Tag Archives: Incapacity Benefit

“The Hidden Agenda”: The Planned Destruction Of The Welfare State?

bs_Greetings_from_the_Welfare_State The report reproduced (with kind permission) below is a short summary of the vitally important research into the origin of the current government’s campaign against disability and incapacity benefits and the involvement of Unum (formerly UnumProvident) and ATOS.  This remarkably detailed  work was carried out over the last three years by former healthcare professional and disabled veteran, Mo Stewart*. Mo has worked relentlessly and determinedly, despite her own pain and fatigue, to bring together a vast amount of damning evidence against this cruel system which has and continues to bring misery and even death to people whose only ‘crime’ is to be chronically sick or disabled. What you are about to read below is but a tiny example of far, far more material some of which can be found on her website here or by following the links she provides in her reference list at the end of the articles.

*(Mo Stewart is a former healthcare professional, a disabled female veteran and, for the last 3 years, has researched the links between the DWP, Atos Healthcare & Unum Insurance. To date, the research evidence has been quoted during welfare debates in the House of Lords, the House of Commons and in Westminster Hall. Mo routinely shares all research evidence with academics, medical and healthcare professionals, frontline national charities, selected
politicians and service users.)

THE HIDDEN AGENDA: a research summary by Mo Stewart

(The Hidden Agenda © Mo Stewart – March 2013)

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is exclusively conducted on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) by the corporate giant Atos Origin IT Ltd Medical Services, better known as Atos Healthcare. This ‘non-medical assessment’ was introduced in 2008 by the Labour government, and was identified as a ‘medical examination’ to be used to identify genuine claimants for long term sickness and disability benefit. However, what was unknown at the time was the fact that the WCA was a continuation of the planned agenda of the previous Thatcher government, whose ultimate goal was the destruction of the Welfare State.(1) The WCA was promoted as a ‘fitness for work’ assessment for claimants of what was once known as Incapacity Benefit, now re-named as the Employment and Support Allowance.(ESA) In reality, in order to reduce the welfare budget, the WCA was designed to resist as many sickness benefit claims as possible regardless of confirmed and identified permanent illness or disability. By 2010 the planned DWP welfare budget reduction was deemed to be
too slow. The new Coalition Government enhanced the WCA and, following the previous Labour Government’s lead, it became much more difficult to qualify for the ESA(2) as the WCA totally disregarded diagnosis, prognosis or limited life expectancy.

Aided and abetted by the national press, using insidious press headlines to manipulate public opinion(3)(3b), the Coalition Government successfully introduced tyranny, fear and despair to the nation’s most vulnerable people, using a disability assessment model as designed in consultation with Unum [Provident] Insurance; one of the most discredited corporate insurance giants in the world.(4)(4b) At the same time, reported disability hate crimes in the United Kingdom(UK) were rising to record levels.(5) The first two years of independent research into the WCA concluded at the end of November 2011 with the
exposure of two government memorandums provided by Unum Provident Insurance.(6) Initially, the link between the UK welfare reforms and the likely move to an insurance based benefits system was identified by Baroness Tanni Gray-Thompson during the welfare reform debates in the House of Lords.(7) Nine months later, the link between Atos Healthcare and Unum Insurance was exposed by Kevin Brennan MP during debate in Westminster Hall(8) and, more recently, during an emergency Backbench Business debate in the House of Commons(HOC), Michael Meacher MP identified the possible influence of Unum Insurance with the UK Government.(9)

Of course, this destruction of the welfare state could never have been so readily achieved without the unelected former Labour adviser, David Freud. He was ennobled to permit appointment initially to the Shadow Cabinet but, following the 2010 General Election, he was appointed as the Minister for Welfare Reform for the Coalition where he has excelled. Indeed, one of Lord Freud’s most recent claims was that: “Poor people should be prepared to take more risks because they have the least to lose…”(11) Clearly, this man is yet another millionaire Minister who demonstrates no concern, and no comprehension, of human need.
The ongoing DWP medical tyranny, masquerading as welfare reform, has permitted Atos Healthcare to conduct the WCA by employing the totally discredited Bio-Psychosocial(BPS) model of disability assessment that remains free from all public accountability according to the General Medical Council and the Care Quality Commission. The BPS is the assessment model as used by Unum Insurance when assessing healthcare insurance claims, and it is also the assessment model enthusiastically promoted by Professor Sir Mansel Aylward. The Professor is the Director of the Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University, initially sponsored by Unum Insurance from its inception in 2003 to 2009.

