Cough, cough

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last blog post. That’s because reality decided to reassert itself in my life and I’ve been reminded quite forcibly that I am, in fact, ill. I never seem to notice when my health has been good until afterwards when it goes bad again and then while I am stuck in bed I realise that I’ve been out of bed quite a lot in the preceding few weeks. I’ve acquired a cold and a cough that has now turned into a painful chest infection. The result is that I have spent the majority of my time in bed for the last two weeks and my days are punctuated by fits of coughing that leave me seriously dazed afterwards. I visited the doctor today and started antibiotics so hopefully it will clear up soon.

I haven’t been completely inactive though. I’ve visited my doctor, which is a fairly big effort in itself for me. I have had quite a few phone calls with my solicitor dealing with aspects of my case against the DWP, and been sent mountains of documents to read to do with that. I have been to my first parish council meeting as a councillor, and managed to get drafted onto the planning committee and been to a meeting of that too. (Not actually as much work as it sounds.) I have even managed a few hours of computer gaming recently, something which I haven’t been able to face much while my mental health has been bad. The majority of my time though has been spent trying to stay awake but not really managing to do much more than slump in bed and stare at twitter, too tired to even tweet much compared to a few weeks ago.

And on top of that, I’ve been sent an ESA50 form – Limited capability for work questionnaire. It had to happen eventually, it’s been nearly two years since my last work capability assessment. The form arrived a couple of weeks ago and I think I subconsciously chose to bury it under a mess of paperwork so that I didn’t have to think about it. Unfortunately that means that I haven’t got very long left to go through the soul-destroying process of filling it in. I had better drug myself up and go and get on with it instead of procrastinating through blogging.

Why I am suing the government

I receive Disability Living Allowance. DLA provides help for people who are disabled to live a normal life on a more equal footing. DLA provides two components, care and mobility, that pay for carers, cars, wheelchairs, but also taxi fares, pre-prepared food, adaptations for the home, and many more things. I asked people on Twitter what they use their DLA for and you can read their answers on Storify.

The Welfare Reform Act replaces DLA with Personal Independence Payments. Under PIP eligibility for the highest rate of help with mobility has been drastically reduced, from 50 metres to 20 metres and I fall right in the middle of those two. If I do not qualify for the enhanced rate of mobility then the biggest change is that I will no longer be eligible to lease a car from the Motability scheme. That means that I will have to rely on my wheelchair and public transport for every trip to the shops, to the doctor, to the hospital, and that means that every trip will turn into an far longer ordeal of exhaustion and pain that will leave me stuck in bed for hours or days afterwards. It means that I will only go out for the essential trips and will stay isolated the rest of the time and that will affect both my physical and my mental health. DLA is paid to disabled people regardless of whether they work or not, and in fact it enables a lot of people to get to work. If I were ever to return to work then it would be the help from DLA that got me there. Without it, I don’t stand a chance.

I am one of three people, likely to be badly affected by the change, that is taking the government to court and asking for a judicial review to declare the consultation invalid.

Jane Young of wearespartacus.co.uk did a huge amount of work to start the legal action, finding lawyers to take the case pro bono, finding people willing to put themselves in the firing line and put their name to the case. A call for volunteers was made through blogs and social media (Social media being a lifeline for isolated sick and disabled people) and lawyers picked those with the best case from about 50 volunteers. Although I volunteered early on I was not initially involved until one of the other people withdrew for personal reasons. This meant that I was brought in to the process at a late stage and had to rush through the paperwork. Even with a solicitor doing most of the work I had to work with her over the phone to produce my statement and I had to read and sign an awful lot of pages, each of which had to be emailed, printed, signed, scanned and both posted and emailed back because of time constraints. All very draining stuff for a sick person.

Some have criticised us because the legal case focuses on one part of PIP and didn’t cover mental health, among other things. Believe me, if I could have taken the government to task over all the other aspects of PIP I would have done. (Not least because I have mental health problems myself.) As it happens I was in the right place at the right time to take on this particular aspect and so that is what I have done. Unfortunately it isn’t possible to just go to court and tell them that PIP is rubbish, we had to specify exactly how the law was broken and attacking just this one aspect has been a lot of work for the people involved.

