May 14, 2012 by sharonbrennan
Dear Daily Telegraph,
You had the scoop of the decade with MPs expenses. You are clearly a paper that employs excellent journalists with great research skills. It is a shame these skills weren’t utilised when you interviewed Ian Duncan Smith yesterday about the changes to DLA.
Here are the basic mistakes in your article;
1. The subheader says IDS is going ahead with changes to DLA to “rid the system of abuse and fraud”. The Government’s own figures show DLA fraud is 0.5% for 2010/11. To start the article as you did just cements the idea in the mind of the public that all disabled people are scroungers and consequently kindles negative attitudes towards disabled people.
2. IDS says the number of claimants have risen by 30%. This isn’t true. According to IDS’s own department, the claimant case has risen by 16% amongst working-age claimants, to whom these changes will only apply, once population growth has been taken into account.
3. “The rigorous new process being introduced by Mr Duncan Smith could lead to those without limbs, including former soldiers, having their payments reduced as their everyday mobility is not undermined by their prosthetic limbs”. If you read the Government’s draft qualifying criteria for Personal Independence Payments (that is replacing DLA) you’d have realised this statement is disingenous. It clearly says that even if your everyday mobility is severely limited through amputation, under the new system you’ll receive minimal support to help with this. Case study 7 says “Andy is 50. His left leg was crushed and had to be amputated above the knee and his right leg was also injured.The scar on his left stump has not healed very well so he has difficulties with his prosthesis and his right leg is weak. He finds it very tiring if he walks more than 40-50m so he often uses a wheelchair if he is going outdoors. Mobility activities = 10 (standard rate Mobility component)”. This means that the Government recognises that Andy cannot walk more than 50metres, that, to use IDS’s terminology, his ‘everyday mobility’ is undermined but will only award him 10 points. This means he will no longer be able to access the motobility scheme which allows him to rent a car to give him the freedom that his body no longer allows him.
4.”In the assessment, lots of people weren’t actually seen. They didn’t get a health check or anything like that”. To get DLA you are medically assessed by the doctors and hospital workers that see you regularly. They need to provide supporting evidence to the DWP that your disability or illness is as you have described it. The DWP regularly contacts doctors who have provided supporting evidence for extra information before it makes a decision. This is why it is actually very hard to be awarded DLA and why the fraud rate is so low.
5.”Something like 70 per cent had lifetime awards, (which) meant that once they got it you never looked at them again”. This 70 per cent figure may be true and it is very high, but to suggest that some people should not receive lifetime awards shouldn’t automatically mean that no-one receives lifetime awards. Many claimants have degenerative incurable illnesses such as Parkinson’s or, like me, Cystic fibrosis, or are permanently paralysed. We can’t get better, so if we are found to need help this year then the same will be true in four years time. It is a waste of taxpayer’s money to reassess all claimants every few years.
6. You quote IDS as saying “Tony Blair’s government tried to attack DLA, just to restrict it. We’re not doing that”. Actually IDS is. The Government declared in its Budget 2010 policy costings document that it intends to save 20% from its DLA budget by changing the way it is allocated – this is the very definition of restricting DLA.
There are other things I do not agree with with this article, but as they are matters of tone not fact you have a right to editorial control over these issues. I appreciate that the Telegraph is right-leaning and therefore broadly supportive of the current Government, but by swallowing every fact uttered by IDS without question, this piece reads as a poor advertorial for the Government’s cuts, and not as a strong, piece of quality journalism.
p.s. All links go to DWP or Government documents freely available on the web, so you could have easily found such reputable sources yourself.