The Heil on Sunday is spearheading the Tory government’s campaign against the United Nations over a report attacking Conservative policy on people with disabilities. Unfortunately for both the newsrag and the government that leaked the information to it, their arguments are nonsense.
A draft of the report has been leaked to Heil reporters, two weeks in advance of its publication, along with an indication of the Tory response. We may therefore assume that it was leaked by Damian Green or one of his – for want of a better word – team.
The UN says disabled people in the UK are unfairly bearing the brunt of austerity cuts brought by the Tories, and that the government should spend more money on support for the extra costs associated with disability.
It also seeks “appropriate mitigation measures” for people with disabilities who are affected by Tory austerity policies.
The disproportionate effect of austerity measures on the disabled has been known for a long time. Here are the figures:
The Conservatives want to say that all the figures used by the UN are out of date. This is a false argument.
The figures are those that were available at the time the UN was collecting information for its inquiry. I believe the cut-off date for submission of information was the end of October 2015 – that is when I sent in my own, lengthy, report. It is unlikely that the facts have changed hugely since that time – and readers should note that the Tory source provided no evidence of such change.
The figures quoted showed a change between 2010 and 2016 and are therefore not indicative.
The same source said the UK spends more to support people with disabilities than the average among developed countries – meaning nothing. What is the cost of living in those countries? Is it as high as here in the UK? This is doubtful as, under the Tories, the cost of living has skyrocketed. Was it the mean average or the median average among developed countries?Which developed countries – were they countries with a notable similarity to the UK or just some countries that could be used to create a lower average figure?
You would have to be stupid to accept these comments at face value.
The Heil dredges the depths with an attack on one of the report’s authors, for opinions he has expressed that have nothing to do with the report – an ad hominem argument against him as a person, rather than anything written in the report.
I couldn’t care less what Stig Langvad thinks should happen in his own country – where prostitution has been legal since 1999, by the way. It isn’t relevant here. He is not arguing that anyone should do the same in a country where buying sexual services is still an offence.
The article follows up on this with a misleading comment from a Tory MP, Andrea Jenkins. Her attempt to confuse Mr Langvad’s comments about his own country with UN policy is utterly disgraceful and she deserves to be rebuked for it – in Parliament.
In the opinion of This Writer, she also deserves to be rebuked for calling Tory policies “common sense”.
Finally, let’s look at the comments from Damian Green, which are lifted from a speech he made last week.
I agree that sitting at home alone isn’t good for people with mental health problems – but the “common-sense” policies of Mr Green and Ms Jenkins’s Conservative Government demand that, if people are receiving sickness and/or disability benefits, that is what they must do.
They are not allowed to engage in any meaningful hobbies, activities or social life. It would infringe their benefit conditionality.
But putting them to work is not the answer; there is a reason they have been signed off.
The attitude on display shows very clearly why the Conservative Party should never be put in charge of sensitive matters like care for the disabled: Tories simply are not capable of handling these matters in a mature way.
But we should be grateful to the Heil on Sunday for providing a preview of the silly arguments they’ll put forward to justify themselves.
It gives advocates for the sick and disabled – and their MPs – the opportunity to develop their own responses, which will need to be factual and inarguable.
Theresa May is braced for criticism of her welfare policy after a controversial United Nations task force concluded that disabled people in Britain are unfairly bearing the brunt of austerity cuts.
The UN report, due to be published in the next fortnight, is expected to be highly critical of the UK’s support for people with disabilities or serious health conditions.
Ministers are planning to fight back by arguing that the findings are out of date, and by questioning the credibility of the authors, one of whom has called for state funding for disabled people to visit prostitutes.
A senior Whitehall source said they intended to ‘push back hard’ by pointing out that the UK spends more on disability welfare than the average among developed countries.
The source added: ‘This committee has chosen the UK for its first report and we fear they are trying to make a name for themselves.
‘Their evidence period runs up until the end of 2015, so it is already out of date. We intend to point out that the UK spends around £50 billion a year on benefits to support disabled people and people with health conditions, which is over £6 billion more than in 2010.’
One of the authors, Stig Langvad, has argued that the Danish government should pay for disabled people to visit prostitutes.
Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green set out plans last week to confront the ‘prejudices and misunderstandings’ which prevent those with physical and mental health difficulties from finding employment.
He said he wanted to raise awareness of the health benefits of being employed and to make clear that ‘the idea that sitting at home living on benefits is in any way good for people – particularly people with a mental health condition – is completely wrong’.
Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns said last night: ‘If the UN’s benchmark is spending taxpayers’ cash on prostitutes, no wonder the common-sense policies of the UK fall short.’
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