If we are successful in the judicial review then the consultation will have to start all over again with the 20 metre limit rather than the 50 metres mentioned in the first consultation. However, given the arrogance of the government I see no reason why they would pay attention to a new consultation any more than they paid attention to the one that they already did. I see this judicial review as a tool to give time to shine a spotlight on the injustice of PIP and bring attention to the arrogance of the government rather than the ultimate goal in itself. I think it will be public pressure that will change this policy, and the judicial review could be instrumental in bringing that about. I believe the best result would be if the government dropped PIP and kept DLA.

My solicitor, Karen Ashton from Public Law Solicitors explained the legal case to BBC West Midlands:

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For the official press release and contact details for enquiries please see my announcement about the case.

UPDATE: The case was heard on the 9th and 10th of July.

Replacement of disability living allowance headline news for hours

The replacement of DLA with PIP was the main story all morning until cruelly kicked from the headlines before the evening news. Here are some collected clips and links.

Steven Sumpter on Sky News – Video (Main headline all day)

Steven Sumpter on LBC Radio at 08:05

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Margo Milne on LBC Radio at 08:15

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Sue Marsh on 5 Live at 09:05

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Sue Marsh on Radio Leeds at 09:50

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Steven Sumpter, Ema, Kaliya Franklin and Sophie Christiansen on 5 Live at 10:35

With Stephen Duckworth of Capita

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Rebecca on on BBC WM

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The Guardian – Three disabled claimants launch legal action against new mobility tests

The Independent – Ed Miliband attacks ‘nasty’ George Osborne as DWP faces court challenge over benefit reforms

Ed Miliband criticised the government’s welfare policies but still fails to understand what went wrong with the work capability assessment

Sue Marsh has attempted to combat some of the lies the government tell about DLA

I’m one of three people taking legal action against the DWP over the PIP consultation

Announcement: legal action against the DWP over the #PIP consultation

I am one of three people asking for a Judicial Review over the consultation for Personal Independence Payments.

The request for a judicial review is on the basis that the Department for Work and Pensions did not conduct a proper consultation for PIP and if we are successful then they will be ordered to start the consultation again. If a judicial review is granted than it should take place sometime in July.

The initial consultation for PIP used inability to walk 50 metres to define eligibility for the enhanced rate of mobility component. That is, anyone who could not walk 50 metres without the use of a wheelchair would get highest rate of the benefit. After the consultation ended it emerged that the goalposts had been moved, and that the cut-off point for high-rate mobility would be just 20 metres. Those who can walk more than 20 metres but less than 50 metres safely, reliably and repeatedly may qualify for a lower rate of the benefit.

We will be arguing that the DWP were required to consult on such a fundamental change  and that they did not provide adequate information during the consultation that did take place. We will also argue that the DWP failed in their duty under the Equality Act 2010 to assess the impact of the new regulations on disabled people.

This change will affect me personally, albeit probably not until 2015 when those whose DLA has not already run out will be transferred to PIP. Those who receive the high-rate of mobility allowance under DLA are eligible to lease a car from the Motability scheme. If this requirement is kept with PIP then as someone who can usually walk more then 20 metres but not 50 metres without pain pain and exhaustion I will lose the high-rate mobility component and will therefore lose the car that restores much of my freedom and independence.

Public Law Solicitors are taking action on my behalf while Leigh Day are representing the two others involved in this case.

Press are welcome to contact me by email on latentexistence at gmail dot com or through the contact link at the top of this blog.

More information will be at www.wearespartacus.org.uk

Please sign WOWpetition to demand a cumulative impact assessment of welfare reform.


Press release from Public Law Solicitors / Leigh Day 08/04/2013

Lawyers have announced that they are taking legal action against the Government on behalf of three disabled clients who are challenging the decision by Ian Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and pensions, to bring in more stringent measures to qualify for the higher rate mobility benefit which the Government has estimated will result in 400,000 fewer people being eligible to claim.

