NEWS FROM THE CELTIC LEAGUE
Bill Henderson MLC (Treasury) has responded to my letter about the monitoring of the impact of benefit changes.
As always I set out his reply in full below. I also enclose further correspondence sent to him as I have concerns over the extent of the impact assessment planned which seems not to include all those whose benefits were reduced.
I have also set out some concerns (long held) that I have about appeals mechanisms. I was a member of both Social Security and Disability appeals tribunals for almost two decades. Often our positive decisions for an applicant were overturned when the Department were bizarrely able to ‘appeal the appeal’ to a Commissioner (usually the High Bailiff who invariably found for the government).
Mr Henderson’s letter is below with my correspondence below that:
Thank you for your letter of 15th January.
I can confirm that we are continuing to focus our efforts on getting all registered jobseekers back into work, but are placing particular emphasis on those who have been unemployed for longer periods.
The Department for Economic Development (DED) has been working in partnership with Treasury’s Social Security Division on more effective targeting of resources and improving access to employment and training opportunities, through initiatives such as work placements, employability skills programmes, volunteering and one to one coaching. A payment by results employment project with a local employment agency has also proved successful.
To be clear, even after a person has been claiming jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) for a prolonged period of time we will continue to provide financial support to them, for so long as they meet the qualifying criteria. Whilst their JSA personal allowance may be reduced by up to 40%, depending on how long they have been claiming JSA, any allowances payable to them in respect of their housing costs and/or for dependent children are not reduced.
With regard to the assessments of work capability for people claiming incapacity benefits being undertaken (as opposed to disability benefit, which is completely different, as stated in your letter), the Treasury is forthright in its view that this is the right approach to take. For those who are assessed as being capable of work, there are options available to them –
• They could register as unemployed, receive financial support through JSA and access the support services mentioned above;
• They could ask for the decision to be reconsidered, and if they are dissatisfied with the outcome of the reconsideration they can the appeal to the independent social security appeals tribunal. And depending on their circumstances, they may be entitled to a reduced amount of income support whilst they are waiting for their appeal to be heard;
• They could decide not to claim any benefits, and potentially seek work.
Social Security is about to embark upon a piece of work to try to establish how those people who have recently ceased to claim benefits following a personal capability assessment are now maintaining themselves. We expect this exercise to run for about a month. So the Division is looking into this.
I hope the above is of help to you.
Tynwald Member for Treasury, Responsibility for Social Security”
“Mr Bill Henderson MLC
Member of the Treasury with delegated
responsibility for Social Security
Yn Tashtey/The Treasury
25th January 2016
Thank you for your reply to my query of the 15th instance.
I specifically asked:
“Can you advise if the Social security Division of Treasury has monitored the impact of these changes and if any follow-up interviews have been undertaken with persons either on reduced unemployment benefit or those whose disability benefit is reassessed to that end?”
I note the comment at the end of your letter:
“Social Security is about to embark upon a piece of work to try to establish how those people who have recently ceased to claim benefits following a personal capability assessment are now maintaining themselves. We expect this exercise to run for about a month. So the Division is looking into this.”
I take it these are the 44% of people now deemed fit for work after reassessment. However my query asked about the monitoring of both that group and also those on reduced JSA.
As you will know from your background in mental health stress related to financial changes of this type to vulnerable people can trigger all kinds of responses. In a positive vein it can be a motivator to remobilise one’s self but sadly it can at the other end of the spectrum lead to depression and self harm.
I think it is vitally important that DHSC/Treasury monitor the changes on both groups of benefit recipients if only to ensure some of the sad scenarios we have seen reported from the UK are not repeated here.
I note your reference to the Department being ‘about to embark on’ etc I would have hoped that monitoring mechanisms would have been in place from day one.
I also refer to your comment:
“They could ask for the decision to be reconsidered, and if they are dissatisfied with the outcome of the reconsideration they can the appeal to the independent social security appeals tribunal. And depending on their circumstances, they may be entitled to a reduced amount of income support whilst they are waiting for their appeal to be heard;”
You will recall (from your Trade Union days) that I am familiar with the ‘tribunals” system having both been a member for many years and also on numerous occasions represented people presenting appeals. The tribunal rules were quite rigid and indeed I understand have been further constrained. The Department also get ‘a second bite of the cherry’ in being able to ‘appeal the appeal’ to a Commissioner in my view this was always a grossly unfair almost Kafkaesque situation. I suppose this injustice still pertains?
I do hope notwithstanding the content of your letter the Department will monitor all recipients subject to benefit changes either JSA of disability. I trust they will be afforded support both in interview with Department officials and should it be necessary at an appeal tribunal.
Director of Information
Issued by: The Celtic News
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