Although Esther McVey minister for people with disabilities and Iain Duncan Smith say it is not about the money, disability charities have estimated thousands will see a reduction or even the loss of a payment that helps people with disabilities not only survive but live more independent lives.
The areas targeted include Dumfries and Galloway, Edinburgh and the City of Glasgow. Ironically DLA was introduced by Thatcher’s government when awards were being given to children affected by the drug Thalidomide and was in recognition of the additional expense people with disability face in living “ordinary” lives.
Despite press reports of people with chronic conditions being funded to drive expensive cars and being able to afford luxury holidays, the truth is it allows people the freedom that most of us take for granted.
It is also not easy to apply for, there is a lengthy application form and doctors and specialists are contacted as well as children’s schools. The fraud rate is estimated to be very low under 2 per cent but in their wisdom the ConDems have decided to replace this with a work capability Assessment Test and a questionnaire.
From last year all new applicants had to apply for PIP but from today in Glasgow, Dumfries and Galloway, Galashiels and Edinburgh those in receipt of DLA will be invited to endure the dreaded work capability assessment.
As is the case with the dismantling of the welfare state, private companies such as Maximus and Capita stand to make millions out of peoples misery. Many people with disabilities especially those with chronic conditions and hidden disabilities fear they will lose their entitlement to essential benefits.
“Jane” lives with MS. She can walk around with crutches and can prepare a hot meal. “I get easily tired but I can walk 100 metres so I will lose the high rate of mobility. I use this for a mobility car which I rely on. If I lose the car I won’t be able to leave the house.”
“Jane’s” fears are echoed by many other people with disabilities especially those with less obvious signs of their conditions or those whose conditions fluctuate and have good and bad days.
If the ConDems are elected again which frightening though it may be is a possibility and worse still in an alliance with UKIP this process will continue.
The DWP time-scale estimates the whole country will be forced to apply for PIP by 2017. A blitzkrieg on some of the most vulnerable in society.
People with disabilities in Glasgow and Edinburgh are also facing the cuts at local government level which sees the closure of day centres and the slashing of personal budgets Sense in Glasgow have just announced the closure of their much valued respite unit. Closing only because Glasgow City Council no longer makes referrals as it is too expensive.
What we are seeing is the McDonaldisation of care and respite having to be rationed out putting more families under pressure.
The Smith Commission promises to devolve welfare to Scotland. The SNP promise to be the party that will tackle inequality in Scotland yet it has been reported this week that they are sitting on a £440million underspend.
How much good could that amount of money do in the lives of people who need it most? Nicola Sturgeon proudly announced she was going to double the amount of motor neuron disease nurses. In Scotland that means from two to four.
We know the Labour Party are no different than the Tories and will roll out PIP and other austerity measures.
It is time for us to stake our claim that we truly are the only party that will defy austerity and have a track record of policies that tackle inequalities such as free school meals and prescriptions for all.
Let’s be proud of all we achieved so far and look forward to the years ahead and the opportunity to show we can be the architects in the creation of a kinder fairer society. I look forward to working with you.