Take the coalition’s ‘Tory Boy’ posturing on welfare claimants with a pinch of salt

Neil Coyle gives a robust, evidenced based analysis of the latest DWP figures on disability benefit re-assessments and attempts to get people back into work.

Iain Duncan Smith

Neil Coyle is Director of Policy for the Disability Alliance and a Labour Councillor in Southwark but writes here in a personal capacity.

Once again the government has released statistics which cultivate the perception that benefits are widely misused. 

The statistics cover applications for Employment and Support Allowance applications that took place between the somewhat arbitrary dates of 27th October 2008 and 31st August 2010.

They include thousands of people, 38 per cent, who did not undergo the Work Capability Assessment which determines benefit entitlement. Discounting incomplete assessments, 64 per cent were believed to be ‘fully fit for work’. The press fail to report, however, that 71,600 people successfully appealed this decision (pdf) in 2009/10 alone and consequently moved onto Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), costing almost £8 million to the tribunals system.

The underlying issue is the change in rules which govern benefit entitlement; Labour changed from a more passive incapacity benefits system to the ESA model of greater expectation to work in 2008. This had the support of many stakeholders, including disability organisations, based on evidence that many disabled people want to work.

So the figures do not demonstrate widespread fraud, but show that out of work benefits and support are being updated and redesigned to reflect modern possibilities. The challenge is that the new structure was supposed to be coupled with genuine work opportunities and additional support to get and keep work for disabled people and others being moved off incapacity benefits.

However, the coalition government has eroded support (including ending the Pathways to Work scheme) and DWP seem remarkably less keen to publish data on the ultimate objective of the ‘welfare to work’ agenda: the number of people moving off benefits and accessing and sustaining employment.  

So take the statistics with a pinch of salt and consider whether this is just crude ‘work-shy’ posturing of the Harry Enfield ‘Tory Boy’ variety as we approach significant UK elections in May.

The process to move people off incapacity benefits and into work was begun by Labour in 2008. The task to deliver employment should not be underestimated; over 40 per cent of the people being moved off Incapacity Benefit have a mental health problem and 40 per cent have no formal qualifications.

Helping people into work also requires jobs to be available. With the coalition committed to axing significant public sector jobs, depressing private sector employment in turn, it will be harder for disabled people to compete for opportunities. There are already more than 10 people seeking each full time vacancy. And moving people into work takes time. Labour introduced Pathways to Work to help some disadvantaged people get and keep work, but only 13 per cent of the disabled people helped by Pathways were able to return to work within a year.

The coalition, however, has announced the time-limiting of out of work benefits for many disabled people receiving ESA to just one year. After that, further poverty and exclusion beckon for some of our most disadvantaged citizens.

Iain Duncan Smith’s DWP has also scrapped Pathways and restricted the use of Access to Work (which helps employers take on disabled people), but the flagship ‘Work Programme’ will not begin operations until June 2011 – leaving many disabled people lacking support to get and keep work. 

Further evidence is also emerging of how government cuts are undermining local authorities’ ability to support disabled people into work. 

The message under the coalition is clear: don’t get ill, have an accident or lose your job; support may not be available.

Progressives must champion the age-old Labour value of employment for all who can work. But this sentiment of supporting people to get and keep work is being undermined by pernicious tabloid headlines stereotyping benefit recipients encouraged by DWP statistical releases which are neither robust nor contextualised.

29 Responses to “Take the coalition’s ‘Tory Boy’ posturing on welfare claimants with a pinch of salt”

  1. Elly M

    RT @leftfootfwd: Take the coalition's 'Tory Boy' posturing on welfare claimants with a pinch of salt: //bit.ly/k841ts writes Neil Coyle

  2. BendyGirl

    RT @leftfootfwd: Take the coalition's 'Tory Boy' posturing on welfare claimants with a pinch of salt //bit.ly/iYYDSg

  3. Neil Coyle

    RT @leftfootfwd: Take the coalition's 'Tory Boy' posturing on welfare claimants with a pinch of salt //bit.ly/iYYDSg

  4. AltGovUK

    RT @leftfootfwd: Take the coalition's 'Tory Boy' posturing on welfare claimants with a pinch of salt: //bit.ly/k841ts writes Neil Coyle

  5. Count of Undolpho

    Incapacity Benefit – 75% drop claim or found fit! Twist the stats //bit.ly/lLerR4
    #disabilitynormal

  6. Livable4All

    RT @BendyGirl: RT @leftfootfwd: Take the coalition's 'Tory Boy' posturing on welfare claimants with a pinch of salt //bit.ly/iYYDSg

