Leaked document shows Tories think incapacity claimants aren’t ill


The only conclusion to be drawn from the “leaked internal documents” being quoted by the BBC today is that – if they think it is reasonable to cut the work-related activity group element of Employment and Support Allowance, the UK’s main incapacity benefit, down almost to parity with Jobseekers’ Allowance – Tories don’t think these people are really ill.

It seems likely the plans have been drawn up by people who have never needed to cope with fibromyalgia or myalgic encephalomyelitis, who have never suffered a workplace injury or who don’t understand the debilitating nature of the depression that often follows interviews with government employees who are determined to strip claimants of their benefits, no matter how disabled they are.

According to the BBC report, the Department for Work and Pensions has claimed the proposals in the documents are “not government policy“.

The papers show that the proposal to cut ESA(WRAG) by £30, making it almost the same as JSA at around £72-3 per week, is not prompted by any interest in reform, but is simply an attempt to save money.

It seems the government has been forced to hire many extra staff members to clear a backlog of ESA claims which has made it attractive for people who have previously been found ineligible for ESA to reapply, and for JSA claimants to try to move across. The proposed benefit cut seems to be aimed at discouraging such activities.

It is far more likely to encourage protest – possibly with violence, from the very last people who may be expected to respond in such a manner. Yr Obdt Srvt was discussing this matter with a friend who is on ESA, and he expressed a wish to visit Downing Street and make a flamboyant gesture – something as powerful as the event that set the Arab Spring alight (although not as final – the aim is to keep people in the best health possible, after all).

The proposal has attracted criticism from Dame Anne Begg, who chairs the Commons Work and Pensions committee. She said: “That’s not reform, that is just saving money. I hope that is not something the government is going to come forward with.”

And fellow Work and Pensions committee member Sheila Gilmore said: “When Labour created the Work-related Activity Group in 2008, the rationale was to ensure that sick and disabled people who couldn’t work in the short term but might be able to in the future weren’t simply written off.

“However we were clear that up until their next reassessment – which would occur at least every two years – these people were still unable to work. This is something Tory Ministers now seem keen to ignore.

“By cutting payments to those in the Work-related Activity Group by nearly £30 per week, Ian Duncan Smith is effectively saying that these people are only a hop, skip and a jump away from being a fully fit, able-bodied Jobseekers Allowance claimant.”

In fact – for most of these people – life is like having to climb a mountain, every day, with no pausing to catch their breath or massage tired and aching muscles and bones. It is an endurance test the like of which most MPs have never experienced.

As Billy Connolly once said of the Pope: “If you don’t play the game, don’t make up the rules.”

That is a maxim that applies here – and our ignorant ruling class had better realise that before somebody takes the law into their own hands.

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  1. Chris Kitcher October 30, 2014 at 7:27 pm - Reply

    Typical of callous Tory b*****ds.

  2. Bill Kruse October 30, 2014 at 7:29 pm - Reply

    I’m sure the Tories know these people are ill, they just don’t care. I gather Labour are similarly indifferent about very ill people being left short of money for weeks or months while awaiting mandatory reconsideration as the subject isn’t even being raised either by Kate Green or Sheila Gilmore. Not a lot to choose between them, it seems.

    • Samuel Miller (@Hephaestus7) October 31, 2014 at 4:07 am - Reply

      Press release: Work and Pensions Committee urge Ministers to pay disabled benefits during appeals http://www.sheilagilmore.co.uk/2014/07/

      • Bill Kruse October 31, 2014 at 11:58 am - Reply

        Hi Sam, it’s encouraging to see that. I was going from a very recent criticism she made of the Tory’s ‘reforms’ which simply didn’t mention it and from La Green’s recent statement, which carried on alarming about a number of problems with them I’m sure we’d all agree on but made no mention of mandatory reconsiderations.

