A protest outside Atos in London in 2017. Atos is one of the private companies that carries out sickness and disability benefit assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.
Some of you may be wondering why This Site is publishing fewer articles lately. The simple answer is: time. I’m trying to fight back against malicious accusations that have been made against me, but the arguments need to be correctly phrased.
So I am grateful that there are people like Mo Stewart around.
Along with eight other experts, Mo has just had a letter published in The Guardian, reminding us of exactly what the DWP does to the sick and disabled.
It isn’t pretty.
The British public have reacted to “a sense of betrayal of that so-called British value of fairness” (The hostile environment? Britain’s disabled people live there too, theguardian.com, 26 April). This “sense of betrayal” was only possible because the national press reported the plight of the Windrush scandal, but this is not always the case. Some of the press were happy to promote the exaggerated claims of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) which, during five years of coalition government, knowingly misled the public regarding “fake” claimants of disability benefit. Coincidentally, disability hate crimes increased by 213% during the coalition’s term in office.
Influenced by a US healthcare insurance “consultant”, who funded DWP-commissioned research used to justify welfare reforms, the work capability assessment (WCA) adopted the bio-psychosocial model of assessment which has failed all academic scrutiny. The WCA is used by the DWP to resist access to the employment and support allowance (ESA) sickness and disability benefit, which is the financial equivalent of jobseeker’s allowance, so there is no financial incentive when claiming ESA.
This DWP assessment totally disregards diagnosis, prognosis, past medical history and all medical opinion. Deaths of genuine claimants were always inevitable. There is a reason why the DWP has refused to publish updated ESA mortality totals since February 2014, as suicides linked to the ESA assessment climb. It’s time for this ideological DWP tyranny to end, and for the national press to stop disregarding another national atrocity impacting on disabled people.
The letter is signed by:
Mo Stewart Independent disability studies researcher Professor Woody CaanEditor, Journal of Public Mental Health Dr Tanya TitchkoskyProfessor of disability studies, University of Toronto Professor Peter BeresfordProfessor of citizen participation, Essex University Dr Marion Hersh Senior lecturer, biomedical engineering, Glasgow University Dr Dominic Griffiths Senior lecturer in Inclusive Education and SEN, Manchester Metropolitan University Dr Anne DaguerreAssistant professor in work, employment and welfare, Middlesex University Dr Simon DuffyDirector, Centre for Welfare Reform Vin WestChair, Arfon Access Group
David Cameron loves selling weaponry to foreign countries. What a shame he doesn’t want to look after his own country’s disabled war veterans.
At any given opportunity when in front of TV cameras, David Cameron waxes lyrically about what this nation owes to British Military Forces, with special consideration given to disabled veterans, writes Mo Stewart.
But it seems that he means modern disabled veterans who, since 2005, have benefited from the more generous Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.
Until April 2005, members of the armed forces who suffered a permanent disablement due to service life were awarded a War Pension, with many awarded access to Disability Living Allowance (DLA), for life, to help to fund the additional costs of disability.
Without warning, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has sent letters to working-age War Pensioners advising that access to DLA is about to be stopped and that disabled veterans may, if they wish, apply for the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – with no guarantee that it will be awarded.
DLA for care at the highest rate is the monitor used by local authorities to provide home care services that permit disabled people to enjoy independent living in the community. Without DLA, or its equivalent replacement, the care services will be removed.
Older War Pensioners, over 65 years of age, are permitted to retain access to DLA for life. Modern disabled British forces have access to the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme and are unaffected by this unacceptable change as they have access to the new Armed Forces Independence Payment, introduced in 2013.
However, an estimated 80,000 disabled working-age War Pensioners, disabled when in service to the nation before April 2005, are about to have their DLA removed with a guarantee that many will not be awarded PIP, which continues to cause concern with less than 13,000 decisions from more than 220,300 applicants as of May 2014. PIP has a 12 month waiting list for assessments.
This is yet another cost cutting measure by the Prime Minister and the DWP, without consideration for the unacceptable price in human suffering, leaving 80,000 working-age disabled War Pensioners at risk of imminent destitution if PIP is not awarded.
All War Pensioners should be permitted to retain access to DLA to acknowledge their much proclaimed “service to the nation” as constantly mentioned by the Prime Minister – but only when in front of the TV cameras.
Here’s a timely article by Vox Political‘s friend Mo Stewart.
At a time when the main focus of attention appears to be on Maximus, the company taking over Work Capability Assessments, Mo says she hopes this will encourage people to deal with the real villains – UNUM Insurance.
Now let’s go over to Mo for further information about UNUM:
Much has been written about the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), including the fact that it was recently deemed as being fatally flawed by the Work and Pensions Select Committee1 (WPSC): ‘The flaws in the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) system are so grave that simply “rebranding” the assessment used to determine eligibility for ESA (the Work Capability Assessment WCA) by appointing a new contractor will not solve the problems, says the Work and Pensions Committee in a report published today.’1,2,3
The WCA was introduced by the New Labour government in 2008 and is exclusively conducted by Atos Healthcare until March 2015. The assessment is mandatory for recipients of Incapacity Benefit being migrated to the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and for all new ESA applicants. Following much controversy, Atos Healthcare announced that they are to withdraw early from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) contract to conduct the WCA.
The plan to ‘dismantle the welfare state’ was first suggested by the 1982 Thatcher government4 and has been relentlessly pursued by successive United Kingdom (UK) governments. Hence, in the Coalition government’s response to the select committee’s evidence,5 the Minister for Disabled People, Mike Penning MP, disregarded the very detailed information provided by the WPSC report3 that clearly listed the many serious problems still faced by those who must endure the WCA to access the ESA benefit.
Government resistance to funding long-term out of work illness/disability benefits followed the 2005 publication of the monograph: The Scientific and Conceptual Basis of Incapacity Benefits (SCBIB) by Gordon Waddell and Mansel Aylward6, followed by the 2006 report: ?Is work good for your health and well-being by Gordon Waddell and Kim Burton.7
What is constantly overlooked is that both these influential reports were commissioned by the DWP. They were both produced when Aylward and Waddell were funded by Unum Provident Insurance at the Unum Provident Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research (the Centre) at Cardiff University, with funding by the American corporate insurance giant, Unum Provident, from 2003-2009. Aylward is listed as the DWP Chief Medical Adviser until April 20058 and is identified as being appointed as the new Director of the Centre from 2004.9
The influence of Unum Provident Insurance is demonstrated in the memorandums provided for past WPSC reports9,10 that clearly list the transformation of Incapacity Benefit to ESA. The requirement to ‘resist diagnosis’, ‘revise the ‘sick note’, ‘encourage the Government to focus on ability and not disability’, ‘change the name of Incapacity Benefit’ and ‘benefits not to be given on the basis of a certain disability or illness but on capacity assessments’9 have all come to pass as Unum Provident Insurance have influenced UK Government welfare policy since 1994.11
At UnumProvident we have a non-medical, enabling model of rehabilitation
and we are working with our partners at the UnumProvident Centre for
Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University to better
understand what places people at risk of long-term or chronic illness.