  7. Rosie Scott

    RT @BendyGirl: RT @leftfootfwd: Take the coalition's 'Tory Boy' posturing on welfare claimants with a pinch of salt //bit.ly/iYYDSg

  8. John Snowdon

    RT @leftfootfwd: Take the coalition's 'Tory Boy' posturing on welfare claimants with a pinch of salt //bit.ly/iYYDSg

  9. DavidG

    It’s truly sad to see Labour still claiming that ESA was a positive move for disabled people, whereas the truth is that they as much as the Con-Dems designed the system to deliberately distort the assessment process and force genuinely disabled people out of the disability benefits system and onto the harsher, uncaring, disability-hostile JSA — been there, done that, had to complain to ministerial level just to get JCP to acknowledge my disability: see //tinyurl.com/6xyz52a. Talk to individual disabled people and they will tell you of their genuine fear of ESA, listen to our accounts of the horrific abuse of the WCA system by ATOS and their tame quacks: c.f. //tinyurl.com/5wjs26e or //tinyurl.com/6aqoztp. This isn’t a new Con-Dem plot, it is the system working as Labour designed it. Deliberate demonisation of disabled benefit claimants by DWP press-releases coordinating hate-ridden tabloid vitriol didn’t start under the Con-Dems, it’s been happening for several years now and disabled people were expressing their concern while Labour were still in power. The farcical plans for WCA and DLA assessments based on an access-all-areas imaginary wheelchair (yes, really!) aren’t something the Con-Dems dreamed up on coming into office, this is another Labour policy they are implementing to the detriment of disabled people. And while individual disabled people are banding together (DPAC, Broken of Britain, WTB) to fight for their right to be treated as equals and for the system to recognise and cater for the reality of their disabilities, Ed Milliband sits on his hands and does nothing for us beyond occasionally stating that he agrees with Con-Dem policy on the matter — the betrayal of disabled people by Labour is absolute.

    If the Policy Director of the Disability Alliance truly believes that ESA is a positive step for disabled people then it is time for him to resign, because he has forsaken any claim to understanding how disabled people are being affected, to believing in ‘Nothing For Us, Without Us’ and has betrayed the confidence of disabled people in his ability to place their needs above party-political allegiance.

  10. Trakgalvis

    RT @leftfootfwd: Take the coalition's 'Tory Boy' posturing on welfare claimants with a pinch of salt: //bit.ly/k841ts writes Neil Coyle

  11. Robert

    I had a phone call from the Labour party, as a member they stated and a disability and welfare activist what ever that means, will you do us a favor, will you do a survey, I said yes go on. They said you will be contacted by a private company working for the DWP who will ask you questions about disability.

    A month later an Asian lad contacted me and stated all you can say is yes or no, nothing else will be taken.

    Do you want to work, doing what, sorry yes or no, yes.

    If offered a job would you take it, depends sorry yes or no, I cannot answer that, I will put you down as yes.

    Thank you for doing this survey, three weeks later it came out 90% of disabled people want to work, I then asked Labour how many people had been asked then said 500. I said that the questions were ridicules because as a disabled person I cannot do 90% of the work being offered to me, they said all we needed to know was do you want to work.

    For god sake that’s pathetic who the hell wants to sit at home, I have been looking for work for ten years using the job center, all all these cowboy so called work providers. I’m paraplegic with terrible problems with my bowel and bladder chronic never ending pain, I have filled in well over 1000 job application and had three replies all negative. I have done labour silly training programs and boy were they silly, how to look people in the eye, which is difficult when your sitting in a wheelchair, how do up your tie, how to wear a suit, how to speak to people.

    I did all these three or four times, but bosses are not interested because like it or not if I shit my self in work somebody has to be hired to clean me up

  12. Hens4Freedom

    RT @leftfootfwd: Take the coalition's 'Tory Boy' posturing on welfare claimants with a pinch of salt: //bit.ly/k841ts writes Neil Coyle

  13. Seamus

    As you say, Labour started this. Welfare-to-work private providers. Atos. The WCA. ESA. It’s all got Nu-Labour’s filthy paws all over it.

    And you’re complaining about what, exactly? A press release? The Coalition is simply following Nu-Labour’s blueprints.

  14. Mr. Sensible

    Couldn’t agree more Neil.

    Any attempts by the Coalition to find work for people are being undermined by their cuts to public sector jobs and the effect on the private sector.

