Benefits and Mental Health

I have a Guest post in this months Chronic Illness Inclusion Project  if you have 5 minutes to pop over and have a look at the site, as well as sharing my post, I would much appreciate it.

“Through therapy I recognised that I had internalised Neoliberal ideology; I had put a price on my own life and found myself lacking. Acknowledging this has given me the tools to address it. I am so fortunate to have had access to the appropriate therapy as it has helped me comprehend the real value of Life as a disabled woman but, more importantly, as me. I have forgiven myself for absorbing such poison but I cannot forgive the authors of this dehumanising rhetoric.”….

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free bus travel for all ESA, JSA and Universal Credit claimants.

There is a Petition on the Government website that is asking the Government to : To fund free bus travel for all ESA, JSA and Universal Credit claimants. It was created by Maria Nelson who lives with back and joint problems and due to her semi-rural location has a 12 mile circular trip to the nearest jobcentre and a 16 miles round trip for medical and support services. Maria attends various appointments for both health and support, and with a daily bus pass being £7.50, a busy week can cost her over a quarter of her ESA.  Realising she is not alone she decided to start the petition 

Empathising with Maria’s situation, I am supporting this petition through this post; to  give you a proper insight as to its importance, below is the rationale in Maria’s words.

My name is Maria Nelson and I created this petition to ask the Government to fund free travel for people claiming  ESA, JSA and Universal Credit (UC)
The reasons are many and varied, to coin a phrase favoured by the DWP, the  Conservative Government claims it wants to support sick and disabled people, the low paid and job seekers; but the  reality is very different.
Many claimants live in rural and semi rural locations, not within walking distance to shops, advice services or the jobcentre, further many are disabled or suffering chronic pain and assorted illness and so rely on public transport to comply with UC compliance rules such as attending appointments, assessments, jobsearch programmes and training.
These same claimants often need to access support and advice services to fill in UC, Pip, ESA and other claim forms and for help with appeals; these services are usually at locations which aren’t local or within comfortable safe walking distances. JSA claimants and wrag (work related assessed group) also need to attend jobcentres to search for work and attend interviews.
Sometimes  people can claim travel money back, but obviously they have to pay it up front, also jobcentres and assessment centres won’t tell you this unless you ask?
Sick and disabled people also need to attend medical appointments and travel can be costly for this too; for example I have appointments on  both 10th and 11th September and this will cost me £12.00. The cost of travel has sky-rocketed in the past 8 years, but our benefits do not go up according to the cost of living  or inflation; many chronically sick and disabled people are living well below the poverty line, defined at 60% of average income.
I’m at currently living at about 43% below the average income, but others such as those on JSA are far worse off. Many claimants are surviving on income so low that after council tax, bedroom tax, and the money to make up Housing benefit shortfall for rent can’t afford bus travel and are forced to walk many miles. This becomes a real issue if you are one of the many middle-aged, sick, and, or, disabled who cannot walk long distances.
A  further point to note is if claimants could access the free travel scheme ran by most Councils, it would save the DWP and its many training schemes and work provider deliverers a whole lot of clerical hours and paper when paying out individual travel claims.
I feel having concessionary travel passes and it is not the least important,  many disabled people live alone and don’t have access to a car; I can personally vouch that struggling with shopping  because you can’t afford the travel cost is detrimental to health. I pulled my arm joint struggling to get a trolley on a bus; living in a village I have to use the bus to get to and from the supermarket. I also feel completely isolated, which is detrimental to and already has damaged my mental health. Other than essential travel to shop, get to medical treatment I can not afford to get out.
I would also, as per Human Right Act, like to occasionally partake in community and social events when I feel well enough.
Their are millions like me.
Regarding UC, many on benefits will be changed to UC  next year. How on earth are we meant to access help with no income for 5 weeks and having to save to pay the rent for the duration? How are we supposed to access food banks, charity support, advice without travel?
There are so many more reasons a travel pass would free us.
 Please sign my petition  and share it, ask friends to help. Don’t forget to Confirm your signature in the email from Parliament or it doesn’t count.”
On behalf of Maria Thank-you

More Evidence This Government Is The Killing STATE of #Tory Britain

Today the Observer View is around the imaginary reasons and victims of the Austerity Agenda. As I have continually said for the past 5 years the Tories have persistently developed and implements policies which actively discriminated against those who are most vulnerable, belong to minority groups and, or are the poorest.

