Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Dec 11, 2016 12:28:09 GMT
Tories in Turmoil (continued)
Sickness benefits reforms on the rocks A system reboot won't work
The Tory 'revolution' on helping the sick back in to work is well and truly on the rocks.
This follows on from the previous post and two opposing assertions. On the one hand the Tories are saying how large numbers of claimants are being driven off sickness benefits as a direct result of their reforms, and on the other hand the figures for those on the sick have, so far, barely changed despite an extensive number of harsh work capability assessments being carried out.
The truth can only be found in what the statistics surrounding Employment & Support Allowance actually tell us.
Last week saw the release of the DWP’s latest Work Capability Assessment (WCA) outcome statistics. At one time the release of such statistics would have been cause for much blowing of trumpets down at the DWP, the tedious accompanying fanfare was always to be found in yet another outrageously inaccurate story pumped out by the right wing media, aimed as always at promoting the relentless scrounger narrative. All of which was deliberately designed to fuel the vile kind of rhetoric we’ve grown so accustomed to seeing; quite obviously wilfully printed to anger ‘hard working’ tax payers in to thinking their cash was being squandered on encouraging thousands of people to lounge on the sofa rather than genuinely resting in the sick bay.
The problem with propaganda, especially when pumped out with the magnitude of Murdoch’s ferocious media, is that it sticks; it also twists the debate. Many disabled campaigners seem to spend more of their time pointing an accusatory finger at Labour for introducing the WCA in 2008 than they do at the Conservatives led Coalition for recklessly rolling it out in an attempt to reassess thousands of long term sick claimants. They did so with brutal force barely 10 months after taking up office. Those who want to play the blame game would do well to go back in history and examine how the numbers on incapacity benefits swelled from less than a million in the late 70's to over two and a half million in the Thatcher era of the 80’s and 90’s. The unpalatable truth is that we’ve had a residual problem ever since.
Having 2.5 million people on the sick proves exorbitantly expensive, it also creates an enormous void in the labour markets which three decades of employers have been unable to address. It's a problem created by the Tories which successive governments have been unable to fix.
Until, of course, Iain Duncan Smith entered the arena.
Duncan Smith has somewhat absurdly come to be known by many as a leading 'social justice' campaigner. Large numbers of people have, by and large, been completely taken in by his ridiculously overstated pledge to simplify the benefits system with his revolutionary Universal Credit. Bugles played aplenty when he paired up with the then Employment Minister Chris Grayling letting loose another ‘revolution’ – the flagship ‘payment by results’ (PBR) Work Programme contracting model which was launched in June 2011. It was this which was set to 'incentivise' private providers with payments of up to £13,000 per person in return for helping long term sickness benefit into sustainable employment. Grayling declared he was ‘relaxed’ about the incentives on offer. Why wouldn’t he be? This was PBR, no result = no payment. In essence it was an abandonment of government responsibility and a certain thrashing by a select committee if the providers didn’t work the magic. All Grayling had to do was sit and smirk with a lazy ‘your fault not mine’ mentality.
Profit orientated private providers are the curse of any decent reform of the welfare state, and the Employment & Support Allowance reassessment programme is a classic example in how their want of profit simply isn't compatible with the complexities of helping people too far removed from the labour markets back to work, it just isn't that simple.
Duncan Smith’s most toxic legacy is without doubt his utterly chaotic ESA reassessment regime. Under his hopelessly incompetent watch (May 2010 to March 2016), an average of 43% of 2,529,800 new ESA claimants assessed under the WCA were declared ‘fit for work’ (a sum total of 1,108,200 claimants). Is this the million who the Daily Mail would have you believe were rescued from destitution and despair according to yet another deluded tribute to IDS entitled “I salute an unsung hero who's rescued millions from a life of despair”?
Rather than saluting IDS, aka the wrecker of the welfare state, they should be locking him up and throwing away the key. We should all know why, but in reality far too many people still see him a welfare saint rather than the wicked monster he transpired to be.
The assessment programme is immensely complex, it's why few bother to look deep in to the complexities and ask 'what's gone wrong?'.
People won't stop to ponder over what an endless plethora of ESA figures really tell us. Why would anyone want to get drawn into a studious analysis when it’s so much easier to fall for simplistic headlines? Never mind that it was, in the main, wilfully inaccurate information which cruelly turned the immigration debate in to nothing short of positive hatred towards foreigners and made those from abroad an enemy of our welfare state. What's happened with the sick figures is far worse, they have been distorted beyond belief. The victims here are those who have fallen ill, they've become the scapegoats for what we should see as a much wider societal failure.
