According to the Centre for Welfare Reform, the people who’ve been hardest hit by the Coalition Government’s cuts are those with disabilities. Disabled people have been hit by the cuts nine times more than the average person.
What about the most severely disabled people? Has there been extra protection for the most severely disabled? After all, David Cameron promised that the cuts would be delivered with compassion and social justice, and the most severely disabled would be protected and get the most support. However, they have been hit even harder: severely disabled people have been affected by the cuts 19 times more than the average person.
These have been cuts by stealth, under-reported in the press:
- the change from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence payment left 500,000 genuinely disabled people without that crucial support;
- the Independent Living Fund was axed, which provided 24 hour care for 18,000 of the most severely disabled people in the country;
- the Local Council care budgets were slashed mercilessly;
- the spare room subsidy (‘bedroom tax’) hit disabled families hard – up to two thirds of those affected by the bedroom tax have a disabled person in their family.
- the cuts to legal aid make it difficult to appeal the frequently inaccurate decisions by Atos and the DWP to cut off benefits from genuine claimants.
It is expensive to be disabled. Mobility assistance, carers, guides, all cost money, which is why it costs disabled people an average of £550 more per month just to eat, wash, dress, move around – in other words, live.
One third of working-age disabled people already live in poverty. This is why disability benefits are so crucial to a compassionate society, and why further cuts must be resisted by Christians who care about protecting the most vulnerable.
Tanya Marlow, an author and minister’s wife who is herself housebound and disabled by severe Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, decided to take action. Following the election she launched Compassionate Britain – speaking up for disabled people, which is a grassroots campaigning organisation seeking to unite Christians and others to speak up for disabled people against the cuts.
In an open letter to Conservative voters, which received more than 13,500 hits in its first 36 hours, she wrote:
“Austerity should mean that everyone tightens their belts, and yet the sharp edge of the cuts has fallen repeatedly and disproportionately onto the most vulnerable. Disabled people have been cut so deep they are collectively bleeding.”
Since its launch, hundreds of people have signed up to get involved, write to their MP, and speak up for disabled people.
“We would love it if as many Christians as possible would say with us that disabled people matter, and that, as Christians, we care about a just and compassionate society for the most vulnerable,” Marlow says. “We’re asking everyone to write even a short letter to their MP, saying that they want the government to protect disabled people from further cuts.”