Opinion: 2013’s banana skin?

Banana skin - Some rights reserved by purplemattfishThe LibDem Voice end of year survey gives us, as usual, much food for thought.

Net approval of the coalition’s record is down to 14% from 41% a year before. “Three big hits seem to have been responsible: first, the row over the NHS Bill; secondly, the omnishambolic March budget; and thirdly, the collapse of Lords reform”.

What issues might derail us this year? One is slowly poisoning our society, and with it the claims of the Liberal Democrats to be a party of fairness.

It is the combination of vindictiveness and incompetence in Iain Duncan Smith’s slow, deliberate wrecking of the benefit system. I was delighted to see Nick Clegg’s Christmas message, “Lib Dems are on the side of reasonable welfare reform, not indiscriminate welfare cuts”, but this needs to be backed up with action if we are not to be tainted by association.

Cuts to disability benefits are wrecking jobs and lives. The Work Capability Assessment is intended to get people off benefit, not to assess their actual fitness for work. A woman with cystic fibrosis who had recently had a lung transplant and was still under hospital care was found fit for work because she was able to walk from one side of the room to the other. Anyone with any common sense would see that she was not fit for work.

But it is not about fitness for work, it is about removing people from benefits. People are having their needs denied, and their benefits cut simply to reduce the bill. People are being driven to suicide by both the fear and the fact of losing livelihoods. There is a list here of some of the victims. These are not odd isolated cases. This is happening routinely up and down the country, to hundreds of people, every day. If the system were fair, there would be no need to fear it – but it is not fair, it is organised vindictiveness, and it is being done in the name of the Liberal Democrats.

We need to do more than just say we are for fairness. We need to demonstrate it. We have an opportunity this month. Disability Living Allowance is being turned into Personal Independence Payments, with the aim of reducing expenditure by 20% regardless of the effect this will have on disabled people. Discussion of the high rate mobility component assumed a maximum distance of 50 metres – if somebody could walk more than that they did not qualify. Revised proposals reduced the distance, without any consultation, to 20 metres. The effect of this is described by one potential loser. She is only one example of many who will lose money they need if these proposals go ahead.

There are hints that Liberal Democrat peers will rebel against these proposals. The party should encourage them to do so. We need to demonstrate in deed as well as in word that we will not tolerate further vindictiveness and persecution of disabled and workless people in the name of reform. We are still in government but we should not support Iain Duncan Smith’s poisonous policies.  The Hardest Hit consortium has produced a tool for emailing MPs. We Are Spartacus has an initial briefing note for MPs and Lords.

* Rob Parsons is a Lib Dem member in Lewes. He blogs at http://acomfortableplace.blogspot.co.uk

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37 Comments

  • No, it won’t be benefits reform, which is decades overdue and not as unpopular with the wider public as might be thought. Funny that you used the word ‘derail’ though, given Norman Baker’s complacent and completely out of touch comments on train fares hikes today – it could be that looking and sounding like the other parties is what does for us.
    My best guess for an outside source of trouble is what the party does in response to continuing poor showings at the polls, and the wider world realising that coalition has split the Tories (Ukip is now obviously their SDP). Merger or other accomodation with the Cameroons that off the wall a prospect now?

  • People should be informed of the realities of how these welfare reforms are affecting the most vulnerable people in society.

    I have experienced first hand what it is like to be on the receiving end of the DWP and ATOS and I can completely relate to the desperation some people find themselves in.

    I have been diagnosed with suffering from severe clinical depression & PTSD have attempted suicide on numerous occasions over the years.

    The fear and stress you are put under when it comes to reassessment of claiming benefits is immense and the constant vilification in the media and the language used by the government greatly contributes to making things worse.

    Only 6 months ago I was going through a hell of a time with ESA and the DWP, being wrongly placed in the WRAG group.
    I was not even made aware that I had been migrated from Incapacity Benefit to ESA in the first place, my first knowledge of this came from receiving a P45 from Incapacity Benefit and a note saying my benefit had stopped.
    It tooks days of ringing DWP to find out what was going on, to then be told that I had been migrated to ESA.
    However, my money was not being paid and every 2 weeks I was having to call the DWP to find out what was going on and they would have to sanction an emergency payment.
    Well over a month later, I still had not received decision letters telling me that my benefit had been migrated, And I could not ask for a review on a decision I had not yet been given, How can you disagree with a decision makers decision without having their written reasons in the first place.

