Surreal – suggesting or having qualities associated with surrealism, for example, bizarre landscapes and distorted objects.
Last week, we had a welfare debate which Alex Andreou described as ‘outside the realms of logic’ and the ‘End of Reason’… A national debate, orchestrated from the top down, which cares not a jot for facts or evidence. A bizarre landscape of closed blinds, and hardworking strivers.
This week, we learn of imaginary wheelchairs and benefit claimants being threatened to literally ‘swallow their medicine’ or lose their benefits!
It seems that not content with a frozen 1% increase in benefits, this government is also proposing to introduce changes to The Employment and Support Allowance (Amendment) Regulations 2012 which will further reduce entitlement to ESA, meaning that Work Capability Assessments will find even more genuinely sick and disabled people fit for work.
A briefing, complied by a team of professional disabled people (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/ESAbriefing) has been co-published by project leader Sue Marsh, a disability campaigner and author of the influential blog, Diary of a Benefit Scrounger, and the beliefs and values thinktank Ekklesia.
On the face of it, an unqualified assessor will be put in the position of judging whether a benefit claimant would be able to work if they took a particular medicine, had a wheelchair or other aid, like a guide dog or false limb.
And this is irrespective of whether or not the claimant actually has said wheelchair, medication, guide dog or false limb…
and regardless of the inherent practicalities of obtaining/suitability/or the using of the imaginary wheelchair/guide dog/false limb/medicine…
nevertheless, the claimant’s benefits might be withdrawn on that basis !
What can one add?
Chris Fry, Solicitor and Managing Partner at Unity Law www.unity-law.co.uk” offers the following opinion:
“How individuals are assessed to receive ESA could give rise to large numbers of legal claims being made against them. These changes immediately puts the government at risk of breaching article 9 of the European Convention for the protection of Human Rights, which preserves an individual’s right to ‘thought, conscience and religion’. The new rules provide for an individual to be refused ESA if they do not take any medication or accept an aid which Doctors believe could aid their condition. Essentially, they can impose a financial penalty on individuals who refuse treatment on religious. Given the very recent decision involving the Christian, Nadia Eweida and the court upholding her right to wear a cross – the government is on very rocky ground with these changes.”
As an aside and just to ‘gild the lily’ of surrealistic policy-making, the proposed changes also return us to the 17th C, the age of Dualism and Descartes… either physical or psychological problems can be considered but not both together! Apparently, since the Coalition came into being, the mind and body have become separated again.
This would all just be absurd, were it not for the fact that hundreds of thousands of disabled and sick people will be wrongly found fit for work and lose vital financial support if government proposals, timetabled for 28 January, go through.
As Sue Marsh writes:
“Although these changes have been advertised as small ‘amendments’, they will in fact have a huge impact on the way people’s illnesses and disabilities are assessed. Many vulnerable people’s needs will suddenly be able to be overlooked or ignored, meaning they could end up losing the support they desperately need to manage their conditions.”
Simon Barrow, co-director of the beliefs and values thinktank Ekklesia, concludes:
“What the coalition is proposing in these ESA/WCA changes runs entirely contrary to its claims to be protecting and supporting sick and disabled people in a climate of austerity, cutbacks and hardship.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP by Sue MarshThe main way you can help is by spreading the message about these changes to ESA. The government have tried to sneak them under the radar – the last thing they will want is people talking about them!Here are some great ways you can raise awareness:1) Email your MP (you can search by name or constituency athttp://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/);2) Share this blog post on twitter (using the hashtag #esaSOS), Facebook and other social media; CLICK ON THE BUTTONS BELOW THIS POST TO SHARE ON TWITTER AND FACEBOOK3) Email your friends and family a link to this post – or simply talk to them about it!Again, the main way we can get the government to reconsider is by getting people to talk about the injustice of these changes. So please spread the word as far and wide as you can!
If you want to do more, please sign #WOWpetition and call on the government to think again.
Sign here http://wowpetition.com – and ask all of your friends to sign too!