We need a social security system that works for everyone

There is no clearer indicator of the health of a society than the way in which the sick and disabled are treated


There is no clearer indicator of the health of a society than the way in which the sick and disabled are treated. Here in Britain, the sixth richest country in the world, the Green Party is calling time on the establishment mentality which says that we can’t afford to ensure people can live in dignity.

Over the past five years, disabled people have suffered disproportionately as a consequence of coalition cuts. To say that it deserves the epithet ‘cruel Coalition’ on this ground alone is no exaggeration.

The coalition has abolished the Disability Living Allowance (replacing it with the Personal Independent Payment – targeted to be 20 per cent lower, as though somehow, mysteriously, in an ageing society, we’d seen a reduction in levels of disability).

It created the Bedroom Tax (over two-thirds of the households affected have at least one disabled member) and abolished the Independent Living Fund. That came after Labour had introduced, and the coalition continued, the deeply damaging and hopelessly inaccurate ‘fit to work’ test (which was administrated by much-hated private firm ATOS, but has now been taken over by another for-profit operator).

Our benefits system has been undermined – it is failing to live up to basic principles of decency and fairness. We live in a society where disabled adults are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled adults and where disabled people have shouldered nine times the burden of cuts as non-disabled people.

The situation for disabled people in the UK is now so dire that the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is said to be conducting an enquiry into the “grave and systematic violations” of the human rights of disabled people in the UK.

And, over the course of the next parliament, the Conservatives are promising a further £12bn of cuts to benefits.

Documents leaked today suggest that radical changes would be needed to see any further cuts to welfare spending, changes which would undoubtedly target those in our communities most in need of support. This situation cannot, and it must not, be allowed to continue.

We need a social security system which focuses on ensuring all members of our communities have access to the resources and care they need to live fulfilling lives. We need a welfare state which enables everyone to enjoy a rich and flourishing life. We need to end the current system of Work Capability Assessments, in which external contractors decide upon people’s ability to work. We must abolish the bedroom tax, support the right of every disabled child to a mainstream education, prioritise accessible public transport and support the participation of people with disabilities in sport.

This is why we have launched a specific manifesto on our promises for disabled people. It is time to choose a caring society, the kind of society we can be proud to be a part of.

Natalie Bennett is leader of the Green Party

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