Further information about this model can be made available
to the committee.9(item 24)
Supplementary memorandum submitted by UnumProvident(TM) – 20069
The SCBIB6 was, essentially, the blue print for the future introduction of the WCA, using a discredited bio-psychosocial (BPS) model of assessment as planned following the New Labour conference in November 2001: Malingering and Illness Deception,12 with Aylward as a contributor and ‘malingering’ very firmly planted as being the motivation for claimants of disability benefits. Guilty until proven innocent was the mind-set that continues to this day. ‘And the methodology used by Waddell and Aylward is the same one that informs the work of UnumProvident.’(TM)12
The 2001 New Labour conference12, together with the 20056 and 20067 reports commissioned by the DWP, led to the 2006 Green Paper: A New Deal for Welfare: empowering people to work – an independent assessment of the arguments for the proposed Incapacity Benefit reform.13 The SCBIB6 was the main reference used to justify future drastic welfare reforms, which was exposed by Emeritus Professor Alison Ravetz as being seriously flawed.14
On closer examination, it appears that this entire body of work [SCBIB] is
largely self-referential – that is, it appeals for validation to itself and is
framed within the same political and policy agenda… It is not research
undertaken in the spirit of open enquiry. It is commissioned research and,
as such, pre-disposed towards ideologically determined outcomes.
Critique: DWP 2006 Green Paper: A New Deal for Welfare: empowering people to work Professor Alison Ravetz14
Not to be confused with a medical assessment, the WCA is described as a ‘functional assessment’15 using an IT tick-box questionnaire and totally disregarding diagnosis.
The influential 2007 report by the unelected David Freud,16 promoted the use of the private sector in welfare reforms when adviser to the New Labour Party and before being appointed as the Minister for Welfare Reforms in 2010 by the Coalition government. Subsequently, the WCA was sub-contracted to Atos Healthcare in 2008 and according to the General Medical Council, Atos Healthcare ‘have total immunity from all medical regulation.’17,18
The WCA uses a manipulated bio-psychosocial (BPS) model of assessment, designed in consultation with Unum Provident Insurance17,18,19,20 and is a replica of the discredited healthcare insurance assessment model historically used by Unum Provident Insurance to resist funding insurance claims.21 The LiMA IT programme used for the WCA was designed by Atos Origin IT Ltd, the parent company of Atos Healthcare, for exclusive use for DWP assessments.22
The original 1977 BPS model of assessment was attributed to psychiatrist George Engel.23Engel’s BPS hypothesis was to consider the social and psychological factors, together with the biological factors impacting on illness. It was an unproven theory that needed research. Ten years ago Professor Christopher Butler and colleagues produced a paper demonstrating that the BPS model of assessment was ‘found wanting’ and inadequate. ‘Medically unexplained symptoms: the biopsychosocial model found wanting’24 was referring to the original Engel BPS hypothesis.
Yet, a manipulated version of the Engel BPS assessment model, emphasising the possible psychological factors of disability and disregarding the biomedical factors, is used by Unum Provident Insurance and by the DWP as a method of removing as many chronically sick and disabled people as possible from funding, or preventing access to it.17,18,19,20,21
Unum Provident Insurance were fined $31.7 million in 2003 in a class action law suit in California for running ‘disability denial factories’18and $15 million in 2005 by the California Department of Insurance Commissioner, John Garamendi, who stated that ‘Unum Provident is an outlaw company. It is a company that has operated in an illegal fashion for years…’25,26
By 2006 the State insurance commissioners of 48 American States approved a settlement in an investigation of the Unum Provident Corporation that required the healthcare insurance giant to reconsider 200,000 claims and to pay $15million in fines27 whilst not forgetting, at the same time as these fines in America for malpractice, the company were funding Aylward and Waddell at the Centre at Cardiff University.
Unum Provident Insurance changed its name to Unum Insurance in 2007 to distance itself from increasing negative publicity for identified malpractice. Yet, the only opinions considered by the DWP regarding the benefits of work and the assessment model used to assess disability benefit claimants are those of Aylward and Waddell, whose research was sponsored until 2009 by Unum (Provident) Insurance; identified by the American Association of Insurance in 2008 as the second most discredited insurance company in America.28
In January 2007 Professor John Langbein of the Yale School of Law produced a paper identified as ‘The Unum Provident Scandal’29that exposed Unum’s practice of disability denial,and in November 2007 BBC News reported that the British government were being advised by an American insurance company with a reputation for ‘racketeering’.30
Employees interviewed on the Dateline program disclosed that the claims
that were “the most vulnerable” to pressures for bad faith termination were those
involving “so-called subjective illnesses, illnesses that don’t show up
on x-rays or MRIs, like mental illness, chronic pain, migraines, or even Parkinson’s.”
The Dateline story pointed to an internal company email cautioning a group of claims
staff that they had one week remaining to “close,” that is, deny, eighteen more claims
in order to meet desired targets.
Trust Law as Regulatory Law: The Unum/Provident Scandal
and Judicial Review of Benefit Denials under ERISA
Professor John Langbein: Yale Law School 2007 p1318 29
Concerns have been expressed in a government inquiry regarding Aylward’s long association with Unum (Provident) Insurance, including links with the American corporate insurance giant when Chief Medical Adviser at the DWP from 1996 – 2005. To date there has been no formal investigation following the evidence by Professor Malcolm Hooper to the 2005 Gibson Parliamentary Inquiry.31
‘There would also appear to have been a clear financial conflict of interest and possible breach of Civil Service protocol, in that a senior Civil Servant such as Aylward could not have been unaware while he was in post at the DWP that Unum Provident was already financing his next employment, which would allow him to indulge in his existing conviction that syndromes such as ME/CFS are affected by ‘cultural’ factors and are ‘behavioural’ in nature. It is also a matter of concern that a senior Civil Servant accepted sponsorship from a company with Unum’s track record.’31 Concerns about a commercial conflict of interest underlying the DWP handbook entry on ME and CFS. Professor Malcolm Hooper 200531
After various freedom of information requests, the DWP published the mortality figures of the claimants who had died in 11 months in 2011whilst claiming ESA,32 with 10,600 people dying in total and 1300 people dying after being removed from the guaranteed monthly benefit, placed into the work related activity group regardless of diagnosis, forced to look for work and then died trying. Following the public outrage once the figures were published, the DWP have consistently refused to publish updated death totals.
Unum (Provident) Insurance exposed their significant influence in the memorandum following the publication of the Welfare Reform Green Paper.Their influence has also been exposed since 2011 by the Disability News Service,33 with reports by the BMA34 and the RCN35 that confirmed that the WCA was causing preventable harm as chronically sick and disabled people now starve to death in the UK.36
Constant toxic rhetoric by the Secretary of State and various DWP Ministers from the Coalition government, supported by the national press quoting their often extreme comments, have successfully convinced the British public that vast numbers of chronically sick and disabled people are ‘shirkers and scroungers’ and disability hate crimes are the highest ever recorded, as identified in a 2014 bulletin by the Home Office: ‘Hate Crimes, England and Wales, 2013/14’ 37
Fifteen years ago Unum Provident Insurance was exposed in Parliament in the 1999Permanent Health Insurance debate,38where MPs identified the suffering of constituents as Unum Provident Insurance refused to pay out on income protection insurance policies.Given this company’s proven record of sustained misconduct and recorded malpractice over many years, one must surely enquire as to why this company have been advisers to the UK government on welfare reforms for the last 20 years…..
The constant reference to ‘disabled people’ by DWP Ministers, whilst disregarding those with catastrophic illnesses, adds to the ongoing human suffering of the most vulnerable people in the UK. They are far too ill to consider working39 but they now live in fear of claiming the income related benefit needed for their very survival, as the Coalition government consider all ESA applicants as potential malingerers, thanks to Professor Aylward’s influence, regardless of what can be a devastating diagnosis.40
W&P 2014: ESA needs fundamental redesign, says MPs: July 2014
DWP Work & Pensions Select Committee 23rd July 2014: News release
DWP 2014: November, p4: Government Response to the House of Commons Work & Pensions Select Committee’s Report on Employment & Support Allowance & the Work Capability Assessment, First Report of session 2014-15
Remembrance: Former servicemen and women took part in the formal Remembrance Day parades across the UK earlier this month – but many of them, and many more of their colleagues, are being threatened with the loss of the benefits the country owes to them, thanks to the heartlessness of an ungrateful government [Image: Associated Press].
