Tuesday, 20 September 2011

DWP - Spinning til they're dizzy

Oh, ho, the rhetoric is cranking up now!!

We are "inaccurate". We are "wrong"

Our concerns about Work Capability Assessments are wrong you see, because we're talking about the old assessments. Now that Professor Harrington has reported and the DWP have accepted his recommendations, it's all totally different!

The fact that we have no evidence of improvement yet, and the fact that Harrington hasn't even reported on fluctuating conditions or learning disabilities yet is irrelevant, apparently.

And be very, very careful. They have a new line on DLA. Wait for it. They aren't cutting it at all!! Oh phew, that's OK then!!

Except they are.

The fact that I first heard of this nonsense from the Taxpayers Alliance says it all really, though I have no idea how they saw the details before, erm, the people who will, you know, actually be affected..... Was there a cosy little chat in the House of Commons tea rooms I wonder? Did they call in friends and supporters only? "Here, chaps, we've got a whizzy new line to persuade all those annoyingly vocal sick and disabled people that we aren't cutting DLA at all!!"

Today, the new line comes from Steve Webb, Lib Dem who says :

"On disability benefits, Webb said spending on the personal independent payment at the end of this parliament would be exactly the same as the amount spent on disability living allowance at the beginning of this parliament – £12.3bn."

Erm, that one's really pathetic. Does he imagine that none of us know what inflation is?

I think my 6 year old can do this one....

Inflation = 4.4% over 5 yrs (parliament term) = Oh look!!! 22%!!! Remarkably close to the 20% of claimants who will lose their DLA when they switch to PIP

So be under no illusion, 20% of people currently claiming will lose their DLA. It's just that in 4 years time, 12.3 billion won't be worth nearly as much as it is today.

I told you! Tricksy.

Marks out of 10 for spin? 2 "Must try harder"


  1. Actually, 4.4%pa over 5 years is 24%, not 22% - it's 1.044^5 to get the overall increase, which gives 1.240 - subtract the 1 (the principal) and convert to percentage notation, you get 24%.

    So, if there is an average annual inflation of 4.4%pa over the term, anything for which spending is kept stable in numerical terms is being cut by a whopping 24% in real terms.

    Problem is, an awful lot of people wouldn't realise that.

  2. Should I write and ask him to reassure me that my rent, bills, wheelchair, travel costs, laptop, etc will all also cost exactly the same in line with my benefit costing exactly the same as today (assuming I get it)?

    In all seriousness it is disappointing to see comments like this coming from the lib dems after the recent good results. Is there anything practical I CAN do?

  3. Sam - Ahhh, but inflation is projected to fall after this year (whilst I doubt their projections, it almost certainly will fall to a degree)

    Hence they can probably run with the 20% figure.

    I KNEW someone would go into all this, but felt it just made the post too complicated, lol

  4. LoopyS - There are two rather large research projects we need done at the moment. They're easy but lengthy and a bit laborious. However, you can dip into them whenever you feel able, so fairly good for "spoonies".

    If you really do want to help and can commit a few hours every day, email me at suey2yblog@hotmail.co.uk xx

  5. Im not any good at Math's not my strongest point. I came accross this recently - which is even scarier from a piece in the guardian - DWP looking for IT support for the new benefit.

    "The DWP says that more than 3 million people in the UK claim the DLA, approximately 2 million of whom are of working age. It estimates the volume of PIP claims at 460,000."

    suspect lef hand and right hand are strange bed fellows, I haven't had the heart to trawl the DWP website but may have to get more info.

    thank you for this really great blog, im a new girl, on the block but plan to get involved.

  6. Oh, so Taxpayers Alliance were wheeled out again on behalf of DWP?! LOL

    It’s so pathetically transparent. The reason Taxpayers Alliance are always first port of call for media (yes, BBC, I’m thinking of you in particular), who want comment on DWP plans is surely related to the Special Advisors (SpAds) currently spinning for IDS at Work and Pensions.

    Here’s Susie Squires, now one of the merry band of IDS’ SpAds and erstwhile TPA ‘Political Director’. http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/susie-squire/3/861/823

    Quite why DWP think anyone might find the opinions of TPA more ‘objective’ *cough* than Work & Pensions Ministers, I’m not quite sure. Useful attack dogs to hide behind, though, aren’t they.

    Nobody’s fooled, Iain! You’re merely showing yourself up as a coward, not man enough to stand up for your own disastrous ideological ‘reforms’.

