Tag Archives: healthcare professional

It’s time to take a stand against the Coalition’s new benefit-reduction enforcer

The leaflet advertising the anti-Maximus 'Mass Action' day.

The leaflet advertising the anti-Maximus ‘Mass Action’ day.

Today’s the day, people! It’s time to show the government what you think of its new Work Capability Assessment company – Maximus.

Demonstrations against the American insurance provider, which is said to have a long history of denying the existence of medical disability in claimants (in order to avoid paying out on claims), are taking place up and down the United Kingdom.

This writer has been asked to mention the campaign outside the Atos/Maximus assessment centre on St Agnes Road, Heath, Cardiff CF14 4YJ, taking place between 1pm and 4pm. Readers from Cardiff or parts nearby are urged to go along and show the strength of their feelings about this firm.

The main demonstration is in London, at the address in the image at the top of this article.

In Edinburgh, it is at Argyle House, 3 Lady Lawson Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9SJ.

Maximus has been hired by the Coalition Government after ending the contract with Atos due to “significant quality failures”. The contract is worth no less than £595 million over three years – nearly £200 million per year. No doubt public sector employees could have provided the service cheaply and more efficiently but right-wing ministers like the Tories always prefer contracting-out; it means they have someone to blame when things go wrong.

The company has a history of ending lawsuits against it in the USA by making out-of-court settlements costing millions of dollars, with the most notable plaintiffs being the US government in a case involving falsified Medicaid claims, and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a case involving disability discrimination.

Claimants of sickness and disability benefits in the UK are deeply distressed that their government should be insensitive enough to hire such a firm – the message it sends out to vulnerable people is that the government is happy to renege on its duty of care, when the message should be that vulnerable people should be able to rely on the support they deserve.

Remember, people suffering from long-term illnesses and disability have paid their taxes and are entitled to the benefits funded by those contributions.

So please, whether you are a benefit claimant yourself or are able-bodied but concerned, please consider attending at a location near you. The full guide to events is on DPAC’s (Disabled People Against Cuts) website.

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Action against new Work Capability Assessment firm is planned before it even starts

The leaflet advertising the anti-Maximus 'Mass Action' day.

The leaflet advertising the anti-Maximus ‘Mass Action’ day.

What’s the most notable fact about the government’s new Work Capability Assessment contractor – Maximus?

Is it the claim that the company will carry out no less than one million work capability assessments in its first year? No.

Is it the fact that the company has a history of ending lawsuits against it in the USA by making out-of-court settlements costing millions of dollars, with the most notable plaintiffs being the US government in a case involving falsified Medicaid claims, and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a case involving disability discrimination? No.

Is it the fact that citizens of the United Kingdom have already organised a day of action calling for the company to be sacked, before it has even started work? Could be!

Maximus has been hired by the Coalition Government after ending the contract with Atos due to “significant quality failures”. The contract is worth no less than £595 million over three years – nearly £200 million per year. No doubt public sector employees could have provided the service cheaply and more efficiently but right-wing ministers like the Tories always prefer contracting-out; it means they have someone to blame when things go wrong.

The firm is promising to clear a backlog of around 600,000 claims for Employment and Support Allowance. In the light of the Medicaid debacle in America, one is forced to question whether another falsification case is looming on the horizon.

Ah, but Maximus says it is hiring hundreds of “healthcare professionals” to deal with the heavy workload. This does not inspire confidence as anyone who has had dealings with the Atos version of this job description will be aware that very few of them had backgrounds in healthcare or behaved in a professional way.

Take note: Maximus is not taking on any additional doctors. This means the percentage of doctors involved in the process will decline against that of “healthcare professionals”.

According to the BBC, “Atos was appointed by the Labour government in 2008 to carry out assessments, but was dogged by controversy as the number of people wrongly assessed as fit for work grew.” In fairness it should be pointed out that the number of mistakes grew exponentially after the Coalition Government’s Iain Duncan Smith introduced stricter standards around 2011.

“At the same time, increasing numbers won their appeals at tribunal.

“Some people who had been told they were fit for work and should find a job later died.” Nobody knows how many, because the Department for Work and Pensions does not monitor what happens to people after they have been thrown off-benefit. The death toll could number thousands.

Meanwhile, we know that 10,600 people who were granted the benefit died between January and November 2011 – more than 200 per week.

The DWP has jealously guarded all death statistics since then – now nearly four years ago. It is believed this is because the total would cause public outrage on a level not yet seen.

This image shows the general public feeling towards Maximus.

This image shows the general public feeling towards Maximus.

It is therefore unsurprising that disability organisations have organised a day of action against Maximus, which they see as just another ‘front’ company supporting government policies that have not only failed, but have done so in the most prejudicial way possible – risking people’s lives.

The day of ‘Mass Action’ has been organised by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), New Approach, Black Triangle and the Mental Health Resistance Network.

It will take place at Maximus’ headquarters – Level 1, Queen Anne’s Gate, London, starting at 1pm on Monday (March 2).

If you have any doubts at all about the government’s motives in employing Maximus, or the company’s ability to assess people’s illnesses and disabilities in a reliable way, then you are invited to attend.

In addition – of course – please spread the word.

