LETTER: Inconvenient facts ignored in disability benefit debate

Dominic Collis’s article (Burnley Express January 29th) demonstrates the same tap-room politics as our MP and his Westminster cronies and ignores inconvenient facts in the same way.

Leaving aside that, as Amanda Haworth (Letters, same date) points out, many recipients are genuinely disabled and already poverty-stricken, the entire basis for the review is in itself a fraud. When I wrote to Gordon Birtwistle to point this out, I did not receive the courtesy of an acknowledgement, let alone a reply.

The Government’s best guess – and without convictions or confessions that is all it is – is that there is £250m. in fraud or error in sickness-related benefits. However, the contract – to a private firm no less – to administer the pilot and later roll-out of the review of these benefits is worth at least £500m. With maths like that, this Government has truly doomed the economy! I wonder which minister’s pal owns that company?

Furthermore, both the previous and current governments were told repeatedly by expert organisations that the Work Capability Assessment used to assess claimants was seriously flawed, yet this Government did not commit to a review of the assessment until after the pilot assessments were begun and did not put the assessments on hold to conduct that assessment. That is like knowing your car has a serious fault, but not rectifying it until you spin off the road and kill someone.

Finally, both Mr Collis and the Government also conveniently ignore two indisputable facts. The Department for Work and Pensions’ own report last year (Employment and Support Allowance: Early implementation experiences of customers and staff) admitted that a substantial number of disabled claimants were being found fit for work who actually were not. Also, Citizens Advice found 70% of appeals against assessment decisions were successful, thus demonstrating a seriously flawed policy.

Given that the appeals process is also expensive and that successful appellants may also be entitled to compensation as well back-dating of benefits, how is this supposed to save money?

JOHN LOCKETT

BURNLEY