Monday, 16 January 2012

The Good, the Bad and the unnecessarily expensive

A new Comment is Free piece by former Tory MP Paul Goodman appeared online this evening, in which he tried to justify taking money from disabled people and giving it to a company like Atos instead.

He starts out pretending that he might actually live up to his surname and feigning concern for his old constituents. In paragraph number 5 he even uses some actual facts:

The problem with DLA isn't that it traps disabled people on benefits – its purpose is to support the care and mobility needs of disabled people, whether they work or not. Nor is the key issue fraud – which is proportionately tiny: a mere 0.5%.

You can tell he's no longer in office, can't you? If a current MP told the truth about benefits so brazenly Cameron would probably have him bent over his lap, bullwhip in hand, faster than one can say "calm down dear".

The article was clearly an attempt at something of a con. Obviously his thought process was "if you start with the facts people will think you're an honest writer. So then when you slip some bullcrap in 2 thirds of the way through, they'll have built the perception that you're an honest kinda guy and won't bother checking any more."

That's when it goes to shit.

But there is a real problem, and that is error. More than 70% of the current DLA caseload has an indefinite award. There is no effective means of ensuring these payments remain correct. Ministers claim there are hundreds of millions of pounds of overpayments.

You know what, I'm gonna take this one sentence at a time.

But there is a real problem, and that is error.

This is actually pretty true. The fraud rate for DLA is, as he has already pointed out, 0.5%. The rate of customer error is 0.6% and the rate of DWP error is 0.8% (see table on page 12 of this DWP report), so it is the DWP doing the bulk of the ballsing up.

More than 70% of the current DLA caseload has an indefinite award.

This could possibly be true too. Haven't got the figures to hand, it's gone midnight and I want to go to bed at some point tonight so I'll just give him the benefit of the doubt. Next!

There is no effective means of ensuring these payments remain correct.

Here's where he tried to resort to a bit of semantic trickery. You see; if an award was made correctly at the time it was awarded, it's not error. If the recipient's circumstances change and they fail to notify the DWP then that's fraud. He is trying to imply that the fraud rate is greater than it is by trying to paint it as appearing in the "error" column.

Ministers claim there are hundreds of millions of pounds of overpayments.

If you go back to the document I linked to already you'll see that, actually, it's 2.2 hundreds of millions of pounds. The DLA spend is £12bn meaning the overall overpayment rate is 1.9%

He claims that regular reviews would stop people from getting overpaid if they get better. Apparently no-one told him that an incurable condition is for life, not just for Christmas. Do you think he knows many people with cerebral palsy who got miraculously cured? I wonder if his social circle is full of war veterans who lost limbs which then grew back? I know he sat on the opposite side of the house to them, but he must have crossed paths with them sometimes: Do you think he asks David Blunkett and Gordon Brown if their eyesight is getting better? And as it's something I have I'd be very curious to meet someone with magically vanishing osteogenesis imperfecta. One can only assume that Goodman believes that Lourdes actually works.

While the absence of regular reviews might result in a few people getting overpaid, it ultimately works out to the benefit of the taxpayer: You see, most people become more impaired over time; rather than less. But where progression is gradual people don't often notice it quite so keenly. And then there are those who did notice they'd gotten worse but are too scared to call the DWP in case an overzealous Atos assessor comes and takes all their DLA despite them being eligible for an even higher rate.

Today @spoonydoc tweeted the following (and she's proper clever, she wrote the Spartacus Report):

DLA fraud:0.5% at £60mill PIP reassessments £300-500mill over 3 yrs. Cost saving or ideology?

So not only would the government find themselves shelling out more on people that had become more impaired but wouldn't have reported it, they'll also be haemorrhaging money to pay for these new reviews. Mr Badman says "but ducking decisions simply because constituents won't like them is scarcely a noble motive." I concur: But I also think that wanting to stump up more money for no other reason than to persecute disabled people is a rather overpriced way of proving that he is an odious little man.


  1. This is the comment I wroye on FB a few hours ago when I first read the source article for this blog:-

    As a person in reeciept of DLA I can honestly say no it dosen't need reform. While it may be true that having more regular checks on claiments could be argued for as necessery as if you currently recieve an indefinate/lifetime reward although occasionally reviewed they largely rely on the claimet to inform them of any change in circumstances - most people (?) in reciept of DLA are on 3 year awards which meands that every three years they have to reappliy and are reassessed through the paperwork they provide and evidence submitted by thier medical professionals.

    What is needed is a comprehensive advertising campaign to educate the public as to the reason for DLA and the kinds of people (all disabilities, and employment statuses) that are entitled to it and what kinds of things they spend it on.

    Jean Eveleigh

  2. DWP stats for DLA awards shows that new indefinite awards are around 23%. The 70% figure is historical. Of the 70%, by far the highest proportion of indefinite awards from the past are for people who are already over the age of 64 now. So built-in assessment and review of DLA claims is already happening. Helen Capocci DWP March 2011 page 10 via

  3. As I noted in my comment on the article, it's amazing that someone can write clearly, quote facts, and leave out the most salient fact of all, the 20-25% cut in budget that goes along with the axing of DLA and its replacement by PIP.

    Even if Mr Goodman (hah!) believes his own rhetoric that regular retesting is essential, that budget reduction has nothing to do with retesting, it's pure government diktat without any other justification than 'cos we can'. Equally the revised qualification criteria, which won't be fully revealed until after the WRB is law (erm, WTF? What exactly do they have to hide?) has nothing to do with the need or not for retesting. Rumours persist that wheelchair users may no longer qualify for Higher Rate Mobility under the new regime, because, after all, if you have a wheelchair then the environment is fully accessible (I don't know what they're smoking in DWP, but it's obviously potent stuff).

    The motive for the article becomes clearer when you look Mr Goodman up on wiki and find that while he may no longer be an MP, he is in fact one of the organisers of Conservative Home, the Tory's main website. Once a Party Man, always a Party Man.