|This is from a post sent to us asking us to make people aware of the issues
Brighter Berkshire/Conservatives for Mental Health
|I am worried about labour politicians being co-opted into promoting Conservative mental health policy in mental health initiatives that have cross party support. There is metal health awareness campaign in Swindon started by a conservative and is using Conservatives for Mental Health to work under. The women who has started it is calling on people from all parties to work together. http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/15559149.Activist_launches_cross_party_campaign_to_tackle_mental_health_issues/ This is the organisation that she is working with https://www.conservativesformentalhealth.co.uk/
There is a mental health awareness raising campaign called Brighter Berkshire that looks quite similar. It says it has cross party support but to my mind shows conservative bias and has Theresa May on the front page and Richard Benyon, Tory MP for Berkshire is heavily involved. They tweeted support for Richard Benyon in the run up to the General Election. They get involved at about the time they were both talking about new Conservative mental health campaigns.
Looking at this closely it seems there is an emphasis on cutting services and putting pressure on getting people back to work as cheap labour. Here is a link to Brighter Berkshire http://brighterberkshire.com/ Unfortunately a small number of labour politicians have got involved and endorsed the campaigns, one being Matt Rodda MP for Reading East.
I am worried that Brighter Berkshire become a model for mental health awareness campaigns across the country and that they will be used to promote Tory policy and make them look good. So I would be grateful if you could discuss this and address it at a national level and warn labour MP\’s to be careful before attaching themselves to any mental health campaigns to make sure they are not biased campaigns or promote Tory policies.
I have set up a facebook group about this. The founder of Brighter Berkshire is on group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/199827027227205/ Feel free to share it around or join.
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.
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?
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: firstname.lastname@example.org They usually reply within two days. Always cc the MP and ask them to follow it up on behalf of the claimant.
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 email@example.com
Write to the DWP’s Disability and Carers Service, address is on the patient’s PIP letter. And/or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
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
Crossroads Women’s Centre
25 Wolsey Mews, London NW5 2DX
Tel: 020 7482 2496
Please book if you want to come, and circulate to anyone you think might interested.
This is a meeting for organisations and individuals involved in campaigning around mental health in East London. We want to offer a space for people to get together and talk about how we might support each other and share resources in the face of the growing crisis in the UK’s psychological welfare and mental health provision – in the boroughs of East London in particular.
We are a group of mental health professionals and service users campaigning around various aspects of mental health and welfare, some of us involved with the Mental Wealth Alliance and its campaigns around workfare and the psycho-compulsion of benefits claimants with mental health difficulties.
We have hired the Scott Room at Oxford House for the day, and will be putting on a free showing of I, Daniel Blake to help us tune in to the connections between psychological distress and austerity politics – poverty, homelessness, the housing crisis, benefit cuts and the dismantling of the welfare state, low wages and zero-hour contracts, ever-increasing inequalities of wealth, income and resources, cuts and privatisation in all public services.
The rough programme for the day is:
10.00 am arrive – coffee and tea
10.30 am introductions – who we are and what we are interested in.
11.15 am showing of Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake and discussion
1.15 – 2.00 pm lunch together – bring food to share
2.00 – 3.30 pm how can we support each other in our campaigns and our lives?
The event is free. We will be asking people on the day to donate what they can towards the costs.
As well as general demands for improved rights of disabled people DPAC, Mental Health Resistance Network and Recovery in the bin have drawn up a set of specific demands for Mental Health.
After decades of oppression we believe that disabled people must be afforded self determination from the grass roots level. “Nothing About Us Without Us” must become a reality.
No Longer will we tolerate large disability charities which see us as nothing more than marketable commodities from which to make profits for their own benefit speaking for us and deciding our futures. We expect a Labour Party which claims to support disabled people’s rights to ensure that it is our voices that are listened to and not the empty voices of our oppressors. Without this guarantee DPAC cannot approve of the disability policies of any political party.
DPAC priorities for setting Mental Health Disability Policies.
We deplore the appropriation of the Recovery Model by statutory services and government departments in order to justify the withdrawal of services and benefits from people who need them.
Compulsory MH Training for Professionals in Various Fields
- Mental health training should be compulsory for all health care professionals, including doctors and nurses, and suicide awareness training should be given to all health care professionals. Such training should be kept up to date.
- All Police Forces should have full mental health awareness training, stop using section 136, and acknowledge that custody suites and lock-ups in police cells are not safe places.
- Mental health awareness training and crisis awareness training should be available for all teaching staff in primary and secondary schools, and further education institutions.
- A person suffering from mental distress should be treated with respect, courtesy, dignity, and consideration at all times as should and their families and friends.
We demand the abolition of forced treatment and Compulsory Treatment Orders (CTOs).
- All treatment should be with the full agreement of the person being treated and with their full understanding of the side effects of treatment, both pharmaceutical and psychological.
7.We demand the right to refuse treatment as it is ratified under the United Nations Convention Rights People with Disabilities (UNCRPD)
8.We want recognition of the link between abuse and trauma, and mental distress. The British Psychological Society has already made this link.
9.We demand the recognition that child abuse prevention is also mental distress prevention.
- We want the abolition of the medical model of mental distress to be replaced with an acceptance that mental distress is part of the human condition and is a normal response to adverse events and circumstances. Appropriate care and support should be the right for all people suffering from mental distress.
