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News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

Drugs, risks, spending cuts, deaths, new drugs, and so much more

As we reach the start of another year, it seems a good time for me to review the last 12 months, as seen through the eyes of 50shadesofsun.com.

January

The year began by focusing on hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Dr Denis Fedorenko of the HSCT centre in Moscow published a guide to the procedure.

Russian Physician’s Guide to HSCT in Moscow

people withFebruary

UK government policies grabbed my attention, along with actions regarding people with disabilities and benefits to which they are entitled.

Disabilities: Government loses tribunals, then changes rules

Disabilities: Government warned forced activities ‘could make health worse’

More flock to accuse disability assessors of lying

March

New treatments came to the fore this month. Ocrevus gained approval from the FDA, while Zinbryta got the go ahead for use in the UK.

After Long Wait, Zinbryta Gains Approval in Areas of the UK

Ocrevus: Counting Down to Expected FDA Approval

April

Allegations had been made that new disability access policies at Disney parks was discriminatory. However, a court decided that the new way of doing things was perfectly ok.

Disney Disability Access Rules Don’t Break Law, Court Rules

May

MS treatments were in the spotlight once again. Questions were being asked about the drug safety and why many people choose to avoid them.

Mixed messages about beta-interferon safety to treat MS

Why are DMTs – Drugs to treat MS – Resisted by so Many?

June

My attention was caught by one of the UK government contractors trying to put the chaotic assessment process behind it. It chose to change its name but that was fooling no one.

I also looked at the much valued and desired matter of independence.

Atos tries to escape its past though superficial rebranding

Even a little independence is a great feeling

July

Risks appeared on two fronts. First, death and serious injuries to patients to the use of Zinbryta being limited in Europe. Second, people with disabilities in the UK were still facing the risk of benefit cuts.

Zinbryta use restricted in Europe after a death and four serious liver injuries

Disability benefit cuts are still a real risk

August

Issues with lack of balance and mobility means that falls are a frequent reality. However, not all falls are the same.

I also looked at MS treatments and how close we might be to finding the holy grail – a cure.

Falls – the good, the bad, and the ……

Cure for multiple sclerosis: Are we close?

September

Inside criticism surfaced about mismanagement of disability benefits. Nothing new to me but good to have confirmation from within. On the same tack, the UK government department responsible for benefits was trying to hide assessment problems.

Talking of confirmation, my theory the MS is linked to glandular fever, or mononucleosis, was backed by researchers.

Department helpline worker lambasts mismanaged disability benefits system

I said it 14 months ago, now researchers agree: MS is linked to ‘mono’

DWP fights to hide WCA ‘under-performance’ and PIP assessments

October

A number of drugs were labelled ‘rip-offs’ in a new report. These included MS drug alemtuzumab.

UK government officials proved they do not understand variable conditions, such as those experienced by people with MS.   

MS therapy alemtuzumab is named a ‘rip-off’ drug, report

Disability benefits stopped because government doesn’t understand variable conditions

November

The number of people wth MS in the USA is more than double that previously thought. Could that be similar elsewhere?

We knew UK spending cuts were dangerous but now we know that they have ben responsible for needless deaths.

Nearly 1 million Americans have MS, not 400,000 as previously thought – NMSS Study

Needless deaths caused by government spending cuts

December

Great to see the doctor who first suggested CCSVI treatment could help people with MS now agrees this isn’t true.

However, shocking to see that someone assessed as ‘fit to work’ died before the appeal could be heard.

CCSVI treatment does NOT work for MS, says clinical trial

Assessment disgrace: ‘Fit for work’ man dies before ESA appeal can be heard

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

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Assessment complaints for disability benefit up nearly 900% in a year

Complaints about assessments for a key government disability benefit have rocketed by 880% in 12 months, according to official figures. It is a benefit paid to people with diseases like multiple sclerosis and those with other disabilities.

Yes, claimants’ complaints about assessments for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), that totalled 142 in 2015-16, rose to 1,391 in 2016-17.

assessments

Photo: The Independent

Furthermore, if that was not shocking enough, it gets worse. The UK government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has produced figures that show that the number of complaints about PIP assessments that were upheld. Over the same time, these rose from 67 to 545 – an increase of more than 713%. To me, that is a sad commentary on the lack of quality of the assessments and honesty of the assessors.

