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The National Audit Office has now ruled that the DWP failed to seek adequate compensation from Atos, confirming what has long been obvious to claimants suffering from chronic disabling conditions and their families: that the Government, intent on trimming £16bn from the welfare bill, has been oblivious both to the cost to the taxpayer and the real hardship to individuals. True reform must transcend crude political dogma.
http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/herald-view/dwp-oblivious-to-hardship-caused-by-benefit- reform.18607207 FRIDAY 17 AUGUST 2012 DWP oblivious to hardship caused by benefit reform The radical reform of welfare provision led by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith is intended to redress anomalies in the system and "make work pay". But, as others who have embarked on the mission for social justice have discovered, it is impossible to reduce overall the cost without replacing one form of unfairness with another. Cuts to housing benefit, which will start to be replaced by a single Universal Credit payment from April next year, and fitness for work assessments for long-term claimants are but the latest examples. By definition, tenants in social housing are at the low end on the income scale; almost all are dependent on housing benefit to meet the cost of the rent. The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations forecasts that by 2017, when the reforms take full effect, working age tenants of housing associations and co-operatives in Scotland will lose between £123 million and £228m in housing benefit and around £90m in other payments. It is not just individual and family budgets that will be hit. Housing associations will lose an immediate £33.47m in income but will also face a potentially catastrophic loss of tens of millions of pounds more in rent defaults, increased administration costs and higher bank charges for renegotiated loans. Housing associations have been one of the most successful agencies in raising standards of living. In appointing tenants to the management boards, they have also inspired a sense of community ownership in many areas. Yet their future now looks bleak. To encourage people in bigger houses to move somewhere smaller and free up accommodation for families, tenants with spare bedrooms will lose up to 25% of housing benefit. But unless more small houses can be built in the neighbourhood, it will amount to the forcible uprooting of people with an inevitable dilution of community spirit. Mr Smith's decree that it's not right that some people on benefits have been able to live in homes that most working people could not afford may be relevant in central London but, as he should surely know from his Easterhouse epiphany, it hardly applies to areas of former council housing on the outskirts of Glasgow. An equally heavy-handed rush to achieve a theoretical fairness with scant regard for consequent hardship is evident in the administration of "fit for work" tests of people claiming disability benefits. Almost four in 10 of the decisions by Atos Healthcare, contracted by the Government to administer the tests at a cost of £110m a year, have been overturned on appeal. Despite this unacceptable level of incompetence, with the bill for appeals reaching £40m last year, the company was awarded a further contract, although it did not establish why Atos was failing until last month. The National Audit Office has now ruled that the DWP failed to seek adequate compensation from Atos, confirming what has long been obvious to claimants suffering from chronic disabling conditions and their families: that the Government, intent on trimming £16bn from the welfare bill, has been oblivious both to the cost to the taxpayer and the real hardship to individuals. True reform must transcend crude political dogma.
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