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

Oct 202013
 

As many of you know the DWP are appealing against the decision that the WCA is detrimental to those with mental health issues. DPAC wants to be there to support the Mental Health Resistance Network who originally won the case

The vigil will happen outside the front entrance, Royal Courts of Justice (The Strand, London, WC2A 2LL) on Monday 21st October at 12 noon until 2 pm.

The appeal will be heard in courtroom 72 Royal Courts of Justice, the case starts at 10.30 am.  

The WCA is detrimental to everyone, but the obvious added stress, anxiety and lack of Atos professionalism in gaining supporting evidence is particularly severe for those with mental health issues.

This system is breaking and we must keep up the pressure for the inhumane WCA to be scrapped completely, as DPAC has always argued.

Please check www.tfl.gov.uk for more travel information 

Accessible toilets around the royal courts:

–         There is an accessible toilet outside Embankment tube station and inside Charing Cross station.

–         There are toilets opposite the Royal Courts but these are not accessible

–         There are also accessible toilets inside the Royal Courts themselves – see page 10 of this booklet: http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/courts/rcj/facilities-and-access/Facilitiesservicesleaflet2011.pdf

 

 

Oct 142013
 

TV interested in Atos experiences deaths/suicides/impacts

 

Lucia Ring-Watkins (China TV) is looking to interview the family of somebody who passed away shortly after an ATOS exam and/or a disabled person who has been affected by the ATOS exam for a short news report. Interview will be paired with one from Dr Simon Duffy to look at impact of welfare reform on disabled people.

 

Please call Lucia direct on 07531417686

Or email

luciacctv@hotmail.com

Sep 292013
 

Video from Reel News – they will have a regular film night at The Grosvenor pub in Stockwell on the third Thrusday of every month…this month it’s on October 17th, the evening of the teachers strike, so they’d be doing an anti-cuts special and show films from the various strikes going on and  the DPAC actions – and have a discussion about how we can do more to link struggles together. “Obviously DPAC are at the forefront of all this, so would a few of you fancy coming down to take part? It’s relatively informal, but we usually get at least 20-30 people and often more, and stuff does get sorted out over a pint – it’s also wheelchair accessible.”

(there is a caption and transcript option (next to the clock icon) on the video)

​ATOS Healthcare carries out disability assessments on behalf of the Cameron government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).  Currently, ATOS is being investigated by the National Audit Office (NAO) in a in a a major “value for money study”.  Meanwhile, since the inception of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), 10,600 people have died within six weeks of being deemed ‘fit for work’ by ATOS healthcare professionals.

Human Cost documents ‘10,000 Cuts & Counting’, held on the 28th of September, 2013 at Parliament Square,  a ceremony of remembrance and solidarity for those who have had their lives devastated by Cameron’s austerity programmes

​Human Cost – #10kCuts #Atos from You and I Films on Vimeo.

Stay in touch with the campaign at http://www.10kcuts.org

Wow Petition http://wowpetition.com

Follow our work on Twitter @youandifilms

Please help support our work by donating to Our Vimeo Tip Jar.

 

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

 

 

Sep 272013
 

While New Labour are urging the condemns to sack Atos, let’s not lose sight of the real issue-that is that the WCA is not fit for purpose and must be scrapped!

The report contains coverage from the UK media put together in one place. It has hundreds of entries over the years up to Sept 2013

See: http://www.scribd.com/doc/170710160/DPAC-Report-Work-Capability-Assessment-UK-Media-Coverage

To read/download the report- along with other DPAC research reports on ILF, WCA and IDS lies.

Sep 052013
 

Comment posted to Sue Marsh’s blog earlier from DPAC and Black Triangle

“We’re really unclear on what is happening here- Sue you are going to meet Hoban and claiming to represent ‘vulnerable’ disabled people, as you like to say-is this correct?  We are astonished at your lack of understanding on this whole area re WCA e.g.  no mention of  medical documentation support, number of deaths under this system, sanctions, legal cases that have been brought forward etc. You also consistently take a medical model approach to everything as well as claim expert status in speaking for disabled people. Although we are pleased that Phillip Jones strongly urged you to put out the survey which at least gives disabled people a say, but only those who read your blog…

We  and many others are surprised and saddened that you have not sought any contact with either DPAC or Black Triangle who have been working on this whole area for a number of years, Black Triangle especially are making great inroads into radical alternatives on this horrendous test –How you can still claim that tinkering with the WCA is the right option , we have no idea -you also claim to support both DPAC and Black Triangle  but we can no longer really believe this unfortunately-have you been totally unaware of the calls to scrap this and the many protests against this? This comment will be posted on the DPAC site should it fail to pass moderation, DPAC and Black Triangle”

We were sent links to this and the Guardian article by concerned supporters and need to add that we found the process to post a comment for those that do read and want to comment on this blog would be  inaccessible to many disabled people via the Google account option- didnt understand the other options

Sue Marsh’s blog for those that dont know about it is at

diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/opinions-please.html

but you’ll need to be quick, apparently this meeting is on the 10th Sept

She has also written a Guardian piece:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/05/what-were-welfare-reforms-about

 

Aug 222013
 

Updated video of the excellent Condemn Love DPAC’s Anti-Atos song -with massive thanks once more to Kevin Robins for all his work on this. See Kevin perform live at Piss on Pity 31st August-part of the DPAC Reclaiming our Futures week of action.

