The road to ‘Cash Not Care’ ~ a personal voyage of research discovery. A guest blog by Mo Stewart

Mo Stewart is a medically retired healthcare professional, a disabled veteran of the Women’s Royal Air Force and, since 2009, has worked as an independent disability studies researcher exposing the influence of corporate America since 1992 with the design of future British ‘welfare reforms’. Her book ‘Cash Not Care: the planned demolition of the UK welfare state’ has attracted critical acclaim and is the Progressive Pulse Book of the Month for December.

In this blog, Mo tells how her own disturbing experience introduced her to the world of research. 

As a disabled veteran of the Women’s Royal Air Force medical branch, I had been well looked after by the UK government since my medical discharge in 1984. The lifetime award of a War Pension (WP) was a guaranteed monthly income and an acknowledgement of my failing health and permanent disability acquired during military service. Since my discharge, all reviews of the WP identified increasing health limitations and so increased the WP, which afforded confidence that my income would increase as my health deteriorated.

Administered by the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency (SPVA), from April 2005 the welfare of older disabled veterans became less significant when the New Labour government replaced the WP with the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) for modern day military personnel. The British public were growing concerned at the numbers of maimed and injured troops appearing on the national news reports every night due to the Iraq war, so a new compensation scheme was suddenly introduced by the Blair administration which gained a great deal of public attention, and approval, and was a distraction from the increasing public disapproval of the war.

The AFCS was much more generous than the WP, with the most profoundly disabled military personnel awarded significant sums of cash which could purchase an adapted house and guaranteed their financial wellbeing for the rest of their lives. Compared to the possible financial awards for the AFCS, often acquired with the help of a growing army of legal advocates, the WP income even for those of us with the higher levels of profound disability pales into insignificance. For serving military personnel, the introduction of the more generous AFCS suggested that the UK government had at long last acknowledged their real value, and were finally compensating them adequately for the often enormous personal sacrifices willingly made when in military service.

A WP is not a benefit, and is totally unrelated to unemployment. A WP is an acknowledgement of chronic illness or permanent disability acquired when in the military service of the Crown. Until 2008, all medical reassessments for my WP were conducted by experienced former military doctors, and always produced clinically accurate medical reports that I never felt the need to challenge. This all changed in 2008 and an increasing sense of betrayal soon followed the introduction of the UK’s ‘welfare reforms’.

Nothing had prepared me for my experience in 2008, when I applied for another review of my WP due to a further deterioration in my health. I was unaware that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had adopted a totally new assessment model for the assessment of claimants of long-term sickness and disability benefit, previously known as Incapacity Benefit, which was replaced in October 2008 with the Employment Support Allowance (ESA). The introduction of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), using a fatally flawed biopsychosocial (BPS) model of assessment was introduced by the DWP to restrict access to the ESA, which guaranteed inevitable preventable harm with Coroners identifying suicides as being linked to the WCA.

Conducted by Atos Healthcare, an unaccountable corporate giant in the private sector, the UK ‘welfare reforms’ introduced corporate welfare crime into the assessment of chronically ill and disabled people by the adoption of the WCA and the relentless threat of benefit sanctions, which removed access to all benefit income and inevitably could lead to death by starvation. War Pensioners were to be treated the same as the civilian sick and disabled population, with an assumption by the DWP that all claimants were making bogus claims as the SPVA abandoned War Pensioners to their fate.

Retired military doctors were no longer employed and, instead of the anticipated clinically accurate review of my WP by a former military doctor, in December 2008 I was confronted with a representative from Atos Healthcare claiming to be a doctor. He refused to offer any form of identity when he arrived at my home, and proceeded to conduct a meaningless computerised questionnaire that I later identified as the WCA, which was totally unrelated to a WP reassessment. Not only was an increase in my WP refused, but the award notice also advised that no further reassessment of the WP would be permitted.

This DWP decision not only threatened my pension but also challenged my integrity, as the award letter presumed I had exaggerated claims of increasing disability. With a background in healthcare, my experience of a visiting doctor from a corporate giant conducting a WCA instead of a WP review introduced me to the world of research, first to challenge the SPVA who were once very supportive of disabled veterans but who, as of 2008, decided we were all suddenly governed by greed so all applications for a WP review were treated with suspicion.

From 2010 the new Coalition government increased the pressure on claimants under the auspices of additional austerity measures, with a very successful smear campaign against the chronically sick and disabled population, as conducted by Iain Duncan Smith MP when Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and aided by the tabloid press.

Outrage took this former healthcare professional on a very lengthy journey of research discovery, which exposed the fact that the introduction of the ongoing ‘welfare reforms’ had first been suggested by Thatcher in 1982, and were planned since 1992 when a notorious American corporate insurance giant had been appointed as government advisers on ‘welfare claims management.’

By adopting a discredited BPS model of assessment for the WCA, which disregards diagnosis and prognosis, people would inevitably die and, having demonstrated this in numerous reports, the Cameron Cabinet Office failed to ‘incentivise’ me to stop the research during a personal ‘phone call in 2014.

