Brace yourself for the next assault on the sick and disabled

Last Updated: April 5, 2016By
Stephen Crabb wrote on Facebook before his new appointment that he backed the ESA-WRAG cut since recipients were ‘able to work’ [Image: Niklas Halle'N/AFP/Getty Images}.

Stephen Crabb wrote on Facebook before his new appointment that he backed the ESA-WRAG cut since recipients were ‘able to work’ [Image: Niklas Halle’N/AFP/Getty Images}.

You didn’t really think the Conservatives were going to give up on their plans to make it impossible for benefit claimants to live, did you?

If you thought that the withdrawal of plans to change the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) signalled an end to the harassment, it seems you were wrong.

Rumours from the Department for Work and Pensions suggest that new secretary of state Stephen Crabb is likely to announce renewed plans to change the descriptors to PIP for aids and adaptations in August or September.

It seems they are part of proposals from the think tank Reform that have already been partly implemented with the cut in Employment and Support Allowance for people in the Work-Related Activity Group.

The Reform paper – written and published in February this year by people who are all former members of Conservative Party support staff who now claim to be politically neutral – claims that the amount of money paid to people on sickness and disability benefits adversely affects their likelihood of moving into work. So it states:

The Government should therefore set a single rate for out-of-work benefit. The savings from this rate reduction should be reinvested into Personal Independence Payment – which contributes to the additional costs incurred by someone with a long-term condition – and into support services.

We have already seen part of this policy enacted – the cut in ESA-WRAG payments – and it is well worth reminding ourselves that Tory MPs appear to have voted this through on the misunderstanding that it affects people who are able to work, rather than those who, by definition, cannot.

The document also recommends the end of the Work Capability Assessment in its current form. This has been trailed in the media – most notably by The Sunday Times, which has reported that Mr Crabb wants to end the involvement of private firms in disability benefit assessment.

What that newspaper didn’t say is that the plan is to abolish Employment and Support Allowance altogether and roll sickness benefits into Universal Credit with “a single online application for the benefit, including a ‘Proximity to the Labour Market Diagnostic’ to determine a claimant’s distance from work and a health questionnaire”. The paper states:

This questionnaire should determine whether a separate occupational health assessment is needed. If it is, this should be carried out by an appropriate health professional, with oversight from an occupational health specialist. Unlike the ‘pass/fail’ WCA model, the assessment should take a broad view of a claimant’s multiple health-related barriers to work, including ‘biopsychosocial’ factors. The claimant and health adviser should, where appropriate, jointly produce a rehabilitation plan, and this should come with a personal budget. Those with mild or moderate health conditions that, with support, could be managed should be expected to take reasonable rehabilitative steps – some level of conditionality should therefore be applied. Employment advisers must be appropriately trained to support those claimants, and given a high degree of discretion in how they apply that conditionality.

So the plan is to continue using the discredited perversion of ‘biopsychosocial’ theories (that claim illness is a personal choice and is all in the mind) as the basis for any assessment of a claimant’s illness; to put anyone with “mild or moderate” health conditions such as cancer or Parkinson’s on the welfare-to-work treadmill, with sanctions applied if they fail to participate (even if that failure is due to their illness); and to have all sickness benefit reduced to the same level as Jobseekers’ Allowance.

That’s right. Cutting ESA for people in the Work-Related Activity Group was only part of it. If the plan to roll sickness benefits into Universal Credit is implemented, then people in the Support Group – those with serious conditions that are not expected to improve within the foreseeable future – will also lose a huge amount of their weekly income.

All this from the Conservative Government that has claimed it has no further plans to attack benefit claimants.

Here’s the icing on the cake: The Reform paper recommends that savings from the ESA rate reduction could be reinvested in PIP and in support services – but there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Mr Crabb is planning to do so. Quite the opposite, in fact. It seems he is cherry-picking the recommendations that suit him and abandoning the rest.

It seems clear he is also planning to abandon the sick and disabled to an uncertain and desperate future.

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  1. Barry Davies April 5, 2016 at 10:45 am - Reply

    Well by definition employment support is for those who are employed, so you could say that technically he is correct that some receiving it can work, the reality is that it is a complete and misleading misnomer, because those who can’t work find it harder to get than those who could.

