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Kaliya Franklin Responds To Liam Byrne’s Comments On Welfare

January 4, 2012

Yesterday, Liam Byrne MP wrote this for the Guardian on welfare reforms. Today, as part of a readers’ panel, Kaliya Franklin had this to say in response:

Given that welfare changes have been such a contentious issue since the first coalition budget, Liam Byrne’s recent proposals are long on rhetoric and short on detail. There is currently a massive trust deficit between sick/disabled people and the Labour party, which the timing of his article adds to, regardless of its intent. Had this article been penned 18 months ago, it might have received a different response. But after so much has been said to support the welfare reform bill by Labour, which also used language reinforcing the “scrounger rhetoric”, it does nothing to reassure those who are terrified of the impact the proposed welfare cuts will have on their lives.

Although the welfare reform bill is not yet law, there have been a number of distressing cases in which benefits, or the lack of access to them, may have played a role. Mark and Helen Mullins, whose bodies were found last month, were forced to rely on a food bank miles from their home, to which they could not even afford the bus fare. Falling through the system’s gaps and loopholes is a common experience for claimants, but it is not widely understood by those who have not experienced its bewildering and leviathan complexity.

While battles rage among politicians as to who can appear the toughest on welfare issues, there will be many more like the Mullins — people who will be mentioned and all too briefly mourned by media which wilfully ignore their own responsibility for the demonisation of the poorest and most vulnerable in society. If the public are asked how they feel about dependency culture, then of course they will condemn it. But perhaps the most important question, which no one seems to care to ask the people of Britain, is: do you wish sick and disabled people to be given the support they need? Politicians of all parties would do well to start pondering this as they also tackle benefit fraud.

• Kaliya Franklin is a disability rights activist, blogger and founder of The Broken of Britain

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