Feb 132017
 

Unite Community (Coventry and Warwickshire Branch) along with co-sponsor UCU and supporting organisations Peoples Assembly and Coventry Recovery Centre will be screening the film I Daniel Blake.

Our aim is to raise awareness of the sanctions regime in the benefits system and to highlight the desperation and indignity that this imposes on thousands of people in Britain today.

The theatre will open at 18.00 and we advise that you be seated by 18.05 The film will start at 18.15 and lasts for 1 hour 40 minutes.

After the film there will be a question and answer session in the theatre led by the director of the film Ken Loach, which everyone watching the film is invited to. The Q&A session will last approximately 1 hour.

 

DATE AND TIME

Wed 22 February 2017

18:00 – 21:00 GMT

Add to Calendar

LOCATION

The Goldstein Lecture Theatre

Alan Berry Room

Coventry University, Jordan

Coventry

CV1 5FB

 

There are limited numbers of tickets available. To book tickets  and advise on access needs please email us at mail@dpac.uk.net

 Posted by at 19:50
Oct 312016
 

Wanted - Damien Green - For Crimes Against Disabled PeopleToday Damien Green announced a consultation into the Work Capability Assessment a toxic and lethal test of disabled peoples’ ability to work. DPAC have consistently called for this to be completely scrapped as in spite of numerous attempts to reform the tick box computer tests they are still not fit for purpose. How many times do you keep trying to fix the unfixable?

It comes as no surprise either that Disability Charities welcome the changes which are being consulted on – why wouldn’t they after all there’s likely to be lots of financial pickings for them from the further misery of disabled claimants. Already Tom Pollard previously Campaign and Policy Manager for MIND has taken his thirty pieces of silver and moved to work for the DWP.

Overview and what these changes might mean

Now like Lord Freud the banker who wrote the guidelines for welfare reform for New Labour in 3 weeks and without any previous experience of our social security system Damien Green today has said “In the long run there is nothing more expensive than saying to someone, ‘Here’s a benefit you can have for the rest of your life…” Not that I’m sure what he means by that since this does not happen and disabled people face continuous repeat assessments to ensure they haven’t grown back any limbs or had a miraculous cure.

The consultation announced today places an emphasis on getting all disabled people back into work as fast as possible on the false assumption that working in a zero hours or low paid dead end jobs may somehow improve people’s health outcomes. Green seems to particularly single out forcing people with Mental Health and Musculoskeletal conditions back into work as fast as possible for as long as possible. Musculoskeletal conditions include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.

This is against a background of massive cuts to MH services to help those with a MH condition receive the support they need. Added to which there are caps to the Access to Work budget , social care funding has been slashed, to access train services in many cases disabled people have to book 24 or 48 hours in advance, Disabled Students’ Allowance has been cut making it more difficult if not impossible for young disabled people to gain qualifications, and people are being forced to give up work as they lose entitlement to PIP and their Motability vehicles are taken away.

Further between 2011 and 2015 the number of Jobcentres employing a full-time advisor to help disabled people navigate the support system and find employment fell by over 60 per cent from 226 to just 90, with reductions in every recorded year.

Does Damien really not understand that without the right support services in place disabled people even if they want to cannot work? Is it really too complex for politicians to grasp that support services must be available to allow disabled people to work if they want to and feel able to. Do they really not understand that for some disabled people working is not and never will be an option?

And what of employers?  of course they’re queuing up to retain and employ disabled people and all workplaces are accessible as we all know. The much lauded Disability Confident campaign resulted in a whopping 40 private firms signing up in 3 years.

But not just Damien also Jeremy Hunt, the much trusted health secretary also suggests getting people back to work had major health benefits. He is reported to say that as it cost £7bn a year to treat long-term health conditions that kept people out of work, and employment could be a part of recovery.

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, said “People in work generally have better health.” Something that I would have thought is obvious as people not in work often have long term health conditions or impairments which prevent them from working. Thus an utterly meaningless statement if ever I’ve heard one.

One particularly worrying statement is “No one wants a system where people are written off and forced to spend long periods of time on benefits when, actually, with the right support they could be getting back into work.” Which we feel means they plan to scrap the Support group.

This would certainly fit in with the announcement on October 1st when Damien Green announced there would be an end to repeat WCA assessments for people with permanent or progressive conditions. There was little detail on the announcement with more questions being raised that answers given (such as which conditions would be excluded from repeat assessments) The DWP promised to release guidelines to clarify exactly what this change means – to date no such clarification has appeared.

My Challenge to Damien Green and why these proposals are a crock of  ****

Dear Damien find an employer for this person. I know having to work as well as survive will help her wellbeing. Please note Damien at the moment she has no money to feed herself or her family due to the barbaric and flawed WCA assessment.

“I am writing this email as I feel desperate and alone after I had a phone call today saying I scored 0 points on my esa assessment. I don’t know where to turn or what to do.

I will start from the beginning. From being young I have had hip disabilities and went through many many operations between the ages of 12 and 19. In my early twenties I broke my left hip 4 times. Also in my early 20’s my spine started to deteriorate and to date I have had 3 emergency operations to try to correct this. During one operation I was left with that much damage and scar tissue I have loss of feeling and severe foot drop in my left foot.

Due to my hip problems I have arthritis in both hips and I am awaiting hip replacements in both hips. Due to my left femur being broken 4 times it is no longer straight meaning the hip replacement surgery will be very difficult which is why my surgeon is trying to leave it as long as possible as the surgery could end very badly.

I have suffered with chronic pain all my life but have always worked until earlier this year when I had my contract ended by work as I was no longer fit to do my job due to my disabilities. This is when I started claiming ESA.

Recently I have had major changes to my health leaving me doubly incontinent. I have to self catheterise twice daily. I am experiencing that much pain I am taking copious amounts of medication including morphine every 3 hours. My mobility is very restricted and my partner has had to give up work to care for me. I can’t cook, clean, go to the shop. My emotional and mental health is suffering terribly and I am on anti depressant medication.

I attended my ESA assessment last week and the decision maker telephoned me today telling me that I had not scored any points at all during the assessment and my benefits have been stopped.

Because my partner has come out of work our tax credits claim was ended and we have had to re apply meaning we are not receiving any money from tax credits at the moment. The only money we had support us and our two children was the ESA payments of £72 per week and £36 per week child benefit.

When the advisor phoned me with the news today I broke down in the phone. I feel as though I am on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I can not go to work as I am too unwell. I spend a lot of my time feeling sleepy and not with it due to my medication, I can not control my bowels, I am in constant severe pain, my mobility is limited, my bladder does not empty itself so I have to self catheterise, I have short term memory loss and confusion due to medication, the list is endless. As the rent is now not being paid and with our previous arrears which I was paying off before this I am terrified my kids are going to lose their home. I can’t put food in the cupboards, gas and electric on. I feel hopeless and desperate.

I don’t know how this works. I have always worked I am not trying to get anything under false pretences. If I could work I would. I have lost my independence and I feel that the DWP are taking away my dignity along with it by making me beg to be able to live.

I am unsure why I have sent you this email but I don’t know where to turn. I am so sorry if this makes no sense. ”
What you can do

Write or email Damien to let him know what you think

ministers@dwp.gsi.gov.uk or Caxton House, 12, Tothill Street, London,SW1H

also please respond to the consulation

Full consultation here

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/work-health-and-disability-improving-lives

take part in consultation here

https://consultations.dh.gov.uk/workandhealth/consult/

 

 

 

 Posted by at 18:51
Jun 132015
 

Ref: ESA50 forms

13.06.15

Dear Maximus,

DPAC has become aware of a number of serious issues in relation to the ESA50 form.  In fact, the evidence received seems so extreme as to be almost unbelievable but a pattern has started to emerge.

For example, this month, a benefit claimant has been refused ESA (and a mandatory reconsideration upheld the decision), based on an assessment, but also based on an ESA50 form which 2 years earlier contributed to the same decision. But 2 years ago, the ESA decision was found to be flawed and overturned by a tribunal. Still, the same ESA50 form was used again this time by Maximus and the claimant has for a second time appealed the decision. But of course, this time, he has had to wait for the Mandatory Reconsideration outcome on no income before being allowed to lodge an appeal.

Another claimant was awarded ESA 2 years ago on the basis of the ESA50 he submitted, and was not required to undergo a face to face Work Capability Assesssment. But this month he has been asked to attend a WCA with Maximus without having to submit a new ESA50.  So assuming that Maximus is again using the same earlier ESA50 form to assess his capability for work, it should lead to the same conclusion that a face to face WCA is not needed to decide that he is entitled to ESA.

This does not make sense, and disabled people deserve much better than this.

While Maximus has shown itself to be fairly accomodating and prepared to accept more recent ESA50s and a reasonable deadline for completing the form when requested by claimants, that is just not good enough. Claimants should not have to argue their individual case in order that Maximus fulfill their contractual requirement for the issuing of ESA50 forms, nor should they have to negotiate a deadline for completing and submitting the form when DWP has decided that 4 weeks are necessary to do so.

The WCA is desperately flawed and badly failing many claimants, as shown by the recent story of a woman who was found fit for work although she has Parkinsons disease and a brain tumour, http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/woman-parkinsons-brain-tumour-ruled-5822041, which is why DPAC has repeatedly called for it to be scrapped, but in the meantime claimants deserve to be treated fairly, consistently and lawfully in their dealings with Maximus.

DWP’s argument for reassessing claimants endlessly is that medical conditions can vary, which makes the re-use of a 2 year old form unjustifiable, and this has been criticised by tribunals which have had to decide on these cases.  Likewise, claimants who are given less than 4 weeks to complete their ESA50 forms are placed at a substantial disavantage compared to claimants who benefited from 4 weeks to do so.

DPAC is demanding that Maximus and DWP ensure that every claimant is issued with an ESA50 before each WCA and is given 4 weeks to submit it. DPAC is also demanding that Maximus require claimants to attend a face to face Work Capability Assessment only after consideration of a recent or up-to-date ESA50

Anything less would be unacceptable and probably unlawful.

We look forward to your comments,

Yours sincerely

Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC)

 Posted by at 15:41

Mar 172015
 

This is a repost as we’ve been made aware that DWP are sending out a new crop of letters to those in the ESA support group

We ‘ve had increasing numbers of emails from those in the ESA support group facing constant harassment from local job centres. Harassment takes the form of letters and phone calls ‘inviting’ people to work focused interviews, chats with job coaches or other ‘helpers’. Another type of ‘invite’ suggests that the job centre need to check you’re getting the right amount of benefit they advise you to take in bank statements and other documents. Often these letters and phone calls wrongly state that your benefits are at risk if you do not attend. All such interviews are voluntary according to the regulations, not mandatory. Its sounds like a scam warning from some dodgy company doesnt it, but this is the DWP Job Centre, supposedly public servants, causing anxiety and misery.

We have reproduced two template letters to use if these scams happen to you -with thanks to John Slater

Your Name

Address 1

Address 2

County

Post Code

Name JCP Manager

Address 1

Address 2

County Post Code

Date

Ref: NINO

Dear JCP Manager   I received your letter of <insert date> stating that you have arranged a work‐focused interview for me on <insert date> at <insert time> without my knowledge or consent.

The DWP is aware that I have been placed in the Support Group for Employment and Support Allowance and therefore exempt from activity of this nature. S.19 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 specifically forbids the Secretary of State from imposing any work‐related requirements on anyone allocated to the support group.

This letter has caused me considerable distress and has exacerbated my illness. Should the DWP persist in sending me further letters of a similar nature I can only conclude that it does so knowing that it will cause me alarm or distress. Such actions are a criminal offence under section 2 of the protection from Harassment Act 1997 and I retain the right to make a criminal complaint to the police.

As the DWP is acting contrary to the Welfare Reform Act 2012 please regard this letter as notification to cease and desist all such activities immediately.

I will not be attending the work‐focused interview and in doing so I will not be placing my entitlement to ESA at risk. Any suggestion by the DWP to the contrary will be considered harassment.

I remind the DWP that I will continue to comply with all lawful requirements in respect of my ongoing claim for ESA.

Yours sincerely

A. N. Other

Your Name

Address 1

Address 2

County

Post Code

Name JCP Manager

Address 1

Address 2

County Post Code

Date

Ref: NINO

Dear JCP Manager

I received your letter of <insert date> stating that you have arranged an interview for, without my knowledge or consent, on <insert date> at <insert time> because my circumstances may have changed and the DWP need to ensure my payments are correct.

The DWP is aware that I have been placed in the Support Group for Employment and Support Allowance and therefore exempt from any work‐related activity. S.19 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 specifically forbids the Secretary of State from imposing any work‐related requirements on anyone allocated to the support group.  It also makes no provision for people allocated to the Support Group to be summoned to attend random benefit interviews.

On the .GOV website the DWP states:

You’ll then be placed in 1 of 2 groups if you’re entitled to ESA:

work‐related activity group, where you’ll have regular interviews with an adviser

support group, where you don’t have interviews

In fact the DWP has the Benefit Centre network that contains benefit integrity centres and performance measurement to undertake this type of review by appropriately qualified officers. Therefore, this interview appears to be incompatible with the DWP own processes.

In respect of payments the DWP knows that I am in the Support Group and the amount I am in receipt of. Therefore, it can easily determine if this amount is correct without recourse to a face to face review.

To the best of my knowledge my circumstances have not changed. If the DWP has evidence to the contrary please address them to me in writing as I find the benefit system far too complex and distressing to deal with on the telephone or face to face. I also rely on extensive support from other people when dealing with the DWP.

This letter has caused me considerable distress and has exacerbated my illness. Given that the proposed review is incompatible with the DWP own business processes and published guidance I can only assume that its purpose is to cause me alarm or distress.  Should the DWP persist in sending me further letters of a similar nature I can only conclude that it does so with the same intent. Such actions are a criminal offence under section 2 of the protection from Harassment Act 1997 and I retain the right to make a criminal complaint to the police.

