Tagged: ATOS

Sick and disabled targeted for low pay insecure jobs to stop claimants “watching Jeremy Kyle”

The boss of Britain’s largest welfare to work provider believes that claimants are better off in low paid, insecure temporary work “rather than sat at home watching Jeremy Kyle” according to the Telegraph newspaper.

He also argues that the government have to get the “people who are technically unfit to work, back to work” and believes that the appointment of Maximus to carry out medical assessments will lead to a surge in work for his company.

Andy Hogarth runs Staffline ,which bought out A4E last month in order to become Britain’s largest provider of welfare to work services. He believes that if the government is to succeed in its aim of cutting £12 billion from the benefits budget it will have to get people off employment and support allowance and back into work.

“For a government looking to save £12bn from welfare one of the things they have to do is get the people who are technically unfit to work, back to work, which sounds a bit brutal on the face of it, and that is exactly what a lot of welfare groups are saying, but in reality they can work.”

According to the Telegraph, Hogarth believes that his company will get an extra 2.5 million people referred to his cotelegraph article screenshotmpany over the coming years as a result of Maximus taking over the work capability assessment from Atos.

Hogarth appears to believe he is particularly suited to working with the sick and disabled claimants because of his own life experiences.

When he was in his thirties, Hogarth sold a successful business for an undisclosed sum of money and then spent a year at home with “deep depression”, finding it difficult to leave the house and splitting up with his girlfriend.

He overcame his depression by going back to studying and retraining in his mid thirties.

According to the Telegraph, Staffline has grown rapidly with turnover increasing from £100 million ten years ago, to £503 million last year and aiming to hit £1bn within two years.

Much of its income comes from placing “up to 35,000 workers each week in temporary jobs, such as food processing, factory assembly lines, and picking items in warehouses.”

Hogarth believes that jobcentres only work “if you are a well motivated guy”. And while some local authorities don’t approve of his company putting people in minimum wage temporary jobs, Hogarth thinks they are mistaken, explaining:

“I personally think they are totally wrong, I think a temporary job, even if it is just for a week, is better because it then gives you a step to better pay, rather than sat at home watching Jeremy Kyle.”

Hogarth expects to have to deal with “kicking and screaming” from claimants and from pressure groups and admits that “It is hard to justify to welfare groups the profits we make . . .” .

But he claims that only 20p in every pound they make is paid as dividends to shareholders.

Rather than simply being there to make money, Hogarth assures Telegraph readers his staff “are genuinely here to help people”. And, in a gesture that would delight Norman Tebbit, they generously “buy a lot of bikes so that people can get to work”.

In separate news ERSA, the umbrella body for welfare to work providers, says that the “backdrop of continued austerity and welfare reform” looks like offering their members a great opportunity.

The leases on many Jobcentre plus offices come up for renewal in this parliament and ERSA hope that the government will take the opportunity to privatise the whole jobcentre network and its services.

Which would, of course, mean many more Andy Hogarth’s having the opportunity to drag claimants “kicking and screaming” into a better life.

See the Telegraph for the full story.

Source – Benefits & Work, 26 May 2015

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/3099-sick-and-disabled-targeted-for-low-pay-insecure-jobs-to-stop-claimants-watching-jeremy-kyle

Disability Charity Signs Maximus Contract

Following its signing of disability campaigner Sue Marsh earlier this month, Maximus – the company taking over the Work Capability Assessment contract from Atos in March – have now signed up a leading disability charity as well.

Disability Rights UK (DRUK) have announced that they have agreed a contract to deliver training in disability equality to Maximus health professionals.

DRUK has over 300 member organisations, including many national charities, and aims to ‘Break the link between disability and poverty’. Maximus, which is being paid more than double the amount that Atos was being paid to carry out WCA’s seems keen to prevent potential opponents from slipping into poverty by sharing some of its taxpayer funded profits with them.

DRUK are also advertising for people to take part in what looks very much like a promotional campaign for income protection insurance – the sort of thing that Unum provide as an alternative to state support – though there is no suggestion that Unum are involved on this occasion.

Members of the public who have had a serious illness and are trying to return to work are offered the amounts of money and support they would have had if they had been wealthy enough to afford to take out income protection insurance cover. They are filmed as they make the return to work and these films can then be used to encourage people to take out income protection insurance.

