At last a good article in the ‘meejah’on the privatising and removing of entitlement bill (also known in newspeak as the Welfare Reform Bill), HarpyMarx makes good points too and states the most pressing simple solution- ditch the bill. It is Toryism being inflicted by a nominally Labour Government. I have experience of the system as it treats us differently sane types and one subject that is avoided is the role of the PCA system in increasing stressors on suicidal people, consequently the DWP have directly played a major contributory part in suicides that could have been avoided. This is known but ignored in order to cut benefits and follow orthodox neoliberal ideology towards moving public money into private hands. As such I consider it a form of corporate manslaughter by our government and the associated corporations it contracts.

Atos Origin employ doctors to run the software tests (which cannot be peer reviewed for medical efficacy because the DWP & Atos claim ‘commercial confidentiality’) which are then adjudicated by non doctors. As such an interesting appearance of medical professionalism is presented by this, the claimant sees a doctor -albeit just clicking a mouse on a PC questionnaire- not the office based adjudicator. I think the medical profession have to ask some hard questions as to the ethics of playing a role in the current and proposed systems. However given the role of medical professionals in torture, I won’t hold my breath (no water boarding pun intended).

Harpy’s mention of Michael Moore’s Sicko is very apt, as it showed the process of corporate executives receiving bonuses and career advancement in return for denying treatment to clients that lead to the clients death but to increased profit for the corporation. The private sector’s advance into the NHS is spearheaded by the privatising of welfare and particularly its medical aspects. Just as America wakes up to the horrors of healthcare for profit (and the ruling class fight desperately to avoid a democratically majority desired national healthcare system) we are about to fall fully into the nightmare, piloted -as ever- on the least powerful, most ignored and misunderstood minorities in society. We should be saying- “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” (this time, pun intended).

Welfare reform will contribute to the growing problem of mental illness. The DWP is taking on the role of a therapeutic agent, claiming work will make people better against the advice of their doctors.

Welfare reforms to date are failing the needs of people with mental illness. Claimants who have “symptoms without diseases”, or mental health conditions, and who cannot demonstrate that their illness has an “objective medical pathology” will be most at risk of being denied benefits or forced to undertake inappropriate work activity.

Personal Capability Assessment claims have been assessed by Atos Origin employees with no medical training. Computerised evaluations coupled with clearance time targets have led to significant statistical error. Fifty per cent of appeals against the refusal of claims found in favour of the claimant (pdf). In 80% of these cases the problem was poor assessment of mental health problems.

DWP research shows (pdf) that Pathways to Work pilots have done little to help people with mental illness find work. Further DWP research shows that one of the main barriers to attending work-focused interviews is mental ill health (pdf). The same report also reveals that sanctions have a negative impact on people’s mental health, both for those who are already mentally ill and for others who develop anxiety or depression.

Cost of Tasers in North Wales

I have to say LibDem Tom Brake does a superb job in his comments on this, concise and informative on the key issues.

ARMING more North Wales cops with Tasers will cost the force almost £40,000 this year, records reveal. And training up the rank and file to use the American-style stun guns will also take each officer off the streets for at least two days. Until this year only the most highly-trained fire arms squads could carry the weapons, which emit 50,000-volts to temporarily paralyse targets.

But a relaxation of the rules means 30,000 more junior officers are set to be trained up nationally. North Wales police have trialled the use of the weapons, set to be rolled out to other forces this year. Under the Freedom of Information Act North Wales police admitted piloting the use of Tasers cost £22,428, while rolling out the scheme this year will cost £39,191. The figures do not take in to account any costs for the officer’s time.

Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman who uncovered the information, said: “Having police out patrolling the streets would be of far more benefit to the public than locking them away for two days and training them to use deadly weapons. Tasers have killed over 300 people in America since 2001 and yet the Home Office maintains that they are non-lethal. It is ridiculous that the Home Office is lavishing millions on Tasers when some police forces do not want even want them. Tasers should be left in the hands of specially trained firearms officers. By giving 30,000 officers Tasers we are descending the slippery slope towards armed, US-style policing.”