Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Ministers Getting Away With It

Maria Miller attended an online Live Q&A session today, on the Money pages of the Guardian. The resulting debate was pathetic, although we should thank the good people at Money Guardian for giving us a chance to see just how vacuous this Minister really is.

You think me unfair? 305 comments were made on thread, including around 250 questions for Maria Miller. She made 11 comments, including the obligatory greetings. She 'answered' a stunning 7 questions, and none of them satisfactorily. She disappeared for 15 minutes in the middle of the session. She avoided the hard questions. Then, when under pressure to answer some 'real' questions, she pointed to the clock and ran for the hills! Go see for yourself!

I had intended to blog a more detailed analysis of this chat, but time is short so I leave you with an example of another DWP Minister getting away with it. Two weeks ago, The Broken of Britain referred Chris Grayling to the Cabinet Office over his transgression of the Ministerial Code. The Cabinet Office have replied that Chris Grayling is the very model of a modern major general...


Arec Balrin said...

Hi Rhydian, I'm also not happy with Jill Insley's introduction to the 'Q&A' and have written my complaints in the You Tell Us thread on Comment is Free. If you don't mind I'd like to re-post them here:

"As it's unlikely that a response to Maria Miller's atrocious participation in that so-called 'Q&A' is going to happen can we at least have some corrects in the opening article?

I'll go through it and as always references are available on request; it's just that I'm trying not to kill myself cooking dinner. Please also clarify whether these things were printed because the Guardian or Jill Insley were briefed them by Maria Miller or the government.

Falsehood 1 and 2:

The government says the DLA is the second most expensive working-age benefit, yet the allowance hasn't been properly reviewed since its introduction in 1992.

DLA is not the second most expensive working-age benefit. This relies on throwing in Attendance Allowance too because the bill for just working-age DLA is eleven and a half billion pounds. Income Support is nearly twenty-one billion. Only by throwing Attendance Allowance on top of DLA does it become higher than Income Support.

DLA was subject to a review in 1997, a poster in that very Q&A thread points out but Maria Miller ignores it. The 1997 Benefit Integrity Review Programme looked at DLA and I will be reading it to get the full facts but the poster who cited it said that in fact recipients were mostly not claiming what they were entitled to. It was also accurately pointed out by this poster that DLA claimants are regularly checked, even though I'm a 'lifetime' claimant I have been checked and will be checked again. Those who have not been checked for a long time are those who were already checked enough times for the DWP to realise it was a waste of money to check them: legs and spines were not about to grow back. But DLA has been reviewed. I wouldn't be surprised if not a single one of this government's supposed 'consultations' or investigations into DLA actually referenced the Benefit Integrity Review.

Arec Balrin said...

Falsehoods 3 and 4:

As a result the government is consulting on major reforms to the non-means tested benefit which, it says, are not intended to cut costs but to make sure the benefit goes to the right people.

DLA is not labelled as a means-tested benefit, but this doesn't mean it is not means-tested: if you have savings of more than eight-thousand pounds then you can not claim DLA. It is reported that David Cameron claimed DLA for his son Ivan when he was technically not allowed to, being a millionaire and all.

The government has repeatedly briefed the press about the cost and number of DLA claims. The government has been caught lying about the number of DLA claimants, the distribution of claims across the different award types and the cost although you wouldn't know this even if you turned to the 'centre-left Guardian' or 'left-wing BBC' for sceptical viewpoints. All scrutiny is confined to Comment is Free or just plain Comment, never News. When lies are reported as News and their corrections as Comment, this is not balance. It is simply not credible that the government does not intend for the reforms to be cost-saving when their selling of it to the gullible public involves a saturation of unchallenged misinformation.

Simply saying that:

Despite the Department for Work and Pensions' (DWP) claims that the reforms are not about saving money, its media briefings have resulted in headlines like "The great disability free-for-all" and "£150m payouts … for an allergy".

...does not make this balanced nor adequately challenge the government claims. News is more sensitive than Comment.

