Who can help Benefit claimants when Charities are no longer Impartial?

There was a spate of example towards the end of last year where Charities were warned they were at risk of closure, or at least sanctions, for acting ‘Politically

  • the chair of the Trussell Trust was told “he must think more carefully otherwise “the government might try to shut you down”.
  • The Global Warming Policy Foundation were advised ‘concerns were raised that the charity was promoting views that were of a political rather than an educational nature’.
  • Oxfam was been rapped by the charity watchdog for not taking sufficient steps to avoid appearing politically biassed in a social media campaign which criticised the Government’s austerity programme earlier this year.

These are only examples, of how a breadth of Charities are experiencing this, what I feel is bullying.

This behaviour by the powers that be, is despite Government guidance which states:

Can a charity carry out campaigning and political activity?

The short answer Yes – any charity can become involved in campaigning and in political activity which further or support its charitable purposes, unless its governing document prohibits it.”

Although since then the Government’s introduction of the Lobbying Act has resulted in a report by the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement (CCSDE) stating “The law makes it almost impossible for charities and campaign groups to work together and speak out on politically contested issues in joint coalitions”.

Given the above, how does this affect the people needing help from the very organisations established to meet their needs? I have received today an example of precisely this; the situation is a benefit claimant who is also a disability activist, at tribunal

“I ended up saying all the things in the tribunal that I was warned by the CAB not to say. They kept saying they were not allowed to have a political opinion. I replied that I didn’t think it could be seen in other than a political light. I ended by telling them that if it goes against me I will be likely seeing them again shortly as my six months is up and I will reapply right away and that’s how ridiculous the system is. I was sent outside while they deliberated. When I was called back in I was asked if I was likely to top myself if the decision was negative. I replied that that was always an option but I would be much more likely to kill one of the oppressors. I was actually quite surprised to have won as I figured I may have gone too far”

So, here the Citizens Advice Bureau is advising people not to have an opinion about the Welfare Reform regime and how it affects them! Our experience at DEAEP is the Tribunal panels ASK questions that require such a response, they usually understand it is the process established by Welfare Reform that has created the problem; and they recognise that Welfare and Disability issues are by their very nature political, something CAB don’t appear to understand.

This reluctance by CAB to appear Political might be as a result to ensure they maintain their funding, and this is a real issue when it comes down to giving appropriate support to individuals, further I believe this is eludes to a greater problem -the morality of the voluntary/3rd sector in general. When community organisations begin they usually are in response to need but…as they grow to be successful, there is a shift from the ‘need’ to a want. The project then spends much of its time searching and bidding for money to allow it expand and employ people; thus begins a vicious circle where workers in fear of their employment, are forced to focus their energy on justifying and gaining financial support for their existence. Hence the original purpose becomes skewed if not lost.

This is an issue I’ve witnessed hundreds of times in my professional life, and it lies at the very problem of the ‘voluntary/community sector’, whose very ethos should be, to work itself out of existence; and it becomes an even greater issue when Government interferes with the actions of these vital projects.

It is an issue we directors of DEAEP are experiencing now, how can we finance the necessary expansion of our service, when any ‘funding we might access, comes with such boundaries? Our response was to set up as a social enterprise, aiming to sell bespoke training the other companies in order to continue to fund our peer support element; this prevents us accessing many funding streams and means we are growing very slowly, but at least we are able to offer truly impartial support  to those we work with.

DEAEP Desperately Needs Your Help:

DEAEP Desperately Needs Your Help: Click to Donate: http://gofund.me/deaepleics?pc=tw_cr_n … …

deaeper

Disability Enabling and Empowerment Project are a group of people who are helping disabled people with the problems that arise from the disgusting treatment from the Ian Duncan Smith and the disgraceful department that he runs.

We give our time to people for nothing but if we are going to carry on helping people then we will need financial help to carry on helping and training people. To date we have funded all admin and travel costs ourselves but our benefits will no longer allow us to do this; to this end we have set up our GoFundMe account.

We have so far successfully won over a dozen cases and helped numerous people with their benefit problems. We have also trained 6 people to be Peer Support workers and are looking to run more courses throughout the UK.

If you can spare even £1.00 this will help us to continue…

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Testimonial – DEAEP Training Works

What great News, another success story for DEAEP… btw the customer was awarded PIP Care & Mobility

Was training really worth the time and effort?

