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Wednesday, 7 March 2012

My Reply to An Open Letter to David Cameron by Lisa Egan

Dear Lisa,
I was greatly encouraged by your recent piece in http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/lisa-egan/david-cameron-welfare-reform_b_1319908.html?ref=tw, as I thought it was just me who has lost touch with colloquial use of the English language and had misunderstood the meaning of certain words, apparently for all of my life.
One is the word “independence”.  This reared its head in the context of the 3rd layer of the Atos complaints procedure, known as the Independent Tier.  As you perhaps know, its identity is a secret.  It is selected by and paid by Atos.  Its only contact with the outside world is through Atos, yet it is still deemed “independent”.  Apparently secrecy is the only way of ensuring independence, so it appears I am also off-beam with my understanding of "public accountability", "transparency" and "democracy" too.
Another mistake I have been making is treating “consultation”, “support” and “agreement” as having different meanings when DWP assumes they mean the same thing.  So when it produces reports and lists the people and organisations it “consulted”, it does so in such a way as to suggest “support” and “agreement” with its conclusions and recommendations and only when pressed does it acknowledge the (subtle) difference. 
Finally there is the meaning of “disclaimer”.  DWP will happily refer to reports it has commissioned from “independent” (see above) professionals to support decisions it has made, despite showing a disclaimer on page 1 – “The views in this report are the views of the authors and not necessarily the views of DWP”, or words to that effect.   I can understand their nervousness as in some reports the conclusions are close to the opposite of what DWP has suggested!  So do they agree with it or not?  Who knows?  I believe this is what they mean when they talk about their decisions being evidence-based – you can get away with the deception as long as nobody takes the trouble to look.
I am considering re-taking my English GCE as the one I have has clearly become redundant and out of date.  It seems Mathematics has changed in much the same way, where for DWP, 2+2 often now equals 5.
Thank you again

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