Of course, the worse the level of state benefits and state support, the more easily people can be persuaded to take out such insurance, giving insurance companies a vested interest in maintaining the link between disability and poverty.

Source –  Benefits & Work,  28 Jan 2015

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/2993-disability-charity-signs-maximus-contract

Maximus WCA blunder

Maximus have managed their first work capability assessment blunder before even starting the contract in March.

Maximus are not keen on having their name associated with claimant deaths in the way that Atos’ now is in so many people’s minds.

So, appointment letters for work capability assessments won’t come from Maximus. Instead, they will come from a fig leaf company called The Centre for Health and Disability Assessments Limited.

The new company was set up back in June 2014, long before Maximus were officially awarded the contract. Unfortunately, Leslie Wolfe – division president of Maximus- and her fellow director William Smith aren’t so hot on UK spelling, hailing as they do from the US.

So the company they created to hide behind was actually called The Center for Health and Disability Assessments Limited.

Thus, five weeks after incorporating the company, their first act was to change the name so that at least it looks like it is a UK run organisation.

With this level of accuracy and attention to detail, what could possibly go wrong as they take over the assessment of millions of sick and disabled claimants?

Source –  Benefits & Work, 22 Jan 2015

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/2985-maximus-wca-blunder

The Company That Dare Not Show Its Face: How Maximus Plan To Hide Their Involvement In The Work Capability Assessment

the void

chda-maximus The logo likely to be used on the paperwork for the Work Capability Assessment

Maximus – the US based firm brought in to replace Atos to carry out benefit assessments – will hide their corporate identity behind a hastily erected front company in an attempt to avoid damage to their brand The Guardian revealed yesterday.

According to the paper, the company will not use its logo on letters sent to claimants facing the notorious Work Capability Assessment, instead using a neutral name such as “The Centre for Health and Disability Assessment”.  In fact this company has been up and running since June 2014, suspiciously several months before it was announced that Maximus would be taking over the contract from Atos.  The Guardian should probably have known this, because they are currently running an advertisement for a Social Media Manager for the new company on the recruitment part…

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On Sue Marsh, Maximus, and Moving On

the void

Sue-Marsh-cartoon

It is hard to accept when someone you trusted has stabbed you in the back.  It is unsuprising that there are those who cling to the – frankly fucking ludicrous notion – that the appoinment of a prominent claimant and disability campaigner to a highly paid role with Maximus represents a cunning plan by Sue Marsh to take down the system from the inside.  Or that she is still working for claimants really, not the people who are paying her £75,000 a year.  The sad truth is that seemingly nice people do shitty things for a lot less money than that every single day.  No matter what lies Sue has told herself, and us to justify this betrayal, do not believe for a second that it is Maximus who are being played.

Maximus are not idiots.  They are as slick a bunch of bastards as you are likely to find…

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Thousands Demand To Record Atos Sickness Benefit Tests

Thousands of sick and disabled people have requested an audio-recording of medical assessments for sickness benefit, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), official figures show.

Figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) reveal that between December 2012 and February 2014, a total of 4,060 audio-recorded face-to-face Work Capability Assessments (WCA) were requested. The busiest month came in January 2014, when 500 people requested to have their WCA audio-recorded.

However, DWP figures also show that of the 4,060 requests to audio-record a WCA, only 2,670 were successfully completed – averaging between 150 to 200 a month.

On average, approximately 70 were cancelled each month, totalling 1,080 between December 2012 and February 2014. The DWP says 330 individuals were awaiting an audio-recorded WCA in February 2014.

For every 10,000 WCAs completed, the DWP received only 66 requests for audio recordings (0.66%).

The ratio of recordings requested to all assessments completed was highest in January 2014 (1.14%) and lowest in January 2013 (0.36%).

The ratio of completed audio recording to all assessments completed was on average 0.42% and the ratio of cleared (completed + cancelled) audio recordings to all assessments was on average 0.59%.

Source: Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Source: Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

There is no legal right to record a face to face benefit assessment, says the DWP. And the department has no legal obligation to provide recording equipment.

According to the DWP, the current policy for audio recording of face-to-face assessments is that DWP has asked Atos Healthcare, and its successor Maximus, to accommodate requests as much as reasonably possible.

The DWP said they are releasing these statistics “as a contribution to the debate on audio-recording face-to-face WCAs”.