    And these tabloid headlines are completely unhelpful.

  15. Extradition Game

    RT @leftfootfwd: Take the coalition's 'Tory Boy' posturing on welfare claimants with a pinch of salt: //bit.ly/k841ts writes Neil Coyle

  16. Kevin Richards

    Here is the true picture -: Take the coalition's 'Tory Boy' posturing on welfare claimants with a pinch of salt //bit.ly/iYYDSg

  17. DrKMJ

    RT @leftfootfwd: Take the coalition's 'Tory Boy' posturing on welfare claimants with a pinch of salt: //bit.ly/k841ts writes Neil Coyle

  18. Extradition Game

    RT @leftfootfwd: Take the coalition's 'Tory Boy' posturing on welfare claimants with a pinch of salt: //bit.ly/k841ts writes Neil Coyle

  19. AltGovUK

    RT @leftfootfwd: Take the coalition's 'Tory Boy' posturing on welfare claimants with a pinch of salt: //bit.ly/k841ts writes Neil Coyle

  20. Robert

    What jobs I was looking for work through the so called good times, what is in place to help employer because if you employ me your going to need help, I did get one job offer in Tesco, the Lady was so proud that she was offering me a job, but said you do know that wheelchair has to go. I said it has to go where, she said if you use a wheelchair people might find it offensive , I said walking on my ass might be worse. I was then told at my next job offer, if you work for Tesco you have to do the same work at the same pace and the same rate as a non disabled person, I replied that would mean I’d not have a disability, I was then removed from the work list

  21. Broken OfBritain

    RT @BendyGirl: RT @leftfootfwd: Take the coalition's 'Tory Boy' posturing on welfare claimants with a pinch of salt //bit.ly/iYYDSg

  22. DavidG

    It is truly sad to see Labour still claiming that ESA was a positive move for disabled people, whereas the truth is that they, not the Con-Dems, designed the ESA system to deliberately distort the assessment process and force genuinely disabled people out of the disability benefits system and onto the harsher, uncaring, disability-hostile JSA — been there, done that, had to complain to ministerial level just to get JCP to acknowledge my disability. Talk to individual disabled people and they will tell you of their genuine fear of ESA and describe the horrific abuse of the WCA system by ATOS and their tame quacks — been there, done that, spent the next week not knowing even what day it was.

    This isn’t a new Con-Dem plot, it is the system working as Labour designed it. Deliberate demonisation of disabled benefit claimants by DWP press-releases coordinating hate-ridden tabloid vitriol didn’t start under the Con-Dems, these press releases have been happening for several years now and disabled people were expressing their concern while Labour were still in power. The farcical plans for WCA and DLA assessments based on an access-all-areas imaginary wheelchair (yes, really!) aren’t something the Con-Dems dreamed up since coming into office, this is another Labour policy idea they are implementing to the detriment of disabled people. And while individual disabled people are banding together in groups like DPAC, Broken of Britain and Where’s The Benefit to fight for their right to be treated as equals and for the system to recognise and cater for the reality of their disabilities, Ed Milliband sits on his hands and does nothing for us beyond occasionally quietly admitting that he agrees with Con-Dem policy on the matter — the betrayal of disabled people by Labour is absolute.

  23. ArbeitsSchu

    Don’t forget that the WCA was declared a failure by recent review. Thus, if the test itself is broken, the results generated by it must also be inaccurate.

  24. Rachel Hubbard

    RT @leftfootfwd Take Coalitions 'Tory Boy' Posturing On Welfare Claimants With A Pinch Of Salt //bit.ly/iYYDSg

  25. NORBET

    RT @leftfootfwd: Take the coalition's 'Tory Boy' posturing on welfare claimants with a pinch of salt //bit.ly/iYYDSg

  26. Motm8

    RT @leftfootfwd: Take the coalition's 'Tory Boy' posturing on welfare claimants with a pinch of salt //bit.ly/iYYDSg

  27. Daniel Pitt

    Take the coalition's 'Tory Boy' posturing on welfare claimants with a pinch of salt: //bit.ly/k841ts #ConDemNation

  28. Clare Fernyhough

    I agree with you Robert.

    I’m chronically ill and so I’m not able to work now. My health deteriorated over a 14 year period and I knew I had to do something to obtain work that was easier than the menial jobs I had done previously so I studied for and gained a good degree. I had hoped that working professionally part time freelance would mean that I could stay in work. The arts organisations I found work with seemed very pro disability. I received help from Access to Work in terms of funding travel to work via taxi and it all worked for a couple of years.

