Monday 9 May 2011

Why Labour still have it wrong on ESA

If threats of suicide over sickness and disability welfare reform were not enough to depress me (see earlier article) then news that The Public Bill Committee on Welfare Reform voted on Tuesday to keep time-limiting as part of the Bill added fury to the mix.

Rhydian Fon-James outlines the next steps in this brilliant piece for Broken of Britain and rightly points to Stephen Timms passionate attempt to oppose the plans, but finding myself on a long and boring car journey to Devon over the weekend, I took the time to read the transcripts from the committee and my sense of frustration and anger rose with every mile.

Of all the proposals to cut social security for the sick and disabled, I am totally clear that time limiting ESA is the single biggest threat to the dignity and financial stability the most vulnerable people in our society face. Why? Because it is absolute. Once our year is up, no matter what our conditions, no matter what our family incomes or levels of poverty, we will be cut adrift. If, like me, your partner works him or herself into the ground to maintain a degree of financial independence, you will face a total loss of all support. We will become chattels, totally at the mercy of the goodwill of our loved ones. Worth nothing in the eyes of society, anyone with a progressive or degenerative condition who has not found some miracle cure within one year will be cast off.

Even a causal reading of this article makes it clear that this will present a massive dis-incentive to work. It will simply bankrupt us and force us into claiming 100% state support.

It is also a dis-incentive to be honest. I could side-step this proposal by getting a divorce and indeed, many people like me may simply be left with no other alternative.

It breaks any covenant between the state and dreadfully unwell people. People who may have paid into the same system all of their lives but find that when life becomes impossibly hard, they are all alone.

The transcripts show that other than cancer and to a lesser degree, mental illness, our politicians - of all parties - have no concept at all of what they are about to do. Mr Timms suggested that 90% of all claimants put into the Work Related Activity group will be affected by this change. From now on, if you get sick, you have just one year to get better or you will lose everything.

The Labour amendment suggested that time limiting should be set at at least two years. Mr Timms did ask for much more information and research on just how many people will actually have found work in that time, but it appears the DWP have no idea. So far studies show that of those being transferred from Incapacity Benefit to ESA, just 9% are "helped" into work within a year. What will happen to the other 81%? Nobody knows and it is abundantly clear that nobody cares.

There is no evidence to suggest that ministers have looked into exactly how much working partners earn. Can they actually afford to support their unwell or disabled partners without facing bankruptcy? With the limit set at just over £5000 per year or 24 hours a week, virtually all families will be affected.

The vital and depressing part is that despite asking for clarification on some issues and asking for a longer limit (the proposal was rejected) Labour still totally support the concept of time-limiting ESA. There were many references to how it has worked with those on Jobseekers Allowance but no concept at all of why the same mandatory approach cannot possibly work for those who are unwell.

All the while Labour refuse to listen and the Lib Dems support the Conservative proposals, sick and disabled people have no voice at all speaking out for them. How dare Labour decide that one year is too short, but two will probably be fine, with no details or facts at all to back up their claim? What kind of society and democracy are we living in if the opinions and voices of sick and disabled people are totally ignored? If those making the decisions are so keen to save money that they ignore all evidence, all pleas, all sense?

How totally out of touch are our politicians if they believe that cancer is the only condition that might not get better in a year? Have they honestly not heard of conditions like Parkinson's, Multiple Sclerosis, Bowel Disease, Heart Disease, Lupus, Kidney Failure, Bi-Polar, Schizophrenia or the countless other degenerative, progressive or auto-immune conditions that may make it impossible for people to work? ALL of these people routinely go into the Work Related Activity Group and it is very unlikely that many of them will be able to "work" at least in the way expected by the DWP.

On 14thy May 2010, Mr Timms was stabbed by a constituent, suffering "potentially life threatening" wounds -  lacerations to his liver and a perforation to his stomach. A senior police officer said that he "was extremely fortunate not to have been killed."

Just a millimetre either way could have seen Mr Timms disabled for life. He could have been left without a bowel, leaving him dependent on a feeding tube for the rest of his life. He could have suffered liver damage that left him in need of a transplant. That spare liver may have taken much longer than a year to appear. The knife could have severed his spinal cord leaving him paralysed.

Whilst I'm extremely thankful that no such disaster ravaged Mr Timm's life, the words "There but for the grace of God go I" must surely have occurred to him? Surely, he of all people must be able to see that life can change in a heartbeat and setting a stopwatch may not be appropriate to recovery?