    It was making me so i’ll and I was feeling very low and desperate.

    You get yourself to the point where you feel that you are being backed up against a wall and you have to do something desperate to get the DWP to stop and listen, you feel as though you are constantly having to justify your illness in the hope of getting the vital support you need.

    I got myself into such a state one evening, I was so tired of having to constantly chase the DWP through phone calls and letters, my head went so crazy and into overdrive that I could not escape a roller-coaster of fear and paranoia and emotions, so I was over-medicating myself to try and slow everything down in my head.
    I eventually got to the point where I was so low, that out of desperation I figured I needed to send a sign to the DWP to take my case seriously. And so I decided I was going to chop of my right thumb and send it along with another letter to the DWP.
    I wrote my letter first (for obvious reasons) which including something along the lines of I am tired of your constant form filling and letter writing trying to get you to process my claim properly and treat me like a human being, so here is my thumb, I am no longer able to correspond in writing.
    By time I had finished writing, I was staggering about the house due to being over-medicated, I was in the kitchen {very seriously about to hack off my thumb)
    Fortunately I do have supportive partner who recognises the signs in me when my mood is dropping to dangerous levels heard my commotion and came out and stopped me from making a big mistake.

    Eventually through the support of my therapist and Disability Rights, we managed to get the required paper work out of the DWP and ask for a review of the decision, and the decision was eventually over-turned {only a couple of weeks ago actually} and I was placed in the support group.

    So I can totally relate to the desperation that some of us go to when it comes to dealing with DWP and welfare. These awful stories of people setting fire to themselves outside Benefits offices, people feeling so hopeless that they feel suicide is their only opinion left.
    These cases are on the increase and something needs to be done about it.
    Yes there are a small minority of people who abuse the benefit system, but this is a very small minority.
    This constant demonizing and vilification of sick and disabled people needs to stop. The Government needs to be more responsible with their language and the media should be held to account for their false representations of sick and disabled people.
    These welfare reforms are not about weeding out the cheats, they are about reducing the budget deficit and removing entitlement to as many people as possible. You only have to look at the evidence of the success rate of appeals to see the truth.
    It is wrong and irresponsible of any government to treat the most vulnerable people in society in this way. These people deserves and need the support from society.

    I am fortunate that my benefits have now been sorted, ive been put in the support group and my DLA was rewarded for a further 5 years. But it took a fight and a huge amount of support from my G.P, therapist and Disability Rights to get me there, and a lot of angry letters from them to the DWP for the way in which my case was being handled so badly.
    But even though my case has been sorted, I will still speak up for others and argue against these welfare reforms.
    That’s why I have praised people like George Potter in the past, for arguing against the government and these welfare reforms, for adding a voice to many who feel as though they have no voice of their own

  • I think there is a bit too much intention being allocated to indoviduals in this piece.

    “It is the combination of vindictiveness and incompetence in Iain Duncan Smith’s slow, deliberate wrecking of the benefit system.”

    “it is organised vindictiveness”

    Most of the stories I hear are of incompetence by the DWP, to allocate the problems to vindictiveness it a bit much. The effects are devestating and should not be underestimated, that does not make demonising your opponent a constructive responce.

    I don’t think Iain Duncan-Smith is vindictive, as you suggest, there are two different factors at play there is a desire to reform a system that simply assumed thrwing money at people solved problems and there is the seperate issue of cutting government budgets. If you compare the retotic of IDS with the Chancelor you can see the difference between someone who likes to brand those on benifits “sherkers” and someone who thingks the system doesn’t work for the majority involved.

    That is not to say that IDS’ reforms are totally right but, for example, attempts to make benifits reducce as income rises in a more coherent way is very sensible. A simpler system to adminsiter also helps reduce error.

    Many of the DWP budgetary problems are generated from universal benigits for the elderly and (the LibDem policy) the tripple lock. These are squeezing the disability benifits allocation.

    If you want your opponent to engage with you address the issues. If you use inflamitory attacking language to strike at IDS expect to hear more of the Chancelors language directed at you. Not somehting that produces a constructive discussion, and will reduce the chance of effecting the improvements that are needed.