The following article by disability researcher Mo Stewart was intended for publication in tandem with a story on the same subject in a national newspaper, to coincide with Remembrance Day – but the newspaper concerned got cold feet at the last minute. Don’t all leap up and shout “What else can we expect from the right-wing media?” at once.
Mo has agreed to let Vox Political publish it here. Over to her:
The hypocrisy is breath-taking…
At the annual Conservative Party Conference in October, the Prime Minister offered a very warm and welcome salute to the British Armed Forces.(1) This included the veterans from both WW1 and WW2, an acknowledgement of outstanding efforts 70 years ago when they had fought on the Normandy beaches on D-Day, and a tribute to modern British forces who fought in the Gulf.
Prior to the PM’s conference speech, contact had been made with approximately 80,000 disabled older veterans, advising the annual increase in their monthly Disability Living Allowance (DLA) but warning that this vital benefit was about to be withdrawn. Yet there is no information about this unexpected threat to British War Pensioners on the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) website, or on the MOD or Veterans-UK websites. The DWP’s threat to the financial survival of these older disabled veterans included a suggestion that working age War Pensioners may wish to apply for the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) that has replaced DLA. This suggestion was accompanied with a stark warning that the award of PIP is not guaranteed, regardless of previous payments of DLA awarded to British military forces who were disabled for life in the service of the nation with a permanent disability that can’t possibly improve.
PIP has a 10-12 month waiting list for new applicants (2) and the government’s own figures predict that 600,000 people with permanent disabilities will lose their entitlement to financial support when they lose DLA and attempt to make a claim for PIP.(3) Many experts have already identified the risk to disabled people as the new PIP benefit is rolled out and DLA claimants are reassessed. Richard Hawkes, the Chief Executive for the charity SCOPE remains concerned:
For months now we have been saying the Government’s assessment
for the new Personal Independence Payment is deeply flawed. It looks set to repeat the mistakes of the Work Capability Assessment.(4)
The removal of DLA guarantees that thousands of War Pensioners, permanently disabled whilst in military service, risk the possible loss of their homes and access to their home carers. This significant risk to older disabled veterans is also in breach of the principles of the much-hallowed Armed Forces Covenant.(5) Working age War Pensioners will now live in fear of the loss of this essential benefit, originally guaranteed for life, as their personal sacrifices when serving this nation are totally disregarded by the DWP, despite the PM’s constant public claim of admiration for British forces and disabled veterans.(6)(7)(8)
The unconditional support for British disabled veterans was exclusively reported by The Sun in May 2012 when Political Editor Tom Newton Dunn ran with the headline: Wounded heroes beat MOD in benefits battle. His strong piece expressed concern that disabled veterans had been expected to subject themselves to the same [bogus] assessments as civilians: (6)
Wounded war heroes are to keep their disability benefits for life after the PM stepped in to halt a bid to cut them… Incredibly, MOD bureaucrats were insisting that wounded heroes get the same grilling as suspected cheats and scroungers – because they feared their cash-strapped department would be left to pick up the bill for administering the pay-outs. (6)
When visiting Camp Bastion in July 2012 the PM made a very public promise, as reported by the BBC News and the national press (7)(8). David Cameron claimed that ‘disabled veterans’ would not be adversely affected by the welfare reforms and could retain access to DLA for life, without the need for any reassessment, in recognition of their ‘service to the nation.’ Yet, the PM forgot to mention that this decision only applied to modern disabled veterans (9) and the DWP have now covertly threatened the financial survival of a minimum of 80,000 disabled older British veterans by the planned removal of DLA from this nation’s working-age War Pensioners.(10)
This disturbing threat to the welfare of older disabled veterans is despite the fact that this researcher received a personal telecom from the Cabinet Office last year, as witnessed by care staff, confirming that ‘…the Cabinet has just agreed that all War Pensioners can retain access to DLA and will not be reassessed as an acknowledgement of their service to the nation’. During the same conversation, the caller asked what this decision would mean for the research.
Evidence from the self-funded independent research, demonstrating American corporate influence with the UK government’s welfare reforms (11), has been used in every welfare reform debate in the House of Lords and the House of Commons since 2011. The research exposed the fact that the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), as conducted by Atos Healthcare and used by the DWP to remove vulnerable people from long-term sickness benefit was a totally bogus assessment using a manipulated bio-psychosocial model.(11)(12) The research further exposed the enforced welfare reforms as being totally unrelated to the banking crash that had created the need for austerity measures, yet the national press refused to publish the research findings. In reality, the eventual demolition of the welfare state is the long-ago planned Thatcher legacy, inherited by her devoted disciple David Cameron. The PM waited for a plausible excuse to introduce welfare reforms as this nation moves ever closer to the removal of the welfare state with welfare and health care, eventually, to be funded by private insurance (12) as the national press help to undermine the welfare state with increasing numbers of adverts by private health insurance companies…
The same research evidence was accepted by the United Nations (UN) and it is widely believed that the UN are to investigate the UK government for the abuses of the human rights of sick and disabled people.(13) The many victims, survivors and bereaved relatives of claimants of long-term sickness benefit, who didn’t survive this government-funded medical tyranny masquerading as welfare reforms, are waiting to learn when the Coalition government will eventually be investigated for crimes against humanity.(14) Meanwhile, Lord Freud, the Minister for Welfare Reform, continues to refuse to publish the annual death totals of sick and disabled people, removed from long-term sickness benefit and forced to apply for jobs their health will not permit them to tolerate as the DWP finally admit to reinvestigating 60 suspicious deaths following the WCA.… (15)
At the time of the phone call from the Cabinet Office, the caller was advised that DLA for War Pensioners was totally unrelated to the research, which would continue. However, with this recent reality that removes DLA and threatens the welfare of 80,000 working age War Pensioners, it seems that the call was an attempt to incentivise this veteran to end the research. It was an attempt to prevent more detailed research that had already exposed the authority of a notorious American healthcare insurance corporate giant, whose representatives happily boast of their influence with successive UK governments regarding the UK welfare reforms.(16)
The recent justification for the shocking and unexpected threat to this nation’s working age War Pensioners, as provided by the poorly-briefed Defence Personnel Secretariat, is that disabled War Pensioners have access to the more generous constant care allowance, which is a supplement added to the basic war pension that replaces DLA for care. This statement is not only misleading but totally incorrect. It is disregarding the fact that War Pensioners need to demonstrate an 80 per cent disability or higher to access the constant care allowance; whilst disabled veterans with less than an 80 per cent permanent disability were awarded DLA for life because they would be disabled for the rest of their life – something that the PM, Iain Duncan Smith and DWP Ministers still fail to grasp.
This latest DWP decision is a betrayal of working age disabled War Pensioners by the Coalition government as David Cameron continues to make supportive speeches and to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph, knowing his government has jeopardised the future survival of 80,000 disabled veterans who willingly risked their lives for the nation in years gone by.
Many War Pensioners have the additional unemployability supplement added to the basic pension, which identifies a profound disability and confirms that they were not expected to work again, so why are they being threatened with destitution, or worse, at the same time as the Prime Minister pays tribute to the British Armed Forces in this the 100th anniversary year of WW1 and the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings?
