Monday, March 31, 2014

As gay people celebrate, treatment of the disabled just gets worse - Independant

With more spending cuts looming, are we content to leave one minority locked out of society as second-class citizens?

They were clearing up the confetti, nursing hangovers and disappearing on honeymoons yesterday after the first batch of gay marriages in Britain. It was a remarkable moment as  the contented couples celebrated their unions with the traditional kiss. Within my lifetime, homosexuality has been first legalised, then embraced into everyday normality. Even bishops have begun to welcome the reform.

The ceremonies mark a milestone in the bumpy march towards tolerance and equality. We should rejoice at the speed with which people who were once jailed, mocked and used as a political football have taken their correct place at the heart of society. Politicians of all hues deserve praise for displaying courage in confronting the misanthropes who sought to stop lesbian and gay people from enjoying rights that the rest take for granted.

Problems remain with homophobic bullying in schools and bigotry abroad. But the reform shows how quickly attitudes can change. It is less than three decades since two-thirds of people thought any same-sex relationship was wrong; now, the same proportion support gay marriage – the numbers rising fastest among young respondents. There are 24 openly gay MPs (and more on Tory benches than those of other parties combined).

We have seen a similar rapid shift in attitudes on gender and race, for all the hurdles that still exist for both women and ethnic minorities. Yet, amid all the discussion of diversity and self-congratulatory talk of tolerance, one minority remains stuck in the shadows of society. Indeed, many members would argue that their life is getting worse, with hostility growing.

These are people with disabilities, a group growing fast in our ageing society. A new study by the charity Scope reflects the changing attitudes over the 20 years since it changed its name from the Spastics Society and shows the scale of the problem. In 1994, just over a third of disabled people said they experienced verbal abuse, with a similar number refused a service in a public place. Today, half of disabled people report discrimination in shops and almost a third when using leisure facilities.

It gets worse. Not only are people with disabilities far less likely to be in work despite being the most loyal employees, but almost two-thirds of those who develop a disability have lost their job within two years. Jean’s story is typical: after working for more than a decade, she was ignored by job agencies and had interview offers withdrawn when she started using a wheelchair. After finally getting an interview, it had to be held in a cafĂ© because the work-place was inaccessible.

Reported hate crime is rising, with stories of awful abuse commonplace, while other studies have found that almost half of disabled people say attitudes against them are hardening. You can multiply all these damning statistics – the terrible stories of routine harassment – for people with learning difficulties. Just imagine the rightful outcry if this was happening to people because of their gender, sexuality or skin colour.

Iain Duncan Smith Should Be Put On Trial Over The Work Capability Assessment Deaths

Originally posted on the void:

 The tragic death of severely unwell Mark Wood, who died of malnutrition just five months after he was found ‘fit for work’ by Atos and the DWP, was not just ‘wrong’ as the Government have today admitted – it was grossly negligent.  Whether this negligence was criminal must be urgently investigated.
Morally, and almost certainly legally, the DWP have a duty of care when making decisions which can potentially devastate the lives of those called  ‘vulnerable adults’ by care professionals.  The Work Capability Assessment, which led to the death of Mark Wood, has already been found unfair for people with mental health conditions in the courts.  Instead of halting the assessments based on this judgement, Iain Duncan Smith has brushed it aside – convinced he knows better than the courts, the medical establishment and the thousands of sick and disabled people themselves driven to despair by the current system.


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Mental Health watchdog calls for changes to fit-for-work tests after woman commits suicide following cut to benefits

AN investigation into the women's death, carried out by the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland, found a lack of sensitivity to the impact benefit cuts could have on peoples' lives.

Atos test have caused misery for thousands
A HIGHLY critical report by a public watchdog has called for changes to the government’s fitness to work assessments after a woman killed herself following cuts to her benefits.

The findings of an investigation into the tragic case found important shortcomings in the tests and a lack of sensitivity to the impact they could have on peoples’ lives.

In the 39-page report, published yesterday the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland, which carried out the investigation, made 13 recommendations it believed would improve the system.

They included a key measure that an applicant’s medical reports should be obtained to assess a claim for individuals with a mental illness or learning disability – a practice which is not currently routine.

Dr Donald Lyons, chief executive of the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland, said the findings of the investigation indicated the current assessment process was “flawed” and “unreliable”.

“I don’t think there is enough understanding of the momentous impact these assessments can have,” he said.

“There was nothing else going on in this woman’s life that we could identify [as to why she took her own life]. She was engaged, she was looking forward to getting married. The only thing that was going on was the benefit assessment.”

He added: “I think the DWP should reflect on this case and learn from it. It does suggest, that certainly, with regard to people with mental health problems, the assessment process is flawed and unreliable.”

The report will put further pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron to review the assessment process which has been previously criticised for dealing harshly with the sick and disabled.

The commission’s report said the former officer worker and mother-of-one, referred to as Ms DE, lived in Scotland and was in her early fifties. She had suffered from depression for 20 years and was under the care of a consultant psychiatrist and a GP.

She was a regular church-goer and had worked for most of her life but had given up her job a few years earlier when her illness deteriorated.

Despite her condition, she had no history of self-harm and had not previously tried to commit suicide.

She was found dead on Hogmanay 2011 after taking an overdose fearing she would be unable to pay her mortgage because of a substantial drop in income following changes to her benefits.

The DWP’s work capability assessment – the test carried out to see if someone is fit to work –  found she was able to return to work and she was told she would move from £94.25 a week incapacity benefit to £67.50 jobseeker’s allowance. The face to face interview was carried out by the outsourcing company Atos Healthcare – which has been at the centre of criticism over the tests.

Ms DE’s best friend and doctors told the inquiry she had been highly distressed and was plunged into crisis when she received the letter informing her of the change.

Under the assessment process Atos was not required to seek further information from the woman’s GP or consultant – both of whom believed she was not well enough to return to work.

Dr Lyons said: “One of the most concerning aspects in the case was that the only information the decision maker had to go on was the work capability assessment and everything we found in this case points to this not being a reliable indication of someone’s ability to work.

“In this case there was no report from the patient herself, no letters from her GP or her psychiatrist.”

Politicians said last night the case demonstrated the work capability assessment should be scrapped and a “more humane” system introduced.

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie, shadow social justice minister, said: “This case is heart-wrenching. It shows just how broken the benefits assessment system is under Tory reforms.

“It is imperative the Tory/Lib Dem government scrap these changes and ensure any replacement treats people with disabilities with dignity and respect.”

The SNP’s Linda Fabiani MSP, a member of Holyrood’s welfare reform committee, added: “This is an absolutely tragic case which unfortunately highlights the wider issues with the DWP’s attitude towards benefits claimants.

“The DWP’s work capability assessment process is simply not fit for purpose and must be immediately reformed.”


Thursday, March 27, 2014

BMA leadership ‘complicit' in disabled suicides


Edinburgh, Thursday 27th March 2014
By Alan Wylie 

Arguably the most hated company in Britain, Atos Healthcare is the multinational corporation that carries out the Tory Government’s ‘Work Capability Assessments’ (WCA) on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions. This computer-based, tick-box ‘functional assessment’ is supposed to determine if a sick and disabled person is ‘fit for work’ or if they meet the criteria for any sickness benefit.

The assessments are so inadequate that, according to the mental health charity Mind, in Oxford 90% of those who have been found ‘fit for work’ have had their decisions overturned when they have appealed with the help of an advocate. This figure is replicated throughout the UK. Even when unrepresented decisions are overturned in 40% of cases.

