Paint Your Red Nose Black In Protest 2013

This year I and others are painting our red noses black and intend to boycott the television shows we’d like you to join us, and I’m sure you’d like to know why? We are not against Comic Relief or the good work it does and encourage you to buy a red nose if you can afford it. But this year Comic Relief saw fit to include clips of David Cameron in the music video to One directions charity song. We feel including the Prime minister in this video is a slap in the face to the millions of people he has plunged into poverty in this country with his misguided austerity measures.
There are currently 3.6 million children in the UK living in poverty according to barnardos 58% of them are in a family where someone works.
Yet the Coalition have pushed through measures to ensure benefits even those for disabled people and people in work, like tax credits only go up by 1%. Further punishing children who will be forced further into poverty as their parents incomes are reduced even more compared to inflation.
These cuts risk putting the UK in breach of the UN Economic and social rights convention we are signed up to. Food poverty has risen so sharply that there has been a massive rise in emergency food banks already.
The cuts to housing benefit for many people living in social housing deemed to be over occupying their properties dubbed “The Bedroom Tax” Will see people expected to move to a smaller property or pay a charge for their extra room, even though there is a huge shortage of suitable smaller properties for them to move to. This will further increase the poverty people are suffering in the UK as they are forced to make up shortfalls in their rent or face eviction and homelessness.
The coalition also rolled out across the country a new and untested Work Capability Assessment when they came into power in 2010. Between January and November 2011 10,600 disabled people who clearly wrongly had their benefits stopped died within 6 weeks of losing benefit. (a sharp rise in the statistics compared to the year before).
Yet despite all these alarming statistics David Cameron’s ministers continue to claim these cuts are fair and needed. Though they have made no cuts to their own wages, continue to claim massive expenses, and have not sufficiently cracked down on tax evasion by large multinational companies. But apparently we are “all in this together”.
We presented all this information to comic relief and they have ignored our requests to remove David Cameron from the video, and have even promoted pictures of David Cameron’s wife Samantha baking in her tax payer funded kitchen at Number 10 with her children. Making cakes she will apparently sell to downing street staff to raise money for the event. Well it’s alright for some isn’t it?
Join us by liking the facebook page where there is a list of actions you can take and by tweeting your disgust at this flawed decision by comic relief using the hashtag #blacknoseday.

The Effects Of The Cuts – Why I Campaign

The Welfare Reform Bill was a disaster waiting to happen, we campaigned against it before it went through but it was forced. The country did not listen and now 73 people a week are dying after being declared fit for work by the deeply flawed Work Capability Assessment. Which is being administered by Atos, a French multinational IT company on behalf of the DWP. This is not a figure we just plucked out of the air like some the government are presenting as reality in relation to welfare, it was obtained from a freedom of information request to the DWP themselves. So it is their own statistic.

 They want people to believe that these measures are “tough love” and they are “helping people back to work” but in reality they are just cutting off peoples benefits and leaving them destitute. There is no support for people who are disabled to find work, in fact remploy factories that employ disabled people, and have since the end of WW2 are being closed. Making disabled people who did have jobs unemployed at a time when the fully able are struggling to find work. What chance do we have?

 The changing of DLA to PIP will mean many disabled people lose this benefit altogether, this benefit helps disabled people cope with the additional costs being disabled creates, Disabled people with jobs clim it to help them work. So disabled people who work will no longer be able to, as they will no longer be able to afford the adapted cars they rely on to get to work for example.

In short none of these cuts are designed to enable the disabled to get back to work, it’s just a callous cost cutting measure effecting the most vulnerable in society, and thousands are suffering and even dying needlessly. 

When the proposed benefit changes take effect at the end of April it will effect not just the Disabled but working families who are already struggling to make ends meet. A new survey by shelter shows 1.4 million people in Britain are struggling to pay their rent or mortgage at the moment. People who have never suffered financially like this before are finding themselves facing unemployment and homelessness.  And the government are about to cut housing benefit and council tax benefit, pushing more people even further into rent arrears and poverty.

