Disabled researcher slams ‘dangerous and totally discredited’ benefit tests

Work capability assessment 'creates unnecessary preventable harm', says researcher.

Disabled veteran and researcher in disability studies, Mo Stewart, has written the following letter to DWP minister Penny Mordaunt:

Re: Stewart M 2017: State Crime By Proxy: corporate influence on state sanctioned social harm

Thank you for your letter of 31st May 2017 and please be advised that this response is an open letter, and will be published online.

It remains cause for concern that you continue to disregard all independent detailed evidence identified for you, and place your trust in discredited (1) government commissioned research and in the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments (the Centre), as funded by Maximus. The company has a very disturbing reputation (2) Minister, which has been disregarded by the government when offering this American company a lucrative contract to seemingly cause as much preventable harm as possible, on their behalf, when conducting the enforced and totally discredited assessment of disabled people.(3)

By definition, ‘the Centre’ has a clear conflict of interest as, when funded by Maximus, the company whose contract to conduct the fatally flawed, totally discredited and dangerous Work Capability Assessment (WCA) (1,3,4) at an exceptional and increased cost of £579 million to the tax payer, demonstrates there is a high possibility that ‘the Centre’ will be conducting more policy based research for the benefit of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). This would simply be history repeating itself. How many people will the DWP need to remove from welfare funding when using a dangerous and totally discredited assessment model (1,3,4) to justify the exorbitant costs of yet another corporate giant taking money from the State which could be much better used?

May I remind you Minister that another ‘Centre’, namely the Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research, at Cardiff University, was funded with £1.6 million for the first five years by more American government ‘advisers’, then known as UnumProvidentTM Insurance, who were identified in 2008 by the American Association of Justice as the second most discredited insurance company in America. Why does the government continue to welcome the input of discredited American corporate giants with the welfare of this nation’s most vulnerable people, whose only crime is that they are attempting to claim the begrudged Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)? Clearly, ‘Cash Not Care’ does appear to be the answer. (3)

A former DWP Chief Medical Officer, Mansel Aylward, co-authored the 2005 DWP commissioned research ‘The Scientific and Conceptual Basis for Incapacity Benefit’ when funded by the American corporate insurance government ‘advisers’, who fully expect to benefit from the ongoing planned demolition of the UK welfare state, having guided future UK welfare reforms since 1994. ‘State Crime By Proxy: corporate influence on state sanctioned social harm’ (4) refers. As the British public realise that the State now only reluctantly supports some of those in greatest need, it is anticipated that more and more people will invest in private healthcare insurance, that also fails to pay out when a claim is made, when using the same discredited biopsychosocial model of assessment as used for the WCA. (3,4) Therefore, your demonstrated reliance on ‘the Centre’, funded by Maximus, does not raise confidence that any research produced will be evidence based and not policy based.

If you are looking for a Centre of Excellence by genuine researchers not funded by corporate America, then I refer you to the Centre for Welfare Reform, whose Director is Dr Simon Duffy. The Centre for Welfare Reform don’t dream up policies used to increase their profit margins, as they don’t have one, and their research is by critically acclaimed researchers not commissioned by the DWP or funded by corporate America. I suggest you contact Dr Duffy as a matter of urgency. Together with the Director of Ekklesia, Simon has already written to the Department (6), and I urge that you should make yourself very familiar with the content of that open letter given that you are named in it.

Your claim in your last letter that officials are ‘working with our health assessment provider, the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments, medical professionals and other stakeholders, including disability charities, to develop a set of criteria that will help identify those with the most severe health conditions or disabilities, for whom reassessments can be stopped unless there is a change in circumstances’ is cause for very, VERY serious concern. This comment demonstrates that the DWP have failed to accept the multitude of detailed evidence demonstrating the often fatal consequences of the WCA (3,4) which fails to consider diagnosis and prognosis and guarantees preventable harm.

