Showing posts with label incapacity benefits. Show all posts
Showing posts with label incapacity benefits. Show all posts

Sunday, January 13, 2013

End of a Dream

Workers living on state benefits are well aware, it is quite impossible to put a little by for a rainy day, for every day is forecast as a downpour, and trying to keep your head above water is a constant problem. And for those who are wholly dependent on benefits as their only source of income, their whole lifestyle is dictated by their resourcefulness in eking out their pittance from one day to the next. Yet the ConDem government is planning to make things worse.

Changes to a single universal benefit – bringing together income support, jobseeker’s allowance, employment support allowance, housing benefit, and child and working tax credits – follow the cuts in child benefit voted through at Westminster last week, aims at reducing the UK’s welfare benefits bill. The universal credit is an attempt to simplify the complex benefits system into one new single payment.

A report, by public policy expert Dr Jim McCormick, says the new universal credits system, to be introduced over the next two years, contains “serious design flaws” and will plunge far more Scots into poverty than expected. The Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) warns one in four Scots will be living in poverty by the end of the decade if the coalition government forges ahead with “criminal welfare reforms”. SCVO chief executive Martin Sime said: “The UK government’s £2.5 billion cuts in benefits must be seen for what they are: an assault on families, communities and the economy of Scotland. These callous cuts masquerading as reform represent an active choice taken by the UK government, which is hurting the most disadvantaged people in Scotland.”
Universal credit is seen as an “all-or-nothing” reform, says McCormick, which means that getting payments wrong would leave people facing delays, errors or cuts to their only source of income. Women are at particular risk from the move to a single payment into households. John Dickie, head of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: “Time is running out for UK ministers to respond to the mounting evidence that any positive impact of the new universal credit is being fatally undermined by design flaws, underinvestment and a lack of advice and information support for the hundreds of thousands of families who will rely on the new ­benefit.”

A vision of a poverty-free capitalism was shared by many during the post-war years of steady economic growth. Some still cling to that forlorn hope. The need for an efficient system of ensuring that workers' very basic needs was one of the main motives behind the introduction of the welfare state. The return of world recessions has made the welfare state  more difficult to finance out of sustained economic growth at exactly the time the burdens of poverty and unemployment placed increasing demands on it. Demographic shifts (such as the rise in the elderly and single parents) also increased the welfare burden for governments. Hence recent years have seen cutbacks in welfare payments and services in most industrialised countries on a scale that would have been considered politically unacceptable by Tories much less Labour politicians years ago.

It is unlikely that welfare services can ever be restored to what they once were.  Capitalism runs on the profits made in the profit-seeking sector of the economy and most of the state’s income comes from these profits, either through taxation or through borrowing. The state is in this sense parasitic on the profit-seeking sector and which is presently in difficulty. The private sector's message to governments everywhere is that the proportion of national income commandeered by the state must be reduced if profits are to be restored to adequate levels. The hope of those on the Left to pay for expanding welfare services out of sustained economic growth is becoming increasingly remote. The welfare state of the future is likely to be only a shadow of what it once was.

It is another demonstration that the reforms promised by politicians in order to obtain votes, far from removing the problems that they claim to remedy, merely ameliorate them at best. The social problems that give rise to reforms—in welfare as in other spheres—are inherent to the capitalist system and can only be ended by ending capitalism. To fight the same old welfare reform battles over several decades is demoralising enough, but when previous reforms are put into reverse the case against the system is stronger than ever.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

A reality check

All working-age benefits, including tax credits and child benefit, will only go up by 1% a year – less than half the rate of inflation – for the next three years. A cut, in other words, that will be worth £3.75 billion a year to the Treasury, in addition to all the previously announced cuts and freezes. The poorest 30% will be made to bear most of Osborne's budget cuts in the age of austerity.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation explained that as things stand – which is to say, before the next round of cuts – out-of-work benefits cover 60% of the minimum income standard for couples with children, and 40% for single adults.  It is calculated simply by asking ordinary members of the public what they think is "an essential minimum standard of living".