  3. Jane Jacques October 30, 2014 at 7:29 pm - Reply

    Let it be clear why the disabled people get a higher payment. It is to cover the higher costs related to illness and disability. Going to Drs and hospital appointments, higher heating costs through being home all day and probably needing higher temps because ill. There is also prescription costs if these are payable plus any further needs for your malady. Social security payments for all groups in this country are woefully low. To have any cut, or to make people wait weeks for them is just too sad. If ill/disabled other benefits may be available as well.

  4. Rupert Mitchell (@rupert_rrl) October 30, 2014 at 7:55 pm - Reply

    There is something unnatural about the desire to deprive those who need help so badly by those who have so much and were born with golden shovels in their mouths. There will have to be a reckoning.

  5. mimis mum October 30, 2014 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    Yeah right, tell that to my friend who died of cancer a couple of weeks ago,,, who in the summer had atos ring her and ask her if she was dead yet as they needed to check if her claim for esa was still needed.
    Utter bastards.

    • Mike Sivier October 30, 2014 at 9:49 pm - Reply

      The only reason I can imagine that the entire Parliamentary Conservative Party has not resigned in shame is that they are not yet satisfied with the number of people their policies have killed.

  6. Del Pickup October 30, 2014 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    Can I just point out the oxymoron where you put the words ‘Tories’ & ‘think’ together in the title?

  7. Maria October 30, 2014 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    why pick on the benefit that costs the least, unless of course pick on the weakest, hope they die then you would have to spend anything at all, then increase the wage for MPs maybe 25% instead of course for a measly 15%. They are only people and since they can’t work, why should we pay them to live. That kind of selfish thinking, for money instead of for the love of people.

  8. Stephen Tamblin October 30, 2014 at 8:51 pm - Reply

    I have herd it all now I have been diagnosed with vascular dementia and depression and angsity attacks so are thay saying that I am not ill .well my doctor has the proof and my consultant has proof aswell let them disproof also lam suffering from muscular problems especially when I try to get out of the bath .also I have blackouts and dizzy spells so what the he’ll do think about tories have got to be the most hated government that has ever been .I hope that all ordenary voters remember that

  9. john ingamells (@geovanni218) October 30, 2014 at 9:36 pm - Reply

    I don’t think anyone ever really suspected that in such a short 4 years or so, the tory influenced government could have whipped up this country, its people and media into accepting its lies and ideology to make so many suffer. We all knew that Duncan Smith was a wolf covered in the wool of a man purporting to be compassionate and empathetic, through which he and his gaggle of obedient replicants have targeted the sick and disabled and instilled so much despair and genuine fear for the future. What has made their regime even more dangerous has been their media lackeys and ability to mislead and control the population into accepting their dishonesty. They have been able to make so many, of all age groups, believe the welfare cheat mantra, never considering that they may fall on hard times or be sick or even disabled. To this end they have been assisted by this ever-increasingly selfish society; immigrants, the disabled and sick, the non-productive or ‘foreigners’ have become the groups to blame. Tories know the many sick and disabled are vulnerable and open to targeting – they simply lack any compassion for anyone except those bankers and tax avoiders who still have managed to remain untouched by the law, nor punished in any shape or form for the economic damage THEY did, not benefit claimants or people at the bottom of the rung struggling to keep their heads above the water. B*****ds indeed!

  10. ghost whistler October 30, 2014 at 9:39 pm - Reply

    The tragedy of current British politics is that for four years the spineless entity that is Labour have had an open goal with this nasty incompetent government. The Tories have not won an election in 20 years and yet Miliband and Balls and their army of appeasers have, like the Lib Dems, enabled everything this vicious government has sought to achieve. This is a national disgrace. Labour needs to get rid of these useless capitalist w**kers and find it’s soul anew. If not, well the consequences don’t bear thinking about.

    • Mike Sivier October 30, 2014 at 9:52 pm - Reply

      Labour has not enabled anything this government has done. Apart from that, you make very good points.
      Why isn’t Labour attacking hard?