- Long term psychological treatments should be provided freely to all who need them and talking therapies should not be restricted to short term interventions. We recognise that not everyone wants talking treatments and this should be respected.
- The person experiencing mental distress should decide their care and always have their wishes respected.
- There should be a recognition that the use of alcohol and drugs are a form of self medication for many in mental distress. Drugs should therefore be decriminalised.
14.Access to detox and drug rehab programmes should be available to everyone.
15.We demand recognition that many social values that are common place, such as competition being intrinsic to human relationships, are erroneous and cause harm to people’s mental health.
- Bereavement counselling should be made available for all children who lose a parent or supporting person.
Financial Needs – Individual and Other Support
- We demand recognition that the WCA and PIP assessment processes are detrimental to people’s mental health and should be scrapped. The money saved by not paying Private Companies to carry out these assessments should be re-invested into better services.
- We demand guaranteed financial security and appropriate housing for everyone experiencing mental distress.
- No aspect of the social security system should cause distress or deterioration in a claimant’s mental health condition.
- Funding should be provided for Crisis Care to be made available for help and support 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.
- Funding should be made available for the setting up of Crisis Houses as safe spaces. Access to these should be every person’s right and should include ‘sitters’ who will be there to support people throughout these times.
- We want hospital beds to be replaced with beds in settings similar to domestic environments.
- More provision of services for children and young adults. 1 in 10 children are being denied mental health service support which is having a huge impact on the family and schools.
- Concessionary travel passes should be made available to all people living with mental distress to enable independence in the community and to attend appointments with health care professionals, thus aiding mental wellbeing.
- We want special support centres for young men who are suicidal and a paradigm shift away from the “norms” which are set as ideals of masculinity and may contribute to the high rate of suicide in young men.
26.Funding should be made available for research into mental health care that is based on a Social Model of mental distress; such funding should at least equal the current amount of money available for pharmaceutical research.
27.We demand the provision of special support for people with mental distress to ensure their children remain with them as a family.
- We demand a holistic approach to care – where a person has both a physical and a mental health problem, such impairments should be treated equally with respect and with dignity and with full understanding that a physical impairment can impact on a mental health impairment and vice versa.
- We want specialist support to be made available for ALL armed forces veterans who experience mental distress and for housing to be made available to them.
- We deplore the underfunding of mental health services in the NHS and the current practice of discharging people with mental health problems from secondary care into primary care where their needs cannot be met. These services should be properly funded.
- Any crime against someone with a mental health condition should be treated as a hate crime.
- We want an ongoing campaign to end all bullying in schools and work places and within families and general society where such bullying is linked to mental distress.
- Action should be taken to end the ongoing discrimination against LGBT people as such discrimination can lead to mental distress.
Further Investigations Needed
- We demand a full investigation into the effects of long term use of psychiatric medications and demand that mental health professionals treat reports of side effects of medication seriously.
- We want a full investigation into the appropriateness of the continuous use of medication as the main form of treatment for people in mental distress.
- We demand a full public inquiry into the impact on people in mental distress of being detained in Prison Environments.
- We want a full investigation into why so many people from BME communities are being diagnosed with a mental health condition.
- We want an investigation into the harmful effects of E.C.T.
- We demand an inquiry into the success or otherwise of the use of personal budgets for day care provision for people living with mental health problems.
- We demand a full public inquiry into the significantly shortened life expectancy of people with mental health conditions and a full report produced with recommendations which should be implemented.
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)
Campaign against introduction of psychological therapies into Job Centres
MARCH ON STREATHAM JOB CENTRE – FRIDAY 26TH JUNE, 1.30 pm
MEETING POINT: STREATHAM MEMORIAL GARDENS, STREATHAM HIGH ROAD/ STREATHAM COMMON NORTH, LONDON SW16
STREATHAM JOB CENTRE PLUS: CROWN HOUSE, STATION APPROACH, LONDON SW16 6HW
* A pilot project to bring CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) into Job Centres starts at Streatham Job Centre Plus in June 2015.
* In the same month, Lambeth “Living Well Hub” for Community Mental Health Services is due to open in the same building.
*Mental Health Resistance Network is unhappy with these developments which are part of the government’s brutal “back to work” agenda.
*Mental Health Resistance Network has called a demonstration which will march on Streatham Job Centre on Friday 26th June.
*Mental Health Resistance Network is circulating an open letter to relevant individuals, charities and professional organisations stating our position and asking them to join us in our condemnation for these developments.
The text of the open letter is as follows:
Mental Health Resistance Network is organising a demonstration to take place at Streatham Job Centre Plus on Friday 26th June 2015, protesting against the opening there of Lambeth’s principal community mental health centre (“Living Well Network Hub”) the following Monday.
Streatham Job Centre also, from June 2015, hosts the first pilot of the DWP’s scheme to provide psychological therapies – specifically Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – at Job Centres for people suspected of having mental health problems. This is the first of ten pilot schemes in advance of a national project planned to begin in January 2016.
We are calling on you/ your organisation to state your position on these issues, and we hope join us in our condemnation of these developments.
