Independent View: the Broken of Britain campaign against Welfare Reform Bill

Earlier in March The Broken of Britain launched a campaign against the “anti-disability” provisions in the Welfare Reform Bill, the Government’s main plank for a raft of cuts affecting disabled people. Campaigners, politicians and academics are all agreed that parts of the Bill will cause hardship for disabled people.

A disabled person lies on the beach, having fallen from a wheelchair

At Conference, the Liberal Democrats passed a motion to keep the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance for those in residential care, showing that the party membership still care about disabled people. But the Welfare Reform Bill goes further than residential care so it is time you were made aware of the reforms carried out in your name. The Broken of Britain’s analysis will provide the details, but the striking thing about the reforms is their complete lack of fairness and of coherence. Further, in the run-up to the Bill’s publication disabled people have been the target of unjust government rhetoric and sham consultations, tabloid slander and political myths.

The Government has already stated the intention of a 20% cut in the DLA caseload even though fraud is estimated at 0.5% – this equates to 620,000 genuinely disabled people having their claims disallowed. The reforms will also change the system of payment, apparently because the system needs to be “simplified”. This simplification means that a further half a million disabled people could lose out. The Government is determined to push through these reforms despite lacking evidence for their case for reform – only two pieces of DWP research support limited reform. Finally, the Welfare Reform Bill was published two days before the consultation on DLA reform closed. This does not instill faith that Government is listening to our concerns.

More generally, this Government’s aims for DLA reform are not only unclear, but are actually contradictory. Individualization of service and standardization of service are both reasons offered by DWP, even though they are incompatible aims. You can’t ensure that payment is personalized according to each individual’s need if you also want to standardize payments and make sure that everybody gets the same. There is no way to set up an objective, standardized test which treats all claimants the same if you also want the test to be responsive to each individual’s needs. Individualization and standardization are mutually exclusive, and pretending otherwise is ludicrous.

There is another unfair, and downright nasty, reform contained in the Welfare Reform Bill. There are occasional flurries of interest in ESA and its broken system of assessment, the Work Capability Assessment, but it is being ignored that George Osborne will time-limit contribution-based ESA from April. After 12 month, ESA claimants will be shifted onto income-based ESA which is means-tested. A disabled person whose spouse or partner is working would automatically lose their entitlement to nearly £4700 a year. The Government is for making it worthwhile to work, except for the partners of ESA claimants it would seem.

Disabled people are more likely to live in poverty than any other group in the UK and more likely to be unemployed or in low paid jobs. 60% of those with a work-limiting disability are unemployed, with 25% wanting to work. The proposed reforms will only increase this poverty and unemployment. In a few short months, the Coalition Government have changed the landscape of provision to disabled people – and the Lib Dems have let them. We now need you to stop them by telling your leaders to amend the Bill so that the “anti-disability” provisions are removed.

Rhydian Fôn James is an economist, writer and political activist for Plaid Cymru. He writes for Celyn, the left-green journal for Wales, and The Guardian.

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This entry was posted in The Independent View.
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35 Comments

  • If labour are not interest in this, I cannot for the lfie of me see the Tories being interested, Tories being the Whigs you know Liberals.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 24th Mar '11 - 11:32am

    What makes you think that Clegg is going to start paying attention to Conference resolutions now – particularly when the LibDems starting position in the Coalition negotiations included a number of Orange Book proposals that had previously been rejected at LibDem conferences. Don’t believe me – go and look at Law’s book.

  • Quiet desperation 24th Mar '11 - 11:41am

    I find it hard to believe that the policies being pursued against the sick and disabled of Britain (and I’m sorry to say, the word really is ‘against’) have any home within the Liberal Democrat party. I am not a member, but have never considered them ‘Labour-lite’. I have voted for them at times in the past, tactically, as a progressive party, before the word ‘progressive’ became devalued. The problem here is that, small wins aside, the LD party is now enabling some truly horrible, punitive polices to be enacted upon the very weakest. This is having terrible consequences for individuals and families around the country and seems utterly at odds with everything I thought your party stood for. I may well be wrong, there, but that doesn’t alter the catastrophe being visited upon the disabled by the Coalition, hot on the heels of Labour’s emerging depredations.

    I implore you: dissolve the Coalition before more are hurt. Force minority government, and vote with your conscience.

  • It strikes me that the the Government could achieve a great deal by pledging to abolish the discredited Work Capability Assessment introduced by Labour, and replace it by something more efficient and humane. That alone would seem to be a glaringly obvious win-win.

