Archive | March, 2013

Useful information for ESA claimants and with Work Capability Assessments

24 Mar

As a former ESA claimant and survivor of the demeaning, brutal theatre of lies that is the WCA, I know first hand how the DWP and Atos grind down, bully, hound and lie.  I should do, their dirty tricks and constant harassment drove me to the brink of suicide.  So firstly, I want to say to anyone in the same position, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  We stand with you.  We will reply to all comments and if you want support and need to message us privately, our email address is kickingtoryassonwelfare@hotmail.com.

That said, there is cause for hope here.  ESA and the WCA are actually the things we’ve managed to gather the very most information about.  There ARE ways round it.  Allow us to share all of them with you.  This post will necessarily be a behemoth, and all this information can be daunting – but I’ve broken it down into different stages of the process, which will hopefully help.

A good point to remember is that most Atos assessments are currently illegal, and if you can prove that you can beat them.

This advice is correct to the best of our knowledge, but please check with your local Welfare Rights or Citizens’ Advice Bureau.  (I know these services are also desperately stretched, but Welfare Rights generally have a phone number where you can seek general advice without having to wait weeks or months for an appointment).

With thanks to an advocate who preferred not to be named.

ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS YOU MAY NOT KNOW YOU HAVE

Firstly, I want to share a very simple alternative option shared in its turn with me by Welfare Rights.  It won’t apply to everyone and I’m sorry for that, but I am very sure this is not something the DWP is publicising to those who may be entitled to do this (they don’t like telling us about stuff that would make our lives easier).  If you have a partner who you live with as a couple, and if your partner claims Carers‘ Allowance for looking after you, your partner can claim Income Support for both of you.  (If you have a partner you live with as a couple, and your partner doesn’t already receive Carers’ Allowance, they will usually be able to claim it if you claim ESA for sickness or disability, receive DLA and if they care for you 35 hours a week or more).  This information made little sense to me when I first heard it; Income Support is being phased out, I argued, they already pulled me off it and on to ESA.  My adviser rightly pointed out that so is ESA; they will all make way for Universal Credit.  The point is, Income Support is available to partner/carers now, it is more money (by about £15 a week, depending on what premiums you are in receipt of) and you don’t have to go for medicals.  Partners of I.S. claimants MAY be called in for work focused interviews after 26 weeks continuous receipt of the benefit, but I was told by my adviser that sanctions are far less heavy than under ESA, and that with all the changes happening currently this may well not be a priority for the DWP and such individuals may just as easily be left alone.  This information literally saved my life; I was at the point where I was ready to take my chances and refuse ESA anyway as the toll on me was too great and I would literally rather have gone hungry.  The Income Support came through within a week with no problems and although I obviously can’t infer from that that it will be the same for everyone else it did support my hypothesis that ESA, with which our problems had never ended, is a benefit designed to grind down recipients and make them give up.

If this applies to you, you must first end your ESA claim and then your partner must ring the Income Support line: 0800 55 6688

*Please note, however, that if you take this option, the partner of the I.S. claimant would no longer have national insurance credits paid.  For me this was a trade off I was more than willing to make, but it is important to be aware of it.

Secondly, if you have been called for a WCA or are appealing a decision, be aware of regulations 29 and 35 which provide for claimants being placed in the support group even if a score of under fifteen points is recorded (the points are the criteria for whether or not you are found fit for work, with fifteen being the threshold below which a person would be deemed so).  These regulations clearly state that if requiring a claimant to look for work or take part in work related activity would be an unacceptable risk to their physical and/or mental health, the claimant can still be found unfit for work or work related activity with a score of under fifteen points.  This exception can be useful in the initial instance of WCA, having a decision looked at again without having to go to tribunal, and at tribunals.  Black Triangle Campaign have all the relevant information on this including downloadable draft letters and legal guidance on interpreting the regulations for your GP.  Find at http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2012/11/16/important-how-to-gain-exemption-from-dwpatos-fit-for-work-wrag-decisions-by-applying-esa-regulations-29-and-35-new-campaign-by-black-triangle-dpac/ and http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2012/11/21/important-black-triangle-dpac-regs-2935-campaign-failed-your-dwpatos-wca-intend-to-appeal-download-these-documents-for-your-gp/

FILLING IN THE ESA50

For new claims never send any supporting information the first time because having new supporting information is the grounds for appeal.  IMPORTANT NOTE: IT HAS BEEN BROUGHT TO MY ATTENTION THAT SUPPORTING MEDICAL EVIDENCE DATED AFTER YOUR CLAIM WAS FIRST MADE CAN BE DISREGARDED AT APPEAL BECAUSE IT IS LEGALLY INVALID FOR THE CLAIM’S TIME PERIOD, AND YOU MIGHT HAVE TO MAKE A NEW CLAIM.  THEREFORE, IT IS ADVISABLE TO MAKE SURE MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS MAKE CLEAR THAT THE INFORMATION IS ALSO APPLICABLE RETROSPECTIVELY, I.E. TESTIFY THAT YOUR CONDITION HAS NOT CHANGED AND WAS OF EQUAL SEVERITY AT THE TIME YOU FIRST CLAIMED.

Fill in the benefit forms, answering every question as if it is your worst day. There is no point telling them about a good day because then you will not get enough support for the worst days. The only exception is to make sure you don’t say anything that could later be interpreted as a lie. For example if you can walk some days then don’t say that you can never walk because if someone sees you out walking then that is grounds for withdrawing your benefits and even sending you to prison. However you will not get enough support unless you describe your very worst day, not an average day.

esa-d These are the ESA descriptors.

Here is a link to advice on filling in the form: http://www.rethink.org/living_with_mental_illness/money_debt_benefits/benefits/employment_and_support_allowance/work_capability_assessment/the_esa50_questionna.html

And another: http://dwpexamination.wordpress.com/atos-checklist/

This is a brilliant legal guide to filling in the form.  It looks a bit daunting at first glance but if you scroll down past ‘For the legally minded’ there is an interactive guide to filling it in which takes you to the regulations and legal definitions to see how many points you score: http://ilegal.org.uk/thread/7372/interactive-guide-completion-new-esa?scrollTo=18541&page=1

You may be able to have an assessor visit your home, depending on your condition.  There is excellent information on home visits here: http://dwpexamination.wordpress.com/dealing-with-an-atos-home-visit/

If you also claim DLA, you can also use your DLA to help with your claim for ESA, at this stage or at appeal stage.  With thanks to The People Vs the Government, DWP and Atos for the following:

HELPING WITH YOUR ESA BY USING DETAILS FROM YOUR DLA

An excellent way of showing the nonsense of the situation in your circumstances is to request all the evidence used on your DLA claim then use it to show your problems in your ESA Appeal. Think about the reasons you were awarded Middle Rate care (MRC) was it because you need continual supervision or because you need personal care? Think of the ways in which you require this care and the reasons you can’t do it yourself, do you need help to wash, bathe, prepare a meal? Is this due to a problem with manual dexterity? If so, you can score points on your ESA claim under descriptor 5. If its because of problems with your spine, which part, upper or lower limbs affected? If upper, you may score points on your ESA claim under descriptors 3 and 4, if lower limbs, then descriptors 1 and 2.

