Feb 282015
 

Government responds to the 5th independent review of the Work Capability Assessment

Thanks to Nick Dilworth – ilegal.org.uk & newapproachuk.org

Disabled activist groups need to vigorously protest against these heartless work tests.  To date Government has shown no sign of taking any of their views seriously. One thing is for sure, no amount of window dressing will make it any better.

The government has published its response to the fifth review of the Work Capability Assessment.

It looks as though it’s there to give Maximus a green light to diminishing the large numbers of claimants currently placed in the Support Group of the DWP’s Employment & Support Allowance.

As of May 2014 DWP figures confirm there were 1,031,480 ESA claimants in the Support Group of which 480,930 were recorded as having a mental health problem.  Of the overall total 631,160 were migrated from older incapacity benefits of which 298,840 had a mental health problem.

Infographic showing just how big a failure ESA has been. Produced by Nick Dilworth @Mylegalforum
Infographic showing just how big a failure ESA has been. Produced by Nick Dilworth – ilegal.org.uk & newapproachuk.org. Supporting statistics can be seen at the end of this post

 

The review response comes just after the DWP’s newly appointed replacement for the infamous Atos, a global firm called Maximus announced it will conduct a staggering one million work capability assessments by the end of 2015.  The response is accompanied by a set of exceptionally vague supporting statistics which unsurprisingly focus on Iain Duncan Smith’s number one concern; the large number of Employment & Support Allowance claimants with a mental health problem who have been placed in the Support Group – it’s breaking IDS’s budget and causing his chancellor no end of headaches given the astonishing year on year increase in expenditure on the ill – fated ESA programme which has become extremely expensive and utterly chaotic under IDS’s hopeless leadership.

ESA expenditure is up on earlier government estimates of £11 billion per annum by £2 billion a year to £13 billion a year according to the Centre for Economic Inclusion.  Employment & Support Allowance isn’t in isolation when it comes to Government’s serious problems in finding room for expenditure reduction; the overall welfare bill remains ‘more or less unchanged at £220 billion a year’ (Daily Telegraph).

It’s little wonder that leading disability activist groups DPAC will once again recommence peaceful protesting against WCA’s on the 2nd March in much the same way they did when Atos were in post, one can only hope they get the much needed media coverage they deserve in order to highlight the distinct possibility that more inhumane tests will lead to more tragic deaths of claimants shortly after being found fit for work during crude 45 minute tick box assessments.

The government’s response and the supporting statistics look only at new Employment & Support Allowance claims, completely omitting claimants subjected to repeat assessment and the longer term incapacity migration cases – it was combining these in to the programme which led to the chronic delays and up to 780,000 claimants awaiting an assessment. It’s nothing short of bizarre to exclude them from the equation.

Another key omission are the massive numbers of claimants who have claimed Employment & Support Allowance more than once, very often after being found fit for work; over 800,000 claimants have made a second or more claim in the revolving assessment process; it baffles me how neither the review or response addresses the real problems of this chaotic programme, instead it touches upon a lot of peripheral tinkering and an acknowledgement that large numbers of claimants with a mental health problem are being placed in the Support Group.  It’s hardly rocket science to work out why; the government does not want large numbers being found fit for work.  There is no gap in the labour market to swallow up large numbers of claimants who have been handed one of IDS’s highly damaging scrounger CV’s, employers won’t touch them; thank the Daily Mail et all for ruining their prospects of finding work.

Nor can government see the sense in cramming any more ‘going no where quickly’ claimants in to the now full to the brim Work Related Activity Group.  There’s a practical limit to how many CV’s claimants can be asked to write out in fruitless workshops.  It’s a problem of capacity, thousands may be referred or attached in to the Government’s Work Programme but the proof of the pudding is in the outcomes – just over 26,000 claimants have ended up with a job outcome (0.5%) after 4.8 million assessments since the ESA programme began; it’s a total waste of time and an even bigger waste of cash.

IDS is in deep trouble over the Employment & Support Programme, it’s set to cost far more than he budgeted for when putting together his ideologically focussed media forecasts appearing in Daily Mail headlines telling us that 75% of all claimants would transpire to be scroungers.  I recall the same paper telling us these reforms would whittle the number on the sick down to 600,000 claimants.  IDS is, of course, well aware that the number of claimants is stubbornly stuck on the 2.5 million figures which he ridiculously attributes to ‘parking’ under Labour over the preceding decade.  Perhaps he needs reminding that he’s been in post nearly half a decade now; when last in power it was his government which saw the sick count rocket from around three quarter of a million to the 2.5 million we’ve been stuck with ever since.

The review response fails to address the key problem with the Work Capability Assessment; it simply doesn’t work.

Measures 1 to 6 of the response are connected with the disputes process, this is only deployed once the assessment has, in the eyes of the claimant ‘gone wrong’, it’s hard to see how this can relate to an improvement in the assessment itself.

Measure 7 relates to a semi-structured interview process – it sounds almost half a job and hardly inspires confidence in it being a worthwhile solution.

9 to 11 are purely reactive to IDS’s perception that too many claimants are now languishing in the Support Group, it reads as though he thinks the DWP’s own decision – makers can’t follow the rules which he says have been improved and are now making the wretched process better.   Perversely, large numbers in Support was once heralded as the sign of improvement, now they’ve realised the cost they’ve relabelled it a failure.  Measures 12 onwards offer limited glimmers of hope, it’s just a shame it will never go beyond the obvious window dressing.

Be under no illusion, operation Maximus will be no better than Atos – the difference will be the distinct lack of publicity given to how many are cruelly subjected to the process; the media is bored of it as a topic and sadly the public no longer care.

Here’s a quick run down on the recommendations and the Government’s response, none of which will make the slightest difference to the disastrous assessment and reassessment of thousands of sick claimants in a regime which is well and truly broken beyond any hope of repair.

Recommendation 1

Material changes to the WCA should be fully considered in advance by both policy officials and
operational staff to ensure that policy intent and practical considerations are harmonised.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 2

Use of 360° feedback and its impact on driving up the quality of decision making at all stages of the
WCA process should be monitored over time and trends reported to the appropriate level to ensure
that training needs are met and unintended behaviours are addressed. This work should be seen in
parallel to feedback received from Tribunal services.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 3

The Explanation Call is removed from the mandatory reconsideration process, and that information
on the points of contention are collated and included in the referral to dispute resolution teams where
possible.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 4

Options for displaying a geographical telephone number when making a Reconsideration Call should
be explored. Additionally, SMS messaging or an appropriate alternative method should be used
to provide advance notice in all instances. As with face-to-face assessments, requests to have a
supporting representative on the call should be accommodated where possible.

The Government will consider the recommendation of a geographical telephone number further, will
use SMS messaging where thought appropriate and accepts the recommendation on accommodating
a representative.

Recommendation 5

The Department review its geographical allocation of mandatory reconsideration casework taking
account of both perception issues and practical considerations for avoiding unnecessary delays.

The Government is unable to accept this recommendation.

Recommendation 6

The Department give specific consideration to how it improves the overall perceptions of the
mandatory reconsideration process. This should include publishing target turnaround times and being
clear on the reasons behind ceasing payment of the assessment rate of ESA.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 7

Further work to develop and implement a semi-structured interview should continue. This should be
developed in conjunction with a small number of representative groups. Particular attention should
be paid to interview practices for those with mental health conditions, learning disabilities and
autism, and this should be reflected in the guidance and training developed.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 8

The Department investigates the substantial increase in the proportion of Support Group outcomes as
a matter of urgency to determine whether the WCA is being applied correctly

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 9

The use of Regulation 35(2)(b) should be subject to close scrutiny with a particular focus on decisions
made on a papers only basis.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 10

The drivers for the high rate of young people (16-24) being assigned to the Support Group should be
examined not only to ensure that benefit decisions are correct but also to help provide appropriate
support.

Recommendation 11

The Department bundles future necessary changes into packages delivered no more than bi-annually
to provide greater stability and avoid the perception of constant change to the WCA.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 12

The Department reviews the mechanisms in place for monitoring levels of understanding amongst
staff involved in the ESA process and consider appropriate means of following up this training to
ensure levels of knowledge and understanding remain high.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 13

The Department works with the Provider to improve communications sent in advance of an individual
attending a WCA and ensure that it explains the nature of the WCA, including a description of what
they can expect when they attend.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 14

The Department review its portfolio of alternate formats with specific reference to the use of Easy
Read and then prioritise provision by need to create as many forms as is reasonably practicable.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 16

The Department examines its work flow system, which appears to introduce an inevitable bias
towards granting higher benefit levels, to ensure that the policy intent is being met.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 17

The Department should explore ways and options of improved information between DWP
assessments, including Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance, Industrial
Injuries Disablement Benefit, Fit for Work and the Work Capability Assessment.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 18

The Department should work with the Department of Health and other appropriate government
departments to explore how DWP can make use of the WCA and the evidence gathered to ensure
individuals are sign posted to appropriate support.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 19

Use of the term ‘prognosis period’ should be discouraged and documentation should be amended
accordingly.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 20

The Department should review its policy and processes around applying short re-referral periods in
the Support Group, particularly for young people with mental health problems, and for longer referral
periods in the WRAG.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 21

The Department should work with the Department for Education and the devolved administrations to
develop improved mechanisms for providing information about the world of work, including the WCA,
to those with learning disabilities at the point of leaving education.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 22

The Department reviews its provision of alternate formats of communication with a view to adopting
Easy Read wherever practicable.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 23

The Department reviews the training given to its own staff and those of the Provider in relation to
learning disabilities to ensure that the risk of overstatement of capability is fully understood.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 24

The Department ensures that it seeks the most appropriate evidence for people with learning
disabilities, including Hospital Passports and care or support plans. The Department should consider
options in each case rather than defaulting to a GP report.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 25

The Department should continue its good work with the MOD to ensure that suitable and sufficient
evidence can be accessed as simply and speedily for ex-Service personnel who make an application
for ESA.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 26

The Department should work with the DH to ensure that suitable and sufficient evidence can be
accessed as simply and speedily as possible for long stay hospital patients who make an application
for ESA or require reassessment.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 27

The Department should review its practice of routinely repeating the WCA for people liberated from
prison who were in receipt of ESA with a reassessment period that is still extant on release.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 28

The Department should work with the MOJ to ensure that suitable and sufficient evidence can be
accessed as simply and speedily as possible for people leaving prison who make an application for
ESA or require reassessment.

The Government accepts this recommendation.


Year 2, Recommendation 8

DWP consider ways of sharing outcomes of the WCA with Work Programme providers to ensure a
smoother claimant journey.

Year 2, Recommendation 7

As and when changes to the descriptors are made, DWP and other relevant experts should monitor
the impact of these changes to ensure both that they are working and that they are not causing any
unintended consequences.

Recommendation 1

Sharing information from the WCA on capability for work with Work Programme Providers should be
addressed as a priority.
[Note: this links to Year 2 Recommendation 8.]

Recommendation 32

Consideration is given to a new reassessment period extending to five years in the Support Group for
people who have very severe incapacity resulting from brain disorders that are degenerative or which
will not realistically improve.


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Supporting Statistics behind ‘Work Capability Assessments – the facts’ infographic

(Thanks go once again to Nick Dilworth – ilegal.org.uk & newapproachuk.org)

Between 28th October 2008 and March 2014, 4,799,800 Work Capability Assessments were conducted out of which 1,362,900 were repeated assessments and 1,296,500 were related to those being migrated from pre-existing incapacity benefits. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/esa-outcomes-of-work-capability-assessments-claims-made-to-mar-2014-and-appeals-to-sept-2014

Between the roll out of the Work Programme in June 2011 to September 2014, out of a total 367,500 ‘Job Outcomes’, 78,480 related to claimants having a disability indicator (mostly on Jobseeker’s Allowance). Of those on incapacity related benefits including Employment & Support Allowance 26,670 achieved a job outcome of at least 3 months; of which 6,160 had a disability indicator. (see figures below) http://tabulation-tool.dwp.gov.uk/WorkProg/wp_cuml_jo/payment_group/clndsbmt/a_cnjo_r_payment_group_c_clndsbmt_sep14.html

Screenshot from 2015-03-01 21:40:12

Between April 2009 and March 2014, 1,065,929 appeals against Employment & Support Allowance decisions have been received by Her Majesties’ Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS).

  ESA Appeals received at HMCTS
2009/10

126,838

2010/11

197,363

2011/12

181,137

2012/13

327,961

2013/14

232,630

Total

1,065,929

 

Success rate for these years at cleared hearings are as follows: (average 40%)

2009/10

37%

2010/11

37%

2011/12

39%

2012/13

43%

2013/14

44%

The number of formal appeals to HMCTS has decreased due the introduction of the DWP’s ‘Mandatory Reconsideration before Appeal’ process in October 2013. However, it is known from recent DWP statistics that 173,500 mandatory reconsiderations (MR) were carried out between October 28th 2013 and October 2014. The DWP has not published the outcomes to these:

A recent FOI request responded to by the DWP shows that between October 28th 2013 and October 2014, a total of 590, 896 Work Capability Assessments were carried out with 374,000 (63%) being placed in the Support Group, 121,896 (21%) in the Work Related Activity Group, and 95,000 (16%) being found Fit for Work. It is of concern that these figures are not being made freely available.

ESA Mandatory Reconsideration & Statistics released by DWP via FOI request.

