Government minister’s welfare benefits statements prove economical with the truth

Sarah Newton, one of two ministers of state at the department for work and pensions (DWP), was in the centre of a heated debate in the House of Commons, this week.

The Canary, a website dedicated to independent campaigning journalism, reported that she made some staggering claims. It went on to question how many of them were true. Those of us with disabilities, resulting from MS and other causes, know that the answer will be ‘very few´.

The debate was about a report by the UN committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The report said successive UK governments had committed “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights. The chair of the committee said the government had created a “human catastrophe” for disabled people.

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Sarah Newton MP.

In the debate, Labour accused Newton and the government of making disabled people a “forgotten class”; of allowing the DWP to ‘endlessly mistreat’ them, and of creating a “national scandal”.

Newton dismissed Labour’s assertions. She said: “Let’s actually deal with the facts of the situation, and stop this really quite irresponsible talk that we hear in the chamber today…”

But, it seems that Newton and “the facts” don’t go hand in hand. No surprise that DWP politicians are always ready to brush unpleasant, but genuine, facts under the carpet. They are past masters of spouting their own version of the “truth”.

The Canary went through her comments and fact-checked them. Of course, it found that Newton statements were, to put it politely, economical with the truth.

Time to check the genuine facts

So, let’s look at the real truth!

CLAIM: Newton: “I utterly refute the allegations that have been made today: that we are discriminating against disabled people; that we are systematically undermining and violating their human rights, or worst of all that we are targeting their… welfare support…”

FACT: The High Court ruled in December 2017 that aspects of the Personal Independence Payment rules were “blatantly discriminatory”. It then ruled again on June 14 that aspects of Universal Credit’s implementation had been ‘discriminatory’.

Additionally, a tribunal found the DWP had discriminated against one of its own workers, who was disabled, awarding him £26,000 in damages.

The Canary also pointed out that besides the UNCRPD, the UK government has been accused of breaking international treaties and violating disabled people’s rights by the UN Human Rigth Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Affairs and the European Committee of Social Rights (part of the Council of Europe).

Meanwhile, the UNCRPD report said government policies had become “life-threatening to many disabled people”.

CLAIM: Newton said that the government was “very disappointed” that the UNCRPD did not take on board… the evidence that the government gave them. They did not acknowledge the full range of support.

FACT: The UNCRPD report was overarching in the evidence it took on board. However, it condemned the UK government’s attempts to misrepresent the impact of policies through “unanswered questions”, “misused statistics”, and a “smoke screen of statements”.

Equality Act fails disabled people

CLAIM: Newton said:I want to reassure everyone that we have very strong legislation… on our statute book to protect disabled people – that’s through the public sector equality duty in the Equality Act 2010…”

FACT: Just one example of the implementation of the Equality Act 2010 failing disabled people is the UK rail network. Disabled people’s organisations, trade unions, and commuter groups have argued that the train operator’s policies breach the act. Their claims have been largely ignored.

Newton then had to answer a question from Labour’s shadow secretary for work and pensions, Debbie Abrahams. Abrahams asked why the government had not done a cumulative impact assessment of all welfare reforms.

CLAIM: Newton said: “We do undertake a cumulative assessment of reforms, each fiscal event. This is because we want to be as transparent as possible regarding the cumulative distributional impacts of government policies, including welfare reforms, tax changes – direct and indirect – and public spending changes.”

FACT: This is not the same as doing an impact assessment of the combined effect of every cut, reform, and change on disabled people. The government is merely giving itself individual snapshots.

Poverty level  figures not all they seem

CLAIM: Newton said that the proportion of people in a family where someone is disabled… in relative poverty has not risen since 2010.

And that the proportion of people in a family where someone is disabled, who are in absolute poverty, is at a record low…

FACT: The government admits that changes it made around 2011, to how disabled people are identified, could affect poverty measures. Also, the government does not include in its poverty figures the average additional £570 a month costs disabled people face because of their impairments. Moreover, the government’s measure for absolute poverty is different to that of the UN, and different again to a measure the House of Commons Library used in a briefing paper.

Newton’s claim of no rise in poverty is even different to the DWP’s own figures, which show the number of disabled people in relative poverty has risen since 2010 [source: the Joseph Rowntree Foundation].

CLAIM: Newton said: “These allegations, that we are driving people to the food banks and forcing people into destitution, is simply an irresponsible statement.

FACT: The government’s National Audit Office says Universal Credit is driving people to food banks and throwing them into rent arrears.

CLAIM: Newton said: “We’re spending over £50bn a year on benefits to support disabled people and people with health conditions.”

