Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mental Health Services in crisis because of Coalition cuts to funding


A succession of Conservative  governments have demonstrated very clearly that when it comes to funding established and crucial provisions for our most vulnerable citizens, they lack the foresight required to grasp that reducing funding means reducing our public services to the bare capacity for “firefighting” only – crisis management – rather than a much preferred “preventative” approach. Under the guise of a “policy of deinstitutionalisation”, Thatcher’s “Care in the Community” Bill was about anything but care: it was all about cutting costs, as reflected in the experiences of many people leaving long term institutional care and being left to fend for themselves in the community.

Previous Conservative governments of 1979 to 1997 had been responsible for a series of changes in the conceptualisation and delivery of community care services. . In particular, this period saw the introduction of a series of private sector approaches and terminology, as well as the gradual…

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Inside the Jobcentre: my experience working for a failing service

So much has changed since I first worked for the Jobcentre in the 70s, when it actually offered real training and opportunities
• If you want long-term, meaningful work, don’t go to a jobcentre


The government has caused our broken society and is heading this country back to Victorian Britain, says Elaine Steer

I used to work for the Department for Work and Pensions, and before that the Benefits Agency, before that the Employment Service, and yes, before that, the Unemployment Benefit Office (UBO). Oh, and for a short while in the late 70s, the Jobcentre.

When I first worked at the Jobcentre in 1979, it was just that. You had to register with there to be able to sign on for your unemployment benefit or supplementary benefit. In those days jobcentres worked closely with employers to find out what they needed and matched potential employees on behalf of the employer.

Jobs were also advertised on boards in jobcentres, but potential applicants had to apply via an adviser. (Now, if an employer advertises with Jobcentre Plus, they leave themselves open to receiving thousands of applications from not remotely qualified, suitable candidates who were often not even genuinely interested. Why bother advertising?)

Jobcentres used to offer real training with a proper, recognised qualification provided through colleges or skill centres. But proper training is costly, so eventually it was scrapped. The replacement schemes tend to offer poor training from inadequate trainers with a worthless piece of paper at the end: just another example of government wanting something for nothing.

Eventually it was decided it would be a good idea to amalgamate jobcentres with unemployment benefit offices (UBO), and the Employment Service was born. The Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) became the Benefits Agency. I never did understand why those in charge thought joining up the Jobcentre with the UBO was a good idea. Surely it would have been more sensible to join the two benefit departments: UBO and DHSS.

Finally, in 2002, Jobcentre Plus was born, joining the Employment Service with the Benefits Agency. Those of us who had specialised in benefit processing always felt we were the poor relations in this partnership. Many experienced and dedicated staff were ousted, either by being squeezed by the new senior management or through voluntary redundancy taken by staff who felt they could not work for new managers who didn’t care about either the staff or the service users.

Separating benefits assessments and jobcentre services is the most sensible thing that could happen now. But this will only work if real money is spent on helping people into work with proper support and training, and benefits are managed by people who care and understand. Most people who claim benefits are genuine. There will always be those who abuse the system but this does not mean it should be diminished to the point where genuine people are penalised and children in the 21st century are forced into poverty through no fault of their own.

I currently work as a welfare benefit adviser, fighting the broken system on behalf of vulnerable people who are left without money for food, gas and electricity and face rent arrears and eviction. This all costs so much more than paying the benefits in the first place to genuine people in need of support. This government has caused our broken society and is heading this country back to Victorian Britain.

    Our skinny, malnourished kids long for new school term – so they can be fed

    Real Britain columnist Ros Wynne-Jones says instead of wishing the summer holidays would never end, too many hungry kids can’t wait to go back to school

    When Thomas was eight years old, he was caught stealing formula milk for his baby brother. It was in the middle of a long hot summer in South London. His mother had given him £1 for the milk, but it wasn’t enough.

    “I remember it like it was yesterday,” he says. “I went into Kwik Save. I realised I didn’t have enough money and that my mum didn’t have any more. Summer was always the worst. Too many mouths to feed, no school meals, no money. My heart was beating. I robbed a packet of SMA Gold.”

    This week, in Scotland, I spoke to Lorraine, a 33-year-old single mother from Renfrewshire. This summer, she went to a foodbank for the first time in her life.

    “I stood outside a long time,” she said. “I felt like such a scrounger.”

    She told me her family could barely cope in term-time, but at least her six-year-old daughter Kelly got a hot lunch every day. “It’s not just the food,” she says. “You can’t afford to take them out so you’re at home with the electricity and gas building up. Most days I don’t eat in the evening at all.”

    Many people think winter is the hardest time for UK families living in poverty, as extortionate fuel bills swallow the household budget. But for many living on the knife-edge of hunger, the long summer holidays are a tipping point. Free school meals, which provide over a million children with at least five hot lunches a week during term-time, are suddenly switched off on the last day of term.

    Last week, a report from Kellogg’s and the Trussell Trust showed 40% of teachers believe pupils don’t eat enough during summer holidays – with many children noticeably thinner at the start of the autumn term.

    “One in four children only get one hot meal a day – their school lunch,” says Carmel McConnell, who runs Magic Breakfast, a charity delivering free, healthy breakfasts to schools to reach 8,500 of the UK’s poorest children. Where do those children go in the holidays? I think this summer needs to be the last one where the answer to that is nowhere.”

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

    29 page briefing on DWP JSA and ESA sanctions stats of 13 Aug 14

    Originally posted on

    Closed shop at the top in deeply elitist Britain, says study

    Elitism so embedded in Britain that it could be called social engineering, social mobility commission concludes

    Eton College
    Eton College

    Britain is "deeply elitist" because people educated at public school and Oxbridge have in effect created a "closed shop at the top", according to a government report published on Thursday.

    The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission said its study of the social background of those "running Britain" was the most detailed of its kind ever undertaken and showed that elitism was so embedded in Britain "that it could be called 'social engineering'".

    Alan Milburn, the Labour former cabinet minister who chairs the commission, said that, as well as being unfair, this situation was unacceptable because "locking out a diversity of talents and experiences makes Britain's leading institutions less informed, less representative and, ultimately, less credible than they should be".


