Oct 262013
 

A new harrowing but unsurprising report by the Citizens Advice Bureau on sanctions found that:

 –60% of those sanctioned had been receiving JSA, but a further 33% were unfit for work and were receiving ESA.

-40% of respondents said they had not received a letter from the Job Centre informing them of the sanction.

 –Almost a quarter of respondents did not know why they had been sanctioned. 29% of respondents said they had been sanctioned because they had not done enough to look for work. However, many people commented that the sanction had been applied unfairly, when they had in fact looked for work or attended an interview as required, because of a very narrow interpretation of the rules or for reasons that were beyond their control.

-More than half the respondents said they had not received any information about how to appeal against the sanction. Nonetheless, three-fifths (62%) of respondents had appealed. One third of these appeals had been successful and a further 23% of those who had appealed were still waiting to hear the outcome. Administrative delays in receiving formal notification of the sanction meant that a number of people had been refused leave to appeal because they were out of time, adding further to the perception that they had been treated unfairly.

-The majority of respondents had been sanctioned for four weeks or less, but almost one third had been sanctioned for 10 weeks or more. The average duration of the sanction was 8 weeks.

-Two-thirds of respondents had been left with no income after the sanction was imposed. Those with children reported they only had child benefit and child tax credits.

-Just under a quarter (23%) of those sanctioned were living in households with children. More than 10% of respondents were lone parents.

-Respondents coped with the loss of income by borrowing money from friends and family (80%), from the bank or on their credit card (8%) or from a pay day loan company (9%).

-They also cut down on food (71%), heating (49%) and travel (47%). Almost a quarter (24%) had applied for a food parcel. Some respondents had been left to scrounge for food from skips or bins, or had had to resort to begging to feed themselves.

 –The sanction had a severe impact on the mental and physical health of many respondents. Existing health conditions were exacerbated because of poor diet and stress, and a number of respondents said they had attempted suicide or that they felt suicidal.

 –There were also serious effects on the wider family, particularly children, because of the loss of income. There were stresses also on adult relationships: one respondent said ‘the strain has quite literally smashed our family to pieces’.

-Many respondents felt they had been unjustly treated because of the Job Centre’s own administrative errors or because a sanction had been imposed unreasonably given their circumstances.

Comments included:

I had no income, and had to borrow from my parents (who are also on benefits and don’t get much income. It has affected me mentally, and I am severely depressed and having anxiety attacks

Starved and lived off what I had. Scrounged food from bins and only left the house after darkness fell. Had no electric or gas. Struggled and went without nothing for 3 days

I’m worried benefit won’t be sorted in time for rent as this could make us all homeless yet again. Last time we were homeless was a result of fleeing domestic violence and me and my children were put in B&B.

Read the full report at https://skydrive.live.com/view.aspx?resid=CB5ED957FE0B849F!350&app=WordPdf&authkey=!AJTbB-gzwsSCayQ

Sep 282013
 

Just less than 3 years ago disabled people marched at the Tory party conference to protest against austerity cuts using the slogan CUTS KILL. Even though it was obvious that the plans outlined by millionaire George Osborne in the June 2010 Spending Review would not be good for disabled people even we did not envisage just how fast our welfare state would be destroyed by the Condems or how many disabled people would be pushed to suicide or death through the malicious Condem cuts.

 

We could not have imagined that 3 years later we’d be getting daily emails from disabled people and pregnant disabled people who were actually starving and being left without food, money or access to any hardship payments. We knew but couldn’t have possibly imagined that disabled people would have their benefits stopped for weeks and in some cases months without any means to support themselves other than possible prostitution, drug dealing or theft. What do you do when you are already living on the breadline with no savings and your only income is taken away? We never imagined we’d read about children, disabled and non-disabled being left without food.

 

It’s hard to believe it’s the UK we’re talking about yet this is what life has become for many in the 21st century in the 7th richest nation in the world. We never imagined that we’d go so far backwards that all of the gains made for disabled people’s rights over the last 30 years would effectively just be swept away as disabled people are vilified as shirkers and scroungers.

 

10,000 Cuts and Counting is a single issue protest against the now discredited computerised Work Capability Assessment executed by ATOS. It has pushed so many disabled people to suicide or death through fear and stress that DWP have now stopped collecting any statistics on the death count but between January 2011 and November 2011, some 10,600 claims ended and a date of death was recorded within six weeks of the claim end. DPAC and other campaigners are proud to have destroyed the ATOS brand name but there is no point in just replacing ATOS with another corporate monster and the WCA must be scrapped in its entirity. Why should any private firm rake in millions and millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to provide a totally flawed service which could be provided by civil servants for a fraction of the cost as has been the case until recently? The WCA was put in place to cut the number of claimants by 1 million either through miracle cures or death it seems.

 

One of the next major battles disabled people face is the scrapping of Disability Living Allowance put in place to meet the extra costs of being disabled. This too has been designed with only one aim in mind to cut costs and remove 20% of disabled people from entitlement. Many disabled people rely on this income to enable them to work and will no longer be able to if it is lost to them. Even more will be left trapped in their homes with no means to go out.

 

For anyone who thinks this doesn’t matter to them 6 out of 7 disabled people have an acquired impairment through long term illness or an accident. Most of you will also get older and so how older disabled people are treated should be of great concern to you – it’s your future. Let’s not be polite older disabled people are often treated worse than animals in the UK getting 4 x 15 minutes ‘pop ins’ if they’re lucky and imprisoned in their homes and some left soaking wet the rest of the time.

 

This is the fate now awaiting younger disabled people from 2015 when without any vote in parliament the Independent Living Fund will be closed leaving local councils to try to replace this funding with ever shrinking budgets and different eligibility criteria.

