Dr. Simon Duffy, Founder, Centre for Welfare Reform, WELSH FOCUS CONFERENCE April 4, 2012.
HENRY LANGEN: Show of hands. I would like you to give a big hand to Simon Duffy. This gentleman has travelled 250 miles to be with you today and he is going to speak on welfare reform and he is from the centre of welfare reform itself. It’s Dr. Simon Duffy I hasten to add.
DR SIMON DUFFY: I am just a doctor of philosophy. So I am going to talk a bit about welfare reform from a different perspective but I thought I would say a little about myself because there is no reason why you’d know who I was I run this thing called the centre for welfare reform. I proudly say it’s an independent research and development network. That’s a way of saying I think what I’m going to say is going to upset every political party. . We work through a network of independent fellows. It’s a rather unusual business. Social innovators and people who come up with new ideas working together to share those ideas to try and bring about a fairer society. I work as the policy advisor to the campaign for a fair society on a pro bono basis and I am an honorary senior research fellow at university of Birmingham.
And what’s interesting today when we think about the kinds of proposals we just heard about and the kind of ways that people are talking aboutwelfare reform, I invented a few things like individual budgets and self directed support. In Wales what’s called citizen director support. 20 years ago when I said why don’t disabled people control the funding for their own support, people looked at me like I was madand said that will never happen. It’s now government policy in Scotland, Wales and England so these big changes can happen but sometimes it takes a lot of fighting, a lot of work and it is not the politicians who come up with these ideas. These are the kind of five key messages I want to talk about, I have got a lot of things I will try and pack into a short period of time. Welfare reform is not welfare reform. That is the simplest but most important one.
There are good reasons to reform welfare and a lot of the changes that are proposed in my mind are not reforms of welfare. Left and right agree a lot and are mostly wrong. So, in a way Simon has made that point for me already, all the major political parties agree about welfare reform and I think they are wrong about everything.
We need to think about what we are trying to achieve as a society through the welfare state. I will argue that actually the key concepts we need to pay attention to are citizenship, family, community, and social justice.
I am going to argue in the end, that experience of disabled people is one of the best guides for working out what a really good welfare system works like.
Welfare reform is not welfare reform. It isn’t just about the welfare reform bill and the local considerations in the UK, as defined by Wikipedia, that authoritive source of information, it is the cutting of the welfare state and the increase of individual responsibilities.
As a philosopher, I want to protest, I mean reform just means positive change and we can all argue about what positive means but that is, it is welfare for me it is about, it is about redesigning the welfare state in a more positive way. It is important not to make it appear like it is a bad thing or a deeply problematic thing. The welfare state is a necessary thing, it is a good thing. We need a welfare state.
Actually the reason we need the welfare state and the kinds of reasons we need the welfare state are as true or truer today than they were 40 or 50 years ago. The reason we need a system of collective securities of income, modern society means that we can actually have, and we are very insecure unless we have these things.
The reason they were revolutions and wars is because people were frightened because of poverty and inequality and the reasons for the welfare state created to combat those evictions. If you took it away we would be back in the situation. Nothing has changed about the economic about the capitalist society.
The welfare state is a good thing just designed wrong. It is designed wrong. What do I mean by that? Well, the welfare state was designed and this is true actual across most welfare states, I am talking about western developed countries developed at the same time with similar assumptions, if you read the history and think about the kinds of things people believed. They did believe left and right, that the state was good at planning stuff. That it needed to take a lot of control in order to deliver stuff.
There were a lot of assumptions paternalistic, people with low incomes or who were not in the leading elite classes were assumed to be rather incapable and lacking in ability. So we have really effectively a paternalistic assumptions behind the delivery of the welfare state. What a lot of the systems do, is stigmatise people who need help. One of the interesting questions, why a tax and a benefit system? Both systems do exactly the same job, they give people money in ways and they take money away from people. The only reason for having a separate benefit system is to stigmatise people who need benefits.
So, we need to start looking at reform in a positive way, we need to start thinking about what is the kind of welfare provision and welfare state we need in the 21st century.
So I will say that there are some really good reasons to reform the welfare state, not the reasons, there are some areas where I would agree with some points made in the previous couple of presentations. I want to talk about more broad problems in the design of the welfare system.
I will argue that the welfare state actually does not do enough to tackle poverty and that there is a huge amount of confusion about what the welfare system and the benefit system does and does not do.
