Tag Archives: form

Coronavirus discrimination: surgery asks chronically sick and disabled patients to refuse treatment

People with serious health conditions and disabilities who are registered with a GP surgery in Wales had a nasty surprise in the post.

The surgery sent them a letter saying if they caught the coronavirus, the best thing for them to do would be to reject treatment and wait for death – and it asked them to sign a form confirming it.

Llynfi Surgery, in Llynfi Road, Maesteg, sent the letter to patients with serious health conditions such as incurable cancer, motor neurone disease, and untreatable heart and lung conditions, on March 27.

It comes as further confirmation that people with disabilities will suffer adverse discrimination in the coronavirus crisis – that government guidance is to abandon them.

The letter states that people with these conditions are “unlikely to be offered hospital admission” if they become unwell with coronavirus and “certainly will not be offered a ventilator bed”.

It continued: “We would therefore like to complete a DNACPR form for you which we can share with the OOH [out of hours] GP services and which will mean that in the event of a sudden deterioration in your condition because of a Covid-19 infection or disease progression the emergency services will not be called and resuscitation attempts to restart your heart or breathing will not be attempted.”

Going on, it suggested that the “best option” for patients is to stay at home to be cared for by their family with “ongoing support from ourselves and community nursing services”.

It listed “benefits” to signing the DNACPR form:

  • “Your GP and more importantly your friends and family will know not to call 999”;
  • “Scarce ambulance resources can be targeted to the young and fit who have chance of surviving the infection”, and;
  • “The risk of transmitting the virus to friends, family and emergency responders from CPR (even chest compression alone) is very high. By having a DNACPR form in place you protect your family and emergency responders from this additional risk”.

The final line reads: “We will not abandon you but we need to be frank and realistic about what the next few months holds for all of us.”

Wales Online reported on this scandalous correspondence, saying that the local health board had contacted patients who were upset by the letter, to apologise and “answer any concerns”.

And both the Welsh Assembly member and MP have issued a joint statement saying this was “not a standard letter” and the board is working with the surgery “to offer compassionate and sound advice in the very best traditions of our health service”.

You’ll notice that there isn’t a single line in these comments that contradicts the suggestions in the letter.

If anything, it seems the authorities have simply been embarrassed that it has stated the facts about government guidance on long-term sick and disabled patients who contract the coronavirus in a blunt way.

The affair seems to be confirmation that the government is indeed using the coronavirus to cull “useless eaters”, in line with the eugenics beliefs of Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings, and the Nazi-style persecution of people with long-term health issues that has been carried out by successive Conservative governments over the last decade.

Source: Surgery asks sickest patients to sign ‘do not attempt CPR’ form if they get Covid-19 – Wales Online

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https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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Labour and Green candidates left off postal ballot papers

Postal ballot papers for Hull East. Notice that no Labour or Green candidates are listed.

Postal ballot papers for Hull East. Notice that no Labour or Green candidates are listed.

High-profile Labour MP Karl Turner’s name has been omitted from 480 postal ballot papers in his Hull East constituency due to what the local council is calling an “inadvertent mistake”.

Yeah, right.

If that is the case, why were Mr Turner and Green candidate Sarah Walpole only missed off the papers for people who registered to vote after April 1? Doesn’t that imply that somebody removed their names deliberately?

Hull City Council had better check every single ballot paper it is preparing for election day, to prevent any further “inadvertent mistake”. Mr Turner was elected with a majority of more than 8,000, so the potential loss of 480 votes was unlikely to affect him. The loss of who-knows-how-many votes on the day might be a different matter!

Mr Turner told the BBC the mistake was “concerning” because people were “being denied the right to vote and take part in the democratic process”.

He added: “I have had calls from people in East Hull who are going on holiday this week and are angry that they are unable to vote. I have asked Hull City Council to urgently look into the matter and review their processes surrounding sending out ballot papers.”

The campaign is moving from desperation into criminality now, it seems. This Writer does not believe for one moment that those ballot papers were altered by “mistake”.

Expect further incidents like that in the last days of the campaign – and we can be sure plenty of last-minute voters will be locked out of their polling stations again, on the stroke of 10pm, just like last time. This gives Conservative candidates an edge over others because Tory voters are whipped into voting as early as possible.