28% of workers engaged in the Scottish private sector earn less than £7.20 an hour. 17% of Scots are stuck in relative poverty – defined as having a household income of less than 60% of median household income. 

Six out of 10 children in Scotland belong to families enduring the contradiction known as in-work poverty. 57% of children in poverty had at least one parent in work.

Oxfam claims, however, that four million of the 13.5 million poor in Britain are in work, of sorts. Meanwhile, the Child Poverty Action Group points out that a couple with two kids would need to find 58 hours of work a week on the minimum wage – if work could be had – simply to be out of poverty.

Zero-hours contracts are spreading. One million workers, by the latest estimate, are stuck in part-time jobs, hoping for more hours.

 In November 2011, the Trussell Trust established a food bank in the south-east of Glasgow. During the Christmas period last year, it helped 168 people, including 103 children. The Trust estimates that up to 60,000 Scots will need its help every year.

 To some, "recession" means a little more prudence when managing the monthly finances. But others, those who can least afford any further cuts in their household budgets will suffer long-term job losses and find it more difficult to feed and clothe their families. They will be much more susceptible to mental and physical ill health and another couple of years will be deducted from their life expectancy. Many will turn to alcoholism and drug misuse as a pitiful means to get to the end of the day in one piece. A particularly cold winter will carry off the vulnerable and elderly people.
The vast majority of those who rely on benefits and tax credits are either in work, have worked, or will be in work in the near future. Families are scraping by in low-paid work, or being bounced from insecure jobs to benefits and back again. The means testing is being de facto deployed by Atos, the inquisitors of the disabled with the presumption of benefit fraud before any claimant is given a single penny of welfare.

The richest 10% in Scotland have incomes equal to the earnings of the poorest 50%. The sheer greedy, corrupt and rapacious bankers and hedge fund managers who caused the recession tell us that they shouldn't be punished for their avarice because the country need their expertise too much but that we the victims should pay the price of their failures and to just knuckle under.

The poor are being blamed for being poor.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Hitting the vulnerable

Tens of thousands of sick and disabled people in Scotland face being forced on to unpaid work programmes under threat of losing their benefits from tomorrow. People with a range of physical or mental health conditions could find themselves stacking shelves in high-street stores such as Tesco and Poundland, or cleaning private homes, under the new proposals. They are to be told that they must take unpaid positions or risk losing up to 70% of their employment support allowance. 

 Across the UK, some 340,000 disabled people have been placed in the work related activity group (WRAG), which means they must undertake a range of activities to help them get back to work, including training, job-hunting – and now mandatory work placements.

 Most disabled people welcome support to get into the labour market, but compulsory placements rarely work, says Richard Hamer, director of external affairs at Capability Scotland. "When disabled people get forced into jobs, they tend to be unsuccessful jobs," Hamer said. "It can be very difficult, not just because of physical difficulties, but also mental impairments – poor mental health for example – for people to adapt to the labour market. If we start simply forcing people into jobs then there's a high likelihood that the employer won't be the best solution for them."

 Susan Archibald, a disability rights campaigner based in Fife, branded the proposed plans "a disgrace" that "will put disabled workers at risk".  Archibald estimates that around 30,000 work-capacity assessments are being carried out each week on disability claimants by Atos.

 Disabled and elderly protestors plan to disrupt the showpiece relay at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, forcing up security costs, if the "fit-for-work" benefits test company Atos is not dropped as a sponsor. Campaigners plan to turn the Queen's Baton Relay, the equivalent of the Olympic Torch relay, into a public-relations disaster if Atos is involved when the Games start, with pensioners and wheelchair-users potentially being arrested for blocking the route.

 Atos Healthcare has a £110m-a-year contract with the Department for Work and Pensions to run Work Capability Assessments to see if sick and disabled people are fit to work. Critics say the tests are flawed, degrading, and meant to cut benefit spending. Next year the firm begins work on a second £400m contract to assess mobility benefits.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Heartless capitalism

Disability tests are  'sending sick and disabled back to work'. People deemed too sick or disabled to work are being refused their benefits because the current assessment is inadequate, according to the expert appointed to review it. Prof Malcolm Harrington, the government appointed adviser on testing welfare claimants, admitted the work fitness test was “patchy”. Professor Harrington said: "There are certainly areas where it's still not working."

