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The BBC have reported that the Government is considering cutting the rate of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) by nearly £30 per week. Those in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG), who have been found to be not ‘fit for work’ but able to engage with activities to help them move towards work, could receive little more than those claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA), according to Michael Buchanan at the BBC.

Let’s also not forget that more than a third of those with degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s have also been put into this WRAG group, which is a cut to Full Employment Support Allowance already, and being in this group callously suggests these people will be able to work in the future despite the nature of their conditions meaning they worsen over time.

Tom Pollard, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Mind, said:

“If these proposals go ahead it would leave many people with disabilities struggling to make ends meet. People in the WRAG, over 40 per cent of whom have mental health problems, face significant barriers to returning to work and will take much longer to do so than people on JSA. As such, it is right that they receive additional support to allow them to have a reasonable standard of life while preparing for work.

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“Rather than looking to make reckless short-term savings, the Government should be focused on fixing a system that is failing people with mental health problems. The only responsible way to reduce the cost of ESA is to provide personalised and specialist support to people help them move closer to work. Current Government schemes are failing to do this and, in many cases, are causing stress and anxiety to people that is making their health worse and pushing them further from work.”

And on the new provider for Work Capability Assessments (which the BBC have reported as being US firm Maximus):

“We hope that the appointment of a new provider to carry out Work Capability Assessments will be used as an opportunity to make much needed improvements. The assessment process continues to cause a great deal of distress for people with mental health problems and often fails to recognise the impact of people’s conditions on their ability to work. We have long been calling for assessors with expertise in mental health, and greater use of evidence from professionals who knows the applicant best.”

“However, the WCA needs to be understood in the context of a wider benefits system that is failing people with mental health problems. Only a tiny proportion of people with mental health problems are moving into employment through this process, and actually many people find the pressure placed on them is making their health worse and a return to work less likely. We still need to see a complete overhaul of the system and a more personalised approach which helps people with mental health problems move closer to work and continues to provide ongoing support once they’re in work.”

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1) ‘The Sun’s free copy sees backlash and a potential fine, and Ed Miliband apologises for endorsement

‘The Sun’ circulated 22 million free copies of it’s paper last week with the front page headline ‘This Is Our England,’ as a commemorative  World Cup edition.

But it was not a war reception from the public with thousands of people burning the paper, sending it back, or putting up posters to tell Royal Mail not to deliver the tabloid to their address.

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Further, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband posed with the paper as an endorsement, which saw fierce criticism from the public against the tabloid’s history, proprietorship and bias.

Miliband later apologised, though he was the only one. Having said previously, that he would ‘stand up to Murdoch,’ this PR faux pas may have cost him.

Also, the paper forgot to print some legally required details on the paper, which could see them paying up to £50 per copy, or £1.1bn in total for this mistake. It would take 3.5 years for the paper to claw the money back in sales.

Read more about this story here.

 

ATOS fined £30m for Work Capability Assessment errors

In an exclusive report, The Londoner was told that ATOS, the French healthcare company on government contract to supply fit-to-work testing, has been fined £30million for errors in it’s delivery of the assessments.

The company has already announced that they are exiting the contract early, due to huge failures exposed by thousands of people attending theassessments, but details of this pay off were kept secret up until now to avoid further embarrassment for the company.

Read more about this story here.

2) Boris’ water cannons are being phased out in Germany amid safety concerns

The water cannons secured by Boris Johnson, are being phased out in Germany (where Boris is buying them from), amid concerns over their safety.

“The “WaWe 9” vehicle, produced by Ziegler Group and colloquially known as “Mammoth” or “Goliath” among German police, was first, introduced in 1982. It is named after the 9,000 litres it can hold in its tank, which it can spray as far as 65 metres at 18 litres a second – though some reports claim the machines can easily be adjusted to double the water pressure.”

Image: Revolution News

Image: Revolution News

The water cannons are two decades old, and first raised concerns in 1985, when activist Günter Sare died after being stunned and run over by a WaWe 9.

