Sep 302011
 
Black Triangle Atos Death

Black Triangle Atos Death

From Black Triangle against Atos

News from Oxford Atos Protest

Norwich demo against Atos

Sack ATOS PROTEST, organised by disabled people united Sheffield, supported by UKuncut Sheffield…Green Party S.W.P. Legal Aid campaign, S.A.C.A. (Sheffield Anti cuts alliance) and apols if anyone missed out, people came and went so a steady protest.

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Sep 302011
 
Atos kill banner with 2 people in body bags

Atos kill! Birmingham

Birmingham – Friday, September 30 · 12:00pm – 2:00pm
Five Ways House, Islington Row, Middleway, B15 1SF

Report and more photos at Birmingham Against the Cuts

Protestors against Atos London

Atos kills - Protestors against Atos London

London BMJ Recruitment Fair, Islington

Report and more photos from Indymedia London

video and blog from Harpy Marx Atos kills

More to come soon!

Rob Murthwaite on CH 4

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Sep 292011
 

Sunday 23rd October, 11am-5pm
Somers Town Community Centre, 150 Ossulston Street, London, NW1 1EE
(5 minutes walk from Euston, St Pancras and Kings Cross stations)
Wheelchair accessible

Join us for a meeting with like-minded people to share ideas and strategise to stop the government’s attacks on welfare.
Welfare is being systematically attacked:
  • Unemployed people are being forced to work without pay.
  • Disabled people are being deprived of their entitlement to benefits through the devastating Work Capability Assessment process.
  • People can now be left destitute for up to two years through benefit sanctions.
  • The right to housing is under attack: Housing benefit cuts are set to make thousands homeless. The right-wing called for evictions in response to the riots, even before courts had found people guilty.
  • Private companies stand to make millions through bullying claimants on the Work Programme.
  • Legal aid cuts make it harder to challenge bad treatment.
  • The only benefit that was available to people under 18 – EMA – has been abolished by this government.
  • Single mothers are being forced to be job-seekers when their children are at an even younger age.
  • Asylum seekers are forced to survive on incomes far below benefit levels, which are already set at subsistence level.
  • The full impact that the Universal Credit will have is yet to be understood.
But people across the UK are organising to defend welfare. The Boycott Workfare campaign recently forced the “Making Work Pay” conference to relocate at short notice. Atos, the private company responsible for depriving hundreds of thousands of people of sickness benefits, has had many of its offices occupied, costing it thousands of pounds. Claimants are sharing information on how to challenge the bullying and discrimination that is rife in the new set-up.

This gathering is open to everyone who wants to take action to defend welfare.
We are a claimant-led network – our response to welfare reforms is led by people who feel their effects the most – but the attacks on welfare will affect us all whether we are in work or may need welfare as parents, if we become unemployed, due to sickness or disability, or as pensioners.
We plan to run the day with lots of discussion and chances to share ideas and information in workshops and an open space session where we can set the agenda on the day. If you can offer a workshop or would like to propose something for the agenda, please get in touch.
Please help make the day happen:
  • Let us know you can make it!
  • The network does not have any funding, so if your group or union branch can make a contribution to the costs of the room or participants’ travel, please help raise funds for it. Groups and individuals may want to approach union branches or organise fundraisers to raise funds for your travel.
  • Let us know if you can help with food, childcare or facilitation on the day.
  • Forward this invite to anyone else you know who might be interested, post it on your blog or social media; mention it at meetings, and help spread the word!

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Sep 292011
 

Towns and cities around the UK will see protests tomorrow (30th September) against Atos, the IT Company responsible for carrying out the con-dem government’s Work Capability Assessment.  As part of a National Day of Action Against Atos, organised by disability, claimant and anti-cuts activists, people will be gathering outside Atos’ offices in Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham, Brighton, Chatham, Cheshire, Birmingham, Glasgow, Hasting, Norwich, Oxford, Bristol, Chester, Plymouth, Sheffield and York.

In London a demonstration is being held outside the BMJ Careers Fair where Atos will be exhibiting in an attempt to recruit doctors to work on their Disability Assessment teams.  Thousands of people have been denied or stripped of vital benefit because of decisions made based on Atos’ assessment procedure which involves a short interview and a computer based test.  Many people have had conditions worsened, either by being forced into the workplace, having much needed money withdrawn or the stress of the assessment process, which has been described as relentless.  Sadly some have taken their own lives after hearing of Atos and the DWP’s decisions to remove their benefits.  Even people with cancer and other terminal illnesses have been deemed ‘fit for work’.  The government has pledged that this form of testing will be extended to all disability and health related benefits.

This week over one hundred groups and individuals signed a letter to the BMJ and the RCN urging them to stop allowing Atos to recruit at their events and in their publications: http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/open-letter-on-atos-healthcare-to-the-bmj-and-rcn/

An online protest will see companies and organisations which do business with Atos contacted and informed of this company’s ‘callous and cruel’ treatment of disabled and sick people.

Supporters of Disabled People Against Cuts have said that “As long as ATOS continues to treat disabled claimants little better than animals they will continue to protest against them and seek means to discredit them.”

The Day of Action has been called by a range of different groups and organisations throughout the UK.  For the full list of supporting organisations and further details of all protests please visit the website at: http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/

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 Posted by at 17:32
Sep 292011
 

Poet, artist and campaigner, Vince Laws, has launched a collection of ‘Atos Kills’ funeral cards in the Tate Modern whilst having his portrait painted. The limited edition collection comprises six cards with hand-written texts in black and red biro.

‘Who gives Atos about the sick?’ asks the first.
‘Atos is a French IT company, paid £100 million a year by the government to take benefits away from the sick’ reads the second.
‘Atos Kills’ [allegedly] states the third boldly. ‘Poet Paul Reekie killed himself in June 2010. He left out 2 letters informing him that his Incapacity Benefit and his Housing Benefit had been stopped.’

Card four reads: ‘Last year despite support from my GP, HIV consultant and psychologist – I scored zero points on an Atos medical and my benefits were stopped. I wasn’t even informed. This is no way to treat a mental.’

Card five: ‘Atos has just sponsored the Paralympics in London 2012. The Paralympians must refuse this money – which has been stolen from the sick and disabled.’

The final card reads ‘I went to Atos for a medical last Thursday. Did I get any points? Day of Protest – September 30th – outside Atos offices nationwide.’

Vince has been invited to sit for a portrait by the artist Tanya Raabe as part of the Revealing Culture: Head On Collection. The sitting was open to the public on Wednesday 21 September in the Tate Modern, where Vince’s ‘Atos Kills’ funeral cards were on display.

www.vincelaws.com

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 Posted by at 17:27
Sep 292011
 

With World Mental Health week fast approaching, South East London Mad Pride has outdone themselves this time putting together a celebratory musical feast.

Friday week – October 7th – at the Montague Arms we have a spectacular concert for your delectation.

Listen to this highly topical song recorded in 1970. Picture if you will, members of the present ruling govermental Coalition, as you do so.

Out Demons Out. Indeed.

THE 7th ANNUAL ‘CELEBRATION OF CREATIVE LUNACY’

FRIDAY 7th OCTOBER –8PM until MIDNIGHT’

@THE MONTAGUE ARMS
289 QUEENS RD
NEW Cross
London SE15

Dave Skull writes:

IT WILL BE STAGED AS ANOTHER FUNDRAISER FOR THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST WELFARE BENEFITS CUTS.

ADMISSION WILL BE – £5 / £2 CONCESSIONS

THE ARTISTS FEATURED WILL BE –

THE LEGENDARY – EDGAR BROUGHTON – Original ‘Alternative Culture’ legend – We are especially pleased that EDGAR has offered to do a gig in support of our cause- a real ‘cultural hero’ – still true to the firm – this marks a rare London appearance – a real treat and a ‘must see’ – don’t miss out on this.

PARADISE 9 – Psychedelic ‘space cadet’s’ fresh from a mission to the outer edge of the galaxy to bring you back to earth with their incisive ‘real politic’ lyrics-

THE STRANGE AGENCY – featuring former SE London ‘face’ the aptly named Mr Craig High – a MAD PRIDE and BONKERSFEST veteran – this razor sharp twin guitar psychedelic punk attack is the perfect foil for Mr High’s in your face polemics – to quote the man ‘don’t let the bastards grind you down – had been due to play at the ‘Feast of Fools’ event in April – but venue management f**k ups left us cut short of agreed time and they and eager punters were (as well as us) were disappointed – now back with a vengance-

COME EARLY TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT – WE ARE ANTICIPATING THE PLACE WILL BE RAMMED – WE HAVE A FULL BILL AND THE ENTERTAINMENT WILL KICK OFF FROM AROUND 8.30 PM –

ALSO FEATURING ARE

DAVID STUDDERT – a gritty but sensitive singer song writer – originally from Oz and something of a ‘world citizen’ – ‘one of the best singer songwriters around’ steeped in the bohemian tradition – also known for running his own ‘Backfire Cool’ events.

‘SURVIVOR’S POETRY’ FOUNDER – ‘THE POET LAUREATE OF HACKNEY’ – LONG TIME MAD PRIDE SUPPORTER – A LEGEND – FRANK BANGAY. Frank specifically requested to do a spot as he is a big fan of EDGAR BROUGHTON and we were happy to oblige as we are always keen to feature his sensitive and evocative poetry.
See also: the story of Frank Bangay

Our regular MC will be the unequivical JASON WHY (we continue to ask ourselves) – who has promised to sneak in a couple of unplanned ‘open mic’ performers –

our regular VJ the FLICKERING LIGHT will be providing original and stunning animations to add to the overall effect –

BE WARNED – EXPOSURE TO THIS KIND OF STUFF CAN SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOUR NORMALITY –

buses 36/ 171/ 177 / 436 stop right near the Venue – located nearby to NEW X FIRE STATION –

QUEENS RD PECKHAM BR Station is nearby (trains from London Bridge) – it is a short walk from NEW X GATE BR(East London Line) and NEW X BUS GARAGE.

BE GOOD TO SEE YOU THERE TO ENJOY A GREAT NIGHT OUT IN SUPPORT OF AN IMPORTANT CAUSE (FOR A VALUE FOR MONEY PRICE)

SPECIAL THANKS TO ALL THE ARTISTS WHO HAVE DONATED THEIR SERVICES FREE IN SUPPORT OF THE CAMPAIGN

‘POWER TO YOU ALL – PEACE’ – Dave Skull

FOR MORE INFO CALL – 077 577 15035

or check out:
Creative Lunacy Gig – Edgar Broughton – Press Release & Pix and the poster (by the marvellous Jem Soar) Poster version for Edgar Broughton gig (pdf format)
Hope to see you there
yours in solidarity
madpridemark

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 Posted by at 17:21
Sep 282011
 

cross posted from: National Protest Against Benefit Cuts

Dr Michael ChamberlainChairman, BMJ (British Medical Journal) Group Board

Andrea Spyropoulos, President, Royal College of Nursing

Dear Dr Chamberlain and Andrea Spyropoulos,

Re: Atos Healthcare and parent company Atos Origin

As sick and disabled people, carers and other concerned people, including professionals, we are writing to you to urge the Royal College of Nursing and BMJ Group to immediately end your relationship with Atos, including stopping any advertising of Atos jobs or Atos the company on your websites, and not having Atos at the RCN Bulletin Jobs Fair 13-14 September, or the BMJ recruitment fair 30 September to 1 October 2011 in London.

As you know, Atos currently has a £100m a year contract with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to carry out examinations for disability benefits.

We are outraged that Atos is profiting from denying those of us who are sick or disabled, the benefits we need to survive and maintain our level of health.  In May, at the protest outside Atos headquarters, a number of people spoke about our experiences of the examination, being denied benefit and having to appeal to get it back.  One woman testified that her brother, who had severe depression, committed suicide after being cut off.  See:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/video/2011/may/11/disability-protest-atos-origin-video

The media have exposed more of the dire consequences of Atos’ decisions.  In February, the Daily Mirror highlighted the case of a Derbyshire man with a heart condition, found fit for work, who had to go through tribunal to appeal, then was awarded Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) but died of a heart attack the day before his next Atos exam was due.

Channel 4 News report on 27 July 2011 acknowledged what thousands have been saying: it interviewed the heartbroken partner of a critically ill man whom Atos denied his entitlement on grounds that he was ‘fit for work’ – he died less than three months later. How many more people have died following such cruel and callous treatment?  The coverage was prompted by a Parliamentary report from the Work and Pensions Committee of MPs, in which they criticised Atos.  Atos the powerful multinational has taken vindictive action against disabled people and carers’ websites where it is criticised, getting sites closed down which isolated people rely on for support.

In August, the Guardian reported that 12 Atos doctors are under investigation by the General Medical Council for improper conduct. The article referred to numerous previous cases and investigations by other bodies.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/aug/13/atos-doctors-improper-conduct-disability

A nurse in Scotland was so shocked at Atos’s behaviour that she blew the whistle on them.  She said that people with serious lung diseases were found fit for work as long as they could sit in front of a computer, and that parents who attend with their children are automatically found fit for work.  And Atos is investigating staff, one a nurse, who used their Facebook pages to insult people as “parasitic wankers” and “down and outs”.

According to DWP figures, only 6% of those who have been assessed are placed in the Support Group of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) which exempts them from the work conditions now attached to benefit.  (This 6% includes claimants whom the DWP has already exempted from the Atos examination because their condition is so serious.)  http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/workingage/esa_wca/esa_wca_27072010.pdf

The Royal College of Psychiatrists and many others have strongly criticised the devastating effect the Atos exam and cuts have had on patients. http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/may/31/incapacity-benefit-cuts-mental-health

GP Margaret McCartney, writing in the BMJ, has questioned the ethics of doctors performing assessments without access to patients’ medical records, and the lack of specialist knowledge of physiotherapists and general nurses employed by Atos. (BMJ 2011; 342:d599. Full article attached.)