However, prior to his move to the Centre, the Professor was the DWP’s Chief Medical Officer who, in 1994, was in post when Unum Insurance was invited to become corporate ‘advisers’ to the UK government.(12) Whilst the BPS model is an interesting theory, the selective use of the BPS model of disability assessment, as used by both Unum Insurance and Atos Healthcare, was exposed long ago as an invention of the insurance industry.(13)(14) By concentrating on the psychological model of disability, to the detriment of the social model, the WCA was always destined to promote unacceptable results for many thousands of ESA claimants. In one six month period alone 37,100 people had waited up to a year to have their ESA benefit reinstated following appeal, yet no-one is asking what would have happened to these genuinely sick and disabled people if they had not had the strength to pursue their claim to appeal?(10)

Indeed, a recent Panorama documentary: ‘Disabled or Faking It’,(15) demonstrated quite categorically the dangers of the WCA with seriously ill patients, diagnosed with life threatening conditions such as heart failure and end stage emphysema, being found fit for work.(15) However, with the national press still refusing to expose the identified influence of Unum Insurance with the DWP welfare reforms, the British public remain in ignorance as the government covertly convert the UK welfare state into the American healthcare system, ultimately to be funded by private insurance.(12)(13)(14) Meanwhile, Unum Insurance is happy to continue to offer new careers to former government ‘advisers’. (16) The WCA is an American imported ‘disability assessment model’ and has no medical credibility whatsoever, as confirmed by the British Medical Association(17), yet it is enthusiastically employed by the DWP and causes devastation to those least able to protest. This ‘medical assessment’ is working very well as the thousands of genuine claimants that have either died, committed suicide, been forced into poverty due to mounting debt, or who have developed a mental health problem due to anxiety are now the disregarded victims.(10)

Many had been in receipt of Incapacity Benefit before being re-assessed by Atos Healthcare, using the fatally flawed WCA, only to fail to qualify for benefit following ‘assessment’. The Internet provides evidence to this government imposed suffering at a cost to the tax-payer of £110million per annum for the confidential Atos contract and an estimated £60 million pounds per annum, and rising, for the costs of the appeal tribunals. Yet, still, Members of Parliament (MP) continue with their very courteous and diplomatic debates(8)(9) as the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and, especially, their corporate partners all celebrate the ongoing planned destruction of the welfare state that appears to be unstoppable.

What is still disregarded is the fact that Professor Sir Mansel Aylward’s research activities were funded for six years by Unum Insurance.(12) Indeed, due to his significant contribution to the future reduction of the DWP welfare budget by promoting the use of a ‘non-medical’ assessment, the Professor was rewarded with a Knighthood for “services to disability assessment.” Therefore, his support for the BPS disability assessment model was presumed to be guaranteed. Yet, when confronted six months ago, the Professor actually confirmed that he now considered the BPS model to be “unsatisfactory” and that he believed it “no longer addresses the real needs of disabled people and the exclusion of disabled people from society”.(18) Of course, the question remains as to why there was no official DWP announcement following this amazing change of ‘expert’ professional opinion, as the entire national press totally disregarded the press release that was distributed last September following Sir Mansel’s unexpected statement. Perhaps the Professor was safe in the
knowledge that the press release would be ignored, and perhaps this is why he continues to travel widely, still lecturing about the virtues of the totally discredited BPS model of disability assessment? The most recent lecture was at the Health and Wellbeing at Work Conference in Birmingham, from 5th-6th March 2013,(19) where Professor Sir Mansel Aylward was listed as a keynote speaker on the subject of: The New Public Health Agenda: Its Impact on Health and Wellbeing at Work. Given the title of his speech, one can only presume that the Professor has yet to advise other professionals of his reported change of expert opinion.(18)

This is how the UK welfare state will be destroyed. There is a BPS ‘expert’ in place, and an American corporate insurance giant has influenced the UK Government to totally disregard human suffering, in favour of a reduced welfare budget, using an identified bogus ‘medical assessment’. Unum Insurance have begun their mass marketing to encourage able bodied members of the British public to invest in their ‘Income Protection Insurance’ or their ‘Back-up Plan,’ that’s only available via the workplace, and these are the healthcare insurance policies that the company has historically tried very hard to resist funding when a claim is made.(20)(21) Given that the unacceptable practice of Unum Insurance was previously exposed by MPs during a House of Commons debate in 1999(22), the question remains as to why was this highly discredited American corporate insurance giant ever permitted to influence UK welfare reforms and why the national press, en masse, refuse to expose this insurance company’s confirmed influence despite it being identified by a BBC News report in 2007?(23)

