“The government says new (ESA) claimants will receive personal support packages with practical help to enter the workforce when they are ready.”
So reported verbatim BBC Breakfast News this morning in relation to the £20.05 per week cut to new claimants of incapacity benefit ESA. The broadcast today, Monday 3 April 2017, is here and go to 2 hours 10 minutes to see the broadcast.
This claim and DWP canard is utter bollocks and no support exists.
There is NO package of support at all never mind a personal and tailored practical support package as the BBC reported.
No support whatsoever and the government spokesperson who informed the BBC over this is lying … and as per usual BBC journalists simply repeat whatever canard they are told by the DWP instead of checking if this government statement was true, valid or factual in any way shape or form. It isn’t and it is a LIE!
ESA – Employment & Support Allowance replaced Incapacity Benefit which tells you all you need to know about those who receive it. Recipients are assessed (ahem!) into two groups namely the Support group who are not expected to work and the WRAG – the work related activity group – who are expected to be able to take up some form of employment within two years IF they get support.
As no such support exists they are often sanctioned and receive no money at all and the constant stress of being required to seek employment brings on greater levels of disability especially in terms of mental health.
Government figures also show 65% of those who appeal their failing ESA decision that they are fit for work and placed in the WRAG rather than the Support group get this decision overturned.
There is a national 65% success rate at ESA appeals and some agencies I am personally aware of such as F.A.C.E. (Fight, Appeal, Challenge, Everything) have a greater than 99% success rate in overturning ESA fit for work decisions.
Recently I spent a few days speaking with Karen Price the founder of F.A.C.E. a not for profit community interest company (CIC) who began three years ago and is still staffed on a voluntary basis looking at what they do, who refers to them and their astonishing appeal success record in all social security benefits not just ESA. Their work includes Attendance Allowance, Carers Allowance, DLA to PIP, ESA, Housing Benefit, PIP and so many others challenges and appeals are undertaken and their example illustrates and typifies a huge number of issues and indeed reasons why up to £33 billion per year of welfare (social security benefits and tax credits) goes unclaimed in the UK. That is £90 million per day that is entitled to yet goes unclaimed
F.A.C.E. receive a majority of referrals from Citizens Advice Bureaux, Job Centre Plus and social landlords own welfare teams. This reflects the complexity of the cases they undertake and more significantly the extensive time involvement which means such cases are too costly for CABx and others who all tend to have what are called outcome-based funding regimes. In short, this means here is £100k per year of funding that is conditional on seeing 1000 cases which equates to £100 of funding per case. That stinks yet in most cases is all there is!
There are 8 CAB offices in Liverpool with many only opening part-time hours and only 1 of them I am informed represents claimants at tribunal which gives a part-time post code lottery as to such support and advice in terms of benefit appeals. If this is reflected nationally and it appears to be the case then services are funding-led and not needs-led – just another factor in why entitlements to benefit are not taken up by those who need and qualify for them. I am not seeking to disparage CABx or other welfare rights agencies to be clear; I am merely stating what the reality is and some reasons behind the lack of claimant support services in relation to claiming benefit entitlement.
This £100 per case example above limits most welfare rights agencies such as CABx to 3 – 4 hours per case whereas a typical F.A.C.E. case can involve 25 if not 30 hours of work needed or ten times the amount of involvement. CABx and other welfare rights organisations by direct consequence of this outcome (and in reality output) based funding sees many now necessarily focus more on debt advice rather than getting claimants the social security benefits they are entitled to. A reactive response rather than a proactive one in simple terms.
Another reason is that the Tories stopped legal aid for welfare benefit cases a few years ago and before it did many solicitors had welfare benefit officers attached to them who because they got legal aid meant funding for welfare benefit appeals was demand led and largely available. This no longer happens and solicitors can now only claim legal aid for higher court cases such as the Upper Tribunal and even then this is often restrictive levels of funding and a very limited number of cases go down this route.
The context is that even the DWP official figures admit somewhere between £2.8 and £3.9 billion per year of ESA alone is entitled to yet goes unclaimed and the typical CABx funding regimes and removal of legal aid for welfare benefit appeals as well as the welfare benefit scrounger narrative and the deliberately incomprehensible forms used for these benefits are all apparent as constraints to vulnerable people getting the welfare that they are entitled to!
When we drill down into the official figures we find for example that pensioners with a disability in Liverpool alone miss out on over £12 million per year in Attendance Allowance, the pensioner form of disability benefit, which the Tories are seeking to change from a national social security benefit into a locally administered pot of money to save the up to 28% of it that now goes unclaimed!
