When we collectively bowed out heads this morning we remembered those who have lost their lives in war. We took part in a tradition that has occurred annually since the First World War. We remembered the millions who have died throughout our recent history. Equally though, we let our thoughts go out to the families and friends who have suffered bereavement because of our current battles around the world.
This year I spent the two minutes silence by myself at home. I stopped what I was doing on my computer and sat in silence. I thought about our servicemen and women, those who have fallen, but also those who have come back with life changing injuries.
I shared those two minutes of silence with the I.E.D victims looking back at me. I thought about what I owe him, what our society owes him, and also what our government owes him.
Now is not the time to talk about the morality of war. Now is the time to remember those who have fallen and offer support to those who are still living with the impacts of war – both psychological and physical.
Now is the time to make sure this government give our returned servicemen the support they need.
Iain Duncan Smith, The Work and Pensions Secretary, said recently that in order to secure a 20% cut in spending on mobility support for the disabled, having lost limbs, in itself, will not be enough to secure benefit payments.
The governments planned reforms away from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to the new Personal Independence Payments (PIP) are expected to leave 500,000 without ‘vital support’ according to a new report by The Hardest Hit campaign.
The British Legion, in a submission to the Department of Work and Pensions, has said that the criteria that could be applied to the new benefit will hit limbless ex-Servicemen especially hard. The charity said that “many veterans with mobility problems, particularly amputees, [will] no longer qualify”.
The government in response has said that those with the most severe injuries will be exempt from the medical test when assessing them for their PIP. This in itself raises questions about who will and who will not be affected by the changes. Will for example soldiers who are less visibly disabled still lose out?
I would hope that supporting our injured servicemen would be something that is backed by all, regardless of political allegiance. This current government’s push for greater austerity though has warped and confused its morality.
Disability rights campaigners have described how many with disabilities are on a tipping point of isolation and poverty. Jaspal Dhani, chief executive of the UK Disabled People’s Council and co-chair of the Hardest Hit campaign, said “The chancellor has just announced a further £10bn cut to the welfare budget. With £9bn having already been removed from disability benefits and services in this Parliament, disabled people are already at a tipping point”.
In response to the accusation of leaving disabled people isolated and further impoverished, the Minister for Disabled People, Esther McVey said “Our welfare reforms will ensure the billions we spend better reflect today’s understanding of disability and offer the targeted support disabled people need to live independent lives“.
Essentially, the Department for Work and Pensions is saying that it understands the needs and demands on mobility that disabled people face, better than a coalition of 90 disability charities…
Once again, we are witnessing social policy that is being pushed primarily through an austerity agenda not what people’s lives demand.
On this Remembrance Day, thousands across the country, including our injured servicemen and women are worrying about the removal of vital support that they rely on to live ordinary lives. Where is the respect and honour in that?