Protesters demonstrate in London yesterday against Atos's role in benefit assessments
Protesters demonstrate in London in June 2012 against Atos’ role in benefit assessments

The DWP’s own statistics reveal that in 2011 alone 10,600 people died within six weeks of being found fit for work by Atos and another 2,200 died before their assessment was complete. 1300 of these were classified as having had limited capability for work and had been placed in the ‘Work Related Activity Group’ (WRAG).

The Government has since refused to publish statistics for 2012/13 having rejected a Freedom of Information request submitted by Mike Sivier of the Vox Political blog on the grounds that is was ‘vexatious‘.

Mr. Sivier has since lodged an appeal with the Information Commissioner with the help of a solicitor specialising in human rights: What we should be clear on is that this Government has a lot to hide.

Atos Healthcare’s reputation now stands in ruins. The company is completely discredited and it’s name now so toxic that earlier this month they rebranded themselves under the new name of “OHAssist”.

This reminds me of a phrase my mother used to say: “You can polish a turd but it will always be a turd.”

The company is now attempting to run away with its tail between its legs, confirming in February that it is seeking to end its contract to assess whether benefits claimants are fit to work, citing unsubstantiated ‘death threats‘ to its staff. They can run, they may rebrand – but their infamy will plague them for as long as our collective memories last in this country.

Cartoon by Martin Rowson for The Black Triangle Campaign
Cartoon by Martin Rowson for The Black Triangle Campaign

Perversely, the company was awarded the tender to act as assessors for the new Personal Independence Payment (the replacement of the now abolished Disability Living Allowance) under the OHAssist name and only last week they were directly accused by members of the Commons public accounts committee of lying in their bid to secure the contract.

Already it has been widely reported that terminally ill people are now going for months without the benefit they are entitled to owing to ‘delays’ in getting an assessment and the charity Scope estimates that up to 600,000 disabled people are set to lose their entitlement to disability living allowance, owing to the new, much harsher criteria.

The word “henchmen” is the word which immediately comes to mind when thinking about Atos, If you’ve ever wondered where Osborne’s “savings” are coming from, look no further: Atos cuts – disabled people bleed.

In June 2012 Britain’s Doctors overwhelmingly backed a motion at the BMA’s annual conference submitted by the Scottish-based Black Triangle Campaign through their Medical Advisor Dr Stephen Carty stating that Atos’s assessments were “inadequate” and had “little regard to the nature or complexity of the needs of long-term sick and disabled persons”. The motion went on to demand that the tests be ‘scrapped with immediate effect to be replaced by a rigorous and safe system that does not cause avoidable harm’ to sick and/or disabled people.

The vote was a huge victory for the Black Triangle Campaign’s activists and gave hope to hundreds of thousands of people at the brutal receiving end of this fascist-like disability assessment regime.

Regrettably since then, sick and/or disabled people have felt badly let down by the inaction of the BMA’s leadership who they say have in reality done little to give effect to the wishes of the union’s membership.
Granted, they have tussled with intransigent DWP ministers and officials who clearly have no intention of doing anything that might jeopardise their primary aim of kicking as many people off benefit and into destitution as necessary in order to “pay down the deficit” as sacrificial lambs on the altar of austerity, but nothing more.

BMA House

Worse still, many Local Medical Committees (LMCs) – local associations of GPs – have appallingly mounted a ‘Just Say No‘ campaign instructing GP surgeries all over the UK to refuse patients further medical evidence in support of their benefit applications and appeals to the Tribunal Service.

The two main reasons given justify their unconscionable stance is that such work is outwith the duties doctors are required to perform as part of their contract with the DWP and that they are swamped with so many requests that they interfere with the core work of doctoring.

One of the functions of the doctors’ regulatory and disciplinary body, the General Medical Council (GMC), is to set the standards of professional and ethical conduct that all practising doctors in the UK must abide by. The chief guidance is contained in a document entitled ‘Good Medical Practice‘ which clearly states that :
‘… a doctor must (overriding duty or principle) take prompt action if he feels that patient safety is or may be seriously compromised by inadequate … policies or systems.’

Consistent with this and the fact that the WCA incontrovertibly compromises patient safety Black Triangle argues that doctors have an overriding duty in these cases to intervene to prevent catastrophic harm to their patients and to do so independently of any government interference or agreement, if required.

They have furthermore pioneered a simple and effective way for doctors to fulfil their duty of care which has been adopted by dozens of practices belonging to the Deprivation Interest Group in Scotland, the Lothian Area Health Board and the Glasgow Local Medical Committee district.

Dr Carty, who practises in Leith on the north side of Edinburgh has helped over thirty of his patients to gain exemption under the “exceptional circumstances” rule ESA regulations 29 and 35. In these cases, he has effectively informed the DWP that in his clinical judgment he believes that were his patient to be found ‘fit for work’ or to have ‘limited capability for work’ (i.e. placed in the WRAG) there would be a ‘substantial risk of harm to the physical or mental health of either the patient or to others around them’. He does this using one side of an A4 sheet of paper justifiying his declaration by stating clearly his clinical reasoning based on his patients’ diagnoses. He has said that in almost every case the DWP have not resisted his evidence and a great deal of suffering and tragedy has thereby been avoided.

The Black Triangle Campaign has one simple demand.

It isn’t the world that they are asking for.

They are not asking GPs to act as gatekeepers to the benefits system.

They stress that the judgment call as to whether or not to invoke these regulations must be left entirely at the professional discretion of the clinical practitioner.

BMA caring for patients and supporting the action

They fully recognise that a GP may not feel qualified in every case to decide upon a person’s suitability for work as they are not trained Occupational Health experts.

Their simple demand is that the BMA issues an advisory to their members informing them of the existence of these regulations and how to apply them in cases where a GP has a grave concern for the safety and well-being of their patient facing the Atos assessment regime in order to prevent avoidable harm from the outset. They argue that in most cases where the regulations are invoked the clinical condition of the patient in question will be so severe that the judgment call will be an absolute ‘no-brainer’.

The method they have pioneered for making it takes up little more time for the doctor than it would to write out a prescription and in the end will result in fewer acute admissions to hospital and generally dealing with the adverse impact on the patient’s health with the fallout that inevitably follows as the knock-on effect of a wrongful decision by DWP-Atos.


Atos assessment led to woman’s suicide says watchdog

The way a woman was assessed for benefits led to her suicide less than a month later, according to a mental health watchdog.

The woman had a history of depression and was on significant medication, but scored zero points in a Work Capability Assessment (WCA), carried out by Atos.

A Mental Welfare Commission report said it could see no other factor “in her decision to end her life”.

The Department for Work and Pensions said correct procedures were followed.

The woman, who is identified only as Miss DE, was in her early 50s and had been out of work for just under two years due to stress-related depression when she was assessed for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). ESA replaced incapacity benefit as part of changes to the benefits system, introduced by the UK government in 2007.

Miss DE did not receive a self-assessment questionnaire and no evidence was requested from her psychiatrist or GP.

The doctor who conducted the hour-long assessment for Atos, on behalf of the DWP, concluded that Miss DE showed “no evidence that she has a significant disability of mental health function” and she was notified by letter that she had scored zero points in the assessment on 9 December 2011.