MR

WRAG FOI

Support Group FOI

Fit for Work FIO

WCA’s Total FOI

Nov-13

5,000

15,237

46,750

11,875

73,862

Dec-13

9,200

15,237

46,750

11,875

73,862

Jan-14

13,600

15,237

46,750

11,875

73,862

Feb-14

15,900

15,237

46,750

11,875

73,862

Mar-14

16,200

15,237

46,750

11,875

73,862

Apr-14

14,400

15,237

46,750

11,875

73,862

May-14

16,700

15,237

46,750

11,875

73,862

Jun-14

16,500

15,237

46,750

11,875

73,862

Jul-14

16,500

Aug-14

14,900

Sep-14

15,400

Oct-14

19,200

173,500

121,896

374,000

95,000

590,896

FOI request: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/401805/5491-2014.pdf

Work Capability Assessment Statistics Oct 2013 – Oct 2014 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/esa-outcomes-of-completed-assessments-oct-2013-to-jun-2014-gb

854,630 ESA reclaims recorded at on-flow. http://83.244.183.180/flows/flows_on/esa/cdquarter/cnclaim/a_carate_r_cdquarter_c_cnclaim.html

The above figures are in marked contrast to those made publicly available by the DWP in their Work Capability Outcome Statistics which they state are only available to March 2014:

  WRAG Group Support Group Fit for Work All WCA totals
Oct-13

4.8

16

8.1

29

Nov-13

4.1

14.1

7.2

25.4

Dec-13

2.7

11.6

4.3

18.6

Jan-14

2.9

12.7

4.9

20.7

Feb-14

2

9.6

2.9

14.5

Mar-14

2

10.4

2.4

14.8

 

18.5

74.4

29.8

123

A significantly higher number of assessments are revealed in the recent ad – hoc statistical release which are not in the widely used Work Capability Assessments Outcome statistics. The ad – hoc release showing 590,896 as the total number of assessments for the period 28th October 2013 to June 2014 compared with 123,000 for the period October 2013 to March 2014.

The WCA outcome statistics are sourced here: (Latest release to September 2014)  https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/esa-outcomes-of-work-capability-assessments-claims-made-to-mar-2014-and-appeals-to-sept-2014

The claimant count figures are sourced here to May 2014 with limited working age to August 2014: http://83.244.183.180/100pc/esa/icdgp/esa_phase/ib_mig/a_carate_r_icdgp_c_esa_phase_p_ib_mig_ib_reassessed_claim_may14.html

The £11 billion per year costing for ESA comes from the following government impact assessment (Rationale for intervention “Annual expenditure on ESA and incapacity benefits is forecast to be in the region of £11bn in 2014/15”) – 20/04/2011 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/220181/esa-time-limit-wr2011-ia-revised-apr2011.pdf

The £13 billion per year cost estimate of ESA by the Centre for Financial Inclusion is sourced here (“Employment and Support Allowance – approx £13 billion”) March 2014. http://www.cesi.org.uk/social-inclusion-news/2014/mar/inclusions-response-budget-2014-welfare-cap-0


 

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 Posted by at 20:16
Feb 262015
 

Who 2 Vote 4 Logo[By Mark Harrison, CEO Equal Lives]

Accessible Britain Challenge a Sick Joke

In September last year Mark Harper, Minister for Disabled People launched the Accessible Britain Challenge.  He did this 4 months after his Department had committed to closing the inaccessible disability assessment centre in Norwich and re-locating to suitable premises.  That centre is still open, still inaccessible and is still turning away disabled people 8 months after the decision to close it was made.

The Department for Work and Pensions publicity states:

The Accessible Britain Challenge encourages communities to be inclusive and accessible. That means working with disabled people to remove the barriers that stop them participating fully in their community.

Far from working with disabled people Mr Harper has ignored us and refused to enter into a dialogue or even answer our letters.

The cheery, welcoming  frontage of the St Mary's inaccessible disability assessment centre in Norwich.

The cheery, welcoming sight that enhances the customer experience of visitors to  Maximus’  inaccessible disability assessment centre in Norwich.

What makes it more perverse is that a new provider Maximus, an American outsourcing firm takes over the multi million pound Work Capability Assessment (WCA) contract from Atos next Monday and will continue to operate from St Mary’s House, 3 years after the DWP was made aware of the access issues.

Disabled campaigners and our supporters will be demonstrating between 12.30 – 1.30pm on Monday 2nd March outside St Mary’s House against this injustice.

Mark Harrison, CEO of Equal Lives said “This shows that the Accessible Britain Challenge is just a publicity stunt.  We have been campaigning for 3 years outside St Mary’s House.  They are even presenting awards in conjunction with the British Institute for Facilities Management and one of the categories is ‘innovative use of buildings, spaces and places’.  The winners are to be announced on 15 March.  I am sure the irony of this is not lost on the thousands of disabled people who have been forced to travel hundreds of miles for their assessments because the DWP won’t lease suitable premises.”

It also demonstrates the contempt this Government has for disabled people.  How can you appoint a new provider for the hated assessments and force them to use an inaccessible building which the DWP leases through another private sector provider Telereal Trillium?  This clearly demonstrated that we are not all in this together.  There is one rule for disabled people and another for the private sector, bankers and Ministers who see themselves as being unaccountable and above the law”.

About Equal Lives

Equal Lives is a user-led human rights organisation supporting all disabled people in Norfolk. It was formed in 1996 by groups of disabled people in Norfolk. The organisation is led by a Board of Trustees all of whom are disabled people and elected by and from its membership.

 Posted by at 13:06
Feb 252015
 

Reposted from the brilliant Kate Belgrave http://www.katebelgrave.com/ with thanks

Readers of this site will remember that a couple of weeks ago, I posted questions about people’s right to record and film face-to-face assessments as they go through the work capability assessments that are to be run by Maximus.

I wanted to know if Maximus will allow people to record their face-to-face assessments on their phones or any recording gear that they have – from the pointwhen Maximus takes over the grisly WCA process. I also had other questions, which I put to Maximus last week. I’ve listed these questions below, along with the answers (perhaps I should say “answers”) I got back (had to lean on Maximus’ US office for a response in the first instance, but got one of sorts in the end).

Needless to say, the entire exercise was a complete waste of time. You’ll see below that the responses give us five-eighths of fuck all as far as concrete information, timelines and/or actual process detail is concerned. No surprise there, of course – but I thought I’d post the responses anyway, because I think there is merit in highlighting the PR guff and detail-free twattery that Maximus has decided to specialise in when it comes to this contract. There’s also a dismissive aspect to a lot of the language, which you might find illuminating – a sort of “we’ll do things at our pace and you lot can wait” – air which nettled me badly. It should get on your nerves, too.

This sort of thing, for example:

Change cannot occur overnight”

[We] will take forward this and other ideas to the Department for their consideration”

I am unable to comment on such speculation,” when I raised a perfectly valid point about Maximus’ view of the future of the ESA Support Group.

Sue Marsh actually got in touch with me after the press office did to say that I could speak with her, because my questions “come under her job,” but that attempt at overture got right up my nose, as well. For one thing – if Sue Marsh is the person who is best placed to answer questions in the sort of details required, then the Maximus press office should go to her for those answers before responding to whoever asked them. It’s not my job to sweep together Maximus’ various outputs on its own assessment processes as and when those outputs drop out of different holes, or to wait around for the responses that Maximus feels it has best finessed. For another thing – I can’t see myself responding well to any aspect of the many-pronged charm offensive that Maximus has launched in its sorry and very costly attempt to sculpt and polish the WCA turd. Let’s face it – any company that comes out with a phrase like “more touch, more communication,” apparently in all seriousness, should not be encouraged to contribute further to any dialogue on any topic, or to remain involved in any process where people require something better than bullshit. It’s my view that in a general sense, any company that speaks lines like “more touch, more communication,” needs a smack in the soft parts right there.

Anyway.

Here are the sorts of responses you get if you ask Maximus questions about recording face-to-face assessments, or about support for people with mental health conditions as they go through WCAs, or whether or not Maximus would bid for contracts to “provide” work-focused activity for people in the ESA support groupif people in SG are ever pushed into such activity. I just want to give you a feel for the sort of Jog On contempt that those who ask for actual details about processes are treated with.

Opening response from Maximus:

We are firmly focussed on managing a stable transition for next week. Naturally when we are up and running we will want to introduce innovative changes to the customer experience but they have to be done with DWP consent and change cannot occur overnight.”

Well – that’s a Fuck Off if I ever heard one (and I’ve heard plenty of them). I think it’s the “Naturally” that makes me want to punch the screen when I re-read that effort. May I say that I’ve had enough of the phrase “Customer experience” as well. People who must go through the work capability assessment are not “customers.” They’re not wafting around a pick and mix display, or selecting iphones from a catalogue. They’re sick and disabled people who must endure an outsourced assessment process at the hands of voracious private companies that are in turn hired by governments which are absolutely intent on selling the idea that everyone on a benefit is a scrounger. There’s no customer choice or shopping around going on here. The government is the customer – not the people who the assessment process is inflicted on.

Ho hum. Here are the questions and answers, then. Short and not particularly sweet, etc:

Recording face-to-face assessments:

My question:

Re: the recording and filming of WCA face-to-face assessments. Will Maximus permit the audio recording and filming of WCA face-to-face assessments? If so, how will assessment recordings operate? Will people be able to record and film their assessments using their own recorders and cameras? This is an important point for people going through WCAs – without a recorded file of their assessment, there is little transparency of the face to face aspect of the process in particular. The DWP and Atos were challenged by lawyers on this point and forced to change protocol.”

Maximus response:

In respect of recordings we are studying this and will take forward this and other ideas to the Department for their consideration. We agree there are merits to this change, but there are other considerations as well, including the potential for the customer to be potentially constrained because some people are shy when being recorded. We want to ensure customers feel as comfortable through this process as possible, so all of these factors must be considered.”

Right. As it happens, a simple Yes or No would have sufficed here. Maximus could instruct its assessors that from of the start of the contract, people can record and film their assessments on their own recording gear if they want to, or bring someone along to do that (as I’ve said before, I’ll do it anyway. The hell with it). When Atos was in charge of this shambles, people had to ask for a change of appointment until they could get one with an assessor who was prepared to be recorded and where the dual recorders that Atos and the DWP insisted on were available. As for “the potential for the customer to be potentially constrained because some people are shy when being recorded” – I would have thought the answer to that one was simple. People – sorry, “Customers” – don’t have to record their assessments if they don’t want their assessments recorded. Naturally.

I can’t believe we’re still talking about this after all these years. Surely there is a limit to the number of times that the DWP and its providers can arse about on this subject? I’m also unclear on the basics here. Can people still ask for a recording to be made on official equipment? Does Maximus have enough equipment to meet demand?

Next up was:

My question: assessments for mental health claimants:

I asked: “What protocols and guidance will Maximus have in place for assessments for people with mental health conditions? Atos came in for considerable criticism regarding its failure to accurately assess ESA claimants with mental health conditions. Could we discuss the structures that Maximus will have in place and the training that assessors who conduct assessments for mental health claimants will have?”

Maximus response:

With regard to assessing claimants with MH conditions we have established a Customer Representative Group with MH charities on this. One of the group activities will be to review training materials so that they better reflect MH issues. We are also review the use and numbers of MH champions in the business as well as employing OTs who often have extensive experience at supporting people with MH issues in work and life.”

You can understand why I found this underwhelming – ie barely worth reading. I suppose that I was hoping for something a little more robust and detailed than plans for reviews, and more chat and roundtables with, presumably, the usual charities. I wrote extensively on Atos’ evasiveness on the work and effectiveness of these so-called Mental Function Champions (and found at the time that Atos didn’t report to the DWP on the performance or otherwise of those “champions.”) Just a little history on the sorts of shenanigans you can get on this topic: In 2012, Mark Hoban told parliament that “we have introduced a mental health champion in every single assessment centre throughout the country.” Actually, he hadn’t. The DWP told me that 60 mental function champions were in place and that they largely worked a phone advice line. A group of us had to work for months to get Atos and the DWP to agree to a meeting about the WCA and these “champions” with charity workers from a couple of small, independent mental health charities – ie the kind of organisations that weren’t generally invited to roundtables or to share their views on the DWP and Atos with the DWP and Atos. The whole thing was a total pile and to this day I speak with people who have mental health conditions and talk about suicide when discussing their next WCA. Why people can’t simply be assessed by their own GPs and support teams is beyond me (and that goes for all sick and disabled people who need benefits. The WCA isn’t required at all – unless, of course, your aim is to push the idea that work for all is great and that people who receive benefits shouldn’t).

Moving on:

My question: the future of the ESA Support Group:

I asked: “There have been reports of people placed in the ESA Support Groupreceiving letters from jobcentres calling them to work-focused interviews. Would Maximus consider bidding for any contract to provide welfare-to-work or work programme-type schemes if the government decides that people in the Support Group should engage in work-focused activity?”

Maximus response:

The company simply said that it was unable to comment on such speculation.

To which I say – Bollocks. I asked a perfectly legitimate question about Maximus’ view of the future of the Support Group. As Benefits and Work explains: “the ESA support group is for claimants who the DWP consider to have such severe health problems that there is no current prospect of their being able to undertake work or work-related activities.” So. Either Maximus respects the idea of the integrity of a support group which exists for people who are exempt from work and work-focused activity, or it doesn’t. If it does respect that idea, it won’t consider bidding for any future contracts for work-focused activity for people in the Support Group, if that is a line that the government decides to pursue. Which the government will. It already has. The DWP already sends letters to people in the support group asking them to attended work-focused interviews. Simple as that really.