 

At the same time they say they want disabled people to work but without this vital support even if found fit for work they are unable to. The Remploy factories have been decimated in the Condem attacks against disabled people supported by some organisations who purport to campaign for us. At last count only about 3% of those made redundant had secured mainstream employment but given the barriers to gaining and keeping employment that disabled people face this was always likely. To this we need to add the benefit cap which is in effect a futher cut.

 

The Bedroom Tax so loudly condemned by the UN rapporteur Raquel Rolnik existed in the private rented sector since 2008 and Labour who introduced this have singularly forgotten to mention that they originally also planned to roll it out in April 2010 to the social housing sector. None of us should forget that most of these horrors now affecting both disabled and other people were in many cases introduced by Labour and it is time for all of us all to start to tell them what they must do if they want to have a chance of being elected.

 

It is also way past time for the larger unions to stop pussy-footing around, stop unconditionally supporting a neo-liberal Labour party and force them to act as an effective opposition and outline their real policies. The unions and TUC should have already called a general strike but need to do so now urgently. It is time to add industrial power to community activism if any vestiges of our welfare state are to be salvaged for our children.

 

Disabled people and others also face a further raft of cuts and attacks to the NHS and in particular mental health services, to health and safety at work legislation, to Access to Work funding, to secure employment and not zero hours contracts, to accessible transport, to accessible housing, a right to mainstream education, cuts to council tax benefit, all coupled with cuts to CAB services, legal aid cuts and lastly the introduction of the Lobbying Bill which regardless of it’s eventual outcome will not silence us in any way. We are now many thousands and we will be heard.

This piece is also due to be published in the Morning Star

 

 

Apr 132011
 

For immediate release

Photo opportunity: Thursday 14th April, 2.30pm at Daily Mail Headquarters,

Young Street (off Kensington High Street), London, W8 5TT

On Thursday 14th April, disabled people, people with illnesses, parents, people on low wages, unemployed people, carers and others will protest at the Daily Mail Headquarters. The colourful noise demonstration will demand an end to the defamation of people who need state welfare support to survive.

The protest takes place as part of the third national day of action against benefit cuts. The aim is to challenge the legitimacy of the government’s drive to move claimants off Incapacity Benefit, putting around 1600 people a day through a medical test run by private company Atos Origin. The test has been widely discredited by the CAB, Child Poverty Action Group, and others. A damning CAB report concluded “”Doctors pay more attention to the computer than the client”.

Yet the Daily Mail has been using the results of Atos Origin’s computer-based tests to mount a campaign against disabled people and people with illnesses claiming Incapacity Benefit. Their lurid claims have included “76% of those who say they’re sick can work” and “Thousands in Britain on incapacity benefit because they are too fat to work”.

Linda Burnip from Disabled People Against Cuts says:

“The lies and half truths that the Daily Mail has published have resulted in an increase of hate crime attacks against disabled people. We are not prepared to sit back and allow them to continue to peddle their disgusting disablist propaganda unchallenged.”

Anne Novis MBE, has issued this call to action:

“Yes you, and you and you, all of you who stand by and say nothing or encourage such vicious and undeserving attacks are just as responsible for what is happening. Those who stand by and allow this are equivalent to those who stood by when disabled people and Jews were targeted by the Nazis for annihilation. Too harsh for you? Its our lives we are fighting for, our very lives, some have already killed themselves due to what is happening, many more are considering it. Will you stand by?”

Martin Campbell of London Coalition Against Poverty has said:

“The Daily Mail needs to know the disgust and anger its fear-mongering lies provoke. All those who experience the stress, insecurity, illness and sometimes destitution that result from Atos Origin’s disastrous computerised “medical assessment” have a clear message for the Mail: Stop the lies! Stop the Defamation!”

Notes:

1.    The Day of Action has been called by networks of claimants’ groups around the country, including Disabled People Against Cuts. The first two days of protest against benefit cuts have seen demonstrations, meetings, unemployed discos, public pantomimes and occupations in cities across the UK. Atos Origin have been forced to close offices, protesters have gathered inside and outside workfare sharks A4e and demonstrations have taken place from Downing Street to local town centres such as Lydney and Crawley.

2.    Protests will take place in 12 cities across the UK, and include an online action for those not able to travel by the “Armchair Army”.

3.    Since 1 April 2011, a mass assessment of Incapacity Benefit claimants is being rolled out across the country. This despite the CAB condemning the replacement “Employment and Support Allowance” (ESA) and the medical tests run by multinational company Atos as “not fit for purpose”; and strong criticisms from Child Poverty Action Group and others. “Doctors produce inaccurate reports .. reporting incorrectly what the claimant has said about their own conditions and taking their answers out of context.” and “Doctors pay more attention to the computer than the client;” [CAB report 2009].

4.    The tests do not work: One in four ESA decisions are appealed and the CAB’s evidence suggests that 70% of appeals are successful.

5.    The Daily Mail has led the propaganda against the most vulnerable society, which has made these attacks on benefits for sick and disabled people possible:

o    Half a million claiming sickness benefits could start work immediately, says employment minister

o    Sickness benefits crackdown begins as up to two million claimants face being stripped of payments

o    76% of those who say they’re sick ‘can work’: Tests weed out most seeking incapacity benefit

o    75% of incapacity claimants are fit to work: Tough new benefits test weeds out the workshy

o    The sick man of Europe: UK tops chart for number of young people off work claiming incapacity benefit

o    Thousands in Britain on incapacity benefit because they are too fat to work

o    Number of drug addicts and alcoholics on incapacity benefit is on rise

o    Nine out of ten on incapacity benefits ‘are fit to return to work’

o    Sicknote generation: Half a million under-35s ‘too sick to work’ are claiming incapacity benefits