Tag Archives: DLA

Leo McKinstry should be glad there isn’t a fit for work test for journalists. If there was, he’d fail

This is a guest article from Eugene Grant. Eugene works in the third sector as a public policy advisor on poverty and welfare, and comments regularly on disability and issues of social policy. He blogs at Dead Letter Drop.

Over the last few months we have seen a continuous drip-feed of stories which have promoted a range of inaccurate and generalised accusations against disabled people with long term health conditions. As a result disabled people have faced greater hostility from the public, with many claiming that they have experienced hostility, discrimination and even physical attacks from strangers.”

So starts the National Union of Journalists’ opening statement on media coverage of disabled people.

Last summer, a report strongly criticised some sections of the media for the way in which they reported stories on disability benefits. Specifically, the pejorative language such as the use of terms like ‘work shy’ or ‘scrounger’. The fact that this report came, not from a ‘usual suspect’ disability charity or campaign organisation, but from the respected, cross-party Work and Pensions Select Committee is an indication as to just how serious the problem has become.

The 2012 London Paralympics is a wonderful opportunity to openly celebrate disability and difference. But, a change in our social narrative is badly needed. As I have written before, disability hate crime – which itself is under-reported and often ignored by police – remains a vile and stubborn stain on our social fabric.

This goes not just for adults, but children too; a recent academic study of disabled children found a fifth of them had been attacked physically, sexually, abused emotionally or neglected.

It is worth bearing this all in mind, when you read this spiteful, professionally weak and woefully misleading article, titled, ‘The Paralympics show up a corrupt benefits system’ by Leo McKinstry in the Daily Express. It is not that Mr McKinstry’s view of the welfare state differs to mine, which vexes me most; I fully accept that people will have different views on what the role of the state should be in providing disabled and vulnerable people with financial support. It is the fact that Mr McKinstry’s tendentious argument is based on un-checked, un-picked and inaccurate assumptions; he presents fiction as fact and fact as fiction.

Let the dissection begin.

He says: “One particular target of the activists’ fury is the international firm ATOS, which, under the coalition’s new, more rigorous, benefits regime, carries out assessments to decide if individuals are fit to work and what level of support they might require.”

He is correct in so far as Atos – which, with a note of sad irony, also sponsors the Paralympic games – does conduct the government’s fit-for-work assessment, the WCA. But this is a test that is not fit for purpose. Were it fully functioning it would not have been the subject of several internal and independent reviews; nor would experts like Paul Gregg – who designed some of the welfare-to-work support packages connected to the test – have spoken out against it; nor would almost a third of those decisions that are appealed then be successfully overturned in favour of the claimant. But no matter. Let’s move on.

He writes: “[Benefit] claims have rocketed in recent decades because the system is so lax. In fact, the definition of incapacity has been remorselessly expanded to widen the scope for dependency.”

I presume he means when in 2005 the Disability Discrimination Act was expanded to include conditions like Multiple Sclerosis, cancer and HIV? So, none of these conditions could have adverse impact on a person’s ability to work or give rise to any additional costs? Right. There’s a reason you’re not a doctor, Leo.

He goes on “claims for incapacity benefit are dominated, not by the physically disabled, but by those with mental health problems like depression, stress and behavioural disorders.

Read this again. What he’s suggesting is that people with mental health issues should not be entitled to state support, or that they’re all fakers who should just snap out of it. I myself am not an expert in mental health conditions but I’m pretty sure my colleagues over at Mind and Rethink would know of some people who would take serious issue with this.

He goes on:

“In this chaotic world, it is no surprise, that the total number of people on Disability Living Allowance has gone up from 1.1 milllion in 1992, when the benefit was first introduced, to 3.2 million today…”

See what he’s done here? All he’s done is point out that the caseload for DLA (a vital benefit that acts as a contribution to the extra costs disabled people have to pay as a result of living in our society with an impairment or condition) has increased. The ‘chaotic world’ and ‘no surprise’ bits helps frame it in a way that leaves readers with the impression that the only explanation for this rise in claims for DLA must be because people are fraudulently claiming it. Not because, oh I don’t know, that it’s well established that our society is getting progressively older and disability increases with age? Or that more people with critical needs are surviving into later life? Or that medical advancements are enabling many disabled people to live longer? Or that academic research shows that survival rates of very premature babies are, thankfully, improving, which suggests the number of people born with severe disability has increased. But these things are of no consequence right?

But wait, here comes the best bit. McKinstry writes:

AND the anti-reform campaigners are in denial about the extent of this costly failure. They are fond of telling us that fraud represents just 0.5 per cent of disability claims, but that is a completely bogus figure.