An investigation into Sare’s death revealed several flaws in the design of WaWe 9, which contributed to the death.

Germany is seeking to replace the cannons with newer models, explaining why Boris Johnson was able to bag three of them for around £30,000 each – much cheaper than the £1m it costs for new cannon models.

Kerry-anne Mendoza, author of the brilliant ScriptoniteDaily has begun a crowdfund for a People’s Cannon, which you can donate to here.

Read more about this story here.

3) Focus E15 mothers target abandoned houses in protest for decent homes

The excellent Focus E15 mothers targeted local abandoned housing, covering them in posters and photos which said “This family needs a home, this home needs a family.”

Focus E15 mothers will march on July 5th for decent homes for all.

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All photos from Focus E15 mothers facebook page.

4) Farage could face jail for undeclared donations of £205,000

Action is being considered against UKIP leader Nigel Farage after it was found that donations worth £205,000 were undeclared to the electoral commission, breaking electoral law.

The donations, dating back from 2001, made by party supporter John Longhurst were declared to the European Parliamentary register but Farage failed to tell the British Electoral Commission. Donations should be declared within 30 days.

A UKIP spokesperson said “Mr Farage was surprised to learn that the Electoral Commission thought it should be informed as well, as this did not accord with the professional advice he had received at the time.”

Read more about this story here.

5) Salma Yaqoob confronts Iain Duncan Smith on Question Time

Despite the presence of the Minister for Work and Pensions on BBC Question Time last week, welfare and employment played a small role in the discussion. However, Salma Yaqoob, from Birmingham’s Stop The War campaign, did confront Iain Duncan Smith and the ‘scrounger’ rhetoric he has previously relied on.

1) Real Talks: A Job’s Worth – Employment in 2014 – 24/04/2014

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We announced our first live debate in collaboration with Inner City Theatre last week. On 24th April at Hoxton Hall, we tackle employment in 2014 in an environment of wage pressures, rising living costs, zero hour contracts and continuing unemployment. We aim to start the conversation on the ground with an audience, panel and some UK artists, and without the usual question-avoiding officialese of usual political debates.

We are pleased to announce our panellists as follows:

Natalie Bennett – Leader, Green Party

Thomas Barlow – Equalities Officer, Greater Manchester Union

Kam Sandhu – Founder, RealFare

YEUK representative – Youth Employment UK

If you want to attend, the tickets are free for unwaged and £5 for waged. You must register first by emailing admin@innercitytheatre.co.uk to save your place.

Please see our trailer here:

 

2) ATOS quits fit-to-work tests

French healthcare company ATOS, who were awarded the £500m contract to administer all fit-to-work tests until next August, will end their contract early, the government have announced.

With mounting call and evidence from campaigners and many sick and disabled people up and down the country that ATOS were wrongfully administering the test and results, leading to inhumane and stressful consequences for those facing the tests, the company have decided to exit the contract by early next year. They will receive no compensation for doing so, and have agreed a penalty payment with government.

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However, whilst many charities and campaigners welcome the exit of ATOS, they say the whole system needs overhauling, rather than continuing with the same tests with another company.

Last year, the Work and Pensions Select committee backed this by saying the responsibility for problems with the fit-to-work tests and their administration “lay firmly with the DWP” but that the department was failing to “apply sufficient rigour or challenge to ATOS.”

Read more about this story.

3) Low Income families increase debt by 29% in six months to deal with welfare reforms

Low income families are increasing their debt by £52 a week after being hit by welfare reforms, wage pressures and the rising cost of living, according to research from a poverty project.

“The project found that the average household debt stood at just under £3,000, up by 29% since October, equivalent to £670. Families were typically spending £34 a week repaying debts, from an average income among those surveyed of £176 a week.”

The findings are the third instalment of six, from the Real Life Reform project which examines the financial and social changes and behaviours of up to 100 households.

