Jul 242014
 

 

Joint statement by Black Triangle Campaign, CarerWatch, Disabled People Against Cuts, Mental Health Resistance Network, Pats Petition, #NewApproach and WOWPetition

The WCA presumes that there are too many people on disability benefits because disabled people are too lazy or too comfortable living on benefits to work.

It is founded in the idea that disabled people need to be harassed and hounded out of their comfortable life into finding work under the threat of loss of benefits.

No one is comfortable living on benefits. Disabled people are no more lazy that the rest of the population.

The real reason that there are so many people on benefits is that society does not include disabled people.

We do not have the same access to education, transport, housing and jobs.

Social attitudes ensure that disabled people in the workplace are seen as a problem, rather than an equal opportunity.

And there are large numbers of disabled people who simply can not work. Why should they be harassed? Why should they be hounded?. Why should they have to live in fear?.

We know, and this report confirms, that many people have wrongly been found “fit for work” when they can’t work.

We also know and the UK courts have confirmed WCA discriminates against claimants with mental health impairments.

The Work and Pensions Committee report recommends “improvements” to make the system more workable and less harmful.

This is pointless, because it would not make the WCA any less wrong or any more useful

We call once again on Labour to commit to scrapping the WCA and to address the real problems that disabled people on benefits face in society.

We call once again on the British Medical Association to send guidance on DWP rules “29 and 35″ which allows doctors to prevent foreseeable harm being done to ‘at risk’ patients.

They didn’t improve slavery, they abolished it, because it was wrong.

They didn’t amend Apartheid , they ended it because it was wrong

The WCA is wrong, and it needs to be abolished

Signed

Andy Greene, Disabled People Against Cuts
Annie Howard, Disabled People Against Cuts
Bob Ellard, Disabled People Against Cuts
Debbie Jolly, Disabled People Against Cuts
Denise McKenna, Mental Health Resistance Network
Jane Bence, #NewApproach
Eleanor Firman, Disabled People Against Cuts
Ellen Clifford, Disabled People Against Cuts
Gail Ward, Disabled People Against Cuts
John James McArdle, Black Triangle Campaign
Katy Marchant, Disabled People Against Cuts
Linda Burnip, Disabled People Against Cuts
Michelle Maher, WOWPetition
Nick Dilworth, #NewApproach
Pat Onions, Pats Petition
Paula Peters, Disabled People Against Cuts
Rick Burgess, #NewApproach
Roger Lewis, Disabled People Against Cuts
Rosemary O’Neil, Carerwatch
Roy Bard, Disabled People Against Cuts
Wayne Blackburn, #NewApproach
 

 Posted by at 14:47
Jun 172014
 

DWP ministers said only 9% of ESA decisions were wrong.  Our research reveals the DWP have been quoting from figures which state 151,800 appeals have succeeded.  Our evidence shows the true figure to be at least 567,634 – casting serious doubt over 43% of 1,302,200 ‘fit for work’ decisions. 
 

ilegal Press Release – 16th June 2013


DWP’s internal figures reveal a much higher number of successful ESA appeals than have been made publicly available.

article-2520639-19FD00E400000578-512_634x330

DWP reply on 13 June 2014 to a Freedom of Information Act request made as part of an investigation in to DWP figures relating to the controversial Work Capability Assessment by ilegal.org.uk has revealed that of 1,287,323 ESA appeals, at least 567,634 claimants have had the original DWP decision overturned in their favour.

Government’s key defence of the assessments has been that around 9% of all decisions are incorrect.  The most controversial of which are those where a claimant is found fit for work.  DWP figures (for new claims) show that betweenOctober 2008 and September 2013 a total of 1,306,200 fit for work decisions have been made.

It is with considerable disappointment noted that the DWP’s latest publicly available statistics confirm that only 151,800 successful appeals have been recorded out of a total of 410,400 appeals (for new claimants only).  Our investigations reveal evidence of three times as many appeals being ‘internally recorded’ of which
567,634 have been successful.  The DWP have revealed to us figures which show nearly quarter of a million internal reconsiderations have led to decisions on new ESA claims being overturned in favour of the claimant; we have added these to figures from HMCTS tribunals which provides us with a much higher figure than the DWP seems to be prepared to admit to in their publicly available figures.

Our intensive research into the assessment of claimants for the DWP’s Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) has, following a freedom of information request to the DWP, provided one of the final pieces of the jigsaw needed to unpick the Department’s overly complicated statistics. We now have the final clue which has enabled us to identify that no less than 567,634 ESA claimants have in fact had their initial ESA refusals overturned in their favour.

It is a startling revelation that the government department has apparently been keeping a lid on a set of statistics that clearly shows between May 2010 and June 2013 no less than 820,356 decisions were looked at again by the DWP after claimants had been assessed by the controversial private contractors Atos Healthcare. These ‘internal’ statistics show that a very substantial 232,782 (28.5%) decisions were then subsequently overturned in the claimant’s favour.

What makes this all the worse is that these reconsideration statistics come on top of separate figures that show us that of those claimants who did not have the decisions overturned in their favour by the DWP, 817,102 went on to appeal to tribunals arranged by Her Majesties’ Courts & Tribunals Service where a further 332,607 were then overturned in the claimant’s favour by the tribunal.

These figures completely negate all of the DWP’s claims that it is getting the majority of its decisions right

These figures completely negate all of the DWP’s claims that it is getting the majority of its decisions right. Government ministers in conjunction with the DWP’s Press office have been telling us that a million claimants have been found fit for work whereas these figures show that in reality this is only a small part of the true story and that huge numbers have gone on to successfully appeal decisions which were wrong.

These new figures highlight the dubious practice of using the unchallenged assessment results, which only encourage media sensationalisation, with headlines such as those appearing in the Daily Express in July 2011 stating that ‘75% on sickness benefits were faking’. The same article goes on to say that out of ‘…2.6 million on the sick, 1.9 million could work’ before receiving an endorsement from the Prime Minister with an assurance that his government was “producing a much better system where we put people through their paces and say that if you can work, you should work”.

DWP and Ministers know the truth, they just aren’t telling anyone

These figures have been available to the DWP and its ministers since April 2010 from their ‘Decision Making & Appeals Case Recorder (DMACR) – ESA Management Information Statistics’. The DWP confirms this to be unpublished information which is for internal department information only, yet our research notes that the Right Hon Chris Grayling was using the same information in answer to Parliamentary questions on the 10th January 2012. 

We question then why the DWP has consistently ‘over promoted’ only the results of Work Capability Assessments relating to ‘initial’ decisions (including the opinions of Atos Healthcare in the absence of a statutory DWP decision) when it could instead have come clean and declared how hundreds of thousands of their incorrect decisions have since been overturned in favour of the person appealing.

These revelations seriously undermine the DWP’s contention that the initial Work Capability Assessment outcomes are a valid measure of the claimant’s ability to work. The DWP has consistently defended its assessments by giving an impression that only a relatively low number of decisions have been overturned whereas the reality is that well over half a million have resulted in a successful outcome for the claimant.

And this DOES NOT include the 712,000 people awaiting assessments BEFORE they can appeal

This news must have come as cause for grave concern when considered in the light of a recent revelation by DWP Minister Mike Penning which revealed that in addition to the figures we have highlighted, a further 712,000 Employment & Support Allowance claimants are awaiting assessments without which they cannot yet appeal.

This hugely unacceptable backlog of cases means people with disabling medical conditions are left hanging for months and months on a basic allowance way below what they are entitled to. This is leaving hundreds of thousands deprived of the support they require and means having to scrape by on money which is wholly insufficient to meet their needs due to disability and illness. It also means many claimants affected by severe and complex mental health conditions are facing prolonged torment as they wait month upon month for their decision to be overturned before they can even lodge an appeal.

Face up to reality: it doesn’t work. Scrap the WCA

These findings add considerably to the pleas of disabled groups all over the country to scrap the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and to find a better way to assess their needs.

It is simply appalling that the DWP, along with Ministers and other government spokespeople appear to be feeding the media with misleading statistics that are unrepresentative of the real story and instead encourage headlines vilifying the disabled and the genuinely ill. These figures clearly show the DWP has evidence in their possession which shows how in far too many cases the decisions it is making are dead wrong and they know they’re dead wrong.

Editorial notes

Please contact the author of this article Nick Dilworth for verification of any of the figures quoted.  We welcome sharing our findings on social media and allow this information to be produced providing credit is given to the
i-legal website with links to the article produced.

We apologise for the slight delay in publishing this release.  This was due to a need to align the figures to ones recently produced by the DWP in their Work Capability Assessment figures released on the 12th June 2014 which relate to the most recent statistics up to September 2013.

A full supporting explanatory memorandum will be published very shortly.

The Reconsideration statistics relate to new ESA claimants only (excluding incapacity benefit to ESA conversion cases) whereas HMCTS figures refer to all ESA claimants.  It is our contention that had the DWP supplied all of the information we had requested, the figures for reconsiderations would have been considerably higher.

We acknowledge that not all appeals will be against fit for work findings for new claimants but given the DWP’s emphasis on this claimant cohort and the lack of information to the contrary we are of the contention that other appeals relating to claimants being moved from the Work Related Activity Group to Support Group are likely to be of a much lower volume and more likely to be contained within the cohort relating to incapacity benefit/ESA assessment.

We would like to express our thanks to Anita Bellows an i-legal member for her cooperation and for making the freedom of information request upon our guidance and our thanks extend to the DPAC organisation with whom Anita is also a member.

http://ilegal.org.uk/thread/8640/release-staggering-numbers-overturned-secrecy?page=1&scrollTo=21759

with thanks as ever to Nick  @Mylegalforum

Jun 122014
 

Victory! Minister finally promises action over Norwich disabled assessment centre with no disabled access

Mark Harrison, CEO Equal Lives, with other protesters outside the Atos assessment centre at St Mary’s House. Picture: Denise Bradley

Mark Harrison, CEO Equal Lives, with other protesters outside the Atos assessment centre at St Mary’s House. Picture: Denise Bradley

Annabelle Dickson and Kim Briscoe, Political Editor Thursday, June 12, 2014 9:04 AM

A spectacular u-turn which will see a Norwich disability assessment centre with no disabled access finally moved after a two-and-a-half-year campaign has been hailed a victory for common sense.

Disabilities minister Mike Penning has finally admitted the situation is “wholly unacceptable”, and said he would be taking action to leave St Mary’s House in Duke Street as soon as possible.

It marks a complete turn in the uncompromising rhetoric with officials dismissing concerns, claiming that it was meeting its obligations.

The move should put an end to the long journeys being endured by people with debilitating illnesses and severe mobility problems to centres as far afield as Ipswich, King’s Lynn and even Nottingham.

Many people have been forced to travel by taxpayer-funded taxis, or in some cases told to find their own way on public transport, for assessments many miles away.

Minister of State for Disabled People Mike Penning said: “It is wholly unacceptable to be turning claimants away for assessments which is why I’m taking action to exit St Mary’s House as soon as we possibly can. I will be working with my fellow MPs in Norfolk to find an alternative centre that fits our requirements.”

Marion Fallon, who spoke out after she was sent a map and told to find her own way 45 miles to Ipswich despite being in constant pain and only able to walk with a stick, said that she had mixed feelings about the promise.

She said that she was angry that it had taken so long for ministers to listen, but also vindicated.

But she is likely to still have to go to Ipswich as her appointment is later this month.

Until a new building is found claimants with mobility problems will continue to be offered either a home visit or an appointment at an alternative assessment centre.

Mark Harrison, chief executive of Norfolk’s Equal Lives disability campaigning group, said: “It shows that disabled people have won a victory, but it’s just a victory for common sense and why has it taken two-and-a-half years?

“The bigger question that needs to addressed is the failing minister Iain Duncan Smith and the failing DWP.

“The Work Capability Assessments are cruel and degrading and ATOS are still assessing people as fit to work who are dying before they are able to get their benefits.”

Norwich MP Chloe Smith, who met the minister along with fellow Norwich MP Simon Wright and South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, said: “We explained that this was totally unacceptable for some of our most vulnerable constituents, and it needed to be addressed. It seemed perfectly obvious that sending people to Ipswich by taxi or other means is not sensible.”

Mr Bacon said: “Mike is very sensible and he took one look at it and realised that it was unacceptable and decided that it had to be fixed.”

