Category Archives: ESA/Atos

Keep The Jobcentre Out Of The NHS – The Fightback Against The Health And Work Programme Starts Now! #donoharm

do-no-harm

Job coaches in GP Surgeries? No!

We call on GPs to #‎DoNoHarm.

Join DPAC, Boycott Workfare, Mental Health Resistance Network on

4 March, 3pm at the City Road Surgery, 190-196 City Road, London EC1V 2QH.

Groups supporting benefit claimants and disabled people are uniting for a protest on the 4th March following the news that Employment Coaches from shadowy US outsourcing company Maximus are to be stationed in GP surgeries in Islington.

The demonstration will take place outside City Road Medical Centre, one of six GP practices in the borough who have opted to take part in the DWP funded pilot scheme.  These surgeries will now have their own Employment Coaches drawn from the welfare-to-work industry who will provide the kind of Jobcentre harassment that disabled people and those with health conditions are already all too familiar with if they are unable to work.

The scheme has been devised by Islington Clinical Commissioning Group who oversee healthcare in Islington and is backed by the local Labour Council who say on their website that this service will create ‘jobs on prescription’.  Many claimants fear the reality could be benefit sanctions on prescription, as doctors are turned into a weapon to impose labour market discipline and bully unemployed, disabled or unwell people into low paid or unsuitable work.

GP referrals to Employment Coaches will not be compulsory to attend – yet.  But this pilot scheme forms part of a national strategy by Iain Duncan Smith to bring Jobcentres into the heart of the NHS.  A new Health and Work Programme is being planned, with the aim of slashing spending on already meagre sickness and disability benefits.  Even those with the most serious conditions may soon to be forced to prove they are constantly looking for work whilst the government are examining the possibility of compulsory treatment for some health problems.

Campaigners warn that any attempt to merge healthcare with the vicious benefit cutting agenda of the DWP will demolish the trust that exists between doctors and patients.  An activist from Disabled People Against Cuts warns that “many disabled people already feel they have to watch every word they say when seeing their GP in case it is used against them at some point to stop their benefits.   Placing Jobcentre funded staff in doctor’s’ surgeries could destroy the doctor/patient relationship and may lead to some people not accessing vital healthcare when they need it most.”

Perhaps most appalling is that the Employment Coaches in Islington are set to come from Remploy – once a government run service that provided jobs for disabled people – now sold off and turned into a privatised welfare-to-work company responsible for sanctioning disabled people’s benefits.  Remploy have become a subsidiary of Maximus – the same company who run the despised Work Capability Assessment used to declare that disabled people or those with a long term health condition are ‘fit for work’.  Maximus are also providers of the Work Programme, a Jobcentre scheme which involves compulsory training or workfare with brutal benefit sanctions inflicted for ‘non-compliance’.

At a time when some claimants have been driven to suicide by the constant bullying, assessments, threats and sanctions that now form part of the UK’s benefits system, there must be no place in the NHS for Jobcentre busy-bodies.  Disabled people, benefit claimants and supporters can and will defeat this appalling attack on the fundamental principle that healthcare professionals should ‘first do no harm’.  Join campaigners from DPAC, Mental Health Resistance Network and Boycott Workfare outside City Road Medical Centre, 190-196 City Road , London, EC1V 2QH on Friday 4th March from 3pm.  Please spread the word and make this huge!

An online protest will also be held for those unable to attend in person.  Watch this space for further details and in the meantime please tweet using hashtag #DoNoHarm

See the Facebook Event Page for more details and please support the Thunderclap – timed to go off just as the protest begins

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How Islington’s Labour Run Council Are Dancing To Iain Duncan Smith’s Tune

ids-laughing2

So the doctor says to their patient “I’ve got some good news, and some bad new.   The bad news is you’ve only got six months to live … but the good news is that I’ve found you a temporary job working in Poundland.”

You might have noticed that this joke is not very fucking funny.  But this is the dream of council bureacrats in one London borough who are developing a horrifying strategy for local healthcare which will see “employment viewed as a clinical outcome.”

Whilst the final plans for Iain Duncan Smith’s localised Health and Work Programme have not yet been released, the Labour dominated Borough of Islington are jumping aboard the gravy train early and have set up their own scheme to tackle what they call  ‘health-related worklessness’.  In a report published in 2014 the so-called Islington Employment Commission – a bunch of local employers, councillors, Jobcentre busy-bodies and a token TUC representative – called for radical change in the borough’s employment support strategy. Their proposals mirror almost exactly the current direction of Tory social security policy, even down to using the same words.

All young people should be ‘learning or earning’ according to the commission, a phrase first used by David Cameron when he announced the yet to materialise mass workfare programme for all those under 21.  They also claim that many long term sick or disabled people are not receiving enough employment support because “their benefit does not require them to look for work”.  And for those who do have to look for work as part of their benefit conditions, they say the support is not good enough, and they think they could do better.  In fact salaries depend on it.  As such they recommended establishing a local Health and Work Programme to make ‘maximising employment a priority’ for healthcare services.

Six months later Islington Council teamed up with Islington Clinical Commissioning Group who oversee local healthcare and ominously formed a partnership with Jobcentre Plus. The DWP were  only too happy to help and agreed to fund the salary of an Employment Lead worker to be based at the heart of Islington’s NHS services to “to drive employment outcomes through strategic health commissioning”.  What this means is money meant for healthcare will instead be shovelled into the hands of grasping welfare-to-work parasites with the aim of reducing “entrenched worklessness among residents with a health condition or disability in the borough.

One of the first moves, which is already sparking local outrage, is to introduce Employment Coaches into six GP’s surgeries in Islington.  These tax payer funded busy-bodies will come from Remploy who were recently sold off to giant US outsourcing company Maximus who already run many Jobcentre services. Doctors will be encouraged to refer patients for employment support with the same company who carry out the despised Work Capability Assessment used to stop disabled people’s benefits by finding them fit for work.  A company that has been the target of ongoing protests by disabled people and benefit claimants.  It is hard to imagine a bigger insult to disabled or long term sick people in Islington.  But then perhaps that is the point.

This is leafy, lefty Islington, and so there is lots of gushing talk about quality of life and creating living wage jobs in the proposals for the new scheme.  They don’t really mean it though.  In Islington Employment Commission’s report they discuss how some residents object to taking the first job they are offered because it might be unsuitable or low paid.  According to the commission local employers have told them this is not the case and that people should be prepared to take a job that isn’t perfect no matter how shit, just to get their foot on the ladder.  But then they would say that wouldn’t they. Islington’s Health and Work service is being designed with the needs of employers in mind, not local people.

As such, whilst evidence shows that low paid, insecure, or unsuitable work is bad for your health, doctors will still be encouraged to coerce their paients into taking these jobs.  And whilst Islington Councillors and healthcare bueracrats salve their consciences by telling themselves about all the wonderful opportunities they are creating for disabled people, their partners, Jobcentre Plus will provide the teeth – in the form of vicious and life destroying benefit sanctions – to ensure compliance.  Iain Duncan Smith must be pissing himself as the liberal elite dance to his tune in Jeremy Corbyn’s backyard.  If he can get away with this shit here, he will consider he can do it everywhere.  And that is why it must be stopped.

A protest has been called outside City Road Medical Centre, 190-196 City Road , London, EC1V 2QH on Friday 4th March from 3pm.  Please spread the word, more details on the facebook page.

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Big Disability Rides To The Rescue With Too Little Much Too Late

goofy-on-horse

In an unprecedented show of absolutely fuck all, members of the Disability Benefits Consortium – which includes some of the UK’s largest disability charities – have written a stern letter to Iain Duncan Smith asking him not to cut disabled people’s benefits.

In the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, due to be debated in the House of Lords next week, plans have been announced to slash some out of work sickness and disability benefits by almost a third.  New claimants in the so-called Work Related Activity Group, meaning people assessed as likely to be fit for work at some point in the future, will receive just over £70 a week – the same amount as those currently on the dole.  People in this group include those with degnerative or progressive diseases such as Multiple Schlerosis, Parkinson’s disease or cancer.  This vicious benefit cut is not being done to save money, but to ‘incentivise’ people to find a job.  It is about as vile as anything that Iain Duncan Smith has done so far, and he’s done a lot.

In response the Disability Benefits Consortium have written a letter, which only half of their members bothered to sign, and which was published in the Daily Mirror over the weekend.  Big fucking deal.

According to their website the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) is a “national coalition of over 60 different charities and other organisations committed to working towards a fair benefits system.”  They include Disability Rights UK, an organisation who have recently been handed a huge contract to work for Maximus – the shady US conglomerate who carry out the despised Work Capability Assessments which will be used to decide which disabled people face a benefit cut under the new rules.  Other charities involved in pretending to defend social security are MIND, RNIB, Leonard Chesire and Mencap – all of whom happily accepted lucrative sub-contracts to run Iain Duncan Smith’s  mandatory Work Programme which disabled people are forced to attend under the threat of vicious benefit sanctions.  Also on the list are the workfare supporting Papworth Trust, along with Age UK who in 2013 were accused of running a ‘workfare warehouse’ in East Sussex.  Citizen’s Advice, who welcomed the introduction of the Claimant Commitment under which unemployed people are forced into pointless jobsearch for 35 hours a week under threat of benefit sanctions, are also included in this fight for a fairer benefits system.

Despite the vast resources possessed by the 60 charities who make up the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), their website is hosted for free on wordpress.com.  It looks like someone knocked it up on a cheap smartphone during their fag break.  Last year this group of fearless campaigners made a total of 12 posts on their blog – and I thought I was getting slack.  According to the website they have not been arsed to contribute to a government consultation on welfare reform since 2012.

Compare this to the now defunct Disability Works campaign – launched with a glitzy House of Lords reception by many of the DBC charities and used to lobby the government to hand them juicy welfare-to-work contracts and you see the true priority of these organisations.  Money.

The very worst thing that could happen is big disability charities hijacking the fight against welfare reforms, although there is little danger of that.  The fucking awful Hardest Hit demonstration they organised in 2011 was little more then a march to protect disability charity funding, not disabled people’s benefits.  And it’s been downhill ever since.  For every statement released by charities condemning social security cuts a story emerges of them quietly sidling up to the DWP in the hope of lucrative contracts. Until disability charities form a united stance of complete non co-operation with this government then their words mean fuck all when their actions are complicit in destroying the lives of sick and disabled people.

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Keep Benefit Sanctions Out Of Healthcare, Protest This Week With Mental Health Resistance Network

no-forced-treatmentYou might have thought that Thamesreach, as one of London’s largest homelessness charities, would be savage in their criticism of the current housing policies at the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG).  You might have expected outrage at the extension of right to buy, the slashing of housing benefits and the decimation of council housing with secure tenancies and genuinely affordable rents.  You would have assumed, at the very least, they would have something to say about new rules being introduced which could see up to 95% of social housing sold in some boroughs.

Sadly however, Thamesreach have remained silent whilst the DCLG have gone about smashing up the social housing sector in London.  One reason for this compliance is likely to be the significant funding the department has given the charity to set up an Employment Academy in Southwark to combat so-called ‘worklessness’ amongst homeless people.

To be clear, anyone who uses the word ‘worklessness’ when they mean unemployment, is a cunt.  The only purpose of this term is to stigmatise those who cannot find a job and attempt to blame unemployed people for unemployment.  And Thamesreach use this nasty little slur over and over again in their gushing promotion of their latest tax-payer funded gravy train.

According to the charity their Employment Academy is “helping thousands of unemployed and economically disadvantaged people find employment in the capital.”  The truth is not quite so dramatic.  Elsewhere Thamesreach admit that just 114 people have found work through the project so far.  Which for s service which claims to have up to 1800 users a month is remarkably shit.

