What We Learned Last Week (15/07 – 21/07)

kamsandhu —  July 22, 2013 — Leave a comment

1) Sickness and Disability Benefit appeal costs reach £66 million

The cost of appeals against the ESA (Employment Support Allowance) has reached £66 million – 30% more than in 2009/10.

The figures came to light when shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Liam Byrne asked the question in parliament.

The number of appeals have increased by 66% since 2009. Liam Byrne blames the increase in appeals and overturned decisions on the private firm used to carry out the Work Capability Assessment, ATOS. He said:

“Atos is now spinning out of control and it is costing the taxpayers millions to clean up the mess.

“The hard truth is that more decisions are wrong than ever before, and the result is more and more appeals and a price tag that has soared by 30 per cent in just the last year.”

ATOS are paid £150 million a year to carry out the fit-to-work tests

ATOS are paid £150 million a year to carry out the fit-to-work tests

Despite these statistics and the strong campaigning taking place across the country against ATOS, the DWP defends the firm and the decision process. They said:

“It is completely unsurprising that the number and cost of appeals has risen, because the number of work capability assessments carried out has increased substantially since we started reassessing 1.5 million incapacity benefit claimants in 2010.”

Adding that they had already made improvements to the assessment and that most decisions are upheld.

Read more about this story here.

2) GPs in South Wales told not to help patients appeal against fit-to-work decisions

GPs have been told to stop writing letters to help patients appeal against sanctions and benefit payment cuts, calling it an ‘abuse of resources’ and adding that ‘GPs were not contracted or resourced to provide this kind of service.’

Bro Taf, the local medical committee representing GPs says it stops doctors from seeing ill patients.

Some patients require evidence from their doctors to prove they are not fit to work. Without this evidence these patients may be unfairly sanctioned or be declared fit to work when they are not. Disability Wales called the decision “almost callous.”

Read more about this story here.

3) Iain Duncan Smith caught lying once again over homeless firgures

In an attempt to defend against criticisms of the benefit cap, IDS resorted to his old trick of fabrication by claiming that homeless figures had ‘hardly moved’ under the Con-Dem coalition.

The benefit cap which is limited at £500 a week for families and £350 for single persons, has been criticised for it’s ‘one size fits all’ approach.

A leaked letter from Eric Pickles’ office warned that over 40,000 people would be made homeless due to the benefit cap and the bedroom tax.

However, IDS told BBC News:

“The great talk about thousands being made homeless has not come true – the homeless figures hardly moved at all.”

Read more about this story here.

4) UK Uncut Protest takes over 13 HSBCs across the country

UK Uncut Protest 20/07/2013

UK Uncut Protest 20/07/2013

13 branches of HSBC were turned into food banks as part of a protest against the bank’s tax avoidance and use of tax havens, as thousands more Britons go hungry and rely on food banks in light of ‘unneccessary’ cuts.

“In Nottingham, activists set up a food bank blocking the entrance to HSBC with supplies of cereals, tins of food, and toilet paper. In London’s Regent Street, 100 activists brought bags of food to the store distributed the supplies, forcing the branch to close down. Meanwhile in Brixton a large crowd gathered and created a food bank inside the HSBC branch.”

Robert McGarr, from Northampton, said: “While families go hungry, this government of millionaires lets its friends in the banks and big business avoid billions of pounds of tax. HSBC uses more tax havens than any  other UK bank, but the government is only interested in punishing the poorest rather than going after the real cause of the problem.

“The government need to know that people want real change to stop tax dodging, not cosmetic tinkering, that’s why we’re taking action against the government’s failure to stop HSBC’s abuse of tax havens.”

After UK Uncut’s plans were announced the bank offered to meet to discuss activists’ concerns. However the bank rejected repeated offers from UK Uncut to hold a public discussion on 20 July.”

UK Uncut Press Release

See pictures of the protest and find out more here.

UK Uncut Protest 20/07/2013

UK Uncut Protest 20/07/2013

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

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kamsandhu

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kambass@hotmail.co.uk

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