May uncaring,  Green self-interested, Crabb disgraced

As the dust begins to settle after the shock referendum result in the UK that says that Britain should leave the European Union, how do those with disabilities stand?

Well, in the medium-term, the country will still be in the EU until two years after clause 50 is triggered and that looks set to not happen until the end of the year. And that means we remain protected by European laws relating to the treatment and employment of disabled people.

In the short-term, however, there may be some difficulties ahead.

PM Theresa May: Uncaring.

PM Theresa May: Uncaring.

Both Theresa May, the new prime minister, and Damien Green, the third work and pensions secretary this year, have records of voting to reduce spending on welfare benefits as well as other so-called reforms aimed at saving government money – irrespective of the likely effect to the disabled and vulnerable

In May’s case, that is despite having her vicar father in a wheelchair when she was about eight years old and her mother living with multiple sclerosis.

Both her parents died within a year of each other when Theresa was in her mid-20s. Any hope that such experiences in her early years might have engendered some compassion seem, however, to be sadly misplaced. She is just another uncaring politician.

Damien Green: Self-interest.

Damien Green: Self-interest.

Green has never rebelled and has always voted the way the government demanded, showing he has a distinct disinterest in serving the people, just his party. And, from that faithful obedience, he has also served his self-interest well, leading to this cabinet appointment.

Stephen Crabb’s high-flying political career seems to have crashed and burned, at least temporarily. This was the guy plucked from his role as parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Welsh Office to take over as Welsh Secretary on July 15, 2014. He was then promoted to work and pensions secretary on March 19 this year, following the dramatic resignation of Iain Duncan Smith.

Then, following David Cameron’s decision on June 24 to stand down, he declared himself as a candidate for leader of the Conservative party but dropped out of the race after finishing fourth of five in the first round of voting.

Stephen Crabb: Disgraced.

Stephen Crabb: Disgraced.

This week, Crabb withdrew from consideration as a government minister after a newspaper exposed him for sexting, or sending sex text messages. In his letter to Mrs May, he said he was standing down “in the best interests of his family”.

He was disgraced and his career was significantly damaged after The Times alleged that he had been sending sexually explicit messages to the WhatsApp messaging service.

According to the newspaper, Crabb, 43, a Christian and a married father of two, had a series of flirtatious and sexually charged exchanges with a young woman during the run-up to the EU referendum. In a late-night exchange last month, he is alleged to have told her that he wanted to kiss her “everywhere”.

In this blog on July 1, I said that Crabb was unfit to head the work and pensions department, let alone the entire government. Now I have to question his suitability for any public office, including that of a back-bench MP.

 

 

 

Not fit to be benefits minister let alone in charge of the whole government

As is now known worldwide, the UK will have a new prime minister in a couple of months’ time because David Cameron announced that he will be stepping down in light of the referendum result to leave the European Union.

Naturally, there are a few Conservatives with their eyes on the top job but, in my view, none so strange as work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb. He is one of five candidates nominated for the position.

He is totally unfit to hold his current role, which includes responsibility for disability and other benefits, let alone be allowed to occupy 10 Downing Street.

Work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb discloses his plans to the select committee.

Work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb is one of five candidates to replace David Cameron.

Let’s take a look at his voting record; it is not a pretty story.

On welfare and benefits, Crabb has consistently voted:

  • FOR reducing housing benefit for social tenants deemed to have excess bedrooms, (which the Labour Party describes as the ‘bedroom tax’);
  • AGAINST raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices;
  • AGAINST paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability;
  • FOR making local councils responsible for helping those in financial need afford their council tax and reducing the amount spent on such support;
  • FOR a reduction in spending on welfare benefits;
  • AGAINST spending public money to create guaranteed jobs for young people who have spent a long time unemployed.

And, if that’s not enough, he has voted:

  • FOR tax cuts for the richest, (specifically, those earning over £150,000), and voted against raising taxes for this income bracket;
  • AGAINST a bankers’ bonus tax, though he has voted for higher taxes on banks;
  • FOR a crackdown on trade unions, backing every restriction on union activities proposed by the government.

A really atrocious record of shame.

 

MSNT strapline copy

 

‘No further plans to cut benefits’ pledge lasts 51 days

Work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb discloses his plans to the select committee.

Work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb discloses his plans to the select committee.

Declaration of interest: I have multiple sclerosis and receive both ESA (in the support group) and Disabled Living Allowance (both care and mobility components at the highest rates).

 

Sneaky, very sneaky and possibly even underhanded, is the only way I can describe how the UK’s work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb decided to reveal the government’s latest intentions to make further cuts to disability benefits.