    I welcome the article which adds to a debate Liberal Democrats need to be having. There is much that is to be commended in the Welfare Reform Bill; it would be tragic if this was to be lost in dispute over a relatively smaller number of issues that toxify the perception of the Coalition’s approach among people with disabilities. Action now would go a long way to dispel the unease that is out there at present.

  • Thanks, Rhydian.

    I’m very angry about this, partly because I feel that it was sidelined as an issue while we (the Lib Dems) focused on the tuition fee issue. Free university education is nice if we can afford it. Ensuring proper, functioning provision for the needs of disabled people is essential, non-negotiable and should definitely NOT come under the heading of the Big Society. (This is a good blog post on the subject: http://benefitscroungingscum.blogspot.com/2010/11/big-society-and-charity-model-of.html – “Our Prime Minister acknowledges the need to take care of people who are not able to work because this is part of being a compassionate society. The welfare state is portrayed as a charity, as opposed to the insurance scheme it always was.”)

    Also suggest reading the link above at the end of Rhydian’s second paragraph embedded in the word “government” re. dodgy DWP press releases and their use by the Mail and Express.

  • while my previous comment is in moderation, I just wanted to say that I agree with Gareth that “pledging to abolish the discredited Work Capability Assessment introduced by Labour, and replace it by something more efficient and humane” would be an excellent idea.

  • Quiet desperation 24th Mar '11 - 12:50pm

    @Simon McGrath

    Writing off peoples’ suffering & a grass-roots, unaligned disability campaign like The Broken of Britain for the purposes of political point-scoring does you no credit. Take your head out the the party political firmament for a while. People need help.

    PS Harrington will not be implemented before the mass re-testing of Incapacity Benefit recipients.

  • I am stunned at what the leadership of our party is allowing to pass for welfare reform. Reform is meant to mean you change something for the better (eg – make it fairer) but we’ve just settled for sacrificing the disabled, all in the name of the deficit and a better future for ‘Alarm Clock Britain’.

    It sickens me, our party used to represent fairness.

  • David Allen 24th Mar '11 - 7:22pm

    On the topic of “Alarm Clock Britain”, Tom Clark in the Guardian neatly sums up Clegg’s chosen phrase as “a none-too-subtle attempt to pit those who work against those who don’t”.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/joepublic/2011/mar/23/budget-2011-filthy-rich-advance?INTCMP=SRCH

    So, Clegg is sending a very clear signal with the phrase “Alarm Clock Britain”. The signal says that we should use tough measures like WCA to cut the cost of benefits to the disabled, whom we Lib Dems should be happy to describe as a bunch of workshy scroungers.

    Yes, of course Gareth Epps is right about the need to replace WCA with something more humane. While Clegg still leads our party, pigs might fly.

  • Superb article that would have been lauded by a Liberal Democrat leadership pre Clegg.

    This is a Tory Bill for the Tory grassroots who make no secret of their prejudice against anyone on benefits.
    And while Rhydian outlines the facts and the case for the disabled and vulnerable in a clear and impassioned way it’s also worth mentioning the political effect the Bill will have.

    There are going to be some very visible disabled protests against this Bill.
    Those who represent the poor and vulnerable and mentally ill such as charities like MIND, SCOPE, the disability alliance as well as what is left of the CAB are not going to sit idly by while these punative measures are pushed through. They will be vocal and they will be heard in the News and the media.
    There will not be too many Lib Dem activists comfortable with being on the wrong side of this debate and unlike Nick Clegg they will find plenty to disagree with Mr Cameron about if this Bill goes through.

  • Simon McGrath 24th Mar '11 - 9:03pm

    @rhydian – my point was that you mention all the alleged bad things the Coalition are doing while not mentioning the positive ones.
    I don’t know enough about DLA to comment on what you say about it, which is why i did not do so.

  • paul barker 24th Mar '11 - 9:37pm

    Can I just say thats a beautiful image, lovely composition & suggests all sorts of stories & ideas. I cant comment on the article Im afraid, dont feel I know enough to form an opinion.

  • I’m entirely new to this debate, so perhaps Rhydian could explain whether some figures I found are correct or not and if so, what is the background to them.

    I read that between 1997 and 2007, the number of DLA claimants rose from 1.9m to 2.85m and that the cost rose from £4.5bn to £10bn annually.

  • @Jim

    Great clip and of course he’s right – he’s giving our party away from under our feet.

    I found it ironic that they chose to stage their little ‘man and his parrot show’ at a notorious alleged tax avoider…. really great. We used to take a dim view on tax avoidance.

