Sick people to be forced to talk to the DWP’s own “healthcare professionals”

DWP sign

The Department of Work and Pensions has a new scheme to make life harder for people who are too sick to work. The announcement appeared on their website today with the headline “People on sickness benefits will be required to have regular meetings with healthcare professionals to help them with their barriers to work.

This is a trial starting with 3,000 people who are in the Work Related Activity Group for Employment Support Allowance to find out whether it is effective at getting people off benefits. Oh, the claim is that it’s to get people back into work, but getting them off benefits is all the government care about and quote figures for. People will be forced to meet with a “healthcare professional” from Ingeus UK by 2016 as part of this trial. Ingeus UK doesn’t have the best reputation either. Telegraph: Firm owned by Kevin Rudd’s wife faces tax questions in Britain.

From the DWP’s announcement:

People on sickness benefits will be required to have regular meetings with healthcare professionals to help them address their barriers to work – or face losing their benefits – in a two-year pilot scheme in central England which begins in November.

Around 3,000 people in the work-related activity group for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) living in the Black Country, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland, Staffordshire and Shropshire will take part in the scheme.

Dead people don't get benefits
Dead people don’t get benefits – cartoon by @dochackenbush

There are many problems with this plan.

1. Most people already have a “healthcare professional” – their GP, or hospital specialist, or someone else – who is trying to ensure the best outcome for them. Of course what is best for the patient may not be getting them off benefits.

2. I’m pretty sure there’s some consent issues there. If people will be “required” to meet the DWP’s healthcare professional, how can there be consent? Benefits will be withdrawn if the patient refuses, so they may be coerced to have medical treatment against their will. This is definitely not ethical.

3. These healthcare professionals need not be specialists in a person’s particular illness or disability, or even doctors at all. People going through the Work Capability Assessment with Atos often see staff who know nothing about their issues and who make mistakes over easily spotted issues as a result. What happens if an Ingeus UK healthcare professional recommends a treatment that the patient’s own doctor has ruled out? Will the patient be sanctioned for refusing it? Will people die because they tried it anyway?

4. People are often wrongly placed in the Work Related Activity Group, which is for people who are expected to return to work within a couple of years. Many people appeal and move to the Support Group. Many more don’t appeal because they can’t face it, but on seeing staff at the Job Centre are told to go home because they are obviously not well enough to prepare for work. If this scheme is rolled out nationwide then thousands of people will be made to take part when they are not well enough.

5. “Regular discussions with healthcare professionals” are an unacceptable extra burden on people who are already overwhelmed with trying to juggle medical appointments and DWP requirements. Managing an illness or a disability is a full time job which people must get through despite massive barriers, and now the DWP wants to pile a whole load of extra meetings and travel time on them. Like lots of extra meetings won’t make physical and mental health ten times worse.

If you’re one of the people selected for this trial then it is probably worth contacting a lawyer and finding out if you can fight it.

Update: A recruitment ad by Ingeus reveals the use of the fraudulent bio-psychosocial model.

Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

13 thoughts on “Sick people to be forced to talk to the DWP’s own “healthcare professionals””

  1. It just shows how insidious DWP lies are, that even their opponents can be tricked into adopting them: “People are often wrongly placed in the Work Related Activity Group,
    which is for people who are expected to return to work within a couple
    of years.”

    The criteria for it very much show that the WRAG is for people with lifelong conditions as well as short-term ones. The only relevant factor is the severity of the condition and the difference between the two is absurd in many cases – e.g. being unable to concentrate the majority of the time, combined with inability to go out gets you WRAG only, but an inability to concentrate all the time gets you the support group on its own.

    There is nothing there to suggest that the WRAG person is meaningfully less disabled or more likely to return to work. The whole WCA is a farce – with the lie about ‘expected to return to work’ soon being invented solely to justify the new 12 month time limit.

    I have serious doubts that this new idea about seeing a healthcare professional is within the DWP’s exisiting powers. However, it may have certain advantages for claimants, as they may be able to use the meetings to bolster the evidence on file with which to undermine ATOS. I wonder if the DWP have thought of that?

    1. Indeed, the actual definitions for WRAG and SG are nothing to do with the future – they’re about the now. Whether or not the person is fit enough to do something to prepare for work (even if it’s clear they’ll never be capable of work unless social and economic assumptions massively change).

  2. The thing is, the basic concept of this could turn out to be good – actual support towards working. If medical ethics are adhered to (which is possible – seeing a doctor isn’t medical treatment, it’s whether they then compel you to actually receive treatment that’s the problem in terms of medical ethics, AIUI), this could be incredibly positive.

    However, I do not believe for one minute that it will be positive. Not with the rhetoric they’re using around it, and not with their track record (by which I mean the DWP as a whole, not just this Government).

    1. The GMC issued a reminder to doctors over WCAs that whenever they see a patient in relation to a medical matter, their ethical responsibilities apply. However compelled treatment would be doubly problematical as it breaks the principle of informed consent being required for all treatment. OTOH DWP will probably try to wiggle around it by declaring that work is in the patient’s best interests.

  3. The regulations specifically say that work related activity may not include medical treatment. (Part 3, para 4). Meetings with a health care professional would arguably come under that category and certainly any activity prescribed by them should be.