    Shame Work & Pensions have so little intelligence they choose to hide behind an ‘organisation’ that no one takes in the slightest bit seriously.
    As my redoubtable granny used to say, “I didnae come doon wi the last shower o rain!”.

  7. Beth - I wonder if it might have been a typo? It's just that 460,000 as a % of 2 million is very close to 20% perhaps it should have read "REDUCTION in PIP claims" rather than "VOLUME of PIP claims"???

    Isobel - I'm glad some people are aware of what an absolute sham, Tory-front the TPA are. Great comment.

  8. Sue - Its highly possible, I plan to see if i can find where it was advertised and have a look. poking about in tender adverts is not very exciting. Id like to help in a more practical way if I can too.

    If i find the actual advert and documents I will post them up

  9. Hi Sue...
    can't resist asking when you might be able to tell us about what you found in ESA50?.. just reminding you lol... not a member of twitter.. best wishes..

  10. found it, an interesting tender document - looking to tender out the assesments for PIP
    looks like the journalist didnt bother to give the context

    In the UK over 3 million people currently receive DLA, approximately 2
    million of which are people of working age (117 000 in Northern Ireland).
    Estimated volumes for PIP claims are 460 000 (Northern Ireland 13 500)
    annually with the first new claims customers moving on to Personal
    Independence Payment from April 2013. Indicative plans are to also
    re-assess existing DLA customers of working age within a three year
    period, 2013 to 2016.

    will have a better read and see what the finer detail is and stick a watch on it

  11. The government at the end of day will bring about whatever changes they see fit and they wouldn't care one jot on what you feel do or say and that's a fact

    My conservative mp who has seen me knows that the brutality i have suffered could get out in the open at ant time and am sure David Cameron knows about it for those that don't i will tell you

    I have many health conditions like most of us here but my main disadvantage is that i have a bad stomach and cant eat or drink normally just once or twice a day

    If i get stressed however i cant eat or drink at all hence my low weight and chest deformity and the DWP know that so they over the past 30 years have kept me stressed hence i have had kidney stones on and off over the past 30 years which am sure some of you will know is quite painful to say the least

    What i would personally say to Mr David Cameron is this the death of your son was painful in the extreme and i fully understand that and you will never get over it and that's a fact but please don't continue to destroy my life as my life has already been destroyed try to give me some piece of mind so that one day i will be able to eat and drink normally

    Rise above the pain you personally have and come to make sure that you become our voice the voice of care for the sick and disabled after all you personally are the only mp who knows about mental pain as you suffered it on your son's death so please do the right thing and take away the polices that cause mental anguish in others i beg you

  12. Just found your blog... very interesting "work" you have here :)

  13. You can fool all of the people all of the time!

  14. G4S are testing software currently.

    Just google "g4s pip".

  15. Sue,

    I'm afraid your post is inaccurate. You have assumed that those spending figures are in nominal terms, and therefore need to be adjusted for inflation, but they are in real terms - i.e. already adjusted for inflation.

    I've written about this misconception before:

    As I said in that post: "At the end of the [forecast] period spending will still be higher than it was last year". I understand your concerns over Disability Living Allowance but there is no sense scaring people by pretending the benefit is being slashed, when it isn't.

    Hope that clears this up. I'm not using some secret source of data, it's just the basic benefit expenditure tables. If I've got things wrong, I apologise, but those tables are the source that should show the impact of decisions made up to and including Budget 2011.

    Matt Sinclair

  16. Matt - Thanks for that.

    In fact, you're right. And I'm right.

    I had initially assumed the smoke and mirrors were flow rates. Yesterday, Steve Webb either spoke or was quoted so carelessly that I went with inflation.

    A brilliant wonk friend pointed out, just as you have, that it's not inflation.

    However, the post above could be left almost the same if I substitute the words "flow rates" with "inflation"

    Now, few people would know what that meant, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't explain it. It seems there might be a little silver lining for my readers as try as he might, my wonk friend can only find a 9% cut in existing claimants and a corresponding 9% rise in new cases.

    I will write the post for you and others like you Matt, but hopefully most people will still clearly understand that existing claims are being cut, but that due to the rise in DLA, the figure will stay static.

    If you understand this already, then it is disingenuous to use the line that DLA is being cut. Still, it doesn't stop people like Fraser Nelson arguing that Osborne isn't cutting either for exactly the same reason. A conservative friend of mine cut up his membership over that one!! He called it dishonest and said we should be making genuine cases for cuts, not trying to hide behind obfuscation.