Today campaigners welcomed the news, but questioned why it had taken the DWP so long to agree to find another venue.

The DWP is tied into a 20-year private finance initiative which is behind all the accommodation used for assessments around the country.

Mr Bacon said that he hoped it would not cost the department too much to find a new building.

But said: “Whoever allowed this to happen should not be involved in government anymore.”

Mr Wright also welcomed the news, adding: “The minister was extremely supportive. Having reviewed the evidence presented to him by the MPs he came to the conclusion that the current arragements were not fit for purpose.”

 

 

Now to on to scrapping the Work Capability Assessments and PIP!

 

Sack Iain Duncan Smith now!

 Posted by at 12:14
May 172014
 

Work Capability Assessment Judicial Review for Mental Health Claimants Substantial Hearing 7, 8 and 9th July 2014, Royal Courts of Justice, London.

The Mental Health Resistance Network, supported by Disabled People Against Cuts, are holding a vigil at the front entrance of the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday, 8th July 2014 at 12 noon to 2 pm to highlight the important issues around this case.

Vigil for the Appeal of the Case in October 2013May 2013 Ruling in favour of MHRN

Two people who claim benefits on mental health grounds initiated a judicial review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), supported by the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN). In May 2013, the judges presiding over the case ruled that the WCA places mental health claimants at a “substantial disadvantage” and that the DWP should make “reasonable adjustments” to alleviate this.

Often mental health claimants struggle to provide further medical evidence to support their claim for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and may not be able to accurately self report how their mental health conditions affect them, either when completing forms or at face to face assessments. Many claimants are wrongly found fit for work and subjected to the stress of appealing the decision.

The claimants who brought the case, DM and MM, asked the court to rule that the DWP should be responsible for obtaining further medical evidence at every stage of the process to improve the chances of a more accurate decision being reached about whether a person is able to work or to start preparing for work and to avoid the need for a face to face assessment in cases where this would be especially distressing for the claimant. In addition, claimants who are at risk of suicide or self harm would be more likely to be identified. In such cases, regulations 29/35 would apply. These regulations are intended to reduce risk of harm but the DWP often fail to identify who they apply to.

The DWP Appeal Fails

The Department of Work and Pensions appealed the judgement. Their appeal arguments were mainly concerned with legal technicalities but in December 2013 the judges issued a ruling that upheld the original judgement in May. The DWP did not launch a second appeal.

Reasonable Adjustments to WCA

Under the Equalities Act of 2010, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is required to make “reasonable adjustments” to mitigate any disadvantages experienced by disabled people. The forthcoming hearing will be concerned with establishing what adjustments the DWP should make to the WCA process. We already know from the original hearing that they plan to run a pilot study to assess the “reasonableness” of obtaining further medical evidence. We want to ensure that any study will be fair, honest and approached with an open mind. Unfortunately we find it hard to trust that this will happen.

In his witness statement of July 2013 Dr Gunnyeon, Chief Medical Advisor and Director for Health and Well-Being at the DWP wrote, “ESA was designed to be a different benefit from Incapacity Benefit (IB), being a functional assessment rather than a diagnostic one. The face-to-face assessment is a key part of this process as the only truly independent part of the process. Moving away from this would, I believe, be a retrograde step which would seriously undermine the way in which the assessment process has been conceived and designed. It would represent a return to the position in Incapacity Benefit (IB), where claimants were “written off” on the basis of their diagnosis”.

Most people would be amazed to learn that the DWP are fighting tooth and nail against having to consider a person’s actual problems when assessing them for benefits!

Come and Support the Vigil at the Royal Courts of Justice

From 12-2 pm, on the second day of the court case, Tuesday 8th July, 2014, at the front entrance of the Royal Courts of Justice, a vigil will take place to highlight the important issues around this case.Picture taken at the Vigil for the appeal of the case in October 2013

The address is Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London WC2A 2LL.

Buses 4,11,15,23,26,76,172 and 341 all stop at the front of the Royal Courts of Justice, 171, 188, 243, 521 and X68 stop at Kingsway and Aldwych Junction nearby.

Nearest underground station is Temple (District Line), Holborn (Central and Piccadilly Line) and Chancery Lane, (Central Line)

Please come and share your stories of how you have been affected by the Work Capability Assessment and support DM and MM, in the fight for justice.

If you can’t make the vigil, show your support on twitter and facebook

If you are unable to make it to the vigil in person, you can show your support on twitter and social media, #wcamentalhealth

Watch out for further announcements about how you can show support on social media

 

The MHRN have been low key about publicising this case. We have been too cautious about declaring that we have been vindicated. As a result, few people know that the WCA has been found by a court of law, involving rulings by a number of senior judges, to be failing mental health claimants so badly.

We believe that it is vital that people do know about this victory. After all, outrageous lies about disabled benefit claimants have been shouted from the rooftops in much of the national press. Yet where have the front page headlines about this victory been? Nowhere! We now want to rectify this by making as much noise as possible about the truth: that the WCA does not fairly assess people with mental health problems and there has been terrible suffering as a result.

Please spread the word about the MHRN/DPAC vigil, and about the court case, far and wide.

 Posted by at 21:22
May 042014
 

I’m at rock bottom right now and unable to go through writing it again. I have an appointment to see my MP tomorrow. I have copied and pasted an email I sent to his secretary earlier today. Dear Mary, I was going to write a brief summary of the main issues I’m facing right now and send them to you to save some time tomorrow, but it looks like all my benefits have just been stopped. I was due a DLA payment yesterday (Thursday 27th March) but it’s not been paid into my bank account. I signed on at the Job Centre in Stevenage on Tuesday, but the staff (My Adviser/Coach) doubt that I’m fit for work and think I should be on ESA.
I’ve done everything they’ve asked, searched for work everyday, applied for Jobs, even worked on a business plan to start my own business from home, I don’t know what more I could have done. DWP arranged an appointment for me with PLUSS a few weeks ago and after going there I felt quite optimistic, but when I went to sign on following that, their feedback was that they couldn’t help me because my health problems are too severe. I went to DAS (Depression and Anxiety Service) on 16th March, they can’t help with my Mental Health problems because they are too severe and complex.
Unless I say “I’m going to kill myself” I can’t get any help because local Mental resources are too underfunded and their caseload is too big. I DO NOT WANT TO GO INTO HOSPITAL and I would be extremely uncooperative if I was forced!!! Do you think this is Fair or Just??? What am I supposed to do??? My health problems are hard enough to deal with, without all this!!! I went from mid July last year up until a few weeks ago with nothing other than my £40 a week DLA to live on. I had £500 savings and a good credit rating before then, and a £950 overdraft which I never used until I lost my ESA at Tribunal. I got a statement from my bank this afternoon, I’m £921.12 overdrawn with an available balance of £6.20 (I don’t know how they do their maths?) I have £96 of overdraft charges being taken out of my account on 1st of April. I had come to an arrangement with housing people to pay back the outstanding rent arrears I owed when I started to receive JSA a few weeks ago and had promised a payment of £70 by tomorrow (28th March). DNRS have already tried to send the Bailiffs to my flat to take possessions for outstanding council tax arrears.
I’ve been to CAB numerous times recently. If this is how my life is going to be then what’s the point??? I can’t sleep at night because I’m so stressed out all the time, my health mental and physical are getting worse by the day. Everybody I’ve seen, my Job Centre Coach, CAB, My COPD Nurse and the Doctor I last saw (Dr Roper), PLUSS, DAS and my family ALL SAY I SHOULD BE ON ESA. I have an appointment tomorrow morning with my GP. I need immediate help, no more forms, no more appointments, NO MORE BULLSHIT!!! I refuse to live like this any longer, I can’t take anymore of the daily stress and injustice!!! I SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN IN THIS SITUATION FROM THE START!!! I’ve always been a fighter, I’ve had to survive but I’m totally exhausted now, mentally and physically… I HAVE TAKEN AS MUCH AS I CAN –
My appointment with my MP went well. I was already so angry to begin with made sure I made the most of my 15 minutes. I had written my main issues before hand so that I did not forget anything. To be fair I came away feeling he had listened to me and understood my situation. I was fluent in my arguments and never had any denial from him that what this government are doing to the most vulnerable people in this country is totally wrong. Since then I have applied for ESA again, all done over the phone this time, with help from my local CAB. My MP has also liaised with my GP so that I get to see the same doctor each time.

I have been to my local surgery twice since my meeting and the way I have been treated is 100% better. DWP asked me to get a letter from my GP to inform them of how many hours a week I was capable of working while claiming JSA. My COPD and mental health conditions have worsened considerably over the past few months and my GP signed me off sick saying in his opinion I wasn’t well enough to work, hence the claim for ESA. It’s like a merry go round and so frustrating and stressful it just makes my health and life in general suffer as a result. I stated strongly to my MP that I should never have been in this situation, and far from what Iain Duncan Smith claims to be doing. that he is helping people. My MP agreed.
I am due to receive my first ESA payment this coming Tuesday and looking forward to being able to eat properly again.

If I could give any advice to someone in a situation like mine it would be to get mad, make yourself heard with the right people. I am a fighter but fighting battles everyday to survive is tiring and wears you down. It either that or give in, I wasn’t prepared to give in with the injustices I had to face and wasn’t going to go without a fight.

Update: I received a letter this week from the DWP saying they were investigating my case. We will see what comes of it. I am still angry because of all the debt all this has got me into just trying to survive.
I will never forgive nor forget what this government has done to me and tens of thousands of others.

This is an edited version of a set of emails received by DPAC- all names and places have been changed and the author has given DPAC permission to use this to publicise the inhumane situations many are finding themselves in under the Condem regime

 

May 012014
 

Disabled people in Norwich are being forced to make 88 mile trips for their Atos assessment-why? Because the centre in Norwich is not accessible for wheelchair users.

If that wasn’t bad enough,  the taxpayer is footing another additional bill because of private companies and DWP combined inefficiency, yet again.

EDP24 reports: Taxpayers are footing the bill to ferry disabled people on an 88-mile round trip to Ipswich or King’s Lynn by taxi to decide if they are fit to work because the Norwich centre has no wheelchair access.
In an uncompromising letter, welfare minister Mike Penning has told MPs there are no plans to introduce a new assessment centre in Norwich and the
inadequate St Mary’s House, on Duke Street, will continue to be used for the work capability assessments. It comes as Norwich MP Simon Wright highlighted the case of a constituent who had been sent to Ipswich by taxi, with other MPs also citing similar stories.

One Norwich woman who is unable to use stairs easily, who did not want to be named, was sent by taxi to King’s Lynn weeks after her appointment was cancelled because of the fire risk.
She said it had made an already stressful situation even more difficult.
It has emerged under a Freedom of Information request that the DWP has no direct control over the lease on St Mary’s House.
It is managed by the private firm Telereal Trillium as part of a 20 year private finance initiative contract, which ends in March 2018.
Telereal Trillium would not provide details of the terms of its leave citing it as “commercially sensitive”.
Mark Harrison, chief executive of  Equal Lives, said: “How can this coalition government lease buildings that are not fit for purpose and have no control over the access requirements for disabled customers?”
He said the centre was yet another example of the government putting the needs of private sector companies and their profits before the welfare of its disabled citizens.

Read the story in full here

Apr 212014
 

DPAC would like to thank everyone for making last week’s (April 12 2014) National Conference such a huge success. There was a huge turnout with over 150 disabled activists from all over the UK including many new DPAC members attending, but just as important there were hundreds of members and supporters beyond the venue taking part through social media – watching the video live-stream, tweeting and sharing comments, views and sending messages of support. This was fantastic work by everyone and a truly inspiring collective effort.

DSC_1030 con

Here’s a brief outline of how it went.

Programme
The day was timetabled into sections beginning with practical reports and voting on policy motions. This was followed by two workshop sessions and then a closing session for everyone to feedback on the day. Four workshops were available to choose from in each Workshop session. Detailed reports on these will follow later.

John McDonnell MP, a longstanding friend and supporter of DPAC, gave a rousing opening speech to encourage everyone and remind us of the victories achieved so far. He congratulated disabled people and DPAC for fighting back, along with our sister organisation Black Triangle and WoW Petition initiators

As he finished he mentioned his own recent health condition which he said he felt brought him closer to our movement. Ellen reacted quickly by giving him a DPAC t-shirt and declaring him a full DPAC member to instant applause and cheers.

photo1jm tshirt

Finances
The Finance Report showed a healthy state of affairs for the time being thanks to individual donations, t-shirt and badge sales plus grants from the Edge Fund, the Network for Social Change, Trust for London  and the Andrew Wainwright Trust. More fund-raising is necessary going forward.