  • Could it be that there is nothing seriously wrong with the system as it stands. Changing the name Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payments will achieve nothing. If a person is severely disadvantaged , be it mentally or physically, no amount of name changing will alter the fact that they need support ,
    However there are too many instances of injustices and callousness under the present system , often brought about by the way the rules are being interpreted. Part of the problem (as Matt in the previous post appears to have discovered) is that there are “jobsworths” in the system who put a need to reduce spending above the interests of the genuinely disadvantaged and, I fear, there are also “softies” who are guilty of wasteful overspending because they either fail to recognise malingerers or allow themselves to be bullied by aggressive claimants:. equally problematic there are DWP offices overwhelmed by their case load where pressure to reduce the “in-tray” results in a snap decision which might be different if the clerk involved had had more time to think. It can be the luck of the draw as to which office the benefit seeker attends that determines the result Introducing uniformity to the system which requires the wisdom of Solomon from its staff is far from simple but it needs to be addressed: moreover the end result may not bring reduced spending and if every applicant is treated according to their needs it may cost more but at least by introducing greater fairness into the system the Government of which the Lib-dems are a part will take a step toward saving our political necks.

  • Rob Parsons 2nd Jan '13 - 7:04pm

    Psi, I wish I could agree with you, but,having worked on this for quite a while, I have to conclude that Iain Duncan Smith is not nearly as benign as you think. If it were just incompetence as you and Mike C suggest, there would not be nearly so many individual experiences happening, and they would not all go in one direction. There is no evidence of people being given benefits to which they are not entitled. There is daily evidence of people being denied benefits they need.If Duncan Smith were really concerned to get things right, he would have made the system a great deal better straight away. As it is, Professor Harrington, in his reviews of the way ATOS work, has had to chip away at tiny little improvements,which have taken over two years to come good. 40% of appeals are succeeding, after stories like that told by Matt above. His story is not an isolated incident. there are not a few incidents like that happening every week, they are happening to hundreds of people daily – it is routine. It can only be happening because Iain Duncan Smith is content for it to happen. The ATOS contract contains no penalty for failure. they get paid for doing assessments, not for getting them right. That could have been altered a long time ago but IDS is happy for them to continue denying people benefits- and, I repeat, it doesn’t go the other way. If it was random incompetence bad decision would be made equally in favour of claimants and against them. This is not random, it is deliberate.

    There are other examples,which I did not go into in the post. The Work Programme, for instance, is destroying jobs. Companies like Poundland know that they can get a percentage of their labour needs from the Work Programme, so they no longer need to pay for those jobs. The Work Programme is a direct transfer of money from the taxpayer to the profits of private companies. Duncan Smith knows that, and does nothing.

    He was at it again this week claiming £10 billion lost in fraud on tax credits, a claim that was immediately and comprehensively rubbished by Channel 4’s Fact Check. I don’t believe that his civil servants would have let him go into print with a mistake like that, so it must have been a deliberate exaggeration. in other words a lie. I have been polite about him for a long time, but the evidence is that he knows exactly what he is doing and his intention,whatever he says is to persecute people off benefits.

  • The general public is in ignorance of what is happening to very vulnerable people because of “welfare reforms.”
    I suspect there will be a tipping point when the number of deaths every week gets to the stage where even the Daily Mail will be forced to comment.

  • Bill le Breton 2nd Jan '13 - 9:09pm

    Thank you for this piece Tony.

    Some very vulnerable people are being put at risk – not least the many children who will suffer disproportionally as the welfare of their parent or parents are reduced in real terms.

    We are creating another generation for whom life chances are severely restricted.

    The reform of council tax benefit that in effect makes the council tax a poll tax will have a huge impact.

    What earthly good is the pupil premium if children experience the neglect that these changes will bring about?

  • Martin Lowe 2nd Jan '13 - 9:15pm

    Getting back to the overall point, the banana skins that await the Liberal Democrats are any areas where we let the Tories push agenda where they are not trusted by the electorate.

    Unfortunately, we have already shot ourselves in the foot over the NHS (where Tory policy is to abolish it and sell the remnants off to their rich friends) and state education (same again, but with the added intention to leave the 21st century behind and return to the 1950s).

    We need to accept that we were taken for mugs on these two issues, which weren’t in the Coalition Agreement. So we stick to what’s in that document.

  • Still amazed at people’s benign view of the Coalition Agreement. Let’s face it, the Lib Dems were already moving rightwards long before 2010, we used our most right wing faction to negotiate with the Tories, and even then we allowed ourselves to be gulled into going further right. Hopeless.

