Good news about WCAs and Scotland BUT Universal Credit to roll out faster

As dust settles following UK prime minister Theresa May’s farcical conference speech, there’s mixed news for people claiming disability benefits. This includes people with MS and other diseases that cause disability.


Theresa May’s distress call at party conference (Pic: Daily Star).

Good news is some Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) recipients will no longer face repeated work capability assessments (WCAs).   

I say ‘some’ as this is only a limited concession. It affects claimants in the ESA support group or any with limited capability for work-related activity for Universal Credit (UC).

There are two further conditions to qualify for exemption from repeat WCAs. Firstly, claimants need to have a severe, lifelong disability, illness, or health condition. Secondly, they must be unlikely to ever be able to move into work.

Department for Work and Pensions secretary David Gauke said this week: “After early tests of this approach, it has now been implemented and I can tell you that around twice as many people are expected to benefit from this reform than were originally thought.”

The government has devolved, to the Scottish parliament at Holyrood, control of some benefits paid to people living in Scotland. These benefits include Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disabled Living Allowance (DLA), and Carer’s Allowance.

Holyrood has decided that Scottish people should get a better deal than anyone elsewhere in the UK.

Disability benefit changes for the Scots

It has decided that, in Scotland:

  • Benefits will rise annually by at least the rate of inflation.
  • Private companies will no longer be allowed to carry out assessments for disability benefits such as PIP, DLA, and Attendance Allowance.
  • Any child in receipt of DLA will be given an automatic award of that DLA to age 18, to allow for continuity for families.
  • Mandatory reconsiderations of claim denials will have to take place within a set time limit or claimants will be able to take their case to a tribunal without needing to wait any longer.

Perhaps, other parts of the UK will follow suit in due course. We can only live in hope – certainly not in expectation.

On the downside, the government has decided to continue to roll out the highly criticized Universal Credit. However, it is now doing so 10 times faster than originally planned. Now, 50 areas a month will transfer to the new benefit, instead of just 5.

Compassionate? DWP secretary David Gauke (Picture: South West Herts Conservatives Association).

The government decided to proceed despite warnings of ‘disaster’ and a ‘human and political catastrophe’ from the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and politicians from all parties, including 12 Conservative MPs

What seems perverse to me is that this government takes pride iin the harshness with which it treats claimants, while always claiming to be compassionate.

In his speech, Gauke also spoke of the government’s vision. He said: “It is a vision of the welfare state that is compassionate, practical and aspirational. It is, in short, a Conservative vision for a modern welfare state.”

Compassionate? No, just some sick joke.

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

* * * * * 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.

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 with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * * 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.


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 with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * * 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.

May uncaring,  Green self-interested, Crabb disgraced

As the dust begins to settle after the shock referendum result in the UK that says that Britain should leave the European Union, how do those with disabilities stand?

Well, in the medium-term, the country will still be in the EU until two years after clause 50 is triggered and that looks set to not happen until the end of the year. And that means we remain protected by European laws relating to the treatment and employment of disabled people.

In the short-term, however, there may be some difficulties ahead.

PM Theresa May: Uncaring.

PM Theresa May: Uncaring.

Both Theresa May, the new prime minister, and Damien Green, the third work and pensions secretary this year, have records of voting to reduce spending on welfare benefits as well as other so-called reforms aimed at saving government money – irrespective of the likely effect to the disabled and vulnerable

In May’s case, that is despite having her vicar father in a wheelchair when she was about eight years old and her mother living with multiple sclerosis.

Both her parents died within a year of each other when Theresa was in her mid-20s. Any hope that such experiences in her early years might have engendered some compassion seem, however, to be sadly misplaced. She is just another uncaring politician.

Damien Green: Self-interest.

Damien Green: Self-interest.

Green has never rebelled and has always voted the way the government demanded, showing he has a distinct disinterest in serving the people, just his party. And, from that faithful obedience, he has also served his self-interest well, leading to this cabinet appointment.

Stephen Crabb’s high-flying political career seems to have crashed and burned, at least temporarily. This was the guy plucked from his role as parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Welsh Office to take over as Welsh Secretary on July 15, 2014. He was then promoted to work and pensions secretary on March 19 this year, following the dramatic resignation of Iain Duncan Smith.

Then, following David Cameron’s decision on June 24 to stand down, he declared himself as a candidate for leader of the Conservative party but dropped out of the race after finishing fourth of five in the first round of voting.

Stephen Crabb: Disgraced.

Stephen Crabb: Disgraced.

This week, Crabb withdrew from consideration as a government minister after a newspaper exposed him for sexting, or sending sex text messages. In his letter to Mrs May, he said he was standing down “in the best interests of his family”.

He was disgraced and his career was significantly damaged after The Times alleged that he had been sending sexually explicit messages to the WhatsApp messaging service.

According to the newspaper, Crabb, 43, a Christian and a married father of two, had a series of flirtatious and sexually charged exchanges with a young woman during the run-up to the EU referendum. In a late-night exchange last month, he is alleged to have told her that he wanted to kiss her “everywhere”.

In this blog on July 1, I said that Crabb was unfit to head the work and pensions department, let alone the entire government. Now I have to question his suitability for any public office, including that of a back-bench MP.




MAY-be not the best choice for Prime Minister

Much to the dismay of many, including people with disabilities and the vulnerable, the British Conservative party has settled its leadership contest. They managed that when of one of the only two remaining candidates withdrew.

Now only Theresa May remains. She is already the party leader and at some point on Wednesday afternoon the UK should have a new prime minister.

theresa may.And, while current Prime Minister David Cameron had said that he would be prepared to continue until September, he now finds he is surplus to requirements- He plans to formally tender his resignation to the Queen after Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

Then the Queen will send for Mrs May and ask her to form a government. The UK’s second female prime minister will then set about putting together her first cabinet and it will be interesting to see who is IN, who is OUT and who manages to stay put.

So far, in her speeches, Mrs May has portrayed herself as a caring one-nation Conservative who cares about the poor and vulnerable but, before we get too carried away, let’s take a look at her voting record on welfare and benefits.

  • Generally voted for reducing housing benefit for social tenants deemed to have excess bedrooms (which opponents describe as the ‘bedroom tax’).

My verdict: UNCARING.

  • Consistently voted against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices.

My verdict: UNCARING.

  • Generally voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability.

My verdict: UNCARING.

  • Generally voted for making local councils responsible for helping those in financial need afford their council taxand reducing the amount spent on such support.

My verdict: UNCARING.

  • Generally voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits.

My verdict: UNCARING.

  • Generally voted against spending public money to create guaranteed jobs for young people who have spent a long time unemployed.

My verdict: UNCARING.

It seems that Britain has just swapped one uncaring Tory for another.


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