When a welfare rights officer informed Miss DE that this would mean her £94.25 per week incapacity benefit would be reduced to a Jobseekers Allowance of £67.50 per week she became very upset and said she did not know how she was going to pay her mortgage.

She took an overdose on New Year’s Eve.

“This lady had a lot to look forward to,” said the chief executive of the MWC, Dr Donald Lyons. “She was getting married. She was being treated. She was undertaking voluntary work. She had a good social network. There wasn’t anything else which we could identify that would lead us to believe that there was any other factor in her life that resulted in her decision to end her life.”

When a DWP representative analysed the process, he told the MWC that the steps taken showed “nothing untoward.”

The MWC said a survey of psychiatrists conducted as part of its investigation found that 13% reported that at least one of their patients had attempted suicide as a result of the assessment process.

A total of 75% said they had not been asked by the DWP or Atos to take part in benefit assessments, although the majority said their patients had asked them to provide medical evidence. About 85% of the psychiatrists said that the benefits assessment had led to patients needing more frequent appointments.


1000 Mothers March For Justice: Saturday 29th March


via DPAC

1000 Mothers March For Justice, with families, carers & supporters

11am Saturday 29th March 2014

Assemble at Bruce Castle Park,
Lordship Lane N17 8NU

Move off 11.30 – march down Tottenham High Road to Tottenham Green East, N15 4UR for a PUBLIC SPEAK-OUT

Follow up meeting: Haringey benefit claimants and supporters
11 am – 1 pm Saturday 12th April
North London Community House, 22 Moorefields Rd, N17 6PY


MARCH TO DEMAND living incomes and decent, affordable homes to rent or buy for waged & unwaged.
MARCH TO REJECT bedroom tax, housing benefit caps, unfair taxes, hunger and cold homes – austerity hurts vulnerable people, the rich get richer.

The £500 overall benefit cap forcing families to pay rent out of the income they need for food, utilities, clothes and transport or be evicted and deported away from their extended families and vital support to anywhere in England or Wales; cap rents not benefits.

The bedroom tax hits disabled people who have one or two spare bedrooms. It also hits 50 to 60 year old adults who become unemployed and are expected to survive on £71.70 a week minus £24 pw bedroom tax and £5 pw council tax. People evicted are forced out of London – this is social and ethnic cleansing.

20% of the council tax has added to the misery of residents. Last year Haringey Council started court proceedings against 23,000 households adding £125 court costs and in over 9000 cases bailiffs’ fees, which have already been increased by 42% this year.

Sanctions imposed by jobcentres punish people for little or no reason leaving them penniless for up to three months.

Freezing increases in benefits at 1% a year while prices escalate inflict hunger and cold on thousands of households.

Food banks as an alternative to social security; the three days food does not end hunger for adults or children. Supply food by right, not by charity.

The activities of ATOS inflict poverty on disabled people with inappropriate fitness for work tests carelessly administered.

All African Women’s Group, Barnet Alliance for Public Services, Day-Mer Turkish & Kurdish Community Organisation, UCU at CONEL, Global Women’s Strike, Haringey Alliance for Public Services, Haringey Defend Council Housing, Haringey Federation of Residents Associations, Haringey Green Party, Haringey Housing Action Group, Haringey Solidarity Group, Haringey Trades Council, Haringey UNISON, Holy Cross United Reformed Church, Unite the Union/Community, London Region National Pensioners Convention, Single Mothers’ Self-Defence, Socialist Women’s Union, Socialist Workers Party, Somerford Grove Community Centre, St. Paul’s C-of-E Tottenham, WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities), Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike.

Please share, tweet,blog and spread the word!

Your Policies KILL Disabled People! · Petition

ATOS Shame for ‘Complicit and Negligence’ British Medical Association

The Government's welfare reforms have been criticised from all across the political divide and if there is one name that encapsulates the ethos behind the Tory's reform is 'ATOS'.


Atos carries out the Tory Government's 'Work Capability Assessments'. These medical 'assessments' decide if a sick and disabled person is 'fit for work' or eligible for sickness benefit.

These assessments are so inadequate that 90% of those who have been found 'fit for work' has had this decision overturned when they have appealed with the help of an advocate.

In 2011 alone, official stats reveal that 10,600 people have died after being found fit to work by Atos and another 2,200 had died before their assessment was complete. The Government has since refused to publish stats for 2012/13

Atos reputation is now in ruin. The company is completely discredited. So much so that they have rebranded under the name of "OH Assist". This reminds me of a phrase my mother used to say: "you can polish a turd but it will always be a turd".


Atos is now attempting to run away with their tail between their legs from the chaos they helped create after confirming in February that it is seeking to end it's government contract to assess whether benefits claimants are fit to work. They may run, they may rebrand but their shame will follow them forever.

Perversely, they are the assessors for PIP under OHAssist name: Terminally ill people are now going for six months or more without the benefit they are entitled to owing to 'delays'.


Atos: Why are victims being sidelined by MPs’ inquiry?

Originally posted on Vox Political:

Sidelined: People like this lady have campaigned across the UK against the unfair assessment system for sickness and disability benefits. Now that they are finally getting an inquiry into this corrupt system, are their views going to be ignored? [Image: Guardian]
Sidelined: People like this lady have campaigned across the UK against the unfair assessment system for sickness and disability benefits. Now that they are finally getting an inquiry into this corrupt system, are their views going to be ignored? [Image: Guardian]

Here’s a disturbing email from the Commons Work and Pensions committee:

“Thank you for your submission to Work and Pensions Committee’s inquiry into Employment and Support Allowance and Work Capability Assessments.

“The Committee has received a large number of written submissions from individuals who have claimed ESA and undergone WCA, setting out their personal experiences of the process.

“Your submission, along with other similar personal testimony submissions, will be circulated to the Members of the Committee as background information to the inquiry rather than published as formal evidence.

“I know that the Committee will find submissions such as yours very helpful in their inquiry and I would therefore like…

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Judge rules key Universal Credit reports should be published

Originally posted on Campaign4Change:

A freedom of information tribunal has ruled that the Department for Work and Pensions should disclose four internal documents on the Universal Credit programme.

The documents give an insight into some of the risks, problems and challenges faced by DWP directors and teams and on UC.

They could also provide evidence on whether the DWP misled Parliament and the public in announcements and press releases issued between 2011 and late 2013.

The DWP and ministers, including the secretary of  state Iain Duncan Smith, declared repeatedly that the UC scheme was on time and on budget at a time when independent internal reports – which the DWP has refused to publish – were highly critical of elements of management of the programme.

Some detail from the internal reports was revealed by the National Audit Office in its Universal Credit: early progress in September 2013.

The FOI tribunal, under judge…

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ESA, Broken Beyond Repair? A Suggested Framework for a Wholesale Overhaul

Originally posted on John D Turner:

I think the Labour Party needs to seriously ask itself how a social security reform that attracted widespread support at its inception has reached its current nadir.  My party needs to recognise that the process is broken beyond repair.  And that no tinkering with it will make it function both effectively and humanely.

I am not going to speak about the damage the current process has caused and is still causing.  There are many people better placed than I to describe the emotional and financial distress resulting out of the system as it is today.  My experience of it is, at most second hand.  I do, however, recognise that the system is failing some of the most vulnerable in our society.  It offers them neither hope nor social security.

My background is primarily in the area of support for those seeking work (and seeking to find workers) as well as…

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Mentally ill man left penniless by DWP is arrested at job centre for cracking a joke.

