Archives For WCA

1) ‘Humiliation’ greets new Work Capability Assessment provider in first week

 

Over 30 protests were held across the country against the new provider of Work Capability Assessments (WCA) on Monday 2nd March. American company Maximus replace ATOS but campaigners claim that this is merely a shift from one ‘toxic’ profit seeking company to another, making no difference to the disabled people being assessed. Maximus also has a history of discrimination, incompetance and alleged fraud in the US.

Protests held by activists from Disabled People Against Cuts sought to re-name the company as Maximarse which trended briefly on Twitter during the demonstrations. Embarrassingly for Maximarse, it was revealed that the company had bought the domain http://www.maximarse.com to prevent any spoof websites being created against them.

The purchase was made on 26 January by the company’s senior manager for investor relations and corporate communications. Maximus have yet to comment on the domain purchase or their plans for the site.

Read more about this story here.

2) Jeremy Hunt accused of cover up over damning NHS report

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been accused of a ‘politically motivated’ cover up of a critical report on the NHS, written by Tory peer and ex-M&S boss Stuart Rose. Sarah Wollaston, a GP and Tory MP who now heads up the health select committee has accused Jeremy Hunt of with-holding vital information until after the election. The report is critical of problems with NHS management, which could come as a blow to the Tory election campaign, as the NHS becomes a hot topic. Rose is said to be angry at the report’s stifling, though has not made any comments.

“Wollaston told the Observer that reports which had been commissioned by government and paid for by taxpayers should be made available at the earliest opportunity on matters of such clear public interest. “There is far too much of this going on, with uncomfortable information being withheld,” Wollaston said. “Just as with the Chilcot report into the Iraq war, it is not right that reports paid for out of public money are not made available to the public on such vital issues as soon as possible, particularly ahead of a general election.”

 Read more about this story here.

3) Occupy Democracy protestors given go ahead to challenge Boris over Parliament Square fencing

Occupy Democracy returned to Parliament Square this weekend on a day that coincided with the thousands of Londoners at the Climate March, with the good news that they have been given permission to challenge Mayor of London Boris Johnson over the decision to erect a fence halfway through a 10 day Occupy demonstration, prohibiting peaceful protest from continuing.

Protestors were told that the fencing was required for maintenance of the grass, but the area was quickly extended, forcing the protestors further and further away. Occupy Democracy went to great lengths to ensure there was no littering and an alcohol free zone. There were also never so many protestors to inhibit others being able to join them or dominate the area.

“Rosie Brighouse, Lawyer for Liberty, said:

“The UK has a long, proud history of holding the powerful to account, and the right to protest peacefully is enshrined in law in our Human Rights Act. Unfortunately that can be something of an inconvenience for those in power.

“The Mayor’s flagrant disregard for one of our most fundamental freedoms, on the very doorstep of the palace of power, cannot be allowed to go unchecked – so we’re delighted the courts have seen fit to review his actions.”

Read more about this story here.

4) Boris Johnson’s ‘duplicitous claims’ over vanity project revealed

London’s ‘garden bridge’ project was billed as a free gift for London, but a confidential letter leaked to the Guardian has revealed the public purse is obliged to pay the £3.5m maintenance costs yearly on top of £60m committed funds.

This goes against everything Johnson has publicly promised about the project, which now is causing a strain on transport funds while he sells it as a ‘sponsored gift.’This is also amid growing austerity, poverty and social cleansing in the capital, and while Boris makes attempts to shut down the voice of the public as above.

Read more about this story here.

5) Paul Mobbs arrested during citizens’ arrest of Cabinet

Environmental researcher and consultant Paul Mobbs was arrested under the Terrorism Act last week outside 10 Downing Street while he tried to arrest the Cabinet for Misconduct in Public Office. Watch this brilliant video detailing how Paul Mobbs went through with the action, giving great advice on how to deal with police and law at a time of institutional ignorance to human rights and corruption:

 

Update:

‘Paul has now been released from Charring Cross police station. He has officially reported a crime (misconduct in public office) which the police are now duty bound to investigate and he has provided them with everything they need to investigate the crime. He is now setting off home and should be back in Banbury in a few hours. He is going to celebrate by going for a walk tomorrow.’

 Read more about this story here. 

6) Wannabe Tory leader says it’s ‘impossible’ to raise family on £67k

Millionaire Windsor MP Adam Afriyie became yet another example of out-of-touch MPs after he claimed that it was ‘impossible’ to raise a family on an MP’s salary of £67k.

