Aug 282012
 

25 – 30 disabled people, trade unions and supporters turned out to protest outside the Atos assessment centre in Northampton at lunch time today. Local disabled people who have had their lives ruined by ATOS’ cruel and flawed Work Capability Assessments shared their stories with local news broadcasters and press. Other disabled people sent messages of support but stayed away through just not being able to face the assessment building that causes them so much dread and misery. Protesters tried to deliver a gold medal for hypocrisy to Atos but were barred from the building by G4S security guards.

from Ellen Clifford on site by text

 

 

See news at Northampton Chronicle:  Protests outside Paralympic sponsor’s Northampton office

Aug 282012
 

This is reposted from The Void with thanks.

A well attended ceremony took place yesterday evening outside City Hall, London to make the opening of the Atos Games.

Disabled people and supporters held speeches and a mock medal ceremony to launch the Week of Action Against Atos timed to coincide with the Paralympic Games.

Atos are paid £100 million a year to carry out the brutal and demeaning Work Capability Assessments on behalf of the Government.  This short computer based health assessment has led to tens of thousands of sick and disabled people being stripped of vital benefits.

Atos have recently won the contract to assess all those claiming Disability Living Allowance, a process which has the stated aim of removing financial support from a fifth of disabled people.  Astonishingly Atos are also sponsors of the Olympics Games.

At the mock ceremony last night, Paralympic Gold medal winner, Tara Flood was stripped of her medals as she was declared no longer disabled by Atos assessors.  Speakers from Disabled People Against Cuts and Transport For All, who both helped organise the event, spoke of their experiences at the hands of the company and their fury at Atos attempting to gain positive publicity on the back of the Paralympic Games.

Those assembled were warned that Paralympian Athletes will also soon face assessment by the company who have shown no mercy to even those with life threatening conditions.  A recent investigation found that 32 people a week die after being judged ‘fit for work’ by the company.

Atos were warned that we are coming for them – in the Courts, in Parliament, in the Courts and most importantly on the streets.

Protests will take place around the UK outside Atos offices today as part of the Week of Action.  A Mass Die In will take place in Cardiff on Wednesday whilst a Memorial Service will be held outside their London Headquarters on the same day.

 

More photos from Pete Riches can be seen from  Flickr  –
DPAC holds mock ATOS Games medal ceremony at City Hall

‘Seven medals but now the Tories want my benefits’

http://socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=29451

Aug 272012
 

In spite of implicit claims in the Brindle article1 that there is no ‘fight back’ disabled people have stopped traffic in Oxford Street 2, Trafalgar Square 3, protested against and closed the offices of Atos, protested online through blogs and social media, provided briefing notes and researched and gained significant victories in publicising exactly what is happening -both DPAC and Black Triangle hope they have been an impetus, along with the growing network of allies, user-led disabled peoples’ organisations and key anti-cuts groups across the UK and in Europe –all of us recognise the severe harm that the ‘cuts’ are doing to large groups of ordinary people.

 In the very first DPAC protest on 3rd October 2010 disabled people came together to lead the march against the cuts proposed by this Government, liaised with unions and other anti-cuts groups- it poured with rain, but DPAC were the first to have a synchronised online protest too. Disabled people saw a need for early action at a time when many formal disabled peoples’ organisations (DPOs) made few public statements on spending reviews or cuts and when the big disability charities remained silent. From the 100 or so original October 2010 protesters and campaigners –there are now thousands, overall numbers are growing at rapid rate- contra Brindle, disabled leaders are emerging in their hundreds trained by anger and despair at what is happening to their lives and the lives of others under this Government.

 The reality of the impact of the cuts on the lives of disabled people are much worse than any of us imagined on that rainy day in October: framed by an apparent media campaign in some sections to demonise disabled people as ‘scroungers (despite administrative error and fraud at 0.04 and 0.5% for disability support) 4, we have seen a rising level of disability hate crime, increasing suicides amongst disabled people 5, more and more disabled people relying on handouts from family and friends because they are being left without any income, disabled people losing their homes, disabled people with paid jobs seeing those jobs removed in a clear ‘cuts agenda’ 6, basic support from local authorities being cut to the bone, a move back to the threat of institutionalisation and away from independent living[7], and a move away from inclusive education for disabled children[8]

 The UK was once a European example of how disabled people’s inclusion, support and equality could be applied. It’s now an example of how fast these basic human rights can be reversed. In two years we have witnessed: the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) to new applicants[9], disability living allowance (DLA) to pay for the additional costs of disability being stripped from individuals, DLA to be replaced by an expensive and unnecessary round of reassessments for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) with a pre-assessment criteria that 500,000 people will lose all support[10], cut backs and a steep fall in Access to Work applicants[11] with a tightening of criteria and more costs being passed to employers. We see that some individuals pronounced as ‘fit for work’ by Atos are dying days after leaving their assessment centres[12], while those with terminal illness and less than 12 months to live
are being told to seek work, and having income stopped[13].

 This regime is not about supporting disabled people nor is it about supporting disabled people into work – it’s about cuts. It’s about erasing the years that individuals have worked and paid national insurance for welfare support. It’s not about saying the social model has failed- it hasn’t, if anything it’s been made stronger. It’s about recognising the imposition of a bio-psycho social model- a model
that the Government and its partner companies use to provide a bizarre focus on denying disability, impairment and ill-health each of which are being reconstructed as individual failings brought about by individuals adopting the wrong attitude-thinking yourself ‘well’[14] is cheap-it’s also impossible.

 The recent Dispatches[15] and Panorama[16] television programmes on the work capability assessment (WCA) and the regime used by Atos exposed what many of us have known for too long to a wider audience: a system designed to remove over a million disabled people from welfare support that has caused misery, anxiety and the premature deaths and suicides of an estimated 32 people a week[17]. The WCA – a revolving door of Atos assessment, appeal, tribunal, and reassessment has produced horror stories of inhuman proportions. In one of the programs an Atos ‘assessor’ asked someone who had taken several overdoses why they weren’t dead yet. There are stories of people being forced to walk until they collapse and being declared ‘fit for work’ and those that Atos has signed off as unfit for work on employee schemes being declared ‘fit to work’ on the state schemes of cuts under the WCA. Atos have recently been awarded the PIP contract[18] and are official sponsors of the Olympics[19]. These are additional reasons why the Atos games: a week of activities for people to raise the issues of the inhumanity of these ‘tests’ and the callous removal of vital supports is happening.

 The use of Tom Shakespeare’s quote in the Brindle piece that ‘… the politics of disability seem to have run out of steam.’ is grossly misleading: disabled people are fighting back in every way we can: Black Triangles’ tireless campaign to secure a total condemnation of the WCA by the British Medical Association resulting in the call for ‘the WCA to end with immediate effect’[20], the Mental Health Resistance Network’s successful case for a judicial review of the WCA[21], the exposure of the ‘tampering’ with the Ministry of Justice’s You Tube video to help people through appeals against
Atos decisions’ by Government, the continuing evidence and fight back for Atos assessments to be scrapped[22], the continuing legal challenges, the use of social media to spread information, undercover work with and by researchers, Freedom of Information requests and gains from empathetic media, lawyers, and MPs are all part of the ‘steam’-This is not being led by well paid Charity directors, nor as Macrae suggests by those who see themselves as victims but by disabled people without any funds fuelled by a raging sense of injustice and the will to fight back.

 John McDonnell’s words from the opposition day debate on disability benefits and
social care in which he stated his support for DPAC, Black Triangle and the Remploy
workers warned:

…the Government should not think that this issue or these people are going
to go away because they are not: these people are mobilising. We now have
a disability movement of which we have not seen the equal of before…these
people are not going to go away. They will be in our face-and rightly so’[23] 

 The Atos games are an opportunity for all to show their anger at the disproportionate cuts being imposed on disabled people. They are an opportunity to mobilise against the carnage the cuts administered by this Government are causing.

 Details and resources including local actions pack and a minute menu of protest
activities on DPAC dpac.uk.net

 We want to thank the Guardian for publishing ‘The Atos Games will showcase disabled peoples anger at the Paralympic sponsers’ and all those that helped get the CiF piece online here

See you on the streets and online

 


 

Aug 262012
 

Disabled people, benefit claimants and supporters will be holding a vigil and rememberence event for those who have died due to the actions of Paralympic sponsor Atos.  The event will take place outside the company’s UK Head Office in Triton Square, Euston on Wednesday August 29th, the same day as the opening of the Paralympic Games. Meet 3.45pm for 4pm start.

Atos are responsible for carrying out the Government’s notorious Work Capability Assessment, a relentless health and disability assessment regime which has been used to slash vital benefits from hundred of thousands of sick and disabled people.  Tragically several people have committed suicide due to the endless, stressful assessments and the threat of poverty and destitution they bring.  An  investigation by the Daily Mirror found that 32 people a week die after being declared ‘fit for work’ by the company, whilst Channel 4’s Dispatches recently exposed the system as ‘toxic’ in the words of Atos’ own staff.
Campaigners will gather in the square at 3.30pm and will deliver a coffin full of messages from victims of Atos to the front door of the company’s headquarters.  A memorial service will then take place, involving a reading of the names of those who have died due to the company’s actions.  Some of the messages will be attached to black balloons and released and members of the congregation will speak of their own experiences at the hands of Atos.  All are welcome to attend and are asked to wear black if possible.
This event takes place during the National Week of Action Against Atos called by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), to coincide with the London Paralympic Games.  Events are scheduled to take place in towns and cities around around the UK and in London disabled people and supporters will be back at Triton Square on Friday 31st August for the Closing Atos Ceremony.

Aug 232012
 

Pay a Visit to Your Local Atos Office as part of the Atos Games, a week of action against poverty pimps Atos, the company who profit from pushing disabled people to death and despair – we are calling on members and supporters to take the protest nationally by paying a visit to your local Atos office.

How you do this is entirely up to you but there is a set of resources to download below that might be useful to ensure you get as much local publicity as possible and could give you more time to concentrate on building bigger protests.

Thanks to the local groups who have shared these with us and if you have any resources that other actions and campaigns might find useful please do send them in.

We can help promote your actions on the DPAC website to build as much support as possible so send us information that we can publish about when and where local actions are taking place.

We will also have anti-cuts and Atos kills sticker and stencil packs we can post out to you on request by emailing: mail@dpac.uk.net

Coming soon…. Barbie shows us how to organise a demo….

Resources to download:

–  Guide to organising a local acton: How to Guide

–  Easy read ‘Planning a Campaign’ information: campaigns (DPAC)

– Template action against Atos flyer: action flyer

– Template press release:  Press Release

– Atos information 1: Atos Origin leafletfinal

– Atos information 2: DPAC ATOS

– DPAC flyer: DPAC flyer

– Flyer promoting final action on 31st August: ATOS-UkUncut-DPAC-A5-landscape2

– List of local Atos offices

– A “red peter” cut-out Atos medal: Atos gets gold DPAC aug12

Aug 222012
 

You don’t need to take part in a direct action to be part of the Atos Games. Here we have a list of ways that you can be involved even if you only have a small amount of time to spare and from wherever you are.

