£40 million – it’s one of those unimaginable amounts that humble folk such as me and thee regularly hear being bandied about by the powers-that-be, yet its sheer immenseness in comparison to what most of us handle on a daily basis renders it almost meaningless as a number. When Lottery winners scoop £12 million, I often wonder if it’d make that much of a difference to the sudden transformation of their lives if they’d simply won half of that; to people who normally survive on a few grand a year, I would think £6 million would probably suffice, wouldn’t it? Of course, in the hands of government, £40 million is merely loose change. But it still sounds a lot to those members of the electorate bereft of non-dom status. It also serves as political proof ‘something is being done’.
Q: What are you doing about the NHS, Minister?
A: Well, we’ve already promised £40m to invest in the NHS and…
Q: What are you doing about the railways, Minister?
A: Well, we’ve already promised £40m to invest in the rail network and…
Q: What are you doing about the housing crisis, Minister?
A: Well, we’ve already promised £40m to invest in affordable housing and…
You get the picture; we’ve all heard the same words emanate from the ministerial mouth time and time again; and while £40 million is a modest amount when compared to some of the dough divided up and dispensed by the Treasury, it’s still a hell of a lot of money. And that’s roughly the amount of taxpayer cash our lords and masters in the Conservative Government have squandered in their desperate and mean-spirited attempts to prevent the sick and disabled from receiving benefits. FOI requests published by the Independent (yes, it still exists out there in cyberspace, apparently) reveal the extremes to which the DWP will go to reduce the number of disability benefit claimants that Iain Duncan Smith claimed it would during his reign of terror.
Let us not forget the promises made when Theresa May seized power and installed Damian Green in the old IDS hot-seat; the punitive austerity-driven nastiness of the previous administration’s attitude towards those incapable of regular employment was to be phased out in favour of a more humane approach. Unfortunately, the statistics don’t support this ambitious hyperbole. Last year, £22m was devoted to processing appeals lodged by claimants against sanctions – and officials handling appeals are advised to turn down four out of five – whilst those claimants making it all the way to court were fought by a government that spent £17m doing so. Happily, the bastards lost 62% of the cases in 2016, but that still adds up to a large chunk of the public purse spent doing what – saving face?
The 62% of appeal cases lost by government lawyers – government and lawyers; what a marriage made in Hell that is – related to the ESA (Employment Support Allowance). The success rate for the Westminster mafia when it comes to the PIP (Personal Independent Payment), which is for the long-term ill, isn’t much better from their perspective; they lost 65% of those in the second half of 2016, though for all Mrs May’s empty promises of a fresh approach, nothing has changed. Between January and March last year (under Dave), the Government spent £1,166,459 trying to deny ESA claimants money; in the same period this year (under Theresa), that amount has risen 77% to £2,069,849.
The loathsome and rightly infamous assessors going by the name of Atos and Capita have so far been paid £578m to make lives that are already pretty miserable even worse ever since the PIP was introduced in 2013; despite condemnation of these assessments by those at the receiving end of them and an appalling record of mind-boggling insensitivity (not to mention the high number of deaths amongst many affected), their contracts have now apparently been extended to 2019. Ever since private firms were brought in to shave a few million off the figures for those claiming disability benefits (by Gordon Brown), the specific medical expertise necessary to assess a claimant’s ability to earn a living has been deemed unimportant, resulting in the likes of physiotherapists judging on mental health sufferers. This largely appears to be the root cause of the endless inaccurate findings and the consequent appeals.
Ken Butler of Disability Rights UK spoke of how the mistakes made during the initial assessments were as responsible for this appalling state of affairs as the Government’s determination to take on claimants, regardless of the cost to the public purse. ‘If the assessments were better, then you wouldn’t have need for mandatory considerations,’ he said. ‘The system now only functions really to put people off going any further; the whole process is quite lengthy and stressful.’
Anyone reliant upon disability benefits already feels marginalised as a second-class citizen; to then be told by someone not always in possession of the correct medical qualifications that they’re not even disabled enough to receive financial assistance is an additional source of anxiety. Having to go through the complicated process of challenging, and then appealing against, the decision is an exhausting and wearisome drain on the claimant that can drag on for months before it reaches a tribunal; and throughout this period, the outcome remains uncertain. The ever-present possibility and constant worry that it could end badly hardly improves the health and wellbeing of an ill individual.
The Citizens Advice Bureau were last year called on to help out in almost 40,000 PIP appeals, 37% more than the year before; and, lest we forget, the people they’ve come to the assistance of are usually representative of some of society’s most vulnerable. These are the people the Government is intent on mercilessly browbeating – those who are in the worst possible position to fight back. Makes you proud to be British, doesn’t it.
