Jan 032015
 

Different forms of Government Propaganda began and ended the year. We saw delays, backlogs, more cuts, more campaigns and direct actions. We reproduce some of the DPAC actions, research and call outs from 2014. Highlights included the Westminster Abbey Occupation against the closure of ILF as part of the #saveilf campaign, lowlights included the court case that arrived at the decision that Penning had taken appropriate process into account by saying that ILF users could be entitled to less under local authorities. Chaos with the DWP, PIP, ESA was compounded by misinformation, dodgy stats , backlogs and increasing sanctions. The brilliant Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition against Cuts achieved the abolition of ‘care’ charges by their local authority-proving it can be done. Esther McVey was awarded Scrooge of the year. DPAC was threatened with legal action for our support of the Anthony Kletzander campaign -in response we increased the campaign, and the relationship in the propaganda against disabled people between the DWP and the Mail was finally exposed

News that the UNCRPD Committee had initiated its first ever inquiry into grave and systematic violations of the UN Convention against the UK identified how far our disability rights and independent living had been eroded by the Coalition-although the Mail didnt seem to like it much

Our constant court cases against the DWP continued, and we have more lined up for this year too- yes, we could be talking to you Motability!

We look forward to 2015 and a change in the regime that has seen the poor grow poorer, while the richest grew richer. A year in which we launch Who2vote4? and the DPAC revenge tour. We will continue to fight for #saveilf with an event on 6th Jan at the House of Commons and an online twitter event.

For an excellent review of the fight against cuts from 2010-2014 please download From Cuts to Resistance and if you want a count down to the election , then the DPAC downloadable calender can help

Here’s to a better year in 2015 with thanks to all our members and supporters. Keep up with news in 2015 by subscribing to posts through our website www.dpac.uk.net or follow us on twitter @Dis_ppl_protest

Some selected actions of DPAC in 2014

January saw the posting of a call for those who were waiting for PIP due to backlogs. This post has received over 40,000 views,shares and many comments. The situation has now been described as a backlog that , at the current rate , could take 42 years to clear. For those claiming ‘reforms’ are working have a look to see that they are not: http://dpac.uk.net/2014/01/have-you-waited-months-for-a-pip-assessment/ and let’s not forget the backlog in ESA either-in short complete chaos for disabled people.

In ‘Austerity Street: the real impacts’ we reproduced some of the stories we had received from those left without cash and homes via sanctions, delays and backlogs. This was in response to Love Production’s poverty porn , Benefits Street, part of the media’s continued demonization regime -the campaign incorporated a twitter fest against the format of biased programming. We supported our partners in Canada Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty (SCAP) and Ontario Coalition Aginst Poverty (OCAP). In an international campaign against increasing homelessness. Austerity is global. We supported Boycott workfare against CAPITA cashing in on poverty.

Through the excellent work of Nick Dilworth we exposed more BBC media double dealing and the fact that they weren’t publicizing the 88% success rates of those claiming ESA and asked ‘Are the DWP failing apart at every level? When a freedom of information response incorrectly claimed that PIP was subjected to sanctions. In another they claimed that the cap would be cut for those without children, both were incorrect. With Inclusion London we campaigned against the Care Act’s exclusion of ‘independent living’ and DPAC also  joined Hands off London Transport against ticket office closures, as well as regional Rail protests

February We joined  the many direct actions against the removal of legal aid. Raquel Rolnik ‘s report on the bedroom tax is published and recommends immediate suspension of the bedroom tax. The Government’s response is to accuse her of giving sacrifices to Marx and telling her to ‘sort out her own country’. We republish the excellent ‘Why the rise of UKIP is dangerous for disabled people’ and receive the usual abuse from Kippers proving the point. DPAC, Black Triangle and Wow publish a joint statement on Atos exit strategy , calling again for an end to the WCA. We expose how 9 out of 10 sanctions are dismissed when challenged

March More direct actions against proposed cuts in legal aid for judicial review.We publish ‘Punching Holes in Austerity’ an insightful analysis of DPAC and direct actions. DPAC supports #stopchanges2A2W against punitive changes in Access to Work. We publish an update on Anthony Kletzander and questions for HSE in Ireland with ENIL , a story of human rights abuse in Dublin, Ireland, a stand that we would later find invoked a threat of legal action against one of our co-founders.

DPAC joins protests against DWP and ATOS country wide. Protests that were reminiscent of the very first DPAC protests against Atos carried out by DPAC from 2011 onwards, culminating in the 2012 DPAC Atos games that saw Atos tarnished forever. DPAC leads direct actions and online protests against the despised disability Con-fident, leading to the highest number of tweets and retweets ever, exposing the scheme as no more than a Government gloss while they were cutting access to work and removing the means for disabled people to work. We produce a critical analysis of Pennings impact assessment regarding ILF. We reproduce the piece by John Pring asking ‘Where was your MP during the Wow Debate’

April The brilliant Ellen Clifford travels to Canada to embark on a successful speaking tour with raise the rates. We hold a well attended DPAC Grassroots Fightback conference. DPAC, Inclusion London, Equal Lives and the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People promote the #saveilf postcard campaignTop Corrie stars support the postcard campaign to #saveilf.  DPAC supports Lifeworks and protests against cuts to mental health support. DPAC gives its response to Labour on reform of WCA

 May DPAC releases its research documents for download. DPAC and ILF users block the DWP in protest. We learn that disabled students allowances are now under threat of cuts. DPAC publishes a powerful piece by one of our readers that sums up many peoples’ feelings: ‘I’ll never forgive or forget what this Government has done to me and thousands of others‘. We pay homage to the strength of Quiet Riot, celebrate the #dpactour and the success of the Freedom Riders.

