Sunday, 25 November 2012

Response to Minister for Disabled People's letter of 17th November 2012

This is my response to this letter:

Dear Ms McVey,

Thank you for your reply to my letter dated 12/10/2012, on support for disabled people.

I'm glad to see you take on board the importance of ensuring disabled people have the right support in place, and in jobs that suit individual requirements. However, some of my points have not been addressed, so I feel the need to write back asking for clarification.

You haven't really addressed the point that there are some disabled people for whom work is not a realistic expectation.

There are those with life-limiting conditions who may not wish to spend their final months on Earth sitting in the Jobcentre chasing menial and minimum-wage work. There are people living with conditions that cause relentless chronic pain and fatigue where going to work would render them unable to do anything else, once back home.

People with profound and multiple impairments who require 24 hour care may wish to enter work with a lot of support, but pressure should not be put on people to enter the very competitive world of the "jobs market" when they can't compete on a level playing field.

Why are people who can't participate in the regular working world expected to live on a pittance, fighting a cruel system for every penny that is begrudgingly given, government who on the whole persist in selling the line that disabled people are scroungers? When MPs themselves commit far more fraud than benefit claimants (some 30% involved in the expenses fraud scandal, compared to 0.5% of benefit claimants.)

Given the closure of the Independent Living Fund which supported those who are so profoundly impaired they require 24 hour care, or would need to live in institutions, how can you even think of saying your government wants to help the most vulnerable? Council budgets are being slashed, social care is only going to those in desperate need, so what is going to replace the ILF?

Access to Work will clearly help those who are in work, with work-related costs. But for support with life outside work. PIP will have a smaller caseload, so there will be more disabled people going totally unsupported with daily living tasks. What are we supposed to do? What will the estimated 100,000 disabled people who lose Motability vehicles supposed to do? How will they remain independent, or if working, remain in work having lost their accessible transport?

I have heard the line "we have consulted extensively with disabled people and disabled people's organisations." before, but I'm having trouble believing it without seeing evidence.

thanks to an FOI request by Disabled People against the Cuts I found the following organisations were met with during PIP consultations, but very few had positive things to say:

1.  Action for ME;
2.  Action for Blind People
3.  Action on Hearing Loss;
4.  CALL Scotland;
5.  Capability Scotland;
6. Citizens Advice
7.  Centre for Mental Health;
8.  Child Poverty Action Group;
9.  Crohn’s and Colitis UK;
10. DIAL Peterborough;
11. Disability Action In Islington;
12. Disability Alliance;
13. Disability Lambeth;
14. Down’s Syndrome Association;
15. Dystonia Society;
16. Ecas;
17. Enfield Disability Association;
18. Essex  Coalition  of Disabled People;
19. Family Action;
20. Glasgow Centre for Inclusive Living;
21. Hackney Carers;
22. Hayfield Support Services with Deaf People;

23. Headway Glasgow;
24. Haemaphilia Society;
25. Inclusion Scotland;
26. Independent Living in Scotland Project;
27. Leonard Cheshire Disability;
28. Limbless  Association;
29. Lothian Centre for Inclusive Living;
30. Macmillan;
31. Margaret  Blackwood  Housing Association;
32. Mencap;
33. Middlesborough Welfare Rights Unit;
34. MS  Society;
35. Mind;
36. Momentum Scotland;
37. National AIDS Trust;
38. National Autistic Society;
39. National Deaf Children’s Society;
40. National  Rheumatoid  Arthritis Society;
41. National  Federation of the Blind;
42. Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People;
43. Parkinson’s UK;
44. Papworth Trust;
45. People First;
46. Poverty Alliance;
47. Quarriers;
48. Royal National Institute of Blind People;
49. Scottish Association for Mental Health;
50. Scope.

Of that list, the following organisations publicly do not approve of your reforms, having real concerns for how disabled people will fare if the reforms go through as planned.

Mencap: "Mencap’s chief executive, Mark Goldring, said: “We are extremely disappointed by the government's rejection of the Lord’s amendments, and failure to listen to the concerns of disabled people and their families."