If you have already been placed in the WRAG  you need to concentrate your efforts on the support group criteria, which is notoriously difficult to satisfy unless you scored 15 points on 1 descriptor alone to be placed in the WRAG. Therefore the best way for you to be placed in the support group is by arguing under Regulation 35 that there is a substantial risk to yourself (by virtue of a deterioration in both your mental and physical health) if you were found not to have a limited capability for work-related activity.

For everyone: I know that many GP’s are not aware of what work-related activity actually means. It is absolutely imperative you let them know it means if you fail to turn up to an appointment your benefit could be sanctioned, that if an adviser deems it appropriate, you could be forced to take part in group therapies, attend physiotherapy, engage with a “voluntary” work placement etc.

In terms of reassessments, you need to ask your GP or Consultant to state how long he envisages your condition will cause the same problems. Don’t forget that decision-makers are not medically trained and will often take the view that even lifelong conditions may improve to such an extent that daily life can now be maintained with appropriate treatment. (Off the Black Triangle Web Site/ Admin S)

Finally, it’s not all bad news, at least a tiny step in the right direction is slowly filtering through. Tribunals are now stating how long the DWP should wait before reassessing a claimant. In agreement with DWP decision-makers, they are able to state a reassessment period of up to 3 years and DWP will abide by that finding.

Just found this in the DWP WCA handbook. This means that by law, the decision maker has to use the evidence from your own GP and specialists over the ATOS HCP and descriptor system. Their words, not mine!!…

“Consistency is a vital element in any good report. It is essential that the comments really do bear out the choice of descriptor, especially when the opinion differs from the customer’s own assessment, and the Decision Maker must decide which (if either) assessment is correct.” [Decision Maker]
The Decision Maker has a legal duty to ensure that their decisions are based on facts which are clearly established by evidence: “A definite distinction is made between fact and opinion and while an opinion on its own may have persuasive value it can never take precedence over an opinion which is based on clear and concise evidence”. Revised WCA Handbook
ESA (LCW/LCWRA) Amendment Regulations 2011
MED-ESAAR2011HB~001

ATTENDING A WCA

Attending a WCA is scary, and Atos are known to merrily lie in recording evidence.  So firstly, NEVER GO ALONE.  Ideally, take along a benefits advocate but if this is not possible, take a friend, family member or carer.   Atos have tried to argue that you are not allowed to record your WCA, but this is not true, you have the right to do this whether on film or on tape.  It’s also a good idea to take notes or have your advocate/carer/friend take notes as they WILL lie/distort what you say.  The assessor may well be very friendly and chummy but they are the tool of the f***ing oppressor and NOT TO BE TRUSTED.   Don’t fall into the trap of saying what you think they want to hear or agreeing when they faux-encouragingly say things like, ‘Ooh, you’re doing really well aren’t you?’  THIS IS A TRAP TO TWIST YOUR WORDS AND STOP YOUR ESA.  Please be aware – and I know this is horrific – that if you turn up clean, wearing makeup or with children in tow this will be used against you as evidence you are able to cope.  It’s up to you what you do about that last piece of information – I know it’s disgusting and demeaning and based on lazy stereotype, but they want their pound of flesh, and if you look clean, tidy and are fairly articulate, it increases the likelihood of being found fit for work.  Excellent advice/information on this here: http://www.mind.org.uk/assets/0001/3733/Mind_ESA_factsheet_4.pdf

After your assessment, and whatever the result, ALWAYS GET A COPY OF THE REPORT.  This is your legal right, and will show you any lies and inconsistencies.  Even if you have been placed in Support Group and/or don’t wish to appeal, these should be challenged, as if not they will be carried over into the next assessment as fact.  And if you are appealing, this is where to start, because there WILL be lies and distortions.

OBTAINING MEDICAL EVIDENCE

If you think the decision on your case is wrong, this is the time to gather strong supporting medical evidence. Your GP will probably be your first port of call.  This is the advice given to me by an advocate: If you need to appeal then it is time to collect as much supporting information as you can. Nothing you say will be listened to unless it is backed up in a letter from a doctor. Start off by writing down everything about your condition that means you need the benefits. Then go to your GP and show them your list and ask them to write a letter saying the same things. If the letter you get back is not what you want then you have the right to a second opinion. Find another GP (this will be quicker if you can just ask to see another GP from the same practice) and do the same thing. If you have physical problems and don’t already have a physiotherapist I would recommend paying a private one for a one off assessment (if you can afford it). Again you need to know in advance exactly what you want the letter to say and just ask them to write it. If you have a mental health problem and don’t already see a mental health professional, again I recommend paying privately for a one off assessment. If you see any other doctors or other medical professionals for your condition you need to try and get a letter from each one. This might be even harder as appointments may be months apart. You will need to ring their office and email them everyday until they give you the letters you need. This is the time you need an advocate the most, making so many calls and writing so many emails and letters will be very scary.

Additionally when I was gathering evidence for my own appeal, I was told by mental health services that I had to get evidence only from my GP, as they had a policy of not getting involved themselves.  I don’t know if this is a widespread policy, but again was told by an advocate to challenge this and go higher up the chain of command, as it is of dubious legality to refuse to provide requested evidence of a patient’s engagement with services.

GETTING YOUR CASE LOOKED AT AGAIN

You can ask the DWP to look at the decision on your claim again before going to appeal, and this is when it is vitally important to have strong medical evidence.  They won’t change the decision on a claim unless you can demonstrate to them they will not win.  Whilst having your case looked at again (and until you have appealed if they decide against you again at this stage) you may have to accept a cut in benefit of 40% (unless you have been placed into the Work Related Activity Group, in which case the rate is more or less the same depending on what premiums you get – the difference between WRAG and the Support Group is largely not a financial one, rather in the discrepancy between what you are required to do to continue to receive benefit.  This includes work focused interviews and possible workfare placements, which is nonsensical, because if you are unfit to work for pay you are similarly even less able to work for free.  I therefore urge you to get your decision looked at again and go to appeal if necessary if placed in the WRAG).  The options available are to take ESA on this so called ‘restricted rate’ or claim Jobseeker’s Allowance in the interim; however, I would counsel strongly against the latter option, as in the DWP’s Orwellian world this could be used against you to argue you are fit for work; even though they may have forced your hand, they will argue that by claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance you have declared yourself fit for work, as it is a requirement of JSA to actively seek work and accept it should it come your way.  If and when you win your appeal, you will be paid the monies owed to you (the 40% cut) in a backdated lump sum.  (Important note: The rules on reconsideration may be changing, so please double check with Welfare Rights or CAB for the most up to date information, although we will always share what we know on this blog as soon as we know it).

GOING TO APPEAL

If you run out of time before the appeal then don’t worry, you have the right to a second appeal as long as you have more supporting evidence. As long as you have everything you think they need to hear written down and signed by a healthcare professional then your appeal will be handled as fairly as possible.  The DWP and Atos are anything but fair, however the rate of overturned appeals suggests tribunals are much more so (see below).

You can ask for an appeal to be heard by post or in person.  Although it is incredibly daunting to appeal in person, it is much the better idea as postal appeals have a very low success rate, whereas seeing you and your condition in person can be more compelling than any paper evidence.