The government wants you to believe that these cuts are necessary and unavoidable but there are alternatives they could pursue. Tax avoidance costs the state an estimated £95 Billion a year, since the banking crisis the average pay of FTSE 100 directors has risen by 55%, corporation tax has been cut, and rather than clamping down on tax avoidance they have actually cut Staff at HMRC, and there has been no reform of banks.

They are selling off the NHS to private healthcare companies under our noses, when many of the very MP’s who voted through the NHS bill have financial interests in private healthcare companies. Click here for a link to a list of Conservative MP’s who have financial interests in private healthcare companies, no wonder they voted yes to the NHS Bill.

Social media means it’s harder for the government than ever before to dupe the public into believing their lies, we know that what they are doing is wrong and we won’t stand for it. It’s time for us all to stand up and show them that we will not pay for a crisis crated by bankers who have gambled away billions, while awarding themselves massive bonuses on top of already huge yearly salaries. And millionaires are allowed to legally evade tax.

We will not allow them to make the poor pay for a crisis the rich created, we must campaign and peacefully protest to show them we not passively sit by and allow it to happen. They will drag Britain back to a system of Victorian values where the poor cannot access proper healthcare and are forced into workhouses. The welfare state and NHS are great things that show our compassion to those less fortunate and vulnerable in society, people fought protect and create these things,  over the years many people have campaigned and worked hard to keep them. Don’t let this government dismantle them in flurry of propaganda about scroungers and dependency, we are not just statistics, we are human beings.


High Court rules Work Capability Assessment arguably unlawful

This is a press release from earlier this year about the judicial review that is due to be heard at the Royal Courts Of Justice on the 15th, 16th and 18th of January 2013. Lets pray it goes in our favour as it will open the floodgates for legal action over the WCA if it does. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The High Court has today granted permission to two disabled people to bring a claim for
judicial review against the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to challenge the
operation of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).
WCAs are face to face interviews carried out by healthcare professionals (HCPs)
employed by Atos Healthcare (a private contractor), to assess disabled people’s
entitlement to Employment and Support Allowance (a sickness benefit that has replaced
the old Incapacity Benefit). Each existing recipient of Incapacity Benefit is now being
assessed for eligibility for ESA, at the rate of some 11,000 people per week. WCAs have
been the subject of serious criticism by all relevant stakeholders in civil society including
doctors and NGOs working on behalf of disabled people.
The present case concerns some of the problems with the system as experienced by
people with mental health problems. Although medically trained, Atos HCPs typically
have very limited knowledge of mental health. The interviews are often hurried, and rely
on applicants to explain the limitations on their ability to work.
This is a serious problem for people with mental health conditions who lack insight into
their conditions, whose conditions fluctuate in seriousness, or who cannot easily talk
about their disability. Such people are placed at a substantial disadvantage in navigating
the system. Even if they appreciate the need to get expert medical evidence for
themselves, they are often less able to navigate the system successfully and to obtain
the medical report that they need. The Equality Act 2010 requires the DWP to make
reasonable adjustments to avoid such disadvantage.
The reasonable adjustment to the process that the claimants seek is for medical
evidence to be sought by the Atos HCP and the DWP at the very outset of the claim.
This would ensure that very sick people for whom having to go through a WCA would be
extremely distressing are exempted from the process, and for those that do attend a
WCA, the assessment of fitness to work takes place in the correct medical context, so
that dangers associated with forcing people back to work are correctly identified.
At present, the DWP do not routinely ask for expert medical report from an applicant’s
community-based doctor. The judge has held that it is arguable that this failure is a
breach of the duty to make reasonable adjustments, and is therefore unlawful.
In granting permission to apply for judicial review, the judge stated:
“I consider that it is reasonably arguable that the reasonable adjustments
required by the [Equality Act 2010] include the early obtaining of independent
medical evidence where the documents submitted with the claim show that the
claimant suffers from mental health problems and that this has not been done, or
at least not done on a sufficiently widespread basis”.
The claimants, known as MM and DM, were granted anonymity by the court. Their
solicitor, Ravi Low-Beer of the Public Law Project said:
“The present system results in many thousands of unnecessary appeals at great
public expense, with a high success rate. What is not counted is the cost in
human misery for those people who should never have had to go through the
appeals process in the first place. This could be avoided if doctors were involved
in the assessments at the outset. The Government’s policy of by-passing doctors
is inefficient, unfair, and inhumane. We gain heart from the court’s finding that as
a matter of law, it is arguable that something has to change.”
For further information contact Ravi Low-Beer on 543 5944
or Adrian Lukes on 543 5946.
Public Law Project (PLP)
PLP is an independent, national legal charity which aims to improve access to justice for
those whose access is restricted by poverty, discrimination or other similar barriers. To
fulfil its objectives PLP undertakes research, policy initiatives, casework and training
across the range of public law remedies.
For more information on our work, events and publications:

