Disability campaigner Mary Laver is to deliver a special birthday card to Iain Duncan Smith – to thank him for plans to “imprison” her in her own home.
She is protesting against his party’s plans to scrap the Independent Living Fund (ILF) on June 30.
Mary, 67, of Forest Hall, Newcastle, said: “I’m very frightened about what this will mean to me and anything I can do to at least raise the issue of this appalling cut, the better.”
The former RAF servicewoman has rheumatoid arthritis so severe that she cannot walk or use her hands.
As such she requires constant care – receiving around 18 hours a day or 126 a week at present. The majority is funded by her local authority but 46 hours a week comes as a result of the ILF.
Ironically it was set up by the Conservatives in 1988 for disabled people with high support needs to enable them to live in the community rather than move into residential care.
It costs about £320m a year and helps nearly 18,000 disabled people across the country.
However, according to the plan, in June the funding and responsibility of ILF care and support needs will transfer to local authorities – but there is no obligation to use the money specifically for ILF.
And after one year, the funding from the Government will cease, meaning local authorities need to find it from their own ever decreasing budgets.
Mary is travelling to London with her support team for her protest on Thursday, the Department for Work and Pension Minister’s 61st birthday.
She will set off in her powered wheelchair and travel from the House of Commons, via the Royal Courts of Justice, 14 miles to Duncan Smith’s Chingford constituency in London to deliver a card she has had specially designed for the occasion.
She said: “I do not want to trust anyone else with such an important gift.”
Speaking of the effect the closure of the ILF will have on her, Mary said: “He is going to imprison me in my own home for the rest of my life without a parole or right to appeal. My crime? The crime that I have committed is becoming a disabled person.
“Not only am I disabled, but I am severely disabled with a mandatory life sentence.”
In 2009, Mary travelled from Land’s End to John O’Groats in her electric wheelchair to raise money for The Royal British Legion and made it into the Guinness Book of World Records.
She has taken part in the Great North Run and in 2012 she carried the Olympic torch through Newcastle.
Mary said: “This will probably be my last long journey.”
She added: “There are 18,000, give or take a few, ILF users who are going to lose on the 30th June, the funding to live an independent life, a life that non-disabled people accept as normal.
“The ILF stands for, Independent Living Fund, that is what the it gives us, our independence to enable us to live our life as we see fit.
“My message to all political parties is that it is not too late to save the ILF. Be true to yourself and stop the cruellest cut of all, cutting the Independent Living Fund, the ILF.”
A conservative spokesman said: “Our understanding of disabled people has changed over the past 20 years, and along with it there have been significant developments in how we provide social care to disabled people so they can live independent lives.
“Spending on disability benefits has increased under this Government – we continue to spend £50 billion a year on disabled people and the services provided to them. As part of our long-term economic plan we want to make sure that disabled people are given the support that allows them to fulfil their potential.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 05 Apr 2015
Benefit claimants are treated as “second class citizens” by Government officials, an MP is to claim.
Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah will call for an end to the “demonisation” of claimants, as she leads a Commons debate.
> Well, its nice to see that you’ve caught up, Chi, but this really isn’t anything new you know ? Still, general election looming and all that…
She will warn claimants are being mistreated by the Department for Work and Pensions, for example by having benefits stopped for no reason – and this can have a devastating effect on their physical and mental health.
And she will recall that she was largely bought up in a single-parent family in Newcastle which depended on benefits.
It follows claims that claimants are being “sanctioned” by Department staff, which means their benefits are stopped, without good reason.
> “Claims” ? Like there might be some doubt about it ?
Ms Onwurah will highlight the case of an IT worker who lost his job and applied “for every possible vacancy” but was sanctioned by the Jobcentre because his work search record was judged inadequate in the week his father died.
Speaking in advance of the debate, she said:
“Benefits claimants are by definition going through a tough time; they may have lost a job, have an illness or disability or are in low-paid or part time work, or they are caring for young children or relatives, making it harder to work.
“They need our support, our care, concern for and understanding of the challenges they face.”
Jobcentres and the HMRC offices that administer tax credits, are “vital public services that British citizens pay for with their taxes” and people who use them have a right to expect fair and respectful treatment, she said.
Ms Onwurah will point out that the number of people on benefits who abuse the system is a very small proportion, as estimates show that only 0.7% of welfare spending is lost to fraud in comparison with 1.3% lost to overpayment because of Department for Work and Pensions mistakes.
And she will ask why there is not more focus on catching tax evaders – when there are adverts on buses urging: “Think you know a Newcastle upon Tyne Benefits Cheat? Report them anonymously.”
Recalling her own childhood, the MP said:
“It was very hard for my mother who was crippled with rheumatoid arthritis and also suffered breast cancer, not only because of our poverty but also because of her shame at taking hand outs.
“I am very glad she did not have to face the sort of vilification and abuse experienced now, abuse caused in part by a sustained campaign from some politicians on the right.
> Although lets not forget New Labour didn’t have such a good record either, and in some respects did the groundwork for the coalition’s excesses.
“Contrary to what many of them would imagine, I was brought up with a strong work ethic, and also to believe that the state would provide a robust safety net for those that needed it.”
> Now – what we really need to know is what will Labour do to rectify the situation should they win the general election ? Anything ? Nothing ?
Source – Newcastle Journal, 06 Jan 2015