Saturday, 30 April 2011

Keeping Up The Pressure

For the past few days The Broken of Britain has been calling on you to write to your MP by e-mail asking them to support two Early Day Motions: 1755 on Time-limiting ESA and 1756 on Abolition of DLA.

Getting amendments to a Bill through requires outside pressure to convince the Government that the Bill will not pass through Parliament if it is not amended, or that a Government member on the Committee is persuaded to vote with the opposition due to that outside pressure. EDMs 1755 and 1756 are intended to demonstrate that pressure.

A lot of people have written or tweeted, regarding these EDMs, that their MP is a member of the Coalition Government and will not support you, meaning that writing to them would be a waste of time. In this case, there are two things you should do. Firstly, write to them anyway. This is not a waste of time, even if your MP is a rabid supporter of welfare reform. Politicians keep track of opposition - it is how they keep their jobs - so it is important that you make sure that your opinion is noted.

Secondly, and more importantly, find an alternative. This could be an opposition MP in a neighbouring constituency, or just a likely candidate. There is no strict Parliamentary rule to stop you doing this. If you explain nicely that your constituency MP will not sign the EDM and that you are looking for other representation, they may listen. It is worth trying.

Whatever you do, remember to make your voice heard.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Work Capability Assessment: Same Old Story

Chris Grayling has been playing his favourite game again - hyping yet another 'new' story of the 'shocking' number of new ESA claimants who have been found fit for work according to the Work Capability Assessment. All the newspapers, and the BBC too, have covered the story. The only good news is that the Daily Mail stuck to the 'facts' as given to them by the DWP, which saves The Broken of Britain the effort of writing yet another PCC complaint.

The story being given out is that three-quarters of new ESA claimants are being found fit for work. More accurately, 39% are found fit for work and 36% close their claim in the middle of assessment. This is hailed as a great victory, as if the old system would have seen 100% of these claimants, 1,175,700 people, put on IB.

The first point to make is that the story is an old one, using fresh figures to fill out the same stories that have been pumped out since New Labour started the welfare reform agenda.

The more substantive point is that one third of claims for Incapacity Benefit were not successful - so the implication that IB was a free-for-all is disingenuous. The fact that the new system -the Work Capability Assessment - finds twice as many people fit for work as the old system - the Personal Capability Assessment - seems more suspicious than laudable. Is the new test really twice as successful as the old at finding spurious claims?

Alternative reasons for the "success" that the new system is having include:

* it is rejecting more 'genuine' claimants - claimants who have genuine long term health conditions or disabilities affecting ability to work are being rejected
* Transition pains - there's a period during any benefit changes while everyone figures out how to get people through the hoops, so it's likely that the claims success rate will increase dramatically over time, once claimants and the people supporting them know what to do to maximise chances of success

The Broken of Britain has discussed a lot of the evidence for the above alternative reasons, both of which seem reasonable. There is no disagreement over the fact that people who are not ill or disabled should not be on sickness benefits. But national news outlets should do some background research before swallowingDWP press releases.

The Welfare Reform Bill Committee and Amendments

The Welfare Reform Bill. which includes provision to abolish DLA and to time-limit ESA, is currently at Committee stage of Parliamentary scrutiny, where amendment to the Bill are made most easily. The trouble is that seats on the Committee are assigned according to party strength, so a majority Government can always stop amendments if they want to. Getting amendments through requires outside pressure to convince the Government that the Bill will not pass through Parliament if it is not amended, or that a Government member on the Committee is persuaded to vote with the opposition due to that outside pressure.

Hywel Williams, the MP for Arfon in North Wales, has decided to apply that pressure in the form of two Early Day Motions: 1755 on Time-limiting ESA and 1756 on Abolition of DLA. These EDMs succinctly present the arguments against abolishing DLA and time-limiting ESA. There are a number of excellent MPs on the Welfare Reform Bill Committee, but too few to defeat the Government. The hope is that these EDMs will apply the necessary pressure to get the relevant amendments passed.

Write to your MP by e-mail asking them to support these EDMs:

Dear Member of Parliament,

Two Early Day Motions have been tabled that pertain to provisions made in the Welfare Reform Bill regarding benefits that are related to illness and disability. The EDMs are intended to demonstrate that the House feels strongly on these matters and is pressing the Government for relevant amendments to the Bill before you vote on it.

