The first benefits “fauxtrage” of 2017 is upon us, barely a week in. Harrumpher-in-chief Phillip Schofield decided that the best use of his time was to shake his head patronisingly at a woman who had the gall to buy two bottles of prosecco on her “Christmas bonus” – a pittance added to her benefits payments. This leaves the tabloids free to engage in their ceremonial monstering of someone who bought a tenner’s worth of fizzy wine while not being currently retained by an employer.
Moaning about the fecklessness of the poor is a national sport that predates the introduction of the chip shop – the patronage of which (“with my tax money!”) is likewise cause for public tut-tutting. “Would it not be better,” asked George Orwell in 1937, “if they spent more money on wholesome things like oranges and wholemeal bread or if they even … saved on fuel and ate their carrots raw? Yes, it would, but the point is that no ordinary human being is ever going to do such a thing.”
“Unemployment,” he continues, “is an endless misery that has got to be constantly palliated.” The disagreement on this issue is not on the misery of poverty and unemployment, but on the idea that alleviating that misery is a good thing. If the unemployed do not earn their money through hard labour, then they should be expected to earn through suffering.
Anything can be used as an example of the unemployed worker’s fecklessness. Fridges and microwaves can be used to suggest the poor aren’t “really” poor. The screed against the “massive flatscreen TV” is positively ubiquitous, which is one of those things that really demonstrates the kind of alienation from the realities of the consumer electronics market you only get among the middle class. I don’t even know where to go to buy a cathode ray tube TV these days, but I do know you can get a 43” flatscreen for under £250 at Tesco.
For many families living on very low incomes who rely on state support to help pay their rent, it’s just got even harder to make ends meet. A new benefits cap was introduced on November 7 in Britain, lowering the maximum amount of social security that families are now able to receive from the government in a single year from £26,000 to £20,000, with a higher rate of £23,000 for those who live in London. This change is not being phased in gradually: it is an immediate reduction that will leave many of the estimated 88,000 affected families struggling to pay their rent.
The new cap will exacerbate the social and economic fallout from Britain’s housing affordability crisis because many of those affected will be living in high-rent areas. Around 20% of those experiencing reductions under the new cap are estimated to live in London.
The new benefits cap will make a difficult situation worse. Since 2010, the number of people seeking assistance because they are homeless has steadily risen in the UK. In 2015, 43,000 households were forcibly evicted – the highest number since records began in 2001.
The Conservatives’ pernicious treatment of chronically ill and disabled people has made us even sicker. Closing the disability employment gap is not that simple
Ken Loach’s new film on poverty, living on benefits and Britain’s welfare sanctions regime struck a chord with our commenters
Yes, I agree that those that wish to and have the ability to be Paralympians and those that wish to participate in sport on other basis should be allowed to do so.
But with the Government and the national media they promote the elite of sport in such a way that some of the general public and certainly those who have adverse opinions relating to disability, will use the successes of the Paralympics in a way to say all persons with disabilities could do more for themselves, thereby enhancing the view of being scroungers.
Everyone should be promoting that with some disabilities, disabled people will not have the ability to achieve anywhere near any of these successes.
The benefits that they receive are a necessity to live a life.
Even now some of these paralympians could be losing some of their benefits, especially higher rate mobility allowance, which will mean they will lose the right to have a mobility vehicle. This could well mean that if this occurs they will lose their mobility access, which will severely restrict their ability to continue progressing in the sport of their choice and may even mean they will no longer be able to do the sport entirely.
So, yes everyone should be campaigning for the rights of all disabled people, Stronger United, support #RightsandGames.
A personal opinion on the Paralympics:
There are some very respected disability campaigners who this week are protesting against the Paralympics because they would rather have rights for disabled people, and disability benefits, than the Games.
I completely understand the point these campaigners are making. However, I strongly believe that all disabled people should be fully supported to do anything they find interesting. Personally, I’m no Paralympian, but if, for you, that’s Paralympic sport, I’ll gladly sit on the edge of my sofa cheering you on.
All I will ask in return is that when you come home, you use your high profile to fight for improvements in the lives of the whole disability community.
On the eve of the Paralympics, I call for #RightsandGames.
I wish all the Paralympians lots of fun, friendship, safety and success. May the fastest wheelchair (or blade) win!
Will the new Work and Pensions Secretary hearld a change in policy, do not hold your breath.
Benefits Disability Austerity Welfare Public sector cuts
Official figures suggest that a new appeal stage introduced for unsuccessful claimants has been little more than a delaying tactic aimed at reducing the number of disabled people claiming benefits, say campaigners. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has finally published statistics showing the impact of the process on claimants of the out-of-work disability benefit employment and support allowance (ESA). Since October 2013, claimants of ESA and other benefits who want to dispute a decision made on their claim have had to ask DWP to reconsider the decision – a “mandatory reconsideration” (MR) – before they are allowed to lodge an appeal with the independent benefits tribunal system. And now the first MR figures to be published by DWP show that only about 10 per cent of ESA claimants who appeal through the MR process are successful. When MR was first introduced, DWP civil servants were overturning more than 40 per cent of ESA decisions. But that figure has now fallen dramatically,