Private company given contract to harass the long-term sick

The pretext: These are the figures showing the amount of working time lost to companies in the UK because of illness. Remember that these figures have halved in the last decade.

The pretext: These are the figures showing the estimated amount of long-term illness in the UK per year. Remember that these figures have halved in the last decade.

The Department for Work and Pensions is setting up a new “service” offering “advice” to people who are off work with an illness for more than four weeks.

No reference is made to improving people’s health.

It should also be noted that sickness absence in the UK is among the lowest in Europe, and has halved over the past decade.

The announcement was made on the BBC News website shortly after midnight. Nothing has appeared on the Government’s own website so it seems the Corporation has gone back to being Westminster’s poodle again – breaking news for the government in order to give spin doctors time to assess the reaction and then write a press release that is more acceptable to the public.

The Health and Work Service will be a privately-run operation covering England, Wales and Scotland, offering “non-compulsory” medical assessments and “treatment plans”. This is reminiscent of the way Universal Jobmatch was introduced to jobseekers as a “non-compulsory” service – which many thousands of people have been bullied and harassed into joining.

The scheme will allow employers or GPs to refer employees for a “work-focused occupational health assessment”, according to the BBC report. So this means the employee has no say in whether to go on the scheme – it is down to bosses and doctors. You are invited to consider whether this represents another great step forward in the Conservative Party’s claims to be crusading for patient choice.

The story says workers will be allowed to refuse assessment or to follow any course of action that is recommended but, again, we have the example of Universal Jobmatch.

The “assessment” is meant to identify the issues preventing an employee from returning to work and draw up a plan for them, their GP and their employer, showing how that person can be “helped” back more quickly.

One is forced to question the efficacy of such a system, if faced with illnesses or diseases that must receive medical treatment.

You don’t talk someone better – the huge number of people who have died while going through the DWP’s Employment and Support Allowance sickness denial machine has proved that.

The government has made its aim in setting up the new scheme perfectly clear, saying employers will “save money” by having fewer staff off sick – possibly saving companies up to £70 million a year in reduced sickness pay and related costs.

The DWP says people will return to work earlier. This seems like a pie-in-the-sky aspiration, as illness does not go away in accordance with a timetable. This means the Department’s other claims – that there will be a reduction in lost working days and increased economic output – are also pipe dreams.

It is far more likely that sick people will be forced back to work before they are better – leading to an increased chance that illnesses will spread among workforces, there will be more lost working days and lowered economic output.

The Trades Union Congress, while supporting schemes that could help people back into work, agreed (with me) that this one creates a danger that people will be forced back to work before they are well.

Finally, any company involved in the scheme should be aware that it is unlikely to make a profit from it. Look at the effect on other firms of involvement with DWP schemes: Welfare-to-work provider A4e has reported a pre-tax loss of £11.5 million in the year to March 31, 2013 – up from a £2.1 million loss the year before. Turnover dropped from £194 million to £167 million.

So now we can say very clearly to all private companies:

Working for the Coalition government doesn’t pay.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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60 thoughts on “Private company given contract to harass the long-term sick

  1. Philip Burdekin

    I would love see the b*****ds cure me , with my 11 different diseases, Diabets insulin dependant, RHUEMATOID ARTHRITIS, OUSTEO ARTHRITIS, COPD, ME, FIBROMYALGIA, CRUSHED DISCS IN SPINE, TENOSYNOVITIS, RAYNAUDS, HIGH BP, SUSPECTED DEMENTIA, SUSPECTED OSTEOPOROSES. MY NEXT MOVE WILL BE VIA A COFFIN, I DONT SUPOSE THEYLL HAVE A CURE ANYTHING PILL BY THEN, 30 pills a day plus 7 injections a day and they say I am capable of some work? Can’t imagine what. Lol

  2. Barry Davies

    There has not been a 50% cut in long term sick, just removing them from benefits doesn’t indicate any recovery, and just how would talking to someone about a broken leg mend the leg for example? Just another rung on the ladder to demonise the sick needy and disabled we have come to expect from the coalition and labour.

