Much of the debate on welfare reform has centred around the introduction of the Universal Credit, which will hopefully reduce some of the byzantine complexity of the currently system (if it works) by merging a number of benefits into one. While this plan has been understandably praised, there are a number of bad measures currently under consideration as the Welfare Reform Bill reaches its second reading. Benefits activist Sue Marsh summarises the three key proposals which should be stopped or reformed:
1) Removing Disability Living Allowance mobility payments from adults in residential care.
An adult who needs to live in residential care will have extensive needs and are often amongst the most severely disabled. The mobility component of DLA afforded them their only freedom, allowing them to choose to fund a power wheelchair otherwise unavailable on the NHS, or to pay for taxis or transport to get out now and then. Taking this away would leave the most vulnerable disabled people effectively housebound. There is no support for this change anywhere – charities, independent benefit reports and even the government’s own advisers have called for this to be removed from the bill
2) Scrapping DLA entirely and replacing it with Personal Independent Payments (PIPs).
DLA is a very effective benefit with fraud rates of less than 1% (DWP own figures) It is already incredibly hard to claim and the qualification criteria are very narrow. The government have announced that DLA claimants will also soon face assessment and that the overall number of claimants will be reduced by at least 20%. The government’s own advisory committee concluded that they could find no justification for this reform and have asked for clarification from the government. If a benefit is already very efficient, yet a government announce a 20% cull before a single assessment has even taken place, we conclude it can only be a cost cutting measure that will ignore genuine need.
3) Time limiting Employment Support Allowance (ESA, previously Incapacity Benefit) to 1 Year
Many people who need to claim ESA have “long term variable” or chronic illnesses such as MS, Parkinson’s, Bowel Disease, Leukaemia or severe Mental Illness. These conditions often do not go away after a year and sadly, often get worse over time. A high percentage of those with these conditions are being found “fit for work” under ESA but after 1 year, if they have a working partner, they will receive no state assistance whatsoever. All of their benefit will be stopped, a loss of just under £5000 a year.
Ms Marsh also wants to see reform of the awful ATOS ‘Work Capability Assessment’:
4) ATOS assessments are “unfit for purpose” and a better way of assessing need must be implemented.
ATOS are the private company charged with assessing over 1.5 million sick and disabled people during this parliament.
-They do not need to use trained medical experts.
-Up to 40% of rejected claims are going to appeal with up to 70% of those decisions being overturned.
-Assessments are humiliating and degrading causing great anxiety to those genuinely in need.
-Just 7% of previous claimants are being found unfit to work.
-Testimony from Consultants and GPs is often ignored entirely.
-People are dying before lengthy appeals can be heard.
-Even the professor who designed these assessments calls them a “complete mess”
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Filed in: Current affairs,Disability