  • Completely agree that cutting off peoples disability support is appalling and wrong.

    Geoffrey Payne – JSA now does not cover the cost of food and bills. People are already deep in poverty, and likely to be suffering malnutrition and ill health as a direct result.

    The first problem is that JSA is set far too low – far below the level of pensions or disability benefits.

    The second problem is that it has been linked to inflation. Because of the very limited range of goods people on JSA can afford to buy (just basic food and bills) the measure of general inflation is inadequate. For example, while food and bills have seen double digit price rises, the cost of many more expensive consumer goods such as electronics and clothes has been falling. Therefore, the inflation uprating did not accurately reflect the increased costs those on JSA faced. This means that JSA now doesn’t cover the cost of the most basic needs.

    As this government seems to have adopted a policy of creating mass unemployment, it is essential that JSA is increased to ensure people can meet normal living costs.

  • David Allen 3rd Jan '13 - 1:34pm

    I am sure Rob Parsons is right and that we should vigorously oppose the appalling consequences of these cuts. But…..

    Well, I am no expert in this field. But I know that New Labour moved millions of people across from unemployment benefit into disability benefit simply in order to massage the employment figures. The Tories would presumably claim that they are trying to clear up the mess that Labour created and get some honesty back into the system. Would that claim be wholly unjustified?

    I am suspicious of the whole idea of simply declaring that someone is fit for or unfit for work. There must surely be a great number of “semi-fit” people who could in principle get a reasonable amount of work done, but who are just not going to be able to hold down an actual job, given the shortage of work in recession times and the competition from fitter people. What do we do about them – apart from, not letting them fall between two stools in order to save the inconvenient cost of keeping them alive?

    If we don’t have a coherent policy, we risk making it easier for the Daily Mail to say we are perpetuating Labour’s fudge, failing to make proper efforts to keep the welfare bill down, and failing to encourage those who could work to do so. I am not saying that these would be fair charges, but, if we cannot refute them effectively, those who want to cut welfare will win the public debate and get what they want.

    To the benefits experts here – What would you do, if you were in charge?

  • @David Allen.

    But the problem is David the WCA is not fit for purpose. The LIMA {Logic Integrated Medical Assessment} which is used by ATOS to assess someone’s fitness to work is seriously flawed.

    These welfare reforms are not about catching out benefit cheats, they are purely for the purpose of reducing “genuine” claimants access to sickness benefits and cuts to welfare.
    If it was just about catching out the cheats, then we would not have such a high record of successful appeals.
    40% of those deemed fit for week who appeal, get their decisions overturned by a tribunal, that foes up to 70% if the person is being represented at the tribunal by someone from a disability organisation.
    They are shocking statistics.
    When someone goes to a tribunal, it is normally chaired by solicitor, a Dr and someone with extensive knowledge of disabilities.
    They review all your medical information that has been supplied by your G.P, take evidence from your current treatments and medications, and they ask questions on how your disability affects your day to day living.
    After the hearing, the panel then examine the evidence and apply the “law” which determines what is eligible for a disability or illness and is entitled to state support.

    The problem with ATOS and the DWP is they do not follow the due process when assessing someone’s disabilities. Hence the reason why so many decisions are wrong and over-turned.

    The Government, DWP and ATOS are the guilty ones here for not following due process and applying the law when assessing claimants, that’s the real scandal.

    Also, I would argue that this government are massaging the unemployment figures, because anyone sent on workfare, work experience, training, do not show up as part of the unemployment figures, the ONS admitted that even though these people are in receipt of “benefits” they are not classed as unemployed when they are on of these government schemes. That is the real reason why the unemployment figures seem to fall, but the claimant count rises.

  • I do find it astonishing that the DWP is probably the only department in government that gets away with failing to follow due process and the law on an industrial scale “daily”

    If any other department in government where found to be making the same failings and costing the country millions in legal fee’s , there would be a complete uproar about it and the minister in charged would be forced to resign.

    The failings in the Department work and pensions, not only pushes up the welfare bill because they have to contribute towards the cost of an appeal, But the Department for Justice Bill also rises because it is they who have to conduct the tribunals.

    The amount of money that is being wasted on welfare due to the failings of the DWP to follow due process and apply the law is scandalous, but we never seem to hear any outcries about this

  • David Allen 3rd Jan '13 - 4:01pm

    Matt,

    I’m not disagreeeing with anything you have said. I’m just asking what you would do instead, if you ruled the world! Would you say that a work capability assessment would be acceptable if it was properly designed and administered?