Guest Post By Lynn AKA "Sign And Save Lives"

Guest post by Lynn

My name is Lynn, I’m 60 years old and I’d like to share my son’s illness with you all to try and help you understand the predicament thousands of others like my son are faced with next year, regarding DWP Benefit Reform for the sick and disabled.

My youngest son aged 40 has suffered from Paranoid Schizophrenia and emotional instability Personality Disorder since the age of 18. I have lived the illness with my son, the highs, the lows, and numerous hospital admissions over the years. My son had another very bad psychotic breakdown in August 2010, which resulted in a section 3 of the Mental Health Act and he has been in hospital care for 2 years this time.

Although my son is nearly 40 years old, mentally he is only 15, he is immature and extremely vulnerable and easily exploited. Therefore needs much support and care when living in the community.

My son, like thousands like him, who suffer from a Severe and Enduring mental health problem, has no voice when it comes to the DWP or ATOS, he like others wouldn’t be able cope with being interviewed next year 2013 when the Disability Living Allowance changes to Personal Independence Payment and he has to be assessed by DWP.  He, again like many others, who suffer severe mental illness, doesn’t believe he is ill, and just wants to be left alone.

The severely mentally ill will be hugely disadvantaged by the GOV/DWP/ATOS putting them through this ridiculous assessment in 2013, particularly people who don’t believe they are mentally ill, who to anyone who doesn’t know them, or, their background, can come across as fine, strong, healthy people, and may not appear ill at all, or, that they need help and support in their day to day lives, keeping them and others safe in the community, they won’t see the risks for the mentally ill, and many won’t have family or support to go with them to the assessments!

My son would tell an assessor he wasn’t ill, and say he just wanted to be left alone to get on with his life, which would see him losing his DLA/PIP for sure. Yet in reality, my son cannot get on a bus or use any public transport due to his paranoia that people are staring at him. He would get upset and get angry, probably end up getting in to trouble, because his self-esteem is low as is his confidence, and he thinks the world and his mate are against him.

To avoid this kind of stress and a way of coping, he needs taxis to anywhere he has to go, shopping, to any appointments he has. It is the only way he can cope with going out, and without his DLA/PIP he would be housebound and have no quality of life at what so ever.

If mental health sufferers lose their DLA/PIP benefit, (same as all disabled), it will place a huge extra burden on family, carers and friends emotionally and financially to provide the care and support and finance they need, which most of us couldn’t afford! All to often family/friends who are carers, as in our own case, are ill, worn down.

I was diagnosed 2 years ago with Moderate to Severe ME/CFS and told by my consultant it was due to being a carer for 22 years. My husband is 76 years old, in bad health, tired, it catches up with us and having to provide even more care to our loved ones should they lose their benefit, will put carers at more risk mentally and physically.

Because I understand the plight of the severely mentally ill, and have insight to the wider implications of what the GOV/DWP actions will cause for the sufferer and family, and carers, I have started this e-petition asking the Government to Exclude all severely mental ill from the 2013 DLA/PIP assessments, because what the GOV/DWP are doing is the biggest travesty and betrayal to our sick and disabled who in most cases have already proved their illness/disability with medical evidence and assessments they have already had to go through to get their DLA in the first place, and many like my son, were awarded DLA for an Indefinite period because they have provided proof their illness/disability is a life long one!

There are a number of e-petitions about Benefit Reform, I have signed them all which everyone should do to try and help protect all disabled, however, this petition is specifically to try and get the severely mentally ill EXCLUDED from the assessments because they do not have a strong enough voice and they will be hugely disadvantaged as I said before.