The three clients currently receive disability living allowance (DLA) including the higher rate of the mobility component. This non-means-tested cash benefit has been available since 1992 and provides people with assistance towards the costs of an adapted car, powered wheelchair or scooter through the Motability scheme.

Under DLA a person is entitled to the higher rate of the mobility component if they are ‘unable or virtually unable to walk’. Usually claimants are considered to be ‘virtually unable to walk’ if they cannot walk more than around 50 metres.

The new Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) Regulations 2013 (PIP) have reduced this benchmark distance to 20m.

Kim Storr has rheumatoid arthritis and other severe progressive conditions and her mobility is affected by joint swelling and pain. She relies on crutches. She currently receives DLA including the higher rate of the mobility component. Ms Storr needs an adapted vehicle to enable her to go out independently.

Steven Sumpter has ME, which has caused him increasing mobility problems. He can walk short distances with a stick, but is otherwise dependent on a wheelchair.  He was assessed as eligible for the higher rate of the mobility component of DLA last year, which he has used to lease a Motability car.

The third claimant is protected by an anonymity order to protect their identity.

Law firms Leigh Day and Public Law Solicitors argue that a consultation process set up by the Government to reassess the benefit was flawed. The Secretary of State did not consult on the proposal that the limit would be reduced to 20 metres. This suggestion was only introduced after all the consultation stages had passed.

Consultees were therefore denied the opportunity to comment on the proposal or to explain to the Secretary of State how such a restriction to the benefit will affect them and their independence.

The 50 metres distance is widely recognised in relation to other disability benefits and in guidance on the built environment, to represent a minimum functional level of mobility.

Proceedings have been issued against the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Ian Duncan Smith, claiming that the new regulations regarding the PIP payment are flawed and unlawful. They argue the policy-making process failed to properly consider the practical impacts the withdrawal of the benefit will have on people with significant mobility impairments.

Rosa Curling, from the Human Rights team at Leigh Day who is representing two of the disabled clients said:

“We have advised our clients that the consultation undertaken by the Secretary of State was unlawful. People were not properly informed that the limit might be reduced to 20 metres and had no opportunity to provide the Secretary of State with their views on this proposal.

“Removing this vital benefit to disabled people will have a devastating effect on many people’s lives and their ability to access and be part of our communities. The Secretary of State has a legal obligation to consider such impacts before deciding whether to limit access to this benefit.”

Karen Ashton from Public Law Solicitors who represents Mr Sumpter, said:

“What is at the heart of this legal challenge is fairness.  The extra costs of getting out and about for those who have severe mobility problems can be huge. The higher rate mobility benefit can make the difference between being able to do everyday things that everyone else takes for granted  – such as doing your own shopping and visiting friends and relatives  –  and only leaving the house for absolutely essential appointments. But the Government failed to mention the reduction to the 20m threshold in their consultations with disabled people and so those who are potentially affected have not had the chance to explain how devastating the consequences will be.”

ENDS

For further information please contact:

David Standard – Head of Media Relations, Leigh Day 0844 800 4981 or 07540 332717

Karen Ashton –  Public Law Solicitors 0121 256 0327 or  07812 165090

Vile Product of MP’s Expenses

Vile product of MP's expenses

George Osborne was seen yesterday getting into his Chauffeur-driven 32mpg luxury Land Rover Discovery 4, paid for by taxpayer’s money, in a parking space reserved for those with genuine need. The feckless chancellor had stopped for lunch at McDonalds, preferring to waste our money on food with little nutritional value rather than cook a healthy meal for himself to eat with his staff around a table.

Someone we grabbed off the street said:

“Osborne is responsible for this abuse of help for disabled people and these are crimes that have shocked the nation. The tabloids are responsible for sentencing, but I think there is a question for government and for society about MP’s expenses and the taxpayers who pay for MP’s expenses, subsidising lifestyles like that. I think that debate needs to be had.”

Last year Osborne had boarded a train with a standard class ticket and sat in first class, insisting that he couldn’t possibly sit with the common people no matter what kind of ticket his servants had paid for.