It is unclear how involved the DWP are in the Employment Academy although the charity do allude to a partnership with Jobcentres and the Work Programme.  Thamesreach are known for their cosy relationships with DWP Ministers including Iain Duncan Smith himself who recently visited one of their other projects in Streatham.  The charity are also notorious for their attacks on the most marginalised, such as supporting Westminster Council’s failed attempt to make it illegal to give food to homeless people, perhaps one of the pettiest and most spiteful laws proposed in recent history.  They were one of the first organisations to launch a high profile anti-begging campaign claiming that if you give money to homeless people it will kill them and have even been involved in closing down squats in co-ordination with the police and UK Border Authority.  Perhaps most astonishingly they support ‘encouraged’ repatriation of non-UK born homeless people as well as grassing up migrants who might be working illegally.

An organisation whose policies would not be out of place in the BNP’s manifesto can simply not be trusted at a time when the government is turning their attention to sick and disabled benefit claimants with the threat of compulsory treatment.  So it is alarming that Southwark Coouncil have recently decided to locate mental health services inside Thamesreach’s Employment Academy in the form of their Living Well Hub.  This follows a similar decision by Lambeth who faced protests after situating their Living Well Hub inside Streatham Jobcentre “where specialist mental health services operating alongside JCP (Jobcentre) staff are working together towards a common goal of improving health and well-being and helping people to get back to, or stay in, work.”  That’s according to Thamesreach by the way, who are also involved in the Lambeth hub.

A protest called by Mental Health Resistance Network is being held this week outside Thamesreach’s Employment Academy demanding that there should be no attempt to replace mental health treatment with benefits removal and sanctions.  It is vital to establish a line which must not be crossed, by local authorities, charities, welfare-to-work companies or any other organisation with their snout in the welfare reform trough.  The protest has already been a success – the launch party of Streatham’s Living Well Centre which was to coincide with the demonstration has already been called off.  Mental Health Resistance Network will be there anywhere, join them this Wednesday 9th December – meet at noon outside the Employment Academy, 29 Peckham Rd, London SE5 8UA or gather on Camberwell Green from 11.15am to march there together.  Please help spread the word.

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How The DWP Is Drafting In Doctors To Promote Iain Duncan Smith’s Warped Ideology

fit-note-guidanceAre you working hard enough?  Are you sure?  What if you get sick, or have an accident?  Are you prepared to go to work anyway, even if you don’t think it would be good for your health?  What if your doctor and boss agree you could do something other than your usual job instead of malingering at home?  Like making cups of tea all day, or cleaning the bogs, or any form of work your empoyer can dream up to force you not to take time off.  Because that is now the chilling reality as the DWP attempts to inject Iain Duncan Smith’s warped ideology into the NHS.

Last week the DWP issued patronising new guidance to GPs on when they should issue a Fit Note.  Doctors are warned of the dangers of ‘worklessness’ and told they must consider “the vital role that work can play in your patient’s health”.  According to the department, “the evidence is clear that patients benefit from being in some kind of regular work”.

This is an outright lie.  What the evidence says is that on balance most people might be better off working but the beneficial health effects depend on the nature and quality of that work.  In the report on which the DWP’s claims are based – a paper incidentally commissioned by the DWP themselves – the authors actually warn that “a minority of people may experience contrary health effects from work”. 

This study – called Is Work Good For Your Health and Well Being (pdf) – has formed the basis of government policy ever since the Labour administration launched the despised Work Capability Assessment for out of work sickness benefits in 2008.  It features a reasonably wide-ranging review of the evidence of the health risks and benefits of work and concludes that work, on balance, is better for most people’s health than unemployment but with important caveats.  These findings have been consistently misrepresented by politicians who have used them to claim that any kind of work is good for health, and that this applies to everybody.

