IDS ‘resisting cuts to welfare budget’ – Are they clueless on this?

Josh Barrie writing in The Independent – Iain Duncan Smith the work and Pensions Secretary is “pushing back” against attempts to “salami slice” the welfare budget to deliver the savings pledge, it was reported.

The Tories have said they will find £12bn of welfare savings by 2020 but no agreement has been reached on where the axe will fall.

One possibility is that George Osborne, the Chancellor, could announce that a freeze on increasing welfare payments could be extended beyond 2017 until the end of the parliament. This would be in line with the freeze in ministerial salaries. But it is believed that IDS has for a long time been frustrated by his party’s leadership, who have failed to say publicly where the savings can be made.

Iain Duncan Smith“IDS – witchfinder general”

He fears that the lack of guidance could lead to rushed action, which would pave the way for some very unpopular decisions.

A close ally of IDS said that many key figures had not thought such drastic cuts would have to be actually implemented in government because they would be diluted under a renewed coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

But the unexpected Tory majority has increased uncertainty for Mr Duncan Smith, who is said to be standing up to attempts to take of more of his budget to fund public giveaways.

The ally told The Observer newspaper: “You have two sides of the ledger – the cuts and the giveaways – and people didn’t think they would have to go through with them. IDS was surprised when the cuts were first announced in January, and that tells you where the push-back in the government is on this now.”

A source close to Mr Duncan Smith said that he believed there would be no “salami slicing”, but confirmed he is committed to the £12bn figure.

“He might have wanted agreement on the detail earlier but, as the person whose job it is to see this through, he is committed and believes you can do it through behavioural change,” the source added.

“Whatever the Governments committment – we are committed to suffering it – unfortunately. They are completely lost on this or don’t know how to come clean”

PIP delay woman struggled to eat and heat her home, court hears

John Pring writing in the Disability News Service (DNS) – A court has heard how a disabled woman struggled to afford to feed herself and heat her home because of delays with her claim for the government’s new disability benefit.

Lawyers representing the woman, known as Ms C, and another disabled person, were at the high court this week to argue that delays in applications for personal independence payment (PIP) were so unreasonable as to be unlawful.

The two-day judicial review of the PIP system heard how disabled people had been forced to wait up to 13 months for their applications to be dealt with by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Iain Duncan Smith

‘IDS – The DWP’s head Witchfinder General’

Disability News Service (DNS) first began reporting on delays and backlogs in the system in late 2013.

In January, one disabled woman told DNS how she had been forced to wait more than 14 months to be assessed for PIP, which is gradually replacing working-age disability living allowance.

Government figures released the same month showed that ministers had broken their high-profile promise to slash all PIP waiting-times to less than four months by the end of 2014.

Although the average waiting-time for a PIP assessment had fallen from 30 weeks to 14 weeks, the figures suggested that, by the end of 2014, nearly 60,000 claimants had been waiting longer than 16 weeks to be assessed.

By the end of March 2015, according to new figures published in advance of this week’s court hearing, nearly 23,000 disabled people had been waiting longer than 20 weeks for their new PIP claim to be decided, down from 41,000 in January 2015.

Of those 23,000, more than 3,000 had been waiting longer than a year.

The figures* do not show how many people had been waiting longer than the government target of 16 weeks.

Anne-Marie Irwin, the lawyer at Irwin Mitchell leading the cases, said before the hearing: “Too many people have been left in the lurch as a result of flaws in the system.

“We hope our legal challenge will force the DWP to reconsider its decision to continue with the roll out of PIP until flaws in the system are resolved, so that future applicants do not have to face such gross delays for this essential support.”

Ms C applied for PIP in January 2014 after her health condition worsened and she had to leave her job, but she did not receive the benefit until October, just one day after court proceedings were originally issued on her behalf by Irwin Mitchell.

She said last year: “The delay has had a massive impact on my life. I applied for PIP so I could look after myself, but without it I can barely eat and only ever leave my house for a weekly trip to a supermarket.

“While PIP wouldn’t solve all of my problems, without it I just feel financially and socially isolated.”

Irwin Mitchell has already helped seven disabled people secure decisions on their delayed PIP applications.

*These figures do not include PIP claimants with terminal illnesses, who are dealt with far more quickly under “special rules”.

“What’s worse is – things aren’t going to get any better – are they?”