As a mum of a severely mentally ill son, and on behalf of all other sufferers like him, I know these assessments will cause SUICIDES in our most vulnerable, and cause huge hardship all round, please may I respectfully appeal to your good hearts and souls to support this e-petition and sign it, to share it with family & friends, on twitter/face book accounts, groups you may belong to, as I need 100,000 signatures to stand any chance of getting the House Of Commons to debate this, and at the moment I only have 2,456 signatures,  we only have until March to get the 100K!

Thank you all for taking the time to read this my plea, and I very much hope you will feel able to sign this petition.

Kind Regards


You can follow Lynn on Twitter  > @SignSaveLives

Atos Are The Number One Provder of Occupatuional Health Services In The UK.

Last night I was furious to discover that giant multinational IT company Atos is not only responsible for administering the government’s hellish Work Capability Assessment, they have also been providing occupational health services in this country for years too, in 2010 they even won an award for it.

So they are declaring the sick capable of work, then if you are lucky enough to get a job (if your not one of more than half the people declared fit for work who end up destitute) you will still probably have to put up with them telling you how much time you can have off when your illness returns. As none of these people being declared fit for work have actually got better, they are just expected to work around their disability, so there is no escape from the bastards it seems.

Yesterday I learned that Co-Op uses their occupational health services, so much for ethics eh? They have posted a statement saying they can’t just close the contract but will consider not renewing it. So DPAC are encouraging people to boycott them and go and inform them of this on their facebook page, at least until they issue a statement saying they definitely won’t renew the contract.

I did some digging last night and found that:

And two county councils I found also use them

Since they are apparently the number one provider of Occupational health services in the UK there must be many more companies and councils using them too, and I saw lots of job vacancies for them posted all over the country.

This post informs you of much money they are raking in with double digit growth in the UK this year, as lives are daily ruined and even ended by the software they own the copyright to. And I’m also learning that this huge multinational company owns oil companies (including Shell and Esso), electronics manufacturers and many more highly profitable companies, more on that to come as I collect the evidence.

Condems, Bringing 19th Century Values to 21st Century Britain.

Captioned Photo Kindly provided by Christos Palmer

I was reading “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens yesterday, a book written in 1843, and I’d like to share this excerpt from the first chapter.

Two men enter Scrooges office on Christmas eve asking for charity for the poor.

…. “at this festive season of the year Mr Scrooge,” said the gentlemen, taking up a pen “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some light provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common comforts sir.”

“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.

“Plenty of prisons” said the gentlemen. Laying down the pen again.

“And the union work houses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”

“They are still” returned the gentleman “I wish I could say they were not”

“The treadmill and the poor law are in full vigour then?” said Scrooge.

“Both very busy sir”

“Oh! I was  afraid from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their Useful course”, said Scrooge “I’m very glad to hear it”.

“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body in the multitude” returned the gentlemen ”  few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the poor some meat drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because of all others, when want is keenly felt, and abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”

“Nothing!” Scrooge replied

“You wish to be anonymous?”

“I wish to be left alone” said Scrooge “since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned – they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die”

“If they would rather die” said Scrooge “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides – excuse me but I do not know that”

“But you might know it” observed the gentlemen.

“It is not my business” Scrooge returned “it is enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to intrude with other peoples. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon gentlemen.”

Seeing Clearly that it would be useless to pursue their point, the gentlemen withdrew. Scrooge resumed his labours with an improved opinion of himself, and an even more facitious temper than was usual with him…

As you can see the attitude towards the poor and destitute in Britain is becoming chillingly close to that of 19th century Britain. The current government is bringing values from that century that even the Victorians were ashamed of  and sought to bring to public attention the hypocrisy and barbarism of as early as 1843 to this century.

So before you harshly judge a benefit claimant as workshy or a scrounger remember, the welfare state was bought in to put a stop to the inhumane methods of dealing with the poor used before it’s creation. The benefit claimants of today are no different to the poor and destitute of the Victorian era. Do not let the government drag us back to the 19th century with their propaganda about “benefit dependency” and “tough love”.