At appeal there is actually great cause for optimism.  Forty per cent of decisions are overturned on appeal with that figure rising to 80% when the claimant has received advice from organisations such as CAB and Welfare Rights, or has an advocate to represent them.  Again, don’t go alone and take a representative of an advice or advocacy organisation if you possibly can.

COMPLAINTS

The DWP and Atos have a legal obligation to investigate every complaint.  If they have treated you unfairly, denied your dignity, been rude or bullying, or any one of the myriad and multiple ways they routinely mistreat people, complain.  Again, an advocate or advice organisation can offer help drafting complaints and getting them chased up.  You can also complain to the Health Ombudsman; the General Medical Council (who have publicly condemned the WCA as being a desperately flawed tickbox exercise); and the Human Rights Commission.  Clogging up the Atos/DWP system with complaints may have the added bonus of sending them further into disarray, leaving them open to even further criticism and hopefully being found not fit for purpose (which they patently aren’t).

ATOS origin UK Chief Executive-Ursula Morgenstern
0207 7830 4444
email-ursula.morgenstern@atosorigin.com

DWP – in first instance, write to your local branch.  If you’re not happy with the response, here’s some info on how to take it further: https://www.gov.uk/complain-jobcentre-plus

GENERAL MEDICAL COUNCIL
3, HARDMAN STREET
MANCHESTER
M3 3AW
TEL : 0161-923-6200
FAX : 0161-923-6201
EMAIL : gmc@gmc-uk.org

Health Ombudsman: http://www.ombudsman.org.uk/make-a-complaint

Human Rights Commission: http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/about-us/contactus/

In addition to these avenues, Michael Meacher MP is actively seeking to collect the experiences of people mistreated by the DWP and Atos in order to hold them and the Government to account on their bullying and hounding tactics.  I shared my own story with him and found him to be genuinely concerned for me and others in my position.  His contact details can be found here: http://www.michaelmeacher.info/weblog/contacts/

Finally, a Manchester campaign, Europia, is also collecting stories from victims of the humiliating, demeaning, flawed and unfair WCA as evidence for a shared and co operative response with the lived experience of those affected at its heart.  Here’s their newsletter: europianewsletter and here’s their WCA feedback form if you’d like to share your story: WCA Feedback Form

LEGAL REDRESS?

Europia’s newsletter (see above) has a legal guidance section:

 7.   Legal Guidance 
 
 
The Public Law Project is an independent legal initiative in London which undertakes casework on behalf of disadvantaged people and communities.

Its casework priorities are challenging gate-keeping problems and poor decision-making impacting on disadvantaged groups, responding to recurrent and systematic unfairness in administrative decision-making and opposing Discrimination under the Equality Act 2010, Article 14 EHCR and EU Law.
It has pressed for Judicial Reviews on WCAs in co-operation with the Mental Health Resistance Network and a decision is pending on a recent judgement.
The British Institute of Human Rights provides some excellent guides on Human Rights in various equality areas eg disability, asylum-seekers.
BIHR is holding a Free Conference at the Mechanics Institute on ‘Human Rights and Mental Health’ on 25th April.  Apply via BIHR web-site.

Additionally, many solicitors are now looking to take on test cases of people mistreated by the DWP and Atos.  Locally, I know of Pannone’s in Preston.  Ask around, research local solicitors online.  There is a hugely strong legal case to be made.  The Government, DWP and Atos are breaching the Human Rights Act, specifically:

Article 1.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 10.

Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 12.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 17.

(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 22.

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 25.

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 28.

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 30.

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

Just citing those articles is quite shocking, in that the government are breaking so many of them; no wonder they want to scrap it 😦

So, we’ve reached the end of the behemoth.  I hope it’s helpful.  And it bears saying again: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

When all else fails, write to the Queen declaring your lawful rebellion

23 Mar

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I’m no fan of the Royals.  I haven’t canvassed Laurie on this, but I suspect, being a kickass campaigner for social justice, she feels the same.  (NB Laurie: if you don’t and are a secret ardent royalist, my apologies).  However, the institutions of hereditary power and privilege, can and should occasionally be turned to our advantage.  A lovely example of this is in the Servitude Legal Complaint against workfare (referenced in the post ‘There’s Nothing Fair About Workfare, but what the hell, I’ll link to it again, and don’t say I never give you anything): http://www.servitudecomplaint.org.uk/

Appendix Three of this excellently comprehensive document details how New Labour bodged House of Lords reform with specific regard to hereditary peers.  I don’t pretend to understand the legal terminology – and any legal eagle readers please do check it over to see if it stands up to proper hawkeyed legal scrutiny – but the rather wonderful upshot seems to be that no Act of Parliament since is legally valid.  Now I’m sure you can see what I’m driving at: I am no fan of hereditary privilege in any form, including peerages.  It just doesn’t sit well with me, not least because a Lord’s daily expense allowance just for turning up is in the region of double a week’s Jobseeker’s Allowance.  Who are you calling scrounger, again?  However, if this jawdropping apparent failure of the Blair government to not cock it up is genuine, all the Con Dem ‘reforms’ – the ones that have spread misery beyond measure, created a poisonous climate of defamation to justify it, and resulted in 10,600 deaths and counting – would be legally null and void.  Of course legality and morality can be mutually exclusive, and illegality or otherwise will not bring back the dead.  However, legal knowledge and small acts of dissent can empower those of us who may not be able to engage in street protest or direct action; in my case due to severe anxiety, in others to disability or being housebound.  The action I’m sharing with you here is of course not going to make the Queen suddenly say, ‘Goodness me, how terrible, I shall sack that naughty government forthwith!’ but to me that’s not the point.  When I was housebound and suicidal late last year and felt so powerless against the hounding of the DWP and Atos, signing petitions online was the best I could do, and I’m not politically naive enough to think that alone will be enough to change the balance of power relations or make a better world; but it comforted me to feel I was doing something, anything, to say ‘This is not all right with me’, to say ‘Not in my name’.

So thanks to the lovely lady who shared the following letter, invoking the Magna Carta and the right of citizens to enter into a state of lawful rebellion under an unjust government.   Send to Her Majesty The Queen, Buckingham Palace, London, SW1A 1AA.  Let’s inundate the Palace and invoke the Monarch’s protection; failing that, we have declared our lawful revolt 🙂

BACKGROUND

I am officially declaring myself under a state of lawful revolution under article 61 of the Magna Carta 1215 AD
A.R.F

Under article 61 of Magna Carta 1215 (the founding document of our UK Constitution) we have a right to enter into lawful rebellion if we feel we are being governed unjustly. Contrary to common belief our Sovereign and her government are only there to govern us and not to rule us and this must be done within the constraint of our Common Law and the freedoms asserted to us by such Law, nothing can become law in this country if it falls outside of this simple constraint.