    Wednesday, August 27, 2014

    Poll: Tories accused of grave & systemic violations against disabled people – are they guilty or not guilty?

    Originally posted on Stop MP lies & propaganda:

    Tories accused of grave and systemic violations against disabled people

    Tories accused of grave and systemic violations against disabled people

    James is now destitute following a sanction: ‘It’s bully boy tactics’, he says.

    Originally posted on Ann McGauran:

    James Dearsley, 60, receives a three-month sanction while on the Work Programme
    James Dearsley, 60, receives a three-month sanction while on the Work Programme

    A vulnerable 60-year-old has been left penniless and dependent on food bank support after his Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) was sanctioned at the end of July while on the Work Programme. South-east Londoner James Dearsley received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (below) telling him that he had been sanctioned from July 29 and that his JSA would not be reinstated until October 29. James, who is already in arrears with his council tax, has spent more than three weeks without social security. This withdrawal of money means that he’s already been forced to use Greenwich food bank twice.

    He says the local job centre told him he was being sanctioned because on three consecutive occasions he had failed to turn up for his Work Programme appointment with a Seetec job search support club. The letter…

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    Never Forget, It Is David Cameron Who Is Ultimately To Blame For Welfare Reform Deaths

    Originally posted on the void:


    Understandably much of the rage aginst the vicious welfare reforms –  which are costing an increasing number of lives – has been aimed at blundering fucking idiot Iain Duncan Smith.

    But it is David Cameron who has cheered along whilst the DWP has spent billions driving the poorest people in the country into destitution.  It is David Cameron who has been in charge whilst hundreds of hungry families have queued at foodbanks, or disabled people have been driven from their homes due to the Bedoom Tax.  And it is David Cameron who is ultimately responsible for the deaths of David ClapsonStephanie Bottrill, Victor CuffJacqueling Harris and all of those driven to ill health and suicide by his Government’s callous devastation of the social security safety net.

    David Cameron probably doesn’t even know that money runs out, and that when that happens, even in one of…

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    Tuesday, August 26, 2014

    National Day of Protest Against Sanctions, Bedroom Tax and Benefit Cuts

    Thursday 11th September 2014

    End Bedroom Tax; No Sanctions for Claimants – No Targets for Staff

    On 11th September the Anti-Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Campaign is holding a day of protest: say no to claimant sanctions, bedroom tax and benefit cuts.

    Government attacks on benefits mean hunger, debt and fear. Ex-soldier David Clapson died hungry and destitute after his benefits were stopped, the latest in a string of deaths and suicides related to sanctions and benefit cuts.  The overwhelming majority of referrals to food banks are due to  claimants being sanctioned.

    Sanctions cutting benefits of disabled people on Employment and Support Allowance, rose by nearly 580 percent between March 2013 and March 2014, and total sanctions rose to over a million last year, from 100,000 in 2010 (DWP figures).

    PCS union is supporting the 11 September protests.  Research by PCS members working in the DWP revealed that 82% of members felt ‘pressured’ into sanctioning claimants, and 62% said they had made ‘inappropriate’ sanctions decisions.Protests have forced Government to promise changes: see Review report. But sanctions remain a vicious plank of the Government’s punitive welfare reforms, and are still supported by Labour in parliament.

    Join us on one of protests below or organise your own.  Demand an end to the Bedroom Tax and link it to the slogan: ‘No sanctions for claimants, No targets for staff’. Build links with local PCS members - contacts for local PCS in DWP and PCS regions.The Bedroom Tax is almost dead – we will demand MPs kill it now  and up the pressure to beat the sanctions regime too. Let us know any actions you are planning so we can promote them.

    End Sanctions, Bedroom Tax and benefit cuts11am Old Palace Yard Westminster SW1P 3JY
    and 1pm DWP HQ Tothill St SW1

    Other protests planned in
    Leeds, Sheffield, Oxford, Manchester/Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow


    Summer day trips too expensive for fifth of families

    One family in five is too poor to take a trip to the seaside for today’s bank holiday, a children’s charity has revealed.

    Research published by Barnardo’s today found that the poorest 20 per cent of families have too little disposable income to stretch to a city-to-coast trip, even if they cut out “all but the basics.”

    A trip from Birmingham to Rhyl, north Wales, would set a family of four back £117.40 while one from Leicester to Skegness in Lincolnshire would cost £127.40, the study showed.

    The minimum disposable income for a fifth of households was just £39 a week — leaving a day at the beach well out of reach.

    The calculations are based on a day trip and assume families are able to find the cheapest rail fare.

    They include the cost of a fish-and-chip meal, sun cream and ice creams, but do not cover additional items such as swimming costumes, towels, buckets and spades or armbands.

    “Research shows that the poorest families have too little money to cover basic weekly living costs — let alone a trip to the beach,” the charity said.

    “The income of the poorest families has declined in recent years.

    #DWP Apologies for the Delay in Your Payment, IDS Does Not Care … (#JSA and #ESA Payment Systems Going Into Meltdown for Existing Recipients)

    Originally posted on John D Turner:

    Understandably, there has been a lot lately about Universal Credit, but UC is currently only being paid to a very small number of people with the easiest type of claim to administer. If UC is affecting anyone then it is actually those not receiving it.

    Let me explain, UC is, amongst other things, meant to replace the payment systems for Income Based JSA and ESA, but not Contribution Based. As a result, the existing systems will, all other things being equal, not be needed as current claims go over to UC. Such a process, given the high rate of turnover amongst people on JSA and ESA, would not I think take very long, in comparison with, for example, the original, pre IDS timetable for moving people from IB to ESA.

    Blind Optimism

    In the spirit of the blind optimism, associated with UC, the care and maintenance of the current computer…

    View original 1,207 more words

    Govt Caught Censoring Wikipedia To Hide Truth About Bedroom Tax

    ESA Backlogg Causes Disruption and Fear to Vulnerable Lives

    Originally posted on Ramblings of a Fibro Fogged Mind:

    A few nights ago after six pm, I received an urgent cry for help and advice from a lady I know, who has herself faced major health issues with her son and is disabled herself. When completely out of the blue her brother who is also a vulnerable adult with health problems received a accelerated eviction notice from his landlord stating he had to leave the property the next day.