Motions
1. Government Honours
This proposed that any future candidates for the DPAC Steering Group could thwart the network and collective ethos of DPAC if they had received a national honour like an OBE or MBE. The ‘BE’ refers to the imperialist British Empire which is still celebrated despite what we know of the suffering and oppression this caused. The motion conversations also suggested that any media attention would be focused on those with honours and titles, rather than on the collective network ethos that DPAC ascribes to. The motion was put forward as a rejecting of this possibility and that of the honours system more generally. This was defeated.

2. Discrimination
This motion stated DPAC opposition to discrimination on the grounds of gender, sexuality, age, faith, disability, ethnicity or status. It also empowered the Steering Group to terminate the membership of anyone who supported a party which holds discriminatory policies, like UKIP. This motion passed based on an appeals process being put in place

3. Steering Group Size
This motion sought to expand the Steering Group from 8 members to 12 in order to respond to increased activity and maintain a broad, diverse and inclusive profile. This was passed.

Steering Group
There were 11 nominees for the Steering Group. Conference took a vote on whether to vote for accepting all 11 nominees, or vote for them one by one. Conference voted to accept all 11 nominees. The new steering group are currently reviewing co-opted places and will get back to the additional people that applied past the deadline as soon as possible

Steering Group:
Andy Greene
Bob Ellard
Ciara Doyle
Conan Doyle
Debbie Jolly
Eleanor Firman
Ellen Clifford
Linda Burnip
Paula Peters
Roger Lewis
Sabina Lahur

It was highlighted that the working groups are important in taking DPAC forward. The co-chair said she hoped those who did not stand for the Steering Group but were still interested in getting involved would join these as soon as possible.

Finally, a big thank you to the Conference Organising group and Workshop leaders who worked so hard to make this wonderful event a reality.

Links to videos from the day are here with thanks to Occupy for live streaming on the day to make the conference inclusive to all are here

Links to pictures can be found on DPAC flicker here
Thanks to Pete Riches, Szucs Gabriella and Rob Peters

The powerpoint on highlights of the last year can be found DPAC Report
A link to 2013 and some of the things DPAC did is here

See you on the streets!

DPAC www.dpac.uk.net
Twitter: Dis_ppl_protest
Also find us on Facebook with a group and open page under ‘Disabled People against Cuts’

contact: mail@dpac.uk.net

 

Apr 182014
 

We read with interest the piece in the Independent by Rachel Reeves and Kate Green regarding Labour’s response to the Work Capability Assessment [1]

Labour should realise that disabled people are deeply distrustful of any Labour reform of a Work Capability Assessment system, which Labour introduced in the Welfare Act of 2007 with the stated aim of removing 1 million claimants from the benefit system [3].

Our position has been and will be that the Work Capability Assessment is deeply flawed in its basic concept, not just in terms of the details of its delivery, and inclusion in the workplace for disabled people cannot simply be achieved by a ‘back to work’ test.

manifesto

In the Reclaiming Our Futures, Disabled People’s Manifesto [4], we state that a priority demand from government is that:

A comprehensive and strategic plan of action is developed with disabled people and our organisations to tackle the discrimination and exclusion disabled people face in work and employment including: increasing quality and range of personalised support available to disabled people, strengthening disabled employees rights and tackling employer discrimination and poor practice

Other key demands include that:

Economic productivity must not be the only measure of people’s worth and value, volunteering offers as much value to society as paid employment. While we recognise that volunteering can offer additional skills, it should not be the default option for disabled people because of our exclusion from paid work

There must be policy and media recognition that there will always be disabled people who are unable or too ill to work. These individuals must be supported by a publically funded system. They should not be penalised or demonised as they are currently.

For true inclusion in the workplace for disabled people a wider approach is necessary including but not limited to:

• Will Labour commit to the restoration of Disabled Student’s Allowance,
• Will Labour commit to the restoration of the Independent Living Fund,
• Will Labour commit to the extension of Access to Work (AtW) to include unpaid voluntary positions,
• Will Labour commit to the reversal of the reduction of people who currently receive DLA, but will not receive PIP and also lose their Motability access,
• Will Labour commit to the reinstatement of the requirement for councils to produce equality schemes on employment and access
• Will Labour commit to the provision of accessible transport.
• Will Labour commit to the reinstatement of “day one” protection from unfair dismissal in employment law
• Will Labour commit to the provision of Employment Tribunals enforcing mandatory organisation-wide measures on preventing disability discrimination
• Will Labour commit to the provision that all government contracts, at a national, regional and local level, are only awarded to companies that are fulfilling measurable equality targets for the employment of disabled people

(for further points see reference 2)

These currently are some of the barriers to inclusion in the workplace for disabled people, and they will not be fixed by simply amending the WCA. The issue must be seen within the context of the wider interconnected system of barriers in place. It must be seen in terms of what a large majority of disabled people have already identified as key problems.

In terms of inclusion we also need from Labour, a recognition that for many disabled people to be able to work there has to be a nationally transportable social care system with a guarantee that people would keep the same levels of funding wherever they needed to move to work.

We need recognition that there is an onus on government and employers to fully accept the spirit of the Equality Act 2010 [4] with its requirement to the opening of work opportunity to disabled people. Without this, no “fit for work test” aimed at cutting disability benefits will make any impact whatsoever on the numbers of disabled people who can attain and sustain employment.

We also need from Labour a stronger recognition that there are many disabled people who cannot enter the work place and should not have to live in fear of being pressured into doing so.

There is much that the article leaves out and that leaves us with a number of serious concerns and questions.

While we are not yet prepared to endorse in any way Labour’s new approach to the Work Capability Assessment, we do see the article by Rachel Reeves and Kate Green as a helpful starting point for discussions on the future of inclusion of disabled people, who want and are able to work, in the workplace and we would welcome an opportunity to meet with them and discuss this further. We would like meet with Kate Green and Rachel Reeves to ask the following questions:

1. Will Labour commit to stop spending public money on private
contractors and return any assessments of disabled people back to GPs
with medical evidence taken into account as well as give a commitment to
look at the barriers to work for disabled people who can and want to
work (in line with the social model of disability)?

2. Will Labour commit to a time and date to talk with DPAC, My Legal,
the Mental Health Resistance Network, Black Triangle, Deaf activists,
those with learning difficulties ( with an outreach of ½ a million
disabled people) to listen to the views of the largest network of grass
roots disabled people on the WCA and ESA?

3. If Labour are committed to scrapping the WCA when will Deaf and
disabled people, and those with mental health issues have sight of the
detail of any alternative Labour is proposing?

4. If Labour accepts the harm, devastation and premature deaths that have
been an outcome of the WCA why have they chosen to suspend their
prospective parliamentary candidate for St Austell and Newquay, Deborah
Hopkins for speaking out in public about the harm caused by the WCA.

5. Will Labour address the disproportionate harm that the WCA and
sanctions on ESA and JSA are causing to all disabled people, in
particular those with mental health issues and learning difficulties?

6. We along with many others insisted that a centralised Independent Living Fund
for Scotland be established and it has been done. They have also promised to re-open ILF to new users, with a commitment of additional funds and recognition of its importance to independent living and obligations to article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Why has the Labour
Party not promised to re-establish it south of the border?

Many of the Statements included in this response are taken from the UK Disabled Peoples’ Reclaiming our Futures Manifesto and are endorsed by a UK network of disabled people and Deaf and Disabled Peoples Organisations, including: ALLFIE, Inclusion London, Equal Lives, DPAC, Inclusion Scotland, Disability Wales and the TUC Disabled Workers Committee [2], who between them reach several million disabled voters.
References
1. How Labour would reform the Work Capability Assessment http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/how-labour-would-reform-the-work-capability-assessment-9265479.html
2. The Reclaiming Our Futures, Disabled People’s Manifesto http://disability-studies.leeds.ac.uk/files/library/UK-Disabled-People-s-Manifesto-Reclaiming-Our-Futures.pdf
3. The Green Paper: The new deal for welfare: Empowering people to work. 2006 http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://dwp.gov.uk/docs/a-new-deal-for-welfare-empowering-people-to-work-full-document.pdf
4. Equality Act 2010 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents

 

Apr 072014
 

DPAC_coloured_Logo_2__biggerWe are very much looking forward to seeing everyone who can come to our national conference on Saturday but it is also important that those of you who can’t get there in person are able to take part. There are a number of ways you can do this:

  • Send messages of support and your ideas for what DPAC should focus on over the next year to mail@dpac.uk.net or @dis_ppl_protest.These will be put up on the graffiti wall at the conference and included in the notes from the day.
  • Watch the conference live on:

http://bambuser.com/channel/OccupyLondon and http://bambuser.com/channel/DPAC

  • Live tweet your questions and contributions to @dis_ppl_protest

  Or email: mail@dpac.uk.net

 The program for the day is at DPAC Conference 2014 Saturday 12th April – Conference Programme

Apr 042014
 

We’ve had a great response to bookings for the DPAC conference on Sat 12th April in London, but places are now running out. Please email:  dpacfightback@yahoo.co.uk

with your details, number of places needed and any access needs.

12th April 2014 – 11am until 5pm

London Met University, Tower Building, 166 – 220 Holloway Road, London, N7 8DP

Since we started in October 2010 Disabled People Against Cuts has been at the forefront of the fight against austerity. With Atos on the run, and the bedroom tax on the ropes we are seeing the results of hard campaigning. But there is much more to do to ensure disabled people’s rights to live independently and with an adequate income.


The national conference is a chance for DPAC members to come together, to share experiences and discuss your ideas for moving forwards.


DPAC are working hard to bring to conference a surprise guest, a person who, if anyone has, has been the catalyst for the re-emergence of disability activism in the last few years, someone DPAC has enjoyed a close relationship with from visiting him at home to donating underpants to supporting his select committee appearances.


Workshops will look at: –  Where Now for the Independent Living Fund campaign,  – Developing a Social Model of Distress,  – Winning the Argument,  – Disability, Art and Protest,  – Building a National Network of Disabled People’s Organisations and Direct Action practical skills among others.

 Please note places are limited so priority will be given to DPAC members. For information about joining please contact mail@dpac.uk.net

The venue is wheelchair accessible. BSL and a note taker will be provided. For access information go to: http://www.disabledgo.com/access-guide/islington-council/london-metropolitan-university-tower-building

For access queries including booking parking please contact DPACfightback@yahoo.co.uk
To book places or for more information please contact DPACfightback@yahoo.co.uk

 

 

 

Mar 282014
 

DPAC supports the organisers of phase 2 of demos against ATOS and DWP.

Please see national Face book page for those organising in your area

https://www.facebook.com/ATOSNationalDemo?fref=ts

ATOS may have run away from the WCA contract, but they have plenty more contracts funded by public money from this unelected Government, including the disastrous PIP contract, in which people have been waiting for up to 10-12 months to obtain support. The DWP continue to oversee the round of cuts impacting on disabled people leaving them destitute or dead, sanctions are at an all time high.

Show them we’ve had enough-see you there…..

 

Mar 272014
 

This article is reproduced from our allies Black Triangle Campaign blog “The leadership of the British Medical Association is ‘complicit in the suicides of Britain’s disabled people’”
BMA

 

Edinburgh, Thursday 27th March 2014

By Alan Wylie

Arguably the most hated company in Britain, Atos Healthcare is the multinational corporation that carries out the Tory Government’s ‘Work Capability Assessments’ (WCA) on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions. This computer-based, tick-box ‘functional assessment’ is supposed to determine if a sick and disabled person is ‘fit for work’ or if they meet the criteria for any sickness benefit.

The assessments are so inadequate that, according to the mental health charity Mind, in Oxford 90% of those who have been found ‘fit for work’ have had their decisions overturned when they have appealed with the help of an advocate. This figure is replicated throughout the UK. Even when unrepresented decisions are overturned in 40% of cases.

 

Protesters demonstrate in London yesterday against Atos's role in benefit assessments

Protesters demonstrate in London in June 2012 against Atos’ role in benefit assessments

The DWP’s own statistics reveal that in 2011 alone 10,600 people died within six weeks of being found fit for work by Atos and another 2,200 died before their assessment was complete. 1300 of these were classified as having had limited capability for work and had been placed in the ‘Work Related Activity Group’ (WRAG).

