Tag Archives: WCA

DWP Lose Again: Atos Assessments Do Discriminate Says Appeal Court

atos_kills_bannerThe DWP have suffered yet another humiliating legal defeat after Appeal Court judges upheld a decision that the Atos assessments for sickness and disability benefits discriminate against people with mental health conditions.

This follows an earlier decision by the Upper Tribunal in January that the Work Capability Assessment – the notorious computer based test which has led to hundreds of thousands of claimants declared ‘fit for work’ – substantially disadvantaged those with mental health problems.

Rather than accept this judgement and attempt to make the process fair, the DWP chose to appeal this decision and carry on as normal.  As ever, this didn’t work out well for them and yet more tax payer’s money was wasted only to end in embarrassment for the department.

A press release from the Mental Health Resistance Network released today explains:

“During a four day hearing in January 2013, the Upper Tribunal heard evidence from the 2 disabled claimants, from mental health charities, Mind, Rethink Mental Illness and the National Autistic Society, as well as from the Government about the operation of the Work Capability Assessment , and the experience of people with mental health problems going through the process. In May 2013, having weighed the evidence, the tribunal concluded that the process substantially disadvantaged those with mental health problems . This was for two main reasons: first because the application process and the face to face interview can be particularly distressing and confusing for those with mental health problems; and second because of the great difficulty that many with mental health problems have in explaining their condition, which increases the risk that the benefit will be wrongly refused.

To remedy this disadvantage, the claimants, supported by the mental health charities and by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, argued that where ESA applicants have mental health problems, the DWP should consider obtaining medical evidence from the claimant’s doctor or psychiatric team at every stage of the process, and if a decision was taken by Atos or the DWP not to ask for medical evidence, this would have to be justified at each stage. This approach followed a recommendation made in November 2012 by Professor Malcolm Harrington, an independent reviewer of the process appointed by the Government.

The Government refused to implement this adjustment because it argued that the system did not discriminate against people with mental health problems. As stated above, the tribunal disagreed. It ruled that the adjustment to the process recommended by Professor Harrington might be a reasonable response to the “substantial disadvantage” it had found, and urged the Government to carry out a trial to see if obtaining further medical evidence earlier in the process would make the process better for people with mental health problems. Once the new process was trialled, the tribunal asked the Government to return to court for a hearing about whether – in light of the trial – the adjustment was reasonably necessary.

Instead of accepting the tribunal’s findings, and conducting an urgent trial, the Government appealed to the Court of Appeal against the tribunal’s finding of “substantial disadvantage”. It also argued that the two claimants did not have the right to bring the case because they themselves had not been adversely affected. Today the Court of Appeal rejected the Government’s arguments on both these points. In giving the main judgment of the court, Lord Justice Elias stated that:

“the Tribunal identified various ways in which [Further Medical Evidence] would assist [people] with a range of mental disabilities, and in my judgment there was sufficient evidence to justify the conclusion that [mental health patients] were placed, as a group, at more than a trivial disadvantage”.

The claimants solicitor, Ravi Low-Beer of the Public Law Project, stated:

“It is regrettable that the Government chose to appeal against the tribunal’s finding that people with mental health problems are disadvantaged by the current system, rather than take the steps necessary to improve it. Now that the Court of Appeal has upheld the tribunal’s finding, we sincerely hope that the Government will take immediate steps to improve the system. Disabled people, charities and many others are only asking the Government to implement the recommendation of the independent expert the Government itself appointed. This has been delayed since May 2013 while the Government appealed. It should not be delayed further.”

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Member of ‘Fit For Work Coalition’ Brought in to Scrutinise Atos

paul-litchfieldThe DWP have brought in a member of the ‘Fit For Work Coalition’ and the neo-liberal think tank the World Economic Forum, to carry out a review of the brutal assessments for sickness and disability benefits.

Dr Paul Litchfield will replace Professor Malcolm Harrington who was sidelined after being mildly critical of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), the relentless health and disability tests which have driven some claimants to suicide.