In other news, it seems more than 70,000 ballot papers destined for Hastings and Rye, in East Sussex, were stolen along with the van that was transporting them there. Hastings Borough Council says it is putting measures in place to ensure that none of the stolen papers can be used, and we are being asked to believe that the loss of the papers was incidental to the theft of the van.

Yeah, right. But opportunism is a wonderful thing. Let’s see what happens there.

Both these events could lead to electoral fraud, which is a crime. Vox Political readers are urged to be alert for any possible “inadvertent mistake” in your own constituency and report anything suspicious to the Returning Officer (usually your local council’s chief executive) and to the police.

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Food bank blow is new low for the Mail on Sunday

Who do you bank with? This piece of public opinion was picked up from Twitter [Author: Unknown].

Who do you bank with? This piece of public opinion was picked up from Twitter [Author: Unknown].

Isn’t it a shame that on of our national Sunday newspapers has chosen to disrupt everybody’s enjoyment of our Easter eggs with a specious attempt to expose abuses of food banks and make operator the Trussell Trust look hypocritical?

Isn’t it also a shame that the Mail on Sunday didn’t make a few inquiries into the procedure for dealing with people who turn up at food banks without having been referred?

The paper’s reporters and editor could have, at least, opened a dictionary and looked up the meaning of the word “charity”.

Under the headline, ‘No ID, no checks… and vouchers for sob stories: The truth behind those shock food bank claims’, the paper today (April 20) published a story claiming that Trussell Trust food banks are breaking their own rules by allowing people to take food bank parcels without presenting a voucher from an approved referrer, and that they are allowing many times more than the maximum permissible number of repeat visits.

Unfortunately for reporters Simon Murphy and Sanchez Manning, both situations are – in fact – allowed, because food banks must be flexible in the way they deal with individual cases. They would have known that if they had done their homework – as yr obdt srvt (who’s writing this) did at several meetings on the organisation of food banks here in Powys.

The paper’s investigation claims that there were “inadequate checks on who claims the vouchers, after a reporter obtained three days’ worth of food simply by telling staff at a Citizens Advice Bureau – without any proof – that he was unemployed”.

It turned out that this person had to fill out a form providing his name, address, date of birth, phone number and the reason for his visit before an assessor asked him why he needed food bank vouchers. In contradiction of the introduction to the story, he explained – not simply that he was unemployed, but that he had been out of work for several months and the harsh winter had left him strapped for cash and food. He said his wife had left her job and was not earning and that they had two children. These lies were sufficient to win food bank vouchers.

What the report didn’t say was how the details given by reporter Ross Slater would have been used afterwards. The CAB would have booked him in for a further interview with a debt advisor, to which he would have had to bring documentary evidence of his situation. When he didn’t turn up, he would have been identified as a fraud. The food bank would also have taken his details, to be fed back into the referral system. Job Centre Plus would have picked up on the fact that he isn’t unemployed. From this point on, he would have been identified as a fraud and refused further service.

You see, it is true that food banks run on a voucher system, but that is only a part of the scheme. The questions asked of people who need vouchers are used to ensure that they get the help they need to avoid having to come back – that’s why they’re asked. They also weed out abusers like Mr Slater.

If the paper’s editor had looked in a dictionary, he might have seen charity defined as “voluntary provision of help to people in need, or the help provided” in the first instance. However, reading further, he would have seen “sympathy or tolerance in judging” listed as well. It seems the Mail on Sunday would have no such sympathy and would have deserving cases turned away to starve.

It is telling, also, that the paper had to go to Citizens Advice to get its evidence. Far more food bank vouchers are handed out in the Job Centre Plus, where all a citizen’s circumstances are available to advisors. But not one word is said about the fact that the vast majority of food bank referrals are for people in real need and not newspaper reporters.

The paper also stated: “Staff at one centre gave food parcels to a woman who had visited nine times in just four months, despite that particular centre’s own rules stipulating that individuals should claim no more than three parcels a year.”

It continued: “Individuals experiencing severe financial hardship are able to claim food vouchers but there are no clear criteria on who should be eligible. Once received, the vouchers can be exchanged for three days’ worth of food at an allotted centre.

