Monday, 21 October 2013

PIP 20 metre rule consultation response: "We're not listening."

Today the DWP have published their response to the recent consultation over the distance that someone must be unable to walk to qualify for help with moving around under Personal Independence Payments. That consultation itself came about after legal action was launched against the DWP by myself and others because the first consultation took place under false pretences.

The result: they're keeping the threshold for enhanced support at twenty metres.

Unfortunately, despite Mike Penning - the new Minister of State for Disabled People - assuring us in the foreward that the DWP "have listened carefully to the feedback received from disabled people and their organisations" the bulk of the response sets out why the DWP are going to ignore the feedback that has been given to them.

The most telling part is paragraphs 3.2 and 3.3 which read:
"Out of 1142 respondents, 914 indicated a clear preference for changing the Moving around criteria. [From 20m to something else.] [...] Five individual respondents were supportive of retaining the current criteria."
Just in case that isn't clear, 914 people told the DWP that the twenty metre threshold for high rate support with moving around was no good, while just 5 people told them to keep it at twenty metres.

The executive summary is three pages long and doesn't actually state the outcome directly. However, this is the DWP summary of what the public responses said to them: (Emphasis mine)
  • Respondents felt that there was no evidence to support the use of 20 metres as the distance for determining entitlement to the enhanced rate of the Mobility component. Many respondents felt that there was little evidence to show that an individual who could walk a little over 20 metres would face lower costs than an individual who could walk less than 20 metres. Respondents pointed out that other Government policies use 50 metres as a measure for mobility.
  • Respondents were concerned that the current 20 metres distance used in the criteria would have negative consequences for individuals. Many respondents were concerned about the impact on people moving from the higher rate of DLA to the standard rate of PIP who would lose access to a Motability scheme car. They felt this could increase isolation and reduce independence, have significant financial impact, and cause deterioration in their physical and mental health.
  • Respondents felt the criteria would increase individuals’ need for support from other public services and that this would have an increased cost for the Government.
  • Respondents welcomed the inclusion in Regulations of the reliability criteria, which are used to measure a person’s ability to complete an activity safely, to an acceptable standard, repeatedly and within reasonable time period. However, they wanted to ensure that these were delivered appropriately and consistently in the PIP assessment
The most common suggestion made by respondents was to extend the qualifying distance for the enhanced rate from 20 metres to a longer distance. Other people suggested revising the assessment to make it more in line with the social model of disability.
And the DWP response:
1.14 Having considered all these factors, the Government believes that the use of 20 metres is the best way of identifying those whose physical mobility is most limited. We think it is justified to focus support in this way given the policy intent to target support on those with the greatest need and create a more financially sustainable benefit.
I see a small glimmer of hope here though. One thing that disabled people said to government repeatedly that anyone deemed able to perform an action must be able to do so safely, reliably and repeatedly.
1.15 The reliability criteria are a key protection for claimants and, recognising the concerns voiced by some respondents to the consultation, we will look to introduce a requirement for Health Professionals involved in the assessment to confirm that they have referred to the criteria when formulating their advice.
It seems clear that the responses to the consultation were never going to matter; the DWP has ridden roughshod over the whole lot to push ahead with what they want. They explain that the overwhelming majority of responses were against them, they acknowledge all the objections, and then they carry on as before. It's quite telling that their document has an almost petulant tone to it, like some teenager at being told they can't have their own way. For example: "Government is entitled to use different criteria for different purposes".

I am not able to talk about my next step with regard to legal action however my solicitors and I will be going over the consultation response very carefully in the next few days.

Please sign WOW Petition against the War On Welfare.

DWP website: Consultation on the PIP assessment 'moving around' activity
Victory! DWP to launch PIP mobility consultation
Why I am suing the government

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Starting as He Means to Continue?

Imagine the uproar if a new (male) Minister for Women's first press article said 'well, we all know that they are all sluts', or if a new (white) Minister for Racial Equality's first article said 'well, we all know that they're all terrorists', but the (non-disabled) Minister for Disabled People fronts an article saying 'well, we all know that disabled people are all frauds and scroungers' and no one bats an eye. 

Yes, with DLA fraud at 0.3% the lowest of any benefit, new DWP Minister of State for Disabled People Mike Penning's first public act was to star in the latest* in the Hate Mail's ongoing demonisation of all disabled people as frauds and scroungers by claiming that DLA is riddled with people put there by Labour in an attempt to defraud the unemployment figures (apparently he's a bit hazy on the fact DLA is an In Work benefit) and that 94% have never had a medical assessment. As Sue Marsh eloquently points out, that might just be because in 94% of cases a DWP decision maker has decided there's really not much point in checking that an amputated limb has grown back, cerebral palsy has vanished overnight, or whatever.