The facts were revealed by Penny Mordaunt, minister for disabled people, in answer to a parliamentary question from Stephen Kinnock.

assevssmentsBenefitsandwork.com, the campaigning website, commented: “In our last newsletter we highlighted the case of a PIP claimant who had used a secret recording of his PIP assessment to win his appeal tribunal.

“Given this level of doubt about the trustworthiness of assessments, and given the difficulties the DWP place in the way of claimants wanting to openly record their medicals, covert recording seems more and more reasonable.”

Not fit for purpose

According to Disability News Service, Kinnock claimed the figures were “further evidence that the PIP system is not fit for purpose”, despite the assessment system being in place for more than four years. He said:

assessments

Stephen Kinnock MP.

“While the scale of this is truly shocking, it is not in the least bit surprising, because week after week I hear from my constituents about how claimants are treated, how they are humiliated, belittled and denied basic human dignity.

“Government has been told by MPs, claimants and by disability experts that the system needs reviewing.  

“Instead, they have carried on regardless with their ideological drive to remove the help which people so desperately need, so that they are able to manage the basic daily costs of living with a disability.” 

A spokesman for the DWP is reported to have been unable to offer any explanation for the huge rise in complaints. He commented: “Complaints may be made for a variety of reasons and there is no evidence to suggest that there is dishonesty in the assessment system.”

Yeah, right!

Assessments appeals going online

PIP assessments appeals, and those about other benefits, are set to change. This is because HM Court and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has reached stage two of the roll out of online hearings.

It says that virtual hearings and online hearings using ‘rapid messaging’ will become a reality over the next 18 months. Apparently, it will be possible to appeal online and track the progress of the case by text, email or online.

Many are likely to welcome the chance not to have to attend a face-to-face hearing. However, paper hearings have a very much lower success rate than in-person hearings. Claimants may well seek physical hearings, if the same low success rate applies to ‘rapid messaging’ hearings. 

HMCTS says in-person hearings will still be available “for those that need them”. My question is: Who will decide if a claimant is in ‘need’ of one? It should not be the DWP.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

 

 

 

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Disabilities: Government loses tribunals, then changes rules

orange

Unhappy about two decisions made against it in legal tribunals, in relation to assessments for a disability benefit, the government now plans to change the regulations to get its own way. Is that a cynical response? Yes. It’s like changing the rules of a sport halfway through a game because you don’t like the referee’s decisions.

It all stems from decisions made last rear by the Upper Tribunal that had the effect of widening the criteria for qualifying for different elements of the UK government’s Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The benefit is claimed by people with MS and many other disabilities.

There is no doubt that the tribunal was entitled to make its judgments in the way the law was written but they did not fit in with the government’s view. So the regulations are to be changed to put things back the way they were.

pip

Minister for Disabled People, Penny Mordaunt MP.

Interestingly, and this is puzzling, in a statement made to the House of Commons on Thursday, minister of state for disabled people Penny Mordaunt said: “This (the changes) will not result in any claimants seeing a reduction in the amount of PIP previously awarded by DWP.”

Does that mean that anyone who has benefited from the tribunal decisions will keep their payments but that new applicants will have to abide by the changed regulations, once they come into effect? Don’t hold your breath!

The MS Society says: “The planned changes will affect the way that someone’s level of PIP award is calculated. They affect one of the 10 ‘daily living activities’ (which determine eligibility for the daily living component), and one of the two ‘mobility activities’ (which determine eligibility for the mobility component).

“The affected activities are Daily Living Activity 3 – Managing therapy or monitoring a health condition, and Mobility Activity 1- Planning and following a journey. The changes make these descriptors slightly more restrictive. They could impact the awards some people get.”

What that the extent of the impact for people with MS or other disabilities is not yet known but various disability groups will be working to establish how they will affect their communities. 

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ian-skype_edited50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/disorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Disability benefits: When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?

Stephen Crabb and prime minister David Cameron in the House of Commons.

Stephen Crabb and prime minister David Cameron in the House of Commons.

