Time to scrap disability assessments and bring them in house

With each month passing there is more and more evidence that now is the time to bring an end to the failed DWP disability assessments and private outsourcing by companies such as Maximus and Capita and bring all assessments in house.

Appeal success rates for those that go to tribunal  for both Personal Independence Payment and Employment and support allowance are at their highest rates ever, with success rates of 73% for Pip and 74% for ESA. This is an increase of 4% and 5 % respectively.

At the same time, waiting times for mandatory reconsiderations, which a claimant has to go through before appealing to a tribunal has increased by 86%. Average waiting times for a reconsideration have increased from 32 days to 54 days. This leaves many sick and disabled people in a severe financial hardship. This is totally unacceptable and is it any wonder that the use of food banks is at an all time high. The success rate of PIP Mandatory reconsiderations stands at a measly 19%. That is 2 opportunities that the DWP has had to get an assessment correct and fail and nearly three quarters of those people who go on to appeal are successful at tribunal. This is simply unsustainable, on top of the human suffering that this costs, there is the financial costs to the DWP and the justice department all because the private healthcare assessment providers and the DWP are failing to do their jobs. The system is broken.

There is also evidence of a canteen culture of contempt  at the DWP. In official tribunal papers for a woman’s appeal to Personal Independance Payments by a welfare official for the department of work and pensions, they wrote

In this lying bitches [sic] case she is receiving the mid-rate carers [sic] allowance component for providing day time supervision to another disabled person. The tribunal may wish to explore this further.

 

The mother of small children has a degenerative condition affecting her heart and lungs that leaves her prone to infection and in constant pain. 

What on earth is going on at the DWP if a DWP official feels that this is acceptable language to use in an official legal document and towards a disabled member of our community?  Nobody should be subjected to such humiliation and contempt, especially from a Government employee.

The DWP has since retracted its appeal and reinstated the ladies benefits and offered £250 in the way of compensation for distress caused to the lady.

This is just yet another example of the discrimination faced by sick, vulnerable and disabled people up and down the county. This needs to change.

Both the Liberal Democrats and Labour Party have vowed to scrap the current disability assessments and providers and to bring them in house. 

With turnout at the next General election expected to be low, it is policies like these that could be a vote winner. Not only is it the morally right thing to do, it is politically the right thing to do right now.

* Matt is a reader of and contributor to Liberal Democrat Voice who is not a member of any political party

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41 Comments

  • Alas we live in a world where the views of dear old Ebby rule
    “Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”
    “Are there no prisons?”
    “Plenty of prisons…”
    “And the Union workhouses.” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”
    “Both very busy, sir…”
    “Those who are badly off must go there.”
    “Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”
    “If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

    I’m afraid for many dying and reducing the surplus population would be seen as a plus rather than a minus.

    Out of intrest I looked up the views of one of the brave Brexiteers leaders

    Jacob Rees-Mogg consistently voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability

    https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/24926/jacob_rees-mogg/north_east_somerset/divisions?policy=6673

    Well if his dream comes to pass you can’t complain if you voted for his Brexit dream now can you Matt.

  • The WCA was introduced by the New Labour government in 2008. It was made harsher by the coalition government. Supporters of this callous policy thus includes arch remainers Blair, Brown. Cameron, Osborn Alexander and Clegg, plus the various other MPs who voted in favour of it time after time. It isn’t a Remain or Leave issue. Casting out the mote and all that.

  • David Warren 20th Apr '19 - 1:03pm

    Couldn’t agree more Matt.

    If a GP says someone is unfit for work then that should be sufficient and benefit should be paid.

    So are so many things wrong with the current process but as a lifelong trade unionist I can’t resist commenting on the deafening silence coming from the PCS union whose members administer it. A further irony is that the union is led by a avowed left winger who I believe used to work as a benefits clerk!

  • Joseph Bourke 20th Apr '19 - 1:18pm

    Matt is talking common sense. The WCA has been a serious failure since its introduction in 2008. It is not a matter of public v private – GPs are self-employed. It is a matter of having competent medical profesionals that put the interests of people and patients first undertaking these assessments.

