I see the government have announced their determination to press ahead with the proposed Incapacity Benefit reforms. Whilst I would be very surprised indeed if anyone who has had any involvement with the system would disagree that reform is required, I can't see that the governments proposals will do much, other than make the situation much worse.
The current government seem determined to pointlessly squander a fortune attempting to ensure that not a penny of benefit goes to someone who shouldn't receive it. Look, for example at the farcical waste of money that is the tax credits system. It would have been far cheaper and easier simply to give those on low incomes a tax cut, with further tax breaks to those with children. I know several people in the higher qualifying income bands who have completed applications for child tax credit and been awarded £10 per month. Can anyone explain what the point of this is? These are people whose quality of life is not affected one way or the other by that extra £10, so why spend money on staff and administration costs to award people such a derisory sum? Then of course there are all the people in the lower income bands who have been left without any tax credits due to over payments made in error by the Inland Revenue. Other than the fraudsters who recently walked off with a fortune, tax credits don't seem to have benefited anyone much at all.
To return to Incapacity Benefit, the government have decided to replace one inefficient and overly complex system with another. In the current system a claimant obtains a medical certificate and declares themselves unfit for work, after a time they are sent for a medical, which is where things start to go horribly wrong. The medical that is carried out at present involves very little physical examination and no proper mental health assessment. Instead a doctor sits behind a desk and types answers to a series of questions into a computer with frequently bizarre results. The most recent example I've come across relates to a claimants description of a typical day and states 'spends up to five minutes a day watching 2-3 hours of television'. This statement was not questioned at any stage during the claim. The claimant is then sent on their way and a decision is made and forwarded to them in due course. It strikes me that taking the time to do a full medical would be a more efficient way of dealing with fraud and ensuring that those who were too ill to work received what is due to them.
There are also too many people with genuine illnesses being booted off Incapacity Benefit, many of whom are placed in the ludicrous situation of being refused Jobseekers Allowance because they are unfit for work and refused Incapacity Benefit because they are fit for work. You can of course appeal against the decision to take you off Incapacity Benefit and as around 70% of cases are successful at appeal, it is worthwhile doing so. However rather than question the evidently poor decision making at the DWP, millions are to be spent concocting an even more complex new system. Not to mention the millions more that will need to be spent re-training DWP staff, employing people like me to explain it to claimants and the usual administration and appeal costs. All this is unlikely to save the tax payer any money at all in the long or short term. I can only conclude it is designed to make Tony and pals appear 'tough'. One only has to look at the pigs ear they've made of the 'Pathways to Work' pilot to fear the worst.
Please wish me luck in securing new employment before this nightmare is introduced in 2008.