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Where ‘welfare reform’ ends

Written By: - Date published: 10:58 am, March 10th, 2014 - 25 comments
Categories: uk politics, welfare - Tags:

Sheila Holt, in the UK, is in a coma for 2 months. She has also just been invited to “intensive job-focused activity” by the Dept of Work & Pensions.

She’s suffered severe bipolar disorder since childhood and hasn’t been in paid employment since 16.  Despite her inability to sustain it – with regular traumatic episodes – she was pushed into the Work Programme before Christmas.  The stress broke her.

She had a manic episode and had to be hospitalised.  While there she had a heart attack and lapsed into a coma.

The Dept of Work & Pensions wasn’t done with her yet though.  They’re still pushing.

And while extreme, it is not an isolated case.

Research has been coming out showing that people living in hostels without internet access are being required to apply for 50-100 jobs each week or have their benefits cut – an impossible task. Single mothers of primary children are being told they have to apply for full-time jobs that aren’t practical if they are to raise their own children.

The private companies implementing the UK welfare reform, are desperately trying to hit targets of getting people back to work.  At any cost.  Early on they were found to have significant corruption, now they’re being found to fail their clients.

Claimants of benefits must have an assessment within 30 days.  The private companies are meant to assess 97% of people with in that time but are operating at 55-67% – meaning many who need it can’t claim their benefits, sometimes for months.  All this while the private companies charge the government more because they can’t manage their workload.

Here National are looking to follow the same path with using private companies to assess claimants and ‘help’ them back to work.  Whilst significant investment in getting people back ready and able for work is needed, is this the way forward?

Chris Riddell 23/02/2014


25 comments on “Where ‘welfare reform’ ends”

  1. MaxFletcher 1

    “Sheila Holt, in the UK, is in a coma for 2 months”

    *has been in coma

    Sorry, just that first line gabbed me immediately. I’ll keep reading..

  2. MaxFletcher 2

    “Research has been coming out showing that people living in hostels without internet access are being required to apply for 50-100 jobs each week or have their benefits cut – an impossible task.”

    Even with the internet that is an impossible tasks – there just aren’t that many jobs.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      If there were 50 to 100 jobs available per person then there wouldn’t be any unemployment. In fact, the employers would be screaming for workers.

      It’s shit like this that really shows just how out of touch with reality that governments are.

  3. shorts 3

    I believe this is the actual end of benefit cuts:


    Notice how often those suffering the most also have mental health issues – ie they are the very people welfare should help the most

    shame on all our houses

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      Some people should be jailed for murder over that one – starting with the politicians.

  4. geoff 4

    What a cartoon!
    And in our corner of the world, this week all the bank economists are again hyping up the economy, calling for interest rate hikes because they can’t fleece as many people with 5% deposit mortgages.
    Utter utter scumbags.

  5. Tiger Mountain 5

    Labour needs to suggest in election policy and if elected do the previously impossible and reinstate the benefit cuts from the 90s inclusive of CPI since. Nationals recent war on the poor has just piled on top of Labour’s “Jobs Jolt” and WFF.

    I have a seriously diabetic friend in West Auckland reduced to a near breakdown by WINZ staff insisting he be available for work when he can barely walk and has home dialysis.

    If the minimum wage is raised and a living wage instituted in stages the politicians beloved gap between workers and ‘bludgers’ will be maintained.

    The third way social democrats really kept this up. If WFF was scrapped workers would have to organise and get their own wage increases from their employers rather than fellow taxpayers. And as many say on The Standard a UBI might reduce the benefit stigma once and for all. WINZ workers going down the road is something that would really cheer me up.

  6. captain hook 6

    I guess the people who have jobs persecuting those who dont is an incentive to keep doing it to prove to the masters that just in case they lose their job that they have obeyed the simon legrees who get off on bashing up helpless people.

  7. Colonial Viper 7

    So, is Labour proposing to reverse their own fitness to work assessments and privately provided medical assessments of benficiaries, that they introduced via WINZ and ACC during Labour 5?

    • Aww 7.1

      Labour could get people who are on placement (Victoria just introduced placements to BA Hons apparently) to review the current arraignment, see how disabled people are actually treated by Work and Income, and if appropriate propose a new way of assessing those who are sick. At least it wouldn’t cost thousands in consulting fees.

  8. Tracey 8

    thats britain. nothing like that happens in nz

  9. thechangeling 9

    Had another yelling match with Winz on the phone the other week over whether or not I’m ‘suitable’ to be referred for a job they wanted C.V’s for.
    It’s easier to just go along with their insane B.S or else wind up with high blood pressure and the risk of a stroke or heart attack later in the day.
    On another occasion even my case manager said: “You have to be insane to work here”.

    • Stephanie Rodgers 9.1

      I knew a graphic designer who was constantly pushed to apply for any job which included the word “design”. Because Photoshop and branding expertise are so applicable to kitchen construction.

