1 year on: Coalition and Disability


As has already been mentioned in the recent blog entry by Baroness Grey-Thompson, on Thursday, ahead of the biggest ever lobby of Parliament by disabled people this Wednesday, I introduced a debate calling attention to the impact of Government policies on disabled people.  The general opinion was that it went very well.  We had an Olympian maiden speech from Lord Fellowes of West Stafford who, extrapolating from his own experience, demonstrated remarkable empathy with the situation of disabled people.  There was certainly plenty to draw attention to so it was disappointing that we had Lord Taylor of Holbeach responding to the debate instead of Lord Freud who had been knocked down by a cyclist and had had to go to hospital.  The word was that Lord Freud had sustained no lasting damage and Lord Taylor nobly stepped into the breach but he was obviously not in a position to respond to points made in the way that Lord Freud would have been.

It was also disappointing that time ran out and absurdly rigid House rules prevented me from making any reply to the debate, not even to observe the normal courtesies of thanking the speakers, etc.  even when there was no pressure of time (the House rose before 5).

Had I been able to reply I should have said that, even for someone as hard-boiled as me, it had been a powerful and moving debate, with a number of the speeches bringing out the realities of life as a disabled person–something I wasn’t able to do as much as I should have liked in my introduction.  I thought a number of speakers brought out how the vulnerability of disabled people is much more endemic and ongoing than the benefits system allows for, and Baroness Browning in particular stressed how hard won support is in face of an assessment system which is callous, bureaucratic, dismissive, disrespectful and Kafkaesque.

A number of speakers showed how failure to provide the necessary support could be a false economy, and I think this is something which would merit further attention.  Baroness Campbell showed how this could lead to the undermining of human rights, and altogether the burden on disabled people is disproportionate.

I hope ministers will reflect on the debate, and that it will be used to inform the various reports which have to be submitted this summer on the UK’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled P.  We still have some work to do I’m afraid to get the Libdems to see that it is just as important for them to push back against the Government’s harsh policies for welfare reform as on the Health Service.

11 comments for “1 year on: Coalition and Disability

  1. Carl.H
    09/05/2011 at 5:55 pm

    “Baroness Browning in particular stressed how hard won support is in face of an assessment system which is callous, bureaucratic, dismissive, disrespectful and Kafkaesque.”

    The assessment system is really not fit for purpose. Physical disability is often difficult to diagnose as some sufferers find and can vary on a daily basis but Mental illness which accounts for 10% of disability claims is far worse. One of the main causes of mental illness is stress and of those not caused by it, stress, itself may make matters worse. The system is designed to create a situation of stress where one is being tested, examined and perhaps benefits stopped until you can prove you are truly worthy which with medical ailments can be difficult at times since Doctors and Medical Practitioners only offer opinions in a lot of cases. There are a miriad of diseases with ill defined symptoms, ME for example which some in the medical profession even now state does not exist.

    My sister a severe sufferer of distonia and other diseases which appear to change name weekly according to varying doctors, has had her claim stopped on numerous occassions whilst different advice is sought.

  2. bob
    09/05/2011 at 7:46 pm

    Lord Low, thank you for your wonderful speech and you ongoing efforts to set these dreadful wrongs right.

    Are you aware of the Guardian article yesterday which states that Staff working for jobcentres and other DWP contractors have been given guidelines on how to deal with suicide threats from claimants as the squeeze on benefits takes hold.

    The internal document was sent to the Guardian by a senior jobcentre employee who has worked for the DWP for more than 20 years. It was accompanied by a letter from the source that said: “Absolutely nobody has ever seen this guidance before, leading staff to believe it has been put together ahead of the incapacity benefit and disability living allowance cuts.”


    What sort of world are we being asked to live in when the only response by the government to the hugely growing number of people, Charities and Organisations who are strongly condemning these so-called Welfare ‘reforms’, is training in how to deal with the anticipated suicides?!!

    Lord Low, it seems at the moment that the only people in Parliament speaking up for us are the Lords, and I urge you to continue to
    vehemently oppose not only the specific details of the cuts to benefits, including the Time Limiting of ESA and the abolition of DLA, but also the general direction this “Welfare reform” is heading in.

    When David Cameron announced that the Government would measure people’s quality of life as well as economic growth in his £2 million ‘happiness index’, which starts this month, he said

    “…I say finding out what will improve lives and acting on it is the serious business of government…I think this debate will help us think more carefully about how we are affecting the quality of people’s lives…”

    There is obviously a very serious disconnect between what he says and what he does… or is it that sick and disabled people are not actually worth his consideration at all when it comes to quality of life?

    £2 million for a Happiness Index on the one hand, Suicide Training on the other…?!!

    I think the UK’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People will be found to be sorely lacking.

