Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Nice People Will Ruin The World

I'm currently writing an important blog-post (apart from this one) concerning Francis Maude's anti-fraud 'taskforce' about to be set loose on benefit scroungers. Like with all Coalition ideas that have escaped mainstream scrutiny, I've got a lot of original source material to look at before I can be secure in my points. My e-mail response to the National Autistic Society has received a reply that somewhat frustrated me. My e-mail was forwarded to the very nice Sarah Lambert Head of Policy at the NAS and she wrote the response back. I have determined that she is insufficiently aggressive to deal with the Coalition and DWP; she could benefit from converting and becoming a Scot (I am certain this is a religion and not a genuine nationality).

You decide for yourself what you think:

Hi **********,
Lauren forwarded me your email below. Thank you for replying and thanks too for coming to the lobby. It was great to have you there and colleagues here have said that they were impressed with the way you made your points on the day.
I completely understand your anger at the reforms. I also understand why you think that we shouldn't be co-operating with DWP on this issue.
However, we have to do all we can to influence the changes being made to DLA. If we don't engage, then the specific needs of people with autism are likely to be ignored as the assessment is developed and as an organisation representing people with autism and their families, we would be failing in our duties to our members and supporters, if we didnt do all we could to influence this. 
We are very aware of the unhelpful media reporting on this and we are working to try and counter it.
We are looking at how to re-engage with those who came along to the lobby to continue the campaign and I hope you don't mind if we contact you again on this in the future?
Best wishes,
My reply was as follows:

 I'm very thankful for your reply and for inviting me to the lobby (especially covering the costs of getting there and back). I don't think in this case though that refusing to co-operate is the same as refusing to engage. The only reason why the DWP is even having to ask the NAS for a list is because they could not access such information themselves due to there being almost no statutory services for Autistic people from which the data would be gathered. Data protection wouldn't be an issue either as the DWP have already allowed Atos access to the private medical details used in the tribunal appeals against them. The DWP also lumped Autistics in the 'Learning Disability' category for Incapacity Benefit, ESA and DLA rather than recording the diagnoses properly. As the bedrock premise of welfare reform stands on a vague assumption that there is plenty of local provision and DLA is supposedly 'overlapping' with it, admitting that they need NAS help undermines their position.

I think at this point the issue can no longer be described as "changes to DLA" or "DLA reform" as DLA is being completely replaced. This has many implications which have not featured in the mainstream debate, which is itself barely managing to stay in mainstream news reporting. First among all of these is the erasing of two decades of case law that have shaped DLA. I read the report from The Disability Benefits Consortium which the NAS is a part of that gives feedback on the draft assessment criteria that has been released for PIP. They address the issue of the April changes that will permit more Deaf and Blind claimants to receive higher-rate Mobility and how this will actually be reversed by DLA being replaced with an entirely new benefit. They do not seem to have looked into how many other similar changes that were instigated by tribunal and common law rulings will also be reversed.

If it turns out the DWP does as I think it will; use the data from the trials to create an assessment that is unfavourable to genuine and desperate claimants and favourable to the outcome of a 20% claimant/cost reduction, what will the NAS do? It will be too late to complain; the government will just say it's what came out of extensive consultation and charities didn't really voice any objections relevant to the issues that will present themselves once it is active. I've asked my MP to raise the issue of DLA case law history with Maria Miller and I'm waiting for his reply. I'm hoping the House of Lords will throw out DLA replacement in its entirety if this matter can be raised with them as they tend to think in longer time-scales than MPs do.

Engage if you will, but if the purpose is to insure that Autism is addressed properly then you should refuse to provide a list until significant changes are made to the Welfare Reform bill in the Lords and/or secure permanent changes to the PIP assessment beforehand. Do not rely on the good faith of the DWP. They and the ministers in charge of treated the issue appallingly.

I would still very much like to take part in NAS organised events in future and definitely want to be contacted again.

Thank you.
If I haven't got the taskforce post out before the end of the week, I'll put up my correspondence with my MP. I never realised that I do a lot of stuff outside the blog that could actually go on the blog. It has also been suggested to me that I should put 'quirky' fun posts up to attract an audience that can't swallow pages and pages of statistics. I'll think about it when I'm drunk.

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