Government Reviewer Opposed ESA Rollout

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Government Reviewer Opposed ESA Rollout

By Sue Marsh, also published here

In 2008, Labour introduced a new out of work sickness benefit, Employment and Support Allowance, to replace the old Incapacity Benefit.

The new system of application and assessments was much tougher, and politicians originally hoped that up to a million people could be moved from the benefit.

However, by 2010, it was clear there were significant flaws in the process. People with mental health and fluctuating conditions were not being fairly treated and successful appeals against “fit for work” decisions soared to 40%.

Professor Harrington was asked to review the new benefit and make recommendations for improving it. As the election took place in 2010, crucially, only new claimants were being assessed. ESA was yet to be rolled out to the more complicated, and often longer term, Incapacity Benefit claimants, though trials were underway in Burnley and Aberdeen.

Most people claim out of work sickness benefits for short periods – perhaps to get through a sports injury, accident or one off surgery – and stop their claims within 2 years. However, this will always leave a few people with serious, life limiting conditions who will need to claim the benefit for longer periods. Over the years, those claims build up, increasing the proportion who need long term support.

When the coalition came to power in May 2010, they immediately announced that they would go ahead and start to reassess those already claiming Incapacity Benefit.

I could never understand this decision. Why would you take a failing benefit and roll it out to almost 2 million of the most vulnerable claimants? Not only that, but at first, just 25,000 people per month were being assessed, but the government constantly increased and increased the numbers until today, nearly 130,000 assessments are carried out every month.

Why? Why would you rush this group through failing assessments, ever faster, when backlogs kept on increasing, tribunals were overturning 40% of decisions that went to appeal and even legally, courts were starting to judge that the test discriminates against certain groups?

Unless of course you don’t want the tests to be fair. If your aim is to remove a million people from the benefit, perhaps it suits you to make sure that as many of those existing claimants don’t face a fair test? Since 2010, the government have repeatedly delayed improvements to ESA. Out of 25 recommendations made by Professor Harrington in his Yr1 Review, almost two thirds have not been fully and successfully implemented. An “Evidence Based Review” using new descriptors designed by mental health charities and those charities representing people with fluctuating conditions was initially rejected, then taken on, but although results were due in June, still, tests use the old descriptors to decide who qualifies for support. *

The government repeatedly claimed that Professor Harrington had supported the national rollout of incapacity benefit claimants

“Professor Harrington went away and made his recommendations to us, which we accepted in full and have implemented. He told me, “I believe the system is in sufficient shape for you to proceed with incapacity benefit reassessment.” We set ourselves a goal to put his recommendations in place, improve the quality of the process and address many of the issues to which hon. Members have referred today by the end of last May, when the assessments in the incapacity benefit reassessment were to start alongside the existing process of assessing ESA new claimants. We did that, and we started.”

1 Feb 2012 : Column 289WH Hansard Chris Grayling
However, Harrington was clearly an intelligent man who had made thoughtful and intelligent suggestions for improving the assessments. I could never understand why he agreed to put the most vulnerable claimants through a failing test.

So I decided to ask him.

It took me a while to track down his email address, but after pulling lots of strings, I was able to ask him outright.

This was Professor Harrington’s reply :

“To your question:

I NEVER—repeat–NEVER agreed to the IB migration. I would have preferred that it be delayed but by the time I said that, the political die had been cast.

I then said that i would review progress of that during my reviews.

The decision was political .

I could not influence it.

IS THAT CRYSTAL CLEAR?

Malcolm”

I’d say it was fairly clear, wouldn’t you?

Ian Duncan-Smith and others took the decision to push nearly 2 million people through a failing test as quickly as they could. Why? Was it so that they could remove as many people as possible from the benefit whether they needed it or not? Surely any failures to improve the test as recommended by Harrington, charities and campaigners couldn’t have been deliberate? Delaying improvements until the IB cohort had been rushed through, the cohort this government and others are convinced are simply “scroungers” and “skivers”?

Instead, as we now see, delays have increased, successful appeals have risen, lives have been lost to the sheer inaccuracy and flawed design of the assessments and the human suffering is now clear for all to see.

To have taken the decision through incompetence is bad enough, but if it was taken deliberately and cynically, I can only hope the responsible ministers will be held to account. Over 200,000 incorrect decisions have since been overturned in law and appeals are taking up to a year to be heard in some areas.

When David Cameron came to power he said :

“The test of a good society is how do you protect the poorest, the most vulnerable, the elderly, the frail.