    Now then, I just wonder how long it will take for governments (of any colour) to accept that severity of disability is increasing (hence the 9% rise in DLA) and that far from cutting sickness and disability benefits, we should be preparing for a future where the bill rises.

    Matt, a year ago I was just a very unwell Mum with two children, I'm afraid I do make mistakes because it's just me and a laptop. Last year I didn't know what a flow rate was. But I do aim to avoid them, unlike the DWP who appear to consider a default position of inaccuracy as vital.

  17. What planet are these guys on. The nasty Condem government.

  18. Sue,

    I think arresting the rise in the cost of the benefit is quite different to a drastic cut of the sort many campaigners have claimed.

    What you are essentially arguing now is that, like with the NHS, the rise in demand or fall in productivity outstrips the funding available with a budget frozen in real terms. If there is a trend to greater disability then I think that does create cost concerns that could be best addressed with a more objective test of the kind DWP are planning. In the same way that rising demand for health spending means we need to be particularly careful about productivity.

    While that is a legitimate issue to raise, and one we can debate, I think it's important the terms are clear. There is no cut in funding as most people would understand it, spending is essentially being frozen in real terms over this Parliament. As a result, I stand by what I said at that event.


  19. Mr Sinclair, to 'arrest the rise' (even though it will virtually arrest itself for the same reasons Incapacity Benefit did in 2005 in just a few years) then cuts must be made to existing claimants. It's unavoidable and to say it isn't a cut is semantics. Tell the people booted off the benefit and disqualified for PIP because of the Mickey Mouse 'objective' test that they haven't received a cut.

    I've never understood why so-called conservatives make an issue out of "the government are actually spending more money" as if what we want is for the government to spend more money and therefore this is somehow a convincing argument to us 'special interests'. It's the end result that matters which just happens to cost money and people like you do some pretty disingenuous mental gymnastics to avoid discussing the end result.

    Can the disabled afford the deficit better than the Treasury? Strictly speaking, you can't cut anything, only shift the balance. You want to shift the balance to disabled people, so I suppose you have a formula somewhere demonstrating how they can afford it better than the Treasury.

  20. Matt - So from know on we say "A 20% cut in existing claimants" rather than "cutting DLA by 20%". I'm not sure many lay people will care.

    I have a responsibility to the people who will be affected by the changes.

    It worries me rather that if government officials - and indeed yourselves - realise that there is a rise in severe disability leading to an increase in DLA claims, then "arresting the rise in cost" would surely be denying those in serious need the help they need? If the rise is for genuine disability what government with a conscience would look to arrest the rise?

    If they cannot "arrest the rise" in disability, then they cannot "arrest the rise in DLA???"

    Perhaps government don't know that severity of disability is rising? In that case I argue that before they implement changes that will affect 3 million of our most vulnerable, they OUGHT to know.

    You say that spending is essentially being frozen, but that hides the human cost. The 20% who will be cut adrift. Hide them wherever you will, smooth them over with whichever particular line the DWP come up with to spin compassion.

    They'll still be cut off.

  21. Anonymous - I definitely will not be forgetting the thing I hinted at over ESA50 forms. Just need to see actual FOI request with my own eyes first. I can't believe it's true otherwise and I certainly can't believe it's legal.

    (See Matt, I do try to verify everything first)

  22. Sue and Mason,

    Your arguments all seem to be premised on pretty strong assumptions about the test, which I can't justify looking at the DWP plans.

    And I don't think there has to be an inevitable rise in severe disability. Overall health is improving not declining and for it to be impossible to finance large numbers of existing claimants from existing resources (in real terms) implies an incredibly drastic rise in disability in just a few years. Changes in underlying health tend to play out a lot more slowly than a 20% rise in four years.

    You had the empirical basis of your calculations wrong by 20% but now come to the same answer. And the original accusation - including that I was selectively briefed the numbers - is still unedited in your post. I think you need to show your working before I can have confidence in your sums at this stage.


  23. I'm afraid on this, you are simply wrong. A wonderful post by Decaln Gaffney will give you a clearer picture and another, funnily enough, due to go up on LFF soon adds more information.

    I pointed out in an earlier comment, that actually according to Declan the figure seems to be 9% but we can't verify at this stage.

    One of the problems with both these reforms and the ESA reforms is that they are based on assumption about disability trends Matt.