“The Trussell Trust has a policy that an individual can claim no more than nine handouts in a year, but undercover reporters found this limit varied in different branches.”

No – it is far more likely that it varied according to the circumstances of the person who needed the help. Rigid rules, such as one that limits people to only three visits, mean those who need the most help would be cut off while they still needed assistance. People working in food banks would be aware of who these were, and would be more likely to be tolerant towards them.

Meanwhile, the other support services – Job Centre Plus, Citizens Advice, Social Services and so on – would be working to help them. With some people, it simply takes longer. It should be easy for anyone to think of reasons why this may be the case.

This may also explain the situation in which a worker at a Trussell Trust food bank said people “bounce around” locations to receive more vouchers. The assessment system is a way of monitoring these people and determining whether they need extra help.

It is not true that the criteria are not clear – the paper is misleading with this claim. Food banks, the charities running them, and referring organisations all have to agree on the circumstances in which they permit people to receive parcels. You really can’t just walk in the door and expect to get a free handout. That’s why the questions are asked and forms filled out – they will check up on everybody.

Another claim – that “volunteers revealed that increased awareness of food banks is driving a rise in their use” is unsubstantiated, and is clearly an attempt to support the government’s claim that this is the case. But it is silly. Of course starving people will go to a food bank after they have been told it exists; that doesn’t mean they aren’t starving.

And the paper wrongly said the Trussell Trust had claimed that more than 913,000 people received three days’ emergency food from its banks in 2013-14, compared with 347,000 in the previous financial year. This is a misreading of the way the charity records its work, as the Trussell Trust records visits, not visitors. It would be hard to work out exactly how many people attended because some will have visited just once, others twice, a few for the full three times, and some would have required extra help.

The claim that many visitors were asylum-seekers is silly because food banks were originally set up for foreign people who were seeking asylum in the UK and had no money or means of support.

Of course it would be wrong to say that nobody is trying to abuse the system. There are good people and bad people all over the country, and bad people will try to cheat. Look at Maria Miller, Iain Duncan Smith (Betsygate), George Osborne (and his former paddock), Andrea Leadsom’s tax avoidance, Philip Hammond’s tax avoidance, Charlotte Leslie who took cash to ask Parliamentary questions – to name but a few.

The Trussell Trust has agreed to investigate the newspaper’s allegations – but it is important to remember that these were just a few instances of abuse, and only claimed – by a newspaper that is infamous for the poor quality of its reporting.

Nothing said in the article should be used to undermine the vital work of food banks in helping people to survive, after the Conservative-led Coalition government stole the safety net of social security away from them.

UPDATE: Already the Mail on Sunday is facing a public backlash against its ill-advised piece. A petition on the Change.org website is calling for the reporter who claimed food bank vouchers under false pretences in order to make a political point to be sacked. Vox Political has mixed feelings about this – it targets a person who was sent out to do a job by others who are more directly to blame for the piece, but then he did it of his own free will and this action brings all newspaper reporters into disrepute. Consider carefully.

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The end of patient confidentiality as NHS information is sold to insurers

Americanised healthcare: It is appropriate that the only appropriate image I could find features dollars instead of pounds - because it is clear that the Tory government is changing the NHS into an Americanised insurance-based service.

Americanised healthcare: It is appropriate that the only appropriate image I could find features dollars instead of pounds – because it is clear that the Tory government is changing the NHS into an Americanised insurance-based service.

Confidential information on NHS patients has been sold to insurance companies who used it in combination with information from credit rating agencies to identify customers and “refine” their premiums – increasing the costs of policies for thousands of customers, despite all the Tory-led government’s assurances to the contrary.

According to the Daily Telegraph, “a major UK insurance company… was able to obtain 13 years of hospital data – covering 47 million patients.

“As a result they recommended an increase in the costs of policies for thousands of customers last year.”

The revelation comes only days after plans to sell the confidential medical information of every NHS patient in England were put on hold amid a public outcry.

The care.data system, also called variously the General Patient Extraction Service (GPES) or the Health and Social Care Information Centre, was dreamed up as a money-spinning device by Jeremy Hunt’s Department of Health.

