Friday 13 December 2013

Breaking News : Government Reviewer Opposed Rollout of ESA

In 2008, Labour introduced a new out of work sickness benefit, Employment and Support Allowance, to replace the old Incapacity Benefit.

The new system of application and assessments was much tougher, and politicians originally hoped that up to a million people could be moved from the benefit.

However, by 2010, it was clear there were significant flaws in the process. People with mental health and fluctuating conditions were not being fairly treated and successful appeals against “fit for work” decisions soared to 40%.

Professor Harrington was asked to review the new benefit and make recommendations for improving it. As the election took place in 2010, crucially, only new claimants were being assessed. ESA was yet to be rolled out to the more complicated, and often longer term, Incapacity Benefit claimants, though trials were underway in Burnley and Aberdeen.

Most people claim out of work sickness benefits for short periods – perhaps to get through a sports injury, accident or one off surgery – and stop their claims within 2 years. However, this will always leave a few people with serious, life limiting conditions who will need to claim the benefit for longer periods. Over the years, those claims build up, increasing the proportion who need long term support.

When the coalition came to power in May 2010, they immediately announced that they would go ahead and start to reassess those already claiming Incapacity Benefit.

I could never understand this decision. Why would you take a failing benefit and roll it out to almost 2 million of the most vulnerable claimants? Not only that, but at first, just 25,000 people per month were being assessed, but the government constantly increased and increased the numbers until today, nearly 130,000 assessments are carried out every month.

Why? Why would you rush this group through failing assessments, ever faster, when backlogs kept on increasing, tribunals were overturning 40% of decisions that went to appeal and even legally, courts were starting to judge that the test discriminates against certain groups?

Unless of course you don’t want the tests to be fair. If your aim is to remove a million people from the benefit, perhaps it suits you to make sure that as many of those existing claimants don’t face a fair test? Since 2010, the government have repeatedly delayed improvements to ESA. Out of 25 recommendations made by Professor Harrington in his Yr1 Review, almost two thirds have not been fully and successfully implemented. An “Evidence Based Review” using new descriptors designed by mental health charities and those charities representing people with fluctuating conditions was initially rejected, then taken on, but although results were due in June, still, tests use the old descriptors to decide who qualifies for support. *

The government repeatedly claimed that Professor Harrington had supported the national rollout of incapacity benefit claimants

“Professor Harrington went away and made his recommendations to us, which we accepted in full and have implemented. He told me, “I believe the system is in sufficient shape for you to proceed with incapacity benefit reassessment.” We set ourselves a goal to put his recommendations in place, improve the quality of the process and address many of the issues to which hon. Members have referred today by the end of last May, when the assessments in the incapacity benefit reassessment were to start alongside the existing process of assessing ESA new claimants. We did that, and we started."

1 Feb 2012 : Column 289WH Hansard Chris Grayling

However, Harrington was clearly an intelligent man who had made thoughtful and intelligent suggestions for improving the assessments. I could never understand why he agreed to put the most vulnerable claimants through a failing test.

So I decided to ask him.

It took me a while to track down his email address, but after pulling lots of strings, I was able to ask him outright.

This was Professor Harrington’s reply :

“To your question:

I NEVER---repeat--NEVER agreed to the IB migration. I would have preferred that it be delayed but by the time I said that, the political die had been cast.

I then said that i would review progress of that during my reviews.

The decision was political .

I could not influence it.



I’d say it was fairly clear, wouldn’t you?

Ian Duncan-Smith and others took the decision to push nearly 2 million people through a failing test as quickly as they could. Why? Was it so that they could remove as many people as possible from the benefit whether they needed it or not? Surely any failures to improve the test as recommended by Harrington, charities and campaigners couldn’t have been deliberate? Delaying improvements until the IB cohort had been rushed through, the cohort this government and others are convinced are simply “scroungers” and “skivers”?

Instead, as we now see, delays have increased, successful appeals have risen, lives have been lost to the sheer inaccuracy and flawed design of the assessments and the human suffering is now clear for all to see.

