Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop

Hundreds of thousands of people who are too ill or disabled to work have often been unfairly, and often mistakenly, deprived of incapacity benefit.

Steve Griffiths works in research and consultancy specialising in social and health policy

An unacknowledged social policy tragedy of the decade has been the injustice to hundreds of thousands of people who are too ill or disabled to work, and who are unfairly, and often mistakenly, deprived of incapacity benefit and its successor, Employment and Support Allowance.

Let’s hope that Allegra Stratton’s story in yesterday’s Guardian is the first of many stones to be cast against a long and shameful consensus by the two main parties, based on the endlessly repeated assertion that there are a million people on incapacity benefit who are fit for work.

This belief is based on research that assumes that any incapacity benefit receipt above the level in south-east England is evidence of claimants who are fit for work, disregarding:

• Regional health inequalities;

• The huge growth in limiting long term illness under the last Tory Government;

• The continuing growth in health inequality; and

• The increase in the number of women in the workforce which boosted the numbers who could claim sickness benefits when they fell ill.

Market opportunity trumps evidence.

My Thinkpiece for Compass, ‘Dark Times for those who Cannot Work’, catalogues a river of disregarded material from official sources and advice and disability organisations establishing that the reform is producing suffering and injustice on a massive scale, and House of Commons and National Audit Office reports that are fiercely critical; see www.informedcompassion.com for detailed background.

The Guardian story uses my finding that more than half a million sick and disabled people have been wrongly thrown off incapacity benefit and its successor, Employment and Support Allowance, over the last 15 years. More than 300,000 had it restored at appeal after disallowance, at huge public expense, and at great personal and health cost. Many more did not appeal because they were too ill, or lacked the support, information and confidence to do so.

Research by the Department for Work and Pensions in 1998 found that 35 per cent of the people ‘disallowed’ ended up sick and back on the benefit. The average rate of reversal of incapacity benefit disallowance through industiral tribunal over the period has been 47 per cent. It is hard to imagine any other group for whom such a high level of wrongful initial decision-making would be tolerated.

In November, a review of the draconian Work Capability Assessment, introduced for new claimants in 2009, advised the government that its method of assessing capacity to work was inadequate and failed those with mental illnesses and long-term disabilities. The Disability Alliance called it an “ineffective test” operating at “substantial and material cost”. Yet although only a quarter of the review’s inadequate recommendations will be in place, the government proposes to roll out the WCA to 1.5 million existing incapacity benefit claimants at a rate of 10,000 a week from April. This should be stopped.

Both major political parties have sung from the same hymnsheet, hardening public attitudes with the help of the media. Ed Miliband has said that mistakes were made when Labour were in government; this one will be hard to acknowledge, because it was made repeatedly, and with distasteful eagerness.

41 Responses to “Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop”

  1. Shaun Gvgn

    RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop: //bit.ly/hpNnUB

  2. Compass

    RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop: //bit.ly/hpNnUB

  3. Lisa E

    RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop: //bit.ly/hpNnUB

  4. Heather Tweddell

    RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop: //bit.ly/hpNnUB

  5. BendyGirl

    RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop: //bit.ly/hpNnUB

  6. gwenhwyfaer

    RT @lisybabe: RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop: //bit.ly/hpNnUB

  7. SotonA-buzzForum

    RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop //bit.ly/ifl7CT

  8. Alec Speight

    Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop | Left Foot Forward //t.co/w66J0bK

  9. Crimson Crip

    RT @AlecSpeaking: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop | Left Foot Forward //t.co/w66J0bK

  10. sasastro

    RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop //bit.ly/ifl7CT

  11. Emma Coften

    RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop //bit.ly/ifl7CT This issue needs action pronto!