Falsehood 5:

The reforms will involve a reassessment of claimants, which the DWP says it is developing with the help of disability organisations and disabled people. "The new system will allow us to reassess those on DLA to ensure everyone receives the correct amount as their needs change over time," it says.

Disability organisations, writers, bloggers, advocates and 'activists' have expressed near-universal alarm and disgust at the government's plans. None feel they have been listened to. The fact that Maria Miller did not explicitly rule out the involvement of Atos Origin when asked but merely stated it was undecided how the assessment would be administered and by who means they have not been listened to. Iain Duncan-Smith last year hailed the WCA such a success that the government would almost certainly be using a near-identical test for DLA. Stakeholders have had no feedback on that the government is actually doing.

Falsehood 6:

These have been largely based on statistics and information provided by the DWP, including:

• In the last eight years the number of people on DLA has risen from 2.5 million to nearly 3.2 million.

Again it relies on lumping DLA and Attendance Allowance together.

Arec Balrin said...

Fighting benefit fraud and fighting benefit costs are related but you can't cherry-pick those parts of the relationship you want attention to be drawn to like the government does. When they want to fight fraud they focus only on the 'working-age' benefits but when they want to talk numbers and costs, they include Attendance Allowance without telling anybody.

In 2010-11 the DWP expects the DLA total bill to be £12.1 billion – 0.9% of the UK's GDP and the same as the Department of Transport's entire budget for 2010-11.

But still less than the state pension, Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance, quantitative easing for the banks even if we don't include the seven billion bailout given to Ireland after their cutting agenda did exactly what every sensible person predicted, the money borrowed for investment, the money allowed to be lost to tax avoidance and dwarfed entirely ten times over by that lost to outright evasion. This isn't a correction; just some perspective.

Falsehood 7:

There are 140,000 people who have been on DLA since 1992 and have never had their claims reviewed. One fifth of those on DLA have had no contact with the department in the last 10 years and around 2 million people have been given indefinite awards. Too often people can get the benefit without a periodic review of whether they still need it or not.

I'm going to take a risk here: but Attendance Allowance again? I will be double-checking this if it's even possible as the DWP under IDS does everything it can to avoid public scrutiny, hence much of the data from the tabulation tool on the DWP website curiously finishes at 'May 2010'.

Maria Miller's ignorant and deceitful ramblings speak for themselves but some gullible troll from ConservativeHome might wander by, look at Jill Insley's introduction and conclude "ah ha, even the Guardian accepts these undeniable truths even so grudgingly" because government talking points are virtually just repeated ad verbatim. They are extremely misleading and should not remain up without prominent corrections being displayed for what are black and white factual errors."

I have asked Jessica Reed to pass this on to the relevant people.

Peter said...

Just for your considerations

Visually Impaired said...

Not strictly true. the ones that don't tow the party line get sacked

A Lib Dem Treasury spokesman has been sacked after labelling George Osborne's deal with banks on bonuses as 'weasel words'

Anonymous said...

My heart weeps for the genuinely disabled of Britain. No one but no one at ministerial level is remotely interested in our plight only in numbers despite what they claim.
Maria Miller, in particular, has demonstrated today that she is a disgrace to her position and should be sacked for sheer indifference and gross negligence of those that she is allegedly supposed to represent. Hardly likely since she seems a handy fig leaf for the ideological driven persecution of the vulnerable.
As someone who has been exhaustively tested over the years to attain the DLA status of 'indefinite award' I am astounded at the crass inhumanity of this Condem government who will see me tested at least twice more to prove something that they already know - at goodness knows what expense? Where are my human rights? Removed until further notice!
Don't forget that the DWP already know from previously submitted medical evidence that I will NOT recover - it simply is not possible given my condition so why do they continue with this pathetic game - perhaps for the entertainment of Daily Mail readers?
Of course the government will push through with the persecution of the vulnerable and sick merely because they can - typical bully behaviour. But I for one will fight them tooth and nail.