Following seven years of independent research the book Cash Not Care: the planned demolition of the UK welfare state was published in September 2016 thanks to the valuable support of academics who willingly shared their research with me.

Supported by Inclusion London, the book was launched in London in October 2016.

*Cash Not Care: the planned demolition of the UK welfare state LINK

** You Tube: London book launch of Cash Not Care LINK

 

Comments

  1. Mo Stewart -

    The ‘incentive’ was that 80,000 war pensioners would be permitted to retain DLA and would not be assessed for PIP.

    1. Peter May -

      Gracious – that was much against your personal interest (I presume). Though only of course if both you and the cabinet Office believed that DLA was much better than the alternative. How damning.
      The Tories really are shown up as the nasty party. I begin to wonder if Theresa May really has both oars in the water…

  2. Sean Danaher -

    Mo
    thanks. Will definitely add your book to my Christmas list.

    As regular visitors here may know my father was awarded a prestigious Humboldt scholarship to do a PhD in Germany in 1937, which he never finished (leaving Germany wisely in July 1939 to return to Ireland). I asked him did people not know what was going on. He thought that the truth was so horrific that people simply could not believe that was possible in a civilized country like Germany.

    Of course 1930’s Germany was far worse than 2010’s UK but I think similar thinking applies. The cruelty and callousness you expose here is simply impossible in the minds of many. “We are a civilised society, such behaviour is an anathema to a civilized society therefore this can’t be happening”. This is the problem we face.

  3. Charles Adams -

    Thanks Mo,

    Underlying these and other problems is the ideology that the market always know best when in important cases such as healthcare and climate change the market has been shown to be useless. The market only works for private goods and if there is real competition. The pro-market economist Henry Calvert Simon’s said that for competition to be effective customers need a choice of many suppliers. This is impossible to achieve in healthcare because of the scarcity of good medical practitioners. Also health is a public good where not only the individual benefits, but society benefits too.

    We need people to understand this such that they might vote for regulations that exclude the possibility of profit ruining their health. Your article helps to get that message across.

    1. Mo Stewart -

      Thanks Sean and Charles for your input.
      When you consider that both the DWP commissioned research reports used to justify the WCA and the use of private contractors to conduct these assessments were both subsequently discredited by independent academic excellence (Dorling 2007, Shakespeare et al 2016) then the resulting preventable harm from government policy was always inevitable.
      If you watch the evidence by these corporate giants given to the Work & Pensions select committee this morning, and note the
      way they are unable to justify their activities to the Committee, this demonstrates once again that these dangerous and bogus assessments, created to resist funding welfare benefits, should be stopped.
      http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/326a1573-dc2c-4b7f- 98d5-a9515bb3f6d0

  4. Ms Christine Bergin -

    I believe Richard Murphy once wrote in his blog that people required competence not choice. How right he was. I cannot begin to express my admiration for the achievement of this book and all the effort and thought behind it. Magnificent!

  5. Mo Stewart -

    Many thanks Christine for your kind comments about my book.
    Much appreciated.

  6. Andrew (Andy) Crow -

    I’ll be adding a request for my Local Library to get hold of a copy of your Book, Mo.

    I think Sean hits the spot in suggesting that people simply do not believe that our government can be so callous in its disregard for the population it purports to govern.

    One could despair. Clearly you have not.

    It’s good to hear that Prince Harry and Meghan thingy are to granted Her majesty’s blessing to turn Balmoral Castle and Estate into a military Rehabilitation Centre (presumably drama therapy will be very much on the agenda) ……OH! Hang on. I dreamt that. Sorry.

  7. Jan Vail -

    An excellent guest blog by Mo Stewart. Needless to say, I am ordering your book right now. My only wish is that I could crowd fund enough cash to donate a copy of this book to every citizen of the UK.

    1. Mo Stewart -

      Many thanks Jan. Perhaps a more achievable goal would be to crowd fund enough cash to give a copy to your MP?

  8. Mo Stewart -

    Interesting comment Andy, but let’s resist attacking the Royal family please, who are unaware of the government’s cruelty. Prince Harry has done more to highlight disabled veterans than anyone else, and he created the Spartacus network, so let’s wish him and his future bride well and concentrate on exposing the reality of a dangerous and extreme right-wing UK government.

    It’s the national press who should be challenged for creating this stigma due to their reporting of IDS malice for five years. Disability hate crime increased by 213% when IDS was Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, so let’s attack the real villains and leave Harry alone please.

  9. Bat Sheetcrazee -

    Those extreme right-wingers in the government of 2008. Let’s get stuck in and blame them. Oh no, we didn’t mean that, let’s pretend not to notice that.
    Never mind, let’s get stuck into the claim that all health is a public good. Oh no, there are more than 2 health care models in the world, and those in developed economies defy this claim with insurances and co-payments, let’s not pretend to notice that.

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