FACT: The amount the government spends on disability benefits is actually £39bn. Full Fact says the £50bn figure is from 2012, and includes adult social care, free travel, and home adaptations

UK actually fifth in G7, not second

CLAIM: Newton said that the £50bn was: “up by £7bn since 2010, and it’s around 2.5% of GDP – over 6% of the government’s spending. Now as a share of our GDP, our public spending on disability and incapacity is the second highest in the G7…”

FACT: This is a selective use of statistics, as it also includes some NHS spending. The Office for National Statistics reported on EU “social protection” figures. The UK actually spends less than Norway, Germany, Spain and France on disability benefits.

CLAIM: Newton said: “There is no freeze on the benefits that people with disabilities have received…”

FACT: Tax-free disability benefits like the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) have been rising. But the “work-related activity” part of Employment and Support Allowance has been frozen since 2015. 391,000 people, many of them sick and disabled, are in this group.

CLAIM: In closing Newton summed up by accusing Labour and the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) of fearmongering and not dealing in facts.

She said: Who’s going to suffer? Who’s going to suffer from what… we’ve been hearing from the opposition today?

FACT: It is going to be disabled people and their families, who are going to be frightened – frightened to come forward and get the benefits that are there for them; frightened to come forward and get the support that’s available to them.

The Canary said: “Newton either displayed staggering delusional behaviour or wilful ignorance.” I agree but would describe both as shameful. Worse, the same descriptions can be applied equally to the government as a whole.

Interestingly, but unsurprisingly, The Canary says it contacted the DWP for comment but received no response by the time of publication.

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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 for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor, so cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

Nothing new promised by latest work and pensions secretary

The cabinet table seat of the work and pensions secretary must be fitted with an eject mechanism. Yet again, it has a new incumbent.

Indeed, in the 20 months since the sudden resignation of Iain Duncan Smith, the role has changed hands four times. And throughout that time, benefits for disabled people, including those with MS, have been under attack.

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Esther McVey, new work and pensions secretary.

UK prime minister Theresa May on Monday appointed Esther McVey as the latest to run the Department for Work and Pensions. For her, it means a return to the department where she was minister for disabled people from 2012 to 2013.

So, what can we expect from the new head of the government department responsible for disability benefits? Sorry, but I can only see more of the same.

Just look back at what she did while she was in that more junior ministerial role. Freelance journalist and blogger Paul Lewis (@paullewismoney) tweeted: “As Minister for Disabled People she (Esther McVey) said 300,000 people would lose their benefits under her changes and she cut the walking test to get PIP from less than 50m to less than 20m.”

Secretary dedicated to cutting benefits

Wonderful! The new secretary of state is another Conservative politician dedicated to cutting benefits paid to disabled people. We need another change – this time a change for the better.

There have been many, many reactions to news of Ms McVey’s appointment and I see little point in repeating them all here. Instead, if you are interested in more information and comment, I would recommend taking a look at Vox Political Online.

This is an excellent blog written by left-wing journalist Mike Siver. His contribution to this story is “Esther McVey is now Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Expect many, many deaths”.

The headline may seem to be incendiary but is, nevertheless, a timely warning. After all, less than two months ago I brought you news that spending cuts had already led to 120,000 deaths. Needless deaths.

Bearing that in mind, Sivier’s headline looks quite reasonable.

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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.

Government in fight for survival, cabinet split, opposition turns up pressure on health and disability

Key ministers have drawn up their battle lines and daily newspapers say the cabinet is split. The government has descended into disarray and this is likely to deteriorate into a form civil war within the party. The national leader seems completely unable to set any form of direction.

Meanwhile, the opposition is promising to review its social welfare policies and, so, take the high ground on such issues. Additionally, it already has the best policies for people with diseases including MS, and other causes of disability.

Sound familiar? Of course. In the US, the Republican majority cannot agree its own policy on the future of healthcare. Opinions are sharply divided.

But that’s not the story here.

survivalThis battle is in the UK. Chancellor of the exchequer (treasury minister) Philip Hammond and foreign secretary Boris Johnson are already skirmishing about Brexit and Europe. And other cabinet ministers are busy choosing sides.

So much for prime minister Theresa May’s ‘strong and stable’ government, promised as part of her failed campaign to win a bigger majority. In the end, her party lost its overall majority in June’s general election. Now, the knives are out and May appears to be lost.

Fight for survival

Yesterday, the Sunday press had a field day. According to the headlines:

Labour’s shadow secretary of state for work and pensions, Debbie Abrahams, has supported calls for the party to come up with a stronger policy on reversing government cuts to social security spending.

