# DWP retrospective law change following court defeat

From JonnyVoid’s Blog:

In a shocking abuse of state power – which could have a chilling impact on the independence of the courts – Iain Duncan Smith is attempting to reverse the impact of a recent Appeal Court judgement by re-writing history.

In the recent workfare case brought by Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson, the DWP were found to have unlawfully sanctioned thousands of benefit claims[1].  The court ruled that the legislation upon which forced unpaid work was based was not legal and the information given to claimants did not fully inform them of what would happen it they failed to attend workfare.  Which was that benefits could be stopped, for up to six months.

In other words, the DWP’s bodged information meant many claimants lost significant sums of money through no fault of their own.  The Court of Appeal  ruling meant that unemployed people who had benefit claims stopped or reduced illegally by the DWP could claim that money back.

Or at least it did mean that.  Now the DWP is basically saying tough shit, we’re keeping your money.

In its arguments to justify withholding social security people are due – an average of about £500 per person, £130 million pounds in total – the DWP has stated that:

“If the Department cannot make these retrospective changes, then further reductions in benefits might be required in order to find the money to repay the sanctions”

In short, if the government is made to obey the high court’s ruling, it will inflict collective punishment on those who can least afford it by finding £130 million pounds more in new cuts from the welfare budget.

In response, this is my latest email to my MP:

I am disturbed to hear that the Secretary of State DWP is proposing legislation in response to the Work Programme court ruling that is retrospective in its attempt to avoid breaking the law for which it may have to compensate those sanctioned unlawfully.

It appears that the DWP have decided they are no longer accountable to the laws of the land. What will be the point of taking the Government to court if they can simply change the law on a whim to avoid facing any legal consequences retrospectively? It makes a mockery of our judicial system and democratic accountability.

I am further dismayed by reports the Liam Byrne seems to be backing this retrograde and cynical move. According to the Guardian[2], Labour are looking set support the government in legislating to avoid paying back money ruled legally due to claimants who have had benefits sanctioned.

I find this possibility of this offensive with the disregard to the judicial system that the Government feel they are above law and I do not want you to vote for this undemocratic precedent.

# #esaSOS: YOUR HELP NEEDED URGENTLY!

On 28 January 2013 the UK government is due to make a set of changes to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). The WCA is the flawed ‘fitness to work’ test which assesses whether sick and disabled people can get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA): a benefit designed to help and support very unwell or profoundly disabled people into work.

Although these changes have been advertised as small ‘amendments’, they will in fact have a huge impact on the way people’s illnesses and disabilities are assessed. Many vulnerable people’s needs will suddenly be able to be overlooked or ignored, meaning they could end up losing the support they desperately need to manage their conditions.

Hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled people across Britain need your help to fight these changes!

## PROBLEM 1: FALSE ASSUMPTIONS

In the fitness to work test, your needs are assessed by a ‘healthcare professional’ employed by the French private company ATOS. This assessor doesn’t just need to look at your current difficulties. For example, they can also imagine how using an aid (e.g. a wheelchair) might improve your ability to work and make a judgement based on that –without even asking your opinion!
However, soon this “imaginary test” will be able to be used for many more aids (including guide dogs and false limbs!). This means that soon thousands more people could be judged as fit to work, without being consulted, on the basis of an “imaginary” aid they don’t own or may not be able to use!

It gets worse. Even if returning to work may clearly put you at risk, these changes will mean you can still lose your disability benefit – as long as the assessor believes that trying a new therapy or treatment might reduce that risk. There’s no need for evidence that the treatment will help: you will lose support either way, making it much harder to manage if the treatment doesn’t work as hoped – let alone if it ends up making things worse.

Imagine Bert, who suffers from severe schizophrenia, but is found fit to work and made to take behavioural therapy in the hope of improving his condition. He will lose his disability benefit, without the assessor having to look at several vital questions: how hard it would be for Bert to contact a psychiatrist? How long would an NHS appointment take to organize? Are there private options in his area – and could he afford them if so? What if the therapy doesn’t work, or takes a long time to adjust to?

“How individuals are assessed to receive ESA could give rise to large numbers of legal claims being made against them. These changes immediately puts the government at risk of breaching article 9 of the European Convention for the protection of Human Rights, which preserves an individual’s right to ‘thought, conscience and religion’. The new rules provide for an individual to be refused ESA if they do not take any medication or accept an aid which Doctors believe could aid their condition. Essentially, they can impose a financial penalty on individuals who refuse treatment on religious. Given the very recent decision involving the Christian, Nadia Eweida and the court upholding her right to wear a cross – the government is on very rocky ground with these changes.” Chris Fry, Solicitor and Managing Partner at Unity Law www.unity-law.co.uk

If the government’s rule changes go through, people like Bert who are desperate to work will find it nearly impossible to get an accurate assessment, affecting the quality of their support and actively preventing their efforts to get back into work.

