Given that we may be facing a general election before next summer, with the chance of a Conservative government, I though it might be instructive to compare the policies of both major parties on the subject of the Chronically Sick and Disabled, and the funding thereof. This will, by default, focus on the Tories, as the Labour party website makes no reference to policies relating to benefits for the CS&D.
This, abstracted from the Conservative party website (Note, March 13 2010 – I’ve just discovered that the document has been removed from the website – I wonder why…), isn’t exactly cheering reading, and has the unmistakable stamp of David Freud and James Purnell’s plans, before Freud defected to the Tories:-
Welfare and Pensions
Our welfare policy paper sets out a radical programme of reform that will provide ladders of opportunity for millions of British people. It will be the biggest shake-up of the welfare state for 60 years:
- Every claimant potentially able to work will be engaged in welfare to work activities aimed at helping them back into work as quickly as possible
- For those unable to find work there’ll be long-term community projects to help them get back into a working environment
- Those not willing to take part will face tough sanctions
Our welfare programme will be delivered by private and voluntary providers, who will only be paid when someone gets and keeps a job.
Combined with our commitment to end the couple penalty in the tax credits system, our radical welfare plans will help lift almost half a million children out of poverty. (end)
Thing is, that’s nothing to do with disability benefits, it’s about unemployment. What about those of us unable to work because of illness and/or disability – why is that we have to download the Welfare Policy paper to find out? Are they too ashamed or cowardly to put it on their website? The answer, as you’ll see, is probably yes to both. I’ll go and have a look. (You can download their Welfare Policy paper from the page linked to above, and I strongly recommend that you do so.)
OK, I’ve had a look, and I’m not a great deal wiser but I am a great deal less happy. That paper refers repeatedly to Incapacity Benefit, which is being phased out, but makes only a passing reference to ESA, which replaces it for new claims.
A new Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is forecast to reduce by ten per cent the number of people accessing Incapacity Benefit from a new claim.
BUT – new claims go to ESA, not IB.
This is the bit we need to worry about, though:-
We want support for those who are incapacitated in some way to be designed around what someone can do rather than what they cannot. Our aim is to help as many as possible of those who have incapacities, but who are capable of at least some work, into jobs.
That’s bullshit – I can’t speak for anyone else, but it relation to my need for benefits, it’s what I can’t do that defines me. What I can do is pretty much bugger all.
They need to understand that people – the overwhelming majority of claimants – are on Incapacity Benefit because they have to be, not because they want to be. Do they seriously believe that anyone would choose to live in poverty if they were capable of working?
Take my own case – the only one I have the right to discuss. There are days when I can spend hours in front of my computer, reading online and writing for my blog or for publication elsewhere (having travelled all of 20 feet from my bedroom – all I can cope with many days. Equally, there are days when I can barely see the screen. However, the logic under this policy is that if I can type for myself, I can type for wages.
OK, I possibly could, except for the fact that I can never guarantee when, or even if, I can get up in the morning, nor do I know how ill I’ll feel – it’s not a matter of if I’ll feel well or ill, just the degree of illness. Most days it’s a challenge to get up before 08.00. A couple of days a week, I get up early – 06.15 – to go shopping, but that’s predicated on the fact that I accept I’ll be too buggered to do much else for the rest of the day, and it takes two alarms to get me out of bed.
I can’t travel, it’s too exhausting and I’d have nothing left for work, unless I could go by taxi, and I won’t use public transport as the risk of getting off the bus with bugs I didn’t get on with is huge. Since I stopped using the bus I’ve been a lot healthier. Buses, for anyone with respiratory illness, are dangerous places, especially in the flu season. The same goes for trains and planes, too.
I can’t even work from home. That would need me to put in an 8-hour day, just like going out to work, yet I’ve been working on this for much of the day and I’m finally putting the finishing touches to it – at two minutes to midnight. That’s not a basis for earning a salary.
Consider the implications of “Our aim is to help as many as possible of those who have incapacities, but who are capable of at least some work, into jobs.” We’re still deep in recession, there are no bloody jobs, unemployment it increasing daily.
So, tell me, who is going to employ a disabled person forced into the job market by some incompetent apology for a doctor working for Atos? (And the term is “disabilities” not bloody “incapacities”.) If these doctors are actually any bloody good, why don’t they have proper jobs, and why do they have to work to checklists, instead of using their training and experience to assess claimants’ medical conditions? Can it be they don’t actually have any useful experience to draw on?
But, back to the jobs, which are, in actuality, mythical, so it’s going to mean some form of workfare. Screw that. If I were to be forced into work (never gonna happen, not least because I’m out of the IB system now, but it wouldn’t happen is I was still in it), I’d want it to be in a warm office, where I’d earn a living wage, not poxy workfare, picking up litter in the interminable, pouring rain, perhaps, for buttons.
I keep saying this, but it’s worth repeating as often as necessary. A few years ago, as with IB now, the claim was made that most/many people claiming DLA were actually capable of work, and were fiddling the system. In a campaign of attrition lasting several years, the DWP made the lives of many thousands of claimants intolerable by re-assessing them. When they finally abandoned it as fruitless they had been able to challenge few more than 100 claims, and many of those were overturned on appeal. The massive level of fraud simply does not exist. Yes, there is some fraud, it’s inevitable and, indeed, I know several people milking the system, but the actual total is tiny.
The claim that most people claiming disability benefits is a lie, trotted out by David Freud in the Telegraph, and seized upon by the Daily Mail which added its own layers of lies and distortions to the original.
The fact of the matter is that there is not the slightest evidence to support the assertions that people claiming disability benefits mostly don’t need them and are capable of work, yet this is what that smarmy fuck Cameron is basing his policies on. Except they’re not even his policies – see below.
It’s true that Incapacity Benefit is less than perfect, which is why it’s being replaced with ESA – which is clearly designed to make claiming legitimately extremely difficult, if not actually impossible.
And I’ve figured out why this policy document makes no mention of ESA except in one paragraph, in passing, where it says that ESA will be introduced in 2008.
It’s because, based on that, it clearly dates from 2007, but so much has changed in just the past year, it must be hopelessly out of date, yet the Tories are either too lazy, or too inept to produce an updated version that reflects the realities of the recession. They simply recycle the worst of Labour’s deeply defective, and divisive, policies for funding the chronically sick and disabled, which I’ve been writing about for over a year, and claim them as their own.
That’s not only cynical and lazy, it’s fundamentally dishonest.
So, despite the absence of information on Labour’s website, we already know what we’re in for at their hands, and now we also know that the Tories will not differ by so much as one iota. While I can’t claim I’m happy about that, I do feel vindicated, because I’ve been saying as much both here and in any online newspaper that provides a forum for comments for the past year. Trust me when I say, though, that being proved right brings me no satisfaction at all. This is one instance where I’d have rather been wrong.