Once again Her Majesty will lead the nation at the Cenotaph this weekend in the National Service of Remembrance. At the same time, the British government is threatening the financial survival of 80,000 disabled working-age war pensioners in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which has been changed to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The Department for Work and Pensions has admitted that the “vast majority of claimants of PIP will not be awarded the benefit”.
When challenged, the unelected Lord Freud claimed that war pensioners could apply for Constant Attendance Allowance (CAA), but application for CAA is only possible for disabled veterans with an 80 per cent or higher permanent disability.
Some of the 80,000 working-age war pensioners also risk losing their jobs as they are not physically capable of using public transport, but, to guarantee access to the continued use of a Motability car, they must demonstrate a permanent disability of 70 per cent or greater, which many will not.
The Prime Minister claims to respect the veterans. However, the Veterans’ Agency advise that when David Cameron claimed that disabled veterans would not be affected by the welfare reforms as he had “intervened”, he was referring to “modern disabled veterans” in receipt of the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme which replaced the War Pension in 2005.
Now 80,000 disabled older veterans of working age, permanently disabled in the service of this nation, have their welfare and financial survival threatened as the Prime Minister continues to suggest that he admires their sacrifice and their courage.
Disabled veteran (WRAF)
Well done, Independent, for your exposure of the unfair treatment of veterans who contracted asbestos-related mesothelioma during service in the Royal Navy (31 October).
The bland MoD response quoted in the article was pathetic but not surprising. An “agency” in the MoD is responsible for the care of veterans but there is little evidence that it has sufficient clout. In the great world of defence, could it attract and retain the most suitable people?
In Australia, home of the “fair go”, a Department of Veterans’ Affairs looks after veterans and their dependants in exemplary fashion. We too should have a ministry, independent of the MoD, with a small staff, attracting a different kind of animal devoted to looking after veterans, whose careers would depend upon success in doing so.
Ex-servicemen and women should not be the country’s poor relations.
Commander RN and RAN (Ret), North Leigh, Oxfordshire
How can people in Britain vote on leaving the EU, unless we know what happens instead?
If we leave the EU, then what?
Alex Orr is right (letter, 3 November): there is no point in leaving the EU to become a member of the European Economic Area. One of the things that disturbs me is that no one is saying what indeed would happen if there was a vote to leave the EU.
Before the last election I asked a Ukip candidate what would happen, and got the answer that “we would negotiate a favourable deal with the EU” and “they need us, more than we need them”.
These ideas seem to me pie in the sky. But does anyone in the Out camp have a realistic proposal? How can people in Britain vote on leaving the EU, unless we know what happens instead? Has the Government given any thought to this, and thorny questions like what happens if the Scots vote “In” when the UK as a whole votes “Out”.
So far all that we have heard about is Cameron’s attempts to get some sort of new deal, but one hopes that before the vote comes, we get some answers on these other issues.
Ian K Watson
The UK government wants to drop the commitment to “ever closer union”. I wonder why it does not complete the phrase in the Treaty which reads “ever closer union among the peoples of Europe”. Opposing the latter has far more negative connotations.
Rough sleepers in the churchyard
Thank you for the short article on 24 October entitled “Vicar kicks homeless out of churchyard”. It has brought the issue of homelessness to many people’s attention. The problem is that the brevity of the article made it difficult to give an informed picture of what is actually happening for homeless people in the area of St Giles’ Church.
About 15 years ago we decided to make St Giles’ Churchyard a welcoming green space for the public. We cut back trees, laid a stone pathway and put benches in, and from that time on people have used the churchyard throughout the day. This space is open to everyone, including homeless people, and, from time to time, people have slept in the churchyard overnight and this has caused no problems.
However, issues do arise when people take up residence in the churchyard for more than a couple of days. Litter increases, there are more frequent incidents of rowdy behaviour, we receive reports of needles being found and sometimes the memorials in the churchyard have been displaced. Having rough sleepers in the churchyard also causes difficulties for our neighbours.
This October, all of these considerations caused us to request that those camping in the churchyard should leave. They refused and thus we started the process of seeking an eviction order. In the event this was not required as the churchyard is closed for burials and its care and maintenance has become the responsibility of the local council. Once this was confirmed by our lawyers, the council moved the rough sleepers away from the site.
St Giles has worked with the issue of homelessness in our city for many years. We have hosted the work of the Salvation Army Outreach Team, a shower project, Aspire, the Big Issue sellers and The Gatehouse.
Vicar of St Giles, Oxford
Mental health still at back of the queue
As a retired consultant psychiatrist, I remember during my trainee years in the 1970s the efforts which were made to destigmatise mental health problems and improve funding for this cinderella of the health services.
I am both ashamed and bewildered to be governed by politicians who can afford to ring-fence foreign aid to countries with space programmes whilst needing lobbying from celebrities to improve the still inadequate funding for mental health services in this country (“Osborne urged to help end mental health “discrimination”, 2 November) .
I can only hope that the penny might finally drop for Jeremy Hunt and he realises that money invested in treating mental illness adequately could save money in the long term. But I suppose this is unlikely in our five-year political cycle.
Findon, West Sussex
Don’t believe fox hunting has stopped
On 31 October I was driving through the Cotswolds on a beautiful autumn day, with my two grandchildren. We were stopped by a number of huntsmen in the road with a pack of dogs.
My grandchildren were then assaulted with the sight of the pack of dogs tearing a fox apart, before one of the huntsmen waded into the dogs and threw the dying fox into a field. The dogs followed.
Here’s me thinking that hunting with dogs was illegal. Not one of them apologised for what happened. They did appear to be enjoying it. I suppose I’m not “from the country” so don’t understand.
Seems as if the Government doesn’t need a vote to repeal the Hunting Act. It’s being ignored.
Vital emergency services put at risk
We have been advised of yet further cuts locally to the budgets for our public services, in particular, the police and fire brigades.
Although I agree with the principle of living within our means, these means are dictated by allocations from central government. We are told how successful they have been in turning around our failing economy, yet these most vital of services continue to suffer.
If these ideologically motivated cuts mean that these vital services have to shrink farther, lives, especially those of the weak and vulnerable, will be put at risk.
Shadowy figures in the dark evenings
Every single year at this time, as the darker early mornings and darker nights draw in, I’m confronted by pedestrians in dark clothing all over the place who are virtually unseen to motorists, with no attempts to make themselves more visible.
It really is time the “Wear Something Light at Night” campaign from when I was little was brought back. Nowadays there are more hi-vis garments around, so there is no excuse for people putting themselves at risk of not being seen.
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