April is coming, spring is here and summer is on its way. All seems right with the world and happiness is all around. Unless you’re one of those people – you know, the people who the UK Government thinks are workshy – who have disabilities and are struggling to find work.
Having a disability often brings with it extra costs – living is just more expensive – and that has been recognised, up until now, with a few extra pounds available in benefits as you look for work. That’s changing. From April, the month that should be bringing all that hope, disabled people looking for work who make a benefits claim will be getting less money.
I’ve got a letter from the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work telling me that cutting the benefits that disabled people get will help them into work. You might think that I must be making this up – no one would say that and expect to be taken seriously – but I only wish I was.
The minister, Penny Mordaunt MP, (remember that name, she’ll go far in this government) is taking money from people who need it and handing that money over to civil servants, advertising campaigns and innovation funds.
She tells me in her letter that “these reforms are aimed at improving the quality of life of those in greatest need”.
Improving your quality of life by removing the cash you depend on to maintain your quality of life – unless you happen to be rich, of course – when Theresa May’s government will increase the contribution you make to government coffers by cutting the amount of tax you pay. Surely, at some point, someone in the Conservative Party will get sickened by the way that their party in government is treating the people in society who need the most help. You can list the attacks, from the bedroom tax through work capability assessments to the cuts that have left working people queueing up at food banks to feed their children, but it doesn’t seem to have any impact.
I look at the austerity cuts driving these attacks on the poor, the needy, the ill and the weak, and I cannot find any real justification for them.
The UK Government is driving society backwards into camps of “the deserving” and “the undeserving”, with the deserving appearing to be those who want for nothing and the undeserving those who need a bit of help. None of it is done for any real economic benefit.
Austerity has been tried before and never worked; it doesn’t bring deficits down and it doesn’t boost the economy. It causes disquiet and disjointment in society which holds back economic growth and impoverishes whole communities. In Scotland we have our own government which is working to try to take the worst edges off the attacks and we have a way out if we want it. I have great sympathy for people in England who are suffering and will continue to suffer and don’t have a way to get out from under – it’s looking really grim for them.
Deidre Brock is SNP MP for Edinburgh North and Leith.