New #spartacus report highlights failures of work system for disabled


by Newswire    
9:05 am - November 12th 2012

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A new report from the Spartacus campaign today analyses the failures of the Government’s Work Capability Assessment and the Employment & Support Allowance system.

Both systems are supposed to support people who are too sick or disabled to work.

The report warns that disabled people are at risk because of the government’s refusal to consider a ‘real world’ test – where part of the test would take into account the real barriers to employment.

It includes examples of people who have been told they are fit for work, including:

· Someone with no short term memory mechanism
· A man with a terminal brain tumour
· An incontinent disabled man who is both blind and deaf

Other examples of claimants’ experiences include a man whose benefits were stopped for failing to return the necessary forms, despite his wife informing the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that he was in a coma; and a man who died 48 hours after filling in his questionnaire – after informing everyone of his death his wife received a call 3 months later asking him to come in for his assessment.

Overall the report highlights stories of more than 70 people who have been inappropriately assessed, forced to go to tribunal, felt humiliated or treated inappropriately.

It comes prior to the publication of the final review of the Work Capability Assessment by Professor Harrington, who steps down as advisor to the DWP this month, and whose resignation was announced in July, just days after the broadcast of two TV documentaries exposing the reality of claimants’ experience of the assessment process.

Professor Peter Beresford OBE, professor of social policy at Brunel University and chair of Shaping Our Lives, says:

The work capability assessment is unreliable and unhelpful, as well as being arbitrary and cruel… No-one – not the doctors who make the assessment decisions, nor Atos which has responsibility for providing assessments, nor the Department of Work and Pensions which commissioned them – takes responsibility for the problems and failures in the system.

It’s a perfect storm of irresponsibility and unaccountability.

The report includes an analysis of the position of a number of professional and regulatory organisations on the WCA, including the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing, the General Medical Council, the National Audit Office and the Citizens Advice Bureau, as well as Government statements and background information on Atos, the company employed to carry out the assessments.

It is available from: http://wearespartacus.org.uk

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Reader comments


New Labour got this disastrously wrong by being cheapskate and requiring ATOS to use staff who had medical qualifications *but not in the condition of the individual being examined*. I have 10 ‘O’ levels but that does not qualify me to examine students for music GCSE.
The “wearespartacus” report should tackle this point instead of arguing that 70 mistakes in a million examinations prove that it is unfit for purpose – if the driving test examiners only made 70 mistakes in a million there would be far fewer deaths on the road!
By the way, your constant attacks on New Labour DWP policies and choices of contractors for outsourced “services” have acquired an air of desperation.

Of course ATOS get two bites of the cherry they do the medical and then do all the paper work for the appeals, so it pays them to fail people..

@ Rob the Crip
Only a bureaucrat could have drafted a contract that did that!

John77 claims the report talks about “70 mistakes in a million examinations” which rather suggests he hasn’t read the report. The report in no way claims to list every example of a failed WCA, because the statistics from the tribunals system tell us that there have been at least 160,000 failed WCAs (and 400,000 where the claimant felt they had grounds for appeal). I say at least because to those figures must be added those who lacked the endurance to take their claim to appeal, a process now often taking over a year. Even though I passed my own WCA, I would class it as failing to remotely reach a professional standard and anecdotal evidence shows my experience to be far from unique.

Labour got this wrong in several ways, most fundamentally by allowing their approach to benefits reform to be shaped by a US insurer, Unum, which had already been the subject of massive class action suits in the US for operating ‘disability denial mills’ and which several States Attorney’s General had branded ‘an outlaw company’. Unum sold Labour on using the ‘bio-psycho-social’ model of disability, which basically says if someone fails to recover from their disability, it’s their own fault. Just coincidentally, Unum started to run their adverts for disability insurance as the WCA started to bite.

Regrettably Labour still support ESA and the WCA in their current form.

David G needs to engage a second brain cell before posting

Suggest john77 needs to be much better informed before attacking others:

http://www.whywaitforever.com/dwpatosveterans.html#docs

SEE the report:

Welfare reform – Redress for the Disabled as quoted during the House of Lords welfare reform debates.

@ mo stewart
The document to which you link says in its third paragraph
“All the medical reports have been produced by staff in the employ of ATOS Healthcare. The quality of a number of these medical reports is regarded as “dubious” at best and proven “unsound” in the case that this website highlights”
That supports my contention that the system of using “medically qualified” staff who had no specialist knowledge of the condition from which the individual was suffering made the whole unfit for purpose.
70 is not even the tip of the iceberg – it is the flag on top of Mount Everest. I suggest that we should look at Mount Everest rather than the flag.
David G accused me of saying that the report only mentioned 70 cases. May I suggest that you read what I actually wrote?