The Observer states “Lacking a positive vision or plan, this is a government whose agenda is defined not by finding solutions, but scapegoats”. We Scapegoats are paying the price with our health, and with our lives; the time has to come when We say ENOUGH.

Two month ago I wrote a post with this name which I’ve left below as a reminder.Today further evidence of the discriminatory way Governments of the past ten years have treated Sick & Disabled people has been published “Sick and disabled Brits killed by the state – crime without punishment Successive UK Governments have restricted access to vital long-term sickness and disability benefits” by Welfare Weekly

It is time the attitudes and actions by Politicians towards not only disabled people but ALL individuals and groups not of the Elite; the disgusting treatment people labelled as  the #Windrush generation, the record number relying on Foodbanks to survive, the list goes on.

As the evidence Grows the words of Martin Niemoller haunt me

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist……Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Surely it is time to Demand the Government STOPS this and does so NOW; and if nothing else, remember you can make sure your voice is heard at next month the local elections, Use you vote to Say NO MORE KILLING

More than 100 women in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre have gone on hunger strike over “inhumane” conditions at the facility.” This is a situation beyond despair, the last time I could find multiple women forced into going on hunger strike was in Northern Ireland in 1980/81 with three Irish women starving themselves to death. Before then we have to return to a Century ago; what have the three times in common – Tory Governments.

I’m making no judgement as to why these women were incarcerated, although Asylum seekers and other migrants are imprisoned without committing crime; nor am I suggesting all of the women are innocent. But I am committed to the idea people do NOT enter the ‘Justice system’ to DIE.

Further It is not only women who are suffering in our jails, two men have hanged themselves just in the past two days, one teenager arrested for stealing sweets! On twitter  tells of watching a man be convicted of a series of shop thefts…what became clear was that his family were on the brink of starving & his children malnourished. Hence the thefts which were only of essential items.

In appears the ‘justice system’ is not fit for purpose, and as readers will know this is not the only Government Department desperately failing people of the UK; today a series of articles from @johnpringdns  show the DWP is subverting justice’ at appeal tribunals along with a council being forced to launch an inquiry into the death of a terminally-ill disabled woman who total package of  personal care had suddenly been withdrawn just a few days before she died. And New revelations how our old adversary Esther McVey, had LIED AGAIN to fellow MPs. Pop over to John’s site for more evidence of failure.

The continuing and ever increasing articles containing the evidence and details of vulnerable people DYING  as a result of systematic Government Failure disturbs me greatly. As a life long depressive I have seriously considered ending my life on many occasions in truth I FIGHT these thoughts DAILY, I’m not admitting this for sympathy, I really don’t need or want it, I’m stating this because I Loathe being subjected into survival mode due to an uncaring, dysfunctional and bigoted Establishment. I GET why the women in Yarl’s Wood are risking their lives, it becomes impossible to flourish as a vulnerable person in the UK today; but I HOPE none of them end up life their male counterparts above nor the woman dying because her essential care was removed.

No one deserves the struggles and despair the people above go and went through – None of us, including myself should be forced to fight daily to survive because our Politicians Lie about the dismal state of welfare and justice in the UK today.

I’ll keep on Fighting until I can no longer do so and I sincerely Hope you’ll all join with me to rid the UK of this vile Killing Government

DWP again refuses to release data on disability benefits….

From The Independent –   Are the Media finally catching up?

The Department for Work and Pensions has again refused to release data about the impact of changes to the disability benefit system after a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

Last week the DWP was forced to reveal how many people had died shortly after being found fit to work by disability tests.