I will argue that it actually in many respects and education has got every example. It undermines our citizenship not just through its ability to prepare but takes away control at all sorts of points.
It fails family’s big time. Fails to recognise the capacity of communities to solve problems and the UK particularly has the, used to be described as the second most centralised welfare state after New Zealand. But since the recent government came to power to some of the changes to education in other areas we now have the most centralised welfare state in the world. We don’t talk about this stuff, we don’t really recognise it is a problem; it is a deep and powerful problem.
So problem one. We think that the welfare state is there to serve the poor? That is almost the natural justification that trips off the tongue.
But actually, if you look at how the welfare state functions it hardly makes any impact on income equality at all.
So there are a few slides like this, I apologise, it is easy to throw statistics at you. Sometimes you need to look at them in the round. A lot of these statements about benefit fraud and others I will come on to benefit fraud shortly, look very different when you look at them properly.
This slide represents household income so the incomes of households you can see that the first, that is a first 10%. Household incomes are very low, so people with very, very low incomes around a whole household having a low income of £5,000. Talking about benefit caps is nonsense. There are people in real poverty; we live in the third most unequal country … that is something we should be ashamed of.
The people on the lowest incomes pay the highest rates of tax. I know it seems surprising it is because we forget what tax is. We forget all the different forms of taxes. If you are on very low income then you are paying VAT on almost every pound you are getting. Also paying duties and excise and all sorts of hidden taxes. These are from governments, office for national statistics data, they are kosher data. All I have done is presented that back to you. So the bottom 10% of the population pay 47% of their income in taxes.
You can see after that, it kind of levels out at around 30 something percent. Doesn’t go up for the superrich, doesn’t go, squeezed middle I don’t get. That doesn’t seem to be a problem I can quite recognise.
This is a very interesting slide, it may seem technical. If you subtract the taxes that people pay from the income you receive, you get what is called the net adjustment. So in a way of thinking about this, what difference does all of this tax benefit system make to peoples final incomes? So again if you look at the first decile, people are left £1,500 better off after they have received the benefits and paid the taxes back out.
If you look at the bottom 1% of the household and, sorry, bottom 14% of the household, and look at improving their income, it is 25 billion, that is a lot. That is 2.5% of our GDP. It is nothing. It is 5% of our welfare state. It is next to nothing.
So welfare system isn’t primarily a system for making the poor not poor. It doesn’t do that job at all and does not do it at all well. You can see on the other side that many people are contributing they are having their incomes reduced by the welfare state by paying taxes. So one question you might, if you are mathematically minded, you may ask yourself, why is one side so small and the other side so big. The amount of income receiving is small but the amount of taxes; the amount of net taxes is large. The fact is that most of the money is going to services, health, education, other services. In fact in a way what it is doing, some of the services are essential and there is a reason for that. If you look in terms of salaries, a lot of this is a redistribution back to the middle. The squeezed middle. It isn’t redistribution to the poor; it is redistribution to people in jobs, some of the people in jobs, teachers, health professionals. A lot of the welfare states is pumping money from the very rich to the not so rich. Very little of that money goes to the poor.
Let’s look at this fabled benefit fraud. We saw in one of the earlier presentation, I think the labour Assembly member picked this up well. Fraud and error, error is something the system does, fraud is something the person does.
Fraud is the interesting thing if we make a moral fuss about this. Benefit fraud on one government estimate is 1 billion again that sounds a lot of money. But at 1 billion is not a lot of money if that money is coming out of a pension and benefit pot of about 180 billion.
But, it is a tiny amount of money if you compare it with tax fraud, estimated at 15 billion. I don’t remember this government or the previous government spending a lot of money putting posters on the street talking about tax sheets? But we had a poster campaign about benefit cheats, so what is going on here? Yes, scapegoating is what is going on here.
I have got one of those labels that says government fraud, on the side — well, 16.7 billion of benefits goes unclaimed. Why? Because people don’t know they are entitled to it. Yes, so when you design a system that people don’t know what they are entitled to, that is fraudulent. The big red one is the cuts that the government intends to put in annually by 2015, 18 billion so when people start talking about the cuts as if that is going to deal with benefit fraud, we are in a kind of madness here as if these things are connected at all.