  4. I would suggest that anyone going for one of these ‘discussions,’ take a representative along with them. I would also suggest that that representative take written notes about the whole ‘discussion,’ either that or tape the whole thing. Of course offering to send the ‘healthcare professional,’ a typed copy.
    I would suggest that the same is done when called to an ATOS assessment as well, remembering to ask, in both cases, to see the qualifications of the interviewer.

  5. Hi all, just thought i’d give my opinion on this ‘ere proposal by our “Beloved” work and pensions secretary.

    In Summary – It stinks.

    Just to remind those at DWP – Your Office landed me where i am today. And i regard myself as the mere tip of a blooming great iceberg that’ll sink your policy soon.

    I did as i was told – did the nodding dog routine…got assessed by your quacks…got the qualifications…and a job .Oh, and then – faux pas! – i ask for a little help.

    Your “help” landed me without a job – as the support i needed never materialised –

    I fell over (i kind of do that from time to time)…and found myself applying for ESA after a specialist officer at DWP suggested i do so.

    My “healthcare professional” assisted me in filling in the form for my ESA –

    two consultant letters backed up the evidence

    I went to see your approved quack – and was signed off immediately.

    Now…back to the above mantra

    “People on sickness benefits will be required to have regular meetings with healthcare professionals to help them address their barriers to work – or face losing their benefits”….so that’ll be the same consultants who, having seen the paperwork the first time, will just read it again and come to the same conclusion.

    I gave YOUR staff ALL the relevant detail on my condition, Mr Duncan-Smith – if they haven’t read it – that’s their misunderstanding. But, to clarify – you cannot just drop a pill to irradicate what i’ve got….and sorry, my injuries aren’t going to fade away. Furthermore – due to lack of understanding of my condition and IMHO Sloppy record keeping – your staff do not have a clue as to how my condition affects me on a day to day basis.

    Fortunately, i am getting help from the neurological centre attached to the hospital that saved my life – i use little tricks and tips, from sessions at that centre to help me through the day…but of course…you Mr Duncan-smith, Ms McVey and Mr Hoban don’t like that approach – you want me working! I’d love to – but thanks to your tinkering of the system – who’s going to take me on ?

    (Oh…and as for volunteering…I’m already doing it…Cheers!)

    You can send me to ANY Neurological consultant of your choosing – They’ll reach the same conclusion. My Neurological condition, sir, IS the main barrier to my working…i take a little longer to doing the work because of my injury…you can have speed, you can have accuracy – in my case – you cant have both…

    I could have gone to Remploy…ALAS…Your Mandarins closed it down as per your instruction.

    So DWP….Mr Duncan Smith and all – What would YOU have me do when all YOUR staff can do is put me back in the system again???

  6. I have been seeing “healthcare professionals” for the last 14 years for depression, 4 years of that time i was still working 2 jobs & teaching Kickboxing (plus amature fighting) the last 2 years i have been suffering with what the Doctors/Shrinks call Soxcial Anxiety, and seen many people but just get passed on and forgot about, i want to get back to work, but I am getting no help & its hard for me to get out of my flat, and see people, sometimes for about 10 days running, can someone give me any ideas about what i could do to get sorted out, I am 47 and my life is flying by

  7. When in the 1990s Dr. Harold Shipman took to bumping off his disabled and elderly patients, the authorities, including the police, stepped in.

    Now we have government ministers doing the same. The only possible outcome of this new torture regime will be many MORE deaths.

    This is when the DWP already has a corpse count from 2012 that is so horrific that even Satan, erm, Smith himself is too scared to reveal the figures.

    Yet instead of putting Atos, WCA and WRAG on permanent hold, IDS IS AGAIN TURNING UP THE HEAT.

    Shipman killed just 15 victims, and that was considered enough to put him away.

    How can ANYONE preside over the deaths of tens of thousands – still rapaciously screaming for more – and not be considered a psychopathic serial killer?

    Oh but pity the poor ‘stressed out’ DWP workers with their bruised conscienses, such as the one Polly Toynbee is in contact with. Arguably Myra Hindley was a gentle, demure, Catholic girl before she sold her soul to Ian Brady. SHE didn’t manage to kill 10.600 (and counting), yet the bleeding heart excuses didn’t wash for her.

    Why should they now? Or is it different this time because Hindley’s kicks came from killing children (valued), Shipman’s victims had pensions (so were not ‘burdens’), while IDS is getting his jollies from toying with ‘useless eaters’? As has happened before in recent history.

    The obscene 10,600 death toll from 2011 should have been enough to launch a Nuremburg-style trial to secure mass convictions for corporate manslaughter – with every Atos, DWP, NHS and Ingeus lackey who hounded or betrayed any of the victims, facing life sentences. Although frankly hanging seems more appropriate.

    Either way, these pen-pushing thugs have tasted blood and should never again be let loose on our streets.

  8. believe me CBT under this model for anyone with fibromyalgia, CRPS, dystonia, chronic fatigue and osteoathritis is a waste of time – you cant think yourself into work with these conditions, you have to pace at your pace, rest at your pace, go to bed when needed, if you dont you risk further injury and more hospital visits. Its a waste of time for fluctuating conditons that are exasperated by exercise, cold, temp changes etc

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