So not only do pensioners miss out on disability benefits they are entitled to, the Tories are seeking to take away the pensioner’s right to get this disability benefit in the first place! IF the Tories are allowed to do this which they have been planning for some time then the blame for the non-availability of such pensioner disability funding also passes from central to local government, which is another typical aspect of the Tories social security and welfare strategy that the LHA maxima cap policy will repeat and in some earnest!
Last week I attended a seminar called #whosebenefit in Liverpool – about a new academic book from Ruth Patrick who followed numerous families for five years detailing their experiences of the so-called welfare reforms – with Karen from F.A.C.E. and it included other speakers from the Guardian and the local council on the same ‘welfare reform’ subject.
In the Q&A that followed Karen said just the claimant filling in the ESA1 form themselves means the claimant has lost 10 points from the start which raised eyebrows from the largely academic audience yet they quickly realised upon her explanation was and is an extremely valid point (that alone could spawn 20 different doctoral theses!)
Completing this extremely tortuous form unaided means in the DWP view that the person is capable of work and is capable of following directions easily and is therefore fit for work. What the claimant puts on this form is given more weight than the professional view of the claimant’s GP or consultant or other specialist by the DWP’s non-expert decision-making staff.
The same goes for the PIP form. Personal Independence Payment (PIP) replaces Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and the Tories designed PIP with the expressly stated intention of removing 600,000 people who receive DLA. Right now we are seeing a national transition from DLA to PIP and that includes those whose DLA was awarded indefinitely in the past and whose disabilities have got worse not being awarded anything at all in PIP!
This indefinite DLA cohort believe (wrongly!!!) as they have been awarded DLA indefinitely that they will naturally receive PIP in this transition and so they complete the tortuous PIP2 form themselves. They then lose their DLA and are rightly angered by it. To illustrate the scale of this at the same #whosebenefit seminar Ros Wynne-Jones who chaired the seminar apologised to the audience for mentioning in her Daily Mirror Real Britain column that 800 disabled persons are losing their mobility car each week!
The apology was that it is 900 persons per week who are losing their mobility car in the DLA to PIP transition not 800!!
The system is corrupt and in relation to the ESA and PIP and other social security forms I can’t begin to describe just how tortuous these forms actually are and how individualistically (is that even a word!) that they need to be completed! The old and typically 32 page housing benefit claim form (the HB1) that my largely housing audience will know of was and is simple to complete and is a see one, do one, teach one basis as the same answers are required.
Yet the 63-page ESA1 Form used to claim ESA and the 40 page PIP2 form and both have lengthy accompanying notes are task-oriented and means that each claimant has an individual answer as to how their incapacities and disabilities affect their ability to complete tasks such as preparing food, washing, bathing and toileting, dressing and undressing, communication and so on – with each case seeing the different side effects of medication taken affecting each task.
Each form is thus hugely individualistic and not a see one, do one, teach one form and their tortuous nature alone explain why it needs the 25 hours plus I referred to above to complete properly. Yet often even that is not enough and whilst at F.A.C.E. Karen showed me an example of a man who had his voicebox removed over 20 years ago who scored zero points on ‘communication’ in his PIP assessment!!
One manifestation of so many losing DLA and so many ESA Support Group claimants being demoted to the WRAG group is that these households then lose their exemption from the likes of the overall benefit cap policy which then puts these incapacitated and still disabled households at risk of eviction due to arrears as a result of the alleged fit for work tests in the sham work capability assessments.
The extremely high resource time and the very specific expertise needed just to complete the tortuous ESA and PIP forms makes this a significant financial problem for social landlords which is where the majority of the ESA and DLA cohorts live. These are not see one, do one, teach one forms such as the old HB1 Housing Benefit claim form, they are extremely individualistic forms that require a very high time involvement with the claimant (the tenant) to complete correctly … an even that assumes the tenant as the claimant is willing to tell their landlord of the very private persona circumstances their incapacities and disabilities manifest.
How many tenants will tell their landlords or even the CAB that their infirmities mean they have a bucket next to them to urinate in as they struggle to make it upstairs to the only toilet they have? Pride kicks in and understandably so … and that example is much more common that anyone imagines. And yes these are the same cases that the DWP finds fit for work and tells the BBC they have a practical and personal support package to get them into work!
Do you have a bucket under tour desk in the job you do reader?!
Again addressed to the social housing professional and especially their welfare teams whether in-house or externally funded or just sign-posted to otheragencies would your tenants tell you they piss into a bucket as they can’t make it up the stairs when you have been bombarding them with red-inked letters over paying the rent with the bedroom tax, benefit cap or Universal Credit?
Would such tenants trust you enough to tell you that? I strongly doubt it and that explains one of the key reputational risks to landlords that I have been banging on about for the past 5 years over all of the so-called welfare reforms.
