My 2013/14 Budget speech at Full Council

I didn’t really plan a speech but contributions from the Tories and Lib Dems got me inspired to stand up at the Budget setting meeting on Monday. Here is what I said;

“in 2013, the horizon is very different for disabled people.

Cllr Kansagra [Leader of the Brent Conservative Party] said in his speech that vulnerable people are protected in changes made by Government….. but that’s as true as a Lib Dem Focus leaflet I received a couple of weeks ago that said that David Clues was my ‘local’ Councillor when he’s living in Brighton.

What about Disability Living Allowance, where by the Government’s own admission, 200,000 will lose out on their disability benefits?

By the Government’s own admission, thousands will lose out on Carer’s Allowance because of the way that benefits interact with eachother.

This Budget supports carers with the introduction of a new Carer’s Hub. Mr Mayor, there are 23,000 Carers in Brent. People providing care to their loved ones in ways that we cannot even imagine. We will create a single access point for carers in Brent.

What about Employment Support Allowance? Disabled people who have worked all their lives and find themselves in adversity will have their benefits slashed if they have not found a job in 12 months

And what about the Bedroom Tax? Couples where one individual has to sleep in a hospital bed and the couple cannot share a room will be penalised for having an “extra” bedroom.

This Budget continues to offer hope and support to the Voluntary Sector – to the Brent CAB, who will often be the first point of call for Brent people affected by these changes.

Mr Mayor, Labour is the Party that offers hope to people in Brent at a time when examples are taken out of context and are out of the norm and are being used to soften the public mood for benefit changes that are damaging the lives of disabled people.

Mr Mayor, given the Lib Dem and Tory record in Government, I dread to think what they would do to services valued by the most vulnerable if god forbid the Lib Dems & Tories had control at this Town Hall again – and it’s with this I end my statement and support this Budget and it’s amendments.”


Callous switch of disability benefit definition

One of the hidden and apparently subtle changes to the 1% uprating of benefits for the next three years is the definition of Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

The Government has stated that all disability related benefits are safe from the 1% uprating of benefits. However, look through the detail and you see that this is simply not the case.

Disabled People Against Cuts for The Atos Game...
Disabled People Against Cuts for The Atos Games Demo Birmingham (Photo credit: dis_ppl_protest)

Employment Support Allowance is the disability benefit that replaces the old Incapacity Benefit. Within this is the Work Related Activity Group which includes disabled people who are expected to go back to work. (Support group, people not expected to work, continues to get inflation uprating)

The Government itself in its own analysis recognises that all people by definition who receive ESA have an impairment. So… the big question is, is ESA now an employment benefit in line with Jobseeker’s Allowance or is it a benefit for disabled people to help them while they look for work?

Disability Rights UK provide a damning analysis of this change – LINK

On top of this, the Government has also introduced a 12 month time-limiting of Employment Support Allowance. Disabled people on contributory Employment Support Allowance (includes people who have contributed taxes) and find themselves out of work will lose this benefit if they haven’t found a job within 12 months.  This shows total lack of consideration to the effects of disability discrimination and the fact that those who have newly acquired an impairment will spend several of those first few months just adjusting their lives.