Andy Williams, chair of the Real Life Reform steer group said:

“In our first report in September, people said they’d resist falling further into debt, yet just six months later this picture has emerged.

“Nearly eight out of 10 people in the study owe money. With an underlying average debt of £2,943, some may never pay this off given that they have, on average, as little as £3 left at the end of each day for food.”

Read more about this story.

4) MPs approve welfare cap

The permanent welfare cap was voted through on Thursday by a vote of 520 to 22. 13 Labour rebels defied Ed Miliband by voting against it. See their names here. It was thought there would have been more rebellions against the cap but the vote fell on the same day as Tony Benn’s funeral and some were absent. It is thought others were convinced to vote for it, as the level of the cap could be adjusted as Labour sees fit should they get in at the next election.

However, Save The Children have warned that the cap will push 345,000 children into poverty. The cap excludes Jobseeker’s Allowance and the state pension, so will pressurise working benefits – affecting families across Britain.

Will Higham, the charity’s director of UK poverty, said: “Parties need to explain how they will work to improve wages and welfare to ensure that work pays. Otherwise, the vote will become a straitjacket, binding future governments from taking action to stem a rising tide of child poverty.”

Image: The Drum

Image: The Drum

Read more about this story here.

1) Controversy as ATOS wants to back out of ‘fit to work’ contract

Thousands demonstrated against the French healthcare company ATOS in a national protest on Wednesday, following the suffering and deaths of thousands of sick and disabled people attributed to the Work Capability Assessment provided by the company.

Shortly after, it came to light that ATOS wanted to back out of it’s £500 million contract before it’s end in 2015. ATOS stated their main reason for doing so would be the number of death threats and verbal abuse they have received, which has angered protest groups and campaigners who have fought for years to expose suffering at the hands of ATOS.

Image; The Guardian

Image; The Guardian

A statement released by the WOW petition, Black Triangle and Disabled People Against Cuts said:

“The bizarre exit strategy ATOS have developed in identifying apparent physical threats on Facebook despite the growing lists of real deaths caused by the WCA regime is an outrageous insult to all those that have died and all those that have lost family members through this regime. It is an insult to those left without their homes, without money and needing to go to foodbanks. It is an insult to every person who has suffered worsening physical and mental health through this inhuman regime.”

Read the full statement here.

2) Public health emergency declared as one in six GPs asked to refer patients to food banks

One in six family doctors have referred a patient to a food bank in the last year, a new survey has found. Doctors have said that they have seen patients come to them with illnesses caused by not eating, or have been affected by the delays in benefit and welfare reforms leaving some without food for weeks.

Pulse magazine found in a survey of 522 GPs, 16% had referred a patient to a food bank in the last 12 months, and many now held vouchers for their local food bank and contacts for local support groups.

With rising living costs and cuts to wages and benefits, GPs and academics have described there to be an emerging ‘public health emergency’, with evidence from this survey backed up with hospital diagnoses of malnutrition, which has doubled in the last five years.

Foob Bank usage has risen 465% says Trussell Trust Image: dailyrecord.co.uk

Foob Bank Image: dailyrecord.co.uk

Read more about this here.

3) People could be charged for challenging sanctions and benefit removal decisions

People stripped of their benefits could be charged for challenging the decision with an independent judge.

A leaked document obtained by the Guardian from the Department for Work and Pensions about their finances said “introduction of a charge for people making appeals against [DWP] decisions to social security tribunals.”

Critics say the charge would hit the poorest hardest and could serve to reduce the number of challenges made despite the fact that 58% of those who wanted to overturn benefit sanction decisions in independent tribunals have been successful.

Read more about this story here.

4) David Cameron calls his welfare reforms a ‘moral mission’

The Archbishop of Canterbury became the latest Church figure to speak out against the government’s welfare reforms last week, branding them ‘punitive’ for leaving more and more people hungry and destitute.