Please regard this letter as notification to cease and desist all such activities immediately.

I will not be attending the interview and in doing so I will not be placing my entitlement to ESA at risk. Any suggestion by the DWP to the contrary will be considered harassment.

I remind the DWP that I will continue to comply with all lawful requirements in respect of my ongoing claim for ESA.

Yours sincerely

A. N. Other

Templates can also be downloaded at the links below

Correct Detail or Support Invite Reply Template (1)

WFI reply template

 Posted by at 19:20
Mar 042015
 

From 1st March Maximus took over the contract for carrying out the notorious Work Capability Assessment.

Disabled campaigners and our supporters are clear that simply altering the provider will fail to correct the gross injustice that the WCA represents. This is an assessment that seeks to redefine who is and is not disabled in order to push the most disadvantaged members of society off benefits while lining the pockets of the private sector with public money.

Maximus, a company with a history of disability discrimination and improper practices, will be paid more than double what Atos was for the contract. Meanwhile very little will have changed: Maximus will be using the same buildings, many of which are not accessible to disabled people, assessment staff will still not necessarily have any knowledge of the conditions they are evaluating, and, most significantly, the fundamental flaws of the assessment which tests functionality as opposed to employability will continue.

The only way to ensure a fair and just social security system is to scrap the Work Capability Assessment and bring benefit tests back within the public sector.

Mark Serwotka, General Secretary, PCS Union
John McDonnell MP
Paula Peters, National Steering Committee, Disabled People Against Cuts
Ellen Clifford, Inclusion London
Jane Aitchison, PCS, Joint National Secretary Unite the Resistance
Katy Clark MP
Ian Hodson, National President, Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Mick Carney, National President, Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association
Sean McGovern, TUC GC Councillor for Disabled Members
Siobhan Endead, National Officer for Equalities, Unite the Union
Linda Burnip, Disabled People against Cuts
Debbie Jolly, Disabled People against Cuts
Andy Greene, Disabled People against Cuts
Roger Lewis, Disabled People against Cuts
Anita Bellows, Disabled People against Cuts
Bob Ellard, Disabled People against Cuts
Denise McKenna, Mental Health Resistance Network
Jane Bence, New Approach
John McArdle, Co-Founder Black Triangle Campaign (Edinburgh)
David Churchley, Co-Founder Black Triangle (Glasgow)
Dr Stephen Carty GP,  Member and Medical Adviser Black Triangle
Steven Preece, Welfare Weekly Editor
Johnny Void, Johnny Void blog
Carole Ford, WOWcampaign
Laura Stringhetti, WOWcampaign
Michelle Maher, WOWcampaign
Ian Jones, WOWcampaign
Frances Kelly, CarerWatch
Rick Burgess, NewApproach
Eleanor Lisney, Sisters of Frida
Mark Harrison, Equal Lives
Sarah Hatch, South East London People’s Assembly
Amanda Nelson, South East London People’s Assembly
Pat Onions, Pat’s Petition
Anne Pridmore, Being the Boss

 Posted by at 20:47
Feb 252015
 

Reposted from the brilliant Kate Belgrave http://www.katebelgrave.com/ with thanks

Readers of this site will remember that a couple of weeks ago, I posted questions about people’s right to record and film face-to-face assessments as they go through the work capability assessments that are to be run by Maximus.

I wanted to know if Maximus will allow people to record their face-to-face assessments on their phones or any recording gear that they have – from the pointwhen Maximus takes over the grisly WCA process. I also had other questions, which I put to Maximus last week. I’ve listed these questions below, along with the answers (perhaps I should say “answers”) I got back (had to lean on Maximus’ US office for a response in the first instance, but got one of sorts in the end).

Needless to say, the entire exercise was a complete waste of time. You’ll see below that the responses give us five-eighths of fuck all as far as concrete information, timelines and/or actual process detail is concerned. No surprise there, of course – but I thought I’d post the responses anyway, because I think there is merit in highlighting the PR guff and detail-free twattery that Maximus has decided to specialise in when it comes to this contract. There’s also a dismissive aspect to a lot of the language, which you might find illuminating – a sort of “we’ll do things at our pace and you lot can wait” – air which nettled me badly. It should get on your nerves, too.

This sort of thing, for example:

Change cannot occur overnight”

[We] will take forward this and other ideas to the Department for their consideration”

I am unable to comment on such speculation,” when I raised a perfectly valid point about Maximus’ view of the future of the ESA Support Group.

Sue Marsh actually got in touch with me after the press office did to say that I could speak with her, because my questions “come under her job,” but that attempt at overture got right up my nose, as well. For one thing – if Sue Marsh is the person who is best placed to answer questions in the sort of details required, then the Maximus press office should go to her for those answers before responding to whoever asked them. It’s not my job to sweep together Maximus’ various outputs on its own assessment processes as and when those outputs drop out of different holes, or to wait around for the responses that Maximus feels it has best finessed. For another thing – I can’t see myself responding well to any aspect of the many-pronged charm offensive that Maximus has launched in its sorry and very costly attempt to sculpt and polish the WCA turd. Let’s face it – any company that comes out with a phrase like “more touch, more communication,” apparently in all seriousness, should not be encouraged to contribute further to any dialogue on any topic, or to remain involved in any process where people require something better than bullshit. It’s my view that in a general sense, any company that speaks lines like “more touch, more communication,” needs a smack in the soft parts right there.

Anyway.

Here are the sorts of responses you get if you ask Maximus questions about recording face-to-face assessments, or about support for people with mental health conditions as they go through WCAs, or whether or not Maximus would bid for contracts to “provide” work-focused activity for people in the ESA support groupif people in SG are ever pushed into such activity. I just want to give you a feel for the sort of Jog On contempt that those who ask for actual details about processes are treated with.

Opening response from Maximus:

We are firmly focussed on managing a stable transition for next week. Naturally when we are up and running we will want to introduce innovative changes to the customer experience but they have to be done with DWP consent and change cannot occur overnight.”

Well – that’s a Fuck Off if I ever heard one (and I’ve heard plenty of them). I think it’s the “Naturally” that makes me want to punch the screen when I re-read that effort. May I say that I’ve had enough of the phrase “Customer experience” as well. People who must go through the work capability assessment are not “customers.” They’re not wafting around a pick and mix display, or selecting iphones from a catalogue. They’re sick and disabled people who must endure an outsourced assessment process at the hands of voracious private companies that are in turn hired by governments which are absolutely intent on selling the idea that everyone on a benefit is a scrounger. There’s no customer choice or shopping around going on here. The government is the customer – not the people who the assessment process is inflicted on.

Ho hum. Here are the questions and answers, then. Short and not particularly sweet, etc:

Recording face-to-face assessments:

My question:

Re: the recording and filming of WCA face-to-face assessments. Will Maximus permit the audio recording and filming of WCA face-to-face assessments? If so, how will assessment recordings operate? Will people be able to record and film their assessments using their own recorders and cameras? This is an important point for people going through WCAs – without a recorded file of their assessment, there is little transparency of the face to face aspect of the process in particular. The DWP and Atos were challenged by lawyers on this point and forced to change protocol.”

Maximus response:

In respect of recordings we are studying this and will take forward this and other ideas to the Department for their consideration. We agree there are merits to this change, but there are other considerations as well, including the potential for the customer to be potentially constrained because some people are shy when being recorded. We want to ensure customers feel as comfortable through this process as possible, so all of these factors must be considered.”

Right. As it happens, a simple Yes or No would have sufficed here. Maximus could instruct its assessors that from of the start of the contract, people can record and film their assessments on their own recording gear if they want to, or bring someone along to do that (as I’ve said before, I’ll do it anyway. The hell with it). When Atos was in charge of this shambles, people had to ask for a change of appointment until they could get one with an assessor who was prepared to be recorded and where the dual recorders that Atos and the DWP insisted on were available. As for “the potential for the customer to be potentially constrained because some people are shy when being recorded” – I would have thought the answer to that one was simple. People – sorry, “Customers” – don’t have to record their assessments if they don’t want their assessments recorded. Naturally.

I can’t believe we’re still talking about this after all these years. Surely there is a limit to the number of times that the DWP and its providers can arse about on this subject? I’m also unclear on the basics here. Can people still ask for a recording to be made on official equipment? Does Maximus have enough equipment to meet demand?

Next up was:

My question: assessments for mental health claimants:

I asked: “What protocols and guidance will Maximus have in place for assessments for people with mental health conditions? Atos came in for considerable criticism regarding its failure to accurately assess ESA claimants with mental health conditions. Could we discuss the structures that Maximus will have in place and the training that assessors who conduct assessments for mental health claimants will have?”

Maximus response:

With regard to assessing claimants with MH conditions we have established a Customer Representative Group with MH charities on this. One of the group activities will be to review training materials so that they better reflect MH issues. We are also review the use and numbers of MH champions in the business as well as employing OTs who often have extensive experience at supporting people with MH issues in work and life.”

You can understand why I found this underwhelming – ie barely worth reading. I suppose that I was hoping for something a little more robust and detailed than plans for reviews, and more chat and roundtables with, presumably, the usual charities. I wrote extensively on Atos’ evasiveness on the work and effectiveness of these so-called Mental Function Champions (and found at the time that Atos didn’t report to the DWP on the performance or otherwise of those “champions.”) Just a little history on the sorts of shenanigans you can get on this topic: In 2012, Mark Hoban told parliament that “we have introduced a mental health champion in every single assessment centre throughout the country.” Actually, he hadn’t. The DWP told me that 60 mental function champions were in place and that they largely worked a phone advice line. A group of us had to work for months to get Atos and the DWP to agree to a meeting about the WCA and these “champions” with charity workers from a couple of small, independent mental health charities – ie the kind of organisations that weren’t generally invited to roundtables or to share their views on the DWP and Atos with the DWP and Atos. The whole thing was a total pile and to this day I speak with people who have mental health conditions and talk about suicide when discussing their next WCA. Why people can’t simply be assessed by their own GPs and support teams is beyond me (and that goes for all sick and disabled people who need benefits. The WCA isn’t required at all – unless, of course, your aim is to push the idea that work for all is great and that people who receive benefits shouldn’t).

Moving on:

My question: the future of the ESA Support Group:

I asked: “There have been reports of people placed in the ESA Support Groupreceiving letters from jobcentres calling them to work-focused interviews. Would Maximus consider bidding for any contract to provide welfare-to-work or work programme-type schemes if the government decides that people in the Support Group should engage in work-focused activity?”

Maximus response:

The company simply said that it was unable to comment on such speculation.

To which I say – Bollocks. I asked a perfectly legitimate question about Maximus’ view of the future of the Support Group. As Benefits and Work explains: “the ESA support group is for claimants who the DWP consider to have such severe health problems that there is no current prospect of their being able to undertake work or work-related activities.” So. Either Maximus respects the idea of the integrity of a support group which exists for people who are exempt from work and work-focused activity, or it doesn’t. If it does respect that idea, it won’t consider bidding for any future contracts for work-focused activity for people in the Support Group, if that is a line that the government decides to pursue. Which the government will. It already has. The DWP already sends letters to people in the support group asking them to attended work-focused interviews. Simple as that really.

Anyway – that’s Maximus. Not a lot of joy there. Perhaps I will try putting these questions to them again during next week’s day of #scrapWCA action. Details of activities here.

Follow Kate on twitter : @hangbitch

Feb 212015
 

Logos for DPAC, Black Triangle, Mental Health Resistance Network, New Approach,  and UK Uncut

London Demo

Acts for the London Demo

Find your nearest protest

Protest on Social Media

Pictures and video to share

Join the Thunderclap

Balham ~ Bournemouth ~ Bradford ~ Brighton ~ Bristol ~ Cardiff ~ Croydon ~ Dundee ~ Ealing ~ Edinburgh ~ Glasgow ~ Gloucester ~ Hull ~ Huddersfield ~ Inverness ~ Ipswich ~ Leeds ~ Leicester ~ Lincoln ~ Manchester ~ Norwich ~ Portsmouth ~ Plymouth ~ Reading ~ Sheffield ~ Stockton-on-Tees ~ Sunderland ~ Toronto ~ Truro ~ Wrexham and Maximus HQ in central London.


See this great promo vid by @MarquisLeDain

See Paula Peter’s interview about the Day of Action in the famous Artist Taxi Driver, Chunky Mark’s Cab


The London Protest

Roll Up!, Roll Up! Roll Up!

Mark the return of the WCA (Work Capability Assessment) by attending

Maximarse: Same Circus, Different Clowns

Monday 2nd March @ 1pm,
Maximus HQ, 29 Queen Anne’s Gate, London SW1H.

Visit the Facebook Event Page

Brian Hilton Artwork for the Maximus Day of action, Same Circus, Different Clowns version 5

While Atos may have left the ring, the WCA – The Greatest Sham on Earth, continues to amaze, astound and confound all who come across it. This flawed ‘functional assessment’ continues to baffle medical science, ignore centuries of barriers, fly in the face of irrefutable evidence, dismiss the experience of millions of disabled people; and most importantly of all – impoverish hundreds of thousands of people, in the pursuit of ‘reducing welfare’ costs in the name of austerity.

So far, almost 4.8 million (yes, you read it correctly) WCA’s have been carried out, with many disabled people forced on to schemes like the Work Programme, where only 26 000 have found any kind of paid employment. Meanwhile, support streams which actually support disabled people to find and stay in work, such as DLA (Disability Living Allowance) , Access to Work  & ILF (Independent Living Fund)  continue to be decimated by cuts or abolished altogether.

Ringmaster Iain Duncan Smith presides over the farce of a 3 ringed circus of the Department for Work and Pensions, Atos now Maximarse & Work Programme Providers. All are making disabled people perform meaningless tricks for the entertainment of politicians and the Daily Mail reading public, and this will continue to wreak havoc in the lives of millions of British people. Countless suicides have been blamed on DWP cuts to benefits, and not just by disabled people, but by coroners, journalists and MPs . The DWP itself is investigating up to 60 deaths, to establish their links to benefit cuts.

