Posts Tagged ‘Department for Work and Pensions’

Private Eye on Repeated Exposure of IDS’ Lies

June 25, 2015

Mike from Vox Political was in the Mirror, the Mail and the Groaniad this Tuesday. Ian Duncan Smith, the Minister for the Creative Murder of the Poor, had got really annoyed about disability rights’ campaigners’ continued demands for the release of the government’s statistics showing how many people had died due to sanctions after being declared fit for work. Smith had therefore made a speech denouncing them as ‘disgraceful’ for worrying the public unduly. And so the ladies and gentlemen of the Fourth Estate had come to Mike, and others, like the head of the disabled rights group, Black Triangle, for comment.

And far from being dismayed at this attack on his character, Mike was instead immensely amused, as it once again gave him the opportunity to make the true facts plain before the public, and point out IDS’ continuing lies, as well as his crass stupidity and manifest incompetence.

If IDS is going to get this upset every time someone challenges the honesty of his department, then I strongly advise him to stock up on all the stomach pills he’s going to need to control his increasingly bilious digestion. Because there’s going to be a very long line of ’em.

Mike and his fellows haven’t been the first people this year to upset the Gentleman Ranker about this. Private Eye, in its issue for the 29th May-11th June 2015, published this article on how a series of campaigners had demanded the information, and revealed how the published statistics that had been obtained very definitely give the lie to RTU’s claims. Here it is.

Dead Quiet Man

So much for work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s professed “outrage” when asked about secret government reviews into the unexpected deaths of benefit claimants.

In a televised debate before the election, Duncan Smith denied the existence of such a review and accused the Green Party’s Jonathan Bartley of making “scurrilous” and “cheap” allegations – even though his own civil servants had already admitted there had been 40 reviews of suicides and nine further benefit-related deaths in the previous year.

The Department for Work and Pensions is refusing to publish the outcome of those cases but last week, responding to an FOI request from Anita Bellows, a research for Disabled People Against Cuts, it admitted that 10 of the 49 claimants had been subject to controversial benefit sanctions.

Concern that one in five benefit-related deaths may be connected to the practice of suddenly halting payments – for example, after missing one jobcentre appointment – has increased pressure on Duncan Smith to release the reviews. Now his ministerial sidekick, Priti Patel, has unveiled figures showing that while the use of jobseeker sanctions fell overall last year, that was not the case for those who were ill or disabled. The number of people whose employment and support allowance (ESA, which replaced incapacity benefit as the out-of-work disability benefit) was suddenly halted, rose by more than a third last year to a total of 36,810 – leaping from 2,626 to 3,274 in the final month.

Patel maintains sanctions are used “as a last resort” – just as well if rumours are true that cuts to disabled people’s ESA will be part of Duncan Smith’s £12bn welfare budget cuts.

As a number of whistleblowers have pointed out, sanctions are most definitely not used as a last resort. Indeed, there have been leaks showing Jobcentres awarded prizes, like chocolate Easter eggs and mock sheriff’s badges for workers, who have sanctioned the most claimants. This shows that Patel is also a liar, which should itself come as no shock to anyone. She is, after all, one of the wretched authors of Britannia Unchained, the rabid free-market screed demanding that British workers work longer for poverty wages, without the support of the welfare state, in order for their bosses to get the same profits as their bloated counterparts in the Developing World. Unfortunately, the Eye article doesn’t mention the campaign to get the figures released for the numbers, who’ve died after being found fit for work. But it does show how benefit sanctions are causing people to take their own lives, and that the government is well aware of it. And therefore, through IDS’ actions and pronouncements, how desperate he is, to cover up this murderously failing policy.

As for Duncan Smith calling disability campaigners disgraceful, it reminded me of a philosophical system called Logical Positivism. As formulated by Alfred ‘Freddy’ Ayer, this held that any statement made about the world did not actually describe the thing it was apparently about. Instead, it was a statement about the speaker’s own mental state. For example, if someone was described as beautiful, that did not mean that they actually were so. It meant instead only that the person speaking found that person attractive. Logical Positivism has since been discredited, with Ayer himself stating that it was excellent but for a single flaw: it was almost totally wrong.

Nevertheless, it seems to describe with amazing accuracy Iain Duncan Smith’s own psychology. When he attacks disability campaigners as ‘disgraceful’, it means he finds them disgraceful, because they are clearly a threat to his continued position in government. To everyone else looking at his lies and incompetence, the true disgrace is how he was ever put in charge of it, and the millions of lives of people on benefits in the first place.

And he’d better get used to feeling threated, because the campaigners aren’t going to stop pressing for the information, nor stop trying to discredit him and the vile government he serves.

