The public health crisis created by UK social policy reforms

Author: Mo Stewart1
View author details View Less
  • 1 Preventable Harm Project, UK
Restricted access
Get eTOC alerts
Rights and permissions Cite this article

As the world is preoccupied by the pandemic, and the British public are beginning to comprehend the full impact of Brexit, the predictable public mental health crisis created by the demolition of the UK social safety net has been disregarded by successive administrations. Few people realised that preventable harm was the inevitable creation of social policy reforms, gradually adopted by every administration since Thatcher, en route to her political ambition which was the demolition of the welfare state to be replaced by private health insurance. In order to demolish the welfare state, it was first necessary to remove the past psychological security provided by the welfare state. This has been achieved, with disability denial created by significant social policy reforms since 2008. To justify the adoption of harsh and unnecessary austerity measures, which were introduced without ethical approval, the Coalition administration elected in 2010 vehemently challenged the integrity of the chronically ill and disabled community and routinely accused disability benefit claimants of fraud; while failing to produce evidence to support their claims. Their often hostile rhetoric encouraged a 213 percent increase in prosecuted disability hate crimes, and successive administrations disregarded the thousands of deaths directly linked to the Work Capability Assessment, which was adopted using a discredited and dangerous biopsychosocial model of assessment to restrict access to long-term disability benefit. Influenced by corporate America since 1992, the UK social policy reforms guaranteed that many of those in greatest need were destined to die when, covertly, killed by the State.

  • AAJ (American Association for Justice) (2008) The ten worst insurance companies in America, https://www.decof.com/documents/the-ten-worst-insurance-companies.pdf.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Aylward, M. and LoCascio, J. (1995) Problems in the assessment of psychosomatic conditions in social security and related commercial schemes, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 39(6): 75565, doi: 10.1016/0022-3999(95)00037-j.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Banks, B., Blundell, R. and Emerson, C. (2015) The changing characteristics of UK disability benefit recipients, Institute for Fiscal Studies: Observation, https://ifs.org.uk/publications/7756.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Barr, B., Taylor-Robinson, D., Stuckler, D., Loopstra, R., Reeves, A. and Whitehead, M. (2016) ‘First, do no harm’: are disability assessments associated with adverse trends in mental health? A longitudinal ecological study, Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 70(4): 33945, doi: 10.1136/jech-2015-206209.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BBC News (2015) More than 2,300 died after fit for work assessment – DWP figures, 27 August, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34074557.