The DIAGNOSIS will identify who should be excluded from endless assessments Minister, and the decision to disregard diagnosis for the WCA was a political decision influenced by a discredited corporate American insurance giant, UNUM Insurance, who were government ‘advisers’ on ‘welfare claims management’ from 1994, and were identified as the second worst insurance company in America in 2008 (4). What work do you actually expect people with Motor Neurone Disease to do Minister? What work do you expect someone with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease to complete before they drop dead? (7)

In his capacity as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Damian Green announced last year that those with the most severe health conditions would not need to be continually reassessed for a health condition that can’t ever improve. (8) Therefore, comments in your letter advising that identifying such claimants has yet to be achieved is cause for serious alarm, and once again it seems that the DWP have misled the House of Commons and the general public.

As a retired healthcare professional, I insist that it should not take a team of ‘officials’ to comprehend that by disregarding diagnosis and prognosis for any dangerous and discredited (1) so called ‘functional assessment’, as used for the WCA, that people will die. And they have Minister, in their thousands. (9) Countless more live in hiding in their homes because of the carefully managed suspicion now impacting on society (10), created by totally false claims by Ministers and enforced by shameful banner headlines in the tabloid press (11), which were guaranteed to influence public opinion to the detriment of the disabled community. Please don’t bother to waste my time by claiming that government have no influence over the national press…

Your final paragraph demonstrates that you totally disregard all the detailed evidence that the WCA is a dangerous and totally discredited assessment model (1,3,4) when using the biopsychosocial (BPS) model of assessment for the WCA, as recommended in discredited (1) DWP commissioned research (12). The co-author of the discredited DWP commissioned research (12) confirmed as long ago as 2012 that the BPS assessment model used for the WCA is not satisfactory and should not be used (13), and he was a former DWP Chief Medical Adviser and subsequent ‘government adviser’.

Furthermore, the other totally discredited commissioned 2007 report used for welfare reforms was by your former colleague David Freud. ‘Reducing dependency, increasing opportunity: options for the future to work’ was discredited within three months of being published (4). Yet, most of the welfare reforms, including the fact that the assessments should be offered to the private sector, were based on DWP discredited research and the author of that 2007 report was ennobled, and gained a position as a Junior Minister in two governments, despite never having been elected and confirming that he knew ‘nothing about welfare’. This he demonstrated during his entire time at the DWP.

Minister, the evidence is overwhelming that the WCA was not just introduced as a cost cutting measure, but to eventually demolish the welfare state. The continued use of the WCA is identified as State Crime By Proxy, when using contracted foreign corporate giants to conduct a dangerous assessment that was always guaranteed to kill some of those for whom State help should be guaranteed. Your claims that there ‘have been many improvements made to the Work Capability Assessment process since 2008’ are totally unfounded, given that it is a dangerous and totally discredited assessment model and should be removed at once, before many more people die when, quite literally, ‘killed by the State (3,4).

Be advised please that the severe austerity measures introduced by the Cameron coalition government in 2010 were totally unnecessary (14), and were exposed as being introduced for political ideology not financial necessity. Coroners, academic experts in their field, the Work and Pensions Select Committee, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Nurses, the British Psychological Society, the President of the Appeal Tribunals for Social Security, the Centre for Welfare Reform, Ekklesia and Disabled Peoples’ Organisations have all demanded that the WCA should be stopped; all to no avail because the government aren’t listening. The suffering is relentless, the death toll related to this fatally flawed government enforced assessment is vast, and there’s more to come, Minister, if the WCA is not stopped.

It was really quite shameful when the former Secretary of State dismissed a report by the United Nations that exposed the negative impact of the ongoing and unnecessary (14) austerity policies, which ‘systematically violated’ the rights of disabled people. (15) Indeed, those who now live in fear of the DWP would challenge Damian Green’s claims at the time that the focus was ‘on helping disabled people find and stay in work, whilst taking care of those who can’t.’ (15) There is not, nor has there ever been, any evidence of the government ‘helping’ sick and disabled people to ‘find and stay in work’, Minister, but there is a great of detailed evidence that many chronically ill and disabled people who depend on the State for financial support now live in fear (3,4,9) of this identified DWP tyranny, masquerading as welfare reforms, and the subsequent unnecessary suspicion created in society.

