Archives for posts with tag: Work Capability Assessment


Just for the moment, forget policies and even the general election, and let’s look at humanity.

It’s been said many times, ‘elections are not about personalities’, and every time, they are wrong.

If you want to experience a world devoid of personality and humanity and based solely on policy, take a trip to your local Jobcentre and sign on, or face the arrival of an ESA50 form in its hideous brown envelope, fill it out, and await notification and then attend a Work Capability Assessment. If you get lucky, you’ll get an assessor who will engage with you at a human level, but the process is designed for that not to happen. And here’s the important bit, for many, if not most, people, these experiences are traumatising because they are dehumanising by design.

We face an election that mostly revolves around two parties, but that’s just because it is a rotten system of first past the post and is not representative of the voting public, but all of the parties will be campaigning, and the art of campaigning is the art of persuasion, and the majority of people will vote based on a complex mixture of upbringing, social status, whether they are essentially deferential or not, prejudice, personality, media influence, and so on, and tagging along somewhere at the back, there might be a greater or lesser awareness and understanding of policies.

Like it or not, the popular rise and rise of Jeremy Corbyn is about, and because of, Jeremy Corbyn himself. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. And why? Because he relates to people, speaks to the people, is open and behaves in a sincere and honest way to which people can, and do, relate.

If I were to name a few others in a loosely similar vein, I’d say Caroline Lucas, who just strikes me as a thoroughly decent human being, Mhairi Black and good old Dennis Skinner.

We’ve had seven years of Tory misrule and they don’t come anywhere in the humanity stakes. Theresa May, by any sane standard, has nothing going for her, lacking personality and common or garden decency and empathy. She has no people skills and is clearly deeply uncomfortable around ordinary people, lacking any qualities of spontaneity, warmth, personality or humanity. She is ahead simply because she is ‘establishment’, along with royalty, Lords and Ladies, pomp and pomposity, and she appeals to a deeply conservative streak in Britain which views anything remotely challenging to the status quo as tawdry, lower class, suspicious and ‘not the done thing’. She is the perfect ‘upstairs, downstairs’ candidate, and mixing with the lower orders is definitely not her thing.

Who wants a Prime Minister who is at home in Safeway or Lidl? Oh gawd! If Theresa May went into such places, they’d have to clear everyone out and those who remained, to show her a packet of cornflakes, would be carefully chosen and expected be on their best, deferential, grovelling, behaviour. Sound familiar?

Why was Thatcher so popular and even got away with adopting the royal ‘we’ when talking about herself? She was establishment through and through, even though she wrecked all our national industries and put the boot in, literally, to the unions.

It is said that ordinary people voting Conservative is like turkeys voting for Christmas, and it’s absolutely true.

And Corbyn? He is anti-establishment and has no time for cap doffing, he’s trying to head the turkeys off at the polling booth and asking them to think again.

The establishment and their media nearly had a heart attack when Jeremy Corbyn didn’t bow deeply enough at the Cenotaph. What did David Cameron mockingly say during Prime Minister’s Questions? He said his mother would advise the Labour leader to “put on a proper suit, do up your tie and sing the national anthem”. And, god help us, Corbyn has an allotment and grows stuff and gets his hands dirty and that, according to the Tories and the right wing media, makes him unelectable. Really? Yes, really, and in so doing they mock each and every one if us in our ordinariness, in our unprivileged, unpretentious, profoundly and deeply human, lives.

That’s what this election is about. For millions of us, it’s about fighting for our lives and our right to exist, to have somewhere to live, food on the table, heating in our homes, medical treatment when we need it, a decent education for our children, care in the community, help with disabilities, hospitals, fire stations, police to help against crime, doctors and GP surgeries, nurses, junior doctors and specialists, A&E departments, and enough security to live our lives without fear or want.

It’s about humanity.

KOG. 14 May 2017



It was a huge shock to lose a good friend and campaigner on Monday 1st January 2017. I spent the day in and out of tears, but as the day unfolded I was astonished to realise the extent of her reach and the number of lives she had profoundly touched. It was typical of Denise Bellamy to just get on with it, she was at times completely disabled by recurring illness and had a busy family life to boot. I can’t imagine how she did it, but I do feel profound awe and overwhelming of love for a dear departed friend and campaigner.