Originally posted on Benefit tales:

Many of us have had the experience of having no money arrive when it us due, or being sanctioned, when we are already barely surviving.

One of our members, Herbert, went in to the Job Centre last Wednesday to find out why his ESA had not been paid. He was promised it would be in his account that afternoon – that his allowance was being “amended”.

Between 2-5pm he checks and checks, and nothing. He goes in the next day, and has to make the call to Belfast again. This time, they decide they need to know his bank Sort Code which they have never asked for before, so he has to go and get it. During a heated argument on the phone where Herbert is told there is no emergency payment that can be made, security staff think it is their job to ask him to quiet down, Herbert…

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Fracking 'good for the UK', says David Cameron

‘Fracking will be “good for our country”, David Cameron said as he blamed a “lack of understanding” about the process for some of the opposition to shale gas.

The prime minister said that once wells are up and running later this year, there would be more public enthusiasm, and exploiting shale gas reserves could help Europe wean itself off reliance on exports from Russia.

The Ukraine crisis has increased the urgency of European efforts to find alternative sources of energy to reduce the leverage Russia’s oil and gas supplies give it across the continent.’

Read more …

'A policeman can shoot a blind man in the back and get away with it?' Fury of Taser attack victim as blundering officer who mistook his white stick for a samurai sword is let off with an order to APOLOGISE

‘A police officer who shot a blind man with a Taser when he mistook his white stick for a samurai sword will keep his job – and has only been asked to apologise to the man.

Colin Farmer, 64, was hit with the stun gun in Chorley, Lancashire, by PC Stuart Wright in 2012 as he walked to his local pub.

Mr Farmer, who thought he was suffering a stroke, was then handcuffed by the police constable – who was responding to reports of a man in the town centre with a sword.

Mr Farmer was not released until the arrival of another officer whom PC Wright told: ‘I think I’ve got the wrong person.’

Lancashire Constabulary held a two-day disciplinary hearing following a recommendation from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) the officer had a case to answer for gross misconduct.’

Read more …

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Number Of Jobs Gained On Work Programme Plummets: Are Benefit Sanctions To Blame?

Originally posted on the void:


 The latest Work Programme statistics (PDF) show a shocking fall in the number of people gaining work and suggest that being sent on the scheme is now actively harming people’s chance of getting a job.
    The figures show that even after spending a year on the Work Programme, only 10.7% of people had gained a job which lasted at least six months.  This is a fall of almost a quarter since last year’s high in April when 14% of people on the programme for a year had found a long term job – figures which were regarded as a disaster at the time.  The Work Programme has been in steady decline ever since, with the percentage of people finding work overall – including those who have completed the full two years of the scheme – at a new low of just under 19%.  This is down from 22.5% just six…

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Tory Pressure on GPs to Find Patients Fit-For-Work

I always find it interesting when we see the private advice that this Government are giving to other organisations.

In this case, what we are seeing is the Govt’s advice to GPs in respect of ‘fit notes’.

The advice given to GPs is as follows:

Repeatedly reiterated that the fitness for work assessments that GPs carry out are NOT job specific.For example, if a delivery driver broke his leg, he would be found FIT TO WORK as another form of employment may not be impinged by his broken leg.

(QUOTE: Always consider if your patient could do work of some kind before advising that they are not fit for work.)

Tells the GP to ‘carefully consider’ their decision to find the patient unfit in case it “increases the long-term health risks of worklessness”

(QUOTE) Remember to consider carefully whether advising your patient that they are not fit for work increases the long-term health risks of worklessness.

States that there is evidence that shows being unfit for work hampers recovery and rehabilitation.

(QUOTE -Most importantly, the evidence is clear that patients benefit from being in some kind of regular work. This improves mental and physical health and can aid recovery.)

Tells GPs that patients do not have to be 100% fit for work to be found ‘fit’

(QUOTE- Work is generally good for physical and mental health and people do not have to be 100% fit in order to work in most cases.)

Informs GPs that finding patients unfit for work as being an health risk.

(QUOTE - Assessing that your patient is not fit for work... increases the long-term health risks of worklessness.)


Disabled Benefit Claimants Live In Fear Of The Sound Of The Letterbox

I’m sat on the bottom of the stairs, shaking and looked at the brown envelope (marked DWP) on the mat – Helen Sims.

As I write this I am recovering from what we campaigners call ‘Brown Envelope Disorder’ – or ‘White Envelope Disorder’ (since it applies in equal measures now). It is what happens to a disabled or ill [benefit claimant] when a brown or white envelope appears on the doormat, particularly those marked ‘DWP’ –Department for Work and Pensions.

I was upstairs, waiting for my painkillers to kick in, when the letterbox went. For an ‘everyday’ person, it is normality. It is part of life. However, if you are disabled or an ill benefit claimant, living under the constant threat of an ATOS assessment or benefit sanction, [the sound of the letterbox] immediately causes the blood pressure to rise, and panic to kick in.


Europe takes UK to court over benefits

Britain is being taken to court by the European Commission over its “right to reside” test

The European Commission is to take Britain to court over its attempts to limit benefits payments to migrants in a “politically explosive” case ahead of the European elections.

it was unclear whether the commission had planned to go ahead with the legal action, which centres on the “right to reside” test that European Union migrants must pass before they can claim benefits in this country.

However, The Sunday Telegraph has now been told that the lawsuit will be lodged “shortly” in the European Court of Justice.

With European elections held in Britain on May 22, the timing of the lawsuit, over such an emotive issue, threatens to be incendiary.


Atos accused by MPs of lying in its tender document to win £184million benefits testing contract

‘Assessor Atos has been accused by MPs of lying in its tender document to win a £184million benefits testing contract.

Senior Vice President Lisa Coleman was savaged by MPs on the cross-party Commons Public Accounts committee.

The firm is being paid £184million to assess sick and disabled people for the new Personal Independence Payment in London and the South East.

But those looking to claim cash are facing long journeys and delays in receiving the payments.
More than 40% of people are travelling more than an hour to be tested.’

Read more …

IDS's election present for the Golden Oldies: Bye Bye bus pass and fuel payments

‘George Osborne has made a lot of noise about how pensioners with spare cash are going to get a fabulous deal under the Coalition – high interest pensioner bonds and the chance to spend, spend their pension pot.

All this is seen by political commentators as a brilliant move by the Chancellor to get the grey vote out for the Tories next year – with many of the measures timed for the election.

He also made it clear that pensions were going to be exempt from the new welfare cap – which will hit everyone else from lone parents, the disabled.and the working poor on housing benefit.

Sounds too good to be true for the elderly. And guess what, it is.’

Read more …

Lord Tebbit scorns food bank demand

‘The former Conservative cabinet minister Lord Tebbit has suggested that people who visit food banks are at the same time spending their money on junk food.

Speaking in the House of Lords, Tebbit said there was a “near infinite demand” for valuable goods given away free and asked ministers to “initiate research into junk food sales in areas where people are [relying] for basic food on the food banks”.

He made the comments moments after a Tory environment minister, Lord de Mauley, drew gasps from the chamber by saying food banks are not a scandal but a sign of Britain’s charity and ministers should not seek to “interfere” in their use.’

Read more: Lord Tebbit scorns food bank demand

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

ATOS And Mental Health

Originally posted on Same Difference:

Spotted on Facebook.

My sister developed severe depression and what seems like to be bipolar disorder and personality disorder.

