Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Are Politicians Deaf to the Sick and Disabled?

So, it's welfare reform on the agenda today. Iain Duncan-Smith will address the Select Committee this morning on Universal Credit and Liam Byrne, Labour's new Shadow Dept of Work and Pensions minister will outline Labour's position

How Labour came to this position is a mystery. Certainly to any of us campaigning for an overhaul of Employment Support Allowance (ESA), radical changes to the assessment processes,and  a new consultation on the proposals to abolish Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and replace it with Personal Independence Payment (PIP) whilst cutting numbers by at least 20%.

  • Mr Byrne has been in the job for exactly 20 days. I've been seriously ill for 27 years. 
  • Mr Byrne will state that no other pace of reform but the very fastest will do. I'd rather see the very BEST Mr Byrne
  • Mr Byrne thinks cuts should be made to "Shirkers not workers". But who are the "Shirkers" Mr Byrne?
  • Mr Byrne will speak out for the "Squeezed Middle" but not the "Desperate Sick"
  • Mr Byrne will ask "What kind of government takes £1bn more off children than bankers? I suggest one that will take away a full one third of the incomes of the sick and disabled? Billions more than high rate tax payers he's so keen to defend will lose in Child Benefit.
  • Mr Byrne will, most sickeningly, most heartbreakingly, support the disgusting policy of time limiting ESA, but to 2 years rather than Osborne's proposed 1 year. Few chronic, degenerative conditions go away in one year though Mr Byrne, or even two. Nonetheless, most sufferers of them are being found "Fit for Work"

The first thing I want to say is THIS IS NOT LABOUR'S POSITION. This is the position of a few ill-informed, out-of-touch politicians, based on dubious research and ignorant assumptions. This isn't just my horrified conclusion, but is clearly illustrated and evidenced in this Compass Report Mr Byrne's position is not my position, nor any of my Labour friends, nor any of the the 1000 or so people who follow my blog in one form or another. Other than James Purnell, Douglas Alexander and now Liam Byrne in fact, I've never heard an ordinary Labour Party member say they support these changes.

The second thing is WHO DO LABOUR ENGAGE WITH? Not with me, or grassroots members like me, that's for sure. I've written, sent emails, tweeted, Facebooked and written again. In just over three months, my blog has shot from total obscurity to become the 23rd highest ranked political commentary on the internet. Not because I'm anything special, but simply because this issue is totally ignored by all of the three political parties and most of the media. The sick and disabled are crying out for a voice, for someone to hear them. The Broken of Britain run a fantastic campaign with thousands of supporters, but no-one has asked them either. I've lost count of the people who've told me they've written to Ed Miliband or their MP or some DWP minister but never had so much as a reply.

I discussed ESA with Jonathan Shaw - the then Labour Minister for Disabilities for half an hour at conference once. I followed up with emails. He never even replied.

Today, I will write to Ed Miliband and Liam Byrne again. I will ask them to engage with us. I will ask them to spend just one hour reading the intelligent, articulate contributions to One Month Before Heartbreak, a campaign that aimed to present testimonials from the sick and disabled outlining how devastating these changes are to our lives. I will ask them to undergo a total review of sickness and disability benefit reform in co-operation with those of us who actually understand and appreciate what it will really mean. I will propose some ideas of my own that could transform life for those of us who's lives have been ravaged by disease without causing misery, fear and hopelessness. I will explain, yet again, that we are not against reform in itself, simply reform based on total misconceptions.

Whatever their reply, if indeed there is any, I will keep writing this blog and people, I hope, will keep reading it and linking it and sharing it with friends . If we can write for the Times or The Independent or the Mirror, we will. If we can make our voices heard on Television or Radio, than I, and other sick and disabled activists will. We will keep campaigning and explaining until this issue becomes the single most embarrassing issue for any politician.

PLEASE JOIN ME. Today, welfare reform is on the agenda. PLEASE click the Twitter or Facebook share buttons by and below this article. If you use Twitter, then please RETWEET and please, please post links on FACEBOOK and tell your friends. PLEASE help me be the anti-voice to the stream of misconceptions and lies we will undoubtedly be bombarded with in the mainstream media today. HELP ME STOP THIS.

The simple truth is these reforms are wrong. Wrong in format, wrong in design and wrong in practice. Worst of all they are morally wrong and ignoring us won't change that at all.


  1. Labours finest hour was in 1945 to 1950 when they formed the welfare state. now in an act of utter betrayal they are colluding with the Tories to dismantle it. This is Labours lowest point and i;ve decided with a heavy heart I can no longer be part of this once great party

  2. You are so right lady, honestly I wish you were in charge! I cant even believe their arnt riots in the streets but then the people who would riot are too sick or too busy taking care of someone who's sick, or working to support someone who's sick.. x

  3. Well said Sue, they will listen if you and others like you keep plugging away but it is an uphill task. In my view Labour is the only party with any conscience and will eventually respond if we keep on pricking it long enough.

  4. It was, Peter, once upon a time. It isn't any more. Or rather, it regards conscience as an impediment to election, which is potentially worse.

