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Why is the Work Capability Assessment Costing Britain More Than it Saves?

  • Published: 2016-01-18 (Revised/Updated 2016-06-10) : Author: Paul Dodenhoff
  • Synopsis: The continuing incompetence of Iain Duncan Smith - Why is the Work Capability Assessment costing Britain more than it saves?.

Quote: "At some level, he must know he is failing on all fronts. He and his state-sponsored propagandists pulsate with aggression. Anyone who tries to investigate his department is met with obfuscation and intimidation."

Main Document

Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (DWP) was left with egg on his face recently by a newly released National Audit Office report that highlighted that the cornerstone of his policy on disability is actually costing Britain more money per year than it saves. Or at least he would have been left with egg on his face if Britain's largely biased media machine had actually consented to pick up on this new report. So far, I have found only one daily newspaper within the UK (The Independent) actually 'independent' enough from Britain's political elite to report this rather bizarre news.

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) has always been controversial and ever more so since the Conservatives gained power in 2010, when the policy seemed to take on an increasingly aggressive and cynical tone. Originally, the WCA was brought in to tackle disability benefit fraud, something that has actually never been proven to be occurring on a large scale within the UK. A problem where the pesky abled-bodied pose as disabled people in order to receive welfare payments.

In fact, government figures consistently indicate that more taxpayer's money is lost to departmental error in the overpayment of benefits than through the wilful fraud of false claimants. For example, in 2013/2014 £2.2 Billion was lost through DWP departmental incompetence compared to £1.2 Billion lost through actual fraud – with fraud being just 0.7% of total DWP expenditure (and not all of it due to the 'bogus' disabled).

Therefore the WCA has often been argued by disabled people to be ill-thought out and misguided, actually being less concerned with disability fraud or with helping more disabled people into the world of employment (as sometimes also argued) but about getting as many disabled people falsely re-classified as 'fit for work' as quickly as possible. An ideologically motivated assessment by which disability could simply be 'redefined' and the disabled 'reprogrammed' with the work ethic – something to cure the perceived moral 'deviancy' of disabled people who are not in employment.

The National Audit office estimates that the DWP will spend £1.6 Billion on health and disability assessments contracted out to the private sector over the 3 years from 2015 to 2018. Certainly on the surface we can see why the government would want to spend such a large sum of money in order to tackle something that may cost the UK something like £3.6 Billion over the same period. However, when we take a closer look at the figures, the spending on disability assessments make less sense.

The National Audit Office states its aim as being "to help the nation spend wisely. Our public audit perspective helps Parliament hold government to account and improve public services". But they may well have their work cut out with Iain Duncan Smith MP if this new report is to be believed. Because just how much do you think that £1.6 billion is expected to save the British taxpayer over the next 3 years according to the National Audit Office? The NAO reveals that the savings will be the princely sum of £0.4 Billion.

Excuse me, the DWP is giving away 1.6 Billion of taxpayers money to private contractors in order to save the country just £0.4 Billion? Not only will the DWP be spending £1.2 Billion more than it saves over the next three years on these completely unnecessary assessments of Britain's disabled, but the actual cost of these assessments has also increased by an average of 65% per assessment within recent times. Which begs the question of just what planet is IDS living on? Definitely not planet 'austerity' as he would like us to believe.

Of course, at some distant point in the future, disability benefit fraud perhaps could be cut to the bone by the continual assessment and reassessment of disabled people. But at the present rate, not for at least another 30 years (if we are lucky) and not without huge cost to the taxpayer. Surely there are more cost-effective ways of saving money than the WCA?

Certainly IDS may be playing the long ball game concerning the eradication of disability benefit fraud – and he is unlikely to see the fruits of his labour as he slowly withers to dust in his old age. But it's a long ball game that is arguably motivated by ideology alone, and one that continually paints benefit fraud as the one 'big' issue within society, and by primarily insinuating that our disabled are potentially immoral. As we saw above, more money is lost through DWP incompetence than through fraud, and it's an incompetence and pig-headedness that sees IDS willing to spend a minimum of £1.6 Billion over the next three years in order to save just £0.4 Billion. How stupid is that?

