About the Judicial Review of the Work Capability Assessment

Via The Mental Health Resistance Network.

On 15 and 16 January 2013, the Upper Tribunal is due to hear a claim for judicial review brought by two disabled people supported by the Mental Health Resistance Network. They are arguing that the Work Capability Assessment discriminates against people with impaired mental, cognitive and intellectual functions (called “people with mental health disabilities” for short), and that the DWP should make adjustments to the Work Capability Assessment process to minimise the disadvantages that people with mental health disabilities face in being assessed for ESA.

The reason that the ESA process discriminates against people with mental health disabilities is that the process requires ESA applicants to self-report how their ability to work is affected by their disability. While this is challenging enough for many people with physical disabilities, it can be a distressing, and sometimes an impossible task for many people with mental health disabilities. This is because some people with mental health disabilities do not always have insight into their condition, and others may find it difficult to articulate the effect of their disability on their fitness to work for reasons of shame or otherwise. Furthermore some mental health disabilities are complex, fluctuating, and often hidden, and these are by their very nature difficult for Atos Health Care Professionals (who are often not doctors and in general have no expertise in mental health) to properly assess at a short face-to-face assessment. In addition, people with mental health disabilities are often particularly vulnerable to the stresses of the assessment process itself, and often cannot cope with marshalling medical evidence explaining their condition. This means that they face substantial disadvantage as a result of the way in which ESA claims are processed.

What the claimants hope to achieve by bringing the case is to force the DWP to change their procedure for obtaining of medical evidence in ESA claims by people with mental health disabilities. The DWP’s current approach is only to seek further medical evidence in very limited circumstances. However the claimants’ case is that such evidence should be requested by the DWP in each case where an ESA claimant’s disability relates to their mental rather than their physical health.

So the claimants will be asking the Upper Tribunal to order that the DWP always seek further medical evidence in the case of a person with a mental health disability, by approaching a nominated health care professional or by inviting an ESA claimant to nominate one; and that this must be done before the claimant is required to complete an ESA50 and face-to-face assessment. The idea behind seeking further medical evidence at the beginning of the claim is so that it can be used to inform the DWP (a) whether to require an ESA50 or a face-to-face assessment (b) whether there is a risk of substantial harm to the claimant’s mental health, if they were found fit for work or work related activity; and (c) whether the claimant should be found eligible for ESA.

The Upper Tribunal’s decision is not expected to be given until after the case has ended.

The case is a compromise as far as many people are concerned – we would like to have brought a more fundamental challenge to the Work Capability Assessment, but this is all the lawyers thought we could realistically achieve – we have managed to get to a trial, even though the Government has tried to get the case thrown out and has fought it every step of the way.

Even if we don’t get everything we want from the case, we hope that it might make things a little better for some of our friends and relatives and neighbours who are presently suffering with this unfair and inhumane procedure.

Whatever the outcome of this judicial review, we will continue to campaign against what we all know to be a sham of an assessment.

A vigil will be held outside the Royal Courts of Justice near to the Upper Tribunal Courts on Wednesday 16th January at 12 noon by the Mental Health Resistance Network, supported by DPAC and other mental health and disability campaigning organisations. We have invited various political figures who have an interest in mental health issues and concerns for people who are living with mental health problems to speak at the vigil. People living with mental health problems will be asked to speak about their personal experiences of the WCA process.

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My Next Missive to Hit Camerons Mat

David Cameron PM
10 Downing Street
London
SW1A 2AA

Mr Cameron,

I am taking this opportunity to write to you for two reasons firstly my MP is a waste of space and always replies with Tory spin preaching con/dem policy and thus avoids the many questions I ask so does he work for me? Not at all and secondly to congratulate you because I watched much of the welfare up-rating bill on TV and the result and thus what you have done is sink many back into deep poverty after all the good work done by labour.

Labour by the way is by no means perfect but a perfect party in modern politics is an impossibility but by god they stand up better than the conservatives ever will because at least they tackled welfare and put money into the pockets of those less fortunate than you.