As mental health service users, we are extremely unhappy with these developments. We deplore the government’s brutal “back to work” agenda, which is a front for cutting disabled welfare benefits for the most vulnerable. Mental health service users are understandably terrified of Job Centres and the threat of losing their benefits through Sanctions, or degrading and unfit-for-purpose Work Capability Assessments. With the main point of access to Community Mental Health services in Lambeth on the 3rd floor of a Job Centre, many of us will feel too frightened to ask for the help and services we need, and lose contact with services altogether.
Mental health service users are already reporting higher levels of fear, anxiety and anguish as a result of the increasingly difficult welfare benefits system, which is linked to an increasing rate of suicides. This situation will be exacerbated by the new developments.
We should not be put under pressure to look for work unless we feel capable. The competitive, profit-driven and exploitative nature of the modern workplace is not suitable for people whose mental health is fragile. But the location of the Network Hub at Streatham Job Centre put us under such pressure if we try to use mental health services.
Experts agree that CBT does not work for everyone; that psychological therapies are ineffective if they are forced on people; and that they need to take place in safe, unthreatening environments. We do not think making people have CBT at Job Centres will make anyone magically “fit for work.” We are concerned that people will be Sanctioned (i.e. have their benefits stopped) if they do not co-operate with this “therapy” either out of principle or because they are not well enough. “BACK TO WORK THERAPY” IS NO THERAPY AT ALL!
Additionally, we are concerned that this amounts to an extension of the coercive powers of the 1983 Mental Health Act amended 2007. Whereas at present people can only be forced into “treatment” under in-patient Sections of this Act or by Community Treatment Orders, making welfare benefits and by extension housing conditional on agreeing to psychological treatment broadens the principle of compulsion.
We condemn the involvement of IAPTS in this attempt to make people undergo “therapy” at Job Centres, which we believe goes against professional ethics. We are also unhappy that psychiatrists, occupational therapists, nurses, social workers and other mental health professionals are also expected to work at Streatham Job Centre, again compromising their professional ethics, and we call on individual staff and collective agencies representing them to publicly oppose this development.
For more information contact:
Reblogged from JohnnyVoid, with thanks
Iain Duncan Smith must be pissing himself. A report released at the end of last year by mental health charity MIND could not have gone further in endorsing the core ideas that lie behind his bungled and brutal welfare reforms.
The report is titled “We’ve Got Work To Do” and claims to demand ‘fundamental reform’ of the workplace and social security system to better support people with a mental health condition. Sadly it is calling for nothing of the sort and is underpinned by the exact same lies and toxic assumptions that have driven both Tory and Labour welfare reforms.
Just like the DWP, MIND have adopted the flawed medical consensus that work is good for your health. The charity does acknowledge that this isn’t actually always true, but falls short of saying that work can be bad for your health, instead arguing that “inappropriate or poor quality work can have as negative an effect on people’s mental health as not being in work”. They base this opinion on research carried out in Australia that found that “the mental health of those who were unemployed was comparable or more often superior to those in jobs of the poorest psychosocial quality.” In other words work can be worse for your mental health than being unemployed, rather than just equally bad as MIND claim.
It is not nit-picking to point out the discrepency between what this research found and what MIND say it found because it reveals the charity’s opinions to be based on ideology, not facts. This same factual slippage occurs elsewhere in the report when MIND begin by saying that most people with mental health conditions want to work, which later becomes everyone with a mental health condition wants to work. The truth, as revealed in the footnotes to the report, are that only around 58% of people out of work due to a mental health condition strongly agreed they wanted to return to work whilst 20% did not feel they were well enough.
These two distortions – or let’s call them lies – have allowed the despised Work Capability Assessment, benefit sanctions and workfare all to be misrepresented as ‘support’ or ‘help’. In truth these measures destroy lives. The medical consensus that work is good for you does often not apply to those on the lower end of the income scale who face being forced by Jobcentres into the kind of work likely to make them ill.
MIND’s Chief Executive Paul Farmer claims at the beginning of the report that there have been “improvements in how people with mental health problems are supported”, although it is unclear what they are. There then follows an emotive journey about someone’s journey through the benefit system after leaving work due to depression. This is actually where their journey would stop, because unless they could provide reems of medical evidence to the Jobcentre they would be disallowed benefits for giving up work. That this reports begins by misrepresenting the benefit system as it currently functions just shows how removed these giant disability benefits charities have become from the lives of those they claim to support.
Instead the ‘fundamental reform’ they call for is actually more of the same or worse – such as the dangerous idea that sensitive health information from the Work Capability Assessment should be passed over to Work Programme providers like A4e and G4S. This is like your boss having access to your medical history and appallingly MIND relaxed about this as well.
Much of the early part of the report is taken up by calling for improvements in the working environment for people suffering mental ill-health. Which is fine, everyone wants that, except greedy employers who worry it might cost them money or who harbour nasty little prejudices about mental health. According to MIND themselves this is about 40% of them. Yet one of MIND’s recommendations is that the Maximus run ‘Fit To Work’ service – the new telephone helpline which will be used to certify time off instead of GPs – should more effectively engage with employers. About the only decent thing about Fit To Work, which is designed to bully people back into the workplace before they are better, is that currently you have the right to keep your boss out of any discussions.