The Government has since refused to publish statistics for 2012/13 having rejected a Freedom of Information request submitted by Mike Sivier of the Vox Political blog on the grounds that is was ‘vexatious‘.

Mr. Sivier has since lodged an appeal with the Information Commissioner with the help of a solicitor specialising in human rights: What we should be clear on is that this Government has a lot to hide.

Atos Healthcare’s reputation now stands in ruins. The company is completely discredited and it’s name now so toxic that earlier this month they rebranded themselves under the new name of “OHAssist”.

This reminds me of a phrase my mother used to say: “You can polish a turd but it will always be a turd.”

The company is now attempting to run away with its tail between its legs, confirming in February that it is seeking to end its contract to assess whether benefits claimants are fit to work, citing unsubstantiated ‘death threats‘ to its staff. They can run, they may rebrand – but their infamy will plague them for as long as our collective memories last in this country.

Cartoon by Martin Rowson for The Black Triangle Campaign

Cartoon by Martin Rowson for The Black Triangle Campaign

 

Perversely, the company was awarded the tender to act as assessors for the new Personal Independence Payment (the replacement of the now abolished Disability Living Allowance) under the OHAssist name and only last week they were directly accused by members of the Commons public accounts committee of lying in their bid to secure the contract.

Already it has been widely reported that terminally ill people are now going for months without the benefit they are entitled to owing to ‘delays’ in getting an assessment and the charity Scope estimates that up to 600,000 disabled people are set to lose their entitlement to disability living allowance, owing to the new, much harsher criteria.

The word “henchmen” is the word which immediately comes to mind when thinking about Atos, If you’ve ever wondered where Osborne’s “savings” are coming from, look no further: Atos cuts – disabled people bleed.

In June 2012 Britain’s Doctors overwhelmingly backed a motion at the BMA’s annual conference submitted by the Scottish-based Black Triangle Campaign through their Medical Advisor Dr Stephen Carty stating that Atos’s assessments were “inadequate” and had “little regard to the nature or complexity of the needs of long-term sick and disabled persons”. The motion went on to demand that the tests be ‘scrapped with immediate effect to be replaced by a rigorous and safe system that does not cause avoidable harm’ to sick and/or disabled people.

The vote was a huge victory for the Black Triangle Campaign’s activists and gave hope to hundreds of thousands of people at the brutal receiving end of this fascist-like disability assessment regime.

Regrettably since then, sick and/or disabled people have felt badly let down by the inaction of the BMA’s leadership who they say have in reality done little to give effect to the wishes of the union’s membership.

Granted, they have tussled with intransigent DWP ministers and officials who clearly have no intention of doing anything that might jeopardise their primary aim of kicking as many people off benefit and into destitution as necessary in order to “pay down the deficit” as sacrificial lambs on the altar of austerity, but nothing more.

BMA HouseWorse still, many Local Medical Committees (LMCs) – local associations of GPs – have appallingly mounted a ‘Just Say No‘ campaign instructing GP surgeries all over the UK to refuse patients further medical evidence in support of their benefit applications and appeals to the Tribunal Service.

The two main reasons given justify their unconscionable stance is that such work is outwith the duties doctors are required to perform as part of their contract with the DWP and that they are swamped with so many requests that they interfere with the core work of doctoring.

One of the functions of the doctors’ regulatory and disciplinary body, the General Medical Council (GMC), is to set the standards of professional and ethical conduct that all practising doctors in the UK must abide by. The chief guidance is contained in a document entitled ‘Good Medical Practice‘ which clearly states that :

‘… a doctor must (overriding duty or principle) take prompt action if he feels that patient safety is or may be seriously compromised by inadequate … policies or systems.’

Consistent with this and the fact that the WCA incontrovertibly compromises patient safety Black Triangle argues that doctors have an overriding duty in these cases to intervene to prevent catastrophic harm to their patients and to do so independently of any government interference or agreement, if required.

They have furthermore pioneered a simple and effective way for doctors to fulfil their duty of care which has been adopted by dozens of practices belonging to the Deprivation Interest Group in Scotland, the Lothian Area Health Board and the Glasgow Local Medical Committee district.

Dr Carty, who practises in Leith on the north side of Edinburgh has helped over thirty of his patients to gain exemption under the “exceptional circumstances” rule ESA regulations 29 and 35. In these cases, he has effectively informed the DWP that in his clinical judgment he believes that were his patient to be found ‘fit for work’ or to have ‘limited capability for work’ (i.e. placed in the WRAG) there would be a ‘substantial risk of harm to the physical or mental health of either the patient or to others around them’. He does this using one side of an A4 sheet of paper justifiying his declaration by stating clearly his clinical reasoning based on his patients’ diagnoses. He has said that in almost every case the DWP have not resisted his evidence and a great deal of suffering and tragedy has thereby been avoided.

The Black Triangle Campaign has one simple demand.

It isn’t the world that they are asking for.

They are not asking GPs to act as gatekeepers to the benefits system.

They stress that the judgment call as to whether or not to invoke these regulations must be left entirely at the professional discretion of the clinical practitioner.

BMA caring for patients and supporting the actionThey fully recognise that a GP may not feel qualified in every case to decide upon a person’s suitability for work as they are not trained Occupational Health experts.

Their simple demand is that the BMA issues an advisory to their members informing them of the existence of these regulations and how to apply them in cases where a GP has a grave concern for the safety and well-being of their patient facing the Atos assessment regime in order to prevent avoidable harm from the outset. They argue that in most cases where the regulations are invoked the clinical condition of the patient in question will be so severe that the judgment call will be an absolute ‘no-brainer’.

The method they have pioneered for making it takes up little more time for the doctor than it would to write out a prescription and in the end will result in fewer acute admissions to hospital and generally dealing with the adverse impact on the patient’s health with the fallout that inevitably follows as the knock-on effect of a wrongful decision by DWP-Atos.

wowv2g-300x272On the 10th December last year, after two solid years of lobbying, Black Triangle led a meeting with Dr John Canning of the BMA’s General Practice Committee who travelled up from London and Dr. Dean Marshall of BMA Scotland at BMA House in Edinburgh. Also in attendance was Bill Scott, Manager of Inclusion Scotland and representatives of the PCS Union from London and Glasgow who are desperate to find a moral and ethical solution to prevent the catastrophic consequences of wrongful decisions their members witness every day as administrators of the system.

They say that at that meeting it was agreed that the campaign would submit their materials to the BMA delegation which would then be discussed at BMA Council with a view to issuing a cascading advisory to all 55,000 GPs in the UK.

That was nearly four months ago and Black Triangle now believes that they have been stonewalled and strongly suspect that they have met with stubborn resistance within the ranks of the BMA’s hierarchy in London.

McArdle says:

“In advance of the historic Commons debate – the first one in history ever to be secured by disabled people themselves after raising over 104,000 signatures on the War on Welfare Petition (The ‘WoWpetition’) on 27th February, the BMA put out a briefing document that merely recognised what we all know and stated that they look forward to working with the DWP to address the issues giving better feedback to the department at the outset of the process on the ESA113 (the so-called ‘fit note’ – actually the old sick note). This does not adequately address the issue of flagging up substantial risk because the ESA113 is only rarely requested by the DWP and is returned on time in less than 37% of cases.”

An article in GP Online published the day before the WoWpetition debate reports the BMA as warning that ‘GPs are not occupational health specialists and are unable to make the judgments required’ to provide appropriate medical evidence.

The article reported that ‘Although GPs are not under a contractual obligation to provide this evidence directly to patients, these requests (for evidence) place GPs in a difficult position that can potentially compromise the doctor-patient relationship,’ warning that the requests were taking up limited GP appointment time ‘inappropriately’.

McArdle continues:

Mark Wood R.I.P.

Mark Wood R.I.P.

“Recently we witnessed the case of Mark Wood, a man with severe and enduring psychiatric illness starve himself to death following a fit for work decision by DWP-Atos in Oxford. We have no doubt in our minds whatsoever that had Mark’s GP been given the necessary information and tools with which to effectively flag up risk in this case by the BMA this appalling tragedy could have been averted. We are now in close contact with Mark’s sister who has joined together with us in campaigning to see to it this this never happens again.”

“We are sincerely grateful to the grassroots support of the BMA’s membership who have supported us from the outset in demanding an immediate end to this cruel and barbaric disability assessment regime with immediate effect.

DPAC LOGO“However, the members and steering group of the Black Triangle Campaign and allies in our sister organisation Disabled People Against Cuts together with Mark’s sister stand united in protest and condemnation of the unacceptable quiescence on the part of BMA Council in continuing to fail to address this issue robustly.

“We have done all we can as disabled people. We have mobilised and galvanised opinion among grassroots GPs, Consultants, trade unions and campaigners from across civil society.

“It is now time for the BMA to stand up and show true leadership in defence of sick and/or disabled people. In our view the leadership is acting completely out of step with the clearly stated wishes of their membership who support us in bringing down this whole putrid edifice.

“As sure as night follows day, many more tragedies such as that of Mark Wood will continue to occur as a result of this inaction.

“We call upon them now to issue, with immediate effect, a substantial risk advisory to all their members to equip them with the tools to ensure that such barbarity is stopped and that there will be no more deaths such as Mark’s on their watch.

“Not to do so is in our view to be complicit in the deaths of innocent people whose only crime is to have the misfortune to be sick and/or disabled.

“History will not hold them guiltless.”

McArdle finishes by quoting the holocaust scholar, Yehuda Bauer who said:

Professor Yehuda Bauer

Professor Yehuda Bauer

“I come from a people who gave the Ten Commandments to the world. Time has come to strengthen them by three additional ones, which we ought to adopt and commit ourselves to: thou shall not be a perpetrator; thou shall not be a victim; and thou shall never, but never, be a bystander.”

“The BMA cannot wash its hands and abdicate from their moral responsibilities. It must act now without any further delay.”

Of all the professions, British society places the medical profession upon the commanding heights of moral authority. Standing by and allowing patients’ health to be damaged risks a severe fracturing the public’s high esteem for our Doctors.

They must take action now. 

Dr Eugene (Eugeniusz) Lazowski, Poland's Schindler

Dr Eugene (Eugeniusz) Lazowski, Poland’s Schindler

Their position as passive bystanders witnessing this carnage at the hands of an inhumane and outright nasty Government is no longer tenable. 

Black Triangle’s demand is not only a simple one and easy to achieve: It is an astoundingly reasonable one.

For the sake of us all, I hope and pray along with Black Triangle that just for this once, power listens to reason in this case and that the BMA leadership’s inaction does not translate to infamy when in future people ask “what did the British medical profession do to put a stop to it?”

 

Alan Wyllie is the Creator of PoliticsUK, a founding member of the No2BedroomTax Campaign and is an ’Ambassador’ for the Labour for Independence Campaign

Woman killed herself over benefits cut, says mental health watchdog: Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland finds that woman took her own life after assessor docked benefits by 30%  26 March 2014

The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland has recently conducted an investigation around the new benefits system. 

‘We investigated the case of a woman who tragically took her own life in December 2011. She had recently had a work capability assessment following which the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decided her benefits were going to be reduced. She was on incapacity benefit and was told she would not be able to be transferred to Employment and Support Allowance so would receive Jobseekers allowance …’

http://www.mwcscot.org.uk/about-us/latest-news/our-latest-investigation-is-now-available/

Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland Investigation Report: Who benefits? The benefits assessment and death of Ms DE

We have received a response from the DWP in relation to our recommendations and we have made comments on their response:

Social security: a cap designed to confuse ~ Policy lazily lumps all benefit costs together, irrespective of whether they reflect mismanagement or answer genuine need

Mar 242014
 

This is an account we received of the continuous damage the regimes of Government do, on an individual basis and on a family basis-while the private companies lap up millions in public money. The impacts of failed systems are more and more destructive, making no sense at all. 

My son is 23 years old and lives with us. He has a serotonin deficiency which makes it difficult for him to sleep normally like other people. So he will go for days without sleep and then crash without warning and then nothing we can do to rouse him.

It’s always been a problem but it got worse when he was 15 due to severe depression and the fact that he had a number of traumatic incidents including saving sister from being kicked & hit by a rock at school, being hit with a half brick on way home from school and  punched in the face by someone he only knew vaguely. Then there were 2 muggings, one of which involved him going to police station and identifying assailants etc but he didn’t go to court as assailants pleaded guilty. Left him with traumatic stress syndrome.

