Freelance writer from Cornwall
It’s fair to say that, with the suffering inflicted on the sick, disabled and poor, that Iain Duncan Smith’s time at the helm of the Good Ship Welfare hasn’t been a roaring success (unless you have shares in ATOS). It’s also fair to say that his ‘reforms’ are vastly unpopular, poorly planned, even more poorly executed and have left millions who have dealings with what’s left of the Welfare State vastly worse off (apart from those who have shares in ATOS). IDS has been accused of vast ineptitude (much of his career to date), serial incompetence (Universal Credit), trying to shift the blame for bungling on to others (blaming civil servants for the failings in Universal Credit, which is administered by the very government department run by IDS), being a bully (threatening to castrate a civil servant for insufficient blind obedience, if I remember rightly), and being a coward (witness his being such a confirmed Eurosceptic that he he absolutely had to be in Paris on the day of the bedroom tax debate in Parliament) and, if he was a meal (something many claimants and victims of his bedroom tax often can’t afford to have) he’d be highly unappetising.
There’s something else about IDS’s welfare reforms that’s also highly unappetising. And it’s the smell of books being cooked. If you’re unhappy with a decision on your ESA claim (by far the majority of sick and disabled claimants are) then you can request that hid department (the DWP) look at the decision again and maybe change it. This is called a ‘reconsideration.’ You might have your initial claim refused or not get as much as you hoped for, but you can always ask the DWP to give your case to a different decision-maker and maybe you’ll get lucky and they’ll alter it for you.
It now turns out, courtesy of a letter to Scottish MP Sheila Gilmore from IDS’s resident sockpuppet, mouthpiece and human shield Esther McVey, that those nice people at the DWP have started adding the number of successful reconsiderations to the number of claims that were fully accepted at first glance and, guess what, the number of claimants successfully claiming ESA without undue hassle and scrutiny (particularly those who are placed in the Support Group for those considered unable to work, has magically gone up. Suddenly IDS isn’t a sneering, obnoxious, dishonest incompetent with a heart of stone, bent on screwing as many claimants as is humanly possible out of the money they need simply to survive. No, he’s a nice guy and his department (with whom I’ve had the frustrating, infuriating, depressing, illness-inducing joy of dealing with on a regular basis) are suddenly not the flint-hearted misers that those nasty dole scroungers and whinging lefty do-gooding bleeding hearts would try to con you into thinking they are. All is suddenly well in the rose garden of being sick or disabled because IDS and the DWP are just giving it away, shovelling truckloads of cash at anybody who wants some (especially if you have shares in ATOS).
Here’s a link to the aforementioned missive:
And here’s some of the text from a related press release from Sheila Gilmore MP, dated November 13, 2013:
‘Up until today Ministers led us to believe they were publishing figures that showed the number of people awarded benefit immediately after assessment and before ANY appeals. It now turns out that informal appeals to officials – as opposed to formal ones to judges – were being taken into account.
This has clearly masked the true extent of the failings in the ESA assessment process.
This revelation follows the omission of the number of successful appeals from October’s round of figures.
Taken together, these events suggests that rather than trying to fix the test to reduce the number of incorrect decisions, Ministers’ priority is to fix the figures to downplay the extent of the problem.’
If you filed an expenses claim to your employer in the same way as MP’s so often do, then you’d probably be fired. If you used the same mathematical techniques when working out the figures to put on your tax return then you’d more than likely be ailed. You’d certainly be audited.
And were the grey eminence Iain Duncan Smith, his sockpuppet Esther McVey and those nice people at the DWP actually honest enough to openly admit that they were doing this? Were they open and accountable to the people they pledge to serve (that includes claimants, the sick and the disabled, IDS, just in case you’d forgotten)?
Erm, no. They didn’t mention they were doing it until they were caught doing it. Yes, they’re terribly sorry about the political sleight-of-hand they were hoping we wouldn’t notice but, since we have found them out, they’re only too happy to apologise until they can get away with doing it again.
So, IDS, McVey and the DWP, would you like some slat and pepper with those cooked books?
Or maybe a large slice of humble pie…