  • @frankie

    I know we profoundly disagree on brexit and have clashed many times, however, this has nothing to do with Brexit.
    This is an issue that has been a plague on successive Governments.

    Fair play to you Frankie that you will cease any opportunity to have a pop at me, just wish you could have refrained this once and debated the merits of the article and also the shocking way that the poor woman who was called a “lying bitch” by the DWP officer in official tribunal papers.

    Sure we all have difference of opinions in certain policy area’s, but surely we should be able to come together and discuss area’s where we do agree to try and improve the quality of life and the injustices that so many sick and disabled people face and not needlessly resort to the robust disagreements of area’s where we dont agree

  • David Becket 20th Apr '19 - 1:32pm

    When you look at the Rees Mogg voting record (see link above) you see what you would expect to see from an over rich hard right winger who uses the Cayman Islands for tax purposes and has moved hedge funds to Dublin to keep them in the EU. He neither understands or gives a toss for the issues faced by the average UK resident, as long as he trousers loads of tax free money.
    What is even sadder is the number of times you see Lib Dem MPs in the same voting lobby as the member for the 18th Century.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Apr '19 - 1:32pm

    Matt, as said before, please do think more of becoming a member, we need you amongst this fold.

    I agree with this to such an extent , it should be required reading on joining us, whether on this website or widely in this party. We are in a unique position. Liberals are not automatically joined as are Labour, through unions, to support public sector, workers, initiatives, nor like the Conservatives, proponents of the private sector mainly.

    This subject, is identical to the so called Windrush generation, disgraceul episode.

    In other words it is not an episode.

    It is a development. Over years. Involving individuals.

    The years began under the worst later excesses of New Labour, continued through coalition, got worse in the era afterwards. True of the culture at the DWP and Home Office.

    We should be criticising the workforce as much as the government. There are no votes in cosying up to those who are , honestly, boarderline evil.

    I call out injustice. Ian Duncan Smith would not say what the worker says at the DWP, exemplified here in our article. He was wrong as a minister. He can be seen to be a villainous minister. The employees such as quoted should be seen as a villainous human being and worker.

  • David Becket 20th Apr '19 - 2:16pm

    @ Lorenzo
    I am glad you put the Home Office and the DWP together. Their culture was developed under two ministers, one a former failed leader of the Tory party and the other a disastrous prime minister. The replacement of these two departments with ones where customer service was top priority would do much to right many of the wrongs in our society.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Apr '19 - 2:43pm

    David

    Thanks, the culture started in New Labour era when that oriented towards a hard conservatism, rather than, what even Conservatism had been under Thatcher and Major, not targeting or demonising those on benefits or disabled, it got worse and yes, distrust set in under those ministers, and got to where after the coalition it carried on downhill in the way the staff implementing decisions have lost humanity often.

    I think we must not let the professionals off the hook, whether , as David Warren says and then in my point above, they are conservative and unionised , Conservative and Unionist!

    We need Liberal and Democratic!!!

    Happy Easter to one and all…..

  • I also think it would be worthwhile looking at splitting up the department of work and pensions.

    A major problem is with the combination of unemployment benefits, disability benefits and pensions, the welfare budget is eye watering which leads to a lot of misconceptions of who is receiving what and lots of resentment.

    Now the coalition government did a lot of good towards reducing pensioner poverty by introducing the triple lock, nobody could argue against that, however, this in turns pushes up the total welfare bill, which then leads to callous remarks about the workshy and scroungers.

    In reality, of the total welfare bill and how it is divided
    42 % is spend on Pensions
    18% on family benefits and Tax Credits
    16% on Disabity Benefits
    13% on Personal social services and other benefits
    10% housing Benefit
    And a mere 1% on Unemployment benefit

    When you then also take into account that there are people of pensionable age who are receiving part of the % when it comes to disability benefits in the form of Personal Independence Payments & Attendance Allowance along with housing Benefit as well, you soon see that the total welfare spend for people of working age, is not actually anywhere near the perceptions that people have.
    Now I am not criticising pensioners here and what we spend on them, far from it, but what I think we need here is some transparency in the department and to try once and for all to put to an end to the resentment and misinformation that is aimed at the unemployed, sick and disabled people of this country and the only way to do that in my opinion is to separate the departments. Let’s have a single department that deals with pensions and disability benefits associated with Pensioners, let’s call it the department for pensions and social care and a totally separate department for sick and disabled “department for sick and disabled and social care” and a separate department altogether for the unemployed. In order to put an end to the stigma and the denigration of sick and disabled people, some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, then we need governments to be transparent with the facts and figures.

