You pay the devil….

Pinched from the Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty web site.

ATOS: ROBBING THE POOR TO GIVE TO THE RICH

Atos Healthcare are a part of a private, profit-driven corporation. On behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), they carry out the medical assessments now called the ‘Work Capability Assessments (WCA).

They are currently recruiting more staff to help meet government targets to force more people off benefits. The Governemnt plans to cut £2.5 billion from ESA and to limit ESA benefit to just one year – presumably those who are deemed unable to work will have made a miraculous recovery.

The process is driven by cost cutting not objective medical opinion. The Government are doing this to reduce the massive public debt caused by the banks gambling on the financial markets. The most vulnerable in society are being made to pay for the greedy failures of the rich and the inevitable booms and busts of capitalist economics.

THEIR STORY DOESN’T ADD UP!

The majority of people tested and told they are undeserving win their cases on appeal. Studies have shown the medical test to be largely unreliable:

An independent review of the WCA tests by Professor Harrington concluded “There is strong evidence that the system can be impersonal and mechanistic, that the process lacks transparency and that a lack of communication between the various parties involved contributes to poor decision making and a high rate of appeals.” and that “evidence has consistently and regularly highlighted problems with each stage of the WCA process, which limit both the assessment’s fairness and effectiveness.”

There are plans to extend these distressing and anxiety inducing tests to those relying on Disability Living Allowance (soon to be Personal Independence Payments) to cut the budget for DLA/PIP by 20%.

The tests have already been strongly criticised by Citizens Advice Bureau, Child Poverty Action Group and others. “Doctors produce inaccurate reports… reporting incorrectly what the claimant has said about their own conditions and taking their answers out of context… Doctors pay more attention to the computer than the client.”

Citizens Advice Scotland is extremely concerned that many clients are being found fit for work in their WCA despite often having severe illnesses and/or disabilities. 
Their evidence has highlighted the cases of many clients with serious health conditions who have been found fit for work, including those with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer, bipolar disorder, heart failure, strokes, severe depression, and agoraphobia.

In a recent government report, Atos’s own staff say the assessments are too harsh. Prospect, the trade union who represents 135 Atos doctors, has stated that the target of seeing ten or more people a day is unrealistic and will lead to wrong assessments, especially in complex cases.

ATOS claim that they do not make the decision as to whether someone can work and have their benefits reduced, but that the decision is made by the DWP from their report and that performance targets are based simply on the number of claimants seen in a day. However, they admit that if a medical professional passes all claimants for disability benefits it will not go unnoticed.

“The Jobcentre Plus Decision Makers do not in practice make decisions, but instead they typically ‘rubber stamp’ the advice provided through the Atos assessment. They often do not have or do not appropriately consider additional evidence submitted to support a claim for [ESA]. This results in the Atos assessment driving the whole process, rather than being seen in its proper context as part of the process.”, Professor Harrington.

WHO ARE THE REAL BENEFIT FRAUDSTERS ?

Despite a fraud rate of just 1%, plus £16 billion in unclaimed benefits, the Government are determined to toss 500,000 people who currently rely on sickness benefits into the bleakest labour market in a generation and to cut already meagre disability benefits to starvation levels.

PIMPING THE SICK

Medical professionals, including physiotherapists, with no experience of mental health problems, for example, are given a matter of days training before making assessments of claimants. Atos doctors are paid a fee of over £100 for each ESA medical they carry out. Many people report that the doctor seemed in a rush, stayed only a very short time and wasn’t interested in what they had to say. Some found the doctor positively rude. Atos are also undermining the NHS by paying way over the NHS rates for doctors and nurses on full time contracts.

Atos has a contract to carry out compulsory work programmes, meaning they will get paid for getting disabled people back into work. This is an incentive for them to fail people’s claims: a clear conflict of interest. The most damning fact about the system is that Atos will get £500m over 7 years for running the Work Capability Assessments, while fraud in ESA over this period could be around £250m: the tests claimed to stop fraud cost twice as much as the fraud. Thus the only way Atos can offer value for money is if they cut £250m off the ESA case load – so there is indeed an implicit target. Join the anti-cuts fightback!

And I am not past it either

Now I do not want you thinking that because I have posted You Tube clips on two successive days that I have suddenly become a You Tube nerd and nor do I want you thinking that I am past it and the first stages of pre-senile dementia have me firmly in their grasp but I do want to explain why I own such a low tech, low powered, low speed, and lowly esteemed motorcycle. In short the Honda C90 Supercub as it is known in the UK. although you may well ask just exactly what is “super” about it. Let me explain, or rather, let You Tube explain.

A Motorcycle that first went on the road when I was only 1 year old. What a bike!

Terminally wierd

OK so I know every else spells it weird but they are all wrong.  Miss Shagnever, my primary school teacher told me the rule is i before c except after c.  Miss Shagnever is never wrong.  Miss Shagnever is middle aged but not at all frustrated.

The weirdness of people continuously restores my faith in humanity and the lengths that some people will go to are not perverse, they are inspirational.  “If only I had thought of that particular weirdness what a better person I would be.”

This is one such display and the person responsible deserves our admiration.

Blurry vision

For a techy geek I am strangely luddite in my approach to mobile phones, I have one but I often leave it at home and when I do use it I only want to make voice calls or send texts.  I refuse to learn txt spch and stick with the old fashioned text speech or plain English.  4 is a number and not the start of a word or a word on it’s own.

