Not two days ago I blogged about how the new Princess of cruelty, mz Mcvey was going to introduce psychological testing on those claiming jobseekers in an effort to focus attention on those who were Bewildered or Despondent.
Now as I said at the time this stinks of the usual government attitude towards the poor, the helpless and the disadvantaged. It was in fact giving those on Jobseekers the same treatment those on disability got from ATOS.
Well here we are two days later and I am hearing about a third group of scroungers and benefit parasites are about to get the same treatment. Disability benefits, jobseekers benefits. Now it is the turn of the short term sick to feel the cruel and uncaring boot of this coalition government on their necks.
Starting this November and spreading to affect everyone as of next May a company called Maximus will be given the responsibility for this new program that is part of the Health and Work Service set up by the DWP.
The way that it will work is this. For the first four weeks that you are off sick it is the responsibility of your GP to determine if you are really sick, how sick you are and how long it is going to take you to get better.
But after that initial four weeks it becomes the responsibility of Health Management Limited (a wholly owned subsidiary of Maximus) to determine how sick you are and when you have to go back to work. This will be done via an initial assessment of your condition. The kicker here is a quote from the DWP release.
The paper reveals that the initial assessment will be made on the phone not in person and will probe non-health issues as well as the illness.
As a result of that initial assessment you will be given a ‘Back to Work Plan’. This will detail how long you can be off sick and when you must return to work, failure to return to work when your plan specifies and you will automatically lose any company sick pay or sickness benefit you may be receiving.
Yep, one phone call will determine how sick you are and when you must go back to work. No mention of what happens if you relapse, fail to get better at the expected speed or are not getting better at all.
Given the example set by ATOS I don’t have high hopes that Health Management Limited will be employing dedicated medical professionals who will be using an exhausted process of assessment.
What is the worst that could happen?
In fact I fully expect that this is going to be just another excuse to kick people off of benefits that they should be entitled to and often desperately need.
But it gets worse. Did you note the bit about receiving sick pay from your company? Fail to return to work when your plan says you must and your company can legally stop paying you while you are sick. One phone call, one assessment made by someone doing an ATOS style hatchet job and your company has the excuse to stop paying your sick pay, heck, I suspect that if you refuse to return to work as dictated by your ‘Plan’ you could even be sacked without any recourse.
The paper said:
This will provide crucial support for individuals, ease pressure on GP surgeries and help employers maintain a healthier workforce.
Yes. It will certainly help companies maintain a healthy workforce. By stopping to pay of even sacking the sick. That’s one way to maintain a healthy work force.
So anyone who is so sick that they are going to be off work for more than four weeks, anyone injured at work or elsewhere and therefore off sick, anyone suffering any condition at all that makes them too sick to work. Four weeks or less, more than that and yet another private sector hatchet company will be on your neck.
How many people are going to be driven to return to work before they are recovered because some anonymous voice on the phone has decided they are allowed so much time and no longer.
Maximus is already UK’s largest independent occupational health provider. Given that this job is intended to save the government as much as £165 million a year I expect that Maximus is looking at a tidy bonus based on the number of people they manage to force back to work or off benefits.
I imagine that as more and more companies in the UK come to treat their employees as resources to be used (minimum wage) and abused (zero hours contracts), discarding them by sacking them as too sick to return to work on some arbitrary schedule will happen.
Is there any part of the current coalition government that is NOT out to inflict the most cruel and uncaring treatment on the people of this country?
I wonder how much Maximus has donated to the Tory party over the last few years?