System "not acceptable", says Prime Minister
In the last few months we have seen an onslaught of cuts, reforms, and changes in every aspect of our society. Disabled people have borne the particular brunt as in many cases, the schemes and funding being withdrawn from us is not so much about quality of life, as about the absolute basics of life.
Taxicard schemes are being axed, making essential journeys around town prohibitively expensive for disabled people who cannot drive or use buses. Access to Work faces severe restrictions, making it more difficult for us to enter or continue in employment. Mobility Allowance is being withdrawn from people who live in care homes which in some cases means there's no funding for wheelchairs.
But now, finally, a topic has been breached where Prime Minister David Cameron feels strongly enough to speak out. He has boldly gone on the record as stating that certain current recently-reformed arrangements devised for minimising fraud and ensuring the proper expenditure of public money are "not acceptable." He has said that he recognises that the system has "caused a lot of pain and difficulty" and has pledged to make changes to rectify this.
Given some of the cuts we've heard about, what pain, what difficulty, what kind of travesty would cause the Prime Minister to speak out like this? Is it the introduction of a new "extra-critical" eligibility threshold for Social Services assistance in Birmingham? The way the Independent Living Fund has been closed to new applicants and is set to shut down altogether in the next five years? The fact that even the creator of ESA believes that the test is not fit for purpose?
Don't be silly. It's the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) who oversee MP's expenses. Prior to these changes, MPs were allowed to self-certify their expenses, with results that we all remember well. Now, there are increased restrictions on the sorts of things that may be claimed for, and a single standardised system for submitting claims.
The National Audit Office (NAO) have stated that £13.9 million of expenses claims have not been validated because they were unable to inspect any supporting documentation. A familiar refrain is that MPs (and, presumably, their secretaries) are finding the claims process too difficult. This article from June has an absolutely beautiful collection of whinging hyperbole from MPs who have surely never seen the administrative tangle that the average disabled person is expected to efficiently handle.
At least Mr Cameron and his colleagues are clear where their priorities lie.
With thanks to Mary for this guest post