Time limit Contributory ESA to one year for those in the WRAG - Impact Assessment

J Newman made this Freedom of Information request to Department for Work and Pensions

The request was partially successful.

From: J Newman

2 December 2011

Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

I have a number of questions about the rigour of the impact
assessment:

Quote #1:
“It was never intended that ESA for those in the Work Related
Activity Group (WRAG) should be paid for an unlimited period to
people who, by definition, are expected to move towards the
workplace with help and support.”

Q1: Where is this statement supported?

Quote #2
“Government intervention is required to help ensure that ESA is
paid for a temporary period for those placed in the WRAG, thereby
encouraging a return to work and stopping people being trapped on
benefits for a lifetime”.

Q2: If the WCA is working effectively, it will determine who is and
who isn’t fit for work and the frequency with which an individual
attends allows a return to work in line with their recovery. This
does not cause them to be “trapped” (whatever that means) and there
is no need to apply an arbitrary time limit. Is the 12 m limit
therefore a device to a)Save money and/or b)Create a financial
“back-stop” because the WCA is not working effectively?

Quote #3 – Policy Objectives
a)“To ensure that ESA is paid for a temporary period thereby
creating a culture that does not allow people to stay permanently
in the WRAG, that they are expected to move towards work or into
the Support Group if there is deterioration in their functional
impairment.”

Q3A: People will not stay in the WRAG indefinitely if they have
recovered sufficiently and the WCA is working effectively. Why then
is an arbitary time limit necessary?

b)“Simplification of the benefit system, better alignment of
contributory ESA rules with contributory Jobseeker’s Allowance in
the run up to the introduction of Universal Credit.”

Q3B: What is the logic for “aligning” ESA with JSA? Why are you
saying being ill is the same as being jobless?

Quote #4 - What policy options have been considered?
1.“Do nothing.
2.Time limit contributory ESA for those in the WRAG to one year.
Options around the coverage and length of the time limit were
considered. One year was selected as the best balance between
providing people claiming contributory ESA in the WRAG with enough
support and reducing the cost of contributory ESA.

Q4: This section requires the preferred option (12months) to be
justified and the statement above does not meet this requirement -
it simply states the preference. Where is this evidence-based
justification that indicates temporary illness are resolved within
12 months, without which this time limit is arbitrary. What
evidence do you have that 18m (for example)is not a more
representative length for a tempoary illness?

Q5: Generally, the older you are, the longer it takes you to
recovery. Why has this policy therefore been targetted to unfarly
discriminate against older members of the public?

Yours faithfully,

J Newman

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From: DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request
Department for Work and Pensions

2 December 2011

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been received at the DWP Central FoI Team.

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From: DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request
Department for Work and Pensions

23 December 2011


Attachment FoI 3687 23.12.11.pdf
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Dear J Newman

Please see attached response to your FoI request 3687

Kind regards

DWP Central FoI Team

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From: J Newman

4 January 2012

Dear DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request,

Response to Q1:
You have said “the starting point for the assessment will be that
the overwhelming majority of customers are capable of some work,
given the right support.” The Government insists it adopts the
“evidence-based” approach, but where is the evidence to support
this claim? It is not shown in either of the links you provided and
is key to Government strategy. If this assumption is unsupported,
the entire strategy is invalid.

Response to Q3A:
The link you have provided is about the impact of the decision, not
the justification for it, which is what the question was about.
Please reconsider.

Response to Q4:
Page 5 of the Impact assessment explains current policy &
“Rationale for Intervention” which is politically driven NOT
evidence based. My question was about why 12 months, rather than
say 18 months was chosen. The Impact Assessment should justify why
certain preferences have surfaced above other options and it does
not. Without a direct and comprehensive comparison with alternative
timescales, 12 months can only be described as arbitrary. So where
is the evidence to demonstrate that 12 months is the best option?

Response to Q5:
The link you have provided acknowledges the additional impact on
older recipients, but dismisses any need for targeted assistance
within the proposal based on assumptions over mitigation. Page 11,
para 34 states “Whilst it is likely that a higher proportion of
older recipients will not be eligible for income-related ESA and
will see a loss in income, they will generally either have a
working partner or capital over £16,000 so will not be left without
income.”
What proportion does “generally” represent and on what hard
evidence is this statement based ? There is no indication within
the IA itself.

Yours sincerely,

J Newman

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From: DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request
Department for Work and Pensions

4 January 2012

This is an automated confirmation that your request for information has
been received at the DWP Central FoI Team.

We will forward your request to the relevant information owner within the
Department who will respond to you direct. 

Should you also have any further queries in connection with this request
do please contact us.

For further information on the Freedom of Information Act within DWP
please click on the link below.

[1]http://www.dwp.gov.uk/freedom-of-informa...

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From: DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request
Department for Work and Pensions

24 January 2012


Attachment FoI 33 24.01.12.pdf
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Dear J Newman

Please see attached response to your FoI request 33

Kind regards

DWP Central FoI Team

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P. Wilkinson left an annotation (25 January 2012)

Quote-marks As a person with limited ability to concentrate, the DWPs replies to your questions Mr Newman, have made it impossible for me to find the answers from the links the DWP have provided as the answer.
They are answering your request for clarification of the points you raised, by expecting you to wade through masses of their publications, to avoid giving you (and other interested parties), the information you require. Stonewalling is what DWP do best.

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J Newman left an annotation (25 January 2012)

Quote-marks Hello P,

Firstly, do call me John.

