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Monday, 26 January 2015

Witch trials satyrising themselves — or the general paralysis and hypocrisy of the empty promise merchants?

By Dude Swheatie of Kwug

The first I heard of disability benefit tests conducted for the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) as being modelled upon ancient 'sink and you're innocent, float and you are guilty of witchcraft' trials was actually in connetion with the 'Personal Capacity Assessment' in 2008.
(The Personal Capacity Assessmentwas the fore-runner of the Work Capacity Assessment for the newer 'Work Capability Assessment' that is central to the newer Employment & Support Allowance.)

In the wake of the launch of Labour's 2008 Welfare Reform Green Paper, a Community Care magazine blog piece, The Misery of Welfare Reform, highlighted the case of 'J' who had a history of depression and anti-depressants on the dole that the antics of the DWP had done nothing to help. And that J had subsequently been denied Incapacity Benefit when she applied for it, and her doctor — who had prescribed the anti-depressants — would not put a finger out to write even a sick note in support of J's case. J's doctor argued that whatever he wrote, the DWP would ignore it.

That The Misery of Welfare Reform blog piece as a whole is extremely well worth reading over six years later for the resonances with the Work Capability Assessment fiasco that has emerged since then and the subsequent phenomenon of doctors charging as much as £100 for a letter in support of a claimant's tribunal case. But for now, as a lead-in to the latest pattern that the KUWG's case workers have uncovered, I shall just quote the Community Care blog piece reference to witch trials:
"So the DWP has come up with a modern equivalent of the medieval witch trial (float and you're a witch, drown and your're not) — starve to death and you are mentally ill; buy food and you're fit for work."
 The latest development uncovered by Kwug's caseworkers has come to light through attempting to get Atos to issue appointments for Kilburn folk at assessment centres closer to their abodes than Richmond, Deptford or Dagenham. (Instead of,
  • "The computer says, 'No',"
  • "The computer says, 'Go miles out of your way'.")

There had been a mystery of why, after requesting assessment centre appointments closer to home than those far out places, the rearranged appointment came back with the same out of the way assessment centre addresses and even for 08:30 appointment times! And the Atos reply via the switchboard has come that if people in Kilburn want a Work Capability Assessment within the next few months — i.e, befor Maximus take over from Atos — the appointment has to be in one of those far-flung places.

So, it would seem that if the claimant manages somehow to get to an appointment in such a far flung place at a time as early as 08:30, they could be deemed ‘fit for work’; and if they make the attempt out of desperation to get there for that time and fail, they would be deemed to have failed to attend and thus would be denied ESA.

Whatever happened to Government assurances that the most vulnerable people would be protected in the face of welfare reforms intended to weed out ‘shirkers’?

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