Saturday, June 13, 2015

60,000 Sign Petition Calling On The Government To Publish Benefit Death Statistics

More than 60,000 people have signed a petition calling on the government to publish statistics into the number of benefit claimants who have died after benefits were removed.

The number of signatories is growing fast and could force the government to come clean about the impact of welfare reforms on vulnerable people.

A number of attempts by journalists and campaigners, using the Freedom of Information Act, to force the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to publish the statistics have been rebuffed.

The government argues that drawing a direct link between the deaths of seriously ill people and the removal of benefits would be irresponsible.

Welfare Weekly reported last month that the DWP had been ordered by the Information Commissioner to disclose details into deaths related to welfare reforms, following a complaint by political blogger Mike Sivier. It is our understanding that this is currently being appealed by the DWP.

The petition, on the website, claims that this appeal is a direct attempt by the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith to block publication of benefit-related death statistics.

Maggie Zolobajluk, who started the petition, calls on “the Courts and Tribunal Service to dismiss this appeal and so prevent any further delay by the DWP in publishing these figures”.

It continues: “For years there have been reports of people committing suicide or dying from ill-health soon after their benefits are stopped...


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Stop Forced Treatments 26th June 1.30 Streatham

Campaign against introduction of psychological therapies into Job Centres



* A pilot project to bring CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) into Job Centres starts at Streatham Job Centre Plus in June 2015.

* In the same month, Lambeth “Living Well Hub” for Community Mental Health Services is due to open in the same building.

*Mental Health Resistance Network is unhappy with these developments which are part of the government’s brutal “back to work” agenda.

*Mental Health Resistance Network has called a demonstration which will march on Streatham Job Centre on Friday 26th June.

*Mental Health Resistance Network is circulating an open letter to relevant individuals, charities and professional organisations stating our position and asking them to join us in our condemnation for these developments.

The text of the open letter is as follows:

Mental Health Resistance Network is organising a demonstration to take place at Streatham Job Centre Plus on Friday 26th June 2015, protesting against the opening there of Lambeth’s principal community mental  health centre  (“Living Well Network Hub”) the following Monday.

Streatham Job Centre also, from June 2015, hosts the first pilot of the DWP’s scheme to provide psychological therapies – specifically Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – at Job Centres for people suspected of having mental health problems. This is the first of ten pilot schemes in advance of a national project planned to begin in January 2016.

We are calling on you/ your organisation to state your position on these issues, and we hope join us in our condemnation of these developments.

As mental health service users, we are extremely unhappy with these developments. We deplore the government’s brutal “back to work” agenda, which is a front for cutting disabled welfare benefits for the most vulnerable. Mental health service users are understandably terrified of Job Centres and the threat of losing their benefits through Sanctions, or degrading and unfit-for-purpose Work Capability Assessments. With the main point of access to Community Mental Health services in Lambeth on the 3rd floor of a Job Centre, many of us will feel too frightened to ask for the help and services we need, and lose contact with services altogether.

Mental health service users are already reporting higher levels of fear, anxiety and anguish as a result of the increasingly difficult welfare benefits system, which is linked to an increasing rate of suicides. This situation will be exacerbated by the new developments.

We should not be put under pressure to look for work unless we feel capable. The competitive, profit-driven and exploitative nature of the modern workplace is not suitable for people whose mental health is fragile. But the location of the Network Hub at Streatham Job Centre put us under such pressure if we try to use mental health services.

Experts agree that CBT does not work for everyone; that psychological therapies are ineffective if they are forced on people; and that they need to take place in safe, unthreatening environments. We do not think making people have CBT at Job Centres will make anyone magically “fit for work.” We are concerned that people will be Sanctioned (i.e. have their benefits stopped) if they do not co-operate with this “therapy” either out of principle or because they are not well enough. “BACK TO WORK THERAPY” IS NO THERAPY AT ALL!

Additionally, we are concerned that this amounts to an extension of the coercive powers of the 1983 Mental Health Act amended 2007. Whereas at present people can only be forced into “treatment” under in-patient Sections of this Act or by Community Treatment Orders, making welfare benefits and by extension housing conditional on agreeing to psychological treatment broadens the principle of compulsion.