If I can bore you with the detail, stick with it the penny may just drop.
Between October 2008 and May 2016 no less than 2.1 million (2,099,800 to be exact) people have been found ‘fit for work’ via the WCA regime. Similarly, a further 2,392,800 people ended their claims without an assessment during the same period of time. That’s 4.5 million people (4,492,600) who have been transformed from sickness or a status of ‘economic inactivity’ to unemployed. And where do the ‘recovered’ sick go? Would it not be straight down to the Jobcentre? Or are we to believe IDS went beyond all expectations and modestly understated his prowess by getting vast numbers in to work?
Remember we are talking 4.5 million off the sick, yes that really is what the ‘WCA’ outcome statistics tell us. Where the heck did they all go?
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Dec 18, 2016 17:09:36 GMT
Tories in Turmoil (continued)
‘Failure fronted as success’
Not as forecast
OBR Spending Forecasts
It’s the name of the game when IDS has anything to do with it.
In the preceding post I explained how, in the time the Employment & Support Allowance regime has been in operation since October 2008 to May 2016, a staggering 4.5 million people should, by all accounts, have made their way from sickness benefits to a job, the jobcentre or some other ‘destination’.
That’s what the WCA outcome statistics tell us, it’s all there in black and white.
My biggest question is this; if so many people, 4.5 million people, have come off the sick, how is it that the actual number currently on it remains stubbornly fixed on a figure of around 2.5 million?
Especially when the Tory backed DWP has, seemingly, used the cruel and callous work capability assessment as a means of cleansing the sick of all ills and finding large numbers fit for work?
How on earth can that make sense?
This is the question I’ve asked on this long running thread since day one.
It’s not just a question which troubles me, it’s also one which is very much on the Office of Budgetary Responsibilities (OBR) radar. As their latest ‘Welfare Trends’ report for 2016 makes all too clear, the government’s welfare spending cap is “forecast to be on average £4.1 billion a year above the cap”, along with the revelation that “Between 2010-11 and 2015-16, welfare spending on the definition used in this report increased by £24.4 billion to £216.6 billion, despite the substantial cuts announced by the Coalition Government in that period.” Further gems of the well - hidden truth reveal “further changes to incapacity benefits yielded far smaller savings than originally expected.” “Spending on incapacity and disability benefits amounted to £31.3 billion in 2015-16.”
The OBR recognises how the “the impact on spending of both sets of reforms (incapacity & disability) has proved difficult to forecast” with many statements such as “spending in incapacity benefits increased by £1.7 billion in cash terms, £1.6 billion less than the 2010-11 system baseline” appearing in their report.
It’s damning reading, highlighting some staggeringly inaccurate forecasts. The decision to ‘time limit’ certain ESA ‘WRAG’ claims to 1 year being a case in point. Certainly not a case of ‘wrags to riches’ for the Tories when we learn their estimated savings from this heinous cut netted £0.2 billion rather than the estimated £2.0 billion.
The reason? “the affected group was much smaller than expected.”
The whole report is littered with economic projections which, just like the wildly distorted rhetoric, transpired to be miles off the mark. As it stands incapacity spending is now on a trajectory to reach £15bn a year by 2020, £5bn a year more than originally announced alongside overly optimistic projections to reduce the caseload by 400,000 claimants. Initially, the ‘guestimates’ were as low as £10bn a year.
On the whole it’s only Guardian, Morning Star, and Daily Mirror readers who will have got to read about IDS’s reign of chaos. These are the only papers which have reported on how Duncan Smith has presided over backlogs of three quarter of million sick claimants awaiting assessments, an explosion of over one million ESA appeals and no less than 1.2 million claimants having to reclaim their sick notes a second, third, fourth or more time.
The degree of chaos under IDS was unprecedented.
And then there’s the deaths, we simply cannot deny that a number of stories have now appeared in the press highlighting the WCA as a common factor in cases where people have either taken their lives or died at a time when they were profoundly unwell.
It’s irresponsible to disassociate the dangers of the WCA from the emotional traumas experienced by so many people losing a loved one. The DWP’s stock response is to dismiss any causal links to the deaths and acknowledge the complexity surrounding suicides.
