Making An Appeal - An Infomercial By Ministry Of Justice

6/27/2012 08:39:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 3 Comments

And the video that disappeared for 3 months after the 'right honourable' Chris Grayling complained that it contained information to appellants explaining;

  • that they are twice as likely to win their appeal if they appear in person rather than having a paper hearing;
  • that the DWP doesn’t normally send a representative to the hearing;
  • to send additional evidence to the tribunal, when Grayling wants it sent to the DWP 

Lets congratulate the MoJ on putting out sensible, clear information and reward them by making this their most popular info video ever...

H/T Benefits and Work


Karen Sherlock - An Ordinary Woman In An Extraordinary World

6/26/2012 08:42:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 9 Comments

Karen Sherlock was just an ordinary woman. She didn’t have a great deal of money, her health meant she didn’t get many opportunities to go out, particularly not anywhere you might have seen her, and even if you did you wouldn’t have given her another thought. Just another woman in middle age as invisible as all women past a certain age become. 

But Karen had another life, one in which she was recognised for her courage and determination to stand up for the rights of all sick and disabled people subject to the Work Capability Assessment. You might not have noticed Karen, but had you paid attention you would have seen the story of an utterly remarkable woman, who’s experiences typify the disconnect between the reality of sick and disabled people’s lives and the blunt instrument employed by the state to rule if we are ‘fit for work’. 

Karen was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 3. By the time she reached working age she was already developing complications from the diabetes, but that didn’t stop her working and living a full life. Time passed, she married her beloved Nigel and worked in the NHS. Her health worsened, and after losing most of her eyesight it became impossible for her to continue working. In February 2008 Karen was dismissed from her job due to ill health, a decision made by the Occupational Health arm of Atos on behalf of the Pensions Agency. 

This is when Karen’s nightmare truly began. She applied for Employment Support Allowance, formerly called Incapacity Benefit, which is a benefit for people who are unable to work temporarily or permanently due to disability or ill health. She was called to attend a Work Capability Assessment ‘medical’, again run by Atos, but an Atos held to entirely different standards by the Department of Work and Pensions than the Atos who’d decided she was unfit to work in the NHS. The standards used by Atos to medically retire Karen from her NHS job considered whether she was well enough to do that specific job, but as intended by the government, the Work Capability Assessments she endured were designed purely to assess whether people have any capacity for some work in some form. Ministers such as Chris Grayling have made it very clear that this is the intention of the test by repeatedly stating their ‘absolute and implacable opposition to a real world test’. In normal person speak what that means is that Ministers refuse to consider a fitness for work testing process that considers the job the person was trained to do and whether they are still capable of carrying that out, instead focusing narrowly on whether they have some capacity to perform imaginary work related tasks such as being able to sit at a workstation for half an hour. On May 30th 2012, the day before Karen was finally placed in the Support Group, a mere 10 days before her death, Chris Grayling announced that those in the Work Related Activity Group, those people just like Karen who could soon expect to be mandated to the Work Programme “have proved sicker and further from the workplace than expected” That is one way of describing it to the 32 families each week grieving the death of their loved ones who had been found ‘fit for future return to work’, people a far cry from the supposedly lazy scroungers the public have been led to believe this policy applies to. 

Karen described her first WCA in Spring 2008 as a ‘farce’, never heard the results and was called for another WCA in August 2008 when she was placed in the Work Related Activity Group. Karen had diabetic autonomic neuoropathy, gastropaerisis and diabetic retinopathy. She was partially sighted, with a heart condition, asthma, chronic kidney disease, B12 deficiency, anaemia, high blood pressure and was frequently doubly incontinent. For all these reasons she was correctly found unfit to perform her role in the NHS, but the Work Capability Assessment is not designed to consider whether someone is fit to work in their job of training, it is a blunt tool purely intended to separate people out into 3 categories;  those who are unfit for any kind of work, placed into the Support Group with no conditions attached to their benefit receipt, those who are considered entirely fit for work and transferred to jobseekers allowance, then the WRAG  intended for people with some disability or health problems considered able to return to the workplace in some future capacity. Those placed in the WRAG are expected to participate in activities aimed at returning them to the work place, including mandatory work programmes in some circumstances. For those in receipt of contributions based ESA (the benefit paid in return for National Insurance contributions) a one year time limit applies, retrospectively, whereas this benefit used to be paid as of right to those with sufficient NI contributions for as long as they were sick or disabled. This means that people such as Karen who had worked all their lives lose their eligibility for ESA. Karen’s husband Nigel worked, but even before tax didn’t earn anything approaching the £26,000 pa means testing limit being introduced for other benefits.  This didn’t matter as the means testing limit for ESA is a partner earning a mere £7500 pa. 

