Being green is not just about environmental matters and it would do none of us any harm to involve ourselves in other campaigns as well. That’s why some of us will be attending the March Against the Cuts in London on 26 March and why we shall also be protesting about the planned benefit changes which are going to lead to the poorest people in the country becoming poorer still.
Secretary of State for Work & Pensions Iain Duncan Smith has announced changes to the social security system which are intended to cut the amount spent on benefits by £18 billion a year from 2013. No matter how these changes are dressed up this is going to hurt. When public spending is being slashed and unemployment is rising it will mean sharing fewer resources among more people and only a fool will believe that increased poverty is not going to result, among the unemployed (which could include any of us at any time) the disabled (ditto), children and elderly citizens.
It isn’t necessary to wait till 2013 for cuts to bite however. From April this year changes to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), designed to make it even harder to show that someone is incapable of work through illness or disability, will take effect. The aim of this measure is to take money off the poor in order to help pay for the excesses of the rich, whose unregulated greed led to the crisis of capitalism which got us into this financial pickle in the first place.
One particular example of how the rules work illustrates very clearly the inhumane nature of the new test. Currently a person who is registered blind is exempt from the WCA. This exemption ends in April and blind people will have to score 15 points on the test just like everyone else if they are to keep their entitlement to Employment & Support Allowance. The rule now is that if you are blind and possess a guide dog, and you can walk across a road with your dog and without the need for another person’s assistance, you do not score the necessary 15 points. To you or me this sounds very much like testing the dog rather than the claimant, and we might also ask what this particular challenge has to do with a working situation. Indeed, those of us who work in this field will be asking that very question when these cases come up for appeal, as they
inevitably will do so, from this Spring onwards.
If you are wondering why I am commenting on this on a green website, the reason is as follows. Even if we were indifferent to the injustices involved, which we certainly are not, it’s clear that as poverty increases local businesses will take a huge hit. With their
high overheads they cannot fairly compete with the supermarkets who use food items as loss leaders. There will be reduced demand for organic food, which is more expensive than the stuff flown in from overseas, and people will have less or no money available to take the costly steps required to make their houses more fuel-efficient, so these are issues which going to affect us all.
by Chris Connolly