The complexity of issues surrounding the deaths is not just relevant to the deaths, it’s also highly relevant to how these people came to be on sickness benefits in the first place; very often it was the DWP who placed thousands on the sick for well over a decade. This is precisely why the government should probe deep and see exactly what has gone wrong. Instead it insanely champions IDS as a welfare reform hero and recklessly ignores his catastrophic history of failure. What the government should do is take the many and varied complaints against him seriously.
The WCA regime, despite its callous severity, has effectively proved thousands of sick claimants are better off placed (unsurprisingly) on the sick. All the assessment programme has served to do is see thousands of claimants paraded in the media as found 'fit for work’. The dubious results fuelled the propaganda, that’s why it was done. As soon as no one was looking, thousands found their way back on to the sick after a successful reconsideration or appeal, or by making a reclaim -all perfectly legitimately and only possible with certification from their doctor. Far more died (naturally) that were ever helped in to work. Not everyone would have been recycled in the revolving door assessment regime, there were undoubtedly tragedies, some correct outcomes, and a handful helped back in to work, but overall it was a massive recycling of claimants.
It’s why the numbers never fell.
No one noticed, because the media kept glorifying Duncan Smith as a success.
No one does the whole charade better than IDS, his pumping fists of joy had many fooled when Osborne announced plans to introduce something the Tories laughably heralded as a living wage. Can you honestly see Duncan Smith living on just £7.20 per hour?
What relevance is a living wage figure of just over £7 per hour when far too many unscrupulous employers get away with dishing out endless zero hour contracts? Simple mathematics can never alter the fact that 0 x £7 will always result in a wage of zero.
IDS’s pumps of joy masked the shocking reality, his trumped up living wage shielded savage cuts to people making new claims for Personal Independence Payments. A planned change in the points scoring used to determine how much claimant’s receive was set to net the Tories a whacking £4.375 billion by 2020/21. In addition, a further planned £4billion was due to be robbed from low wage workers with hideous cuts to tax credits. Only someone as satanic as Duncan Smith could feign joy whilst secretly kicking the poorest people in Britain to the tune of £8 billion coming off the welfare spend in a further raid upon people who have already suffered more than enough.
Even the Tories knew they’d not get away with what IDS had up his sleeve. They would have calculated that cutting a non - tested benefit like Personal Independence Payments would prove deeply unpopular amongst Tory voting people who suffer disabilities. They also knew that hitting working people was an absolute no go zone, it wouldn’t resonate with their far - fetched claim to be the new party of the working people. The Tories had no option other than to relegate £8 billion worth of cuts to the bin and go back to the drawing board.
IDS’s reforms were in meltdown, he’d squeezed the working age welfare (benefit) spend to a pulp but his chaotic maladministration had taken him over his own budget cap, he’d run out of cash for his infamous Universal Credit and the Work Programme had all but hit the buffers. There’s nothing left to strip back on when it comes to working age benefits, the days of hitting the pensioner are inevitably the next step.
Would Duncan Smith be brave enough to sort out the mess he’d created? Would he ever be that brave? You must be joking.
Instead, Duncan Smith faked a resignation on the pretence that he could no longer reconcile his differences with his cut crazed chancellor. IDS’s cowardly departure was the mark of a man who was quite prepared to crash the welfare state and run off from the wreckage, he’s no different to the sort of horrid individual who’d think only of himself in a hit and run situation; he would care little for those left seriously injured or even dead – that’s the kind of person he is.
Duncan Smith exited the scene and attached himself to Brexit, his unique ability to tell a lie and sound like a man of truth earned him a place as a leave campaigner. It wasn’t long before he was involved in further attacks on his credibility as he sought to distance himself from a pledge by the official leave campaign to spend £350m “sent to the EU every week” on the NHS, saying he had never made the claim.
The problem is a greater majority transpired to believe habitual liars like Duncan Smith, that’s why we are now divorcing ourselves from Europe and why our welfare state is in such a hideous mess.
You almost end up having some sympathy for Damien Green who picks up the batten as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, he’s more than got his work cut out clearing up after Duncan Smith; being handed a poison chalice springs to mind.
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Feb 25, 2017 22:12:15 GMT
Personal Independence Payments won't work for everyone
Watch out for the hidden catches
The Tories are currently trying to argue they are being more generous towards disabled people.
The expenditure figures are a distraction.