Anyway – that’s Maximus. Not a lot of joy there. Perhaps I will try putting these questions to them again during next week’s day of #scrapWCA action. Details of activities here.

Follow Kate on twitter : @hangbitch

Feb 242015
 

Reblogged from Ekklesia, article written by Bernadette Meaden: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21447

The Daily Telegraph today (19th February 2015) reported on the new Fit For Work Service which the government says is aimed at stamping out our “sick note culture”. On social media people angrily denied that such a culture now exists, pointing out that they either do not receive sick pay, or are afraid to be off sick as they could lose their job.

The Telegraph reported that the Fit For Work scheme will be run by Health Management Limited (HML), a private company which will draw up a return to work plan for people who have been ill for more than four weeks. Participation requires the consent of the patient, but one can imagine that a refusal to participate could be a source of friction between employer and employee.

What the Telegraph failed to mention is that Health Management Limited is owned by Maximus, the controversial American company which was recently awarded the contract to carry out Work Capability Assessments, after Atos abandoned the contract.

Also not mentioned was the fact that the Medical Director at HML is Professor Mike O’Donnell – who was previously Chief Medical Officer at Atos. When this was pointed out last year, Professor O’Donnelldeleted his Linkedin profile.

Prior to being at Atos, Professor O’Donnell was Chief Medical Officer at Unum, a private insurance company which is alleged to have had a big influence over the Department for Work and Pensions in its reform of disability benefits and assessments, including the design of the Work Capability Assessment.

The Disability News Service has reported that in 2005, whilst at Unum, Professor O’Donnell wrote: “We know that our views and understanding are not yet in the mainstream of doctors’ thinking, but Government Policy is moving in the same direction, to a large extent being driven by our thinking and that of our close associates, both in the UK and overseas.” In 2012 legal websiteLawyersandSettlements.com reported, “Unum continues to suffer from a global reputation that it denies, delays or discontinues benefits in an alleged attempt to wear down policyholders in their pursuit of legitimate benefits.”

Maximus is also involved in the Work Programme, announcing this month that it “will formally take over the running of the Work Programme across North East Yorkshire and the Humber from 2 February 2015. MAXIMUS currently delivers the Work Programme in West London, the Thames Valley, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.”

It is surely cause for concern that an American corporation is now so heavily involved in our welfare state. Maximus will now have the power to:

a) get involved in the medical treatment of people who are off work sick, in an effort to get them to return to work
b) act as a gatekeeper to sickness and disability benefits through the Work Capability Assessment, and
c) require people on those benefits to take part in the Work Programme, under threat of sanction.

Is there potential for a conflict of interest to arise here?

* More on the Fit For Work Service from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/20979

 Posted by at 12:05
Feb 242015
 

Reblogged from Ekklesia, article written by Bernadette Meaden: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/20993

When Atos walked away from its contract to carry out Work Capability Assessments, the government needed to find a replacement. Today (29 October 2014) it was announced that the contract has been awarded to Maximus. Only time will tell of course, but for many disabled people the initial reaction may be, ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’.

Maximus is an American corporation which has been accused of fraud in the US. It recently entered the health assessment ‘market’ in the UK by acquiring British company Health Management Limited (HML). Medical Director at HML is Professor Mike O’Donnell – who was previously Chief Medical Officer at Atos.

In Professor O’Donnell’s Linkedin profile, he says that at Atos he was, “Responsible for Clinical Governance throughout the organisation.”

Prior to being at Atos, Professor O’Donnell was Chief Medical Officer at Unum, a private insurance company which is alleged to have had a big influence over the Department for Work and Pensions in its reform of disability benefits and assessments.

The Disability News Service has reported that in 2005, whilst at Unum, Professor O’Donnell wrote: “We know that our views and understanding are not yet in the mainstream of doctors’ thinking, but Government Policy is moving in the same direction, to a large extent being driven by our thinking and that of our close associates, both in the UK and overseas.”

In 2012 legal website LawyersandSettlements.com reported, “Unum continues to suffer from a global reputation that it denies, delays or discontinues benefits in an alleged attempt to wear down policyholders in their pursuit of legitimate benefits.”

Disabled researcher and military veteran Mo Stewart, who has done a great deal of work on the connections between the DWP and Unum, stated :“The WCA is a replica of the assessment system used by Unum to resist funding insurance claimants.”

When Atos abandoned the contract for Work Capability Assessments, people may have hoped that a new company would mean a fresh start. Unfortunately the award of the contract to Maximus does not inspire confidence.

————

 Posted by at 12:01
Feb 232015
 

Many thanks to George Berger for this article:

 

A DWP reply to a Freedom of Information request implies that MAXIMUS will employ the same automated assessment aid as did Atos. It requires the claimant to answer questions about personal psychological states and behavioural capacities (say, about movement). Each question is called a descriptor, points are given to each answer, and these help a DWP decision maker (DM) to select the outcome of the entire Work Capability Assessment (WCA). The software, called Logic Integrated Medical Assessment (LIMA), is run on a computer that registers the answers and calculates a numerical score.

 

The WCA is controversial. For example, since the descriptors do not address any medical   issue, claimants are often forced by the DM to work or seek work while ill; the illness and stress can become increasingly serious. This has resulted in many deaths, some by suicide. Mounting pressure on DWP has compelled them to investigate 60 deaths. The actual number must be larger. The dangerous, irresponsible, WCA should be replaced by a humane procedure. Since LIMA is essential to the WCA, it must go.

 

But will it? The request might well have been designed to get an answer, so the next paragraph summarises the request and DWP’s reply. This will show that MAXIMUS intends to use LIMA when it takes over, in March 2015.

 

On 4 February 2005, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (SoS) granted Atos—then Atos Origin—a perpetual licence to ‘exploit’ LIMA. It has not been cancelled, but the SoS now owns the intellectual property rights to LIMA. The SoS now licenses MAXIMUS to use LIMA, while Atos will support the information technology (IT) infrastructure needed to run it for assessments. DWP will fund this IT and its required developments, e.g. bug fixing. If MAXIMUS requests any development, the company will negotiate terms with DWP.

 

Hence, MAXIMUS will use LIMA’s descriptors. Whilst the licence probably does not specify exactly what descriptors it must use, descriptors are essential parts of the software (which is why LIMA is claimed to embody ‘evidence based medicine’). By the second paragraph, they are medically dangerous, so I conclude that its last sentence is morally correct.

 Posted by at 18:25
Feb 232015
 

With many thanks to John Slater, for writing this article,

 

If you claim Universal Credit (“UC”) the DWP intends to share your most sensitive personal data with local authorities, citizens advice bureaux, credit unions, social landlords and relevant registered charities:

 

  • Full name (including initials)
  • Contact details including: address, email, telephone.
  • Details of others in household, in relation to the relevant Benefit Unit.
  • Type of accommodation – private / social rented, owned, none etc.
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity *.
  • National Insurance Number.
  • Date of birth / age range.
  • Employment status / earning.
  • Debts / arrears/rent payable.
  • Benefits received including: level of payment, copy of documents (e.g. claimant commitment).
  • Health conditions / disabilities *
  • Caring responsibilities.
  • Qualifications / training status.
  • Transport situation e.g. able to drive /access to car or easy access or public transport.
  • Barriers to work.
  • Languages spoken.
  • Access to financial products such as bank / building / credit union / Post Office card account / credit card.
  • Level of personal budgeting.
  • Access to computer and internet.
  • Level of digital skills.

 

On the 10th December 2014 the DWP quietly published a consultation document (see link below). This does seem to be a strange time to launch a consultation exercise given the proximity of the Christmas and New Year holidays. People would be forgiven for wondering if the DWP was attempting to sneak this out without anyone finding out until it was too late.

 

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/universal-credit-data-sharing-between-dwp-and-local-support-providers

 

 

Controlling and processing any personal data like that listed above is subject to the Data Protection Act 1998 (“DPA”). In the UK we have an organisation called the Information Commissioner (“ICO”) which has a statutory role in regulating the DPA. The DWP knows this as it has consulted with it on other matters. Did the DWP invite the ICO to take part in the consultation process? It probably won’t come as a surprise to many people to hear that the DWP didn’t invite the ICO to take part and as a result people would be forgiven for wondering how seriously the DWP takes its obligations under the DPA when dealing with sensitive personal data.

 

When I heard about the DWP proposals I sent a copy to the ICO as I wasn’t happy with the type of information being shared and the fact that the DWP included a threat against claimants if they weren’t willing to share their data. In section 4.4 of its consultation document the DWP states:

 

Objecting to information sharing may, of course, have the potential to undermine an individual’s claim – claimants will therefore need to be advised about the possible adverse consequences of objecting to information sharing.”

 

It seems that the DWP just can’t help itself. If it doesn’t get its own way it automatically wants to punish members of society who face the most barriers and disadvantages.

 

Despite having a huge workload, the ICO acted quickly and issued a response to the DWP consultation document (see link below):

 

https://ico.org.uk/about-the-ico/consultations/dwp-consultation-on-draft-regulations-universal-credit-data-sharing/

 

It is obvious from its response that the ICO is very unhappy about the DWP proposals and the fact that it wasn’t invited to take part in the consultation. The following extracts give you a taste:

 

The Information Commissioner is surprised and disappointed not to have also received a copy of this consultation or his officials alerted to the proposals given his Office’s role in regulating the Data Protection Act and also having issued a statutory code of practice on data sharing – https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisations/documents/1068/data_sharing_code_of_practice.pdf

 

We have been consulted in the past on data sharing initiatives arising from the Welfare Reform Act such as the Troubled Families initiative and have worked closely with the Department and local support agencies in advising on data sharing and helping to overcome perceived barriers. Additionally the shortness of the consultation period, and falling over the holiday period, has meant that we have been unable to give as much consideration to the content of the consultation as we would have wished. We would welcome the opportunity to meet with the Department to discuss in further detail the data protection and privacy issues arising from the regulations which we note are intended to come into force on 13 February 2015 and be implemented the following month.”

 

The document further states that ‘objecting to the sharing may have the potential to undermine an individual’s claim and so claimants will need to be advised about the possible adverse consequences of objecting to information sharing’. The Information Commissioner’s view is that consent is not appropriate where it cannot be freely given and where the data sharing is to take place regardless of the wishes of an individual or where a sanction could be imposed if agreement is not forthcoming. In this context it is also important to clarify that there is no legal opt out under the DPA but any such arrangements should be as transparent as possible and that individuals affected should be aware that the processing will be taking place.”

 

 

With so much personal data being collected and used by large organisations these days, some people may be wondering if any of this really matters. I think it does matter and that as a society we are sleep walking into a data protection nightmare. It isn’t just companies trying to sell us goods that make use of data about us. There can be some very unpleasant consequences of allowing organisations access to our sensitive data and have free reign to do what they want with it. What about if:

 

  • The data being shared about you is wrong and it results in the wrong decisions being made about you? (e.g. you get refused credit, your insurance costs go up or landlords won’t rent to you).
  • It allows unscrupulous companies to target members of society who face the most barriers and disadvantages and steal from them?
  • The organisations lose your data and it enters the public domain. You could end up suffering verbal or physical abuse as this Government’s ongoing demonization of people claiming benefits makes this a sad and worrying possibility.
  • You simply don’t want these organisations to know so much about you? After all it’s your life and your data.
  • The data isn’t used solely for the purposes claimed? Sharing such sensitive information as part of your UC claim relies on you being able to trust the DWP and the organisations listed.

 

Only you know if you are happy to share your information so widely, which is why the DPA states that each of us must give our consent for our data to be shared. However, some of the data on the DWP is treated differently and is called sensitive personal data (“SPD”). For this to be shared the DWP needs your explicit consent. This means you have to freely agree (i.e. not subject to threat or other coercion) in unambiguous terms that you are happy for specific data to be shared for specific purposes.

 

The ICO data sharing code of practice defines consent as:

 

Consent (explicit consent for sensitive personal data) is one of the conditions the DPA provides to legitimise processing. The Data Protection Directive on which the UK’s DPA is based defines ‘the data subject’s consent’ as:

 

‘any freely given specific and informed indication of his wishes by which the data subject signifies his agreement to personal data relating to him being processed’.

 

“There must therefore be some form of active communication where the individual knowingly indicates consent. Whilst consent will provide a basis on which organisations can share personal data, the ICO recognises that it is not always achievable or even desirable. If you are going to rely on consent as your condition you must be sure that individuals know precisely what data sharing they are consenting to and understand its implications for them. They must also have genuine control over whether or not the data sharing takes place. It is bad practice to offer individuals a ‘choice’ if the data sharing is going to take place regardless of their wishes, for example where it is required by statute or is necessary for the provision of an essential service.

 

 

The DPA definition of what counts as SPD is shown below. The data items marked with an “*” in the list of data that the DWP intends to share is SPD. Other data (e.g. language spoken) could also be SPD if they also disclose information listed below:

 

  1. the racial or ethnic origin of the data subject,
  2. his political opinions,
  3. his religious beliefs or other beliefs of a similar nature,
  4. whether he is a member of a trade union (within the meaning of the M1TradeUnion and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992),
  5. his physical or mental health or condition,
  6. his sexual life,
  7. the commission or alleged commission by him of any offence, or
  8. any proceedings for any offence committed or alleged to have been committed by him, the disposal of such proceedings or the sentence of any court in such proceedings.

 

I believe that allowing organisations to have access to SPD is as much a matter of trust as anything else. Do you trust the DWP to do what it says and only use the data for what states in the consultation document? Personally I don’t trust the DWP due to its historic behaviour and how it plans to share your data with these organisations using a new IT system.