The recent exposure of a 2005 internal Unum report, that actively boasted that the company was ‘driving government thinking’ regarding the reform of Incapacity Benefit (24) leads to the much more sinister possibility that the DWP are simply administrators of these brutal welfare reforms, and that the perpetrators of the devastation caused to the victims of this UK government funded medical tyranny are, in fact, Unum Insurance. Michael O’Donnell was the author of the 2005 internal Unum report that was written when he was the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for Unum Insurance. Michael O’Donnell is now the CMO for Atos Healthcare…..

The difficulty remains that no-one is asking the relevant questions. Perhaps MPs should be asking the Prime Minister why he’s been funded by ‘healthcare companies’ to the value of £750,000(27) since he became Prime Minister (25) or why every report produced by the President of the Appeal Tribunals, all of which identified the Atos Healthcare WCA assessments as “failing to coincide with reality”, was totally disregarded by the DWP? (12)
Until and unless more significant questions are asked in the House of Commons, victims of this government funded medical nightmare will be forced to turn to the law for help, just as in America.(26)

Until and unless the national press demonstrate that the UK really does benefit from a free press, and not a government controlled press, the most vulnerable of all British people will continue to suffer and the British public will continue to be deceived.(12)

References:
1) Margaret Thatcher’s role in plan to dismantle welfare state revealed:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/dec/28/margaret-thatcher-role-plan-to-dismantle-welfare-state-revealed
(2) Cuts to UK benefits: http://www.centreforwelfarereform.org/library/type/text/cuts-to-uk-benefits.html
(3) ‘Ello, John, got a new Motability motor? http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2047593/Motability-schemes-starting-resemble- worst-excesses-Arthur-Daley-.html
(3b) Half a million incapacity benefit claimants are fit for work, Government’s own figures show: Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2115476/A-incapacity-benefit-claimants-fit-work-Government-s-OWN-figures show. html#axzz2JqkmNFAR
(4) New York Attorney General Spitzer’s ruling: http://www.insure.com/articles/healthinsurance/unum-settlement.html
(4b) The Ten Worst Insurance Companies in America – The American Association of Justice
http://www.justice.org/docs/tenworstinsurancecompanies.pdf
(5) Hate crimes against disabled people soar to a record high:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/hate-crimes-against-disabled-people-soar-to-a-record-level-7858841.html
(6) The truth behind welfare reforms: http://www.whywaitforever.com/dwpatosveteransreport20111120.html
(7) BnsTanni Gray-Thompson: House of Lords, welfare reforms
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201011/ldhansrd/text/110913-0002.htm
(8) Private Members’ Debate: Atos Healthcare: 4th Sept 2012
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm120904/halltext/120904h0001.htm
(9) Backbench Business: Atos Work Capability Assessment debate: 17th Jan 2013
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm130117/debtext/130117-0002.htm
(10) British people are committing suicide to escape poverty. Is this what the State wants?
http://poultonblog.dailymail.co.uk/2012/03/people-are-choosing-suicide-to-escape-poverty-is-this-the-states- final-solution.html
(11) Lord Freud’s welfare ‘lifestyle’ comments show ‘nasty party is back’, say Labour:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9698985/Lord-Freuds-welfare-lifestyle-comments-show-nasty-party-is-back-say-Labour.html
(12) Government use might of American insurance giant to destroy UK welfare safety net – update 27th Oct : http://www.whywaitforever.com/dwpatosveteransreport20121027.html
(13) An academic responds to statement by Prof Aylward:
http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2012/09/18/dwpatosunum-scandal-an-academic-responds-with-disbelief-to-professor-aylwardsstatement- to-black-triangle-and-dpac-outside-the-ifdm2012-conference-on-11th-september-2012/
(14) A Tale of Two Models: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/jolly/A%20Tale%20of%20two%20Models%20Leeds1.pdf
(15) Panorama: Disabled or Faking It?
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01lldrc/Panorama_Disabled_or_Faking_It/
(16) Peter Dewis: Steppin’ Sideways from Government to Unum:
http://downwithallthat.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/peter-dewis-steppin-sideways-from-government-to-unum/
(17) GPs call for work capability assessment to be scrapped:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/may/23/gps-work-capability-assessment-scrapped
(18) Former DWP medical boss makes WCA pledge to protesters:
http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2012/09/former-dwp-medical-boss-makes-wca-pledge-to-protesters/
(19) Health and Wellbeing at Work Conference, NEC Birmingham: http://www.healthatwork2013.co.uk/
(20) “The denial on the part of Unum in the Mondolo case appears to mirror denials of other Unum disability claims historically, going back several years. To that end, the Court noted Unum’s history of biased claims administration.” (MARCH 2013)
http://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/articles/first_unum/unum-lawsuit-insurance-disability-claims-12-18506.html?utm_expid=3607522-
0&utm_referrer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lawyersandsettlements.com%2Flegal-news-articles%2Fcase%2Ffirst_unum%2F
(21) CBS News 60 minutes: DID INSURER CHEAT DISABLED CLIENTS:
(see below)
(22) Permanent Health Insurance debate, Westminster Hall, 21st December 2009
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199900/cmhansrd/vo991221/halltext/91221h01.htm#91221h01_head0
(23) BBC Ten ‘o Clock News report: 6th Nov 2007 http://www.meactionuk.org.uk/UNUM_on_BBC_News_061107.wmv (BBC NEWS report – video)
(24) Unum bragged about ‘driving government thinking’ on incapacity benefit reform:
http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2013/02/unum-bragged-about-driving-government-thinking-on-incapacity-benefit-reform/
(25) MPs’ links are so unhealthy: http://www.express.co.uk/comment/expresscomment/378233/MPs-links-are-so- unhealthy
(26) High Court rules Work Capability Assessment arguably unlawful:
http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2012/07/victory-in-first-stage-of-fitness-for-work-court-case/
(27) NHS reform leaves Tory backers with links to private healthcare firms set for bonanza:
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/nhs-reform-leaves-tory-backers-105302

