Doubletalking DWP’s new assault on the sick

Their doctors will say you're not sick: The DWP's new policy is another sign of disrespect to PROPER health professionals across the UK; their diagnoses aren't good enough for the Department. It's bringing its own people in, to pretend more sick people are health, no doubt.

Their doctors will say you’re not sick: The DWP’s new policy is another sign of disrespect to PROPER health professionals across the UK; their diagnoses aren’t good enough for the Department. It’s bringing its own people in, to pretend more sick people are actually healthy, no doubt.

“People on sickness benefits will be required to have regular meetings with doctors, occupational health nurses and therapists to help them address their barriers to work – or face losing their benefits,” the Department for Work and Pensions announced yesterday.

The initiative was revealed under the euphemistic headline ‘Help for people on sickness benefits to address barriers to work’ and shows yet again that ministers in the DWP do not understand the meaning of the word “sick”.

“Around 3,000 people on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) who have been assessed as being able to work in the future will have regular appointments with healthcare professionals as a condition of receiving their benefit. The meetings will focus on helping claimants to move closer to being able to get a job,” the DWP press release states.

“The proposed pilot scheme will compare the help given by doctors, occupational health nurses and therapists to two other pilot schemes which will offer enhanced support from Jobcentre Plus and Work Programme providers to see which is best at helping people off sickness benefits and into work.”

This is all very well, but has it not occurred to DWP officials that perhaps a person who is off work because of illness may already be involved in meetings with healthcare professionals?

This is anecdotal evidence, I know, but Mrs Mike has attended many, many appointments with her GP, physiotherapists, osteopaths, other back specialists, nerve specialists, surgeons, she’s had MRI and CT scans, spent a week at the pain clinic in Bronllys Hospital (recently featured on a BBC documentary which notably focused on its successes and not its failures – it does have them) and is currently due to attend an appointment at the orthopaedic hospital in Gobowen.

What do DWP officials think its people can do, that these specialists – who are experts in their field – cannot?

Employment minister Mark Hoban trotted out the usual line that “we need to ensure that people who are able to work get the encouragement they need to get a job, while those who are too sick to work get real support”. What, by threatening them with losing their sole source of income? That’s not encouragement – it’s bullying; it’s threats; it’s intimidation.

“Many people on sickness benefits want to work, so it’s vitally important that we give them the right help to move into a job if they are able. The help we give people at the moment tends to focus on work-related skills, but doesn’t necessarily address health problems. But by giving people regular support from doctors, occupational health nurses and therapists we can do more to help people manage or improve their conditions.”

The thought of the DWP – an organisation that absolutely refuses, under any circumstances, to publish the number of people its policies are killing every week (or have killed already) – claiming it is trying to help people into work is laughable. The fact that it will do this by threatening to remove their benefits is serious to the point of being deadly.

The release goes on to remind us all that people in the work-related activity group of ESA recipients already have ‘work-focussed interviews’ with Job Centre Plus staff as a condition of receiving their benefit. This is true – Mrs Mike attended and, due to her interest in finding work, was passed on to a work programme provider who immediately – within one telephone conversation – told her she was not fit for any kind of work, the Atos assessment had put her in the wrong group and she must seek re-assessment with a view to going into the support group immediately.

That was in January; the DWP has been dragging its heels somewhat. I would say this demonstrates the department’s real concern for people with long-term health problems (almost as much as those nebulous death figures).

In the pilot area, the press release states, the work interview would be replaced by meetings with healthcare professionals – provided by the DWP. The length and frequency of the meetings would be flexible, depending on the individuals’ needs.

Would these healthcare professionals by contracted in from private health companies? If so, isn’t this just another ‘bung’ of taxpayers’ cash to friends of the Conservative ministers in charge of the DWP? Does anyone else sense yet another monumental, Work Programme-style waste of taxpayers’ cash on the horizon here?

“The regular discussions will focus claimants on how they can improve their view of their readiness for work by taking steps to manage their health issues,” the release claims. “They will not replace a person’s GP, but can promote health support and help a claimant to re-engage with their GP if they are struggling to adapt to their condition.” Plausible language, but let’s remember this is DWP doublespeak, so we must not expect anything of the sort.

There will be three separate pilot schemes:

  • Healthcare professional-led – mandatory engagement with health care professionals. Interestingly, this will use funding from the European Social Fund. How they managed to persuade the EU that this was a good idea defies rational explanation.
  • Jobcentre Plus – enhanced Jobcentre Plus support
  • Work Programme – enhanced support designed by Work Programme provider

The pilots will begin in November and will run until August 2016 – so, if there’s any justice, they will be terminated in May 2015 when a sensible government takes over. This depends on whether Labour can devise any reasonable ideas for Work and Pensions in the next 18 months or so, of course.