Ministers and officials had resisted the demand for months and only accepted it after a warning from the Information Commissioner and a campaign that went all the way to Parliament.

But on Tuesday DWP officials refused another request for basic information about disability benefits using the same “Section 22” exemption they had tried to use before.

The Department had been asked under the Freedom of Information Act to disclose how many Disability Living Allowance claimants had been made worse off after being moved onto the new Personal Independence Payment benefit.

The Department refused the request, made by a user of the WhatDoTheyKnow website, a tool which helps people scrutinise the Government’s record.

Some claimants have lost out from the move from DLA to PIP. The reason given for rejecting the request is the same as that given in the case of the death statistics – under section 22 of the Act, data which officials say is reserved for future publication can be blocked from release.

The Department also previously stalled on responding to the request based on the fact that the person who made it had initially used a pseudonym.

The civil servant who answered the reply ultimately said that thought there was a public interest in the data being released, they should be allowed to publish it “in a manner of form and at a time of their own choosing”.

“I can confirm that the Department holds the information you are seeking. However, Section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act exempts this information from disclosure. This is because the information is intended for publication at a future date,” the Department said in its reply.

“This exemption requires the public interest for and against disclosure to be weighed in the balance. There is a public interest in information being released as soon as possible. However, I am satisfied that there is a strong public interest in permitting public authorities to publish information in a manner and form and at a time of their own choosing.”

Disabled people are being transitioned by the Government from the Disability Living Allowance benefit to its placement, the Personal Independence Payment. Some people lose out from this change because of the new way in which the PIP is calculated.

One person affected by a payment cut, Jane, wrote in her blog about the difficulties the changes had made for her and criticised the DWP’s lack of transparency.

“I have found myself so behind with bill payments, I now am past ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ and am at the bailiffs knocking on the door stage,” she said.

“Once again the DWP hide behind Section 22, but fail to indicate when these figures are to be produced; could this be because the data once revealed, will show another proven case of how the Welfare Reform Act is persistently failing disabled people?”

In the case of the benefit death figures, the Information Commissioner said the Government had no good reason to withhold the stats under Section 22

Mr Duncan Smith at one point caused confusion when he told Labour MP Debbie Abraham in Parliament that the stats did not exist.

“She knows very well that the department does not collate numbers on people in that circumstance,” he told her in Parliament.

The block comes after ministers announced a crackdown on the Freedom of Information Act, which Justice Secretary Michael Gove needed to be “revisited”.

Civil servants have long complained that disclosing information can be time-consuming and costly, and that ministers and officials should be allowed to discuss things in secret without the public knowing.

Campaigns say any attempt to water down the act would make it more difficult to hold the Government to account when things go wrong.

More disability benefit data refused for release by DWP.

Back in January I wrote about how my transition from DLA to PIP lost me £140 per month, and in March I posted about the saga I had with my Mandatory Reconsideration; both of these pieces demonstrated precisely what this loss meant to me in real terms. Since then I have found myself so behind with bill payments, I now am past ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ and am at the bailiffs knocking on the door stage.

The reason for raising this is, today a FOI request asking  ‘The percentage of current DLA claimants, who, on conversion to PiP, were reduced in their claims’…was answered by the DWP. Unsurprisingly their response was “I can confirm that the Department holds the information you are seeking. However, Section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act exempts this information from disclosure. This is because the information is intended for publication at a future date.

Once again the DWP hide behind Section 22, but fail to indicate WHEN these figures are to be produced; could this be because the data once revealed, will show another proven case of how the Welfare Reform Act is persistently failing disabled people?

The recent outcome of the 18 month long fight by Mike Sivier confirmed that “10,000 people lost their lives” after being determined they were well enough to be placed in the Work Related Activity Group! Will this latest refusal for information, demonstrate yet a further number of disabled people, who although surviving, being adversely affected by the decisions of civil servants

We were warned back in 2012, by the then Minister for disabled people Esther McVey that, “more than 300,000 disabled people will have their benefits cut” under the transition from DLA to PIP, are the DWP refusing to release this data, because this figure is already much higher?

