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.

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.

Benefits: the disabled and deserving?

In yesterday’s Daily Telegraph, Iain Duncan Smith pledged to reform Disability Living Allowance (DLA). He plans to introduce an independent medical assessment, so that only those who really need the benefit get it. More than three million people now receive this benefit, three times as many as when it was introduced in 1992.

Report from the Telegraph:

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) thinks a new, independent medical assessment might reduce the number of people awarded the benefit by around half a million. It will even get a friendly-sounding new name: the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

That all sounds sensible in principle. But look at the reasons why claimants are awarded DLA and you can see why any reform will be controversial. Statistics give a detailed breakdown of the reasons people claim. It’s a spreadsheet of heartbreak: 564,000 people claim for help with arthritis; 390,000 people with learning difficulties; 259,000 people with psychosis. Smaller groups are claiming for all kinds of reasons: 22,000 have problems with drug and alcohol abuse; 35,380 claimants are terminally ill. It is strangely affecting to see such a litany of human misery tabulated into abstraction by civil servants.

Report in the Telegraph

Jobseekers who reject help for alcohol and drug addiction face benefits cut

“Iain Duncan Smith to signal measures allowing Jobcentre Plus staff to dock allowances for claimants who refuse treatment…

…Government sources said the contract would allow Jobcentre Plus staff to say that a suspected addict is in breach of their commitments if they refuse help for alcoholism or drug addiction…”

Report from the Guardian 22 May 2012