Finally – legal proof that disability benefits test is unfair for people with mental illness

Via Paul Jenkins @ Rethink Mental Illness

Three judges today confirmed what campaigners have been shouting from the rooftops for years – the benefits test used to decide whether people are fit for work, actively discriminates against people with mental illness.

This is a huge victory for everyone who has been subjected to the cruel and unfair Work Capability Assessment(WCA), which is used to decide who is fit for work.

Read more about our new campaign – Unfair WCA

The WCA is riddled with problems but this judicial review focussed on one specific issue – that of gathering supporting evidence. Under the current system, no matter how ill or even delusional you may be, you are responsible for proactively gathering your own medical evidence and sending it to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). If you fail to do this, it simply won’t be looked at.

This means your ability to work will be judged from a one-off 15 minute assessment by a stranger who may well have no mental health training whatsoever and has no idea what your GP, psychiatrist or Community Psychiatric Nurse has to say about your illness. It means all the paperwork documenting your long history of severe and enduring mental illness can be simply ignored.

While for most people, gathering this kind of evidence would be fairly straightforward, for someone with a severe mental illness, it can be an impossible task. We’re talking about people who may be in the midst of a psychotic episode or someone who perhaps hasn’t left the house for months.

“It’s like asking someone in a wheelchair to walk to the assessment centre.”

Our CEO Paul Jenkins on the Unfair WCA

Unfair WCA – our new campaign

It’s these very people, those who are most ill, who are least likely to be able to gather their own evidence and who are being penalised as a result. It’s like asking someone in a wheelchair to walk to the assessment centre. It sets people up to fail and means that some of the most vulnerable people in our society are being left without the basic financial support they need.

The system flies in the face of equality legislation, which has been carefully developed over the last 50 years to protect people with disabilities. It creates the impression that the DWP isn’t too worried about getting it right, they’re just interested in slashing benefits, no matter what the human cost.

What makes it even harder to stomach is that it’s completely at odds with the government’s repeated insistence that mental health is a top priority. On the one hand, they are pushing forward with the Mental Health Strategy and the recently passed Mental Health Discrimination Bill, and on the other they are penalising the very same group by forcing them through this discriminatory process, which is putting lives at riskA poll of over 1,000 GPscommissioned by Rethink Mental Illness last year, found that over 20% have patients who have felt suicidal due to the WCA.

The judgment is a huge victory for everyone affected by severe mental illness, but it’s sad that it took a court case to force the DWP to take action. They have been dragging their heels on this issue for years while making vague and empty promises to improve. All this time, people with severe mental illnesses have continued to be subjected to this unfair test and many have wrongly had their benefits reduced or removed. Now that the court has ruled that these tests are unfair, it would be completely irresponsible to carry on using them. We are calling on the DWP to halt the mass reassessment of people in this group receiving incapacity benefit immediately, until the process is fixed.

We’re not saying people with severe mental illness cannot work. For some people work can be central to recovery and staying well. Those people should be offered support to get back into employment. What we are saying is that benefit tests should be fair and accurate, to ensure the most ill and vulnerable people in our society don’t slip through the net. It’s in everyone’s interests that we get this right. Inaccurate assessments lead to costly appeals and put further strain on the public purse.

Today’s ruling is a huge step forward, but the real work starts now. There has been a lot of tinkering around the edges of the system, but not enough real action. Now we not only need to see major reforms to the WCA, but also to the assessment process for all benefits so we can be sure people with mental illness are getting a fair deal.

We will keep campaigning on behalf of everyone we represent until the whole system is fair for everyone. Read more and get the latest on our new campaign about the Unfair WCA.

Two win sickness benefit test legal challenge

Via The BBC

Two people with mental health problems have won a legal challenge against the government tests for sickness benefit.

Judges at the Upper Tribunal ruled the Work Capability Assessment puts people with mental illness, autism and learning difficulties at a substantial disadvantage.

The process is too difficult for many to navigate, a court heard.

The Department for Work and Pensions says there are safeguards in place and it will appeal against the ruling.

Work Capability Assessment (WCA) tests, which measure a person’s entitlement to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) by determining whether they are fit for employment, were introduced in 2008 and are carried out on behalf of the government.

The claimants alleged the system discriminated against them but the judges have asked to see further evidence before it can make a decision on this.

‘Significant improvements’

The court was told people who have conditions that mean they lack insight can struggle to gather the right documents needed for a successful claim, such as doctors’ reports.

The judgment was the result of a judicial review brought by two claimants with mental health problems, whose identities have been protected.Lawyers for the two argued that where a claim is from someone with a mental health problem, it should be the government’s responsibility to seek additional medical evidence.

UK charities Rethink Mental Illness, Mind and the National Autistic Society intervened in the case to provide evidence based on the experiences of their members and supporters.

Almost 20,000 people are assessed each week for ESA – including those moving over from the old benefit system of Incapacity Benefit (IB) – in England, Wales and Scotland, DWP figures show. The benefits system in Northern Ireland is administered separately.