Also watch this space for more news on how to download Condem Love and contribute to DPAC

 

Con-Dem Love!

They’re screwing up my mind , wasting my time
Keeping up the pressure on this heart of mine
They’ve got a real obsession , egos out of hand
Out to make a make a killing from their “welfare” scam.

This is Con-Dem love, Con-Dem love, Con-Dem love ,
Condemn .. … Con-Dem love.

Laid my cards on the table told their GP straight
Depressions biting hard and that’s hard to take
I showed him the scars on my arms where I’d cut
He looked me in the eye and said you’re “working fit”

This is Con-Dem love, Con-Dem love, Con-Dem love
They’re going to show you what they’re made of.

On a circle of emotion on the treadmill again
They took away my social, can’t pay the rent
What can do, so ill, I can’t fight,
I toss and turn I stay awake all night
Darkened thoughts are haunting me
I’m so afraid of this reality

This is Con-Dem love, Con-Dem love, Con-Dem love
They’re going to show you what they’re made of.

Sitting in a corner — with the lights switched off
This no win situation’s lost
Can’t make no plans for you or for me
There’s no reason to go on you see .

This is Con-Dem love, Con-Dem love, Con-Dem love
They’re going to show you what they’re made of.
They’re going to show you what they’re made of

They’re screwing up my mind, wasting my time
Keeping up the pressure on this heart of mine
They’ve got real obsession, egos out of hand
Out to make a make a killing from their “welfare” scam.

They’re screwing up my mind , taking away my life x 3

©  Robins/Clark

If you would like to know more about DPAC or make a contribution to our work please visit our website www.dpac.uk.net or email: mail@dpac.uk.net or twitter: @Dis_PPL_Protest *Special thanks to all including Rob Livingstone and Simon Gomery for some of the excellent artwork contribution on this video.

 

Aug 032013
 

DPAC and Black Triangle condemn the misguided, insensitive and inflammatory comments of Dr Phil Peverley. We also want to condemn the pitch and severity of the pieces in the Mail and Telegraph (2nd August) framing Peverley’s comments, as a further outrageous abuse of the facts and issues affecting disabled people and those with diagnosed long term health issues.

 

Peverley’s words are an insult to all those that suffer the misery and anxiety of Atos within the regime designed to remove support from disabled people. His words are an insult to those that have died shortly after being declared ‘fit for work’ or before an appeal which found that, once again, Atos were wrong-something that happens with increasing regularly in a system that is chaotic and unworkable.

 

Those people may also have been within the so-called ‘proportion of punters’ that Peverley claims ‘are hell-bent on trying to prove they’re really ill, and need us [GPS] to confirm it’ or maybe they were some of the perceived ‘disgruntled unworking well’ who are ‘full of indignation at being considered reasonably healthy.’ The Department of Works and Pensions DWP own figures show deaths within 6 weeks of tests were at over 10,000. The DWP are refusing to publish up –to date statistics, so we would guess that these figures have risen significantly.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Black Triangle on the 28th June 2012 the British Medical Association (BMA) supported a call to demand that the WCA should be ended ‘with immediate effect and be replaced with a rigorous and safe system that does not cause unavoidable harm.’ Peverley on the other hand thinks Atos are doing a great job -despite new evidence everyday that they clearly are not, despite MPs, journalists, and the public accounts committee condemnation of their conduct and the multi-million Atos contract. (See Dr McCartney’s piece in the British Medical Journal and Black Triangles’ 2013 letter of support from Drs and MPS)

 

Remarkably, Peverley declared that he considered putting a picture of Stephen Hawkings in his surgery with the caption: ‘This bloke is not on the sick!’ The comparison of Hawkings to every single disabled person is beyond bizarre. This is a man with the funds to ensure a network of P.A. support, home adaptations and technical aids- something far out of the reach of the majority of disabled people –where even a basic level of support is becoming increasingly unlikely in the current slash and burn climate. Hawkings won’t miss his ILF payments if the appeal hearing against the DWP doesn’t produce the correct verdict. Hawkings won’t need to worry about local authority cuts or the tsunami of other cuts, caps, punitive costs, sanctions and penalties being imposed on disabled people and other low income people by this Government.

 In Sept 2012 the BMA also said that GPs workloads had massively increased due to the chaotic system of the WCA and increasing numbers of appeals. Peverley also says: ‘’These fitness-to-work assessments – under Atos, and under anyone who takes the role for that matter – generate a massive amount of work in general practice’ in his column in the Pulse. However, neither the Mail nor the Telegraph wanted to pick up on the increased workloads the Atos/WCA system is causing for GPs.  None wanted to mention that people can now be charged up to 200 pounds for GP reports, to support them in an assessment, or that GPs increasingly refuse to supply reports either.- a further hurdle for disabled people and those with debilitating long term health issues in the attempt to gain the support they need in the punitive assessment process.

 The Mail and Telegraph both carried the comments of Peverley. True- they’re both right wing newspapers and tools of Tory propaganda. Yet, the pitch and severity of both pieces in framing Peverley’s comments was a clear abuse of the facts and issues facing disabled people; as are Peverly’s inflammatory comments.

