May 312011
 

News about Steve Cram as Atos Origin 2012 ambassador

Disabled people are extremely angry with Steve Cram for accepting the post of ‘ambassador’ for big business privatisers Atos Origin in their capacity as IT partner for the London 2012 Olympics.

(from Les Woodward, Remploy Trade Union National Convenor )

DPAC wrote the letter below to Mr Cram to ask him politely to reconsider his position.

Sent to info@cram-alert.co.uk and
Steve Cram’s agent: info@missionsports.co.uk

Dear Mr Cram

With all the charity work you do and the fact that you have been involved with the paralympics,we find it very surprising that you have made the decision to be ambassador for any part of ATOS.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/feb/23/government-reform-disability-benefits please read this article.

You may or may not be aware that people all over the country have been and continuing to campaign against Atos for the horrendous work they are doing against disabled people.

http://www.dpac.uk.net/2011/05/national-week-of-action-against-atos-origin-some-reports/

They were campaigning against ATOS healthcare, part of ATOS origin, and the barbaric WCA tests they carry out on the sick and disabled and the notorious tick box LIMA computer system used by them for ascertaining people as fit for work or not.

And It may interest you to know that many Disabled People Organisations, disability groups, Medical Professionals, Scholars & Academics, Independent Inquiries & Commissions have made clear in unequivocal public statements that the Work Capability Assessment in it’s current guise is “NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE” but is willingly administered by ATOS Heathcare

To give you an idea of the type of experience disabled people go through at an Atos assessment, have a read of this website-
http://dwpexamination.wordpress.com/examining-atos/

Please withdraw your support for them and speak to any disabled people’s organisations to find out what the disabled community, charities and the CAB think regarding this company.

Please WITHDRAW YOUR SUPPORT for this company and if you could, publicise why!

Bearing in mind the increasingly voluble and angry voices of disabled people and their allies, we wonder if being an ambassador to Atos is worth the disappointment of the public and loss of the reputation you would have built over the years.

Thank you for considering this petition,

Yours sincerely
Disabled People Against Cuts

http://www.dpac.uk.net

——————————

The campaign is at Virtual Gherkin

the facebook campaign

Steve Cram’s Facebook page:

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May 302011
 

From the http://www.boycottworkfare.org/ website

Welfare Uncut!

Take action on 7 June: Welfare “reforms” don’t fool us!

On 7th June, a conference at the Royal Society will bring together those who will play a role in “the biggest shake up of the [welfare] system for 60 years”. In the same week, the Welfare Reform Bill looks set to return to parliament for its third reading.

We’re not fooled by the proposals for “reform”: we know they mean abolishing our rights to welfare.

While the conference may include some speakers who challenge aspects of the government’s plans, its blurb reads like a DWP press release. We’ve helped decode some of the spin below. Come along and help us do the same on the day…

[Spin] “a simplified welfare system that encourages and incentivises people to find work”

[Unspun] Don’t want to work without wage for Primark, Tesco’s, Sainsburys, Poundland or the like? Or be forced to “volunteer” in a charity shop? No benefits for you then.

[Spin] “maintain standards of living”

[Unspun] …for Financial Times readers. If you’re sick or disabled, we’ll ask private company Atos to re-assess you so we can stop your money.

[Spin] “…more affordable”

[Unspun] We’ve heard Primark are delighted they can now get free labour in the UK as well as their sweatshops.

[Spin] “ensure dignity in later life and make increased pension saving a reality”

[Unspun] Did we mention we gave your pension to the bankers?

[Spin] “break the cycle of welfare dependency”

[Unspun] Can’t be dependent if there isn’t any welfare!

Be there from 9am, Tue 7th June, at the Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG. (directions linked here)


More info on:

Claimants’ resistance and the private company profiting from throwing sick and disabled people off benefits.

Boycott Workfare.

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May 302011
 

Details also at http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/

Placard with words 'Atos does not give a toss'

Placard with words 'Atos does not give a toss'

Quick calendar:

Glasgow 6th June between 6pm and 8pm.

Atos Medical Assessment Centre, Corunna House, 29 Cadogon Street, Glasgow

Plymouth Tuesday 7th June at 12.00 Midday
Atos Medical Centre, Marsh Mills, Argosy House

London Triton Sq Tuesday, June 14 · 5:00pm – 8:00pm

Atos Origin, 4 Triton Square, London, NW1 3HG

Islington: Thursday, September 29 · 12:00pm – 6:00pm

Business Design Centre, 52 Upper Street, Islington N1 0QH

————————————

Disabled people, benefits claimants and supporters are to target recruitment events hosted by IT company Atos Origin.  Pickets outside two events have been called so far where protesters have vowed to make sure potential Atos ‘Healthcare’ workers will know exactly how their future employers operate.

All claimants on health related benefits are set to be retested by Atos, using a computerised system which has seen thousands wrongly stripped of benefits and been described as ‘unfit for purpose’.

Atos rely on Doctors, nurses and midwives to carry out the tests – as one nurse, and former employee of Atos has said:   “It’s against my principles to treat people with long term illnesses in such a disgusting way, so I had to give it up.

“People go into those interviews and talk openly to you because you are a nurse and they trust you.

“Then your skills are used against them, to take away their benefits and destroy their lives.”

Glasgow: The first protest will be held at the Atos Medical Assessment Centre, Corunna House, 29 Cadogon Street, Glasgow on Monday 6th June between 6pm and 8pm.

Plymouth: Private contractors Atos Healthcare ( sic ) are still carrying out benefit medicals at Argosy House, Marsh Mills , Plymouth. The DWP then use Atos’ reports to stop people’s benefits. The medicals and reports are flawed . The majority of those whose benefit is stopped and who go to appeal tribunal  win and get the benefit back. ( in Oxford where they have a proper Welfare Rights service..92% win their appeal against DWP/ Atos)
Sadly many people cannot face the hassle of all this and give up and can be left destitute or worse. See Citizen’s Advice report ‘Not Working………’..March 2010 with evidence from before the new tougher test , it is even worse now.
On 11th May Plymouth Claimants Union organised a picket at Argosy House as part of the national day of action against benefrit cuts and  to expose Atos’ part in this.  A dozen or so people with disabilities , carers , trade unionists  and other anti-cuts  activists let the Atos quacks know we are out to expose them for what they are …parasites on poverty.
Keep the pressure on Atos – put people before profit.
Next picket at Argosy House  Tuesday 7th June at 12.00 Midday
Further details and transport to Argosy House , contact plymouthclaimantsunion@yahoo.co.uk
Sam Bennett
Plymouth Claimants Union

0795 203 7290

London Triton Sq: Benefit claimants, disabled people and supporters will be attending Atos Healthcare’s Recruitment Day on June 14th at 5pm and have called on people to join them.

Bring bandages, fake blood, banners, placards, CVs, the noise.

Tuesday, June 14 · 5:00pm – 8:00pm

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=151206748281505

Atos Origin, 4 Triton Square, London, NW1 3HG

In the spirit of actively seeking work we will be demanding that if we are all ‘fit for work’ then Atos, notorious for a lack of disabled access in their premises, should consider us for employment directly.

Islington London: Protesters will also gather outside the BMJ Recruitment Fair on September 29th where Atos plan to exhibit: http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/protest-atos-origin-outside-the-bmj-recruitment-fair-29th-september/

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=125516627524734

Poverty Pimps Atos Origin, the sharks responsible for the harrassment of sick and disabled claimants, are set to recruit hundreds of medical staff to carry out there notorious assessments on everyone receiving Incapacity Benefit.

As part of this Atos will be having a stall at the annual BMJ Recruitment Fair in Islington Design Centre on 29th/30th September.

A protest has been called outside on the 29th where we will be not just demonstrating but handing out information to potential recruits on the devastation these tests have caused to the health of already vulnerable people.

“Please come and see us at stand 54 of the BMJ Careers Fair” say Atos on their website. Ok then we will.

http://www.atoshealthcarejobs.co.uk/events.html

Atos will also be exhibiting at the RCN Bulletin Jobs Fair at the same venue on 13/14th September and the CSP Congress in Liverpool on October in Liverpool on 7/8th October. We might go and see them there too.

The BMJ Recruitment Fairs Website is at: http://careersfair.bmj.com/en/1/home.html

No doubt a whole host of private companies itching to get their hands on the NHS will be recruiting there as well. We might have a chat with a few of them as well.

Atos are carrying out more recruitment events around the country.  You can find details at: http://www.atoshealthcarejobs.co.uk/events.html

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May 282011
 

Today, we were told that the actions by the police were justifiable – in the case of  Jody McIntyre, who  was tipped out of his wheelchair and dragged across the road. The Directorate of Professional Standards at the Metropolitan Police (Met) had said:

“Whilst there is evidence that Jody McIntyre was inadvertently struck with a police baton, the investigation found that the actions of officers were justifiable and lawful given the volatile and dangerous situation,” the force added in a statement.

“His removal from his wheelchair was also justifiable given the officers’ perceived risk to Jody McIntyre.”

However this is not accepted by Jody McIntyre and he asked  “Why are the police investigating themselves?

“Does that make sense to you, that the police attacked a man in a wheelchair and then they investigate themselves?”

He went on: “Throughout the report the police officers involved have stated that they were acting in my best interests, and this appears to have been accepted by those carrying out the investigation.”

The force appeared to believe that “the fact someone has a disability renders them incapable of determining their own best interest or to act with autonomy”, he said. (BBC News)

Well it is not news that disabled people have been frequently denied choice or freedom on the basis that ‘professionals’ were acting in their best interests or that it is more convenient for authorities  to ignore needs.

Today at DPAC, we also received photos in the e-mail telling us about the wheelchair user in confrontation with the police on Barcelona.

Police attack man in wheelchair

However judging from the other photos, the Spanish police were much much more brutal to all protestors and even without understanding the language I am appalled by watching the video (in Spanish) at what has happened in Plaza Cataluña in the beautiful city of Barcelona -one of the most accessible cities in Europe.

The Spanish police were let loose on protestors who looked defenceless with their arms in their air in seeming surrender while police were clearly hitting sitting people indiscriminately with their batons.

Is this happening in Europe? What has these people done other than protest to merit such treatment?

More information

Jody McIntyre’s interview

Guardian’s report on the Met’s investigation

Set of photos from Barcelona demo

—Eleanor Lisney

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May 262011
 

For more photos and report from Howard Jones – http://www.demotix.com/news/705303/pensioners-and-disability-rights-activists-halt-london-traffic

Protestors hancuffed themselves to bus

Sam Brackenbury and Daniel Esterman handcuffed to bus!

Pensioners and people in wheelchairs held up London traffic for almost an hour protesting at government cuts.

Wheelchair users Sam Brackenbury and Daniel Estermann handcuffed themselves to the back of a double-decker bus in Oxford Circus.

Members of the Greater London Pensioners’ Association stood in front of the bus holding placards.

They said they were “taking direct action” against cuts for the disabled and elderly.

The eight demonstrators were eventually moved on by police, but not before drawing a supportive crowd of passers-by and causing a tailback of about 20 buses.

Terry Hall, 76, handcuffed himself to the doors of the bus.

