Alan Wheatley – Evidence to Harrington
A Lifelong Disabled Jobseeker’s Evidence
to Professor Malcolm Harrington on ESA
By Alan Wheatley
“Those who give the order seldom see the mess it makes.”
— Euripides [Ancient Greek playwright] translated and adapted by Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘The Trojan Women’
“We owe it to those who follow after us to keep on keeping on.”
— Mother of a 1993-born Asperger’s Syndrome young woman, on why it’s essential for disabled people and carers to persevere in the face of whatever hindrances and humiliations criminally negligent government throws in our way
- The best way of improving the Work Capability Assesment is to scrap it.
- Subject ATOS Origin and its staff to investigations for fabricating evidence and conspiracy to defraud the public purse.
- Recognise that the WCA is inseparable from the Welfare Reform Act 2009 that can be described as a slaver’s charter, with reduced bargaining power inherent in ever-more one-sided ‘conditionality’ [bullying] for the disabled person.
- Recognise also that — as has previously been identified by the Employers Forum on Disability — many disabled people acquire greater self-managment skills than non-disabled people. (‘Scheme participants” lack of co-operation is often more likely to result from external impositions and their disability access requirements not being met. In the case of people with undiagnosed Autistic Spectrum Conditions, much needs to be done to train the
- Oblige the DWP to record and publish data concerning the numbers of jobseekers who self-declare as disabled in terms of the Disability Discrimination Act, and also to monitor and publish data on numbers of claimants with and without disabilities who volunteer.
- Oblige all key decision-makers to undergo Disability Equality Training. Disability Equality Training should help minimise the risk of those who set the targets of how many claimants to declare ‘fit for work’ showing that they themselves are not ‘fit for purpose’. DET would also give them greater understanding of the physical and social barriers that conspire to prevent long-term sick and disabled people entering competitively recruited waged employment.
- Increase the basic rates and ‘earnings disregards’ for Jobseeker’s Allowance, so as to minimise the resentment that long-term JSA claimants are at risk of experiencing.
- Invest in, rather than scrap, jobs and public services — especially diagnostic services — so as to give people’s lives more meaning.
Dear Professor Harrington
In the ‘Occupational History’ section on a Work Capability Assessment of me, ATOS Origin ‘Approved Healthcare Professional’ [sic] Dr Ratnam Ramayana reported that I had last worked four years previously and left on account of work-based stress. No mention of what I had told him, that I am a lifelong disabled person and working-life long volunteer, or that in the years since leaving five years’ seamless but unfulfilling salaried service in October 1977, I had managed only a cumulative 17 months waged employment. I had also told him that that last work as a social care worker to adults with learning difficulties, my employment had been so part-time that I still claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance while submitting part-time earnings forms fortnightly at the JobCentre. I have never been one to ‘sit idly’ [on a very low income] in the way that multi-millionaire Chancellor George Osborne has so smugly spouted that Incapacity Benefit claimants do.
Criminally negligent Government
Similarly, there was no reference in the Welfare Reform Green Paper of 2008 regarding the plight of disabled JSA claimants, of which I know I was not the only one. The authors of that document concerned themselves only with the ‘burden on the taxpayer’ represented by millions of Incapacity Benefit claimants, and not with what a hard time finding paid employment disabled jobseekers were having. That omission, in my view, is just one of many indicators of criminally negligent government. The scale of what I consider the criminal negligence of government has got progressively worse over the decades since I first entered unemployment, or as I prefer to call it, ‘unwaged status’.
For me in my early years as a claimant of ‘unemployment benefit’ since 1977, I have noticed a progressive lack of parity with inflation compared to the annual salary increases I experienced in my first paid job. Yet by going without a television in my own home until I entered university in the 1990s, I was helped to reduce my material desires and thus get by relatively unscathed. But grinding poverty is grinding poverty and got worse over the decades.
I have blogged about some of those indicators on the blogsite of Green Party of England & Wales Health Spokesperson Stuart Jeffery. Of particular relevance to your inquiry into the efficacy of the Work Capability Assessment, one particular such indicator of criminal negligence is that ATOS Origin’s assertion that dissatisfied ‘customers’ take their complaints direct to the company as Sheila Murphy’s case showed. I am amazed that with even as few as 40% successful appelants of the 32% that take their cases to ESA tribunal, we do not hear about sanctions taken against ‘Approved Healthcare Practitioners’ [sic], or some kind of investigation of fraudulent practices — such as deliberately over-allocating a zero rating on all eligibility counts.