The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is the subject of an official government probe. The body in charge of it wants sick and disabled claimants to submit evidence about how the DWP interacts with them. And the timing couldn’t be better, because it comes as the government prepares its “National Disability Strategy”.
The DWP: under the microscope
The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) is a government body. Its role is to review what the DWP does and give it advice. Previously the SSAC looked into Universal Credit. But now, it’s probing how the DWP operates more broadly.
To be clear: the SSAC research is about how the DWP interacts with disabled people. It is not about benefits. The SSAC says it is:
conducting research into how the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) engage with disabled people in formulating policies and processes which affect them.
It notes that:
DWP regularly consults disabled people, or organisations representing them, in developing policies and implementing services affecting them. However, the extent, consistency and effectiveness of that engagement is not clear.
So, the SSAC’s:
research aims to build a better understanding of that, and consider what scope exists to improve DWP’s current approach, drawing on relevant best practice that exists elsewhere.
What the SSAC wants
It wants to hear from people about what it’s like to give feedback to the DWP. While the SSAC wants disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) to give evidence, it also wants to hear from individuals.
This may not apply to everyone. But it would be worthwhile for people to get involved who have:
- Made a complaint to the DWP.
- Completed a claimants survey.
- Been part of DWP research.
- Had any other engagement with the DWP, when it’s asked for their opinions.
Also, sick and disabled people who have not had any interactions with the DWP about how it operates, but feel their opinions should be heard, should also consider contacting the SSAC.
The way the DWP interacts with sick and disabled people is problematic. This was highlighted in a report by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. For example, it noted how the DWP and government did not involve sick and disabled people’s groups in the monitoring of how the UN convention for disabled people was implemented across the country. Also, many of the UN’s recommendations advised the government to involve sick and disabled people more.
The timing of this review is apt. Because the government is supposed to be releasing a National Disability Strategy this year.
A national strategy?
As the Queen’s speech in December 2019 noted, the government said:
We want to transform the lives of disabled people, ensuring they have access to opportunities and are able to achieve their potential. We will publish a National Strategy for Disabled People in 2020 to ensure disabled people can lead a life of opportunity and fulfilment. Our strategy will be ambitious, supporting disabled people in all aspects and phases of their life.
The strategy will set out practical proposals on the issues that matter most to disabled people and we will use all the levers of Government to support disabled people to achieve their potential.
The strategy, to be developed with disabled people, disability organisations and charities, will include housing, education & transport.
But so far, the government has not published any more details. So, no one knows who the government and DWP are consulting about this. That is, if they’re consulting anyone at all.
Get involved. Now.
So the more feedback the SSAC gets, the better. Because if the DWP and the government are publishing a strategy, but not involving sick and disabled people, it will just be more lip service. The SSAC’s remit will at least give people a platform to try and affect positive change in the department. Anyone who has experience with the DWP knows it often feels like it doesn’t listen. As a minimum, at least with the SSAC review, someone will.
Featured image via cjohnson – Wikimedia and Wikimedia