  3. Senex
    09/05/2011 at 8:22 pm

    LL: You speak with clarity as usual but it seems to me that a disability comes in one of two varieties. There is the onset of a disability when there has previously been none and those that have always lived with a disability and continue to do so. For the latter there is nothing odd at all about the way they are, they are well balanced perfectly normal people, for the former there is a certain amount of angst associated with them; they are the most proactive in pursuing equality because they are ill at ease with themselves. You only get back what you put out. I don’t think the government is going to go out of its way to handicap these people; what the state cannot afford a state of community must make up for.

  4. Skye
    10/05/2011 at 7:34 am

    “they are the most proactive in pursuing equality because they are ill at ease with themselves. You only get back what you put out.”

    That sounds much to much like “deserving poor” Senex. One should not have to achieve some sort of ‘state of grace’ in order to get one’s benefits. One shouldn’t have to accept fate and go quietly tugging the forelock before one is capable of accessing the DLA payments. And if one “gets back what one puts out” then perhaps it is understood why the newly disabled is so furious – someone who works hard and puts forth NI savings for years, then suddenly finds they’re being considered a faker, guilty before innocent, is enough to get anyone riled up.

    The state seems quite able to afford for a lot of very expensive things (in my community, new flashy council offices for one) and yet disabled people are losing overnight care and being given incontinence pads instead – even if they are not incontinent. Think about this for a moment; you’re trapped in bed, unable to move, need to use the loo, but can’t get up to do it. The person who was hired to be there with you at night has been let go. You have little choice but to soil yourself…and then wait in your own wastes until someone comes in the morning to clean you up. I can just see the neighbours clamouring for that job – having a prone, vulnerable person at one’s mercy is liking ringing a bell for abuse.

    “Sensationalist scaremongering” the media calls it. One of my dearest friends calls it “just another day in my reality.” I’m seething as she worked for years with children, teaching the next generation but, now that she’s ill, she’s no longer considered important.

    This has to stop. People are desperate, and I think the worst is yet to come when people feel they have nothing left to lose.

    Thank you for speaking out

  5. maude elwes
    10/05/2011 at 5:22 pm

    I think this thread must be suggesting the Tax Payer get his just deserts from Parliament prior to paying the annual salary of the House members. And that if we do not feel the members have put in an appropriate performance they also should lose the benefit of being an MP or Lord and forfeit accordingly. This would only be ‘fair’ now wouldn’t it? Equality?

    Additionally, why should the tax payer go on being saddled with old and failed Parliamentarians who they voted out and no longer want to represent them? Shoving them into the Lords at the cost to the people is beyond belief. The utter audacity of it takes the cake.

    The seriously mentally ill man I mentioned in a previous thread has had his benefits stopped. And this after diligently paying his taxes from the age of seventeen until he reached fifty and became seriously mentally ill. A man who ran his own business until politics and the policies of Globalization made it impossible for him to compete financially with Chinese slave labour wages.

    He is now waiting to go into a unit of homelessness for the mentally ill, whilst having to once again, fight for his benefits. after now being homeless and having already been through this terrible ordeal for over a year.

    This is a practice brought in by Duncan Smith. And it is designed to give as much stress and uncertainty as possible to the seriously ill. In the hope that somehow they will give up and fade away.

    That is breach of contract. The government assured this man when he paid his exorbitant tax, the reason for which, he was assured, should he find himself in dire straights he would be cared for.

    To now deny him those benefits is to renege on the deal made between State and Public. He should be able to sue on the grounds of malicious aggravation during severe illness thereby exacerbating his condition to the detriment of his life.

    Will he be able to do that, and with the assistance of ‘legal aid.’ Oh, I forgot, that is now only in place for immigrants to fight to remain here in our country at our cost.

    How the State gets away with this is an enigma.

  6. Senex
    11/05/2011 at 4:17 pm

    ME: “How the State gets away with this is an enigma.”

    I am entirely with you on the subject of taxation. The problem is that taxation is not unlike a TV show that offers you three easy choices to win a prize. From an individuals perspective they may only spend a couple of pounds on a gamble; the real winner is the show host because if 20,000 people respond a prize of 5000 is small compared to the income received. The real challenge for the show host is how to maintain a sustainable income that is providing millions.

    Lets look at this from a taxation point of view. The average amount paid is just less than half of a person’s gross income. The prize is to take advantage of any of the facilities the state has to offer courtesy of the tax payer. The Treasury wins because most tax payers do no claim a prize they simply pay the money. So where does the money earned by the Treasury go? I would argue it goes on the infrastructure of society and that the Treasury spends more than is coming in.

