Friday 25 July 2014

DWP Admit Knowing They Would Cause Harm

I hate this fight and everything it says about my country.

But I dearly love the remarkable characters who've stepped up (or hobbled in many cases) to face it.

We are often unlikely warriors, with our limps and our oxygen tanks and our feeding tubes. But perhaps there was something the DWP didn't realise. Far from being easy victims, weak and helpless, it turned out (as we argued all along) that we were unbreakable.

Doctors hadn't broken us, endless hospital stays hadn't broken us, misdiagnoses, constant forms and judgement and unnecessary bureaucracy hadn't broken us. "Suffering" or "Hunger" or "Terror" might be abstract terms for most, but we had triumphed over them all. Some of us for decades in an endless Groundhog Day loop. How ironic that the DWP thought they had picked the most vulnerable targets of all, but found, in fact, that no elite crack squad of Royal Marines fight as hard as a group of sickies faced with destitution.

And so it is with Steve Sumpter and the "20 Metre Rule" "Latent Existence" to many through his blog and twitter accounts.

This is a long and tortuous story that I will try to cut short. The government decided that they were going to scrap Disability Living Allowance, the main benefit (for some 3.2 million, in OR out of work) that covers the extra cost of being disabled. There wasn't a hint of it in their manifesto. The new benefit (Personal Independence Payments or PIP) aimed to cut 20% from the existing "caseload". Whether it had any aims other than cost cutting is unclear.

The first Spartacus Report exposed that the new scheme was almost unanimously opposed and that the case they were making for why it needed cutting at all was dishonest. Undeterred, they marched on, ignoring all advice and overturning every sensible amendment made to the changes in the Lords.

Just as the details of the new benefit were being finalised, with no consultation or prior warning, the government announced that the qualifying distance you were able to walk to qualify for full mobility support would be slashed by an inconceivable 60%. From 50 metres to just 20 metres. The government estimated that a whopping 600,000 disabled people would lose their support from this measure alone - to give you some idea, 20 metres won't get most people to their car or even to their own bathroom. We took the government to court, arguing that the lack of consultation was unlawful and we won. We forced them to consult properly before they could go ahead. A new Spartacus report showed that over 30,000 people would no longer be able to get to work if the changes went ahead directly contradicting claims the coalition have always made that these changes were about helping sick and disabled people INTO work.

From the new consultation, of 1142 responses just FIVE supported cutting the distance to qualify for mobility support from 50 metres to 20 metres. The government ignored the consultation and went ahead with the change anyway. That, is not illegal.

So we took them to court again. With the unfailing support of Leigh Day Solicitors and Public Law Solicitors, we challenged the 20 metre rule itself.

That sounds easy doesn't it? But I think we forget that one brave individual has to be the "test case". One person has to stand up and say "OK, I'll put myself through all of this on your behalf." Going to court is unpleasant in every way - it's stressful, intimidating, frightening and physically demanding. Your life is exposed along with every last one of your insecurities. And you, small, insignificant, you must take an entire government to Judicial Review. If ever David and Goliath fitted modern allegory it is this. To top it all, Steve has ME along with other congenital conditions that make this fight more demanding than most will ever know.

The fact that he will detest this post and chastise me for writing it says everything about the man and his tirelessly supportive partner - who incidentally has given up her own successful career to be his carer. Let's not forget that all around the country people make this decision every day and get almost no support for doing so, saving the government £119 BILLION in the process. 

As with so many of the cases, the court have ruled that the change itself was not unlawful. But as with every other case we have bought, they listed a litany of criticism and rebuke over both the way and the means they have used to push changes through. 

But you can't challenge policy. How about that? I had no idea before I started all of this. A government can pretty much do anything they like and you cannot challenge their right to do so except in very rare and specific cases. All you can do is challenge the way they've bought changes in.

BUT. And here is the big but. In the course of the case, this quote came from the Department for Work and Pensions, presided over with tencious if incompetent zeal by Iain Duncan-Smith.

"This was recognised from the outset. In developing the PIP assessment we were aware that the vast majority of recipients of DLA were individuals with genuine health conditions and disabilities and genuine need, and that removing or reducing that benefit may affect their daily lives. However, we believe that these impacts can be justified as being a logical result of distributing limited resources in a different and more sustainable way…”. DWP
(Paragraph 80)

As Steve says, let's say that again :

"In developing the PIP assessment we were aware that the vast majority of recipients of DLA were individuals with genuine health conditions and disabilities and genuine need, and that removing or reducing that benefit may affect their daily lives. " DWP 

So Steve has fought and some will say he lost - though it may be that there are still other avenues to follow. But from today, we can all say with utter certainty, that this government knew that PIP would cause harm to genuine people in need. But they justified it through austerity. 

