Archives For disability benefit

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.

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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) Thousands protest at Tory Party Conference  to “Save the NHS”, but BBC Coverage lacking 

NHS logo

NHS logo

On Sunday 29th September around 50,000-70,000 took to the Manchester streets outside the Tory party conference in what was one of the largest protests outside of London for years.

Unions has called for a day of action in the name of saving our NHS, attacking the coalition government for the health contracts being sold off to private companies, as well as plans to turn hospitals into Trusts which take on a more business-like role.

The plans could see up to hospitals using private investment for up of 50% of its funding, pushing NHS patients further down the waiting lists and essentially creating a two-tier health system.

Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC – one of the unions which called for the day of action, said at the rally that the current government did not like the NHS because it was the biggest “socialist success” of our time, adding:

“Cameron said the NHS is safe in his hands. Is he telling the truth or is he a liar?” (The crowd responded “Liar!”)

Despite the rally being so large, the BBC coverage has been attacked by many for being too minimal and unrepresentative of the scale of the very peaceful protest. Those who would like to contact the BBC can call them on their Complaints Line 03700100222.

2) Ed Miliband’s price freeze promise is met with threats from energy companies

Ed Miliband announced at the Labour Party Conference last week that he would freeze energy prices for 20 month should he come into power in 2015, following rising prices for 6 years.

Energy companies immediately hit back at Miliband, threatening blackouts and shortages if prices were frozen.

This has thrown the energy prices debate into the limelight, at a time when living standards are being stretched. Some talk has arisen over the re-nationalisation of some energy, which despite being attacked by Tories, can be  no worse than being held to ransom by largely foreign-owned companies which have profited hugely despite the austerity we have experienced, and shared none of the periods of cheaper energy with its customers.

“The profits made by the “big six” – British Gas, EDF, E.On, npower, Scottish Power and SSE – over the last few years (figures courtesy of the BBC): In 2009, £2.15 billion. In 2010, £2.22 billion. 2011 – £3.87 billion (a massive hike of £1,870,000,000 in a single year). And in 2012 – £3.74 billion. That’s £11.98 billion in profits over four years – a huge and unwarranted amount in these times of supposed austerity.”

Mike Sivier, Vox Political

3) Westminster Council defeated in landmark ‘bedroom tax’ case

Bedroom Tax Protest Image: birminghamagainstthecuts.co.uk

Bedroom Tax Protest Image: birminghamagainstthecuts.co.uk

The Conservative-run Westminster Council was defeated by a local tenant in the first ruling of it’s kind, against the controversial spare room subsidy.

Surinder Lall, who is also blind, told the tribunal that he was being charged for a second bedroom, when he had never used the room as such, as it had always stored the equipment he needed to help him lead a normal life.

Lall explained that his case was typical of many disabled people who required room for equipment, and called on the Council to stop using the term ‘bedroom’ to take away benefits from those who need it. Westminster Council say they were going on information supplied by Lall’s landlord.

“In his decision notice, the judge wrote: “The term ‘bedroom’ is nowhere defined [in the relevant regulations]. I apply the ordinary English meaning. The room in question cannot be so defined.”

4) Labour makes their commitments, whilst Tory Party Conference gets under way

The Labour Party Conference set up Ed Miliband’s aims for the party and was met with some strong support for some policies including a promise to scrap the bedroom tax and to sack ATOS. However, campaigners want an end to the Work Capability Assessment also, which has already been ruled unfair on those suffering from mental health problems, yet the Department for Work and Pensions are looking to appeal this. Campaigners want the policies that have ruled disability assessments to be pulled out, as well as the face of those who have provided them so poorly.

The Tory Party Conference is now underway in Manchester, with George Osborne expected to speak today on taking an ever harder line on benefit claimants, and introducing the ‘work for the dole’ policy! (Surprise, surprise! a policy put forward by the Tax Payers Alliance – read why this was a predictable move). More info to follow this week.

 

Image: the Telegraph

Image: the Telegraph

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

Today marks the start of the DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) week of action aptly named “Reclaiming Our Futures” (find out details of events here). Transport For All, an organisation devoted to ensuring that transport is accessible for all needs, begin the week of action with a protest against Crossrail, to demand that the new London infrastructure can be used by everyone. 

We caught up with Lianna Etkind from the organisation to find out about the campaign and why it is so important.

Lianna Etkind

Lianna Etkind

Could you tell us a bit about what is happening on Thursday? “So we have a day of action against inaccessible Crossrail. It’s London’s biggest infrastructure project at the moment, but seven of the stations are not going to have step-free access, so there are some extremely annoyed people, and we are going to have a paralympic legacy torch relay.