A couple of months ago I participated in DEAEP Leicester’s Peer Support in Action course which was very eye opening to say the least.

Was this training really necessary? Was I going to learn anything? Would the course content be relevant?

After this week’s WRAG meeting in Leicester and todays tribunal in Nottingham Yes, Yes and Yes.  Three answers that say it all.

With out this professional training and support from the DEAEP staff the two clients I represented would of stood no chance in attaining the results they really deserved.

So if like me you think that representing and supporting people who are scared of losing their meagre benefits just because they are disabled or vulnerable and need someone to stand along side them and give them a voice and support…..

Read the Rest at Was training really worth the time and effort?

How DEAEP helped Former soldier with ESA Claim

One of the long term cases we are dealing with at  DEAEP  is Burt, he initially came to us for help in January 2014, a deterioration of his health had left him unable to work and in October 2013 he’d claimed ESA. He received an award in January and he’d been placed into WRAG, his range of physical and mental health difficulties were such it was clear he was in the wrong group, therefore  he we supported him submit a mandatory reconsideration (MR) claim to be moved into the Support Group.

In October 2014, Burt received the letter informing him his 365 limit for NI contribution based ESA was ending, so we reapplied for Income based ESA including up to date health information from his specialists demonstrating his further health deterioration.  He was immediately re-awarded and the decision maker had again placed him in WRAG, ergo we resubmitted a MR for inclusion into the Support group.

A fortnight ago Burt received a mandatory Work-focussed interview for today, which we arranged to attend at, and everything was running smoothly until Friday when he received another two letters; one for him to attend a conditionality interview on the following day (Saturday) and the second was the start date for him to begin The Work Programme with A4 on Thursday this week!

Burt immediately phoned the DWP and said he could not possibly get to the JobCentre the next day, but he would be attending today; the call centre operator said this was fine and she believed the letters to be duplicates and to ignore them!

We attended Burt’s interview with him this morning, and after the interviewer explained the reasons for the meeting today, (the changes under Welfare Reform) we entered into a debate as to why Burt was not fit for work. We explained how Burt’s Army induced PTSD and Depression, along with his crushed Spine, Osteoarthritis, Chronic Sciatica and Emphysema; meant he is in constant pain and is fatigued from perpetual Nightmares. Fortunately the personal advisor (PA) we met with was not only willing to listen, she was also suffering from disillusionment with Welfare Reform; she shared with us that before the changes, she as his PA, had the authority to decide which group Burt ought to be in, and in her opinion he should be in the support group. When we asked if there were any approximate  time scales for  MR she said No but the decision makers were still considering our request submitted in January!

She then cancelled  the Conditionality interview and completed the Work Programme Action plan, which was due to be filled at Thursdays appointment, with the statement “customer will respond to or attend all appointments booked by work coach or external advisors“; this allowing either Burt or ourselves the option to advise A4 of non-attendance, until such time the decision makers determine the mandatory reconsideration request.

For me there are Three key points arising from this experience:

The Personal Advisor is the one who communicates directly with the customer, therefore they are best paced to determine which group ESA claimants should be in?

There are far too many  ‘sections’ (14 according to the PA today) in the JobCentre, all dealing with small parts of the ‘customers journey’, and as with Burt, claimants can be called in for each separate part; this causes major difficulties for sick,  disabled and financially vulnerable claimants and obvious confusion for call centre staff. Claimants should have One PA who manages their claims for beginning to end?

Some staff at JobCentre are as sick of the ludicrous outcomes of Welfare Reform as we are, and are trying doing their job; but they’re not medically trained and therefore are not be best paced to make such vital decisions.

If anyone finds themselves in similar situations and would like support please contact us at DEAEP, we’re here to help.

 

 

Real issues with Welfare Reform

Wearing my DEAEP Company hat, last week I met with a lovely man, I’ll call him Adam; Adam is in his 60s and worked all his life until last year, when his health deteriorated to such a point he could no longer physically manage. At this time he completed his claim for ESA, he heard nothing and then, out of the blue last month, Adam was called for an appointment with ATOS. He initially asked about home visit as he loves 12 miles outside the City centre but was told he needed a letter from his Dr to support his request; as this was not possible, Adam informed them he was happy to attend but he wanted the assessment recorded, ATOS assured him this was fine and he arranged a date.

