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Work Capability Assessment Under Attack in Emotional House of Commons: ME Comments

Discussion in 'General ME/CFS News' started by Firestormm, Jan 18, 2013.

  1. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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    17th January 2013. Bear with me and I'll try and find some recording. It was shown live (almost 3 hours I understand) but it's not yet up on Democracy Live (and may never be I suppose). It was a Backbench Debate and all sides were delivering shocking stories from their respective constituents.

    Some coverage:

    Sorry for long post. Sucks I know :)
     
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  2. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

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    "Mark Hoban, the employment minister, said considerable progress had been made in improving a process that was introduced by Labour. He said it was unhelpful to "demonise" the system with "adverse media coverage".'

    Open and public criticism is the basis of democracy. It is definitely unhelpful - to entrenched interests who do not want to fix things.
     
  3. In Vitro Infidelium

    In Vitro Infidelium Guest

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  4. barbc56

    barbc56 Senior Member

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    Easy for The Countess to say, maybe she should see what it's like to live on disability. Something certainly needs to be done about waste but I don't think higher prices will help as the rich can still afford food even with a price hike.

    This type of thinking, IMHO, reminds me of Republicans in the states who tend to blame the victim.

    Barb
     
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  5. Esther12

    Esther12 Senior Member

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    You crazy militant. Criticising what powerful people do to others is dangerous and dishonest demonisation, which will only encourage others to adopt the victim role and waste their lives pursuing some sort of unobtainable 'justice'. There are still problems with the WCA, but we'll not be able to move forward until everyone accepts that these policies were only put in place to help the disabled, and that the people responsible for the disability benefit reforms are lovely people who deserve our respect and admiration. etc.
     
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  6. barbc56

    barbc56 Senior Member

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    Politicians and bureaucrats, twins separated at birth?
     
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  7. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

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    Oh Gosh, now I realize my mistake. I thought the western world was based on democracy, but in reality I should be praising the benevolent tyranny. How can they ever forgive me?

    :p
     
  8. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

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    Oh, that is just what they want you to believe. In reality there is a little bureaucratic homonculus inside each politician, and a little political homonculus inside each bureaucrat. Inside each homonculus is another homonculus driving it in a never ending spiral that is the paradox called government.

    :snigger:
     
  9. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

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    Excerpts from the last page of Noam Chomsky How the World Works:

    "Speaking truth to power makes no sense.... Instead speak truth to the powerless - or, better, with the powerless. Then they'll act to dismantle illegitimate power."

    " ... the future, its very ugly"
    " ... the point is - and it's my fault if I don't make this clear - its not inevitable. The future can be changed. But we can't change things unless we at least begin to understand them."

    Me again: The constitutions of most countries are about establishing balance of power in government. Its usually implicit but not explicit that this includes the media and the (voting) public. These lines of power work when there is transparency and accountability. Secrecy is the enemy of good governance, because there is no transparency, and hence nothing can be seen and if a problem is not seen then it cannot be fixed.

    Big political issues only get addressed when they are exposed, explicitly, publicly, and with fanfare. Those in power say this doesn't work, but yet they come clean when exposed. They want us to believe we cannot deal with the big issues: remember the slogan "You can't fight City Hall!". Yet many do, and win, and changes happen.
     
  10. WillowJ

    WillowJ Senior Member

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    as long as they didn't first write themselves a free pass (e.g. XYZ agency is exempt from being sued for any reason unless suit commences within 30 days of circumstance b, however the agency didn't take any action until 60+ days after circumstance b, and after that point they did something unethical; this is a real-life example). in that case one must first figure out how to revoke the free pass.
     
  11. Sasha

    Sasha Fine, thank you

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    I didn't see the debate but I'm glad the many, many deaths that have arisen among severely disabled people classed as fit for work, including suicides, have finally had a good, emotional, distressing discussion in parliament. Why the people behind this wilful and lethal incompetence haven't gone to jail over this is beyond me.

    It's also beyond me why it isn't on the front pages of every newspaper, every day.
     
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  12. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

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    Expose it publicly, and make sure people understand the implications. You might not be able to fix the mistake, but the free pass might be revoked and help with future issues. Change isn't easy, it isn't fast, but if the citizens of a country want it then it will happen ... eventually. Government works for its people, not the other way around, but thinking its the other way around gives some of those in power a sense of entitlement, which they can use, and if everything is secret they are not exposed. Once enough have this sense of entitlement, it becomes culturally entrenched, and government is corrupt, and in time government becomes inefficient. It can always be fixed, but not while secrecy is a primary principle government works on.