The Telegraph carried the headline: ‘A GP incensed at his surgeries being full of the “disgruntled unworking well” has said he considered displaying a poster of Professor Stephen Hawking along with the caption: “This bloke is not on the sick”’.

While the Mail went that bit further with the more loaded headline:  ‘THIS bloke is not on the sick! Angry GP cites Hawking to shame hordes of patients asking him to sign them off’.

Peverley’s original Pulse piece fits the welfare ‘reform’ agenda perfectly. An agenda that incorporates the right wing media and Governments constant demonising of disabled people as feckless/workshy/scroungers  – Peverley’s original rallying cry in the Pulse was that he did not want to sign ‘sick notes. The piece headlined: ‘Save me from the unworking wellwas posted on the 29th July. Neither the Mail nor the Telegraph showed the same eagerness to publish his jaunty column of 25th April ‘A Curious Case of Missing Sick Notes’ which talks about the constant losing of sick notes by the DWP. But why would they?

Peverley has played into their hands, not only does he appear to support the discredited bio -psychosocial model, beloved of Aylward and Freud, that removes GPs and replaces them with private companies paid with huge amounts of public money- he has given them the final piece of the puzzle –privatise the sick note and remove it from any element of medical evidence. Let’s have 100% ‘fit to work’ even if a 100% drop dead in the process. Those that can afford it, like Hawkings can buy their own private back-up plan’.

In the meantime Peverley has been reported to the GMC. Twitter @gmcuk

There is a facebook campaign group at facebook.com/permalink.php?…

Peverley is on twitter @PhilPeverley

His surgery address for letters is at the link below-please do not use the surgery telephone lines!

Dr Phil Peverley 

Old Forge Surgery
Pallion Park
Pallion
Sunderland, SR4 6QE

 To Protest against this and the other attacks on disabled people join DPAC’s 7 days of Action https://dpac.uk.net/2013/07/reclaiming-our-futures-7-days-of-action/

DPAC twitter: @dis_ppl_protest

Black Triangle twitter: @blacktriangle1

 

Jul 242013
 

After news that GPs are now being told not to supply evidence for ESA or want to charge people a small fortune to do the job of a GP for writing reports –more tricks from the DWP to get claimant numbers down and trick people out of their entitlement from Disability Sanctuary which we are reposting. They say:

“DWP are stopping sending out warnings that GP fit notes (sick notes) are running out in most areas, you wont know until your payments stop and you ring them. This has been the case in some areas already for a while now, but we have been told today that its something that they are stopping altogether this month. So keep a check on when your note runs out, and when you send one, ensure you check with them to make sure they have received a new note, or better still get an appointment to have it scanned onto the local Job Centre system so it goes live straight away (well almost.)

If posting you must send the note to the centre dealing with your claim, if in doubt then check with them via phone as if it goes to the wrong one they do not always forward them, (no surprises there!)”

With thanks to Disability Sanctuary  

http://www.disabilitysanctuary.com/forum/index.php?threads/warning-to-those-in-wrag-work-related-activity-group-of-esa.9081/

and thanks to Annie who spotted this

 

Jul 152013
 

We are reposting our list of advice and legal resources with some additions- please contact us if you know of others that would be useful to add or any that are no longer working because of this Government’s cuts to legal aid

DPAC receive a large number of requests for advice and information on cuts and the WCA . We cannot give advice, but direct to web resources that we know.

We also have a DPAC Facebook page which includes many people struggling with issues of ESA, Atos assessments and DWP failures –it acts as an advice forum from those that may have been through the issues you might be experiencing it’s at https://www.facebook.com/groups/DPAC2011/418279398228320/?notif_t=group_activity

Useful web sites

http://www.advicenow.org.uk/

http://www.advicenow.org.uk/advicenow-guides/problems-with-benefits/turned-down-for-dla-aa-pip-think-youre-not-getting-enough/

www.benefitsandwork.co.uk

http://edinburghagainstpoverty.org.uk/

http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/

http://www.citizensadvice.co.uk/en/  Northern Ireland

http://www.cas.org.uk/cta/find-your-local-cab Scotland

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Diol1/DoItOnline/DoItOnlineByCategory/DG_067277 Find your local CAB

http://www.turn2us.org.uk/information__resources/benefits/social_fund/short_term_benefit_advances.aspx

http://budgetingadvance.com/

WCA: how to prepare

http://www.socialworkfuture.org/articles-and-analysis/articles/242-survival-tips-for-the-work-capability-assessment

http://antp.org.uk/wcarules.htm

WCA Appeals: what you need to do

http://www.solfed.org.uk/?q=unwaged-workers/know-your-rights-failing-a-work-capability-assessment

Debt

National Debtline

Free and independent advice on debt

Telephone: 0808 808 4000 (Monday-Friday, 9am -9pm; Saturday, 9.30am-1pm)

Website: www.nationaldebtline.co.uk

Benefits/hardship payments/Short term Budgeting loans

DPAC: https://dpac.uk.net/2013/05/hardship-paymentsbudgeting-loans-and-short-term-advances

Homelessness

Shelter

A national telephone advice line staffed by trained housing advisers.
Telephone: 0808 800 4444 (8am-8pm Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm Saturday-Sunday)

Websites: http://england.shelter.org.uk and http://scotland.shelter.org.uk

Homeless UK

This has an online database search allows you to search, by area, for organisations providing benefits and debt advice.