That’s important in good times, it’s even more important in difficult times. People need to know that if they have me as their Prime Minister and they have a Conservative government, it will be that sort of Prime Minister

Iain Duncan-Smith said :

“I say to those watching today and who are genuinely sick, disabled or are retired. You have nothing to fear.

This government and this party don’t regard caring for the needy as a burden. It is a proud duty to provide financial security to the most vulnerable members of our society and this will not change. This is our contract with the most vulnerable.”

I look forward to them explaining what made them change their minds.

Today, we must be our own media. Please RT on twitter, share on Facebook and help me to make sure that as many people as possible see this news. *Coincidentally, the evidence based review was released yesterday, as I was writing this article.https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/265471/wca-evidence-based-review.pdf

Cameron’s Mythical Dragons

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Cameron’s Mythical Dragons

First posted March 24, 2013 by garryk99

01021_george_and_the_dragon

You know a Government is in trouble when they start slaying mythical dragons.

David Cameron announced this week that immigrants families would face being ineligible to apply for a Council house for up to five years. The Prime Minister has been under pressure from Conservative MPs since their appalling Eastleigh by-election result, where they slumped to third behind UKIP. The UKIP campaign was based strongly on an anti-immigration and anti-EU stance.

With a background of a stalling economy, poor poll ratings, internal conflict and a stress-cracked Coalition, the omens for the next election look poor for the Conservatives. With under three years to go, it would take a remarkable and unlikely turn around to reverse the trend.

So how does such a Government in this mess move forward?

They roll out their mythical dragons to slay.

For the Conservatives these are the EU, immigration, the public sector, unions, the welfare state and the so called deficit. Each is chosen for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the myth must be commonly shared. It is useful if your friends in the media will propagate helpful stories, using one-off extreme cases to demonstrate the rule. For example, a single mother with eleven children was the centre of a media storm last month. This case was used to demonstrate the ‘failing of an over generous benefit system’ , despite being a highly unusual case that represents a minuscule percentage of benefit claimants. The domination of the right-wing press ensures that such issues are rarely portrayed accurately, or with a fair evidential basis.

Secondly, each dragon should represent a group that is vulnerable and weak. This applies to immigrants and welfare claimants. These groups do not have the influence to seriously fight back.

Thirdly, the concept of scape-goating should apply. Are immigrants responsible for the lack of social housing? No, the issue is decades of not building them, while simultaneously selling the stock off. Are people on Job Seekers Allowance holding back the country and responsible for their own worklessness? No, our economy is so configured to ensure a permanent high level of unemployment to create a downward pressure on wages, and transfer wealth to global corporations and the super-rich.  Scape-goating also helps to ensure ordinary workers focus their rage on those they should unite with. Why should the elite fight everyone else, when they can have ordinary people fight among themselves?

The Conservatives know that organised labour remains a barrier to eroding employee rights and creating the  preconditions which would enable global capitalists to further asset strip the people of the United Kingdom. This is why the public sector and Unions are targets for slaying, not because they are bad, but for ideological reasons. The Miners strike in 1984-85 was a classic case of artificially constructing a fight, with the intention of destabilising the union movement and to justify a reduction in union rights.

The Conservatives always talk about the deficit as something Labour grew so large due to spending too much. This is nonsense, and even a cursory look at historical data blows this myth out of the water. The deficit is being used as a trojan horse to fragment and privatise our services for corporate profit.

So given the Conservatives inability to win the next election based on their performance or benefit they have brought to people, we can expect two years of further attacks on the classic Tory dragons.

Those on the left need to ensure that they fight every myth propagated by this Government, as it gets down and dirty heading towards 2015. No action should be done or speech made that gives credence  to these myths.

This lesson needs to be quickly learned by the Shadow Cabinet.

Are you listening Liam Byrne?

The economy will doom the Tories if Labour can come up with a plan

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The economy will doom the Tories if Labour can come up with a plan

First posted February 24, 2013 by garryk99

The recent downgrading of the UK by Moodys from it’s AAA credit rating will certainly create problems for the Government.

It will make little difference to the UK financially. The UK’s financial position is well known and money markets will have been building this into prices for some time. Similar downgrades in the US and France have not made a real difference to their borrowing costs.

However, the Chancellor and the Government have had their credibility damaged. The perception of lost credibility is very dangerous, and once lost is hard to get back. In September 1992, just months after a remarkable election victory, Black Wednesday damaged the Major Government permanently.