  10. Tracey 10

    ruth dysons regime required stressful reassessment of a family member with cerebral palsy, both physically and intellectual disabled to be sure he couldnt work. they could have just googled to see if a cure for cp had been developed.

    i dont need convincing that many reliant on the state live in fear.

  11. xtasy 11

    The outsourcing of employment referrals for mentally ill – same as sole parents – has already begun in New Zealand, and private operators get paid handsome fees for placing mental health sufferers into jobs – on trials that are running now.

    And astonishingly, one such private service provider is Workwise, whose ‘Strategic Policy Advisor’ Helen Lockett was also advising MSD and Paula Bennett on how to implement welfare reform, while sitting on the ‘Health and Disability Panel’. Surely she must have had a conflict of interest:




    More on this outsourcing is found in an article by Simon Collins in the ‘Herald’ not long ago:
    (see the list of providers at the bottom of it)

    And here an article from the Herald on Sunday, 30 June 2013:

    Even the ‘President Elect’ of the AFOEM (and former ATOS staff member) Dr David Beaumont has his own private work referral business on the South Island:


    Strange that, how so many also have their own vested interests in all this?!

  12. Foreign waka 12

    Since NZ has no constitution the only redress would be via the human right commission. Besides, NZ despises all that is mainland Europe policy (not fit to emanate). I am not aware that this kind of policy would be possible unless the government is prepared to have at least 80% of the population marching onto parliament in any of the EU countries.

    • xtasy 12.1

      Foreign waka – I am unsure whether you commented under the right post here, but the UK type of welfare reforms, now to a substantial degree also being brought in here, have nothing much to do with “mainland Europe” policies! These reforms are more US style welfare reforms, and they are the result of intensive lobbying and interfering (“consulting”) by a US health and disability insurance corporation going by the name of UNUM, in the UK formerly also known as UNUM Provident.

      They “advised” the UK Department of Work and Pensions (DWP, their WINZ equivalent) for years, and worked closely with controversial former “Chief Medical Advisor” for DWP, later “director” and head of the “Unum Provident Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research”, Professor Mansel Aylward. See the above posts for revealing info on that man!

      These welfare reforms are part of an agenda by private insurance corporations and others with vested interests, to basically privatise welfare, to set new rules, that lead to sick and disabled being exposed to new “fitness criteria” for work, based on science “reports” that Mansel Aylward was preparing while being subsidised by UNUM at the mentioned centre. Although he also used some selected other “findings” by the odd “continental European” researcher (like Norwegian H. Ursin), most appears to be coming from the UK (the mentioned centre at Cardiff Uni), and it is also based on a reinterpreted “model” for sickness and disability (“bio-psycho-social model”), that originated in the US. See the following info on UNUM:


      “Unum became the focus of massive negative media attention in 2002, after several plaintiff’s attorneys who had sued the company went to national television outlets claiming that the company had quotas for closing claims. CBS’s 60 Minutes aired a very devastating article about Unum’s alleged abuses. Among their proof was a notorious “Hungry Vulture Award” offering employee rewards to close claims.”

      “Advising the United Kingdom government on claims since 1994, Unum has been involved with the UK’s controversial Welfare Reform Bill.[7][8] Unum was investigated by the BBC in England[9] and were described by critics as a ‘rogue firm’.[10][verification needed] In July 2010, Susan Ring, the CEO of Unum UK left her post and was replaced by Jack McGarry from Unum US, who was replaced in 2012 due to poor performance of the UK subsidiary.”

      ‘Memorandum submitted by UnumProvident (EDP 03)’ (to the Work and Pensions Select Committee):

      Further links to info worth studying:

      I am afraid all this requires some study to comprehend, but NZers are being taken for a ride here, by having questionable, largely insufficiently researched “findings” – based largely on hand picked statistical data reports, being used to justify a “work will set you free” agenda, that will not deliver what is promised, certainly not without significant harm to the affected. It will largely benefit certain private service deliverers, insurance companies and the MSD and WINZ, the latter by saving costs, while the others can make money at the expense of the sick and disabled.

      • Foreign Waka 12.1.1

        xtasy, sorry I should have been more precise in the meaning of what I wrote. What I meant was essentially, if you would implement a welfare system like Unum in any of the mainland EU states, 80% of people would march onto parliament. They also tend to be more assertive about their rights.
        Yes, it is disgusting that such advise is being accepted by the governments here and the UK. I often wonder how long it will take until people have enough. I would like to know whether it is legal to do this as this is tax money that is held in trust and has been deducted for a particular purpose. By paying a middle men the amount that is available to the benefit of the payer is drastically reduced and can only be recouped by increasing tax and reducing benefit. Both is not part of the contract in the first place. Unless government is now not elected anymore and hence not answerable to those issues it would mean the UK has made a seamless translation to a totalitarian state.

  13. Mike S 13

    The following report is absolutely damning in it’s assessment of the work capability testing regime implemented as part of the UK’s new welfare reforms. It makes for scary reading.

    (sorry if someone has already published the report or a link to it)


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