      • Bill Kruse October 30, 2014 at 10:20 pm - Reply

        I’d like to think it’s because they believe the Tories have so conditioned the public through media manipulation into believing the lies about claimants that any attempt at humanitarian intervention will be seen as weakness and will lose them the election. I’d like to think that, but I don’t. I think they’d be doing the same thing in power and they’re letting the Tories do their dirty work for them in what they hope is the interim.

        • Mike Sivier October 30, 2014 at 10:44 pm - Reply

          I sincerely hope you are wrong. If that was the case, then the Parliamentary Party would not be doing the will of the party as a whole.

  11. Samuel Miller (@Hephaestus7) October 31, 2014 at 3:51 am - Reply

    There’s a lot of kite-flying of policies at the moment, and this latest proposal may be one of them. It is definitely cause for worry, and it illustrates the nefariousness of the government, which has long desired, for cost-saving purposes, to move sick and disabled people “parked” in the WRAG on to the regular jobseekers’ allowance.

    The government overspend on benefits is the likely reason why cuts to ESA recipients in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) are being considered. If this proposal is implemented, it would be major cause for alarm: it would further weaken the social safety net of sick and disabled people, putting their lives in jeopardy.

    I would respectfully suggest that you remove the mention of self-immolation from your otherwise excellent blog piece. I’m quite certain that you do not wish to incite sick and disabled people to commit suicide out of desperation.

    • Mike Sivier October 31, 2014 at 11:25 am - Reply

      Of course not. There is an expectation that people reading these pieces are intelligent enough to realise that mention of something that happened elsewhere is in no way an incitement to do the same thing here, and my friend was only suggesting that something as powerfully symbolic could be done.

  12. Sasson Hann October 31, 2014 at 7:15 am - Reply

    The idea of scrapping the WRAG is nothing new as it was reported in the news over this last year.

    That aside, I think of my poor friend who was transferred to the WRAG from IB. He’s already barely coping financially as it is, paying a mortgage out of that (albeit a small one), along with prescription charges and trying to keep a car on the road as he can’t walk very far. Some weeks he’s survived on cheap noodles, he told me recently. This week he bought carrots that are meant for horses, in order to make a big batch of soup. He daren’t put the heating on. His mum helps him out occasionally but he has still needed to get into debt for car and house repairs.

    He just won’t survive if they make him manage on £73 per week. His health is extremely poor, a serious heart condition, arthritis, severe sinusitis attacks that are so excruciating that he can’t move: like others no doubt his health will take a turn for the worse if the gov follow through with this plan.

  13. clouty October 31, 2014 at 9:19 am - Reply

    Mike, you said “…clear a backlog of ESA claims which has made it attractive for people who have previously been found ineligible for ESA to reapply, and for JSA claimants to try to move across.” I guess that’s a lift from the BBC report. There are reasons for this, and they were created by the Welfare Reform Act of 2012.

    Since the WRA2012 came into effect on 26th October last year, with the cruel cutting off of all support from ESA claimants who have – often wrongly – been found fit for work created by the new, open ended ‘Mandatory Reconsideration’ period before appeals can be lodged, people who’ve been booted off ESA while under Mandatory Reconsideration have no choice but to try and claim JSA if they want to eat – not eating being particularly bad for poorly people – but are often refused because, unlike the ESA decision maker, the JobCentre staff say they are not fit for work…

    If you drive chronic sick and disabled people into penury, making them jump through hoop after hoop, humiliate and denigrate them, they get more ill, more depressed, less able to cope.

    As we all here know this has been going on for over a year now, Of course more people are eligible for ESA now, in 2014. They’ve been driven further into sickness and disability by the very measures that were supposed to reduce the ESA bill. Before last year, if they were challenging a decision that they were not eligible for ESA, they remained on the assessment rate – which is the same as JSA anyway – now they get booted off, and if they can’t negotiate the new, complicated, opaque appeal procedure they can try for a new ESA claim. So that’s another one on the wrong side of the statistics.

