One thought on “Listen to Nick ( @Mylegalforum) and help ‘Keep welfare benefits legal aid.’ URGENT #mhuk #wrb #LASPO

    Nick (@Mylegalforum) said:
    April 21, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    Many thanks Dawn for highlighting what we see as something of vital importance to the thousands of people who will be affected by government’s welfare reforms. Not many people realise the enormity of what is upon us; the welfare reforms are already in near chaos as Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) appeals end up going to tribunal after tribunal, – it’s bringing out the very worst in target based decision – making, aimed purely & simply at helping the government achieve its ‘back to work’ objective.

    ESA is just the start, there is still a huge cohort of Incapacity Benefit ‘conversions’ to work through, with Disability Living Allowance reviews to follow prior to implementation of Personal Independence Payment, we then see the all singing all dancing ‘Universal Credit’. It’s far from universal in terms of its practical application and involves the integration of the primary income based benefits -ESA, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Working & Child Tax Credits & Housing Benefit. It’s a process which ultimately will have to integrate around around 18 million claims between departments. There are many other peripheral reform based changes in what is essentially one almighty untried experiment. Success or failure depends on how well different departments communicate with one another via IT technology; all of which has yet to be tested in a live ‘fully loaded’ environment.

    Part of the reform implementation involves adapting to a new ‘digital era’ whereby claimants will engage with faceless officialdom with an expectation that claimants will carry out up to 80% of all communication transactions ‘on-line’. I genuinely fear for those who can’t cope with the technology, those who are light years from high speed broadband and those who simply don’t have access to a functioning computer. People affected by mental health are too all intents & purposes ‘guinea pigs’ in this new era of change.

    It is little wonder that the Tribunal judiciary are predicting social security appeal will max out at 644,000 per year in 2014/15, bringing the total in this Parliament to 2.5 million appeals. I cannot think of anything more ludicrous than removing access to legal help in this often challenging & complex area of law. Government has in its head an absurd misconception that people can cope by seeing their MP’s, following Ministry of Justice videos which tell you how ‘user friendly’ it all is. The volunteers engaged by not for profits will be working flat out to deal with the presenting issues all of this chaos will bring, few of them have the time to take on work which is currently carried out by paid professionals under legal aid. Organisations are responding by implementing telephone access points and ’empowering’ people to engage in self help – it’s not enough.

    As a front line specialist of many years of experience with a success rate of which I am very proud, it saddens me that social welfare justice has become the scapegoat for these wicked legal aid cuts. It makes me question our government’s real motives in removing proper help. I think we will end up with thousands more on JSA, stuck in an unhelpful welfare wilderness with no recognition of the real limitations people face; – it’s denial of disability in its most sinister form.

    Legal help is there for now, but the amendment being moved by Lord Bach is up for the vote once again in the House of Lords’ on Monday.
    I encourage you all to do what you can to say ‘enough is enough’, they’ve kicked you with welfare reform and now they want you to stand or fall of your own accord – it’s down to how well you can advocate your own case.

    Fight back whilst you still can – support Lord Bach amendment via the @mylegalforum – it’s why I’ve spent every single spare moment trying to prompt all and sundry into action.

    Last year I warned of a welfare reform ‘car – crash’, it’s only around the corner now and no brakes are being applied.


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