“I have had cuts to my heating,” he said. “The bus passes will probably be next.

“At the end of the day, it’s about real people.”

Mr Brackenbury said he did not yet know how the cuts would affect him.

“I’m not protesting for my own benefit but for all the disabled people who will be affected,” he said.

Protesters said they had been brought together by communicating on social media.

The administrator of the Facebook group Disability Defence, Howard Jones, who has cerebral palsy, lost his job as a graphic designer three years ago.

“There is a lot of publicity that goes into talking about people who are on disability benefits being scroungers, but it is a smokescreen to get people off benefits to cut costs,” he said.

“I have 27 years of work experience but have not been even able to get an interview, despite applying for 176 jobs. What chance do these people stand?”

Read more at

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-13565111

surrounded by police

photo by Howard Jones

hancuffed to bus

photo by Howard Jones

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May 262011
 

 A Gathering of Nuts in May -benefits gig poster

MAD PRIDE and the Mental Health Resistance presents
Here We Go….A Gathering of Nuts in May

Another FUNDRAISER FOR THE MENTAL HEALTH RESISTANCE NETWORK’s CAMPAIGN AGAINST WELFARE BENEFIT CUTS
SATURDAY 28th May 2011
8PM – LATE
ADMISSION £5 / £2 concessions

THE GROSVENOR I7 Sidney Road, Stockwell SW9 OTP

http://www.facebook.com/thegrosvenorsw9

THE GROSVENOR is close by to Stockwell tube station and Brixton Tube and BR stations. A number of buses stop close by including night buses.

GERTRUDE / THE CLEANERS / EVERAFTER / UGLY SULK / DAVID STUDDERT / RAZZ / ASHLEY EARLS / MC JASON WHY / FLICKERING LIGHT VJ

THIS SATURDAY, in South London in Mad Pride’s Summer Season is upon us. This time with one of Mad Pride’s favourite combos – the deliciously arch and highly tuneful all-woman GERTRUDE. This is a fundraiser for the Mental Health Resistance Network.

From this month, disabled people and mental health survivors in the UK are seeing Welfare Benefits under wholesale attack. 11,000 people a week will be migrated possibly onto ESA or maybe onto Jobseeker’s Allowance. And that may mean for tens of thousands the loss of Disability Premium for which Incapacity was a qualifying benefit. With the loss of Incapacity, ESA , Disability Premium, and perhaps DLA later along with cuts to Housing Benefit and Mortgage Income Support, many people may see a cut of over 60% of their income. And yet we are still determined to celebrate who we are, to enjoy ourselves and to gorge on music, mayhem and madness. Plus it is for the cause!

We have to continue to protest, demonstrate and continue to get the message across to politicians that the Work Capability Assessments are not suitable for assessing our ability to hold down a job. But we can also take time off to come along to festive gigs like this.

For discussion and organization see http://madpride.org.uk
Email to the email list Mentalhealthresistance@lists.aktivix.org (or join this list)


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May 232011
 

You might like to add your views  on the government’s  modernisation of the health and care system. This is a very good way of expressing what you think directly to the government.

They first set out their proposals for putting these principles into
practice in the White Paper, Equity and Excellence: Liberating the
NHS
in July 2010.

There is a pause in the legislative process now, to allow for listening and
engaging with patients, clinicians and the public, including the new
organisations formed to deliver a modern NHS.

The engagement process will inform potential changes to the Health and
Social Care Bill
and broader policy and implementation plans.

You can get involved with the NHS Listening Exercise in a number of
different ways.
There are four themes to the exercise and you can read more about them at the links below and leave comments publicly:

How can we best ensure that competition and patient choice drives NHS improvement?We are interested in your views on this area, including:

  • Which are the types of services where choice of provider is most likely to improve quality?
  • What is the best way to ensure a level playing field between the different kinds of provider who could be involved?
  • What else can be done to make patient choice a reality?
  • accountability and patient involvement
    • How can we ensure commissioning decisions are made transparent to the public, and that commissioning consortia engage fully with patients, carers and communities?
    • How can we best ensure that the NHS commissioning budget, held by the new NHS Commissioning Board, is allocated transparently and used with proper accountability to the public at local level, and Parliament at a national leave?
    • Are we doing enough to make sure the NHS at local level has the freedom it needs to take locally-based decisions?
  • How can we make the NHS properly accountable to the public, and make sure that patient involvement is at the heart of its decision making

    We are interested in your views on this area, including:

How can we make sure that NHS staff in the future have the right skills to meet changing patient needs? Are the arrangements we have proposed for education and training the best ones to ensure this?

We are interested in your views on this area, including:

  • Will the proposed changes to the education and training system support the aims of the modernisation process?
  • How can health professionals themselves take greater ownership of the education and training of their own professions, whilst meeting the needs of healthcare employers?
  • How can we ensure that the values of the NHS are placed at the heart of our education and training arrangements?
  • How can we best combine local and national knowledge and expertise to improve staff training and education?

How can we ensure that advice and leadership from NHS staff themselves on improving services and tackling patient needs are at the heart of the health service?

We are interested in your views on this area, including:

  • What early action is being taken in your area to improve quality of services through clinically-led commissioning?  What is working well?
  • How can commissioning consortia best engage and take on views from across the range of health professions in taking their commissioning decisions?
  • What more could we do to ensure that commissioners collaborate to join up services to fit around the lives of patients and carers, and the particular circumstances of certain conditions?

If you want to submit comments privately, please use the online form.

You can also download a form and return it by email or post: download NHS Listening Exercise
Email to: nhsfutureforum@dh.gsi.gov.uk

Send to: NHS Modernisation Listening Exercise, Room 605, Richmond House, 79
Whitehall, London SW1A 2NS.

You can also request alternative versions of any of these documents by contacting them using the above details.

All responses and views should be submitted by 31 May 2011 to inform the Government’s response to the listening exercise. However, they would be grateful to receive responses as early as possible so that these can help shape the NHS Future Forum’s initial advice to the Prime Minister, Deputy
Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Health, which is due to be submitted by the end of May.

There will also be events running in every part of the country during the next two months. This will give people a chance to share their views in person – from specific events for NHS staff, to others involved with the NHS, and those already involved in making change.

You can keep up to date with the latest coverage and announcements on this website or by following us on Twitter

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May 222011
 

NHS PROTEST MONDAY 23rd MAY. After the announcement of 700 NHS bed closures across Birmingham and Solihull hospital trusts, Brimingham Against The Cuts has called a ‘Stop NHS cuts’ protest.  Join the protest Monday 23rd May, 5pm, main entrance Queen Elizabeth hospital, Selly Oak. Please come along.

http://righttowork.org.uk/2011/05/a-summer-to-save-the-nhs/

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May 222011
 

Merry kindly gave us permission to share her letter to her MP Rob Wilson urging him to support Jeremy Corbyn’s  Early Day Motion.

If you do not know who your MP is – here s a link to Find your MP.

To: robwilsonmp@parliament.uk
Sent: Sat, 21 May 2011 14:06
Subject: disabled people

Hi Rob,

I have just retired,gratefully, it must be said.  But as you know, I am disabled and I’m thoroughly disturbed by the many different ways that life has become harder for disabled people in general and those who work – or try to – in particular.
I have been dependent on Access to Work for many years now.  First they helped me with a special office chair; then I needed a driver and eventually I needed a PA/driver.  Whilst A2W was never perfect, it provided help without which work would have become impossible.  With it, I think I made a small but important contribution to society via my role as a social care inspector.  I am hugely concerned to hear that A2W is facing a cutback in resources.  It is already so hard for most of us to secure employment … but of course when we do, the Treasury benefits because we then pay taxes.
Please support Jeremy Corbyn’s Early Day Motion.  I would also ask you to read the information accumulating about the suffering caused by Atos’s assessments of those claiming Incapacity Benefit (etc).  You can’t be satisfied with the idea that they are causing suicides.  And surely you must take heed of the many voices (including a variety of professional organisations) criticising Atos.  This process MUST be improved dramatically – or scrapped, before it does any more harm.
Yours,
Merry Wahogo
————
More info about

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May 222011
 
The We Are Activists project is now up and running in Liverpool as part of the Look11 Photography Festival.
The project website is:
DPAC co founder, Linda Burnip,  is featured in this project.
linda burnip

Linda Burnip photo taken by @Tony Bryne

6-7 pm Tu 24 May 2011 (Official time in Look 11 brochure but likely to run longer)
1 Jalons Bridewell
Campbell Square Off Duke Street
Liverpool
Merseyside

L1 5FB

0151 707 8003
The official launch of the project takes place in The Bridewell, in Liverpool next Tuesday. Everyone is very welcome. There will be some live activist related music and there would also be an option to do a presentation.
More info is available at

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May 212011
 

To share from:

The Mental Health Resistance Network has been working with a solicitor from the Public Law Project with a view to taking legal action to try to stop the Work Capability Assessments forcing more deserving people off of disability benefits. We seem to have identified a case and are now very close to appointing a barrister to act for us. Watch this space for future updates when we get news from the MHRN!

———————

We are also pleased to be able to attach an electronic version (doc) of the Judgment in the Birmingham cuts case. Although it is not marked ‘Approved’, the Judge has confirmed he is content for it to be circulated publicly – thanks to Polly Sweeney, Solicitor, Public Law Department (For and on behalf of Irwin Mitchell LLP)

Note

FOUR disabled residents from the West Midlands have won a landmark legal challenge against Birmingham City Council following a High Court ruling today (19 May 2011) which stated that the local authority’s plans to cut its adult social care budget were unlawful.

The case was brought by the families of four disabled adults from Birmingham who were told earlier this year by the Council that from 1 April 2011, any needs which were not considered ‘critical’ would no longer be paid for, leaving them concerned that many of their essential care and support needs would be unmet.

from http://www.irwinmitchell.com/news/Pages/Disabled-Adults-Win-Legal-Challenge-Against-Birmingham-Councils-Adult-Social-Care-Cuts.aspx

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May 212011
 

Thanks to the Islington DPAC – who got this EDM. Please ask your MPs to sign.

Early day motion 1836 EMPLOYMENT OF DISABLED PEOPLE  tabled: 19.05.2011

Corbyn, Jeremy

That this House acknowledges the unfair treatment of disabled people in the workplace as the primary reason why they are not employed, rather than the central flawed assumption contained in the Welfare Reform Bill that disabled people need to change their attitude and to be incentivised to work through having their benefits reduced; notes that alongside benefit cuts come cuts in funding for Access to Work (ATW) and the repercussions of job losses and a reluctance to employ disabled people; further notes the need to ensure more disabled people are employed; and calls on Her Majesty’s Government to increase resources for ATW and to increase investment in specialist employment support services, including more disability employment advisers, to ensure a robust enforcement of disabled people’s rights under the Equalities Act 2010 in the area of unemployment instead of the Government’s move to abolish the Act in its aim to reduce the legislative burden on employers, and to ensure more targeted support for disabled people wanting to be self employed or set up their own businesses as a more suitable option.

http://www.edms.org.uk/2010-11/1836.htm

Find your MP

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May 202011
 

From now until Spring 2014 all those who are receiving Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance and Income Support paid on the grounds of illness or disability will be assessed for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), undergoing a stringent Work Capability Assessment (WCA) carried out by the French Company Atos who are contracted by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

First introduced in 2008, the much criticised WCA has become even more punitive since changes in the 2011 edition of the training manual for assessors. Pilots in Aberdeen and Burnley have raised more criticisms of the process adding to the raft of criticisms from the British Medical Association, GPs, Citizens Advice Bureaus (CABs), Members of Parliament and disability organisations.