So far, the Coalition and Conservative governments have demonstrated their utter contempt for those in greatest need, by relying on less that ‘objective’ research to justify their debilitating welfare policies, the often fatal ESA assessment process (16) and the unnecessary austerity (14) policies, and they have managed to escape all redress. This is changing.

The evidence is mounting and is being published in journals and on academic websites if not by the press and, at some time, someone will be held accountable for this needless mounting despair and increasing death totals linked to the WCA, the relentless psychological intimidation and the constant threat of having essential benefit removed without warning. This identified ongoing preventable harm was created to support a former female Prime Minister’s stated goal, which was the removal of the welfare state to be replaced by private healthcare insurance. Time will tell how many more people will have been, effectively, ‘killed by the State’ (3,4) before this has become a reality for the unsuspecting and ill informed British people.

As for the Green Paper that you mentioned in your letter, it is effectively promotion of private healthcare insurance (17), which is something my research identified a long time ago. (3,4)

As you can see, there is a consensus that the WCA creates unnecessary preventable harm, and I trust that the DWP will correct identified past mistakes, based on the most up-to-date evidence.

Yours, most sincerely.

Mo Stewart

Disabled veteran (WRAF)
Disability studies researcher
Retired healthcare professional
Author of ‘Cash Not Care: the planned demolition of the UK welfare state’. New Generation Publishing 2016

Copied to:

Professor Tom Shakespeare, UEA

Mr Simon Barrow ~ Director of Ekklesia

Professor Peter Beresford, University of Essex

Dr Simon Duffy ~ Director, Centre for Welfare Reform

Ms Marie Rimmer MP ~ Shadow Minister for Disabled People

Professor Woody Caan ~ Editor, Journal of Public Mental health

Professor Nicola Gale ~ President, British Psychological Society

Catherine Hale ~ Lead Researcher, Chronic Illness Inclusion Project

Professor Kate Bullen ~ President Elect, British Psychological Society

Nimrod Ben-Cnaan ~ Head of Policy and Profile, Law Centre Network

Lord Shinkwin ~ Commissioner, Equality and Human Rights Commission

Baroness Campbell of Surbiton ~ Chair, Independent Living Strategy Group

Professor Daryl B O’Connor ~ Chair, Research Board, British Psychological Society


1.) Shakespeare T, Watson N, Abu-Alghaib O 2016: Blaming the victim all over again: Waddell and Aylward’s biopsychosocial (BPS) model of disability.

Critical Social Policy Journal 37, 1, 22 – 41


2.) PRING J 2014: Incompetence, discrimination and ‘fraud’: the US company that could take over from Atos.  Disability News Service 17thOctober 2014.


3.) Stewart M 2016: Cash Not Care: The Planned Demolition Of The UK Welfare State.

New Generation Publishing, London.


4.) Stewart M 2017: State Crime By Proxy: corporate influence on state sanctioned social harm


5.) Syal R 2016: Maximus miss fitness-to-work test targets despite spiralling costs

The Guardian, 8th January 2016


6.) DUFFY S 2017: Open letter to Damian Green on welfare reform


7.) GANI A 2016: DWP told woman she was not ill enough for benefit on the day she died. The Guardian, 7thJanuary 2016


8.) House of Commons Debates 2016 reEmployment and Support Allowance http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2016-10-10/HCWS174/

9.) Butler P 2015: Thousands have died after being found fit for work, DWP figures show.

The Guardian, 27th August 2015.


10.) Hale C 2013: The Big Society Fails The Hardest Hit.