As well as his membership of the sinister sounding World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council – who promote more capitalism to deal with the problems created by capitalism – Litchfield is Chief Medical Officer at BT.  He is also a member of the aptly named Fit For Work Coalition which: “brings together healthcare professionals, policy makers, employers, and patients to improve the productivity of Britain’s workforce, by empowering and supporting people, including those with long-term conditions, to remain in or return to work and be economically active.”

Litchfield has long been working behind the scenes with both the current and the last government in a bid to dismantle the welfare state.  Way back in 2006 he was a member of the Mental Health Technical Group who were involved in proposals to ‘transform’ the old Personal Capability Assessment (PCA) – the previous assessment regime for Incapacity Benefit.

He then went on to sit on the Technical and Consultative Working Group involved in the creation of the Work Capability Assessment, along with Angela Graham of Atos Origin and Sue Godby of Unum.

He will now prepare a review on the shambolic Work Capability Assessment which is seeing more seriously unwell or disabled people than ever successfully appealing Fit for Work decisions.

Litchfield has already given an early indication of his true role at the DWP , which appears to be that of a glorified spin doctor.  He claims in a statement on the DWP website that “Any assessment not only has to be fair but must be perceived as being fair.”

He’s not there to change the assessments, but to change people’s minds about the assessments.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Co-op Ditch Atos – Keep Up The Pressure, It Works!

atos_logo_killsIn the face of protests both on and offline, The Co-operative Group have ditched poverty pimps Atos as their occupational health provider.

The Co-op posted the following on their facebook page this afternoon:

“Hello everyone, here is an update as promised on our occupational healthcare provider, many thanks for your patience on this matter.

The Co-operative Group can confirm that a robust procurement process considering, amongst other factors, cost, operational efficiency and geographical capability is currently underway for our occupational health services provider. Having been scored against an agreed set of parameters and against other bidders, Atos Healthcare have not progressed to the later rounds of that process and our intention is to have a new provider in place when the current contract terminates.”

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Work Capability Assessment Faces Court Challenge

atos_kills_bannerA judicial review into the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) begins tomorrows when two members of the Mental Health Resistance Network will argue that the process is discriminatory towards people with mental health conditions.

A protest in support has been called outside the hearing on Wednesday 16th January at noon, head for the Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London WC2A 2LL – and spread the word.

Mental Health Resistance Network, who are now on facebook, explain the reasons for the case:

“The reason that the ESA process discriminates against people with mental health disabilities is that the process requires ESA applicants to self-report how their ability to work is affected by their disability. While this is challenging enough for many people with physical disabilities, it can be a distressing, and sometimes an impossible task for many people with mental health disabilities. This is because some people with mental health disabilities do not always have insight into their condition, and others may find it difficult to articulate the effect of their disability on their fitness to work for reasons of shame or otherwise. Furthermore some mental health disabilities are complex, fluctuating, and often hidden, and these are by their very nature difficult for Atos Health Care Professionals (who are often not doctors and in general have no expertise in mental health) to properly assess at a short face-to-face assessment. In addition, people with mental health disabilities are often particularly vulnerable to the stresses of the assessment process itself, and often cannot cope with marshalling medical evidence explaining their condition. This means that they face substantial disadvantage as a result of the way in which ESA claims are processed.”

Who’s Fighting Welfare Reform

As promised earlier in the week, here’s a list of some of the groups around the UK currently fighting welfare reform.  This list is not exhaustive, apologies to anyone I’ve missed, please post up links to any other claimant groups, websites and facebook groups in the comments.

All groups are open to everyone to get involved in – contact them to join the fightback.

Please share, blog, tweet and help spread the word about all groups.

