Dec 112017
 

This guide has been produced by Winvisible with support from others. If your GP or support worker etc don’t know what to do this information should be passed onto them.

Benefit assessments – exemption to protect ‘vulnerable’ patients
There is a great deal of evidence about the profound distress which face-to-face assessments for disability benefits can cause, especially for women and men with mental health conditions. The prospect of interview can induce overwhelming anxiety, panic and dissociative states, levels of stress and distress that can precipitate serious relapses, leading to psychiatric admissions and even suicides. Consultant psychiatrist Dr Jed Boardman said: “You see people relapsing as a consequence of getting distressed about being assessed.” (Fit-for-work tests linked to relapses in those with mental health problems Guardian 24 November 2015.)
Therefore it is vital that professionals know about the benefit system regulations on exemption from the face-to-face interview and for assessment on paper evidence.
They can quote these to protect vulnerable patients from harmful distress and deterioration, and/or enable them to stay out of hospital. Professionals who can state their opinion include: GP, care co-ordinator, psychologist, psychiatrist, key worker, support worker, therapist, counsellor, Independent Domestic Violence Advocate… Opinions from non-medical staff are relevant to describe people’s problems functioning.
It is important to recommend exemption from the face-to-face interview very clearly. Don’t recommend a home visit: this can be worse than an assessment centre interview, as for women rape survivors or others, their home is their safe space which would be violated by an official visit. You may be rung by the assessor as a follow-up, so make sure you are up-to-date with your patient’s situation.
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) are different benefits with different reasons for exemption:
 ESA is an out-of-work benefit based on limited capability for work where complete exemption from back-to-work conditions is possible. In places where ESA is replaced by Universal Credit (UC), this exemption is in UC regulations 2013 Schedule 8 and also applies to the compulsory “Health and Work Conversation”. Widespread opposition to the brutal UC regime has delayed national rollout.
 PIP is widely claimed by both unwaged and waged people for daily living/care and mobility needs, and is not part of UC.
Companies hold DWP contracts to open mail, scan and distribute it and to carry out assessments, but confidentiality is used to exclude evidence. If a support letter marked “Confidential” goes to the assessor company, the DWP says under confidentiality, it won’t then be disclosed to a DWP Case Manager (PIP Assessment Guide Part One, 1.4.13). As proper consideration often depends on DWP review, don’t mark your report confidential.
ESA
Under “Exceptional Circumstances”, you can say that there would be substantial risk to the patient’s health if they were put under work conditions for benefit, so they should be exempted from these and the exam. This regulation means the person is already accepted as satisfying the test for ESA (limited capability for work) so doesn’t have to be seen. Substantial risk to health can be mental health, or physical health e.g. risk of heart
attack from stress. Risk to mental health covers not only suicide risk, but also sudden deterioration in mental state: PTSD flashbacks, panic attacks, hearing voices, or similar.
Substantial risk regulations: https://wcainfo.net/issues/substantial-risk-lcw 1. A claimant who does not have limited capability for work as determined in accordance with the limited capability for work assessment is to be treated as having limited capability for work if paragraph (2) applies to the claimant. 2. Subject to paragraph (3) this paragraph applies if … (b) the claimant suffers from some specific disease or bodily or mental disablement and, by reasons of such disease or disablement, there would be a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of any person if the claimant were found not to have limited capability for work. 3. Paragraph (2)(b) does not apply where the risk could be reduced by a significant amount by – (a) reasonable adjustments being made in the claimant’s workplace; or (b) the claimant taking medication to manage the claimant’s condition where such medication has been prescribed for the claimant by a registered medical practitioner treating the claimant.
Regulation 25 (2013) (4)
(4) In this regulation ―medical evidence‖ means—
(a) evidence from a health care professional approved by the Secretary of State; and
(b) evidence (if any) from any health care professional or a hospital or similar institution, or such part of such evidence as constitutes the most reliable evidence available in the circumstances.
PIP DWP guidance states that assessors should determine if they can assess the claim from the paper evidence they already have, or if they should get further evidence from professionals, before proceeding to arrange a face-to-face exam — they call it consultation. (PIP Assessment Guide, Part One – The Assessment Process, 1.2.2/1.3.6, 2 November 2017) https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/655611/pip-assessment-guide-part-1-assessment-process.pdf The assessor can make a decision from paper evidence where “there is strong evidence on which to advise on the case and a face-to-face consultation is likely to be stressful for the claimant…” (1.5.4) Assessors “should also consider the needs of vulnerable claimants”, that is “someone who has difficulty dealing with procedural demands” including “a previous suicide attempt, domestic violence, abuse or bereavement.” (1.3.11)
1.5.4 “Cases that should not require a face-to-face consultation” ―Although each case should be determined individually, the following types of case should not normally require a face-to-face consultation: […] • There is strong evidence on which to advise on the case and a face-to-face consultation is likely to be stressful for the claimant (for example, claimants with autism, cognitive impairment or learning disability) • The claimant questionnaire indicates a high level of disability, the information is consistent, medically reasonable and there is nothing to suggest over-reporting – (examples may include claimants with severe neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, severely disabling stroke) • There is sufficient detailed, consistent and medically reasonable information on function.
The medical evidence sent on paper has to be “robust” to enable the test for benefit to be met, and should include comments about how functioning is affected. WinVisible won exemption from the PIP exam for a rape survivor who felt suicidal and was at risk of flashbacks, based on “consultation may be stressful to the claimant”. The assessor rang the woman’s GP for his opinion after his letter was sent in. She was granted full rates for both daily living and mobility.
Where should support letters be directed?
ESA
Assessments are carried out by multinational company Maximus (under the name Health Assessment Advisory Service) on behalf of the DWP.
• If your patient is filling in the ESA50 form, attach your support letter to the form and make sure it is listed on the form.
• If your patient can’t cope with the form, or if an interview date has already been sent out, fax it headed FME (Further Medical Evidence) to HAAS London central fax: 0208 795 8647. This is the procedure recommended by HAAS call centre staff. It should have the claimant’s name and NI No. at the top of each numbered page.
• If your patient has an appointment date and HAAS are refusing to postpone this, or are still requiring her to attend despite your request for exemption, email the same correspondence with a cover note raising your complaint to the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments (Maximus head office). Ask them to put the appointment on hold pending the decision on exemption: email: customer-relations@chdauk.co.uk They usually reply within two days. Always cc the MP and ask them to follow it up on behalf of the claimant.
PIP
Assessments are carried out by Atos (or in some geographical areas by Capita). To send in your medical evidence requesting exemption, you can:
 Email Atos pip-customerservice@atos.net
 Write to the DWP’s Disability and Carers Service, address is on the patient’s PIP letter. And/or email them at blackpoolbc.customercomplaints@dwp.gsi.gov.uk
 If you are not sure where to send it, call the PIP helpline on 03458 503 322.
Getting support from MPs’ caseworkers
Ask if your patient is ready to contact their MP and ask for support for their exemption and paper-based assessment. Google “Find my MP” or search the Parliament website, choosing the constituency contacts. MPs’ caseworkers have direct lines to benefit officials and can often quickly resolve distressing situations. Involving the MP gets your concerns taken more seriously. Assessor companies have staff specifically for MPs’ enquiries. Ms A wrote to us: “I just wanted to let you know, it is with a happy heart I read the opened letter from the DWP this afternoon with my PIP results. I am most grateful for the advice that it is OK to ask my psychiatrist specifically for a paper based assessment. I know not everyone is like this and that particularly with the disabled people’s movement, a lot of work and effort goes into asserting good self-image. In mental health, addictions, abuse/domestic violence situations, I think there is something very unseen and unaddressed going on that makes women like me and others, more likely to be unable to meet the demands of the benefits system. More likely to fall between the cracks.”
Compiled by WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities)
with warm thanks to: Diane Frazer, psychotherapist; Dr Jay Watts, clinical psychologist;
Marcin Brajta, Hackney Community Law Centre
Contact WinVisible:
Crossroads Women’s Centre
25 Wolsey Mews, London NW5 2DX
Email win@winvisible.org
Web www.winvisible.org
Tel: 020 7482 2496

 Posted by at 18:50
Nov 172017
 

 

 

 

 

Support the Budget Day Sack the Tories protests arranged by the People’s Assembly. Meet Downing Street, November 21st from 6pm- 7.30 pm.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1968486683476948/

#SackTheTories – BUDGET DAY PROTEST
Stop the Universal Credit Crisis – Stop Tax Avoidance – Fund Our NHS
Day of action the night before the Budget

November 21st 6pm – 7:30pm, Opposite Downing Street, Whitehall, London

**Universal Credit
The Government’s plans to overhaul the welfare system by forcing people onto Universal Credit have been widely criticised by MPs, charities, and campaigners all warning that this is likely to cause a rise in homelessness, poverty, and unnecessary debt. It will leave thousands without an income for weeks as they wait to be transferred, many will be left thousands of pounds worse off, and there is reduced support for claimants. The Trussell Trust have said that they expect a 30% increase in foodbank use this winter in areas where Universal Credit is rolled out. Child Poverty Action Group have found that Government welfare reform will push 1 million children below the poverty line.

