25 May 2008

Voice Risk Analysis targets claimants

Had this from Alan Wheatley who does a great job in difficult circumstances as
Disability Spokesperson for London Green Party...I guess other Party speakers on disability or ministers or shadow ministers do not have his experience.

Hi, Derek

Gary Vaux, Head of Money Advice for Hertfordshire County Council, has a commendable piece as ever in this week's Community Care magazine.

Government Anti-Fraud Minister James Plaskitt has hailed VRA [Voice Risk Analysis] software as "cutting edge technology" that can curb benefit fraud. Vaux points out that it is by no means foolproof and largely untested. Moreover, there are serious disability equality issues involved, especially where the claimant has mental health problems, learning difficulties, or communication problems. A Scope spokesperson is quoted as highlighting the need for a disability impact assessment on this technology that actually has critics among the insurance industry that the government touts as a major advocate of such 'cutting edge technology' that really relies on human interpretation of stress readings.

Making a claim for benefit is stressful, as Vaux points out. Often the stress is caused by inefficiencies in a system that keeps claimants waiting weeks and months without money they are entitled to from the DWP, while the DWP also gets council housing benefit departments to stop paying money on the claimant's behalf to which the claimant IS entitled. Unlike the disability spokespeople of the 'big three' political parties in England & Wales, I have bitter personal experience of this.
http://theonlygreenroom.blogspot.com/2007/10/benefit-claimants-need-firmer.html. Yet that bitter personal experience has been ameliorated via my regular newsagent reservation copy of Community Care magazine that has an agenda far removed from that of the Daily Mail, etc.
I have also managed to reframe bitter personal experience into Community Care mag letters page items as an 'expert witness', and an empathic bridge with others whose stories the tabloids would never tell fairly.

When I referred a fellow claimant to my 'Benefit claimants need firmer safeguards, not tougher sanctions' piece on Noel Lynch's blogspot, she replied, "No wonder you was so empathetic" to her case of being kept waiting months for benefit to which she was entitled. (Green Party activists who say there is no point following up Emergency Motion 119 clearly lack true solidarity with benefit claimants.)

Yet when I next come to make a claim for Jobseekers Allowance, I will be less fearful of the Voice Risk Analysis scrutiny. For, following Gary Vaux's advice, I will make my claim on paper rather than over a 40 minute phone call that my short term memory would have difficulties with. Perhaps the Jobcentre managers who insist on claimants making claims over the telephone should themselves be subjected to VRA?

Your comrade

Alan Wheatley
Disability Spokesperson for London Green Party

PS: With reference to your Reading conference speech reference to capitalism as an addiction, I point to the huge bonuses paid to workfare companies for getting individuals off Incapacity Benefit and into paid work. How many jobs could be bank-rolled for that £62K? http://www.communitycare.co.uk/Articles/2008/03/12/107551/pathways-to-work-to-help-those-unfit-for-work.html

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