Many groups both Charitable and Grassroots Campaigners have highlighted the many issues both with detailed academic reports and also as individuals with regards to WCA and the ESA debacle.
The enquiry into this is being watched closely by many of the leading campaigns both in the media and online at Parliament TV. We read all the Hansards and the publications produced by the Work & Pensions Select Committee charged with this task. We are not uneducated people while accepting that some claimants may find the language used difficult to understand and the political processes involved.
Claimants have been vilified in the press and media and by some politicians and Atos to win the very public argument of welfare denial to some of the people facing the biggest barriers in society. This is completely unacceptable behaviour by those who are in a position of authority and they are not being held responsible for their policies or actions, and the implementation on those who face the biggest barriers to an inclusive society. They talk of responsibility on the rest of society while refusing to accept responsibility themselves. This was a very ill thought out policy which was put through the processes of becoming legislation and the complexity of ordinary peoples lives are disregarded and the challenges they face is far removed from those who are in charge with the overseeing of policy that the government introduces. Many Campaigners have spoken with various ministers regarding this and have been welcomed with no threats to their personal well being happening. The accusations that Atos staff have been attacked by claimants is unacceptable unless they are prepared to back that up with facts, such as recorded police reports of such things occurring like the acid attack, death threat letters reported at yesterdays debate. It would, if those attacks took place, be rather small in comparison to attacks to other services like the NHS, Police, Fire Brigade and many other public service employers by members of the general public.
It would be fair to say organised demonstrations have been very peaceful while a few have been arrested for blocking a public highway or occupying a building, which at no time were any of the staff threatened on any protest that took place. I wish the minister or Atos to provide us with documented evidence of such threats across the UK.
The DWP release of statistics regarding the deaths of claimants 2011/12 is ambiguous in its language alone and that could have easily been contradicted with truthful facts in a plain and transparent way by releasing the actual deaths recorded where the denial of benefit played a key part from the records of the coroner’s office investigations into such claims. However the minister responsible Mr Iain Duncan Smith has refused to do so, many claimants feels this is deliberate slight against them in the war on welfare campaign this government is running to woo the voter. Hate crime as risen very sharply because of this harmful rhetoric and spin along with food bank referrals due to benefit sanctions which have also risen dramatically.
Atos pointed out that they had requested the DWP assist them in making sure facts were published and the process was explained in a transparent way to claimants to quash some of the misleading facts regarding the WCA and their request was refused, leaving Atos to bear the brunt of the backlash, which to our minds was the plan all along. The DWP consistently refuses to accept any responsibility for their policies harm.
The Committee has heard more than enough evidence to know that this policy is deeply flawed and should be scrapped in its entirety and redesigned which has been presented in many forms to ministers by campaigners who took on that challenge or until all the recommendations so far recommended by Prof Harrington and Dr Litchfield are fully in place. This would stop untold misery and fear now associated with this assessment. Atos are correct in saying that any provider would have difficulty in processing the amount of claimants currently being forced through a process without causing harm to the individual or deterioration in someone health. If the Government was serious about wanting people to work they would lower the retirement age to allow others to take their jobs, support the job market with creation of employment and implement a fair system for those who are unable to work and protect them from a life of poverty and living on the breadline by raising taxes from those who can afford to pay the most to sustain the growth in social security, of which 43% are pensioners, and claimants only make up a total inc JSA of around 20% of the welfare bill.
It is not productive on any level, either to the claimant or the government with helping those people into work if possible with support in place to do so. The job market cannot sustain the currently able bodied unemployed people let alone the complicated difficulties that sick and disabled people face on a daily basis. These are societal barriers placed upon us, not just a simple matter of labelling people as workshy etc, when most employers will not employ them and jobs are not being created fast enough to remedy the issue. Employers should by law in our opinion be forced to take on a proportion of those sick and disabled who can work into employment with reasonable adjustments in place to enable them to do their job, like we have currently in regards to ethnic minorities.
Grassroots Campaigners have always been willing to work with the DWP in designing a new benefit but are excluded or ignored completely with only the Charities being asked to participate in such matters, which if they had a cross section would actually improve both the design of the assessment and claimant experience ensuring that those who are the most in need got what they needed. The reduction in care criteria provided by local authorities also impacts on a person’s right to live an independent life and the loss of ILF will have further consequences on their ability to do so along with those who lose their vehicles on motobility under the new PIP regime.
We would like ministers of the committee to force the release of said evidence of attacks on Atos Staff and of the actual deaths recorded by the coroner where the WCA has been cited as a cause or contributory factor to an individual’s death. We would also like ministers of the committee to ensure that Mr Iain Duncan Smith answers fully the misleading statistics he and the DWP have used to discredit claimants complaints on the WCA process.
We the undersigned support this letter:
Gail Ward –Campaigner/Activist
John McArdle –Co Founder Black Triangle
Rosemary Oneill –Carerwatch
Frances Ryan – Carerwatch
Pat Onions-Pats Petition
Roy Bard -MHRN London
Anita Bellows -Campaigner/Activist
Wayne Blackburn -Campaigner/Activist
Steven Preece-Welfare News Service
Annie Bishop -Campaigner /Activist
Katy Marchant- DPAC Devon
Jane Bence @newapproach
Joanne Walker -Campaigner and Activist
Reply From Dame Anne Begg
Thanks very much for this and all the interest you have taken in the proceedings of the committee. I have passed a copy on to my committee clerks.
We will be discussing what is called “The Heads of Report” on Wednesday where we will decide the overall shape of our report and what we will include. Then it will be drafted for final agreement towards the end of July.
Dame Anne Begg MP