‘Preventable harm’ concerns raised with Chief Medical Officer regarding benefit assessments

Activist Mo Stewart has written to the Chief Medical Officer to raise concerns about ‘preventable harm’ regarding benefit assessments and the “excessive use of sanctions”.

A copy of the letter is given below:


Professor Dame Sally Davies DBE, FRS, FMedSci
Chief Medical Officer Department of Health and Social Care
39 Victoria Street
London SW1H 0EU

[Dear Dame Sally]

Re: Preventable harm is government policy: raising concerns about Employment and Support Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Universal Credit assessments and the excessive use of sanctions. 

Further to previous contact, I am writing to alert you to the identified increasing preventable harm created by the flawed assessment model adopted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to restrict access to the Employment and Support Allowance, the Personal Independence Payment and, most recently, to Universal Credit.

You will recall that the commissioned research used by the DWP to justify the adoption of the Waddell-Aylward biopsychosocial (BPS) model for the work capability assessment (WCA) has failed all academic scrutiny (Shakespeare et al, 2016), that the brutality of the assessment system together with the excessive use of sanctions is negatively impacting on public mental health (Barr et al 2015; Webster, 2015), and that the assessment model was influenced by corporate America long ago; as this government enforced tyranny has been adopted by consecutive neoliberal governments who imported American social policies (Daguerre, 2004) for political ideology and for no other reason (Stewart, 2019).

Given that the infamous ‘Freud Report’, as used by the DWP to justify this tyranny, was discredited within weeks of being published as Freud had ‘misinterpreted his own references’ (Dorling, 2007), then you will I’m sure realise that both government commissioned reports used to justify the adoption of the fatally flawed WCA have been discredited by independent academic excellence.

Professor Peter Dwyer has just completed a five year project, that involved six universities, which concluded that conditionality of social security benefits DOES NOT permit or encourage vast numbers of disabled people to find jobs, contrary to DWP rhetoric, and their key findings  were that conditionality created a range of negative behaviour changes (Dwyer et al, 2018):

  • counterproductive compliance
  • increased poverty, and on occasions, destitution
  • movements into survival crime • exacerbated ill health and impairments.

The referenced published papers will alert you to this unacceptable ongoing preventable harm adopted by the DWP, as those in greatest need now live in fear of the Department. The healthcare professions are waiting for you to speak out against this ongoing preventable harm in your capacity  as the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), and so are the chronically ill and disabled community who are being terrorised by their own government, on route to the demolition of the welfare state to be replaced with private healthcare insurance, as all planned a long time ago (Stewart, 2016). There may be ‘Better Health Within Reach’, as claimed in your 2018 annual report but not, I respectfully suggest, if chronically ill or disabled in C21st UK and in need of financial support from the state. Victims are, quite literally, killed by the state, which demonstrates a catastrophic indifference to human need: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/22/stephen-smith-benefits-system-dying

In the ten years since the adoption of the WCA, a lot of detailed research evidence has been published and it seems to me that the CMO and colleagues should be aware of this disturbing evidence, that confirms the ongoing unnecessary preventable harm created by the social policy reforms of consecutive UK governments. Your colleagues may welcome access to this evidence which will be shared with them. Some of my colleagues have co-signed this letter, as listed below.

Yours, most sincerely

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther-King Jr

Mo Stewart
Fellow, the Centre for Welfare Reform.
Author of ‘Cash Not Care: the planned demolition of the UK welfare state’. London, New Generation Publishing, 2016


Blaming the victim, all over again: Waddell and Aylward’s biopsychosocial (BPS) model of disability: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0261018316649120

‘First, do no harm’: are disability assessments associated with adverse trends in mental health? A longitudinal ecological study https://jech.bmj.com/content/70/4/339

Benefit sanctions: Britain’s secret penal system https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/resources/benefit-sanctions-britains-secret-penal-system

Importing Workfare: Policy Transfer of Social and Labour Market policies from the USA to Britain under New Labour https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-9515.2004.00375.x

Psychological tyranny masquerading as welfare reform https://www.mostewartresearch.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Psychological-Tyranny-Masquerading-WelfareReform.pdf

The Real Mental Health Bill https://www.academia.edu/3720014/Dorling_Real_Mental_Health_Bill

Final findings report: Welfare Conditionality Project 2013-2018  http://www.welfareconditionality.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/40475_Welfare-Conditionality_Report_complete-v3.pdf

Cash Not Care: the planned demolition of the UK welfare state https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cash-Not-Care-planned-demolition/dp/178507783X


Professor Peter Dwyer, University of York
Dr Simon Duffy, Director, Centre for Welfare Reform
Dr Anne Daguerre, University of Middlesex
Dr Kayleigh Garthwaite, University of Birmingham
Professor Tanya Titchkosky, Dpt of Social Justice Education, University of Toronto
Dr Marion Hersh, University of Glasgow
Dr Maria Burghs, De Montfort University
Dr Lisa Stafford, School of Public  Health & Social Work, Queensland, Australia
Dr Stephen Weatherhead, University of Liverpool
Dr Liz Ellis, Centre for Health Science
Dr Lucy Series, University of Cardiff
Stephanie Headon, University of Bolton
Eri Mountbatten, Centre for Welfare Reform
Jim Elderwoodward OBE, Centre for Welfare Reform
Laura Welti, Bristol Disability Equality Forum

Download the letter:

View the complete letter at https://www.mostewartresearch.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Redacted-letter-Prof-Dame-Sally-Davies-3rd-MAY-2019.pdf