He contacted me wanting support for the assessment and, after Adam struggling to make his way into town for 10.30 we met prior to the assessment to discuss his requirements. We sat at a coffee shop 3 doors away from the assessment centre, and in the time it took us to finish our drinks Adam received 2 phone calls, both from the same Nottingham number and each time he answered his phone the line went dead. We both recognised the area code and knowing the regional ATOS office is based here, Adam returned the second call, only to find the call could not be completed at the receiving end.

Experience called us both to speculate if ATOS actually had organised for the recording equipment to be there, and chatting about this we entered the building ATOS use to carry out the ESA assessments for Leicestershire. ATOS are based on the first floor of a sixties office building which has no access/egress for wheelchair users in an emergency; knowing this we were both on sticks. Using the lift we emerged on the first floor to be met by a door with no automatic functions, causing us to engage into some form of strange dance to pull open the door when neither of us have full use of our arms/hands; achieving access we were then met with a second, this time fire retardant door, again with no automatic function. Having recreating our dance anew we proceeded through into a small space with a third non automatic door, thus we repeated our caper finally emanating in the reception area for ATOS.

Noting how extremely quiet the waiting area was, with only one other person in the room, we made our way to the desk, where we were met by a very friendly woman who after taking Adam’s details said he was “more than welcome to have the assessment but…”; yes, the recording equipment wasn’t there! She apologised and said they had tried to call him to which we both explained what had happened at our end. She went on to say as Adam didn’t want the assessment without it being recorded, he would receive another phone call in the next 2/3 weeks to rearrange it.

By this time we were both exhausted and in pain, so much that before we left Adam was forced to resort to his default position for managing extreme pain on his hands and knees; when Adam’s pain had returned to its regular level, we made our way our of the building, this time going backwards through the three doors, our backsides providing the impetus required to push them open.

The real irony of all of this is Adam retires in July, that’s correct, he has to go through all this again just to receive ESA for three months!

I met with a second DEAEP customer today, who I’ll call Alex; Alex is going to Tribunal next week, the reason being having fought for two years to be placed in the support group due to the progression of Parkinsons, the DWP decreed the were wrong and have done precisely that; but they insist he must continue with his appeal and attend the hearing. It seems the purpose of the Tribunal, which is being held at a local hotel instead of at the Tribunal centre, is for 17 months worth of Back pay, the difference between basic rate and the enhanced rate Alex is now receiving in the support group! I’ll report back on this next week.

What the DWP and the Politicians who have devised the immoral and unjust Polices ignore is the anxiety and stress both of these men are going through, as they are forced to fight their way through the broken Welfare Reform process; and what really sickens me is the total amount of money involved in these two cases is far less than the pathetic amount Ms Maria Miller has been instructed to return following her fraudulent expense claims!!

 

 

 

National ATOS Demo – A personal Account

Yesterday I was spokesperson for ATOS DEMO, the day started with a home interview on local radio at 8.00 am, which in my world meant getting up at 5.00, to allow my drugs enough time to work for me to coherent; I then had 2 hours to recover to attend my local demo at Leicester.

Arriving slightly early to meet up with my fellow organisers, we were immediately approached by a police officer with a community support officer, asking who the organiser was; we informed them there was no one person locally, we were a group of ATOS survivors protesting about the companies role in Welfare Reform. This really surprised them, I really don’t think they’d come across a protest that wasn’t organised by a Party or group before; on refection the age of both officers might have something to do with this, they were too young to remember what genuine community activism is – the coming together of individuals against/for a common cause, without a Political agenda. Later during the Demo, my carer was speaking with them about the day and reasons behind it; he says the were actually interested and not only sympathised with us, but were impressed by our campaign, I believe this showed in the way they remained at a discreet distance through the programme.

The Demo started promptly at 11 am, and was reasonably well attended with approximately 50 people all with a story of ATOS treatment to tell; Nick, another of our organisers had put together a great 2 + hour programme of speakers, poets and singers, if you’re interested the whole thing was captured by Down Not Out, an amazing local homeless project; and made the local press. It was also fantastic to meet up with people from different groups in the City who came out to support us – Unite, Left Unity, TUC, and others I admit I’ve forgotten the names of.  But what doesn’t make even this fantastic coverage were many of the horror stories I heard when speaking to people there, personal tales of humiliation, sanctions, suicide and more; what makes it even more tragic (if this is possible) is the Fact, we’ve all heard it all before, not once but over and over.