Mrs Abrahams spoke after Labour’s annual conference, last week in Brighton, voted overwhelmingly to ask the party’s policy-making machinery to reconsider its approach to reversing the government’s latest cuts to benefits.

The conference vote means that the Labour party MUST rethink, and hopefully strengthen, its response to the government’s horrendous benefit cuts.

A commitment to remove the benefits cap would be a great start.

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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 Clinical Writer with Healthline, the fastest growing health information site. 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.

 

 

Healthcare benefits under attack again

Cold-hearted policies and actions of government toward its own people is no surprise to my regular readers. And neither will there be any shock at my continued opposition to such disgusting activities.

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The Capitol, Washington DC, home of the Senate and House of Representatives.

Unfortunately, this is not limited to one country. The current Conservative-led government in the UK has a despicable record in relation to vulnerable people. Now, though, what’s happening in the US seems to be just as bad.

A healthcare reform proposal known as Graham-Cassidy, named after its main protagonists, is currently before the Senate. And, if passed, it will limit healthcare benefits to those Americans who need them the most.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society and several patient and healthcare groups oppose the proposal, led by Republicans Senators Lindsay Graham (South Carolina), and Bill Cassidy (Louisiana).

Benefits funding cuts proposed

In headline terms, the Graham-Cassidy proposal would:

  • reduce funding for Medicaid, a benefits program on which so many people with MS depend
  • remove the Obamacare requirement that insurance policies cover basic, essential medical services
  • remove Obamacare’s protection for people who have pre-existing conditions.

The Republican party, the majority in the Senate, has a fight to pass the reform proposal. That is because, if the Senate doesn’t vote it through on or before this Friday, September 30, it will need more votes to move the proposal forward.

Up to the end of this week, the supporters will require only 50 votes but after that, according to the voting procedure, they will need 60 votes to move to a vote on the bill.

So, what happens if the Republicans miss this Friday’s deadline? Well, the good news is that followers of Washington politics believe it’s highly unlikely that the Republicans could gather 60 votes.

The current state of the parties in the Senate, is Republican 52, Democrat 46, and Independents 2.

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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 Clinical Writer with Healthline, the fastest growing health information site. 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.

Disability benefit cuts are still a real risk

This week is the first of the six-week summer recess of the UK parliament, which is a great time to look at welfare benefits for people with disabilities.

Regretfully, despite more than a year passing and a new government, albeit the same party, nothing has really changed.

In April last year, I reported that the then secretary for work and pensions Stephen Crabb was about to make a statement about government plans and cuts to welfare benefits. That was after he had said that it had decided not to proceed with planned cuts. They were unpopular with the disability community and controversial within the Conservative party.

benefits

Stephen Crabb.

A month earlier, I wrote an article headed ‘No further plans’ does NOT mean ‘no further cuts’ after Crabb spoke in the House of Commons.

He said that the government “will not be going ahead” with changes to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) that were announced. He also said there are no further plans for welfare cuts this parliament. (Bold italics are mine).

Their words don’t always mean what you think

I warned that it did not mean PIP was safe – just that the cuts would not be going ahead in the form previously announced. And the part about ‘this parliament’, meant to take us to 2020, is now irrelevant as we have sinve had an early election and have a new parliament.

Then, on May 14, I wrote another post. It was headed ‘No further plans to cut benefits’ pledge lasts 51 days and told of new plans.

Prime minister Theresa May.

About the same time, prime minister Theresa May refused to rule out making further cuts to disability benefits. This wvas widely reported by British daily newspapers.

In March, I wrote about the meaning of the words we heard. In an article headed Don’t be fooled by government’s callous weasel words – disability benefits cuts are still planned, I reported the words of Stephen Crabb as: “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.”

Cuts to benefits – and weasel words

I also added my own comments:

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.

David Gauke MP. (Picture: South West Herts Conservatives Association).

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

What has happened since then? Plenty, but absolutely nothing to prove me wrong or make me change my mind.

As for the current secretary of state for work and pensions, David Gauke, little has been heard, except a change to the timing of a planned increase in the retirement age.

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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 Features Writer with Medical News Today. 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.

‘Devastating’ benefit cuts could hit 10% of people with MS – and other disabilities too

One in ten people with multiple sclerosis in the UK could face cuts in government disability benefit payments, according to new figures published by the country’s MS Society.

The figures reveal the severe extent of benefits cuts for people living with MS. And, I would sms society logo new_editeday that it is highly likely that people living with other disabilities could be hit to the same degree.

