UK: New reports show harm to disabled and sick from ‘fit for work’ tests – 091213 1345z

“Two new reports draw attention to the damaging impact of fit for work assessments on many sick and disabled people, giving more evidence of the misery and hardship they experience, and providing further clues as to the underlying cause of the flawed process.

The People’s review of the WCA: further evidence, produced by the Spartacus network of disabled researchers and campaigners, is published today, 9 December 2013. It is also being made available through the think-tank Ekklesia and other supportive NGOs.

How Norms Become Targets: Investigating the real reason for the misery of fit for work assessments, by leading independent disability campaigner Kaliya Franklin, also part of the Spartacus network, was published on 2 December by the Centre for Welfare Reform.

Despite minor improvements in the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), politicians, doctors, other medical professionals, church leaders, journalists, disabled people and thousands of others continue to express serious disquiet over its impact on sick and disabled people, critics say.

The assessment is used to determine eligibility for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), which provides support for people who are unable to work for health reasons, but there remains little confidence in its operation.

The People’s review of the WCA: further evidence has been written by an anonymous author determined, despite seriously failing health, to do everything she possibly can to raise awareness of the impact of the WCA on the lives of sick and disabled people.

Like the first Peoples Review, published a year ago, this new report aims to give a voice to those whose lives have been devastated by the impact of the assessment on their physical and mental health and financial security.

It shows how the WCA very often fails in its purpose to identify those who need secure financial support because they are unable to work due to an impairment or serious health condition.

The Centre for Welfare Reform paper includes whistle-blower evidence and analysis showing that despite consistent denials by ministers outcomes for sick and disabled ESA claimants are governed, to some extent at least, by a system of norms.

In practice these norms behave as quotas, ensuring that no more than a certain percentage of claimants are eligible for ESA. This cynical approach to assessing claimants for sickness benefits has its roots in Lord Freuds report ‘Reducing Dependency, Increasing Opportunity: options for the future of welfare to work’, published in 2007, and provides a distressing explanation for the experiences described in the second Peoples Review, says the Spartacus network.

In a news release, the group says: “It seems clear that without de facto quotas, explained in Kaliya Franklins report, it is much less likely that the process of being assessed for support would inflict so much suffering on so many people. Taken together, the reports add more detail to an emerging picture of the political manipulation at the heart of an assessment process that continues to cause sick and disabled people immense hardship and suffering a full five years after its introduction.”

Simon Barrow, co-director of the beliefs and values think-tank Ekklesia, says that the two reports illustrate the need for government to shift its approach and attitudes to welfare radically.

He commented: “The accumulating research evidence of the hugely damaging impact of ‘fit for work’ assessment processes on a significant number of disabled and sick people is not something a civilised government or society can ignore.

“We agree with the British Medical Association and other expert bodies and analysts that the Work Capability Assessment is not fit for purpose. Further serious questions are also being raised about intentions and actions of the Department of Work and Pensions.

“The publication of new evidence about the impact of WCA from the Spartacus network of disabled researchers and campaigners illustrates the crucial need for policy in this area to be formulated with the substantial involvement of those most directly affected.

“The case for an independent, cumulative impact assessment of welfare reform in the UK, together with a new deal for disabled and sick people based on their needs and aspirations, is now overwhelming.

“Ekklesia is delighted that this proposal will now be discussed in parliament, following huge public support for the WOW petition, and urges that this should take place in the parliamentary chamber itself, not in a Westminster annex.”

* People’s review of the WCA: further evidence – http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/19621

* Spartacus network – http://wearespartacus.org.uk

* ATOS and DWP stand accused over flawed ‘fit for work’ assessments – http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/19623

* Centre for Welfare Reform – http://www.centreforwelfarereform.org

* Urgent action: letter to MPs asking parliament to listen to disabled and sick people – http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/19587

[Ekk/3]” – ekklesia staff writers 9 Dec 2013

UK Sleepwalking into Fascism: Workhouses for Disabled, The #RacistVan, Racial Profiling

Scriptonite Daily

NB1 

This week has seen a plethora of actions by the UK government, which if adopted by any other country, any compassionate person would consider fascist. Government sponsored vehicles are roaming the streets telling people to dob in suspected illegal immigrants, the UK Border Agency are stopping mostly non-white commuters on the transport networks and requesting they display credentials to prove their right to be here, and disabled people are being carted off to modern day workhouses. Yet in spite of all this, many are still reluctant to face the gut wrenching reality that all is not well in blighty.

Godwin’s Law? Oh Give it Up

 NB2

No doubt someone is already preparing a comment accusing me of Godwin’s Law for making this comparison.  So I’ll take a moment to set out why I am making it, and why it does not conform to the term.

Godwin’s Law was intended…

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Doctor who worked for ATOS (private company which assesses people for disability benefits) says its methods are unfair – 160513 1825z

Disability benefit assessments ‘unfair’, says ex-worker

BBC

Disabled man at workA doctor who worked for the private company which assesses people for disability benefits says its methods are “unfair”.

Greg Wood, a former Royal Navy doctor, resigned from Atos earlier this month, after working as an assessor for two-and-a-half years.

He told the BBC the system was “skewed against the claimant”.

But Atos Healthcare says it submits “clinically justified reports” and completely refutes Dr Wood’s claims.

Atos, which has been criticised in the past by disability campaigners and MPs, carries out work capability assessments (WCAs) on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Claimants have to score a required number of points in order to qualify for the full sickness benefit under the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

In a statement, Atos said: “We never ask healthcare professionals to make any changes to a report unless there are specific clinical quality issues identified within it.

“We do not deviate from government guidelines in our training. We do not have targets for getting people on or off benefits.

“We have a large team of fully trained doctors, nurses and physiotherapists who provide a professional and compassionate service through what we recognise can be a difficult and emotional process for people…

“We are a professional and ethical organisation.”

‘Compelled to speak’

In an interview with the BBC, Dr Wood says he believes Atos assessors are not free to make truly independent recommendations.

He said he felt compelled to speak out because it was “embarrassing to be associated with this shambles”.

Case study

Ema Hackett

Ema Hackett, 24, has a mid-range disability and is unable to work. A trained graphic designer, she has Hypermobility Syndrome which makes her joints abnormally flexible. She lives with chronic pain and also suffers from mental health problems.

She has a carer who comes in once a day to help with household chores and cook her dinner.

In the past three years, she has twice been rejected for full sickness benefit following assessments and twice she’s successfully challenged the decision through Atos’ internal appeal system.

“It feels like not only am I fighting my body to get up everyday, but I’m also fighting the system to get the money I need just to exist.

“I don’t have a frivolous life. I don’t really ask for much – I just want enough to live a normal life.

“The letters from the Department for Work and Pensions come in a brown envelope with a certain address on the back. Any brown envelope I look at the back and if it’s from the Department for Work and Pensions, I’m scared.”

“It’s very unfair on the people making claims, they deserve a fair assessment and as a taxpayer I’m pretty cheesed off about the £100m plus that’s being sprayed away on this dog’s breakfast,” he said.

The assessments – or fit to work tests – sparked protests from disability campaigners after their introduction in 2010.

But Dr Wood has criticised some of the tests which he says contain “dubious concepts and shaky reasoning”.

He claims assessors are told that if a claimant can walk from the kitchen to the sitting room, it proves they can walk 200m (650ft); and if a person can dress themselves once during the day that is proof they have enough concentration and motivation to hold down a job.

He insists these rules are not published in handbooks and guides, instead they are simply spoken about in training sessions.

Mr Gibson said the rules detailed by Dr Wood were incorrect and several questions were asked to build up a complete picture, alongside the medical evidence.

Dr Wood, who was given special responsibility to champion mental health at Atos, said: “I was instructed to change my reports, to reduce the number of points that might be awarded to the claimants. I felt that was wrong professionally and ethically.

“My view is the government has tried to catch more people in the net than the current test allows by pulling strings behind the scenes to get the result they most desire,” he added.

Mr Gibson said a report was only changed if there was insufficient medical evidence to back it up.

There were “no targets to take people off benefits” and that had always been the case, he added.

‘Highest level’

Dr Wood says the people being most adversely affected by the system have significant, mid-ranging disabilities, such as Parkinson’s disease, mental illness, and head and spinal injuries.

The percentage of people entitled to ESA is now at its highest level

- Department for Work and Pensions

He also claims some of the most severely disabled people are being asked to attend face-to-face assessments, instead of the normal practice of examining their application on paper.