More than a third of these people are claiming primarily for mental health problems, meaning tens of thousands of people each month are going through a process that puts them at a substantial disadvantage, the mental health charity said.

Under the current system, evidence from a professional, such as a GP or social worker, is expected to be provided by claimants themselves. There is no obligation for the DWP to collect this evidence, even on behalf of the most vulnerable claimants – apart from in some rare cases.

The charities involved in the case called on the government to suspend use of WCA tests for the people they help.

Mind’s chief executive Paul Farmer said: “The judgment is a victory, not only for the two individuals involved in this case, but for thousands of people who have experienced additional distress and anxiety because they have struggled through an assessment process which does not adequately consider the needs of people with mental health problems.”

The DWP said it wished to work with charities to “continually improve” the WCA for people with mental health problems.

But a spokesperson said: “We disagree with today’s ruling and intend to appeal.

“We believe we have made – and continue to make – significant improvements to the WCA process for people with mental health conditions. The percentage of people with mental health conditions who go into the support group for ESA has more than tripled since 2010.

The DWP said the tribunal had made clear that there are safeguards built in to the WCA process to help ESA claimants.

How not to miss – subarachnoid haemorrhage

By Professor Tim Harris  professor in emergency medicine, Queen’s Mary University London and Bart’s Health NHS Trust.

Mr David Sayer is specialist registrar in neurosurgery, Queen’s Hospital, Romford


Professor in emergency medicine, Tim Harris, and specialist registrar in neurosurgery Mr David Sayer discuss the signs and the pitfalls in diagnosing subarachnoid haemorrhage


hemorrhagic_250wWorst outcomes if missed

SAH is a devastating disease with a mortality of 45% and from which 30% of the survivors will have severe disability.3 The chance of an aneurysm which has had a small rupture, having a further bleed is approximately 1.5% per day for the first two weeks. Early treatment with either surgery or angiographic coiling aims to prevent further bleeding and serious neurological damage, thus early diagnosis is important.

The worse outcome is death or disability following a re-bleed in a well patient. The patient who has a grade 1 SAH (GCS 15 with no deficit) has the most to gain from prompt treatment of the aneurysm and the potential to lead a completely normal life. If the first bleed is missed and a subsequent one happens, the risk is highest in the first two weeks, then this has a significant chance of causing death or disability, which is preventable. These, as they are neurologically intact, are the patients most likely to present to primary care.


SAH is most commonly due to rupture of a Berry aneurysm, causal in around 85%. 10% are idiopathic perimesencepalic bleeds and around 5% are due to rarer causes, including intracranial artery dissection, arterio-venous malformation, tumours, angiitis, cerebral venous thrombosis and RCVS. The incidence is around 6-8:100000/year.1

Asymptomatic Berry aneurysms are common, occurring in 3-6% of the population.2

The prognosis for non-aneurysmal SAH is good.

Symptoms and signs

Acute severe headache

Patients with SAH usually complain of having an acute severe headache, but can present with

  • altered consciousness
  • coma
  • seizure
  • syncope.

The classical presentation is a ‘thunderclap headache’, defined as a headache that reaches 7/10 or more on a 0-10 pain severity scale within one minute of onset.4 It lasts from minutes to days.

SAH is identified in around 10-25% of such presentations and in 10-12%, other serious diagnoses are found.5,6

Thunderclap headache requires urgent referral to the emergency department for evaluation, regardless of associated findings such as neck stiffness or normal cerebral function. Urgent referral should still be made for patients attending in the days post thunderclap headache, as this may represent a ‘warning bleed’ for SAH.

Less severe headache

SAH may present with less severe headache. The so called sentinel bleed, in which a small leak of blood from an aneurysm occurs some days or weeks prior to a larger bleed, is well described and sees clinicians have a low threshold for investigation of headache.6

Differential diagnoses


  • Migraine
  • Medication overuse headache
  • Acute trigeminal autonomic neuralgias (such as cluster type headache)
  • Musculoskeletal disease
  • Benign sex headache
  • Sinusitis


  • Intracerebral haemorrhage
  • Extradural haemorrhage
  • Meningitis
  • Cervical artery dissection
  • Aneurysm of intracranial vessels.
  • Temporal arteritis
  • Cerebral venous sinus thrombosis
  • Pituitary apoplexy
  • Space occupying lesions
  • Glaucoma
  • Reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS).5

To avoid missing SAH, GPs should have a low threshold for the investigation of headache, not simply thunderclap headache, even if the patient being assessed has a history of headache in the past.

A headache of different character to usual is most safely assumed as potentially representing a different aetiology.

Only around 70% SAH presents with isolated headache and this meets the definition for ‘thunderclap headache’ in only 50%.


A non-contrast CT brain scan is the key to most headache diagnoses. A lumbar puncture (LP) is commonly recommended if the CT scan has not identified a cause for the headache.

