In a week that saw that nice man Iain Duncan Smith bully through his cuts to some benefits by up to £30 per week he has come under attack from an erstwhile ally.
The Social Market Foundation Thinktank have published a report claiming that the current disability benefits system is “broken” and must be comprehensively overhauled. I’m sure nobody here would argue with that and it represents a significant government failure and yet more government wastage.
The (surely unwelcome) report recommends scrapping entirely the work capability assessment which is the somewhat discredited test used by the Department for Work and Pensions to determine who is eligible for out-of-work sickness benefits and who should be classed as “fit for work”.
The report recommends tha the government should devise a properly funded system which would identify those disabled people closest to being able to get a job, while those too ill or disabled to work should have a “level of benefit provided … sufficient to allow them to live comfortably and engage fully in society”.
Also recommended in the report is the proposal that the government should abandon the failing, and hugely unpopular, benefit sanction system for people with chronic illness or a disability – instead putting an emphasis on support meetings and financial incentives through a “steps to work wage” on top of their unemployment benefit.
The bit that amuses me no end is the identity of the author. The report was written by Matthew Oakley – a former Treasury adviser who until 2013 was head of economics at the right-of-centre Policy Exchange thinktank. He’s on Iain Duncan Smith’s own social security advisory committee.
This shambolic Tory government has been responsible for what are the most disastrous social policy reforms in living memory.
There is some evidence that government policies will actually reduce disabled people’s chance of finding work and that many on the current rate are already struggling to afford to eat, typical of the current government approach: a disdain for both facts and people’s lives.
When even the government’s own advisers can no longer pretend this system is anything but rotten and their own side is turning against them it might just be time to listen, not that their track record on listening is terribly good.