Disabled People face losing £40.10 per week with the scrapping of Disability Premiums from Universal Credit.

Vicious Conditionality which could force people to seek extra work for up to 48 hours per week will affect everyone regardless of whether they are in or out of work, disabled or non-disabled.

The cost of moving to Universal Credit was originally estimated at £2.2bn, however it is now at a staggering £15.8bn and still rising.

**Paradise Papers
Revelations in the Paradise Papers show how companies, politicians and individuals are avoiding paying billions of pounds in tax using offshore tax havens rather than paying their fair share here. Theresa May said she would clamp down on tax avoidance but loopholes are still in operation.

More people than ever are having to rely on foodbanks to feed their families, our NHS is in a funding crisis, public sector workers are still facing a pay cap below inflation, millions can’t access affordable housing while the richest individuals and biggest companies take money that should be spent on dealing with these problems and squirrel it away for themselves. The Government is doing nothing to stop it.

**NHS
Last winter our NHS was driven into the worst crisis in it’s history. We witnessed patients dying in hospital corridors, staff stretched to breaking point and the Red Cross declaring a ‘humanitarian crisis’ in our NHS. This winter looks set to be worse. Head of NHS England Simon Stephens warned the Government last week that unless billions of pounds is found in the budget for the NHS it won’t be able to cope.

#SackTheTories
The People’s Assembly is calling a nationwide day of action the night before the Chancellors Budget is announced. We’re organising ‘Stop the Universal Credit Crisis – Stop Tax Avoidance’ protests in towns and cities across the country. As part of the protests we’re collecting food which will be donated to local foodbanks so their shelves are stocked to deal with the fallout from Universal Credit and the continuation of austerity policies in the budget.

We want to urge the Government to use the Budget to scrap their plans for Universal Credit, to close tax loopholes and force the tax avoiders to pay their fair share, to end the public sector pay cap with an increase above inflation, and to make sure our public services are properly funded.

We will also be using the thousands of pounds that was raised through sales of Captain Ska’s track ‘Liar Liar’ to buy tonnes of food and deliver it to foodbanks across the country. But before it’s delivered, we’ll be displaying all of it right on the doorstep of Downing Street to show Theresa May and Phillip Hammond the effect their damaging policies are having on ordinary people – this will take place as part of the London wide protest on Tuesday 21 November. Join us at Downing Street or at one of the many protests that will be taking place across the country and don’t forget to bring along food for the foodbank collection.

Local Events

Local Events

JOIN AN EVENT NEAR YOU (more to be confirmed):

 

London

6:00pm – 7:30pm, Tuesday 21 November, Downing Street, London

https://www.facebook.com/events/1968486683476948/

 

Manchester

6:30pm, Tuesday 21 November, GMEX Steps, Windmill Street M2 3GX

https://www.facebook.com/events/296804000806920/

 

Southampton

12pm – 2pm, Tuesday 21 November, ASDA – Southampton Central, Western Esplanade, SO14 7EG

https://www.facebook.com/events/842488905918828/

Hull
4:30 PM – 6 PM, Tuesday 21 November, Outside Hull Paragon Station, Kingston Upon Hull
https://www.facebook.com/events/1352958458166560/

 

Eastbourne

Public Meeting and Collection:

7pm, Tuesday 21 November,Crown and Anchor, 15-16 Marine Parade, BN21 3DX

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sack-the-tories-why-they-have-to-go-tickets-39911046013

 

Swindon

4:00pm – 8:00pm, Tuesday 21 November, Wharf Green Swindon Town Centre SN15 3

https://www.facebook.com/events/201493753726609/

 

Calderdale

6:30pm, Tuesday 21 November, St George’s Square, Hebden Bridge, HX7 8

https://www.facebook.com/events/811335062404833/

 

Hastings

5:30pm, Tuesday 21 November, Outside Lloyd’s Bank, Wellington Place, Hastings, TN34 1NX

 

Merseyside

4:00pm, Tuesday 21 November, Queens Square, Liverpool

 

Milton Keynes

5:00pm, outside Civic offices, Central Milton Keynes

 

Fenland

6.30p.m, TUESDAY 21 NOVEMBER, THOMAS CLARKSON MEMORIAL, WISBECH

Fenland Peoples Assembly

 

Nottingham

12:00pm, Saturday 2 December, Old Market Square, Nottingham, MK18 3

https://www.facebook.com/events/1128093670658916/

 

Derby

Wednesday 22nd November 5.15pm outside… 6pm inside

Demonstration & Lobby re NHS cuts & STP

Derby City Council House, Corporation Street, Derby, DE1 2FS.

saveournhsderby@gmail.com

www.facebook.com/SOSNHSDerbyPage

 

North East

4:45pm – 5:45pm, Tuesday 21 November, Haymarket Metro Station, Haymarket, NE1 7PF

https://www.facebook.com/events/146554449302317/

 

Sheffield

5:30pm, Tuesday 21 November, Sheffield Cathedral

https://www.facebook.com/events/405688823181350/

 

Birmingham

5:00pm, Wednesday 22 November, Waterstones Birmingham

https://www.facebook.com/events/331804610619889/

 

Bristol

6:00pm, Tuesday 21 November, Water Fountains, Bristol City Centre

https://www.facebook.com/events/179907642561572/

 

.

 

 

 Posted by at 17:47
Nov 142017
 

one of our members has written to Christian and if anyone else woudl liek to his email address is christian@horleyconservatives.com

 Posted by at 16:58
Oct 062017
 

David Gauke the latest in a long line of ministers of state for DWP this week refused to halt the roll out of Universal Credit despite warnings from many credible sources including his own backbenchers that it was a disaster in waiting.

As the roll out of Universal Credit proceeds more and more disabled people are likely to find that they miss out on any transitional protections and in the worst case scenario that their claim is treated as a new one they face the loss of £78.35 a week from their social security payments.

This is because in Universal credit there are no Severe Disability Premiums or Enhanced Disability Premium paid. They simply vanish into thin air.

Research has shown that the additional cost of being disabled is £550 per month extra but the nasty party are stripping claimants of most of the money they need to meet those additional costs.

We’re planning something for International Day of Disabled People with more details about this to follow but in the meantime we’re asking people to contact their MPs and ask them to justify taking £78.35 pw away from those who have the highest support needs/ are most severely disabled.

Maybe they’ll say how they manage to sleep at nights.

Please then send us a copy of your letter and their response to you. mail@dpac.uk.net

You can find your MP’s contact details at https://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/

This recent case might be helpful to  people to challenge any cuts

https://www.leighday.co.uk/News/News-2017/October-2017/Law-firm-call-on-the-Government-to-re-consider-dec

 

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 18:41
Oct 032017
 

The Mirror are calling for people to share their experiences of Universal Credit. The government intends to increase the amount of job centres administering the benefit despite the numerous problems; an inbuilt delay of 42 days for the first payment, rising rent arrears and soaring food bank usage. No fewer than 15 conservative MPs have called for the benefit to be paused, but their pleas were ignored.

If you (or anyone you know) has been affected by this benefit, please consider sharing your experiences (you can request anonymity) For more information click here: (you need to scroll to the bottom of the screen).

Sep 292017
 

Please send details of your experiences to Work & Pensions Committee by November 10th. You don’t need to address all of the questions just any that are relevant. Please note we do not want you to send this information to us but directly to the Committee.

 Committee launches new inquiry into PIP and ESA assessments 

The Committee is launching a new inquiry on how the assessment processes for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payments (PIP) are handled by DWP contractors ATOS, Capita and Maximus, and how the application, assessment and appeals processes for these two benefits are working.

In the last Parliament the Committee held an urgent one-off evidence session in the wake of the announcement of Government plans to restrict the number of people who qualify for PIP, a move which would limit the cost of PIP by £3.7 billion. Evidence taken then revealed worrying disparities between the applicants’ recall of the assessment process and the final report produced to enable DWP to make a decision. The Committee also heard concerns about the contractor assessors’ ability to understand and properly assess a wide range of physical and mental health conditions, and about the dignity and conduct of the assessment process. The latest data shows that claimants are successful in appealing against their decision in 65% of cases, for both PIP and ESA, and that there has been an 29% increase in such appeals being registered since this time last year.

