Today there are stories in both the Daily Mail and the Telegraph attacking Disability Living Allowance. Both claim that most disabled people (94%) need do nothing more than fill in a form to get the money that is vital to allow them to make adaptations, get care, and travel. Not surprisingly, both articles are full of misinformation.
The Daily Mail headline is plain wrong, even when compared to their own article and most patients definitely do not “just fill in a form” to get DLA. My own DLA application took two years, a medical assessment, two appeals and a tribunal. While only 6% of DLA applicants are given a medical assessment with a DWP/Atos doctor, 42% of claims relied on evidence from the patients own GP, and 36% relied on other sources of evidence such as hospital consultants and specialists. The remaining 16% were awarded DLA based on just a form, but those would all have been permanent, obvious, incurable conditions that need no other evidence to show that the person is disabled.
The papers both claim that DLA is worth £70 per week. Actually the average is £69.90 per week, but it varies from £19.55 to £125 per week depending on the care and mobility needs of the patient.
The Mail mentions that “More than 70 per cent of existing claimants are on DLA for life without facing any regular checks.” They fail to mention that many people who receive DLA are permanently disabled and will never improve. Many have progressive diseases that will only make them worse. Others might have missing limbs which are not going to suddenly grow back. To continually send these people to medical assessments is absurd, heavily damaging to the health of many of them, and cruel.
Promotion of Personal Independence Payments
The claims made in these articles are quite obviously made in support of the new Personal Independence Payments (PIP) that are planned to be introduced through the Welfare Reform Bill currently in the House of Lords. PIP is the subject of much concern by disabled people and disability rights campaigners. Personal Independence start off with the aim of a 20% reduction in budget over DLA. Given that DLA has only a 0.3% rate of fraud, this can only mean taking income away from people that need it. Then, PIP assesses mobility WITH mobility aids rather than unaided. If a person can move around with a wheelchair, PIP assumes that they need no help with their mobility. This ignores the fact that the vast majority of infrastructure is still not accessible in practice, in spite of laws on equal access. It also ignores the fact that the mobility component of DLA is often spent on a wheelchair. PIP moves assessments of disability to be more like ESA in that it will use a tick-box procedure and will involve an assessment by a third party such as Atos or Group 4. It will involve regular reassessments of people which as I have explained above is pointless in the case of those with permanent or progressive impairments and in many cases is seriously damaging to health. Finally, the sections about PIP in the welfare reform bill are very uncertain about how PIP will work in practice and to all intents and purposes are unfinished drafts that require much work even though they are in a bill that is almost law.
The promotion of PIP in the press is probably not a coincidence since amendments to the bill dealing with DLA are to be discussed in the Lords next week. There is no press release yet from the DWP concerning this (I checked at their website) but they both received the same information at the same time. In all probability it looks to me like this is a deliberate leak from Special Advisers (SPADs) to Conservative government ministers, probably using SMS text messages to avoid scrutiny. Since these stories include the same quotes from the Tax Payers Alliance it is likely that they were involved in this leak too. The Tax Payers Alliance are a right-wing group (quite a long way right) with links to the Tea Party in the USA.
Who are these special advisers?
The folllowing is an excellent summary of who the Conservative special advisers actually are, written by Sue Marsh.
Have you ever wondered how it is that the Daily Mail & Express (other brands of toilet paper available) seem so intent on victimising sick and disabled people?
Ever wondered how it is, that monthly benefit fraud rates, released by the DWP are always written up in such an inflammatory way? Why national media only ever print the government lines. Chris Grayling, minister for employment, says he is “bemused” by it.
Maybe Iain Duncan-Smith can clear up this mystery?
Meet his special advisers : Susie Squire former Taxpayers Alliance until May 2010. For those who don’t know already, The Taxpayers Allowance are huge Tory donors, regularly accused of simply being a Conservative front. They’re not exactly on the Liberal, one-nation side of the Tory fence either. More your rabid frothing side. A quick scroll through their website will tell you everything you need to know, but they regularly attack disability benefits and those who receive them.
And SpAd No.2 : Phillipa Stroud : Remember the name? Yep she was the politician who thought she could pray-away-the-gay!
She sees homosexuality as a “demon” that needs to be driven out of a person. Accordingly, she set up her own “church” to carry out this important work. Do click on these links, they’re fascinating. As I read through, I wondered if she should be allowed anywhere near Westminster at all.
One can only begin to imagine what someone like Stroud might think of the disabled. No doubt we have demons of our own. It’s not so long ago since people thought disabilities were the outward sign of some inner corruption or evil.
**Clearly when I say “misleading” I mean out and out poppycock, but you know, legal blah……
DLA Award Values and Evidence Use for New Claims in 2010, in Great Britain [PDF] [Department of Work and Pensions]
Whitehall ‘routinely’ uses text messaging to avoid scrutiny [The Independent]