Reform and the benefits system

If you’re claiming disability benefits because you could only walk with crutches, then being filmed whilst skydiving probably isn’t a smart move.

Express.

A BENEFITS cheat who claimed she could only walk with crutches sky-dived from a plane at 12,000ft, a court was told yesterday.
Clare Jones, 37, gave a thumbs-up sign as she made the tandem jump harnessed to an experienced parachutist.
She had paid another sky-diver to film her hurtling towards the ground at 120mph.
Investigators seized records of her swipe card use to prove her attendance. She also admitted going dancing at a social club.
While claiming benefits Jones worked at two eateries in the town – a sandwich bar called Funfillers and a restaurant called Truly Scrumptious.

Sadly these cases of people claiming benefits they are not entitled too are far too common, though not as outrageous as doing a parachute jump. To my mind benefits in a civilised country should be there to be a safety net for the unemployed and a comfort for the disabled and retired (above a certain age) but the thing that needs to be remembered is that somehow it has to be paid for and that inevitably either comes down to means testing. This is particularly so for those who would claim extra benefits for being disabled in some shape or form. A universal basic benefit if we choose to go down that path will be ok for dealing with the safety net feature of the benefits system, however there will be some for whom living in a degree of comfort due to injury or age will need for this to be topped up with additional payments and that’s where things will get complex. Nor is this helped by the thousands who were transferred over to disability living allowance because it took them off the unemployment figures. We need a system that’s both simple and robust enough to weed out those who would attempt to cheat it or who shouldn’t be on it in the first place, preferably not being top heavy with bureaucracy either. I doubt any system we could come up with would deter cheats, but I’m fairly sure that something can be come up with to make it so that getting caught will have frightening consequences.

At the moment though not one of the main parties seem to have an interest in doing something about the benefits system that will actually work, I do wonder if a total collapse of the system will be the only way to reform it.

Judging by the likes of Clare Jones, it cannot come too soon.

24 comments for “Reform and the benefits system

  1. Paul
    May 8, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    What about those with hidden disabilities that regular people can’t see? I’m sure people think I have a lavish lifestyle on benefits, even though that’s not really the case. It’s not a terrible way to live but there isn’t really much room for us to improve ourselves as people. We just do what we can.

    So many of us are trapped on benefits – we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

  2. May 8, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    That’s why we have medical experts.

    • Paul
      May 8, 2011 at 4:42 pm

      It really does depend on how the exams are conducted though. Will the experts get access to my entire life medical records (that started from when I was very young) or will it be a 15-minute tick box session? The (very expensive) ATOS scheme has had people suffering from full-blown cancer as fit to work.

      • May 9, 2011 at 5:43 am

        The problem is, even people suffering from ‘full blown cancer’ aren’t usually always unfit to work.

    • GW
      May 8, 2011 at 6:57 pm

      Yes, we have plenty of medical experts, but they enter the information, and the system makes the decision. The assessments are only as good as the software developers of ATOS.
      From what I’ve seen while working at one of those assessment centres quite a few years back, ATOS is one of those dodgy contractors that do everything on the cheap, like many other contractors New Labour outsourced to.

      • Lord T
        May 8, 2011 at 7:56 pm

        I’ve worked with and for some of these ‘dodgy’ contractors before and you will find they only build the systems they are told to. The issue is that they are always poorly specified and subject to so many change requests that they always end up botched up just to get something out to use. Behind schedule and over costs.

        Isn’t it funny that these same ‘dodgy’ contractors also do systems for private business without the same failure rate. If they botched them up at the same rate as the government ones they would never get any jobs.

        The government cocks up everything it touches.

        • Paul
          May 8, 2011 at 8:13 pm

          Lord T: The government cocks up everything it touches.

          And a lot of very vulnerable people who need help suffer because of it.

  3. WitteringWitney
    May 8, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    “To my mind benefits in a civilised country should be there to be a safety net for the unemployed and a comfort for the disabled and retired (above a certain age) but the thing that needs to be remembered is that somehow it has to be paid for and that inevitably either comes down to means testing.”

    Fair comment QM, however…..

    No objection to means testing for benefits nor medical conditions by doctors, but on the question of cost I have to say that were we not to lob missiles at Libya for example, were we not to pay untold billions to the EU, were we not to give overseas aid to countries that are (a) richer than we and (b) that disappears into someone’s pocket; we might just have the necessary funds to help those in need.

    Just a thought….

    • May 9, 2011 at 9:01 pm

      It can become quite easy to justify one waste of money by pointing the finger at another, equally bad waste.
      All the things you mention from Lybia to the Eu and beyond are all wrong and all need to be stopped, but they must be looked at as separate entities.
      Saving money by pulling out of the Eu for example, should not mean that that money is then given a alcoholics, but not taken from the taxpayer in the first place.
      I worked in bars for many years and interacted with a lot of alcoholics who were spending more tax payers money that I could ever hope to earn by serving them.
      Disability benefity for those who can work or those who have self inflicted problems are wrong and need to be stopped. Along with EU, wars etc.

  4. May 8, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    I am sure sane people can devise a workable system of benefits. The big but is would it survive the next Labour government?

  5. John
    May 8, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    What I find slightly curious about stories like this one is that it’s normal practice for applications for DLA to be supported by the applicant’s GP and in many cases the DWP have one of thier doctors do an assessment too.

    In the case of the skydiving benefit cheat, I’d be somewhat reassured if the GP who supported the application was “spoken to” as well, perhaps by the General Medical Council.

    • May 9, 2011 at 5:45 am

      Precisely. There needs to be consequences not just for the benefits cheats, but for the people who are supposed to weed out the cheats, and fail so spectacularly at it.