So where previously he struggled to college he gave up and now spends months at a time in his room. Sometimes I don’t speak to him for weeks. Just leave messages on his computer. Some of his behaviour is quite odd but can’t get him psychiatrically evaluated as they say he is not in crisis and he won’t go there. They did manage an assessment over 18 months and found he was depressed and suffering from depression plus his neurologist has written letter to DWP about my son’s physical problems. 

Progress until Atos and back to work scheme

Things were beginning to go well. Under the neurologist they had worked out a strategy of treatment including a light box and drug treatment. That’s when ATOS struck. They had to try twice to find my son actually awake. We told ‘assessor’ all his problems but they moved him onto a back to work scheme. I wrote a letter to DWP and said there is no way that my son could guarantee to make any appointment. His treatment had just started and involved him adjusting gradually to a more normal sleep pattern which could take over a year to do. Forcing him to go to set appointment would destroy the treatment strategy. 

We went to CAB and we appealed against the decision. We had to wait a year before they even replied. Meanwhile the appointment letters kept coming. He made the first one at Job Centre. Seemed very positive and hope of training on some online course. Son was handed over to this other group SERCO but was told that they would take into account his sleeping difficulty. After several missed appointments he made a Serco appointment. The added problem of him going, as well as sleeping problems, meant that he wouldn’t travel on his own to the appointment, as he had panic attacks. The stress of whole thing was beginning to tell on all of us too. 

Treatment abandoned, appeal abandoned 

My son’s treatment regime had to be abandoned due to all these appointment letters phone calls coming. He missed the appointment. I would have to phone and explain why. They would send another appointment and the whole cycle went on for months. It was making me ill as well as my son.  Then we were sent a piece of paper to sign to say Richard had seen them. I took it to CAB and asked should he sign it as he had only seen them once in six months. I was told he had seen them even if it was only once so my son signed it and they moved him to new group and new building. All the stress and failure of never making a meeting made my son sink back into the depression. 

So he moved onto next group. There has been no help for him getting online courses. They wouldn’t talk to him online. He won’t use phone as it often brings on panic attacks. So he goes for several months and this time doesn’t make any appointments.

He is more withdrawn than ever and even misses seeing Neurologist.

Finally the DWP reply about appeal and say there will be meeting within six weeks. I go to CAB to prepare case but Son takes off in panic to Friend. I didn’t know exactly where although I knew he was safe and got messages from him re emails. CAB says we can’t continue without Son so we withdraw appeal and son comes back home.

 

Increasing problems, but Serco still drawing the cash 

His behaviour is now more and more erratic. He talks of laundry baskets attacking him and pinning him in corner. I set up appointment with GP but last minute he is asleep. SERCO then say he has passed through 2nd stage and is on 3rd stage. They set up an appointment for him to go to workshops. He hasn’t made one yet. The pressure of letters and phone calls start again but I have stopped answering them or phoning to cancel as my own health means frequent doctor appointments and clinic appointments and can’t keep up with SERCO too. I went to ATOS and actually passed as too sick to work. I do have chronic ME, a cataract and severe chest problems and was nearing 60 but hasn’t stopped ATOS re friends of mine. Probably the stress re my son helped as I was pretty shattered with it all and all my own hospital tests.

                                                     

Son has taken off once again to the friend. The letters are piling up. I suppose I should tell SERCO he is gone as he has been away for over a month. I think whole thing is a scam as no way has he progressed and he hasn’t had any useful help. If they were legit they would have referred him back to DWP and he probably would have had his money stopped. However if I go to DWP or police they could argue that sons flight off to friend means he isn’t meeting terms re benefit and possibly even accusing him of fraud. CAB says we need psychiatric evaluation of son. GP is unwilling to send someone to our home when Son is there & Mental Health people say he is not a danger to himself or others. If he has to talk to authorities he will probably leave forever and I will lose all contact with him. So at moment I know even SERCO will have to claim he has finished course eventually and then we will have to challenge them. We will be asked why we didn’t challenge before and Son will go into hiding.

It’s just a case of waiting for axe to fall…..       

 

 

 

Mar 232014
 

Fit for Work or Survival of the Fittest? We need to Act Now to make our Voices Heard!

How can we restore dignity to disabled Welfare Benefits?

Market Hall, Assembly Rooms, Chesterfield Sat 29th 11am-4pm

Speakers

Richard Exell-TUC

Kate Green -MP Shadow minister of State for Equalities

Debbie Jolly -DPAC

Sue Marsh- Spartacus

Plus Dead Earnest Theatre Company

Food available

Ring or text Colin on 0787 387999

For info/access requirements

Unite Community membership

Welfare poster 2014

Mar 162014
 
Thursday 20th march the public accounts committee is meeting to discuss personal independence payments (PIP), the vice president of Atos and Capita are going to be in attendance as witnesses.
 
Meeting will take place room 15 palace of westminster 9.45 am spread the word on this atos and capita in the same room…. we need a presence at this one!

Mar 142014
 

See below for a template covering letter citing case law that ‘obliges Decision Makers to take into account the relevance of a claimant’s existing DLA award when considering a Work Capability Assessment’

Date

 

 

ATOS Healthcare

SW95 9EB

 

Dear Sir/Madam

Re: M

 

We write on behalf of the above-named person. His authorisation to correspond is attached.

 

We helped M.. complete the enclosed ESA50 form.

 

M….short description

 

He gets highest rate care of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) because of his many care needs. He is also, for obvious reasons, in receipt of the higher rate mobility component of DLA. While we are aware that DLA has a different focus to ESA, case law (JW v SSWP (ESA) [2012] UKUT 256 (AAC)CE/2894/2011)obliges Decision Makers to take into account the relevance of a claimant’s existing DLA award when considering a Work Capability Assessment—there may be sufficient “common ground” for one to provide material evidence in respect of the other.

 

We are concerned that there would be substantial risk to M….s’ health if he were found not to have Limited Capability for Work (Regulation 29 ESA Regs.) or if he were found not to have Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity (Regulation 35 ESA Regs.). And given the level of care he requires, we cannot see what reasonable adjustments any prospective employer or JCPlus Claimant Adviser could put in place to lessen that risk.

 

In light of the above, we would ask that M….. be placed in the Support Group of ESA without having to undergo a Work Capability Assessment.

 

Yours faithfully

 

The use of these regs by doctors and welfare advisors has also been part of a long campaign by our sister group Black Triangle Campaign.

Attached is a piece of case law saying that a physiotherapist opinions re a claimant with mental health problems has no probative value whatsoever.   The reference is at paragraph 22.  

 This case law is very useful to include in ESA applications and WCA appeals so please pass to any Welfare Benefits advocacy/advisors or use yourself.  

This information has been proven to contribute to a high success rate re ESA/WCA

 Case law:SKMBT_C45114031409590

  

 

Mar 042014
 

We’ve stopped asking for basic humanity from you. We’ve stopped asking for fairness -it all falls by the wayside. You don’t care. Now we ask for logic …………well John does, but he is not alone, he is supported by DPAC and thousands of disabled people and those with long-term health issues. We hear that you ATOS/OH Assist want to pull out of the WCA, but want to keep the PIP contract despite a serious backlog and people being left for up to a year without any cash to support them. We all look forward to the day when these barbaric tests are scrapped, if you want to blame the DWP, fine, but several millions in public money paid to you suggests you also have something to do with it all too. By the way this message must not be construed as a death threat to your staff in any way- It’s a plea for logic, any kind of bloody logic, as feelings are clearly not your strong point or those of the DWP.

Below is the email DPAC received from John. John also emailed other disability charities, so I am sure they will be publishing something too unless they’re too tied up in Government funds to say a word, of course.

Below the copy of the email is a piece on the illogical questionnaire that is sent out to everyone having to endure this abuse by ATOS/OH Assist/DWP , or any future private company out to make a few million at the expense of peoples’ lives.

Hi,

Please do not think that this is an attempt to influence my own case in any way or enlist support – although the latter would certainly be welcome (head gets sore from banging against Atos’ brick walled- ignorance). As I am sure you are aware, there is a tendency for those of us unfortunate enough to be disabled – seriously or otherwise – to become isolated. I believe that it is important that we raise awareness and share information even on individual cases – hence this e-mail. 

I am aware of many people who have suffered and still are suffering at the hands of Atos & the DWP, but I thought that you might like to hear of my experiences – and I have yet to even have a Work Capability Assessment! 

I was first called to attend an assessment on 17th June 2013 and could not believe the asinine ‘questionnaire’! For Pete’s sake: “Do you have trouble remaining conscious while awake?’!!!; Picking up and moving things: What ‘things’? How heavy? What shape? If cardboard, is it standard or thick cardboard? Move them from where to where?. How large is a ‘large’ cardboard box? Does the claimant move by hand, or does s/he use aids? Is there anything in the damn box? Those are just two examples.

In addition to other disabilities, I cannot write for more than a minute or two without my hand painfully ‘cramping up’ and my writing  becoming illegible. Therefore, I intended to make notes in the only way open to me – using a voice recorder. Atos – despite agreeing to record the assessment, denied this and refused to proceed with the assessment. Given that anything I dictated would also be recorded on their equipment, this is not only illogical, but blatantly discriminatory. Also, at the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, it suggests that the equipment will – shock! horror! fail, particularly should it show Atos in a bad light (see e.g. http://dpac.uk.net/2012/07/having-your-wca-recorded/ and http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/dec/13/disabled-man-government-court-benefit-test).

Neither Atos or the DWP could legally prevent a more able-bodied person or their escort/carer from making notes by hand, so the decision is, therefore, discriminatory and unlawful. It should not be necessary – as with the recent court decision on Mental health & WCA – to resort to litigation in order to obtain that which one has a right to in any case.

Despite being advised from the outset that my disabilities result in fatigue and the need to sleep by early afternoon, I was sent appointments that disregarded this and it was necessary each time to write to them demanding a new, more suitable appointment.

I have another appointment for 21st March 2014, although I expect the same things to occur and that Atos will again unlawfully refuse to proceed with the assessment. I have since been met with nothing but malice, discrimination, general illegality and just plain incompetence by the Atos parasites, whose default position seems to be: if in doubt – lie (more on this below) having, apparently, learned their craft at the knee of Josef Goebbels. 

When I addressed their ‘response’ to my complaints, the person who supposedly ‘investigated’ them was conveniently (for them) absent and I was passed to another individual whose further investigation was so thorough that it took less than two weeks and not only re-stated Atos/DWP’s unlawful discrimination vis-à-vis my note-taking, but also completely failed to mention at all the lies told by:

a)      The Atos receptionist who reported that I stated that I would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights. This was yet another case of Atos shooting itself in the foot as I am a former law lecturer, assisting in a research capacity on a couple of human rights cases and am quite aware that a claimant must first exhaust domestic remedies. In fact, I stated that I was prepared to make a formal complaint to the Commission for Equality & Human Rights.

b)      The lies told by the person who (supposedly) first investigated my complaints. Namely that disabled parking was available on the street immediately outside the assessment centre. This was a blatant lie and I provided photographic proof of this. In fact, not only does there not appear to be any disabled parking available in the building’s car park that I could see, but there is no disabled parking available within at least a hundred yards of the building! This person had also related – in respect to my complaint “when you entered the assessment room” when I never left the reception area until I left the building!

I have provided Jobcentre Plus/DWP with copies of correspondence at every stage and yet they have not even had the common courtesy to acknowledge the correspondence, let alone respond. I have also made a formal complaint to the Equalities Office – who have also failed to acknowledge or respond. 

I am in the process of submitting evidence to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee. Will they listen? Doubtful, but we live in hope. My MP has also been completely useless on this – in fact that isn’t surprising given that he’s a Lib-Dem and therefore part of this odious coalition. 

I have attached for your information my response to Atos’ ‘investigation’ of my complaints and my initial assessment of the questionnaire. I apologise for the occasionally facetious tone of the latter, but I simply could not believe that they were prepared to use such a blatantly incompetent document as the basis from which to destroy so many lives.

 Regards,

John Lockett

Questionnaire

Page 1

Page 1/3

Title of the form

Poorly chosen – or perhaps deliberately chosen? By definition, except for the minority of frauds –Incapacity Payment Benefit claimants are incapable of work.