    Then I had a massive deterioration and had to take a couple of weeks off. My contracts were time specific and did not include sick pay so if I didn’t turn up to work I didn’t get paid. I had believed that the companies would be understanding being that they had given the impression that my disability wouldn’t matter, but subsequent incidents proved otherwise. I was pressured into work patterns that I just wasn’t capable of like working very long working days. I had to set up equipment that I was hardly capable of carrying. Each week it got harder and harder until I had another deterioration which finished me off. During the whole time I was with them, no allowances were made at all for my disability. Flexibility of that sort in my field just wouldn’t work.

    In my experience, companies talk about being disability friendly, but in practice they are not. There were times that I desperately needed to sit or lie down but it was impractical. I needed my work to be completely flexible, but employers can rarely allow for that. At present, I could maybe work an hour a day from my bed using a laptop and phone, but it would have to be an hour of my choosing and many days I wouldn’t be able to work at all: who is possibly going to employ me to do that?

    As for EMA, for now I’m one of the lucky ones. I insisted on recording my assessment, which they couldn’t refuse since I had the professional qualifications and equipment to do so, because I knew that often what people told the assessors about their health in no way related to what was recorded on the computer questionnaire. I also had the backing of social services whose help was invaluable. Of course, I understand that future support may disappear, but I’ve done all of my worrying about the consequences of welfare reform and I refuse to live in fear. If I am migrated onto JSA I would be incapable of signing on; I can’t use public transport and I wouldn’t be able to afford the bus fare even if I could, let alone afford a taxi. Who would propel my wheelchair if my care is removed as well since I am not strong enough to use a self propelled one? Similarly, I wouldn’t be able to attend job clubs or work placements. I will have to pay a fine just to live in my home since I have an extra bedroom. I am determined now that I will not give up my home of 24 years; I’d rather live on rice. I have good friends however and so I won’t go without food even if I do have to sit in an unheated home without lights!

    There are many hundreds of thousands if not millions like me. I just hope that ultimately common sense will prevail and the government will see that continually reassessing people (which is what is happening to some; they win their appeal then they are called back for another assessment immediately, which is turned down, and they have to appeal again and so on), who are without doubt incapable of work, then having to fund appeals, will prove to be a massive waste of money, money that could have been spent creating jobs. Also, something must be done about JSA level: no one could live on that amount even before the basic cost of living increased. People are being consigned to abject poverty, which is an absolute disgrace. Many more millions will join them over the next few years.

    Whatever government is in power, the stigma with regard to welfare will never be removed, governments will continue to twist statistics in order to manipulate public opinion, therefore claimants will continue to be the scapegoat for all that is wrong in society. As I’ve posted before on here, in order to remove the stigma the benefit should be seen as a wage, whereby claimants do a day or two of work for that and they are also allowed to top that up with any work they can find. Perhaps the Universal Credit will achieve that being that it will be a benefit paid to those already in work and those looking for work. Although I doubt the basic benefit will be set at a higher rate of JSA. The models the government were researching suggested a lower basic rate of just £50 per week for a single person.

    I say let them bring it on. Let them show the world how they treat their poor, ill, old and disabled citizens along with all those who work hard for nothing due to all the price rises and cuts in working benefits. Let them face the consequences when civil unrest spreads around the country. Whilst all governments must optimise budgets and make sure welfare payments only go to those in genuine need, it will surely go down in history as the most ill advised reform any government ever embarked on, along with all the other reforms: what a wicked way of addressing the deficit when other options, like the ‘Robin Hood Tax’, would have helped if not solved some of our financial problems outright.

  29. DearEngland

    I don’t think I have ever been more disgusted than I am with New Labour, the way they have turned their backs on the vulnerable and the disabled community is nothing short of a eugenics policy which would not of been out of place in Nazi Berlin during the war.

    I have written to the DWP, the relevant government minister’s, the treasury and still get fobbed off when I ask about Atos Health Care and the assessment process, hardly any Labour MPs have spoken out against Atos or the assessment process instead all they do is say they support the findings of Prof Harrington’s review, the review hardly touches the real problems faced by the disabled or the sick, the whole process is just there to stigmatise and to force more highly vulnerable individuals into poverty, no political party really cares.

    We have already seen claimants dieing while waiting for their appeals to happen, what more needs to happen before the government or the opposition does something to protect the most vulnerable people in our society?

    Maria Miller is a disgrace as the disabled persons minister, she should be sacked ASAP…..

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