Monday, January 16, 2012

Lord Freud's Letter to Peers re #spartacusreport & our response

    Today, Lord Freud has written to peers with a response to the Responsible Reform (Spartacus) report. This is the full letter, and our response to his claims :
    16th January 2012
      Dear Colleague.

      I  understand that you may have received a report recently entitled 'Responsible Reform' by Dr S J Campbell and other disability representatives. I believe this report grossly misrepresents the way the DWP has been conducting disability reform thus far, and I would like to briefly explain how the report's criticisms are misplaced and misleading. The reform of DLA is long overdue, and I am determined to improve the system of state support for disabled people and have made it a personal priority that this is achieved in an open, consultative manner. 
I think we all agree that the reform of DLA is overdue, we just disagree that PIP is the right reform 
Responsible Reform suggests that the consultation period, following the publication of the 'Disability Living Allowance reform' consultation document, was insufficient. The Government's Code of Practice on Consultation recommends a minimum 12-week consultation period for public consultations, unless there are good reasons for a limited consultation period. The formal public consultation on DLA reform ran from 6 December 2010 and closed on 18 February 2011. While we fully aspire to the code's recommendations, we felt a 10 week period was adequate, given that the consultation was limited to general principles only, was preceded by extensive engagement with a wide range of stakeholders and disabled people and will be followed by further extensive consultation on the detailed proposals.  
The consultation asked specific questions that would affect the lives of disabled people, it was not "limited to general principles only." This letter does not explain in any way why the consultation period was shorter than recommended under the Code of Practise on Consultation. If anything, respondents felt the period should have been longer than 12 weeks as a "reasonable adjustment" to those disabled people who needed extra help or support to participate.  
As outlined in the 'Disability Living Allowance Reform' public consultation document, the Welfare Reform Bill sets out the high-level legal framework of powers underpinning the new benefit. The detailed requirements will be set out in secondary legislation. I am committed to further consult on how we use these powers, and it is my intention to consult fully on the secondary legislation where the rules for Personal Independence Payment will be different to those currently applying to Disability Living Allowance. This consultation will build on the earlier one.
As the previous consultation took no account whatever of the opinions of sick and disabled respondents, we have no reason to believe that future ones will be any more transparent. We remain very concerned that legislations will be passed without these "detailed requirements" and call for a pause to PIP until it is clear exactly how it will affects us. 
      Responsible Reform further suggests that we did not take into account responses we received to that first consultation. I completely reject this. Can I make it clear; this report has only considered 10% of the responses we received and only those from organisations. All consultation responses, over 5,000 individual submissions, have been thoroughly and appropriately considered in the Government's analysis and have been used to inform the design of the new benefit and supporting processes.  

      The Government received 5,500 responses to the consultation. Of these :
  • 500 were from groups representing millions of sick and disabled people throughout the UK. 
  • 2,500 were template letters. We reject the idea that people sent template letters to the Government just to congratulate them and argue that these will almost certainly show some concern over the proposals in 100% of cases. 
  • Given the overwhelming opposition to the plans for PIP expressed by the 523 groups who responded (national charities, local authorities, local charities and disabled people's organisations) representing millions of disabled members, it would be remarkable if the 2,500 individual responses were entirely in support. However, we have put in a further FOI request for all 5,000 of the remaining responses - information that we would anyway, expect Lord Freud to make public in support of Lord Freud's claim that "All consultation responses, over 5,000 individual submissions, have been thoroughly and appropriately considered in the Government's analysis and have been used to inform the design of the new benefit and supporting processes."
      The reform process for DLA/PIP remains open, consultative and with a real focus on co-production at all key stages. We have worked with disabled people and disability organisations and continue to do so; my Ministerial colleagues, Departmental officials, and I meet with them on a regular basis. We consulted informally with disabled people and disability organisations in advance of the formal public consultation, and we have developed the assessment process for the new benefit with an independent group of specialists in health, social care and disability, as well as some disabled people.  
"Meeting" does not confirm co-operation or engagement. In our experience, disabled people and their organisations are increasingly frustrated that their opinions are ignored. In particular, whilst some form of assessment is supported, we can find no support at all for the ESA-style assessment proposed by the Government.
This has not been a passive relationship. The comments, input, advice and guidance has led to changes to both the assessment criteria and the overall policy, most notably that we will not remove the mobility component of both DLA and Personal Independence Payment in residential care homes. 
An enormous coalition of disabled people their organisations and major charities are saying that they DO feel this has been a passive process. There are many, many elements of the welfare reform bill that we are all warning will cause real hardship. Removing the mobility component of DLA from those in residential care homes is just one proposal that would have been unworkable and discriminatory. There are many more and the Government have refused to consider alternative proposals. The assessment criteria remain a cause for deep concern across the disabled community and are still far from workable.  
      The Department has also established the Personal Independence Payment Implementation Development Group, which meets regularly and involves over 50 organisations of and for disabled people. This dialogue is crucial as we design and develop delivery arrangements. The Department has also adopted the principles of user-centred design for Personal Independence Payment that places customers at the heart of the design process to ensure their needs are reflected in the way policies are delivered.  
This response does not address any of the serious concerns raised by the Responsible Reform report. (Spartacus Report) That this letter fails to comment on the use of misleading statistics to justify reform, fails to comment on the repeated warnings that proposals for PIP may breach international and UK equality laws, and fails to understand what is leading to the growth in DLA caseloads is of great concern. They still do not explain where or how they decided to cut 20% from the DLA budget or look at the impact that this will have on disabled people. 

It is what Lord Freud does NOT address in this letter that we believe ought to give peers the greatest cause for concern.  
My Ministerial colleagues and I are personally committed to making Personal Independence Payment an effective, efficient benefit that targets support where it can help those facing the largest challenges in leading an independent life. It is in everybody's interest to make sure that disabled people and their representatives are involved as we design a solution that achieves those goals. I believe my Department has and is taking the right approach to achieve that, and we will continue that open dialogue as we during the implementation period and beyond.  
                "Lord Freud"
              Minister for Welfare Reform  
        • Response on behalf of the Responsible Reform report by Sue Marsh and Kaliya Franklin


Sam Barnett-Cormack said...

I would like to publicly state, as a contributor to Responsible Reform (the "#spartacusreport"), that I support and stand by this response.


May I copy this post on my blog? - obviously acknowledging copyright

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Yes, this can be cross posted whereever needed so long as it links back, thank you

ians12 said...

Do you have a scan of the original letter you could send me please?