Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Coalition's DLA Dominoes

I have repeatedly stated that the case for welfare reform has been made 'on an ad hoc basis' which in simple English means 'made up as they go along'. Ministers have had a whole range of talking points to use in the media, which journalists have consistently failed to question or look into. They no longer use most of these talking points and that's purely because bloggers, campaigners and disability organisations pulled them to pieces and identified quite early what was wrong with them. The only issues covered by mainstream journalists are often quite straightforward and usually months if not a full year after they were initially debunked in the blogosphere.

So ministers are aware that at least some things will see the cold light of day and that these will reflect on how ministers have used them in the past. If a minister persistently claims that millions have been on a benefit for over a decade and have never been re-assessed, it will come back to haunt them which is why Maria Miller changed this first into 'claimants are not regularly re-assessed' and then 'there is no systematic mechanism for re-assessment' and then she just shut her mouth completely about it in case anyone other than myself actually paid attention to it. The DWP are still using it because they aren't being challenged in the media, but Miller had pre-empted the possibility of it eventually being picked up on if us 'disability bullies' ever get an equal share of the media platform as think-tank know-nothings and ministers do. Iain Duncan-Smith is rumoured to be actually rather thick and only appears to function at something approaching average due to a trick of television- anyone can look smarter if they rehearse for it, so he'd be out of his depth if he was actually challenged on his recent use of the 'no systematic assessment' canard.

For the record; most DLA claims are for fixed term awards, always have been and this means there is a mechanism for regular re-assessment of DLA claims. The facts did not change, Miller was always wrong, but we live in a time where most journalists are stupid children if they even have ever not been. Like stupid children, they copy each others work so often this now has a name: churnalism. They do this rather than scrutinise every single detail they are given by ministers who it should be assumed are always calculating, never do anything knowingly to their own disadvantage and will exploit those journalists who earlier failed to hold them to account when their tune changes, as ministers have being doing with some of the more naive charities recently.

That is how things work with even the most simplest of details on the topic of welfare: the truth comes out over a year later by which time the Coalition has moved onto a new script for bullshitting. Journalists can't respond appropriately to current and past claims, let alone anticipate future ones, but they are perpetually useless when it comes to anything slightly complicated. I doubt we will see any article explaining the rising pension-age ceiling of DLA and its role in the increased caseload in the Guardian anytime soon.

Journalists, you are shit and that is why I am forced to resort to dominoes. Yes, those things your parents still don't let you play with unsupervised in case you swallow one. There are three canards of major bullshit the DWP ministers are currently relying heavily on and you aren't questioning them even though they are like wobbly dominoes which can not all be true because they knock each other down with their contradictions. The paradox here is that not only can they not all be true, but if any one of them is untrue then all are untrue. That is what happens when you argue something with points you make up as you go along and you either don't know the details behind them or you are hoping no one else does. What are the dominoes then?
  1. 'Only a third of the rise in DLA costs/claims is down to demographics.'
  2. 'There is no systematic re-assessment of DLA claims'
  3. '70% of awards are indefinite/lifetime'
Three dominoes forming a triangle, preventing each other from standing up straight. They seem unrelated on the surface but knowing how the Coalition justifies using them links them together. The background behind each one ruins the case for one either side of it

How Does 70% Indefinite Awards(3) Knock Down Only A Third Of The Rise Being Demographic(1)?

Last year The Files reported on an Ad Hoc Analysis paper that was released in the middle of the August riots. The paper had its publication delayed by three months as there were two different dates inside: July and May, coinciding with the passage of the Welfare Reform Bill through sensitive votes in the House of Commons and then House of Lords. Only Left Foot Forward picked up on it and they checked and it was the only recent Ad Hoc Analysis paper which had such a large gap between being signed by its author and being published. They were fobbed off with some pretty awful excuses from the DWP that were never fully resolved. So what was so important that the government published it on a day it was very unlikely to be noticed? It was the report on 'Disability Living Allowance: Growth in the number of claimants', which contains the only acknowledgment ever given by the government of the role of 'pension-age maturity' in the rise of DLA claims. Surely that can't be right though? Surely the government does have some fantastic comeback to this otherwise they wouldn't still be claiming DLA rose by 30% in the last decade? Well, their response on the rare occasions they have been challenged(such as when the Responsible Reform 'Spartacus' Report was published) is to fudge the issue with demographics and say 'only a third of the rise in DLA costs/claims is down to demographics'. Yes, a third is explained by demographics, which has nothing to do with the extra rise that is down to pension-age maturity.

