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Last week, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd announced that her department was looking into combining the health assessments for certain benefits into one. However, rather than remedy anything,this would then risk sick and disabled claimants losing two benefits at once.
Currently, benefit claimants who have a health condition or disability face separate assessments when applying for welfare benefits like Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
These are carried out by private companies such as Atos and Maxima on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
As I previously wrote, 72% of claimants who appeal their assessment decision, have it overturned in their favour. This is why many people believe they need to be taken out of the hands of private companies and back into public hands.
As you can see from the Channel 4 report above, brought to my attention by the amazing Welfare Campaigner; I was a JSA Claimant, Amber Rudd made some announcements regarding benefit health assessments.
While to some they may seem welcome, I will outline why I don’t think that’s the case. I speak from experience on this matter, having been through numerous assessments since 2010.
Needs vs Ability
The first thing people need to understand, is the difference between what the assessments are meant to be looking for with each benefit.
In the case of employment related benefits such as Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), it is meant to be so the DWP can assess what your limits are. ie; How your abilities will affect what type or if you can even work at all.
Many like myself will attest that’s not how these things go and rather they are looking for loopholes to say you are OK to work. Apparently eye contact means your mental state is OK.
When it comes to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) ,the assessment should be about your needs. Things like your mobility or whether you require help to cook or wash are what is looked at. The DWP claim you don’t even need to be getting the help you need, for them to take it into account, although I have always found this doubtful.
PIP is meant to be a payment to help disabled people with the additional costs brought on by their disability. Whether you work or not is irrelevant, or should be anyway.
So, Amber Rudd’s plan to bring these two distinct assessments together will serve only to make the process more complicated as it will require a bigger set of criteria to look at. Furthermore, can we rely on them to assess you distinctly for both your ability and your needs? Past form would point towards no.
More Wasted Tax Money
Another glaring point raised by Channel 4 was that the DWP are looking to again to outsource this to private contractors. This contract however would be the biggest private contract by the DWP since 2012. The single contract would be worth a staggering £3 billion and that’s before VAT.
That amount of money could be used to bring an end to the crippling benefits freeze. It could be used to tackle the rise in homelessness and so much more. Instead, in true Tory fashion it will go in the coffers of company directors and their shareholders.
At a time when inequality has never been so high in modern times, when people are dying waiting for benefit decisions, this is an incredibly ridiculous thing to do.
Lets also consider this. If you’re a disabled benefit claimant, it’s likely that you’ll be in receipt of both of the above benefits. Facing one assessment could see claimants having both wiped out in one foul swoop. Given the quality of assessments by private companies, probably in error too.
Some of the most vulnerable people in our society could see their support cut off at the tick of a box by a medically untrained civil servant at the DWP.
Amber Rudd is being hailed as some sort of messiah for benefit claimants. She’s not. Like those before her all that matters is the bottom line, not the sick, not families or single people. Nobody.
Be under no illusion, anything they try to hail as progress is likely another way for them to cut the amount they pay out to those who need it.
All they’ve dome here is find a way of cutting two benefits in one go.