Fit for What ? | February 24, 2011

Under the previous Labour Government FIT Notes replaced Sick Notes in April 2010. The Coalition has continued to target “the sick”, leading to a huge backload of Appeals.

The Medical Questionnaire for new ESA* claimants has been fine tweaked from the old one for longer term Incapacity cases, but the methods of conducting the interviews are the same. Dozens of claimants end up at Corunna House, in Cadogan St., near the old Anderston Bus Garage, and few are awarded enough points to be classed as either unfit for work or could be fit in future with help, altered hours etc..

While filling out the Medical Questionnaire well may help, the fact is that ATOS the agency contracted to conduct the interviews are paid on results. Like “bounty hunters” they aim to get people of benefits & often people are awarded Nil or few points despite their GP instigating hospital tests, often not even started when the ATOS “expert” makes their decision. ESA Claimants are reduced to basic benefit on Appeal, which for those on their own NI contributions, is ironically better than they were under Incapacity when Appeals led to only means-tested claimants being eligible, and at less than the basic rate.

The Old Divide & Rule

Now Ian Duncan-Smith, one of many Millionaires in the Cabinet, has new more draconian measures than even ‘New Labour’ brought in. At worst case a punter could face a 3 year ban from benefits. Although some will fall “foul” of this, most will be forced, as at present to comply and go through the motions of seeking work, placements, re-skilling, much of the time by dubious bodies like the Wise Group.

21C Capitalism needs a “reserve army of labour” to keep wages in check , undermine terms & conditions, casualise contracts & drive expectations down. Above all these Rulers in Lab/Con/Lib, and in Scotland & Wales add , want this ‘reserve army’ – whether on the sick or signing on, or in limbo before retirement, caring for disabled or elderly, or in households where their partner is the only earner – to think individually, to internalise their anger, and not think of common cause.

A small group of claimants, including former benefit advisors made redundant, have followed their counterparts in Edinburgh [2], and started to leaflet Corunna House. People coming in & out, often in poor health, a state of anxiety, angry or bewildered, are understandably pre-occupied with their own situation. It becomes every “man (or women) for themselves”, not quite “dog eats dog”, that is more akin to jobseekers at interviews, where hundreds chase every post.

The point of such leafleting, and the more in depth approach by Edinburgh claimants[2], is to highlight to those who discuss what ATOS are doing, and their individual problems with benefits, that they are not alone. It takes a positive appreciation to grasp that you do what your Rulers least want: to self-organise, to adopt the wobbly[3] slogan, “an injury to one, is an injury to ALL”.

The crap we, and our mates endure, in and out of work, will carry on until a real shake up changes our mindset to say: we are fit for a better future, we produce the wealth, plundered all over the world by corporations & Governments. Those occupying banks & showrooms of Vodafone etc., have shown the way. We will feel better, no matter what burden we are carrying, if we help create an alternative to this system, from the ground up [4], a big society to overturn all elites!

Key [1] Employment & Support Allowance; [2] Edinburgh Coalition v Poverty: 0131 557 6242 on Tuesdays 12-3pm , Email ; [3] Wobbles are rebel workers, opposed to wage slavery, influenced by the Industrial Workers of the World, which has a Clydeside branch*; [4] Byword of Westgap, a community resource and advice centre in Partick, not tied to Council plans or tied to the “expert” advisor mentality, contact 342-4343, Mon to Thursday 10-4. by Jim McFarlane – * Contact via my email




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