It’s been a long time coming but it really does look as if the Coalition’s Welfare Reform Bill will be passed, unamended, despite some strong opposition in the Lords.
In this austere economic climate, the Government has succeeded in mustering a level of Opposition and public support that has prevailed against its opponents, even where it is clear some people’s lives will be seriously and adversely affected.
In fact, there remains such an incomplete understanding of the detail in these reforms that even many of those affected do not seem to understand what is happening and as for those unaffected … well, do they even try?
Watching the BBC’s This Week programme, a week or two back, there was a brief discussion with Chess Martinez on how the change from DLA to PIP would affect people. Michael Portillo, a regular contributor to the programme, did not appear to understand the distinction between DLA and IB and prefaced his comments by remarking on the amazing progress that had been made, just in his lifetime, for those with disabilities towards equal rights.
I was appalled at his ignorance and unsure how to take his comments. Was he saying ‘enough already’? Or expecting gratitude? Would he say that to those discriminated against by race, gender or sex? Aren’t equal rights the least we might expect in our society?
Irrespective of this, the salient point is surely that if a person is unable to function independently and is denied access to the mechanisms of enablement, the framework of equality in our society is a farce, a sop to the conscience of those unaffected.
BBC’s This Week, along with most other commentary on this, just did/do not seem, or willfully refuse, to consider, this, unique to those with disabilities, issue which is, for me, the real threat contained in the Welfare Reform Bill – that it will deny, to many, the support they need to function in our society.
Some of the activities assessed as needing no assistance include your being able to wash yourself above the waist, being able to mobilise using a wheelchair and being capable of walking fifty metres with aids. Wouldn’t most of us think that someone who was unable to wash themselves below the waist would need help with personal care? Or that there might be additional costs to mobilising as a wheelchair user even if you are able to propel yourself? Or think that staggering fifty metres with sticks isn’t equivalent to full mobility?
There are many other such examples but, really, the point is that if you can’t get assistance to move yourself, wash yourself and look after your own personal needs, aren’t you effectively as unequal and disenfranchised in our society as if there were no equal rights? Ditto if you cannot get out of the house, need special equipment to work, mobilise and live your life on the same basis as everyone else. How is this not self-evident to anyone who has looked at the detail of this bill?
Yet the government, media and public prefer to believe otherwise, ignore this reality, don’t bother to read the detail or maybe they just don’t care? Sadly, it’s probably a combination of all these as well as a touch of ‘not feeling the pain’ mentality but it is too late for action now.
The Government will pass its Welfare Reform Bill and it is only possible to hope that, in reality, common sense will prevail to protect those in need, though that is a commodity not much in evidence to date, or otherwise that they are booted out at the next election, leaving us all to pick up the pieces remaining of those brutalised by the consequences of their policies.
DLA - Disability Living Allowance
PIP - Personal Independence Payment
IB - Incapacity Benefit