Tag Archives: WCA

Budget 2017 – so near and yet so far

The Chancellor today has announced the second Budget of this year and the first since the General Election. It was a deliberately low-key affair after a turbulent few months for the Government.

In this blog, we take a look at the impact that this will have on disabled people’s lives.

There was a much-needed announcement to Universal Credit which is a step in the right direction for disabled people. The seven-day initial waiting period for processing claims has been scrapped and the repayment period for advance payments has been extended from six months to twelve. Claimants will also be able to get a 100 percent advance now, rather than 50 percent.

However, as our helpline calls demonstrate, we remain concerned there are still fundamental problems with Universal Credit that were not addressed today.

The Government is failing to collect data on the number of disabled people claiming Universal Credit and their experiences. We know from our helpline that many disabled people are worried about what the shift to Universal Credit means for them and the loss of disability premiums means many disabled people will be financially worse off. With disabled people already paying extra costs of £550 a month related to their disability and less likely to have savings we oppose the loss of these premiums.

We need to see urgent reform

The Government has promised to get one million more disabled people into work by 2027. In order for that to happen, we need to see urgent reform to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) so that it better identifies the barriers disabled people face to finding work.

With the Government expected to publish their response to the Improving Lives Green Paper shortly, we need to see ambitious reforms to support disabled people to find and stay in work. As well as reforming the WCA the Government need to look at what more employers can be doing to support their disabled employees and make sure schemes such as Access to Work are available to everyone who needs them.

Disappointingly the Chancellor did not take the opportunity to confirm that there will be no further cuts to disability benefits in this Parliament. We’d like to see the Government commit to protecting the value of vital payments such as Employment and Support Allowance and Personal Independence Payments.

A missed opportunity

While the announcement of more funding for the NHS was welcome, the Government has failed to act on social care again. The social care system is increasingly under pressure and while the Government has set out plans to consult on social care for older people it’s not clear what they’ll be doing to support the 278,000 disabled people who rely on social care for basic support.

Overall this Budget looks like another missed opportunity to improve the lives of the UK’s 13.3 million disabled people. With action needed to tackle the barriers disabled people face at work, at home and in their communities, we’d like to have seen the Chancellor be bolder.

If you have any questions or concerns about the changes made to your support, please call Scope’s Helpline on 0808 800 3333. 

Visit our website for more information on disability benefits.

Ed Miliband’s welfare speech: three talking points

Ed Miliband has given a high-profile speech on welfare. The BBC’s headline is that Labour would cap social security spending. But underneath the soundbite the speech covered a lot of ground. The Scope policy team considers what it might mean for disabled people:

1. Investing in better employment support will bring down benefit expenditure

Successive Governments have recognised that supporting more disabled people into work can bring down social security spending. But too many programmes have had the wrong focus. Scope has long been clear that the Work Capability Assessment doesn’t work; our figures show that only 1,000 disabled people have got a job through the Work Programme. Ed Miliband is right to make this a big issue when it comes to welfare. But he needs to be clear that the reason unemployment is high for disabled people is because there are barriers to the labour market and a lack of appropriate jobs – not because disabled people don’t want to work.

We need to assess what the barriers disabled people face actually are rather than focusing on whether someone is medically able to stand up in the shower.

And we need to make sure those barriers are met through a programme of support that works for disabled people and finds jobs that they actually want, rather than pushing them into low-pay, low-skill jobs that only work in the short term.

Here’s Scope’s thinking on improving employment support for disabled people.

2. Spending money on social care can reduce broader public spending

Ed Miliband wants to cap something called Annually Managed Expenditure (AME), public spending that fluctuates with the economy. Welfare spending is the main chunk of this, and this is the basis for the ‘cap welfare’ headlines.

Social care doesn’t come from this budget. But there’s a crucial link here. If disabled people don’t have the right support to get up, dressed and out of the house in the morning, they won’t be able to play a part in their community and the wider economy.

With the right support, disabled people will be able to to contribute more to the economy, creating savings in social security expenditure and generating tax revenues.

Rather than capping Annually Managed Expenditure (AME), Labour should invest in areas like social care that could make real savings across the whole of public services – not just welfare.

Scope’s research shows that for every £1 spent on support, £1.30 comes back into society – and 28p of this saving is directly reduces AME.