Sadly, the UK government seems hell bent on ignoring the lessons it should have learnt after the events following the chancellor of the exchequer’s budget speech that included an announcement that cuts would be made to the Personal Independence Payment disability benefit which is paid to people with a whole range of disabilities. They include both physical and mental disabilities as well as illnesses such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and many more.

He made the announcement on March 16 – to be followed two days later by the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith from his role as work and pensions secretary.

The planned cuts were dumped in a government U-turn confirmed by new work and pensions secretary, Stephen Crabb, the next week.

Disability groups were looking for other signs of improvement too but these were dashed this week when, on Monday, Crabb told the House of Commons that disability benefit cuts already agreed are among policies that are “changing things for the better”.

Campaigners for people with disabilities had been hopeful that the government would also reverse the £30 a week cut to the amount of benefit to be paid, from next year, to new claimants of Employment and Support Allowance in its Work Related Activity Group.

But, despite the Disability Benefits Consortium finding that even the current rate of ESA has left around a third of claimants struggling to afford to buy food, the much sought-after reversal was not to be. It seems Mr Crabb is determined to carry on just as his predecessor Iain Duncah Smith was doing before he suddenly discovered his conscience in the wake of the budget.

Mr Crabb made the, some would say outrageous, claim at his first Work and Pensions Questions session in the House of Commons, during which he was asked how he differed from Iain Duncan Smith. Not a lot, I’d say.

Owen Smith, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, did urge the minister to make a U-turn on those ESA cuts and, getting a negative response, Smith told Crabb that disabled people would “be disappointed he won’t reverse” them.

However, Stephen Crabb demonstrated he had learned nothing from the events of eight weeks ago by proceeding to defend the indefensible. He said that there was “no reason” to change the government’s approach.

“We are a government that has helped deliver the changes that has seen a huge fall in workless household, we’re seeing nearly half a million more children growing up in a home, seeing a mum or dad going up to work.

“There is no reason to change policies that are changing things for the better for those who have least in our society,” he said.

So, is Stephen Crabb any better, or more caring, than Iain Duncan Smith was? Sorry, no, just more of the same.

 

 

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Flat rate universal basic income plan for everyone whether in work, unemployed or with disabilities

ubi swiss ubi posterSwiss to vote on UBI on June 5.

Several countries around the world are talking about the idea of introducing Universal Basic Income (UBI), not to be confused with Universal Credit which is being introduced in the UK to replace several means-tested welfare benefits.

Universal Basic Income is where the government pays everybody a set amount, whether they work or not, in place of means-tested benefits. Of course, the incentive to work is still said to exist as most people will want to have more money than paid by UBI.

On June 5, Switzerland is holding a referendum of its citizens that, if successful, means it will become the first country to provide universal basic income. They will be voting on a plan that could see all adults receive about 2,500 Swiss Francs (approximately £1,700; $2,460) a month, with children receiving 625 Francs (about £445; $615) for each child. There will be no additional disability benefits.

The Swiss federal government estimates that the proposal will cost around 208 billion francs a year and the Swiss parliament has called for voters to reject the proposal with all parties united against it. Only 14 MPs supported the basic income initiative. One MP described the initiative as “the most dangerous and harmful initiative that has ever been submitted,” mentioning the risks of immigration, disincentive to work, and that the basic income proposed would not be financially feasible.

The Federal Council, Switzerland’s executive branch, also recommended its rejection, noting that UBI would cause low-paid jobs to disappear or be transferred abroad and would send women back to house work or care work. They said that implementing the initiative would also raise taxes and weaken incentive to work.

To understand how this proposal has come so far despite opposition from the government, you need to know that Switzerland has a form of direct democracy alongside its Parliament. Citizens simply have to gather 100,000 signatures calling for a vote on a proposal, and a ballot must be held with its result binding.

There have been UBI-type policies and experiments in both India and Brazil that have suggested that, contrary to fears about ‘welfare sapping people’s initiative, a basic income might actually increase people’s appetite for work. It seems to increase their sense of stability.

