If the Palace of Westminster ever had a rat infestation it must be personified in the body of David Freud.
This deadly pest, who is likely to cause disease and infirmity among many of the lower-earning members of society, began his political career when he was appointed by the Labour Party to review the welfare to work system – and he led Labour well off-track in doing so.
His recommendations called for more private sector involvement in the welfare system – which already had considerable interference from Unum and Atos, as readers of this and other blogs will be aware. He wanted to force most people receiving benefits to take part in some form of employment – or prepare for it – as a condition of receiving support.
This is, of course – counter-intuitive. If they could find employment, they wouldn’t be claiming benefits – so what kind of work would they be required to do? It turns out we discovered the answer during his tenure with the government: Illegally-coerced work. Slave labour.
Having done as much damage as he could with Labour, Freud jumped ship to the Conservative Party, like the rat that he is. It is as the Conservative Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in the House of Lords that he has done the most damage.
It is well-known that the Tories have adopted his disastrous ideas wholesale, and the involvement of Atos, with its work capability assessment pushing the Unum-inspired biopsychosocial model of “it’s all in your mind” healthcare on the seriously-ill, has grossly inflated the death – and suicide – rate among Employment and Support Allowance claimants.
These deaths are on Freud’s conscience, just as much as they are on Iain Duncan Smith’s, Chris Grayling’s, Maria Miller’s, and Mark Hoban’s, to name just a few.
I mention the above because this loathsome creature is even now lurching towards the House of Lords to inflict even more damaging changes to the social security system in the form of a series of statutory instruments. For those who are unfamiliar with the Parliamentary process, these set out the rules that form the nitty-gritty, the details of legislation that are underpinned by Acts of Parliament. Crucially, they do not require an affirmative vote to pass into law.
Today he is bringing the following:
Universal Credit Regulations 2013 – seting out entitlement to, and calculation of, an award of Universal Credit, the new single payment for people who are out of work or working on a low income.
Because no vote is necessary, it is impossible to block this instrument. However, Baroness Sherlock is to move an addition to the motion: “this House regrets that the Regulations will not achieve their aim of making work pay for all and in fact will provide lower work incentives for 2.1 million households; will have the effect of penalising savers; will result in a cut in childcare support for working families; will result in cuts to the income of some of the poorest and most vulnerable in the country and will have a disproportionate impact on women and lone parent families; do not meet the needs of disabled people; do not provide adequate treatment of small businesses and the self-employed; and risk pushing many families into arrears and homelessness.”
In other words, they will do the exact opposite of whatever Lord Freud and his Tory paymasters are saying.
A similar amendment has been proposed to the Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) Regulations 2013, expressing concern about the impact of replacing Disability Living Allowance with the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), under the rules for entitlement and calculation they lay down.
Lord McKenzie of Luton will move: “this House is concerned about the impact of the replacement of Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payment; is concerned about the lack of a full impact assessment on carers; regrets the lack of a cumulative impact assessment of all the changes hitting disabled people; regrets the fact that vital safeguards have not been introduced to ensure that additional pressure is not put on carers, that people do not lose their freedom to work and that they are not driven to already-stretched NHS or social care services; believes that while Disability Living Allowance needed reform it should have been started with the needs of disabled people and not with a budget cut; notes that some 600,000 fewer people will be in receipt of Personal Independence Payment by May 2018 compared to those who would have been entitled under Disability Living Allowance; and further notes that some 25,000 disabled people could be forced to give up their jobs because they can no longer afford the extra costs of getting to work.”
Don’t be under any illusions – the government will vote down these amendments. It will be up to us – those who are directly affected by these changes – to monitor what happens and reveal the truth of these statements.
There are other statutory instruments due to go through today. The Jobseeker’s Allowance Regulations 2013 and Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2013 limit both benefits so they will only be payable based on a person’s National Insurance contribution record; those who do not qualify on that basis will instead claim Universal Credit.
The Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013 address the administration of all these benefits, revising the appeals process so that claimants must first apply for a disputed decision to be reconsidered by a decision maker (i.e. an internal review) before they can make an appeal to an external tribunal. This is the much-lamented rule that, it has been claimed, will dump appellants onto Jobseekers’ Allowance – even though they cannot possibly find work – until their reassessment has taken place.
The Social Security (Payments on Account of Benefit) Regulations 2013 introduce two new types of payment to replace Social Fund payments, either for an advance payment of benefit or as a loan to buy a household item. They outline the criteria which the Secretary of State must use when determining whether or not to make them.
And the Social Security (Loss of Benefit) (Amendment) Regulations 2013 support changes introduced by the Welfare Reform Act 2012, including sanctions of up to 3 years’ loss of benefit that may be imposed following conviction for a benefit fraud offence.
It is clear that this is a toxic mixture of changes, designed to bring as much misery as possible down on an already-downtrodden sector of society.
Oh, and if this was not bad enough, it will be followed by a debate on the Building Regulations &c. (Amendment) Regulations 2012, which includes another Motion to Regret: “This House regrets Her Majesty’s Government’s decision… to change the provisions on electrical safety in the home, which will be detrimental to public safety.”
Detrimental to public safety. We have a government that sets out to do more harm than good.
Any peers taking part in these debates should be ashamed to be part of such a debased administration.
What they are doing is criminal – we discovered yesterday that this is exactly true, when Cait Reilly won her case against the illegal Workfare scheme that has been forced on thousands of jobseekers, and would have been forced on thousands more if it had not been challenged.
Unfortunately, this out-of-control government’s reaction was to change the law to suit itself.
This is what happens when villains are allowed to make up the rules.
Postscript: As I type this, I’m listening to Prime Minister’s Questions. He just mentioned the Conservative candidate in the Eastleigh by-election, using the now-boring “Ronseal” comparison as someone who “does exactly what it says on the tin”. Look at the amendments to the regulation before the Lords today; it is clear that the Tories do exactly the opposite of what it says on the tin.
Perhaps a better word than “Ronseal” would be “unhinged“.