Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Hardest Hit (And A Banana-Shark)

The second Hardest Hit march is today and this time takes place around the country. Due to alarming things that alarm me, I will not be able to attend any event. It does however mean there is a chance of a spike in visits and I had hundreds in a few hours during the last one in May. This could mean that today I will get the 10,000th visitor.

Such a milestone justifies a celebration with a prize....

This, is a Banana-Shark. They are a real animal/fruit. They are not fake, they are not even Pokemon. This one can be yours. I don't actually have a Banana-Shark, I mean the picture can be yours. I don't have a physical picture of a Banana-Shark, I mean you may right-click and 'save as' this picture. Please only do this if the counter at the bottom of the page says you are the 10,000th visitor or that would be wrong. You would be stealing the hard-won glory of exclusivity from my 10,000th favourite person.

The last march in London didn't just see me get a spike in visitors though, it also got minimal coverage from the media and what little attention they did give it was tainted by a blatantly partisan bias. On that day BBC Radio Five Live had a spokesman from a Right-wing 'libertarian' think-tank in to 'balance' the obviously extreme and radical proposition from the march that disabled people are deserving of basic rights. Something which the spokesman saw as sufficient reason to label disabled people, charities and campaigners as 'special interests' as if they were private individuals looking for policy to be made in areas where the government should have no business. The presenter may have disagreed with it, but even he couldn't understand why this creature had been brought in as he obviously had no experience of disability himself. Then again the Taxpayers Alliance practically has their own office at the BBC which might be the reason why it's moving to Salford; the TPA being almost entirely made up of wealthy white men that are natural Conservative voters might possibly be allergic to the North.

Sue Marsh is scheduled to be on Radio Five Live at 11pm and I'm expecting again a spokesman for a similar organisation will be allowed to state factually-suspicious nonsense for 'balance reasons'. If there is any significant media coverage at all, then these kinds of people will always somehow be considered as appropriate guests regardless of their actual disability experience. When you listen or read what these people say, remember back to my Factual Sodomy post for data that refutes common tabloid untruths spread by them. Some new ones have cropped up since then.

They aren't actually cutting spending on DLA.

At the Liberal Democrat conference the DWP minister Stephen Webb is reported as having said:
"On disability benefits, Webb said spending on the personal independent payment at the end of this parliament would be exactly the same as the amount spent on disability living allowance at the beginning of this parliament – £12.3bn."
Sue Marsh was reasonably offended and wrote a post bringing up the issue of inflation. Then, Mathew Sinclair of the Taxpayers Alliance showed up in the comments to state that the numbers are in real terms which are already adjusted for inflation. He did not cite his source but gave a URL to a post he wrote on the TPA website. In it he claimed DLA spending was going to go up, not down, which doesn't even match Webb's claim that it will be 'exactly the same' unless Sinclair switches between nominal and real terms values depending on which has the greater rhetorical effect. Sinclair goes on to falsely state there is a consultation on PIP, a claim he has made before and been publicly corrected on but continues to make regardless. As usual, he doesn't link to sources or cite them in that post either. There was only one consultation for PIP which began in December 2010 and closed in February 2011, with the government giving their very unhelpful response in April. The only 'consultation' related to PIP since then concerns care home residents. Sinclair doesn't cite what consultation he is talking about because the one he is talking about, the way he is talking about it, doesn't exist. Neil Coyle of Disability Alliance in the BBC News segment with Mathew Sinclair points this out and Sinclair's response is breath-taking denial.

He admits that the cut to DLA will be a cut in projected expenditure. He does not talk about the real-life implications, but that is what people complain about. That is what people fear. To artificially arrest the rise in DLA means there needs to be a mix of two things: new claims must be made even slower than they are(half of all DLA claims are rejected outright, many that are successful are not the first attempt), or kicking many people off DLA. It doesn't matter if spending stays the same or rises; only the end result. The balance sheet as a sole focus is only an issue to sociopaths that don't see it's relationship to people. The rest of us look at the balance and the effects.

This is one area where the need is constant, therefore it can't be cut. You can only shift the balance somewhere else and I think the Treasury can afford this better than disabled people can.

The new ESA regime can't be compared to the old one.

There have been no noticeable changes, except that the anecdotal reports on the web about the regime have become worse. The other change began around last November, when the number of assessments carried out by Atos plummeted by 50% and have been that way ever since. Claimants have moved from Assessment Phase to other groups slower than ever before even though Atos are supposed to be assessing 11,000 a week now that Incapacity Benefit claimants are being transferred to ESA. It's possible that the number of assessments has dropped because the system has become worse and to keep the complaints low means lowering the rate of assessments going through. My brother attempted to claim ESA last month and he claims he was told by a disgruntled DWP employee that the government had told them to leave claim forms in a cabinet for three months before sending them off. There are a lot of anecdotes like this and I'll have to keep an eye on it until more data is available.

But the figures on the DWP tabulation tool and from the FOI response they published in September indicate that the system has got much worse than the old one.