Afriyie said that MPs salaries and expenses should be scrapped and they should be given an allowance of £225,000 a year to spend however they want, adding that if wages from 1911 kept pace this is the figure MPs would be on. He failed to mention the rate at which the minimum wage would be if it had not been stifled by governments, or the rates of pay for nurses and care workers had they not been kept down by successive governments and environments of austerity and stagnant wages.

Read more about this idiot here.

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1) Young at increased risk of poverty, says report

Joseph-Rowntree-Foundation

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has released a report revealing that the young are now at an increased risk of poverty, as unemployment and insecure work continues to blight the jobs market.

The report said:

“Youth unemployment has risen continuously since 2004. By 2011 it was two-thirds higher than 2001. At a record high, it’s three times higher than that of other adults.”

Education and qualifications seem to play a major part in whether a young person is able to remain out of poverty. The less qualified a person is, the more likely they are to be unemployed and living in poverty and after the age of 19, the likelihood of getting qualifications drops significantly.

  • “The lower people’s qualifications, the higher their risk of unemployment. This risk has risen over the past decade.”
  • “16- to 19-year-olds not in full-time education are at greater risk of poverty than any age group except the youngest.”

Though, gaps in attainment and increased risk of unemployment can be sourced back to early education. The report said:

“An ‘attainment gap‘ emerges before school. It continues through childhood. By 16 and older, it is considerable.

  • Tests at age 3 show a significant gap between more affluent children and the poorest fifth
  • Lower-achieving but more affluent children overtake the highest low-income achievers by age 7
  • Poorer children are half as likely to go to university as their more affluent peers

Across ethnic groups, white young people do less well than their peers from many minorities. But the performance and treatment of black Caribbean and Traveller children raise serious concerns.

For minority ethnic groups poverty is twice as likely, despite improved qualifications.

Poorer higher education students were already more likely to drop out, defer, switch, repeat or restart courses before tuition fees and cuts to Education Maintenance Allowance applied.

But the aspirations of disadvantaged young people are high.”

Read the report here.

2) Bill to stop ‘revenge evictions’ talked out

Image: Shelter

Image: Shelter

On Monday last week, around 1000 protesters demonstrated outside Parliament in demand for better rights for tenants.

Shelter estimate that some 213,000 people are evicted every year in ‘revenge evictions’ which happen following complaints to landlords over poor housing.

A Bill was put to the House of Commons to end these evictions. It required 100 signatures. Unfortunately, only 60 MPs signed.

Shelter also estimate that 2% of the public are landlords and that private tenancies have seen an increase in poor housing standards. Further, at a time of rocketing rents and stagnant wages, affirming rights for tenants should be a priority for government. Everybody should be able to access safe, secure housing.

Unfortunately, the outcome of this Bill shows priorities are held elsewhere.

Shelter later revealed that 2 MPs ‘filibustered’ the Bill – a tactic of talking out, to delay or ‘talk to death’. They are MPs Philip Davies and Christopher Chope.

Shelter vow to continue the fight until they win.

Read Shelter’s blog ‘We Will Make It Happen’ here.

Read more about this story here.

 

3) Government accused of ‘numbers game’ in use of apprenticeships

Hundreds of thousands of people aged 25 and over are entering apprenticeships which pay as little as £2.73 an hour.

Apprenticeships have been bandied around by parties of all colours as a solution to youth unemployment but  “figures from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) show that more than 350,000 of the UK’s 851,000 apprentices were over 25, with more than 50,000 aged over 50.”

“The number of UK apprentices has risen from 491,300 in 2009 to 851,500 today – an increase of 73%.

“However, the proportion of those over 25 has more than doubled – it was 19% of all apprentices in 2009/10, but now stands at 42%.”

There is now concern that apprenticeships are being used to subsidise full paid jobs and losing focus on the young whilst also massaging employment figures.

Read more about this story here.

4) Theresa May says ‘Time is right’ for more police powers

Image: The Guardian

Image: The Guardian

Speaking at a counter terrorism event last week, the Home Secretary Theresa May said that the ‘time is right’ to increase police powers to monitor online behaviour in order to combat terrorism and child abuse.

This news snuck out following a general silence since the terror threat was raised to ‘substantial’ earlier this year in the UK.

Considering the ‘loss’ of 114 files on child abuse within government and the Home Secretary’s inability to find someone to lead the child abuse inquiry who had no connection with those involved, we remain unconvinced that these greater powers to probe our online conversations and activity is in our interests or for the protection of potential victims.

May said these powers should be implemented following the General Election.

Read more about this story here.

5) David Cameron attacks migrant workers, but does nothing about exploitative bosses

David Cameron was criticised for attacking migrant workers with further restrictions to benefits, whilst doing nothing to stop exploitative bosses from paying low wages.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Today David Cameron did not act as a prime minister but as a low-grade scrapper, trying to save his political skin by kicking migrant workers.

