It must take some front to vote to slash benefits to poverty levels for sick and disabled claimants whilst also acting as a patron or trustee for charities that claims to support them. So it is good news that Tory MP Kit Malthouse has been forced to resign as patron of his local MS Society whilst Zac Goldsmith is also facing questions about his role as patron of a Richmond AIDS charity. But this astonishing hypocrisy goes right to the top of the Tory Party.
David Cameron himself is vice-president of two major epilepsy charities, as well as two local cancer charities. According to the register of minister’s interests the Prime Minister is vice-president of both the Epilepsy Society and the National Centre for Young People with Epilepsy, as well as being a Trustee of Epilepsy Research UK. He is also a patron of Versus Cancer and Cancer Research UK Relay for Life in Witney.
Cameron’s interest in epilepsy was no doubt sparked by the death of his son who suffered from the condition, and so unlike Goldsmith or Malthouse, his concerns would appear sincere. That does not change the fact however that one of his adopted charities has been damning about his government’s welfare reforms.
In a recent submission to a Work and Pension Connittee inquiry the Epilepsy Society slammed current Jobcentre policies saying that benefit sanctions “contribute to social injustice and the removal of human dignity”. The charity is also a member of the Disability Benefits Consortium who recently lobbied as hard as their dirt cheap wordpress blog would let them to scrap the upcoming cut to Employment Support Allowance which could see some disabled people lose almost a third of their income.
According to the most recent figures – and they are a few years old because the DWP has stopped publishing this information – around six and a half thousand people were assessed for benefits and placed in the Work Related Activity Group due to a diagnosis of epilepsy between 2008 and 2011. From 2017 any new claimants placed in this group – and all those who have a change of circumstances – will be forced to try and survive on just over £70 a week. The government say this will incentivise them to find a job. According to the Disability Consortium this cut will make it less likely disabled people will return to work.
The death of a child may be a tragedy but David Cameron can’t have it both ways. If he genuinely supports the charity he is vice-president of then he opposes his own government. Whether he is involved with this organisation for comfort or spin makes little difference. So will the real David Cameron stand the fuck up and either scrap these nasty reforms or have the courage of his convictions and resign from organisations which oppose them? Don’t hold your breath. Ask @epilepsysociety to sack him instead.
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