Tag Archives: iLegal

Sickness benefit claimants are more than twice as likely to die than get a job

Shocking ‘back to work’ results for people claiming all kinds of sickness benefits in Great Britain over a 4 year period show that just 37,770 obtained a ‘job outcome’, whereas in just over a two year period over 81,000 people died whilst claiming sickness benefits between December 2011 and February 2014.

These figures make a laughing stock of Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) and his wildly distorted claims to be helping the sick and disabled back in to work. In May 2010 Duncan Smith announced his flagship ‘Work Programme’ on the misleading premise that it was fit to revolutionise welfare for the 21st centrury. Amongst claims made by the Secretary of State for Work & Pensions were specific statements setting out how his reforms would see sickness benefit claimants on their way in to work, Duncan Smith has consistently claimed that the key to lifting people out of poverty is to get them in to employment. In regular parrot fashion he reminds us how ‘work always pays’, – really?

IDS is all talk, none of his promises come to fruition, it’s all empty meaningless rhetoric.

 

Source: Serious flaws in government’s statistics? | ilegal

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Shouldn’t we call time on the Work Capability Assessment?

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On the day Mrs Mike was at first supposed to take a new Work Capability Assessment, then told it was cancelled (then received a letter confirming this – and then this writer attended the centre to make sure), Ekklesia has published a piece by Bernadette Meaden asking whether there’s any point to the process at all.

She writes: “It’s important to remember that these assessments are not a ‘medical’, as the public may believe. They are officially described as a ‘functional assessment’: they assess people as if they are machines, to see which bits are working and which bits aren’t. They disregard many medical symptoms such as pain and exhaustion, which is why people who are obviously seriously ill can be assessed as ‘fit to work’, why so many people appeal their decision, and why the government’s own expert adviser, Professor Malcolm Harrington, once described the WCA as ‘mechanistic and inhumane’.

“Not all the people who have been through a WCA will have been given a face-to-face assessment. Some will have received a decision based on their completion of the lengthy and complex ESA50 form, and supplementary information they have supplied. But for all who have been assessed, whether face to face or via bureaucracy, it will have been an added stress at a time when they may be coming to terms with a life-limiting diagnosis, or going through unpleasant treatment.

“To have your doctor say you are unfit to work, but to have the decision as to whether you will receive support in the hands of a medically unqualified DWP Decision Maker is not conducive to anyone’s health.”

Surely, she suggests, the only way all of this stress and effort can be justified is if the WCA found that people who were actually fit for work had managed to get themselves onto an incapacity benefit instead – but this is not what the figures show.

After no less than 4.8 million stress-inducing assessments (and remember, stress can kill), “the numbers receiving Incapacity Benefit and Employment Support Allowance have barely changed, and in fact have reduced at a slower rate than they did in the years prior to the WCA being introduced”.

The 4.8 million figure comes from Nick Dilworth, who blogs on the excellent iLegal site.

He writes, “the most recent DWP figures for the tougher than tough Work Capability Assessments” show that “until November 2012 an average of 28,500 claimants a month were being found ‘fit for work’ [when adding the totals for those claiming Employment and Support Allowance as a ‘new’ claim, those who had been re-assessed, and also those undergoing conversion from older incapacity benefits to the newer allowance]. However, since then the numbers found fit for work have steadily decreased to an all-time low of just 1,600 claimants recorded for the month of December 2013 (the most recent DWP figure available).

“It’s almost as if they don’t want anybody being found fit for work these days,” he writes. “One thing is for certain, it will all change once Maximus gets going properly after March 2015. Little wonder ESA appeals have fallen, eh?”

At least it suggests that people aren’t simply giving up on the system, as is happening due to the JSA sanction system.

The random factor in all of this is the fact that we are dealing with the Department for Work and Pensions, which is notoriously untrustworthy when dealing with claimants.

Why do you think this writer had to seek confirmation that Mrs Mike’s new assessment had been cancelled in triplicate? It was the only way to make absolutely sure. Having fallen foul of the DWP’s hair-trigger benefit cancellation machine in the past, we weren’t going to let it happen again.

But Mrs Mike is lucky in that respect – she has the services of an able-bodied and articulate carer. How many of the 28,500 who were found fit for work every month until November 2012 could say the same thing?

Having attended Mrs Mike’s original Work Capability Assessment back in mid-2012, this writer knows that she found the experience of having to carry out physical tasks for an unqualified “healthcare professional” both painful and humiliating. She spent the following three days on the sofa, unable to move because of extreme pain – and the DWP put her in the work-related activity group and told her she should be better in a year.

And now it’s 2015; she still isn’t better and this writer had to humiliate several DWP representatives when they tried to claim otherwise and cut off her benefit lifeline. Again, how many people who were thrown off the WRA group had someone who could do the same?

Now, Nick tells us this is just the deep breath before Maximus turns up and tries to knock the wind out of all our sails.

As Ms Meaden suggests, wouldn’t it be better to get rid of the Work Capability Assessment and replace it with something else?

