Thursday, 2 June 2011

Lambeth and the Cuts

There is little doubt now that disabled people are taking the brunt of these Tory-led cuts; cuts that, if allowed to continue will see the demise of a welfare state once the envy of working people the world over. A welfare state, which incorporated an NHS, a scheme, which at its best, cared medically for the individual from the cradle to the grave – free at the point of need.

These cuts and depravations are raining down on us both nationally and locally. So, if the Tory storm misses you nationally, you can bet on a sustained downpour from your local council. Nationally disabled people are undergoing migration from Incapacity Benefit and Income Support to, if they’re fortunate, Employment Support Allowance or ESA Work Related Activity Group; or, if they’re unfortunate, Job Seekers’ Allowance – accompanied by a massive fall in income.

Should you be wrongly assessed onto JSA there is a strong likelihood that the DWP will deem you unqualified for DLA, thus this benefit would also be withdrawn. Anyone finding themselves in this predicament should file for an appeal, as many appellants successfully get themselves reassessed upwards.

Lambeth Council, to its everlasting shame, has made cuts of £37 million for this financial year. The cuts have hit home viciously, with organisations such as People First Lambeth, a self-help group for adults with learning disabilities losing their funding grant. This is not only a loss for disabled people in the Borough. Social enterprises and businesses will lose out. PFL were the experts in their field. Lambeth has lost something irreplaceable with the closure of PFL.

Sadly, many other voluntary groups have also lost funding. So much so that many have had to pare back their services to disabled people in Lambeth. Just as we think we’re making progress; just when we begin to feel the benefits of living in a wealthy country in the second decade of the 21st century, casino capitalists begin playing recklessly with our futures; opportunistic multi-millionaire politicians set their ideological deficit-busting in train.

While we poured money into depleted bank vaults, these banks greedily took the money, refinanced, and locked their vaults against small businesses and new mortgages. Bloated on our money these banks continued paying out obscene bonuses. Thus in saving the banking system the country took on a large deficit.

So, to who does the government pick on. Do they go to the source, the banks? No, they attack the public service jobs and services. In true Tory style, they sacrifice jobs over investment.

The government could have taken a different direction. Had they chased down tax cheats as doggedly as they pursue benefits’ cheats, the deficit would be taken care of. A Robin Hood Tax could generate tens of billions per annum while barely registering on individual speculative bank transactions.

Rather than forcing their own class in the financial services sector to pay its share; this regime places the burden on the poor. Unlike their wealthy neighbours poorer paid people and those on fixed incomes are the backbone of our economy. Disabled and elderly citizens, often, spend most of their income within their local economies. They pay more of their income on rents, a greater proportion on food, and they spend benefits on services such as care provision – employing others locally.

Disabled and elderly people and public services workers, we’re the goose laying the golden egg. The golden egg of taxes, NI and spending in the local economy. Take away these jobs, these services and benefits, and the golden eggs stop being laid.

The near future could see further cuts in areas such as care, TaxiCard, and Freedom Passes. All these three areas are currently under consultation. There is a strong likelihood that care costs will rise while individual care packages may be cut.

The TaxiCard service will become diluted. Customers will receive fewer journeys; the cost of individual trips will rise; and, the overall subsidy will be eroded. Basically, an individual journey will be far shorter; this will shrink the personal boundaries within which we live; friends and families living relatively short distances away will go unvisited.

Similarly, discretionary Freedom Passes for mental health service users could be abolished. People from these groups are predicting a rise in suicides amongst their number. In abolishing the pass the Council is in effect imprisoning many hundreds of people; unable to visit friends, families, and support groups some will find such enforced isolation intolerable.

I cannot by and let the few destroy my class! I will not stand by and see my welfare state destroyed and sold-off for short-term profit! I will resist these thieves in our midst! 

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