It’s been a year since George Osborne introduced a major U-turn on disability benefit cuts. A decision in British politics which affected hundreds of thousands of disabled people all at once and for the worse.
The former Chancellor of the Exchequer, responsible for all economic and financial matters, made changes to Personal Independent Payment (PIP) by reducing the number of points given to people who need help with tasks such as washing themselves, clothing themselves and going to the toilet unaided, resulting in lower or no payments.
The changes to the benefits system are expected to remove 600,000 disabled people over the next five years. It has already affected 200,000 claimants by having their benefits cut or stopped, with 14,000 of those had their mobility car taken away between January and March this year.
[bctt tweet=”Despite cuts, the govt. is willing to take more away from those in need. ” username=”wearethetempest”]
However, Theresa May refuses to rule out further disability benefit cuts. The prime minister was asked about cuts to support by The Independent at a campaign at Mansfield, but she avoided giving a direct answer.
“We have changed the way that disability benefits have been paid and I know there are some issues that people continue to raise about assessments that are made on those payments. But we will continue to be moving to a system that ensures we are supporting those most in need,” she said.
Despite the detrimental impact of the recent cuts, the government is still willing to take more away from people with physical, intellectual, or mental disabilities. They haven’t offered a solution to the issues about assessments which have affected the most vulnerable in society, and who are in need of support.
But how much more can they take from those who have nothing left to give?
I started receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA) around 15 years ago. It was shortly after my bone marrow transplant when I was in and out of the hospital because of health issues related to my condition.
The tax-free benefit included a financial sum every week and a mobility car to take me to and from hospital appointments which made things easier. It was later used to help me to adapt to a ‘normal’ lifestyle. Lowered light switches and work benches. Step stools and footrests.
But the last thing people think of when they look at me or someone with my condition is the pain. I wake up every day in pain, whether it is my back or my legs from walking too far the day before. It is a niggling reminder of my disability.
[bctt tweet=”How much more can the govt take from those who have nothing left to give?” username=”wearethetempest”]
As I grew older, I started to experience more pain than usual which began to have an impact on my studies. Without the safety net of being at home and being able to have someone drive me to and from university, I considered two options – either take time out of university or use taxis whenever I could.
I chose the latter.
The cost of taking taxis was covered by the mobility benefit I received as part of my disability package. I had nothing to worry about until recently when I was summoned to an assessment under the new benefits system PIP.
And I was rejected.
[bctt tweet=”I was humiliated as I was forced to prove my disability ” username=”wearethetempest”]
The assessment consisted of two parts, questions about daily living and mobility and a physical examination. The assessor behind the desk in the room, which was held at a local gym and health center, asked questions about my activities. Can I dress? Does someone help me cook my meals?
Some of the questions did not relate to me or my condition. However, I was certain when it came to mobility. I told the assessor that I use taxis daily because I can’t bear to walk to the bus stop which is down the street from where I live.
She asked me to sit in the chair opposite her and squeeze her fingers as hard as I could. As a mother does to test her newborn baby’s reflexes. My immediate response after I left was to cry. I was embarrassed and humiliated as I was subjected to a so-called exercise to determine my disability. Something I have lived with since birth.
A few weeks after the assessment, I received a phone call from my mother. I sensed something was wrong by the tone of her voice. That was when she told me I hadn’t been awarded the mobility benefit under PIP.
[bctt tweet=”Not only had my mobility benefit been stopped, my independence had been criticized.” username=”wearethetempest”]
They had determined I didn’t need help based on the descriptors provided by the assessor. The assessor noted, “You can stand and then move more than 50 meters but not more than 200 meters either aided or unaided.”
Did they listen when I expressed my concern that I may be in a wheelchair in the next five years? The factor of whether I am in pain when I stand or move was not considered.
I felt numb. Not only had my mobility benefit been stopped, but my independence had been criticized. Something I am proud of because I’ve managed to adapt to the world not made for me without asking for special treatment or equipment.
The cuts to disability benefits have not helped disabled people find work but forced them into further poverty. It is undoubtedly a targeted attack on disabled people, a minority which the government perceives to be the weakest and therefore the easiest to inflict cuts onto.
It seems like the cuts are only the beginning of a bigger problem. What that is, I don’t know, but disabled people are living in fear.
But it needs to stop right now.