Iain Duncan Smith is proud of this

Iain Duncan SmithIain Duncan Smith says:

This government has embarked on one of the most aggressive programmes of welfare reform Britain has ever seen, and we already have a proud record of achievement. There is no doubt that changes to the welfare state are desperately needed. Our reforms will put an end to people being left on sickness benefits year after year; they will eradicate the trap that has left so many better off on benefits than in work; and they will ensure the benefits bill is sustainable over the longer term.

For example, someone like Steve, permanently disabled since an accident thirteen years ago:

I suffer from fibromyalgia, depression, severe pain in the lower back and neck and constantly have to have pain relief. My left leg is useless as a leg, and will if I don’t watch it get caught under my own wheelchair wheels as I’m not always aware of where it is. My right leg is better but standing upright, for even a few seconds’ causes a massive increase in pain then, I collapse and have even passed out.

I have an adapted bungalow with a ramp access and a mobility adapted car. I do not work as to spend more than four hours out of bed reduces me to tears because of the increase in pain.

IDS wants to “eradicate the trap” of Steve being able to cope on benefits.

As part of IDS’s “proud record of achievement”, housing benefit and council tax benefit has been reduced by 22.5%, leaving Steve and his family with an extra £14.50 to find per week.

So, where is this money coming from? Well, after a review of our budget (and we have run a budget for years to keep control of spending) we found that the only area we had so far not cut down on was food. We already do not have any heating on in the house except Sue has a ‘Calor Gas’ heater for which she makes two bottles of gas last her the whole autumn winter and spring. I have not had heating in my bedroom for five years. I just pile on extra covers on my bed to keep warm and wear mittens (fingerless gloves) to keep my hands warm when using the computer.

So, as I am the member of our small family who is benefiting from having the extra bedroom I am going to take a cut in my food. I have devised a plan to bring my weekly food bill down to just £12.71, Which includes all my food, hot drinks and a bottle of flavoured water a day.

Of course, if they decide to cut any more of my benefits then cutting down on my food will be well, a little difficult! I have effectively, reduced my food budget by half to pay to keep a roof over Sue and my heads.

Iain Duncan Smith is proud of that.

I don’t apologise for attempting to do what previous governments have shied away from, bringing in major changes to make the welfare state fair to both the people who use it and the taxpayers who pay for it. We have been ambitious and will continue to push ahead with these reforms, but we will do so in a safe and responsible way.

The kind of thing IDS thinks is “safe and responsible”: Annemarie Campbell was in an emergency renal ward receiving a blood transfusion to try to save her last working kidney:

A member of the jobcentre’s staff phoned her and asked when she could attend her work-focussed interview. When Campbell told her she was in the middle of a blood transfusion, the adviser asked her if she could fetch her consultant.
Campbell said: “When I was getting the blood transfusion it was trying to prolong my kidney and make me live a bit longer.
“I was on the phone being upset all the time, constantly trying to explain myself. They were pushing me to go back to work, constantly phoning me and writing to me.”
Five days after the transfusion, she told her consultant that she was going back to work, as a result of the DWP harassment.

Iain Duncan Smith says:

Questions have been raised about whether the dramatic pace of our reforms is too difficult to implement. But these doubts ignore my department’s proven track record of delivering change and show a lack of ambition from the people raising them. Look at what has already been achieved.

Annemarie Campbell’s kidney failed. She blames constant stress from the JobCentre chasing her to attend “work focussed interviews” to get her to return to work. All part of Iain Duncan Smith’s proud record of achievement.

Let’s be clear: while ATOS carries out the tests and interviews and produces the reports that ensure someone with a failing kidney having regular dialysis is deemed “fit for work”, ATOS themselves point at the Department of Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith’s fief.

Doctor Greg Wood worked for ATOS for two years and resigned over being ordered to change a report against his medical judgement and ethical professional obligations:

[Wood]’s patience ran out when he was instructed by his line manager – the clinical performance lead – to reduce the number of points awarded to a claimant with serious mental health problems.

“It was clearly wrong, medically,” [Dr Wood] says. “I had more mental health experience than most of the staff at Atos; I was supposed to be a lead on it. The two people who were telling me to change my report weren’t. I had seen the person; they hadn’t. She had chronic psychotic illness, going back about 20 years, in and out of hospital, on very strong medicines. Talking to her, she couldn’t concentrate, she rambled, she had some odd ideas about things. A classic example of an only partially treated, chronic psychotic person. She fully deserved points. I was specifically told to amend the report. It wasn’t: ‘You ought to think about changing it’. I was sent two emails both telling me: ‘You need to amend the report’,” he says.

Greg Wood also notes that ATOS trainers were giving deliberately misleading information about the printed regulations, ensuring that medical staff who followed the training guidance – or directives from their line manager – were more likely to find people fit for work than a purely medical perspective would judge:

The trainer gave quick rule-of-thumb guidance on several areas of the test, which he believed deliberately traduced the more nuanced written instructions in the assessors’ handbook on five critical areas, so that assessors were less likely to award points to claimants. He thinks the guidance is “plain wrong” in the five areas of: mobility, manual dexterity, continence, personal action, and risk.