We’re just a few days into the new year, it’s not even toddling yet, but what has struck me is the force of the opposition to what the Tories are doing to our country and our people. It feels the year has started like a tidal wave and we are a lot wiser than at the start of 2016, but the fundamental problem remains, the way the Tories treat us and their attitude towards us.

Today I read about a woman who had her mobility allowance stopped because she could squeeze someone’s thumb. She has since had her mobility allowance restored and backdated after interventions from her MP and the press, but that is not the point. Despite having evidence from MS specialists at Leicester’s hospitals, during the assessment the lady was asked to, ‘squeeze this person’s thumb, to touch her toes from a sitting position and to stand on one leg, which she managed to do although holding on to something.’ And that was it, her support was stopped.

I must mention here that within the Department for Work and Pensions we are called ‘Stock’!

Throughout history the lower orders, that’s ordinary people, have been used and abused as cannon fodder, cheap labour, providers for the great and the good as well as being their servants (and being forced into other less savoury roles) and the problem with this government is that this attitude still prevails.

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is designed to be humiliating, demeaning, infantalising and downright disrespectful. Medical evidence that claimants provide is ignored and people are forced to perform for so called Healthcare Professionals who go through a tick box process and the results are sent to a decision maker who has the final say in denying them support.

One nurse who worked as a Healthcare Professional had this to say about her job, “It is made clear throughout training and working that we are not nurses – we are disability analysts. Also, we do not carry out “medical assessments” we carry out “functional assessments”. We did not even need a diagnosis to carry out assessments.”

The entire point of ‘functional assessments’ is to assess whether the claimant could do any form of bullshit work at all, no matter how limited, so squeezing a finger qualifies a claimant as capable of work and the entire point of the assessment is to deny benefits to as many people as possible. In short, it’s a punitive system of benefit denial.

What used to enrage Denise, which we discussed many times, and still enrages me and many others is the arrogant paternalism of the government who treat people more like groveling penitents who are forced to physically beg for help through a series of meaningless and demeaning actions like performing monkeys. The word and expertise of real healthcare professionals, like GPs and hospital specialists and, indeed, the word of the claimant, is treated as of no value and meaningless.

In his book, PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future, Paul Mason wrote the following, “The truth is, as finance has seeped into our daily lives, we are no longer slaves to the machine, to the 9-to-5 routine, we’ve become slaves to interest payments. We no longer just generate profits for our bosses through our work, but also profits for financial middlemen through our borrowing. A single mum on benefits, forced into the world of pay-day loans and buying household goods on credit, can be generating a much higher profit rate for capital than an auto industry worker with a steady job.

“Once every human being can generate a financial profit just by consuming – and the poorest can generate the most – a profound change begins in capitalism’s attitude to work… financialization is a permanent feature of neoliberalism. Like fiat money, it leads to breakdown – but the system can’t do without it.”

Financial insecurity, whether through poverty pay, insecure jobs on zero hours contracts, the destruction of social safety nets, reducing or denying people the pensions they have paid for over a working lifetime, is a systemic abuse of ordinary people for profit and the transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich.

Drive people into the ground and they become slaves to debt and interest rates all of which just increases the wealth of those who control the financial markets and so it is no surprise to see a report today that the public subsidies to the privatised rail networks, £3.999 billion in 2015/16 alone, is declared as profit and siphoned off as bonuses and fatcat pay packages. Meanwhile rail fares are on the rise again and rail networks fail to meet customer needs merely to get to work.

Whether it is in the trenches over 144 days of hell and ultimate horror in the battle of the Somme at the cost of over a million lives, numberless billions trying to scratch a mean living as wage slaves, or sick and disabled people denied even the right to basic mobility and care, it all feeds the greed of those who own and control wealth and make obscene profits and pay themselves more money than they could need in a hundred lifetimes and give nothing back, not even taxes towards the very system that sustains them.

The entire world runs on the backs of ordinary people, the worker, the disabled person, the immigrant, the single mum, the OAP struggling to stay warm, the evicted homeless, all of us plain, honest to god, ordinary folks.

