The Welfare Reform Scam

The government’s claim that it is protecting disabled people from cuts is, of course, nonsense. Deep cuts are being made to disability benefits and to social care, which is now used by 25% fewer people. But government is expert in disguising its actions and finding someone else to blame.

For instance, social care will be cut by about 33% by 2015, but local government is the scapegoat. Few people realise that a cut of 42% in local government funding must translate into deep and lasting cuts in social care. The fact that central government also pretends to be providing extra funding for social care makes the whole situation even more laughable.

When it comes to cuts in benefits their main strategy has been to claim that the benefits are being ‘reformed’ whilst making cuts by stealth. The biggest cuts are being introduced by changes to indexation – something few of us understand – but which is slowly decreasing the value of benefits year after year. This means that the UK, already the third most unequal developed country in the world, will inevitably become even more unequal.

Sometimes a new name is used to create confusion and obscure what is really going on. For example, Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is now being changed to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). In other words, a benefit that gave disabled people a little extra money, to make up for the extra costs of living with a disability, has now been given a new name with no clear meaning, but one which sounds much more ‘aspirational’. Yet the real purpose of this change is to make 0.5 million people ineligible for this modest benefit, in other words, to reduce independence.

Even more ludicrous has been the transformation of Incapacity Benefit (IB) into the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) assigns disabled people to one of three possible benefits: Job Seekers Allowance (JSA), ESA’s Work Related Activity Group (ESA-WRAG) and ESA’s Support Group (ESA-SG). Who would be able to guess the purpose of these benefits from their names? These are not allowances to assist with job seeking or to enable employment; they are simply the basic benefits that people need just to exist. This is further DWP newspeak – you must invert the apparent meaning in order to find the true meaning.

Other cuts wear an even subtler disguise. A report written by leading disability campaigner Kaliya Franklin, published this week by The Centre for Welfare Reform, describes how Atos (the private medical company funded by government) works to a system of ‘norms’ in order to meet the government’s targets for cuts. Again, the same pattern, but this time Atos are the scapegoat. They are blamed for the high rate of successful appeals against their assessments and for the pain, misery and death caused by this process. But the real problem lies in the management system imposed by the DWP.

The worst kind of scapegoating and evasion is to blame disabled people themselves. Take for example the Daily Express headline: “Health tests show how 75% on sick benefits can work”.

2013-12-03-Scroungers.jpg
This shock headline feeds the lie that disabled people are skivers and it seems highly likely that it was based on this government press release:

The latest figures show that 55 per cent of new claimants who go through the Work Capability Assessment are found fit for some form of work. The official statistics published today also show that, for the latest period 20 per cent could be capable of doing some work with the right help and support…

Whether or not the Daily Express were helped to add 20% to 55% to get their silly 75% figure I do not know. However the reality is that the ESA is a system that was designed precisely to create these figures. It was an inevitable feature of government policy that disabled people would be divided into these three different groups, of these specific sizes. This is not the uncovering of skivers – as the headline implies – rather it is simply the division of disabled people into three pre-determined categories in order to save money.

At a deeper level we should question why we employ politicians and civil servants to deceive us and to stigmatise us. It may be that this is a constant problem in government; politicians seek legitimacy by distorting facts to suit themselves. Perhaps we all do this. But we grant politicians the power and resources to distort reality on a grand scale.

In particular we pay for an expensive professional civil service who serve politicians by creating systems, rules, policy changes and deceptive press releases. Perhaps it is time that the civil servants ask themselves some hard questions about their own complicity with this injustice. Good intentions and obedience to politicians are not enough. It is time the public sector and its agents remembered that they work for the public, not for our politicians.

By Simon Duffy at the ‘Huffington Post’, 4th Dec 2013: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-simon-duffy/welfare-reform_b_4378693.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003

New fears of PIP ‘chaos

A quick glance at the search terms people use to reach ‘Benefit tales‘ shows a significant number of people every week searching about delays in their Personal Independent Paymment (PIP) claims. It is currently the most frequent topic being searched for. Here’s an article from John Pring at the disability news service examining this in more depth.

New evidence has emerged of serious delays with the roll-out of the government’s new personal independence payment (PIP), after the parents of a disabled teenager told how he had been left for months without his disability benefits.

They have been waiting nearly three months without any communication from Atos Healthcare, the company carrying out the PIP assessments in London and the south of England.