Website: www.homelessuk.org

DIAL

There are around 120 local Disability Information and Advice Line services (DIALs) run by disabled people and now taken over by the SCOPE charity

For area coverage see: www.scope.org.uk/services/local-groups/dial-uk.

Part 2

Free legal assistance list with thanks to Inclusion London

Bar Pro Bono Unit

Who are they?

A charity that helps to find pro bono legal assistance from volunteer barristers for individuals and organisations who cannot afford to pay and who cannot obtain public funding (legal aid).

What do they do?

The Unit matches barristers prepared to undertake pro bono work with those who need their help. The office itself does not give advice.

The volunteer barristers can provide advice, representation and help at mediation; representation in any court/tribunal; give legal advice on any subject; and draft documents such as skeleton arguments.

How do you access the service?

  • They cannot accept applications unless they come via a referrer (generally, an advice agency such as the CAB or a Law Centre, or a local MP)
  • Visit the website www.barprobono.org.uk
  • For more information if you are an individual needing help Click Here
  • Submit a query via contact form Click Here

Community Legal Advice

Who are they?

A free and confidential advice service in England and Wales paid for by legal aid.

What do they do?

Provide free help or legal advice over the phone. They can help with family, debt, housing, employment, education, welfare benefits and tax credits problems.

They will check to see if you are eligible for legal aid and put you in touch with a specialist legal adviser, or refer you to other agencies of you do not qualify for their services.
Has a free translation service available in 170 languages.

How do you access the service?

  • Telephone 0845 345 4 345 (Open Monday to Friday 9.00 am to 8.00 pm. Saturday 9.00 am to 12.30 pm. Calls cost 4p per minute from a BT landline; cost from mobiles will be more)
  • Request a call back 

               -Via online form Click Here

               -Text ‘legalaid’ then your name to 80010 (Call back within 24 hours)

Disability Law Service (England and Wales only)

Who are they?

A national charity run by disabled people, which specialises in free legal advice and information for disabled people, their families and carers.

What do they do?

They provide free legal advice and representation (e.g. in complaints, using the Ombudsman, tribunals and courts), specialising in Welfare Benefits; Community Care; Disability Discrimination in Employment, Access to Goods and Services; and using the Equality Duty to challenge public authorities.
They run a free legal advice line, open Mon-Friday, 10am–5pm, with an answering machine service for out of hours calls.
They run an Employment Law drop in at their office in Tower Hamlets, where a member of their legal team will assess whether you are financially eligible for legal aid under the Legal Services Commissions (LSC) Legal Help scheme.
They also have factsheets available to download on key areas of the law, such as Community Care; education; employment; goods and services; and welfare benefits. The factsheets are available for download in different formats – regular, large print, text only and audio file.
They commit to responding to telephone enquiries within 24 hours, and written enquiries within 7-10 days.

How do you access the service?

Free Representation Unit (FRU)

Who are they?

A charity that provides free legal representation for the public and advocacy experience for junior lawyers.

What do they do?

Provide legal advice, case preparation and advocacy in employment tribunals (and appeals from decisions of the employment tribunals); social security appeals in the first-tier tribunal (and appeals from such decisions); and criminal injury compensation cases.

How do you access the service?

  • *Do not accept cases directly from members of the public – all cases must come through a referral agency. For a list of referral agencies, Click Here
  • Visit the website www.thefru.org.uk

LawWorks

Who are they?

A charity that works with law firms and legal professionals to involve them in delivering pro bono work.

What do they do?

Aim to provide free legal help to those who cannot afford to pay for it and who are unable to access legal aid.

Services to individuals include free Legal Advice Clinics, free mediation to settle disputes out of court, and free casework assistance if you need more than one-off advice.

Who are they for?

Individuals

How do you access the service?

ProBonoUK.net

Who are they?

A charity that run a website for the promotion of pro bono legal work.

What do they do?

Act as a resource for news andinformation about pro bono work for individuals, advice workers and lawyers wishing to offer help.

How do you access the service?

RAD Legal Services:   BSL

Who are they?

A dedicated legal advice service for Deaf BSL users provided by the Royal Association of Deaf People (RAD).

What do they do?

RAD Legal Services currently has three projects: a Discrimination Advice project, a Webcam Advice Project and a Money Advice Service project.
Discrimination Advice gives free specialist legal advice on discrimination issues in the areas of employment, housing, education and goods, facilities and services.  This is provided by a Deaf solicitor, and can be delivered face to face, via webcam, email, telephone or instant messaging software.
Webcam Advice is the BSL version of the Community Legal Advice Helpline, and is available free of charge to people eligible for legal aid in the areas of welfare benefits, debt, housing and employment.  As well as webcam, they can also provide advice via instant messaging software such as Windows Live Messenger, ooVoo, etc.
Money Advice Service has a qualified Money Adviser giving free, clear and ‘jargon-free’ Money Advice money advice to D/deaf and hard of hearing people who live in the South East. The Service covers the savings and investments; borrowings (credit cards, loans and mortgages); retirement planning and pensions; redundancy; tax and tax credits; insurance; debt; starting a family; and budgeting.