images (1) Now watch the US video below (referenced above) and compare what is being described with what people are experiencing here in Britain at the hands of the DWP and its sidekick ATOS…chilling?

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TUC’S AUSTERITY UNCOVERED BUS TOUR REVEALS THE HUMAN COST OF THREE YEARS OF COALITION POLICIES

download On 17th June I wrote a post announcing the launch of the TUC’s bus tour of Britain, Austerity Uncovered (http://wp.me/p3mYc5-4J). The tour finished on 29th June and has uncovered  some harrowing stories of hardship from all over Britain. Volunteers who took the bus to towns and cities up and down the country found  devastated high streets, busy foodbanks and crowds of people of all ages queueing to tell stories of their struggle to live with bedroom tax, welfare caps and precarious jobs paying low wages. Below are some of the stories and videos collected during the tour taken from the TUC website  http://austerityuncovered.org/.

thumb-60d0264ae728b8b9c5190f218dc6e7dc  Laurie Heselden , Policy and Campaigns Officer for the TUC’s South East and Eastern England region writes this about her experiences on the bus in Luton:-

I am getting to know Luton well. I was born in London and I live in inner London and I suppose I would have crept off to the suburbs, or the country, if I didn’t like the cosmopolitan nature of city life, the diverse cultures, noise, different foods and the vibrancy, the rough and tumble of street life. Luton has many of those colourful qualities, and yes, it is ‘edgy’. It also has a ridiculous ring road around the town centre. A triumph of planning, a nightmare for building a sense of community but highly advantageous when navigating a double-decker bus to a prime location smack outside the Town Hall, in St George’s Square, thanks to the support of the Leader of the Council, Hazel Simmons, and the positive attitude of Steve the driver. He is already a legend at the TUC. What would the people of Luton tells us about their experience of austerity, of the squeeze in pay and hours and the impact of public sector service cuts? How many of the 200,000 people who live there could we talk to in one day? The answer is lots. With up to 20 people working around the bus the stories came quick and fast, everyone a personal story, but patterns quickly developed. First, were people who had been in receipt of Incapacity Benefit but who have been assessed by ATOS as fit for work and were clearly stunned at the outcome, and really struggling with the new harsh regime of compliance with the Job Seeker’s Allowance rules. And secondly there were seemingly legions of people who had allegedly made an error in the management of their JSA Claim, or their search for work pattern, and received a benefit sanction. If a claimant is deemed to have failed to attend an interview they are likely to get a sanction – a benefit suspension of 4 weeks, rising to 13 weeks. A claimant’s right to benefit can be withdrawn for 3 years! No-one could answer the question, if you are poor enough to receive means tested benefits what are you supposed to do if the state takes the benefit away? And then astonishingly we met people who used to live in cheap rented accommodation in Luton whose landlord has recently refused to extend their tenancy because he can let the property for more money to a family who has been displaced from London by the cuts to Housing Benefit. What should a person in Luton do if confronted by such a problem? One answer is that you should seek help from ‘Luton Rights’, which is an independent centre specialising in advice about welfare benefits, debt and housing. It is one of the few of the Unemployed Worker’s Centres that the TUC recognised in the 1980s that not only survived, but it has evolved to the point where it has a legal aid franchise. At the centre I met a couple who are welfare benefit recipients. At the end of long working lives things have gone wrong for them. He has had a mental breakdown and his career as a manager in the electronics industry is over. She has diabetes, uses two crutches and has numerous other health problems. But ATOS has judged her to be fit for work. Luton Rights will do all they can to help the couple but the