The centre for welfare reform and there is a paper you can down load if you are interested in this argues strongly for a completely different approach to welfare reform. We are not the first to suggest this at all. Have been for decades people arguing we need to focus on minimum income guarantee, lifting people out of poverty and being clear as a society what we will not accept and all sorts of benefits from moving to that model partly also if done properly it would improve incentives for work in a way that would be much, much better than the government’s current design.
Citizens have rights to control their own lives and support each other but the current welfare system often takes control away.
Disabled people know this very, very well. This picture here I call the professional gift model and it is a way of thinking about the way a lot of welfare systems work. The community pays its taxes to government. The government provides money to professionals and professionals then provide services to whoever needs them. Sounds kind of rational and reasonable. What this means in practice? Well for disabled people for instance? One of these services is called social care. What that has meant historically is that money was put first of all into institutions and then during the 80′s and 90′s, that money come out and was put into new mini institutions, group homes, special buses. For many people with learning difficulties, their lives after institutions just looked like institutions in communities. They were in the group home, in the special bus, in the day centre, back in the special bus and back in the group home. All of this is paid for by the government. What the disabled person is doing here is just trying to get what value they can from this system. These systems are not always bad but they are not driven by disabled people. About 20 years ago I started talking about what it would be like with a citizenship model for the services. The citizenship model would say, you know your entitlement. If you know your support, if you want support from a professional, — that is the notion of a personal budget.
What this means in economic terms of course is that it actually brings enormous benefits to the person because they can instead of just waiting to see what drips down from the welfare system, that they can benefit from, if, they can at all, people can take charge. They can take the financial resources that they have combine them with their skills, their family, their community and build better lives for themselves. That is how good lives happen when we are the kind of engine and driver of our own lives.
The families who need the most help often get the least. This was brought home powerfully to me two years ago when I started working in Halifax with a women’s centre. This is a madly complex slide I will try and point to you the main thing about it. If you are interested there is a book that you can buy called women at the centre.
Now, we looked at women who had the most complex needs and obviously, women often and for most of these women were still the hub of families, they were still those who were taken care of children, young children, adolescence or sometimes other children growing up.
What we found was a kind of horrendous mixture of problems in their lives. If you can see the column. Women were experiencing, in debt, they had committed crime some of them were victims of crimes. Some of them were using drugs or alcohol, some of them had significant mental illness. Some of them, their children being abused or have been abused. Many of them their families broken up. Many of them experiencing domestic violence, many of them poor education or no education. Many were being abused or had a history of abuse themselves.
Many had housing problems, very many had health problems.
The causalities between these things are complex, not one thing. When things go wrong in people’s lives quickly spiral badly out of control. But what was interesting was looking at what women’s centre did to help women and thinking about the needs that people had. This, this table distinguished how women were treated by the public service system from what are the real problems they facing were. So, and this was done just by asking caseworkers, so based on the perceptions of caseworkers.
Women working with women’s centre often would described as a victim of domestic violence, they were a criminal, poor mother, misused alcohol, these are the kinds of labels that they came into the service with. When you spent time with them on what they needed help with, it was debt, housing, benefits, health, rent, dealing with the criminal justice system, dentistry. Practical things very often but sometimes requiring advocacy and care and dealing with other systems.
When you ask women, the women who had worked with women through the problems what the real underlying problems were it was about self-esteem, trauma, bullying, in other words, the kinds of problems people faced that really damage people’s lives aren’t really very well understood by the kind of service system labels.
However when you look at what we fund around women with complex needs and families with complex needs. We have a plethora of services. This is a service map. Social care, social care adult, housing, the law, benefits — women were having to deal with this complex system that made no sense and often excluded them because their needs were too complex. You find is, if you have got complex needs the systems response to throw more complexity at you. If you have extras, the system throws up his hands and says it is too complex. You have a mental illness, you need to talk to the drug and alcohol and so on.
To this end I do agree with the previous speaker, there are hundreds of ways in the benefit system that is supposedly reformed for giving people not a lot. It is a very confusing system. Some of these systems were linked; benefits are linked to other benefits in some ways, sometimes they are means tested and sometimes not.
Sometimes it is a tax credit that was, whose barmy idea was that? Sometimes it is a benefit. Sometimes it is a disability related benefit and sometimes not. Sometimes … liked to employment seeking and not. This is an incredibly complex system no wonder 16.7 billion doesn’t get claimed because people don’t really know what they are entitled to.
