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Letter to Minister for Disabled People

The following is the text of a letter sent by the independent disability researcher and retired veteran Mo Stewart to Penny Mordaunt MP, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work.

Dear Minister

Re: Stewart M 2016: CASH NOT CARE: the planned demolition of the UK welfare state 

Thank you for your letter of 31st May 2017 and please be advised that this response is an open letter, and will be published online.

It remains a cause for concern that you continue to disregard all independent detailed evidence identified for you, and place your trust in discredited Government commissioned research and in the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments (the Centre), as funded by Maximus.[1] The company has a very disturbing reputation Minister, which has been disregarded by the Government when offering this American company a lucrative contract to seemingly cause as much preventable harm as possible, on their behalf, when conducting the enforced and totally discredited assessment of disabled people.[2,3]

By definition, 'the Centre' has a clear conflict of interest as, when funded by Maximus, the company whose contract to conduct the fatally flawed, totally discredited and dangerous Work Capability Assessment (WCA) at an exceptional and increased cost of £579 million to the tax payer, demonstrates there is a high possibility that ‘the Centre’ will be conducting more policy based research for the benefit of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).[1,3,4,5] This would simply be history repeating itself. How many people will the DWP need to remove from welfare funding when using a dangerous and totally discredited assessment model to justify the exorbitant costs of yet another corporate giant taking money from the State which could be much better used?[1,3,4]

May I remind you Minister that another ‘Centre’, namely the Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research, at Cardiff University, was funded with £1.6 million for the first five years by more American government ‘advisers’, then known as Unum Provident Insurance, who were identified in 2008 by the American Association of Justice as the second most discredited insurance company in America.[4] Why does the Government continue to welcome the input of discredited American corporate giants with the welfare of this nation’s most vulnerable people, whose only crime is that they are attempting to claim the begrudged Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)? Clearly, ‘Cash Not Care’ does appear to be the answer.[3]

A former DWP Chief Medical Officer, Mansel Aylward, co-authored the 2005 DWP commissioned research ‘The Scientific and Conceptual Basis for Incapacity Benefit’ when funded by the American corporate insurance government ‘advisers’, who fully expect to benefit from the ongoing planned demolition of the UK welfare state, having guided future UK welfare reforms since 1994 to which ‘State Crime By Proxy: corporate influence on state sanctioned social harm’ refers.[4] As the British public realise that the State now only reluctantly supports some of those in geatest need, it is anticipated that more and more people will invest in private healthcare insurance, that also fails to pay out when a claim is made, when using the same discredited biopsychosocial model of assessment as used for the WCA.[3,4] Therefore, your demonstrated reliance on ‘the Centre’, funded by Maximus, does not raise confidence that any research produced will be evidence based and not policy based.[1]

If you are looking for a Centre of Excellence by genuine researchers not funded by corporate America, then I refer you to the Centre for Welfare Reform, whose Director is Dr Simon Duffy. The Centre for Welfare Reform don’t dream up policies used to increase their profit margins, as they don’t have one, and their research is by critically acclaimed researchers not commissioned by the DWP or funded by corporate America. I suggest you contact Dr Duffy as a matter of urgency. Together with the Director of Ekklesia, Simon has already written to the Department, and I urge that you should make yourself very familiar with the content of that open letter given that you are named in it.[6]

Your claim in your last letter that officials are ‘working with our health assessment provider, the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments, medical professionals and other stakeholders, including disability charities, to develop a set of criteria that will help identify those with the most severe health conditions or disabilities, for whom reassessments can be stopped unless there is a change in circumstances’ is cause for very, VERY serious concern. This comment demonstrates that the DWP have failed to accept the multitude of detailed evidence demonstrating the often fatal consequences of the WCA which fails to consider diagnosis and prognosis and guarantees preventable harm.[3,4]

The DIAGNOSIS will identify who should be excluded from endless assessments Minister, and the decision to disregard diagnosis for the WCA was a political decision influenced by a discredited corporate American insurance giant, UNUM Insurance, who were government ‘advisers’ on ‘welfare claims management’ from 1994, and were identified as the second worst insurance company in America in 2008.[4]  What work do you actually expect people with Motor Neurone Disease to do Minister? What work do you expect someone with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease to complete before they drop dead?[7]

In his capacity as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Damian Green announced last year that those with the most severe health conditions would not need to be continually reassessed for a health condition that can’t ever improve.[8] Therefore, comments in your letter advising that identifying such claimants has yet to be achieved is cause for serious alarm, and once again it seems that the DWP have misled the House of Commons and the general public.

As a retired healthcare professional, I insist that it should not take a team of ‘officials’ to comprehend that by disregarding diagnosis and prognosis for any dangerous and discredited so called ‘functional assessment’, as used for the WCA, that people will die.[1] And they have Minister, in their thousands.[9] Countless more live in hiding in their homes because of the carefully managed suspicion now impacting on society, created by totally false claims by Ministers and enforced by shameful banner headlines in the tabloid press, which were guaranteed to influence public opinion to the detriment of the disabled community.[10.11] Please don’t bother to waste my time by claiming that government have no influence over the national press.

Your final paragraph demonstrates that you totally disregard all the detailed evidence that the WCA is a dangerous and totally discredited assessment model when using the biopsychosocial (BPS) model of assessment for the WCA, as recommended in discredited DWP commissioned research.[1,3,4,12] The co-author of the discredited DWP commissioned research confirmed as long ago as 2012 that the BPS assessment model used for the WCA is not satisfactory and should not be used, and he was a former DWP Chief Medical Adviser and subsequent ‘government adviser’.[2,12,13]

Furthermore, the other totally discredited commissioned 2007 report used for welfare reforms was by your former colleague David Freud. ‘Reducing dependency, increasing opportunity: options for the future to work’ was discredited within three months of being published.[4] Yet, most of the welfare reforms, including the fact that the assessments should be offered to the private sector, were based on DWP discredited research and the author of that 2007 report was ennobled, and gained a position as a Junior Minister in two governments, despite never having been elected and confirming that he knew ‘nothing about welfare’. This he demonstrated during his entire time at the DWP.