    She desperately needed advice on whether the landlord could do this. Having had issues with private renting, I advised her about his rights re his section 21notice and googled some info on accelerated evictions, as well as who else might be able to advice such as Shelter and her local councils housing department. As well as advising that she spoke to a solicitor first thing in the morning…

    This has seriously stressed two vulnerable disabled adults trying to sort this…

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    Food poverty: Experts issue malnutrition health warning

    Children being served food

    More people are suffering from malnutrition as a result of worsening food poverty, experts have warned.

    The Faculty of Public Health said conditions like rickets were becoming more apparent because people could not afford quality food in their diet.

    It comes after health figures recently revealed a 19% increase in the number of people admitted to hospital with malnutrition over the past year.

    Ministers say that billions of pounds are available to tackle health issues.

    The government said the money would help councils cope with public health problems such as malnutrition.

    But data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre showed the number of those admitted to hospital in England and Wales had risen from 5,469 to 6,520 over the past year.

    Vice president of the Faculty of Public Health, John Middleton, said food-related ill health was getting worse "through extreme poverty and the use of food banks".

    "It's getting worse because people can't afford good quality food. It's getting worse where malnutrition, rickets and other manifestations of extreme poor diet are becoming apparent," he said.
    Summer food schemes

    The faculty recently claimed that UK food prices had risen by 12% since 2007. It also noted that in the same period, UK workers had suffered a 7.6% fall in wages.

    Separately, numerous schemes have been running throughout the summer holidays to help families feed their children.

    The Kellogg's Holiday Breakfast Club, the Fun and Food In School Holidays initiative and the Ashram Housing Association's Holiday Kitchen are among the schemes running across the UK.

    Muna Choudhury from Ashram said: "We heard from the families we work with the summer holidays can prove to be a struggle.

    "Families were finding it difficult to find affordable activities and to provide extra meals."

    Manchester GP Aisha Awan said healthy food did not have to be expensive, suggesting tinned food - as long as it was not high in sugar or salt.

    She added: "If you buy them [tins] they keep for longer - they're often a cheaper option for people who might be on a budget."


    Signs of being malnourished

    The main symptom of malnutrition is rapid weight loss - usually 5-10% within a few months. Other signs include:
    • weak muscles
    • constantly feeling tired
    • an increase in illnesses or infections
    • children will not grow as quickly
    • and will show changes in behaviour becoming irritable, sluggish and anxious.
    Source: NHS Choices


    Shoplifting 'rising'

    Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg told BBC Radio 4's Today programme some people were resorting to committing crime "simply to live".

    "The evidence shows that shoplifting and theft in general is rising exponentially and there must be a reason for that," he said, adding that it was important to address the causes of such crimes.

    Health Minister Dan Poulter insisted that the government wanted everyone to live a healthy life and that a good diet was essential.

    He said the rise in malnutrition could be partly due to better diagnosis and detection by health professionals of people at risk.

    "We want to reduce levels of malnutrition, particularly amongst frail and elderly people," Dr Poulter added.
    "We are working with Age UK on a half a million pound project, which aims to tackle the issue in a range of health and care settings.

    "We've also given local authorities a £5.4bn budget over two years to help them manage public health issues, including malnutrition, in their areas."


    It’s absolute poverty, not “market competition” that has led to a drop in food sales


    Public spending in food stores fell for the first time on record in July this year, putting the UK recovery in doubt after a very worrying, unprecedented record fall in food sales, with many consumers evidently yet to feel the benefit of the so-called recovery.

    The price of food  was 0.2% higher than a year ago. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) started collecting the data in 1989.The volume of food sales was also down last month, by 1.5% on an annualised basis.

    There was also a marked fall in petrol consumption, and the only prominent area of growth was in spending that entailed use of mail order catalogues, and at market stalls, as people use credit to buy essential items and shop around for cheap alternatives and bargains.

    Food manufacturing is the UK’s single largest manufacturing sector. The food and drink supply chain is a major part of the…

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    Friday, August 22, 2014

    Jobcentre staff stole claimants’ benefits after getting into debt

    Originally posted on UNEMPLOYED IN TYNE & WEAR:

    A civil servant siphoned off nearly £2,000 from people’s benefits after struggling to meet the payments of his pay-day loan.

    Anthony Osborne was paying £700 from his monthly salary to meet the “exorbitant” interest rates of his loan, Sunderland magistrates were told.

    He turned to crime and took £1,932 in just five weeks after realising he could alter bank details on customers’ electronic records.

    But he was caught after two claimants complained they had not received their benefits and an internal audit was carried out.

    Osborne, 42, was arrested and pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position before Sunderland Magistrates’ Court in June.

    At a sentencing hearing this week, Osborne blamed mounting debts and depression for the deception, described in court as being totally out of character for a man who had never been in trouble with the law.
    Osborne, who gave his address in court as…

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    If there is an Inquiry by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities concerning the UK…

    Originally posted on Making rights make sense:

    There’s been lots of back and forth on Twitter and elsewhere regarding the rumoured Inquiry by the UN Disability Rights Committee into the UK, and in particular the confidentiality of the Inquiry procedure.

    First of all, an ex Committee member Gabor Gambos announced that there was to be an Inquiry when speaking at the National University of Ireland in Galway School of Disability Law and Policy Summer School back in June.  He did not say what the Inquiry was about, only that had been launched.  The Secretariat of the UN Committee will not confirm or deny the Inquiry because it considers itself to be subject to confidentiality and presumably that confidentiality extends even to the question of whether or not an inquiry is taking place at all.  So there is no official notice that an Inquiry is taking place and no information at all in the public domain about what…

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    ‘Fit For Work’ Tests ‘Far From Satisfactory’, Says Think Tank

    The highly controversial ‘fit for work’ test is “far from satisfactory” for people with mental health problems, a damning new report has found.

    The report – ‘In Safe Hands Now‘ – from the centre-left think tank IPPR found that reforms to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) are ‘urgently needed’ in order to ‘ensure more decisions are correct first time around’.

