Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Should We All Be In It Together?

The image above is taken from the Guardian website and one of the only photos i could find of today's protest, the link to their story is in the main body of the post

Today's blog post topic is one i'd had no intention to write about until about an hour ago; i'd had no intention to write about it not because of any issue of worthiness but because i had heard nothing about it until today.

Right now in London thousands of people, the majority of them suffering from some form of disability are protesting against the Coalition governments cuts to the DLA (Disabled Living Allowance) and the overall reduction in welfare spending, much of which goes either directly to people suffering from disabilities or the organisations that help them. DLA is a tax exempt, non-means tested allowance that is available to anyone under 65 who has care and/or mobility assistance due to mental or physical disability and as such is a hugely important source of income for people who unsurprisingly struggle to get and maintain regular employment.

The government has introduced a new system of work capability assessments which they argue will help tackle the issue of people claiming benefits illegitimately but many of the detractors of the bill argue that it will actually lead to people with serious disabilities being denied the DLA due to them not falling within particular categories.

The DLA is split into three rates, depending on the severity of the disability and the level of care required; the highest rate is £71.40 p/w, the middle rate is £47.80 and the lowest rate is a mere £18.95, but even that can make a huge difference to a person's ability to travel to either work or support groups. It can mean elderly and disabled people not having to make any choices between food and heat. It can help people with mental and physical disabilities live something closer to a normal life rather than being trapped in their houses, reliant on the care of family members. In the end that is all most disabled people want; the opportunity to live as full a life as they can, something inevitably they need some welfare support to do.

All told an estimated 20% is being slashed from the various elements that comprise disability welfare. When Cameron and Osbourne claimed we 'are all in this together' i never really believed that was true, but i believed that even they wouldn't inflict such dramatic cuts on a portion of society who most require state assistance. I hoped that even if they were somehow to pull through on that claim and spread the cuts out fairly and across the country, that the disabled, the ill and the elderly would be exempt. Being ill or disabled is hard enough, the last thing they need is their financial support being reduced. This dismissive attitude to the needs of some of the most vulnerable members of society is sickening and depressing.

What is almost as depressing though as the cuts themselves is the lack of coverage of the protest march in the national media. At 3.55pm when i checked these papers; The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Sun, The Daily Express, The Mirror and The Times, only The Guardian and The Independent had any coverage of this story on the main page of their website.

This is the biggest protest march of disabled people in British history yet only two of the major national papers deem it worthy of high profile coverage. That's disgusting in my opinion; it's a pretty damning statement about what we look for in newspapers when they prioritise stories about X factor contestants fashion choices (The Sun), whether or not a sports presenter slept with a former footballer (The Times), a handbag worn by the Queen (The Telegraph) or the fact that William and Kate might ride bikes during their honeymoon (The Mirror) over the news that a huge number of people who enjoy neither the income or the convenience of travel that most other people do have gathered in London to protest against cuts to the aid they do receive.

The Guardian are the only paper doing what i would consider justice to the story at the moment with this live blog and a couple of reporters at the march interviewing people and i'd advise you have a read through to see the kind of people who are being hit by the coalitions cuts.

My final point i want to make is this; i try and resist just bashing bankers for the sake of it, they're an easy target but i admit my knowledge of the intricacies of international banking is far from complete. Even the topic of bonus' is not entirely clear cut for me, i'm yet to read anything which convinces me whether or not there is a danger of the banks going elsewhere, whether our regulations are more or less tight than other equivalent countries, or what the impact of a change to either factor would actually be rather than just hyperbolic statements from both sides.

What i do know is this, it is unacceptable that our government allows million pound bonuses for workers within institutions that have done as much as anyone to put us in this current economic climate and billion pound corporate tax write offs for companies like Vodafone, while making cuts to the small amounts of support and comfort available for the elements of our country who both need and deserve it more than most.

As always i'll finish with a song and continuing the theme for this week it will be a classic song, a song from an artist without whom we might not have Adele and all the other soulful white singers that are around at the moment.

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