Plans leaked to the BBC reveal that the Conservatives are considering cuts of up to £80 a week for sick and disabled claimants if they win the election.
The leaked documents show that the Conservative party commissioned research into how much could be saved by measures including:
Taxing disability living allowance (DLA), personal independence payment (PIP) and attendance allowance (AA), saving a predicted £1.5 billion a year.
Abolishing contribution based ESA and JSA entirely, so that only claimants who pass a means test can claim these benefits. According to the BBC, DWP analysis suggests 30% of claimants, over 300,000 families, would lose about £80 per week, saving a predicted £1.3 billion a year. In fact, some families would lose more than £80 per week if these benefits were abolished.
Cutting the number of people getting carer’s allowance by 40% by only awarding it to those eligible for universal credit (UC), saving a predicted £1 billion.
Limiting child benefit to the first two children, eventually saving £1 billion but very little in the short-term.
Other plans include replacing industrial injuries benefits with an insurance policy for employers, regional benefit caps and changes to council tax.
The Conservatives deny that these proposals are party policy.
A spokesperson for Iain Duncan Smith told the BBC that:
“This is ill informed and inaccurate speculation.
“Officials spend a lot of time generating proposals – many not commissioned by politicians.
“It’s wrong and misleading to suggest that any of this is part of our plan.”
However, the Conservatives still refuse to say what benefits they will cut.
Earlier this week Benefits and Work suggested that working age claimants would lose an average of £19 a week under Conservative plans. We pointed out that some would lose less and some might lose much more – but we hadn’t realised quite how much more.
Would you be affected by these cuts and could you cope financially if they were imposed?
Source – Benefits & Work, 27 Mar 2015
The number of claimants getting legal aid to help with welfare benefits has plunged from 88,380 in 2012-13 to just 149 in 2013-14 due to coalition cuts. In addition, not one single application for exceptional case funding has been granted. The Lib Dems have expressed concern about the effect of their own legal aid cuts on children, but not about the effects on sick and disabled claimants.
Legal aid has been abolished for almost all welfare benefits issues, including appeals to first-tier tribunals, but is still available for appeals to the upper tribunal.
In addition, in theory, exceptional case funding is available where a claimants human rights or European Union rights would be breached if they did not get funding to bring their case. However, although 11 applications were made for exceptional case funding in 2013-14, every single one was refused.
The Lib Dem family justice minister has now called for a review of legal aid cuts that affect children, according to the Guardian, but no minister has shown similar concern about the effect of legal aid cuts on sick and disabled claimants.
Legal aid for other areas of law likely to affect sick and disabled claimants has also been almost wiped out in the same period. This includes debt, which has fallen from 81,993 funded cases to 2,584 and employment, which has fallen from 16,157 to 32.
Source – Benefits & Work, 26 Sept 2014
The coalition’s war against sick and disabled claimants is becoming ever more intense. The latest statistics show that sanctions against employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants have risen from 1,104 in the month of March 2103 to 7507 in March 2014, an increase of 580%.
The massive increase in sanctions is even more marked when looking just at the first three months of 2014, the most recent dates for which statistics are available:
The figures show that sanctions against the sick and disabled have doubled in the space of just three months.
Sanctions are only applied to claimants in the work-related activity group of ESA and the vast majority are aimed at sick and disabled claimants who have been forced onto the work programme and then failed to carry out a mandatory work-related activity.
In March 2014 7,108 claimants were sanctioned for failure to participate in work-related activity and 395 for failure to attend an interview.
Very often the reason for failure to participate in work-related activity is that the claimant was too unwell to carry out the activity or had not had it clearly explained in the first place. More than 60% of ESA claimants who are sanctioned have a mental health condition or learning difficulty.
There has been no explanation from the DWP for this massive rise in sanctions, but given that sanctions against ESA claimants are an easy way to cut benefits costs when the coalition is already in danger of breaching its self-imposed welfare cap, it’s not hard to understand what is driving the increase.
Source – Benefeits & Work, 13 Aug 2014
A national expert in data protection has supported the argument that DVLA is breaching the rights of disabled claimants, calling our analysis ‘excellent’ and adding ‘I hope the DVLA will rethink.’
Last week Benefits and Work revealed that a new vehicle check service on the DVLA website allows visitors to find out whether their neighbours are receiving the higher rate of the mobility component of disability living allowance (DLA) or either rate of the mobility component of personal independence payment (PIP).
We believe the system is likely to be in breach of data protection laws and will be of enormous concern to many disabled claimants.