    The IPPR draw attention to a review of the WCA by Dr Litchfield where he compares the UK system to that used in the Netherlands. Sick and disabled people in the Netherlands are not assessed as being ‘unfit for work’ or ‘fit for work’. Instead, ‘specialist medical practitioners and vocational rehabilitation experts’ are used to determine a sick and/or disabled persons ability to work in ‘hypothetical jobs’. This is used to work out a persons ‘earning capacity’ and the level of support they will require to maintain or increase it. The system is designed to identify what sort of work a person can do, rather than simply deciding whether they are capable of working or not.

    The WCA has been heavily criticised for its poor level of accuracy and for how those going through the stressful and demeaning process are ‘insensitively’ treated. Earlier this year the Work and Pensions Select Committee said that the WCA is so flawed it should be scrapped and completely replaced.


    Welfare reforms fail the Prime Minister’s new family test, says TUC

    A new report from the TUC says the majority of social security cuts announced by the government will fall on working families, who will suffer twice the level of benefit losses as out of work families.

    The majority of social security cuts announced by the government will fall on working families, who will suffer twice the level of benefit losses as out of work families, according to a new report published today (22 August) by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

    The TUC-commissioned analysis of those affected by cuts in social security support – undertaken by Howard Reed of Landman Economics – looks at all the welfare changes announced during this Parliament. It finds that annual cuts to key benefits will reach £30.5 billion by 2016/2017.

    Ministers frequently talk about how their welfare reforms target workless households. But the TUC analysis finds that most of the cuts will fall on working families, with working parents and their children facing the biggest cuts of all.

    Working families will suffer a loss of social security support worth £17.9 billion a year by 2016/17, twice the level (£6.2 billion a year) experienced by out of work families.

    Working families with children stand to lose the most – £11.7 billion a year. With out of work families with children losing a further £2.3 billion a year, the total cost of welfare cuts to families with children will be £14.1 billion a year by 2016/17.

    The TUC analysis shows that three-quarters of all welfare cuts to people of working age will be on working families, with almost half hitting working families with children.

    The government’s welfare reforms have already failed the Prime Minister’s new ‘family test’ in spectacular fashion, says the TUC, with working parents and their children billions of pounds worse off as a result.

    The analysis also shows that the Prime Minister’s pre-election pledge to protect pensioner benefits has been broken, with pensioner families suffering a loss of benefit support worth £6.4 billibn a year by 2016/17.


    Thursday, August 21, 2014

    Dying of cancer? Work or starve: the end of the welfare state.

    Reblogged from Pride's Purge:

    (sadly not satire – it’s the UK today)

    There are now numerous cases of terminally sick cancer patients being told by the DWP they are unable to receive sickness benefit because they are supposedly ‘fit for work’.

    The latest victim of the coalition government’s slashing of help and support for the sick, disabled and dying was Chris Smith, a plumber from Leicester with terminal cancer who died last month:

    Help for the sick and disabled in the UK has now effectively disappeared and the welfare state – in England and Wales at least – has already gone.

    Here’s the proof that sick people – even cancer patients – are now regarded as malingerers:

    Thousands of Cancer Patients Wait For Six Months or More For Disability Benefits
    Cancer patients to lose up to £94 a week
    DWP blames cancer patient for her illness
    Mother’s plea for son who lost benefits after missing signing on because of cancer operation
    Throat cancer victim – “this is not the England they fought and died for!”
    Let’s be clear – Tory and Lib Dem MPs have decided terminally ill patients should work or starve
    A soldier’s tale
    40% of cancer patients can’t afford to heat their home properly
    Man living on flour and water and woman forced to stop chemotherapy
    Life in the PIP queue: One year and counting for claimant with cancer
    Cancer sufferer left penniless after waiting six months for vital financial help
    Cancer sufferer loses disabilty benefits appeal
    Benefits office ‘treating me like a liar’, says Dundee cancer sufferer

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

    Tory attack on the poor spreads from the disabled to the elderly and children

    The big question: Tories want nurses to ask the elderly, "Will you die so we can save some pennies on your pension and healthcare?"
    The big question: Tories want nurses to ask the elderly, “Will you die so we can save some pennies on your pension and healthcare?”

    For once, the Daily Mail‘s indignation is right on the button.

    It reports today that district nurses are being asked to encourage elderly people to sign their lives away.
    These ask if people have a preference to die at home when their time comes – and go on to suggest: Do you agree to a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) notice?

    In other words, if they suffer a life-threatening health risk and doctors could bring them back, will they tell the medical professionals not to bother?

    Nobody knows how long an elderly person might live after having their life saved. Some might say the Mail is simply trying to protect its readership – but this does seem to be a cynical attempt to save money – not only on health care but also on pension payments.

    “The Royal College of Nursing says its members, most of whom will be meeting the patient for the first time, should not be put into the position of asking the elderly to sign their life away, particularly since they may be confused and not have a relative present to support them,” the Mail‘s comment column states.

    It quotes a healthcare expert who said “the question itself is ‘callous’ and potentially disturbing, since it might leave the frail or vulnerable wondering if the visiting nurse ‘knows something they do not’, and death is imminent.

    “Doubtless the NHS will say there is no malice intended, but this approach is as deeply troubling as it is insensitive. Don’t forget the Liverpool Care Pathway – under which patients judged to be dying were left without treatment, food or fluids – similarly began with supposedly humane intentions, only to be scrapped after… fears that it was being coldly misused to free hospital beds.”

    Slightly less believable – on the face of it – is a plan reported in the Daily Mirror to force children in a central London council estate to use a play area underground...


    Nick (@mylegalforum) Takes on IDS ………

    Originally posted on Diary of an SAH Stroke Survivor:

    I am sure my readers will agree, for too long Iain Duncan Smith has been allowed off the hook in all manner of Press and Media we the people, we the social security claimants now have a chance to try and address that and try and bring some balance with the truth being told.