Source –  Welfare Weekly,  08 Jan 2015

http://www.welfareweekly.com/thousands-demand-record-atos-sickness-benefit-tests/

Employees cannot be forced onto Fit For Work scheme

Guidance issued by the DWP last week on the new Fit for Work scheme makes it clear that referrals can only be made to the scheme with the consent of the employee. It also makes it clear that most health assessments will be carried out over the telephone.

Fit for Work is the new DWP scheme intended to cut sickness absence and ESA claims by getting sick employees back to work more quickly. In England and Wales the scheme has been outsourced to a branch of Maximus, the company also taking over the work capability assessment contract from Atos later this year. In Scotland fit for work is being delivered by the Scottish government.

GPs and employers can refer employees for an occupational health assessment via the Fit for Work service once they have been off sick for a month, provided that there is a reasonable prospect of the employee retuning to work. The employee must consent before a referral can be made.

Fit for work will carry out a ‘biopsychosocial holistic assessment’ of the employee over the telephone and draw up a return to work plan on the basis of that call. In a small number of cases a face-to-face assessment will be carried out.

For GPs, the attraction of a referral is that once a return to work plan has been drawn up by Fit for Work the GP will no longer be responsible for providing sick notes.

Employers receive a tax exemption of up to £500 per year, per employee on medical treatments recommended by Fit for Work to help their employees return to work.

Download Fit for Work guidance for employees here.

Download Fit for Work guidance for employers here.

Download Fit for Work guidance for GPs here.

Source – Benefits & Work,  06 Jan 2015

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/2975-employees-cannot-be-forced-onto-fit-for-work-scheme

Iain Duncan Smith’s Directory Of Death

More than 60 people have tragically lost their lives after having benefits docked or removed, say campaigners.

Some argue the true figure could be in the hundreds, or even the thousands.

Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith MP, has overseen some of the biggest changes to Britain’s welfare system in decades. This hasn’t come without incident and campaigners say most, if not all, of the lives lost to welfare reform were avoidable.

Below are just some of the names of people where welfare reform, and removal of benefits, has been cited as a contributing factor to that persons premature death.

If you are affected by the issues raised in this article, please contact the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90, or visit their website at www.samaritans.org/.

Terry McGarvey, 48. Dangerously ill from polycytheamia, Terry asked for an ambulance to be called during his Work Capability Assessment. He knew that he wasn’t well enough to attend his WCA but feared that his benefits would be stopped if he did not. He died the following day.

Elaine Lowe, 53. Suffering from COPD and fearful of losing her benefits. In desperation, Elaine chose to commit suicide.

Mark Wood, 44. Found fit for work by Atos, against his Doctors advice and assertions that he had complex mental health problems. Starved to death after benefits stopped, weighing only 5st 8lb when he died.

Paul Reekie, 48, the Leith based Poet and Author. Suffered from severe depression. Committed suicide after DWP stopped his benefits due to an Atos ‘fit for work’ decision.

Leanne Chambers, 30. Suffered depression for many years which took a turn for the worst when she was called in for a WCA. Leanne committed suicide soon after.

Karen Sherlock, 44. Multiple health issues. Found fit for work by Atos and denied benefits. Fought a long battle to get placed into the support group of ESA. Karen died the following month of a heart attack.

Carl Payne, 42. Fears of losing his lifeline benefits due to welfare reform led this Father of two to take his own life.

Tim Salter, 53. Blind and suffering from Agoraphobia. Tim hanged himself after Atos found him fit for work and stopped his benefits.

Edward Jacques, 47 years old and suffering from HIV and Hepatitis C. Edward had a history of severe depression and self-harm. He took a fatal overdose after Atos found him fit for work and stopped his benefits.

Linda Wootton, 49 years old. A double heart and lung transplant patient. Died just nine days after the government found her fit for work, their refusal letter arriving as she lay desperately ill in her hospital bed.

Steven Cawthra, 55. His benefits stopped by the DWP and with rising debts, he saw suicide as the only way out of a desperate situation.

Elenore Tatton, 39 years old. Died just weeks after the government found her fit for work.

John Walker, 57, saddled with debt because of the bedroom tax, John took his own life.

Brian McArdle, 57 years old. Suffered a fatal heart attack the day after his disability benefits were stopped.

Stephen Hill, 53. Died of a heart attack one month after being found fit for work, even though he was waiting for major heart surgery.