      1. Mike Sivier

        They made a few mistakes, I’ll give you that.
        But then, did you join up, put your views across, and show Labour the error of its ways? No? Then aren’t you just as bad? Obviously you don’t care enough to even try to make a difference.
        (For clarity: I don’t seriously believe that failure to join the Labour Party and change its direction is a sign that a person is evil; my point is that, if it is wrong for me to lump you with people who couldn’t care less or actively try to frustrate attempts to improve our political system, it would be wrong for you to lump Labour with the Coalition. They aren’t the same.)

      2. Barry Davies

        Unfortunately Mike labour are every bit as bad as the tories and lib dems at outsourcing, so I see no reason not to mention them, we can’t trust labour to reverse or even stop the trend, a lot of it has come from eussr legislation, and we all know the party line is pro eussr.

      3. Mike Sivier

        Either you didn’t pay attention to the point I was making or you didn’t understand it. Suggesting Labour are as bad as the Tories supports the Tories because people tend to go with “the devil you know” if they’re not shown something that someone else says is better.
        Labour and the Tories AREN’T the same.

      4. Barry Davies

        Unfortunately it is hard to get a fag paper between the cons lib dems and labour policies since Bliar moved them to the right, and the lib dems forgot their roots in pursuit of power, I don’t see any great intent to move to socialist ideas from labour, such as preventing the privatisation of any public service like the NHS, or benefits.

      5. Mike Sivier

        Then you haven’t been paying attention because Labour has made a commitment to prevent the privatisation of the NHS. If anyone had said benefits will be privatised, you can bet Labour would have made a commitment against that, too.

      6. Barry Davies

        Labour was responsible for more outsourcing of services in the nhs than the tories, they outsourced parts of the prison and court services, they were responsible for atos getting the welfare contracts, and occupational health services in the public arena, there is absolutely no reason to believe they will be any different to the coalition when it comes to outsourcing, which is code for privatisation. They never made a commitment to it they just did it.

      7. Mike Sivier

        … except of course that Labour has made a commitment to halt and reverse (for example) the privatisation of the NHS in England. There is evidence to refute your claim. Are you really going to be one of those people who ignores evidence in favour of strong prejudice?

      8. Jezz

        It’s a pity that although Labour offers affordable reduced membership rates for certain groups, but little encouragement for disabled and unemployed people to join.

        I visited their site with the intention of signing up, but found I couldn’t afford to.

        Current ‘unemployed’ rate is a massive £23.00 – prohibitive for anyone on SANCTIONS, the bedroom-taxed, as well as others unable to justify this when they’re struggling to feed and clothe their children.

        £1 14-19/Student Available to joiners under 20 or in full-time education.
        £12 Young Persons Rate annually (£1 per month) who are aged 20-27.
        £1 Serving or Former Member of the British Armed Forces…
        £23.00 Reduced rate Available to joiners who are currently out of work…
        or on a low income…

        Is this Labour shooting itself in the foot by excluding a significant part of the population who should be its natural supporters?

        Or does Labour simply despise the poor?

      9. Mike Sivier

        Have you tried contacting Labour and talking to someone about it? I’m sure they would want to work something out because, at the end of the day, Labour wants people to join and doesn’t want to turn people away.

    1. Barry Davies

      Except of course Labour have stated that they will not reverse the outsourcing. They were responsible for the majority of it, they had 13 years to get it right and did nothing to improve the service. There is no difference between the parties, a bit like the American system far right or extreme right policies is your choice.

      1. Mike Sivier

        What are you on about, “did nothing to improve the service”? The NHS had its highest-ever approval ratings when Labour left government in 2010.
        As for your comment about not reversing the outsourcing, I’d like to see your source information for that.

