Frances Ryan finds welfare checks aren’t so bad

I was “lucky”. Unlike some, I didn’t have to skip meals because my disability benefits had been removed. I wasn’t forced to go through a lengthy and exhausting appeal. I wasn’t, like the late Stephen Smith, forced to discharge myself from hospital in order to attend the tribunal to fight my case. But it is surely a sign of a broken system when disabled people relying on Britain’s safety net are grateful if it catches them without too much pain.

Recipient of taxpayers’ cash interviewed by bureaucrat on verity of need for taxpayers’ cash.

Nothing else happens.

This is an outrage

27 thoughts on “Frances Ryan finds welfare checks aren’t so bad”

  1. While like many fair-minded folk, I can see the point of a benefits system of some sort, I can’t for the life of me understand why any benefits recipient gets it without the necessity to prove continuing need. My job entails a nominal 37.5 hr working week, often more, with an hour each way commute in uncomfortable conditions, i.e. standing in a train. I have no sympathy with anyone on benefits who doesn’t suffer 10 hours a week of discomfort, and who puts in less hours overall. After all, you are in a wheelchair, so you can read a book while waiting. What are you going to do with the time otherwise? Go to the Gym, run a marathon?

    And as for proving that you continue to deserve benefits, ever heard of appraisals?

  2. Bloke in North Dorset

    I know people in wheelchairs who are in discomfort and some level of pain all the time.

    As many of those claiming disability benefit were either born disabled or are the subject of some unfortunate and irreversible even eg stroke or accident and aren’t going to get better and maybe slowly get worse, annual appraisals do seem like a waste of everyone’s time. Some could be 5 or even 10 years.

  3. I sympathise with people who find the benefits system a confusing and scary bureaucratic hedge maze like wot Jack Nicholson did in THE SHINING.

    Otoh, like Witchie alludes to, isn’t that a feature rather than a bug? If Universal Credit ever works, we’re gonna need *something* unpleasant for people to do to “earn” their keep, lest there be no incentive to ever get off benefits. Cos it’s not just about the money, a lot of people are quite happy to subsist on bennies.

  4. As with everything, the genuine suffer because of the actions of the non-genuine. The reason disabled people have to suffer such appraisals is because there’s an army of lead swingers out there trying it on.

    “But it is surely a sign of a broken system when disabled people relying on Britain’s safety net are grateful if it catches them without too much pain.”

    I wonder if she would apply the same attitude to that wonder of the world, the NHS? That the mark of its failure is that someone is pathetically grateful when it doesn’t fuck up their health care?

  5. BlokeInTejasInNormandy

    No, no no, you fools!

    What pissed her off was that the appraiser was an employee of a private company:

    “You consider how exactly the employee of a private company is in a better place to judge your health needs than your own consultant who has provided evidence, and whether putting foundation on was a mistake in case you look “too well”.”

    I don’t think that the employee was acting as a medical consultant. She was checking that presented reality was consistent with the paperwork.

    I think the phrase that rules is “trust, but verify.”

    Would she gave felt better had it been a real town-hall employee?

  6. I agree with BiND that there should be a different system for people who have an incurable condition that is definitely not going to get better. How is it saving money for the taxpayer putting such people through the mill every year? In fact it costs money to do it.

  7. “How is it saving money for the taxpayer putting such people through the mill every year?”

    Check if they are actually still alive. How many times have dishonest family collected benefits for dead people for many years?

    Check if their benefits should actually be increased because their condition has worsened.

    Finally, and bestest and mostest, screw the taxpayers, it keeps a unionized civil servant in work.

  8. I think Witchie’s first sentence encapsulated all the cases that deserve support, and an annual appraisal is surely enough for the incurably disabled, but some form of check is always needed. Weekly checks should catch the genuinely workshy, and for other cases, something in between will do.

    The point made is that if it takes anyone less time to collect benefits than it does to collect wages/salary, then there’s an extra benefit to benefits …

  9. First this is written in the Grauniad by a journalist selling approved outrage, so I give it low credibility.

    2nd the DWP are famously easy to trick so any new system has to go back over old cases because some “disabled” people have lied before in a way that takes money off th genuinely disabled.

    3rd it’s a private employee now because government can’t even give away free money.

