I could go on in detail about the dramatic effects some of these cuts will have on disabled people. But this time I want to focus on the cruellest, meanest cut of all. The Chancellor has announced plans to remove the mobility component from disabled people living in residential care. This will effect every disabled person living in residential care who don't fund themselves. In other words, the vast majority.
DWP tell us that over 60,000 disabled people will be affected. That's 60,000 disabled people who won't have money in their pocket to pay for a taxi, a bus, a train or a tram. That's 60,000 disabled people who will lose their freedom to go out, to work, to socialise, to see friends and family. That's 60,000 disabled people who are being issued with a life sentence, to be incarcerated within four walls for perpetuity, to be prisoners in their own homes.
Many disabled people's organisations are protesting about this dreadful move. The stock answer they get from Coalition politicians is that we face difficult times; cuts must be made or it will be worse in the future; an impact assessment assures us that the programme of deficit management will not have an adverse affect on disabled people. That is, frankly, rubbish.
Take the case of Patricia King's family. "My son is blind, his wife uses a wheelchair and they both have seizures which cannot be totally controlled. They cannot use powered vehicles and depend on taxis/escorts to go out. They are both aged 44 and very active. My son's medical notes state that he needs 'regular and structured activity to afford increased stability of his epilepsy.'. Transport is provided by his local authority (the Ulster Community & Hospitals Trust) to take him to a day centre on only three days per week. For the rest of the week he depends on lower rate mobility allowance for access to activities, Their removal would cause stress and more frequent seizures which can be life-threatening. The consequent illness would mean increased drug treatment which can also be harmful. If the government's proposal is not withdrawn my son will lose over 45% of his total income and his wife will suffer a loss of over 69%. Neither the care home nor the two funding authorities have the funds to make up this shortfall. My son's wife is in a similar position but does not have family who can help her financially".
Now multiply this story 60,000 times and you begin to get a picture of just how cruel and inhumane this cut is. This is an assault on humanity and equality that just must be stopped.
The Coalition tells us that residential care homes and local authorities will provide the necessary transport to enable disabled people to get out. Oh no they won't. Local authorities - themselves facing massive cuts - will hardly be in a position to provide for the need. And anyway, why should disabled people be reliant on scheduled community transport, rather than having the independent means to choose when and where they will travel to?
Residential care homes will be in a similar position. Norwood supports thousands of people with learning disabilities. Just listen to what they have to say in response to the Coalition. "Most of the 300 adults in residential services with Norwood receive this allowance which ensures that they get out to day classes, go out in the evenings and weekends and helps to pay for drivers and transport for holidays. All of these ensure that their quality of life is satisfying and enjoyable. It ensures that the opportunities that we all take for granted are not denied to people with disabilities and that we all have access to what's on offer. It would be a tragedy if this allowance was removed.
The cost to society in terms of depression, loss of independence and even an increased need for institutionalisation would far outweigh any initial cost gain. I cannot believe that any Government would wish to impose such outcomes on a group of adult citizens who already have so many disadvantages to contend with. As a charity, we have no way of making up the shortfall that would be in the region of £375,000 for Norwood and we will therefore be lobbying MPs and officials about this situation."
Disabled people have to fight back. Please - write to your MP (1); write to the Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller; write to the Chancellor; write to the Prime Minister. If you live in residential care, get your care home management team or the owners to protest. Your family should object too. Get together and demonstrate. This is a cut that common decency and humanity tells us is cruel and vindictive. Let's work together and get it stopped. Now.
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Mark Shrimpton - Radar Deputy CEO