Independent reviewer of WCA said it was not fit for roll-out

When the Coalition government rolled ESA out nation-wide we were assured that ESA was fit for purpose, and that the independent reviewer (then Professor Harrington) had confirmed this. What we were told, by the then Employment Minister Mr Grayling, was that Professor Harrington had said, “I believe the system is in sufficient shape for you to proceed with incapacity benefit reassessment.”

But Sue Marsh, disability rights campaigner, was not convinced by this. In her own words, “Harrington was clearly an intelligent man who had made thoughtful and intelligent suggestions for improving the assessments. I could never understand why he agreed to put the most vulnerable claimants through a failing test.

So she decided to ask him.

And this is the response she got:

“To your question:

I NEVER—repeat–NEVER agreed to the IB migration. I would have preferred that it be delayed but by the time I said that, the political die had been cast.

I then said that I would review progress of that during my reviews.

The decision was political.

I could not influence it.



As Sue said, I’d say that’s very clear. Professor Harrington did not agree to the roll-out of ESA to Incapacity Benefit claimants.

Just last week a report revealed that Atos assessors do, in practice, face targets to keep the percentage of claimants awarded ESA low. A judge ruled that the WCA discriminates against people with mental health conditions. Another judge ruled that a physiotherapist has no expertise to comment on the abilities of a person with mental health conditions. A study on the descriptors used for ESA found that alternative descriptors (albeit based on the flawed WCA model) resulted in more information being gathered, higher satisfaction from both the HCP and the claimant, and more claimants being found to have limited capability for work. The People’s Review of the Work Capability Assessment reports multiple evidence that ESA does not work, as does a related report, also by the Spartacus Network, on the failings of ESA.

ESA now faces massive backlogs for both the original assessment and then for appeal. Appeal success rates are rising, and currently stand at 42%. Just 25% of those told they are fit for work are in work 12-18 months later.

In the face of all this evidence, can the government really say that the Work Capability Assessment is working?

First act of Minister of State for disabled people: 428,000 people with high rate mobility needs lose help

The Government has just appointed a full Minister of State, Mike Penning MP, for Disabled People: this is welcome. The Government has also now published its response to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and mobility consultation.

The Government previously announced it would cut eligibility for ‘high rate mobility’ support from people able to walk 50 metres to just 20 metres. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced the policy late in welfare reform plans but were forced to undertake a consultation after disabled people and organisations challenged the announcement, highlighting the devastating impact this policy would have – denying essential help to thousands of disabled people and carers helping with mobility/transport needs.

The Government decided – against the wealth of evidence provided by individual disabled people and disability organisations across the UK – to press ahead and axe help for people unable to travel 21 metres unaided. Read the full DWP Consultation Response (PDF)

The DBC (a 50-organisation consortium of disability, advice and other organisations) has said the Government proposal will trap disabled people at home – denying work, education and other opportunities and the ability to be independent. Read the full DBC Response online

Claire Nurden, Co-Chair of the DBC said:

“We are extremely disappointed that the government has ignored grave concerns about the 20 metre rule… PIP is supposed to help those most in need but it is exactly these people that are now set to lose. We have been overwhelmed by the response we’ve had from disabled people who are terrified about what this rule will mean. Many will be at risk of losing jobs…Others will not be able to get to medical appointments, or will have to leave education.” 

Disability activist Sue Marsh says:

“When the coalition government announced plans to scrap the Disability Living Allowance, and replace it with Personal Independence Payments they met with unprecedented opposition from sickness and disability campaigners and charities alike. Almost unanimously we told the government it was the wrong thing to do. But even when we won changes to the draft bill in the Lords, the government simply used an archaic parliamentary law to overturn all of our work. Sue Marsh – I support the Spartacus Report

Then, as if the original plans weren’t bad enough, without consulting anyone at all, they announced that they would also be slashing the qualifying threshold for mobility assessment from 50 metres to 20 metres. We are Spartacus – PIP

Again, campaigners and charities alike complained, again they won. We took the government to court and they had to back out and say they would run a consultation after all.