CT accuracy for diagnosing SAH falls with time from headache onset – approaching 100% if performed within six hours but falling to 90% to around 24-48 hours and 50% by one week. 7,8

The LP is performed 12-hours post-headache in order to identify xanthochromia. CSF is sent to the laboratory for cell counts and spectrophotometry. If the latter identifies bilirubin this is taken as diagnostic of SAH.  However, the LP is non-diagnostic in up to one third of cases.

The requirement for an LP on all CT negative patients with a history suggestive of SAH has been recently challenged with a large prospective cohort study suggesting that CT scanning may exclude SAH if CT is performed within six hours of onset. Some departments offer alternative further investigations for patients presenting with thunderclap headache, such as MRA or CT angiography. If the non-contrast CT or LP suggest SAH then the investigation of choice to identify the cause of SAH is a CT angiogram.


Five key questions

  • Is this your worse ever headache and different to your previous headaches?
  • How long did it take to reach peak intensity? (SAH peaks within minutes)
  • Are there any features of meningeal irritation? For example, neck stiffness, photophobia, nausea and vomiting
  • Was there any associated loss of consciousness, no matter how brief?
  • Any family history of brain haemorrhage? There is an increased chance of aneurysm if two first degree relatives have suffered from a subarachnoid haemorrhage.

Five red herrings

  1. In patients with previous headaches, these can confuse the issue. The biggest risk is failure to consider the diagnosis. In particular, a different headache from usual is important.
  2. Are there any focal neurological deficits? This points to a different diagnosis as patients presenting to a GP surgery with SAH are unlikely to have a focal deficit, these tend to happen in poorer grade patients. The exception is an acute third nerve palsy which can signify a posterior communicating artery aneurysm.
  3. Treat falls with suspicion. Did the event happen before and caused the fall, rather than the headache being a result of a bang to the head.
  4. Increased blood pressure often occurs in SAH. Be wary of attributing headache to hypertension.
  5. Fevers, particularly high, suggest an alternative diagnosis such as meningitis.


Professor Tim Harris is professor in emergency medicine, Queen’s Mary University London and Bart’s Health NHS Trust. Mr David Sayer is specialist registrar in neurosurgery, Queen’s Hospital, Romford

Eleven reasons why the UK deaf population should join the war on welfare

From: The Word
These are scary times we are living in. Over the weekend, the spectre of ’80s political tension has rematerialised with rioting Millwall fans and Thatcher death-parties in Trafalgar Square.


The economy, and in particular the deregulated banking sector, is making headlines too, with fears that Britain could become either another Greece (total financial chaos – remember Northern Rock?) or another China (totalitarian state), depending on your point of view. Whichever way you look at it, George Osbourne is the most unpopular MP in nearly 10 years.

The welfare reforms are more than just benefit cuts. We are part of the estimated 3.7 million deaf and disabled people set to lose a total of £28 billion over the next five years; a whopping £757 per person, and that’s just the start. The cuts are an attack on everything to do with our well being: our health, employment, family, relationships, housing, education, money and leisure. Broken down, this is how our welfare, equality and human rights are being eroded, bit by bit.

1. Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is being replaced with Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
The roll-out started last Monday in parts of the North of England, aiming to go nationwide in June. Just because we’re permanently deaf doesn’t mean that the PIP assessment procedure is going to be the same as the one for DLA. Instead of bringing in NHS doctors at no cost to the taxpayer, the government are paying ATOS £1 billion – along with two other companies – to assess us for PIP, aiming to cut benefit claims by 20%, meaning that half a million genuine claimants could lose out. If Work and Benefits’ PIP self-test is anything to go by, that includes deaf and hard-of-hearing people.

2. Deaf education is under threat.
Most deaf and hard-of-hearing people and clued-up partners or parents know that the NDCS are campaigning to preserve funding for deaf children’s services. The fact that they’re having to work so hard to collect petition signatures is a worrying indication of the government’s priorities, especially in light of evidence that a bilingual (BSL/English) education is the best fit for many deaf children.

3. British healthcare is now an open market.
I’ve already blogged about this. Mark my words; it won’t be too long before ‘NHS’ stops being synonymous with ‘healthcare for all’. Already, people have to be re-referred to an audiologist who’s known them for years, while hearing aid batteries are no longer available in local surgeries. Imagine getting left behind in the queue for a CI operation in favour of someone who has more money than you – and blow the consequences for your quality of life. And then what will you do? Go private?

4. Eligibility for Legal Aid has changed.
Before April 1st, 2013, everyone on Income Support or Employment and Support Allowance was automatically eligible for Legal Aid funding to cover cases involving (among various aspects of family law) debt, discrimination, housing, education, welfare, and clinical negligence. Now, new claimants need a household income of £32,000 to qualify, and those getting between £14,000 and £32,000 have to take a means test. Even in discrimination cases, you will be expected to access help via a telephone line manned in three offices across the country, rather than face-to-face solicitor meetings.