The RNIB: "This report adds to a growing evidence base that shows the Government cannot follow through on its Big Society agenda and its commitment to give disabled people control and independence by stripping away the very benefits and services that enable them to take part in our communities"

Mind: "we are still very worried about the impact the introduction of the new assessment will have on people with mental health problems." "we remain unconvinced that the breadth and detail of activities to be considered is sufficient to properly capture the barriers to participation faced by people with mental health problems"

The National Autistic Society: "We are concerned about how the assessment will work for the new benefit, as well as about proposals for regular re-assessments."

Scope: "Scope warns that the government is in danger of repeating mistakes with its new benefit assessment.
The charity says that up to two million disabled people risk losing essential financial support because the new £6 billion Personal Independence Payment, introduced to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA), will use a flawed eligibility assessment." 

Leonard Cheshire: "There have been some positive changes agreed in the Lords, but as the plans stand there are still real fears that many thousands of disabled people will be pushed into poverty and financial hardship if they are found ineligible for support through the new Personal Independence Payment"

The National AIDS Trust: "NAT does not consider the proposed functional assessment a more accurate method for identifying disability-related needs than the existing DLA assessment" "NAT is extremely concerned that the reform process is being driven by a pre-determined 20% budget cut" "The decision to focus PIP on those with ‘greatest needs’ is also a move away from the principles of DLA"

Capability Scotland: "These amendments could be the difference between a family being able to heat their home and put food on the table and complete financial devastation.  Unfortunately the UK Government does not have a great track record on listening when it comes to Welfare Reform"

Joint response from Centre for Mental Health, Hafal, Mind, Rethink, The Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Scottish Association for Mental Health: "We do not support the objective of an overall reduction target for the basis of DLA reform – the reform should be based on supporting disabled people to lead fulfilling lives and not primarily concerned with reducing costs."

"We are concerned about the focus on those with ‘greatest need’ – this may be counterproductive and significantly disadvantage those eligible to lower rates of benefit, who may still have high disability costs."

Citizens Advice: "A benefits cap is just one of a number of welfare reforms that will have a disproportionate impact on some of the most vulnerable families, including children, breadwinners who have lost their job, and others forced to give up work because of illness The government is right to try and simplify a benefits system which is far too complex, but unless some safeguards are put in place the combined impact of these sweeping welfare reforms and huge cuts will be catastrophic for a lot of families already stretched to the limit."

In addition, along with the Papworth Trust, these organisations have called for a pause to the Bill because their concerns are so severe:

Papworth Trust
Action on Hearing Loss
Brandon Trust
Campaign for a Fair Society
Disability Rights UK
Disability Wales
Leonard Cheshire Disability
MS Society
The National Autistic Society
Rethink Mental Illness
Three Cs
United Response
The Westminster Society

Breast Cancer Care "Breast Cancer Care, along with other cancer charities, met with Maria Miller MP, Minister for Disabled People and DWP officials in July, to discuss the changes we wanted to make to the Welfare Reform Bill for the benefit of cancer patients. We provided case studies of people with breast cancer to the Minister’s office to demonstrate the possible negative impact of the changes if they go ahead."

MS Society "The MS Society, along with other major charities, have today urged the Government to pause the Welfare Reform Bill and carefully consider the future of Disability Living Allowance

Sense "Sense is deeply concerned the Government’s decision to get rid of the automatic entitlement to DLA mobility component for deafblind people will leave many out in the cold and the needless bureaucracywill create confusion and cost the tax payer more. The Government’s short sighted focus on disabled people with solely higher needs means preventative support will be slashed. This financially irrational approach is not sustainable and will cut many deafblind people off from participating in society"

And as for your press office being open 24/7, maybe you need to tell your fellow MPs to check with them before talking to the media. Your own colleagues are using inaccurate statistics and wrong information - Ian Duncan Smith linking DLA with in-work benefits, when it isn't. Repeated use of the "30% growth in DLA" figure, which is inappropriate as it includes children and older adults - when PIP will only apply to working age people, so relevant growth is only about 14% when demographics are accounted for. Whenever a minister talks about fraud they use the 5 Billion punds figure - but that is fraud AND ERROR - Approx £1 Billion is claimed fraudulently and £4 Billion lost through DWP error! Add to that the £17 Billion UNDERCLAIMED, and the fraud figure pales into near insignificance. However I've not heard Ian Duncan Smith mention the huge amount underclaimed.

