Socialist Worker

Labour's scheme to rob disabled people's benefit

Issue No. 1772

JUST AS growing numbers of people across Britain are being thrown out of work, the government is mounting a nasty attack to force disabled people to find low paid jobs. Pilot schemes began this week, and the government wants its new regime to operate across the country next year. Parliament was not even debating the plan until Thursday, after it had already begun.

Those in the government's sights are the sick and vulnerable. Under the scheme all those claiming Incapacity Benefit, worth around £69.75 a week, will be forced to undergo compulsory tests designed to push them off the benefit. Most of the 2.3 million people who claim the benefit are people who have had their health damaged by years of often back-breaking work. The biggest group of claimants is men over the age of 50, and often in the areas hardest hit by unemployment.

They are workers such as miners thrown on the dole as the industry was butchered, many of whom were left with crippling back and breathing problems. The new scheme will haul new Incapacity Benefit claimants up for special 'fit for work' tests which they must pass if they are to continue getting the benefit.

The tests will be run by private firm SEMA. SEMA has been in charge of such tests since New Labour privatised the medical assessment service. Its mission is to make profit. The people who will suffer are the disabled.

Under existing medical tests 23,000 people had their benefits cut in March and April this year. The tests are designed to fail people. An ex-miner with breathing difficulties who cannot climb a flight of stairs unaided could easily fail the tests.

Anyone failing will simply have their Incapacity Benefit axed. This regime is designed to force disabled people into low paid menial jobs. It is one of the nastiest domestic policies yet dreamed up by an increasingly nasty government.

And that the government is trying to force disabled people to look for low paid jobs, while tens of thousands of workers are being thrown out of work across Britain, makes the attack even sicker.

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Sat 27 Oct 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1772
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