The coalition’s assault on what the Conservatives refer to as “broken Britain” is underway. The government has announced for the first time how many of the UK’s 2.6m recipients of disability benefits it estimates will be reclassified as fit-to-work in this parliament. The answer: a cool 500,000 or 23 per cent of the total.
Although this will generate political heat among those affected, it is the easiest bit of welfare reform to sell. Britain’s out-of-work disability benefits have been abused. The last government belatedly recognised this and started to introduce a more rigorous system. But many of the 2.2m people who still claim the old benefit elected to do so because it is more generous than the dole."
Financial Times, September 16th 2010
This article in yesterday's Financial Times* makes very clear the ethos behind the Coalition government's slash and burn attacks on sickness related benefits, that cuts to disability benefits are perceived as the "easiest bit of welfare reform to sell" . The FT don't distinguish between the different types of sickness related benefits so I assume the figure of 2.2million people claiming what they describe as 'the old benefit' refers to Incapacity Benefit, the predecessor to Employment and Support Allowance brought in by New Labour. It seems equally safe to assume that the 2.6million they refer it is actually the 2.9 million Disability Living Allowance recipients, some 1.25 million of which are adults who claim both DLA and IB.
The official Department of Work and Pensions fraud rate for Disability Living Allowance makes it very clear that only 0.5% of the total number of claims are fraudulent. That's approximately 14,500 fraudulent claims out of an overall 2.9million. So, less than 15,000 Disability Living Allowance awards are fraudulent and the coalition are determined to reduce the numbers claiming DLA by half a million. Playing fast and loose with the DWP's own statistics and assuming they're wildly underestimating the problem of fraudulent claims, which seems particularly unlikely, if an overall fraud rate of, say 5%, 10 times that of the official rate were assumed, that would still only be one hundred and forty five thousand fraudulent claims out of a total 2.9 million. Still some three hundred and fity five thousand short of the half a million proposed reduction.
The agenda is clear. To vastly restrict eligibility to DLA, already the most rigorously assessed and difficult to claim benefit of all.
So much for David Cameron's claim that "Those that can should, and those who can't we will always help. I want to make sure that my government always looks after the elderly, the frail, the poorest in our country." David Cameron, 11th May 2010
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