[History of Magna Carta]
Magna Carta was the result of the Angevin king’s disastrous foreign policy and overzealous financial administration. John had suffered a staggering blow the previous year, having lost an important battle to King Philip II at Bouvines and with it all hope of regaining the French lands he had inherited. When the defeated John returned from the Continent, he attempted to rebuild his coffers by demanding scutage (a fee paid in lieu of military service) from the barons who had not joined his war with Philip.
[End of history]

Our entire political and legal system is now acting in violation of these rights, article 61 shows quite clearly who really holds the power in this country, that being quite simply us the people; we have Sovereignty not any Parliament and nor can this be taken from us by any Parliament who claim to have taken the people’s Sovereignty. As defined above any act passed by a Parliament to remove the power the people possess, or to remove the power from the point of constraint we invested the power in, is invalid as it falls outside of the constraint laid down by Common/Constitutional Law.
This is a simple safeguard put in place to protect our freedoms under said law and to never allow such freedoms to be removed or diminished. So in reality any Act, Statute and subsequent law or legislation formed by these actions, that effects our freedoms asserted to us, is quite evidently unjust, invalid and most certainly illegal.
By invoking article 61 we are quite clearly stating that we feel we are being governed unjustly and after giving the head of state (Her Majesty) 40 days to correct this, if this is not corrected, then we can simply enter into lawful rebellion and we do this under the full protection of our Constitutional Law.

Lawful rebellion allows quite simply for the following recourse;
(o) Full refusal to pay any forms of Tax, Fines and any other forms of monies to support and/or benefit said unlawful governance of this country.
(o) Full refusal to abide by any Law, Legislation or Statutory Instrument invalidly put in place by said unlawful governance that is in breech of the Constitutional safeguard.
(o) To hinder in any way possible all actions of the treasonous government of this land, who have breached the Constitutional safeguard; defined with no form of violence in anyway, just lawful hindrance under freedom asserted by Constitutional Law and Article 61.

Above are listed the three main ways we can as a people rely upon article 61 and what this allows for. The British people were given over 700 years ago a Law to use as there recourse when faced with either a Parliamentary dictatorship, or a Sovereign trying to rule by Divine Right, which amounts to the same thing. We have a right, and a birth right at that, to be governed properly under our birth right law and no other and certainly not by laws introduced on the pretence of being British Law, when in fact all laws passed since 1973 have been European laws in the guise of British law. We have a right to freedom within our true law and no Parliament can remove this for they were not present in its implementation nor did it need any Parliament, or any Parliament involvement, this was quite simply a deal struck between the people and a Sovereign, a deal which can never be broken.

In order to detach yourself from society, it is vitally important that you have officially revoked the your consent to be governed and have entered into lawful rebellion.
We all know that should a significant portion of us manage successfully to live outside their system that the government will seek to regain control over us by any means it deems necessary and it will quote law (statute law) to justify itself.
For those who have revoked their consent to be governed according to article 61 of the Magna Carta 1215 there can be no such justification, it would be like a store manager of Tesco’s trying to enforce a company rule from the employee’s handbook on a passing Traffic Warden, however, if you do happen to work for Tesco’s then those rules are law and Tesco’s can insist that you follow them or take action against you.
Similarly, if you have not officially entered into lawful rebellion then the government will demand that you conform to its rules and feel justified in taking action against you if you do not follow them.

TEXT OF LETTER

To officially enter into a state of lawful rebellion send this letter guaranteed and recorded delivery to:

Her Majesty The Queen
Buckingham Palace
London SW1A 1AA

[Letter]

1st line of address
2nd line of address
Town
County
Postcode
[Date of postage]

Madam

I am [first name] of the family [surname], It upsets me to inform you that I can no longer accept being governed in direct violation of the common law rights.
As this is the case I am asking you under Article 61 of the Magna Carta 1215AD to remedy this situation and return us to a state of common law in our legal system and to remove the politicians that are directly violating common law by allowing and passing acts under the pretence of law in this country.
I respectfully state that if this matter is not corrected in 40 days, the time limit set down by Article 61, then it is my legal duty as a freeman in this country to enter into a state of lawful rebellion.
I hope this matter can be resolved and I humbly request that all correspondence related to this matter be made in writing to the address marked at the top of this letter only.

With respect and the honour of England
[First name] of the family [Surname]

With thanks to the lady who shared this, if you’re reading you know who you are 🙂

Important workfare update: Sally Army look to Hitler for inspiration

19 Mar

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The Salvation Army are sinking to new lows.  On the 7th March they released a statement which attempted to defend the indefensible: forcing the sick and disabled onto mandatory workfare schemes.  The full statement is here: http://www.facebook.com/salvationarmyuk/posts/547732655258369?comment_id=6130496&offset=0&total_comments=156

The most despicable part of this wholly despicable, whining self justification is this line:
“At The Salvation Army, we have a history of believing in emancipation through employment”.  Sound familiar? 

“Arbeit macht frei” – “work will set you free” – was the motto appearing over the entrance to many of Hitler’s concentration camps, where millions of Jews, Gypsies, and lest we forget, disabled people were murdered by the Nazis.  The Nazis similarly believed the disabled were a burden on society, rhetoric we are all familiar with in Britain in 2013.

I don’t make these comparisons lightly.  I know they’re shocking.  I know they’re outrageous. 

We should be shocked.  We should be outraged.

Join the online day of action.  Tell them what you think of a charity that purports to help the lowliest and most vulnerable colluding in this government’s war on the poor.

Peaceful protestors at the Elephant and Castle branch were also manhandled and falsely accused of assault.  Tell them what you think of that, too.

For more information read Johnny Void’s superb blog post: http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/workfare-makes-you-free-claim-salvation-army-join-the-online-day-of-action/ and thanks to him for the following contact details.

Twitter: @salvationarmyuk

Telephone: (020) 7367 4500

Email: info@salvationarmy.org.uk

Alove (their youth page): https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alove-UK/120184218036083

Salvation Army International: Twitter @TSA_IHQ and facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SalvationArmyIHQ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Our Side, Get Writing!

17 Mar

With thanks to The People VS the Government, the DWP and Atos for this list.  Michael Meacher in particular has drawn attention to the 10,600 deaths of individuals after undergoing the Work Capability Assessments administered by Atos and tirelessly fought the Government on this issue.  See our earlier post for a template letter you can use or adapt if you wish.  Here’s some guidance on writing to members of the House of Lords: http://www.parliament.uk/business/lords/whos-in-the-house-of-lords/how-to-address-a-lord/

Update:  The ‘contactholmember’ email address is for contacting individual members of the House of  Lords, however, on using this address to send emails myself I was informed that any identical letters sent to more than six members would be deleted.  Therefore, if you can afford it it may well be worth contacting the members using this generic address by post or phone, and if not, making sure you personalise your communications.