This new consultation had over 1100 responses – mainly from sick and disabled people or the DPOs and Charities that work for them. Of those 1100 responses, just 5 – yes 5 supported dropping the qualifying threshold from 50 metres to 20 metres. That’s a 60% reduction!!! Just imagine for a moment if the government announced they were going to raise the qualifying age for state pensions to 104!! That’s a 60% increase too and I imagine they’d be out of power by lunchtime. Jane Young – The PIP 20 Metre Rule Remains Intact

But most shockingly of all, the government clearly states that those responding to the consultation do not support the change. They clearly state that it will push costs elsewhere and reduce the capacity of sick and disabled people to get to their jobs. Yet they have decided to go ahead anyway.

Yet again, when it comes to sickness and disability issues, this government have decided to ignore all of the evidence, ignore all of the experts and ignore all of those affected. As a result, 428,000 people with serious disabilities or long term conditions will lose the support they rely.

Bedroom Tax protest in Newcastle

On Saturday 27th July 2013, the Hardest Hit took part in a bedroom tax protest march and rally in Newcastle. The march was largely organised by the Northumberland Disability Forum.

About 100 people took part, with some great speakers including a local councillor and the blind chair of the local Tenants Association. The RNIB sent Lucy Dixon, the Regional Campaigns Officer for the North East, and two volunteer campaigners.

The link below shows the coverage on Sky News – some of the Hardest Hit messages did get across which is great. The guy who is filmed at the beginning of the clip is not affiliated with Hardest Hit but somehow managed to get on camera!



Cross-posted from Diary of a Benefit Scrounger by Sue Marsh:

Well! Well! Look what just landed in my inbox!!! Are Labour finally getting real on sickness and disability? This is VERY important. We’ve been calling for a cumulative impact assessment for some time. If you want to know why it’s important that government look at how ALL the cuts COMBINED will affect disabled people, please read this article I wrote for #Occupy

Please do try to write to your MP and use the hashtag #makerightsreality on twitter to build pressure before the debate at 16:00 on Wednesday 10th July.

Maybe, just maybe all the meetings and emails and campaigning are getting through. Don’t let cynicism stop you from getting involved, things WILL get better one day, We always have to keep believing that this will be the day.

Email from Liam Byrne :
“Time to come clean

After more than three years in power, it’s time for this Government to finally come clean and tell us exactly what impact their changes will have on the lives of disabled people and their carers.

So on Wednesday 10 July, Labour will drag Ministers to the House of Commons to debate the changes they have made that affect disabled people, and at about 16:00 we will force a vote to demand a Cumulative Impact Assessment by October 2013 at the latest – and we will be calling on MPs from across the House to support it.

I am asking supporters to help build pressure on the government in three ways:

Write to your MP and ask them to back the motion
Write to your local paper and explain why we urgently need a cumulative impact assessment
Tweet your support using #MakeRightsReality – here’s the link to the motion

This government is failing to support our disabled people. It’s time for Ministers to come clean, admit where they are getting things wrong and change course.

It’s time to start making rights a reality for disabled people.

Please forward this email to anyone who might be interested.

Here’s the motion in full:

That this House believes that the Government should publish a cumulative impact assessment of the changes made by this Government that affect disabled people (to be published by October 2013).


Liam Byrne”

Myth busting: facts and figures (Update from previous myth buster).

A lot of myths, untruths and exaggerations are being peddled on the issue of disability benefits, particularly Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

Here we set the record straight on some of the most regularly used myths for targeting cuts at disabled people support, some of which have been most recently given an airing by the Prime Minister himself:

“The fact is that we are not cutting the money that is going into disability benefits. The question is how best to reform those disability benefits so that disabled people actually get access to the benefits that they require. The reform has been led by many of the disability groups, which want to see something that is much more related to people’s disability and faster to access, too.” David Cameron, 12 September 2012 Continue reading