Have just tabled a whole bunch of written DWP questions about the impact of the proposed changes to DLA, and the impact not just on claimants but on carers too. I’ve also tabled some about the Employment Support Allowance regime, and the effectiveness or otherwise of Work Capability Assessments.
I appreciate the terminology is a bit techy for those who don’t encounter such issues on a regular basis, but here’s an excellent Guardian article from Professor Paul Gregg, which is well worth a read. (I was going to say “Bristol’s very own Professor Paul Gregg”, which he is, but before that he was Luton’s very own too… but like me).
There’s also a very good piece in the Guardian today by Polly Toynbee, about the proposed changes to Housing Benefit.
These issues are obviously going to run and run, over the summer and beyond. There are three quick points I’d make, to put them into context.
One is the extent to which these proposals are being rushed through (as are other measures, such as the Academies Bill), and the lack of any detailed analysis, data, evaluation, consultation, etc. A recipe for disaster, with vulnerable people serving as the guinea pigs in their experiments.
Secondly, is the surprising – to me at least – degree to which this is an ideological reversion to type, taking up exactly where the Thatcherites left off, despite all the rhetoric about ‘compassionate conservatism’ and what one might have thought would be the ameliorating effect of the alliance with the Liberal Democrats. OK, I didn’t exactly fall for Cameron’s ‘the Tories have changed’ line, but I thought we’d see a bit of kite-flying, a bit of dipping their toes into the water to test the temperature before plunging right in…
And thirdly, probably most importantly, is how all these different measures will stack up…. The impact on people cannot be assessed by taking each policy proposal separately. Take a household for example where there’s someone in receipt of DLA, and their carer is getting Carer’s Allowance, and they’re also getting Housing Benefit (look at what Paul Gregg and Polly Toynbee have to say on those topics). Then add to the mix the swingeing cuts in public services, the axing of the Primary Care Trust and the introduction of GP-based commissioning, the freezing of council tax and the local councils forced to find 25% savings year on year… Factor in changes like the switch from RPI to CPI as a measure of calculating benefits/ pensions/ tax credit rises, and how that will play out over the years. Take off a few quid from the household budget to account for the VAT rise…. And they’ve only been in Government for two months.
Oral DWP questions are on Monday, and I’m going to pop down to the Table Office now to see what’s made it onto the Order Paper. Also expecting a vote on the Finance Bill soon. Maybe quite a few… back later.