Tag Archives: Disability Living Allowance

The Vicious Trap That’s Been Laid For Disabled Workers

Disabled workers could be forced into not just unemployment, but homelessness, extreme poverty, workfare or even face being stripped of both employment and benefits for up to three years due to the Government’s vicious welfare reforms.

A recent large scale survey carried out by Disability Rights UK (PDF)  found that 56% of disabled people say they will be forced to stop or reduce work should they be stripped of Disability Living Allowance (DLA).  The Government is replacing DLA with the new Personal independence Payment (PIP), a crude cost-cutting exercise which is openly intended to strip disability benefits from 20% of current claimants.  On top of this the Government is closing the Remploy factories in a move which will see around 1,500 disabled people forced into the benefits system.

DLA is a benefit which is available to those in and out of work alike and is intended to meet the additional costs of living with a disability.  Many people depend on this benefit to allow them to stay in work, using it to pay for extra transport needs, specialist equipment or personal care.

The new assessments for PIP are to be carried out by private companies, using the same discredited model that is currently inflicted on out of work sick and disabled people who depend on benefits to survive.  This practice, carried out by French IT firm Atos, has caused untold devastation, with claimants driven to suicide by the brutal and inhumane system which ignores the opinions of GPs and medical consultants in favour of a short computer based test.  It is too early to say exactly how the process will operate, but if the recent Atos experience is anything to go by, disabled people could face losing benefits because having a job is deemed to prove they are not disabled enough.

Whilst Iain Duncan Smith has claimed that Welfare Reform will make work pay, the truth is that changes to DLA will force tens, if not hundreds of thousands of disabled people out of the workplace.

Many disabled workers have questioned the logic of stripping people of an in work benefit only to make them dependent on out of work sickness or disability benefits.  As Disability Rights UK have pointed out, this measure appears to make little financial sense.

Unfortunately the situation is far bleaker than many people have realised.  Employment Support Allowance (ESA) is the benefit for those unable to work due to sickness or disability.  This was shamefully introduced by the last Labour Government in an attempt to change the parameters of what it means to be sick or disabled.  It introduced the previously mentioned Atos computer based test to determine eligibility for benefits.  The stated aim is not to test whether someone is unable to work due to sickness or disability, but to measure whether there is any work that they could possibly carry out.  Being able to watch an episode of Eastenders has been one notorious factor that has led to people being found ‘fit for work’.

After undergoing the assessment claimants are placed in one of three groups.  Most people are found ‘fit for work’ and are forced onto Job Seekers Allowance. A small minority are placed in the Support Group, meaning that it is accepted they are unable to do any kind of work.  The rest are placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) which means they are deemed to be able to do some kind of work at some point in the future.

Disabled workers forced out of work due to the changes to DLA will be forced back into the assessment process to determine their eligibility for sickness benefits.  And the sad truth is there can be only one outcome under present conditions.  Their recent employment will be used against them and they will be declared ‘fit for work’.

Sick or disabled people will not, as ministers and charities have claimed, be sent to specialist provision run by disability charities to help get them back to work under the Work Programme.  They will be placed in the mainstream JSA system where they will face workfare and benefit sanctions if they do not complete mandated activity.

Over-stretched Jobcentre staff are not trained in the barriers that sick or disabled people may face in the workplace.  Over zealous advisors, under pressure to meet targets from above, can force JSA claimants onto Mandatory Work Activity should they decide someone is not trying hard enough to secure work.  This means four weeks workfare, quite possibly carrying out demanding physical work.  Failure to complete Mandatory Work Activity means benefits will be sanctioned.

More importantly JSA claimants can be forced to take any job under threat of benefit sanctions.  It will not matter if disabled people can’t afford to take the job due to the costs of specialist equipment or transportation needed to get to work.  It will not even matter if the workplace they are to be sent is inaccessible for disabled people as so many are.  Under new rules claimants are to be expected to travel up to 90 minutes in either direction to get to work and back.  This will be impossible for some disabled claimants but it will matter not one bit.

Those who refuse work that is unsuitable, or even impossible, will soon face benefit sanctions lasting three years.

Part time work, under the changes coming when Universal Credit is brought in, will no longer be an option.  Everyone will be expected to work 30 hours a week – or possibly 35 if ministers get their way – and will have benefits sanctioned if they are not deemed to be doing enough to increase their hours.

It is still unclear whether benefit sanctions under Universal Credit will include Housing Benefits.  Disabled former workers, forced out of employment, could be forced into three years homelessness and dire poverty for reasons completely out of their control.

