Disabled people have come under attack again in the latest of George Osborne’s Budgets, with unemployed disabled people set to lose a further £30 per week. Those on Employment Support Allowance are set to have benefits cut – and this comes on top a round of cuts dished out earlier this month which could leave those on Personal Independence Payments as much as £150 worse off per week. Despite the government’s insistence that they are spending more each year on disability benefits, it might look for many, and understandably so, that disabled people are being unfairly targeted by the government under the guise of austerity.
It would appear that disabled people are being treated with utter contempt by this government and are being forced to live the lowest quality of life. While middle-earners are given help and encouragement in the form of tax breaks, disabled people are continuing to be squeezed and forced further into poverty. The message of this government seems to be is that disabled people are not valued and, if not fit to work, deserve only the lowest standard of living.
The danger for the government is that they may be taking social attitudes towards disabled people back several decades. If the government keep disabled people living in poverty, with little or no access to employment, they will inevitably undo much of the work the disabled rights movements have taken decades to achieve.
The disabled community needs investment and not cuts. With investment the government could save money in the long term by creating schemes and facilities that enabled disabled people to work and play a full part in community life.
Instead the cruel and callous decisions they are taking now will do nothing but perpetuate the attitudes that stand as a barrier that prevent disabled people being employed.
- David Reilly is a journalist and writer on disability and social affairs