    What do you all think?

  • Morgan-Ross Inwood 20th Apr '19 - 4:20pm

    The author is right about how bad the system is, I should know as I was asked to transfer from Disability Living Allowance as I am an adult to Personal Independence Payment back in 2017, I scored 0 on both Daily Living and Getting Around components so I asked for a Mandatory Reconsideration and I scored some points but not enough to qualify for PIP so I lodged an Appeal with Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service and I had to wait a year for the Tribunal Date and during that time my ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) was reduced and I had to contribute to Council Tax. I won my appeal by the way and was awarded PIP. My PIP Claim is due to be reviewed in 2021 and earlier this year I had to complete an ESA 50 Form, the Work Capability Assessment form. Every time my benefits are reviewed it makes me anxious to the point i am panicking and the forms I feel are a personal interrogation. I am Autistic and I have Mental Health Issues so why does the DWP keep reviewing my case and making my life hell?

    Universal Credit or UC needs to be mentioned as there are no disability premiums under UC.

  • I do wonder why reconsiderations have to be so frequent. I wonder what the rules are. I was told that tribunals can set longer periods between reconsiderations than can be set by the DWP. If someone has been reconsidered once I think the time for their reconsideration should be longer and get longer after each reconsideration. As common sense should point out that the person is not going to get better quickly, if at all.

    David Warren and Joseph Bourke, I don’t think party policy is a return to the system that GPs can decide who is unfit for work for long periods of time. I think we are proposing giving it to councils’ social services departments.

    Matt,
    I think pensions and employment could be divided into separate departments again. The department of pensions to deal with pensions and benefits to all people of pensionable age, while the department of employment would deal with all people of working age who receive benefits and would administer a new job / training guarantee for people on benefits not in work. I am not sure a whole department to deal with the 1.34 million unemployed not all of whom claim benefits is viable.

  • Indeed Matt, this issue needs looking at, but Brexit consumes all. The government is in a state of paralysis watching Brexit Nelly dance ( as do the people, all else can wait), the views of Reece Mogg hold sway and are very likely to be implemented. Be afraid, be very afraid because people like that hold no thought for mere plebs like us, for if we can’t work what use to them are we. I take the point about Clegg and Co jumping into bed with him and his ilk, twas at best badly thought out, at worst they knew dammed well what they had signed up too. The silver spoon brigade hold no understanding about the issues facing the majority if us, they may pretend to ( and who doesn’t luv a propper toff, gorblimy guvnor) but pretend is all they do and when they have power the pretence stops dead.

  • Katharine Pindar 20th Apr '19 - 11:00pm

    Matt, you are absolutely right to raise again the shocking treatment of people with disabilities who are on benefits, shown in the way they have been assessed and the fact that so many have, after much pain and distress, succeeded in their appeals. But the way we think welfare distribution should be handled still needs to be much debated, there being too few conclusions as yet.

    At Brighton in September 2016, Conference resolved, as part of the motion Mending the Safety Net, that workers should be supported back into employment by-
    ‘Separating benefits delivery from employment support delivery, which would be devolved to local levels so it can be adapted to suit local needs.’ (Section 2 a)
    From this naturally derives a policy of having two departments, one for pensions AND benefits, and the other for employment, as suggested by Michael BG above.

    That policy seemed advocated by an expert in national mental health policy, who worked in the DWP for 18 months, Tom Pollard of the think-tank Demos. He wrote in a paper in January that the Government should consider abolishing the Department, which he believes is ‘institutionally and culturally incapable of making the reforms needed.’ See my brief report on his thinking in https://www.libdemvoice.org/alleviating-poverty-in-our-country-how-should-Liberal-Democrats-aim-to-help-59798.html.

