Monday, January 07, 2008

Sick Tories

The Tories have kicked off the next round of 'bash the poor' with their new proposals on incapacity benefit. Their minister has an article in the Daily Telegraph, here, explaining it. His argument goes like this:

The minister met someone who talked to someone else who said that someone else was claiming Incapacity Benefit when they shouldn't (or possibly should, the anecdote isn't clear) have been entitled to. They think that there are 200,000 people (about 6% of the total) who are claiming but shouldn't be - this figure is 'based on the experience of other countries'. So they are going to spend lots of money on re-testing everyone, possibly with the same people who assessed the claimants before, possibly by hiring a whole load of new people.

So a policy based on an anecdote, to hit a target plucked out of thin air, which will cause a lot of worry and hurt to millions of people. There can hardly be anyone who could believe that these officials will have a 100% success rate in correct assessment of who should be entitled to benefit and who shouldn't. This means that thousands of sick and disabled people will find their already meagre income cut by a quarter to hit these arbitrary targets.

This, by the way, is what they actually mean by 'compassionate Conservatism'.

Labour's response has been pathetic (though I guess it's worth being grateful that this is one policy they haven't adopted). Gordon Brown said that, "We have set down our proposals. They are proposals that are detailed to deal with both the flow on to IB and the stock." (You wouldn't have realised he was talking about actual people). Peter Hain's been arguing that Labour will manage the problem more efficiently and that the Tory proposals are expensive and unfunded. It's been left to charities like Mind to make the point that there is already a shortage of people who are qualified to assess mental health problems.

Even after all these years of newspaper stories every day about people fiddling Incapacity Benefit, and no major party challenging the consensus where claimants are abused as 'scroungers', 'workshy', 'cheats', the Tory proposals themselves assume that over 90% of people are genuine claimants, and either need the benefit, or need expensive help and support to be able to work.

On the Daily Telegraph's own website, there was a strong negative reaction to the proposals. Gordon Brown can talk about his vision and leadership all he wants, but here is a perfect opportunity to set out an alternative moral vision - standing up for people who can't work because they are sick, showing how the Tory plans are based on prejudice and lies and tackling the real problems. And instead he talks about the IB flow and stock, as if it were an argument between two middle managers about how to solve a technical problem.

2 Comments:

At 12:35 pm , Blogger Dave Hill said...

Great post, Don.

 
At 12:01 pm , Anonymous frenetic said...

Good to see reaction to these awful proposals, the opposition to all these welfare reforms has been muted by civil society and the left, yet in 1997 when they made big changes(instead of the 'salami slicing' of the last ten years), there was uproar.

TBH, while the Tories proposals are nasty, so are the Gov't's and it appears to be a race to the bottom: Hain's reforms(based mainly on the Welfare Reform Act 2007 and the Freud Review) which have gone through without a peep from the PLP are just as ruthless and nasty: disabled claimants will see significant loss of benefits, (up to forty pounds in some cases as linked benefits will be affected) forced into unsuitable work or even medical interventions. There is also the threat of losing homes as housing benefit in the private rented sector is reconfigured.

The legislation on which much of this policy is based (see above), has also been criticized as ‘rushed, prejudiced and ‘short on detail’, with the government also ignoring the many submissions to its consultation’s which were critical of the reforms Further, much of the legislation will be enacted by what is called secondary legislation: that is behind closed doors and often influenced by unaccountable civil servants.

The speed of these changes have been breath taking and one can argue this is ultimately about the end of a rights based welfare system in the UK, something apparently supported by all the main parties.What is just as worrying is that under both regimes it will largely be private companies which will be forcing disabled people, single parents back to work, the profit motive will be central, so expect no mercy.Hain and the Govt and now Cameron are moving towards a market in welfare

The left,civil society, decent folk should be campaigning against all this, it is morally wrong, remember this is not targeted and millions may be affected. Their proposals are based on the brutal neo-liberal US/Aus model and evidence is showing it doesn't even work:in terms of Cameron's policy a report in Canada by their Govt has shown that surveys of tax returns by their welfare ministry which allowed them to track the people who were refused welfare indicated there had been no increase in the numbers of employable welfare clients declaring employment income after leaving welfare, so where they , jail?. In Australia, major charities like the Salvation Army refused to work with similar programmes

Camerons Vs Hain, Hobsons
Choice!.

btw, Sheffield Welfare Action Network is one grass roots group that campaigns against these reforms.

www.swansheffield.org.uk

 

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