  10. My consultant is an angel above any repute and CANNOT LIE!!!!! and MUST be believed by the state!

    Alternatively, I CANNOT LIE!!!! and I HAVEN’T given you false documents, and you MUST believe ME!!!!!

    When I wanted to get free(ish) money from the bank to buy my house I had to prove that the documents I was supplying were true, when I wanted to get free(ish) drugs from the pharmacy I had to prove that the documents I was supplying were true, when I wanted to get free(ish) money from the dole office I had to prove that the documents I was supplying were true.

  11. It’s all the fault of “right-wing cabinet minsters” in Tony Blair’s cabinet.
    OTOH the system IS bloody awful because they said that the decision had to be made by a medical professional but NOT that said medical professional need to know anything whatsoever about the disability in question.
    This gives the Grauniad yet another excuse to blame the Tories for Labour’s errors.

  12. For health stuff you take the consultant’s word for it.
    For benefits stuff – and its never about health – its a waste of time asking a consultant.
    How can a consultant know how far I can walk? How can a consultant know about my ability to sit in a chair? How can a consultant know what I can lift? They cannot.
    An assessor is much cheaper. And better able to decide on what is in front of them.

    Our benefits system is not health based. It is however ability based for some benefits that some disabled apply for.

  13. “For health stuff you take the consultant’s word for it.For benefits stuff – and its never about health – its a waste of time asking a consultant.”

    Its also extremely unwise to ask someone who has an ongoing professional relationship with the claimant. Is a medical professional going to a) be utterly objective about the abilities of his or her patients or b) consistently err on the side of ‘just give them the money’ because the patient will know it was his decision to deny any benefits claim, and thus likely to cause trouble down the line?

  14. Bloke in North Dorset

    To add some anecdotes to back up Martin’s excellent post. At sailibility we have a number wheelchair bound sailors:

    One can can get in and out of his car without help. Dress himself, get up and down to the pontoons and sail the adapted boats without help. All we need to do is hoist him in and out of the boat, and he provides help getting the straps right. He works in the professions.

    One young man can drive his electric chair and sail the adapted boats. However he needs lots of help getting in and out of the boat and his lack of communication makes things difficult. He’s bright and understands instructions but still gets distressed when we are hoisting him in and out. He gets tired quickly and needs lots of care support. His parents are his carers, but they are aging and he’ll soon need more State help.

    One woman needs a chair to get to and from the pontoons but can stand and with support step in to a boat and make herself comfortable.

    We had a new sailor last week. She can’t operate her own electric chair and needed 2 carers to help her and a physio had come along to hep us figure out the best way to hoist her in and out and to make sure she was secure and safe in the boat. Her carers came along with her for the sail to make sure she was secure. The said she had a great time so hopefully she’ll be back.

    Each of these cases, plus the many more need different levels of support and someone has to asses their needs. Whether its a private company or the State directly it isn’t an easy task and its easy to see how problems arise.

    As to the State doing it directly, I’m sure we could put Jim’s blood pressure up and ask him how well Defra deals with farmers 🙂

  15. “As to the State doing it directly, I’m sure we could put Jim’s blood pressure up and ask him how well Defra deals with farmers ”

    Don’t ask……..suffice it to say there are plenty of people still waiting for money they are owed by Defra from several years ago…………..I personally had to wait 18 months for money I was owed once, entirely down to their incompetence, nothing to do with my failure to comply with some rule of other.

    Their favourite trick is they have this thing called ‘Remote Sensing’ whereby they take satellite images of the land, shove them through a computer program and generate data as to the land use to check vs what claimants are claiming. The problem being that this process is stuffed with errors, which then cascade down through the whole process, making perfectly legitimate claims look fraudulent. Which then get flagged for penalties because of the discrepancies. It can take years for the original mapping errors to be overturned, and the claim accepted as perfectly OK.

    I think there have been suicides caused by the failure of Defra to pay farmers the money they were owed, and people have been unable to pay bills etc, and its all become too much for them to cope with.

  16. the thing I’d wish one of these people to just once acknowledge is that where there’s problems with the new system, that’s what comes from previous broken system. A new government comes to power, has to fix the mess of spending, addresses it by getting lots of people off benefits who don’t need it, but yes, there’s going to be some problems.

    It’s the state. And the state is shit at doing anything fast. And typically only fixes things when they reach outrageous levels, one way or another. It can never look at rising disability claims and try and find out what is happening and fix it. Someone fixes it when everyone knows someone who is abusing the system.