It is unprecedented for any UK government to threaten the welfare of one generation of disabled veterans over another, yet members of the Coalition appear to do it with ease. They are no doubt confident that there is no authority in place to prevent this unacceptable reality. It remains unclear as to how many politicians are aware of this decision that will negatively impact on their constituents who were disabled when serving this nation when in uniform in years gone by. Once again the DWP has taken a decision based on costs alone, without any apparent consideration of the inevitable dire human consequences. Of greatest concern, the loss of DLA for care at the highest level will remove access to funded carers in the home as supplied by the local authorities. The award of DLA for care at the highest level is the tag used by local authorities to justify the costs of providing home carers to disabled people in the community. Without it, the care will be removed and there is no guarantee that those now in receipt of DLA for care at the highest level will be awarded the equivalent level of PIP or, indeed, any award of PIP at all. (17)
The Defence Personnel Secretariat don’t like being challenged and claim even more justification as approximately 50 per cent of the 166,000 surviving War Pensioners are now over the age of 70 years old, will retain access to DLA and, happily, this callous decision will not affect them. Modern British forces already have the Prime Minister’s guarantee of permanent access to DLA so someone, somewhere, should be asking why approximately 80,000 working age disabled War Pensioners are now being targeted by the DWP when all other disabled veterans are permitted to retain access to DLA with all the financial security attached to it.
Are they really being punished because my integrity is not for sale?
vhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jgs4UjwWtow – video
Readers will be familiar with the name ‘Mo Stewart’ – it belongs to a researcher into government attitudes to – and policy on – the disabled who has provided Vox Political – not to mention Parliament – with a wealth of invaluable information on the damage that has been done by uncaring politicians over the years.
Yesterday Mo gave her first public speech on the subject, in London, after being asked to help open Disability History Month by its organisers.
For Mo, this was a courageous act; she has spent years avoiding any kind of limelight and was extremely nervous of standing up in public. But she had a message to pass on and – as you can see from the headline – it was important.
Don’t take VP‘s word for it – read it for yourself. Here it is [all boldings mine]:
At the same time as the Prime Minister was waxing lyrically about what this nation owes to British Military Forces and veterans when speaking at the recent Conservative Party Conference, the DWP were busy advising 80,000 disabled War Pensioners that we were about to lose access to DLA and could, if we wished, apply for the new – highly discredited – PIP award.
PIP has a 12 month waiting list for all new applicants and, according to the DWP, a guarantee that the majority will not be successful.
By May 2014 only 15.4 per cent of new PIP claims had received a decision, and only 12,654 of the 220,300 people who had made a new claim since April 2013 have been awarded some rate of PIP.
This unexpected threat to this nation’s working age War Pensioners was despite the fact that I received a personal telecom from the Cabinet Office 12 months ago, as witnessed by my carer, claiming that the Cabinet had ‘… just agreed that all War Pensioners could keep their DLA for life and will not be reassessed, as an acknowledgement of their service to the nation.’ My opinion was invited and given and, of course, I was delighted with the news.
Then, the very nervous caller asked me what this decision would mean for my research? Evidence from the research exposed the Work Capability Assessment, conducted by Atos Healthcare, as being bogus and using a totally discredited assessment model. The WCA was copied from a notorious American corporate insurance giant in order to remove as many as possible from long-term sickness benefits, regardless of the consequences in terms of human suffering. The research has been accepted by the UN and evidence from it has been used in welfare debates in the House of Lords and especially in the House of Commons – largely thanks to John McDonnell MP.
Ask yourself why the national press will not publish the research evidence accepted by academics throughout the UK. Do we have a free press or a government controlled press?
The same research also exposed the fact that the welfare reforms were totally unrelated to the financial collapse, regardless of repeated government claims.
The evidence confirmed that the destruction of the welfare state is the legacy of the Thatcher government, and the current prime minister had been waiting for a plausible excuse to justify introducing this long-ago planned destruction of the welfare state, masquerading as welfare reforms, as the UK moves ever closer to health care and welfare funded by private insurance.
Twelve months later, it seems that the phone call from the Cabinet Office last year was an attempt to stop the research and, being naive, I didn’t anticipate that the Department for Work and Pensions would now threaten 80,000 working-age War Pensioners because my integrity is not for sale.
Since the outpouring of public and political outrage the last time the DWP published the mortality figures of the thousands of sick and disabled people who had died, often within weeks of being found fit for work and removed from long-term sickness benefit, the DWP has refused to publish any more annual death totals.
The unelected Lord Freud has far too much authority and the press have blood on their hands. They willingly quote any new DWP fantasy attacking sick and disabled benefit claimants as people are dying, in their thousands, killed by the State.
For some of us, this DWP decision to remove DLA from working age disabled older veterans will be a death sentence whilst all other disabled veterans, including War Pensioners over the age of 70, have a government guarantee of DLA for life without any further reassessment, in recognition of their ‘service to the nation.’
ALL disabled veterans were disabled serving this nation and all War Pensioners should be treated the same, regardless of age, and be allowed to retain the promised access to DLA for life.
The UN are apparently investigating the UK government for breaches of the disability rights of disabled people and time will tell how long it takes for members of the present UK government to be investigated for the identified crimes against humanity, masquerading as welfare reforms. Members of the House of Lords now compare the Coalition government to 1930s Germany where elderly, sick and disabled people were nothing more than a burden to the State that needed to be removed.
Clearly, the social consequences of disablement in the 21st century UK are the abuses of hard-won disability rights by a very dangerous government. There are now in excess of three million disability benefit-dependent claimants living in fear of imminent destitution or worse, including 80,000 working age War Pensioners.
They also fear possible public hostility due to the often-extreme press headlines that report the deeply disturbing rhetoric of DWP ministers, as disability hate crime is now the highest ever recorded.
There are reported examples of disabled people being thrown out of their wheelchairs and spat at in the streets, in the 21st century UK, thanks to disabled people being constantly vilified by DWP ministers, politicians and commentators who have all joined the bandwagon.
Speaking personally, over the past 12 months in particular, I have been very aware of members of the public looking at me in a judgemental manner, to the point where some will make derogatory comments, no doubt encouraged by influential press headlines and the Secretary of State’s frequently-quoted comments referring to ‘shirkers and skivers.’
There can’t really be any surprise that many sick and disabled people now no longer feel comfortable when venturing out of the safety of their homes into the no-man’s land of public opinion. Many are now prisoners in their own homes, and that includes disabled working age War Pensioners fearing imminent death or destitution. There really isn’t much difference between being incarcerated in institutions or a prisoner in your own home, as independent living is being systematically destroyed by these very dangerous welfare reforms.
Few benefit-dependent disabled people can possibly absorb a monthly reduction of £300 per month or more without serious or fatal consequences.
The removal of DLA from working age War Pensioners is a totally indefensible decision given our much proclaimed ‘service to the nation’ – as frequently acknowledged by the prime minister – [but] only when in front of the TV cameras.
Tarnished record: Mark Harper previously came to our attention when it was discovered that he dodged a £20,000 fine for employing an illegal migrant worker. Vox Political covered the story on August 7 this year. [Image: Political Scrapbook.]
The new Conservative minister for disabled people has insisted that his department is right to ignore reports of deaths linked to the loss or non-payment of disability benefits, according to the latest article from kittysjones.
It seems that, in an interview with the Disability News Service at last week’s Conservative conference, he said he did not accept that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should be collecting this information or trying to learn lessons from such deaths.
“But Harper said he did not ‘accept the premise’ that DWP should collect and analyse reports that suggest a disabled person’s death could have been linked to the non-payment or withdrawal of benefits.
“He said: ‘If somebody in those sort of cases, if someone has [a] mental health [condition] and then something happens, trying to disaggregate what was the cause I don’t think is as simple as you are trying to suggest.’