The final part of the report discusses what future welfare-to-work schemes should look like for those with a mental health condition. The charity are calling for “new specialist scheme for people with mental health problems on
ESA”. A scheme which should be run by those who “have expertise and experience of working with people with mental health problems”. And here lies the real reason for this report. It’s a fucking advert to any incoming Labour Government to give MIND a lucrative contract to run a new welfare-to-work service.
There is no longer any doubt that endless Atos assessments, workfare and benefit sanctions are creating a crisis in the lives of those with a mental health condition. The tragic death toll rises ever higher. Yet nowhere in this report does MIND call for these brutal policies to be scrapped. Even if MIND were handed a contract to be nicer to people on ESA this would still leave those who have been found fit for work abandoned and dumped onto mainstream unemployment benefits alongside those whose condition is at yet undiagnosed. On twitter yesterday MIND claimed they couldn’t call for sanctions to be scrapped for people who are unemployed because it wasn’t a key issue. If your mental health condition isn’t bad enough to be able to claim ESA then tough shit seems to be the charity’s response if you get sanctioned.
The thing is, naked profiteering aside, MIND are not bastards. They have dedicated front line workers who don’t get paid anywhere near enough and are sincere committed people. Workers who would probably agree that benefit sanctions and the Work Capability Assessment should be scrapped immediately. They see the carnage that is being caused everyday.
The problem is that reports like these are overseen and commissioned by highly paid charity executives who live lifestyles that their service users and lowest paid staff can only dream of. These lifestyles lead them to make assumptions based on their own distorted experience of the world. Over time they become unable to avoid inflicting solutions to the problems faced by working class people based on their own middle class values because that is all they know.
It is near impossible for someone on a huge salary who does a job they love to understand why someone may not feel up to working at present. That, to someone like MIND Chief Executive Paul Farmer, really does seem like madness. Likewise charity bosses have no real understanding of why it might be dangerous to allow other bosses to snoop around your health records. Bosses think bosses are lovely people who would never abuse their powers – or at least not without a damn good reason. And bosses know best, they tell each other that all the time.
Charity bosses in particular have their own view of themselves as benevolent experts confirmed everyday by politicians and journalists who would far rather talk to them than someone on the dole. Their whopping salaries provide further proof of their own ability. As do arse-licking middle managers who continually tell them how wonderful and clever they are, to their faces at least. So Paul Farmer must be is right because he’s Paul Farmer and MIND are right because they are MIND and anyone criticising them just doesn’t understand. Because they are not experts.
That’s how MIND alongside other disability and anti-poverty charities can so easily dismiss the demands of grassroots campaigns comprising of disabled people and benefit claimants. Groups which are more or less united in calling for benefit sanctions and the WCA to be scrapped completely. These people are not experts. At worst they might even be service users. And you don’t want them getting too uppity. Before you know where you are you’ll have working class people running organisations together to address working class problems. Then there’d be nothing at all for poor Paul Farmer to do. He might even have to get a real job.
Different forms of Government Propaganda began and ended the year. We saw delays, backlogs, more cuts, more campaigns and direct actions. We reproduce some of the DPAC actions, research and call outs from 2014. Highlights included the Westminster Abbey Occupation against the closure of ILF as part of the #saveilf campaign, lowlights included the court case that arrived at the decision that Penning had taken appropriate process into account by saying that ILF users could be entitled to less under local authorities. Chaos with the DWP, PIP, ESA was compounded by misinformation, dodgy stats , backlogs and increasing sanctions. The brilliant Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition against Cuts achieved the abolition of ‘care’ charges by their local authority-proving it can be done. Esther McVey was awarded Scrooge of the year. DPAC was threatened with legal action for our support of the Anthony Kletzander campaign -in response we increased the campaign, and the relationship in the propaganda against disabled people between the DWP and the Mail was finally exposed
News that the UNCRPD Committee had initiated its first ever inquiry into grave and systematic violations of the UN Convention against the UK identified how far our disability rights and independent living had been eroded by the Coalition-although the Mail didnt seem to like it much
Our constant court cases against the DWP continued, and we have more lined up for this year too- yes, we could be talking to you Motability!
We look forward to 2015 and a change in the regime that has seen the poor grow poorer, while the richest grew richer. A year in which we launch Who2vote4? and the DPAC revenge tour. We will continue to fight for #saveilf with an event on 6th Jan at the House of Commons and an online twitter event.
Here’s to a better year in 2015 with thanks to all our members and supporters. Keep up with news in 2015 by subscribing to posts through our website www.dpac.uk.net or follow us on twitter @Dis_ppl_protest
Some selected actions of DPAC in 2014
January saw the posting of a call for those who were waiting for PIP due to backlogs. This post has received over 40,000 views,shares and many comments. The situation has now been described as a backlog that , at the current rate , could take 42 years to clear. For those claiming ‘reforms’ are working have a look to see that they are not: https://dpac.uk.net/2014/01/have-you-waited-months-for-a-pip-assessment/ and let’s not forget the backlog in ESA either-in short complete chaos for disabled people.
In ‘Austerity Street: the real impacts’ we reproduced some of the stories we had received from those left without cash and homes via sanctions, delays and backlogs. This was in response to Love Production’s poverty porn , Benefits Street, part of the media’s continued demonization regime -the campaign incorporated a twitter fest against the format of biased programming. We supported our partners in Canada Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty (SCAP) and Ontario Coalition Aginst Poverty (OCAP). In an international campaign against increasing homelessness. Austerity is global. We supported Boycott workfare against CAPITA cashing in on poverty.