It emerged dying patients are being forced to attend interviews to prove they are unfit for work. It is claimed that because regulations over who is assessed are discretionary, thousands of terminally ill patients are being forced to prove they are incapable of work or face losing their benefits

Dr Dean Marshall, chairman of the BMA's Scottish General Practitioners Committee, said "Evidence appears to suggest that people with serious health conditions are sometimes being declared fit for work."

Macmillan Cancer Support explained "Too many cancer patients are undergoing stressful assessments when they are awaiting, undergoing or recovering from debilitating treatment."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Targetting the vulnerable

Sick and disabled Scots and their families will lose out under UK Government benefit reforms, according to new figures published by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).

CAS says 115,000 Scots will lose out on sickness benefits over the next three years. Of these, 36,000 will only be eligible for Jobseeker's Allowance. They will face a drop in income of at least £27 a week, and will have to seek work. Another 65,000 will drop out of the benefits system altogether – either because it is deemed a partner can support them, or because they have not paid sufficient contributions having been out of work for a lengthy period. This group faces a loss of at least £99 a week.

22,500 people in Glasgow will lose entitlement to a total of £73.7 million, with 19,600 told they are not eligible for Employment and Support Allowance. Meanwhile, in West Dunbartonshire, 2800 people will lose entitlement, saving the Government £9.1m, but will be plunged into an employment hunt in an area where there are 20.6 people looking for every post advertised through a Jobcentre.

CAS says the only way for people to replace the income they will lose under the scheme is to find a job, but Ms McPhee, CAS Head of Policy, said this was unrealistic. "With unemployment at a 16-year high, the economy struggling to grow, and former sickness benefit claimants facing discrimination from employers, many of these people will struggle to find a job."

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Black Triangle Badge

It was a badge used by the SS guards to mark prisoners as “workshy” in Nazi concentration camps. Now the “black triangle” symbol has been adopted by a group of campaigners fighting the so-called “fit-to-work” assessments implemented by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in a bid to stamp out benefit fraud.

Set up Edinburgh campaigners 18 months ago, the Black Triangle Campaign was launched in memory of Edinburgh writer Paul Reekie, who took his own life – allegedly after having his benefits cut during a bout of serious depression. Reekie did not leave a suicide note, but he laid out two letters on his table, found after his death. One was notifying him that his housing benefit had been stopped. The other was informing him that his incapacity benefit had been stopped.

Leith GP Dr Stephen Carty stands up for his patients when he discovered many were being told they were fit for work after passing a number of tests that did not involve consulting medical experts.

“I have grave concerns about the harm that is being done to patients who are being put through this Work Capability Assessment processes” he says. “It is essentially a computer system used by Atos to assess patients. What is happening is that people are being seen by individuals with very little occupational health training – and they don’t request any meaningful information from a GP who has been treating the patient.”

Dr Carty’s list of people deemed fit to work, whom he insists are not capable of normal employment, is almost endless. Right he lists four case studies, including one man who had his benefits axed after being told he had to go out to work shortly after being sectioned in a mental hospital.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The crack-down

Under the new rules, claimants face a tougher medical test, existing claimants are being re-tested, there are new requirements to engage in work-related activity, and the entitlement to non-means tested benefit is time-limited.

115,000 Scots will lose their incapacity benefit. 65,000 people in Scotland will be pushed out of the benefits system altogether, forcing a big increase in reliance on other family members and will add 35,000 to the number of those seeking Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Glasgow will be hit hardest. The report estimates that more than 22,000 people are likely to lose their incapacity benefits and more than 12,000 will be denied benefits entirely. Other hard-hit areas have been identified as Inverclyde, West Dunbartonshire and Clackmannanshire.

Professor Steve Fothergill, who co-wrote the report, said: the reduction in the numbers did not mean there is currently widespread fraud or that the health problems and disabilities were “anything less than real”.