Whether by accident or design some disabled workers face a brutal future.  It is little wonder that so many are now questioning whether it is actually the intention of this toff Government to eradicate completely those that have been deemed unproductive by this cabinet of over-privileged millionaires.

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Personal Independence Payment – The Next Great Welfare Train Crash

Brutality combined with incompetence are becoming the hallmark of the current Tory administration and the plans to abolish Disability Living Allowance (DLA) are riddled with both.  The Government is driving ahead with their plans to replace DLA with the new Personal Independent Payment (PIP).  The aim of this is to strip benefits from a fifth of disabled people.

This will be achieved by using an independent medical assessment as the key part of the decision making process when considering a claim for the new  benefit.  That assessment will be carried out by a private company.

We already have an effective model of how the new scheme might operate.  The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is a short computer test carried out by French IT firm Atos which is used to determine eligibility for the out of work sickness and disability benefit Employment Support Allowance.  For everyone other the Government and Atos themselves, it has been an unmitigated disaster.  The constant assessment and re-assessment regime has driven an increasing number of people to take their own lives.  A recent Daily Mirror investigation found that 32 people a week die after being declared ‘fit for work’ by Atos.  Around 40% of appeals against Atos’ decisions are successful and the appeals system is in meltdown due to the number of cases being brought.

Despite some tampering around the edges due to a recent review of the process, there are no plans to abolish or significantly reform the WCA.  This should serve as a stark warning to people facing the new PIP testing regime.  The Government are happy with Atos the way things are.  Lots of people are losing their benefits.  That was always all they wanted.

The stated agenda of PIP is to remove benefits from 20% of disabled people.  All other mealy mouthed attempts at reform are secondary to this.  It will be down to the private sector to carry out this cull.  In many ways the PIP process will be identical to the WCA.  It may yet even be Atos who carry out the assessments.

This will not only prove traumatic for the people forced to undergo demeaning health tests, but will bring devastating social costs.  The Government’s plan that “entitlement will depend on the person’s circumstances and the impact of their health condition or disability on their everyday lives” is vague and open to all kinds of interpretation.

How it will be measured in practice is anyone’s guess.  Given it’s the private sector who will be carrying out the bulk of the work the answer is likely to be the cheapest way possible.  It will be difficult to imagine how, for example, being in full time work can be ignored by any assessment.  Under the WCA claimants who have admitted to watching Eastenders have had it used against them as evidence of being ‘fit to work’.  It is therefore very likely that having a job will come to be seen as a disqualifying criteria for claiming PIP, if not formally but as a reality of people’s experiences.  This may not be the Government’s intention, but in practice it seems unavoidable.

Atos, as well as human rights abusers G4s and private sector sharks Serco, are some of the companies believed to be bidding for the PIP contract.  They should be warned it is a thoroughly poisoned chalice.  Atos have already seen their reputation destroyed by the WCA, with the name of their company becoming a dirty word.   This will seem trivial should they take on the PIP Assessments.

DLA is a non means tested benefit designed to help people meet the additional costs of disability or ill health.  In many ways it should be seen as an adjunct to the NHS rather than a benefit comparable to those paid to people unable to work.  DLA is used for things like additional transportation costs, specialist equipment or personal care.  For many working disabled people these things are essential to help them remain in work.  As Disability Rights UK have recently pointed out (PDF), the removal of DLA from over half a million people may drive many into unemployment.

People currently claiming DLA include doctors, lawyers, journalists and MPs. Whilst those claiming out of work benefits are by their very nature economically disempowered (in that they don’t have jobs and are forced into the poverty of the benefits system) many DLA claimants are highly skilled professionals.  We could face the unedifying spectacle of Doctors having their  health and disability needs assessed by the two bit NHS rejects at Atos.  Disabled legal professionals may yet be forced into the appeals system and are likely to prove ferocious.  Any company which takes on the PIP contract will face unprecedented resistance at grass roots level, from people in some cases far more qualified than their own assessors.  It will be doctors, lawyers and journalists lining up alongside benefit claimants to take action against the companies concerned.

Imagine becoming public enemy number for not just the three million plus DLA claimants, but their friends, families and carers.  People with many more skills and resources to fight than those on out of work benefits.  Every mistake, appeal or careless remark by an assessor will be scrutinised.  Assessment centres and other business sites could find themselves thronged with disabled protesters.  An avalanche of legal challenges seems almost inevitable.

It is possible that on the ground a two tier process will develop.  Disabled doctors and lawyers may be informally waved through the process in the hope they won’t make too much fuss.  Can we honestly believe that David Blunkett or a Paralympian Gold Medal winner will face the same kind of scrutiny as an out of work disabled single mum living on a Council Estate?

