A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The sickest person is the one at No11

I'm reading this - http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/sep/11/george-osborne-slash-sickness-benefits - about George Osborne slashing benefits for people too disabled or ill to work and thinking about what this will mean for some of the people I was in hospital with last year.

I was lucky - my illness was serious but treatable and I am gradually getting more mobile, and I had a job that didn't require me to be able to walk in order to go back - a return that was made a lot faster by my employer making adaptions to the office and the "Access to Work" scheme helping we with transport.

But there were people on my ward with conditions like progressive MS who at some stage are going to be unable to work. I cannot believe, knowing the other strains and stresses and misery that people with conditions that stop them working have to endure, that any government is proposing making these people poorer. They did nothing to cause the economic crisis, and they should not have to contribute to solving it.

Rawls' "A Theory of Justice" basically states that you judge the fairness of a society on the basis of how it treats the least-advantaged members of it. On the basis of this proposed assault on the living standards of the disabled, the Coalition gets a remarkably low score. Mr Osborne might consider that far from being a "lifestyle choice" like some other forms of claiming benefit sometimes can be, being so sick or disabled you can't work is something the people involved have no control over. I've been there so I know what it feels like to suddenly be disabled. I was fortunate to have a treatable condition, but disability can hit any of us, and we need a welfare safety net - on the insurance principle as well as the justice one - that will enable us to have as good and meaningful a life as possible if we find ourselves unable to work.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's disingenuous to suggest people with MS or other serious illnesses are being targeted. And it would be a disgrace if they were. Do you honestly believe that everyone on benefits is a deserving cause?

Blair didn't think so after all, and I seem to remember you were a supporter.

11:35 pm, September 11, 2010

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I'm in favour of welfare reform if it is done in a way that really helps people who can work get off welfare and into work.

But the article talks about DWP/IDS fighting HMT to protect the most vulnerable. This implies Osborne is proposing cuts that will hit the most vulnerable. Otherwise you are suggesting 2 cabinet ministers are rowing about nothing.

The reforms IDS wants, which are alleged to be about supporting people into work, won't deliver the scale of savings Osborne needs fast enough, esp when there is a weak job market. It takes time to retrain people etc. So they'll have to cut across the board, hurting the genuinely unable to work.

12:13 am, September 12, 2010

Anonymous Harold said...

Where are the jobs for these disabled people? Physically fit people cannot get work so what chance do they have? This is yet another example of Tories kicking those who cannot fight back. Leave the sick alone, Cameron.

7:18 am, September 12, 2010

Blogger Bluenote said...

I worked for many years carrying out claim reviews for insurance companies on claimants under income replacement or loan protection policies. Time and again I came across people claiming inability to work due to stress or bad backs when surveillance revealed they were variously carpet fitting, repairing cars privately or carrying out a range of sundry self employed roles.

Needless to say, in addition to ripping off their insurer, they were also not paying tax on their earnings and invariably claiming a host of benefits from incapacity to housing. Now for the interesting bit.

Although insurance companies instantly stop claim payments when found to be fraudulent, there is no exchange of information between private and public sector. Hence the public purse goes on paying these cheats.

Instead of political point scoring there is a serious need for MPs to look long and hard at the benefit system and sort it out before it bankrupts the country.

One last inconsistence. Why should someone receiving incapacity benefit continue to enjoy it on top of their state pension on reaching retirement age.
Another person, who suffers a disability the day after retirement does not. Almost inviting folk to pull a 'sickie' just before they retire.

9:44 am, September 12, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quite. There are two issues here, which Labour, in their desperation to return to the lazy politics that kept them out of power for 18 years, are deliberately confusing. Luke's point in his comment is an important one. How will the reforms help the genuinely ill/disabled back to work? There is no detail on that. The second is the belief, which wasn't held when Labour were in office, that everyone on these benefits is unable to work. How many times did Blair try to fix it? - quite a lot. Field and Harman were sent to think the unthinkable in the early days. Why does this recognition fly out of the window now you're in Opposition? You need a more sophisticated line than 'the Tories are nasty'. People agreed with you on that in 83, 87, and 92!

And of course Osborne and IDS will be fighting. Welfare is by far and away the biggest spending Department. I expect he's arguing with everyone!

10:49 am, September 12, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely agree Luke, the sick shouldn't have to worry about money. Lots of cancer sufferers who simply can't work face shocking poverty at a time when their efforts should be on getting better.

We all know that there are those people that are abusing the system but Osbourne's attacks are clearly at anyone who is claiming sickness benefits. Why should the genuine suffer, it is the job of highly paid MPs to resolves these issues and not punish the needy.

I'm worried about the planned cuts and the effects these will have across our country. This is not the time to attack the sick especially when many of them are sick because of work related illness. This country is heading towards an American style system.

The LibDems should be ashamed.

10:25 pm, September 13, 2010

Anonymous Rich said...

Bluenote, what about the millions of people who genuinely need these benefits....what happens to them?

I meet people with cancer who have undergone radical surgery, their bodies simply are not capable of working. These people have often worked for years paying taxes and national insurance.....how will these people cope with these cuts. If anything they should be getting an increase in welfare. Having an illness often brings increased costs diet and special needs etc....how on earth are these people going to survive.

This isn't a fair way to tackle the deficit. What about the banks, what about the super rich and what about the corporations.

As a society we have a duty to protect and look after the most needy. It should be enshrined in our constitution out of the way of politics.

10:32 pm, September 13, 2010

Blogger Bluenote said...


I could not agree more about the need to support the genuinely sick. My point was that there are many who rip off the system and, by so doing, reduce the size of the pot that is available to assist those truly in need.

A proper all party approach is desirable to reach a system that is fair to both those that cannot work and, indeed, those that do work and have to pay the taxes to support the former.

10:52 am, September 14, 2010

Anonymous Rich said...

Yes bluebird, but the Tory plans are simply to cut the lot. We have a system in this country where those with power and money have so much influence seem to get away with paying the price for greed.

Here we are in the worst recession I can remember but the very people who are responsible are again being paid billions in bonuses. The rest are being told paycuts, pension cuts, got to work longer, pay more tax and we may lose our jobs our homes, and face extortion from high interest rates being levied by the banks.

How are the sick responsible

7:10 am, September 16, 2010

Blogger Edward Carlsson Browne said...

I agree that this is shocking, but sadly it's a continuation of Purnell's welfare 'reforms'. That god-awful idea has just allowed the Tories to be even worse.

I know of several people with real long-term disabilities who have been pronounced fit for work, when everybody who knows them is well aware that they couldn't manage a full-time job long term.

Meanwhile, benefit cheats are unlikely to be affected, because if you're prepared to make a flase claim for benefits then you're prepared to fake incapacity at your assessment.

All that's happening is that those who genuinely want to work are trying their best and mistakenly being certified as ready to work, even though there's no way they could actually manage it.

10:14 am, September 17, 2010


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