Since 1995, when medical assessments for incapacity benefit were privatised and taken out of public services, standards have steadily declined.  But Atos has brought this to a new low.  While none of the work tests deserve to be called a “medical” as they have no basis in patient welfare, since Atos started carrying out the ESA tests in 2008, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people with severe illness and disability being assessed as fit for work and denied benefits.

This has been clear for some time.  In 2009, ‘Who’s Cheating Who?’, a BBC Scotland documentary, highlighted the plight of June Mitchell who applied for sickness benefit.  When examined by Atos, she complained of breathlessness and feeling tired.  She was scored zero points and found fit for work.  She went back to her GP, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and died shortly afterwards.

Doctors’ and nurses’ ethics are being corrupted by Atos’ offers of higher salaries and daytime reduced work hours.  Some doctors have tried to argue that their duty to patients does not apply when assessing benefit claimants on behalf of Atos.  But the General Medical Council has upheld that doctors are always bound by this duty whether seeing patients, employees (when assessing occupational health), benefit and insurance claimants, athletes, among others (see attached response from the Standards & Fitness to Practise Directorate).

As doctors and nurses are enticed into privatisation, and cases of criminal negligence and even murder in hospitals and care homes hit the headlines, patients and their loved ones are increasingly speaking out against the indifference and cruelty they face at the hands of those paid to protect them.

Claimants rightly fear that most Atos assessors are uncaring and prejudiced – they work to targets which have nothing to do with patients’ individual health needs or with the realities of the job market which sick and disabled people are being thrown into.  The stress of the Atos examinations has hastened deaths and caused a number of people to commit suicide.  For many others, it is exacerbating their already fragile health condition.

Atos kills.  Medical professionals who lend it credibility give it a licence to kill.  We call on the BMJ Group and RCN to end all association with Atos, and on doctors and nurses to defend patients and uphold our welfare.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Benefit Claimants Fightback notowelfarecuts@yahoo.co.uk

Black Triangle info@blacktrianglecampaign.org

Defend Welfare network

Disabled People Against Cuts mail@dpac.uk.net

WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities)

And: (full list of signatories at 27 September 2011):

Niki Adams, Legal Action for Women

Peter Ambrose, Visiting Professor in Housing and Health, University of Brighton

Cristel Amiss, Black Women’s Rape Action Project

Arts Against Cuts

Kate Atherton, UK Uncut

Professor Peter Beresford OBE, Brunel University and Chair, Shaping Our Lives

Sue Bott, Director, National Centre for Independent Living

Brighton & Hove TUC Unemployed Workers Centre

Brighton Disabled People Against Cuts

Linda Burnip, Debbie Jolly, Eleanor Lisney, Disabled People Against Cuts (UK)

Sara Callaway, Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike

Julia Cameron, Islington Disabled People Against Cuts

Dr Stephen M Carty, GP, Edinburgh

Roderick Cobley, Chair, London Autistic Rights Movement (personal capacity)

Dr Jillian Creasy, GP, Green Party councillor for Central ward, Sheffield

Liz Crow, Roaring Girl Productions

Dr Paul A. Darke, Outside Centre

Rhian Davies, Chief Executive, Disability Wales (and Rhyan Berrigan, Tania Bhutto – member, Maggie Hayes – intern, Paul Swann – policy officer, Independent Living)

Nyami Enyako, Rehabilitation Officer with Visually Impaired People,  Sensory Services, London Borough of Lambeth

Kirsten Forkert, University and College Union (personal capacity)

Mat Fraser, actor and writer

Glasgow Coalition of Resistance

Claire Glasman, WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities)

Anat Greenstein, Research Institute of Health and Social Change,  Manchester Metropolitan University

Helmut Heib, National Union of Teachers (personal capacity)

Dr Marion Hersh, University of Glasgow

Sarah Hitchings, Lewes Stop The Cuts

Cat Hobbs, Oxford Save Our Services

Islington Poverty Action Group

Michael Kalmanovitz, Payday men’s network

Michael Lavalette, National Convenor, Social Work Action Network

Jill Leigh, BA, CQSW., Dip Counselling.

Lesbian Bi Trans Queer in the Global Women’s Strike

Lewisham Anti-Cuts Alliance

Phil Lockwood, Information Co-ordinator & Webmaster, Black Triangle

London Coalition Against Poverty

Nina López, Global Women’s Strike

Adam Lotun, Disability Risk Management & Reasonable Adjustments,               Consultant, Workplace Disability Adjustments

Marie Lynam, Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group

Nushra Mansuri, British Association of Social Workers

John McArdle, Black Triangle Anti-Defamation Campaign In Defence of        Disability Rights

Gillian McDonald, RMN, NHS Lothian

John McDonnell MP

Denise McKenna, Mental Health Resistance Network

Ronan McNern, Queer Resistance

Cari Mitchell, English Collective of Prostitutes

Dan Morton, Social Work Action Network ( London )

Stella Mpaka, All African Women’s Group

Rev Paul Nicolson, Chair, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust

Notts Save Our Services — http://nottssos.org.uk

Notts Uncut

Nurses Against Atos

Andrew Osborne, Cambridgeshire Against the Cuts

Anna Owens, secretary, PCS Revenue & Customs branch committee

Redhill Coalition Against Cuts

Ian Sandeman, DLA Help Group

Bill Scott, Manager, Inclusion Scotland (personal capacity)

Dave Sherry, Secretary, UNITE Scottish Housing Branch

Dr Ron Singer, president, Medical Practitioners’ Union, the doctors’ section of UNITE

Dave Skull, South East London Mad Pride

Kim Sparrow, Single Mothers’ Self-Defence

Phil Stevens, Director, Wales Council for the Blind (representing over 63 separate visual impairment groups providing support and assistance to visually impaired people – including list below**)

Russell Stronach, co-Chair, Autistic Rights Movement UK

Peter Tatchell, Peter Tatchell Foundation

The Cuts Won’t Work

Pip Tindall, Brighton Benefits Campaign

Johnny Void, Benefit Claimants Fightback

Welfare Action Hackney

Vin West, Secretary, Arfon Access Group

Alan Wheatley, Green Party TU Group Disability Spokesperson

Alison Wilde, Bangor University

Rick Wilson, Community Lives Consortium, Wales (personal capacity)

Dr Sarah Woodin, University of Leeds (personal capacity)

Dr Felicity de Zulueta, Emeritus Consultant Psychiatrist in Psychotherapy at the SLaM NHS Foundation Trust and Hon. Senior Lecturer in Traumatic Studies at KCL

**Amman Valley Blind Society, Ammanford Blind Society, Bridgevis, Brynamman Blind Society, Carmarthen Area Blind Society, Carmarthenshire County Blind Society, Ceredigion Association for the Blind, Cwmamman Blind Society, In-Sight, Llandeilo Blind Society, Llandovery & District Blind Association, Llandybie Blind Society, Llanelli Blind Society, LOOK, Merthyr Tydfil Institute for the Blind, Monmouth Visually Impaired Club, Mynydd Mawr Blind Society, North Wales Welsh Cassette Service, Partially Sighted Society, Pembrokeshire Blind Society, Radnorshire Association for the Blind, Rhondda Blind Society, Rhuddlan Borough Talking Newspaper, South Wales Talking Magazine Association, Vision Support, Visual Impairment Breconshire, Visual Impairment West Glamorgan, Visually Impaired Merthyr Tydfil, Visually Impaired Children Taking Action

Cc

Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of the British Medical Association dwestaway@bma.org.uk

Dr Brian Keighley, BMJ Deputy Chairman, Scottish Council BMAWales@bma.org.uk
Northern Ireland BMANorthernIreland@bma.org.uk
BMJ press dept:  edickinson@bmjgroup.com

Margaret McCartney GP margaret@margaretmccartney.com

Jane O’Brien, Assistant Director of Standards, General Medical Council  jobrien@gmc-uk.org

REFERENCES

http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.d1155.full/reply#bmj_el_251102

Response from the General Medical Council

·         Jane O’Brien, Assistant Director, Standards & Fitness to Practise Directorate

General Medical Council, 350 Euston Road , London , NW1 3JN

“Edward Cooper is mistaken that the principle of making the care of your patients your first concern does not apply to doctors when they are assessing benefits claimants on behalf of ATOS. Our guidance is for all doctors and in the guidance we use the term ‘patient’ to refer to anyone whom doctors test, treat or assess in their professional capacity as a doctor. This includes amongst others, employees, benefits and insurance claimants, and athletes.

“The first duty of all doctors is ‘to make the care of your patient your first concern’. But that is not the only duty doctors must observe. Being open and honest and acting with integrity is also an essential part of medical professionalism. Good Medical Practice provides guidance, not a set of rules, so doctors must use their judgement to apply the duties and principles defined in our guidance to the various situations they face as a doctor, whether or not they routinely see patients in a therapeutic or any other role.

Dishonesty in writing reports cannot be justified by reference to the first duty of doctors. Further advice on disclosing information for employment, insurance and similar purposes can be found here: http://www.gmc- uk.org/Confidentiality_disclosing_info_insurance_2009.pdf_27493823.pdf

Competing interests: None declared

Published 7 March 2011

http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.d599.full.html?ijkey=1MHG4NxT0uJX4Lq&keytype=ref

BMJ 2011; 342:d599 doi: 10.1136/bmj.d599 (Published 2 February 2011)

Cite this as: BMJ 2011; 342:d599

·         Feature

·         Medical Work Assessments

Well enough to work?

1.       Margaret McCartney, general practitioner Glasgow

1.       margaret@margaretmccartney.com

Increasing numbers of people previously deemed medically unfit to work are being taken off state benefits after assessments by a doctor. Margaret McCartney investigates the ethics and fairness of the system

A medical degree can open all sorts of doors. One is the brown and tinted glass entrance of the Atos Healthcare offices in Glasgow , where I checked that my name was on the list held by the security guard at the desk. This recruitment evening was for doctors, nurses, and physiotherapists interested in working with this French information technology firm, which is subcontracted to the Department for Work and Pensions to provide work capability assessments.

In November last year Atos announced a three year extension to its contract with the department, worth £300m (€350m; $480m), to “support the UK government’s welfare reform agenda.”1 Atos is the sole contractor, and the medical reports it generates are used to make decisions about eligibility for employment and support allowance. This benefit, which has been replacing incapacity benefit and income support since 2008, is paid to people who are medically unfit to work because of illness or disability. The weekly allowance, once the claim has been verified with an assessment of capability, is worth up to £96.85. The government estimates that 2.5 million UK citizens receive sickness benefits at an annual cost of around £12.6bn to the taxpayer.2

A quick glance at internet discussion forums suggests widespread dissatisfaction from people who have been assessed. The adverts for Atos, however, consist of smiling, badged professionals saying, “Getting home on time has become part of my daily routine.”1 The lack of on-call duties and the 9-5 office hours were also the major advantage plugged at the evening, where nurses and doctors working for Atos helped to promote joining the company.

Isolated view

But what are the ethical issues in performing disability assessments in this way, separate from the NHS and without access to patients’ full medical records? Atos was awarded the assessment contract in 2005 and claims that its reports are “evidence based, clearly presented, legible and fully justified.”3 Are medical assessments accurate enough to make major decisions about people’s ability to work? And is Atos the best company to do them?

The message from the recruitment evening was quite clear. We were told:

“You are not in a typical caring role. This isn’t about diagnosing.” And: “We don’t call them patients . . . We call them claimants.”

Training is provided for each type of benefit examination. Its length, we were told, depends on experience but is generally up to five days of classroom training, followed by sessions accompanied by a trainer that are audited afterwards.

Full time doctors can earn £54 000 as basic salary plus various benefits including private healthcare. Sessional doctors work a minimum of four sessions a week and are paid “per item”— £35.16 for an incapacity benefit examination and £51.37 for non-domiciliary disability living allowance (DLA) examination, for example . The application forms for sessional doctors state that “10 DLA domiciliary visits cases per week would earn £40 211.60 per annum. Five LCWRA/ LCW [limited capacity for work related activity/limited capacity for work] cases per session, for six sessions per week, would earn £62 883.60 per annum.”

Throughput is a clear focus. The average morning or afternoon session should consist of five assessments, and it was made clear at the recruitment evening that clinicians who did not achieve this regularly would be picked up quickly on audit trails and speed of work addressed.

Nurses and physiotherapists do effectively the same job as doctors in the centres, but do not see people with neurological conditions such as stroke or multiple sclerosis. Otherwise people are seen on a first come, first served basis. One nurse in the audience asked about training in mental health, as she had had little training in this area and would not feel competent to assess it in a fitness for work setting. The reply was that health professionals were “very thoroughly assessed” at interview for their abilities; however, general nurses were often taken on and given training. Is a relatively short training course thereafter enough to ensure the assessments are medically accurate and fair?

Duty of care

Atos chose not to be interviewed by the BMJ , although the Department for Work and Pensions referred me to the organisation for questions about recruitment, training, and audit that it couldn’t answer.

However, from the recruitment evening it was clear that the medical examination consisted of a computerised form to be filled in by choosing drop down statements and justifying them. For example, you could say “able to walk with ease” if you witnessed this or the patient told you this.

The professional role of the doctor is very different from that in the typical NHS. Paul Nicholson, chair of the BMA Occupational Medicine Committee, says that working in this environment brings specific difficulties.

“Notwithstanding a contractual obligation to provide a report to a government department, I still have a professional duty of care to the patient and to make the care of the patient my first concern.”

The Faculty of Occupational Medicine publication Good Occupational Medical Practice reinforces the General Medical Council’s position that, good medical care “must include adequately assessing the patient’s conditions, taking account of the history (including the symptoms, and psychological and social factors), the patient’s views, and where necessary examining the patient; providing or arranging advice, investigations or treatment where necessary; referring a patient to another practitioner, when this is in the patient’s best interests.”4

In other words, it expects doctors to adhere to the same professional conduct as they would in any other role.

Does it work?

