Monday, 16 April 2012

The death count of the welfare system

I came across these absolutely appalling figures, via the Daily Mirror, the other day.

My regular readers (all twelve of them) might recall that one of the topics I'm most likely to get ranty about is the welfare system and the government's welfare reforms which are basically taking support away from the sick and disabled purely in order to save money - without any regard to the human cost.

Now, back to the figures from the Daily Mirror. Via a freedom of information request they found the following:
We've used the Freedom of Information Act to discover that, between January and August last year, 1,100 claimants died after they were put in the "work-related activity group".

This group - which accounted for 21% of all claimants at the last count - get a lower rate of benefit for one year and are expected to go out and find work.
This compares to 5,300 deaths of people who were put in the "support group" - which accounts for 22% of claimants - for the most unwell, who get the full, no-strings benefit of up to £99.85 a week.
We don't know how many people died after being found "fit to work", the third group, as that information was "not available".
But we have also found that 1,600 people died before their assessment had been completed.
 Yes, you have read that right, eleven hundred people who, according to the welfare system, were healthy enough to work in the near future, were actually so unhealthy that they died. Now, the problem with these figures is that they don't tell us what the causes of death were - so some of those 1,100 could well have been hit by a bus. But even so it's a shocking indictment of the way the welfare system works and how it cocks things up and puts people in the wrong groups.

After all:
The Government has boasted that more than half of new ­claimants are found "fit to work" - failing to mention that over 300,000 have appealed the decision and almost 40% have won.
So yeah, an error rate of up to 40%. Fan-fucking-tastic. And yet this is the system that Chris Grayling and other tories think is "too soft". A system which insists that people, who are so unwell that they die, are fit to work is one which the government thinks isn't tough enough on these "scroungers". After all, according to the actual model used by the DWP, the psycho-social model biopsychosocial model, disability is "all in the head" and any problems the sick and disabled face are their own fault for not having the right mental attitude. And I'm not making this up. And, what's even better is that the government is now using this assessment system as the foundation for making the system even tougher and for time limiting how long people can receive contributory ESA for. Because, you know, clearly the current system is working perfectly and now is an ideal time to push forward radical changes on the assumption that the system gets everything right.

Oh, I forgot to mention:
But we have also found that 1,600 people died before their assessment had been completed.
This should take 13 weeks, while the claimant gets a reduced payment of up to £67.50 a week, but delays have led to claims the system is in "meltdown".
£67.50 a week! What luxury! Not.

You see, when people talk about impoverished pensioners, who get a winter fuel allowance, a higher tax allowance and concessionary rates on a lot of things, yet who still can't afford to eat properly or heat their homes, what you've got to bear in mind is that these pensioners get almost wice the amount to live on as someone who, for example, was juse blinded in an industrial accident.

I wish I could see Chris Grayling and the Lib Dem MPs who signed off on the welfare reforms have to live on £67.50 a week for three months. Preferrably while in constant discomfort from some illness or disability which is bad enough to make life miserable but not bad enough to get them into the unconditional support group. And then, at the end of the three months maybe they could then find out, after struggling to travel to an inaccessible "assessment centre" that their assessment has been cancelled, that it's their own fault for not having received the letter notifying them of the cancellation, and that they'll have to keep on trying to scrape by on £67.50 a week for yet another month.

That would be justice.

Unfortunately in real life the best that could be hoped for is for someone in the coaliton to wake up and have the guts to do something about the hideous mess of the welfare system - preferrably something which doesn't just continue the New Labour/Tory trend of fucking over the sick and disabled.

Oh, sorry, nearly forgot. Here's the best part:
The work capability assessments are carried out by private firm Atos, on a £100million a year contract.
The firm made a £42million profit in 2010 and paid boss Keith Wilman £800,000, a 22% pay rise on the previous year.
Fucking brilliant.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Great blog post George.

    I don't know if you saw this Full Fact article, I did tell them on Facebook they had the definition wrong for WRAG therefore making the article incorrect.

    16 April 2012 09:34

  3. We all knew this would happen and it is and who is sitting up and taking notice?
    What will it take to get some justice for sick/disabled?

  4. Well done, yet again.

    I'll borrow some of this information and blog on it too, if that's OK, George. The wider the audience for this stuff the better.

    This is shameful. What a dreadful country to live in if you are not rich.

    Isn't Grayling a self satisfied smug bastard? I'd love to give him a smack in the face. It's beyond me how someone who agrees to this can sleep at nights.

    I agree. He and the other ministers at the DWP should be made to live on that money for 6 months, with no ministerial perks, since they think that it is doable. And it should be over winter, where, because of their illness they will be unable to leave the house, and will rack up heating bills of £600 to pay out of their £67 a week.

    No wonder people die. I should imagine that they give up the will to live. If their condition is on going, it must seem to them that there is very little point in doing anything other than dying.

    I have to say, is it any wonder that at least some Scots want out of a union that imposes this kind of "welfare" on its citizens...sorry subjects?

  5. Agreed entirely, having seen the system at work through my partner who gets minimal help for crippling arthritis (at 45).

    If you or I were MPs no doubt we would be shouting until hoarse about this. Why not the present crop of LibDems in Westminster? Perhaps because in reality few understand or care? They're certainly not working hard to correct that perception. After all, my own PCC batted away my feelings over the issue as "pure self-interest".

  6. And if you want to know what actually seems to be happening at these "Find a job - yes you're required to go" meetings, then here's someone blogging their experience. Yes, seriously, people can't find jobs because "their attitude is wrong". Wow.