 

A New IT System

In section 2.8 of its consultation document is states:

 

Further expansion of UC will provide the opportunity to build a secure platform for the introduction of Universal Support by mobilising local partnerships nationwide and putting in place a robust infrastructure ready for all claimant groups, in particular the more complex and vulnerable.”

 

If I translate this from management gobbledegook into English I think it says that the DWP plans to develop yet another UC IT system to share your data. Even if we set aside the abject failure of Governments in general to deliver IT systems, UC is a special case. It has been roundly criticised by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, the National Audit Office, the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee, its own suppliers, its own staff (in a leaked employee survey) and reputable media (e.g. Dispatches and Panorama).

 

It has spent huge sums of public money on IT development and has little to show for it. In December 2014 HM Treasury finally admitted that £663 million of spending on UC IT is likely to have to be written off as it won’t be used in the final UC system. To put this into perspective this is almost twice the cost of the Independent Living Fund that the Government is closing. This means that whilst claiming that the country can’t afford the benefits bill Iain Duncan Smith has flushed almost a billion pounds of public money down the drain.

 

Complex IT systems are by their very nature difficult to produce and it’s not easy to ensure that the data they hold is secure. If you look at the DWP history of IT development and the diverse nature of the organisations that the DWP wants to share your data with then it would be a brave person to simply accept that everything will be kept safe.

 

 

The DWP Can Be Trusted, Can’t it?

Can you be sure that the DWP will keep its word in respect of your data, especially your SPD? My personal view is that the DWP cannot be trusted not to abuse the powers it is granted and it has demonstrated this consistently over recent years.

 

The most recent example is the despicable harassment of people in the ESA Support Group by calling them to attend work focused interviews. Despite this allegedly being voluntary there is compelling evidence that people have been threatened with sanctions if they didn’t attend. Is this just a matter of a few overzealous JCP employees or something more sinister? I would argue that something more sinister is happening and that the DWP was knowingly acting unlawfully.

 

It simply isn’t credible that most civil servants working in the DWP don’t know that they can’t just do whatever they want. Our system of law and Government means that IDS needs permission from Parliament to administer the benefits system. This takes the form of primary legislation (e.g. the Welfare Reform Act 2012) and if IDS acts outside this “permission” he is acting unlawfully. The Welfare reform Act states the following in relation to people allocated to the ESA Support Group:

 

The Secretary of State may not impose any work-related requirement on a person falling within this section.”

 

This proves that the targeting of people in the support group to pressure them to attend work-focused interviews (“WFI”) is clearly unlawful. There is no ambiguity here as Parliament specifically forbade IDS from doing this. It doesn’t matter if letters included the word voluntary or not, if, thanks to the actions of JCP employees, the person truly believed that they had no choice but to attend a WFI then the DWP is breaking the law.

 

The DWP has considerable ‘form’ for using other ‘dirty tricks’ as well. If you have claimed for ESA you may have come across the DWP edict that a WCA can only be deferred for a maximum of 4 weeks. This is nothing more than an internal DWP policy but it would have you believe otherwise.

 

I think there is a real risk that the DWP will pressure people into ‘consenting’ to share their sensitive personal data under threat of sanctions because it seems to rely on people being too scared to fight back and not knowing what the DWP can and cannot impose

 

 

What Happens Now?

The DWP consultation is now closed and we have to wait and see what happens next. Will the DWP discuss its proposals with the ICO? Will the DWP take any notice of what the organisations that responded to the consultation say? Will it publish the responses?

 

When I first heard about the DWP proposals I thought I’d submit a Freedom of Information request to see what the DWP would tell me. The request and the DWP response can be found here:

 

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/uc_wide_sharing_of_claimants_dat#incoming-617712

 

I respect of claimants refusing to share data the DWP appears to have had a change of mind as it said in its response:

 

In respect of data sharing for Universal Support provision, the legislation allows for data to be shared, this will happen following a conversation with a claimant during which they will have the opportunity to decline to share some or all of the information. If someone prefers not to share information, there is categorically no impact on their claim for Universal Credit. Giving consent will enable Universal Support partnerships to offer tailored and more holistic support more quickly this will help to ensure that people get the level of support they need. 

 

We will be taking steps to ensure that data sharing complies with data protection principles; that claimant confidentiality is not compromised; and that no claimant is inadvertently put at risk. We are developing procedures and guidance that will clarify this.

 

This response does suggest that for some of the data the DWP accepts that the claimant can refuse to share it without any threat to their UC claim. However, the response also stated that the DWP believes it doesn’t need the claimant’s consent to share some of the data.

 

I had a look at the Welfare Reform Act 2012 (“WFA”) and it has amended the Social Security Administration Act 1992 to allow IDS to make regulations to gather information that may be relevant to a benefit claim:

 

“(1A) Regulations may make provision for requiring a person of a prescribed description to supply any information or evidence which is, or could be, relevant to—

  1. a claim or award relating to a benefit to which this section applies, or
  2. potential claims or awards relating to such a benefit.”

 

This isn’t a surprise as it’s reasonable to allow the DWP to gather information it needs to administer benefits. The WFA also allows IDS to make regulations to specify who this information can be shared with. This explains the “draft Social Security (Information-Sharing in Relation to Welfare Services Etc.) Amendment Regulations 2015” included in the consultation document.

 

However, I’m still unsettled by the DWP wish to share SPD and if it still plans to do so without the explicit consent. I’m have submitted another FOIA request to see if I can find out why the DWP believes it can share some data without any consent and if it plans to share any SPD without explicit consent from UC claimants (link below).

 

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/uc_sharing_of_claimants_data

 

 

What could you do if:

  • the DWP tells you that you must sign something agreeing to share your data and/or your SPD? or
  • you are claiming UC and the DWP wants to share your SPD with other organisations and you don’t want to?

 

If you are being pressured to sign something that suggests the DWP needs your consent to share your data. If your consent if required then it must be given freely and without coercion, i.e. the DWP shouldn’t be threatening you with sanctions if you don’t sign. Consent isn’t just a matter of signing a piece of paper, as you have to understand what you are agreeing to. It’s reasonable to explain that you don’t understand what is going on and that you need to get some advice about what you are being asked to sign. Explain that you want to take the document you are being asked to sign away with you and respond within a reasonable period of time (perhaps a week).

 

You might want to consider politely asking the following questions and if possible get answers in writing. If the person refuses to put their answers in writing then there is nothing stopping you from doing so and sending a letter to the person thanking them for their time and outlining what you asked and what they said. If they don’t challenge what you said then it would be hard for the DWP to convince anyone that your record isn’t accurate.

 

  1. Ask what are you agreeing to and what the DWP will do if you refuse?
  2. Ask them to explain why the DWP thinks your information needs to be shared (i.e. what’s in it for you) and why you should give your consent.
  3. Ask how sharing the data helps with the administration of your UC claim (i.e. can’t your UC claim be administered if this data isn’t shared?).
  4. Explain that it is your understanding that your explicit consent is required to share your SPD and that this cannot be coerced. If they believe otherwise ask them to explain on what basis they believe they have to power to share your SPD without your explicit consent.Show the person you are dealing with the DWP response to my FOIA request explaining that your claim shouldn’t be threatened if you decline to share your SPD.

 

 

If, despite being polite and asking reasonable questions the DWP threatens you with sanctions or your claim being refused if you don’t agree to share your SPD you need to consider what is best way forward for you personally.

 

You might be in a position where you are able challenge the DWP and fight the sanction/refusal through the DWP complaints process. However, you might reasonably feel that having your UC sanctioned / claim refused is not something you can risk. If this is the case then you can protect yourself by including the phrase “vi coactus” or the initials (V.C.) after your signature. This indicates that your consent has been granted under duress. You could then seek help through organisations such as the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/) or complain directly to the DWP or the ICO:

 

Web site:                               https://ico.org.uk/

Telephone:                           0303 123 1113 (local rate) or 01625 545 745 if you prefer to use a

national rate number.

Email:                                      casework@ico.org.uk (please include your telephone number)

 Posted by at 16:31
Feb 212015
 

Logos for DPAC, Black Triangle, Mental Health Resistance Network, New Approach,  and UK Uncut

London Demo

Acts for the London Demo

Find your nearest protest

Protest on Social Media

Pictures and video to share

Join the Thunderclap

Balham ~ Bournemouth ~ Bradford ~ Brighton ~ Bristol ~ Cardiff ~ Croydon ~ Dundee ~ Ealing ~ Edinburgh ~ Glasgow ~ Gloucester ~ Hull ~ Huddersfield ~ Inverness ~ Ipswich ~ Leeds ~ Leicester ~ Lincoln ~ Manchester ~ Norwich ~ Portsmouth ~ Plymouth ~ Reading ~ Sheffield ~ Stockton-on-Tees ~ Sunderland ~ Toronto ~ Truro ~ Wrexham and Maximus HQ in central London.


See this great promo vid by @MarquisLeDain

See Paula Peter’s interview about the Day of Action in the famous Artist Taxi Driver, Chunky Mark’s Cab


The London Protest

Roll Up!, Roll Up! Roll Up!

Mark the return of the WCA (Work Capability Assessment) by attending

Maximarse: Same Circus, Different Clowns

Monday 2nd March @ 1pm,
Maximus HQ, 29 Queen Anne’s Gate, London SW1H.

Visit the Facebook Event Page

Brian Hilton Artwork for the Maximus Day of action, Same Circus, Different Clowns version 5

While Atos may have left the ring, the WCA – The Greatest Sham on Earth, continues to amaze, astound and confound all who come across it. This flawed ‘functional assessment’ continues to baffle medical science, ignore centuries of barriers, fly in the face of irrefutable evidence, dismiss the experience of millions of disabled people; and most importantly of all – impoverish hundreds of thousands of people, in the pursuit of ‘reducing welfare’ costs in the name of austerity.

So far, almost 4.8 million (yes, you read it correctly) WCA’s have been carried out, with many disabled people forced on to schemes like the Work Programme, where only 26 000 have found any kind of paid employment. Meanwhile, support streams which actually support disabled people to find and stay in work, such as DLA (Disability Living Allowance) , Access to Work  & ILF (Independent Living Fund)  continue to be decimated by cuts or abolished altogether.

Ringmaster Iain Duncan Smith presides over the farce of a 3 ringed circus of the Department for Work and Pensions, Atos now Maximarse & Work Programme Providers. All are making disabled people perform meaningless tricks for the entertainment of politicians and the Daily Mail reading public, and this will continue to wreak havoc in the lives of millions of British people. Countless suicides have been blamed on DWP cuts to benefits, and not just by disabled people, but by coroners, journalists and MPs . The DWP itself is investigating up to 60 deaths, to establish their links to benefit cuts.

As part of the National Day of Action against Maximus, DPAC says ‘Scrap the WCA – No to Maximus’ and invites you to attend our tongue-in-cheek homage to the ridiculousness that the WCA is.

We will hold an inclusive circus event, bring acts and activities to entertain you and get involved in. Alternatively, you can join the 25+ towns and cities across the UK.

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Acts and entertainments for the London Demo

Roll Up!, Roll Up! Roll Up!

Gasp with awe and be inspired by our glorious & fandabulicious arts and entertainments for your delectation and delight!

Brian Hilton Artwork for the Maximus Day of action, Same Circus, Different Clowns version 6

As introduced by our very own MC, the one and only  …… Rockin’ Paddy

(And if you’re all good boys and girls and ask him very very nicely, he might sing “Battle of Whitehall” for you too!)

Disabled people know all about having to jump through hoops, but we can still be wowed and mesmerised by the elegance, control and sheer beauty of the display by hoop artist ………. Alice Rose

 And now, from the sublime to the amazing, a display of fire antics that will have your jaw on the floor, we present you ……… Eddie “FireSmile” Grant

As musical interlude, to allow you to gain your composure, we present the Kilburn Unemployed Worker’s Group Choir presenting the inaugural public performance of their original composition “David Cameron is a W******

Back from their tour of the great cities of Paris, Berlin, Rome, Madrid, New York, and Los Angeles, we can present to you in all their glory, for one day only, their unforgettable, astounding, awe inspiring, performance of Work Related Activity……. Yes you can believe it, they really are here…………….

the DPAC Synchronised Box-Lifting Display Team!!!!!!!

No display of the circus arts would be complete without an act that will set your heart pounding and your bum-cheeks on the very edge of their seat, watch aghast as those zany disabled people attempt a spectacle that you will not believe ……..

The MILK CARTON RELAY RACE  !!!!!

Fed up with having just a face? Ever wanted to look like a tiger ? a clown ? or a wombat ?

We can help you – visit our face painting artiste ……

the Great Zelda!!!!

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Find Your Nearest Protest

Protest

Location

Time(s)

Events Page

Balham

Irene House, 218 Balham High Road, Balham, London, SW12 9BX

10.30 am – 12noon

https://facebook.com/events/921882261178305/

Bournemouth

Bournemouth Assessment Centre, Tamarisk House, 1 Cotlands Road, Bournemouth, BH1 3BG

1:30pm – 2:30pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/1439972619627216/

Bradford

Bradford City Centre, Wool exchange buildings, 22 Bank Street, Bradford, BD1 1PR

8.30 am to 10.30 am

https://www.facebook.com/events/1589908967913041/

Brighton

West Lees House, 21-35 Dyke Road, Brighton, BN1 3GD, (North End of the Clock Tower, Next to Old Job Centre.)

1pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/1542104427509/

Bristol

Medical Assessment Centre, Government Buildings. Flowers Hill, Brislington, Bristol, BS4 5LA

Cardiff

Run by DAN Cmyru

Block 2, Government Buildings, St Agnes Road, Gabalfa, Cardiff, CF14 4YJ.

1 -4 pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/1541199339470550/

Croydon

Stephenson House, 2 Cherry Orchard Road, Croydon, CR0 6BA

10 am – 6pm.

https://www.facebook.com/events/641182419342826/

Dundee

Run by Scottish Unemployed Workers Network

Meet outside Boots

1pm

For futher details, contact SUWN at admin@scottishunemployedworkers.net

Ealing

Medical Assessment Centre/Ealing Job Centre

86-92 Uxbridge Road

West Ealing London W13 8RA

9 am -10.30 am

https://www.facebook.com/events/876381712418630/

Edinburgh

Argyle House, 3 Lady Lawson Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9SJ

1pm-3pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/334127460115256/

Glasgow

Corunna House, 29 Cadogan Street, Glasgow, G2 7RD

12.30 -2.30 pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/1429430507348206/

Gloucester

Job Centre Plus, Cedar House, Spa Road, Gloucester, GL1 1XL


11am – 4pm

https://www/facebook.com/events/881341618589011/

Huddersfield

Huddersfield Jobcentre Plus Castle House, Market Street, Huddersfield, HD1 2NE

11am to 12.30pm

 

Hull

Job Centre Plus, Hill Britannia House, 2 Ferensway, Hull HU2 8NF

(Organised by Hull People’s Assembly)

1pm to 2 pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/1508382406051019/

Ipswich

Medical Assessment Centre, St. Felix House, Silent Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 1TF.

1 pm to 4 pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/1513102252288548/

Leeds

Leeds Briggate LS1 6NP (meet near the Bodyshop)

12 noon until 2 pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/369677073211238/

Leicester

1st Floor, Rytland Centre, Halford Street, Leicester, LE1 1TQ

1pm – 3.30 pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/522105471264765/

Lincoln

Medical Assessment Centre, Viking House, 98 Newland

1 pm to 3.30 pm

https://www.facebook.com/events178533808358604/

London Central Maximus HQ

Maximus HQ Level 1, Queen Anne’s Gate, London, SW1H 9BU

1 – 5 pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/771842739517758/

Manchester

Albert Bridge House, Bridge Street, Manchester, M60 9AT

12 noon until 4 pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/346833825508275/

Norwich

St Mary’s House, Duke St, Norwich. NR3 1QA

1pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/790624161029820/

Portsmouth

Medical Assessment Centre, Wingfield House, 316-334 Commercial Road, Portsmouth PO1 4TA

1 pm until 5 pm

http://www.facebook.com/events/1609767919257826/

Plymouth

Argosy house, longfield road, plympton, plymouth, PL6 8LS

12 noon until 3 pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/951081494902471/

Reading

St Mary’s Butts, Reading, RG1 2LG

11 am – 1 pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/1404292959867177/

Sheffield

Medical Assessment Centre, 1 Hartshead Square, Sheffield, S1 2FD.

1- 3 pm (meet first at 12.30 pm at City centre)

https://facebook.com/events/1526799147602672/

Stockton-on-Tees

Thornoby Assessment Centre, 2nd Floor, Christine House, Sorbonne Close, Thornoby, Stockton-On-Tees

12 noon – 1pm

 

https://www/facebook.com/events/387893081383780/

Sunderland

Sunderland Job Centre, 60-66 John Street, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear SR1 1QT

11 am-1pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/780811318671686/

Toronto

Office of Maximus Canada
56 Aberfoyle Crescent, at Islington Subway Station. More info here

11 am EST

4pm UK time

https://www.facebook.com/events/140258373338318/

Truro

Pydar House, Pydar Street, Truro, Cornwall, TR1 2XD (the current WCA Assessment Centre) After a while spent there protest will move on to  Truro City Centre  outside the JobCentre Plus

12 noon until 2 pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/1002956276384446/

Wrexham

Medical Assessment Centre, Ty Maelor, 15-17 Grosvenor Road, Wrexham LL11 1BW

1pm – 3pm

https://www.facebook.com/events/519696384836975/

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Social Media

If you can’t make it to one of the demos – Join us on twitter to protest online

Send your own tweets using the hashtags #ScrapWCA and #Maximarse or use our tweetlist :

Don’t forget to keep an eye on the DPAC Twitter Account @dis_ppl_protest for updates, pictures and live video feeds from the Day of Action

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Pictures and Video to share

Video

Promotion Video for the protest by award winning animator Hannah Maines

Artwork

You can download any of these images (Just right-click on the image and select “Save Image As…” or “Save Picture As…..”) to share over Twitter and Facebook or print out to use at the protests around the country

Cartoon Maximus - Same Circus - Different Clowns by Phil Evans

Cartoon Maximus – Same Circus – Different Clowns by Phil Evans

…. and some of Brian Hilton’s magnificent artwork :

Brian Hilton Artwork for the Maximus Day of action, Same Circus, Different Clowns version 6Brian Hilton Artwork for the Maximus Day of action, Same Circus, Different Clowns version 5Brian Hilton Artwork for the Maximus Day of action, Same Circus, Different Clowns version 4IMG_3552Brian Hilton Artwork for the Maximus Day of action, number 2. Same Circus, Different Clowns version 2Brian Hilton Artwork for the Maximus Day of action, number 1. Same Circus, Different Clowns

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How to Join the Thunderclap for the Maximus Day of Action

 

Go to the Link: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/21931-maximus-day-of-action?locale=en (Either by clicking on the link above or copying and pasting it into your browser)

On the Thunderclap webpage, the picture below shows the webpage you should see, after clicking the link above

Image of the Thunderclap screen for the Maximus Day of action

To support with Facebook. Click on the red area with the text “support with FACEBOOK” and then see part 1 below

To support with Twitter. Click on the red area with the text “support with TWITTER” and then see part 2 below

Notes:

i). You can join with Twitter and Facebook, if you have accounts with both, it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

ii). Instructions for supporting with tumblr are not given here as this is not generally used.

1 Support with Facebook

If you have clicked on “support with Facebook” in the screen above, you should now see a screen like this.

Image of the Thunderclap Facebook signup screen

The centre of the screen shows what will appear when the thunderclap happens at noon on the day of action. This is what will appear on your facebook page (you don’t have to be using facebook at the time, or even logged in, but it won’t matter if you are).

If you want, you can add your own message to appear when the thunderclap goes off (but you don’t have to do this), just type your message in the grey area which has the text “Make It your own! Add a custom message”

Complete the process of Joining the thunderclap on Facebook, click where it says “+ Add My Support” in the box in red at the bottom of the screen.

You will then get an acknowledgement message to say that you have joined, and that’s it, you’re done!

2. Support with Twitter

If you have clicked on “support with Twitter” in the screen above, you should now see a screen like this:

Screenshot from 2015-02-17 06:43:01

The centre of the screen shows what will appear when the thunderclap happens at noon on the day of action. This is what will appear as a tweet that you have sent (you don’t have to be using twitter at the time, or even logged in, but it won’t matter if you are).

If you want, you can change the tweet message that appears when the thunderclap goes off (but you don’t have to do this), just type your message in the grey area under the text “Make It your own! Add a custom message”

To proceed with Joining the thunderclap on Twitter, click where it says “+ Add My Support” in the box in red at the bottom of the screen.

You will then see a screen which says “Authorise Thunderclap to use your account” (shown below).

Screenshot from 2015-02-17 06:43:24

Click on the “Authorize app” in blue on the left hand side of the screen.

You will then get an acknowledgement message to say that you have joined, and that’s it, you’re done!

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 Posted by at 23:55
Feb 212015
 
The Save the ILF Campaign was successful in all parts of the UK except England, where the Labour Party repeatedly refused to save it on and coming to power they followed through on this non-promised. The guidlines they had promised to send to Local Authorities where duly sent and had were of no help whatsoever to former ILF recipients.

The Save the ILF Campaign was successful in all parts of the UK except England, where the Labour Party repeatedly refused to save it. Then Shadow Minister for Disabled People Kate Green said “I do need to start by being clear that it’s not Labour’s position to retain the ILF”.

September 2015: The Legacy of the First 100 Days of a Labour government elected with a majority. Disabled people throughout the devolved nations of the UK are celebrating the continuing existence of their own Independent Living Funds. Yet in England those with the same support needs have little to cheer about as Labour themselves abandoned disabled people in England and continued forcing through the closure of the ILF, refusing disabled people the right to have the support they need to continue to live independently in the community.

Labour kept its pre-election promises on cuddly animals, and unfortunately kept to it's pre-election policies on disability as well
Labour kept its pre-election promises on cuddly animals, and unfortunately kept to it’s pre-election policies for disabled people  as well

But resilient as ever disabled people are cheering the fact that under Labour there are a significant number of improved rights for animals. After all we accept that not being pretty and fluffy and not enjoying being patted on the head by people passing us on the street- we were never likely to get the same sort of attention as cute little animals.Besides which, after 5 years of Condem austerity measures we’ve come to accept that the main political parties view us as stock with no human rights.

One of the first acts of the new Labour Government was to pass legislation to improve the lives of dogs and cats-they must now all be fed daily, be allowed out to go to the toilet regularly and have a daily walk. Not so for disabled people who have lost their care and support funding and who can only watch wistfully the new freedoms that pets have- imprisoned as they now are inside the walls of their homes unable to leave and take any active part in society. Many social services have introduced toileting regimes allowing disabled people to go to the toilet only at set times, or replaced human support with incontinence pads and catheters.

Fresh food has become a distant memory as more and more 3 minute short visits are all that is available to humans. Along with the wild animals which Labour is protecting by banning them from being used in circuses some of us are also being relocated to new ‘homes’. Sadly for disabled people this means we’re being removed totally from society and pushed out of sight and mind since the closure of the ILF in England.

Ed Miliband and Ed Balls back when every disabled child mattered

Ed Miliband and Ed Balls back in 2006 when every disabled child mattered

Many young disabled people have now been sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in old people’s homes which provide the only residential care available for them. Meanwhile the search for suitable re-homing of our circus animals is being supported by a new independent and well-funded task force set up by Ed Balls. Equitably the re-homing of disabled people by Local Authorities is being done following a set of non-compulsory guidelines drawn up by the new minister of disabled people Dick Ensien.

When asked why he has abandoned the previous legacy of the last labour Governments Every Disabled Child Matters Campaign which he spear-headed Ed replied “ Although I find some disabled children cute I can’t stand them once they reach adulthood and besides which having had 'a hand up' while children the Labour party now no longer need to do anything more for them. They’ve already had equality of opportunity as outlined in Tony’s Third Way ideology and should just be jolly grateful for that.

Before the election, Rachel Reeves promised "Labour will be tougher then the Tories on Benefits ......" (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/12/labour-benefits-tories-labour-rachel-reeves-welfare)

Before the election, Rachel Reeves promised “Labour will be tougher then the Tories on Benefits ……” (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/12/labour-benefits-tories-labour-rachel-reeves-welfare)

Thankfully, as well, we’re delighted that the hunting ban has been confirmed to continue, and all culling of badgers has been stopped however the culling of disabled people through the new Work Capability Assessments carried out by Maximus – Same Circus, Different Clowns - continues unabated. The DWP as usual have refused to release figures of how many disabled people have died as a result of this process since the Labour government came to power. Disabled people also continue to be disproportionately sanctioned for failing to meet the conditionality in the WRAG as well as those flung onto JSA. Unqualified Job centre staff are free to decide which disabled people can be left to starve and for how long. But we are all so pleased dogs and cats now have a right to at least one meal a day. Tesco’s should also be applauded for continuing to collect food for us in their shops next to their baskets collecting cat and dog food. We do love being passive recipients of charity and being made to feel so thankful for any scraps thrown our way.

David Freud has now also returned to the Labour fold as a Labour Lord advising on benefits reform.

David Freud has now also returned to the Labour fold as a Labour Lord advising on benefit reform.

Of course David Freud has now also returned to the Labour fold as a Labour Lord advising on benefits reform. He has recommended to a Labour government bent on imposing further and harsher austerity measures that any disabled person in work should only be paid a maximum rate of £2 per hour since we are worth so much less to employers than non-disabled people. Since the alternative to this for many of us is unpaid work placements we are of course willing to accept this meagre rate if it allows us to be more employable.

 

Who 2 Vote 4 Logo

 

Feb 202015
 

[Article by Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network]

The so-called Welfare Reforms, started by New Labour and ramped up by the ConDem Coaltion, are nothing less than major cuts that undermine the very idea of social security.

Scottish Unemployed Workers' Network logoThey have led to a blizzard of attacks on the rights of people who find themselves caught within the web of an increasingly ‘Orwellian’ benefit system, which measures its success by how many ‘claimants’ it is able to push ‘off benefits’. A target-driven punitive system of administration has come into being that withdraws the means of livelihood from some of the poorest and most vulnerable for minor misdemeanours such as turning up to an appointment a few minutes late.

This increasingly punitive welfare regime is also having an impact on the right of the unemployed to be represented at DWP meetings, and also on the rights of ordinary people and welfare rights activists to represent the unemployed, despite these rights being enshrined in law.

