Skip to main content

The WOWpetition; time for fairness for the sick and disabled

A new war against poverty has been launched in the form of a petition. The WOWpetition calls for the repeal of the Welfare Reform Act and its pernicious attack on those receiving disability benefits. If you believe in fairness I urge you to sign this petition. It is a reasonable petition.  It calls for a debate. It asks parliament to reconsider.  It asks for an assessment of the impact of the government's welfare reforms on the sick and disabled. The British Medical Association has expressed its concerns about the impact of work assessments and the role doctors are being asked to play if employed by ATOS, the company contracted to do the assessments. I have considered in a previous post the cruelty and unethical nature of the disability assessments.

This should not be a party political issue. The criteria and assessment are clearly not working. With over 40% of appeals against the decisions made by ATOS being successful, it is clear that the regime is not working. Hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled people have been wrongly assessed. It is a brutal regime and the criteria and decisions are not transparent. It is time parliament looked again at this brutal regime.

And 'brutal' is the right word. Earlier this year, an investigation published by the Commons Works and Pensions Select Committee found that some patients had their benefits stopped as a punishment for not being able to attend an assessment because they were too ill or there had been an administrative blunder. This is a disgrace.

Liberal Democrats expressed their concerns about ATOS and the assessments at their party conference yet they continue to give support through the coalition. It is time they stood up for the sick and disabled.

A century  ago a reformist Liberal government sowed the first seeds of the welfare state. Introducing his reforming budget in 1909, David Lloyd George talked of waging war against poverty.

"This is a war budget. It is for raising money to wage implacable warfare against poverty and squalidness. I cannot help hoping and believing that before this generation has passed away, we shall have advanced a great step towards that good time, when poverty, and the wretchedness and human degradation which always follows in its camp, will be as remote to the people of this country as the wolves which once infested the forests."

The reformist Liberal Government of 1906-11 ushered in a fundamental change in how the British government considered its responsibilities to the people. It took a responsibility for poverty, its causes, consequences and its prevention. It enacted legislation focussed on four vulnerable groups: the old, the young, the sick and the unemployed. They introduced old age pensions, allowed local authorities to provide free school meals for poor children. They set up juvenile courts and borstals rather then sending young people to prison. They introduced the first National Insurance Act in 1911 providing compulsory health insurance and labour exchanges to help the unemployed find work. The idea was to provide basic support rather than total provision. Indeed, a criticism was that the reforms didn't go far enough.   But it was a start. Whatever the intention, the seeds of the welfare state were sown. It prepared the ground for the building of the post war Welfare State by the Labour government of 1945 and the foundation of the National Health Service. It transformed the lives of all of us.

It is time we waged another war. A war for fairness.







Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Ian Duncan-Smith says he wants to make those on benefits 'better people'!

By any account, the government's austerity strategy is utilitarian. It justifies its approach by the presumed potential ends. It's objective is to cut the deficit, but it has also adopted another objective which is specifically targeted. It seeks to drive people off benefits and 'back to work'.  The two together are toxic to the poorest in society. Those least able to cope are the most affected by the cuts in benefits and the loss of services. It is the coupling of these two strategic aims that make their policies ethically questionable. For, by combining the two, slashing the value of benefits to make budget savings while also changing the benefits system, the highest burden falls on a specific group, those dependent on benefits. For the greater good of the majority, a minority group, those on benefits, are being sacrificed; sacrificed on the altar of austerity. And they are being sacrificed in part so that others may be spared. Utilitarian ethics considers the ba

The secret life of Giant Pandas

Giant pandas, Ailuropoda melanoleuca , have usually been regarded as solitary creatures, coming together only to mate; but recent studies have begun to reveal a secret social life for these enigmatic bears.  GPS tracking shows they cross each others path more often than previously thought, and spend time together.  What we don't know is what they are doing when together.  Photo by  Sid Balachandran  on  Unsplash For such large mammals, pandas have relatively small home ranges. Perhaps this is no surprise. Pandas feed almost exclusively on bamboo. The only real threat to pandas has come from humans. No wonder then that the panda is the symbol of the WWF.  Pandas communicate with one another through vocalization and scent marking. They spray urine, claw tree trunks and rub against objects to mark their paths, yet they do not appear to be territorial as individuals.  Pandas are 99% vegetarian, but, oddly, their digestive system is more typical of a carnivore. For the 1% of their diet

Work Capability Assessments cause suffering for the mentally ill

People suffering from mental health problems are often the most vulnerable when seeking help. Mental health can have a major impact on work, housing, relationships and finances. The Work Capability Assessments (WCA) thus present a particular challenge to those suffering mental illness.  The mentally ill also are often the least able to present their case. Staff involved in assessments lack sufficient expertise or training to understand mental health issues and how they affect capability. Because of  concerns that Work Capability Assessments will have a particularly detrimental effect on the mentally ill,  an  e-petition  on the government web site calls on the Department of Work and Pensions to exclude people with complex mental health problems such as paranoid schizophrenia and personality disorders. Problems with the WCA  have been highlighted in general by the fact that up to 78% of 'fit to work' decisions are  being overturned on appeal. It is all to the good that they