‘The misuse of evidence in incapacity benefit reform’ Steve Griffiths: ‘The use and misuse of evidence in the benefits debate’

Steve Griffiths, a freelance consultant and researcher in health and social policy, explained in the opening paragraph of a recent article based on research for Compass, entitled, “The misuse of evidence in incapacity benefit reform” (PDF), the basis for these reforms is deeply flawed:

The idea that there are over a million people in Britain receiving Incapacity Benefit who are not entitled to it has driven a major strand of welfare reform for more than fifteen years, and was a cornerstone of the New Labour project. Yet this proposition was based from the beginning on selective use of evidence — and there is a persuasive alternative narrative, available from a wide range of sources, that has been determinedly overlooked by both major parties and by the media.  There is of course no doubt that work is often good for health; and nor is there doubt that many people who are unfit for work might be able to return to work with appropriate support. The problem is that this case has been fatally exaggerated, while, on the other hand, large numbers of people with severe health needs — who are themselves the subject of huge investment by the Department of Health — have been treated as invisible (or, worse, as malingering) by the DWP and successive Work and Pensions ministers. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that those in charge of Work and Pensions have been driven by a compulsion to judge and to privatise, with any consideration of the population’s health needs deliberately excluded from their policy framework.

Steve concludes:

“What would happen if, in the criminal justice system, half of appeals were found in favour of the appellant?

It would be evidence that there was something deeply wrong.

There would be a high profile debate about wrongful imprisonment.

Yet these disallowances, which affect the financial support of hundreds of thousands of very poor sick and disabled people, go largely unreported. It is evidently a matter that is unworthy of our attention.

It is my contention that this represents a shameful democratic deficit.”

Steve Griffiths is a freelance consultant and researcher in health and social policy.A former welfare rights worker, he has written practice guidance for three Government departments, and reports about inequalities and preventive investment for major charities, local authorities and PCTs. This article is adapted from a recent Thinkpiece for Compass.

Read the full article here: 



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