 

i) Order a free sticker pack from DPAC and spread the message of opposition to the cuts and to Atos in your home, on your windows or wherever you go.

mail@dpac.uk.net

 

ii) Order or print off and cut out a stencil to create a piece of street art to carry the anti-cuts message across towns and cities throughout the country. We suggest that you stencil using damp sponges or brushes and water-based paints or chalk to avoid accusations of damage and be environmentally friendly – still a great effect!

DPAC Image a4

 

iii) Make a black triangle badge to proudly wear the symbol that was once used by the Nazis to label the disabled people they exterminated. Easy to make using black card, a safety pin and selotape.

 

iv) Send us suggestions for chants or placard slogans to use on the actions next week.

mail@dpac.uk.net

 

iv)Write to your MP asking him/her to sign up to Early Day Motion 295 condemning the International Paralympic Committee’s promotion of Atos as its top sponsor and deploring the trauma and injustice caused by Atos’ Work Capability Assessments.

http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2012-13/295

 

v) Sign Pat’s petition asking the government to stop and review the cuts which have been made to the benefits and services that are provided to disabled people. http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/20968

 

vi) Join DPAC and be part of the growing resistance to government attacks on disabled people.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dFE5dmRsQVFVS29XYU13NFVWY3ExRHc6MQ

 

vii) Print off and hand-out information leaflets to let raise awareness about what the government’s welfare reform actually means for disabled people.

DPAC ATOS

 

viii) Cut out and wear this ‘red peter’ Atos medal.

Atos gets gold DPAC aug12

 

ix) Just a minute….tell a friend or stranger who knows nothing about ATOS exactly what’s happening.

 

x) Send us photos and stories of how you have been part of the Atos Games for our website and Facebook page.

mail@dpac.uk.net

Aug 192012
 

Atos claim that 90% of people surveyed ‘are positive about their experience with us’. Yes, this is on WCA! The claim is apparently from their monthly survey of 2,500 people- odd then that an estimated 11, 000 people a week are going through this horrendous process =44,000 per month. They say:

Independent reviews have confirmed that we are providing a high standard of service in our WCA role and in our monthly survey[1] of over 2,500 customers, 90% of those who respond are positive about their experience with us. We are the first to recognise that in a role as complex and challenging as this, it is also our day-to-day duty to look for ways to improve any aspect of our work.

It would be inappropriate for Atos Healthcare to comment on the government’s procurement process, but the company welcomes competition in the healthcare sector as with all other areas in which we operate.

[1] The survey is carried out by an external company and adheres to market research criteria.

Don’t let them get away with this rubbish! Fill in the #dpac short survey here

 

If you really want to read full Atos text then go to  http://blog.atoshealthcare.com/2012/08/atos-healthcare-response-to-the-nao-review/

 

Aug 112012
 

David Cameron should read out the names each Wednesday at Prime Minister’s questions of those who have died after the Government stripped them of sickness and disability benefits an MP has said. Denis MacShane, Labour MP for Rotherham, in a speech last weekend (Saturday 4 August) accused David Cameron and Nick Clegg of launching launched a ‘vindictive, vicious campaign to strip people with disabilities of their fundamental rights’.

The MP was speaking at a Community union conference held at Wortley Hall, South Yorkshire . He said :

“We judge a society not by how well it pays its bankers or how many gold medals are won but how well it treats the weak and vulnerable.

“Between January and August last year on average 32 people died every week who the Government said were fit to work. One man Stephen Hill died of a heart attack after the Department of Work and Pensions said he was fit to work and he was denied sickness benefits.

“David Cameron should read out each Wednesday the names of those who have been sacrificed to meet his targets for increasing poverty and misery among the weakest in society while he rewards his millionaire mates with tax-cuts worth £40,000 a year.

“The Government has handed over to a private medical constractor Atos, the task of carrying out medical tests to judge eligibility for these new benefits. Appeals against incorrect decisions by Atos are costing £50m a year, with tribunals having to sit on Saturdays and increase staff by 30% to deal with the backlog. Appeals find in favour of the claimant in at least 30% of cases though some experts reckon 9 out of ten appeals would be won if the victim was helped by an expert welfare adviser.

“The most terrifying letter in Britain today is the brown envelope from the DWP instructing a sick or disabled person that they must submit themselves to this firm making £100 million a year by carrying out these tests.

“Charities report that up to half a million disabled people of working age could lose their benefits when the tests are further tightened up next year.

“Yesterday Steve Ford, chief executive of Parkinson’s UK,  said ‘Assessments carried out by Atos have led to many people being forced to appeal against decisions that are plainly wrong. How can someone with Parkinson’s – a progressive neurological condition – have an assessment report that implies they will be ready for work again in six, 12 or 18 months?’

“Labour MPs and our excellent Shadow Minister Anne McGuire have been constantly attacking the Government on this. Before May 2010 Lib Dems would also have stood up for disabled people. Not any longer. The record of LibDems MPs and Minister in acting as cover for this Tory attack on the weak and vulnerable is a disgrace.

“But it is part of a wider attack on working people and those who are not millionaires sitting in the Cabinet.

“We have seen this with the outrageous decision to close down Remploy factories. In 2007, Chris Grayling the Tory MP, now DWP minister, said  ‘Let me assure Remploy and its employees that the next conservative government will continue the process of identifying additional potential procurement opportunities for them and the public sector workforce.’

“We know those words to be a lie. Remploy factories have been closed down and one of the proudest achievements of the post-war Labour government, setting up factories  for the disabled, are now being destroyed. The Remploy workers and their unions are right to protect and strike though I doubt if it will have any impact on this hard-hearted government.

“ Anti-union attack dogs are on the rise everywhere. There is a braying Toryism that hates trade unions and like a child pulling bits off a daddy longlegs Tory MPs seek every opportunity to bash, trash and lash unions. Their main objective is to force a renunciation of the European Union’s social rules.

“The Tory onslaught on social Europe is an ideological and cultural attempt by Thatcher’s and Tebbit’s children and grandchildren to harness the anti-EU feeling in the nation against trade union rights in general.

“It is almost as if the end of communism which the Thatcher-Reagan Tories claim as their great victory is incomplete unless unions are also eliminated from their world. There is a constant grind of anti-union laws and policies. Access to industrial tribunals are made more difficult; backbench bills are introduced to deny shop stewards time off to carry out union duties; modest British financial support for the International Labour Organisation is axed; every time workers vote in a secret ballot to stop work there is a hue and cry about banning or limiting strikes.

“Long standing national pay structures are threatened by proposals for regional pay as if an army Colonel at Catterick in Yorkshire should be paid less than an army Colonel in Aldershot in Surrey.

“From a right-wing ideological point of view there might be some justification for this if the nation was being put back on the path of growth and job creation.

“As we know this is not the case. George Osborne is making a new film ‘Honey, I shrunk the Economy.’ We have the longest recession since the 1930s. Manufacturing output has hit an all-time low. Housing investment has been cut from £2.4 billion in 2010 to under £800 million today. We can win all the gold medals the Olympics can offer but unless we invest in our own nation, in our own people, in all of our regions, and in people like those with disabilities who need a helping hand not a slapdown then our nation will get weaker and weaker.

“The poet Oliver Goldsmith wrote

 Ill fares the land, to gathering ills a prey

 Where wealth accumulates and men decay

“Britain’s wealth is being accumulated by the undeserving rich while the disabled are expected to decay as their life chances are removed from them by Tory ministers and their LibDem helpers.

“It is still 3 years to go to the next Government. And have no illusions that despite negative opinion polls as the Fabian Society recently reported there is no support for higher taxation amongst rank and file Labour supporters.

“Labour needs to build a new 21 st century coalition of support that includes unions like my  good friends in Community to whom I pledge my commitment and support but goes out to the young, to women, to graduates with and without work and speaks for all the nation not any single group within it.

“It is very hard after voters have lost confidence in a party after a long period of power to win that confidence and trust back again. The Tories have all the off-shore press on their side and on most issues the BBC and Sky reflect the interests of the better-off in Britain and the London dislike of social Europe.

“So the challenge is bigger than at any time in Labour’s history. In 1945 it had been 16 years since Labour won power and the country was changed by the egalitarian sacrifices made necessary by war. In 1997, it had been 18 years since Labour held office and the nation was ready for change and new leadership. It is only two years and a bit since we were defeated and although the nation is saying no Cameron it needs more persuasion to say yes again to Labour.

“That is a political challenge we must rise to. The party and its MPs are more united than ever before in period of opposition like the 1980s or the 1950s. Ed Miliband is making a bigger and bigger impression in the Commons. We have a brilliant intake of new MPs who are the smartest political generation in Labour history.

“But now we need to reach out beyond our comfort zone of Tory bashing. That is the challenge and I am sure with Community’s support we can start pedalling hard to win for Britain.”

Rt Hon Dr Denis MacShane | Member of Parliament for Rotherham House of Commons   | London SW1A 0AA    email: denis.macshane.mp@parliament.uk | telephone: 0 20 7219 4060

Jul 232012
 

 

Dear Remploy strikers,

 We send our heartfelt support to you for your strike days against the closure of Remploy factories.  Every one of us who is disabled has a right not to have our disability used against us, and that includes the right to a decent job with a living wage. Remploy factories shouldn’t close, and wages should be higher.  Workers organising themselves into unions at Remploy helped get better wages and working conditions.  Closing the factories is an attempt to punish workers with disabilities for having the impudence to organise together.  How dare a government of millionaires tell us our workplaces are too expensive while they give billions to bankers and corporations in subsidies, and bonuses to Remploy management with our tax money?  We are determined to defend everything we’re entitled to and which we (and those who care for and about us) fought hard to get – benefits, decent wages and working conditions, high-quality services, accessible transport and more. 

 The government is criticising “segregated employment” in order to take away what gives us some equity — our hard-won disability concessions based on recognition of the added difficulties and discrimination we face in an inaccessible society.  These include Remploy and the welfare state.  They give huge contracts to companies like Atos to carry out “work capability assessments” in order to justify cutting our benefits.  They want us dead or begging on the street.  Thousands of sick and disabled people found fit for work are having to fight to keep our benefits.  Many of us, reliant on benefits, are refusing workfare – disabled people, mums (many are disabled or looking after disabled children), people of colour, people who have problems with reading and writing.

 We condemn prominent disabled people who claim to represent our best interests, but who are prepared to leave us with no wages at all, as they provide cover for the brutality of the government policy of Remploy factory closures — like Liz Sayce (whose report recommended ending “segregated employment”) and Mike Smith of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (who said on Channel 4 News that closing the factories is in the best interests of disabled people).   Some of these disability ‘leaders’ are happy to take government money for themselves and their own organisations while helping to throw the rest of us out of a job.  Scabs!

 We also condemn disability charities which do the government’s dirty work, running workfare programmes that get them cheap labour, and specialised schemes for sick and disabled people forced into “work-related activity” which is contributing to early deaths. 

 Despite the onslaught, we take courage from your strike and from any victory we are having: at least 40% of appeals against Atos are being won and there is increased support for our demands – the BMA recently voted to end the work capability assessment.  

 All of us are workers, waged and unwaged, campaigning together to defend our rights. As part of the movement against the cuts, we are determined to support each other so we can all win. 

 Keep Remploy!  Keep our benefits!

WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities)  

win@winvisible.org

020 7482 2496

Payday men’s network

payday@paydaynet.org

020 7267 8698

 

Jul 212012
 

by Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC), Black Triangle and Social Welfare Union (SWU) 

In an answer to a parliamentary question on Atos from Frank Field (lab) Chris Grayling said:

“Based on the results of a trial during 2011, we have not implemented universal recording for claimants going through the work capability assessment (WCA).
We have asked Atos Healthcare to accommodate requests for audio recording, where a claimant makes a request in advance of their assessment.
This approach began in late 2011 and we will monitor take up during 2012 before making a decision on the requirement for recording assessments, taking into account factors such as value for money and the value it adds to the WCA process. As part of this process we are also reviewing Atos capacity to provide recordings for those claimants who currently request one”.

We at Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC), Black Triangle and Social Welfare Union (SWU) want to make sure that we gather the REAL facts on what people are experiencing. We suspect that the government will try to pull the option for recordings of WCA completely due to what they will say is a lack of demand, so we have put together a short survey to gather information on the demand for recordings and on other issues on the WCA.

Please pass this survey on to as many people as possible. If you know someone who would like a printed paper copy of this survey please send their details to mail@dpac.net.uk

 Go to survey https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FGKJBSQ

 

Jul 162012
 

The dangers of throwing several thousand people from paid work into unemployment should be obvious to anyone. The fact that a majority, although not all, of the Remploy workers are disabled people should signal a further problem: Disabled people who want to work, are more likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people in all official statistics since records began. For example in 2011 the employment rate was 48.8% for disabled people compared to 77.5% for non-disabled people[1].

It is dangerous, misguided and completely ludicrous to claim that all disability organisations and the disability movement have decided that a new perverse way of supporting disabled people is to make them unemployed and subject to the ravages that disabled people must endure under this government, as the Sayce report suggests. See for example http://www.dpac.uk.net/tag/guardian-newspaper/

For those of us that have spent years arguing for an equality agenda for disabled people the arguments put forward in the Sayce report are: dangerous, misguided and wrong.

Dangerous Partners

The Sayce report (‘Getting in, Staying in and Getting on’) and the Tory desire to seemingly make the poorest most excluded people further excluded and even poorer are a strange partnership, throw in Miller, Unum and ATOS and we have a list of known enemies of disabled people-some might wonder what Sayce is doing in such unpleasant company.

The Sayce/ Tory partnership produced a report rumoured to have cost over 2 million pounds to:

1. Explain how to save money

2 Improve disabled Remploy workers lives’ by closing their factories and seemingly removing their jobs.

3. Ensure that if factories are sold off to buyers at knock down prices, buyers have no enforcement in place to re-employ disabled workers

The basis of these ‘improvements’ are predicated on the notion that disabled people need to be included in society- who would disagree? However, inclusion for disabled people and many non-disabled people in society now often means being included in the growing army of the unemployed –for those disability organisations that sign up to this notion, unemployment prevents segregation- well that’s true, but maybe they should re-examine that particular version of inclusion vs segregation. Maybe we need examine the other partners in this game? Is it a surprise that Unum were involved in the Sayce report for example? See here for an explanation of why Unum have satisfied the status of an enemy of disabled people and co-conspirators in welfare reform or the cuts agenda. One organisation that needs no introduction is ATOS. ATOS own the company KPMG. KPMG were contracted by the Department of Works and Pensions too (cost currently unknown) – they produced a report of their own in March 2012. The report was titled: Analysis of Remploy Enterprise business and Employment Services’ A copy of the report summary can be found here

However, the validity of this report may be in doubt to the general reader as page two is filled with a list of disclaimers. These include:

●Nothing in this report constitutes a valuation or legal advice.

●We have not verified the reliability or accuracy of any information obtained in the course of our work.

●In preparing our report, our primary source has been Remploy’s internal management information and representations made to us by Remploy Senior Management during the project. We do not accept responsibility for such information which remains the responsibility of Management. Details of our principal information sources are set out on page 4 and we have satisfied ourselves, so far as possible, that the information presented in our report is consistent with other information which was made available to us in the course of our work in accordance with the terms of our Service Order. We have not, however, sought to establish the reliability of the sources by reference to other evidence.

Maybe Les Woodward’s analysis, which the DWP didn’t pay millions for, might be more credible

Closing Remploy factories will not save disabled workers from ‘Victorian-era segregation’. It will wreck lives[2]

An interesting postscript is that one of the directors of Remploy is also a director of RADAR: ‘all in it together’? Labour, (who incidentally closed a number of factories in 2008 so let’s not get too teary eyed), have urged the Government to start the whole consultation again, some claiming that it is a shambles. While Phil Davies, secretary of the GMB accused the Government of turning the consultation into a

good old-fashioned Klondyke gold rush”[3].

But there’s more, as argument after argument presented in the Sayce report is knocked down and proved to have a false or questionable basis.

 Misguided Arguments

The ‘Independent’ Sayce Report of June 2011 and the consultation that followed apparently showed that a group of  individuals, organisations, charities (and the insurance company Unum) felt that segregated workplaces were outdated and as a result disabled workers should be made redundant (see appendix for those involved in consultation).

 

 However, the process of redundancies was underway as early as January 2011 six months before the estimated 2 million pound plus Sayce report began. On 14 January 2011 Remploy HR Director, Sue Butcher phoned the GMB National Secretary and informed him that an announcement was to be made on 18 January 2011. No other information was given.

On 18 January 2011 the company met with the trade unions and informed them that they were opening up a voluntary redundancy programme and that consultation would start on 24 January 2011. The company had already informed the employees by letter that it was opening up a Voluntary Redundancy scheme. No consultation had taken place with the trade unions. Seems they were not important enough to be invited[4].

The Sayce report found people working at Remploy factories who were quoted as saying they wanted ‘real’ jobs and the report ‘team’ claimed to have consulted in-depth with workers

 

The GMB union cannot seem to find these quotees in the factories who wanted ‘real’ jobs, for some reason. It has, however found 4 people who took part in what was presented as an in-depth consultation with Remploy employees[5].

The closure of the Remploy factories is because they are segregated workplaces isn’t it?

 This is one simplistic argument popularised by the Sayce report, however the Remploy factories do not employ disabled people exclusively. In 2008, 29 factory sites geographically based from Scotland to Cornwall closed with over 2,500 Remploy employees becoming unemployed. Of these, 1,700 employees were disabled. The 2012 closures will affect around 80% of employees who are disabled.

Given the other players in the partnership –it all points to a ‘cuts agenda’ rather than any supposed moral high ground on inclusion.

The workers will find alternative jobs in the open workforce?

 

In 2008, 29 factory sites geographically based from Scotland to Cornwall closed with over 2,500 Remploy employees becoming unemployed. Nearly 1,700 of these employees were disabled and most of them have not worked since and remain on benefits.

From the last round of Remploy closures  85% of disabled ex-employees remain unemployed[6]. This was in a better economic climate than that of today. Some committed suicide, many threatened suicide and many experienced mental health issues, for those that already had mental health issues these were exacerbated.

The workers will be supported when the factories close

 

 During 2007 and the early part of 2008 the company gave promises of support for those leaving in the round of closures carried out under the Labour government but history has shown that very few of the 1,700 disabled people received even a phone call from Remploy let alone any practical support[7].

In 2012 there is a community pot of 1.5 million offered to charities and disabled peoples’ organisations (DPOs) to support the workers into jobs by the DWP. This may explain the keenness of the illogical ‘equality into unemployment arguments’ that some were producing but it is unlikely that DPOs and the usual list of disability charities or voluntary organisations can find jobs for ex-Remploy workers where they do not exist, despite taking their 30 pieces of silver. However, some are running the much maligned mandatory work programs-so maybe that will the grand plan, sanctions and all.

The full criteria for this fund has been laid out in a Freedom of Information Request on the purpose of the Community Support Fund (CSF)  [8]

The CSF will offer financial and non financial support to local disabled people’s user led organisations (DPULOs) and voluntary sector organisations to deliver support and services designed to meet the specific needs of
disabled Remploy employees affected by the announcements on the future of Remploy factories.

The intention is that the fund will help to support affected Remploy staff to re-engage with their local communities and help their transition from segregated sheltered employment to mainstream employment. It will be focussed around the geographical areas where affected Remploy employees live and used to build the capacity of local DPULOs, 3rd sector and voluntary organisations and to develop a range of activities and projects to help the move from sheltered to main stream employment.

As well as a modest amount of money being available to support projects to help ex-Remploy employees, and other local disabled people, get into work, training or volunteering funding will be made available to help create learning and development activities to improve employment
opportunities.

 Not really that impressive. But impressive enough for emails asking organisations to ‘put their applications in’ to go out to selected disability organisations and charities 24 hours after the closures were formally announced. These emails say nothing about jobs but give examples of film clubs and other types of support , none of which offer a paid job which is what the factories offered. One option is to offer support in ‘choice and control’ where was the choice and control for those workers that wanted to stay in their paid jobs in the Remploy factories?

The Remploy workers will be better supported by Access to Work Schemes- money will be better spent on Access to Work

 

First, to qualify for Access to Work you need to have a job or a documented firm offer of one: first hurdle. The problems with Access to Work, including cost cutting under this government are too numerous to go into here, but even the hallowed Access to Work cannot match the percentage of support that was already being provided at the Remploy factories. This is particularly the case with learning difficulties and mental health issues.

Another point made in the Sayce report is that access to work may be able to benefit disabled people with a mental health conditions.  Out of the 32,680 helped in the current year only 460 have a mental health conditions.  This is only 1.4% of all those helped.  Compare this to 131 employees in Remploy who have a mental health conditions out of 2,692 employees which is 5% or 4 times higher.

When you look at another major disability which is learning disability, out of the 32,680 helped by access to work only 1,680 with this particular disability have been helped into employment.  This is just over 5% compared to the 462 disabled people out of 2,692 who have a learning condition working in Remploy (17.2%) again over 3 times as high[9].

Never the less, its all been a useful exercise to set up an expert panel on Access to Work run by the CEO of Essex Coalition of Disabled People and to extend access to Work to young disabled people enduring workfare type schemes[10]

The workers in the factories cost too much

 

GMB argues that voluntary redundancies increased the cost of each worker by £1,000 per worker. Management has remained top heavy, apparently ineffectual and overpaid- and the continued use of consultants such as KMPG have added to costs. These costs were lumped together along with running costs to produce a misleading amount per worker[11].

Further: There are 3238 employees most of whom are disabled and who earn less than £16,000 per year. The cost of travel for all employees has escalated to £2m, the cost of company cars to £2.4m and the cost of car allowances to £1.1m; a total cost of £5.5m.

The figure of £138m losses for the factory network is not true. We believe that if all the measures outlined in the trade unions document are taken on board and implemented then the cost of the factory network would be approx £35m per year.

Put another way when the profit from sales is considered and taken into account the cost per disabled worker to the State could be as low as £7,000.

When you also take into account the fact that tax and insurance is being paid in and benefits are not being paid out this figure could be substantially lower[12]. Alternatively: the cost of unemployment which for a disabled person could be as much as £25,000 to £30,000 per year for each disabled person not working when you take into consideration the revenue lost in tax and national insurance contributions the cost could be higher. A disabled person who is not working will probably receive higher benefits than a non disabled person. Housing benefits and careers allowances are only the tip of the iceberg.

