Category Archives: Society

Urgent petition to halt damaging changes to the work capability assessment #esaSOS

Re-blogged from: http://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/esasos.html

#esaSOS: YOUR HELP NEEDED URGENTLY!

On 28 January 2013 the UK government is due to make a set of changes to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). The WCA is the flawed ‘fitness to work’ test which assesses whether sick and disabled people can get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA): a benefit designed to help and support very unwell or profoundly disabled people into work.

Although these changes have been advertised as small ‘amendments’, they will in fact have a huge impact on the way people’s illnesses and disabilities are assessed. Many vulnerable people’s needs will suddenly be able to be overlooked or ignored, meaning they could end up losing the support they desperately need to manage their conditions.

Hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled people across Britain need your help to fight these changes!

PROBLEM 1: FALSE ASSUMPTIONS

In the fitness to work test, your needs are assessed by a ‘healthcare professional’ employed by the French private company ATOS. This assessor doesn’t just need to look at your current difficulties. For example, they can also imagine how using an aid (e.g. a wheelchair) might improve your ability to work and make a judgement based on that –without even asking your opinion!
However, soon this “imaginary test” will be able to be used for many more aids (including guide dogs and false limbs!). This means that soon thousands more people could be judged as fit to work, without being consulted, on the basis of an “imaginary” aid they don’t own or may not be able to use!

It gets worse. Even if returning to work may clearly put you at risk, these changes will mean you can still lose your disability benefit – as long as the assessor believes that trying a new therapy or treatment might reduce that risk. There’s no need for evidence that the treatment will help: you will lose support either way, making it much harder to manage if the treatment doesn’t work as hoped – let alone if it ends up making things worse.

Imagine Bert, who suffers from severe schizophrenia, but is found fit to work and made to take behavioural therapy in the hope of improving his condition. He will lose his disability benefit, without the assessor having to look at several vital questions: how hard it would be for Bert to contact a psychiatrist? How long would an NHS appointment take to organize? Are there private options in his area – and could he afford them if so? What if the therapy doesn’t work, or takes a long time to adjust to?

“How individuals are assessed to receive ESA could give rise to large numbers of legal claims being made against them. These changes immediately puts the government at risk of breaching article 9 of the European Convention for the protection of Human Rights, which preserves an individual’s right to ‘thought, conscience and religion’. The new rules provide for an individual to be refused ESA if they do not take any medication or accept an aid which Doctors believe could aid their condition. Essentially, they can impose a financial penalty on individuals who refuse treatment on religious. Given the very recent decision involving the Christian, Nadia Eweida and the court upholding her right to wear a cross – the government is on very rocky ground with these changes.” Chris Fry, Solicitor and Managing Partner at Unity Law www.unity-law.co.uk

If the government’s rule changes go through, people like Bert who are desperate to work will find it nearly impossible to get an accurate assessment, affecting the quality of their support and actively preventing their efforts to get back into work.

PROBLEM 2: SEPARATING PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH

The government is also trying to change the way people’s conditions are assessed by dividing health problems into two separate boxes: ‘physical’ and ‘mental’. When looking at what tasks people can do, only the ‘physical half’ of the test will apply to those with physical disabilities. The same goes for the effects of treatment: for e.g., if you’re taking mental health medication, only mental health side-effects will be looked at.
This completely fails to understand the way that many disabilities and illnesses can lead toboth physical and mental effects. This is also the case for many common treatments: such as those for schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

Think of Emily, who suffers severe, chronic pain because of nerve damage to her leg. Emily is among the 49% of chronic pain sufferers who also suffer depression as a result of continuous pain. An assessor may see Emily as able to do some work as long as she takes strong painkillers for the rest of her life, meaning she could pass the ‘fitness’ test. Yet the painkillers may not deal with the depression caused by her condition. Painkillers have also often been shown to affect people’s wakefulness and decision-making. So taking the medication may affect Emily’s ability to do a job in a completely new way – yet because these new problems are cognitive, they would not need to be looked at by the assessor when making their decision!