## PROBLEM 2: SEPARATING PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH

The government is also trying to change the way people’s conditions are assessed by dividing health problems into two separate boxes: ‘physical’ and ‘mental’. When looking at what tasks people can do, only the ‘physical half’ of the test will apply to those with physical disabilities. The same goes for the effects of treatment: for e.g., if you’re taking mental health medication, only mental health side-effects will be looked at.
This completely fails to understand the way that many disabilities and illnesses can lead toboth physical and mental effects. This is also the case for many common treatments: such as those for schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

Think of Emily, who suffers severe, chronic pain because of nerve damage to her leg. Emily is among the 49% of chronic pain sufferers who also suffer depression as a result of continuous pain. An assessor may see Emily as able to do some work as long as she takes strong painkillers for the rest of her life, meaning she could pass the ‘fitness’ test. Yet the painkillers may not deal with the depression caused by her condition. Painkillers have also often been shown to affect people’s wakefulness and decision-making. So taking the medication may affect Emily’s ability to do a job in a completely new way – yet because these new problems are cognitive, they would not need to be looked at by the assessor when making their decision!

Pretending the effects of illnesses and disabilities can be separated in this way goes against all medical practice. Going even further, and using this method to ignore sick and disabled people’s needs, is at best hopeless policy, and at worst deliberate cruelty. We cannot let the government treat some of the most vulnerable people in British society in this way.

# HOW YOU CAN HELP

The main way you can help is by spreading the message about these changes to ESA. The government have tried to sneak them under the radar – the last thing they will want is people talking about them!

Here are some great ways you can raise awareness:

1. Email your MP (you can search by name or constituency at http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/);
3. Email your friends and family a link to this post – or simply talk to them about it!

Again, the main way we can get the government to reconsider is by getting people to talk about the injustice of these changes. So please spread the word as far and wide as you can!

Thank you so much for reading this far. Now let’s make sure these unwanted, damaging benefit changes never see the light of day!

If you want to do more, please sign #WOWpetition and call on the government to think again. Sign here http://wowpetition.com – and ask all of your friends to sign too!
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THE FULL #SPARTACUS PRESS BRIEFING ON THE PROPOSED CHANGES TO ESA CAN BE FOUND HERE: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/ESAbriefing

# Slashing spending and cutting benefits inhuman, David Cameron

Unfortunately this isn’t todays news story. David Cameron said this back in 2002 in an article piece for the Guardian news paper.

After the recession of 1989 to 1992 we had to raise taxes because the budget deficit reached dangerous proportions. The alternative of slashing spending and cutting benefits would have been inhuman.

As the image says, he is damned by is own words.

## Also see:

1. The Deficit Myth  http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/
2. Government Debt and Deficits in Charts

3. Counter the austerity myths
4. Debt ratios http://notthetreasuryview.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/debating-debt-ratios-with-michael.html from , Director, National Institute of Economic and Social Research. Previously, Chief Economist at the UK Cabinet Office. Regular commentator on UK macro and microeconomic policy. (The exchange he mentions in his blog entry here is pretty damning for the politician involved and shows the dirty tactics they are employing to validate their aims to remove the state.)

# How much of your income tax is spent on unemployment?

Correction: The multiplier is actually 0.375 not 0.851.*

I don’t want even more of my hard-earned money taken in tax and spent on the unemployed or work-shy. My wages aren’t a bottomless pit for the unemployed. That’s MY MONEY they’re spending.

We’ve all heard things like this being said, maybe we’ve even said something similar ourselves. So just how much of your income tax is spent on unemployment?

I set out to work out the answer.

## Government Revenue, Expenditure & Borrowing

In 2012, the total revenue from all forms of taxation and incomes was £591 bn.
(Source: Institute for Fiscal Studies)

Of this, taxation from personal income is shown in the table:

 Revenue Source Amount £ bn % of total revenue Income Tax 154.8 25.2 National Insurance 105.6 17.9 Total 260.4 43.1

Total government expenditure for 2012 was £695 bn.
The government borrowing  for 2012 was £103.5 bn.

Borrowing makes up 14.9% of all expenditure, leaving 85.1% of government spending coming from revenue. 37.5% of total expenditure by government is made up of revenue from personal income taxation, which means the remaining income from other revenue is 47.6%

* This produces the personal tax multiplier $p$ of $0.375$

$p=(\frac{37.5}{100})$

Spending on ‘unemployment’ (which includes all costs associated with unemployment) for 2012 was £8.4 bn. This is 1.2% of all expenditure.

Adjusting for spending from only personal taxation income, just 0.45% from direct tax goes on unemployment.

## How much of your income tax is spent on unemployment?

I will use the average salary for this calculation. In 2012, the average salary or income for working was £26,000 per annum.

 Taxable Income £17,895 Tax £3,578 National Insurance £2,208.96 Total Tax Paid £5786.96

So if 1% of the tax you pay goes on unemployment, that means that £26.04 of the average personal income tax paid to the government is spent on unemployment.

Or to put it another way: you spend 7p a day on unemployment.

Considering anyone of us could be made unemployed at any time for any reason, 7p a day for unemployment ‘insurance’ seems a very reasonable cost to pay.