The gathering attack on the right of the unemployed to representation is underlined by the case of Tony Cox, a Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network (SUWN) activist, who was arrested on charges of threatening behaviour, refusing to give his name and address and resisting arrest, whilst representing a highly vulnerable woman in a meeting at Arbroath Jobcentre on the 29th January. The meeting had been arranged specifically to renegotiate what the woman felt was a highly punishing claimant commitment agreement, but when Tony attempted to help negotiate more suitable terms, the Jobcentre manager responded by telling him to leave the building and calling the police.

By the time the police came, Tony and the unemployed woman had left (with the promise of a further meeting), but he was still arrested and charged. This case has serious implications for Tony personally and also for welfare activists everywhere.

This example of harassment of welfare activists is far from an isolated incident, and must by challenged in the most determined fashion. We demand that welfare activists are not prevented from conducting their work and nothing be put in the way of benefit claimants’ fundamental right to advice and representation.

We call on activists and welfare rights groups to organise protests at their local job centres to coincide with the national day of protest on February 25th (when Tony will be appearing at Forfar Sheriff Court) called by Boycott Workfare.

Please also sign our petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/advocacy-is-not-a-crime-1

If you want to get a bit of help and advice, to find out more about what we do, or to join
the struggle, please give us a ring on 0789 9798979 or 07803 052239, or find us online: www.scottishunemployedworkers.net
www.facebook.com/scottishunemployedworkersnetwork
admin@scottishunemployedworkers.net

 

 Posted by at 17:40
Feb 192015
 

Yesterday the DWP released its latest statistics on sanctions. The BBC’s angle on this, undoubtedly suggested by DWP, was that there was a 19% drop from previous year in the number of sanctions.

bbc SANCTIONSAfter some confusion about the dates, it appears that the number of sanctions has fallen, from 894,357 sanctions between October 2012 and September 2013 to 724,138 between October 2013 and September 2014, but as the number of JSA claimants has also fallen, (from 17,228,101 to 12,832,849 for the same dates), in fact the percentage of JSA claimants sanctioned has risen from 5.19% to 5.64%.

More interestingly, the BBC does not mention sanctions of ESA claimants, and DWP would have had good reason not to attract attention to them. Those of us who watched the Work and Pensions Committee debate on the 4th of February will certainly remember Esther McVey giving evidence, and particularly her emphasising the small number of sanctioned ESA claimants, which she said was 0.6%, which represents 3,000 claimants.  The Minister was once again being economical with the truth.  In the 2 years covered, there was only one quarter when the percentage of ESA claimants sanctioned was 0.6%, between November 2012 and February 2013. For all other quarters, the percentage was higher, and for the latest that Esther McVey would have been aware of (September 2014), the percentage reached the unprecedented level of 1.71%, which represents 3,828 sanctioned ESA claimants. Knowing how ‘sanction-happy’ JobCentrePlus staff are these days, it is very likely that this number would have now reached 4,000 sanctions for ESA claimants per month.

Once again, DWP has shown itself to be a master in statistics manipulation and in the use of selective figures, which are given to the media without context or explanation, and the media are only too happy to oblige, publishing these figures without scrutiny.   Although it was pointed out to Mark Easton that in fact, the percentage of sanctioned claimants has risen, it is unlikely that this correction will find its way onto the BBC.

 

For the latest statistics on sanctions:  https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/jobseekers-allowance-and-employment-and-support-allowance-sanctions-decisions-made-to-september-2014

 Posted by at 21:40
Feb 172015
 

Who 2 Vote 4 LogoEd Miliband and the shadow cabinet are coming to Birmingham on Saturday, March 14th, International Convention Centre, Birmingham to announce their policy proposals for the general election.

12.30pm – 2.30 pm Join us to protest and to tell Labour we want more from them if they want our votes.
Join the facebook event here https://www.facebook.com/events/609146595896685/

or if you can’ t make it to the protest, support us on twitter

The Labour Party have agreed to scrap the bedroom tax but what else makes them any different to the Condems?
We say nothing we can see in their policies – yet.

Labour Are failing disabled People

The Labour Party have said that although England will now be the only UK nation not to retain an Independent Living Fund (ILF) to support severely disabled people to continue to live in the community they too will close it from June 2015.
We say that is not good enough.

The Labour Party will retain the Work Capability Assessment process as it stands and continue to pay massive amounts of money to a dubious American company, Maximus, to carry out these discredited tests on disabled people.
We say that is not good enough.

The Labour Party will continue with the scrapping of Disability Living Allowance removing over 600,000 disabled people from entitlement.
We say that is not good enough.

The Labour Party will retain sanctions in the Benefit system.
We say that is not good enough.

The Labour Party will retain Workfare but call it something else.
We say that is not good enough.

The Labour Party say they want disabled people to vote for them.
We say not unless you change your policies.

There are 11.6 million disabled voters compared to 6 million trade union members and if Labour want us to vote for them then they must listen to us and change their policies.

Join the thunderclap by clicking below :

 Posted by at 22:21
Feb 172015
 

We know that IDS’ Universal Credit has been a disaster in wasted costs and scrapped IT. The hallowed tax payer ( i.e poor people not the wealthy who have a set of schemes to avoid tax) have footed the bill for this.

We know that lives have been destroyed, people left without cash, mounting rent arrears, and have lost their homes too- the system is not fit for purpose.

Channel 4 are now doing a program on Universal Credit and how it has affected those it was supposed to help. Please let them know your experiences to give this destructive folly and its impacts a public airing.

Contact: Sarah Hay

email: sarah.hey@ninelivesmedia.co.uk

Tel: 0161 832 2007 or mobile 07976 413 823

Feb 162015
 
Below is the written response from Ms Carol Homden, Chairperson of The National Autistic Society in relation to the question of abuse of Anthony Kletzander.
Such is the limited  “transparency and openness” at the NAS it has been necessary to communicate via an intermediary to put questions to the chairperson. It is not permissible to have direct email, contact with her, even thought she is responsible and accountable for this publicly funded National Charity.
Dear Mr Whittaker

The Chair of the NAS, Dr Carol Homden, has now considered your messages to her and has reviewed the background to your correspondence with the NAS.

The essential facts in this matter are:

. The NAS has no legal or contractual relationship with either yourself or Anthony Kletzander, nor with those who represent him;
. The NAS has no operational presence in the Republic of Ireland;
. The NAS has no influence and does not seek to have influence over government agencies in the Republic of Ireland;

Notwithstanding these facts, the NAS has used its best endeavours to facilitate an agreed way forward for the care of Anthony.

Autism Accreditation, operated by the NAS, accredits several autism services provided by Nua Healthcare in the Republic of Ireland. These services meet the standards required by the accreditation scheme and the status of each service is reviewed every three years.

There is nothing further that the NAS can do in this matter and this correspondence is therefore being brought to a close.

This indifferent piece of rhetoric from The Chair of NAS attempts to distance NAS from their active role in continuing to uncritically support an institution where Anthony Kletzander is abused.

 

NAS choose “jurisdiction” and lack of “contractual obligations” as their defence to “wash their hands of any responsibility” of the abuse of a young man with Autism.

 

Ms Homden has failed to address the central question.

 

Whilst she acknowledges continued NAS accreditation of NUA Institution – why did NAS recently undertake an intermediate review of Nua institution, outside of their stated accredited protocol, and provide additional endorsement of Nua Institution, without any reference whatever to the allegations of abuse ?

 

Rather than attempt to quell growing anger about the role of NAS, she has compounded NAS shame by hiding behind the jargon of standards.

 

Ms Homden, makes no mention of UN Human Rights or concern about the abuse for a young man with Autism, simply that Nua Institution have conformed to the appropriate standards of NAS protocols.

 

I am very sorry Ms Homden you may want to close down communication on this issue, but supporters of Anthony Kletzander will not accept NAS being an apologist for an institution, where allegations of abuse have taken place.

 

The NAS continued accreditation of Nua means you are inextricably linked to the allegation of that abuse.

 

Many of institutions and professionals took a similar view as Senior managers of the NAS, about the systematic abuse in Rotherham over many years. We now know of the dreadful ordeal for many disempowered young people.

 

We can not allow such indifference to happen again.

Joe Whittaker

Protest Co-ordinator and friend of Anthony Kletzander.
Please join the protest of 6pm on 3rd March 2015 at The Royal Hall in Harrogate against the callous indifference to abuse of Anthony Kletzander by the NAS and demand answers to serious questions. Or if you can’t get to the Harrogate protest, you can tweet to the NAS using @Autism and the hashtag #AnthoyKletzander to show support for the protest.
Please Sign and Share the Petition to Free Anthony Kletzander
Please Donate to the legal fund, or if you can’t afford to donate but want to help, please share the link and ask others to donate.
 Posted by at 22:15
Feb 152015
 

Reblogged from Kate Belgrave, with thanks.

This fits in nicely with David Cameron’s “let’s smack a few more people on benefits around and not talk about corporate tax-dodging theme:”

Here is a letter received very recently from a DWP “work coach” by Sean* (name changed), a Northamptonshire man who I’ve known and written about for several years. He has Asperger’s and severe depression.

Here is a letter received very recently from a DWP “work coach” by Sean* (name changed), a Northamptonshire man who I’ve known and written about for several years. He has Asperger’s and severe depression.

Sean finds day-to-day life very difficult to handle (he struggles to leave his house a lot of the time). He actually finds day-to-day life so challenging that even Atos agreed that he shouldn’t have to work. After a face-to-face assessment for his WCA about two years ago (I attended that assessment with him), Atos placed him in the support group for Employment and Support Allowance. As many of you will know, people in the ESA support group are neither required to work, nor to look for work. That’s the whole point of the support group. It’s an acknowledgement (a grudging one, I suspect) by the system as we have it that some people simply aren’t in a position take a job. From Benefits and Work: “the ESA support group is for claimants who the DWP consider to have such severe health problems that there is no current prospect of their being able to undertake work or work-related activities.” Once you’re in the support group, that should be the end of that, at least until your next assessment.

But here is this letter all the same. Disturbing reports of other people in the ESA support group getting letters like this, or calls to attend work-focused interviews, now abound. Sean received this letter out of nowhere and it scared the hell out of him. I imagine that scaring the hell out of him was at least in part the point of the exercise. The DWP doesn’t like people with mental health conditions to feel too secure.

And they don’t. As you can read for yourself, this DWP letter calls Sean to an interview this week to talk about “returning to work” or “starting a new job,” how to “find the right job” and how Sean’s benefits might be affected if he did go to work (even though the government’s assessor has said that he can’t). Even more incredibly, the invitation calls Sean to a group information session. This suggests to me that whoever sent it never read Sean’s file, or even glanced at it. A group session? Sean finds groups of people so challenging that he can barely bring himself to leave the house a lot of the time. He said he couldn’t handle the idea of travelling across town to sit in a room with complete strangers to discuss very personal details.

That is one of the many reasons why the letter is crass in the extreme. There’s a flimsy attempt in it to acknowledge that Sean is not actually obliged to attend the meeting (“not attending will not affect your [benefit] payment,” etc), but the real message is loud and clear.

It was certainly loud and clear as far as Sean was concerned. The message he took from it was that even when the government’s own notoriously harsh medical assessors have agreed that a person can’t work, the government is very much of the opinion that the person can work – and should be pushed to work, more to the point. “Your attendance at this session is voluntary….we nevertheless would like you to consider attending this session,” the letter reads. The threat here is discernible. If anyone who has paid me over the years said “you don’t have to attend this meeting, but I’d like you to,” I’d know exactly what they meant. Sean’s wife Maggie* (named changed) told me the threat became even more explicit when she rang the DWP to say that Sean would not attend the meeting (Maggie makes a lot calls on Sean’s behalf, because he doesn’t like to talk with officials, or on the phone. Maggie herself has a severe mental health condition. She has a schizophrenia diagnoses and has spent a lot of time in hospital). Maggie said that when she called, the DWP said it would note Sean’s non-attendance “this time”- the implication being that he would be asked to attend again. Maggie said she told the DWP that Sean would never attend such a session. She said that the DWP told her not to say Never. Ahem. Neither Sean nor Maggie think they’ve heard the last of this. I doubt they have either.

I have been thinking about all of this as Cameron has tried to divert us from stories about his tax-dodging mates with stories about people with drug problems who are on benefits. It’s all very interesting, you know. I have long believed that this government and others like it want to eliminate all disability benefits. They want people to believe that everyone can work and always work if they’re given enough of a shove. I think this government particularly wants everyone to believe that people with mental health problems are dragging the chain on purpose – that all anyone with a condition like severe depression needs is a nice cup of tea and a gentle (and then less gentle) kick in the pants to get going. The fact that someone with a severe mental health condition receives the sort of letter you see above tells you everything you need to know about the direction we’re travelling in. Atos was hired to ram home the entirely baseless theory that a lot of sick and disabled people on benefits were fit for work. The next stage will be about ramming home the entirely baseless theory that all sick and disabled people on benefits are fit for work.

I’d expect a government that wanted to push that idea would hire an aggressive and voracious welfare-to-work scheme provider to assess people’s fitness for work from this point on – you know, a company that exist to push the welfare-to-work concept (rather than the welfare-because-people-need-it concept) in exchange for heaps of public dosh. Oh wait. It has.


DPAC are investigating instances where people in the support group are being sent letters by the DWP

We are asking people to contact us if you are in the ESA Support Group and have been contacted by your Jobcentre to attend an interview, or group training session. Please email us at mail@dpac.uk.net and we will get back to you.

We will never disclose your name or personal information without your permission, but we may use your case (after your name and all personal details have been securely removed) to campaign against this. If you say no to this, we will not use the information in any way, and your information will still help us to understand what is happening.


