From the TUC

Bailing out the bilge

30 Jul 2011, by in Society & Welfare

There’s been one good thing about the DWP incapacity benefit statistics – the response it’s provoked from disabled people and disability organisations. Take a look at these excellent posts from Batsgirl and Latent Existence; and there’ve been some excellent posts on the lefty sites – such as this particularly brilliant one from Declan Gaffney. And now there’s a particularly important intervention from the Disability Benefits Consortium – a coalition of fifty charities and campaigning organisations. (Full disclosure: the TUC is a DBC member.)

The DBC statement argues that the government is using ‘dangerously misleading’ statistics – for a consortium that includes some of the most respectable and well-established charities in the country this is strong language.

Here’s the statement in full:

50 charities suggest Government is using ‘dangerously misleading’ statistics

Government statistics [1] have fuelled claims this week that high numbers of benefits claimants are ‘faking’ [2]. But a coalition of over 50 charities [3] suggest this is dangerously misleading and contributing to hatred and violence towards disabled people by portraying them as cheats and scroungers. Hayley Jordan, from the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) and MS Society, says:

“Hours after an important committee of cross-party MPs condemned irresponsible and inaccurate portrayal of benefits claimants, DWP statistics led to more reports wrongly labelling people as ‘faking’. Disabled people are very disappointed that the Government is refusing to ensure accurate reporting and may be contributing to stigmatisation, victimisation and exclusion.”

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) released figures on Tuesday which suggest that only 7% of claimants for Employment Support Allowance (ESA), the new benefit that replaced Incapacity Benefits, were unable to do any sort of work. This led to claims that 75% of sickness benefits claimants are “faking”.

But the figures were released just as a report from a committee of MPs [4] decried misleading media coverage, and the false assumption that the tests are designed to ‘weed out’ benefits cheats:

“Media coverage of the reassessment is often irresponsible and inaccurate and we deprecate the pejorative language which some sections of the press use when referring to benefit claimants. Portraying the reassessment of incapacity benefit claimants as some sort of scheme to “weed out benefit cheats” shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the Government’s objectives.”

The committee report also highlights that the number of appeals is rapidly increasing, with people going to the Tribunals Service set to double over three years. 436,000 people will appeal in 2011/12 and this costs the taxpayer a staggering £50 million per year.

Independent reviews, charities, and the Work and Pensions Committee have all now told the Government that the figures for new ESA benefit claims mask the true level of capacity to work and that the assessment system used is ineffective, over-expensive and is denying many disabled people the support they need to get and keep work. But the facts are lost in ‘fakers’ claims which reappeared the same day the committee report was launched due to DWP publishing further statistics on the same day. This led committee chair, Dame Anne Begg MP, to write to the Minister [5] stating:

“By what I assume was a coincidence…The coverage of the statistics in some newspapers, notably the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, was a particularly egregious example of the way they can be misused.”

Charities are also concerned that welfare reform is supposed to deliver help to disabled people to get/keep work but support appears to be rescinding. Government misleading statistics on claimants was also published the same day as it was revealed the number of disabled people using ‘Access to Work’ had sadly fallen [6]. Neil Coyle, of the DBC and Disability Alliance, says:

“The Government must ensure appropriate support is available to disabled people to get and keep work. It is very worrying that some support has dropped in the last year. Sadly, the language to describe disabled people needing support has become more offensive and this also contributes to barriers to work as employers suspect genuinely disabled people of faking or being ‘work-shy’.”