The parents of Kai Rollinson, who live with their son on the outskirts of London, submitted his PIP form in early September, but have had no written communication from Atos since then.

continue reading this article here

Disabled people forced to cut back on food and heating to pay bedroom tax

Nine in 10 disabled people and three quarters of carers affected by the bedroom tax are having to cut back on food and heating in order to pay their rent.

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), a national coalition of more than 50 charities, revealed the findings in a letter to Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith which called on the government to take immediate action to exempt disabled people, their families and carers from the controversial policy.

The letter, signed by the chief executives of charities including Disability Rights UK, Scope, the Royal National Institute of Blind People and the Child Poverty Action Group, points to “stark evidence” that shows disabled people are not being protected from the controversial policy despite government claims to the contrary.

It states: “Before the policy was implemented, we warned that it would hit disabled people and carers for whom additional accommodation was essential, not spare.

“We have been deeply frustrated at reports that disabled people and their families are protected from this policy. The stark evidence since the policy was implemented in April clearly shows they are not.

“It is hitting disabled people who need an extra room for essential home adaptations or equipment which enable them to live independently; seriously or terminally ill people who sleep on hospital beds and cannot share a room with a partner who cares for them and parents caring 24/7 for disabled children who need a room for a care worker to stay in to give them a night off from caring.

“None of these groups are exempt and our organisations are seeing the devastating impact it is having on those who now face a shortfall in their rent as a result of the changes.

“Nine in 10 disabled people and three quarters of carers affected are now having to cut back on food and heating to pay the shortfall in rent they face as a result of this policy.

“Our organisations are hearing time after time from disabled people, carers and families of disabled children who are being forced deeper and deeper into debt and falling behind on their rent, putting them at risk of eviction.”

The charities also claim that the DWP’s safety net of discretionary payments is not working.

“Our research shows that only a minority of disabled people and carers receiving support from the fund the government set aside to cover the shortfall in rent for disabled people. Those who are unable to access discretionary support are being hit with an average bill of £700 a year,” the letter states.

It continues: “Disabled people and carers are being left in constant fear of losing their homes. Even those who have received discretionary payments to cover the shortfall in rent now are being left with a deep sense of insecurity – knowing they may have to reapply for temporary support for the rest of their lives just to stay in their own homes.

“The Government must act now to exempt disabled people and carers from this policy.”

The latest official statistics show that more than half a million social housing tenants are affected by the bedroom tax. This is hitting disabled people particularly hard as:

  • two thirds of housing benefit claimants affected by the tax are disabled;
  • 100,000 live in specially adapted properties; and
  • around 230,000 claim Disability Living Allowance(DLA)
  • over three quarters (77%) of DLA claimants live in the social sector.

by Juhn Lash at 24dash.com, 24th Nov 2013: http://www.24dash.com/news/central_government/2013-11-27-Disabled-people-forced-to-cut-back-on-food-and-heating-to-pay-bedroom-tax-charities

A selection of search terms 1.

I can see some of the search terms that have led people to this site but unfortunately I cannot see who has posted them. Unfortunate, because many of these people need immediate help.

Here’s a selection from the last 7 days. The site recorded 106 known search terms including:
   
   
    * Just had back surgery and have to attend WRAG group

    * how can you live when benefits are taken away due to a sanction

    * i’m at my wits end

    * why am I waiting so long to get my personal independence payment
 
    * atos stopped me working but 5 years later say Im fit to work, can i sue them for loss of earnings

    * doctor from ATOS said that I could do things that i couldnt

    * what happens if atos healthcare cancel the appointment

    * greater manchester starving

    * decision delays dwp

    * my disability benefits have been cut off how can I appeal

    * PIP delays

        * how long to wait for a PIP decision

    * victimised by employer for being put into the WRAG group

    * WRAG advisor ignoring my sick note

    * no money left job center

    * son missed JSA appointment how long do they stop the money for

    * depression and the DWP

    * made claim for PIP 23 weeks ago

Argotina1, 26th November 2016

Atos move leaves DLA decision-makers guessing

Disability benefit decision-makers have been left without expert medical advice to call on for most of their cases, after the outsourcing giant Atos Healthcare withdrew from large parts of a key contract.

Doctors employed by Atos used to advise Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decision-makers on the more difficult claims for disability living allowance (DLA) and attendance allowance (AA). Atos has also been providing doctors to visit claimants in their own homes to carry out full medical reports, again under a medical services contract.