“When asked whether he accepted that any deaths had been caused, or even partly caused, by the loss or non-payment of benefits, he said: ‘Of the cases I have seen since I have been the minister where there have been allegations, when you look at the detail they are not as simple and straightforward as people are alleging.’
“But Harper did promise to ‘go back and look back at what processes we have in place to track cases’ and to look at the Freedom of Information Act response from DWP that led to the DNS story.
“Many of the cases became widely-known through media reports of inquests, but in the case of Ms DE, the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland concluded that the work capability assessment process and the subsequent denial of ESA was at least a ‘major factor in her decision to take her own life’.”
Of course this all goes back to the Freedom of Information requests submitted by Samuel Miller and others that prompted Yr Obdt Srvt to make the now-infamous “vexatious” request of June 2013. When it was refused on appeal to an information tribunal, Disability News Service submitted its own request.
A repeat request by Vox Political has since been refused on the grounds that the DWP intends to publish some or all of the information at an unspecified time in the future. These ‘section 22’ refusals must be supported by certain conditions which the DWP did not meet, and a reconsideration request has been met with stony silence (other than the acknowledgement of receipt), so once against it seems an appeal to the Information Commissioner (and possibly another tribunal hearing) will be necessary.
It’s all stalling tactics. The Conservatives in the government know that, if the true extent of the deaths becomes clear, the game will be up for them.
After all, who in their right mind would want to vote back into office an organisation that had just caused the deaths of anything up to or beyond 50,000* of their fellow citizens? Nobody would be safe under such a government.
Turning back to Mr Harper, independent disability researcher Mo Stewart has written to him with a stern rebuke that he will, no doubt, ignore. Here it is:
“Please be advised that the public are beginning to challenge why, historically, your predecessors don’t manage to remain in post for very long and I note your website continues with the government rhetoric whilst totally disregarding the human consequences of the austerity measures.
“I often wonder what exactly MPs mean when claiming that we are living in ‘difficult times for families’ when failing to take responsibility for the deaths and devastation you have clearly created, using cash as the only justification for the fact that ‘malnutrition’ is now regularly found in Coroners’ reports. The poor, the sick and the disabled people of the UK didn’t create the banking crash Mr Harper, so why are you hurting them but refusing to publish the growing mortality rates of government policies?
“Please be advised that your defensive claims that that you do not “accept the premise” that the DWP should collate and analyse the many, many thousands of deaths now directly linked to the withdrawal of DWP benefits is tantamount to an abandonment of responsibility by the British government, it may well lead to charges of crimes against humanity once all the detailed and often disturbing evidence has been collated and analysed by other sources and the British government is already about to be investigated by the UN for the demonstrated human rights violations of disabled people. All this whilst the UK faces the return of Victorian diseases linked to extremes of poverty…. That’s quite a track record this government has built up.
“With respect, you are not professionally qualified to assess these reported cases and regardless of if you admit it or not, high calibre REAL experts are now advising that: ‘…there is growing evidence that the draconian welfare reforms are irreparably damaging the mental and physical health of benefit claimants.’
“If someone is already surviving on a token income and the government reduce or remove it, with savage sanctions or by using a totally compromised ‘assessment’, how precisely do you expect these people to live, to eat or to survive when they are already the poorest in the land?
“This question isn’t going to go away because DWP Ministers fear the public reaction if the figures of welfare reform related deaths are ever published.
“Now the DWP are attacking our older disabled veterans by threatening to remove the DLA of our War Pensioners, whilst the PM continues to wax lyrically at Conference about the debt this nation owes to our armed forces. Unwise Mr Harper, very, very unwise.
“Release the mortality figures Mr Harper and don’t ever presume that we are about to stop asking for them.”
In addition to the above, it seems appropriate for Vox Political to reiterate:
Not only does the DWP have mortality statistics for benefit claimants, but it has them in a form that may be freely distributed to anybody asking for them, within the cost limits imposed by the Freedom of Information Act.
The only reason these numbers are not in the public domain is the fact that ministers like Mark Harper refuse to allow their release.
The only reason they have for refusing to release these figures – that makes any sense – is that they fear the consequences: Public shock and outrage.
That is not the response of a responsible government. It is the response of a gang of criminal killers who are terrified their misdeeds will be revealed.
*This is an estimate based on the known number of deaths related solely to a single benefit – Employment and Support Allowance – between January and November 2011.
Lord Carey: He may be demonstrating the amount of thought he has given to what unscrupulous people will do with his “change of heart”.
A “change of heart” by a former Archbishop of Canterbury over ‘assisted dying’ has dismayed at least one campaigner for the rights of people with disabilities.
Mo Stewart has been researching and reporting what she describes as the “atrocities” against the chronically sick and disabled in the UK for the last four years. She said Lord Carey’s decision to support legislation that would make it legal for people in England and Wales to receive help to end their lives would “play right into the hands of this very, very dangerous government”.
Justifying his change of position, Lord Carey said: “Today we face a central paradox. In strictly observing the sanctity of life, the Church could now actually be promoting anguish and pain, the very opposite of a Christian message of hope.
“The old philosophical certainties have collapsed in the face of the reality of needless suffering.”
The Assisted Dying Bill, tabled by Labour’s Lord Falconer, would apply to people with less than six months to live. Two doctors would have to independently confirm the patient was terminally ill and had reached their own, informed decision to die.
But Mo Stewart warned that the proposed legislation, to be debated in the House of Lords on Friday, would be subject to ‘function creep’, with unscrupulous authorities taking advantage of people with depression in order to relieve themselves of the financial burden of paying for their care.
“If this law is granted, what will be deemed a possibility for the few will, very quickly I fear, become the expected for the many,” she wrote in a letter to Lord Carey which she has kindly provided to Vox Political.
“It’s cheaper to help people to die rather than support them to live.
“There is a catalogue of evidence demonstrating that, in those countries where assisted dying is permitted, very often those taking their own lives are suffering from a clinical depression and leave our world to resist the perception that they are a burden to loved ones.
“I am stunned that you would use your voice to try to permit this to happen in the UK.”
She pointed out that medicine is an inexact science and policy changes such as this could have an enormous detrimental impact: “My own webmaster, who is now desperately ill with possibly only weeks to live, was advised he had less than six months to live over four years ago.
“Until very recently, he still enjoyed a high quality of life with his wife, family and friends; a life that could have been removed four years ago” had the Assisted Dying Bill been law at that time.
“What this debate is demonstrating is the failure of guaranteed high quality palliative care in the UK, that makes those with a life-limiting diagnosis feel that self termination is a reasonable solution,” she warned.
“If palliative care was at the peak of quality and access then there would be no need to ever consider such a Bill for this country, as those who wish to access self termination are usually living in fear of the possible physical suffering they may need to endure. This is a highway to clinical depression when quality of life is deemed to have disappeared with diagnosis.”
He said: “This is not scaremongering. I know of health professionals who are already concerned by the ways in which their clients have suggestions ‘to go to Switzerland’ whispered in their ears by relatives weary of caring for them and exasperated by seeing their inheritances dwindle through care costs.
“I have received letters from both disabled individuals and their carers, deeply concerned by the pressure that Lord Falconer’s bill could put them under if it became law.”
Mo Stewart’s letter concludes: “In the real world, this Bill – if passed – would, I have no doubt, lead to abuses where some were actively persuaded to self terminate for the convenience, and possibly the inheritance, of others.
“It’s really not a very long way away from an assisted dying bill to an assisted suicide bill.”
Ignorance is most definitely not bliss for Dr Paul Litchfield.
