The Government has spent the first half of their term in power "over-hauling" the social security and benefits system and before Parliament breaks for the summer holiday it will have the first reading of the new Social Care Bill. Now, I agree that the system needed looking at, but I must comment that disabled people seem to have become the main method for CLAWING BACK public monies. "We want more disabled people in work, contributing equally". REALLY? This seems now that this is standard reterick by successive governments without creative policies to make it happen. I work, in fact I went one stage further than being employed, I started my own company. With Cerebral Palsy and a severe speech impairment to fit into current business models of sales or call centres it's like putting a square peg in a round hole. I like the challenge but it now feels the equal playing field is so steep its hard work.
Yeah, I hear you, "another disabled person belly aching about fairness". If only it was that simplistic. To start with this government has "got rid of" the Independent Living Fund (ILF) the vehicle that a lot of severely disabled people have been able to employ personal assistants to assist them living independently, work for a living and enjoy a social life. "Yes but its tax payer's money", I hear you cry. The reality is keeping people in residential care costs lots more and local communities don't benefit from disabled people contributing. I will talk directly to your pockets which are already under attack from rising prices, taxation and a general increase in the price of living. ILF is not open to new cases therefore those who would have been funded by ILF are now the direct responsibility of local authorities. Now, central government have reduced the amount of money they provide Local Authorities to run services. So the local authority has a duty of care and therefore the only option is to raise council tax that means you get even more taxation and disabled people feel an even bigger burden on their community, happy faces all around don't you think!
Then we have Disabled Working Tax Credits a system designed to assist disabled people who work and are on low incomes. Boy! What a system! It is not the most user friendly system and recently they have tinkered with the rules. The theory is good but believe me the stress it can and does cause can be phenomenal.
Disabled People will always cost the State money by varying degrees and people are now living longer so this combination will drive up the cost of social care in the UK considerably in the future. Question: would anyone put a sticking plaster on a leak in a dam? If you truly want those disabled people who can contribute to the workforce to do so we have to be radical. Impairments and disabilities by their very nature means the contribution will not always be equal. So why not have a top up system, work out what the individual needs in income to sustain an independent life. Have Direct Payments, PIPS (Disability Living Allowance) and Access to Work cover the support and specialised equipment needs. Encourage the thought of jobs and careers through the idea of the welfare system being there to top up whatever work income you earn to the predetermined minimum level. In real terms the tax credits and the array of other disability benefits are then used as income back up. This system will truly be a safety net and the more that you earn the less welfare state help you need. This system would also work for other groups such as single mothers. To me, this seems a logical solution that will lower the welfare state benefits budget therefore opening up extra income to put towards the growing social care bill.