5. The quality standards of court interpreting services have been compromised.
Interpreters Anonymous have blogged about this for over a year. In January 2012, the coalition contracted Applied Language Solutions (ALS), now part of Capita Translation and Interpreting Services, to handle all spoken and signed language interpreter bookings for court at reduced hourly rates.
Quality of interpretation has declined sharply since, with many cases thrown out of court due to unqualified and unregistered interpreters, interpreters not turning up, and people being pulled off the street because they happened to have the right language skills. Capita is solely responsible for supplying BSL interpreters in court, yet their website makes no mention of standards, registration with NRCPD, minimum levels of qualifications, codes of conduct or professional indemnity insurance. Even if we could afford to sue for discrimination in court, we’d still be in trouble.

6. The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s funding has been slashed. These people– a merger of the Disability Rights Commission, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Racial Equality Commission – were instrumental in the drive for anti-discrimination legalisation. Without them, we might not have had the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act or the 2010 Equality Act.
Now, with funds cut from £70 million to £17 million and the loss of an office, they have far less power to push for equality, discrimination and human rights issues on the political agenda than they used to. Who decides on equality issues now? Read on.

7. The Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) is being ‘reviewed’. With the implementation of the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), and then the 2010 Equality Act, measures were in place for organisations to consult on discrimination and equality issues before developing new policies. While not perfect, at least they empowered deaf and disabled people to have a say in how services could be adapted. I should know – I was one of them, giving presentations to roomfuls of mainstream CEOs as part of the Arts Council’s own Disability Equality Duty.
Last November, David Cameron axed equality impact assessments, choosing instead to leave equality and discrimination issues to ‘smart people in Whitehall’. In other words, he’s made it policy-makers’ prerogative to work out for themselves how best to cater for the UK deaf and hard-of-hearing population – without our consultation.

8. It’s implied that the welfare cuts are politically-driven, not economic. Bear with me a little. This report, from the New Economics Foundation, stresses that Britain can afford to borrow and invest its way out of the recession. Over 300 years, we have never defaulted on our debt – unlike Greece, who has built up a history of bad credit in half its independent life. As a result Britain’s borrowing rates are enviably low, but the government chooses to invest less, thus damaging economic growth and protracting the austerity regime for longer than necessary.
Meanwhile, George Osbourne is ordering money-printing at an unprecedented rate (implementing the cuts actually costs money), intending to artificially boost the Bank of England’s account balance and therefore the economy, but of course it doesn’t work, because no-one can afford to borrow from the Bank of England due to the cuts.
Osbourne’s tactics have clearly appalled leading economists, because 63 of them have pledged their support for the People’s Assembly Against Austerity in opposition. (More about this later.)
John Walker, who blogs at Deaf Capital, points out that the Conservatives could be aiming for a totalitarian state. ‘We are seeing the privatisation of public services, an attack on the “precariats” or underclass – including deaf and disabled people – and the creation of a favourable situation where the rich get richer.
‘Some say that due to the sluggish economy we lost our manufacturing industry (ie. textiles) to China, so the devaluation of the pound will make products more attractive, bringing more foreign money into the UK. In order to do that wages have to go down, the poorest have to work for less income, and employment rights have to be restricted. We can then compete with China and bring manufacturing back into the UK.’ The next two reasons suggest that he could be right.

9. The Conservatives want to scrap the 1998 Human Rights Act.
They tried to do this in December last year, but were overturned by a majority of 123 votes, thanks to Labour. Think about it. Once stripped of the basic right to a life free of torture, we wouldn’t be able to exercise political rights or individual freedoms as deaf and hard-of-hearing people against interference by the government.

10. Tomorrow (Tuesday 16th April 2013), the government plans to repeal a vital clause of the 2006 Equality Act. Did you see the blog about this? It seems they can’t wait for 2015 after all.

11. Language rights? What language rights? Right now there is a ‘Spit the dummy out’ Facebook campaign for a BSL Act, which has to be commended for pulling in 11,000 members and hundreds of videos documenting various experiences of being deaf in a mainstream world and the difference a BSL Act could make. Obviously there is a lot of anger over how an entire decade could have passed without the government building on their initial ‘recognition’ of BSL. But it’s also telling how many of the videos revolve around – yes, you guessed it – welfare.

So while I agree on the principle of a BSL Act, all those efforts to get MPs to sign Early Day Motion (EDM) 1167 before the end of this month will go to waste if we don’t focus on the bigger picture now. What is the point of fighting for BSL legalisation without decent welfare, equality or human rights?

Now, you have three options:

a. You can keep telling yourself, ‘Nah, it won’t happen. We’re not China,’ until it’s too late.
b. If you’re an investor, you can take MoneyWeek’s scaremongering advice and invest in gold bullion. (Then again, what would be the point? In the event of financial collapse, wouldn’t that be confiscated anyway?)
c. Or you can join the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, organised by the Coalition of Resistance, on Saturday 22nd June 2013 – details here:

Communication support is being organised, and the National Secretary of the CoR has agreed to reserve a block of seating in the main hall for deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences. Your involvement is required to make this happen. The CoR will not be be able to support us if we don’t come forward with our own concerns.