 

 Posted by at 17:29
Feb 152015
 

Reblogged from Johnny Void, with thanks

maximusfbUS based multinational Maximus could be set to expand their monopoly over the lives of sick and disabled people by buying up what’s left of soon to be privatised Remploy.  This brazen move is sure to inflame anger against the company who are already facing protests after winning the contract to take over running the despised Work Capability Assessment from Atos.

Shortly after the government embarked on the cruel and vindictive closure of the Remploy factories, parts of the organisation were hived off and turned into a sort of state run welfare-to-work company.  Then last year it was announced this would be sold off to the private sector under an initiative bizarrely called Project Jupiter.

Just two companies have submitted bids to buy Remploy, Maximus and Prospects.  Both of these companies are already involved in the welfare-to-work  sector and the Remploy deal comes with a big juicy DWP contract to run the Work Choice scheme, alongside contracts to run parts of the Work Programme and the Access To Work scheme for disabled workers.  In other words they buy Remploy and the DWP spends the next few years giving them their money back.

Maximus have even produced a cringe-making youtube video (comments currently open) for the staff at Remploy with sinister Chief Executive Richard Montoni and his glassy-eyed corporate lacky Bruce Caswell spinning away the crimes of these profit hungry vultures.  Do not belive the fucking hype.  Richard Montoni earns a staggering $5 million a year to spout this shit.   In the US Maximus have faced both protests and law suits as they have gobbled up ever more public services, including contracts to disqualify people from free healthcare.  In Saudi Arabia they quite happily operate a gender segregated workforce, with ‘male candidates preferred‘ for some roles despite their claim to be equal opportunity employers.  In the UK they are already heavily involved in workfare and the harrowing benefit sanctions regime which has been linked to a growing number of suicides.

Should Maximus be successful in buying Remploy then their power over sick and disabled people’s lives will be chilling and unprecedented.  Disabled people who needs funding for adjustments at work through Access To Work will be assessed by Maximus.  People who need to take time off due to sickness or disability will soon have their absence acredited by Maximus, not their GP, as part of their Fit For Work contract.  If someone has to leave work because of a health condition then it will be a Maximus run Work Capability Assessment which decides whether they are eligible for sickness and disability benefits.  If they are found fit for work, or even possibly able to work in the future, then, depending on where they live they may be sent on the Work Programme.  With Maximus.  If unemployed disabled people want to join the so far voluntary Work Choice scheme then they will be sent to Maximus.  These bastards need to be stopped.

The decision on who gets to buy Remploy will be made in the next few weeks with an announcement expected in March.  You can share your thoughts with them on twitter @Remploy and @MAXIMUS_news.

In the meantime please spread the word about the Day of Action Against Maximus set to take place on the 2nd March.  Please tweet, share, blog and post everywhere: http://dpac.uk.net/2015/01/maximus-day-of-action-2nd-of-march-list-of-events-around-the-uk-scrapwca/

Above pic from: https://www.facebook.com/PhillEvansIllustration

 Posted by at 17:21
Feb 142015
 

Those considered obese, and with drug and alcohol dependency are to face sanctions if they refuse treatment for their ‘life style choices’ announces Cameron. A review has been carried out by Dame Carol Black, well known as one of the architects of the Bio-psycho-social model on which the punitive work capability assessment is based- now an advisor to the Department of Health. The announcement today claims that particular groups will face sanctions if they dont get help. Yet Cameron’s unelected Government have consistently slashed front line support. Cameron’s announcement has been described as ‘a stupid stunt’ and ’embarressing’ by Alastair Campbell

But our own Ellen Clifford said it best:

The cheap election trick by the Tories to threaten to stop benefits to those who with drug and alcohol dependency issues and obesity who “refuse” treatment is obscene and some might say a convenient distraction from the issue of Cameron’s tax avoiding friends. Affecting only 100,000 out of 2.5 million sickness benefit claimants such measures won’t even dent the welfare budget but it will further demonise the poorest and most disadvantaged in society. People in these situations have often experienced terrible trauma and may never be able to work, not as a life style choice but as the result of complex and enduring conditions and the multiple barriers they face, including a disproportionate number of ex service personnel. No one treatment option works for everyone. With the savage cuts to frontline services those treatment options that are available are steadily decreasing. Benefit sanctions will not work and will only punish those who have suffered enough. If the government really cared about obesity and substance dependency they would be providing real support to people not taking away their lifeline. This shouldn’t be happening in the seventh wealthiest nation in the world.”

see: http://news.sky.com/story/1427279/obese-could-lose-benefits-unless-they-diet

There are 1780 ESA/IB claimants with obesity as primary condition out of 2,501.480 claimants, 56,000 with alcohol misuse, plus 33,650 with drug misuse, so we are talking about 3,6% of the total caseload. But these numbers do not refer to those refusing any treatment.There are, as far as we are aware, no figures for this.

 Posted by at 15:49
Feb 142015
 

Reblogged from Boycott Workfare

Support Tony Cox from the Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network, who was arrested after assisting a claimant at Arbroath Jobcentre.

Support Tony Cox from the Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network, who was arrested after assisting a claimant at Arbroath Jobcentre.

SOLIDARITY WITH UNEMPLOYED ACTIVIST ARRESTED FOR REPRESENTING A JOBSEEKER
TAKE PART IN A DAY OF ACTION AT JOBCENTRES BRITAIN-WIDE 25 FEBRUARY 2015

Scottish Unemployed Workers Network activist Tony Cox was arrested on 29th January after Arbroath Jobcentre management called police to stop him representing a vulnerable jobseeker. We urge you to join a Day of Action on 25th February at Jobcentres round Britain to show your solidarity.

We must fight back against this clear attempt to intimidate claimants and deny us the right to be accompanied and represented. Tony will be in court in Forfar on 25th February facing charges of “threatening behaviour, refusing to give his name and address and resisting arrest”. That same day we call on people to descend on jobcentres round Britain to show their solidarity with Tony and distribute information to claimants urging them to exercise their right to be accompanied and represented at all benefits interviews.

As we face unprecedented sanctions and benefits cuts, it’s more important than ever that we support each other and stand up to the DWP bullies. The Scottish Unemployed Workers Network, Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions and other groups have established a strong presence at the Jobcentres in Dundee and in nearby towns and cities like Arbroath, Perth and Blairgowrie, supporting claimants in opposing sanctions and harassment.

On 29 January Tony was accompanying a vulnerable woman claimant, who suffers from severe dyslexia and literacy problems. The claimant, D, had been signed up to the Universal Job Match (UJM), the computerised job search system, and was being forced to complete five job searches per day, the pressure of which had led to her having several panic attacks. Tony proposed that D’s UJM account be closed, and that her number of job searches be significantly reduced. The adviser refused to consider this, and so Tony and D met with the Jobcentre manager.

The manager likewise refused to even look at the issue, falsely claiming that all jobseekers had to be registered with UJM. She even suggested to D that she should arrange another meeting without Tony or any other witness or rep present. Despite the pressure D was being put under by the manager, she replied that she would not attend another meeting without Tony. At this point the manager demanded that Tony leave the building or the police would be called. Tony refused to leave, but the meeting ended when it was agreed that a further meeting be arranged to discuss the issue further. Tony was arrested after he left the Jobcentre.

The right of claimants to be accompanied to interviews, and for the accompanier to have the right to speak, has been established by groups like Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, who have forced the DWP locally and Britain-wide to apologise for calling the police on ECAP reps, and to affirm claimants’ right to representation. The DWP clearly state “Claimants accessing Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefits and services can have someone to accompany them to act on their behalf…”

The attack on benefits and claimants is part of the austerity assault on the entire working class. We call on all unemployed and claimants groups, anti cuts and anti austerity groups, human rights groups, workplace activists, and all working class people, waged and unwaged, to show solidarity with Tony and the right of the unemployed and all claimants to organise collectively to fight back.

Visit your local Jobcentre on 25th February with banners and placards and distribute leaflets to claimants on Tony’s case and the right to be accompanied to all benefits interviews.

Call out by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty – ecap@lists.riseup.net

Supported by Scottish Unemployed Workers Network
Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions
Boycott Workfare

Please add the support of your group/organisation: email admin@scottishunemployedworkers.net & ecap@lists.riseup.net

 

 Posted by at 15:12
Feb 132015
 

Reblogged from JohnnyVoid, with thanks

Picture of a woman lying in bed "I didn't go to work today ....  I don't think I'll go tomorrow"Iain Duncan Smith must be pissing himself.  A report released at the end of last year by mental health charity MIND could not have gone further in endorsing the core ideas that lie behind his bungled and brutal welfare reforms.

The report is titled “We’ve Got Work To Do” and claims to demand ‘fundamental reform’ of the workplace and social security system to better support people with a mental health condition.  Sadly it is calling for nothing of the sort and is underpinned by the exact same lies and toxic assumptions that have driven both Tory and Labour welfare reforms.

Just like the DWP, MIND have adopted the flawed medical consensus that work is good for your health. The charity does acknowledge that this isn’t actually always true, but falls short of saying that work can be bad for your health, instead arguing that “inappropriate or poor quality work can have as negative an effect on people’s mental health as not being in work”.  They base this opinion on research carried out in Australia that found that “the mental health of those who were unemployed was comparable or more often superior to those in jobs of the poorest psychosocial quality.”  In other words work can be worse for your mental health than being unemployed, rather than just equally bad as MIND claim.

It is not nit-picking to point out the discrepency between what this research found and what MIND say it found because it reveals the charity’s opinions to be based on ideology, not facts.  This same factual slippage occurs elsewhere in the report when MIND begin by saying that most people with mental health conditions want to work, which later becomes everyone with a mental health condition wants to work. The truth, as revealed in the footnotes to the report, are that only around 58% of people out of work due to a mental health condition strongly agreed they wanted to return to work whilst 20% did not feel they were well enough.

These two distortions – or let’s call them lies – have allowed the despised Work Capability Assessment, benefit sanctions and workfare all to be misrepresented as ‘support’ or ‘help’.  In truth these measures destroy lives.  The medical consensus that work is good for you does often not apply to those on the lower end of the income scale who face being forced by Jobcentres into the kind of work likely to make them ill.

MIND’s Chief Executive Paul Farmer claims at the beginning of the report that there have been “improvements in how people with mental health problems are supported”, although it is unclear what they are. There then follows an emotive journey about someone’s journey through the benefit system after leaving work due to depression.  This is actually where their journey would stop, because unless they could provide reems of medical evidence to the Jobcentre they would be disallowed benefits for giving up work.  That this reports begins by misrepresenting the benefit system as it currently functions just shows how removed these giant disability benefits charities have become from the lives of those they claim to support.

Instead the ‘fundamental reform’ they call for is actually more of the same or worse – such as the dangerous idea that sensitive health information from the Work Capability Assessment should be passed over to Work Programme providers like A4e and G4S.  This is like your boss having access to your medical history and appallingly MIND relaxed about this as well.

Much of the early part of the report is taken up by calling for improvements in the working environment for people suffering mental ill-health.  Which is fine, everyone wants that, except greedy employers who worry it might cost them money or who harbour nasty little prejudices about mental health.  According to MIND themselves this is about 40% of them.  Yet one of MIND’s recommendations is that the Maximus run ‘Fit To Work’ service – the new telephone helpline which will be used to certify time off instead of GPs – should more effectively engage with employers.  About the only decent thing about Fit To Work, which is designed to bully people back into the workplace before they are better, is that currently you have the right to keep your boss out of any discussions.

The final part of the report discusses what future welfare-to-work schemes should look like for those with a mental health condition.  The charity are calling for “new specialist scheme for people with mental health problems on
ESA”.  A scheme which should be run by those who “have expertise and experience of working with people with mental health problems”.  And here lies the real reason for this report.  It’s a fucking advert to any incoming Labour Government to give MIND a lucrative contract to run a new welfare-to-work service.

There is no longer any doubt that endless Atos assessments, workfare and benefit sanctions are creating a crisis in the lives of those with a mental health condition.  The tragic death toll rises ever higher.  Yet nowhere in this report does MIND call for these brutal policies to be scrapped.  Even if MIND were handed a contract to be nicer to people on ESA this would still leave those who have been found fit for work abandoned and dumped onto mainstream unemployment benefits alongside those whose condition is at yet undiagnosed.  On twitter yesterday MIND claimed they couldn’t call for sanctions to be scrapped for people who are unemployed because it wasn’t a key issue.  If your mental health condition isn’t bad enough to be able to claim ESA then tough shit seems to be the charity’s response if you get sanctioned.

The thing is, naked profiteering aside, MIND are not bastards.  They have dedicated front line workers who don’t get paid anywhere near enough and are sincere committed people.  Workers who would probably agree that benefit sanctions and the Work Capability Assessment should be scrapped immediately.  They see the carnage that is being caused everyday.

The problem is that reports like these are overseen and commissioned by highly paid charity executives who live lifestyles that their service users and lowest paid staff can only dream of.  These lifestyles lead them to make assumptions based on their own distorted experience of the world.  Over time they become unable to avoid inflicting solutions to the problems faced by working class people based on their own middle class values because that is all they know.

It is near impossible for someone on a huge salary who does a job they love to understand why someone may not feel up to working at present.  That, to someone like MIND Chief Executive Paul Farmer, really does seem like madness. Likewise charity bosses have no real understanding of why it might be dangerous to allow other bosses to snoop around your health records.  Bosses think bosses are lovely people who would never abuse their powers – or at least not without a damn good reason.  And bosses know best, they tell each other that all the time.