How do you access the service?

Other links

Advice Guide

Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) online advice resource.
www.adviceguide.org.uk

Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB)

The website of the national advice agency, including Search for your nearest CAB.
www.citizensadvice.org.uk

Law Centres Federation

The umbrella organisation that supports and promotes UK Law Centres. For a list of London’s Law Centres, visit
www.lawcentres.org.uk/directory/location/London

Legal Adviser Finder

Find legal advisers or solicitors near you
http://legaladviserfinder.justice.gov.uk/AdviserSearch.do

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Download the list of Legal firms: Public Law Specialists

Download list of Legal Firms: Community Care specialists

 

 

 

 

May 282013
 

When I received the initial phone call, from the DWP, I was hopeful that my health would be assessed fairly. I knew nothing of Atos.

I was told that during the process, I would lose no money. That was the first inaccuracy of many to come.

I returned the completed health questionnaire and waited.

Soon after I was summoned to attend a medical assessment at Wolverhampton, to be conducted by a ‘health care professional’ (HCP). This turned out to be the strangest medical I’ve ever gone through. I was asked to squeeze the HCPs fingers; I was asked to squat, and was told that I could use the wall as balance if necessary.

What possible relevance could these exercises hold?

The HCP spent more time looking at the computer monitor than she did in eye to eye contact.

The assessment eventually ended and I left, with a feeling of impending doom.

When I received the decision from the DWP, I was a little shocked, I must be honest. I knew that I could not carry out constant functions over a period of hours. I knew how my symptoms displayed themselves.

I sought help at my local CAB centre and almost at once I felt a sense of relief that I was not on my own.

The CAB advisor spent over twice the time the HCP had done and she came up with a report which clearly explained how my health affected my ability to carry out day to day functions.

There was nothing so profound in the DWP report.

My first appeal, to the DWP, failed as was expected, and I was advised to appeal to the first tier tribunal.

I also contacted my MP, Valerie VAZ, who wrote to the DWP, arguing that the assessment had failed to consider the degenerative nature of my condition, and was therefore flawed.

Soon after I received a phone call from a Decision Maker (DM) at the DWP who, after running through the assessment findings, offered another assessment.

Subsequent I received a new date with Atos.

This was in June 2012.

Between then and May 2013 I attended a handful of appointments, all of which were either cancelled by Atos due to my falling poorly during an assessment or for some administrative reason, such as computer problems.

On one occasion I was conveyed from the assessment centre to the local AE dept., when my BP & Pulse Rate were exceedingly high, and I was experiencing chest pains.

I spent the rest of that day hooked up to a variety of machines in the hospital.

Days later I received another Atos appt., this time for 0900…there was no chance I could make an appt. so early in the morning.

They should have been aware of this. It’s mentioned in my medical notes.

These frequent journeys were taking their toll on my health. My GP was so concerned that he wrote to Atos, explaining and sharing these concerns.

The Atos response was to change my AC venue from Wolverhampton to Birmingham, which is further to travel, and to approve a taxi, for collection and drop off at the attendance centre (AC). I already had a lift too the AC. travel was NOT the issue.

Atos had, for whatever reason, misread or misunderstood the nature of the letter from my GP.

The next appt. was the first taxi journey to the new venue, Birmingham, and my appt. was for 1:15pm.

I rang Atos at 12:30 just to confirm the taxi was booked, and was told it was.

13:15 came and went with no taxi.

The taxi arrived at about 13:25, which meant I was already late.

I arrived at 1355. Almost 45 minutes late.

To add insult to injury, I had pre-arranged to meet my welfare advice rep. at Birmingham. He was not happy either.

Understandable really.

More complaints were submitted to Atos.

This time they responded, eventually, with the offer of a home assessment.

Great news? No!

By the time if my tribunal I had still received no appt. for the Atos doctor to attend my home for the assessment.

My appeal was heard by the First Tier Tribunal and I was successful.

As good as this news is, it must not be seen as a way out for Atos. They caused considerable stress and aggravated my medical conditions for over a year with the catalogue of errors conducted by their staff. Pure and simple.

This would not be tolerated in any walk of life, so why should Atos be permitted to behave in this manner?

Something needs to be done.

I am hopeful that someone reading this will be in a position to offer some advice and support.

I am very sorry for those who are still fighting Atos.

I understand how they feel and I hope that something can be done to help them.

Thank you for reading this.

If any journalists would like to follow up this story please contact mail@dpac.uk.net

May 222013
 

Three judges today confirmed what DPAC and other campaigners have been saying since 2010– the benefits test used to decide whether people are fit for work, actively discriminates against disabled people and those with mental health issues

 Mental health Resistance network (MHRN) have won the judicial review case against the DWP on the clear inadequacy of the Work Capability Assessments. They supported two users who took a case against the DWP for the harm these tests do to those with mental health issues. The WCA has been severely criticised since the Condems took over the reins from the New Labour WCA inception, making the tests more and more difficult and more and more humiliating for all concerned.