11.) Hall M 2011: 75% on sick are sciving.  The Express, 26thJune 2011


12.) Waddell G and Aylward M. 2005: The Scientific and Conceptual Basis of Incapacity Benefits. TSO, London.


13.) PRING J 2012: Former DWP medical boss Sir Mansel Aylward makes WCA pledge to protestors.

Disability News Service 14th September 2012.


14.) Krugman P 2015: The case for cuts was a lie. Why does Britain still believe it?

The austerity delusion by Paul Krugman.

The Guardian, 29th April 2015


15.) BUTLER P 2016: Damian Green dismisses ‘offensive’ UN report on UK disability rights.

The Guardian, 8th November 2016


16.) GENTLEMAN A 2014: Vulnerable man starved to death after benefits were cut.

The Guardian, 28th February 2014.


17.) MEADEN B 2016: Does Green Paper reveal government’s lack of commitment to the welfare state?

Ekklesia, 11th November 2016.


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  1. You will be lucky if you get a reply from that stuch up , self indulgent mp. Never mind, I have a funny feeling that during the next general the tories will be booted out of office and Mr Corbyn will revoke all this hammering of the disabled. Perhaps penny maurdant could try livin on £100 per week. I bet she would not fair to well.

    1. If Maurdant were an acorn falling from a mighty oak, she’d miss the ground, alas, she is but one of so many acorns who suffer from the same problem.

      1. She sounds like another one of the many MPs whose lack of talent, intelligence, drive and principles has not hindered her in any way.

    2. UH HUH – and if labour – the lib dems – or the raving looni party got in all promises will be forgotten – honestly have people not yet realised that politicos will promise ANYTHING to get a vote ?? – again simple fact is they don’t care one jot about the poor /disabled / sick / old – just THEIR next pay and perks rise ……………….. look at how FULL parliment is when they discuss that and compair to when discussing welfare issues ……………. i have been watching politics /o’s since i was 18 – i’m over 60 now – and my opinion of ALL politic’s ain’t got any better ……………………. all in it for themselves – and sod you jack !!!

  2. The Welfare Reforms were specifically designed to prevent people from receiving ANY benefits at all, and literally leaving them to starve to death, in DIRECT VIOLATION of the International Universal Declaration of Human Rights which the UK government are signatories to!

    The so-called Health Care professionals working for WCA , are in direct violation of the medical professions hippocratic oath and should therefore be struck off from practicing any form of medicine for the suffering they have caused very vulnerable people!

    We have EVERY RIGHT under Articles 2 & 4 of the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to bring charges against the Conservative and Lib Dem ministers, Lords, Atos, Maximus, Jon Centre staff and management accountable!

    So why haven’t we?

    Charities such as MIND, SCOPE, MS etc etc etc, should be combining and taking this, the most evil of governments ever, to the International Court for the tens of thousands of deaths that they are 100% responsible for!

    1. We the disabled should be asking these charities why they have done nothing for the people who they raise monies for, because at the moment they seem to have charitable status purely for raising funds for themselves.
      The UN has also failed to bring one of its member countries to justice making an even bigger mockery of those rights of the people to ensure that no government can do harm to its own citizens. We are all in a precarious existance without the means for legal redress over the genocide that is happening, just like the Germans, the other British either turn a blind eye, deny what is occurring, or worst of all, support these life threatening sanctions, even going so far as to enjoy the new found labour market and the unrealistic authority which these abusers have been given.

      1. Charity has become another industry, giving middle class people good well paid jobs, under the guise of helping the poor. The next thing to be blown wide open is the scam that many charities are.

    2. You are forgetting a number of things, and sadly it’s pretty symptomatic of our society in general. Charities, which in many cases are part of an industry, need poor people, suffering people, to be ‘concerned’ about and nominally raise money for. Likewise, the Labour party acts as tea and sympathy for the victims of this and other Tory administrations. So, they are merely acting in a symbiotic way, which isn’t healthy for accountability and democracy, and simply means that poor people are between a rock and a hard place.