Government’s ‘Wicked’ Welfare Reform and Work Bill

Last night I spoke out against the Government’s wicked Welfare Reform and Work Bill in the Second Reading debate and then voted against the Bill as a whole, once the reasoned amendment put forward by Labour was defeated. Voting against the Party Whip is not easy, but as you can see from my speech below and some of the e-mails I have received on this issue from people who will be affected by the Government’s changes, I could not, in all conscience, abstain on the Second Reading vote.

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): “This is a wicked Bill. It punishes the sick, the disabled and the poor. Not content in the last Parliament with cutting £23.8 billion from 3.7 million disabled people as part of the Welfare Reform Act 2012, the Government are going for even more. Clause 13 cuts the amount of employment and support allowance that disabled people who are in the work-related activity group, and who have been assessed as not currently fit for work, can get. They will have their income cut from £102.15 a week to £73.10 a week.

“The implication is that these measures will incentivise people with disabilities to find, stay and progress in work. There are currently 7 million working-age disabled people, 4 million of whom are working, but although 1.3 million are able to work and want to work they are currently unemployed. The Government say they want to halve that disability employment gap, but how will they do it? With currently only one disability employment adviser for every 600 disabled people, what additional support will be given to help disabled people to get an interview? How are the Government going to address the attitudes that often prevent people with disabilities from even getting a job interview? Given that 90% of disabled people used to work, what will the Government do to support newly disabled people leaving the labour market prematurely?

“The chaos and inadequacy of the specialist employment service, Access to Work, which last year supported just 35,000 disabled people into and at work, just does not cut it. The Select Committee undertook an inquiry in this area of work last year and is still awaiting the Government’s response to its report. When will that be published? How can the Government really be taken seriously? Why has the money from the Remploy factory closures, which was meant to be invested in Access to Work, not been used to provide vital support for disabled people?

“The cuts in support to disabled people fail to recognise the additional costs disabled people face as a result of their disability. The Extra Costs Commission analysed the additional support and found that on average disabled people spend an extra £550 per month on things associated with their disability. It comes as no surprise that people with disabilities are twice as likely to be living in persistent poverty as non-disabled people, and 80% of disability-related poverty is caused by these extra costs. Last year, the number of disabled people living in poverty increased by 2%, which equates to more than 300,000 people. This has implications not just for disabled people themselves, but for their families. A third of all families living in poverty include one disabled family member. In addition to these cuts, we have seen a four-year freeze in other benefits that many disabled people receive, including housing benefit, local housing allowance, universal credit and JSA. How does that fit with the Tory pledge to protect disabled people’s benefits?

“The Bill removes the duty for the Government to meet targets to reduce child poverty, saying, in effect, that ending child poverty is no longer an important goal. The Bill replaces the use of “relative child poverty” with a confused definition of child poverty determinants. The worsening inequalities that are facing this generation are becoming intergenerational. With that in mind, and recognising the Government’s legal obligation under the Equality Act 2010, when will they produce a cumulative impact assessment? That has been piloted already and needs to happen.”

How the proposals will affect people:

I am called a benefit skiver, yet all my life I have been a striver. From the age of 3 years I strived to not be anally sexually abused, then I strived to not have bowel incontinence. I strived academically so hard I repressed the memories of my abuse. I went to Law school for 3 years doing my Llb hons Law, working and paying tax as I had done since I was 16 years old,  to support myself through Education.

I married, my husband has always worked full time paying tax, we have 3 children. 13 years ago my repressed memories started to escape. I developed agoraphobia, monophobia and finally full blown PTSD. I was never weak. I was born with a spinal deformity and hyperjoint mobility. I have always had to fight against my own body to achieve. I attended physiotherapy most of my childhood and teens which I have been unable to attend since developing agoraphobia, so my mental health has meant I am forced to neglect my Physical health. I know I have arthritus in my feet, knee’s lower back and hips.  I am 36 years old and fear for my future because I am in pain everyday all day now.

