Nothing for Something

A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay… but not if you’re disabled. Why not? It’s all about transport.

The new report from the WeAreSpartacus community, Reversing from Recovery, is set to upset the motor industry and cause ripples throughout our fragile economy, as it explores the potentially devastating effect of the Government’s proposals for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) under the Welfare Reform Act.

The Government’s own figures project a 27% reduction in the number of working age disabled people eligible to access a suitably adapted car under the Motability scheme. This equates to an approximate 17% reduction in the total number of Motability customers.

Reversing from Recovery shows that the Government’s plans, by reducing access to the Motability scheme, will create a domino effect, including the loss of millions of pounds to the economy and thousands of jobs in the motor trade and related industries.

In addition, many disabled people can’t see how they could continue working without their Motability car; they will have no choice but to stop paying taxes and start claiming out of work benefits.

Some would say disabled people have an alternative, such as public transport.

However, a few days ago Transport for All and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) invited MP’s to join them on public transport in London, to test this theory. Public transport in London is the flagship of accessible transport. Nowhere else has as many accessible buses, tubes, trains or taxis, but Londoners will assure you that the situation is dire.

If there’s a limited chance of using public transport in London, then the chances of finding it in a remote area of the UK are even smaller – many places don’t even have a bus every day, let alone an accessible bus. Without their adapted vehicles, disabled people will be housebound and unemployable.

What about Access to Work? Nope; extracting help is almost impossible in some regions. And of course, Access to Work won’t help anyone go to see their doctor, attend hospital appointments or visit friends.

And that’s not all. Much of the progress in improving the accessibility of public transport in recent years has been down to the hard work of the Disabled Person’s Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC), which has an excellent reputation. But that is also threatened – by a Government that wants expert advice on the cheap – or rather, for free. The Government’s consultation on the replacement for DPTAC makes it crystal clear that they expect disabled people to give their time and expertise for nothing.

The fact that the Government considers it acceptable for disabled people to be prevented from working, or even going out, by removing their access to mobility, whilst simultaneously expecting a few disabled people to work for nothing in a job that was previously paid, is deeply worrying. But perhaps it’s not so surprising – after all, they expect benefit claimants, including sick and disabled people and carers on Job Seekers’ Allowance, to work for no pay under their various mandatory work experience schemes.

The notion of a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay is clearly too old-fashioned for this Coalition. Different departments within Government use different words, but the message is clear: regardless of what disabled people have contributed to society, the response is to minimise any return  – or, indeed, any compassion.

What has happened to our country? If it’s tough now, how difficult will it be by 2015? And beyond? Recent pronouncements about Tory plans for welfare after the next election are completely terrifying, but we daren’t look that far ahead; we already have more than enough to worry about. If there was ever a time for dedicated campaigning and an effective opposition, that time is now. Our lives depend on it.