The Plastic Hippo

January 9, 2012

Crippled inside

Filed under: Birmingham,Health,Politics,Rights,Society,Wolverhampton — theplastichippo @ 4:54 pm


We have come a long way since the aristocracy would pay a penny to be amused at the antics of lunatics held in inhumane conditions in Bedlam. But, goodness me, the powerful and wealthy of the 18th century are a tenacious bunch.

The new aristocracy and their merchant followers wasted no time in introducing the Welfare Reform Bill in February 2011. Having brought the world to the brink of ruin, the paymasters of government insisted that the poor should pay the debts run up through reckless greed and at the same time preserve the incomes of the wealthy. So, some nonsense called “Universal Credit” was concocted to turn the screw on those most in need. The most insidious aspect of this loathsome legislation is the removal of Disability Living Allowance, hardly a benefit, but more of an absolute imperative in any humane society.

DLA has two elements, care and mobility and gives our fellow human beings a small chance at independence, dignity and the right to an existence. The coalition government, who we did not vote for, want to take this away. Consider Sarah, not her real name, who lives in Birmingham. She is in her 50`s and suffers from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Osteoarthritis, severe Eczema and, understandably, Depression. In 2001 she was awarded the higher rate of DLA for both care and mobility. Recently, the Department of Work and Pensions decided to “reassess” her claim.

A home visit was arranged to conduct the assessment. The DWP official concluded that Sarah was not entitled to any award for DLA. The report made no mention of COPD, which renders Sarah breathless and on the verge of collapse after walking a few paces or the increasing care she needs from her family. Instead, the official offered evidence of benefit fraud by noting that the “client seemed cheerful” and after using a micrometre to measure the depth of the rubber pads at the end of the clients walking aids, concluded that the crutches had seen little use. The awkward fact that the previous walking aids had worn out and had been replaced two weeks earlier is implacably ignored.

Sarah, of course, appealed against the decision, saying that the withdrawal of support had left her with suicidal thoughts. In response, the DWP official described the possibility of suicide as “blackmail” and further proof of fraud. The official then recommended that Sarah should pay back all the benefits she has received since 2001. This is the reality of social care in Cameron’s Britain even before the wretched Welfare Reform Bill has passed into law.

The bill, of course, has its critics but not many within the Houses of Parliament. The huffing and puffing of Liberal Democrat MPs and Peers does not prevent them from supporting the government’s attack on the people it has a duty to defend. Ed Miliband and the increasingly deranged Liam Byrne whine “it’s not fair” but parrot the headlines from the right-wing press regarding “scroungers”. Liam Byrne, incidentally is the Labour shadow minister for work and pensions and MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill. He is probably unaware or has decided to ignore the torture being inflicted by the DWP on my friend Sarah, not her real name.

Disability rights groups, charities, unpaid carers and even the Archbishop of Canterbury have all said that this bill will lead to disaster. Astonishingly, it required the voice of reason that is Boris Johnson to come out and say that this pernicious and discriminatory bill would harm those that can least afford to be harmed. This could be construed as opportunism with an election on the horizon, but the study commissioned by the Mayor of London started a year ago and is based on facts and not spun statistics favoured by a vindictive government.

If the idea of Johnson talking sense for once leaves you speechless, prepare to be amazed at the stance of the Daily Mail. After years and years and years of branding people with disabilities as scroungers, Paul Dacre`s vile rag has accurately reported that DLA fraud amounts to 0.5 per cent of all claims. Up until now, the Mail’s coverage of disability issues has consisted of alleged quadriplegics playing football, so-called wheelchair users pole vaulting and mildly depressed shirkers claiming more hand-outs in a week than the Prime Minister is paid in a year. From the newspaper that claims it was solely responsible for the conviction of the sub-humans that murdered Stephen Lawrence, these are lies worthy of a cabinet minister or, indeed, his shadow.

DLA fraud certainly takes place and there are some very criminally clever people who take advantage of the system and embezzle what the do not deserve. Even if only 0.5 per cent of claims are bogus, that is a serious pile of money, £1.2billion to be precise and the DWP are right to crack down on the fraudsters. However, set against the £16billion in unclaimed benefits due to real disabled people being left in the dark over their rights, the DWP are operating with a hidden agenda. It is also worth pointing out that £70billion is owed to the exchequer in tax avoidance by the able bodied. There are some very criminally clever people who take advantage of the system and embezzle what they do not deserve. Most of them donate to the Tory party and are chums of David Cameron.

Not content with simply removing the dignity and hope of people with disabilities, the Prime Minister now mocks the afflicted. His weak attempt at humour may have been “off the cuff” and irrelevant, but it give us a glimpse at the true nature of Cameron and his millionaire chums. The sadness and grief within his own family makes his premeditated attack on the NHS and social care even more obscene.

Instead of knowing their place, suffering in silence and crawling away to die to ease the budget deficit, people with disabilities are fighting back against this malicious legislation. Led by the remarkable Sue Marsh (@suey2y on Twitter), the wonderful Kaliya Franklin (@BendyGirl) and others, the real experts on disability have produced a report that exposes the government for what it is.

Liars.

Producing the report “Responsible Reform” without funding or an army of well paid civil servants, the victims of prejudice have exposed the true nastiness of Cameron’s government. In reassessing DLA claims, this bunch of toffs think that limbs will grow back after a caring glance from Iain Duncan Smith, the lame shall walk and the blind will see again after touching the hem of Maria Miller’s expensive frock. After refusing to meet disability campaigners, Maria Miller was dubbed the Minister against the Disabled and is, basically, a liar. The good people of Wolverhampton will no doubt be ashamed of their native daughter.

The campaigners wished to deliver a copy of the report to the MPs who represent them. They were told that they would have to pay £290 for the privilege. Today in parliament, £20,000 of tax payers money was spent on food and drink for our MPs.

We have come a long way since John Lennon released the Imagine album in 1971. The BBC immediately banned the title track and for good measure banned the second track because the title contained the word “cripple”. David Cameron was five years old when Imagine was released.

Even at his most cynical, Lennon could not have imagined that his words would be so prophetic more that 40 years later.

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