Those going through the test can be put into one of three groups: ESA Support Group not required to undertake work-related activity – but will be reassessed continuously; ESA Work Related Activity Group, for those deemed fit for work with support and preparation. It will be limited to just 12 months before ESA is stopped, and also may be subject to reassessment in the 12 month period; or Fit for Work, not entitled to ESA but transferred to a lower amount on Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Read the rest at LSE blog

A number of demonstrations were held last week in response to Atos and benefit cuts, see: http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/, and you can view a video of the protests against Atos on the Guardian’s website.

———-Debbie Jolly

Debbie Jolly

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May 172011
 

from Dawn Willis blog
9.30am HoC Work and Pensions Committee –
Grimond Room

Migration to Employment and Support Allowance

Witnesses

i.Atos Healthcare
ii.Professor Malcolm Harrington

Ideally it would make a big impression if we could fill the Public seating with disabled people.

Also a small presence of protest outside to meet and greet Atos would be effective.

Media coverage, photographers etc would be excellent.

Some people who understand the system to speak to press.

Grimond Room
Portcullis House
Westminster SW1A 2LW
London

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May 152011
 

From Right to Work website
Tuesday 17 May Assemble 5.30pm

This is set to be an extremely important demonstration. With the ConDems reeling from the resistance to their attacks on the NHS we need to make sure this is as big as possible.
University College Hospital, Gower St, WC1
(Euston, Warren Street, Euston Square tube).
6pm march to Department of Health, Whitehall.
More information

Help Right to Work

Right to Work will have placards and leaflets on the ‘March to save the NHS’. If you can help us distribute them please contact 07961 337 640 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 07961 337 640 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or info@righttowork.org.uk We will be setting up from 4.30pm at UCH.
We will preparing the placards on Monday 16th May. If you are able to help with this please let us know.

watch the video

Short Version Wake Up Call Episode 1 No Decision About Me Without Me from Health Emergency on Vimeo.

Dr John Lister provides a witty insight into the true intent of the government’s plans to reform the health service – a privatised, unaccountable NHS.

Peppered with jokes and cartoons from the likes of Steve Bell, the film is an easily understood explanation of how the NHS, as we now know it, will be demolished, if these plans succeed.

With the danger of the reforms slipping through in a fog of jargon and marketing spin, John Lister talks us through why they will be disastrous for NHS patients and staff

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May 142011
 

Information about associated events with the National Week Against Atos Origin can be found at the National Claimants Against Benefit Cuts website

West Midlands anti cuts co-ordinating meeting press release.

At West Bromwich Town Hall on Tuesday 10 May, anti-cuts groups from across the West Midlands met to plan and coordinate opposition to the ConDem Government’s assault on the Public Sector and Welfare System.

Groups from Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Shropshire and Walsall and DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) called upon anyone opposed to the cuts to join them in supporting the Trade Unions currently in dispute or balloting their members over the vicious attacks on pensions, and to take part in rallies and demonstrations on 30 June when nearly a million workers could take the first step in the industrial action needed to defeat the Government’s plans.

more from Right to Work website
‘Who are they targeting and How can we stop them?’ Birmingham meeting

On Thursday 12th May Right to Work, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Social Work Action Network (SWAN ) hosted a meeting at Unison headquarters in Birmingham about ConDems attacks on the disabled and cuts to benefits. It posed two questions – Who are they targeting and How can we stop them?

Linda Burnip from DPAC outlined the detail and depth of the attacks on disabled people. Linda highlighted the savage cuts to housing, disability, sickness and welfare benefits, with disabled people likely to see a drastic drop in disposable income with many slipping below the poverty line.

Polly Sweeney, a solicitor from Irwin Mitchell spoke about how discrimination law can be used to stop the cuts to disabled people and gave us a report on a case she’s just won preventing Birmingham City Council changing eligibility criteria for care funding.

Nicki Ward and Barbara Marshall from SWAN pointed out British social welfare policy under the Coalition Government is undergoing a breathtaking upheaval. Profit and care are not compatible. SWAN are urging those involved in social work to make a stand against the social violence being unleashed by the ConDem coalition: to speak out, campaign and join the movements of resistance.

Paul Brandon National Secretary of Right to Work urged everyone to remember this is a bankers created crisis and we should not be made to pay for it. He urged everyone to support coordinated strike action on the 30th June and to build for massive demonstrations outside the Lib Dem conference on the 18 Sep in Birmingham and the Tory party conference on the 2nd October with them ultimate aim of bringing the ConDem coalition down.

More from Right to Work website

Linda Burnip’s report on ATOS WEEK OF ACTION

A successful week of actions called by various disabled and claimants groups and supported by Right to Work protesting against ATOS the private firm milking millions of tax payers money from the testing of disabled people through their tick box computer Work Capability Assessments occurred all around the country. Over 50 anti- cuts groups also supported the week of action.

Several events took place in London supported on Monday by PCS members who share the hatred disabled people feel towards ATOS since they also make profits from testing civil servants who have been off work sick. In Northern Ireland NIPSA, the largest public sector union, whose members are losing their jobs next month to ATOS expressed support for the protests.

On Thursday the Islington event picketing both ATOS and A4e was supported by RMT staff whose jobs are being replaced by the use of unemployed people through workfare programmes. This is something we feel union members will start noticing much more of in the near future as these schemes continue to be rolled out nationwide.

Other major protests took place in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Truro, Nottingham, Hastings, Cardiff, York, Chatham, Plymouth and Bristol plus on 2 days in Brighton, and on 2 days in Birmingham. In Birmingham protesters performed Brighton Benefits Campaign play ‘The Computer says NO’ with RtW’s Simon Furze playing the part of the wicked computer. In Cambridge there was an occupation of the ATOS office.

Fuller details can be found at http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com

http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Home/Protesters-occupy-healthcare-building-12052011.htm

http://www.demotix.com/news/685823/atos-origin-demonstration-london

pics from Monday’s Triton square demo can be found at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/peteriches/sets/72157626569684887/ Whilst The Guardian has a video at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/video/2011/may/11/disability-protest-atos-origin-video

Birmingham, May 13th

http://www.flickr.com/photos/disabledpeopleprotest/sets/72157626712433434/

Cross posted on the Right to Work website

Medway anti cuts campaigners protest over disability benefits

Campaigners from Medway Against the Cuts protested outside a Medical Testing Centre in Batchelor St Chatham on Friday against ATOS Origin the private company that run the centre.
More from RtW website

‘We will be back!’ says ATOS protesters in Manchester

In Manchester thirty protesters rallied outside the assessment offices of ATOS. They marched into the grounds chanting, ‘Benefit Cuts No Way! Make the Greedy Bankers Pay!’

‘These attacks on disabled people are designed to force people into work when they clearly are not fit for work. The process is designed to drive down wages of those who are in work. It is an attack on everyone,’ said Lesley Barrington.

‘A diagnosis of mental health problems can take years to reach. ATOS is putting people under pressure, some become suicidal over these cuts. When they take away benefits from people with mental health problems they do tremendous damage. It is obscene to take away people’s basic rights in the 21st Century.” Paul Reed, Manchester Users Network, a charity that helps users and ex users of mental health facilities in Manchester.

‘Basically I am really scared about being forced into work. A lot of other people are in the same situation. We end up being numbers not people. I am really proud to be here with everyone on this protest.’ Sharon Hooley, Disability Adult Action Network

More at RtW website

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May 132011
 

London Triton Sq Party and Picnic 2pm

More photo accounts from Pete Riches Flickr
Photos also from Howard Jones at Demotix
From DPAC Flickr

Cambridge

Protesters  occupied a city-based office building that is home to Atos Healthcare, claiming the firm is “victimising” those with specific needs.

Banners were strung from the roof of the building and dozens of campaigners entered the office building in Hills Road, Cambridge, pledging to stay overnight.

The office was chosen because Atos won a recent Government contract to reassess incapacity benefit claimants and the demonstration was part of UK-wide action.

More at http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Home/Protesters-occupy-healthcare-building-12052011.htm

Picket and Picnic at Atos Glasgow 12 May 5pm-6pm

Picket and Picnic at Atos Glasgow 12 May 5pm-6pm

More from http://thecrutchcollective.blogspot.com

Over a dozen claimants and supporters managed to get our message out about Atos, that ‘They Rob From The Poor To Give To The Rich’ to hundreds of shoppers and people going home from work outside the Atos offices at 45 Gordon Street in the centre of Glasgow between 5pm and 6pm. Banners proclaimed that ‘Atos Are Making The Sick Pay For The Greedy Bankers Debt. ‘Atos Make A Profit Out Of The Misery Of The Sick’ was screamed out to passersby.

New people signed up to take part in the next anti-Atos demo on Monday 6th June between 6pm and 8pm at the Atos recruitment evening at the assessment centre, Corunna House, 29 Cadogan Street

Friday May 13th at noon outside Waterstones bookshop opposite  bull statue in Bullring centre DPAC was joined by supporters for leafleting and street  theatre ‘ The Computer Says NO’ an adaptation of a Brighton Benefit  Campaign play.

'Atos Kill' DPAC Birmingham

'Atos Kill' protestors DPAC Birmingham

DPAC co founders Linda Burnip, Eleanor Lisney and Bob Williams-Findlay and supporters were at Birmingham  handing out leaflets to interested  shoppers and doing an adaptation of  ‘The Computer Says No’ . The bystanders /audience were supportive and responded with gusto.Visitors who dropped by to say hello included Birmingham People First and from nearby EHRC regional office.

Photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/disabledpeopleprotest/sets/72157626712433434/

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May 122011
 

On Monday, there were protests outside London Atos office, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Hastings, Cardiff and  in Liverpool.

Protestors are still reflecting and taking in their experiences with the videos and photos of the Hardest Hit demo  organised jointly by the Disability Benefits Consortium and the UK Disabled People’s Council, in London today – said to be about 5000 strong against the cuts.

Meanwhile today in Cambridge activists have entered Atos Healthcare in Hills Road today in protest at what they claim is the company’s role in reassessing incapacity benefit.

Protesters claimed more than 40 people had occupied the building during the evening and intended to stay all night.

Cambridgeshire Police said they were monitoring the situation.

People are staying the night, support welcome! Get down there!

There was also a protest in Manchester – Manchester – Wednesday, May 11 · 12:00pm – 3:00pm Albert Bridge House, Bridge Street, Manchester
Called by Manchester Coalition Against Cuts.

Tomorrow Thursday

A picket of Atos Origin, 1a Elthorne Road, off Holloway Road, London has been called for tomorrow – Thursday 12th May at 11am.

Bring placards, banners, leaflets from 11am!