The pilots will involve people on ESA in the work related activity group who are expected to be able to return to work in 18 months or over – based on the flawed Atos work capability assessments that we all know make wrong decisions in an unacceptable number of cases.

While we’re discussing ways of getting sick people off-benefit (which is what this is about – never mind putting them back into work), I wonder whether DWP officials partaking in this scheme will also employ the “Pester Power” strategy?

I learned about this from Vox Political commenter Maria Nelson this morning. She wrote: “They partake in something called ‘Pester Power’ to bully and harass claimants… knowing it may push people over the edge.”

Apparently it is employed by staff “who bully claimants by hanging up on them and aggravating stressed, angry claimants, losing paperwork etc to create misery – sanctioning etc… Their horrid phone service is privately operated and numbers changed regular[ly] – wrong numbers given out – and it generates nice profits for that private company, and there’s supposed to be a free number for mobile callers but no-one gets told… I was so shocked [by] what I was told, I forgot to ask [for] it”.

Following on from the negative response to my Freedom of Information request about the Atos/DWP deaths, we all know that the DWP is monitoring this blog – so how about making yourselves useful? Why not come out of the undergrowth and give us some useful information about this alleged strategy?

Come to that, why not come out of the undergrowth and give us the facts about the number of people who are dying because of the fatal policies practised by your department? You do realise, don’t you, that your continued participation involves you in mass murder, don’t you? After the response to the FOI request, I see no reason to give any of you the benefit of the doubt; not only are you participating in a scheme that leads to death – it is revealed as a scheme that is intended to cause death. You don’t cover up mass deaths, with an intention to continue the policies that cause them, without intending to induce those deaths.

That’s murder. If you are an employee of the DWP involved in this process, then you are implicated. There will be trials; the dead will have justice. And, just as in Nuremberg in the 1940s, saying you were “only following orders” will not help you.

You should consider a change of career.

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21 thoughts on “Doubletalking DWP’s new assault on the sick

  1. Rick Campbell

    I have a question based on this being the ‘thin edge of the wedge’ — many applicants will have gone to Tribunal and received decisions that advise the claimant is not reassessed for a number of months, say for example, 24 months — the question being does some untrained DWP official overrule a) the claimant’s GP. b) the Doctor(s) at the Tribunal and c) the Judge at the Tribunal?

    Surely the DWP cannot be above the law?

    1. Jonathan Wilson

      The problem is that rightly or wrongly (the latter in my opinion) all an appeal does is “right a wrong” and backdates that to the original decision date… so its as if an original wrong decision never happened, which is fair enough in the legal abstract sense but less so in the physical reality.

      The problem is that then stating that a person should not be re-assessed for 18 months is that without further clarification that 18 months is from the date of the now correct backdated decision… although an appeal happened, its as if it never happened as the wrong has been corrected.

      The only way I can see to prevent this further injustice of being re-assessed days or weeks after a favorable tribunal decision is for the court to either state a longer term before re-assessment (which I doubt would be legal if the law and guidance over when re-assessments happen has a limiting or intentional clause) or to state that re-assessment should not happen for X months after the date of the hearing, which I think would be more likely to hold up although I’d bet the DWP would immediately change the law or appeal a decision dated re-assessment duration to a higher court.

      I do wonder tho, does the appeal court even realise that people are being re-assessed so quickly after a decision when their intention was to limit re-assessment to a duration after the date of appeal and not to have it taken as from the original incorrect decision?

      1. elaine4queen

        My tribunal has taken so long to happen that they cancelled as I was getting ready to leave the house for it – the friend who had agreed to advocate on my behalf was just arriving in London from Manchester…
        They told me that paperwork is only ever seen by administrators UNTIL THE DAY when the tribunal look at it before seeing the claimant. Thus, having postponed my tribunal for a year and a half, they felt that the paperwork covering my health assessment was inadequate so would have to be re-gathered and another (third) date made. In the meantime I have had to fill the form in again, so why THAT paperwork, fairly recent, hadn’t been forwarded to them I have no idea. It’s not just a punitive system, but it is also repulsively wasteful. THEY will all get paid for their work, my self employed friend will not, and of course, the stress I have been through means nothing at all to them.

  2. NMac

    If they go through this process, but are clearly physically or mentally unfit to work, do they still have benefits cut/stopped? I suspect that is what the thief/hypocrite/liar Duncan-Smith is really aiming at.

  3. Mike Sivier

    I’ve been thinking – could anybody who finds a media story about the distress caused by the Atos assessments (that hasn’t been published here already) please send the links to me, so I can publicise them here?