In the Netherlands, in the city of Utrecht, there is a pilot UBI-ish scheme whereby people on benefits are paid unconditionally.  Other Dutch towns and cities look set to follow Utrecht’s example. Finland has plans to pilot an even more ambitious kind of basic income.

UBI ideas have been suggested in other countries, including both the USA and UK. So far, however, no firm proposals have been put forward in either nation.

 

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From benefit cuts to tax havens – blame Dodgy Dave

dodgy dave cam dodgy dave skn     Prime Minister Dodgy Dave David Cameron and, right, Dennis Skinner, the Beast of Bolsover.

Putting aside all talk of the leak of the so-called Panama Papers, the kerfuffle which followed did result in UK Prime Minister David Cameron being labelled ‘Dodgy Dave’, not exactly a term of endearment and one that might well follow him during the rest of his political career.

It is a description that some of us might find so fitting, considering the ‘welfare reforms’ that have been pursued by his government that have led to pain, misery and even death while others have been lining their pockets at our expense.

Of course, the 84-year-old veteran Labour MP for Bolsover who coined Dodgy Dave name, Dennis Skinner, was excluded from the House of Commons for the remainder of the day for using unparliamentarily language after he twice refused to withdraw the word when requested to do so by the Speaker.

Speaker of the House, John Bercow MP orders Skinner to withdraw.

Speaker of the House, John Bercow MP, orders Skinner to withdraw.

In the Commons, Skinner said “I didn’t receive a proper answer (earlier), maybe Dodgy Dave will answer it now?”

Speaker of the House John Bercow told Skinner he’d have to withdraw the word ‘dodgy’ or face ejection from the Commons chamber for the rest of the day. But Skinner is not easily frightened. He replied: “This man has done, to divide this nation, more than anybody else. He’s looked after his own pocket – I still refer to him as Dodgy Dave. Do what you like.”

Immediately excluded by the Speaker, Mr Skinner left the chamber.  Undeterred, the MP, nicknamed the Beast of Bolsover, later expanded on his words.

The Daily Mirror newspaper’s internet service Mirror Online quoted Mr Skinner saying: “I, like most people in the country, view tax havens as dodgy.

“Cameron looked after himself by maxing out the taxpayers’ credit card to pay a mortgage on expenses in Oxfordshire and even claimed to cut the wisteria off his chimney.

“So I, like most people in the country, think it dodgy he now earns a small fortune renting out a house in Notting Hill while living in Downing Street and Chequers.

“His poisonous division of the country between ‘strivers and skivers’ was also dodgy, particularly when you look now at what he was doing.

“Cameron is dodgy. He is Dodgy Dave. He’s refused to answer questions before. I’ve no regrets calling him what he is.

“I’ve done it before so it was a bit of a surprise to be chucked out of the House of Commons. No action was taken against Cameron when he called me a Dinosaur, though I did receive dozens of letters, including one from a vicar, criticising Cameron. The truth is I thought I might be pulled up for calling him a ‘scrounger’ but that seems to be acceptable.

“I’ll let the public be the judge and I know from the working people I speak to that they think Cameron is Dodgy Dave.”

Mind you, Cameron should think himself lucky that the abuse, if you can call it that was so mild. In the USA, a few years ago, one opposition senator described the leader of the majority party as ‘a complete a**hole’.

The Beast of Bolsover was quite mild really.

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Fear is real as benefit change countdown continues

 dla ending pip

Time marches on and the calendar pages turn ever closer towards the date when the UK’s Disabled Living Allowance (DLA) is phased out for working age people1 and replaced with Personal Independence Payment (PIP). DLA recipients who have not yet been invited to apply for PIP are fearful of the day when the phone rings or the dreaded brown envelope drops through the letterbox.

DLA has been the benefit for people who have extra care needs or mobility needs as a result of a disability2 but the message is clear. DLA is ending and that person’s claim will end on a specified date unless a claim is made for PIP. If a claim is made, DLA will continue to be paid until that new application is assessed and decided.

Then they have the stresses of making the claim, possibly being required to attend a face-to-face interview, and finally waiting in trepidation for notification of the decision to arrive – in another brown envelope.

