Challenged to defend their record of persecution against the disabled, Tories have nothing to say

Debbie Abrahams in the House of Commons.

Debbie Abrahams in the House of Commons.

How pleasant to hear this said in a Parliamentary debate, with not a single word of denial from the Conservative Government:

“Last week there was an amazing sequence of events. On Monday, the Secretary of State told me that he could not publish … data because they were not kept, and told me to stop scaremongering; on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said that they would be published; and this was swiftly followed by the Government saying that they were appealing against the Information Commissioner’s ruling, stating that publishing these data would lead to ‘probable misinterpretations’ and ‘was too emotive…and wasn’t in the public interest’. What an absolute shambles!”

This was part of the speech by Debbie Abrahams, Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, in a debate on ‘welfare reform and people with disabilities’, called by her to set the scene for any measures against the disabled that George Osborne is considering for his July budget. As the Government prepares to cut £12 billion from the annual social security budget next week, there are real concerns that – in addition to potentially slashing tax credits for the working poor – they will cut further support for working-age people with disabilities.

She was referring, of course, to the government’s increasingly confused response to This Writer’s request for an honest answer to the question, ‘How many people have died while claiming Employment and Support Allowance between November 2011 and May 2014 (the date of my request)?” But wait! She continued:

“I could not disagree more. This is definitely in the public interest. As a former public health academic, I am more than aware of the strict criteria for establishing causality, but there are no grounds for not publishing numbers of actual deaths as well as the Government-proposed standardised mortality ratios, including those who died within six weeks of being found fit for work. Will the Minister now confirm when these data will be published?

Dear reader, it falls to This Writer to report that not one word came back from the Government benches – not even when the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Justin Tomlinson (who?) got onto his hind legs to give the Government’s response to the debate.

You can sign the petition demanding that the Government end its appeal against the order to publish the statistics, and provide the figures to the public, on the website.

She also asked when the Government will publish redacted information on the circumstances of the deaths of claimants who died while sanctioned, and what changes the DWP instigated in the light of reviews of these deaths – and whether the significant surge in suicide rates for both men and women since 2010— particularly for working-age men—is being analysed by the DWP. No response.

The Government doesn’t have anything to say to the sick, disabled or vulnerable, and even less to say about them.

Ms Abrahams began her speech by pointing out, “It is poignant that this debate falls on the very day that the Independent Living Fund closes. A further £1.2 billion is being cut from support for people with disabilities. Such cuts were a hallmark of the Tory-led coalition, and many are concerned that not only will this increase but the cuts will get worse under this Government.

“I … want to draw attention to the punitive and dehumanising culture that has been part of the delivery of these welfare reforms, which set the tone for the leadership within the Department for Work and Pensions and the Government’s wider tone on social security.”

Here’s a quick precis of the facts: She said that, by 2018, £23.8 billion of support would have been taken from 3.7 million people with disabilities, according to Demos. The measures include:

  • Indexation of social security payments was changed from the higher retail prices index to the lower consumer prices index
  • There was also a 1% cap on the uprating of certain working-age benefits.
  • People on incapacity benefit were reassessed.
  • The time that disabled people in the work-related activity group are able to receive the employment and support allowance was limited.
  • Disabled people in receipt of disability living allowance are being reassessed to determine whether they are eligible for the personal independence payment.
  • Disability benefits are approximately 15% of average earnings. With the recent changes—the 1% uprating and the indexation to the consumer prices index—they will fall even further below those in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Luxembourg, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
  • People with disabilities are twice as likely to live in persistent poverty as non-disabled people: 80% of disability-related poverty is caused by extra costs. This has implications for disabled people’s families – a third of all families living in poverty include one disabled family member.
  • Since the Government’s new sanctions regime, the rate of sanctioning of people on IB and ESA has doubled.

She said part of the Government’s strategy has been the “invidious” spreading of a culture of blame and fear.

“In the 1980s we saw the unions being targeted; today the focus is on the poor and the vulnerable.

“The narrative associated with the so-called welfare reforms has been one of divide and rule, deliberately attempting to vilify people who receive social security as the new undeserving poor.

“The Government have spread a culture of pejorative language, such as “shirkers” and “scroungers”. They have intentionally attempted to demonise social security recipients, including disabled people.

“The innuendo that people with a disability or illness might be faking it or are feckless is, quite frankly, grotesque… Unfortunately, the regular misuse of statistics is another way that the Government are trying to harden the public’s attitude.

“The facts are that, in an ageing population, the largest proportion of social security recipients are pensioners and not, as is often implied, the workshy.”

The whole debate can be found here.

Additional: It has been pointed out to me that Mr Tomlinson stated: “We will be publishing them [sic] the mortality stats—I know the hon. Lady is keen to see them soon; we would all like to see them as soon as possible.” Since he did not define the form those statistics would take, nor did he provide a firm date on which they would be published, it seems clear that what he did say was as near to nothing as makes no odds.