To have taken the decision through incompetence is bad enough, but if it was taken deliberately and cynically, I can only hope the responsible ministers will be held to account. Over 200,000 incorrect decisions have since been overturned in law and appeals are taking up to a year to be heard in some areas.

When David Cameron came to power he said :

"The test of a good society is how do you protect the poorest, the most vulnerable, the elderly, the frail.

That's important in good times, it's even more important in difficult times. People need to know that if they have me as their Prime Minister and they have a Conservative government, it will be that sort of Prime Minister

Iain Duncan-Smith said :

“I say to those watching today and who are genuinely sick, disabled or are retired. You have nothing to fear.

This government and this party don’t regard caring for the needy as a burden. It is a proud duty to provide financial security to the most vulnerable members of our society and this will not change. This is our contract with the most vulnerable.”

I look forward to them explaining what made them change their minds.

Today, we must be our own media. Please RT on twitter, share on Facebook and help me to make sure that as many people as possible see this news. 

*Coincidentally, the evidence based review was released yesterday, as I was writing this article.

Update; Patrick Butler at the Guardian speaks to Harrington - who strengthens and confirms the story above. It is now up to the DWP and Chris Grayling to explain the contradiction between Harrington's statements and what Grayling told parliament.


  1. All involved need to be held to account in a Court of Law and the public should be told the truth!

    1. Saying it is one thing - can it be done? How can it be done? We are talking to each other - and that is brilliant - but how do we reach wider to the people who don't believe or understand what is happening?

    2. Liz

      Just tell as many people as you can. Do it online or face to face, whatever, just tell people what is actually happening. If all of us just told one person every week the news would rapidly spread to the rest of the public.

      The Daily Mail and Telegraph etc websites are a good place to comment. You may get some abuse, but some right wingers do listen, and are quite shocked to hear that what they are being told by this government is a pack of lies. If you can change their mind that is a brownie point for sure!

    3. What has shocked me is that even in the Support Group they don't leave you alone. having more than one serious long term illness/disability I got my second ESA claim form 9 months later. along with other stresses it has almost sent me over the edge. Apparently the DWP can send out another ESA50 after just three months after being awarded ESA. the incredible waste of money re-assessing all those who have permanent and severe disabilities makes my blood boil.

    4. Many of us should be in the support group but even having 15 points at tribunal the dwp fails to consider its own rules re 29 /35''
      So after 1 yr ESA wrag the majority find benefits reduced or removed altogether
      You are too unwell to work Evident by being in ESA wrag
      if there is no likelihood for any improvement in your health then you are parked here for life
      in my case the govt reduced ESA to £21 pw whist increasing my outgoings by £22 bedroom and council tax
      ESA Wrag claimants are clearly discriminated financially against
      Aged 61 worked for 34 yrs before being healed by the tories
      Having several Debilitating Progressive Degenerative Muskoskeletal conditions and being retired medically in 2005 after 34 + yrs working
      I wasnt prepared for what i would face after ATOS
      Asessed March 2012 ZERO points
      DWP Mandatory reassessment rubber stamped the decision
      Took 11 months to go to tribunal had to spend money i didnt have to provide " evidence " multiple expensive phonecalls to various govt dept
      March 2013 Found MY esa wRAG REDUCED TO £21 PW
      not quite enough to pay the now mandatory bedroom and council tax £22
      Heres the thing
      ESA Wrag is for those who are too ill to work ( jobcentre agrees ) but the govt has decided might return to work at future date
      Have the same need as someone in the un " means tested " esa support group
      progressive degenerative
      wont improve
      Why is this not discrimination
      How can this be allowed that somweone in my position must see out the rest of their life having benefits removed when they are no different health wise than those in the support group ?

  2. This is the Tory Way. Arrogance at the root of all decisions. Cynical and judgemental throughout

  3. I think the difficulty with saying that Harrington 'opposed' the roll-out is that at the time, he very clearly said he "deliberately avoided having an opinion on that".