Birmingham
Thursday, May 12 · 7:00pm – 10:00pm

Unison offices, 19th floor McClaren Tower, Priory Queensway. B4 7NN
Public Meeting: Benefit Cuts: Who are they targeting? How can we stop them? –
called by DPAC and Right To Work

Then on Friday May 13th at noon outside Waterstones bookshop opposite  bull
statue in Bullring centre join them for leafleting and street  theatre ‘ The
Computer Says NO’ an adaptation of a Brighton Benefit  Campaign play.

Bristol – 3.30-5.30 Thursday 12th May
After a previous successful demonstration outside ATOS, Flowers Hill,  voicing our dissent at the way this Government is attacking the most  vulnerable in our society and using ATOS as a way of doing it, we are  asking you join us foranother demonstration between 3.30-5.30 Thursday  12th May 2011 outside ATOS, Flowers Hill, Brislington.

In York, York Welfare Campaign Group will be leafletting from 8am-9am, meeting outside Banana Warehouse on Piccadilly (round the corner from the Atos offices), followed by a photo op with the Press.
I hope I have not missed anyone out! Go protestors and let us have your pictures and reports. Onwards against Atos poverty pimps!


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May 122011
 

We are publishing this letter exceptionally in conjunction with this week’s protest against the poverty pimps to show an example of the impact of benefit cuts and assessments such as those of Atos could have on disabled people and their families – the added anxiety, stress and anguish . We have been given permission to publish this anonymously.

Dear Eleanor Lisney,

RE: Disabled people against cuts.

I am writing in support of your campaign against government cuts to disability.

After reading the article in the Guardian 9th May “Job centre staff get guide on handling suicide threats” I really felt I needed to get in touch and tell you about the experiences we have had with the Job Centre.

My family has a history of mental health problems, I have a sister who suffers from psychosis and bipolar and I have spent the last ten years trying to help her. Until recently no one in our family was aware that another sister had also developed this awful condition.

My younger sister’s illness developed quickly and over the year she had gone from being a bright 32 year old professional to a withdrawn and paranoid, scared person. She had moved house during this time and had also lost her job. During this time we could not find out where she lived. When she did contact by email asking for help, we were shocked to find that she had no electricity in her flat, and had been surviving on Weetabix and water for 6 months because she had been refused benefits.

It was very obvious from her condition that she was very ill and hadn’t eaten for many weeks.  We later learnt that her self-imposed seclusion was because she had felt that everyone was conspiring to have a committed to a mental institute. We learnt that she had attended the job centre on a number of occasions asking for help and had also asked her doctor for a sick note but was refused. In her desperation she became frantic, the doctor then phoned the police and said she would commit her under the mental health act.  She was held for a night in a prison cell because of an argument over a sick note. The doctor was fully aware that she was mentally ill but had refused to provide a sick note to her! But instead was using the law to section her under the mental health act, why?  My sister is generally a very shy and sensitive person and because of this experience she became extremely paranoid, it was so severe she never went out after this.

During all this time, no one from the family was told about her condition and when we found her she was severely paranoid and very scared to open her door to us. She phoned the police to say that she didn’t want us to visit her and the police sent us away with a caution. This was heart breaking for us since we could see she needed urgent help. Nothing can describe the feeling of being told that by law you are not allowed to help someone if they did not wish it.  Even though, I am sure the police were fully aware of her record and could see that she was very vulnerable because her flat was mouldy and flooded and she had a burst pipe that she couldn’t afford to fix and she was painfully thin.

I believe that the doctor in charge of her care was negligent because she did not provide her with a sick note, even though she thought her sick enough to be committed to a prison cell under the mental health act. If the doctor had looked into the family medical records they would have seen that we have a history of mental illness in the family. Additionally, the doctor did not contact anyone in her family or help her with her condition by providing her with a sick note. Her illness was being exasperated by the fact that she had no food and electricity at home and that she was being dealt with very insensitively by the job centre. It is very sad that up until her death, my sister felt hounded and traumatized by the fact that she was imprisoned. She was afraid that it would happen again, so she hid her illness very well from others and very rarely ventured outside her home. She only attended the job centre when she was over her mania, which was cyclical and without a sick note no-one at the job centre would believe she was ill enough not to work.

With a little more time we managed to get her to see another doctor, she was prescribed anti psychotic drugs but she still had no income and was going to lose her home. My sister is very independent and strong willed. She was up until her illness a very successful programmer and had always earned her own way through life. The loss of her job brought on by her illness was not something she would admit too easily, and the shock of being imprisoned was something she never got over.

In September 2010 we received a phone call from the foreign office in Portugal telling us that our little sister had committed suicide. She had boarded a flight the day before for Oporto with the intention of ending her life. She tried to take an overdose and then jumped from the hotel balcony. She was alone when she died and no one from the family had been able to reach her.

I have always thought that the UK system of welfare was a lifeline that the neediest were able to access easily. But with our experience we found that the cold and bureaucratic way that people are now being dealt with is really too cruel especially for those suffering from mental breakdown.  Knowing whether someone has a mental condition cannot be easily judged from a job centre application form or within a few days of a claim.  The immediate stance taken by the job centre is that anyone applying for welfare through sickness is obviously lying. Mental illness takes months to diagnose, this is not taken into account by the job centre.

After her funeral, we were left to tidy her affairs and give her belongings to charity (as per her wishes written in a suicide note).  It was very heart breaking that the very same day of learning of her death; she had a letter arrive claiming that her appeal for benefits had been accepted. It is sad no see how far the UK government want to push people in order to cut costs. The compassion has left the welfare system and we are left with a very harsh ‘conservative’ system.

Thank you for highlighting the case of many people who are going to be side lined because of the new government measures.

I would hate for anyone else to have to go through what we have been put through over the last few months.

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May 112011
 

David Cameron has acted on his threat to “Reverse the bias towards inclusion” for disabled children and other children who need extra help at school.  The Governments green paper ‘Support and Aspiration: A New Approach to Special Educational Needs and Disability” is based entirely on the medical model of disability and will push back all the progress for which disabled people have struggled over the last 20 years.  These proposals include:

  • Creating many more special school places
  • Removing the right of children to a legally enforceable ‘Statement of Special Educational Needs’
  • Re-introducing the infamous caveats in the law which allow local authorities to forcibly segregate disabled children
  • Allow many more schools to opt out of local authority control (and centralised services which support inclusion)
  • Put parents in control of their children’s financial resources until they are 25 years old

This is in the context of a massive cut back in the rights and resources being made available to disabled people and all the poor and disadvantaged families who constitute the group most vulnerable to these proposals, including changes to housing benefit, income support, DLA, rights to legal aid, Sure Start Schemes, Youth Work and so on.

WE MUST FIGHT BACK

PLEASE COME TO THE EVENT ON WEDNESDAY JUNE 29th, AND DEMONSTRATE OUR RESISTANCE TO THESE PROPOSALS

Meet at 11AM, on WESTMINSTER BRIDGE in front of St Thomas’s Hospital.

You can find more information about Inclusive Education at the ALLFIE website

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May 102011
 
ADAPT protestors

photo by Tim Wheat, ADAPT at Washington DC

The early days of May, 2011 saw Washington, DC invaded by 300 members of a national grass-roots community organisation – ADAPT –  bringing together disability rights activists to engage in nonviolent direct action, including civil disobedience, to assure the civil and human rights of people with disabilities to live in freedom. ADAPT was in Washington to protest against Representative Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget proposal, which includes massive cuts to Medicaid.

Medicaid is the United States health program for people and families with low incomes and resources. It is a means-tested program that is jointly funded by the state and federal governments, and is managed by the states. Under the Ryan Plan, Medicaid programs would be cut by 35%, which translates to a loss of $772 billion in human services. Additionally, the Ryan Plan proposes a system of Medicaid block grants for states—giving states greater ability to make cuts. Currently there are 60 million people counting on Medicaid right now, 8.5 million are disabled people; 8.8 million are on low incomes, frail, elderly and disabled individuals who rely on Medicaid to plug the gaps in Medicare coverage, such as long term care. Medicaid pays for vital services to assist people with learning difficulties to live and work in the community rather than be forced into an institution. ADAPT went to Washington to demand:

STOP CUTS TO MEDICAID AND NO MEDICAID BLOCK GRANTS TO THE STATES.

On Monday, 2nd of May, ADAPT occupied the Rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building demanding that Congress derail Ryan’s budget proposal. As evening approached the Capitol Police began arresting ADAPT members from all over the country, who had remained in the Cannon House Office Building since midday. The ADAPTers wanted three Representatives to publicly withdraw their support for Medicaid budget cuts and Medicaid state block grants. They stated that without this commitment, ADAPT were willing to do whatever it takes

“…to defend the right of people with disabilities[1] and seniors to live in our homes, not nursing homes and institutions.”

By night’s end 91 members of ADAPT had been arrested.

The following day 10 more members were arrested for “unlawful conduct” as they sat and chanted in Rep. Paul Ryan’s office demanding that Medicaid not be a block-grant to US states. The 10 were the ADAPT

negotiating team who were there to lead a discussion on rebalancing and budgetary concerns, clarifying that institutional long-term care options are more expensive than providing long-term care services chosen and directed by Americans in our own homes. When it became clear Representative Ryan’s team wasn’t planning to give them anything more than lip-service, ADAPT ramped it up. The 10 were chanting loud and strong “No More Block Grants,” followed by “We Want Ryan.”

At the same time approximately 250 ADAPT members were out in the hallway began using cell phones to call Representative Ryan’s office and demand that he meet with them to discuss how block grants limit home and community-based options that save money spent on long-term care services.

The following day saw ADAPTers focus on the U.S. Senate, particularly the Gang of Six, the bipartisan group of Senators who are charged with creating the Senate’s budget plan in response to Ryan’s Plan. Six contingents of around fifty ADAPTers each visited one of the six Senators’ offices to demand that the Senate budget plan eliminate the institutional bias, prevent caps on Medicaid spending, and get rid of the idea to block grant Medicaid funding to states. In addition, we asked that the Senate work to introduce legislation that will mandate community choice as a service in every state, and work with ADAPT to ensure that our voices are at the table in every decision that affects us. ADAPT threw down a hard line that no matter how supportive the Senators may be of our cause, this issue is life and death for us and we cannot be satisfied until we have specific budgetary commitments.

Six ADAPT leaders also met with senior advisors at the White House on disability and the Affordable Care Act, respectively.   There third action was attending a press conference jointly convened by the National Association of County Organizations’ (NACo) Large Urban County Caucus and various Senators.

All in all ADAPT made its presence known in Washington at exactly the right time as states flounder through their Medicaid crises and the Senate and House get ready for a showdown over the budget. ADAPT is, as always, ready to pitch into the fray to fight to DEFEND OUR FREEDOM!

Crucial issues to consider

In the opinion of DPAC these events across the pond highlight a number of crucial issues. First, the cuts taking place in the UK should not be viewed in isolation nor simply reduced to a question of mismanagement by the previous Government; they are taking place due to the financial crisis caused by agents of global capitalism. Agents who put profits before people thereby employing an economic system that cannot serve communities nor protect the planet from greed and exploitation.

