Sunday, 19 February 2012

The disabled: slave labour for Tesco?

This week news leaked out about the government's plans on how the long term sick and disabled should be "helped" back into work:
Some long-term sick and disabled people face being forced to work unpaid for an unlimited amount of time or have their benefits cut under plans being drawn up by the Department for Work and Pensions.
From the Guardian article which broke the story. It continues:
The new policy, outlined by DWP officials in meetings with disabilities groups, is due to be announced after legal changes contained in clause 54 of the welfare reform bill have made their way through parliament. 
The policy could mean that those on employment and support allowance who have been placed in the work-related activity group (Wrag) could be compelled to undertake work experience for charities, public bodies and high-street retailers. The Wrag group includes those who have been diagnosed with terminal cancer but have more than six months to live; accident and stroke victims; and some of those with mental health issues. 
In official notes from a meeting on 1 December last year, DWP advisers revealed they were not intending to put a time limit on the work experience placements.
So yeah, this is one of the nasty little details that Lib Dem MPs voted for. I wonder what Jenny Willott MP will have to say about it when I meet her on Monday?

And. for the record, this is nasty. I object to the principle of forcing people to work unpaid at all (it's called "workfare" and has been tried, tested and failed in the US) but it's even worse when you're talking about disabled people. Especially given that the current assessment system for disability benefits is so broken that it has been known to class terminally ill cancer patients as belonging in the Work Related Activity Group which would place them in the position of being forced to undertake work such as unpaid night shift jobs at Tesco.

Tesco are currently furiously back pedalling after the bad publicity hit but, had it not been for the bad PR, they would almost certainly have continued with the scheme which would have given them unpaid labour and saved them from having to actually go through the hassle of properly employing new workers. This isn't a specific judgement on Tesco by the way - all big companies (and plenty of small ones) are more than happy to save money wherever possible, regardless of the human cost, as long as the public doesn't find out about it.

And of course, it's not like there are any historical examples of government ministers coming out with statements and press releases encouraging the depiction of the disabled as "fakers and scroungers, while forcing them to work without pay are there?

(That's sarcasm by the way, click on the links - especially the second one.)

Still, at least no government spokesman has yet come out with saying something like "arbeit macht frei". So we can be thankful for small mercies. Except of course that the DWP believes in the "bio-psycho-social" model of disability which basically states that the only thing stopping the sick and disabled from working is that they're not working hard enough at overcoming their disability.

Meanwhile of course, we have such jollies as Atos, the company which carries out the assessments to determine whether disabled people should be forced to work or not (and which has benefited from a lucrative government contract to provide IT for the London Olympics later this year), offering help to employers in managing the impact of heart disease and how best to support employees returning to work whilst simultaneously telling people with heart disease that there's nothing to stop them from working despite, in one tragic case, the condition being so severe that the poor man died just three weeks after being deemed fit to work.

Still, Atos now are about to get a shiny new director who might change things. Well, apart from the fact that he used to be a director of Unum - a nice big health insurance company that has been described in the US as "an outlaw company", which refuses to recognise that illnesses like ME even exist and that has (along with Atos) a long record of trying to manipulate and influence DWP policy. So maybe things won't change then.

If you're interested in the incestuous, corrupt and unhealthy relationship between Unum, Atos and the DWP then all you need to do is go and read this Private Eye article which does a good job of exposing the whole sorry tale.


  1. George, firstly a couple of details.

    You might just ask why placements like this are outside minimum wage legislation.

    ID-S was attributed with saying "work liberates" (in English), but the debate was never resolved. Clearly though this is his belief.

    As with many Government policies, it is not the "what", but the "how" that goes so badly wrong. Everyone putting what they can back into society is a laudible objective if approached in the right sequence and with the appropriate sensitivities.

    Vested interest (or networking as it is sometimes known) permeates through so many aspects of society, that we will be forced to live with it for some time yet I'm afraid.

    Perhaps the 10 commandments weren't too far off the mark - we need a bit less coveting if you ask me.

  2. Goes like this: Outrage everybody by saying the workfare is unlimited. Then back-peddle and say now it will be limited. Job done.

    That of course is "limited" in the same sense as “The NHS is safe in our hands”.

  3. "In order to save disabled people we have to destroy them"

    This is a very interesting article.Well worth a look.Here is a small piece.

    You'd think people would learn from history, but apparently history is in short supply at Iain Duncan Smith's Department of Work and Pensions because that is exactly what they are doing to disabled people. There are too many, in Iain Duncan Smith's view and they're too expensive. Unum flog the DWP a perversion of the biopsychosocial model. The perverted version says disability isn't a problem, it's the way you view it that's a problem. Take up thy wheelchair and walk. And even if thou can't walk, thou canst still get a job, if only thou wouldst change thy mind about thy disability. (Those unemployment figures put out by the Office for National Statistics are a myth, Maria Miller says.)


  4. George, Atos already have Mike O'Donnell who used to work for Unum, here's his Linkedin profile so they already have a former executive for the gang of crooks Unum at the helm. The model of disability denial appears identical in Unum and Atos.