The man was hand-picked by the Coalition government to review its hated Work Capability Assessment system of handling Employment and Support Allowance claims, amid rumours that previous incumbent Professor Malcolm Harrington had been unhappy with political decisions that ran against his findings. But he delivered a woeful performance to the House of Commons’ Work and Pensions committee last month.
He claimed to have no information about the staggering number of people who have died after going through the assessment system he is being paid to review, totalling 10,600 between January and November 2011 – that’s 220 per week or three every four hours. “I don’t have any information of that type; I haven’t seen numbers on that. Clearly every case would be a tragedy,” he said.
Clearly this expert has yet to gain access to some very important information!
In advance of the fifth and final review of the WCA, lead researcher and disabled veteran Mo Stewart has written to offer him the benefit of four years’ detailed research evidence.
“The lacklustre 4th review of the WCA left a great deal to be desired,” she told Vox Political. “Now, with the news that Litchfield worked with Unum Insurance on the Technical and Consultative Working Group involved with the creation of the WCA, it can’t be too much of a surprise that Litchfield claims that the WCA had been designed ‘…with considerable rigour’.”
Mo Stewart’s lengthy letter to Litchfield has been distributed to a long list of distinguished experts and professionals, and it will be interesting to see if Dr Litchfield takes the time to respond and to react to the detailed research evidence Mo exposed – evidence that has been frequently quoted during welfare debates in the House of Lords and the House of Commons over the past three years.
You can read her letter for yourself, because Mo has sent Vox Political a copy. Just click on the link here.
Following the bogus Work Capability Assessment (WCA) conducted by Atos Healthcare, as contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the United Kingdom (UK) Government admitted that it was wrong to cut the disability benefits of Mark Wood, the vulnerable disabled man who starved to death following the removal of his benefits, in the 21st century UK, when weighing only 5st 8lbs.
Despite the fact that the WCA was introduced by the Labour Government in 2008, it was originally designed by previous Conservative Governments, in consultation with the notorious American corporate giant now known as Unum Insurance, identified in 2008 by the American Association for Justice as the second most discredited insurance company in America.
Without a welfare state, sick and disabled people in America are required to use private healthcare insurance. The tyranny now imposed on the sick and disabled people in the UK, using the WCA, was designed in consultation with Unum Insurance to oblige the general public to purchase private income protection insurance policies once it was made very clear that chronically sick and disabled people could no longer rely on the British State for adequate financial support.
Americans often suffer when attempting to claim from the income protection insurance policies of Unum Insurance, who use an identical bogus disability ‘assessment’ model as that used by Atos Healthcare.
Due to the similarities of the negative and damaging experiences of claimants, American sick and disabled people are periodically informed about the struggle in the UK by the high calibre and relentless work of Linda Nee, who tries to encourage claimants to publicly protest as witnessed in the UK, which it seems disabled Americans still don’t dare to do – such is the intimidation of Unum Insurance & the American authorities (see here, here and here).
The new report by The Mental Health Welfare Commission for Scotland, regarding a woman’s suicide after being ‘stripped of disability benefits’, was reported by John Pring at the Disability News Service (DNS) and by many others. The Coalition Government knew this carnage would happen.
Three years ago a list of distinguished academics, together with politicians and disability support groups, identified the future in a letter as published in The Guardian newspaper: ‘Welfare reform bill will punish disabled people and the poor.’ Now, three years after this letter was published, questions are being asked as to why the appointed and totally unsuitable Lord Freud, in his capacity as the Minister for Welfare Reform – who was not elected by anyone in the usual democratic way – deemed it necessary for the DWP to stop collating the numbers of deaths recorded after the long-term sickness and disability benefit, Incapacity Benefit, now changed to the Employment Support Allowance (ESA), is removed from claimants. (My emphasis.MS)
Questions are also being asked as to why this unelected former City banker was ever afforded so much authority and power in the UK Government given his reputation, where one commentator described Freud as: ‘…one of the key players in several of the most embarrassing and badly managed deals in investment banking history.’ (See here and here)(My emphasis. MS)
The recent welfare Backbench Business debate in the House of Commons (HOC) was granted due to the 104,000 signatures on the WOW petition, as gathered by disabled people and their carers, who are demanding a cumulative impact assessment of all the welfare reforms. The debate was held on February 27, 2014 where, lamentably, most Coalition Government Members of Parliament (MPs) failed to attend this very important and historic debate. Of course, Coalition MPs still played the ‘blame game’, reminding the opposition that the previous Labour Government had introduced the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).
However, the Coalition routinely overlook the fact that they knowingly changed the WCA into the government-funded nightmare that it is today, whilst MPs such as George Hollingbury (Column 430) actually claimed that the Coalition “took it forward”… (Welfare Reform Act 2012) whilst disregarding the fact that a WCA face-to-face assessment with Atos Healthcare is taking over six months to arrange. (Column 433) (My emphasis.MS)
Hollingbury waxes lyrically about all the ‘expert’ opinion (Column 431) that totally failed to expose the dangerous and limited reality of the WCA, not least due to the restricted possible answers in the tick box WCA computer questionnaire, as conducted by Atos Healthcare, that fail to offer the choice of ‘none of the above’ as an additional possible answer when the WCA questions do not refer to a particular claimant’s situation.
Hollingbury quotes Dr Litchfield’s WCA review whilst overlooking the fact that Professor Harrington, who conducted the first three annual reviews into the WCA, when no longer responsible, appeared in a BBC Panorama documentary and confirmed that ‘…people will suffer.’ No government representative can answer the subsequent obvious simple question – why should chronically sick and disabled people ‘suffer’ in the UK, apart from at the whim of a tyrannical government? (My emphasis.MS)
During the historic WOW petition debate, Alan Reid (Column 434 & 435) claims to be proud of his record in government as a Liberal Democrat (Lib Dem), still claiming that Lib Dems in government have been responsible for ‘improving’ the WCA process, whilst totally disregarding the fact that it is irrelevant how much more ‘flexibility’ is given to the DWP ‘Decision Makers’ and overlooking the fact that the ‘Decision Makers’, by their own admission, are totally unqualified for the vast responsibility they have. (My emphasis.MS)
They are basic grade administrators, not medical administrators, and they are incapable of comprehending diagnosis, prognosis or the implications of long term drug use when using a combination of prescribed drugs. (See here and here) More and more DWP bureaucracy with more and more administration means more and more delays, increasing DWP errors and utter chaos with a system clearly in meltdown as more and more victims of this UK government suffer and die. (See here and here) (My emphasis.MS)
Guto Bebb (Column 442) demonstrated that he is very poorly briefed, and doesn’t appear to want to be better informed, claiming that the damning report by the National Audit Office was ‘disappointing’ but insisted that the policy aims were OK. Bebb still seems to think that any sick or disabled person not in paid employment is ‘unproductive’. This disabled researcher begs to differ and, if the MP reads the very detailed published reports (here and here) as accessed by academics at universities throughout the UK, he’d know how incorrect he is.
Dame Angela Watkinson (Column 445) also appears to be remarkably poorly informed, as were various other speakers in this poorly attended yet important debate, who continued to repeat government rhetoric whilst disregarding the detailed evidence that has exposed the realities behind the ‘reforms’ as paving the way for private insurance to replace the once-hallowed UK Welfare State.