The study found that in some cases – possibly 5-10% – unemployment can lead to improved health and well being.  It warns that negative health impacts of unemployment are “at least partly mediated through socioeconomic
status” – meaning it is not work that is good for you, but poverty that is bad for you.   The review points out that whilst the evidence is conflicting, shift work and long hours could have a weak negative impact on health.  It also finds that school leavers who move into ‘unsatisfactory’ employment can experience a
decline in their health and that economically secure people who retire early may experience beneficial effects on their health.   Even if this report is taken at face value – and it comes loaded with assumptions about the social and moral imperatives of work – all it shows is that work can be good for your health – but only if it’s a good quality well paid job.

If you are in low paid or insecure work then what your GP should tell you – based on the existing evidence – is to take a few days off if you aren’t happy or feel unwell.  Perhaps they should warn that you might be one of the 5 or 10% of people who are healthier if they are unemployed, despite the loss of income.  A more recent study carried out in Australia, and quoted on The Conversation, found that people “who moved into poor-quality jobs showed a significant worsening in their mental health compared to those who remained unemployed.”

What the new guidance to GPs is intended to do is impose workplace dicipline via the healthcare system.  Much like a seven day NHS is a health service for bosses, not patients, and likely to lead to pressure on workers not to book medical appointments in working hours, the Fit Note scheme is designed to bully people into the workplace even if they are sick.  That is why the guidance states that if GPs consider their patient could do any work at all, regardless of their usual job, then they should tick a box suggesting amended duties, or workplace adapatations rather than issue a full Fit Note.  And if doctors are too squeamish to treat patients this way then they are instructed to refer them to Maximus – the shadowy US conglomerate brought in carry out health assessments under the new Fit For Work scheme.

To help doctors decide what is best for their patients, or more correctly their patient’s employers, the new Fit Note guidance features case studies, with recommended courses of action that GPs should take.  They include an example of someone diagnosed with anxiety disorder who says that her work in customer services is giving her panic attacks and that she is too distressed to carry out her duties.  According to the DWP her doctor should first warn her that working is important for her mental health and “remind her that there are still other things that she can do – for example, physical tasks or back-room duties.”  This will help her feel more positive according to the department.  Then she should be referred to Maximus who will develop  a plan with her boss, such as sending her on a course to learn coping techniques, or doing quieter shifts.  And of course bosses, being always right and always reasonable, will not abuse this new power to force sick employees into the workplace.

Yet even the most bullying of bosses are to be accommodated according to the DWP.  Another case study features someone – a woman again – who complains that a poor relationship with her manager is causing her severe stress.  She says the manager has been ‘really horrible’ to her and she feels unable to cope.  Rather than raise any concerns about what seems to indicate workplace bullying however, her doctor is instructed to declare she does not have a health problem and she should speak to her human resources department, or union rep.  She should not be issued with a Fit Note and her GP should explain that they are “acting with her health interests in mind.”  It is better for her health to be bullied and abused in the workplace than be workless, even for a short while, according to the DWP.

The introduction of this guidance makes it clear that the scroungers vs scroungers narrative is now impeding on healthcare even amongst those who are not on benefits.  It is not hyperbole to suggest that the credibility of doctors is now at stake.  For too long the entire healthcare sector has remained silent whilst scientific evidence is distorted to further the ideology of modern capitalism and increase the power of employers over their staff.  Any GP who believes in evidence over rhetoric should tell Iain Duncan Smith to stick these guidelines up his fucking arse.  Anything else is a betrayal of the role of doctors as guardians of our health and well being.

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These Statistics Tell Us Fuck All But One Death Was Too Many

first-they-cameIf there’s one thing we can learn from the release of statistics examining the deaths of sickness benefit claimants it’s that most journalists writing about social security haven’t got a fucking clue what they are talking about.  Both The Guardian and The Daily Mail* reported this week that 2,380 people died within two weeks of being found Fit For Work by the DWP when in truth these people could have died anytime up to two years after their assessments.

The reason for this blunder – and that seems the wrong word given the subject matter, negligence might be better – is simply because they misunderstood the DWP’s garbled explanantion of how they collect data for statistical purposes.