We are waiting for Atos to assess her claim.

I called atos every week putting pressure on them. We were given a number to book an assessment and my sister got a call back from a nurse from atos.

I had requested a home visit but the nurse spoke directly to my sister and told her that she will have to come in to be assessed and when my sister insisted on a home visit the nurse asked how do you get to the GP’s … my sister said by car as it’s a 2 minute drive. The nurse said well if you go to your GP’S then we will pay for a cab for you to come in for an assessment.

My sister said ok as she would say that but it doesn’t mean anything because come the day of the assessment she would refuse to go to the DRs.

I called atos today and informed them that under no circumstances will I her carer share a cab with my sister due to her violent aggressive behaviour and the fact that she self harms and she may even have sharps on her.

The man at atos infomed me that they waive assessments on people who have such disorders and he filled in an online form with me and said that the DRs at atos will use the information i’ve goven to assess the claim.

Please share this with others who may have severe mental health needs or are carers for people with mental health problems.

Thank you.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

IDS and Shapps promoted “negative views” of disabled, MPs say


A committee of MPs has blasted cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith and Tory chairman Grant Shapps for contributing to “negative views” of disabled people. The pair both played central roles in abuses of statistics designed to attack welfare claimants.

In a report released today, the DWP select committee states:
“The Government is doing a great deal to promote a positive image of disabled people but this risks being undermined if the language used in DWP press releases and ministerial media comments about benefit statistics adopts a tone which feeds into negative views about people on benefits, including disabled people.”
“Government statistics should be used objectively to shed light on policy implementation, not to prop up established views and preconceptions.”
Grant Shapps was quoted in an official Tory press release implying that disabled people were coming off benefits in droves because they weren’t really ill:
“878,300 people claiming incapacity benefit—more than a third of the total—have chosen to drop their benefit claim entirely rather than face a medical assessment, new figures have revealed.”
But it later emerged that the release fudged two unrelated measures together and failed to make clear that many people recovered from their genuine illness before they were sent for a test — as opposed to pulling out because they were milking the system.

In evidence to the committee, DWP’s top spinner John Shield (who has since jumped ship to the BBC) lay the blame squarely with Shapps’ team at CCHQ:
“This is really simple. I knew you would ask, so I have checked with the press office. In no way, shape or form was anyone involved in the production of this. They were not, and I have been assured that this is purely a piece of party output [...] no one in the press office or in communications had any role in that; it is a party matter.”
But Shield was unable to deny DWP’s involvement with a second incident highlighted by the committee. Last April Iain Duncan Smith claimed of the government’s household benefits cap that “Already we’ve seen 8,000 people who would have been affected by the cap move into jobs”.

But the UK Statistics Authority found that the release was “unsupported by the official statistics published by the Department” and that the original statistics stated explicitly that the figures cited by IDS “are not intended to show the additional numbers entering work as a direct result of the contact [with DWP]”.

And then there’s the press release that had to be amended after describing benefits as “welfare hand-outs”.

Political Scrapbook

Iain Duncan Smith book – “Everything I Know About Poverty”

Originally posted on UNEMPLOYED IN TYNE & WEAR:

Back in the day, there was an LP released - “The Wit & Wisdom Of Ronald Reagan”, which consisted of a completely blank disc…and is nevertheless said to have sold 30,000 copies !

I guess it was only a matter of time before the idea came around again, with the  loathsome IDS  as the target. And this time its a book, not a record.

Available on Amazon, the description reads -

Over 90 blank pages of IDS’s wisdom on the subject of poverty. Individual empty chapters have amusing headings, such as “Making £53 per week work” and “Food banks explained“. The pages are neatly lined for use as a notebook. This book proves that there is absolutely nothing in the mind of Iain Duncan Smith, that can be disputed, where poverty is concerned. Nothing at all.

A reviewer has taken the ball and run with…

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Sick and disabled made to wait for more than six months to know if they will get benefit

‘People with disabilities and severe illnesses are being made to wait for more than six months to find out if they are eligible for financial support from the Government under a controversial new benefits system.

In a highly critical report, a committee of MPs described delays in processing the Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) as “unacceptable”. They called for ministers to invoke penalty clauses for the delays on the two private companies, Atos Healthcare and Capital Business Services, which provide the assessments.

Under reforms to the welfare system, PIPs are replacing the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) as the benefit paid to help towards the extra costs of disability for people of working age. Most people applying for PIP undergo a face-to-face assessment to determine eligibility, which is carried out by the private contractors.’

Read more: Sick and disabled made to wait for more than six months to know if they will get benefit

Monday, March 17, 2014

Universal Jobmatch Falls Apart: First Nail In The Coffin Of Universal Credit

Reblogged from The Void:


In a major blow for Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship welfare reforms, The Guardian are reporting that government job-seeking website Universal Jobmatch is to be scrapped.

Universal Jobmatch was launched at huge cost towards the end of 2012 as a means of spying on unemployed people to ensure they are carrying out sufficient jobseeking activity.  Changes to conditions for receiving benefits mean that in some cases unemployed claimants are expected to spend 35 hours a week looking for work.  When Universal Credit is finally launched (stop laughing), millions more people, -  including part time or self-employed workers, lone parents and disabled people – will also be expected to endlessly look for ‘more or better paid work’.

With Jobcentres already desperately over-stretched due to other reforms to social security, Universal Jobmatch was intended to be a ‘digital by default’ way of policing this new regime on the cheap.  Iain Duncan Smith had intended the website to be a form of virtual workhouse, with claimants endlessly clicking away or applying for even unsuitable jobs through the site under the threat of benefits being stopped.

In truth Universal Jobmatch was anything but cheap, as private contractors Monster spent millions creating a website that fast became a laughing stock.  Alongside this huge cost, estimated to be as high as £20 million, thousands of ‘Internet Access Devices’ were installed in Jobcentres for claimants who did not have a home computer.  All this money now appears to have been squandered as yet another of Iain Duncan Smith’s crazy schemes collapses in an embarrassing shambles.

With no adequate checking procedures to see whether employers using the site are genuine, Universal Jobmatch has quickly filled up with scams, spoof vacancies and spam.  A recent Channel 4 investigation has found that thousands of jobs on the website are bogus, with at least 11,000 vacancies generated by just one person being paid to harvest CVs for recruitment agencies.  Almost anyone who has ever used the internet could have warned the DWP about this.  Meanwhile technology is racing ahead, and Universal Automation – an automated app which does your jobsearch for you – has made a mockery of Iain Duncan Smith’s plans.

Bungling DWP officials even failed to check whether their plans to remotely spy on benefit claimants were legal.  It turns out that in many cases they weren’t and there is currently no requirement for claimants to tick the box giving Jobcentres access to individual accounts.  EU internet laws on cookies also mean that no-one can be forced to use the website anywhere but Jobcentres, whilst claimants can also untick the box which allows DWP staff to send them emails.

Whilst Universal Jobmatch may creak on until 2016 when the contract with Monster ends, it is clears that Iain Duncan Smith’s plans are in tatters.  The impact of this on Universal Credit is huge.  There is simply no way that the Jobcentre can monitor the job-seeking activity of millions more people at current staffing levels.  The demise of Universal Jobmatch is the first nail in the coffin of Universal Credit, and it won’t be the last.  If Iain Duncan Smith can’t even run a fucking website then what hope does he have of implementing the vastly complex IT system required for his back of the envelope reforms to the benefits system?

