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News Archives 5421-5440
Number Title Post Date
5421 Welfare reform bill passed, DWP phone calls begin 09/03/2012 20:00:45
5422 GPC seeks talks with DWP over Atos ‘fitness to work’ scheme concerns 09/03/2012 20:01:46
5423 Shocking Admission as DWP Claim They Don’t Know How Many on Workfare 09/03/2012 20:03:04
5424 New fraud probe into workfare firm A4e 09/03/2012 20:04:04
5425 Murdoch faces investigation over BSkyB ownership 09/03/2012 20:05:29
5426 Don't call a lawyer: call Tory Party cocaine fixer Coulson 09/03/2012 20:08:29
5427 Report on link between narcolepsy and vaccine 09/03/2012 20:12:10
5428 Are asthma inhalers linked to birth defects? Thousands of pregnant women at centre of inquiry into health problems in babies 12/03/2012 15:24:31
5429 The dirty war on WikiLeaks 12/03/2012 15:26:47
5430 New Dean of St Paul's defends #Occupy eviction 12/03/2012 15:29:09
5431 Why Can't You Smoke Pot? Because Lobbyists Are Getting Rich Off of the War on Drugs 12/03/2012 15:33:48
5432 What does the UK welfare reform agenda say about us as a society? 12/03/2012 15:37:18
5433 Thousands of changes made to Wikipedia from within House of Commons 12/03/2012 15:40:49
5434 Tory party cocaine fixer Coulson in fresh bid to appeal over legal fees 12/03/2012 15:43:02
5435 Leveson must publish the Motorman Files 12/03/2012 15:44:44
5436 Scandalous: Scientists and Doctors Falsifying Research Data 12/03/2012 15:45:35
5437 Open letter to DG, WHO - Pentavalent vaccine related deaths 12/03/2012 15:47:17
5438 Swine flu vaccine families mull joint Pandemrix lawsuit 12/03/2012 15:54:24
5439 Lockdown London: how the Olympics will turn London into (more of) a police state 13/03/2012 14:39:40
5440 20% of 'expert' family court witnesses are incompetent and unqualified 13/03/2012 14:42:38

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What does the UK welfare reform agenda say about us as a society?
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What does the welfare reform agenda say about us as a society?

March 9th, 2012 by Katherine Trebeck

I used to wonder whether we got the politics we deserve. But now, when reading headlines such as “‘Welfare reform has us terrified’ – families facing the worst speak out”, it is hard not to think something has gone terribly wrong at the top. How can policies that are already doing so much harm to the most vulnerable of our citizens be implemented, despite so much evidence that they are not just unhelpful, but so very harmful?

It must surely be about more than the welfare cutting, money saving agenda, now so closely tied to the UK Government’s programme of deficit reduction. It must be because the powers-that-be simply do not understand the impact of their choices – or, at least, that’s the benign explanation. Otherwise, if they do understand, they apparently don’t care.

Either way, they need to read the report from our partner, the Clydebank Independent Resource Centre (CIRC), which sets out the damage being done by the health assessments being carried out by ATOS, the French company that is earning millions through its contract with the Department for Work and Pensions. It is in charge of conducting assessments of people that claim Incapacity Benefit – now Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – with a view to moving many of them off ESA and onto Job Seeker’s Allowance, with its lower rate and higher conditionality.
CIRC know what they are talking about when it comes to the Employment and Support Allowance assessments: in the last year they have handled almost 500 enquiries relating to ESA, completed 160 ESA application forms on behalf of their clients, and represented 75 clients at ESA appeal tribunal hearings.

The partial nature of the assessments is evident in their report. At no stage does the ATOS examiner have access to the claimant’s medical records; the assessment is based solely on a single face-to-face interview, and the contents of an application form completed by the applicant.

I’m no medical guru, but even I know that medical conditions fluctuate, and that doctors are the best people to understand how poorly people are. Surely taking into account the knowledge of a GP is the ultimate ‘evidence-based policy’?

But, late last year, CIRC showed me a letter from a client’s GP. It had been submitted as ‘further evidence’ during an assessment process. The GP wrote:

The above named lady underwent [serious surgery at the end of 2010]. Unfortunately, since then she has had significant ongoing discomfort and is unable to mobilise out without a moonboot and two crutches. She has also had a failed hip replacement. She is in constant pain and requires regular analgesia in the form of [multiple painkillers]. In my opinion, this lady is currently, and for the foreseeable future, incapable of work for clinical reasons.

ATOS ignored this letter and the CIRC client involved was declared “fit for work”. If it wasn’t so heartbreaking, it would be laughable.

And it is not just CIRC clients experiencing these inappropriate judgements. Health blogger Margaret McCartney writes that:

Many clients with serious health conditions 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.

Not surprisingly, many clients appeal the initial ATOS decision (costing the state masses of money). But the appeal process is complex, drawn out and stressful. As a result many appellants simply give up their rights to ESA. Or, as CIRC has found, they die whilst they wait.

Many people have said it, but I can only hope the phrase “the mark of a civilised society is the way it treats its most vulnerable citizens” is wrong. The UK is surely better than these brutal policies that punish the most vulnerable. These people deserve more than a slap in the face by anonymous suits, who either don’t know, or worse, don’t care.

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Related Links:
* Tory AM’s suggestion severely disabled people in Wales should carry a special card called ‘bizarre and dangerous’
Martin Shipton, Western Mail
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