Monday 22 June 2015

Higher PIP percentages is NOT a good thing

The latest government spin machine is in action, trying to make us think that PIP is much better than DLA at supporting disabled people.
This seems hard to believe when we know that it was introduced with an original aim of reducing expenditure by 20% (pdf) and 500,000 fewer disabled people would be eligible for the new benefit. By January 2013 this was revised to 27% savings and a 28% decrease in the caseload (same pdf), ie 607,000 fewer eligible disabled people by May 2018.

So how is the government doing it without lying?

Well in response to this article which claims that at least 450 carers in Scotland will lose £3000 due to the change, the DWP says:
“The fact is a higher proportion of Personal Independence Payments claimants receive the highest rate, so entitling their carer to Carer’s Allowance, than the proportion of Disability Living Allowance claimants who do.”
Similarly, during the course of today's welfare debate, the DWP twitter account posted the following:
Wow! Sounds great! Why are we complaining?!

Well no. It isn't quite so great. This is for the most part a direct consequence of the fact that they have made the qualifying criteria much harsher and far fewer people will qualify. But they manage to make it sound like a good thing. I applaud their ingenuity!

For instance the number of people projected to receive the highest rates of PIP is pretty much unchanged by May 2018 compared to if we had retained DLA.
357,000 will receive the highest rates of PIP compared to 354,000 on DLA.
The reason the ratios are so different is that the total caseload is different and will drop dramatically under PIP.
Only an estimated 1,575,000 claimants will qualify for PIP whereas 2,182,000 would have qualified for DLA.
Hence the DWP's proud statement that under PIP 22% will receive the highest levels of support as opposed to 16% under DLA.
This is absolutely true. However the only reason it is, is that over 600,000 disabled people will have lost their benefit! This is hardly something to be pleased about!

Very clever spin. I take my hat off to you DWP...

P.S. The statement is also not true when it comes to mobility, almost certainly due to the harshness of the "20 metre rule". In fact not only does the total number of claimants go down significantly, but the proportion goes down slightly as well.

602,000 disabled people are expected to qualify for enhanced mobility under PIP.
A full 1,030,000 would have qualified for high rate mobility under DLA.
In this case, the statement that a higher proportion receive enhanced rate is false.
An estimated 48.7% of mobility claimants will receive the higher rate under PIP, compared to 52.6% under DLA.
It should also be noted that 21.6% of the total PIP caseload is ineligible for any mobility support whatsoever, as opposed to just 10.2% under DLA.

Tuesday 2 June 2015

An Unfond Farewell to Disability Activism

Almost five years ago I had to give up the career that I loved. It was a devastating and life changing time. It provoked a period of deep depression for the first time in my life, something no other difficult event had succeeded in doing.

After recovering from this I observed that the government was threatening serious cuts to the very support which had enabled me to embark on my career in the first place. I hated the idea that current young disabled people would be denied the opportunities I had enjoyed and so I became more involved in disability activism. It gave me a sense of purpose and I felt I was doing something worthwhile which would help others.

This took off in a big way in January 2012 when I researched and wrote what became known as the Spartacus Report. While others helped and others were in charge of organising the superb campaign, I was the main author.
This report clearly showed for the first time, with the government's own data, that they were lying about both the need and disabled people's support for reform to DLA. This report was on the whole met with great support by disabled people, bringing many people together on social media. It was used to try to influence voting on the welfare reform act and eventually provoked much media interest after surprise government defeats in the House of Lords.

After a long period of recovery I continued campaigning on the issues I cared most about, ie the enabling benefits like DLA, DSA and social care. While I would have liked to campaign about everything my health no longer permitted it and my involvement has got less and less each year as my illness worsens.
I tried to prevent a cap on community social care being implemented in Worcestershire, was very involved in fighting the creation and evolution of PIP, particularly the 20 metre rule, and recently helped combat plans to water down DSA.
Among all this I helped and supported fellow disabled people and called out politicians whenever I caught them lying in the press, for instance about disability benefits being exempt from benefit uprating and freeze.

Today though all this comes to an abrupt end. I discover I am not wanted. Why? I am a "Sparty", and a "traitor".
Why again? Sue Marsh, who was the most prominent "member" of Spartacus decided in January to go and work for Maximus, the company taking over the controversial WCA "fit for work"assessments from the infamous ATOS.
Apparently this makes me a traitor too and makes all my previous work invalid, no matter that I have not worked with Sue for a couple of years (not that it should matter anyway).

How did I discover this? Just before the election, fed up of the infighting between disabled groups and people, I wrote a post calling for for union. Some decided to do just that and create a "union" or similar organisation. I eagerly wanted to help, health permitting, along with others who had been involved with various reports for Spartacus in the past.
Sadly things rapidly descended into conspiracy theories, with "Sparties" supposedly trying to take over and get their "leader" (huh?!) in power. Long discussions were also had over which disabled people should NOT be allowed to join. So much for unity.

What was said was nasty.
I no longer feel welcome and don't think I ever will again.
I fail to understand how anyone can have an issue with the work I have done (other than fundamental differences of opinion).
I fail to understand how work which was hailed as good at the time becomes bad simply because someone I worked with 3 years ago has done something they disapprove of.
I fail to understand how that makes me guilty and unwelcome.

I have been attacked in the past before. Ironically it has been on the one hand for not doing more about ESA and the WCA and on the other for not caring about inclusion, when in fact most of my campaigning surrounds "enabling" support.
People have always jumped to conclusions and made assumptions.
So maybe I shouldn't be surprised.
Disability activism has always been made harder by "fellow" disabled people than by the people we are supposed to be "fighting".

So now I am stopping. I don't have the physical strength to put up with this.
I feel like I did when I lost my career all over again.
I thought I had found something which helped replace that but it has been snatched away from me. I didn't think I would feel this bad ever again.
And the sad thing is that some people reading this are probably rejoicing.
How will we ever unite when this is the case? I wish all you disability campaigners luck but I don't hold out much hope.