Jacqueline Harris, 53. A former Nurse who could hardly walk was found fit for work by Atos and her benefits withdrawn. in desperation, she took her own life.

David Barr, 28. Suffering from severe mental difficulties. Threw himself from a bridge after being found fit for work by Atos and failing his appeal.

David Groves, 56. Died of a heart attack the night before taking his work capability assessment. His widow claimed that it was the stress that killed him.

Nicholas Peter Barker, 51. Shot himself after being told his benefits were being stopped. He was unable to work after a brain haemorrhage left him paralysed down one side.

Mark and Helen Mullins, 48 and 59 years old. Forced to live on £57.50 a week and make 12 mile trips each week to get free vegetables to make soup. Mark and Helen both committed suicide.

Richard Sanderson, 44. Unable to find a job and with his housing benefit cut forcing him to move, but with nowhere to go. Richard committed suicide.

Martin Rust, 36 years old. A schizophrenic man who killed himself two months after the government found him fit to work.

Craig Monk, 43. A vulnerable gentleman and a partial amputee who slipped so far into poverty that he hanged himself.

Colin Traynor, 29, and suffering from epilepsy was stripped of his benefits. He appealed. Five weeks after his death his family found he had won his appeal.

Elaine Christian, 57 years old. Worried about her work capability assessment, she was subsequently found at Holderness drain, drowned and with ten self inflicted wrist wounds.

Christelle and Kayjah Pardoe, 32 years and 5 month old. Pregnant, her benefits stopped, Christelle, clutching her baby son jumped from a third floor balcony.

Mark Scott, 46. His DLA and housing benefit stopped and sinking into deep depression, Mark died six weeks later.

Cecilia Burns, 51. Found fit for work while undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She died just a few weeks after she won her appeal against the Atos decision.

Chris Cann, 57 years old. Found dead in his home just months after being told he had to undergo a medical assessment to prove he could not work.

Peter Hodgson, 49. Called to JCP to see if he was suitable for volunteer work. Peter had suffered a stroke, a brain haemorrhage and had a fused leg. His appointment letter arrived a few days after he took his own life.

Paul Willcoxsin, 33 years old. Suffered with mental health problems and worried about government cuts. Paul committed suicide by hanging himself.

Stephanie Bottrill, 53. After paying £80 a month for bedroom tax, Stephanie could not afford heating in the winter, and lived on tinned custard. In desperation, she chose to walk in front of a lorry.

Larry Newman suffered from a degenerative lung condition, his weight dropping from 10 to 7 stone. Atos awarded him zero points, he died just three months after submitting his appeal.

Paul Turner, 52 years old. After suffering a heart attack, he was ordered to find a job in February. In April Paul died from ischaemic heart disease.

Christopher Charles Harkness, 39. After finding out that the funding for his care home was being withdrawn, this man who suffered with mental health issues, took his own life.

Sandra Louise Moon, 57. Suffering from a degenerative back condition, depression and increasingly worried about losing her incapacity benefit. Sandra committed suicide by taking an overdose.

Lee Robinson, 39 years old. Took his own life after his housing benefit and council tax were taken away from him.

David Coupe, 57. A Cancer sufferer found fit for work by Atos in 2012. David lost his sight, then his hearing, then his mobility, and then his life.

Michael McNicholas, 34. Severely depressed and a recovering alcoholic. Michael committed suicide after being called in for a Work Capability Assessment by Atos.

Victor Cuff, 59 and suffering from severe depression. Victor hanged himself after the DWP stopped his benefits.

Charles Barden, 74. Charles committed suicide by hanging due to fears that the Bedroom Tax would leave him destitute and unable to cope.

Ian Caress, 43. Suffered multiple health issues and deteriorating eyesight. Ian was found fit for work by Atos, he died ten months later having lost so much weight that his family said that he resembled a concentration camp victim.

Iain Hodge, 30. Suffered from the life threatening illness, Hughes Syndrome. Found fit for work by Atos and benefits stopped, Iain took his own life.

Wayne Grew, 37. Severely depressed due to government cuts and the fear of losing his job, Wayne committed suicide by hanging.

Kevin Bennett, 40. Kevin a sufferer of schizophrenia and mental illness became so depressed after his JSA was stopped that he became a virtual recluse. Kevin was found dead in his flat several months later.