The aim is that, if you are an NHS patient in England, your GP will be forced to provide your confidential records, showing every medical condition you have ever had and providing intimate details of your current state of health, to a huge national database.

From there, your information may be sold on to private healthcare and pharmaceutical companies for “research”. The government has said the information would be “pseudonymised”, in an attempt to reassure you that you cannot be identified from the information to be provided to outside organisations.

Only last Friday the BBC was reporting that critics of the scheme were “scaremongering”.

The Corporation – which has failed to report the new development – quoted Tory MP George Freeman, founder of Patients4Data, which represents charities and drug companies (and not patients, apparently) as follows: “We cannot let opponents peddling scaremongering myths stop patients benefiting from this quiet revolution of modern medicine.”

And last month, NHS England categorically stated: “No data will be made available for the purposes of selling or administering any kind of insurance.”

Vox Political has made it clear from the outset that this is not true, and in fact it will be entirely possible to trace your medical information back to you. Now we have proof.

NHS England has delayed compiling the new database of English NHS patients until the autumn. You could help sink the scheme altogether, if you don’t want your government – and your NHS – to sell your information into the wrong hands. Just opt out of the data sharing scheme, using a form designed by the medConfidential website.

Make no mistake – the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats in Parliament have betrayed you.

They have already sold hospital patients’ information to insurance companies, and there can be no doubt that the intention is to do the same with GPs’ confidential records, with a consequential increase in insurance costs to people across the country.

They are turning your beloved National Health Service into an insurance-based scheme, on the same lines as the vastly more expensive American system.

They have been lying to you.

They intend to profit from selling your information – to companies that intend to profit by using it against you.

Are you going to sit there and let them?

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Will the government really penalise GPs whose patients opt out of data sharing?

n4s_nhs1

It seems the government has found a way to dissuade GPs from letting patients opt out of having their medical records sold to private firms – the threat of penalties or even an investigation into the way they run their practice.

Vox Political revealed earlier this month that the government is planning to make a profit from selling the private records of NHS patients in England to healthcare and pharmaceutical firms.

The records are said to be ‘anonymised’, but in fact anyone buying your details will be able to identify you.

The system, originally called the General Patient Extraction Service (GPES), now the Health and Social Care Information Centre, may also be described as the care.data scheme. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt wants you to think the information will be used for medical research and screening for common diseases, but in fact it could be used by private health companies as evidence of failures by the National Health Service, and could help them undercut NHS bids to continue running those services – accelerating the privatisation that nobody wanted.

Patients have the right to withhold their data, but they must specifically inform their medical practice of their wishes. This is why medConfidential created a web page containing a special opt-out form, along with a form letter in various formats, allowing patients to opt out themselves, their children and any adults for whom they are responsible.

Now GPs are living in fear of reprisals if they don’t deliver enough details to the new system.

According to GPonline.com, Health minister Dr Daniel Poulter failed to rule out penalising GP practices with a higher-than-average proportion of patients opting out of new NHS data sharing arrangements.

In a written answer to Labour MP and health select committee member Rosie Cooper, Dr Poulter also refused to say what level of patient opt-out from the scheme would trigger an investigation.

Asked whether practices would be penalised, who would investigate practices with a high opt-out rate, and at what threshold this would apply, Mr Poulter said: “NHS England and the Health and Social Care Information Centre will work with the BMA, the RCGP, the Information Commissioner’s Office and with the Care Quality Commission to review and work with GP practices that have a high proportion of objections on a case-by-case basis.”

Ms Cooper took this as an admission that GPs were “being threatened and bullied into ensuring patients don’t choose to opt-out”.

Reacting on Twitter, NHS national director for patients and information Tim Kelsey ruled out fines for practices where large numbers of patients opt not to share data. He wrote: “Nobody is going to get fined if patients opt out.”

None of this offers a good reason for you to leave your medical records unprotected – in fact, it gives you more reasons to opt out than before, and might provide GPs with the excuse they need to retaliate.

Doctors have been pushed further and further by the Conservative-led government’s changes to the NHS. For example, they were told they would have a greater say in where the money went, as members of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), but that was not true – they don’t have the time to take part in such decisions so they have been handed over to firms that are often part of the private companies now offering services to the NHS (for a price).