    I agree with both the practical solutions and the thinking behind them advocated by Mr Pollard, which are so much in line with our own developing policy. I believe that we should be advocating such reforms as a matter of urgency, and no less urgently should denounce the Government’s indifference to the plight of some of the most disadvantaged people in our country, which has allowed its practitioners to treat them so shamefully.

  • Arnold Kiel 21st Apr '19 - 6:49am

    Among the many things I find shocking about modern Britain, the privatisation of authoritative functions which exercise real power over individuals is one of the most symbolic. This applies not only to disability assessment, but also to prisons, probation, possibly other “services”, most probably including the notorious home(!) office. Terminology exposes the perversity: a service is something you frequent voluntarily, not something you are being subjected to by force. The message is: you belong to a group of people this state does not regard as its citizens anymore, but as cases to be handled elsewhere.

    For this reason alone, I find most questionable side-effects of a Labour Government acceptable. I just wish they forgot about trains, water, or postal services, which the government does not have to provide directly, but focus on recreating a civil society that includes the disabled, the unemployed, and yes, also criminal citizens.

    Of course the surest way to perpetuate these policies is to keep the Conservatives in power, best ensured by supporting their enactment of their one and only policy: Brexit.

  • @Lorenzo
    Thank you for your comments. I have always said to myself that after Brexit is finally done and dusted and put to rest, the LD’s are a party that I would consider joining. The last time I did the “I side with test” I think I scored something like 78% Libdem, there is so many areas that I do identify with the party, but on brexit we are poles apart and it would not be healthy for either of us for me to contemplate being a member before the issue is put to rest.
    @ Frankie
    I agree that the Government is in a state of paralysis over Brexit, however, that does not mean opposition parties have to be as well. They should be able to still hold the Government to account on other issues and drag their feet over the coals. By focusing entirely on brexit they are allowing the Government a free reign. I am not dismissing that Brexit is a highly important issue for remain parties, but we should be able to multi-task, otherwise we are just letting the Government of the hook. As I said in the article, this is not just a very important moral issue, this is an urgent political issue. Turn out at the next election will be extremely low. No doubt millions of people will decide not to vote, especially those who have had enough of Brexit regardless of which side they fall on Remain / Leave and feel that Parties are not diverse enough in their other policy areas which reach them. I strongly believe this is an area that is of great importance to many people which could encourage them to get out and vote. I also believe that there is a strong possibility that we will be looking at a rainbow coalition after the next election ( I am not saying that this is a good thing) and I know that Liberal Democrats will be extremely cautious about ever entering into another coalition any time soon. However, it would be advantageous to opposition parties if there were already areas of agreement in place in order to build upon. I know there are big changes in place for Scotland when it comes to disability benefits and assessments ( I am sure Caron will be able to tell us more about this)

  • I believe one of the most urgent reforms needed is to bring an end to the outsourcing of benefit assessments. The private sector has proven time and time again that they cannot be trusted with this and the successful appeal rates year on year proves this.
    I can understand the reluctance of having the patient / claimants own GP carrying out medical assessments, as this could damage the patient doctor relationship if there was disagreement between the assessment, however, it would be entirely possible for patients to be sent out to a different surgery for an assessment and the doctor would have full access to the patients / claimants medical history and GP records and thus able to provide a more thorough and detailed report to the dwp in order for them to process the claim correctly, surly this would reduce the amount of wrong decisions.

    I do know that the Government are considering in the future, allowing the DWP and assessment providers to have access to patient’s GP records. In principle this sounds like a good idea as it could lead to better more accurate information being made available for assessments. However, do we trust Private companies like Atos to have access to such detailed personal data and medical records and would they act responsibility? People need to be able to have 100% confidence in their GP and know what they say it is confidential. It could be extremely detrimental to people’s health if they held back on what they said to their GP if they felt there information is no longer secure and confidential.

    I know from my personal experience with mental health, I would have held back a lot of things I have said to my medical team, if I felt that this was not confidential and companies like Atos or Maximus would be able read this. That’s another reason why I strongly believe that these assessments need to be bought in house.