  • @R C

    Well to answer your question in a roundabout way, I’m one of those awful ‘scrounging’ people.

    After leading a productive working life (well, up until my mid-thirties), I was diagnosed with cancer and went through many rounds of treatment and major chest/abdominal surgery. I still have it and am severely disabled through dreadful pain and the spread to my bones.

    I know now that I’m going to die at some point in the next couple of years but I don’t want to die as I think there’s something to live for, I want to stay alive for as long as possible so I still have life prolonging treatment. DLA enables me to have a life outside of my home because I can’t just walk down the road or push my own wheelchair.

    Please accept my apologies for ‘scrounging’ this money and being one of the extra between 1997 and 2007 but please don’t just punitively punish others like me in the future as being 1 too many because of me.

  • @R C

    Following on from my last comment, please don’t worry, I won’t get anywhere near taking my State Pension, Winter Fuel Allowance and Free Bus Pass so that should save some money.

  • The universal credit would be nice but it was kicked so far into the future, years past the next election, as to be an irrelevance and fig leaf. Assuming it ever happens anyway which is by no means certain.

  • You tell me.

    1990 I was at work when I fell 96ft from a building to the floor, I woke up laying on the ground unable to move, after a few seconds I pulled myself up to a sitting position looked down I though my god a piece of wood is sticking out of my leg. I reached down to pull the piece of wood out after two tugs it dawned on me that was my leg bone, I looked cross at my other legs and the bone had come out the side of my upper leg..

    I also had a lot of blood in my mouth of which I could not swallow so spat it out with most of my teeth, by this time people had gathered around me all talking some crying, but I could not understand why nobody came near me and then I noticed the pool of blood I was covered in it.

    Ambulance arrived two ambulance men argued with each other about an helicopter as they were not trained to take me, a doctor arrived told them to put me onto a spinal board, the ambulance did not have a spinal board.

    To cut it short I was taken to hospital patched up and sent home, imagine all these injuries i was sent home as the hospital did not have a bed.

    On the way home which was 75 miles away in a taxi paid for by the hospital I had a massive stroke, the taxi driver rushed me to another hospital, I was rushed to a ward given 5 pints of blood, before I was rushed by ambulance to Stoke Manderville. I spent two years in hospital

    Prognoses.

    Spinal cord injury lesions of the L5 causing paraplegia.

    Loss of bowel and bladder.

    Chronic pain .

    Chronic muscle loss.

    I have problems with my legs spine back Bowel bladder.

    I will not pass the WCA because i was used for the trial of this new test, under the old test the PCA I would have got 180 points how do I know because thats what i got.

    Under the new test I was only given 6 points.

    That means I must return to work.

    I’ve been looking for a job for ten years so far 987 job application sent by me through the guidance of the Job center, Shaw Trust and Remploy, to day not a single offer of work…..

  • @RC
    Perhaps it’s worth considering that prior to 1997 we had a Government who couldn’t care less about the needy in society. The rise in claiments (the vast majority of whom are genuine despite headlines to the contrary) should be heralded by Liberals everywhere. The DLA helps those who need it take as large a part in society as possible, in short it is an enabling benefit. The Tories will attack this, and other benefits, and need to be challenged, every step of the way.

    Labour messed up many things in their time in office, the ridiculous ATOS medicals (which continue under this Government) being one of them. But they should be applauded and not condemed for the rise in the number of genuine disabled claiments who go on to contribute to the real big society that Cameron has never, and probably will never, be part of.

  • @ Frank

    I am terribly sorry to hear about your personal circumstances, and I can understand why you feel angry, but at no point did I EVER use the word ‘scrounger’. I’m sure the vast majority of people claiming DLA deserve every assistance they get and more. My question is a question, pure and simple. Why am I not allowed to ask it simply because this is a sensitive matter?

    Why is it that I should be subject to an implied personal attack like yours for merely citing FACTS? Why are facts unacceptable to you? If the cost of the DLA is rocketing, then there must be a reason. I deliberately avoided making any value judgments about the information I posted.

  • @R C

    I am sorry, I didn’t mean it as an attack but got carried away explaining why I was one of those numbers.

    Please accept my apologies, I am pretty sensitive about this subject and resent, by the Tories, being called a scrounger.

    Consequently, it seems that the numbers don’t matter according to my LibDem MP (and member of the cabinet) – in a recent letter he simply stated that the numbers went up and doesn’t think they should have done so they’re coming down…. end of story.