Michael Meacher MP

Parliamentary

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 4532; 020 7219 6461
Fax: 020 7219 5945
michael.meacher.mp@parliament.uk

Constituency

11 Church Lane, Oldham, OL1 3AN
Tel: 0161 626 5779
Fax: 0161 626 8572
buckleysd@parliament.uk

Margaret Hodge MP

Constituency

102 North Street, Barking, IG11 8LA
Tel: 020 8594 1333
Fax: 020 8594 1131
margarethodge@hotmail.co.uk

Parliamentary

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 6666
hodgem@parliament.uk

Baroness Lister House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW
Tel: 020 7219 8984
listerr@parliament.uk l

Lord Kirkwood House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW
Tel: 0207 219 4217
Fax: 0207 219 5979
kirkwooda@parliament.uk

Baroness Mar

House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW
Tel: 020 7219 5353
Fax: 020 7219 5979
contactholmember@parliament.uk

Baroness Sherlock

House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW
Tel: 0207 219 5353
Fax: 0207 219 5979
contactholmember@parliament.uk

The Rt Hon. the Lord Touhig

House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW
Tel: 020 7219 5353
Fax: 020 7219 5979
contactholmember@parliament.uk

The Earl of Listowel

House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW
Tel: 020 7219 5353
Fax: 020 7219 5979
listowelf@parliament.uk

The Rt Hon. the Lord Inge KG GCB DL

House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW
Tel: 020 7219 5353
Fax: 020 7219 5979
contactholmember@parliament.uk

The Baroness Donaghy CBE

House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW
Tel: 020 7219 5353
Fax: 020 7219 5979
contactholmember@parliament.uk

The Lord Best OBE

House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW
Tel: 020 7219 5353
Fax: 020 7219 5979
contactholmember@parliament.uk

The Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE

House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW
Tel: 0207 219 3143
Fax: 0207 219 5979
greythompsont@parliament.uk

The Baroness Tonge

House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW
Tel: 020 7219 5353
Fax: 020 7219 5979
contactholmember@parliament.uk

The Baroness Meacher

House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW
Tel: 0207 219 4081
meachermc@parliament.uk

The Rt Hon. the Baroness Boothroyd OM

House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW

Tel: 020 7219 5353
Fax: 020 7219 5979
contactholmember@parliament.uk

The Baroness Turner of Camden

House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW
Tel: 0207 219 5353
Fax: 0207 219 5979
contactholmember@parliament.uk

The Lord Shipley OBE

House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW
Tel: 0207 219 5353
Fax: 0207 219 5979
shipleyj@parliament.uk

There’s Nothing Fair About Workfare

17 Mar

Image

Do you trust this man?

The article below first appeared in October 2012 on my blog trueredaintdead@blogspot.co.uk.  I am republishing it here to mark the Workfare Week of Action starting tomorrow, Monday 18th March. It also appears on the blog https://radicaluniversity.wordpress.com/ , the alternative voice for student activists. We have seen victories in the form of companies and charities pulling out of the workfare scheme in droves in response to public pressure, and in the courts for Cait Reilly (pulled off voluntary work in a museum to stack shelves in Poundland) and Jamieson Wilson.  However, EXTREMELY disturbing news has come out that the Government and DWP are rushing through a bill (the Jobseekers [back to work schemes] Bill) to override the court verdict and avoid paying back the sanctions they unlawfully stripped from individuals for not participating in workfare.  Furthermore, Labour are said to be supporting the bill, making it clearer than ever that they won’t stand up for the poorest any more.  This disgusting move undermines democracy and the rule of law: if the government can simply retroactively overrule any legal decision it doesn’t like, what’s next?  Read more on the bill at http://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/is-labour-planning-to-betray-its-core-supporters-by-siding-with-iain-duncan-smith/ and http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/mar/15/dwp-law-change-jobseekers-poundland and find resources and ways to challenge this abuse of the law, as well as ways to get involved in the workfare week of action, at the bottom of the article.

In Cameron, Osborne and co’s campaign to restore class elites and polarise rich and poor still further, one of the most pernicious elements is the vaunted introduction of workfare.  (And it is a project to restore upper class power, make no mistake.  Even the head of the International Monetary Fund, a model free market institution and thus hardly a haven for reds (under the bed or elsewhere), has said that austerity measures are not working.  Yet still they go on cutting from those who have nothing while giving tax breaks to the rich).

Workfare is promoted in the usual discourse of fecklessness, benefit dependency, scroungers and workshy earning their right to benefits rather than living in decadent indolence at taxpayer expense.  The idea is to further extend the conditionality of benefits (JSA claimants already lose benefits if they turn down paid work, no matter how poorly paid, temporary or insecure) to include mandatory work in participating companies.  Of course, the “workshy layabout” narrative is somewhat undermined at the moment by the explosion in unemployment (caused by the banks, let’s remember, not benefit recipients) which means that for every job, however menial and lowly, there are tens or even hundreds of applicants.  The vast majority of unemployed people right now are desperately trying to find work to alleviate poverty and debt, belying the “can’t work, won’t work” stereotype used to demonise people on benefits, in order to justify the measures which will exacerbate their poverty still further.

Think about this idea in any detail at all and it’s not only the unfairness but the stupidity of workfare which becomes glaringly apparent.  Of course it is slave labour, working a thirty – forty hour week for JSA (currently at £71/week for over-25s, still lower for younger people).  But it’s also free or heavily subsidised labour for employers, as the state continues to pay the benefit.  What business is then going to advertise a real job, with a living wage and fair working conditions, when a supply of  “workfare” participants is available? ( It’s the same sort of disincentive as tax credits, which, while having a much more benign application (topping up the wages of low earners), means in practice employers know the exact threshold for tax credit payment and can thus continue to pay poverty wages).  So in light of this, how exactly is this helping tackle unemployment or economic recovery?  (Incidentally, there is wide consensus among academics that only spending can promote economic growth.  Fat chance when everyone’s skint, again begging the question: how exactly are austerity measures helping?)

To digress for a moment, as I mentioned adult JSA is currently paid at £71/w.  Housing Benefit is set too low to pay even the cheapest rents and is set to be cut still further.  So out of that £71/w, any JSA claimant has to top up the rent by 20, 30, 40, 50 pounds a month.  Council Tax Benefit is also set to be cut by ten per cent, with Cameron telling local councils to pursue the shortfall any way they see fit, which of course will mean bailiffs and debt collectors.  I take a moment to point all this out to show that the discourse of idle undeserving poor living in the lap of luxury laughing at the taxpayer and the government is bollocks.  But it’s useful bollocks to Cameron and co, because it justifies ever harsher and coercive measures.  Incidentally, workfare would not be optional, but to do voluntary work off your own back would not be allowed, because the time should be spent jobseeking – or, for sick and disabled claimants, would be used against you to find you fit for work, even though with voluntary work you can choose the number of hours you can manage, and can stop if your condition worsens.  The Big Society?  We’re all in this together?  Don’t make me laugh.  Cameron and his cronies are no longer even bothering to pretend they’re not throwing the poor to the wolves.  But just as Thatcher, in her boundless arrogance, came undone with the Poll Tax riots, Cameron’s days are numbered too.  Crush people for long enough, they will crush you.