I look forward to your respone

Yours sincerely


Saturday, 24 November 2012

Save Lewisham Hospital's A&E department

Lewisham Hospital's A&E is being threatened with closure. Not because it is failing - almost the reverse. It is doing really well, and has recently been renovated. No, because the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich is bankrupt, the administrator wants to close Lewisham to drive more business to the Queen Elizabeth, meaning they get more funding!

Lewisham Hospital serves a borough with a large population - nearly 250,000 people - as well as taking in people from surrounding boroughs if, for whatever reason, they can't go to their local hospitals.

If Lewisham A&E closes, its maternity and ICU services will be reduced as emergency care on site won't be possible.

If Lewisham A&E closes, people will have to travel further on public transport to get to other hospitals - the QE or Kings College Hospital. The QE, for me, is an hour by buses, and then a 10 minute walk. If I'm sick enough to need to go to A&E, I don't want to have to sit on one bus for 20 minutes, wait at a bus stop, sit on another bus for 20 minutes, and then walk 10-20 minutes from the bus stop to the A&E department. Kings is a great hospital, but it already serves a large population, and is already very busy and overstretched.

How many people will end up more impaired by extended waits to get to A&E? Strokes, heart attacks, loss of blood - these things need very rapid treatment. An ambulance taking 15 minutes longer to get someone to hospital reduces survival rates by a huge amount, and those who do survive are likely to have poorer outcomes and live with unnecessary impairment afterward.

You can help. Go here: and respond to the consultation as advised - we have only two weeks to do this.

All consultation documents, including Easy Read are here:

Minister for Disabled People responds to my letter of October 12th

Letter from Esther McVey, dated 17th Nov 2012 replying to

Dear Robin,

Thank you for your e-mail of 12 October regarding support for disabled people.

Thank you for your comments on the difficulty of ensuring the right support is in place for disabled people to work. I agree that it is important to make sure that the right support is in place, ensuring the job is suitable for the individual.

Access to Work is a specialist disability programme delivered by this Department, providing practical advice and support to disabled people and their employers, helping them overcome work-related obstacles, resulting from their disability. Access to Work funds the support that is beyond what an employer should provide, as reasonable adjustments.

To ensure the right support is in place, the Access to Work process includes an assessment of the applicant's needs; carried out in their workplace. I agree that it is also important to ensure that the job is suitable for the individual, to help achieve this, the scope of activity that Access to Work funding can support has recently been expanded to include people taking part in a Work Trial arranged by Jobcentre Plus, and young people gaining Work Experience as part of the Youth Contract.

I should add that throughout the process of Disability Living Allowance reform, we have consulted extensively with disabled people and disabled people's organisations.

This includes formal consultations earlier this year on the second draft of the Personal Independence Payment assessment criteria, and the detailed rules that will underpin the new benefit. We received a total of 2,600 responses to our consultations and are now carefully considering these responses.

While I am not able at this stage to reveal the contents of any discussions or submissions from any of the organisations that responded, I can tell you that the Government intends to publish its responses to the consultations later this year, once our considerations are complete. We will also be publishing organisations' responses to the consultations.

I understand you took the opportunity to share your views with us on our proposals by participating in our consultation activity, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for that. As you may be aware, more information about Personal Independence Payment can be found on our website at

Furthermore, disabled people have been telling Governments for some years that media tends to highlight the negative and these types of stories are used to affirm some people's prejudices about disabled people. This is not a new issue.

However this Government fully accepts that whilst laws are in place to ensure equality, we need to work together and do more to challenge and change negative attitudes towards disabled people.

That is why we are currently developing our new "Disability Strategy" - which focuses on the responses of thousands of disabled people who gave their views to our "Fulfilling Potential" consultation over the summer.

One of the key areas of the Strategy looks at is promoting positive attitudes and behaviours towards disabled people and tackling discrimination and harassment wherever they occur. We received over 2,200 comments which related to this theme.