  • Boardman, J. (2020) Dismantling the social safety net: social security reforms, disability and mental health conditions, British Journal of Psychiatry Bulletin, 44(5): 208212, doi: 10.1192/bjb.2020.79.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Brient, E., Watson, N. and Philo, G. (2013) Bad news for disabled people: how the newspapers are reporting disability, Journal of Disability & Society 28(6). doi: 10.1080/09687599.2013.813837.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Butler, P. (2015) Thousands have died after being found fit for work, DWP figures show, 27 August, Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/aug/27/thousands-died-after-fit-for-work-assessment-dwp-figures.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cabinet (1982) Longer-term options: memorandum, central policy review staff, CAB 129/215/6, National Archives, Kew, https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C13318082.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cover (2004) UnumProvident teams up with Cardiff University, Cover, https://www.covermagazine.co.uk/news/2151231/unumprovident-teams-cardiff-university.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cummins, I. (2018) The impact of austerity on mental health service provisions: a UK perspective, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(6): 1145, doi: 10.3390/ijerph15061145.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Daguerre, A. (2004) Importing workfare: policy transfer of social and labour market policies from the USA to Britain under New Labour, Journal of Social Policy & Administration, 38(1): 4156, doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9515.2004.00375.x.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Daguerre, A. and Taylor-Gooby, P. (2004) Neglecting Europe: explaining the predominance of American ideas in New Labour’s welfare policies since 1997, Journal of European Social Policy, 14(1): 2539, doi: 10.1177/0958928704039786.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Demissie, S. (2012) Files from 1982 – Renewing the values of society, blog, National Archives, https://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/files-from-1982-renewing-the-values-of-society/.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Doherty, A.M. and Gaughran, F. (2014) The interface of physical and mental health, Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 49(5): 67382, doi: 10.1007/s00127-014-0847-7.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Duffy, S. (2014) Counting the cuts: what the government doesn’t want the public to know, Centre for Welfare Reform, https://citizen-network.org/uploads/attachment/403/counting-the-cuts.pdf.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Duncan Smith, I. (2012) Reforming welfare, transforming lives. A public policy lecture, https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/reforming-welfare-transforming-lives.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) (2015) Mortality statistics: employment and support allowance, incapacity benefit or severe disablement allowance, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/459106/mortality-statistics-esa-ib-sda.pdf.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dwyer, P. (2018) Punitive and ineffective: benefit sanctions within social security, Journal of Social Security Law, 25(3): 14257, https://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/138989/1/PD_2018_punitive_and_ineffective..pdf.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dwyer, P., Scullion, L., Jones, K., McNeill, J., Alasdair, B. and Stewart, R. (2019) Work, welfare, and wellbeing: the impacts of welfare conditionality on people with mental health impairments in the UK, Social & Policy Administration, 54(2): 31126, doi: 10.1111/spol.12560.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • EDM (Early Day Motion) (2019) Inquiry into deaths linked to work capability assessments, EDM 2329, 25 April, UK Parliament, https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/52856/inquiry-into-deaths-linked-to-work-capability-assessments.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Elward, L.R. (2016) Corporate welfare crime: two case studies in state-corporate harm, Thesis for Master of Arts Social Policy, Liverpool: University of Liverpool. doi: 10.13140/RG.2.2.20097.04969.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Garthwaite, K. (2011) The language of shirkers and scroungers? Talking about illness, disability and coalition welfare reform, Disability & Society, 26(3): 36972, doi: 10.1080/09687599.2011.560420.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Garthwaite, K. (2014) Fear of the brown envelope: exploring welfare reform with long- term sickness benefit recipients, Social and Policy Administration, 48(7): 78298, doi: 10.1111/spol.12049.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gentleman, A. (2011) Fit-to-work tests a ‘flawed process’, MPs say, 26 July, Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2011/jul/26/fit-to-work-tests-flawed.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Groves, J. (2015) We can get one million claimants off disability benefit and into work, says Iain Duncan Smith, 24 August, Mail Online, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3208300/We-one-million-claimants-disability-benefit-work-says-Iain-Duncan-Smith.html.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hale, C. (2014) Fulfilling potential? ESA and the fate of the Work-Related Activity Group, Mind and Centre for Welfare Reform, https://citizen-network.org/library/fulfilling-potential.html.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Langbein, J.H. (2007) Trust law as regulatory law: the Unum/Provident scandal and judicial review of benefit denials under ERISA, Northwestern University Law Review 2007, 101(3): 131542, http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.13051/4367.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Little, A. (2011) Sick benefits: 75% are faking, 27 July, Express, https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/261337/Sick-benefits-75-are-faking.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McKee, M., Karanikolos, M., Belcher, P. and Stuckler, D. (2012) Austerity: a failed experiment on the people, Clinical Medicine, 12(4): 34650, doi: 10.7861/clinmedicine.12-4-346.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mehta, J., Taggart, D., Clifford, E. and Speed, E. (2018) Where Your Mental Health Disappears Overnight: Disabled People’s Experiences of the Employment and Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group, London: Inclusion London and the University of Essex, https://www.inclusionlondon.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/ESA-WRAG-Report.pdf.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Monbiot, G. (2016) Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems, 15 April, Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/15/neoliberalism-ideology-problem-george-monbiot.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nabhan, M., Elraiyah, R. and Brown, D.R. (2012) What is preventable harm in healthcare? A systematic review of definitions, BMC Health Services Research, 12: 128, https://bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6963-12-128. doi: 10.1186/1472-6963-12-128

