Debate continues about
Welfare Reform Bill
and changes to Disability Benefits
It's not 7,000, but 700,000 seriously ill people who'll lose their sickness benefit
By Sue Marsh, Disability Campaigner & Blogger
The Guardian, 21 June 2011
The row between David Cameron and Ed Miliband focused on cancer sufferers, but many more than that are affected
I was delighted to see Ed Miliband raise so passionately the issue of 7,000 cancer patients who will lose all employment and support allowance after one year (Miliband puts Cameron under pressure over coalition plan to cut cancer patients' benefits, 16 June). As you report, "Complex changes to eligibility for employment support allowance [previously incapacity benefit] for some groups could result in as many as 7,000 cancer patients losing up to £94 a week in sickness benefit."
This is an issue that many sickness and disability campaigners such as myself have been urgently trying to raise awareness of for months. As the article pointed out, however, David Cameron "did not seem to be aware of the detailed measure in the bill, even though it has been raised for months in parliament and the media".
Seven thousand cancer patients losing eligibility is outrageous, but an even greater scandal is that 700,000 seriously unwell people in total are affected, not just those suffering from and recovering from cancer. Many of those with fluctuating conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, schizophrenia, kidney failure, heart disease and others will also lose this £94, and it is the only state support many of them receive. Many now look set to become entirely dependent on the goodwill of a partner.
The government claims we can't afford to pay people – who have paid their national insurance contributions – who remain seriously ill for more than a year. They claim those who are this unwell will go into the employment and support allowance "support group", therefore qualifying for long-term support; but just 6% of those assessed are considered eligible for this, and everyone else will lose all their contributory ESA benefit within one year.
The government argues that we simply can't afford it, and that "these people have other forms of support". What, if any, is this support? As your article pointed out: "The means testing threshold is so low that a … patient could lose all ESA benefit if his or her partner earns more than £7,500 per year."
Could any one of us support a seriously unwell partner – possibly indefinitely – on just £7,500 a year? As Miliband pointed out: "These are people who have worked hard all their lives, who have done the right thing, who have paid their taxes and when they are in need, the prime minister is taking money away from them."
Time-limiting ESA ends the contributory principle that if you have paid tax and NI all your life and find yourself suddenly too ill or disabled to work, the state will provide a safety net. That net is now only extended to those with less than six months to live or those who are so profoundly physically or mentally disabled that they are unable to function alone. The other 700,000 seriously unwell or disabled people are about to lose everything.
Whenever Cameron refers so carefully to the "most vulnerable", perhaps we should remember the many more who are "terribly vulnerable" but who no longer count.
Meanwhile statements made by Ed Miliband about disabled people and disability benefits have equally been criticised: -
Miliband ‘suggests IB claimants are shirking their duties'
Brighton & Hove Federation of Disabled People, 21 June 2011
Via John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com
Labour leader Ed Miliband has horrified disabled activists by using a major speech to blame some incapacity benefit (IB) claimants for failing to "take responsibility” and "shirking their duties”.
In a speech at a community centre in London – described by one commentator as "an attempt to rejuvenate his ailing leadership” – Miliband talked about a man he had met when campaigning for May's local elections, who told him he had been claiming IB for a decade because of an injury at work.
Miliband claimed he knew there were "other jobs” the man could do and that it was "just not right for the country to be supporting him not to work, when other families on his street are working all hours just to get by”.
The Labour leader went on to say that such IB claimants were "just not taking responsibility” and were "shirking their duties” and that he understood why other people – those who "act responsibly” – were "getting angry”.
Furious disabled bloggers accused Miliband of feeding discrimination and the demonisation of disabled people that has resulted from politicians and the media describing disabled benefits claimants as "workshy scroungers”.
Sue Marsh, blogging at Benefit Scrounging Scum, said there was a "collective gasp of horror” from sick and disabled people when a transcript of the speech was posted on the internet.
Kaliya Franklin, at The Broken of Britain, said Miliband had characterised IB claimants as "irresponsible scroungers” who should "just try harder”, and said he had "hammered home” his message in the first paragraph of his speech that the Labour party was "more than happy to be seen as the party demonising disabled people”.