We condemn the involvement of  IAPTS in this attempt to make people undergo “therapy” at Job Centres, which we believe goes against professional ethics. We are also unhappy that psychiatrists, occupational therapists, nurses, social workers and other mental health professionals are also expected to work at Streatham Job Centre, again compromising their professional ethics, and we call on individual staff and collective agencies representing them to publicly oppose this development.

For more information contact:


Gov't treating unemployment as mental problem

‘Unemployment is being “rebranded” by the government as a psychological disorder, a new study claims.
Those that do not exhibit a “positive” outlook must undergo “reprogramming” or face having their benefits cut, says the Wellcome Trust-backed report.

This can be “humiliating” for job seekers and does not help them find suitable work, the researchers say.
But the Department for Work and Pensions said there was no evidence to back up the “highly misleading” claims.’

Red more: Ministers treating unemployment as mental problem – report

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Mother of five killed by austerity cuts

While this death is quite different from the austerity-suicides seen in recent months, it is nonetheless the direct result of the disastrous budget cuts the British government has been making.

A local council in Wiltshire, England made the decision in 2011, coincidentally a year after the austerity-driven British coalition government came into power, to turn off the street lights on a road between midnight and 5:30am saving £300,000 ($465,000) annually. The same road also lacks a path for pedestrians.

While one councillor reportedly called this decision ‘foolhardy‘, their efforts alone were not enough to prevent the implementation of this austerity driven decision – a decision that would prove fatal for 31 year old, mother of five Cheryl Richards.

The Independent reports that she was ‘walking home along Wiltshire’s A361 at approximately 2am on 27 September last year when she was struck by an Audi A3 driven by 23-year-old Lee Sullivan’.

Cheryl died after suffering immense head trauma. While the driver did have alcohol in his system, the coroner ruled that Cheryl had been walking in the middle of the road ‘due to a lack of street lights‘, which made it impossible for the driver to miss her.

Independent councillor Ernie Clarke said ‘one death is one death too many’.

Work Programme Providers Have Been Putting ESA Claimants’ Lives At Risk

Work programme providers have been putting lives at risk by failing to carry out costly home visits before referring vulnerable employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants for sanctions. The situation has got so bad that the DWP have written an entire new chapter on the subject in the guidance to providers and warned them they will not be paid if they do not follow it.

Vulnerable claimants

Under the rules, no claimant who has been identified as vulnerable should ever be referred for a sanction unless they have had a face-to-face meeting with work programme staff. The meeting is to ensure that they understood what it was they were obliged to do and also understood that failure could lead to their benefit being sanctioned.

This particularly applies to claimants with mental health conditions or learning difficulties, but vulnerable claimants may also include people who have conditions which affect their communication or cognition. So, for example, a claimant with severe fatigue might have difficulty taking in information and remembering it afterwards.

Where there has been no face-to-face interview the provider should never refer the claimant to the DWP for a decision on whether they should be sanctioned.

However, a face-to-face meeting may involve the provider making a time consuming and costly visit to the claimant’s home, if the claimant fails to attend appointments at their office. It could mean a member of staff, or possibly even two if there are health and safety concerns, being out of the office and not earning fees for the company for half a day or more.

Unfair sanctions
It is now clear that sanctions have been routinely imposed on vulnerable claimants without this meeting happening. However, the DWP claim that rather than cost considerations, this is because guidance was unclear, leading to “an inconsistent approach to the safeguarding these participants”.

New guidance now sets out exactly what steps providers must take to ascertain whether a claimant is vulnerable and how to attempt a face-to-face meeting prior to referring them for a sanction.

Sadly, more than half of all ESA sanctions have already been imposed on claimants with mental health conditions, many of whom will not have been subject to proper ‘safeguarding’ checks. We know that for some claimants, unfair sanctions have caused a dramatic deterioration in their health and sometimes even resulted in their death. We also know that in many cases claimants had no idea they were going to be sanctioned until their payments were cut.

For them, it is now much too late to begin applying the rules correctly.

You can download a copy of the new guidance from this link.


Downing Street Rejects Iain Duncan Smith Plan For New Limit On Child Benefit

Downing Street has rejected a renewed move by Iain Duncan Smith to cut child benefit from parents with more than two children as a way of helping to achieve the £12bn in welfare cuts proposed by George Osborne.

