The disability benefit reforms fail the liberal test


12:55 pm - October 27th 2010

by Stuart White    


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‘The worst thing that can happen to one in the relations between man and man’, said Rousseau, ‘is to find onself living at the mercy of another.’

According to some philosophers, freedom is centrally about not living at the mercy of another.
It is about not being subject to another’s power to intervene in one’s life at their discretion. Freedom is, in this sense, independence – the power to refuse dependency on others and their uncertain goodwill.

Liberalism in Britain has historically seen it as a core objective of the welfare state to help secure independence in this sense.

Yet two reforms to disability benefits announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review last week fail this liberal test and fail it badly.

Two key benefits for the disabled are Employment Support Allowance (ESA) which is intended as an income replacement benefit for those out of work due to disability; and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) which is intended to help with the extra living expenses of disability (e.g., having to buy equipment to help with mobility).

ESA was introduced by Labour as part of its reforms to incapacity benefit. It involves a Work Capability Assessment which is now widely regarded as grossly insensitive to the needs of people with disabilities and health problems. The assessment regime is under review. Given the Coalition’s clear intention to make big savings on the welfare budget, including from disability benefits, one might wonder whether significant change is likely. We’ll see. You never know.

Meantime, as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review, the Coalition has announced two changes to the above benefits.

First, for those on contributory ESA judged to be work-capable, the benefit will henceforth be means-tested after one year. So if you are on ESA, and you are judged work-capable, as the large majority of disabled people now are, then you will lose the benefit after a year if you have any significant savings or a partner with enough earnings.

Second, the Coalition has announced that it will cut the mobility component of DLA for those in residential care.

Both reforms clearly fail the liberal test of protecting freedom as independence.

The DLA reform, which has provoked moving testimony from disabled blogger BendyGirl, takes away the resources that the disabled in residential care need to have independent mobility – to be able to do things like go to the shops without relying entirely on the good will of others to make this possible. It really does put the disabled people affected entirely ‘at the mercy’ of carers for getting around.

The ESA reform, too, undermines independence. It does this, for example, by forcing disabled individuals who can’t find a job to rely even more on their partner for financial support. What’s wrong with that? Well, if one accepts that financial dependency on an individual gives power to that individual, power over those who are dependent on them, there is a lot that’s wrong about that. The reform once again directly creates the kind of vulnerability that, on a liberal view, is hostile to freedom.

I can see one kind of Liberal Democrat response coming. Yes, its bad. We disagree with it. But this is a Coalition. We have to put up with all kinds of things we disagree with.

Maybe so. But there is a need to be honest about just how deep the contradiction with liberal principle is – an honesty that is unlikely to be forthcoming if one follows Nick Clegg’s attempt to redefine the liberal value of independence in terms of the Thatcherite value of ‘self-reliance’.

And in the case of the DLA reform, which saves very little money, I suspect I am not alone in being struck by just how little has been gained in return for the repudiation of liberal principle.

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About the author
This is a guest article. Stuart White is lecturer in Politics at Oxford University, based at Jesus College. He blogs at the Fabian society's Next Left
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Reader comments


Thank you for this article, Stuart White, and thank you LibCon for the amount and quality of coverage being given to this very important issue. You’ve gained this DisAbled reader back!

Great article, as usual.

(Though of course not all liberals would agree to your suppressed left-republican premises…but then again, so much the worse for them).

‘The worst thing that can happen to one in the relations between man and man’, said Rousseau, ‘is to find onself living at the mercy of another.’

Philosophically, isn’t being dependent on a state allowance for your total income about as clear an example of living at the mercy of another imaginable?

@3

Not under the rule of law, no.

If you’re at someone’s mercy then they can withdraw their help at any time, in contrast, the state has to go through great pains and procedures to alter the way it acts.

@Tim J

No. See the Next Left article Stuart White links through to, which refutes *exactly* your sort of point.

‘If you’re at someone’s mercy then they can withdraw their help at any time, in contrast, the state has to go through great pains and procedures to alter the way it acts.’

That’s like saying making divorce difficult means your partner isn’t dependent.

“That’s like saying making divorce difficult means your partner isn’t dependent.”

No, it really isn’t.

For the obvious reason that a marriage is a two-agent relationship, but that the rule of law expressly makes the state-citizen *more* than a two-agent relationshipn by inserting multiple intermediary bodies designed to ensure that the dominant agent – the state – cannot flagrantly abuse the weaker agent – the individual – without checks or accountability.