    How do we do that? by putting IDS up against a very worthy contender some one who knows the truth someone who has worked tirelessly to bust the lies and deceit that this man spill almost daily and that man is Nick Dilworth who runs the excellent blog My Legal Forum and is Co-Founder of #newapproach who bring you the below message:

    Nick is our USP. He’s the only campaigner who has first had experience on the front line dealing, on a daily basis, with the horror of the failed #WCA trying to pick up the…

    View original 553 more words

    Fit for work? Dying cancer victim hounded by DWP

    Chris Smith lay in a hospital bed, dying of cancer.

    He should have been helped by the system, the welfare state which was established to help people like Chris.

    Instead, the bombarded him with texts telling him he had to apply for jobs, and letters urging him to come to ‘job workshops.’

    Lee Marlow reports.

    It’s hard to know exactly where to start with the tragic story of Chris Smith, a plumber from Leicester who died last month. You could begin with the disease which claimed his life. Chris had cancer; lung cancer, skin cancer and a cancer that spread to his spine. He was diagnosed in April. Although Chris refused to believe it, he was dying.

    As he was dying, Chris, 59, and his partner, Maggie, were embroiled in an unnecessary row with the Work and Pensions department.

    Chris, a qualified plumber, had been ill. A poorly knee had kept him off work and then he began to feel sick.

    He was called in for health tests. Government assessors told him he wasn’t ill enough. They deemed him fit for work. His benefits were stopped. Chris didn’t think it was right, but he didn’t complain, either. He started to look for work.

    Chris didn’t know it, but he already had cancer. He was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer a few weeks later.

    And, by rights, this is where the story should end. A man with terminal lung cancer should not be ordered to find work. He shouldn’t have his benefits stopped. This is what the Welfare State was created for, the safety net which cares for the sick and the poorly.

    Chris Smith slipped through this safety net.

    His partner, Maggie Black, told the job centre about Chris’s cancer. They nodded and made all the right noises. They agreed Chris was not fit for work.

    But nothing changed. His benefits were not reinstated.

    And then came the texts. One a week usually, sometimes more, imploring Chris to get on his bike to find work, to apply for this plumbing job or that one.

    Chris, meanwhile, was in hospital, having chemotherapy, whiling away his days vomiting as the cancer ate away at him, from his lungs to his skin and into his spine.

    And then, after the texts, there was the letter. The letter from the job centre informing Chris he needed to report to the benefits office for a special meeting to step up his efforts to find work.

    The letter arrived the day after Chris died. It was opened by his grieving partner.

    “I stood by the front door and read it and had to reread it, again and again,” says Maggie. “I couldn’t believe it. How could they be so insensitive? How could they get something like this so wrong?”

    No-one from the job centre, no-one from the Department of Work and Pensions, apologised. Instead, they carried on texting Chris job vacancies.

    Another letter, inviting him to apply for more jobs, landed on their doormat this week, along with letters from the council informing Maggie her housing benefits had been stopped. “This is what happens,” she said. “One thing goes wrong and it’s like a domino effect – everything else tumbles, too.”

    Maggie didn’t know where to turn. Now, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and her MP are helping out.

    Leicester West MP Liz Kendall says she is “appalled” by the case and has promised the family she will send “a strongly-worded letter” to Secretary of State Iain-Duncan Smith.

    The real tragedy here, though, is that what happened to Chris and Maggie is not an isolated incident.
    “I see it a lot,” said Margot Wood, the Macmillan welfare benefits case worker supervisor at Leicester’s CAB office.

    “We investigate many complaints from people about Employment Support Allowance and the way it is administered.


    Mark unravels after sanctions: “The process left me feeling suicidal.”

    Mark Bothwell is now recovering from his sanctions trauma
    Mark Bothwell is now recovering from his sanctions trauma

    According to Vox Political  and the Disability News Service, the UK government seems to have become the first country to face a high-level inquiry by the United Nation’s Committee on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (CRPD). The committee has the power to do this if it receives what it calls “reliable information of grave or systemic violations” of the rights of disabled people by a country signed up to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and its optional protocol.

    The committee conducts its investigations “confidentially”, so it has refused to confirm or deny that the UK is being investigated. Disability News Service has reported that CRPD appeared to have put off its public examination of the UK’s approach to implementing the disability convention until after next year’s general election. According to Vox Political, it now appears that the committee “may have taken this decision because it had launched the much more serious – and so far unprecedented – inquiry into the UK’s violation of disabled people’s rights”.

    Surely here in the UK we wouldn’t abuse disabled people? Could that really happen in London, for example – a sophisticated and rich world capital, recently revealed by an article in Forbes as the world’s “most influential global city”. London was ranked first in the world on the Z/Yen Group’s 2013 Global Financial Centres Index. The article admiringly states that “its location outside the United States and the eurozone keeps it away from unfriendly regulators”, and it’s a “preferred domicile for the global rich”. Given all that serendipity and wealth, the world’s most influential city must also be in a position to influence things to ensure its residents don’t starve?

    The benefits of London’s position as a welcoming home for the world’s rich don’t appear to be improving matters for the clients at the food bank frontline in London – or nationally for that matter. Greenwich food bank (which is currently operating from seven locations across the borough) has seen visitors increasing from 776 to 5025 in the past year. In nearby Lewisham, the figure rose from 623 to 3895. Mananger of the Greenwich food banks Alan Robinson tracks the increase he’s seen to welfare changes dating from April 2013, including the bedroom tax and welfare cap.


    Tuesday, August 19, 2014

    Government’s silence over soaring use of sanctions

    Ministers have refused to say why the number of disabled people having benefits temporarily removed for breaching strict conditions has soared in the first three months of this year.

    The new figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show that 2,882 decisions were made to sanction claimants of employment and support allowance (ESA) in December 2013, rising to 3,750 in January 2014, them 4,698 in February and 7,507 in March, an increase of nearly 580 per cent since March 2013.

    The previous highest monthly total was in March 2010, just before the general election, when 3,673 ESA sanction decisions were made, and the lowest was just 138 in June 2011.

    Under current rules, claimants will lose at least a week’s benefit for missing a single appointment or session of work-related activity.

    Stef Benstead, lead researcher on the Beyond the Barriers report – which examined the failings of the ESA system and the Work Programme for disabled people, on behalf of the Spartacus campaign network – said the figures suggested that DWP was “inappropriately sanctioning loads of people”.