David Elwyn Hughs Harries, 48. A disabled man who could no longer cope after his parents died, could find no help from the government via benefits. David took an overdose as a way out of his solitude.

Denis Jones, 58. A disabled man crushed by the pressures of government cuts, in particular the Bedroom Tax, and unable to survive by himself. Denis was found dead in his flat.

Shaun Pilkington, 58. Unable to cope any more, Shaun shot himself dead after receiving a letter from the DWP informing him that his ESA was being stopped.

Paul ?, 51. Died in a freezing cold flat after his ESA was stopped. Paul appealed the decision and won on the day that he lost his battle to live.

Chris MaGuire, 61. Deeply depressed and incapable of work, Chris was summonsed by Atos for a Work Capability Assessment and deemed fit for work. On appeal, a judge overturned the Atos decision and ordered them to leave him alone for at least a year, which they did not do. In desperation, Chris took his own life, unable to cope anymore.

Peter Duut, a Dutch national with terminal cancer living in the UK for many years found that he was not entitled to benefits unless he was active in the labour market. Peter died leaving his wife destitute, and unable to pay for his funeral.

George Scollen, age unknown. Took his own life after the government closed the Remploy factory he had worked in for 40 years.

Julian Little, 47. Wheelchair bound and suffering from kidney failure, Julian faced the harsh restrictions of the Bedroom Tax and the loss of his essential dialysis room. He died shortly after being ordered to downgrade.

Miss DE, Early 50’s. Suffering from mental illness, this lady committed suicide less than a month after an Atos assessor gave her zero points and declared her fit for work.

Robert Barlow, 47. Suffering from a brain tumour, a heart defect and awaiting a transplant, Robert was deemed fit for work by Atos and his benefits were withdrawn. He died penniless less than two years later.

Carl Joseph Foster-Brown, 58. As a direct consequence of the wholly unjustifiable actions of the Job centre and DWP, this man took his own life.

Martin Hadfield, 20 years old. Disillusioned with the lack of jobs available in this country but too proud to claim benefits. Utterly demoralised, Martin took his own life by hanging himself.

Annette Francis, 30. A mum-of-one suffering from severe mental illness, found dead after her disability benefits were ceased.

Ian Jordan, 60. His benefits slashed after Atos and the DWP declared Ian, a sufferer of Barratt’s Oesophagus, fit for work, caused him to run up massive debts in order to survive. Ian was found dead in his flat after taking an overdose.

Janet McCall, 53. Terminally ill with pulmonary fibrosis and declared ‘Fit for Work’ by Atos and the DWP, this lady died 5 months after her benefits were stopped.

Stuart Holley, 23. A man driven to suicide by the DWP’s incessant pressure and threat of sanctions for not being able to find a job.

Graham Shawcross, 63. A sufferer of the debilitating disease, Addison’s. Died of a heart attack due to the stress of an Atos ‘Fit for Work’ decision.

David Clapson, 59 years old. A diabetic ex-soldier deprived of the means to survive by the DWP and the governments harsh welfare reforms, David died all but penniless, starving and alone, his electricity run out.

Chris Smith, 59. Declared ‘Fit for Work’ by Atos as he lay dying of Cancer in his hospital bed.

Nathan Hartwell, 36, died of heart failure after an 18-month battle with the ­Department for Works and Pensions.

Michael Connolly, 60. A Father of One, increasingly worried about finances after his benefits were cut. Committed suicide by taking 13 times the fatal dose of prescription medicine on the 30th October – His Birthday.

Jan Mandeville, 52, A lady suffering from Fibromyalgia, driven to the point of mental and physical breakdown by this governments welfare reforms. Jan was found dead in her home after battling the DWP for ESA and DLA.

Trevor Drakard, 50 years old. A shy and reserved, severe epileptic who suffered regular and terrifying fits almost his entire life, hounded to suicide by the DWP who threatened to stop his life-line benefits.

Unnamed: Death of a severely disabled Dorset resident, unnamed, who took her own life while battling the bedroom tax.

Source: List sent to Welfare Weekly via twitter.

Source – Welfare Weekly, 04 Jan 2015

http://www.welfareweekly.com/iain-duncan-smiths-directory-death/

Atos and Capita accused of poaching paramedics to cut benefits instead of saving lives

An NHS whistleblower has claimed that the A&E crisis is being made worse because highly trained NHS paramedics across the country are being poached by Atos and Capita to do assessments for personal independence payment (PIP), instead of saving lives.