Second, what this means is our response to the cuts cannot simply have a local or national dynamic; disabled people must show our solidarity with disabled people across the globe. We must support our disabled brothers and sisters in the US against budgets cuts to Medicaid but we should also support our disabled brothers and sisters across Africa and the Middle East as they struggle against injustice, inequalities and oppression.

Third, the significance of the events of 2nd – 4th of May in Washington, DC for disabled people is to note how organised and determined the ADAPTers were to take their message to the political elite. They didn’t go “cap-in-hand” like a Victorian Oliver Twist to beg for more whilst hanging onto the coat tails of the charity sector. ADAPT had clear demands and were prepared to back these up with direct militant action – they understand that disabled and older people’s are at stake. ADAPT also offers clear political leadership – something which is disturbingly lacking in the UK; between October 2010 and May 2011 there has been little done by national DPOs to protect the interests of disabled people.

Protestors at Triton Sq

Protestors at Triton Sq, London

Go UK!

In the UK Disability activists, claimant groups and anti-cuts campaigners have called a week of action against poverty pimps Atos Origin beginning on Monday 9th May with a picnic and party in Triton Square home of their head office. All week events are taking place across the UK.

Birmingham

Thursday, May 12 · 7:00pm – 10:00pm

Unison offices, 19th floor McClaren Tower, Priory Queensway. B4 7NN
Public Meeting: Benefit Cuts: Who are they targeting? How can we stop them? – called by DPAC and Right To Work

Then on Friday May 13th at noon outside Waterstones bookshop opposite bull statue in Bullring centre join them for leafleting and street theatre ‘ The Computer Says NO’ an adaptation of a Brighton Benefit Campaign play.

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=169640809755894

Brighton

1:00PM Saturday, May 14th

Montague Street Worthing

As part of the week of protest, Brighton Benefits Campaign will be performing our play ‘Dick Whittington & His Work Capability Assessment or The Computer Says No!’ for the good people of Worthing.

Please join us to support, leaflet & shout at the Computer!

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=202596039779487

Bristol – 3.30-5.30 Thursday 12th May

After a previous successful demonstration outside ATOS, Flowers Hill, voicing our dissent at the way this Government is attacking the most vulnerable in our society and using ATOS as a way of doing it, we are asking you join us for another demonstration between 3.30-5.30 Thursday 12th May 2011 outside ATOS, Flowers Hill, Brislington.

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=158658667531464

Cardiff – Monday, May 9 · 12:30pm – 3:30pm

Disability Benefits Building, St Agnes Street, Gabalfa, Cardiff

As part of the National Week of Action against Benefit Cuts and Atos Origin kicking off on Monday 9th of May, we will be staging a protest outside the Disability Benefits Building at St. Agnes road, Gabalfa, Cardiff.

Bring music, drums, banners, placards, snacks to share and brighten up the faceless corporate wasteland that is the Benefits Building!

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=171127669607093&ref=mf

Chatham

Between 12 and 2pm on Friday 13th May

Medway Against the Cuts (MAC) will be holding a protest picket of the ATOS Testing Centre at 1a Batchelor St Chatham between 12 and 2pm on Friday 13th May. Medway Against the Cuts can be contacted at medway-against-the cuts@live.co.uk

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_168119479887991

Edinburgh

11.00am – 1.00pm Monday, 9th May

Atos Origin, 44 York Place, (near top of Broughton St)

The Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty and Black Triangle will be protesting outside ATOS healthcare offices in Edinburgh on Monday the 9th of May.

Hastings

Atos Healthcare, 7/8 Queens Road, Hastings, East Sussex TN34 1QP
There will be a protest at the Atos office in Hastings on Tuesday 10th May at 9:30am

Liverpool – Picket Atos Origin

Monday, May 9 · 11:30am – 2:30pm

Atos Origin, The Plaza, Old Hall Street, Liverpool

As part of this week of action, Liverpool Solidarity Federation are calling for all those who stand in support of disabled people to join us in a picket of their offices in Liverpool the same day.

Assemble in The Plaza, Old Hall Street, at 11.30am on Monday 9th May. Bring flags, banners, and placards.

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=160068340719677

LondonParty and Protest in Triton Square

Monday, May 9 – 2pm

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=194299250612882&

Claimants will also be leafleting outside Atos Origin/DWP Offices on Lisson Grove, NW1 from 11am

LondonHardest Hits March – 11 May

visit: http://thehardesthit.wordpress.com/

Some autonomous claimants plan to attend and will be meeting up with WinVisible at 11.30 on Victoria Embankment at the corner of Derby Gate SW1. The march will go past Parliament towards Millbank, ending at Dean Stanley St. The nearest tube station is Westminster. Bring anti-atos placards, leaflets etc

http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/london-hardest-hit-march-lobby-and-protest-wed-11-may/

Manchester– Wednesday, May 11 · 12:00pm – 3:00pm

Albert Bridge House, Bridge Street, Manchester
Called by Manchester Coalition Against Cuts. If your organisation would like to support this demonstration please contact: coalitionagainstcuts@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=145587872178552

Newcastle

11 May · 17:00 – 18:30 Grey’s Monument Newcastle Coalition of Resistance supporters will be at Monument from 5pm on Wednesday 11th May in support of ‘Rights not Charity’, supporting campaigns by benefit claimants and disabled people facing cuts to benefits.

Nottingham

11:00AM Monday, May 9th

Day of action against ATOS origin and Office Angels / Adecco

Meet at 11am outside Office Angels (located in the city centre past the right lion. Next door to MAC and opposite The Square bar/club)

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=221270991217017

Plymouth

Monday, May 11 – 11am

Plymouth Claimants Union will be demonstrating outside the Atos Origin Argosy House , Marsh Mills , medical centre in Plymouth from 11.00 am Monday 9th May. Free transport from city centre.  Cntact plymouthclaimantsunion@yahoo.co.uk

Truro

There is now a Cornwall DPAC group formed which may be contacted at c.mccarther@sky.com We are holding a protest day in Truro and going to the ATOS office. Meet outside Weatherspoons in Lemon Quay at 10.30am on Wednesday May 11.


[1] In the USA the term ‘people with disabilities’ equates with the UK’s ‘people with impairments’.

————-Bob Williams-Findlay

Bob Williams-FindlayBob Williams-Findlay

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May 082011
 

Would you consider a person who became spontaneously unconscious once every five weeks fit for work? Would you employ them? Would you consider them fraudulent if they claimed that this condition was disabling?  In the March 2011 version of training guidelines for the Atos Work Capability Assessment two of these options are valid. The Work Capability Assessment would rate such a person as fit for work and as a result a person who is neither sick or disabled[1].

The Work Capability Assessment is carried out for those migrating from Incapacity Benefit and for new claimants to Employment Support Allowance (ESA). It was put in place by New Labour in 2008. It is administered by the French/Dutch Company Atos at a cost of 300 million. Those going through the test can be put into one of three groups.

  • ESA Support Group not required to undertake work-related activity – but will be reassessed continuously
  • ESA Work Related Activity Group, for those deemed fit for work with support and preparation. Limited to just 12 months before ESA is stopped, also may be subject to reassessment in the 12 month period.
  • Fit for Work not entitled to ESA but transferred to lower amount on Jobseeker’s Allowance

One estimate claims that up to 500,000 people have been wrongly denied Incapacity status[2]. In a 2011 February piece in the Guardian Amelia Gentlemen argues:

Since its preliminary rollout in 2008, people with terminal cancer have been found fit to work, people with mental health problems have complained their condition is not taken seriously, people with complex illnesses report that the tick-box system is not able to cope with the nuances of their problems.[3]

Citizens Advice Scotland reported that under incapacity benefits 37% were found ‘fit for work’ under Work Capacity Assessment, the figure had soaredto 66%[4]

Between October 2010 and Spring 2014 those who receive Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance and Income Support paid on the grounds of illness or disability will be assessed for Employment and Support Allowance. Pilots in Aberdeen and Burnley have raised more criticisms of the process adding to the raft of criticisms from the British Medical Association, the originator of the software that Atos uses, GPs, Citizens Advice Bureaus (CABs), Members of Parliament and disability organisations.

The Work Capability Assessment replaced the Personal Capability Assessment. Yet, as long ago as 2006 the Green Paper: A New Deal for Welfare: Empowering People to Work, stated  ‘the current Personal Capability Assessment process (is) already recognised by the OECD as being one of the toughest in the world’.

Case studies have shown the inhumanity of a system based on government targets and the pain and misery of the increasing stringency of these tests. One example from the 2010 report from the Citizens Advice Bureau’s report on ESA and testing procedures highlights the experiences that someone considered ‘fit for work’ by WCA might endure:

A Yorkshire bureau saw a woman in her forties who was working full-time and was enthusiastically looking forward to starting a new job, when she became ill. At first it was thought she had a viral illness, but she was subsequently diagnosed with lupus erythematosus and transverse myelitis. She was in a great deal of pain in her muscles and joints and had extreme fatigue. At times her balance was affected and she could not walk without someone to support her. Sometimes she lost sensation in her legs, and on her worst days she could not walk at all. Any exertion such as walking 40 or 50 metres led to days in bed. She had had a bad reaction to some of the treatment and an ECG showed her heart muscle had been damaged. Her husband had to come home from work each lunchtime to help her. Her immune system was weakened, so she had to be careful when mixing with others. She claimed ESA but was given six points in the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and found capable of work. Her doctor supported her claim and she is currently appealing, but under Incapacity Benefit she would probably have been exempt and would have avoided this process

The WCA does not take into account GP assessments of an individual’s impairment or long term condition, this is ignored in favour of an, or average, 15-45 minute set of questions administered through the LiMAS software developed by Atos. LiMAS asks a set of questions for which the applicant can, but increasingly can’t, score up to 15 points which would put them in the ESA support group. As GPs who may have known applicants for all of their lives with an understanding of the medical, social and emotional impacts are ignored, a new set of individuals come into play called ‘health care professionals’. These individuals are trained by Atos for four to 16 weeks to understand targets and the all powerful LiMAS software; they are given time limits for each assessment and told that the more people they get through the better. They consist of physiotherapists, nurses and doctors usually with a general practice background or from overseas due to the notorious low pay of the multi- million pound profit Company Atos.

In 2008 The Department of Work and Pensions and Atos were severely criticised by Robert Martin the president of the appeals Tribunal Panel, a position now abolished:

Criticism was made of ATOS Healthcare medical practitioners who did not appear to pay sufficient attention to the appellant at the medical examination and who produced findings in medical reports based on observations that were inconsistent, or recorded in the medical report findings that were contradictory’[5]

In 2010 an independent review of the WCA tests by Professor Harrington concluded

There is strong evidence that the system can be impersonal and mechanistic, that the process lacks transparency and that a lack of communication between the various parties involved contributes to poor decision making and a high rate of appeals.” and that “evidence has consistently and regularly highlighted problems with each stage of the WCA process, which limit both the assessment’s fairness and effectiveness.

In a government report, Atos’s own staff said the assessments are too harsh. Prospect, the trade union who represents 135 Atos doctors, has stated that the target of seeing ten or more people a day is unrealistic and will lead to wrong assessments, especially in complex cases[6].

