Friday, 17 May 2013
Yet nothing happens.
The BBC are to be congratulated for drawing attention to the revelations of a doctor who worked for the private company which assesses people for disability benefits says its methods are "unfair".
Greg Wood, a former Royal Navy doctor, resigned from ATOS earlier this month, after working as an Assessor for two-and-a-half years.
He told the BBC the system was "skewed against the claimant ".
ATOS, which has been criticised in the past by disability charities and MPs, carries out work capability assessments on contract for the Department for Work and Pensions.
Claimants have to score a required number of points in order to qualify for the full sickness benefit under the Employment and Support Allowance.
In an interview with the BBC, Dr Wood says he believes ATOS Assessors are not free to make truly independent recommendations.
He said he felt compelled to speak out because it was "embarrassing to be associated with this shambles".
Dr Wood, who was given special responsibility to champion mental health at ATOS, said: "I was instructed to change my reports, to reduce the number of points that might be awarded to the claimants. I felt that was wrong professionally and ethically.
Dr Wood says the people being most adversely affected by the system have significant, mid-ranging disabilities, such as Parkinson's disease, mental illness, and head and spinal injuries.
He also claims some of the most severely disabled people are being asked to attend face-to-face assessments, instead of the normal practice of examining their application on paper.
On the BBC news last night he spoke movingly about the disgrace of him having to assess someone terminally ill. He is right to be outraged. We all should be.
So what is the response of the DWP? Yet again they brush this away. Mark Hoban MP could not even bring himself to acknowledge the claims and say he would review them. He blathered on about getting disabled people into work. We all share that aim. We want efforts made to get disabled people into work. But this cannot excuse bad practise. He must now review the ATOS contract and if he finds the stories of incompetence and abuse proven, the contract should be terminated.
The BBC is collecting evidence of bad practice by ATOS. I hope all our charities with bad experience of their claimants suffering will be putting pen to paper. Or finger to email. We must speak out.
Tuesday, 14 May 2013
Stuart is absolutely right. The Commission has brought the sector into disrepute. The defensive response of the Commission chair in his letter to The Times demonstrates they have not learnt the lessons of their lamentable handling of the Cup Trust. For Shawcross to try and excuse inaction by "waiting for HMRC" is simply not good enough.
People want to know that there is a regulator that is fearless in pursuit of wrongdoing. Not one that hides behind legalisms and process. The problem with the Cup Trust case is that we don't know how many others there are, where the Commission is inactive.
Will the arrival of new people on the Board help? Looking at the names I think not. Apart from Orlando Fraser, who I like, these are not inspiring appointments. But you never know; they may provide the much needed impetus for a more aggressive Commission that looks to exercise its powers in a way that inspires confidence, not looking over their shoulder to lawyers and making excuses for lack of action about patently obvious abuse.
As Joe Irvin said about this, “The commission needs to admit it got this wrong, dust itself down and then look at how it can better tackle rogue charities."
Thursday, 9 May 2013
Always a fabulous spectacle, though the elegance of the outfits rather outshone the dreary nature of what She must read.
Although all the commentators seem to have focused on a "thin" programme, two of the measures are of huge importance and great significance for the future. The Care Bill is a start, not just to ending the scandal of people being forced to sell their homes to pay for care, but other measures leading to a more sensible approach to care. The Government need to take this further by working to integrate health and social care, but I'm sure the Lib Dem Care minister, Norman Lamb has this goal in sight.
The pension reform bill is also important. The new universal pension for all is a needed change.
It is also worth mentioning the "rehabilitation revolution" bill published today. As I told Nick Hurd last night, ACEVO welcomes this new legislation. We have been closely engaged in the consultation process over these proposals and MoJ have listened to what we have said, particularly on the size of contracts and the area they cover, as well as on a sensible division between up front payments and payments based on results. The proposals show the Government have listened to our criticisms of aspects of the Work Programme and Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling MP should be congratulated for having the courage to make changes to what was his baby at DWP. I'm confident our members will rise to the challenge of the new programme. We have spectacular results from the work we do with ex-offenders and I'm sure we can make a PBR system work for us. ACEVO has been working with a number of our members on the investment readiness programme, run by the Social Investment Business, to get ready for a big expansion of our work.