At presents claimants can still be mandated to register with Universal Jobmatch, but do not have to tick the box giving the Jobcentre access to accounts.  For the most up to date info on your rights visit:

DWP allow the bedroom tax tenant a study or utility room even an IDS voodoo doll making room – official!!

Originally posted on SPeye Joe (Welfarewrites):

Hello reader, did you know the DWP OFFICIALLY allow the bedroom tax tenant to have a study or utility room or play room or any other room?  They do.

So why does your LOCAL council assume that every room that COULD BE a bedroom IS a bedroom? Well because they are numpties is the only answer.

You will want proof dear reader that the DWP OFFICIALLY allow you to have a play room or a study or utility room?  Oh ok I will keep you no longer.

Go online and look at a JSA claim online and after you have put in details of your last job etc it then asks about your property.  After asking how many bedrooms the online JSA form (and yes its the same DWP) goes on to ask “How many OTHER rooms do you have?”

You then click on a button to see what DWP…

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Dad deported from UK for having cancer

Originally posted on Pride's Purge:

(not satire – it’s the UK today!)

The coalition government is so desperate to show it has reduced immigration before the next election, it’s now taken to deporting NHS workers, psychotherapists, chemical engineers and dads with cancer.

Cameron’s nanny, however, stays.

Ralph Marx is a chemical engineer. He lived in the UK for 13 years with his British (former Royal Navy chief petty officer) wife and their 10-year-old daughter Alexandra.

Then in 2012 he was refused residency by the Home Office. He was told it was because he had been diagnosed with cancer.

He was deported and is now separated from his wife and daughter:

Mr Marx had private health cover but – of course – private insurance companies won’t pay up for life-threatening conditions such as cancer.

Alexandra’s dad was considered to be a burden on…

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DWP plans to ditch ridiculed jobs website


‘The government has drawn up plans to scrap its official jobs website, Universal Jobmatch, after recognising it is too expensive and that its purpose is undermined by fake and repeat job entries, according to leaked internal communications from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

A cache of documents seen by the Guardian details how the government’s main website for job hunters – which tens of thousands of unemployed people have been required by the DWP to sign up to – is likely to be jettisoned when the contract for the service comes up for renewal in two years.

A year and a half after its launch, Universal Jobmatch has been ridiculed for hosting numerous fake jobs, including one for an MI6 “target elimination specialist” and “international couriers” for CosaNostra Holdings, as well as listings for pornographic websites.’

Read more …

Massive uprising in Australia, 16 March 2014, Melbourne March

‘Together we stand, divided we fall. Important information about the anti-protest law that the Australian government intend on implementing on the 1 September 2014. ‘

Saturday, March 15, 2014

How bedroom tax affects those on domestic violence protection scheme

One in 20 of those on the sanctuary scheme, which creates a safe room within a property to protect those at risk of domestic violence, have been forced to pay the bedroom tax according to FOI responses from 79 local authorities
Almost one in 20 households using the sanctuary scheme, which creates a safe room or “sanctuary” within a property to protect those at risk of domestic violence,have been affected by the removal of the spare room subsidy.

Figures obtained by a freedom of information (FOI) request to 79 Local Authorities show that since last year, 281 households have been affected, with an average loss of £14 per week expected.

The figures vary widely depending on the local authority. In North Tyneside, 25% of the 109 households using the sanctuary scheme have been affected by the bedroom tax.

The sanctuary scheme aims to enable householders at risk of violence to remain safely in their own home by installing a ‘sanctuary’ within the home and providing support to the household.


“A4e hassled my brother literally to his death”

Work Programme Provider A4E is harassing  people who have been signed off their services..

From the Facebook page ‘Atos Miracles’

“Asked on here before about this…son in support group but was on work programme. A4e keep ringing him to “see how he is”. I spoke to cab and they said he has no obligation to (participate in the ) work programme so i rang A4e to tell them that. She said they have a duty of care n i said well your letters and phone calls are stressing him so she agreed to check into it. Another letter has arrived and they want to phone him next week and it states he has to let them know if he cant be available. Harrasment? He is on the autistic spectrum and any stress affects him terribly.

*(comment)  I imagine they get paid every time they send a letter or make a phone call. If so we could be looking at outright organised fraud, in the same way they defrauded the government by claiming for tagging people who had long since been released from their tagging order. I wonder if anyone is investigating this?                                       

*(comment)    If these people could just read a pamphlet about the autistic spectrum they may be a little less clueless. They probably don’t ‘believe’ it exists. What a waste of time and money to the public purse and of course how upsetting for you both. Xx

*(comment)  I’m in the support group was in the Wrag group and I’ve started getting calls from the work program people too. I told the woman to leave me alone and if she carried on phoning me I’d report her for harassment and also told her I would speak to my mental health support worker about it. I blocked her number from calling also.

*(comment)   My son’s autistic, has to do free work placements in factories or they stop his money. He signs on weekly he gets dla but only a low rate is classed fit for work. They don’t seem to understand he has trouble communicating and understanding people

*(comment)   If anyone is distressing and alarming him, then call the police and start legal proceedings against A4e. They will soon stop. Also contact your local councillor and MP.

*(comment)  It’s harassment . If he’s in a support group they can’t do this. He will be heading straight for meltdown territory if they keep this up. Time to threaten with legal action under the DDA??

*(comment)  You look at your bank account to find there was no payment… You ring dwp to be told ‘we tried to contact you to ask you to attend x meeting, when you didn’t turn up your benefits were withdrawn.. You will have to start a new claim’

*(comment)   I still recieve letters from them even though I’ve been in the support group for over a year. Stressed me out as they kept threatening sanctions if i didnt go.Even though my Dad called them to explain & ask them to stop they wont.

*(comment) According to the dwp if you are in the support group A4E cant do anything. They told me to ignore their letters,which we have,& i still get my esa,& haven’t been sanctioned x

*(comment)   My friend had same problem with A4e, job centre told him he was under no obligation with them so he told them to stick it!! They hassle you because they get paid!!

*(comment) I was at A4E yesterday the bloke as good as told me they pester people like hell because they (A4E) don’t get paid otherwise

*(comment) A4e hassled my brother literally to his death

From the Facebook page ‘Atos Miracles, 13th March 2013

DWP on verge of meltdown over big welfare projects – Margaret Hodge

Department for Work and Pensions has particular problem with private firms says damning report on government contracts

Margaret Hodge
Margaret Hodge singled out the DWP as struggling with the delivery of welfare changes. Photograph: Richard Gardner/REX

Iain Duncan Smith's Department for Work and Pensions is facing "meltdown" over three of its biggest projects, Margaret Hodge, chairman of the Commons public spending watchdog, has said.

Ahead of a damning report on government contracts with private firms, Hodge singled out the DWP as a department particularly struggling with the delivery of welfare changes, which involve managing a relationship with private IT contractors, back-to-work providers and benefit assessors.

The public accounts committee report turns up the pressure on ministers to allow all government contracts to be subject to freedom of information (FOI) laws and examined by the National Audit Office (NAO).

Given that half of all spending on public services now ends up in the hands of private providers, departments must stop hiding behind "commercial confidentiality" when people want to know more about how these contracts work, it said.

The committee said two examples of contracts that the public deserved to know more about were the scandal of G4S and Serco charging for the electronic tagging of offenders who were in prison or dead, and the "complete hash" that G4S made of supplying security guards for the Olympics.

