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Monday, 30 January 2012

Cart before Horse

It is certainly true to say that the Government has done nothing to create the employment opportunities that would be appropriate for many types of disabled people and this is one of the main reasons its strategy falls down – cart before horse as it were.

Like it or not, if we want to generally improve living standards ,we have to create wealth which in turn requires work. We all know about the demographic changes that have taken place and how this is changing the balance of numbers working and not working, so something has to give. As the Prof suggests, it would be nice to make the option to work purely voluntary, but until a number of other things change, this will not be enough. That does not mean to say that attitudes and motivations should not/cannot be changed, but it requires a re-education process that will take at least a generation to engineer, so the sooner it starts the better.

There is nothing wrong in principle with less than fully able people making what contribution they can given the right backdrop and there is nothing in principle wrong with suitably spaced assessments to check for changes in condition. I cannot thank everyone individually, but I am grateful for the financial support I have received and I am glad I live in a society that makes this possible – I do not believe I have an unerring, unqualified right to either and as soon as I can, I will attempt to return the generosity.

There is a very old management cliché: “if you do not measure it, you cannot manage it”, so the Prof is right to say that it is not acceptable that the Government is doing so little to accurately track the consequences of the WCA outcomes. This is particularly true as whilst DWP regularly claims substantial improvements in the WCA process, even it will not claim an improvement in right-first-time ESA decision making, which is surely what the whole thing is about.

Friday, 20 January 2012

MP letter - WCA recordings


One of the major issues with the WCA is the fact that Atos HCPs simply do not report everything that is said and in recognition, Professor Harrington recommended long ago that the sessions were recorded.

A feasibility study was completed 6 months ago, but apparently the results have yet to be fully assessed and published.  DWP will not even commit to a date, which is just not acceptable given the importance of this proposal.

Can you please do what you can to sort this out.  It is understandably causing a great deal of suspicion as it looks like someone has something to hide.  We at least need the results published urgently.  What is done next can be decided subsequently.  The standard bland “we are in the process of. . . . . . . . “ stone-walling will not be acceptable – they must at least explain why it is taking so long and commit to a publication date.


I trust my GP - please don't spoil it.

#DWP rejects using GPs for #WCAs because they are ‘too soft' (I prefer the words ‘sensibly cautious’).  They fear they will damage the 'relationship' and trust that exists between GP & patient.
Firstly, I do trust my GP.  I trust him to always advise in my best interests.  That that would include returning to work if that is what he thought.  After all, this is what the Hippocratic Oath is all about.
Secondly, I also respect my GP.  If therefore he thought I’d be better off working, I’d expect him to hold his ground despite my protestations.  This too is what the Hippocratic Oath is about.
Thirdly, my ‘relationship’ with my GP is professional only and based on hopefully mutual trust and respect.  He is not my best friend.  Having a sensible debate about whether or not work is a good idea is no less than I would expect.
I am absolutely confident that we would quickly reach agreement.  This does not mean he just gives in; otherwise he loses the trust and respect.
Not all GPs would be prepared to display this degree of integrity, but appropriate direction and monitoring from their highly influential professional bodies would soon bring transgressors into line.
Sadly, this could all go for a ball of chalk if they press on with this rather greedy objection to a small cut in pension payments.  That have done very well thank you over the past decade in the face of the general economic difficulties.  They will do even better if the Government gets its way with NHS reforms.  The pensions of many are so large that they will still be in the ‘top earners’ group (over £65k p.a.).  Surely a modest reduction is not unreasonable?

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

Sadly, spin and distortion in an attempt to support a dubious parochial objective is a feature of pretty much everything these days, so nothing can be taken at face value any longer.  This just wastes a huge amount of time and effort arguing over the numbers rather than spending it on solving the problem.

A case in point is the suggestion that anything up to 70% of Atos WCAs are wrong.  Nobody quite says this, but many are happy that this might be the impression you walk away with, after all it proves without doubt that Atos is rubbish.

However it appears that only 9% of assessment decisions have been overturned at appeal – as recently verified by the independent fact-checker (I have always found Fullfacts to be about as straight as anyone can be).

The REAL issue is therefore whether or not 9% is acceptable and if not what is?  It doesn’t sound a lot – less than 1 in 10 – but in such a sensitive area it is clearly not good enough, but no “errors” is unrealistic.
The sooner we do this, the sooner we can have a sensible discussion about how best to achieve the target (and by when) and establish a series of milestones to get us there.  This is no more than good business practice and I really cannot understand why this was not sorted out at the very beginning of this project.  The fact that it was not is inexcusable and even Harrington reports do not address this basic issue.  How can anyone possibly say that the current overall process is capable of achieving an acceptable error rate without knowing what it is?

The concept of KPIs etc has been much maligned but the one and only management cliché that I have found always holds true is “if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it”.

[PS I do realise that WCA “errors” are not all of equal size and perhaps views would be different if they were just at the margins.]

Ongoing DWP Deception & Misrepresentation with WCA (1)

Not a surprise to many that this takes place, but I will continue to highlight examples as best I can to help you avoid the pitfalls and add to the fast growing body of data that exposes the underlying political dogma that lends itself to legal challenge at some point.