The EDMs are by no means a comprehensive discussion of all points relating to disability in the Bill, but are intended to bring the most serious flaws to your attention. The EDMs read:


* Session: 2010-11
* Date tabled: 27.04.2011
* Primary sponsor: Williams, Hywel
* Sponsors:

That this House is deeply concerned by the abolition of disability living allowance (DLA) and its replacement with the personal independence payment (PIP) as provided for in the Welfare Reform Bill; believes that the Government is yet to make a convincing case for reform, as noted by academics, campaigners and the Social Security Advisory Committee; notes that, whilst there may be a case for objective evidence-gathering, the Government's plans for a face-to-face assessment will disadvantage some claimants and will mean that specialist evidence is not given due priority; further believes that the Government is misguided in its claim that PIP will be better targeted than DLA as the reforms involve a simplification of the benefit rates of payment which reduces the ability to personalise payment according to need; further notes that the Government's target of a 20 per cent. reduction in DLA expenditure, as announced in the 2010 Budget, will lead to up to 620,000 disabled people being denied support with no justification of this policy forthcoming; and urges the Government to remove from the bill all provisions relating to DLA reform.



* Session: 2010-11
* Date tabled: 27.04.2011
* Primary sponsor: Williams, Hywel
* Sponsors:

That this House notes with extreme concern the provisions for time-limiting contribution-related employment and support allowance (ESA) to 12 months included in the Welfare Reform Bill; recognises that ESA claimants will be means-tested for income-related ESA when this period has elapsed, and that an ESA claimant with a spouse or partner working over 24 hours a week will not then be eligible for the benefit; believes that time-limiting ESA isa serious disincentive to work for the partners and carers of ESA claimants, leading to a situation where unemployment is more financially sustainable than work; further believes that time-limiting ESA punishes working families where one member claims ESA; and urges the Government to remove time-limiting ofESA from the bill prior to its Third Reading.

I hope that you will feel able to support these statements.

Yours sincerely,

Journalists, please contact

The False Economy of ESA

The excellent False Economy blog have just posted an article that I've written on the economic impact of welfare reform. Read it here.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Why The NHS Reforms Really Are The End Of The National Health Service

Guest blog with thanks from Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK. Originally posted here

One of the most pernicious aspect of the Tories’ NHS reforms is one of the least known.
At present we have a National Health Service because the Department for Health (and it’s Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland equivalents) all have a statutory duty to ensure that there is a health care service for all in this country free at the point of supply.

That will not be the case after Cameron’s reforms go through. The Department for Health will not have such obligation in England, at all.

GP consortia will have a legal obligation to provide services to those registered with them. But note, you have to be registered t enjoy the service. It will not be a right: it will only be a right if you are registered.

And there will not be an obligation on consortia to provide universal health care free at the point of delivery, quite extraordinarily. If a consortia decides it cannot supply a service because it is too costly or it has run out of budget then it will be able to decline to do so. GP consortia will not be an NHS: they’ll be a selective healthcare service because they’ll have a statutory duty to supply a service for which there will be increasing demand at ever reducing cost and that will necessarily mean they’ll ration – which will impose impossible conflicts of interest on GPs.

And what for those who do not or cannot register with a GP consortia or who need the services their GP consortia cannot or will not supply? For them their health care supplier will be their local authority. Yes, it is local authorities that will have the duty to supply universal health care after the reforms come into effect.

Of course, local authorities have no mechanism to make those health care supplies. And nor are they being given any budget to deliver them. But you can already hear Cameron saying it’s not his fault that they won’t be able to deliver – it’s their legal responsibility and if they fail it won’t have anything to do with him.

Except of course it will. He, Lansley and Clegg are responsible for this reform. The reform will end the right to universal healthcare. And it signals the end of national healthcare – and brings in an era of supposedly local healthcare when there is no mechanism to supply it.

That’s not chance: that’s further evidence of designed in failure in the scheme the ConDems are proposing. And there’s only one reason for that designed in failure: it is complete contempt for democratically controlled supply of services for the benefit of all the people of this country when what Cameron and his friends wan is the opportunity to capture control of those services so they can rake billions off them to enhance their personal wealth.

We don’t have long to stop this deliberate act of destruction. And if the Lib Dems toe the party line we have no hope of doing so.

Will dogma destroy the NHS? I hope not – bit only vociferous action can prevent it. That I do know.

The Guardian's NHS Reform Blog

Rowenna Davis and Randeep Ramesh will be focusing on mental health services today.