The cold hard truth of living with Osborne’s ‘austerity’

The Voices Of Austerity – The Cold Hard Truth

Published on Jun 8, 2013

Everything you need to know about what’s going on with the powers that be …. In the UK.
Listen, understand it and share it ….. Good People of the World.

The extremely effective propaganda campaign by both the Tory/LD Coalition and most of the mainstream media has been hugely successful in spreading a mythology about benefits and benefit claimants.  Here are the real statistics c/o Michael Meacher MP:

The Labour Force Survey shows only 0.3% where two or more generations of working age have never worked.

The biggest element of social security expenditure |(42%) goes to pensioners.   Then housing benefit is next, accounting for 20%, of whom one-fifth are in work.   Then 15% goes on children, through child benefit and child tax credit.   Some 8% goes on disability living allowance, 4% on income support mainly for single parents and carers, 4% on employment and support allowance to those who can’t work due to sickness or disability, and 2% on carer’s allowance and maternity pay.   Just 3% is spent on jobseeker’s allowance.

The latest official DWP estimates show that last year just 0.7% of benefit expenditure was overpaid due to fraud, including a mere 0.3% for incapacity benefits.   It is equally false that benefit fraud is increasing.   The figures for combined fraud and customer error for JSA and income support show it halved from 9.4% in 1997-8 to only 4.8% in 2004-5.

Welfare expenditure totaled 11.6% under the Tories in 1996-7, but only 10.7% under Labour up to the crash in 2008-9.

Over the 2003-8 period leading up to the crash, only 37% received incapacity benefit long term, while 38% were on benefit for less tha one year.

Unemployment benefit levels fall well below what research shows most people believe should form a minimum household budget.   A single adult of working age receives just 40% of the weekly minimum income standard, and a couple with two children receive only 62% of the weekly minimum.

The truth is that many of the people claiming incapacity benefits are those with low employability in areas of few jobs.   Unemployment remains at 2.6 million, there are an average of 8 persons chasing every available job, and most employers (given the choice, which in a very slack labour market they have) would prefer not to take on the risk and hassle of emplying a disabled person.   Many people then end up in a situation where they are not fit enough to do the jobs they can get, but can’t get the jobs they can do.

http://www.michaelmeacher.info/weblog/2012/11/when-is-labour-going-to-destroy-the-tory-welfare-myths/#more-4463

Dear Esther McVey, your ‘facts’ aren’t True!

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 Hat-tip from Jayne Linney

Dear Esther McVey, your ‘facts’ aren’t True! 

Dear Esther McVey MP

We the undersigned have been shocked and appalled at you and your Minister’s persistent use of dubious facts and statistics regarding DLA. We ask that you make use of  the raft of factual statistics and desist from twisting evidence; your misrepresentation presumes some sort of illegal activity regarding DLA claimants, this is particularly disturbing when the DWP’s own figures for fraud of DLA is 0.5%.

Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and a former chief economist at the DWP, said ‘it was part of a “consistent pattern” which threatened to undermine public confidence in official statistics…”I think it is very unfortunate. These statistics are very important. Government analysts, economists and statisticians work very hard to produce them and they provide important information to the public,”…”It is very important that ministers should not seek to misrepresent what those stats actually do or don’t show. That detracts from the public’s faith in the analysis produced by government statisticians. ”This is, I am afraid, a consistent pattern of trying to draw out of the statistics things which they simply don’t show.”’

No evidence for Iain Duncan Smith benefit cap claim, says research chief 13.04.13

Your persistence that DLA requires few face-to-face medicals and little or no additional medical evidence to obtain DLA, is untrue. The government’s own figures show that just 16% of awards relied on the form only and a mere 9% of DLA funding was spent on this basis

Your claims that  DLA is awarded without a medical;  is simply not true, many claimants have to undergo a face to face medical assessment, as part of their application as theDWP website shows: Medical assessments You might get a letter saying you need to attend an assessment to check your eligibility. Further the DWP statistics report of November 2011 also clearly demonstrates Medical Examinations did form part of the assessment process for claims. http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/adhoc_analysis/2011/dla_evidence_award_values_nov11.pdfTable 2:

Savi Hensman’s blog in Ekklesia also disproves your claims –  Government minister Esther McVey’s untrue claims about Disability Living Allowance

‘Disability Living Allowance is an “outdated benefit” for which “around 50 per cent of decisions are made on the basis of the claim form alone – without any additional corroborating medical evidence,” stated UK minister for disabled people Esther McVey on the BBC and elsewhere this morning (8 April 2013).