    Since we have DWP interlopers sitting around monitoring everything that goes on here, we may as well give them reason to feel as utterly ashamed of themselves as we know they should.

    For example, this morning I was tweeted the story of a woman who was urinating blood while she was waiting for her Atos ESA assessment. The assessors told her that she would be marked as ‘failed to attend’ if she left to get treatment, and refused even to call her an ambulance.

    It’s an unverified story and should be accepted on those terms. However: Does that make you feel proud, DWP bozos?

  4. Sonophos

    Is this the subtle introduction of a two tier health service? Will this become Medicare when the NHS is gone?

  5. katrina

    I totally agree with the last statement that all those involved cannot simply believe that following orders is an excuse. The Atos interviews are a joke and I still know people who are working the system and claiming benefits they shouldn’t qualify for while other people are not getting what they should. They don’t really care and are also ignoring the advice of doctors and consultants. They are not medically qualified and even less qualified in terms of mental health. Neither are they being honest about their motives and it doesn’t look like much is set to change 🙁 It’s a disgrace

  6. Will

    Think of the way healthcare staff are being taken out of the NHS doing useful productive healthcare to go to work for the DWP, via Atos, what a criminal misallocation of resource.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Do you really think that’s what’s happening?

      I think they’re employing people from private heathcare firms – at cost – to carry out this work.

      1. aussieeh

        Totally agree Mike, the corruption runs deep. It might take 20 years and maybe not in my lifetime, but these corrupt, fascists will be held to account. The Law, Sanity, Honour and Decency, demands it.

      2. steve

        when someone is told that if they leave due to illness that they will be marked as not turning up,, whats to stop their friend from taking a photo of the claimant with a current newspaper and have the “healthcare professional” in shot too? then obtain the medical records for the hospital visit. instead of taking it to a tribunal (which takes quite a while so i am told) take it to the mirror newsdesk. it has to be a quicker route to justice this way. as far as the photo goes, if anyone complains about personal copywrite on the “HP’s” image,, call the police and tell them your human rights have been abused,, heck,, tell them that you yourself have been abused. oh, and while we are on the subject of photo’s,, how about setting up a website specifically for images of people working for atos,, post up the photo and get them named and shamed. make their work environment uncomfortable. let THEM have some worry for a change. it would be easy to name and shame them,, someone somewhere should recognise them.

  7. aussieeh

    Just come across this News letter on the Benefit and Work site.

    ESA Claimants To Be Forced To Visit DWP Doctors For Health Advice

    Dear [fname],

    ESA claimants are to be forced to have regular appointments with DWP doctors or other health professionals, possibly employed by Atos or Capita, not to assess them for benefits but to get advice on how to improve their health. The appointments will be mandatory and can be as long and as frequent as is considered necessary in order to get claimants back into work. Pilots of this and two other schemes will begin in November. More details in ESA news below.

    Elsewhere, Iain Duncan Smith is growing ever more desperate in his attempts to find something positive to say about the bedroom tax. Even as a way of heaping further hate on claimants it is beginning to look like it may backfire, as more stories of debt and empty properties emerge.

    Meanwhile IDS’ partner in squalid misinformation, Lord Freud, is desperately trying to imply, without actually saying it, that many of the people using food banks are thick-skinned, scroungers rather than people in genuine need.

    The DWP is also brazenly ignoring its duty to claimants and taxpayers as it tries to pretend that the fact that Atos has only a pathetic 15% of the PIP assessment centres it claimed it would have is a non-issue.

    Meanwhile, claimant bashing continues as it emerges that future income-related ESA claimant will have to wait 7 days before making a claim and that the DWP is using its legal department to fight against making any improvements to the work capability assessment.

  8. Enoughisenough

    What is needed is a full on fight back through publicity in the media and through the courts and to do all that we need to fund it so who would be up for that. After all in the end they will take it all if we don’t and we must make sure we do all we can.Figh for your rights or lose them all. It really is that simple

  9. Stephen Bee

    I hope before this fiasco all ends…we have re-instated the Death Penalty into law..not just for murder or manslaughter..but for accomplice to murder! Then again..I am utterly gutted that the PCS haven’t called time on this and instituted a TOTAL strike in JCP/DWP and bring the WHOLE system down on it’s knees…so I hold PCS officials EQUALLY culpable!

  10. Patricia Sharp

    Why should you be forced to do any thing,I am retired so do not have to go through this hideous treatment, it is abhorrent and IDS should be lashed, before he is thrown into jail, and left to rot in hell.

  11. Lil

    I already have regular physio, regular checks with my rheumatologist and monthly blood tests. Doesn’t mean that my arthritis is going to magically disappear. I really wish it would!

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