The callousness of Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms hits home again as a third of benefit claimants with degenerative diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Parkinson’s Disease, Cystic Fibrosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis are placed in the ‘Work Related Activity Group’ despite them being unable to work at the time of the assessment and having conditions which will reduce that ability over time.
The past scandals of inappropriate decisions by the DWP and the ‘promises’ of Duncan Smith to ensure a fair system seem to have had no effect on decisions. The latest figures obtained under a freedom of information request by a coalition of charities reveal that 5,000 sufferers of degenerative conditions were placed in the ‘Work Related Activity Group’, despite assessors stating that these people were unlikely to work in the longer term.
People placed in the ‘Work Related Activity Group’ are required to attend regular sessions with advisors with the aim of preparing for work in the future. They also receive less in benefit payments than people placed in the ‘Support Group’ (for those with long-term health conditions) of Employment Support Allowance.
Steve Ford, Chief Executive at Parkinson’s UK, told The Independent “These latest figures are an utter disgrace and serve to underline just how little the Government cares for those with progressive conditions like Parkinson’s. To set up a system which tells people who’ve had to give up work because of a debilitating, progressive condition that they’ll recover, is humiliating and nothing short of a farce. These nonsensical decisions are a prime example of how benefits assessors lack even the most basic levels of understanding of the conditions they are looking at.”
The five charities behind the investigation – The MS Society, Parkinson’s UK, Motor Neurone Disease Association, the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society and The Cystic Fibrosis Trust – are calling for people deemed unlikely to return to work in the longer term to be automatically placed in the support group.
The figures also showed that 7 out of 10 applicants with progressive conditions were assessed more than once on the same claim.
Although Duncan Smith has attempted to shift blame to the assessment providers, it has become increasingly obvious that they have been operating under strict conditions set by his DWP.
Providers such as Atos have made it clear that they were bound by the strict terms and conditions of their contract with the government, and were not able to change their operating practices because of these obligations. The decisions made about payments were made by the DWP – not Atos. Atos was in a ‘catch 22’ situation where they became the target for campaigners against changes to the welfare system, but were not in a position to change anything – this responsibility remained in the hands of Duncan Smith.
This doesn’t exonerate the assessment providers from being complicit in the stress caused to hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people, but it does show that despite the propaganda of government, responsibility is firmly with Iain Duncan Smith and his cronies and their ulterior agendas.
They will do whatever it takes to try and pass responsibility for the untold suffering caused to the vulnerable and poor, let alone the deaths which have occurred as a direct result of their barbaric policies. Duncan Smith is a proven liar, and it seems that his is determined to ensure he and his cronies gain maximum benefit while he maintains a position of power within government – rob from the poor to pay the rich.
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