The unseen and unmonitored costs start to mount up when you consider that a large number of disabled people who were made redundant when Remploy closed 29 factory sites now have severe health problems and the use of the NHS has greatly increased. We would estimate that this cost could be as high as £20,000 for some disabled people.

Figures in the Sayce report show that factories never profit

 

 In May 2012 Profits were up -Sally Kosky said: “According to the management’s own figures, the cost to government is down by £16.5 million on the previous year – £2.5 million better than budget”[13].

Also from May: A letter sent to Remploy employees shows the business is doing well, Plaid Cymru has claimed. The letter congratulates workers on a 12.2 per cent growth in sales and a 17 per cent reduction in costs. The Remploy factory in Swansea is one of seven sites in Wales which has been earmarked for closure.

Plaid Cymru’s equalities spokeswoman, Lindsay Whittle AM, said: “These figures prove that the UK Government’s intention to close Remploy factories is a thinly veiled attack on the welfare state. It shows that there is absolutely no justification for the government’s plans, except as a continuation of its attack on welfare recipients.”[14] 

So it looks like they did profit! The Swansea factory will be closed along with the others despite 12.2% in growth and a 17% reduction in costs. It was never about profits or costs was it?

But Remploy wasn’t getting Contracts was it?

 

The more worrying aspect of the company’s strategy on sales is the outsourcing of work and the lack of tendering for public procurement contracts.

Letters from the NHS Forth Valley and Stirling Council to the Minister show it is clear that Remploy has not shown interest in tendering for large contracts that the company could have won.

It is also apparent that the senior managers work within a very nice comfort zone; no aggressive sales strategy exists and no stretching targets exist. The trade unions believe this is part of the conspiracy to fail and the failure of the sales team is the responsibility of the Chief Executive and the Board.

We understand that because of the previous reduction in manpower that large amounts of work is being turned away or outsourced. Birmingham factory and Healthcare are prime examples[15].

 

DPAC seems to be saying that disability Charities and some DPOs are involved in some way that is not in line with the principles of disability rights- this does not make sense

 

It depends on your idea of disability rights; the old chestnut that keeps being trotted out is that closing the factories is all about the right of disabled people to be included. We ask what are the ex-Remploy workers going to be included in exactly? Film clubs?

Where was their choice and their rights in where they wanted to work and in keeping their paid jobs in the worst recession since the 1930s?

So who Gains?

 

 Cleary not the Remploy workers, they are merely the collective sacrificial lamb on the altar of profit and gain by others or those with vested interests if you prefer.

These include:

The beneficiaries in the invited team that made up the Sayce report.

The director who was on the board of Remploy and RADAR (now DRUK: chief executive Liz Sayce) simultaneously–there’s got be some gain there.

Those disability charities and organisations who may gain from the community pot to support the Remploy workers in their unemployment

KPGM (and ATOS who own KPGM) whose report has so many disclaimers making it another gross waste of tax payers’ money

UNUM, but we are not sure how they gain yet-their inclusion in the Sayce consultation team must serve some purpose for them.

Remploy senior managers’ beneficiaries of a 1.2 million bonus payment in 2012 when it was clear that factories were earmarked for closure

Those companies and disability charities running work programs such as work for your benefits ‘work programs’ such as workfare.

Those that will further their careers (and income) by sitting on ‘expert’ panels discussing Access to Work (rather than paid jobs) in the wake of the closures

Remploy itself by winning contracts to deliver Access to Work for mental health users for every area tendered before the closure deal was complete[16]

Doesn’t all that show a conflict of Interests?

 

 Yes, but this is Tory Britain- who cares about other peoples’ lives anymore when they can make a few quid?

Debbie Jolly co-founder DPAC

twitter: @redjolly1


[1] Source: Labour Force Survey, Quarter 2, 2011

 [4] Written evidence submitted by the GMB May 2011

 [5] Sayce Report Analysis July 20th 2011 GMB,UNITE, Community

 [7] Written evidence submitted by the GMB May 2011

 [9] A new strategy for the employment of disabled people: a new concept in the field of employment – by Phil Davies, GMB National Secretary for Manufacturing Section on behalf of the Consortium of Trade Unions

 [11] Written evidence submitted by GMB May 2011

 [12] A new strategy for the employment of disabled people: a new concept in the field of employment – by Phil Davies, GMB National Secretary for Manufacturing Section on behalf of the Consortium of Trade Unions

 [15] Written evidence submitted by the GMB May 2011

 

Appendix

 List of those involved in Sayce Consultation NB we are still waiting for a list of those involved in the report itself.

The following organisations submitted evidence to the review. Source: appendix 3 of Sayce report

1. 104 films Limited
2. A4e
3. Acquired Brain Injury Forum for London
4. Action Group
5. Asperger’s Inc
6. Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council
7. BASE
8. Birmingham City Council
9. British Assistive Technology Association
10. Bradford Council
11. Bristol and South Gloucestershire People First
12. Bristol City Council
13. British Psychological Society
14. Camden Society
15. Cardiff and Vale Coalition of Disabled People
16. Centre for Mental Health
17. Centre Point
18. Changing Faces
19. Cheshire East Council
20. Choices and Rights Disability Coalition
21. Elcena Jeffers Foundation
22. Employment Services at Westminster Centre for Independent Living
23. Enham College (RTC)
24. ERSA
25. Finchdale RTC
26. Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities
27. Hands Free Computing Ltd
28. Hao2.eu Ltd
29. Headway
30. Hertfordshire Action on Disability
31. Hillcrest Branch
32. Hudson Interpreting Services
33. Inclusion
34. Indigo Dyslexia
35. Ingeus
36. Kent County Council
37. Key Ring
38. KM Furniture Ltd
39. Lancashire County Council
40. Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living
41. Low Incomes Tax Reform Group
42. Mencap
43. Mental Illness
44. Mind
45. Monmouth People First
46. National Association of Deafened People
47. NASUWT (teachers union)
48. Newco Employment and Training
49. North Bank Forum
50. Nottinghamshire Deaf Society
51. Papworth Trust
52. People First
53. Pluss
54. Queen Alexandra College (RTC)
55. Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation (RTC)
56. Reed in Partnership
57. Rethink
58. Royal British Legion Industries
59. Royal College of Nursing
60. Royal College of Psychiatrists
61. Royal National College for the Blind (RTC)
62. RNIB
63. RNID
64. Scope
65. Scottish Association for Mental Health
66. Scottish Autism Service
67. Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance
68. Sense
69. Shout Out
70. Signature
71. Slough Council
72. Social Firms FRC Group
73. St. Annes (social firm)
74. St Loye’s (RTC)
75. St Mungo’s
76. Sustainable Hub of Innovative Employment for People with Complex Needs (SHIEC)
77. The Association of National Specialist Colleges
78. The Coalition of RTC Providers (covers all nine residential colleges)
79. The Small Business Consultancy
80. Transition Information Network
81. Travel Matters UK
82. UNITE
83. UNUM
84. Vangent
85. Visibility
86. Vocational Rehabilitation Association
87. Welsh Assembly Government
88. Woman at Wish
89. Work Fit

Liz and the review team met with people from a wide range of other organisations including, among others, People First, National Centre for Independent Living, Disability Wales, Inclusion Scotland, the Employers’ Forum on Disability, Remploy, the TUC, GMB, Social Policy Research Unit, Centre for Mental Health, Disability Alliance, Sense, UNITE, RNIB, Mencap, the Scottish Union for Supported Employment, a range of central government departments, Essex Coalition of Disabled People and many more.

N.B we do not suggest that those appearing on this list are all in favour of closure of the Remploy factories, but the list is telling, more so because DPAC also responded to this consultation and don’t seem to get a mention. The DPAC consultation response can be found here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 082012
 

 Labour MP John McDonnell –a great and significant supporter of DPAC has launched an attempt to get the House of Commons to debate the £100m-a-year contract awarded to Atos to carry out work capability assessments of people applying for Employment and Support Allowance – which he claims has led to the deaths of 1,100 claimants put in the category for compulsory work-related activity.

In an Early Day Motion tabled last Thursday, John McDonnell (Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington) also praised the British Medical Association whose Annual Representative Conference last week called for the work capability assessment to be scrapped immediately and to be replaced with a system that does not harm the most vulnerable people in society.

His motion also includes condemnation of the decision to allow Atos to sponsor the Paralympics which follow the London Olympic Games and, for good measure, Dow Chemical’s sponsorship of the Games themselves.

Dow took over the Union Carbide company whose plant at Bhopal, India, leaked methyl isocyanate gas in 1984 – leading to the deaths and injury of thousands of people in the vicinity. The event was one of the world’s worst industrial disasters.

Please check the list of those MPs that have signed. If your MP isn’t there then a list on twitter can be found at https://t.co/E4f8RO2h

Or check http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mps/

Remember front benchers cannot sign EDMs

With thanks to welfare Union for letting us repost: http://socialwelfareunion.org/

Acknowledgements also to: the meassociation, Respect for the Unemployed and Benefits Claimants

Early Day Motion 295

ATOS
Session 2012-13
Date tabled: 28.06.2012
Primary sponsor: McDonnell, John
Sponsors:
Text:

That this House deplores that thousands of sick and disabled constituents are experiencing immense hardship after being deprived of benefits following a work capability assessment carried out by Atos Healthcare under a 100 million a year contract; notes that 40 per cent of appeals are successful but people wait up to six months for them to be heard; deplores that last year 1,100 claimants died while under compulsory work-related activity for benefit and that a number of those found fit for work and left without income have committed or attempted suicide; condemns the International Paralympic Committee’s promotion of Atos as its top sponsor and the sponsorship of the Olympics by Dow Chemical and other corporations responsible for causing death and disability; welcomes the actions taken by disabled people, carers, bereaved relatives and organisations to end this brutality and uphold entitlement to benefits; and applauds the British Medical Association call for the work capability assessment to end immediately and to be replaced with a system that does not cause harm to some of the most vulnerable people in society.

 

 

Jun 252012
 

 On Friday 29 June there will be a hearing in the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, London, where a judge will decide whether to grant permission for a judicial review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) as it affects people with mental health problems. The WCA is being used to harass and remove benefits from people in mental distress, leading many to contemplate suicide: some, we believe, have already taken their own lives.

 The MHRN is supporting the application for judicial review and is organising a vigil outside the court on the day. The vigil will be peaceful and will serve to show our solidarity with all people living with mental health difficulties who are in the firing line of Tory brutality.   

 We won’t know until the day before what time the case will be heard so we are asking people to arrive outside the courts at 11.00am on the 29th. Bring banners if you wish, but the vigil will be conducted in a spirit of respect for the court. 

 Please spread word of the vigil as widely as possible.

 MHRN Vigil

Date: 29 June

Time: 11.00am

Venue: Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London

Jun 192012
 

THE private firm behind controversial sickness benefit tests have been slammed for awarding their chief executive almost £1million in bonus payments.

International company Atos are contracted to reassess people claiming sickness and disability benefits.

Heart attack and lung-disease victims are among those the firm have assessed as being well enough to look for jobs.

According to Atos’ annual report, chairman and chief executive Thierry Breton received £1.95million in 2011.

Half the amount was his salary and the other half was a bonus. He received £1.83million the previous year.

