As I watched the recent Panorama about ATOS, the French company charged with ‘reassessing’ , er, cutting, the benefits of folk on disability benefits, I was struck by two words.
Chris Grayling, minister for employment, when asked about the anxiety caused by these changes on people with disabilities, said that the Government were displaying ‘Tough Love’ to help people out of the situation they’d got themselves into.
The role of ATOS is to assess individuals on incapacity benefit, a benefit that is soon to be abolished, to establish their suitability for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
Hmm. What does that mean? Well, Panorama showed us a number of people who’d gone through the assessment who’d failed (were not awarded the new benefit) and as such were told to sign on for jobseekers allowance (JSA) – to be eligible for this an applicant must be available for work.
A number of the people who failed clearly weren’t able to work.
However, when they appealed against the decision, 30% of people won their case.
This figure changed to a success rate of 80% when applicants were supported by an experienced welfare advice worker.
These appeals cost around £50 million a year.
A cynical mind might suggest that legitimate claimants were failed deliberately so that ATOS could get extra work through the appeals process – I mean – £50 million is not to be sneered at.
But that would be cynical.
The premise behind the change from incapacity benefit to ESA is that people were claiming benefits fraudulently.
Well, yes they were – according to the department of work and pensions own figures – fraud accounts for –
0.3% of incapacity benefit claimants, and
0.5% of Disability Living Allowance claimants
If we add up the fraud of all benefit claimants every year – not just disability benefits – it comes to £1.5 billion.
This figure increases to £4 billion if we include the mistakes made by the department of work and pensions.
Yes, this is a big figure, but if pales into insignificance when compared alongside the £35 billion lost each year to tax fraud – and that figure doesn’t include legitimate dodgy dealings and offshore bank accounts.
I don’t like capitalism because, at it’s heart it has a strange goal.
To look after the capital
which is essentially money and stuff that looks like money but has a different name – bonds, stocks, shares, bonds, hedge funds and so on…
If by looking after the capital we manage to look after the people, then that’s a happy coincidence…
So, the government, being capitalists, One would think would be looking after the capital….
When Chris Grayling was recently interviewed and asked how much ATOS cost each year, he said something like, “I dunno, about £100 million?”
You would like to think…wouldn’t you?
In reality, he wasn’t far wrong – over the past 5 years they’ve cost between £77 million and £111 million per year.
And now they’ve been awarded a further £400 million contract to concentrate on the disability living allowance fraudsters.
The number of people claiming DLA has increased by 30% in 8 years according to government statistics.
As social workers, we were always told that DLA was hugely under claimed by people who were entitled to it. Perhaps these figures relate to that – there’s an interesting piece about it all in the Guardian, here…
The government is replacing DLA with the Personal Independence Payment – PIP in an attempt to sift out the evil 0.5%.
So, the overall cost of DLA is currently £13 billion – fraud, at 0.5% costs £65 million…
So, the government are spending £400 million to save £65 million…???
That doesn’t sound terribly capitalist.
Ok, maybe they’re doing better with taxes? They should be spending a lot to get that £35 billion back….
The chair of the public accounts committee, Margaret Hodge, has argued that the decision by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to cut 3,300 staff may not exactly help in the quest to get this money back.
So, they’re not very good capitalists then.
This is ideology – nothing more – nothing less – this government is moving further and further away from one that supports its people to one that supports private industry.
To be doing this under the banner of austerity is, at best embarrassing, at worst outright dishonesty.
So, what about this tough love. Let’s think of a family whose major income is via disability benefits.
The person in receipt if these may well have been able to do some work at some time. After all, many maladies, as you’ve seen from mine, vary from time to time. Add to that, the vast majority of the people I’ve met and worked with with a disability have had a great deal they could – and do – offer society. But that’s not always in the shape of paid work – some support others, advise others, provide informal advocacy for others – they care, they babysit – phoning people at work should things get out of hand…
Why don’t they work then?
Imagine a malady or disability that puts you out of action for 6 months out of a year. There are no employers that would fall over themselves to accept that under the current system.
Imagine giving up your benefits to enter the uncertain world of employment where the government is pushing to make it easier for folk to be sacked.
What happens to your benefits when you’re sacked? Well, when I last looked it meant you weren’t entitled to claim any benefits for 8 weeks.
Having been through the system, I can vouch for the fact that applying for benefits is embarrassing and demeaning – I’d even describe it as traumatic in places.
People on benefits experience this genuine fear of having no money/ having to reclaim in a system that feels like a lottery, in a system where failure to be awarded benefits could rapidly lead to homelessness.
Add to this –
THERE ARE NO FUCKING JOBS!!
So, imagine Chris Grayling kicking one of his offspring out of the family home – with no job, no money and nowhere to live –
If that’s tough love…
Walk a mile