  • Sue Sutherland 21st Apr '19 - 12:10pm

    Matt I agree with you that assessments should be carried out by doctors. I have M.E. and it’s difficult enough to get GPs to understand the varied effects of this illness let alone social workers. I have friends who have been diagnosed with POTS after struggling to get referred to specialists by their GP. My own GP said she’d never heard of it.
    Obviously this has to be done by a doctor who isn’t the applicant’s GP to make the system fairer and it used to be done this way.

  • Sue Sutherland 21st Apr '19 - 12:24pm

    Arnold I agree with you and it is quite difficult for Lib Dems to identify why we dislike the privatisation of certain services from a theoretical perspective. However, we are great believers in community and if you view the nation state as a community I find it easier to define which services should be provided by the community for its benefit. Defence and policing of the community is an obvious start and prisons and the probation service follow because the community needs those who transgress its laws to be given help to stop reoffending and also to be removed from the community for serious offences. The community suffers when some of its members cannot support themselves, so it needs to care for the sick, the disabled, the unemployed so that they can contribute what they are able to do as part of the community but also receive the help and support they require.

  • Question is “What is the aim of Disablity payments, to maximise profit or to support the disabled?”.
    If it to maximise profit the present system is ideal, if it is to look after those in needs it is a disaster.
    As to why this isn’t a national scandal, along with crime and many other issues which would be in normal times, well like it or lump it as soon as Nelly the Brexit elephant dances she trampled all other issues into the ground. I’m afraid nothing other than an even greater catasrophy will change that, which means bad things will continue to happen, unseen and unheeded until Brexit ends; that I’m afraid is years away at best.

  • frankie

    Please will you stop making everything about brexit. This has nothing to do with brexit whatsoever.
    This is an issue that has been going on for many years through many governments which has been a stain on many parties.
    Things got progressively worse under the Tories, supported by their friends in the right wing media which aimed to stigmatise and segregate the most vulnerable people in society… This all started well before Brexit.

    I know you like to think that Brexit consumes all and you see Brexit as a national disaster and everything else has to sit on the wayside until such a time as this has been resolved, I sincerely hope that others do not see things that way.
    If you were in Government and another National Disaster occurred, are you going to excuse your inaction in other areas of life because of an inability to multi task…..It doesn’t express confidence in ones ability to Govern does it.

    As I keep saying over and over, there is more to the world than brexit, our democracy faces some real uncertain times, the expectation for turn out at the next set of elections and General Election is expected to be extremely low due to disengagement, that would be terrible for our democracy. Political parties need to be reaching out to people from all sections of society and trying to engage them once again.
    How successful do you think any party is going to be in a G.E if the message on the doorstep is only one of, sorry we dont have an answer for that right now as Brexit consumes all

  • Peter Hirst 21st Apr '19 - 2:16pm

    It makes sense to bring these assessments in-house so that some expertise is built up, the right decisions made and applicants are treated with respect and dignity.

  • Katharine Pindar 21st Apr '19 - 3:06pm

    Ardent Remainer Lib Dems don’t say all other policies and campaigns SHOULD be consumed by Brexit, Matt. Just that unfortunately they tend to be. I think we are all on the same side here, wanting major reforms to welfare delivery as soon as possible.

  • Jayne Mansfield 21st Apr '19 - 3:27pm

    @ Matt,
    There are two issues as far as I can see. Yes, assessments should be in house, but also, only an office bound bureaucrat would think it beneficial (to the assessed) to employ box tickers with little understanding or knowledge as front line staff to deal with the disabled.

    I can give you two examples of why this is an unwise move. One where a young woman was asked how long she had suffered from Down’s Syndrome, another where a young woman was asked how long she had been autistic. Fortunately despite both being adults, they were accompanied by a parent.

    I am so please that you have written a post giving your knowledgeable perspective. As you say, the misguided, and often cruel attempts to save money at the expense of the disabled pre-dates Brexit. Bringing assessments in house is a first step, ensuring that individuals are dealt with by appropriately trained staff is the next important step.

  • Arnold Kiel 21st Apr '19 - 3:51pm

    Matt,

    strange you don’t see the bigger Brexit picture: it is all about the rich keeping their money, instead of wasting it on the poor, the disabled, and any other net recipient of tax money. The EU is the last roadblock they have to remove to do so totally unchecked. All other prerequisites are in place: the poor believing in identity politics (to dilute the Labour vote), a state without financial, strategic, and operational capacity (for the accident of a Labour win), and voter suppression (FPTP and registration, to prevent this accident from happening).