As part of the National Day of Action against Maximus, DPAC says ‘Scrap the WCA – No to Maximus’ and invites you to attend our tongue-in-cheek homage to the ridiculousness that the WCA is.

We will hold an inclusive circus event, bring acts and activities to entertain you and get involved in. Alternatively, you can join the 25+ towns and cities across the UK.

(Back to top of page)


Acts and entertainments for the London Demo

Roll Up!, Roll Up! Roll Up!

Gasp with awe and be inspired by our glorious & fandabulicious arts and entertainments for your delectation and delight!

Brian Hilton Artwork for the Maximus Day of action, Same Circus, Different Clowns version 6

As introduced by our very own MC, the one and only  …… Rockin’ Paddy

(And if you’re all good boys and girls and ask him very very nicely, he might sing “Battle of Whitehall” for you too!)

Disabled people know all about having to jump through hoops, but we can still be wowed and mesmerised by the elegance, control and sheer beauty of the display by hoop artist ………. Alice Rose

 And now, from the sublime to the amazing, a display of fire antics that will have your jaw on the floor, we present you ……… Eddie “FireSmile” Grant

As musical interlude, to allow you to gain your composure, we present the Kilburn Unemployed Worker’s Group Choir presenting the inaugural public performance of their original composition “David Cameron is a W******

Back from their tour of the great cities of Paris, Berlin, Rome, Madrid, New York, and Los Angeles, we can present to you in all their glory, for one day only, their unforgettable, astounding, awe inspiring, performance of Work Related Activity……. Yes you can believe it, they really are here…………….

the DPAC Synchronised Box-Lifting Display Team!!!!!!!

No display of the circus arts would be complete without an act that will set your heart pounding and your bum-cheeks on the very edge of their seat, watch aghast as those zany disabled people attempt a spectacle that you will not believe ……..

The MILK CARTON RELAY RACE  !!!!!

Fed up with having just a face? Ever wanted to look like a tiger ? a clown ? or a wombat ?

We can help you – visit our face painting artiste ……

the Great Zelda!!!!

(Back to top of page)


Find Your Nearest Protest

Protest

Location

Time(s)

Events Page

Balham

Irene House, 218 Balham High Road, Balham, London, SW12 9BX

10.30 am – 12noon

https://facebook.com/events/921882261178305/

Bournemouth

Bournemouth Assessment Centre, Tamarisk House, 1 Cotlands Road, Bournemouth, BH1 3BG

1:30pm – 2:30pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/1439972619627216/

Bradford

Bradford City Centre, Wool exchange buildings, 22 Bank Street, Bradford, BD1 1PR

8.30 am to 10.30 am

https://www.facebook.com/events/1589908967913041/

Brighton

West Lees House, 21-35 Dyke Road, Brighton, BN1 3GD, (North End of the Clock Tower, Next to Old Job Centre.)

1pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/1542104427509/

Bristol

Medical Assessment Centre, Government Buildings. Flowers Hill, Brislington, Bristol, BS4 5LA

Cardiff

Run by DAN Cmyru

Block 2, Government Buildings, St Agnes Road, Gabalfa, Cardiff, CF14 4YJ.

1 -4 pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/1541199339470550/

Croydon

Stephenson House, 2 Cherry Orchard Road, Croydon, CR0 6BA

10 am – 6pm.

https://www.facebook.com/events/641182419342826/

Dundee

Run by Scottish Unemployed Workers Network

Meet outside Boots

1pm

For futher details, contact SUWN at admin@scottishunemployedworkers.net

Ealing

Medical Assessment Centre/Ealing Job Centre

86-92 Uxbridge Road

West Ealing London W13 8RA

9 am -10.30 am

https://www.facebook.com/events/876381712418630/

Edinburgh

Argyle House, 3 Lady Lawson Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9SJ

1pm-3pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/334127460115256/

Glasgow

Corunna House, 29 Cadogan Street, Glasgow, G2 7RD

12.30 -2.30 pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/1429430507348206/

Gloucester

Job Centre Plus, Cedar House, Spa Road, Gloucester, GL1 1XL


11am – 4pm

https://www/facebook.com/events/881341618589011/

Huddersfield

Huddersfield Jobcentre Plus Castle House, Market Street, Huddersfield, HD1 2NE

11am to 12.30pm

 

Hull

Job Centre Plus, Hill Britannia House, 2 Ferensway, Hull HU2 8NF

(Organised by Hull People’s Assembly)

1pm to 2 pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/1508382406051019/

Ipswich

Medical Assessment Centre, St. Felix House, Silent Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 1TF.

1 pm to 4 pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/1513102252288548/

Leeds

Leeds Briggate LS1 6NP (meet near the Bodyshop)

12 noon until 2 pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/369677073211238/

Leicester

1st Floor, Rytland Centre, Halford Street, Leicester, LE1 1TQ

1pm – 3.30 pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/522105471264765/

Lincoln

Medical Assessment Centre, Viking House, 98 Newland

1 pm to 3.30 pm

https://www.facebook.com/events178533808358604/

London Central Maximus HQ

Maximus HQ Level 1, Queen Anne’s Gate, London, SW1H 9BU

1 – 5 pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/771842739517758/

Manchester

Albert Bridge House, Bridge Street, Manchester, M60 9AT

12 noon until 4 pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/346833825508275/

Norwich

St Mary’s House, Duke St, Norwich. NR3 1QA

1pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/790624161029820/

Portsmouth

Medical Assessment Centre, Wingfield House, 316-334 Commercial Road, Portsmouth PO1 4TA

1 pm until 5 pm

http://www.facebook.com/events/1609767919257826/

Plymouth

Argosy house, longfield road, plympton, plymouth, PL6 8LS

12 noon until 3 pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/951081494902471/

Reading

St Mary’s Butts, Reading, RG1 2LG

11 am – 1 pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/1404292959867177/

Sheffield

Medical Assessment Centre, 1 Hartshead Square, Sheffield, S1 2FD.

1- 3 pm (meet first at 12.30 pm at City centre)

https://facebook.com/events/1526799147602672/

Stockton-on-Tees

Thornoby Assessment Centre, 2nd Floor, Christine House, Sorbonne Close, Thornoby, Stockton-On-Tees

12 noon – 1pm

 

https://www/facebook.com/events/387893081383780/

Sunderland

Sunderland Job Centre, 60-66 John Street, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear SR1 1QT

11 am-1pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/780811318671686/

Toronto

Office of Maximus Canada
56 Aberfoyle Crescent, at Islington Subway Station. More info here

11 am EST

4pm UK time

https://www.facebook.com/events/140258373338318/

Truro

Pydar House, Pydar Street, Truro, Cornwall, TR1 2XD (the current WCA Assessment Centre) After a while spent there protest will move on to  Truro City Centre  outside the JobCentre Plus

12 noon until 2 pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/1002956276384446/

Wrexham

Medical Assessment Centre, Ty Maelor, 15-17 Grosvenor Road, Wrexham LL11 1BW

1pm – 3pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/519696384836975/

(Back to top of page)


Social Media

If you can’t make it to one of the demos – Join us on twitter to protest online

Send your own tweets using the hashtags #ScrapWCA and #Maximarse or use our tweetlist :

Don’t forget to keep an eye on the DPAC Twitter Account @dis_ppl_protest for updates, pictures and live video feeds from the Day of Action

(Back to top of page)


Pictures and Video to share

Video

Promotion Video for the protest by award winning animator Hannah Maines

Artwork

You can download any of these images (Just right-click on the image and select “Save Image As…” or “Save Picture As…..”) to share over Twitter and Facebook or print out to use at the protests around the country

Cartoon Maximus - Same Circus - Different Clowns by Phil Evans

Cartoon Maximus – Same Circus – Different Clowns by Phil Evans

…. and some of Brian Hilton’s magnificent artwork :

Brian Hilton Artwork for the Maximus Day of action, Same Circus, Different Clowns version 6Brian Hilton Artwork for the Maximus Day of action, Same Circus, Different Clowns version 5Brian Hilton Artwork for the Maximus Day of action, Same Circus, Different Clowns version 4IMG_3552Brian Hilton Artwork for the Maximus Day of action, number 2. Same Circus, Different Clowns version 2Brian Hilton Artwork for the Maximus Day of action, number 1. Same Circus, Different Clowns

(Back to top of page)


How to Join the Thunderclap for the Maximus Day of Action

 

Go to the Link: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/21931-maximus-day-of-action?locale=en (Either by clicking on the link above or copying and pasting it into your browser)

On the Thunderclap webpage, the picture below shows the webpage you should see, after clicking the link above

Image of the Thunderclap screen for the Maximus Day of action

To support with Facebook. Click on the red area with the text “support with FACEBOOK” and then see part 1 below

To support with Twitter. Click on the red area with the text “support with TWITTER” and then see part 2 below

Notes:

i). You can join with Twitter and Facebook, if you have accounts with both, it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

ii). Instructions for supporting with tumblr are not given here as this is not generally used.

1 Support with Facebook

If you have clicked on “support with Facebook” in the screen above, you should now see a screen like this.

Image of the Thunderclap Facebook signup screen

The centre of the screen shows what will appear when the thunderclap happens at noon on the day of action. This is what will appear on your facebook page (you don’t have to be using facebook at the time, or even logged in, but it won’t matter if you are).

If you want, you can add your own message to appear when the thunderclap goes off (but you don’t have to do this), just type your message in the grey area which has the text “Make It your own! Add a custom message”

Complete the process of Joining the thunderclap on Facebook, click where it says “+ Add My Support” in the box in red at the bottom of the screen.

You will then get an acknowledgement message to say that you have joined, and that’s it, you’re done!

2. Support with Twitter

If you have clicked on “support with Twitter” in the screen above, you should now see a screen like this:

Screenshot from 2015-02-17 06:43:01

The centre of the screen shows what will appear when the thunderclap happens at noon on the day of action. This is what will appear as a tweet that you have sent (you don’t have to be using twitter at the time, or even logged in, but it won’t matter if you are).

If you want, you can change the tweet message that appears when the thunderclap goes off (but you don’t have to do this), just type your message in the grey area under the text “Make It your own! Add a custom message”

To proceed with Joining the thunderclap on Twitter, click where it says “+ Add My Support” in the box in red at the bottom of the screen.

You will then see a screen which says “Authorise Thunderclap to use your account” (shown below).

Screenshot from 2015-02-17 06:43:24

Click on the “Authorize app” in blue on the left hand side of the screen.

You will then get an acknowledgement message to say that you have joined, and that’s it, you’re done!

(Back to top of page)


 Posted by at 23:55
Feb 152015
 

Reblogged from Kate Belgrave, with thanks.

This fits in nicely with David Cameron’s “let’s smack a few more people on benefits around and not talk about corporate tax-dodging theme:”

Here is a letter received very recently from a DWP “work coach” by Sean* (name changed), a Northamptonshire man who I’ve known and written about for several years. He has Asperger’s and severe depression.

Here is a letter received very recently from a DWP “work coach” by Sean* (name changed), a Northamptonshire man who I’ve known and written about for several years. He has Asperger’s and severe depression.

Sean finds day-to-day life very difficult to handle (he struggles to leave his house a lot of the time). He actually finds day-to-day life so challenging that even Atos agreed that he shouldn’t have to work. After a face-to-face assessment for his WCA about two years ago (I attended that assessment with him), Atos placed him in the support group for Employment and Support Allowance. As many of you will know, people in the ESA support group are neither required to work, nor to look for work. That’s the whole point of the support group. It’s an acknowledgement (a grudging one, I suspect) by the system as we have it that some people simply aren’t in a position take a job. From Benefits and Work: “the ESA support group is for claimants who the DWP consider to have such severe health problems that there is no current prospect of their being able to undertake work or work-related activities.” Once you’re in the support group, that should be the end of that, at least until your next assessment.

But here is this letter all the same. Disturbing reports of other people in the ESA support group getting letters like this, or calls to attend work-focused interviews, now abound. Sean received this letter out of nowhere and it scared the hell out of him. I imagine that scaring the hell out of him was at least in part the point of the exercise. The DWP doesn’t like people with mental health conditions to feel too secure.

And they don’t. As you can read for yourself, this DWP letter calls Sean to an interview this week to talk about “returning to work” or “starting a new job,” how to “find the right job” and how Sean’s benefits might be affected if he did go to work (even though the government’s assessor has said that he can’t). Even more incredibly, the invitation calls Sean to a group information session. This suggests to me that whoever sent it never read Sean’s file, or even glanced at it. A group session? Sean finds groups of people so challenging that he can barely bring himself to leave the house a lot of the time. He said he couldn’t handle the idea of travelling across town to sit in a room with complete strangers to discuss very personal details.

That is one of the many reasons why the letter is crass in the extreme. There’s a flimsy attempt in it to acknowledge that Sean is not actually obliged to attend the meeting (“not attending will not affect your [benefit] payment,” etc), but the real message is loud and clear.

It was certainly loud and clear as far as Sean was concerned. The message he took from it was that even when the government’s own notoriously harsh medical assessors have agreed that a person can’t work, the government is very much of the opinion that the person can work – and should be pushed to work, more to the point. “Your attendance at this session is voluntary….we nevertheless would like you to consider attending this session,” the letter reads. The threat here is discernible. If anyone who has paid me over the years said “you don’t have to attend this meeting, but I’d like you to,” I’d know exactly what they meant. Sean’s wife Maggie* (named changed) told me the threat became even more explicit when she rang the DWP to say that Sean would not attend the meeting (Maggie makes a lot calls on Sean’s behalf, because he doesn’t like to talk with officials, or on the phone. Maggie herself has a severe mental health condition. She has a schizophrenia diagnoses and has spent a lot of time in hospital). Maggie said that when she called, the DWP said it would note Sean’s non-attendance “this time”- the implication being that he would be asked to attend again. Maggie said she told the DWP that Sean would never attend such a session. She said that the DWP told her not to say Never. Ahem. Neither Sean nor Maggie think they’ve heard the last of this. I doubt they have either.