This wholesale rip-off of the British people by MPs, as typified by Osborne, must stop, and this blogger calls for all MPs to be flogged.

 

What do people spend DLA on? #DLAsurvey

Peter Oborne attacked Disability Living Allowance in The Telegraph today, saying it is “a charter for deceit and recipe for state-sponsored idleness”.

Peter Oborne attacked Disability Living Allowance in The Telegraph today, saying

“On Monday, the disability living allowance – for so long a charter for deceit and recipe for state-sponsored idleness – will be replaced by a far more humane and realistic system.”

Apart from ignoring the DWP’s own fraud statistics for DLA, (0.5%) Oborne clearly has no idea what DLA is. DLA pays two components – Care, and Mobility. For the most part people spend it on those two things. I asked my followers on Twitter what they spend it on.

I have collated the results on Storify, click here to see them.

 

Making work pay?

Kevin used to be a plumber. Then he lifted a boiler in just the wrong way and suffered a prolapsed disc in his back. Now he has one leg shorter than the other and scar tissue pressing on nerves which mean he can’t lift and he can’t walk very far and he is in constant pain. He is stubborn though, and so rather than live on sickness and disability benefits he strives to go out to work fixing computers in people’s homes. It doesn’t pay very much, but it provides a small self-employed income instead of Job Seeker’s Allowance or Employment Support Allowance, which is topped up with housing benefit and working tax credits. He has a Motability car paid for out of Disability Living Allowance which enables him to get to his customers and without which he couldn’t work.

Later this year housing benefit and tax credits will be replaced by Universal Credit. Universal Credit will introduce a minimum income floor – it will assume that as a disabled self employed person Kevin brings in at least sixteen hours wages a week at minimum wage – £99. (A non disabled person is assumed to be working for thirty five hours – £216.) The problem is that although Kevin works hard, his income is unpredictable and rarely reaches £99 a week. There isn’t anything Kevin can do to increase his earnings, and with his disabilities Kevin has found it nearly impossible to find someone willing to employ him.

When Kevin is transferred onto Universal Credit, he will have to stop work.

When a person is faced with a choice of earning a very low income or living entirely on benefits, the government have decided that they should live entirely on benefits.

In any case, in 2015 Kevin’s Disability Living Allowance will be replaced by Personal Independence Payments. Under DLA Kevin was considered to be virtually unable to walk and so received mobility allowance which qualified him to spend it on a Motability car. Under PIP, Kevin can walk further than twenty metres and so he will not receive the mobility component. He will no longer qualify for the Motability scheme and will lose his car. Without his car he will have to resort to using a wheelchair or scooter and will no longer be able to get to the Job Centre on the other side of town, never mind to his customers.

Universal Credit won’t just affect Kevin. It will introduce “conditionality” which means that people who are working, but not working enough in the eyes of the DWP, will be required to prove that they are doing everything they can to earn more. If you work twenty hours but the DWP think you should work thirty five hours, you will be required to ask your boss for more hours. If they can’t provide more work, or won’t, you will have to look for another job. You will have to attend interviews at the job centre and prove that you have been looking, just like unemployed people. If you don’t satisfy the advisor in the job centre then you can be sanctioned. And lose your benefit altogether. Oh, there are some exceptions for parents of children under 13 so that they can work around school hours, but they’re not all that flexible. A parent who has a part time job will still be expected to expand it to fill every hour that their child is in school even if their employer doesn’t have any more work for them. Of course the fact that the Office of National Statistics says some three million people already want to work more hours but can’t get them seems to have passed the government by.

On top of all that, the government have decided that the minimum wage is too high. They believe that the minimum wage has hurt the economy and reduced the number of jobs available, so now they want to freeze the minimum wage below inflation, or even reduce it. They don’t seem to have realised that people on minimum wage often get housing benefit too, and tax credits, so if they suddenly earn less, those two benefits will have to pay more. Either people who work and “do the right thing” will suddenly find that work pays less, or that benefits bill that the government are so desperate to reduce will, in fact, increase.