Now they are being told they may face reprisals if they do not betray the principle of doctor-patient confidentiality.

But you can only push a person a certain distance before they push back.

How will NHS doctors in England respond?

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Is this spoof benefit form the basis for Coalition unemployment policy?

Thatcha 2

Take a good hard look at the picture above and then try to tell yourself it isn’t the basis for RTU’s (see the earlier article on Iain Duncan Smith) entire benefits policy.

It is taken from the Spitting Image spin-off book Thatcha! The Real Maggie Memoirs, published in 1993 – just one year after Smith was returned to unit – sorry, Parliament – as MP for Chingford.

He first came to prominence as Shadow Social Security Secretary under William Hague in 1997. It cannot be beyond credibility that he had bought the Spitting Image book and had been taking notes… can it?

Look at the image. The form is described as “Form SCRO/UNG(e)/R” – and now benefit claimants are derided by the Conservative-led Coalition government as “scroungers”.

Note 2, referring to a claimant’s address, states: “Ha! Now we know where you live, we can keep an eye on you. You might have to keep up that fake limp for a long time.” This is typical of the current attitude, that disabled people are faking it in order to get a state handout.

Note 5, for those with relatives, delivers a classic Tory line, “Well why can’t they look after you? Must you always come running to us? Claim disallowed.”

Note 7 is for those who are registered disabled: “Claim disallowed – and don’t bother coming in to complain, we’ve got steps up to the office heh heh.” Is this a million miles away from current DWP policy, to make it as hard as possible for the sick and disabled to claim?

The form disallows claims made by people with partners, with savings, without savings; it asks claimants if they are lying and, if the ‘no’ box is ticked, bluntly responds, “Oh yes you are. Claim disallowed.”

The question “You don’t know the meaning of the words ‘hard work’ do you?” is an exact reflection of the attitude put around by the right-wing press, encouraged by ministers in the Coalition government, as is the fact that there is no ‘yes’ box to tick.

An affirmative response to “Would you be prepared to take any work offered to you, no matter how poorly paid, degrading & menial?” elicits the response: “God, you’ve really got no self-respect left, have you, you scrounging little bastard. I pity you.” Isn’t this exactly the sort of emotional state that Coalition benefit policy is intended to create?

Note 19, for those who ticked a box saying that they wished to claim the money – and claim free NHS spectacles (this last included in tiny print) – states: “Aha! Got you! You obviously don’t need them if you can read that tiny print. Claim disallowed” in a move reminiscent of the ‘voodoo polling’ that appeared on the Conservative Party’s website earlier this year, asking people if they thought benefit increases should be greater than wage rises for working people. When people ticked the box saying they disagreed with this, the Tories were able to claim this meant support for their policy for a below-inflation rise in benefits, when in fact it was based on a false premise, as benefit rises were never greater than wage rises in real terms.

“We promise to process this claim within 28 days. Though exactly which 28 days is up to us,” the form states. This will ring true, particularly for anyone who has received notice that they have a limited period in which to appeal against a decision – and that period ran out the day before they received the letter.

Most damningly true of all is the warning: “Remember, to give false information is a very serious offence – unless of course you are Minister of Employment, in which case it’s essential.” This is certainly a sentence that Iain Duncan Smith seems to have taken to heart.

By now, you may be thinking that this is all taking a silly joke form from a book of satirical humour – published 20 years ago! – just a little too seriously.

But, when you consider the sheer number of similarities between what was wild humour in the 1990s and what is bitter reality now, there can be no conclusion other than that the joke is on us.

Call for evidence on Work Capability Assessment: My submission

Tell him about it: Dr Paul Litchfield is carrying out a review of the Work Capability Assessment and needs to know how you think the system could be improved. The Coalition government would like him to think that there is no need for any change at all; if you don't tell him exactly what you think of it, he won't know any different.

Tell him about it: Dr Paul Litchfield is carrying out a review of the Work Capability Assessment and needs to know how you think the system could be improved. The Coalition government would like him to think that there is no need for any change at all; if you don’t tell him exactly what you think of it, he won’t know any different.

