Bernadette Meaden, over on Ekklesia, has produced a useful article on the way successive governments have manipulated criteria for receiving incapacity/disability benefits to make it easier to withhold payment.
None of the information is new, but the reference to Steve Griffiths’ paper for Compass, ‘Dark Times For Those Who Cannot Work : No Competence, No Compassion, in Incapacity Benefits Reform’, is useful.
If the DWP simply looked at evidence from the NHS and elsewhere, they would be far less suspicious about the numbers of incapacity benefit claimants. Whilst on average people are living longer, health inequality means that poor people have a much shorter healthy life expectancy, and many become unable to work long before retirement age. Medical advances mean that people survive accidents and illnesses that in the past would have killed them, but they may not be able to work.The NHS could readily supply information on these issues, but as Griffiths explains, “The connection seems never to have been made between two major Government workstreams serving the same people. People on Incapacity Benefit die early, that is acknowledged by Government. But it is as if in benefit terms, they were just expected to drop off their perches rather than suffer chronic illness and be the beneficiaries of a progressively vanishing ‘security for those who cannot work.”
Because the DWP ignored such evidence and pursued its own agenda, Griffiths says, “The health needs of people who are the subject of huge investment by the Department of Health have been treated counterproductively as invisible, or worse, as malingering, by the DWP and successive Work and Pensions ministers driven by a compulsion to judge and to privatise.” He sees this as “a failure of compassion, unacknowledged incompetence and injustice on a massive scale: a social policy tragedy.”
ministers driven by a compulsion to judge and to privatise.” He sees this as “a failure of compassion, unacknowledged incompetence and injustice on a massive scale: a social policy tragedy.”