    • Mike Sivier April 5, 2016 at 12:13 pm - Reply

      Employment AND Support Allowance is most definitely – and by definition – NOT for those who are employed.
      So you make a good point, saying that the benefit is provided under a misnomer.
      You shouldn’t say he’s correct that some people receiving ESA can work, though – not in any circumstances.

      • billkruse April 5, 2016 at 12:29 pm - Reply

        If that’s what he’s saying, he is correct, people on ESA can and do work. It’s allowed for. It’s laid out on the DWP web site.

        • Mike Sivier April 6, 2016 at 3:05 pm - Reply

          Not all of them can, though – and the vote to cut ESA-WRAG was made on the assumption that they all could.

      • steven mcguire April 5, 2016 at 4:57 pm - Reply

        that is the only reason they changed the name from incapacity benifit to ESA more moving the goal posts TORYS OUT

  2. paulrutherford8 April 5, 2016 at 1:22 pm - Reply

    It seems that my belief Crabb could prove ‘worse’ than the Idiosyncratically Departed Smith may be correct.
    I hope our court judgement is handed down soon [maybe another 4 weeks?], as I’ll then be ‘freed’ from my restrictions…

  3. Robadob April 5, 2016 at 1:51 pm - Reply

    I just want to cry….
    It took ten years of putting up with intimidation and “lost forms” then a year of waiting for tribunal hell to get DLA(2012)… When I tried to claim ESA(2011) I was told “we recognise that you have a disability but you do not qualify for esa”- I had wanted to be in wrag but after another year of waiting for tribunal hell I was awarded ESA support because I can’t operate my wheelchair or stair lift myself.
    6 months ago I was awarded DLA indefinately and last month I was told that indefinite award means nothing and I must claim PIP if I wanted to continue to live, I mean getting money. It took days to fill in and just as my husband and carer finishes writing the last page another brown envelope comes through…. Another work capability assessment form.

    The thing is through all this when I’ve been well enough to sit up I’ve been learning & learning qualifications in web development and coding….. I don’t want to have to rely on the state (incidently my tax and ni have been paid every year since I was 17) I want to teach my children you can have everything you want you work hard for it and the only way to be able to set this example it is be my own boss but to do that I have to ‘save up’ so we can cope with the transition….

    I’m babbling the point is I’m scared and no matter what – no one goes through a year of hell to have their extra needs recognised just to be paid the same as a jobseeker. You as a disabled person have the same costs as a jobseeker (JSA claimants can barely afford to eat once a day as it is) and care and mobility costs on top of that. How is that right or fair for people who would rather do anything than be a ‘scrounger’? and for those in the support group to be insulted in the same way and they’ll probably be liable for bedroom tax too the way things are going.

    Crabbe’s constituency spent £100k in an attempt to force an elderly couple who care for their profoundly disabled grandson to pay a huge bedroom tax bill they should never have been subject to! I don’t think any of us stand a chance, I can’t see a day where we can save up enough for me to go self employed (at least I won’t sack me for not being able to get out of bed)

    Finally, thank google for speech to text- marvellous.

  4. frances April 5, 2016 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    At Pat’s Petition we have been looking at how we think a replacement income for sick and disabled people should work. We quite like the idea of awarding a safe basic income and detaching that from the back to work help.

    Our Dead Parrot campaign is about admitting that many sick and disabled people have a ‘can’t do’ narrative as well as a ‘can do’ narrative. Admitting that some sick and disabled people have reduced productivity and won’t get a job in a ruthless competitive labour market without government interventions like subsidies.

    If people can be sure of a safe income then we can turn the attention on to back to work programmes that address the reality of the competitive labour market and incidentally cost the government money.

    We need to get more proactive with our own suggestions and stop letting the government set the terms of the debate.

  5. Jessie April 5, 2016 at 2:24 pm - Reply

    When the Tories do a U-turn it is to turn around and enact something more viscious, in revenge for being in any way thwarted. Already anyway they are cutting the PIP benefit simply by increasingly not allowing applicants to receive it in the first place, or denying it to those transferring from DLA, who suddenly are told that they can manage all right, even while their condition and needs remain the same.