Pretending the effects of illnesses and disabilities can be separated in this way goes against all medical practice. Going even further, and using this method to ignore sick and disabled people’s needs, is at best hopeless policy, and at worst deliberate cruelty. We cannot let the government treat some of the most vulnerable people in British society in this way.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

The main way you can help is by spreading the message about these changes to ESA. The government have tried to sneak them under the radar – the last thing they will want is people talking about them!

Here are some great ways you can raise awareness:

  1. Email your MP (you can search by name or constituency at http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/);
  2. Share this blog post on twitter (using the hashtag #esaSOS), Facebook and other social media CLICK ON THE BUTTONS BELOW THIS POST TO SHARE ON TWITTER AND FACEBOOK
  3. Email your friends and family a link to this post – or simply talk to them about it!

Again, the main way we can get the government to reconsider is by getting people to talk about the injustice of these changes. So please spread the word as far and wide as you can!

Thank you so much for reading this far. Now let’s make sure these unwanted, damaging benefit changes never see the light of day!

If you want to do more, please sign #WOWpetition and call on the government to think again. Sign here http://wowpetition.com – and ask all of your friends to sign too!
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THE FULL #SPARTACUS PRESS BRIEFING ON THE PROPOSED CHANGES TO ESA CAN BE FOUND HERE: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/ESAbriefing

Slashing spending and cutting benefits inhuman, David Cameron

Source of quote:http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2002/apr/18/davidcameron.politicalcolumnistsThanks Aaron JamesUnfortunately this isn’t todays news story. David Cameron said this back in 2002 in an article piece for the Guardian news paper.

See for yourself:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2002/apr/18/davidcameron.politicalcolumnists

After the recession of 1989 to 1992 we had to raise taxes because the budget deficit reached dangerous proportions. The alternative of slashing spending and cutting benefits would have been inhuman.

As the image says, he is damned by is own words.

Also see:

  1. The Deficit Myth  http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/
  2. Government Debt and Deficits in Charts

  3. Counter the austerity myths
  4. Debt ratios http://notthetreasuryview.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/debating-debt-ratios-with-michael.html from , Director, National Institute of Economic and Social Research. Previously, Chief Economist at the UK Cabinet Office. Regular commentator on UK macro and microeconomic policy. (The exchange he mentions in his blog entry here is pretty damning for the politician involved and shows the dirty tactics they are employing to validate their aims to remove the state.)

First response to today’s “fall in unemployment” figures

Don’t get too excited about the fall in unemployment. It is up by only 0.01%, which is statistically insignificant within the margin of error.

Also, note: Those who are engaged in the so called WorkFare work programmes are counted as being employed, although they only receive between £53 and £70 for a 40 hour week (short term) and are unpaid by the employers.

It also fails to show that part-time work and zero hour contracts have increased.

This graph from the ONS website shows the rise in part time work and economic inactivity.

Changes in number of people in the labour market between September to November 2007 and September to November 2012, seasonally adjusted.

Source: Labour Force Survey – Office for National Statistics

It’s all in the figures and footnotes:

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lms/labour-market-statistics/january-2013/index.html

 

Think-Tank urges government to “de-nationalise the roads”

DfT plan to raise direct revenue from roads is bad enough but libertarian think-tank urges Gov’t to motorise roads even further. A ‘free market roads’ report has been published by the Institute of Economic Affairs and is co-written by Dr Richard Wellings, the IEA’s Head of Transport).

He said, “Denationalising the network would ensure British motorists had better roads to drive on.” He has also said cyclists are “low-value”, don’t pay for roads and “delay traffic” and calls them “road tax dodgers”.

He claims that cyclists should only be allowed on bike paths only as, “roads are for motor vehicles. Maybe cyclists should pay to use cycle lanes – can’t see why taxpayers should be forced to subsidise them.” He seems to forget that roads are paid for by everybody out off all general taxation.

