Today marks the beginning of competition for the London 2012 Paralympics, after the games’ opening ceremony last night. But at the same time, disabled citizens of the United Kingdom are facing huge cuts to their aid programs, as the Washington Post detailed:
Hundreds of thousands of disabled Britons are seeing their benefits cut or facing the prospect of diminished or eliminated aid. More than 15,000 unemployed disabled people a week are being reassessed by a contractor to determine whether they are fit to work. New, stricter guidelines mean that Britons who can roll themselves more than 200 yards in a wheelchair or read Braille could be considered able-bodied enough to find a job.
At the same time, the government is sending letters to nearly all disability beneficiaries, including those gainfully employed, warning that they will also soon need reassessments for other types of aid that help them cover a variety of costs, including home health-care workers and wheelchair-accessible cars.
By 2015, the government anticipates a 500,000-person reduction in those receiving Britain’s primary disability benefit. The number of claimants now stands at 3.4 million, up threefold since 1992.
“I would argue this is not about trying to get disabled people back into employment or off aid,” said former Paralympics gold medalist Tara Flood. “This is simply about going after a group of people the government has now decided is too expensive in these times. They are using the kind of ‘burden on society’ argument that is dehumanizing us.”
The UK, of course, has engaged in austerity in response to the economic crisis, following the same course as many of Europe’s major economies. The results, however, have been just the opposite of those austerity’s advocates predicted: the countries cutting the most are growing the least. The UK has even entered a double-dip recession, with an economy that is smaller than it was before the conservative government took power. That Britain’s government is cutting aid to the disabled in the midst of the Paralympics simply adds insult to injury.