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Proletarian issue 68 (October 2015)
Health warning: Austerity kills
The truth is out, notwithstanding official attempts to cover it up.
Ian Duncan Smith (IDS) and the present government have eventually been dragged, kicking and screaming, to the point where they have had to admit the atrocious kill rate of sick and disabled people who have been thrown into the Work Related Group (WRG). Once assigned to this group by the profiteering organisations to which the government outsources its dirty work, the persons concerned then have one year to find work or lose their benefits.

Of course, all people die, and those with illnesses and disabilities may die sooner than if they were well, but, even taking those points on board, it is not possible to hide the extremely high rate of death among those told that suddenly they are fit enough to work and must do so or their benefits will cease. That is why, instead of only looking at deaths overall of disabled and sick people, it is important to examine independently those who have been shoved into the WRG and gone on to die within a short while.

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) have recently been forced to reveal that no fewer than 2,380 people died within six weeks of being declared ‘fit to work’ by the government between 2011 and 2014.

The overwhelming despair and depression faced by people who know that they cannot work but suddenly are faced with the prospect of being deprived of all income has to be experienced really to be understood: your whole world suddenly collapses. Any possessions you have will be lost; the roof over your head will go. How will you feed and clothe yourself or any dependent children? What of medicines that you may need that are not readily available if you are homeless?

A nasty death from their illnesses or something linked to them on some cold and lonely street beckons. Is it any wonder that many people in this situation give up all hope and turn to suicide? For many, it is the stress of what faces them that actually kills them. How can anyone think that there is no relation between the sentence issued by the DWP and the death of the chronically-ill and/or disabled victim?

Some of those attacked may be lucky enough to have family around them who can help, but all too often the family are also struggling and in the process of helping are forced to lower their own standard of living, causing guilt and friction, and leading not infrequently to the break-up of the families in question, leaving god knows what damage to all concerned.

The DWP battled for months to prevent the release of the numbers involved, with its chief minister Iain Duncan Smith at one point even telling Parliament that the figures did not exist. After court action, however, the department has now had to release them, and it has done so to the accompaniment of these weasel words: “These isolated figures provide limited scope for analysis and nothing can be gained from this publication that would allow the reader to form any judgement as to the effects or impacts of the Work Capability Assessment.” We beg to differ!

A leading disability charity, Inclusion Scotland, a consortium of disability organisations in Scotland, has told The Sunday Herald: “The UN have notified us they will be visiting Britain to investigate ... and want to meet with us when they come, sometime in the next few months.” Unfortunately, this cannot be verified, as the UN conducts such investigations ‘confidentially’, but it is not beyond the bounds of possibility, since the UN’s special investigator on housing has previously urged the government to scrap the bedroom tax, after hearing “shocking” accounts of how it was affecting disabled and vulnerable people.

Before anyone starts cheering, however, it should be realised that, at best, all that is likely to happen is another round of juggling the same evil policies into different places – a few name changes and perhaps a different set of heartless profiteers being appointed to set the tests that punish the sick, the disabled and the dying.

The Employment Support Allowance (ESA) was brought in by the Labour government in 2008. It always included the loaded, anti-sick Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and was fully supported and implemented by Labour, coalition and Tory governments. John McArdle, co-founder of Black Triangle, a disabled support group, has said: “You can’t help disabled people by impoverishing them through brutal austerity cuts as your guiding policy.”

IDS has realised that his disastrous social security cuts have failed to ‘make savings’, even on their own terms, so now he is fumbling around to find new ways to justify further assaults on our welfare state, says McArdle “He’s a proven liar and is both dangerous and breathtakingly incompetent to boot … If the UK was still a civilised society – in a week when the DWP has been forced to reveal just how many thousands of sick and/or disabled people have died in abject penury after unjustly being found fit for work – IDS would have been summarily dismissed.”

If Britain was a civilised society, this couldn’t have happened anyway, but then Britain is not yet a civilised society, it is a country ruled by imperialism. No amount of toying with the benefits system – or the electoral system for that matter – is going to alter that. It really is time to learn the truth about the system we live under, organise ourselves and prepare quickly so that we may take the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s advice:

“Rise, like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number!
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you:
Ye are many – they are few!”
(The Masque of Anarchy, 1819)
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