Posts Tagged ‘Disability Living Allowance’

Vote for Corbyn to Stop the Work Capability Tests

June 8, 2017

This is the text of another of my table-top pamphlets, this time against the notorious Work Capability Tests. These were also introduced by New Labour at the behest of Unum and other private healthcare providers.

These are not objective tests to assess who is well enough to support themselves. They are simply a callous, bureaucratic mechanism for throwing people with disability off the benefits they need to support themselves. These have included severely disabled people, including terminal cancer patients in comas!

This iniquitous system has been retained and expanded by the Tories – David Cameron and his Lib Dem lackey, Nick Clegg, and now Theresa May.

It is killing people. As I’ve mentioned far too many times before, about 600 + people have died in misery and despair after having their benefit withdrawn due to these tests. Stilloaks, Johnny Void, Mike at Vox Political and DPAC have put together lists and videos putting names to faces, to show the human reality of these statistics – whose mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters were killed thanks to the Thatcherite insistence of cutting down on welfare.

The number of people, who have died after having been assessed as ‘fit for work’ is well above ten thousand, though the true figure may never be known. Mike and the other disability activists, who tried to get the figures were blocked by IDS and the DWP at every turn when they tried to get them.

Jeremy Corbyn has also promised to end workfare.

So vote for him. Don’t let the Tories kill more disabled people under the pretence of saving money.

Stop the Work Capability Test –
Before More People Die

by David Sivier

One of the very worst policies introduced by various governments as part of their campaigns to dismantle the welfare state over the past decade has been the Work Capability Test. This was introduced by New Labour in October 2008 along with a new benefit for the disabled and long-term sick, the Employment Support Allowance, which replaced Incapacity Benefit. The Work Capability Test is intended to show if the person claiming benefit really cannot work. It consists of questionnaire, in which boxes are to be ticked in answer to particular questions about the claimant’s health and disability. 2Ten of these tests were on the claimant’s physical health, and another ten are on their ‘mental, cognitive and intellectual’ fitness. There may also be a brief physical examination. The tests are performed by medical doctors working on behalf of a government outsourcing company. This was given to the French company, Atos, but the company was forced to terminate its contract a year early in 2014 following public anger at the system’s incompetence and maladministration. The contract was then given to an American company, Maximus. The tests may be repeated as often as the JobCentre Plus decides. If the disabled person scores low in the tests, they are judged fit for work. They lose their ESA and are told to apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The tests are based on a monograph, The Scientific and Conceptual Basis of Incapacity Beneft, by Gordon Waddell and Mansel Aylward, of 2005 and a succeeding work, Is Work Good for Your Health and Wellbeing? By Gordon Waddell and Kim Burton. They were also strongly influenced by a 2001 New Labour conference, in which Aylward was a contributor, Malingering and Illness Deception. These led in turn to the publication of a Green Paper in 2006, A New Deal for Welfare: empowering people to work – an independent assessment of the arguments for the proposed Incapacity Benefit reform. Both Waddell and Aylward were professors at the Unum Provident Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University, which was funded by the American insurance giant from 2004-9. The Work Capability Test uses a form of Bio-Psychosocial model of assessment, developed in America by Unum Provident. This model of assessment is considered to have been devised by George Engel in 1977. In 2006 a paper produced by Professor Christopher Butler and his colleagues attacked the model as ‘wanting’ and inadequate. Waddell and Aylward’s 2006 paper has also been attacked and discredited by Emeritus Professor Alison Ravetz.