Figures from the DWP relating to the new and controversial Personal Independence Payment benefit for disabled people show that between April 2013 and April 2016, 1,753,400 claimants have registered a claim, of which 1,530,300 have had a claim ‘cleared’. As of April 2016 there were 805,500 claims in payment showing that of the 1.5 million who had their claim cleared, just over 0.8 million remained on the benefit; from which we can read that around 0.7 million have, for some reason, come off the benefit.
As always, when it comes to any statistics from the DWP, the figures are a master class in obfuscation.
The DWP’s line is very carefully deployed to remind people that more cash continues to be spent on disabled people, people fall for it because they associate it with a generous government which is kind to its disabled citizens. It’s the Tories stock phrase for refuting any suggestion that the government is being cruel and callous towards disabled people.
The Tories track record on kicking the sick provides little hope that anyone on Personal Independence Payments will fare any better than those subjected to the Employment and Support Allowance regime.
After years of callous work capability assessment (WCA) testing, the bulk of which was recklessly carried out under the Tories, despite well over 3 million worse than wicked ‘WCA’s, the numbers on the toxic Employment & Support Allowance has barely fallen. As of May 2016, including a small number of claimants remaining on older incapacity benefits, the combined claimant count stands at 2,498,160, only marginally lower than the figure which existed before ESA commenced way back in October 2008. The figure in August 2008 stood at 2,631,990 for all claimants on incapacity benefits; - a reduction of just 130,000. Even this meagre reduction can be attributed to more claimants naturally coming off older incapacity benefits voluntarily without assessments forcing them off benefits.
The assessment regime just doesn't work.
Personal Independence Payment testing is just another points based farce which will do little to give people piece of mind when it comes to standing a real chance of getting the benefits to which they are lawfully entitled.
The ESA regime culminated in very poor outcomes when measured against government fuelled right wing media claims that the wicked (WCA) work test would prove 75% ‘on the sick’ were faking their illnesses. It ended up being a far cry from parliamentary predictions telling us that the claimant count would fall by 400,000. It’s little wonder the OBR ended up downgrading their (ESA) expenditure forecasts on six successive occasions with the initial cost shooting up from an initially estimated £10bn to now nearing £15bn a year – a massive £25bn over a 5 year term. It's far more than the government budgeted for when casting wild assertions that they would be helping vast numbers of the sick off benefits in to work.
Personal Independence Payment follows in a similar vein.
What’s all too clear is that any financial fall out in the run up to Brexit will be met by the sick and disabled taking a further cruel and relentless hammering. From April of this year new ESA claimants in the Work Related Activity Group or ‘WRAG’ will end on just the same money as a jobseeker; a reduction of 30% in incapacity benefit payment rates for this cohort.
It’s all too clear that ramped up WCA testing is already seeing more people being found ‘fit for work’ with fewer claimants being allocated to the (most expensive) 'Support Group'. Of deep concern is a reckless watering down of ESA substantial risk cases; it’s a recipe for more claimants to be driven to self - harming or even worse taking their lives. Be mindful that of 1,029,900 new claimants placed in to the Support Group up to March 2016 a staggering 420,000 (41%) qualified on the grounds of 'physical or mental health risk'. The 41% has fallen to an average of 27% in the months of January to March 2016 – it’s already a very worrying indicator.
So is Personal Independence Payment ‘PIP’ any better?
No, it's just more of the same.
A good starting point is to look at claimants who were on the older Disability Living Allowance ‘DLA’ and see how they fare when transferred over to ‘PIP’.
Between April 2013 and October 2016 the PIP figures tell us 526,500 DLA claimants have been assessed. Of 72,200 claimants who were previously on the highest rate of DLA care and mobility components, only 39,000 ended up with an ‘enhanced’ (highest) award of both the daily living (care) and mobility components; so straight away we know that 33,000 people lost out to a lower award. It's a ‘like for like’ comparison where you would theoretically expect to see most of 72,000 qualify on to the new benefit.
However, the comparison doesn’t tell us where people are losing out, by which I mean whether the loss is on the care or the mobility component.
To analyse this we can home in on 31,200 DLA claimants assessed for PIP who were previously only in receipt of a mobility component at the highest rate. This is the group who had no recognised care needs under DLA; a straightforward case of mobility needs only you could say.
How does this group fare when assessed for PIP?
Surely, you’d expect to see a comparable number?