    It may be the best of a bad bunch, but that just means the whole tree is beyond repair.

  5. The tree is rotten to the core Gwenhwyfaer. Its the rotten boroughs all over again

  6. Keep on shouting Sue. We're doing what we can to spread the word. You'l get through eventually.

  7. Thanks guys. I will keep shouting!!

  8. As a former DWP employee sacked for my sick absence and now long term on IB due to mental ill health I have seen the system from both sides. Labour started what IDS is now pursuing so passionately. There is a lot of fraud and some people live too comfortable lifestyles on benefits but the new processes and cuts are not targeted on these areas. They are cutting from everyone, terrifying vulnerable people and pushing many people into poverty and desperation. They will make the financial savings, most voters will be pleased. I will keep speaking out.

  9. Hey, I like this "I will keep speaking out" slogan! Anyone feel lucky running a little campaign? *winning grin*
    thousands of tweets/ statuses...... I like

  10. There is a lot of fraud and some people live too comfortable lifestyles on benefits but the new processes and cuts are not targeted on these areas. They are cutting from everyone, terrifying vulnerable people and pushing many people into poverty and desperation. They will make the financial savings, most voters will be pleased. I will keep speaking out.
    Ok show me the evidence for these remarks, show me the frauds, you worked for the DWP then tell me where is the evidence.

    Fraud is thought to be 0.5% and in that is the fraud caused by mistakes from the DWP.

    the DWP needs changing more then people who apply for it.

    The fact is if your ill or disabled it like everything else in this world it's how it affects you. People with headaches can have serious problems.

    The sad fact we live in a world in which mental illness has become a major player are they frauds of course not.

    we live in a world in which governments go to war so the leader can make millions prancing around the world telling the yanks how much hard work he put into getting the people to back him.

    The sad fact is illness stands at about ten million in the UK, it's fifteen million in Germany, it stands at 14 million in France.

    The UK is actually very low on disability illness, then you have the problem with benefits to complicated are they, what having medicals to prove your disabled is to complicated, labour and the Tories think paying us all the same benefit is the best which will be of course JSA.

    Brilliant another who thinks we have massive fraud, now prove it because I can show you statistic which say it's the lowest within the EU.

    The problem with benefits is the dam DWP

  11. Robert you need to be less aggressive, most of what I said probably agrees with you. OK we disagree about fraud. If you want to engage in the debate about Welfare change it's no good burying your head in the sand and saying tough anti-fraud measures arent needed, you lose all credibility. 1000's of people are caught defrauding the system every year, most just agree to stop claiming and no action is taken. You see high profile cases on TV and in the papers - people crippled with back pain miraculously playing golf every day or cleaning windows from a ladder. I live in a very high welfare claiming area with a large proportion of disability benefits. I could walk down my parents street of 150 houses and show you at least 5 fraudulently claiming disability benefits including one guy I went to school with who fakes panic attacks at his GP visits or DWP medicals then laughs about it in the pub later. Don't be a fool and pretend that doesn't happen. My point is that this should be targeted not just the easy pickings.

  12. Sue, the party of which you've remained a member is corrupted at the highest level by neo-liberal ideologues and unprincipled careerists. I doubt they'll listen,let alone repudiate their own complicity in all of this, for that would mean admitting that they were/are both wrong and out of touch.

  13. There is no easy way to target those people is the thing; they're not exactly walking around with a I'm A FRAUD, QUICK CATCH ME! sticker! The .5% figure still means that there are about 500,000 people who are committing fraud and yes, that's a large number. However, it's a bit of a middling number when there are over 10 million people who are disabled and only a fraction of those people even bother to claim (even if they need it) because the process is hardly friendly. A fraudster learns to work the system no matter what measures are put into place because that is what they are good at - an honest person, on the other hand, just gives up after their first denial because the appeal process is so long and demoralising that they can't take it.

    If the people who could legitimately claim actually DID so, I imagine the numbers wouldn't be so major. And let's not even talk about those designed-to-get-people-outraged shows. And if you KNOW people are fraudulent, report them. That's probably the most reliable way of catching the fraudulent, but let's not forget there are always going to be people who report neighbours because they got into a spat/the dog got into their yard/they don't like "those kinds of people". The best prevention of fraud is reporting, end of.

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  15. Just been having a look at the statistics. Never realised that we spend twice as much on Disability Living Allowance as we do on IB, so I can understand why that needs more scrutiny than it gets now and more regular reassessment. Also Carers allowance fraud is 4% yet that never gets a mention does it? Anyway i'm not going to mention fraud again except to say that I suspect from my personal experience of the communities I have lived in that it is higher than detected which is why most people are so happy to agree cuts are needed, because they see it happening every day. And yes, we should be more responsible about reporting it where we have evidence rather than moaning about it. And yes again, that it is still relatively small beer compared to the genuine cases who need help who are being targeted by the cuts which will be mostly supported by all political parties.

  16. I have to admit Sue I rather doubt the 15,000 figure. It does seem people who work in DWP themselves say a lot of people apply who have nothing wrong with them and I think 15,000 is rather low.