This is completely untrue – the government’s own figures show that just 16 per cent of awards relied on the form only and a mere nine per cent of DLA funding was spent on this basis. McVey was trying to justify the controversial replacement of DLA by Personal Independence Payment (PIP) from today, to be paid to fewer people.’

Savitri Hensman Ekklesia

The latest figure you used in you BBC interview that of 50% of claimants not presenting any additional medical evidence, may in fact be due to medical evidence being sought directly, via the consent form on page 7 of the DLA form, which gives the DWP permission to contact the claimants GP and other medical professionals directly for further information.

You also state that 71% would “stay on it for life” without further assessments, but there have been no lifetime awards for sometime now, therefore your statement made on the BBC on the 8th of April 2013 is misleading. The new term ‘Indefinite Award’ requires claimants to undergo reassessment at any time at the whim of the DWP is it therefore the fault of the claimant if the DWP fail to exercise that right?  However, they announced a few months ago that they would not be testing those with indefinite claims at all until after the next election. Indefinite awards make up nearly 70% of all DLA awards and the government claim over and over that it is this group who have been “left to languish” yet they’ve decided to do nothing about it at all.

‘She also referred to the claim that, under DLA, 71 per cent of people get support for life without checks. This, again, is misleading. The figure refers to ‘indefinite’ awards, which means that their period may vary according to needs. Recall is possible if circumstances change. This is appropriate. There are many people who have permanent and unalterable disabilities. Moreover, while benefit may be awarded for a non-fixed period, that does not mean it is necessarily ‘for life’. The total number who still get DLA excludes those who have had it on fixed awards and now no longer get it.’

Savitri Hensman Ekklesia

In the press you have continued to indicate the reason for the change from DLA to PIP is the rapidly accelerating growth of DLA claimants up by some 35% in the last ten years, from 1.1million to 3.3million, a figure we do not contest. However we would like to examine the context of the 35%; the reform of DLA is only affecting working age claimants, with children and Pensioners being exempt from the changes (for now). Given this, when analysis of the increase in claimants in undertaken discounting those exempt,  you get a significantly different figure of 13%. Why then are you insistent on using the wholly inaccurate 35% figure if not only to make your claim seem more urgent?

Sue Marsh co author of the Responsible Reform Report states:“…the government have constantly misled the public over the new benefit, claiming a 35% rise when Spartacus Report showed clearly that the rise is only 13% for the working age group who will be affected. Physical conditions have remained totally stable, whilst the 13% rise is almost all due to a rise in mental health conditions and learning disabilities, a trend seen worldwide, not just in the UK.”

Sue Marsh Diary of a Benefits Scrounger.

Or if you prefer Disability News Service

 “DWP released a “statistical update”, which it said showed the number of successful claimants of DLA had risen by 15,000 between February and May 2012.

But analysis of DWP figures by Disability News Service (DNS) has shown that the rise in claimants is due to increases in the number of children and older people receiving DLA, while the number of claimants aged 16-64 actually fell by more than 1,600. This is important because the reforms and cuts will only affect working-age claimants…”

Disability News Service

Alternatively

“To quote the DWP 2013 report Fulfilling Potential: Building a deeper understanding of disability in the UK today, “There are 11.5 million people in the UK who are covered by the disability provisions set out in the Equality Act… six per cent (0.8 million) of children, 15 per cent (5.4 million) of adults of working age and nearly half (45 per cent, 5.3 million) of adults over State Pension age are covered… Only around half (six million) of the 11.5 million people covered by the disability provision in the Equality Act are in receipt of disability-related benefits.”