National Groups

Boycott Workfare – fighting forced labour and unpaid work:  http://www.boycottworkfare.org/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/boycottworkfare
on twitter @boycottworkfare

Also fighting workfare and keeping claimant’s informed of their rights – http://www.donotsign.com/

Black Triangle Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights involved in organising many protests against Atos and Welfare Reform as well as lobbying and campaigning work: http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/blacktriangle11
on twitter @blacktriangle1

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) – National group who’ve organised many actions in London and elsewhere including blockading Oxford Street and Occupying the DWP: http://www.dpac.uk.net/

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/groups/DPAC2011/
on twitter @Dis_PPL_Protest

DPAC also have a network of local groups – for local contact details visit: http://www.dpac.uk.net/contact-details-for-local-dpac-groups/

Solidarity Federation – Not specifically a claimant group by a long way but are running a national campaign against workfare. Were recently successful in forcing Holland & Barrett to stop using unpaid labour and have now turned attention to Poundland – for all details, including local pickets of workfare using shops visit: http://www.solfed.org.uk/

Other national groups which have been involved in action against welfare reform include UK Uncut, Right to Work Campaign, UNISON Community Union, Anarchist Federation and the PCS Union.

Local Groups

Glasgow: Crutch Collective – fighting welfare reform, workfare and Atos, visit http://thecrutchcollective.blogspot.co.uk/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Crutch-Collective/132893236781931?sk=wall

Brighton Benefits Campaign – long running campaign which organises regular actions and protests: http://brightonbenefitscampaign.wordpress.com/

Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty – another long running campaign, lots of info on their website at: http://edinburghagainstpoverty.org.uk/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Edinburgh-Coalition-Against-Poverty/181015481950367

Liverpool Claimants Network – very active group have organised meetings, actions, protests and communications blockades: http://antiworkfare.blogspot.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/liverpoolclaimantnetwork/
on twitter @claimantnetwork

Birmingham Against the Cuts – not just benefits related but have organised lots around welfare: http://birminghamagainstthecuts.wordpress.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BirminghamAgainstTheCuts
on twitter @BrumAgainstCuts

Winvisible – Women With Visible and Invisible Disabilities – based in Crossroads Women’s Centre, Kentish Town: http://www.winvisible.org/

Manchester Against Benefit Cuts (part of Manchester Coalition Against Cuts): http://www.coalitionagainstcuts.org.uk/

Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group – hold weekly meetings, more info at: http://kilburnunemployed.blogspot.co.uk/

Bradford Claimants Union – not much detail online but have a facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bradford-Claimants-Union/178195065573385?sk=info
email: bradfordclaimants@gmail.com

York Welfare Campaign: http://yorkwelfarecampaign.wordpress.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/york.welfarecampaign

Mental Health Resistance Network – largely South London based group: http://mentalhealthresistance.org/

Nottingham and Tyneside both have claimant union groups – although its not clear from the web how active they currently are:

http://ncu.wikispot.org/

http://tynesideclaimantsunion.wordpress.com/

Plymouth Claimants Union have taken action against welfare reform and Atos, not sure if they are active, email them at: plymouthclaimantsunion@yahoo.co.uk

Online Groups

Benefit Claimants Fightback – facebook group which was involved in last years national days of action against benefit cuts: http://www.facebook.com/groups/116432071735566/

Social Welfare Union – a union of welfare campaigners fighting benefit cuts: http://socialwelfareunion.org/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SocialWelfareUnion
on twitter @WelfareUnion

We Are Spartacus – network of disabled bloggers, campaigners and supporters. Recently released The People’s Review of the WCA Report available at: http://wearespartacus.org.uk/

DWP Examination forum – friendly forum for all those struggling with the WCA and welfare reform: http://www.dwpexamination.org/

Unemployment Movement Forum – forum for all things claimant related: http://unemploymentmovement.com/forum/index

Anti-Atos Alliance – facebook group fighting Atos and the WCA: http://www.facebook.com/groups/AntiAtosAlliance/

After Atos – another facebook group supporting survivors of the brutal Atos regime: http://www.facebook.com/groups/afteratos/

Disability Defence: Facebook group fighting for disabled people’s rights: http://www.facebook.com/groups/disabilitydefence/

Respect for the Unemployed and Benefit Claimants – long running facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/groups/25024876259/

Websites

http://intensiveactivity.wordpress.com/
http://benefitscroungingscum.blogspot.co.uk/
http://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.co.uk/
http://harpymarx.wordpress.com/
http://wheresthebenefit.blogspot.co.uk/
http://watchinga4e.blogspot.co.uk/
http://www.latentexistence.me.uk/
http://www.crippencartoons.co.uk/