This is the government’s idea of making work pay.

 

 

The destruction of the NHS

1948 pamphlet explaining the new NHS
A 1948 pamphlet explaining the new NHS

Download the full 1948 NHS pamphlet [PDF]

Today the Health and Social Care Act comes into force. One of the things it does is split the NHS up and put the parts out to tender to the lowest bidder. This video is an interview with Dr Lucy Reynolds who is a research fellow at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and she explains exactly how this works and what it means for the NHS.

I have reproduced some of the transcript here. Read the full transcript at The BMJ: The future of the NHS—irreversible privatisation?

Lucy Reynolds: We’re not going to have a big bang privatisation for the NHS. We’re going to have a very quiet one.

What has happened is that all of the rules that control health financing have been gradually changed since the New Labour times. Overall, we now have the NHS reorganised in such a way that it can be relaunched as a mixed market, so not just the public health sector service, but also a healthcare industry. The rules are structured in such a way that there will be a gradual transition between those two groups. The public sector will shrink away, and the private sector will grow.

But because there will never be an announcement in parliament that the NHS is privatised, and because the private providers will be allowed to use the NHS logo for anything that they are getting NHS funding for, it is very likely that the general public will not be aware that the private sector has in fact come in and taken over whatever bits of the NHS it finds profitable until probably service provision gets fairly bad.

—–

it sounds like a good idea to have diversity and options and these kinds of things, and that would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that the rules of the market are thoroughly stacked. We know for certain that organising [healthcare] as a public sector service is the cheapest and most effective way of providing healthcare. And that is broadly because the market model does not fit healthcare. The market model includes assumptions that both parties are in possession of all information about the subject of the transaction. In markets where the consumer has to rely upon the supplier for guidance, what you get isn’t a market that clears down to a minimum price and is efficient. What you get is soaraway inflation and abuse within that market.

—–

If you pay doctors only when they do work, then they over-treat people. If you make sure that medical facilities have no way of making any money other than by selling things, then they become salesmen, not advisers and advocates for the public. And actually in the world we have one of the very best public services, and compared to other developed countries it’s also one of the most cost effective

—–

The health service is being restructured on to an insurance compatible footing, and the CCGs are technically state-owned insurance schemes. So they are going to be taking on around 80% of the NHS budget and they are going to be parcelling it out to providers. They have been told that they are going to have a lot of autonomy in that and that they will be able to represent the interests of their patients in the matter.

That bit doesn’t appear to be able to be delivered when we have these regulations in place because what the regulations say is that commissioners will put out contracts according to competition law, and they will decide according to competition law. If anybody that didn’t get the contract feels that they don’t like the decision and that it could be faulted on failure to comply with competition law, they are permitted to complain to the sector regulator, Monitor, which is required to enforce competition law. So once everything gets put through the market, the CCGs won’t actually have any autonomy in the matter.

—–

It’s not suddenly going to turn into a privatised service on 1 April. What happens on 1 April is a bunch of legal and operational changes that affect the way that the NHS functions internally. In general this reform is a health financing reform. So we’re finishing the transition away from the original form of funding of the NHS and moving into a market system which is going to be full-on market.

The Telegraph – NHS reforms: From today the Coalition has put the NHS up for grabs

NHS Choices: NHS history

BBC Archive – Birth of the National Health Service | The early history of the NHS

Black Monday: welfare reforms take effect

Guardian front page 2013-04-01

The Guardian – Welfare reforms and coalition cuts: The day Britain changes

Today, 1st April 2013, is the day when many changes to welfare in the UK take effect. I will add various reports and interviews here as I record them.

Sue Marsh on BBC London at 9am:

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Sue blogs at Diary of a Benefit Scrounger

Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson on Sky News Sunrise at 9:10am

Iain Duncan Smith on The Today Programme, Radio 4 at 8:30am

David Bennett explained to The Today Programme how he works 60 – 70 hour weeks but is still needs benefits to survive. He asked Iain Duncan Smith if he could survive on £53 per week.

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Newspaper Front Pages