Karen endured the stress and anxiety of four WCA’s and subsequent appeal processes between 2008 and April of 2012 when her ESA stopped completely, leaving her and Nigel £380 per month worse off. Karen was terrified, so much so that her fear was palpable, even online. She worried about how they’d pay their mortgage, basic bills, how Nigel would cope. At the same time Karen was consumed with anxiety about the financial aspects she was also in worsening health, awaiting an operation to enable her to start dialysis, being considered for the transplant list and investigated for worsening cardiac problems.  Despite all that, Karen remained in the Work Related Activity Group. 

I first knew Karen in October 2010, when we founded The Broken of Britain a social media based disability rights campaign. We were asking sick and disabled people to speak out, to tell their stories about how they had become reliant upon benefits, and people were initially reluctant. Pride and fear combine to prevent us wanting to discuss the intimate details of our lives in public. But a small handful of people stepped forward in those first few days, they pushed aside their anxiety that speaking out would be used against them by the DWP and told their stories. Karen was one of these people. Although she is probably the most terrified person I have encountered to date about the welfare reforms, she was also the first to stand up to be counted. Karen understood that telling her story would help other people and so she acted in characteristic manner and did what she believed to be right for everyone. The last email I have from Karen is from early April 2012 when she told me she’d used the benefits calculator I’d suggested to see if there was any other support she and Nigel could claim. There wasn’t. I couldn’t offer Karen any hope, all I could do was apologise and explain to her that this was the exact intended effect of the benefit ‘reforms’ we had all fought so hard to prevent. 

I can’t think of an online group who didn’t benefit from Karen’s presence over the past two years, she played an active role wherever she could, trying to support other people in distress. When Karen was frightened, which was most days, she would literally beg other campaigners for the reassurance that everything would be ok. Every time it broke a piece of my heart not to be able to offer her the security she needed, the answer she was so desperate to hear, that it would be ok, that it was all some big mistake. None of us could ever tell Karen that, she died a mere 8 days after getting the notice she had finally been placed in the support group, her last years of life utterly blighted by ‘despair, helplessness and frustration’ directly caused by a government who’s leader had pledged to alleviate precisely such bureaucratic suffering. 

For me, one memory typifies both Karen Sherlock and the complex, bureaucratic cruelty she experienced. The Atos nurse who performed Karen’s initial WCA was kind to her and tried to reassure her that she should be in the support group. These comments stuck with Karen, she could not understand how what had been so obvious to the first person to assess her had been overturned, nor why everyone else she appealed to seemed so wilfully blind to it. It both haunted Karen and gave her the strength to carry on fighting for what she knew to be right. I explained to Karen that although she’d been assessed by an Atos employee, a Department of Work and Pensions Decision Maker, with no medical training made the final decision about which group people are allocated to, the support or Work Related Activity group Karen was repeatedly placed in. In passing I mentioned that the people carrying out the ‘medicals’ weren’t supposed to comment on which group people are put in. Despite her terror, her anxiety and the disgraceful way the system had treated such a vulnerable individual, Karen worried that if she spoke out about that nurse’s compassion she might get her into trouble for having demonstrated a kindness the process of claiming Employment Support Allowance is designed to deny. 

Goodnight Karen, Sleep Well Xx 

Flowers and tributes were sent for Karen's funeral from donations from her online family


Flipping A Coin - By Hossylass #reversingrecovery

6/25/2012 08:44:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 1 Comments

Out today is a report that will inflame and upset the motor industry.  In these difficult times they stand to lose in excess of 50,000 car sales a year.
This is not the only loss though – the loss of jobs will also be significant, and it will be a tiny pebble that causes ripples throughout a huge and diverse industry.
So what is the cause of these job losses and sales losses? Surprisingly the answer is the Welfare Reform Bill.
Under the new WRB some 280,000 people will lose the very allowance that pays towards a suitable  and adapted vehicle, that allows them to mobilise, to work, to get treatments and to have some life outside of four walls. Without these vehicles the recipients of the allowance would be housebound and unemployable.
Some would say that there is an alternative, such as public transport.
However, a few days ago Transport for All and DPAC invited MP’s to join them on public transport in London, to test this theory.
Now public transport in London is the flagship of accessible transport. Nowhere else has as many accessible buses, tubes, trains or taxis, but Londoners will assure you that the situation is dire.
If there is a limited chance of using public transport in London, then the chances of finding it in a remote area of the UK are even smaller – many places don’t even have a bus every day, let alone an accessible bus. Without these buses the recipients of the allowance will be housebound and unemployable.
Two sides of the same coin.
Of course there is the Government response of Access to Work, and the vast amount of money that will become available for taxis. Except it probably won’t be available.  Access to Work is a postcode lottery – extracting help from them is almost impossible in some regions.
For someone in a rural area to get to their nearest post office of five miles away, they would firstly have to persuade a taxi company to come from the nearest town, some 10 miles away, to take them to the post office. Total round trip for the taxi 30 miles for a 10 mile fare…
Even given the London centricity of the thinking, it won’t work in London. Its stands no chance of working across the country.
Again it has fallen onto the shoulders of the disabled community to do the job of the Government and investigate the cumulative financial and social impacts of the WRB – congratulations to both ventures for undertaking this.


