Urgent calls have been made this week for an urgent review of the benefit system after it emerged dying patients are being forced to attend interviews to prove they are unfit for work. Doctors, along with many others including myself, are demanding that the UK Government rethinks its “Work Capability Assessment” programme, because the way it’s being implemented at present is causing great distress to people who have only a short time to live. It is totally inhumane.
Whilst I agree that anybody abusing the benefits system should be punished accordingly the pendulum has now swung too far the other way. There are now too many cases where people who genuinely cannot work because of illness or disability are having their benefits slashed or withdrawn altogether, thanks to the Coalition Government’s “benefit reforms”. These so-called “reforms” are taking us back to the 1930’s when working people were thrown on the scrapheap and denied any dignity because they either couldn’t find work or were unfit to work.
I deal with many of the victims of the benefit system in my own surgeries. Last week, for example, a single parent with two disabled children came to see me because their Disability Living Allowance and Carers Allowance had been stopped without warning or explanation. Another man had his benefit stopped because the Job Centre had wrongly accused him of not looking for work when he had attended over a dozen interviews in one week.
If the Tory-led Coalition Government was as vigorous at chasing down wealthy tax dodgers as it is at destroying the lives of poor people who rely on benefits to get by then our society would be far better off and the Government’s deficit would be doing down dramatically. According to some estimates benefit fraud costs the Government about £2 billion a year but the tax dodgers cost it £30 billion a year; 15 times the cost of benefit fraud.
The quickest and most effective way to get more people off welfare and into work is to make sure the work is there for them to do. That is why the Scottish Government is demanding investment in building new houses, roads, schools, etc; to create new jobs, particularly in the building trades, that would provide employment opportunities for unemployed people, especially the young unemployed. This investment would pay for itself as more people got into work.
The UK economy is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy because of the crazy austerity measures being pursued by the London Government. Even the International Monetary Fund is now saying we are heading for disaster unless there is a change of direction. Unfortunately Scotland is suffering because we allow these incompetents in London to mismanage our economy; its time we took control over our own resources. No sensible person can surely dispute any longer the fact that the Scottish Government would do a far better job of running the Scottish economy than that lot down there.