Through the excellent work of Nick Dilworth we exposed more BBC media double dealing and the fact that they weren’t publicizing the 88% success rates of those claiming ESA and asked ‘Are the DWP failing apart at every level? When a freedom of information response incorrectly claimed that PIP was subjected to sanctions. In another they claimed that the cap would be cut for those without children, both were incorrect. With Inclusion London we campaigned against the Care Act’s exclusion of ‘independent living’ and DPAC also joined Hands off London Transport against ticket office closures, as well as regional Rail protests
February We joined the many direct actions against the removal of legal aid. Raquel Rolnik ‘s report on the bedroom tax is published and recommends immediate suspension of the bedroom tax. The Government’s response is to accuse her of giving sacrifices to Marx and telling her to ‘sort out her own country’. We republish the excellent ‘Why the rise of UKIP is dangerous for disabled people’ and receive the usual abuse from Kippers proving the point. DPAC, Black Triangle and Wow publish a joint statement on Atos exit strategy , calling again for an end to the WCA. We expose how 9 out of 10 sanctions are dismissed when challenged
March More direct actions against proposed cuts in legal aid for judicial review.We publish ‘Punching Holes in Austerity’ an insightful analysis of DPAC and direct actions. DPAC supports #stopchanges2A2W against punitive changes in Access to Work. We publish an update on Anthony Kletzander and questions for HSE in Ireland with ENIL , a story of human rights abuse in Dublin, Ireland, a stand that we would later find invoked a threat of legal action against one of our co-founders.
DPAC joins protests against DWP and ATOS country wide. Protests that were reminiscent of the very first DPAC protests against Atos carried out by DPAC from 2011 onwards, culminating in the 2012 DPAC Atos games that saw Atos tarnished forever. DPAC leads direct actions and online protests against the despised disability Con-fident, leading to the highest number of tweets and retweets ever, exposing the scheme as no more than a Government gloss while they were cutting access to work and removing the means for disabled people to work. We produce a critical analysis of Pennings impact assessment regarding ILF. We reproduce the piece by John Pring asking ‘Where was your MP during the Wow Debate’
April The brilliant Ellen Clifford travels to Canada to embark on a successful speaking tour with raise the rates. We hold a well attended DPAC Grassroots Fightback conference. DPAC, Inclusion London, Equal Lives and the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People promote the #saveilf postcard campaign. Top Corrie stars support the postcard campaign to #saveilf. DPAC supports Lifeworks and protests against cuts to mental health support. DPAC gives its response to Labour on reform of WCA
May DPAC releases its research documents for download. DPAC and ILF users block the DWP in protest. We learn that disabled students allowances are now under threat of cuts. DPAC publishes a powerful piece by one of our readers that sums up many peoples’ feelings: ‘I’ll never forgive or forget what this Government has done to me and thousands of others‘. We pay homage to the strength of Quiet Riot, celebrate the #dpactour and the success of the Freedom Riders.
June The Independent Living Fund’s Birthday protest happens in June with lots of action outside the DWP. We see JSA benefit sanctions sky rocket under the coalition Government. More actions happen to fight the bedroom tax.
We publish a piece by Angela 28 on how ‘care’ support has been threatened and why that threatens independent living and rights– legal representation was found for many people, but we were aware that this was happening to many more people through emails to dpac mail. Unlike some organisations we attempt to challenge these instances and reject the rhetoric that there is more ‘choice and control’ for disabled people.
At the end of June DPAC with UKUNCUT, and Occupy carry out a daring occupation of Westminster Abbey , after months of planning to highlight the #saveilf campaign. There were 3 police to every protester , and while we had no support from the dear old church , messages of support and publicity poured in
July We publish a joint statement in response to the Work and Pensions Committee on the WCA from DPAC, Black Triangle, the Mental Health Resistance Network, Pats petition, Wow and New Approach in which we again say the WCA should be scrapped.
An ILF user makes a plea to Disability Rights UK (DRUK) on ILF after he was denied the right to speak at their independent living conference. DRUK did not feel the need to offer any response. In Disability Rights UK : independent Living or new visions in Neo-Liberalism we ask why the DRUK ‘independent living ‘ conference was sponsored by an organisation running institutions, segregated schooling and ‘hospitals for those with mental health issues. We also launched a highly successful twitter campaign asking the same questions, again DRUK did not feel they owed disabled people any response to this outrage.
DPAC highlights more chaos at the DWP on appeals and sanctions. John McDonnell launches an Early Day Motion to #saveilf. Positive updates and actions on the WCA court case regarding mental health claimants by the Mental Health Resistance Network. We ask that people write to IDS to raise issues happening regarding mental health.
August Rethink calls people with mental health issues a ‘disease burden’ Mental Health Resistance Network respond to the outrage. We call for a stop to discrimination for those transferring from DLA to PIP who do not get backdated payments. DPAC continues to support anti-fracking protests with Reclaim the power.
