Tuesday 17 April 2012

Guest post: Personal Independence Payment – The Next Great Welfare Train Crash

This is a guest post from @johnnyvoid and originally appeared here.

Banner with 'cuts kill' painted on in red
Brutality combined with incompetence are becoming the hallmark of the current Tory administration and the plans to abolish Disability Living Allowance (DLA) are riddled with both. The Government is driving ahead with their plans to replace DLA with the new Personal Independent Payment (PIP). The aim of this is to strip benefits from a fifth of disabled people.

This will be achieved by using an independent medical assessment as the key part of the decision making process when considering a claim for the new benefit. That assessment will be carried out by a private company.

We already have an effective model of how the new scheme might operate. The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is a short computer test carried out by French IT firm Atos which is used to determine eligibility for the out of work sickness and disability benefit Employment Support Allowance. For everyone other the Government and Atos themselves, it has been an unmitigated disaster. The constant assessment and re-assessment regime has driven an increasing number of people to take their own lives. A recent Daily Mirror investigation found that 32 people a week die after being declared ‘fit for work’ by Atos. Around 40% of appeals against Atos’ decisions are successful and the appeals system is in meltdown due to the number of cases being brought.

Despite some tampering around the edges due to a recent review of the process, there are no plans to abolish or significantly reform the WCA. This should serve as a stark warning to people facing the new PIP testing regime. The Government are happy with Atos the way things are. Lots of people are losing their benefits. That was always all they wanted.

The stated agenda of PIP is to remove benefits from 20% of disabled people. All other mealy mouthed attempts at reform are secondary to this. It will be down to the private sector to carry out this cull. In many ways the PIP process will be identical to the WCA. It may yet even be Atos who carry out the assessments.

This will not only prove traumatic for the people forced to undergo demeaning health tests, but will bring devastating social costs. The Government’s plan that “entitlement will depend on the person’s circumstances and the impact of their health condition or disability on their everyday lives” is vague and open to all kinds of interpretation.

How it will be measured in practice is anyone’s guess. Given it’s the private sector who will be carrying out the bulk of the work the answer is likely to be the cheapest way possible. It will be difficult to imagine how, for example, being in full time work can be ignored by any assessment. Under the WCA claimants who have admitted to watching Eastenders have had it used against them as evidence of being ‘fit to work’. It is therefore very likely that having a job will come to be seen as a disqualifying criteria for claiming PIP, if not formally but as a reality of people’s experiences. This may not be the Government’s intention, but in practice it seems unavoidable.

Atos, as well as human rights abusers G4s and private sector sharks Serco, are some of the companies believed to be bidding for the PIP contract. They should be warned it is a thoroughly poisoned chalice. Atos have already seen their reputation destroyed by the WCA, with the name of their company becoming a dirty word. This will seem trivial should they take on the PIP Assessments.

DLA is a non means tested benefit designed to help people meet the additional costs of disability or ill health. In many ways it should be seen as an adjunct to the NHS rather than a benefit comparable to those paid to people unable to work. DLA is used for things like additional transportation costs, specialist equipment or personal care. For many working disabled people these things are essential to help them remain in work. As Disability Rights UK have recently pointed out (PDF), the removal of DLA from over half a million people may drive many into unemployment.

People currently claiming DLA include doctors, lawyers, journalists and MPs. Whilst those claiming out of work benefits are by their very nature economically disempowered (in that they don’t have jobs and are forced into the poverty of the benefits system) many DLA claimants are highly skilled professionals. We could face the unedifying spectacle of Doctors having their health and disability needs assessed by the two bit NHS rejects at Atos. Disabled legal professionals may yet be forced into the appeals system and are likely to prove ferocious. Any company which takes on the PIP contract will face unprecedented resistance at grass roots level, from people in some cases far more qualified than their own assessors. It will be doctors, lawyers and journalists lining up alongside benefit claimants to take action against the companies concerned.

Imagine becoming public enemy number for not just the three million plus DLA claimants, but their friends, families and carers. People with many more skills and resources to fight than those on out of work benefits. Every mistake, appeal or careless remark by an assessor will be scrutinised. Assessment centres and other business sites could find themselves thronged with disabled protesters. An avalanche of legal challenges seems almost inevitable.

It is possible that on the ground a two tier process will develop. Disabled doctors and lawyers may be informally waved through the process in the hope they won’t make too much fuss. Can we honestly believe that David Blunkett or a Paralympian Gold Medal winner will face the same kind of scrutiny as an out of work disabled single mum living on a Council Estate?

The alternative is that the PIP assessment will become an unofficial ‘means test’. Those in work, or able to lead more active lives, may find themselves punished as any sign of independence is used against them. However the upcoming farce plays out it will prove catastrophic not just for disabled people themselves but for the wider credibility of the system.

As we have seen under the WCA regime, there will be more suicides, more appeals and more people having conditions made worse by the stress of endless testing. The Government says that only in very few cases will PIP be awarded for life. This will mean for example, that people who may have lost a limb will be forced back to continual re-assessments, presumably to check it hasn’t sneakily grown back.

