Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Maria Miller's Interview in The Guardian

I am frustrated and angry so, naturally, I have written a letter. My frustration concerns this interview with Maria Miller in The Guardian. I mean no disrespect to the brilliant Amelia Gentleman who interviewed the Minister for Disabled People, who conducted a fair interview and presented some good analysis.

My frustration comes from the fact that Maria Miller keeps peddling the same lies, no matter how often she is challenged. As Winston Churchill said, "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." Ms. Miller seems to have been paying more attention to Churchill's disability policies than to his wisdom on lies. Until she answers fully, the Broken of Britain will keep challenging her on her evasions and untruths.

As always, all are welcome to copy-and-paste this letter:

Dear Ms. Miller,

RE: Your interview in The Guardian on 16/02/2011

Writing to you after you make some strange pronouncement seem to be becoming a habit for me. Indeed, it seems that most of my work in the past 6 months can be considered one long letter to you. Yet you have never replied to my correspondence, and my detailed analysis of your reform proposals, for reasons that are open to interpretation. And yet again, I find myself writing after your interview in The Guardian, published today.

It is difficult to gauge where to direct criticism as most of the interview, on your part, is clearly a disingenuous exercise in misdirection. However, I begin by discussing the way that you patronised Disability Living Allowance (DLA) claimants by telling Amelia Gentleman, your interviewer, that: "I often hear concerns that are based on a lack of detailed information of what we are talking about in terms of our reforms. People need to get the facts rather than speculation".

My letter to you dated 09/12/2010 included detailed analysis of your proposals, to which you failed to reply. Other disability right groups, charities, thinkanks and political blogs have offered further detailed analysis, which you continue to meet by repeating your initial falsehoods. As you will have seen in your Live Q&A session last week on the Money Guardian website, most DLA claimants understand the system better than you do, and are fully aware of the consequences of your proposed reforms. How dare you tell us that our concerns are based on speculation? The truth is that it is you who is ignoring the facts, and even distorting them to suit your own agenda.

For example, you say that: "50% of people receiving DLA have never been required to submit any independent evidence of their need.” There is no explanation here of what ‘independent’ means. You must be aware that making a claim for DLA is not easy – 52% of DLA claims are disallowed (DWP Research Report. 490) – and that substantial evidence must be presented, including medical evidence. Is it not this Government’s policy to promote GP commissioning of NHS services in England. And yet your words seem to suggest that ‘mere’ GPs cannot be trusted to give independent evidence. Are you calling the Health Secretary’s wisdom into question?

You also say that: “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". Yet you ignore the fact that if a claimant is awarded DLA indefinitely, without reassessment, it is because they have a condition which will not get better and reassessment was deemed a waste of resources.

Your most staggering claim is that: “The DLA reform absolutely is about making sure that the benefit is working properly. At the moment it's not working properly. My priority is to get the benefit right, to get the assessment right, to make sure it is supporting the disabled people who have the most difficulty living independent lives." You offer no evidence at all that DLA is not working properly. There are no DWP research reports published that support your assertion in the slightest. Further, most DWP research reports on DLA present on of the most effective, efficient, and popular, benefits managed by the DWP.

You seem to switch between claiming that DLA is a ‘broken’ system and saying that: "This is about making sure that the more than £40bn a year the government spends in support of disabled people is used most effectively in the way that disabled people would want us to. Nobody is benefited by having a system that can be brought into disrepute.", as it suits your agenda. But it is the efforts of this Government, and the Conservative party before and after the 2010 election, that have brought DLA into disrepute. DLA has an estimated fraud rate of 0.5%, joint lowest in the benefits system, and is well-known to be a tough benefit for which to claim because of the burden of proof required. The disrepute surrounding DLA in 2011 is entirely the fault of your Government and political party, who have repeatedly exaggerated, distorted and lied in order to cast doubt on the veracity of DLA claims and the integrity of claimants.

You keep repeating that: "This is an opportunity to drag that benefit into the 21st century, giving us an opportunity to recognise disabled people's issues as they are today, rather than as they were 20 years ago, when views on disability were very very different," which was a repetition of a statement you made during the Money Guardian’s Live Q&A. I repeat a question that I asked you then: what does it mean to drag the benefit into the 21st century? No evidence has been published by the DWP to support your statement, and although you claimed to have evidence last week, you have not referred to it as I requested. Once again, I challenge you to publish if you are using evidence that is not in the public domain.

