Posts Tagged ‘IDS’

Sue Marsh, author of blog Diary of a Benefit Scrounger, stunned fellow disability campaigners by announcing on Friday the 9th of January via her blog that she has accepted a job with US firm Maximus.

Maximus was awarded the £500 million contract by the government to replace ATOS, administering the much-maligned Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants on behalf of the DWP.
The company brings it’s own fair share of controversy across the Atlantic, having been involved in several claims & scandals in the US – a few examples of which have been collated here by Tom Pride on Pride’s Purge.

So why is this such a shock? Marsh has been actively involved in the campaign scene for around 5 years with issues like the Spartacus Report and the unfit-for-purpose WCA, writing about them on her blog.
With such controversy surrounding the assessment and associated processes for many disability campaigners, it’s little wonder people are shocked with some left feeling betrayed.

Sue claims she has accepted the job as a ‘Head of Customer Experience’ to enable her to enact change from within the company itself – sort of a ‘if you can’t beat em, join em’ strategy. Whether she is able to encourage any form of change or not remains to be seen. Most likely the best possible outcome she could perhaps achieve would be a ‘more comfortable’ experience for ESA claimants undergoing assessment (Maximus call them ‘customers’ – giving the illusion of choice), it’s extremely unlikely she’ll be able to effect any change in the assessment process itself. A process which has been ruled as discriminating against mentally ill claimants.

Regardless of what Sue may or may not be able to achieve within the company however, is slightly irrelevant compared to the issue really riling up disabled people after hearing the news. Many people that read Sue’s blog and those that post to disability campaign groups on Facebook etc, are slightly more concerned by the fact that Sue has jumped straight from being in the support group of ESA into a full time, highly demanding job. This then presents worries that Iain Duncan Smith’s next move will be to place Sue on a podium as a shining example of how disability benefit claimants in the support group can all manage to work and should be doing the same.

It doesn’t matter to the government that each individual person claiming ESA & DLA have health problems unique to themselves, and that a pain level one person could tolerate may be unbearable to another. The only thing that matters to the heartless, callous party in power is that they can say they were right to impose sanctions on claimants, and that they’ve saved the taxpayer however many £millions. Never mind the fact that people are committing suicide because they can’t physically manage to get through the day. And their allowance has been stopped due to a civil servant working to targets (yes – ‘those’ targets that IDS claimed didn’t exist) giving no consideration as to their day-to-day life and how their condition affects them.

Life is already humiliating enough for those having to claim ESA, considering the number of hoops to be jumped through to prove disability and incapability of working. With it being renamed from Incapacity Benefit & Income Support to Employment Support Allowance, it rather gives the impression of a form of pocket money, handed out if you’ve been a good boy/girl this week. How patronising.

Many people with disabilities already live in fear of the dreaded brown envelope arriving with the morning post, summoning them to yet another horrendous WCA with the threat of a sanction looming. Many have withdrawn from social contact, other than communicating through the internet, as they’re petrified of being sanctioned for having the gall to enjoy themselves on one of their extremely rare good days. So many people partaking in the witchhunt devised by the government & media to hound disability claimants either have no idea, or care not that a lot of disabled people may have one good day, which can be followed by several days of being unable to get out of bed with levels of pain which make you wish you didn’t exist. Sadly, a large proportion of the public are blinkered to the truth that the majority of those receiving benefits are NOT doing so fraudulently, yet DWP policies enforced by ATOS – soon to be Maximus – work to governmental targets, rather than taking human suffering into account.

The last thing the section of society living with crippling conditions (be they mental, physical or both) needs, is yet another presumption/assumption about their lives. This situation, spun by the government and media, could be explosive, possibly creating far, far more casualties & fatalities in the months to come. I for one hope it turns out to be a dud, and that Sue Marsh is able to achieve some sort of improvement within Maximus…only time will tell.

More and more these days, I find myself making connections, feeling that little bit closer to understanding exactly what is going on around me, in both local government, and at a national level.