  • Thanks for this Rob.

    I have severe obstructive lung disease. As a disabled person, it is refreshing to see somebody arguing against IDS plans for us. I wrote to my MP (Tim Loughton) when it was revealed that the mobility descriptors had changed unannounced.
    I am still waiting for a reply but that demonstrates the contempt with which the electorate are treated by the Conservatives.

    The existing DLA mobility rules take into account the time taken to walk any distance as well as the effects of pain and distress – under PIP, these disappear. What use is it denying mobility allowance to someone who can walk short distances but only in extreme pain and where it takes much longer than a fit person to complete the same distance?

    The descriptors originally for PIP used 50m as the distance to be judged by. They also used the terms regarding time taken and ability to repeat the distance safely, reliably and repeatedly. This has all changed under PIP to 20m and no mention at all of repeatedly or pain or anything!

    I rely on my motability car to get out of the house. I can safely walk 20m indoors but outside is a wholly different matter – uneven pavements, obstacles etc. The loss of my mobility car because I can walk 20m once will mean I never again get outdoors under my own steam. There are thousands of disabled people that can walk 20 m once but who could never manage it repeatedly and safely yet this wording has also been removed from the descriptors .

    Given that DLA is not an out of work benefit, how will all those that currently claim DLA mobility but who fail PIP mobility manage to hold down their jobs if they cannot get to work by any other means?

    What effect will losing motability contracts have on the vehicle manufacturing industry?

    The catastrophic changes have been announced sneakily and it would encourage me no end if the parliamentary Liberal Democrats voted against it – sadly, I don’t expect they will.

  • @David Allen

    Yes of course there needs to be a work capability assessment. But it has to be fit for purpose.

    Personally I feel as though this test should be carried out by GP’s though, especially since a GP has in-depth knowledge of a patients disabilities and how it effects them.

    It seems ludicrous to me that we can entrust GP’s will Billions of pounds of tax payers money to run services, but we can not entrust them to carry out WCA tests and so instead we contract it out to private companies to the costs of Billions of pounds.

    There is 1 reason only why the government do not want G.P’s to carry out these assessments and that is because a GP contracted by the NHS is bound by a code of to put the welfare of their patient first.

  • Rob Parsons 3rd Jan '13 - 5:51pm

    I’m with Matt on this. If the WCA were genuinely a test of whether people could work, there would be no problem.If the DWP’s efforts were bent to creating jobs for unemployed people to go into rather than hounding them because there are no jobs to be found – there would be no problem.

    By the way, it was not New Labour that started this, it was the Thatcher government. The first bulge in such wrong allocations was thirty years ago, and most of those so treated are no longer in the figures – they’ve found work or they’ve become pensioners.

    Any time anybody does anything liberal the Daily mail foams at the mouth. We ahve to live with that. Surveys show public opinion hardening against benefit claimants, but opinion is propped up by a continuous tide of propaganda and misinformation from the Mail and other right wing papers. Nobody is putting the contrary point of view. The LibDems can’t while we’re in government, and Labour haven’t got the guts. Both of those may be changing slightly – I refer to Nick Clegg’s message about fairness for one thing. And Miliband found a very small pair of balls and said he was going to oppose the benefit cap. Whether he will do so effectively remains to be seen,but Liam Byrne is making the right kind of noises.

    So what I would do is probably maintain the rhetoric, which wrongfoots the Daily Mail, while making the system actually fair. We can afford it – we live in one of the richest countries in the world. If we can afford hundreds of billions to prop the banks up, we can afford tens of billions to ensure that everybody in this country has a decent minimum.

  • The last line should have read
    There is 1 reason only why the government do not want G.P’s to carry out these assessments and that is because a GP contracted by the NHS is bound by a code of “ethics” to put the welfare of their patient first.

  • David Allen 3rd Jan '13 - 6:55pm

    Thanks Matt and Rob, I think this helps. It helps me, anyway. If we were to campaign for a reformed WCA which did its job properly, alongside condemning what the current system does, we wouldn’t automatically lose the support of all those who hate the idea of paying benefits to scroungers.

    But a few more questions:

    What about the case when someone is rightly judged capable of work, but can’t actually hold a job down, because (for example) they genuinely need to take rather a lot of sick leave, and employers will not keep them on in such circumstances? How do we help such people, and, how do we (should we try to?) tell them apart from the people who take the sick leave when they are not genuinely sick?

