Tag Archives: Mental Health Resistance Network

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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Vigil to support judicial review for ESA claimants with mental health issues

Vigil: This was taken when the case was appealed in October 2013.

Vigil: This was taken when the case was appealed in October 2013.

Does anybody fancy helping create a stir outside the Royal Courts of Justice next week? Don’t worry, you shouldn’t get arrested.

The courts will be the venue for the judicial review of government policy regarding claimants of Employment and Support Allowance who have mental health issues, from July 7-9. That’s between Monday and Wednesday next week.

On Tuesday (July 8), the Mental Health Resistance Network, supported by Disabled People Against Cuts, will be holding a vigil at the front entrance of the Royal Courts of Justice building on The Strand, between midday and 2pm.

The aim is to highlight the important issues around the case.

This should help: Buses 4,11,15,23,26,76,172 and 341 all stop at the front of the Royal Courts of Justice, 171, 188, 243, 521 and X68 stop at Kingsway and Aldwych Junction nearby. The nearest underground station is Temple (District Line), Holborn (Central and Piccadilly Line) and Chancery Lane, (Central Line).

Anyone with stories of how you have been affected by the Work Capability Assessment is invited to come and share them – and support the fight for justice.

So how about it?

DPAC’s website has this to say about the judicial review: “Two people who claim benefits on mental health grounds initiated a judicial review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), supported by the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN). In May 2013, the judges presiding over the case ruled that the WCA places mental health claimants at a “substantial disadvantage” and that the DWP should make “reasonable adjustments” to alleviate this.

“Often mental health claimants struggle to provide further medical evidence to support their claim for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and may not be able to accurately self report how their mental health conditions affect them, either when completing forms or at face to face assessments. Many claimants are wrongly found fit for work and subjected to the stress of appealing the decision.

“The claimants who brought the case, DM and MM, asked the court to rule that the DWP should be responsible for obtaining further medical evidence at every stage of the process to improve the chances of a more accurate decision being reached about whether a person is able to work or to start preparing for work and to avoid the need for a face to face assessment in cases where this would be especially distressing for the claimant. In addition, claimants who are at risk of suicide or self harm would be more likely to be identified. In such cases, regulations 29/35 would apply. These regulations are intended to reduce risk of harm but the DWP often fail to identify who they apply to.

“The Department for Work and Pensions appealed the judgement. Their appeal arguments were mainly concerned with legal technicalities but in December 2013 the judges issued a ruling that upheld the original judgement in May. The DWP did not launch a second appeal.

“Under the Equalities Act of 2010, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to mitigate any disadvantages experienced by disabled people. The forthcoming hearing will be concerned with establishing what adjustments the DWP should make to the WCA process. We already know from the original hearing that they plan to run a pilot study to assess the “reasonableness” of obtaining further medical evidence. We want to ensure that any study will be fair, honest and approached with an open mind. Unfortunately we find it hard to trust that this will happen.

“In his witness statement of July 2013 Dr Gunnyeon, Chief Medical Advisor and Director for Health and Well-Being at the DWP wrote, ‘ESA was designed to be a different benefit from Incapacity Benefit (IB), being a functional assessment rather than a diagnostic one. The face-to-face assessment is a key part of this process as the only truly independent part of the process. Moving away from this would, I believe, be a retrograde step which would seriously undermine the way in which the assessment process has been conceived and designed. It would represent a return to the position in Incapacity Benefit (IB), where claimants were “written off” on the basis of their diagnosis’.

“Most people would be amazed to learn that the DWP are fighting tooth and nail against having to consider a person’s actual problems when assessing them for benefits.”

For those who cannot attend the vigil, it is still possible show your support on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag #wcamentalhealth

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