However, on Wednesday the Prime Minister hit back in an article in The Telegraph, defending his reforms as part of a ‘moral mission’:

“Of course, we are in the middle of a long and difficult journey turning our country around.”

“That means difficult decisions to get our deficit down, making sure that the debts of this generation are not our children’s to inherit.

“But our welfare reforms go beyond that alone – they are about giving new purpose, new opportunity, new hope – and yes, new responsibility to people who had previously been written off with no chance.

“Seeing these reforms through is at the heart of our long-term economic plan – and it is at the heart too of our social and moral mission in politics today.”

Read more about this story here.

Image: Lifeunhindered.com

Image: Lifeunhindered.com

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

The following is taken from the Parliamentary website, and details a request for information and how to submit evidence and experiences of the Employment Support Allowance & Work Capability Assessment for an inquiry by the Work & Pensions Committee. The Deadline is 21st March.

Image: iStock

Image: iStock

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) was introduced in October 2008 for claimants making a new claim for financial support on the grounds of illness or incapacity. It replaced Incapacity Benefits, Income Support by virtue of a disability and Severe Disablement Allowance.

Background

ESA is paid to people who have limited capability for work (who are placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG)), and people who have limited capability for work related activity (who are placed in the Support Group).

The majority of claimants applying for ESA are invited to a face-to-face assessment to help determine whether they fall within either of these two groups or whether they are fit for work. This assessment, called the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), is carried out by Atos Healthcare under its medical services contract with DWP. Atos produces a report following the WCA and this is used by the DWP Decision Maker, alongside any other additional evidence, to determine whether the claimant should be placed in the WRAG or the Support Group, or is fit for work.
In April 2011, the Government began reassessing existing Incapacity Benefits (IB) claimants to determine their eligibility for ESA using the WCA. The Committee published a report on Incapacity Benefit Reassessment in July 2011.

The Committee’s inquiry

In light of recent developments in this area, including the publication of a number of reviews of the WCA, expressions of concern from DWP regarding Atos’s performance in delivering the WCA, and the introduction of mandatory reconsideration, the Committee has decided to undertake an inquiry into ESA and WCAs to follow-up its 2011 report.

Submissions of no more than 3,000 words are invited from interested organisations and individuals.

The Committee is particularly interested to hear views on:

  • Delivery of the WCA by Atos, including steps taken to improve the claimant experience
  • The effectiveness of the WCA in indicating whether claimants are fit for work, especially for those claimants who have mental, progressive or fluctuating illnesses, including comparison with possible alternative models
  • The process and criteria for procuring new providers of the WCA
  • The ESA entitlement decision-making process
  • The reconsideration and appeals process
  • The impact of time-limiting contributory ESA
  • Outcomes for people determined fit for work or assigned to the WRAG or the Support Group
  • The interaction between ESA and Universal Credit implementation

Submissions do not need to address all of these points.

The deadline for submitting evidence is Friday 21 March.”

How to submit your evidence

To encourage paperless working and maximise efficiency, select committees are now using a new web portal for online submission of written evidence. The web portal is available on our website.

The personal information you supply will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 for the purposes of attributing the evidence you submit and contacting you as necessary in connection with its processing.

Each submission should:

  • be no more than 3,000 words in length
  • be in Word format with as little use of colour or logos as possible
  • have numbered paragraphs

If you need to send a paper copy please send it to: The Clerk, Work and Pensions Committee, House of Commons, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA

Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a proposed memorandum, in which case a web link to the published work should be included.

Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee. It is the Committee’s decision whether or not to accept a submission as formal written evidence.

Select Committees are unable to investigate individual cases.

The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, by publishing it on the internet (where it will be searchable), or by making it available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.

Further guidance on submitting evidence to Select Committees is available on the parliamentary website (PDF PDF 2.41 MB)Opens in a new window.

Tomorrow will see a National Day of Protest against the French healthcare firm ATOS, with over 65 demonstrations happening all over the country at ATOS centres.