I passed out about an hour after I got home, the price I pay for less than 3 hours out; and today I feel I’ve wrestled with the Olympic Judo team; In truth the day has seriously cost me in terms of energy and pain but…was it worth it YES YES YES!!!

The fact that 2 young police officers learnt something from what we did says to me that this type of collective peaceful protest has a positive empowering effect not only on those involved but others around, and I remain convinced this is THE way forward. The video and press coverage we achieved will forever remain in the ether of the internet, and can be utilised to maintain the spirit of the day. We will, as DEAEP  and through Down Not Out, be able to offer appropriate support to those people with personal issues with ATOS and DWP; and the organising group of the Leicester Demo has already booked a venue for a follow up meeting to continue the campaign for justice and equality with vulnerable people locally.

The only other thing I want to say is THANK YOU – to Tom Smith, who had the idea and called for this day, to Each of the Host organisers at the Leicester Event, to ALL involved in covering the day & most importantly to EVERY SINGLE PERSON who attended, including those who stopped to listen,even for a while – YOU made MY Day xx

Attending ATOS? WE Can Help – Update

As many of you are aware from the original post, I am the founding director of Disability Enabling and Empowerment Project (Leic’s) (DEAEP); this project came about from a discussion I had with my daughter and my best friend (both disabled) regarding how we three would manage to get through the ESA/DLA assessments and other such troubling appointments, without the mutual support of each other.

Currently we have written all the paperwork necessary to run a 10 week part time course, and have been desperately trying to find a venue to pilot this in Leicester, thanks to Unite community this is likely to start mid April ; we’re also investigating how we could offer the same as an on-line course. The course will be free for anyone willing to then, pass on the skills by supporting others through the trials of assessment or other similar stressful situations.

Like everything else, in this greedy age we currently live in, we’re unable to source funding for this Social Enterprise; despite the fact we’re contacted almost daily by disabled people struggling to get through. Therefore we’ve decided to take a chance on you.

From this post we’re looking for similar minded people who are willing to help us make the on-line option a reality. Are you brave enough to commit to meet with me on-line for three hours a week (day to be confirmed) and trial our course;  unfortunately this will have to be on wiggio.com & via email and there is currently no accreditation for this due to the cost. Having a proven pilot completed will give us the data and evidence we need to submit funding applications, potentially allowing us to gain accreditation and buy the suitable website to make this a reality.

If you are share our belief that we disable/vulnerable can help ourselves deal with the stress of ATOS/CAPITA etc. by passing on skills; and are seriously interested in either joining us at Unite. or to work with me on-line, please respond to either to this post or via our website by Friday 1 February.

I’m looking forward to all your replies 🙂 xx

DEAEP ONLINE NEWSLETTER

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Disability Enabling & Empowerment Project (DEAEP) Newsletter.

Issue 1:

Welcome to the 1st Quarterly newsletter from DEAEP; as this is our inaugural edition we thought we’d say a BIG Hello from the team:

Jayne Linney – Director & Training Officer: I’m a (long) time served Community Worker/Adult Tutor, who became disabled through developing a range of health conditions over the past 15 years. Interests are Equality issues across the board.

Nicki Linney – Director & Care & Support Officer: I’m a qualified carer with a back ground in Peer Support and Mental Health Support. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and a borderline personality disorder in 2012.

Tony Hamon – Director & Training Officer: I am a qualified TEFL tutor who also holds the City & Guilds Adult Education Award. With my Internal/External Assessor Awards this gives me with a broad knowledge base and understanding of teaching and assessing adults.

Wayne Naylor – Director & Treasurer: I have 18 years experience of volunteering and working in a number of Community Projects. Supporting people is vital in making the securing futures for people living with disabilities.

Peer Support Course:

Our first course will be starting the week of 03/03/2014 to 07/03/2014, time and venue to be arranged and will run for one half day a week for 10 weeks.

The course consists of 5 modules which will cover:

Module 1: Effective Communication & Active Listening.

Module 2: Understanding Disabilities.

Module 3: Understanding Self.

Module 4: Role of the Personal Advocate.

Module 5: Working with Service Users.

If you are interested in enrolling on this course please let us know A.S.A.P.

Email us @ deaepleicester@talktalk.net or call 0116 2624902.

Finally we will be attending the ATOS National Demo in Leicester. We hope to see you there.

https://www.facebook.com/events/237874276386917/?ref_dashboard_filter=calendar