    How are we going to pay for it, and, how much do we think the voters can be persuaded to pay? Geoffrey Payne condemns the idea of linking benefits to earnings, and I quite understand why, but, to do that would probably be at any rate less harsh than the 1% cap, so pragmatically, should we go for that? If instead we call for benefits to rise faster than earnings, and we also admit the need to raise taxes on earnings in order to pay the benefit bill, are we merely going to alienate the voters, and hence fail to achieve anything for the poor?

  • Rob Parsons 3rd Jan '13 - 7:28pm

    Very good questions, David. One of the issues regarding the first is that IDS, and before him the Labour government, are carefully divorcing the idea of “work” from the idea of “employable”. Someone who can work, say, 15 hours a week, but randomly and unpredictably, is going to be very lucky to find a job. So they’re capable of work, but unemployable. Aids, flexible working patterns, and government assistance can all help somebody in that kind of position. Many work for themselves, many work at home – but they need sympathetic employers to make it work. there needs to be a lot more work done on helping people and creating employment than there is at the moment.

    How do we pay for it. Well, I wouldn’t be surprised if current policies turn out to be no less expensive than being rational about who is capable of work and allowing them a decent minimum. Saying people are capable of work reduces their income,and hence the taxpayer’s outgoings by £20 to £30 a week, not a massive sum. While there are no jobs to be had,they are not going to come off benefits. When the economy improves, it is quiet likely that someone who has been well treated and genuinely helped to increase their skills will be more able to get a job and will get one quicker than someone who has been hounded and made to feel worthless. They will certainly be more value to an employer. (There’s a separate issue here which is that actually helping people into work – anybody disabled or able bodied – rather than just bludgeoning them for being unemployed, is actually quite an expensive process.And that is something that governments never want to hear.)

    Other decisions have hidden costs. Quite a few disabled people rely on their DLA to enable them to afford to work. A good proportion of them will lose in the transition to PIP, and will have to give up their jobs, thereby actually increasing the cost to the taxpayer. Other people who lose benefit that enables a degree of independence and social contact will deteriorate to the point where they need medical treatment or social care, at much greater expense to the taxpayer than their current benefit.

    So I suspect that the answer to the question “How will we pay for it?” is “Pretty much the same way we do now”. And even if the bill does go up, it is affordable. This idea that the benefit bill is somehow unaffordable is part of the propaganda. We are one of the richest countries in the world – we have massive amounts of spare wealth. We can afford to allow a decent minimum to those who need it.

  • Rob Parsons 3rd Jan '13 - 7:35pm

    By the way, on the 1% benefit cap, IDS quotes the stats that suit him. As a percentage benefits have gone up by more than wages in the last five years, but not in the last ten. Also as the economy improves wages will begin to rise faster that inflation a gain so will again outstrip benefits. Even in the last five years the percentage figures only tell part of the story. benefits are low compare to wages,so a big percentage rise in benefits can be less than a small percentage rise in wages. in fact, according to financial journalist Paul Lewis benefits have gone up by £11.85 and wages by £49 a week. The benefit cap is unnecessary, and also deflationary. It takes money out of the hands of people who are bound to spend it rather than save it because they need to.

  • @David Allen

    “What about the case when someone is rightly judged capable of work, but can’t actually hold a job down, because (for example) they genuinely need to take rather a lot of sick leave, and employers will not keep them on in such circumstances? How do we help such people, and, how do we (should we try to?) tell them apart from the people who take the sick leave when they are not genuinely sick?”

    That a very difficult question to answer. It is especially difficult for people who suffer from fluctuating medical conditions.
    However, there has always been a policy in place that allowed people on “incapacity” benefits to undertake “therapeutic” work. The conditions was it had to be under 16 hours a week and you could earn no more than £75. I am not sure what the current criteria is. A person was able to undertake therapeutic work for up to 12 months.
    This kind of policy could be promoted more and people could be “encouraged” not “sanctioned” to try it out.
    Over the 12 months the person gets a better understanding of how manageable their condition is in an employment environment.
    It could also gives employers a better understanding of employing people with disabilities without the risk, because whilst someone is in therapeutic work they do not have the same rights as a normal employee, there is no contract between the employer and employee, it is purely on a casual basis and is meant to be a form of treatment.