Unum, and pseudo-medical testing actually became part of the disability benefits system twelve years or so prior to the Waddell and Aylward’s paper, in 1993, when the-then Conservative Health Secretary, Peter Lilley, introduced tougher testing designed to evaluate whether claimants were totally incapable of work. They had previously been awarded benefit if they were unable to do their job. Lilley considered that this approach was to open to sentimental interference by doctors, and so set up an ‘Incapacity benefit medical valuation group’, whose members included Dr John Le Cascio, the second vice-president of Unum Corporation. Lo Cascio had recently been seconded to its British branch, Unum Ltd, based in Dorking in Surrey. In 1994 Lo Cascio was appointed to train the British doctors charged with carrying out the tests by the Benefits Agency Medical Services. New Labour claimed that the purpose of the Work Capability Tests has been ‘to get people back into work’. This was always a misleading claim. New Labour had a ten-year plan to remove one million people from the 2.8 million receiving disability benefits. Their Secretary of State for Health declared ‘We know that being in work can be good for your wellbeing’, echoing the title of the paper by Waddell and Burton. 13 Years before that, Lilley introduced the tests with the aim of cutting £2 billion from the benefits bill.

And Unum itself regarded the benefit cuts as a great commercial opportunity. In their report in 1994, Chairman Ward E. Graffam was enthusiastic about ‘exciting developments in Britain’, saying ‘the impending changes to the State ill-health benefits system heralded in the November 1993 Budget will create unique sales opportunities across the entire disability market and we will be launching a concerted effort to harness the potential in these.’

Atos immediately decided that three-quarters of those in receipt of benefit were fit for work.16 Between the introduction of the tests in October 2008 and February 2012, the Department for Work and Pensions made over 1.36 million decisions on whether to award ESA following the administration of the tests on claimants. It declared 794,000 sick and disabled people ‘fit for work’. From the very beginning, the tests were criticised as being vastly inaccurate, and the treatment of claimants under it as cruel and degrading. ‘We Are
Spartacus’, a network of disability researchers and campaigners, denounced the way claimants were ‘wrongly assessed, humiliated and badly treated’. In response to repeated requests by disability campaigners, the DWP finally released the figures for the number of people dying over 11 months in 2011 while in receipt of ESA. 10,600 people in total had died. Of these, 1,300 had died after being taken off benefit following the decision that they were ‘fit to work’. Some of the people, who have died, committed suicide in despair at having their income terminated. One of these was a 47 year old man, who took a drug overdose. Others experienced a deterioration in their mental health due to the stress of assessment. Between 2008 and 2014, there were 600,000 appeals. This constitutes a third of all assessments, and in 2012-13 there were 465,000 appeals, with a success rate of 39 per cent. In some areas, lawyers had a success rate of over 80 per cent overturning decision by Atos against the claimant receiving benefits. 60 per cent of those, who had successfully appealed had scored zero. That is, Atos had declared them entirely fit for work. In 2013, however, the Conservative government took the decision to end legal aid for claims for welfare payment, which meant that fewer people would be able to afford to take the government to court.

In America, Unum Provident was fined $31.7 million in a class action lawsuit in California in 2003 for running ‘disability denial factories’. Two years later in 2005, John Garamendi, the California Department Insurance Commissioner, fined the company $15 million, declaring ‘Unum Provident is an outlaw company. It is a company that has operated in an illegal fashion for years’. The insurance commissioners of 48 American states had made a settlement with the company by 2006 that required it to review 200,000 claims and pay a $15 million fine. In 2008 the American Association of Justice declared that the company was the second most discredited insurance provider in America.

Despite public anger at Atos’ conduct of the Work Capability Test for ESA, the government in 2012 awarded the company another contract, worth over £400 million, for assessing whether disabled people were suitable for the Personal Independence Payment that was scheduled to replace the Disability Living Allowance in 2013. The Disability Living Allowance provided the handicapped with up to £130 per week to help them look after themselves. This was mostly awarded to help people cook, wash, and assist those with mobility problems. In the three years from April 2013 to 2016, this is to be phased out and replaced with the PIP, which is designed to get people back into work. The government was determined to cut spending on the PIP by twenty per cent during these three years, after the number claiming DLA rose by 30 per cent to 3.2 million people between 2002 and 2011. This was expected to throw 500,000 people off disability benefit.