George Osborne was already looking in a poor position, with his Austerity programme being stretch way beyond the period promised in 2010. Growth has stalled badly.

‘It’s the economy stupid’ is the political reality. It sums the fact that a Government need not be that popular, if the public feel that their jobs and economic future looks secure with them. Analysis of YouGov data since 2010 on this very issue paints the Government in a poor position. YouGov run a tracking poll that asks respondents which party is best for the economy in general. In June 2010 the Conservatives topped the poll with 37% vs Labour’s 26%. However, the poll in February 2013 showed a fall down to 27%. The data is plotted below:

Best Party

The same data has been plotted on a CUSUM chart. This essentially shows the trends beneath the noise:

Best Party Cusum

What is clear is that the Conservatives have been in free fall since around March 2012. This is a reference to the ‘omnishambles’ budget, and they have not recovered since. What is also noticeable is the fact the Labour has not felt any benefit, merely moving from 26% in June 2010 to 28% in February 2013.

The notable beneficiary of this has been ‘None’, moving from  7% to 13%. Quite simply increasing numbers of people feel that no party offers any prospect of improving the economy. They have lost faith in the Conservatives, but don’t feel Labour offers anything better. This finding is demonstrated by the correlation between the Conservative figure and the none figure (-0.75). The correlation of the Conservative to the Labour figure is a much worse -0.29.

The outlook for the UK economy is currently poor for the next few years. There looks to be no prospect of a change in economic fortune that would restore credibility back to the Conservatives. Our main trading partners in Europe are suffering very badly, and the overall picture is one of bouncing along the bottom of a long period of low or no growth.

Labour does have a open goal here, if they can have faith in plan not based on Austerity, but one of serious and sustained investment. The last few months has seen some speeches where Ed Miliband has begun to articulate an alternative, yet this embryonic economic plan needs much more flesh and bone. This plan cannot be Austerity-lite, but something different. The price of not creating and articulating this vision could be to enter the next election giving the Conservatives a chance it simply does not deserve.

Labour failing to beat the Conservatives in 2015 would be unforgivable.

What Labour and Tories Achieved in Government.

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WHAT LABOUR ACHIEVED WHEN IN GOVERNMENT
By Sue Jones

1. Longest period of sustained low inflation since the 60s.
2. Low mortgage rates.
3. Introduced the National Minimum Wage and raised it to £5.52.
4. Over 14,000 more police in England and Wales.
5. Cut overall crime by 32 per cent.
6. Record levels of literacy and numeracy in schools.
7. Young people achieving some of the best ever results at 14, 16, and 18.
8. Funding for every pupil in England has doubled.
9. Employment is at its highest level ever.
10. Written off up to 100 per cent of debt owed by poorest countries.
11. 85,000 more nurses.
12. 32,000 more doctors.
13. Brought back matrons to hospital wards.
14. Devolved power to the Scottish Parliament.
15. Devolved power to the Welsh Assembly.
16. Dads now get paternity leave of 2 weeks for the first time.
17. NHS Direct offering free convenient patient advice.
18. Gift aid was worth £828 million to charities last year.
19. Restored city-wide government to London.
20. Record number of students in higher education.
21. Child benefit up 26 per cent since 1997.
22. Delivered 2,200 Sure Start Children’s Centres.
23. Introduced the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
24. £200 winter fuel payment to pensioners & up to £300 for over-80s.
25. On course to exceed our Kyoto target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
26. Restored devolved government to Northern Ireland.
27. Over 36,000 more teachers in England and 274,000 more support staff and teaching assistants.
28. All full time workers now have a right to 24 days paid holiday.
29. A million pensioners lifted out of poverty.
30. 600,000 children lifted out of relative poverty.
31. Introduced child tax credit giving more money to parents.
32. Scrapped Section 28 and introduced Civil Partnerships.
33. Brought over 1 million social homes up to standard.
34. Inpatient waiting lists down by over half a million since 1997.
35. Banned fox hunting.
36. Cleanest rivers, beaches, drinking water and air since before the industrial revolution.
37. Free TV licences for over-75s.
38. Banned fur farming and the testing of cosmetics on animals.
39. Free breast cancer screening for all women aged between 50-70.
40. Free off peak local bus travel for over-60s.
41. New Deal – helped over 1.8 million people into work.
42. Over 3 million child trust funds have been started.
43. Free eye test for over 60s.
44. More than doubled the number of apprenticeships.
45. Free entry to national museums and galleries.
46. Overseas aid budget more than doubled.
47. Heart disease deaths down by 150,000 and cancer deaths down by 50,000.
48. Cut long-term youth unemployment by 75 per cent.
49. Free nursery places for every three and four-year-olds.
50. Free fruit for most four to six-year-olds at school.
51. Gender recognition Act 2004/5