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24 thoughts on “Challenged to defend their record of persecution against the disabled, Tories have nothing to say

  1. Nick Fourbanks

    If your sick or disabled the chances are in that over the next 5 years you will go down with a mental illness as it hits home your not worthy to be even living

    Even those whose minds are fit your’ll be surprised if you don’t feel the pressure and get depressed

    i like Debbie i think she is genuine and is in the top 10 of current mp’s from my view point

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I take it you mean “as it hits home the government thinks you’re not worthy to be even living”.

      I agree with you about Debbie Abrahams, although – and I think this confirms the point in your second paragraph – Mrs Mike is far from convinced. Mrs Mike thinks any politician must be a bad person, as a result of her treatment at the hands of successive governments. It took her many years to get DLA, and that was under Labour, so it is understandable.

      Still, we do have some rather heated discussions about the people I support.

      1. Maria

        Politicians are good and bad just as in any group of people, problem is it doesn’t seem that we have enough who care these days.

      2. vomsters

        I don’t think ALL politicians are necessarily bad/corrupt/useless, just most. I think that, though many of them start out with intentions & ideals that their constituents admire and support, the interminable grinding down by the party, the process, the whips, the whole atmosphere can destroy all but the strongest minded people. Toeing the party line almost always means going against your own principles for people like that. Discovering that you canNOT get anything of substance done, that changes to department/parliamentary procedures are impossible, that it is actually the senior Civil Service that run everything of any real importance & they are extremely protective of their departments & processes… after 5 years you’re either looking for a way out, completely converted to your party’s one true way, or are one of the very few who can balance party & your own ideals/ethics in a way that keeps you going.

        It’s the last few that are worth our time. The rest really don’t care about their constituents except when it comes to election time.

        One day I am going to spend some time writing out my idea of how the government should be run (and where). It’s there, in my head, mostly fully formed and bits pop out randomly now and then 🙂

    2. crazytrucker1951

      I wish Debbie Abrahams was my MP as I feel if your cause was just she’d fight to her last breath for you, unlike my own Tory MP who has never, not ever trod any other path than the party/government line, not once has she ever voted with her conscience, I often wonder how she sleeps at night whilst the government of which she is a member inflicts such suffering on those less well off than her in society.
      God bless you Debbie, and Dennis Skinner of course, wonder when he’s going to lose the plot completely and give Camoron a good slap! I do know how he feels as talking to them must be like talking to a wall, except the wall would make more sense and possesses a 1000 times more compassion.

      1. Nick Fourbanks

        The evils of the world are terrorists who kill people and are top news but you can still kill people in other subtle ways without getting on the news

        Suicide being one in where you make life not worth living. people dying of starvation as they are unable through the stigma of asking for help

        these deaths are normally government related but it’s difficult to prove as the people involved are dead but normally when people are repressed or who despite working hard see their life unfold into a mess normally die for various reasons and had the government of the day been Honorable in all probability would still be alive

        What I would say is that if I were prime minister no vulnerable would have anything to fear whatsoever

        There we are just a few words from me and that is all that would be needed to make sure that group of people had peace of mind as all long term sick and disabled people whoever they are have dark days and it’s most important that on those dark days they in their mind know that whatever happens there is someone like me around

        You should never even be in politics if your thoughts are not as mine where sick and disabled people are concerned as its imperative on the world stage that every leader knows first-hand on what your priorities are otherwise you are a ripe target for being compromised by another world leader into acting in a way that is not in the public good across all areas of government policy’s and at the end of the day you get corrupted and that is where most countries are today

  2. Mr.Angry

    I thank Debbie Abrahams at least she is bringing things to the forefront and at best rattling IDS’s cage, the look on his face was a picture. His response like a disgruntled twelve year old that could not get their own way.

    IDS is starting to run scared you can see it in his evil eyes, let’s have more of this, something is going to give soon the more and more people that realize what is really going on.

  3. Andy

    I think that when one considers that Abrahams rose to speak at 4.41pm and and sat down at 5.17pm haviing spoken for 20 minutes (there was a break of 16 minutes for a division) and left the Under Secretary Tomlınson only four minutes in which to reply he should be commended on the brevity and factual nature of response to one small aspect of the whole debate.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I notice you don’t mention the number of times she was interrupted. Perhaps you should learn the procedure at these debates. The person who called a debate must be allowed to speak, and to present their case in full. It is then up to the person chairing the meeting to ensure that everybody who wants to speak has a chance to do so.
      Of course I disagree about Tomlinson’s words. He could have used the time to provide an informative reply but chose not to.

      1. Andy

        Havıng been ınvolved in the political scene since before you were born judgıng by your pıcture, Mike, I think I know sufficient about the debating process in parliament, thank you.
        For your information Abrahams gave way – that is the correct term, not interruptions – four timei to Cons, once to DUP and four times to Lab. In the ensuing debate Cons spoke for 12 minutes and Labour for 21 (including a short input from SNP). The Under Secretary was left with four mınutes to reply to Abrahams presentatiıon; that he used the limited time left available by her and her fellow members to convey the information he did may not have been to the satisfaction of those with a specıfıc ınterest ın one aspect but that is just the way of things. .