    A prime example of this is the Treasury releasing reserve moneys to prosecute a ‘war’ when those funds are part of our safety net. Whats more the Commons to a man voted to do this in a manner similar to the Iraq war. How can the public do anything about this? The answer is they can’t because they cannot through the vote get rid of the Commons en bloc. The Commons has taken upon itself a questionable use of state monies for military adventures and has borrowed this trait from a monarchy imprisoned by a bill of rights and the monarchy approves this.

    Who is responsible? Lord Blagger! Whilst he wants rid of the HoL entirely, he must be very satisfied that it cannot act to curb the spending ambition and largesse of the Commons. When the old money ran the HoL taxation came from the wealthy and they were well represented in the house and could discourage Commons spending. When the new money came along the old money found itself broke and unable to pay taxes on the scale it once did. The wealth moved to the people leaving nobody to defend their financial interests least of all the HoL.

    Yes, the state gets away with it and people suffer as a result. The GDP per capita continues to fall and the state is essentially a spending machine that woos its electorate without regard to maintaining a sustainable taxation income – I must say the people and the Commons deserve each other. All I ask is that a legitimised HoL might stand up to the Commons and protects every body’s interests for the greater good and perhaps with the consent of the people their financial interests too.

  7. bob
    11/05/2011 at 5:13 pm

    Think outside the box for a moment and consider this –

    A Robin Hood Tax could pay for the cuts to Disability Living Allowance in just 9.5 days.


    • maude elwes
      11/05/2011 at 9:14 pm

      @bob: I am with you on the Robin Hood Tax I asked this website to put up the advert here. They kindly did. Which they didn’t have to do. So, that was heart warming.

      @Senex: Mmm… Well I agree with a great deal of your explanation. However, there is more to it than that.

      And this is a real simplification of the reality.

      First, the income the State has from Taxation is the equivalent of the insurance companies. The state invests it and is supposed to receive a large pay off from its speculation.

      What really happens is, their investments are weak and they often do not reap what they are expecting to. They gamble, in the same way we see the banks do it. And they do it via those same banks, which is why they cannot curb the profligacy therein. Because they are in it together. Hence the Fred Goodwin’s of the world get away with it. As do politicians. Blair/Brown for example.

      You will notice, as we grow poorer as a State, political individuals grow richer. And this is done in part through the war games you mentioned. War makes money for individuals who invest in arms. Even though it bankrupts the state who plays the game. A good example is Bush and Cheney. Who, of course, put a word in Blair’s ear. Although this is the tip of the iceberg.

      Medical investments, we could look at the buying of vaccines for the NHS. Who has the benefit from the billions made from that? Look at the investors, who are they? A good example would be the toxic blood purchased from the US who knew it had been taken from prisoners with possible HIV. But still lit via a company which had investors. The State buys, the investors grow rich.

      And the State is the tax payer. So it is the Tax payer or the social coffers that deplete whilst those in the know prosper. And who are those in the know?

      In other words, the poor are being robbed whilst the rich become insatiable.

      Now you say the people and the politicians deserve each other. But the fact is, the ordinary tax payer has no idea what is going on. All they know is somehow they are being robbed. And they cannot figure it out.

      They ask themselves, why are we at war, why are we losing all we fought for as a nation? What is happening here? And they cannot fathom how they are being conned by those who claim to have our best at heart.

      The only answer I can envisage is to follow the example of the Emperor Hadrian and excuse all dept. It worked well, the people were exonerated and the State triumphed.


      Hadrian burnt all registers of public debt.


      They speak of canceling the debt of poor countries. But why not cancel all debt, world wide. Now that would make a difference to us all. And it must be possible.


      • Senex
        12/05/2011 at 8:13 pm

        ME: “Hadrian burnt all registers of public debt.”

        Been there done it! Parliament incinerated all of its tally sticks. It was done with such enthusiasm and haste that the boilers in the basement overheated and Parliament burned down. Are you suggesting we do this again?

        Ref: Tally sticks and the burning of Parliament

        • maude elwes
          13/05/2011 at 2:19 pm


          Unfortunately, the URL for the burning doesn’t respond. Pity as I would liked to have known about that.

          Nevertheless, they didn’t do it well enough and yes, they should do it again.

          This time relieving us all of debt, personal and collective. Look how free we would be!

  8. Senex
    11/05/2011 at 9:04 pm

    Bob I think you miss the point. Taxation relies upon volume. What you may not realise is that about 3% of very large companies provide employment for about 50% of taxpayers. The remainder goes to smaller businesses and the tax take is lower because of self employment. The problem with a ‘Robin Hood’ tax is that it would not generate enough revenue even though the figures seem huge. Most of our indigenous larger companies and their employments have gone the way of the dodo, those that remain are foreign owned, highly mobile and very annoyed. If any government were to do this it would be just another example of the Commons inability to maintain sustainable taxation.

Comments are closed.