Following a stretch of negative publicity, the major outsourcing companies – G4S, Serco, Atos and Capita – are now willing to be subject to FOI laws when it comes to public sector contracts, but the government is still resisting, it said.

"Time and again when we see failures ... it's a failure of government to manage contracts," Hodge said, adding that departments "simply have to up their game and get a grip".

The committee said the DWP is particularly bad when it comes to private firms' involvement in public services, including Universal Credit, its new IT system that will deliver an overhaul of benefits, the Work Programme, its back-to-work scheme, and the personal independence payment (PIP), the replacement for disability living allowance.

"All their programmes are on the verge of meltdown," she said at a briefing to launch the report.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Let’s Make Shoezones’s Workfare Scheme Fall Apart Faster Than Their Shoes

Originally posted on the void:

 Shoezone are in the firing line on social media over their use of unpaid workers after @boycottworkfare tweeted the latest list of companies using Traineeships to avoid paying their staff.

Traineeship are the latest attempt by the Tories to introduce workfare for private companies by stealth.  There is no pretence that Traineeships will lead to a real job with proper wages.  According to the DWP these schemes, which can involve up to six months of unpaid work, are to ‘prepare’ people for becoming Apprentices, at below the minimum wage.

George Osborne announced before Christmas that young, unemployed people between the age of 18 and 21 will be forced to attend either a Traineeship, other unpaid work experience position or face a Community Work Placement.  That means young people who refuse to work in Shoezone for free will be forced to carry out 780 hours community work instead – for…

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Over 400,000 driven to CAB for help with benefit claims in 2013

Originally posted on Benefit tales:

If you become sick or disabled and lose your job you need to know that you will be supported.

However, our advisers are helping more and more people who are having problems with the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). We think this needs fixing and want to make sure that ESA is fit for work.

ESA blog graph                (Article and data from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, 3rd Feb 2014)

ESA is the benefit designed to help people who have limited ability to work. We have found that the ESA process too often fails to determine who is fit for work and who isn’t. This means that  the right people are not getting the support they are entitled to.

As our chart shows, despite attempts by successive Governments to put this right we are still seeing evidence that the system is not fit for work.We want…

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Read these stories of how the secret courts imprison the elderly in care homes against their will – and weep

‘Seldom does a parliamentary inquiry manage to uncover a national scandal on the terrifying scale of the one blazoned across yesterday’s Daily Mail front page under the headline ‘Prisoners of Care Homes’.

Astonishingly, this report by a House of Lords committee on the workings of the Blair government’s 2005 Mental Capacity Act found that ‘thousands, if not tens of thousands’ of old people have been forcibly incarcerated in care homes or hospitals against their wishes and are being ‘de facto detained unlawfully’.

At the heart of the scandal is the ultra-secretive Court of Protection, set up under the Act, which rules every year that thousands of people are deemed to ‘lack mental capacity’ — so that control of their lives and property can be handed over to social workers and other state officials.’

Read more: Read these stories of how the secret courts imprison the elderly in care homes against their will – and weep

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Labour’s Workfare Plus A Sandwich Scheme Could Be The Most Exploitative Forced Work Yet

Reblogged from The Void:

Ed Miliband pretended he has a real job as he announced his latest forced labour scheme.

Labour’s workfare plus a sandwich scheme is no better than the Tory’s current workfare and is every bit as badly thought out.

Labour’s Compulsory Jobs Guarantee takes the worst elements of almost all previous welfare-to-work style schemes and has rolled them all into one giant and hugely expensive fuck up. Possibly hundreds of thousands of people are to be forced to work in part-time temporary jobs with wages pegged at the minimum wage or face their benefits will be stopped.

Many people in these compulsory jobs may find themselves worse off then someone on current Tory workfare schemes.  The jobs will only be for 25 hours a week, meaning those over 21 will receive just £156.70 under current rates.  For the vast majority of claimants, who have rent to pay, this is likely to leave them between £20-30 a week better off than being on the dole.  The problem is that going to work everyday costs money.  In London the cheapest weekly travelcard costs over £30 a week.  Those on workfare at present have travel expenses met by the placement providers or welfare-to-work companies who run the schemes.  If travel expenses are not met for participants on the Jobs Guarantee, then many people will find themselves worse off than those currently on Tory workfare.  If these costs are met then the Jobs Guarantee will cost a lot more than the £5 billion that Ed Balls is claiming.

The problems do not end there.  Since those on the Future Jobs Fund will no longer be classed as unemployed – handily for the Government – they may also lose eligibility for Council Tax Support.  This is Iain Duncan Smith’s bungled scheme which replaced Council Tax Benefit, handing control over to local authorities to help the poorest pay local taxes.  The predictable result has been a postcode lottery and as the Public Accounts Committee today reported, has made many people in work worse off than they would be on benefits.  This will apply to many in Compulsory Jobs, who may no longer be eligible for Council Tax Support due to being officially employed.  This could also cut the incomes of people on the scheme to around the same weekly pittance as those forced to undertake unpaid work by the Tories.

Just like on the New Deal – Tony Blair’s bodged plan to cure youth unemployment -  those in a compulsory job will also face mandatory training for 10 hours a week.  It is unclear how this will work in practice, although a Labour Press Release seems to suggest this will merely mean employers are handed £500 on top of their free workers to provide this training.  It seems likely that people with Compulsory Jobs will find themselves working these ten hours without wages under the guise of it being ‘work experience’.  This will mean participants on the scheme working five hours a week more than those on current workfare.


Most jobseeker agreements ruled unlawful – and the DWP doesn’t care

Originally posted on The SKWAWKBOX Blog:

A reader of my blog has written to me with an update about a case that I referred to her for her expert help some time ago. The appeal against draconian sanctions that she helped our mutual contact to conduct was successful, with the judge ruling that the ‘conditionality’ imposed on a jobseeker was unreasonable – and that the benefit sanction (immediate stoppage) used to punish the supposed miscreant was therefore unlawful.
But the Tory-led government is so single-minded in its determination to penalise benefit claimants for failing to find jobs that don’t exist that it is knowingly ignoring the judicial ruling and the precedent it sets, in order to continue what can only rightly be called persecution of the disadvantaged and vulnerable.

Here’s what she wrote to me:

I am a keen follower of your blog and thought you may be interested in this story…

I have recently helped a Jobseeker (I’ll call him John) to win an appeal at the First Tier Tribunal after his benefit was stopped for allegedly failing to ‘actively seek’ work.
About me

I am a semi-retired business woman and I initially got involved in helping benefit claimants due to the significant and negative impacts of the new Welfare reforms on some of my family and friends.  My deep concern led to offering my services as a volunteer at the CAB and now as a ‘Welfare Champion’ on a part-time basis.  I do this work mainly on a private basis and receive referrals from various sources.  I could not cope with lots of readers contacting me (I am easily traceable), so for this reason I will refer to myself as ‘Mary’.

About John

John has worked from the age of 15 and for over 24 years with a few short breaks, so no-one could ever describe him as a “skiver” or a “shirker”.  However, due to the economic downturn he found himself unemployed for longer than expected and could no longer afford to run his car; regretfully he has had to turn down a number of job offers due to the lack of transport.

At the beginning of 2013 a new Jobseeker Agreement was imposed on John; it required him to take at least 14 steps to look for work – it previously stated 3 as per the current legislation.  It also required him to seek work on-line 7 days per week and to register with the DWP Universal Jobmatch site, which incidentally is not mandatory, nor is it a condition for receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance despite what Jobcentre Advisers might tell claimants.