And do you know what? We’re amazing, we’re so damned decent it takes my breath away. The outpouring of love for Denise says everything about us and nothing about the thieves who despoil our lives for profit. If you are English, then you quite likely hardly know how to complain about a poorly prepared meal in a restaurant, or take back shoddy goods to a store without making a fuss, just standing firm and expecting a refund, or whatever. The crimes committed against us on a daily basis we’ve suffered for generations.

Back in July 1957, Harold Macmillan blithely told us we’d never had it so good, before deciding that we needed to increase our productivity and have our wages suppressed. And he got away with it.

We are so damned good and decent it’s staggering, and when the time comes to be as obnoxious as humanly possible towards the system, we are completely nonplussed. It’s not that we’re out of practice, we’ve never really done it before. Civil disobedience? What’s that?

Personally I am learning every day, building up grit and sinew, cutting away at the veneer of civilisation because there is nothing civilised about organised society, other than in the civility of ordinary people. Behind the veneer of a supposedly civilised state is a shocking brutality in which people are dying daily and does the state care? Not one bit, indeed it creates the very circumstances in which so many are losing their lives.

It’s a slow process and we are not to blame for that, we’re learning as we go. Learning to stand up for ourselves and it is happening. When I think back to planning what I could do in 2011/12 before starting a letter a day to number 10, there was barely a ripple in general to what was going on. As 2017 begins it’s a very different story by comparison. Is it good enough, are we good enough? Yes, we are.

It takes patience, it can’t be rushed for love nor money. Not a one of us can demand any kind of popular uprising, but we can and do work towards it, daily. As others join, so much is already in place and they don’t have to do the groundwork, and getting up to speed is made easier by those who’ve gone before and worked their socks off.

Denise was such a one and I applaud her life and all she did for every one of us, yes, even those who do not even know it yet, never knew her and never will. Her efforts were no less heroic for that.

If she could have left a message on my answering machine, I am very sure she’d have left (in spirit) something like:

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won if he’d stuck it out.
Don’t give up, though the pace seems slow –
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late, when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out –
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are –
It may be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit –
It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.

Attributed to Edgar A. Guest (1881-1959)

KOG. 04 January 2017

14_april_2016A letter a day to number 10. No 1,402

Thursday 14 April 2016.

Dear Mr Cameron,

Pity you poor Tories, trapped in a world of wealth and privilege that’s none of your making (just inherited) and not your fault. As Charles Moore said in the Telegraph, “David Cameron’s fate is to be caught in the wealth trap”. If the best defence of the policies of vindictive punitive attrition being waged against the poorest and most vulnerable people in Britain is a pity party for the wealthy then the jig’s up.

In 2009, Alan Duncan was recorded complaining that ‘MPs were ‘treated like shit’ and ‘forced to live on rations’ in the wake of the MPs expenses scandal’. Now he’s accusing everyone who is not a millionaire of being ‘low achievers, who hate enterprise, hate people who look after their own family and who know absolute nothing about the outside world’, thus demonstrating that he knows absolutely nothing about the world outside of his overbearing and overweening privilege.

Duncan also told critics to “snap out of their synthetic indignation” as they merely “hate anyone who’s even got a hint of wealth in their life”. You launched your 2015 manifesto claiming “we are the party of working people”. This is the kind of synthetic pap that PR and propaganda is made of and what you pay spin doctors for and why you created your aptly named Nudge Unit, shape shifters synthetically manipulating public opinion and actions.

Let’s not forget your accusation that people on benefits have a ‘culture of entitlement’ as the justification of your all out war on the poor. You demand that we fill out Work Capability Assessment forms wanting to know in excruciating detail the painful realities of our lives, Theresa May wants to snoop on our every electronic move, someone was recently refused a Personal Independence Payment for misrepresenting the time she spent on Facebook, yet you tell us your financial arrangements are ‘a private matter’. This level of hypocrisy isn’t a zero sum game, it’s a deadly game with serious consequences.

Alan Duncan insulted over 64 million people in calling them low achievers, does he really expect to get away with that after six years of Tory attacks on our lives? You’ve been relentless in your war against the poor and if you are just now beginning to reap the whirlwind, at least be a man and not whimper that it’s not fair, unless you are actually inciting revolution because it suits your purposes to do so in order to cull yet more lives. Who can know? Who can wade through all the lies, spin and Tory bullshit? Who can understand the Tory mindset and who would even want to? Just for once in your own utterly dismal, morally bankrupt, life, do the right thing and resign.