In the courts there is a constant parade of cases involving serious benefits fraud, like the conviction last week of serial cheat Barry Brooks, who grabbed £1.8 million from the taxpayer by pretending to be confined to a wheelchair

First, is the claim that the 0.5% fraud rate for DLA is “bogus…” Funny that, when you consider the figure comes from – wait for it – the Department for Work and Pensions. But more to the point, his only evidence for his claim that a Government statistic is ‘bogus’ is that there have been court cases of benefits fraud brought to his attention – of which he cites just one. And even then he fails to pick a case of DLA fraud. A quick Google search of Barry Brooks shows that he was jailed for fraudulently claiming support from Access to Work, and not DLA.

Mr McKinstry, you can lambast the welfare benefits system all you like. All that I ask is that, as a journalist, you do it accurately and check your line of argument. It’s a shame there isn’t a fit for work test for journalists and social commentators. If there was, you would fail it miserably.


Filed under Health, Media, Politics

Daily Mail on Disability Living Allowance – lies, damn lies and the right wing press

I am fed up of the Daily Mail getting away with exaggerating the truth, or at times simply making stuff up. I was being a good lefty and being outraged about this Daily Mail article on Disability Living Allowance (DLA) when it struck me how much of it was simple gibberish.

For example it claims, “Some doctors believe the big rise in the number of children said to have ADHD is a direct result of their parents’ right to claim disability benefit of up to £10,000 a year”. Well this is curious on a number of levels. Firstly, do ‘some doctors’ really think this, or is this just a completely unfounded comment? Secondly, £10,000 – you would be lucky. If you receive the highest DLA payment you get £125 per week. This works out at about £6,500 per year. So, a fictional source ‘reckoned’ something that turns out to be completely untrue. Nice reporting!

I have blogged before about the importance of the DLA – please give it a read and ignore what our friends at the Mail have to say on the subject.

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The removal of the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance is an ill-judged decision that needs to be reversed

The mobility component of the DLA allows people to live fulfilling and independent lives

The Government announced in its Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) that it would be ditching the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA).  This is a terrible idea.  This blog will outline why the Government has come to the conclusions it has and why it is wrong on three levels.

What is the DLA?

The DLA is a tax free benefit for disabled people worth an average of £33.40 per person per week.  It is given to people who have severe physical disabilities or learning disabilities, and as such either needs someone to help look after them or have trouble walking.  There are two elements of the DLA, the mobility component (which is to be cut) and the care component.  If the cuts go ahead the government will save about £140 million each year (which although significant is small change compared to the £81 billion to be cut between now and 2014/2015).

The mobility component helps people to pay for things like mobility aids such as electronic wheelchairs, accessible transport to the cinema or simply pooling the money of other care home residents to hire a car to visit family.

Why has the Government come to the conclusions it has?

The Government believes there is currently a “double spending” on mobility.  This is based on an assumption that all the needs of an individual are met by their local authority funded support package.  The logic then follows that they are being paid twice, once by central Government and second by the local authority.  This simply is not the case and leads me onto why the Government has misunderstood this issue on three levels.

Why the Government has got this wrong!

1) The government has based its funding decisions on a false assumption of “double spending”.

An individual has to follow three basic steps to claim DLA. 1) Undertake a community care assessment (which identifies his or her needs) 2) Have these needs matched to against different eligibility bands (critical to low) 3) Based on the specific local authority’s policy see whether this “band” which you have been assigned is regarded as eligible for services.  This then determines what services will be provided for you by your local authority.

In reality, this of course does not happen.  Firstly, the majority of councils will only fund substantial and critical needs.  Therefore, someone might be eligible for DLA care, but not eligible for support according to the local authority criteria. Mobility, when considered, tends to be considered in the crudest most crass form (trips to day care centres, hospital trips etc).  The idea of paying for “personal mobility” (in other words fulfilling a normal level of activity that most people take for granted) is out of the question.  The government seems to think that these activities either should not be paid for, or are already covered by the local authority.  This is flagrantly not the case.

2) The government seems to be clueless to how people spend the mobility component of the DLA.

By removing the benefit, most people living in care will be left with just £22.30 a week for a personal allowance.  By removing this benefit, I would suggest, we remove some disabled individuals ability to live a fulfilling and independent life.  For many, this small amount (£18.95 for lower rates and £49.85 for higher) can be the difference between meeting with their friends that week or not! The government seems to be oblivious to these kinds of considerations!

3) The government continues to state that “the notion behind the changes to DLA mobility is to ensure that those in residential care receive the same standard of care as those in hospitals”

A residential home is their HOME, they are not patients! They are not “ill”, they are disabled.  If David Cameron honestly, believes this to be true, then I would seriously question his ability to comment on any future policy.  If you are in hospital for a short period you do not need the same level of mobility paid for as if you are living in a care home for 20 years. This is such a fundamental misunderstanding of disability living that it makes you truly shudder.

The Government needs to reverse its decision in light of these points. If they do not, we risk returning to the dark ages where disabled people were out of sight, out of mind.  We cannot let this happen



Filed under Health, Politics