Hallo dear DPAC members
As an occasional reader of your blog and website I am writing from New Zealand. There have been developments here that may be of some interest to you in the UK also. We have had major, some will say draconian, welfare reforms here in mid 2013, which also affect many disabled people on benefits. So far we have not had quite the same level of pressures put on persons with serious, longer term sickness and with physical and mental impairments as the DWP and their assessor ATOS put onto persons with the same conditions in the UK. But as the “reforms” are kind of “evolving”, and gradually being implemented, I fear that we are heading down a very similar path as has been followed in Great Britain.
So your former Provider of assessments ATOS will be replaced by US corporate MAXIMUS, while the WCA (Work Capability Assessment) remains little changed. That means there are likely to be little if any “improvements” coming to the disabled people already harassed with work capability assessments and the continued “tightening” of the welfare system in the UK.
We have here in New Zealand also had a few of the dubious, obviously hand-picked and biased UK “experts” – using a perverted version of the “bio psycho social model” approach – come here to “advise” our government on “welfare reforms”. One was Professor Mansel Aylward, who has visited here a few times now, and another was Dame Carol Black. There is also a “President” of the so-called AFOEM (Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine), by the name of Dr David Beaumont, who once worked for ATOS in the UK, and he has helped introduce Aylward’s theoretical teachings and approaches, that have now been widely accepted and adopted by the medical professional organisations for Australia and New Zealand “google” AFOEM and RCAP). Like in the UK attempts are made to tie in and put “expectations” onto doctors and other health professionals, to cooperate, and deliver the results the welfare agencies and governments here want.
The New Zealand and Australian governments seem both hell-bent to put more pressure on chronically ill and disabled people to get them into whatever kinds of jobs, while there are few suitable employment opportunities, and while employers are not by law expected to employ disabled, and to provide truly suitable work places and conditions. The focus is clearly on cost savings, and on reducing welfare numbers, and all else is more or less window dressing, to make the “reforms” look acceptable.
Hence a similar approach to the one used in the UK is applied here now, but in a slightly different way, where they are trying to avoid some “mistakes” that were clearly made in the UK. Nevertheless, we are in New Zealand faced with a very bizarre work ability assessment approach, which allows the assessors and the case managers of “Work and Income” (our equivalent to the DWP) endless DISCRETION. The last Reviewer of the DWP’s WCA now appears very interested in how New Zealand has “reformed” welfare and uses work ability assessments.
But this should send warning signals to disabled people and others that may be affected in the UK. By looking more closely at what they have so far done in New Zealand, it can hardly be useful for the UK as a “model” to follow. The New Zealand department “Work and Income” is as part of the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) actually conducting experiments with disabled people , trying out various assessment and job referral approaches, now increasingly provided by outsourced providers.
There is little legal certainty and consistency in the system here, and this makes it very difficult for affected “clients” to challenge decisions, and to ensure they get a fair and reasonable treatment, that can also be based on clear legal and medical scientific guidelines.
So perhaps have a look at the information I can offer via the links below.
Read some of the following about this:
Also of interest:
(see the other parts published via that small blog offering a huge amount of useful information about what is going on here, and how it is linked to what has been, and is being done in the UK)
Keep up the good work with your movement, despite of times being very hard and challenging.