In reality, of the 31,200 DLA claimants on higher rate mobility only, just 800 ended up with an enhanced PIP mobility award, a further 2,000 went over to a PIP standard rate mobility award (in both PIP outcomes there being no recognised care or daily living needs – matching the previous DLA claim status). This matches what I’m seeing on the ‘frontline’, very few people are getting recognition of their mobility needs due to the very strict PIP mobility criterion.
The old DLA mobility was decided on strict criterion whereby the time, speed, distance and manner would generally be taken in to account. The distance was often measured out to a maximum of 50 metres before the onset of severe discomfort. Years of case law fixed the criterion over time, I should stress there are other qualifying routes. Essentially it came down to whether a claimant was either unable or virtually unable to walk.
But PIP changed all of that.
There are however 'winners' with PIP when you factor in the care and mobility components together.
Of the 526,500 DLA claimants assessed, a DWP summary tells us that 209,600 had their ‘award increased’; on the face it this sounds credible with 40% seemingly better off.
Disabled people better off under PIP?
Surely there has to be a catch.
It's not easy to spot.
Again, looking only at the 31,200 DLA claimants assessed for PIP who were previously only in receipt of a mobility component at the highest rate (with no care), 5,200 ended up with a Standard Daily Living and Enhanced Mobility PIP award and a further 7,300 ended up with a Standard Daily Living, Standard Mobility PIP award. So yes, some are better off, but others would feel cheated at having their previous DLA higher rate mobility award downgraded to a standard PIP award or worse still taking their mobility award away all together.
With an estimated 1.2 million wheelchair users in the UK and the total number of Blue Badges held on 31 March 2013 being an estimated 2.58 million, (a decrease of 54 thousand compared with March 2011) I suspect the Tories are increasingly taking a tough line on those they see as more able to get up on their feet, it strikes me they are literally kicking the stick away from those who have substantial mobility impairments. More recent figures for Blue Badges released in 2015 show the figure has already tumbled to 2.39 million – so fewer people seem to be getting recognition when it comes to physical mobility impairment.
On the lower rate mobility criterion which typically was claimed in DLA cases, where say agoraphobia featured in the claimant’s mobility needs, it’s a mixed bag. Of 16,600 DLA claimants in receipt of lower mobility only (no care). This is how they fared when assessed for PIP:
Like I say a mixed bag.
It seems astonishing that 3,500 claimants with no recognised care needs under DLA would go over to an enhanced daily living award under PIP. My guess is it will be the aids + appliance and motivation related descriptor scoring under PIP (which the Tories desperately wanted to get shot of) which gives rise to these awards.
It does seem incredible that 3,500 people who ended up with a daily living award on PIP were not deemed to have low attention needs or to have passed the 'cooking test' under the previous DLA lower care rate award. In truth DLA was never that easy to claim.
But let's take a look at what has happened to DLA awards over time.
The numbers have fallen since the start of PIP, in part that is entirely to be expected given how PIP replaces DLA but what can be noted is how the numbers on DLA in receipt of a lower mobility award consistently rose up until PIP was introduced in 2013. You won't see any comparable increase in PIP because it just doesn't recognise the mental health criterion on which most people qualified for a lower mobility component under DLA. It massively disadvantages those who have profound mental health problems which restrict their ability to go out. It also accounts for the government's recent rushed legislation to stamp out any room for mobility claims on mobility impairment which cannot be directly related to physical disability after a Court judgement went against the DWP increasing the scope for more claims.
PIP is ideologically driven, it's not there to cater for those with mobility needs unless someone is literally on the point of being completely unable to walk, nor is it there to provide for people with mental health problems who need someone with them to help them deal with their fears when venturing outdoors.
That's what they love about points based assessments, they can shape the points framework to suit the ideology.
Some may say 'but this is the disability friendly government which reversed all those nasty cuts due to impact upon disabled people, they said they wouldn't do this", indeed, I dare say a good few people of a similar mind set went blue in Copeland in the recent by - election.
My key question with PIP is not how many claim it, but how many actually stay on it?.
The government has only produced figures which show what the initial awards were, what they don't tell you is whether claimants are having their benefits cut on a subsequent assessment or whether awards are being made for much shorter periods.
My other question would be: if all is so 'PIP perfect' why have a massive 428,000 claimants disagreed with the decision made on their claim by asking for it to be looked at again?
428,000 people don't register a request to review the decision on their claim unless they disagree with it. It's noted that very few go through to a formal appeal where the success rate is 60% - what puts people off is the mandatory reconsideration obstacle course.