27_february_2016A letter a day to number 10. No 1,355

Saturday 27 February 2016.

Dear Mr Cameron,

Let’s get one thing absolutely clear from the outset, therapy is only therapy if it is client led, if the practitioner has a pre-existing agenda it is ‘coercion’ and whatever practices employed to achieve that coercive agenda are ‘programming’.

The 400 psychologists, counsellors and academics who condemned Osborne’s ‘return-to-work’ pogrom are entirely correct in condemning such heinous practices as ‘manifestly not therapy at all’. In an open letter to the Guardian they state, ‘It is time for the field’s key professional organisations to wake up to these malign developments, and unequivocally denounce such so-called “therapy” as damaging and professionally unethical’.

Exposing already vulnerable people to coercive programming and conditioning is not only profoundly wrong and toxic it amounts to nothing less than psychological assault. If people are forced to undertake programming under Iain Duncan Smith’s conditionality regime, under threat of sanctions, then your governments descent into barbarity is a done deal. People suffering from mental health problems being coerced into coercive programming is far beyond criminality, it is state torture which you have allocated £1 billion a year to undertake.

A recent study by Oxford and Liverpool researchers found that, ‘each additional 10,000 people subjected to a Work Capability Assessment was associated with an additional six suicides, 2,700 cases of reported mental health problems, and the prescribing of an additional 7,020 anti-depressants. Overall, that amounted to 590 extra suicides, 279,000 additional cases of mental health problems and an additional 725,000 anti-depressants across England as a whole’.

The DWP responded to the study saying that, ‘This report is wholly misleading, and the authors themselves caution that no conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect’. Prof Thom Baguley, associate dean for research at Nottingham Trent University wrote, ‘The evidence goes beyond merely establishing a correlation but falls short of establishing a causal link’. If your government had any interest in anything other than creating a punitive regime it would immediately seek to undertake in depth research into these issues and it says everything about your government that no mention of any such study has been made.

It is not just therapists who should be condemning this wanton state brutality, these issues rightly belong in the Hague for crimes against humanity and I appeal for legal professionals to come forward to assist us in challenging your government.

George Osborne is paying therapists to ‘coerce’ mentally ill people back to work

20_february_2016A letter a day to number 10. No 1,348

Saturday 20 February 2016.

Dear Mr Cameron,

It’s strange, a few weeks ago I retired, it was a good feeling for a few days until I realised that nothing had changed, everyone still wants their pound of flesh.

Two months before retirement I was called in for a Work Capability Assessment, I declined and negotiated my way out of that, only to be called in again two days before I retired. It took six phone calls to speak to anyone who could actually cancel the appointment for the madness it was.

Meanwhile, having changed my energy supplier on Pay as You Go agreements, I have received a final demand for payment from my old supplier of over £800. I am sure there are plenty of people out there who would be intimidated by what amounts to fraud, but I’ll fight it as I usually do in such situations and I’ll take some degree of pleasure in declining their offer to rob me and clean me out of money I don’t have and wouldn’t pay if I did.

I called Virgin Media today because my bill for phone and Internet has been steadily creeping up from £26 last year to currently over £50 and it was time to rein them in. I struck a deal for £36, till the next time. By an odd coincidence BT called me today offering me a deal and despite my repeated insistence that I had no interest in changing supplier, the sales woman insisted that everyone wants to save money as if money is the be all and end all of everything. I hung up in disgust.

Week on week I watch my money buying less, less food, less fuel, less everything in Osborne’s miraculous long term economic plan.

There has been a sea change in this country which I can only describe as gouge the end user, which is what I am. There used to be a saying that the customer is always right. That’s long gone now, whether it’s George Osborne, Iain Duncan Smith, Jeremy Hunt, energy suppliers, food retailers, ordinary people are being ripped off and treated with contempt.

In the early days following the 2010 General Election Mark McGowan, the Artist Taxi Driver, coined the very apt expression, ‘This is not a recession it’s a robbery’. How right he was and it falls to each and every one of us to fight and keep on fighting this sick oppression of ordinary people for money, more and more of our money to feed corporate greed and the ocean of lies with which you conduct and pursue this appalling robbery. Money isn’t a god but by all means have it as yours, I don’t care, just do it in your own time, get out of parliament and stop robbing us to feed your and the markets’ insatiable greed.

