Friday 18 February 2011

The Welfare Reform Bill and Disability

The Welfare Reform Bill (Bill 154) was unveiled by David Cameron yesterday, after being introduced in the House of Commons on Wednesday, 16th of February 2011. The Bill is quite controversial, and will provoke varying reactions depending on your political leanings. The Broken of Britain will not get involved in the general provisions of the Bill – as a non-party political group this is beyond our mandate, whatever individual members of the group may say in a personal capacity. However, provisions that affect disabled people are, most certainly, our business. Below is an analysis of the Bill and disability.

Part 1 of the Bill contains provisions and confers regulation-making powers for the new Universal Credit. Universal credit will be paid to people both in and out of work, replacing working tax credit, child tax credit, housing benefit, council tax benefit, IS, income- based JSA and income-related ESA. The stated aim of universal credit is to smooth the transition into work by reducing the support a person receives at a consistent rate as their earnings increase. The financial support provided by universal credit will be underpinned by responsibilities which claimants may be required to meet.

Clause 4 sets out the basic conditions for entitlement, including that the claimant must accept a claimant commitment which contains the requirements that a claimant will be expected to meet in return for receiving universal credit. These requirements are set out in clauses 13 to 28 – no work-related requirements if the claimant has limited capability for work-related activity, work preparation if the claimant is found to have limited capability for work, and claimants subject to work search and availability requirements otherwise, with Clause 26 setting out harsh sanction for failure to meet any of these requirements. Subsection (1)(b) of Clause 6 prevents a person from being entitled to universal credit if they only meet the conditions of entitlement for a short period, to be prescribed in regulations – this will increase the difficulty of getting out-of-work support where disability is acute.

Clause 11 provides for an amount to be included for housing costs. A person’s
maximum amount may include an amount for housing costs if the claimant is liable to
make payments on their home. This could be in the form of rent, mortgage costs or
other housing-related costs. Where the amount for housing relates to a liability to pay
rent, it is intended that the amount will be calculated with reference to a claimant’s
household size and circumstances as well as their actual rent, as is the case currently
in housing benefit. There are changes being made to housing benefit that will be harmful to disabled people, and we must block these to avoid them being carried over.

It is clear that the most effective way to make provision for disabled people in this Part of the Bill is to amend Clause 38 which provides powers relating to the determination of limited capability for work and limited capability for work-related activity owing to a physical or mental condition. A person’s capability for work may determine the work-related requirements which may be imposed. The intention is that the clause allows for the same provision as for ESA in sections 8 and 9 of Welfare Reform Act 2007.

Part 2 of the Bill makes provision for changes to the responsibilities of claimants of JSA, ESA and IS in the period leading up to the introduction of universal credit. In particular provision is made for the introduction of a claimant commitment, in the same way as in Part 1. The claimant commitment will be a record of the requirements claimants are expected to meet in order to receive benefit and the consequences should they fail to do so. Once the universal credit clauses have come into force, ESA and JSA will continue alongside universal credit as contributory benefits.

Clause 51 must be deleted, as it time-limits entitlement to contributory ESA to 365, even where the period of limited capability for work exceeds this period, though days during which a claimant is in the support group will not count towards the 365 days of entitlement.. In particular, this may plunge couples where one or both partners are disabled into poverty, as claimants will be subject to harsh means test after this period. Additionally, subsection (3)(a) provides that claimants who are already receiving contributory ESA when the time limit is introduced will have the period that they have already spent on the benefit counted towards their 365 days of entitlement. Clause 53 and Clause 56 must be amended as it provides for the same claimant commitment and responsibilities as in the Universal Credit, with the same flaws as discussed above.

As well as the changes to be made in the interim period this Part also introduces longer-term reforms to align ESA and JSA more closely with the provisions for universal credit. Clauses 49 and 56 insert new sections into the Jobseekers Act 1995 and the Welfare Reform Act 2007 which replicate those for universal credit which relate to work-related requirements and sanctions, apart from where small differences are necessary, so that what can be expected of a claimant of contributory JSA or ESA is the same as it would be for a similar claimant of universal credit.

Part 4 is the most interesting for disabled people, discussing the Personal Independence Payment, before the DLA reform consultation has closed! In June 2010 the Government announced, as part of the Emergency Budget, its intention to reform disability living allowance from 2013-14. Subsequently, in December 2010, a consultation paper Disability Living Allowance reform (Cm 7984) was published. The consultation paper sets out the Government’s proposals to replace disability living allowance with a personal independence payment. The provisions in Part 4 set out the framework for the new benefit, while the consultation responses will feed into the detailed design of the benefit which will be provided for in secondary legislation.

This Part of the Bill must be deleted in its entirety, for the reasons that The Broken of Britain is opposed to the Personal Independence Payment. Notwithstanding the facts that the DLA reform consultation was not closed when the Bill was published, that the consultation is deeply flawed, that there is no evidence that DLA reform is required, and that DLA reform will cause hardship for disabled people, the provisions for PIP are regressive. The reduction in the number of rates of PIP has been decided before the consultation ends, as has the decision to assess prescribed activities to determine awards, and the decision to require that a person be disabled for six months prior to claiming. It has also been decided that that if a claimant is an in-patient of a hospital or similar institution, or resident in a care home, and receives “qualifying services” (as defined in subsection (4)), which are paid for to any extent out of public or local funds, regulations may provide that no amount of the daily living or mobility components of personal independence payment is payable.