So is the current method of assessment fit for purpose? There is a queue of people who think not. The Citizens Advice Bureau Scotland , in a report last year, noted “the vast majority of complaints and advice queries stem from the Work Capability Assessment.”5 This includes both the result of the assessment as well as the manner in which it was carried out, it said. “Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) is extremely concerned that many clients are being found fit for work in their Work Capability Assessment despite often having severe illnesses and/or disabilities. Our evidence has highlighted the cases of many clients with serious health conditions who have been found fit for work, including those with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer, bipolar disorder, heart failure, strokes, severe depression, and agoraphobia.”

The report noted that under the previous incapacity benefit system, 37% of claimants were being found fit for work, whereas work capability assessments are finding 66% fit to work. It also gave examples where advice from people’s general practitioners that they were not fit to work was disregarded. The report found that clients often “felt hurried in their assessment and that the healthcare professional was ignoring the answers they were providing to the questions in the assessment. There was a general feeling that the assessor made little eye contact with the claimant and spent most of the assessment entering information into their laptop.” This tallies with the recruitment evening, when it was made clear that efficiency with entering details into the computer system was a stipulation of employment.

The Department for Work and Pensions says, in response, that “It’s unfair to suggest that the system isn’t working.” However, published statistics of the 600 000 new claims for employment and support allowance from October 2008 to May 2010, show that 39% were assessed as fit for work. Around a third of these people appealed this decision, 40% of whom won.6 The department says, “If a decision is overturned at appeal, it does not necessarily mean that the original decision was inaccurate—often, customers produce new evidence to their appeal.” However, this doesn’t really deal with the problem that the healthcare professionals doing the assessments are not, therefore, forwarding sufficient evidence to enable reliable decisions.

At the meeting, I asked how it was possible to know the variation in symptoms that a patient may have during a one-off assessment. I was told that this could be “difficult” but this “wasn’t an occupational health service.” Instead, it was a “functional assessment.” Despite being told that the decision to award benefits or not rested with a layperson within the work and pensions department, the reports were often referred to as “judgments” where making decisions may be “not always clear cut . . . but as long as you can say, on balance.” For example, you could watch someone walking into the room and ask how he or she got to the assessment centre in order to judge mobility. One assessment, which initially reported a woman was fit to work, reported as evidence that her mental health was reasonable that she “did not appear to be trembling . . . sweating . . . or make rocking movements.”7

Other countries rely more on general practitioner assessments of fitness to work. For example, in the Republic of Ireland , general practitioners mainly certify patients and a doctor acting for the Department of Social Protection reviews around 12% of cases as a control mechanism. In Sweden , a certificate from your general practitioner does not automatically entitle you to sickness pay. However, the certificate asks for a description of how illness affects work capacity and a time frame. Just 3.5% of claims are turned down, and about 10% of these are overturned at appeal.

So what is the optimal system? Malcolm Harrington, emeritus professor of occupational health at the University of Birmingham , reviewed the work capability assessment system last year8 and is currently writing a second review. He wrote: “The pathway for the claimant through Jobcentre Plus is impersonal, mechanistic and lacking in clarity. The assessment of work capability undertaken for the DWP by Atos Healthcare suffers from similar procedural problems. In addition, some conditions are more subjective and evidently more difficult to assess. As a result some of the descriptors may not adequately reflect the full impact of such conditions on the individual’s capability for work. The final decision on assigning the claimant to one of the three categories theoretically rests with the Decision Maker at Jobcentre Plus but, in practice, the Atos assessment dominates the whole procedure. This imbalance needs correcting.”

His view is that “the Jobcentre Plus Decision Makers do not in practice make decisions, but instead they typically ‘rubber stamp’ the advice provided through the Atos assessment.” The Citizens Advice Bureau shares this view and says it wants “better accuracy” in reports. But how can this be achieved when funding is devolved to Atos with no routine access to detailed specialist or general practice based information and opinion? Professor Harrington says this “results in the Atos assessment driving the whole process, rather than being seen in its proper context as part of the process.” And so, as things stand, how sure can Atos doctors be that they doing their professional duty?

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d599

Footnotes

·         Competing interests: The author has completed the unified competing interest form at www.icmje.org/coi_disclosure.pdf (available on request from her) and declares no support from any organisation for the submitted work; no financial relationships with any organisation that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous three years; and no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.

·         Provenance and peer review: Commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.

References

1.     www.atosorigin.com/en-us/Newsroom/en-us/Press_Releases/2010/2010_11_16_05.htm.

2.     www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/public-accounts-committee/news/committee-of-public-accounts-support-to-incapacity-benefits-claimants-through-pathways-to-work-/.

3.     www.uk.atosorigin.com/NR/rdonlyres/57A2ACB1-CF8D-4414-9157-FBFE1E586957/0/AO_AD_CaseStudy_EBM.pdf.

4.     www.facoccmed.ac.uk/library/docs/p_gomp2010.pdf.

5.     www.cas.org.uk/Resources/CAS/Migrated Resources/Documents/CR Work capability assessment.

6.     http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/workingage/esa_wca/esa_wca_25012011.pdf.

7.     www.mind.org.uk/news/3166_new_benefit_test_will_fail_to_spot_illness_and_disability.

8.     www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/wca-review-2010.pdf.

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Sep 272011
 
Mark Serwotka carrying DPAC banner

Mark Serwotka carrying DPAC banner in Birmingham march

TUC : March and Rally for an Alternative

Thousands of Tories will descend on Manchester for their conference that starts on Sunday 2nd October. The Tory cabinet will be joined by all of their MP’s and Councillors, their members and supporters. There will be over 10,000 Tories in Manchester!

Assemble
12 noon Liverpool Rd. (off Deansgate) Manchester M3 4JR. This venue is a 10 minute walk from the train stations at Piccadilly, Victoria, and Oxford Rd. The coach drop coach drop off near by on Water St. Manchester M3 4JU

Salford Feeder March
Assemble 10:30am at Fire Station Square, Salford M5 4NZ
Off The Crescent, opposite Salford University. The Salford will be joined by a delegation from Wigan. This march goes via Bexley Square (where flowers will be laid in commemoration of the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Bexley Square) and via Lower Byrom St into Liverpool Road.

Education Feeder March
Assemble 11am, University Place, Oxford Rd. Manchester, M13 9PL. This march is set to join the main March at Deansgate/Liverpool Rd. It is called by Manchester Education Activist Network. Supported by: Manchester University Student Union, Manchester University Against Fees and Cuts, Manchester Metropolitan EAN, Salford Uni Against Cuts, Xavarian College Students Against Cuts, Bury College Students Against Cuts, Manchester Socialist Workers Party

Disabled people’s short march
Details of the short march for disabled people and carers will be finalised soon. There will be full accessibility for people with chairs on the march and at the final rally.

Final Rally at No 1 First St
The area around No 1 First St is the largest open space in the Manchester City center. It is home to the Town Hall offices of Manchester City Council. Following the £110 million cuts imposed by the Tory Government on Manchester there now rows of empty desks in this building, as thousands of jobs have been cut. When Manchester people protested against these savage cuts Tory Eric Pickles told them to ‘get over it.’

TUC Rally Event starts at 2pm No 1 First Street
Speakers include Paul Kenny GMB and TUC President, Len McCluskey, Unite, Christine Blower, NUT, Mark Sewotka, PCS, Chris Keats, NASUWT, Bob Crow, RMT, Mary Boustead, ATL, Rena Wood Unison, Matt Wrack FBU, Remploy local rep, Terry Hoad UCU President. Additional local speakers will be announced

Return coaches will pick up from streets very near the final rally point.

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Sep 262011
 

Poster

TUC : March and Rally for an Alternative

Thousands of Tories will descend on Manchester for their conference that starts on Sunday 2nd October. The Tory cabinet will be joined by all of their MP’s and Councillors, their members and supporters. There will be over 10,000 Tories in Manchester!

When Fiona Hodgson, the Tory Conference Chair gets up at 2pm to open their conference – tens of thousands of protesters will be marching past with banners and placards to give them the welcome they deserve, rather than the  welcome they would like.

A major March and Rally for the Alternative to the economic and social policies of the Tories is being organised by the TUC. The March Against the Tories, initiated by Right to Work, is now a national demonstration. Coaches have been chartered from all over the country.  Details here

The assembly point, march and final rally all lie within the City Center. The route of the march goes right past the Convention Center where the Tories hold their annual conference.

Assemble
12 noon Liverpool Rd. (off Deansgate) Manchester M3 4JR. This venue is a 10 minute walk from the train stations at Piccadilly, Victoria, and Oxford Rd. The coach drop coach drop off near by on Water St. Manchester M3 4JU

Salford Feeder March
Assemble 10:30am at Fire Station Square, Salford M5 4NZ
Off The Crescent, opposite Salford University. The Salford will be joined by a delegation from Wigan. This march goes via Bexley Square (where flowers will be laid in commemoration of the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Bexley Square) and via Lower Byrom St into Liverpool Road.

Education Feeder March
Assemble 11am, University Place, Oxford Rd. Manchester, M13 9PL. This march is set to join the main March at Deansgate/Liverpool Rd. It is called by Manchester Education Activist Network. Supported by: Manchester University Student Union, Manchester University Against Fees and Cuts, Manchester Metropolitan EAN, Salford Uni Against Cuts, Xavarian College Students Against Cuts, Bury College Students Against Cuts, Manchester Socialist Workers Party

Disabled people’s short march
Details of the short march for disabled people and carers will be finalised soon. There will be full accessibility for people with chairs on the march and at the final rally.

Final Rally at No 1 First St
The area around No 1 First St is the largest open space in the Manchester City center. It is home to the Town Hall offices of Manchester City Council. Following the £110 million cuts imposed by the Tory Government on Manchester there now rows of empty desks in this building, as thousands of jobs have been cut. When Manchester people protested against these savage cuts Tory Eric Pickles told them to ‘get over it.’

TUC Rally Event starts at 2pm No 1 First Street
Speakers include Paul Kenny GMB and TUC President, Len McCluskey, Unite, Christine Blower, NUT, Mark Sewotka, PCS, Chris Keats, NASUWT, Bob Crow, RMT, Mary Boustead, ATL, Rena Wood Unison, Matt Wrack FBU, Remploy local rep, Terry Hoad UCU President. Additional local speakers will be announced

Return coaches will pick up from streets very near the final rally point.

Leaflets
To order from the updated second printing of the TUC leaflet  e-mail NWMarch@tuc.org.uk clearly stating the number of leaflets wanted and a postal address for delivery, allowing 5 working days for delivery.

‘We need jobs, growth and justice for a sustainable future and this event will send that message loud and clear.’ Alan Manning, Secretary NW TUC.

‘Make a noise Manchester!  Like you always have!’ Julie Hesmondhalgh, who plays Coronation Street character ‘Hayley.’

bs : Growth : Justice : Say NO to unnecessary spending cuts.

Sunday 2nd October. Assemble 12 noon Liverpool Rd. (off Deansgate) Manchester M3 4JR. Coach drop coach drop off on Water Street.

Back the Alternative: a Robin Hood Tax : Closing tax loopholes : Policies for jobs and green growth

The march will pass the Conference Center where the Tory Party are set to hold their annual conference. A shorter walk for disabled people is included in the arrangements. The final rally point will be in the city center.

Download the TUC Leaflet

Leaflets
To order e-mail NWMarch@tuc.org.uk clearly stating the number of leaflets wanted and a postal address for delivery, allowing 5 working days for delivery.

The leaflet can also be downloaded from Manchester Trades Council

‘The March and Rally for an Alternative will show opposition to the Coalition Government’s disastrous policies and show the support for The Alternative. We need jobs, growth and justice for a sustainable future and this event will send that message loud and clear.’ Alan Manning, Secretary NW TUC.

Speakers: Paul Kenny GMB, Len McCluskey Unite, Christine Blower NUT, Bob Crow RMT, Mary Bousted ATL, Rena Wood Unison, + Community Speakers

click here for the route map for the march

Click here for transport to the demonstration

Click here for the Right to Work post demo rally

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Sep 252011
 
Atos protestBirmingham
Friday, September 30 · 12:00pm – 2:00pm
Five Ways House, Islington Row, Middleway, B15 1SF
Demonstration and Leafletting Outside the ATOS Assesment centre
Five Ways house is just next to Five Ways train station and we will
leaflet there as well. We may decide to move to the city centre for more
visibility but a decision on that will be made on the day.
Action supported by Birmingham Against the Cuts, DPAC and Enable
Brighton
Friday, September 30 · 12:00pm – 3:00pm
Churchill Square, Brighton
Performance of Dick Whittington & His Work Capability Assessment – join in & shout at the computer!
Funeral procession for those who have died because of Atos. Wear black!
Leafleting & picket of Atos Healthcare testing centre in Upper North Street.
Chatham
Friday, September 30 · 12:00pm – 3:00pm
ATOS Assessment Centre Batchelor St Chatham (Next to Jolly Caulkers)
Medway Against Cuts will be holding a picket outside the Chatham Atos centre from 12pm – 2pm: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=137896926308042
Glasgow
Friday 30th September 1.30pm – 2.30pm
Atos Medical Assessment Centre, Corunna House, 29 Cadogan Street, G2 7RD
The National Day Of Action Against Atos event will happen in Glasgow outside the Atos Medical Assessment Centre.
They will be handing out leaflets to those attending sickness assessments on how to deal with the medical: http://thecrutchcollective.blogspot.com/2011/09/anti-atos-banner-making-and-meeting.html
London
In London people will be gathering outside the BMJ Recruitment Fair where Atos will be attempting to recruit yet more ‘disability assessors’: http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/2011/09/09/protest-atos-outside-the-bmj-recruitment-fair-30th-sept/
Manchester
Friday, September 30 · 12:00pm – 3:00pm
Albert Bridge House
Bridge Street
Manchester M60 9DA
Nottingham
Friday, September 30 · 12:00pm – 3:00pm
Pedestrianised area of Hockley, outside Jugglers at the crossing of Broad St/Carlton St/Stoney St
A protest against ATOS and the their unfair capability assessments, designed to strip claimants of their disability benefits.
Assemble in Hockley to head over to protest at the ATOS assessment centre on Stoney Street: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=278089295537408
York
Friday, September 30 – 12:30pm – 2:00pm
St. Sampson’s Square

In line with the national call-out for actions against ATOS on 30th September, York Welfare Campaign are organising a protest and speak-out at St Sampson’s Square: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=235204036528355

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Sep 242011
 

Sayce Consultation Response from Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC)

Question 1

Do you agree that funding should follow the individual so they can work where they choose, rather than the Department funding specific workplaces or facilities?

