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Issue #1813      March 7, 2018

Cruel and criminal

Britain: We’ve all been alerted to the cruelty involved in universal credit conditionality by the inspiring work of Charlotte Hughes, who has campaigned tirelessly against it.

Now, however, in spite of all the warnings about the dire impact of this flawed and spiteful benefit, in spite of rapidly rising child poverty and homelessness, the despicable Tories are pushing ahead, rolling it out across the country.

Even before austerity cuts, Britain’s social security benefits, including pensions, are among the least generous in Europe. Some 2.8 million disabled people are in deep poverty – that is, they have 50 per cent below the median income.

Disabled people have faced cuts up to nine times more on average than non-disabled people.

For disabled people with the highest support needs, this figure rises to 19 times more.

Research has shown that the average extra cost of being disabled is £570 a month.

We know that disabled people have died directly as a result of the Tory “reforms” to our welfare state. They have been mercilessly hounded and assessed and reassessed although there is no hope that their conditions will improve.

Sadly so far we have seen only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the ideological attack against us and the terrors of future reforms to the social security system are only just starting as Iain Duncan Smith’s nightmare vision for change is rolled out.

Universal credit replaces six benefits – child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance and working tax credit.

Seven million households will be affected, including over one million low-paid part-time workers.

For the first time ever people in work could face having their benefits stopped if they don’t prove to the jobcentre that they’re searching for better-paid work or more hours.

Pensioner couples will also be affected if one of them is under pension age. Holidays will become a thing of the past as people are forced to search for jobs 365 days of the year. Yes, that is Christmas Day as well.

For disabled people there are many problems, including the fact that universal credit is claimed and managed entirely digitally, which is difficult or impossible for many disabled people.

Any mistakes on the form will probably lead to loss of benefit or a claim being disallowed and, under universal credit, a GP fit note is completely ignored and no claimants are seen as unfit for work any more.

They must have a mandatory health and work conversation (HWC) during which medically untrained “work coaches” will decide what they must do to retain their social security payments.

Further, there are massive cuts to the amount of benefit paid to severely disabled people as the severe and enhanced disability premiums have been scrapped. This means single disabled people lose over £2,000 per annum and a disabled couple over £4,000 per annum.

Many disabled people work part-time or are self-employed, yet under universal credit both of these options will become more difficult to continue with. Permitted work, where a disabled person can work two days a week and earn a small amount, has also been scrapped under universal credit.

Mental health claimants are particularly at risk of coercion under universal credit as we are seeing the use of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) “nudge unit” and psycho compulsion in the Health and Work Program.

This effectively means the introduction of forced treatment through the use of therapists based in jobcentres. If claimants don’t take the treatment prescribed, they face being sanctioned.

Changes to benefit payments will be made to the male partner in any relationship, which will make women financially dependent on men, trapping many in endless domestic violence. Disabled women are already much more likely to face domestic violence.

The appalling tax credit “rape clause” means that women can only get child tax credit payments for their first two children unless they can prove they were raped. This involves filling out a detailed 45-page form about the rape. How can any government be so vile to think this up?

Ignoring the human costs, at least £15.8 billion has been wasted to date on its implementation, yet even by 2022 only £1bn will be saved. Can anything illustrate more clearly that these attacks are not based on logic but cruel political ideology where anyone who needs the safety net of our welfare state is victimised and scapegoated.

In spite of these cuts to basic benefits that are so vital to disabled people, the government happily pays private corporations to carry out inadequate testing on us.

The contract to assess people for personal independence payments (PIP) has cost £700 million in five years, yet, when people appeal against not being awarded this benefit, 61 percent win their cases.

Similarly, Maximus, which assesses people for sickness benefits, will be paid £1.6 billion for three years which the National Audit Office has said will cost nearly double the amount saved.

Nearly 400 citizens died from malnutrition or hunger in 2015 – up 27 percent from 2008 and two people a day were admitted to hospital with malnutrition in 2016. Victorian diseases such as rickets and scurvy that had been eradicated for years have returned.

Teachers have to provide food in schools for starving children and a further one million children will lose entitlement to free school meals under universal credit.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) says none of this is acceptable in one of the richest nations in the world and we will keep fighting to change things.

We are not going away and we will not be silenced. Join us to add your voices to ours and demand MPs stop and scrap this punitive abolition of our welfare system.

Morning Star

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