They took support from sick and disabled people that needed it to get to work or to get dressed or to buy special treatments, to pay for the risk-taking excesses of out of control financiers we apparently dare not make pay. 

So people like Steve are paying, and fighting with everything they have - and very much they don't have. They're fighting for 3.2 million sick and disabled people to continue to live lives many take for granted every day in a million ways they aren't even aware of. I hope they never become aware of the kind of struggle Steve has faced through all of this. 

But if you ever do, if you ever find yourself sick and frightened, if life ever turns upside down for you when you thought you were the very last person it could happen to, maybe people like Steve will have saved the very thing you don't even know you're losing. 


  1. The Welfare Reform Act changed everything - the law now is that the Secretary of State no longer has a responsibility to provide social security based on need - he can impose any conditions he likes.

    Nearly every clause in the Act can be amended without further recourse to Parliament - DWP can move the goalposts any time they like, impose new conditions of any type they like, and they do not have to discuss this or debate this or account for this.

    So every new twisted warped nasty vicious thing they choose to do will be perfectly legal. They know it, that has always been the point - and they simply do not care.

    Steve is a hero, you are a heroine - and all those hundreds of others who work so hard and suffer so much to get this iniquitous assault on sick and disabled people in the public eye and into the courts.

    I salute you.

  2. Oh you've done more than your share too Ephemerid.

    The change you point to really did happen and I bet most reading it will think it must be pure conspiracy. It was how they could do enormous things like separating cognitive and physical symptoms or coercing mental health treatment - all of which we're starting to see "trialled" now. They insisted it was OK, they were just "simple changes" that didn't need to be debated in parliament.....mandatory reconsideration..... and on

    1. That's very kind of you, Sue.

      The main thing about the WRA was just that - the removal of the S of S responsibility - and while the debates raged on, the Commons and the Lords failed to notice what that would mean.

      Although the Lords made some excellent suggestions and eventually agreed to some good amendments (eg. the presumption of NI conts for sick children) they failed.

      That was due to the addition of insult to ignorance and injury, when Grayling ignored the lot and imposed the WRA on the basis of the rarely-used Parliamentary tool of Commons Financial Privilege.

      Reprehensible behaviour - and a travesty of democracy.

  3. Isn't it interesting that when it comes to Tax Avoidance - which is legal - the Prime Minister talks about morality and wants tax-avoiding people to "do the right thing" and pay more tax than legally required. Yet the moral issue unearthed by Steve doesn't matter because "you can't challenge policy." I guess in politics you really CAN have your cake and eat it.

  4. Franklin Percival25 July 2014 at 21:41

    We need to vote in greater numbers. I think it is a bit like herd immunity with vaccination, which needs take up levels of 75% minimum for measles, and into the mid 90s for others, or the population suffers. If the buggars aren't frightened for their seats, the population suffers. We haven't managed better than 80% since 1951, and 70% since 1997.

    1. I think this is very true and I will DEFINITELY be running some kind of campaign to encourage sick and disabled people to vote

    2. And there goes the inclusion of carers as usual. What's the matter? You have enough people to con a new laptop with just the sick and disabled people?

      "The government decided that they were going to scrap Disability Living Allowance"<--- And neither Spartacus, WOW, you, Franklin or any other person you mugged into supporting you challenged the government to not scrap it in favour of PIP, in fact you tried to add input to change PIP. THAT was a stupid- not naïve, thing to do.

      The main issue was addressed though, you got your faces in the media, and that's what it was all about after all.

      Failing to fight to keep DLA showed an ignorance of what people wanted because you thought you knew best, you didn't, but you profited so job done

    3. It takes an enormous amount of strength to keep fighting - I know from my own experience re ILF. It would seem our government are above the law.

  5. Conservatives luck will run out. Soon. It is only a matter of time. The sooner the better. The world will not tolerate the nonsense and ignorance of hateful politicians and their hateful politics. Amen.

  6. The court judgement buys into the government argument that DLA is not a sustainable benefit. But in my opinion, DLA would be a sustainable benefit if the government combated tax evasion and avoidance by collecting all—or even a partial percentage—of taxes owed.