Rutherglen and Hamilton West Labour MP Tom Greatrex said: “People will find it hard to believe that the boss of Atos sees fit to reward himself with millions in bonuses, while thousands of sick and disabled people in Scotland suffer.

“It will sicken those who have been through the Atos process to hear the company crow about their expertise in healthcare.

“Thousands of people have suffered because, time and again, incorrect decisions have been made on the back ofAtos assessments.”

Atos declined to comment on Breton’s bonus.

Story – The Daily Record

With thanks to Atos Vicitms Group News for letting us repost: see http://atosvictimsgroup.co.uk/2012/06/17/fury-over-1m-bonus-for-chief-exec-of-controversial-sickness-benefit-test-company/

For more

 

 Posted by at 19:57  Tagged with:
May 242012
 

Stop ATOS! End Work Capability Assessments!

MCAC is working with Manchester Against Benefit cuts to organise a week of action against changes to disability living allowance and the role of ATOS in carrying out “evaluations” for fitness to work which have been linked to over 1000 deaths between August and January following loss to benefits (see press coverage below). Please support this action to highlight this scandal. More details of week of action to follow.

Details of week of action
31 May, 12pm: Protest march from Albert Square to ATOS “assessment” centre at Albert Bridge House

6 June, 7pm: Public Meeting at Friends’ Meeting House on building resistance against ATOS

9 June, 11am: Petition and stall, Market Street

Manchester Against Benefit Cuts Facebook page
Welfare cuts “linked to suicide”

There is “anecdotal evidence” of people committing suicide after losing their benefits following a reassessment, an MP has claimed.

A freedom of information request revealed that between January and August last year, 1,100 people had died after they lost their benefits.

Labour MP John McDonnell asked the Government to investigate whether there was a trend of people with mental health problems committing suicide after being ruled as fit for employment.

He said: “MPs across the House, and ministers, have emphasised the importance that care must be taken in dealing with people with mental health problems as they approach the medical and capability assessments, even if they lose benefits.

“There is some anecdotal evidence of suicides taking place of people who have lost benefits.

“Has the Government explored any of the coroners’ reports in these cases where there has been a reference to the loss of benefits as a contributory factor, and what lessons have been learnt?”

Speaking in the Commons, employment minister Chris Grayling replied: “We will always look very, very carefully indeed where something like that happens. So far my experience is that the story is much more complicated. But that does not mean we are not doing the right thing.

“I passionately believe that we should be helping (people), particularly those with mental health problems. I have met people who have been out of work for years and years and years with chronic depression who we are now beginning to help back into work.

“We have got to be very careful but we do look very carefully when those situations arise.”

Source: UK Press Association 23rd April 2012

May 192012
 

An application has been made by members of the Mental Health Resistance Network for permission to have a Judicial Review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and a judge has decided that there should be a hearing to decide whether to grant us the Judicial Review.

The hearing will happen at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand in London on Friday 29th June. We won’t know until the day before what time it will be heard. 

With thanks to MHRN for letting us publicise this. It is MHRN who have pushed this through, not any big charity -remember most activism is coming from grassroots groups-rather than well funded charities who like to try to claim the credit.

Lets support MHRN as much as we can with this great achievement on 29th June-hopefully the first of many challenges to the corrupt WCA…..

 

 

May 102012
 

Lord Freud – The Benefit Fraud

With thanks to the ever brilliant Johnny Void for letting us repost this– for more of The Void go to http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/

Lord Freud, the toff banker, will be defending the Government’s savage welfare reforms at a conference called by the National Housing federation on May 23rd.  Freud has been one of the chief architects of the vicious Welfare Reforms as both a Labour and then a Conservative Party member.

Freud was asked by Tony Blair to review the benefit system way back in 2006, despite Freud saying he knew nothing about it.  This didn’t stop him from leaping at the opportunity to claim that single parents should be sent to work, lay the foundations for the Atos shambles and encourage the use of fraudulent bastards like A4e to run huge chunks of the Welfare State.

The great welfare rip off has seen companies paid billions of tax payers’ money to provide barely existent training courses or claim huge fees every time someone unemployed finds a job.  The likes of the now disappeared Emma Harrison formerly of A4e have awarded themselves multi-million pound dividends whilst their staff, under enormous pressure from above, have ended up cooking the books to pay for them.  Like all the best scams, the companies involved don’t even have to break the law to make off with the cash.  Training providers on the Government’s flagship Work Programme can be paid up to £13,000 for claiming to have helped someone get a job who has barely even met them. 

Private sector sharks have also been brought in to carry out assessments for sickness and disability benefits, another of Freud’s ideas.  The Atos assessment system has turned out to be a disaster, costing a fortune in appeals against their flawed decisions, whilst being devastating for those forced to undergo the stressful and demeaning tests. This hasn’t stopped Atos creaming £100 million a year off the tax payer.  And Atos, along with prison companies like G4s and national joke Capita, are set to pick up huge contracts for re-creating the exact same shambles to re-assess over three million people currently claiming Disability Living Allowance.

With George Osborne promising up to £5 billion in cash to Work Programme contractors, it seems the gravy train for private sector sharks infecting the Welfare State is far from over.  Meanwhile millions of people face poverty and homelessness due to ideas generated on the back of an envelope by Lord Freud and his chums.

Lord Freud is a member of the pervy Freud dynasty and went to Whitgift Public School and then Oxford.  On leaving university he just happened to be offered a job at the Financial Times.  After a few years he ditched financial journalism to begin work as a professional crook for stockbrokers Rowe & Pitman (later to be taken over by SG Warburg).  His first job was to compile research on companies he was also taking money from, a practice which was made illegal after analysts were found publicly backing clients whilst slagging them off behind closed doors.

During his career Freud cost the tax payer a fortune when he botched the Eurotunnel flotation in a deal he describes as a ‘shambles’ and claims he ‘sold the market a pup’.  He did a similar thing with the Eurodisney flotation, costing investors millions.  Asked to handle the flotation of doomed company Railtrack, Freud priced the shares at £3.50 despite them being worth over four times that figure.  Freud remained a senior figure at SG Warburg helping to oversee the collapse of the investment bank in 1995 when it was taken over by the Swiss Bank Corporation.

David Freud’s omni-shambles career is best summed up by himself:

“Nearly everything I’ve done has been total chaos. I cannot believe it’s just because of me.”

This is typical of arrogant little posh boys like Freud.  Believing they are born to rule, their old school chums will prop them up as they fail time and time again.  In return they offer kickbacks, like the multi-billion pound give away to the private sector that Freud has overseen whilst involved in welfare reform.  They really are all in it together.  A self-serving smug elite sharing around power and money like pass the fucking parcel whilst the rest of the country gets on with doing the real work that keeps them rich.

When Freud saw which way the wind was blowing under the Labour Government he jumped ship to the Tories where he was immediately made a life peer and given a Baroncy.  As Minister for Welfare Reform he has wasted no time in continuing the incessant lies about benefit claimants he began telling under Blair.  The man who’s worth millions is outraged that single mums should be paid a pittance to feed their children, or large families in cities should have somewhere to live.

If the fraud Freud had been born on a council estate he’d probably be banged up by now for flogging fake Armanis or nicked ipods down the boozer.  Instead he picks up huge sums of tax payers’ cash he doesn’t need to advise the Government on something he knows nothing about.  All that’s required for the rich to succeed is the old school tie and a commitment to staying on the right side in the class war.  Brutality and incompetence is the hallmark of the English ruling class and there has rarely been a better example than Lord Fraud and his chinless cabinet cronies.

Freud will be speaking at the National Housing Federation’s Welfare Reform Conference on the 23rd May.  Join protesters at 9.15 to tell him what you think outside the Commonwealth Club, 25 Northumberland Avenue,
London, WC2N 5AP

See also: ‘A Tale of Two models: disabled people vs Unum, Atos, Government and Disability Charities’ for more on Freud’s doings and the sell out of welfare http://www.dpac.uk.net/2012/04/a-tale-of-two-models-disabled-people-vs-unum-atos-government-and-disability-charities-debbie-jolly/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 082012
 

Starting Thursday 31st May, Manchester Against Benefit Cuts, alongside Manchester Coalition Against Cuts and others, will be supporting a week of action against Atos and their Tory friends. We hope to coordinate this with as many groups as possible, and make the week as big a success as we can. We will also be attempting to coordinate action with trade unionists in both Britain and France. If you are interested in getting involved, we will be having an open planning meeting next week , and will be meeting at the Manchester May Day march (see below for details). We hope to get as many people and groups behind this, and encourage everyone who wants to get involved to do so.

Solidarity.

WEEK OF ACTION AGAINST ATOS

MAY DAY MEET UP
MONDAY 7TH MAY
ASSEMBLE 11AM, BEXLEY SQ, SALFORD
We will be marching behind the Manchester Against Benefit Cuts banner and leafleting for the week of action.

OPEN PLANNING MEETING
TUESDAY 8TH MAY
MEET 6PM, NUJ OFFICES, MANCHESTER
Opposite Chorlton St Coach Station
This will be directly before the Manchester Coalition Against Cuts meeting, so people can stay on for that if they want.

PROTEST AGAINST ATOS!
THURSDAY 31ST MAY
ASSEMBLE 12PM, ALBERT SQ, MANCHESTER
After meeting at the Town Hall, we will march down to the Atos offices on Bridge Street.

PUBLIC MEETING – STOP ATOS!
WEDNESDAY 6TH JUNE,
7PM, FRIENDS MEETING HOUSE

DAY OF ACTION AND CAMPAIGN STALL
SATURDAY 9TH JUNE
MEET 11AM, VENUE TBC

 

Apr 112012
 

by Holmey

via social warriors

In view of the welfare reforms that the ConDem’s have forced through parliament, reforms that are forcing many sick and disabled people deep into poverty and misery, it’s time to tell the DWP what we feel, where we think they are driving society, with you being invited to download and complete the DWP Euthanasia Assistance Form below and asked to post it off to –

 

Euthanasia Assistance Scheme

The Ministers

Department of Works and Pensions

Caxton House

Tothill Street

London

SW1H 9DA

Next Tuesday or Wednesday, (17th/18th April), so that they get deluged with them on Thursday & Friday, perhaps having to work over the weekend to clear the mail backlog – Hopefully get to the attention of the decision makers.

A couple more websites I know are also hosting this campaign, and if you’re seeing it for the first time and have a website, please feel free to copy it. I’ll notify what media contacts I have, if everybody else makes a noise out of it, it may get some much needed publicity for what’s going on.

Also, on the Friday, (21st), perhaps you would like to emulate Stuart on his excellent recording (on social warriors’ web site)

Let’s shout out loud, give them all something to think about over the weekend.

Copy and paste this URL into your browser to get form and info:
http://socialwarriors.co.uk/2012/04/atos-dwp-disability-euthanasia-assistance-scheme-protest/

Apr 082012
 

One of the main advocates of the bio-psychosocial model, Lord Freud (Westminster’s Minister for welfare reform) claims that it is based on evidence. It is not. It is a right wing model led by profit and the market. It incorporates the worst aspects of neo-liberalism. It targets disabled people and ridiculously claims that we can think ourselves out of being disabled. Its underlying theme repeats the mantra that ‘work will set you free’. But this is not about work, despite the endless rhetoric; this model is an ideological cover for attacking disabled people and reducing every single right to financial support that has been achieved. Additional fringe benefits are provided to the insurance market of Unum, to the profits of Atos and to the big Disability Charities who all capitalise on the new notions of risk being imposed on disabled people. We can identify a clear pattern for the construction of the bio-psychosocial model, and its advocates. It features:

●‘Academics’ in the pay of the insurance company Unum

●The genesis of the Work Capability Assessment guided by Unum and Atos,

●Atos’ imposition of mass reassessments

● Successive governments

●Key players in the Department of Work and Pensions

● The big Disability Charities.