Despite the overwhelming evidence that WCA was not working Atos were awarded a further contract by the Department of Work and Pensions in 2010.

Figures not Identified in the Media

The figures of those considered ‘fit for work’ by Atos testing systems regularly make headlines in newspapers such as the Daily Mail, the Express, and most recently the Guardian, but little investigative journalism has been exercised in examining this apparent miracle of ‘curing of the sick and ‘the disabled’, nor looking at process, outcomes or the ways that these figures are produced.

For example, newspapers do not tell us that there has been a 56% increase in ESA appeals with figures up from 25,700 in the second quarter of 2009/2010 to 52,000 in the same quarter of 2010/2011[7]. Almost half of cases are overturned at appeal[8].Nor are we told that figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show that of those declared ‘fit for work’ by the WCA system, just 13% are in employment, 27% temporarily sick and 28% classed as permanently sick[9]. The ‘fit for work’ myth does not convert into any form of reality.

Nor is the context of the claims ever provided, a representative survey carried out by Ipsos MORI and reported in Employment and Support Allowance: findings from a face to face Survey commissioned by the Department of Work Pensions found that nearly a third of those going through the ESA process were described as having ‘literacy problems’. A further six per cent ‘problems speaking English’ and 11% had ‘numeracy problems’. Twenty two percent were described as in one or more disadvantaged groups including those with mental health issues, ex-offenders, and those with perceived learning difficulties.

An overwhelming 69% of those going through the WCA process had ‘multiple health conditions’. Those in the support group and in the ‘fit for work’ group both had the same number of ‘health conditions’ at 31.

In all groups 81% of people were receiving medical treatment for their condition, with 38% waiting for treatment or additional treatment [10] These statistics do not present us with a set of fraudsters pretending to be sick or disabled, nor a set of individuals who have been languishing on incapacity benefits for years, in fact 71% of applicants to ESA were new claimants making their first ever claim[11].

Newspaper headlines have also made much of the incomplete claims and those that ‘drop out’ of the testing system. This rhetorical demonising does not examine the process of WCA claims nor take into account the medical treatment. The first form that individuals will receive from Atos is an ESA50 form, of those surveyed almost half 46% said they found the form ‘difficult’ or that they were ‘unable to complete it’. An initial point for non-completion, others could be knocked off the system if Job Centre Plus decide that they have missed an appointment, or not responded to a letter without ‘good reason’. This would seem to complement the new punitive sanctions for universal credit and welfare reform first expressed in the Welfare Reform Bill.

The costs of tribunals, Atos contracts and the extra strain on the health service amount to a million pound fraud by successive governments. This does not count the human anxiety, misery or stress of the test, nor the suicides that have resulted because of it. Remarkably, Chris Grayling minister for employment (note minister for employment, not health or disability) said the government was making “almost constant improvements” to the WCA, but that he was “always willing to talk to the charities”, not disability organisations run and controlled by disabled then. He said “if we do something that does not prove to be the right thing, we will be happy to change it”[12]. The new set of training guidelines proves that changes have been made. However, these changes make the WCA more not less stringent, maybe the percentages of those declared ‘fit for work’ did not satisfy the existing regime.

New Training Guidelines for Atos ‘Health Care Professionals’ 2011

The training guidelines for the work capability assessment have made a number of changes which came into force in March 2011to be incorporated into a revised Work Capability Assessment. The text below is copied from the Department of Work and Pensions Training & Development Revised WCA Handbook ESA (LCW/LCWRA) Amendment Regulations 2011 version 2. The introduction states:

This handbook has been written to support Health Care Professionals (HCPs) trained in the principles of Disability Analysis; in their training and in performing medical assessments in relation to the Employment and Support Allowance Limited Capability for Work / Limited Capability for Work Related Activity (LCW/LCWRA) Amendment Regulations 2011. The amendment regulations of 2011 may also be referred to as “The Revised Work Capability Assessment” (Revised WCA).

Page 9 amazingly states: ‘The analysis of the data established that the WCA (ESA regulations 2008) was accurately identifying a person’s capability for work’.

However, an internal review produced the following recommendations. Text below is copied from pages 9-10 outlining the recommendations. Sections in bold are my own ‘disability analysis’.

Lower Limb Function

In this area, it was felt that the 2008 activities did not accurately reflect the level of function required for the modern workplace. As a result “walking” has been changed to “mobilising” to reflect the functionality of wheelchair users. It was also felt that considering standing and sitting abilities as separate entities was not relevant in the modern workplace and the new activity relates to the ability to remain at a workstation. In the 2008 descriptors, bending and kneeling were considered, however the ability to bend or kneel are no longer considered critical in the modern workplace, so this activity has been removed.

If you cannot stand, have difficulty sitting or cannot walk its OK because you have the ability to ‘remain at a workstation’ how you get to this ‘workstation’ is another matter. ‘fit for work’

 

Upper Limb Function

The review group felt that unilateral upper limb restriction would not significantly impact on an individual’s ability to work and therefore all descriptors now relate to bilateral restriction. As bilateral restriction is a significant issue, the manual dexterity scores have been revised to reflect this issue.

If you cannot move your arms, or hands presumably to type at your workstation ‘fit for work’ if you have no function in your legs but can mobilize 50 metres ‘fit for work’

Sensory Function

In the 2008 regulations, the activities in this area reflected impairment. Adaptation had not been taken into account in these areas. The review group felt that an individual’s ability to adapt must be taken into account and therefore the activity of vision has changed to the concept of being able to safely navigate. The activities of hearing and speech have been changed to the more functional concept of being able to receive communication and communicate with others.

If you are blind, deaf, Deaf or unable to speak you are ‘fit for work’ It’s about being able to safely navigate and receive communication and communicate with others, presumably with unavailable space age communication aids.

Continence

This made the assessment overly complex and thus the descriptors have been amended to reflect any loss of continence. The loss of dignity associated with incontinence has been reflected in the scoring of the descriptors.

Incontinence is too complex for the WCA but the loss of dignity is reflected in the new scoring ‘fit for work’

Consciousness

In this area, it was felt that infrequent loss of consciousness would not substantially impact on a person’s ability to work and therefore only those experiencing weekly or monthly episodes of loss of consciousness will be awarded scoring descriptors.

If you spontaneously lose consciousness once every five weeks ‘fit for work’

Mental Function

In understanding and focus, it was felt that the 2008 descriptors were complex and difficult to interpret. These have therefore been simplified. In the area of learning tasks, how an individual learns is no longer considered to be the crucial factor – it is their ability to learn that is considered. In awareness of hazard the review group felt the important issue in the workplace was to assess the level of risk for the person and others. The activity of personal action has been amended to reflect a person’s ability to prioritise and complete tasks.

In adapting to change, the highest descriptor reflects a total inability to cope with any change and is now a Support Group. In getting about, it was considered that the familiarity of a place was more important in functional terms rather than the frequency of ability to get to places.

In the area of social interaction, the review group felt the previous descriptors were rather negative in their wording and the new descriptors relate to ability to engage in social contact an individual’s ability to behave in an appropriate manner with others.

Mental functioning is too complex for the WCA it’s no longer about learning simple tasks, but an ability to learn. If you are familiar with a place (?) this is considered more important than your ability to get to that place or any place with which you are unfamiliar with (?) ‘fit for work’. If you are unable to deal with social contact that’s OK as long as you behave in an appropriate manner with others ‘fit for work’

The Decline of Welfare: the rise of private profit

Neither the PCA or the WCA were ever really centred on assessing peoples’ fitness for work; they were always part of a mutual linking between successive Government’s will to cut social claims on the state, insurance companies such as the discredited UnumProvident (now renamed Unum Group) in the early days, and private companies such as Atos’ willingness to meet targets while increasing profit.

The entire process is likely to cost the hallowed taxpayer more than the original benefits bill did, the cost of Atos contracts, the cost of tribunals, and the cost of addition health care caused by the misery of the WCA add to the higher long term costs. Yet, it’s all done under the guise of state efficiency and the market economy.

The WCA is about exploiting aspects of the social model to develop a badly mutated individualistic ‘can do’ attitude merged with a culture of blame for ‘can’t do’ aspects of bodies and minds in an increasingly disabling welfare reformist climate.

It is a publically sanctioned fraud that misrepresents and bastardises its claims to support people while simultaneously undermining the logic, and the economic and social realities of any reasonable employment criteria. In 2007 Rutherford argued:

Welfare reform exemplifies the transformation of the old style nation state into a new kind of ‘enabling’ market state. Instead of providing social protection, the market state offers ‘opportunities’ and ‘choice’ to ‘customers’, who in return must shoulder a greater degree of responsibility for their individual predicament… But the compact between the state and an individual whose life has been disrupted by disability or sickness is not an equal one… The history of the British welfare system has always been one of grudging, paternalistic and sometimes punitive forms of social protection. But even measured against its own limited ambitions, the future of welfare looks bleak[13].

Debbie Jolly is on twitter : @redjolly1


[1]Revised WCA Training & Development Revised WCA Handbook ESA (LCW/LCWRA) Amendment Regulations 2011 March 2011

[2] http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/jan/03/incapacity-benefit-compass-survey-dwp

[3] http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/feb/23/government-reform-disability-benefits?intcmp=239 ‘The Medical was a Joke’ February 23rd 2011

[4] Citizens Advice Scotland. The work capability assessment. 2010.www.cas.org.uk/Resources/CAS/Migrated Resources/Documents/CR Work capability assessment.

[5] http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/latest-news/971-appeals-president-slams-dwp-and-atos

[6] http://www.edinburghagainstpoverty.org.uk/node/38

[7] Quarterly Statistics for the Tribunals Service, 2ndquarter 2010-11 Ministry of Justice and Tribunals service 13th January 2011.

[8] Three- Quarters of Sickness Benefit Claims Fit to Work says DWP Helen Mulholland, Guardian 28th April 2011 http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/apr/28/three-quarters-sickness-benefit-claimants-fit-work

[9] Employment and Support Allowance: findings from a face to face survey, Helen Barnes, Paul Sissons and Helen Stevens DWP research report no 707 2010

http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/rports2009-2010/rrep707.pdf

[10] Employment and Support Allowance: findings from a face to face survey, Helen Barnes, Paul Sissons and Helen Stevens DWP research report no 707 2010

[11] Employment and Support Allowance: findings from a face to face survey, Helen Barnes, Paul Sissons and Helen Stevens DWP research report no 707 2010

[12] Work test reform plans could cause ‘confusion’ and ‘misery’http://www.bhfederation.org.uk/component/k2/item/1057-work-test-reform-plans-could-cause-%E2%80%98confusion%E2%80%99-and-%E2%80%98misery%E2%80%99.html January 2011

[13] New Labour, the market state, and the end of welfare, Jonathan Rutherford: Soundings 2007 http://www.lwbooks.co.uk/journals/articles/rutherford07.html

—Debbie Jolly

Debbie Jolly

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May 052011
 
Placard with words 'Atos does not give a toss'

Placard with words 'Atos does not give a toss'

The week of action against poverty pimps Atos Origin begins this Monday 9th May with a picnic and party in Triton Square, Euston, home of their head office, at 2pm.

