Imagine experiencing a traumatic brain injuring requiring emergency neurosurgery. Then waking up and trying to overcome the shock of nearly losing your life, when the way you inhabit the world around you has changed forever, your body no longer responds as it used to, your mobility has been greatly reduced, your cognition and capacities altered in ways, it will take you months to understand. Then trying to navigate a benefits system with inbuilt rigid insensitivity, with targets built in to reduce payouts. That’s right, not targets to get it right first time, not targets to assist people through the process, but targets to try to avoid paying you what is rightfully yours as a member of British society, one of the richest countries in the world.

P from Penryn experienced brain trauma in 2004. Eventually, after two appeals, she received DLA. With little hope of any significant change in her condition, she now has been forced to apply for PIP, in the meantime all benefits have been stopped and she has to wait up to 3 months for a response as to whether the state still recognises her permanent disability and will continue to provide support, although it is guaranteed to be at a lower rate since recent changes to the way PIP is paid have removed £30 a week from the pockets of the disabled.

Why as a society are we letting our government impoverish and traumatise people like this? To make matters worse the rhetoric that the government has employed since 2010 has undoubtedly contributed to the rise in hate incidents against disabled people. P has been questioned when leaving disabled toilets on several occasions for not looking disabled enough. Shouldn’t our government be leaders of people, striving for better standards and moving society forward? Not denigrating and shaming people in need, to force through purely ideologically driven cuts to welfare that aren’t even saving money.

M in Redruth has suffered from a degenerative back condition, her spine is crumbling, and she has had epilepsy since her late teens. When she finally needed a wheelchair & became unable to work she faced so much suspicion & disbelief at how bad her condition was. Eventually, after numerous appeals, M had an advocate to attend an Atos assessment with her. When M suffered a serious epileptic seizure whilst attending, she was still completely ignored by the assessors, until her advocate got a manager to get involved. These are people pushed to look for a reason to refuse benefits, with little real training or interest in the medical complications that inhibit the capacity to work.

These are real people’s lives that are being devasted by cuts to welfare. Cuts that are not even succeeding on the terms the conservatives set themselves to save money.

Take the example of removing Motability cars. A completely economically illiterate policy, forcing thousands of disabled people out of work. The UK is failing disabled people so badly it has been found to be in contravention of the 2007 UN Convention on Disabled Peoples’ Rights. There are a persistent pay gap and employment gap for disabled people, with insufficient measures to improve the situation provided by the government. Constantly attacking disabled people in the press, removing financial support whilst proving no assistance to enter the labour market looks a lot like a targeted hate campaign, one that is driving people to ultimate acts of desperation. This was the case for C in Redruth who was wheelchair-bound. After a long battle with the benefit system, C felt so victimised she committed suicide. Greatly traumatising her family and many friends who knew of the struggles she had experienced and felt powerless to help. her

How many more lives will we allow to be blighted or lost due to the economic illiteracy and conscious cruelty of this Conservative Government? The Budget takes place on the 22 of November. I believe we should build as much pressure on the Government before then to bring a halt to these awful policies of penalising the sick, the disabled and those living in poverty, and do something to stimulate the economy instead.

Chart by the Trussell Trust showing the primary reasons for referrals to food banks between April and September in 2017
Chart by the Trussell Trust showing the primary reasons for referrals to food banks between April and September in 2017
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