“He knows he cannot please his big business paymasters who want free access to European workers and the profits that come from their hard work on low wages.

“Instead he inflames a fear of European workers, proposing to cement them as a second-class workforce with no access to the assistance that millions of low paid workers in this country simply need to make ends meet.

“Too many UK employers are addicted to welfare to top up their low waged workforce. It is not migrants that are dragging down pay, but boardrooms that are holding it down.

“Why does he not tackle this by ensuring that collective bargaining can safeguard wages? Look at Germany, which has far greater levels of immigration than the UK but which has laws to protect decent wages.

“What the prime minister did today was to send out a message that the problems in our economy are the fault of workers, wherever they come from. This is a lie. It is not migrant workers who recruit in Poland, or force zero hours work upon people desperate for a job.

“It is not migrant workers who have sold off council homes, cut our Sure Start places, brought ruin to our NHS, or have forced the greatest collapse in living standards in generations.

“It is business behaviour and political decisions that are causing insecurity, not ordinary people trying to make a living.”

Read more about this story here.

6) Government not doing enough to tackle ESA problems

Dr Litchfield’s fifth and final independent review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) has been published and the Government has responded to a Work and Pensions Select Committee review into Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
For the last five years, Mind has been feeding into the independent reviews, calling for changes to the WCA process which is used to decide whether someone is able to get the disability benefit ESA. We have also submitted evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee outlining our concerns about wider benefit reforms and the failure of government schemes to support people with mental health problems into work.MIND%20logo[1]

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

“We welcome the ongoing improvements to the WCA through the independent review process, and particularly the focus on the experience of people with mental health problems. However the narrow scope of these reviews means that wider problems with the system for people with mental health problems have still not been tackled.

“The Work and Pensions Committee report provided a comprehensive evaluation of ESA and the WCA and included strong recommendations. Unfortunately the Government’s response represents a missed opportunity, with little sign that they are willing to make reforms of the scale needed.

“Very few people with mental health problems are being supported into work through ESA, and huge numbers of people are receiving benefit sanctions from a system that does not understand their needs and barriers. As a result, many people are finding that the stress and pressure they are put under is making their health worse, and making them feel less able to work. That’s why we’re calling for everyone with mental health problems claiming ESA to receive personalised, specialist support which acknowledges and addresses the barriers they may face in getting and staying in work.”

7) Pensioners lead protest for energy rights, after ONS reveal 18,200 excess winter deaths last year

Image: Fuel Poverty Action

Image: Fuel Poverty Action

Pensioners marched and demonstrated outside the offices of lobbyists Energy UK following the release of the winter death toll from the Office for National Statistics.

Find out more about Fuel Poverty Action here.

8) #Cameronmustgo trends for four days

The hashtag #Cameronmustgo trended for 4 days last week, with an outpouring of hundreds of thousands of messages and reasons to sack the Tory PM. Unfortunately, it got no coverage in the media.

From ‘Bring Back News to the BBC’ – Nov 25 –

#CameronMustGo is still trending in the UK on Twitter for the fourth day in a row. No sign at all of it on the #bbctrending Twitter feed. I haven’t heard mention of it on any BBC news outlets (do let us know if you see/hear anything like meaningful coverage). Daily, wall to wall coverage of a single tweet by Elizabeth Thornberry on all mainstream media outlets for many days, but 400,000 + tweets largely ignored by all but single articles in the liberal outlets (HuffPo, Guardian, etc), which have all written multiple articles on Thornberry – 2 to 3 a day for 5 days.

“The mainstream media is talking a completely different language and setting a totally different agenda to the people of the country, and it is happy to talk UKIP, immigrants, scroungers, but not austerity, injustice and poverty. That’s why we need to speak up for ourselves.”

9) George Osbourne’s #AusterityFail

Ahead of budget day on 3rd December, the People’s Assembly have put together a video of messages for George Osbourne.

 

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. Iain Duncan Smith used false statistics to justify benefit cuts

Image: theweek.co.uk

Image: theweek.co.uk

Following a complaint from the charity Parkinson’s UK, the official statistics watchdog has revealed that the DWP repeatedly used false disability statistics to justify welfare changes and cuts.

The DWP and it’s spokespeople repeatedly claimed that the majority of those on DLA (Disability Living Allowance) were give benefits for life without supporting medical evidence. But the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) has revealed that only 10% of those passed for life support had no supporting medical evidence.

“The DWP also claimed that “under the current system of DLA, 71% of claimants get indefinite awards without systematic reassessments. However the UKSA found that in the last two years of the DLA, just 23% and 24% of claimants were given indefinite awards.

…..Last year Duncan Smith claimed that 8000 people who had been affected by the benefits cap had moved back into work. The UKSA found that this figure was “unsupported by the official statistics.”

Politics.co.uk

Parkinson’s UK policy advisor Donna O’Brien said:

“The Department of Work and Pensions has a long track record of misusing statistics when it comes to the benefits system, and it’s clear this was a tactic to vindicate further welfare cuts.”

 Read more about this story here.

2. Farage’s excruciating LBC interview forces him and the public to face his hypocrisy, finally

Farage faced a difficult interview when he agreed to appear on James O’Brien’s LBC radio show which resulted in UKIP’s communications director intervening to stop the interview.

O’Brien questioned Farage on racism and discrimination, highlighting that Farage’s attitude and comments were discriminatory against his own wife and children who are German.

Well done James O’Brien. Just a shame it took so long for this sort of questioning on UKIP policies and rhetoric to happen.

Watch the full interview here.

 

3. Universal Credit could lead to increase in error and fraud, warns Work and Pensions Committee

The government has stated that the IT system IRIS (Integrated Risk and Intelligence Service) will be used to perform safeguards against fraud throughout Universal Credit, as it does with housing benefit now. However, there are now problems with how the system will run, and access the necessary data – which could mean the overhaul of the system and a design of a new one which could put the system back, and increase fraud and error in the meantime.

Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, Dame Anne Begg MP, said:

“Through the use of RTI—real-time information on PAYE earnings—Universal Credit has the potential over the longer term to substantially reduce fraud and error in the benefits system. However, this could be seriously undermined because of the uncertainty about how DWP will administer the housing element of Universal Credit without increased risks of fraud and error.”

Read more about this story here.

4. Government quietly announces proposals to privatise child protection services

The Department for Education, under Michael Gove, has a proposal to permit the outsourcing of child protection services to companies like G4S and Serco.

Image: The Telegraph

Image: The Telegraph

This has alarmed experts, who say “profit-making companies should not be in charge of such sensitive family matters, and warn that the introduction of the profit motive into child protection may distort the decision-making process.”

Professor Ellen Munro, who was commissioned by Gove in 2011 to carry out a review into child protection services, said:

“……establishing a market in child protection would create perverse incentives for private companies to either take more children into care or leave too many languishing with dangerous families.

“It’s a bad idea,” she told the Guardian. “It’s the state’s responsibility to protect people from maltreatment. It should not be delegated to a profit-making organisation.”

Sign the petition to keep profit out of child protection here. 

Read more about this story here.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

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
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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.

atos-e1390924724560

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)   WOW Petition hits 100,000 signatures

 

Image: WOW Petition

Image: WOW Petition

The WOW petition, calling for a re-assessment of welfare reform and an end to the Work Capability Assessment, sanctions and forced work for the sick and disabled has hit its 100,000 signature target.

This means that it shall now be considered for debate in the House of Commons.

The petition was started by comedienne, writer and disability rights campaigner Francesca Martinez, and has been branded as the petition to stop the War On Welfare.

The WOW petition also calls for independent inquiries into ATOS, care home charges and the closure of Remploy factories.

This follows the news of another successful petition which calls on Minister for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith to answer MPs on the failures and problems of welfare reform, which he is due to attend on 9th December.

Read more about this story here.

2)   NHS must be preserved from commercial interests who want to privatise, says Stephen Hawking

World famous physicist, Stephen Hawking has called for protection of the NHS from privatization, insisting he would have died without it.

Hawking, who developed motor neurone disease at the age of 21, said during filming of a Channel 4 film:

“Only last summer, I caught pneumonia, and would have died, but for the NHS hospital care. We must retain this critical public service, and prevent the establishment of a two-tier system, with the best medicine for the wealthy, and an inferior service for the rest.”

The film will be shown on C4 this Wednesday.

Image: Christian Medical Comment

Image: Christian Medical Comment

Read more about this story here.

3) Workfare Week of Action

Boycott Workfare will begin a week of action on Monday 2nd December against the government policies that force benefit claimants to undertake full time work for no pay or under threat of losing their benefits.

The week of action kicks off with a noise demo outside Senate House where a government workfare conference is taking place, alongside the potential ‘employers’ of workfare.

Find out more about the week of action here.

4)   Boris Johnson defends the rich and greed, but not the sick, disabled or unemployed

In the Margaret Thatcher lecture, Boris Johnson defended the super-rich again and insisted that greed was a valuable ‘economic spur’ whilst also adding that where success is measured, we should not ignore the IQ levels of those in high places.

Well, we had a lot to say about that.

Read our open letter. 

 

Image: One World Chronical

Image: One World Chronical

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.