In today’s edition of The Independent Tom Greatrex and Stephen Timms seek to defend Labour’s introduction of the AtoS Work Capability Assessment thus:
‘Most people agree that we need to focus not on what disabled people can’t do but what they can do. That’s why the idea of a WCA is one most people support, and it’s why Labour introduced it in Government. It’s important that sickness benefit claimants be assessed to demonstrate whether or not they can work. And the benefits of work are clear too, not just to the individual’s health, social and family life, but for wider society as well. During the Thatcher years, a large number of people were left to languish on incapacity benefit, which conveniently masked unemployment levels. An entire generation were left without support and abandoned to worklessness.’
Let us unpack this statement.
Most people agree that we need to focus not on what disabled people can’t do but what they can do. That’s why the idea of a WCA is one most people support
Who are ‘Most People’? Substantiate that.
This is the precise language that David Cameron employed in his attempt to turn the Paralympics into a propaganda exercise in his Channel Four interview at the opening ceremony.
It is the rationale underpinning the psedo-scientific, ideological ‘Biopsychosocial Model’ of disability denial which spawned the Work Capability Assessment régime.
Utterly lacking in any foundation in the scientific method (it is not a scientific ‘Model’ by any accepted scientific criteria) and without any empirical evidence to justify it, the WCA has for its starting point the assumption that sick and/or disabled people are in many cases engaging in ‘malingering and illness-deception’ and are in need of Chris Grayling’s ‘tough love’ (please click on links for more in-depth study and analysis).
This insidious and pernicious ideology was sold to New Labour by the insurance industry who bought into it wholesale. Under Tony Blair and his New Labour Project the shrinking of the State was seen as a highly desirable objective and the shrinking of the welfare state in particular was seen as a priority. The commercialisation of health and social care and PFI were also set in motion.
To this very day Blair says he regrets that he didn’t go far enough with public sector ‘reform’ as 350,000 public sector jobs have gone and a further 400,000 are set to be culled to be replaced by private provision. The Woodstock Conference formed part of this grand neoliberal plan to kick people off benefits while creating a mass market for ‘Personal Protection Plans’ and the privatisation of welfare state.
It’s important that sickness benefit claimants be assessed to demonstrate whether or not they can work.
Sickness benefit claimants were always assessed. My medically qualified doctors practising medicine with integrity and in line with the profession’s code of ethics. They were also periodically assessed by NHS certified doctors working for the DWP’s Medical Services Directorate. The intimation that they were not is false and misleading.
What changed was the introduction by the DWP under Labour’s James Purnell of the new WCA based upon the BPS ‘Model’.
The new assessment was ‘pioneered’ by Unum Provident in the United States, a corporation labelled by U.S. judges a ‘rogue company’ operating ‘disability denial factories’. Unum was fined hundreds of millions of dollars and banned in 15 states. The fines obviously seen as an occupational hazard, it’s alleged that it continues to systematically deny the claims of insured people who become disabled.
We have an assessment that bears absolutely no resemblance to any known measures carried out by any qualified British Occupational Therapists.
Our OT’s have developed their expertise over 100 years and possess a record and a tradition of care and rehabilitation to be proud of and which they must now step forward to defend.
The BPS School has been permitted to usurp OT’s expertise and judgment as much as it has our medical profession.
The BPS School is an imposter, alien to our traditions and toxic to our nation’s health.
It must be excised and replaced, in the words of BMA national policy, by ‘a rigorous and safe system that does not cause avoidable harm to some of the weakest and most vulnerable people in society.’
If you wish to see how it is in hock to commercial interests, just have a look at the insurance companies bankrolling this upcoming conference.
And the benefits of work are clear too, not just to the individual’s health, social and family life, but for wider society as well.
This statement would appear to be innocuous enough but it is, in fact, a nostrum – and a pernicious one at that in the context of justifying the WCA régime.