    Big government is not necessarily a problem if its operating transparently to address important issues and its efficiency can be criticized. However secretive big government is a larger problem than secretive small government.

    Debate of the kind that is occuring in the UK around ATOS, ME etc. is a sign the system is not completely broken or corrupt. However it takes a motivated public, public enquiries, etc. to make major change. When more and more politicians realize the system is badly broken, more and more will act to bring reform to DWP, ATOS and ME issues. For it to come to light like that though, in a culture of secrecy (neither DWP nor ATOS are open to public scrutiny other than superfically), then things have to be really bad.
     
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  13. In Vitro Infidelium

    In Vitro Infidelium Guest

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    Using the term demonise about a ‘system’ is plain weird, I wonder if it was a Freudian Slip for ‘demonetise’.:devil:

    The most interesting contribution to the debate was from Stephen Timms: “The architecture of employment and support allowance is sound. The assessment system, however, is clearly not up to the load it is being asked to bear. The current system needed fast and fundamental reform". Timms is clearly loading the failing on the present Government while excusing the previous Government of blame for any structural problems the Tory/Liberal alliance inherited, this is significant because potentially it locks Labour into a perspective of disability which it has previously avoided.

    The UK Labour movement – the Labour Party plus Trade Unions and other organisations which support the Party as a political agency, is fairly conservative and has to date had a poorly articulated sense of citizenship. The default Labour conception of the individual, has traditionally been defined by ‘work’. Thus children and young people are the ‘workers to be’, healthy and able bodied adults as ‘workers’, are the prime agency of society, and older people are the ‘workers who have been’.

    In the contex of citizen ans worker Labour’s thinking about the welfare state was broadly defined by the requirement to meet the needs of the citizen under these three conditions of life, with disability and ill health an uncomfortable anomaly. Historically the functional resolution of the disability/ill health anomaly as far as Labour’s welfare thinking was concerned was achieved by equating those who could not work with those who had retired, so that the original Incapacity Benefit was conceived of as a Pension. This policy approach, although supported from a different perspective was actually accepted by the Conservative Party right up until Labour in Parliament (as distinct from the wider Labour movement) undermined the security of a Disability Pension, with the introduction of its replacement, the ESA. Timms was one of those Parliamentarians who has been closely involved in recasting Labour’s view of disability and illness.

    It’s difficult to piece together all the elements of Labour’s reappraisal of disability and illhealth, Blair and Brown provided respective inputs – Blair a woolly notion of economic power (work) as liberating, to be achieved by anti discrimination legislation, Brown a Calvinistic notion of work as a moral requirement for human dignity, achieved by an economic miracle. Other weird notions came from Frank Field , while the ‘overachievement’ of David Blunket and to a lesser extent Ann Begg have created a notion of ‘no remaining barriers’.

    There has been growing dismay within the Labour movement about what ESA and the ATOS contract has led to (though ATOS is just an insult added to a more fundamental injury), although few are willing to openly question the Blair /Brown Governments’ actions. Timms’ comment seems to suggest that under the Milliband regime, while there is at least a willingness to recognise that ESA was a wrong step, only moderation of the system is to be considered. Timms’ “The current system needed fast and fundamental reform” does perhaps indicate that a more humane administration of disability benefits is seen as a policy issue that Labour is willing to fight for. Labour MPs need to be encouraged in this view by their constituents.

    For a full list of the horrors reported in the debate (not recommended reading for those feeling fragile): http://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/mps-tell-their-own-atos-horror-stories/

    IVI
     
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  14. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

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    There is most probably no slip. This is probably part of an ongoing political campaign of spin, though it may not be deliberate but an artifact of how the talk about these things is habitually carried out. Demonizing is bad, ergo to attack this system is bad. I would want to know more about the specifics of what was said, particularly about the nature of the "system". I suspect it was used deliberately (if its use is accurate and not an artifact of quoting the people talking about it) as its kind of vague, and you can always bind "system" to parts of a broader system that are not under attack, thereby showing attacking the "system" is wrong. This would be a defense by misdirection.

    We need a "politician under attack" to "regular person" dictionary to translate what some of these people say.

    I have been following Callum's List and Black Triangle and other sources for years now. All of these issues were predictable, and follow from failures in biopsychosocial thinking, and prior to that in psychosocial thinking.
     
  15. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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    Labour have said (Milipede) that they will 'review' with a view to revising and making fairer the Work Capability Assessments - and I dare say more widely the Tory Welfare Reforms - when they get into power. Note they will not repeal the reforms - this is different to their commitment to repeal the Health and Social Care Bill (though when push comes to shove I don't think they will).