The same of course goes for local councils who, even with the best will in the world, will not see tenants and citizens tell them that they piss in a bucket because councils like landlords are seen as the establishment and tenant pride kicks in to negate the best-intentioned welfare-maximising services that councils have.
What we have now in terms of general needs housing is a populace who need as much support just for the welfare benefits they are entitled as we had when I first entered highly complex needs supported housing more than 20 years ago. The average general needs social housing resident NEEDS a hugely increased level of support and advice just for claiming the tortuously complex social security benefit system that used to be the sole preserve of supported housing.
Yet unlike in supported housing where the relationship of trust that exists between resident and support worker is critical and sacrosanct, no such relationship of trust exists between general needs tenant and social landlord and, regrettably, the past few years has only seen so-called social landlords erode any trust that previously existed with their sole focus on their own bottom lines and red-inked bombardment of welfare reform affected tenants.
To put this back into very specific context the above is why facts – yes those pesky little buggers again – are so important such as there are more benefit capped households in receipt of ESA at 15% of all cases than there are in receipt of dole or JSA at 13% and that is why the inordinately complex world of claiming and maintaining disability and incapacity benefits is so crucial to social landlords arrears risk and their bottom lines.
Yet social landlords wrongly and ineptly concentrate on and spend their money on basic work related issues such as how to write a CV when the majority of their at risk of arrears tenants are often unable to work because they have incapacities and disabilities which prevent work and they have no support to claim what they are entitled to … just like the so-called support that the BBC report exists in the ethereal minds of this government that does not exist.
Disabled and incapacitated claimants who don’t have a pot to piss in before this ESA cut invariably do piss in a bucket while the DWP and the BBC simply piss in the wind!
Forgot to mention that the new ESA WRAG cohort will just receive £73.10 per week the same as JSA. This was the rate in April 2015 and has been frozen to the end of this parliament in May 2020 and note the social security benefit rates for financial year 2020/21 are set before the end of this parliament.
So this freeze which the DWP and government refer to as a 4 year freeze is actually a SIX YEAR one as the rates that applied from April 2015 will be the same ones that apply up until the end of March 2021!
Perhaps the BBC could have referenced this House of Commons report on ’employment support’ (I use the term very loosely indeed!) which is due to begin in the AUTUMN of 2017
Or even the Guardian article on this in January 2017 here which said, correctly, that ’employment support’ would reduce by 75% in this nefarious Tory plan – and note this support is described as ‘voluntary’ whatever the hell that means!!
Goebbels would be proud of the BBC! Arbeit Macht Frei!
Voluntary? There is a seminal difference between saying ‘the disabled want to work’ as the DWP oft repeat in hugely offensive language and forcing them to work with sanctions if they do not work … and sanctions given by private sector companies who will run this allegedly voluntary ’employment support’ scheme that is allegedly going to begin in the Autumn of 2017. Is that Autumn as in Autumn Statement which happen in November by any chance?
Still makes perfect sense for the Tories to start it then as that will a nice build up of all new ESA claimants from April (ie today) until this 75% reduced and alleged personal and practical support (which is apparently voluntary!) who have been sanctioned and thus scared witless into these free labour schemes for UK employers …
Work will set you free!!
Is it any coincidence that Arbeit Macht Frei has the same scansion as Esther McVey?
Some more (nefarious) detail on this alleged “employment support”
Firstly, note the use of “from” in this alleged support – the roll out will start FROM April and FROM the summer.
Secondly, those who are placed in the ESA wrag will have a new ‘claimant commitment’ FROM (again) the ‘summer’ – and yet in the House of Commons report on the DWP committee and scrutiny on this above it was stated as being voluntary yet now (after any parliamentary scrutiny) it is now a condition of getting ESA in the individual disabled claimants case.
This means job centre staff will be determining whether an ESA claimant can or can not do any given job – and if refusing this claimed but now clearly NOT voluntary activity then the disable claimant will of course be sanctioned!
This DWP press release goes on …
… to show the DWP left hand has no bloody clue what the DWP right hand has already done to those on ESA and in the WRAG with the overall benefit cap.
Under the Overall Benefit Cap the ESA WRAG recipient is NOT exempt and is subject to the swingeing housing benefit cut which averages around £76 per week when their youngest baby is 2 SECONDS old and they can only escape this swingeing cut IF they work … which I have reported on and repeated numerous times over the last 18 months … just as I have reported on the same issue I state above that there are more benefit-capped households on ESA than there are on JSA for the last 18 months too.
The DWP position to those receiving ESA and in the WRAG is we accept you need support for up to 2 years to get employment and we have never previously provided it but we will deceive everyone that we are now going to (that is future tense) provide some pretence at it and while we don’t expect you to find work in that time we will cut your housing benefit anyway so you and your children are evicted for rent arrears and made homeless before the ’employment support’ actually kicks in!!