I have been thinking about all of this as Cameron has tried to divert us from stories about his tax-dodging mates with stories about people with drug problems who are on benefits. It’s all very interesting, you know. I have long believed that this government and others like it want to eliminate all disability benefits. They want people to believe that everyone can work and always work if they’re given enough of a shove. I think this government particularly wants everyone to believe that people with mental health problems are dragging the chain on purpose – that all anyone with a condition like severe depression needs is a nice cup of tea and a gentle (and then less gentle) kick in the pants to get going. The fact that someone with a severe mental health condition receives the sort of letter you see above tells you everything you need to know about the direction we’re travelling in. Atos was hired to ram home the entirely baseless theory that a lot of sick and disabled people on benefits were fit for work. The next stage will be about ramming home the entirely baseless theory that all sick and disabled people on benefits are fit for work.

I’d expect a government that wanted to push that idea would hire an aggressive and voracious welfare-to-work scheme provider to assess people’s fitness for work from this point on – you know, a company that exist to push the welfare-to-work concept (rather than the welfare-because-people-need-it concept) in exchange for heaps of public dosh. Oh wait. It has.


DPAC are investigating instances where people in the support group are being sent letters by the DWP

We are asking people to contact us if you are in the ESA Support Group and have been contacted by your Jobcentre to attend an interview, or group training session. 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 use your case (after your name and all personal details have been securely removed) 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.


 

 Posted by at 17:29
Jan 192015
 

Reblogged from Johnny Void, with the usual thanks

Centre for Health and Disability Assessments - The logo likely to be used on the paperwork for the Work Capability Assessment

The logo likely to be used on the paperwork for the Work Capability Assessment

Maximus – the US based firm brought in to replace Atos to carry out benefit assessments – will hide their corporate identity behind a hastily erected front company in an attempt to avoid damage to their brand The Guardian revealed yesterday.

According to the paper, the company will not use its logo on letters sent to claimants facing the notorious Work Capability Assessment, instead using a neutral name such as “The Centre for Health and Disability Assessment”.  In fact this company has been up and running since June 2014, suspiciously several months before it was announced that Maximus would be taking over the contract from Atos.  The Guardian should probably have known this, because they are currently running an advertisement for a Social Media Manager for the new company on the recruitment part of their website.

The company was established by senior Maximus directors Leslie Wolf and William Smith and is based in the their offices in East Sussex..  Already they are using this fake ID to recruit Functional Assessors and other staff to work on the new contract with the DWP as they desperately attempt to find enough healthcare professionals who are nasty enough to take on the role.

The suffering caused by the Work Capability Assessment is well documented with an ever growing list of tragic deaths linked to the process.  Despite this Maximus claim that the press coverage of Atos and their shambolic handling of the assessments has been “unjustifiably negative” and that in future people should blame the government if they don’t like what Maximus does.   This incidentally was exactly the same line Atos used when they whined about people complaining about them.  The idea that it is perfectly possible to hold governments responsible for the shitty things they do, and equally condemn the vile shitbags who profit from them, never seems to have occurred to this mercenary bunch of vultures.

It looks like Maximus are also using the same medical recruitment firm that Atos used to hire staff.  Any healthcare professional considering working for these bastards should remember the words of a former Atos disability analyst:

“The job was making me sick …. It’s against my principles to treat people with long term illnesses in such a disgusting way, so I had to give it up.

“People go into those interviews and talk openly to you because you are a nurse and they trust you.

“Then your skills are used against them, to take away their benefits and destroy their lives.

“I can’t be a part of that.”

Join the Day of Action Against Maximus called by Disabled People Against Cuts on March 2nd.

Maximus Day of Action 2nd March A5 leaflet front and back 06

 Posted by at 23:56
Jan 122015
 

Shown below is a video clip of Shadow Minister for Disabled People Kate Green speaking at the SERTUC disabled workers’ network meeting 30 October 2014, filmed and passed to us by Kate Belgrave

In this clip Kate is saying (from 1.23 in the video)  “We are going to make sure that the work capability assessment is returned to its original purpose of being the first step in the process to diagnose and identify what sort of support somebody who could work at some point would need to have in order to enable them work, and so we will give every single person who goes through the work capability assessment, at the end of their assessment, a statement of how their condition or impairment impacts on their capacity to work. That will refocus the assessment into the right mindset, how to situate (? unclear) your capability for work. It will also, we hope, empower the individual, because that statement will be yours to take to your employer or your work programme provider or training provider and say ‘this is is what I have to contend with. How can we work together to build the support that I need.'”

Our very serious questions to Kate Green are:

  1. Will this be the policy of any incoming Labour Government?
  2. There is no recognition in this statements that people in the Support Group are not able to work, as judged by the already harsh WCA regime, do you really mean that the support group no longer has any meaning?
  3. When you say “everybody going through a Work Capability Assessment”, do you mean this to include (among others):
    1. Claimants with terminal conditions who do not have long left to live
    2. Claimants with severe mental health conditions who are at risk of suicide, or harming themselves or others
    3. Claimants with severe learning difficulties or cognitive impairments
    4. Claimants with high support needs, who will no longer receive ILF funding?
  4. Does Labour intend that the support group will no longer exist for people judged unable to work?

We are extremely concerned about this statement and we call on Kate Green to clarify what these words mean and respond to our questions listed above.

We will publish in full her response on this blog

 

 Posted by at 11:16
Jan 092015
 

Join The Day Of Action Against Maximus

Maximus Day of Action 2nd March A5 leaflet front and back 06

You can download this A5 leaflet to print, share, tweet and put on facebook here or just the front page here  and you can find more information on the Facebook Event Page


 

A national day of action has been called on March 2nd 2015 against Maximus, the company set to take over from Atos running the despised Work Capability Assessments (WCAs) for sickness and disability benefits.

These crude and callous assessments have been used to strip benefits from hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled people after a quick computer based test ruled them ‘fit for work’.  A growing number of suicides have been directly linked to this stressful regime, whilst charities, medical staff and claimants themselves have warned of the desperate consequences for those left with no money at all by the system.

In a huge embarrassment for the DWP, the previous contractor Atos were chased out of the Work Capability Assessments after a sustained and militant campaign carried out by disabled people, benefit claimants and supporters.  In a panicky effort to save these vicious assessments Iain Duncan Smith hired US private healthcare company Maximus to take over from Atos this coming April.

This is not the only lucrative contract the Tories have awarded this company.  Maximus are also involved in helping to privatise the NHS, running the Fit for Work occupational health service designed to bully and harass people on sick leave into going back to work.  Maximus also run the notorious Work Programme in some parts of the UK, meaning that disabled people found fit for work by Maximus may then find themselves sent on workfare by Maximus.  There is no greater enemy to the lives of sick and disabled people in the UK today than this multi-national poverty profiteer who even are prepared to run welfare-to-work style schemes for the brutal Saudi Arabian government.

Maximus have boasted they will not face protests due to their involvement in the Work Capability Asessments and have even stooped as low as hiring one prominent former disability campaigner on a huge salary in an effort to quell protests against their activities.  We urgently need to show them how wrong they are and call for all disabled people, benefit claimants and supporters to organise against this vicious bunch of profiteering thugs.

Please organise in your local area and spread the word.

Maximus are likely to use the same assessment centres as Atos whilst a list of their premises which provide (privatised) healthcare services can be found below, and a list of Maximus offices where they provide welfare-to-work services can be found below that.

In Central London protesters will gather outside Maximus HQ on  at 1pm or 1.30pm. Level 1 Quuen Anne’s Gate, London SW1H 9BU, just round the corner from the DWP.

Look out for online action to be called on the same day.


 

List of Maximus Health programme Locations

Manchester

12 Edward Court, Altrincham Business Park | Altrincham, WA14 5GL
Tel: 0845 894 1664

Birmingham

2 Home Farm Courtyard, Meriden Road | Berkswell, CV7 7BG
Tel: 0845 504 0230

London (City)

Boston House, 63-64 New Broad Street | London, EC2M 1JJ
Tel: 0845 504 0200

London Bridge

3rd Floor, 115 Southwark Bridge Road | London, SE1 0AX
Tel: 0845 504 0202

HML Transport (Derby)

41 Brunel Parkway, Pride Park | Derby, DE24 8HR
Tel: 0845 504 0280

 

Employment and Works programmes

London Branches

Ilford

1st Floor, Newbury House, 890-900 Eastern Ave | Newbury Park, Illford, Essex, IG2 7HY
Phone: 0203 551 7595 | Fax: 0208 599 5218 | ilford@maximusuk.co.uk

Camden

2nd Floor, Bedford House, 125-133 Camden High St | London, NW1 7JR
Phone: 0203 551 7477 | Fax: 0203 551 7480 | camden@maximusuk.co.uk

Ealing

2nd Floor, 84 Uxbridge Rd | Ealing, London, W13 8RA
Phone: 0203 551 7488 | Fax: 0203 551 7495 | ealing@maximusuk.co.uk

Hammersmith and Kensington

Brook House, 235 -239 Shepherds Bush Rd | Hammersmith, London, W6 7AN
Phone: 0203 551 7499 | Fax: 0203 551 7500| hammersmith@maximusuk.co.uk

Hillingdon (Hayes)

914-918 Uxbridge Rd | Hayes, Middlesex, London, UB4 0RW
Phone: 0203 551 7525 | Fax: 0203 551 7526 | hillingdon@maximusuk.co.uk

Islington

2nd Floor, Unit 7, Blenheim Court, 62 Brewery Rd | Islington, London, N7 9NY
Phone: 0203 551 7535 | Fax: 0203 551 7540 | islington@maximusuk.co.uk

Peckham

Ground Floor, 218-222 Rye Lane | Peckham, London, SE15 4NL
Phone: 0203 5517565 | Fax: 0207 6351794 | peckham@maximusuk.co.uk

Romford

3rd Floor, Lambourne House, 7 Western Rd | Romford, Essex, RM1 3LD
Phone: 01708 629208 | Fax: 01708 629212 | romford@maximusuk.co.uk

Walthamstow

Landmark House, Uplands Business Park, Blackhorse Lane | London, E17 5QJ
Phone: 02035 517575 | Fax: 02085 275301 | walthamstow@maximusuk.co.uk


List of Maximus Work Programme Locations

London Branches

Ilford

1st Floor, Newbury House, 890-900 Eastern Ave | Newbury Park, Illford, Essex, IG2 7HY
Phone: 0203 551 7595 | Fax: 0208 599 5218 | ilford@maximusuk.co.uk

Camden

2nd Floor, Bedford House, 125-133 Camden High St | London, NW1 7JR
Phone: 0203 551 7477 | Fax: 0203 551 7480 | camden@maximusuk.co.uk

Ealing

2nd Floor, 84 Uxbridge Rd | Ealing, London, W13 8RA
Phone: 0203 551 7488 | Fax: 0203 551 7495 | ealing@maximusuk.co.uk

Hammersmith and Kensington

Brook House, 235 -239 Shepherds Bush Rd | Hammersmith, London, W6 7AN
Phone: 0203 551 7499 | Fax: 0203 551 7500| hammersmith@maximusuk.co.uk

Hillingdon (Hayes)

914-918 Uxbridge Rd | Hayes, Middlesex, London, UB4 0RW
Phone: 0203 551 7525 | Fax: 0203 551 7526 | hillingdon@maximusuk.co.uk

Islington

2nd Floor, Unit 7, Blenheim Court, 62 Brewery Rd | Islington, London, N7 9NY
Phone: 0203 551 7535 | Fax: 0203 551 7540 | islington@maximusuk.co.uk

Peckham

Ground Floor, 218-222 Rye Lane | Peckham, London, SE15 4NL
Phone: 0203 5517565 | Fax: 0207 6351794 | peckham@maximusuk.co.uk

Romford

3rd Floor, Lambourne House, 7 Western Rd | Romford, Essex, RM1 3LD
Phone: 01708 629208 | Fax: 01708 629212 | romford@maximusuk.co.uk

Walthamstow

Landmark House, Uplands Business Park, Blackhorse Lane | London, E17 5QJ
Phone: 02035 517575 | Fax: 02085 275301 | walthamstow@maximusuk.co.uk

South East Branches

Aldershot

Suite 1, 3rd Floor, Victoria House, Victoria Road | Aldershot, GU11 1DB
Phone: 01252 352354 | aldershot@maximusuk.co.uk

Aylesbury

Ground Floor, Walker House, George St | Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP20 2HU
Phone: 01296 699870 | Fax: 01296 699871 | aylesbury@maximusuk.co.uk

Banbury

Suite A, Castle Link, 39 North Bar St | Banbury, OX16 0TH
Phone: 01295 675135 | Fax: 01295 675136 | banbury@maximusuk.co.uk

Bracknell

1st Floor, Unit 7, Bracknell Beeches, Old Bracknell Lane West | Bracknell, RG12 7BW
Phone: 01344 859150 | Fax: 01344 304632 | bracknell@maximusuk.co.uk

Burgess Hill

2nd Floor, Greenacre Court, Market Place | Bracknell, RH15 9DS
Phone: 01444 810280 | burgesshill@maximusuk.co.uk

Chichester

1st Floor, Friar’s House, 52A East St | Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 1JG
Phone: 01243 850905 | Fax: 01243 785491 | chichester@maximusuk.co.uk

Dartford

Third Floor, West Hill House, West Hill | Dartford, Kent, DA1 2EU
Phone: 01322 352565 | Fax: 01322 293690 | dartford@maximusuk.co.uk

Eastleigh

Suite B, 2nd Floor, Smith Bradbeer House, High St | Eastleigh, Hampshire, SO50 5LG
Phone: 02380 658600 | Fax: 02380 650259 | eastleigh@maximusuk.co.uk

Guildford

4th Floor Dominion House, Woodbridge Rd | Guildford, Surrey, GU1 4PU
Phone: 01483 550 990 | Fax: 01483 457 151 | guildford@maximusuk.co.uk

High Wycombe

2nd Floor, Suite C, The Apollo Centre, Desborough Rd | High Wycombe, HP11 2QW
Phone: 01494 958414 | Fax: 01494 958415 | highwycombe@maximusuk.co.uk

Horsham

2nd Floor, South Suite, Sanford House, Medwin Walk | Sussex, RH12 1AG
Phone: 01403 800160 | Fax: 01403 230408 | horsham@maximusuk.co.uk

Milton Keynes

2nd Floor East, Elder House, 502 Elder Gate | Milton Keynes, MK9 1LR
Phone: 01908 711800 | Fax: 01908 711801 | miltonkeynes@maximusuk.co.uk

Oxford

1st Floor, Suite 3, Threeways House, George St | Oxford, OX1 2BJ
Phone: 01865 364364 | Fax: 01865 364365 | oxford@maximusuk.co.uk

Reading

Ground and 1st Floor, Summit House, 49-51 Greyfriars Rd | Reading, RG1 1PA
Phone: 01189 099189 | Fax: 01189 099191 | reading@maximusuk.co.uk

Slough

1st Floor, South Suite, Wellington House, 20 Queensmere, High Street | Slough, Berkshire, SL1 1DB
Phone: 01753 569500 | Fax: 01392 330195 | slough@maximusuk.co.uk

Southampton

2nd Floor, Podium Unit, Dukes Keep, Marsh Lane | Southampton, SO14 3EX
Phone: 02380 658585 | Fax: 02380 336480 | southampton@maximusuk.co.uk

 Posted by at 14:12
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/

Nov 292014
 

Dr Litchfield has produced the 5th and final Statutory WCA Review. This Review is by far the most interesting and revealing.

