The Work, Health and Disability Green Paper

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NeuralgicNeurotic

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http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/23538



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It’s early days, but there have already been some very good initial responses to the government’s Green Paper on Work, Health and Disability. The best I’ve seen so far comes from Neil Crowther. Neil attended the launch of the Green Paper and writes,

“When asked how the government would manage to get 1.2 million disabled people into work by 2020 when the OBR reports that the government aims to secure jobs for 900,000 more people overall, the Minister pretty much confirmed that ‘halving the Disability Employment Gap’ was little more than a distant aspiration.  It is of course a more attractive and apparently noble way to frame policy than ‘cutting benefits for disabled people’ and my sense is that it is little more than a new frame, as cutting benefits expenditure – and the costs to business and the NHS of ‘sickness’ –  appears to remain the primary driver.”




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The yawning chasm between the Green Paper’s rhetoric and the reality of what government has done and is doing to disabled people is perhaps its most striking characteristic. The Emperor really does not have any clothes.

 In fact, given recent government policy towards disabled people, it seems surprising that the disability employment gap isn’t even bigger. With the abolition of the Independent Living Fund, cuts to Access to Work, and hundreds of people a week losing mobility help after a PIP assessment, it seems a distinct possibility that, far from being reduced, that gap could grow.

In today’s Guardian (2 November 2016), Frances Ryan writes that “care cuts have left one million disabled people stranded” and tells of Julie Sharp, 30. “For an insight into how all the strings of disabled people’s independence are being pulled at once, consider that as Julie sees her social care cut, she’s also been turned down for the wheelchair she needs. Instead, she’s been given a non-powered one. She hasn’t got the strength to propel it so she’s stuck, unable to move.”




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The disability employment gap involves two groups, disabled people themselves, and employers. No matter how hard disabled people try, they will not get jobs if employers are not prepared to employ them, making reasonable adjustments and accepting that, for instance, they may need to take time off for hospital appointments or a flare up of their condition.

In this relationship between disabled people and employers, employers hold virtually all the cards, and have it in their power to make a huge difference to the situation. They have so far shown little inclination to do so, but are nevertheless courted and praised, through the government’s Disability Confident scheme. Meanwhile, the government piles pressure onto ill and disabled people for not striving harder to get jobs that just aren’t there. Tens of thousands of people who the DWP’s own assessors consider unfit to work have been sanctioned, and new ESA claimants placed in the Work Related Activity Group (unfit to work) are about to get a £30 per week cut, placing them on the same financial footing as a non-disabled Jobseeker.




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This new Green Paper seems to have emerged from some other, better world, a world in which innovative ideas about getting disabled people into work seem feasible – whilst here in the real world the government systematically removes all the support that makes it possible for disabled people to lead a dignified life, and employers (including the DWP itself ) sack people who take too much time off sick. 

Before piling more pressure onto disabled people to get jobs, the government needs to a) ensure suitable jobs exist, and b) restore all the support it has removed that would make it possible for them to work, e.g. restore Motability cars, reverse the £4.6 billion social care cuts etc. Otherwise, to paraphrase Geoffrey Howe, it’s like a team captain sending a batsman to the crease with a broken bat, and then punishing him for not scoring any runs.

There are some interesting proposals in the Green Paper, which I hope to write about in the coming weeks, but it seemed important to first place it in the context of current reality.




Link to the Work, Health and Disability consultation:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/work-health-and-disability-improving-lives/work-health-and-disability-green-paper-improving-lives

Sunny Clouds

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I have three key issues over plans in relation to ESA.

Firstly, it seems pretty obvious to me that the government is set upon reducing ESA to one category, ostensibly to make it simpler and fairer, but in reality to enable them to reduce support group rates down to the new ESA WRAG rates.

Secondly, making everyone do work related activity, report to jobcentre etc. seems to be a way of setting them up for sanctions, and we know that in the absence of legal aid, fewer people are appealing DWP decisions, so if people who are most incapacitated are sanctioned, they'll be least able to appeal.

Thirdly, there are the obvious concerns that go with a general attitude that sickness/disability benefits (entangled at the best of times) are only a temporary thing until people find work.  The two consequent implications are that it may in due course be paired with an American-style time limit on their version of JSA, so likewise a time limit on our future versions of JSA, ESA, UC or whatever; and the other consequent implication is a change of attitude that is very dangerous.  I wouldn't mention it to 'vulnerable' people were it not that you're none of you here without political awareness.  It goes back to Nazi 'useless mouths' and 'workshy'.  I think people remember 'useless mouths' more than 'workshy' but workshy was the relevant concentration/death camp category.  So it's important that awareness is kept to the forefront that some people can't work and will never work but are still useful people.  Maybe an emphasis on 'this could be you or your relative'.
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

Monic1511

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Its only going to get worse as the transfer over to universal credit escalates.

In UC there is no disability premium or sdp so that affects the disabled person
If you are classed as underemployed - work less than 35 hours - you have to take steps to increase your working hours and report to the jobcentre.
UC replaces tax credits so anyone on tax credits who ends up on UC (full service areas) has to increase their hours, attend the jobcentre -can you just see everyone employed at the big supermarkets asking for a letter from their employer explaining that they cannot increase their hours as the employer has no extra work for them, just to avoid a sanction.  The local asda/Tesco manager is not going to be happy writing letters for 40 employees

KizzyKazaer

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In UC there is no disability premium or sdp so that affects the disabled person

Oh for goodness' sake (I am thinking in much stronger language) - when is this wretched, mean-spirited, heartless government going to stop penalising us like we are the 'useless eaters' Sunny mentioned:  if we could be working the requisite number of hours we'd be doing it, and being happy that we are actually fit enough to do so  >steam< 

None of us asked to be like we are and live on the knife-edge that is the so-called 'cushy' life on benefits these days.