    Benefits should be linked to inflation. Current legislation states the “minimum” that the law requires a person to live on, this has always been linked to inflation. We have had this legislation in place for years to protect the most vulnerable and poorest people in society.
    Wages in the public sector might well have been capped at 1% but the same is not necessarily true for the private sector. It certainly isn’t the case for executive and middle management pay rises whose wages have soared well above the rates of inflation.

    I do believe there should be cuts to universal benefits for the better off pensioners, winter fuel allowance, bus passes, tv licences and should only be paid to those that need them who are in receipt of pension credits, or if they want to keep them universally then they should class them as a taxable income, giving the pensioner the option of whether they wish to have them and pay through their tax liabilities or opt not to receive them and pay for them from their own income.

  • When someone is in therapeutic work, they may lose entitlement to Housing Benefit and Council Tax benefit, but I think you will find the majority of people want to contribute, if they were given the right amount of support to help them live more independently and especially if they know the safety net is there to protect them should their condition deteriorate.

  • I benefited from this scheme back in 2003.

    I first went sick from work in 1995/6 after having a complete breakdown. I did not think I would ever work again.

    I had zero confidence and I was totally withdrawn from society. My only contact was with my immediate family.

    I was on long term Incapacity Benefit. Then in 2003 I did therapeutic work with Norfolk County Council, only as a mobile cleaner, working 2 hours in the evening, it helped build my confidence and got me out of the confinement of my home. Norfolk County Council also operated free training courses for all employee’s which they allowed me to do as well. So I went on a CLAIT course (you wouldn’t know from my typing skills lol)

    I did not care that the money I earned meant I lost housing benefit, I think I was left with about £15 a week out of the £75 I earnt from the therapeutic work. Because I was proud of myself that I was achieving something and I was working towards a goal of being independent again
    Anyway as my confidence started to return it gave me the boost to go back into full time employment in 2004 and come off benefits.

    That lasted for almost 3 years. Unfortunately in my case my clinical depression worsened 10 fold and I became seriously ill and unable to work again and I have not been able to since.

    But the point is I had that opportunity, the support structure was there which enabled me to have those few years back in employment standing on my own 2 feet, paying my own way in society, which I will always be grateful for.

    There is nothing to say that sometime in the future, I might feel well enough to have another crack at it.

    So I do believe that this is a policy area that could be extended and offered to people, especially those with fluctuating conditions.

  • Rob Parsons 3rd Jan '13 - 10:06pm

    Hi Martin

    We Are Spartacus estimate the impact of loss of PIP on the car industry as a loss of 50000 sales: which will severely impact both manufacturing and retail car industries

    http://wearespartacus.org.uk/reversing-from-recovery-report/

  • Shocking figures Rob!

    When the economy is in the gutter and todays figures seem to suggest a triple dip may be on the cards, to deliberately scupper such a huge contributor to our economy is shameful.

    The disabled people of this country did not create this situation yet it feels like we are expected to carry the greatest load while the banks continue to pay bonuses to themselves!

  • Rob Parsons 4th Jan '13 - 6:36pm

    Not exactly joined up government, is it.

  • David Allen 4th Jan '13 - 7:05pm

    Thanks Rob and Matt. You’re right, a good case can be made for linking benefits to price inflation, thereby keeping them at an adequate subsistence level, and in fact reducing costs in the long run. The case is not being well made, however, because Labour are sending out mixed messages, Clegg is speaking up for cuts, and the Mail is suffusing its readers with a daily diet of anti-benefits propaganda.

  • Rob Parsons 4th Jan '13 - 7:30pm

    I think that’s the key at the moment, David – nobody is putting a contrary case. I shall be interested to see if the LibDem party strategy can follow the lead given in Nick Clegg’s Christmas message and differentiate us properly from the Tories on this. I don’t think there is any need to be scared of public opinion. There’s some very interesting research around which demonstrates that people think benefits are much higher than they really are, and when they’re told the true level, they become much less anti – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/voters-brainwashed-by-tory-welfare-myths-shows-new-poll-8437872.html

    Not least among the tricks is the one every government pulls of conflating fraud and error, which gives everyone the impression that fraud is much higher than it actually is.

  • @David Allen

    Your welcome.

    Most people expect the Daily mail to fill their papers with such filth though, it’s now considered the norm.

