Saturday, 3 August 2013

Is it the Government that is disabled in its logic?

Back in May, 2012 the Disability Rights UK (DR UK) report, Impact Assessing the Abolition of Working Age DLA, accused the government of ignoring the effects on disabled people’s lives of cutting working-age DLA spending by 20 per cent, or £1.4 billion a year by 2015/16.

The report analysed the likely impact on disabled people’s ability to work, and their extra need for NHS services and local authority support. It said that the government’s claim that there will be no such knock-on effects is a “falsehood” and describes its failure to carry out a proper analysis as “irresponsible”.

DR UK estimated that the extra costs could wipe out any planned savings, and even its lowest estimates add up to more than a third of the government’s intended savings. The report’s estimates range from about £600 million a year to as much as £3 billion.

Today, 15 months later, it is reported that Atos, the privately-run organisation conducting disability tests since 2005 (and who have been granted other lucrative government contracts) has been paid a total of £754m for running the tests (let's say £300m since the current government took over in the 3 years since 2010) - last year the cost was £114.3m. These figures come from the National Audit Office (NAO). In addition, in June it transpired that the total worth of contracts awarded to Atos has been £1.6bn.

A crossbench peer, Lord Alton, raised the question that generated a reply from the NAO, and Lord Alton now says that the Atos contract "has become like a licence to print money".

It was only recently that the government suddenly found extra money to help the disabled remain in extra bedroomed social housing by way of additional discretionary housing benefits - to save the face of the government. Earlier this week the High Court found that the disabled were not being discriminated against by the government (as the government were now providing extra support money) in a state of affairs where insufficient smaller homes are available to house those that are forced to move because of the 'bedroom tax'.

In other words, was it financially worthwhile - let alone morally worthwhile - that this government should impose such torment on the sick and disabled, 40% of whom appealed against the findings of Atos, 38% of whom succeeded in their appeal.

If we add together:
  • the cost of these legal appeals 
  • the cost of running Atos 
  • the extra discretionary housing benefits
  • the findings of DR UK
then the saving to the government's purse must be diminishing rapidly, and may even be wiped out by the target date of 2015/16.

Whatever we may say about the Labour Party, they have a bit more commonsense at least. They have said before that the cost of trying to find the true benefits cheats would outweigh any savings. In trying to find the cheats, this government have only imposed an inhumane regime on those who are weakest.

It is about time we remembered that we are one people. What the government has done has only brought about a sense of 'we and they', not unity. Fie on you, you ConDems!