She wrote: "The increasing scrounger rhetoric is terrifying to those of us knowing that no matter how much we wish to work, how much we try, not only is the system stacked against us, but that the health issues we face are inescapable.”
David Gillon, blogging at Where's the Benefit?, wrote that disabled people were facing "day to day discrimination” because of being branded "workshy” by the Department for Work and Pensions' "campaign of demonisation”, and that Miliband had "worsened the acceptance of every disabled person in the country”.
Lisa Egan, also blogging at Where's the Benefit?, said Miliband's anecdote "sums up the Labour party's attitude to ill and disabled people: No qualifications in assessing people's health but meet someone for a minute and deem them ‘fit for work' without any additional info besides that minute meeting.”
She added: "No wonder strangers in the street feel it acceptable to deem someone a ‘scrounger' when our political leaders are doing the same.”
Egan pointed to a disabled blogger who described last month how a young man had shouted "scrounging ****” at him when he was out walking with his stick.
Miliband's press secretary declined to comment.
Campaigners hope peers will secure changes to welfare reforms
Carers Watch Blog, 21 June 2011
Campaigners are hoping to persuade peers to make significant changes to the government's welfare reform bill, after coalition MPs approved measures that could see hundreds of thousands of disabled people lose some or all of their benefits.
The bill passed its report and third reading stages in the Commons, despite Labour opposition, and now passes to the Lords.
But campaigners believe that peers – seen as more independent-minded than MPs – will secure important changes to the proposed legislation.
Neil Coyle, director of policy for Disability Alliance, said it was "disappointing” that the bill had been approved by MPs, but added: "We are hopeful for significant change in the House of Lords.”
He said MPs' decision-making had been "hampered” by the "deeply harmful” refusal of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to provide "even a rough estimate of the number of people who stand to lose out”.
He said: "We are desperately trying to find out who is affected, so decision-makers [in parliament] can have that information to hand.”
Among the measures still causing concern are proposals to remove the mobility component of personal independence payment (PIP) – the planned replacement for disability living allowance (DLA) – from most disabled people in residential care.
Benefits and BMWs
Where's The Benefit, 19 June 2011
The Sunday Times has decided to be outraged about people on benefits getting BMW cars. The headline they ran with was State hands out BMWs to 'disabled' (Paywall link) and it was plastered across the front page.
Unfortunately there are so many errors in the article that even the headline is plain wrong. To start with, the state does not "hand out" any cars to "the disabled". Disabled people or the long term sick may get the higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance to provide for their travel needs, and it can be spent as the recipient chooses but usually goes towards cars, wheelchairs, scooters, trains, buses, taxis and more. There is a charity scheme called Motability, and if a person wishes, they can pay the mobility component of their DLA to the Motability scheme in return for a car.
The state has not handed anyone a car, people have received the benefits to which they are entitled, and chosen to spend their money on a car.
The Motability scheme works on the basis of leasing a new car out, and then selling it at the end of three years. (This works out cheaper than buying second hand cars and paying for their maintenance, and is more reliable and safer.) Motability has a set budget and any extra cost over the standard amount has to be covered by the user of the car - for example if the car has been driven more than the expected distance, there will be a mileage fee when the car is handed back. If someone wants a more expensive car to start with then they can pay the difference in cost so that Motability does not lose money. Some people pay a few hundred pounds extra to get a car more suitable for their medical condition, such as a car with a higher seat for people that struggle getting in and out of the car, or find low seating painful. These people often borrow at their own expense to pay the difference in cost. A BMW can be had through Motability for an extra fee in the same way that a slightly higher model Citroen could be. It's just that there is a big difference in the size of that extra fee.
To get a BMW on Motability costs the end user at least £1,399 extra, and it is a fee, not a deposit.
It should be noted that DLA is not an out of work benefit; it is paid to everyone that has a qualifying disability, regardless of their work status or income. People that are still in work, especially if in a high powered job, or that have savings, might be able to afford the extra fee. Whether that is right or wrong is a different argument, but no fraud has been committed as DLA was intended to cover the extra cost of disability when working as much as when not.
The Sunday Times also talked about people using the car without the owner present. Some of the points they made were true, but they missed that the car may be used on behalf of the sick or disabled person or for their benefit. That means that a carer could drive the car to go shopping to buy food for the owner of the car, completely within the rules. Of course they can't use the owner's blue badge or park in a disabled parking space, since they can walk across the car park.
Someone else can use a Motability car on behalf of the owner without them present.
The Sunday Times highlighted two cases of fraud in an attempt to back up their argument. One was someone whose health had improved but who had not informed the DWP and had gone back to work as a boxer, and the other was someone that was using his wife's car to make deliveries as a courier. Benefit fraud levels are incredibly low, but with millions of people involved, even 0.5% means that a few people committing fraud can be found. Highlighting two cases without telling the reader how small a minority commit fraud is highly misleading. It should also be noted that while the boxer who didn't inform anyone of his improvement was committing benefit fraud, the person driving his wife's car was not. He was breaking the rules of the motability scheme and driving a car without paying the vehicle excise duty, (which is waived for people receiving higher rate mobility component of DLA.) He had not defrauded the government out of any DLA benefit money.
The whole article has the same tone that we are becoming used to from mainstream newspapers; the implication that everyone on benefits is a scrounger. The article mentions that 123,000 people receive DLA for back pain, as though back pain is a simple thing or is somehow less worthy of support. (It covers scoliosis, degenerative spinal conditions, and botched surgery resulting in nerve damage or paralysis.) Even the use of quotes around the word disabled in the headline is used to imply quite strongly that these people are not really disabled. I refuse to believe that the 'journalists' (see what I did there?) are that ignorant or don't understand DLA and Motability. There is a clear agenda in this article to smear these people and create outrage. It is not acceptable and an apology must be given. I urge you to complain to the Press Complaints Commission about the factual inaccuracies in their article, as I will be doing.
Motability Statement re Sunday Times Article on 19 June 2011
http://www.motability.co.uk/, 19 June 2011
An article in The Sunday Times featured Motability and raised issues around potential abuse of both the Disability Living Allowance and the Motability Scheme.
Motability has improved the lifestyle of millions of people with disabilities during the past 33 years. As a result of providing almost three million cars our charity has been able to add new levels of freedom and independence to the lives of disabled people and their families. Sadly, on rare occasions, these benefits are abused by a small minority of people. Motability has a dedicated Scheme Protection Unit to investigate any suspected misuse of a Motability car. Where misuse is proven or strongly suspected, the car may be taken away and the customer prevented from returning to the Motability Scheme. In 2010/11, working closely with the Police and other authorities, we removed more than 800 customers from the Scheme for abuse and prevented another 500 from joining or renewing their agreements. However, the overwhelming majority of our customers hugely deserve individuals with real physical impairments. We must never forget that.
Government ‘used Motability claims to stir up hostility'
Disabled News Blog, 3 July 2011
The government has been accused again of stirring up hostility against disabled people and running a "deliberate smearing campaign”, after stories appeared in national newspapers about alleged abuse of the Motability car scheme.
A Sunday Times "investigation” claimed friends and relatives were misusing the cars that disabled people have obtained through the Motability scheme, while the Daily Mail described this misuse as a "scam”.
The Sunday Times claimed government officials were concerned that the disabled people's car scheme had "mushroomed out of control” and was "so generous that it encourages people to submit spurious claims or to try to keep a benefit to which they are no longer entitled”.
The Mail said the government "hopes that its planned reform of the disability living allowance (DLA) will help stamp out such abuses by introducing closer scrutiny of the system and considering whether Motability is the best option for everyone”.
Many disabled activists are convinced that the source of the story was within the government, which they say is trying to soften up the public for cuts to spending on DLA and its replacement with a new personal independence payment (PIP).
Anne Novis, a leading disability hate crime campaigner, said the story "smacks of government preparing to withdraw DLA and Motability schemes or tighten them exclusively to those they deem ‘severely disabled'”.
She added: "Any scheme can be abused but the fact that this and other statements about disabled people's benefits, allowances and support being misused are coming out from Whitehall almost every week indicates a deliberate smearing campaign against us as disabled people.
"We are cursed, reviled, demeaned at every turn because people now think they have ‘permission' from government to treat us this way.”
Novis has given evidence to the Equality and Human Rights Commission's (EHRC) inquiry into disability-related harassment that disabled people's cars have been "repeatedly vandalized” and set on fire over the last few years.
She added: "For the government to now incite such misunderstandings about the Motability schemes will incite more hostility towards us yet again.”
Helen Dolphin, director of policy and campaigns for Disabled Motoring UK (DM UK), said she also believed the stories would stir up further hostility towards disabled people.
She said she said she would be "absolutely appalled” if the government was behind the stories.
Last week, DM UK completed its Alps Challenge, in which disabled volunteers recreated a 1,500 mile journey across the Alps in 1947 on a petrol-driven tricycle to highlight the importance of providing mobility support to disabled people.
Dolphin said: "The Alps Challenge was to demonstrate how far we had come since 1947, with fantastic adaptations and the fact that we do have Motability and DLA to pay for it, but it seems when you read articles like this that people would like us to step backwards to when we were pushing people around in little blue trikes.”
Motability said its scheme was abused only by "a small minority” of people, while the "overwhelming majority of our customers are hugely deserving individuals with real physical impairments”.
In 2010/11, about 800 people were removed from the scheme for abuse, out of 580,000 customers – less than 0.14 per cent.
Another 500 people were prevented from joining or renewing their agreements, but Motability said many of these were due to driving convictions and so unrelated to misuse.
A DWP spokeswoman said: "Motability is an independent charity which is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the scheme and DWP has regular reviews to monitor its performance.
"Motability provides a vital service for disabled people. However, any misuse of taxpayers' money is unacceptable and it is essential that we get the gateway to receipt of DLA right, which is why we are introducing the PIP.”
But when asked whether the story originated from the DWP and was another attempt to soften up the public in advance of cuts and reforms of DLA, she declined to comment.
News provided by John Pring at http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/
This entry was written by admin, posted on July 3, 2011 at 9:00 am, and filed under DisabledGo News and tagged Daily Mail, disability living allowance, Disabled Motoring UK, DLA, DM UK, EHRC, Equality and Human Rights Commission, Motability, personal independence payment, PIP, Sunday Times
Why do we have a Minister for Disabilities?
By Sue Marsh, Disability Campaigner & Blogger
Diary Of A Benefit Scrounger, 21 June 2011
Here's a quote about the first ever Minister for Disabled People. It sounds to me like he saw a great need for his role.
"Affected by his father's experience, Morris [Alfred Morris, Baron Morris of Manchester] campaigned on behalf of the disabled; his father had suffered a long decline in health and eventual death arising from gassing during World War I. After his father's death, Morris's mother was not entitled to a war widow's pension. Forty years later, Morris himself put the matter right by changing the law affecting armed forces pensions when he became Minister for the Disabled.
In 1970 he successfully introduced the Chronically Sick & Disabled Persons Act which was the first in the world to recognise and give rights to people with disabilities. In 1974 he became the first Minister for the Disabled anywhere in the world. In 1991 he introduced a Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill and he has led campaigns on Gulf War Syndrome." (Wikipedia)"
The position is now filled by Maria Miller.
At this point in history, all of the main sickness and disability benefits are being abolished and replaced with new, more limited, schemes. Sick and disabled people have shown considerable opposition to these plans.
There has been a vote of no confidence in Maria Miller, carried at the Hardest Hit march on 11 May 2011. This was the largest ever protest of sick and disabled people in UK history. Now, there are calls all over the internet for a vote of no confidence in Ms Miller in Parliament.
Sick and disabled people are about to lose £9.2 Billion in support from a £16 billion budget.
Maria Miller has not supported us, she has not consulted us, she has not replied to us and she does not speak for us.
Not only that, but she misrepresents us! The very people she is elected and salaried to represent. http://fullfact.org/search/node/maria%20miller She uses false statistics and claims that we support her government's plans. Recently she claimed that more people claim higher rate DLA for alcoholism than blindness. Not only was she wrong, but the implications of "worthy" and "unworthy" disability from a minister whose job should be to do just the opposite is shocking.
But this article really makes clear just how unworthy of her job Maria Miller is.
Please click to see link
The part that made me write this blog post is this:
"Disabilities Minister Maria Miller said a consultation on the proposed changes, which attracted more than 5,000 responses, had shown support for reform of DLA.
She said: "There's now a growing view that reform is needed, whether it's from the Government or from the opposition or from leading disability groups."
The minister claims that this was "one of the most successful consultations of its kind". Yes it was. Because groups like the Broken of Britain asked thousands of sick and disabled people what they thought and spent months running campaigns to involve people in the consultation. Over 5000 people did indeed respond and they were overwhelmingly opposed to the proposals or elements within them. A typical consultation might have 50 or 60 responses. This brilliant summary by Rhydian Fon-James from the Broken of Britain shows clearly that the government response to the "consultations" was a complete and utter whitewash.
None of the legitimate concerns were addressed.
This woman is not a Minister for Disabled People and does nothing to speak for us in Parliament. She appears to be no more than a Minister for Propaganda and I'd like to know why we pay her a salary at all?
Mr Cameron I can save you a little deficit. Cut the Minister for Disabled People. I can assure you that none of us will notice at all.
Actually that's not true. Our lives would improve without her constant ignorance displayed in both the press and in Parliament.
Tax benefits halved for 100,000 disabled children
During the week commencing 13 June 2011, we've been distracted by the ill-judged comments of one MP who said that disabled people should be willing to work for less than the minimum wage - our hackles rose and the story was all over twitter.
But while this happens, other stories go under the radar. For example, the news that under the new Universal Credit, parents of disabled children could lose £1400 per year.
At present, parents can receive up to £54 per week via the disability element of tax credits; this helps with some additional costs of looking after that child. But the new Universal Credit will see this halved to £27, the Children's Society has said. The Welfare Reform Bill was passed by the House of Commons last week.
Bob Reitemeier, chief executive of the Children's Society explained to the Observer "This cut threatens to push many disabled children back below the poverty line," he said "With 100,000 children affected by this, there are 100,000 reasons to rethink this policy."
All but the most disabled children - those who receive Disability Living Allowance at the highest rate for care - will lose out.
While some families will lose £1400 a year, this sum could be even higher if the family has more than one disabled child to care for. The Children's Society calculates that it will cost families with just one child born with a disability about £22000 by the time the child is 16.
Of course the government has tried to lessen the blow by saying there will be transitional payments to cover the changes, but this does not apply to new claimants. Nor will the payments be protected from inflation.
With the swathes of council cutbacks already threatening services for disabled children, this cut to tax credit is yet another way that the families of disabled children will be suffering.
Big society bill raises concerns for disabled children
http://www.communitycare.co.uk/, 20 June 2011
Disabled children's charities are concerned the government's public services reform white paper might increase pressure to push personal budgets onto families.
Proposals in the currently delayed white paper have been flagged up in national newspapers over the weekend and in a column from prime minister David Cameron in The Telegraph today.
Mr Cameron said: "Though I was always so grateful for the tremendous care my eldest son received, I never understood why local authorities had more control over the budget for his care than Samantha and I did. This [the white paper] is a transformation: instead of having to justify why it makes sense to introduce competition in some public services – as we are now doing with schools and in the NHS – the state will have to justify why it should ever operate a monopoly."
"We would support the policy of having personal budgets, but would emphasise that the system must not in any way undermine the local authorities' legal obligations to disabled children," said David Congdon, head of campaigns and policy at Mencap.
"The danger is that some councils interpret personal budgets as a way to save money and if you take that approach as a local authority, you're not going to fulfil your obligations – parents who are given an inadequate amount of money to support their child's needs are only going to be able to buy inadequate services."
Congdon said the white paper and the SEN and Disabilities Green Paper, published by children's minister Sarah Teather in March this year, signalled the government's intention to make personal budgets the way forward for children with disabilities.
He emphasised, however, that "a lot of detail needs to be worked out before we know how to implement this properly", saying Mencap wanted to see proper pilots carried out and assessed before the approach was applied to children's services.