Do you know the meaning of welfare? Well let me show you:

welfare
1. The health, happiness, and fortunes of a person or group.
2. Statutory procedure or social effort designed to promote the basic physical and material well-being of people in need.

So you see Labour is not the party you make them out to be and you and your conservatives are nothing more than lairs hell bent on making the sick, disabled, elderly and unemployed pay for the mistakes of this and previous Governments.

None of the ills of this nation is their fault but are paying the price very heavily for the mistakes and errors of the financial sector.

Do you call this a glowing record:

Restricted access to legal aid and so, the ability of the poorest to access justice.
Restricted our right to go to an employment tribunal
Restricted our right to ask a judge to look at government policies or the actions of our employer
Reduced the support you give CABs to help us
Offered to buy all of our employment rights – pension, pay, safety – everything, in exchange for a few shares.
Forced hundreds of thousands of people to work for no pay – some for an unlimited period.
Reduced our pension and raised the age we can retire at.
Allowed some employers to make us work as many hours as they like.
Slashed support for disabled people because you feel they are a drain on the economy
Made it easier for our employer to sack us without a good reason.
Suggested that we get rid of the Human Rights Act
Limited the ability of single parents to access the Child Support Agency and force partners to pay for their children
Scrapped the “Social Fund” that was the very last safety net between poverty and starvation.
Overseen a 100% rise in people queuing for emergency food at food banks.
Closed half of the refuges for women fleeing domestic violence.
Denied profoundly disabled children the right to an independent income.
Ensured that so many people lose their homes, even Boris Johnson referred to it as “social cleansing”
Changed the law so that people relying on social housing can no longer enjoy the security of a home for life and can be evicted if they have more bedrooms than they need and thus putting the vulnerable and disabled at risk.
Undermined the House of Lords so that effectively, it cannot amend any laws you might wish to pass.
Reduced or removed the need for government to consult anyone on changes they make.
Restricted our right to appeal any wrong decisions
Allowed some councils to force disabled people back into institutions on cost grounds
Ignored and broken international law
Alienated European leaders – our main export
Created new tax loopholes that will save big businesses tens of billions
“Re-defined” poverty so that figures will not show a massive rise.
Used propaganda and proven lies to vilify the poor, disabled and those seeking work.
Removed the safety net if you become too unwell to do your job.
Allowed banks to write off all the losses that got us in this mess against tax, Unlike America, who insisted they pay it back.
Closed committees designed to keep check on your policies
Reduced the number of civil servants (who’s job it is to design safe laws and policies) to lowest ever levels.
Politicised the police force
Proposed secret courts
Attempted to restrict what we say and do on the internet
Continually ignored expert advice
Announced it will no longer be compulsory to register to vote (the poorest are the least likely to vote and most likely to vote “ABT” – Anything But Tory
Arrested peaceful protesters and influenced sentencing (supposedly independent)
And are spying on the Unemployed via their new job website that is unsafe, using big brother tactics.

This list by no means is exhaustive and there are many other equally bad pieces of con/dem policy.

Indeed that is a glowing report of a fine Prime Minister I hope you leave office feeling very proud because many will not think the same indeed you may well go down in the history books as the worse Prime Minister ever because all you have done is set the clocks back to 1913 and killed any chance of growth for a very long time indeed.

I never voted Conservative or liberal Democrat in May 2010 and what a fine decision that was as all my fears have come true and those I can hold my head high because I am not party to it but by god I will fight high hell and water to get you and all your crooks out of office how ever difficult you make that be because this battle is a wee drop in the ocean compared to what I have fought before.

You are hell bent on turning one section of society against another and that is very grave politics indeed and I and many others will never forgive you and that included press and media who print disgusting articles that are far from reality.

I have a rarity that you do not have morals and consider myself an upstanding individual with Humanity, Compassion and Understanding that cares about the futures of the ones you seek to destroy.

Would I sale myself for a few pieces of silver no not ever as that would betray my beliefs but it seems you would indeed nothing more than vermin in my book.

You may think the wording of this letter is harsh but it is no harsher than what you have dished out so I hope you take it for what it is a broadside warning because we are watching your every move.

