Wednesday 27 March 2013

Government doesn't want to know what Welfare Reform will do to people

WOW Petition - that's a petition to stop the War On Welfare - calls for the DWP to carry out a cumulative  impact assessment on all the welfare reforms together. It is obvious to most people that the impact of cutting many benefits all at once is more damaging than cutting just one. But the government claim that it is just too difficult to do a cumulative impact assessment, that the changes are too complicated. In reply to the petition (a reply that was long overdue, the petition having doubled the necessary 10,000 signatures to merit one) the government said:
"Cumulative impact analysis is not being withheld – it is very difficult to do accurately and external organisations have not produced this either.

The Government is limited in what cumulative analysis is possible because of the complexity of the modelling required and the amount of detailed information on individuals and families that is required to estimate the interactions of a number of different policy changes."
It is not that difficult though, and certainly within the means of a government department when millions of people will be negatively affected. To prove the point think tank Demos have had a go at it themselves. They estimate that the total loss over  five years will be £28.3bn. Let me spell that out: Twenty-eight billion pounds. That is not - as my MP told me - the vulnerable being protected. That is the vulnerable being mugged.

Writing in The Guardian, report author Claudia Wood said:
At one end of the cumulative impact scale, 88,000 disabled people currently claiming employment support allowance (ESA) will feel a double whammy of a 1% cap on uprating and a 12-month eligibility limit. At the other end of the scale, at least 1,000 disabled people (possibly up to 5,000) will face six separate cuts to their benefits income. By the time the next round of cuts are due in four years, they will be £23,300 worse off per person.

In between these two groups are about 120,000 disabled people facing a triple cut, and 99,000 a quadruple cut. These combinations represent at the very least a loss of £6,309 per person by 2017. The worst loss of £23,461 per person by 2017 will be experienced by those unfortunate enough to lose their eligibility for disability living allowance and ESA, and who are reliant on other benefits that will only increase by 1% because of the rating cap or by the consumer prices index (CPI) instead of inflation.
Wood points out that these figures are an underestimate,  cuts to child benefit, the independent living fund, social fund or council tax credit being just a few other factors. Underestimate this may be, but it seems that the DWP are refusing to calculate even the minimum impact because they can't work out what the maximum impact is. We don't need to work out the worst case to be able to see that even the best case is not good.

It doesn't really matter though, because the government are just making excuses. The fact is that they don't want to know what the impact will be because if they knew then they would have no excuse for continuing with these savage cuts. It's actually worse than that, because they must know, but they don't want to be seen to know. As we saw last week, government ministers don't actually want to talk to the people affected, making bizarre excuses to get out of talking to Spartacus. They don't want to hear anything that would contradict their rhetoric.

These cuts don't make economic sense either, even when you view them for what they are rather than "reform" aimed at helping anyone. Cutting DLA will leave people stranded at home where their health will deteriorate and lead to higher costs to the NHS. Cutting the Independent Living Fund will institutionalise people, sending them back to expensive care homes and preventing them from living and working alongside the rest of society. Cutting money that is spent by disabled people on care and travel will damage the car industry and cut jobs for carers. Welfare isn't money that disappears, it is money that is ploughed straight back into the economy and its loss will be noticed. Although possibly not by George Osborne.

The government are sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting "La la la I can't hear you" when it comes to welfare reform. Sign WOWpetition to tell them that we know they can hear us and we're on to them and we won't stand for it.

Demos - Destination Unknown: April 2013
The Guardian - Claudia Wood: The government has a duty to assess the impact of its benefit cuts
The Guardian - Welfare cuts will cost disabled people £28bn over five years

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