Details of all confirmed events are below.  Please help us spread the word –
blog, post on facebook and forums, tweet and email all who may be interested.
For all links to more info/facebook pages etc please visit the website at:
http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/

Don’t forget the week long virtual protest against Atos,  let’s make sure Atos
Origin know exactly how we feel by contacting  them, complaining and exposing their grubby money making scheme which  has already led to suicides.  For full details, plus links to Atos blogs, facebook pages etc visit the website above.
Atos can be contacted direct on their handy freephone number: +44 (0)800 7833040 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +44 (0)800 7833040 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

London – Party and Protest in Triton Square
Monday, May 9:  2pm

Bring music, drums, banners, placards, food to share and brighten up  the
faceless corporate wasteland that is home to poverty pimps Atos  Origin Ltd.

Musicians, poets, orators, ranters, shouters, all benefit claimants  and
supporters welcome. Please help spread the word, invite your friends  and let’s make this the biggest stand against poverty pimps Atos Origin  so far.

Guardian journalist John Domokos will be there, he wants to investigate how  ATOS tests are being carried out. He is also very keen to attend a WCA test, and a tribunal, and try and record them so would like to meet some people who have been through it all ready.

Birmingham
Thursday, May 12 · 7:00pm – 10:00pm

Unison offices, 19th floor McClaren Tower, Priory Queensway. B4 7NN
Public Meeting: Benefit Cuts: Who are they targeting? How can we stop them? –
called by DPAC and Right To Work

Then on Friday May 13th at noon outside Waterstones bookshop opposite  bull
statue in Bullring centre join them for leafleting and street  theatre ‘ The
Computer Says NO’ an adaptation of a Brighton Benefit  Campaign play.

Bristol – 3.30-5.30 Thursday 12th May
After a previous successful demonstration outside ATOS, Flowers Hill,  voicing
our dissent at the way this Government is attacking the most  vulnerable in our
society and using ATOS as a way of doing it, we are  asking you join us for
another demonstration between 3.30-5.30 Thursday  12th May 2011 outside ATOS, Flowers Hill, Brislington.

Cardiff – Monday, May 9 · 12:30pm – 3:30pm
Disability Benefits Building, St Agnes Street, Gabalfa, Cardiff

As part of the National Week of Action against Benefit Cuts and Atos  Origin
kicking off on Monday 9th of May, we will be staging a protest  outside the
Disability Benefits Building at St. Agnes road, Gabalfa,  Cardiff.
Bring music, drums, banners, placards, snacks to share and brighten  up the
faceless corporate wasteland that is the Benefits Building!

Manchester – Wednesday, May 11 · 12:00pm – 3:00pm
Albert Bridge House, Bridge Street, Manchester

Called by Manchester Coalition Against Cuts. If your organisation would  like to

support this demonstration please contact:  coalitionagainstcuts  at gmail dot com

Liverpool – Picket Atos Origin
Monday, May 9 · 11:30am – 2:30pm
Atos Origin, The Plaza, Old Hall Street, Liverpool

As part of this week of action, Liverpool Solidarity Federation are  calling for

all those who stand in support of disabled people to join us  in a picket of
their offices in Liverpool the same day.
Assemble in The Plaza, Old Hall Street, at 11.30am on Monday 9th May. Bring
flags, banners, and placards.

Plymouth
Monday, May 9:  10am
Plymouth Claimants Union will be demonstrating outside the Atos Origin  Argosy
House , Marsh Mills , medical centre in Plymouth from 10.00 am  Monday 9th May.

Free transport from city centre.  Contact  plymouthclaimantsunion at yahoo dot co dot uk

Truro
There is now a Cornwall DPAC group formed which may be contacted at c.mccarther at sky dot com. We are holding a protest day in Truro and going to  the ATOSoffice. Meet outside Weatherspoons in Lemon Quay at 10.30am on  Wednesday May
11.

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May 042011
 
Eleanor Lisney and Bob Findlay

Eleanor Lisney and Bob Findlay

Today DPAC’s Eleanor Lisney and Bob Williams-Findlay joined the PCS and Unite in the fight in Birmingham to save the Equality and Human Rights Commission at Lancaster House.

Staff at the EHRC had voted overwhelmingly in favour 1 hour strikes over plans which would effectively close the Commission ending most of its advice services to the public and communities.  The first day of action is a one-hour walkout  is today 11am –12pm.

The government has already announced it is withdrawing funding for the Commission’s helpline and grants programme and the Commission has also decided to close its regional offices, including the office based in Birmingham covering the West Midlands Region.    These decisions will take effect by March 2012.

BACKGROUND

The Commission is proposing to more than halve the number of staff from 460 to 200 within 12 months –   PCS is calling on EHRC chair Trevor Phillips to reveal his plans for the future of the organisation, challenging him to define the ‘core functions’ which he claims will be protected. The government is currently consulting over the Commission’s future and is proposing to amend the Equality Act 2006 to strip the Commission of many of its key powers and duties.

When the Commission was formed in 2007 its budget was £70 million. This was later reduced to £60 million, then £53 million by the new government last year. The government now wants to cut funding down to £22.5 million by 2015.

Cuts on this scale would mean employers and public authorities would no longer be held to account if they carried out discriminatory policies, and would also effectively end the commission’s legal work – a recent example of which ensured six million carers in Britain are protected against discrimination in employment.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Our members are experts in their fields and this strike vote shows they are prepared to fight to maintain a proper national equality and human rights body at a time when government cuts are making it more likely people will face discrimination and disadvantage.

“We do not accept the need for these cuts and the commission should talk to us urgently about the alternatives which would end the need for a strike and protect the vital services our members provide.”

To support the campaign:

  • Ask your MP to sign Early Day Motion 923 to safeguard the remit, funding and staffing of the EHRC
  • write to Theresa May MP, Minister for Women and Equality and other Minsters you or your organisation may have close links with  asking them to maintain the EHRC functions servicing the communities.
  • Sign the petition http://www.gopetition.com/petition/43944.html.  Please sign the online petition against EHRC cuts and ask your friends & family to sign.

Ministers you might like to contact –

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 5206 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 020 7219 5206 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Fax: 020 7219 1145
mayt@parliament.uk

geo.corres@geo.gsi.gov.uk

Lynne Featherstone MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 8401 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 020 7219 8401 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Fax: 020 7219 0008
featherstonel@parliament.uk

Lynne.Featherstone@geo.gsi.gov.uk

The Government have started their public consultation into the future of the EHRC and PCS will be shortly producing a draft response which people can use should they wish to do so.   The consultation can be found here:      http://www.equalities.gov.uk/what_we_do/ehrc_reform.aspx

Photos can be found here – http://www.flickr.com/photos/disabledpeopleprotest/sets/72157626647211022/

There was also a demo/rally later with UNISON for CONNEXIONS workers.

The rally was  addressed by Graeme Horn, Birmingham UNISON Branch Secretary, Jagdish Singh a PCS representative from the Equality and Human Rights Commission who were today also on strike opposing 68% cuts in their service and the Birmingham City Council Labour group leader, Sir Albert Bore.

Report from Birmingham Against the Cuts about the demos http://birminghamagainstthecuts.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/pcs-and-connexions-strikes/

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May 022011
 

The Joint Committee of Human Rights, chaired by Dr Hywel Francis MP, was conducting an inquiry into the implementation of the right to independent living for disabled people, as guaranteed by Article 19, UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The Committee invited interested persons and groups to submit evidence on this issue and written submissions was to be given in by Friday 29th April 2011.

————————-

This response was submitted by Linda Burnip

SUMMARY

Without the right support to live independently in the community disabled people will continue to be excluded from society.

The proposed cuts by the coalition will result in further erosion of disabled people’s human rights to be able to live independently.

The Independent Living Strategy is meaningless when continent disabled people have basic support to go to the toilet withdrawn and are instead given packs of incontinence pads and waterproof sheets. (Kensington and Chelsea council). This is degrading and dehumanising but is justified as a money saving exercise.

Large numbers of disabled people are living in fear of their care packages being re-assessed. We believe that in a civilised society people should not have to live in fear just because they are, or become, disabled

We have been informed by a social worker that disabled people are no longer considered to need access to bathing facilities and that being able to strip wash is now considered adequate. (Birmingham City council)

Further cuts which local government are making to their budgets has resulted in many local authorities tightening their eligibility criteria for social care already leaving an ever increasing number of disabled people isolated in their own homes without the level of support they need to be included in society.

There must be a full commitment to uphold and fund our human rights including provision of fully accessible and affordable housing, inclusive design, new building of social housing, and enough resources to provide adaptations and aids where they are needed.

Disabled people’s access to equality and human rights cannot be held ransom to funding issues alone and there must be a financial commitment made and kept to meet disabled peoples’ human rights under UNCRPD.

Loss of the mobility component of DLA will deny many care home residents of a right to family life as they will no longer be able to afford to travel to see relatives.

Disabled people and user led organisations must be consulted about policy decisions.

The cuts proposed by the coalition government mean the UK will utterly fail to meet the convention rights guaranteed in Article 19 of the UNCRPD.

*********************************************

Disabled People Against Cuts is a pan-impairment user-led disabled people’s campaigning group set up to campaign against the many cuts to benefits and care funding which are now facing disabled people.

We have well over 2,000 supporters and many of their views and experiences, in particular living in fear, are reflected in our submission to the committee. Our recent virtual on-line campaign to coincide with the TUC march on March 26th had more than 250, 000 views over the week of and weekend of the march.

Recommendations we would like to see in the committee’s report

  • We would welcome the committee recommending that disabled people’s human rights must be upheld by any changes to legislation, and that any legislation that fails to encompass these rights is unlawful.
  • We would hope that the committee will recommend that the Independent Living Fund will not be abolished in 2015 and that it is reopened to new applicants forthwith, together with an adequate level of funding being made available to support disabled people to live independently.
  • We would further like to see the committee recommending that local authority social care budgets must be ring-fenced as we feel this is also essential. There should also be no increases in charges for care funding.
  • A programme of urgently building more, accessible and affordable social housing is a further necessity to enable independent living. This must be accompanied by the reversal of proposed changes to Housing Benefit and Local Housing Allowance until such time as there is an adequate supply of suitable social housing available for disabled people.

Should the right to independent living continue to form the basis for Government policy on disability in the UK?

What do we mean by IL?

Independent Living does not mean that we want to do everything by ourselves and do not need anybody or that we want to live in isolation.

Independent Living means that we demand the same choices and control in our every-day lives that our non-disabled brothers and sisters, neighbours and friends take for granted. We want to grow up in our families, go to the neighbourhood school, use the same bus as our neighbours, work in jobs that are in line with our education and interests, and start families of our own.

http://www.independentliving.org/def.html

Without the right to live independently in the community like non-disabled people disabled people will continue to be excluded from society, to face gross inequalities and to have their human rights under article 19 of the UNCRPD denied.  UNCRPD upholds the principle that disabled people including disabled women and children must be able to exercise  human rights on an equal basis to non-disabled people. As the UK has ratified the convention both current and new UK legislation should uphold disabled people’s convention rights. However at the moment disabled people are having their human rights stripped away from them one after another.

