks got greedy, and with little regulation, they did as they pleased and squeezed as much as they could from wherever they could get it. Then they burst. To prevent millions from losing everything they have, the banks were bailed out, leaving us with a large deficit. This deficit is now being blamed on the last government overspending giving the new coalition an excuse to start cutting. Sell off the forests, privatise the NHS, close public services, get rid of educational subsidies. Anything that smacks of socialism is to go.

Make no mistake, this is done with a purpose, it has very little to do with cutting the deficit. The capitalists hate anything to do with socialism, so much so that they do everything they can to make it a dirty word.

But what’s so scary about it? Take away the –ism and you’re left with ‘social’. This is who we are, it’s what we do every single day. That’s where the word comes from. If you went out with a friend to a pub and he didn’t have any money you’d buy him a drink yes? Because he’s your mate and you know that if the situation were reversed he’d do the same for you. You wouldn’t tell him you would only buy him a drink if he signed a piece of paper promising that for every drink you bought him he’d buy you two back would you? Of course not. But this is what capitalism does. It treats people as money making commodities as opposed to real human beings.

If someone is in need you give them a helping hand. You treat them as a person and you make no conditions about it. If you’re a capitalist you start thinking about conditions because people are selfish and they might run off with your money. That’s usually because capitalists are selfish themselves and they expect everyone to behave the same way they do. But if you treat someone as selfish, act as if they are selfish, is it any surprise when they turn out selfish? If you mistreat a dog are you surprised if it bites you? But if you treat it with kindness you are rewarded with loyalty.

I prefer to think of my fellow human beings as people. I don’t think money should be made from their pain, I don’t think money should be made off their backs. I don’t think that a privileged few should be able to run roughshod over those who have less. And free market capitalism ensures that it does.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

I'm angry

I'm angry a lot these days. Or more accurately, I vacillate between anger and despair.

The coalition are making a big noise about welfare 'scroungers'. The thieves are costing the taxpayers billions they say. Headlines about 'scrounger' scream at us from atop the Daily Mail almost every day.They want to make claiming harder to weed out those who are undeserving.
Benefit fraud costs £1.5 billion. Tax fraud costs £15 billion.
So why aren't they targeting the tax cheats? They are costing us more. Yet the government is making hundreds of HMRC staff redundant. They should be taking on more and training them properly.

The Atos system used to 'weed out' the cheats is not fit for purpose. This has been demonstrated time and time again. It finds huge amounts of people fit for work, yet 70% of those who appeal have the decision overturned. This is an enormous waste of money. And it hurts those it's supposed to help. Not to mention the staff aren't trained and they earn more for each person they find fit for work.

They are abolishing Disability Living Allowance. Sure, they're replacing it with the personal Independent Payment but this is nothing but an excuse to chop the amount of people eligible for it. DLA fraud is estimated at less than 1% of the total. Everyone else is legally entitled to it. But they have said we're 'unsustainable'. Do they have any idea how insulting it is to be told that?

They are privatising our NHS, all in the name of 'patient choice'. Apparently GP's are the most trusted people in the medical profession. Aside from the fact that I know several GP's who are terrible and made me feel like I was wasting their time, if they want GP's and patients to have more say why don't they put some of them on the boards of the PCT's, instead of spending £3 billion on abolishing them?
And for that matter, if GPs are the most trusted people in the medical system why doesn't the government allow them to decide if people are fit for work? When it comes to benefits, GPs aren't trusted. The government instead chooses to spend over £500 million on employing Atos, whose track record for mistakes is appalling, resulting in even more money being spent on re-assessments and appeals.

But worse, they are opening the market to private healthcare providers. We all know this is nothing more than paving the way for privatisation. I'm still blinking in disbelief at this. Healthcare should never be linked to profit, it's a basic human right. These reforms will end up with us having a system like America's. And no-one in their right mind can say that works well.

They have raised uni tuition fees to the point where many students will be put off going. Who wants to saddle themselves with £30k of debt before they've even bought a book or paid their rent? Nick Clegg would have us believe that a large number of students will end up paying nothing back. If this is the case then that's their argument for fee raising to pay off the deficit gone out the window.
Of course many of those poor kids won't be attending uni anyway since EMA, the money that enabled them to go to college or stay in the sixth form, has been abolished. A cost saving exercise that hits the poorest children without affecting the richer ones.
Kids who are determined to go to college despite no EMA can turn to the library to borrow their books. But wait, they want to close libraries. Again another cut that will affect the poor much more than the rich. One that will hit the young harder.

Tories apparently value traditions - unless there's money to be made it seems. Why else would they be in favour of selling off the nations forests? Forests that have belonged to the nation since the 1500's? They say they will favour charities or community groups but these organisations as a rule do not have the funds to buy them. They'll end up in private hands or worse, go to the timber companies.

It's like an attack on all fronts. How are we supposed to deal with all of this? And how can we not be angry about it?

Cross posted at Where's the Benefit