And if someone who has paid through the nose and gone thousands into debt for their education (because education, too, is now simply a commodity, with a rocketing price) and studied for years becomes unemployed, why should they be forced into factory work to keep their dole money?  (Which would also take up most of their time, which they could have spent looking for work in their own fields.  This is how people get trapped in demeaning, dead end jobs whilst barely keeping body and soul together.  This is how the country is deprived of great young minds who could do great things).  Cameron would never let that happen to his kids.  The truth is, workfare is punitive, it is degrading, it is designed to show people their low place and never let them forget it.  The sociologist Loic Wacquant also posits that it acts as a warning to those in working poverty, struggling in exploitative jobs with totally inadequate pay and conditions, that there is another level still to fall if you step out of line.  Wacquant’s searingly angry, disturbing book “Punishing the Poor: the Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity” – which I can’t recommend enough – details how the so called left and right hands of the state, the welfare system and the prison system, together form an apparatus for the regulation and surveillance of deviant populations, those who can’t or won’t be part of the brave new world of neoliberalism.  His analysis shows how neoliberal governments in the USA, UK and elsewhere increasingly criminalise poverty itself, calling benefit recipients “cultural similes of criminals”.  It’s very interesting that the appeals of the sick and disabled found fit to work by Atos are actually held in court.  (These appeals/trials are estimated to overturn between 40 – 70% of decisions, in one fell swoop resulting in months – sometimes over a year – of needless worry, distress and penury in the form of 40% benefit cuts pending appeal for victims, massive cost to the taxpayer of the appeal process belying the supposed purpose of the cuts, and proof to anyone without a hard right wing agenda or a midget brain that the benefit cuts are of no benefit whatsoever economically but are a purely ideological campaign). And we have already seen the increasing criminalisation of homelessness with the repeal of squatters’ rights, as well as new legislation against “shanty towns” such as the camps of the Occupy movement, a further indicator of the increasing criminalisation of dissent.  Look at the rabid tabloid discourse and we can see how benefit claimants are characterised in the most horrible, judgemental and dehumanising terms; and blaming the poor for their own poverty fulfils a useful function for government, obscuring the rotten mess of inequality and greed, conveniently ignoring the crimes of the powerful and justifying the dehumanising treatment of the “problem categories” chewed up and spat out by the market.  This “invisibilisation of social problems” (Wacquant) serves the dual function of removing any obligation to do anything about them, and literally cleaning up the streets of the poor and dispossessed who ruin it for everyone else – after all, who wants a visible reminder of the human cost of their own wealth?

Workfare in the UK is also symptomatic of the overwhelmingly pervasive attitude that paid work is the only thing of value a person can do.  To be out of work is to be nothing, to be less than human.  Again – bollocks.  No one can tell me that working in McDonald’s has more meaning than bringing up children, caring for incapacitated family members, volunteering your time for free to help others.  Of course, the demonisation of the unemployed is a big lie on another level too:  smoke and mirrors to conceal the fact that the last thing neoliberal governments and corporations want is full employment.  The very people they vilify and slander are the so called reserve army of capitalism: their existence keeps wages low, the spectre greedy bosses can invoke to keep their workers in line.

I’ll conclude with a heartbreaking story cited by Michael Moore in his sobering film “Bowling for Columbine”.  In Flint, Michigan, a six year old boy went into school one day with a gun he found in his uncle’s house, where he was staying because his mother was being evicted.  This tiny child shot dead another tiny child, six year old Kayla Rowland.  Flint, Michigan, Moore points out, is the grimy flipside of the American dream, with 87% of pupils at the school in question living below the official poverty line.  Tamala Owens, the young boy’s mother, to keep her entitlement to health care and food stamps, was on the workfare programme administrated by the weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin (a company that can’t be expected to have respect for human life, as a producer of weapons of mass murder).  Ms Owens worked two jobs on the workfare programme, forced to take an 80 mile round trip with an hour and a half commute each way.  A single parent, her boys rarely saw their mother who went out early and didn’t come home till late (but work is God, right?  Never mind who was parenting these poor children).  The idea was that Ms Owens was “working off” the welfare payments she had taken from the state.  Despite working seventy hours a week at these two jobs in Auburn Hills, one of the wealthiest districts in America, for companies who were given special tax breaks for employing welfare recipients (another disincentive to offer jobs at a living wage and another proof that this policy thus does nothing to tackle unemployment) Ms Owens couldn’t afford her rent and so sent the boys to stay with their uncle while she tried to sort things out.  And so the stage was set for an eminently needless, preventable tragedy, the violent ending of one young life and the permanent blighting of countless more in the form of both Kayla’s family and the young perpetrator and his.  Incidentally, the sheriff of Flint, Robert Pickell, openly tells Moore in the film that workfare has no merit and only compounds social problems.  The District Attorney tells how the same right wingers who are the most enthusiastic proponents of workfare and the “blaming the poor” perspective wrote to him and demanded this six year old boy be hanged from the nearest tree.

Of course, in America policy is also highly racialised, much more so than here, but nonetheless workfare in Britain will hit the poorest and most vulnerable yet again.  The poorest pay for the sins of the richest.

To fight back against workfare and get involved in the week of action, see the campaign at http://www.boycottworkfare.org

To challenge workfare based on servitude laws, look at http://www.servitudecomplaint.org.uk/ (locally we’ll be presenting a copy of this letter to the police station on Saturday, if you would like to join us there at 11am).

Particularly egregiously, charities known to be still using workfare are The Salvation Army and the YMCA (charities which purport to help lift people out of poverty!).  Join the rolling pickets here: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=2262

You can find your MP and send a letter here: http://action.pcs.org.uk/page/speakout/ask-your-mp-to-stop-the-government-changing-the-law-on-workfare or use this template letter to send to both Tory and Labour MPs to protest the retroactive legislation.  It may also be worth contacting Michael Meacher MP as he has tirelessly championed the rights of poor and disabled people against the DWP and Atos, his email address is : michael.meacher.mp@parliament.uk

Dear _____

I am extremely disturbed by the information in this article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/mar/15/dwp-law-change-jobseekers-poundland?CMP=twt_gu&commentpage=2

As the article notes, this retrospective legislation undermines the rule of law.  My understanding is also that Ms Reilly was diverted away from her own voluntary work in a museum, to work at Poundland.  I cannot see how this benefited either her or society.

I believe workfare is unethical and of dubious legality, viz the human rights act article 4 prohibiting slavery, servitude and forced labour.  I believe it to be a punitive measure which will also not help people into work, there is strong evidence that companies are simply using placements to replace actual jobs with the accompanying minimum pay and conditions.  It is also inhumane to cut off the only income of some of the poorest in society.  I believe it to be a wrongheaded, vindictive measure on every level, and the government’s attempt to overrule the court’s judgement to be reprehensible and dangerous for democracy.  If the government can simply apply new legislation to overrule any decisions it does not like, what is next?  I am deeply concerned we are becoming a surveillance state and that the poor are being punished for the crisis created by the rich.  You the government are there to serve the people, not punish us whilst rewarding yourselves (I believe an MPs weekly allowance for groceries alone is £160, yet your government is taking the meagre £71 a week out of the pockets of the poorest people if they are unable or unwilling to work effectively almost full time hours for no extra money and with no chance of a job at the end of it).

I refer you to the DWP’s own report which states: A study by the DWP into workfare in the USA, Canada and Australia found that workfare ‘can even reduce  employment chances by limiting the time available for job search and by failing to provide the skills and experience valued by employers’. The same study also found that workfare is particularly ineffective at leading to work during periods of high unemployment.[i]

Please oppose this bill which will not only prevent justice being done but set a dangerous precedent.

