Why ‘Cumulative’ Is So Important

As many political observers and analysts will tell you, it is very rare that announcements from political parties or Members of Parliament come unannounced. In the age of internet rumours, blogs and news delivered in 140 characters on Twitter, it is extremely rare that people are surprised. But surprised is exactly how disability and Social Security campaigners were left feeling this past Friday when Liam Byrne, Labour MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill and Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, announced out of the blue that Labour would have an Opposition Day debate on the effect of government policy and disabled people next Wednesday (tomorrow, July 10).
They will also table the following motion: "that this House believes that the Government should publish, by October 2013, a cumulative impact assessment of the changes made by the government that affect disabled people."
For some time now, various disability rights campaigners and groups have been campaigning tirelessly to highlight how disabled people have been affected by social security changes as well as the more general austerity cuts. Groups such as Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC), the We Are Spartacus campaign who published the Responsible Reform report, and theCentre for Welfare Reform amongst many others.
I am also proud to be a member of the WOW Campaign team, led by Francesca Martinez, who have called for a cumulative impact assessment as one of our main aims in a petition on the government’s e-petition website. Needless to say we all welcome this Opposition Day debate and I hope that the coalition government will realise how important this debate is.
From my own point of view, and my own personal opinion, I am shocked that it has taken almost 3 years to get to this point and more importantly I am horrified that the government will impose these cuts without first doing a cumulative impact assessment.
It is the duty of a responsible government to ensure that the impact of any changes they make is first fully investigated before implementation.

Source: http://ow.ly/i/1LkeC/original from research by Demos.
But to understand why the “cumulative" bit is so important we need to point out just how many changes have been made since the coalition formed this government in May 2010. Many of the changes that affect disabled people are contained in the Welfare Reform Act 2012. These include the "spare room subsidy" or bedroom tax as it is more commonly known, replacing Council Tax benefit with Council Tax Support which generally meant disabled people had to pay a proportion of their council tax bill, replacing Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payments, introduction of Universal Credit, changes to the Social Fund, the introduction of a Benefits Cap, and reforms to Employment Support Allowance (ESA). A full list can be seen here.
Anyone with even a tiny bit of sense can see that that’s a lot of changes that even a fit and healthy person would struggle to deal with. Add in chronic and debilitating pain, or an illness that you struggle with on a daily basis, or any other physical or mental problem and having to deal with all those cuts becomes nigh on impossible. Take my situation for example – I currently live with my wife in a very small two-bedroom bungalow. I struggle with severe mobility problems and chronic pain on a daily basis, which is exhausting and very difficult to deal with. I have already been affected by the bedroom tax, council tax support, the restriction of increase in benefits by 1% (despite government assurances that disabled people would not be affected), and the changes to ESA. There is still Universal Credit and changing to PIP to come, whilst also dealing with Atos medicals as and when they deem fit. I am terrified of not only the next few months but the next few years as all the changes come into effect.
That is why cumulative is so very important.
In response to the WOW Petition once it had reached 10,000 signatures, the government said this: Cumulative impact analysis is not being withheld – it is very difficult to do accurately… The government is limited in what cumulative analysis is possible because of the complexity of the modelling required…” Of course that begs the question that if it is so difficult to do a cumulative impact assessment surely that shows that the changes are far too complex. Interestingly, the coalition government boasted that they have pioneered cumulative impact assessments. Mark Hoban, Conservative MP for Fareham and the Minister for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), said on July 5: The Government regularly produces analysis of the cumulative impact of all coalition changes, including working-age benefits, on households across the income distribution. This information is published at every Budget and other major fiscal events, in the interests of transparency. He went on to say,"the publication of cumulative impacts is a coalition initiative and was not produced by the previous administration."
If that is the case then why are they refusing to do or publish the cumulative impact assessments on the effects of this on disabled people?
For me, they can be no more excuses. The coalition government have a duty and an obligation to ensure that every single changes they make is investigated fully. They have a duty to ensure that disabled people get the support that they desperately need. It is also vitally important that the government realise that a majority of people in this country actually support an increase in support for disabled people.
A Cumulative Impact Assessment into the changes made by this government that affect disabled people MUST be done.
A big thanks to Sue Marsh’s blog for information and quotes, and the Centre for Welfare Reform for invaluable information. Oh, and a big thanks to Laura Blackburn and WOWPetition’s very own Jane for listening to me babble on about this.

No comments:

Post a Comment