Lastly, you say of the proposed DLA reforms that: “the very clear objective of the government is that we are supporting disabled people to live more independent lives”. You fail to explain that DLA exists in order to help disabled people with the extra costs of ‘living more independent lives’, and to explain why cutting the DLA caseload by 20% will help achieve this. The 20% who lose eligibility for DLA will, in fact, be less able to live independently.

The sanguinity with which you are approaching the proposed reforms suggests that you are failing to appreciate the justified anger of disabled people. 4825 people thus far have signed a petition calling on you to recall the public consultation on DLA reform, 61 MPs have noted their concerns by signing the EDM on the DLA consultation, a statement of opinion opposing DLA reform has been tabled in the Welsh Assembly, and a motion condemning the DLA reform process has been tabled in Scottish Parliament. Do not underestimate the opposition that you face.

I close by asking you:

1) to reply personally and in detail to my letter date 09/12/2010, answering each argument
2) to ensure that the data supporting the claims you make on DLA is published, and make clear that no data published thus far supports your case
3) invite The Broken of Britain disability rights group and myself to meet with you, Hywel Williams MP, Lord Wigley and Dame Anne Begg MP so that we may discuss this with you.

Your sincerely,

Rhydian Fôn James,
The Broken of Britain

cc: Hywel Williams MP, Dame Anne Begg MP, Baroness Campbell, Baroness Grey-Thompson, Lord Wigley, Amelia Gentleman


Tony Holden said...

I'm sorry, but I don't think you'll get an answer. I was under the mistaken belief that the minister for disabled people would be our champion in parliament. Yet it increasingly seems like she is supposed to be the champion of the government when talking to disabled people.

Anonymous said...

As Tony said above you would THINK a minister FOR disabled people would be FOR the people they are supposed to be FOR

The name is as much of a farce as the entire govt - This 'woman' is not FOR us she is AGAINST us.

And if you get shot in the back by someone who is meant to be for your rights - Why not just shoot us in the front so we can see your eyes that are empty and uncaring while you do it woman!

TiddK said...

Maria Miller is a successful professional politician. In other words, she has little time for facts, people, or reality. She demonstrates it each time she speaks, faithfully trotting out the party line.


Anonymous said...

As\ever Rhydian, a brilliant letter. I do hope you have copied it to many , many people so that they can be witness to the way she is behaving and her complete lack of understanding, engagement, knowledge and empathy.

Anonymous said...

In the link below someone speaks about the persecution of the sick and disabled people in Britain
Judge old cases of disability with new criteria is beyond the law .

Keep the nice work on Rhydian
many disabled fron Europe are substaining your fair battle.

Simone said...

Mp's rarely answer and if they do they never give you a good answer.They cover themselves quaoting figures and telling about the help they are giving disabled but in truth they may not have even spoken to anyone with a disability. I wrote to Paul Clark for three years trying to get my daughter help because she was getting panic attacks with government key skills. I did not know what to do to help my daughter but after three year one final letter came. Which told me by law things should be in place for disabled.........They took no notice of panic attacks or by the fact my daughter had been to so many assessments for literacy she was sick of them. I gave up because nobody was listening or even cares..

Blog 18 (feb) MY Poem. MP's.

Politicians making their speeches
Promises they make,
All turn out to be fake
Our country owes money,
Yet they line their pockets with honey
Country houses out of town
Expenses, they should just back down
They think we are all fools,
Use us as their tools
Puppets in their picture show
We’ll get hit with another blow

Demands on taxes, employment axes
Abiding by their rules
Treated as if we're still at school
New Ideas, new MP’s
Changes and exchanges
A new MP ready to please.
I can only wish for a shift
Instead of another rift
Pretty soon I will feel deranged
What we need is positive action
Then MP’s will see our reaction.

Adrian said...

Thanks again for your efforts-Rhydian-no matter what emerges-I am truly sickened and saddened by the methods, repeated lies and distortions peddled by the Government and the majority of the media concerning DLA and its recipients, as a justification for "reform"- " most DLA claimants understand the system better than you do"-indeed

Anonymous said...

OK, they have scrapped the forests sell-off consultation, what about doing something for long-suffering PEOPLE!

DeusExMacintosh said...

Makes you wonder which will collapse first - our skulls or the brick wall we're beating them against. :(

Tim said...

Indeed, and how is requiring people with permanent and degenerative conditions to submit to constant medicals helping them to live independent lives?

Rosie Scott said...

I have the dubious pleasure of being in Maria Miller's constituency. I wrote to her in support of the Hardest Hit campaign so I will await her reply (or lack of it) with interest. You can read my letter here: