“Unum Provident is an outlaw company. It is a company that has operated in an illegal fashion for years.” – California Department of Insurance Commissioner, John Garamendi, 2005.
Is there really a connection between the roll-out of the government’s new Personal Independence Payment scam, outlawed (in the US) insurance company Unum, and the fact that Thames Water didn’t pay any taxes for the last financial year, despite profits totalling around £145 million?
Would any of you be surprised to read that the answer is yes?
PIP, the replacement for Disability Living Allowance, entered the second stage of its roll-out yesterday, when new claimants of working age, applying for disability benefit, were told they would be asking for it rather than DLA. New claimants in northern England have been applying for PIP since April.
The new system follows very closely the pattern established by the claim system for Employment and Support Allowance. ESA claim forms ask sick or disabled people to relate their symptoms to a series of ‘descriptors’, using ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers (there is space to describe the individual issues but we have no proof that this receives any consideration at all).
The descriptors are based on a perversion of the so-called ‘biopsychosocial model’, created by American company Unum Provident to provide a defensible excuse for refusing to pay out on disability claims, at a time when the company was finding it hard to come up with the cash. Unfortunately (for Unum) the US legal system decided the excuse was not defensible after all and ordered Unum to reconsider 200,000 claims, back in 2006. Unfortunately (for British disability claimants) by then Unum already had its claws in the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions. For more on Unum, see Mo Stewart’s excellent series of reports, written over a three-year investigative period, here and here.
At least one major newspaper reported last year that the Atos-run work capability assessments were finding 70 per cent of ESA claimants fit for work. Of the remaining 30 per cent, 17 were put in the work-related activity group, meaning they were being asked to recover within one calendar year of the benefit being awarded, no matter what their condition. The remaining 13 per cent were put in the support group, which allows indefinite continuation of their claims.
Official government figures put entitlement for the benefit at 99.6 per cent. Less than half of one per cent of claims have been found to be fraudulent.
So there’s a bit of a credibility gap in the government’s system, isn’t there? A gap spanning 69.6 per cent of claimants at best, and 86.6 per cent at worst.
That is the Unum influence. The government has taken this company’s criminal (in America) scheme to deprive insurance policyholders of their payouts and applied it to the national insurance scheme that is the British benefits system, in order to deprive UK citizens of their benefits and rob them of the rewards due to them for paying their taxes.
Let’s all remember, please, that the majority of people claiming ESA have paid their taxes, on time and in full. How many big businesses operating in this country can say the same?
Not Thames Water, that’s for sure. The BBC reported yesterday that the UK’s biggest water firm, which is privately-owned, paid no corporation tax in the last financial year, despite making £145 million in (it says here) pre-tax profit.
The company says this is because it has offset the interest payments on its debts against its tax liability, and claimed allowances on capital project spending. It has been seeking government support for a £4.1bn project to build a new “super sewer” under the Thames, as reported in Vox Political last year.
The total amount of tax owed but offset in this manner is around £1 billion – but let’s not forget that this amount may drop. Part-time Chancellor George Osborne has already cut corporation tax by a quarter (from 28 per cent in 2010 to 21 per cent now) and there is no evidence that he won’t carry on slashing it, to help out his big business buddies and royally screw up the public finances.
Thames Water increased its bills by 6.7 per cent last year. It has reported an increase in revenues of six per cent. Doesn’t that mean that it only needed to raise its bills by 0.7 per cent in order to maintain profits? Doesn’t that mean that the remainder of that increase is down to the greed of its private shareholders, amounting to nothing less than robbery of the 14 million customers who – in this great era of consumer choice, ushered in by David Cameron – have absolutely no alternative water suppliers at all?
I wouldn’t want to be living in the Thames Water catchment area and applying for PIP right now. Also, what if you’re in that position, but living on social housing that the government decides is too big for you, triggering Bedroom Tax payments? How are you going to pay what you’ll owe on the Council Tax Reduction Scheme (the Pickles Poll Tax)?
If you’re in that position, just remember it’s a Conservative-led government that put you there, in Coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Did you vote for either of them in 2010?
If so, will you do it again in 2015?
If you say yes, you’ll be entitled to PIP on grounds of insanity – but then the government will lose voters, so that won’t be allowed.