Twitter

To keep up on welfare issues also follow: @patspetition, @IzzyKoksal, @Fight_Workfare, @postpolionews, @Quinonostante, @doNOTsign, @solfed_iwa, @shivmalik1, @missdennisqueen, @LindaBurnip,@suey2y, @HouSolidarity, @AtosStories, @BendyGirl, @redjolly1, @e_lisney, @AtosVictims1, @Miss_Ben_E_Fit, @CarerWatch, @AtosKills, @BrumProtestor, @DarkestAngeL31, @NCCLols, @BrokenOfBritain, @pcs_union, @a4ehighpark1, @VirtualResistan, @slsolfed, @lisybabe,‏ @wheresbenefit, @FalseEcon, @UKuncut

You can follow me @johnnyvoid

How Much Did Atos Lie To Win PIP Contract?

The PIP tender reveals that poverty pimps Atos misrepresented their relationship with several organisations to win the  £540 million contract to carry out the upcoming Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) are seeking legal action after Atos claimed they were in regular consultation with them to discuss any concerns about their health and disability assessments.  In fact DPAC have been some of the most outspoken critics of the company and have organised countless protests aimed at Atos.

Atos claim this bare-faced lie was a mistake.  Other charities Atos claim to consult with at national and local level include Citizens Advice, Mencap, DRUK, MIND, Macmillan Cancer Support, RNIB, SENSE, The National Autistic Society, the Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health and the Scottish Association of Mental Health.  Whether there is any truth in these claims remains to be seen.

Now other organisations named by Atos are coming forward to reveal that they have been misrepresented in the tender.  Big Mouth Media (now LBi) are named as Atos’ suppliers who will be responsible for pro-actively monitoring social media to judge any areas of ‘public concern’ into their activities.

As revealed in the comments here, LBi deny they are involved with Atos. stating clearly:

“I’d just like to clarify that bigmouthmedia, which is now part of LBi, does not work with ATOS Healthcare in any way. We were initially involved in a project to help them better understand social media, but in February this year we decided to bring an end to our relationship. Furthermore, we were categorically not involved with the closure of any website, blog or online community space on behalf of ATOS Healthcare.”

The Atos contract is dated May 2012, meaning Big Mouth Media/LBi had already ended the relationship when the tender was submitted.  An unofficial spokesperson for LBi has claimed on facebook that there was a ‘difference of opinion’ between the companies.

Atos’ dodgy claims don’t end there.  Ever opportunistic Labour MPs have called for an “immediate investigation” into the PIP tender after Atos claimed they would be working with organisations such as Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP), Disability Cornwall and ecdp (formerly Essex Coalition of Disabled People).

All of these Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) have firmly rejected the claim they would have anything to do with Atos.  According to a piece recently published on the DPAC website, Richard Currie, an executive member of GMCDP said of the claims:

“As an organisation we are not keen to work with organisations that actively make life more difficult for disabled people.

“We would never want anything to do with Atos. We do not feel they are a fit and proper company to do the assessments, as they proved with the employment and support allowance claimant debacle.”

Hundreds of millions of pounds are to be handed over to Atos to manage the new disability assessments on which PIP is based.  One fifth of disabled people are set to lose benefits when the new system is introduced.  Atos’ claim that the very real suffering to disabled people that this will cause is to be minimised by them engaging with disabled claimants is based on little more than hot air.

For the victims of the Work Capability Assessment, already forced into workfare and poverty by the actions of Atos, the news that Atos lie will sadly be of no great surprise.

ATOS games week of action – Protests Planned in 10 Locations Around UK So Far

Join The Atos Games!
On your marks, get set…
for a week of Paralympic fun and games against Atos!

From Monday 27th to Friday 31st of August, join Disabled People Against Cuts for The Atos Games – five days of action against a company that’s sponsoring the Paralympics but wrecking disabled people’s lives.

We are calling on disabled people, disabled activists, families, colleagues, friends and supporters to come together and fight back against Atos’s attacks. Atos represents as dangerous an opponent as any government, law or barrier the disability movement has faced in its long history. It’s not just welfare, but our very identity and our place within society that is under attack.