As with their administration of the ESA fitness to work tests, Atos has proved to be less than efficient in its administration of the PIP. Those applying for the benefit may have to wait months before being notified that they are entitled. The cancer charity, MacMillan Cancer Support, stated that there were serious delays in the approval of payments. As well as leaving the terminally ill without this benefit, it also meant that they were unable to claim other vital benefits with which PIP was linked. As a result, some were forced in their desperation to take out loans from payday loan companies, which have a truly exorbitant interest rate. The number of problems with ESA dealt with by Citizens Advice rose by 54 per cent from 2011 to 2012, when the bureaux dealt with 450,000 of them.

Paul Farmer, the head of the mental health charity, Mind, criticised the tests for failing to consider the effects of mental health on people’s ability to work. In an interview with the Guardian in 2012, he said

The system is based on assumptions that claimants need to be forced back to work, rather than supported on their own terms, and that those not well enough to go back to work are somehow perceived as scroungers. These attitudes only serve to further damage individuals’ mental health and increase the time until they may be ready to return to work.

Richard Hawkes, the chief executive of Scope, another disability charity, stated that the tests ‘should be more than an exercise in getting people of benefits. It should make sure disabled people get the specialist, tailored and flexible support they need to find and keep a job.’ The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee condemned the tests, stating that the system was so flawed it needed to be completely overhauled.

Guy Standing in his A Precariat Charter states that governments have been able to cut benefits for the disabled far more than for other groups, because they are a minority and so there is likely to be fewer objections to their treatment and lost votes. He also recommends that any firm hired by the government to provide services for the disabled should be bound by three commitments. The first should be to the disabled themselves; the second should be to the government; and the third should be to the whole of society, as the rest of us could be next. The employment contract awarded to such outsourcing firms should include penalty clauses requiring them to compensate the disabled claimant directly when they do not award them the correct benefits. This compensation should be much more than the benefits the disabled person did not receive. They should also be penalised for their mistakes. This would be a start, but it is not enough. The problem lies not with the companies administering the tests, but with the whole system of tests itself. The cause of the problem is attitude of successive governments, from John Major’s Conservatives, through Blair and Brown’s New Labour and then the Conservative-led governments of David Cameron, that the disabled should automatically have their benefits reduced, regardless of the poverty and hardship involved. The goal should be to provide benefits to support the poor and disabled, rather than cuts intended to reduce the tax burden for the rich. The Work Capability Test and the poverty and stress it inflicts should be stopped. Now.

Chunky Mark on the Horror of Theresa May’s Cabinet

July 14, 2016

Theresa May was declared the winner of the Tory leadership contest. Yesterday, she moved into No. 10, and now today she has announced her cabinet. This includes such luminaries as Boris Johnson (foreign secretary), Jacob Rees-Mogg (Secretary of State for India) and Liam Fox. In this video, Chunky Mark the Artist Taxi Driver gives his considered view of this cabinet of horrors. As you’d expect, it’s a rant, and Mark compares May and the rest of her cabinet ministers to some of the classic monsters of horror cinema. May herself is the Queen from Aliens, and he likens all of them to the Omen, Norman Bates, Pinhead from Hellraiser, and Pennywise the Clown from Stephen King’s It. He says at one point that they’re so horrific, he expected poltergeists to fly out of No. 10. This is Margaret Thatcher’s revenge from beyond the grave, he tells his viewers. And none of them have been elected. The leadership of the country was simply transferred from one Tory to another, without our consent or involvement.

