Dear Mr Cameron et al,
I am writing to you about the merciless war you and your Government appear to be waging against disabled people in this country.
What are you trying to do to us? Before the election in May there were numerous reports in the press that you were planning on restricting the amount of money disabled people can claim under the Access to Work Scheme prior to axing it copletely. Yesterday saw the end of the Independent Living Fund. This morning we awoke to the news that you are proposing to reduce Employment Support Allowance by getting rid of the Work Related Activity Group and cut the amount of money disabled people receive.
Do you understand what this money you are trying to ‘save’ is used for? I’m not sure that you do. Let me explain:
Access to Work (AtW) is money is granted to disabled people in work to put them on a level playing field with non-disabled people in the same workplace. It is often used by disabled people to pay for a cab to get to and from work because public transport is not accessible. It can also be used to pay for equipment in the workplace such as voice recognition software for visually disabled people or for people with learning difficulties. It can be used to pay for disabled people to have an assistant in the office to help with tasks they can not do due to their impairments, such as fiddly filing and taking notes in meetings. For other disabled people AtW pays for assistants to read documents out loud to people with dyslexia or a visual impairment. It can be used to pay for BSL interpreters in meetings for people with a hearing impairment and it pays for employing someone to assist people with learning difficulties in the workplace. For all of us the help we receive from AtW is what makes it possible for us to be able to work at all. If you cut this fund it is likely that you will make it impossible for many disabled people to go out to work. We will be forced to resign and claim benefits instead. Is that what you wanted?
ILF, the fund you cut yesterday, allowed many disabled people to pay for the care packages they need to allow them to get up and get ready to go out to work. It was money that was used to pay for someone to help disabled people to get up, get washed, get dressed and get fed every day. For many of disabled people this meant they could go out to work. They are now unable to pay for the help they need and, for some, this means they will have to resign from their jobs and claim welfare benefit instead. I’m sure this is not what you planned but it is the reality of the situation. And, unlike AtW, ILF funding was also used by disabled people who are too disabled to even think about going out to work to pay for their care packages and employ carers to do the jobs that need doing to make life bearable. Some disabled people will now not be able to afford to pay for those care packages and will, instead, have to dismiss their carers who will, in turn, have to claim benefits because they are unemployed. Is that what you wanted?
Employment Support Allowance (ESA) is the welfare benefit which is paid to disabled people who are not in work. As, I’m sure you are aware, there are two rates of this benefit that could be paid, a rate for disabled people who are judged to be able to work if they can get the support and help they need and a rate for those people who are too ill, too disabled, to ever be able to work. Disabled people use this money to buy food, pay for housing, gas and electricity, pay for clothing, pay for things that are essential to live. They use it to pay for things they need as disabled people and do not get provided for them any other way such as adult nappies and specialist food stuffs. For those disabled people who will never be able to work this is the only income they are ever likely to receive for their entire lives. Without this money disabled people are likely to be forced out of their own homes, where they are living independently, into care facilities which will still have to be paid for somehow. Without this money disabled people are likely to die. Is that what you wanted?
What do you want Mr Cameron? Do you want history to remember you as someone who cared and who did his best to serve all the people of this country to the best of his ability or do you want history to remember you as someone who only cared about his friends, the rich? Do you want history to remember you as a compassionate man or do you want history to remember you as the person who was in charge when disabled people were taken back to the Victorian era. Is that what you want?
Choose now, choose well and stop what you are doing before disabled people pay the price. If we die we remain dead and we cannot be restored to life. Is that the legacy you want to leave? Choose now.