Register for the event online first, then email melissamostyn (at) gmail dot com to confirm attendance and book your place in the reserved seating.

This article was written by Melissa Mostyn-Thomas in the People’s Assembly articles section.

The truth about universal credit

by Michael Meacher MP in The Morning Star

Universal Credit was officially launched on a very small scale at the end of last month in Ashton-under-Lyne in Lancashire.

It merges several benefits and tax credits into one monthly pay-out – not, let it be noted, weekly.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith is keen to tell the public that three million people will gain – though for some reason he forgets to add that on the government’s own impact assessment 2.8 million people will lose.

Somehow he’s also forgotten to tell you that the cuts have taken place even before universal credit starts – cuts to housing benefit, the bedroom tax, cuts to working tax credit and child tax credit, and the replacement of council tax with local schemes that often involve people losing £200 a year.

That’s just for starters. Universal credit is going to mean difficulty for millions for a whole range of different reasons.

Applications for UC can only be made online. It takes 20-40 minutes to complete the online form.

But according to the Office of National Statistics 7.6 million people have never used the internet and in some rural areas people who can use the internet don’t have access to broadband.

The National Audit Office says only 37 per cent of people are happy to provide personal details on government websites, another obstacle to online applications.

Households that earn £247 or less a week will see a fall in real income in 2015 because of the changes to benefits, and lone parents will be worse off whatever their circumstances.

Low earners with a working partner will see their marginal tax rate rise, because universal credit has a higher withdrawal rate than tax credits do.

Workers on low incomes who receive tax credit currently already lose most of the credit when their salary rises above a certain level – so a couple with two children on £25,550 lose 73p in every pound they earn over that level, but this is set to rise to 76.2 per cent.

People will be driven to use payday lenders, or even worse loan sharks, because unlike current benefits universal credit is paid monthly in arrears.

So people will have no money coming in for the first five weeks after they have successfully made a claim.

At present half those earning under £10,000 a year are paid more frequently than once a month.

Given that universal credit applications are online only, people will have to rely on help via the telephone.

The UC helpline on (0845) 600-0723 costs up to 10p a minute from a landline and up to 41p a minute from a mobile.

Between April and October 2012, calls to 0845 numbers lasted on average seven minutes and 42 seconds, so an average call to a DWP 0845 number would cost over £3.

The amount you receive will depend on the data submitted to HMRC by the employer. So you lose out if your employer provides the wrong information or at the wrong time.

Council and Housing Association tenants are denied the choice to have their rent paid direct to the landlord. That will be less efficient, less cost-effective, and is likely to increase rent arrears.

And to get universal credit you will have to sign a “claimant commitment.”

This sets out what you are expected to do in preparing for work, looking for work or getting work that pays the equivalent to 35 hours at the minimum wage – that is, at least £216.65 a week.

It will also set out the consequences if you fail to do what is required.

And because universal credit is a household benefit what one person does or does not do will affect all the other members of the household.

Lord Young, one of Thatcher’s business ministers, has got himself sacked before for making deeply callous and insensitive remarks.

He has obviously not lost the knack because he’s now making comments of similar ilk.

Reminiscent of Jo Moore sending round an email on September 11 2001 which said “today might be a good day to bury bad news,” Lord Young circulated his message last week that a recession was a good time to increase profits.

Apart from the offensive distastefulness of trading profits on other people’s misery, Young has really let the cat out of the bag about the government’s motives for the austerity programme.

It has always been difficult to explain why Osborne & co have persisted with a programme of semi-permanent stagnation when it was manifestly failing.

Young has given us a clue that suggests that in the last analysis this is not a deficit-reduction policy at all.

Its real target is not only shrinking the state and squeezing the public sector into the farthest recesses of a fully privatised regime – it’s also to push down wages so far that it creates a bonanza for profits.

In the era of neoliberal capitalism since the early 1980s the policy has worked well.

The share of wages in GDP steadily fell from 65 per cent to just 52 per cent in the early 2010s.

It is now being taken further – the freeze on public-sector pay over the last three years has led to a real terms cut in wages of some 7 per cent.

But what Lord Young has exposed is that this is not just an unfortunate consequence of fiscal consolidation.

It is deliberate government policy now being ruthlessly driven through for a valuable outcome in its own right – soaring profits.

Germany did this, it is argued, to secure its industrial and economic supremacy, so why not impose the same discipline on Britain?

Welfare, to give the social security system the name the Tories have now poisoned, was chosen as an easy, soft target. You shrink the state and by increasing desperation put downward pressure on wages too.

Osborne has now realised he made a major mistake at the outset in hacking back capital investment. He’s now restoring some of those lost investment opportunities and raiding the welfare budget mercilessly to fund them.

Quite apart from the sheer heartlessness in treating the livelihood of the most vulnerable sectors in society as a convenient piggy bank to be raided with impunity, it is also a policy ultimately doomed to failure because it strips demand out of the economy and reinforces stagnation.

The policy will end in devouring itself.

The problem is, how many millions will it have damaged and victimised in the process?

The Phoney Austerity Plan

British-Government11There is no clearer evidence that the austerity measures we british citizens have been forced to take are (indeed as defined in the dictionary from Camerons very own constituency oxford)  phoney .

Some of you may well ask why so here is my reasons why for which I am sure many of you will agree:

Whilst we all struggle under this phony austerity, the Government far from leading by example give themselves a 20k pay rise more than many of us earn in a year, but what makes this even more astounding is the fact they are paid generously anyway and do not need it indeed they can live very comfortably on their present earnings and far better than any of us mere mortals can  it is a waste how do you think those being forced to pay bedroom tax, those havings cuts forced on them like disability benefits and the many other cuts will feel, it is akin to spitting on the grave of those that have died under this regime.

Not only that every MP should be forced to vote Yes or No in there amendments and early day motions and NOT abstain because while doing so they fail in their duty as a serving MP that’s right SERVING because they are civil servants working for us and they should all vote with a clear head on what they feel is best for their constituents and the greater good of the electorate, so on that basis it is a massive fail because they have NOT earned the pay rise.

We are seeing a nation disgrace to governance where MP’s put their own interests in front of what is best for the nation as a whole and while many of us struggle day to day, hour by hour they sit there sticking their fingers up and virtually saying fuck you.

I will be emailing my MP and the IPSA and I strongly suggest you all do too as this IS a sham Government on national and international proportions.

Find my MP

IPSA (Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority)


The Baloney Award 2013 Goes To ATOS Healthcare

Disability benefit assessments ‘unfair’, says ex-worker

By Sophie Hutchinson BBC News

A doctor who worked for the private company which assesses people for disability benefits says its methods are “unfair”.

Greg Wood, a former Royal Navy doctor, resigned from Atos earlier this month, after working as an assessor for two-and-a-half years.

He told the BBC the system was “skewed against the claimant”.

But Atos Healthcare says it submits “clinically justified reports” and completely refutes Dr Wood’s claims.

Atos, which has been criticised in the past by disability campaigners and MPs, carries out work capability assessments (WCAs) on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Claimants have to score a required number of points in order to qualify for the full sickness benefit under the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

In a statement, Atos said: “We never ask healthcare professionals to make any changes to a report unless there are specific clinical quality issues identified within it.

“We do not deviate from government guidelines in our training. We do not have targets for getting people on or off benefits.

“We have a large team of fully trained doctors, nurses and physiotherapists who provide a professional and compassionate service through what we recognise can be a difficult and emotional process for people…

“We are a professional and ethical organisation.”

‘Compelled to speak’

In an interview with the BBC, Dr Wood says he believes Atos assessors are not free to make truly independent recommendations.

He said he felt compelled to speak out because it was “embarrassing to be associated with this shambles”.

Case study

Ema Hackett

Ema Hackett, 24, has a mid-range disability and is unable to work. A trained graphic designer, she has Hypermobility Syndrome which makes her joints abnormally flexible. She lives with chronic pain and also suffers from mental health problems.

She has a carer who comes in once a day to help with household chores and cook her dinner.

In the past three years, she has twice been rejected for full sickness benefit following assessments and twice she’s successfully challenged the decision through Atos’ internal appeal system.

“It feels like not only am I fighting my body to get up everyday, but I’m also fighting the system to get the money I need just to exist.

“I don’t have a frivolous life. I don’t really ask for much – I just want enough to live a normal life.

“The letters from the Department for Work and Pensions come in a brown envelope with a certain address on the back. Any brown envelope I look at the back and if it’s from the Department for Work and Pensions, I’m scared.”

“It’s very unfair on the people making claims, they deserve a fair assessment and as a taxpayer I’m pretty cheesed off about the £100m plus that’s being sprayed away on this dog’s breakfast,” he said.

The assessments – or fit to work tests – sparked protests from disability campaigners after their introduction in 2010.

But Dr Wood has criticised some of the tests which he says contain “dubious concepts and shaky reasoning”.

He claims assessors are told that if a claimant can walk from the kitchen to the sitting room, it proves they can walk 200m (650ft); and if a person can dress themselves once during the day that is proof they have enough concentration and motivation to hold down a job.

He insists these rules are not published in handbooks and guides, instead they are simply spoken about in training sessions.

Mr Gibson said the rules detailed by Dr Wood were incorrect and several questions were asked to build up a complete picture, alongside the medical evidence.

Dr Wood, who was given special responsibility to champion mental health at Atos, said: “I was instructed to change my reports, to reduce the number of points that might be awarded to the claimants. I felt that was wrong professionally and ethically.

“My view is the government has tried to catch more people in the net than the current test allows by pulling strings behind the scenes to get the result they most desire,” he added.

Mr Gibson said a report was only changed if there was insufficient medical evidence to back it up.

There were “no targets to take people off benefits” and that had always been the case, he added.

‘Highest level’

Dr Wood says the people being most adversely affected by the system have significant, mid-ranging disabilities, such as Parkinson’s disease, mental illness, and head and spinal injuries.

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The percentage of people entitled to ESA is now at its highest level ”

Department for Work and Pensions

He also claims some of the most severely disabled people are being asked to attend face-to-face assessments, instead of the normal practice of examining their application on paper.

He says he saw a lot of people who had suffered severe strokes and brain damage.

“There was a man with a motor neurone condition who I actually put in the terminal illness group,” he said. “He should not have come for a face-to-face assessment. It was cruel and he was hopping mad.”

The DWP said between March and May 2012, 58% of decisions to award the full sickness benefit were made on paper only, so did not require a face-to-face assessment.

Employment minister Mark Hoban says the evidence speaks for itself.

“When we came to Office one in 10 people were getting the highest level of support. That has now gone up to three in 10,” he told the BBC.

“What’s important to me is to make sure the decisions which are made are good quality decisions and people are getting the right support.”

He said the assessments had undergone several independent reviews and were devised in conjunction with health professionals and charities.

“The percentage of people entitled to ESA is now at its highest level with over half of people completing an assessment eligible for the benefit,” a DWP spokesman added.

Labour MP Tom Greatrex, who has asked a series of Commons questions on the assessments, said Dr Wood’s allegations were “serious and shocking” and he had written to the prime minister asking for an investigation.

“The head-in-the-sand approach Tory ministers are adopting isn’t good enough,” he said.

“They need to get a grip on this chaotic process which is not only causing misery for some of the most vulnerable members of our society, but also costing taxpayers a fortune at a time when we can least afford it.”

Atos senior vice president Wayne Gibson told the BBC it was “surprised and concerned that someone thinks we are unethical”.

“We don’t make the decision about who gets a benefit or not.

“Our role in the process is to do an assessment, gather the medical evidence and write a report that goes to the department, upon which they can gather more evidence and make a decision.”

In a later statement, the company said the claims were “false and damaging”.

It added: “Clinical judgement is the foundation of our part of the Work Capability Assessment process. We send the DWP independent, clinically justified reports to help the department’s decision makers make a decision on benefit entitlement…

“We are a professional and ethical organisation which has carried out this work on behalf of the department for over a decade.

“Atos Healthcare conducts its business based on a code of ethics and a strong legal compliance culture.”

Do we still value people for who they are?

Jane Young

Disabled man surfing the internetRecently, I’ve been wondering: what happened to our society’s fundamental moral belief that people have inherent value by virtue of being human? When did we start, consciously or sub-consciously, measuring people’s well-being in terms of cost? Is this the kind of society we really want, or is it the result of a political ideology for which very few of us consciously voted?

A number of topics currently in the public domain share at least one important characteristic: they emphasise a worrying shift in our society’s values, a shift whereby our belief in the unique and intrinsic value of each individual is being compromised and replaced by an overriding concern about how much it costs to support those of us who are disabled or chronically sick. A blatant challenge to our long-held belief in the intrinsic value of human life was the recent re-election of Councillor Colin Brewer in the West…

View original post 950 more words

EU amendment is defeated – but how many would have voted for an NHS referendum?

Mike Sivier's blog

Golly gosh – all that sound and fury over the Tory amendment to the Queen’s speech, and it’s defeated by 277 votes to 132. More than 200 MPs didn’t even bother to vote.

What an anticlimax. But then, what did we expect?

The simple fact was that Peter Bone’s amendment to the Gracious Speech (its correct title) was never going to get any traction. Labour and the Liberal Democrats don’t want a referendum; neither do many Tories.

And the Crime – sorry, Prime – Minister, who was initially well-disposed to the idea of an amendment, changed his tune after several media outlets including Vox Political reminded him that he would have to resign if it succeeded, and apparently instructed his cabinet to abstain.

Did anybody see his interview with, I think, Tom Bradby on ITV yesterday evening? It was all about whether Cameron actually has the chops to lead the…

View original post 236 more words


One family man’s truthful story on how these Governmental policies and cuts are affecting his family.

Mr Cameron,

Since May 2010 when your coalition party came to office I have sat here and took great interest in how your coalition governments policies would have a devastating effect on our nations citizens indeed I have blogged and tweeted much about it and tried to do what I can to help my fellow citizens after all it was you that said “BIG SOCIETY” in a keynote speech.

big broken societyWe are helping people to come together to improve their own lives.The Big Society is about putting more power in people’s hands – a massive transfer of power from Whitehall to local communities. We want to see people encouraged and enabled to play a more active role in society.

I think it is safe to say and many would agree, rather than bringing citizens together you are literally driving them away with your defunct bedroom tax policies and if not driving them away you are killing them. Do you call cutting surestart centres and many other great community facilities a part of the great Big Society plan? because I certainly don’t because surestart centres are not just a place of caring for children they are also a place where parents talk and get to know each other and thus are community building.

I am not subject to bedroom tax because I own my own home via a mortgage, however that does not mean I am excluded from your draconian cuts far from it and if the truth is known I now feel a bit guilty for owning my own home why? because I was one that brought a council house under the Thatcher years and believed that the money would be invested in new council housing which it was not even now that is not happening how it should be.

However come October when my Contribution ESA runs out I may have to sell up due to not being able to meet the payments any longer you see I have morality and never claimed mortgage interest relief like many of you MP’s have because I am off the opinion right or wrong that it was my choice to buy it and thus see no reason why the Government should help in paying for it and when it is paid for I can feel safe in the knowledge that it is truly mine.

Never in my time have I seen a political party that is so out of touch with reality and has no morality, indeed right now I am very disillusioned and scared of what the future holds for me and my family because gone are the time when a family could plan ahead into the future and be safe in the knowledge that they were respected at work and could have a long and fruitful career.

I live in my 4 bedroomed home with 6 others and it is overcrowded with my eldest son his partner and their 8 month old son in one room, our elderly mum in another room my youngest son in another plus me and my wife in the other that is four generations in one house but don’t get me wrong because I love it but it should not be that way because my eldest son his partner and baby should be in there own property but cannot afford too because the council will not house them as they are under 25 yrs old and private rents are sky high so they have to live here until the council is prepared to house them.

Our mother is ill and disabled she lives here in a room that is too small for her indeed her doctor and health visitor has told her this but she cannot move back into the bigger room she had because my son partner and baby are in there.

She does not want to go into a care home because she loves being with us and after all all her memories are here in this house she once shared with her husband indeed this is the reality you MP’s do not see or understand.

We would not move her out anyway because we love her and it is our duty to look after her until her dying days so clap your hands Mr Cameron because yet again you have saved a fortune in care home fees and not only that the pittance of carers allowance my wife got for all these years you want back yes my wife is being threatened by you bully boys to pay back over 10 years worth of carers allowance coming to over 16k , my you must be a proud man without an ounce of morality I may add.

I should be right now having a rest due to fatigued caused by my SAH Stroke to give my overworked brain a rest but the fact is I cannot because I have so much I want to say, that is an impossible task.

So not only has my wife cared for her mother she has also cared for me, due to having a life threatening SAH Stroke at just 27 years old through no fault of my own and had to have a deep invasive craniotomy followed by 2 months of induced coma, my surgeon gave me the choice of have the operation or die can you imagine that Mr Cameron blimey what a choice to be given and if I knew then what I know now I would probably have given up.

However I did not and am testament to the good life that can be had following an SAH Stroke  but boy you and your Government have not made it any easier in your time in office because between April 1990 and September 2008 I never claimed a penny in government help and went back to work full time, yes I know I was entitled to DLA but again I had morals and rightly or wrongly thought there was citizens more in need of it than me besides I was working on a good wage at the time so could live without it however that changed when I was made redundant in 2008 due to the financial meltdown.

Do you remember saying ” No one should claim benefits unless they had a real need” well that was me long before you said that comment and thus thought when the time came the government would look after me, after all I have bailed the government out all these years and saved them thousands of pounds how wrong was I indeed they have not an ounce of decency or morality and is where this government is so fucked up.

Mr Cameron I am really tired of your party politics which serves no useful purpose at all, you constantly blame The Labour Party for all the ills in government and yes whilst they may not be perfect tell me a party that is in the 21st century, but at least they did more to raise the living standards of many and thus bring them out of poverty than your coalition will ever do and that Mr Cameron is worth it at any cost and should be praised.

You said after the local elections that your party had to do more to win back the vote of the electorate due to losing many seats well you can start by bringing back some dignity to peoples lives by scraping the bedroom tax, stop treating the ill and disabled with such disdain and scrap the ATOS Contract in totality because it is an absolute disgrace.

Capitalism is a fine thing when it is working right with the right balance after all that is what brings a vibrant society and growth that this country so desperately needs but that fact it is not working in the right balance and citizens are suffering gravely.

It is time to weigh up other nations policy and ask ourselves is it good for us not go ahead and follow them knowing full well it will never work for us. We should be using other nations policy as a yardstick for us only and research it more, look at the NHS a prime example that appears to be following the american model to prop up the insurance industry, it is not working there as many are excluded from healthcare due to not being able to afford the insurance cost so what makes you think it will work here? because it will put more profits in the hands of MP’s with an interest in the healthcare market?

There are many many more examples of where our government is going wrong but I would need a bundle of A4 to write it all, but you can see where you have got it all wrong and thus will need more than the 2 years you have left in office to put it all right.

You have created a society of doom and gloom and no hope and thus will never create any sizable growth as that takes more than money alone, it takes citizens of all walks of life as well and all you have done is demonize them and lost their trust.

So Mr Cameron it is goodbye from me and goodbye from him because I have done enough to bail you out of this mess you have caused.