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ATOS are given £100m a year to administer the Work Capability Assessments, as part of the coalition’s programme to move people off benefits, through more difficult criteria rather than assessments of need.

The WCA uses a few basic questions to assess the extent of a person’s ability to work. Questions asked include whether a claimant is able to walk 200 metres and whether they can lift either arm above their head. The claimant is then given a score of between 0-15, with 15 as a high rate of disability and 0 as minimal. These scores are then used by the Department for Work and Pensions to assess whether to ‘award’ a claimant the Employment and Support Allowance.

The government say the assessment is designed to find out what a person can do rather than what they can’t, but the assessments leave a huge gap of understanding in whether a person can take on work. Evidence from investigations and claimant experiences show the tests are discriminating and are motivated by the desire to move people off benefits by re-defining the criteria for the ESA rather than supporting them into work if they can.

The cost of ATOS

The government has been handing over £100m a year for ATOS to carry out the assessments nationwide. But, ATOS had breached it’s contract even before it was signed. ATOS had promised they would provide, with 22 sub-contractors, 750 testing centres up and down the country to enable easy procedures and a maximum 60 minute travel distance for all claimants. However, the number of sub-contractors had dropped to 8 at the time of signing the contract, and the DWP has failed to reveal exactly how many of the centres they have provided.

Occupy News Network

Occupy News Network

Appeals

Appeals against ATOS have revealed a broken testing system which unneccesarily puts sick and disabled people through stressful procedures. Around 2/5 decisions made by ATOS are appealed against and around a third of these appeals overturn the original decision.

Earlier last year, the tests were branded ‘farcical’ for telling nearly half of those with progressive diseases, such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, that their condition would improve.

The appeals could be costing the taxpayer a further £50 million for some clearly inexcusable decisions.

Discrimination of those with mental illness

Mental health charities such as Mind, Re:think Mental Illness and the National Autistic Society along with some disabled claimants, won a lengthy battle against the Department for Work and Pensions at the beginning of last year. The charities and support groups helped to give evidence on behalf of those they helped, against the WCA in a case that lasted two years. The Upper Tribunal ruled that the WCA disadvantaged those with mental health problems.

However, the DWP and ATOS appealed against the decision which was upheld at the end of last year, at the expense of more of the taxpayer’s money and a continuance of the testing system which was discriminating those with mental illness.

Lives

Put simply, ATOS testing has been fatal for thousands of sick and disabled people in the UK. In the year 2011-2012, 10,600 disabled people died within six weeks of their claim ending.

The DWP has refused to release the data for the year 2012-2013.

This number is likely to be higher. And this refusal of release of information is hiding the true extent of the deaths ATOS testing is causing, in a bid to save face for the government at the expense of people’s suffering.

Still, there have been many examples in the media of negligent decisions at the hands of ATOS:

“Lyn’s husband was seriously ill for 24 years with a badly injured back, a heart condition and diabetes.

“She said Atos decided he was “capable of limited employment” and his benefit was cut, leaving them with just £71 a week. He appealed but was told a ruling would take almost a year.

“David didn’t have a year. He was later diagnosed with cancer and given weeks to live.

“In the short time he had he battled to reverse the decision. “He kept saying ‘I wish I could win this case before I die’,” said Lyn, 57.

“David got a very rare form of cancer, it took his sight and his hearing, then finally his life. But months before that Atos took his dignity. His doctors and specialist nurses wrote to the firm but never received a reply.”

“David, 57, was called to his Jobcentre late last year. Lyn said: “They just took his blood pressure. They never checked his back or asked about his diabetes and the terrible ulcers he had on his legs.

“We were told it would take 10 months to hear the appeal. Well it’s 10 months now, David’s dead and we still haven’t heard a word.”

Daily Mirror

So on Wednesday 19th February, a national protest will take place against the treatment and huge number of deaths at the hands of ATOS.

