Esther McVey and the Tipping Point

The Hardest Hit campaign recently brought out a report, the Tipping Point, about the impact of the welfare reform on disabled people.  Various papers ran an article on this report, including a statement from Minister for Disabled People Esther McVey, such as the one reported by the BBC:

Ester McVey said there were a lot of misleading stories about the impact of welfare reforms on disabled people.

“The truth is – as the Paralympics showed – the UK continues to be a world leader in the rights for disabled people.

“However, too often under the current system we are wasting money on overpayments where people’s conditions have changed, with £630m a year on DLA alone.”[1]

Are there any misleading stories?  Yes, but not the ones Ms McVey is implying.

Here are a few examples of what is implied or stated about fraud in the benefits system:

“Half a million people are set to lose disability benefits as the Government pushes ahead with plans to rid the system of abuse and fraud, Iain Duncan Smith says.”[2]

“The amount of money lost to benefit fraud and error has soared by a staggering £200million since the Coalition took office – despite repeated pledges from David  Cameron to fight the scandal.”[3]

“More than £1BILLION lost to disability benefit fraud and error – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”[4]

“Too much of what workers pay is wasted in a bloated welfare system where fraud and abuse is rife.” [5]

What about the ones McVey is implying?  From the rest of the article and what McVey says, I assume she is talking about articles discussing negative impacts of the reform on disabled people.  For example, the fact that the government is cutting 20% off the working-age Disability Living Allowance bill.  By definition, this means less money and less support for the disabled.

Or the fact that it is ending the Independent Living Fund.

Or that whilst the government is removing billions from welfare, all the cuts focus on just 1/3 of benefit recipients; i.e. on anyone who is not a pensioner.

Demos calculated that disabled people and their carers are £500 million worse off.  They report deteriorations in mental health, increasing isolation and increasing burden on informal care.[6]

These are just a few of the impacts.

Is the UK a world leader for disabled rights?  Well, the UK is below average for proportions of disabled people in jobs.  Although just over 90% of disabled people have an income from work, benefits or both (making UK the third best of OECD countries for this measure), the UK has one of the toughest tests for incapacity and one of the lowest rates of payments.  The personal income of disabled people, whether in work of not, is amongst the lowest of OECD countries.  So whilst many disabled people manage to get an income together from somewhere – whether work, disability benefits or other benefits – this income is low compared to both the income of disabled people in other countries and the income of non-disabled people in this country.

The Paralympics showed very little.  They did not show the increase in disability hate crime in this country, or the increase in pejorative language used by the media towards benefit recipients.  Transport for London did introduce ramps for 16 of its tube stations, but the number of accessible stations remains at 66 of 270.  Not all buses will take people in wheelchairs, even when there is a ramp available and working.  Small train stations remain inaccessible – I recently took a 2 hour detour when station staff forgot to get me off at the right station, and the station after did not have wheelchair access to the platform for trains going back to where I was supposed to be.

Are we wasting too much money on overpayments?  £630 million is a figure estimated by the previous minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller.  It refers to individuals where change in circumstances has been so gradual that a definite cut-off for no longer qualifying for DLA cannot be identified.  But Ms Miller did not also estimate how much is underpaid because people who gradually become eligible for DLA do not apply at the moment when they cross the boundary from not qualifying to qualifying.  Apart from this type of under- or over-payment, £180 million is overpaid due to errors and £310 million is underpaid due to errors.

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2 thoughts on “Esther McVey and the Tipping Point

  1. Pingback: Esther McVey and the Tipping Point | Mental Health, Politics and LGBT issues | Scoop.it

  2. Pingback: Update 4: The DWP, Benefits, Atos, etc.. « MADD Suspicions

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