 The distinction between mobile phones and laptop computers however, is  becoming blurred and computers I like and get on with very well.  I am on first  name terms with several computers.  I have decided to get a mobile phone which  blurs the edge between talking and computing and is almost a tablet PC.

I am not getting an Apple iphone, I have very moral reasons for never buying an  Apple computing product although I  do admit that technically they are very  good and often innovative in a good  way.  It is just that Apple insist on a  closed platform, if you want software you have to buy it from Apple or a company that closely associates itself with Apple.  Did you know that f you want to change the battery on an Ipad you have to send your Ipad back to Apple and they don’t even return to you your own Ipad.

I am going for the Samsung Galaxy S2 which is almost a tablet.  Of course I would prefer if the OS was Linux but I should be able to live with Android 2.3

The final reason for selecting this phone is for my camping holidays on the Honda chickenchaser.  Weight and space are at a premium and I do not want to take one of my laptops with me. The S2 will do all that I have to do when away from home. check email. GPS, play music, camera and camcorder all in one 118g package.  I could even use it as a phone

à propos

Today I am asking people to sign an e-petition if they are so minded.  Click link to open a new window:   Stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families If you sign why not leave a comment.

It is with deep sadness that I report that one of the leaders of the ‘Responsible Reform Report’ , Sue Marsh has had a relapse and has had to be hospitalised.  she joins two of her colleagues who also burnt out with the effort and had to go into hospital.  You may have seen her a few days ago on Newsnight looking remarkably healthy  but the effort of putting the report together and publicising it has taken its toll.

I am reminded by something Martin Amis wrote but here I reproduce it with one word changed.

“When you become disabled….. When you become disabled, you find yourself auditioning for the role of a lifetime, then, after interminable rehearsals, you’re finally starring in a horror film – a talentless, irresponsible, and above all low-budget horror film.”

Prime Chump

Schadenfreude is an emotion that one does not normally admit to feeling as it has an immoral or unethical connotation.  I will admit to wallowing in this negative emotion this week with relation to David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party and so the leader of the UK government known as the Prime Minister but this week I should imagine he feels more like a Prime Chump.

Before I write any more I should point out that my politics are actually rightish wing, a wee bit right of Genghis Khan in fact but in the case of the modern Conservative Party I see them making so many financial and ethical errors that I simply cannot support them.

He started the week early by sticking his nose straight in to Scottish politics in fact right into the face of the Scottish First Minister, Alec Salmond trying to take over and dictate the timing and questions of the Scottish independence referendum.  Salmond bared his teeth, growled and Cameron immediately hid behind his Scottish Secretary, Michael Moore, and insisted that Salmond must speak to Moore.  “I shall speak to the master not the monkey” quoth Salmond.  And that is why after the Scottish Parliament has released its’ consultation document on the referendum a meeting will be held between the UK Prime Minister and the Scottish first minister.

According to the media and, in fact the participants, there is a lot more to the matter but as it is almost entirely irrelevant flannel and posturing I will not repeat it here.  Later in the week Cameron got another beating by a bunch of cripples.  Before anyone objects to my use of that word let me point out that I am one myself which is why I have been so happy recently about the relatively large volume of work I have been able to do.  Things I have not been capable of for 4 years and I only hope I can manage this well into the future.

Who are these people who gave the Prime Minister such a well deserved battering.  A group of disabled people who refer to themselves as Spartacus after a famous scene in Stanley Kubrick’s film of the same name.  They produced and distributed a report “Responsible Reform to the DLA”  DLA is disability living allowance.  In part this report was a response to the media campaign waged by the government and Department of Work and Pensions to discredit the disabled.  A campaign which you can hardly have failed to notice as for the last year or more disabled people have been portrayed as benefit cheats and scroungers which has been widely reported in the media.  Of course like any other benefit or the  tax system ist is open for abuse.  The DWP’s own figure for DLA fraud,which is hard to find as it is hidden in this anti-disabled campaign’s plethora of misleading statements and statistics, is less than 1%.  I wonder what the figure is for tax evasion and fraud?

Spartacus communicated via social media and most of their work was carried out using the internet.  They used about £4,000 , Hansard and the freedom of information act to get their source material and produce their report which was published on Monday 9th January.  Within hours Twitter was full of support, reportedly 3 million tweets of support in the first day.  Stephen Fry tweeted “Looks as if the government’s been found out lying and misleading the people on the subject of disability allowances”.

The DWP countered in their usual mendacious style.  A spokeswoman for the DWP said the Spartacus report was a selective analysis of consultation responses, which had looked at 500 responses out of more than 5500 submitted on the Government’s proposals.

She added: “Disability Living Allowance is an outdated benefit with the majority of people getting it for life without checks to see if their condition has changed. This has led to hundreds of millions of pounds in overpayments.

“We have been working closely with disabled people and disability organisations on the introduction of Personal Independence Payment and have listened to their views.”

In fact the Spartacus report analysed each one of the 523 organisational submissions to the DLA consultation the rest were from individuals and in their response to the consultation the government continually  separated what organisations had said from what individuals had said, so looking just at organisational responses was both reasonable and practically possible for a small and unfunded group.

The majority of people do not get DLA for life, each claimant is regularly reviewed on a schedule set by the DWP which involves the claimant filling out a 50 page form of very personal questions.

This report is probably why the government was defeated so soundly in the House of Lords.

I could write a lot more here but others have already done a far better job than I could so I will simply end with a link should you want to read more.

Click here to open a new window Diary of a benefit scrounger.