I am becoming so disheartened by your policies that I am seriously thinking as standing as an independent in 2015 indeed I hope many more do because parliament is a disgrace on all levels.

An open letter to Government

To whom it may concern,

I would like to write a unique account of how these cuts are affecting me and my family both in health and day to day living, because what this Government are doing is so wrong and are no more than a bunch of arrogant and uncaring posh boys that will do great harm to this nation if they are not stopped indeed the writing is already on the wall.

I watched the chancellor’s autumn statement and was horrified at what I was watching because they seem hell bent of swinging that wrecking ball all in the name of capitalism and the square mile that is the so called city, does humanity, compassion and understanding count for nothing anymore? Because they seem to have an “I’m alright jack” attitude that will do nothing to repair the damage left behind by the banking and financial sector and create growth that this nation is crying out for. Not a week goes by without still reading the damage done by our banking industry from Money laundering to libor rate fixing these are very serious issues and what happens? They get away with a fine that the citizens will end up paying for over the long term these are like I say very serious issues that the banks must be held account for and punished and not given a slap on the wrist.

The low paid, disabled, unemployed, elderly and single mothers are the ones paying for the mistakes, grave errors and no doubt criminality of the financial industry this is quite simply not fair at all.

Growth is what is needed and to create growth you need citizens from all walks of life spending as it is that alone that increases manufacturing and building, this is why this Governments policies will not work because the more citizens spend the more revenue in taxes is brought in to pay down the deficit, why is Osborne not listening?

The Welfare System is a very important part of our nation’s fabric and it should be added that welfare claimants are also tax payers indeed everyone is as there is no escaping from it because they will also be paying via vat, fuel duty, insurance premium tax and many others taxes imposed on its citizens indeed so much of what is paid in welfare benefits the Government claws back via taxation whether that be via stealth or any other method.

I am one of a few who choose not to believe what is written in the press as most if not all does not give the real facts and thus is written to confuse and deceive instead I use press articles as a medium to do my own research as that gives a more balanced view and a conclusion nearer to the truth.

As I said above I am disabled and thus under the cosh of this Government is that fair? Hell no as my text below will explain.

At the age of just 27 my life nearly ended so much so that my heart stopped beating on the operating table this my wife tells me, I had a subarachnoid hemorrhage of the middle cerebral artery that needed a 12 hr operation to carry out a deep invasive craniotomy so that the aneurysm could be clipped. I was then put under induced coma for 2 months to limit brain activity and help reduced the swelling of my brain due to the trauma caused.

This operation caused a stroke of which I was warned could happen by the surgeon but it was either that or die, so no choice really and thus gave consent for the operation, from this point my life changed completely as I was a wheelchair user at just 27 years old, however I was not one for giving up and chose the hard route back to relative fitness.

I am now 49 years old and have dumped the wheelchair but walking is still limited due to right sided spasticity indeed I will never regain 100% fitness and health, I have come to accept that although the DWP and ATOS think I will be fit enough to return to work in 11 months. My mind boggles how that will be possible.

You see I did return to full time employment for 17 yrs post stroke doing various manual labour jobs until the spasticity pain and joint degeneration got too much to bare any longer so on getting made redundant from my last job in 2007 I decided to take 6 months out to recover and seek more physiotherapy of my hand and drop foot in the hope I could continue with the job search because I am far from being a scrounger perceived by Government, I am old school and value the ethos of a working life as it was taught to me from a very early age from my late dad who was a serving Royal Marine from 42 Commando.

After this period of employment inactivity due to having a well earned break and having more physiotherapy I decided to look for more work as by this time I was getting bored at home and was far from being a lazy scrounger as this Government likes to call us however it was during the time of the banking crash and mass redundancies so jobs were few and far between but still refusing to give up until one employer committed discrimination and refused to interview me sighting that their was no way he could employ me with the disabilities I had and given that their was 16 able bodied citizens also in the queue for interview.

I so wish I could have brought him to tribunal however the is no employment law for interviewees so just had to suck it and move on, this employer said I would be better off on disability benefits if only he knew now how hard they are to get and keep if you do not tow the Governments line of mandatory work fare that now applies to all disabled citizens whether they can work or not.