Given high rates of overturn at appeal, the Committee invites evidence on the effectiveness of assessment processes used to determine eligibility for these benefits, and the experience of applicants going through it. The Committee is interested in receiving recommendations for change both on the assessment process for each benefit individually, and on common lessons that can be learned from the two processes.

Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “The truly amazing rate of overturned ESA and PIP decisions seems to point to something being fundamentally wrong with the initial assessment and Mandatory Reconsideration stages. Quite apart from the human cost this represents – the distress and difficulty for applicants trying to get help with daily living or getting into work – it looks to be wasteful, inefficient, and a huge cost to taxpayers.

“We would like to hear from claimants – and assessors – about whether and where the system works, or is failing, and how it might be fixed.”

In particular, the Committee would welcome evidence on the following points, by 10 November 2017:

Assessors and assessments:

  • Do contractor assessors possess sufficient expertise to carry out assessments for people with a wide range of health conditions?
  • Is DWP quality control for contractors sufficient and effective?
  • Should the options for reforming the Work Capability Assessment mooted in the Government’s Improving Lives green paper be taken forward?
  • What examples of best practice in assessing eligibility for benefits are available internationally, and how transferrable are they to ESA and/or PIP?

Mandatory Reconsideration and appeal:

  • Why do claimants seek to overturn initial assessment outcomes for ESA and/or PIP?
  • Why are levels of disputed decisions higher for PIP than for ESA?
  • Is the MR process working well for claimants of ESA and/or PIP?
  • What accounts for the rate of overturned decisions at appeal for PIP and/or ESA?
  • Are there lessons that could be learned from the ESA MR and appeal process for PIP and vice-versa?
  • What changes could be made earlier in the process to ensure fewer claimants feel they need to appeal?

Claimant experiences:

  • Do prospective claimants currently understand the purpose of the assessment?
  • How could claimants be helped to better understand the assessment process?
  • Are some groups of claimants particularly likely to encounter problems with their assessments – and if so, how can this be addressed?
  • Should the assessment processes for PIP and ESA be more closely integrated? How else might the processes be streamlined for claimants?

An easy read version of these terms of reference is available on our website, and we encourage people to join the discussion on our web forum, whether you would like to submit evidence to the inquiry or not.

Committee Membership is as follows:

Frank Field – Chair (Labour), Heidi Allen (Conservative), Andrew Bowie (Conservative), Jack Brereton (Conservative), Alex Burghart (Conservative), Neil Coyle (Labour), Marsha De Cordova (Labour), Ruth George (Labour), Chris Green (Conservative), Steve McCabe (Labour), Chris Stephens (Scottish National Party) 

How to submit evidence is here

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/pip-esa-assessments-17-19/

 

 Posted by at 20:41
Aug 152017
 

Many claimants will be aware that with Universal Credit there are 7 waiting days when claiming , well some good news is that there are some exceptions. While this is going to be quite daunting for many, there are small things which will help existing IR ESA ,JSA,IS claimants.

 

 

Exceptions
5 A person will not have to serve 7 waiting days where

1. a new award of UC is made2

1.1 to a single claimant where a previous award has ended when the
claimant ceased to be a member of a couple or

1.2 to joint claimants where two previous awards ended as the result of the
claimants becoming a couple or

1.3 in any other circumstances where the assessment periods for the new
award begin on the same day of each month as the assessment periods for a previous award  or

2. on the relevant date, the claimant or either of the joint claimants

2.1 is terminally ill or

2.2 has recently become a victim of domestic violence  or

2.3 is a care leaver or

2.4 is aged 16 or 17 and has no parental support  or

2.5 has been a prisoner within the month ending on the relevant date or

2.6 has been entitled to new-style JSA or new-style ESA within the 3 months
ending on the relevant date or

2.7 was entitled to old-style JSA, old-style ESA or IS at any time during the
period of 3 months ending on the relevant date and ceased to be entitled
to that benefit on starting paid work or

2.8 does not fall within paragraph 5 2.7  and was entitled to one of the
following benefits at any time during the period of one month ending on
the relevant date

2.8.a old-style JSA or

2.8.b old-style ESA or

2.8.c IS or

2.8.d HB or

2.8.e child tax credit or

2.8.f working tax credit

 

1 UC Regs, reg 19A(3); 2 reg 19A(3)(a); 3 reg 21; 4 reg 19A(3)(b); 5 reg 98(2); 6 reg 8(3); 7 Universal Credit
(Transitional Provisions) Regs 2014, reg 16A; UC Regs, reg 19A(3)(b)

2.7 was entitled to old-style JSA, old-style ESA or IS at any time during the
period of 3 months ending on the relevant date and ceased to be entitled
to that benefit on starting paid work or
2.8 does not fall within paragraph 5 2.7 above and was entitled to one of the
following benefits at any time during the period of one month ending on
the relevant date
2.8.a old-style JSA or
2.8.b old-style ESA or
2.8.c IS or
2.8.d HB or
2.8.e child tax credit or
2.8.f working tax credit7 .

Jun 052017
 

 

Louise is  a journalist at BuzzFeed UK and they are doing a series of pieces boosting our focus on disability in July.

 

She says “I’m wondering if you could help me with a possible story I’ve comes across.

 

I spoke to a lady who uses a wheelchair, who told me that she feels unable to move in with her partner (who is not disabled) because if she does, she will lose her ESA benefits.

 

She says that if she moved in to live with her partner, her ESA would be removed, because her partner works more than 24 hours a week at minimum wage, meaning she would be completely dependent on her partner to support both of them. She says this is barely possible, so it means she can never live with a partner without seriously depleting both of their quality of life.”

 

If you are in a similar situation or affected by the earnings rule for income based ESA Louise would like to speak to people for an article to raise awareness of this.

Please contact her directly.

louise.ridley@buzzfeed.com

 

Louise Ridley | BuzzFeed UK | News Editor, Longform and Special Projects

@louiseridley | 020 3829 4712 | 40 Argyll Street, 2nd Floor, London, W1F 7EB

 

 

 Posted by at 12:08
May 072017
 

Do you live in or near Pembroskeshire and have been affected by Tory cuts?

If so, we want to hear your story.

We’re putting a newspaper piece together for Pembrokeshire newspapers and desperately need your stories. Our aim to publish a collection of people’s stories to maximize the impact of the piece.

Please write to us if;

You know someone, or have yourself been affected by Tory benefit cuts?
You know someone, or have yourself had to use food banks?
You know someone, or have yourself been made to go on a workfare program?
You know someone, or have yourself had your disability benefits cut even though you (or they) are unfit for work?
You know someone, or have yourself been made homeless as a result of Tory policies.
You know someone, or have yourself fallen into debt due to working family (or working) tax credits cuts?
You know someone, or have yourself fallen into debt due to bedroom tax or other cuts.
You know someone, or have yourself been forced to use payday loans due to benefit cuts.
Have you been sanctioned unfairly? Do you know anyone who has? Do you have any other stories you would be willing to share with us?
You can remain anonymous if you prefer to do so. Anything you tell us will be treated in the strictest of confidence.
PLEASE tell us your story, the local press in Pembrokeshire are waiting to hear. We need your stories to tell the wider public what is really going on! And we have already been told that we will be published so PLEASE send them in to us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Yours, Pembrokeshire People’s Assembly Against Austerity.