No 10 made a point on Monday of distributing remarks made by David Cameron on the eve of the general election in which the prime minister confirmed that child benefit would be retained in its current form for the next five years.

The intervention by Downing Street suggests that Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, is heading for a showdown with George Osborne over his planned welfare cuts before next month’s budget.

Duncan Smith believes it is possible to achieve £12bn in welfare cuts, which amounts to 10% of the non-pensioner elements of welfare spending, but believes it will have to involve behavioural change by claimants rather than “cheese paring”.

Bizarre spectacle of Queen’s speech reflects broken system & out of touch government

Britain's Queen Elizabeth delivers her speech to the House of Lords in the Palace of Westminster, during the State Opening of Parliament, in London, Britain, May 27, 2015. (Reuters/Alastair Grant)

So, last week the Conservative government’s plans were officially rolled out, rubber stamped, by way of the Queen’s customary speech, following the formation of David Cameron’s government.

Thousands of people are expected to attend numerous protests in the capital on Saturday to demonstrate against further planned cuts to welfare and the scrapping of the Human Rights Act.

The sobering reality of David Cameron’s plan only feels compounded, like a slap in the face, by the surreal and insane spectacle, of watching the actual head of state (the Queen), articulate the other so-called head of state’s (the prime minister) pre-election promises, which are to be continued for another five years. Five more years of cuts and slashes to public services that is, with ever increasing powers of surveillance for the state and its agencies. Great news!

A relatively low number of the UK electorate turned out at the general election a few weeks back, still securing the Conservatives a majority. Low voter turnout, producing the first Conservative led majority for some 20 odd years – no wonder the Conservatives do not want electoral reform – and this is the backdrop the Queen’s latest address.

The Queen’s speech, the policies evoked in it, and all the hype surrounding the lead up to it, absolutely reflect the distance between the ruling elite and ordinary people.

The Queen sitting amid jewels and relics, stolen and pillaged from civilisations and lands far from our shores, outlining the government’s plan to further marginalize the poor and clamp down on freedom, is a bitter pill to swallow. It’s a bizarre and cruel twist, however, to see the symbolic head of an empire, historically and to the present day, carrying out the same function as ever, manufacturing consent for the sake of control. It’s almost as if after all these years, the silly ceremonies and pomp are still all that’s needed to keep the masses in their place before an advancing police state with more and more powers. The ones subjected to the function of the monarchy (fittingly called subjects) often seem the least aware of its function, believing they are being patriotic and loyal to their country by worshipping the royal family when in reality they are simply consenting to be ruled, consenting to be governed.

People submit to the already existing order, whipped up and fuelled by a toxic brand of nationalism, convinced of an ever present existential enemy, the source of all the problems in society-the ‘others’syndrome. Blame foreigners, blame Muslims, benefit fraudsters, the ‘urban’ underclass, for society’s ills- anyone in fact, except those doing the looting at the top, a narrative to which the MSM at least, wilfully complies.

Rather than observing royal ceremonies as part of the problem, an archaic hangover to a nonetheless very real empire, people swear allegiance to a power structure that is indifferent to their own lives in Britain, and which continues to leave a trail of destruction around the world.

When we think about the legacy of the British Empire and the role of the monarchy, perhaps Thomas Jefferson was right: “Dissent is the greatest form of patriotism.”


How the wheels are coming off the Tory bandwagon

David Cameron PM

We can now confidently conclude that the Conservative manifesto was written in the expectation that David Cameron would have it watered down by a coalition, or some other loose arrangement with the Liberal Democrats.

Because now the Tories are governing alone, it is startling just how quickly the wheels are coming off on a number of flagship policies.

Here are some of the difficulties they’ve run into so far:

Human Rights Act
“The next Conservative government will scrap the Human Rights Act, and introduce a British Bill of Rights. This will break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights, and make our own Supreme Court the ultimate arbiter of human rights matters in the UK.”
That was the confident assertion made on page 60 of the party’s manifesto. In the Queen’s Speech last week it was watered down so that ministers now plan merely to ‘bring forward proposals for a British Bill of Rights’...