To try and relax the other day, I sat down to watch a film…wanting to switch my brain off and float about in a fictional world that had nothing to do with me.  Even doing that, there was no chance to achieve what I set out to do.

I’d decided on watching The Rainmaker.  Knowing very little about the storyline other than it involved a lawyer, I had no idea what I was about to watch.  As it began, I settled into getting to know the characters, and a bit about their backgrounds. 

As the story then progressed, I couldn’t help but start drawing comparisons between the ill young man being denied insurance cover, and the ill & disabled people all over the country.  Further comparisons were then drawn between the insurance company itself, with it’s team of big-shot lawyers, and the Department for Work and Pensions, with Iain Duncan Smith at the helm.

The young man in question had leukaemia, and was desperately needing medical treatment for which the insurance company refused to pay, despite his mother keeping up to date with the premium payments.

The insurance company itself was a dubious setup, specifically targetting impoverished and underprivilged families – with the intention of automatically denying claims made.  The claims were then shifted between departments, with each department knowingly kept in the dark independently of each other.  This resulted in a perpetual cycle of claims being made, denied, appealed, denied and so on and so forth…leaving the lad’s mother with a total of 8 letters of refusal for her son’s treatment.

This inhuman and immoral cycle was orchestrated by the CEO and his number 1 lawyer, with the knowledge that they could extort incredible amounts of money from the policyholders, with an extremely low payout margin, which = heaps of $$.

The reason this was possible was down to cleverly written manuals for the claims managers (where have we heard that one before??), and through the forced ignorance of the claims departments, leaving the CEO & lawyer as being the only two people with knowledge of the true statistics regarding claims & payouts.

You may be asking yourself how this can possibly compare to a government department & those that make claims through that specific department?

If you have ever had the wonderful experience of contacting the DWP regarding a claim for ESA, Income Support or DLA, you will be more than aware that these particular departments do not tend to exchange information with each other, other than the very bare bones of your claim.  Often it is the caller that has to prompt one dept to interact & share information with another.

IDS & the DWP awarded the (private) contract, worth £500 million, for the new ‘Work Capability Assessments’ to a company called ATOS.  A company which has declared cancer patients, stroke victims, amputees & the severely mentally ill, Fit For Work.  A company which have denied a record number of claims amongst the most ill and disabled in society, which in reality need support, empathy & care, not hounding to their graves.

Coincidentally, the government stopped recording the number of ill & disabled claimants who died after being declared fit for work by ATOS.  That figure stood at more than 10,000 when this information ceased to be recorded, and people didn’t stop dying simply because the people in a position of responsibility that set these wheels in motion began to deny it was happening.

Week after week, we see IDS on various television programmes in a state of complete denial, refuting every set of statistics placed in front of him that contradict his version of events.  The statistics presented to him are either out of date, wrongly collected, or just plain wrong.  The statistics that flow out of his mouth have little basis in reality, for example, putting people placed in the Work Related Activity Group (after being declared fit for work, regardless of ill health & disability) firmly in the bar graph under the heading ‘Employed’ – despite this group of people struggling with their illness, struggling to pay their bills, trying not to starve to death, and needing to visit foodbanks to ward off starvation.

People have already starved to death under these ‘reforms’.  Meanwhile IDS is throwing money down the drain attempting to develop a computer program which patently doesn’t work, and has lost £303 million, effectively chucking it down the drain – but never mind that.  His claims that benefit fraud costs the taxpayer £1.2bn, primed the general public to back the reforms by creating resentment.  No mention is made however, about the £35 BILLION lost to our economy through tax avoidance by high earners & multinational companies.  No, it’s not illegal, but I find it extremely hard to swallow the disabled & impoverished minority being smeared by those that are depriving the economy of an amount far, far greater than benefit fraud.

Just like the medical insurance denials in the film, disability claims are being rejected by people that have little or no medical training, and the system is designed in such a way that people become so dejected that they simply give up.  The have not the energy, nor the health to be able to constantly fight for what they need, what they’re entitled to.  The system is designed by those that profit from the very people they deny services to.

How bad has this mess got to get before things change?  The tragedies are mounting.