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Image: Community Press Group

A short statement by the founder of the website atoskills.tk in reply to Atos:

“Atos have issued a statement on their website with reference the demonstrations   This statement alludes to the fact that the Company (Atos) were merely following DWP orders and that they are aware that their actions have deeply affected lives, an understatement in view of the deaths.  Atos in this statement seek to shift blame as many have done in the past in Court trials with the excuse ” I was only following orders” this is reminiscent of Nuremberg.

“Thousands have died and Atos played a major part in the policy actions of those deaths. It is unacceptable to state we were only following orders whilst taking millions of pounds for that action and knowing it was deeply affecting lives to the extent it caused major fatalities. I will agree that they are not alone in being culpable but the statement is an admission, in part, of responsibility.

“Following orders, knowingly, in committing acts that result in the deaths  of many disabled people is perhaps genocide but can also be equated to contract killing. Atos have acted as hired hitmen of this Government.

“At the bottom of this page you will find a video of Atos staff  training where it is clearly stated Atos assessors were working to targets, they say from the DWP which was denied by that department.

“No threats have been made of disruption to Atos nor to staff members, it is intended as a peaceful demonstration to draw public attention to a travesty that has caused multiple deaths that no one has so far investigated or stopped.

“The DWP’s own data shows 10,600 deaths in an eleven month period during 2011, a cause for concern and investigation at minimum.

“Blood is on the hands of Atos, it’s staff, the DWP and this Government.

“This statement is my own opinion and not one belonging officially to the organisers of the demonstration.”

Here is the video:

Here is the full Dispatches episode the filming was lifted from.

See a full list of demonstrations here.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

1) ‘No more Neets’ – IPPR release new report for Labour plan to tackle 1m unemployed youth

The IPPR released a report entitled ‘No More Neets’ aimed at tackling the ‘lost generation’ of 1m unemployed 16-24 year olds not in employment, education or training.

The report has been attacked for removing benefits from young people and replacing it with a new ‘Youth Allowance’ which would require young people to take on training or work experience for up to six months, before being offered a taxpayer subsidised minimum wage or traineeship role, should they not find any other employment.

The plan takes on some of the welfare-to-work programmes and ideas, but these have failed to solve employment problems time and time again. As Johnny Void explains “you can’t fix unemployment by fixing unemployed people, a lesson which has sadly still not been learned by politicians today.”

Rachel Reeves, Labour welfare minister supports the IPPR report Image: BBC

Rachel Reeves, Labour welfare minister supports the IPPR report Image: BBC

Read the report here.

Read Johnny Void’s post on the report here.

2) Training people to use Universal Credit could cost hundreds of millions

Training claimants to use the new Universal Credit system could cost hundreds of millions, according to an unpublished report commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions. The study, carried out by 3 London councils, found that each would have to spend £6m over two years on training and support for claimants, to equip them with digital and financial skills required to use the system.

The report suggests that millions of hours of support, face-to-face training and telephone help from charities, private companies and government will be required to ensure claimants can use the online system, or failure to do so could risk debt, eviction and homelessness. Around one in ten claimants will need intensive support.

Image: gov.uk

Image: gov.uk

Iain Duncan Smith, Minister for Work and Pensions, insisted the system would give claimants a chance “to get back into the 21st Century,” by reaching the digitally tame and socially excluded households. However, the Universal Credit system has already been blighted with overspending and budget problems, with £34m already written off earlier this year due to IT problems.

Read more about this story here. 

3) ATOS launches YouTube channel for Benefit claimants

ATOS, the French healthcare company which administers the controversial fit-to-work tests has launched a new YouTube channel for benefit claimants. The channel has some short videos providing information for disabled claimants applying for the new Personal Independence Payment, fit-to-work testing and Employment Support Allowance.

See more videos here.