No matter how big the stick, no matter how hard politicians try to use that stick to beat us with, some conditions just won't get better. Some will be made worse by working. A political class that chooses to ignore those simple facts, using a mid 90s definition of illness is in a very dangerous place indeed.


  1. I agree with you sue Mr timms was very lucky indeed and if he cant help the likes of us we will be finished as a group of people

    All we will have left is the police but they could only act if the death toll were to rise in a way that was breaking the law and only a criminal lawyer would know how this will pan out over time

    I think personally the death toll from the welfare changes will run to the high hundreds over the next 3 years but as the changes are extreme for some it could run into the thousands so only time will tell

    it's not looking good at all

  2. Column number 652 kinda summed it up for me when Chris Grayling said:

    It is not about a decision that 12 months is an appropriate time for recovery. These are people who have other means of financial support, so what we have sought to do in difficult times financially, and by taking tough decisions, is to say, “Right, we need to start to replicate in the ESA system the kind of approach we take in the JSA system.” We have decided to set a 12-month time limit rather than a six-month time limit in recognition of the fact that if people face a health challenge it make take longer to sort out their affairs and may even take longer than the two year period. This is one of the tough decisions we need to take in government. We form a view and try to achieve a sensible balance. It is not based on an estimate of a typical recovery time, but on the principle that these are people who have other means of financial support. In around 60% of cases we expect people to need additional financial support through the income-based system, which they will of course receive.

    In other words, we don't give a shit how ill you are or how long it's gonna take you to get better.

  3. And the person who stabbed him may well have had some form of mental illness and been on benefits. of course under the ESA regime those with serious mental illness will now have been put into the community,probably have had any form of support removed because of cuts but will also be forced into the workforce. So if they are in a stressful work environment which triggers some kind of crisis I certainly don't want to be around at the time.

  4. I seem to recall seeing on the news that the very rich have recovered from the slight downturn in their wealth and are now richer than ever.

  5. Can I just clarify, if I'm found to be incapable of any work, is my ESA still to be time-limited?

  6. No, if you're found incapable of any work, it will not be time-limited.

  7. Yeah, I effectively can't get married now, as any recovery from a future relapse will take more than a year. I had to turn down this guy for a date recently, because he didn't want to have sex before marriage. Now I'm the total opposite, but I absolutely respect peoples choices and might have given it a go as he's so nice and compassionate (and hot!) but I just cannot risk marriage. Being supported by my partner would cause further relapse because of the change in dynamics of power. God knows what I'm going to do.

  8. This govt is corrupt and they hate disabled peple - worse still is that ALL the parties (Lib Lab Con) seem united in their hatred of the disabled.

    What did I do to them bar getting a disease - I didnt do anything to get here - This was not within my power to get or not get.

    I despise this govt

  9. What is the difference between the Limited Capability for Work Related Activity Test and the Work Capability Test? As well as having leukaemia I also have Achalasia, a debilitating swallowing problem. The LCFWRA test mentions your ability to swallow food & drink, whereas the WCT makes no mention of this.

  10. Nick glegg had a chance to redeem himself with the people by supporting the sick at the weekend however he chose the easy option by announcing he will defend the NHS changes

    We will do that nick that's dead easy because you have the whole population against the conservatives in the NHS reforms

    What nick clegg needs to do is to come out fighting for us the sick and disabled and do a proper days work for the first time in his life and show some leadership and forget about the easy options of trying to save the NHS which any fool could do

  11. I agree (fourbanks) he could and may well yet put the proverbial knife into Mr C's back regarding benefits reform, they all seem consumed by the NHS reforms. What will it take for people to listen i have no idea at all!!!!

  12. but what use ARE you?

  13. I work I pay taxes, Survival of the fittest.

  14. "What kind of society and democracy are we living in if the opinions and voices of sick and disabled people are totally ignored?"

    Just because you can vote doesn't mean you live in a democracy.

    I don't see how this can be a true democracy when the right-wing media is free to make stories up to further their owners social darwanist agendas without suffering any meaningful punishment.

    The people vote based on faulty information that is often just made up propaganda and therefore end up often voting against their own best interests, like the absurd situation where many people cheer on the destruction of the sickness benefit safety net even though anyone can get ill at any time and it means they would be left destitute should they or their loved ones ever get sick.

  15. As an example of my earlier post -

    Why wasn't this option discussed before the General Election?

    All I saw was the manufacturing of a commonly accepted narative by all the media.