    I’ve worked in financial services companies where we released products with “holes” in them, where customers could really take the piss and when we spotted them we fixed them in a matter of days.

  17. “It’s the state. And the state is shit at doing anything fast.”

    Or even half sensible in the first place. Take Universal Credit. The system can only deal with a person getting one salary payment per month. If by some quirk of the calendar, the employers PAYE system and the banking system you end up with 2 monthly payments into your bank account in one calendar month, and none in another, the system assumes your salary has doubled and cuts off your UC. And you then have to reapply and wait for the whole thing to start up again. What sort of moron doesn’t realise that people don’t always get paid exactly on the last day of the month each and every month? And creates a system that penalises anyone who has the audacity not to fit into their prearranged boxes?

  18. I’ve been telling you for ten years that government should not be in the charity business.

    ‘I think there have been suicides caused by the failure of Defra to pay farmers the money they were owed’

    As an American, I don’t understand this. Why kill yourself? Kill the sumbitch that’s causing you the problem. You don’t deserve killin’, he does!

  19. It’s clear that some of the commenters above, and possibly TW, have never been in a situation that they needed support to get through a situation. To be honest, until fairly recently I’d have agreed with some of them !
    Without going into any detail (that’s my business, not yours), I have a number of conditions that can occasionally cause problems with my ability to work. In the not too distant past, at the suggestion of the work coach at the job centre, I was moved from JSA to ESA – which for those who don’t know is a bit like sick pay for unemployed. I was only unemployed due to having been made “redundant” – it wasn’t genuine redundancy, but try proving that “legitimate business decisions” weren’t a deliberate policy to engineer out troublesome employees. Besides which, at the time I would have been mentally incapable of dealing with the stress of taking the employer to a tribunal, especially within the timescales allowed,
    Compared to my previous salary, the level of benefits is far from generous – and without savings and generous support from parents we’d have struggled, especially when my wife had to stop work due to a serious illness which took a year to recover from.
    Naively I expected a positive result from my assessment – but was more than surprised when I scored zero. Not just “not enough points” but zero points. As an aside, my wife who hobbled in on crutches and couldn’t complete part of the assessment due to an inability to even stand without holding a crutch, also scored zero points – to the incredulity of the job centre staff. When the people inside the system can’t believe things, that says something !
    Reading my assessment report, I could have been excused for thinking it had been a different person in the room with the assessor. It was full of assumptions and inferences with no basis in fact, and many of which were specifically incorrect. Needless to say, my initial appeal (request for mandatory reconsideration) did nothing as the person doing the re-assessment simply ignored these points and came to the same conclusion based on the same incorrect assessment report.
    Being a bit of a stubborn type, I appealed to the tribunal as a matter of principle – and waited about 6 months for a hearing. By the time of the hearing, I had (mostly) recovered from the problems that made me apply for ESA and had already found and been offered a new job. But the tribunal ruled in my favour and determined that I should not have been declared fit for work at the time of the assessment.
    As I’d already found a new job, the DWP back paid the ESA I’d been entitled to from when it was stopped to when I “signed off”.
    I’ll also point out that if you find and study the assessment criteria, they are fundamentally designed to “fail” assessments. They are “functional capacity” tests – each taken in isolation. So if you have several “mild” issues which between them are a problem in working, then you score nothing because you score nothing for each of the many functional tests. This is exacerbated because each test has a high threshold before you score any points at all – so you have to have a serious disability for any function to score anything.
    Example. If you are driving somewhere and the road is blocked, can you find an alternative route and complete the journey ? Well, generally yes ….. depending on other factors. For many, the technical answer (which will be the one written down) is “yes” – but without any reference to other issues such as getting so stressed about the break to the pre-arranged routine that while you might arrive, when you do you will be unfit to do any work.
    Another test is (something like) “can you lift a carton of milk”. Seems simple enough, but context is important. You may be able to, while suffering pain, and working slowly – in which case you will be assessed “nul point” for that.
    So assuming you can move yourself 500m with or without assistance and with or without a wheelchair (no points), can navigate (no points), and lift a carton of milk (no points) then you are apparently fit to work as a milkman ! Basically, the assessment methodology is fundamentally flawed.
    Here’s the crunch. We had savings, we had support from generous family – so we were able to cope. The DWP policy is to stop payments at a whim, and then it’s up to the claimant to survive (on what ?) for as long as it takes to appeal. Here’s an exercise for all those “what’s wrong with the system” people :
    Consider that you’ve been living for some time on considerably less than you have coming in now – so the chances of you having significant savings are slim. Make do on 70-something quid a week. Now make do on zilch, nada, nothing. The DWP has stopped your benefit, so you now get nothing.
    How long can you cope with that for ? A month ? That’s how long it took the DWP to “reassess” my claim and still not pay what I was due. Another 6 months ? That’s how long it took to get to a tribunal hearing. So consider 6, 7, 8 months with no income – and you think that’s right ?
    So after 6, 7, 8 months you are shown to be right and get back payment of benefits. What use is that if you’re now homeless because your house has been repossessed because you can’t pay the mortgage, you can’t rent privately because you haven’t got enough for a deposit and in any case you will struggle to find a private landlord who’ll rent to you, and the council don’t have any houses any more. What use is it when you’ve screwed up your credit rating. What use is it when the stress of “coping” with it has made you even more ill – and that in turn makes it even harder to find a new job.
    I agree that “something needed to be done” – but we’ve definitely gone a long way down the rabbit hole of “everyone is a shirker until they can prove otherwise, and while they are doing that, they’ll have to get by on nothing”.
    I went looking for some stats, and found this Hansard report. it makes depressing reading on one hand, but also some positives in that at least some MPs see that there is a problem to be addressed !