“We have people coming from Hanwell, in the west in Ealing, which is a station that will be on Crossrail and is proposed to have no access, and from Seven Kings in the east in Redbridge, again, will be part of Crossrail but will be out of bounds to many disabled people. And these people will be bearing paralymic legacy torches, travelling along the Crossrail route by public transport, by bus and tube, and gathering at 11:30am at Crossrail’s offices at Canary Wharf. And we’ll have a rally and lots of people speaking and music and a hand-in of our demands to say that Crossrail has to be accessible to everybody otherwise it’s not public transport.”

What are the challenges that disabled people face with transport already in place?

“Getting out and about in London can be a big hassle. One of the things is staff availability. You can turn up to a station that can be completely accessible in terms of infrastructure, but unless you can find a member of staff that is well trained and helpful and can help you down to the right platform, or guide you if you can’t see or help you buy a ticket, which is by no means easy on one of those ticket machines, it’s very difficult.

“Buses – every bus in London has a wheelchair ramp and a wheelchair bay which is fantastic, but still there is this regular conflict over who gets to use that wheelchair bay because a lot of buggies will use it, and not all of them will move if requested, for a wheelchair user, and often the bus driver won’t even ask them to move. So there’s a real problem with people being confident enough to go through that conflict when getting on a bus. And does the bus pull into the kerb or give people time to sit down. Some people might get on and just as you’re getting to your seat, the bus jerks off. People have been thrown over and there have been some really horrible accidents.

“The biggest thing in terms of getting out and about on equal terms with non-disabled people is the tube network. Only 66 stations are step-free to the platform and fewer are step-free to the train. It’s an old Victorian infrastructure, it is expensive to upgrade, but making sure more than just one quarter of stations are step-free is so important, especially in the context of an ageing population. Disabled people want to get out, get to work, be part of public life and that’s not going to happen unless they can use lines like Crossrail with the same freedom and independence that so many people take for granted.”

transport_for_all

Do you think this will help the integration of disabled people into society? Are we still pretty bad at integrating?

“Totally. It will help. One of the things that was said when the decision was made to make Crossrail only partially accessible was that disabled people can use their taxi card or get a lift or take other forms of transport to the nearest accessible station. But actually, as useful as community and door-to-door transport is, we want to be able to use public transport on equal terms with non-disabled people – not to be segregated. And besides, this will be something that will benefit everybody. Crossrail is on a route that serves Heathrow airport, so there’ll be lots of people struggling with suitcases and luggage. There are so many people who struggle with prams and with buggies and are fed up with having to wait at the bottom of the stairs looking a bit helpless, until someone comes along to help.

“So we’re hoping that if Crossrail agree to make the whole line step-free, that that will set a precedent for possibly, Crossrail 2 is being looked at, and every new rail line.”

How much will it cost to make all of the stations accessible? 

“Our calculations suggest that it would cost about £30m to make all stations accessible which is only 0.2% of the whole Crossrail budget. The whole thing is costing £14.8bn worth of public money, and it’s estimated that it will generate another £42bn for the economy. So it is a tiny fraction of the whole budget, and actually the economic benefits that are provided when disabled people can get out and about – we can spend in the high street, we can go to work and pay taxes, and not just be dependent on job seekers allowance and benefits. Those economic benefits are huge.”

A Transport For All protest last year.

A Transport For All protest last year.

Find out more about Transport for All here.

In a new monthly piece from journalist and radio reporter Kate Gibson, we stay up-to-date with what’s happening with the bedroom tax and how it is affecting people…

Call it what you like, the ‘bedroom tax’, the ‘under-occupancy penalty’ or the cuddly sounding ‘spare room subsidy’ – something facing 660,000 households in Britain – is punishing the poor.

Let’s begin at the beginning. The policy, which we’ll call the bedroom tax for ease, came into force on the 1st of April. Since then, anybody who lives in a council house or flat which is deemed to be too big for them will have to pay a chunk of their rent from their low income, whether that’s from other benefits or a paying job.

Conservative MPs suggested it would encourage single people or older adults, whose children had left the family home, to downsize to a smaller council house and ‘free up’ properties with more bedrooms for needy families – “not a bad idea” I hear you cry. On the surface, it seems like the bedroom tax was designed to avoid overcrowding but the policy has serious flaws.

Image: The Guardian

Image: The Guardian

The first of which is – some spare rooms aren’t SPARE at all.