  • Lichfield says WCA not fit for purpose

  • WCA Test shown not to be accurate

  • Different ESA Objectives incompatible with each other

  • Mandatory Reconsiderations Not effective say DWP staff.

  • ESA payments should continue during Mandatory Reconsideration

  • Problems with the Assessment Backlog

  • Too many 16-24 year olds being written off by ESA

  • Use of regulation 35 is successful

  • WCA must be scrapped.

OVERVIEW

According to Dr Litchfield, the WCA has exhausted its usefulness, but it should not be replaced immediately as it needs to be ‘embedded’ first to give time for a new system of assessment to be devised. After 5 years of recommendations, mainly aimed at improving the ‘claimant journey’ rather than the test accuracy, Dr Litchfield does not believe the current test can be improved further, but nor does he believe that it fulfills its intended purpose, which was to determine benefit eligibility on the basis of capability for work. ‘There must be clarity of purpose – determining benefit eligibility and supporting employment outcomes may not be compatible objectives’. It was however the basis on which the WCA was introduced.

WCA EVIDENCE BASED REVIEW

There is also a long technical section devoted to the WCA Evidence Based Review. This review has its limitations which are well explained by Dr Litchfield, but it also highlights a very important point: when compared with another means of testing capability for work, the WCA performed much better than the alternative test which was proposed. But when it comes to assessing lack of capability for work, the WCA performance is well below average. ‘When measuring the specificity of the two assessments, the WCA performed better, scoring 87% in comparison to 63% for the 19-activity AA. However, when considering sensitivity, the AA was found to perform better, scoring 72% in comparison to 44%. High specificity would indicate a good capacity to identify those who are able to work while high sensitivity would reflect a good capacity to identify those with limited capability for work’. What this means is that the WCA is good at identifying people fit for work, but ineffective (44%) at identifying people who cannot work. Considering the consequences of being found fit for work when somebody is not, the conservative approach (which in this case does not mean the Tory approach) would have been to allow a few people fit for work to claim ESA rather than to deprive people unable to work of any income. This was not the approach taken, with the all too familiar consequences, and Dr Litchfield does not comment on this.

MANDATORY RECONSIDERATIONS

There is also a section on Mandatory Reconsiderations. Not much can be said about these as DWP has not produced any figures, statistics or indications of how MRs are performing, although they were introduced over a year ago, but it seems that ‘half DWP staff of dispute resolution Decision Makers perceived the process to be effective, with even fewer original Decision Makers sharing the view’. In other terms, less than 50 % of DWP staff perceive the process to be effective which is very worrying. DWP staff as a whole seem to have a better perception of the WCA process than claimants, and the fact that less than half of DWP staff perceive the Mandatory Reconsideration process to be effective would indicate an even lower level of satisfaction among claimants.

In addition, it seems that most DWP staff dealing with Mandatory Reconsiderations are the same people who previously dealt with the now abolished Social Fund. It is all credit to DWP not to have made these staff redundant, but what it means is DWP ‘dispute resolution teams’ dealing with Mandatory Reconsiderations are not ‘located in the areas that they serve, case files have to be requested from other offices and posted across the UK using secure postal services’. Which means more delays, and which may partly or entirely account for DWPs failure to produce any figures on waiting times, but anecdoctal evidence shows that some claimants have waited more than 6 months for their Mandatory Reconsideration outcome, without income. Dr Litchfield does highlight this issue with Mandatory Reconsiderations, although it is outside his terms of reference, by saying “Claiming JSA while undergoing mandatory reconsideration can also be problematic, as people can be informed by Jobcentre staff that they are too unwell to start a claim. This can in turn leave people without support at a time when they need it most. Given a JSA payment is the same as the ESA assessment rate, the DWP should explore whether the ESA assessment payment could be continued through mandatoryreconsideration as it is through the appeals process.” This point was raised by the W&P Committee for DWP to consider, but in the Government’s latest response to the Committee published yesterday, this recommendation was rejected, and it is not part of Dr Litchfield’s recommendations as this is outside the scope of his review.

TWITTER

It is impossible to ignore the WCA reviewers spending time on social media to analyse the perceptions of the WCA on Twitter. The findings were that ‘On average, around 11% were categorised as ‘negative’, compared to only 3% ‘positive’. The remaining 86% were recorded as neutral’. Only 11% negative? For Dr Litchfield, the main reason for these negative perceptions of the WCA process is ‘The regular changes to the assessment would certainly appear to influence negative perceptions. Not only do they keep the WCA in the public eye but each change may reinforce the view that the assessment is flawed’. Another point he makes is that ‘Any assessment should not only be fair but be perceived to be fair’, but for Dr Litchfield, the issue seems to be with failures to communicate properly about the process or the outcomes rather than with inherent flaws to the test or to the environment within which the test is performed.

TRENDS OVER TIME

Dr Litchfield then looks at the trends over time and highlights from October 2013 a substantial increase in the number of claimants placed in the Support Group, which he partly explains by the backlog and the way it was cleared. ‘This spike is likely to be a feature of the way in which the WCA backlog was addressed by the Department and the Provider’. This confirms what had always been suspected until now, that in order to clear the backlog, DWP and Atos prioritised the worst cases which could be cleared through paper based reviews, because it is much quicker, leading to a disproportionate number of claimants being placed in the Support Group.

But this is not enough to explain the spike and anomalies which show a deviation from the initial intent of the WCA, namely the disproportionate number of young people (16-24) with mental health conditions being placed in the Support Group with sometimes a very short prognosis (a word Dr Litchfield intends to have banned from the WCA terminology). Looking closer at this trend, it seems that the main reason for it is the very widespread use of Regulation 35 (2) (b). ‘The main driver for the increase appears to be the use of Regulation 35 (2) (b), where an individual is considered to constitute a substantial risk of harm’. Also contrary to what was highlighted in the last review, there is also now a close concordance between the recommendations of HCP and Decision Makers in the application of Regulation 35 (2) (b) and ‘86% were attributed to risk of harm resulting from an identified mental health condition’. Dr Litchfield could not find any reasons behind the more widespread application of Regulation 35 (2) (b) and is asking DWP to investigate as a matter of urgency whether it is correctly applied. It is a shame that Dr Litchfield does not push the logic further by wondering why HP and Decision Makers are using this regulation more widely with this specific group, and that he did not look at the broader environment, but again that was not part of his brief. Dr Litchfield repeatedly uses the expression ‘unintended consequences’ in relation to changes applied to the WCA process over time. One limitation of this approach is that it ignores the impact of other changes outside the WCA process which could have made the WRAG a ‘toxic group’.

CONCLUSIONS

To conclude, although Dr Litchfield no longer thinks the test is fit for purpose, he recommends giving the WCA a period of stability because ‘it is by no means perfect but there is no better replacement that can be pulled off the shelf’. After 4 reviews saying that it was the right test, this is a poor consolation. There has been a glaring omission in all these reviews, but as it was not part of the Reviewer’s terms of reference, this is not surprising.

Ultimately, the raison d’être of the WCA was to determine which claimants were fit for work, and the litmus test is the number of people found fit for work who have actually found a job. That has never been monitored by DWP and the only figures available are for ESA claimants with a short prognosis forced onto the Work Programme, with dismal results. That no alternative can be ‘pulled off the shelf’ is no justification for keeping a test which is unable to distinguish between claimants fit and unfit for work, which leaves them without income for lengthy periods, and which punishes people for being sick or disabled. Dr Litchfield’s last review confirms what claimants going through the process have been saying all along. The test has been improved as much as it could be, but it has not been made more accurate at identifying which claimants are fit or unfit to work.


We say:  The WCA should be scrapped and should be scrapped now.

 Posted by at 21:29
Nov 142014
 

Benefits and Work website yesterday published an email sent by Labour which explains their proposals to improve WCA.

It is a summary of previously announced proposals but we thought we would take this opportunity to restate, perhaps in even more strident terms our position with respect to Labour’s WCA Proposals.

We have done this many times of course, both on the blog and in direct communication with Labour but nothing ever seems to sink in.

Labours proposals are:

1. We will start by transforming the way the WCA is designed to make it more effective at helping disabled people into work. With Labour, disabled people would receive a copy of the assessor’s report of how their health condition may affect their ability to work, and information about the support that is available in their local area to help them – a first vital step towards a more integrated system of support.

2. Secondly, we would continue to produce an independent review of the WCA, and ask the Office for Disability Issues to support an independent scrutiny group of disabled people to work together with the independent reviewer to assess whether the test is being conducted in a fair and transparent way. We will commit to responding to the recommendations of this report.

3. Finally, a Labour government will go further in ensuring that the assessments get it right first time. We would make sure that in the new system there would be clear penalties for poor performance by assessors, measured both on the number of times decisions are overturned by DWP decision makers, and the number of times they are overturned on appeal.

These changes are falling very short of being crucial.

First they are very vague, and do not address the very high number of ESA overturned decisions by tribunals or even by DWP own reconsideration process (before mandatory reconsiderations were introduced).

The reviews that Labour is committed to produce have been discredited. Professor Harrington, by deciding to talk about his misgivings about moving IB claimants onto ESA only, after he lost his lucrative job for DWP when he could have spoken up before, Dr Litchfield because he devised the Mental health descriptors and was very unlikely to challenge them later in his review.

What disabled people have been waiting for, is a sign from Labour frontbench that disabled people have been unfairly targeted by cuts, but also mistreated, bullied, abused and driven to suicide.

They are still waiting.

One Labour backbencher suggested that one way to improve things very quickly was to pause the reassessments. This suggestion from Sheila Gilmore is welcome and it is surprising that it was not followed up by Rachel Reeves or Kate Green.

The focus on disabled people working, contributing to the economy shows that Labour, like the Tories only see people as economical variables, not people who deserve to live a decent life.

Lastly, if you still have some illusions, sanctioning disabled people wasn’t introduced by the Tories, it began under the last Labour Government.

These WCA Proposals from Labour are “figleaf policies”, intended only to do the barest minimum needed to avoid embarrassment for Labour. It hasn’t worked.  

So here it is again, our response to Labour on WCA (maybe this time it will sink in):-

Are you taking the Piss?

The WCA DOESN’T WORK

The WCA is a cause of stress and hardship to disabled people, it is inaccurate, causes harm, and it DOESN’T EVEN GET DISABLED PEOPLE INTO WORK.

The WCA has caused people to commit suicide and your WCA will continue to cause people to commit suicide.

You are still planning to use LIMA, a computer program to MAKE CATASTROPHICALLY WRONG DECISIONS, TIME AND TIME AND TIME AGAIN.

You are still planning to bully people who CAN NOT WORK with repeat assessments.

Will you stop mandatory consideration? If so how are you going to handle the flood of appeals from wrong decisions? If not, you are no better than the Tories.

More “Harrington” Reviews of the WCA? Don’t make us laugh.

YOU ARE STILL INTENDING TO USE PRIVATE CONTRACTORS WHO DON’T CARE ABOUT DISABLED PEOPLE BUT DO CARE ABOUT PROFITS

and after all that, after the fear, the misery, the anxiety, the hardship and the suicides, your WCA won’t get disabled people into work because THERE ARE NO JOBS AVAILABLE for us.

EMPLOYERS CAN’T BE BOTHERED WITH US, DONT YOU GET THAT?

And when a job is available, we can’t get there because WE DON’T HAVE ACCESS TO TRANSPORT,

DPAC’s response to Labour’s WCA proposals in a nutshell:

SCRAP THE WCA & ESA and Scrap Sanctions for all.

Then come up with something much much better that addresses our real needs, not Daily Mail headlines.

Has it sunk in yet?