And we are asking the whole of the anti-cuts movement to join us in our opposition to the company most responsible for driving through the government’s brutal cuts agenda. Let’s make it Games over for Atos!

Latest info from around the UK:

Plymouth:   11am – Tuesday 28th August

Argosy House, Marsh Mills (next to McDonald’s)

For lifts from the City Centre and Mutley, please contact PCU at:  plymouthclaimantsunion@yahoo.co.uk

Manchester:   Noon - Tuesday 28th August

ATOS, Manchester, Albert Bridge House

Protest outside the offices of ATOS Healthcare, the company profiting from sick and disabled people’s misery: https://www.facebook.com/events/408151362575794/

Birmingham: 1pm - Tuesday 28th August

Islington Row, Five Ways House, Five Ways:  https://www.facebook.com/events/334907739929304/

Sheffield: 12.30pm – Tuesday 28th August

Hartshead Square, Sheffield – UKUncut Sheffield have joined forces with Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC)to make sure it’s Games over for Atos during the Paralympics: http://www.facebook.com/events/196007200530031/

Bournemouth: 12.05pm - Tuesday 28th August

ATOS Healthcare WCA Assessment Centre, 1st floor Tamarisk House, c/o Job Centre Plus, 1, Cotlands Road, BH1 3BG:  https://www.facebook.com/events/427050914002653/

Northampton: 11.30am – Tuesday 28th August

Disabled People will be demonstrating at the offices of Atos in Gladstone Road Northampton on Tuesday 28 August from 11:30 to 1:30 and are calling on the whole of the anti-cuts movement to join them.

Liverpool:  Noon – Tuesday 28th August

Mann Island Lower Ground Floor, Port of Liverpool Buildings, Liverpool, L3 1LT: https://www.facebook.com/events/211880045607754/

Swansea:  Noon - Tuesday 28th August

A static protest outside of the Swansea ATOS
assessment centre from 12:00 to 1:00 at Grove House, Grove Place,
Swansea. (This is a big building across the road from the police
station):  https://www.facebook.com/events/515813221766234/

Cardiff:  4.00pm - Tuesday 29th August

Atos KIlls- mass die in to commerate lives lost.  29th August at 16:00 at Aneuren Bevan Statue, Queen Street, see DPAC Caerdydd-Cardiff: https://www.facebook.com/#!/bronwen.caerdydd

London:  12.45pm - Friday 31 August

UK Uncut and DPAC will be shutting down Atos’ London HQ for the Closing ATOS Ceremony. Meet in Triton Square at 12:45pm for direct action and creative protest, with plenty of surprises: https://www.facebook.com/events/217652368360892/

Other actions currently being planned:

Join in The Atos Games however you can – online, on the phone, or on the streets!

·         Monday 27th: We’ll hold a spoof Paralympic awards ceremony, hopefully with some very special guests…

·         Tuesday 28th: Pay a visit to your local Atos office – and maybe even take your protest inside!

·         Wednesday 29th: A coffin full of your messages about Atos will be delivered to its doorstep.

·         Thursday 30th: Phone jam! Let’s flood Atos with calls, and generate a Twitter-storm they can’t ignore!

Please tweet, share, blog, spread the word.

Organise locally – contact DPAC to be added to the list of events around the UK: mail@dpac.uk.net

For latest updates visit: http://www.dpac.uk.net/

The Closing Atos Ceremony – UK Uncut and DPAC To Close Down the Poverty Pimps!

On Friday 31 August, UK Uncut and DPAC will be shutting down Atos’ London HQ for the Closing ATOS Ceremony. Meet in Triton Square at 12:45pm for direct action and creative protest, with plenty of surprises…

From UK Uncut

Friday 31st August Atos HQ, Triton Square, London 12:45pm

Don’t let Atos be a winner at the Paralympic Games – join us for The Closing Atos Ceremony, the grand finale to Disabled People Against Cuts’ week of Atos Games.

