It has been interesting to observe the debate on welfare spending over the last few months and how politicians have used the current economic climate to try and bring the British public onto their side of the fence. A wide range of adjectives have been used interchangeably to describe welfare recipients, from those who keep their curtains drawn on working days, to skivers v strivers and right down to scrounger. The media are part of this narrative that has been unfolding over the past few months.
As words are thrown around to describe unemployed people, it is evident that Britain is rapidly turning into a divided society in modern times more than ever before. While the current welfare changes are applauded by those in favour of less government spending, the speed with which the reforms have been implemented is being opposed by others on the left, who feel the cuts are having a catastrophic impact on many communities and have led to accelerated inequality.
The current government have presented a strong case for the reduction of the welfare budget to tackle the deficit. The bone of contention for most critics of the current policies is that the manner in which changes are being made has created an atmosphere aimed at vilifying the poor and vulnerable. Many people claim that It feels like a war is being waged on the vulnerable and the poor.
Recently three disable people applied for judicial review to challenge the decision of the Secretary for Work and Pensions to subject applicants for disability allowance claims to tests which would determine whether they were eligible to make a claim. This challenge is a clear indication that issues regarding fairness were not considered when the decision was made to subject claimants to a series of tests. There is a strong feeling that disabled people were not put at the “heart of the consultation process”.
Most people with disabilities who are heavily dependant on these payments because of their illnesses which will never get better, feel humiliated and dehumanised. The negative way in which the press and politicians have handled the debate on welfare, has resulted in an increase in the number of disabled people being physically attacked or abused verbally on the streets. Charities such as Scope which carries out polls of people with disabilities revealed recently that there has been an increase in hostility and verbal abuse towards at least two-thirds of people with disabilities in the first quarter of last year.
There is a need to handle the current debate in a more responsible way that is not divisive and will not have this nation look back years from now, in shame at the appalling way in which vulnerable members of our society have been treated.
- Charity says too many claiming disability support (abc.net.au)
- Government admits it did not consider impact of welfare changes to disabled people (liberalconspiracy.org)
- Quarter of disabled people living below poverty line (abc.net.au)
- We are building a fair welfare state | Esther McVey (guardian.co.uk)
- Welfare cuts will cost disabled people £28bn over five years (guardian.co.uk)
- Disability cuts come with a dehumanising rhetoric | Frances Ryan (guardian.co.uk)
- New welfare row as 600,000 are set to come off disability benefit (telegraph.co.uk)