The only thing that will end benefit dependency and help the long term unemployed and sick and disabled back to work is job creation, and a more sympathetic and helpful attitude towards them, that enables them to get work and remain employed. Labeling, hounding and cutting off benefits will not help anyone except the government in their endeavours to save money, caused by a crisis they created with their relentless pursuit of profit over humanity. 

Ed Miliband’s reply To Sonia Poulton.

I’m reading that lot of people seem to have taken a lot of negative things from Ed Miliband’s reply to Sonia Poulton’s letter regarding welfare reform and the new Work Capability Assessment that was signed by thousands of people including myself. I’m actually quite surprised by this as I thought for a letter from a Politician it was very positive and actually addressed what it said in the original letter directly, which is quite rare. Lets look at it again for a moment.

Dear Ms Poulton,

Thank you for your correspondence regarding the Work Capability Assessment, and my apologies for the delay in replying. Disabled people need support and compassion, and the Labour Party believes in a welfare state that fulfils this principle. The previous Conservative Government took the opposite approach and left many disabled people on Incapacity Benefit with little support to return to work where possible. It is also important to separate out ill health and disability from the decision not to work, which is taken by a distinct minority.For these reasons, the previous Labour Government introduced the Work Capability Assessment, and I am supportive of the principles behind this test.
However, I share some of the concerns that have been expressed about the test by you, along with many charities, disability groups and healthcare professionals.
These concerns, the high percentage of appeals, and Professor Malcolm Harrington’s expert reviews have shown that the test must be improved. The Government needs to listen to Professor Harrington’s advice, especially when his third review for 2012 comes out. 

We have also forced a vote in Parliament on the need to reduce the human cost of the wrong decisions that result from the WCA in its current form. Given the importance of this issue, I am keen that you discuss this further with the Labour Party and share with us some of the experiences of people going through the WCA that you have collected. Anne McGuire, my Shadow Minister for Disabled People, would be happy to arrange a meeting in order to do so. Please contact her on ********** to arrange a convenient time.
Thank you again for taking the time to get in touch on this issue.
Yours sincerely, Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP

I can see it’s going to have been the first paragraph that has angered people so much, he is stating what the new WCA was meant to achieve there. I agree with the points he makes, there was little or no support for people wanting to return to work from incapacity benefit under the old system. I have always wanted to work and said that in every medical I ever had under the old system. The problem is that I have to have a job I can reliably do, and mental illness prevents me doing a lot of jobs.

The new system was supposed to support me to get back into work which I was pleased to hear, but when I finally had my assessment I was horrified to find they were trying to deny me ESA altogether. I was confident I would get into the work related activity group where I would still receive ESA for 1 year and attend groups and activities designed to help get back into work. I am now having to go through the stressful and uncertain process of appealing their decision, and I daily read about people who have severe physical disabilities or are even dying being declared fit to work.

If we lived in a Utopian society where every employer would pay for adaptations and carers for disabled people from their own profits to enable them to work, and every employer was trained in mental health issues and was sympathetic towards employees who suffer from them. If businesses could afford to employ people who may be absent because they are receiving medical treatment  or just too ill that day to show up, then it would work. Every disabled and mentally ill person would have a job and we’d all stand in a big circle with the able bodied and mentally well holding hands and sing “I’d like to teach the world to sing”.

But here’s the problem Ed, society is not like that, hate crimes against the disabled are being committed every day, employers can’t afford to adapt buildings and employ carers without any funding available. And where are all these jobs we are supposed to be applying for anyway? There aren’t even jobs for the able bodied who have just been made unemployed, let alone jobs for a woman like me who hasn’t worked for 10 years because I’m mentally ill and prone to nervous breakdowns. And all the thousands of others who have even more severe metal illness’s and physical disabilities, who is going to employ them Ed?

Even if I do make it to the Work Related Activity group, what will the people there actually be able to do for me to remedy these problems? Are the department for work and pensions even the best people to be in charge of such a thing? How are we going to change society enough in the one year I have to get me a job? There are thousands like me, nothing the DWP alone will be able to do will find us all suitable jobs. Money needs to be available to employers to enable them to employ us, and they need to be educated in the many and complicated needs of people who have mental illness and disabilities. More jobs need to be created to meet the demand for them, as we want to work Ed we really do, this minority of people who don’t want to work are non existent Ed. Only someone who’s never had to live on benefits would say something like that, it is a soul destroying experience and everything rests on the words of an anonymous decision maker who you will never meet.

