1 April 2016
The Conservative Government has mounted an unprecedented attack on the disabled. An article in The Times on 18th March  summarised the attack in the following terms:
The Government will cut £4 billion from disability benefits
The cuts will be implemented through reducing the eligibility of the disabled for “Personal Independence Payments” (PIPs). These payments fund aids such as grab rails & wheelchairs to help ensure a better quality of life for disabled people by helping them to be as mobile & independent as possible.
The cuts will affect 640,000 people and could see a cut of up to £150 per week for claimants.
These benefit cuts are being used to reward higher income groups in society :
“The cuts, first unveiled by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, will axe £590m in 2017/18 – the same year that the wealthy will gain £630m in capital gains tax relief.”
“Over the same period, the Tories are giving better off earners a £523-a-year tax cut by putting up the threshold for higher rate income tax.”
Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation and his blistering attack on the Government in his resignation letter eventually forced a U-turn by the Prime Minister and the proposed cuts in Personal Independence Payments were halted. This U-turn does not alter the cumulative impact of successive cuts over the last two years or the very clear message that the disabled are a useful target for cuts when Conservative politicians want to reward the wealthy.
In a BBC interview , Iain Duncan Smith said that George Osborne's “desperate search for savings focused on benefit payments to people who don’t vote for us” and that the cuts were 'unfair'.
The cuts announced in March's budget have added to the strong sense of unfairness and vindictiveness present throughout the term of office of this Government, aimed at those on benefits and those who are disabled. In the July 2015 budget, the Government cut the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) which supports the out-of-work who are sick and disabled . The cut was £30 per week for many new ESA claimants.
These cuts are seriously damaging the lives of many hundreds of Shropshire’s most vulnerable residents. For example, Ruth - who lives in Bishop’s Castle - has experienced the worry and distress caused by successive waves of cuts in welfare and benefits. She said:
"The human dignity of all should be respected and protected, but with the disability benefit cuts it doesn't feel like this. I feel discarded and marginalised. I've paid into the system, yet it's not protecting me like it should. All it does is add to my stress in a big way. That's wrong."
The Co-ordinator of South Shropshire Green Party, Dr David Gibbon, said:
“It is a clear mark of any civilised society that it looks after its most vulnerable citizens at a time when they need support. The cuts in disability benefits are a politically motivated attack on the disabled in Shropshire and are being introduced at the same time as large handouts are being given to wealthier groups. This is not acceptable. The Green Party will do all in its power to deliver a fair, caring and kind society and totally rejects attacks of this kind.”
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