The statement assumes that there exists a large class of people in receipt of disability benefits who could work but who choose not to.
We would like to ask the Greatrex, Timms and The ‘Labour’ Party from where do you derive this assumption? Where is your empirical evidence?
Most disabled people would LOVE to work but are unable to owing to either their physical health or the very many profound barriers raised up before as a direct consequence of their disability by our neoliberal dog-eat-dog society.
Most offices and commercial premises in the UK are not even physically accessible to disabled people.
Discrimination against disabled job applicants is rampant but notoriously difficult to prove.
In the midst of the worst depression since the 1930’s and with hundreds of applicants for every job, there is no level playing field for disabled people and their chances of finding suitable employment are in a vast number of cases practically non-existent.
In the light of these facts, pithy statements such as these insult sick and/or disabled people unfortunate enough to be forced to live on state benefits – which in most cases amount to less than what any human being requires to live with a bare minimum on dignity. The Labour Party should be thoroughly ashamed of itself for spouting this neoliberal idelogical garbage.
Sadly, our pleas for them to desist from trotting out such drivel always seems to fall on ‘deaf’ ears.
During the Thatcher years, a large number of people were left to languish on incapacity benefit, which conveniently masked unemployment levels.
Ah, yes. That word again.
How reminiscent of the preferred phrase “festering at home” used by Iain Duncan Smith!
It’s usage in this context betrays an appalling attitude towards disabled people. It sees the worth, meaning and value of human life as being almost exclusively tied up with participation in the wage-slavery prevalent in today’s Britain.
We reject the assertion that there are millions of sick and/or disabled people ‘languishing’ at home when they could be out there working.
We ask Labour once again: Where is your empirical evidence? Introduce it and let us argue our respective cases. We submit that it is imaginary. It is neoliberal, ideological clap-trap with no basis whatsoever in reality.
There is no evidence suggesting that Incapacity Benefit ‘massaged’ unemployment figures and the policy of the Thatcher government – ‘Care-in-the-Community’ – when psychiatric hospitals and residential homes were emptied and disabled people were sent out into the community to live independent lives – accounts for a very large proportion of the subsequent increase in the benefit claimant statistics.
Fraud and error in the system accounts for less than 0.8% of the welfare budget according to the DWP’s own figures as you are perfectly aware. Where then is the basis of your assertion?
You have obviously simply decided, in agreement with the Tories, that this support must be cut and that more disabled people must be made to ‘stand on their own two feet’.
Policies which will impact on millions of disabled people, some of them vulnerable or made vulnerable by the effect of public policy upon their lives must be based on facts, not upon unfounded assertions.
An entire generation were left without support and abandoned to worklessness.
But they were not left without support. They received the state support which your previous administration set about scrapping. Incapacity Benefit.
They also received Disability Living Allowance which was ironically introduced under Thatcher. They were also able to avail themselves of the Independent Living Fund.
Now, thanks to the introduction of the BPS – inspired WCA ‘functional assessments’ introduced under New ‘Labour’ they are not only losing their IB but up to a million will lose out on the other two supports as well!
The assessment needs considered and continuous reform to adequately take into account the complex circumstances of those with fluctuating conditions, mental health problems or recovering from cancer treatment.
The assessment must end with immediate effect!
While you debate in Westminster Hall today, disabled people are perishing as a direct consequence of a system which you introduced.
Our friend Paul Reekie, to whom this campaign is dedicated, took his own life in June 2010 just one month after the ConDems assumed power.
The WCA he underwent was one that operated under your watch.
Enough of your historical revisionism! Face facts and change!
You got it wrong then and you’ve still got it wrong now.
The entire body of British medical opinion has called for an immediate end to the WCA as a matter of national policy yet you persist with the fiction that you as politicians know better than our doctors.
Harm is being caused now.
The whole premise of the WCA was ill-conceived and based on falsehood.
