I’m Spartacus And So Are My Friends

9 01 2012

In the UK we’re looking at one of the biggest shake ups to the welfare system since its inception. This will hit hard as many rely on the various benefits to survive. One of the biggest things to be hit is the Disability Living Allowance.

The DLA, for those who don’t know, is a payment designed to help those with a disability to live life as fully as possible. This doesn’t mean trips to the Bahamas or skydiving lessons, it means having the support to go and work, or even to just be able to go to the shops to buy food.

However, the Government are in a bit of a financial bind and so they want to save money where they can so they’ve decided to replace DLA with PIP (Personal Independence Payments). It’s estimated that this move will save about 20% off the current bill for DLA which stands at £12,000,000,000 a year (assuming we’re not using the proper billion which would add another zero to that). A saving of £2bn is certainly not to be sniffed at, no matter how you look at it, that’s a large chunk of change right there, no wonder the powers that be are keen to see it go through.

So why is there resistance?

Let’s face it, most things the government does tend to meet with resistance to some degree. However, the resistance this time has surprised even the media with its eloquence thanks to people like Sue Marsh et al at Diary Of A Benefit Scrounger. The media were quite happy to display figures from officials stating fraud was rife and the disability was abused. This was rebuted by hard work that demonstrated official figures for fraud on DLA was actually less than 0.5%, far below any other benefit. Want that in numbers? That’s, at most, £60,000,000. Still a fair amount of money isn’t it. However, in comparisson to the estimated savings of at least £2,000,000,000 it’s pretty small.

With PIP, the rate of reassessment would increase by quite an amount depending on your condition. Some conditions, as Sue Marsh will happily agree, will get better over time, hers has done in the past. However they can get dramatically worse as Ms Marshs has. You see, what I can see happening is an implementation of the Governments version of a well known manufacturing practise called Just In Time. You keep costs down by only having what you need when you need it, no surplus, thus saving costs.

Brilliant!

There is just one tiny tiny problem here and that’s who’s implemented by. If this were a business we were talking about then ok, Just In Time works most of the time. There are, of course, failures in the system but in the majority of times it works. Yet this isn’t a business (nor should it be), this is the Government. Being quick to remove benefit saves money. Being quick to reinstate money saves lives and saves money. Guess which of those two the Government will be good at and which they will be bad at. Can I predict the future? No, but an educated guess is about as close as you’ll get, and this one says that reinstating benefits to someone will take far longer than it does to take it away.

Bureaucracy will make life more difficult for those who already find life difficult thanks to a disability. Proof? Assessments, which are difficult enough at the moment, will become more common and increase pressure. Denials of benefit due to a random selection followed by a convoluted appeals process make life even more difficult. I could, of course, be scaremongering at the moment, except that the tougher assessments are already happening as people who are told they wouldn’t need to be reassessed are called in to be reassessed. They are then being denied for reasons which don’t make sense. They are then told if they wish to appeal then they risk being financially penalised. This is immense pressure applied to force people to not cost money. All this in spite of the demonstrable fact that DLA saves money.

There are a couple of points I want to make in closing.

Firstly, has anyone done a cost/benefit analysis of the proposed switch? The money saved by PIP, would it be enough to offset the cost of increased amounts of assessments and also the shifted burden onto other services? Would it create an atmosphere which would make life untenable for those affected? Could it, essentially, make the current Government unelectable?

Secondly, this whole thing really demonstrates a short term view on a long term subject. A view that it’s worth implementing the proposed bill is a very short term view. Yes, money could be saved, but in the same token, lives most likely will be lost. Think I’m wrong? How many people commit suicide because they can’t handle the financial pressure? And the Government are proposing to shift this more and more onto those who are least able to deal with it.

Thirdly, and hopefully finally, if you’re reading this your next move should be to go seek out what’s being the Spartacus Report (it’s called Responsible Reform report) and then you can decide for yourself where you stand. Me? I’m with Spartacus. Guess it’s time for me to stand up.

*Note* Just to clarify, I am disabled thanks to mental health, but I haven’t tried to claim DLA because whilst yes it could certainly help, there are people more in need than me. Think that’s the general view of many, regardless of their actual need. Tells you a lot doesn’t it.

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