This post relates to the March 2011 decision to remove the bending and kneeling test/descriptor from the WCA, the reason given being that these movements are no longer a significant feature of the modern workplace.  Who says?

DWP’s response was that disability equality legislation has been in place for a number of years and this was enough to indicate that the descriptor changes were justified.  They directed me to a couple of reports that would apparently explain the detail and provide the corresponding evidence.

They did nothing of the kind and one even pointed out that overall, there had been deterioration in compliance with the law since 2005!  More ironic was the fact that in the first few pages, DWP has printed is standard disclaimer saying that the view expressed in the report are not necessarily supported by DWP.
If this is the best “evidence” they have, God forbid, but they have been unable to provide anything better to justify the descriptor change.  All this proves of course is that the REAL motivation is coming from political dogma NOT sound scientific evidence – something many know or suspected already.

Sooner or later, this continual drip, drip, drip of undermining and disproving the propositions on which policies have supposedly been based will expose the sham for what it is and bring about the obvious and simple change of direction needed.

Welfare reform Act and all being in it together

#Welfare #Reform - #Chris #Grayling on radio 4 today, put a well-reasoned arguement for reviewing welfare payments. 

HOWEVER, he did not explain why the changes are hitting the most vulnerable so severely
NOR why he/they are not putting the same effort into tracking down tax dodgers,
NOR why for example Richard Branson gets a state pension which I am sure he doesn't need,
NOR why MPs themselves are sailing through all of this completely unaffected. 

The next person that tells me we are all in it together will find the words repositioned close to their postate.  If we genuinely were and the cuts were "progressive", I would calm down a bit.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Atos Standards & Codes of Practice

#Atos Standards: The Atos Customer Services Charter is brief and vague; however in response to a FoI Act request DWP has confirmed that:
“ . . . . under the Medical Services Contract, Atos Healthcare are subject to the same policies as the DWP which includes standards and codes.” (sic)

This then incorporates DWP’s own Customer Service Charter (which is at least a bit more comprehensive) and indeed the Civil Service Code (which is more about honesty, integrity etc. 

Both provide some sort of accepted benchmark to challenge service and treatment.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Welfare Reform - 3 big assumptions

Much of the Government’s strategy over Welfare reform is based on three massive assumptions:
1.         Society needs as many people to work as possible as it is work that creates wealth.
2.         Work is inherently good for us all, physically & psychologically as it has therapeutic qualities.
3.         Very many sick and/or disabled people are capable of some kind of work.

Assumption #1
Assume, at least for the time being, that this is correct.
Assumption #2
A huge and sweeping generalisation.   My GP has signed up to the Hippocratic Oath.  I know him/her, he/she knows me.  I have learned to trust their judgement as being in my best interests.  If I disagree, we will have a discussion and reach agreement.  If he/she says I am fit for work and I think I am not, we will have the same discussion – I would not expect him/her to change their view unless I can logically and rationally convince them of my case.  I would not expect them to just cave in under irrational and illogical pressure.  If they did, not only do they break the Oath, but immediately lose my confidence and respect as well as their own integrity – who wants a GP whose diagnosis & prognosis are influenced by a bit of shouting?
The point is that if Assumption #2 is true, my GP would have told me and factored it into my recovery programme.  Any suggestion to the contrary forces some very serious consequences that cannot simply be ignored.  Either my GP is doing their job or they are not and the Government cannot hide behind this new fangled branch of medicine called “Work Capability Assessment” which is evidently missing from the lengthy university based training plan.  Nor can it create non-existent barriers by suggesting loss of patient confidentiality & trust when properly handled, this should achieve precisely the opposite – more of both!
Assumption #3
Phrased this way, quite possibly true.  However, is it unlikely to be ‘conventional’ work.
The one thing an employer needs is reliability and this is one thing that many sick and disabled people struggle hardest to provide due to the often unpredictable nature of their condition.  They have learned to adapt their lives around it and employers need to do likewise – to offer the flexibility that the solution requires – flexibility over attendance times, flexibility over hospital visits, flexibility over rest periods at work etc.
The Government claims to be providing support, but has put the cart before the proverbial horse.  Ignoring the fact that there are not enough conventional jobs to go round and disabled people will generally find it tougher to get one, what has the Government done specifically to address this question of flexibility?  NOTHING, and this was the very place it should have started.  This goes much further than installing a few ramps and automatic opening doors, to the very way in which an employer schedules the workload through the day.
Instead, they have taken a completely unrealistic view of the impact disability has in the workplace based on totally spurious theories about the impact of equality legislation.  Their proposition is that employers have responded to the spirit as well as the letter of it so willingly and comprehensively that any form of disability need never be a topic of conversation again.
So on this basis all work (or whatever is available at any point in time) is equally suitable for disabled and able bodied people alike and disabled people are considered on a completely equal basis.
By putting the cart before the horse, they have simply moved people from one queue to another (arguably), more frustrating and de-motivating queue and what is the point in that?

To further demonstrate how seriously they do not understand, they are scaling down REMPLOY.  Explain that if you can.