PIP changes – an update

We were delighted to get a prompt response from Debbie Abrahams saying that she is fighting tooth and nail.
Debbie was on BBC TV earlier – with this clip captured and posted online:

We have been pleased to see the amount of media coverage this issue has received today. It has been a fast moving situation and we hope that the changes will be killed in the Lords:

However, Tim Farron of the Liberal Democrats has tabled a motion seeking to block the changes. We hope MPs from all parties support this motion, but we are concerned that this would prevent the process in the Lords described above.

George Freeman has expressed regrets for his comments:


PIP changes – parity?

Dismayed by the newly announced changes to PIP, we have sent the following to Debbie Abrahams, as the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. We look forward to her reply which we will share here.

Hi there Debbie,

It seems a long time since Frances and I met you for tea in Portcullis House.

We are dismayed by the government decision to change the PIP regulations to get round the court ruling.

The government say from 16 March the law will be changed so that the words “For reasons other than psychological distress” will be added to the start of descriptors c, d and f in relation to “Planning and following journeys”.

They promised us parity for mental health. Now they are introducing phrases like “For reasons other than psychological distress”. How can that ever give parity to mental health if psychological conditions are discounted?

We really hope you will help fight this with us.

Pat x

Pat’s Petition

Freud’s Dodgy Dossier

The government has announced that Lord Freud is to retire from his ministerial role as Minister for Welfare Reform at the Department for Work and Pensions.

The government pay tribute to this long serving minister here.

They say –

“Lord Freud is the architect of welfare reform, which has revolutionised the way benefit claimants interact with the state.

At the heart of our reforms is desire to give people independence to improve their lives. For too long, people have been trapped by a byzantine benefits system, leaving them powerless. This has always been my driving force – to give people back control over their own lives; to give support in times of need, but also to give a clear route out of the benefits system and into independence.”

Pat’s Petition and CarerWatch beg to differ.  As far as sick and disabled people are concerned we consider that Freud’s ‘Dodgy Dossier’, on which ESA was based, was delusional. The pain and misery that ESA has caused has been beyond bearable and ESA mostly didn’t give anyone control over their own lives or get them jobs.

Freud’s policies placed the blame for not working squarely with sick and disabled people. They were told to go out and compete in a competitive labour market in which they couldn’t compete. They were incentivised by reductions in benefits and pointless back-to-work regimes and sanctions. And still they didn’t get jobs.

Freud’s dossier didn’t address the reality of the actual labour market – where employers hire the person who can do the most work for the least money. If sick and disabled people have impairments that cause reduction in their productivity – this is a problem. Freud’s crusade has never addressed this. Instead it continues to drive sick and disabled people up against a market that they can’t compete in.

So we are not sorry that this long serving minister is leaving. He has caused untold pain and misery and achieved nothing. And we wish that he had never been given the role in the first place.

Pontrobert woman being ‘punished’ for not being able to work

This story from the County Times (Powys, Mid-Wales) highlights what we’ve been saying about the Dead Parrot of ESA.

We have said with the Dead Parrot campaign that people whose productivity is reduced because of their condition should have support: the entry for the support group is set far too high, so that people like Julie are left, as she says, feeling like ‘giving up and throwing in the towel’.

Julie was diagnosed with narcolepsy and cataplexy, two serious conditions which cause her to fall asleep, stumble, slur her speech and have adverse effects from lighting and computers.

Her benefits were reduced with the change to PIP. She has appealed the changes but highlights that “The government now considers conditions like this should be supported by the employer, but this hasn’t happened”.

The full story from the County Times is here: http://www.countytimes.co.uk/news/165684/pontrobert-woman-being-punished-for-not-being-able-to-work.aspx


ESA is a car crash – time to put it right

The last few weeks have seen unprecedented change. We now have a new Prime Minister, Theresa May, and Work & Pensions Secretary, Damian Green. The Labour Party is considering its own future with a Leadership contest.

At Pat’s Petition, we are only concerned about the impacts on sick and disabled people: that is our focus. We are sending the following letter to Theresa and Damian, and will publish their responses. We will also ask for a response from the Labour leadership candidates as well as the current Shadow Minister, Debbie Abrahams.

We also support the work of other groups who are trying to get ESA made fit for purpose, including Ekklesia and DPAC.

Dear Theresa, Damian,

Pat’s Petition is a group who campaign on issues that affect sick and disabled people.

In 2009 James Purnell for the Labour Government, supported by Theresa May for the Conservatives, passed the Welfare Reform Act that created Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

This was based on a Report by Lord Freud which, in hindsight, has turned out to be somewhat of a ‘dodgy dossier’. This has led to unintended consequences.

ESA and the WCA were based on the false premise that a change in attitude and reasonable adjustments would be enough to get sick and disabled people in to work. The statistics show clearly that this hasn’t worked. Pressurising sick and disabled people to find employment under these unfair conditions is endlessly cruel.

Theresa has become Prime Minister on a promise of concern for people who are struggling. Theresa is now in a position to put this right.

We would welcome your suggestions as to how you plan to deal with this disaster and we will publish your response on our website.

We believe that the first consideration must be to remove conditionality and make sick and disabled people safe until ways are found to enable them to compete successfully in the labour market.