Savitri Hensman Ekklesia

Finally:

Anne McGuire, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, said it was “yet another example of the DWP manipulating the figures on DLA to suit their agenda of abolishing DLA”. This brings us to another disturbing trend of recent weeks, statements being made by yourself and MR ID Smith MP which strongly suggest people are rushing to claim DLA in order to avoid the new harsher PIP assessment criteria…

“We’ve seen a rise in the run-up to PIP. And you know why? They know PIP has a health check. They want to get in early, get ahead of it. It’s a case of ‘get your claim in early’.”

IDS 8/4/13

Hufffington Post

And you yourself have similarly claimed…

The Mail on Sunday this week reported that McVey believed coalition plans to abolish working-age DLA had led to a huge increase in applications by people desperate to claim the benefit before it was replaced by the new personal independence payment (PIP), which will come with a tougher assessment.

The Mail on Sunday article – based on an interview with McVey – stated: “The decision to introduce new tests has produced an extraordinary ‘closing-down sale’ effect, with rocketing claims as people rush to get their hands on unchecked ‘welfare for life’ before McVey’s axe falls on April 8.”

A spokeswoman for McVey told Disability News Service (DNS) that, although she did not use the phrases “closing-down sale” or “welfare for life”, “everything in the article was a fair representation” of the interview.”

John Pring DNS We have a number of  issues with these statements not least of which, the inescapable fact that no one can escape the changeover to PIP; every single DLA claimant, whether they have been on it for years or for five days will have to reapply for PIP in the next few years, therefore no one will be able to ‘get ahead’ of it and any ‘last minute’ claim for DLA would simply delay the inevitable. Ergo the suggestions in your statements that recent claims are an attempt to escape PIP appear convoluted . Our assertion is further supported by , Declan Gaffney Tue, 04/09/2013 in his article Did claims for DLA increase in the run-up to PIP? analysed statistics produced at https://www.nomisweb.co.uk/ which appear to refute these statements.

He States: “I presume Mr Duncan Smith has some basis for this claim, but it’s not supported by the published data on DLA. The changes only affect people of working age, so I’ve charted the number of claims by people age 16-64 with a duration of three months or less, using the data available on Nomis. A sudden increase in people claiming should show up in these figures: I don’t see it. On the contrary, the latest figures are the lowest on record.”

Given our concerns outlined above we request that you officially retract your recent comments with regard to DLA and PIP and issue a fairer balanced statement, based upon accurate data and one which maintains the integrity of Ministers in Government. We request you include the facts  that PIP only applies to working age DLA claimants; that there has been only an average increase in overall working age claimants, and there has been no significant rush to apply for DLA .

If you agree with the above and want to add you name to the latter please follow the link  and SIGN HERE 

This letter will close for signatures at midnight 21/04/13

Co Author – Debbie Sayers  – Ramblings of a Fibro Fogged Mind ramblingsofafibrofoggedmind.wordpress.com

Welfare Reform Scapegoats

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First posted on February 2, 2013

Welfare Reform Scapegoats

So, there’s not nearly enough work for the employable population and by this, I mean those of working age who are fit, healthy, underemployed or unemployed but available. We have the kinds of unemployment which threaten whole communities and entire generations: mass redundancies and NEETS galore who can’t get a foot on the first rung. Now, most sensible managers, given a choice, would utilise this potentially wonderful source first. But not this Government. Oh no….

Instead, the pillocks at the Top Table seemed to have divined that, lone parents and those whose lives are habitually dictated by a spectrum of physical and mental challenges have too little to do and should be the country’s premier source of fuel as a response to economic malaise.

