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.

Empty words don’t fund a full life for disabled people

Piece by Francesca Martinez on the Independent:

When David Cameron made his comments at the opening ceremony of the Paralympics, I admit I felt a bit sick. His talk about the “inspirational” athletes while the Government carefully erodes the welfare system that helped many of the same athletes to achieve their dreams was pure hypocrisy. Nobody is more pleased than I am at the impact the Paralympics appear to be having. Eyes are being opened, attitudes hopefully shifted and great sport enjoyed. For once, diversity is fully visible in the media, and this is fantastic as it has the power to help to normalise difference. Disability is normal and the more we can accept it as a natural part of life, the more we can move beyond divisive labels and realise that we are all one group, sharing one planet.

The Paralympics provide the perfect opportunity for the Government to praise the human qualities of the Paralympians. But it is undeniable that government targeting of disabled people in the cuts, together with much of the right-wing press’s customary (but not at the moment, you understand) portrayal of disabled people as benefit cheats and drains on society, are proving a deadly cocktail. Disability hate crime is at record levels, with up to 100,000 estimated incidents per year. People with serious conditions such as cancer or heart disease, or who require morphine every day, are being told that they are “fit to work”. Disabled and sick people are being forced to endure lengthy appeals to claw back benefits that go towards essential costs. Suicides and deaths are increasing because crucial help is being withdrawn.

Full article on the Independent

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

Paralympics show sport has woken up to disability

“This year looks set to highlight the contradictions facing disabled people in our society. On the one hand, they are facing increasing marginalisation and discrimination under “welfare reform” policy and public expenditure cuts. On the other, the official rhetoric presents them as the heroes of the forthcoming London Paralympics….”

Piece by Peter Beresford for the Guardian on May 21st 2012