Tag Archives: social security

The most disgraceful Government form ever #rapeclause

There are many occasions at the moment when the UK Government makes me ashamed to be British. Two examples this week show what Tim Farron described on Question Time the other night as “Cruel Britannia.”

The first is the removal of Personal Independence Payments from people suffering serious psychological distress. Matt described powerfully here what that would mean for him.

When outdoors I can become so distressed by events and this can trigger an episode of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms. Symptoms include flash backs to an event that has caused much psychological harm and distress, visual hallucinations of the event that makes me feel that I am in another time and place, reliving the event as though it is really happening at that moment, becoming completely unaware of immediate surroundings. Coming out of one of these episodes is extremely distressing, confusing and disorientating and leaves me full of fear. My entire thought process is filled only with getting home and getting safe. I am no longer capable of following the route because my brain and thought process will not quieten down enough to think. I can only liken it to a petrified dog that will run off at full speed ahead, unaware of dangers / hazards / roads, petrified of people. All you can think of is getting home to the safety of your bed and cowering. The situation has caused me to put myself and others in danger whilst in this panicked state of mind. There are many things that can act as a trigger for me, It might be the way someone looks reminds me of person from my past, It can be a certain smell that acts as a trigger, it might be something I hear. I spend most of my life avoiding triggers. These are obviously easier to control within the safety of my own home, but impossible when I am outdoors.

The second example is the removal of benefits to cover third or subsequent children. In itself this is utterly wrong in principle. Benefit should be payable according to need. Children are suffering now because their families are now significantly worse off. The idea that large families should be penalised is so wrong. Are we really saying that if someone finds themselves as a single parent and they have four children, that the state should only provide help with two of them? What are the others supposed to do? It brings back the sort of attitude from Victorian times when the state would provide a parent with help with child support for a couple of weeks before taking the children off the parent and putting them in the workhouse. The idea that the poor are in some way culpable and should be punished is not something any liberal should accept. 

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Scottish Liberal Democrats demand answers from Ruth Davidson over mental health cuts to PIP

The Conservatives have not covered themselves in glory on social security issues recently. The removal of Housing Benefit from young people, the totally immoral restriction of benefits to two children and the deeply objectionable 8 page form that women have to complete if they want to claim for a third child conceived by rape, the cuts to disability benefits and cutting back eligibility to Personal Independence Payments for those suffering psychological distress have all shown a cruel lack of understanding of real life.

Let’s not forget the five year benefit freeze imposed by George Osborne in 2015. With Brexit bound to increase prices, that is simply unsustainable.

The cuts are significant, but even more reprehensible is the inhumane stripping of dignity from those who need our help. A civilised society supports those in need. If that makes me a bleeding heart Liberal, as Tim Farron declared he was on Question Time the other night, then I’m proud to be so.

Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives may pretend that they are nicer than their Westminster counterparts, making the right noises on mental health recently, but we can’t forget that they are the same party. Every awful thing that Theresa May’s Brexit government does reflects on them.

As health and social security spokespeople for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Alex Cole-Hamilton and I have written to Ruth Davidson asking her to state her position on the cuts to PIP. Our letter says:

Dear Ruth,

We were pleased to see your party last week join the Liberal Democrats and campaigners in declaring that the SNP Government’s new mental health strategy lacked ambition. It was the right thing to do because the new strategy will not deliver the transformation we desperately need to see.

However, we were deeply concerned to see that, in the very same week, your colleagues at Westminster were voting to restrict personal independence payments to people with mental health and anxiety conditions, affecting tens of thousands of people both in and out of work.

This shows little understanding of the complex needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our society, for example those trapped in their homes because they are too anxious to leave without someone. These people can need help to leave their home every bit as much as someone suffering from a physical condition.

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Damning PIP report shows culture of fear and mistrust – Olney

The virtual ink was barely dry on Geoff Crocker’s harrowing piece about his son’s PIP interview when a comment from Sarah Olney on the damning report by the Independent Reviewer of the PIP implementation, Paul Gary, popped into my inbox.

The report is highly critical and outlines that the fundamentals are just not working.

A key conclusion of the Review is that public trust in the fairness and consistency of PIP decisions is not currently being achieved, with high levels of disputed award decisions, many of them overturned at appeal

My findings point to the need to build very considerably on current action to improve the way PIP is administered, continuing the direction of travel proposed in the first Review. They include recommendations to improve the way the right type of evidence is obtained, used and tested in assessments; to strengthen transparency; and to broaden audit and quality assurance in assessment and decision-making.

