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What did disabled people do to deserve this?

The scale of what is about to hit the disabled is without precedent since the 1930s, and to rub salt in the wound they will be hammered on the same day that 14,000 millionaires in Britain get a tax break worth an average £2,000 a week to each of them (a rise in their income averaging £108,000 a year). On 6 April disabled people will be faced with a cascade of cuts simultaneously in up to 7 benefits, worse thananything experienced during the 1930s.

Research has found that 700,000 will lose £4.4bn from time-limiting of employment support allowance to 1 year, 600,000 will lose £2.6bn from reassessing personal independence payments (already a major reduction on the disabled living allowance they replaced), 825,000 will lose £2.4bn from changes to local housing allowance, and 1 million will lose £1.7bn will lose from freezing child benefit. Including some additional benefit losses, 3.7 million disabled people are expecrted to be deprived of £28.3bn over the next 5 years.

Even that is not the whole story. Some 600,000 currently on Incapacity Benefit will lose a massive £5.6bn as a result of the infamous work capability assessments carried out by the French firm Atos Healthcare. Another 420,000 will suffer the loss of £1.1bn from the imposition of the bedroom tax. The 3.7 million disabled people, like others forced to depend on benefit, will find all their benefits reduced in real terms because of the 1% cap on benefit upratings (which compares with inflation now running at CPI 2.8%.

Worst of all, the social fund is being abolished – something Thatcher never did – which removes the final safety net against abject poverty. The social fund has hitherto paid repayable loans of some £50 to help people left desperate by delays in benefit payments or having money stolen. It also provided cash grants of around £1,000 to help disabled people, ex-prisoners or victims of domestic violence to acquire items (beds, clothing, kitchen equipment) to enable them to set up again independently.

The government are now seeking to replace this withdrawal of the safety net by, for the first time ever since the 1930s, voluntary donations of food and other necessities by the general public. Again for the first time, vouchers and food stamps will be issued, though on a much lesser scale than the social fund. The Labour government spent £230m on the social fund in 2009, but this year in circumstances of much deeper poverty the Cameron government is allocating only £178m for a similar purpose.

This is in the same society that Lloyds has just announced it paid 25 senior staff more than £1m a year each last year, and Barclays over £1 million last year to no less than 428 top executives, including the aptly named Rich Ricci who got £17.8 million (£342,307 a week).

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