15_february_2016A letter a day to number 10. No 1,343

Monday 15 February 2016.

Dear Mr Cameron,

I note that some MPs are due a third pay rise on top of the 10% last July and a further 1.3% hike this coming April. Half the eighty MPs who help chair meetings are apparently set to get a £3,700 extra pay rise and the other half a £15,000 pay rise. That ol’ Westminster bubble seems to be keeping you all safe from any concerns about austerity in the privilege and prosperity you are so adept at rewarding yourselves with at our expense.

This is heady stuff for a government that cannot design an IT system that can work out that a man who lost his legs, his spleen and one eye in the 7/7 bombings isn’t going to get better. Dan Biddle had to give up work in 2014, having struggled on working since the bombing, because post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) meant he could not work for long periods of time. Since then he has been in receipt of ESA but has recently received a letter telling him that unless he fills out the ESA50 form, presumably for the second time, he will lose his support. Whilst his PTSD may possibly improve over time, he will be physically disabled for the rest of his life necessitating extra support. Iain Duncan Smith may think work will make him well, but it certainly won’t help him grow new legs, a spleen and an eye. I understand this is challenging for Smith, but then we’ve all been saying the man has no place being in charge of the DWP for years.

In the last report I saw in June last year, Universal Credit, Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship benefit denial system, was over budget by £3 billion putting the lifetime cost at £15.8 billion. This is a system so useless it cannot even work out my age, having called me in for a Work Capability Assessment on two occasions, once two months before I retired and the second two days before I retired. It required 6 separate phone calls to 6 separate DWP internal departments before someone could acknowledge that the system is an ass. This is way beyond benefit denial into towering incompetence or deliberate obfuscation to dismay, bewilder and frustrate beyond reason. My bet is on the latter, because Smith is that kinda guy.

I see that the commons has voted to protect arrested MPs from disclosure to the house of commons and the public. This is an excellent idea, one that I shall be advising all and sundry to adopt. We are, after all, all MPs and equal before the law, not withstanding some being a whole lot more equal than others. As an MP (Member of the Public) I expect the same privileges and protections due any other MPs. I believe a pay rise is due for all MPs outside the Westminster bubble of 10% back dated to July 2015 and a further 1.3% from April.

14_november_2015A letter a day to number 10. No 1,257

Saturday 14 November 2015.

Dear Mr Cameron,

I really have to wonder how this country is ever going to recover from your brutal and increasingly dysfunctional government. You might not be interested in personal cases but I am going to give you one any way, mine.

A few weeks ago the DWP wrote to me to inform me that in less than three months time, on January 27 2016, I am due to retire and would get in contact nearer that date to sort out my pension.

Imagine my surprise then to receive, a week later, an appointment for a Work Capability Assessment. Despite filling the long and difficult ESA50 assessment form in which I detailed what acute social phobia is like to live with and how it affects my life and requesting a home visit, which I have always had in the past, a home visit was rejected, ‘A home visit could not be authorised (their emphasis) by a Healthcare Professional based on the medical evidence we have received’. I am not sure what kind of Healthcare Professionals Maximus employ at the Bristol Centre for Health and Disability Assessments but it clearly isn’t in human physical or mental health care. In their letter they said they would provide a taxi to and from the assessment. I wrote to them to explain that a taxi makes my situation worse, not better and I also informed them of a recent serious medical condition for which I am due an operation on Friday 20th November and for which treatment will be ongoing for some time.

I heard nothing from them and the taxi duly turned up and I had to inform the driver that I was unable to attend the appointment. After the driver left I was overcome with uncontrollable shaking and in acute distress in the certain knowledge that the outcome from all this is likely to be the loss of all social security support and that is the power of life and death that the DWP have and abuse over our lives.

I have no desire to become just another statistic in the very long list of those who have suffered and died under Iain Duncan Smith’s brutal regime. This is a pointless and senseless attack in the closing weeks to my retirement, just another story of blind belligerence forcing people to jump through hoops when it would be obvious to a stone dinosaur they are neither fit nor capable of work and yet sanctions against people with mental health problems have risen 600% over the last four years. Now there’s a statistic for you that you can’t blame on Labour.