“A free market [in roads] would mean ending the state control and ownership of roads.

“Decisions regarding the deployment of speed cameras would be the responsibility of private road owners. These individuals would have to consider customer preferences for both speed and safety. Thus private road owners would probably focus on the wants of motorists rather than the demands of the road safety lobby. There [would be] no necessary role for government in the provision of speed limits or to ensure that motorists are registered, insured and trained.”

In the current report Dr Wellings said road privatisation would be opposed by many but that, “voter-taxpayers will appreciate lower taxes, whereas voter-drivers will appreciate shorter commuting or journey times and lower-cost fuel. It’s likely that rights of way for pedestrians, bicycles and horses would be preserved without charge, even though they would impose costs on road owners and motorists.”

The de-nationalisation of roads would be a reversal of 110 years of national stewardship.

In 1903, the Roads Improvements Association – an organisation created in 1886 by CTC and the forerunner to British Cycling – successfully lobbied the Government of the day to, in effect, nationalise the roads of Great Britain. Prior to this, roads were the responsibility of hundreds of local authorities, with an appalling disparity in quality of road upkeep from parish to parish, region to region.

The creation of a central highway authority was brought about thanks to the dogged insistence of a cycling official, Williams Rees Jeffreys. In 1900 he was elected a member of the Council of the Cyclists’ Touring Club and by 1901 was CTC’s representative on the Council of the Roads Improvement Association. He wanted the RIA to push for a “a Central Highway Authority and a State grant for highway purposes.”

In the 1940s, British Prime Minister Lloyd George said William Rees Jeffreys was “the greatest authority on roads in the United Kingdom and one of the greatest in the whole world.” Rees Jeffreys became the first secretary of the Roads Board, founded in 1910. This was the first central authority for roads in Great Britain since the Romans. The Roads Board later became part of the newly-formed Ministry of Transport, which has now become the Department for Transport.

Recommended reading:

Will too much localism lead to a return to “foundrous highways”? – http://www.roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com/will-too-much-localism-lead-to-a-return-to-foundrous-highways/

Nationalise the m6 Toll Road, says West Midlands Transport Chief – http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/local-news/nationalise-the-m6-toll-road-says-218397

Simon Fanshawe tells the truth about benefits on BBC Breakfast

Screen Shot 2012-12-22 at 08.26.14 Screen Shot 2012-12-22 at 08.25.52

Simon Fanshawe was a guest on this morning’s BBC Breakfast reviewing the mornings papers.

He started with this article from the Daily Mail – “Rises in welfare will be capped for six years.”

This is a transcript of some of what Simon said. (Audio beneath.)

“Let’s start with Grant Shapps, who I think is my least favourite politician. He says he is going cap to the rise in welfare benefits for six years. And the trouble for the government is that the welfare bill keeps going up, so they mount this attack on what they called the skivers as opposed to the strivers. Here are some facts about this though:

“60% of people who get some kind of benefit are in work. If you are in part-time work, of which there are 6 million in the country, and you can’t get that 24 hours worth of part-time worker week, you’re going to lose £4000 worth of tax credits during the year. People on benefit, 85% of people on housing benefit are in work, but it doesn’t go to them, it goes straight through them to the landlords.

“So the headline here that says, “Make it paid to work,” well the way to make it pay to work is to raise wages. What we doing with the benefits deal is subsidising employers who will not pay decent wages and that’s why people have to claim housing benefit and tax credit.

“And to mount this attack on the poor it seems to me seems unjustifiable.”

Simon went on to talk about the advertising campaign that the Tories are mounting in the areas where there are marginal seats. Other bloggers have covered this in a lot of detail.

, Director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and previously Chief Economist at the UK Cabinet Office, explains why Indexing benefits to inflation is not “unsustainable” at all.

“The idea that benefits need to be cut in real terms in order to ensure either fairness to those in work or long-term sustainability is nonsense.”