The figures show older claimants circumstances are unlikely to change
The problem is that when you look at how indefinite awards are given, pension-age claimants are way more than the 70% which is the average for all claims: 828,300 claimants over-65 are on indefinite awards out of 851,500 . Pension-age claimants aren't just accounting for a disproportionate amount of the total DLA claim growth, they're accounting for a huge number of indefinite awards. If journalists were properly scrutinising ministers, then the use of these canards by those ministers would draw attention to little inconvenient facts like this that mean ministers are not including pension-age maturity when they talk about 'demographics' even though it's used as a response to an argument about both demographics and pension-age maturity.

How Does No Systematic Re-assessment(2) Knock Down 70% Indefinite Awards(3)?

Empty a large penny jar, if you are a poor person then you should have one. If you don't then that's probably why you're poor, says little old judgmental me. Now if you were to toss each coin and lay it on a table, you would expect that the more coins you toss the closer the total figure for results would tend towards 50:50 as probability would usually cause half to be heads and half to be tails on average. However, indefinite awards in DLA are not a 50:50 coin toss. About 25% of awards are given indefinite awards. My maths says that if the chances of flipping heads is 50% on a single toss, then the chances of flipping it twice in a row is 25%(it is easy to get confused on this because of similar percentage-based equations, imagine it as flipping two different coins simultaneously). So every time a coin gets heads, flip it again and if it goes heads the second time leave it indefinitely on the table. If it goes tails the first time put it on the table as tails with no second toss, but if it goes heads and then on the second toss it is tails, do not put it on the table but instead re-toss every tails on the table. This will cause some tails coins to be removed, whilst others will stay and others will become indefinite heads coins. You now have a working simulator of DLA awards that does on-flows, off-flows and gradual growth in the indefinite cases. You'll then realise that systematic re-assessment guarantees that the total number of indefinite awards will rise no matter how few are granted indefinite awards(excepting none) because you rigourously remove the fixed term cases.

This is what happens in DLA, the system of fixed term awards is a systematic re-assessment that means those claims do not remain longer than eligibility allows them to. When ministers use the '70% are on indefinite awards' canard, they are trying to get the public to believe that 70% of DLA claimants receive indefinite awards, as part of their argument that there is no systematic re-assessment and PIP will supposedly introduce one and do something about these 'over-generous' indefinite awards. But it is the systematic re-assessment they deny exists which causes the total of indefinite awards to climb so high. If this were properly examined by the media, it would reveal that the 70% total is a statistical distortion and only 25% of claims get indefinite awards and the government reforms are largely irrelevant to this.

How Does A Third Of The Rise Being Demographic(1) Knock Down No Systematic Re-assessment(2)?

You already know there actually is a systematic assessment that has been applied to most who have ever claimed DLA and you already know the canard about only a third of the rise being explained by demographics ignores the pension-age stuff and how pension-age claimants not only account for the rise but also the indefinite awards, so this is just a highlight of how it feeds back. The thing about the indefinite awards being always presented in percentages is that it hides how pension-age claims influence it. If you take away pension-age claims, then the indefinite awards still make up almost 70% of the total caseload, just because of the way the numbers are in relation to each other and because age again plays a crucial role: in the 0-15 age bracket they are almost entirely fixed term awards. The DWP unfortunately doesn't further breakdown these figures, they only go 0-15, 16-64 and 65-plus. People on indefinite awards are still subject to 'spot on' checks as I was, but not systematic re-assessment as fixed term awards require but the figures suggest that the young who make up less of the in-flows onto indefinite awards whilst being subject to systematic re-assessments are being targeted for even more of them, on the basis of a perceived problem that is prevalent among older claimants.

Journalists fail to react to Coalition curve-balls. This one would be DEAD if not for the secretly Autistic super-hero Evan Longoria
If journalists properly checked any single one of these canards, they would find all the information required to see the problems in the other two. I've been unable to actually have a proper conversation with any of them about their abysmal work, but the impression I get is that is that the amount of bullshit ministers put out is insurmountable, so why bother? It would take too much time and energy, making it less efficient than simply waiting for the collective mainstream media to grab onto a point once it is well-established and uncontroversial. This is wrong: I have shown that by pro-actively challenging just one dodgy claim, any connected to it also become vulnerable and it is the Coalition that must struggle to keep the dominoes standing up rather than journalists trying to knock them down.

No comments:

Post a Comment