The Cost of PIP – Decision Makers – A Law unto themselves

In November last year I reported I’d received my PIP award and disagreeing with it I’d contacted the DWP;  due to the closeness to Christmas, the Call Centre staff member had put in my request for the assessment report and noted  it was “my intention to ask for a Mandatory Consideration” (MR), this was so as I would not run out of time if post was caught up in the Mail.  I duly waited for my copy of the assessment report, which arrived on December 23rd and  submitted my formal request for a MR along with the evidence on January 10th.  Five days later I received a letter dated January 11th, it had clearly crossed with my own submission in the post, it informed me the DMs had already carried out a MR and had, of course, upheld the original decision!

I duly phoned, well actually my daughter phoned for me as I was screaming mad, the next working day;  Nicki clearly informed them, that when I had contacted them back in November, it was to request the assessment report, and on advice from the call centre staff member I was advising them I would be asking for a MR, to keep within the DWP time scale. She went on to quote a DWP response to a FOI that states:

“While a request can be made for a Mandatory Reconsideration by telephone or in
writing, under no circumstance should an approach for advice be treated as a
Mandatory Reconsideration request. However should this occur, any erroneous
request can be withdrawn once the error has been identified and any subsequent
requests would be dealt with on their own merit.” 

The DWP call centre operator took down the details and said she would sent an email to the decision makers (DM), this is apparently the only way call centre staff can communicate with the DMs, the email requested they call me back and asked they review my initial phone call asking for my assessment report.

I waited to no avail until yesterday, when I received another letter stating, the DWP decision makers had determined my submission of evidence was a request to Appeal to Tribunal; this is despite the information in my reconsideration letter, the information taken during the phone call and their failure to phone me back!!

I immediately called them and spoke with a lovely woman at the call centre, she read the notes made, during the call with my daughter, and stated there were no further actions noted against it; she then whilst still on the phone with me, emailed the DMs explaining the situation and requesting another call back. More importantly she advised me. I now must initiate the Tribunal process within the next 4 weeks or lose my option to do in future!!

So I had to find the energy to complete a Notice of Appeal, and explain why a) it is out of time – it should have been completed within one calendar month of their MR (Jan 11) and b) I am actually asking FOR a MR?! I’ve also discovered I’m not alone in losing almost HALF my benefit inthe transfer from DLA to PIP

I was SICK of the whole Carbuncle of Welfare Reform before May 7 – now we await with trepidation the announcements of the next round of proposed £12Million of Cuts; we’ve already read of the possible taxation of disabled benefits and making it harder for sick people to claim state aid by introducing “stricter” fit-for-work tests and/or tighter limits on eligibility, what’s next remains as yet unknown.

What I am convinced of is it is time now for ALL of us affected by the discriminatory actions of the Tories, to come together and Fight Back in Unity; we must ensure that whatever campaigns, petitions, demos etc work collectively to complement each other in the Battle for Survival under a Tory Government

Tories Only tell you what to Spend if you’re Poor

Mark Harper the Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions was on Radio4 Today this morning, talking about Cameron’s promise to protect pensions; in his discussion he stated “we can’t tell people how to spend their money“!

Where then does this leave the vow from IDS that he is “testing prepaid cards, onto which we will make benefit payments, so that the money they receive is spent on the needs of the family”? ‘Given the total contrast between Ministers statements, who can we believe, Harper’s – we trust the public or Ids – the poorest must be told where to shop and what to buy’?

Maybe the Tories believe that only people who have retired can manage a budget? Or is it, much more likely in my opinion, the pensioner promise is more about the Conservatives feeling worried they might lose their traditional voting base, by means testing the additional support such as the winter fuel allowance?

Either way this is yet another example of how the Tories are actually expanding the gap between the bottom and the the middle of the financial pyramid, with One rule for those with the least need and completely the Opposite for those the most vulnerable’ regardless it is Real Tory Hypocrisy in Action .