Disability benefits – Tory lies and the ‘failing’ welfare rights system

The Tories when they introduced Personal Independence Payment (PIP) to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) expected that 600,000 FEWER disabled persons would receive PIP.

The House of Commons Library report from 2015 states:

When fully introduced, it is expected that around 600,000 fewer people will receive PIP than would have got DLA, and expenditure will be £2.5 billion a year lower than it would otherwise have been.

The policy without any ambiguity and with very credible reference says the Tories purpose behind PIP replacing DLA was threefold in:

(a) to cut significant cost of £2.5 billion per year and,

(b) to do that by means of 600,000 FEWER recipients of this benefit and,

(c) the mechanism was more stringent predetermined assessment.

Government ministers and the ubiquitous and always anonymous DWP spokesperson always seek to deflect and dissemble and never state that PIP was introduced to save £2.5 billion per year and to take away disability benefit from 600,000 disabled persons.

 

Media coverage such as the pathetic BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme yesterday (see here) always focus on whether the disability benefit assessment mechanism is fair or not and NEVER mention the express purpose of that assessment process which was – with absolute predetermination – to cut the number of working age disability benefit recipients by almost 20% and to save £2.5 billion per year.

As the trailer for the BBC Victoria Derbyshire says disabled people are forced to go to court to get their rightful disability benefits.  Yet the programme failed to mention the purpose behind the fundamentally flawed and overtly contrived assessment process was, is, and always has been to take £2.5 billion per year away from disabled people.

Just another example of how ‘human interest stories’ enable the media to hide the basic facts and promote fake news with calculated errors of omission and politically biased commission.

“Our top story today is that 300 disabled people A DAY are appealing against cuts to their benefits and its costing you £1 million per week”

Is how Victoria Derbyshire starts the programme.

How awful that the taxpayer is having to bail out these disabled scroungers is the basis of this outrageous programme!

  • Not once in this programme does it mention the £2.5 billion per year intended cut.
  • Not once does it mention that the latest official government figures reveal that 63% of those that do appeal their PIP decisions see them changed in their favour.
  • Not once does the programme mention that this must surely mean the assessment process is fundamentally flawed!

The programme follows the case of Debbie (and please BBC can you edit the film as it shows her full name when you zoom in on her medication!!!!) who was failed by the assessment process then had to wait a full year to get into the tribunal, a year full of stress anxiety and poverty … to have the tribunal reverse the decision and award her disability benefits for TEN YEARS!

The programme does have the hapless Tory MP Richard Graham member of the DWP committee admitting that disabled people need a welfare rights organisation to help the appeal these discredited assessments and subsequent DWP decisions that are made by a non medically qualified person, a civil servant and it is only the tribunal comprising of a judge, medically qualified person and a disability expert that CAN give a true decision – and this also explains why only 5% of disabled persons do appeal as the system works wholly against them doing this.

The programme also assumes that there is welfare benefit support to enable such appeals yet that is NOT the case at all.  In Liverpool there are 8 CABx offices yet I am informed just 1 of them takes such appeals.  That is not a slight on the CAB or the Liverpool branches I hasten to add, it much more reflects that the costs of appealing are too much for ALL welfare rights organisations an especially with their conditional funding they receive.

The case of Debbie in the programme saw a full year between negative decision and the correct one being put in place.  That is not unusual in terms of time and not just stress-ridden for the disabled person, it is incredibly costly to meet and each such appeal needs a good 30 hours of support to formulate and deliver a successful appeal.

Strange then that the BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme which opened with the taxpayer cost of tribunals wholly failed to mention the cost that it takes for a disabled person to get a legally correct decision under the Tories fundamentally flawed system.

300 appeals a day every day each with 30+ hours of support and advice necessary and let’s say a low unit cost of £25 per hour for any welfare rights organisation is a cost of appealing of £225,000 per day and £1.25 million per week … and far higher than the £1 million per week stated tribunal cost.

Those figures explain precisely WHY the CABx and other welfare rights organisations cannot afford to help disabled persons appeal and get what they are entitled to which has been taken away from them in a premeditated ideological policy with PIP.

Finally, after outlining the reasonable if not low level of costs of appealing, ask yourself why just 5% of disabled persons actually appeal their failed PIP decisions and especially when they know that the official government figures reveal 63% or almost 2 in every 3 appeals overturn the original PIP decision?

The answer to that is the lack of capacity and funding to take appeals.  That is loud and clear what the figures reveal.  It is not an attack or slight on CABx or other welfare rights organisations in any way; it is, regrettably, the cold hard facts of disability and other social security benefit appeals.

The Tories have stacked the system against social security benefit appeals with for example the large scale removal of legal aid that used to see every high street solicitors have a welfare rights officer doing this free for the claimant.

The Tories also introduced a further blocking stage called Mandatory Reconsideration before a claimant can appeal to a tribunal (which surprise, surprise upholds 82% of the original assessment based decisions!)

The Tories have massively reduced funding to local government who invariably are the main funders of advice services and so funding has reduced dramatically since 2010 and across the nation.

Most important of all is the Tories rely on the general public ignorance of the capacity of CABx and other welfare rights organisations and the public believe, like and want to believe that the capacity to challenge benefit decisions is freely available.

As my outline figures above reveal the capacity is simply not there in the advice sector and the Tories clear, deliberate and premeditated ideological message to disabled persons is we are taking away your quality of life and if you don’t like it tough because only 1 in 20 of you is able to challenge our knowingly flawed system of decision making.

__________________

A quick update for housing  people and social landlords who have in-house welfare teams or co-fund external advice agencies and claim to do ridiculous notions and terms such as ‘welfare benefit maximisation’ and the like.

The figures above on cost of appeals and that government seeking to take 600,000 working age disabled persons off DLA is just another alarm bell for your bottom lines and drilling down for benefit cap cases too.

The fact that most disabled persons live in general needs social housing (eg 63% of bedroom tax households contain a disability in DWP figures) and they cannot get the advice and support needed to get their lawfully entitled to disability benefits due to a lack of capacity in the advice sector is a major issue.

The fact the FRS survey revealed a huge increase in disabled persons (of 15% and 22%) just in the last two years as well and these numbers were not included in the Supported Housing Review as part of the LHA maxima cap policy that also includes no detail of how capacity increases will be met (and neither does the SHA alternative you like so much!) … and the fact that just 13% of benefit-capped households have tenants ready and able to work means that you seriously need to rethink whether your much (self) vaunted EET programmes are targeting the wrong and huge minority of your customers with such programmes

 

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