Musings: Lifestyle Change vs. Political Change and Disability

Just replied to a comment on my blog from a disability campaigner now owning that his focus is on “lifestyle change rather than political change” (I’m one of more than a few people with criticism of the BioPsychoSocial mantras being rammed down our throats).

This is my response:

“Again – lifestyle change for disabled people not born into privilege will not happen without political change.”

No place for disablism in disability campaigning

“There’s a great irony in telling someone to feel positive
whilst ensuring that they feel negative.”

Nell  Bridges, 2012

Life online brings out the best and worst in people and often when you least expect it, with Social Media copping more than its fair share. Every day is a  struggle being in pain or feeling sick on the inside while you look fine on the outside. It’s hard enough to explain to someone who really has no clue just how debilitating chronic pain and invisible illnesses are. It’s even worse when the person that needs convincing is another person with disabilities, a Carer or self-proclaimed disability advocate passing judgement on that which they have very little knowledge of, if any at all.  Continue reading

Smoke and Mirrors: Remploy & Access to Work

REMPLOY bills itself as the UK’s leading provider of employment services for people with disabilities.  In the wake of government cuts to funding, the company is closing its contested Factories is re-establishing itself as yet another support mechanism for both Jobseekers and potential employers alike. They claim to have supported more than 20,000 people to find, and remain in, employment in 2010/11Note the emphasis on “finding” work and “remaining in” employment (which works well given the catastrophic failures of A4E doing similar work as a Provider of outsourced government unemployment support).

Many Disability Campaigners, myself included, and various segments of the media have accused the government of diverting funds that should go into keeping open Remploy factories. The culprit has been named and shamed as the Department of Pensions  “Access to Work” programme for disabled people returning to work (aka “welfare to work”).

Access to Work is yet another government programme under the auspices of the DWP’s JobCentre Plus. 

@ITVLauraK - Remploy

Tweet from ITV Reporter Laura Kuenssberg

source: @ITVLaura 

 

What few of us had yet to realise is that in December of 2011, Remploy was awarded the tender for a new UK-wide Access To Work programme to support those of us with mental health conditions back into work.

 

DWP confirm REMPLOY Tender

DWP confirm REMPLOY Tender - Dec'11: mental health support in Access to Work Programme

source: DWP

 

 

REMPLOY confirm DWP Access to Work Tender.

REMPLOY confirm DWP Access to Work Tender same day as DWP announcemen. 5th tDec'11

source: REMPLOY (pls click to review all details not included in screenshot)

 

I only discovered this in the last two weeks myself, after my public meltdown after being forced off ESA (a saga itself and the aftermath of which are worthy of their own posts). I am now an Access to Work “customer” forced to deal with a number of Third Party Service Providers of which REMPLOY is only one and the experience is not dissimilar to those under A4E and other external providers whilst receiving Employment Support Allowance and /or Jobseeker’s Allowance.  Whenever I mention the factories closing, #REMPLOY staff always claim to know nothing about it & mention the new #mhuk contract.

According to the DWP Access to Work is available to anyone who is:

  • in a paid job
  • unemployed and about to start a job
  • unemployed and about to start a Work Trial
  • self-employed

and your disability or health condition stops you from being able to do parts of your job.

Your disability or health condition may not have a big effect on what you do each day, but may have a long-term effect on how well you can do your job.

So that Employers don’t suffer too much inconvenience or  financial hardship the programme will cover the cost of suitable adaptations for their workplace.

Your employer’s responsibilities

Once your adviser has decided on the package of support they feel is appropriate, they will seek formal approval of their recommendations from Jobcentre Plus. You and your employer will then receive a letter informing you of the approved level of support and the grant available.

It is the responsibility of your employer – or you, if you are self-employed – to arrange the agreed support and buy the necessary equipment. Your employer can then claim repayment of the approved costs from Access to Work.

 

Access to Work details on Direct Gov

Access to Work details on DirectGov

source: DirectGov (pls click to review all details not included in screenshot)

For those in the Employers’ Forum on Disability who welcomed government implementation of the Sayce Review and complained that REMPLOY Factories were just another form of social and professional isolation for disabled people, it seems that this new Mental Health Support service within the already established Access to Work framework  is the panacea to those particular ills. This new REMPLOY contract with Access to Work was most likely the sweetener that made it very easy for the REMPLOY Board to propose closing of 36 of its 54 factories thereby putting 1,700 disabled people out of work – and into the power of JobCentre Plus. After all, the 18 months of “support” for ex-REMPLOY employees that Disability Minister Maria Miller and other politicians continue to over-sell is the same that made the likes of A4E’s Emma Harrison a millionairess with a Stately Home, in spite of fraud accusations and a service that didn’t deliver on it’s “Benefits Buster” promises.

The DWP have killed two birds with one Sayce Review stone – Liz Sayce had called for more funding  to be put into Access to Work and for REMPLOY to be modernised.  Forcing disabled people into mainstream employment, regardless of suitability albeit with “support”  for our own good, is quite a progressive neo-liberal move indeed.

Related information:

 

#ATOSUni Campaign Update No. 4: Enter Margaret McCartney

 

ATOS PROTEST BANNER
Image by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty via Flickr

 

Great news!