So, turns out that stupid household analogies are as ineffective for national politics as they are for national economics.

See the Next Left article Stuart White links through to, which refutes *exactly* your sort of point.

I wouldn’t call it a refutation, more an acknowledgement that my point is broadly correct:

But can’t state payments make one dependent in this sense too? Can’t the state use its power over one arbitrarily as a benefit recipient?

Of course.

So long as benefits are conditional, and the question of who is entitled to them is settled by state agents, people on benefits are, unarguably, subject to the domination of the state. If it is also argued that people in employment are subject to the domination of their employer, it cannot be argued that people on benefits are free from such domination.

Well you won’t get any mercy from the right wing. It is not good enough for them as human beings to do well. They have this weird gene that requires them to take great satisfaction from the misfortune of others. They get off on kicking people less fortunate than themselves.

Does not matter if it is welfare policy, housing policy, or just humour, what connects it all is a delight is seeing others suffer. That is why it is pointless trying to appeal to their better nature. They have no conscience.

@TimJ

Not quite.

By living in this country you and I acknowledge that society has set certain restrictions upon our freedom. We may not walk into a shop, help ourselves to goods, and walk out again. We may not wander down the street punching people. We may not sexually molest small children. If we attempt to do these things, society will punish us to the fullest extent of the law.

However, we will have the right to a minimum standard of treatment by the legal process and our punishment will depend, not on an individual’s whim, but on laws constructed and ratified by society and applied by people who will be held accountable for their decisions and have to explain the rationale behind them. We have a right of appeal if we feel we have been mistreated and we have a right to put forward our side of the story. We are (although I admit this is getting more and more fragile) innocent until proven guilty.

In short, to be under the power of the state has any number of protections built in to try and minimise the potential for abuse.

To be under the power of an individual you live with is different, though, especially if that power relates to your most basic needs. At the most basic level, if you have a row with your partner, you can walk out! A disabled person often does not have that advantage. Not because walking out would have consequences but because they cannot independently move around! Alternatively your partner might do the walking out, in which case you can shout “FINE!” at the slamming door and then call a friend, watch TV, go to the loo, make yourself some dinner… a disabled person on the other hand might very well be left stuck in a house unable to eat or medicate or use the toilet.

When the state decides to deny me the money I need to get a taxi to the doctor’s surgery (because I cannot walk or drive or take the bus due to my condition) I can protest that it is unfair, that as a law-abiding citizen and taxpayer of this country I am entitled to access to medical treatment. I have warning that the change will occur and I can publicly dispute it. When my partner denies me that money, ten minutes before my appointment, what can I do?

We’re talking about one person dominating another person’s ability to manage their most immediate, basic, non-negotiable needs. As a society, we decided that people who cannot manage those needs are *entitled* to help rather than having to repeatedly appeal to other individuals for help.

Tim J,

Given that there is a link embedded to the article you are quoting from, that’s some pretty audacious out-of-context cutting and pasting. So let’s have the whole deal, shall we?

Reforming the benefits system so as to increase the pressure on disadvantaged workers to scramble into low-paid jobs may make them more ‘self-reliant’ in a financial sense, but it risks doing so at the expense of reducing their ability to refuse terms and conditions of work that are oppressive.

Or such reforms might make an individual less reliant on the state but more reliant on family support – which they only get if they agree to whatever conditions other family members lay down, once again making them more dependent.

But can’t state payments make one dependent in this sense too? Can’t the state use its power over one arbitrarily as a benefit recipient?

Of course. (Just look at the ongoing furore over the operation of the ‘work capability assessment’ introduced as part of Labour’s reforms of incapacity benefit.) But this is a reason for making sure that benefits are paid out according to clear eligibility criteria and that benefit claimants have strong rights of appeal against bureaucrats who don’t apply the rules. More radically, it may even be a reason for making benefits unconditional. Make it a right that every citizen gets an income off the state, no strings attached.

This idea of citizen’s income is, in a sense, the ultimate repudiation of ‘self-reliance’. It makes everyone a ‘benefit recipient’.

But precisely because of the support it gives to independence, it is a policy that many l/Liberals have supported. If memory serves, it was only at the 1994 autumn conference that the Lib Dems dropped the Liberals’ long-standing commitment to citizen’s income – in the face of strong opposition from firebrand Grimondite liberals like Nancy Seear.