© The Editor
6 thoughts on “BLOOD MONEY”
In practice, it is erroneous equating ‘corporate money’ (i.e. the £40m) with the ‘real money’ which you and I scrimp, save and spend with such care every day.
When you’re dealing in budget-lines counting in billions (which government and corporate staff do every day), that money is inanimate, it’s quite different from the cash in their wallets, purses and bank accounts, it’s just the routine material on their work-day production-line.
You have to distance yourself from the reality of its worth – almost 50 years ago, as a spotty trainee accounts clerk earning less than £500 a year, I was sometimes required to take a briefcase containing over £100,000 in cash across the city to a bank, alone and without any security – but, poor as I was, I never even thought of that as ‘real money’, it was just ‘work-material’, which is probably why it always got to the bank intact.
The benefits issue is not easy for any of the players. When any government sets out to effect change, however motivated it may be, the process of change will first create uncertainties and then, once operating, will inevitably bring changes to the value of benefits received by most people. Those who get more will remain silent, big surprise, while those who receive less will protest loudly, no surprise there either. That’s what naturally happens with any change, for good or ill.
Where the current government’s change-process seems to be falling down is in the application of the new profiles – and whether it is the DWP itself or a private sub-contractor is a distraction, they would both work the same way, interpreting and applying the rules they had been given from above.
The proportions of appeal cases being lost by the government side suggests that the interpretation and applications are too often defective, so that’s where the DWP should be focusing to improve the method. Until there is a reasonable degree of certainty in the new systems, there will be confusion, doubt and lack of clarity, to say nothing of the potential distress caused to some very needy recipients, many of whom lack the ability or articulation to pursue their own case.
Whether the government’s objectives with these changes are right or wrong is a political argument, but their application certainly leaves the impression of an incomplete and ill-defined process. But that conclusion would exonerate the minister, because it’s the sole job of the civil servants to action the policies defined by the minister, or to advise the minister if his/her policy proposals are impractical. So maybe the true target for our ire should be Sir Humphrey, rather than Jim Hacker, for committing to unsatisfactory changes?
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If Sir Humphrey taught us anything, it was precisely who runs the country, I think.
While I most definitely agree that the Sir Humphreys of this world and their even more objectionable underlings more than deserve to take their portion of blame for the national disgrace/travesty/shame that is the treatment of those suffering from disability and or mental illness in this country, I cannot, in all conscience, exonerate nor absolve from responsibility the ministers actually giving the orders. The age old “Soldiers Defence” now more commonly referred to, particularly by the liberal/leftist leaning media, as “The Nuremberg Defence” is that of obeying your orders, an entirely valid defence, without which no military would be able to function at all! This, however, seemed to carry very little weight with the “learned gentleman” of the legal system, be it in WWII, Korea, Malaysia, Aden, Kenya, Suez, Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Iraq or Afghanistan. Judged by the same standards, the defence of “I was only giving the orders” i.e. I had no concept/input/say/control of how they would be carried out! No really! My hands are clean… etc. etc. cannot be seen as any kind of valid defence!
P.s. To any who served, I.D.S. = R.T.U. remember? lol! 🙂
P.p.s. IDS’s Novel, “The Devil’s Tune” 320 pages. Hardback. 1 1/2 stars on Amazon! Is now available for as little as 49p a copy! I even found one for only 1p! I would get a few in now, as they make excellent fuel for the open fire and should help keep you warm through the winter months!!! lol 😉
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“Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil” should be required reading for every worker at every level of the DWP.
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I don’t have much direct experience of this, thank God. My only observation is that the system seems contrived to help the feckless and abandon the needy,
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If we believe the Government, that was the nature of the system and their current plans claim to reverse the situation. Whether they are right to take that approach may be debatable, but it seems that their chosen method is less than perfect in execution.
It is often forgotten that the original Beveridge Report, the foundation of the Welfare State which we all broadly support, set out to address ‘five giants’: Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness. The first four targets have had considerable progress in absolute terms under all flavours of government, but the final ‘giant’ of Idleness remains unresolved.
Note, it was ‘idleness’, not unemployment or workllessness – the ‘sin’ was seen as that of being idle. Some would say that millions of healthy pensioners are ‘idle’, similarly recipients of most other welfare benefits – the receipt of a state benefit was never meant to exclude the recipient from some productive activity, as opposed to idleness. It may be argued that the increase in pension-age and the current aim of ‘welfare to work’ at least starts, after 70 years of waiting, to address that old unspoken ‘sin’ of idleness.
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