The scandal of unfairly-refused sickness and disability benefits – it isn’t new, but it is killing

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.

Wake up!

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.

Source: Big Issue: ‘Many disabled people simply give up’ – the scandal of unpaid benefit payments

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16 thoughts on “The scandal of unfairly-refused sickness and disability benefits – it isn’t new, but it is killing

    1. A Grumpy_Old_Man (@Hairyloon)

      If it is a dereliction of duty, then it is likely to be Misfeasance, which is a civil tort actionable in the county court.
      It would be quite simple to set up a programme to help victims to take such action, but it needs a willingness from people in positions to do so: any concerned blogger with a half reasonable following could make a good start on it.

      Unfortunately Mike prefers censorship to reasoned argument, and actual answers to the problems he reports don’t fit the narrative he is putting out, so I expect he won’t publish this comment.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        How silly of you.
        You say it would be simple to take action but I see no information on how that could be done.
        You say I prefer censorship to reasoned argument, but again you can provide no proof of that. I have made my rules on what is and isn’t permissible in comments very clear. Perhaps if you didn’t fall foul of those rules, you wouldn’t be complaining about censorship, but then it would be your act that needs cleaning up, not mine.

      2. A Grumpy_Old_Man (@Hairyloon)

        Oh dear Michael, I can’t work out whether you’re comical or pathetic: there has been nothing in any of my recent posts that you could take exception to, aside from criticisms that you cannot refute.
        Perhaps you could give some examples of reasons for your recent censorship: you have plenty of choice, it is most of what I have posted.

        As to how to take action, they just need to submit a claim at their local county court. Easier said than done, I agree, but it is not fundamentally difficult.

      3. Mike Sivier Post author

        Nonsense; I don’t cut comments for such reasons.
        And if all people have to do is submit a claim at County Court, I don’t see why you feel the need for me to be involved.

  1. Barry Davies

    They get a bonus for sanctioning in the job centre’s as well not really something that adds to the chances of the needy getting any help, but then they have to get the money for M.P.’s salary increases from somewhere.

  2. rockingbass

    Unfortunately cannot see the Labour Party MPs doing anything to help us folks caught in this Kafkaesque situation..They started it in the first place…..

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      So you’re choosing to ignore the fact that Labour’s leadership has changed and now opposes the current benefits regime very strongly. Why?

    2. Tony Dean

      Actually Peter Lilley started it, New Labour who carried on with it really ought to be ashamed of themselves as do the Lib-Dems for doing nothing about it when they were in coalition with the Tories.

    3. Barry Morgan

      The right wing ‘moderate’ Labour Party certainly won’t as it fits their neoliberal agenda, which is precisely why they need to go and be replaced by Labour people who *will* change it!

  3. Florence

    You’re spot on that the DWP is not fit for purpose and should be completely disbanded. Those who belong to professional bodies (BMJ, Nursing Colleges etc.) who have carried out the (fake fitness) assessments on behalf of the sub-contractor should be struck off. The rest should be barred – as you say – from ever working in the public sector again. The UK deserves a new start, and the DWP toxicity has reached too great a level for people to survive.

  4. D. Fletcher

    Why is this not treated as premeditated murder if someone is taken off their benifits as does as a result and a coroner finds D W P is to blame. It would only take one case to go viral that this system would have to change.

  5. Liz Douglas

    Atos, Maximus, Capita and Virgin all been buying up NHS and Welfare contracts ready for privatisation some have a record of harm not just in this country you can’t tell me they didn’t know that before they signed them up

    “In 2002/03 an American class action lawsuit in California identified UNUM PROVIDENT (US) as running “disability denial factories” and the Judge fined them $31.7 million. The company were ordered to re-investigate countless thousands of other refused claims, something the company has still failed to complete 7 years later.

    In 2005 American Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi declared: “Unum Provident is an outlaw company. It is a company that for years has operated in an illegal fashion.”

    UNUM PROVIDENT (UK) fund psychosocial disability research at Cardiff University. Prof Mansel Aylward is the head of research at the Unum Provident Centre at Cardiff University and he was the DWP Chief Medical Adviser who recommended this medical evaluation system to the government to reform government care costs for DLA etc. Prof Mansel was instrumental in the methods to be used, imported from America using identical methods as Unum Provident. Unum Provident is banned from several States in the USA. [Since this was first written, it is now believed that Unum and its predecessor and subsidary companies have reached agreement with all the individual States. As part of the settlement Unum’s predecessor and subsidiary companies have paid and continue to pay compensation amounting to millons of US dollars. EDITOR] Atos Healthcare have employed the same methods as Unum Provident, hence the vast and growing numbers of chronically sick and genuinely disabled people being betrayed by this system of medical ‘evaluation’ which, in fact, is a seriously compromised 25 minute basic computer questionnaire, with no allowances for the vast differences within the same identified health condition.

    ATOS ORIGIN is the parent company of Atos Healthcare, originating from South America and a dominant force in the computer market worldwide. ATOS ORIGIN was awarded the government contract for IT facilities for the 2012 Olympic Games. http://whywaitforever.com/dwpatosveterans.html

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