David CameronWe are not surprised that Conservative leader David Cameron has no idea what life is like when you rely on incapacity benefit, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised in his complete fail at basic maths, either.

The Tories say they intend to reassess everyone on Incapacity Benefit to see if they are fit for work, within three years of a Conservative election victory.

Aethelread the Unread takes a look at the maths and works out what that would cost.

So, let’s review. David Cameron is proposing

a minimum £14,565,600 increase in the annual public sector wage bill;

a 148% increase in the number of publicly-funded medical examination centres;

an unknown increase in the number of civil servants in the DWP to process the additional paperwork;

an unknown increase in the number of civil servants required to process an unquantified number of appeals against the removal of benefit.

This is all based on the presumption, for which he has advanced no evidence, that a staggeringly high proportion – one fifth – of those receiving Incapacity Benefit are capable of work, and that these hundreds of thousands of fraudsters (assuming they exist) will be flushed out by this process. This is despite the fact that every single IB claimant has already been through multiple medical assessments of the kind he is proposing, and has been repeatedly found to be incapable of work.

Of course, a good politician would never let anything like the facts get in the way of a policy suggestion designed to thrill the readers of the Daily Mail.

And of course, people on incapacity benefits are a safe group to take a stab at – we are inherently unlikely to be able to gather together in large enough numbers to make any kind of publicly visible protest. Even if we were well enough, we probably couldn’t afford the travel costs, and would be too afraid of having our benefits stopped to risk putting our heads above ground. Most of us have to spend all our energy and other resources getting through life day by day. Politicians are safe to pontificate and lie about us, knowing they’re very unlikely ever to have to walk past groups of us protesting, and if they did there would be Daily Mail readers aplenty to shout out “why don’t you just go and get a job?”

And that will probably be the subject of my next post.

In her Open Letter to David Cameron, blogger Crimsoncrip takes the Conservative leader to task for the way he talks about people on incapacity benefits.

Officially economic inactivity is not being employed, and not looking for work. The frequency with which it is bandied about by some, makes it seem less ‘clean’, than that, as if perhaps those who meet the definition do not contribute to society, or the economy.

David CameronCrimsoncrip goes on to talk about some of the ways people with disabilities contribute, such as volunteer work, a good deal of which is done by people on benefits who can manage a few hours of work a week.

There’s another point to consider here. Unless you take yourself completely out of society, no one is economically inactive. You spend money, you are economically active. People on benefits spend money (and pay VAT or sales taxes), in fact usually they have so little money they do the most economically active thing possible, spending it right away rather than saving it. The money we get goes right back into the economy.

People who’ve lived on benefits for a while usually can’t get much in the way of credit even if they want to, so we have less tendency to do the things that really damage the economy, like running up ridiculous huge debts which banks sell on to other people until the whole thing crashes and the government gives the banks billions of dollars or pounds. We, quite simply, are not the ones shitting all over the pot in this situation.

Paid work isn’t possible for some disabled people, because of their condition, or because they can’t find an employer to employ them within their limitations. This does not mean we don’t want to work, but equally we don’t see removing benefits, or restricting them, and forcing us on to activity programmes, as a real alternative either. We want to be in control, and make this decisions for ourselves, without fear of penalty if we decide we can’t manage. We don’t need to be forced to be responsible, and productive, within our limits many of us, are responsible active citizens, who make a real contribution to society. Why is that contribution not recognised?

Yes, Mr Cameron, why?