      2. Barry Davies

        Who was responsible for the approval ratings, that would be the government of the day, a pointless statistic just as the present governments statistics are pointless. The laundry, cleaning, and catering services were mainly outsourced during 13 years of labour government, and the regulations that mean that the trusts, most of which came about under labour have to pay more than they did for power prior to labour changing the regulations. They may have given us the NHS but they haven’t done anything to maintain it.

      3. Mike Sivier

        Cleaning (at the very least) was outsourced during the Margaret Thatcher Tory years! I know this because I had an aunt who used to work as a hospital cleaner. This BBC article confirms it:
        The approval ratings were gathered by an independent third party, the King’s Fund – it’s an independent charity that seeks to understand how the health system in England can be improved.
        I can’t speak for anyone else but I don’t think your argument is persuasive. Your information is inaccurate.

      4. Florence

        Barry, It was labour who introduced 2 day max wait for GP, 2 week urgent referral for suspected cancer, 4 hour wait in A&E, 15 minute ambulance response, and many other things that helped the NHS recover from the previous problems. By 2010, the NHS had the highest ever approval rating by users, and as a user I can say that I was really helped by these and also pleased to see now, clean, fit for purpose buildings and units.

        Yes, Labour did use PFI, which we all said then, and know to be true now is a monumental waste of money. This was part of the very ill-judged policy of being seen to out-tory the Tories by using PFI to keep the investment “off the books”. Bliar lacked the political will to be seen to be pushing massive investment in the NHS because of the “How will Murdoch take this” school of politics. No argument there.

        But the situation now – people dying waiting for ambulances, five hour wait outside a&e in ambulances, excessive waits for GP appts, and this truth does nothing to reward good care where given, it’s highly politicised reporting of the NHS scare stories. So the situation is never so easy to generalise about such a massive endeavour as the NHS, but we need to see that the current trend is to privatise, and folk like us will just be left to rot. That I find very frightening.

      5. Barry Davies

        You are correct Florence Labour did indeed introduce the target culture that has lead to hospitals being fined for not treating people as commodities to be processed within a set period of time, and lead to the culture of treating easy quick to treat conditions ahead of the more chronic ones. Labour used far more PFI than the tories which has lead to the problems now where good hospitals are being closed to pay off the horrendous costs incurred by lesser hospitals to pay off the interest.

        I am more than well aware of the media attack on the NHS and the lies it repeats, such as the one openly stated by camoron at the tory party conference about people drinking from dirty flower vases at Stafford Hospital. I know for a fact they were removed 10 plus years before the alleged incident, this was reflected by Francis, but it seems that the truth doesn’t matter to our political parties. The death rate was exaggerated as francis stated in his report there was maybe 1 preventable death, not the thousands or 1200 consistently claimed by the media and politicians of all hues. No one was murdered, and the money grabber in chief actually brought flowers and chocolates for the staff who cared for her mother, who despite the image portrayed in the media, died at home after being discharged, in a fit state to go. The cbe was awarded for services to the privatise the nhs brigade, which is all three of the old parties.

        Why use facts when you can fabricate what you want and get the media to say scandal all the time.

  3. George Berger

    I read the BBC report early this afternoon. Two points. (1) Not compulsory? The sentence following that word seems to mean that choices will be offered, and that one must be chosen. That’s compulsory. (2) The TUC willing to accept “anything…” that “could” help an ill person get a job? How about compelling a formally unemployed person to work while ill? The quoted words are so vague that much is left open.

  4. George Berger

    I read the BBC article earlier today. Two points. (1) Not compulsory? Read the sentence following that word. It seems to offer employers and perhaps ill people several choices and nothing else. That’s compulsory. (2) The TUC willing to support “anything”? The words after that about care being taken are unexplained, leaving, I guess, many measures possible.