couple’s stark summary of their prospects was that they were “Too poor to live, and too poor to die”, as they live hand to mouth and have no means of paying for plain but dignified funerals. But Luton has attitude and it has strong communities. Its people are determined to help themselves, and mostly this means the poor helping the poor, such that those in need help those in even greater need. We met Sanum at the newly launched Luton Food Bank where she and 30 volunteers gather, sort and allocate food parcels, which are then distributed from 5 collection points. I have never seen so much breakfast cereal, but that is great, because the food bank already has hundreds of users, all of who are referred from specialist agencies in the community. Sanum and the volunteer’s good humour, good will and positive can-do attitude was a welcome antidote to the stories of hard times that we heard by the bus. But when I asked about the impact of impending changes to welfare benefits, including the introduction of welfare Universal Credit she said, “there is a storm of need coming our way in the next few months”.

article-2031262-0D9D041400000578-408_233x321_popupWriting in the Morning Star on 19th June Peter Lazenby reported on the tour bus’ visit to Liverpool:-

Nightmare images of hunger, poverty and deprivation are emerging as the Trade Union Congress tours Britain gathering evidence of life in austerity Britain. Its “austerity uncovered” bus arrived in Liverpool today on the third day of its two-week tour. People have already offered up first-hand testimonies of the appalling effects of the policies being implemented by the Tories and their Lib-Dem accomplices. The bus called first at Liverpool’s dockland Echo Arena, where public-service union Unison is holding its annual conference. Hundreds of delegates gathered to welcome the bus, along with TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis and Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson. Workers queued up to tell stories of hardship.

Among them was care worker Joan Pritchard-Jones from Bolton in Lancashire. The Unison convener said: “We’ve got home-care workers who by the third week of the month have no money for petrol to do their jobs, and that is regular. I ring the manager and explain and the manager says: ‘Tell them to just come to work and I’ll give them a walking programme.’

“People are living in fear of not having enough money to live on week-to-week. It’s appalling. Our members are living in poverty. Our members are going to food banks. It’s an absolute disgrace. And people are in fear of their jobs. Jobs have gone but the work is still there to be done by those that are left.”

The bus and TUC team left the docks for Kirkby and a visit to the town’s unemployed centre. It has been in operation since 1981, when it opened to help people thrown out of work by the Thatcher government’s wrecking of industry. Today it’s as busy as ever – but the job of helping people is even more difficult than in the 1980s because of the extreme government attacks on Britain’s benefit system, in particular the vicious bedroom tax. Hundreds of victims turn to the centre for help every week. Lynne Dempsey has been a money advice worker at the centre for 18 years.

“Since April there has been a change to the climate, particularly with the bedroom tax,” she said. “There are clear cases of people who cannot afford to pay it and it’s difficult for me to advise them what to do about paying their rent when they don’t have enough money for food. Last week for example there was a client who had not eaten for a number of weeks and he’d lost 16 pounds in weight. The reason he hadn’t eaten was that he had been paying the rent – he didn’t want to get into arrears.”

Cannock-051-550x309 The tour also produced some short videos to document the views of numerous people. Here are a few. You can find more on the dedicated website (see link above).

DUDLEY RESIDENTS.

MAYOR OF LIVERPOOL

ROBERT EXELL TALKING ABOUT THE BEDROOM TAX

BEN RAPIER, BRANCH ORGANISER AT NEWPORT PASSPORT OFFICE

TIM ROACHE GMB UNION SPEAKING IN HALIFAX

PAUL CLAY CWU REGIONAL SECRETARY SPEAKING IN NEWCASTLE ABOUT ROYAL MAIL

So, the people have spoken…but will the government listen?