Atos are sponsoring the Paralympics, whilst wrecking disabled people’s lives. George Osborne has vowed to slash £18 billion from the welfare budget, regardless of peoples’ needs and ignoring the alternatives. To help them do their dirty work, the Government are paying Atos £100 million a year to ‘test’ sick and disabled people and decide whether they’re ‘fit for work’. But Atos’ Work Capability Assessments are driving disabled people to suicide and over 1,000 people have died of their illnesses soon after being found ‘fit for work’.

The Government claim that the welfare system is being abused- this just isn’t true. Less than 0.4% of Incapacity benefit payments are fraudulent, but the government want to cut welfare spending by 20%. And instead of helping to get people into work, the government are closing workplaces for disabled people.

The Government and Atos don’t give a toss about disabled people. This is about making ordinary people pay for a crisis caused by the bankers. It’s about making disabled people pay, instead of super-rich tax dodgers who cost us over £25 billion every year. This is an ideological attack on the welfare state; these cuts are a political choice. But we’re fighting back.

On Friday 31 August, UK Uncut and DPAC will be shutting down Atos’ London HQ for the Closing ATOS Ceremony. Meet in Triton Square at 12:45pm for direct action and creative protest, with plenty of surprises…

The nearest fully accessible British Rail station is Kings Cross. From there, catch Bus 30 towards Marble Arch or Bus 205 towards Paddington from stop R or A, and get off at Warren Street, bus stop V.

Please email or text to let us know about your travel and communication support needs, and we will try our best to meet them: mail@dpac.uk.net, or text 07502 022 077.

We understand that issues which affect disabled people also affect the Deaf community, and British Sign Language will be available on the day.

This action needs you! Join for the afternoon, or come on your lunch break. There will be lots of ways to take part – hand out leaflets, hold banners, or get involved in creative and daring ways. If you’re not in London, check the DPAC website for details and other ways to get involved in The Atos Games.

Atos are making millions of pounds enforcing the government’s unnecessary cuts. It’s up to all of us to fight back, defend our welfare system, and demand the alternatives. Let’s show them that we do give a toss.

See you at Atos HQ!

Join the FB event to stay up to date with the plans

Five Days of Action Against Atos – 27th to 31st of August

From Disabled People Against Cuts

Join The Atos Games!

On your marks, get set…
for a week of Paralympic fun and games against Atos!

From Monday 27th to Friday 31st of August, join Disabled People Against Cuts for The Atos Games – five days of action against a company that’s sponsoring the Paralympics but wrecking disabled people’s lives.

We are calling on disabled people, disabled activists, families, colleagues, friends and supporters to come together and fight back against Atos’s attacks. Atos represents as dangerous an opponent as any government, law or barrier the disability movement has faced in its long history. It’s not just welfare, but our very identity and our place within society that is under attack.

And we are asking the whole of the anti-cuts movement to join us in our opposition to the company most responsible for driving through the government’s brutal cuts agenda. Let’s make it Games over for Atos!

We’re not against the Paralympics or the people taking part in it. We’re highlighting the hypocrisy of Atos, a company that soon may be taking disability benefits from the people winning medals for Team GB.

Ever since George Osborne announced he was slashing £18 billion from the welfare budget, the government has paid Atos £100 million a year to test 11,000sick and disabled people every week, then decide whether they’re ‘fit for work’.

Atos uses an inhumane computer programme to do the testing, and trains its staff to push people off benefits. The government has admitted the tests are flawed, and the British Medical Association wants them to end immediately.

But Atos continues to devastate people’s lives. Many have committed suicide because of its testing programme, and over 1,000 people have died of their illnesses soon after being found ‘fit for work’.

We won’t let them get away with murder, so join in The Atos Games however you can – online, on the phone, or on the streets!

·         Monday 27th: A coffin full of your messages about Atos will be delivered to its doorstep.
·         Tuesday 28th: Pay a visit to your local Atos office – and maybe even take your protest inside!
·         Wednesday 29th: We’ll hold a spoof Paralympic awards ceremony, hopefully with some very special guests…
·         Thursday 30th: Phone jam! Let’s flood Atos with calls, and generate a Twitter-storm they can’t ignore!
·         Then on Friday 31st, join us in London where we’re teaming up with UK Uncut for the Grand Finale – an audacious, daring and disruptive action. Last time we shut down Oxford Circus, this time we will be performing miracles…!