Again, I do think that the coalition is right about the fact that some of the impacts of this system although I don’t think their plans for reforming is wise, at least encouraging that people have started to recognise the current system does create disincentives not just to work but to saving and disincentives to family, for some of the families that the women’s centre serve this comes in the form of, if they claimed that somebody was not living with them who was actually living with them because obviously, they are going to lose a significant chunk of a very low income if they admit that they are living with somebody else, then they can find themselves and did find themselves in prison, where we then go and spend thousands of pounds putting them in prison rather than designing a welfare system that didn’t create disincentives for people to have families and for people to be together, what system creates…
There are solutions but the solutions like women’s centre itself are not created by government but created by us, by ordinary citizens, figuring out things together. The positive impact of these solutions can be amazing. These just show the before and after effects with women with complex needs.
This point links to problem 4 for me. The current design of the welfare system is terrible at encouraging community innovation. There is a sense in which not only does the government spend all of our money for us in a way that then stops us being able to innovate but almost spends that money on a pattern that was set up in the 1940′s and is so slow to amend and change, if you compare change in the welfare system with change in the non-welfare system in technology, in business, and just see how slow things are. You know, we know that disabled people, families, communities can be innovative and creative and generate solutions, what happens is that the system doesn’t know what to do with them.
This next, it is like your crazy slide represents the funding for the organisation I just described to you, women’s centre. The average length of time of a funding stream was 18 months. They, their maximum size was a million pounds turn over and I think they had 32 funding streams that year. Most of the funding streams came from central or regional government. That is not because local government or local health services didn’t care about them but it is because actually it is regional and national government that controls most of the funding.
So this actually leaves women’s centre in a peculiar position. Again this is just a very quick example but recently in Doncaster, worked with the personalisation forum group, 60 odd people with mental health problems come together and created in a year a quarter of a million pounds of support for each other. They came together because they were upset and angry that the mental health system wouldn’t provide them with support. In the end the system hasn’t provided flexible support. They figured out how to support each other. Today, they have no practical assistance at all from the mental health system or the local authority in Doncaster.
We needs to start moving away from this government controls and spends our money for us, to a model that talks about how we invest in our communities, how we invest in the capacity and the ability to innovate in our communities. Lots of people with good ideas and intelligence within our communities, who can solve the problems than the existing patterns.
Problem 5, the UK now is the most centralised welfare state in the world and it is getting worse. Despite talk of localism. I will not rant too much about the work programme but the work programme is an interesting example of the problem here. What is actually gone on is that large amounts of public money are now being given to large private companies who then cream off a large part of the money and then give a small amount of the money and a lot of the risk to small community organisations many of whom will go out of business because of the model developed.
This is what you get when you don’t trust local communities, what my friends in Barnsley say, why can’t we have that money in Barnsley? Why is it determined by Whitehall, why do they decide to commission A 4 E and CIRCO to come to Barnsley? What is interesting is when you look at the money from a local area perspective, if you think about Barnsley, for those of you who don’t know it, is a northern working class area, it is a proud city with a proud history but its mining industry is gone and no significant industry to replace it.
There are about quarter of a million people who live in Barnsley. The population of ancient Athens a peak of civilisation quite enough to be in control of their own destiny. If you take Barnsley’s share of tax revenues GDP they in a sense there should be 2.34 billion spent on Barnsley. Does that make sense? If they’d had their share of the Welfare State, yes, just by population, 2.34. But actually public spending in Barnsley is 1.44. So there is point 9 just gone missing and it’s very interesting: why has it gone missing? Who has got it? Simon Hart mentioned one of the things: London weighting and Whitehall and all sort of other projects, so a lot of the money people talk about – I’ve never done this for Pembrokeshire but people talk as if we in our local areas should be grateful for the money London sends our way but it’s our money and it seems like a lot of that money never comes back to us so there are really fundamental questions about the design of the local and the central that we’ve not addressed.
When you look at this money very, very little of it can be controlled locally. The orange block Council services which basically is social care, roads. And environment, bins. That’s what local Council can control. Almost everything else is controlled in England through Whitehall. In Wales you’ve got some better opportunities because you do have your own government. You’ve got some delegated powers and you’ve got a closer relationship and I think a little bit more trust and respect between central government in Cardiff and in local communities but in England we’ve got an amazingly weird position.