Yours sincerely

[i] source: http://www.solfed.org.uk/myth-buster

This is why we have to fight

14 Mar

Laurie and I agonised over whether to post this.  This blog is meant to help and support; and upcoming posts will hopefully do that.  This, on the other hand, is just terrifying, outlining the government’s plans for social cleansing.  And we’re sorry if it causes our readers fear.  I have been sick and shaking all morning after reading it and doing some research that backs it up.  The government’s statements are couched in the language of help and empowerment, but reading between the lines, two important points jump out: this scheme is to be administered by profit making companies and based on payment by results – and we all know what lengths of bullying, coercion and cruelty such targets have induced in Atos when used in the hated Work Capability Assessments.  And secondly, the responsible department is headed by Eric Pickles, he who would slap unlimited fines on gypsies for daring to be anywhere, and who wants to strip benefits from the obese if they refuse to go to the gym (never mind that he is so rotund himself that he resembles a monstrous egg, and that gym fees are beyond the reach of benefit recipients).

With heavy hearts we will post it however, because this is why we all need to act, to stand up and be counted.  Whether you send the template letter we provide (or a personalised version), put your name to the press copy, tweet and post about what’s happening so their whitewash and press smear campaign are at least countered, march, share advice, or simply tell everyone you know, please do something if you can.  The comparisons to Nazi Germany are looking less and less like hyperbole.

With thanks to the facebook page ‘The People Vs the Government, the DWP and Atos’

Here’s the whistleblower’s message:

Hi
I work within the dwp so please don’t use my name as it could cost me my job.
The dwp are rolling out nationally an initiative to work with 120k families whose lives are blighted by joblessness, single parents, crime and truancy. We have specially trained personnel to work closely with them to break these harmful trends and integrate them into society, improve their lives and make working the preferred options.
However what has not been released and is being kept hush hush is that these families are to achieve certain targets working with our staff and stakeholders, professional organisations which have been hand picked to get the desired results as expediently as possible. The department is investing a great deal of resources into this project and participants are to be under no illusions that equal investment and commitment are required from them. This will not be an option where families can choose not to be involved in…..if they refuse to participate, their benefits will be stripped under sanctions. If after a period of 26 weeks results are not forthcoming and improvements tangible and sustained all benefits will be withdrawn. The adults will either have to work in any position that can be found and will be paid via fuel food and basic clothing. If the children continue to truant and participate in anti social behaviour those under 13 will be taken into care and those over 13 will be expected to work under the same terms as their parents with tutors twice weekly to ensure a basic level of literacy and numeracy. They will not be living with their parents but in dormitory accommodation. Tenders have been received and a short list drawn up for the lots as with pip. Fore runners are G4S, Deloittes, Veolia, Capita and Serco
Myself and many other staff are horrified but are powerless to stop this. The govt are saying they will save more on what they cut on the benefits including DLA for the people in these families getting high rates for anger and behavioural problems, housing benefits and benefits for babies and children. Any of the parents having children throughout or once they’ve failed the initiative will be taken into the care of local authorities. The families will be allowed supervised access at contact centres as deemed acceptable by the people overseeing the project and the handlers for the individual families.
This is all underway and being arranged as we speak. The govt see these families as an absolute blight on society and one way or another are determined to get rid of them in any way they can. Their view is that support and money haven’t helped, ASBO’s are a joke and seen as a badge of honour and children whether in these families or other families on low incomes are a drain on resources and they believe if they stop paying then the children will stop being born and those already here will have to either conform or to be excluded and earn their keep. To get disability allowance for children is going to be nigh on impossible which is why the reforms haven’t targeted them, new plans are underway as the perception is that ALL children need care and parents know this before having them therefore there are only very rare circumstances where additional support is justifiable.

Thank You

And here’s the government site: https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/helping-troubled-families-turn-their-lives-around

Our template letter can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/helping-troubled-families-turn-their-lives-around (and please comment if you would like your group or name to be added to the press copy)

And at: https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/helping-troubled-families-turn-their-lives-around

And you can support on thunderclap: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/1508-kicking-tory-ass-on-welfare

The time is now.  Please don’t wait until, in those famous words of Pastor Niemoller, there is no one left to speak out for you.

Sending love and solidarity to all.

Template Letter to Local MP

13 Mar

Hello 🙂 below is a template letter that we have written for you lovely people to send to your local MP. It outlines our personal concerns with welfare ‘reforms’ but feel free to edit as you please. Additionally, we intend to send a copy to the national press, so if you or any groups or organisations you know, or may be a part of, wish to be signatories please indicate in the comments section. Also, please feel free to send this letter or an adapted version to your own local press.

You can also find us on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/events/492533114144188/?ref=ts&fref=ts

and you can support us by thunderclap – an app which posts automated tweets and posts on your behalf at a set date and time publicising the campaign: http://www.facebook.com/events/492533114144188/?ref=ts&fref=ts

Thank you and happy tory asskicking!

Michelle and Laurie.

House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA

Dear —- —- MP,

I write to you with my concerns about your government’s welfare reforms, specifically the Welfare Reform Bill, the Work Programme and the so-called ‘Bedroom Tax.’ I believe the on-going reforms and upcoming ‘Welfare Reform Bill’ are deeply flawed both economically and morally.

Firstly, the work capability assessment has been, I believe, an inhumane, discriminatory disaster from the start. There have been numerous worrying reports of people with terminal conditions being passed ‘fit for work’ and staff having to meet targets for how many people they find ‘fit for work,’ leading me to conclude that the exercise is more about targets and tick boxes than the needs of sick and disabled people. It has been condemned by the General Medical Council for not taking account of fluctuating conditions; being based on a kind of positive thinking approach rather than medical evidence; and disregarding concerns from the individual’s own GP, who knows their condition much better than the ATOS staff member. Given the fact that the appeals process is incredibly protracted and the medical is to be carried out on an annual basis, it is perhaps unsurprising that those who do win their appeals, only to find the next medical due, fear they will be hounded to their grave.