    She said: “We know from all the whistle-blowers that there is a culture in the jobcentres of trying to sanction as many people as you possibly can.”

    Benstead said evidence showed that sanctions were not an effective way to support people into work, and that removing people’s benefits was “entirely inappropriate for people who have quite a high level of illness or disability”.

    DWP has so far refused to say why it believes the number of ESA sanctions has risen so sharply.


    David Cameron Rebuked Over Jobs Claim

    This article titled “David Cameron rebuked over jobs claim” was written by Phillip Inman, economics correspondent, for The Guardian on Monday 18th August 2014 18.53 UTC

    David Cameron has been rebuked for claiming that the majority of new jobs created last year were taken by UK nationals when figures for new jobs are not collected by the official statistics body.

    Sir Andrew Dilnot, head of the UK Statistics Authority, the independent statistics regulator, said the prime minister was wrong to say figures showed that more than three-quarters of all new jobs went to British citizens when “official statistics do not show the number of new jobs.‟

    Cameron was attempting to show in an interview for the Daily Telegraph that the government had reversed a situation in its first few years of office when he claimed a majority of new jobs were taken by migrant workers. The interview was widely interpreted as an attempt to win over Ukip voters who believed most jobs created as Britain’s economy recovered were being snapped up by foreigners.

    Following a complaint by Jonathan Portes, head of the National Institute for Economic & Social Research, Dilnot confirmed that neither the original fear that migrants were taking British jobs nor the reversal of this trend were supported by official data.

    Portes, who has run a campaign to highlight misreported jobs data, said No 10 was not the only culprit and anti-immigration campaigners had for years been arguing that a majority of new jobs went to immigrants. “This is something that has never been debunked so clearly. Not only is it the case that most jobs have always gone to British nationals, it is still the case,” he said.

    Employment data collected by the Office for National Statistics relates to jobs in the economy whether or not they are newly created by employers. Dilnot said the relevant figures from the Office for National Statistics showed the number of migrants in the labour force increased by 400,000 over the last five years, an 18% rise, while the number of UK nationals increased by 3%, or 900,000.

    It is not the first time the government has tripped up in its use of statistics. In 2012, Dilnot upheld a complaint by the shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, after the then health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said expenditure on the NHS was higher in real terms in 2011-12 than it in 2009-10, when in fact it was lower.

    A month later, Cameron was criticised for stating that the coalition was “paying down Britain’s debts” when he meant the annual deficit. The national debt has risen in each of the financial years of this parliament and the last – increasing from £828.7bn, or 57.1% of GDP, to £1.25tn, or 75.7% of GDP, since May 2010.

    In May 2013, Iain Duncan Smith was rebuked for claiming that 8,000 people had moved into work as a result of the introduction of the benefit cap.

    Dilnot has also written to Chuka Umunna after the shadow business secretary said figures showed there had been a rise in the use of zero-hours contracts, when the figures had been collected in a new format and comparison with past data was impossible. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

    Public Accounts Committee Accuses DWP Of Hiding UC Failings

    Parliament’s public spending watchdog has today accused ministers in the Department for Work and Pensions of hiding the failings of the coalition’s troubled universal credit scheme.

    The public accounts committee said the decision to devise a new category of “resetting” projects could have been a way of preventing scrutiny and obscuring problems.

    Universal credit is the £2.4bn centrepiece of Iain Duncan Smith‘s reform programme and involves merging six different benefits, with the claimant receiving a single monthly household payment.

    Ministers started implementing it three years ago, but have been criticised by successive watchdogs for failing to come clean about the problems the DWP has experienced with the technology.

    The assessment comes in a report by MPs on the Major Projects Authority, the government watchdog responsible for assessing the scheme’s implementation.

    According to the report, the DWP, in consultation with the MPA, published their delivery confidence assessment of the universal credit project as “reset” in September 2013. It was a new term that appeared to have been devised specifically for the the new programme, committee members said.

    “We are particularly concerned that the decision to award a ‘reset’ rating to the universal credit project was an attempt to keep information secret and prevent scrutiny,” the report said.

    “The ‘reset’ category was introduced for the 2013-14 report and was only applied to this one project. The MPA confirmed that the decision to give universal credit a reset rating was ultimately made by ministers,” it added.

    The decision to devise a new rating for the project meant that it was not given a rating by the MPA on its five-tier traffic light system, running from green to red, in this year’s annual report and that there will be no assessment of its progress until after next May.

    “This is a long time to wait for an update on a project as important as universal credit,” the report conlcuded.

    Margaret Hodge, the chair of the committee, said that the problems within universal credit could have been exposed if the MPA had published data showing how much money had been spent and on what as the process continued.

    “The MPA should publish more information on each project, including the amount spent to date, even if this means reviewing the government’s transparency policy. We are particularly concerned that the decision to award a ‘reset’ rating to the universal credit project may have been an attempt to keep information secret and prevent scrutiny,” she said.

    In evidence to the committee, John Manzoni, chief executive of the MPA was asked why the new category of “reset” had been invented for the purposes of assessing universal credit. He replied: “I would say we do not invent new categories lightly or willy-nilly. In fact, this one of course had significant ministerial discussion and in fact was ultimately a ministerial and a government agreement to say, ‘That is what we are going to call it’.”

    The IT challenge of creating universal credit is considerable. It requires different payments to landlords, more online claims, and merges in-work and out-of-work benefits, requiring new definitions of benefit conditions for those in work. It also requires close co-operation between the DWP systems and tax officials at HM Revenue & Customs.

    In the original business case for the project, the DWP estimated substantial savings – a net benefit of £38bn by 2023.

    Asked last week whether the project had been signed off, Duncan Smith told the Guardian that Treasury officials were now assessing the project in incremental stages, and that this will process continue over many months. “They are signing it off, section by section … It is back on track,” he said.


    Sunday, August 17, 2014

    1300 people on sickness benefit DEAD after being told to begin work related activities immediately admits IDS’s Dept

    According to Iain Duncan Smith’s team, every year, more than 40,000 people on Sickness Benefits (eg. ESA) die. Over a three year period more than 125,000 people had died while on sickness benefit. During the lifetime of this parliament, 200,000+ will die on sickness benefit.