With regard to continence, we know that ATOS has told people who have a risk of incontinence to “wear a nappy for work”. Iain Wright, MP for Hartlepool, gave an example to the Commons on 17th June:

Another woman in my constituency—let us call her Mrs M—left school at 16 and worked diligently for 33 years. She paid her taxes. She was made redundant a couple of years ago at just the time that she was starting to suffer from ill health. Mrs M suffers from Crohn’s disease, which has led to severe diarrhoea, incontinence and abdominal pain. She has had surgery to remove a large section of her bowel, but the symptoms are getting worse. As Members may know, there is no cure for Crohn’s disease. Mrs M will not recover. There will be a gradual and irreversible increase in the severity and frequency of her symptoms. Mrs M is a proud and dignified woman who is embarrassed by her condition. She wants to do nothing more than work, but is unable to do so. She suffers from about two bouts of diarrhoea a day, for which she has no more than a second’s notice, and she cannot leave the house unaccompanied.

Mrs M was assessed as having 15 points with limited capability for work. Her assessment and appeal were degrading, insensitive and unprofessional. She was described throughout her appeal notes as a man. Incorrect dates and fictitious telephone calls were placed on her files—in other words, lies. Mrs M was told that she could wear a nappy for work. What sort of country have we become? What sort of ethical values do the Government have, if that is the degrading and crass way in which decent, law-abiding constituents of mine are being dealt with?

But Iain Duncan Smith is proud of this. An Atos spokeswoman said:

all training delivered to Atos practitioners was reviewed and approved by the Department for Work and Pensions. “A practitioner will only be asked to amend their report if there are quality problems identified within it. There is no ethical conflict in advising a doctor that aspects of their work require further attention to meet the standards expected; indeed, quality audit and feedback is a key aspect of all good medical practice.”

But as Doctor Greg Wood notes, the General Medical Council makes it clear that doctors must not change a report: they risk being disciplined for unprofessional conduct if they do. But medical professionals working for ATOS sign the Official Secrets Act. And because ATOS is a private company, not a government department, it is not subject to Freedom of Information laws.

Iain Duncan SmithIain Duncan Smith boasts:

Questions have been raised about whether the dramatic pace of our reforms is too difficult to implement. But these doubts ignore my department’s proven track record of delivering change and show a lack of ambition from the people raising them. Look at what has already been achieved.

Indeed. Look.

June Mitchell - declared fit for work in June, diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in September, benefits never reinstated, died thousands of pounds in debt.
June Mitchell – declared fit for work in June, diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in September, benefits never reinstated, died thousands of pounds in debt.


Filed under Benefits, Disability, Poverty

4 responses to “Iain Duncan Smith is proud of this

  1. The only word that describes this kind of degrading treatment of suffering fellow humans is ‘persecution’. Its what the Nazi’s did to the disabled, gypsies and Jews. Our grandfathers fought and many died to put a stop to it. Now we have a government stuffed full of men who claim to be proud to be doing the same. I’m thoroughly ashamed to be British.

  2. Pingback: Frontline Friday 2nd August 2013: Our favourite frontline blogs this week

  3. P.A Rodger

    Hi. I am doing some research for comedian/activist Mark Thomas, who is hoping to put a bit of an anti-Atos event together as part of the Fringe in Edinburgh. would you be interested in taking part? do you have any links to any anti-Atos groups in Edinburgh? Trying to put something together in a short space of time as please get back to me ASAP

  4. your article fails to mention that,.
    if you fail your exam and then get taken off the sick, your subject to sanctions while you wait for appeal, they say 20% of your benefit but the reality is more like 60%. i for instance currently get £205 per 2 weeks. £57 single person allowance and £43.50 because i am sick per week. when i am sanctioned on the 11th of October 2013 i will get a grand total of £96 per 2 weeks and will have to try and live on that paying for my utilities/ food and council tax. the dwp say, claim JSA but if you cant manage. but that would be fraud on my part. you would also loose any backdated money they have taken from you, because if your not on the sick your not entitled to claim it back.

    that being said you then have the tribunal the last 3 of which i have won. but this time they’re gonna haul me up in front of atos for another exam within 5 months of the tribunal decision which means by the same time next year i will be in the same position again. trying to live on next to nothing for 6 months while i wait for another tribunal. when previously it would have been about 3.5 years. currently there is no medical treatment for me to stop the pain, the meds i take make me a danger in the work environment as well as irritable and unsociable. yet im deemed fit for work and will be consistently while this harassment is allowed to continue.

    i had an accident, thats wasn’t my fault but i get punished and called a scumbag, leech and so on by the government and its crony’s. i may well be a burden on society but its not by choice even if the government would have the tax payer believe so…

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