They are going to spend £40 billion on disabled benefits and services.

Meaningless without the context of what it is being used for (how much of this is being spent on nonsense like the Work Programme and it's ginger-haired twin Work Choice?) and a figure for how much was being spent before and how much was going to be spent before the government decided to rob from the poor to give to the rich.

EDIT: Just found this gem from Maria Miller:

"At the moment disability living allowance doesn't have an in-built reassessment as part of it and we have £600m a year going out in overpayments as a result."

Miller can not justify this assertion. First of all, I can't think of a single benefit that does have what she calls an 'in-built reassessment', but they are all subject to re-assessment as part of the work of the Benefit Integrity Centres. These have nothing to do with the benefits themselves. Second, is she seriously suggesting that the money lost (almost all of it through official error rather than customer error and fraud) is because of a lack of scrutiny of claimants?  Where does her figure of £600 million come from anyway? I look at the annual report for this year and the total overspend for this year from DLA is £220 million. I looked directly for the figure she uses and found unsurprisingly a Daily Mail report with Iain Duncan-Smith making the claim.There are some anecdotes that this figure was genuine in 2005 or 2006 but I'll have to look into it. Given that Miller said this just a few days ago, she has for the first time blatantly lied to the press. Previously she had twisted the truth or only given half the picture, this time she has grown so confident because she is never challenged that she can get away with outright lies.

Miller has also been frequently claiming that 'right now' 70% of people on DLA are awarded it for life and 'never re-assessed'. Both are misleading. Since the last Labour Welfare Reform bill, two-thirds of new DLA claimants are given 'fixed period' awards where they are automatically assessed again when it finishes. Only one-third get the 'indefinite period' award and even then, those who were classed as 'lifetime claimants' like myself were still subjected to regular checks. 


  1. I count the fact that the BBC just simply took Maria Miller's word for it as a sign that they probably always take a government minister's word for it. This is what is wrong with journalism now.

  2. Brilliant piece - thank you for writing - I just got an indefinite award re dla mobility part and didnt know what it meant - thank you for explaining.

  3. Funny you mention Mr.Sinclair-

  4. Arec

    I think its a shame for you to leave CIF. Centre stage and that. You can always talk about the beneifts thing without naming the actual companies. I had to go through this myself about something and was told its a safety issue.

    Everyone wants you to come back and post there again


  5. Arec

    I posted this on the Guardian You Tell Us thread and would like to post it here again for you - hope that's OK.

    22 October 2011 8:26PM

    I for one, but actually one of very many, will miss Arec and his comments and hope he will reconsider and return as he, along with Red Miner and Routemaster kept us informed, often on these pages, of the truth of what was actually going on out there - something missing from the pages of The Guardian and the rest of the media too as they seemingly swallow whatever press release is handed to them from the government without giving it the proper investigation of scrutiny it deserves. I have been reading other threads he recently commented on and many more will miss very much too.

    People like Arec who spend much of their time, often to their cost and sometimes health, buried in research work that should be taking place by today's journalists are the reason why many come to these pages and read through the threads on CiF because that is where they learn what they are not getting from the mainstream media and he will be more than sadly missed because of that. For me and those others that is what CiF is all about and if they continue to lose people such as Arec they will lose many commenters too who will feel their absence deeply and go off in search elsewhere for such information and invaluable commentary.

    Some here will say all well and good go off eslewhere - but why should we - this is as much our paper and site as anyone else's and if we believe people such as Arec make it what it is then we have the right to speak up and bring such matters to the editorial staff and push for the opportunity for the whole of the CiF community to have their say and let their views be known too.

    That is what the Peterloo campaign is all about and all they ask is that those such as Arec and others who want their concerns addressed can get that chance through an open channel of communication with the editorial staff. And hopefully then we won't see such situations occuring as this one now where people are repeatedly ignored and with having no real channel to vent their frustrations end up feeling they have to leave because of that and being sorely missed because of that. As said before and stated by others it is people like Arec who make Cif an attractive forum for many to visit and the reason why many of us do so - and its time the editorial staff realised that too not just for our sake but for theirs too.

    Some here may disagree and that's fine - but I just wanted to speak out for many I know and hope CiF will give a thought to just how much Arec will be missed and how much they would have to gain by taking him on as a more regular contributor.

    Equusferus (for Lac who's in pre-mod)

  6. ps or just come and chat about other things. You can also talk in analogies. Just take ground though...

    don't worry I won't troll your blog, just saying.

  7. Thanks for the Scope link (From Fiona Miller). Little surprises me now. By the way, 9997 hits. Excellent stuff. Feels like home.

  8. Maria Miller, dammit!

  9. I really think you might like to read through the pages of the weekend cif. There are so many that miss you and want you to return.
    You are valued, perhaps more than you realised.
    I dropped out because of clanishness and attacks from "old hands" that believe they own the place. Sadly no one missed me (poor me, maybe)
    Go back, freinds miss you.
    Sleeping Tarsia.