Tag Archives: social security

Vince calls on Government to delay changes to mortgage interest payment for people on benefits

In less than 3 weeks’ time, the Government stops paying mortgage interest to for those on certain benefits.

Some bright spark at the Department of Work and Pensions came up with a way to save the Government money – by getting a private company, Serco, to operate a loan scheme. Instead of having payments covered by the state, they will be covered by the homeowner taking out a private loan with Serco in return for a charge on the property. That means that they will have to pay back an unspecified sum of money if they eventually sell their house.

The Government …

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ESA appeals figures “absolutely appalling” – Stephen Lloyd

New stats from the Department for Work and Pensions show that not far off two thirds of decisions that people are fit for work are overturned on appeal.  Now, think about it. You have to go through a stressful assessment process. You get your decision. You then have to ask for a mandatory reconsideration which will almost always have the same outcome. You then have the stress of waiting for months for an appeal. Then you have the stress of actually going to the Tribunal and facing questions from a panel. By this time a year or more could have gone by.

In any other organisation, such figures would lead to sackings and questions and enquiries  and sorting stuff out. Not in the Department of Work and Pensions under Tory misrule.

Our Work and Pensions spokesperson Stephen Lloyd called the figures “absolutely appalling.”

These figures are absolutely appalling, but of little surprise to me. With the many constituents who come through my office and those of other MPs’ across the country, we see with our own eyes some shocking decisions by Work Capability tribunals.

It is time that we stop faceless corporations making money off the backs of disabled people, while providing poor quality service.

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It’s not just the ridiculous and ignorant mistakes made in PIP and ESA assessments that should worry us

You judge whether a society is civilised or not by how it treats its most vulnerable people.  The Work and Pensions Select Committee will publish a report this week which has recommendations for the reform of social security for sick and disabled people.

If one of your relatives suffered from a debilitating, life limiting physical or mental health condition, you would want them to have the best support possible. You wouldn’t want them to have to endure a social security system that is complex, demeaning and stressful.

As a prelude to their full report, the Work and Pensions Committee published a taster of the evidence they have received which outlines the awful things that people go through.

For me, it wasn’t the absurd and ridiculous incidents that caught the headlines (people being asked why they hadn’t killed themselves yet, or how they caught Down’s Syndrome) that upset me the most. It was the clear evidence that the way the system operates is harmful to people that made me angriest.

To be fair, none of this was news to me. I’ve been aware for some time that the system is broken. It particularly fails those with fluctuating conditions, Autism and poor mental health, but it’s stressful for everybody.

Filling in the massive form is particularly difficult. For some, it is even more so. I spoke at an RNIB Scotland fringe meeting at Scottish Conference about a year ago, The RNIB Scotland Chair, Sandra Wilson, talked about her experience of the dreaded form. She has no sight. They sent her a paper copy and expected her to fill it in. They knew she had no sight when they sent her the form.

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Does it matter what colour your passport is?

My reaction to the news the other day that blue passports were going to be coming back after Brexit was one of frustration and annoyance.

I am not young by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve never had an old style passport. My first one, issued in 1993, was the burgundy European Union one.

It’s not the colour change that upsets me so much but what it symbolises. Those words European Union signify openness and co-operation. That translates into meaningful rights for me as a citizen. It means that I can travel freely across the EU. It means that I am part of something that protects my rights – even when my own Governments, Scottish and UK, seek to undermine them.

I absolutely cherish those words. The change in passport colour symbolises a retreat from those values.

Tom Brake made the point the other day that there is a huge financial cost to each of us that he put at £721 per passport. That’s based on a £35 billion settlement to the EU divided by 48.5 million passport holders. He said:

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High Court rules that 2017 changes to PIP regulations are discriminatory

The High Court has found that part of the rules governing Personal Independence Payments are unlawfully discriminatory against people with mental health impairments.

The Public Law Project’s client, RF, won on all three grounds of her challenge (RF v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions). 

The judge quashed the 2017 Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Regulations because they discriminate against those with disabilities in breach of Human Rights Act 1998 obligations. Because they were discriminatory, the judge also found that the Secretary of State did not have lawful power to make the Regulations (i.e. they were “ultra vires”), and that he should have consulted before making them, because they went against the very purpose of what PIP regime sought to achieve.

The judge heard that the Regulations were laid by negative resolution in February 2017, received relatively little parliamentary attention, and were rushed through the parliamentary process by the Secretary of State without prior reference to checks by relevant committees.  Contrary to the Secretary of State’s defence, the judge found that the decision to introduce the Regulations was ‘manifestly without reasonable foundation’ and commented that the wish to save money could not justify such an unreasonable measure.

During the course of the trial, the Secretary of State accepted that the testing carried out for PIP had not looked at whether the basis for treating those with psychological distress differently was sound or not, and the testing actually done was limited. 

