The new Welform Reform Act 2009 (see here for brief summary), abolished income support for people with disabilities, terminal illnesses and very young children in favour of ability tested benefits (ESA).
Carer Watch have launched a campaign (which I fully support):
"CARERWATCH ARE FIGHTING TO RESTORE UNCONDITIONAL BENEFITS TO ALL PEOPLE WITH SEVERE AND ENDURING ILLNESS - SOME WITH ONLY MONTHS TO LIVE. IN PARTICULAR CARERWATCH WANT THE THREAT OF SANCTIONS AND CONDITIONALITY under ESA REMOVED FROM PEOPLE WITH SEVERE AND ENDURING MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES."
Already there are reports that the assessments are penalising people who need support. These assessments are being carried out by private companies (as you would expect of this government, nice little profit margin here). But this is no way to support vulnerable members of society! One measure of a civilised society is how it supports people who need it, clearly Labour have not understood this.
The solution is relatively straightforward:
1. Reduce means and ability testing wherever possible.
2. Introduce a Citizen's Income and provide additional support for those who with diabilities, young children, older people etc.
3. There needs to be an assumption that people will seek work if they can. Reform the benefits system so that it gets rid of the benefits trap, allows people to seek smaller amounts work and accepts that some can't work.