We can also identify a clear pattern for the construction and advocates of the social model of disability. The story features disabled activists some of whom  were institutionalised in a Leonard Cheshire home, disabled academics, disabled activists and disabled peoples’ organisations and groups run and controlled by disabled people who led the political challenges to individual models of disability and who continue to do so.  Which model seems better so far?

While successive governments were delivering a stream of white papers apparently dedicated to improving the life chances of disabled people the revenge of the bio-psychosocial model and welfare reform (read welfare destruction) was quietly being prepared behind our backs by the state and their market partners. The following explains why some disability campaigners were and are wrong to abandon the social model of disability and how the rhetoric behind the bio-psychosocial model is one of the keys to understanding the 21st century ideological attacks on disabled peoples’ lives.

Part One

The Social Model of Disability Basics: why it’s nothing to do with the bio-psychosocial model

The social model came into being through a letter to the Guardian from Paul Hunt[1], the early work of UPIAS (Union of Physically Impaired against Segregation) a document written by Vic Finkelstein[2] and other activists. They were institutionalised in a Leonard Cheshire institution. The UPIAS document and its premise were taken forward in the 1980s and 1990s by disabled activists and academics including Mike Oliver[3] and Colin Barnes[4]. Paul Abberley[5] also produced a seminal piece on  ‘The Concept of Oppression and the Development of a Social Theory of Disability’. The social model of disability was also taken forward by activists, campaigners and those who set up some of the first Centres of Independent Living (CILs).

The social model perspective has been used widely in the UK as answer to the sociological theories and common place mis-understandings on issues of disability being designated as entirely medical/individual attributes without reference to the environment, to the barriers that disabled people face, or the rights that they are being denied. Examples include: the American conservative sociologist Talcot Parsons who theorised the ‘Sick Role’ in the 1950s, and the International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps (ICIDH).  Parsons suggested that ‘the sick role’ gave individuals the opportunity to ‘opt out ‘of society, and elicit sympathy from others which brought them certain social benefits. However, this was perceived as a deviant role-according to Parsons the individual was at fault, merely exercising a form of deviance for particular rewards-they could quite easily change their attitude and function within society adequately. In addition, the first classification from the World Health Organisation (WHO) produced The International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps (ICIDH). This concentrated purely on medical factors and ‘handicaps’. It was later remodelled to include supposed interaction with social factors and renamed International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). Yet, it has never fully achieved the explanation of the interaction between impairment and disability.

In contrast, disability activists using the social model perspective argue it is how society treats disabled people that create the main problem. The experience of disability is not exclusively about the individual or the individual’s attitudes. The experience of disability is an interaction with actions of non disabled people, planners, governments, employers and others. People need educating on what it is really like to be disabled and the many barriers that disabled people face in their everyday lives. They need to understand those barriers which prevent disabled people having the same opportunities and life chances as their non disabled peers.

The social model does not focus on disabled people as victims of their physiology, whether physical, cognitive or otherwise, nor as vulnerable, helpless individuals but as people who are disabled by attitudes, the environment, design, working patterns and by those individuals who see disabled people as unworthy. The social model also offers a way to organise politically against the principles of social and economic exclusion, and oppression in a disabilist society.  It gives a critique of all that has gone before based on individualism and the market. It also argues that disabled people must be at the centre of voicing their own experiences. The social model was constructed by disabled people, not medical ‘experts’ , not policy makers, not social workers, not disability charities, not service providers, nor governments, nor private companies profiting from disability[6].

 

The Social Model: misunderstandings, misuse and other detractions

Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC) advocates the social model as do many others. Yet, DPAC has received criticism for insisting on working from the perspective of the social model. For example, the coalition governments’ use of the term social model in consultations regarding the proposed change from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has caused some people to reject the social model: what’s the point of supporting something that is being used to limit our rights-but the coalition government don’t understand, care or really know what the social model is. This was evident to anyone that read through the questions in the first PIP consultation.

The social model has been rejected by some academics as being out dated or not quite fashionable enough: they claim it is better to write of discourse, and embrace the ‘subject’ (individual). From the ‘ivory towers’ it may be, but how can this version ever realistically contribute directly to social policy or to peoples’ lives? The social model is rejected because it is considered masculine, it talks about this thing called society, and it talks about ‘social oppression’-perceived as an outdated Marxist term. The social model is rejected because it talks about impairment, people don’t like to think of themselves as impaired, and anyway, some say: isn’t the social model all about physical impairments? What about mental health? What about learning difficulties? Disabled feminists also criticised the social model for what they suggested was the social model’s exclusion of the body, but it is in the body politic that this model has its greatest power. At times criticisms are academic (in both senses), overall it’s extremely damaging, as the criticisms are often based on misconceptions of the social model and miss what the perspective offers for changing disabled peoples’ lives (see Barnes[7]).

The Coalition and New Labour before them had some very fertile ground to make their attacks on a set of people who were divided on their own histories, who appeared to be against their own founding activists and their own collective political identity. At the same time, as noted, neither new Labour nor the Coalition understood, cared or really knew what the social model really meant. They did know that the social model was used as successful tool to establish rights for disabled people.

This is why recent governments and government departments have used the term without any notion of the motivation, history, or content nor any care for the outcomes. Governments claim they speak with some disabled peoples’ organisations, some disabled activists, but mainly governments’ speak with the multi million pound disability charities. The big disability charities also use the term social model to give the illusion that they understand disabled people and can speak on behalf of disabled people. They never could and they still can’t. It is for disabled people to speak for themselves individually, through their own user-led organisations and through their own grass root groups.

What the Social Model Perspective did for Disabled People

The social model perspective was used very successfully by campaigners, protesters, advocates, activists and Centres for Independent Living (CILs) to move disabled people in the UK to a position that was the envy of many European countries in terms of UK support for disabled people.

Was it this perspective and its promotion that brought us:

● The Independent Living Fund (ILF) –now closed to all new applicants since 2010 by the Coalition, while existing applicants are left wondering what will happen to their support

● Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to pay for the extra costs of being disabled -now being replaced by Personal Independence Payment and rounds of reassessment by the Coalition government

● Incapacity Benefit -now changed to Employment Support Allowance and rounds of reassessment by Atos put in place by New Labour and made more stringent by the Coalition government

● Access to Work to help with extra costs of working and to, in theory, provide extra support to those that needed it –recently we have seen cut-backs on Access to Work with the tightening of criteria and more costs transferred to the employer rather than the government under the Coalition.

● Direct Payments to pay for personal assistants to aid independent living through financial support from local authorities (L.A.s) -now cut back as L.A.s restrict access through more punitive eligibility criteria because of central government cuts of up to 40% to L.A. budgets

●The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) –now we have a diluted replacement including all discriminated groups called the Equality Act (2010) put in place by New Labour and further diluted by the Coalition government.

These things originally opened up independent living for disabled people; social model arguments affected social policy, housing, information, education, transport, design, peer support, advocacy and attitudes towards disabled people. Few would claim that the social model was a panacea for all the problems that disabled people faced, disabled people were still fighting for better rights, improvements on what we had, and better access before the current onslaught from the Coalition. However, to say that the social model and the social model perspective did nothing to change the lives of disabled people is an insult to the generations of disabled activists before us that fought for change. All those that pushed those extra rights forward were social model advocates who wanted more independence for themselves and for disabled people, they wanted to educate on a better understanding of the social and economic oppression that disabled people faced. Yet, New Labour, the Conservatives and a host of other actors were working on removing those gains and more from disabled people and disabled children from as early as 1992.

Those disabled people that now have a public platform and criticise or dismiss the social model are disparaging the very thing that gave them that platform in the first instance. We can identify a clear pattern for the advocates and history of the social model: disabled people, some of whom were institutionalised, disabled academics, disabled activists and disabled peoples’ organisations run and controlled by disabled people.  We can also identify a clear pattern for the bio-psychosocial model rhetoric and its advocates.

Part two

The Bio-psychosocial Model Basics: why it’s nothing to do with the social model

There are a few references explaining where the original version of the bio-psychosocial model came from. Some cite George Engel[8] others claim that it is an outcome of the International Classification of Functioning and Disability (ICF) [9] Gill Thorton[10] describes the model from a medical approach, while clearly identifying the vulgarisation of its later use as a tool in getting disabled people back to work

Briefly put, it is a theory that seeks to broaden the perspective on illness, by taking into account not only the biological, but also psychological and social factors which may have an influence on sickness, and consequently on the course that healing takes. The acknowledged value of this approach, when used for the benefit of the patient, is that it allows for the identification of non-biological influences which may interfere with an individual’s capacity to heal.

However, it seems that Parsons’ ‘sick role’ and of the disabled person as deviant comes closest to the rhetoric of the Coalition government. So rather than identify who or what the original source of the bio-psychosocial model might be, we need to look at its promotion and how it has been used to justify the rhetoric that ‘work makes you well’ and that ‘work is good for you’. A DWP Press release from October 2011[11] shows the ways in which Freud (Minister for welfare reform) justifies the new era of the bio-psychosocial. He is speaking from the perversely titled ‘Health and Well- Being’ conference.

Key speakers at the conference included Dr Catherine Hannaway trained in the U.S. in ‘improvement methodologies’ by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement whose former President and Chief Executive Officer was Donald M. Berwick administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services insurance. Dr Bill Gunnyeon CBE, Director for Health, Work and Wellbeing and Chief Medical Advisor DWP:a regular ‘expert’ in House of Commons groups, and like Freud an apologist for Atos testing and the change from DLA to PIP. Also Samantha Wortley, Health and Safety Advisor at the University of Derby: a university running accredited courses for Atos health practitioners, and Disability Charity RNIB’s Philip Connolly, Employment Campaigns Officer to name just a few.

Freud’s rendition was surely a case of ‘preaching to the converted’ as it was delivered to those connected to insurance, disability accreditation, disability charities (who are still using the language of rehabilitation) and various apologists for the current regime. He also uses academics Waddle and Burton who, like many others supporting this rhetorical model are connected with the Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research directed by Mansel Aylward, (former Chief Medical Officer at the DWP) at the University of Cardiff: a department bankrolled by Unum. Freud happily declares:

Not so long ago employers were frightened of ill health. Good employers were concerned that being in work would cause some harm. Responsible employers acted to protect people, keeping them off work until they were fully recovered. But perversely they may have been doing more harm than good. We now understand that work is not necessarily bad for you.

People with physical or mental health conditions do not need to be protected from work and sometimes maintaining some form of working life can aid recovery. This understanding was first put forward by Aaron Antonovsky. It was expanded upon by Waddell and Burton. And helpfully formed an evidence base upon which I developed my welfare reform report.

Work provides more than just an income. Employment can also give people a sense of purpose, some structure to their lives. It can also be an important part of people’s social lives.

