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

Black day for benefits

Benefits will continue to be taken away from sick and disabled people unless they are prepared to talk about can’t do.

Can do is about inclusion and getting a job. Can’t do is about getting safe and secure benefits. Without can’t do, all safe benefits will be taken away.

Disability campaigners attempting to be positive have stressed the can do to the exclusion of the can’t do.

There isn’t even an acceptable language any more for talking about can’t do. Not talking about can’t do is an open goal for people who want to take away benefits.

See the article on the ‘Black day’  on Herald Scotland.

For our statement on #ESAdeadparrot campaign see ESA is a dead parrot

Taking aim at a dead parrot

John Pring of Disability News Service has written a piece about #ESAdeadparrot: New campaign ruffles feathers as it takes aim at dead parrot.

He’s included a range of views, including a quote from Pat:

‘Pat Onions, founder of Pat’s Petition, said: “We hope that this campaign will put pressure on Iain Duncan Smith to ensure a safety net that supports all sick and disabled people into work at their own pace, without the sanctions that have been such a major part of the current system.”

‘She added: “We are aware that we are liable to being accused of siding with [ministers] and of suggesting that sick and disabled people are less productive and therefore of less value.”

‘But she added: “We want to acknowledge that some of us are indeed less productive: why are people so scared to say the obvious? But that does not make any of us less valuable for that.” ‘

Our full statement of the campaign is available here.

Ekklesia: labour market realities

Bernadette Meaden has written about the campaign in a piece for Ekklesia: Time to accept labour market realities for sick and disabled people

Bernadette described the current government discussions about cutting ESA:

“In the real world, in a real jobs market, the government’s current policy of cutting ESA to encourage disabled people to find a job is akin to throwing everybody out of an aircraft whilst thinking about ordering a few parachutes.”

For our related statement see ESA is a dead parrot

Update – February 2016

Back in 2012, we thought we would be able to use this site to archive the news materials we were sent – we didn’t anticipate what a huge job that would be and we soon realised that we didn’t have the capacity or energies to keep up with the stream of difficult news.

We might post more stories here, but for now we’re leaving this as an older list of the news of 2012.