@DoleQueueUnite: We & the TUC call for Iain Duncan Smith to be SACKED! http://t.co/eQYT9pZtTv petition http://t.co/SWbITG5tV8 – The… http://t.co/O70E4WoCMP
Anyone this incompetent in any other job would have been sacked long ago. This man has no respect for the sick or disabled. It’s high time he went and he should be held accountable for the suffering he has caused.
Liam Byrne, “whose pronouncements on welfare generally suggest a career on the Daily Mail’s subs desk can’t be far away”. Photograph: Getty Images
One of the recurring things I’ve written about for the last few months has been the impact of cuts on disabled people. Whether it’s social care cuts, the Bedroom Tax, the scrapping of the Independent Living Fund, or Work Capability Assessments to name a few, disabled people are among those worst affected.
This begs a simple question: what’s the cumulative impact of these reforms? The welfare system is framed so that you receive small benefits for various different things. Disabled people usually rely on several benefits and are therefore more liable to be hit by more than one cut – in some cases, they’re being hit by four or five.
Claudia Wood, of the think tank Demos, has written in the Independentabout how the multiplicity of cuts affected the families interviewed for its two year Disability in Austerity Study:
For the parents of a disabled child, it meant skipping medical appointments because they couldn’t afford the diesel. For a disabled man and his wife caring for him, it meant stuffing the window with newspaper in the winter because they couldn’t afford the repair. For a young woman in a wheelchair, it meant getting further into debt when a tyre needed replacing.
So how much are disabled people being affected? The simple answer is: I don’t know. And nor does the Government. After all, it’s rapidly become clear that statistics aren’t Iain Duncan Smith’s strong point. No, he prefers to rely on “belief.”
That was why, on 10 July, Liam Byrne – that’s Liam Byrne, a guy whose pronouncements on welfare generally suggest a career on the Daily Mail’s subs desk can’t be far away – used the Opposition Day Debate to call for a Cumulative Impact Assessment of the cuts on disabled people.
Byrne introduced the motion. It was actually a pretty powerful opening speech. He said:
Today we have one third of disabled citizens in our country living in poverty. That proportion has increased every single year this coalition Government have been in power. That is a disgrace, and it is only surpassed by the Government’s attempts to make it worse.
This debate received next to no coverage. It showed exactly why Kate Belgrave and I have named our current series “The Secret Cuts”. Because the silence doesn’t just come from our largely right-wing press. There’s something more insidious going on. And we saw it when Byrne began to talk about the bedroom tax:
Three quarters (75%) of carers having to pay the ‘bedroom tax’ are being forced to cut back on essential spending on food, electricity and heating. Will the Minister justify that to the House?
Mark Hoban replied:
The Leader of the Opposition has accepted the changes we have made through the spare room subsidy. Is the right hon. Gentleman going against that? Is he going to reverse this policy?
You could see where this was going. But Byrne pressed on:
The truth is that if 40% of people move, this could well cost our country £580 million, which is £100 million more than the Secretary of State promised to save. What is his analysis of that? Does he now admit this will cost more than it saves?
Iain Duncan Smith took to his feet with the air of Darth Vader about to tell someone he finds their lack of faith disturbing:
The right hon. Gentleman’s leader said categorically, in terms, that Labour would not reverse the spare room subsidy. [Interruption.]Yes, he has, in an interview. Now, however, the Leader of the Opposition’s spokesman is standing at the Dispatch Box saying Labour will reverse this. That is a commitment to spend £1 billion over two years, rolling out further down the road. That is a spending commitment.
You see the problem with these weasel words. No attempt whatsoever to address the policy’s economic illiteracy, nor its staggeringly cruel effects on the lives of the disabled. Instead, two words: “spending commitment”. Thus the argument was shut down. How eagerly will Byrne continue to pursue it?
There was more. In 2011 David Cameron told parliament he was not cutting benefits for disabled children. Byrne pointed out that it was a lie: families with disabled children currently receive an extra £54 per week from child tax credit, but that will be reduced by half when universal credit is introduced: about £1,400 a year for a family with a disabled child.
Hoban criticised Labour for not bringing in an assessment themselves (“They never did it when they were in government, and they know that they could not do it now either”), an argument that would have more weight if a) Labour had been putting in place the biggest cuts for disabled people for a generation b) Demos hadn’t cogently argued otherwise that morning. And as Claudia Wood had written in the Guardian:
The Department for Work and Pensions could confirm that the impact of welfare reform is far from evenly or fairly spread. But this would add fuel to the fire for those who are already calling for a rethink on welfare reform: perhaps cumulative assessments aren’t too complex, but too controversial.
