A Lancaster disability champion who quit the Conservative Party last week said he had never known a government to hit disabled people so badly.
Wheelchair user and lifelong Conservative voter Graeme Ellis, whose diabeties affects the nerves in his legs, ran the National Conservative Disability Group website.
But when the government announced more cuts to disability benefits last Wednesday, Graeme, 59, said he just “snapped” and shut down the website, leaving the message ‘This website is now permanently closed owing to Disability Cuts and will no longer be developed’.
Graeme said that “even Mrs Thatcher” had helped introduce things like disabled living allowances, and he felt a “huge sense of injustice” when the chancellor George Osborne announced the removal of Personal Independance Payments (PIPs) in his budget.
Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith promptly resigned saying the cuts were “deeply unfair”.
His successor Stephen Crabb said the cuts to PIPs would not be going ahead, but Graeme said the “bridges had been burned” and that not even an appeal from David Cameron himself would bring him back to the Party.
Graeme runs White Cross based social enterprise Here to Support, which has contact with more than 150 disabled people per week.
Graeme said the cuts had been steadily increasing the organisation’s workload, and are having a serious impact on disabled people in the Lancaster district.
He said: “There is one man in his 20s that had a fall, severely damaging his ankle and spine. He claimed Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and went to a medical assessment with a back brace and dosed up on Oramorph. He was told he was fit for work and went to the Job Centre but was told he wasn’t fit for work.
“He has had no income for a year and is now suffering from chronic malnutrition.”
Graeme said there were more and more people being turned down for benefits and that he “could not sit there any longer with an ‘I’m alright Jack attitude’.”
“It was a feeling of extreme anger, and ‘why the hell am I doing anything with this political party’,” he added.