    Both the accepted wisdom that "millions are languishing on unemployment benefits to massage the job figures" (An effect now totally proven wrong in today's figures)

    Also the assumptions on severity of disability will ultimately be proven wrong. Did you know there has been no major study on this since 1984?? Shocking isn't it?

    I don't really care if you trust my figures or not Matt. I don't trust the DWP figures in 90% of cases, but they don't alter them for me, even when I prove them wrong.

    I am still incredibly suspicious of a new line of spin that is suddenly and clearly being used to argue that DLA is not being cut. If it was indeed a coincidence that you, S Webb and others all started to make this claim within a few days, well, how abut that!!

  24. Sorry, forgot link http://www.leftfootforward.org/2011/07/the-three-things-cameron-should-know-about-sickness-and-disability-benefits/

  25. Here is a quote from Declan :

    the £1.08bn cut announced in the 2010 June was to projected expenditure without the changes i.e. what would have happened as a result (mainly) of demographic change if DLA had been left alone. It's not inflation, it's demography (plus the built in growth due to people being able to keep DLA when they retire, which will continue to push up caseload to about 2020 on DWP projections).

    The 20% figure relates to caseload and comes from gov. I'm a bit confused as to where the 20% cut in expenditure comes from**,even though I've used that figure myself and I'm sure the source is gov. 1.07bn is somewhat less than 9% of total DLA spend of 12.3bn.

    So without changes, DLA spend would have risen by 1.08bn in real terms, bit less than a 9% change over five years. Of course the changes are cuts. We would have no hesitation in saying the NHS was being cut if government decided to stop treating extra cases arising from population ageing or decided to treat those cases at the expense of younger patients. For a former professor of social policy who has also worked for the Institute for Fiscal Studies to try to spin things this way is shameful.

    there are four and only four sources of DLA caseload and expenditure growth

    (1) people who are receiving DLA on retirement can keep the award: otherwise they would be receiving attendance allowance. This will continue to push numbers up until about 2020. it is not driving up overall expenditure as people would be receiving other benefits.

    (2) demographic change: the working age population is larger and older. When we take account of this it is clear that only mental health and learning difficulties have grown more than would be predicted on the basis of population change

    (3) young people: mainly learning difficulties - deisrable and intended policy change

    (4) mental health- the major growth area. Some evidence of rising prevalence among older women, otherwise mostly probably due to policy

    That's it, nothing else going on around here. So, TPA, which bit do you want to denounce? The pensioners, the kids with learning disabilities, the mentally ill or population ageing?

    The cut is a cut: it means that on the basis of government's projection of need (driven by demography) there will be 9% less and it looks as if all of this will be absorbed by the working age populaton

    **Figure originally quoted by Osborne in the CSR, but appears from be to be unachievable.

  26. Mr Sinclair, the only part of my post that mentioned the PIP assessment was the off the cuff remark about it being a Mickey Mouse test, which it is because it's virtually identical to the Work Capability Assessment except for the descriptors.

    My assertion on claimants having their benefit cut is based entirely on the mathematical reality that there will be future claimants, so in order for spending on DLA to remain the same either all of those future claims must be blocked or existing ones cut off.

    We've heard the one about 'better healthcare means less disability and severe sickness' before and it always seems to ignore the straight answer we give: no, better healthcare means people that would have otherwise died instead survive and carry on claiming.

    Sue only mentioned the source of the largest part of the increase in DLA, there is the other one: pension-age claimants. When DLA was introduced this positive forcing mechanism was put in that effectively siphons claimants from the pensioner-only Attendance Allowance. If someone claiming DLA reaches retirement age and still meets the qualifying criteria, they can keep claiming DLA rather than moving to AA. As a result, pension-age claimants have gone from making up 33% of the total DLA claims eight years ago to 38% of it now and they account for almost half of the total increase.

    DLA is having a spike because people are getting older. When DLA has finished the upward trend due to the working-age claimant count catching up with what Incapacity Benefit was in 2005, almost all of the upward drive on DLA will be from pension-age claimants until 2020.

  27. I was asked by The National Autistic Society if I wanted to take part in the trial runs for the PIP assessment. I thought about it an declined, but not only that; I urged the NAS to not send the DWP the list of volunteers they were asking for and I posted my correspondence over at The Files: http://masondixonautistic.blogspot.com/2011/06/case-3-digging-our-own-graves.html

    I do know several people who did agree to take part, people who have had Work Capability Assessments and they confirmed it: the PIP assessment is pretty much a WCA.