  5. jeffrey davies

    heres a crying shame emma cant pull the 8.6million bonus or the 10million pay has such is the salvation army going to give up I rather doubt it but then emmas firms
    Welfare-to-work provider A4e has reported a pre-tax loss of £11.5 million in the year to March 31, 2013 – up from a £2.1 million loss the year before. Turnover dropped from £194 million to £167 million.

  6. Liane

    An interesting link here:

    More than four-fifths of UK HR managers have given a vote of no confidence to the government’s proposed health and work assessment and advisory service (HWAAS), research has revealed.

    The scheme, due to be introduced next year, aims to provide advice and support to employers dealing with employees suffering from long-term sickness absence.

    But a study conducted by PMI Health Group discovered that 86 per cent are not confident that the service will fulfil their occupational health requirements. Furthermore, 81 per cent of companies already provide staff and management with access to an occupational health service.

    1. Florence

      I thought that the first ploy tried by the tories – to change the GP sick note into the GP fit note didn’t meet their objectives outright, then? Employers were all for it, but now as then, ultimately they are bound by the GP opinion, and nothing else, to get the sick starting back to work. The sick are more likely to return to work before the GP considers them well enough, because of financial pressures.

  7. Nick

    doesn’t make any sense at all if your ill and off work your ill and payed very little in most cases taking about it to a third party about returning to work sooner is a waste of time

    the person concerned invariably is desperate to get back to work because if they don’t there’ll be out of work never ever to be able to return to work

    this is just a typical government wonting more control of the public nothing else

  8. Florence

    What about the existing “pilot” scheme that is compulsory for those claiming sickness benefits? SOund just like what they are supposed to be promoting on this “service” to the disabled and chronically ill.

    The official site says:-

    “People on sickness benefits will be required to have regular meetings with healthcare professionals to help them address their barriers to work – or face losing their benefits……….(they) will have regular appointments with healthcare professionals as a condition of receiving their benefit, to focus on helping them move closer to being able to get a job!

    So there is a choice, – attend or starve? So no choice, then? It continues:-

    “The regular discussions with healthcare professionals – which will be provided by Ingeus UK – will not replace someone’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. They will also signpost claimants to activities and information to help them manage their condition to improve their readiness for getting a job, and work with local services to provide a holistic approach to health interventions.”

    So what will be the “help” to “adapt”?

    Experience says it will be a form of crude behavioural abuse, sorry, help called CBT. We all know how the Nudge Unit has worked before in ignoring all professional standards about coercion to participate. CBT has been proven (in published MEDICAL papers) to be worse than useless for people with long-term illnesses such as arthritis, and especially fibromyalgia and other chronic immune system problems with associated fatigue, and depression. The main study showed that for the first few weeks of CBT all seemed much better in treated group but 10 months later the untreated group – who had been left to manage their own illness – were in fact much better, more able to cope with pain, and more had achieved better mental & physical functioning.

    The most telling remark came from someone who had been referred for CBT for fibromyalgia (aka complex regional pain syndrome). She said that it was tantamount to physical and mental torture, and in the end she agreed to everything that she was expected to, including doing exercise programmes that were causing extreme pain & distress, just so they would sigh her off from the programme. After, she needed treatment for depression.

    1. Barry Davies

      Indeed I tried cbt, fro me/cfs, and wound up in a blue light ambulance and a six hour battle to stabilise me, and still the atos “adviser” insisted that it would help and I would be fully recovered within 2 years, they are still saying exactly the same 10 ears later.

      1. Florence

        Sorry to hear about your dreadful experiences, but unfortunately this is par for the course. Some health authorities ONLY offer CBT for depression, and it is heavily promoted to the GPs as a cure all for CFS, fibro etc too. They usually apply pressure to attend “graded exercise” too, which is also prone to make matters worse.

        I don’t see any other options for “therapies” and “motivation” that can be forced on people who have chronic ill health, and that would be another scandal waiting to happen. I hope you have taken your own well-being in hand with self-pacing and medication. It’s the only way.