 

About you

Personal details: Unnecessary. After all, they sent me the damn form and, therefore, already have this information

 They knew I was male and that I could not, therefore, be pregnant!

 

Face-to-face assessment

The idiocy of asking anyone, let alone someone extremely poor health to nominate dates in the next THREE MONTHS when they are unavailable is plain.

 

Help needed for face-to-face assessment: How is a claimant to answer this adequately –even if sufficient space were provided on the form – without knowing where the assessment is to take place?

 

Apart from the fact that it is NONE of their damn business, how, exactly, does the date of a claimant’s last GP visit relate to or affect in any way, their capability – or otherwise –for work?

 

The names and details of any specialist care professionals are relevant only if they are prepared to call the claimant a liar or a fraud, which would possibly create liability for both the decision-maker and Atos/the DWP in defamation.

 

The date of the claimant’s last visit to such a professional is also none of their damn business and may be irrelevant in any case. A claimant may not have seen a particular consultant in more than a year. This does not mean, however, that their condition has miraculously disappeared. Other specialists/consultants may have only been visited once after referral from other professionals and in order to either aid diagnosis or to eliminate possible causative factors.

 

About your illness or disabilities

This is such an openly-worded question as to be largely useless. The space provided for response is also inadequate for those with multiple and/or variable conditions to respond adequately.

 

About your medication

Eavesdropping in any pharmacy will reveal that a great many people do not even know the names of the drugs they take – merely the quantity and the time they are to be taken. I continue to take a different ant-histamine, which frequently causes drowsiness/tiredness over and above that caused by my various conditions.


Page 2

Page 2/3

Drugs, alcohol or other substances

This could be seen as an attempt to re-write the Disability Discrimination Act by stealth, given that some relevant conditions under this heading can be considered disabilities. It may also be seen as a deceptive attempt to induce a claimant to inadvertently admit that their inability to work is of their own making and thereby deny their claim. Either case is despicable.

 

Part 1: Physical functions

Part of this may be seen as a ‘trick’ question. As many claimants for Incapacity Benefit also claim Disability Living Allowance, this can be seen as a deliberately deceptive attempt to induce the claimant to give different answers to claims for each benefit.

 

3. Reaching: Inadequate space to answer the question properly. This criteria is variable and will depend on the state of variable conditions at any given time.

 

4. Picking up and moving things: This question is worded, apparently, by a six-year-old. What ‘things’? How heavy? What shape? Is it standard or thick cardboard? Move them from where to where?. How ‘large’ is a ‘large’ cardboard box? Does the claimant move by hand, or does s/he use aids?

 

5. Manual dexterity: Another poorly-worded question with proposed tasks apparently selected (!) at random from an episode of Mr. Bean. Most people rarely read a traditional book now, preferring an electronic version. As regards picking up a £1 coin, I would probably not attempt do so, but scoop it from the surface with one hand into the other.

 

6. Communicating with people: Communicate how? Semaphore, Morse code? Martian?

 

7. Other people communicating with you: Yet another poorly-worded question. What if the person attempting communication with the claimant has an unfamiliar accent? What if the other person is a poor communicator? The same applies to simple (printed) messages from other people.

 

8. Getting around safely: Define ‘safely’. What road? A dual carriageway? A single track road? A one-way street? How does a claimant know whether they can get around an unfamiliar place without knowing what the place is?

 

9. Controlling your bowels and bladder and using a collecting device: A piggy bank could be classified as a ‘collecting device’!

 

10. Staying conscious when awake: Another idiotic question! By definition, if one is conscious, one is awake.

 

11. Learning how to do tasks: How can a claimant truthfully and reliably answer this question without knowing what task? One may have no difficulty in learning how to remove an engine’s cylinder head, although physically doing so may be impossible. However, learning to programme  computer code may be beyond them. The form asks about setting an alarm clock, but what sort?


Page 3

Page 3/3

The mechanical sort with two bells on top, or that contained on my mobile ‘phone? What if one had a different mobile ‘phone on which key operation was more difficult?

 

13. Starting and finishing tasks: What tasks? Under what conditions? For example, someone who possesses a dishwasher would find it far easier to complete the washing up than someone with only a bowl and sink. Starting and finishing any task may be dependent on the effect various and variable medical conditions on a given day.

 

14. Coping with changes: What changes? What constitutes a ‘small’ change? A claimant may be able to cope with a small change in one aspect of their life but not another. For example, a claimant with a hospital appointment may have re-organised their schedule and arranged transport to cope with the appointment but should the taxi not arrive or the appointment be changed at short notice, some may be stoic, regarding it as a small change while others may react extremely angrily, regarding it as a major disruption in their routine. The same applies equally to the second part of this question (unexpected changes). A ‘small’ change – whether expected or not – can be a major disruption in the life of a disabled person.

 

15. Going out: This is essentially the same question as question 8 ‘Getting around safely’.

 

16. Coping with social situations: This question is completely asinine. What constitutes a ‘social situation’? The qualification of the question is inadequate. To some, this may be visiting family, while to others it may be a family wedding/christening/funeral or an evening at the pub!

 

17. Behaving appropriately: Yet another extremely poorly-worded question. Firstly, how would it affect a claimant’s capability for work? And what work? In what situation? What is appropriate to one person may be extremely objectionable to another. Furthermore, unless someone speaks out, how would the claimant know that their behaviour upsets other people? The same applies to the second part of the question.

 

18. Eating and drinking: How on earth does this question – in ANY way – relate to a claimant’s ability to work. I doubt there are many vacancies for wine-tasters, or cookery competition judges

 

 

 

Feb 242014
 

In an urgent memo obtained by Benefits and Work, the DWP have told staff that due to a growing backlog at Atos all current employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants will be left on the benefit, without further medical checks, until another company can be found to do repeat work capability assessments (WCAs). The memo, dated 20 January, goes on to say that this will reduce the number of claimants moving off ESA, but that there are no plans to inform claimants or MPs about the change.

Benefits and Work obtained the memo from the DWP via a Freedom of Information request. It is headed: ‘FOR URGENT CASCADE. Control of the Referral of Repeat work Capability Assessments’.

The memo explains that back in July a ministerial statement announced that:

“in the drive to continually improve the Work Capability Assessment process and bring down waiting times for claimants, DWP had decided to seek additional capacity to deliver Work Capability Assessments.

“We are working towards having new provision in place – it will of course take some time for that to become fully operational.”

However, the memo goes on to explain that:

“The number of cases currently with Atos Healthcare has grown. A decision has therefore been taken to control the referral of repeat work capability assessments. Therefore, with effect from 20 January 2014, further routine repeat assessments referrals to Atos will be deferred until further notice.

“Controlling the volume of repeat Work Capability Assessments should help us to reduce delays for new claimants and those that have already been referred.”

The memo goes on to say that staff must still refer claimants for reassessment where there has been a reported change in condition, giving the example of a claimant placed in the Work Related Activity Group whose condition worsens and who might be expected to move into the Support Group.

Aside from this, however, reassessment of existing claimants is to end until further notice, with no new cases being referred to Atos from 20th January.

The memo is keen to point out that the decision to stop repeat assessments by Atos is not ‘linked to the quality issues outlined in July 2013’ which the DWP ‘has been working closely with Atos to resolve’. It also reassures readers that the change will have no impact on Atos’ ability to carry out personal independence payment assessments.

It does, however, admit that the result of the change is that the number of people coming off ESA each month will reduce because:

“the Work Capability Assessment is the main trigger for off-flows from the Employment and Support Allowance load. We will continue to assess the potential for alternative interventions on those whose repeat Work Capability Assessments are deferred to seek to manage this consequence.”

No details of what those ‘alternative interventions’ might be is given.

It is clear, however, that the DWP is not keen for people to be aware of the ever more disastrous state of medical assessments for benefits by Atos. The memo explains that claimants who enquire about when their next WCA will be, should only be told that:

“Although the Department will periodically review a person’s Limited Capability for Work, there is no set date for this to happen.

“The timing of this review is at the discretion of the Decision Maker acting on behalf of the Secretary of State and is influenced by the evidence available to them, which can mean on occasion longer periods between face to face assessments. “

In addition, the memo explains that as this is simply an ‘operational decision’ and not a ‘policy change’ there are no plans to notify ‘external stakeholders such as claimants, claimant representative groups, Members of Parliament, etc.’

It is hard to imagine that IDS and his fellow DWP ministers believed that they could keep this further Atos-related failure secret for long: you can’t stop reassessing thousands of claimants a week without anyone noticing. If, however, they could have kept it secret at least until they found a new company to take on the repeat assessments, it would have been easier to explain away and not added to the ever mounting pressure for a complete overhaul of the WCA.

“Yes, there was briefly a problem” IDS could have said “But we now have a new provider and it is no longer an issue.”

As it is, this news is simply further proof that the WCA is not fit for purpose, because as soon as the DWP attempts to impose proper quality controls a massive backlog results. It is, we hope, another nail in the coffin of a completely discredited system.

And, for all those claimants with static or degenerative conditions who continue to be forced to undergo repeat assessments, often followed by repeat appeals, on an annual basis, the news will come as a welcome respite.

Reposted from Benefits and Work website with thanks

 

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/2645-all-repeat-wca-medicals-to-be-stopped

 

 

 

Feb 232014
 

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DPAC, Black Triangle & WOW Petition

Joint Statement on the Bizarre ATOS Exit Strategy

Several years of campaigning have paid off in making more and more people realise that ATOS, the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) policies imposed by the ConDems are completely toxic, inhuman and abhorrent.

DPAC have been leading campaigns against ATOS, the WCA and DWP since 2010 including: visits to Trinton Square (shiny headquarters of ATOS), with our local DPAC groups repeatedly protesting outside their local assessment centres and feeding in to the day of protest on the 19th of February. DPAC also fed into the channel 4 program Dispatches: ‘Britain on the Sick’ which revealed the horrendous system of getting as many people removed from support as possible, has exposed the devastation and misery and led the highly successful ATOS games in 2012 which saw ATOS shares drop in value and an increase in media attention against them. DPAC have occupied Caxton House (home of the DWP) and gathered outside the entrance of the DWP on many occasions, most recently in the 7 days of action ‘Reclaiming our Futures’.

Our sister group Black Triangle have fought tirelessly with us. Black Triangle has worked with us for over 3 years fighting and exposing continuous wrong doing and working on publicising regulations that can be used by GPs to prevent further harm to thousands of disabled people under the WCA regime. Our allies at WOW have successfully raised the issue of a cumulative impact assessment, abolishing the WCA with the Wow petition, and secured a debate in Parliament on February 27th. This month also saw a UK wide protest outside local ATOS centres organised by local groups. We’ve all been clear that it is the WCA itself that needs to be scrapped immediately.

The bizarre exit strategy ATOS have developed in identifying apparent physical threats on Facebook despite the growing lists of real deaths caused by the WCA regime is an outrageous insult to all those that have died and all those that have lost family members through this regime. It is an insult to those left without their homes, without money and needing to go to foodbanks. It is an insult to every person who has suffered worsening physical and mental health through this inhuman regime.

ATOS attempting to pull out of its contact represents only a partial victory. The alphabet corporations (G4S, A4E, SECRO, CAPITA) are already lining up to take over the multi-million profits and the mantle of the new Grim Reapers. The misery imposed by this Government and the DWP will continue as long as its heinous policies continue.

Goodbye to ATOS -but the WCA must also end. The reign of terror by this unelected Coalition Government which has awarded itself pay rises, cut taxes for those earning over £150,000 while piling punishment, poverty, misery and premature death on everyone else in its policies of rich against poor must end.

Make no mistake- We will continue to demonstrate against ATOS, now delivering the complete failure of PIP in which claims are being delayed by up to a year. We will demonstrate against any other company that takes over the WCA contract. We will continue to demand the immediate removal of the WCA, and the removal of this Government.