Embargo: 25 June 2012

New report warns car industry to lose out under welfare reform plans

A new report has highlighted the dangers to the UK’s economy following an analysis of the impact of welfare reform on the motor industry.

‘Reversing from Recovery’, published by the WeareSpartacus campaign group, analyses figures supplied by the Department for Work and Pensions and Motability, the organisation that supplies lease cars to disabled people claiming Disability Living Allowance. The report focusses on some of the impacts of the government’s plans to reform Disability Living Allowance (DLA), and its proposal to remove 280,000 disabled people from claiming the higher mobility rate of DLA, which currently qualifies them to lease a car under the Motability scheme.

The analysis estimates that, under DLA’s replacement benefit, Personal Independence Payments (PIP), there will be a 27% reduction in the number of working age disabled people, and a 17% reduction in the number of disabled people overall, qualifying for the Motability scheme.

Motability’s publication ‘Economic and social impact of the Motability Car Scheme’ (2010) identified the scheme’s contribution to the economy through employment generation and tax receipts. The new report shows that welfare reform plans will lead to a domino effect including the loss of:
·         3,583 jobs (from 21,080 jobs to 17,497 jobs in Motability-related industries)
·         £342 million contribution to GDP (from around £2 billion to £1.67 billion)
·         £79 million in tax receipts
·         Up to £324 million contribution to GDP from disabled people’s ability to undertake paid work.
Jane Young, an independent disability consultant who co-authored the report, said:

“It’s not just disabled people who will lose out under the Government’s welfare reform plans. Changing from DLA to PIP means fewer people qualifying for Motability cars to the tune of about 31,000 fewer vehicles a year. Less demand means fewer jobs for the car manufacturing industry, a lower contribution to GDP and the exchequer, and a knock on effect on the availability of cars in the second hand market, which also contributes to the economy.”

The report also raises concerns about future investment in the UK by car manufacturers, given the demand for new cars is going to drop as the government phases in its plans.

Rob Parsons, an Open University lecturer who also contributed to the report, added:

“We must remember, of course, that part of this picture is the impact of these changes on disabled people themselves.  85% of Motability car users say the car has a positive impact on their ability to access health services, whilst more than 1 in 3 of those able to work say it maintains or improves their ability to undertake paid employment. 7% of customers’ families say it enables a family member to gain or keep a job.

“We’ll see disabled people less independent, less likely to be able to get or keep a job and more likely to close businesses or give up self-employment. Having welfare reform plans which interfere with employment prospects is nonsensical. The Government should think again.”

The report is calling on the Government to give further consideration to the wider consequences of disability benefits reform, including consulting more widely, before finalising the regulations under the Welfare Reform Act.

For more information or to obtain a copy of ‘Reversing from Recovery’, the full report or summary version, contact:

Jane Young:;  07775 892344, or
Bethan Morris:   

Notes for editors:
  • ‘Reversing from Recovery’, both the full report and the summary version, will be available to download from after publication (25 June 2012)
  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a benefit that helps individuals meet the additional costs that come from living with a disability and is payable to people in work as well as out of work
  • Details of the Government’s proposals for PIP, including projections of the number of people expected to be eligible for the enhanced mobility rate, can be found in the DWP consultation document, ‘Personal Independence Payment: Assessment thresholds and consultation’ (January 2012), available at
  • The Motability publication, ‘Economic and social impact of the Motability Car Scheme’ (2010), is available for download at
  • The WeareSpartacus campaign group is an internet-based group of disabled and sick people from around the UK which campaigns for welfare benefits and social care services that enable disabled and sick people to live independently and with dignity.


Destination Unknown: Summer 2012 - Guest blog by Eugene Grant

6/22/2012 08:17:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 4 Comments

Eugene Grant is a Public Policy Advisor on poverty and welfare for the disability charity Scope

Just before Christmas 2010, David Cameron gave a speech on families and relationships to the counselling service Relate. Families, the Prime Minister asserted, “are immeasurably important” – not just to our personal life, but “important to our national life too”. They are “the building blocks of a strong, cohesive society”. 

At the time, few would have opposed the Government’s commitment to supporting families. But, for disabled people and their families, this principled position has not translated into practical policy. Far from it. Just a month after the speech to Relate and the Government’s commitment was vociferously challenged by Riven Vincent, the mother of a disabled child, in a moving message published on the Mumsnet website in which she wrote: “We simply cannot cope and neither can families up and down the country, just like ours. We are crumbling.”

