Before I start, I have a small request. When you talk about "The Disabled" could you please add "The Sick" in there sometimes? Only, millions of people with long term illnesses often face the greatest barriers to work but are rarely mentioned, if considered at all.
You see, I first started lobbying ministers about ESA back in 2009 and was surprised to listen to a half hour speech by the then disabilities minister Jonathan Shaw that failed to mention illness once. Obviously with political and business will it is possible to modify workplaces to facilitate the lives of the blind or deaf or immobile in employment. It's just not so easy to modify for exhaustion or pain or vomiting. A few months later I met with Mr Shaw who made it clear that he didn't really know anything at all about the issues faced by those who are suffer from long term variable or degenerative conditions.
It seemed a little that way when you, Maria "answered" questions online at Guardian Money. Of 250 questions, you replied to 6, often with answers that were strangely irrelevant; you didn't seem sure whether the over 65s would be able to continue claiming DLA? You didn't seem to know which research your own department had based its conclusions on? I read your response to our little online chat this morning;
Oh dear, dear, dear. This really isn't the way to go at all. I am a fairly moderate (and I like to think reasonable) campaigner, but I can already hear the howls of outrage from every corner of the UK as people read that their brains are now being called into question as well as their disabilities.
You see we don't have much else. We can't get about much, we might live in terrible pain or despair. We may have had to give up our hobbies or our dreams, but we like to think that we can still use our brains. We have little still available to us, but we can analyse, dissect and appraise. Of the campaigners I know, one is a PHD student, two are lawyers, one is the CEO of a major charity and I myself have a degree. We've read the green papers or white papers or CSRs in detail and have an excellent grasp of what changes will mean. We're just not always sure you've done the same.
I'm sorry to shout the next bit but I'm running out of ways to make the next point in a way you might notice :
SICK AND DISABLED PEOPLE ARE NOT AGAINST ALL REFORM - FAR FROM IT.
WE SIMPLY WANT TO ENGAGE WITH YOU TO ENSURE REFORM IS SUCCESSFUL.
We hear very often that you listen to and consult with health and disability groups over your current proposals, but I can find little evidence of this. These charities have written to you asking to meet, whilst other leading charities wrote to the Times begging you to listen and engage. You've never contacted myself or other cyber-campaign groups like the Broken of Britain.
If you press ahead with changes to ESA and DLA as they stand, you will find a Poll Tax/Iraq sized albatross hanging around your necks. There are some very damaging proposals in both reforms and it is in no way dramatic to state that they will cause great hardship, poverty, distress and even death. Why not iron things out while it's still not too late? Why not change things in a way that will achieve your supposed objectives? This is an issue that gains enormous support and coverage online - my own blog has gone from nowhere to become the 23rd highest ranked political blog in the UK in just 4 months and it is only a matter of time before stories of destitution and suicide make this a national issue that won't go away.
Many campaigners can only conclude that the entire exercise is a cost cutting measure. Can you blame them when George Osborne announced how much he would save through these measures before a single reassessment had even taken place? The rhetoric used in this debate has often being accusatory and intimidating "Cheats mugging the country" "Skivers and Scroungers" This has often been fuelled by your own press releases and really needs to stop if we are ever to have a reasoned debate on the issue.
All I can do is ask, yet again, that you stop and listen. When something is truly unjust, those who fight it will win in the end. Surely it is better to do it together and with respect than through endless Daily Mail headlines and suffering?
**As ever, I need your help. Maria Miller's contact details are listed below. PLEASE take the time to
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5) Maria's constituency is Basingstoke - if you are a constituent, please consider making an appointment for her surgery - we need you most.
Appointments can be made by telephoning 020 7219 5749.
For all constituency correspondence contact Maria at;
House of Commons The Mount
London SW1A 0AA Bounty Road
For all Ministerial correspondence contact Maria at:
Department for Work and Pensions
London SW1H 9DA