Posts Tagged ‘Mike Penning’

Mo Stewart on Government, Quackery and Fraud by Unum Provident

January 21, 2015

Quack Tractors Caricature

Vox Political has a fascinating guest piece by Mo Steward, a long-time friend of the site. This describes the malign influence on the British government’s welfare policies towards the disabled by the American medical fraudster, Unum, and their pet academics, Gordon Waddell and Manzel Aylward. Waddell and Aylward were professors at a Cardiff University department, funded and explicitly named after Unum, who applied the biopsychosocial model of disease. This was used by Unum as the basis for refusing to pay out on its insurance claims in America. Stewart details how the scientific basis of Unum’s policies has been discredited, and the insurance giant named as the second biggest fraudulent insurance provider in America by the federal authorities. Waddell and Aylward’s report, which has formed the basis for subsequent government attempts to reform and remove benefit payments for the disabled, is also comprehensively discredited. It is more or less entirely self-referential, which means that basically its arguments are unsupported by anyone else.

It is rubbish.

This hasn’t stopped it influencing the British government since a conference on reforming welfare by New Labour in 2001, where the emphasis was on the perceived idea that people claiming disability benefits were malingering. This has shown to be untrue, not least in America, where Unum was branded a ‘disability denier’ by the federal authorities. Nevertheless, Unum’s role in government policy has persisted, not least because one of the New Labour politicos at the conference was the appalling Lord Freud, who subsequently defected to the Tories. The result has been that over ten thousand people have died, despite being described as fit for work by Atos. Mo Stewart gives the precise figures. The DWP has been so shamed by these figures, that they have refused to publish them for succeeding years. The policy has also been responsible for the rise in hate crime towards the disabled, who are now generally perceived by the public as malingering spongers.

Stewart’s article’s entitled: The influence of private insurance on UK welfare reforms – Mo Stewart. It begins

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.

It’s extensively footnoted, so you can see that it is very definitely factually accurate. Unlike the rubbish spouted by Freud, Waddell and Aylward.

It’s at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/01/20/the-influence-of-private-insurance-on-uk-welfare-reforms-mo-stewart/ Please read it and get informed about the influence of this bunch of malign quacks on government policy.

This illustration at the top of this post is an etching by Charles Williams from 1802, The Tractors, satirising one particular brand of late 18th – early 19th century quacks. The beams coming from the woman’s mouth read ‘Half-Hints’, ‘Malignity’, ‘Destruction’, ‘Scandal’, ‘Envy’ ‘Hypocrisy’ and ‘Innuendoes’, all terms that could fairly be applied to the malign influence Unum, Waddell and Aylward have had on British government, and the way their fraudulent pseudoscience has destroyed the lives and dignity of the disabled.

The 18th and 19th century was the heyday of some of the most brilliant satirists and caricaturists wielding pen and ink. These men mercilessly skewered medical quacks and pompous, grasping and incompetent doctors, as well as other topics like the royal family and corrupt, mendacious and incompetent politicians. One can only guess what Gilray and Cruikshank would have done to Waddell and Aylward.

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Minister’s Mock Funeral in 1848 – Time for a Revival for Iain Duncan Smith?

June 12, 2014

1848 Book

I’ve been reading Mike Rapport’s book, 1848 – Year of Revolution (London: Little, Brown & Co 2008). This is about the ‘year of revolutions’, which saw uprisings against the old, Conservative orders and empires break out across Europe, in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Frankfurt, Milan, Venice, Prague, Krakow, Budapest and Galicia. Liberals and Democrats rose up in the hope of establishing more representative electoral systems, a wider franchise, or the abolition of the monarchies altogether. German and Italian Nationalists attempted to create a united Germany and Italy out of the various independent states in which their nations were separated, while Polish, Czech, Slovak, Magyar, Romanian, Serb and Croat nationalists attempted to forge their own states with a greater or lesser degree of autonomy and independence. This was also the year of the publication of Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto, when Europe was indeed haunted by workers’ protests and uprisings against the grinding poverty and squalor of the new, industrial age. These revolutions ultimately failed because of the contradictory demands and aspirations of the various groups involved, which then clashed with each other, allowing the conservatives to reassert themselves. It’s a gripping book, and I intend to give it a fuller review when I’ve read it.

I found an interesting piece of political theatre in the description of the workers’ protests against the return of the Emperor Ferdinand to Vienna on the 21st August 1848. The city, like many of the other revolutionary centres elsewhere, was suffering from economic depression, and a programme of public works had been put into practice to provide jobs for the unemployed. There was, however, pressure on the government to close them down in order to save money. The government chose instead to cut wages for those employed on them. The result was a workers’ demonstration through the suburbs on the 21st. The next day, the workers built an effigy of the minister for public works, and held a mock funeral for it. They declared that he had choked to death on the money he had taken from the unemployed. This unrest finally culminated in armed conflict between the workers and the National Guard on the 23rd, which saw the protest quashed.

The bitterly ironic declaration that the minister had choked to death on the money extracted from the unemployed could equally be applied to Iain Duncan Smith and the rest of the Tory and Tory Democrat coalition. After all, IDS and his fellows, Mike Penning and Esther McVey, have similarly provided over a system of public works, though one intended to give the illusion only of providing work. The wages for those on workfare is similarly smaller than that for ordinary work: it’s simply the claimant’s jobseekers’ allowance. And all this has been inflicted on the unemployed partly under the rationale that it is sound fiscal policy and balancing the budget.

So I think that the next time there’s a demonstration against IDS, Osbo, Cameron and the rest of them, it would be more than fitting for a mock funeral to be held for them. There is, however, one difference: IDS may not have choked to death on the money he’s extracted from the unemployed, the poor, and disabled, but too many of them have been killed for the governments’ savings. About 220 per week, or three every four hours. This should be more than enough to bury him politically.

Penning Axes the Disability Living Fund

March 22, 2014

Mike-Penning-MP

Mike Penning, Disabilities Minister. Now in charge of making things worse for the most disadvantaged.

Also in this fortnight’s Private Eye is the news that the Disabilities Minister, Mike Penning, has announced that the government is closing down the Disability Living Fund. The Fund, with a budget of £320 million, supports 18,000 severely disabled people. It allows them to remain in their own homes, be able to get into work and take part in other activities, which they would otherwise be unable to do. The Coalition had tried to close the Fund down last year, but a court ruling in November (2013) appeared to quash that. The court found that the government had not properly considered their duties under the Equality Act. This was to promote the rights and needs of disabled people to participate in public life.

The government, however, merely acted as it always does when its reforms are criticised or blocked by an independent body. It waited a bit, and has now gone ahead and announced it will be closed anyway. The Eye states that on average the fund pays out about £300 per month. It will now be devolved to the local authorities, who are responsible for most social care. It will not, however, be protected, and local authorities are already being forced to drastically cut budgets for social care, and are finding it difficult to support the needs of increasing numbers of disabled people. The Eye states ‘many disabled people are terrified of the consequences’.

The Eye also notes that Penning has announced the Fund is to be axed just a month after the Centre for Welfare Reform issued its report “Counting the Cuts”. This showed that the 4.5 million British citizens with a significant disability bear a far disproportionate burden of the welfare cuts. The average burden of the government cuts is £1,126. For disabled people living in poverty, it’s four times as much: £4,660.

Nevertheless, Penning states that the government’s long-term economic plan will “ensure that disabled people are given the support that allows them to fulfil their potential.’ The Eye drily concludes that how they are expected to do this when they are already struggling ‘is thus hard to fathom’.

The article is on page 31 of the Eye for 21st March -3rd April.

I’ve already blogged about the vicious eugenicist hatred Maggie’s mentor, Keith Joseph, had for the working class, and his declaration in a speech in 1974 that ‘The balance of our population, our human stock, is threatened’. See Owen Jones, Chavs, pp. 45-6. One can reasonably ask how widely such attitudes are shared in the Tory party, and how far they have contributed to a climate of opinion on the right that seems to view the deaths of tens of thousands of people from poverty inflicted through the benefit cuts as acceptable. As many as 38,000 people per year may have died through them. Does Penning share this apparent visceral hatred of the poor and disabled, or is he simply a career ‘yes-man’, who has left his conscience aside in order to gain promotion from doing his masters’ bidding?

I put up a piece a little while ago commenting on the similarity between the Tories’ policy of having Atos throw the disabled off benefit, and often to their deaths, and the organised murder of the congenitally mentally retarded by the Nazi regime. This was organised by Hitler’s doctor and medical staff. At their trial, one of the doctors responsible for the mass murder attempted to defend their actions by saying that ‘they didn’t separate brains and arse’ – a German idiom meaning they had guts. One anti-Nazi doctor at the trial declared that that was because they didn’t have a backbone. Is this true of Penning and the other Coalition functionaries, administering and implementing cuts and reforms that have had the effect of further impoverishing and even ending the lives of the disabled?

Minister Mike Penning’s Contempt for the Disabled, and Paula Peter’s Response

December 12, 2013

In the comments section to his post on the duplicitous comments of Mike Penning, the current minister for the disabled, which I’ve reblogged here, my brother has also posted Paula Peters description of her meeting with the Rt. Hon. gentleman in a lift during her recent visit to parliament. Penning has told the press that he intends to cut down the time it takes to process claims for DLA and other benefits to stop cancer patients dying before they have received their due benefits payments. On the other hand, he has also told the Labour Party and the disabled themselves that it’s all the disabled’s own fault their disabled, and that diabetes is a life-style choice(!). I can remember the storm of protest that bust out way back in the 1990s when the current England manager said something similar. He was into various New Age philosophies, and announced that the reason disabled people were so afflicted was because of the bad karma they had brought upon themselves for sins and misdeeds they had committed in a previous life. The disabled and the British public in general were massively unimpressed, and the aforementioned Ron Manager had to do some very quick talking. Penning should similarly be taken to account for this unpleasant and simply wrong comments.

Here is Paula Peter’s account of her meeting with Penning. It’s ultimately taken from her facebook page. I’m not on Facebook, however, so I’ve taken it from Mike’s comments column to his piece on Penning. My apologies if any of this is inaccurate.

‘Hi all, got home literally 10 minutes ago. I got to Portcullis House by 8.50 this morning, and someone had my back to me in the lift, it was the Mike Penning the minister for disabled people! He was grinning away, So, i asked for 5-10 minutes of his time, and I said this to him. Mr Penning, please do not say that we are all frauding the benefits system, because we are not. Benefit fraud is 0..5 per cent and fraud is very very low. I said you need to check the official error within your department at the dwp which was at 70 per cent in 2011 (source social security advisory meeting 07.12.11)

Said, please do not say that disability and illness is our fault, BECAUSE IT IS NOT no one deserves to be born with a disbability, be struck down with a terrible physical or mental illness, no one, and said to him, Mr Penning you too, could develop an illness or disability, no one is immune from having an illness.

Please do not say diabetes is a life style choice, if you do not know anything about it educate yourself on it as ignorance can cost people ignoring symptoms of diabetes and getting checked and ignorance with illness costs lives. I said Mr Penning Type 2 diabetes is hereditary in families if one member has type 2 the chances of another member getting the disease is higher, and then had a dig, by your waistline Mr Penning, you had better check your sugar levels, too many meals in the subsided restuarant there eh?

Then said two weeks ago on 25th November you said to the labour party during DWP questions when they raised the issues about the welfare death statistics and the W.C.A that they should stop scaremongering. Well I have lost 18 friends, thousands have died because the stress and fear has made thier health detoriate and many have died by their own hands I know poeple who have lost loved ones, care to comment to them about that as the goverenmental polices are devastating many lives?

My last comment was this. in april 2013, my six year old niece abigail with type 1 diabetes was denied DLA as they said she had no care needs at night, she is 6, has constant hypos and toilet accidents at night, and has a canular attached to a stomach pump and needs constant care day and night at school and at home. That she and the family were put through the ordeal of an appeall and were one week away from a tribunial when DM overturned decision and upgraded her care needs. I said my brother heard from me about your remarks about Diabetes being a life style choice. He has written to you a letter how diabetes affects his children of 6 and 9 his wife who is 37 and him who is 39 all type 1 diabetics. They would like a response from you about the ordeal they had with DLA over their daughter and the DWP and a response to the anger and upset you have caused by your remarks about diabetes. I placed my brother letter in his hands.

He stared at me I stared back, down the corridor the smile was wiped off his face. He looked at me, and the one finger salute was what he got from me. He was then surrounded by his staff 15 minutes before the meeting and he was clearly rattled. The armed cops came by and what happened on Monday happened again, three cops for me. Not nice to have a nosel of a gun pointed at you, with their hands resting on their guns, but then with security alerts as high as it is (i can be anyone) it was still frightening though especially as they could see i had my tri rollerator with me and in a great deal of pain.’

Paula’s comments are a very sobering corrective to the image of diabetes that can be inadvertently given by the news. The coverage of the ‘obesity epidemic’ naturally refers to the increase in diabetes as a consequence of modern excessive eating and the consumption of foods with an extremely high calory content. This seems to have given the impression that if people are diabetic, it’s because they are somehow ‘fat slobs’. Paula’s comments to Penning are a clear refutation of that. It is particularly heartbreaking to hear of children as young as six and nine with such severe disabilities. I hope that despite such horrific disability, they still manage to lead a full life, however. One of the chaps I met when I was a re-enactor was a young lad, who was similarly fitted with an intravenous tube. I think it was because he had severe kidney condition. Nevertheless, despite the danger to his health, he had a girlfriend, an active social life with many friends and fought on the battlefield with the best of them. I hope Paula’s relatives are similarly able to overcome their difficulties.

In the meantime, however, Penning deserves to be kicked up and down the Houses of Parliament for his ignorant and extremely insensitive comments.