Sunday, 28 October 2012

'The Hardest Hit' and How the Government are Trying to Shaft Disabled People

I was going to write something light-hearted today, but after reading more about The Hardest Hit campaign, I just had to discuss it.

It is a brilliant campaign aiming to get the simple message across to the Government that a continuation of the changes to the disability benefits system will leave many disabled people with no independence and seriously struggling to make ends meet, thus negatively impacting their mental as well as physical health.

A report called The Tipping Point was released earlier this month, and it is powerful stuff. As many of you may have heard by now, the actual percentage of DLA 'fraudsters' was 0.5% when the cuts were first put in place. And yet, as a result of these changes disabled people in the UK are expected to cope with £9bn of cuts over the lifetime of this government. Half of which will be from the welfare budget.

Now, after an afternoon of research here are a few points taken from the Government statistics.
If you think I've got the wrong end of the stick, please let me know, but as far as I could tell it was pretty self-explanatory. All the info was taken from the Department of Statistics..all of which is readily available here.

Focusing of DLA...which is, as we know, is under-going frankly unfair cuts and a radical changes:

  1. According to the government estimated overpayments in 2011/12 (preliminary) £12.6 billion was spent on Disability Living Allowance.
  2. 1.9% of this (£240 million) was overpaid due to FRAUD AND ERROR. Importantly it's the 'error' part of this that doesn't get much coverage. 
  3. 0.5% (£60 million) of this was paid to fraudsters.
  4. 0.6% (£80 million) of this was overpaid due to errors the claimant made. As this wasn't counted as fraud, I can only assume these were honest mistakes...perhaps because the form is such a flipping puzzle!
  5. 0.8% (£100 million) was overpaid due to errors made by the OFFICIALS, such as clerical errors in the DWP. Note that this is responsible for the largest percentage.
  6. These are the preliminary figures for 2011/12, but the last time the figures were actually measured was April 04 - March 05. The DWP considers it important enough to be in the 'occasionally reviewed' bracket. Not 'continuously reviewed' like Income Support, Housing Benefit, Pension Credit and Job Seekers Allowance. Incapacity Benefit (another benefit being 'revamped' and strangled by the government) is ALSO in the 'occasionally reviewed' bracket.

Now, for starters, if a government is planning on making cuts to benefits that will leave those already vulnerable struggling to maintain a decent quality of life, do you not think they would use up-to-date facts to base their decisions on? I can only assume that the government doesn't really consider there to be too many problems with the DLA in order for the figures to only be 'occasionally reviewed'.

So we've learnt that, though readily blaming the cuts on people who are defrauding the system, MORE money is actually overpaid due to official errors. So not the fault of us little people at all! Plus, the government recover back a large majority of any overpayments. Though according to this statement in their statistics, 

"The 2004/05 Disability Living Allowance (DLA) National Benefit Review identified cases where the change in customer’s needs had been so gradual that it would be unreasonable to expect them to know at which point their entitlement to DLA might have changed. These cases do not result in a recoverable overpayment as we cannot identify when the change occurred. Because legislation requires the Secretary of State to prove that entitlement to DLA is incorrect, rather than requiring the customer to inform us that their needs have changed, cases in this sub-category are legally correct." 

Hmm....trying to control something that can't be controlled or estimated or assessed easily. That must really piss. them. off. 

So, some teeny proportion of DLA is overpaid and 'undeserving'. Fine. However, out of the benefit budget for Disability Living Allowance an estimated 2.5% (£320 million) is UNDERPAID to claimants. 2.4% is due to errors made by the claimant and 0.1% due to 'official' errors. 

So to conclude
  • fraudulent, unworthy or mistaken claims of Disability Living Allowance is estimated to be costing the government £140 million in 2011/12 (Only £60 million of which is fraud)
  • Clerical errors and possibly people just not doing their job properly is estimated to be costing the government £100 million.
  • The total DLA overpayment spend is £240 million
  • A whopping £320 million is actually UNDERPAID to worthy claimants.
  • So there's no doubt that the benefits system costs the government a huge amount, but very little of allocated is to claimants who are undeserving and a MORE is actually spent because of clerical errors.
  • There are more people claiming DLA but this is not because of people 'defrauding' the system and trying to con them. It is likely to be due to medical practices improving, and in the case of MS, diagnosis being made quicker and more efficiently. 
And yet according to many..... all claimants are scroungers who are costing this country billions of pounds. And, yeah, didn't you know that the majority of people who claim are lying just so they don't have to work and can sit on their arse and watch Jeremy Kyle while the rest of us taxpayers work hard to support them. And did you know that even some of them are GIVEN car by the government, but I swear I saw her walk to the shop the other day, so she can't be THAT bad and why should I pay for it with my money.....and so on.

and THAT is why we're in the state we are in.

Oh, and to put into perspective even more £60 million (the same as fraudulent DLA claimants cost the system) has just been raised by the Cabinet Office by leasing out the Admiralty Arch in London.

Now, if that's not enough to make your blood boil on a Sunday evening, I don't know what is!