Suggestions include the Government benchmarking attitudes in order to properly understand how to make changes over the long-term; producing and launching a media guide for journalists; and training for frontline Government staff to embed disability issues at the start of the policy-making process.

To help deliver the Strategy, we are carry forward ideas proposed by disabled people themselves and we are now setting up a new Disability Action Alliance.

Convened by Disability Rights UK and supported by the Office for Disability Issues, the alliance will join forces with private sector and public sector organisations to help change attitudes and create "inclusive communities" around the country.

Finally, the Department's press office operates a "24/7" service so there is always someone available to help explain the statistics to journalists and help ensure accurate reporting.

I hope this reply explains the position.

Kind regards

Esther Mcvey MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Disabled People.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Pudsey's WCA

Crossposted from

By SameDifference1

As a celebration of Children In Need, I gave Pudsey Bear a WCA.
Pudsey Bear’s WCA
Here’s what happened when Pudsey, the disabled bear, went for a Work Capability Assessment to the offices of ATOS.
ATOS Worker: Hello, please sit down.
(Pudsey sits, looking confused)

ATOS Worker: So, he can sit independently. How are you today?

Pudsey: Good, thank you.

ATOS Worker: Hold your arms out, turn your hands over. Straighten your fingers.

Pudsey: I don’t have hands, or fingers.

ATOS Worker: Hmmm…  stand up on your tiptoes.

Pudsey: I don’t have toes… or feet.

ATOS Worker: Hmm… please remove that horrible scarf from across your face. Open your right eye.

Pudsey: It’s not a scarf, it’s an eye patch. And I don’t have a right eye. One of the children pulled it off.
That’s why I had to stop working. I’m partially sighted.

ATOS Worker: Children? You have children? You’re not disabled! Disabled people can’t have CHILDREN!

Pudsey: They’re not my children… I’m a charity mascot… they’re the children I help.

ATOS Worker: A charity mascot? So, you already have a job.  Disability benefit fraud… well well well.

Pudsey: But I’m a partially sighted teddy bear with no fingers, hands, toes or feet…
ATOS Worker: Well, Mr Pudsey, if you’re fit to be in the same room as children, you’re fit to work. Close the door on your way out. NEXT!

My addition: Oh no! What will happen to Pudsey next? If he's forced onto the Work Programme how will he fundraise for all those Children in Need? Will the Coalition Government not think of the disabled children?!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Spartacus Report into the Work Capability Assessment

Taken directly from

"Anticipating the publication of Professor Harrington’s third (and, for him, final) annual review of the Work Capability Assessment, the WeAreSpartacus group have published our own review, from the lived experience of the sick and disabled people going through it. The People’s Review of the Work Capability Assessment includes the experiences of more than 70 claimants who have been wrongly assessed, humiliated, badly treated and forced to go to tribunal to secure the benefits to which they are legally entitled. The review also highlights press reports of some of the claimants who have died after being found fit for work or whose suicide has been linked, at least in part, to the stress of a process which is essentially abusive, demeaning and not fit for purpose. In the final section of the review, we examine what has been said about the WCA by the Government, MP’s, courts, professional bodies, medical organisations and individual medical professionals. This section includes full references, including replies to Freedom of Information requests, so readers can check the facts for themselves."

I suggest you have a big cup of tea ready, a comfy blanket, and something to hug when you read this review. Then send it onward - send it to your MP ESPECIALLY if they are Lib Dem or Tory. Tell them how this makes you feel. Let them know that they can change this system, and unless they do, they aren't getting your vote.

Screen readable report can be downloaded here:

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Complaining about Atos Drs.

Having seen a doctor at Atos' Croydon Assessment centre who made some interesting medical statements about my abilities, I decided to complain about her assessment of me.

First, I made a complaint to Atos - by emailing their customer relations email address. Details of their Customer Charter and the email address are here

It's only been three weeks since making the complaint, so I don't expect to have heard anything back yet. I'll give them a month and then I'll email to ask how the complaint is progressing.

I'm also contacting the General Medical Council to complain. Their complaints procedure is outlined here:

I've not been able to get through to the online complaints form, so I'm printing out their paper form, and rather than handwrite the whole thing, I'll type it up and add the typed pages to the form.