Email Lynda; pembrokeshirepeoplesassembly@ gmail.com

Or contact us vis the Pembrokeshire People’s Assembly (against austerity) Facebook page here; https://www.facebook.com/ groups/172685536228983/

Many thanks, 
And we look forward to hearing from you  “

 Posted by at 20:52
May 042017
 
How to Survive Disability Benefits
23 May at 19:00–21:00
Trinity Centre
Trinity Road, BS2 0NW Bristol, United Kingdom
Over the past seven years the government has practically declared war on
those with disabilities, long term illnesses or any other conditions
that make life difficult. Support services that enabled us to work or
live normal lives have been stripped away. At the same time the
politicians and their media lackeys label us ‘lazy’ and ‘scroungers’.
Surviving on Employment Support Allowance (ESA) means navigating an
intentionally brutal bureaucracy coupled with a culture of disbelief. It
also means making it through the dreaded Work Capability Assessments,
that have contributed to the deaths of hundreds of people declared ‘fit
to work’.
Making it through all this is often damaging to our health. It can be
stressful, isolating, anxiety inducing, and seems setup to create the
sort of ‘mistakes’ that can leave people penniless. It doesn’t always
have to be this way! We can come together to support each other through
the processes. We’ll be sharing knowledge, tips and tricks to making it
through ESA and look at ways we can join together to confront the system
head on.
This should be of use to anyone who is on ESA and/or related benefits
such as PIP or supporting someone who is. Please be aware this is a
skill share and there won’t be time for folks to offer comprehensive
advice on individual cases (although we can help direct you to places
that offer further support).
Trinity is a very accessible venue, details are here:
https://www.3ca.org.uk/accessibility If you have any accessibility needs
beyond those listed please contact either the venue or ourselves
As always this event is free to attend, but donations to help cover room
hire are appreciated. Hot & Cold drinks & snacks will be available to
keep you going. We’ll also have some anarchist pamphlets, papers,
magazines and stickers some for free/donation and others for a few quid.
Keep an eye out for future events, including our monthly Capitalism: a
Survival Guide workshops!
Please remember that whilst we encourage debate of ideas, we do not
tolerate attacks on individuals; especially in a way that uses
oppressive or threatening behaviour. Whilst we are not at our usual
venue of Hydra Books this month, we’ll still stick to their safer spaces
policy which you can read here : http://www.hydrabooks.org/safer-spaces/
 Posted by at 21:28
Apr 262017
 

In 2016, despite opposition from campaigners, peers, charities and even Conservative MPs, the government voted to slash Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) by £30 a week for people in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG). The DWP claimed (as ever) that this would give people an ‘incentive’ to return to work, (but failed to supply any supporting evidence). Conservative MP, Heidi Allen MP argued “I do not believe mentoring and support alone will heat the home of someone recovering from chemotherapy, nor help out the man with Parkinson’s who needs a little bit of extra help.”

The WCA is an unreliable tick box exercise, driven by targets, and was ultimately designed to deny genuine claimants social security. Consequently severely disabled people end up in the WRAG, including Paul Mickleburgh, a man who has had 14 heart attacks.

People can find out how their MP voted here (note: only Tory MPs voted in favour of this). If you are unsure who your MP is you can use this website. Campaigner Rachael Swindon, has created memes of (almost) all the MPs who voted for this draconian cut. Here is an example:

(Description; on the right there is a photograph of MP Daniel Kawczynski. Text on the left reads: Daniel Kawczynski: Tory MP for Shrewsbury, Daniel on claming expenses: “I am always intrigued by the fascination with MPs’ expenses,” he said. “I just don’t understand what the story is”. The story here is simple Daniel,  you claimed £174,473.29 in one year BUT still voted to cut ESA for his sick and disabled constituents.)

Rachael’s memes highlight the hypocrisy of MPs, and how out of touch they are with their constituents; with her permission we have uploaded them to our google drive account (they are arranged by surname, in alphabetical order). Please name and shame your MP on social media (or even use them for posters). The war on social security must be an issue in the upcoming General Election. Some MPs on this list (such as Byron Davies) have wafer-thin majorities, and can easily be ousted from the Commons. (Please let us know if your MP is not included, and we’ll see what we can do).

Apr 122017
 

Have you lost DLA or PIP due to the change in descriptors from 50 metres to 20 metres in the mobility test.

If so and you’re willing to speak to a journalist about this please contact Emily Dugan from Buzzfeed news. They are doing a series of articles about disability cuts and need to speak to people.

 

emily.dugan@buzzfeed.com

 

020 3814 1907 | 077 1770 2566

@emilydugan

 

 Posted by at 21:23
Apr 012017
 

From Monday (3rd April), new recipients of employment and support allowance deemed healthy enough to carry out ‘work related activities’ will get up to £1,500 less each year than existing recipients. Anyone who feels able to work and does so for over 12 weeks but then needs to reclaim ESA will be treated as a new claimant.

When this cut was announced DPAC sought the views of a barrister as to whether this could be legally challenged and the answer was once someone is affected by it then it can be challenged.

We are in touch with a solicitor who is keen to pursue a legal challenge and therefore need to find someone eligible for legal aid willing to make one. We believe this could not only be a new claimant but anyone who might wish to work more than 12 weeks but who would then be disadvantaged if they needed to reclaim ESA at a later date.

If anyone is interested in knowing more and able to help with this incredibly important legal challenge please email us mail@dpac.uk.net or contact us via @dis_ppl_protest

The Institute of Fiscal Studies has put forward a useful round up of this savage cut

https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/9117

Cut to employment and support allowance

Employment and support allowance (ESA) is the main out of work benefit for working age individuals who are judged not to be ‘fit for work’ due to a health condition. There are currently around 2.2 million individuals claiming ESA, of whom 250,000 are waiting for a health assessment, 1.6 million are in the ‘support group’, and 400,000 are the ‘work-related activity group’ (WRAG). The latter group are those deemed healthy enough to carry out ‘work related activities’, such as CV preparation or skills training.

From next Monday (3rd April) new WRAG claimants will receive £73.10 a week – the same as jobseekers’ allowance (JSA) claimants – rather than £102.15 a week as is currently the case (those in the support group are unaffected). This change will not create immediate losses of benefit income, because only new recipients are affected. Ultimately though, of course, all claims will be assessed under the new less generous rules. To give a sense of how quickly this will cut the generosity of benefits in practice, in the recent past around 60,000 people a year have started an ESA claim and ended up in WRAG – so we would expect approximately that number to get less money over the coming year than they would otherwise have got. In the long run this is expected to save the government about £650 million per year, with around 500,000 recipients getting £1,400 a year less than they would otherwise have got, on average.

What do we know about the sorts of people who are placed in the ESA WRAG? First, around half of them are entitled to ESA because of mental or behavioural disorders. Second, they tend to be somewhat older than JSA claimants, with about half being between 50 and the state pension age compared to about a quarter for JSA. Third, they tend to be on ESA for a relatively long time, as shown in Figure 1. Hence, while this change will align the weekly entitlements of ESA WRAG and JSA claimants, it is worth bearing in mind that the ESA claimants will tend to live on these amounts for substantially longer – around four in five WRAG claimants have been claiming for over two years, compared to less than one in five for JSA.

Figure 1. Proportion of claimants by length of claim, various benefits

 

Note: Before being placed in WRAG or support group or being declared ‘fit to work’, claimants must go through an assessment, during which they are entitled only to the basic JSA rate. The above data include time spent in the assessment phase, which typically takes at least 13 weeks. This is part of the reason why the ‘up to 6 months’ bars are small for the WRAG and support group. However, since this policy only affects claimants post-assessment, the left-hand stacked bar does give an accurate picture of claim durations for the group affected by the policy change. Source: DWP Tabulation Tool: Employment and Support Allowance, May 2016, Office for National Statistics, UK Labour Market: March 2017, Table BEN02

People might respond to this change in several ways. First, they may not choose to claim ESA in the first place: since JSA will afford the same financial support as WRAG, the financial incentives to go through the medical assessment rather than accept the additional work conditions of JSA are reduced. Second, those placed in the WRAG might challenge the decision to try to get into the support group and receive the now much higher entitlement. At the moment around 20% of those placed in WRAG challenge the decision at least once, so there is considerable scope for this to become more prevalent. Third, as the government’s policy costing document points out, they may try to claim other benefits. The main option available here is personal independence payment, a non-means tested disability benefit. Not only does this provide income directly (between £22 and £141.10 per week), but receipt can also be an automatic passport to higher ESA entitlements. Fourth, they could move into work. Claimants may be constrained in the extent to which they can respond in this way – WRAG claimants have after all been declared by the government to have ‘limited capability for work’. On the other hand, a DWP survey found that 30% of WRAG claimants are already looking for work, and some research suggests that employment decisions among the disabled can be sensitive to the level of disability payments. However, many – perhaps the majority – will not respond in any of these ways and will therefore have to make do with an average of £1,400 a year less than they would otherwise have got.

