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Tories' plans to take half a million people off incapacity benefits

(130 Posts)
policywonk Tue 06-Oct-09 11:27:00

There's not much detail available (that I've been able to find) but the story in a nutshell is here

IIRC, you have to fill in a vast form and be signed off by a GP to receive incapacity benefit. What 'medical assessment' are the Tories going to devise that's going to be more accurate than that? Or are they just looking for a way to take vulnerable people off higher rates of benefits?

Or am I missing something?

Seeline Tue 06-Oct-09 11:29:13

People who run marathons or referee football matches whilst claiming incapacity benefit both of which have been discovered recently angry If people are claiming legitamately fair enough.

policywonk Tue 06-Oct-09 11:34:06

Is there any reason to think that there are half a million of those people though? (Though you're right, there must be flaws in the present system for those people to be able to claim.)

Apparently the Tories are proposing bringing in private firms to assess people's fitness. That's an idea to make the blood run cold, surely?

Callisto Tue 06-Oct-09 11:34:56

I think this was an aim of the current Govt but they are so hopeless that there are more people claiming incapacity now than when they came to power.

I very much doubt the big bad Tories are deliberately targetting the most vulnerable people in society.

policywonk Tue 06-Oct-09 11:36:07

(And actually - it's just occurred to me - someone can run a marathon and still be quite legimtimately signed off for, say, severe long-term mental illness - it's not all about physical capacity.)

GypsyMoth Tue 06-Oct-09 11:37:06

maybe they will shake it up a bit...make it harder to claim,and existing claimants would be re-assessed more regularly?

policywonk Tue 06-Oct-09 11:40:51

You're right that more people are claiming now, Callisto. I don't think that's a priori proof that the benefit is flawed though.

The government published a Green Paper on social care in July, and its proposals are out for consultation at the moment. There was nothing like this in it though (I think).

My basic problem/confusion is with this new medical assessment model. How is this better than the assessment of someone's GP?

Seeline Tue 06-Oct-09 11:40:52

Fair point Policy - but the ones featured recently (and I think prosecuted) did not fall into that catagory. There must be obvious failings in the system to allow that sort of thing to happen. Such people are effectively stealing, and stopping that money going to the more needy. Even if some of that money was spent tightening up the system, the more vulnerable would be better off.

policywonk Tue 06-Oct-09 11:44:47

tiffany, I agree that it seems it's their intention to make it harder to claim. But that's a rotten aim, I think. The people who are wily and dishonest won't be put off trying (although if their claims are denied, all well and good). All those people with borderline literacy, or who are emotionally vulnerable, or who don't have much support or knowledge about the benefits system, or who are reluctant to rely on state support anyway, will be deterred still further (and claiming this benefit as it stands is already extremely complicated).

Surely it would be better - if the aim is merely to strip out the fraudulent claimants - to ask GPs to flag up claims that they think are borderline or difficult to assess (eg unverifiable things like 'back pain') and subject these claims to second-line assessment?

Callisto Tue 06-Oct-09 11:51:45

Policy - I think it was a couple of years ago, possibly even during TB's 2nd term. I also think that in places like the Welsh valleys where unemployment is very high and there are lots of depressed towns, claiming incapacity is endemic and runs through generations of the same family and GP's will sign people off again and again with no real checks. I think there was a documetary on it a couple of years ago but that is all I remember and I could be completely wrong.

However, we have to get costs down somehow, there simply isn't enough money to go round anymore. So, as DC said on R4 this morning, no cuts are going to be welcomed, but they have to be made somewhere.

smee Tue 06-Oct-09 11:59:30

I don't think Tories are all heartless, or disagree that savings need to be made, but surely this is a cynical headline grabber. PW's right; it doesn't add up or make any sense when you analyse it. Private assessors will doubtless be given targets to bring down the numbers. All deeply sinister and uncaring if you ask me. I can't quite see why people don't see through it.