Stuart is not exactly acknowledging your point as “broadly correct” is he? Rather, he is exposing your quick and easy retort as both shallow and short-sighted.

Rather, he is exposing your quick and easy retort as both shallow and short-sighted.

We’re obviously reading it differently, and I don’t see that I was quoting it particularly out of context.

His argument is that one can be in employment, but still dependent on others – your employer, your family – not to act arbitrarily and against your interests. The obvious rejoinder to this is the one he raises, and I quoted – isn’t one ‘dependent’ in the same way to the state if on benefits? And his answer, like mine, is ‘yes, of course’. This can be mitigated, but it is an inevitable feature of the benefit system as it stands. A Citizens Income would, on this reading, remove this problem, as there would be no question of having to prove ones eligibility for the benefit. I think you have to point out a little more clearly where we’re disagreeing.

I don’t see this as a particularly useful argument either way. We all, in an interdependent world, live at the mercy of other people – emotionally, financially, in pretty much any way you can imagine. Under this definition a subsistence farmer would seem to be the only truly independent man (and even then only up to a point), and I’ve seen enough of those to know that that sort of independence isn’t worth having.

13. Flowerpower

Mary @ 10

You make a strong case for the fact that people with a disability are likely to be more anxious about their dependence on others because of the fact of their disability.

In an ideal world, governments would have some mechanism for taking this into account, but perhaps not so far as to give people cash benefits that they don’t really need.

In the end, a person with a disability is financially no worse a position in this context than any other non-working spouse. A woman or man who chooses to stay at home to look after children, or just because they wish to, is not compensated for their time and trouble by state benefits if they have a partner with a good income or plenty of family savings. Many might ask why someone in that position should be compensated just because they also happen to have a disability?

Your example of a tightwad bastard spouse who won’t even stump up the cab fare to the surgery is an answer to that – but is, one would hope, not common.

If there are going to be difficulties at the margin – and sure, there always are – then the right way to deal with them is to have a flexible system that allows a wide range of discretion.

Sadly, the jobsworths and commissars with which New Labour has stuffed the public services are incapable of exercising sensitive or intelligent discretion.

Third sector organizations, by contrast, are.

So, Big Society is the way to go. Let’s press on with the ESA reforms, but also establish some kind of contingency fund to be disbursed by disability charities that can be used in acute cases of “independence denial”.

To argue for the present system is to argue for giving people benefits that most of them don’t need. Not a good time to fight that corner.

13

“So, Big Society is the way to go.”

Not even in the messiest of your wet dreams I’m afraid.

The Big Society always was a bastardised mongrel of a concept, dreamed up by a clueless bunch of sub-Thatcherite lightweights so obssessed with presentation it would make New Labour blush.

It will end up on the ideological scrap heap with other notable failures like Blairism.

Flowerpower @ 13

Firstly, disabled people ARE in a worse financial situation. DLA was introduced to recognise the fact that disabled people have higher costs as a result of their care and mobility needs than non-disabled people.

A few examples: incontinence pads, wheelchairs, walking frames (you thought these were provided by the NHS? hahaha), ready-prepared food that can be microwaved, delivery services, higher heating costs because they cannot keep themselves warm by moving around, higher water costs because they cannot have a “quick” shower, clothes that are damaged when the person falls over, accessible transport to and from appointments, the list is endless and for most people, DLA *doesn’t* cover it.

Secondly, disabled people are not “choosing” to stay at home. A mother has had at least nine months to decide to become a mother and prepare for it, whereas disability is something that is imposed on you and your family, in an instant and without any choice. According to the Papworth Trust, 83% of disabled people acquired their impairments during their adult life. None of them “chose” it.

Even those of us who can do some limited work, are unfortunately competing in a jobs market that is skewed against us. Your hypothetical stay-at-home parent could *choose* to try their hand at any number of jobs that a disabled person is physically or mentally incapable of managing. There’s also a problem with many workplaces not being physically accessible and the rather substantial barrier that more than 70% of businesses admit they would not consider hiring an older person or someone who had been on disability benefits (http://www.iosh.co.uk/news_and_events/news/latest_news_releases/25_back_to_work_plans.aspx).