Quite simply good work is good for you.

Quite simply ‘good work’ is in short supply under the Coalition. Their promotion of the deeply unpopular workfair and the limited supply of temporary (including contract work), part-time, precarious jobs, and job insecurity for those in work have all been found to have adverse affects on mental and physical health. In addition, poor quality work can affect mental health in the same way as no work. The growing gap in inequality between the richest and the poorest affects the nation’s health and remains intergenerational.

The Construction and Deconstruction of a model for Private Profit

Aaron Antonovsky, one of the academics mentioned, put forward the idea of the concept of sense of coherence (SOC) in 1979[12]. It is not related to the bio-psychosocial model but ironically identifies one of the reasons why the current coalition regime imposed on disabled people will make them more susceptible to stress, anxiety and individual deterioration.

Collingwood claims[13]: The SOC is defined as: “The extent to which one has a pervasive enduring though a dynamic feeling of confidence that one’s environment is predictable and that things will work out as well as can reasonably be expected.” It has three components – comprehensibility, manageability, and meaningfulness. Comprehensibility is the extent to which events are perceived as making logical sense, that they are ordered, consistent, and structured. Manageability is the extent to which a person feels they can cope. Meaningfulness is how much one feels that life makes sense, and challenges are worthy of commitment. All these things are based on financial security, upbringing, social networks and natural ‘coping’ styles. Unremarkably, those in higher social classes who are more financially secure are deemed to have higher SOC levels, yet it also likely that they have better health outcomes too, as they are more likely to come from financially secure backgrounds.

As Antonovsky died in 1994 he will be unable to sue Freud for what seems to be a complete misinterpretation of SOC. Later we’ll compare the Antonovsky theory to the Waddell and Burton (Unum) scenario which exhibits a ‘blame the individual’ approach developing individualistic themes on illness and disability in which the social is completely erased.

Of course, the Health and Well- Being conference is just one in a long line of such conferences. In 2001 a conference with the charming title of ‘Malingering and Illness Deception’ was held at Woodstock near Oxford. It covered old ground for the insurance industries. Amongst the participants were Malcolm Wicks, then Parliamentary under Secretary of State for Work, and Mansel Aylward: Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and a number of academics like Waddell and Burton who would come to add academic credibility to Unum’s and government protestations on disability and illness.

What linked many of them together, including Aylward, was their association with the giant US insurance company UnumProvident (later Unum), represented at the conference by John Lo Cascio. The goal of the conference was the transformation of the welfare system[14] in particular the reduction of payments to disabled people which was perceived to be a key problem for successive governments. Unum were perfect for such a project as they had a very useful track record of reorganising exactly what health problems were in order to avoid insurance payouts. John Lo Casio was no stranger to such events or to working with Westminster governments. As second Vice chair of Unum he had been brought in by Conservative Peter Lilley (Secretary of State for Social Security 1992-1997) to ‘manage claims’ of incapacity benefit. Both Lo Casio and Alyward joined the government medical advisory group to devise the All Work Test, a forerunner of the Personal Capability Assessment (PCA) and a forerunner to the more recent Work Capability Assessment (WCA) used by Atos. The All Work Test awarded points for different descriptors and ignored GP evidence-Instead a set of adjudication officers who were trained in a theory set out by Mr Lo Cascio were employed to aid the management of claims – sounds familiar doesn’t it? Unum Provident was at the centre of UK welfare reform as early as 1992 under the Thatcher government, but they worked with New Labour too.

Unum Provident continued to build its sphere of power and influence, in 2001 launching: New Beginnings, a public private partnership between charities, including Disability Charities, NGO’s and government ministers with the express intention of furthering the company’s power in policy making. The New Beginnings advisory group included some of the academics from the Woodstock conference as well as major disability charities such as the Shaw Trust, Disability Alliance, and the Employers Forum for Disability[15] Unum went further stretching their tentacles into the university sector with the help of Mansel Alyward formally of the DWP.

Mansel Aylward, began directing the Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University in 2004:a department that Unum Provident paid 1.6 million pounds for. A  department set up to provide an academic credibility and a new political slant to the bio-psychosocial model[16]  allowing Freud to claim that welfare reform for disability benefits was backed up by evidence that ‘work was good for you’. The department included Alyward, Professor Peter Halligan and Gordon Waddell. One year later Alyward and Waddell produced The Scientific & Conceptual Basis of Incapacity Benefits published by the DWP. As Rutherford[17] notes:

In their declarations of interest at the beginning of the text neither man cites their association with UnumProvident. This matters, because the monograph provides the unacknowledged intellectual framework for the 2006 Welfare Reform Bill [originally passed by New Labour]. And the methodology used by Waddell and Aylward is the same one that informs the work of UnumProvident. In a memorandum submitted to the House of Commons Select Committee on Work and Pensions, UnumProvident define their method of working: ‘Our extended experience … has shown us that the correct model to apply when helping people to return to work is a bio-psychosocial one’.

Peter Halligan, and Derek Wade of Oxford University (another Woodstock academic) explained the model in the British Medical Journal as something that needed to make a break from old understandings of the bio-psychosocial. ‘The old biomedical model of illness, which has dominated health care for the past century, cannot fully explain many forms of illness.’ What they really meant was that it was not helping reduce the number of applicants for incapacity benefit.

The old model ‘assumes a causal relation between disease and illness, (?) and fails to take into account how cultural attitudes and psychological and social factors shape illness behaviour. In other words it allows someone to report symptoms of illness, and for society to accept him or her as sick, without their having pathology’-a throwback to Parsons’ ‘sick role’ theory. They add that: ‘Personal choice plays an important part in the genesis or maintenance of illness’.

Alyward and Wadell moved this rhetoric up several gears: Arguing that adopting this new version of the model would lead to a ‘fundamental transformation in the way society deals with sickness and disabilities’ (p123). The goal and outcome of treatment is work: ‘work itself is therapeutic, aids recovery and is the best form of rehabilitation’. Work can set you free, in fact worklessness now transforms into a bizarre serious risk to life. It is announced as:

one of the greatest known risks to public health: the risk is equivalent to smoking 10 packets of cigarettes per day’ (p17).

Halligan and Wade also tap into theories of Talcot Parsons to argue: ‘Our model suggests that illness is a dysfunction of the person in his (or her) physical and social environment’. Like Parsons, they suggest that the ‘sick role’ is no more than an individual deviance: a choice. The solution is to change people’s behaviour by transforming the language and culture of welfare, and by using incentives as a ‘motivational tool’ to prise people out of their sick role (p166). The motivation tools were later renamed sanctions. That is sanctions to those people refusing to work for their benefits on programs such as ‘workfare[18]’, sanctions through which their benefits can be removed from weeks up to three years leaving them without income if they dare indulge in any ‘wrong thinking’.

 Influence and Profit: Unum, ATOS and complicit Disability CharitiesIn July 2007 The Personal Capability Assessment (PCA) was redesigned by two technical working groups, one for ‘physical impairment and another for mental health issues. Representatives from Unum and Atos were present in both groups[19]. The redesign would be one step closer to the hated and much maligned Work Capability Assessment to be delivered by AtosTechnical working groups on the WCA also hosted the views and input of some of the big Disability Charities including: MENCAP, MIND, the National Autistic Society, Parkinson ’s Disease Society, RNIB, RNID and the Disability Benefits Consortium including some of those already mentioned, as well as Leonard Cheshire Disability, Sense, RADAR, SCOPE, Sue Rider and the Papworth Trust[20].No doubt this was good preparation for the Disability Works UK launch in 2011 another charity consortium exercising their muscle as ‘experts in disability employment’ involving SCOPE, MENCAP, MIND, Leonard Cheshire, and Action for Blind People (a part of RNIB) with a healthy turnover value of 654.4 million and a cumulative surplus of 15.6 million[21] All corporate disability charities were more than prepared to take maximum advantage of workfare type schemes recently announced as having unlimited time scales for disabled people[22].We should note that so far we do not see any user-led disabled peoples groups involved in any positions of power or profit in this wholesale transformation of welfare or in partnership with the government. The charities were speaking for us because there were profits to be made from lucrative government contracts designed to get disabled people back to work- they are in the disability business too after all. They continue to ‘help’ by advising on mental health issues and producing publicity against the WCA that they were involved in and publicity against Atos, who they sat at the table with-I guess that’s part of the social model bit they adopted, plus of course their partnership with user-led groups in the Hardest Hit protests which protested against the WCA and welfare reform-oh the irony or is it duplicity?Atos were also on board the welfare transformation gravy train before the WCA.  Atos bought out SchlumbergerSema in 2003 for 1.3 billion Euros. Through this, they gained access to key SchlumbergerSema public sector contracts in the UK, including one with the Metropolitan Police, a deal with the Department for Work and Pensions, and the Government Gateway project[23]. This was a significant move as DWP contracts included the Personal Capability Assessment and the buyout gave Atos (renamed as Atos Origin in 2004) access to the Logical Integrated Medical Assessment (LIMA) and 100 million per year from the DWP for delivering it with the proviso that they speed up claim and processing times. Another Disability Charity: Shaw Trust announced their pleasure at future work in partnership with Atos in 2010. Shaw Trust would also profit through the misery of disabled people by delivering the euphemistically titled ‘work programs’ for disabled people. Sally Burton, CEO[24] at Shaw Trust gushed:

“Shaw Trust is delighted the consortium has qualified to bid for the opportunity to supply seven Lots of the Government’s Work Programme. As the UK’s largest   third sector provider of employment services, our partnership with Atos Origin and Pinnacle People can ensure the charity sector remains at the heart of welfare-to-work.” [My emphasis]

But lets move from income driven Disability Charities to failed bankers (apparently they do exist). In 2006 New Labour chose David Freud, a senior banker at UBS AG to conduct a review of New Labour’s welfare to work policies. Freud later defected to the Conservatives on a promise of a peerage. Invest in ME[25] expose Freud’s mistakes in banking and other areas explaining his own incapacities in some detail:

The “To Banker from Bankies” 2009 report (which was supported and funded by Oxfam) states, in 2007 Freud was appointed as the key Government advisor on welfare reform by Labour’s John Hutton and was commissioned to produce a report “Reducing Dependency, Increasing Opportunity” on the “Welfare to Work” programme.  This was despite the fact that, in his own words, Freud “didn’t know anything about welfare at all” (Daily Telegraph, 4th February 2008). Despite the great complexity of the welfare system, Freud researched and wrote his welfare “shake-up” plan in just three weeks (Daily Telegraph, 1st May 2006). It recommended that the existing role of private firms (such as UNUM and Atos) in the Government’s “Welfare to Work” programme be dramatically increased; he acknowledged that there was no evidence to suggest that private contractors were any better than the Department for Work and Pensions, but he still concluded that it would be “economically rational” to pay them tens of thousands of pounds for every person they removed from benefits.

In his report Freud constantly misquotes studies and uses over 170 references to ‘models’ citing the zsars of the Unum financed Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University consistently. While Freud openly acknowledges a useful partnership between of two of the most hated private companies and their involvement in welfare to work issues, the company’s themselves have been much more unwilling to acknowledge any links between them.