Recently, the great thinkers the think tanks started talking about with excitement – total place. Why don’t local communities get innovative and we’ll put this money together and start thinking about it creatively? The question I ask is: who split the money up in the first place? How can you be creative with all this money when central government divides it up into different streams and what Local Government has to do is try and somehow put them altogether again.
This whole system is incredibly wasteful. Incredibly wasteful and the most important form of waste is that actually it just spends money on the wrong stuff.
What we need I think and this is going to be a huge challenge and may be a challenge that certainly lasts longer than my life but what we need is something we’d think of as constitutional welfare reform. We need to start thinking what is the Welfare State for. What principles should it operate under. How can we really have proper rights in this place and how can we get decisions made closer to people either by people themselves or made in our local communities? That is what I think would make for a good Welfare State.
Simon said there is very little difference between the political parties and some of you may want to disagree but I think it is interesting how little disagreement there is.
But I don’t think that we should be complacent or think that’s a good thing or that means they’re all right. When people agree about stuff it doesn’t mean they’re right. You can agree as you are charging off a cliff.
What you see a lot of the time is what I describe as the loud argument between left and right. State is good state is bad. Markets are good markets fail. No the states can’t plan. Give people help people need lots of help. No give people choice. Increase services. Cut taxes. Those are the kind of public balance and it sounds like a real argument but I think what’s going on is an awful lot that they agree about. They agree that we can’t run our own lives and they need to do that for us and this is called meritocracy a term coined by the brilliant thinker Michael Young satirically and didn’t think people would take it seriously but you have political parties that argue for meritocracy but that’s another theme, there is an assumption and we get it through benefits cheats that we can’t be trusted, we need to be bullied, incentivised into working and into contributing when we know it’s part of our human nature to want to contribute and give.
And there is a lot of focus on economic growth as the only central way out of any problem and you ask yourselves why politicians always want economic growth and it’s a lot to do with the system of patronage over which they oversee.
A lot of the problems we face are a result of what I would call political pandering and I think this term the squeezed middle is something we should really be challenging.
If you look at – it’s a very complicated side as well – it’s asking us something called the marginal tax rate. The marginal tax rate is that the amount of tax you pay on your next pound. So in the slide I showed before I said this is the amount people pay out of their income the complete amount of tax out of income but the marginal tax is the tax you pay on your net pound. One of the problems with the benefit system is it creates very high marginal taxes which means if you earn a pound you have to pay back a pound. Sometimes you have to pay back more than a pound strangely. And in fact the rich do pay quite high marginal taxes as well but because of the way the system is organised their average rate of tax is not dissimilar to people in the middle and is lower than people in the poorest. Who pays the lowest marginal rates of tax. Roughly speaking swing voters. Who do politicians say are squeezed? Swing voters.
So a lot of the design of the system is a result of political factors. It is not economic. It is political. If you want to understand why a system works the way it is.
We can see the same if we look at the recent sets of cuts introduced in 2010 then further developed in 2011.
So this slide shows changes to annual central government budgets to be achieved by 2015 so this is annual spending levels so again interestingly, I mean in one sense the whole system they’re trying to spend less money as a percentage of GDP and there is an argument about that but putting that to one side it’s not the case that everything is being case. It’s not the case everything is being cut.
Everything on the green side is growing in cash term and anything on the red sight is being cut. What’s growing? NHS. Pensions. Schools, colleges not so much. Defence. Treasury. Cabinet office. Quangos. Foreign aid. Tax and benefit. Administration is growing remarkably and Northern Ireland. What’s being cut? Scotland, Wales, transport, financial crisis measures they hope. Energy environment and culture policing. Universities. English local governments and benefits last 2 big ones really big cuts really big cuts.
What’s that all about? Some of it is about actually people don’t – people experience and perceive in the media cuts to the NHS as a big deal that affects everyone. People experience cuts in benefits that something that doesn’t affect them, it affects someone else and similarly with Local Government and there are additional factors to Local Government. You can look at these things in percentage terms. The most striking figure here is the growth in the Treasury cabinet office and quangos is 254 per cent so actually what’s interesting at the moment this is how mad things are, the centre of the centre is growing and that’s partly how they’re trying to manage the economic melt down.
And the big, big percentage cuts: business. English Local Government and benefits.
