Memorandum submitted by Andrew Currie (DM 18)
A 53 year old man, who worked self-employed in building maintenance & gardening; also a casual support worker in Social Services; also pursuing work in photography.
In 1996 I developed a back problem but received no sickness benefit due to an error by the Contributions Agency. Despite considerable efforts on my part, they have still not resolved the matter. The stress of the years from 1996 to 2000 led to me developing what was much later diagnosed as ME/post-viral fatigue. When my partner left me in 2000, I had to sign on as unemployed and receive benefits and after about 4 years on Jobseekers Allowance my health was worsening, largely due to the actions of Jobcentre Plus, and I then went onto Income Support.
I am a graduate with wide work experience in various relatively low-paid jobs - admin, manual, technical and people management. I am hard working, conscientious and have strong principles in matters of honesty and integrity.
On the 26th October I attended a medical. When I received a copy of the report submitted by the doctor, I found 27 factual errors, 12 misleading statements and 3 instances where it was inferred I was lying. The DWP decision maker did award enough points for me to be eligible for benefits but had totally ignored my 2 main physical health problems.
My complaints to Jobcentre Plus and Medical Services were met with arrogance and were dismissive. When I provided proof of the errors, I was simply threatened. (I had taken the precaution of recording the medical having experienced considerable incompetence, dishonesty and harassment from Jobcentre Plus over the previous 6 years).
Since then, my complaints have been ignored. Medical Services have failed to follow their own guidelines regarding medicals and their complaints procedures, and Jobcentre Plus evade responsibility. (continued)
There is a large number of successful appeals against refusals of benefit. This in itself is evidence that the medicals and/or decision makers' assessments are flawed. A clear bias towards finding claimants ineligible reveals a serious conflict of interest between the state's role in helping people who are unemployed through illness and the private sector's desire for profits. Companies such as Atos win contracts by predicting they will save the state money. Recently, the conflict of interest has gone further, with the extraordinary situation that Medical Services now issue and assess IB50 forms, and have been given the power to decide whether or not to call in claimants for medicals. They are therefore able to generate very profitable work for themselves and the figures do reveal that they call in a large number of people for medicals. The inference is that the claimants own knowledge of their health is regarded as less reliable and more likely to consist of lies than an assessment taking less than half an hour by an examining medical practitioner who has never seen a person before, using computer software known to be unfit for purpose (information on which is illegally kept from the public), administered by a business who profit from generating particular results.
It has recently been revealed that DWP decision makers have altered reports in order to discontinue paying benefits, an activity amounting to fraud.
Note that the President of Appeals Tribunals has been very critical of the standard of medicals and DWP's failure to address the issues.
Medical assessment of claimants should be totally independent and outcomes must have no affect on the incomes of those conducting or organising such assessments.
I suggest a significant financial penalty be imposed on private sector contractors every time an appeal reverses a decision.
Doctors working as EMP's should be regulated to the same degree as those working as GP's. The General Medical Council told me they are not responsible for doctors when doing such work. (I am currently unclear as to whether they have intentionally misinformed me on this matter).
Claimants should be treated fairly and respectfully; it is obvious that they are frequently not.
Anonymity / confidentiality is not necessary.
6 September 2009