Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Disability Benefits

Although I have a vested interest in the Government's Welfare reforms (Mrs TBF is disabled), for various reasons I've been rather reluctant to comment on them here.

In the main though I agree with many of the sentiments expressed here by Oliver Lewis at the Spectator. Like him, I cautiously welcome them albeit with some concerns. The welfare system does desperately need reforming and Iain Duncan Smith appears to be trying to make a decent fist of it with due consideration to the disabled community:
In fact, despite Polly Toynbee's claims, as far as I can see, the government has been cautious and sensible about making sure these reforms do right by the disabled community. Starting from 2013, it expects the process of examining every claimant to take up to three years. It has engaged with disabled groups, amended proposals and recently agreed to halve the time that seriously ill or disabled people will have to wait to receive PIP – to three months instead of six – a massive improvement, especially for cancer patients. The Welfare Reform Minister, Lord Freud, has also proposed an amendment allowing disabled people living in care homes to keep payments worth up to £51 per week. 
Undoubtedly, due to the nature of bureaucracy, some will be wronged - thus making the headlines, it's inevitable. But a Government has a duty not only to look after the weakest in society but a duty also to spend taxpayer's money wisely.

Such contradictions and subtleties though escape the likes of Polly Toynbee, which the Spectator, in its article links to. To her life is black and white instead of the shades of grey that it really is. It's one of the reasons I've tried to leave this subject well alone - it's an emotive subject which will reduced down to a narrative of 'nasty cuts' and 'evil Tories' and 'right wingers' against instead those nice cuddly Labour left wingers. Despite all their faults, I doubt very much any MP, regardless of party or political persuasion, is callous enough to want to deliberately send disabled children into abject poverty.

One wonders, reading Polly's rather ironically hate filled article whether it even crossed her mind that Cameron knows exactly what it's like to look after someone who's disabled.

1 comment:

  1. TBF,

    For someone who has a loved one who is disabled, I am surprised at your lack of understanding of the underhanded process this government has instituted wrt DLA.

    No-one, including the Disabled, disputes that the Benefits system needs some sort of reform.

    However, when it involves untrained 'examiners' receiving a bonus for each person they find 'fit to work' and lobbying by an Insurance company, an assessment that even it's designer states is 'not fit for purpose', there is something seriously wrong.

    I hope, for both your sakes, that your wife doesn't claim DLA. If you do, don't expect it to be renewed without a fight and much emotional turmoil.

    Have you read the report "Responsible Reform"?

    If not, here is a link to it. It is worth a read.
    This report, written by disabled people themselves, and based on an analysis of some 500 responses to the UK government's consultation on its planned Disability Living Allowance (DLA) changes and cuts, illustrates that the coalition's proposed 'reforms' lack both support and credibility. 'Responsible Reform' shows that the government's DLA consultation breached the government's own code of practice and was "highly misleading". The material used here has been made public only as a result of disabled people requesting to see it under the Freedom of Information Act. Key findings include:
    * 98 per cent of respondents object to the qualifying period for benefits being raised from three months to six months
    * 99 per cent of respondents object to Disability Living Allowance no longer being used as a qualification for other benefits
    * 92 per cent oppose removing the lowest rate of support for disabled people.
    In all three cases, as well as many others, London's Conservative Mayor, Boris Johnson, has also objected to the proposed changes. The Welfare Reform Bill will be disastrous for sick and disabled people, says joint author Sue Marsh. It is not too late for a government rethink. Members of the House of Lords are being urged to back an adjournment debate calling for a pause of at least six months.

    Read the full report here:

    Among the report's conclusions are that:
    * Only seven per cent of organisations which took part in the consultation were fully in support of plans to replace DLA with PIP
    * There was overwhelming opposition in the consultation responses to nearly all of the government's proposals for DLA reform
    * The government has consistently used inaccurate figures to exaggerate the rise in DLA claimants
    * The report shows that nearly all of the recent increase in working-age claimants of DLA has been associated with mental health conditions and learning difficulties. Between 2002 and 2010, the number of working-age DLA claimants - excluding those with mental health conditions and learning difficulties remained remarkably stable
    * 98 per cent of those who responded opposed plans to change the qualifying period for PIP from three months (as it is with DLA) to six months
    * 90 per cent opposed plans for a new assessment, which disabled people fear will be far too similar to the much-criticised work capability assessment used to test eligibility for employment and support allowance (ESA)
    * Respondents to the consultation repeatedly warned that the government's plans could breach the Equality Act, the Human Rights Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

    The report is published independently but supported and endorsed by a range of NGOs, including Ekklesia, Disability Alliance, Mind, Papworth Trust and Scope]

    I can also recommend the blog "Broken of Britain", written by Sue Marsh.

    Apologies for the length of this reply. I did try to trim it down, not that successfully it seems.