“Is the Chancellor aware of the real fear engendered among people with disabilities and disability groups that the Government will cut disability benefits through means testing, taxing benefits or a reduction in lifetime rights?” Should, by rights, be a quote from a rousing Labour speech. So imagine my shock to discover that it’s a quote from our current Prime Minister.
Back in 1997, when she was just a Tory MP, Theresa May gave the following speech in response to Gordon Brown’s first budget:
“Is the chancellor aware of the real fear engendered among people with disabilities and disability groups that the Government will cut disability benefits through means testing, taxing benefits or a reduction in lifetime rights? Will he answer the question asked by my right hon. Friend the shadow Chancellor, allay the fears of people with disabilities, clarify the Government’s position, and state categorically that the Government will not in any way reduce disability benefits?”
Let’s take these one by one:
Under Theresa May the government is now spending more administering means testing than it could possibly save. A series of high profile failures by outsourcing companies has led to the government spending ever increasing amounts to humiliate and punish claimants. The latest contractor, Maximus, has doubled the cost to taxpayers and is still underachieving.
The current situation is so dire that a recent story on the nature of questions being asked went viral. The personal, invasive and downright dangerous nature of the questions should be shocking. Some claimants were asked why they hadn’t killed themselves yet, others still were asked why their suicide attempts failed. The company is also spending millions of tax payer money defending decisions that are subsequently over turned. Over half of all appeals are successful.
The disability groups the Prime Minister refers to are rightly furious, organising campaigns to protect people from the Prime Minister’s cruel campaign. Problems are so common that many have produced guides for claimants.
Whilst benefits were never actually taxed this wasn’t for lack of trying. Iain Duncan Smith mooted the scheme back in 2014, suggesting that disability benefits be taxed at the same rate as income tax. His argument, that this would only affect wealthy claimants, was not particularly reassuring for most claimants.
Despite there not being an actual tax there was, quite famously, the bedroom tax. The bedroom tax itself was a shoddily implemented restriction of housing support for those in receipt of housing benefit. Unsurprisingly it mainly affected disabled individuals who needed the extra space to store important equipment. Horror stories soon emerged of disabled citizens being forced through humiliating routines or rendered homeless.
Reduction and Restriction:
Under Theresa May the Personal Independence Payment are set to be severely restricted to help, in the words of one MP, “really disabled people.” This might actually be the final straw for many Tory MPs, with Heidi Allen leading a rebel group to oppose the Government’s efforts to fight the restriction.
The Government’s apparent belief, that mental health issues aren’t disabilities, is categorically wrong.
It therefore seems inevitable that now I’ve pointed out the various issues Theresa May’s government has introduced that she reverse her choices. I can only assume that she will read this with some shock, given her previous stance on protected the disabled from penury at the hands of Parliament.