But he has a point. These people are monsters. May stood in the street yesterday, and announced that she was going to work to continue the Tory party’s work of creating a more equal Britain, and not one that was for ‘the privileged few’. This is surely a lie, as flagrant as any the Tories have ever uttered. Chunky Mark points out that she praised David Cameron’s social programme, which has seen even more people forced down into misery and poverty. And May is, of course, the authoritarian, who wants to spy on everyone with her ‘snoopers’ charter’. Chunky Mark goes a bit far when he says that she wants to implant chips in our heads. But as Lobster has shown in a number of articles on mind control, the technology is there, and has been refined ever since one of the scientists involved in developing the technology stopped a raging bull with it in an experiment for MKULTRA back in the 1960s. The paranoiacs might be nuts, but sometimes they’re right.

Mark also discusses the shouting that was also heard on camera when May made her speech. You never saw them, and nobody from the BBC decided that the public should listen to them, or hear what they had to say. They were protestors from DPAC – Disabled People Against Cuts, protesting against the cuts to Disability Living Allowance and the PIP. But the Beeb didn’t want you to know that.

He also covers May’s stance against Scots independence. The British Conservative Party also includes the Scots Unionists, indeed, until the 1970s, the Conservative Party was known as the Unionist Party north of the Border. And May has made it abundantly clear that the Conservative and Unionist Party will never let the Scots have their independence.

The Chunky One is also rightly incensed about the vile racism in all of this crew. One of May’s new ministers declared that our society was being wrecked by North African and Syrian immigrants. Chunky Mark points out that they’re refugees, who’ve been forced to flee their countries because of the wars we’ve started there, and our own looting of them. Then there’s Boris Johnson with his infamous rant about ‘watermelon picaninnies’ and how Obama hates Britain, because he’s half-Kenyan, and we tortured his people. It’s a very dark joke when this man becomes our foreign minister. And then there’s the appointment of Jacob Rees-Mogg as the Secretary of State for India.

It’s a rant, but an accurate one. This is indeed a cabinet of horrors, in which people, who are clearly deeply unsuited to any kind of responsible cabinet role, have been given the posts to which they are the most unsuited. Kenneth Clark said in his unguarded conversation with Malcolm Rifkind that if Boris got in, he’d have us fighting three wars at the same time. Well, he’s not Prime Minister, but he has been made foreign secretary, so perhaps he’ll have his chance yet. Completely absent from all of them is any concern for the poor, or for anything except corporate profit. Cameron’s was an administration of aristos and corporate elites for the rich. That has not changed one iota, no matter how much May spouts about ‘equality’ and not working for the ‘privileged few’.

It’s Not Just the Disabled Who Lose Out When They Lose their Motability Cars

February 12, 2016

Last Thursday, Mike reported a story by the Beeb that 45 per cent of the benefit claimants, who moved from Disability Living Allowance to the Personal Independence Payments had lost their Motability cars. Motability has said that there will be a one-off payment of £2,000 so that some will get a vehicle. But Samuel Miller, one of Mike’s readers, also points out that this will also eventually be scrapped. Here’s the story: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/04/motability-cars-lost-by-45-of-dla-to-pip-claimants-benefits-and-work/.

This is another case of bad politics also making for bad economics. That so many disabled people should lose their mobility vehicles is not really a surprise. When this government talks about welfare reform, this always means finding a way to throw people off benefits. Of course, the talk is always about simplifying complex bureaucracy, providing ‘value for money’, and ‘concentrating help where it’s needed’, but the intention and end result is always the same. Get people off benefits anyway they can, and never mind what happens to them.

It also shows that the Personal Independence Payment is, for 45 per cent of people who’ve moved onto it from DLA, a misnomer. Clearly, some of their independence, which the payment is supposed to preserve and support, has been lost the moment their vehicles were taken away.