I take your point and am ploughing through it now. I have learned to scan-read these large reports, particularly as quite often they do not contain what you want. No need for us both to do it - you'll see from my next message how close they got.

Invariably the reports just raise a whole batch of new questions.

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From: J Newman

2 February 2012

Dear DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request,

It appears you are simply moving from one unsupported assertion to
another.

Response to Q1:
I have been through all 112 pages and this report does NOT provide
the evidence you claim it does. Without it, your statement that
“the overwhelming majority of customers are capable of some work,
given the right support”, which underpins your entire approach to
the WCA and the way you have briefed Atos to produce results is
completely unsubstantiated.
a) Would you care to comment?
b) Could you explain the phrase “some work”? Does it mean for
example, light/heavy, part-time/full-time, etc? Without a
definition, it is impossible to establish if it actually exists and
if it doesn’t exist, the proposition is meaningless.

Note that I am not asking you for an opinion – this information and
the principle of evidence-based decisions is at the very heart of
policy and SHOULD therefore be recorded.

Response to Q3A:
Your own guidelines demand that IAs spell out the logical reasons
why one option is favoured over others and that is it is NOT enough
to just express a subjective preference. Only then does the IA have
any substance. This approach is standard business practice with IAs
and is not unique to DWP. The link you have provided does not meet
this standard, so please don’t tell me it does. Do you have
anything else?

You have also said the WCA “is improving”, but have admitted on
other FoI responses that you have no hard evidence to support this
statement, particularly the critical measure of right-first-time
decision making accuracy. There may have been some peripheral,
subjectively based changes for the better, but hardy enough to
claim improvements across the board as you have here. Failure to
progress audio recording trials would be another good example of
lack of real progress in the areas most relevant to claimants.
No question here, just an observation for you to consider and
feedback.

Response to Q4:
Some refreshing honesty at last. The truth is that the sole
motivation is to save money regardless of the consequences. You
would be able to save more if you spent less time attempting to
fabricate and defend evidence that does not exist (with all due
respect).
No further question.

Response to Q5:
Again, I am afraid that if you are to have us believe that there is
indisputable logic behind your planned welfare reforms, you can no
longer use glib words like “likely”, “probably” and “normally”
without being precise about what it is you mean and where you have
collected the supporting evidence. These decisions will seriously
affect many people’s lives (one day possibly your own) and cannot
therefore be made on a whim and misplaced political dogma. GENUINE
supporting evidence is therefore mandatory NOT optional.
No further question.

As there are still a couple of questions here I think you can
legitimately answer, I will keep the thread open for now.

Yours sincerely,

J Newman

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From: DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request
Department for Work and Pensions

2 February 2012

This is an automated confirmation that your request for information has
been received at the DWP Central FoI Team.

We will forward your request to the relevant information owner within the
Department who will respond to you direct. 

Should you also have any further queries in connection with this request
do please contact us.

For further information on the Freedom of Information Act within DWP
please click on the link below.

[1]http://www.dwp.gov.uk/freedom-of-informa...

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References

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P. Wilkinson left an annotation ( 3 February 2012)

Quote-marks There is the crux of it John, when you said "GENUINE supporting evidence is therefore mandatory NOT optional."

DWP policy (like many gov policies) is based on the desire to remove peoples rights in some shape or form, and therefore as you pointed out to the FOI team; should require evidence to support the reason why there is a need to bring about change. As there is no evidence, other than the party leaders intention,(in this case to remove people from benefit) the FOI team are floundering in a sea of words which have very little meaning to reflect the DWP decisions which are made. A very poor show from departments who demand so much evidence from us!!!

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J Newman left an annotation ( 3 February 2012)

Quote-marks Hello again P. Thanks for the implicit encouragement.

On your very last point, I had a similar discussion with a DWP DM on the phone – he knew a great deal about me, but would not give me his initial, let alone Christian name. His explanation was that it was me claiming ESA not him! The tone was very much from the “benefit scroungers” school.

In a perverse way, I’d prefer them to admit that their strategy is based just on political dogma, rather than pretend it is based on “scientific” evidence which takes it into the realms of indisputable logic rather than subjective opinion. “Spin” is the scourge of the 21st century and I do rather resent being treated like an idiot who cannot spot the deception.

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From: DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request
Department for Work and Pensions

17 February 2012


Attachment FoI IR 56 17.02.12.pdf
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Dear J Newman

Please see attached response to your FoI request IR 56

Kind regards

DWP Central FoI Team

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J Newman left an annotation (18 February 2012)

Quote-marks I think this latest IR response can be summarised as "so what"!

My own conclusions therefore are:

1.DWP is quite happy to make authoritative sounding assertions that in fact have no supporting evidence, so rather than them being objective and factual, they are subjective and reflect no more than a political dogma. This was my fear, but I had hoped DWP could prove me wrong using its own "evidence-based" philosophy.

2.DWP is happy to quote reliable sounding sources to support their assertions that do not in fact contain either the data or the conclusions they suggest.

3.DWP is happy to publish and defend Impact Assessments that do not even meet its own standards.

4.DWP is happy to use subjective, unquantified adjectives to describe the progress promised that cannot be supported by any of the statistics available. Equally, that cannot contest the exact opposite proposition for the same reason.

5.DWP has in fact acknowledged that the prime objective behind this measure was cost saving. It has no objective basis for choosing 12 months over any other time period that takes into account any consideration of a person’s health & well-being.

6.DWP has no definition of the type of work it is declaring people capable of undertaking and therefore cannot demonstrate that it ever has been, is or ever will be available – notwithstanding the currently high levels of unemployment.

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