Tag Archives: welfare

Urgent petition to halt damaging changes to the work capability assessment #esaSOS

Re-blogged from: http://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/esasos.html

#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/);
  2. Share this blog post on twitter (using the hashtag #esaSOS), Facebook and other social media CLICK ON THE BUTTONS BELOW THIS POST TO SHARE ON TWITTER AND FACEBOOK
  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

Source of quote:http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2002/apr/18/davidcameron.politicalcolumnistsThanks Aaron JamesUnfortunately this isn’t todays news story. David Cameron said this back in 2002 in an article piece for the Guardian news paper.

See for yourself:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2002/apr/18/davidcameron.politicalcolumnists

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.)

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?

How I’m paying the price for this Tory-led Government’s failure

I suffer with CFS/ME, fibromyalgia and depression. My only income is fortnightly Income Support / Incapacity Benefit at £102 per week. Since the Coalition have taken government, I have already seen my housing benefit slashed and have to top it up by just over £25 a week and this year alone I have seen my gas and electric bill rise by nearly 10%. My money comes in and it goes straight out again on rent, bills and food. I have nothing left over. To the point that friends and family sometimes send me a little money, just so that I can have some variety and get out and about.

So I was already apprehensive by the morning of the Autumn Statement as there was wide spread talk about possible cuts to benefits, with the rhetoric already in full swing on the TV and radio. However, that day I was in good spirit and my health was managing well. I took a seat in my local coffee shop and listened to the Chancellor deliver his statement on the radio.

I smiled and scoffed wryly at the Chancellor’s tractor factory style regurgitating of numbers and figures, whilst he supposed that because of ‘this’, it showed ‘that’. The usual game, I thought. But then, amid a strange convolution of unrelated reasons and warped logic, came the announcement about benefits: from next year they would only rise 1% per year for three years.

I burst in to tears right there in the coffee shop. I was stunned. It felt like my whole world had been snatched from beneath me. I could hardly speak or breathe. I cut the radio off and I felt such a sinking feeling of sadness; depression hit me physically and mentally.

Many dressed it up as “an effective freeze,” saying, “Income would still be going up…” I’m not stupid; I know full well that if inflation rises faster than your income, it is a real cut to one’s spending power. I estimated that in three years time, with food and fuel inflation as they are, this would result in an effective cut of around a quarter to my income.

The real question is: how will I manage when I am already struggling to manage right now?

To compare wage increases with benefits increases is frankly ludicrous. I cannot make any more savings within my budget. There is no cushion, no buffer, and no give. The only savings left will affect my health, well-being and mental state, when I am already struggling with all of those anyway.

The Chancellor is completely wrong when he says disabled people are protected. They are struggling and they will see cuts to large parts of their income regardless. But worse than that, he has decided that Employment Support and Incapacity are not now disability benefits with the stroke of a pen and a flick of the wrist.

I feel quite strongly now that the current government do not care about society and that they care even less for the poorest and most vulnerable. If they had a social conscious, or any shred of empathy, they could not even for one minute contemplate inflicting this Spector of abject poverty on people like myself.

Pre-distribution: The future of capitalism?

In September, Ed Milliband spoke out about Labour’s vision for ‘Pre-distribtion’. I have been considering what PREDISTRIBUTION means (and if there is indeed a better way to express what is meant by it.) There are echo’s of thoughts, maybe just questions that need investigating, that I’ve had for some time.

One being, why give working people ‘tax back’ instead of just not taking it away in the first instance? Collection and RE-distribution is surely costly? Could PRE-distribution (or a more accurate named equivalent) save administration costs?

Why the former? Is it this idea of ‘deserving causes’? Perceived ‘need’ and various ‘justifications’? Not taking the money means that it becomes universal regardless of need, so some will spend on their needs, other on just their leisure. This leads us to parallels with modern arguments amongst some groups about how benefits are spent by their recipients anyway.

But is this line of reason justifiable, is it EVEN reasonable? No one tells a more wealthy person what they can or cant spend money on, each makes their own decisions according to the needs, desires and perceptions thereof.

In essence RE-distribution, in the form of welfare, benefits and tax credits, precipitates political and social control, the subjugation of an economic class of people. Rebalancing the capitalist system to a PRE-dsitributive model would contain the out-of-balance problems of ‘rampant capitalism’ before they occurs, which the current redistributive system attempts to constantly intervene and correct-balance, and thereby reduce the administrative cost borne collectively.