Since being introduced by the Conservative Government in 1992, all UK Governments have used the second worst insurance company in America as “government advisers” on welfare reforms, and the dangerous and totally discredited WCA is the result. (See here and here)
Jim Sheridan’s comments (Columns 448,449) were especially welcome during the debate when making reference to the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) that has replaced DLA: “Reference has already been made to the obsession with people receiving welfare benefits, but for those with money – the tax avoiders and evaders – life goes on as normal. If only a fraction of the resources used and the time spent on chasing down those on welfare benefits was diverted to tackle tax avoidance and evasion, some people might understand the rationale behind it.”… “When people finally hear about their assessments, there is not much hope. Only 15.4 per cent of new claims have received a decision, and only 12,654 of the 220,300 people who have made a new claim since April 2013 have been awarded some rate of PIP. A constituent of mine got in touch because her father had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Because there is a possibility that his treatment will work, giving him a life expectancy of up to five years, he has not been classed as terminally ill. He is not well enough to attend a medical assessment and so will have to wait longer for a home visit. It appears that letters from his GP, cancer doctor and cancer hospital are not enough to prove the seriousness of his illness.”… “Inclusion Scotland has highlighted the case of the father of an applicant who was told that they would have to wait at least 10 months for any kind of decision, and perhaps even for a first assessment. A constituent of mine who is undergoing cancer treatment has been told that the eight-week time frame given by DWP is an unrealistic amount of time in which to process an application and offer an assessment slot. When my staff called the MP’s hotline, they were told that they simply cannot process the number of applicants as there is not enough staff. They also say that most people who have applied for PIP will not be entitled to it, even before individual cases have been looked at. If that is the mindset of the staff processing the applications, it is hard to see how balanced decisions will be made.” (My emphasis. MS)
Dr Eilidh Whiteford’s comments during the debate were also very welcome (Columns 450 & 451) and highlighted the vital work of the disability support groups such as the Black Triangle Campaign: “The Government are looking at this through the wrong end of the telescope. Raising the bar on eligibility will not make anyone any less sick or any less disabled; it will just make it more difficult for them to function in society and place more pressure on those on whom they rely for their care and support”…. “One of the most profoundly disheartening experiences for me as an MP since being elected in 2010 has been the relentless way in which disabled and sick people have been vilified and stigmatised in the public discourse about welfare reform. Those who had very little responsibility for the financial collapse and subsequent economic problems have nevertheless had to carry the can. The attempt to discredit disabled people in order to justify harsh and punitive cuts in their already fairly paltry incomes is quite shameful. It appals me that the most disadvantaged have been asked to pick up the tab disproportionately for the profligacy of others. As we look to the future, we see further cuts of £12 billion, at least, promised in the years ahead. For disabled people in Scotland, the choice between two very different futures is opening up before them: one with decisions on welfare made in Scotland or one where further cuts slash their incomes even more. That choice must seem very stark indeed.” (My emphasis. MS)
The very experienced Labour MP, John McDonnell, who requested this Backbench Business debate, actually confirmed the involvement of Unum Insurance with the entirely bogus WCA (Column 426): “The work capability assessment was flawed from the start. It stemmed from the work of the American insurance company Unum, and the so-called biopsychosocial model of disability assessment. That was exposed as an invention by the insurance companies simply to avoid paying out for claims.” … “The staff employed in order to achieve that often had minimal medical or professional qualifications, and their expertise or experience was often totally unrelated to the condition or disability of the people they assessed.”… “Assessments largely disregarded people’s previous diagnosis, prognosis or even life expectancy. The recent Panorama programme Disabled or Faking It? exposed the scandal of seriously ill patients—people diagnosed with life-threatening conditions such as heart failure or endstage emphysema—being found fit for work. The so-called descriptors, or criteria, on which assessments are based bear no relation to the potential employment available, take little account of fluctuating conditions and are particularly unresponsive to appreciating someone’s mental health issues.” John also identified the utter absurdity of this Government, introducing yet another bogus assessment as the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) that will ‘replace’ DLA although it is likely to remove this additional support from the vast majority of the 3.5 million people in receipt of DLA.
Shockingly, the provision of a Motability long leased vehicle, as funded by the mobility component of the DLA, will now be removed from the majority of chronically disabled people who do work; thus actually preventing them from going to their place of work since they are physically unable to use public transport, which will dramatically and knowingly increase the numbers of disabled people not in paid employment. (Column 428) (My emphasis.MS)
No matter how many unnecessary tragedies are reported, or how many people die in utter despair and destitution, Conservative MPs like George Hollingbury will dismiss them all as ‘questionable’ results….and Alan Reid, for the Lib Dems, still actually claims to have had some positive function in a Government that helped sick and disabled people, whilst disregarding the horrors, the deaths, the suicides and the overwhelming evidence; including distinguished academic papers from UK universities, together with detailed reports by both the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nurses. Reid accepts no responsibility for the nightmare he helped to create, blaming anyone except the Government he belongs to. He needs to read the detailed, referenced research to help him learn what the disability movement already know. As he talks nonsense, people die.
Reid complains about Atos whilst ignoring the fact that the DWP is complicit. Totally unqualified DWP ‘Decision Makers’, under any UK Government, are dangerous as they aren’t qualified; they can’t comprehend diagnosis or prognosis and hence they are a liability and constantly make incorrect decisions. Their decisions to remove benefits from genuine claimants are killing the innocent victims of this UK State tyranny. Their countless wrong decisions mean that people die, encouraged by this enthusiastic and very dangerous UK Government, who sit back and watch as the majority of people blame Atos Healthcare who are simply following the DWP contract by using the bogus Lima computer assessment to conduct the WCA, as required by the DWP. (My emphasis.MS)
Atos Healthcare doesn’t remove anyone’s benefits – a constant incorrect claim by many – as they don’t have the authority. All Atos staff can do is to decide if someone is ‘fit for work’ based on the results of a bogus imported computer assessment. Any other company in the same position would result in the same conclusions as that is how the computer software in designed, which is why the Lima software should be banished and this particular WCA cancelled. (My emphasis.MS)
By definition, DWP ‘Decision Makers’ actually make the decisions about welfare benefits. These totally unqualified administrators are required to consider all additional evidence provided by the claimant; including detailed letters from Consultants and GPs who know their patients very well. It is the incompetence of the unqualified DWP Decision Makers, who fail to comprehend the details of medical information and choose to accept any decision following the WCA, as conducted by Atos Healthcare, that makes these DWP staff so very dangerous to the most vulnerable people in the UK. Mandatory reconsiderations won’t help if the Decision Makers remain unqualified for the job. What better way is there to remove as many people as possible from welfare benefits than to employ totally unqualified staff to make these vital decisions? (My emphasis.MS)
Identified claimant suffering includes dramatic increases in the onset of mental health problems. The General Practice (GP) service is close to collapse due to overwhelming numbers of patients needing support with DWP paperwork, that limits GP time spent with other patients who are ill and the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) have both exposed the WCA as causing ‘preventable harm’ (as we have already seen). Yet this dangerous UK Government, with a Cabinet full of millionaires who fail to comprehend need, dismisses all other evidence regardless of source. They disregard the obvious fact that the ‘reforms’ are falling disproportionately onto chronically disabled people, and those who are very ill and in need of guaranteed long-term welfare benefits, as the Government sells the UK and transforms a once-great nation into UK plc. (My emphasis.MS)
In a now-infamous 2008 interview, Lord Freud claimed that he ‘couldn’t believe’ that anyone had been awarded a benefit ‘for life’, demonstrating the immense danger of permitting a former investment banker to have control of welfare spending when he fails to comprehend that many health conditions are permanent and do indeed last a lifetime. Meanwhile, the Public Accounts Committee’s report of February 2013 regarding the DWP’s contract management of medical services was unlimited in its criticisms of the DWP: ‘Poor decision-making causes claimants considerable distress, and the position appears to be getting worse, with Citizens Advice reporting an 83 per cent increase in the number of people asking for support on appeals in the last year alone. We found the Department to be unduly complacent about the number of decisions upheld by the tribunal and believe that the Department should ensure that its processes are delivering accurate decision-making and minimizing distress to claimants.‘ (My emphasis. MS)
There were many powerful speeches in the historic WOW petition debate and it isn’t possible to highlight them all. However, one name in particular should be highlighted for the courage to expose the fact that, if a link could be proven, “…there would be a case for corporate manslaughter.” (Column 460) (My emphasis.MS)
I salute Caroline Lucas MP of the Green Party for her courage and, in particular, for her condemnation of the official opposition for their total failure to offer detailed, significant support to this nation’s chronically sick and disabled people, with the new Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, Rachel Reeves MP, using her first interview to announce that she ‘…would be tougher on people on benefits’. (My emphasis.MS)
What a catastrophic announcement from the Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions that, effectively, offers this nation’s most vulnerable people no hope if the Labour Party were to win the next General Election in 2015.