It has taken me 13 years to get therapy to fully assess me I have had 6 session of an extended assessment, and now I am on another 6 sessions of extended assessment. I appealed to Mps, councillors, advocates, Mind charity. The delay in my therapy means I am now a seriously complex case. This means it is unlikely to ever be ‘cured’

I need 24 hr care. I do not eat, I need to be made to eat. I do not wash, I do not bathe, I do not clean my teeth, I self harm. I live in bed because I feel exposed anywhere else.

My incontinence shames me, I need prompting to go to the toilet because the sensation triggers my PTSD. I have many accidents, I need to be cleaned. I have lost my own life. I have lost my children’s childhoods.

We survive on my husbands wage which is totally consumed by rent and council tax. My family lives entirely off the child tax credits and working tax credit. My additional needs are paid for by my enhanced rate PIP. We rely on the support of housing benefit. The 5 of us live in a 3 bedroom terrace house close to my carer who does not drive. We cannot get a council house because one does not exist. My husband works physically hard everyday leaving for work at 5am picking up just over £200.00 a week. If our welfare is cut, we will break.

You have no idea how feeling attacked by the government feels when you have been attacked all your life everyday. I have lived through physical  and emotional abuse from caregivers, peers, partners.  Now the media and Government are physically abusing me through financial neglect and mentally abusing me through this rhetoric and narrative of skiver, shirker, scrounger.  180 people report disability hate crime a day.  This has not come from ‘no-where’. There is a direct correlation between what politicians label people as, the the reinforcement of those labels via docu-soaps and the tabloids.

I do not know how we will cope, seriously I do not know if I will stay alive. I am an at risk patient who is overwhelmed by the direct targeting of people with disabilities.

I still aspire, I aspire to recover one day, I aspire to finally fulfil my career. Do not assume that because we are on welfare we are not strivers, and not hard working.  Do not ignore us.  99.5% of all claimants are genuine, and it is those genuine, vulnerable people who are being damaged and killed by these Welfare reforms, because they do not have a choice.  They cannot improve their lives through employment, because they will never ever be capable of any sustained employment.  We are helpless, we are at the mercy of your vote, please consider us.

Please vote against the Welfare Reform and Work Bill 2015-16

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I am a ‘Benefits Scrounger’.

I don’t work so I must be a ‘Benefits Scrounger’.

I am disabled and I am unable to leave my bed so I must be a ‘Benefits Scrounger’.

I receive Disability Living Allowance and Employment Support Allowance so I must be a ‘Benefits Scrounger’.

I lie around in my bed all day so I must be a ‘Benefits Scrounger’.

I am well educated with a degree and a post-graduate qualification but I don’t go out to work so I must be a ‘Benefits Scrounger’.

I have two children I don’t go out to work to support so I must be a ‘Benefits Scrounger’.

My adult children cannot help support me as one is in receipt of Employment Support Allowance because they are disabled and my other child is an apprentice earning the National Apprentice Minimum Wage of £6.50p/h for a 40 hour week. We live in a three bedroom social housing home paid for by Housing Benefit so we must all be Benefits Scroungers.

I have paid Tax and National Insurance for 30 years but I am now too ill to work so I must be a ‘Benefits Scrounger’.

I am not looking for work because I am too ill and disabled so I must be a ‘Benefit Scrounger’.

I need two strangers to strip me, wash me, dress me, change my nappy as I am doubly incontinent, feed me, clean up after me, do my laundry and do some housework every day but I don’t go out to work to pay for it so I must be a ‘Benefits Scrounger’.

I have nurses coming to my house to treat my open, infected bed-sores every day but I don’t pay for this so I must be a ‘Benefits Scrounger’.

I am allowed to sit in my wheelchair for around 4 hours on one day every week which means I cannot go out to work so I must be a ‘Benefits Scrounger’.

This is me – I am a ‘Benefits Scrounger’.

Please oppose the Work and Welfare Bill 2015/6

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