Despite lurid headlines DLA is not an easy benefit to qualify for. A wealth of medical information is required, from GPs, consultants and other health professionals. As with the WCA, this is likely to become secondary to the short assessments carried out by private companies. As more disabled people are forced into poverty it will be down to Local Authorities and the NHS to pick up the slack. Just like so much of this Government’s Welfare Reform, it may yet cost more money to go down this road than simply leaving things as they are.

The Government are currently consulting on the changes and you can make your feelings heard here. If past consultations are anything to go by then don’t expect them to listen. The over privileged tory toffs have made their intentions well and truly clear. Don’t think that this scum will shed any tears for those driven into poverty or even suicide by these changes. As Maria Miller, the Minister for Disabled People has already said, the cost of disabled people is simply ‘unsustainable’. That tells us everything we need to know about this Government’s attitudes towards sickness and disability.

Join the growing protests against Welfare Reform including action called in Central London by Disabled People Against Cuts on the 18th April (tomorrow!).


  1. This link http://www.leftfootforward.org/2012/04/welfare-reform-under-scrutiny/
    will take you to a good analysis of why taking DLA awa from so many of us could cost far more than it saves. Maybe the scum putting us down will listen to hard money facts?

  2. Please don't misquote either the Daily Mirror or the original statistics - they actually say "We don't know how many people died after being found "fit to work", the third group, as that information was "not available".

  3. In respect of the current situation. I shall go when called for the "Reassessment" with a smile on my face,
    as the ones doing this (DWP/DSS) have dropped the ball big time. I receive DLA of both kinds at Lower Rate to get me around and help with my personal care. I Qualified under the rules for IB after a JCP Quack deemed me unfit for work. Now, How can I be deemed fit for work by One Office of Employment Yet deemed Unfit for work by Another?
    Answers on a post please (take as long as you like, the employment officers put me on IB - and are still arguing whether or not I should still be on it!!!)

  4. Im a mum of 4, in 2000 i had a mental meltdown, easyist and politest way too put it. also during child birth my lower spine was damaged in 3 places and this was not discoverd untill the birth of my other child.the help i recieved fro postnatal depression attachment disorder and bpd from day dot was sparadic. I will add that up untill 2000 i worked a 102h a week shift patten. if i needed cash i did more shifts simple as, had a birthdefect correction for 12 months and had to claim help then but other than that from when i left school i have worked did not care what it was as long as it paied my bills and got me buy. then my life changed all of a sudden i went from being "normal" to a movie depickted person in a mental ward. i did not ask for it and it does not go away im now stuck with the mental heath issues for life. every day is a battle, i have too fight too prove i deserve the right to live the rite too have a say the right to be a mum the right to have finachal help the right to a disability car i could go on and on. sinnce all the new stuff came out. i recieved nothing then poof last week the new limited capapability for work form arrived! over the last 10 or so years with hardly any mental heath help as this countries system for mental people is have some pills and go away.this form appears Im not stupid or thick i can read write, have qualifies to a high standard in security guarding ( even got a comondation and plaque for my work) im also a merit dimplom nursery nurse. not that id be allowed to do any of these professions again with my mental health history.oh and i have 11 good G.C.S.E.'s. this new form tries too catch you out and trap you on every page on every question. its devious and very unjustified. over the time i have been ill i have filled several of these forms in, but this one is special its designed too throw you off and un hinge you. if you turn up for the appointment you have failed if you dont you have failed. it is scaring the hell out of me and its affecting my mental state soo much im worried over the last 10 or so years i have had too prove im a good mum too my children because social services dont like mental heath issues. i have had too prove and fight for the right to survive too life to try and be me with extra wobblie bits. what they are doing is parramount too murder. if they send me back too work, i dont want too think about the possibilities. i do know i never want too get back too the very dark place i was in 2000 and i dont want my family too suffer. i cant controll what is going to happen too me if they say your fit too go to work off you go.i know im likly too lose the plot again break again lose what little life i have scraped back from insanity again and there is a high possibility i would hurt someone. i dont want that i say controlled in my bubble with my routeens to live how i can now and im happy im living its not roses and sunset but im alive and i have love and support from my family and children. they forse this on not only me but others who dont have any help and they are going to have blood on there hands. these reforms are killing people and will continu to do so and it will end up with some one flipping and taking innocents with them. this is not the way too save money.this is not humanly right what they are doing . yes please stop the ones who cheat the system but not thoese who need this life line like me and many others PLEASE!!

    1. I too have mental health problems and have just had my appeal to receive ESA changed in my favour. This favourable response was mainly due to the wonderful assistance of my local MIND service who dealt with the appeal on my behalf, helping me with forms and letters. I would strongly advise you to contact your local MIND offices so they can help you deal with the Limited Capability for Work forms and advise you on how to deal with any DWP interviews that you have to attend. I would also like to wish you the very best and I hope you continue to overcome your illnesses problems and go from strength to strength in the future.