WartoScreamo Tue 06-Oct-09 12:04:05

I'm sure there are plenty of people who claim incapacity benefit that really could work. Some of them will be "scroungers" - of course.

Many more maybe COULD work but aren't trained/have no qualifications for roles suitable for them. Eg a 50 year old builder injures his back. He could probably do a desk job instead - but who is going to give him one?

Presumably there aren't suddenly going to be loads of new jobs available. It's just taking people off one list and adding them to another (with a lower benefit level).

It does raise the question about how you treat people who genuinely can't work, vs those who technically COULD, but for whom the barriers to doing so are maybe too high - accessibility, travel, skills, lack of support etc etc.

LadyMuck Tue 06-Oct-09 12:04:11

How is it different from ESA which is Labour's replacement for incapacity benefit?

LadyMuck Tue 06-Oct-09 12:09:47

With the ESA you have potentially 2 assessments with an independent medial practitioner (not necessarily a doctor and def not your GP), first to see if you have limited capability for work and secondly to see if you have limited capability for work-related activity. If you have have limited capability for work related activity then you are assessed as needing support (and don't have to do any work related activities), but if you can do work related activities then you have to do some (eg training) in order to keep your entitlement.

In what way is the Tory proposal different? Is it just under a different timeframe as the Labour proposal is to reassess all IB claims by 2013 (which is a long timeframe lets face it)?

overthemill Tue 06-Oct-09 12:13:19

hmm! in 1980 - 83 i worked in the dole office with norman tebbit as the boss amd maggie thatcher as the PM. we spent a huge amount of time getting the long terms signers' on off our unemployed register and onto incapacity benefits. Literally hundreds off my lists and it must have been into teh million(s) country wide. Now theyy want them off that list - some people simply are not fit to work. I hate this gameplaying with real people's real lives.

abouteve Tue 06-Oct-09 12:18:46

Interesting overthemill, anything to make their figures look good.

wannaBe Tue 06-Oct-09 12:27:02

I think it's fair enough.

I read somewhere that over three million people claim incapasity benefit. So 5% of the UK population are so disabled that they are incapable of work? Sorry but I don't believe that.

I don't think that half a million people are claiming fraudulantly, but A some GP's are probably more inclined to sign the form (the medical profession doesn't take a high view of disability and independence, I could probably get my gp to say I was incapable of work if I was thus inclined), and B, when people are placed on incapasity, they're not reviewed, so where is the insentive to get a job?

I know blind people who are claiming incapasity because they can. And while I appreciate that it is still harder for people with disabilities to get jobs, these people are quite open about the fact that they don't want or need to get a job because then they would lose their benefits. hmm

I think that help should be available to those who are genuinely unable to work. But I think that it should be reviewed on a regular basis, because someone who might be incapable of work today might get better some time down the line. And I don't think it's unreasonable to expect people to work for a living - not even the disabled. We need to get past this mindset that disability equals incapable.

policywonk Tue 06-Oct-09 12:29:54

I think Warto's points are very good.

Callisto, a big problem I have with this is that it's targeting the most vulnerable people, rather than (say) telling those who were looking forward to the Tories' inheritance tax changes that we can't afford that. Surely this is a straightforward case of prioritising the well off over the poor?

LM, that's interesting, I didn't know about that. The immediate difference seems to be that people retain their IB while being retrained, whereas the Tories' proposal involves an instant withdrawal of IB (replaced with JA, which is a reduction of about £25 pw - a huge amount for people who rely on benefits).

Callisto Tue 06-Oct-09 12:48:45

But the bricklayer who could hold down a desk job (and probably a checkout job) may not even consider those types of job when he can claim incapacity. I think it is hard for a 50 year old single career person to change careers to something else, but certainly not impossible and more and more companies are employing older people because, to be frank, school leavers are unemployable.

