Government ‘just doesn’t get it’
Date published: 12 June 2015
OLDHAM MP Debbie Abrahams used her first parliamentary appearance since the election to highlight the plight of two local women.
During the Queen’s Speech debate, Mrs Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, spoke about Amanda, a woman with breast cancer who is being hounded by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP)
She said: “The Government just doesn’t get a fundamental point. Any good and successful business knows its biggest asset is its people.
“People should be valued. But instead of supporting, enabling and investing in people, their skills, health and wellbeing, the Government’s approach is to demonise people on social security.
“Amanda’s story is a case in point. In her mid-50s now, she worked as a teacher but about two and a half years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer. As she went through her treatment she became more and more poorly and took time off work. On top of all this she was then made redundant.
“She applied for, and was granted, contribution based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Months later she was also able to take her teacher’s pension.
“Last December, she received a letter from the DWP informing her that she was being investigated for fraud because she had not notified them that she was now receiving a pension.
“In the physical and emotional rollercoaster she hadn’t realised that although ESA is non-means-tested you are meant to tell the DWP about changes in financial circumstances. Although she explained this, and offered to pay back everything she wasn’t entitled to, she is still being pursued by the authorities.
“The Government demonises people on social security by using language such as shirker or scrounger, pointing the finger at others, to make people afraid and to develop a culture of blame. Blame for their own woes and blame for anything else those in power won’t take responsibility for themselves.”
The other case Debbie spoke about was an elderly woman she found alone and confused when she was out canvassing.
She said: “I called at a house one afternoon and met an elderly woman in her late 70s. She was dishevelled, distressed and clearly confused. She had an empty bubble wrap pack of medication in her hands and she said to me ‘I don’t know what I have to do’.
“Fortunately I was able to call the pharmacist who came up to see her with some more medication. But this was a vulnerable woman on her own. What if I hadn’t called?
“The cuts of £3.5 billion to social care in the last Parliament has meant that 87 per cent of councils are now providing care and support for people with ‘substantial needs’.
“With 425,000 fewer people in receipt of care now than in 2009/10, the implications are clear; fewer people, like the woman I called on, will be supported by statutory services.
“The IFS (Institute for Fiscal Studies) has shown that since 2010, 23.4 per cent has been cut from local authority budgets, with those in the most deprived areas being worst hit, including my constituency of Oldham East and Saddleworth which has lost over £254 per household.
“It is inconceivable that older people, like the elderly constituent I found, who are in need of care and support, their families and carers and other vulnerable people will not suffer as a result of these devastating cuts.”