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[Image: www.disabledgo.com]

[Image: www.disabledgo.com]


People who signed a petition calling for the Conservative Government to “assess [the] full impact of all cuts to support and social care for disabled people” have been told that the tools aren’t there to do the job. This is because the Tories have chosen not to use them.

More than 29,000 people have signed the petition, leading to a response from the Department for Work and Pensions. If it tops 100,000 signatures, it may trigger a debate in Parliament. Don’t get your hopes up – the evidence provided in these debates is routinely ignored by the government because it doesn’t want to know.

The DWP screed starts with some waffle about being committed to a “fair tax and welfare system” with the effect of each policy change “carefully considered”, in which “everyone contributes to reducing the deficit” and where “those with the most contribute the most”. Is that in money or percentage terms?

But it continues: “However, it is not possible, using the Government’s existing analytical tools, to produce a cumulative assessment of the impact of policies on disabled people.”

This is why a cumulative impact assessment published by Landman Economics and the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR), for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, recommended more than a year ago that the DWP should change its tools.

“HM Treasury has a world-leading distributional model, which it has used since 2010 to publish analysis of the impacts of policy decisions on households across the income distribution,” the DWP response states. “This model uses the Living Cost and Food Survey (LCF), which does not have information on disability status. It contains expenditure information which allows analysis of the impacts of indirect taxes such as VAT and fuel duty, and underpins a unique model of public service usage; both of these enable HMT to consider the impacts of all of the Government tax and spending decisions which directly affect households.

“As well as the inability to identify who has a disability in the data, most analysis of the impacts of welfare reforms tend to be limited in that they take static snapshots of benefit changes. Fundamental reforms are designed to support people into employment and will therefore enable people to generate more income for themselves. Analysis needs to take account of behaviour change of reforms rather than the more limited approach of focusing solely on benefit changes.”

(Of course we know that the reforms mentioned here do not support people into employment; they deprive people of the benefits they need to survive and force them into an unknown future. For example, a DWP study in 2012 found that more than half the people who had been told they were “fit for work” after a work capability assessment had been left unemployed and without any income at all. The Department had been forced to reveal the facts by – guess what? – a Freedom of Information request. This probably contributed to the government’s current attempt to curtail the use of such requests.)

“This analysis shows that the proportion of welfare and public service spending which benefits poorer households has not changed since 2010-11, with half of all spending on welfare and public services still going to the poorest 40 per cent of households in 2017-18. At the same time, the richest fifth of households will pay a greater proportion of taxes than in 2010-11 as a result of government policy – and more than all other households put together.

“The Government spends around £50 billion on disability benefits and services annually, and expenditure on sick and disabled people is higher than the OECD average. Welfare changes since 2010 have included protections for key vulnerable groups least able to increase their earnings, including those who need additional support as a result of disability. In the Welfare Reform and Work Bill 2015:
• Many disability-related elements of the benefit system are still uprated by the Consumer Price Index (but this is the lowest index of inflation. How is that supposed to be an advantage for the disabled?)
• The additional component for those in the Support Group of Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit (UC) equivalents has been maintained
• Households which include a member who is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, the Support Component of Employment and Support Allowance or UC equivalents are exempt from the benefit cap.

“Overall, reforms are focused on supporting people to find and keep work where appropriate. Growing evidence over the last decade shows work can keep people healthy as well as promote recovery which is why, as part of the Government’s objective to achieve full employment, it aims to halve the disability employment gap.”

There is no evidence to show that work makes people healthy; Iain Duncan Smith merely adapted the phrase “Arbet macht frei” from the gates of the Auschwitz extermination camp he visited several years ago to create a new lie. As for halving the disability employment gap: The Conservative Government has made sure there continues to be a large number of people without work, who now receive less money in benefit than they need to avoid going into debt. This means competition for jobs is increasing. Any employer faced with a choice between taking on an able-bodied worker and someone with a disability who will need adaptations and special treatment will opt for the former; it’s simply better business.

“Last year 226,000 more disabled people found work [how many stayed in it?] and to continue this success the Government has extended Access to Work to provide support to more disabled people in pre-employment, launched Specialist Employability Support to provide intensive, specialist support to the disabled people who need the most help and has extended Work Choice, providing tailored support to disabled people, to 2017. The Disability Confident campaign is working with employers to ensure that they understand the benefits of recruiting and retaining disabled people in work.

“Sickness Absence in the workplace is also a major issue, with employees off sick for four weeks or more being at greater risk of not returning to work. The Government recognises the importance of early support which is why Fit for Work has been developed; giving access to free, impartial work-related health advice to help employees on sick leave get back to work.”

This is the tyrannical scheme under which “fit notes” from your GP are refused and people are discouraged from claiming the Incapacity Benefits they need.

“In terms of Social Care and NHS reforms, the Government is committed to supporting the most vulnerable. The Care Act 2014 introduces a modern system to promote and maintain the wellbeing of those with care and support needs so they can live independently. This includes introduction of a new national eligibility threshold which allows local authorities to maintain previous levels of access for service users. This threshold is set out in Eligibility Regulations, and local authorities cannot tighten eligibility beyond this threshold. The Act also provides new legislative focus on personalisation by placing personal budgets into law for the first time for people and carers, increasing opportunities for greater choice and control, so that people can choose social care best suited to meet their needs.”

Shall we have a look at the Landman/NIESR cumulative impact assessment – the assessment the DWP says it cannot perform – and its recommendations for the Department, that could have been implemented in summer 2014 but weren’t? [boldings mine]

“Impact of tax, spending and benefit changes 2010-15

  1. The impacts of tax and welfare reforms are more negative for families containing at least one disabled person, particularly a disabled child, and … these negative impacts are particularly strong for low income families. This is not surprising, given the significant reductions to working-age welfare, and the high proportion of working age welfare spent on disabled people, particularly those on low incomes.
  2. Women lose somewhat more from the direct tax and welfare changes compared to men. This is mainly because women receive a larger proportion of benefits and tax credits relating to children, and these comprise a large proportion of the social security reforms between 2010 and 2015. It should be noted that these results are sensitive to the precise assumption made on the ‘sharing rule’ being used within households.
  3. Households containing younger adults do better than other households; although the impact of benefit changes is relatively uniform across groups, they benefit more from changes to direct taxation (the increase in the personal allowance) than any other group.
  4. In terms of public services (as opposed to tax and welfare), Black and Asian households lose out somewhat more than other groups. This is largely due to greater use of further and higher education, and (for Black households) social housing.

“Recommendations

“The main recommendations of the study are that:

1. HM Treasury’s distributional impact analysis of tax and benefit changes should incorporate analysis by groups sharing different protected characteristics in particular disability, ethnicity, age and gender. The analysis should:

  1. show the impact of tax and benefit changes by different groups;
  2. show the interaction between distributional impacts by income and by equality group;
  3. identify the key drivers of differential impacts; and
  4. identify the key assumptions made in producing the analysis and, where appropriate, present alternative assumptions.”

This was not adopted by the Treasury (or the DWP).

“2. HM Treasury should consider its approach to equality impact assessment for the next Spending Review (2015). In particular, it should:

  1. issue guidance to Departments on data collection and analysis;
  2. identify in which areas quantitative analysis of equality impacts is likely to be feasible and informative, focusing on key service areas (health, education, etc); and
  3. publish a detailed explanatory and methodological note to guide interpretation of distributional impact analysis (covering both income and equality issues).”

This was not adopted by the Treasury (or the DWP).

Your comments are welcome; the above is merely what This Writer could derive from the statement at first sight of it.

Undoubtedly many of Vox Political‘s readers will have their own observations about this DWP drivel.

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