Vox Political opposes discrimination against society’s most vulnerable
… but we need YOUR help to do so.
This independent blog’s only funding comes from readers’ contributions. Without YOUR help, we cannot keep going. You can make a one-off donation here:
Alternatively, you can buy the first Vox Political book, Strong Words and Hard Times in either print or eBook format here:
Only days after Ed Miliband announced a Labour government would sack Atos, the party’s conference is hosting an event part-funded by the architects of the ‘work capability assessment’ administered by that company – the criminal American insurance giant Unum.
‘New thinking on the welfare state’ is a fringe event taking place at the Labour conference on Monday, September 23, organised by the right-wing thinktank Reform (which has Unum as one of its funders) and sponsored by the Association of British Insurers (which includes Unum among its members). Does anybody doubt that it has been arranged in order to give Unum a chance to influence high-ranking party members? No?
Then consider: This is a private round-table policy seminar, staged by Anne McGuire MP. Rank and file Labour members aren’t invited – attendance is by invitation only. Can you smell a rat? Still no?
The event has already been staged at the Liberal Democrat conference (by Steve Webb MP, whoever he is), and will also be a feature of the Conservative Party conference, courtesy of that turncoat floor-crossing slime Lord Freud. It shouldn’t take a genius to work out that Unum wants to ensure that all three parties have the same social security/welfare policy, going into the next election – and that Unum continues to figure prominently in the formulation of that policy.
If you didn’t smell a rat infestation before, by now you’re probably wondering why pest control hasn’t been called.
Ed Miliband knows that any change of the organisation administering work capability assessments is purely cosmetic; the Conservative-led Coalition itself is bringing in other companies to carry out the work, and Capita has already been taken on to carry it out in some areas.
It is the policy itself that must change.
Unum knows all about that policy. The company came up with it in the 1990s as a way to combat claims on its health insurance policies for ‘subjective’ illnesses such as ‘chronic pain’, ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease and others – by aggressively disputing whether a claimant was ill.
It based its new test on the Biopsychosocial Model of illness developed by the psychiatrist George Engel, which is itself an unproved theory. Unum removed the bio- and -social aspects in order to concentrate on the ‘psycho’ – the claim that a person’s illness is all in their mind; that they are imagining it.
This worked very well for the company until the American people realised that they were being diddled out of their insurance money and very large lawsuits were launched that ended with the company having a criminal record in several US states.
Undaunted by this, Unum branched into the UK and cosied up with then-social security minister Peter Lilley, who wanted to cut the number of people claiming disability benefits. Unum saw an opportunity here, with a long-term goal of making state disability benefits useless to the British citizen and forcing them to pay out for the companies duff health insurance policies – which had already fallen foul of the law in America.
That’s why the work capability assessment takes precedence over any evidence your doctor might provide to support your claim, and it’s also why doctors are being actively discouraged from providing any evidence at all; that’s why UK law currently sees a glowing future for people who may be paralysed, but for one finger, as a button pusher; that’s why people with Parkinson’s Disease or other degenerative conditions are being told they will be able to work again in the future; and that’s why thousands upon thousands of people have died as a result of the current policy – especially since the Conservative-led Coalition came into office in 2010.
Meanwhile, Unum has begun a mass-marketing campaign to encourage able-bodied British citizens to invest in ‘Income Protection Insurance’ and a scheme known as the ‘Back-up Plan’. These are only available via the workplace, and it is understood that it has been designed to ensure that the company can resist paying out if anybody should be unlucky enough to have to make a claim.
So you see, the plan is to leave the sick and disabled of this country with no support whatsoever; they can either take out Unum’s insurance policies, pay the company a fortune in premiums and get nothing in return – or they can throw themselves at the mercy of a state which has no mercy and be refused the benefits for which their taxes have been paying ever since they were old enough to pay taxes in the first place.
Either way, Unum wins. For younger readers, it’s like the plot of the prequel trilogy in the Star Wars saga, where the character who becomes the Emperor engineers a war in which he controls both sides. So you see? Those films weren’t as bad as we all thought.
But of course, any person or organisation that intentionally creates a parallel between itself and the most evil character in recent fiction should absolutely not be anywhere near the real-life political decision-makers of this or any other country.
That’s why Mo Stewart, the retired healthcare professional and disability researcher who has spent four years examining the relationship between Unum and the UK government, has contacted Ms McGuire, demanding to know why she is having anything to do with the firm.
She wrote: “Given the amount of evidence against the practice of the dangerous corporate giant, Unum Insurance, and the fact that Labour MPs have exposed their influence with government during debate, the British disabled community are wondering why you would chose to host a fringe meeting by Unum at the conference on Monday?
“‘New Thinking on the Welfare State’ it seems is the title of the meeting, and they should know since Unum have been helping to systematically destroy the welfare state, as welcomed by various governments, since 1994.
“If you were planning to cause offence, you couldn’t have done a better job.
“Keep betraying the British disabled people and you’ll be waiting in the wings for a lot longer before Labour ever return to Government.
“I have spent the past 4 years exposing the links between the DWP, Atos Healthcare & UNUM Insurance. Some of your colleagues are very familiar with my work, which is to be considered by the UN within weeks, and I suggest that if you wish to be taken seriously as the Shadow Minister for Disabled People then you need to be familiar with this evidence.”
This blog wholeheartedly supports Mo Stewart’s position.
If you’d like to do more, feel free to broadcast that facts about Unum as widely as you can. There seems to be a media blackout on mention of this criminal organisation’s involvement with the state, so you cannot rely on the national news media. This means word of mouth – viral networking – is the only alternative.
Spread the word.
Oh, and Ed? Mr Miliband? We’ll all be waiting for you to make a slightly more solid commitment to the British people. You know what it is because we’ve made it perfectly clear already:
New policies on sickness, disability and incapacity benefits that are humane to claimants and rely on real medical evidence – not the opinions of an unqualified ‘decision-maker’ at the DWP.
Expel Unum from any position in which it may influence the government – including fringe events at party conferences. This may mean dismantling the DWP altogether as that organisation appears to have been terminally compromised.
End the work capability assessments. Find a different way to assess people’s ability to work – perhaps one that involves knowledge of what jobs are available and whether employers have any intention to take on people with limited abilities… Something practical, rather than the dribble that masquerades as current government policy.
And, for goodness’ sake, get rid of Byrne (and McGuire… and let’s not forget Stephen Timms) and replace them with backbenchers who actually understand and sympathise with the plight of benefit claimants who have been made to suffer under a needlessly brutal system.
You don’t dare betray the British people again.
If you do, you’ll have more than eggs to dodge, whenever you dare show your face in public.
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.