The most prominent politician to oppose the government welfare reform is - amazingly - Boris Johnson, taking on benefit scrounger myths and arguing against over-testing
On Monday, Responsible Reform will be published, an analysis of Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms largely drawn from responses to the Government consulation on the policy, that the Coalition held back from the public gaze until disabled campaigners made Freedom of Information requests.
Most suprisingly, it includes the submission by London Mayor Boris Johnson (pdf), who seems to have put serious clear red water between himself and the Labour leadership – never mind the Coalition – on the issue.
He, for example, directly takes on the ‘benefit scrounger myth’ arguing that ministers should not impose penalties on those who have claimed incorrectly:
“The government proposes imposing penalties if disabled people do not inform the government in changes in their circumstances. However, the Department of Work and Pensions statistics give the overall fraud rate for Disability Living Allowance as being less than 0.5.
“For those with fluctuating conditions asking them to report every change to their condition would prove very stressful. Rather than penalties the government should issue very clear guidance about what constitutes change and in relation to which conditions.”
The mayor also worries that moving children from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independent Payment:
“Could potentially condemn the parents of disabled children and young people, and the children themselves to a life of financial hardship rather than financial assistance.”
Johnson also argues that:
“The three-month benefit qualification period [for Disability Living Allowance] should be retained, rather than extending this to six months as proposed”
“concerned about the government suggestion to remove automatic entitlement [to Disability Living Allowance] for certain groups. Claims should be based on the needs and circumstances of the individual applying.”
The mayor refuses to support changing from a three-tier system of benefits to two, saying:
“as those on the lower rate care component may have additional costs as a result of their impairment but may lose their access to this benefit as part of the proposed removal under the reforms.”
Johnson also objects to the new system of face-to-face assessments with healthcare proffessionals previously unknown to the claimant, writing:
“Face-to-face meetings with a healthcare professional could prove difficult and inappropriate for an individual who may have difficulty with social contacts such as those with autism, or for those with an intellectual or mental health disability.
“Other circumstances where difficulties may arise is if an efficient interpretation service is unavailable for deaf people.”
He even questions the motivation behind the reforms:
“While some reform may be necessary and some proposals are positive in terms of simplifying the benefit and reducing bureaucracy, the Mayor is concerned that if the focus of this reform is solely efficiency driven government, may fail to ensure that the needs of disabled people are adequately met and many will suffer additional hardship and isolation.”
We live in a world where a Labour leader, supposedly from the soft left, seems to think that beating up on benefits claimants offers the road to victory, and a Conservative mayor of London is the biggest elected defender of the disabled. Strange times indeed.
Find the full submission below:
• Labour’s untenable position on social security and disability – Declan Gaffney, January 3rd 2012
• Miliband quizzed on disability reforms, apologises for omission from speech – Shamik Das, September 30th 2011
• Miliband must stop spreading myths about benefit claimants – Tim Nichols, September 28th 2011
• How disability reforms were whitewashed from Labour’s conference – Daniel Elton, September 27th 2011
• Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop – Steve Griffiths, January 5th 2011