Some people may find this article hard to believe, but it is what we have seen, time and time again, from the Conservative Government and the DWP under Iain Duncan Smith.
Please share it around. Many people need to understand what is really happening.
Let’s say – for the sake of argument – that you wanted to slash the welfare budget by £12bn while appearing to be fair and even-handed. How would you go about it?
First, you might turn the spotlight on individuals who play the system. Never mind that fraud amounts to only 0.7% of the total expenditure on benefits and tax credits, according to Department for Work and Pensions figures. That inconvenient fact will get drowned out if you make enough noise about cheats and scroungers.
Then, having set the tone of the discourse to blaming and shaming, you’re free to pursue cuts by less visible means. Such as a points system.
This is how it works. You tie benefits to points. Then, you award those points on the basis of what the most vulnerable people in society have to say about their own needs, whether or not they are capable of making such judgments. While you’re at it, ensure that the system remains in constant flux, so that claimants never know exactly where the goalposts are.
My daughter has suffered from a severe mental illness for many years. At times it’s so painful she wants to cut off her own head to shut up the damning voices inside it.
In January this year, another form arrived in the post. As always, she struggled to complete it. Because how can you put the chaos in your head down on paper? In tick boxes? What do the words really mean? And how can you ask for any help when you are certain your needs are utterly bogus? How do you quantify terrifying, destabilising states of mind that change hour by hour, minute by minute?
In April she was informed that her personal independence payment (Pip) had been cut to the lowest rate. She had scored 11 points. To carry on qualifying for the enhanced rate of Pip, which she has previously received, she would have had to score 12.
Put it another way. The loss of that one point has cost her half her Pip, which is about £50 a week. When she isn’t in hospital, my daughter lives in a small room in sheltered accommodation. Most of her things are in store because she has nowhere else to put them. Storage alone costs her £125 a month.
Encouraged by her key worker, she appealed against this decision.
Three months later, she was placed under 24-hour surveillance in an acute medical bay on a locked psychiatric ward.
On 30 August, while she was still in the bay, with three locked doors between her and the outside world, she received a letter from the DWP saying that her appeal had been unsuccessful. It went on to state that if she disagreed with this decision, she could apply to take her case to a tribunal within one month of the date of the letter. The letter was dated 30 July.
To assess eligibility for Pip, the DWP allocates scores based on what it calls descriptors. In their words, these are “sentences which describe how much support, and the type of support, you need. The number of points you get depends on how much help you need.”
My daughter scored 1 (0 is the lowest) for “managing therapy or a health condition”.
She scored 2 for “preparing food” and 4 for “taking nutrition”.
I’d be thrilled if that assessment of her ability to cope with her problems were true. It comes nowhere close.
According to research published last year by Mind, people with mental illnesses are having their benefits cut more often than those with other conditions.
Who’s playing the system?
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