  28. Something just occurred to me and I'm curious:

    "Sue and Mason,

    Your arguments all seem to be premised on pretty strong assumptions about the test, which I can't justify looking at the DWP plans."

    Would it make any difference to you if the test was fair or not?

  29. My illness is progressive.
    I'll tell it to stop as we can't afford it.
    I apologise for the rise in demands I have made over the years.
    I suppose it is a shame I wasn't born 20 years earlier really. I would already be dead at this stage. It would have saved a lot of people a lot of trouble.

    THIS is the way you start to feel when faced with comments on cost. Since I'm awkward though, I intend to live as long as I possibly can.

  30. Lies, damned lies, and statistics
    There’s a 1-in-3200 chance you'll be hit by fiery satellite chunks on Friday.
    Is there a demand for “goat stares” or “horse whisperers”? I think I could do them as a job!

  31. Well done Mr Sinclair you have come out with exactly the kind of twoddle and bumpf I expect from the TPA. The reality is that the government is faced with an increasingly ill nation (statistically proven, we are one of the illest nations in europe) and are refusing to see that an increase in illness and disability means more people need to claim. Keeping the figures static in the treasury is all well and good and yes on the surface people can say the same money is going into Disability benefits but a large percentage of that money is paid to contract ATOS to find people fit to work and to find them healthy so they are no longer able to claim benefits. The figures are highly skewed and not in the favour of claimants.

    I also may remind you that the bill for reform is still going through the house of lords. It is not yet law. I would also like to point out that everyone in my county who recieves DLA has been sent a form being asked to reapply, we are being weeded out already whether reforms pass or not. This is highly distressing for people who are incredibly ill for the vast majority of the time. Many of my good friends have long term health problems and disabilities, many of them like myself suffer from a degenerative condition meaning that we will only get worse, only need more care in the future and only be less able to do things. If weeded out we could loose every ounce of support we have. If we retain our benefits we will be claiming it the rest of our lives and more than likely will need increasing amounts of care just to have a very basic standard of living.

    At the end of the day we can talk about figures and we can talk about who is pulling the wool over whose eyes this week but disabled and sick people will be disproportionately affected by the cuts. At the heart of it this is a human rights issue. The bill of human rights set out by the UN states that those who are disabled have a right to dignity, a right to interact within society and without prejudice, a right to fair treatment and a right to a life. If the cuts go ahead, how much of those rights do you think those who will have their benefits cut will retain? None of them.

    I would very much like for you to try and live with a disability Mr Sinclair or look after a loved one who is disabled and sick, I would like to know how you would cope, I am sure you would not. It would very quickly change your mind about how fair those figures are. We who are sick and disabled and those who care for us, we are not weak just because our bodies have failed us, we cope with more pain, adversity and stress than you could ever imagine and we do so mostly alone, in quiet corners of society. We put on brave fronts or we try to stand up for ourselves but every single day for us is four times as hard than your day is for you. Where you would crumple if you coped with what we deal with we remain as strong as we can, we cope with it, we deal with it until it breaks us. I'm not broken yet but changes to benefit reform may just do it.

  32. The mighty Taxpayers' Alliance, here, is this quiet corner of the blogosphere? Interesting, that.

  33. If you want to send the Lib Dems a message about cuts in benefits and there total betrayal fo the sick and disabled and you live in Scotland you might like to come to Dunfermline on Saturday 8th October 2011. There will be a demo there. The Lib Dems are holding there Scottish conference in of all places the Vine Church in Dunfermline.We're planning the demo to start around 11 am.

  34. Black Guardian - Interesting, that.

  35. I'm not sure where you have come from matt but i would suspect as i don't know of you that you are only interested in certain topics when you reply to blog threads
    What i do know thow is that your fit and well and and am sure you have posted in this topic in error ?

    I have known in my time many people who were fit and then become ill and couldn't hack it and committed suicide that regretfully is all to common in the hospital circles that i have been around over the past 30 years

    In fact it has been more common the wealthier, you are i have found
    Rich people i have found have always been so focussed on themselves they have never ever given anyone else even a thought and then on becoming ill themselves they just implode and go on a selfish roller coaster ride downhill

  36. So this post is still completely wrong then?

  37. Anonymous : Just substitute the words "inflation" for "flow rates" then it's fine. I'm way too busy fighting the things that matter to placate the Taxpayers Alliance.

  38. Which post ha ha?

  39. Peter - would you like to write a short 200 words for me on it and I'll post it when I get back from Lab conf after 29th Sep?