This relentless and ruthless pursuit of the lone parent and the disabled person, at the same time and in the least conducive of economic climates, smacks of crass stupidity and boorishness. Yes, undoubtedly there is need to reform some aspects of Social Security – and certainly Social Care. Yes, undoubtedly there are cheats – but then, is there a walk or sphere of life where cheats do not exist? It seems beyond the wit of this Government to recognise that, as a result of their economic malfeasance, the economic climate is not currently conducive to their ‘welfare’ reforms. In fact, the timing of them is ignorant & cruel and demonstrates that they either don’t care or don’t know how to encourage a climate in which the whole country can flourish. Surely the financial costs can’t be worsened by a stay of these punishing reforms on those whose daily lives are already prescribed in no small measure – especially when the money “saved” is merely diverted to those who are implementing this ridiculous programme. This Government refutes the bigger, wider, sustainable solutions to this socio-political-economic picture, such as major investments in housing; infrastructure; universally accessible and meaningful education and health/social care provision; and whatever else you are mentally adding, dear Reader. But then, as we know, this cowardly Government hides behind easy scapegoats and superficial thinking.

The current measures are not being implemented to bring independence and autonomy to disadvantaged individuals. Nor are they being enforced because the country’s future and economic prosperity depend on it. This is to satisfy an ideological position informed by a mix of puritanical judgement, fake fatherly concern and that panic that comes with a lack of knowledge and imagination. But there is a fine line between pragmatism and cruelty when it requires the disabled and lone parent to validate their existence because they are deemed to be taking up room and draining resources.

A lone parent is often quite literally alone. You can’t rely indefinitely on goodwill and shared resources. If you are the only parent, with little or no unconditional and immediate support, then you are effectively on-call 24/7 – always. You’re bringing up the next generation, the source of Humanity’s continuum – it’s not a hobby – and, while it certainly isn’t temporary, the years when you have most influence and input might be. When you and, mostly you, alone, are that unconditional constant, the stability in your child’s life, you tend to want it to be you who is available when they are upset, or ill, reticent or just on holiday- not the childminder; not Day Care. That’s the sphere of your life in which you need to be reliable – not the job that pays you so little that you still need government credits.

Where is the sense in a society that forces single parents out to work for such low wages that they still require top-up benefits so that someone else, who may not be your idea of a suitable surrogate parent and who may not even like the job, can also be paid a pittance to look after your children? The same society which frets about family breakdown, quality time, modern pressures, neglected kids…

And if you have physical and or mental challenges that were officially recognised as disabling before the economic meltdown, it has already been accepted in some measure that your ability, capacity and reliability are potential barriers which narrow sharply the types of employment available – especially those jobs which pay sufficiently so as not to need government credit. How do you juggle the household, the personal care and the practical help you require: help that is already not always at a convenient time for you; and make yourself available for work: work that is already scarce for ‘fit’ people and probably doesn’t accommodate your variety of needs? How are employers to be convinced into equipping a workplace for someone who can’t guarantee whether they will manage five minutes or an hour of productive and reliable activity from one day to the next? How do you do said work at all if the journey to the workplace is all you can manage? How do you stop yourself feeling like you might be a patronised and resented token, a nuisance, an inconvenient expense?  How do you let go any dreams you had of forging your own progression as you’re herded from one advisor to another, knowing you could well be parked and still poor – and that this is it – trapped in a system with ever decreasing exits?

Is it wrong to be afraid that chains of pen pushers have been given arbitrary powers to play around with and effect control over so many real lives?

[Please do know, dear Reader, that I have experience of both single parenthood and disability and that I am not at all suggesting that lone parents or disabled people should in any way be excluded or discouraged from the workforce. Or that they should be prevented from achieving any degree of personal progress and fulfilment. Not at all. I think anyone, including a lone parent or disabled person who wants to, should be able to contact their not-for-profit jobcentre and obtain generous, competent and useful assistance in entering employment. I also believe in lifelong learning for all, access to retraining and voluntary work that is actually voluntary. But then, I believe in lots of things like that…]

Other julijuxtaposed posts on Think Left:

The Unstately Altar

Cameron and Co

Have You Drawn Your Curtains, Dearie?

Is it really better to lift people out of paying tax?

Moving On

On No Good Authority

Uprise!

The Bedroom Tax: The Unkindest Cut of All?

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by Jim Grundy

On 1st April 2013, a little under 1,000 Ashfield District Council tenancies will be subject to the new ‘Under-Occupancy Charge’, more commonly known as the ‘Bedroom Tax’. It is difficult to imagine a worse policy, even from a Government that appears short of everything except bad ideas.