Please blog, tweet, share, spread the word!

Sanctions and Workfare May Await Remploy Workers

The Government’s brutal decision to throw disabled Remploy workers on the scrapheap is the latest attack on disabled people by the most hostile Government in living memory.  Maria Killer Miller, the Minister for Disability, yesterday confirmed the closure of 27 Remploy factories, meaning the loss of 1,700 jobs.

Shamefully several disability charities, such as Mencap, have backed the factory closures.  Charities claim the factories are old fashioned, as if their organisations, steeped as they are in Victorian paternalism, represent the cutting edge of social care.

This isn’t an argument about workplace segregation, which most people accept is not an ideal solution.  But if we lived in an ideal world then disability charities wouldn’t exist.  Society, meaning all of us, not government, would take care of the needs of everybody without busy-body middle class charity workers sticking their noses into people’s lives.

The debate over the Remploy closures is an argument about basic fucking humanity.  The question is simply whether disability charities are content to destroy the lives of almost 2000 workers in the name of non-existent inclusivity in the capitalist workplace.  And the answer to that is yes they are.

It is a sad fact that greedy employers discriminate against disabled people.  The cruel and unnecessary closures of the Remploy factories will not change that one bit.  All it will achieve is condemning 1,700 workers to the most brutal manifestation of the Welfare State possibly ever seen in a developed economy.

The charities supporting the closures have lucrative sub-contracts under the Work Programme, the scheme that is currently failing miserably at helping anybody find work.  Charities no doubt hope that former Remploy workers will be referred to them, where under threat of benefit sanctions they will be forced into often pointless and inane ‘job search’ activities.  Once again disability charities have pitted their own financial self-interest against the needs and opinions of disabled people.

These charities however may find themselves in for a shock.  Under the welfare system as it currently operates, many former Remploy workers will be forced into making an application for the sickness and disability benefit Employment Support allowance (ESA).  To do this they will need to attend a Work Capability Assessment (WCA) with poverty pimps Atos, a private company notorious for stripping benefits from as many disabled people as possible.

The WCA assumes that should a claimant demonstrate the ability to carry out any form of work then they should be placed on Job Seekers Allowance rather than ESA.  Remploy workers are likely to find their time as the factories is used against them to prove they are ‘fit for work’.

Far from languishing on sickness or disability benefits, these workers will then be forced into the brutal workfare and sanctions regime currently inflicted on those claiming unemployment benefits.  Jobcentre staff are not usually trained in disability issues. Disabled workers may find themselves sent on Mandatory Work Activity should a Jobcentre advisor decide they aren’t trying hard enough to find work.  With a savage irony, disabled people could find themselves forced to work without pay in one of the shops run by the very charities who supported the Remploy closures.

Should they not find a job quick enough – and research suggests that almost no-one finds work after being declared ‘fit for work’ – then under new rules they could be sentenced to up to six months workfare.

If, due to sickness or disability,they are not able to attend everyday, then they will face benefit sanctions, meaning loss of some or all vital support.  Should they not be able to show up to workfare three times then they could have benefits stopped for three years.

This is the hell that Liz Sayce, Chairperson of RADAR, who recommended the Remploy closures, has inflicted on disabled workers.  The worst case scenario is disabled workers being stripped of benefits and forced into poverty and quite likely homelessness.  As we have seen so many times in the benefits system, the worst case scenario very often turns out to be standard practice.  The Atos assessment system, under which people are judged ‘fit for work’ only to die of their conditions shortly afterwards, is testament to that.

The fight to save Remploy is not over.  Remploy workers have already voted to strike against the plans.  With even some sections of the right wing press opposed to the closures it is possible, of sadly unlikely, that the Government may back down.  Even if they don’t Remploy workers aren’t going anywhere without a fight which is a struggle we should all support.

https://www.facebook.com/SaveRemploy