Of course, there are good stories as well as bad. Some people have gone from lower rate care and no mobility on DLA to the enhanced (highest) rate in both care and mobility under PIP. However, for others the opposite has been true with worst case cases going from highest on both sides with DLA to absolutely nothing at all from PIP.

There just seems no rhyme nor reason for the decision-making process.

Official figures3 show that of the nearly 261,500 DLA claimants so far reassessed4 for PIP 74%, or 193,500, have received an award – 67% (128,000) at the enhanced rate and 33% (63,500) at the enhanced rate for both care and mobility components.

And of the 54,200 original decisions that were challenged by claimants, 28% have had their award changed through the mandatory reconsideration process.

But the success of 74% of DLA claimants in gaining PIP awards still leaves a worrying 24%, or 68,000, with nothing.

The roll out of PIP has been beset with problems. The original scheduled implementation date of October 2013 was delayed owing to assessments taking much longer than originally planned. Now, all existing DLA claimants (aged 16 to 64 on 8 April 2013) will have been invited to claim PIP by 30 September 2017, according to the DWP.

 

 

Working age means anyone aged 16 to 64 on April 8, 2013.

Disability means any kind of physical or mental disability, such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, MND, epilepsy, blindness and many, many more both visible and invisible.

3 Department for Work and Pensions: Personal Independence Payment Official Statistics, published March 16, 2016.

As at January 31, 2016 – the latest figures available, published on March 16.

 

 

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Crabb set to unveil new plans for disability benefits

stephen crabb hocWork and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb addresses the House of Commons. Prime Minister David Cameron is watching on.

Stephen Crabb, who was appointed as the UK’s new Work and Pensions Secretary after the resignation of Ian Duncan Smith, is to make a House of Commons speech next Tuesday, April 12. He is expected to set out his (and the government’s) vision for the future. And what he has to say will probably have a significant impact on all disabled people with Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, EDS and a host of other conditions both visible and invisible.

Rumours from the Department for Work and Pensions, as reported by leftist Vox Political, suggest that he is likely to announce renewed plans to change the descriptors to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for aids and adaptations in August or September. That, of course, won’t mean that the government is backtracking on its statement of having no plans to make the changes dropped only two weeks ago – no, these will be ‘new’ changes.

The Sunday Times newspaper has already revealed that Crabb is expected to say that he is unhappy with the work of companies tasked with the role of assessing claimants for both Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and PIP. It said he was looking to end the contracts with those companies – we will see.

Another possible development may be to follow the cut of £30 being made to new ESA claimants in the Work-Related Activity Group by making a similar cut to the Support Group’s payments – perhaps even, eventually, abolishing ESA altogether and instead including its payments within Universal Benefit.

Many of these welfare reform proposals appear to have originated in the right-wing Reform think-tank that published its recommendations in February. One of those was the cut in ESA for people in the Work-Related Activity Group.

In a nutshell, Reform’s plan includes:

  • Setting a single rate for out-of-work benefit. The savings from this rate reduction should be reinvested into Personal Independence Payment – which contributes to the additional costs incurred by someone with a long-term condition – and into support services;
  • Ending the Work Capability Assessment in its current form;
  • Abolishing Employment and Support Allowance altogether and rolling sickness benefits into Universal Credit with “a single online application for the benefit, including a ‘Proximity to the Labour Market Diagnostic’ to determine a claimant’s distance from work and a health questionnaire”;
  • To have all sickness benefit reduced to the same level as Jobseekers’ Allowance.

Yes, really! If Vox Political is correct, cutting ESA for people in the Work-Related Activity Group was only part of it. If the plan to roll sickness benefits into Universal Credit is implemented, then people in the Support Group – those with serious conditions that are not expected to improve within the foreseeable future – stand to lose a huge amount of their weekly income.

All this from the Conservative government that, Stephen Crabb said on March 21, has no plans to make further welfare cuts during this parliament. Of course, we must balance that with the word from the Treasury that same day; that what Crabb said didn’t at all mean no more cuts in this parliament, just none planned.

Next week, we may discover what plans there are now.