 Posted by at 15:44
Oct 302014
 

So finally released is the official news that Maximus take over from the toxic brand of Atos for £500 million. Already there are comparisons with Russell Crow characters, but there’s also an overlooked Maximus who might be more fitting as a parody or comparison. This Maximus comes from the U.S Marvel comics

Maximus was briefly the leader of the Inhumans while his brother, Black Bolt, went into exile, daring not to use his dangerous voice. Maximus believed that the Inhumans were the greater form of life on Earth and he set out to rule them and to destroy humankind to retake the planet.
More on Marvel.com: http://marvel.com/universe/Maximus#ixzz3Hd6bb9Bl

Leader of the inhumans seems much more fitting than the hero reduced to slavery and seeking revenge- can we compare Black Bolt to Atos going into exile too? No, not really, as Maximus are using Atos staff and equipment to continue with the inhuman Work Capability Assessments (WCA), and of course Atos have a whole host of other multi-million Government contracts including PIP-yet another planned disaster, shared with Capita, leaving disabled people stuck on a waiting list for up to a year without any financial support whatsoever. In June 2014 MacMillan identified that those diagnosed with cancer were waiting at least six months for the initial assessment rather than being fast tracked properly, as was the case under the Disability living Allowance.

We can be sure that this didn’t and doesn’t just apply to those with cancer,but those with other terminal illness’ too. The Work and Pensions Committee rightly condemned this, but then we hear nothing more than empty silence. New Labour say it will take 42 years to clear the PIP backlog. But they don’t tell us what they will do about it, which with an election year fast approaching is yet another lost opportunity for the rusty New Labour machinery.

From one toxic brand to another?

Its worth a quick recap on Atos and the WCA contracts. The Atos process contributed to deaths, the Atos process contributed to worsening mental health, Atos’ so called ‘healthcare professionals were ‘trained’ over a period of days, Atos got reports wrong frequently, Atos were subject to TV exposures, the Atos process was condemned internationally, Atos were closely linked Unum insurance sharing the same CEO, Atos declared people fit for work when they were in comas or days before they died. Atos pulled out of their contract saying that those nasty disabled people were being nasty to their staff- a claim which , true to form, they could provide no evidence for.

Atos became a toxic brand long before the hyped ‘pull-out’. Atos were targeted from 2011 onwards by DPAC with protests outside their shiny London headquarters and elsewhere. Atos tried to shut down web sites that said ‘bad’ things about them. In 2012 their sponsorship of the Olympic games ( along with a set of other dubious multi-nationals) led to a 7 day protest by DPAC, a protest that saw angry protesters outside Atos centres across the UK. It was then that national media, often silenced by their owners vested interests broke through. We saw from the first time a trickle of freelancers with a social conscience edge in the Atos issue under the Olympics rubric. We saw the beginnings of a snow ball affect which Atos’ public image never recovered from. Atos were known not as the IT company, but the company that carried out those bogus Work Capability Assessments.

From bad to worse
So what changes with Maximus? First let Maximus be in no doubt that they will get the same treatment as Atos did-disabled people will continue protest and civil disobedience- a name change doesn’t mean a thing. This company knew exactly what they were taking on-but money talks louder than conscience . As already mentioned Maximus take the infrastructure of Atos, its staff , its IT , its tick box assessments. Atos are still gaining. Second, Maximus take private contracts ( paid with public money) to help dismantle what’s left of our ( or anyone else’s) welfare state to force those ‘that can’ on to private insurance scams that may or may not pay out-Unum and co are also laughing all the way to their bankster friends. .

What’s different? Well, Maximus seem worse than Atos- yes you read that correctly. They have a string of law suits in their homeland the good old US of A. In 2014 they said

“We expect that demand for our core health and human services offerings will continue to increase over the next few years, driven by new legislation, austerity measures and increasing caseloads, as governments strive to deliver more services with fewer resources. Legislation, such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the United States as well as other health and welfare reform initiatives abroad, has created increased demand for our services, a trend we expect to continue over the next several years.”

‘Core health and human services offerings’:?. It seems these ‘offerings’ have proved a bit of an expensive minefield. But these days such things are written off to risk if the profits out weigh the pay-offs companies will do what the hell they like. In 2007 Maximus settled a Medicaide card fraud with the Federal Government paying $30.5 million. In 2012 they paid $50,000 in a disability discrimination case. In 2013 it was reported that Maximus has been engaging in ‘improper billing advice’ concerning $3.5 million cost to tax payers (sounds familiar-except here our state dont appear to do much about such things).There’s more, but you get the picture. Final add is that Maximus also like to give lots of money to right wing politicians-ah it gets even clearer.

Looks like we should expect the worst and looks like our unelected Government have managed to surpass themselves, again. The drain on the so-called public purse- that’s tax payers money- is set to rocket again. But beyond financial concerns are what happens now with the WCA? What happens to the backlog? And what happens to disabled people- the news doesn’t look good, as many commentators on social media have already pointed out. However, several things have been missed on social media

All in it together?
While Disability Rights UK (DRUK) were one of the first to get the notice of Maximus taking over from Atos out on their website, they failed to mention how they will be ‘helping’ Maximus. This information is not on their web site. It can be found elsewhere on the Department of Work and Pensions website :

“On top of recruiting additional healthcare professionals, MAXIMUS also plans to make further improvements to people’s experience of an assessment and will seek to continually improve the service they offer. It will increase the number of specialists who conduct assessments, including experts in mental health. They will also spend more time with people before their assessment to fully explain the process and provide Disability Awareness training for all staff through Disability Rights UK”.

Didn’t Atos claim similar things too? There are some who might say DRUK is what is needed. We should ask those people how a so-called user-led disabled peoples’ organisation can, with any integrity, involve themselves in this at all. Its no secret that like Maximus themselves, DRUK would know about the WCA, the Government lies that surround it, the misery caused by it, and why it all chimes together to remove welfare/state support from disabled people-It marks a purposeful intention to further open -up the market for private insurers – is this a mistake on the DWP’s own Government site?

Sadly, we think not. In the latest release DRUK say that they’ve been in discussions with Maximus and no work has yet been agreed- shouldn’t they be categorically denying the association outright?

Yet, DRUK are already ‘in bed’ with big corporations and private insurance companies. After their prior foray with Capita, DRUK now appear to have joined the game of pushing private disability insurance too. They are partnering with 17 big insurance companies to show the difference insurance would make, instead of fighting for the rights of disabled people. That is disabled people who by DRUK’s own admission occupy one of the largest groups in poverty, a poverty level that has been systematically widened and worsened because of this Government’s pursuit of removing welfare.

A few months ago DRUK publicised a new television program calling for disabled volunteers: Seven Families. Seven families will take the same number of families and show the benefits of purchasing private disability insurance. Its not about pushing products says the Income Protection Task Force (?) blurb-its about raising awareness-not since the Guardian published the much criticised info ads for Unum have we seen this sort of ‘stupid public’ approach. Once again , you wont find this on the DRUK web-site it’s been removed. But DRUK’s strap-line of breaking the link between poverty and disability just took on a new meaning

More importantly, under the WCA contract Atos were paid per assessment. Under the PIP contract Atos and Capita are paid a lump sum not depending on the number of assessments- the planned backlog becomes clearer. But what of the Maximus contract -are they paid by assessment or paid a lump sum? What is obvious is that the rounds of assessments and reassessments will continue to persecute disabled people. At intervals they might get a pittance of support, they might need to wait longer for a mandatory reconsideration ( brought in in Oct 2013 to make the process even more difficult and knock people out of the system). The best bet is to forget that you’ve paid state national insurance for all of your working life and go see Unum- and if 99% of disabled people cant afford it tough, because even your own so called disability organisations are telling you this is now the only way.

We want answers and we call on New Labour’s Rachael Reeves and Kate Green to provide them-what will they do with Maximus? What will they do with mandatory reconsideration? What will they do for disabled people? Oh and why should we a) trust them b) vote for them?

For now as The Void suggests: ‘Maximus are the new Atos: destroy Maximus’ and everyone and every organisation involved in or supporting this inhuman regime of the corrupt WCA, until its scrapped completely!

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/

 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/ .

 Posted by at 14:46
Sep 082014
 

Response
(1) The Work Capability Assessment is a much more rigid test & cannot be compared with former Personal Capability Assessments.  It is inconceivable that a conclusion can be reached that the more rigid Work Capability Assessment has become easier to negotiate than the previous Personal Capability Assessment which had a lower threshold.
It is not accepted that there has been any form of significant improvement in the claims process surrounding the Work Capability Assessment.
Never before has one benefit assessment process attracted so much adverse publicity and negativity as the Work Capability Assessment.
It stands to reason that if the test is set as high bar as the Work Capability Assessment is, it logically follows that qualifying for entitlement will be far more difficult than qualifying for the previous Incapacity Benefit via the Personal Capability Assessment process used to determine eligibility for Incapacity Benefit & Income Support on the grounds of incapacity for work.
It is not accepted that any accurate comparison with Incapacity Benefit can be drawn without full regard to analysing similar cohort factors such as the ages, ICD coding, duration of claim, gender, and regions of the claimants being taken in to consideration.

(2) No comparisons can be drawn between Incapacity Benefit & Employment & Support Allowance without a proper scrutiny of a more complete set of statistics
Before drawing any analysis between Incapacity Benefit and ESA, the numbers of claimants used in the comparison including on and off flows would need to be carefully scrutinised. This is especially important where the flow rate is mixed with ib/ESA migration cases and where it can no longer be safely concluded that new ESA claimants are not in fact older claimants who have since submitted a fresh claim.
Between October 2008 and September 2013 the ESA regime has involved a total departmental case-load (across all cohorts) of 6,440,000 cases involving 4,396,400 Work Capability Assessments of which 1,198,700 were a repeat.  A case load of this magnitude requires considerable analysis across all cohorts before any accurate comparisons can be drawn between the older incapacity benefits and ESA.  The former was far less complex in cohort terms.
Between October 2008 and September 2013, 1,407,400 claimants have been placed in the Work Related Activity Group (453,300 at repeat assessment) and 1,437,300 in the Support Group (479,800 at repeat assessment).  These figures are considerably higher than those relating to the new ESA claim group in which 484,900 have been placed in the Work Related Activity Group and 445,400 have been placed in the Support Group. Far more information is required as to not only the numbers allocated to the groups but also what happens to the claimants after they have been assessed in to a placement.

(3) The DWP needs to produce statistics on appeals & reconsiderations before any reliance be can be placed on the Work Capability Assessment statistics.  Well over a million claimants have disputed the findings of Work Capability Assessments and the full dispute outcomes are as yet still unknown.
From April 2009 to December 2013, HMCTS figures confirm 1,054,541 ESA appeals have been lodged with Tribunals of which an average of 40 + % of those already heard have been overturned in the claimant’s favour.  These figures are far in excess of any related to the previous Incapacity Benefit and are an obvious indicator of significant numbers of claimants having a lack of confidence in the decision reached at initial assessment.
The DWP’s WCA statistics are inherently unreliable and cannot be read in the context of isolated quotations from quarterly releases without proper reference being made to the more specific and overall totals available.  The overall (cumulative) ‘qualifying’ rates for claimants are (up to September 2013):
-New ESA claimants 47%
-New ESA claimants at repeat assessment 78%
-IB/ESA migrated claimants 80%

Whilst it may be helpful to look at quarterly shifts in the figures, it is the overall cumulative rate which needs to change before it can be safely concluded that any material change has taken place.

The DWP’s WCA statistics are rendered inaccurate by way of the DWP’s inherently slow update of information from the inputting of the number of formal appeals lodged with HMCTS together with a total lack of explanation as to the number of initial decisions overturned informally following DWP reconsideration. This is particularly important in respect of monitoring the effects of mandatory reconsideration since October 2013.

(4) Employment & Support Allowance is an entirely different regime to that of Incapacity Benefit making any comparison unreliable.  Delays with the DWP & Atos Healthcare have resulted in a chronic backlog of 750,000 cases awaiting assessments from which no conclusions can be drawn.  The WCA statistics are made additionally complex by the influx of a case load of 1,354,800 claimants assessed from the Incapacity Benefit migration programme.
The claims process involving ESA is entirely different to that of Incapacity Benefit.  ESA involves the claimant initially being subjected to what should be a 13 week assessment phase before the Work Capability Assessment decision is decided upon by the DWP.  It is only once the assessment phase has been completed that a proper decision can be made as to whether the claimant can move in to the main WRAG/Support Group phases of ESA entitlement.  Chronic delays have built up to a point where the backlog awaiting assessment had recently reached over 750,000 claimants.  It is a clear sign that the DWP was earlier ‘over reassessing’ claimants leading to a substantial lack of residual data on outcomes and the possibility that the Department is now making less rigid placement decisions in order to get though its chronically stretched backlog.
Claimants who have undergone ib to ESA migration do not in any event claim ESA, their claim is merely converted (providing they qualify at the point of WCA conversion) and thus no comparison can be drawn between this cohort and those making a new ESA claim from scratch.

(5) Statistical manipulation
Between October 2008 and September 2013, the Work Capability Assessment statistics record that 1,551,500 claimants have been found fit for work and 1,500,900 claimants have ended their claims without completing their Work Capability Assessment. In total the overall number of claimants who seemingly should have exited Employment & Support Allowance is therefore in excess of 3 million claimants. However the DWP off flow figures for the period October 2008 to August 2013 show the numbers exiting from Employment & Support Allowance to be 2,288,980.

The number of claimants leaving Employment & Support Allowance who closed their claims is a fixed statistic, whereas the number found fit for work is reversible if the claimant appeals or requests a reconsideration.
It is hard to understand how an apparent ‘exodus’ of some 3 million plus Employment & Support Allowance claimants as shown in the assessment statistics is not matched by statistics showing a rise in the numbers claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance.
In addition to the exodus related to assessment, there are also claimants who will have died, transferred to other benefits or ended their claim through time limiting imposed upon contributory claimants in the Work Related Activity Group who cease claiming where there are no grounds upon which to continue claiming income based Employment & Support Allowance.
DWP figures, related to on-flows, show that of October 2008 to August 2013, 636,410 Employment & Support Allowance claimants made a second or more claim for Employment & Support Allowance. This will add substantially to the number of on flows and may therefore give a distorted perception over more claimants claiming as well as ‘clouding’ the influx of what may appear to be new Employment & Support Allowance claimants who are in fact previous claimants who have simply made another claim.

(6) Mistrust
Media articles including those relating to the deaths of ESA claimants such as Graham Shawcross (63), Mark Wood (44), Neil Groves (46), Lee Robinson (39), Elenore Tatton (39), Linda Wootton (49), Brian McCardle (57), Karen Sherlock (44), Trevor Drakard (50), David Groves (56) and others have created a massive mistrust in the Work Capability Assessment as a valid measure of a claimant’s ability to work.  The DWP has failed to produce any up to date statistics upon which any reliable conclusions can be drawn as to the number of deaths & whether they can be ruled out as being directly or indirectly related to the Work Capability Assessment process.
The Work Capability Assessment remains condemned by disability groups, the BMA, National Charities, senior judges and Parliamentary Select Committees. The process has been identified as unfit for purpose and of such toxicity that major re-work is required. There clearly remains widespread concern that the WCA has not improved, customers have no confidence in it in, employers are clearly not convinced by it as an accurate measure of fitness to work as evidenced by the appalling Work Programme Job Outcomes valid to March 2014:
In the New ESA claimant group, out of 484,900 in the ‘Work Related Activity Group’, just 10,760 ended up with a Job Outcome (2.2%)
In the Incapacity Benefit to ESA conversion group, out of 469,200 claimants placed in the ‘Work Related Activity Group’ just 980 ended up with a job outcome (0.2%)
In the Incapacity Benefit to ESA conversion group, out of 249,300 claimants found ‘fit for work’ just 3,160 (1.4%) ended up with a job outcome.   Whilst this appalling result is shocking in itself, it should be remembered that the DWP’s figures only point to people on JSA who have been on incapacity benefits.  These figures may therefore relate to claimants who have ended their older incapacity claims and taken up a JSA claim voluntarily without being tested for ESA.
In the overall ‘voluntary participation group’ where there is no mandatory requirement to take part (unless a claimant has agreed to participate) out of 957,500 claimants placed in the Support Group (from both new ESA and incapacity to ESA claim groups) 3,350 claimants (0.4%) ended up with a job via the Work Programme. This group does better than the mandatory groups in incapacity to ESA conversion cases.

(7) Summary
It is unsafe to draw any conclusion that it is any easier for a claimant to make a claim for Employment & Support Allowance than it was for previous range of incapacity benefits. It is not possible to make a valid comparison on the basis of comparing numbers/success. A full explanation as to how claimants made their claims and how they were assessed is required before an accurate comparison can be made.  There is simply not enough information currently available to conclude that the Harrington reviews have led to any identifiable improvement.
A rise in the numbers being placed within the Support Group and Work Related Activity Groups may be more related to the greater number of claimants involved, the appeal/reconsideration results beginning to filter through after data lag, more claimants re-applying after being turned down, less capacity within the Work Programme to handle the larger numbers involved and a reduction in the number of repeat & ib/ESA migration assessments following the announcement that Atos Healthcare were withdrawing from the contract to conduct assessments for the DWP.
For these reasons any claim that it is easier to make a claim for Employment & Support Allowance than it was for Incapacity Benefit is strongly refuted.
By Nick Dilworth.
For and on behalf of New Approach.
New Approach are committed to working with other individuals & groups, please add your signature to this statement by emailing newapproach_uk@outlook.com or in comments.

follow new Approach on twitter @newapproach_uk

website: www.http://newapproachuk.org/

Aug 162014
 

 

(Report from workshop at national meeting of Anti Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice federation)

Fighting Benefit Sanctions

 

The government has a policy  of increasing sanctions to force people off benefits. 

 

More than 800,000 people have been sanctioned in the last year. Referrals to food banks are mainly due to claimants being sanctioned. 

 

Martin Cavanagh is the PCS Group Exec member for civil servants working in the DWP.  The PCS union resolved at their recent conference to oppose both Workfare and Benefit Sanctions. He explained the three central reasons behind the Tories policy of increasing sanctions; Further demonisation of the poor, financial savings for the government, and driving a wedge between claimants and workers. 

 

PCS survey of members working in the DWP revealed that 82% of members felt ‘pressured’ into sanctioning claimants, and 62% said they had made ‘inappropriate’ sanctions decisions. 

 sanctions

The Kirklees Axe The Tax group have used a banner : No Sanction for Claimants! No Targets for Staff! This attracted claimants and some staff to their stall outside a job centre.

 

Roger Lewis speaking for DPAC said that ‘more needed to be done by the PCS.’ But, he insisted, ‘we will not allow the government to divide us. Those working for the DWP alongside claimants have a common interest, we are locked together in a common fight against the Tories.’ 

 

‘More will be done from our union the PCS over the sanctions,’ explained Martin. 

 

‘Advice for claimants on how to challenge sanction decisions has now been agreed between our union, the PCS, Unite the Union Community branches, and campaigners against sanctions. That advice will be issued shortly.’

 

Research has shown that only 1 in 50 claimants who are sanctioned appeal the decision. Of those 90% win their appeal. Forthcoming advice will explain to claimants how they can appeal. 

 

To launch the joint advice and joint campaign, we agreed a day of action against benefit sanctions for Thursday 11th September. 

 

Protests will be organised in every region outside key DWP headquarters or similar high profile government offices.

Fighting Workfare

Public campaigns work! 

 

With just a few protesters the Boycott Workfare actions have ‘shamed’ many employers into withdrawing from the Workfare scheme. Companies and businesses don’t want to be exposed as employing ‘slave’ labour. Only when a company signs up to the Boycott Workfare pledge are they removed for the Boycott Workfare website listing. 

 

Protests outside flagship venues of those companies still in the scheme will continue until the schemes are scrapped.

 

Reblogged with thanks from http://antibedroomtax.org.uk/2013-05-29-04-42-41/latest-news/110-stop-sanctions-11th-sept-day-of-action

 

 

Jul 242014
 

 

Joint statement by Black Triangle Campaign, CarerWatch, Disabled People Against Cuts, Mental Health Resistance Network, Pats Petition, #NewApproach and WOWPetition

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.

We call once again on the British Medical Association to send guidance on DWP rules “29 and 35” which allows doctors to prevent foreseeable harm being done to ‘at risk’ patients.

They didn’t improve slavery, they abolished it, because it was wrong.

They didn’t amend Apartheid , they ended it because it was wrong

The WCA is wrong, and it needs to be abolished

Signed

Andy Greene, Disabled People Against Cuts
Annie Howard, Disabled People Against Cuts
Bob Ellard, Disabled People Against Cuts
Debbie Jolly, Disabled People Against Cuts
Denise McKenna, Mental Health Resistance Network
Jane Bence, #NewApproach
Eleanor Firman, Disabled People Against Cuts
Ellen Clifford, Disabled People Against Cuts
Gail Ward, Disabled People Against Cuts
John James McArdle, Black Triangle Campaign
Katy Marchant, Disabled People Against Cuts
Linda Burnip, Disabled People Against Cuts
Michelle Maher, WOWPetition
Nick Dilworth, #NewApproach
Pat Onions, Pats Petition
Paula Peters, Disabled People Against Cuts
Rick Burgess, #NewApproach
Roger Lewis, Disabled People Against Cuts
Rosemary O’Neil, Carerwatch
Roy Bard, Disabled People Against Cuts
Wayne Blackburn, #NewApproach
 
 Posted by at 14:47
Jul 082014
 

Twice over the past quarter it has been publicly announced by 2 different ministers that the huge reduction in the appeal intake was due to more accurate ESA decisions, first by Mike Penning, the Minister for Disabled People on the Daily Politics Show on April the 13th and then by Steve Webb, the Minister of State for Pensions, during the debate about DWP chaos. It is essential to put the record straight as DWP continues taking credit for what it describes as an improvement of the WCA process, leading to more disabled people being entitled to ESA. Far from being improved, the WCA process has become unmanageable and is described by Judge Martin, the recently retired President of the Social Entitlement Chamber, dealing with benefits tribunals, as being in a state of virtual collapse. This state of virtual collapse has led to the publishing of astonishing figures.

First there has been an 89% reduction in the number of appeals compared with the same period in 2013 . Then the number of new claimants being found fit for work: 27%. Last year, for the same period, the percentage of new claimants found fit for work was 48%, almost double.
But perhaps the most astonishing figure is the percentage of new claimants assigned to the Support Group: 57%. This is unprecedented, and difficult to explain in the absence of further data from the DWP.
But a publication by Judge Martin, which he ironically called Dark Matters, throws some light on these figures, especially Dark Matters 1. (and see also Dark Matters 2 )

Chronologically:
In July 2013, DWP started to express concerns about the quality of Atos written reports. All Atos healthcare professionals were to be retrained and re-evaluated.
The consequences seem to have been a reduction by half in the number of assessments completed by Atos, from 200,000 per month to 100,000.
HMCTS (Tribunals) was informed that the effect was likely to be a reduction of 9,500 appeals per month from September to December 2013.
In January 2014, DWP stopped making ‘repeat referrals’ to Atos. From what Judge Martin is saying, there is anecdotal evidence that an increasing proportion of ESA claimants, both on new claims and IB-ESA reassessments, were simply being assigned to the Support Group without a face to face assessment.
Judge Martin’s conclusions that the ‘virtual collapse of the WCA process is the biggest single factor in the decline of the appeals intake’ is therefore supported by the evidence:

  • A reduction by half in the number of assessments
  • More claimants assigned to the Support Group without a face to face assessment.
  • Repeat assessments being paused

These 3 factors combined would have drastically reduced the number of assessments and therefore the number of likely appeals, especially with more claimants assigned to the Support Group who would not have a decision to appeal against. Additionally the introduction of Mandatory Reconsiderations will have had an impact, but compared with the other factors, it appears to be marginal, although at this stage the impact is unknown.

To add to the picture of the virtual collapse of the WCA, there is now a backlog of 712,000 claimants waiting to be assessed . The waiting times reported by CAB are regularly between six and eight months. Although the UK government is blaming the backlog on the previous government, the figures do not support this as shown by Nick Dilworth in his excellent blog. From the figures available, it can be calculated that the total number of cases which were subject to assessment but had not been assessed (the backlog) as of May 2010 was 28,300.
Far from being an improved system, the WCA process has descended into chaos. Although more claimants are entitled to ESA and are being assigned to the Support Group, the notion that it is an independent process which can be replicated anywhere and produce consistent results is undermined by the level of influence applied by DWP, whose intervention seems to bypass the descriptors which are enshrined in law, if more claimants are assigned to the Support Group for reasons of convenience.

Another sign of this chaos is the increase in the number of sanctions. Sanctions, which are primarily aimed at claimants on the work programme who have mental health conditions or learning difficulties, have quadrupled from 1,102 a month in December 2012 to 4,789 a month in December 2013 ,

Table: Employment Support Allowance Sanction Decisions, by Month

Employment Support Allowance Sanction Decisions, by Month

 

even though referrals to the programme have fallen from 41,360 in the second year of the work programme to 20,300 in the third year for new ESA customers.

Table: Referrals, Attachments, Job Outcome payments and Sustainment payments for the new ESA customer

Referrals, Attachments, Job Outcome payments and Sustainment payments for the new ESA customer

This massive increase cannot therefore be explained by an increase of referrals to the work programme or a sudden surge in the number of claimants in the WRAG. As seen previously, because the number of claimants assigned to the Support Group has massively increased, the number of claimants assigned to the WRAG has consequently decreased by the same proportion. The implication is, in the absence of additional data from DWP, that sanctions are being exceedingly applied to an ever decreasing number of claimants. And 9 out of 10 ESA or JSA claimants who appeal the decision have their decision overturned by a tribunal according to the ‘Fulfilling potential? ESA and the fate of the work-related activity group report released by Mind.
Interestingly enough, the National Audit Office published today (2nd of July 2014) its report on the work programme. Among its findings: Performance for harder-to-help groups is still below expectations and
about the same as previous programmes, but the Department expects further improvements.
To spell it out more clearly, the Work Programme is not performing better than previous programmes but it is driving more claimants into destitution by sanctioning them. Incompetence, complacency and total obliviousness to the consequences will be the DWP’s legacy of this government.

by Anita Bellows

This text can be viewed and downloaded as a research paper  from here

Jul 032014
 
Friday 4th July 2pm: Independent Living Tea Party – Caxton House, Tothill St, London, SW1 #SaveILF
Friday 4th July 3pm: LET THEM EAT CAKE? No to all sanctions! Fri 4th July, 3-5pm Peckham Jobcentre.
Monday 7th July 9am: Justice for Tony and George 7th July Sheffield
Tuesday 8th July 12-2pm: Vigil for the WCA Judicial Review High Court, London
Wednesday 9th July 1pm: Legal Challenge to PIP descriptors, Birmingham – Vigil

The flyer that has been printed to hand out during the Vigil for the WCA Judicial Review at the High Court in London on the 8th of July has been reproduced below.

At the end are details of our call for people to support us by writing to Iain Duncan Smith to inform him that you are aware of the case and that you support the claimants’ fight for justice.

And if you can’t make the vigil, you can still join in by tweeting on #wcamentalhealth, Tuesday 8th July, 12pm-2pm


Banner Picture With MHRN and DPAC logos plus title

WHY ARE WE HERE TODAY? You may have heard of the tough new assessments for people claiming disability benefits; the truth is that these are mock assessments that the government are carrying out via Atos which ignore our disabilities and focus on whether we can walk 20 metres, push a button and sit in a chair. We are fighting to ensure that they conduct real assessments instead.

DID YOU KNOW THAT THE GOVERNMENT DO NOT WANT TO ASSESS US ON THE BASIS OF MEDICAL EVIDENCE FROM OUR DOCTORS AND THE OTHER HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS WHO TREAT US? Why is this? It is because the assessments that we currently go through are specifically designed to deny us access to benefits and the DWP knows that if they had to look at our medical evidence, the majority of us would qualify for disability benefits. They have been fighting tooth and nail in court to be able to continue carrying out assessments that cause harm, in order to push through the ideologically driven policies of the coalition government, with the ultimate goal of abolishing the welfare state.