 Last week Dr Greg Wood resigned claiming the tests were biased, there have been a number of high profile resignations from nurses resigning and claiming that not only were the tests unfair they were degrading. This is a subject disabled people know all too well, from the millions lavished on Atos for tests and the millions for appeals.

 The  judicial review focussed on specific issues for those with mental health issues – that of gathering supporting evidence. Under the current system, individuals are responsible for gathering their own medical evidence and sending it to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). If anyone fails to do this, it simply won’t be looked at, and in many cases if you do do this your papers will be brushed aside (see DPACs survey responses on the WCA HERE).

Reporting the victory DPAC’s sister group,  Black Triangle Campaign wrote:

“The judgment that the DWP is in breach of the Equality Act is a huge victory for everyone affected by severe mental illness, but it’s sad that it took a court case to force the DWP to take action”.

DPAC wants to congratulate the two people that took the case, MHRN and all others that supported this. We hope this is another step towards outlawing these tests and stopping them for the damage they are causing all disabled people as called for by the BMA and the RCN.

We note that the big Disability charities have , as usual, chosen to take the credit for this success and we say again that this success is due to MHRN a small group that chose to do something. It is due to the two people that took the case and the solicitors involved. This case was not initiated by any of the big disability charities-despite them joining in later to save face.

 The charities sat back and did nothing, but they are fast to take the credit for something that they didn’t even contribute too. We hope that the success of the MHRN actions leads to an end to this inhuman process for all and we congratulate them for their tenacity and their actions in getting someone done- to the charities we say: we know the difference between the real heroes and those that try to bask in reflected glory-if you had made the move that MHRN had or acted more vigorously we might applaud you, as it is we are, once more unimpressed by your actions.

 see also:

https://dpac.uk.net/2013/05/esa-regulations-25-and-31-campaign-black-triangle-to-meet-with-scottish-parliament-welfare-reform-committee-chief-this-thursday/

https://dpac.uk.net/2013/05/where-are-the-mental-function-champions-at-atos-and-other-atos-type-things/

https://dpac.uk.net/2013/01/dpac-press-release-wca-descriptors-fail-dwp-fails-atos-fails/

https://dpac.uk.net/2012/10/joint-statement-on-work-capability-assessment-wca-by-dpac-and-black-triangle/

https://dpac.uk.net/2012/11/dpac-survey-responses-on-wca-what-harrington-didnt-ask/

 

 

 

 

May 052013
 

Herald View

THE misery that the UK welfare reforms have caused disabled people has been highlighted often by this paper.

But that makes the cases cited by doctors today in the Sunday Herald no less shocking. They are proof this system has failed.

There is the patient with schizophrenia who believed he was the Messiah, yet was declared fit to work. There is the man who suffered a stroke and had lung cancer but was too scared to go to hospital in case he missed a benefits appointment, fearing he would be at risk of losing his money.

There are examples of patients with mental health problems left so distraught at being told they are fit to work they have become suicidal.

This is not a system, this is a cruel disgrace. These examples hardly fit with the picture painted by the Westminster government of the “workshy” living it up at the taxpayer’s expense.

While Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith preaches of tackling welfare dependency, it is doctors who are witnessing the impact of his “reforms”.

This is placing a burden on the NHS – a situation which is expected to get worse as more welfare changes are introduced.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Health Secretary Alex Neil have warned there is an “intolerable strain” on care services and urged Duncan Smith to ensure there is a “fair, equitable” process that gets decisions right first time. This must be introduced to ensure benefit claimants and the NHS do not continue to be the victims of a flawed system.

The Herald Scotland

See also

Leading doctors protest at ‘cruel’ disability assessments ~ Letter Posted on May 5, 2013 

Leading doctors protest at ‘cruel’ disability tribunals Posted on May 5, 2013

Welfare reforms not fit to work ~ Leading doctors protest at ‘cruel’ disability tests Posted on May 5, 2013

with thanks to Black Triangle

 

May 052013
 

The Dail Fail published the above 4th May as the ‘workshy’ map

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2319355/Workshy-map-Britain-revealed-Thousands-incapacity-benefit-claimants-capable-working.html


The NOT fit for work Map above by Nick @Mylegalforum publised 5th May

The difference between propaganda and truth in the Atos/DWP war

See the full story on the Fail map at https://dpac.uk.net/2013/05/daily-fail-incites-more-disability-hate-crime-with-its-latest-act/

See more from the brilliant Nick at http://ilegal.org.uk/thread/7616/page/1/cut-slack-quit-media-lies

Feb 252013
 

DPAC has been passed a letter from Ed on WCA/Atos which we’ve been asked to share. While reading please remember that it was New Labour that first contracted Atos and Ed has done some visits to them too- no, not  joining DPAC, or disabled  people in  protests outside Atos offices in direct actions against the 72 deaths a week of those being put through this inhuman regime. But as a kind of badly advised PR exercise. He seems to have stopped that now.

The letter says:

              ‘We appreciate and share the concerns that have been expressed by many charities, disability groups and health care professionals regarding the WCA …’

Would these be the same multi-million big disability charities that sat at the table with Atos in the working groups on the construction of the WCA we wonder? And is Ed really talking about HCPs here? Ed’s  letter continues:

             ‘….and we agree that the government need to move quickly to remedy the problems. A large number of charities and disabled people have reported serious shortcomings with the assessment process and there is clear evidence that the WCA is not working….’