Notes:

[1] See: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/newsroom/press-releases/2011/jul-2011/dwp086-11.shtml

[2] For examples please see:

[3] The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) is a national coalition of over 50 different charities and other organisations committed to working towards a fair benefits system For more information go to: http://www.disabilityalliance.org/dbc.htm

[4] Department of Work and Pensions Commons Select Committee letter to Employment Minister on release of benefit claimant statistics: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/news/letter-to-chris-grayling-benefit-payment-statistics/

[5] For a copy of the full letter visit: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/news/letter-to-chris-grayling-benefit-payment-statistics/

[6] Access to Work helps employers and disabled people with the costs of adapting work premises or providing accessible software for example and is a net contributor to the Treasury. For more information go to: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/DisabledPeople/Employmentsupport/WorkSchemesAndProgrammes/DG_4000347

19 Responses to Bailing out the bilge

  1. David Gillon
    Jul 30th 2011, 7:08 pm

    Having been through the WCA process, even though I passed I know that all of the criticism of it, and of the DWP figures distorting its reality is more than justified. But then the tabloids go on to proclaim that ‘75% are faking’ (to quote the Express), and the same or worse from the Mail and the Sun, with even the Sunday Times and the BBC getting into the crip-bashing at times. The deterioration in the position of disabled people because of this campaign of deliberate demonisation is measurable, I’ve faced the hostility on the streets myself, and it isn’t directed solely at benefit claimants but at anyone who dares to be disabled in public. The rise in disablist discrimination and hate crime has reached the point that Scope felt compelled to draw it to the attention of government several months ago, yet nothing changes.

    And yet many (all?) of these hate-filled articles are presumably being written by NUJ members in good standing, and are in clear breach of articles 2, 3, 8 and particularly 10 (‘Produces no material likely to lead to hatred or discrimination’) of the NUJ Code of Conduct. The PPC won’t take any action, they ruled the Mail were perfectly entitled to imply disabled people were ‘trying it on’, so isn’t it time for the NUJ to clean house? Or for the TUC to hold them to the promises of their Code of Conduct if they are not prepared to do so voluntarily?

  2. Peter Hesketh
    Jul 31st 2011, 7:41 am

    Whilst I sympathise with genuinely disabled people, there are also many people who are genuinely scrounging. Why should I work myself into the ground at 56 when a 38 year old man I know has been spuriously claiming incapacity benefits for years for a ‘bad back’. As I set off to work each day I watch him taking his four children to school in his people carrier. The system stinks and the sooner these people are weeded out the better. Although I hate the Tories with a passion, it is only they who will try tackling abuse of the welfare system. the bleeding heart brigade must be ignored and the assessments must continue.

  3. Robert
    Jul 31st 2011, 11:40 pm

    What can you say?, the I know a cheat brigade if he’s cheating report him then

  4. Robert
    Jul 31st 2011, 11:57 pm

    Mind you I wrote to the TUC when Blair was in charge and the TUC stated in an email, welfare needs to be looked at and Labour would ensure it will be carried out to benefit the sick and the disabled, you felt Freud would be good, and that Purnell was a good solid politician.

    So is this political and your trying to tell us that labour must win the next election.

    Welfare reforms are Labour, Freud, Purnell, and Miliband made this mess, yes yes the Tories are making it worse, but it’s down to New and Newer labour.

    Miliband stated four weeks ago, Labour did not go far enough.

    No I am not a labour party member, I’m a member of the GMB.

    I joined Labour in 1963 and left in 2007

  5. Clare Fernyhough
    Aug 1st 2011, 7:02 pm

    As I’ve stated before on here, when I was able to work with the help of ‘Access to Work’, people told me that having my taxi transport costs funded (since I couldn’t use public transport), and also receiving DLA, amounted to the discrimination of able bodied people who were forced to travel by bus and gave me a monetary advantage which wasn’t fair!

    Now that I cannot work I am told that receiving more money than an unemployed person is not fair either. So whether I work or not I cannot win. Actually, I don’t think that it is fair that unemployed people are paid so little, but when you suffer from a long term chronic condition you need extra income to employ people to do things that you cannot and for things like additional heating.

    What people also forget is that because I receive care from the local authority, 25% of my benefit income has been clawed back, so every 4 weeks I face a hefty bill equivalent to paying a utility bill every month of the year. This has resulted in only receiving a little more than someone on income support.