Alternative view. How would we really think about reforming welfare? Let’s think about his as a democratic reform. Why don’t we have a Welfare State where we’re all treated as equal citizens with rights and treated as people who can have control over our own lives and why don’t we get much clearer about what we mean by social justice in this society? What’s fair.
One of your opportunities in Wales is I think you don’t have to repeat these same patterns of elitist thinking I think you could move more quickly to radically challenging these ideas. And I think the fact that the Welsh Government has recently come out in supporting citizen directed support is a really powerful sign that you do have the ability to do some things much, much better than those of us unfortunate enough to live in parts of England.
In future our focus should be on 4 things: citizenship, family, community and social justice. And just to say a little about this. Most of my working life has been with people with learning difficulties and people with learning difficulties really get what citizenship is citizenship is not primarily voting its about being in control of your own life. Citizenship is about having purpose, control, a decent amount of money, a home of your own, needs getting help from other people is a part of citizenship and gifts – giving back is part of citizenship. People with learning difficulties get this really well. They know that’s what they want it’s what they demand.
A philosophical thing is I think one of the things we’re struggling with is the notion of need is sometimes muddled and confused. This is quite a famous amount of need and it says basically we need that basic stuff first and as human beings we try and get that basic stuff then we’ve got all the basic stuff and we do self actualisation – the nice stuff, the creative stuff. But when it comes to designing the welfare system this is completely the wrong approach to take. You have to in a way invert the pyramid. You have to start with the citizenship. You have to start with self realisation because the problem is if you get all the basics sorted out first and you give away control and the ability to do things your own way in sorting out the basics you’ll have nothing else to live your life by,
What we find when we look at how people do get good lives is they build on what we call their real wealth. Sometimes called capacities. Capabilities. And real wealth turns out not to be just money. Real wealth is correlation ships. Real wealth is what we bring our gifts and what we bring and real wealth is also our community, all of the opportunities created by the social and structures that we build together.
This notion of personalisation is really the bringing together of real life in the achievement of citizenship so we have made interesting discoveries and achievements over the last couple of decades underneath the radar of the political system and largely led by disabled people.
This is really my final section.
So my view is that not only is welfare reform necessary, it is positive but it doesn’t look anything like what we’re being offered at the moment, but disabled people will be the best guides to what good welfare reform looks like.
I just want to return to the cuts a little bit in this. 58 per cent of all cuts target disabled people and people in poverty. 36 per cent of cuts target disabled people its unavoidable the way the benefit system works and the fact that social care is the biggest thing Local Government does it’s what drives this. 24 per cent of all cuts targeted 1.9 per cent of the population who need social care because those people need social care and rely on benefits usually.
So, we’re living in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and we’re watching 25 per cent of all these cuts falling on 2 per cent of the population with the most severe impairments.
To describe these cuts as being fair just seems mad. They’re unfair because they target those who are most disadvantaged. They’re unfair because if we’re the third most unequal society this is in danger of making moving up that pecking order. We mayas well be Portugal if we drive down the income level of the poorest we’ll undoubtedly become even more unequal and it’s unfair in a primitive sense because the reason these cuts are happening it’s not because of massive growth in benefit or welfare services but because of an economic bubble that was created yes by politicians, yes by bankers, but in a sense home owners may even have benefited from this a lot of this road on inflated housing prices that still we haven’t actually seen return back to normal.
So lots of people who benefited from that, the people who are suffering, being made to suffer, are not that group, none of those groups, not politicians, not bankers, not people who’ve benefited from increased house prices but disabled people. So fairness does not enter into it
And why? I think one of the earlier questioners said: why do the conservatives hate disabled people? I really don’t think they do. I think they’re just politicians. I think that there is prejudice against and fear of disabled people and that’s a political factor that makes it easier to make cuts in this area. I think disabled people are I’m sorry to put it like this but you are a weak political force. Very disunited. And I think one of the exciting things about Welsh focus you are trying to do something about that, but if you look across the piece disabled people are not organised around disability broad sense. We talked about older people. People with physical disabilities people with sensory impairments – hundreds of different charities. They all argue with each other. They do not represent the interests of disabled people well to governments.
There is this strange particularity of the systems that have been cut – social care and benefits. Of course these are universal systems. We would all benefit from them if we needed them but people don’t imagine them as universal services. Does that make sense? It’s funny because it’s not as if we’re constantly at the hospital benefiting from the NHS but we do imagine as a universal system and for some reason we imagine social care as a partial service and again that might reflect just confusion or prejudice.