The ‘independent’ Sayce consultation is a remarkable volt face from the government and a shameful collusion by a disability charity in an agenda that will do very little, if anything to aid disabled peoples’ employment, conversely it appears to seek backing to make more disabled people unemployed through the closure of Remploy factories.

The government and government departments are not helping disabled peoples’ prospects of work through prejudiced reportage of Work Capability Assessments , nor allowing headline after headline stating that disabled people are ‘work shy’, scroungers’ or ‘fiddling’ the benefits system. Would you employ such a person?  In addition, comments made by MP Phillips in June that disabled people should admit they should work for lower than minimum wage only add to the low appreciation of disabled peoples’ talents and skills by potential employers.

DPAC argues that funding should follow the individual; the individual should be able to work where they choose. This is a common sense equality principle. However, the disability movement have been calling for this for decades: it has not been achieved and is unlikely to be achieved by this government with its attitude towards disabled people.

How exactly do disabled people find employment in a climate of cuts to public sector jobs, (incidentally a large employer of disabled people), in a time when the hallowed private sector is cautious about employing non-disabled people?  The recent round of cuts to public sector jobs have seen the highest increase in women’s unemployment levels included in those statistics will be disabled women: where is the government program to support them? Where was the support for disabled peoples’ employment in the public sector from the government?

It is not a simple fact of closing down Remploy and technical colleges to produce the option of disabled people being ‘able to work where they choose’.  This is an entirely naive approach and constitutes a thinly veiled cuts and privatisation agenda carried out under the guise of supporting disabled people, many of whom are:

1. Disabled people are being forced to give up the jobs and business’ they already have because of the removal of Disability Living Allowance (which the government initially wrongly identified as an ‘out of work benefit’), and mobility cars via Atos Work Capability Assessments. The situation re DLA is set to get worse with the governments’ claim to remove at least 20% of the case load from DLA when the new Personal Independence Payment begins.

2.  Disabled people with complex needs are unable to gain extra support by employing personal assistants in work because they cannot claim Independent Living Fund (ILF) due to the closure of the fund to new applicants.

3. Are being hit through the covert cuts to the Access to Work Fund (AtW)

4. Are unable to sustain any semblance of independent living due to the cuts in Adult social Care from Local authorities, the removal of support services including Sure Start, Mental Health support, the removal of funding from user-led organisations such as People First Lambeth (losing 90% of funding)

5. Cuts and caps to housing benefits, meaning many disabled people and their families are living in intolerable conditions for a relatively wealthy country, lack of accessible living accommodation.

The much repeated mantra from Minister Miller of claiming that the government will support those with the greatest needs is almost a better myth than the notion that losing Remploy and technical colleges and putting the money into Access to Work will produce some form of mass employment for disabled people.

For disabled people who want to work to be able to access the open employment market, they need more than the closure of Remploy and closure of technical colleges-in fact saving them would do much more good for disabled people the longer term. The government is intent on the privatisation of services, the cut and thrust of the open market and each surviving on their own merit, rather than supporting disabled people, as its past record shows.

The current economic climate suggests very strongly that disabled people will be less likely to find employment than previously regardless of the words of government that they will support disabled people into work. So far based on Department of Work and Pensions figures, from the Employment Support Allowance (ESA) support group of disabled people just 5% over a period of 2 years have found employment.

We can, quite rightly, ask if the government’s notion of employment support is proving severely faulty and answer: yes

Question 2

Do you agree that any funding released from reforms to specialist disability employment programmes should be used to expand the Access to Work programme?

If not, please say how you think the money should be spent to help more disabled people into work.

Reforms to specialist disability employment should not be carried out at a time of recession-the vision of Nirvana will not happen. Instead the closure of Remploy factories will simply place more disabled workers on the unemployment registers and the conveyer belt of continuous ESA assessments, reassessments and reductions to social support income.

There are recommendations in the Sayce report that some areas of Remploy can be put under self directed management by workers, but no concrete proposals on how this will be achieved, nor are there any clear guidelines on how these workers will be supported. The only thing gleaned from this attack on Remploy workers in the absence of a review looking at management practices, or checking what exactly went wrong, is that Remploy leaves the government subsidised world to enter the private sector, if it survives at all, which is unlikely given the key themes of the Sayce report.

The Access to Work (AtW) program has suffered a series of cut-backs since 2010 when it produced a list of things that it would not fund, and which it expected employers to fund.  There have been further reports of reductions, for example Essex Coalition of Disabled People (ECDP) discovered that ATW would no longer fund drivers; the CEO of United Kingdom Disabled Peoples’ Council (UKDPC) was told that he would not get any support from AtW because of his position in the organisation, there have also been reports of AtW calling workplaces to check on workers, and a regime of targeting those with learning difficulties with the aim of reducing support. AtW needs a thorough analysis of its activities, before it moves to opening itself up to the private market and provision of aids and equipment on the internet as stated in the government response to the Sayce report. Privatisation does not immediately secure efficiency nor best value for disabled people.

Helping more disabled people into work can only be achieved if there is work for disabled people to do, if employers are enlightened enough not to believe the bad publicity that the government ministers and various newspapers continue to peddle. An alternative to pouring more money into AtW is to decentralise AtW to local levels where staff work in unison with Centres of Independent/integrated Living (CILs) with CILs adequately funded for their expertise- this will create employment for disabled people too.

However, even this is to miss the point that for disabled people to work a set of structures must be in place including support from social services, support to employ Personal assistants ( not just in the workplace), support for housing, a recognition of the extra costs of being disabled or having long term health issues- all of these are being removed by the current government.

Question 3

As resources are limited, it may not be possible to implement all of the recommended improvements to Access to Work straight away. Which ones do you think should be the priority as funding becomes available?

  • Paying for a temporary replacement worker for a small- or medium-sized business when a disabled person is off sick because of their disability.
  • Creating a system so that disabled people could know the value of Access to Work support they could get before they get a job
  • Training Jobcentre Plus advisers to give more support and advice to employers.
  • Helping customers to develop independent travel skills so that some people will need Access to Work travel support for a shorter time.
  • Working more closely with user-led organisations to improve the service.
  • Extending Access to Work support to cover more work-related training, for example unpaid work experience.

‘Paying for a temporary replacement worker for a small or medium sized business when a disabled person is off sick because of their disability’! Will give the message that all disabled people are also sick and will be more likely to take time off work. In addition, according to the social model which the government and presumably disability charity RADAR claim to follow: people do not own disability, they are disabled by attitudes, environment, lack of accessible information, and so on.

The proposal posed here shows a fundamental misunderstanding of disability, the social model and employers existing attitudes.

Creating a system so that disabled people could know the value of Access to Work support they could get before they get a job

The second proposal re individuals are told or advised of an indicative budget would appear to be helpful- yet it would not need the closure of Remploy or technical colleges to implement. Indicative budgets are already in operation in most L.A.s for community care assessments and other bodies under personalisation. What this proposal hides is the covert proposal to introduce the resource allocation system (RAS) into AtW just as in L.A.s. The introduction of the RAS will likely have the same effect in AtW as in L.A.s with some getting lower awards than previously.

Helping customers to develop independent travel skills so that some people will need Access to Work travel support for a shorter time:

Appears to be another scheme to reduce monies for the extra costs that disabled people face due to inaccessible transport systems. A factor admitted and catered for in the current Disability Living Allowance, while it lasts.

Again, the focus is on the individual failure of disabled people to negotiate transport systems are highlighted. In reality many disabled people are perfectly capable of developing ‘independent travel skills’ while the system, staff attitudes and a lack of investment into access needs an make such skills redundant.

Working more closely with user-led organisations to improve the service.

Yes- but the government, its bodies and the minister for disabled people must learn to distinguish between large charities FOR disabled people (making vast amounts of money) and Centres of Independent /Integrated living run and controlled by disabled people. It is the later that constitute user-led in the real sense of employing 75% plus of disabled people and having the same at decision making level, all are focused on disability from a social model perceptive and are not impairment specific. RADAR incidentally, is not a CIL.

Extending Access to Work support to cover more work-related training, for example unpaid work experience.

No, the increase in people, and especially disabled people caught up in schemes in which they are used as free labour without training, prospects or a future is high enough. The notion of ‘work experience’ and what that actually means in today’s climate needs to be spelt out and monitored more closely. For example ‘work experience’ of stacking shelves at supermarkets for disabled people with degrees who are likely to lose benefit if they decline the invitation are an exercise in manipulating figures, inducing fear and dehumanising under the guise of support.

Question 4

Do you agree that change is needed to Remploy, as part of an overall approach of redistributing available funds? Do you agree that the best way to achieve this is to allow viable parts of Remploy to leave the public sector and for direct government funding of Remploy to be phased out?

No, Remploy factories should continue to be subsidized, it is the management and board structure that should be removed with control going to disabled people as workers and their unions

Question 5

Do you agree that disabled people working within Remploy’s Enterprise Businesses should be given the opportunity to own and run these businesses free of government control and funding? Do you have any views on how to support this transition?

Yes see above

Question 6

Do you agree that Remploy’s Employment Services should be sold and transformed into a mutual, social enterprise or other model? Do you have any views on how to support this transition?

Remploy workers and their unions should be consulted on this , they should have been consulted from the first: if this is not carried out the process will open up the market to big disability charities such as the Shaw Trust ,  Leonard Cheshire, MENCAP, MIND or Disability Works UK ( a consortium of charities running workfair type schemes allowing them to be paid vast amounts by the government via the tax payer in contracts). It may be that RADAR could also produce a tender.

Question 7

If you do not agree with the proposals in the Sayce Review, please tell us your ideas for the future of Remploy.

See questions 4&6

Question 8

Do you agree with the recommendation that the Department for Work and Pensions should not directly fund Residential Training College as a distinct facilities-based programme?

No

Question 9

If you agree that the Department should no longer fund the Residential Training Colleges directly, how do you think that a transition to alternative sources of funding should be achieved?

Question 10

Do you agree that supported business places should not receive special protection after the current Work Choice contracts expire?

No, people will simply be made redundant and others recruited on another supported business placement by a different provider who wins the contract.

Question 11

Do you agree that in the longer term Work Choice and Access to Work should be merged into a single programme, delivered through individual budgets?

No, Workchoice is restricted to 21,000 applicants across the UK in one year. The press hailed Workchoice as the answer for those with complex needs and low educational attainment, yet those with degrees are being offered this too. Both Workchoice and AtW are offered through IBs in Trailblazer areas- this does not appear to be working either.

Question 12

Do you have any other suggestions for improving or changing specialist disability employment support not covered by any of the above questions?

The real point that needs addressing is that specialist disability employment should not exist. If successive governments had applied programs, education to employers, and education to the public in an effective manner, as suggested by the disability movement, we would not need to hear such phrases. The employment report is delivered at a time when the government is intent on getting disabled people into work, reducing or withdrawing individuals’ Disability Living Allowance and either reducing or losing other streams which had an effect on disabled peoples’ extra costs in being in employment. Rather than suggesting that barriers have been taken away as many government and ‘independent’ consultation papers seem to suggest; these actions reduce peoples’ likelihood of working. The Independent Living fund provided P.A.s for those facing complex barriers- and helped them get into the workplace-it is now closed.

It is ironic that the ‘independent’ Sayce report seeks to remove the specialist or segregated employment in Remploy factories (backed by the rather dubious claim that 100% of disability organisations said Remploy factories should close), while at the same time the coalition government seeks to substantially increase levels of segregated schooling.

DPAC proposes that the costs of the reports, individual payments, meetings and committees attached to the Sayce report are made transparent, the current rumour is a cost of 2 million pounds– DPAC suggests that this figure may have been of more use if half was put into Remploy factories with the remainder making up for the increasing cuts being administered to AtW which is curtailing disabled peoples’ opportunities to work.

Debbie Jolly for DPAC

A copy of this as Word document is available DPAC_Sayce Consultation Response

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Sep 242011
 

Response from Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC)

Debbie Jolly for DPAC

Question 1

Have you noticed changes to the WCA process as a result of the Year 1 recommendations? If so, what are these changes?

  1. Process has improved
  2. Process has broadly stayed the same
  3. Process has got worse
  4. Not noticed / not sure

Answer

A B C D (delete as appropriate) and provide any written comments …

The process has got worse since the changes in March 2011 to the LiMA questions and changes to the point scoring system which the Harrington committee decided could go ahead. 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[i].

The coalition stated that the new questions were expected to add a further 5% to the ‘fit for work’ figures (stated in Independent Parliamentary inquiry into Atos and WCA by Anne Begg).

No effort appears to have been made to address the 20% of inaccessible venues for carrying out the WCA. Is this a tactic of Atos to cut incomes of disabled people for not turning up? As Benefits and Work web states:In addition, out of all 141 Atos centres, only around 50 have dedicated parking on site and just one centre –Wrexham – is listed as having disabled parking. And even then it’s only one single space.  Other centres rely on public car parks, which may be five or ten minutes walk away.

31 of Atos’ medical examination centres are not even on the ground floor, with Chesterfield actually perched on the 5th floor. 16 centres have no chairs with arms, vital where claimants have problems with rising from sitting.  Others are listed as having just a single chair with arms. Twenty seven centres do not even supply drinking water for claimants, who may be kept waiting a very long time for their assessment. Very worryingly, in spite of the many thousands of claimants with continence problems, no details of whether the centres have toilets – let alone disabled toilets – are given[ii].

The examples from 2011 do not appear to have become any less worrying e.g. 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.