    I noticed today’s headline though attacking the cuts to child benefits to “middle class” families

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2257083/Middle-class-families-face-paying-65-tax-rate-Osbornes-incoherent-clawback-child-benefit-IFS-warns.html

    Alleging that Parents with more than three children will face tax rates of over 65%.

    It just goes to prove where the right-wing media’s priorities lies. Cut Cut Cut welfare to poorest in society, but leave our middle class and high earners alone

  • There is probably a higher rate of fraud level in companies running the work programme like A4E as a % compared to the amount of fraud in welfare claimants.

    But’s that ok, that fraud is acceptable because it’s being paid to the treasuries chums.

  • David Allen 6th Jan '13 - 12:49am

    Andrew Rawnsley points out that all these cuts could have been made without a parliamentary bill. The reason for the bill is to play political games, and go after gaining votes from Labour by clobbering claimants, who of course are all to be demonised as lazy fat slobs.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/05/labour-party-bill

    And where is Clegg in all of this? Let me guess…

  • Well with any luck it will badly backfire on them.

    Somebody from Labour needs to call their bluff with regards to the “true” unemployment figures and point to the fact that all the people on the work programme, workfare, and government training schemes are not counted as part of the unemployment figures, despite the fact that they are still in receipt of JSA.
    That’s why we keep seeing unemployment going down, but claiming levels going up.

    Sure Labour were guilty of massaging the same figures with the “new deal” but they should admit to doing that, admit that it was wrong and call for a change, then force the government to admit the “true” unemployment figures in this country, revealing that unemployment is “not” going down as it is claimed.

    I suspect 2013 is going to be a very rough year by the sounds of things anyway with the prospects of a triple dip recession and higher unemployment. Once people realise the complete balls up this government is making on the economy and people start fearing for their own prospects, i expect a lot more people attitudes towards those on welfare to change for the better

  • matt 6th Jan ’13 – 9:33am……Well with any luck it will badly backfire on them. I suspect 2013 is going to be a very rough year by the sounds of things anyway with the prospects of a triple dip recession and higher unemployment. Once people realise the complete balls up this government is making on the economy and people start fearing for their own prospects, i expect a lot more people attitudes towards those on welfare to change for the better……..

    I doubt it.
    I think, sadly, that Osborne has judged the country’s attitude (fuelled by the right wing press) correctly. When people start worrying about their own situation their attitude to the unemployed will harden.
    An example is immigration. When employment is high people are tolerant; when they lose their own jobs the ‘immigrant’ is blamed…

  • @annie

    You are probably right, but that is why it is essential that someone “high profile” from the Liberal Democrats should very publicly speak out against the right wing media and the language adopted by the government to brand everyone on welfare as shirkers.
    The liberal democrats in government have the responsibility of challenging the false press and the vilification of the vulnerable. If they are not prepared to do so, then what is the point of them being in government, they would be fundamentally turning their backs on all they stood for.
    If Nick Clegg was serious about the Liberal Democrats constitution to “The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty” If Nick is not prepared to stand up to the so called vales of the party, then the party has the responsibility to remove him and elect someone else who will.

  • The other things seems to get overlooked with Benefits rising in line with inflation is.

    They way it worked before was, whatever the rate of Inflation was in the month of September, benefits would be uprated but not taken into affect until the following April. And as we all know, Come November, just in time for the cold winter months, the Energy companies all announce price hikes usually around 10%,
    So benefit claimants all face “even higher” energy prices coming out of their welfare, before benefits get uprated. The following couple of months then see hikes in food prices, due to the increases in energy prices, hitting the welfare claimants again.
    So come April, when the benefits are eventually uprated, welfare claimants have already seen a major reduction in the value of their benefits.

    This year is going to be even worse. Energy companies hiked their prices by on average 10% the CPI in September was 2.2% but the government opted to limit increases to 1%.
    Families are already having to struggle and choose between heating their homes or feeding their children. Inflation already stands at 2.6% this year.
    It is set to rise again over the coming months because of the high food costs due to the bad weather and poor harvests.
    By time we reach April and the 1% increase takes affect, thousands more people will already have been dragged further into poverty, fuel poverty and child poverty.
    That goes against everything the Liberal Democrats stand for (well supposed too)

    I am actually looking forward to the next time a Liberal Democrat comes canvassing at my door, because they are going to have to explain to me how in government they allowed this to happen and I do not except the argument of its compromise of being in coalition

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