If you are under 60 and over 16 do you know when you can get a free prescription and free dental treatment? No, if you don’t you are in good company and if you claim could even be one of 1.7 million people in England and Wales falsely sent a £100 penalty by the NHS.
A absolutely scathing report out today from MPs on the Commons Public Accounts Committee today describes the whole system for regulating free prescriptions and dental services as ” not fit for purpose “.
It reveals that despite a so called 24 page ” simplified ” guide telling you when you qualify most people are completely confused and rightly so.And if you get it wrong you are automatically guilty of fraud and get a £100 penalty fine…
A run of bad luck leaves one man struggling to make sense of the UK benefits system. Very soon he is left with no income and at risk of losing the roof over his head. Can he find his way through a bafflingly complex maze of rules? Put yourself in his shoes.
Your name is Tony Rice. You’re the sort of bloke who gets along with everyone. Always making people laugh. Ever since you left school you’ve been in and out of all sorts of jobs. Manual labour, mostly – builder, dustman, crane driver, painter and decorator. Hawker Siddeley, the aerospace company – you like it there, until the factory shuts.
You split up with your girlfriend so you ask your mum to put you up until you can sort out a flat. Save a few quid. You’re very close to your mum and dad. They’re your best friends, really. Your dad has lung cancer and needs a bit of looking after. You take him for a drive most days because he doesn’t like staying in all the time. He’s like you, not a man to sit about. At one time he worked three jobs, all at once. Still does half an hour each morning in the garden.
So you’re back in the council house in Chingford, north-east London, that you’ve
Over the past seven years, cuts to benefits, social care, the legal system and local authority funding have effectively put decades of slow, painful progress into reverse.
Cuts in social care funding have made a mockery of would-be progressive policies on personal budgets and direct payments. Cuts in day services and restrictions on access to freedom passes have marooned many disabled people behind their four walls.
We have also seen disabled students’ allowances cut; a reduction in funding of Access To Work, which made it possible for many disabled people to get into and stay in work; and greatly increased reporting of disability hate crime – including incidents against disabled children.
Disabled people of working age won’t be addressed in the green paper and we can get some idea of what’s in ministerial minds from a recent social care debate in the House of Commons. Social care minister Jackie Doyle-Price repeatedly emphasised the part yet more welfare reform will play in the government’s future thinking for this group.
Over the past seven years, the government has not so much increasingly failed to secure disability rights under the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities as appeared to attack those very rights.
It is becoming increasingly difficult not to associate such catastrophic policies with something deeper, something more visceral. We have to ask why does this government and its recent predecessors seem so bent on harassing disabled people? Is there something about us they just can’t stomach?
The present government particularly has made cuts to social care and reforms to welfare benefits that – without exaggeration – can be said to have damaged and spoiled the lives of millions. We know that thousands of disabled people live in fear of the brown envelope through the door; that some have even starved to death after their benefits have been cut.
These are not isolated cases. They affect all groups: people with learning difficulties; people who are dying; those with major physical and sensory impairments; with painful and enervating long term conditions; with the most severe mental health problems.
Modern governments talk a lot about “evidence-based policy”, but evidence has highlighted the cruel, draconian effects of these social polices.
We need to look way beyond ideological discussions about whether or not policy is “fit for purpose”. Instead, we must ask where this apparent underlying loathing of large groups of people comes from. What is there about us as disabled people that prompts such extreme measures?
Of course we know that governments like ours clutch at a different rationale. Their attacks are not on disabled people per se, they say, but those pretending to be disabled, the “shirking” rather than the “striving” disabled people.
Sadly, it is disabled people indiscriminately – and those close to them – who are suffering appallingly through these measures, not some imagined cohort of con-people or impersonators.
The current direction of travel of social care and welfare reform doesn’t merely represent harsh policy or even reactionary ideology. Instead it is a deliberately prejudiced, vicious attack on a significant minority of the population.
Governments and policymakers haven’t caught up with the reality that medical advances and social and cultural changes mean that the nature of who we are as a population has changed. There are now many more disabled people. Making our lives increasingly difficult may kill some of us, but it won’t seriously change the maths.
The failure of policymakers is that so many disabled people still face appalling and increasing barriers to employment, education, training, family and social life. It’s not getting rid of us that welfare reform should be about, but about challenging and ending these attitudinal, institutional and cultural barriers. And to do this, this government needs to start very firmly with challenging itself and its ministers.
Peter Beresford is emeritus professor of social policy at Brunel University London, professor of citizen participation at Essex University and co-chair of Shaping Our Lives
Good on you Metiria Turei and no people should not falsely claim benefit but many do to survive and all cases some be looked at on their merit.
Fraud for greed should be pounced on, but fraud to live should be different. These people need help and the Society in which they live is not producing that help. It may be that they need help to run their life better so that fraud is not the manner to exist.
Punish the true fraudsters not those just wishing to live.
Society does look down on fraudsters and in many cases rightly so., but many in that Society are also fraudsters. How many try to avoid paying tax or should I say minimize our tax payments, for there are some legal ways to do so, such as ISAs.
But some of the biggest fraudsters are those who appear to have plenty to live on. Some have been MPs in the UK by fiddling expenses, some are Corporations who use many ways to minimize their tax liability many of them being legal, but for a few some that are not.
But why does it appear the person in the street is more likely to be charged than the Corporations, is it because they are easier targets, while Corporations can afford to bring in legal experts to argue when they are suspected of fraud.
Surely all should be equal in the eyes of the law and all should be prosecuted if fraud is suspected and the punishment fit the crime taking into account the circumstances.