Hoban mumbled something about how the Institute for Fiscal Studies had said such assessments were hard, so it couldn’t be done. The huge impact to social care created by cuts to local government was apparently an invitation for authorities “to look innovatively at how they deliver services.” So the parliamentarians muddled through.
Tom Greatrex MP (Labour) used the debate to bring up the thorny issue of the Work Capability Assessment. It’s something our political leaders aren’t keen to discuss. That’s because it’s not working, and they know it’s their collective fault.
Greatrex cited a doctor, Greg Wood, who had left Atos and subsequently said health care professionals “are not free to make independent recommendations, important evidence is frequently missing or never sought in the first place, medical knowledge is twisted and points are often wrongly withheld through the use of an erroneously high standard of proof” and that an attitude is drilled into them “which leans towards finding reasons not to award points”. Wood had also said that in about a quarter of assessments important documentary evidence is missing but the assessments go ahead regardless.
It turns out when there’s a big problem – as I’ve written about, time and again – it’s not journalists who have trouble getting a proper response. Greatrex said: “I got back a one-page letter—I have it here—that made absolutely no reference to any of the specific allegations. It did not say that there was a problem; it was just a standard response. On the same day, the Secretary of State’s private office e-mailed me, by mistake, a copy of a letter to another Member of Parliament—a Government Member—raising an individual’s case to which there was a much more systematic and detailed response.”
His closing remarks were unimprovable:
This is not just about the frustrations of seeking information from the Government, although I admit that I do get frustrated about that. It is not just about the waste and inefficiency in a programme that is costing £110 million a year for the Atos contract, and now up to £70 million this year in the appeals process to correct the mistakes. It is not just about an attitude, although I say again that I have found the Minister to be dismissive, evasive and sometimes partisan in our engagement on this issue. It is also about the experience of real people in every single part of this country who often have to adjust their life circumstances due to events completely beyond their control due to illness, accident or incident.
Towards the end of the debate, Esther McVey finally responded. Here it is in full:
I really do not get how Labour Members can forget that they introduced it in 2008 or that they gave the contract to Atos until 2015.
It’s everyone’s fault. So shut up.
There would be no cumulative impact assessment. There was time for Conservative MP Paul Maynard (a disabled man himself) to weigh in with a line one can only assume was a brave bid for thickest parliamentary comment of the year:
…dragged to this Chamber by Pat’s petition, We are Spartacus and other extremist disability groups that do not speak for the overall majority.
Following complaints from the aforementioned, he’d later ask for his words to be struck from Hansard.
In the end, only an amendment was passed.
This house welcomes the Government’s leadership in furthering the rights of disabled people; recognises the UK as a world leader in disability rights; notes that approximately £50 billion a year is spent on services for disabled people, including adult social services and including an investment of £3.8 billion in health and social care services in England to deliver more joined-up services to disabled people; further notes the £350 million allocated by the Government for programmes and support for disabled people to move into and stay in work; and acknowledges the Government’s collective determination to build upon the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and create a legacy which shines a light on the abilities and achievements of disabled people.
The Sunday Telegraph reports that Labour is considering a “secret plan” to make the claiming of welfare benefits a “human right”. The claim results from the secret taping of a shadow minister at a fundraising event. Patrick Hennessy writes:
Willie Bain, a shadow Scottish minister, was disclosed to have said two leading Labour politicians had asked him to examine whether “economic and social rights can be put into law”.
The request came from Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary, and Jon Cruddas, the MP who was appointed the party’s policy co-ordinator by Ed Miliband last year, Mr Bain said…
At the moment, there is no automatic “right” to state benefits – as the Human Rights Act does not include what are known as “socio-economic rights.”
Of course, what the Telegraph – and Iain Duncan Smith, who told the paper, “as if we needed any more proof that Labour are still the same old welfare party, Ed Miliband has now decided that claiming benefits is a human right” – don’t mention is that claiming benefits is already a human right. Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the UK is a signatory to, reads:
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.
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.
It is useful to know that the Conservative party does not, in fact, think that people have a right to food, housing or medical care. It might explain a lot about the aims of their welfare policy.