  • @Arnold Kiel

    ” it is all about the rich keeping their money, instead of wasting it on the poor, the disabled, and any other net recipient of tax money.”

    Which has nothing to do with Brexit at all. This is the way it has been for decades, long before the referendum. And when I say decades, I mean decades.

    ” The EU is the last roadblock they have to remove to do so totally unchecked.”

    Please explain further, I did not see the EU back up the UN when it declared the UK Governments Changes to disability where unawful and discriminatory. What did the EU do? Did they warn the UK? Did they impose sanctions because the UK was breaching any law’s?

  • @Katharine

    I know that not all campaigners feel the same way as frankie and I know that the Liberal Democrats and Labour have some or are developing some good policies on things like disability benefits.

    Now it is no secret that I am not a Liberal Democrat or a member of any political party, it is also no secret that I am an arch Brexiteer. However, that does not stop me reaching out to parties where I feel there are areas that we identify with.
    There are somethings that I am very passionate about, including the welfare state, Mental Health, Physical Health, survivors of sexual and domestic abuse, education to name just a few and when I am well enough, I will reach out to such parties in the hope to at least do my small little bit to try and bring about change, it’s not a lot, but it is all I can manage right now.

    It is hard for some people in these pressing times, to continue to engage with politics, and that scares me for democracy, and it worries me when people like frankie constantly make excuses about” brexit consumes everything” and this is just the way things are going to be from now on because of brexit.
    I worry what affect that will have on people? I fear that will just turn people further away from politics which will not be a good thing at all. Besides, I find these excuses are just letting the Government off the hook and lets face it, they will run with it if you let them do so.
    It is the job of all opposition parties to hold the Government to account on all matters of Government and to put pressure on them by reaching out to the electorate by letting them know what they will do differently if they were in Government.

    I know you have written some good articles on welfare reforms on here Katherine which I have followed when I am well enough to do so

  • Arnold Kiel 21st Apr '19 - 4:27pm

    Matt,

    much worse: the EU is trying to effectively tax global corporations, it is circling in on money laundering, tax havens, anonymous asset ownership. In sum: the very basis of Brexiter’s future UK business model. You may find the EU toothless, they don’t.

  • Matt,
    Sod all we be done to address the issues we face as a society this side of Brexit being settled. That means the best you can hope for a bit of sticking plaster, a bit of wax and string to keep things together. This isn’t my view it is a statement of fact, there is no poltical will, no poltical drive, they are all consumed by Brexit and that will be watching Nelly till she stops dancing. Yes other things are crying out for time and help, but they won’t get any, tis sad but that is the reality we face, I wish it was not so.

  • Jayne Mansfield 21st Apr '19 - 4:36pm

    @ Arnold Kiel,

    I am sure that since childhood, Matt has been able to see the ‘bigger picture’. The bigger picture being that it was uncaring UK politicians who brought us to this pretty pass.

    It is hardly surprising that those who have suffered from right of centre political decisions don’t think that leaving the EU might make their situation even worse. For some, an even worse situation is beyond imagination.

  • @Arnold

    Forgive me.
    I thought your previous comment was implying that the EU is the last roadblock to prevent the UK from further decimating the welfare state and providing protection to the poor, vulnerable and disabled.
    Obviously the EU does not do this, so I reinstate what I said further.
    This has absolutely nothing to do with Brexit. The UK has had a woefully inadequate safety net and support for sick and disabled people for decades.

    Even if we were to put an end to money laundering, tax havens and making corporations pay their fair share of tax, even if the UK were to climb the ladder in the G7, that does not mean that the UK (especially a Tory or Tory lead Government) would start providing a fairer welfare policy to the most vulnerable people in society.
    What makes you think that a larger income from tax receipts would result in fairer redistribution to all? Where is the evidence for that?
    For starters we will need to take on the prejudices of the right wing media and we would need complete transparency on total welfare spend and where it is spent in order to change public perceptions.