He says he saw a lot of people who had suffered severe strokes and brain damage.

“There was a man with a motor neurone condition who I actually put in the terminal illness group,” he said. “He should not have come for a face-to-face assessment. It was cruel and he was hopping mad.”

The DWP said between March and May 2012, 58% of decisions to award the full sickness benefit were made on paper only, so did not require a face-to-face assessment.

Employment minister Mark Hoban says the evidence speaks for itself.

“When we came to Office one in 10 people were getting the highest level of support. That has now gone up to three in 10,” he told the BBC.

“What’s important to me is to make sure the decisions which are made are good quality decisions and people are getting the right support.”

He said the assessments had undergone several independent reviews and were devised in conjunction with health professionals and charities.

“The percentage of people entitled to ESA is now at its highest level with over half of people completing an assessment eligible for the benefit,” a DWP spokesman added.

Labour MP Tom Greatrex, who has asked a series of Commons questions on the assessments, said Dr Wood’s allegations were “serious and shocking” and he had written to the prime minister asking for an investigation.

“The head-in-the-sand approach Tory ministers are adopting isn’t good enough,” he said.

“They need to get a grip on this chaotic process which is not only causing misery for some of the most vulnerable members of our society, but also costing taxpayers a fortune at a time when we can least afford it.”

Atos senior vice president Wayne Gibson told the BBC it was “surprised and concerned that someone thinks we are unethical”.

“We don’t make the decision about who gets a benefit or not.

“Our role in the process is to do an assessment, gather the medical evidence and write a report that goes to the department, upon which they can gather more evidence and make a decision.”

In a later statement, the company said the claims were “false and damaging”.

It added: “Clinical judgement is the foundation of our part of the Work Capability Assessment process. We send the DWP independent, clinically justified reports to help the department’s decision makers make a decision on benefit entitlement…

“We are a professional and ethical organisation which has carried out this work on behalf of the department for over a decade.

“Atos Healthcare conducts its business based on a code of ethics and a strong legal compliance culture.”

Whistleblower says Atos Work Capability Assessments are unfair

(Video credit: latentexistence)

Iain Duncan Smith Says He Could Live on £53 a Week? His Lunch Cost More than That

Petition calling on Iain Duncan Smith, DWP Sec to live on 53 a week for a year now (at time of writing) 95,606 signatures. In a day

Scriptonite Daily

IDS1

Today is Black Monday for the UK Welfare State with a raft of cuts to social security, legal aid and advice services which leave the UK’s poor abandoned to their poverty.  When challenged, architect of the cuts Iain Duncan Smith retorted that he could live on £53 a week. His expenses records suggest he might not.

The Cuts

 IDS2

The £53 pound figure relates to what one benefit claimant has been left to live on after the Coalition’s cuts.  To anyone who has been living in a cave for the last few months, today marks the first day of Black April, when a series of cuts to the social security take effect.

There is a hike in Council tax which will see single parents in work paying up to 333% rises in their council tax contributions.  There is the Bedroom Tax which will see 660,000 households, 420,000 of…

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[G: I try not to comment on the news, but. Set on fire, hate messages found written on his body This is homophobia possibly at its worst.

Too many have lost their lives due to homophobic bullying, either by their own hand or anothers.

An environment where casual homophobia & gay bullying is accepted as the norm can soon become fertile ground for hate crime.]

Related:

Gay Disabled Teen on Fire https://goatysnews.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/6435/

Gay Disabled Teen on Fire

(Photo: blogcdn.com) Left: Steven Simpson (Dead) Right: Jordan Sheard (Jailed for 3.5 years)

Back Row Thoughts from Clarice von Chimo

An 18 year old boy who was gay, and had Asperger’s syndrome, a speech impairment and epilepsy recently died to do significant burns. How did he get these burns? A 20-year-old man set him on fire at a birthday party. This article, “Steven Simpson, Gay British Teen, Dies After Being Set On Fire At Birthday Party”, from the Huffington Post both saddened and angered me.

As a dare at the party last June, the boy stripped down to his underwear and was covered in tanning lotion that the older boy then set on fire. Obviously the teenager has significant burns and was emotionally damaged by what he thought would be a fun activity with “friends”. The disable teenager recently passed away due to the horrendous injuries.

Hate crimes have been going on for years as members of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community are targeted. Whether or not…

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