This morning Work and Pensions Secretary Damien Green announced that disabled people with permanent or progressive conditions would no longer have to go through repeat assessments.
We need to see the detail before we can welcome this, and we know that DWP are masters of manipulating the detail of complex social security policy to disguise some of their worst misdeeds, so we will be scrutinising very closely when formal announcements are made.
Already people are starting to ask some awkward questions about this announcement. Does it cover PIP as well as WCA? What conditions are covered? Will the atrocious practice of frequent reassessments of people in mental distress continue, which can only be seen as deliberate harassment which can only lead to a worsening in people’s mental health?
But for the people who now will be spared reassessment and uncertainty, of course it will be a huge relief. Potentially it could save tens of thousands of disabled people a lot of stress, fear and uncertainty about their financial security. Plus the announcement contains a public admission by Green that the WCA process is stressful and harmful to claimants.
But we can’t help but wonder how it took the geniuses at the DWP eight sodding years, since the WCA was introduced by Labour, to work out there is no point in reassessing people who cannot get better.
Actually we think that this has more to do with reports from earlier this year that assessments of disabled people are costing more than they save and a need to reduce costs, than any sense of humanity from a DWP that we know and loathe.
When making his announcement Damien Green said “I believe in a welfare state where you have got to be hard-headed, but you shouldn’t be hard-hearted.”.
Perhaps if Green didn’t want to be seen as hard hearted, he shouldn’t have voted in favour of Universal Credit, the Bedroom Tax, the Benefit Cap, limiting the annual rise in benefit payments to 1%, the ESA Wrag £30/week cut, and the closure of the Independent Living Fund (and those are just a few examples of his dark hearted voting record.)
This is of course just pre-conference spin to try to improve the Tories toxic reputation on their shabby treatment of disabled people.
If May and Green want disabled people to see them as anything other than dark hearted thugs in posh clothes, they will have to start by reversing a string of atrocities enacted on disabled people by a government in which both May and Green were cabinet ministers.
But what Green’s announcement does show is that the fightback against the atrocities of austerity is starting to work. The Tories have realised that they now have gained a terrible reputation as persecutors of disabled people and their worst fear of widespread public revulsion of this is actually beginning to happen.
Also this conference season we’ve seen both Labour pledge to scrap WCA and “Punitive Sanctions” (a welcome step in the right direction) and the Liberal Democrats to scrap WCA and more. If you can believe any pledge the LibDems make any more after tuition fees and their enabling of the Tory led Coalition that caused disabled people so much harm.
And from Labour, again we need to see more detail, we need the emphasis to shift from the mantra of getting disabled people into work to a recognition that policy for disabled people must be about full inclusion in all aspects of society not just employment. And a recognition that many disabled people can’t work. And we want from Labour an apology for bringing in the WCA in the first place and a full admission recognising the harm that they have caused.
But at least these policy shifts are sign that all the major parties are beginning to take disabled people’s rights more seriously at long last, but both Labour and the Lib Dems have a long way to go and the Tories have the breadth of continents to travel before DPAC will be able to state that any of the major parties policies are adequate for disabled people.
So while we can take a little time off to celebrate a small victory, now is the time to pile on the pressure.
We call on all of our members, supporters and allies to fight even harder.
Lets force more concessions from May and Green, now that they are realising they are vulnerable to our fightback, and that we can toxify the Tory brand so thoroughly that they will be remembered for ever as the Party that made disabled people’s lives a living hell.
If you can get to Birmingham to oppose the Tory conference – here are the protests that DPAC will be running or tanking part in. Join us there.
But just as importantly, if you can’t get to Brum here are the online activities we have prepared to toxify the Tory Conference online.