  12. Mike Hughes

    RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop: //bit.ly/hpNnUB

  13. J Bergen

    Begun under Labour… See Scottish experience two years ago when Freud was Labour’s ‘guru’…
    //www.oxfam.org.uk/resources/ukpoverty/downloads/To%20banker%20from%20bankies.pdf

  14. Andy S

    RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop: //bit.ly/hpNnUB

  15. Disagreeable Weasel

    RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop: //bit.ly/hpNnUB

  16. Chris Salter

    RT @AlecSpeaking: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop | Left Foot Forward //tinyurl.com/2ekfqf3 #ppnuk

  17. BendyGirl

    RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop //bit.ly/ifl7CT

  18. Joe Cassels

    RT @BendyGirl: RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop //bit.ly/ifl7CT

  19. Broken OfBritain

    RT @BendyGirl: RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop //bit.ly/ifl7CT

  20. Helen

    RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop: //bit.ly/hpNnUB

  21. David Gilson

    RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop //bit.ly/ifl7CT

  22. Syzygy

    Actually begun before New Labour but carried on by an unholy trinity of government, health insurance company UNUMProvident and the neoliberal Wessely school of psychiatrists, each with their own investment in denying long term health problems. Jonathan Rutherford has documented their scurrilous machinations in ‘Soundings’.

  23. Stephen Lintott

    RT @BendyGirl RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop //bit.ly/ifl7CT

  24. rowan davies

    Well said. Lab. was bad on this. RT @leftfootfwd Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop //bit.ly/hpNnUB

  25. Mike Hughes

    RT @BendyGirl: RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop //bit.ly/ifl7CT

  26. Double.Karma

    RT @BendyGirl: RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop //bit.ly/ifl7CT

  27. Curious Questioner

    RT @BendyGirl: RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop //bit.ly/ifl7CT

  28. TenPercent

    RT @BendyGirl: RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop //bit.ly/ifl7CT

  29. MuggersBuddle

    Good article, and it’s refreshing to at last see some serious questioning of the (lack of)’evidence’ that one million are falsely claiming IB. A less sociopathic government would look to the causes of increasing disability in our society, and seek to provide better medical treatment for those unfortunate enough to be disabled, whether mentally or physically. To take away what is, in reality, very modest sums of money from those who are dependent on them, through no fault of their own, is a vile and shameful act. I switched away from Labour at the last election for this very reason – it was not the only reason, but it was by far the largest in my mind.

    I also agree with Syzygy’s comments and am baffled as to why the likes of Unum, and the ghastly Wessely and his cabal, are allowed any official input at all into this, given their clear conflict of interest. Why is government policy making exempt from the kind of ethical considerations that are applied to other important areas of our lives?

    We need to take this issue much further up the political agenda. Ultimately, we need to engage the interest of the non-disabled to gain traction with this, as ‘Broken of Britain’, amongst others, are doing. I will be watching where the debate goes with great interest.

  30. Livable4All

    RT @BendyGirl: RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop //bit.ly/ifl7CT

  31. Anne Greenwood

    RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop: //bit.ly/hpNnUB

  32. Welsh Ramblings

    RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop: //bit.ly/hpNnUB

  33. Mr. Sensible

    I think this article is probably right.

  34. Abaris

    RT @BendyGirl: RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop //bit.ly/ifl7CT

  35. Spir.Sotiropoulou

    RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop //bit.ly/ifl7CT

  36. Alan Austin

    Morally wrong & waste of funds. RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop //bit.ly/ifl7CT

  37. pontaprint

    How many people in this country are too ill to work but not so ill they need to be in hospital? Very few I imagine. Probably in the tens of thousands rather than millions. Let’s face it, 95% of jobs involve sitting at a desk with a computer.

    I have a friend paralysed from the waist down in an accident. He’s been living on his own on benefits for 10 years. His life is shit. He has no money to do anything. He comes out once a week to go to the pub. He could easily have worked a desk job, met someone and settled down. He had a misfortune but the government stepped in to create a tragedy.

  38. barbara

    //www.lwbooks.co.uk/journals/articles/rutherford07.html
    A must read regarding the history of sickness benefits re the govt. Idea of redesigning ethos to ‘worklessness is evil’, sickness is a ‘temporary condition’ and if not then it is a psychological illness which is cured via work. UNUM, ATOS, changing ethos in NHS so GPs are incentivsed to get people back to work.
    And a big thank you for your article.

  39. Coalition strips cancer victim of state support « negativentropy

    […] Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop (leftfootforward.org) […]

  40. Tony Cowin

    RT @leftfootfwd: Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop //bit.ly/ifl7CT

  41. Boris has slammed Coalition welfare reforms - from the left | Left Foot Forward

    […] • Shameful incapacity benefit consensus between main parties must stop – Steve Griffiths, January 5th 2011 Share | Permalink | Leave a comment /* […]

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