People with learning disabilities at the Tower Drive Daycare Centre in Milton Keynes. An inquiry found 1,200 people with a learning disability die early a year because of poor care in the NHS Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian
Ministers have refused to create a national body to investigate the 1,200 premature deaths a year of patients with learning disabilities in the NHS – a key recommendation of a three-year confidential inquiry – drawing fire from campaigners and the government’s own researchers.
The confidential inquiry, set up at the end of the last Labour government, found that patients with a learning disability experience delays in diagnosis, delays in treatment, lack of basic care and poor communication by doctors and nurses.
Carried out by Bristol University academics and funded by the Department of Health, the inquiry “highlighted the unacceptable situation in which people with learning disabilities die, on average, 16 years sooner than people without learning disabilities”. Almost two-fifths – 37% – of deaths of people with a learning disability were due to them not getting the right care.
The inquiry team had asked the government to set up a national review board on the deaths of people with learning disabilities, and to examine a random selection of deaths as well as those of people who die young or who die unexpectedly.
However, in their response to the inquiry, ministers have refused to create such a body, arguing that it needed to weigh up the costs and benefits of the agency.
Instead the government has said it will give “greater voice” to people with learning disabilities and support the spread of personal budgets so patients could purchase better care.
Dan Scorer, campaigns manager at learning disability charity Mencap, said: “Independent research shows that over 1,200 children and adults with a learning disability continue to die unnecessarily every year in England because of discrimination in the NHS. This is the equivalent of a scandal on the scale of Mid-Staffordshire every year for people with a learning disability. The lack of decisive leadership by the government shows a continued failure to place equal value on the lives of people with a learning disability.
“A delayed commitment by the government to set up a national body to monitor and investigate the deaths of people with a learning disability is a lost opportunity to learn from mistakes and stop this tragic waste of life. Furthermore, it is utterly disrespectful to the families of those who have lost their lives due to poor NHS care.”
The principle investigator of the confidential inquiry, Pauline Heslop of Bristol University, also cautioned that the seriousness of the issues raised by her report required “more immediate actions … which are largely missing from the Department of Health commitments”.
She said: “We cannot allow the situation to continue in which people with learning disabilities are dying from causes of death amenable to good quality healthcare. That needs tackling with some urgency, and urgency of action appears to be lacking in the Department of Health response.
“In particular, we are disappointed that the Department of Health has not agreed to a national mortality review body to review future deaths of people with learning disabilities.”
Launching the government’s response, care and support minister Norman Lamb said: “Good, high-quality care should be expected for everyone. We wouldn’t accept this kind of poor care for cancer patients, so there is no reason why it is acceptable for people with learning disabilities.
“We are making progress on improving standards of care, but we have to go further and keep driving forward our plans.”
Restrictions on treatment for conditions such as cataracts has led to fears that GPs are being forced to become ‘rationers of care’. Photograph: Reuters
Patients are being denied treatment for hernias, cataracts and infertility because the new GP-led groups that control £65bn of NHS funding are imposing new restrictions on access to care, research reveals.
At least 27 of the 211 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) across England have tightened the criteria for obtaining one or more forms of hospital treatment in 2013-14, the British Medical Journal has established. But, in all, 68 CCGs are looking again at their guidelines on when patients should receive treatment for one or more forms of illness, according to responses from freedom of information requests received from 195 CCGs.
The curbs have brought claims that patients’ health could suffer, that budgetary pressures are being put above patients’ need for treatment and that family doctors are being forced to become “rationers of care”.
For example, Mid Essex CCG has limited patients’ access to surgery for hernias and brought in a series of new criteria, such as whether the hernia is growing in size month on month or whether there is a risk of it becoming strangulated – a more serious condition – because the patient does heavy manual work.
It also now insists that those with Dupuytren’s contracture – when one or more fingers bends inwards towards the palm and cannot be used – have to have it affecting two or more fingers and be “severely impacting on activity of daily living” before action is taken, and that those with trigger finger, which causes pain in the hand, must have at least two injections of corticosteroids at least six weeks apart before they can undergo surgery.
Other CCGs have introduced restrictions on treatment for skin lesions, ganglions and septorhinoplasty – surgery to change the shape of the nose and relieve breathing problems – although others have removed curbs on other treatments they inherited from their predecessor primary care trusts.
Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said the BMJ’s findings “tell us that the NHS’s budget is dwindling and inadequate, and bear out our fears of GPs being put in the invidious position of being both the rationer and the patient’s advocate. There’s an inherent tension there.”
Dr Steve Kell, chairman of Bassetlaw CCG in Nottinghamshire and a spokesman for NHS Clinical Commissioners, denied that CCGs were rationing care in order to save money. All such decisions were taken on the basis of sound clinical evidence, Kell said. But the country needed to have a conversation about what the NHS can and cannot afford as it tries to reconcile rising demand and flat budgets, he added.
A Department of Health spokesman said that “restricting access to services on the basis of cost alone is wrong and compromises patient care. Decisions should be based on what is most clinically appropriate for the patient.”
Nick, host of Countdown, is hoping that people will come away with a “more balanced” understanding of the benefits system
As Lord Alan Sugar’s original eyes and ears, Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford made a formidable team.
Amid chaos created by the wannabe Apprentices, they were forever on hand to tell it like it really was.
Now the pair have been reunited for a TV series in which they examine Britain’s complicated benefits system.
Former PR man Nick and ex-City solicitor Margaret set out to explode the myth that benefit claimants are all cheating, lazy scroungers trying to exploit the system, by putting together four claimants and four taxpayers to examine each other’s lives.
Margaret,61, says: “The image we get from some of the media is rather distorted – that everyone on benefits has 27 children and lives in a mansion.
“Actually, very few people defraud the system and most struggle to make ends meet.
“I wasn’t aware how much money you needed in order to have a very basic – and fairly grim actually – lifestyle.
“I wasn’t aware how few jobs there are compared to the number of people who are unemployed.”
Both agreed the benefits system is over-complicated – but there is a very real need to support people.
Nick, 69, explains: “The pendulum has swung.
“Not that long ago, people were far more sympathetic and compassionate towards benefits claimants. Not any more.
“When everybody’s a bit hard up, suddenly the claimants swing into clearer focus labelled as ‘B******s, living on the state’.”
Benefits claimants take about 10% of the national £200billion welfare budget, with about 50 per cent going on pensions – which many people believe should not even be included in the figures.
Ipswich was chosen for the investigation because it has an average number of unemployed people and average number of jobs available
Margaret, after visiting many individuals for the programme, found that a grand total of zero were “living comfortably” on benefits, adding: “We didn’t see any of that at all.”
Nick, host of Channel 4 quiz Countdown, is hoping that viewers will come away with a “more balanced” understanding of the benefits system.
“Fraud is like this,” he says as he pinches his finger and thumb together. “One per cent.
“But that’s what we read about and it makes us think that everyone’s at it. Living off the state, on the fiddle.
“If this helps people to know the truth behind some of those Daily Mail headlines, I’ll be very pleased.
“I don’t think we saw any out-and-out scroungers. Not everybody is living in a bloody mansion in Holland Park.
“If you saw the way that some people were living . . .” he trails off, thinking of some people he met who are reliant on food parcels to feed their families.
One man they encountered had gone from being a home-owning coach driver to the breadline in a matter of a few months.
After leaving his job because of illness, he found that the benefits were not enough to pay the mortgage and feed his family, so they had become reliant on charity food parcels.
Nick says: “He was desperately worried he’d lose his house because they wouldn’t be able to keep up mortgage payments.
“It showed how fragile it all is. We’re all just one step away from the gutter really.”
But he did not have sympathy for every claimant who took part in the show. Media studies graduate Liam brought out Nick’s sterner side.
He declares: “In Ipswich, media jobs aren’t exactly thick on the ground, and he wouldn’t contemplate anything else. Silly boy.
“He’s just got to get off his a**e and go and get a job and that will lead to something else.”
Nick also takes a hard line with one father called Chris, suggesting he needs to buck up his ideas and make a few more sacrifices.
“One chap wouldn’t work away during the week and return at weekends because, being a modern father, he said, ‘I want to see my children’.
“Fathers are busy changing nappies now, which is something I never did. In my day, quite a lot of people worked away.
“I did it. I worked in London and the family were in the country.”
But Margaret is quick to shoot him down over this, saying: “It’s much easier to make those sort of sacrifices if you are high-earning.
“Chris couldn’t afford to work for less than he was getting on benefits.”
She is critical of City women who say, ‘Of course it’s OK to have eight children and a job’, explaining: “Not everyone is a doctor or lawyer who can do lucrative part-time work and earn enough to pay for childcare.