Sadly, Riven’s family are not alone; many families who care for disabled children are often pushed towards breaking point as they struggle to juggle various demands, from caring for their child, fighting to get the support they need, and living in a society that still isn’t fully accessible for disabled people. The combination of all these factors puts enormous pressures on families. 

Since the May 2010 election, the Government has initiated £18 billion worth of cuts to welfare benefits, including benefits for disabled children. At the same time, it has reduced funding settlements – budgets for social care provision and other vital services – for local authorities across the country. For the last two years, the disability charity Scope and the think tank Demos have been following the plight of six disabled families as these cuts have come into effect. The impact of the cuts on disabled people has been mapped via the report series Destination Unknown.

The fourth and final report is published today – two years on from the Emergency Budget. Among the stories set out within it is that of Aisha and her family. Aisha is four years old. She was born with Cerebral Palsy, and has quadriplegia and epilepsy. She lives with her mother, who is her full-time carer; her father, who works; and her brothers and sisters. While the Government have asserted their commitment to families, the new report reveals that since the Emergency Budget the Government’s welfare reforms have cost Aisha’s families and others like hers over £30 million.

Aisha’s mother struggles to look after her – and the other children – by herself. Aisha’s father, who works, has had to start taking unpaid leave to help out with caring responsibilities. A few months ago he collapsed from the pressure. Aisha’s sister, who is only ten years old, now helps look after the child and take her out. Problems with securing support from local services for Aisha has taken its toll on her mother’s mental health and has caused her to go back onto medication for depression and anxiety. As Aisha’s father is the sole earner in the family, and starts work at 5am, he is often unable to help out with caring for Aisha during the night – the ‘night shift’ as they call it (a term I’m sure many families up and down the country probably know all too well). Because of this, Aisha’s parents have to sleep in different rooms during the whole week so that one is on duty while the other one can sleep. This, Aisha’s mother says, “puts a strain on family and married life” – two things that the Government have always claimed to champion. “Time together is just gone.”

Aisha’s story is not unusual; neither is Riven Vincent’s. If it is to fulfil its commitment to families like Aisha’s, the Government has to understand the full range of pressures disabled families face and the impact that the cuts and changes to support have on their lives. The report concludes with urging the Government to change the way it does impact assessments when introducing new reforms all at once. The Government should not just consider the impact of how many people are affected by one new policy; it must look at the impact on families like Aisha’s of multiple changes – to DLA, ESA, child benefit, etc. – coming into effect all at once. Without this, there is a real risk that families like Riven Vincent’s and Aisha’s will continue to crumble and the true human cost of austerity is overlooked.


John Pring's Disability News Round Up - Week Ending 15th June 2012

6/19/2012 08:07:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 3 Comments

  • A Liberal Democrat minister has defended the coalition’s controversial commitment to “remove the bias towards inclusion” in disabled children’s education.
  • Local authorities have been accused of “burying their heads in the sand” over cuts to adult social care, after admitting that spending will fall by nearly £900 million this year.
  • London transport bosses have finally admitted that they plan to invest nothing in projects aimed solely at improving step-free access to the capital’s tube network over the next three years.
  • A leading activist has accused airline staff of ignoring the needs of disabled passengers at Heathrow, just weeks before thousands of Paralympic athletes and other disabled visitors will flood through the airport.
  • Anti-cuts campaigners have paid tribute to a disabled activist who died last week after fighting for two years against the injustice of the government’s “fitness for work” assessment regime.
  • A campaign to stop bars and restaurants using plastic straws could cause huge problems for disabled people who struggle to lift mugs and glasses, according to an access consultant and activist.
  • A disabled peer has told a minister that her government’s failure to assess the impact of its policies on disabled people was like building a nuclear power station on a fault-line and then waiting for an earthquake. 
  • The minister for disabled people has been accused of delaying action to support disabled people while “Rome is burning” because of her government’s reforms.

For links to the full stories, please visit Disability News Service


John Pring's Disability News Round Up - Week Ending 8th June 2012

6/16/2012 10:17:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 0 Comments

  • A coalition minister ordered civil servants to prevent two disability charities from attending meetings on how to improve personal independence payment, the government’s new disability benefit.
  • A disability charity boss has resisted calls to resign from a committee that advises the government on its controversial “fitness for work” assessment, even though GPs have demanded that the test be scrapped.
  • European Union leaders who have removed a vital measure promoting transport accessibility from new guidelines could be breaching the UN disability convention, say campaigners.
  • Campaigners are seeking disabled people who can explain how the government’s new “universal credit” benefit reforms could see other people like them losing out financially.
  • The decision of London’s mayor to invest nothing in improving step-free access to the capital’s tube network for the next three years has been described as an “insult” to disabled and older people.
  • The government has admitted it is discussing with GPs how to introduce a way for them to report cases in which the controversial “fitness for work” test has caused serious harm to their patients.

For links to the full stories, please visit Disability News Service