In fact, one of the commenter below makes a very good point about how this also insures us against social unrest too.

## Update: The Formula

I thought I would include the formula used in working out the final figures.

$x=(\frac{t}{100})(sp)$

t = total personal tax
s = percentage of government spending
p = government spending proportion from tax revenue multiplier = $0.375$
x = tax paid that goes towards s

So, if one third of government spending is spend on all welfare,  I calculate that this is £716.13 for a person on £26,000, or £1.96 per day.

$1625.15=(\frac{5786.96}{100})\times(33\times0.375)$

# The rise of an out-dated healthcare model in Government decision making

UPDATE: 25/12/2012

Nassir Ghaemi has replied to my email saying that he will take some time to explore these links and then pass on some thoughts. He added:

“My initial impression is that this is quite an unwarranted vulgarization [sic.] of  an already out of date and oversimplified medical theory.”

ORIGINAL POST:

I came across an editorial by Nassir Ghaemi MD MPH for BJPsych, “The rise and fall of the biopsychosocial model”, and read with great interest. [“The biopsychosocial model was valuable in its day as a reaction to biomedical reductionism, but its historical role has played out.”]

Let me try to give the background and explain my interest in the Biopsychosocial model, and why I contacted Nassir for his expert opinion on these matters. (This is an edited version of the email I sent him.)

I have been suffering with quite sever ME/CFS, together with fibromyalgia and depression, since 2005. Although it stopped my teaching career back then, it hasn’t stopped my determination to carry on living and learning.

There has been a long running saga in the UK over welfare reform, ‘work capability assessments’, the company ATOS, and welfare to work schemes. My research has turned up some interesting developments and evidence in these areas over the last 10-20 years.

Let me introduce you to the controversy surrounding the US Tennessee-based insurance company Unum, who are advocates of the Biopsychosocial (BPS) model. Due to a major class action, It admitted unfair business practices, investigations, and fines, and was called an “Outlaw Company” by the former California Insurance Commissioner, John Garamendi. [Gosselin, Peter G. (3 October 2005). “State Fines Insurer, Orders Reforms in Disability Cases”. Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. Retrieved 27 December 2009. “‘UnumProvident is an outlaw company. It is a company that for years has operated in an illegal fashion,’ said California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi.“]

Unum has been advising the UK government since 1994, and has been involved with the UK’s Welfare to Work Bill. [ http://www.corporatewatch.org.uk/?lid=2940 ] In 2003, the government brought in Atos Origin to conduct incapacity assessments, and in 2005 they started using a computer system they call ‘LiMA’ – ‘Logic Integrated Medical Assessment’. The Full Facts website [ http://thefullfacts.com/esa/forum/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=330 ] lucidly explains how the system works, and the issues and controversy surrounding it. It is in essence a ‘tick box’ automated assessment, and having seen the training manuals and comments from many surrounding this ‘training’, can attest to the computer programme being predominantly involved in the decision making, reducing the role of the health care professional doing the assessment merely to the status of ‘computer operator’. There is evidence that the system is fully based around the BPS model. The Black Triangle Disability Campaign have been at the forefront of the struggle against Atos and successfully lobbied  Scottish GPs  to denounce the testing regime, a move soon followed by the UK wide BMA.

The BPS model was recommended by Dame Carol Black in her report ‘Working for a Healthier Tomorrow’ (2008). [ http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/hwwb-working-for-a-healthier-tomorrow.pdf ] This report was commissioned by the DWP and used as justification for the Work Capability Assessment.  Lord Freud, the minister for state in charge of welfare to reform (who is also the Great-grandson of Sigmund Freud) made it plain that he wanted to implement this report in full, and that he fully supports the BPS model.

However, with Unum’s involvement as advisors to the government in these matters, it has concerned many that the BPS model has achieved such traction in government policy with regard to all illness, conditions and disabilities. ‘Disabled People Against Cuts’ are among many groups that believe that BPS intervention has been imported from a discredited background and become the defacto ideology behind the welfare reforms and back to work policies for disable and sick people. [ http://www.dpac.uk.net/tag/bio-psychosocial-model/ ] This constantly reaffirmed by ministers and government with a completely unqualified mantra of “work is good for you”.

With regards to my condition, I have been positively diagnosed twice by a consultant  in neurology and by a consultant in rheumatology, both saying very similar things about my condition. However, currently, the government allows psychiatrists to give the majority of advice for ME/CFS although there are more than 5000 research papers showing ME to be physical, not psychological. Advice on ME needs to be given by experts specialising in areas of the disease pathology, such as neurology and immunology.This is the subject of a petition to the government currently, calling for the government to get “Advice on ME needs to be given by experts specialising in areas of the disease pathology, such as neurology and immunology… [and not from] psychiatrists, psychologists, or anyone working in an unrelated area” [ http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/37117 ].

Are we right to be worried by the prevalence of the BPS model at the heart of government decision making, what are the true motivations behind these decisions, and ultimately is the BPS model is of any value whatsoever?