With both the…
With both the Yes Scotland campaign and the Bitter Together campaign now up and running it is time to consider the implications of Scotland becoming an Independent, free nation. The first issue we are going to look at in this blog is the welfare system which has seen some major changes in recent years, with further upcoming changes including Universal Credit and PIP yet to come, both of which will undoubtedly have a massive impact upon the most vulnerable individuals within our society. This blog welcomes contributions from both supporters of the Yes campaign and the No campaign. First off for this blog is a look at the current and upcoming changes to the benefit system and the problems which currently exist as well as the many problems which will result from the introduction of further changes to be introduced. the benefits covered in this post will be:
- Employment and Support Allowance
- DLA (which will be replaced) by Personal Independence Payments
- The Introduction of Universal Credit
- Changes to Housing Benefit and Local Housing Allowance
Employment and Support Allowance
Employment and Support Allowance was introduced as a replacement benefit for people in receipt of Incapacity Benefit and those in receipt of Income Support on the grounds of illness/disability. With the introduction of Employment and Support Allowance there has been wide ranging criticism aimed at both the Government and ATOS who are the company charged with administering the medical assessments which people are required to attend prior to the DWP issuing a decision to the claimaint as to whether they are deemed eligible for the benefit. The criticism aimed at both ATOS and the government is indeed well founded and there have been countless cases of individuals with cancer,parkinsons, schizophrenia, MS, severe clinical depression etc… being found fit for work following a medical assessment from ATOS, it is worth noting that in excess of 70% of the cases (in excess of 70% in Scotland, around 40% UK wide )which go before an independent tribunal are successful and the DWP’s decision is overturned. This in itself highlights how badly this benefit is administered but what is perhaps more concerning is the fact that ATOS empoyees are given targets to reach in terms of the number and % of individuals who are found not fit for work, this immediately ensures that a fair and competent assessment is not guarnteed, the other concerns with this is the amount of false and misleading information cited in ATOS medical reports which would often raise a clear question as to whether this is as a result of blatant fabrication which i firmly believe is the case having dealt with a large number of appeals and tribunals.With people having these benefits withdrawn wrongly and having their incomes drastically reduced whilst under appeal which can take months this often leads to individuals health becoming markedly worse as a result of the undue stress placed upon these individuals, it also leads to individuals encountering debt issues as they have their incomes reduced, in many cases recently individuals have had their letters informing them their payments would stop only after discovering their money had not been paid when attempting to access their bank accounts.The UK Government are well aware of the these problems as these issues have been highlighted from organisations such as CPAG and the CAB service, however they have refused to conduct any form of review or implement any form of change, the reason behind this being that the cuts being made to the benefit system are merely a cost cutting exercise and are not in anyway designed to ensure the people in the most need get the help they require, as is stated by David CaMoron & co, the reforms to disability benefits are simply aimed at taking as many people off these benefits as possible regardless of the severity of the illness or their capability of work.
DISABILITY LIVING ALLOWANCE (soon to be replaced by PIP)
With DLA to be replaced with Personal Independence Payments, The UK Government claim the purpose of this reform is to ensure that individuals with the greatest need receive the support they require. However before any assessments of individuals have been made the government are currently working on the criteria which is to be used and have stated that the criteria which will form the entiitlement to this benefit is being specifically designed to ensure at LEAST 20% of individuals currently in receipt of DLA are not going to be entitled to PIP. This will lead to a large amount of individuals being effectively abandoned by the state and will lead to local authority budgets being strained to breaking point as local authorities will still have a duty to provide care to many of the individuals denied this benefit, this further highlights just how far this government are actively attacking the most vulnerable individuals in society and are destroying their life’s simply to reduce cost, whilst continuing to pour billions of pounds into Nuclear weapons which with advances in technology will be almost obsolete in 10-15 years as to use these weapons they would have to be within 50 miles of the proposed target, not only that but as has always been the case Scotland is to be the dumping ground for most of these weapons making Scotland a target for any terrorists etc attempting to carry out an attack against the UK, most likely as a result of the actions of Westminster such as the illegal war and occupation of Iraq, a war which was overwhelmingly opposed by the people of Scotland and Scottish MSP’s, however that opposition was as effective as the Scottish Parliament’s current opposition to the current welfare reforms, Scotland as it stands has NO voice and can take NO action to prevent these draconian reforms taking place as Scotland has NO voice as part of the UK when it matters and Scotlands views are effectively rendered IRRELEVANT when it comes to the most IMPORTANT issues facing OUR country! The UK government are actively attacking the poor and disabled of that there can be no doubt and remaining part of the UK will most certainly lead to these individuals facing further disgraceful treatment with the withdrawal of income they rely upon to get by and be able to have the support and care they deserve and should be entitled to.