  20. Simon, why do you think government should help you? Your local community should help you, should they deem you worthy. Relying on the central state makes you ripe for the dystopian statism which you relate to us.

  21. the welfare system is not fit for purpose. Its a mish-mash of arbitrary rules, and demonstrates two things. Government is not capable of running it, and politicians are not capable of designing it.

  22. @Simon

    Having experienced the joy of life on that kind of money per week during periods of chronic illness, I decided to go hell for leather at building up an investment portfolio big enough to sustain me indefinitely if required. Turned out to be useful but required a decade of sacrifice to get there.

    Not sure there ever can be a perfect benefits system, as the more generous it gets the more incentive to play it, and I don’t know what a perfect assessment system would look like either – clearly we ain’t got it. Universal minimum income might help but doesn’t look politically tractable and again causes perverse incentives in the migration/citizenship market.

  23. “By virtue of genetics it is scientifically impossible”.

    File under “phrases you rarely read in the guardian”.

  24. Wonko – you assume the purpose is to pay benefits.
    What if the purpose, far as civil servants are concerned, is to not pay benefits?

    Give an award – nice and quick, so long as no trouble crops up the claimant will keep quiet and never bother the office.
    Minimal staff needed.

    Appeals, reviews, all take considerable time and attention. I worked in DLA for 4 years and we had probably a thousand staff in the building.

    From claimants point of view – and these days that includes me – the purpose of the benefit claim is to get money. From government point of view they’d prefer not to have money paid out, but seeing as it is going to be paid lets make sure only the ‘right’ people receive it.

    I got nil points on last PIP assessment. Apparently I can walk 200 metres – well yes I can but will take me better part of 2 hours and be spread over the course of much of the day with hours of rest too. In one go 50 metres is outside limit.

    My reality and assessors reality do not match. Theirs trumps mine until such time as someone else decides different.
    I just have to live with my reality every day.

    Bloke in North Dorset – sailability, now there’s a name I’ve not heard in a while. Must get my wife to look them over, she loves sailing but is hard to get around these days.

  25. @ Martin
    What if the purpose is to stop the Daily Wail screaming about “benefit scroungers” and costing Tony Blair votes?
    Guy in my street was knocked off his motorbike twenty-odd years ago and will never be able to walk at as much as/more than 2 mph. So he cannot get a paid job, volunteers in a Charity shop (when Oxfam closed he volunteered at Air Ambulance). “Scrounger”? YMBJ. Last year some jobsworth tried to take him off ESA.
    The thousand staff may explain why DWP managed to lose, in succession, a form handed in at the Jobcentre, one sent by post, the next one sent by Recorded Delivery, another handed in at the Jobcentre and another sent by Recorded Delivery, before a copy was sent to the local MP., by which time the DLA owing ran into four figures. [Obviously, that doesn’t refer to me – even when injured I can walk 20,000 metres, which is probably off their scale.].

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