So that’s the bit that makes us angry fair enough, but he does go on to talk about the human cost of what is happening, so he’s admitting things aren’t right there in a veiled way. And he says that he has concerns about the high number of appeals, that’s all we can really hope for, he’s a politician after all. He’s never going to turn around and just say “sorry everyone it’s not working like it should have, we didn’t think it through we’ll go back to the drawing board”, Politicians just don’t do that. But there is hope that behind closed doors they are frantically reassessing what they’ve done and realising it is going horribly wrong. Bills have gone through parliament now though and thousands of people are suffering, if they admit they were wrong they will have to compensate everyone who has suffered, I can’t see that ever happening. It will take years to undo the damage that has been done, the human cost has already been too great and will only get worse is the horrible truth.

It’s not only the benefits system that has to change for this to work it’s the very nature of employment and societies attitude to disabled people that has to change too, and that will take more than a year.   

Should We Blame ATOS?

Today I have read a blog post where the author basically suggests disability campaign groups are wrong to go after ATOS to the extent that they are, and that ATOS are only the IT company in charge of a system put in place by the DWP and they are the ones we should really be targetting. I’ve also seen several leading disability campaigners openly support this view, and even not support DPAC’s protests at the Paralympics (which are being sponsored by ATOS).

I do agree with this argument to an extent, we do need to clearly target the people behind this assessment process, and not just ATOS. I thought we had been from day one though? We have constantly lobbied the government and named the ministers responsible for this crisis as well as targeting ATOS.

But the defense “we are only doing what the government/DWP is telling us to do” is an empty one in my view. Wasn’t it also the defense many NAZI’s also used when being tried after WW2 was over? “we were only obeying orders”? Recent documentaries that used secret filming have shown us that ATOS assessors are having crisis’s of conscience over the process, they cope by blaming it on “the decision maker” (which sounds incredibly Orwellian to me). I think these individuals need to be made to take responsibility for their own actions, they could speak out even if it is anonymously, or they could quit their jobs and find another one. At least the NAZI’s had the defense that they would have been executed if they disobeyed Hitler’s orders, no one is going to shoot an ATOS assessor for walking out and saying “I can’t do this anymore”.

When a disabled person goes to one of these assessments their life and quality of life is in this persons hands, the decision maker makes their decision based on what box these people tick. In my case after examining the criteria I can clearly see 3 places my assessor should have awarded me points and failed to, and I appealing their decision. All I wanted was to be put in the work related activity group where I would receive the help and support I need to get back into work after 10 years of unemployment. Just one year to give me a fighting chance of finding a job I can reliably do with enough hours to support myself and some kind of support system that ensures I do not lose my job if I become ill again for a short period, and I would stick my middle finger up to the DWP and never claim again. But they did not give me that, they only awarded me 6 points, and I was lucky to get that by all accounts. I have the support to be able to make an appeal which I am confident I will win, but many others don’t. Many people will not be able to act when they receive that dreadful letter saying they have been turned down for ESA, they will just sink into despair and lose everything, end up homeless and destitute. Some will harm themselves or even kill themselves alone, they may not be found for days or even months.

So I’m sorry but I say YES we should and must blame ATOS, we must blame everyone responsible for this horrific mess. If anything we need to focus more of our attention on the organ grinders and not the monkeys, but we must not give in and let up in our campaigns against ATOS to gain sympathy from the right wingers. We must continue to target every one of them, and not rest until they ALL are bought to justice.


Email Your local MP telling them to stop Cuts to support for disabled people.

38 Degrees appear to have finally started a campaign to put pressure on the government to stop cuts to support for disabled people. Click here to email Andrew Turner (or whoever your local MP is) it only takes a minute you just need to provide your postcode and fill in your address. MP’s do respond to emails too I’ve had several letters from the house of commons in response to emails I’ve sent.