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        Oh, you’re going to patronise me by making reference to my age, are you?
        Go ahead, but don’t expect to win any sympathy from VP readers – they expect people to demonstrate what they know, rather than claim an invisible superiority due to having lived longer.
        By your own admission, she was interrupted nine times. This means she wasn’t talking for 20 minutes non-stop (barring the interruption already mentioned).
        Your comment about the length of time members of different parties spoke is irrelevant – the chairman can only call people who have indicated a willingness to speak.
        If the chairman left less time than you might have desired for the government representative, then that was up to him – not Debbie Abrahams or any of her fellow Labour members.
        As for your “that is just the way of things” comment – do you really expect to be taken seriously after that?
        You seem to have spent all those extra years living under a rock. If you want to stay with the human beings, educate yourself.

  4. nicky ray

    Carnt you ask the familys for satistics on the deaths.Then have a rough guide to show the goverment.It will start something off.They have public enquiries for one death let alone thousands…..

  5. fathomie

    That is exactly the point Mike. The government regards the disabled as ‘untermenschen’ to use the phrase used by a party that still seems to inspire much of the Conservatives’ thinking. Duncan-Smith visited Auschwitz in 2009. Most people who visit the concentration/death camps are filled with a mixture of emotions, awe, horror, disgust at what man can do to his fellow man, intense sadness, and an overwhelming desire to cry. Duncan-Smith however, felt none of those. All he felt was inspired. Here was the answer, the final solution to the poor, the disabled, those without means, the lower orders.

    Simply crush them.

    People may joke about IDS and photoshop him an SS uniform, but it isn’t funny. He and is ilk ARE that right wing. Only a very fine line stops them from taking those few extra steps needed to move into waters too deep for many of us to stomach.

    And therein lies the problem. If May started rounding up ‘extremists’ tomorrow and putting them in camps, a large portion of the population would support such a move.

    If May started rounding up ‘hackers’, in other words anyone online who argues with the govt, do you think many would argue? Going on the number of people who hate Snowdon and still blindly support M15/M16?

    Finally, if IDS started rounding up the ‘scroungers’ and putting them into ‘work camps’ (remember this is what the Concentration camps were originally for) would the majority support such an action? I’m very much afraid they would.

    Hopefully I’m wrong, and the last election, and a large number of people’s subsequent comments on the BBC and elsewhere are just by hardened Tory fanatics, and as such this is not representative of how the majority feel. But at times, I do wonder.

    1. crazytrucker1951

      I’m with you as I believe Bunkum Smith and many of his contemporaries that sit with him are quite possibly capable of much evil even to the extremes you outline here, provided we, the people let them, the British people will only take so much of this tosh.
      I have the photoshopped picture of IDS in a uniform but though I’m not an expert on military uniforms I don’t think it’s an SS one, but I have a mate who’s good with photoshop so I’ll sort out a pic for him to doctor. He was apparently too extreme for the NF?

    2. Florence

      I think that there is a massive majority of people who think that the horrors of the past are incapable of being in the here & now, in full colour, on our TV screens, in the HoC & HoL . They have been protected by the welfare state without understanding what that has given them – their health, education security, their well-being, and still think they live in the decent county we used to be. These are the unthinking majority who will believe what the Daily Fail & BBC tells them. IDS is a chilling example of a sociopath (among many in the cabinet & Tory MPs) enacting barbarous policies lifted from the 1930’s, backed by a large dose of eugenicist / neo-lib theory and the support of the ruling class who despise a penny spent on the wider population.

  6. BarneyT

    Justin Tomlinson – isn`t he the chappie who boasted of a vindication of the government`s ‘reforms’ in relation to a judge finding in favour of DWP in the court case brought about by 2 disabled individuals re: PIP delays, effectively implying that it`s okay that people to have to suffer financial hardship/deprivation even when DWP`re clearly screwing-up big time when it comes to ‘helping & supporting’ the vulnerable?
    What an odious little turd.

  7. mrmarcpc

    When they’re on the back foot, when they’re caught out like deer in headlights, you can see them squirm as they don’t expect to be challenged on stuff like this because they arrogantly believe that they are right and in the right and so think no one will dare take them to task on issues like this and when anyone does, you can sure tell they are taken out of their comfort zone and cannot cope with the questioning they are receiving! Hope Debbie and others like her keep IDS and the Tories under pressure and sweating profusely and make them tell the truth, we have the right to know!

  8. crazytrucker1951

    Interesting to note that the MP for Devon North, Peter Heaton-Jones doesn’t believe such evil that exists within his party actually exists and if it did exist he wouldn’t want to be a member of that party, Mr. Heaton-Jones open your eyes and ears, wake up and smell the tea! (I hate coffee). It’s there pal in all its nastiness on your front bench, and many on the backbenches also, one of whom sits as MP in an adjacent Constituency to your own. Finally Mr. Heaton-Jones when are you crossing the floor of the House of Commons?

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