    If Labour achieve power (on their own) they will enter office knowing that all the 'blame' has been levelled at the Tories in the main and at the Liberals for being - well - not Liberal enough. The Welfare bill will have fallen due to the horrendous nature of the reforms and this will be welcomed. The worst will have occurred under the coalition and Labour therefore will be (largely) seen as blameless.

    However, this will have been a gift horse for Labour. They won't have to be seen to have done it and will have benefitted (possibly to the extent of winning the election) by condemning how unfair the Tories have been. But they will not (can not) repeal the Reforms.

    What they will do I suspect - and to loud public acclaim - is relax the conditions attached to the WCA. They will by then be able to afford to do this. So you might see the need for annual reviews relaxed and a 'fairer' assessment process introduced or the existing system 'tweaked'. You might even see Atos - tossed. That would be a good vote winner in their manifesto or indeed pre-election hype though I doubt it we would see such a statement actually put into practice.

    The responsibility for decisions about ability to work - or fitness for work - has ever laid at the door of the DWP. Bureaucracy as ever has a lot to answer for and the inefficiency of a system is probably as much to blame - although if the overriding concern of the Government and the Department is to get people off benefit (or to reduce the cost of benefit by whatever means) then this bureaucracy and the system is working.

    As claimants we might object to the medical assessment administered by Atos and hate Atos as a result. It is an impersonal method at best and the reports generated do appear to take precedence over anything the claimant has to say in their Questionnaires or indeed what their own medical advisor's have to say in their submitted reports. But there is a need to assess at some point everyone who is 'on the sick' and no political party will remove this need.

    I think this austerity drive has been used as a smokescreen. It is an excuse to drive through what otherwise would be highly objectionable and indeed revolting (as in revolution-causing) reforms. But at the end of the day it is the civil service who determine the operation of any system and the politicians who are motivated by ideology.

    Great debate happening at the moment between the civil service - who want idealogical politicians when coming up with 'great ideas' to actually provide evidence e.g. random controlled trials and the like - that their notions will prove effective before driving them through; and the politicians who claim they are not solely 'air-heads'. Problem for the politicians is - and the civil service - the limited term of office. 5 years isn't much time to overhaul fairly let alone introduce any new systems of administration.
     
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  16. Sasha

    Sasha Fine, thank you

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    I don't think that this is the issue - at least it hasn't been for me, repeatedly. I haven't had a medical assessment for several years and so they've only had the forms I've filled in to go on. I've always filled the tickboxes in saying I can't do anything - walk 50 yards, lift a 1kg bag, etc. - and then given a written explanation that I can't do any physical activity at all when I choose, repeatedly within in reasonable timeframe, or without ill-effect.

    What happens next is that that information is flatly contradicted by DWP with no reason or evidence given for that flat contradiction and I have to appeal their decisions. They often flat-out lie as the appeal goes up the chain. In their submission to my ESA appeal tribunal, DWP said that the health professional (a nurse) who assessed my claim said that I'd be fit for work within two years. The health professional actually said I wouldn't be fit for work for at least two years.

    This sort of thing has happened to me over and over and over again over the decades, not just since Atos. I could give more examples but it would involve too much typing! But some of the things they've tried to pull have been breathtakingly wicked.
     
  17. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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    If Atos are removed - because of public outcry - they will be replaced. I can't see the DWP returning to administer this part of the process or this part being removed (to be replaced outright by reports from one's own medical advisor's for example).

    Though that might be my preference, the standard of 'independent assessment' has been set. All of this has been largely sold on the basis of our own GPs not being objective enough and of course the whole 'swinging the lead' meme. It is difficult to see what the British Medical Association want the present system replaced with - does anyone remember?

    I know they passed a vote of 'no confidence' in the Atos medical assessment system but at some point - if for example Atos were replaced and the onus was placed back on the BMA members to complete assessments - they will have to take the strain.

    In part, the BMA and their members are complaining - rightly in my view - because all these reports are adding to their workload and reducing the time they have available to deal more pro-actively with patients in their care and do their jobs (not to mention the added distress caused to their patients by the WCA itself!). I can't help but feel though they they were always obliged to provide decent medical reports - even before Atos became involved.

    Maybe then in part their objections are - rightly - to the impartiality implied in the Atos assessment i.e. they feel it isn't impartial at all or worthy of the commonly applied (though erroneous apparently) term, 'medical'. I have always thought it 'odd' that we now live in an age of 'self-certification' (completed by a patient not feeling well enough to work for a few days) and 'sick notes' (completed by a doctor after an assessment) and yet the DWP feel our doctors are not impartial enough to complete the Work Capability Assessment.