Further information is on DPAC’s website: http://www.dpac.uk.net

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PIP reviews and tribunals: The DWP keeps piling on the pressure

An example of what the change to PIP will mean for disabled people, from a CAB blog article.

An example of what the change to PIP will mean for disabled people, from a CAB blog article.

Further to yesterday’s article on the hoax letters being sent out by (in this case) Atos, summoning benefit claimants to non-existent “assessment” meetings, a couple more developments have come to light.

Firstly, Mrs Mike has received a new letter stating that her assessment has been cancelled and she doesn’t have to attend. This writer shall be going in any case – just to make sure.

Secondly, it seems matters get worse if you are unlucky enough to be denied benefit after an assessment. What follows refers to Personal Independence Payment. First, let’s hear from a commenter who had to go through the ‘mandatory reconsideration’ procedure:

“With the help of my local CAB (Citizens Advice Bureau), I made an application for PIP. As is normal, they refused it. The CAB explained they would, and requested a ‘Mandatory Review’.

“Under the old system, they would write a letter stating their reasons why the decision is wrong. Now, though, Atos will not accept this.

“Instead they are going to phone me at some random time of their choosing. I will then be expected to make the representation myself, without the representation or support I need.

“As a large part of my disability is related to my mental health, this is inappropriate, and causing me some severe anxiety.

Another example of how this caring government is making people more ill – this time by not letting them use the services of the CAB.”

Now let’s hear from a commenter who has gone further along the process and actually appeared before a tribunal:

“Just been to a Tribunal to have my PIP claim reconsidered. That is one of the most awful and scary experiences I have ever had, having to explain things that I fight hard to try to overcome and don’t wish to think about, to people whose decision will greatly affect my future.

“The woman who originally made the decision to deny my PIP application was also there. I felt the questions she asked showed a total lack of understanding of the basics. She seemed to think that a debt management plan was a course of some kind to help me manage money. She also didn’t seem to get that my mental health issues mean I can write something on a calendar, but that doesn’t mean I might not still either forget appointments or really not feel well enough to attend them.

“For anyone with mental health issues to have to go through the PIP claim process, Atos assessment and ultimately a tribunal, it is unbelievably cruel and careless. I have been extremely distressed today.

“I am also not going to find out for a few days due to my appointment time being so late in their working day, which is also upsetting.

“I know some people use mental illness as an excuse, [but] those of us who are genuine (and that surely is the majority) should not have to go though such an ordeal.

My friends in political parties and anyone else who cares and understands, please let it be known: THIS IS WRONG.”

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DWP appointment hoaxes ramp up stress for the sick and disabled

WCAcartoon

Don’t you just hate it when you get a hoax call from the Department for Work and Pensions?

Mrs Mike had one this week, it seems – from Atos.

“Your appointment for an assessment with a healthcare professional” was the heading, beneath which were the words: “We have been asked by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to carry out an assessment in relation to your benefit claim. We have arranged an appointment for you at [date and place]. It is important that you attend this assessment. If you don’t attend, your benefit may be affected.” And so on. It was dated January 30 and we received in on Tuesday (February 3).

Long-term readers will know that this writer is her carer and attended her first work capability assessment in that capacity. I wanted to do so again but on the day we had the letter I was full of a cold that has been going around, and did not feel well enough to deal with grinding bureaucrats until today (Friday).

Phoning up the number on the letter, I gave Mrs Mike’s details, only to be told that there was no appointment booked for her. The person on the other end of the phone – who was very polite and helpful – suggested that her appointment might not be for ESA but PIP, and provided a phone number so I could inquire.

Let’s cut a long story short. She didn’t have an appointment for PIP, or DLA either.

So the letter is a hoax.

I’ll be attending the assessment centre anyway, in advance of her alleged appointment, just to make sure – and if I find that she is listed for an appointment there, somebody will catch it hot because that means the telephone advisers were wrong.

Whichever way you slice it, somebody is trying to create problems for a woman with a long-term illness/disability – and that is not acceptable.

Suppose somebody else had a letter like this. We all know that they create stress – sometimes to extreme levels – because of the stated threat: “If you don’t attend, your benefit may be affected.” Now suppose they don’t have a carer to phone up and find out they don’t really have an appointment at all. They go to the expense of hiring transport to the assessment centre, get there in good time – and find nobody there.

What happens next?

What are they supposed to think? What are they supposed to do? They won’t know.

Up goes the stress.

There’s also the physical strain to consider. People claim incapacity benefits because they aren’t healthy. Having to attend benefit assessments will add extra strain to their bodies.

People have died because of it. They’re ill; their hearts can’t take the extra load.

wcaassessment

And then Iain Duncan Smith counts it as a “positive benefit outcome” and crows in the Daily Mail about how he is shrinking the welfare state.

That’s not right, though. There is a case to be made that it is a premeditated attempt at worsening a claimant’s condition, with the DWP being reckless as to the result.

According to the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act of 2008, a company or organisation is guilty of having killed a person if its activities have been so managed or organised as to cause a person’s death. Would that not apply in cases like this?

The DWP is laying itself wide open to prosecution under this Act of Parliament, by its behaviour towards the sick and disabled.

There only needs to be one successful case for the floodgates to open.

Please circulate this article freely to anybody who may benefit from it including incapacity benefit claimants, their relatives or carers, and relatives or carers of recently-deceased benefit claimants.

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