In other words, there’s not a lot that’s going right.

Imagine, for a moment, that you’ve gone through the stress that Geoff describes just going for the interview. Then you find that you have been denied PIP. Then you have to endure the further stress of an appeal just to get the help that you desperately need to get on with your life, to work. PIP is not a luxury. It’s there to help people with long term conditions with the extra costs that these pile on.

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The UK’s ritual humiliation of disabled people – Part 2 The PIP interview

In an earlier post, I wrote about the process of withdrawal of Disability Living Allowance and the requirement for disabled people to apply for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), as I experienced it in caring for my adult son Paul who has a condition known as Williams Syndrome. Several respondents shared similar stories, and urged our party to adopt a much stronger care policy for disabled people, so far to no avail. (I was by the way mistaken in my claim that all PIP application notices had been sent out over Christmas and New Year – it appears that a rolling programme is in place and this was just when Paul happened to receive his notice).

As other respondents also warned, the PIP application form and subsequent interview deepen the hostile challenging nature of the process. The application form is indeed 40 pages long. Brutally, DWP specifically refuses to allow a PIP applicant to state a well-known, well-documented medical condition with known symptoms as a statement of need. So for example you’re not allowed to state conditions such as Downs Syndrome or in Paul’s case Williams Syndrome and then allow this to refer to all its known symptoms and detailed conditions. Instead DWP insists that the applicant sets out in detail all the distressing elements of that condition, from intellectual lack of capacity, physical impairment, to hygiene and continence issues. I completed the form, ending up choked with distress at having to specify this detail. 

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Liberal Democrats are the only party standing up against PIP cuts

If you haven’t read Matt’s article about how the changes to Personal Independence Payments will affect him, then please do so.

Last night, the amazing Liberal Democrat peers did their best to try and stop the Government’s plans in their tracks. They filed a fatal motion which, like the one that saw off the fatal changes to tax credits, would have forced the Government to think again.

What they needed was the support of the Labour Party. However, as we know from Brexit, Labour don’t seem to be up for providing any opposition that actually means anything. Did they vote for our motion? No. They did, however, put down their own motion which amounted to little more than “We don’t like this very much but we aren’t going to do anything about it.”

Be in no doubt that if Labour had supported our motion, these PIP cuts would not be happening.

Following the votes,  Baroness Celia Thomas, Lords Spokesperson for Disability, said:

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Changes to Disability Benefits and the Government’s blasé attitude to psychological distress.

Last month the Government announced that it was going to be tightening the criteria for claimants of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) which would see those people with mental illnesses stuck without the vital support that they need. The Government has introduced these restrictions after losing two cases at tribunals.

The Tribunal ruled that someone who is unable to undertake a journey without assistance from another person due to psychological distress should be scored in the same way as a person who needs assistance because they have difficulty navigating. Rather than accepting the ruling of the courts, the Government decided to change the legislation and the descriptors to exclude people suffering from some mental health disabilities by inserting the following into the legislation and the descriptors, “for reasons other than psychological distress”.

The Government produced its own analysis of which claimants and conditions are likely to be affected by these changes, 

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Lib Dem Lords aim to kill new Tory restrictions on disability benefits

The Liberal Democrats have tabled a motion to kill Government attempts to severely restrict disability benefits.

The move follows an announcement by the Government that they will be tightening the criteria for claimants of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) which could see diabetics and those with mental illnesses stuck without support. The Government has introduced these restrictions after losing two cases at tribunals.  From the Minister’s statement:

The first judgement held that needing support to take medication and monitor a health condition should be scored in the same way as needing support to manage therapy, like dialysis, undertaken at home. Until this ruling, the assessment made a distinction between these two groups, on the basis that people who need support to manage therapy of this kind are likely to have a higher level of need, and therefore face higher costs.

The second held that someone who cannot make a journey without assistance due to psychological distress should be scored in the same way as a person who needs assistance because they have difficulties navigating. By way of example, the first group might include some people with isolated social phobia or anxiety, whereas the second group might include some people who are blind. Until this ruling, the assessment made a distinction between these two groups, on the basis that people who cannot navigate, due to a visual or cognitive impairment, are likely to have a higher level of need, and therefore face higher costs.

Responding to the announcement Baroness Cathy Bakewell, Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said:

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