    There's a difference between 'not agreeing' to something and actively opposing it. There's also not having an opinion either way. Harrington seems to be issuing mixed messages and I can't help wondering if his slightly more anti tone now is influenced by being kicked off the review process.

    Tbh, the bloke comes across as a bit of a buffoon.

  4. No surprises there. As we've said from the start this is not about saving money, tackling fraud, seeing those who the need the most help it, tailored support or any of the nonsense we've force-fed over the last 3 years this is about a war on the welfare state - nothing else.

  5. Oh dear, someone lied to you, what a shame. And as for Harrington? It's what you get when you deal with those people who think themselves intellectuals. And anyway people wanted DLA fought for and saved, WOW didn't do that so they-you are as bad as anyone mentioned Marsh.

    BTW, how much have you and Frankin been paid by the various media sources for interviews?

    1. And if I were Sue I'd be having you done for libel.
      You Admin, are not a supporter of the disabled, no-one with such an ego as yourself can care about anyone but themselves! Are you related to IDS in some way, or do you work for him...

    2. Sounds like you condone government lying? Are you a complete air-head or just plain ignorant? So the next time someone lies to you i'm guessing you will be happy? Ha ha, you mug.

    3. It is very cynical to claim they are doing it for pay. for many of us it is a life and death issue. Sue Marsh and Frankin (not sure that's spelled right) have been absolute champions for those of us unable to deal with the media, and since they are both seriously disabled it is the very font of human kindness that makes them fight everyone's corner.

      I just hope you don't have a nasty accident or develop a serious disability because then you might eat your words and find out the hard way what is happening. developing a serious illness as you age is quite common, and most people underestimate the possibility of that happening. it could be you, and it's much much more likely than winning the lottery.


  6. Could this Harrington not stand up in front of people and tell them that the Government lied (yet again), and that he NEVER said what they say he said?

  7. the bottom line is in that IDS can do what he likes as the public aren't interested by and large and thats always been the case and will never change

    1. the public are getting the picture. Anyone who does not have the wealth or assets to keep themselves and their family if they lose their job or god forbid, their health, is like a turkey voting for Xmas if they vote for this current shower of-------.

  8. This is just another foot-note of this government wanting to change our lives in such a fundamental way that it is everyone for themselves - the rich can get richer, the poor can die or look out for themselves, and the disabled may as well head over the nearest cliff or be put down at birth.
    No social security, no job security, no decent wages, no society what-so-ever.
    Will it change...........
    Vote in 2015 & see.........
    I doubt it will make a jot of difference!

  9. So basically they ignored Harrington, blatantly lied and pushed ahead regardless and Harrington did sod all about it. He just rolled over and accepted it as a 'political' decision - disgusting and he has blood on his hands as well as the rest of them for that.

    Wish I could believe the ministers responsible will be held to account but they won't. DWP and IDS appear to be untouchable - the NAO or DWP select committee have no teeth, as has been proved this week.

    So where do we go from here and how do we hold them to account?

    I know there are some really decent Labour MPs who are doing their bit and it's great that Grahame Morris and John McDonnell have secured the WOW petition debate in the New Year, but I'm worried that the debate will come and go and things will continue to get worse in the meantime.

    As this government tries to remove our right to protest I think its more important than ever to get out on the street and make our voices heard. There needs to be a huge national protest organised in the New Year which brings every anti-austerity and disabled activist group together in unity. It could be as big as the Save Our NHS demo in Manchester, if we can get the students, unions, and People's Assembly onside too.