    The point I’m really making is that people generally haven’t got time to research correct statistics and information about a matter: they presume that newspaper articles have already done that and so people form their opinions based on that. This is largely why I have had people outrightly attacking me with regard to my disability. At a time when the higher authorities are investigating unlawful hacking and other shady practices, why do they not insist that newpaper articles are based on accurate information?

    The fact that the press authorities and governments won’t do this makes people suspect that it is because it is in their vested interest not to demand such a standard from the press. After all, misinformation can be used to any governments’ advantage. You only need to read a few of the comments left with regard to disability on the Mail’s newspaper to understand just how much this disinformation influences public opion.

  6. Robert
    Aug 1st 2011, 7:32 pm

    Clare I have been tipped out of my wheelchair by an idiot who wanted to see if I could walk, the police told me he had a mental health problem, he was drunk.

    I then had a police office take me from a bus and move me a wile down the road to stop me going to a march for the disabled, I could not get back and a young man pushed me back to the bus depot.

    But the fact is we do not get as much as a person in work or we do not get to much, I’m classed as Paraplegic

  7. David Gillon
    Aug 2nd 2011, 4:52 am

    @Peter: “there are also many people who are genuinely scrounging”
    The rate of disability benefit fraud is c0.5%. There are many who will tell you it is far higher, but they inevitably turn out not to recognise the reality of invisible disability. If people refuse to accept the real figure, what does that tell us about them?

    “a 38 year old man I know has been spuriously claiming incapacity benefits for years for a ‘bad back’.”

    I have ‘a bad back’, look at me and you won’t see anything different from anyone else, but I look the same whether I am pain free, or, as is a daily occurrence, I am in so much pain that I can’t even think straight. It’s amazing how the rest of the population thinks they are qualified to judge someone’s disability at a glance, whereas the more I learn about disability the more I realise I am not competent to judge anyone’s disability but my own.

    ” I watch him taking his four children to school in his people carrier. The system stinks”

    Many people with spinal conditions have significant difficulty in getting into or out of conventional cars, this may mean that they find 4x4s or people carriers, vehicles which typically sit higher off the ground than most, to be the only vehicles they can access without significant pain. The Motability scheme, which your neighbour may or may not be using, provides for disabled people to sacrifice their DLA HRM to lease a vehicle, and has the flexibility to ensure that that is a vehicle that meets their mobility needs and the needs of their family (though many vehicles, even some fairly basic marques, need significant down-payments and weekly top-ups). The system does not stink, it is barely adequate to meet our needs and in the case of the WCA has crossed the line into being openly abusive.

    “the assessments must continue”

    That would be the WCA where the ATOS quack made every effort possible not to admit that I was automatically qualified for ESA by the nature of my disability and openly expressed his annoyance when I forced that qualification through, criticising me for knowing that I was answering a trick question, even though answering fully and accurately was at the heart of ensuring my disability was correctly assessed?

    I cannot express how depressing it is to find myself having to defend myself and other disabled people from accusations of wholesale benefit fraud on a TUC site.

  8. David Gillon
    Aug 2nd 2011, 4:52 am

    @Peter: “there are also many people who are genuinely scrounging”
    The rate of disability benefit fraud is c0.5%. There are many who will tell you it is far higher, but they inevitably turn out not to recognise the reality of invisible disability. If people refuse to accept the real figure, what does that tell us about them?

    “a 38 year old man I know has been spuriously claiming incapacity benefits for years for a ‘bad back’.”

    I have ‘a bad back’, look at me and you won’t see anything different from anyone else, but I look the same whether I am pain free, or, as is a daily occurrence, I am in so much pain that I can’t even think straight. It’s amazing how the rest of the population thinks they are qualified to judge someone’s disability at a glance, whereas the more I learn about disability the more I realise I am not competent to judge anyone’s disability but my own.