But Disability News Service (DNS) has learned that the long-term contract to carry out this work ran out three months ago, and since then Atos has been providing the service on a month-by-month basis. Now the company has pulled out altogether from most of the work, leaving decision-makers – the civil servants who decide whether or not a disabled person will receive the benefit – without any expert medical advice to call on.

An internal bulletin to staff says that Atos Healthcare has been providing medical services for DLA and AA claims for “many years” but that this support would now be on “a revised basis”. The move is thought certain to lead to an increase in appeals from people whose DLA and AA claims have been turned down, with decision-makers forced to rely more on guesswork as they make decisions “on the balance of probability based on available evidence at the time”.

DWP guidance is being rewritten, with Atos doctors only available for claims from people with terminal illness, and for those claims from disabled children being dealt with at just one regional benefits centre.

Although personal independence payment (PIP) has now replaced DLA for new working-age claims, under-16s still have to claim DLA, and over-65s must claim AA to cover their care needs. And due to delays in the PIP rollout process, existing DLA claimants across London and the south of England, the north of England, and Scotland, are still being assessed for DLA rather than PIP if they report a change in their care or mobility needs, if their fixed-term award is about to expire, or if they reach the age of 16,

A DWP spokesman said: “It’s a revised service. Guidance has been provided to decision makers and decisions made will be informed decisions based on information provided.” He said that the withdrawal of the Atos doctors would not damage the quality of decisions because decision-makers could use information “from a variety of sources”, including the claim form, care plans, and reports from GPs and consultants.

The internal memo is just the latest evidence that problems for Atos – which has numerous government contracts – are continuing to mount.

Despite DNS having seen the bulletin, and DWP admitting that it was genuine, Atos has so far refused to confirm that there have been any changes to its medical services contract.

Campaigners already believe that Atos has contributed to or even caused the deaths of thousands of disabled people, because of the way its assessors have carried out the much-criticised work capability assessment (WCA) on behalf of the government. But last month, DNS learned that meetings between Atos and DWP civil servants were taking place across the country because a recruitment crisis had left the company with a severe shortage of doctors.

The public spending watchdog is also investigating concerns about the award to Atos of at least one of the contracts to assess those claiming PIP – following a DNS investigation – as part of a major “value for money” study into the new benefit and its implementation. And in July, the government announced that it was bringing in new companies to join Atos in carrying out WCAs.

by John Pring, on the Disability News Service, 15th Nov 2013: http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2013/11/atos-move-leaves-dla-decision-makers-guessing/

Government’s benefits advisers say PIP changes could cause ‘catastrophe

The government’s own benefits advice body has warned that last-minute changes made to eligibility for the new mobility benefit could have a “catastrophic” impact on some disabled people.

The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) says in a letter that some disabled people will “almost certainly” be forced to quit their jobs because they can no longer travel to work. Others may have to cut their working hours.

The committee says it is concerned about the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) lack of evidence on the impact of its decision to tighten the walking distance criteria for the enhanced mobility rate of the new personal independence payment (PIP) from 50 to 20 metres.

The letter adds: “For some, especially in rural areas where public transport tends to be less available, it may not be an exaggeration to describe the impact as catastrophic with more disabled people becoming increasingly isolated.”

Esther McVey, the Conservative minister for disabled people, was forced to launch a consultation into the change from 50 to 20 metres after facing a judicial review over her decision to tighten the criteria.

SSAC says in its letter that DWP needs to make a stronger case for the change to PIP, which is gradually replacing working-age disability living allowance (DLA).

In the letter to DWP’s PIP assessment development team, the committee also suggests that the consultation document should be expanded to cover the potential impact on disabled people who will lose their Motability vehicles as a result of the changes.

And it calls on the government to consider “in more detail the impact on unpaid carers, the potential shift of costs to other areas (for example employers, health service and social care etc), and the impact on the Motability Scheme”.

It also says it is “concerned that the rationale for reducing the threshold to 20 metres may not represent an appropriate gauge for drawing the line on where ‘those with the greatest needs’ lie”.

It says 50 metres is “long-standing” and “widely accepted” as an appropriate threshold, so the case for cutting it needs to be “stronger than that currently presented in order to persuade individuals that 20 metres is a fair and more appropriate measure”.

 

By John Pring on the Diasbility News Service, 16th August 2013. Read the rest of the article here: http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2013/08/governments-benefits-advisers-say-pip-changes-could-cause-catastrophe/