Saturday 2 February 2008

Incapacity benefit

The Daily Telegraph reports today that "Up to two thirds of people claiming incapacity benefit are not entitled to the state handout, the Government's new welfare adviser warns today." What they're really reporting, if you read the next few paragraphs, is that this investment banker David Freud has plucked a figure out of the air and they are very happy to make hay with it. Reporting more suited to the Daily Mail, I would have thought. Compounded a bit lower down the page by them publishing a picture of "David Freud the new Work and Pensions Secretary". No, DT, the Work and Pensions Secretary is James Purnell, he of photoshop fame. Perhaps this is a new form of photoshopping.

Yes, we know there are too many people on Incapacity Benefit. Successive governments have put them there, starting with Michael Howard. That is a fact, not a claim, as the Beeb has it. But you don't solve that problem by throwing numbers around like Northern Rock financial managers, and taking cheap shots at those in this position.

What is most needed is a change of attitude among politicians, and in those officials in the DWP responsible for implementing changes. It doesn't work to blather about chucking people back into work - that's just posturing for middle England's benefit. Those who should be job seeking rather than on incapacity benefit should be put there; those who are cheating the system should be pursued. But it should not be done in such a way that genuine claimants are hounded or belittled. And above all it should not be done in such a way that those who are on the rather wide borderline between ill health and fitness are made to feel miserable. There is a way to be firm, forgiving, fair and flexible all at the same time, but not when you're posturing about how many more people you can make miserable than the other party.


newsfrowned said...

66% of Investment bankers lie!

I'm really disappointed that our party isn't standing up for people on this - we have gone a bit quiet really.

Labour and Tories are basically saying that IB claimants are guilty until proven innocent and for some the stress and uncertainty will lead to suicides - which I recall was a side effect when Peter Lilley launched such a policy at a Tory conference in the late 80's.

I want to see us be far more vocal about unlocking peoples potential and helping them to lead as near normal life as possible, and to be honest about the investment that this will require - much more than the cost saving in benefit in reality. This might include paying for transportation costs to work or installing a home office and perhaps up to 1/2 the salary for employees along with relief on employer NI costs etc.

Sure in the process of assessments - some will be found out to be more able than they might declare. The thrust would be to help as many people possible to back to some form of employment were they will be more prosperous - not just trying to get the numbers down.

Rob Parsons said...

Good for you.

The other bit that I didn't blog about was about people being examined by their own doctors - I wasn't sure of my facts here, but the two people I know who are on IB get vetted by independent medics, and I've seen other people say it now. So it looks as if that's just another cheap shot as well. What are investment bankers for? Do we have them just because their name rhymes?