  6. patrick Harris
    May 8, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Just a word of caution, the Government class old age pensions as “benefits”.
    The pension, because all working men and women paid into the national insurance scheme, used to be an “entitlement”, try as I might I cannot put my finger on when and by whom the change was made.
    This scheme was set up to provide help to those in genuine need and as a barrier to penuary in old age. (through the NIB – National Insurance Board). Governments of all persuasions, who instead of using the money for the dedicated cause, chose to squander the pot on ideologically inspired crackpot funding of the whole wide world.

  7. ivan
    May 8, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    There is a way – NIT (negative income tax). No need for the benefits department because everyone over a set age gets it. Make it just enough to live on without any luxuries so that no one starves – you work, you get more money. Extra can be provided for the disabled on production of a certificate signed by two doctors.

    The advantage of the NIT system is that everyone is covered and if you want more you have to work for it. There are no other payments for anything – you spend it on a plasma TV then you don’t eat for several weeks.

    • Paul
      May 8, 2011 at 9:16 pm

      ivan: There is a way – NIT (negative income tax).

      Supported by Australia’s classical liberal Liberal Democratic Party too.

  8. windsock
    May 8, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Get it right: ” Nor is this helped by the thousands who were transferred over to disability living allowance because it took them off the unemployment figures.” They weren’t. They were put on Incapacity Benefit (now morphed into ESA), originally by the Tories who wanted to keep JSA figures down. Now Cameron doesn’t give a shit and only wants to save money, he’s recanting that old policy. DLA is for people with conditions beyond temporary incapacity who need longer term help with mobility and care.

    While it appears that your article describes a person who may have been fraudulently claiming, I can’t help thinking that no-one falling from the sky needs crutches.

    • Paul
      May 8, 2011 at 11:06 pm

      windsock: DLA is for people with conditions beyond temporary incapacity who need longer term help with mobility and care.

      Yes, this is very true.

      I’ll probably need care for the rest of my life in some form or another. Hopefully it will lessen with time but I’ll probably be on DLA for a long time to come. Office work is unsuitable for me, but I’d love to work from home. It’s a self-esteem thing as much as anything, common to all of humanity. A lot of disabled people can work in some form or another.

      I wish I didn’t need benefits; I wish I could work like non-disabled people, and be a ‘real’ person. But people don’t see that; they only see a ‘drain’ on public expenditure. They see a scrounger. All people who claim benefits are scroungers.

      (Hint: the people who really do want to work aren’t your problem. The people that are the problem are those that see benefits as an easy life, who are generally feckless people anyway. Your major problem would be routing out people who are faking ‘invisible’ illnesses, whilst protecting those that delude themselves that they can do far more than they actually can if that makes sense – there are a lot of people like this that I know of.)

      I do wonder sometimes how much of the more unspecific anti-scrounger sentiment you see from some is simply a cover for intolerance of disabled people full stop. Particularly when the cases highlighted in the gutter press might be people who are absolutely above board, even if it doesn’t look so at first glance.

      • May 9, 2011 at 5:47 am

        “I do wonder sometimes how much of the more unspecific anti-scrounger sentiment you see from some is simply a cover for intolerance of disabled people full stop. “

        I doubt it – the majority of the public are well aware that disability can affect anyone, at any time. Genuinely disabled don’t (and shouldn’t) have anything to fear.

    • windsock
      May 9, 2011 at 12:13 am

      I forgot to point out DLA is payable in addition to IB/ESA and even by PEOPLE IN FULL TIME PAID EMPLOYMENT!!! Shock horror. It’s for disability, full stop. The government is changing the criteria and means by which it is available because it wants to cut expenditure on DLA by 20%.. A DWP report in 2004 said 0.5 per cent (£40 million) was due to fraud. The government wants to change the definition of disability to save money and does not care who it slanders along the way. Nor do the Tory press.

  9. Junican
    May 9, 2011 at 3:09 am

    Occasionally, one sees these most extraordinary happenings. It is surprising how often these big news items in the press include ‘the playing of a round of golf’. And yet, the ‘playing of a round of golf’ requires no great physical effort – in fact, it is jolly good, simple exercise, involving a walk around the course with the occasional bit of extra effort. Good exercise for people who are otherwise disabled.

    And so we see people who are in fact seriously disabled, but can walk a bit, being ‘stitched up’, and used a means to batter the people into submission to the propaganda of the Government (not as though the Government have the foggiest idea what they are doing).

    Walking around a golf course, hitting a ball from time to time, is not the same thing as spending all day physically lifting enormous weights and digging and shovelling.

    It may be true that there is too much emphasis on ‘physical’ ability to work. I would go along with that. But do not persecute people who are, in fact, incapable of the sort of physical effort involved in physical work.

  10. May 9, 2011 at 5:49 am

    “Walking around a golf course, hitting a ball from time to time, is not the same thing as spending all day physically lifting enormous weights and digging and shovelling.”

    If that sort of work was the only type available, I might agree. But it isn’t, is it?

  11. Monty
    May 9, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    Incapacity benefit was the subject of a recent report, outlining the reponse to a change to objective and independant assessment of claimants ability to work. This is the one where 400000 claimants dropped their claims as soon as the change was implemented. Of the remainder who persevered with their claims, another 450000 were found to be fit for work.

    The fact is, it has been advantageous for successive governments to hide these folk among the genuinely disabled. Another stinky little conspiracy against the public.

  12. Lee
    July 30, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    It’s not just about being able to work; you also have to bear in mind that many employers just won’t employ disabled people – no matter how minor our disabilities might be.

    • Lord T
      July 30, 2011 at 5:43 pm

      I wonder why that is.

Comments are closed.