As for the tightwad bastard spouse situation – I’m not suggesting that any substantial number of disabled people are living with the unholy offspring of Hannibal Lecter and Scrooge McDuck. I’m suggesting that every couple have rough patches. The event of disability puts strain on a relationship. The household income being halved when the disabled partner loses their jobs puts strain on a relationship. Couples who suddenly have to face disability are under quite enough pressure and many people crack. When that happens, the disabled individual needs to feel secure that they are not going to suddenly find themselves without essential care.

Firstly, disabled people ARE in a worse financial situation.

In two ways at that, reduced earning potential (on average) and increased expenditure requirements.

I have to admit I have no idea about the DLA changes and how they will affect living at the mercy of another.

I do wonder about your logic with ESA though. Your argument pivots on the following:

First, for those on contributory ESA judged to be work-capable, the benefit will henceforth be means-tested after one year. So if you are on ESA, and you are judged work-capable, as the large majority of disabled people now are, then you will lose the benefit after a year if you have any significant savings or a partner with enough earnings.

Which you argue to be illiberal, as it increases dependency on others. How using your own savings is dependent on others escapes me, so I will assume that you either missed the point of means testing or believe that savings do not exist to be used to if necessary but rather just exist. Either way, it is pretty clear that a liberal would expect someone with savings to be able to use those to ensure no dependency on others – it is if the savings no longer can support the person the state steps in. Essentially, I think this is a major failing in your argument.

As to the partner problem, the liberal issue is slightly confused by the problem of how to treat marriage or other partnerships. Is marriage not a commitment to share resources, to be one unit together. If you accept marriage or partnership does mean this, then it follows that a liberal cannot argue dependency on a partner is wrong. If you prefer to argue that a partnership such as marriage should not override the right of individuals to be free of dependence on others, fine, but this logically requires you to not allow such partnerships any other privileges either, and to treat everyone at all times as an individual (I have no problem with this logic, but it needs to be followed). At the moment you seem to be selecting between two logical positions to suit a political narrative, and this is again not coherent.

Anyway, I always thought the central liberal tenant was ‘do no harm’, which in the context of welfare, cuts and dependency is a different kettle of fish.

sally,

Well you won’t get any mercy from the right wing. It is not good enough for them as human beings to do well. They have this weird gene that requires them to take great satisfaction from the misfortune of others. They get off on kicking people less fortunate than themselves.

Well, since it is genetic, there is nothing to be done about it. And clearly, since those with that gene (I have to admit, as I don’t get off on kicking the less fortunate, I am clearly not a right-winger) have a genetic disability, it would be discriminatory to pick on them about it.

Incidentally, how do you explain converts to right-wing philosophies – exposure to excessive radiation causing a specific genetic mutation (which leads to the possibility Spiderman was once a Marxist…)?

Which is to say, are you serious? Ascribing different political opinions to genetics? You are aware where this sort of thinking leads, aren’t you?

19. Shatterface

‘For the obvious reason that a marriage is a two-agent relationship, but that the rule of law expressly makes the state-citizen *more* than a two-agent relationshipn by inserting multiple intermediary bodies designed to ensure that the dominant agent – the state – cannot flagrantly abuse the weaker agent – the individual – without checks or accountability.’

Then I guess all those worried they are going to lose their ESA have nothing to worry about.

Anyone who thinks the balance of power between claimants and the State is balanced in favour of the claimant (a) has no experience of being on benefits and (b) is an idiot.

It should be noted that Danny Alexander was previously opposed to the roll out of the WCA to assess all 2.5 million IB claimants.

He predicted that “hundreds of thousands” of people could be incorrectly assessed as fit for work.

His silence on this issue since joining the cabinet has not gone unnoticed by a great many sick and disabled people who had switched their vote from Labour to the Lib Dems at this year’s election.

21. Shatterface

Aren’t those hundreds or thousands who might lose out proof that they are dependent and that the system is weighted in favour of the State?

22. Stuart White

Thanks to Sunny for cross-posting from Next Left.

I think Paul Sagar has responded fully to Tim J’s points, so I’ll pick up on some others.

Watchman @ 17: yes, the post focuses specifically on the case where someone loses ESA due to partner’s earnings rather than due to personal savings. But the point stands.

First, I do indeed think that financial reliance on one’s partner is a threat to individual independence, and that liberals should recognise this – and historically have done so. Yes, ideally, the family is a site of love in which resources are shared. But we also know, as John Stuart Mill pointed out both in The Subjection of Women and in On Liberty, and as many contemporary feminists have also pointed out, that the family is a site of power relations. As Mill argues, a liberal can’t be indifferent to power within the family just because it is the family.