  • @Katharine
    I know you have written some good articles on welfare reforms on here Katherine which I have followed in the past
    “Ardent Remainer Lib Dems don’t say all other policies and campaigns SHOULD be consumed by Brexit, Matt”
    I know that Katharine, it is just unfortunate that some of the louder voices on here do tend to give that impression that this is the case.
    It is worrisome as I think that those louder voices could be very detrimental and end up deterring people further from trying to engage in politics.

    @Jane
    Thank you for your comments.
    I too read those reports about the people with Down’s Syndrome and Autism were asked how long they had the condition and I was appalled. It shows all that is wrong with the assessment process and how it requires people with proper in depth medical qualifications and also people with mental health illnesses should only be assessed by qualified mental health professionals.

  • Arnold Kiel 21st Apr '19 - 5:53pm

    Matt,

    as this is your op ed, I shall be allowed to follow you a little further off-topic. The EU has, indeed, not been a strong champion for national redistributive policies, but does so quite substantially Europe-wide. It views this a national prerogative, ranging from countries like Romania, with a 16% flat tax (still enough for their corrupt politicians, as they provide very few public services) all the way to France with a >50% state share of the economy (without solving widespread social discontent). You should look at the Weber-Timmermanns-debate; this question is increasingly contested. Interestingly, a UK participation in the EU elections, with an expected strong Labour-showing (compared to the social democrats in other countries) could, in coalition with ALDE, make Timmermanns, the better man, the next president of the commission.

    “if we were to put an end to money laundering, tax havens and making corporations pay their fair share of tax”, unfortunately, the UK would not “climb the ladder in the G7”, because few reasons to bring legitimate money to the UK would remain, especially after your cherished Brexit. If you comply with EU fiscal governance regulations, you better stay in order to benefit from the single market.

    Public and social services including healthcare are the biggest budget items; there are no other reasons to raise taxes, so the Tories won’t do it.

    “For starters we will need to take on the prejudices of the right wing media”, surely by following them over the Brexit cliff edge.

  • @Arnold

    “as this is your op ed, I shall be allowed to follow you a little further off-topic”
    It is not me that has gone off topic, it is you and frankie that have gone off topic and unfortunately I have allowed myself to be drawn in.

    ““For starters we will need to take on the prejudices of the right wing media”, surely by following them over the Brexit cliff edge.”
    Again, I will iterate, what has happened to the welfare state over the last few decades has absolutely nothing to do with Brexit. It has been a political choice mainly driven by the rightwing media. Lets not forget that Cameron & Osbourne where both arch remainers and they also allowed themselves to be politically driven by the right wing media into the biggest assault on the welfare state and discrimination towards sick and disabled people seen to date.

    Sorry Arnold and Frankie, I am going to refuse to allow myself to get dragged any further into discussing Brexit on this issue. I wrote this article as it is something that I care very deeply about as i know a lot of Libdems do as well.
    I will be keeping my comments to the substance of the article and am interested to hear from other readers on what we can to bring about change by both putting pressure on the Government through putting forward opposition debates and preparing party policy changes which hopefully be seen in a new Government .

  • Jayne Mansfield 22nd Apr '19 - 8:55am

    @ Matt,
    You do not , as you say, belong to a political party. Surely this is the first step.

    It doesn’t matter to me which party you choose, as long as it is the one that is most likely to be influenced by its members views and has demonstrated a will to change the appalling treatment meted out to the groups you mention.

    I look at the record of MPs ( they work for you, full voting history), to check how they have voted on these important issues. What people do when they have the power to bring about change, is in my opinion, a better guide than what they say they will do in the future.

  • Hi Jayne

    I do agree with you and that is something that I do do, however, we have a problem.
    Because as we know, this is an issue that has plagued all parties over the last decades.
    MP’s and parties tend to vote one way in opposition and another when in Government.
    Labour did some good things when they first got into government in 1997, but seriously lost their way towards the end. The same is true for Liberal Democrats, before the days of the coalition.

