Sunday, March 20, 2011

Welfare To Darkness Rolls In


Will the suicide rates go higher when the ESA muds swamp in ?

As from March 28th the ATOS doctors will be busy re-assessing

Of course it has been coming for years - "REFORM" - the Incapacity Benefit figures were attacked as too high and those bad ol' shirkers out there were just swinging the lead and refusing to be the working class on dog wages . Of course not only were many disabled but they could not compete with the 1 million Poles and few others and many who lived 15 or twenty to a house thus knocking down the rent for each other in London areas.

The truth is fraud was never that high but overblown with the media 's old/new workless class prejudice. The dreamy newspapers - fanning flames about and other media just bolstered the ridiculous growth of the middle classes on the back of New Labour bureau-land for 13 years - after quite a few years of the Tories kidding everyone you could magically earn enough for the country by making up the GDP gap with "financial services" .... Oh dear ... Not to worry David Freud ex-banker is here and his plans started in the Tony & Gord Labour years . So is it dark and collectively unconscious therapy for everyone and death for quite a few - who will finally not cope ? Britain loves to re-invent its victorian cruelty doesn't it ?

Well a bunch of Mental Health "hacktivists" in London have put a letter out to the Guardian ... You know the Guardian that did so much to seriously criticise the years when the Sainsbury Centre For Mental Health was heroically leading the charge on "Work for all" in mental health and "Inclusion" ..... Oh dear .... Its all inclusion on the plank now in the Coalition sea of cuts and choppy policies ... But over to some MH Users who feel its worth writing to the Guardian and its networks of socially manipulating classes .

"March 2011


Dear Editor,

We believe that the manner in which long term benefit claimants with mental health problems are being reassessed for work will result in suicides. As Work Capability Assessments (WCAs) for existing claimants are being rolled out nationally, the system is already in a state of chaos, particularly in relation to mental health claims. Amidst this chaos, the Mental Health Resistance Network has been formed by people who live with the reality of mental health problems, to demand an immediate end to this cruel and unfair method of assessing fitness for work. WCAs are no more than a smokescreen to conceal drastic cuts to benefits for people in mental distress. We are compelled to speak up as we hear friends talk of suicide as they face the loss of their only realistic source of income.

The previous government allowed the press to prepare the public for this onslaught against the disabled by remaining silent for several years as endless stories about benefit cheats appeared in the tabloids and right wing press. Rumours emerged suggesting that they were behind the press having access to individual benefit cheat stories. The same press now cites the high number of people being found fit for work as proof that we were cheats all along, easing the way for the Coalition to return the UK to pre Welfare State conditions, thus fulfilling a long standing Tory ambition. This will remove a hard won safety net from many ordinary people should they become too ill to work.

We want to set the record straight. The reason the huge, international IT company, Atos Origin, is finding so many people fit for work is that the criteria to qualify for disability benefits has changed to a point where it excludes a huge number of sick and disabled people. Furthermore, the assessments don’t take enough account of existing evidence in support of a claim, especially where a fluctuating condition requires a longer view. This process has nothing to do with benefit fraud: these changes are about reducing the welfare bill in a country that has, over the past thirty years, been dominated by an ethos of ‘self interest and damn the rest’. If only as much effort could be put into assessing the tax liabilities of the rich!

At a time when unemployment has passed 2.5 million and competition for jobs is fierce, we worry that we will be consigned to the poverty of long term dependence on Job Seekers Allowance, working for meagre benefits and constant pressure to prove we are looking for work we will never find or be able to sustain if we do find it.

We are keen to see any initiative that would enable people with mental health problems enter into, and maintain, meaningful employment: subjecting us to defamation, indignity, fear, disengagement from services and poverty is not such an initiative.

Professor Harrington, appointed to carry out annual reviews of the WCA, will focus on how it deals with mental health conditions this year as he acknowledges that this is currently inadequate. So how many claimants with mental health problems will be assessed before it becomes adequate?

The high rates of successful appeals are evidence that Atos is failing, no doubt at huge cost to the country. Frantic efforts are now taking place to reduce the number of appeals, ranging from DWP employees making phone calls to explain to unsuccessful claimants why the decision was right, to decision makers and Atos doctors scouring through live appeals to carry out reassessments, i.e. mini tribunals minus the appellant. Later this year, advice and Legal Aid will be withdrawn from claimants.

The whole process can take the best part of a year for a distressed claimant who is placed on a lower rate of benefit while they wait. No sooner has someone won their appeal than they are recalled for another WCA in a matter of a few months to start the whole process again. The distress for claimants going through this process cannot be overstated and this is happening at a time when mental health services, which provide vital support, are being slashed.

Subjecting vulnerable people to such an ordeal constitutes abuse. Please bring this to an end now.

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