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Scottish Parliament calls for rollout of Universal Credit to be halted

Alex Cole-Hamilton was one of the MSPs calling for the rollout of Universal Credit to be halted during a debate in the Scottish Parliament today. Only the Conservatives defended the continued rollout.

We know that people are having to wait up to 6 weeks for any money at all. MSPs had some real horror stories to report which you can see in the full record of the debate here.

Alex’s speech was very well crafted – and it was candid, too. He both acknowledged and distanced himself from the Liberal Democrat role in the coalition government’s welfare reform. However, he was able to show that without us there, the Tories have done a great deal worse. Here’s his speech in full.

I often speak with hyperbole in this place about the various responsibilities that we as decision makers discharge both in this Parliament and at Westminster, but the safety net that we provide for those who, for whatever reason, cannot provide for themselves should be the measure of any civilised society. My party has a proud history in the genesis and introduction of the welfare state in the early days of the 20th century, with the first state pension introduced under Lloyd George. In the 1940s, that great Liberal William Beveridge was the catalyst for the advent of social security when he identified the original “giant evils”, as he described them, of ignorance, idleness, squalor, want and disease. It is a failure of progress that, if we strip out the antiquated language, many of those evils still hold sway in our society today.

We should remember that, until this decade, the systems of welfare in this country had not undergone significant reform since their introduction, despite generations of incremental modification. For decades, welfare reform was sought by poverty campaigners, third sector organisations and academics so that we could dispense with unneeded red tape and inject much-needed social mobility into the system.

It fell to my party, in its period of coalition government, to co-preside over that much-needed redesign. I would, however, that we had had different bedfellows in that task. There are elements of the system that underpins the process that I take no pride in at all, and there are aspects of the new system that I still find shameful. Nevertheless, I am glad that we were there, for I dread to think of the welfare system that our Conservative partners would have designed unencumbered. We all saw the measure of the ideological compass behind Conservative social policy in the ill-fated manifesto that Theresa May published in the spring.

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Liberal Democrats would end the benefits freeze – but Labour aren’t sure

As prices go up in a Brexit-induced inflationary spiral, spare a thought for the poorest in our society. People who are having to rely on state benefits don’t get any cushioning thanks to George Osborne’s benefit freeze. As prices go up, benefits, already at a meagre level, stay the same making it even harder for people to survive.

So, you’d think that Jeremy Corbyn’s lefty Labour Party would be all about ending the freeze. Well, that’s what they briefed reporters on Friday morning ahead of a Corbyn visit to Cambridge. Remember that until 2015, Cambridge was represented by a Liberal Democrat who voted against many of the most contentious elements of the Coalitions social security reforms.

Anyway, Jezza rolls up and, weirdly, gives a much more timid message than his advisers had briefed. From Politics Home:

Party officials briefed journalists that Mr Corbyn would make the promise during a visit to Coatbridge in Lanarkshire yesterday.

A trail of his speech quoted the Labour leader saying: “We will lift the freeze on social security, using part of the billions we set aside for reform in our costed manifesto, by recycling social security savings made by introducing a real Living Wage of £10 an hour, and by building the affordable homes we need.”

But when he came to make the address, Mr Corbyn only said: “We are confident that we will be able to end the benefits freeze.”

A Labour source told The Times: “In his campaign speeches… not everything is said, but the intention was to say that. It’s in line with our policy.”

A party spokesman said: “We are confident that we will be able to end the benefits freeze.”

It’s the sort of caution that strikes resignation and frustration into the heart of anyone that actually wants to sort stuff out.

Just as a matter of interest, what is the Liberal Democrats’ policy on this? Pretty unequivocal, from the 2017 manifesto

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarDavid Raw 21st Mar - 2:11pm
    @ Jennie sorry, Jennie lass.
  • User AvatarPeter Hirst 21st Mar - 2:11pm
    It seems anything goes as long as we leave the eu, thus fulfilling the will of the people. The government have got themselves in a...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 21st Mar - 2:05pm
    Oh, dear. here we go again. John Marriott is completely right. The post from Mr Morrison is flawed from the start by including a statutory...
  • User AvatarLiberal 21st Mar - 1:43pm
    @Lorenzo The idea would be to streamline the system so we'd no longer be electing 2 sets of MPs - 1 for the Assembly and...
  • User AvatarSean Hyland 21st Mar - 1:41pm
    Bill le Breton I resigned my party membership when Charles Kennedy was forced to resign. I didn't agree with the direction the party was heading...
  • User AvatarWilliam Fowler 21st Mar - 1:13pm
    We already have two sets of MPs from Scotland and Wales, the idea that what the country needs is yet another layer of overpaid politicians...