    In order to be placed on sickness benefit, claimants must undergo an assessment. Some of those claimants are assessed and told that they will be fit for work in the future, and as such they are expected to carry out work related activity (such as training) immediately. According to Iain Duncan-Smith’s Department, 1,300 of those told they’d be fit to work in the future and expected to carry out work related activity died during one 11 month period from January 2011 to November 2011.

    Of those receiving ESA who had died from January 2011 to November 2011, Iain Duncan Smith’s Department tells us that 15% of those dead had been placed in the category to ready themselves for work. More worryingly, DWP admit that 26% of those dead that had been assessed in the most recent year, under the new regulations, had been told to ready themselves for work. It is a verifiable fact that the new assessments made it more likely that someone placed in the ready themselves for work category would die.More than 1 quarter of deaths occurring under new assessments are people who have been told to begin work related activity immediately.

    In addition, we have no way of knowing how many died after failing their medical assessment because Iain Duncan Smith’s department do not keep that data.

    If we judge that the trend of 1,300 people dying over 11 months after being told to ready themselves for work stayed constant over the duration of a parliament then it would mean more than 7,000 people are dying per parliament while going through the stress of readying themselves for employment, according to Iain Duncan Smith’s own figures.

    See the full statistical evidence to back up all of the data contained herein at this link (evidence)


    Pensioners Suffer Hardest From £9 BILLION A Year Social Security Cuts, Say TUC

     Pensioners across the UK will suffer hardest from the Tory-led coalition government’s axe to social security benefits, say the TUC ahead of the publication of a shocking new report later this week.

    Older people in the UK will suffer from social security cuts worth £6.3 billion a year, by the time government’s welfare cuts have taken full effect, say the TUC, and this figure is set to soar to nearly £9 billion.

    The TUC say this is evidence that the Tory-led coalition government has “broken its promise” to protect pensioner benefits.

    Analysis on the impact of welfare reform on pensioner families, undertaken by Howard Reed of Landman Economics on behalf of the TUC, shows that a quarter of all social security cuts fall upon single pensioners and couples, where one adult is of state pension age while the other is below state pension age but not in paid work.

    One of biggest hits to pensioner benefits comes from changes to how benefits are ‘uprated’. Measures introduced by George Osborne in June 2010 changed the way benefits are increased annually, from RPI inflation to the lower CPI measure.

    The hardest hit comes from the reduction in the value of Pension Credit. The reduction will see pensioner families lose £3.85bn a year by 2016/17, including cuts to the ‘Savings Credit’ element of Pension Credit.

    Other cuts include a £138 million ‘annual reduction’ in the value of Attendance Allowance and a £340 million annual cut to pensioners disability benefits.

    The introduction of Universal Credit will see people in their mid-60′s turned into “so-called workshy scroungers”, say the TUC, because they won’t be able to claim Pension Credit. They will instead have to claim “less generous” working age benefits.

    According to the TUC, the situation faced by pensioners will only get worse after the 2015 general election. Projected government savings of £5bn a year through the implementation of Universal Credit will fall disproportionately on pensioner families, say the TUC. This will increase the total loss of income inflicted upon older people in the UK to as much as £8.75 billion a year.


    Stop Sanctions : 11th Sept Day of Action

    (Report from workshop at national meeting of Anti Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice federation)

    Fighting Benefit Sanctions

    The government has a policy  of increasing sanctions to force people off benefits. 

    More than 800,000 people have been sanctioned in the last year. Referrals to food banks are mainly due to claimants being sanctioned. 

    Martin Cavanagh is the PCS Group Exec member for civil servants working in the DWP.  The PCS union resolved at their recent conference to oppose both Workfare and Benefit Sanctions. He explained the three central reasons behind the Tories policy of increasing sanctions; Further demonisation of the poor, financial savings for the government, and driving a wedge between claimants and workers. 

    PCS survey of members working in the DWP revealed that 82% of members felt ‘pressured’ into sanctioning claimants, and 62% said they had made ‘inappropriate’ sanctions decisions. 

    The Kirklees Axe The Tax group have used a banner : No Sanction for Claimants! No Targets for Staff! This attracted claimants and some staff to their stall outside a job centre.

    Roger Lewis speaking for DPAC said that ‘more needed to be done by the PCS.’ But, he insisted, ‘we will not allow the government to divide us. Those working for the DWP alongside claimants have a common interest, we are locked together in a common fight against the Tories.’ 

    ‘More will be done from our union the PCS over the sanctions,’ explained Martin. 

    ‘Advice for claimants on how to challenge sanction decisions has now been agreed between our union, the PCS, Unite the Union Community branches, and campaigners against sanctions. That advice will be issued shortly.’

    Research has shown that only 1 in 50 claimants who are sanctioned appeal the decision. Of those 90% win their appeal. Forthcoming advice will explain to claimants how they can appeal. 

    To launch the joint advice and joint campaign, we agreed a day of action against benefit sanctions for Thursday 11th September. 

    Protests will be organised in every region outside key DWP headquarters or similar high profile government offices.

    Fighting Workfare
    Public campaigns work! 

    With just a few protesters the Boycott Workfare actions have ‘shamed’ many employers into withdrawing from the Workfare scheme. Companies and businesses don’t want to be exposed as employing ‘slave’ labour. Only when a company signs up to the Boycott Workfare pledge are they removed for the Boycott Workfare website listing. 

    Protests outside flagship venues of those companies still in the scheme will continue until the schemes are scrapped.


    IDS, the Bedroom Tax, & Disability Living Allowance

    In an interview on LBC radio, Iain Duncan Smith displayed a startling ignorance of the social security benefits he has been administering, and cutting, for the last four years. 
    Many people were left wondering if he had ever actually familiarised himself with these benefits, before he embarked on what he himself has described as the biggest shake up in sixty years.

    Firstly, Mr. Duncan Smith questioned whether approximately two thirds of people affected by the bedroom tax are actually disabled. Yet this figure comes from the equality impact assessment conducted by his own department prior to the introduction of the bedroom tax. Mr. Duncan Smith said that these people were ‘self-declared’ as disabled, and that nobody had checked whether they did in fact have a disability, implying, as he so often has in the past, that some people claim to be disabled but aren’t.