The alternative is that the PIP assessment will become an unofficial ‘means test’.  Those in work, or able to lead more active lives, may find themselves punished as any sign of independence is used against them.  However the upcoming farce plays out it will prove catastrophic not just for disabled people themselves but for the wider credibility of the system.

As we have seen under the WCA regime, there will be more suicides, more appeals and more people having conditions made worse by the stress of endless testing.  The Government says that only in very few cases will PIP be awarded for life.  This will mean for example, that people who may have lost a limb will be forced back to continual re-assessments, presumably to check it hasn’t sneakily grown back.

Despite lurid headlines DLA is not an easy benefit to qualify for.  A wealth of medical information is required, from GPs, consultants and other health professionals.  As with the WCA, this is likely to become secondary to the short assessments carried out by private companies.  As more disabled people are forced into poverty it will be down to Local Authorities and the NHS to pick up the slack.  Just like so much of this Government’s Welfare Reform, it may yet cost more money to go down this road than simply leaving things as they are.

The Government are currently consulting on the changes and you can make your feelings heard here.  If past consultations are anything to go by then don’t expect them to listen.  The over privileged tory toffs have made their intentions well and truly clear.  Don’t think that this scum will shed any tears for those driven into poverty or even suicide by these changes.  As Maria Miller, the Minister for Disabled People has already said, the cost of disabled people is simply ‘unsustainable’.  That tells us everything we need to know about this Government’s attitudes towards sickness and disability.

Join the growing protests against Welfare Reform including action called in Central London by Disabled People Against Cuts on the 18th April (tomorrow!).

National Benefits Cuts Website Now Live!

With the recent announcement scrapping DLA this couldn’t be more timely:  http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/

Here’s a message to the bastard Clegg from the comments which deserves wider attention:

“To Nick Clegg, he won’t see this but anyway.

You promised disabled people that you wouldn’t change DLA, you promised people with long term conditions that DLA would remain a vital benefit for them and you wouldn’t change that. you promised us you would leave DLA as it was. Although I didn’t vote for your disreputable party many disabled people did, some of them good friends of mine did vote for your party because they believed you, they believed your promises, they believed you would look after disabled people. So why have you changed your mind. Why did your government, and it is your government today announce that DLA was to be scrapped. Why have you after promising you wouldn’t, plunged thousands of disabled people into despair and and made us all fear the future. I have never felt so afraid of the future since I started using a wheelchair as I do now.

You lied Mr Clegg, you lied.”

Disabled People Next in Tory Firing Line

And there was us thinking we could slip into cosy X Factor Christmas whimsy.

Maria Miller, the disability minister, has launched a consultation on plans to replace disability living allowance with a new benefit. “Disability living allowance has become confusing and complex. The rising caseload and expenditure is unsustainable.”

Which means more cuts, for the most vulnerable whilst the rich stay just as fucking rich.  We’re reading it now, can be found at: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/consultations/2010/dla-reform.shtml

Key points spotted so far:-

Currently individuals on DLA with certain health conditions or impairments are automatically entitled to specific rates of the benefit without a full assessment. We propose that for Personal Independence Payment there are no automatic entitlements, other than the special rules for people who are terminally ill.

Which sounds like benefit cuts on the cards for many already

“We also believe that advice from an independent healthcare professional should be an important part of the new process. In most cases, we envisage that this will involve a face-to-face meeting with an independent healthcare professional, allowing an in-depth analysis of an individual’s circumstances.”

More money for scum like Atos Origin then

“We know that some people’s needs may change over time, and sometimes so gradually that the customer themselves won’t notice. To ensure that everyone continues to receive the correct amount of benefit, we plan to periodically review all awards.”

Even more money for scum like Atos Origin then

“To ensure that support goes to those who face the greatest challenges, the benefit will only be available to people with a long-term health condition or impairment. Individuals will have to qualify for the benefit for a period of six months and be expected to continue to qualify for a further six months before an award can be made.”

By which time hopefully a few will have died off.  In poverty.

And predictably:

“Just as we are committed to providing unconditional support to those who are unable to work, we know that work is the best form of welfare for those who are able to do so. That’s why I want as many disabled people as possible to benefit from employment – it is not acceptable for anyone to be trapped in a cycle of dependency.”

And we all know where that’s leading.

Do not let these bastards do this.  Organise, protest, occupy, fight.  The National Day of Action Against Welfare and Housing Benefits must just be the beginning.

Website now live at:   http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/