DPAC, Black Triangle and WOW demand:

  1. That the WCA be ended with immediate effect to be replaced with a rigorous and safe system that does not cause avoidable harm to disabled people, those with chronic health issues, terminal illnesses or long term health issues. It is the WCA – the assessment itself – that is fundamentally flawed and must end now as called for by the British Medical Association (BMA), the Royal College of Nursing and the 104,725 people who signed the WOW Petition.
  1. That the UK Government at Westminster and the opposition follow the Scottish Government’s pledge that private for-profit companies are removed entirely from having anything to do with the assessment of disabled people. This area of public policy belongs firmly within the NHS and the public sector.
  1. That all support and commend the initiative being led by Black Triangle in union with DPAC and WOW to work together with the BMA to ensure that GPs are able to flag up a substantial risk of harm to disabled people, those with chronic health issues, terminal illnesses or long term health issues at the very outset of the WCA process. The complete lack of any such mechanism to assess and flag up complex risk under the current regime has given rise to countless tragedies which could thereby have been avoided.
  1. That the PIP contract be removed from ATOS with immediate effect-they have shown errors beyond incompetence affecting thousands of disabled people, leading to waits of up to a year and leaving people without income or food

We’ll celebrate Atos’ realisation that the WCA contract has always been poisonous, but we won’t rest or stay quiet. Atos’ absence from the WCA regime will not allow us forget the evil we have endured:

Suicides

(Atos, the Coalition and DWP all share responsibility)

The Decisions

The appeal rate – c40% without support, up to 70% when claimant supported by trained advocate (CAB).

Quoting the targets from the trainer in the dispatches show – just 13% expected to keep ESA

Atos have £3bn pounds in public contracts, yet pay no tax here. 
 

Whistleblowers

Greg Wood

Joyce Drummond


T
he complete failure around people presenting with MH Diagnosis.

Claimant in wheelchair left upstairs in fire drill

Claimants left out in the cold

Police called on Welfare Advisors

Atos claimed to be working with groups they weren’t.

and

Atos boss accused of 'living in a parallel universe' after claiming hated benefits assessor is popular with public - Mirror Online


Goodbye ATOS-We’ll be back….


This statement is also supported in Solidarity by:

  • Inclusion London
  • Pat's Petition
  • Carer Watch

Feb 222014
 

I am delighted to see that Sir Andrew Dilnot, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, has written to Sheila Gilmore MP in response to her complaint to the authority over the Work Capability Assessment statistics.

This follows a great deal of intensive research in to the figures on the ilegal/mylegal forums to which Sheila Gilmore’s attention has been drawn and which she has acknowledged.  Her unstinting challenge of the DWP in her role on the Parliamentary select committee over the dreaded Employment & Support Allowance along with many other increasingly alarming elements of welfare reform are to be applauded.

And here follows Dilnot’s reply, to view it all use this link…..

In my view we are only scratching the surface with a much deeper failing in these statistics which has yet to emerge.  What particularly galls me is how the media as well as government and its ministers have continually based all their (mis) reporting on the back of figures which it is becoming more and more obvious were flawed from the outset.  The error which emerges in this instance is one where the DWP are effectively concealing their own ‘overturns’ within a set of statistics which have been misrepresented as ones subject to ‘initial assessment’.

The effect of this is (1) to hide the true initial results and (2) to keep from the public the true number of decisions which the DWP considers to be erroneous at the initial stage.

My bigger concern is what these figures hide; the true number of claimants who have appealed.  Figures from Her Majesties Tribunals, Courts and Tribunals Service confirm that over 1 million Employment & Support Allowance appeals have been lodged with Tribunals, many more will be waiting for action at the DWP and no clear figures have yet been made available making it clear as to how many internal reconsiderations by the DWP have led to Work Capability Assessment results being overturned.

Our thanks as ever to Nick –a true hero

Go to http://ilegal.org.uk/thread/7258/serious-flaws-governments-statistics?page=12&scrollTo=21206

To see this post in all its glory including tweet to Nick thanking him for his research from Sheila Gilmore

Please follow Nick on twitter and support his great work @Mylegalforum

Feb 132014
 

DPAC support the ATOS demo on Feb 19th. Due to the use of the DPAC logo on some of the posters showing DPAC support we’ve had loads of emails about this. So just to set the record straight- DPAC are not organising the Feb 19th Demos.

We are not responsible for the 8am starts in some areas and accept that these timings will often be difficult for many disabled people. Please contact your local organisers on this, not us.

There may be DPAC speakers, there may be DPAC people at this- and why would we not be there? DPAC along with UKUncut organised the successful ATOS Games across the UK in 2012, so we’re really pleased to see a set of national and local disabled people taking this up again two years on. Big thanks go to Tom Smith and others for mobilising everyone….

The info for all demos is on Facebook along with specific pages for local demos.

https://www.facebook.com/ATOSNationalDemo?fref=ts

Any disabled people wanting to speak about their experiences or to have something read out from them on their behalf should contact a local organiser to arrange this. 

see also

http://ukrebellioncom.ipage.com/atosdemo/

We wish everyone a safe and peaceful action

Feb 092014
 

There will be an inquiry into Employment and Support Allowance and the Work Capability Assessment. The committee are asking for submissions from you. DPAC will be sending a submission of the misery, destitution and deaths this process is causing. The deadline for receipt by the committee is March 21st

We ask you to take this opportunity to add to further evidence, if you would like to send experiences to DPAC to send on your behalf please email: mail@dpac.uk.net  with the subject line: ESA WCA inquiry

Otherwise, the details of how to send written experiences and data are copied below:

The Committee’s inquiry

In light of recent developments in this area, including the publication of a number of reviews of the WCA, expressions of concern from DWP regarding Atos’s performance in delivering the WCA, and the introduction of mandatory reconsideration, the Committee has decided to undertake an inquiry into ESA and WCAs to follow-up its 2011 report.

Submissions of no more than 3,000 words are invited from interested organisations and individuals.

The Committee is particularly interested to hear views on:

  • Delivery of the WCA by Atos, including steps taken to improve the claimant experience
  • The effectiveness of the WCA in indicating whether claimants are fit for work, especially for those claimants who have mental, progressive or fluctuating illnesses, including comparison with possible alternative models
  • The process and criteria for procuring new providers of the WCA
  • The ESA entitlement decision-making process
  • The reconsideration and appeals process
  • The impact of time-limiting contributory ESA
  • Outcomes for people determined fit for work or assigned to the WRAG or the Support Group
  • The interaction between ESA and Universal Credit implementation

Submissions do not need to address all of these points.

The deadline for submitting evidence is Friday 21 March.

How to submit your evidence

To encourage paperless working and maximise efficiency, select committees are now using a new web portal for online submission of written evidence. The web portal is available on our website.

The personal information you supply will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 for the purposes of attributing the evidence you submit and contacting you as necessary in connection with its processing.

Each submission should:

  • be no more than 3,000 words in length
  • be in Word format with as little use of colour or logos as possible
  • have numbered paragraphs

If you need to send a paper copy please send it to: The Clerk, Work and Pensions Committee, House of Commons, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA

Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a proposed memorandum, in which case a web link to the published work should be included.

Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee. It is the Committee’s decision whether or not to accept a submission as formal written evidence.

Select Committees are unable to investigate individual cases.

The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, by publishing it on the internet (where it will be searchable), or by making it available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.

Further guidance on submitting evidence to Select Committees is available on the parliamentary website (PDF PDF 2.41 MB)Opens in a new window.

  

Jan 272014
 

Take action on Monday 27th January while poverty profiteers gather at Capita’s ‘Welfare reform’ conference

While millions of people struggle to eat or heat their homes, and thousands of families face eviction, foodbanks and homelessness due to sanctions, bedroom tax and loss of disability benefits, Capita cashes in with conferences for Lord Freud (Minister for Dismantling Welfare) and his workfare collaborators.

boycott workfare

You could pay £350 – £575 (plus VAT) to join all those snouts in the workfare trough at the Park Plaza Riverbank Hotel. Or you can let them know what you think via twitter, email, phone – follow the links below.

 

We’ll post the conference hash tag as soon as we have it so you can join in the discussions on the day (or you can check out @capitaconf and their inspiring #capitaconf hashtag to see for yourself). You could also use the DWP’s #job2014 hashtag. The DWP are making a big effort to improve their social media presence – the least we can do is increase their footfall @DWPgovuk

The aim of the conference is to get ‘partners’ who make money from it ready for the next stage of ‘benefit reform’, with a special focus on ‘shifting the culture’. Let’s shift it in another direction!

In addition to the DWP’s own Lord Freud, (one of the chief architects in paying the private sector to dismantle welfare rights aka the great welfare rip off) the organisations below are supporting the event.

Private and voluntary sector organisations making big money from the outsourcing of welfare – let them know (politely) what you think…

Papworth Trust
As they say ‘If disabled people are affected, it’s likely that we’ll have something to say about it.’
Text 07860 021210 and Papworth will contact you.
Email: info@papworth.org.uk
Twitter: 
@Papworth_Trust

 

David Martin, Director of Strategy and Marketing will be speaking on the needs of job seekers with disabilities.  He’ll be covering self esteem and self awareness.  We’d like to know if he has anything to say about suicide, despair and plunging people with disabilities into poverty.
D: 01480 357208
M: 07772 197770
E: david.martin@papworth.org.uk

Aspire Housing

Email: enquiries@aspirehousing.co.uk

Sinead Butters CEO  of Aspire will be speaking on ‘achieving social and financial return on investment’ – and ‘delivering enhanced employment and skills interventions to tenants’. Let her know what you think about making money out of workfare and using housing as a route to coerce people into ‘skills interventions’.

Twitter: @SineadBAspire

A2Dominion

A2Dominion – another housing association collaborating with the DWP’s benefits cuts agenda.  As part of the ‘digital deal pilot’, A2Dominion are ‘getting social tenants on line as part of preparation for universal credit’.

Fiona Cornell, Deputy Executive Director, will be talking about the digital deal pilot and how it helps the DWP to spy on and harass claimants
Twitter: @A2Dominion

Tomorrow’s People  ‘making life (low pay/no pay) work’

TP are major players in the forcing young people to work for nothing industry.

Steve Swan, Tomorrow’s People Director of Welfare to Work will be holding forth on how to push those who are most vulnerable and disadvantaged into the new growth industry of low pay, no pay jobs

You can let them know what you think about their schemes for young people:
Twitter: @TPCharity

ATOS Healthcare

Gary Gear from ATOS will be speaking alongside Stephen Duckworth from Capita.

This is the ‘healthcare’ arm of the French IT firm ATOS, well known for making millions out of DWP contracts for ‘work capability assessments’ designed to strip people of out of work sickness and disability benefits.  They are also well known for earning hundreds of millions from WCA and payingno Corporation Tax in the UK.

Local Councils

Lewisham, Wigan and Southwark councils are also taking part.  If you live in these boroughs, why not let them know what you think:  Gerri Scott (Southwark Strategic Director of Housing), Peter Gadson (Lewisham Head of Customer Insight), Alison McKenzie-Folan (Wigan Director of Customer Transformation) and Graham Cadle (Croydon Director of Customer Services).

Lewisham Council
Twitter: @LewishamCouncil

Wigan Council
Twitter: @WiganCouncil

Southwark Council
Twitter: @lb_southwark

Croydon Council
Twitter: @yourcroydon

Citizens Advice Bureaux
Twitter: @citizensadvice

We’re sorry to see CAB taking part.  CAB workers across the country have seen first hand the impact of sanctions, forced unpaid labour, bedroom tax and other benefit cuts.  The evidence is set out in a report from Manchester CAB. So why is Katie Shaw, Head of CAB Welfare Policy chairing this event? Workfare and other attacks on social security and workers’ rights would collapse without the collusion of the voluntary sector.

 

 

 

Jan 262014
 

As if we hadn’t had enough benefit bashing via Channel 4 with their highly dubious misrepresentation of everyone on benefits as accurately represented by the carefully selected participants of Benefit Street, it seems the BBC has joined the fray in their highly misleading (and factually wrong) headlines informing us: ‘Million sickness benefit applicants ‘fit for work’.’

I completely agree with Mike Sivier of Vox Political who accuses the “BBC of being a mouthpiece for the Tory party”, he’s wisely encouraging people to write in and complain.  It’s good advice to those who are incensed by the right wing media’s continual portrayal of everyone on benefits as low life scum.

So you know what you have to do; complain in your droves!

What the BBC won’t tell you is that over 5 million of you have been subjected to the humiliating & Support Allowance regime in terms of original claims, reassessments and transfers from existing benefits.  Whilst the overall claimant count hovers around 2.5 million, lightning has a nasty habit of striking more than once and thousands of you will have been repeatedly struck by the absolute chaos which surrounds the DWP’s handling of this particular benefit.  So hopefully there should be no shortage of complaints to the BBC.