Policy - I think everyone will get screwed in the coming years with cuts/tax hikes no matter who is in power. GB has told so many lies about the economy that he has started to believe them himself. We desperately need some ruthlessness if we are to remain a competative and viable country with a growing economy and I don't for a minute think that the Tories will leave the rich alone. I'm ambivalent about the inheritance tax thing, but I think at the time it was very much seen as yet another attack on the prudent, house buying middle classes and of course the Tories reacted to that. Is it still in their manifesto to drop it?

LadyMuck Tue 06-Oct-09 12:53:09

But that is the case for new claimants for IB/ESA: you get £64.30 a week for the first 13 weeks whilst you are being assessed. Within that assessment you are either found to be fit for work so go on JSA (£64.30), found to be capable of "work related activity" so you get £64.30 + £25.50 work related activity component provided you meet work related conditions, or you are found not be be able to undertake work related activity so you get £64.30 plus £30.85 support component (no additional obligations so as with IB.

So the conservative policy is varying from Labour's only either by accelerating the transfer of old IB claimants to this new system, or possibly by cutting the £25.50 work related activity component, though from the bones of what has been said so far it is hard to see which of these it might be.

wannaBe Tue 06-Oct-09 12:54:03

I think it needs to be in conjunction with some kind of re-training scheme which teaches people skills and helps them get into work.

Such a scheme did exist when i first came back from South Africa - it was attached to our local college and was basically aimed at people who had sustained disabilities and needed to get back into work. There wasn't a time limit (afaik) but they at least were learning computer skills and were helped to find work.

The 50 year old bricklayer might not feel comfortable in a desk job but if he would be capable of a desk job then life-long benefits shouldn't be an option IMO. Harsh but the benefits system should be there for people who have no other choice, not for those who choose not to work.

smee Tue 06-Oct-09 12:58:54

Callisto, do you really believe school leavers are unemployable. I disagree.
+ the bricklayer may well consider other jobs. But surely if they're on incapacity benefit, there's some medical reason. Am curious but what makes you use such sweeping generalisations..?

PeachyTentativelyPosting Tue 06-Oct-09 13:02:50

I read that it will be down to DLA as a qualifying factor.

Now, I can think of a few cases of people off the top of my ehad who don't wqualify for DLA but cannot work.My BIL who is in hospital every few days for one. Who'd hire himm, he can only workk one week out of three, but the others he is fine so can't get DLA.

Likewise many, many people with mental health problems who always struggle to get benefits for which you need a burden of proof- just the same people who will suffer greatly when targetted by these campaigns (I know DH did when he was ill), and of whome society will be willing to beleive anything of. In some quarters meantally ill (esp. depression, no matter how serious) equate to satanic ime.

Every thread about benefits claimants goes one way- towards fraudulaent people. I satrted one about carers in AIBU yesterday; it's all yes carers are OK but..... well the but in my mind is the people who are genuine, whose lives have therefore been hit by crap and who don't want to be made to feel like a criminal or at suspicion of fraud every day.

Which is how I feel.

If people would just report the claimants with fraudulent claims then OK, but no its always ' I know someone who...'

yeah? then report them. Don't automatially equate them with me, though.

AtheneNoctua Tue 06-Oct-09 13:22:38

I know one person who gets incapacity benefit. Can't for the life of me understand why. But he does. He has not cheated the system, but has qualified through the proper channels. He can mow the garden, walk up a small mountain, do the housework, etc. He has a council house where his girfriend, who also chooses not to work, also lives for free. They don't live a life of luxury. But they do manage to pay for annual holiday... courtesy of the taxpayer. Incapacity my arse. More like can't be arsed to get a job because we don't have to.

I grant that one person is not a fair sample. But, if the Tories go visit him and deem him capable of work then that is a step in the right direction.

Squishabelle Tue 06-Oct-09 13:23:43

Overthemill - I too remember the big fiddle where thousands of unemployed were transferred onto incapacity benefit - bugger all wrong with most of them. It was an absolute disgrace. On it for life for most of them.

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