Minister, the evidence is overwhelming that the WCA was not just introduced as a cost cutting measure, but to eventually demolish the welfare state. The continued use of the WCA is identified as State Crime By Proxy, when using contracted foreign corporate giants to conduct a dangerous assessment that was always guaranteed to kill some of those for whom State help should be guaranteed. Your claims that there ‘have been many improvements made to the Work Capability Assessment process since 2008’ are totally unfounded, given that it is a dangerous and totally discredited assessment model and should be removed at once, before many more people die when, quite literally, ‘killed by the State.’[3,4]

Be advised please that the severe austerity measures introduced by the Cameron coalition government in 2010 were totally unnecessary, and were exposed as being introduced for political ideology not financial necessity.[14] Coroners, academic experts in their field, the Work and Pensions Select Committee, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Nurses, the British Psychological Society, the President of the Appeal Tribunals for Social Security, the Centre for Welfare Reform, Ekklesia and Disabled Peoples’ Organisations have all demanded that the WCA should be stopped; all to no avail because the government aren’t listening. The suffering is relentless, the death toll related to this fatally flawed government enforced assessment is vast, and there’s more to come, Minister, if the WCA is not stopped.

It was really quite shameful when the former Secretary of State dismissed a report by the United Nations that exposed the negative impact of the ongoing and unnecessary austerity policies, which ‘systematically violated’ the rights of disabled people.[14,15] Indeed, those who now live in fear of the DWP would challenge Damian Green’s claims at the time that the focus was ‘on helping disabled people find and stay in work, whilst taking care of those who can’t.’[15]  There is not, nor has there ever been, any evidence of the government ‘helping’ sick and disabled people to ‘find and stay in work’, Minister, but there is a great deal of detailed evidence that many chronically ill and disabled people who depend on the State for financial support now live in fear of this identified DWP tyranny, masquerading as welfare reforms, and the subsequent unnecesary suspicion created in society.[3,4,9,10]

So far, the Coalition and Conservative governments have demonstrated their utter contempt for those in greatest need, by relying on less that ‘objective’ research to justify their debilitating welfare policies, the often fatal ESA assessment process and the unnecessary austerity policies, and they have managed to escape all redress.[14,16] This is changing.

The evidence is mounting and is being published in journals and on academic websites if not by the press and, at some time, someone will be held accountable for this needless mounting despair and increasing death totals linked to the WCA, the relentless psychological intimidation and the constant threat of having an essential benefit removed without warning. This identified ongoing preventable harm was created to support a former female Prime Minister’s stated goal, which was the removal of the welfare state to be replaced by private healthcare insurance. Time will tell how many more people will have been, effectively, ‘killed by the State’ before this has become a reality for the unsuspecting and ill informed British people.[3,4]

As for the Green Paper that you mentioned in your letter, it is effectively promotion of private healthcare insurance, which is something my research identified a long time ago.[3,4,17]

As you can see, there is a consensus that the WCA creates unnecessary preventable harm, and I trust that the DWP will correct identified past mistakes, based on the most up-to-date evidence.

Yours, most sincerely

Mo Stewart
Disabled veteran (WRAF)
Disability studies researcher
Retired healthcare professional
Author of ‘Cash Not Care: the planned demolition of the UK welfare state’. New Generation Publishing 2016

References

1. Shakespeare T, Watson N, Abu-Alghaib O (2016) Blaming the victim all over again: Waddell and Aylward’s biopsychosocial (BPS) model of disability. Critical Social Policy Journal 37, 1, 22 - 41 LINK

2. Pring J (2014) Incompetence, discrimination and ‘fraud’: the US company that could take over from Atos. Disability News Service, 17th October 2014. LINK

3. Stewart M (2016) Cash Not Care: The Planned Demolition Of The UK Welfare State. New Generation Publishing, London. LINK

4. Stewart M (2017) State Crime By Proxy: corporate influence on state sanctioned social harm. LINK

5. Syal R (2016) Maximus miss fitness-to-work test targets despite spiralling costs. The Guardian, 8th January 2016 LINK

6. Duffy S et al (2017) Open letter to Damian Green on welfare reform LINK

7. Gani A (2016) DWP told woman she was not ill enough for benefit on the day she died. The Guardian, 7th January 2016 LINK

8. House of Commons Debates 2016 re Employment and Support Allowance. LINK 

9. Butler P (2015) Thousands have died after being found fit for work, DWP figures show. The Guardian, 27th August 2015. LINK

10. Hale C (2013) The Big Society Fails The Hardest Hit. LINK

11. Hall M (2011) 75% on Sick are Skiving. The Express, 26th June 2011 LINK

12. Waddell G & Aylward M (2005) The Scientific and Conceptual Basis of Incapacity Benefits. TSO, London. LINK

13. Pring J 2012: Former DWP medical boss Sir Mansel Aylward makes WCA pledge to protestors. Disability News Service, 14th September 2012. LINK

14. Krugman P (2015) The Case for Cuts was a Lie. Why does Britain still believe it? The Guardian, 29th April 2015 LINK

15. Butler P 2016: Damian Green dismisses ‘offensive’ UN report on UK disability rights. The Guardian, 8th November 2016 LINK

16. Gentleman A 2014: Vulnerable man starved to death after benefits were cut. The Guardian, 28th February 2014. LINK

17. Meaden B 2016: Does Green Paper reveal government’s lack of commitment to the welfare state?  Ekklesia, 11th November 2016. LINK