  • Taking the example of people with genuine need like Frank, we need to understand why there is such a rapid real increase in the numbers of those needing the DLA and what we can do about it to finance future spending in this area. If this is a long term trend, clearly we will need to find extra funding from somewhere – higher taxes or lower spending in other areas – and we should be honest and upfront about this. We also need a fair, compassionate and rigorous way of testing eligibility to make sure the right money goes only to the right people so the resources are targeted properly.

    What does Rhydian think are the long term prospects for numbers of people needing the DLA and solutions to make sure we are finding the right amounts of money (alongside all the other priorities of government spending) for people with genuine needs like Frank, while making sure the system targets the money to the right individuals?

  • @RC
    “we need to understand why there is such a rapid real increase in the numbers of those needing the DLA”

    Are you sure there has been a rapid increase of those who need DLA ? Initial uptake was low (in common with other benefits when first introduced), but the “need” probably has not increased. Charities and support workers are getting better at identifying benefits people are entitled to and this will again help increase take up.

  • Those many disabled on ESA and DLA will have both benefits affected. The Work Capability Assessment has been designed so that is very little chance of many actually passing it. It will not be that more people are fit for work but that the test has been designed that is near impossible to ‘pass’ it. When the ESA is ‘failed’ this will immediately impact on DLA which will be withdrawn. The harsh new test is already in place despite the previous one not having been assessed.. Harington did not assess fully the descriptors and test itself only the way it was being carried out and has levelled criticism that the government has carried on with replacing it before any review. Professor Paul Gregg has also said that the test is ‘a complete mess’ and ‘will cause more anguish’. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/feb/22/new-disability-test-is-a-complete-mess
    However both he and Harrington have been ignored. On a further point, I and a few others have been trying to raise this on here since it was first announced last June but received derision from some and very few seemed to want to discuss it. I had stopped commenting on the sick and disabled issue altogether because I was becoming more ill because of the attitude and felt I was beating my head against a brick wall. I am pleased that at long last there is some discussion but I fear too late as the Liberal Democrats have been looking the other way for months and gone along with the Tory and Labour idealogy on this. Perhaps more should be said on the roll of UNUM in all of this who have been in from the beginning and are waiting for the private health insurance that will be the outcome in the UK. This link is rather lengthy but well worth a read. Please note that this was all started under Labour and has been carried through by the coalition who have gone further. http://www.lwbooks.co.uk/journals/articles/rutherford07.html

  • As a disabled person I agree with Rhydian’s blog.

    I am very disappointed in the LibDem’s failure to counteract the adverse effects on disabled persons of the coalition policies, which seem to be Tory led.

    I voted LibDem because I didn’t like the direction of travel of Labour’s policies regarding welfare for the disabled. It seems that none of the major parties care about us.

    We are heading for everyone having to take out private insurance against disability which is surely not a LibDem agenda.

  • “I’m entirely new to this debate, so perhaps Rhydian could explain whether some figures I found are correct or not and if so, what is the background to them.

    I read that between 1997 and 2007, the number of DLA claimants rose from 1.9m to 2.85m and that the cost rose from £4.5bn to £10bn annually.”

    This might have coincided with the year those over 65 were allowed to stay on DLA instead of being placed on Attendance Allowance, though as £15 billion a year goes unclaimed in benefits it’s not a huge amount especially when you consider that it’s merely fiddling the figures about between AA and DLA, if DLA goes up a few billion AA goes down by a similar amount. Then you have the fact that people aren’t dying due to medical progress and treatment but they are living with disabilities instead, financially abhorrent to the Tories, except when David Cameron claimed DLA for his son.

    As for carerwatch? I asked Rhydian a question or two a while ago, he either forgot to answer or chose not to, I’d appreciate you having the courtesy to reply Rhydian because simply ignoring me won’t work. You claim carerwatch to be a partner of the Broken of Britain even though it’s members are still taking part in an online stalking campaign. You might find it acceptable to work with a group whose members register the names of people they dislike with their local BNP party in an attempt to intimidate them (I’ve never been one to be “intimidated” regardless of someones wealth or intellect) Until you can inform me as to why tBoB should be taken seriously when it works with that group then you simply won’t get the respect that you seek/deserve because there are carers that won’t accept that group and inform people and organisations of what they have done. I’d still appreciate a reply Rhydian, I believe you have my email address, kindly have the balls to use it please.

  • Seems even Carerwatch disagree with the Broken of Britain’s cosying up to the charities, which is hypocrisy in itself.

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