    Let’s look at what the Department for Work and Pensions own equality impact assessment
    says. Citing a figure of 63 per cent having some form of disability, it says: “The disabled group includes cases who do not currently have difficulties with daily activities but who have in the past or are expected to in the future or would do if they were not able to control symptoms with medication.” (para 43)

    Perhaps these are the cases Mr. Duncan Smith seems to believe are not really disabled.

    But the assessment goes on to say: “If disability is defined as having any long-standing illness, disability or infirmity that leads to a significant difficulty with one or more areas of the individual’s life, the equivalent figures to those in the table above would be that 370,000 (56 per cent) of working age social rented sector HB claimants or their partners affected by the size criteria would be classified as disabled” (para 44)

    Presumably these people, 56 per cent, are disabled enough to meet Mr. Duncan Smith’s own personal criteria of who can be accepted as genuinely disabled.

    In an attempt to further question the 63 per cent figure, Mr. Duncan Smith mentioned that, ‘About a third are in receipt of something like Disability Living Allowance, which of itself is a payment to help support housing costs.”

    This statement left many people speechless. Disability Living Allowance, the budget for which Mr. Duncan Smith has cut by 20 per cent, has absolutely no relation to housing costs. Again, we need only look to his own department’s website to establish the facts.

    Disability Living Allowance (now being replaced by Personal Independence Payments) has two components, one for mobility, one for care. As the DWP website explains: “You can get Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for adults if your disability or health condition means one or both of the following are true: you need help looking after yourself and/or you have walking difficulties.” It is most certainly not “to help support housing costs” as the Secretary of State confidently asserted.

    To have a minister in charge of any area of policy when they do not know or understand the basic facts of matters they are dealing with is worrying. To have such a minister in charge of policies which have a major impact on the precarious existence of people who are already struggling is dangerously irresponsible.


    UK becomes first country to face a UN inquiry into disability rights violations

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    We ought to be very concerned about the government’s declaration that they intend to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, (ECHR)  and to repeal our own Human Rights Act, (HRA). One has to wonder what Cameron’s discomfort with the HRA is. he Act, after all, goes towards protecting the vulnerable from neglect of duty and abuse of power. The rights protected by the HRA are drawn from the 1950 European convention on human rights, which was a way of ensuring that we never again witness the full horrors of the second world war, and overwhelmingly, one of the greatest stains on the conscience of humanity – the Holocaust.

    Human Rights establish a simple set of minimum standards of decency for humankind to hold onto for the future. The European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms was drafted as a lasting legacy of the struggle against fascism and…

    View original 2,244 more words

    Saturday, August 16, 2014

    The 11 most senseless benefit sanction decisions known to man

    ‘Benefit sanctions, where a job centre can suspend or dock a claimant’s welfare payments, are becoming increasingly controversial.

    The impact of the sanctions vary: in the most extreme cases a person can lose their benefits for three years. Reasons for withdrawing benefits can range to being late for a meeting, failing to turn up on time, or leaving several jobs voluntarily.

    In the wake of a diabetic ex-soldier dying after his benefits were sanctioned and three disgruntled ex-DWP civil servants going rogue to help welfare claimants who believe their payments have been wrongly docked, we look at the most ridiculous reasons for sanctioning benefits yet.’

    Read more: The 11 most senseless benefit sanction decisions known to man

    Gov't accused over death of Stephanie Bottrill

    The government has been accused of failing in its duty of care towards disabled people, after an inquest heard how a disabled woman wrote a suicide note blaming the “bedroom tax” for her decision to kill herself.

    Stephanie Bottrill, from Solihull, died early on 4 May last year, hours after she had told her GP about the stress and anxiety the government’s housing policies were causing her.

    In evidence to the inquest, her GP said Bottrill had expressed unhappiness at being pushed by the housing department of Solihull council to decide in just half an hour whether she would move to a smaller property.

    Last year, her death led to national headlines after her adult son showed reporters a suicide note she had written the night before she died, in which she blamed the bedroom tax – known by the government as the spare room subsidy removal – and wrote that “the only people to blame [for her death] are the government”.

    Bottrill had been living alone in a three-bedroom house – after her two grown-up children had moved out – but Solihull council had told her that because of the bedroom tax she was now “under-occupying” the property and would face a cut in her housing benefit if she did not move to a smaller home.

    The inquest also heard that she had a long-term health condition and a history of anxiety and depression, and had previously taken an overdose.

    The coroner recorded a verdict of suicide and said it had been clear that she had felt under considerable stress and anxiety.

    But Maureen, a neighbour and friend of Bottrill’s on Solihull’s Kingshurst estate, told Disability News Service that she blamed the bedroom tax “100 per cent” for her death.

    She said: “She was frightened of it. She didn’t want to leave here. She was adamant that she wanted to stay in Kingshurst.

    “Everybody round here knew her and she used to make us laugh. All the shopkeepers knew her. She was lovely, a nice person.

    “I think she was here about 19 years. To move away was the absolute last thing that she wanted to do. She was really upset about leaving the area. It would have been absolutely cruel to move her.

    “She said she couldn’t afford to stay and she had got to move to a smaller property. She said she was struggling with money.”

    Maureen said that one of the two properties Bottrill was offered was in Shirley, a 45-minute bus ride away.

    “I personally think the council went about it all wrong, but I can’t prove that. You’re not dealing with a piece of paper and a machine, you’re dealing with a person.

    “I had a go at one of the local councillors and said we don’t ever want this to happen again.”

    Ian Jones, one of the founders of the WOWcampaign, expressed sympathy for Bottrill’s family, and said: “Irrespective of whether the bedroom tax was a causal or contributory factor in this tragedy, it is clear it was a factor and that this, and many other deaths where government policy has been a factor, were entirely foreseeable.

    “This government failed to exercise any duty of care towards sick and disabled people when framing their welfare reforms and their continuing refusal to undertake a cumulative impact assessment of these reforms strongly suggests that they were planned as a deliberate crime against humanity.”