So on the bus home in deep thought as to my next move I thought maybe he is right, why am I putting myself through this, after all I had been working for the last 17yrs full time often doing many hours overtime so maybe he is right and I should claim the benefits I have never claimed before but had entitlement too having paid my tax and national insurance all these past years since I returned to work and the years before the SAH Stroke.

Maybe then I could devote my time to caring for my elderly mother in law with my wife and doing some hours voluntary for the stroke association and/or league of friends as that would be working with citizens who care and understand the rock and a hard place I find myself in.

So that was my plan going forward which I am sure you will agree is honourable and worthy so I went back to my GP to explain this in the hope he would sign me off so I could claim Incapacity Benefit, this he did and I found my simple life being fulfilled and away from the dogma that the private sector is becoming in their pursuit for fat profits.

I never wanted to be rich just earning enough to pay my way and be the good British citizen is all I ever wanted and that still holds true as I find humanity, compassion and understanding greater than the power of money which I see as the beholder of war.

I am grateful of the SAH Stroke that struck me down in a matter of minutes why? Because it has made me the person I am today and I feel that is a better person than the one before however please tell me why I feel the need to watch prime ministers question time because all I see is a load of spoilt brats who feel the need to slander the opposite party, make derogatory remarks and belittle the British citizen indeed some of the quotes which I will not repeat here are simply disgusting and thus parliamentary standards have never been so low. Oh how this Government make their citizens out to be so bad which they pass to the press and media all in their pursuit to swell there bank balances never has the gap between the haves and the have not’s been so great they must be so proud of themselves oh to be an MP.

I have never claimed any disability benefits until October 2008 and never claimed any mortgage interest help because buying my home was my decision and thus fail to see why I should get help with that indeed I want to pay my mortgage by me and me alone as the feeling of ownership once paid will be greater, sadly I cannot say the same for our Government who think it is a god given right to have there mortgage interest paid on second homes the disparity between MP’s and its citizens is truly shocking indeed.

David Cameron once said that this Government would be transparent is that a true reflection I ask myself, well it depends in what context he uses the word transparent because in some ways yes he is because I and many others can see right through him and what his aims are like a sheet of glass on the shard building.

I now have a health condition called Keratinizing Squamous Metaplasia of the bladder as if the SAH Stroke was not enough to deal with it is a condition that not enough is known about but suffice to say it can lead to a carcinoma if not regularly kept in check via cystoscopy of the bladder.

I had to move GP because of a misdiagnosis and a failure to carry out a simple swab test that takes seconds to do and had he had done so the white blood cells in urine would have been spotted 2 years ago and possibly saved my bladder which now may have to be removed, I have another biopsy this Friday 14th December but as I have seen the cystoscopy images I know the prospect is not good a fine Christmas present indeed.

Have you ever had incontinence? It is not good having to have a radar key and having to plan everywhere I go to ensure toilets are available.

So again I find myself having to fight the DWP and ATOS to get the benefits I am entitled to, am I not disabled enough, over the years I have saved this wonderful government of ours thousands of pounds by not claiming benefit until their was a real need as I had an entitlement to Disability Living Allowance since April 1990 but did not claim this until October 2008 and never claimed support for mortgage interest.

We also care for our mum at home and would never dream of putting her in care so have saved this wonderful Government thousands of pounds their too and not forgetting the under payments since my claim due to them being wrong.

Do I really deserve the shocking treatment being given to me? Do I really deserve more cuts that will be imposed on us come April 2013? I truly believe not but then who am I to say as I am just a British citizen and no more than cannon fodder to be trampled on.

I live in hope that our wonderful Government sees the light and changes its ways before my life comes to an end and that I can then live out my life in peace without the constant worry of just what will this Government do next.

Finally I will apologise if this letter is blunt in places, however it is no more that is dished out by our government often on a day by day basis.