 

 Posted by at 21:49
Mar 212017
 
Let us know about your experience of the PIP assessment
Inclusion London have been invited by the Chair of the Work and Pension’s
Committee to give written evidence on the process of being assessed for the
Personal Independence Payment PIP – your experience will inform our evidence.
The questions the Committee are particularly interested in are:
1. Which aspects of the current assessment process for PIP are and are not
conducive to accurate decision-making? What improvements could be made?
2. Do Atos and Capita staff conducting PIP assessments possess sufficient
expertise to make accurate decisions on claims involving a wide range of
mental and physical health conditions?
a. Do the staff take enough account of additional evidence supplied by
claimants?
2. Is the face-to-face assessment appropriate for claimants with a range of
different conditions?
3. What changes are needed to improve the accuracy of decisions made in initial
assessments and in mandatory reconsideration, given that the majority of
decisions that go to appeal are overturned?
a. What are the most common reasons you come across for decisions
being overturned on appeal?
b. Is the mandatory reconsideration stage functioning properly? How
could it be improved, or should it be abolished?
4. What is the impact on claimants of delays in getting an accurate decision on
their claim, and how could this be reduced or better managed?
Please send your experience to Henrietta.doyle@inclusionlondon.org.uk
asap or by Wednesday 12 April 2017
 Posted by at 17:12
Mar 172017
 

Thanks to everyone who contacted us about this possible challenge. The solicitors have spoken initially to a number of people and are now able to try to seek a barrister’s opinion. If you haven’t been contacted yet then it may be after that opinion is available that you may be for witness statements to add to the case.

We’ll keep everyone informed of what’s happening as soon as we can.

 Posted by at 20:56
Mar 122017
 

Thursday 30 March 2017
National Day of Action Against Sanctions
JOIN US
More and more people are facing benefit sanctions. Half a million people have had their benefits suddenly stopped by sanctions in the last 12 monthsNo Sanctions logo.
That’s half a million people, many of whom have been plunged into poverty, unable to heat their homes or even eat. How is this meant to help prepare people for work?


Benefit sanctions must be fought against

These sanctions are cruel and handed out for ridiculous reasons such as:

  • Arriving minutes late to a meeting
  • Not applying for jobs when waiting to start a new job!
  • Missing an appointment on the day of the funeral of a close family member.

This has to stop.

nite demonstration outside the Department of Work and Pensions in London watch the video here  – See more at: http://stagingui.unite.awsripple.com/growing-our-union/communitymembership/day-of-action-against-sanctions/default.aspx#sthash.QsxxyCRf.dpuf
Unite demonstration outside the Department of Work and Pensions in London watch the video here  – See more at: http://stagingui.unite.awsripple.com/growing-our-union/communitymembership/day-of-action-against-sanctions/default.aspx#sthash.QsxxyCRf.dpufTake other action
  • Share your story – we are looking for people who have been sanctioned to tell their story.
  • We want to show the reality and impact on people’s lives – show your support – share on Twitter and Facebook #No2Sanctions

JOIN US – Thursday 30 MarchPlease join an event near you on Thursday 30 March to stop benefit sanctions in your community.

We will continue to add new actions on a regular basis, so please check back.

For further information please email your Unite community cordinator (see below).

London & Eastern – David Condliffe
Herts and Beds Branch: Luton, Jobcentre, Guilford Street – 12.00 noon.
Contact: Rachel Holmes, Branch Secretary – Email: RedR8chel@hotmail.com | Mobile: 07526282356.

Kilburn Jobcentre – 12.00 to 1.00 pm.

East and West Midlands – Shaun Pender
Protest & Film – Stop Benefit Sanctions – Save Eastern Ave JCP
Manor Top, Sheffield – 5.00 to 9.00 pm
https://www.facebook.com/events/405106473173499/


South East – Kelly Tomlinson

North East, Yorkshire & Humberside – John Coan

North West – Sheila Coleman
Wirral Community Branch has created a Thunderclap:
https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/53094-stop-benefit-sanctions

South West – Brett Sparkes
Lemon Quay, Truro 12.00 to 3.00 pm
https://www.facebook.com/events/1835696733335875/

Bridgwater Jobcentre: 11.00 to 1.00 pm
Bridgwater High Street, next to Admiral Blake: 11.00 to 1.00 pm

Film | I, Daniel Blake – 7.00 to 9.30 pm
Venue: Somerset Film @ The Engine Room, 50-52 High St, Bridgwater TA6 3BL Phone: 01278 433187. £3 standard ticket but if people can afford more there is a solidarity ticket at £10.
For more information visit: http://www.somersetfilm.com/diary/?action=evrplusegister&event_id=147
https://www.facebook.com/events/1420001918045217/

We will also be raising money for Bridgwater food bank.

Wales – Mary Williams

Scotland – Jamie Caldwell
Outside Dunfermline Jobcentre – 11.00 am

Ireland – Albert Hewitt
Portadown Jobs & Benefits Office – 12:00 to 1.00 pm
https://www.facebook.com/events/256582661460078/

– See more at: http://www.unitetheunion.org/growing-our-union/communitymembership/day-of-action-against-sanctions/#sthash.jVbfpy3m.dpuf

 Posted by at 15:47
Feb 132017
 

Unite Community (Coventry and Warwickshire Branch) along with co-sponsor UCU and supporting organisations Peoples Assembly and Coventry Recovery Centre will be screening the film I Daniel Blake.

Our aim is to raise awareness of the sanctions regime in the benefits system and to highlight the desperation and indignity that this imposes on thousands of people in Britain today.

The theatre will open at 18.00 and we advise that you be seated by 18.05 The film will start at 18.15 and lasts for 1 hour 40 minutes.

After the film there will be a question and answer session in the theatre led by the director of the film Ken Loach, which everyone watching the film is invited to. The Q&A session will last approximately 1 hour.

 

DATE AND TIME

Wed 22 February 2017

18:00 – 21:00 GMT

Add to Calendar

LOCATION

The Goldstein Lecture Theatre

Alan Berry Room

Coventry University, Jordan

Coventry

CV1 5FB

 

There are limited numbers of tickets available. To book tickets  and advise on access needs please email us at mail@dpac.uk.net

 Posted by at 19:50
Jan 132017
 

A brief look at Stephen Duckworth’s career. He’s being nominated for another honour and details of where to send any recommendations re-Stephen’s honour are at the end of this outline of his work with New Deal for disabled people, Serco, Capita and now the Shaw Trust. He is also an advisor for the new Work and Health unit. Please feel free to respond as you see fit.

Articles

Why Britain should expect more from the disabled for their own good, by the paralysed doctor in charge of assessing benefits claims

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2415778/Paralysed-Dr-Stephen-Duckworth-Why-Britain-expect-disabled-good.html#ixzz4VgCc7zkV

Stephen Duckworth: ‘The new disability benefit is enabling’.  The new head of Capita’s personal independence payments says disabled people must be central to the process

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/mar/05/stephen-duckworth-new-disability-benefit

 


Stephen Duckworth OBE, PhD, MSc, LRCP, MRCS, FDSRCS

Berkeley House, Rectory Hill, West Tytherley, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP5 1NF

Profile

Results orientated and innovative strategic thinker with sound independent judgement.  Leader with exceptional interpersonal skills combined with the ability and a willingness to influence, challenge and probe.  Keen analytical mind that revels in new concepts. Strong national and international connections with the UN, WHO, International Labour Organisation, World Bank and International Disability Alliance. Personal values driven by integrity and ethical standards combined with a strong sense of fun. 

Shaw Trust

2015 –            Shaw Trust: Chair, Programme Board – Rehabilitation International Global Congress on Disability and Inclusion, Edinburgh 2016. This attracted over 1000 people from 68 countries with 200 speakers and 7 Ministers. Currently working with Ministers in China and India having previously developed a new approach to disruptive innovation that has now become known as frugal innovation allowing ideas from low income countries to be adopted by higher income countries. 

Capita plc

2014 –            Capita, Director – Disability Assessment Services

2012 – 2014  Managing Director – Health & Disability Assessment Service covering  Wales, the Midlands and Northern Ireland with job based in London

Serco plc

2012–2012    Strategic Development Director – responsible for the company’s relationship with the Heart of Government.

2011-2012     Director, Serco Institute that aims to foster the development of sustainable public service markets through an outward-facing programme of research and communication.

2010-2011     Strategic Development Director, Serco Welfare to Work, supporting a 45 strong business development team to secure £210 million of business (Work Programme) to help disadvantaged people return to work.

2009-2010     Director West Midlands Flexible New Deal, Welfare to Work. Responsible for £20 million annual contract supporting over 5,000 long-term unemployed jobseekers to return to sustainable employment.