An article on this site earlier today publicised the DWP’s call for submissions to its independent review of the Work Capability Assessment and called for anyone with experience of the process to contribute by answering the four questions at this web address:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/fourth-independent-review-of-the-work-capability-assessment-wca

As someone with direct experience of the assessment procedure, I made my own submission shortly after writing the piece, and I am reproducing it here. I threw as much information into the submission as I could, and I would like to take this opportunity to beg everybody who has also experienced a work capability assessment to do the same. It is weight of numbers that will carry any changes to this diabolical, unfit-for-work assessment system; if you have been affected, you cannot rely on other people to get it changed for you.

Here are the questions and my responses:

1. If you have undertaken a WCA yourself or represented somebody who has, what has been your/their experience of the face-to-face assessment and follow up contact with the DWP?

Before the assessment we were not provided all the information we needed, such as details of how to arrange to have the interview recorded. I went along with a Dictaphone, expecting this to be allowed, but the Atos employees made a huge fuss about it and it was clear that they were not prepared to go ahead with the interview if we insisted on recording it. This would not have been our fault or theirs, but the fault of the DWP for failing to make the situation clear. The DWP claims to have only 31 recorders available to it, but this seems ridiculous when every work capability assessment is carried out on a laptop computer which is perfectly capable of running audio recording programmes and burning the resulting files to disc. Fears that someone might tamper with the files (hardly likely between finishing the interview and creating the disc minutes later) can be allayed with a simple time-check at the beginning and end of the recording; the length of the recording should match the time expired between the start time-check and the stop time-check. Microphones are extremely cheap – even more so if ordered wholesale – so there is no reason not to provide them in order to ensure sound clarity. The assessment itself was inadequate – not fit for purpose. The problem is that the questions have been devised in order to shoehorn ESA claimants into particular categories – therefore the assessor needs straightforward “yes” or “no” answers about conditions that are NOT straightforward, and for which such answers would be inappropriate. I attended my partner’s WCA and, with almost every question, she was trying to explain how her situation affects her. This was of no interest to the person conducting the assessment. The problem lies in the fact that the whole system was originally devised by an American insurance company – Unum – in order to find ways of refusing payouts to customers whose policies had matured. Despite the fact that this strategy led to the company being successfully prosecuted in its home country, the UK government enthusiastically hired Unum to transform the assessment of disability/incapacity benefit claimants along the same lines. The implication is always that the claimant’s illness is in his or her mind, and in fact they are perfectly capable of doing a job. There is no effort to find out the claimant’s actual medical condition – all effort is devoted to finding which category they can most easily be put into. There’s more but I’m out of space!

2. On the basis of your experiences, can you suggest any changes to improve the face-to-face part of the WCA? Please give details of why you think these changes would help.

Scrap the work capability assessment as it currently exists; it is a waste of time and money. The interview should be a genuine fact-finding exercise in which a genuine medical doctor gathers all the evidence possible about a claimant’s case, including evidence from their GP and other experts involved with it, and makes an assessment without having to conform to any requirements imposed by the government (which has its own agenda). My partner has mental health issues but there was no attempt to address them. She also has fluctuating health conditions but these were not explored either. New guidelines on these may have been brought in after her assessment but she was not contacted about them afterwards.

3. Thinking about the overall WCA process from when you make a claim for ESA to when you receive a notification of a decision from the DWP, what changes do you think are needed? Please give details of why you think these changes would help.

The ESA50 form should be scrapped and re-thought. The questions in the ‘descriptor’ section are bizarrely-worded and unfit for use as any means to judge a person’s fitness for work. For example, section 8, ‘Getting around safely’, is said to be about visual problems, but the request is “please tick this box if you can get around safely on your own”. I had to write “This is a misleading question. She can’t, but not because of sight problems”. The form provides an opportunity to mislead assessors about the issues they will face at the assessment. The decision notification must be much more detailed. Claimants need to see not only what the decision was, but why it was made. They do not currently receive a copy of the assessment/assessor’s notes, and must instead request it after receiving the decision notice, if they intend to appeal. Why? What does the DWP/Atos/the individual assessor have to hide? Making the recording of assessments mandatory and providing all the documents used to make a decision along with the decision notice itself would hugely increase transparency in the process, helping to prevent costly mistakes.

4. Please give us any further information and evidence about the effectiveness of the WCA, particularly thinking about the effect on claimants, that you consider to be helpful.

