It seems like hardly a week goes by where George Osbourne doesn’t announce a new set of cut-backs, and it would almost be easy to become desensitised were it not for the fact that these are real people for whom the consequences are quite literally life-threatening.
The latest is the cutting of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefit which is given to those living with a disability by £30 a week. The new measures, which were voted in by a 283 majority, mean that suddenly thousands of disabled people find themselves in a very worrying situation facing far more than just the financial consequences.
Just a few days ago, Gill Thomson, the sister of a man who died after having his benefit slashed, spoke out to demand an inquest into her brother’s death. David Clapson had his benefits drastically reduced and subsequently could not afford to keep his electricity running, meaning the fridge where he stored his insulin was not working.
David Clapson’s is not an isolated case; after the introduction of new ‘fit for work’ regulations, around 2300 people are estimated to have died. This and the reduction of PIP are just two chilling reminders of how far the Tories are willing to push austerity and exactly who will suffer.
I have always maintained that the Tory party are probably not inherently evil, just blinded by their own privilege to a state of blissful ignorance, but this latest move has me questioning that judgement.
To cut benefits to not only one of the most vulnerable, but one of the most disenfranchised groups in society, typifies the kind of calculated thinking that has earned the Tories their reputation. The nature of disability is such that for many, it renders the apparently simple act of voting incredibly difficult and this is a fact the Tories are either using to their advantage, or wilfully overlooking it. The Tory government knows that they will never gain the support of the people they exploit and this apparently gives them license to exploit them even further.
It is estimated that around 500,000 people will be affected by the cuts which will see them lose, on average, £150 a week. While to George Osbourne this amount seems inconsequential, for the disabled people who rely on it for the purchase of specially adapted equipment or carers it is immeasurable in terms of quality of life. For a party whose ideals are rooted in self-determination, stripping people of their independence seems illogical by anyone’s standards.
If this were not insulting enough, it has now emerged that the £1 billion this cut-back will ‘save’ is going to fund a tax-break for the most beleaguered members of society – the middle class. The only logical explanation for such audacity seems to be that they just tell a very different version of Robin Hood at Eton.
This kind of thinking merely exhibits how out of touch George Osbourne and the rest of the Tory government are with the electorate.
For those still clinging on to the last vestiges of austerity, this is what it truly looks like; a government stealing money from its disabled citizens to provide tax breaks for its supporters. The decision to remove PIP is illogical, insensitive and grossly negligent.
Image: Roger Blackwell