The reality of needing to claim benefits also needs to looked at, as for some the need to claim benefits is a necessity not a luxury, as even with benefits they will never be anyway near a luxury status.
All in Government and also the press need to reflect on this and then and only then will the stigma of claiming benefits be lifted and also will the public view of persons on benefits.
The majority on benefits do need these benefits and the fraudsters and certainly so called scroungers are the very few, especially the latter. But are real people who need benefits newsworthy, unless there is a dramatic story more than likely leading to loss of life. The occasional benefit scrounger story is so more apparently newsworthy, so what does this say about ourselves and our so called Society.
I decided to reveal a deception I undertook as a struggling single mother because I am outraged at how society treats the poor
Metiria Turei is an MP and co-leader of the Green party of Aotearoa New Zealand
Last weekend I revealed a lie, a lie that I decided to talk about because of the situation we as a society find ourselves in.
I am the co-leader of the Green party of Aotearoa New Zealand – the third biggest political party in our small democracy. We are two months from our general election, and we’re in a tight tussle to change the government.
Over the weekend, at our party’s AGM, we launched an incomes policy which would create the most significant changes to New Zealand’s welfare system in a generation. It’s a comprehensive piece of work that…
What you will read may be very distressing for you, but we are looking at the worst-case scenario and identifying measures to help you and other claimants.
It would be good to have some feedback on the Health and Work Conversations from people who have made an ESA claim. More we know about it, and more we can fight this.
What you should not do, is to decide not to claim ESA. That is what DWP wants you to do.
Some documents released by the DWP have shown the direction of travel in terms of claiming ESA under UC.
Under the old regime, a person wishing to claim ESA was placed in the ESA assessment phase, attracting the lowest ESA rate (JSA rate), and also no conditionality, and this until a Work Capability Assessment could decide whether the claimant was fit or unfit for work.
The Work and Health Conversation
Under Universal Credit, a person wishing to claim ESA will be first called for a Health and Work Conversation (HWC). This conversation is basically a Work Focus Interview, and is mandatory, which means that a claimant can be sanctioned for not attending. Attending does not only mean being physically present at the interview but also fulfilling all the requirements set by DWP for a WFI:
Regulation 57 of the Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2008:
57.—(1) A claimant is regarded as having taken part in a work-focused interview if the claimant—
(a) attends for the interview at the place and at the date and time notified in accordance with regulation 56;
(b) provides information, if requested by the Secretary of State, about any or all of the matters set out in paragraph (2);
(c) participates in discussions to the extent the Secretary of State considers necessary, about any or all of the matters set out in paragraph (3);
(d) assists the Secretary of State in the completion of an action plan.
(2) The matters referred to in paragraph (1)(b) are—
(a) the claimant’s educational qualifications and vocational training;
(b) the claimant’s work history;
(c) the claimant’s aspirations for future work;
(d) the claimant’s skills that are relevant to work;
(e) the claimant’s work-related abilities;
(f) the claimant’s caring or childcare responsibilities; and
(g) any paid or unpaid work that the claimant is undertaking.
(3) The matters referred to in paragraph (1)(c) are—
For He Who Is Winning, Another Must Lose A song about social justice (or the lack thereof). Written and performed by Ryan Fox. (Lyrics below) Rich is a wolf, he cheats and he steals He’s jolly well banking on insider deals He lies in his den with a grin full of sin As Sarah the… Continue Reading Another must lose
Ministers have been accused of ignoring a public consultation and ploughing ahead with plans that will make their “fitness for work” testing regime even more stressful and unfair for sick and disabled people.
A presentation delivered by two senior Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) civil servants earlier this month suggests that ministers have decided – as many disabled activists feared after the publication of last year’s green paper – to introduce new benefit sanctions for sick and disabled people with the highest support needs.
The presentation at a DWP “Operational Stakeholder Engagement Forum” appears to confirm that the government had decided how it would reform the system of out-of-work disability benefits before its “consultation” process had finished on 17 February.
The government had claimed that it wanted to make the work capability assessment (WCA) less of an ordeal for claimants, with work and pensions secretary Damian Green telling last October’s Conservative party conference he wanted to support those disabled people who cannot work, and “sweep away unnecessary stress and bureaucracy which weighs them down”.
But slides from the presentation appear to show that his new regime will be even harsher, and that many employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants with the highest support needs and barriers to work will for the first time face having their benefits sanctioned if they do not co-operate with the regime.
The slides show DWP has already begun introducing a compulsory, face-to-face “health and work conversation” (HWC) with a jobcentre work coach that will apply to nearly all new claimants of ESA, weeks or even months before they go through the WCA process to decide whether they are not fit for work and eligible for the benefit.
We know that life costs more if you’re disabled. Personal Independence Payments (PIP) play a key role in helping disabled people to manage some of these extra costs.
Last week the Government announced plans to tighten up access to PIP. We are concerned that this reduction in financial support will make it harder for many disabled people to live independent and fulfilling lives.
When launching a new or revision of benefit it is usual practice to do this, initially, via a pilot where any problems can be noticed and sorted before an enlarged rollout. It is my understanding that such a pilot was under took for Universal Credit and with the degree of current problems should not been subject to the larger rollout until the problems had been sorted. To reduce the intendant rollout should never have been considered, let alone allowed to occur. To many if not all of the claimants the benefits they receive are their only sources of income and they should not be expected to exist on no income for any period of time, let alone 6 weeks.
This is gross incompetence on behalf DWP and to say they are working with local authorities to provide extra support at a time when the Government is drastically cutting local authority funding is adding insult to injury. DWP have for some many years proved they and their processes are ‘not fit for purpose’.