Moreover, these power relations are shaped in no small part by who brings home the cash. The more people have their own, individual claims to income, the more able they are to exit a relationship which they find oppressive; the more they rely on another for a basic income, the less realistic power of exit they have, and so the more vulnerable they are to bullying behaviour. It was this sort of insight that led a generation of Liberals like Nancy Seear to support a universal citizen’s income.

Second, let’s take the case where someone loses ESA after a year because of their savings. This, too, is bad for independence. Like any means-testing, it creates a disincentive to save. And it means that people will be forced to draw down savings to meet needs thereby weakening their long-term financial independence.

Paul @ 2: yes, the notion of liberty I am appealing to in the post is one that contemporary republican philosophers like Philip Pettit argue for. However, I think Pettit (and the historian Quentin Skinner) go awry in seeing this notion as ‘republican’ as opposed to ‘liberal’. As a historical matter, I think this notion of liberty is also central to the liberal tradition. Or, to put it another way, I think British liberalism/Liberalism, from Mill to Grimond, has worked with quite a republican notion of liberty (amongst others). I talk a little more about this in an academic paper, ”Revolutionary Liberalism’? The Philosophy and Politics of Ownership in the Post-War Liberal Party’, British Politics, 2009. I’m happy to send electronic copy to any reader who wants one…

23. Shatterface

‘Incidentally, how do you explain converts to right-wing philosophies – exposure to excessive radiation causing a specific genetic mutation (which leads to the possibility Spiderman was once a Marxist…)?’

With great POWER comes great responsibility. Even where power is exercised benignly it’s still an asymmetric relationship of power/powerlessness.

Stuart,

Thanks for the reply. I take the point on partnerships – it is logical, although I still think you need to make it clear that is your position. It is not the position of government at the moment though, and under their logic (I am ambivalent about whose logic is better) your point would not stand – so showing the logic you are using would make the case clearer.

The second point is interesting though:

Second, let’s take the case where someone loses ESA after a year because of their savings. This, too, is bad for independence. Like any means-testing, it creates a disincentive to save. And it means that people will be forced to draw down savings to meet needs thereby weakening their long-term financial independence.

I would argue it is fundamentally illiberal for a government to be concerned with establishing citizens long-term financial independence in return for establishing short-term dependence on the state (however you judge Paul and Tim’s discussion, if you require state money not to use your own, you are contrasting self-reliance and dependence). Means-testing will indeed stop people saving, but those in needs of the money will presumably generally either not have been either to save or will have not considered the need for means testing, depending on how long they have had the disability (I know this is a gross simplification of a complex area – but this is put forward for debate not policy), so I am not sure that is a point here. The means-testing of pensions, which we all expect to draw is one thing, that of disability allowances, which strike many unexpectedly, another.

And I think you miss the point that savings are for a rainy day – if the other choice is dependence on the whims of government, then surely that is the point of savings? Or is that just my independent streak coming through again?

25. Flowerpower

Mary @ 15

Okay, you have convinced me this change will not be fair for people who have serious disability problems involving needs for wheelchairs, incontinence pads, special foods etc.

The policy is intended to end a disincentive to work among those who really could find work if they bothered.

I suspect that underlying the way it has been framed is a lively suspicion that quite a number are claiming ESA on grounds of disabilities such as anxiety etc. which are not really such great barriers to work.

Can you suggest a way to realize the government’s objective here without harming the innocent, as it were?

Flowerpower @ 25

Regrettably, non-visible conditions such as anxiety can often be even bigger barriers to work than an obvious physical condition such as the loss of a leg. How on earth can a person with severe anxiety manage a job interview and compete against people capable of confidence? How would a person with suicidal tendencies be affected by the onslaught of rejection letters that is the typical experience of even a non-disabled jobseeker? Is the average employer equipped to deal with a member of staff whose OCD causes them to lose ten minutes of every hour to ritual/repetitive actions? Contrary to belief, it’s not that easy to get benefit. Anyone who has succeeded in claiming benefit *purely* on mental health grounds has some pretty severe issues going on.

And yes, there are costs associated with severe mental health problems. Having to buy microwave meals because heavy sedative medication renders you unable to concentrate on cooking or to remember that the oven is on. Paying a carer to come with you to essential appointments because on your own you will panic and bolt. Incurring bank charges because you’re too scared to open your post. Having to get a bus or taxi home because during an episode you left the house and walked for 12 hours until you were lost, miles from home and inches from collapse.