Instead of making a statement in the House of Commons, he chose to disclose the proposals in an almost throwaway and casual style before the work and pensions committee select committee.

He told the committee that he wanted to go further than the controversial and much-criticised £12 billion welfare cuts set out in the 2015 Conservative manifesto and to ‘re-frame discussion’ around disability welfare reform.

And this, let me refresh your memory, from the same man who, after replacing Iain Duncan Smith as work and pensions secretary, announced the dumping of proposed changes to the Personal Independence Payment and said that the government had no plans to make further welfare cuts.

At the time, I warned that we should not be taken in by his ‘weasel words’.

This week Mr Crabb told the committee that he intended to set out a green paper later this year to propose further changes to disability benefits.

He explained that the measures that have either already been legislated for or announced add up to the planned £12 billion of welfare cuts but added: “Does that mean welfare reform comes to an end? I would say ‘no’. I’ve already pointed to what I see as one of the big challenges of welfare reform – and that’s around work and health.”

Mr Crabb told MPs on Work and Pensions Select Committee that he would deploy ‘smart strategies’ for cutting expenditure on disability and sickness benefits and would hopefully be able to secure the support of disability charities.

He said: “In terms of how you make progress of welfare reform there when you are talking about people who are very vulnerable, people with multiple barriers, challenges, sicknesses, disabilities – I am pretty clear in my mind that you can’t just set targets for cutting welfare expenditure,” he said.

“When you’re talking about those cohorts of people you’ve actually got to come up with some pretty smart strategies for doing it which carry the support and permission of those people and organisations who represent those people who we are talking about.

“This is why there’ll be further information in due course about this. I want to produce a green paper later this year which starts to re-frame discussion around this set of issues.”

Criticism to Crabb’s latest plans have been voiced by many including campaigning blogger Mike Sivier. Writing on Vox Political Online, he said: “He (Crabb) means he wants to cut funding to the vulnerable and make it more likely they will die, the same as Iain Duncan Smith always meant.

“This is a war of attrition; the Tories have already killed off a great many sick and disabled people and hidden the facts, in the opinion of this writer. That means there are fewer left to resist what may clearly be seen as a genocide.

“That’s why fighting these cuts is so vital. Stephen Crabb must not be allowed to think his murderous plan (whatever it is) will be easy to enact.”

Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith has called on the government to dump the ESA cuts that have already been passed. He said: “The flimsy case for the cuts to Employment Support Allowance is now totally blown apart by this broken promise (that no further cuts were planned) and the Tories must listen to Labour’s calls for them to be reversed.”

 

Disability benefits: When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?

Stephen Crabb and prime minister David Cameron in the House of Commons.

Stephen Crabb and prime minister David Cameron in the House of Commons.

Sadly, the UK government seems hell bent on ignoring the lessons it should have learnt after the events following the chancellor of the exchequer’s budget speech that included an announcement that cuts would be made to the Personal Independence Payment disability benefit which is paid to people with a whole range of disabilities. They include both physical and mental disabilities as well as illnesses such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and many more.

He made the announcement on March 16 – to be followed two days later by the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith from his role as work and pensions secretary.

The planned cuts were dumped in a government U-turn confirmed by new work and pensions secretary, Stephen Crabb, the next week.

Disability groups were looking for other signs of improvement too but these were dashed this week when, on Monday, Crabb told the House of Commons that disability benefit cuts already agreed are among policies that are “changing things for the better”.

Campaigners for people with disabilities had been hopeful that the government would also reverse the £30 a week cut to the amount of benefit to be paid, from next year, to new claimants of Employment and Support Allowance in its Work Related Activity Group.

But, despite the Disability Benefits Consortium finding that even the current rate of ESA has left around a third of claimants struggling to afford to buy food, the much sought-after reversal was not to be. It seems Mr Crabb is determined to carry on just as his predecessor Iain Duncah Smith was doing before he suddenly discovered his conscience in the wake of the budget.

Mr Crabb made the, some would say outrageous, claim at his first Work and Pensions Questions session in the House of Commons, during which he was asked how he differed from Iain Duncan Smith. Not a lot, I’d say.

Owen Smith, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, did urge the minister to make a U-turn on those ESA cuts and, getting a negative response, Smith told Crabb that disabled people would “be disappointed he won’t reverse” them.

However, Stephen Crabb demonstrated he had learned nothing from the events of eight weeks ago by proceeding to defend the indefensible. He said that there was “no reason” to change the government’s approach.

“We are a government that has helped deliver the changes that has seen a huge fall in workless household, we’re seeing nearly half a million more children growing up in a home, seeing a mum or dad going up to work.