My partner was put in the work-related activity group of ESA and told she would be contacted about what she would be required to do. She had to wait FOUR MONTHS (out of a 12-month benefit period) before anybody got in touch. After an interview at the Job Centre, a work programme provider contacted her and established, within half an hour of telephone conversation, that there was nothing they could do with her. She was advised to request reassessment, which she did. That was six months ago and we have heard nothing. As her benefit period is coming to an end, she is currently undergoing reassessment anyway, but this does not excuse the DWP from its tardiness. You can see from this that the WCA, in my partner’s case, produced an inaccurate response. She is not the only one – statistics from the tribunals service show the number of appeals against WCA decisions between January and March have more than doubled, compared with the same period last year, and findings for the claimant have risen to almost half of cases (43%). The work programme has failed most WRAG members – as it failed my partner. Only 10% of them have found work, according to the DWP – around 1.7% of all ESA claimants. This conforms with the view that the rest have been misplaced and are too sick or disabled to work. Of course, the WCA has had a devastating effect on many claimants – statistics last year showed dozens were dying every week, while going through the process, while appealing, or after having been found ‘fit for work’. The DWP is refusing to release current figures, which implies that they have not improved. This proves that the system does not work and should be scrapped. The fact that claimants have DIED while going through this process, and ministers have done nothing about it, implies corporate manslaughter and I would certainly recommend that criminal investigations take place on this basis. Hopefully others will provide details of some of the deceased; otherwise I should be able to provide contact details.

That was my submission.

The web page is at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/fourth-independent-review-of-the-work-capability-assessment-wca

Over to you.

Work Capability Assessment: Time to make your experience count

What we're fighting: Not only are work capability assessments leading to many deaths every week (we don't know how many because the DWP won't release the numbers), but administrative idiocy has led to at least one of the deceased being harassed AFTER DEATH, for failing to attend an interview. And Mark Hoban says no significant reforms are required. Dream on...

What we’re fighting: Not only are work capability assessments leading to many deaths every week (we don’t know how many because the DWP won’t release the numbers), but administrative idiocy has led to at least one of the deceased being harassed AFTER DEATH, for failing to attend an interview. And Mark Hoban says no significant reforms are required. Dream on…

The Coalition government is launching a call for evidence to help with its fourth annual independent review into the Work Capability Assessment process – and I, for one, will be delighted to be part of it.

The review will be carried out by Dr Paul Litchfield, a senior occupational physician replacing Professor Malcolm Harrington, who ran the review process for the previous three years.

According to the Department for Work and Pensions’ press release, it “will continue the process of monitoring whether the assessment is effective in identifying people who could be helped back to work, while ensuring financial support goes to those who are too sick or disabled to seek employment”.

We all know that the WCA is a total failure in those terms. Recent Work Programme and appeal tribunal statistics are unequivocal in making that clear.

Now – if you have had the same experience of the assessment process as I, and Mrs Mike, have – it is time for you to have your say.

If you are an individual or a member of an organisation with information on how the Work Capability Assessment is operating and further changes that may be needed to improve the process, then you can submit it using the online form on this web page:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/fourth-independent-review-of-the-work-capability-assessment-wca

It also includes links to more information about the reviews, large print and Easy Read documents. Audio and BSL versions “will be made available on this page shortly”.

The DWP press release has a lot to say about how well they have performed in changing the system so far. It is worth quoting here, just to show you the importance of the need to challenge this attitude. It states:

“In launching the call for evidence, Dr Litchfield will be considering both how the suggested improvements from previous reviews are working, and what further refinements can be made. Dr Litchfield is particularly interested in hearing how the WCA works for people with mental health conditions.

“Dr Paul Litchfield said: ‘This fourth review is an appropriate time to review the impact of the changes that have been made to the WCA in recent years, including those recommended by my predecessor Professor Malcolm Harrington. I will also be considering if more can be done to ensure that the assessment process is both effective and perceived as being objective by all stakeholders.

“‘I am keen to hear from people who have constructive and evidence-based ideas for improvement. The WCA touches many lives and it is in the interest of all of us to try and make it as good as we can.’