Two statistical reports were reluctantly released by the government yesterday and both are equally confusing – and no doubt deliberately so.   The first is a report on the death rates of people on all out of work benefits and the second a response to the long-standing FOI by fellow blogger Mike Sivier asking about the deaths of claimants on Employment Support Allowance (ESA), the main out of work sickness and disability benefit.  Sadly neither of these documents tells us very much about the impact of the despised Work Capability Assessment, the crude benefit eligibility test which was introduced by the last Labour government, not Iain Duncan Smith.

The ESA statistics show the total number of people who have died whilst claiming the benefit, and of those how many had previously been found Fit For Work.  The key questions which are left unanswered are whether those judged ‘Fit For Work’ were more likely to die than the general population, and exactly what is meant by claimants who the report says were found Fit For Work but were also still on ESA at the time of their death.

According to the department, 2,380 people who had previously been found Fit For Work ended their claim for ESA because they had died.  Now this doesn’t seem to make any sense because they shouldn’t have had an ESA claim to end if they had been found Fit For Work.  However, as the DWP allude to in the report, those who appeal a Fit For Work decision may have their ESA claim re-instated whilst awaiting the outcome of that appeal – or at least they would have until Mandatory Reconsiderations were introduced in late 2013 but let’s ignore that because it only muddies the waters even more.

What this suggests is that those 2,380 deaths do not represent the total number of people who have died after being found Fit For Work , but only those who went on to appeal that decision and died before the appeal was heard.  Some people who didn’t appeal will have died as well, which means that the number of people who died after being found Fit For Work may be significantly higher than reported yesterday.  But without a clarification from the DWP on exactly who they are talking about we cannot be sure.

The statistics also report that there were 1,340 deaths amongst people who had completed an appeal against a Fit For Work decision.  The DWP do not tell us what the outcome of these appeals were, but given they were on ESA at the time of their death it seems reasonably certain they were successful.  This means that 1,340 people were found Fit For Work, subsequently appealed, won the appeal, got their benefits back, and then died.

These numbers sound shocking, but they still don’t tell us much.  As Ben Goldacre pointed out yesterday, without knowing the rate of deaths compared to the rest of the population – as in are people found Fit For Work at a benefit assessment more likely to die than a non-claimant – then we don’t really know much at all.  It is worth remembering that a large number of people claiming  ESA are nearing pensionable age.  There are many deaths amongst non-claimants in this age group as well.

Where Goldacre is wrong, despite his snide remarks about confused bloggers, is in assuming that we could establish the rate of deaths amongst those found Fit For Work by tracking them through other benefits they may be claiming.  DWP research shows that over half of those who lose ESA due to a Fit For Work decision disappear from the benefits system completely (pdf).  The DWP simply does not know what happens to them after that, including whether they are alive or not.

There are two interesting facts that can be gleaned from yesterday’s statistics however, one being that people in the Work Related Activity Group are over twice as likely to die as non-claimants.  These are those assessed as fit for some work, or being able to work at some point in the future, but who keep sickness benefits and cannot be forced to take a job.  The government has just announced that this group will soon be abolished with benefits slashed to the same rate as Jobseeker’s Allowance (the dole).  There is now clear statistical evidence that people in this group are significantly more likely to die than the general population.

The other surprising news is that people on Jobseekers Allowance are less likely to die than those not on benefits.  This is a consistent trend that is recorded as far back as 2003.  Care should be taken on how to interpret this, but it surely demands further research.  Sadly with the government, charities, think-tanks and the health establishment all currently obsessed with the flawed notion that work is good for your health, we are unlikely to see any.

Iain Duncan Smith is a fetid piece of shit but he didn’t invent death.  And we shouldn’t attempt to conjure up thousands of deaths to show why current social security policies are causing horrifying suffering.   The massive growth in the use of foodbanks, soaring malnutrition cases in hospitals, rocketing homelessness – these all tell their own story about what is going on in the lives of the poorest.  As do the ever-growing number of coronors reports and anguished stories from relatives about deaths that we know for sure are linked to failures of the benefits system.  There should be no assumption that just because tens of thousands of people have not been killed by Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms then that makes everything okay.  Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, have had their lives turned into a miserable and daily battle for survival and that is an atrocity.  The Work Capability Assessment needs to be brought to an immediate end, one death was far too many.