4) Petition success will see Iain Duncan Smith questioned over flagship policies

Following a petition that gained over 100,000 signatures, Minister for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith will have to face questioning over the flagship Universal Credit policy and other DWP statistics and spending on 9th December at 4:30pm. Numerous revelations, problems (like the above) and lies have shrouded policy implemented by IDS, in the biggest reforms to happen to welfare policy ever. Yet, the Minister has been regularly absent or unavailable to comment on the problems.

Paula Peters, a disability campaigner posted the following photo and comment after handing in the petition:

“Petition with 105,000+ to call Iain Duncan Smith to account for his lies and corruption. It was taken to Westminister by Jane Linney, Kate Green (Labour Shadow Minister for Disabled People), Liz Kendall (Labour shadow minister for Care and Older People), Paula Peters and Debbie Sayers. The group along with the MPs signed the covering letter that went with the box and then it was handed over. Because of the petition Iain Duncan Smith will appear in front of a select committee on 9th December. So far he has arrogantly evaded attempts to question him, this time he will have to appear. Well done to all the brave and beautiful disabled people who fought long and hard despite facing incredible hardship to make this petition happen.”

1422595_715567895139015_565248047_nRead more about this story here. 

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

1) Thousands across country falling into rent arrears as reforms and bedroom tax effects deepen

The number of people falling into rent arrears has almost doubled from 35% to 62% in the first three months of the new bedroom tax policy, where social housing tenants deemed to have a spare room are charged.

“Rent arrears for all 500,000 tenants covered by the 45 survey respondents rose by an average of 21 per cent. This is £17.5 million in cash terms, enough to build almost 1,000 homes.”

A combination of a rise in living costs, rising rent, below inflation increases of benefit rates and a lack of smaller housing for tenants looking to downsize is causing people to become trapped in arrears, which forces landlords to lose out on rent and pushes people into poverty cycles.

Bedroom Tax Protest Image: birminghamagainstthecuts.co.uk

Bedroom Tax Protest Image: birminghamagainstthecuts.co.uk

Read more about this story here.

2) Universal credit rolled out further, despite criticism and instability of reform so far

Universal Credit is being rolled out across West London today, in the next step towards a national launch. Hammersmith and Fulham will be the latest councils to take on the government’s flagship reform which will replace several means tested benefits and pay in a single amount, monthly.

The scheme is being rolled out more carefully and slowly than anticipated, following problems with IT, staff and responses to the new payment.

Labour have described the reform as “total chaos.”

Still, the Department for Work and Pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith has pressed forward amid strong criticisms and clear failings of budgeting and control, and the reform will be fully rolled out by 2017.

Image: theweek.co.uk

Iain Duncan Smith – Image: theweek.co.uk

Read more about this story here.

3) Mother of four with rare allergy told to find work

A mother of four with an allergy to shoes has been ruled fit-to-work and had her benefits cut.

Tracey Kenny, 45, from Eccles, Greater Manchester has been out of work for 24 years due to an allergy that stops her from wearing shoes. Tracey is allergic to dust, metal, glue, rubber and nickel, and is forced to wear gloves to handle her cutlery.

Doctors even sourced and made some special shoes from Switzerland for Tracey to wear, but they still irritated her feet.

She said: “I don’t know how these  people expect me to go to work or go to job interviews with no shoes on – because that is what I would have to do.”

“I can only wear shoes for ten or 15  minutes, before my feet blister and split. It stops me from doing everything.”

Read more about this story here.

4) Russell Brand’s Newsnight interview calls for revolution against wealth gap, politics and environmental damage, and goes viral

If you haven’t seen it, you must watch:

 

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

Writer, comedian, actress and disability campaigner Francesca Martinez began this petition to put an end to the devastating welfare reforms and tests which are causing suffering for the sick and disabled, and an end to the war on welfare – hence the nickname WoW petition.

The petition has reached around 70,000 and we need an extra 30,000 for it to be debated by a government committee.

This is a great opportunity to take this issue to Parliament. Sign.

