The Welfare Reform Tracking Study

By: A.C.

A study carried out by Edinburgh’s Napier University on behalf of the Scottish Government, entitled the Welfare Reform Tracking Study, and has been released.

Details of the Study itself can be found here.

The Study was carried out between September 2013 and March 2015.

The Scottish Government Social Justice Secretary, Alex Neil, said that the Tracking Study “showed that many people accessing benefits are living in constant fear of further cuts, Mr Neil said he was worried that Scotland’s most vulnerable people would be pushed further into poverty and desperation”.

The report says that “Disabled participants also felt they had to present themselves in a negative light and focus on their limitations rather than their capabilities, while the challenges of work capability assessments and repeat assessments for people with permanent disabilities were also highlighted”.

One woman summed up her feelings on the system whilst caring for a disabled child, going to a hospital, and attending meetings to participate in work–related activity:

“Let them get up during the night and all the rest of it and barely have a night’s sleep, and see if they don’t think that’s an actual job… We’ve got it into a routine now and it works, but if [husband] went back to work or I went back to work, I don’t know how it would work. I’ve been called in to have these back to work meetings and the woman I got last time said I don’t know why we’re even reviewing you… I said you find me a job that can work around [daughter’s needs], and she kind of laughed… Fair enough I know it’s my responsibility to look after my child, but it’s hard going, and when you’ve got the pressures of the unemployment calling you in, and I’ve got to go thirty odd miles there and back, and then hospital appointments back and forth, and then you’ve got the added stress of being called into stupid meetings like that… I think for the work we do, we deserve that sixty pounds.”

Another participant is quoted on stress during assessment and how that exacerbates health conditions. “If you are someone who has a disability of this kind, you can’t be waiting months and months to hear whether you’re going to get a little bit of money, and in the process be stressed out which makes your condition worse”.

A further participant is quoted on the appeals process “It took less than five minutes [at appeal] for that decision to overturn, and it’s wasted nearly five grand of taxpayers’ money, just for me to be subjected to that for nine months, worrying. It was affecting my mental health. And I can’t understand why if you’re appealing, why should you be subjected to work focused interviews? It’s as if they don’t want to believe.”

It is hard to understand why disabled people are being targeted in what appears to be a return to pre–World War 2 ideas of Welfare. There are any number of articles on the web by universities, the press or commentators that the continued attack on the disabled, poor and underprivileged is damaging to our society, and how people view disability and joblessness.

This article from April is on our Facebook Page.
Philip Connolly at Disability Rights, writes:
“Disabled people appear set to be particularly badly affected in documents leaked from civil servants acting under the directions of ministers, referred to in a story published in the Guardian. Proposals include: Making it harder for sick people to claim state aid when they are out of work by introducing “stricter” fit-for-work tests and/or tighter limits on eligibility”
The article referred to by Connolly was published two days before the General Election and can be found here.
When a Government simply steamrollers it policies through, refusing to listen to academics, the experiences of disabled people and those affected by Welfare Reform, then they risk returning the Welfare System of this country to an official Victorian age ‘Benevolent Society’ run by uncaring officials who have the same attitude of ‘the deserving and undeserving poor’. Of course much of this attitude is found in the media and eventually that propaganda will change people’s thinking.

It is up to us to keep writing and campaigning about our experience of the Welfare System, and to communicate that to MP’s, MSP’s and the press. Where the press ignore our concerns, we should simply produce our own media. To that end AAD will be taking a close look at how we can achieve that goal.

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