Yesterday, or maybe even the day before, the government announced hat it had dropped its proposal to reduce Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) to the disabled, and had no plans for further cuts in expenditure on social security. This enabled David Cameron to make, or rather re-make, the risible assertion that his party is one of Compassionate Conservatism.
However, a stop to the rot, though welcome, is not enough. For our society to deserve to be called civilised the damage that has been done to an already inadequate safety-net needs to be reversed.
Under "compassionate Cameron's" leadership, and Iain Duncan Smith's stewardship:
- the much delayed and so far incredibly wasteful Universal Credit system will, the Institute of Fiscal Studies predicts, leave 2.1 million families worse off by an average of £1 600 per year;
- the Work Capability Assessment has been extended to cover 1.5 million people in order to reduce by 23% the numbers entitled to assistance. So far 1 300 people have died within a short period of having been assessed as fit for work;
- the Bedroom Tax, designed to encourage people in social housing to move to smaller premises if they had a spare bedroom, has so far succeeded in persuading only 8% of those targeted to "downsize," largely becasue of the non-availability of smaller properties. Most of these affected were disabled, and 75% claim that they are forced to cut back on food;
- the Benefits Cap (now £23 000 per family in London and £20 000 elsewhere), imposed regardless of family size or need, will force 40 000 children into poverty;.
- Sanctions, or the stoppage of social security payments for at least four weeks for missing appointments or other Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) rules, have increased exponentially;
- an expensive Work Programme, largely administered by private companies such as G4S, fails to find long-term employment in 70% of cases;
- the objective definition of Child Poverty (living in families with less than 60% of median income) has been changed to include more nebulous and more easily fudged criteria .
( Zoe Williams, Guardian 21st March) :
. . . it is time to unpick the goal of social mobility, which is just a benign phrase for “survival of the fittest”. We need to concentrate not on a society where the ambitious can prosper, but build one in which the least economically productive still live in comfort and dignity. None of us is productive all the time, some of us aren’t productive any of the time – but we’re still as human as one another. This is an opportunity to make the point that freedom, for so long framed as the ability to compete and consume, is meaningless if your basic needs aren’t met. To chip away at any group’s means of sustenance is to be a government actively working against personal freedom.
Yes, of course there will be some "undeserving poor" who take a generous social security system for a ride, but they will be a tiny minority and we can afford it. Much better to be ripped off by this tiny minority than punish the vast majority who through no fault of their own are unable to provide fully for themselves.
I've never yet me anyone who chose to be disabled.
Oh for a political party prepared to stand up to the Red Tops and tell it like it is.