  7. It's actually the biopsychosocial model they use, George, but you can be forgiven for getting it a bit wrong as it doesn't actually exist. It's an invention based around wishful thinking and has been bought into existence because it suits the big insurance companies. They use it to deny perfectly legitimate claims, as indeed do the government. Gill Thorburn's made an excellent appraisal of it What you've got here is criminal behaviour being practiced by government, deliberate designed disability denial. As you've noticed, people are dying. They're thinning the herd.

    1. Thanks very much for the correction and the link and for your comment. I've updated the blogpost.

  8. None of the promised 'help to manage your condition'. I had a vague idea of being offered a transplant etc. How naive. There aren't any suitable jobs for physically frail people and shouting at them for being isick makes everyrthing worse. I just want enough basic money to finish my life in peace.

  9. The WRAG was supposed to be to get you ready for work right? So WHY if you are supposed to be getting ready for - Are you supposed to get a job just like anybody else within one year? When 'normal' people cannot even find a flippin job??????????????

    How am I supposed to pay water bill of £53 a month and a heating/elec bill of 1300 a year and be able to eat also (if I am allowed to) with only £67 a week? That leaves me £1404 a year for ALL other purchases and for trips to hospitals - so get £27 a week to survive on - Thats stupid! I shall also be one of the dead then as they think I can live on nothing.

    I did not ask to get sick!!!!! And no matter what DWP say - I wont be employed by anybody as they will get bored of my bladder making a mess! Not to mention days off for illness etc

    This is so unfair it makes me ashamed to be British! When we are treated like scum just for being ill.


  10. George. You may want to know or add that the 40% appeal success rate rises to a mind-boggling 70% when the appellant has representation & I read of two areas where success rate was 90% & 95%..Even more mind boggling! Hastings I believe was one of those areas & can't recall the other I'm afraid.

    I've been living in dread of that particular brown envelope through my letterbox for 2yrs & it's finally arrived. My son will now have to go through the Atos nightmare.

    1. If you're going to an Atos assessment just remember that your son has the right to have an advocate (anyone he chooses) to sit in on the interview with him and the right to have the interview recorded. Make sure you exercise those rights - when people know that they're being watched their tendency to be tossers decreases dramatically.

  11. @ Anonymous Apr 16, 2012 09:09 AM

    "The WRAG was supposed to be to get you ready for work right? So WHY if you are supposed to be getting ready for - Are you supposed to get a job just like anybody else within one year?"

    Yes, in fact the WRAG is supposed to be for people who have been assessed as having "limited capability for work".

    Describing the conditions attached to Employment and Support Allowance, Section 1 (4) of the Welfare Reform Act 2007 says:

    4)For the purposes of this Part, a person has limited capability for work if—

    (a)his capability for work is limited by his physical or mental condition, and

    (b)the limitation is such that it is not reasonable to require him to work.

    There are people being put into the WRAG totally inappropriately, they are not "fit for work" and not fit for work-related activity either.

  12. Thank you George. As someone who's been campaigning on this issue since it's been an issue, I'm aware of those rights but some are not so it's good that you pointed that out. I'll be attending with him, recording it, taking notes & generally leaning over Atos reps shoulder.

    I'm just so angry that my son's benefits will be reduced for 13wks, that we may have to appeal & win only to be called in for another assessment by the time we've done that. The loss of money over a sustained period may well end up making us homeless & we've been down that road 10yrs ago. I'm 60 & a lone parent/carer, I'm tough but I'm so weary of fighting to keep my son sane & keep us afloat.

    On the appeals percentage issue, I've just read Amelia Gentleman's article in the Guardian & she confirms the 90% & above stat:

    As if things aren't bad enough, they want to take away our right to challenge their cruel & vindictive decisions. Never thought I'd live to see such shameful policies by such vile government in my country

  13. im heading for my 2nd Atos "assessment?" in 6 months, got the Limited capability for work questionnaire to fill in. Last time i went, the "nurse" never realised i was wearing suoports on my legs until i was on the bed about 40 minutes later, i wonder what my "assessment" will be now that my condition worsens and always will, "fortunately" its not fatal. I wish i hasd a hidden camera.

  14. @ AnonymousApr 16, 2012 10:37 AM

    ''Yes, in fact the WRAG is supposed to be for people who have been assessed as having "limited capability for work"''

    So why is this ridiculous govt making them into just disabled Jobseekers? What happened to what was said about being able to work an hour here or there? - And how would that work when LIVING is kind of helpful to working. What happens if you are only able to work 2hrs a week - Minimum wage being something like £6 an hour - nobody can live on £12 a week (bar in camerons eye when he wouldnt even be able to have a cup of tea for that little in his millionaire society but the scum can live on nothing)

    All I wanna do it live. I dont have a flat screen TV I dont eat tons of burgers or do anythign bar try to live this life I have been given. I dont smoke or drink (bar tea or water), and yet I feel like I should just get shot to put THEM out of my misery, as I make them peeved cos I am disabled.

    I wish they woudl go after the non tax payers but they won't cos that woudl mean going after themselves! And all I see, having been someone never truly interested in politics etc - All I see is they are robbing the poor an disabled to give to the rich.

    Where is Robin Hood when you need him?

  15. Forgive me if you get asked this a lot, but... how in the hell can you in good conscience remain a member of the Liberal Democrats when they're pushing through this cruel, socially destructive programme? I'm sure your views tend liberal in other respects, but I just don't know how someone who cares about justice can justify remaining a member of a party that actively supports such awful policies. (For my part, I left the party in disgust a year or so ago, and haven't regretted it once.)

    1. Alasdair,

      No worries, it's a fair question. Last month I explained why I was staying in the party and you can find my explanation here:


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