WHAT THE TORIES/LIB DEMS HAVE ACHIEVED WHILE IN GOVERNMENT
1. Introduced unpaid, unlimited workfare for those deemed too sick or disabled to work by their doctor
2. Scrapped crisis loans for the most vulnerable
3. Severely reduced Legal Aid so that equal, fair access to justice is no longer preserved.
4. Increased VAT ensuring the poorest pay proportionately more in tax. Cut top tax rate to 45% giving millionaires a £40000 pa tax windfall.
5. Legalised state surveillance of all personal internet traffic.
6. Planning to curtail human rights, guaranteed by membership of the EU. That is in their Program for Government, and has been planned from the very start.
7. Introduced charges for Child Support Agency, so that vulnerable single parents have to pay to get maintainance from absent fathers, for their children.

8. Introduced Poll tax, and now are to introduce the same unfair Council Tax Bill, , sneaked in via the Localism Bill. The poorest will pay the most.

9. Sold off the publically owned and publically funded NHS to their sponsors and donors, and to Companies that many of them have financial interests in. Despite promises not to.
10. Sold off most of the Council housing stock, under Thatcher
11. Rationed access to Health Services, to the detriment of patients, Closed A and E’s and the out of hours and walk in surgeries set up by Labour.
12. Halved Support for disabled children
Scrapped the “Youth Premium” for the most profoundly disabled children
13. Closed 250 Sure start centres, 124 of those closed in the first year of the Coalition.
14. Cut housing support for disabled people
15. Reduced contributions based ESA eligibility to just one year. This means many people living in households with other income lose their benefit
16. Cut Council budgets so they can no longer provide social care for some of the most vulnerable people
17. Introduced PIP to replace DLA, with the aim of cutting 500,000 vulnerable people from the figures any assessments
18. Cut all benefit support for sick and disabled people appealing their ESA decisions from April 2013
19. Persistently lied to the public about Work Capability Assessments and failed to address the fact they are unfit for purpose while disabled people suffer and die.
20. Introduced targets – 7 out of 8 ESA claimants to lose their ESA, regardless of their significant illness and disabilities, which has meant even cancer patients have had to go to the job centre to look for work
21. Encouraged hate crime by using the “scrounger” and Nazi “burden on the State” style propaganda in speeches and in the media about the sick and disabled, and the unemployed , fed politicised press releases to the Media
22. Introduced “monitoring” of the BBC, and other media , for “left wing bias”
23. Lied about benefit fraud rates, and failed to apologise when they were rumbled.
24. Closing Remploy factories, throwing over 1500 working disabled people on the scrapheap
25. Fostering a divisive nation by using ideology of hate – low paid workers are set against benefit claimants, for example, in the speech about “making work pay”, which was simply a front for cutting welfare provision.
26. Cut respite care

27. Suggesting in PIP that a sick or disabled person can “bathe” if they can wash above the waist only
28. Re-classified paraplegics as “fully mobile” if they use their wheelchairs too well
29. Lying about Workfare repeatedly to the press
30. Falsifying internet documents and issuing press releases to make workfare look successful when it’s a corrupt sham
31. Reduced employment , workers pay, and workers rights.
32. Fostered a Nation that prioritises profits over basic human needs
33. Generated more wealth for the very wealthy, and forced many others into destitution, bleak poverty and 60% of those using food banks are in work.
34. Given away a billion pounds of our assets in the form of schools, gifted to private corporations, in the name of academies, with the associated half a billion in legal costs paid out of our taxes. Sold off school playing fields.
35. Deliberately sabotaged the economy to profit a few, whilst inflicting austerity,misery and poverty on many many others, because of a Tory ideological drive to dismantle welfare, and any other form of State support.
36. Increased student fees to be 3 times more than they were, despite promises not to. This means that access to higher education is closing off for many ordinary young people.
37. Between 32 and 73 deaths PER WEEK of sick and disabled people as a consequence of “reform”, despite denial that is so, the Government have nonetheless refused to monitor and account for the deaths of those Atos has declared for to work, and those awaiting appeal.