Monday, 16 January 2012

It's Not Reform; It's Munchhausen's By-Proxy

Commence theatrical blog-post opening. Baron Munchhausen was the famous character no one has heard of and was known for his magical, seemingly impossible adventures, heroics and deeds of daring. Handsome, compassionate, brave and loved by all. But what he was most known for was that none of this true. He was a spectacular liar, fantasist and attention-seeker. This makes it slightly more believable that he is based on an actual person by the same name and same characteristics. Think of him like Dracula; strange, foreign, rich and well-suited to being played on-screen by Gary Oldman. He'd also be good playing Hans Asperger too I reckon.

This article was re-written in its ENTIRETY to accommodate this picture
Unlike Dracula, the Baron has a mental condition named after him and unlike Hans Asperger, the Baron has TWO conditions named after him: Munchhausen's Syndrome and Munchhausen's By-Proxy. As I explain the difference, consider the 'what if' scenario of there being Asperger's By-Proxy.

Munchhausen's Syndrome can be described as a desire for attention, but specifically through faking or even inflicting harm, illness or injury on yourself. This explains the mysterious popularity of boy and girl pop groups.

But Munchhausen's By-Proxy is where these compulsive urges are off-set onto another individual, which oddly does not actually often result in a great increase in attention or concern for the victim but instead creates positive reinforcement to the person orchestrating the ruse in order to fulfill their need. The major partner in the Coalition government specifically said they would not change DLA in their manifesto all those centuries ago before the last general election. They changed their minds pretty sharpish; they had a need for headline-grabbing attention and for it to be positive. Hurting someone, especially those who have ready-made conditions already was just logical in its own twisted Munchhausen way.

These three men with Munchhausen's By-Proxy set fire to each others groins to gain attention for themselves. Unfortunately none could fulfil this compulsive need for each others attention because they all had Munchhausen's By-Proxy
But it wasn't enough to simply copy the Baron's need for attention; they had to go ahead and tell tall tales as well and they made a pretty big house of cards. It was in danger of falling however and they realised they needed to modify what they were saying to the public without anyone noticing. So they came up with new claims, similar to the previous ones in how they sounded but utterly different in meaning. The case for welfare reform, especially reform to Disability Living Allowance, has been made up as they go along. They have argued entirely on an ad hoc basis: they came up with the policy and then scrambled for reasons to justify it. Imagine it like in the Simpson's episode '22 short stories about Springfield' where Principle Skinner has his boss over for dinner, it all goes wrong and Skinner doesn't exactly make up excuses as much as he modifies things he's previously said consecutively with each new disaster. Well that's the government on welfare reform.

The government case has never risen above Contradiction

For a short time following the announcement to cut an estimated 20% from DLA, it was claimed rather frequently that it had never been reviewed. After this the claim morphed into 'many claimants have never had their cases reviewed', which then became 'there is no systematic re-assessment' and now it's gradually working its way to 'most claimants are not regularly assessed' because those with fixed awards most certainly are re-assessed, systematically so. So ministers try to raise the issue of the 71% of total claimants who have 'indefinite' awards and then mislead on it.

They began their attack on DLA or 'disability benefit' by saying how much better off claimants were on it than in work, confusing it with an out-of-work benefit repeatedly. Then once they actually started reading anything about it(mainly Miller doing the reading), they said the problem with it was that it was widely mistaken for an out-of-work benefit.

The man misunderstands the purpose of Galactus and the DLA that he claims. Galactus maintains cosmic consonance but has an insatiable appetite similar to symptoms of Prader-Willi Syndrome and he must eat planets to survive.
They claimed it had risen by 30% in eight years. Then the demographic issue was pointed out; a lot of that growth seemed to be population-driven. It had also been obvious for some time that it is the pension-aged group who were growing the most: on The Files it was revealed this group whilst making up only a third of total DLA claimants(since risen from 33% to 38%) were the case of almost half(46%) of the growth and because of the way claiming DLA as a pensioner works, there was little overlap between this and population change. The government knew it of course and a DWP report even acknowledged it in August, no wait- July, no it must have been June; except that the report was written in May 2011, dated differently in different places and then finally released three months later after the Welfare Reform Bill had cleared the House of Commons and right in the middle of the August riots where they thought no one would notice.

Iain Duncan-Smith speculated gangs were the primary cause but a ring-leader was never identified
 The report revealed not only that the DWP now acknowledged(even if their masters didn't) the role of the pension-age mechanism in total DLA growth, but that this was forecast to end sometime in the next decade: they think 2019 ish, I calculated it ends in 2014- the year after PIP becomes active coincidentally. That is the year when anyone who was 60 in the year DLA was introduced, 1992, reaches the UK life expectancy, so on-flows for pension-age claims should severely arrest then.

The Social Security Advisory Committee published a response to the DLA reform consultation. Their response can be condensed as 'they couldn't find any basis or reason for radical reforms to DLA' and the purpose only seemed to be to reduce the number of working-age claimants.

Keep in mind that around those times back in early 2011, there was not a peep from ministers about '£600 million overspend' or '71% have indefinite awards'. They didn't get round to reading about those until much later yet going by what they brief the press and the sound-bites they use now, you'd think these were the main issues all along. They are very much making up their case as they go along, which is why the advisory committee were not able to find any case at the time. When one talking point gets taken down, they find another to replace it and once the media goldfish have forgotten, they'll sometimes recycle an old one knowing it won't be questioned.

