Today in Parliament MPs vote on the Welfare Reform Bill, which the House of Lords amended in some respects. The goal of the Tory government is to cut payments to people with disabilities and to their carers by 20%.
I read this last night on Twitter and asked Helen’s permission to republish it, which she gave.
A stressed out Mum’s thoughts on the #wrb..
Just walked into the kitchen after a long working day. Danny, my 21 year old learning disabled son, has not long arrived home in his taxi and headed straight to the kitchen. I look across to the window and see I am already too late, the venetian blind and wall around the window is completely covered in yoghurt. I go and fetch a ladder and a cloth and start to clean up, quickly realising that the blind will have to come down. Dan appears back in the kitchen, sees what I am doing and quickly retreats with his hands over his ears. He knows he’s done wrong but he can’t help it, he is compelled to open and shake everything he can get his hands on… milk, yoghurts, sauce, paint, shampoo… the list goes on and on. Apart having the major clean-up operation to deal with each time, the cost of replacing these items is beyond funny.
Then there is all the furniture he breaks from bouncing on it… the clothing he rips… Imagine having a toddler who is into everything and then imagine if that toddler was suddenly the size of an adult 5’ 11’’ tall and could get into any cupboard, even if you locked it.
Today I’ve been reading about the proposed cut to benefits to families with disabled children, the latest particularly cruel punishment arising from the Welfare Reform Bill debated in the House of Lords. I can’t even begin [to] imagine how we’d have coped without additional income from benefits when Dan was younger. Apparently Lord Freud thinks a drop in income of £1,500 isn’t a significant amount and losing it will incentivise parents to go out to work – what planet is this man on? Does he have any grasp on disabled children’s real life situations at all?
Dan’s Dad and I both work full time… we’re both self employed childminders. I think about how much money Danny has cost us since he was born, and how much he will go on costing us until we become too old to care for him ourselves. Our situation is not uncommon. Up and down the country there are working and non-working families just like ours, with disabled children and young adults, just about managing to get by. Dan’s Dad and I earned below £15,000 between us last year. Dan’s Dad also gets carers allowance. We don’t qualify for working tax credits because our total income of around £18,000 including the carers allowance means our income is too high.
We’re lucky that we have a low mortgage, we’ve been in the same house for 25 years, but it’s too small for us now. Danny’s bedroom is 5’ by 10’, his older brother (who left home but couldn’t afford his rent and moved back) doesn’t even have a bedroom, he sleeps on a bed settee in the dining room. We tried to move a few yars ago but were refused a mortgage, and we can’t affort to rent a larger house.
Danny is in the support group for ESA and has an indefinite award of HRC and HRM DLA. The benefits give him an independent income and help us to meet his living costs. He doesn’t qualify for help with housing costs because he lives with us. Danny is one of the statistics that ministers and the press keep demonising when they refer to the workshy scroungers that society can no longer afford to support.
Anyone who has ever met Danny is under no illusion that he will ever work… he has severe autism and learning difficulties with no speech. He is unable to read, write his name, or communicate in any way shape or form. He cannot clean his teeth, shave himself, wash his own hair, or even wipe his own bottom. He cannot make a sandwich, use a microwave, toaster, or kettle (although he’s quite good at putting metal cutlery in the microwave and setting fire to tea towels in the toaster). He has challenging behaviour, has punched his escort in the back of the head and flung the car door open when it was moving for no apparent reason amongst other things, but he is not malicious, he just doesn’t understand why we don’t understand…
Danny has quite a good package of local authority care, he attends specialised ‘meaningful day-time activities’ with one to one support, jointly funded by health. Don’t get me started on how hard we had to fight for this, par for the course the same as our fight for appropriate education was when he was younger, but without this support in place we would be unable to work. I wonder how Lord Freud thinks the parents whose benefit he wants to cut are going to organise support for their children while they are at work. Now while all this goes on we are also being told that all local authorities have to tighten their belts. The new personalisation agenda means that support is being cut, disabled people are being told that they have to stay within budget… mustn’t exceed their share of the pot under the resource allocation system. But what if the budget doesn’t cover the cost of the services you need? ??
I worry a great deal about what will happen to Danny when we are gone, who will look after him, advocate for him. I worry about a society that sees its sick, disabled and vulnerable as a burden. I worry about a Government hell bent on making savings with no respect at all for its most vulnerable citizens. In short I’m exhausted, and I worry…
(Posted Tuesday 31st January 2012 from Helen Hale @Helen_Hale with her permission)
There are so many ethical issues with the Welfare reform Bill. The changes the House of Lords made were a teaspoon trying to bail out a leaky boat in a rough sea. The Lords insisted that Child Benefit should be exempt from calculations about the benefits cap
(Iain Duncan Smith said that was emasculating: I do hope he’s got over that. Oh wait, no I don’t *snerk*)
and single mothers shouldn’t be charged a fee and a clawback for making use of the Child Support Agency. The Tories oppose these changes. So much for children.
Iain Duncan Smith wants a benefits cap which no one who understands the issues supports and no one in Labour or the LibDems is willing to stand up and oppose.
(IDS is paid by the state something like four times the benefits cap, and claims expenses at about the same rate again: Challenge Iain Duncan Smith to claim no more that £26,000 a year from the state)
So much for people with large families and gouging landlords: no money for social housing, but “save” money by making families homeless. So much for children.
Iain Duncan Smith wants anyone claiming Jobseekers Allowance to be on a “three strikes you’re out” rule – the third time the Job Centre penalises claimants, this means all their benefits will be withdrawn for three years. If that happened to IDS, of course he could continue to live off his rich wife … but what does he imagine will happen to the people who were struggling already, who missed an appointment and then turned down a job because it didn’t fit school hours (or ESA support group hours – or anyone at all, penalised for reasons good or bad, for three years during which they must live on the street, off what they can get, because they’ll get nothing at all to help them survive?
I hate to point to any part of it to say “This is the most appalling”, but:
As someone that gets the middle or high rate care component of DLA and as someone who lives alone I’m considered “severely disabled” for such purposes. My Incapacity Benefit, including age-related premiums, is only £108.05 a week. This leaves me with a £43.60 shortfall between the amount of money the law says I need to live on and the amount of money I get. This is where the SDP comes in: I get an Income Support payment of £43.60 to bridge that gap.
The Welfare Reform Bill is scrapping the SDP. Entirely. Not replacing it with something different and stricter like the DLA to PIP changeover: It’s just going.
The cost of living is going up, not down. So why do I suddenly need £43 a week less to live on? (Lisa, at Where’s the Benefit)
Welfare Reform Bill is a rich man’s bill. Conceived by men who quite simply cannot imagine what it is like to live in a world where the loss of £43 a week means disaster. Conceived by men who have never in their lives spent a single day working as Helen Hale works.
Especially if you have a LibDem or a Tory MP, write to them today and ask them to oppose the Bill. A backbench rebellion of both Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs could kill the Bill.
And it deserves to die.
Update, 15:56 – But so fsr at least, there have been few Liberal Democrat rebels and, I think, no Tory rebels at all. it appears that every one of the minute Welfare Reform Bill reforms from the Lords will be overturned. More later on why this is a Pyrrhic victory for the government – and especially for the Liberal Democrats. Guardian liveblog