But before doing so, I would encourage you to get ‘clued up’ on the facts which the BBC (and no doubt the papers which will follow) make no attempt to explain, as with so many of these reports they only give you half the story (well in this case considerably less) ……

For some extraordinary reason the DWP and media have an almost obsession with ‘new claims’ for the dreaded Employment & Support Allowance.  On nearly every statistical release the accent is principally on new claims, it’s not hard to understand why; they invariably provide the public with more sensationalist headlines over ‘millions being found fit for work or ‘closing their claims without an assessment’ (by the awful Atos ‘Healthcare’ who conduct the controversial examinations under £100 million contracts with the DWP).

Here’s what they don’t tell you….

Over 2.3 million cases are being left out of the BBC’s figures
leaving out claimant success rates of up to 88%.

Why leave out 88% claimant success rates?

Searching for Facts vs. Fiction - Magnifying Glass


In excess of 2.3 million incapacity benefit cases (each one yielding a result) being tested under the much stricter ‘Employment & Support Allowance’ regime and those who are ‘examined’ on a second, third or even fourth occasion are being completely left out of the figures.

Had the BBC fully reported the facts, they would have had to go in to the nasty truth which gets in the way of a good story.  They could have told you all how in the six months between October 2012 and May 2013 an average of 83% of 1,078,200 incapacity claimants were passing their assessments and 88% of those 1,332,300 ‘repeatedly assessed’ were re-qualifying for the allowance.

But the Beeb buried the good news.

Instead they chose to home in only new claimants who score a lower ‘pass’ rate at what the DWP incorrectly cite as an ‘initial’ assessment’.  The BBC cites an average of 32% of ‘new applicants’ being found ‘fit for work’ between 2008 and 2013.  I’m not sure where the BBC get the figure from as it’s more correctly an average of 46% for new claimants being found ‘fit for work’ with 54% qualifying for the allowance following assessment.  The figure rises to 60% when we look at the last six months to May 2013, I’ll come back to my reservations over these figures later on in this thread.

The BBC headlines are meaningless unless considered with the context of all the available facts.  It just looks like more of the same propaganda aimed at making us think people are coming off benefits and back in the work market.


Why doesn’t the BBC challenge the bigger picture? 

 

nick chart


Don’t they possess a calculator?


Let me show you what everyone out there seems to be missing, you’ll need to follow something which sadly seems too challenging for the BBC….

The BBC article tells us that very close to 2 million people have come off the sick either as a result of being found ‘fit for work’ or ‘closing their claims before being assessed’.   The clear intention of the BBC is to infer 2 million people should not have been claiming the sick and should instead be in the labour market, meaning either looking for work or in work.

The DWP tables for October 2008 to May 2013 tells us that the figure for ALL claimants found fit for work is in fact
1,453,400 and the numbers closing their claims amounts to 1,298,400 making a grand total of……


2,751,800 allegedly ready for labour market

Why didn’t the BBC give us the figure for ALL claimants?

I’d suggest; because they knew it would open up a can of worms for a government which they continually support with misleading articles when it comes to reporting on those ‘on the sick’.

Given that the above figures relate to the entire time the ESA assessment programme has been running (since 2008) it is is necessary to align the ESA figures with the time the Coalition has been in power.  This enables us to analyse how many (of ALL ESA claimants) have been found either ‘fit for work’ or who have ‘closed their claims before assessment’ since May 2010 to May 2013. The latest DWP figures available is (it will be even higher now):

1,856,100 allegedly ready for labour market
under Coalition

This infers that the Coalition has found 1.85 million claimants ready and able to enter the labour market.  Claimants in this position would generally claim Jobseeker’s Allowance or attempt to find work, (some will however neither claim or work). When it comes to work bear in mind that the Coalition claim to have found ‘1 million extra jobs’, it’s not enough to give everyone seemingly ‘coming off the sick’ a position in employment – it’s 856,100 short.

But remember, it’s NOT just the sick who are looking for work, we also need to consider other working age groups as others will potentially have to position themselves towards the labour market after coming off working age benefits, we also need to consider how many of our 1.85 million may perhaps claim another working age benefit.  The way we do is to check the DWP cumulative figures for ALL working age benefits and make a comparison between May 2010 and May 2013.

This is replicated copy and paste of a DWP table:

Quarter     

Total

JSA

Incap
/ESA


Lone parents


Carers     

Other
Income Based    


Disabled      

Bereaved

May-10

Aug-10

Nov-10

Feb-11

May-11

Aug-11

Nov-11

Feb-12

May-12

Aug-12

Nov-12

Feb-13

May-13

5,747.83  
5,744.64

5,685.60

5,765.34

5,709.55

5,802.82

5,778.16

5,881.70

5,753.88

5,708.22

5,636.79

5,695.38

5,541.49

1,354.62

1,349.71

1,328.91

1,438.67

1,404.14

1,482.86

1,478.43

1,589.64

1,484.07

1,471.07

1,443.54

1,514.37

1,371.62

2,613.10

2,606.61

2,586.42

2,578.66

2,570.22

2,582.18

2,575.60

2,557.68

2,528.14

2,517.07

2,499.96

2,475.67

2,456.47

679.15

672.35

648.3

613.78

595.4

595.29

581.62

584.17

577.08

545.24

510.06

504.89

499.73

430.23

439.43

445.44

450.42

456.06

465.99

470.96

477.15

486.94

495.71

504.13

513.61

523.64

192.19

191.38

192.03

191.76

187.18

180.08

174.91

169.11

164.96

159.9

156.01

151.26

147.79

390.81

396.81

399.38

406.31

411.01

413.11

413.84

420.7

429.51

437.17

442.2

454.31

460.53

87.74

88.36

85.11

85.75

85.55

83.3

82.79

83.25

83.17

82.06

80.89

81.26

81.7

Now let’s look at the difference within the same working age benefits by comparing 2010 against 2013….


Total

JSA


Incap/
ESA


Lone
Parents

Carers

Other
income
based

Disabled

Bereaved


Difference
between
2010
& 2013 >

 -206,340     

+17,000     

-156,630   

-179,420  

+93,410   

-44,400  

+69,720 

-6,040

These revealing figures show how the claimant count has risen or fallen in terms of actual claimant numbers recorded by the DWP unlike the ONS figures who collate the data using a ‘labour market survey’.

That’s how the ONS can provide more up to date figures than the DWP, the DWP work at a much slower pace and can only count claimants up to May 2013.  None the less the DWP claimant count is the one which most accurately informs us how many claimants are within the DWP system.

What we can see from these figures is this:

The numbers on JSA has actually increased by 17,000

The numbers on incapacity / ESA has fallen by 156,630

There are 179,420 fewer lone parents

93,410 more people are carers

Other income based claims are down by 44,400

The DWP aren’t too clear over their definition of ‘disabled’ within the claimant count

And finally, Bereavement claims are down by 6,040

The total reduction in ALL the main working age claims is 206,340 under the Coalition


Remember these are the actual claimant count figures derived from the DWP and therefore hard for anyone to refute, they are designated a reliable National statistic and are not based on surveys but on an actual measure of those claiming benefits.

So what conclusions can we draw



From the facts since May 2010?

Well, despite what the BBC tell you about nearly 2 million being identified as ready to hit the labour markets, the reality is they have under-quoted the overall figure, it’s actually 1,856,100 found either ‘fit for work’ or having ‘closed their claims before assessment’.  There’s no way 1.8 million claimants have somehow magically disappeared from the incapacity claim count (including ESA) because the DWP’s own figures confirm the overall numbers have only reduced by 156,630 since May 2010; it’s all there in black and white.

The BBC have failed to look at whether the numbers being found fit for work or closing their claims has materially made any difference to the claimant count; in short there is very little impact upon the overall numbers of claimants.

The Government’s claims to have found ‘1 million extra jobs’ are pretty meaningless too.

A Daily Telegraph article uncovered a study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in Jan 2010 revealed that 1.31 million people were made redundant during the pre-2010 recession.  The DWP were processing an astonishing 6.2 million fresh claims for jobseeker’s allowance between April 2008 and November 2009.  It highlights how the claimant count is far from a static number, each month thousands of claimants come on and off all benefits. The Telegraph article reveals that on Jobseeker’s Allowance alone in December 2009 ” over 350,000 – left unemployment benefit in a single month.”

Similarly, many thousands of claimants leave Employment & Support Allowance each month, the quarterly figures for May 2013 amount to 153,360 coming off benefit, some 175,810 came off other incapacity benefits in the same quarter, the number of claimants coming off Income Support amounted to 150,130 Add the whole lot together and you can see how ‘1 million extra jobs’ isn’t going to go far. What we really need to know is how long these jobs last and exactly which groups of people are filling them.

What the BBC fails to address in their meaningless drivel over 1 million being found ‘fit for work’ and a further 1 million closing their claim before assessment is what happens to these claimants afterwards.

Let’s also not forget the massive numbers of job losses in the public sector under the coalition, the GMB Union claim that over 631,000 job losses have been dished out under the Coalition.

We also have, according to Thomson Reuters a 1.1 million increase in the population aged 16 and over , what few people realise is that when the number of people in the labour market increases, exactly the same number of unemployed will result in a reduction in the unemployment level simply because it’s a smaller percentage of a bigger number. There are all kinds of factors which factor in to an increase in the working age population, not least that fewer people can afford to retire as well as changes in the age at which people can retire.

So there you have it, the BBC headlines are very much a ‘non story’ without all the peripheral facts which they so conveniently omit to mention.

In my next post, I’ll explain what closing a claim without an assessment really means, I’ll then go on and explain why the DWP’s latest work assessment figures continued to be riddled with flaws.

with great thanks to the excellent Nick for agreeing DPAC can repost-for more see: http://legalaidandme.proboards.com/thread/7258/serious-flaws-governments-statistics?page=11&scrollTo=21055

 

Follow Nick on Twitter: @Mylegalforum



 

Jan 212014
 

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is the new benefit which replaces Disability Living Allowance (DLA). 

DLA was introduced in the UK in 1992, and its main purpose was to compensate for the extra costs associated with disability and it was therefore not means tested, non contributory and not taxable. Although the majority of people claiming DLA had mobility issues, some disabled people would also choose to claim it to cover their personal care costs. Many were awarded DLA for life in recognition that their impairment/health issue would be with them for life. DLA was for those both in and out of work for the extra costs associated with disability. The Government presented PIP as a ‘like for like’ payment to replace DLA.

PIP was introduced in 2012 to replace DLA, the government arguing that the increasing number of claimants made DLA unsustainable.  PIP is therefore more restrictive and will lead not only to a reduced number of claimants but also to a reduced number of claimants entitled to the enhanced rate of the mobility component. http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2014/01/shocking-pip-figure-raises-new-motability-concerns/

PIP has also been riddled in controversy because of Atos, the firm contracted by the government to undertake the PIP and the Work Capability Assessments, which has led to 1 million disabled people appealing in court, with 43% of them succeeding in having their fit for work decision overturned. http://dpac.uk.net/2012/11/esa-appeals-increase-by-40-what-the-newspapers-wont-print/

Therefore it really came as a surprise to discover that in 2012 PIP had become a sanctionable benefit.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/192913/response/472770/attach/3/8.194%20Clarification%20letter%20Jones%20WDTK..pdf

http://legislation.data.gov.uk/ukpga/2012/5/schedule/9/crossheading/social-security-fraud-act-2001-c-11/data.htm?wrap=true

However aborrhent sanctions are, there is a kind of twisted logic behind them.  JSA and ESA claimants have to sign a contract (under duress, meaning threat of sanctions) and have to comply with the terms of this ‘contract’ (again under threat of sanctions). If they don’t, they will lose some of their benefits and many JSA and ESA claimants have been sanctioned, some 120 disabled people up to three years http://www.cpag.org.uk/content/3-year-benefit-ban-hits-120-disabled-people-under-new-sanctions-regime

 But with PIP, there is no contract, no Jobseeker’s agreement, no Claimant Commitment and it still remains a recognition that life for disabled people is more expensive, if they have to buy appliances or care that non disabled people don’t need in order to live a decent and dignified life or to work.

So what does it take to have your PIP sanctioned?  Is there somebody in the twittersphere or reading this article who can answer this question?  Because making PIP sanctionable does not make any sense, unless the DWP or IDS have a cunning plan. And they might.

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