Unlike the government case, historically arguments have become more poignant as they got simpler and more specific
There was a review mid-way through the year into adult social care in Britain. Wonder why it didn't get much coverage? Amelia Gentleman interviewed Maria Miller in the Guardian about those plans to take DLA Mobility away from care home residents. Miller insisted it was right because of a supposed overlap in funding: Mobility payments were being paid when local authorities were already paying those costs. Except it wasn't true and Miller was betraying a misunderstanding widespread among ministers about what Mobility is actually for(and why they don't think any condition where a manual wheelchair is needed and can be used counts as having a significant mobility problem). Apparently Gentleman found the interview to be rather odd, cryptic and confusing. This is normal when dealing with Maria Miller, it doesn't mean you've done anything wrong or losing your grasp on reality; Miller does that very much on purpose. The National Autistic Society lobby at Portcullis House was one of the weirdest things I've ever experienced and not because of the other Autistics but precisely because the oddest speakers weren't any of us, but Miller when she arrived for the last fifteen minutes. Amelia Gentleman found the conversation to be so odd(and you could tell from her article) she even came below the line on the Guardian website and offered to send anyone who wanted a transcript of the interview, just so the weirdness radiating from her article had some context to it. She asked for feedback from readers.

When I got a look at it, I spotted why Miller was being weirder than usual.
"The recent thing that looked at the very complex matrix of law, relating to adult social care. And what they found out is exactly what we found out that the way law has changed over time, it has been an iterative process, it has been layer, upon layer, of different requirements on local authorities for what they provide for people who are in receipt of social care, and this is again what we found with mobility. It's unclear, it's complex and it's inconsistent in the way that it is dealt with on the ground."
This was the Law Commission review into adult social care. I'm not entirely sure when Miller and her colleagues became aware of the specific matter; but the Law Commission found the basis for care home residents claiming DLA Mobility was a case law precedent. They weren't originally allowed to claim because they were considered 'hospitalised'. A judge eventually ruled this to be unlawfully discriminatory. I'm kind of in the mind that the government already knew about this but wanted as few people knowing as possible. But Miller was struggling through her interview and needed to seize on some piece of evidence and blurted out some of the Law Commission stuff before realising someone might read the whole damn thing(hallo thar) and realise what would happen to the case law history if DLA were to be replaced with a brand new benefit.

Well gee, if that had gained any traction anywhere else, David Freud would not be trying to move amendments tomorrow that have no other purpose or effect except to make sure the plan stays in the bill and he's even aligned it to make sure Lord McKenzie doesn't thwart him. But the Coalition case for reforms is patchwork, has always been and is invented as they go along following the path of least resistance to get what they want. This is the behaviour of someone with Munchhausen's By-Proxy.


  1. Hi Mason.

    It's off-topic, but Chris Grayling's claim about the youth Work Experience programme that "More than half of those who enter the scheme are off benefits within three months" sounds false, because he circumspectly avoids saying that 'more than half find jobs'. What is it he's not telling people? I assume there's a catch.

    There is an early DWP assessment of the Work Exp. outcomes:

    And it contrasts with the much more in-depth study of Future Jobs Fund outcomes:

    Not sure if it's something you could clarify?

  2. Checked and now I'm in speculative mode. looked into this:

    The DWP told them NO DATA had been published on this. So where does that report you posted come from? It's an 'ad hoc analysis' paper basically, which nearly always means it was a 'press release' for specially-selected newspapers. There's still some confusion over what the ad hoc analysis page on the DWP website is for apart from publishing internal research which is of a much worse quality than what the DWP publishes on their proper research pages. It could even be that ad hoc analysis papers are barely related to the DWP at all but come direct from ministerial offices.

    There's a link that takes us to this page: and the link there is supposedly the 'data' but alarm bells ring as soon as I look at the DWP logo, the very blurred DWP logo.

    It's basically Chris Grayling misusing department resources for party-political reasons again and getting away with it.


  4. Thanks for the Full-Fact link, Mase.

    Remains mysterious, mind.

  5. Freud just stated that "life-time" awards were abolished in 2001 and "indefinite" awards were REVIEWABLE AT ANY TIME(had to be told this by his mysterious paper handlers giving him the information)

  6. Lady Hollis telling him to try and control his "press hounds" re.recent coverage about people receiving "DLA for life"

  7. Thank you for that Adrian, I will investigate. I had previously believed 'indefinite' and 'lifetime' to be simply synonyms that were used inter-changeably.

  8. They might be now ,but it puts the lie in the DLA for life,no questions asked line after 2001 at least.

  9. Apologies in my convulted way,i am trying to say it, appears to me anyway,after 2001 a decision was made to make awards "indefinite" rather than "lifetime" and guessing if their was a difference of review /reassessment "needs"applicable from thence all awards were reviewable.This may be cobblers and I do not know why it is exercising my brain,given the fact that DLA is in its "deaththroes" but i happen to have an attachment to it even if |I am not a recipient(I should have just filled a form and got one of the cottage industrialists to help me) Even the name PIP annoys me .