The Comprehensive Spending Review Will Screw People With Mental Illness

I’m far too depressed about this to write extensively on it, but by now you’ll probably be aware that our friend Gideon has slashed funds for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).  Fair?  Well, you make up your own mind, but let’s face it; those of us that are genuine claimants are just as screwed as the few ‘scroungers’ that exist within the system.

ESA Work Group

Georgie has decreed that those in the ‘Work Related Group’ of ESA will only be allowed to remain there for a year, then will be transferred to Job Seekers’ Allowance (JSA).  Um…sorry?  I thought the work-group was for people who had ‘limited capacity‘ for employment.  Augh well.  Everyone will be better within a year, won’t they George?  It really is as easy as that.  Thanks for letting me know.

This is truly dreadful in just about every conceivable way.  JSA does not carry with it ‘return to work’ schemes and the support of an ‘advisor’ in as work-group ESA does, thus reducing and definitely not incentivising those that will be affected.  Also, JSA paid at a lower rate than ESA.  You could argue that it’s only a difference of about £20, but when you live on the fucking line, £20 is a lot of money.  Way to boost people’s morale and encourage them back to the workforce, regardless of whether or not they’re still ill.  Nice one, G.

Here’s a stunningly insightful, absolutely non-patronising and comprehensive look at how the work group of ESA works, in case you were not previously familiar with it:

Wondrously Amazing Explanation of ESA!

Wayhay!!! Thanks, Social Security Agency, This is STUNNING!

ESA Support Group

Big G ‘n’ Friends claim that the ‘most severely’ ill/disabled individuals will still be ‘looked after’.  Oh really?

Just how is that measured, G?  I can’t find a source through Google, but estimates being bandied about on Twitter suggest that only six per cent of ESA claimants are allocated to the ‘support’ group of the benefit, the one where people are ‘safe’ from being moved to JSA.

Why don’t we just reduce it to one per cent, George?  Or even point one?  If all that matters is protecting the ‘most severely’ ill/disabled, then why not just set your arbitrary figures at an even more arbitrary level?  Why not screw everyone?  Why not decide that the lowest number possible represents the ‘most severely’ disabled?  In fact, I have a great idea.  How about, instead of using percentages, we just ‘protect’ the one single ‘most severely’ disabled person in the whole country?!  That would really help clear the deficit!

Why Mentalists are Fucked

It’s not just mentalists, of course.  Anyone with a hidden disability is potentially bollocksed by this, regardless of reams of medical evidence agreed by 700,000 health professionals clearly demonstrating their chronic/severe/seriously debilitating illness(es).  This is because of the government’s infinitely wise choice to ignore what is clearly biased evidence from your GP, consultant and any other medic-y types you may see, and have you assessed instead by their independent medical assessors.

These people of course work for the Social Security Agency (SSA) and ATOS because they voluntarily turned down positions in the NHS and private medicine, absolutely not because they were faced with little choice when it came to their careers.  Hmm.  yes.  *clears throat*  Furthermore, naturally their specialist rotations were of such longevity and depth that they know at least as much if not more than individual consultants in specific branches of clinical medicine. Um-hmm-hmm-hmm.  Yup. *clears throat again*

In short (and sarcasm aside) – these twats have little to no specialist knowledge of psychiatry/psychology, and are therefore not in any position at all to make a judgement on whether someone is truly mentally ill or not.  Ditto gynaecology, rheumatology, opthamology, etc etc etc, ad infinitum.

Random Notes and Observations

I am interested to note no evidence in the CSR of extra percentage points added to things like inheritance tax for those left with colossal inheritances.  I wonder why that was?

It should be noted (as if matters weren’t complicated enough) that ESA can be claimed on a contributory or an income-based basis:

  • [you can claim] contributory ESA if you have paid enough national insurance contributions. However, if you become unfit for work before you are 20 (25 in some cases), you do not need to meet the national insurance contribution conditions.
  • income-related ESA [is claimable] if your income and savings are low enough…To get income-related ESA, your income will be compared with an amount the Government thinks is enough for you to live on.  If you income is less than this, you will get the maximum amount of income-related ESA. If your income is more than this amount, you may get some income-related ESA.  You cannot get any income-related ESA if your savings are more than £16,000. If you get child maintenance payments, usually these will not be included in your income.  (Source)

So, to be fair, this reform won’t officially affect everyone who claims ESA in the work-group.  But do we trust the government to keep the income-related component safe from stealth cuts?  I’m not so sure.

Links

Many people have responded and will respond far better to today’s announcements than I have or can.

I will add to this as and when I come across more.  I suspect that that shall not be far in the future.

My views on the already-proposed changes (from the June 2010 budget) to Disability Living Allowance (DLA) can be found here.

Number Crunching

I do not object to benefit reform per se, and I would like to see ‘scroungers’ weeded out of the system as much as anyone else.

The problem is that the idea of ‘scroungers’ is a hand being grossly overplayed by the government and the country’s reactionary media.  No one denies that there’s some such people; however, most of us dispute that they are as high in number as The Fail or The Sexpress have indoctrinated their respective readerships into believing.  In actuality, the rate of benefit fraud comes in at something like one per cent of all claimants, for God’s sake.  Oh, wait.  A source, you say?  OK.  It’s…um…The Daily Mail!

For the purposes of comparison, This is Money notes that the Citizens Advice Bureau estimates that whilst the aforementioned 1% of fraudsters may be incurring about £5 billion pounds of expense, about £16 billion of benefit entitlements are unclaimed.

The same site also points out that The National Fraud Authority (NFA) claims that tax evasion costs the Treasury about £17 billion.  One thing to note here is that one single case of tax evasion or white collar fraud can run into millions, thus possibly meaning that relative to benefit fraud, there are fewer individuals committing this type of financial crime.  Nevertheless, the figure is still three times higher than that of benefit crime, and thus is surely relevant to the bigger picture in governmental macro-budgeting.  Perhaps some funding to help the NFA catch white collar criminals wouldn’t go amiss.  Perhaps, given these figures, much more money could be returned to the Exchequer in this way than by cutting benefits to those that need them?

Meh

What do I know though.  I’m just a dirty benefit fraudster who thoroughly deserves to be cast into a potentially deadly financial desert for her crimes, all because you can’t always see her faux illness crippling her body.

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