As promised to me in my last ATOSUni Campaign Update, today on Twitter @mgtmccartney has sounded the klaxon calling for nurses who have taken part in Derby University-Atos training to speak to her in confidence.

M. McCartney Twitter Screenshot
@mgtmccartney, Twitter

Margaret McCartney is the GP who sensationally added to the Atos maelström with her British Medical Journal feature “Well enough to work” in which she investigated the ethics and fairness of the disability assessment process. #ATOSuni will be part of a planned follow-up and Dr. McCartney can be contacted privately via e-mail at margaret@margaretmccartney.com.

#ATOSUni has yet to hit mainstream consciousness even with the Machiavellian farce that is the House of Lords Welfare Reform Bill discussions and voting lead by Investment Banker Lord Freud. A testament to just how badly the decks are stacked against people with disabilities and benefits recipients in general are the Welfare and Employment Conference 2012, featuring Department of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, which takes place on 26th January and Lord Freud’s “Of Mutual Benefit Launch” Demos event held in March 2011. The latter is all the more odious as it was “a privte, invitation-only roundtable taking place under Chatham House rule in the Wilson Room, Portcullis House, House of Commons”.

I can but hope that Dr. McCartney is able to make inroads where I have not.

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#ATOSUni Update 3 – Some good news at last!

ATOS PROTEST BANNER

Image by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty via Flickr

In early September 2011, ATOS Healthcare, a subsidiary of French IT firm Atos Origin, quietly made it known that they had joined forces with University of Derby – Corporate to accredit training for Atos Nurses. Since then there has been nary a whisper on the subject; not from anyone other than the few disability campaigners and some of our supporters. Most disturbing of all is that the medical establishment itself has been heartbreakingly silent along with the media.

I was able to raise the issue via email with Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson around the time of the last discussion of the Welfare Reform Bill. She is keen to bring this up in the Lords, but unfortunately the nature of the process is such that the “ideal” moment to query Lord Freud about this has yet to arrive. In the meantime, Atos continues to add to its already sizeable coffers with more government contracts – now inclusive of digitising NHS records.

The lives of people with disabilities is hard enough with Atos & the WRB; but this programme is just the latest insidious manoeuvring by the coalition government & opposition to *not* help as many people as possible. Staying quiet or low-key makes medical establishment complicit in what’s going on. My own personal concerns aside, Atos is gathering strength in taking over responsibilities and functions best left under the auspices of the NHS: the NHS which is jettisoning much-needed hospitals, doctors and nurses no thanks to David Cameron & Andrew Lansley‘s austerity cuts; the NHS which also now has our Big Society Prime Minister peddling charity-driven measures to “improve NHS Nursing”; the NHS that the coalition government is privatising despite the outcry against “reforms” that weren’t on the agenda during the General Election.

As if the hatemongering rhetoric against disabled people wasn’t enough, anti-NHS muckraking has reached epic proportions in some parts of the media. It surely can’t be a coincidence that the tabloids only now seem to care about disabled patients being “let down” by the system when not otherwise castigating us as scroungers and frauds? As usual the great and the good in the great British public rush to agree with incessant horror stories, failing to understand the implications of the NHS being able turning over 50% of its beds to private care in England. Of course this has the enthusiastic backing of private health insurers and big charities salivating as they pontificate about the necessity of overhauling medical and social care, with the latter being little more than a sequel to the already inadequate “Care in the Community” model.

The good news is that least two prominent Twitteratti in the medical establishment don’t seem to think much of #ATOSUni a good sign! One is GP and recent Twitter connection @PeteDeveson. Dr. Deveson was kind enough follow my account and share my last #ATOSUni Update post with his colleagues Anne-Marie Cunningham and Mary McCartney. Dr. McCartney is the GP who sensationally added to the Atos maelström with her British Medical Journal feature “Well enough to work” in which she investigated the ethics and fairness of the disability assessment process.

In addition to the support of Dr. Deveson, Dr. McCartney assured me via Twitter today that she will be looking into the #ATOSUni programme next month. Suffice it to say that as the next Lords sitting of the WRB is 11th January and the Welfare and Employment Conference 2012, featuring Department of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, takes place on 26th January, Dr. McCartney’s much-needed investigation will be not a moment too soon.

Mary McCartney - Twitter

Mary McCartney - Twitter

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Green Party calls for the removal of #ATOS from benefits assessments #ukpoli #wrb

Green Party members yesterday voted to pass an emergency motion calling on the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to stop using IT firm ATOS as its assessor of benefit claimants.

Concerns have been raised over the company’s suitability to conduct assessments, ranging from the lack of disabled access at their assessment centres to the shocking fact that 40% of their decisions have been found to be wrong on appeal [1].

Source: Green Party

Read more here: http://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/09-09-2011-green-party-remove-atos-from-incapacity-testing.html

MUST READ: New Labour, the market state, and the end of welfare #Atos

A very illuminating paper by Jonathan Rutherford published in 2007 examines the tenuous links between government and the insurance industry “in their joint project to reduce eligibility for sickness benefits.”  For anyone not entirely clear on the role of private contractors like Atos Origin administering State welfare programmes, this is a useful primer.

New Labour, the market state, and the end of welfare

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