Its deeply irritating to read press reports which can only focus on "privatisation" and how it is all about giving the work to SERCO, etc.
But let's be clear. We will judge whether this works by how many contracts are won by charities. I want to see at least 50% being awarded to charities and social enterprises. I want to see charities as "prime" providers, not as chain feeders for the private sector. Rehabilitating people leaving prison is what we do. We know how it works. We invented and ran the probation service. We can do it again. So bring it on.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the Speech was what was left out. Like many sensible folk in our sector, I was horrified by the gains made by UKIP. I don't know what UKIP policy is on the third sector, but I guess they are anti it. They are defined by bile and opposition, rather than by policy. I suspect they would be in. The camp of the "charities should be seen and not heard " brigade. I expect fag smoking Farage thinks we paid too much. Who knows!
But they are already exerting influence in a wholly unpleasant way. The Tories are drifting rightwards. "Big Society" is not just dead but unceremoniously buried. And we see the direct influence of them on two crucial measures that weren't included in the Speech: plain packaging for cigarettes and minimum pricing for alcohol. I applaud Sarah Wollaston MP for criticising government on this and for pointing out the apparent disturbing role of Lynton Crosby who thinks these are "barnacles". The company he founded, Crosby Textor, represented British American Tobacco in their fight with the Australian government over fags plain packaging. The Department of Health need to redouble their efforts to get No. 10 to see these two measures as crucial to better public health. The recent ACEVO task force, led by former DH Permanent Secretary identified health prevention as a top focus for reforms to the NHS. Dropping these measure is an indication that getting better public health is not a priority. It must be.
UKIP look set to be a divisive and unpleasant force for the next few years. The sector need to be on its guard and continue to fight the corner for the marginalised and oppressed.
Tuesday, 7 May 2013
Now that will surprise my team. But I'm thinking of it in its broadest sense, rather than as something I would do as a CEO!
“Administration”, “bureaucracy"; words usually said with curled lips. But they are necessary. Indeed essential. And we want more of it in charities, not less.
I was delighted to read in our sector media a report that suggests donors should not favour charities that have low administration costs as they are likely to be low performers. Research, conducted by Giving Evidence and Givewell, is the first empirical data to be published about what administration costs indicate about charities' performance.
It compared 265 charities from 2008 to 2011 and found that in 2011 recommended charities spent an average of 11.5% of their costs on administration. However charities that Givewell didn't feel confident to recommend spent less on their overheads, with an average of only 10.8% of their costs going towards administration.
What joy; sun at the Bank Holiday. I spent it at my parents in the relative calm of the Essex countryside. Saturday was auction day; I was making various bids through my sister Lucy at an auction house in Cambridge. I now possess a rather fine but faded Persian rug, a Lambeth Doulton vase (by one of their most famous designers) and a small oil painting of a Kentish coast house (by Roland Hilder) which reminds me of my childhood and the Rainham and Hartlip coast houses that surrounded our village. Most have now succumbed to the Kent urban sprawl that will no doubt get worst if Mr Boles has his wicked way!
Rogation Sunday was a time to celebrate the fast disappearing rural countryside and its farming community. I went with my parents to one of the local churches, still surrounded by farms and discovered a fine stained glass celebrating charity.
|Stained glass , Bulphan Parish Church|
It’s a reference to the biblical text which states," And there remains these, faith, hope and charity; but the greatest of these is charity."
That's the King James Bible. Modern editions mistranslate the original “caritas" as love but charity is the more accurate reflection of the intentions of the script.
|The Churchwarden and his wife (my parents!) with the vicar.|
Rogation Sunday is also traditionally the time when they beat the bounds of the Parish. It often involved upturning a choir boy to mark the boundary key points with his head. Health and Safety, not to mention CRB checks, have put paid to that! They did not do that down here, though the tradition remains in Charlbury (beating the bounds that is, rather than choir boy abuse). I did the walk once myself but they were a bit sniffy about taking dogs so have not done so since.