I look forward to hearing from you

The work programme – a £527 million failure

Vox Political

The government’s flagship work programme stood revealed as an abject failure today, when the Department for Work and Pensions admitted only around three per cent of jobseekers have found “sustainable” work.

Of the 878,000 people who joined the programme, only 31,000 found a job for six months or more.

The figures mean as many unemployed people are finding sustainable jobs on their own – and are staying in employment six months after joining the work programme – than if the scheme had never existed.

There was “no direct evidence of movement into sustained employment”.

Ministers have, of course, refused to accept that the scheme is a failure – despite it reaching only three-fifths of its 5.5 per cent target (3.53 per cent) – and are claiming it is taking longer than expected to succeed. The next set of figures will be better, they claim. They said it was “early days”.

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IDS off the hook with ICC – so evidence needed of Atos deaths

Vox Political

People whose family members have died while going through the DWP/Atos work capability assessment are being urged to contact a disability specialist – who has been seeking international legal action against the austerity-enforced injustice.

Vox Political reported back in September that Samuel Miller had contacted the International Criminal Court in The Hague, intending to file a complaint against Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling and Maria Miller, the ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions, considered most responsible for “draconian welfare reforms and the resultant deaths of their society’s most vulnerable”.

Mr Miller got in touch over the weekend, but said that the result had been disappointing: “They stated that the International Criminal Court has a very limited jurisdiction. The Court may only address the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes as defined by Articles 6 to 8 of the Rome Statute.”

The Rome Statute is the document…

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Time For Business, Innovation and Skills to Play their Part

We have all heard the Government’s stance on work pays and in that the one box fits all even if you can’t work due to disability.

Now it has become very apparent and being disabled myself I have the great opportunity to see this from a different light, that this stance is not working so much so that it is costing lives real lives and it is for that reason this Governments stance must change and radically change for the greater good.

So why is this not working? after all it has been proven a failure from across the pond in the USA and yet we still follow there policies if that was the be all and end all, can we not think for ourselves and stand on our own feet or does our Government not have those capabilities any more?

We are a wide and diverse nation of many capabilities and you simply cannot put everyone in the same box, whilst some from the disabled communities can work and do work and I for one will never go against that ideology because I like many millions of others do believe that work can pay and can indeed be good for ones well-being there are also many that work is a distant dream and can never be achieved because there disabilities prevent them from doing so and will lead to a shortened lifespan.

Now for those that do want to work and the Government must never make this an enforcement issue which we are seeing now more needs to be done to full-fill that and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills needs to play it’s part because it will be an uphill struggle and a two part process.

The Department for Work and Pensions needs to collaborate and work more closely with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills there needs to be seminars and conferences for businesses they need to be taught the benefits of employing disabled citizens, there needs to be greater Government budgets to assist in adaptations otherwise the Government plans will just not work.

I have been on countless interviews and got no where despite tailoring my skills to the jobs being applied for, you see we live in a greedy nation that is being killed and employers put profits before anything else and that has to change, we used to have a positive about disabled symbol and campaign by Jobcentre Plus but the take up was very low due to Jobcentre Plus not actively promoting it that has to change and be brought back as I thought it was a very good idea but I see very few advertisements now having the two ticks symbol.

Working age stroke survivors struggle most to make ends meet

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE STROKE ASSOCIATION.

Stroke is having a drastic impact on the finances of stroke survivors and their families according to a new report, published today by the Stroke Association. Those affected the most are working age stroke survivors who, unable to return to work, are coping with a fall in income, increased household bills and a benefits system that fails to fully understand the impact of stroke.

Short-changed by stroke, is based on the findings of a survey(i) of over 2,200 people affected by stroke and in-depth interviews with stroke survivors on their experiences of applying for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and undergoing the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

Findings from the survey found that of those aged between 25-59 (ii):

  • Almost two thirds (65%) reported an increase in household bills and expenses. The same percentage reported a fall in their income.
  • Over two thirds (69%) of people whose income went down reported that the main reason for this is because they are now unable to work.
  • More than a third (38%) cut back on food.
  • The majority (80%) are worried about their financial future.

