Labour’s verdict has been as damning as Ms Ryan’s.
But it also offers a little hope for those of us who are caught in the Tory benefit trap.
Debbie Abrahams MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, commenting on the Work and Pensions Select Committee’s report into the Personal Independent Payment (PIP) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) assessment processes said:
“This report provides yet more damning evidence that these assessment processes are not fit for purpose and that trust in the system has been completely undermined under this Government. Instead of supporting people, the process is often dehumanising, inaccurate and worsens existing health conditions.
“The widespread distrust of the assessment process by sick and disabled people is no surprise, with a record 68 per cent of decisions taken to tribunal being overturned by judges. Under private contractors the assessment process is getting worse, not better, yet the Government refuses to act.
“Labour will scrap the current PIP and ESA assessments, bringing an end to the Conservatives’ failed privatised assessment system and replacing it with personalised, holistic support which provides each individual with a tailored plan, building on their strengths and addressing barriers, whether health, care, finance, skills, transport, or housing related.”
On Wednesday, the work and pensions select committee released its much-anticipated report into Britain’s disability benefit system and it pulled no punches. The picture it paints is one of incompetence and outright cruelty: assessments riddled with errors and omissions or even fabrications; poor use of medical evidence that often leads to people’s benefits being incorrectly removed; and a “lack of determination” from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to address its failings. As the MPs damningly put it, the disability benefit system has reached the point at which “a pervasive lack of trust is undermining the entire operation”.
From their rollout by the coalition to Theresa May’s cabinet today, the very premise of the Conservative’s so-called reforms to disability benefits has been to shrink the “welfare” budget, part of a wider bid to pull back the state. The DWP launched the tests for PIP in 2012 by bragging that half a million disabled people would lose their benefits by the end of it, and last year it slashed employment and support allowance (ESA) – the benefit for people so severely ill that they can’t work – on the premise it would be an “incentive” for them to get a job.
That’s the most grotesque part of this. When ministers design a social security system based on how much money they can cut, unqualified assessors and bloated appeal bills aren’t a sign of a policy gone wrong – it’s a sign that it’s going exactly as planned.
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