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.

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.

DRUK got it wrong

Liz Sayce has suggested that recent campaigns have emphasised the ‘right not to work’ and uses our ‘impairment impairs’ comment as an example. But on this occasion, DRUK have got this wrong.

We have never said that we want people to have the right not to work. We want the opposite: we want everyone to have the right to work.

The evidence of the terrible eight year DWP ESA experiment, in real time with real people, is startlingly clear. The statistics show that most sick and disabled people couldn’t get work.

Iain Duncan Smith thought if people were on welfare it was their own fault and that they needed to change their attitudes. He extended this to sick and disabled people, and cut, and cut, and cut again to drive them in to work. His analysis was wrong. His solutions were wrong. His policies were magical thinking and failed. (See Bernadette Meaden’s article).

But he has now jumped ship. It is time to start again with a new analysis and policies that can actually work

We have put forward our analysis as to why people can’t get work in the Dead Parrot Campaign. Our analysis is that if someone has a condition that reduces their performance by 20% then they will have enormous difficulty in competing in the open labour market. Call it what it is. Call it reduced productivity. That’s how the labour market sees it. Don’t hide behind euphemisms like ‘barriers to work’ and ‘being further from the job market’. These mean nothing to employers. Acknowledge reduced productivity as a realistic concern of employers, and then confront it and deal with it.

There is absolutely no reason for sick and disabled people to be ashamed of impairment and they should be able to be out and proud about reduced productivity and still get a job.

The way to deal with reduced productivity is through government interventions in the labour market – possibly subsidies or quotas or publishing inclusion statistics. The same sort of imaginative interventions that government has made time and time again to include women in the labour market. Women would never have been included without government support such as maternity leave and childcare support. Government interventions are needed to encourage inclusion. But it won’t happen while we refuse to name and talk about reduced productivity.

In the meantime we ask for safe benefits until the option to work is really there. This is probably where the misunderstanding with DRUK arose. While reduced productivity isn’t confronted and people still can’t get work, we do campaign for safe financial support.

People with reduced productivity are likely to be out of work for many years. We agree with Matthew Oakley that the greatest extra cost of disability is long term unemployment and that needs a higher level of support than current ESA levels. Or alternatively open the labour market up to them.

We agree with the rest of the DRUK article. We hope Liz will now reply to us and tell us her views about reduced productivity.

Cutting PIP in the Budget is dangerous – PIP keeps the lights on for sick and disabled people

The Chancellor is cutting PIP in the budget. This is supposed to be disabled people’s contribution to cutting the deficit.

PIP is a Personal Independence Payment given to sick and disabled people to cover the extra costs of disability. Points are awarded for the costs of different kinds of aids and appliances. The Chancellor is juggling the points and getting a massive saving.

But no PIP points are added for the greatest, most enduring and significant extra cost of disability. No points are added for the fact that you will possibly or probably spend many years of your adult life unable to work. And before you say the only way out of poverty is work – see Dead Parrot Campaign.

Being out of work for many years is the real massive extra cost of disability. This is what destroys any hope of financial security.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is supposed to be your replacement income if you can’t work. For some people it is slightly higher than Job Seekers Allowance. ESA might help you through a temporary period of unemployment while you draw down savings. No one could possibly imagine that you could live on it for a long, perhaps indefinite, period of time.

So PIP saves you. It is meant to be spent on aids and appliances but for many people it is the only thing that keeps the lights on – it keeps body and soul together.

Cutting PIP to reduce the deficit is beyond cruel. It is dangerous.

The unkindest cut of all

The Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) was always a strange, mismatched creature.

It was conceived on a black day as part of the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Every one eligible for ESA is described as having a condition which means that they cannot be required to work.

The Support Group immediately became the safe group where you were assured of ongoing support.

The WRAG was for everyone else. The WRAG was neither fish nor fowl. In the design stage it was described as being for people who could undertake some sort of work related activity. Gentle massages and visits to libraries were suggested.

However, very quickly, the WRAG metamorphosed in to a group for people who despite not being required to work were supposed to be on their way back to work. The government has never explained this. But then the government have never looked realistically at what it takes to be able to get a job in a competitive, capitalist labour market. (See Dead Parrot).

Pointless, cruel coercion began. People were required to attend back to work programmes and sanctions were introduced to make them comply. A time limit of a year was imposed suggesting that if you aren’t in work after a year you are not trying hard enough. A means test at that point was set at the absurdly low figure of partner’s income of £7500 a year.

So this cut of £30 to ESA WRAG is the latest in a series of penal measures designed to incentivise or terrify people in the WRAG back to work.

No one in government is looking at the facts. The track record of people in the WRAG getting jobs is negligible. This is because they have already been assessed as having a condition which means they cannot be required to work.

The Dead Parrot Campaign looks at practical real world criteria for deciding which people can actually get work in the competitive labour market. We set the bar at 20% reduced productivity. Above this people realistically won’t get work.

If this cruel practice of hounding and pressurising people in the WRAG to get work continues – then it is only fair to set the bar between the WRAG and the Support Group at a level where people can realistically get work.

Given the negligible number of people getting work in the WRAG – the bar is certainly far too high at the moment. For most people being in the WRAG is a living nightmare. You are being pressurised to do something that you cannot do. Taking away another £30 is another plain, pointless cruelty.

The most unkindest cut of all
Marcus Antonius:
For Brutus, as you know, was Caesar’s angel.
Judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar lov’d him!
This was the most unkindest cut of all;
For when the noble Caesar saw him stab,
Ingratitude, more strong than traitors’ arms,
Quite vanquish’d him: then burst his mighty heart. . . .

Julius Caesar Act 3, scene 2, 181–186