Any council or housing association household of working age with one or more ‘spare’ bedrooms and in receipt of Housing Benefit will receive a cut to that benefit of up to £20 per week.

The stated aim of the new tax on the poorest is to increase the supply of larger accommodation and to cut the Housing Benefit bill by moving people into smaller properties. Does that stand up to scrutiny?

In short, “no”.

But let us first consider the kind of work-shy benefit scroungers that are to be affected by the Bedroom Tax.

Firstly, let us think of a scenario where a family with a severely disabled child under the age of ten has, on medical advice, to have their own, specially adapted, bedroom. According to this new legislation, the young boy or girl would have to share with a sibling or the family would have to pay the penalty charge.

Then there’s the example of a middle-aged couple, who have to sleep in separate rooms because one of them suffers from pressure sores and whose room is full of medical equipment. Despite the medical necessity for that couple requiring two bedrooms, the legislation does not recognise that and they would be penalised.

Another example could see a discharged soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) whose wife has died and whose child is pondering whether to go to university for fear that the Bedroom Tax will leave their father unable to cope.

But current members of the armed forces are affected too. Current government defence policy places greater reliance upon part-time reserve forces. Yet an absence of 13 weeks – rather less than the average tour to Afghanistan – from a council or housing association tenancy would see the family of that member of the military subject to the charge too. They might be serving their country but that won’t protect them from the Bedroom Tax.

Not excluded from the charge either would be a disabled household who rely on regular stop-over visits by friends or family to help them continue to live independently. They, too, fall foul of the new legislation.

Others guilty of the crime of under-occupation will include those affected by domestic violence and families with a spare room offering to foster children, some of whom will have come from very troubled backgrounds. Nevertheless, those who are prepared to take them in, to offer protection to vulnerable children, are not excluded from the new tax.

Less emotively, let us consider the simple example of an individual with no family, who is not disabled, living in a two bedroom council property (and who obviously has no ambition to have a family of their own). If there is no alternative accommodation within the council stock they would be obliged to move into the private rented sector. Inevitably, renting from a private landlord would prove more expensive than from a local authority, so the aim of saving on the Housing Benefit bill would be completely compromised.

I started by saying that the Bedroom Tax will neither release larger accommodation nor will it save Housing Benefit. Moving people into the private rented sector will add costs, not save money, that much is obvious, but is there the supply of smaller accommodation within the council stock to move people around, even if there were no other considerations to be taken into account?

Again, the answer is clear and it is an overwhelming ‘no’.

With nearly 1,000 tenancies to be affected by the Bedroom Tax, within Ashfield there is no scope to transfer any more than 40-50 households each year into a home where they wouldn’t lose out to the Bedroom Tax.

It would take, therefore, around 20 years to place people into smaller homes, assuming no-one’s circumstances changed over the next couple of decades.

So the social consequences of the policy are dire. It penalises some of the most vulnerable people. It even punishes those serving their country in war zones.

But the crowning irony, the final insult and a further example, were one even needed, of the gross hypocrisy of the Coalition Government is the fact that Lord Freud, the minister leading on this policy, has 11 spare bedrooms of his own, including eight in his own country mansion.

So tax the chronically sick; tax the serving solder, but for heaven’s sake don’t tax a millionaire in his mansion.

Other posts by Jim Grundy:

Ungentlemenly Conduct: The 1881 Nottinghamshire Cricket Strike?

Plebgate: Andrew Mitchell and the Gift That Keeps on Giving

If… The Clegg Version (with apologies to Rudyard Kipling)

How can pay rise be unfair when mega-rich get tax cut?

The Unnatural Death of Affordable Housing

Planning to Blame Immigrants? Get Your Facts Straight & Get Rid of Your Prejudices, Nick Boles

Arguments that every Liberal Democrat would do well to hear

“We Take Care of Our Own” or What Labour Needs to Remember if it Wants to Win.

Softly, Softly, into Slums: New Law permits Councils to turn Homeless away

Cut out Cuts – Leave the Eton Mess Behind