November 8, 2013 by sharonbrennan
I’ve been away for a long time – basically being very ill. I’ll update you all on my personal travails another time but my first post in over a year will be dedicated to the extraordinary logical brain of Ian Duncan Smith.
He has been lambasted today for the horrendous mess that is Universal Credit – which is over budget, under target, poorly managed, and with no solution in sight on how to get it back on track. But while this central plank of IDS’s welfare reform receives all the attention, other smaller, but arguably more costly changes are being introduced with little attention.
On October 28th his department of Work and Pensions introduced a change to the appeal process for Employment and Support allowance, the main disability benefit for those too ill to work. As of last month a claimant who wishes to appeal against a decision that they are not entitled to ESA must first ask the DWP to reconsider the decision before he or she can lodge an official appeal.
However the DWP has decided during this new ‘mandatory reconsideration’ stage the claimant will no longer receive ESA income and neither will a time limit be given as to how long this process will take. The reality is that this will leave people without any income whatsoever for an indefinite period of time – its a truly shocking decision given that nearly 40% of appeals are found in the claimant’s favour. It is unsurprising that this rule is already the subject of a parliamentary early day motion.
The Government argues that the claimant can claim Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) during this appeal stage but in reality this will be at the discretion of the jobcentre. Today’s statistics of sanctions against JSA claimants show that every month 12% of job seekers are referred for sanction. The New Policy Institute clarifies that these sanctions are given if there is a ‘labour market doubt’, or in their words, “Job Centre Plus may have felt they were not making themselves available for work“. It is clear that disabled people will be an easy target for sanctions if they struggle to job hunt while coping with bad health problems. Labour MP, Sheila Gilmore, even documents a case in which her constituent Rose Burgess was told by the DWP she was too well to claim ESA, but told by the Job Centre she was too ill to claim JSA.
This new rule will push disabled people into poverty or into even worse ill health. It won’t even save any money as basic rate ESA, currently payable at this assessment rate during an appeal process, is £71.70 and JSA is paid at £71.70. In addition, the concern is that mandatory reconsideration has created a Catch 22 situation – by applying for JSA the fear is that it will be taken as evidence in any ESA appeal that the individual has admitted a capacity to work.
So there we are – IDS’s amazing logic shines again – a new rule that saves no money, unless, of course, the idea is to force people off benefit entirely. Instead it just heaps more misery, poverty and persecution on disabled people – anyone would think that’s his aim…