Atos are also known to pursue individuals for further medicals even whilst their cases from the previous one are still under appeal, a practice I believe constitutes bullying and harassment and which indubitably adds to the already great anxiety and stress placed on such individuals.  I have also heard reports from many quarters of Atos engaging in an egregious practice of writing to claimants in a purported ‘follow up’ to earlier communications, threatening sanctions because the claimant has not attended an appointment or returned a questionnaire, when in fact no such appointment or questionnaire has ever been sent out.  I have heard of this practice independently from so many people that I have been led to believe in its veracity, and find its disingenuous, coercive nature deeply disturbing.  Atos is being paid £110 million in taxpayers’ money for its contract with the DWP, and the appeals process is costing £50 million more and counting, and yet I contend Atos are not fit for purpose.  As such I am deeply concerned that Atos are to be given further leeway to intimidate and harass sick and disabled people when doing the assessments for Personal Independence Payments when they replace Disability Living Allowance.  I believe it is a grave mistake to give Atos this further contract when they have already amply demonstrated their incompetence and cruelty.  (I am also deeply concerned that the descriptors for PIP assessment are written in such a way as to exclude as many people as possible, and thus take away money they need to make day to day living possible.)   Statistics have emerged that are deeply disturbing: over 10,000 people have died (as Michael Meacher MP recently brought to the attention of Parliament). As well as documented suicides there are many other cases where friends and family say the increased stress and worry was, in their view, a significant factor in the death of their loved ones.[i]  I have separately attached information circulated by the Black Triangle Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights which outlines some of the history of the WCA as a sinister ‘Disability Denial Factory’.  Dramatic though this sounds, I do not believe it is hyperbolic or an exaggeration to speak in these terms; there is a vast body of evidence and case studies to support it.  UNUM,[ii] the insurance company whose sponsored research is cited, have a vested interest in benefit cuts which they explicitly and unashamedly mention in this advert as early as 1993: ‘April 13th, unlucky for some.  Because tomorrow the new rules on state incapacity benefit announced in the 1993 autumn budget come into effect.  Which means that if you fall ill and have to rely on state incapacity benefit, you could be in serious trouble.’[iii] At the 2012 annual conference of GPs, general practitioners voted unanimously to scrap the WCA;[iv] twelve doctors are currently under investigation for misconduct due to alleged mistreatment of vulnerable people during WCAs;[v] it has also been alleged that Atos staff members used the facebook page to make demeaning and defamatory remarks about claimants, calling them ‘down and outs’ and ‘parasitic wankers’;[vi] there have even been cases whereby Atos staff members were found to be unlicensed to practice in the UK, and one where a doctor was conducting WCAs for Atos whilst on sick leave from his hospital job.[vii] This litany of incompetence and degrading, shabby treatment of the sick and disabled must stop.  I say again: Atos are not fit for purpose.  Moreover, cases are emerging whereby people with a physical disability are developing mental health problems on top, due to the stress of the process.  I believe that the reforms cannot even by justified economically because 40% of people win their appeals, and up to 70% when they have had advice from services such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, and the appeals process is extremely expensive. It also concerns me that when Mr Meacher bought this up in parliament, he did so to an almost empty house.

Unemployed and disabled people are not to blame for the financial crisis and in the vast majority of cases, are in their position through no fault of their own. I feel that attempts to paint the reforms as a means of tackling fraud by creating a false dichotomy between ‘scroungers’ and ‘skivers’ are at best disingenuous and at worst malicious, when the government’s own figures show that only 0.5% of the disability benefit budget goes to fraud. In light that we have now entered into a triple dip recession, these measures clearly aren’t working. Common sense tells me that economic growth cannot happen when people have no money to put back into the economy. Not only is the cap on benefit increases an unfair and harmful cut in real terms which will plunge many into still deeper poverty as commodity prices rocket, it makes no economic sense either.

Ifeel that the ‘Work Programme’, colloquially known as Workfare, is furthermore demonstrably wrong-headed. Aside from ethical considerations of mandatory unpaid labour there is strong evidence that participating companies are increasingly using the programme as a substitute for advertising paid positions with the accompanying minimum standards of rights and working conditions. Coupled with this is the fact that the likelihood of a placement resulting in a job at the end appears to be premised on a myth, namely: There is no evidence showing that workfare placements tend to lead to full time jobs.  A study by the DWP into workfare in the USA, Canada and Australia found that workfare ‘can even reduce  employment chances by limiting the time available for job search and by failing to provide the skills and experience valued by employers’. The same study also found that workfare is particularly ineffective at leading to work during periods of high unemployment.[viii] Therefore, this seems a highly counter-productive measure. The fact that people who are doing voluntary work off their own back can be forced to give that up in favour of a mandatory work placement (under the threat of stringent economic sanctions if they refuse) just seems to fly in the face of the Prime Minister’s own ‘Big Society’ rhetoric as well as diverting invaluable human resources from the massively over-stretched and demoralised voluntary sector, which itself is enduring heavy cuts. Voluntary work is an act of altruism, which can be a vital source of self-esteem for people who can’t engage in doing paid work, as well as benefitting the causes they work for and the wider community. To force people to end their involvement with such work in favour of placements, such as shelf stacking in Poundland, seems ludicrous and I fail to see any way this benefits society or the individual concerned.

I finally come to the so-called ‘Bedroom Tax,’ a measure which I see as catastrophically ill-conceived and unfair. I am concerned that it may actually be discriminatory and violate human rights laws as equality impact assessments have not been performed to assess the effects on the disabled and their carers and dependants. When it comes into play, people are set to be punished for things that are not their fault, such as there are a shortage of one-bedroom properties in their area and the fact that the upper floors of high rises were universally decreed unsuitable for families several years ago and thus single people were placed in such places by the Council in good faith. I feel the recent quote from Lord Freud suggesting that a divorced father should house his three sons in a single camp bed in his living room when they came to stay was patronising and insulting as well as contradictory of the Tories’ own stance of family values. Many sick and disabled people will have no one to help them move and no transport available even if they do manage to find a suitable one bedroom property. In addition to these myriad human costs, it is an economically nonsensical policy as to move from a Council home with two or more bedrooms into a one bedroomed property in the Private Sector (as realistically most will have to do due to the aforementioned lacking of one bedroomed Council properties) will in virtually all cases result in a higher weekly housing benefit being incurred as a result of private rents being higher than public.

Overall I feel that there is a climate of blame and division being created, that the impact of the cuts is being forced disproportionally upon people who are already struggling, and that such policies will only further exacerbate poverty and inequality (which are already shockingly high for a rich, ‘First World’ country). I feel that poor people generally and the sick and disabled in particular are being stigmatised and demonised which we believe has contributed to the steep rise in hate crime against the disabled; and finally it seems clear that impoverishing poorer parents will also impoverish their children, which is troubling as the government have pledged to reduce child poverty.  I further believe that the mark of any society’s decency is how it treats its most vulnerable members, and that on current evidence, Britain in 2013 is falling very short.

I look forward to hearing from you on these matters.

Yours Sincerely,


[i] A freedom of information request submitted to the DWP on deaths taking place after the WCA has still to be answered: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/deaths_of_claimants_receiving_js

[ii] American firm known as UNUM PROVIDENT (US) are one of the biggest occupational health insurance companies in the world. They have been involved with the DWP since 1994.
In 2002/03 an American class action lawsuit in California identified UNUM PROVIDENT (US) as running “disability denial factories” and the Judge fined them $31.7 million. The company were ordered to re-investigate 300,000 other refused claims; something the company has still failed to complete 7 years later.(as of 2011)
In 2005 American Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi declared: “Unum Provident is an outlaw company. It is a company that for years has operated in an illegal fashion.”
UNUM PROVIDENT (UK), now known simply as UNUM Insurance, fund psychosocial disability research at CardiffUniversity. Prof Mansel Aylward is the head of research at the Unum Centre at Cardiff University and he was the DWP Chief Medical Adviser who in 1994 recommended this medical evaluation system to the government to reform government care costs for DLA etc. Prof Mansel was instrumental in the methods to be used, imported from America using identical methods as Unum Provident. Unum Provident is banned from 15 States in the USA and 6 countries worldwide, so one wonders why this diabolical company are advisers to the UK government on welfare reforms? Atos Healthcare have employed the same methods as Unum Provident, hence the vast and growing numbers of chronically sick and genuinely disabled people being betrayed by this system of medical ‘evaluation’ which, in fact, is a seriously compromised 25 minute basic computer questionnaire, with no allowances for the vast differences within the same identified health condition.   (Source: Black Triangle Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights).

[iii] source: Red Pepper

[iv] source: Guardian

[v] source: Guardian

[vi] source: Computer Weekly

[vii] source: Computer Weekly