[Image: www.disabledgo.com]

When the Conservatives hit on an idea that will kill huge numbers of poor people, they just won’t let it go.

This is why the so-called “Osborne legacy” changes to unemployment and disability benefits are being imposed on claimants this month (April 2017), despite widespread protest against the effect we all know they’ll have.

Let’s consider the package of what the Tories allege is “help” for “people with health conditions”. The claim is that an extra £82.5 million of government expenditure per year for four years will magically make sick people well enough to go back to work.

The reality is that the government intends to pressurise people off-benefit, whether they are well enough to work or not. The vast majority won’t be, and the results are likely to be tragic in the extreme.

The Tories will get away with this because they have conditioned the majority of people to believe people with long-term illnesses are faking their conditions – and because they do not require the Department of Work and Pensions to monitor what happens to claimants in any meaningful way; in fact, monitoring is intentionally rigged to avoid admitting the harm that is being done.

We have the testimony of Vox Political reader Stewart Bailey to show that benefit assessments are already rigged against claimants, with documentary medical evidence ignored and the findings of the assessment interview itself falsified.

Now it seems the Tories want to continue this style of persecution. Look at the threat to provide “a one-to-one health and work conversation … to help raise confidence in managing a health condition”. For “one-to-one conversation”, read “bullying session… to force claimants into trying to believe they are better when they are not.” Expect lots of cognitive behaviour therapy (read: denial of the facts) coupled with threats to withdraw benefit.

Look at the introduction of the new “claimant commitment… setting out the support the Jobcentre will provide and what is expected of claimants”. This will be one-sided to the point of blackmail. The Jobcentre will threaten to remove any and all support unless claimants pretend to be well enough to work at the earliest opportunity. There will be no right of appeal to a higher authority if the behaviour of the Jobcentre or its advisors is below an acceptable standard and the DWP will face no reprisals if its advice is wrong or claimants come to harm. Such cases simply won’t be documented.

Personalised support for ESA claimants in the work-related activity group, and for Universal Credit claimants in the same category, will follow a similar pattern of blackmail and unaccountability.

Unfortunately, there is nothing to be done to prevent these measures from being brought into force.

All we can do is monitor death rates and draw logical conclusions from them.

We’ve been doing this for a long time, but the DWP remains reluctant to provide relevant details within a meaningful timescale. Some would call that a tacit admission of guilt in conspiring to cause any deaths.

For clarity, when I forced the DWP to honour my Freedom of Information request on the number of benefit-related deaths up to May 2014, the figures showed that mortality in the work-related activity group was three times higher than the average.

That’s in a group where people are expected to get better and go back to work.

Now we have new measures designed to move people out of that group more quickly.

What do you think will happen?

Employment help for people with health conditions will roll out from April, along with wider reforms to ensure a fair welfare system.

The government is launching the Personal Support Package, which includes £330 million of additional employment support over 4 years for people who due to an illness or disability are unable to work at the moment, but may be able to in the future.

This will also include:
•300 new Disability Employment Advisers in jobcentres across the country
•a one-to-one health and work conversation with a Jobcentre Plus Work Coach to help raise confidence in managing a health condition, when appropriate
•the introduction, from the summer, of a new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) Claimant Commitment for disabled people or those with a health condition who are out of work, setting out the support the Jobcentre will provide and what is expected of claimants
•personalised support provided to new ESA claimants placed in the work- related activity group, and new claimants of Universal Credit’s equivalent group, to help them move closer to the jobs market and, when they are ready, into work

Source: Welfare reforms and £330 million employment package start from April 2017

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