  10. Sadly this is just more preaching to the choir, the general public have been drowned in a bath of anti benefit propaganda. Those that don't actively despise claimants of any hue,the unemployed,sick,disabled etcetera , just don't care. I personally have been verbally abused on several occasions while using a mobility scooter, one nice middle aged woman informed me that she had mobility problems too, but continued to work, unlike myself and all the other " fucking scroungers who are ruining this country!". Legal challenges are a joke , even if a ruling goes against the government they just nip back up to parliament and amend the law they just broke, then carry on regardless. The deafening silence on the many welfare 'reforms' from Labour tells you all you need to know about how futile voting is. Sorry but I've just reached the despondent stage, the only future I see for myself and my disabled son is sitting in a wheelchair on a roadside begging for change.

    1. I really believe that Labour is the least of the evils. The Tories want to cut another £12 billion from working age adults, and many of us can't take any more cuts. As someone said upthread, the disabled may as well jump off a cliff - especially if the Tories get in again. Labour might not be great, but for people like me, well, I don't think I will want to live much longer if we have to endure another Tory led government. Please vote against them, they are both incompetent and evil.

  11. We all know that come election time the government will be sliding up your path looking for your vote. Well when they come stinking up my doorstep i will ask them where they have been for the last five years when the disabled people have needed their care and support and i will tell them in a very colorful language to go away!!!

    1. Re: Your earlier comment to me.
      I am totally against what this government has done to the disabled, the poor, the poorly paid, the pensioners etc.
      I myself am badly disabled so don't need lectures from the likes of you!
      I am NOT and never have condoned government lying!
      I am NOT and air head.
      I am NOT ignorant - far from it.
      I am NOT a mug - but you are!

    2. Jacqueline, i am sorry you thought i was writing to you. My reply was to the Admin comment above yours, but as it came under yours i did wonder if you might think it was a reply to you. Hope you are not too upset. I totally agree with what you said. I was calling Admin a mug.

    3. Martin, It is obvious that you were replying to Admin, under his comment there is an arrow saying replies followed by a reply from Jacqueline and one from yourself.

      There is nothing under Jacqueline's comment to show any replies to her. It is Jacqueline who is wrong you have nothing to apologise for.

    4. Thanks Westerbyl. It's ok, Jacqueline just mis-read the comment. Thanks for your help clearing up the matter. Stupid Admin got us arguing with the wrong people, is Admin a coalition supporter?

    5. My sincere apologies Martin. I was angry and upset, as many of us are due to what is happening, but that is still no excuse for being so nasty.
      I will always admit when I am wrong and I know I am and ask that you see it as a genuine mistake.
      Again, my sincere apologies.

    6. Thank you, it's ok, please don't worry. I really understand and i am glad you had the reaction you did. If i was you and thought my comment was to you, i would have said the same thing! Lol. X

  12. I am hoping that Scotland gets Independence as we won't ever have to put up with those from Westminster. We will also NEVER have a Tory party ever again.
    I see the difference in the NHS and the welfare system here and I see how we are being dragged down due to this coalition government. I may not like Salmond, but I do admire him for actually doing what's best for the people of Scotland.

    1. Jacqueline,

      I think you owe Martin Holder an apology, his comment that you were annoyed about was a reply to admin, not you! In fact he has apologised to you even though he has done nothing wrong, poor man!

      Under admin's comment there is an arrow saying replies, (ie more than one) underneath are admin's 2 replies, one from you and one from Martin. He was not replying to your reply to admin!

      Take a closer look and you will see you made a mistake.

    2. I don't blame you, & if I was in Scotland I would do the same. Wales will be left attached to England, stuck with a Westminster gov we didn't vote for. I wish Wales would have more 'umph' to stand up & be counted. At the moment we just sit on our hands & watch from the sidelines. Well that's how I see it!

  13. westerby !
    I have apologised to Martin and feel I need to apologise to all those who read the nasty comment I made.
    I feel really foolish and ashamed, and regret what I wrote.
    Kind regards

    1. Thanks Jacqueline. Please don't feel foolish or ashamed, you were standing up for what you believe in, i am fine, it's ok. x

    2. Jacqueline, really, don't give it another thought. It's sad that a troll can leave a nasty comment, back off and leave us all to worry we've offended each other.

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