World’s Leading Architects of Disability Denial ‘Assessments’ to Congregate in London 10-12th September: Unum-Bankrolled ‘IFDM2012’ at Imperial College

(Headline by Black Triangle ~ NOT Ekklesia)

Faced with the costs of an ageing population and more sick and disabled children surviving into adulthood, are politicians and corporations working to downgrade or deny illness and disability? As the Paralympics end, an event is taking place in London which may provide evidence of this.

The Sixth International Forum on Disability Management (IFDM 2012) at Imperial College London, 10-12 September, is hosted by the Royal Society of Medicine. This may suggest it is for Doctors and other health professionals, perhaps concentrating on new treatments and ways of making life better for those with an illness or disability.

The reality is that the event is co-hosted by Unum, a giant American insurance corporation which sells disability insurance, and has worked closely with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) on Welfare reform.

What type of company has become closely entwined with the DWP and Welfare reform?

In 2005 the California Department of Insurance launched an investigation into Unum and found “widespread fraud”, prompting California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi to describe Unum as an “outlaw company.”

In 2012 legal website reported, “Unum continues to suffer from a global reputation that it denies, delays or discontinues benefits in an alleged attempt to wear down policyholders in their pursuit of legitimate benefits.”

So, co-hosted by Unum, it isn’t surprising to see that a significant proportion of the Forum’s speakers and facilitators come from insurance companies around the world.

The first morning sets the tone. After a keynote talk by Dr. Bill Gunnyeon of the DWP, there are presentations by the Swiss Academy of Insurance Medicine, the Claims Manager of the Accident Compensation Corporation of New Zealand, and the head of Australian company Return to Work Matters (RTW), which advises employers about managing workplace injuries and absences. Its website contains lots of advice for employers, including, ‘Top Ten Tips for Dealing with the Doc. “Demonstrate concern about injured employees….if the doctor picks up on an adversarial employee / employer (e.g. supervisor) relationship, chances are they’ll pick a side, and it won’t be yours.”

Seminars at the Forum include ‘How do you persuade the medical profession to change their approach to the models of disability?’ The idea that there may be different ‘models’ of disability may be puzzling to the layman, but not to those in the industry. Unum favours and promotes the Biopsychosocial (BPS) model, devised by a American psychiatrist specialising in psychosomatic medicine. This places much emphasis on the attitude of the disabled person or patient, with an implication that some people just aren’t trying hard enough to get well. This is very useful for an insurer wishing to deny a claim, an employer wishing to avoid paying compensation, or a government department wishing to stop a benefit.

One of the keynote speakers at the Forum is a leading proponent of the BPS model, Professor Sir Mansel Aylward. He was at the DWP, but in 2004 became head of the Unum-sponsored Centre for Psychological and Disability Research at Cardiff University. He has in the past given presentations which included such statements as, “Obstacles to recovery and return to work are primarily personal, psychological and social rather than health-related ‘medical’ problems.”

The next Forum will be held in New Zealand in 2014. Dr Jan White, Chief Executive of the Accident Compensation Corporation, which will be hosting it, plainly states the underlying concern and motivation of those involved.

’The changes in demographics, especially the ageing population, mean New Zealand, like many other countries, faces an increasing burden of disability over the next 20 years’.

If these Forums were motivated by care and compassion for sick and disabled people, they would be laudable. But the dominant influence of Unum, and others whose primary motivation is cost-cutting and profit, means that they can only add to the fear and anxiety felt by the sick and disabled people whose lives they are debating.


© Bernadette Meaden has written about religious, political and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is a regular contributor to Ekklesia.


7 thoughts on “World’s Leading Architects of Disability Denial ‘Assessments’ to Congregate in London 10-12th September: Unum-Bankrolled ‘IFDM2012’ at Imperial College

  1. DAVID SHAW says:

    UNUM and ATOS =FRAUD, they should change the dictionary defination to this, as to deny disability in order to profiteer in direct contraction to United Nations human rights law cannot be described as anything else.

  2. jeffery davies says:

    unum will take your money but when it comes to paying out you can whistle ops look to america where it showed it fraudulent ways up by denying people their money unum not fit for the perpose and shouldnt be over here atos should be shown the door with big fines but will they do it not on your nelly it just that most mps want a quiet life and will see most of us off and thats the pitty they now its happening to those on benefits and they dont do anything shame shame shame on you all jeff3

  3. Lawrence says:

    Please would someone be good enough explain how I’m apparently not doing enough to ‘recover’ from arthritis of the spine and hips? Or perhaps how my attitude is holding back my ‘recovery’ from arthritis and my return to work?

    Want me and many, many other arthritis sufferers back to work, find a cure. Until then my attitude really is irrelevant. If you find a cure and I refuse it you can stop my benefits, oh sorry you already did that, I’m becoming a little hard to punish now, aren’t I? Threats that non compliance could adversely affect my benefits are a little hollow, how do you adversely affect £0.00?

  4. Humanity2012 says:

    The Denial of a Decent and Adequate Standard of Living is a Crime against Human
    Rights just as with Forced Slave Labout and Media Demonisation of the Poor and

    Shame upon the Thug Scum who Attack Disabled People

    I would Welcome More Protests and Demonstrations to Bring to Immediate
    Public Attention the Harrowing Suffering of the Poor and Disabled under
    this Regime and the Capitalist System of Slavery Oppression and Tyranny

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