So the long awaited and highly debated spending review finally took place. I was asked by Scope if I would mind watching the coverage, write some tweets and have them fed into their website. Was a pleasure to take part in such an event and interact with others on the issues. The first wave of emotion I felt was relief, just at the realisation we could finally hear the plans and not have to wait any longer. The normal prime ministers questions were a non event and a definite calm before the storm.
At 12.30 the chancellor took to the floor and began. The next feeling I felt was confusion. The onslaught of self justifying comments and numbers almost made my head implode. I managed to stick with it and draw out some of the main points. Seemed from my need for broader decisions that local councils will see large cuts, employment is preferable over people on benefits, a green Britain is a hot agenda item, social care and personal budgets are not being cut, childrens tax credits are being withdrawn from higher income families and many other points were made.
To home in and analyse some areas close to me would be around social care. The announcement of not cutting any budgets and backing the personalisation agenda is good. The problem is this issue is not just on money but strategy. While the money is vital the government still need to look at where and how they spend it. Furthermore the right support is needed to maximise the benefits of the personalisation agenda. I hope this is seen through as a policy as much as a budget decision.
The general points of getting people into work also concerned me. How a person is assessed is a landmine, especially with individuals who have fluctuations in their impairment. Furthermore even if a disabled person is attempting to find work, they along with many employers only see barriers in the way. It is fine to aim for those well enough to work to do so, but it comes back to education and awareness to the public on facilitating disabled peoples inclusion. Lastly, how about those who really cannot work, despite the fact they may want to, but their disability prevents them. How must they feel about their government today insinuating many negative connotations on them?
The decision around anyone on benefits receiving no more than the average household. This sounds ‘fair’ but what about the fact that being disabled costs more. I need to buy expensive electric wheelchairs every 5 years, if I go on holiday I require an accessible vehicle which costs more and I have to buy more antibiotics in the winter with my chest infections. So if I did not work, earned the ‘average households’ income in benefits, but needed the above – is this fair?
A last fleeting thought was around transport changes and a greener Britain. I couldn’t see any real initiatives to improve the infrastructure for wheelchair users, more details may be needed. However with this green agenda, which I fully support, there is a flaw. Disabled people often cannot access public transport. I can only use 1 in 3 tube stops in my home city of London. So in not using public transport I have a carbon footprint (wheelprint if you like) higher than the average person. So all in all being a disabled person could make me feel a drain on public funds and like a polluting maniac.
Fortunately I know I am none of the above. I am also aware I am looking at the examples to highlight where the decisions today were wrong. The fact is the deficit does need reducing eventually and the decisions could have been worse. A governments worse constraint is that of being in power as they cannot please everyone. The reason I have sensationalised some of the above is because it is easy to agree with their comments on stopping benefit cheats. The problem is how to stop them without mistakes and adding stress to those who genuinely do need support. There is 2 sides to every coin and I am trying to communicate the other side to Mr O.
I believe with a little investment in myself and other disabled people the future is less expensive and better for the economy. As a supported, happy and understood person I thrive. As an unsupported, unhappy and misunderstood person I am less healthy in body and mind. This costs more to the public purse. When governments realise investment in disabled people, job creation and infrastructure pays off in their own arenas, the deficit will be a problem solved in the longer run anyway, but with less pain on those who least deserve it.