We republish the excellent Nick Dilworth’s piece on how the media are ignoring what’s happening to disabled people https://dpac.uk.net/2014/08/a-national-scandal-4-million-people-face-chaos-in-this-country-and-are-ignored-by-the-media/
ILF user John Kelly speaks to BBC on the impacts of the potential loss of ILF. We ask what happens when ILF funds are not ring fenced to local authorities
September sees a national day of Protest against sanctions, bedroom tax and benefit caps.
The fantastic Brian Hilton produces a set of pics for party conference season on #saveilf. DPAC crash the Tory Party Conference via a successful tweet attack and in person. We do the same to Labour.
We publish The Great Farago: UKIP sleight of hand and receive more abuse from Kippers, Richard Howitt Labour MEP quotes the piece and receives even more abuse.
The first inkling that the DWP are wrongly asking those in the ESA support group to attend work focused interviews comes to our notice.
DPAC is threatened with legal action for supporting Anthony Kletzander and publicising the abuse of his human rights in Ireland, our response is to publish an interview with Anthony’s parents on the injustice Anthony and his family have endured.
October We reblog the excellent Johnny Void piece on the boss of Maximus https://dpac.uk.net/2014/10/meet-richard-a-montoni-the-five-million-dollar-maximus-boss-here-to-fleece-the-uks-benefits-system/.
We publish an open letter to Freud who declared that disabled people can work for less than minimum wage. DPAC and Occupy pay another visit to the DWP Caxton House building for ‘Freud must go!’ protest
In Secrets and Lies :maximus the new leader of the inhumans we ask why Disability Rights UK have agreed to a) be part of the Maximus testing process on the WCA and b) why they’ve teamed up with Unum and other insurance companies to develop a TV program showing how much better off disabled people will be if they take out private insurance- with user-led disability organisations like these we dont need enemies.
ILF users return to court to challenge the DWP on ILF. A successful #saveilf vigil happens with road blocks, many messages of support and some great pics.
Welfare assistance fund is next under threat of closure. Campaign to save it is launched.
One of our favourite reports of the year : IDS is chased around a building to drown out shouts of murderer at Ipswich- congratulations to the local dpac group for that one!
We ask people to come forward to launch a legal challenge on cuts to the disabled student allowance
£86 million goes missing from Pudsley’s children in need account BBC to blame for mislaying -complainants are actually advised to write to Pudsley via his BBC email
DWP increase attacks on disabled benefit recipients with claims they can harress them off benefits. We put out an urgent call-out https://dpac.uk.net/2014/11/urgent-people-awaiting-wca-assessments-particularly-in-birmingham-please-read/
Work Providers A4E are exposed again in relation to ESA and workfare. The Rev Paul Nicolson wins in court against council tax. Class War’s continuing protests against ‘poor doors’ get to the authorities who make arrests- and Boris is burnt. Meanwhile DPAC discovers Motability’s sneaky backdoor changes to individuals needing to be in work to qualify for support https://dpac.uk.net/2014/11/motability-and-the-deserving-and-undeserving-charity-not-rights/
DPAC launches an Open letter to Ed, Kate and Rachel on ILF– we’re still waiting for a response
Hammersmith and Fulham abolish home ‘care’ charges, showing it can be done. Congratulations for a great campaign to the excellent Kevin Caulfield and Debbie Domb and all at Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition against Cuts
Esther McVey is named scrooge of the year, which we though was a little too kind to the creature
Unsurprisingly the Work and Pensions report slammed the Government ‘mismanagament of Access to Work – the stop the changes to Access to Work campaign continues.
Questions are asked on the Government costs in fighting against disabled peoples’equality
The link between the DWP and the Mail propaganda is finally nailed and exposed as the DWP is caught out https://dpac.uk.net/2014/12/dwp-caught-giving-disability-propaganda-to-daily-mail/
Please Help Us. Save Our Independent Living Fund
We, disabled people, family, friends, supporters and allies, are asking for your help. We are asking you to pledge to keep the Independent Living Fund open to existing applicants, pending a review of Independent Living for all disabled people.
As you may know, on the 8th of December at the High Court, a ruling was given against our challenge to the closure of the ILF , and we were not given leave to appeal.
The closure of the ILF effectively signals the end of the right to independent living for disabled people in the UK. Whilst never perfect the ILF represents a model of support that has enabled thousands of disabled people to enjoy meaningfully lives and to contribute to society as equal citizens.
Since the closure of the Fund to new applicants in December 2010 we have seen disabled people left with their most basic needs unmet and unable to seek employment, to volunteer or go into education or simply even to leave the house.
But we have vowed to fight on against the ILF closure, disabled people will not be pushed back into the margins of society, we will not go back into the institutions, our place is in the community alongside our family and friends and neighbours and we are fighting to stay.
We ask you to imagine what it will be like, for people who have been enabled to live a full life, be with friends and family, go out, work, study and enjoy recreation, to have all that taken away, and find themselves trapped inside, all day, every day, with choices over what they do, when and how, removed.
To severely disabled people the Independent Living Fund represents the difference between having an existence, and having a life.
Please Ed, keep our Independent Living Fund open. Keep Our Lives Open. It means the world to us.
to sign as an organisation or individual please go to
or email: email@example.com
deadline for all signatures is 12pm Tues 16th Jan
Lets talk mental health, raise awareness, challenge stigma and discrimination.
