Tuesday 26 January 2016

Imminently Closing Government Consultations

Apologies for the short notice, but both of these seem to have been deliberately hidden over the  New Year break in the hope people would either not see them, or see them and forget about them. I missed one and forgot about the other - fortunately other people remembered and prodded me (Thanks to Dr Frances Ryan, DPAC and Hossylass for timely reminders).

The first one is the DWP "Consultation on aids and appliances and the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment" (which Lisa mentioned before Christmas). Dr Frances Ryan has a really good piece on it in today's Guardian: "Disabled people are accused of using aids they don’t need – to cut benefits again" The clear aim here is to justify removing household disability aids such as adapted cutlery, perching stools and the like from being counted as evidence towards being qualified for PIP. In helping people write PIP and ESA applications I've found it can be the simplest, most basic aids that really illustrate the depth of people's disabilities, and clearly DWP have too because they now want to stop them from counting.

What is particularly worrying is the openly skewed language being used by DWP to try and exclude aids from counting. Aids are presented in the most trivial of terms, as purely incidental, such as someone perching on the edge of the bath while washing. The fact that means their disability is so severe they can't stand up for even a couple of minutes is carefully not mentioned. As disabled people we've grown used to DWP slanting the evidence, but this time they aren't even trying to hide what they're doing. They openly claim PIP wasn't meant to cover basic disability aids - even though other people remember the stated aims of PIP rather differently.

The language is so skewed that at least one complaint has already been lodged with Parliament's Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (Secondary Legislation is the stuff that Ministers can change pretty much at will, without needing to bring a bill before the House to be voted on) and you can also complain at PIP.consultationfeedback@DWP.GSI.GOV.UK The standards that are supposed to apply can be read here, note particularly item c) "Give enough information to ensure that those consulted understand the issues and can give informed responses".

My personal worry with this one is that I think it i's a calculated first step, aimed at establishing the principle that some disability aids don't count towards disability benefits. The obvious second step then becomes to exclude wheelchairs and other mobility aids from counting for disability benefits, because as Ministers and MPs have claimed in the past, once you have a wheelchair, you aren't really mobility impaired (yeah, right). And if thinking that seems paranoid to you, consider the use of the imaginary wheelchair in ESA assessments, where, if you don't have a wheelchair (or prosthesis, or guide-dog), even if Wheelchair Services have expressly refused you one, the assessor is already allowed to hypothesize that if you did have a wheelchair you wouldn't be mobility impaired.

 The second consultation is a call for evidence from the Commons Public affairs Committee on contracted out health and disability assessments, which covers ESA and PIP and DLA, as performed by Atos,  Maximus, and Capita. DPAC have the contact details listed out here. If you, like me, had a horrific assessment, then this is your chance to have your experience heard. And you don't have to have been rejected to have a valid opinion, I passed my WCA assessment, but the whole experience was nightmarish, and deeply damaging, to the point that several years later I'm finding the effects of the assessment even more disabling that the disability I was being assessed for! And it isn't just the assessment itself that's up for comment, I know people who have faced horrifically disablist bullying just over arranging the appointment.

The DWP consultation on PIP and Disability Aids closes on 29th January. This Friday.

The PAC call for evidence on assessments closes at 10AM on 28th January. 10AM this Thursday.

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