    On this particular issue, I am prepared to wipe the slate clean.
    There is a very good chance that the next general election is going to see either a coalition Government, or a minority government.
    Therefor I feel the time is ripe to bring about change.
    If we can get opposition parties to at least start to align on a welfare policy that is more humane towards the most vulnerable people in society.
    When the time comes after the next general election, there will be a consensus for that change either through coalition or confidence and supply, whatever it may be.

    As I said, I am not a member of any party, I have in the past voted both labour and Liberal Democrat, this is to an important issue to be tribal.
    It pains me to say, that the worse thing we could end up with right now, is a majority lead government under Corbyn, as much as I want to bring about these changes, the damage he would do in other area’s worries me, so taking that into account, I would prefer some kind of coalition or confidence and supply were both parties could hopefully keep one another in check, but bring about the changes that are so desperately needed in the areas where there is agreement.

    That’s the reason for me writing the article and reaching out to people

  • Jayne Mansfield 22nd Apr '19 - 10:37am

    @ Matt,
    I must say, I look at individual voting histories when I now decide which party to vote for. The reality is that all parties are coalitions. I will vote for those who have voted against the attack on the most vulnerable groups in society.

    It will cost money, the question is, who has the moral leadership qualities to go against the mainstream who have hardened their attitudes to those on ‘benefits’ ? There is plenty of breast beating, but when push comes to shove, will people be prepared to pay for a more equitable, civilised society, and will elected politicians be prepared to be unpopular amongst those for whom, enough is never enough, and make them pay?

  • A female victim of an acid attack had to endure the distress of attending a tribunal to get her ESA restored despite having 50% burns to her face and body.

    In yet another example of the heartlessness of the work capability assessment process, the anonymous victim was awarded 0 points on reassessment for ESA.

    Yet the claimant had undergone repeated episodes of reconstructive surgery, suffered severe physical and mental health issues as a result of the attack and can neither sit nor stand for any length of time without pain.

    She rarely leaves her home except for visits to her GP, the hospital and the local shops.

    A Maximus health professional found that the claimant had no problems with any of the activities in the work capability assessment and awarded her zero points, in spite of the fact that she had previously been in receipt of ESA.

    Yet a tribunal took less than 20 minutes to conclude that the claimant scored 24 points and was entitled to ESA.

    The claimant was represented by a pro bono solicitor from Hammersmith and Fulham Law Centre because legal aid is no longer available in the overwhelming majority of benefits cases.

    Her representative told the Guardian:

    “This case should not have been before a tribunal. Already our client is suffering from life-changing burns that have a significant impact on her physical and mental health. The anxiety of appealing the decision and attending a tribunal has been extremely upsetting.

    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/apr/19/tribunal-restores-benefit-payments-to-acid-attack-victim

  • Katharine Pindar 24th Apr '19 - 9:49am

    Matt, I think you are absolutely right to keep pressing on this issue. What you are highlighting is part of the problem arising from what the UN Rapporteur Philip Alston called ‘the often callous’ approach of the Government. His statement in November, which has not yet been fully endorsed even by my party, included this sentence:
    “British compassion for those who are suffering has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous approach apparently designed to instil discipline where it is least useful, to impose a rigid order on the lives of those least capable of coping with today’s world, and elevating the goal of enforcing blind compliance over a genuine concern to improve the well-being of those at the lowest levels of British society.”
    It is this attitude which we need to denounce as well as the rigid enforcement which followed from it, to improve the lives of all the most disadvantaged of our society. I believe this must be a priority for the Liberal Democrats, on which to keep pressing Government and further developing our own policies.

  • @Katharine

    Thank you. I will keep pressing when I can
    I see in today’s reports
    A record 1.6m emergency food parcels were given out by the Trussell Trust food bank network last year – more than 500,000 of them to children – as benefit cuts, universal credit delays, and rising poverty fuelled the busiest year in the charity’s history.

    This has got to change.
    What with the benefit freeze. changes to universal credit, where transition payments are about to expire, 1.9 million people are about to be £1000 a year worse off.

    It is not the job of charities to pick up where the state is failing.

    Analysis has shown it is the poorest and vulnerable sick and disabled who are going to be hit by the hardest yet again.

    This has to be a priority for all opposition parties, who need to start building a consensus around changes to welfare ready for the next parliament when hopefully the tories will be kicked out of office

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