Non-Executive Positions

  • Adviser to the Minister for Disabled People supporting the establishment of the Joint Work and Health Unit (2016 – ongoing)
  • Association Member BUPA (2015 – ongoing)
  • Commissioner – Commission on Assisted Dying Chaired by Lord Faulkner (2010 – 2011)
  • Board Member Olympic Delivery Authority £9.2 billion budget Board Champion for Equality and Diversity, Chair Health, Safety and Environment Committee (2006 – 2012).
  • Board Member National Quality Board Chaired by David Nicholson DoH (2009 – 2010).
  • NED Business Link in London (2009-2010)
  • External Member – Disability Equality Delivery Board Chaired by Sue Owen, Director General, DWP working across government departments to achieve Equality for Disabled People by 2025 (2009 – 2012)
  • Adviser to the Secretary of the State, Minister for Welfare Reform and Minister for Disabled People (2005-7) to initiate the restructuring of the employment service provision for disabled people.
  • NED – Route2Mobility Ltd a FSA regulated company providing ethical finance to disabled customers (2003 -2009).
  • Member of the Council of the University of Southampton (1999-2007)

1999-2004     Initiated and designed and Award Winning New Deal for Disabled People return to work programme – The Gateway Partnership and developed a Project Lead Recruitment Process in partnership with the Employers Forum on Disability and Centrica. Continue to lead organic growth to establish a business with a turnover in excess of £2 million.

 

 

Honours Research <honours.research2017@gmail.com>

Subject: Stephen DuckworthDear Colleague

You may know Stephen Duckworth quite well or may have only met him once. More about his background is in the attached CV – the incredible thing is that he broke his neck in a rugby accident aged 21 and is more or less completely paralysed.

I have been commissioned to gather supporting evidence about his suitability for a higher Honour’s Award. In 1994 at 34 years of age he became an Officer of the Order of the British Empire and was presented with his OBE by the Queen. Subject to other information gathered he will be considered for a CBE or Knighthood.

Please treat this email strictly confidentially as neither he nor his immediate family know about this approach to you. I have managed to track down your address through a former secretary and hope you do not mind me contacting you. The application is being sponsored by a member of the House of Lords

I am attaching the template for a letter of support that should make your life much easier to complete and send back to me as an attachment to an email. I hope you won’t mind spending a few minutes to do this over the festive season. The awards process generally takes 12-18 months so I would appreciate you replying as soon as possible.

I have been advised that he recently organised an International World Conference on disability and rehabilitation and is hoping to be supporting projects in China, India and Africa over the next few years. If you feel he deserves the higher award then I would be grateful if you could emphasise his national and international activities as this will prove to be very helpful.

Many thanks indeed in anticipation of a positive response. I hope that you will be able to get back to me early in the New Year or at the very latest by the end of January 2017.

Lisa Coleman

Research Assistant

Independent Honours Research

For Further Information

The Honours System https://www.gov.uk/hono urs/types-of-honours-and-award s

 

 

 

 Posted by at 21:05
Jan 052017
 

If anyone is willing to help with either of these requests please contact the relevant person directly.

Loss of Motability Vehicles 

I’m a TV producer based in Southampton looking into PIP and Motability.  I’m looking for someone to film who is having to hand back a car and would like to speak to people who might be affected by this especially anyone willing to be filmed when their car is removed.

Feel free to circulate this email.

Jane Goddard

Assistant Editor Inside Out South

jane.goddard@bbc.co.uk

BBC South, Havelock Road, Southampton, SO14 7PU – 07740 732402

Removal of Benefits from people

My name is Jemma and I am a Producer making a BBC Three documentary with Stephen Manderson, also known as Professor Green, exploring the issue of families raising children with low incomes across the UK. I came across your campaign group in my research and I am hoping you may be able to help. Stephen Manderson, grew up in Hackney and is an award winning rap artist and documentary filmmaker. The film we are making follows on from the success of his recent BBC Three documentaries: ‘Suicide and Me’ about his personal experience of losing his father to suicide and ‘Hidden and Homeless’. In this new documentary, Professor Green will set out to understand the experience of families facing hardship in the UK. As an important part of Stephen’s journey we would like to speak to families with children who feel their benefits status or payments shifted at a time when they were unwell or vulnerable. I completely appreciate the sensitivities around this area as many have lost loved ones which is heart breaking and I understand even more so where they feel they have been let down by the benefits system. I would like to open up a conversation with you at DPAC to see if you may be able to help us reach out to families who might be open to having an initial chat about their experiences with the DWP? If you would like any further information please do not hesitate to contact me on the below numbers or via email. I very much look forward to hearing from you.

Jemma Gander Producer The Garden One America Street London SE1 0NE T: +44 (0) 20 7620 6734 F: +44 (0) 20 7620 6724 M: + 44 (0) 784 000 3976 E: jemma.gander@thegardenproductions.tv

 Posted by at 14:55
Jan 022017
 

Basic Income:

Progressive Dreams Meet Neoliberal Realities

John Clarke

Up until now, the concept of Basic Income (BI) has enjoyed a greater history of being proposed than of being implemented. We may well be approaching a period, however, when this changes. The Ontario Government is holding consultations on setting up a BI pilot project. The Legislature in another Canadian Province, Prince Edward Island, has agreed to test out a version of BI. Pilot projects are also impending in Finland, the Netherlands and Scotland.

Raise the Rates

Basic Income has been suggested in an exceptionally wide range of forms, often with completely different objectives in mind. In fact, we can draw a line between the models that are concerned with improving lives and raising living standards and those that are focused on intensifying the capacity for capitalist exploitation. Among those in the ‘progressive’ category there is considerable diversity. There’s the ‘universal demogrant’ that provides an income to everyone and the concept of a ‘negative income tax’ involving some level of means test. BI proposals come from liberal quarters that are responsibly redistributive, reduce poverty and inequality and ease up on bureaucratic intrusion. The above mentioned proposal for an Ontario pilot project would be part of this camp. Then there are the models that have more radical, transformative objectives in mind. These suggest that BI could be used to take from employers the power of economic coercion itself by severing the link between work and income. Often such ideas are tied to the notion of preparing for sweeping technological displacement and a ‘workless future’ by providing secure, adequate and unconditional income. Given the vast extent to which forms of unpaid labour are performed by women in this society, it is hardly surprising that there are also feminist arguments for BI.

I have to say that the one really common thread that I see running through all of the notions of a progressive BI is that they pay great attention to explaining how nice their systems would be but give little if any thought to the concrete prospects of implementation. Before looking further at these deficiencies and proposing an alternative approach, it might be useful to consider more seriously the neoliberal version that is hanging like a sword over all our heads.

Neoliberal Version

The deeply reactionary ideas of Charles Murray have extended to some very sinister proposals for BI. There are two basic elements that shape his system. Firstly, the universal payment, after the compulsory purchase of private health insurance, is set at the dreadfully low amount of $10,000 a year. Secondly, he is utterly insistent that all other systems of provision must be dismantled as a BI is put in place. Canada’s right wing Fraser Institute, recently used its blog to stress the same points as Murray, making clear that the level of provision must not interfere with the supply of low waged workers.

If governments today, as they intensify the neoliberal agenda, are starting to consider the possibilities of BI, I see three factors at work. Firstly, there is the not unimportant issue of legitimacy. Particularly because they are being provided with a generous amount of ‘progressive’ cover, they are able to present their deliberations on BI as a responsible weighing of the common good. The Ontario Liberals stand out as international champions in this regard. Their BI pilot project consultations, have enabled them to put in place yet another round of fake dialogue, with the empty promise of a “better way” diverting attention as they push people even deeper into poverty. The World Bank and the IMF have been worrying out loud about the backlash against their austerity agenda and its devastating impacts. That IMF economists are themselves musing about BI, is perhaps significant in this regard. It advances their agenda but can be dressed up to look progressive. It may be the best thing for the institutions of global capitalism since the myth of ‘poverty reduction’.

The second element of BI that I think is of interest to the architects of neoliberalism is that it can fine tune economic coercion as they create an ever more elastic workforce based on the most precarious forms of employment. The income support systems that emerged out of the Poor Law tradition, stressed intense restrictions and moral policing. Along with horribly inadequate benefit levels, this has been very useful in driving people into low waged work to an unprecedented extent. It may, however, be time to rethink this to a degree. If people are moving between poverty wages and poverty level benefits more frequently in a precarious job market, perhaps they can be more effectively prodded into the worst jobs with less intrusive benefit systems. A less rule bound delivery of poverty income, that gives people a chance of retaining their housing, may be needed to keep them job ready. Linked to this, of course, is the huge boost to the employers of a BI system that constitutes a form of wage top up. Provided the payment is meagre, it will not impede the flow of low paid workers but it will mean that their employers receive a subsidy that absolves them from having to pay living wages or come under pressure to increase the amount they do provide.

Thirdly, the great advantage of neoliberal BI is that the inadequate and dwindling payment it provides turns those who receive it into customers in the marketplace. In my opinion, BI would be far from the best way to strengthen the social infrastructure at any time but in the context of an intensifying agenda of austerity and privatization, it is a recipe for disaster. It’s really about the commodification of social provision. Your payment may actually be less conditional and somewhat larger but, as you shop through the privatized remains of the social infrastructure, with inadequate means and very few rights, you are dramatically worse off. That, in my view, is what is being prepared by those who will actually implement a system of BI and the hopes and wishes to the contrary of its progressive advocates don’t count for very much.

Progressive Dreams

I said previously that proposals for redistributive or transformative models of BI are generally marked by a tendency to focus on the desirability of what is being advanced while paying much less attention to actual prospects for implementation. I’ve yet to see, quite bluntly, any serious attempt to assess what stands in the way of a progressive BI and what can be done to bring it into existence. It simply isn’t enough to explain how just and fair a given model would be if it could be adopted. In order to credibly advance BI as the solution, there are some questions that must be settled.

Firstly, income support systems came into being because, while employers welcome an oversupply of labour and the desperation that comes with it as something that boosts their bargaining power, the total abandonment of the jobless creates social unrest. Some measure of income support, provided as a reluctant concession, has proved to be necessary. However, the systems of provision that have been put in place have always been as inadequate as possible so as to undermine employer strength as little as possible. A widely delivered or even universal adequate payment would greatly tilt that balance back the other way. What reason is there to think that this is likely to be implemented?

Secondly, over the last several decades, concessions made during the post war years have been taken back. Trade unions have been weakened, workers’ rights undermined and low waged work has increased considerably. The degrading of income support systems has been central to creating the climate of desperation needed to achieve this. Not only have benefits for the unemployed been attacked but other systems, especially for disabled people have been undermined so as to generate a scramble for the worst jobs. This has led to a shift in the balance of forces in society and we are fighting a largely defensive struggle. Given this very unfavourable situation, in which unions and movements are not in the ascendancy, how can it be supposed that those profiting from the present situation are likely to accept a measure of redistributive social reform that is at least as sweeping as anything put in place during the post war boom? What is the plan to make this happen?

Thirdly, as right wing governments and political parties directly linked to the most reactionary business interests consider BI and set up pilot projects that provide meagre payments and focus on how to ensure people on social benefits become low waged workers, what reason is there to imagine that a progressive BI, rather than the neoliberal variant, is being cooked up?

Regardless of these issues, it is sometimes asserted that an adequate system of provision must be put in place simply because we are moving toward a “workless future.” In such a society, it is suggested, masses of people who have been displaced will have to be provided for and the capitalists will have to think like Elon Musk, of Tesla Motors and support BI because it is the only sensible and rational solution. To imagine such responsible provision for the future is to place undue faith in a system based on the making of profit. If they won’t stop building pipelines in the face of environmental catastrophe, there’s little reason to expect them to worry too much about sensible solutions to technological displacement. There simply is no post-capitalist capitalism and no social policy innovation that is going to bring it about.

At a recent panel on Basic Income that I spoke at, the moderator posed a challenge. She accepted that BI might not be a way forward but asked, if that were so, what “bold vision” could be advanced in its place. It’s a fair question but a realistic appraisal of what we are up against is still obligatory, even if that has some sobering aspects to it. The great problem that we have is that the neoliberal years have done a lot of damage. The level of exploitation has been increased and working class movements have been weakened. While what we demand and aspire to is very important, the bigger question is what we can win. What’s disturbing about the left wing turn to BI is that is seems to think there is a social policy end run around the realities of neoliberalism and the need to resist it. There is no such thing.

British Labour Party and BI

With very good reason, there has been considerable excitement internationally around the Jeremy Corbyn leadership in the British Labour Party. His close ally, Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has been paying some attention to adopting BI, as part of a platform that would express a break with the austerity consensus. McDonnell, from a position on the left of a major social democratic party, raises the possibility of a ‘best case scenario’ for progressive BI. For that very reason, the question is posed of whether the ‘bold vision’ I spoke of should be framed around the universal payment concept or devoted to other objectives.

Basic Income, when all is said and done, is a vision for nothing more than the means to be a customer in an unjust society that decides what is for sale.

In my opinion, if we are to consider goals we set and demands we put forward in the face of neoliberalism, that are based on the needs of workers and communities and create the conditions for challenging capitalism itself, we sell ourselves well short if we settle for something so limited and inherently conservative as the universal payment. BI, when all is said and done, is a vision for nothing more than the means to be a customer in an unjust society that decides what is for sale. How much bolder and more meaningful to fight for free, massively expanded and fully accessible systems of healthcare and public transportation? How much better to focus on the creation of social housing and try to expand it so that, not only the poorest, but most working class people enjoy its benefits? There is universal child care and vast array of important community services to pay attention to. Moreover, we can work to wrest as much power as possible out of the hands of the mandarins of state bureaucracy and fight to increase the control working class people exercise over the public services they rely on. When it comes to existing systems of income support, we should not for a moment accept their poverty level benefits, bureaucratic intrusion and forms of moral policing steeped in racism and sexism. There is a fight to be taken forward for living income, full entitlement and programs that meet the real needs of unemployed, poor and disabled people, as opposed to the present ‘rituals of degradation’ they embody. At every point, let’s try to ensure that these expanded services are not paid for by other working class people but by forcing the corporations, banks and those who own them to pay by increasing their tax burden and imposing levies on their wealth.

The struggle to expand and improve public services would have to, of course, be linked to workers’ struggles for living wages, workplace rights and real compensation for injured workers. Beyond this, let’s challenge as much as we can the ‘business decisions’ that deplete resources, pollute and threaten us with ecological disaster.

I am suggesting that our movements need to challenge, rather than come to terms with, the neoliberal order and the capitalist system that has produced it. For all its claims to be a sweeping measure, the notion of progressive BI is a futile attempt to make peace with that system. In reality, even that compromise is not available. The model of BI that governments are working on in their social policy laboratories will not ‘end the tyranny of the labour market’ but render it more dreadful. The agenda of austerity and privatization requires a system of income support that renders people as powerless and desperate as possible in the face of exploitation and that won’t change if it is relabelled as ‘Basic Income’. •

John Clarke is an organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP).

 Posted by at 21:14
Jan 022017
 
My name is Helen and I am a Trainee Clinical Psychologist from Lancaster University. I am conducting research as part of my doctoral thesis about the psychological impact of benefits sanctions following the Work Capability Assessment process and what impact this had, if any, on peoples’ mental health and outlook. I’m involved with Pyschs Against Austerity who DPAC and MHRN both work closely with.

If you have a diagnosed mental health condition? Have you experienced the Work Capability Assessment? Have your benefits been sanctioned because of this assessment? .

The purpose of this research is to understand the psychological impact of benefits sanctions following the Work Capability Assessment process and what impact this had, if any, on your mental health and outlook. If you would like to take part in the study, you would be invited to be interviewed to discuss these experiences for around one hour. . It would be useful for this to be in the North West but I am willing to travel if necessary. I can also help with any travel costs people have up to £20.

If you would like to take part or would like more information, please email the principal researcher, Helen McGauley, email h.mcgauley@lancaster.ac.uk Please share this with anyone else who you think might be interested in taking part. Thanking you in advance, Helen McGauley

 Posted by at 16:57
Nov 202016
 

On 17th November the House passed a cross party motion to delay and review the proposed implementation of the ESA Cut of £29/week to new claimants of the ESA Work Related Activity Group.

 

Disabled People Against Cuts are campaigning to have this cut cancelled but today we are asking you as MPs to lobby the Chancellor to postpone the proposed ESA cut until we know the details of the support on offer, and whether this support compensates adequately the loss of £29 per week for claimants in the WRAG.

 

Please consider the following points

 

  • The ESA cut is worth £450m per year[i]. The employment support for claimants in the WRAG is only £60 to £100 million a year[ii] while the Work Programme received £500-£600 million each year[iii]. This represents a huge reduction in support for disabled people to gain work.
  • This employment support will not benefit claimants who cannot and will not be able to work who are misplaced into the WRAG. These are people with progressive illnesses (1/3 of these claimants are initially placed in the WRAG)[iv], claimants given a 2 year+ prognosis (defined by DWP as unlikely to work again)[v], or claimants wrongly placed in the WRAG, who after Mandatory Reconsiderations or appeals move onto the Support Group[vi].
  • This same group of claimants will not benefit from the flexible support fund, a discretionary fund, which provides local support for costs, related to getting into work, such as travel to and from training and travel costs when in work, for the reasons mentioned above.
  • Extension of hardship fund to new groups. The hardship fund is notoriously hard to access, because of very strict eligibility rules (claimants have to be almost destitute to be entitled), and the payments are also modest, discretionary, and of a temporary nature. Most importantly, payments will become recoverable under Universal Credit, driving more claimants into debt[vii]. Evidence also shows that these payments are not advertised by jobcentres and that their take-up is very low[viii]
  • Deals with third parties to help with expenditure not directly related to employment: broadband costs, phone charges, energy costs and insurance. That could be the only scheme likely to benefit the type of claimants we mentioned.

