Monday, 24 February 2014

It's Time

As I said the other day, the moral rightness of welfare reform turns on a simple axis: that a substantial number of benefit claimants, particularly those for sick and disabled people, do not need this kind of support and that the DWP would be able to tell who they were and therefore savings can be made here without simply shifting the cost to another balance sheet covertly.

Everything the Coalition(and Labour predecessors) betted on with ESA and the Work Capability Assessment was based on a forecast made by David Freud back in 2007 which was itself simply a re-hash of what a criminal insurance company had been pushing for years(Freud was caught circulating briefing sheets written by that company around Parliament during the Lords stages in the passage of the Welfare Reform Act). This forecast was that there were a million Incapacity Benefit claimants who could move into work immediately.

Absolutely no research was initiated by our political elite to determine the truth of this before they embarked on what has been the single most damaging policy towards the sick and disabled in modern times. Nazi comparisons might have seemed absurd at the time, they don't now. Yes, Labour delayed a full roll-out of the policy until after a pilot had tested some existing IB cases for migration- but we've had absolutely no reason to believe they would have halted or reversed the policy because the results were claimants being booted off the benefit which was the plain and simple intention from the beginning despite IB totals not rising since it was introduced in 1995.

If they had been right, then totals would have quickly dropped by a million and JSA claims would have proportionately risen. This didn't happened. What instead happened was that needy people had support cut, so they had no choice but to appeal and the whole thing took so long every time that if they won then they would be scheduled for re-assessment abusively or if they lost then they had reached the period where they could submit a new claim. Essentially, an inordinary number of ESA claimants have been kept perpetually in the Assessment Phase where they get JSA-level payments but keep the JSA total low.

There is a practical problem to these shenanigans though- you have to get a significant number of people to keep tabs on others even if you are just running fake assessments that often see people for mere minutes. In a normal world, good people do good, bad people do bad, but to get a good person to do bad things- it takes bureaucracy. It was never possible to run regular checks on so many people that would be accurate, fair and meeting with basic ethical standards. So the Work Capability Assessment was never intended to be any of those. It would only have had a chance of working if there had been the predicted reduction in totals and the intended side-effect of that insurance company seizing a large portion of the market that should have developed for income insurance(hint: can't be afforded by people in poverty). The system started crumbling not long after it was introduced and just got worse as time went on and more was demanded of it. The straw that breaks the camel's back is probably the rollout of Personal Independence Payment of which Atos is one of the contractor's. There have been substantial delays in processing applications and getting claims for PIP assessed.

It's time for the denials to stop; this was never going to work. It's time for Evidence and Reason; when did claims actually rise, how did they rise and what is the probable Reason for the rise? It's time to come clean about what has driven the war on welfare for the last two decades; the parts that are frequently targeted are those which provide the most value, work best and yes, save money. What justification can possibly still exist for the complacency with which the political and media classes treat social security?


  1. Substantial delays in assessments for PIP,indeed.New guidance issued today to state what they must have known but waited until they had to confirm.Working to remedy the situation ,a bit bloody late now.I do not think it can be overestimated as to the consequences of this,particularly if it is sudden disability that has knock on effects on ability to work both for the person and partner.Like many it happened to us,out of the blue.Two reasonable wages into one part time a la Tommy Cooper ,just like that.Savings depleted with alacrity,the reasonable speed of DLA receivership,albeit as usual beneath the level actually applicable until later remedied ,gave us peace of mind and for sometime avoided the need for means tested benefits and working with a wage that excluded eligibility to carers allowance.It steadied the ship in the shitstorm of uncertainty.Bad enough that they are incompetent,worse still they are particularly mcompetent in the very areas that it is rather essential not to be.