The society, the UK’s largest MS charity, estimates that more than a thousand people with MS have already had their benefits downgraded since the phased introduction of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) began to replaced Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

The society said: “Of those eligible for DLA, 93% of people with MS received the highest rate of mobility support. But of the 4,349 who have so far been moved over to PIP, only 70% have received the same rate.

“With more than 80% of people on DLA still to be moved onto PIP, we’re concerned that up to 10,000 people with MS could eventually lose access to the highest rate of mobility support.”

michelle mitchell ms societyMS Society chief executive Michelle Mitchell (pictured, left) said: “Changes to disability benefits assessments have already had a devastating impact on the lives of too many people living with MS.

“It’s absurd that those who were once deemed in need of this crucial support now face having it reduced or taken away. We’re deeply concerned by the staggering figures of how many could lose out.”

Tightening of the eligibility criteria under PIP means that more people with MS stand to lose this support. Under PIP, if someone can walk more than 20 metres, even with walking aids, they will no longer qualify for the highest rate of support.

Previously, under DLA, 50 metres was considered to be the rule of thumb for entitlement to the higher rate.

“Changes to the eligibility criteria for mobility support under PIP were introduced with no evidence to show why it was reduced. These changes must be reversed to reflect the barriers people with MS face.

“Having a condition like MS is hard enough. It shouldn’t be made harder by a benefits system that doesn’t make sense,” said Ms Mitchell.

She’s absolutely right, of course, and it is good to see the MS Society making a stand and calling for change. Not that the current government will take any notice.

 

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Paralympians fear losing their cars through government benefit cuts

Some of the British athletes, including two with multiple sclerosis, heading to Rio for the Paralympics fear losing their cars supplied through the Motability Scheme after being reassessed as part of the government’s programme of benefit cuts and reforms. This has been revealed by a member of the ParalympicsGB team – according to the Disability Information Service.

The report, by John Pring, continues:

Some Paralympians have spoken previously of the importance of the support they receive from the benefits system, particularly through disability living allowance (DLA), but this is the first confirmation that any of them have lost that support as a result of the government’s austerity programme.

The concerns were raised by wheelchair-racer Ben Rowlings, one of the young track stars of the British team, who is set to compete in the T34 100 metres and 800 metres in Rio, and holds the British record at 100, 200, 400 and 800 metres.

He currently receives the higher rate mobility component of DLA, which has allowed him to use that payment to lease a vehicle through the Motability scheme.Hannah-and-Ben-702x336_edited

But like hundreds of thousands of other disabled people, he has been told he will be reassessed for the government’s new personal independence payment (PIP) – introduced in 2013 in a bid to cut working-age DLA spending by 20% – and that an assessment of his eligibility will take place next year.

The Shropshire resident does much of his training 50 miles away in Coventry, alongside fellow Paralympians Kare Adenegan and Mel Nicholls, and told Disability News Service this week that the PIP reassessment could put his career in jeopardy if it results in him losing his Motability car.

He said: “It is something that’s on my mind because without the access to having my Motability car… I wouldn’t be able to get to any of the training that I do.

“I need my car, I need the support to get me around to places, and training and work, because racing is my job, and without the support of the Motability [car]and the DLA, I wouldn’t be able to get to training.”

The 20-year-old said he knew of fellow Paralympians who have already lost their Motability cars after being reassessed for PIP.

He said: “There have been Paralympians who have been told that they are too able to claim Motability and they have had to fight to get the cars back because they have been taken off them.

“I don’t know too much about it, I haven’t spoken to them about it because that’s a personal matter for them, but it’s something I’m a little bit concerned about.”

He said he was not comfortable providing further details about colleagues, and could not say how many fellow team-members had lost their Motability vehicles, but added: “All I know is anyone with disabilities is getting assessed at the moment, so it’s a possibility for any of us.”

Last month, another ParalympicsGB star wheelchair-racer, Hannah Cockroft (pictured with Rowlings), told DNS she was “scared” that she would lose her independence when she was reassessed for PIP.

Cockroft, who won double gold at London 2012, has also yet to be assessed for PIP, but she said that she was dreading her eventual reassessment, the possibility of having her support cut, and potentially losing the car she leases through the Motability scheme.

Motability has said that it expects 35,000 vehicles will have to be returned by disabled people during 2016 as a result of the PIP reassessment programme.

Of Motability customers reassessed for PIP so far, 44% of them have lost their entitlement to the scheme and have had to hand their vehicles back.

You can read the full Disability News Service story here.

 

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