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Monday, 30 July 2012

The Question of Targets Again

Undoubtedly DWP is playing its usual game with semantics over the word “target”.  If there are numbers involved, it is certainly smart enough not to document them for fear of what the FoI Act might reveal. But there doesn’t need to be . . . .
The message to Atos in leaning the results of a WCA in one direction has been clear from the outset.  One of the early jibes was that if you can get to a MAC, you must be fit enough to work and this has never been that far from the truth.  Having initially biased the results, you have then created biased “norms” against which you judge current performance and correct accordingly, so the whole cycle becomes self-perpetuating – cunning & subtle, but transparent.
This is not speculation or opinion.  Using the Government’s own declared philosophy, there is more than enough evidence around covering almost every aspect of the WCA process to demonstrate that the process has been deliberately influenced.
One of the biggest giveaways is that Atos admits to monitoring HCP results against historical norms [although it does not explain a) quite how they are calculated, b) what level of deviation is considered “acceptable” or c) how far it investigates cause & effect, i.e. one HCP’s results might just reflect a bias in the conditions they have been called up on to assess.].  It does not however adjust for appeal reversals, so never measures the true picture individually or collectively, adding more bias.
In any other area of science or management, these anomalies would have been ironed out to ensure the ultimate results are genuine and offer a sound basis for decision making.  The fact here that they have not been simply means that they are irrelevant to the Government’s overall intentions and it will continue to falsely claim all of its policies are evidence-based and supported by experts to try to maintain the charade. 
It is aiming for a pre-determined end point and this end justifies the means.  The amount of collateral damage caused along the way is just “unfortunate”.


Anonymous said...

Have you actually considered the possibility that there are no targets? Why would this be so surprising? After all, the purpose of WCA and ESA is to get people back to work, they will receive JSA whilst they look for work

Tia Junior said...

Anon, don’t suppose you are Iain Duncan-Smith are you? The full answer to your proposition is far too long for a ‘comment’.

I doubt there are targets per se – in the sense that ID-S/CG have stated a number – far too contentious and politically risky. I can however recognise a hidden agenda when I see one (if indeed that is logically possible). Suffice to say that there is such a large gap between DWP ‘theory’ and practice, you do not have to be a genius to realise that all is not what it seems and that even the theory is based on political dogma rather than scientific fact.

Way back in 2008 for all sorts of good reasons someone must have estimated the SG/WRAG/FFW mix and produced expenditure forecasts accordingly – otherwise how on earth could ID-S and CG quantify the welfare savings they have declared. If the proportions increase from the left, costs go up – quite a problem when there is no spare cash. What is interesting is the basis on which these forecasts were made – don’t suppose you know? There was no evidence at the time as there was no WCA, so someone must have been guessing and guessing based on what I wonder. So call them what you will, if the SG proportion starts to rise, a message filters down the line to that effect highlighting the “awkward” consequences.

If that doesn’t work, then there’s the descriptor opportunity. Simply change the definitions so that some limitations to working are no longer considered in the assessment. This shifts large numbers of people from one side of the line to the other at a stroke, is more reliable than the coded message approach and superficially (and falsely) maintains the integrity of HCPs and DMs, by attributing the change to evidence that does not exist and experts that do not actually sanction it.