The Minister for Disabled People has given assurance that these schemes will fully compensate for the loss of the payments for new claimants[ix], but because of the flaws in the Work Capability Assessment, the claimants in the WRAG who need the most support because they are unable to work, and have no prospect of moving into work ever again will be the most severely penalised.

            We already know that a third of ESA recipients are running a budget deficit[x], and that 49% of disabled people rely on credit cards or loans to pay for everyday items such as food and clothing[xi]. This ESA cut is the last thing they need.

 

[i] https://medium.com/citizens-advice/halving-the-disability-employment-gap-22e3a588487f#.iuymk8dhu

 

[ii] http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-7649/CBP-7649.pdf

 

[iii] http://www.learningandwork.org.uk/our-thinking/news/dwp-employment-programme-funding-set-80-cut

 

[iv] https://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2016-03-21.31811.h&s=speaker%3A24778#g31811.r0

 

[v] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmworpen/302/30206.htm

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/498130/3703-2015.pdf

[vi] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/498130/3703-2015.pdf

 

[vii] https://www.turn2us.org.uk/Benefit-guides/Hardship-Payment/Hardship-Payments-of-Universal-Credit#guide-content

 

[viii] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/256044/jsa-sanctions-independent-review.pdf

 

[ix] https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2016-11-17b.413.0&s=speaker%3A24938#g463.3

 

[x] https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2016-11-17b.413.0&s=speaker%3A24938#g463.3

 

[xi] http://www.scope.org.uk/Scope/media/Documents/Publication%20Directory/Credit-and-Debt.pdf?ext=.pdf

 

 Posted by at 18:19
Oct 312016
 

Wanted - Damien Green - For Crimes Against Disabled PeopleToday Damien Green announced a consultation into the Work Capability Assessment a toxic and lethal test of disabled peoples’ ability to work. DPAC have consistently called for this to be completely scrapped as in spite of numerous attempts to reform the tick box computer tests they are still not fit for purpose. How many times do you keep trying to fix the unfixable?

It comes as no surprise either that Disability Charities welcome the changes which are being consulted on – why wouldn’t they after all there’s likely to be lots of financial pickings for them from the further misery of disabled claimants. Already Tom Pollard previously Campaign and Policy Manager for MIND has taken his thirty pieces of silver and moved to work for the DWP.

Overview and what these changes might mean

Now like Lord Freud the banker who wrote the guidelines for welfare reform for New Labour in 3 weeks and without any previous experience of our social security system Damien Green today has said “In the long run there is nothing more expensive than saying to someone, ‘Here’s a benefit you can have for the rest of your life…” Not that I’m sure what he means by that since this does not happen and disabled people face continuous repeat assessments to ensure they haven’t grown back any limbs or had a miraculous cure.

The consultation announced today places an emphasis on getting all disabled people back into work as fast as possible on the false assumption that working in a zero hours or low paid dead end jobs may somehow improve people’s health outcomes. Green seems to particularly single out forcing people with Mental Health and Musculoskeletal conditions back into work as fast as possible for as long as possible. Musculoskeletal conditions include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.

This is against a background of massive cuts to MH services to help those with a MH condition receive the support they need. Added to which there are caps to the Access to Work budget , social care funding has been slashed, to access train services in many cases disabled people have to book 24 or 48 hours in advance, Disabled Students’ Allowance has been cut making it more difficult if not impossible for young disabled people to gain qualifications, and people are being forced to give up work as they lose entitlement to PIP and their Motability vehicles are taken away.

Further between 2011 and 2015 the number of Jobcentres employing a full-time advisor to help disabled people navigate the support system and find employment fell by over 60 per cent from 226 to just 90, with reductions in every recorded year.

Does Damien really not understand that without the right support services in place disabled people even if they want to cannot work? Is it really too complex for politicians to grasp that support services must be available to allow disabled people to work if they want to and feel able to. Do they really not understand that for some disabled people working is not and never will be an option?

And what of employers?  of course they’re queuing up to retain and employ disabled people and all workplaces are accessible as we all know. The much lauded Disability Confident campaign resulted in a whopping 40 private firms signing up in 3 years.

But not just Damien also Jeremy Hunt, the much trusted health secretary also suggests getting people back to work had major health benefits. He is reported to say that as it cost £7bn a year to treat long-term health conditions that kept people out of work, and employment could be a part of recovery.

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, said “People in work generally have better health.” Something that I would have thought is obvious as people not in work often have long term health conditions or impairments which prevent them from working. Thus an utterly meaningless statement if ever I’ve heard one.

One particularly worrying statement is “No one wants a system where people are written off and forced to spend long periods of time on benefits when, actually, with the right support they could be getting back into work.” Which we feel means they plan to scrap the Support group.

This would certainly fit in with the announcement on October 1st when Damien Green announced there would be an end to repeat WCA assessments for people with permanent or progressive conditions. There was little detail on the announcement with more questions being raised that answers given (such as which conditions would be excluded from repeat assessments) The DWP promised to release guidelines to clarify exactly what this change means – to date no such clarification has appeared.

My Challenge to Damien Green and why these proposals are a crock of  ****

Dear Damien find an employer for this person. I know having to work as well as survive will help her wellbeing. Please note Damien at the moment she has no money to feed herself or her family due to the barbaric and flawed WCA assessment.

“I am writing this email as I feel desperate and alone after I had a phone call today saying I scored 0 points on my esa assessment. I don’t know where to turn or what to do.

I will start from the beginning. From being young I have had hip disabilities and went through many many operations between the ages of 12 and 19. In my early twenties I broke my left hip 4 times. Also in my early 20’s my spine started to deteriorate and to date I have had 3 emergency operations to try to correct this. During one operation I was left with that much damage and scar tissue I have loss of feeling and severe foot drop in my left foot.

Due to my hip problems I have arthritis in both hips and I am awaiting hip replacements in both hips. Due to my left femur being broken 4 times it is no longer straight meaning the hip replacement surgery will be very difficult which is why my surgeon is trying to leave it as long as possible as the surgery could end very badly.

I have suffered with chronic pain all my life but have always worked until earlier this year when I had my contract ended by work as I was no longer fit to do my job due to my disabilities. This is when I started claiming ESA.

Recently I have had major changes to my health leaving me doubly incontinent. I have to self catheterise twice daily. I am experiencing that much pain I am taking copious amounts of medication including morphine every 3 hours. My mobility is very restricted and my partner has had to give up work to care for me. I can’t cook, clean, go to the shop. My emotional and mental health is suffering terribly and I am on anti depressant medication.

I attended my ESA assessment last week and the decision maker telephoned me today telling me that I had not scored any points at all during the assessment and my benefits have been stopped.

Because my partner has come out of work our tax credits claim was ended and we have had to re apply meaning we are not receiving any money from tax credits at the moment. The only money we had support us and our two children was the ESA payments of £72 per week and £36 per week child benefit.

When the advisor phoned me with the news today I broke down in the phone. I feel as though I am on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I can not go to work as I am too unwell. I spend a lot of my time feeling sleepy and not with it due to my medication, I can not control my bowels, I am in constant severe pain, my mobility is limited, my bladder does not empty itself so I have to self catheterise, I have short term memory loss and confusion due to medication, the list is endless. As the rent is now not being paid and with our previous arrears which I was paying off before this I am terrified my kids are going to lose their home. I can’t put food in the cupboards, gas and electric on. I feel hopeless and desperate.

I don’t know how this works. I have always worked I am not trying to get anything under false pretences. If I could work I would. I have lost my independence and I feel that the DWP are taking away my dignity along with it by making me beg to be able to live.

I am unsure why I have sent you this email but I don’t know where to turn. I am so sorry if this makes no sense. ”
What you can do

Write or email Damien to let him know what you think

ministers@dwp.gsi.gov.uk or Caxton House, 12, Tothill Street, London,SW1H

also please respond to the consulation

Full consultation here

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/work-health-and-disability-improving-lives

take part in consultation here

https://consultations.dh.gov.uk/workandhealth/consult/

 

 

 

 Posted by at 18:51