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From 2011: Private Eye on Unum’s Role in Shaping Government Welfare Policy

April 10, 2014

This is from the Eye for the 11th – 24th November 2011:

McGarry Unum pic

Jack McGarry, Chief Executive at Unum.

Welfare Reform

Mutual Benefits

Tricky questions are again being asked about the profits American insurance giant Unum stands to make from its massive media push on income protection cover, promoted as the answer to the latest tough welfare reforms.

Pulling stunts like persuading six bloggers to live for a week on the current average benefit of £95 and then write about it, Jack Mcgarry, chief executive at Unum UK (pictured), earlier this year warned: “The government’s welfare reform bill will seek to tighten the gateway to benefits for those people unable to work due to sickness or injury. Each year up to 1m people in the UK become disabled and the reforms mean that working people will be able to rely less on state benefits to maintain the standard of living they were used to prior to their illness”.

Well, Unum should know. Behind the scenes it has been helping Tory and Labour governments slash the benefits of disabled and sick people for years – going right back to Peter Lilley’s social security “Incapacity for Work” reforms of 1994. Lilley hired John Le Cascio, then vice-president of Unum, to advise on “claims management”. Le Cascio also sat on the “medical evaluation group”, which – according to Professor Jonathan Rutherford in the academic journal Soundings – was set upt to design and enforce more stringent medical tests.

At the same time, the UK wing of Unum was launching what it boasted was “a concerted effort to harness the potential” from predicted cuts in benefits, urging people to protect themselves with a “long-term disability policy from Unum”.

The Eye first questioned Unum about the possibility of a serious conflict of interest back in 1995. Dr Le Cascio said he didn’t “feel that way” and wouldn’t have taken the government job if he thought there was a conflict. That, of course, was ten years before Unum was found guilty in the US of “systematically violating” insurance regulations and fraudulently denying or “low-balling” claims using phony medical reports, misrepresentation and biased investigations (see Ad Nauseam, last Eye).

Fast-forward 16 years, and plus ca change. Unum’s tarnished reputation has done nothing to diminish its influence here and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is still denying there’s anything amiss about Unum’s more meddling. In a lengthy reply last month to Norman Lamb, Nick Clegg’s chief adviser, the DWP neatly skirted questions about whether Unum was advising on welfare reform and about its unlawful activities in the US.

Yet Unum executives sat on both the mental health and physical function “technical working groups” set up under the Labour government in 2006, which reviewed and finally came up with the new, stricter “work compatibility assessments”, introduced for new claimants in 2008. In fact Unum and Atos, the huge French outsourcing company that holds the government’s multimillion contract to conduct the widely criticised assessments on behalf of the DWP (see in the Back, last Eye), were the only for-profit companies represented on the groups. Unum chief executive McGarry has now been appointed to the expert panel reviewing the sickness absence from work system announced by the government in February.

Prof Rutherford wrote that Unum had also been “building its influence” in a variety of ways over a number of years. He said that in 2001 Le Cascio was a key player at a ground-breaking conference at Woodstock near Oxford, title “Malingering and Illness Deception”. Malcolm Wicks, Labour work minister at the time, and Mansel Aylward, then chief medical officer at the DWP, were among the 39 delegates.

In the same year, Unum launched a public private partnership to act as a pressure group to extend influence in policymaking. And in 2004 it opened the £1.5m UnumProvident Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University. (The Centre has since be renamed and Unum says it no longer provides any funding – no doubt because of claims that academic integrity could be called into question by its influence).

Unum has been lobbying, sitting on expert groups and hosting meetings at party conferences of all colours ever since. And lo and behold, in May this year, Unum’s then medical officer Prof Michael O’Donnell jumped ship to become chief medical officer at Atos. He barely had time to catch his breath before giving evidence to the Commons committee looking at the welfare reform bill.

But Unum is once again denying any conflict of interest “since our current work with the DWP and our marketing campaign are different”. It said its current consultation work is about helping people return to work and its advertising campaign was educational and does not support tightening benefit changes.

Meanwhile disability activists who have fallen foul and been forced to appeal cuts in DWP benefits based on flawed Atos assessments, and campaigning groups like Black Triangle, think the whole thing stinks and are urging MPs to investigate.

So Unum is, like Maximus, another private contractor hired to implement government welfare policies, a company with a history of corruption in the US. And like many of the other companies involved in the government’s welfare reforms, it helps formulate the very same policies from which it stands to make a profit. Meanwhile, the sick and disabled are thrown off benefits due to their advice. And, as you’d expect, they’ve even got a connection of the past masters of cruelty, fraud and corrupt influence, Atos.