  7. DLA is a sustainable benefit because it i almost entirely spent in the local community. When times are hard it is exactly a benefit like DLA that fuels local growth and sustains the economy until things improve

    1. The thing about DLA was that it just about allowed recipients to access the human rights to which the UK remains a signatory.

      PIP erodes those same human rights in multiple ways.

      And the DWP has finally blurted out an admission that this was not accidental.

      This means that the government can be challenged up front on grounds of deliberate human rights abuses.

      I hope that the UN and the European Court will take note.

  8. I phoned to book an appointment with my GP. Actually, I asked if I could have an extended or even double appointment. I was told double appointments were not allowed. The doctor would determine whether I needed extra time. i booked a single appointment with the view of dealing with my main two health/mobility issues and highlighting the rest.

    I attended my appointment and was given a very good hearing with discussion of my initial health concern. I then raised the issue of other concerns briefly outlining how these issues were impacting on my mood - I have bi-polar - and feel under great stress. As he stood up he said he cannot deal with these things, opened the door and called his next patient.

    It's not just the DWP who are causing harm

    1. Most physicians without special training in psychiatric medicine react that way. They see psych issues as outside their field, although the merest glance at the brain anatomy and neurochemistry shows that's a false dichotomy. Psych medicine is very protective of its boundaries -- one reason why it is probably the most secretive, inappropriately arcane, unsupervised, unanalyzed, uncriticized, and potentially most tortuous field of medicine. Currently, the only way to get any hearing on psych issues is to see a psych specialist -- and your regular doc should at least be able to provide you with a referral for that.

  9. If IDS came clean with regards more sustainable way…”. DWP
    (Paragraph 80)
    he could have came to me and helped me to find a visa for a country outside of the EU so that the DWP and myself could cut costs

    that's what a decent man would have done and not just lie throughout and make people suffer

    some people like myself coming up for retirement could live the rest of their lives on a shoestring in a non EU country to save the uk money but like all things the government does they don't listen plus the fact most if not all non EU countries don't like the uk

    now i wonder why that is ?

  10. Well said Sue! And thank you Steve, and everyone who is fighting this evil regime with limited health, resources, energy, for everyone, not just those of us currently sick and/or disabled. I take my hat off to you!

    The Welfare Reform Act was a malicious, barbarous act pushed through by unspeakable career politicians who have no sense of the meaning of 'civilised' and 'humanity'. No, we will never give in. Ever. And if you're watching 'Benefits Street' type programmes, and reading the right wing tabloids, know that is not the truth. You're being manipulated.

    The evil they did will come out one day, they can't keep the lid on it forever, and I trust that those responsible who feel untouchable now, face justice for what harm they have caused.

    1. Hi brokenwing, hope the wing heals soon, have you tried superglue! I think benefits street is true if you want it to be, that is, if you get pleasure out of someone having a hard time, just as believing the Daily Mail headlines that scream 'social injustice!' because a 79 year old one-legged lesbian from Hackney who has dementia gets £70 a week without getting out of bed, is true if you want it to be, if you like having a go at people who can't help themselves ( I think it helps to be evil ). It is a state of mind. The problem we have is changing the minds of bad politicians that ENJOY OTHER PEOPLE SUFFERING, unfortunately we have the problem that politicians don't want to change, because the lies suit them very much, because they make money from OTHER PEOPLES MISERY, the despicable morons!!!

  11. Superbly put Sue, as usual. I am soooo grateful to you for the work you have done on this, and others. You're right, the only good thing to have come out of this policy is getting to know the people who have helped in the fight.


  13. Well done Steve, you're a brave man..

  14. It's the GP and NHS system to be blamed too. Not just The DWP/The UK government full of buffoons.

  15. I will never forget that ATOS was a labour creation and that the bedroom tax was originally a labour policy.

  16. Atos was a Labour policy but it was a fair one till the Torys got there hands on it , The Bedroom was not a Labour policy Grant Shaps is responsible for that one , Labours rules on Private housing was nothing to do with how many bedrooms you had if you rented private it was about fare rents , I rented Private for years when I moved into my private rent the council would send out an inspector to check the property i'e one house I rented did not have a fitted kitchen so the council said it was not worth the rent being asked by the Landlord hence a reduction in housing benefit , Don't believe the Tory mantra that this is all Labours Fault because people were not suffering on this scale till Cameron and co came in and changed the goal post .

  17. Thank you to all that try to fight for the disabled and people with mental health issues I'm terrified of these changes also it is terrible .