This is, of course, all part of the Conservative attitude which says that if you’re too poor to afford it, you shouldn’t have it. Even if you’re genuinely poor. But it’s also an attitude that impoverishes the people and businesses around the disabled. Consider this: motability cars, and other vehicles like it, such as mobility scooters, give the disabled independence. They’re able to get around more, and do more. And people, who are able to do more are able to spend more. This may not be very much. It may be just spending a few more extra pence, or a pound or so on a lottery ticket, newspaper or magazine down at the local newsagent, an extra packed of sweets or biscuits at the local corner shop. But it means that a bit more is being put into the economy, and local businesses in particular get a bit extra trade. And that benefits everyone. One of the hopes FDR had when he introduced the very limited unemployment safety net in America was that, if the unemployed were given more money, they’d also spend it and help the American economy as a whole come out of the Recession. And this is what other people have been saying since. It ain’t rocket science. I can remember thinking about it as a teenager when Thatcher was in power.

She’s gone, but her poisonous legacy remains. And it means that some disabled people are being denied their dignity, their independence, and society is being deprived of their ability to put back into the economy, to generate wealth.

All from the venomous hatred of the poor, who are automatically viewed as undeserving. Well, this crew of bandits are undeserving. Let’s kick them out before they do any more harm.

Private Eye on Osborne’s Cuts to ESA

October 16, 2015

Private Eye in their issue for the 24th July – 6th August published this article in their ‘HP Sauce’ column criticising George Osborne’s decision to make further cuts to benefits for the disabled.

From WRAG to RAGS

Chancellor George Osborne’s justification for yet more deep cuts in financial support for disabled people is that he is merely eliminating “perverse incentives” not to find work. If only that were true.

Until now, those who were found by strict health tests to be too sick or disabled to work but potentially capable in the future qualified for “work-related activity group” (WRAG) employment and support allowance (ESA). So someone requiring lengthy rehabilitation after an accident, for example, or with certain kinds of mental illness, would receive a payment which included an element to cover the extra disability-related living costs they would face, such as travel, care and health visits. It was subject to regular reassessment.

As Osborne well knows, most of those in WRAG are not working because they are simply too ill to do so – or they face fierce discrimination when trying to find work. But as part of the latest round of “austerity” measures, from 2017 new applicants will now receive the same weekly payment as fit unemployed people claiming jobseekers’ allowance. This means disabled people will lose nearly £30 a week, or £1,500 a year.

This is on top of other cuts, including the closure of the Independent Living Fund, further reductions in employment support and disability living allowances and personal independence payments, restrictions to Access to Work, and reductions to social care packages – not to mention the bedroom tax.

No wonder the government continues to ignore calls from its own watchdog, the Social Security Advisory Committee, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission for an “impact assessment” of austerity measures on disabled people. It would confirm that, far from a “fair and efficiently targeted” policy, benefit cuts have hit some of the most vulnerable hardest. After all, the government’s latest figures on low income show that working age families with a disabled member now have higher rates of poverty than pensioners.

IDS Hiding Poverty Statistics until After the Election

March 1, 2015

Benefits and Work have this story, IDS hides poverty statistics until after the election, reporting that the Tories do not intend to publish the true figures on how people have been affected by their welfare reforms until after the election. It begins

Crucial statistics on the effects of the governments welfare reforms will be deliberately delayed until after the election, to prevent academics and campaigners discovering the effects of policies such as the bedroom tax, changes to disability living allowance and employment and support allowance and increased sanctions.

The Households Below Average Income figures will be two and a half years out of date by the time of the election.

Complaints about the delay in publication were made to Iain Duncan Smith as long ago as last September, but with no effect. IDS has also continued to refuse to meet with the Trussell trust to discuss food poverty.

This makes you wonder how damaging the statistics will be, if they don’t want the electorate knowing them in time to vote them out?

Answers on a postcard, please.

The answer must be: very, very damaging. And it’s long past time they were voted out. So do so in March.

Private Eye from 2010 on the Coalition and the Disabled

November 21, 2014

I found this photo in Private Eye’s 2010 annual, satirising the Coalition’s attitude to those claiming Disability Living Allowance.

It was true then, and sadly and horrifically, it’s even truer now. Especially with the botched introduction of Universal Credit in some areas, and the harassment of people on ESA.

Eye Disability Photo