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Patrick, R. (2012) ‘All in it together?’ Disabled people, the coalition and welfare to work, Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, 20(3): 30722, doi: 10.1332/175982712X657136.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pring, J. (2015a) New evidence suggests DWP covered up coroner’s WCA warning, 18 December, Disability News Service, https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/new-evidence-suggests-dwp-covered-up-coroners-wca-warning/.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pring, J. (2015b) Fresh evidence that ‘benefit scrounger rhetoric’ is causing hate crime, 24 July, Disability News Service, https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/fresh-evidence-that-benefit-scrounger-rhetoric-is-causing-hate-crime/.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pring, J. (2017) ‘Staggering’ ESA suicide figures prompt calls for inquiry and prosecution of ministers, 14 December, Disability News Service, https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/staggering-esa-suicide-figures-prompt-calls-for-inquiry-and-prosecution-of-ministers/.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pring, J. (2019) Caxton House cover-up: DWP hid benefit deaths from WCA review team, 9 May, Disability News Service, https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/caxton-house-cover-up-dwp-hid-benefit-deaths-papers-from-wca-review-team/.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pring, J. (2020a) The death of Errol Graham: man starved to death after DWP wrongly stopped his benefits, 23 January, Disability News Service, https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/the-death-of-errol-graham-man-starved-to-death-after-dwp-wrongly-stopped-his-benefits/.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pring, J. (2020b) DWP ignored coroner’s calls to take action to save claimants from suicide, 16 July, Disability News Service, https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/dwp-ignored-coroners-call-to-take-action-to-save-claimants-from-suicide/.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ravetz, A. (2006) Green paper: a new deal for Welfare: empowering people to work. An independent assessment of the arguments for the proposed Incapacity Benefit reform, Disability Archive, University of Leeds, https://disability-studies.leeds.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/40/library/ravetz-Green-Paper-IB-critique.pdf.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Redman, J. and Fletcher, D.R. (2021) Violent bureaucracy: a critical analysis of the British public employment service, Critical Social Policy, 42(2): 30626, doi: 10.1177/02610183211001766.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Reilly, S. (2021) Opinion: time for disability hate crime to be taken seriously, 18 October, VIEWdigital, https://viewdigital.org/opinion-time-for-disability-hate-crime-to-be-taken-seriously/.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rutherford, J. (2007) New Labour, the market state, and the end of welfare, Soundings Journal, 36: 4054, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263217809_New_Labour_the_market_state_and_the_end_of_welfare. doi: 10.3898/136266207820465660

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Scott-Samuel, A., Bambra, C., Collins, C., Hunter, D.J., McCartney, G. and Smith, K. (2014) The impact of Thatcherism on wellbeing in Britain, International Journal of Health Services, 44(1): 5371, doi: 10.2190%2FHS.44.1.d.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Shakespeare, T., Watson, N. and Alghaib, O.A. (2016) Blaming the victim, all over again: Waddell and Aylward’s biopsychosocial (BPS) model of disability, Critical Social Policy, 37(1): 2241, doi: 10.1177%2F0261018316649120.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stewart, M. (2016) Cash Not Care: The Planned Demolition of the UK Welfare State, London: New Generation Publishing.

  • Stewart, M. (2018) State crime by proxy: corporate influence on state sanctioned social harm, Journal of Critical Psychology, Counselling and Psychotherapy, 18(4): 21827, https://www.mostewartresearch.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/JCPCP-18-4-M-Stewart-article.pdf.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stewart, M. (2019) Preventable harm: creating a mental health crisis, Journal of Public Mental Health, 18(4): 22430, doi: 10.1108/JPMH-07-2019-0070.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stewart, M. (2020) What price preventable harm: social policies designed to disregard human need, Centre for Welfare Reform, https://citizen-network.org/uploads/attachment/746/what-price-preventable-harm.pdf.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Waddell, G. and Aylward, M. (2005) The Scientific and Conceptual Basis of Incapacity Benefits, London: The Stationery Office.

  • Waddell, G. and Aylward, M. (2010) Models of Sickness and Disability Applied to Common Health Problems, London: Royal Society of Medicine.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wheeler, C. (2015) Exclusive: Hate crimes on disabled up by 213%, 11 January, Express, https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/551327/EXCLUSIVE-Hate-crimes-on-disabled-rise-by-213.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wikeley, N. (1995) The social security (Incapacity for Work) Act 1994, Modern Law Review, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1995.tb02028.x.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • WPSC (Work and Pensions Select Committee) (2021) Oral evidence: health assessments for benefits, HC 604, UK Parliament, https://committees.parliament.uk/work/1468/health-assessments-for-benefits/publications/oral-evidence/.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 1 Preventable Harm Project, UK

Content Metrics

May 2022 onwards Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 59 59 59
Full Text Views 7 7 7
PDF Downloads 8 8 8

Altmetrics

Dimensions