3. Some disabled people will always need benefits.

Miliband said: “We should also support disabled people. Those who cannot work. And those who want to work and need help finding it.”

This is really important, because disabled people will be concerned about the impact on their support of combining a shift to a ‘contributory welfare’ system and a cap on AME. Hopefully this means that when it comes to disabled people, Labour’s starting point won’t be “How much money do we have?”, but rather “What kind of support we need to provide?”

And hopefully the result will be plans for making this a better place for disabled people.

Looking ahead

There can be no doubt that 2013 is already proving to be another tough year for many disabled people. Welfare and social care reforms continue to gain momentum and we’re already seeing an impact on quality of life for many families and individuals. We are particularly concerned that disabled people are being overlooked in the discussions about changes to the social care system and are part of a major campaign across the disability sector to address this. And locally, we know that cuts to care packages and the rollout of the Work Capability Assessment continue to cause anxiety for a huge number of people.

Against this backdrop, I am more aware than ever about the need for Scope to move with the times. The strategic direction we launched last year is all about creating a better society for disabled people and their families. We are now beginning to turn this direction into action. At the start February, we spent a valuable day with our Scope Assembly members discussing the strategic theme of ‘Living independently in the community’. We gathered some very useful ideas. One of the things we know we need to address is how we support people with the most complex needs to gain greater independence, ensuring that they have access to all the support that they (and their families and carers) need to achieve this.

It’s important that we think about all of these things. We have to respond to what is happening now, influencing decision makers and helping to ensure that disabled people’s voices are heard. At the same time, we need to look to the future, being willing to ask the big questions and take bold decisions. We will continue to do both of these things throughout 2013 and will continue to keep you updated.

Thank you, as always, for your support.

Scope CEO Blog: Watching the Dispatches undercover footage

Undercover filming

Coming out of a meeting on Tuesday morning, one of Scope’s press officers was waiting in my office, telling me that we needed to leave immediately to go and do some filming for Channel 4’s documentary series Dispatches.

Dispatches had filmed undercover footage of what happens when doctors are trained to deliver the Government’s Work Capability Assessment. They wanted me to watch the footage and give a reaction to it.

The Work Capability Assessment is something Scope has been campaigning on for a while now. This test was introduced to determine which disabled people would be eligible for out of work benefits, who would be eligible for specialist support to help them find a job and also identify those disabled people who would be expected to get a job straight away.

It’s a test Scope has had deep reservations about. We’ve been deeply worried about the implications of using a medical tick box assessment that ignores all the other barriers disabled people face in finding work, being used to identify who can go out and get a job.

Work Capability Assessment tests

Within 15 minutes of coming out of my meeting, I was sitting on a sofa in a studio watching something absolutely outrageous.

Disabled people would have been shocked and appalled as I was to see the reality of the way doctors were effectively being trained to leave behind all their years of medical training and deliver a test that even the trainer claimed was “almost unachievable”.

The Government has said time and time again that this test is fair, appropriate and not driven by targets. Yet quite clearly the doctors are being told to achieve targets of how many people they find fit for work or who need support and that they will be held to account if those targets aren’t met. This is a flawed test and it is being implemented in a damming way. How can decisions that can have a profound and devastating effect on disabled people’s lives be made in this way in Britain in 2012?

These are real people being assessed, up to 10,000 every week. We know that disabled people want to work but many need the right support to do so. And by being subjected to this flawed test they may be denied the very support they need to get a job.

Dispatches reveals a “toxic” system

The trainer in the film even said she felt the test was “toxic”, that it was “frustrating” that someone cannot have the benefits and are expected to find a job when she knew they didn’t stand a chance. For me, the footage didn’t just show that the test that was toxic. It showed that the whole system is toxic.

Yes this programme has to raise serious questions about how the test is being delivered, but ultimately the Department for Work and Pensions is responsible for ensuring that disabled people get a fair deal.

Many disabled people, Disabled People’s Organisations and disability charities have been trying to work with the Government to improve the test. There can be no more finger pointing or blame between the DWP and ATOS. They both have a responsibility and duty of care towards disabled people.

They should both be ashamed for allowing this to happen. And they need to take serious action immediately.

Take action now by emailing your MP