Thursday, 10 February 2011

Maria Miller's Q&A Failure

Dear Ms. Miller,

RE: Live Q&A on DLA Reform

Thank you for participating in the highly informative Live Q&A session on the Money Guardian site yesterday afternoon (

Writing on behalf of disability rights campaigners The Broken of Britain, I can confirm that your participation in this event demonstrated the lengths to which Ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions will go to avoid the unambiguous answering of searching questions.

309 comments were made on the thread, with around 250 being questions directed at you, and 140 of these having been posted 5up to 5 days in advance of the chat. You answered 6 questions, leaving 11 comments in total on the thread ( In a few evidence you cited evidence that you did not reference. Other answers were made to questions that had not been asked but appeared to fit in with your own agenda. In-between comments number 7 and 8 there was a massive 16 minute gap in which you appeared to be trying to avoid answering the understandable barrage of questions.
Your first substantial comment was a brief one-sentence ‘review’ of the history of DLA. Nobody had asked for this, and it seemed to be a stock answer. You ended your comment by noting the amount spent on aid and adaptations, and saying: “All of this needs to be better taken into account in the way this important disability benefit works. The new Personal Independence Payment gives us the opportunity to bring DLA into the 21st century.” You did not attempt to give justification as to why and in what way aids and adaptations need to be taken into account, nor dud you explain what it means to bring DLA into the 21st century.
The second substantial comment you made regarded pensioners and DLA reform. Many questions were placed regarding whether pensioners would be reassessed as part of the new PIP. You answered that: “at the moment the changes we are looking at apply to people of working age (16-64) so pensioners aren't affected - the reforms won't affect Attendance Allowance.” This is a complete failure to answer the questions, which did not touch upon Attendance Allowance as it was already well-known that this benefit was not included in the proposed reforms. As you know, people of working age claiming DLA can continue to claim DLA after the age of 65. Your answer does not clarify matters for these individuals.

The third answer was to one of my own question. You said: “pick directly up on your post requesting more evidence for the need to reform. The Government's research on DLA is generally commissioned from external academic and independent researchers and this is what was used as evidence in the consultation.” You failed to direct me to any of this evidence, and did not refer me to any of DWP’s research reports or working papers. Rather than producing the evidence, you said that: “The assessment process is unwieldy, requiring self assessment - with 50% of people receiving DLA never being required to submit any independent evidence of their need. Significant numbers of people have had no contact with the Department since their awards were made almost 20 years ago and we have no way of knowing if their need of support has increased or not. All of this points to a benefit that is in need of updating to make it more transparent, consistent and fair.” No DWP research report or working paper published supports any of these claims. If evidence exist, I challenge you to publish it.

Your fourth substantial comment was on the Mobility Component of DLA in residential care. The answer you gave did not satisfy any of the questions on this topic, seeming to be a word-for-word copy of every statement made on the issue thus far. Rather than dealing with the effect of this reform on the individual, you simply resorted to empty rhetoric.

The fifth substantial comment was on the assessment of variable and fluctuating conditions. Your answer was devoid of substance, failing to answer any questions on this topic.

Your final contribution was this answer: “You and others are concerned about disabled people being portrayed as dishonest and even fraudulent. I share your concern. Cases of fraud bring the benefit system into disrepute and this is bad for everyone. People with legitimate claims need a benefit system that has robust assessment - treating people fairly and putting integrity back into the support that's available.” This is a clear distortion of the original question to serve your case for reform when DLA fraud is estimated at just 0.5% by the DWP.

I hope that you will request an opportunity to return to the Money Guardian in order to answer each question personally and fully. Please also answer all the questions and arguments I have made in our plentiful correspondence thus far.

Yours sincerely,

Rhydian Fôn James

NB: All are welcome to copy-and-paste. Send to


Lindsay O said...

Excellent analysis of Maria Miller's total failure. I wanted to pick up on her response to the question about DLA for those in care homes. She stated that the mobility component of DLA is intended to help fund the extra "transport" needs of people with mobility problems. This is wrong and demonstrates her total lack of understanding of mobility related disability. Mobility problems can and do lead to increased transport costs, but the also lead to other non-transport costs. People with mobility disabilities incur extra costs due to needing:(to name but a few) specialist wheelchairs, speciaist chairs and seating solutions, funding for home adaptions (councils will not provide the full cost to all people)

I think it is really worrying that Maria Miller lacks a basic understanding of the difference between mobility needs and transport needs

Adrian said...

Agree with your analysis Rhydian-I was not present "live" as it were but read it back-it clearly was a farce-repeated stock answers - I did not know whether to laugh or cry about her last point re."fraud"-IDS was in front of the Work and Pensions Committee talking about the ignorance about DLA that people have -condescending, arrogant-given his many faux pas on basic knowledge,and disingenuous -a concerted campaign has been evident portraying it as an out of work benefit,widely abused by the Government. Head against brickwall -Labour are not saying much different re DLA-does not bode well.

Jen said...

"stock answer" seems to be the Tory response to everything nowadays. I have been caught up in the forest sell-off debate recently and template answers are the norm for Tory Party MPs it seems. So extending them to other areas is hardly surprising. But this is how Conservative dogma is passed from generation to generation of blue-bellied MPs. And Blairites of course.

I do have to say though, that Labour have a far more joined up policy regarding DLA. We just aren't sure how it relates to everybody else though... watch this space and be pleasantly surprised is all I am saying.

Damn my optimism. Damn its eyes.

Anonymous said...

Rhydian you are a star, i doubt the DWP Ministerial team think the same though.

I got the distinct impression that Ms Miller was 'going through the motions'. Given the shortness of the consultation period she wanted to be seen to be acting 'reasonably'. felt very safe with an online disabled people or anyone with a chronic illness to disturb her and of course she got out of it what she really wanted which was to assess the level of opposition to the proposals and the detail of the kind of questions she and her colleagues will continue to be that they can find ever more creative ways of avoiding answering them.

Labour'sposition on welfare reform is becoming clearer but despite numerous attempts I have yet to hear what it has to say about DLA other than Ed Milliband agreeing it needed 'looking at'. Unless and until Labour ditches the committment to the WCA, and returns to office, this 'work house' test will spread to every corner of the system and create a toxic sitiuation for anyone who has need of the welfare state for decades to come, so far its not looking very promising.