Monday, July 13, 2009

Fit to work, but can't work

The FT reports:

"More than two-thirds of applicants for sickness benefits are being rejected under a new testing regime, casting doubt on the validity of 2.6m existing claimants deemed unfit for work.

According to data seen by several welfare industry figures, up to 90 per cent of applicants are being judged able to work in some regions and placed on unemployment rolls rather than long-term ill-health benefits."

About 65 per cent of applications for incapacity benefit were approved until it was replaced last autumn – suggesting the chances of passing and failing have been reversed under the new ill-health benefit, the “employment and support allowance”."

Between 2010-2013, all existing claimants of incapacity benefit will have these tests.

Lord Freud, the Tory spokesman on welfare, said, "“These are remarkable figures. The tragedy is that it has taken so long to tighten the system, with the effect that hundreds of thousands of people have been locked into long-term dependency.”

Just think this one through...

The first result of this new policy is that people will receive lower benefits, because Jobseekers' Allowance pays less than Employment and Support Allowance. So the new system is taking money from some of the poorest people in our society. (£95.15/week for the higher rate of ESA, compared to £64.30/week for JSA).

According to Freud, that's fine, because rather than being 'locked into long-term dependency', people will be empowered to be able to get a job, and being in work is better for your health, not to mention your bank balance, than being unemployed.

But at a time when unemployment is rising, it is a simple matter of fact that the overwhelming majority of these people won't be able to get a job. Paying people Jobseekers' Allowance and requiring them to look for work does not, in fact, create new jobs. Although one side effect is that it will increase the unemployment figures by up to 1.8 million (if the rejection rate of existing claimants is the same as that of new claimants) over the next four years.

The irony is that the taxpayer doesn't even save any money from reducing the benefit bill. Carrying out these Work Capability Assessments costs money, over £1 billion. Then Job Centre Plus advisers have to be paid to give Work Focused Interviews to people claiming JSA. After six months, private companies get be paid to enrol them in the Flexible New Deal, and paid again to help them search for jobs (and paid again should they actually find a job, and paid again if the person stays in the job for 6 months or more).

There's clearly a problem with the current welfare system, and many people receiving sickness benefits could, in the right circumstances, work. But the welfare reforms won't create the jobs which people with health problems could do. Instead, they are taking from the poor and giving to public sector bureaucrats and private companies which are dependent on corporate welfare.

According to Lord Freud, the way to make people independent is to pay them less money and require them to comply with whatever their adviser tells them to do. It's a very odd definition of 'independence'.


At 11:19 pm , Blogger wozza said...

i was at a family funeral the other week and catching up with someone who had been "passed fit to work" - his left anke was in plaster and he was on two crutches. His problem is intermittent and was proginally work related - he fell off a ladder and it never healed properly.

Passing the test involved "to be fit for work" - in his case involved (when he was only on a walking stick) making his way down a straight flat corridor carrying a cup. That was it. 2 months later his ankle is back in plaster, on two cruthes and £30 a week worse off.... Read More

The entire thing was a stitch up on the DWP doctors part. Fucking scum.

At 5:59 am , Anonymous ukbic said...

Crazy isnt it, we are discussing this over at ukbix

At 9:45 am , Blogger Tim Worstall said...

This, of course, is what you get when you listen to dangerous right wing radicals like Richard Layard:

The rationale for welfare-to-work is simple. If you pay people to be inactive, there will be more inactivity. So you should pay them instead for being active – for either working or training to improve their employability.
The evidence for the first proposition is everywhere around us. For example, Europe has a notorious unemployment problem. But if you break down unemployment into short-term (under a year) and long-term, you find that short-term unemployment is almost the same in Europe as in the U.S. – around 4% of the workforce. But in Europe there are another 4% who have been out of work for over a year, compared with almost none in the United States. The most obvious explanation for this is that in the U.S. unemployment benefits run out after 6 months, while in most of Europe they continue for many years or indefinitely.

At 10:54 am , Blogger donpaskini said...

wozza - thanks, it's useful to hear examples of how this is working in practice.

ukbic - thanks, and I'll definitely put a link to ukbix.

Tim W - you say short term unemployed in Europe is 4%, plus another 4% long term, vs 4% short term in the USA and pretty much none in the long term.

But the US Labor department says unemployment in the USA has just hit 9.5%, with 4.4 million people out of work for more than 27 weeks. I think your numbers are out of date:,0,5237342.story

At 11:27 am , Blogger wozza said...

not sure why there is a ("read more").... teaser in my first comment...... odd.

and i apologise for the anglo-saxonism, but i was rather annoyed about it.

At 5:51 pm , Blogger RickB said...

They are not paid to be inactive, they are sick people paid so they do not starve to death. The notion that most if not all can work is a lie to facilitate persecution.

At 9:58 am , Blogger Tim Worstall said...

"Tim W - you say"

No, I don't.

Richard Layard does (did, it's an old paper).

At 10:29 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It all boils down to, in America a company is paid the benefits which are given to the disabled person to help with paying wages, in my case in the UK that would be £127 a week. No chance...

In America I can return to my benefits without having a medical, in the UK once I've worked for eleven months I have to reapply for benefits and boy let me tell you thats blue murder.

But look I'm disabled I can walk with crutches for a short period before returning to a wheelchair I've bowel problems and bladder problems and I'll not kid you most times after being out for a few hours I smell.

Three people go for a job and this often happen to me, one lad is Polish does not speak a word of English, the other lad never worked in his life he is now in his forties, and me in my wheelchair, 9 times out of ten the company will employ the Polish person and teach him English then employ me, then they will employ the chap thats not worked in his life, and when it comes to me they will ask for somebody else to be sent.

I've applied for 645 jobs and had three interviews each interview I was told the position had been filled, and then I noticed the jobs still in the job center three weeks later.

Employers want people who can work, will not cost them money further down the line, and after twelve months any cost to keep me employed will be born out by the company.

Many of the office jobs I've applied for the company has refused me point blank when I asked one he said the office is up six floors with a stairs and lift, if a fire you cannot use a lift, I cannot get down a stairs, so the company has to make a fire room a room in which I can go which it's hoped will last long enough for firemen to save me, but in fact it's where i would die.

A report on TV this week showed a lad in a wheelchair going around his local shopping center could not get into 95% of shops and offices.

In fact I'd say it's worse for example the council has now built a lift into the town council, my MP has meetings on the second floor of the council building, guess what it has no internal lift, you can go into the bottom floor and then you meet stairs.

It's like this all over the place, a brand new shop was built I had input into this through the local access group, I said you have a step going into the front door, replay was yes to stop rain water, I said it will stop wheelchair, they said we will look into it, it's built now with a step into the front door.

Nothing much has changed employers still see the disabled as a liability, he/she will want time off, they will always be moaning, we cannot afford to have hangers on.

A report by the old DRC stated employing a disabled person in my area only 2 employers out of a 100 had employed a disabled person, now we are in recession it's lower.


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