Why is Liam Byrne so keen to out-do the Tories on social security cuts?

It is well known these cuts have been savage, unfair, and that they seriously affect the disabled. But what if they actually targeted the disabled, hitting them the hardest, piling all the harshest cuts on the services that are actually the most vital?

James Elliott is a journalist who writes for the Huffington Post

It is well known these cuts have been savage, unfair, and that they seriously affect the disabled. But what if they actually targeted the disabled, hitting them the hardest, piling all the harshest cuts on the services that are actually the most vital?

Many will have seen Amnesty International’s condemnation of cuts to social care as a human rights issue, but the Centre For Welfare Reform have issued a report that states: “the cuts are not fair but targeted, and they target people in poverty, disabled people and their families”.

A rhetoric of ‘scroungers’ and the ‘culture of worklessness’ myth has hardened public opinion against welfare so much that now Labour’s Liam Byrne has joined the Tories in the global race to the bottom by suggesting the welfare cap isn’t tough enough, despite evidence it is too harsh already, increasing child poverty and homelessness.

Even Eric Pickles has admitted that the welfare cap will cost more than it saves, but what he won’t tell you is how much the Tories other ‘reforms’ are costing the disabled.

According to the Centre for Welfare Reform’s report, 70 per cent of all austerity cuts fall on budgets for benefits, universities, criminal justice and local government. Given that 60 per cent of local government budgets are spent on social care, the 40 per cent cut to local governments in England has resulted in a 33 per cent real terms cut in social care, likely to rise to 50 per cent as austerity continues to 2018.

This raid on disabled people has been devastating. Social care has absorbed this 33 per cent cut by ‘reforming’ the various types of care and replacing it with new, ‘leaner’ measures. One way to manage cuts has been for local government to redefine who is eligible.

The report states that by 2011, 78 per cent of councils had stopped supporting people with ‘Low’ or ‘moderate’ needs. This is spun as ‘focusing resources on the neediest’ when in reality government is just taking resources from the neediest.

An average citizen faces cuts to their yearly income of £467, while the disabled will lose on average £4,410, and the severely disabled will lose an incredible £8,832 on average, per year.

This means the 8 per cent of the population with disabilities bear 29 per cent of the cuts, and the 2 per cent with severe disabilities are bearing 15 per cent of all cuts. The disabled are hit nine times harder than anyone else, while the severely disabled are hit an astonishing 19 times harder.

That such drastic cuts have been seen by Amnesty International as a violation of the human rights of the disabled no longer seems so radical. In fact, one wonders why the press have not been more focused on this, and why Labour, and Byrne in particular, haven’t been more hawkish in attacking Tory austerity.

There certainly isn’t a shortage of ammunition, as well as the deluge of statistical evidence that disabled people are facing unbelievably harsh cuts, there are personal stories too.

‘Don’t Cut Us Out’ has told how Tony Munn, a man from West Sussex who relies on an oxygen cylinder to breathe, suffers from deep depression and blackouts, has been redefined as only ‘moderately’ disabled and so has lost all of his social care. Tony said:

“‘My nightmare scenario is that I will suffer a blackout, and without anyone coming to see me, will die and not be found for days or even weeks. Without contact with my care workers, I have to wonder if life will be worth living. The cut in benefits will leave me simply existing with no money to pay for support or help.”

This is the result when the public fail to realise the net cost of benefits is just £25bn, and when attacking welfare is so politically expedient.

If this is a race that Liam Byrne wants to win, he will have to out-do the havoc and pain caused by the Tory cuts outlined here. With both parties prepared to hack through the security of the disabled, there is little room for hope unless we can end ‘scrounger’ rhetoric and rebuild our crumbling welfare state.

6 Responses to “Why is Liam Byrne so keen to out-do the Tories on social security cuts?”

  1. clarebelz

    The combination of care cuts which mean I have to pay more privately for care, my care contribution paid to the local authority (despite no assets or savings), and the bedroom tax, I now pay some £5100 out of disability benefits, almost half of my income.

    This has had a devastating affect on my quality of life. I can’t use public transport, so I’m rarely able to go out as I cannot afford the taxi fare, which means I can rarely visit my aged mother, other family members or friends. I cannot save to replace household items or disability equipment (which is what the care element of my DLA is supposed to be for, but the local authority take all of that into account as income), I can rarely afford to take part in any social activity and so on.

    There seems nothing more to look forward to other than the real possibility of more cuts. If the Benefit Cap is reduced again, which it would also be for single households, I could face having to pay full rent, which would mean that I would no longer be able to pay for the care that my LA say they no longer fund. I could be left with as little as £3000 per year to live on.

    This ‘cut’s competition’ between the parties who are playing with people’s lives has to stop. It is already impoverishing vulnerable people, but will ultimately lead to abject poverty, which is unacceptable in the 6th richest country in the world.

  2. rongraves

    He’s not outdoing the Tories, he IS a Tory and a class traitor – like Miliband and many others in the party – without the guts to cross the floor of the House and join the real Conservatives.

  3. Peter

    on the one hand there is a balding reactionary, incompetent, unreflective and corrupt Tory, and on the other there is IDS!

  4. clarebelz

    Well yes Ron, I think without doubt now we can say this.

    For low paid workers and the vulnerable, there doesn’t seem anyone to turn to now, just more ‘coalitions’ of one sort or another who will cut and cut until every single public service is either abolished or privatised and therefore rationed according to the ability of a household to pay for it, or enforced payment for necessary services like with water bills, which will continue to impoverish the low paid workers and benefit claimants alike.

    I’d just got used to these cuts thinking that there are many worse off than me, and that I should be thankful, but it appears as if there’s no hope for the future whatsoever now for people like me.

    As for the unions, I’ve been commenting on ‘Touchstone’ as to why they haven’t come out with any articles on there blog site about workfare, which many ill people have been forced onto, and whom some of their members are losing working hours because of, but not one article, and actually, very few concerning welfare in general.

    The lies and propaganda are now effective to such an extent, that even ‘friends’, some of whom get tax credits for their children, which means that the mother can stay at home, agree with the government’s OBC, saying that they don’t receive £26,000 so why should anyone (not realising what Universal Credit will mean for them in terms of conditionality)? I can tell them until I’m blue in the face that because of no rent controls that the majority of money goes straight into the pockets of buy-to-let landlords who have astronomically pushed up rents, but they just think everyone receives this.

    Someone ought to do a survey in fact of how little benefit recipients actually receive. Someone may say I get £1100 per month, but if the local authority, the government, then private carers actually receive half of that back, I’m not actually receiving this amount of combined benefits, along with hundreds of thousands of other claimants.

    Hey ho. It’s just so depressing, and as I said, I’d talked myself around. No doubt many will decide it’s just not worth carrying on.

  5. Robert McKensie

    The truely disabled should be supported and provided with the care they need, but I am talking here of people that cannot move, talk think . Depression is not a disability I speak from experience of living with depressives the cure is get a job and stop thinking of yourself, Aspergers is not a disability , bi polar is not a disability these items and others need to be removed from the disabilities list totally. Where there is an option for people to work they should be encouraged down this root, work is not evil , work really can help people get over problems because they meet others expand their universe and can be proud they are supporting themselves and not living on charity.

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