And what is needed for sick and disabled people to get work? Our own thoughts about increasing inclusion in the work force would be that some sick and disabled people, even with support and reasonable adjustments, cannot compete in an open labour market. Governments made many interventions in the labour market to promote the inclusion of women, including maternity leave and child care support. Pat’s Petition suggest that similar interventions should be considered to promote the inclusion of sick and disabled people in the work force.

This is a new government and a new promise. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on a better way forward for sick and disabled people.

WCA should have been a ‘can’t do’ test

There has been so much discussion of the ‘can do’ approach to sickness and disability that the ‘can’t do’ narrative has been completely overwhelmed. ESA swept in on a wave of ‘can do’. And crashed.

The discussion amongst campaigners around the Dead Parrot campaign has shown – the ‘can do’ and ‘can’t do’ narratives appear to be in opposition – between different disability campaigners, between different sick and disabled people, and perhaps within each person too.

But they aren’t in opposition. They are both part of the same story. They are both valid. So why not let each person own both their narratives and let the two narratives exist side by side?

When we are discussing gateway entitlement to an income replacement benefit like ESA, we need to look at ‘can’t do’. Income replacement benefits in our welfare system are awarded to people who can’t work. This is where WCA went so drastically wrong. ESA should be awarded for ‘can’t do’. WCA should have been a ‘can’t do’ test to award security and peace of mind.

‘Can’t do’ runs right through sickness and disability. Looked at from the perspective of the sick or disabled person – they see barriers to work at home when they are getting ready to leave for work – barriers on the journey – barriers at work performing the required tasks. This adds up to a lack of confidence and seems like ‘can’t do’.

Looked at from the employers’ end of the telescope these barriers look like reduced productivity, and once that reaches 20%, and probably a lot of management hassle too, s/he probably wants to say NO. So that is a ‘can’t do’ unless government intervenes in the job market with initiatives like subsidies or quotas.

These ‘can’t do’ problems are real, and a sick or disabled person who is dealing with them needs to be out and proud and able to own these ’can’t do’ difficulties. They need a safe, secure income replacement benefit, without conditionality, threats and pressure. This should be the covenant with the state.

But there is also the ‘can do’ narrative. There are a host of imaginative and innovative ways around these barriers. Let any sick or disabled person who wants to work be entitled to ask for skilled personalised help to solve these problems. Develop these initiatives initially focussing on the many people who desperately want to get back to work.

Both narratives are fine, as long as you don’t mix them. Don’t let efforts to ‘can do’ and ‘get a job’ put safe benefits at risk. Let the sick or disabled person own both their ‘can do’ and ‘can’t do’ narratives.

People like Jacqueline Bell need to be able to own both their own narratives.


Reply to Liz Sayce: People with reduced productivity need representation too

Thank you Liz for your  very thoughtful reply to our recent post.

You wonder why we focus on reduced productivity. It’s because it determines who can and can’t work. Long term ESA is only awarded to sick and disabled people who can’t work. It’s important to know who can work, but it’s also important to know who can’t work, so that they can be assured of financial security.

Disability campaigning has already done a wonderful job for people who don’t have reduced productivity. And the stereo type of this group is now dominant in campaigning. This is dangerous for other people, who are struggling with reduced productivity. This means that people don’t accept their barriers to work, and secure benefits are only given to the few people who are the most unlikely to find work. This takes away security for the majority of disabled people. Disability campaigning needs to represent all of us. Those with full productivity and also those with reduced productivity.

You say
For instance, we think government should offer financial support through Access to Work where people need periodic time off sick, so the employer can put in temporary cover – and not incur extra expense.
This is an example of exactly the type of government intervention in the labour market that we are calling for. Extra costs to the employer resulting from sickness or disability are being acknowledged and met by the government. We are calling these extra costs ‘reduced productivity’.

You say
And once good adjustments and support are in place, disabled people’s productivity is often at least as good as that of non-disabled people.
This is great. And we can understand why you focus on people like this. And we can also understand why the last thing they want is the stereo type of sick and disabled people with reduced productivity getting publicity. It doesn’t apply to them and they think that it would attach to them and undermine them.

You say
Productivity can also be helped by having a culture at work where people feel confident to be open about experiences of a health condition or impairment.
Exactly right. Even Iain Duncan Smith was saying that it isn’t a cliff face from ‘able to work’ to ‘can’t work’. And as you move down the spectrum towards people who have conditions that impact more on their performance we want them to be able to be exactly as you say, confident and open about experiences of their health condition or impairment.

We don’t like strange language like barriers to work or being far from the labour market. We want to use Plain English. People tell us simple things like they don’t work as fast as they did before they were sick or disabled. This is a cost to the employer. We don’t want people to be embarrassed about the way sickness and disability impacts on their performance. We want them to be able to be out and proud and open with employers and still get a job.

People have to go out in to a competitive labour market and talk to potential employers. The bar between can and can’t compete is going to come at the point where government interventions like the one you suggest above reach their limit. And at the moment the limit is very low.

We need to discuss where this limit comes. And we need an acceptable language to talk about it. So that we can go forward and represent all disabled people.