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Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Welfare reform Act Clause 99 concern

To quote:
Subsections (2) and (3) of clause 99 amend section 12 of the Social Security Act  to enable the Secretary of State to make regulations setting out the cases or circumstances in which an appeal can be made only when the Secretary of State has considered whether to revise the decision.
The concern with this is that it grants DWP powers to decide which WCAs can be taken to appeal and which cannot - kind of poacher & gamekeeper combined and it is only ever the poor prey that suffers.  There is a partial debate on this link, but it seems Chris Grayling talked his way around the question, so the proposed amendment was withdrawn.


Every concern CG expresses is valid but their combined significance is dependent upon two assumptions he is making, but not declaring – I’m not even sure he realises himself.

Firstly, that everyone is on the fiddle and will exploit whatever loopholes exist.

Secondly, that the appeal rate will be high, so the cost could be high, but this is a reflection on the quality of the WCA.

He cannot see the straightjacket he has created for himself through the “model” he insists on sticking with.  He has positioned the WCA responsibility in a place where our democratic standards demand a formal appeals process through the judiciary system.  Position it somewhere and this need can be largely removed. 

When my doctor tells me something, I do not generally argue or take his decision/advice to appeal.  I basically trust him and his judgement – I might just on odd occasions ask for a second opinion.  This is the framework on which WCAs should be arranged.

The worrying thing about clause 99 is that Grayling and DWP cannot be trusted not to exploit and abuse the powers it gives them.  They have already demonstrated this year that seemingly innocuous phrases in the WCA specification can be twisted into results with huge consequences and they will undoubtedly  do the same here.

To have a situation where DWP itself decides what goes to appeal and what doesn’t is untenable within a democracy and one step closer to totalitarianism.  The odd frivolous referral is the price you have to pay for maintaining civil liberty.

One of the oddities in Prof Harrington’s earliest work is that he took the Atos model for granted without any explanation as to why.  He produced something akin to a PID (project initiation document) where a project’s framework is normally described, but oddly it contained no comprehensive list of inclusions/exclusions or assumptions, which is normally de rigueur for such a document.

If this goes through, we will all be for a far tougher time – declared fit for work with a very limited right to appeal at best.

There is also an interesting question over responsibilities – if DWP says I am fit for work against my wishes and my GP’s advice and my health suffers badly, who is accountable?

PS:   I really do believe that forcing home the issue of accountabilities at a personal level is one of the best way of prompting a reconsideration – the fact that I personally could be in the firing line is a very sobering realisation.


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