John77 claims I need to ‘engage a second brain-cell before posting’. I stand by my entire post as factually based, including my contention that he stated the report implies only 70 failed WCAs in a million – how else am I to interpret “The “wearespartacus” report should tackle this point instead of arguing that 70 mistakes in a million examinations …” (a figure he repeats twice for emphasis).

If John77 would like to challenge me on the facts I’ll be happy to discuss them, but ad hominem attacks aren’t likely to convince many of his point.

In the spirit of full disclosure I should point out I’m quoted in the Spartacus report, though with respect to the accreditation of ATOS training, not numbers of failed WCAs or individual WCA experiences (however my WCA experience is reported in the annexes to the Select Committee report on the WCA).

@ David G
“Overall the report highlights stories of more than 70 people who have been inappropriately assessed, forced to go to tribunal, felt humiliated or treated inappropriately.”
The basic set-up is wrong and you quibble about whether 70 is the correct number? Which is more important: Mount Everest or the flag? Hence my dismissive one-liner.
The system is not fit for purpose – it is often pure chance if it gets anything right. To argue that it sometimes gets it wrong is surrendering the pass. We should not be discussing why it sometimes makes mistakes but why mistakes are THE NORM.
So, yes, please apply additional brain cells. Complaining about individual failures gives the impression that the system is not working as well as it could instead of the total inability of the system to work. The DWP will be encouraged to refine the system instead of scrapping it.
I am not usually that rude but we do NOT want to get led off into discussing details instead of why the ATOS contract and the whole system should be abolished.

John77 suggests: “The document to which you link says in its third paragraph
“All the medical reports have been produced by staff in the employ of ATOS Healthcare. The quality of a number of these medical reports is regarded as “dubious” at best and proven “unsound” in the case that this website highlights”
That supports my contention that the system of using “medically qualified” staff who had no specialist knowledge of the condition from which the individual was suffering made the whole unfit for purpose.”

The problems with ATOS errors are far more profound than simply being examined by medics with no specialist knowledge, after the WCA was raised in the BMJ the GMC needed to issue a reminder to doctors that basic honesty was a professional requirement, and yet we still frequently see reports of WCA reports which make blatantly false statements on the level of ‘X attended on their own’ when X attended with a relative or support worker.

WRT appropriate specialists we need to bear in mind that in some conditions – including one of mine – the number of specialists in the country is measured in single figures, meaning the only way to implement a solution is to devolve it down to people’s own specialists or GPs. This lack of appropriate specialists actually predates ATOS, having also been true of the older, non-privatised assessment systems.

@John77
“The basic set-up is wrong and you quibble about whether 70 is the correct number?”

Because when the difference is between 70 and 140,000 I think that’s a point that needs emphasizing, the #realWCA report is very clear that it is only showing a fraction of failed WCAs.

“The system is not fit for purpose – it is often pure chance if it gets anything right. To argue that it sometimes gets it wrong is surrendering the pass.”

We will not overturn ESA and the WCA in a single step. Illustrating the Keystone Kops-esque nature of individual WCAs is an effective tactic to embed our message in the minds of the general population. We will not get change unless we first undermine the existing system, and the report is a very effective method of doing that. Remember that this has been very deliberately published in advance of the third Harrington report in order to get our message out there first (Harrington has in the past openly excluded personal experience from his reports on a ‘well they would say that, wouldn’t they’ basis).

“So, yes, please apply additional brain cells.”
“I am not usually that rude but we do NOT want to get led off into discussing details instead of why the ATOS contract and the whole system should be abolished”

Which simply isn’t going to happen, no matter how much we might wish it. As a friend so aptly put it when discussing precisely this a couple of weeks ago, ‘the perfect is the enemy of the good’. We owe it to the people suffering under WCA to pursue the course that will be most effective in reducing that suffering, in fact we are ethically obligated to follow that course. Undermining WCA is the most effective course, declaring ‘WCA must be abandoned’ is the political equivalent of threatening to hold your breath until you turn blue.

@ David G #10
OK, so as well as being totally wrong they are also wrong.
My third braincell fails to see how that makes it more than totally wrong.

13. PaulRapesKidsStaines

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