    The Tories also seem incapable of comprehending that DLA or PIP is also an in-work benefit, the removal of which can make it impossible for those in employment to continue in their jobs; which is followed up by those persons being harassed and punished for not being employed.

    So saying that people on ESA can get extra support from PIP, which is increasingly being denied for any spuriously invented reason, is a cruel joke. While everyone else will be at the Sanctions Centre whatever, as their condition is said to be only due to their own faulty attitude. You wouldn’t have that cancer if you’d been thinking in the right way.

    Even people with no mental illness soon become anxious and depressed when in the grips of the DWP, when every step of the way is made into a psychological torment, via the nudge unit. With next, enforced psychiatric treatment for the condition of being unemployed, even as real jobs decrease; and when going to the GP being assesssed by an unqualified did-a-quick-course Jobsworth for your work fitness (not a doctor with years of training – what could they know?).

    Even while there’s an increasing shortage of GPs and psychiatric services are steadily being slashed, and the whole NHS is being pushed into disintegration. Yet no lack of funding it seems for any scheme, however high the costs, further to undermine or completely deny support to the sick and disabled; or anyone on benefit, however hardworking.

  6. david pearce April 5, 2016 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    Mike this is possibly what concerns me more so than some of the other Dickensian changes:
    ‘ Those with mild or moderate health conditions that, with support, could be managed should be expected to take reasonable rehabilitative steps – some level of conditionality should therefore be applied. ‘
    My worry is that it may lead to medical conditionality. If you don’t have this treatment we will sanction you, even if you’ve tried said treatment and the adverse effects are worse than the actual condition. Miss a clinic appointment – sanction. Have your actual consultant decide not to proceed with the DWP treatment plan – sanction.

  7. MsJustice April 5, 2016 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    Bloody Waddell, Wessely, Sharpe et al. First they came for people with ME…

    • Janice April 7, 2016 at 3:14 am - Reply

      Exactly MsJustice, no one cared or did anything. They just read the Daily Mail and Telegraph headlines promoted by Waddell, Wessely, Sharpe et al and had absolute disdain for us. Now the way we have been treated for decades has spilled out to the public in general.

  8. Julia Morgan April 5, 2016 at 2:48 pm - Reply

    Dammit, I just received my PIP. Don’t say I have to go through it all over again in just a few months!

  9. Nancy Farrell April 5, 2016 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    The model they use now is called the “psychosocial model” they dropped the “Bio” part which actually takes into account what the persons disability really is. So like Mike says, they ignore what is actually wrong with the person and say it’s all in the mind, simply by telling us we can work we will be cured magically and can go out and get a job according to their flawed theory. Ignoring if the person is in constant pain, is incontinent, needs assistance to use a toilet, is on medication that stops them driving or operating machinery etc. So is basically barbaric disability denial.
    Also take into account the amount of able bodied unemployed these disabled people who haven’t really recovered have to compete with to get jobs, that are dwindling as more and more are cut, and they might as well just be done with it and build gas chambers and start calling us “das untermenchen.”

  10. robert fillies April 5, 2016 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    Given Mr Crabb’s voting record, this, unfortunately is no surprise. Tory attacks continue on the sick and disabled with the new broom holding the handle, his strings being pulled by Cameron and Gideon.

    • Bill Kruse April 5, 2016 at 6:29 pm - Reply

      I’d think rather his strings are being pulled by Unum, who stand to profit hugely if social security can be done away with.

    • Florence April 6, 2016 at 10:51 am - Reply

      This is someone who thinks being gay can be cured. He is obviously in the loony corner where sick people also just think they are, and need the DWP to cure them of the affliction of personality disorder that makes them think they have Parkinson’s, cancer, degenerative musculo skeletal conditions, and worse.