World Mental Health Day is on Friday 10th October 2014.
You can follow World Mental Health Day on twitter
Depression, anxiety, panic attacks are some of the most common mental health conditions a GP will see.
One in 10 children will develop a mental health condition in some point in their childhood.
9 out of 10 people with mental distress has suffered discrimination from family, friends, and other groups of society.
Depression affects 1 in 5 older people living in the community, 2 in 5 older people living in residential care.
1 in 20 women are in secure care purely because of self-harm i.e. no danger to others/index offence.
Higher rates of self-harm generally are clearly linked to loss of support and attacks on social justice on all fronts.
Suicide rates show that men are three times as likely to die by suicide than women. (suicide statistics report 2014)
Depression is a serious illness, people suffering cannot snap out of it cheer up, or see the brightness of the sun, but dreadful disabling darkness which is a constant struggle.
Only 10 per cent of doctors have any mental health training, mental health training is not compulsory and doctors can opt out of this training
64 per cent of claimants in the work related activity group of E.S.A who have been sanctioned to date have a mental health condition.
70% of working age adults with a mental health condition in England are unemployed.
Only 8.9% of adults in contact with secondary mental health services are in paid employment
The WCA Judicial review court case for mental health claimants was ruled discriminatory and placed claimants at a substantial disadvantage as it did not take into account a claimants suicide risk and use regulations 29/35 or that a claimants mental health condition can fluctuate, or that a claimant may lack the insight into their condition and cannot accurately report how their impairment impacts on their daily lives or how it impacts on their capacity to work.
Many claimants have died due to the stress, fear and uncertainty with the work capability assessment. We don’t know how many, the government refuses to release these figures.
Many have died due to the welfare reforms due to cuts in benefits, being sanctioned and left in destitution and dire poverty. Again, the government refuses to release figures of how many people have died, or made homeless.
Those are the numbers. Hard, stark figures. But they only give a clue as to what might be really happening in the real world that people live in.
That’s where we need you to help out, we want to compile a report of the real world experiences of people with Mental Health conditions.
If you have a mental health condition and you wish to share your testimony with us, please either email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or if you wish to submit your testimony as a comment at the end of this page.
Your testimony might be about:
Your experience of living with a mental health condition
Your experiences of local mental health service provision
Your experience with housing provision and access to local services
Your experience of the Work Capability Assessment as a claimant with a mental heath condition
Or there may be something else that you wish to tell us.
You might be a mental health service user, a friend or family member of someone who as a mental health condition, a mental health campaigner or a mental health professional. As long as its related to mental health we are interested in your experiences and views.
We will compile the testimonies into a document for publication, each testimonies will be anonymised so that your personal details are removed and we may edit down some of the testimonies but other than that we will not change the text.
We will not disclose your personal details to anyone without first getting your permission to do so, with the only exception to this being that if you send us text that leads us to believe you are at risk of harming yourself or others, we reserve the right to contact emergency services.
Some testimonies that we’ve already received:
Bus Passes for people with mental health conditions:
“I live in Bromley, and the freedom pass bus form has changed since two years ago, two years ago the cmht stamped the form and cpn signed it, you needed a supporting letter.
Now you need to describe how your illness affects you day to day, get a supporting letter from the mental health team to explain illness and how it affects ability to drive, list medication, put in a proof of id with a picture on it driving licence passport and many people do not have either.
You need a letter from the last 12 months from the DVLA saying that you cannot drive due to condition and reasons why and that is automatic qualification you do not need to fill the rest of the form out.
The form from Bromley is 6 pages long, you have a month to fill it out and may be assessed by and OT in a face to face assessment. Two years ago the bus pass forms were sent out in November/early December, they have moved that forwards to middle of September. My friend who has schizophrenia dropped her form back yesterday with letter from psychiatrist, her care co ordinator said a care plan was enough and refused to write a letter for her, how many will be in this position?
The form has tightened up from two years ago, if on pip dla high mobility automatic entitlement to pass, my friend did ask the civic centre how long would it take to process her application and they said it could take as much as five months!
Bromley has the highest application of freedom passes for older people in the borough, they are about to make a further £60m cuts here after £65m of cuts done to date”
“So much of benefits descriptors are not MH specific enough or are squeezed into LD i.e setting an alarm clock & people have to make MH ‘fit’ into physical problems.
A major issue is obtaining letters/reports when discharged given MH services are now very short term, you present and if ‘serious’ enough get diagnosed/medicated/CBT’d for a while then off you go till the next crisis. 70% of MH SU’s are unemployed through multiple disadvantages which means after discharge it’s quite likely to remain on benefits long term. Yet MH services make no provision for continuing letters/reports to be made available.
A really nasty underhand card being played out within MH services by commissioners/front line staff is to reclassify people as ‘personality disordered’ because that justifies discharge and not offering support because PD is viewed as pretty much untreatable (despite DH rhetoric). People have found themselves reclassified overnight to this diagnosis and this magically coincides with being discharged. The line of preventing “dependency” is also used to justify mass CMHT discharges instead of being honest and saying it’s down to cuts.”
