Friday, 8 January 2016

Tory government disability benefit testing costs more than the money it "saves"

This is the perhaps not so surprising news to many of us that disability benefit testing costs far more than the money supposedly "saved" from the disability benefits budget.

Dawn Amos
From yesterday's Guardian we have this example of cost "saving":  DWP told Dawn Amos that she was not ill enough for benefit on the day she died

The National Audit Office (NAO) has reported that in 2016/17 the annual cost of this testing will be £579 million but the forecast "savings" will plummet from £1.1 billion to £400 million over the next 3 years. I am taking these figures from a BBC news report - (try this link) and the wording is somewhat ambiguous:

But the NAO said "recent performance shows the department [DWP] has not tackled - and may even have exacerbated" problems over waiting times and targets, and expected savings to the welfare budget had been reduced from £1.1bn over the next three years to £400m.

I am unsure if this means that the "savings" of £400 million will be made each and every year or that is the sum of 3 years savings, equating to under £134 million per year. One gives us spend £1.45 to save £1.00 and the other spend £4.34 to save £1.00. I will have to dig down to the source data to find the exact figure. Whatever it turns out to be the simple fact remains that if we completely abandoned disability benefit testing and went back to relying on reports from GP's and hospital specialists the savings to the national budget would be, annually, between £179 and £446 million. Put another way we would have to borrow that much less to balance the books.

I suspect that it costs more than the £579 million reported by the NAO because they do not take into account the transference to other budgets of the withdrawal of disability benefits. I know of instances where the loss of this benefit has meant that some disabled people have had to abandon paid work and thus become fully dependent on unemployment benefit and rent and council tax subsidies ............ and of course then not paying income tax.

Then there is the incalculable cost of human misery which has resulted in medical conditions worsening and many suicides (actual numbers that the DWP tries to suppress), the direct result of facing a miserable existence trying to live a life hampered by disability whilst being denied the basic right of help as enshrined in our Welfare State legislation. An inefficient and heartless system declares you to be fit and healthy when you are not. This is the reason why I have been writing the word saving as "saving". The DWP might well have undertaken an investigation to determine what if any "savings" accrue from disability benefit testing but it is obvious that if they have it is being suppressed or completely ignored by the fool on the hill, ODS (alias IDS or Ian Duncan Smith).

It may surprise many to learn that a main ingredient of left wing economics is to determine the true cost of any action. That's why socialists are very often successful in running businesses .............. we rely on rigorous cost benefit analysis to guide our decision making. In my working life I have never encountered such a blatant disregard of the evidence as is so blindingly obvious in disability benefit testing. It was already a failing strategy before Atos gave up the contract in 2014 but now the NAO reports that:

............. rising salaries had contributed to a 65% rise in the average cost of each assessment - from £115 to £190 ......... 

(Again the wording is somewhat vague in the BBC report but the inference is that this rise - which I calculate to be 60.53% -  has happened between 2014 and 2016).

We have to find a way to stop this foolishness but it seems impossible when faced with a government hell bent on increasing inequality and depriving the less fortunate of the help that they so desperately need. If they are content to let ODS continue to scapegoat the poor and disadvantaged even when such policies increase government expenditure then they have to answer the charge that they are driven by an ideology that directly harms the disabled ........... and that this is their intention. The NAO has identified that disability benefit testing is not a necessary austerity measure so there is no way that Cameron, Osborne or ODS can claim otherwise. So, I want to hear the Labour Party shouting the following ......... loud and clear:

It is time to scrap Disability Benefit Testing 


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