Next stop, voluntary euthanasia?  >doh<

Sunny Clouds

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The thing is, who's sticking up for us?

Ever since the influential opinion-piece writer Dr Peverley quite happily wrote an article that appeared in more than one medical publication in which he said he was going to put a picture of Stephen Hawking on his wall, without a big outcry from doctors (except a few) we knew that doctors won't stand up for us except on a low-level individual basis.
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

NeuralgicNeurotic

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On the other hand, Sunny, the BMA did come out pretty unambiguously against the WCA. At the moment, I think that doctors are distracted by their own struggle against what Hunt is doing to the NHS.

On the subject of the Green Paper, Jenny Morris provides a good analysis here:

https://jennymorrisnet.blogspot.co.uk/2016/11/the-work-health-and-disability-green.html

NeuralgicNeurotic

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http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/23562


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Does Green Paper reveal government's lack of commitment to the welfare state?

By Bernadette Meaden

November 11, 2016


Does a section of the government’s Green Paper on Work, Health and Disability reveal its ultimate lack of commitment to the welfare state, as it openly seeks to expand the role of private insurance?




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The relevant section of the Green Paper says, “Encourage better provision by the insurance industry, and take-up by employers, of income protection insurance.

 "There are various insurance policies that employers and employees can take out to support them in addressing the risks and impacts of ill health: life insurance, private medical insurance, critical illness cover or personal accident or sickness insurance. This final element can be taken out by individuals, in the form of Individual Income Protection, or by employers on behalf of their employees as Group Income Protection.

"We think group income protection insurance policies have a much greater role to play …. and therefore want to explore why larger employers are not making better use of these products and what would encourage them to do so.“




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This was reported in the Financial Times Advertiser as,  “ the government called on the insurance industry to create appropriate products that will get more employees covered by a workplace-based policy, and reduce the burden on the state of long-term sick pay.”

Not surprisingly, the insurance industry welcomed a development which could expand it's market dramatically. A spokesperson said, "Both Government and the industry have a role to play in raising awareness of the need to protect income against the consequences of prolonged illness or disability..." Surely the welfare state was set up to support people who experienced prolonged illness or disability? Clearly the government would now prefer us not to rely on that.

Remember, the Green Paper was co-authored by the DWP and the Department of Health. With the NHS struggling as a result of deliberate underfunding, and sickness and disability benefits less generous and harder to access, here are both the responsible government departments, openly calling on the insurance industry to step in and fill the gap that has been deliberately created.




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To anyone who has been a close observer of welfare reform, this won’t come as a surprise. The insurance industry has been highly influential in shaping government policy on sickness and disability benefits. This has been documented comprehensively by Mo Stewart in her book Cash Not Care: the planned demolition of the UK welfare state. But whereas in the past the government has been reluctant to acknowledge such influence, they are now openly seeking to offload the ‘burden’ of people who are long-term sick or disabled.

In July 2015, Iain Duncan Smith gave an interview to the Telegraph. Under the headline “Iain Duncan Smith Hints at Welfare Privatisation” it reported that, “Iain Duncan Smith has hinted that the future of Britain’s welfare system could rest in the arms of private insurance schemes.”

It is perhaps also relevant to note that in July, Theresa May appointed John Godfrey as her Director of Policy at Number10. Mr Godfrey was previously corporate affairs director at the insurance company Legal and General. In that capacity in 2015 he outlined a private insurance policy, "a form of cover for people who are unable to earn because they fall sick", which would pay out 40 per cent of the policyholder's salary for twelve months – a generosity which ESA claimants could only dream of.




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This may sound attractive – reduce the burden on the state through promoting private insurance, which pays out more generously than the state. If any subsequent saving was ploughed back into making state benefits more generous, then it could conceivably be a good thing. But does anybody seriously believe that would happen?

There are several significant dangers inherent in such private insurance cover. First, there will always be some people who won’t be able to access it, because they aren't in work, their work is too insecure, or they have a pre-existing condition which makes private insurance prohibitively expensive.

Second, a profit-driven company has an implicit incentive not to pay out when a claim is made. This is why the offices of one of the biggest insurance companies in the United States became known as ‘disability denial factories’ as workers who became sick or disabled found they would not pay out when they needed to claim.

And third, if all the people in secure, well paid jobs become privately insured against sickness or disability, they will have little or no stake in the continuation of state provision. Their interests, and the interests of people who can’t access private insurance, will inevitably begin to diverge.




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If a situation develops where a significant percentage of people have private insurance cover, and the welfare state is only for the very poorest people, then something precious in our national life will have been lost. Since its inception, the mutuality of the welfare state has bound us together. We paid our National Insurance, and although for much of our lives we were paying for the help and support that other people received, we knew that at some point we too may need support. In that sense, we really were all in it together, supporting each other.

If a growing section of the population begins to feel they have no need of the welfare state, that it is merely provision for an uninsured underclass, then there will be very little impetus to defend it against cuts, and very little desire to pay taxes to support it. Ultimately, the promotion of private sickness and disability insurance by the government could herald the beginning of the end of the welfare state.