THE COURTS HAVE ALREADY FOUND THAT THE WORK CAPABILITY ASSESSMENT PLACES PEOPLE WITH MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS AT A SUBSTANTIAL DISADVANTAGE BY FAILING TO ENSURE THAT WE ARE ABLE TO SUBMIT FURTHER MEDICAL EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT OUR BENEFIT CLAIMS AND TO ACCURATELY REPORT HOW OUR CONDITION IMPACTS ON OUR DAILY LIVES AND OUR ABILITY TO WORK.

It has been successfully argued in court that the DWP should make reasonable adjustments to the WCA process to make it fit for purpose, as is required of them by the Equalities Act of 2010. Today the court is hearing about what reasonable adjustments, if any, the DWP propose to make.
One would never imagine, by looking at the stories in our national media, the high levels of distress, anxiety and fear that the WCA process is causing to people who already live with mental distress. HOWEVER THERE IS CLEAR EVIDENCE THAT THERE HAS BEEN A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF SUICIDES BY CLAIMANTS GOING THROUGH THE WCA PROCESS. In addition, an overwhelming number of people have suffered a serious deterioration in their mental health requiring further NHS treatment, including hospital admissions, or have had to increase their medication as a result of having to go through this cruel and iniquitous process.
PLEASE SUPPORT OUR STRUGGLE FOR JUSTICE and ensure that the safety net which exists for all of us remains effective and firmly in place by writing to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the Right Honourable Iain Duncan Smith, MP, to inform him that you are aware of the case and that you support the claimants’ fight for justice.
His contact details are:

The Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP
Secretary of State
Department for Work and Pensions
Caxton House
Tothill Street
London
SW1H 9DA

Or email: caxtonhouse.clerkpru@dwp.gsi.gov.uk
This vigil has been organised by DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) in partnership with the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN)


 

 Posted by at 22:41
Jun 172014
 

DWP ministers said only 9% of ESA decisions were wrong.  Our research reveals the DWP have been quoting from figures which state 151,800 appeals have succeeded.  Our evidence shows the true figure to be at least 567,634 – casting serious doubt over 43% of 1,302,200 ‘fit for work’ decisions. 
 

ilegal Press Release – 16th June 2013


DWP’s internal figures reveal a much higher number of successful ESA appeals than have been made publicly available.

article-2520639-19FD00E400000578-512_634x330

DWP reply on 13 June 2014 to a Freedom of Information Act request made as part of an investigation in to DWP figures relating to the controversial Work Capability Assessment by ilegal.org.uk has revealed that of 1,287,323 ESA appeals, at least 567,634 claimants have had the original DWP decision overturned in their favour.

Government’s key defence of the assessments has been that around 9% of all decisions are incorrect.  The most controversial of which are those where a claimant is found fit for work.  DWP figures (for new claims) show that betweenOctober 2008 and September 2013 a total of 1,306,200 fit for work decisions have been made.

It is with considerable disappointment noted that the DWP’s latest publicly available statistics confirm that only 151,800 successful appeals have been recorded out of a total of 410,400 appeals (for new claimants only).  Our investigations reveal evidence of three times as many appeals being ‘internally recorded’ of which
567,634 have been successful.  The DWP have revealed to us figures which show nearly quarter of a million internal reconsiderations have led to decisions on new ESA claims being overturned in favour of the claimant; we have added these to figures from HMCTS tribunals which provides us with a much higher figure than the DWP seems to be prepared to admit to in their publicly available figures.

Our intensive research into the assessment of claimants for the DWP’s Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) has, following a freedom of information request to the DWP, provided one of the final pieces of the jigsaw needed to unpick the Department’s overly complicated statistics. We now have the final clue which has enabled us to identify that no less than 567,634 ESA claimants have in fact had their initial ESA refusals overturned in their favour.

It is a startling revelation that the government department has apparently been keeping a lid on a set of statistics that clearly shows between May 2010 and June 2013 no less than 820,356 decisions were looked at again by the DWP after claimants had been assessed by the controversial private contractors Atos Healthcare. These ‘internal’ statistics show that a very substantial 232,782 (28.5%) decisions were then subsequently overturned in the claimant’s favour.

What makes this all the worse is that these reconsideration statistics come on top of separate figures that show us that of those claimants who did not have the decisions overturned in their favour by the DWP, 817,102 went on to appeal to tribunals arranged by Her Majesties’ Courts & Tribunals Service where a further 332,607 were then overturned in the claimant’s favour by the tribunal.

These figures completely negate all of the DWP’s claims that it is getting the majority of its decisions right

These figures completely negate all of the DWP’s claims that it is getting the majority of its decisions right. Government ministers in conjunction with the DWP’s Press office have been telling us that a million claimants have been found fit for work whereas these figures show that in reality this is only a small part of the true story and that huge numbers have gone on to successfully appeal decisions which were wrong.

These new figures highlight the dubious practice of using the unchallenged assessment results, which only encourage media sensationalisation, with headlines such as those appearing in the Daily Express in July 2011 stating that ‘75% on sickness benefits were faking’. The same article goes on to say that out of ‘…2.6 million on the sick, 1.9 million could work’ before receiving an endorsement from the Prime Minister with an assurance that his government was “producing a much better system where we put people through their paces and say that if you can work, you should work”.

DWP and Ministers know the truth, they just aren’t telling anyone

These figures have been available to the DWP and its ministers since April 2010 from their ‘Decision Making & Appeals Case Recorder (DMACR) – ESA Management Information Statistics’. The DWP confirms this to be unpublished information which is for internal department information only, yet our research notes that the Right Hon Chris Grayling was using the same information in answer to Parliamentary questions on the 10th January 2012. 

We question then why the DWP has consistently ‘over promoted’ only the results of Work Capability Assessments relating to ‘initial’ decisions (including the opinions of Atos Healthcare in the absence of a statutory DWP decision) when it could instead have come clean and declared how hundreds of thousands of their incorrect decisions have since been overturned in favour of the person appealing.

These revelations seriously undermine the DWP’s contention that the initial Work Capability Assessment outcomes are a valid measure of the claimant’s ability to work. The DWP has consistently defended its assessments by giving an impression that only a relatively low number of decisions have been overturned whereas the reality is that well over half a million have resulted in a successful outcome for the claimant.

And this DOES NOT include the 712,000 people awaiting assessments BEFORE they can appeal

This news must have come as cause for grave concern when considered in the light of a recent revelation by DWP Minister Mike Penning which revealed that in addition to the figures we have highlighted, a further 712,000 Employment & Support Allowance claimants are awaiting assessments without which they cannot yet appeal.

This hugely unacceptable backlog of cases means people with disabling medical conditions are left hanging for months and months on a basic allowance way below what they are entitled to. This is leaving hundreds of thousands deprived of the support they require and means having to scrape by on money which is wholly insufficient to meet their needs due to disability and illness. It also means many claimants affected by severe and complex mental health conditions are facing prolonged torment as they wait month upon month for their decision to be overturned before they can even lodge an appeal.

Face up to reality: it doesn’t work. Scrap the WCA

These findings add considerably to the pleas of disabled groups all over the country to scrap the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and to find a better way to assess their needs.

It is simply appalling that the DWP, along with Ministers and other government spokespeople appear to be feeding the media with misleading statistics that are unrepresentative of the real story and instead encourage headlines vilifying the disabled and the genuinely ill. These figures clearly show the DWP has evidence in their possession which shows how in far too many cases the decisions it is making are dead wrong and they know they’re dead wrong.

Editorial notes

Please contact the author of this article Nick Dilworth for verification of any of the figures quoted.  We welcome sharing our findings on social media and allow this information to be produced providing credit is given to the
i-legal website with links to the article produced.

We apologise for the slight delay in publishing this release.  This was due to a need to align the figures to ones recently produced by the DWP in their Work Capability Assessment figures released on the 12th June 2014 which relate to the most recent statistics up to September 2013.

A full supporting explanatory memorandum will be published very shortly.

The Reconsideration statistics relate to new ESA claimants only (excluding incapacity benefit to ESA conversion cases) whereas HMCTS figures refer to all ESA claimants.  It is our contention that had the DWP supplied all of the information we had requested, the figures for reconsiderations would have been considerably higher.

We acknowledge that not all appeals will be against fit for work findings for new claimants but given the DWP’s emphasis on this claimant cohort and the lack of information to the contrary we are of the contention that other appeals relating to claimants being moved from the Work Related Activity Group to Support Group are likely to be of a much lower volume and more likely to be contained within the cohort relating to incapacity benefit/ESA assessment.

We would like to express our thanks to Anita Bellows an i-legal member for her cooperation and for making the freedom of information request upon our guidance and our thanks extend to the DPAC organisation with whom Anita is also a member.

http://ilegal.org.uk/thread/8640/release-staggering-numbers-overturned-secrecy?page=1&scrollTo=21759

with thanks as ever to Nick  @Mylegalforum

Jun 122014
 

Victory! Minister finally promises action over Norwich disabled assessment centre with no disabled access

Mark Harrison, CEO Equal Lives, with other protesters outside the Atos assessment centre at St Mary’s House. Picture: Denise Bradley

Mark Harrison, CEO Equal Lives, with other protesters outside the Atos assessment centre at St Mary’s House. Picture: Denise Bradley

Annabelle Dickson and Kim Briscoe, Political Editor Thursday, June 12, 2014 9:04 AM

A spectacular u-turn which will see a Norwich disability assessment centre with no disabled access finally moved after a two-and-a-half-year campaign has been hailed a victory for common sense.

Disabilities minister Mike Penning has finally admitted the situation is “wholly unacceptable”, and said he would be taking action to leave St Mary’s House in Duke Street as soon as possible.

It marks a complete turn in the uncompromising rhetoric with officials dismissing concerns, claiming that it was meeting its obligations.

The move should put an end to the long journeys being endured by people with debilitating illnesses and severe mobility problems to centres as far afield as Ipswich, King’s Lynn and even Nottingham.

Many people have been forced to travel by taxpayer-funded taxis, or in some cases told to find their own way on public transport, for assessments many miles away.

Minister of State for Disabled People Mike Penning said: “It is wholly unacceptable to be turning claimants away for assessments which is why I’m taking action to exit St Mary’s House as soon as we possibly can. I will be working with my fellow MPs in Norfolk to find an alternative centre that fits our requirements.”

Marion Fallon, who spoke out after she was sent a map and told to find her own way 45 miles to Ipswich despite being in constant pain and only able to walk with a stick, said that she had mixed feelings about the promise.

She said that she was angry that it had taken so long for ministers to listen, but also vindicated.

But she is likely to still have to go to Ipswich as her appointment is later this month.

Until a new building is found claimants with mobility problems will continue to be offered either a home visit or an appointment at an alternative assessment centre.

Mark Harrison, chief executive of Norfolk’s Equal Lives disability campaigning group, said: “It shows that disabled people have won a victory, but it’s just a victory for common sense and why has it taken two-and-a-half years?

“The bigger question that needs to addressed is the failing minister Iain Duncan Smith and the failing DWP.

“The Work Capability Assessments are cruel and degrading and ATOS are still assessing people as fit to work who are dying before they are able to get their benefits.”

Norwich MP Chloe Smith, who met the minister along with fellow Norwich MP Simon Wright and South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, said: “We explained that this was totally unacceptable for some of our most vulnerable constituents, and it needed to be addressed. It seemed perfectly obvious that sending people to Ipswich by taxi or other means is not sensible.”

Mr Bacon said: “Mike is very sensible and he took one look at it and realised that it was unacceptable and decided that it had to be fixed.”

Today campaigners welcomed the news, but questioned why it had taken the DWP so long to agree to find another venue.

The DWP is tied into a 20-year private finance initiative which is behind all the accommodation used for assessments around the country.

Mr Bacon said that he hoped it would not cost the department too much to find a new building.

But said: “Whoever allowed this to happen should not be involved in government anymore.”

Mr Wright also welcomed the news, adding: “The minister was extremely supportive. Having reviewed the evidence presented to him by the MPs he came to the conclusion that the current arragements were not fit for purpose.”

 

 

Now to on to scrapping the Work Capability Assessments and PIP!

 

Sack Iain Duncan Smith now!

 Posted by at 12:14
Jun 042014
 

Disabled people’s experiences needed

Please send me short descriptions of disabled people’s experience on 3 employment related issues.   I can tidy the case studies up and make sure they are anonymous so you don’t need to spend too much time writing them up –  I just need proof of the points I’m making!  See details below:

·       If you have examples of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA) claimants where the loss of £40/50 will have a serious impact on the ability to pay for food and other essentials please let me know. There’s a consultation on the increase of ‘waiting days’ for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA).  Claimants will lose, on average, £40 or £50 respectively.  More information is at: http://ssac.independent.gov.uk/news/press-releases/23-05-14.pdf http://ssac.independent.gov.uk/consultations/

·       I also need examples of disabled people that have experienced difficulties either obtaining or maintaining Access to work e.g. cuts in their budget etc., changes to BSL interpreters conditions for the Access to work inquiry at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/inquiries/parliament-2010/access-to-work/

·       Lastly I would welcome recent examples (i.e. from beginning of Sept 2013) of difficulties caused by the WCA/ESA including issues around difficulties in paying bills due to benefit delays as above as well inaccurate assessments, lack of mental health champions or recording equipment or any other issues for the 5th and final review of the Work Capability assessment (to be announced shortly, see information below).   

 

Henrietta  Doyle

Policy Officer

Inclusion London

 

henrietta.doyle@inclusionlondon.co.uk

www.inclusionlondon.co.uk

Twitter: @inclusionlondon

 

 Posted by at 13:59