    ” I watch him taking his four children to school in his people carrier. The system stinks”

    Many people with spinal conditions have significant difficulty in getting into or out of conventional cars, this may mean that they find 4x4s or people carriers, vehicles which typically sit higher off the ground than most, to be the only vehicles they can access without significant pain. The Motability scheme, which your neighbour may or may not be using, provides for disabled people to sacrifice their DLA HRM to lease a vehicle, and has the flexibility to ensure that that is a vehicle that meets their mobility needs and the needs of their family (though many vehicles, even some fairly basic marques, need significant down-payments and weekly top-ups). The system does not stink, it is barely adequate to meet our needs and in the case of the WCA has crossed the line into being openly abusive.

    “the assessments must continue”

    That would be the WCA where the ATOS quack made every effort possible not to admit that I was automatically qualified for ESA by the nature of my disability and openly expressed his annoyance when I forced that qualification through, criticising me for knowing that I was answering a trick question, even though answering fully and accurately was at the heart of ensuring my disability was correctly assessed?

    I cannot express how depressing it is to find myself having to defend myself and other disabled people from accusations of wholesale benefit fraud on a TUC site.

  9. David Gillon
    Aug 2nd 2011, 4:58 am

    @Robert: “if he’s cheating report him then”

    I’d repeat my point of people not being competent to judge anyone’s disability but their own. I had a false allegation of benefit fraud laid against me earlier this year. The DWP dismissed it almost immediately, but even that was sufficient to cause a marked worsening in my disability for a period of months. Anyone who thinks that they can throw around accusations of benefit fraud without there being a risk to the innocent should think twice.

  10. David Gillon
    Aug 2nd 2011, 4:58 am

    @Robert: “if he’s cheating report him then”

    I’d repeat my point of people not being competent to judge anyone’s disability but their own. I had a false allegation of benefit fraud laid against me earlier this year. The DWP dismissed it almost immediately, but even that was sufficient to cause a marked worsening in my disability for a period of months. Anyone who thinks that they can throw around accusations of benefit fraud without there being a risk to the innocent should think twice.

  11. Robert
    Aug 2nd 2011, 11:39 am

    Sorry David mate it was not for you but the idiot who knows a cheat we have these people all over the place, your lucky I have been reported twice, both times for having a New Car of course it has hand controls and takes a wheelchair, the lady who reported me twice cannot get DLA, she has tried number of times but she like many fill in the forms them selves then get annoyed when they see people get more then them, she was given a police warning in the end after I woke up with the tyres on my car slashed.

    I now have CCTV on my home placed their by the council and I live on an estate built for people with disabilities.

    If people know a cheat then report them, make sure though they do not have HIV or Aids or cancer first.

    I’m Paraplegic

  12. David Gillon
    Aug 2nd 2011, 12:24 pm

    Robert, no problem. But I really do believe it is impossible to know within reasonable doubt whether someone is disabled or not, there is so much of even major physical disabilities we simply cannot see, my own case being a good example. If I’m not using my crutches how can you tell I’m disabled, yet the pain goes on whether you see it or not and people simply don’t stop to think and wonder if there might be more to the situation than they see. We need to get the message out to people that false accusations are a crime, and if you don’t know within reasonable doubt, then your accusation is false.

  13. Robert
    Aug 2nd 2011, 12:37 pm

    Hence I pointed out to make sure before you report them, they do not have HIV or Aids or cancer, or mental health issues, disabled people tend to hide disabilities very well,
    sadly for some of us a wheelchair or crutches are easy pointers to a disability, but if you have cancer you can be seen as so called normal no outward sign.

    But in this day and age you will always have people who will state they know somebody who is not disabled.

    I went to Age concern in my home town to get a part time job unpaid of course and the lady running age concern felt it would be better if she did not employ me, because I might be committing fraud, and she did not want to pull down the good name of age concern, because she stated proudly her sister was a benefits cheat, takes some believing does it not.

