Wednesday, 27 July 2011


 Thanks to Batsgirl for this excellent post, originally published here

I know this is ground we've covered before, but a look at today's front pages makes it necessary to go over it again.

In the UK, we have a welfare system. The disability benefit side of it has been being overhauled for the last few years. Labour started it, the Coalition are continuing it, they're using the same company (Atos) to execute it and the same advisor (Lord Freud) to justify it. This is not a party-political issue - red, blue or yellow, to borrow a phrase, they're all in it together.

In summary:

  • If you have a doctor's note stating that you are unable to work because of illness, injury or impairment, you apply for Employment Support Allowance (ESA). For the first 13 weeks of your claim you are paid the "assessment phase" rate of up to £67.50 per week.
  • If the assessment classifies you as entirely unable to work, and unlikely to ever be able to work, for instance because you are bedbound and terminally ill with a life expectancy of less than a year, you are granted unconditional ESA at the "support" rate of up to £99.85 per week.
  • If the assessment decides that, although your disabilities are substantial, you would be able to do *some* work at *some* point in the future with the right conditions/support/equipment/adjustments, then you are awarded ESA at the "work-related activity" rate of up to £94.25 per week. To continue to receive this you must attend regular work-related activities.
  • If the assessment determines that your NHS-diagnosed conditions are not severe enough to substantially impair your ability to work in an office environment, or that you would only require minor adjustments, you are deemed "fit to work". You don't get ESA at all, and are placed on Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) which is a smaller amount of money with much higher conditionality attached. If you are fortunate, there may be a note on your jobseeking file excusing you from mandatory application for specific jobs that would aggravate or be incompatible with your condition (for instance someone with speech and hearing difficulties may be "fit to work" but excused from mandatory application for call-centre jobs).

Leaving aside all the arguments about whether the system is fair, how their fitness-to-work tests relate to what is required to perform a job in the real world, and so on... the Department for Work and Pensions released these statistics yesterday, about ESA applicants over the last two years:
  • 7% were incapable of any work (Support group)
  • 17% were able to do some sort of work given the correct support (Work-related activity group)
  • 39% were deemed to be fit for work and were moved onto jobseeker's allowance
  • 36% dropped out of the application process
  • 1% of applications were still in progress

Today, the Express have taken these numbers and decided that 1% (still in assessment phase) plus 7% (Support group ESA) plus 17% (WRA group ESA) equals 25% of applicants approved to receive some form of ESA. So far, so true. However, their headline screams that therefore the remaining 75% - those moved onto JSA, and those who drop out of the system entirely - are "faking".

This is simply not true.

The fact that a person has failed to score enough points to get ESA (yes, it really is a points-based computer system) does not mean that they scored no points whatsoever, or even that they're not disabled, just that they're not quite disabled enough to be Officially unfit for work. That's why we have the assessment process! To assess people!

To apply to be assessed is not "faking".

To have a level of impairment that falls just short of the ESA bar is not "faking".

There will also be quite a few applicants who suffered an acute injury or illness (for instance, they were in a car accident) and were advised to apply for ESA as a temporary or worst case scenario - but in the 13-week assessment period, they have recovered well so they have been moved to JSA or have returned to work.

To recover from an illness or injury does not mean that the illness or injury was "faked".

There are also the people who get placed onto Jobseeker's Allowance, and go to appeal, and win. The rate of people winning their appeals is around 40% and this increases to 70% where the appellant has someone to represent them. Regrettably, there are also a number of genuinely disabled people who simply don't have the wherewithal to fight an appeal, and have to attempt to survive without the benefits they need. I myself have been in this situation.

To be too ill to fight is not "faking".

There are people who, during their assessment period, are fortunate to find a suitable job which is prepared to make the necessary adjustments, or who, like myself, have enough personal support around them to enable them to be self-employed.

To return to the taxpaying workforce is not "faking".

A very few people will be fortunate enough to have other resources to fall back on. Perhaps an insurance payout of some kind, or a lottery win, or the sale of assets, will save them from the indignity of having to complete a process that treats them as the worst kind of fraudster from beginning to end.

To have alternative resources is not "faking".

Most significantly, there are those who die before the assessment phase is complete.

To die of a condition is perhaps the strongest possible indicator that the condition was not "faked".

I'd provide more concrete statistics, but we don't have them. Once you leave ESA, you're not monitored. We don't know how many of these people have got jobs, have died, have killed themselves, have left the country... no one cares. The Express just goes ahead and calls them all "fakers".


Jan said...

Even one of the comparatively rare benefit frauds isn't as low and disgusting as The Express. At least benefit fraud doesn't kill anyone, unlike hate-filled propaganda. Blood on their hands. I wouldn't wipe my arse with that rag.

Robert said...

I know the PCA discriptors have changed and it shocking that you are now basically dead or dying to get a benefit.

I went through the WCA I cannot walk 50mtrs without stopping for a rest, nope I cannot use a wheelchair myself without help .... 15 points

I cannot walk 150 mtrs end of story 15 points

I cannot climb two steps that's it nope sorry... 15 points

I wet my self three or four times a day so bad I need to clean myself and change myself with help... 15 points

I mess my self from two or three times a week, sometimes twice a day and I need help cleaning myself up.... 15 points

OK this is me, but actually it's also another person who went for his WCA and I went with him, he was deemed fit to work, so is it a points system or a judgement is being made by a doctor from his own mind or eyes, because the number means both of us have in fact myself I ended up with 138 points and I suspect I will end up being told I can work

Anonymous said...

I'm in danger of constantly repeating myself. The government and their newspapers supporters the mail and sun etc. are out to destroy the sick and disabled and that's a fact

As long as we understand that fact we may now try to move forward

Likewise if you have one hate of a type of person it's invariably you will also have another ? And who's that i hear you say ?
Well that my friends are the immigrants there still around oh yes but the right wing newspapers don't like them and have informed the government to stop all immigration so now we have the government with not one hurdle to deal with and that's to get rid of us but now they will have to try to get rid of the immigrants somehow to please the newspapers

Well i can make it easy for David Cameron you cant either get rid of immigrants or stop them migrating here and you will never ever be able to achieve that so most important goal in your life ?

Likewise with the sick and disabled sure you'll kill off a few you may get lucky even and kill of many but the overall outcome is that both you and the newspapers will fail in your objective and there will be nothing you can do about it

So my advice to the government and newspapers and all other right wing think tanks is to stop now from today the constant persecution of the sick and disabled and learn that your hatred of us with lies and falseness is not the way forward and as we have just seen in Norway how much more wickedness do we need to see or read about before it's to late before another disaster takes place

One other thing i need to add in that the likes of Parnell and all of the other journalists who constantly day in day out keep harping on the some old topic of the sick and disabled are regarded by all Psychiatrists up and down the country as being mental and in these cases very dangerous to society as all they do is spread evil and are fixated year in year out with the same topic which is far far from normal

They think that they have a master plan to deal with the sick and disabled but invariably the plan doesn't work so year in and year out they have to keep tweaking it and this in turn leads to them not being able to sleep their family breakdown and a whole load of other things which in turn leads to an outrage in where the world temporarily sits up and takes notice but in most cases with fixation leads to their own suicide

So if were you James Parnell/ David Cameron /maria miller /IDS and to all of the right wing journalists i would say put a sock in it and start preaching the very best of life and all of the wonderful things that go on in the world and leave the sick and disabled to live the best they can in piece and quite in what for them is already stressful enough without you adding to it and making them feel suicidal