    1. It is identical. Two years of research will show you how:


  5. George, you're the one person who convinces me there's still something to respect in the Liberal Democrats, but it's a tiny speck of hope in a mountain of betrayal - betrayal of everything Liberal Democracy is supposed to stand for, betrayal of the people who voted for the Lib Dems, betrayal of the people Lib Dem policies are supposed to protect, and ultimately, betrayal of their own principles by your elected and unelected representatives.

    You hardly need more examples for your meeting with Jenny Willott, but I might make a fairly comprehensive one: worked for 20-odd years in a cutting edge job on prominent multi-national projects, disabled for most of that time and working through pain that most days left me curled up on the office floor and unable to think straight, but running a world-class operation in spite of it, then forced out of work when I became inconvenient, told there is no hope that anyone else will employ someone who can't sit at a desk any more, dependent on ESA as my only income, and now, because of the policy she backs, faced with living on no household income whatsoever for the foreseeable future. My doctors gave up on any hope of a cure over a decade ago, there is no potential of my situation improving, no potential of my situation worsening sufficiently to put me in the Support Group, yet DWP have decided that after 12 months I'll automatically be fit enough to compete for work without a disadvantage, never mind I'm not even fit enough to sit at a desk, never mind I've already been forced out of work with a supposed champion of equality over a lower level of disability than I have now! DWP policy towards disabled people is based on a view of disability that has no contact with the reality of disability or the omnipresent reality of the discrimination we face in recruitment. Oh, and as a result of DWP sponsored demonisation of disabled people I've been abused in the street as a fraud and a scrounger so often that Scope now use me as a spokesman on it.

    Ask Jenny Willott if she would like to justify her policy towards me to my face.

    DWP Policy: Magical Thinking and Miracle Cures,

  6. Last year, a report on New Labour’s ‘ Pathways to Work’ scheme found that Private Contractors such as were a third as effective as Jobcentre Plus after having cherry picked their clients and targeted their operations in the more prosperous regions. Nevertheless, this ‘government’ has seen fit to further extend their operation with the ‘Work Programme’. Government contracts helped ensure that the pre-tax profits of A4E (for example) rose to 15 million last year. While vulnerable claimants across the UK are facing cuts to housing benefits , the exchequer is apparently happy to support Emma Harrison on her 100 acre Derbyshire Estate.
    I’ve spoken to people who have been on ‘work placement’ alongside criminals on community service? In other words they had been served the same sentence without having committed any crime. When did it become a crime to be poor? Poverty alone is not sufficient punishment? At least criminals get their day in court.
    I was relieved when the coalition were quick to distance themselves from Philip Davies after he suggested that the mentally ill should be allowed to work for less than the minimum wage. I really didn’t expect them to advise that they need not be paid anything at all.
    Was this idea that some of those in the WRAG group be forced onto the Work Programme some sort of further WCA based on the Witchfinder General’s ducking test? Throw the wretch into the well. If she drowns she is innocent. If she survives, hang her as a witch. Throw the claimant into forced labour. If they drown they’re unfit for work. If they survive then they are frauds.
    Why is it fair or legal to limit contribution based entitlement to one year? Never mind that the threshold is so ridiculously low, how can it be fair to deny their stipend to someone who has paid national insurance for all their working life? If I prang my car, would it be perfectly ok for Endsleigh (for example) to say that ‘We’ve looked at your bank account and your doing pretty well for yourself. Therefore we’re only going to pay you a fraction of the cost for repairs. After all it’s only fair to our other customers who pay in every month and haven’t had any accidents.’?
    I can’t remember if it was Tim Farron or Jenny Willot who said that those in the WRAG were ‘likely’ to work again and it has since been edited out. I’d like to point out that this group is intended to describe those with limited capacity for work who MAY, at some point, with the right support, be ABLE to work in the future. There are many conditions that limit or even absolutely preclude employment opportunities that are not life threatening or completely immobilising. Someone with the coprolalial feature of tourette’s syndrome might be physically fit with four A-levels but wouldn’t be likely to work in a call centre or in hotel reception or even stacking shelves on an aisle in Tesco.

  7. I think that as soon as everyone wakes up to the fact that ALL these welfare reforms are from America the better George.
    The Atos assessments were designed by UNUM insurance, who've been advising successive British gvts since 1994, Unum are represented at every political party annual meeting, they are represented on gvt advisory panels and they were banned from 15 states in the US and 6 countries worldwide until 2008, when they changed their name and funded in excess of $230million to REMOVE all evidence of past wrong doing - but that didn't quite work.... I suggest you see the website:

  8. "Work actually helps free people." - Iain Duncan Smith on the telly. It made me jump.

  9. Re "slave labour", if one able bodied person is not forced out to work, someone else has to make sacrifices to enable the former to live in leisure. Which is the slave?

  10. @ ralph

    please GET CANCER!

    then come back and tell us about a life of 'Leisure'.

  11. thanks for share.


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