Amazingly, this is still being treated as news, when it is in fact an ongoing scandal.
Perhaps we should take this as a sign that the Conservative Government laid its groundwork well; the incessant hate campaigns against sickness and disability benefit claimants have made it seem – to the unobservant member of the public – that these people deserve to lose their benefit payments because they are all cynical scroungers who simply don’t want to do a decent day’s work.
If that was true, why do so many of them suffer in poverty when the money is cut off? Why do so many of them die?
The simple answer is that the claim that they are all perfectly fit is a lie. Less than half of one per cent of sickness and disability benefit claims are fraudulent, but a far larger proportion are having their claims overturned.
We know that the assessors – for private firms Capita and Atos – don’t do their job properly. They have targets to hit (even though the Department for Work and Pensions – their employers – deny it with all their lying might).
We know that the assessment system is rubbish. It assumes that any ill-health professed by a claimant is entirely in their mind, or made up by them in order to get the benefit, and its questions are skewed in order to make it possible for this to be claimed. Medical evidence by doctors is routinely ignored – in fact, the system is designed to do so.
And we know that the appeal system is designed to put people off demanding their right as citizens of the United Kingdom. Mandatory reassessment by the initial assessors was introduced because too many people were winning on appeal so the Conservatives wanted to put a barrier in their way – a means of withholding payment while an excuse was found to continue withholding payment, for an unlimited period of time.
Only after a mandatory reassessment had run its course could a claimant appeal – if the extreme poverty into which the DWP, Atos or Capita had thrown them had not forced them to give up and claim another benefit or try to do a job (and how many of those who managed to get one have suffered serious health issues as a result? Nobody tracks these), and if the stress of going through this Kafka-esque system has not already killed them.
The appeal process is also relatively lengthy, but the success rate is remarkable – far higher than that of mandatory reassessments. So we may conclude that the assessment system is seriously at fault.
The DWP absolutely refuses to draw this obvious conclusion, though.
And in the background, the number of deaths just keeps on rising.
The solution is to outlaw any private, profit-driven firm from carrying out health assessments on people in the United Kingdom, to disband the Department for Work and Pensions and ensure none of the civil servants who made the key decisions ever work in the public sector again, and to start from scratch with a new system, based on a claimant’s health, rather than on fantasy.
That requires a change of government.
Until then, the current system will continue putting people off claiming, in the hope that they will go away and not bother the public finances again – either by getting a job, living off the good graces of relatives and friends, or dying.
Dying is the preferred option of the DWP, according to all the evidence.
It is a scandal of terrifying proportions. It has been going on for years. But still media organisations are treating it as a surprise.
To be struck down with illness or disability is difficult enough. To then have to fight tooth and nail for benefits to which one has a genuine right is soul-destroying.
Increasingly, it’s being reported that people in Stoke-on-Trent are having Personal Independence Payments (PIP) rejected. And yet when these decisions are taken to tribunal, they are, say organisations representing the disabled, routinely overturned.
Not only does that suggest the system, overseen by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), is deeply flawed, but those who fall victim to it are forced to wait months without payment before their appeal is heard.
Atos and Capita are the Government contractors charged with getting the system right. But bringing the private sector into healthcare isn’t something of which everyone is a fan. There’s a risk, they say, financial targets might cloud reasoned judgment.
Last year, a mental health nurse, sent undercover to train as a personal independence payment assessor with Capita, was told during training that the company needed its assessors “to be doing as many assessments a day as you can possibly manage”. One assessor revealed he sometimes completed his assessment reports before even meeting claimants, stating he could usually “completely dismiss” what he was told by PIP claimants, and making offensive comments about an overweight claimant who was unable to carry out her own personal care. He also claimed some assessors were earning up to £20,000 a month at a time when the DWP was trying to clear an embarrassing backlog of claims. “We were flying through them because of that money,” he said.
Join the Vox Political Facebook page.
If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!
Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:
Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.
The Livingstone Presumption is now available
in either print or eBook format here:
Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:
The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here: