Posts Tagged ‘Tom Greatrex’

Vox Political: Labour Should Not Let Disabled People Die Just to Curry Favour with Press

March 11, 2015

This is another piece of Mike’s that needs to be reblogged. In his piece, Why are disabled people being asked to die for Labour’s election hopes, Mike reports how Liza van Zyl, a campaigner against the work capability assessment system and the deaths it has caused, was told by the Labour MP Owen Smith that Labour did not support any change to the current work capability assessment. They were afraid that it would damage Labour’s chances of getting into power by allowing them to be attacked as soft on benefits. The article begins

… Especially when it won’t improve those hopes?

Extremely disturbing news has reached Vox Political, courtesy of Liza Van Zyl on Facebook. Extremely long-term readers may recall Liza was the lady who received a visit from police who claimed she had committed a criminal act against the Department for Work and Pensions, just before midnight on October 26, 2012 – being that she had been highlighting the deaths of sick and disabled people following reassessment by Atos and the DWP for Employment and Support Allowance.

Fortunately for those who still have to undergo these assessments, she was not discouraged and has continued to fight for those who cannot stand up for themselves. However, she is currently suffering severe disenchantment with the Labour Party, as she recounts below:

“We heard from Owen Smith MP today [Saturday, March 7] (a member of the left wing of the of the Labour Party leadership) that it is important for disabled people to continue to die, lest any commitment by Labour to scrap the Work Capability Assessment generate a negative response in the press and affect Labour’s general election chances.

“He said that while he personally doesn’t like the WCA, his Labour colleagues will not support scrapping it because of fears it will play badly with the right wing press and damage Labour’s electoral chances… I’ve since been contacted by other disabled people who’ve raised the issue with their Labour MPs, and the response has been: Yes, the WCA isn’t nice but if Labour commits to scrapping it, it would appear to be ‘soft on welfare’.

“The similarities of these responses (and given that Owen Smith is a frontbench shadow sec of state and therefore presumably is up to date on party strategy) indicates that this is an agreed line or represents an actual decision. This is profoundly disturbing, given that a great many Labour MPs know in detail exactly what suffering and deaths the WCA is responsible for among their own constituents: Tom Greatrex organised a powerful meeting of Labour MPs with Chris Grayling two years ago. Dame Anne Begg is herself a disabled person, as are other MPs.

Mike asks the question when this decision was taken, and why didn’t left-wing MPs like John McConnell, Dennis Skinner and Jeremy Corbyn protest?

He also makes the good point that this policy will not benefit the Labour party, but will actually harm it. Disabled people and their friends and families also vote, and they won’t support a party that continues to let their loved ones die, all for its own cynical political advantage. The opinions of the right-wing press can be discounted. Their readers won’t vote Labour, and so there is no point courting them.

He also points out that if, as he hopes, Labour does decide to scrap the work capability assessment, then its silence on this policy in order to win the election also makes it guilty of the same misrepresentation and lies that have resulted in public distrust of politicians generally as self-interested liars.

Mike also points out that he has written to Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow minister for welfare, and Ed Miliband about this issue before, only to be met with stony silence. He has suggested that people should write to the very same right-wing press, of which Labour seem so afraid, to point out how their refusal to change the WCA will stop then and others like them from voting for the party. He himself is perfectly willing to draft the letter.

Mike’s article is at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/10/why-are-disabled-people-being-asked-to-die-for-labours-election-hopes/. Go there to let him know what you think about this policy.

From 2013: DWP Toughens Fitness-for-Work Test

January 29, 2015

Maximus, who are due to take over from Atos as the administrators of the government’s fitness-for-work test, have tried to deflect criticism by stating that they are just following the DWP’s orders. It is they, who are really culpable, and so should be the target of criticism. As Mike has pointed out, this is just a version of the Nazis’ ‘We were only following orders’ defence at the Nuremberg trials. Maximus deserve all the criticism they get, as they are a commercial company that chose to bid for the contract. Unlike soldiers under the command of their officers, they had a free choice. Nobody forced them. They were entirely willing.

The company is, however, quite right in pointing out the culpability of the DWP. And they certainly deserve all the blame they get and more. It is indeed the DWP that sets the test. And this story from Private Eye’s 15th January – 7th February 2013 issue shows that when they don’t think it is harsh enough, they change it to make it even more punitive.

Fitness To Work
Ill Thought Out

Despite cross-party condemnation last week over the way thousands of sick and disabled people have had their benefits axed after the private company Atos wrongly found them fit for work, the government is trying to sneak in new measures which will make the problem worse.

It has tabled amendments to employment and support allowance legislation which, academics and campaigners say, will lead to even greater suffering by the genuinely ill.

Plans include withdrawing benefit if an assessor decides that a claimant’s ability to work could be improved by aids, such as guide dogs, walking sticks or prosthetic limbs – whether or not the claimant has access to them or can use them. Atos assessors already have the power to carry out an “imaginary wheelchair test” when they decide that a person could work if they used a wheelchair – even if they do not have one.

Under the changes people will also lose benefit if an assessor decides that adjustments could be made for them in the workplace – whether or not those changes have been made. The amendments also include plans to consider physical and mental health problems separately, instead of looking at the combined effects of mental and physical health on a person’s ability to work. As is common knowledge, some disease impact on both mental and physical health, and treatments for one can severely impact on the other.

The changes, due to take effect at the end of the month after no public debate, have been condemned by the thinktank Ekklesia, which says they fly in the face of “coalition claims to be protecting and supporting sick and disabled people in a climate of austerity, cutbacks and hardship.”

MP Tom Greatrex, a critic of Atos, said: “The fact that people can be assessed as fit for work on the basis of an imaginary guide dog, without taking any account of the availability of guide dogs and the time taken to train both dogs and users, highlights just how far the DWP seem to be prepared to go to find people fit for work without the support they need to make work a reality.”

Last week the Commons heard of many cases where paitents had died, or committed suicide, after being assessed as fit for work following “a demeaning process that was making sick people sicker”.l Under coalition proposals there will be many more such cases.

This fully demonstrates the DWP’s responsibility for the stringency of the tests, and their aim of making sure as few people as possible actually pass them. Atos whistleblowers have stated that there were quotas set of how many people should be found fit for work. This indicates that not only is this true, but even then the government tried to move the goalposts.

‘Gaslighting’ and Private Eye on February 2013 on Further Restrictions to Disabled Claimants by Atos

March 4, 2014

Yesterday I reblogged one of Mike’s articles from Vox Political, reporting that Atos/ OH Assist was trying to bully blogs criticising them into taking down their posts. Atos/OH Assist was demanding that they do so as these articles encouraged hate towards their members and staff, some of whom have received death threats. This looks to me like another example of a rich and corrupt corporation trying to silence its critics through legal action, regardless of whether the criticisms levelled at the company are true or not. Mike’s article has extensively rebutted these claims, to which I’ve added the classic Private Eye response to bullying, unfounded threats of legal action ‘Arkell vs. Pressdram’.

Atos/ OH Assist is hated, because its administration of the Work Capability Assessment for the DWP has resulted in thousands of the poor and desperate being thrown off benefit, to die in poverty and starvation. Some have taken their own life. The actual numbers, who may have died after being assessed by Atos and then had their benefits stopped by the DWP may be as high as 38,000. Commenters on Mike’s blog have suggested that it is no accident that Atos/OH Assist have made these accusations of threats and intimidation now, just when they are trying to get out of the government contract.

One of Mike’s commenters, Kittysjones, has identified Atos/OH Assist’s tactics as ‘gaslighting’. She says

Gas-lighting on a political level is a manipulative strategy used to prevent us forming a secure picture of reality. In its most basic form, gaslighting involves modifying evidence and falsifying information for the purpose of making the intended victim question his or her recollection, memory, analysis, and perception of events or behaviours. Gaslighting is commonly used by the military and other high-level organizations for socio-political operations. It is sometimes used by the mental health profession as a concept to describe a particular form of psychological manipulation in inter-personal relationships. A common form of gaslighting is victim-blame , where the perpetrator attempts to convince others that the targeted victim is the aggressor,and the perpetrator is the victim. These tactics are commonly used by psychopaths to control and manipulate others

The language manipulations and redefinitions of this govt are attempts to distort and control your view of reality. As are the denials of the terrible impact of their policies

Sometimes, gaslighting can be as simple as knowingly denying something took place. This is a common behaviour exhibited by perpetrators of child abuse, who will sometimes deny completely that abuse happened, intending to make the victim doubt his or her own recollection.

Other times, gaslighting can involve the creation of elaborate schemes, experiences, and situations that cause a person to question their own judgment and recollection. There are a good number of con games based upon the concept of gaslighting, almost all of which are designed to steal money from the victim.

A brilliant example of gaslighting is the Michael Douglas movie The Game. It is one great series of gaslighting from beginning to end

So basically, Atos here are blaming their victims in order to divert attention from their own heinous persecution of society’s most vulnerable.

It is interesting after hearing these accusations by Atos/OH Assist, to read an article from February last year in Private Eye, that reported that the company was making the tests for disability benefit even more stringent in order to have more claimants declared ‘fit for work’. The article is as follows:

Fitness to Work
Ill Thought Out

Despite cross-party condemnation last week over the way thousands of sick and disabled people have had their benefits axed after the private company Atos wrongly found them fit to work, the government is trying to sneak in new measures which will make the problem worse.

It has tabled amendments to employment and support allowance legislation which, academics and campaigners say, will lead to even greater suffering by the genuinely ill.

Plans include withdrawing benefit if an assessor decides that a claimant’s ability to work would be improved by aids, such as guide dogs, walking sticks or prosthetic limbs – whether or not the claimant has access to them or can use them. Atos assessors already have the power to carry out an “imaginary wheelchair test” when they decide that a person could work if they used a wheelchair – even if they do not have one.

Under the changes people will also lose benefit if an assessor decides that adjustments could be made for them in the workplace – whether or not those changes have been made. The amendments also include plans to consider physical and mental health problems separately, instead of looking at the combined effects of mental and physical health on a person’s ability to work. As is common knowledge, some disease impact on both mental and physical health, and treatments for one can severely impact the other.

The changes, due to take effect at the end of the month after no public debate, have been condemned in a briefing by Ekklesia, which says they fly in the face of “coalition claims to be protecting and supporting sick and disabled people in a climate of austerity, cutbacks and hardship”.

MP Tom Greatrex, a critic of Atos, said: ‘The fact that people can be assessed as fit for work on the basis of an imaginary guide dog, without taking an account of the availability of guide dogs and the time taken to train both dogs and users, highlights just how far the DWP seem to be prepared to go to find people fit for work without the support they need to make work a reality.”

Last week the Commons heard of may cases where patients had died, or committed suicide, after being assessed as fit for work following “a demeaning process that was making sick people sicker”. Under coalition proposals there will be many more such cases.

(Private Eye, 25th January 7th February 2013, p. 20.)

It looks like after the DWP made the conditions for passing the Work Capability Assessment even more severe and restrictive, Atos/OH Assist found themselves even more unpopular than they were already. They are thus trying to salvage some kind of positive image from the public by trying to get out of their contract. The accusations and claims of death threats by their staff are merely attempts to deflect the blame for a cruel, callous and punitive system intent of throwing as many of the disabled off benefit as possible. Not only does Atos need to go, but the whole DWP also needs to be comprehensively reviewed and overhauled.