Francesca Martinez - Image: The Guardian

Francesca Martinez – Image: The Guardian

“We call for:

“A Cumulative Impact Assessment of all cuts and changes affecting sick & disabled people, their families and carers, and a free vote on repeal of the Welfare Reform Act.

“An immediate end to the Work Capability Assessment, as voted for by the British Medical Association.

“Consultation between the Depts of Health & Education to improve support into work for sick & disabled people, and an end to forced work under threat of sanctions for people on disability benefits.

“An Independent, Committee-Based Inquiry into Welfare Reform, covering but not limited to: (1) Care home admission rises, daycare centres, access to education for people with learning difficulties, universal mental health treatments, Remploy closures; (2) DWP media links, the ATOS contract, IT implementation of Universal Credit; (3) Human rights abuses against disabled people, excess claimant deaths & the disregard of medical evidence in decision making by ATOS, DWP & the Tribunal Service.”

To sign the petition click here. 

1) Energy prices begin to rise and more winter deaths anticipated as families choose between heating and eating. Meanwhile, PM David Cameron advises wearing a jumper.

British Gas announced a 9.2% price rise this week ahead of winter, and others of the Big Six are expected to follow suit forcing many more families, poor, vulnerable and elderly to choose between heating and eating.

Following the announcement, British Gas made a PR faux-pas in allowing the public to ask questions through the Twitter hashtag #AskBG

Thousands used the hashtag to hit out at British Gas for the price hike and the expected deaths caused by the increase.

PM David Cameron then made a bad move in suggesting that people should wear jumpers in order to keep warm – a suggestion that has inflamed the public and politicians alike. Labour MP John Robertson branded the Prime Minister “patronizing and out of touch.”

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2) DWP Secretary to resign over Universal Credit ‘fiasco’

Robert Devereux, the permanent secretary to the DWP will be criticised in a new report highlighting the problems in the government’s Universal Credit programme.

Deveraux has said to colleagues that he will resign if he is personally criticised in the report made by the Commons Public accounts committee.

Image: Civil Service World

Robert Devereux – Image: Civil Service World

Minister for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith is thought to have fought with Devereux in the rollout of Universal Credit, which puts several benefit payments into one monthly sum.

In August, a leaked survey of staff working on the scheme revealed chaos, a lack of management and frustration. One employee described the work as “soul destroying.”

A report by the National Audit Office in September said it suffered from “weak management, ineffective control and poor governance” and could miss its 2017 deadline for implementation.

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3) 150,000 complain about ATOS

Sky News have obtained figures showing that Citizens Advice has had 150,000 complaints about the fit-to-work test administrators ATOS.

Citizens Advice say that the tests are failing genuinely sick and disabled people across the country.

Doctors are also warning that the service is “unfit for purpose.”

Read more about this story here.

Image: The Backbencher

Image: The Backbencher

4) Widow speaks out against ATOS on treatment of husband: “Cancer killed my husband, but ATOS took his dignity a long time before his death”

Lyn Coupe has vowed to continue the fight against healthcare group ATOS following the death of her husband David, who lost his life to cancer.

David Coupe had been ill for 24 years with a back injury, diabetes and a heart condition.

ATOS found David “capable of limited employment” and cut his benefits by £50 a week – a decision he appealed against, though he was told that a ruling would take a year.

Shortly after, David found he had cancer, which left him in even more pain and took his sight and hearing. He died before the appeal ruling. Lyn now says she will continue the fight:

“One night I heard him sobbing downstairs. He was blind, almost deaf and in terrible pain, yet they still said he was fit enough to work. He told me ‘I can’t go on. I’m done in duck’.

“All David wanted to do was stay alive long enough to see them pay back the money he was entitled to. Sadly he didn’t live long enough.”

MP Dennis Skinner brought the case to light in a speech to the Prime Minister, in which he called on David Cameron to end the fit to work tests and the “monster” that is ATOS.

Read more about this story here.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass