Judge refuses DWP leave to appeal ruling on Universal Credit reports


By Tony Collins

An information tribunal judge has unexpectedly refused consent for the Department of Work and Pensions to appeal his ruling that four reports on the Universal Credit programme be published.

The ruling undermines the DWP’s claim that there would be “chilling effect” if the reports were published.

The judge’s decision, which is dated 25 April 2014, means the DWP will have to publish the reports under the FOI Act  – or it has 28 days to appeal the judge’s refusal to grant consent for an appeal.  The DWP is certain to appeal again. It has shown that money is no object when it comes to funding appeals to keep the four reports secret.

In 2012 John Slater, who has 25 years experience working in IT and programme and project management, had requested the UC Issues Register, Milestone Schedule and Risk Register. Also in 2012 I requested a UC project assessment review by the…

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Labour Party Poverty and Disability Taskforce report published

Making rights make sense

Today the Labour Party published the report of the taskforce it established in 2013 to look at ways to break the link between disability and poverty.  The press release announcing the setting up of the taskforce by Anne McGuire MP and Liam Byrne MP is below and the report can be downloaded here.

We are advised that there will not be a press release to accompany the launch of the report as it is not the policy of the Labour Party to do so in relation to ‘policy submissions’ (a somewhat interesting and loaded description, given the report was commissioned by Labour shadow Ministers to advise them) hence we are left to promote the report ourselves.   This is deeply disappointing and the obvious inference is that Labour does not wish to promote discussion or to engage with its proposals.  As the taskforce had no resources it was unable…

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wcaThere will be a three day hearing in the Royal Courts of Justice in London on 22, 23 & 24 July 2014 in an attempt to establish what the DWP is going to do to remedy the substantial disadvantage that people with mental health problems suffer when being put through the Work Capability Assessment. This will follow a directions hearing that will take place in May.

Everyone knows that the only real remedy to our plight will be when these mock assessments are abandoned but, until then, we will continue the fight to try to improve them.

The case centres around the importance of further medical evidence for a person with mental health problems and on who is responsible for obtaining this evidence. Both the MHRN and the judges believe that such evidence is vital and that the DWP should be responsible and proactive in obtaining it. For their part, the DWP don’t want to know about medical evidence from a claimant’s own mental health professionals because the WCA is not an assessment of a person’s mental health condition but a dummy assessment that pretends that how a person functions can be separated from any condition they live with. The last thing the DWP want is real evidence from someone who might be qualified to comment!

It is possible that some kind of pilot study will be undertaken by? maybe Atos? to try to establish how they could go about obtaining this evidence. Under the Equalities Act, the DWP should be making reasonable adjustments to the assessment to accommodate our problems and it has been successfully argued that obtaining such evidence would be a reasonable adjustment. We can probably predict that they will try to show from a pilot study that such adjustments would be too expensive, unhelpful and unworkable, and therefore unreasonable. It will be for us to keep an eye on the progress of any pilot and to make sure they know that we are all watching them.

We will be in court and will keep you informed.

An open letter to the Daily Mail…

Thanks for speaking the truth


The Daily Mail chose today to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, champion of the oppressed, by publishing this article today.  Here’s my response.


Dear Daily Mail,

I’ve got a little boy.  His name is Isaac, and he’s nearly three.  Like any little boy, he loves cars, balls, and running around.  He’s barely ever still.

A few days ago though, he was.  I took him to the supermarket to spend his pocket money, and we passed the donation basket for our local food bank.  It was about half full – nothing spectacular, in fact, mostly prunes and pasta – and he asked what it was.  As simply as possible, I tried to explain that it was for people to give food for other people who couldn’t afford it.

This affected his two year old brain fairly deeply.  After a lot of thought, he decided to spend a little bit of…

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Vital Disabled Student Support to be Cut. Save DSA!

The Hardest Hit

Cross-posted from Sarah Campbell, Rolling with the Punches
Spread the word. Tell your MP. Write blogs. Let people know what is happening. We must try to stop this.

You can write to your MP online here.
Please also sign the e-petition here.
Share and Retweet this #ProtectDSA.

After becoming disabled as a teenager, I went to university, obtained a first class degree, then completed a PhD.  While I worked extremely hard, none of this would have been possible without the support of Disabled Student Allowance (DSA), which covers the extra costs for equipment and assistance disabled students may require in order to study at university.

This is why I was aghast to learn that the government has just announced plans to cut DSA.
Couched under the language of “modernisation”, “targeting funds at those who need it most”, “fairness”, is hidden the reality of an estimated 60 to 70% cut in…

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Tory dogma and hypocrisy: the “big state”, bureaucracy, austerity and “freedom”

Politics and Insights

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The Tories are not “paying down the debt” as claimed. They are raising more money for the rich”
Labour’s social and economic policy was a success, and this is substantiated by the LSE’s definitive survey of the Blair-Brown years:
“There is clear evidence that public spending worked, contrary to popular belief.” Nor did Labour overspend. It inherited “a large deficit and high public sector debt”, with spending “at a historic low” – 14th out of 15 in the EU.
Labour’s spending increased, and money was invested in public services and social programs, and until the crash was still “unexceptional”, either by historic UK standards or international ones. Until 2007 “national debt levels were lower than when Labour took office”.
After years of neglect during the previous Conservative administration, Labour inherited a mess: public services in very poor state, shabby and squalid public buildings and unforgivably neglected human…

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An Open Letter to Iain Duncan Smith… from a (should be) benefit recipient

By Paul Atherton @BenefitClaimant

Dear Mr. Duncan Smith,

As a supposed recipient of DLA and IB, that’s Disability Living Allowance and Incapacity Benefit in case you didn’t know, I felt it my duty to highlight a few of the problems with your current changes.

Firstly, it has allowed DWP workers to lie, cheat, ignore and bully the very claimants that they are paid to serve. And lets be under no illusion here, these are Civil Servants.  The role is implied by the name and they are shaming it to its very core. They neither show civility nor serve the public.

Sir Northcote would be spinning in his grave.

In 1869 the Civil Service had “…eliminated all dunces…., while an entirely new spirit of economy and industry had been introduced…”

In 2014 his work has been utterly and completely undone.

I’ve been without any money for 6 months, even though your department agree I’m entitled to it.

And secondly and far more importantly, you are turning our once “Great Britain” from a civilised nation to one filled with barbarians.  It can be acceptable to no decent human being that your changes are now intentionally starving people to death, making people homeless, abusing the disabled, the vulnerable, the ill and in so doing in many cases depriving children of their parents.

In 1572 an Elizabethan Government introduced the Poor Laws in order to replace the charity given by monasteries that were dissolved by Henry the VIII. The government of the day, even then, realised that you must do something to protect the poor, the sick and the vulnerable.

How can your Government be reversing nearly 500 years of civilised development?

Finally, please don’t think this is a political attack.

I grew up in a small Welsh mining town (with one of the last pits in Wales to close) and was, unthinkably for most, a huge fan of Margaret Thatcher. For me she represented a chance to take on responsibility, she gave me real choice and allowed me to challenge authority.

This is a perceived view from someone that used her Youth Training Scheme to challenge and get out of state care at 16 (Howell’s of Cardiff, cited as the best in the UK) , was able to go to University as a Mature student (Cardiff Business School at 21) because of the introduction of her Access courses and set up my first business thanks to her Enterprise Allowance Scheme (which of course you have recently revived).

I worked for the DHSS as was, in Wales1986/7 and it was her policies that insisted we get rid of the bazooka proof glass and started treating claimants like customers and showing them respect.

The biggest irony of all, was when I was the press officer for the Young Conservatives in Cardiff (1987), I was promoting the idea of a single payment to go to all claimants (thus eradicating all the ludicrous duplication of forms and disposing of the stigma of benefits), a good 25 years before your (sadly failed) Universal Credit Scheme.


I mention this, solely for the fact that you are fully aware I have no political axe to wield. I’m just interested in human decency, something that should be at the core decisions of everyone’s politics, right, left or in the middle.

So what’s the solution, how can you save both your political career, the nation and possibly your soul?

Simple, introduce Universal Basic Income. Yes the welfare that is paid to absolutely everyone over the age of 18. A sum sufficient to live on (at a guess I would say around £18,000 per annum) that regardless of whether you work or not, you know you’ll be able to live.



The Universal Credit Nightmare for Homeowners



The Universal Credit Nightmare has barely started rolling out when I spotted a shock to all homeowners hidden in the depths of the document. It seems that the hardworking taxpaying person  who has their own home could be in  for hell of a jolt, and

potentially risk losing their homes should they fall on hard times, such as lose a  job, become ill. So like a manic cat I sent off FOI to the DWP for clarification. it has took me a few conversations to clarify the response as usual that was as clear as mud.

When I received my reply I was right, many those  who make a new claim who already own their own homes will not be eligible to claim UC (Universal Credit) but will instead have to claim ESA, JSA , IS.

If you are already on ESA and migrate to Universal Credit you will still be eligible…

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