Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Lord Freud, DLA Is Not Loosely Applied

In the debate during the Lords Committee session for the Welfare Reform bill yesterday, David Freud made the following comment:
"My Lords, the real trouble with the benefit is that it has been so loosely applied that it is impossible to take it fraudulently. I exaggerate slightly to make the point but that is the reason. The last time it was looked at in detail-I think it was 2004-5: I am plucking figures slightly from memory-I think there were overpayments of around £630 million and underpayments of around £250 million or £270 million. I am ahead of my team. It was around that figure. It was not because people were being fraudulent, it was just because it was no longer the right rate and you could not tell whether it had not been the right rate the day before or the day after. Fraud is not the issue with the DLA. The issue is the looseness of its application."

He is talking about that report I mentioned when Maria Miller suddenly started claiming there was £600 million in overspending on DLA a while ago, that report which has been superseded by five complete reports on Fraud and Error since then and this year's preliminary report. It is said that the reason why the 2005 review found such high overspend was that it included cases where a claimant's condition had changed so gradually they didn't know they were no longer eligible. It's weird because all the annual reports since that one explicitly include this under 'customer error'. The problem I found was that the ranges given (between 8.6% and 13.7%) for error were huge and this was basically a case of there being 1 in 10 working age DLA claimants that two separate DWP decision makers did not agree on. Factor in that half of all DLA claims are rejected outright and others are awarded after appeals: the 2005 report doesn't factor them.

Deliberate dishonesty is the only reason to rely on that report. If ministers really cared about accuracy in the awarding of benefits then rather than coming up with half-baked plans and trying to ram them through Parliament they should have commissioned up-do-date and better designed studies. It seems they don't need to investigate the truth because they 'know' what the truth is, they don't need no stinking evidence. Freud was allowed to get away with this because this is a canard the Coalition only recently pulled out their asses, it seems Miller only noticed the 2005 report about a month ago. The attending Lords could not have known and I hope they will be seeking it out and apply the experience and wisdom they have to their reading of it which Miller and Freud lack.

A quick comment that I would like to add, I was disappointed that when the amendment came up to change the name of Personal Independence Payment to Disability Living Costs Allowance, the issue of case law history was not brought up. I still have no idea if legal precedents set by courts and tribunals for DLA will carry any weight with the benefit that will replace it. Preservation of this alone would save twenty years of work by campaigners.

Case File finds that in the absence of any justification for why DLA is being replaced at all, the Coalition continues to make it's case on an Ad Hoc basis, seizing every tangent they can to press ahead.

1 comment:

  1. Indeed,on giving evidence to the dwp select committee Roy Sainsbury? was asked about the "justifications" the Government had for a replacement-he said beyond "financial " ones(which he doubted itself would be met-given the costs of reassessments,increased costs in other areas of GOV budget if numbers of recipients were reduced)there was none.