Gazette column - 5/7/18

Imagine you’ve a disability and the money you rely on is taken away with no good reason.

The disabled don’t need to imagine this outrage because it is happening to them here and now.

The Tories must spend hours inventing cruel and unacceptable tortures to make life a misery for people who deserve a hand up but get a kick in the face.

Two years ago their callous Government slashed by £30 a week the Employment and Support Allowance sickness benefit.

The number of people entitled to the disability benefit Personal Independence Payment or PIP were arbitrarily targeted for cuts.

We live in an area with an industrial heritage that quite literally knackered people and the test of a civilisation is how it treats victims and the vulnerable.

The Tories fail that test when they mercilessly strip the welfare budget to the bone without a care in the world about the damage they inflict.

I raised in Parliament the plight of disabled victims of indefensible tests and cuts.

More than 2,000 disabled people claim PIP in the Jarrow parliamentary constituency and it is criminal to mistreat them as guilty-until-proven-innocent when they’ve already proved they qualify.

Common decency would see us helping the disabled but common decency and the Tories are strangers.

I’ve been contacted by a lengthening queue at my advice surgeries of folk who tell me assessment reports don’t reflect interviews, how medical evidence is ignored, questioning is hostile and the guillotine drops unfairly on benefits.

It can’t be right that hundreds of decent people are forced to spend up to a year fighting to have reinstated what should never have been axed.

The success of two in every three appeals is condemnation in itself of systemic official errors.

The Windrush generation aren’t alone in suffering from a Tory hostile environment when the disabled receive the same ugly treatment.

Since the hated “fit for work” assessments were first rolled out faulty testing has seen tens of thousands of severely ill people thrown off benefits.

The entire system is so hopelessly inept it was reported a grieving woman in this country handed over her mam’s ashes to the Department for Work and Pensions after they asked to assess her for work months after she’d died.

I fear it’ll get worse, much worse, under the officially discredited Universal Credit mess imposed across South Tyneside at the end of May when Iain Duncan Smith’s expensive disaster will hit hard those on low incomes whether in or out of work. 

The Conservatives don’t give tuppence for the misery they inflict but we do so together let’s fight to save the welfare state alongside the National Health Service, education, council housing, policing and all the other public services we hold dear.

Enough is enough of Tory austerity. It is eight years too long. Now is the time for the Labour alternative.

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Meet your MP


Stephen Hepburn has served the Jarrow Constituency as MP since 1997.

He was last elected to serve in June 2017 and won the seat with a conclusive 17,263 majority.

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