      2. Ladydragonbiker

        Hi Barry, I too suffer from ME/CFS, I managed it without help for 25 years because it didn’t exist before 2002! It took 9 years to get diagnosed, and now the CBT programme has left me house bound and working from home (my bed) and terrified of losing my job and entering the nightmare of the so called benefit system. I have worked all my life, without government help, and now when I need it , its impossible to get. The workhouse would classify me as a C10 malingerer- is this where are system is going back to. These kind of worries ensure I will never improve in the current climate!
        I asked my specialist about what kind of help I could claim if I could no longer work, he reluctantly said none – and he and the team tell me I manage my condition remarkably well. Why are specialists opinions ignored in assessments
        I am soon to be encouraged to leave, as I can no longer do my job, that I was employed for, despite all their efforts to ‘help’ me! Occupational Health appointment was with a doctor that knew nothing about ME/CFS., so what value was his report, apart from the fee he earned?
        I know the assessment will say I’ m fit for work. How can the government (who I work for) sack me for being unfit for work, then say I cant get any benefits because I’m fit for work. I’VE ALREADY LOST MY TEACHING CAREER. How many jobs are there out there, where you can work from you bed, and dont have to concentrate?! I am the least capable of fighting this due to my fatigue and inability to follow/concentrate on arguments. Suicide seems preferable!
        I need people like you to fight for me…..

      3. Barry Davies

        Unfortunately LDB I have enough on my plate just trying to get help for myself, but the system is biased against anyone who needs help and programs like benefit street just add to the general publics vision of scrounging skivers getting benefits not genuine people, what is the purpose of employment support which by definition means you are working, when you supposedly recover enough to work, in a non existent job you would lose it?

    2. jaypot2012

      How disgusting! How can ANYONE forecast that a person who is sick or disabled can return to work at “sometime in the future?”
      This is so wrong, and I sincerely hope that the pilot fails as this is now harassment against sick, long-term sick and disabled who CANNOT work!
      More sanctions then? More fudged figures to say that a percentage of, or a large number of people who had been on ESA had now come off the benefit due to the fact that they had been “found to be fit for work” and had now gone onto work, or to another benefit” – God give me strength with this DWP, IDS and this coalition!

    1. Mike Sivier

      That’s worth knowing – have you told the BBC? I’d love to read their response.
      It’s still fascinating to me that the DWP has chosen to release these stories via the BBC first, with a delay of a day or two before they appear on the government’s news website.

      1. AM-FM

        I was well aware this was old news, the bbc is becoming the dailymail.
        In fact a link is on the bbc’s page!
        Date 10 April ’13.

        “Carrot or stick?
        Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform, has said that where employers suspect that sickness absence is being abused, the new service will also offer an independent view of the situation. ”

        As if we need any reminder on how out of touch they are RTU has been voted top dog!

      2. Mike Sivier

        It isn’t old news – this won’t start happening until April.
        Your revelation about IDS is very amusing, though – “swashbuckling”! My sides may split. If this is any yardstick, the Tories are heading for oblivion in 2015.

      3. Barry Davies

        The government have used ATOS to do their occupational health for a while now, including the nhs ffs. As for ids being the top of that list it must have been conducted in a psychopath unit.

    2. jaypot2012

      I had to stay off work for a while and was advised and helped by the occupational therapist, this was in 1989! OK, I worked for the NHS but, as a PA to the Health Promotion Team and the Personnel Psychiatrist, I typed many a letter to sick NHS employees to advise them about attending the occupational health as part of their treatment. This has been going on for years and years, but it was proper medical staff, not physiotherapists with maybe a year’s experience! That’s the type of person that they use in Atos and other private health assessing companies – and they don’t know their erses from their elbows and certainly don’t know anything about the hidden illnesses and diseases, mental health diseases, cancer, blood and heart problems, to name just a few!

  9. tommaz jay

    I wouldn’t loses an sleep on this crackpot idea. Its only the lets jump on the next bandwagon brigade in suport of some out of date statistics from the DWP.

