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Monday, 16 March 2015

Private legal safeguarding of vulnerable people?

By Dude Swheatie of Kwug

The following is a response to Kate Belgrave's blog piece about a Disability Employment Adviser shouting at a disabled jobseeker with learning difficulties after she had sentenced him to attend a course while realising that his failure to comply with course obligations could get him sanctioned. Shouting at a person — especially a vulnerable person — is emotional abuse; while placing that person at risk of financial harm is negligence.

Negligence fees, legal aid cuts, government budgets and safeguarding of vulnerable people?

Hi, Kate

I complained about underprovision of Disability Employment Advisers way back in about the year 2001. I was an ex-Lib Dem and conferred by email with the office of then Lib Dem Work & Pensions Secretary Steve Webb — especially after Labour's DWP Secretary Alistair Darling had spoken of calling all Incapacity Benefit claimants into jobcentres for 'all work test' interviews. So Steve Webb raised a question in Parliament to which the Employment Minister Nick Browne [with an 'e'] came back replying that no figures existed on a jobcentre-by-jobcentre basis of recruitment and retention of DEAs existed. (My then DEA was a Computer Science MSc working with the DWP who'd got drafted in, then with unsuitable training levels had been on sick leave for 6 months.) However, national figures, he reported, showed that there were around 650 DEAs for the whole of the Jobcentre Plus network and that figure had remained virtually the same for 10 years. Webb was still Lib Dem Spokesperson in 2010 before getting drafted in via coalition government to be understudy to IDS. ('Minister of State for Pensions', to be precise.)

Time for a little deviation

Now in 2015, legal aid has been cut and 'no-win, no-fee' 'ambulance chasing' law firm ads subsidise much of the daytime TV that now Welfare Reform Minister David Freud said in 2008 he does not want benefit claimants to watch. Advertising on TV is expensive but seems to be worthwhile for those 'ambulance chasing' law firms but the fact that the NHS has set aside 1/4 of its budget for covering medical negligence costs suggests to me that Government is more keen to sponsor daytime TV than resourcing the NHS to the point that staff receive sufficient training, back up and rest to the point that the managerial negligence that promotes 'medical negligence' is minimised. The Telegraph reported on 9 February 2015:

NHS sets aside quarter of its budget for medical negligence claims

The health service has set aside £26bn to cover medical negligence claims against NHS hospitals, it has emerged

Perhaps if benefit claimants and jobcentre workers made sick by workplace stress sued the Government and its jobsworth managers for negligence and abuse, there might be a greater realisation of the hidden costs that never having bothered to monitor services for disadvantaged jobseekers have led this society to — costs far too often borne by the vulnerrable people and their families financially?

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