“There is no reason to change policies that are changing things for the better for those who have least in our society,” he said.

So, is Stephen Crabb any better, or more caring, than Iain Duncan Smith was? Sorry, no, just more of the same.

 

 

‘No further plans’ does NOT mean ‘no further cuts’

stephen crabb hoc

Isn’t it wonderful? The UK’s new Work and Pensions Secretary, Stephen Crabb, stood up in parliament and said that the government will not be going ahead with changes to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

So, that’s all right then. We can all relax, campaigns can stop. The government has seen the error of its ways. Benefits paid to people with disabilities, like me with multiple sclerosis, are safe….

What utter rubbish, to put it politely.

Look at exactly what he said. The bold italics are mine and highlight important points to note:

  • The government “will not be going ahead” with changes to the Personal Independence Payment that were announced.
  • There are no further plans for welfare cuts this parliament.

This was seen through straight away, not just by me but also by a series of journalists who took to Twitter:

norman smithNorman Smith (pictured left), assistant political editor, BBC News, tweeted: “So £4 billion planned savings from PIPs will not be found from elsewhere in welfare budget…for now.”

ross hawkinsRoss Hawkins (right), BBC political correspondent, tweeted: “Saying no further plans to cut something isn’t – of course – the same as guaranteeing never to cut it.”

gabby hinscliffGabby Hinsliff (left), The Guardian newspaper columnist, tweeted: “So no more welfare savings (for now anyway). If he’s achieved nothing else, you have to admit that wouldn’t have happened without IDS.”

Tom Newton DunnAnd, perhaps the most telling of all, Tom Newton Dunn (right), political editor of The Sun newspaper, tweeted: “Treasury swiftly clarifying Crabb declaration on welfare cuts. Doesn’t at all mean no more cuts in this parliament, just none planned. Ah.”

In other words, be vigilant, be on your guard, keep campaigns ready to return to full force at a moment’s notice.

The battle over the proposed PIP changes may be won but the war to protect welfare benefits, even PIP itself, is far from over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t be fooled by government’s callous weasel words – disability benefits cuts are still planned

Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb.

Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb.

Mystery still surrounds the fate of the threatened cuts to the UK’s Personal Independence Payment paid to people with disabilities. including Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, blindness and mental illnesses.

Just look at the timetable:

March 11, Justin Tomlinson, Disabilities Minister in the Department of Work and Pensions, officially announced plans to make changes, to make cuts, to Personal Independence Payment.

March 16, in his budget speech, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne gave details of the cuts the government was proposing.

Following the budget, and for a further two days, uproar ensued. Not just protests from those likely to be affected but from disability charities too. And the government, which has a majority of just 17, suddenly found itself facing almost certain defeat in the House of Commons when around 20 of its own MPs said they would oppose the move.

Back-peddling was the order of the day, publicly hinted at by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan on BBC Question Time, when she said that the proposed cut was only ‘a suggestion’; with the Chancellor saying that he would look again to get things right.

March 18 saw Iain Duncan Smith resign as Work and Pensions Secretary, calling the planned cuts ‘a compromise too far’.

Prime Minister David Cameron, in his reply to Duncan Smith’s resignation letter, said “Today we agreed not to proceed with the policies in their current form and instead to work together to get these policies right over the coming months.”

Look at that closely, read it carefully. The Prime Minister did NOT say that those policies, the cuts, won’t happen. What he did say was that they would not go ahead in their ‘current form’ and that the policy would be got ‘right’ in the coming months.

Then, yesterday March 19, Stephen Crabb was promoted from being Welsh Secretary to take over at Work and Pensions. And, on his first day in his new post, he said the cuts to disability benefits will “not be going ahead.”

Well, actually, no he didn’t! Let’s look at it carefully.

These are the words that the new Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb really said: “We’re not going to be going ahead with these cuts to disability benefits that were proposed on budget day.

“The prime minister has confirmed that himself. I was very clear when I discussed the offer of the job this morning we were not going to go ahead with the cuts that were proposed.”

Sounds good, right? Well, err, no. The key words in the first sentence are ‘that were proposed on budget day’. Similarly, two sentences later the telling words are ‘that were proposed’.

Now, call me a cynic if you like but I have worked as a journalist, spent time in public relations and been around politicians long enough to recognise this for what it is – the use of prepared phrases, or callous weasel words, designed to trick us into thinking the cuts won’t happen.

The government is just trying to buy time to find a way to get them through in another form and without rebellion from within their own MPs.

Trust me, despite what we are being led to believe, the cuts are still very much on the table.