Jon Baines, is Chairman of NADPO , the National Association of Data Protection and Freedom of Information Officers. He writes and trains regularly on data protection issues and blogs at informationrightsandwrongs.com
In a post published on 6 July – DVLA, disability and personal data – he wrote:
“When I first looked at the reports that the DVLA’s Vehicle Tax Check service enabled people to see whether the registered owner of a car was disabled, I thought this might fall into the complex category of data protection issues. On reflection, I think it’s relatively straightforward.
“I adopt the excellent analysis by the benefitsandwork.co.uk site”
Baines then goes on to quote our argument that the data DVLA is publishing is not about the vehicle, but is personal data about the individual who currently owns the car or for whom the car is solely used.
He adds: “It’s difficult to argue against this, although it appears the DVLA are trying . . .”
Baines goes on to quote guidance that is supported by a Court of Appeal judgement:
“As the Information Commissioner’s guidance (commended by Moses LJ in Edem) says
“Is the data being processed, or could it easily be processed, to: learn; record; or decide something about an identifiable individual, or; as an incidental consequence of the processing, either: could you learn or record something about an identifiable individual; or could the processing have an impact on, or affect, an identifiable individual.”
Baines is in no doubt that this is the case in the example given in our original article:
“Ultimately benefitsandwork’s example (where someone was identified from this information) unavoidably shows that the information can be personal data: if someone can search the registration number of a neighbour’s car, and find out that the registered keeper is exempt from paying the road fund licence for reasons of disability, that information will be the neighbour’s personal data, and it will have been disclosed to them unfairly, and in breach of the DPA (because no condition for the disclosure in Schedule 3 exists).
“I hope the DVLA will rethink.”
We also hope that DVLA will rethink their decision to make this information available to any neighbour, relative or work colleague who wishes to obtain it.
But as they seem determined not to, you may want to pass a link to this article on to DVLA and the information commissioner’s office if you decide to make a complaint about your data rights being breached.
The link to Jon Baines’ article is:
Source – Benefits & Work, 07 July 2014
A new vehicle check service on the DVLA website allows visitors to find out whether their neighbours are receiving the higher rate of the mobility component of disability living allowance (DLA) or either rate of the mobility component of personal independence payment (PIP). The system is likely to be in breach of data protection laws and will be of enormous concern to many disabled claimants.
The issue was brought to our attention yesterday by a very unhappy member who emailed us to say:
“My neighbour was able to tell me that I was on the higher rate of disability living allowance.
“She found out that people on the higher rate of disability living allowance and other similar high rate benefits get free road tax.
“The DVLA vehicle check system has been revamped and is now displaying taxation class as DISABLED on every vehicle where the registered taxation class is disabled.
“ It never used to be like this it was just blank .
“Anyone can put your car registration number into the system and do a vehicle check just like my neighbour did and find out you are on benefits and what type as a result of the taxation class DISABLED being on display
“What is the purpose of this system being open to the public to do a vehicle check on any vehicle they want?
“It’s a system of no use to anyone other than malicious people intent on causing problems for people on benefits”
Our member asked us to notify disabled people of the issue and lobby to have the data removed from the DVLA website.
We did our own check on cars in the street outside using the DVLA website and were indeed able to discover that the owner of one vehicle has a disabled tax disc and is therefore in receipt of benefits, as the screenshot below taken from the DVLA website shows.
Exemption from vehicle tax on the grounds of disability is only available for people on Higher Rate DLA Mobility Component, War Pensioners Mobility Supplement, Enhanced Mobility PIP (100% exemption) or Standard Mobility PIP (50% exemption).
The vehicle doesn’t have to belong to the disabled person, but it must be only used for their benefit. The vehicle’s registered keeper can be the disabled person or someone else who uses the vehicle only for the disabled person’s needs.
At present the tax disc displayed on a car in these circumstances will show a cost of £0.00. But there are other grounds, apart from disability, for getting exemption from vehicle tax.
In addition, where a disabled person keeps their car on a private drive or in a garage, neighbours will not be able to see the details on the tax disc.
Tax discs to disappear
More importantly, from 1 October of this year you will no longer need to display a tax disc on your vehicle at all.
In addition, when you sell a car from October 2014 the tax cannot be passed onto the new owner. Instead, the previous owner will get a refund and the new owner will have to tax the car themselves.
There seems, therefore, no obvious reason for information about the tax status of a vehicle to be displayed online.
The issue here appears to be one of data protection.
The information that DVLA are making available is not about the vehicle itself. Instead they are publishing personal information about the benefits received by the individual who currently owns the car or for whom the car is solely used.
We spoke to a staff member at the DVLA press office yesterday evening and asked them if they were aware that they were making this information available and if they would suspend the look-up service as a matter of urgency, as it appears to be in breach of data protection laws.
We have yet to receive any response.
Source – Benefits & Work, 03 July 2014