The government’s objective here, so far as I can see, is to reduce the benefits bill. That makes sense – it’s one of the biggest drains on the public purse and should be looked at.

However I don’t believe they’ll reduce it by eliminating fraud. Fraud can’t be entirely eliminated, nor can error. Given the size of the system, both are really quite surprisingly low, and most instances are not of people who set out to defraud the system, but of people who did not stop claiming when their conditions improved. Perhaps yearly checks with a patients’ GP simply to ask if there have been any changes worth reporting might be an effective way of dealing with that issue. I would also boot out ATOS (who are making an almighty profit for a shoddy job) and get NHS doctors to do the medical assessments as part of their contracts. These are guesses, though. I’m a PA, not an economist or a decision maker.

The thing that really bugs me is that if, as a result of all this, a couple of the few people who *are* defrauding the system gets stopped… big whoop. If they were physically and mentally competent to defraud the already tight system they’ll still be able to get a job of some kind, they’ll still keep a roof over their heads and food in their bellies. The genuine claimants affected by an overzealous ‘crackdown’ don’t have that kind of option.

27. Chaise Guevara

Agree with Mary. The cure is worse than the disease here.

With mental health and other non-visible conditions, I think it’s not only testing that’s the problem, but the assumption that depression is the same thing as grumpiness, anxiety is the same thing as worry and carpal tunnel syndrome is a sprained wrist. And that everyone claiming these conditions is lying anyway.

It’s also because we unknowingly exaggerate our own illnesses. If you think your headache is a migraine, you might think someone staying home with a migraine is slacking. And because everyone seems to think a mild chest infection is a cold and a cold is flu, if you’re off sick with a cold it looks like you’re being a wimp.

28. Stuart White

I would just like to say a big thanks to Mary in the above thread for her enlightening comments about the reality of disabilities.

A couple of years ago my wife and I sat in a hospital waiting-room recovering from the shock of learning that our (then) 4 year-old had been diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. As Kathy, my wife, put it:

‘I sat there thinking that this can’t be happening. This kind of thing happens to other people, not to people like us….Oh….now WE are the ‘other people’…’

I would not wish anyone to have to make the journey we made from ‘normal’ to ‘other’. But I do wish some people who haven’t had to make this journey could at least open their minds and exercise some imaginative sympathy with those who have had to.

just wanted to support what mary and chaise said.

i’m sorry but this statement
‘The policy is intended to end a disincentive to work among those who really could find work if they bothered.’
is very ignorant.

for all the reasons articulated by mary.

30. Not a scrounger

One of my main worries about this ‘reform’ is that it will make it much harder for disabled people in abusive relationships to leave. It’s no good saying ‘most relationships aren’t like that’. There are enough for it to be a serious problem. You are much more likely to be the victim of domestic violence if you are disabled, and having some of your own money is vital if you want to leave. Even good relationships can turn dysfunctional or abusive when the power dynamic becomes so one sided, as Mary said.

The Tories would like to believe that everyone has loads of loving and supportive (and well off) family and friends around who will gladly pay for everything, give up their own freedom to look after you and never resent it, but that’s a long way from the truth for a lot of disabled people. Even if the will is there, the money often isn’t.

Even if you do have supportive people around you, there are always times when they cannot care for you the way they usually do. With the best will in the world there will always be times when you have to fend for yourself, and this is where independent income – and the choices it brings – is vital.

Unfortunately this nasty comment – “The policy is intended to end a disincentive to work among those who really could find work if they bothered” – is typical of those who do not understand illness and disability. Nobody wants to live on ESA – the endless forms, the humiliating medical assessments, the rejections and appeals, the laughably small amount of money at the end of it… nobody would do it unless they had to. If people on ESA haven’t found work after a year, it’s because they are too ill or disabled to work, or there are no jobs suitable, or employers don’t want to take a chance on someone who has had a bad sickness record or don’t want to adapt their office for a disabled person, etc. There are a myriad of reasons why someone would still be out of work after a year other than ‘they can’t be bothered’ – why is this assessment usually the default?

When will people start to realise that sick and disabled people *want* to work? Or more accurately, they want to be able to work? This particular reform won’t provide any incentive that isn’t already there. It’ll just make sick and disabled people more vulnerable.

There are a myriad of reasons why someone would still be out of work after a year other than ‘they can’t be bothered’ – why is this assessment usually the default?