Living with someone who has severe depression:
“I cannot pretend representing here all the partners, families of people who suffer from mental illness. My experience is with severe depression. What I still find the most difficult, is to comprehend what depression is. I can understand what a toothache feels like, or a headache, but the insufferable pain I witnessed for the past 6 years is as incomprehensible to me as it was on the first day. I can see the pain, the drawn features, the hand holding the face, all signs that the demons are torturing him, but I cannot get close enough to know what it feels like. And something in me does not what to get too close, in case too much empathy would also make me vulnerable to depression. I need to stay strong for both of us. And for my children too, it brought fears of their own vulnerability
I also became during these six years the repository of all the memories we shared together and that he had forgotten. And it was a lonely place to be.
Fortunately, he is getting better, and we can share again the memories of a bygone time. I can see a point where we will start looking at this period as a new beginning. We have not reached the end of the road yet, and there will be more bumps on the way but suddenly there is the prospect of a new future, even if it is with depression as a fellow traveller. “
My wilderness years:
“This is very difficult for me to write the memories are still very raw and painful, this is the first time I’ve told anyone what it was like, and I’m doing it so that it might help others.
I had had a severe breakdown in 2000, and I spent the next several years hiding from the world, I gave up work, let everything go and just basically slept all day. I’d lost all sense of caring about anything. With no income coming in the mortgage and loans stopped being paid, credit cards got maxed out, I stopped opening letters and answering the phone and I eventually had my house repossessed and got evicted.
I was lucky in one sense, my mother took me in and so I wasn’t’ out on the street, and my family were very supportive and understanding. I realise that that doesn’t happen to everyone and I still believe that if it wasn’t there for me I would have been sleeping on the streets.
You know the oddest thing about it all was that I still didn’t think that I had mental illness! I didn’t associate it with myself, I just thought that I was tired and if I rested a bit longer I would get my energy back and get myself back on my feet.
One thing you need to understand if you haven’t had clinical depression, is that there is no sense of time passing, you can live in a sort of limbo where minutes become hours become days become weeks become months become years, and you don’t really have any sense of that. You don’t really have any sense of anything, taste, sound smell, feeling, are all deadened senses. The world is in black and white, in a kind of fog.
So I moved in with my mother, and said to her I was tired and I needed to rest and then I would get back to normal. She was fantastic, she was patient, she was loving, she was there for me.
She gently said that I ought to go and see a doctor and I said no I’m alright, I’m tired I just need to rest a little longer, I’m not ill.
She would say the same thing to me every so often and I would give the same reply, I don’t know how many times this conversation was repeated.
Then I explained later to her that I was scared of going to see the doctor because he would tell me not to be lazy and tell me off.
So I carried on like that, after my house had been sold and the loans and credit cards payed off, there was some money left, and I lived off that as long as I could. People suggested that I should go onto benefits but I was too scared to do that, the thought of going to see people at the jobcentre who would tell me I had to get a job and and shout at me that I was being lazy.
This carried on for, I don’t know how long to be truthful, its back to having no sense of time passing, and I have little memory of those years at all.
But eventually the money run out. I had just enough self respect left to realise that I couldn’t bring myself to live off my retired mother. And having no other option, I applied for benefits and went to see my GP. I can’t remember what year this was, but I have clear flashbacks of moments from those times.
I remember phoning up to apply for benefits, I thought I should apply for JSA, but the lady on the phone asked about my situation and said I would be better off applying for ESA. I said, I’m not really ill, I’m just tired, I’m going to see a doctor I’m going to be better soon. But the lady on the phone said, well why don’t you apply for ESA and then when you are better you can move onto jobseekers. I thought she was very kind and asked her to send me the forms.
So then I made an appointment to see my GP, I was terrified. I knew, I was certain, it was going to go badly that he would tell me to stop being lazy and that he was going to shout at me even for wasting his time. But I had told my mother I would go to see him and so I did.
He didn’t shout, he didn’t tell me I was lazy. He listened. And then he asked me a series of questions – I know now they were a set of screening questions to see how severe my condition was and if I was suicidal. And then we discussed things that we could do about it, to help me.
After we had the discussion and I had a few things to try out, like he suggested trying to go out every day and we had a discussion about medication, and I was going to try out citalopram (which I still take to this day, its very good), he said come back and see me every month and we’ll see how you are getting on.
That day at the doctors was several years ago, and since that day, everything has slowly steadily and sometimes painfully, been getting a little better, and a little better. Its been a slow but sometimes wonderful recovery, I’m not ‘well’ yet, and I may never be fully recovered.
What I have done though, is learned coping mechanisms, so that my depression (and later I discovered) severe anxiety disorder, can be managed. And I’m using those coping mechanisms, that toolbox in my head, so that I can, in spite of my impairments, take part in the world around me and I’m even starting to learn to enjoy it. Sometimes.
And I have hope for a continuation of my recovery, as I get better and more practised at using my coping mechanisms I can do a little more, a little more and stretch my boundaries. Gently and with tolerance to myself I’m learning to not only live with my mental health condition but to have a life with my mental health condition.
There is much more to write, I would like to write more about my recovery but writing this far has been exhausting enough! I may return another day and write part 2 about that recovery.
But mostly I would like people who have mental distress and who are suffering alone with it, to read the message I most want to send:
You can’t deal with this alone. Please reach out for help. There is good help available and it can make a real difference to your life. It did for my life, it can for yours.”