Nick is a member of New Approach, an organisation calling for that to happen.

Please have a look at the website and consider giving it your support.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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DWP’s shame: Facts reveal how ministers duped the press

Lest we forget: We know that, on average, 73 people died every week between January and November 2011 - after undergoing the DWP work capability assessment administered by Atos. Who knows how many are dying now?

Lest we forget: We know that, on average, 73 people died every week between January and November 2011 – after undergoing the DWP work capability assessment administered by Atos. Who knows how many are dying now?

Today the DWP finally released its press release claiming that huge numbers of people who wanted Employment and Support Allowance have been found fit for work instead.

Interestingly, the DWP story differs from that published by the BBC, even though the corporation must have used a version of the press release provided to it in advance.

In the BBC story, released on Saturday, “More than a million others withdrew their claims after interviews” – but the DWP press notice, released today, claims “More than a million others withdrew their claims before reaching a face-to-face assessment”.

In addition, the DWP release features a long section on its Disability Confident roadshow, and there is another statistic which claims that the proportion of disabled people in work has reached 45 per cent.

Disability Confident, designed “to encourage more employers to hire disabled people”, “to showcase the talents of disabled people and highlight their tremendous value to the British economy” is, on the face of it, a good idea.

But I wonder if it isn’t a smokescreen to hide how the DWP is pushing thousands of disabled people into saying they are self-employed and taking tax credits rather than ESA, in order to fudge the figures and make it seem as though good work is being done.

Vox Political reported on this before ,and it is worth adding that the BBC itself ran the original report that work advisers were pushing the jobless into self-employment.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive…

Of course, the best source of ESA-related statistics is on the iLegal site where the figures behind the press release have been picked apart by an expert who doesn’t have a vested interest in saving ministerial face.

They show that an average of 83 per cent of the 1,078,200 Incapacity claimants who were assessed qualified for ESA between October 2012 and May last year, while 88 per cent of the 1,332,300 ‘repeatedly assessed’ were re-qualifying.

While the DWP and the BBC have claimed 1.8 million people have magically disappeared from the Incapacity/ESA claimant count, the DWP’s own figures confirm that overall numbers have reduced by only 156,630 since May 2010.

The iLegal article makes it clear that “the claimant count is far from a static number; each month thousands of claimants come on and off all benefits”. But it seems clear that the BBC/DWP figure is a conflated total, simply adding up all new claims – rather than claimants – from 2008 onwards.

This is exactly why UK Statistics Authority chief Andrew Dilnot chastised the government after the Conservative Party released an almost-identical press release last year, using then-current (but still inaccurate) figures and not mentioning Disability Confident.

Let’s go back to the number of people found ‘fit for work’ after assessment. Has everybody forgotten the hammering that the government took during a debate on Atos’ handling of the Work Capability Assessment, exactly a year and a week ago today? If you have, don’t worry – you can read all about it here.

The debate demonstrated time after time that the work capability assessment, as devised by the DWP’s Conservative ministerial team and run by its employees at Atos, was not fit for purpose; that the overwhelming majority of those who had been found ‘fit for work’ were nothing of the sort; and that “this is a government that is perfectly happy with a system that is throwing thousands of sick and disabled people to the wolves”.

The government refused to listen. Then-Employment minister Mark Hoban (standing in, conspicuously, for Esther McVey, who was minister for the disabled at the time) said the independent reviews conducted by Professor Malcolm Harrington had identified areas of improvement and appropriate steps were being taken.

This claim was false. Out of 25 recommendations made by Professor Harrington in his year one review alone, almost two thirds were not fully and successfully implemented.

The government also claimed, repeatedly, that Prof Harrington had supported the migration of Incapacity Benefit claimants to ESA. When fellow blogger Sue Marsh contacted him for confirmation, he responded: “I NEVER—repeat–NEVER agreed to the IB migration. I would have preferred that it be delayed but by the time I said that, the political die had been cast. I then said that i would review progress of that during my reviews. The decision was political. I could not influence it. IS THAT CRYSTAL CLEAR?”

I’d say so – to everybody but the Coalition government.

Now:

A good reporter at the BBC would have had all this information to hand. They would have known that the work capability assessment was extremely controversial and had been shown, many times, to be unfit for purpose. They would have known that the government had been slapped down by the UK Statistics Authority after releasing an almost-identical press release last year. They absolutely should have known that other reporters in the same organisation had revealed that the DWP had been pushing disabled people into claiming they were self-employed in an effort to cook the books.

With all that information to hand, it begs the question: Why did they then go ahead with the propagandised misrepresentation of the facts that appeared on the BBC News website on Saturday?

And, before reporters at Business Standard (“A million Britons found lying for illness benefits“?), the Belfast Telegraph, International Business Times UK, Metro, The Times, Channel 4 News, Press TV, Descrier, SME Times, AoI Money, The Mirror, Gloucester Citizen, Huffington Post, Evening Standard, and especially the Daily Mail, whose article was hysterical in both senses of the term, allow me to ask…

What’s your excuse?

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