“Employment Minister Mark Hoban said: ‘Helping people who can work into a job, while giving financial support to people who need it, is one of my top priorities. That is why it is so important that the Work Capability Assessment is as effective as possible.

“‘Following the previous independent reviews we have already made considerable improvements to the assessment process, so this new review is a great opportunity to build on that progress.’

“This is the fourth in a series of 5 annual independent reviews into the Work Capability Assessment. The previous reviewer, Professor Harrington, made a number of recommendations, and in his third review found that – as improvements were starting to have an impact – no fundamental reforms were needed to the current WCA. Over 40 recommendations have been, or are being, implemented including:

  • Better communication with claimants, including phone calls from decision-makers to ensure all medical evidence has been provided
  • Introducing 60 mental health champions into assessment centres to provide advice to Atos healthcare professionals
  • Working with charities to test out new descriptors covering mental function and fluctuating conditions
  • Simplifying the process for people undergoing treatment for cancer – reducing the need for face-to-face assessments and ensuring more are placed in the Support Group.”

If “no fundamental reforms are needed”, then why is the DWP refusing to provide details of the number of people who are dying while going through the assessment process, appealing against its decision, or after having been thrown off-benefit? Clearly it seems to have something to hide and until we find out what that is, such claims should be considered to be wild fantasies with no basis in reality.

You’ll notice the possibility of having the Work Capability Assessment recorded is not mentioned, even though there was a debate within the last month. Does Hoban really think our memories are so short?

A submission from myself and Mrs Mike would include information on the run-up to the assessment, including the fact that we were not told we had to announce in advance our desire to have the interview recorded. When I arrived, dictaphone in hand, the Atos employees kicked up a fuss about it that could have stopped the interview taking place at all. That would not have been our fault but theirs, for failing to make the situation clear. We would also point out that claims by the DWP to have only 31 recorders are in error, as the tick-box assessment they use is carried out on laptop computers that can easily – and probably do – carry recording and CD-burning software. It would be simplicity itself to provide simple microphones for both assessor and assessee to use, to make questions and responses clear, and concerns over tampering with recordings may be addressed by a time-check at the start and finish.

I would raise issue with the ESA50 form, that includes ‘descriptors’ that are said to be intended to help describe a claimant’s condition. In fact they do no such thing. They are there to help Atos assessors fit you into the categories laid out by Unum when it originally devised the process as a way to avoid making payments to customers whose insurance policies had matured. It would be far better to allow claimants to describe their symptoms and provide medical evidence from their doctors; the fact that this would require the DWP staff reviewing the forms to use their brains in consideration of the individual situation, rather than slavishly follow instructions that try to shoehorn people into pre-defined groups, is of no concern to the claimant.

I would raise issue with the Work Capability Assessment itself, which also attempts to bypass explanations of the issues in order to shoehorn claimants into providing “yes” or “no” answers to its questions. We have seen from the Conservative Party’s own ‘voodoo’ polling that, if a question is framed in a particular way, the questioner will get the answer they want, and this would not necessarily be productive.

Mrs Mike has mental health issues. There was no concession to those issues during her assessment and I do not recall them being explored at all.

Mrs Mike has fluctuating health conditions. There was no inquiry into how those changes affect her daily life.

Changes for both of the above may have been brought in after the assessment, but they are still relevant to my partner. However, no attempt has been made to contact her or explore her situation in the light of these developments. That is a grave omission.

She was put in the work-related activity group and asked to visit her local Job Centre Plus for interviews. After doing so, and being passed on to a Work Programme Provider, it took just one half-hour telephone conversation to establish that this organisation could do nothing for her, and she was advised to seek re-assessment. This was six months into her one-year period on ESA (remember, those in the work-related activity group get benefit for one year only). Nobody had contacted her during the first four months she was on the benefit.

Mrs Mike did ask for reassessment but nothing was done about it. She is, in fact, going through the assessment process again, but this is because a year has passed since her initial assessment and it is therefore time for her to go through the whole torturous process again. The form went off in mid-May and we have yet to hear back from the DWP.

From our point of view, the whole situation has been a farce.

If you have been through the process, how did you find it?

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/fourth-independent-review-of-the-work-capability-assessment-wca

Don’t just tell us – tell the independent assessor.