  11. Scott Cole Papabear April 5, 2016 at 5:03 pm - Reply

    as a long term disabled person I think what they are doing is criminal. I was on a life time disability award until the idiots at atos determined I was fit for work. I was a fully qualified and experienced mechanic and mot tester. I developed fibromyalgia 7 years ( now 46). over the years my condition got worse, I have contorted fingers my wrists no longer bend I have severe widespread pain in all joints/ I even have severe pain in my hips and groin which limit how far I can walk ( which isn’t very far) . I was taken off my incapacity,i had to go to court to prove my disabilities and the court over ruled the atos decision. I was then put on work related esa . the job centre even commented that I should be on long term. work related esa only lasts 365 days. after that it goes onto income related. my wife works over 24 hours , so therefore I am not entitled to any payments whatsoever. I take 7 different painkillers 4 times a day with 3 of them being opiet based, I also take oral morphine . I can hardly function normal day to tasks and suffer from anxiety on top as I no longer receive esa I was sent my p45 as no longer eligible for benefit, which also takes me off the job centre out of work figures. so the unemployment figure is inaccurate as many of that is people like me NON STATISTICS. WHEN WILL PEOPLE WAKE UP AND SEE THAT ME AND 1000’S OF OTHER DISABLED OR INCABLE OF WORK PEOPLE ARE STRUGGLING. I am still reasonably young and my future is bleak. I have 3 young children and a supportive wife, I worked hard up until I couldn’t. paid into the system and this is how I am treated. . makes me sick

  12. Bob Williams-Findlay April 5, 2016 at 6:54 pm - Reply

    Interesting piece which reinforces my political position that too little is being undertaken by groups supporting sick and disabled people to expose WHY the bio-psycho-social hybrid is so central to the Tory welfare reform agenda. Secondly, the focus has, understandably, shifted from IDS to Crabb – however what is complete absent here is the continuous thread that runs from Purnell to IDS onto Crabb – the role of Lord Freud in all of this. We ignore this at our peril because Freud remains a lynchpin.

    • Mike Sivier April 6, 2016 at 2:30 pm - Reply

      There’s a book coming out soon, authored by Mo Stewart who occasionally appears in This Blog, that should provide a lot of the information you want.
      The working title was Cash Not Care: The planned demolition of the welfare state, if I recall correctly.

  13. Alison French April 5, 2016 at 8:12 pm - Reply

    Sobering thoughts…I can’t really think of anything else as I’m gobsmacked

  14. John April 5, 2016 at 8:44 pm - Reply

    I can’t see JC and JM making the same mistake twice, so I really hope that they are keeping proper ‘forensic’ level tracking of exactly what the Tories are up to !

  15. pol james April 5, 2016 at 11:40 pm - Reply

    And what company would take on someone who has had a stroke and has a heart condition??

  16. Stu April 6, 2016 at 4:36 am - Reply

    If you check the DWP announcements you will see that Universal Credit is being accelerated at a frightening pace.
    So it does look like they are going for a “final few big swings of the axe”.

    I guess poor old Iain Goebbels Smith will shed some more crocodile tears saying that’s why he resigned.

  17. Florence April 6, 2016 at 10:47 am - Reply

    If seems Crab is taking on what IDS had planned anyway. If we think back just a few weeks, IDS had got £1.5 billion stashed for more testing, implied to be for support group as he mentioned it affecting 2 million on ESA. If we also cast our minds back, it was when he went totally swivel eyed and started saying “everyone” should be capable of 10 hours a week work. So here we are. No matter how ill or disabled, you will be expected to work or more importantly LOOK for work under UC, so Introducing conditionality for those that at present are considered by all medical assessments to be not only unable to work but unlikely to ever do so. This is one of the most depressing moments out of many under these psychopaths.

  18. Looby April 6, 2016 at 2:25 pm - Reply

    This will likely remove GPs and specialists from the assessment process.

    I have no doubt the DWP will have their own group of private health companies lining up to supply the quasi quack healthcare specialists to analyze and ‘Treat’ anyone showing up as ‘unable to work; by means of forced and coerced State “Psychotic Therapy” of the NUDGE variety………

    1984 here we regress and come!!!

  19. Eric Jarvis April 7, 2016 at 11:49 am - Reply

    The “biopsychosocial model” that NOBODY has been able to show any evidence for unless they are funded by the insurance company UNUM. This is a medical/scientific fraud on the same level as Andrew Wakefield’s MMR/autism scam.

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