A slight understatement? Then there’s a bit of a disclaimer about previous New Labour government and what they intended for the WCA which was for it to work with applicants ‘fairly, quickly and compassionately’ with ‘appropriate support’.  Ah so no plans to scrap this inhumane disaster and start looking at it all again then? Back to Ed:

           ‘…It is clear, however, that the current Government have been too slow to adapt the Work Capability Assessment in the light of experience, and in view of the much bigger job it is now being asked to do…’

Actually they have been adapting it, mobilising distance for example has been reduced several times to make even more difficult to score those elusive Atos points removing more people from any support. Then we have a paragraph on Professor Malcolm Harrison’s independent reports and lack of progress. Let’s also remember Prof Harrison was sacked/resigned/came to the end of his appointment, apparently after appearing on Panorama citing the disaster of the WCA and Atos. But moving on:

       ‘…We would like to see the Government move much faster-for example in acting on the recommendations made by charities on dealing with mental health problems and fluctuating conditions-and to reduce the current bureaucracy of the current system. Atos healthcare also have questions to answer about the effectiveness of the current assessment process…’

        ‘..We are also very concerned that the scale of the cuts to disability benefits and social care introduced by this Government-which will total 8.6 billion over the parliament-will have a very serious impact on many disabled people..’

Isn’t it over 9 billion?

     ‘…Mr Miliband and the Shadow Frontbench will continue to press the Government on the need to put right the serious problems with the WCA…’

Cheers Ed and let us add that the work of Labour’s John McDonnell, Michael Meacher and others in bringing this Atos horror and the links between Atos and Unum in running ‘Government’ from the inside are much appreciated.

You can download the full letter from link below

 http://www.dpac.uk.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Letter-From-Ed-Milliband-Mp2.jpg

Jan 192013
 

In case anyone hasn’t seen this on the MHRN facebook page: 

HOW THE JUDICIAL REVIEW WENT!

The judicial review was scheduled for three days although we thought that it would only last for two. In the event, it lasted for the whole three days and there was a member of the MHRN in court at all times.

The claimants were asking that further medical evidence should be sought by the DWP from a person’s own health care professionals prior to the ESA50 form being sent out for all people with mental health problems (called MHPs in court). We believe that obtaining evidence at this stage will enable some people to be spared the distress of having to attend the face to face WCA interview and, where they do have to attend it, at least the assessor would know something about their condition and how it affects their functionality rather than the claimant being entirely at the mercy of the Atos computer and an unqualified Atos ‘Health Care Professional’. This in turn might spare some people from going through the misery of having to appeal. And, importantly, it would help identify people for whom regulations 29 and 35 apply. These regulations cover where there would be a risk to a person if they were found fit for work or for work related activity even if they had less than the required number of points for ESA.

Obviously this change is only one way that the WCA needs to be improved on. Initially the MHRN was calling for the test to be completely scrapped but we are also realistic about what can be achieved. Who knows, it may be scrapped in a few years time but, in the meantime, we have to survive it.

Now to the court case.

The case was being brought under the Equality Act and was heard by three judges in the Upper Tribunal Court. It began with much debate about how exactly people with MHPs were being disadvantaged in the process of claiming ESA and the case for the claimants was that the self reporting aspect was often, for a variety of reasons, difficult for people with MHPs. In addition, MHPs may not be able to obtain further medical evidence for themselves. The DWP barrister argued that there was already procedures in place to ensure that further medical evidence was sought in appropriate cases.

As well as the claimants’ barristers there was a barrister representing, jointly, National Mind, Rethink and the National Autistic Society, who also argued the claimants’ case and there was evidence written from consultant psychiatrists. It is hard to say, but, on balance, I felt that the existence of disadvantage may have been successfully established in court, but please, don’t rely on my impression!

A lot of time was spent arguing about who the MHP claimants were being disadvantaged in comparison with. This was very much a technical point and an Equality and Human Rights Commission barrister was present to intervene here.

The claimants were asking that reasonable adjustments are made to rectify a disadvantage (the adjustment being that medical evidence be sought by the DWP in all mental health cases) and therefore the ‘reasonableness’ of this adjustment was also up for debate with the DWP unsurprisingly arguing that it was wholly unreasonable, cost being one factor, the burden on doctors being another, and so on.

So is there a disadvantage and in comparison with whom are MHPs disadvantaged? If there is a disadvantage, would the requested adjustment rectify this disadvantage? And is the adjustment ‘reasonable’?

Obviously, as the case was being brought by individuals, there was some argument over whether the individuals concerned had been disadvantaged and whether the adjustments requested would have rectified that disadvantage. The DWP barrister tried every which way to counter the claimants’ arguments.

The feeling among the members of the MHRN who attended the court was that the claimants got a fair hearing. The judges will be meeting with three high court judges and, I think I got this right, it is these high court judges who will be making the final decision. This will undoubtedly take some time to come through and we have no idea how it will go.

So fingers crossed!

Whatever happens, we’ll never give up!

Jan 162013
 

 

DPAC Press Release 

WCA Descriptors fail, DWP fails, Atos fails.  