    Seems daft to me. Looks like they are already doing it - in part - anyway. So what's the difference? As a result of a 'sick note' the patient receives benefit (statutory sick pay), so why not complete the WCA too? Didn't they do so in the 'old days'?

    I don't know. Be interesting to hear what it was the BMA were objecting too. Do they want their members to complete these assessments or not? I can't see the privatisation of this element of the WCA being returned to the public sector and NHS - can you?
     
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  18. Sasha

    Sasha Fine, thank you

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    That's an interesting point. The general drive with the current govt seems to be to contract out. Capita have been mentioned - I think as being in line to do PIP assessments rather than Atos so you're right that getting rid of Atos isn't getting rid of contracted-out assessments.

    But I see the problem with Atos as having come top-down from DWP. Atos are financially incentivised by DWP to get people back to work (aren't they? don't they get a certain sum of money per person moved off IB and into work?) and the undercover documentary that was shown last year with a doctor getting his Atos training showed him being given a quota that wasn't being called a quota (he was told that if his decisions deviated from the average he'd be told to reassess them).

    If Atos were not incentivised at all per claimant, or were incentivised for accuracy of assessment (i.e. fewer decisions overturned on appeal) by DWP, we'd be seeing a different story.

    This is coming from government.
     
  19. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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    No. They are not incentivised. Though I will be accused of towing 'the party line' I suppose :)

    Atos are contracted to perform or 'process' a set number of assessments/people each period I believe. What the decision is from the DWP is irrelevant to any payment or to the way in which they conduct the assessment.

    I understand that they are obliged to 'interpret' the DWP's instructions when it comes to applying the WCA and that 'medicals' are to be conducted with a view to 'can this person work?'

    One HUGE difficulty here is that the DWP have never to my knowledge defined what 'work' is for the purposes of this 'judgement'. What I think they do is come at it from the other point of view: 'Is this person so disabled that they cannot function?'

    I am using my own words here obviously. But the 'wheelchair test' for example I think exemplifies this: because you are in a wheelchair doesn't mean you can't function enough to 'work'.

    The HUGE hurdle is everyone's notion/preconception of what exactly 'work' would involve. From our perspective for example, we might see the necessary reliability as a major problem - can we guarantee even turning up on time let alone staying at our desks for the set number of hours?

    So the DWP - bless 'em - come up with a series of 'yes/no' questions (essentially) and all the 'yes's' indicate you can work and all the 'no's' indicate you can't. Points are allocated to answers and so - to quote a phrase - "point's mean prizes" or entitlements viz. benefits.

    All of this you know of course. Atos merely complete the assessments as a 'double check' i.e. that you ain't lying on a form :) Have you ever had one done through use of the computer? I haven't. I mean how the hell can anyone do it through a computer?! Horrible people.

    Mind you with the overriding principle behind it - even a face-to-face and no computer assessment - there is I would argue an inherent bias - probably on both 'sides' perhaps and that's another problem. This whole issue of 'sides'. We see 'them' as wanting to take our benefits away, and they see us as seeing them as 'hostile' or see us as scared or scroungers or lying scum-bags (sure they don't really).

    The impartiality is a nonsense. It's one of the reasons why I think (in my experience of two 'wins') the Appeal Court is more reasonable. I am biased of course - but they afforded me more opportunity to speak (or try to) and describe things. And they reviewed the written evidence.

    Oh the whole thing is ****** don't get me wrong. Wish that disabled people ran the DWP and could design the system without Government interference. We ain't daft. We don't want people undeserving or lying to get benefit any more than anyone else does.

    Hand it over to the disabled community!
     
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  20. Sasha

    Sasha Fine, thank you

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    I just googled on Atos and incentives and I think I must have been thinking of the company whose job it is to get the unemployed back into work being incentivised. However, there seems to be some lack of clarity about whether Atos is incentivised to fail people to a quota:

    http://www.mssociety.org.uk/get-inv...gns-blog/2012/07/benefits-assessments-exposed

    I think a major failure in the system is failing to distinguish between different types of disability. Someone who uses a wheelchair because of a 'structural' disability such as having a missing leg can compete in the paralympics: someone who uses a wheelchair because of a chronic, energy-sapping condition can't. There's a difference between the disabilities arising from these two types of damage to the body and it's not recognised in DWP's assessment system.

    Spot on, concerning reliability. If an employer wouldn't mind me not turning up at all for the first few months, coming in and doing ten minutes' work and needing the next seven years off, no problem.

    It would be great if DWP would employ the people it's falsely classing as fit for work and see how quickly their department grinds to a halt.
     
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