Written by Holly Williams
Well it has certainly been a lively week in politics and in what seems to be becoming a nasty habit. Disabled people have once again been brought into the limelight of much of the Government’s cost cutting with Chancellor George Osborne announcing in Thursday’s budget plans to save £13billion a year by slashing payments for care aids such as walking sticks, wheelchairs, hand rails and other equipment that many people rely on to deal with basic needs such as washing and going to the toilet. This latest action is just the most recent step in a long line of measures by the Conservative party that seem to solely exist to punish and persecute the most vulnerable members of our society, which has also included the creation of the bedroom tax that penalises many disabled people for having necessary space in their homes for carers or equipment and brutal reductions to the PIPs benefit scheme that has seen a severe drop in the funds many people use to pay for support to help them live full and active lives.
Is it any wonder that so many disabled people feel victimised by this Government over the past eight years? The focus on money saving targeted at those in our society who need the most assistance and protection is now bordering on nothing more than blatant prejudice. Maybe there is something of an echo back to the days of the Thatcherite 1980s still hanging over the mind-set of the Tory party, the memory of the old ‘get on your bike and find work’ Norman Tebbitt attitude that those who don’t contribute to society financially must be given short shrift until they do.
But the reality is that the individuals who suffer the most from these cuts are on the whole unable to work and those who could possibly earn a wage are finding it harder to do so because the basic support that allows them to engage in society, simply get out of bed and dressed in the morning is being taken away from them. Perhaps the attitude of the Conservative party is even more cynical than that, perhaps they are using disabled people as their scapegoat because they are aware that they are a group whose voice still goes unheard, a minority small and powerless enough but who soak up a significant percentage of the country’s funds that their pockets can be picked to make up the national deficit. It can’t help feel like a smack in the face to learn that the savings made by the most recent rounds of cuts more or less equal the tax bonuses being offered to middle class families. What is even more hurtful is the knowledge that the Prime Minister David Cameron was the father to a disabled child and many believed that this factor would make him more sympathetic to the plight of disabled people and their families, when the opposite appears to be true. Perhaps the fact that Cameron comes from an highly affluent, privately educated family means he was able to finance his son’s care himself and has little knowledge of how hard an ordinary British family has to fight to provide essential assistance that disabled people so vitally need.
But as physics teach us, when you push against something you’re bound to find the point of resistance and it would appear that with the cuts to disability provision , that point is coming very close. The ripples of Osborne’s budget are already reverberating back towards him with blows coming from very close to home. Friday night saw the resignation of Work and Pensions Minister Ian Duncan Smith in a open letter to David Cameron in which he calls the budget cuts a ‘compromise too far’. But this is a man, you remember, who oversaw many of the most severe penalties against the Government support of disabled people so one does have to question whether this change in attitude is down to a wounded conscience or a political play in his own career. With the tide of outrage against these cuts growing in volume, is it possible that Duncan Smith is simply getting out while he still can in the hope of retaining a small shred of dignity? His outcry against his colleagues may look like a flag of hope to many fighting the cuts but I find it very hard to believe it will mark any state of real change of attitude by the Conservatives towards disabled people. Until I see real positive action and change in current policy, I won’t be holding my breath.