And of course as I describe the system is itself so complex people in fact most people don’t even know what social care is so that’s one of the reasons why social care is easy to cut.
It was for these reasons that at the end of 2010 many of us came together to try and make the case for reversing this injustice and formed something called the campaign for a fair society. And the belief of the campaign for a fair society is everyone is equal no matter their age, differences or disabilities. A fair society sees each of its members as a full citizen a unique person with a life of their own. And a fair society is organised to support everyone to live a full life with meaning and respect.
So it’s about difference and equality coming together and really trying to build that fair society. And what we’ve tried to do and this is a lure the tiger from the mountains – what we’re trying to do from the campaign is not just battle with things like elements of the welfare reform bill which seem unfair. In a way when you do that you’ve lost half the battle because the person you are arguing with is dictating the agenda so what we’re trying to do instead is get the debate back down to things that every citizen can understand.
2 or 3 weeks ago we published the manifesto for a fair society launched at the House of Lords and the basic idea within the manifesto is to build on the experience of disabled people.
This slide I think represents in a simplified way the history of disabled people the second half of the twentieth-century and attempts at welfare reform you’ve seen by disabled people. Many disabled people were locked into institutions. What disabled people did with the support of family, friends, professionals, led by many disabled people was get out of those institutions into a ordinary community lives. A second wave of institutional life: group homes, day centres, residential care homes. And what people have shown is no, we want independent living. We want our own homes, we want jobs. We want to live our own lives and we’ve seen people succeed at that.
Then the third wave of reform has been round the system itself, the benefit system social care system where people are saying give us control of this money, it’s our money, we should be entitled to it so we’re seeing the progress so we’re seeing ourselves in the middle of this third wave of reforms but now these reforms can’t be thought of just by disabled people just focusing on their own issues. We need to start thinking about this from the perspective of the whole if society.
So this is my penultimate slide and this is real quick run through of the 8 key points in the manifesto. People want human rights not services. People want clear entitlement not confusion. They want to know what they’re entitled to and want to be able to control it. They want early support not crisis. In England we have amazing eligibility thresholds. We’ve got people having to go into crisis just to get entitled to stuff then the stuff is far more expensive and far worse for people than if a small intervention was made much earlier.
We want equal access not institutional care and Remploy is a good example of this. I do not think it makes sense to put money into institutional services like Remploy which turns out over 20 odd thousand pounds per head, but actually could be under the control of disabled people themselves. One of the challenges to the government at the moment is disabled people have so littletrust in their intentions they don’t believe if the money will end up in their pocket and if the government is going to make up to 10 billion on top of 18 billion benefit cuts disabled people are right to be cynical but nevertheless when disabled people come to say what kind of fair society do we want it’s not whether the government spends more on Remploy or group homes or day centres, it’s when people are in control of their own lives.
People should have choice and control and should have enough money to be and living independent lives, we need income and security, that is not luxury mansions, people want enough to be secure to know they are not going to be in poverty and not be fearful like the questionnaire earlier.
We want fair taxes; I want to make a point that isn’t the normal point. I am not so sure it works particularly to go chasing the, particularly to go chasing the millionaires, but what really bugs me is the unfair taxes that are hidden like charges. Yes, charges for social care are a special disability tax aren’t they? Think about it. Only applies to disabled people, only applies to people who need significant amount of help and takes a huge chunk out of their personal income. I have friends in Scotland, lost 50% of their personal disposable income like that because of a policy change in a local authority, desperate to fill a hole. This is not a fair sensible society.
Finally we need financial reform and need to move to an economic system that is not chasing growth but actually is innovating and finding better and more secure ways by which we can support each other as fellow citizens.
So I suppose my call to action, if you have not joined a campaign, join, it is free to join over the internet, follow the centre if you want to know about reforming things.
What I would like to see, if folk in Wales could start thinking about how you would organise to demand for a fairer settlement and to, you can have that conversation which I think you can do much more intelligently and much more openly in Wales about what fairness looks like and what a fairer system would look like in there is no Welsh steering group for the campaign. If you are interested in trying to develop something led in Wales, related to the — Scotland and England on an equal balance, any Welsh group would be the same.
Anymore information on the web site, go use all the social media things to find out more.