    What’s the Tory answer? As you’re reporting here, maybe we’ll (in effect) boot the whole of the WRAG onto JSA rates. WRAG conditionality becomes more like JSA week by week anyway, what with the work preparation courses (often full time) and the sanctions.

    I love the Connelly quote. The ministers in charge of the DWP don’t have a clue. They are ruled by unintended consequences because they have too much hubris to bother to look at what’s really happening on the ground.

    • Mike Sivier October 31, 2014 at 11:32 am - Reply

      Mandatory reconsideration is a newer tactic that has been imposed because the backlog was creeping up; it wasn’t part of the original Welfare Reform Act. Otherwise, you make good points.

      • clouty October 31, 2014 at 4:33 pm - Reply

        Untrue, hun. See clause 3(A) here http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2012/5/section/102
        I was all over the WRA in 2011/12 with the Spartacus group.

        What has been happening because backlogs have been creeping up is that folk are not being subjected to routine reassessment. That bit I like.

        • Mike Sivier October 31, 2014 at 11:25 pm - Reply

          It turns out you’re right and I stand corrected – although I had to work very hard with the wording of the WRA and the Social Security Act 1998 to understand it.
          It would have been more accurate for me to say that mandatory reconsideration was brought into practice until late October last year, in order to cut down the backlog of appeals going to the tribunal service, after having been approved by Parliament in the WRA.

  14. delboydave October 31, 2014 at 1:18 pm - Reply

    My main concern is that, apart from the Bedroom Tax, Labour have made NO loud noises about the injustice and cruelty that IDS and the DWP have heaped on the most vulnerable members of our society and I don’t have any hope that things will change significantly irrespective of the colour of the next government.

  15. Florence October 31, 2014 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    Today I feel like weeping. Not for myself but for all my fellow ESA mates, as I can retire and get away from all this. Even with all the stress and anxiety and struggle for the basic amount of ESA, or the support group, now the prospect of having that little extra taken away, after the bedroom tax, the Council Tax, the prescription charges, and everything else that chips away at the food budget, they continue to pile on the agony. Anyone who is on ESA will know, as you say Mike, the mountain climbed every day. This announcement, even if “only” kite flying is enough to send many more to their early graves. That is a certainty.

    These acts of Tory desperation and inhumanity makes me feel stronger too, angry strong, because if those people stuffing propaganda in their ears and going lalalalalala want a fight, they’re going to get one now. I hope our community can take the fight back to them. When you’ve got nothing you’ve got nothing to loose. The line has been drawn.

  16. James October 31, 2014 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    Ms. Begg and the Work and Pensions scrutiny of Universal Credit was laughable. They still seem to believe that UC can be rolled out and be a positive help to people. Ha! These people are clueless.

  17. Let Them Eat Art October 31, 2014 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    I am ill, but the Quacks won’t even give me a Sick Note, just Meds. and bullying therapy, whereby I get bullied into being well, and in the meantime I have to claim JSA and look for work and be available for work etc, even though I do not feel capable of work!

    • clouty November 1, 2014 at 8:21 am - Reply

      Please change your GP, LTEA. If there’s a support group for your illness near you they may have a list of local doctors that are sympathetic. But first, try the other doctors in the practice you are in. Not all GPs are like that – in fact most are reasonable and kind. You’ve got unlucky with yours.

  18. Chris October 31, 2014 at 7:18 pm - Reply

    Bosses not just politicians, believe people are not ill. I’ve had some strange interviews with Human Resources over my lifetime in work. They tried to ban overtime payments because I had a consultant demanded length of sick leave to recover from a major operation.

    Listen to councillors talk about sick leave of paid council staff. You hear the same belief.

    Long term sick leave is no longer reimbursed by government to firms. (Anything over
    4 weeks sickness absence).

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