Government #Disablism Discrimination in Action

This week a woman not known for her timidity, admitted how a non-disabled man had used his presence and the environment to disempower her; I’m referring to Dame Anne Begg and the she interview gave to the BBC. In the Daily Record Dame Anne is quoted as saying “Iain Duncan Smith took to standing behind me during Prime Minister’s Questions. He stood at what’s called the Bar of the House and occasionally he would lean on my wheelchair…Our working relationship was slightly fraught anyway because I’d been critical of him a lot. I wanted to keep that criticism a professional criticism, not a criticism of him as a person so I never quite built up the courage to actually say: ‘Please don’t do that.’” Dame Anne also was recorded as having explaining how “she would normally reproach people who invaded her personal space but she let him off“.

This is an excellent example of how competent, intelligent, and independent disabled people not only experience prejudice – as people either knowingly or subconsciously, use their bodies, words or actions to oppress us; but how this actively exasperates and diminishes us.

It is no coincidence I use this example with IDS being the perpetrator, as it is again his department, the DWP, I am discussing today. In November last year I introduced you to Burt, who with our support at DEAEP was transferred from WRAG to the support group last December; since then Burt has received up to three letters a month plus texts reminding him of his “Back to Work” appointments! Each month Burt has responded to each letter with a phone call saying “but I’m in the Support Group”, he has received an apology and a promise to rectify this from each call; yet it has continued.

Burt is a former career soldier who fought in wars all over the world, until being retired out with a crushed spine and severe PTSD, amongst other conditions, all contracted during his service.  He isn’t a naturally timid man, he loved his Army life and willingly gave everything to “Queen & Country”, as his service record and the plethora of photographs and awards proudly displayed in his lounge demonstrate; and yet the persistent harassment he has experienced from the DWP in the past 2 years has left him joyless, feeling without purpose and literally unable to complain.

As Dame Anne alluded to regarding IDS, his actions which amount to bullying in my opinion, makes it difficult if not impossible to positively challenge the perpetrator(s); and this is the situation Burt is in. Personally I can totally relate to this, and would suggest many readers and other claimants can also. It is these dismissive attitudes and continuous intimidation by the DWP that creates the ‘Brown envelope Syndrome’, so well recognised by those of us unfortunate enough to claim benefits; it is also this oppression, and misuse of positions of power, that has contributed to the deaths of many us.

How much worse this is going to get following the closure of ILF and a budget, which I believe initiates the removal of WRAG? Being forced to deal with increasing poverty is physically and psychologically damaging enough without having to deal with this prejudice and discrimination from the DWP.

I find this particularly ironic that jobseekers (presumably including those who would have been placed in WRAG)  are being mandated to participate in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), which claims to Stop negative thought cycles; I can’t help but think IDS, his ministers and the staff at DWP would benefit far more from CBT than claimants?

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.

 

 

Reasons for Supporting the TRUTH Campaign – IDS Time to Stop the Lies

Earlier this week Debbie and I started the latest stage in the TRUTH campaign, and launched a petition demanding Kathryn Hudson Parliamentary Commissioner For Standards investigate #IDS for persistently misleading both Parliament and the Public.

There are two primary reasons for our campaign; the ongoing misuse of statistics is not only a breach of the code of conduct #IDS is obliged as a Member of Parliament to abide by, but they result in the dangerous and inappropriate Policies disabled people are suffering from. The raft of Policies forming the Welfare Reform Act have been built on these distorted truths and the consequences are as numerous as the Polices:

The above examples are not the whole picture, particularly when we consider the negative outcomes on our health:

I could go on but I think you get the picture, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation got it right when they said     “our current welfare system doesn’t work“.

If any of the above offends, upsets or concerns you, might I remind you these real life issues are ALL the responsibility of one man Iain Duncan Smith, as the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has overall responsibility for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP); I’m not suggesting he personally designed the policies but he DID sign then off, he DOES regularly defend them with Lies, and it is this behaviour we are challenging.

Please SIGN our Petition, SHARE, BLOG, and  TWEET #IDSTimeForTruth about this Campaign

We may have started it but…it belongs to YOU.

 Disabled DYING

Here We Go Again – DWP to Repeat the ATOS Disaster ?

I’m sure I’m not alone in being totally unsurprised, albeit sick to my stomach at the latest revelation to be leaked from Tory proposals for Benefits, the drastic cutting of  ESA; it appears that new claimants placed in  WRAG will only receive 50 pence a week more than JSA. This has led me to wonder if this extreme reduction has anything to do with the increase in the number of people claiming out of work sickness or disability benefits?

The fact the cut was ‘leaked’ on the same day, and to the same source as the claim, Maximus will be the company taking over the contract from ATOS, also leaves me unsurprised. I can imagine the key players from DWP and Maximus sitting around the table and plotting this decimation of ESA as a part of the contract. The key aim of Welfare Reform has always been to slash Benefits, irrespective of need, and now seemingly wants to privatise all out of work benefits; therefore given Maximus’ existing  involvement in running the Work Programme, and the new Health and Work programme  this pairing seems a perfect match.

However when John Pring initially suggested, Maximus was the preferred bidder to replace ATOS, he also revealed the company’s “chilling” record of incompetence, discrimination and alleged fraud“. Thinking back to when ATOS was initially awarded the contract for WCAs, there were similar concerns around the unsuitability of ATOS, and we all know the outcome of that appointment.

It appears the DWP have completely failed to learn from the ATOS debacle and is planning to enter into another disastrous contract with a seemingly corrupt company, all for Corporate Greed.  Further the DWP seems to be continuing the rhetoric of  blaming us being ill; refusing to acknowledge their attacks on poorest and most vulnerable people through both the continuing  scapegoating and their discriminatory Policies, are in any way responsible.

The ‘leaking’ of these two announcements today suggest the DWP are maintaining their insidious behaviour, softly ensuring their plans emerge into the public psyche in an attempt to build public support:

‘the poorest people are choosing the higher paying benefit to avoid looking for work, because  they are lazy, the DWP are doing the majority a favour by stopping these idlers take the easy option, and are bringing in a company who will stamp this out’

What can we can fight back against this? Johnny Void suggests we gather the information necessary to take Maximus out of the picture and I agree; but I also believe we need to demonstrate WHY sick and disable people need the extra money to survive, lets collect your stories that demonstrates precisely what we do with the difference between JSA and ESA, because if we don’t – We Will Lose it!