I’m not arguing that it’s a basic human right to have a junk room. I’m talking about when a one-size-fits-all policy fails to provide for people with non-standard circumstances.

Jayson Carmichael, 50, is a full time carer for his wife, Charlotte, 40, who suffers from Spina Bifida. He used to work in a hotel but gave up his job to give Charlotte the help she needs around the clock.

The couple live in a modest two bedroom flat in Southport, Merseyside. It’s been their home for ten years. Charlotte sleeps on a special electric hospital mattress to ease painful pressure sores. As there’s no room for another bed in the same room, Jayson sleeps next door in the single bedroom.

Now, as they’re deemed to be under-occupying, Jayson is being forced to pay 14% of their weekly rent out of his minimal carer’s allowance. Losing £11.90 per week is a huge hardship for Jayson and Charlotte.

They were granted a judicial review in May but the judge has put off giving a verdict so far. We’re told to expect a judgment tomorrow (TUES).

Not exempting disabled adults who need a second bedroom either for their partner to sleep in or to store vital medical equipment smacks of double standards – as disabled children do not have to share with their siblings.

Also, non-resident single parents are being told they can’t keep a room for their children – no matter how often they visit. This has led to children of all ages and genders having to share a makeshift bed in a living room – even when it’s inappropriate. Surely does nothing to help families who have already suffered a relationship breakdown.

Secondly, even if a smaller property would be suitable  – there are none to move in to!

In Greenwich, London there are 1353 people waiting for a one-bed. There is only currently one ready for renting. The other 1352 households will lose out on money whether they want to move or not. Many of them didn’t even get a say in where they were housed and were just given the property that they’re now being told is too big for them. It’s the same story all across the country

Adding insult to injury, if a suitable property DOES become available, it’s likely that a housing authority won’t let a tenant move if they’re in arrears on their rent. Meaning they’re not allowed to move out of the house that costs too much because they couldn’t physically pay for the house that cost too much.

If that isn’t a beautiful illustration of a poverty trap, I don’t know what is.

Third – Without meaning to be corny about this, it ISN’T ‘just a house’. It’s a home.

I’ve heard many bedroom tax supporters point out, quite rightly, that a council or local authority home doesn’t belong to the tenant.

The same could be argued of a private tenant who pays all of their rent themselves. It doesn’t mean it isn’t their home that they cherish.

A widow, Julia Jones, who fought against the bedroom tax, once summed it up beautifully. “Everybody deserves the right to feel safe in their own home,” she said.

Investment. Community. Stability.

By creating a culture where nobody can feel as if a council house is his or her home, the stock won’t be looked after. People won’t invest in decorating. They won’t maintain the building. Houses will fall into disrepair.

More worryingly, people won’t invest in their communities. If you expect to be moved on every time your circumstances change, why would you get to know your neighbours? Why would you want to put down long-term routes? Without meaning to sound melodramatic, the bedroom tax stands to literally ruin what little community spirit remains in Britain’s villages, towns and cities.

Crazily – All this and it doesn’t actually save any money like the Government said it would.

Next month, I’ll be taking part in an anti-bedroom mass sleep-out to remind the Government just what our streets could look like in the not-too-distant future if the bedroom tax isn’t scrapped.

The Mass Sleep Out takes place August 24th

The Mass Sleep Out takes place August 24th

KG

Find out more about the mass sleep out here.

Despite the success of the Workfare week of action the other week, there is still plenty of work to do to stop the scheme. There are still many people who are not sure what the scheme is and they are not helped along by the silence of the media or the confusing number of aliases the government runs the scheme under.

A Boycott Workfare Protest earlier this year. Image: Johnny Void

A Boycott Workfare Protest earlier this year. Image: Johnny Void

However, public support and awareness can make a huge difference and has already pushed companies to pull out of the scheme in light of the negative public reaction.

To find out more we caught up with Joanna from Boycott Workfare – the grassroots campaign group set up by individuals affected by the scheme to help others with information, knowing their rights, and also to expose and protest against companies involved.

The interview took place in a sunny park, so please excuse the sound in some parts:

“Chris Grayling’s really annoyed that campaigners have set the agenda on the language around this but we’re naming it for what it is which is forced unpaid labour in the UK.”

“Some of the only information in the public domain about whether you are eligible for these schemes is from Freedom Of Information requests the campaign has been able to do to put that information out there. The government would rather we had no idea about our rights and were just subject to the will of the job-centre or the work programme providers and just had to obey on threat of starvation.”

Joanna – Boycott Workfare

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass
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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