June The Independent Living Fund’s Birthday protest happens in June with lots of action outside the DWP. We see JSA benefit sanctions sky rocket under the coalition Government. More actions happen to fight the bedroom tax.

We publish a piece by Angela 28 on how ‘care’ support has been threatened and why that threatens independent living and rights– legal representation was found for many people, but we were aware that this was happening to many more people through emails to dpac mail. Unlike some organisations we attempt to challenge these instances and reject the rhetoric that there is more ‘choice and control’ for disabled people.

At the end of June DPAC with UKUNCUT, and Occupy carry out a daring occupation of Westminster Abbey , after months of planning to highlight the #saveilf campaign. There were 3 police to every protester , and while we had no support from the dear old church , messages of support and publicity poured in

 July We publish a joint statement in response to the Work and Pensions Committee on the WCA from DPAC, Black Triangle, the Mental Health Resistance Network, Pats petition, Wow and New Approach in which we again say the WCA should be scrapped.

An ILF user makes a plea to Disability Rights UK (DRUK) on ILF after he was denied the right to speak at their independent living conference. DRUK did not feel the need to offer any response.  In Disability Rights UK : independent Living or new visions in Neo-Liberalism we ask why the DRUK ‘independent living ‘ conference was sponsored by an organisation running institutions, segregated schooling and ‘hospitals for those with mental health issues. We also launched a highly successful twitter campaign asking the same questions, again DRUK did not feel they owed disabled people any response to this outrage.

DPAC highlights more chaos at the DWP on appeals and sanctions. John McDonnell launches an Early Day Motion to #saveilf. Positive updates and actions on the WCA court case regarding mental health claimants by the Mental Health Resistance Network. We ask that people write to IDS to raise issues happening regarding mental health.

August Rethink calls people with mental health issues a ‘disease burden’ Mental Health Resistance Network respond to the outrage. We call for a stop to discrimination for those transferring from DLA to PIP who do not get backdated paymentsDPAC continues to support anti-fracking protests with Reclaim the power.

We republish the excellent Nick Dilworth’s piece on how the media are ignoring what’s happening to disabled people http://dpac.uk.net/2014/08/a-national-scandal-4-million-people-face-chaos-in-this-country-and-are-ignored-by-the-media/

ILF user John Kelly speaks to BBC on the impacts of the potential loss of ILF. We ask what happens when ILF funds are not ring fenced to local authorities

September sees a national day of Protest against sanctions, bedroom tax and benefit caps.

The fantastic Brian Hilton produces a set of pics for party conference season on #saveilf. DPAC crash the Tory Party Conference via a successful tweet attack and in person. We do the same to Labour.

We publish The Great Farago: UKIP sleight of hand and receive more abuse from Kippers, Richard Howitt Labour MEP quotes the piece and receives even more abuse.

New short film launched with the Daily Mirror on ILF.

The first inkling that the DWP are wrongly asking those in the ESA support group to attend work focused interviews comes to our notice.

DPAC is threatened with legal action for supporting Anthony Kletzander and publicising the abuse of his human rights in Ireland, our response is to publish an interview with Anthony’s parents  on the injustice Anthony and his family have endured.

October We reblog the excellent Johnny Void piece on the boss of Maximus http://dpac.uk.net/2014/10/meet-richard-a-montoni-the-five-million-dollar-maximus-boss-here-to-fleece-the-uks-benefits-system/.

We publish an open letter to Freud who declared that disabled people can work for less than minimum wage. DPAC and Occupy pay another visit to the DWP Caxton House building for ‘Freud must go!’ protest

In Secrets and Lies :maximus the new leader of the inhumans we ask why Disability Rights UK have agreed to a) be part of the Maximus testing process on the WCA and b) why they’ve teamed up with Unum and other insurance companies to develop a TV program showing how much better off disabled people will be if they take out private insurance- with user-led disability organisations like these we dont need enemies.

ILF users return to court to challenge the DWP on ILF. A successful #saveilf vigil happens with road blocks, many messages of support and some great pics.

Welfare assistance fund is next under threat of closure. Campaign to save it is launched.

November The Final Litchfield Review shows that the WCA should be scrapped.

One of our favourite reports of the year : IDS is chased around a building to drown out shouts of murderer at Ipswich- congratulations to the local dpac group for that one!

We ask people to come forward to launch a legal challenge on cuts to the disabled student allowance

£86 million goes missing from Pudsley’s children in need account BBC to blame for mislaying -complainants are actually advised to write to Pudsley via his BBC email

DWP increase attacks on disabled benefit recipients with claims they can harress them off benefits. We put out an urgent call-out http://dpac.uk.net/2014/11/urgent-people-awaiting-wca-assessments-particularly-in-birmingham-please-read/

Work Providers A4E are exposed again in relation to ESA and workfare. The Rev Paul Nicolson wins in court against council tax. Class War’s continuing protests against ‘poor doors’ get to the authorities who make arrests- and Boris is burnt. Meanwhile DPAC discovers Motability’s sneaky backdoor changes to individuals needing to be in work to qualify for support http://dpac.uk.net/2014/11/motability-and-the-deserving-and-undeserving-charity-not-rights/

December ILF users lose court case on ILF but its not over.

DPAC launches an Open letter to Ed, Kate and Rachel on ILF– we’re still waiting for a response

Hammersmith and Fulham abolish home ‘care’ charges, showing it can be done. Congratulations for a great campaign to the excellent Kevin Caulfield and Debbie Domb and all at Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition against Cuts

Esther McVey is named scrooge of the year, which we though was a little too kind to the creature

Unsurprisingly the Work and Pensions report slammed the Government ‘mismanagament of Access to Work – the stop the changes to Access to Work campaign continues.

Questions are asked on the Government costs in fighting against disabled peoples’equality

The link between the DWP and the Mail propaganda is finally nailed and exposed as the DWP is caught out http://dpac.uk.net/2014/12/dwp-caught-giving-disability-propaganda-to-daily-mail/

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Nov 102014
 

Who2Vote4 LogoIn May 2015 there will be a general election in the UK.

Where we are now

Since 2010 the UK has been governed by an unelected Conservative party who were only able to form a government by allying themselves with the Liberal Democrats. The policies that have been put in place by this coalition which are wiping out disabled people’s human rights on a daily basis and which have led to massive increases in hate crime against disabled people were never part of either party’s election manifesto and so were never voted on by the UK electorate.

We start from already having some of the lowest benefit rates in Europe both for those of working age and pensioners. 1

Spending cuts have been so severe over the past 4 years with more to come that on some estimates the UK will by 2017 have the lowest share of public spending among leading capitalist economies, including the US.

Professor Taylor-Goody says there is no realistic prospect of that fundamentally changing, irrespective of the outcome of the general election.2

This report says there must be speculation about why the 7th richest country, which experiences no difficulties in borrowing over long terms at low interest rates, should choose to adopt such unusual economic policies, particularly since such policies are now agreed by most commentators to be damaging to the national interest. Welfare for the poor is being cut back sharply. 3

A recent UNICEF report found that millions ‘have fallen prey to the dangers of austerity’ during the recession years and said Britain should ‘review’ its economic policies as a ‘priority’ and raise working tax credit, increase benefits in line with inflation, and push up the minimum wage for under 21s.4

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The Resolution Foundation shows how job insecurity is increasing and wages stagnating, particularly at the bottom end.5 This obviously has an additional impact on disabled people.

Poverty has risen dramatically and food bank usage has increased both for those in and out of work. In April 2013 over 900,000 people had been forced to use Trussell foodbanks an increase of 163% over the previous 12 months. 6

Malnutrition is becoming a public health emergency with hospital admissions for this doubling between 2008 and 2012-13 (latest available figures).7

Sanctions Which result in the removal of all benefit payments from 4 -26 weeks and in some cases for 3 years

For disabled people on ESA the numbers sanctioned between March 2013 and March 2014 increased from 1,356 to 6,1495 almost trebling. 65% of those sanctioned have Mental health conditions.

This figure does not include disabled people who have been wrongly found fit for work and forced to claim Job Seekers Allowance.8

The latest data for England shows that there were 118,002 JSA claimants that received an adverse sanction decision in the last month for which data is available.9

We have already evidenced how the Coalition austerity measures have impacted on disabled people and led to increasing levels of poverty, destitution and despair. They are causing and continue to cause grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s human rights enshrined in UNCRPD. Even when court cases can be brought (legal aid has now been restricted) the courts do not always help eg. although bedroom tax has been found to be a disability discrimination issue the court has ruled that this is justifiable.

The cumulative impact of the loss of disabled people’s human rights has not been measured in any way by the government although this has been called for by the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

Prospects for the general election and after

Minority Parties

UKIP – this is a relatively newly formed political party which is opposed to the EU, immigration and appears to be attracting disillusioned voters of the right and left. Currently they are shown by polls to have 16% share of the vote. UKIP are unlikely to have enough elected MPs to be able to form a government but as a particularly right wing party could be espeacially dangerous if they were to become part of any coalition government or hold the balance of power in any way. They are forcing everything to the right and pulling Conservatives and Labour further from policies that are consistent with equalities as they compete for who can be toughest on migrants (and there are disabled migrants of course) and especially migrants claiming benefits which is fuelling the demonisation of benefit claimants.

Liberal Democrats – currently in a coalition with the Conservatives. Viewed as generally untrustworthy as they have abandoned most if not all of their principles to secure a share of power. Share of vote in polls 6%

Green Party – a minority party which has effectively been excluded from taking part in party political debates by the state controlled BBC. Share of vote in polls also 6%.

Others -SNP, Plaid Cymru, UDP,SDLP and Sinn Fein in the devolved regions may all also have a small number of MPs elected to parliament.

On an equal footing from polls with approximately 34% of the vote each are the 2 main political parties –Labour and Conservatives.

Conservatives

What is already apparent from the Coalition propaganda is that this election and the run up to it will be about further castigating and scapegoating disabled people as a financial drain on the economy which is unsustainable and driving further the agenda of disabled people as being undeserving.

Further cuts the Conservatives have said they will impose if elected

  1. Implement a further £12billion cut from the welfare bill, a quarter of this to come from freezing benefit levels for 2 years in spite of fuel costs rising 73% and food prices by 40% since 2006. 10

  2. Pull Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights

  3. Scrap the Human Rights Act

  4. Reduce funding to Equalities and Human Rights Commission11

  5. End the need for Equality Impact Assessments to be carried out to monitor the impact of policies on disabled people.

  6. A further reduction of the overall benefit cap from £26,000 per annum to £23,000 per annum.

  7. Loss of welfare assistance funding from May 2015. These are emergency payments now made by local authorities to people in dire need.

  8. Reduction of ESA rates for disabled people in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) to 50p above the Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) rates. This would mean a reduction in weekly benefits of £30 per week. 12

  9. The discredited Work Capability Assessments will be taken over by Maximus another corporation which has been found guilty in several legal challenges in the US. They will be paid £500 million over 3 and a half years to continue the tick box assessments that have led to so many deaths and suicides of disabled people.

  10. At the same time disabled people are facing these threats to their basic incomes there remain 2,700 ex-Remploy factory workers unemployed, cuts to Access to Work Funding and almost 90% of Employment and Support Allowance claimants on the Work programme have not moved into employment.13

  11. There is still no commitment to support independent living as a right and the Care Act coming into place in April 2015 replaces the term independent living with wellbeing something which is far from the former.

Continuing Misuse of Statistics

For the first time UK tax payers will receive a breakdown of where their tax money supposedly goes via a propaganda exercise costing £5 million. Money which even Austerity Britain seems able to find when it wants to.

This however seems to be a total misrepresentation of data and facts and what is shown as welfare spending in fact includes a large number of unrelated items to the real welfare spend of the country. While old age pensions have been separated, no other cost has, meaning the category includes in-work tax credits, money for disabled and sick people, child benefit, winter fuel payments for old people, Plus it seems all pension payments made to those in receipt of public sector pensions are included in the category of welfare spending. This alone accounts for £20 billion of money supposedly spent on welfare provision.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has also shown that the welfare total included £28.5bn of “personal social services” which is normally classified as a health and social care cost and not as a welfare spending.

Using IFS tables to calculate a more conventional figure for total welfare less state pension expenditure shows that these figures used by the government inflate the published welfare spending total by around 40%.14

Another issue the government appears to have misrepresented is rolling together income tax and national insurance despite the fact that these are paid separately, and fund different things. National Insurance is partly an insurance premium to safeguard against unemployment and the sickness and disability that stop you working, so some of the ‘welfare’ money is effectively payouts covered by premiums, and this has been made deliberately unclear by the presentation chosen.

We have already outlined numerous examples where Conservative politicians have been shown to be manipulating and misusing statistics but in relation to the Work Capability Assessments. We believe that the government has started manipulated the figures in view of the General Election, which means that the figures that the government could present to the CRPD Committee have become meaningless.

Disabled people stuck in the WCA assessment phase are included in the claimant count. What this means: 1) the number of ESA claimants is higher than it should be (some of the people in the assessment phase will be eventually found fit for work or will have recovered and ended their claims), which means that Iain Duncan Smith can claim that the WCA is working better.

2) the backlog is now 600,000 people, If you assume that 60% of them go onto ESA according to the latest figures (going back a while) and the rest on JSA, it means that to keep people in the assessment phase is artificially lowering down the number of JSA claimants, therefore the unemployment figure. There are however no recently available statistics to show this trend that have been published.

3) Without a more thorough analysis of the data WCA statistics may look as if they are improving as more assessments are paper based now to clear the ever increasing backlog which means those that are being processed on paper only relate to people viewed as having the most severe disabilities. 

The number of appeals has also fallen but this is due to the change to Mandatory Reconsiderations and also the fall in the number of assessments.

It is also 12 months since Mandatory Reconsiderations have been introduced as an alternative to people having a right to appeal against decisions relating to their benefit claims. No information has been published about how these are working or the time taken for them to be processed although during that period claimants cannot receive any income from ESA and many are left with no source of income.

Labour Party

The Labour party are offering little different to the Conservatives and seem unlikely to offer any real alternative. They say they will commit to keeping to Conservative spending levels for the first two years if they are elected which makes it impossible for them to alleviate any of the worst effects of the austerity pogrom that disabled people have endured.

1. They will continue with the Work Capability Assessments and Personal Independence Payment agendas and only pause with regard to the roll out of Universal Credit. Their comments are only that they hope Maximus will get better results than ATOS.

2. They will continue with the sanctions regime that has left thousands of disabled people with no source of income.

3. They say if we win the court case they will keep the Independent Living Fund open for current recipients but will not re-open it to anyone else.

4. If they adhere to current spending limits then local councils will continue to have massive spending cuts imposed on them leaving them without the funding needed to support independent living.

5. The Labour party has allowed their own structures and support for their disabled members to collapse. This has resulted in disabled people having little or no voice in the party. 

6. The labour shadow minster for disabled people has said that disabled people will no longer be forced to take part in the work programme unless they have mild impairments. What exactly she means by mild impairments is unknown and we feel this is open to abuse by untrained private sector work programme providers as well as open to interpretation by a whole range of others with no medical qualifications to make such a value judgement. This would particularly be the case if the biopsychsocial model was used to determine what is considered mild.

7. There is still no commitment to support independent living as a right and Labour support the introduction of the Care Act in 2015 which replaces the concept of independent living with that of wellbeing.

8. On a plus note Labour say they will abolish bedroom tax.

3 Taylor-Gooby, P. (2012) ‘Root and branch restructuring to achieve major cuts: the social policy programme of the 2010 UK coalition government’, Social Policy and Administration, vol. 46, no. 1, pp. 61–82. Also available online at http://www.social-policy.org.uk/lincoln2011/Taylor-Gooby%20P4.pdf

6 http://www.trusselltrust.org/foodbank-figures-top-900000 NB. there are also many independent foodbanks being used as well.

11 The EHRC’s budget was cut by more than half, from £60m to £26.8m by 2014/15,in the 2010 Spending Review, representing a 62% cut to its original budget.

A comprehensive review of the remainder of the Commission’s budget was undertaken in 2012. The work of the Commission is now under threat 

http://thewomensresourcecentre.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Appendix-6-Cuts-to-the-Equality-and-Human.pdf

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 Posted by at 22:22
Oct 092014
 

It is disheartening to read Labour’s press release, “Labour Pledge New ‘Work Support Programme’ For Disabled Benefit Claimants”

That the DWP is wasting a lot of money, we already know that, although how the £8bn have been calculated is not explained by Labour. But the implication that some people should not be claiming disability benefits is the sign that the use of selective statistics for political purpose is not the prerogative of the Coalition. Like the following figures show, these variations happened under the Coalition and Labour.

What is shown here is the difference, month by month in the number of ESA +IB claimants, with the total in bold

What is shown here is the difference, month by month in the number of ESA +IB claimants, with the total in bold

But what is really disheartening is that Labour knows that:

  • The Work Capability Assessment is in the state of virtual collapse
  • There is a backlog of 700,000 ESA claimants in the Assessment phase

Which means that any figures produced between the beginning of the collapse of the WCA around July 2013 and now are likely to be untypical and should not be relied on.

Added to that, Labour is aware of the outcomes of the Evidence Based Review of the WCA, where it was identified that around 83% deemed fit for work would need “on average, two or three” adjustments; 50% would need flexible working hours; and 24% would need a support worker, and the panel recognised that these people were unlikely to get the support they needed. Where was Labour when this needed to be highlighted? Where was Labour when activists have repeatedly shown that very sick or even dying people were being found fit for work? That Labour is now using a very atypical figure to show that some people claiming disability benefits don’t deserve them is shameful. It is disabled people who have been short changed all these years, and it is disabled people who have been doing the job the opposition party should have done.

Extract from the Report by the Social Security Advisory Committee under Section 174(1) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 and the statement withdrawing the proposed regulations by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (March 2005):

“We would think it better that the Department should run the risk of possibly paying a few “undeserving” cases, rather than risking the virtual certainty of denying benefit to a few genuine cases.”


Here are some of the things we’ve said previously about the WCA, and we still stand by them:

“The WCA presumes that there are too many people on disability benefits because disabled people are too lazy or too comfortable living on benefits to work. It is founded in the idea that disabled people need to be harassed and hounded out of their comfortable life into finding work under the threat of loss of benefits.No one is comfortable living on benefits. Disabled people are no more lazy that the rest of the population. The real reason that there are so many people on benefits is that society does not include disabled people.We do not have the same access to education, transport, housing and jobs. Social attitudes ensure that disabled people in the workplace are seen as a problem, rather than an equal opportunity.And there are large numbers of disabled people who simply can not work. Why should they be harassed? Why should they be hounded?. Why should they have to live in fear?.We know, and this report confirms, that many people have wrongly been found “fit for work” when they can’t work. We also know and the UK courts have confirmed WCA discriminates against claimants with mental health impairments.

The Work and Pensions Committee report recommends “improvements” to make the system more workable and less harmful. This is pointless, because it would not make the WCA any less wrong or any more useful

We call once again on Labour to commit to scrapping the WCA and to address the real problems that disabled people on benefits face in society. ”

read more here – http://dpac.uk.net/2014/07/response-to-the-work-and-pensions-committee-report-into-wca-joint-statement-by-bt-dpac-mhrn-and-newapproach/

“Labour should realise that disabled people are deeply distrustful of any Labour reform of a Work Capability Assessment system, which Labour introduced in the Welfare Act of 2007 with the stated aim of removing 1 million claimants from the benefit system [3].Our position has been and will be that the Work Capability Assessment is deeply flawed in its basic concept, not just in terms of the details of its delivery, and inclusion in the workplace for disabled people cannot simply be achieved by a ‘back to work’ test.A comprehensive and strategic plan of action is developed with disabled people and our organisations to tackle the discrimination and exclusion disabled people face in work and employment including: increasing quality and range of personalised support available to disabled people, strengthening disabled employees rights and tackling employer discrimination and poor practiceEconomic productivity must not be the only measure of people’s worth and value, volunteering offers as much value to society as paid employment. While we recognise that volunteering can offer additional skills, it should not be the default option for disabled people because of our exclusion from paid workThere must be policy and media recognition that there will always be disabled people who are unable or too ill to work. These individuals must be supported by a publically funded system. They should not be penalised or demonised as they are currently.

For true inclusion in the workplace for disabled people a wider approach is necessary including but not limited to:

• Will Labour commit to the restoration of Disabled Student’s Allowance,
• Will Labour commit to the restoration of the Independent Living Fund,
• Will Labour commit to the extension of Access to Work (AtW) to include unpaid voluntary positions,
• Will Labour commit to the reversal of the reduction of people who currently receive DLA, but will not receive PIP and also lose their Motability access,
• Will Labour commit to the reinstatement of the requirement for councils to produce equality schemes on employment and access
• Will Labour commit to the provision of accessible transport.
• Will Labour commit to the reinstatement of “day one” protection from unfair dismissal in employment law
• Will Labour commit to the provision of Employment Tribunals enforcing mandatory organisation-wide measures on preventing disability discrimination
• Will Labour commit to the provision that all government contracts, at a national, regional and local level, are only awarded to companies that are fulfilling measurable equality targets for the employment of disabled people

These currently are some of the barriers to inclusion in the workplace for disabled people, and they will not be fixed by simply amending the WCA. The issue must be seen within the context of the wider interconnected system of barriers in place. It must be seen in terms of what a large majority of disabled people have already identified as key problems.

In terms of inclusion we also need from Labour, a recognition that for many disabled people to be able to work there has to be a nationally transportable social care system with a guarantee that people would keep the same levels of funding wherever they needed to move to work.

We need recognition that there is an onus on government and employers to fully accept the spirit of the Equality Act 2010 [4] with its requirement to the opening of work opportunity to disabled people. Without this, no “fit for work test” aimed at cutting disability benefits will make any impact whatsoever on the numbers of disabled people who can attain and sustain employment.

We also need from Labour a stronger recognition that there are many disabled people who cannot enter the work place and should not have to live in fear of being pressured into doing so.”

Read more here: http://dpac.uk.net/2014/04/dpac-response-to-how-labour-would-reform-the-work-capability-assessment/

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 Posted by at 18:29
Sep 242014
 
by George Berger

 

This is a conceptual history and critique of the methods used in the United Kingdom to assess persons who are ill and in need of financial, moral and social support. I critique their foundations, as they have led to a system that claims to be evidence-based but is scientifically and philosophically so misguided that much harm to ill people has resulted.

Disabled people are at high risk for harm, as the complete assessment regime is perfectly suited to adversely affect them. A good way to see this is to begin with four statements that typify successive stages in the institutionalisation of the methods. I was surprised to find that one physician, Gordon Waddell, started this decline of scientific, philosophical, moral and political integrity.

Waddell could have avoided this by 1998 but he did not. Instead, he and his ideas became parts of the Establishment’s effort to destroy the Welfare State. An American Insurer, UNUM, helped out. I omit some interesting developments, especially the international assault on psychodynamics by behaviourists like Hans Eysenck in the UK and the American philosopher Adolf Grunbaum. Behaviorism prospered politically even after scholars, e.g. Noam Chomsky, successfully destroyed it.

1. “a medical model must also take into account the patient, the social context in which he lives, and the complementary system devised by society to deal with the disruptive effects of illness, that is, the physician’s role and the health care system. This requires a biopsychosocial model.” (George L. Engel, ‘The Need for a new Medical Model: A Challenge for Biomedicine.’ Science, 8 April 1977, Volume 196, Number 4286).

2a “Chronic low back pain disability can only develop with family and financial Support.”

2b “Depending on how you look at it, disability is illness behaviour, and illness behavior is disability).

(Gordon Waddell, The Back Pain Revolution, first edition 1998, pp. 227, 170).

3 “You now have targets – we didn’t. You are audited – we didn’t know what that meant. Somebody looked at our work and we worked well, but we didn’t know what the standard was or whether we were achieving it” (Professor Mansel Aylward, Atos Origin Rapport, Conference Special, July 2004).

These highlight today’s ideology of treating work (labour) as necessary to social and personal well-being, in Northern Europe and America. They display aspects of one policy that is used to enforce and justify cruel work incentives and cuts to individuals’ benefits. The basic principle is to ignore physiological problems as much as possible, by replacing them with simple observable behavioural traits whose presence are claimed to show that one can work, even when in pain, distress and medical danger. I am no social scientist, but enough of a philosopher of science to explain what has happened. The political, economic and historical background has been wonderfully treated elsewhere [1].

George Engel proposed influential ideas of treatment and healing. They derive from the holistic approach of general systems theory that was popular in the USA between, roughly, 1950 and 1980. They explored the relations of internal parts of complex physical systems to each other and to the environment in which such systems exist. Only this totality could explain the functions and dysfunctions of a system. In medicine, this was Engel’s biopsychosocial model, an extension of Claude Bernard’s idea of the ‘internal milieu’ of a living organism. It is well meant, humane, but utopian by today’s standards. A healer (or staff) trained in social, psychological and biomedical studies would be needed to implement it (see 1). It would certainly be expensive. Moreover, societal barriers to proper treatment and a patient’s good life would have to be removed. it combines some counter-cultural, philosophical and strictly scientific ideas that appealed to many, in the ‘golden age’ between 1950 and 1979.

Gordon Waddell is one of the world’s most respected orthopaedic surgeons, a status he used to gain political influence on health policy by perverting Professor Engel’s humanistic model into a tool for depriving ill people of their institutional and financial support. In 1980 he was the head author of the influential paper, ‘Nonorganic Physical Signs in Low-Back Pain’ (Spine, volume 5, number 7, 117-125). It described five bodily ‘signs’ associated with back pain (e.g. reported local skin tenderness) that, it was claimed, are ‘nonorganic, psychological, and social elements that are difficult for the busy clinician to assess,’ and that ‘appeared to have a predominantly nonorganic basis [italics in text].’ These ‘nonorganic physical signs…appear to be completely independent of the conventional symptoms and signs of pathologic conditions of the spine.’ Waddell et al. stated that they were known before they wrote, that they are ‘correlated with failure to return to work,’ and that they might well be ‘more common in “problem patients”.’ The writers used case studies to assert that ‘associated psychological symptoms and social features are usually present to confirm nonorganic physical signs.’ ‘Waddell’s Signs’ are often used to ascribe malingering to benefit claimants. Although Waddell waffles here, his methodology is simply wrong: a bodily state that has no detectable organic causes today can have them tomorrow, if science advances suitably. This obvious point undermines the theory of nonorganic signs.

Dr Waddell used this false theory in 1987, in his ‘A New Clinical Model for the Treatment of Low-Back Pain’ (Spine, volume12 number 7, 632-644), to distinguish acute and chronic pain, physical impairment, personal and social attitudes towards pain and pained persons, and disability. He argued that a sufferer’s ‘perception and interpretation of the significance of the symptoms’ influenced treatment and disability decisions. Indeed, ‘chronic pain and disability become increasingly associated with emotional distress, depression, failed treatment, and adoption of a sick role.’ ‘Chronic pain progressively becomes a self-sustaining condition that is resistant to traditional medical management.’ (My italics.) In ordinary language, Waddell claims that chronic back pain is at least partly a result of a patient’s false beliefs about pain, and a conscious or unconscious adoption of a social role that he/she views as advantageous. He combines these ideas in a perversion of Engel’s model. It reduces the complex unity of biological, psychological and social factors to a person’s ‘illness bahaviour’ in an adopted ‘sick role,’ by citing a 1984 article’s clinical definition of illness behaviour as ‘observable and potentially measurable actions and conduct which express and communicate the individual’s own perception of disturbed health’ (my italics). As Waddell co-authored that article, the definition is merely a restatement of his own idea; its behaviourist-reductionist theme is no feature of Dr Engel’s model and is a travesty of it. I’ll call Waddell’s non-biological, non-social, individualist construct, the BPS model. It is crucial to notice this illicit transformation of a good idea into one whose behaviouristic foundation was rejected for good reasons by philosophers and scientists more than 12 years before this paper was published (see Noam Chomsky’s review of B.F. Skinner’s ‘verbal behavior’ and Ulrich Neisser’s ‘Cognitive Psychology,’ both published before 1970). 2a and 2b show how Waddell distorted Engel’s notions into one barely supported statement and one mere definition. It is quite possible that these ground the non-biological, non-social ‘descriptor’ approach to disability assessments used by UNUM and Atos, developed and applied under contracts with two British governments (Labour and Tory) starting in 1998. If so, then Waddell was either scientifically, methodologically and philosophically ignorant, or was out to set up an assessment programme based on ideas he knew were highly controversial. The transparent falsity of his nonorganic sign system destroys the ‘self-sustaining’ claim, since physiological causes that maintain a condition cannot be excluded. Briefly, his fundamental ideas are scientifically baseless and morally dangerous by normal professional-ethical standards of research and clinical use. Nothing he has written warrants the extreme claims in The Back Pain Revolution, that illness behaviour quite often ‘focuses on money and implies malingering,’ and that it ‘may depend more on… psychologic events than on the underlying physical problem’ (1998: 216, 227). The pseudoscientific BPS model encourages dangerous medical practices and inadequate assessments, since it cannot estimate biological and social contributions to illness [2].

Waddell published a second edition of his book in 2004. In July 2004 Atos Origin (Atos, since 2011) published ‘Looking at the Big Picture,’ a report of a special conference. One of Waddell’s closest associates, Professor Chris Main of Manchester, described the back pain work, stressing psychology. Another, Dr Christopher Bass, applied BPS to ‘Symptoms that defy explanation’ linked to ‘sickness absence.’ He singled out chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic low-back pain, repetitive strain injury and non-cardiac chest pain, as conditions having non-organic (read: psychological) maintaining factors, i.e. Waddell’s self-sustaining processes. Professor Mansel Aylward talked about his use of BPS in his work at Cardiff University between 1985 and 2004 (quote 3). In 1989 he became Senior Medical Officer of the British government. The report notes that Aylward ‘worked closely with [Atos Origin’s] Medical Services’ on ‘LIMA, An intelligent evidence-based electronic report writing programme for Incapacity Benefit’. I’ll add that SchlumbergerSema, a firm acquired by Atos Origin in 2004, developed the first version of LIMA in August 2003. It seems that Aylward helped extend it to a second version by October 2004. Version 2’s technical manual was owned by the ‘Medical Director for DWP [Department for Work and Pensions],’ Dr Andrew Cohen. LIMA software embodies Waddell’s BPS in its ‘descriptors,’ categories that describe a person’s behavioural fitness for types of work. All biological and social influences on a person’s health have vanished; a technological corruption of Engel’s ideas whilst using his term ‘biopsychosocial.’ Waddell’s work led to this scientific and medical disgrace.

