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Campaigners for an end to the unfair cuts that have led to the deaths of 73 disabled people every week have launched a new petition, calling for the government to pause and review this deadly regime.
It comes days after an earlier attempt, known as “Pat’s Petition” failed due to a lack of support by the mainstream media. Even though it was starved of publicity, the petition gained more than 62,000 signatures – but it needed 100,000 to secure a Parliamentary debate.
The petition calls for the government to “Stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families.” It says the Welfare Reform Act (brainchild of Iain Duncan Smith and his Department for Work and Pensions) should be be reviewed and the government should “amend its contents in a fairer and more socially-acceptable format.”
I can already hear cries of disbelief from some of you, as you read this. Don’t tell me – you don’t know anything about this; you thought that the government was cracking down on benefit scroungers, not people who deserved help; you thought the mainstream press had been telling you the facts.
You thought wrong, I’m afraid!
But you’re not alone. I refer you to this comment from Cyril Zeldane, on my previous article about the petition: “I was very upset by this, and by what ATOS, JC+, DWP and the state more broadly has been doing for a while… I was equally angry to hear about it for the first time today, now that it’s too late.”
The simple fact is that the mainstream media have been tranquillising the population by burying the facts. I’m talking about the BBC, ITV, national and local radio, the Daily Mail, the Express, the Telegraph, the Sun… the list goes on and on. Some papers like the Independent and the Guardian carry sporadic accounts, and columnists like Sonia Poulton have been slugging it out like gladiators to get the message across.
But most people are as “Jay” describes in his comment to the petition piece: “People still don’t care enough because they still don’t understand what is happening.”
What’s happening is this: People on welfare – the sick, the disabled, the unemployed and the elderly – have been collectively labelled as scroungers. Stories in the right-wing press and on television have reinforced this view, by showing benefit cheats being brought to justice. Of course, benefit fraudsters do exist – but they total 0.4 per cent of the total number of claimants.
Meanwhile, the government’s policy, enacted by Atos assessors through the work capability assessment for Employment and Support Allowance, is to allow just 13 per cent of claimants a secure future, knowing that they will continue to receive benefit for an indefinite period of time – although even then, ESA payments are lower than the Incapacity Benefit that it has replaced.
Of the remaining 87 per cent, most are branded “fit for work” and lose their benefits. Some go on to the ‘work-related activity’ group of ESA recipients, continuing to receive benefit for 365 days (one year), during which time they are expected to take steps to ensure they are fit for work by the time their benefit runs out. This group includes people with progressive conditions who will never get better, but who have been put their because Atos have a quota to meet.
The effect on the health of disabled people who have been through this process is catastrophic. Current figures, which have been made available by the government after a Freedom of Information request, show that on average, 73 people are dying every week due to the strain of losing their benefit.
One such person is Brian McArdle, whose son Kieran told the Daily Record (“The what?” I hear you cry. News blackout in the mainstream press, remember? You’ll only read about it in more independently-minded papers like the Record) that “constant worry about how he would survive without the cash he needed robbed Brian of the will to live”.
It seems the 57-year-old had a stroke on Boxing Day last year which left him paralysed down his left side, unable to speak properly, blind in one eye and barely able to eat or dress, but after a work capability assessment he was found fit for work and his benefits were stopped. He had another stroke days before his appointment, and the heart attack that killed him came the day after his benefits were stopped.
That’s the truth of the Coalition’s disability benefit assessment regime.
Now that you know, please go to the government’s e-petitions site, sign the petition (it’s only a click away via the link in this article) and get your friends to do the same.
And spread the word, because you can’t rely on the mass media to do it for you.