The Flying Rodent has provided a very convincing explanation for this phenomenon (and many others).

32. Andrew Brown

I’ve not read all the other posts yet as I want to write before I get too tired

OK, well firstly time limiting and means testing contribution based ESA represents
tearing up the National Insurance contract between state and citizen. The convention has been through Invalidity Benefit and Incapacity Benefit that the payment continues as long as the relevant disability parameter is met. The Lib Dems issued a briefing paper on the day of the Comprehensive Spending Review in which it was stated benefit should not be paid permanently, and gave JSA as
an example to justify the claimed fairness of this change

But not only is it a breach of the national insurance contract it is a social catastrophe waiting to happen. It will turn upside down the household finances
of possibly hundreds of thousands of claimants, whether or not they have partners
or children. Many relationships with fail, many will end up homeless, many claimants who are partners of the non disabled householder may end up even thrown out of the home when the hardship starts to bite. Those with savings over 6000 and less than 16.000 will end up having to live on them and in time the nest egg that might have in future represented a deposit on a mortgage, or the kick start to a small business, or the safety net to deal with unforeseen catastrophes will be gone. These after all are the claimants least likely to ever work again and who can blame them for wanting to keep a bit by.
At the moment it seems its all fine and dandy with Ed Miliband who made it clear that Labour supports welfare reform, and presently he appears to be blinking like rabbit in the headlights while the Government set about a benefit blitzkreig which involves the distortion of public perceptions and a recalibration of
claimant expectations. Turning to housing people need more than just a roof over their head to flourish and enjoy good physical and mental health. It needs to
be affordable, secure and with sufficient space to enable them to develop their lives, and even such simplicities as accommodating guests. But we are rapidly heading to a situation where poor qaulity, insecure, and cramped accommodation will be the norm for many many more people, and not only the under 35s who are expected to find a room in a shared house ebcause that is what benefit will fund. The Government want to make social housing reviewable after a period of time, and to charge 80 per cent of market rent. Bet your bottom dollar on the following. One is the 80 per cent is just the beginning, it will creep up, secondly such a wholesale rise in rents over time will escalate the housing benefit bill which they seek to reduce, and so likely to they will cap the rate on these new higher social rents. Then the idea originally floated by Caroline Flint ior at least if my memory serves me correctly. She was looking at an idea whereby the efforts to find work would guide continued security or tenure, or was it HB I am not sure but it was a threat of consequences for those deemed not making strenuous enough efforts to find a poverty pay job, well thats what you have to look for after so long on JSA, claimants are expected to ‘readjust their expectations’ the wording used to say.
It was the Thatcher Government with its dreams of a property owning democracy
that purchased political allegiance by a bargain basement sale of council tenancies. That decimated the safety net of social housing and engendered greater reliance on the private sector who of course wanted to make a profit funded by housing benefit, and landlords being landlords in this end of the sector, they often claim the maximum they can . Who can blame them. It is human nature in our social darwinian landscape.
So back to the Government. The ‘glum faces of members opposite’ Ed Milliband described Liberals over the housing cuts which provided the prospect of an effective explusion of Londoners to the South coast as though these were Jews being moved to the ‘General Government’ in Poland in 1943. This is what the Liberal Democrats have to face up to. They are accomplices in the social crimes of these cuts. I’m not saying for one moment that cuts and reforms are not essential. They are, but the Conservatives have an ideological appetite as well as a fiscal imperative and the aphrodisiac of power ought not blind the junior partners of their duty to the voters they appealed to, on the prospectus thet stood on

We are all in this together ?

33. Stuart White

I thought I’d add to the thread this very informative, detailed article on the cut to the mobility component of DLA:

http://www.communitycare.co.uk/Articles/2010/10/29/115711/DLA-cut-rouses-anger-of-disability-movement.htm

34. Stuart White

Forgot to add: hat tip to MindinFlux and the Broken of Britain for pointing me to the above article.


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  21. Domination and Welfare Reform « Bad Conscience

    […] Over the past two decades, philosopher Phillip Pettit and historian Quentin Skinner have led a revival of interest in how freedom can be compromised when people lose their independence. Rather than freedom being lost only when a person’s actions are interfered with, Pettit and Skinner argue that freedom can also be lost if one is “dominated”, i.e. if one lives under the arbitrary power of another.  As Stuart White helpfully put it: […]





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