  5. My sister was called into one of these interviews as when younger she had a mental breakdown and was given shock treatment against the family wishes and it has left her brain damaged as when they gave her this shock treatment they triggered a heart attack as well. On this interview the Woman brought in a man who they said was a Nurse but didnt produce any ID and wanted my Sister to strip naked and also do an internal exam which she refused to do as her disability is through the damage to her brain and has nothing to do with her private bits down below. The woman then told my Sister that because she refused she was going to turn her down for all her benefits which is scare bullying tactics. My Sister has reported this to her own GP but I wonder if anyone else has had this done to them.

  6. To anonymous above

    Please report this to your MP, Atos Complaints and the GMC and the RCN your local newspaper and nayone else you can think of.

    This is clearly abusive - and meant to be. If the doctor required an internal exam for any reason, they should have been capable of doing that themselves and not need to call in a nurse. Patients have the right to refuse an intimate exam by a male nurse or doctor under normal circumstances
    But obviously in this case it would apppear to obviously not be needed in any case Especialy when ATOS' mantra is that it is not the condition that matters but how it affects your "function" So what use would an internal exam serve? There is also obvioulsy no need to strip completely naked for an internal exam.

    I have heard of another similar case on another site. the woman had had a breakdown because she had been raped. the male HCP insisted on doing an internal exam despite her panicking and crying hysterically - (of no medical use or need so long after the event) She left the room in such a state the desk staff had to call a taxi to take her home. He then passed her fit to work, saying she no longer had mental health problems as she had let him touch her.

    Please do report this. These people must not be allowed to get away with this. Ask your GP what she intends to do about this also. GPs are being far too complicit in the outright abuse of their patients over these test and must also be held responsible for taking no action.

  7. The similarities between the current sanctions being forced upon us disabled people is very akin to Hitlers policies in nazi germany.
    1.after the invasion of poland Jews were made wear a star and make themselves available for German industry without question at Germanys request and they could not refuse.
    2.In our situation we are stigmatised and humiliated in the same fashion by attending sham medicals and being forced into labour regardless of wether we are able or not,in Nazi germany people were worked till they died.Very similar situation and i ask anyone to point out the difference.
    3.Disabled people in Nazi germany were picked up and put through awful medical examinations BY DOCTORS and believe it or not they had an advantage over us disbaled in 2012 as some of the people examining us have not a medical qualification to their names. 4.During the war in Germany people often informed on their jewish/disabled neighbours in order to protect themselves.In this current system you will get people informing on those who have passed the medical by someone who failed it and then jealousy sets in.
    5.When Hitler came to power in germany the country was in economic turmoil in 1933 and when this silly government came into power we were in the same situation.
    6.Our beloved Royal familys links with nazi germany
    They include Philip aged 16 at the 1937 funeral of his elder sister Cecile, flanked by relatives in SS and Brownshirt uniforms.
    Another picture shows his youngest sister, Sophia, sitting opposite Hitler at the wedding of Hermann and Emmy Goering
    Sophia's husband, Prince Christoph of Hesse, became chief of Goering's secret intelligence service and they were frequent guests at Nazi functions.
    8.Ok we will not be executed but by removing the benefits us disabled people NEED for things like getting your grass cut,washing the windows,house cleaning,washing your clothes,buying vitamains we used to get on the NHS but they were cut so now we must buy them,extra bedding etc for those of us with incontinence issues,taxis to take us to hospital or doctors appointments for those of us unable to drive.
    WCA Outcome at most recent assessment and number of claimants with a recorded date of death
    Assessment not complete 1,600
    Work Related Activity Group 1,100
    Support Group 5,300
    Total 8,000
    10.Whilst waiting on appeal those of us with arthritic conditions now on the assesment rate simply cannot afford to live and buy the vitamins we need that ease the pain a bit.For some of us its either eat and suffer pain or buy the much needed vitamins and eat very poorly which in turn leads to further poor health due to a poor diet
    Theres too many similarities here for to classify what i have written as the rant of some lunatic.Look at what i have said rationally and think before judging me.
    I worked all my adult life since leaving school at 16 until due to a terroist attack i was forced to retire with ptsd/depression/panic attacks and in later years arthritis.I can honestly say that since then there has not been a day that i have not contemplated suicide but thankfully never carried it out.is it fair that someone like me is then subjected to this fiasco and for someone that worrys about their future already as part of my ilness then is cast futher in doubt by these measures.Yet Mps can claim for duck ponds and other stupid things.
    The sad reality of the entire thing is that WE the people voted these idiots into power.I doubt that any disabled people actually voted tory as we have felt their wrath all our lives.Early morning chat show programs with the dregs of society that are claiming the same benifits as us who are genuinely disabled gave us all the bad name and we were tarred with the same brush.People waffle on about the british taxpayers money being wasted and that those in work are paying tax to keep us.They dont actually realise that some benifits are taxable
    From a realist