Does any part of Work Capability Assessment actually work?

A recent case has come to light which proves beyond doubt, as many people suspected, that:

 -the Work Capability Assessment is a complete shambles,

 -the WCA Descriptors are completely inadequate at assessing fitness for work,

-the Descriptors fail miserably to capture a person’s level of disability,

-the Descriptors fail to predict the long term prognosis of a disabled or a sick person,

-the DWP and Atos over-reliance on these descriptors explain the number of successful appeals against Fit to Work decisions.

 It is unimaginable that the DWP and Atos are unaware of these failings, however they continue to give more weight to WCA Descriptors than to Professional Medical Evidence.

 In the following case, and many other cases, judgement based on Medical Evidence is the only solid basis for robust, fair and reliable assessment of a level of disability.

 It is also the only solid basis for predictability of ability to return  to work. This is  clearly illustrated by Charles’ story (shown below).

 Finally the asinine crudeness and sheer stupidity of what the DWP have the impudence to call a ‘medical report’ is shown by a copy of Charles’ report (attached).
If there is a case to illustrate the inadequacy and the irrelevance of  using Descriptors for WCA assessment, it is this.

 If there is a case to show the casual and irresponsible attitude of the Department of Work and Pensions towards Sick and Disabled benefit Claimants, it is this.

 If there is a case to show that Atos computer based assessments are not fit for purpose, it is this.

 How much longer will this rotten system be allowed to continue to fail Sick and Disabled people within our Society?

 

Here is Charles’ Story:

 Charles stopped work after contracting a serious viral infection in July 2009 and was also diagnosed as having ME in November 2009. He claimed ESA in June 2010.

 In 2011 he had an Atos WCA assessment, which found him fit to work but after appeal he was put in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG).

 He was placed again in the WRAG after a second assessment in January 2012, although he felt he should be in the Support Group, but was too ill to appeal the decision. 

A few months later, in April 2012, he was diagnosed as having Leukaemia and a degenerative dysfunction of the spinal cord.

 Following this, on several occasions he contacted the Benefits Office to request to be put in the Support Group, but received no direct response.

 In April 2012, his ESA was stopped because his savings exceeded the threshold but in August 2012 he notified the Benefits Office that that was no longer the case and sent a letter in September to explain his financial situation.

 He did not receive any response, and he was still not receiving any benefits, although in September 2012, he was sent another ESA50 form to complete.

 In September 2012, he requested a copy of the report from his last ATOS assessment from January 2012.

 Although he did not receive this report despite a further request, a few days later he received a Medical Report dated mid 2012, which until then he did not know existed, having never met the ‘author’ of the Report, a Registered Nurse and Approved  Disability Analyst.

 Reading the report, Charles was astonished to discover that although the nurse who reviewed the medical evidence stated explicitly that he was unlikely to return to work the medical evidence did not score any points for him against the descriptors.

 As Charles has been too unwell to return to work, it seems that the nurse’s judgement, based on the medical evidence presented to her, was right, and that the descriptors were unable to capture Charles’ level of disability and his long term prognosis.

 This fact was recognised by the nurse who wrote that if Charles was called to Board he would score above the threshold but that there was insufficient evidence that he met the LCWRA descriptors.

 But because the DWP decided that more weight should be given to the descriptors than the medical evidence, the nurse’s recommendations were disregarded, although ultimately they were correct.

 Charles pursued the matter, with assistance, and the decision not to place him in the Support Group was reversed in November 2012, backdated to February 2012

 

 the link takes you to  a copy of the Medical Report for Charles’ case (reproduced with his permission), clearly showing that the Descriptors give Charles a clean bill of health, while in reality he is completely unfit for work.

 For further information, please contact Annie Howard anniehoward83@gmail.com

 ESA report form 

 

Jan 112013
 

Many Disability Benefits Claimants will have noticed on their ESA85 form a box containing the words “Harmful information – not to be copied to the client”.

 Some will have understood this as being information which would be “likely to cause serious harm to the physical or mental health or condition of the patient or any other persons”, and in the context of consent to treatment, the GMC states:

 “You should not withhold information necessary for decision making unless you judge that disclosure … would cause the patient serious harm. In this context serious harm does not mean the patient would become upset, or decide to refuse treatment.”

 Or if they checked the contract between Atos and DWP, they would learn that harmful information “means information unknown to the Claimant which if disclosed to him may be harmful to his health”. And because “harmful information” is quite vague, in 2011 the DWP issued further guidance in the WCA handbook:

Harmful information: This is information which has not been disclosed to the claimant by their medical attendant, and of which they are unaware.  It is information which would be considered as seriously harmful to their health if divulged to them and is the only type of information which under the regulations may be withheld from the claimant in the event of a review or appeal.  Examples are details of:

­ Malignancy

­ Progressive neurological conditions

­ Major mental illness.

Revised WCA Handbook

ESA (LCW/LCWRA) Amendment

Regulations 2011

 What claimants might not have envisaged is that this “Harmful Information” box could be used as a means to covertly influence decision makers or the tribunal appeals service by prejudicing a case.

 Because of one DWP employee’s mistake or stupidity, one claimant who obtained his report was able to see what “harmful information” means for Atos and the DWP:

 Client very