To quote the article which, in turn, quotes the leaked letter
“Reform to the employment support allowance is a particular priority and I am pleased that you, the prime minister and I have agreed to press ahead with reforms to the ESA as part of the spending review that will deliver net savings of at least £2.5bn by 2014-15.
Employment Support Allowance is specifically targeted at people who are unable to work for health reasons. To qualify there are a number of hoops and assessments that need to be jumped through with sufficient points but I’m no expert on benefits rules – especially benefits for adults of working age – as that is an area I have no experience of.
The details can’t be commented on because they don’t exist yet – although we’ll know soon enough – what I find particularly despicable is Osbourne, the multi-millionaire, public school educated, aristocrat who has never held a proper job in his life before politics – criticising the so-called ‘benefits lifestyle’ and cutting further money from the benefits bill on top of that already announced.
I wonder what Osbourne and his advisers know about the ‘benefits lifestyle’. I wonder if he actually, personally, speaks to people who are trapped in an inefficient benefits system and who are struggling to maintain dignity despite the governments’ rumblings. I wonder if he has ever met anyone ‘poor’ and actually spoken to them face to face. The problem is that decision-making is so far removed from the people the decisions most affect.
There has also been some very intentional obfuscation of the details of Disability Living Allowance and the announcement of more testing to ‘proof’ ones’ entitlement smacks of pulling it into the group-think of ‘benefits bad’, ‘disability bad’, that is veering on discriminatory. Of course, legally, all the bases will be covered but socially, this kind of talk DOES stigmatise disabled people. Who would be encouraged to put a claim in that they are wholly entitled to if they feel that the government and the media and by extension the ‘general public’ are castigating them for not being as fit and healthy as everyone else.
The obvious comment as well is that jobs are more difficult to find now.
I have no doubt, in fact, I’ve met a few people who don’t work and have no intention of every finding work, but that doesn’t mean that people who are entitled to the benefits that exist should feel guilty about having to claim what they are entitled to. A few people (and it IS a few people – make no mistake) do not create a ‘rule’.
There are far more people who would benefit a lot more by being supported and encouraged through the periods of time that they might have to claim state benefits to live than by being continually hounded, harangued and ostracised by the government itself buying into a media frenzy of targeting people on benefits.
It is a horrible middle-class sport to play on the ‘superiority complex’ of those who have to gloat over those who have little. We can snigger from behind our copies of the The Telegraph or The Mail at people who live in poverty and rail about how much they might cost ‘the system’ but I begrudge them far less than those who live in their Knightbridge mansions and snigger while shifting millions into off-shore accounts and playing the tax systems through their use of skilful accountancy. It is no better morally but we are allowed to target the poor and the disabled as if it were a blood sport?
But no-one is asking me.
I did not vote for a government to make a sport of taunting people who are least able to defend themselves.
I did not vote for a government to cut disability and sickness benefits.
Yes, the system of benefits needs to change but it needs to change by stripping away or means testing some of the ‘middle-class’ benefits. Universal child benefit? Seriously. Universal Winter Fuel Allowance. Scrap it as well. It should go to those who actually need it. I don’t understand tax credits at all so can’t comment on them!
The change needs to come and was supposed to come through the introduction of a ‘fairness’ principle and perhaps if we could see some more evidence of that before we hear about all the cuts being made, it might help but to be honest it isn’t just about the cuts being made. I know they need to be made. It is about the narrative that they are couched in. ‘Benefits lifestyle’ ‘scroungers’ ‘cheats’ – all the language creates an artificial divide and a social agenda that speaks very clearly to one narrow section of society while alienating another. The language is not one of reconciliation and support. It is one of stigmatisation.
This same government that scorns the people who live on ‘benefits lifestyle’ don’t want to pay for their own residential, nursing and domiciliary care costs by selling the properties they own. Is that not the same thing another way around?
I know it’s not quite the same but it isn’t a massive leap to see that there are different ‘rules’ and ‘expectations’ according to where you might figure on the social scale.
I wonder if Marx had a point.