So, where exactly is all this money going? The National Audit report explains below (page 5):

"For many years the Department has contracted-out most assessments to third party providers: Atos Healthcare (Atos), Capita Business Services Limited (Capita), the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments (CHDA) and Health Management Limited (HML). Both CHDA and HML are wholly-owned subsidiaries within MAXIMUS. Over three years from April 2015 to March 2018, the Department expects to spend a total £1.6 billion on an estimated 7 million assessments."

Nice to know that the British taxpayer is contributing to the profits of these private companies while making a £1.2 Billion loss on the deal.

Out of touch with reality

I have argued for quite a while that Britain's political elite are way out of touch with the reality of life that most Brits have to endure. A political elite that in the main come from fairly well-off families, and a political elite traditionally concerned with the work ethic of Britain's poor. The DWP is such an institution that has an overriding concern with a lack of work ethic in Britain's disabled and unemployed. Hence the introduction of assessments and methods that are primarily aimed at instilling some kind of morality into the immoral. The WCA is therefore not about helping the disabled into employment nor about saving money in times of austerity, but primarily about bullying and harassing people away from welfare, and simply because some wealthy people believe that welfare and charity only encourage dependency in the poor.

Last year, Lord O'Donnell a former Cabinet Secretary to Prime Minister David Cameron agreed that there were simply too many current MPs who are out of touch with real life and simply 'don't get' what life is like for Brits struggling with money problems. Lord O'Donnell, who went to a state school said ministers should ideally 'have done jobs like the population they're serving' and said more candidates should be selected by open primaries to 'attract people who have done other jobs'.

The overseer of the £1.6 Billion bonanza giveaway to private enterprise is undoubtedly IDS himself, and if this highly paid buffoon is costing British taxpayers money for no other reason than for fulfilling some kind of personal or 'class' need to bully unemployed and disabled people into employment, he needs to go before he causes further damage.

In June 2014, The Guardian newspaper similarly highlighted the incompetency and buffoonery of IDS and his department. For example:

"The grand projects the Department for Work and Pensions has launched since the general election have been bureaucratic fantasies and practical catastrophes. Ministers have wasted hundreds of millions of pounds of public money – Tory ministers, mark you, who pose as the defenders of hard-working taxpayers. For all that, Iain Duncan Smith tramps on without a thought of changing his ways: a character study in destructive pig-headedness."

" At some level, he must know he is failing on all fronts. He and his state-sponsored propagandists pulsate with aggression. Anyone who tries to investigate his department is met with obfuscation and intimidation."

"Duncan Smith has targeted the Trussell Trust, an exemplary Anglican charity, which has mobilised the conscience of the nation and fed the hungry. He and his sly ministers suggested that visitors to food banks were freeloaders, rather than victims of poverty and the incompetence of Duncan Smith's department. As they did it, they were sitting on a government report, which showed the Trussell Trust was right. Low incomes and benefit delays were compelling hundreds of thousands of hungry people to beg for food as a "last resort", it said."

Two years down the line, not only does IDS continue with policy that wastes millions and billions of taxpayer's money, but continues to blame and bully the poor, including Britain's unemployed and disabled people, for being immorally 'dependent' on welfare and charity handouts. An obvious scapegoating exercise, but one where his department also willingly hands out billions of taxpayer's money to private business for no apparent, logical reason. Not only blaming the poor and abandoning the poor, but happily driving some of them to suicide.

I don't live near Westminster but there is a very distinct odour emanating from the corridors of power, one that stinks to high heaven and one that needs to be thoroughly investigated. But my guess is that it won't, as there are far too many people in parliament in there for their own ends - not to 'serve' us mere mortals.

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