It was recently decided by the UK government that it would withhold benefits for those unemployed migrants that did not have the right to work in the UK- a decision that was unsurprisingly met with controversy, with a direct challenge being presented against it. However, the decision of the European court has ruled in favour of Britain’s decision, saying it has every right to suspend the benefits and that the decision will be going ahead, meaning the challenge against it has been rejected. The European Court of Justice defended the British Government’s decision saying it was justified in order to protect the country’s finances and overall it was a welcome ruling from both the Government and Remain campaigners.
Whilst Vote Leave are attempting to curb immigration, they were expressing how they felt it ridiculous that such a decision by the Government must be approved in a court in Luxembourg instead of making the decision independently, something that would not be required if we left the EU. The claimed the legal battles were not only unnecessarily long but also costly to our country.
The rights of migrants who are not legally residing in the UK, nor earning was first brought up in 2004, and the court ruling looked at cases that dated as far back 2004 when it was first disputed whether or not the rights of migrants that were ‘economically inactive’ and from the EU included receiving benefits from the British government. The habitual residence tests determines whether these EU citizens were eligible for the financial support. The benefit curb had been argued against by the European Commission as it said that the tests to see if EU migrants could claim child benefit and child tax credit would not be used for British workers. Whilst the court did admit that the new rule might cause some unfair treatment, it still ruled it as a necessary, legitimate objective in ensuring that the state’s finances are protected. The case was potentially an explosive one with the EU referendum being so close, but had a somewhat satisfying result.
It seems both Vote Remain and Vote Leave have one very little thing in common, and that is that they both gained some satisfaction out of the result in Luxembourg, with Vote Remain and David Cameron gaining approval on his benefit curbs and Vote Leave proving that we have little independence inside the EU, as a major decision about this country, was not even made in this country, which will benefit their case massively. In the hearing is was highlighted that the government wanted to make it clear that benefits were reserved for those migrants and other people in need, who had/have the right to reside in Britain. Leave campaigner, and former work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith expressed his anti-Europe views by saying that the European Commission should never have been allowed to challenge the decision in the first place, claiming that it was just a cost to taxpayers.
As a result of the ruling, child benefit will now be paid at a rate which takes into consideration the cost of living in the country of a child who’s parents have migrated to the UK. This will be put into action immediately for any new arrivals and not until 2020 for the 34, 000 already claiming.
With an aim to make big cuts in order to benefit the economy in mind, the Government hastily created PIP, a Personal Independence Payment designed to help fund disabled people that cannot work. Those with chronic illnesses and progressive conditions are amongst the recipients (IF they can pass the test). In order to receive PIP, you must have a face to face meeting where your condition is assessed and it is decided whether or not you are eligible for payment/financial support. PIP has received no end of backlash since it was introduced over three years ago, with story after story of how disabled people have been ill-treated by the system emerging. Many are not receiving the financial support they need to survive. There was recent controversy surrounding PIP employees, with a channel 4 documentary hearing one saying that he had already decided their fate before they had even walked through the car park. These shocking revelations leave us to question whether or not PIP is fair to its claimants, and if not, where did it all go so wrong?
The be all and end all
What makes PIP so dangerous is that it really is the be all and end all – the ultimate decider for those that are disabled and in need of financial help. Without PIP, the claimant cannot have access to other benefits such as electric wheelchairs. Claiming PIP when all the odds are against you can have a stressful effect on a person, particularly when they are already in significantly bad health. Horror stories have emerged online of claimants turning up to be assessed in buildings with little to no disability access, cancelled appointments at the last minute with no valid reason provided and assessors having extremely little knowledge of a claimants condition all amount to accusations that very little respect and care is being given to disabled people, with the Government wearing their pound sign tainted glasses whilst dishing out minimum payments to those that need it most.
The PIP disaster has definitely had more media coverage since the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith and reports are suggesting that many tragic cases do not make headlines, and the lack of compassion and support from the Government means things are only getting worse. Disability charity Muscular Dystrophy UK has recently gone as far as to label the system as ‘not fit for purpose’. Surveying 300 people with muscle wasting conditions, the results that were gathered are shocking, with many experiencing delays in having their application processed because papers became lost by assessment companies. Ironically, it seems the so-called Personal Independence Payment is restricting the independence that so many once had. 400-500 disabled vehicles such as adapted cars and powered wheelchairs are being retracted from disabled people every week – this is seen as a lifeline to many, their only form of independence, something that gets them up and out of the house. Due to seemingly barbaric laws, the vehicle owner has seven days to hand back something they previously relied on so much. The time frame in which this occursfails to add up, meaning that the decision that confiscated the vehicle from the claimant, could be overturned, yet they have already been unfairly been forced to hand back their wheelchair or car.
The findings of the report, plus so many other forgotten cases, seem to suggest that David Cameron and his Government are unaware of what they are really dealing with. Do they realise that their drastic cuts are having such an adverse affect on the lives of probably the most vulnerable in our society. It seems they need to understand that you cannot create and develop a payment plan with its sole purpose being to save as much money as possible, where disabled and chronically ill people’s health is concerned. One decision could take away a lifetime’s independence and it is important that that is realised, before the disaster spreads even further.