DPAC receives many letters and emails regarding the WCA and Atos each week as well as being alerted to published content regarding cases in local newspapers from people close to those that that have taken time to write in. The supposed changes to those with terminal illness’ have not been applied in a way that is sensitive or fair, causing a great deal of distress. All names have been changed. From 2011:

Petra says- the government says it is committed to a ‘fair and accurate’ work capability assessment. The distress and injustice caused by this new system needs to be publicized far and wide. My partner died last week of kidney cancer. He was diagnosed a year ago and at Christmas was told he had about four months to live. In the spring he was summoned for a work capability assessment (by this time he had two brain tumours) and found fit for work. In addition to everything else, he became anxious about losing the small amount of money he was living on. He was asked to go in to the job centre for an interview but was too ill at the time. On May 19th he received a letter from Jobcentre plus telling him he was to be tested as having limited capability for work. The medical officer overseeing his case had advised that “death within six months is unlikely to occur due to the client’s cancer” and there would be no “substantial risk to his mental or physical wellbeing if he were found capable of work-related activity.”

From July

“”On the 20th July 2011 my son was deemed fit to work by a non medic from ATOS; a 15min assessment which has over ridden our GP, Neurologist etc. Last night had my son rushed into hospital after having a major seizure, now, tell me people, who is going to employ a 19 year who is Autistic and has seizures once a month which takes him two weeks to recover until the next one”

Question 2

Are there further areas of work that you think should be added to the programme of work for Year 3? If so, what should these consider?

  1. Major areas of work required
  2. Minor areas of work required
  3. No more areas of work required
  4. Don’t know

Answer

A B C D (delete as appropriate) and provide any written comments …

The process of assessment, rejection, appeal, overturning of Atos decision, and notice of reassessment, often within 6 months, is a continuous psychological assault on those with existing health issues and their families. Despite government rhetoric, these are people who have low income and resources, and are less likely to have savings –this process can see people without funds for long periods, possible removal of income (as raised in the parliamentary inquiry) added to other factors, such as the negative almost hate proper gander distributed by the media on disabled people through the release of misleading statistics by the DWP, and an increase in hate crimes against disabled people. One outcome is an increasing number of recorded suicides by disabled people.

Examples include:

A gentleman, whose relatives did not want him named,
who was dismayed to find his benefit claim rejected, he had
appealed against the decision, and won at tribunal. But shortly
after that decision, he was called in for another assessment, and
for a second time scored zero points and was told he did not
qualify for the benefit. He began appealing against the decision
again, but a few days before another tribunal date was set, he
hanged himself.

There are at least three other cases where people have hung themselves after winning an Atos appeal and being recalled for reassessment. In addition:

Paul Willcoxson 33

A MAN who was worried about benefit cuts killed himself while he was searching for a job on the south coast, an inquest heard. Paul Willcoxson, 33, was found hanging in Pignals Enclosure, near Hollands Wood campsite, Lyndhurst, by walkers on April 14. The 33-year-old from Corby, Northants, was in the area searching for a summer job when he killed himself. A suicide letter and next of kin note were found in which he expressed concerns about Government cuts, Southampton Coroner’s Court heard. Deputy Southampton coroner Gordon Denson recorded a verdict of suicide.

Paul Reekie 48

Paul Reekie, who, along with Irvine Welsh, was part of a wave of young Scottish authors who rose to international prominence in the 1990s, killed himself in his Edinburgh home last month. Friends of the acclaimed Scottish writer have accused the new government’s crackdown on welfare benefits of being a factor in his suicide. The Leith-based writer and poet, who was 48, left no suicide note but friends say letters informing him that his welfare benefits were to be halted were found close to his body. One was notifying him that his incapacity benefit had been stopped, the other that his housing benefit had been stopped.

Elaine Christian 57

A WOMAN found dead in a drain had been worried about attending a medical appointment to assess disability benefits, an inquest heard. The body of Elaine Christian, 57, was found in Holderness Drain by a mother returning from a school run. A post mortem revealed she had died from drowning, despite having more than ten self-inflicted cuts on her wrists. The inquest in Hull was told Mrs Christian had been worrying about a meeting she was due to have to discuss her entitlement to disability benefits.  Her spiraling health problems meant she had to give up her job at Cooplands bakery in Greenwich Avenue, where she was described as a cheerful, hardworking and trusted staff member. Her husband Robert’s model shop business in Holderness Road, east Hull, had recently collapsed, plunging the couple into financial difficulties. As a result, the couple was being forced to sell Mrs Christian’s childhood home in Staveley Road, Bilton Grange. He discovered a suicide note, empty packets of painkillers and pools of blood.

David Grooves 56

A father-of-two was killed by the stress of facing the ­Government’s tough new medical test for benefit claimants, say his grieving family. David Groves, 56, died of a massive heart ­attack the night before his medical as he scoured the internet for ways to raise cash in case he lost his entitlement. He had claimed incapacity benefit for three years after doctors ordered him to stop ­working following a heart attack and ­several strokes. His widow Sandra, 57, said being lumped in with “dole scroungers” and the fear of ­financial hardship had a­ ­devastating effect. David – who worked for 40 years as a miner and telecoms engineer – had ­already gone through a stressful eight-month appeal process to keep his £91-a-week ­benefits. But when Tory Work and ­Pensions Secretary Iain ­Duncan Smith ordered a crackdown on “spongers” he was ordered to ­undergo a medical test with French private health giant Atos. Sandra, of Staveley, ­Derbyshire, said: “When the ­Government said they were going to get all these benefit cheats and Dave was called in for ­a medical, he felt like he was back to square one. It built up and he was in a terrible state by the day he died. It was the stress that killed him, I’m sure.“He had already had to sell our caravan and he was on the computer looking online to sell our car as well.”His son Paul, 38, added: “He could hardly walk any distance without needing help from his angina spray.“I don’t know why they could not ask the ­consultants who had told him his heart was too weak to have an elbow operation he needed. They would have made it clear how ill he was.”

The recent mail out of memos to Job Centre Plus staff telling them how to deal with threatened suicides through benefit cuts provides evidence that this issue is known about, yet nothing is being done to ease the stress of these actions. DPAC does not count a memo to Job centre staff as a humane action from this government or from the DWP. Rather it is evidence that the devastation that these reassessments and the misery they cause is known and treated with a callous disregard.

Other examples include:

A disabled woman fighting for re-housing for over 5 years as well as having her social care cancelled left a suicide note saying “No human or animal should ever have to go through life as I did.”

Attempted suicide by ex-school caretaker who had brain tumour and was unable to sleep, had weakness down one side of his body and was having fits. His GP deemed him unfit to work but the 15 minute Atos medical declared him fit for work, leading to his income being cut by over £60 per week.

An epileptic man in Manchester whose tax credits were stopped and he was left reliant on food hand outs from his local church to feed his family

what one disabled woman said about the cuts  “I could go on and on, about the misery it would cause, to remove DLA. It would lead to a slow death painful death. Worth adding here, I have spoken to many in my situation, who are discussing mass suicide, rather than suffer more health miseries, for which there are no cures! They are not depressed, but just pragmatic about the fate that awaits all of us.”

There are also increasing examples of disabled people and those with long term health problems going for days without food or heat because they do have any money while in this process. In a wealthy country no individual should be put in this position.

The reassessment every six months needs to be reviewed and changed; people are more likely to get worse than improve: this is an element of long term health problems and much impairment. Therefore this regime is illogical and inhumane. It serves to promote a regime of terror the implications of which will be more suicides and stress to those already living with long term health issues in poverty.

Atos silencing critics and closing down web forums

Recently the CarerWatch forum was closed down by Atos because of a post that Atos objected to. The owners of CarerWatch were not contacted, nor told what the offending post was. Atos went directly to the web host who closed down the forum. The forum is used as an online support for disabled people and their carers to discuss issues relating to the WCA to share concerns and stories of experiences. Its sudden closure left many in distress as a vital support mechanism had been removed. There was no discussion nor any communication before this action was taken. The forum has since been reinstated. Two other web sites have been threatened with legal action by Atos that we know of. If these heavy handed tactics towards support mechanisms and sites where people share their experiences and critiques of undergoing the WCA are to be attacked by Atos in this way, then where is the space for free speech? A Company paid with tax payers’ money and employed by the DWP should not be acting in this outrageous manner.

Targeting those groups who are offering support to disabled people, those with long term health issues, their families and their carers is clearly a breach of free speech and free expression: something that presumably is still on existence hence this response on the effects of the WCA carried out by the company Atos .

The fact that the targeted groups were not paid by a government department to ask people their experiences with the WCA, as the Harrington committee are, appears to be the only difference between the tactics of Atos towards them and potential acceptance towards the Harrington committee critiques.

If DPAC puts a copy of this response on its web site is it also likely to be closed down by Atos lawyers?  On past Atos actions it would appear to be a high risk-this is an unacceptable situation.

Experiences of Disabled People considered ‘Fit for work’ in a system that is not working

Case 1

I had to give up work because my employer could not accommodate me as a wheelchair user, I would find the disabled parking bays at work taken by able bodied people, the wheelchair access into the building became designated as the main access to everyone and for several months the electronic door opener was switched off and I could no longer get into the building without asking for another persons help, the disabled toilet was often occupied by people who went in there for various reasons including: being to lazy to walk to the men’s toilets, needing to blow their nose, talk to a girlfriend on the phone, change into motorcycle gear, the list goes on. In term of the actual work it was a call centre and I did both call work and email support. I would find my phone log ins randomly changed, I would lose email access and my computer system would be up and down. The coffee machine I used was moved to 5 minutes wheeling away to the other end of the building. Access To Work had given the company I worked for over £10 000 to install electronic door openers to the internal doors so i could get around the building but other people turned them off by way of a switch on the top of the door. they did this because they did not like the doors being a bit heavier for them to push. This list goes on too.

The stress, the feeling of worthlessness and humiliation, together with the physical distress meant I had to leave. I did bring a grievance which was settled (poorly) but the whole process nearly killed me and I went to counselling to sort my head out.

My ability to work was always very limited but even that has not returned and so I went the ESA route. More humiliation and feeling like crap because its all about trying to tell them what I can’t do and why. When I went to the medical the fact there was a two way mirror in the waiting room so they could watch you waiting was a bit freaky.

I was given ESA only of the lucky 5% (est) and put in the work related group. More worry about what was going to happen, but it went okay 6 interviews at the Job Centre over about 7 months and then I was told that is it until 2013 phew.

Then the budget comes and I realise I might lose out later when I am reassessed for DLA. Lose out because the assessment process of being seen by a doc for a brief amount of time tells them little about me except yes I can just about pick up a coin.
I was upset about it but then said to myself okay think about it you have over two years before anything else is going to happen.

I tried to settle in to my life with my partner who has bipolar and barely hanging onto his job, which means my small income from ESA and DLA goes towards our mortgage. My sister also pays a third of the mortgage because she loves me enough to do so and she and I (when I was working) managed to keep the house by getting a joint mortgage.

Last year after a three year wait a very large disabled facilities grant was finally sorted and the building work was done. No more using a commode and not getting washed properly because they put in wider doorways downstairs, made all the floors level, no more steps and put in a shower room toilet. There is even a wheelchair ramp into the garden I felt so lucky but also broken because all that work meant I was not getting better. I would never be able to walk my dog in the local woods – pathetic a want I know.

I worked for what I have, with my effort, my sister, my partner and a wonderful Occupational Therapist I finally had some breathing space and my life was set for at least two years.

Now comes the news of the cuts, I will probably lose my contribution based ESA which has propped up my partner’s earnings which are often less than £700 a month because of sickness. My income form DLA has a big question mark over it. Since getting on ESA I tried to find voluntary work that would keep me in the habit of ‘working’ but no one around here wants someone as physically limited as I am, so what hope of finding a few hours of actual work.

My sister will continue to pay a third of the mortgage as long as she has a job, but she can’t do more and I would not expect it either. This house is not just home it is a disabled access and adapted home, but if my loss of ESA results in arrears to the mortgage and we will lose the house. If we lose the house there will be other consequences because we are expected to pay part of the housing grant back if the house is ‘sold’ within ten years.

I will never be able to get the life I have now Back once it is gone. It took 7 long years to achieve after I left my family moved away to be alive and not just live.

I already said it’s like a wrecking ball is posed to smash everything to bits and even in all this I will be one of the lucky ones because I already know there are a lot of disabled people who are worse off than me.

Case 2

I’m on income based JSA and have been on it for about 18 months now. I’m on Flexible New Deal because of how long I’ve been unemployed, and I’m on stage 4 (I think, people just keep spouting numbers at me) which means I get shopped off to an ‘external provider’. The first one was Remploy, who would have required an act of god to improve to ‘appalling’. The new lot call themselves ‘International Learning Centre’.

They called, made an appointment. I asked for level access, and after a startled pause and being put on hold, they said ‘fine’.

When I got there, I waited 30 minutes after my appointment time in a dreadful chair, before being asked to follow someone upstairs with the rest of the twenty people who’d been crammed into a room about two metres on a side. Ended up, as usual, at the back of the crowd, was annoyed heading for angry by now so as everyone disappeared I went into the office and reminded them that I needed and they had agreed to provide level access. got told to keep waiting.

after another 20 minutes or so, when i was now in excruciating pain because of the stupid chair, someone came to ask me through into the office, where I was perched in an equally stupid chair on the end of someone’s desk, next to the printer, where people kept squeezing past me.

this appears to be how they propose to deal with my inability to climb the stairs. oh, and by asking every ten minutes or so if I’m *sure* I can’t ‘just’ climb the stairs?!

the disabled toilet (yes, they have one, I have no real idea why given that every bit of the building they use for clients – and that the staff have to therefore be able to access – is upstairs) has a keypad lock on the door, so if I need the facilities while I’m there, I have to find someone to ask permission of, they have to find someone who has the code, someone has to come and unlock it and hope that by then there’s not a puddle on the floor. Undignified at the least.

I’ve been told that they can’t provide me with facilities to do my jobsearch – I’m expected to find those for myself.