The Broken of Britain is exploring various avenues to ensure that the desired changes are made to the Bill, including the complete deletion of Part 4.


DeusExMacintosh said...

And as British Citizens we paid National Insurance for why, precisely?! Oh yes to support the NHS... which we're not supposed to be referred to anymore and whose staff aren't considered 'independent'.

That tearing sound you're now hearing?

That used to be the social contract.

Anonymous said...

KNEW they woudl impliment PIP no matter what the people said - Nothing means anything to this govt

There was me thinking we had come fwd since the 1800s in humanity - Cameron has shown us we broken ones mean sod all and we shouold be iradicated, as we are scum

Anonymous said...

i bet cameron wouldnt have wanted his disabled son to be treated like scuk and called the names he makes them call us.


And i am no millionaire like you cameron so i have no way of supporting my broken self, maybe i should just take myself on a short stay in switzerland you would like me to do that wouldnt you Mr C. Then i would be yet another one of the scumbags out of your way off your books. Did you ever ask yourself WHO would employ somebody who cannot stand or sit at a desk, who has to have lie downs cos of fatigue who has to have days off because their body is broken? Did you ever think abotu what will happen to the ones you have deemed a waste of space?

Your big community has no space in it for the ones who are broken Your community has no care for those who cannot work and who didnt do drugs or drink or make themselves ill. This is not a lifestyle choice and yet you arte PAYING that scum ATOS and giving them extras to say we are all fit for work for jobs even an able bodied person cant findd as there are no jobs.

Would YOU employ somebody like me? No? Yeah thought not - Nobody would as i cannot say from one day to the next (or even one hour to the next) how I will be!

THATS WHAT ITS LIKE TO BE ILL. You will never know until you watch somebody who has a diseas elike this and watches their life plans all fall apart before them.


Casdok said...

Theres always another mountain.

Oya's Daughter said...

And there is time to climb it. Yes, the bill is in, but that does not mean it is passed. And that also doesn't mean that, without a lot of direct action, it won't end up being overturned. Right now, there's a serious division happening with Clegg standing up and saying "No, I'm not letting you do that." People managed to overturn the whole thing with the forests and perhaps, if we aim on a big scale, we can work on this too.

It's not time to give up and reach for the pill-stash yet. Get angry. Then get angrier.

Anonymous said...

I pray that stronger people than I can stop this terrible attack. I am weak and tired and pathetic for just feeling like doom is going to befall us no matter what we say or do. I believe that this govt of people who have always had money like cameron do not understand how the little person who is disabled and weary of being called scum feels. I am praying that someone will make them stop. But I fear that they have chosen the weakest to pick on, and left the strongest people like tax evaders to do what they please. I feel like I am hated by the normal people of this country, because they look down on me for daring to get disabled (like it was a choice) All I know is my life would have been so very different now if this had not happened to me. But it did and I have to live with it every momnent of every day. I felt safe when the country cared enough to help me with DLA etc and now I feel hated because they want to take my DLA and throw me on ESA and then they will attack me for being unwell and unable to work 40hrs a week like the normal people. I am too tired for this fight. I am so sorry and I pray you can do something to stop this from happening to the disabled people of this country.

Anonymous said...

Please note that The Welfare Reform Bill implies PIP will be lost once reaching state retirement age. Given the fact that men and women's retirement age is not yet fully equalised, there is a possibility that there is an intention to apply the loss of DLA to men and women once they reach the women's state retirement age or to apply the loss of DLA unequally during the period when men and women's retirement age will not be the same.

In any event, if the government intends to withdraw DLA from existing claimants over retirement age, surely this would be retrospective and a breach of the rule of law or natural justice?

Disabled older people must be given the same opportunties as able bodied older people who want to carry on working or return to the workplace. Non-entitlement to PIP will discrimnate against those who would not be able to get to work after withdrawal of mobility allowances, and perhaps it is the case that older disabled people volunteer as do abled bodied people.

Furthermore, disabled older people who cannot work, who cannot volunteer, may not be able to participate in society at all once they lose their mobility allowance. Public transport is not yet accessible to all and a bus pass would be useless for those who need access to adapted vehicles or taxis to get around. Not everyone has money for taxis or cars and community transport will hardly provide transport to and from one's place of paid or voluntary work.

It is clear that although the government wishes to extend working life beyond the age of retirement, and although government encourages older people to remain active if they can, these chances in later life will only apply to those who've been able to make substantial financial provision for themselves in the past or to older abled bodied people. If the government's plans go ahead, every other disabled person who needs help to get around will be imprisoned in their homes as will be the case for those in care homes. Equality? This government has no conception of the meaning of the word.