Unfortunately as disabled people we're growing used to this. You wait years for justice and then along come three Ministers Against Disabled People in a row. First we had Miller, Miller the Cripple Killer, then the odious 'they get better' McVey, and now Penning, whose only prior contact with disability from a quick scout of Hansard appears to have been questions about disabled shipping while Undersecretary of State for Transport. If you look at his c.v. in more detail it doesn't get any more promising - squaddie in the Grenadier Guards (and IDS is an ex-Guards officer), fireman, junior minister at Transport, junior minister at Northern Ireland, and now us. We can be charitable and assume that he didn't come by his disablist views independently, but nothing in his background suggests anything likely to have generated an informed or remotely empowering attitude to disability. He was Shadow Minister for Health, but that's more likely to have driven him into the 'they're broken' Medical Model camp, amply reinforced by his coming of age in the relentlessly physical Army and Fire Service. Whatever his own views, it's clear that the institutional disablism of the Department of Work and Pensions (or maybe just IDS's SpAd), have thoroughly nobbled him in his first week in the job.

So once again disability advocates and activists are faced with dragging another Minister kicking and screaming into the 20th Century, and god forbid we manage to get one to understand the Social Model before they are moved on. It is clear the DWP's Unum-trained advocates of the perverted Bio-Psycho-Social-Model (aka 'the scroungers have only got themselves blame if they're too lazy to recover from a spinal cord injury') have already gotten their claws into Penning, but note that both Miller and McVey were promoted for what they did as Minister Against Disabled People, so clearly vilifying us in the media equals a job well done in Cameron's eyes. I'm not sure that even Miller or McVey started their ministerial stint with such an open attack on disabled people as frauds and scroungers, and neither were exactly slouches at that, so keep your eye on Penning, he may be the coming man.

Disablism, the one form of hate that's growing ever more popular, now with extra Ministerial approval....

*I'm not going to link to it, that just drives up their advertising revenue and convinces them that attacking disabled people gets plenty of page hits.

Edited to add: I may have been unreasonably positive about Penning, I've just seen his interview with Disability News Service: Spending on DLA and PIP will be cut next year, says new disability minister and apparently he knows all about disability because he's friends with Simon Weston and knows some disabled ex-rugby players *headdesk*  *headdesk*  *headdesk*

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Intensive programs to deal with *that*...

The Conservatives have had their annual get together where they moan about how much they hate us benefit scroungers and lay out their plans to torture us just a little bit more.

Much noise was made about George Osborne's plan to make JobSeekers' Allowance claimants either attend the JobCentre every day or participate in a workfare scheme.

But a less talked about nugget of the plan is this:

Or alternatively, if you've got long-term problems like addictions or mental health issues, you will have to go on an intensive programme that deals with that.

From ITV

As we all sadly know; a great many people who are unable to work due to mental illness have, over the last few years, failed the WCA so been refused ESA and have been forced to claim JSA, despite being in no state to be job-seeking. And now it seems that people with health problems will be forced into potentially unsuitable treatment for their £71.70 a week.

A few years ago my right jaw joint crapped out. I have a bone disease so my joints are kinda crumbly. Last year I got told that that there was nothing wrong with my jaw and it was just depression. They wanted me to go for talking therapies as a treatment for my jaw pain.

About 6 months later someone finally bothered to take an x-ray of my jaw. Low and behold: There's a bloody great chunk of bone missing from my joint.

Now, my health problems are much more complicated than one little joint and I wouldn't be out of work for just one teeny joint (no matter how painful it can be at times). But lets hypothetically say I was on JSA because my jaw had made me lose my last job. It's possible. As a comedian my job depended on me being able to talk a lot. On some days that's really excruciating. I could have been forced to go through pointless counselling because at one point an idiot doctor decided to not look for physical evidence and proclaimed that my jaw pain was a mental health problem.

Now, in that example we're looking at forced treatment that's a complete waste of time and money, but ultimately harmless enough.

But some enforced treatments could be very dangerous indeed. Could you imagine someone with severe schizophrenia being sent to a barely-qualified counsellor? What about someone with Crohn's who has been misdiagnosed as bulimic by a doctor that won't listen and is then sanctioned by the DWP for not complying with their treatment when they - unsurprisingly - continue to throw up.

Forced treatment is a very dangerous route when you consider all the misdiagnosing that goes on. In fact: Forced treatment is pretty dangerous anyway. Last time I saw a neurologist about my migraines he prescribed a drug which prolonged my heart's QT interval. This can be fatal. If the DWP decided that I needed to get my migraines under control to make myself more employable and forced me to either take the drug the neurologist recommended or I'd be sanctioned and have no money for food; I might be dead by now.

Making people sign on every day is a waste of taxpayer's money. It will create havoc in JobCentres where they've barely got the staff to manage the current workload of people signing on once a fortnight. But this aspect of Gideon's 'Help to Work' program is downright dangerous.