Despite developing speech problems, I can only contact them by phone.

If my ‘advisor decides [I] require’ training then this will be given downstairs – presumably, in the middle of the office.

I’ve been made to describe my medical condition in the middle of the office, where such comments are being made as ‘God, this lot stink’ ‘Have you seen the state? No wonder they’ve not got jobs!’ and similar.

Oh, and apparently I have to undertake four weeks’ Mandatory Work Related Activity. What they seem to mean by this is that for my current £65.45/week, I will be expected, for four weeks, to work for 30 hours per week.

On telling them I couldn’t do this due to the state of my health, I got told that my jobseeker’s agreement states I can do 40 hours a week, and states ‘no health conditions’. I explained that’s not correct, that I’d asked for it to be changed and the jobcentre staff had refused.

Eventually, I got told I’d need to see a Disability Employment Advisor, that I had the right to see one, and that they and only they could revise my jobseeker’s agreement because of my health. ‘Just phone and make an appointment’, she said.

Well, I tried. I have speech problems, I only have a mobile and the Jobcentre are now on a central 0845 number where they ‘transfer’ you to your local one. It took me a while before I thought I’d made myself understood, and then I found out I’d been transferred to my local jobcentre, all right – to the Lone Parents Team. I am not, and have never been, a parent, lone or otherwise.

They told me that the DEA would want ‘details of my disability’ before they’d book an appointment to see me, and she asked for them as well. I suspect they want proof, in the form of diagnosis, which I don’t have.

The DEA cannot contact me other than by phone. I cannot contact them directly, by phone or otherwise. There’s no way to know whether they *will* bother to contact me, or when.

And without it, I will be forced to work *minimum* 30 hours/week for four weeks. Despite the fact that it will nearly bloody kill me. Despite the fact that none of the places they’ve proposed to put me are physically suitable, and when I pointed this out I got told to find somewhere myself. I’ve no idea what it is I’m actually supposed to be looking for.

And if it doesn’t all come out right, it’s apparently my fault and I will lose my money.

So.. no access. No dignity. No understanding. Constant misinformation and lies and demands that I do the impossible. And when it screws up, it’s my fault and I’ll suffer for it.

Question 3

At what stage should we stop making changes to the system and let the changes already being made bed in to ensure they are having the desired impact?

  1. Don’t stop making changes until the process is considered theoretically perfect
  2. A few more changes are needed, but then pause to see their impact
  3. After Year 2 changes it will be time to assess what impact changes to date have had before making more
  4. Don’t know

Answer

A B C D (delete as appropriate) and provide any written comments …

‘Theoretically perfect’ is an erroneous term-this process needs to be efficient in achieving the claimed aim of whether people are ‘fit for work’ in practice. At present it does not achieve this. A perfectly good system has been in operation for years through GPs, specialist doctors and consultants. It achieved its aim of whether people were ‘fit for work’.

Recently a lady had to give her business, and make employees redundant because of a miscommunication by the DWP, she managed to get advice fast enough to rectify part of the situation, but too late to save the business she had worked to build up over a number of years and too late to save peoples’ jobs. This is another example of the changes that the coalition is making which is achieving the opposite of what they claim they want to achieve. ‘Theoretically perfect’ wouldn’t have saved those peoples’ livelihoods.

Question 4

Does the Year 1 recommendation go far enough in placing the right emphasis on the face-to-face assessment?

  1. Does not go far enough – still too much emphasis on the face-to-face assessment
  2. Balance between the face-to-face assessment and the rest of the process now about right
  3. Goes too far – now too little emphasis on the face-to-face assessment
  4. Don’t know

Answer

A B C D (delete as appropriate) and provide any written comments …

Question 5

Do you have any robust evidence about the face-to-face assessment processes and outcomes which will help us make recommendations for future improvements?

Answer

Please provide any written comments …

DPAC still receives emails which show a complete mismatch between a person’s conditions, the answers they give to the assessor and the final report

“My experience of Atos is exactly this, inaccurate medical reports and untruths, before establishing I worked for HMPS. I was dismissed because I have multiple sclerosis, supported by an Atos medical report that could have won an award for fiction”

The large number of those winning appeals to overturn Atos’ decisions should be counted as ‘robust evidence’. The only substantial improvement to this assessment process would be to scrap it: use the money saved on payments to Atos Orgin and on appeals to reinstate the Independent Living Fund and invest in disabled people , those with long term health issues rather than to reduce their incomes so that many  are left without the means to get to work even if jobs were available.

Question 6

Are you aware of any concerns about the face-to-face assessment, and if so where have these been focused?

  1. HCPs approach and the way they carry out assessments
  2. HCPs understanding of conditions
  3. The report created during the assessment and the IT supporting the assessment
  4. All three of these
  5. Don’t know

Answer

A B C D E (delete as appropriate) and provide any written comments …

DPAC has a great deal of evidence saying that HCP’s approach and the way they carry out assessments is beyond flawed. The recent cases against 12 Atos HCP’s and the two public comments about disabled people on Facebook give some idea of the potential loathing HCP’s can develop for disabled people and those with long term health conditions. The approach of the HCP’s is often described as cold and dismissive, one person described their assessment as a like a trial in which they were judged as guilty (i.e lying about their health condition and its debilitating effects) before evidence was given. Many HCP’s do not appear to have any knowledge of health conditions, long term illness or impairment, however this is hardly surprising when Atos employs physiotherapists and junior nurses amongst their ranks of HCP’s.

The continuing rise in successful appeals against Atos decisions, based on reports by HCP’s via the all powerful LiMA system of closed questions suggests that neither the IT system nor the reporting process is particularly efficient. Taken as a whole these factors would point any logical person to the conclusion that the process is severely damaged and so beyond improvement. It needs to be scrapped.

Question 7

If you have heard specific concerns about the IT supporting the assessment (i.e the Logic Integrated Medical Assessment or LiMA system), do you have any robust evidence about how this adversely affects the assessment or its outcome?

Answer

Please provide any written comments …

The LiMA system is severely limited in assessing health conditions on a day-to-day basis, it offers questions that have no relevance to everyday situations or situations  in the workplace, it relies on functioning aids which break or wear out as a proxy for mobility and other impairment ‘eradication’, a computer cannot judge fluctuating conditions nor the complexity of long term illness, terminal illness , impairment, multiple impairment or the impact of disabling barriers-these factors alone adversely affect assessment outcomes producing an unrealistic and totally unreliable point scoring system in which the computer says no and 70% of cases at tribunal say yes in that they overturn decisions made  by Atos operatives. The 70% success rate at appeal should be evidence enough that the assessment outcomes are severely flawed.

Question 8

Is there a need to present and explain the face-to-face assessment in a different way, making it very clear to claimants what it will involve and how a functional assessment relates to work capability?

  1. Urgent need to present and explain the face-to-face assessment in a different way
  2. A need to present and explain the face-to-face assessment in a different way
  3. Not sure whether there’s a need to present and explain the face-to-face assessment in a different way
  4. No need to present and explain the face-to-face assessment in a different way
  5. Definitely no need to present and explain the face-to-face assessment in a different way

Answer

A B C D E (delete as appropriate) and provide any written comments …

These questions like those previously give few options, this one in particular has the epistemological starting point that the face-to-face assessment is working. It is not.

Forty percent of decisions being overturned and 70% of those upheld on appeal with representation. This does more than suggest that face-to-face assessment is not working almost half of the time. It states it as a fact.

It is also a peculiar term as face-to-face does not appear to happen, rather the HCP is positioned face-to-face with a computer screen.

Question 9

What one thing would you change about the WCA to make it operate more fairly and effectively?

Answer

Please provide any written comments …

Take General Practitioners, consultants and other medical expertise into account from experts who know and understand the person concerned day-to-day issues, health problems and support needs. There are a whole range of health conditions, impairments, and long-term illness’ the complexity of which cannot be judged by a computer operated by a HCP who is a physiotherapist, nurse, doctor that calls people they are supposed to have a duty of care towards: ‘customers’ because their company have insisted on it as a condition of employment in their 8-21 days training course as a ‘disability assessor’.

It is a travesty to have a person’s life assessed by a set of closed questions which appear to ‘pass’ those who have died from their health issues a week or two later as ‘fit for work’, or pass those who later have the decision overturned at appeal.

How long will it take to admit that this system does not work under its guise of assessing if ‘people are fit for work’?

Maybe while the real purpose of reducing the cost of disability support and eradicating the human rights of disabled people is achieving it aims, the WCA will continue to destroy the lives of thousands of disabled people and those with long term health issues with the blessing of professors, ministers and a public that is fed distorted facts. History will judge.


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

[ii] http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/blogs/2011/04/26/scandal-of-atos-medical-assessment-centres/

Available as Word doc DPACwca-cfe-questions

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Sep 232011
 
st thomas, London

St Thomas Hospital, London

Press release: UK Uncut to shut down Westminster Bridge in protest over NHS bill

The government is just weeks away from destroying the NHS forever. This is an emergency. On Sunday October 9th, join UK Uncut on Westminster Bridge and help block the bill.

Free coaches available! See here for more information
Posters/flyers available here

On one side of Westminster Bridge is Parliament. On 7th September, MPs in the Commons voted for the end of the NHS as we know it. Yet the coalition’s Health and Social Care bill was not in the Lib Dem manifesto. It was not in the Tory manifesto. None of us voted for this.

On the opposite side of the bridge is St Thomas’ Hospital, one of Britain’s oldest medical institutions. If the bill passes, hospitals like St Thomas’ will be sold to private corporations, the staff put on private payrolls and beds given over to private patients. Despite the government’s lies, this bill represents the wholesale privatization of the NHS and, with it, the destruction of the dream of comprehensive healthcare provided equally to all.

On October 12th, the Lords have a chance to vote down the bill, and a huge Liberal Democrat rebellion is brewing. We have one last chance to save our NHS.

On Sunday 9th October, just three days before the Lords vote, join UK Uncut in a spectacular act of mass civil disobedience to block the bill. By blocking Westminster Bridge we symbolically block the bill from getting from Parliament to our hospitals. Yes, it will be disruptive. Yes, it will stop the traffic. But this is an emergency and we have to shout as loud as we can.

Get to the middle of Westminster Bridge shortly before 1pm. When Big Ben strikes one, pick one of the tactics below and help block the bridge:

  • Bring some fake blood and play dead
  • Bring hospital radio to the bridge with some music and comedy
  • Bring a nurse for a resuscitation skill-share
  • Dress up in scrubs and perform an operation
  • Enjoy a picnic overlooking Parliament
  • Share stories about the the NHS
  • Invite a friend from across the pond to describe the reality of a privatised healthcare system
  • Invite older generations to describe a time before universal healthcare
  • (if you’ve got other good ideas, email them to ukuncut@gmail.com)

Invite everyone you know to the Facebook event, and make sure you click ‘attending’ – the action will only go ahead if 1000 or more people plan to attend. We’ll be in close contact with St. Thomas’ before and during the protest to ensure access for emergency vehicles.

We will not let a coalition of millionaire politicians and private health lobbyists destroy our NHS. Be on Westminster Bridge for 1pm on October 9th and together let’s block this bill from getting to our hospitals.

See you on the bridge.


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Sep 232011
 

Can you take action to kick off the national campaign against the selling off of ALL public services this Saturday 24th September?

Yes, you heard it right. The Opening Public Services white paper, recently brought out by the coalition, intends to introduce a ‘presumption’ that all public services (except the military and judiciary) can be run by private companies.

**If you didn’t like the selling off of the NHS, you ain’t seen nothing yet.**
This is the time we’ll look back on and say ‘that was the moment that everything changed’.

Don’t stand still and let it happen. Anti-cuts groups around the country are jointly organising a day of action on September 24th in London where we symbolically ‘sell off’ several government services, departments and monuments. Sorry for the late notice, we’ve had to organise this quickly – but can you or your group be involved?

Day of auctions in London this Saturday 24 SeptemberMeet in London outside Westminster tube at 1pm. We’ll go on a magical mystery tour of public services and monuments, highlighting a few national treasures – things like healthcare, education and culture. We’ll sell off these national treasures to the highest bidder, to raise awareness about what the government is doing. Come dressed as a banker if you like, and get ready to bid to buy public services!

Ways you can be involved

Join the action in London on September 24th http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=217930008262832

Let the Government know you don’t want your public services to be sold off on their consultation website http://www.openpublicservices.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/

Spread the word!

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Sep 212011
 

Benefit claimants whose claims have been delayed or who have been refused crisis loans will now be signposted by Jobcentre Plus staff to food banks run by a Christian trust, signaling a pronounced move from welfare rights to charity.

In an article in The Independent by Jonathan Owen and Brian Brady they comment that this “is the first time in living memory that hungry people will have been passed on to charities in this way” as the Trussell Trust gears up to hand out 100,000 food parcels across England and Wales this year. The scheme will operate from the 70 existing food banks run by the Trust who is also planning to open a further 60 in the next six months.

Jeremy Ravn, a Director of the Trust, estimates that 30 – 40% of those receiving the food parcels will be in need as a result of problems with benefits. A claimant will be limited to three consecutive referrals – each time giving them enough food for three days. They will be given basics such as tinned soup, baked beans, meat, fish and pasta.

The government is making it ever more difficult to claim for benefits as they attempt to expunge any notion of welfare entitlement from our society. Once claims are accepted it is also ever more uncertain that a claimant will receive any money as benefit payment centres are closed and staff made redundant alongside a policy of stopping claims at any and every opportunity. Disabled people are being plunged into poverty and destitution. We are also being forced into greater dependency as the very real fear of being left without any source of income inhibits aspirations to try for anything different.

As a result of the government’s attack on the welfare state, people with no income will be left with a choice of either starving or stealing to feed themselves. The introduction of food banks enables the government to excuse itself from taking responsibility for putting people who are powerless and in need into this position; it will mean they can more easily demonize those who do resort to crime to survive by pretending this is not their only option, meanwhile creating a section of society who are without opportunity and are dependent upon the charity of those who have chosen to pursue wealth and material gain as a life choice.