To close, note that 2001 through 2006 were critical years. In this period the American insurance company UnumProvident’s John LoCascio attended a conference near Oxford on ‘Malingering and Illness Deception,’ the UnumProvident Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research was set up at Cardiff University, Waddell joined it as a surgeon turned academic, and Aylward became its Director. Its publications and related texts officially established Waddell’s BPS, used it to tragically describe disability as at least partly dependent on an individual’s psychological attitudes, beliefs and personal choice in a social context, and proposed linguistic changes and punitive action to enforce behavioural change leading either to work or minimal (if any) social security. LIMA was developed to do this, as described above. In 2006 Gordon Waddell and A. Kim Burton announced (with provisos neglected in practice) that ‘[W]ork is generally good for health and well-being.’ This completed the harmful and scientifically irresponsible application of Waddell’s misappropriation of Engel, via LIMA’s descriptors, to the illnesses mentioned above. Since these supposedly lacked organic symptoms caused by bodily dysfunctions, a new version of Waddell’s nonorganic signs emerged, which aided claim denials by insurers (esp. UNUM) and governments. Current biological research is finding increasingly more evidence of such causes. Waddell’s pseudoscience started cruel political developments that led to Atos’ notorious disability assessments. Given today’s evidence, any BPS assessment regime like the WCA should be stopped at once [3].

[1] See Jonathan Rutherford’s ‘New Labour, the market state, and the end of welfare’ in Soundings, available at http://www.midmoors.co.uk/Unum/unum_in_uk.pdf, Debbie Jolly’s ‘A Tale od two Models: Disabled People vs Unum, Atos, Government and Disability Charities,’ at http://dpac.uk.net/2012/04/a-tale-of-two-models-disabled-people-vs-unum-atos-government-and-disability-charities-debbie-jolly/ , and Gil Thornton’s ‘Illness as “Deviance,” Work as Glittering Salvation and the “Psyching-up” of the Medical Model: Strategies for Getting The Sick “Back To Work”, ’ at http://internationalgreensocialist.wordpress.com/illness-as-deviance-work-as-glittering-salvation-and-the-psyching-up-of-the-medical-model-strategies-for-getting-the-sick-back-to-work/ .

[2] My philosophical remarks derive from the Scientific Realism of the late Wilfrid Sellars and his followers, especially my deceased good friend Jay Rosenberg, Jeff Sicha, Jim O’Shea and Willem A. de Vries. On Sellars, see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/sellars/ .

[3] I wish to thank Anita Bellows, Gail Ward, Debbie Jolly, Ann Whitehurst, Andy Cropper

and Karen Springer, for ideas, information and support. All of us are members or supporters of the UK’s Disabled People Against Cuts. See http://dpac.uk.net/ .

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 Posted by at 14:46
Sep 172014
 

We are getting information that people in the ESA Support Group are being required by JobCentre Plus offices to attend Work Focussed Interviews, under threat of benefits being withdrawn if you don’t go.

According to the DWP Webpage, if you are in the Support Group you “You don’t have to go to interviews, but you can ask to talk to a personal adviser. “, which should mean that they cannot require you to attend.

We are going to look closely at this and do whatever we can to get this stopped, but in order to do that we first need to gather information about how widespread this is, which areas it is happening in and how long it has been going on.

So we are asking for people to come forward if you are in the ESA Support Group and have been contacted by your Jobcentre to attend an interview, we would really like to hear from you, please email us at mail@dpac.uk.net and we will get back to you

We will never disclose your name or personal information without  your permission, but we may ask you if we can use your case to campaign against this. If you say no to this we will not use the information in any way, and your information will still help us to understand what is happening.

 

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 Posted by at 14:47
Aug 182014
 

We’re currently producing a brochure for campaigning work and wanted to include a few examples of how each cut has affected disabled people. We already have examples for most things but if you have been affected by the bedroom tax, council tax reduction changes, or the overall benefit cap, cuts to social care or increased charges for care could you please send us a short email about what has happened to you and how this has affected you to mail@dpac.uk.net

 

Many thanks for help with this.

Linda

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 Posted by at 21:01
Aug 092014
 

 

Disabled people have been expressing their disquiet at the news that the Independent Living Fund (ILF) will cease to exist in 2015, and that the money will be transferred to Local Authorities. To date, out of the 153 surveyed Local Authorities and from 106 responses, only 10 Local Authorities have said they will ringfence the transferred funds to ILF recipients, which means that in all other areas, ILF recipients face a potential reduction of their care packages. How is it likely to happen?

An interesting article was published this morning by Joe Halewood (@SpeyeJoe): http://speye.wordpress.com/2014/08/09/dhp-dubious-hoodwinking-practices-or-how-ids-pulled-the-woolsack-over-the-courts-eyes/

which shows that 16% (UK average) of Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) allocated by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to Local Authorities to mitigate the impacts of welfare reforms, and specifically of the infamous bedroom tax have been awards unrelated to welfare reforms. See Table 5 and 6 here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/322455/use-of-discretionary-housing-payments-june-2014.pdf

It would be interesting to know what the money was spent on, but more to the point, DWP has twice relied on the DHP argument to win a legal case against claimants challenging the bedroom tax policy, and although DWP’s spokesperson said that the government has put in £345m to mitigate the bedroom tax, the figures shown in the Table 5 and 6 not only disprove this but also show that out of the money disbursed, 16% of the allocated funds have been used for awards totally unrelated to welfare reforms. This shows that disabled people are right to be worried about the future of the transferred ILF funds and about the willingness or unwillingness of Local Authorities to allocate these funds to disabled people who have been assessed as having the greatest needs. The ILF should be retained until assurance is given that these people will not see a reduction in their care packages.

 

 

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