    This dead duck idea after mandatorily consultations with a “So you think you may have encounterd barriers stoping your return to work because of your terminal illnesses” sanctions advisors. Will be found elegable for benefit then sanctioned for three years shortly after the funeral.

  10. Barry Davies

    I wish I had your confidence in that outcome Tommaz, however it will almost certainly be the case, going along the same idea that Care in the Community was the best for mental health and learning difficulties patients, now it is physical ailments getting the treatment and hospitals being closed, there is only one thing driving the government and that is profit for private companies.

  11. paulrutherford8

    Sorry, I can’t remember his name atm, but the chap brought in to get the DWP sorted has been off sick with bronchitis since christmas hasn’t he?

    Pot, kettle, black.

  12. MrChekaMan

    I don’t trust Labour a bit-I only trust the TUSC who have zero chance of winning a single seat. I only vote to kick my MPs bottom in a small way, as a legal form of revenge.

  13. Leoni Al-ajeel

    Just another money making scam for the evil parasites. I was sent back to work and i have arthritis in my spine knees etc, i am now in agony everyday and on constant pain killing medications, i can hardly move in the mornings and then in pain for rest of day, but i must go on, how else will i keep my family. I am a cleaner and too late to change profession now as i am now 57yrs old and i must work until i am 66yrs old another 9yrs of pain. Infact i am now worse with my arthritis than i was before. How on earth will they cure me by talking with me, scam scam scam. Seems making money from the poor, needy and disabled is all that is important these days, humanity has gone out of the window for greed of the few.

  14. Pauline Vernon

    Well, it’s good news if you’re off work with a bad back, to take one example. I mean, your GP won’t send you for an MRI until it’s been established whether the pain is acute or chronic. If ‘acute’, it should go away within a few weeks: if ‘chronic’ it will need further examination to establish the best treatment. Given that the current NICE guidelines are that GPs should only refer patients after six weeks of pain, and this scheme will seek to find a solution after four weeks, this sounds like a fast track to an MRI. Huzzah!

    Mind you, I will now need further treatment to remove my tongue from my cheek…

  15. beastrabban

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    This was also announced on Sunday morning’s Andrew Marr show, though no details were given of what this would all entail, except that the new service would help the long term sick back into work. Marr did, however, have the grace to say that Britain has the lowest number of days off work due to sickness in Europe. I think Mike and the commenters on the piece are also correct in comparing it to Atos and universal Jobmatch. It’s all voluntary at the moment, though this will no doubt change as the system is implemented more fully. Then you can expect it to become absolutely compulsory, with no doubt sanctions to sickness benefit if you don’t follow it.

    As for helping people back into work, this may well follow the pattern for the unemployed, where those who are deemed to have been on Jobseeker’s Benefit for too long are handed over to private firms, who then phone them up to harass them under the specious claim that they are somehow ‘motivating them to get back into work’.

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  17. Gill Shaw

    In serious illness TIME is one of the most important components to aid recovery. Surgery known as a ‘total’ hysterectomy due to ovarian carcinoma takes around 4 months recovery time. It is major surgery in its own right without the additional stresses of chemotherapy, etc.. One is barred from cleaning,shopping, lifting and stretching. Nothing can hasten the recovery from such major surgery and if you fail to take TIME you can delay your recovery, even having to undergo further surgery to repair the damage you may do but ‘rushing’ recovery I know this from experience. I was 28 years old; had such surgery in January, returned to work as a nurse in March and had to undergo further surgery in October. Learning from my mistake of giving in to the pressure placed upon me to return to work I stayed off until I was declared fit by my surgeon, finally returning to work in March the following year, FOURTEEN months after my first operation. If I had ignored the ‘veiled threats’ and stayed off for the required sixteen weeks I would have been returning to work FORTY weeks earlier than my eventual permanent return date. The ONLY advice one should listen to is the doctors!

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