The proposed cuts by the coalition will result in further erosion of disabled people’s human rights and rights to live independently. This includes in many cases a drastic reduction in income, negative reforms of the current systems of welfare to cuts to social housing, adaptations, housing benefits, and loss public sector jobs. All of these changes will negatively affect disabled people including disabled children and their families disproportionately.

Do existing policy statements, including the Independent Living Strategy, represent a coherent policy towards the implementation of the obligations in Article 19 of the UN Disability Rights Convention? Could current policy be improved? If so, how?

While the existing policy statements sound coherent as they stand the reality of what is happening in practice is very different and far from what is intended in the substance. In no way are the stated policy objectives being met.

The Independent Living Strategy is meaningless when support for disabled people for personal care as basic as going to the toilet is withdrawn and replaced by packs of incontinence pads and waterproof sheets when the service user in not incontinent (Kensington and Chelsea council). This is degrading and dehumanising but has been justified as a money saving exercise.

In many cases personalisation has not meant an improvement in choice and control over their lives for disabled people but rather a rationalisation of services and a reduction in care funding allocated and/or a huge increase in charges which disabled people have to pay towards the care provided. (Warwickshire and Dudley councils). We have been informed by a social worker that disabled people are no longer considered to need access to bathing facilities and that being able to strip wash is now considered adequate. (Birmingham City council)

Further cuts which local government are making to their budgets has resulted in many local authorities tightening their eligibility criteria for social care which leaves an ever increasing number of disabled people isolated in their own homes without the level of support they need to be included in society.

There is no point therefore in central government putting forward independent living strategies which are meaningless without the necessary financial commitment to implement them at a local level. There must be a full commitment to uphold and fund our human rights including provision of fully accessible and affordable housing, inclusive design, new building of social housing, and enough resources to provide adaptations and aids where they are needed.

There must be as a minimum an adequate level of community support resources to support disabled people not only to live in the community securely and in adequate comfort, but to be fully included in society. At the moment all the legislative changes proposed and cuts to services are resulting in moving further away rather than moving closer to this.

The plans to close the Independent Living Fund from 2015 to save money and not provide anything to replace it with are totally unsatisfactory. Disabled people’s access to equality and human rights cannot be dependent on funding issues alone and there must be a financial commitment made and kept to meet disabled people’s human rights under UNCRPD.  Cuts to legal aid funding which will restrict disabled people’s ability to challenge any cuts and human rights abuses further mean that for disabled people to be assured of their convention rights there must be a system of monitoring and sanctions for those who do not adhere to these principles.

What steps, if any, should the coalition Government, the Scottish Government or other public agencies take better to meet the obligations in Article 19 and to secure the right to independent living for all disabled people in the UK?

There is little point in ministers saying they wish to support those in greatest need when their actions prove these words meaningless. Disabled people and the disabled people’s movement have been fighting the same battles for over 30 years, yet rather than independent living being a closer reality it is now being threatened with extinction. There is no commitment on the part of the current government to support or fund this. If the right to independent living is lost then disabled people’s right to equality and human rights will be set back 30 years.

When similar changes were made to independent living funding in Norway the changes led to a large increase in the numbers of disabled people admitted to hospital for a long time and massive increases in costs to the state. Part of the Independent Living Strategy is to provide preventative services to disabled people to prevent this but in reality these too do not exist.

Article 19 stresses that people should be able to choose where and with whom they live with the support necessary to meet their needs. However much of the proposed legislation is severely eroding this. In particular disabled peoples’ human rights under Article 19 are being seriously undermined through caps on housing benefit in social housing, removal of the security of tenure from social housing, increases in social housing rents, planned removal of housing benefit payment for all rooms in a property from 2013 so that the full rent disabled tenants pay for social housing properties will no longer be covered. This is already the case for those living in the private rented sector.

Changes to Local Housing Allowance for those unable to get social housing and who rent in the private rented sector will further prevent convention rights under Article 19 being met. These changes include limiting the amount of LHA available to the 30th percentile rate will make it much more difficult, if not impossible, for someone who has additional housing needs such as a requirement for a larger property to turn a wheelchair in, or a person who needs extra space for equipment to find anywhere suitable to rent at a price they can afford. Disabled children still have no right to funding for an extra, separate bedroom to meet their needs regardless of the severity of their impairment.

Supported housing schemes are also under threat of being lost due to lack of funding.

The other important aspect of independent living however is the provision of the right level of support which is now in severe danger of ceasing to exist in many cases.

If you consider changes to policies, practices or legislation in the UK are necessary, please explain.

From what has already been said previously I think there is an urgent need for changes to policies, practices, and legislation. Eligibility criteria and access to care funding should be the standardised and provided adequately in all local authorities. Whether or not disabled people can access the homes and care and support funding they need to live independently should not be a postcode lottery.

Impact of funding on the right to independent living

The Committee would particularly welcome evidence on these recent developments:

The decision, announced in the CSR, to remove the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance for all people living in residential care

Changes to the Independent Living Fund

The removal of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance announced in the CSR will impact negatively on  the quality of life for those living in residential homes. Those people who currently receive only about £22 a week to meet all non-mobility needs will lose the major part of their income affecting their capacity to purchase mobility aids, and pay for transport to be any part of the community at all. In numerous cases losing the mobility component of DLA will deny such residents a right to family life as they will no longer be able to afford to travel to see relatives.

If mobility allowance is removed from those who are spending their mobility component on mobility aids such as a wheelchair or scooter do we assume these items will be taken away from them when they lose entitlement to mobility allowance. We do not feel the full consequences of this proposed policy change has been properly or sensibly thought through.

The closure of the Independent Living fund is one of the most obvious and vicious attacks by the government in undermining the principles of independent living. While it has been agreed that 23,000 ‘severely disabled’ people will stay on the scheme until 2015 there are no plans after that date for this funding to be replaced in any other way.

We have yet to see how the planned abolition of DLA including the higher rate – a marker for continued entitlement to ILF will affect existing claimants. Further, Adult Social Care in many areas have raised eligibility thresholds while increasing charges, leading to cases already where disabled people although pre-existing  ILF claimants now fail to reach the qualifying threshold and therefore have lost their entitlement too.( Nottingham City council, Buckinghamshire council)

Young disabled people are already being denied the opportunity to go to university due to the closure of Independent Living Fund to new applicants and lack of alternative support funding from social services. This will obviously have a very negative effect on their life chances overall.

“the Big Society”Restrictions on local authority funding, social care budgets and benefits reassessments

Many local authorities have raised their charges for care, and some disabled people are now paying for their care( up to £50 per week) for the first time ever. Social workers are saying that disabled people will be lucky if they reach the qualifying criteria. Benefit reassessments are causing the most severe emotional and financial destruction.

The threat of the loss of care funding which would lead to an inability to continue to live independently means that large numbers of disabled people are living in fear of their care packages being re-assessed. We believe that in a civilised society people should not have to live in fear just because they are, or become, disabled.

Increased focus on localisation and its potential impact on care provision, and specifically, on portability of care and mobility for disabled people

Care provision should be the same regardless of where someone lives and in order to be treated on equal terms to non-disabled people it is essential that disabled people should be able to move and take their care package with them.

What impact does funding have on the ability of the UK to secure the right to independent living protected by Article 19 of the UN Disability Rights Convention?

The cuts proposed by the coalition government mean that the UK will utterly and totally fail to meet the convention rights guaranteed in Article 19 of the UNCRPD.

How will recent policy and budgetary decisions impact on the ability of the UK to meet its obligation under Article 19 to protect the right of all persons to independent living?

There will be no right to independent living at all.

Participation and consultation
What steps should the Government take to meet its obligations under the Disability Rights Convention to involve disabled people in policy development and decision-making, including in budget decisions such as the Comprehensive Spending Review?

Governments should include all user led disability organisations. While the current practice is to engage with charities they put forward views FOR disabled people not the views OF disabled people, and only user led organisations and disabled people can do this. In particular the National Centre for Independent Living is a long standing user-led organisation which sees the impacts of the cuts and proposed cuts.
Meetings across the country would also be useful so that the views of a sample of local CILs can be included and they can also be involved with meeting ministers. Responses to written consultations seem to be being ignored and it is not clear how much or how often points raised within them are taken on board.
A government with a commitment to disabled people should accept that disabled peoples’ views represent the expert views on living in a disabling society.

Are the current arrangements for involvement of disabled people in policy development and decision-making working?

No the proposed cuts shows this is not the case. The governments’ misinformation eg. that DLA was  a benefit that prevents disabled people from working was a major error repeated by the media. Whether the government still incorrectly believe this is unclear, however it shows they have a serious lack of understanding about disability and disability issues.

There is growing concern that paper consultations are worthless, eg. the implementation of the Universal Credit was announced on the morning that the consultation on this closed. This gives the impression that responding to government consultations is pointless and what is said will be ignored anyhow.

Disabled people resent token consultations and want on-going involvement, to be listened to seriously and to be accepted as the experts on disability, disabling barriers and disabling policies.

One clear example is the Work Capability Assessment  (WCA) for entitlement to ESA carried out at an additional massive cost to the tax payer by ATOS. Despite the fact that with representation 70% of those refused ESA win at appeal, despite the Harrington report, complaints by DPOs and CABs we are still hearing stories of individuals being declared ‘fit for work’ and placed into the work ready group when they have terminal illness, months to live, severe mental health conditions, and/or need 24 hour support. Nobody is asking the relatives of those who have committed suicide through the loss of benefits, nor those who threaten to why they feel they need to take this action.

Monitoring the effective implementation of the Convention

What steps should Government take to ensure that disabled people’s views are taken into account when drafting their reports to the UN under the UNCRPD?

There are already a range of groups involved in this for England: UKDPC, EHRC, and Disability Rights Watch. Local user-led organisations run and controlled by disabled people should also be encouraged to provide input into this through shadow reports detailing real life examples. Local groups should also be given the support and funding to establish a base-line measurement of where their area is in satisfying the key articles of the convention.

This would be of use in the intervening years until the next monitoring report is due in helping to of identify the impact of the cuts, the impact on independent living, and measurement of those things that may have improved. (although with current policies and practices this latter is unlikely to happen).

Most importantly ministers and others involved in making policy decisions should consult more widely with disabled people themselves. In particular the voices of those who are most disenfranchised and rarely are able to attend public consultations should be listened to. Those individuals who are least likely to get involved in reporting any failures to meet their convention rights should be actively sought out and their views noted and acted upon.

Often what such people experience is outside of the experience of those groups of disabled people such as Equality 2025 who do advise the government at present. Members of Equality 2025 are disabled people who have managed to negotiate the many barriers disabled people face relatively successfully but they often do not represent the views of those who have not.

As part of the national monitoring mechanism, what steps should the EHRC, NIHRC and SHRC take to ensure that the Convention is implemented effectively?

The EHRC, NIHRC, and SHRC should be a completely independent body not responsible to government in any way. It should have much stronger powers to enforce the convention. EHRC is currently viewed as weak in using its enforcement and other powers and this could be further undermined if the proposed cuts to staffing levels goes ahead. Sanctions for breaking the convention should be imposed at both national and local levels.

Linda Burnip

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