Labour must pledge to work with us as DPO’s and with the BMA to bring an end to the current régime. Not to do so is nothing less than a wholesale betrayal of disabled people for which Labour will be severely punished at the polls, not least here in Scotland.
Disabled people are being left with nothing left to lose and will fight you for your betrayal. If you think you can get away with continuing to support this flawed assessment régime without incurring the wrath of the British people you are dreaming. The tide of public opinion is changing as people become aware of what is going on and react with disgust.
Labour must repudiate the whole sorry scam and apologise unreservedly to disabled people and the victims’ families for the untold grief and injustice you have caused.
One of the reasons given by the Government for this is Atos facing “recruitment challenges”, a stark admission of the impact of a process that has been overloaded by the government.
The reason AtoS is facing ‘recruitment challenges’ is that their brand is now so toxic that people cannot bring themselves to work for them, thanks in large part to the work of disabled people themselves on this campaign and many others. Atos have admitted as much.
This is a situation which is about to get very much worse for the ConDem Government and AtoS.
In order to build confidence in the system, it must work for those who need support at a time in their lives when they are vulnerable, as well as those whose taxes are paying for it. On both counts, the Government is failing.
See above. The WCA must be scrapped and you must come over to our side.
Despite the welcome principle, the practice of the WCA by this Government has so far proved to be unsound. Any assessment must be carried out in the best interests of the individual and the taxpayer. It should be helping those who can make the transition into work by supporting them, and the disabled must not suffer as a result of Government incompetence.
The ‘principle’ is based on a pernicious falsehood as already stated. Sick and/or disabled people are suffering now. We are going to be suffering an awful lot more in 2013 when PIP assessments see that at least 500,000 will lose their DLA.
In fact, the DWP is already withdrawing tens of thousands of disabled people’s DLA on the basis of their WCA scores alone. It seems that the ConDems only came up with a new PIP assessment for window dressing – so that Maria Miller the Killer could falsely assert on Newsnight that the new test had been developed with the help of 60 different charities and DPO’s. The Spartacus Report conclusively exposed that lie back in April.
What the disabled people’s resistance movement is doing
As a movement, Black Triangle Campaign and Disabled People Against Cuts are bypassing and outflanking the neoliberal political establishment at Westminster who have become an irrelevance to ordinary people’s daily lives and struggles.
You do not represent us.
The WCA and PIP reassessment régimes are unethical and must end immediately.
From the very outset, we have sought to unite our campaigns with others in civil society who are also under savage attack from neoliberal policies, cuts and austerity.
We believe that unity across civil society in the face of these sickening attacks makes us stronger than this régime and that solidarity is our weapon.
It was our bond of solidarity established between sick and/or disabled people with our doctors that ensured than our motion put forward to the BMA Local Medical Committees became BMA national policy.
The bonds of solidarity which we have established and continue to build with all the other professions that supply HCP’s (Health Care Professionals) will ensure that nobody prostitutes their skills by carrying out work for AtoS which violates the code of medical ethics to ‘first do no harm’.
We intend to unite all the professions, trades and individuals into a human chain surrounding sick and/or disabled people such that the DWP’s plans for us are unworkable.
In this matter of the treatment of disabled people, the ConDems are very soon going to learn that they cannot govern by diktat – without the consent of Health Care Professionals their plans are null and void.
We are now mounting the greatest fightback in history by disabled people in our history.
As Michael Calderbank recently wrote:
The role played by disabled groups, far from being one of passive victims, is exemplary for collective resistance
As this criminal government is about to find out ……They shall not pass!
Links between medical academics, the DWP, Unum and Atos
Here is the website of Mo Stewart who is a bit of a legend in her dogged one-person pursuit and research on Unum, Atos and the DWP – DWP ESA Medical Examinations.
Here is MEActionUK website where you’ll find a plethora of research and analysis going back decades on the British medical and academic professions collusion in the development of public policies aimed at turning the DWP into a disability denial factory.
Black Triangle Campaign