“Some people can afford to pay for six nannies but most people are different.”
The duo discovered that many people were too scared to take on a job they weren’t sure about in case it went wrong and they were then “out” of the benefits system with nothing to live on.
And they are unanimous in their belief that the system needs a thorough overhaul to make it far less complicated.
Nick says: “It’s time for simplification. People say things like, ‘They’re terribly clever, they know how to work the system’.
“Well, you need to be to be able to work the bloody system.”
The pair found joining forces in front of the cameras without Lord Sugar looming over them was rather pleasant.
Nick admits: “It’s nice not to have Alan. When we were with him, we were support actors and he was the boss.
“But we don’t have a boss now – and that is great. No pressure.
“Alan’s a great guy, but nonetheless we were there just as advisers, to make sure the show ran on straight rails and the candidates didn’t lie.”
Having left the show four years ago to become an Egyptology student at the age of 57, Margaret says she doesn’t miss The Apprentice.
“Would I ever go back? In a word, ‘No’,” she says.
“I’ve finished the doctorate but I’m still doing research and I enjoy that very much. It’s more me than television.”
She does not even watch the BBC1 series, now in its ninth run.
But Margaret explains: “I don’t just not watch The Apprentice, I don’t watch anything. I’d rather be in the library.”
The pair’s easy banter is one of the reasons why they are such a popular double act with viewers.
Often ying to the other’s yang, they can usually weigh up arguments and offer some sort of solution in their typically no-nonsense manner.
Nick finds normally that he is the softer of the two, but when it came to the benefits investigation, it was he who took the harder line while Margaret was more sympathetic towards people’s plights.
He laughs: “I always thought Margaret was tougher than me but this programme showed she wasn’t.
“I was more critical of people, a bit harder-edged, which surprised me. I thought Margaret was normally marching alongside Gengis Khan.”
Margaret quips: “I must be mellowing in my old age.”
Nick and Margaret: We All Pay Your Benefits, tonight, BBC1, 9pm.
The countdown is on for this year’s Disability Awareness Day or DAD as it is affectionately known. On Sunday 14th July a huge tented village set in the grounds of the grand settings of Walton Hall Gardens in Warrington will be the location for the world’s largest ‘voluntary led’ pan disability independent living extravaganza, principally sponsored by Your Housing Group.
Over the years DAD has inspired individuals and groups across the UK and the World to set up similar celebratory events including a DAD Gibraltar, India, Denmark, Sweden and closer to home in Leigh, Shropshire and Cornwall.
With an expected 250 exhibitors, and over 25,000 visitors expected to travel to Warrington from across the UK and beyond, DAD will be the finale of a week consisting of 11 complementary events that will attract thousands more visitors.
Event founder and Co-ordinator Dave Thompson MBE DL said “This year’s event has been made possible thanks to the support of our sponsors, led by Your Housing Group, who signed up as principal sponsor.”
Brian Cronin, Chief Executive of Your Housing Group said “Your Housing Group is enormously proud to be the principal sponsor of the Disability Awareness Day 2013. This fantastic event is a unique opportunity to showcase the achievements and talents of disabled people. It also offers Your Housing Group the chance to show the work we are doing across the group on Welfare Reform to ensure that our residents are fully informed and supported.”
During DAD staff from Your Housing Group will be on hand to talk to visitors who may have questions about housing and the recent Welfare Reform changes including the options available and where they can receive the right advice and support. The team will be joined on the stand by Chubb Community Care one of the UK’s leading providers of social alarm and telecare services and a partner of Your Housing Group.
Inclusive Arts is just one of the highlights of the event with disabled performers including Carly and Martin from the BBC’s Autistic Superstars, plus Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalists The Urban Gypsies and an exhibition of Artwork produced by disabled artists.
This year’s Sports Zone will include archery, rifle shooting, a climbing wall, wheelchair basketball, golf and scuba diving, with the opportunity to do a taster dive in the onsite temporary swimming pool.
Children and families won’t be stuck for things to do with entertainers and a funfair.
Free accessible Park & Ride service and free bus from Warrington Bus Interchange, British Sign Language Interpreters, a scooter and wheelchair loans service and trained assistants ensure an inclusive event.
Dave Thompson added: “Overall DAD focusses on what disabled people can do, not what we can’t do, and it proves to be a great day out for everyone.”