Charity bosses in particular have their own view of themselves as benevolent experts confirmed everyday by politicians and journalists who would far rather talk to them than someone on the dole.  Their whopping salaries provide further proof of their own ability.  As do arse-licking middle managers who continually tell them how wonderful and clever they are, to their faces at least.  So Paul Farmer must be is right because he’s Paul Farmer and MIND are right because they are MIND and anyone criticising them just doesn’t understand.  Because they are not experts.

That’s how MIND alongside other disability and anti-poverty charities can so easily dismiss the demands of grassroots campaigns comprising of disabled people and benefit claimants.  Groups which are more or less united in calling for benefit sanctions and the WCA to be scrapped completely.  These people are not experts.  At worst they might even be service users.  And you don’t want them getting too uppity.  Before you know where you are you’ll have working class people running organisations together to address working class problems.  Then there’d be nothing at all for poor Paul Farmer to do.    He might even have to get a real job.

 Posted by at 22:40
Feb 112015
 
Picture: Ian Dury. Caption: Ian Dury had it right when he sang What A Waste, says Mark Harrison.

Ian Dury had it right when he sang What A
Waste, says Mark Harrison.

In the words of Ian Drury – What a waste! I am referring to the exclusion of disabled people in society and the attitudes and behaviours of Government, both local and national, towards us. As a society we need to turn our approach to disability on its head.

This Government has initiated a poisonous discourse in order to justify targeting disabled people through austerity. By the 2015 election, more than £28bn in benefits and entitlements will have been taken away from disabled people. At the same time, disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people. In Austerity Britain, where the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer continue to claim “We are all in this together”, disabled people will pay 9 times more towards reducing the budget deficit than the average citizen. Those who are severely disabled will pay nineteen times more.

We are not benefit scroungers or burdens, we are not too expensive or units of costs that we as a society cannot afford, we are not brave, courageous or ‘special needs’. We are human beings like everybody else. If you cut us we bleed. You call us names and bully us, we hurt. You pity us and stick us in the charity box, we behave like charity cases. You segregate us in separate institutions and we become institutionalised. You do everything for us and wrap us in cotton wool then we become dependent. You have low expectations of our abilities and you damage our growth and development.

Disabled people don’t want this; we just want to be treated equally. We don’t want to be labelled as ‘special needs’ and charity cases. We want to live in the mainstream like everyone else. We want the barriers to us leading equal lives removed. If you label us as charity cases then what happens when you lose interest and move on to the next ‘good cause’? Labels are for tins not disabled people!

So what is to be done to address this waste? It is our responsibility – all of us – to remove these barriers. The barriers are ‘man made’ so it is our responsibility to break them down and consign them to history together. Disabled people can’t do this by ourselves we need allies. We need non-disabled people to get along side us and not accept the apartheid lives many disabled people are forced to live. We need disabled and non-disabled to be passionate about disability equality just like we are about women’s, racial and sexuality equality.

Disabled people have enormous amounts to give if afforded the opportunity and responsibility. Let’s end this waste and call time on out of date 20th Century attitudes and behaviours. Together we can consign them to the dustbin of history where they belong. Let’s get passionate together about disability equality and removing those barriers, wherever they are. Our Government has signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities http://www.un.org/disabilities/

This provides a comprehensive road map for achieving disability equality – let’s implement it.

Mark Harrison

Mark Harrison is CEO of Equal Lives,
formerly known as the Norfolk Coalition of
Disabled People.

January 2015

 Posted by at 22:00
Feb 112015
 

With many, many thanks to Kilburn Unemployed Worker’s Group for brightening up our day and to Kate Belgrave for sharing it:

Here’s the words.

“Taking from the poor to pay the rich”

(to the tune of ‘Glory, Glory Hallelujah’)

David Cameron is a W*****
He’s descended from the royalty and bankers
He’s sitting on the people like a canker
Just taking from poor to feed the the rich.

(Chorus) David Cameron is a W*****
David Cameron is a W*****
David Cameron is a W*****
He’s taking from the poor to pay the rich.

A million people using foodbanks
A million people using foodbanks
A million people using foodbanks
He’s taking from the poor to pay the rich.

The very richest people got a tax cut
The very richest people got a tax cut
The very richest people got a tax cut
He’s taking from the poor to pay the rich.

(Chorus) David Cameron is a W*****

The disabled live in fear and trepidation
The disabled live in fear and trepidation
The disabled live in fear and trepidation
He’s taking from the poor to pay the rich.

His Eton chums are ‘All in this together’
His Eton chums are ‘All in this together’
His Eton chums are ‘All in this together’
They’re taking from the poor to pay the rich.

(Chorus) David Cameron is a W*****

His Bedroom Tax is leading to evictions
His Bedroom Tax is leading to evictions
We’re entering an age of mass evictions
He’s taking from the poor to pay the rich

A Third of British people now below the poverty line
A Third of British people now below the poverty line
A Third of British people now below the poverty line

(Chorus) David Cameron is a W*****

They’re creating modern slavery through workfare
They’re creating modern slavery through workfare
They’re creating modern slavery through workfare
They’re taking from the poor to pay the rich.

(Chorus) David Cameron is a W*****

Make up your own verses – here’s some more verses:

Who is it that gives tax breaks to the wealthy?

Welfare reform is killing the disabled

He’s selling off our children’s education

He’s closed down much of ‘Care in the Community’

Who is it that gives tax breaks to the wealthy?

Social cleansing’s happening in London

He’s privatised the National Health Service

He’s thrown away our National Insurance

Their statistics are all lies and obfuscations

And if you liked that – here’s another by Fritz O’Skennick

 Posted by at 14:28
Feb 082015
 

Further plans are being put in place for more social media activies for the day, and updates will appear on this page as plans are finalised, so keep watching this space. You can find out what actions are taking part around the country here or get details of the central London protest here

Join the Day of Action Thunderclap on Twitter and Facebook

You can register to take part in the Thunderclap set to go off at noon on the day of action. If you are new to Thunderclap, there are some instructions on how to sign up lower down the page, below this red box. If you already know how to sign up for Thunderclap, you can use the box below.

Images to share on social media

(Just right-click on the image and select “Save Image As…” or “Save Picture As…..”)
Brian Hilton Artwork for the Maximus Day of action, number 1. Same Circus, Different ClownsBrian Hilton Artwork for the Maximus Day of action, number 2. Same Circus, Different Clowns version 2
IMG_3552Brian Hilton Artwork for the Maximus Day of action, Same Circus, Different Clowns version 4Brian Hilton Artwork for the Maximus Day of action, Same Circus, Different Clowns version 5Brian Hilton Artwork for the Maximus Day of action, Same Circus, Different Clowns version 6


How to Join the Thunderclap for the Maximus Day of Action

 

Go to the Link: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/21931-maximus-day-of-action?locale=en (Either by clicking on the link above or copying and pasting it into your browser)

On the Thunderclap webpage, the picture below shows the webpage you should see, after clicking the link above

Image of the Thunderclap screen for the Maximus Day of action

To support with Facebook. Click on the red area with the text “support with FACEBOOK” and then see part 1 below

To support with Twitter. Click on the red area with the text “support with TWITTER” and then see part 2 below

Notes:

i). You can join with Twitter and Facebook, if you have accounts with both, it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

ii). Instructions for supporting with tumblr are not given here as this is not generally used.

1 Support with Facebook

If you have clicked on “support with Facebook” in the screen above, you should now see a screen like this.

Image of the Thunderclap Facebook signup screen

The centre of the screen shows what will appear when the thunderclap happens at noon on the day of action. This is what will appear on your facebook page (you don’t have to be using facebook at the time, or even logged in, but it won’t matter if you are).

If you want, you can add your own message to appear when the thunderclap goes off (but you don’t have to do this), just type your message in the grey area which has the text “Make It your own! Add a custom message”

Complete the process of Joining the thunderclap on Facebook, click where it says “+ Add My Support” in the box in red at the bottom of the screen.

You will then get an acknowledgement message to say that you have joined, and that’s it, you’re done!

2. Support with Twitter

If you have clicked on “support with Twitter” in the screen above, you should now see a screen like this:

Screenshot from 2015-02-17 06:43:01

The centre of the screen shows what will appear when the thunderclap happens at noon on the day of action. This is what will appear as a tweet that you have sent (you don’t have to be using twitter at the time, or even logged in, but it won’t matter if you are).

If you want, you can change the tweet message that appears when the thunderclap goes off (but you don’t have to do this), just type your message in the grey area under the text “Make It your own! Add a custom message”

To proceed with Joining the thunderclap on Twitter, click where it says “+ Add My Support” in the box in red at the bottom of the screen.

You will then see a screen which says “Authorise Thunderclap to use your account” (shown below).

Screenshot from 2015-02-17 06:43:24

Click on the “Authorize app” in blue on the left hand side of the screen.

You will then get an acknowledgement message to say that you have joined, and that’s it, you’re done!

 Posted by at 18:09
Feb 072015
 

We are relaying an appeal for legal funding for 5 activists arrested in Toronto, from our friends and allies in Canada, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP)

Dear friends and comrades,We need help raising funds to support the women arrested on November 25th, 2014! On this day, an OCAP delegation of five women went to a Shelter and Housing Support office of the City of Toronto while a rally of hundreds gathered in the adjacent park. These women were demanding that the City act on its promises to reduce overcrowding in the shelters and, in particular, to open two 24-hour safe space drop ins for homeless women and trans people who face an especially high threat of violence on the streets.

The struggle for a 24-hour drop in space for women and trans people began in September 2013 when a woman was raped by two different men in one night as she slept on the steps of a community agency in the Dundas and Sherbourne area. After many deputations, meetings and rallies, the city promised that it would keep shelter occupancy below 90% capacity and open a 24 hour drop-in for women and trans people in 2014. Lamentably, efforts to open new shelter beds and a 24-hour drop-in were stalled and nothing was set in place for the Winter of 2014/2015. Ten days into January of 2015 four men died on the bitterly cold streets of Toronto as a consequence of inadequate shelter space.

While the city has promised, again, to put the 24-hour drop in on the Spring budget, and create more shelter beds in 2015, this was not without
great struggle and determination on behalf of community members. Still, shelter spaces are dangerously over crowded and unfit to meet the complex needs of those without shelter.

We would greatly appreciate your support. Funding from your donation will go to support the legal costs of those 5 women who were arrested on Nov. 25th for daring to demand safe shelter, and decent, accessible and affordable housing for all. In the event that we surpass our goal, all of
the remaining funds will go to future anti-poverty and homelessness organizing efforts.

To donate by credit card or online banking, please go to our Go Fund Me page: http://www.gofundme.com/kc0i70

Thank you for all of your support, financial and otherwise.

OCAP

www.ocap.ca
Twitter: @OCAPtoronto
Facebook: facebook.com/OcapToronto

 

 Posted by at 17:14
Feb 062015
 

Below we publish the response from Kate Green shadow minister for disabled people to an inquiry from Brian Hilton, ILF Campaigner, on Labour’s position on the closure of the ILF.

From: “GREEN, Kate [Email Address Redacted]Date: 3 February 2015 08:28:26 GMTTo: Brian [Surname and Email Address Redacted]

Subject: RE: Ed Miliband statement yesterday on future of ILF

Dear Brian

Thank you for our further email, and apologies for not getting back to you before now on the English, Welsh and Scottish  material you sent me, which in fact I have been considering very carefully – particularly, as you suggest, the options being considered by the Welsh Assembly Government.

I do need to start by being clear that it’s not Labour’s position to retain the ILF. That’s because I believe that there is now a real opportunity, and indeed a pressing need, to develop a sustainable model of provision for the most severely disabled people within the integrated health and social care landscape that Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall have been articulating, rather than continuing with a standalone fund. I say this not least because an incoming government will immediately embark on a full review to set three year spending plans, and I think it’s vital that the spending review process has the concept of independent living at its heart. I’m therefore working closely with colleagues in the shadow health and CLG teams to establish the principles that will govern our approach.

We of course want to ensure recipients continue to be supported once the ILF has closed, which our proposed guidance to local authorities is intended to address, but our wider purpose is to ensure a sustainable model of provision that protects people’s ability to live independently in the way that they choose. I am really keen to stay in touch with you as we develop our thinking, and perhaps we could have a further conversation about this over the next few weeks.

Best wishes

Kate

Just in case anyone is in any doubt:

We are not taking No for an answer, however many times it is said.

We are not backing down on this, we are not going to give in and we will not give up.

We have right on our side, and we have determination in our hearts.

This campaign is not over, there is more to come, watch this blog for details.

#SaveILF

We’re asking for as many DDPOs and individuals to sign up to an e-action to send an email directly to their MP

http://www.pcs.org.uk/savetheilf

and also a petition to Ed Miliband and Ed Balls

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-the-independent-living-fund-1

And Finally – our response to Kate Green’s letter?  Its in the form of a song by @RockinPaddyWhich side are you on?

And if you enjoyed that , here is another@RockinPaddy song to get you up and ready to fight to #SaveILF: The Battle of Whilehall Continues

 Posted by at 16:32
Feb 052015
 

In view of the Labour Party at last confirming they will not keep the ILF open in England, although there will be funds in Scotland, Northern Ireland and also probably Wales we’re now asking for as many DDPOs and individuals to sign up to an eaction to send an email directly to their MP

http://www.pcs.org.uk/savetheilf

and also a petition to Ed Miliband and Ed Balls

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-the-independent-living-fund-1