Whilst not all the details are available as yet as to exactly how Universal credit will work, the details which are available and the current plans being considered raise many questions. Universal credit is to be introduced to streamline benefits which is a sensible move, however many of the changes being considered which may form part of universal credit again give a clear view of exactly what the tories have in mind for the future of the welfare system, they are clearly following down a similar path to that of the U.S, a country which has a population of approx 350 million with slightly in excess of 50% of the U.S population in receipt of Food Stamps due to their poor working wages/unemployment. It is also likely that under Universal Credit an individual working part-time on a low wage who can currently still receive some assistance with housing benefit and council tax benefit would have to meet the same jobseeking conditions an unemployed person has to in order for them to receive the limited help they receive with housing benefit/council tax benefit etc, this is an attempt to force individuals into low-paid dead end jobs with no prospects, whereas an individual such as say a Banker or should that be *anker working part time would be fine as they earn more per hour and so would not be forced into the same situation, this benefit will cause huge social issues and it signals the full implementation of modern day slavery and will be designed primarily to give the state greater control of the population by creating further divisions between the rich and poor and also restricting the ability of those in low paid jobs advancing their opportunities, forcing people in low paid jobs to spend less and less time with their children whilst also as a result of tuition fee increases (Only in England at present but will happen in Scotland even for those resident here without the ability to manage our own affairs as budgets will become more strained due to the cumulative effect of tory policies implemented in Scotland), will limit the opportunities youngsters have when leaving school as it will not be ability to learn/progress but rather the ability to pay money which their families who are forced into dead end minimum wage jobs simply cannot afford, creating further ‘social cleansing’ which the tories love to do. There are also plans to introduce sanctions on people’s benefit ranging from 3months to 3 years, which will undoubtedly lead to an increase in crime, mental health issues, homelessness, suicides, as many of the individuals sanctioned will be individuals with serious mental health issues who will have had their disability benefits WRONGLY withdrawn following the introduction of PIP. The current government plans are only the beginning and the impact already felt to this point is nothing in comparison to what the future of the welfare system holds if tory plans go ahead.
Housing Benefit/ Local Housing Allowance
The UK Government in January made changes to the rate of payment made to individuals based on their age, limiting the amount of Housing Benefit paid to individuals under 35, having previously been under 25, this primarily effects people in Private Rented Housing but with many local authorities having massive demand for housing and no houses to place people in, many people have no option but to seek Private Rented Property as otherwise they would have to sleep on the streets, and rather than take action to address the issue of private landlords charging in many cases extortionate amounts for rent in less than perfect accomodation, the tories decide that the young and those on low income should suffer again rather than take real action to address the issue. Given CaMORON’s recent outburst at the young, unemployed and those with low incomes who cannot afford housing, perhaps the pr**k could explain why he felt the need to claim £21,000 of taxpayers money to pay towards his mortgage when he has a personal wealth of around £30 milllion, who exactly was he referring to when he stated there must be an end to ‘the culture of entitlement’ and people expecting ‘something for nothing’, is his £142,000 annual salary not enough along with his many other sources of income, the fundamental problems this country presently has and indeed the world as a whole is not down to the poor or low paid it is down to the GREED of the 1% and david cameron represents that perfectly.
Whether or not the SNP could provide definitive figures and exact details of how a devolved welfare system would be implemented or run, it is abundantly clear Scotland COULD NOT possibly be any worse off than they would be should they remain part of the Union as that is an option which the people of Scotland must see for what it is, the WRONG option!! As i stated at the outset of this post i welcome feedback from both sides of the debate.