    However again, when comparing it to all the other stuff - (twice as much as IB gasp!) - the point perhaps being that there are a LOT of disabled people, the fact that it is not a "work benefit" but in many cases DLA is the only way people get TO work, and that it is not and has never been means tested as, let's face it, being disabled is EXPENSIVE might have something to do with the high numbers. It isn't all fraud. The simple truth is England doesn't leave its disabled people to starve to death on the streets in winter anymore.

    Oh, wait....

  17. Oh, lookie lookie. Interesting that this isn't on the front page of BBC news, innit?

  18. Well well!! Guess who's front page it WILL be on!!
    Thanks for the heads up :)))))

  19. I recommend you follow @fullfact on Twitter, or their website . They analyse 'facts' & figures quoted in press & parliament and actively challenge those who mislead, lie, exaggerate. Not party political, totally impartial and sometimes they get retractions published. They posted the IDS comments on toning down the rhetoric early today and have covered the welfare reform debate before.

  20. Webb08 - I do agree with a lot of what you say.
    I concluded ages ago that the enormous problem is "long term variable" conditions.
    Neither ESA or DLA really take these into account and it's what leads to all the problems.
    I have a long term variable condition but it varies from awful to deaths door. MY tetraplegic friend often says I have greater barriers to work than him, but having discussed the issues with several DWP ministers, It's clear they don't even know where to start in assessing them.
    That's why it seems the system isn't always supporting those in real need - it's nearly impossible for anyone to differentiate between me and someone with mild bowel disease.
    Ironically, a better system of assessment would be fairer, less stressful for claimants AND better at assessing need, it just needs political will and real investment to make it happen.
    This is effectively, the nugget of a post I plan on solutions.

  21. Sue, I agree about variable conditions. I also have to say that I am potentially comfortable with an assessment for ESA for very many people which says may be able to work 'at some time' or 'with support' or 'with conditions'. But the proposal to time limit ESA and then reduce amount paid to JSA levels is scandalous and does not encourage people to be honest about what they might be able to do on a good day and embrace help that might be made available. For example my problems are mental health related and whilst sat here at home with no pressure and no direct contact I can communicate with you and think lucidly. Put me in an office with other people (even 1) to talk to and telephones to answer and I will be a jibbering wreck. In fact i'd have vomited and possibly lost control of my bowels before I even got there. But when I appealed my first IB disallowance in a lengthy typed document the document was used as evidence of my IT skills, excellent cognitive function and obvious employability. The assessment criteria are definitely a major part of the problem. I also think more needs to be done to utilise medical opinion. The questions to GP's, consultants etc. are vague and there is no obligation on them to answer fully. I would like to see them being shown my evidence / answers and giving a view on how fully or not they agree. And being obliged to do so fully (and therefore paid to do so). This would support genuine cases and deter fraud too. Did you see the DWP research that was done specifically on mental health IB/ESA assessments? Lots of recommendations in support of the claimant, that the govt promised to consider before full roll-out of the new process in April. We shall see! (Gosh, I could go on about this for hours).

  22. My god experts you cannot even get the fraud correct, today it comes out that benefit fraud has been over inflated from 5 billion when it's 1 billion, but out of the majority of this one billion has to go down as over payments of tax and pension credits, but the one billion fraud, has to be taken into context of the underpayment of benefits within pensioners credits, plus a lot of people who should have DLA are fobbed off with the complex claiming.
    under payments stands at 1.5 billion

    Now to the bright sparks on here.

    Fraud is standing at watch the decimal point here.

    O.5% thats not 5% its half of one percent, this comes from the DWP own facts and figures.

    Thats a lot less is it not and out of that 0.5% you have to put into that mistakes made by the DWP, criminals who claim benefits by using the names and birth certificates of dead children, and mistakes made either by the DWP or by the claiment which is easy if you see the documents and forms given out by government, a mistake is not fraud.

    Remember fraud stands not at 5% it's 0.5% ...lot less is it not.

    But what is fraud I love people who I met and will say oh my mental health issues are much worse then your lost legs, or another will say my arthritis's is worse then your headaches.

    It's little wonder the government can walk all over us we cannot even agree with each other about whats a disability.

    On one site to day a disabled person stated his friend mind you his friend states she has arthritis, but she drives a brand new £8,000 car, how can she be disabled.

    I stated I have no legs and I drive a car the answer was impossible.

  23. Another useful analysis of tabloid hype that has featured in the press today by

  24. Re webb08 do have a point with the professional claimers / malingerers ....the really hard faced ones ! ...but the way the DWP / ATOS are going about it with sham farcical "medicals" ....they won't catch them ...that's too much like hard work to do it properly ....and it costs manpower get professional skivvers and malingerers playing the system at work too ....the Tory papers know these UNUM Claim Denial over simplistic Lima tests will pick on the wrong people but they stir up hyberbole with isolated IB claimants working on building sites give the impression ...they're all at it and deflect criticism from the morally reprehensible