    On the other hand I wrote to the TUC about benefit and welfare reforms when Purnell and the other great thinkers like Blunkett brought out reforms to be told by the TUC it was needed and a great idea, so what’s the difference now, the only difference of course Labour’s not in power anymore.

  14. Peter Hesketh
    Aug 2nd 2011, 12:49 pm

    Hey ‘Robert’ – please don’t call me an idiot for expressing my views. The incapacity benefit system is riddled with fraud and I stand by my comments. Assessments need to be carried out rigorously on all claimants so abuse can be stopped. If you and other bleeding hearts want to cry on each other’s shoulders and swap misery stories – go off into a chatroom somewhere and do it there!

  15. Hindle-a
    Aug 2nd 2011, 3:12 pm

    Peter Hesketh-I am not disabled.I do not wish my taxes to pay towards massive profits to a private firm via a totally unsuitable “assessment”.An assessment which is “unfit for purpose”Fraud is minimal-even the Government’s own statistics are evidence of that.A Government that is attempting to portray fraud as “rife”.A two minute visitation to the actual figures at the DWP website by an unbiased person with reasonable grasp of the allowance would reveal that fact.
    You state that you “sympathise with genuinely disabled people” and derive humour by mocking their experiences of being falsely accused and the abuse they regularly receive.The latter proves to me that your opening gambit is disingenuous.

  16. Peter Hesketh
    Aug 2nd 2011, 4:02 pm

    My posts make no attempt at humour nor is there any mockery in them. Please make sure that you read posts carefully and understand them before making replies. I repeat my view to which I am entitled – there are genuinely disabled people in England who need appropriate state support. There are also many scroungers who need to be weeded out, put on job seekers allowance and made to work. End of.

  17. Robert
    Aug 2nd 2011, 4:39 pm

    http://www.bristol.ac.uk/cmpo/blog/

    pesky scroungers. Read the above report by the chap who wrote it

  18. Hindle-a
    Aug 2nd 2011, 7:41 pm

    Peter Hesketh-of course you are entitled to your opinion.I apologise if I misunderstood your description of people discussing their actual experience of false accusations as “bleeding hearts crying at each others shoulders, swapping tales of misery” as humour.And indeed your suggestion “to go to a chatroom ” I must confess I did not think was a serious suggestion.These people are genuinely disabled and indeed it is enlightening to witness how empathetic you are to their lives and your willingness to listen.Very heartwarming.

  19. David Gillon
    Aug 3rd 2011, 6:04 pm

    @Peter Hesketh

    “The incapacity benefit system is riddled with fraud and I stand by my comments.”

    Even when the facts show you are wrong? Revealing. If you believe everyone else is wrong, this is the part where you bring out the facts to show us. But the facts are there for all to see, disability benefit fraud consistently running at around 0.5%, lower than for anything except the Old Age Pension.

    “Assessments need to be carried out rigorously”

    The WCA is physically and emotionally rigorous, two things it absolutely should not be given a claimant population of disabled people, but fails on the need to be factually rigorous, the one thing it is absolutely required to be. I simply wasn’t asked the question needed to establish my eligibility and had to force it into the discussion over the objections of the doctor, meanwhile the physical failings of the test forced such a flare-up in my condition that the doctor became visibly concerned and had to ask if we needed to stop – what a triumph for ‘rigorous assessment’.

    “If you and other bleeding hearts want to cry on each other’s shoulders and swap misery stories – go off into a chatroom somewhere and do it there!”

    Bleeding heart is a badge I wear with pride, because justice and equality are values I believe in with all my heart. As for your willingness to allow people to express different views, again, revealing.

    And as Robert’s link points out, even Professor Gregg, the man who designed ESA and the WCA, states that the figures do not support the belief that fraud is rife. He also testified to parliament that “we have a problem of a significant number of people going through the ATOS type test process who are inappropriately being judged as being capable of work.”