Shame on the Trussell Trust for colluding with the government in the destruction of the welfare state and the rights of disabled people to live equally and with dignity.

For full story go to: www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jobcentres-to-send-poor-and-hungry-to-charity-food-banks-2356578.html

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 Posted by at 17:21
Sep 212011
 

PR E S S  S T A T E M E N T

UKDHM Celebrating Our Struggle for Equality

UK Disability History Month is holding a Pre-Launch for 2011 on Thursday 22nd September  at the TUC,  Great Russell Street, WC1  from 5pm to 6.30 pm. Please  come.

This is a crucial time to celebrate the contribution of disabled people to our society, now and in the past. We seem to be under attack on all sides with cuts in our livelihood, benefits and housing. We are made out to be cheats and liars in parts of the popular press. Hate crime is on the increase as we are increasingly picked upon to vent people’s frustrations with the current economic situation.

Yet disabled people have always made a terrific contribution to humanity. Think of just a few from history-Julius Cesar, Milton, Isaac Newton, Beethoven, Horatio Nelson, Emily Dickenson, Harriet Tubman, Florence Nightingale,  Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Van Gogh, Frida Khalo, Virginia Wolfe, Paul Klee and Alan Turing  to see our impact.  More recently, David Blunkett MP , Ian Dury, Richard Branson, Stephen Fry, Bill Gates, Dame Tanni Grey Thompson, Dame Jane Campbell, Lord Low, Alison Lapper, Evelyn Glennie, Oscar Pretorius, Betty Jackson, Stevie Wonder are a tiny proportion of those who have made a difference and would count as disabled people under the Equalities Act.

Disability History Month 22nd November to 22nd December is already supported by more than 80 organisations. It provides an annual focus for the wider community to develop a more positive attitude towards disabled people and better understand the barriers we face in society, which despite improvements in recent years, is still largely hostile to us.

Schools, colleges, workplaces, trade unions, councils, community and disabled people’s organisations throughout the UK will be holding events to celebrate UKDHM, discover our history and to challenge the negative stereotypes that lead to discrimination.

At the pre-launch contributors will be :- Penny Bechizza-Being Deaf now and in the past,, Michelle Daley-Black  disabled experience in the UK, Micheline Mason, poet-  ‘Sorry I don’t Have the Time’, Katherine Quarmby- author of ‘Scapegoat’,   Richard Rieser-UKDHM 2011, Dr. Sonali Shah,-author of  ‘Living as a Disabled Person 1940s,1960s,1980s ’

For more information on UKDHM go to website http://www.ukdisabilityhistorymonth.com or  contact Richard Rieser, UKDHM Co-ordinator  07715420727 or email rlrieser@gmail.com

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Sep 212011
 

The Labour party conference starts in Liverpool on Saturday. As we all know, Labour were the architects of Employment Support Allowance and the ‘not fit for purpose’ Work Capability Assessment which is so stressful and traumatic it was linked to the suicide of claimants whilst Labour were still in power. The Labour party are the official party of opposition, but they are not opposing the Welfare Reform Bill as they should be and seem to have forgotten that the 10 million sick and or disabled people plus carers, friends and family in the UK have the power to vote. It is time for us to remind Labour that they will not get any of our votes if they do not start to oppose the parts of the Welfare Reform Bill set to return sick people, disabled people and carers to a life of desperation, dependency, despair and charity.

We are asking you to help with a mass email to the Labour party to remind them of our voting power. Please include the following details in your email and send it to Ed Miliband, Margaret Curran (shadow minister for disability) and Liam Byrne (shadow minister for DWP). If you have time please also email it to any Labour MP and particularly any members of the shadow cabinet. We have provided a list of email contacts below.

Please aim to send your email at 11am tomorrow (Thursday the 22nd September) If you can’t send the email at 11am, don’t worry, just please try to send it at any time between then and the end of Labour party conference on Wednesday 29th September.

The email subject  should read “Your Silence Is Deafening”

We suggest embedding a link to this youtube video “The Sound of Silence” To embed the video into your email just copy and paste the link below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvsX03LOMhI

Then please copy the following text into your email;

Dear (insert name here)

‘The 10 million disabled people in this country plus their carers, relatives and friends are watching what your party do in relation to disability issues and wondering why you seem uninterested in trying to get their votes by opposing the savage attacks against disabled people being made by the Coalition government. During conference season we wish to remind you, the architects of Employment and Support Allowance to ‘never fall ill, never grow old, never become disabled’ (and never become a carer), for if you do, as we have found, not even Labour will speak up for you.’

If you would like to add a short, personal message explaining to Labour how you feel about their lack of support for sick, disabled people and carers then please include it after the suggested text. You might also like to include a photo of yourself, or perhaps a photo of what disability, sickness or caring means to you. Don’t worry if you don’t want to personalise the email, sending the suggested text is fine.

Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 4778
ed.miliband.mp@parliament.uk

Shadow Secretary of State for Work & Pensions

Liam Byrne

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 6953
Fax: 020 7219 1431
byrnel@parliament.uk

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 8102
Fax: 020 7219 6656
margaret.curran.mp@parliament.uk

Shadow Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities

Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP

coopery@parliament.uk

Shadow Chief Secretary

Angela Eagle

eaglea@parliament.uk

Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills

John Denham

denhamj@parliament.uk

Cabinet Office and Minister for the Olympics

Tessa Jowell

jowellt@parliament.uk

Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Caroline Flint

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 4407
Fax: 020 7219 1277
caroline.flint.mp@parliament.uk

Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport

Ivan Lewis

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 2609
lewisi@parliament.uk

Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Hilary Benn

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 5770
hilary.benn.mp@parliament.uk

Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

Jim Murphy

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 4615
Fax: 020 7219 5657
jimmurphymp@parliament.uk

Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Mary Creagh

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 6984/020 7219 8766
Fax: 020 7219 4257
creaghm@parliament.uk

Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Election Coordinator

Andy Burnham

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 8250
andy.burnham.mp@parliament.uk

Shadow Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Justice

Sadiq Khan

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 6967
Fax: 020 7219 6477
sadiqkhanmp@parliament.uk

Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Meg Hillier

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 5325
Fax: 020 7219 8768
meghilliermp@parliament.uk

Shadow Secretary of State for Health

John Healey

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 6359
Fax: 020 7219 2451
healeyj@parliament.uk

Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Shaun Woodward

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 2680
woodwardsh@parliament.uk

Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

Ann McKechin

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 8239
Fax: 020 7219 1770
ann.mckechin.mp@parliament.uk

Constituency

Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

Maria Eagle

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 4019
Fax: 020 7219 1157
eaglem@parliament.uk

Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

Peter Hain

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 3925
Fax: 020 7219 3816
hainp@parliament.uk

Steven Timms MP

timmss@parliament.uk
stephen@stephentimms.org.uk

Karen Buck MP

buckk@parliament.uk

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Sep 202011
 

conference flyer text onlyconference flyer

Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC) opens to members and hosts first DPAC Conference in London

DPAC is becoming more accountable by opening itself up to members and developing an election process for a new DPAC steering group.

DPAC will be one year old on 3rd October 2011. They have hosted many protests against the condem regimes, cuts in local authority spending and their impacts, and against Atos and the WCA. DPAC has publicised and reported on the many issues that are affecting disabled people in the attacks led by the condem government. DPAC works from the framework of the social model and will continue to do so.

Membership for individuals is free but DPAC suggests a donation to the cause, organisations of disabled people and allies of disabled people are also welcome to become members.

DPAC funds go directly to campaigns, all those working with DPAC work for no fee using the knowledge and skills that DPAC needs to keep going. DPAC wants to open up membership and elect a steering group to take DPAC into the next phase of the fight against the attacks on disabled people.

To find out about becoming a member please see our membership information:

DPAC membership (Word document)

You can join online by going to:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dFE5dmRsQVFVS29XYU13NFVWY3ExRHc6MQ

or by downloading and returning one of the forms below:

easy read membership (Word document)

DPACMembershipForm (Word document)

DPAC Conference 29th October- London

DPAC’s first conference will aim to develop the campaigns and areas that new DPAC members are priorities. It will give a chance for disabled people to come together to discuss the issues affecting them and develop solutions and actions.

DPAC is pleased that a number of speakers have agreed to take part in this conference. They include Linda Burnip, co-founder of DPAC, Jon McArdle from Black Triangle, Tracey Lazard from Inclusion London, Julie Jaye Charles from Equalities National Council, Melanie Close from Disability Equality North West, Andrew Lee from People First (Self Advocacy)and journalist and presenter Mik Scarlet.

The conference will also be the venue for the election process for the new DPAC steering group.

Places will be limited to a first come first served basis so please book soon. There is a small travel allowance open to members only, again on a first come first served basis.

DPAC would like to thank Stephen Hodgkins of Disability Lib for providing the conference venue, the Andrew Wainwright Reform Trust for travel funds and all those that have supported DPAC

For more information about the conference or to fill in a booking form see below:

conference-flyer (Word document)

conference flyer text only

conference-flyer-1 (pdf)

booking-form(Word document)

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Sep 192011
 
DPAC banner carriers

DPAC banner carriers, thank you Emma!

DPAC Photos from the march

Eleanor at podium

Eleanor at podium

Eleanor’s speech

About a year ago, on 3rd October on a very rainy day, disabled people came to Birmingham and lead the protest against the Tory party conference in anxiety and anticipation of the Comprehensive Spending Review. Even then we were sporting tee shirts which said Cuts Kill.

And cuts have killed.

Disabled people, carers, their families, allies and friends were aghast at the savage onslaught in spending cuts on services, benefits so called proposed reforms on disability living allowance, the NHS and where human rights of disabled people have been whittled away by humiliating and stressful assessments by French IT company Atos awarded 100 million £ on work capability assessments.40% of tribunal appeals are won rising to 70% when people have representation,  four out of 10 of those who appeal against the decision by Atos are successful, a process that costs the taxpayer £50m a year.

Disabled People’s dignity was also seen to be undermined by disallowing support for the most basic human function – going to the loo. Elaine McDonald was told to use incontinence pads when she was not incontinent. Most recent EHRC report showed that in the UK disabled people “face harassment, insult and attack almost as a matter of routine, while a collective denial’ among police, government and other public bodies means little is done to challenge the situation”. We are horrified by the growing number of cases such as Fiona Pilkington, David Askew, Keith Phillpot, ShaoWei He, Christopher Foulkes, and others – they were bullied, harassed, tortured and even murdered. In this culture and backdrop where tax dodgers get away and the highest salaried continue to get obscene bonuses and pay offs, the tabloid media portrayed with connivance from the Condem govt disabled people as scroungers, frauds and work shy. They want to ‘help’ us to appreciate the value of work by penalising those who truly cant work and close up jobs for those who are in work – such as those working in Remploy factories – such as our comrades here marching today.
We have many disabled people in despair – who feel hounded, penniless, homeless where benefits have been cut, local authority support slashed. Many feel suicidal without legal aid to fight back. Do not forget that disabled people come from many backgrounds and communities – many are women ( whose jobs were the first to go from the cuts, and services such as domestic violence support were cut and  CAB services), disabled people also from BME communities and disabled people who might  also care for other disabled, elderly parents and or they are themselves single parents.
None of the political parties have a care for us. Disabled people are now working and campaigning with trade unionists – DPAC was first involved with Right to Work Campaign who initiated these demos. We have supported each other – in our fight against Atos, on 30th Sept disabled people and their allies will have a day of action against Atos all over the country, we will be there at the March in Manchester on 2nd October and we will be supporting the call for strike action on the 30th November.

We will fight back inspite of everything – we might be deemed vulnerable and weak but we are not powerless, we will continue our fight and resist to the end.

Linda’s speech at Right to Work after the demo event

Linda speaking

Linda speaking

Last week in parliament we witnessed another move towards the realisation of Iain Duncan Smith’s dream and the arrival in the UK of a Wisconsin style welfare system.

What  IDS sees as his dream of reform of the benefits system any thinking person would see as a nightmare. IDS says these reforms are necessary to make work pay. DPAC say raise the minimum wage to a living wage and tell us where the imaginery jobs for over 1 million young people and almost 1.5 million unemployed disabled people are.

The employment rates for disabled people are 48% compared with 78% for non-disabled people, and only 20% of disabled people with a mental health condition are in employment. This is because of the barriers they face in getting and keeping jobs not because they’ve made a life-style choice not to work.

DPAC believe neither Disabled People nor Disabled Children should pay the price for welfare reform, nor should anyone anyone else – neither pensioners, single parents, or unemployed people. As we aren’t millionaires at some time in our lives every one of us will need the welfare state.

This crisis wasn’t caused by us and the so-called pension’s crisis isn’t caused by an ageing population, but rather by a set of ideological values. There is always plenty of money available to bail out bankers, fight wars and build unusable nuclear weapons. It is a choice what to spend on, not something that is inevitable.

So what are the main points of IDS’s dream bill?  A brief summary not including everything

  • The introduction of a Universal Credit to replace existing means-tested benefits and tax credits for people of working age from 2013. this includes slashing funding for child care costs, and ending universal entitlement to child benefit.
  • The introduction of Personal Independence Payments to replace Disability Living Allowance with a stated aim of reducing the number of claimants by 20%. If you have an imaginary wheelchair ie if you don’t qualify for one from the NHS but might be able to use one if you did, then you are going to be found capable of mobilising and lose entitlement to Disability Living Allowance.
  • The removal of the Mobility component of Disability Living Allowance from all residents of care homes, resulting in a fall in their incomes of 66% and leaving them £22 a week for all additional costs. Many disabled people use this money to purchase wheelchairs or mobility scooters. Will disabled people be tipped out of their wheelchairs enmass as they lose their entitlement to this benefit.?

For many also this funding is the only way they are able to keep in touch with their families and friends, Disabled people will effectively  become prisoners in their care homes, and even further isolated from society.

