by Frances Kelly
Here is a thumbnail of a person with disability. They have hope. They would
like to work. Realistically they know this probably isn’t going to be easy or perhaps even possible.
The government have set an Employment Support Allowance trap for people like this and so far it is working like a dream. Sheffield Hallam statisticians say 600,000 genuinely disabled people will fall in to the black hole and lose their benefits. Disabled people – amongst the poorest and most vulnerable in the country – will have their money taken to pay for the deficit created by others.
While the trap is working this well it can be extended to Disability Living Allowance/ Personal Independence Payment/ Universal Credit – any/all future disability benefits.
The trap is laid with thumbnails. Disability comes in so many forms and degrees that people are forced to resort to quick thumbnail sketches in debates. So the trick is to start with one thumbnail and then deftly slip to
another without any one noticing the switch.
That is called a confidence trick.
Of course the favourite thumbnail is the fit, feckless scrounger pretending to have a bad back while refereeing football matches – boo hiss – the audience wakes up and remembers why they don’t care about disability. The Minister then slips this thumbnail to Incapacity Benefit claimants who he says have been claiming for years. Long term illnesses are like that – they go on for years – that’s why they are called long term. Let’s have a real thumbnail of a person with a long term degenerative condition.
Time to show compassion. The next thumbnail is the poor person so ill -
they will never work again’. This was originally set up under ESA at 10% but they have had to increase it because of the absurdity of the level of successful appeals. This is the Support Group where people are not expected to work. This sounds fine but for many people it is actually not a good place to be. Safe but no hope. No young person should be there. But given the alternative people will continue to try and get in to the Support Groups because safety will win out over hope.
The alternative to the Support Group is the Work Related Activity group (WRAG.) This is the group for the majority of disabled people.
And it is a trick.
The thumbnail for the WRAG is a person not able to work but able to manage a
little back to work activity. In the early days of ESA it was suggested that this might be as gentle as an occasional massage. But once you are in the WRAG just watch that thumbnail slip. No medical miracle has occurred. You still have a permanent or deteriorating condition, but you are subjected to compulsory interviews and work activity under threat of sanctions and loss
Then the thumbnail slips again and a time limit comes in. The thumb nail is now a worker who is definitely on their way to work and the clock has started ticking before your benefit will stop. How did the thumbnail slip from a person who is assessed as unable to work to a person who will work.
It’s a trick.
ESA is flawed. The two groups are not fit for purpose. Neither of the groups actually fits disabled people. Professor Harrington is doomed like Sisyphus to forever attempt an impossible task.
Nothing he can do to the descriptors can change the flaw in the design of the groups.
Here’s a real thumbnail of a person with disability. They have hope. They would like to work. Realistically they know this probably isn’t going to be easy
or perhaps even possible.
Stick to the real thumbnail and design a group for the them.
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Also please sign Pats Petition here and ask as many people/groups to do the same.