Jobcentre errors in law and procedure!

John took 10 strong steps, which included applying for 4-5 jobs to help him secure employment each week during the period in doubt, but the Jobcentre thought this was not good enough and his benefit was stopped for 4 weeks!  From my experience unless a claimant fulfils every detail of their agreement the majority will be sanctioned.  This is wrong, both legally as well as procedurally!   In this particular case I uncovered numerous procedural, policy as well as legal mistakes.

The impact of Jobcentre mistakes!

John was completely stunned and bewildered by the sanction; the impact was immediate and significant.  He had no money and was unable to source a food parcel or any assistance from Social Services, so he was completely destitute for 2 weeks.  

The regulations do not allow access to an immediate hardship payment if you are not in a vulnerable group I.e., you are sick or, have dependent children.  The hardship payment he received after 2 weeks was £43.02pw (his usual payment is £71.70pw) for the remainder of the sanction period. He was already struggling financially and feeling low due to being unemployed for over a year and Christmas was on the horizon.  Those feelings darkened and he felt suicidal at times, due to his mistreatment by Jobcentre Plus.  He could not pay his bills or afford to eat properly and he certainly could not afford to buy his children any Christmas gifts. 

And, to this day he has still not recovered from the loss of his benefits (his arrears are pending).  The sanction has not made him any more motivated than he was previously; it has just made him very angry and mistrustful of Jobcentre Staff, hence the reason he was keen to help others by sharing this story.

Sanctions are only used 'as a last resort'!
The government keeps claiming sanctions are only applied as last resort and if a Jobseeker wilfully does not to keep to their side of the bargain (the Jobseeker’s Agreement).  This certainly is not true in John’s case, so what is the real reason for the sanction….performance expectations (targets to you or I), reducing the unemployment count, saving money or all 3?   
Jobseekers are being set up to fail by Jobcentre Plus!
An ex DWP employee has confirmed:
“But the truth is that benefit claimants are being deliberately set up to fail in order to achieve sanction quotas without regard for natural justice or their welfare. Staff are being asked to behave in a manner that is against the department’s values of integrity and honesty.” 
Suspected criminals are treated more fairly in this country than the sick and the unemployed; they are innocent until found guilty, receive swift and free legal assistance, a bed, food, water and a roof over their heads.
In my view all these sanctions are unjustifiable and certainly do not match the offence. A low level sanction of 4 weeks sanction incurs a c£200 penalty for people over 25 years of age like John, who is already living well below the bread line according the EU  
A speeding ticket is £60 to people who can generally afford to run a car and the offender is given time to challenge the penalty before it is imposed.
What does the law – the Jobseeker’ Act actually say….

The duty to actively seek work is not to be found in the job seekers agreement but in S7 of the jobseeker’s Act. S7(1), which provides:
“a person is actively seeking work if he takes in that week such steps as he could reasonably be expected to have to take in order to have the best prospects of securing employment.”
More detail is set out in regulation 18 of the Regulations. Regulation 18(1) provides that:
“… a person shall be expected to have to take more than two steps in any week unless taking one or two steps is all that is reasonable for that person to do in that week.”
Mr Commissioner Williams held at para 10 & 14 of CJSA/1814/2007 (case law)
That is illustrated by this appeal. C was required by his Agreement to take 6 steps each week and several other steps from time to time. That is clearly more steps than the regulation requires of him to meet the test of “actively seeking work”. And it is more steps than the Agreement asked him to record. On the facts, the secretary of state’s representative now accepts that C took four steps in the week and that those four steps met the test in section 7(1).” 
Further, there is nothing in the Act or the Regulations requiring that a claimant must comply with everything in the Agreement. The reverse is the case. Theagreement must comply with the law. To be valid, a jobseeker’s agreement must comply “with the prescribed regulations in force”: section 9(1) of the Act. The pattern of the legislation is that a jobseeker’s agreement must comply with the test of actively seeking work in sections 1(2)(c) and 7 of the Act and regulation 18 of the Regulations and not the other way round.”
The Outcome of this case – Success!

Using this piece of case law the appeal was allowed, because the judge determined John (the appellant) was actively seeking work as per section 7 of the Jobseeker’ Act 1995 and he took significantly more than 2 steps to in order to have the best prospects of seeking work (Reg. 18 JSA Regs 1996)!

What does this outcome mean?
This result confirms that Jobseeker Allowance claimants are unwittingly agreeing to unreasonable, thus unlawful Jobseeker Agreements (soon to become JSA Claimant Commitments) and, as a result 1000s are being sanctioned unfairly.
However, this achievement is a hollow victory for the thousands of Jobseekers expected to comply with their Jobseeker’s Agreements.
This Tribunal ruling does not set a precedent for DWP to follow. As far as DWP are concerned “it will be business as usual”.  DWP’s position will remain that if an individual claimant wishes to challenge their Jobseekers Agreements on the basis of this Tribunal ruling they will have to jump through all the various hoops.  Most will decide it is not worth their while and I know from my own experiences how difficult it can be.  Further, the claimant must have the capacity to do so (many claimants are vulnerable) and they must also know that their Jobseekers Agreement is unlawful. The majority will not and as for the handful of claimants that do, DWP will cope with these people.

What we appear to be dealing with here is, maladministration by the DWP on a grand scale affecting 1000s of individuals. 
What can people do?
I would strongly urge those who have been affected to get in touch with their MP to raise this important issue. 
And, you must appeal.
Read the recent news reports about unfair sanctions….
“70,000 job seekers’ benefits withdrawn unfairly, says think-tank”
I believe it is significantly higher.
Rising rates of successful appeals have been seen as a sign that the system for penalising those deemed to have broken job-seeker agreements is flawed.



This is absolutely vital information. Any jobseeker who can demonstrate that s/he has taken more than 2 ‘reasonable steps’ a week (or fewer if it is not reasonable to expect them to do that many) to find work has complied with the law. A jobseeker’s ‘agreement’ or JSA ‘claimant commitment’ is a fluid plan and is supposed to guide a claimant into work. If it imposes excessive and unreasonable steps for a claimant’s particular circumstances, it is unenforceable, as John’s case clearly demonstrates. According to the law, ‘excessive’ means more than 3 and any sanctions imposed for not meeting additional conditions is not legally valid. Any claimant sanctioned for failing to meet such an illegal requirement has a right to have it overturned on appeal.

And the scale of this is enormous.

‘Mary’ is right that the numbers stated for people sanctioned are vastly understated in the sources she quotes. 818,000 people had been sanctioned by late Feb 2014, just since the end of 2012.

But the DWP doesn’t care. It relies on the fact that only about 2% of people sanctioned formally appeal to get away with breaking the law 98% of the time – and on ignorance to keep it that way.

This government will never be shamed into changing its treatment of unemployed, disabled and otherwise disadvantaged people – it thinks it has found a formula to make its actions popular: the demonising of the vulnerable.

If it won’t be shamed, it must be removed – and that means relentlessly spreading the word on this and its many other misdeeds so that the election in 2015 becomes unwinnable for these shameless criminals. Please help to do so – publicise this, write to your MP and write to the press until they pay attention.

And if you’ve been sanctioned for failing to comply with an unlawful sanction – appeal, appeal, appeal and seek publicity for your appeal until the scale of the illegality can’t be ignored.