    None of this destruction pain and suffering is necessary.

  16. Oh dear, Anonymous. You really have no understanding of science at all, have you? If there's an afterlife, Darwin will kick your arse :P.

  17. Indeed, nanobot. "It was The Sun wot won it" so often, ie. a massive hatemongering corporation only interested in it's own profit. One man - one vote, one multinational company - several million votes.

  18. Anonymous - I will catch you when you fall or feed you if you starve.

  19. Susan Georgina

    Just got back from hols to say 'congratulations' from Howard John on coming second in your election.

  20. I get the feeling that these MPs think we are all like the actress Catherine Zeta-Jones who can allegedly recover from bipolarity in a week!

  21. The prime minister isn't daft but very clever in manipulation
    The conservatives at the last election got a very low turnout but are running the country and calling the shots that's how clever David Cameron is

    Hitler was the same in the war he convinced his country by using wonderful pictures of himself with his family and that of others in his cabinet that the jews were bad Adolf Hitler already showed traits that characterized his later life: inability to establish ordinary human relationships, intolerance and hatred of especially the Jews, a tendency toward denunciatory outbursts, readiness to live in a fantasy-world and so to escape his failure.

    He also killed all the sick and disable Germans my friends brother was one of them

    So we have today people like David Cameron with his intolerance and hatred of the sick and disabled and if left to his own devices i believe he to would have as all killed

    There are all types of evil in this world we all know that and David Cameron is just another example of madness

    How will we deal with him that is the question we must ask ourselves today ?

  22. Fourbanks wrote
    'Hitler was the same in the war he convinced his country by using wonderful pictures of himself with his family and that of others in his cabinet that the jews were bad'

    Apart from the difficulties with the punctuation, I cannot divine what you are saying here. I don't think it is possible to understand that passage.

    The remainder of your contribution is right off the wall, I am afraid.

  23. well Howard you obversely dont have any elderly German friends so it's unlikely you will see the point made

    To me they both have an agenda that is to cause as much hardship and destruction as possible
    Hitler achieved it by being a nice person and David Cameron will also do his best to inflict as much pain as possible on the citizens of the uk

    In three years time you will fully understand that i do know

  24. The article explains things well thank you for writing it.

    Iknow it is all about saving money and making the poor 'pay' but one think I do not understand is why are they being so stupid as to make the amount of allowable earnings/hours of work the same for partner's of people on contribution based ESA as on JSA. If they are determined to stop ESA the least they could do is change the way tax credits are worked out.

  25. Elisabeth - If I knew the answer to that, I wouldn't be so constantly mystified. Why on EARTH would they punish working families like that? WHY would they make it almost impossible for them to go on working if the level is set at just over 5k?? I have no idea.

    Well actually, I do. Their terrible assumptions are based on a "psycho-social" model of health from the 90s - now totally discredited that assumes that illness is mainly a state of mind. That if we wanted to we would all stop lying around being victims and get a job. I kid you not, that is what they think. This is what explains to them why some with say my disease of crohn's can work and others cannot. Nothing to do with severity or strains of the disease, it's all in my head. Very 1950s isn't it?

    By making the level so low, they think they are doing us a favour, by pushing us into poverty we will have no choice but to work and we will miraculously get better. Seriously, this is their assumption. I know it seems unbelievable, but this is what they think.

  26. @Sue

    What you say about the psychosocial model is especially ironic in that scientific research shows that the truth is actually even further from that than previously thought. I'm talking about the studies a few years ago showing that physical and emotional pain are experienced in exactly the same way by the body, including by the brain. Not only can physical pain show up on brain scans, but psychological pain shows up in the same way in the same places. What a shame we "bleeding-heart lefties" have science on our side, eh?

  27. I suggest everyone looks at the DWP's ESA statistics,the month on month figures for SG,WRAG and Fail are exactly the same every month.
    This,with all the varibles,is virtually impossible, the results could change by 2% if only two decisions per center changed.
    It is now possible to lay odds on the result of a WCA assessment as the %s will stay the same in the future.
    4/7 Fail
    7/2 WRAG
    17/1 SG
    It is quite clear the results are rigged some how to meet the requirements of Government.
    The only way such precision of results could be achieved is by the use of the LiMA computer to constantly adjust the outcomes.
    Once the SG and WRAG quotas are reached a fail is the only option for you.
    Ask the DWP to explain how the stats are always the same,you will get a shock!