In addition:

  • Almost 60% of carers report that caring for their loved one had affected their employment. Carers are faced with the stark choice of reducing their hours or giving up work to support the stroke survivor but still requiring an income to pay the bills.

Further research with 120 stroke survivors(iii) brought to light problems when applying for ESA. Their experiences revealed that staff conducting WCA often failed to understand the impact of stroke beyond that of physical disability, leaving some ineligible for ESA (which is worth up to £105 a week) and struggling financially.

Peter, who was 36 when he had a stroke, comments: “I don’t have many physical disabilities but I suffer with lots of things you can’t see, like migraines, motion sickness, seeing flashing lights, poor concentration and problems with my memory. The assessors just don’t get it. Being assessed for ESA left me feeling humiliated and I spent a year fighting for the support I’m entitled to from the benefits system.”

Jon Barrick, the Stroke Association Chief Executive says: “Stroke is often thought of as an older person’s issue, yet about a quarter of strokes occur in people of working age. There are over 300,000 people under 60 living with the effects of stroke in the UK(iv).  Our report shows the heavy financial impact of stroke on families who may face a dual loss of income at a time when financial commitments are likely to be at their most stretched. Not only are they struggling to make ends meet on a day to day basis, but they are unable to plan for their future financial security.

“Stroke survivors face additional problems when seeking Employment Support Allowance telling us that too often the wide ranging impact of stroke is not understood by those who are undertaking assessments. Having a stroke is bad enough, but too many stroke survivors have to fight for financial support when they should be focussing on their recovery.

“Stroke is the leading cause of severe adult disability in the UK and it is inexcusable that the DWP processes are being carried out by undertrained assessors with a view to restricting support rather than enabling help.”(v)

The Stroke Association is calling on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to make sure:

  • The benefits system is fair and respects the dignity of stroke survivors and their families.
  • All assessors and DWP staff are trained to understand the impact of stroke and recognise the range of the disabilities it causes.
  • The guidance that assessors use in the WCA is clear and accurate on the hidden effects of stroke.
  • DWP learn from the mistakes that have been made with ESA and the WCA and do not repeat them when the Personal Independence Payment replaces Disability Living Allowance.
  • Click here to download the report

Find out more about the Stroke Association’s Life After Stroke Campaign or sign up to show your support by visiting www.stroke.org.uk/campaigns

For more information please contact the press office

Ends

Notes to Editors
Short-changed by stroke is the second chapter in the Life After Stroke campaign.

i.) Daily Life Survey conducted by The Stroke Association. 2,200 stroke survivors and carers completed the survey Sept – Dec 2011.
ii.) 520 respondents were aged between 29-59.
iii.) Stroke Association survey of 120 stroke survivors and 10 in-depth interviews on WCA and ESA through external agency (BCD Care Associates) 2012.
iv.) Approximately a quarter of strokes happen to people under the age of 65. Reducing brain damage: Faster access to better stroke care National Audit Office Report. Department of Health 2005
v.) The disturbing truth about disability assessments, Margaret McCartney, BMJ, 08 August 2012

  • A stroke is a brain attack which happens when the blood supply to the brain is cut off, caused by a clot or bleeding in the brain. Around 150,000 people have a stroke in the UK every year and it is the leading cause of severe adult disability. There are over one million people in UK living with the effects of stroke.
  • The Stroke Association is a charity. We believe in life after stroke and we’re leading a community of people to change the world for people affected by stroke. We work directly with stroke survivors and their families and carers, with health and social care professionals and with scientists and researchers. We campaign to improve stroke care and support people to make the best recovery they can. We fund research to develop new treatments and ways of preventing stroke. The Stroke Helpline (0303 303 3100) provides information and support on stroke.
  • The Life After Stroke campaign is proudly supported by IPSEN. Ipsen Limited is the UK subsidiary of Ipsen, a specialty pharmaceutical company. Ipsen’s ambition is to become a global leader in the treatment of targeted debilitating diseases supported by franchises in neurology, endocrinology, uro-oncology and haemophilia. Our extensive Research and Development programmes are focused in peptides and toxins with an active policy of partnerships.