Thursday 13 January 2011

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"A report commissioned by Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People (NCODP) found that due to cuts in benefits and local services the poorest 53% of disabled people in the county of Norfolk, around 100,000 people and their families, will see their living standards decline by a third over the next four years."

Well, firstly, well done NCODP. Reports like these help to crystallise just how unfair these cuts are in the minds of those still wavering over the "We're all in this together" "We will protect the most vulnerable" "There is no Alternative" rhetoric. 

What I really want to point out (and have been meaning to for ages!) is that sick and disabled people already live on very little money indeed. Here are the current levels of sickness and disability benefits from the DWPs own website:

Employment Support Allowance (ESA)

Weekly rate during the assessment phase

The assessment phase rate is paid for the first 13 weeks of your claim while a decision is made on your capability for work through the Work Capability Assessment.
Age of claimant                                                    Weekly amount
A single person aged under 25                                                        up to £51.85
A single person aged 25 and over                                                    up to £65.45
Weekly amount during the main phase
The main phase starts from week 14 of your claim, if the Work Capability Assessment shows that your illness or disability does limit your ability to work.
Type of Group
A single person in the Work Related Activity Group                    up to £91.40
A single person in the Support group                                            up to £96.85
Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
Care Component                                                              
Highest Rate                                                                       £71.40
Middle Rate                                                                        £47.80
Lowest Rate                                                                       £18.95
Mobility Component
Higher Rate                                                                        £49.85
Lower Rate                                                                        £18.95

Now, be under no illusion, DLA, Disability Living Allowance, the second set of figures, only apply to the most profoundly disabled people. Sickness and disability benefit fraud rates are less than 1% (DWP own figures) and the application process is stringent. Here are the DWP guidelines on who is likely to qualify for the benefit:
"Do any of the following apply to you? 

You need dialysis at home at least twice a week? 
You are 100% blind and 80% deaf? 
You have had both legs amputated above the ankle or were born without legs or feet
You are severely mentally impaired with severe behavioural problems and need help with personal care day and night?

If "no" you are not likely to qualify for DLA but may still claim."

So, only 9% of claimants are currently being found too ill to work and placed in the Support group of ESA. These claimants would be very likely to qualify for some level of DLA too, though not necessarily the top rates by any means. 

Therefore, most people unable to work because of severe illness get just £388.45 per month to live on. 

The most profoundly disabled - those unable to walk at all who need all of their care needs met might receive an absolute maximum of £903.76 per month. 

Please don't be fooled though. The higher amount must cover modified transport, wheelchairs, hoists, carers and extra dietary and equipment needs. Over 2.5 million sick and disabled people live on just under £400 per month.

Just to really put all of this in perspective, this chart shows that the UK actually has the lowest benefit rates anywhere in the developed world. (See last entry in table)

Cutting that by a third really tells us all we need to know about this coalition doesn't it?


  1. We're at the bottom! That is really shocking

  2. Isn't it?
    still. got to keep the rich rich somehow eh?

  3. Sue, my understanding is that the American article refers to state pensions and that's what they call social security over there.

    If true, it still takes nothing away from the point you are making.

  4. I try to contribute challenging posts as i feel the board could go to sleep if it gets too luvvy.

    Over the past few weeks i have read a lot here about how lousy the NHS is organised. I don't see how one automatically berates the present government as it has only been in 5 minutes and the problems listed are deep-seated.

    The same applies to the benefit system.

    One way to look at it is to predict that indeed it will get much worse, but I think some thought needs to be given as to why it is the way it is after 13 years of Labour misrule (yawn).

    If say the coalition falls apart and we get a Labour government on the rebound, I have no confidence whatever that matters will improve greatly. This is a non-partisan thought but just my feeling about behemoths and juggernauts, no matter who owns them.

  5. I know someone who is currently having to live on £52 a week, and has been since the end of November 2010.

    They're waiting on a date for an appeal tribunal after an Atos 'examination' deemed them fit to work after 10 years of illness which continues unabated.

    I am sure I don't need to tell anyone that the medical staff employed by DWP/Atos should be the subject of an investigation by the General Medical Council or the police. Solicitors wouldn't be allowed to get away with such professional malpractice and incompetence for a day even.

    Imagine what would happen to civil or aeronautical engineers claiming bridges and aeroplanes were safe to fly when they obviously weren't?

  6. You are correct Howard, social security in the US is all about state pensions. Most US workers also have what is called a 401K, its a way of allowing employees and employers to have a retirement fund that is similar to a superannuation style pension. The equivalent to DLA and ESA is the SSI (supplemental security income)and that comes from a different pot. From what I can remember, lots of forms to fill out and next to impossible to qualify for. The average rate is around $700 a month, barely enough to buy food and a tent. However, not everyone who qualified would also be able to get Medicare (free healthcare). You have to remember the many things in the UK that are paid for out of general taxation that are not the case in other countries-even Canada, oft quoted as the only other country with a state funded "free" system. Not quite true however- it probably has more similarities with the Swiss system than the UK.
    You also have to factor in the NHS. None of the other countries provide free-at-the-point-of-entry healthcare, free medicines for the retired, children etc and vastly reduced costs for everybody else. During a recent seminar about future health policy, it was pointed out that although the average person who is fit and healthy takes very little out of the health budget, there would be no limit on how much care they would receive if they became ill. Postcode lottery aside, having worked in other parts of the EU I reckon that when you include this fact, the figures would look very different. Having worked in the US, I have seen patients refused liver transplants because insurance would not cover the costs...that would not be the case here. In the EU I saw patients who could "top up" and patients who couldn't. Those who could often got to jump the queue for say, an MRI.
    Like Howard, I am trying to be unemotional and measured. It would be nice to see comments by those who work as social workers, for example to get an idea how they feel. They are the real frontline workers in this case, I feel.

  7. i have a lot of american friends who think we have a fantastic "free" system. i remind them that all i dont have to many completes its not free. we do pay for it just not in the same way as they do and i did have to wait 6 years to see an orthopaedic surgeon. Both system have there benefits but both are being hiddeously bulked out by buerocracy.

  8. Can't see the relevance of Howard bringing in the US, also don't know, or even care, which US article he's referring to, as the posts here are clearly in response to the item above which is wholly speaking of UK allowances, which are woefully lacking to start with, & this current Government (despite them being Howard says "5 minutes") has already cut funding for certain they have it in for the sick, disabled, & the elderly! It can only get worse under this shower of sh**e that's why people are attacking this *new* government...we're attempting to *live* in this country!

    I agree with Dino-nurse, Wriggley, Joe90Kane, & Sue...even HellsBells, as all their posts were relevant :o)

  9. Hi Lisa - Poor Howard is simply a pedant I asked to be my fact-checker/grammar coach when I first set up the blog.

    He challenges me to make me think, but is no troll I assure you.

    Everything else I agree with totally though, lol