Links between Unum and Atos

In the 2004 Atos report, Atos appears to use the language of Unum and the academics of Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research unreservedly, with sex thrown in for good measure:

Psychosocial factors…are at least as important as physical factors in the onset and maintenance of these conditions.  Patients can make a number of ‘secondary gains’ with these unexplained illnesses, such as…turning a socially unacceptable disability into a more acceptable ‘organic’ disability caused by injury or disease beyond their control. They can blame their failures on the illness; elicit care, sympathy and concern from family and friends; avoid work or even sex; and there are financial rewards associated with disability.

 …if a patient believes their illness was caused by a virus and there’s nothing they can do about it, their prognosis is not likely to be positive.  But if the patient believes…that the symptoms won’t last long and they have control over them, then the prognosis will be better….We need patients to understand their situation, so they are more likely to go back to work

(Except from the powerful letter from Douglas Frazer to the House of Lords reproduced on the Invest in ME web site)

Despite being linked in the chain of the key players at the DWP, successive government ministers, a string of conferences, the Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research and involved together in the PCA and WCA. Atos and Unum continue to deny that they have any links with each other. However, they appear to swop CEOs and often share the same platforms at conferences and on government groups as noted. As DPAC’s sister campaign group Black Triangle posts show: MP Norman Lamb, (special political advisor to Nick Clegg) also seems to have trouble recollecting links with Unum. He denied any knowledge of a company named Unum going as far as to write to our very own minister Maria Miller. Lamb wrote:

xxxx xxxxxxxx informs me that a company called Unum Provident “has been convicted of major fraud and banned from trading in many States in the US” up until 2008. He states that this company has been advising the DWP on welfare reform since the early 1990s. He also states that the current Atos Chief Medical Officer, Mike O’Donnell, had been Chief Medical Officer of Unum from March 2000 to September 2010.  Is all this true?  Can you let me know exactly what the Government knows about the position relating to Unum Provident and its relationship with Atos healthcare?

The post on the Black triangle site continues:

Imagine my surprise and shock then considering the above to discover this morning while doing some research online about connections between Atos & Unum, particularly the relationship between Mike O’Donnell – Chief Medical Officer – Atos Healthcare and Peter O’Donnell – Executive Director, Chief Financial Officer – Unum Insurance, (brothers perhaps? Anybody know?), to find out that good old Norman last Tuesday was a guest speaker at a Unum hosted fringe meeting at the LibDem Conference speaking alongside Peter O’Donnell, the Chief Financial Officer of Unum Insurance –

Speaker/Artist(s) Info: Norman Lamb MP; Teresa Perchard, Director of Public Policy, Citizens Advice; Nick Pearce, Director, IPPR; Peter O’Donnell, Chief Financial Officer, Unum. Chair: Patrick Hennessy, Sunday Telegraph.

Time: Tuesday September 20, 2011 6:15pm – 7:30pm

Venue: Hyatt Regency: Fortissimo2 Bridge Street, BirminghamB1 2JZ

Type: LibDem → Panel

Host Organization(s): IPPR, Unum

It’s also worth recognising the media representation at this too. As noted Unum continue to deny any involvement with Atos and vice versa, yet Unum was providing insurance for Atos workers up until 2009. On Unum’s rather amusing ‘Ask Unum’ site, clearly set up so that they can continue denying what is a matter of record in many instances, they state: “Unum UK currently has no relationship with ATOS Ltd. Until September 2009, it provided Income Protection to ATOS Ltd for ATOS’s staff” .Should they also add that the previous chief medical officer of Unum installed at Atos in 2011 had nothing to do with Unum before that time too?

Additional information on Atos partners has been requested through a Freedom of Information request to the DWP by P. Wilkinson (2011)[26] this asks which third parties Atos works with. The response states:

Atos Healthcare have advised that to release the name of the private company they have appointed to investigate the handling of complaints would affect the basis of the contract between Atos Healthcare and that company and would have contractual and commercial implications for Atos Healthcare.

As part of their preparation for Independent Tier (IT) arrangements under the new Contract, Atos Healthcare proposed and DWP agreed that details of the private company they have appointed to investigate the handling of complaints be withheld to ensure independence. This proposal and agreement took the form of an entry in the contract as follows: “The name of this firm will not be divulged to any third party to ensure continued
independence”.  

Can we guess who it is yet? The phrase ‘all in it together’ comes to mind –maybe this is what Cameron was actually talking about. But, what of Unum’s own useful criminal record to the Coalition?

Disability Denial: an alliance between Unum and the State

When the links between the profiteers in the misery of disabled people and the ideologies of denial are exposed what we are left with? First this is not about getting people into work, whatever the Tories and previous governments claim  they don’t care if you work or not. Media rhetoric[27] on scroungers, workshy and other protestations of undeserving poor were part of the strategy to change public opinion helped along by misleading DWP press releases. This is about denying benefits, denying illness and denying incapacity. It is not about even about ‘thinking yourself well’ or tortured nonsensical models shored up by dubious academics: It’s about something Unum have a successful history of: it’s about denying pay outs and capitalising on fear and risk.

The denial of pay outs may be through Unum’s insurance policies or it may be through denying pay outs after an individual has paid a life-time of national insurance contributions to the state-but is put on time limited Employment and Support Allowance- the outcome will be same. Who better to work with ex-banker Freud and MP’s in denying people their rightful entitlements than a company which has been publically named as: “an outlaw company- It is a company that for years has operated in an illegal fashion[28]” by California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi in 2005, where Unum were charged with more than 25 violations of state law and fined $8 million. Among the charges were:

 ….that the company knowingly applied the wrong legal definition of disability in denying claims or ruling claimants were able to go back to work, targeted high-cost claims for denials to save the firm money, misused claimants’ medical records and even the opinions of in-house medical personnel to deny benefits and wrongly sought to file cases under a federal benefits law that severely limits claimants’ ability to successfully sue their insurers.

Reads like the work theory of Atos doesn’t it? These charges followed a financial settlement in the previous year in which 48 other U.S states raised critical issues on Unum’s working methods.

Rutherford argues:

in the 1980s Unum, and insurance companies Provident and Paul Revere were in trouble in the U. S. They had increased profits by sharing similar policies on disability and sickness insurance and selling to professionals. A combination of falling interest rates and the growth of diagnosed illnesses which were not subject to the insurance sector’s tests appeared to be increasing, affecting the professionals who had taken out policies with the companies, and in turn affecting company profits. These illnesses included: Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Multiple Sclerosis, Lyme disease.

An aggressive ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome plan followed, with claims being managed in a way that continued to maximise profits. The insurance industry called on the academics, Professor Simon Wessely of King’s College and Professor Michael Sharpe of Edinburgh University (both participants in the Woodstock conference) in an attempt to reclassify those conditions that were costing money, and lobby the medical profession on such conditions so they fell outside the remit of ‘pay outs’. It meant that specific illnesses were targeted in order to discredit the legitimacy of claims.

This ‘strategy’ was to prove useful in dealing with the UK’s welfare reform and in overriding the basis of medical opinion on a whole set of conditions. As the state joined in the denial with its set of private companies and supporting academics Unum achieved more market returns while disabled people began to see their own welfare support rapidly diminishing.

Capitalising on Fear: how the denial of state support improves Unum’s profit margin

Unum couldn’t lose, as early as 1997 with the roll out of the All work Test, in which Lo Casio had had played a major part, Unum launched an expensive advertising campaign. One ad ran:

April 13, unlucky for some. Because tomorrow the new rules on state incapacity benefit announced in the 1993 autumn budget come into effect. Which means that if you fall ill and have to rely on state incapacity benefit, you could be in serious trouble[29].

Lo Cascio replied in the negative when Private Eye asked if he was concerned about the conflict of interest involved in his company’s advertising campaign, which sought to gain from benefit cuts that he had helped to initiate. However Unum Chairman Ward E. Graffam did acknowledge the ‘exciting developments’ in Britain. Unum’s influence in government was helping to boost the private insurance market:

The impending changes to the State ill-health benefits system will create unique sales opportunities across the entire disability market and we will be launching a concerted effort to harness the potential in these.’[30]

In 2012 the worst aspects of welfare reform were pushed through by multi-millionaire ex-banker Freud: including over a million disabled people expected to be completely removed from Incapacity benefits and unable to qualify for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) through more stringent testing by Atos, 12 month time limits on ESA to include those with terminal illness, and an additional half a million set to lose Disability Living Allowance and be ineligible for Personal Independence Payments amongst the regime. The fraud of the government rhetoric claiming to be supporting ‘those in most need’ was almost complete with the closure to new applicants for the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in 2010 and ILF’s expected closure in 2015. To celebrate Unum happily launched another set of advertising campaigns in 2012 advising people that the state wouldn’t support them and that they should take out insurance against sickness and disability.

A Tale of two Models: Disabled People vs Unum, Atos, Governments and Disability Charities

The social model and the bio-psychosocial model have each had powerful affects on disabled peoples’ lives. However they are two completely different animals and we must never succumb to the government’s attempts to conflate them. It’s quite clear which model gives most to disabled people and which is being used to take away disabled peoples’ rights and their right to dignity . It is quite clear why we should continue to rage against the current imposition of the market regime of misery. It is quite clear why we should continue to support and use the social model of disability: a model with its rooted in the experiences of those incarcerated in a Leonard Cheshire Disability Charity institution: One of the disability charities that continue to profit from disabled peoples’ misery by sitting at the table with governments, Atos and Unum ‘helping’ the progress of the WCA and gaining from lucrative government contracts for work programs- with their and other charity support disabled people don’t need enemies.

The increases in the recorded suicides of disabled people brought about by the fear and misery imposed on disabled people through the current neo-liberal regime is likely to grow. Yet, the worsening situation of the many being denied support to which they are entitled to through national insurance contributions, through the most basic notion of human rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons, and the European Convention on Human Rights will not affect the income or profits of the private companies or the disability charities involved .

This is not about getting people into work- there are no jobs, much less jobs for disabled people. It is not about even about ‘thinking yourself well’ or tortured nonsensical models shored up by dubious academics in the pay of Unum. This is about denying benefits, denying illness and denying disability: It’s about something Unum have a successful history of:  denying pay outs for disabled people while capitalising on fear and risk. It’s about an ideological regime of misery and austerity in the twelfth richest country in the world.

It amounts to the biggest government benefit fraud in social welfare and human rights in contemporary history.

twitter: @redjolly1

Acknowledgements

With thanks to Ann Whitehurst for sending me Jonathan Rutherford’s excellent piece in Soundings (on which some of this is based) and other pieces explaining how poverty and disability were being remade as an individual attributes rather than a societal failings by the right wing. Thanks to Bob Williams Findlay for his helpful comments. Thanks also to Julia Cameron for her comments, sending numerous links and information and urging that this (or something like this) should be written, and to all those activists past and present who will continue to fight for the rights of disabled people using the social model and who usually also say Rights not Charity! You know who you are…..

For online texts on the social model and disability issues see: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/



[3] Oliver, Mike The Politics of Disablement

 

http://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/archframe.htm

[4] DISABLED PEOPLE IN BRITAIN AND DISCRIMINATION A

Case for Anti-Discrimination Legislation http://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/archframe.htm

 

[5] http://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/Abberley/chapter10.pdf

[6] http://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/Oliver/in%20soc%20dis.pdf

[7] The Social Model of Disability: Myths and Misconceptions http://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/archframe.htm