  • The proposed abolition of the Independent Living Fund coupled with the reduction of local authority funding will result in massive numbers of disabled people losing their right to live independently. in total contradiction to the UNCRPD which was ratified by the UK government. This fund should not be scrapped without an adequate and ring-fenced alternative being put in place. In other countries where similar moves have been made the costs to the state increased as large numbers of disabled people ended up being admitted to hospital for lengthy periods of time. This proposal in particular will be disastrous for disabled people’s rights.
  • Restricting the amount of Housing Benefit entitlement to social housing tenants whose homes are larger then they are deemed to need is ill thought out as many disabled people have had costly adaptations made to their homes which they would lose if forced to move. There is also a massive lack of accessible properties available anyhow thus making it almost impossible for disabled people to find alternative accommodation. Further for anyone with a visual impairment or a learning disability it is often vital for them to remain in surroundings that they are familiar with and to maintain contact with medical and other professionals who know them well.
  • Another potential problem with housing is that the bill will link Local Housing Allowance rates to CPI index, which excludes housing costs. Already with the changes to LHA made it is becoming increasingly difficult for disabled people who have additional housing needs eg. to use a wheelchair, or have non-resident carers to find accommodation they can afford in the private rented sector.
  • Limiting of Employment and Support payments to 12 months for those in the Work Related Activity Group seem particularly illogical as disabled people’s impairments are not likely to go away and may in fact deteriorate. It ignores the effects of chronic, fluctuating conditions such as MS, ME. While we welcome the Lib Dems vote yesterday not to support this we aren’t hopeful that this will make any real difference.
  • The Social Fund has enabled people to but essential appliances for the home that they would otherwise be unable to afford, such as a washing machine, a bed, a cooker. The government plans to abolish this fund and replace it with a loan that the applicant will pay interest on.  Millions will be forced into enormous debt on very low incomes. That cannot be considered fair especially when you look at what claims MPs make for furniture which is not essential.
  • Caps on the total amount of benefit any claimant can get, for both housing needs and living expenses. The suggested total amount is £500 per week regardless of family size, or costs of housing. This titally ignores the excessive levels of rent in many parts of the country due to the total lack of regulation of the private rented sector.
  • Many families with disabled children will face a cut to the financial support they receive. The new system will result in these children losing up to £1400 per year The Government estimates that 100,000 disabled children would lose out under this change.
  • Finally tied into the localism bill this Welfare abolition bill will end any automatic right to Council Tax benefit and who can and does get CTB will be up to each local authority to decide.

Finally this bill will bring in new sanctions including loss of 100% of benefit for up to 3 months for disabled and non-disabled claimants who fail to jump through the right hoops to find non-existent jobs. For anyone on Job Seekers Allowance if they refuse to take part in unpaid mandatory work programmes, otherwise what can only be deemed to be forced or slave labour then payments may cease for at least 3 months.

This is not reform but together with the wholesale privitisation of the NHS,including Blood Transfusion and Transplant services the total destruction of the welfare state as we know it. We cannot allow this to happen.

So far we’ve marched and protested, frequently over the last 12 months, and there have been riots in many towns and cities, yet the Condems still don’t listen, If we have any chance of saving the services, jobs and futures we need, now we have to find other ways to make our views known.

DPAC fully support the November 30th strikes and since we’re to have a Wisconsin style welfare state perhaps we should also have Wisconsin style occupations of local and central government offices.

Punishing disabled people, couples that separate, their children and destroying their futures is not going to help anyone, least of all the tax payer who will end up picking up the tab for increasing health issues that result, the additional costs of homelessness and a generation of children with no prospects and no hope.

This is the report from Right to Work on the TUC March yesterday – 18th Sept

Thousands of people have joined the TUC ‘Birmingham for the alternative’ march on the Lib Dem conference in Birmingham today.
Marchers came from all around the Midlands and beyond. Trade Union banners showed the breadth of union participation. Marchers were angry at the role the Lib Dems have played in propping up the Tories in office. From Fees to Academies to cuts, no matter what the issue, the Lib Dems are helping the Tories drive through their policies of privatisation and cuts.
In 2 weeks time thousands more will gather to march on the Tory conference. On 30th November up to 3 million public sector workers will strike against the ConDem attacks on pensions.

Speakers from the platform reflected the breadth of anger and resistance that exists in society. Mary Bousted from the ATL said that unequal distribution of wealth means kids come to school anxious because parents fear losing job. Mark Serwotka from the PCS said that  November 30 will be biggest strike for generations – we have to fight to win the ballots. He condemned Ed Miliband for condemning strikes and said he should side with workers fighting back. He ended his speech with – Fight every cut! Defend every job. Free education. Tax the rich! Christine Blower from the NUT said she was proud her members were on strike on June 30 and they will be out on November30. “We will defend our pensions. Fight on every campaign”. Billy Hayes from the CWU announced to cheers that Posties won’t cross picket Lines on November 30th

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Sep 192011
 

It appears that the mail@dpac.uk.net postbox was full without us noticing. Please if you have send us emails and posts that we have not acknowledged – please resend them.

Many apologies for the inconvenience.

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Sep 172011
 

I recently learned that the Welfare Reform Bill – which is currently being debated in the House of Lords – was having the debate moved to a smaller not so disabled accessible committee room.

Concerned about this I e-mailed the members of the House of Lords (some of whom are themselves disabled) – about getting the debate back in the House of Lords where disabled Lords and disabled members of the public would have access to debating or viewing the proceedings.

Thinking on – it occurred to me that surely the minister for disabled people (Maria Miller mp) would be concerned that disabled people were not being able to access a bill that affects them substantially and directly and also surely it is her job to ensure disabled access – no matter what the bill.

Thus I e-mailed Maria Miller at  maria.miller.mp@parliament.uk with this

‘Dear Ms Miller

As minister for disabled I would like for you to ensure that the debate concerning the welfare reform bill remains accessible to the disabled many of whom will be hugely affected by the changes suggested within it.

Please read this blog.

http://thebrokenofbritain.blogspot.com/2011/09/urgent-appeal-for-action-now.html

As a representative of the disabled community I am sure you would want us to have equal access – thank you for your help with this.

Kind Regards’

the reply I received was

‘Maria Miller MP

Basingstoke

Thank you for your email, if you live within the parliamentary constituency of Basingstoke please make sure your message contains

Full name

Address, including Postcode

Day time telephone number

If you are contacting me in my capacity as Minister for Disabled People please resend your email to

ministers@dwp.gsi.gov.uk’

and then later

‘Thank you for your email to Maria Miller MP. As the issues you raise relate to Maria’s responsibilities as Minister at the Department for Work and Pensions, I have forwarded your email to her Ministerial Office for attention. The email address to use for future reference is ministers@dwp.gsi.gov.uk
Kind regards
Anastasia’
I then received a generic response from the dwp!
Now how on earth and why on earth is a minister for disabilities job/post within the dwp? and is it not her job to ensure disabled access for all at the Houses of Parliament?
The reply I got from the dwp, which does not address the point I raised regarding disabled access – but just goes on to wibble about ministers being too busy to reply – that this fits into their remit and a wibble about how all the changes in the WRB are good for the sick and disabled and carers are all great for us!!! lol!! I wish!
The only results I can draw from this correspondence is that the minister for disabled people is not a minister for disabled people at all – but a dwp minister and that there is no minister for disabled people – not even for those disabled people in The House of Lords!!!
Cross posted with thanks from Twisted News

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Sep 162011
 

We’ve been informed by TUC that there are 60 spaces for DPAC supporters and other disabled people to join in with the static rally outside the ICC on Sunday at the Lib Dem conference protest.

Although we’re sure anyone planning to come to this from outside Birmingham will already have booked transport etc  – the static protest starts in Cambridge Street behind the Rep theatre at 10.30 am to be led to protest site at 10.45am Disabled people will then be able to rejoin the march as it passes or stay where they are.

This is however a chance to get very close to the conference to make our concerns heard and there is also likely to be press interest there.

The lead steward arranging this is Gill Whittaker Tel: 07850 768351

Disabled people who wish to be there for the static protest area designated outside the ICC can also contact Gary O’Donnell  godonnell@tuc.org.uk

cambridge st

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Sep 152011
 

After all the fuss of the Welfare Reform Bill in the house of lords yesterday I wasn’t expecting much for a couple of weeks when it will reach committee stage. However, I woke up today to find that the government had tabled a motion in the lords to send the bill to the grand committee, held in a side room.

This is in fact the normal procedure for legislation moving through parliament. The committee stage is where the bill is examined line-by-line and objections from the debate at the second reading turn into amendments to the bill before it goes back to the house for the report stage and the third reading. Parliament’s own web page states:

Any Bill can be referred to a Committee of the whole House but the procedure is normally reserved for finance Bills and other important, controversial legislation.

So you can see, controversial bills are supposed to be debated by a “committee of the whole house” rather than a “grand committee.” As one lord stated in the debate today, no one can argue that this legislation is not controversial. The peers have stated over and over again during debate that they have been inundated with letters, emails, and phone calls from people concerned about this bill. They show surprise at the scale of concern shown to them. Unfortunately, despite a heated debate this afternoon in the end the lords voted 263 to 211 to pass the motion and move the bill to the Grand Committee. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats voted for the motion, and Labour voted against it. Some of the reasons given were that it would block up the chamber and delay the passage of other bills, and that too many people would want to speak in the debate and it would take too long. (Yes, really! Democracy apparently takes too long.) One lady stated that several of the bills going through parliament are really three bills in one, and that of course it would take longer. (As an aside, I would urge you to look up Shock Doctrine for reasons as to why changes are being made so quickly.)

The difference between the two options for committee stage are quite important, I think. Here’s the official description of the committee stage:

Line by line examination of the Bill

Detailed line by line examination of the separate parts (clauses and schedules) of the Bill takes place during committee stage. Any Member of the Lords can take part.

Committee stage can last for one or two days to eight or more. It usually starts no fewer than two weeks after the second reading.

Before committee stage takes place

The day before committee stage starts, amendments are published in a Marshalled List – in which all the amendments are placed in order.

Amendments on related subjects are grouped together and a list (“groupings of amendments”) is published on the day.

What happens at committee stage?

Every clause of the Bill has to be agreed to and votes on the amendments can take place.

All proposed amendments (proposals for change) can be discussed and there is no time limit – or guillotine – on discussion of amendments.

What happens after committee stage?

If the Bill has been amended it is reprinted with all the agreed amendments.

At the end of committee stage, the Bill moves to report stage for further examination.

Here is the critical part though:

Grand Committee

The proceedings are identical to those in a Committee of the Whole House except that no votes may take place.

As compared to:

Committee of the whole House

In the House of Lords the committee stage of a Bill usually takes place in the Lords Chamber and any Member can take part. The Committee may choose to vote on any amendment and all Members present can vote.

So you can see, apart from being in a less-accessible room, with space for far fewer peers to discuss the bill and no public gallery, sending a bill to the Grand Committee also means that the amendments cannot be voted on individually. I think, on the whole, this can be viewed as a bad thing. Even worse, though; in the Committee Of The Whole Chamber, voting on amendments would enable a majority vote to fix some of the worse points. Instead, the Grand Committee must agree unanimously on an amendment which means that just one person siding with the government can block any attempt to fix this bill.

However, please keep sending your messages to peers. They have noticed our objections, and we can’t let up now. Details are on my blog.

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Sep 142011
 

At long last we have a designated shortened route for the Birmingham March against the Lib Dem Conference from the TUC.

Message from the TUC

We are very pleased to announce that we have negotiated a shortened route for the March for the Alternative in Birmingham for participants who have mobility issues.  The route takes people across Victoria Square and in front of the Birmingham Council House and rejoins the march at Colmore Row. At the beginning of the march there is also the ability for people to exit the march at the end of Berkley Street and return to the assembly point where there will be car parking available for those with disabilities.

On the map of the march route the shortcut is a red line between Hill Street and Colmore Row via Birmingham Council House.

Any other questions, please contact Gary O’Donnell at godonnell@tuc.org.uk

Disabled people who wish to be there for the static protest area designated outside the ICC please contact Gary O’Donnell  godonnell@tuc.org.uk to get a pass/badge (you need this to get there)

Maps

from the Right to Work website

We do not know of the accessibility details of the transport laid out for disabled people please check with below

Transport

Leeds – 9.30am, West Yorkshire Playhouse, http://yorklibdem2011.eventbrite.com/ 07980 316414

Leicester – Humberstone Gate, Leicester at 10 am, Contact Leicesterrtw@gmail.com or 07963703691 to book a seat.

York – 8.30am, Memorial Gardens Coach Pickup, Leeman Road, YO26 4ZF http://yorklibdem2011.eventbrite.com/ 07980 316414

After the march there is an invite from

WEST MIDLANDS RIGHT TO WORK

Right to Work rally
Unite the fights, build the resistance

Sunday 18 September, 3.30pm
Hosted by Midlands Region CWU.
@ CWU Office, 47 Summer Lane,
Birmingham B19 3TH

Refreshments will be available.
Venue is 5 mins from end of demo

Speakers include:
Mark Serwotka PCS general secretary
John McDonnell MP
Billy Hayes CWU general secretary
Estelle Cooch Right To Work
Linda Burnip Disabled People Against Cuts
Maxie Hayles Black Activists Rising Against Cuts
Chair: Lee Barron
CWU Midlands regional secretary

RtW flyer for Bham march

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Sep 122011
 

WEST MIDLANDS RIGHT TO WORK

Right to Work rally
Unite the fights, build the resistance

Sunday 18 September, 3.30pm
Hosted by Midlands Region CWU.
@ CWU Office, 47 Summer Lane,
Birmingham B19 3TH

Refreshments will be available.
Venue is 5 mins from end of demo

Speakers include:
Mark Serwotka PCS general secretary
John McDonnell MP
Billy Hayes CWU general secretary
Estelle Cooch Right To Work
Linda Burnip Disabled People Against Cuts
Maxie Hayles Black Activists Rising Against Cuts
Chair: Lee Barron
CWU Midlands regional secretary

RtW flyer for Bham march

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