Paramedic shortage
There is a severe shortage of paramedics throughout the UK, but Hampshire – where our whistleblower works – has a particularly acute problem. South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) had over 250 vacancies for paramedics in November of this year.

Our whistleblower claimed that the situation was being made even worse because experienced paramedics are leaving to take up full time posts with Atos, who carry out PIP assessments in the region.

Paramedics in the NHS usually have to train to degree level, yet salaries range from just £21,478 to £27,901 for the most experienced paramedics. In addition, the job involves a good deal of shift work and unsocial hours.

Atos, on the other hand, offer paramedics who join them as full-time PIP assessors a salary of £32,000 plus private medical insurance, life assurance, income protection insurance and no unsocial hours.

It is hardly surprising if paramedics choose to make the move to Atos, or to Capita who offer a very similar package.

The effects of the paramedic shortage can be seen on a daily basis. Just this week an injured cyclist was left lying on the pavement for more than two hours in central London whilst waiting for paramedics to arrive.

The paramedic shortage is also taking desperately needed cash from the NHS. In Hampshire 16% of paramedic cover is currently provided by much more expensive private companies while health trusts around the UK are having to advertise abroad to try to attract paramedics to the UK.

Paramedics are also vital for reducing pressure on A&E departments by providing effective treatment on the spot. In many cases this reduces the amount of time spent on patients when they arrive at A&E or removes the need for a visit altogether.

Dismissal for speaking out
The SCAS employee who contacted us about the crisis was afraid to speak out publically because staff have received an email this week warning them that telling outsiders about problems in SCAS, especially online, could lead to dismissal. The email threatened:

“Everything you say online is subject to the same disciplinary procedure that covers your conduct in the real world. There have been disciplinary hearings that have resulted in staff being dismissed for breaches to the SCAS Code of Conduct.

“Don’t let this happen to you!

“We value our staff and it is important that when staff and the organisation are feeling the pressure, that we try and provide the appropriate support through internal and external means rather than airing frustrations that may damage public confidence.

“If you have any concerns, queries or want to ask us about this please do contact us. In the meantime for more information go to:

“The SCAS Discipline & Conduct Policy & Procedure”

We contacted SCAS and asked them how many staff have left to work for Atos or Capita in the last six months. A spokesperson told us:

“South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust are unable to advise on the numbers of staff who have left the organisation to join the organisations you have named. Unless staff are leaving to join another NHS Trust, they are not obliged to inform us of the name of their new employer.”

SCAS also denied that the recent email to staff was related to concerns about paramedics leaving to join the private sector.

Cash before lives
Atos and Capita have not even begun the massive task of assessing millions of existing disability living allowance claimants for PIP as part of the Coalition’s effort to reduce benefits spending. When they do, they will need to take on hundreds more assessors. How many of these will be poached from the NHS?

The crisis in paramedic numbers is not new, it has been growing since 2010. There would have been nothing to prevent the DWP stipulating in the PIP contracts for Atos and Capita that they did not recruit paramedics. There would be nothing to stop them doing so now.

The fact that they don’t reinforces the impression that, for the DWP, saving cash is always more important than saving lives.

Source –  Benefits & Work,  20 Dec 2014

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/2973-atos-and-capita-accused-of-poaching-paramedics-to-cut-benefits-instead-of-saving-lives

In the ‘I’ Today: Grant Shapps Tried to Shut Down Left-Wing Blog

Beastrabban\'s Weblog

Here’s another instance of the Tories attempting to silence Left-wing bloggers and online critics. Today’s I newspaper for the 18th December 2014 has a story on page 4 about Grant Shapps being accused of trying to shut down The Political Scrapbook. Shapps used his lawyers to try to bully the blog, sending it three letters threatening to sue because of two stories it published about the Tory chairman. The same firm of lawyers acting for Shapps also sent a letter threatening legal action on behalf of another, unnamed Tory MP, who was also the subject of a blog post. Despite the threats, neither Shapps nor his unnamed colleague have followed up with legal action.

This isn’t the first or only time politicians, of both the Left, Right and Centre, have tried to close down their critics through threats of legal action. There have been any number of cases of…

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