UPDATE 29/08/15  Both The Guardian and The Daily Mail have added an amendment to these stories, with the Mail seeming to clarify that the Fit For Work deaths were people going through the appeals process.

For the sad list of those we know have died due to failures of the benefits system visit: http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2014/10/21/uk-welfare-reform-deaths-updated-list-october-21st-2014/

Above pic from here

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Iain Duncan Smith Is Still A Fucking Idiot – And Only We Can Stop Him

Incapacity Benefit for new claimants will go, replaced by Employment and Support Allowance with the emphasis on what a person with a physical or mental health condition can do, rather than what they can’t.

Peter Hain, Labour Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, 2007

We need a system focussed on what a claimant can do and the support they’ll need – and not just on what they can’t do.

Iain Duncan Smith, Conservative Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, 2015

It’s just the same old shit, over and over again, whichever bunch of bastards is in charge.  The above two comments were made almost a decade apart and in that period the number of people claiming out of work sickness benefits has barely changed.  And why would it?  In any society there will be some people who cannot work due to illness or disability and as the pension age gets ever higher then that number as a percentage of the workforce will grow.

There is nothing unusual or unexpected about this.  Whoever you are reading this, one day you will get sick and then you will die.  If you are lucky this will not happen until you have reached retirement.  If not then you will be helped on your way to an early grave by politicians desperate to cover up for their failure to provide enough jobs by blaming unemployed, sick and disabled people for unemployment.

Iain Duncan Smith’s speech yesterday was a masterclass in this deception, but everything he said has been said before.  So out of ideas is the Secretary of State that he is now misrepresenting the entire process for claiming sickness benefits – pretending it is a binary system which “decides that you are either capable of work or you are not”.  This is simply an outright lie and he knows it.  Currently claimants are assessed as being fit for work, unable to work, or placed in the Work Related Activity Group which means capable of some work, or of being able to work in the future.  In the recent budget George Osborne declared that this group is to be scrapped, creating precisely the binary system that Iain Duncan Smith says he opposes.  Perhaps he hopes we won’t notice.  Perhaps even he hasn’t noticed.

The UK does not spend significantly more on out of work sickness and disability benefits than other comparable economies.  According to the OECD we spend a fraction more than Poland as a percentage of GDP on ‘incapacity’ – and less than Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Israel, Belgium. Luxembourg, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and the Netherlands.  It is true as Iain Duncan Smith said yesterday that the UK spends more than France, Germany and Japan.  In humane society this would be a source of pride.  Or at least it would be until you found out that Germany spends over three times as much on unemployment benefits whilst France and Japan – where the retirement age is lower – both spend almost double what the UK spends on pensions.  And the incapacity spending figures by the way come from 2011, before most of Iain Duncan Smith’s benefit cuts had been implemented.

Only an astonishing degree of self-delusion could explain Iain Duncan Smith’s latest belief that more workfare, more assessments, and more benefit cuts will magically cure those unable to work because of illness.  But then he is deluded.  That’s why he could claim yesterday that  “The Work Programme is … the most successful back to work programme we’ve ever seen.”  That’s the Work Programme that has seen less sick and disabled people enter employment than it was estimated would have done if the scheme hadn’t existed.  Hundreds of millions of pounds spent on making things worse.  This is what Iain Duncan Smith calls a success.

Rarely, if ever, has such a fucking idiot been given so much power over so many people’s futures.   If the human cost were not so great then the best response would be to point and laugh.  But we can’t do that, not as millions of lives are destroyed.  If society means anything at all it means looking after each other and that means driving Iain Duncan Smith back into the sewer he crawled from before he can do anymore damage.  No-one should stand idly by now.  We need to be relentless as he is, to wake up every day with one thought on our minds – to destroy Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms before they destroy us.

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