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‘No further plans’ does NOT mean ‘no further cuts’

stephen crabb hoc

Isn’t it wonderful? The UK’s new Work and Pensions Secretary, Stephen Crabb, stood up in parliament and said that the government will not be going ahead with changes to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

So, that’s all right then. We can all relax, campaigns can stop. The government has seen the error of its ways. Benefits paid to people with disabilities, like me with multiple sclerosis, are safe….

What utter rubbish, to put it politely.

Look at exactly what he said. The bold italics are mine and highlight important points to note:

  • The government “will not be going ahead” with changes to the Personal Independence Payment that were announced.
  • There are no further plans for welfare cuts this parliament.

This was seen through straight away, not just by me but also by a series of journalists who took to Twitter:

norman smithNorman Smith (pictured left), assistant political editor, BBC News, tweeted: “So £4 billion planned savings from PIPs will not be found from elsewhere in welfare budget…for now.”

ross hawkinsRoss Hawkins (right), BBC political correspondent, tweeted: “Saying no further plans to cut something isn’t – of course – the same as guaranteeing never to cut it.”

gabby hinscliffGabby Hinsliff (left), The Guardian newspaper columnist, tweeted: “So no more welfare savings (for now anyway). If he’s achieved nothing else, you have to admit that wouldn’t have happened without IDS.”

Tom Newton DunnAnd, perhaps the most telling of all, Tom Newton Dunn (right), political editor of The Sun newspaper, tweeted: “Treasury swiftly clarifying Crabb declaration on welfare cuts. Doesn’t at all mean no more cuts in this parliament, just none planned. Ah.”

In other words, be vigilant, be on your guard, keep campaigns ready to return to full force at a moment’s notice.

The battle over the proposed PIP changes may be won but the war to protect welfare benefits, even PIP itself, is far from over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t be fooled by government’s callous weasel words – disability benefits cuts are still planned

Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb.

Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb.

Mystery still surrounds the fate of the threatened cuts to the UK’s Personal Independence Payment paid to people with disabilities. including Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, blindness and mental illnesses.

Just look at the timetable:

March 11, Justin Tomlinson, Disabilities Minister in the Department of Work and Pensions, officially announced plans to make changes, to make cuts, to Personal Independence Payment.

March 16, in his budget speech, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne gave details of the cuts the government was proposing.

Following the budget, and for a further two days, uproar ensued. Not just protests from those likely to be affected but from disability charities too. And the government, which has a majority of just 17, suddenly found itself facing almost certain defeat in the House of Commons when around 20 of its own MPs said they would oppose the move.

Back-peddling was the order of the day, publicly hinted at by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan on BBC Question Time, when she said that the proposed cut was only ‘a suggestion’; with the Chancellor saying that he would look again to get things right.

March 18 saw Iain Duncan Smith resign as Work and Pensions Secretary, calling the planned cuts ‘a compromise too far’.

Prime Minister David Cameron, in his reply to Duncan Smith’s resignation letter, said “Today we agreed not to proceed with the policies in their current form and instead to work together to get these policies right over the coming months.”

Look at that closely, read it carefully. The Prime Minister did NOT say that those policies, the cuts, won’t happen. What he did say was that they would not go ahead in their ‘current form’ and that the policy would be got ‘right’ in the coming months.

Then, yesterday March 19, Stephen Crabb was promoted from being Welsh Secretary to take over at Work and Pensions. And, on his first day in his new post, he said the cuts to disability benefits will “not be going ahead.”

Well, actually, no he didn’t! Let’s look at it carefully.

These are the words that the new Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb really said: “We’re not going to be going ahead with these cuts to disability benefits that were proposed on budget day.

“The prime minister has confirmed that himself. I was very clear when I discussed the offer of the job this morning we were not going to go ahead with the cuts that were proposed.”

Sounds good, right? Well, err, no. The key words in the first sentence are ‘that were proposed on budget day’. Similarly, two sentences later the telling words are ‘that were proposed’.

Now, call me a cynic if you like but I have worked as a journalist, spent time in public relations and been around politicians long enough to recognise this for what it is – the use of prepared phrases, or callous weasel words, designed to trick us into thinking the cuts won’t happen.

The government is just trying to buy time to find a way to get them through in another form and without rebellion from within their own MPs.

Trust me, despite what we are being led to believe, the cuts are still very much on the table.

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