Tagged: DLA

Darlington Liberation Army launch petition calling for the immediate resignation of council leader and his cabinet

The Darlington Liberation Army (DLA) has launched a petition demanding the immediate resignation of a council leader and his cabinet.

The group is calling for a vote of no confidence in council leader Bill Dixon and his fellow councillors, claiming Darlington Borough Council is turning the town centre into a “ghost town”.

The DLA was established earlier this year in the wake of conflict between town centre traders and Darlington Borough Council over car parking policies.

It aims to act as a channel for frustrated residents and traders to voice their opinions on the council and its policies.

The group counts among its supporters local florist Rob Metcalfe, who has a copy of the petition available to sign at his shop, Claire Metcalfe Florists, on Bondgate.

Accusing Darlington Borough Council of “serious failings” it says:

“We would like to declare a vote of no confidence in William Dixon and all of the other Cabinet members.

“We ask that as a result of their serious failings they all resign from their positions as council leader and cabinet members respectively, with immediate effect.

“By signing this petition we express that we no longer have any confidence in the leader and the cabinet and request that they stand down now.”

 An online version of the petition – set up by a John Simpson at change.org – includes a statement saying:
“It is the belief of the Darlington Liberation Army that the present council leader, working hand in hand with his own personally selected cabinet members are no longer working with the best interests at heart of the good people of Darlington…

“Their decision making appears to be professionally skewed and has ulterior motive/s and as such they are turning the town centre into a ghost town not only for shoppers but retailers…”

According to Darlington Borough Council’s website, any petition containing more than 1,000 signatures will be debated by the cabinet at the next possible meeting.

The petition organiser will be given five minutes to present it at the meeting and the petition will then be discussed by members of the cabinet who will decide how to respond to issues raised.

 Councillor Dixon said the petition was the group’s “democratic right” and said it would be debated – even if it fell short of attracting 1,000 names – at a meeting of the full council on December 4.

He added: “I will make sure that happens.”

Asked if he was considering his position in the light of the petition he replied: “Definitely not. That’s a matter for the electorate.

Source –  Northern Echo,  05 Nov 2014

Benefit Reform “Shambles” Pushing Disabled People To Suicide, Says Whistleblower

Sick and disabled claimants are experiencing severe distress and some are even close to suicide due to botched disability benefit reform, an insider has revealed.

Personal Independence Payments (PIP) are replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for Britain’s sick and disabled, but the assessment process which should take no longer than 26 weeks is sometimes taking twice as long.

 The insider, or should we say whistleblower, is a call centre worker for the private contractor Capita, who together with the disgraced private healthcare firm Atos are responsible for assessing PIP claimants on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The two companies are set to make £540 million from the new benefit in the next five years. Atos will receive the larger share of around £400 million, despite heavy criticism and a poor record in delivering ‘fit for work’ tests for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), while Capita will make roughly £140 million.

PIP can be claimed by sick and disabled people regardless of their employment status.

Under the new disability benefit PIP, claimants are required to attend face-to-face assessments to determine their eligibility and the level of benefit they will receive. The whistleblower claims that mismanagement, IT problems and staff shortages are to blame for a backlog of 145,000 cases.

While waiting to be assessed for PIP, many sick and disabled people are often left penniless and unable to pay their rent, because their DLA has been stopped, the whistleblower said.

Speaking to the Daily Mirror, the whistleblower said:

I’ve had people on the phone crying their eyes out and saying they are going to commit suicide.

“On one occasion I had to call an ambulance because they said they had stopped taking their medication. Some people have been going for months and months without money.”

We’ve started getting calls from people saying their DLA will run out in a month’s time and they’ve not even got an appointment for an assessment.

“Others have been left with nothing because their DLA has been stopped. People have lost their home because they can’t pay their rent.”

She continued: “It’s a shambles. Day in, day out there are people ringing up to say, ‘Why is my appointment cancelled?’ I’ve seen appointments cancelled time and time again.”

According to the whistleblower, Capita call centre staff have been given instructions on what excuses to use when claimants ask why their PIP assessment has been delayed or cancelled. “I am having to lie on a daily basis about why things are taking so long”, she said.

Minister for Disabled People,  Mark Harper told the Daily Mirror: “By the autumn, we anticipate that no one will be waiting for an assessment for longer than 26 weeks.”

Capita said they would be hiring more staff to help reduce the backlog.

 Source – Welfare News Service,  03 Aug 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/benefit-reform-shambles-pushing-disabled-people-suicide-says-whistleblower/

 

Art attack on Coalition policies that drive people to their deaths

Mike Sivier's blog

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A UK artist has created an art installation as a memorial to the suicide victims of welfare reform.

Melanie Cutler contacted Vox Political regarding her piece – ‘Stewardship’ – a few weeks ago, asking, “Do you think I’ll be arrested?”

The response was that it should be unlikely if she informed the media. The artworks have been displayed at the Northampton Degree Show and are currently at the Free Range Exhibition at the Old Truman Brewery building in Brick Lane, London, which ends tomorrow (June 30).

Entry is free and the installation will be located in F Block, B5.

“I have become an artist later on in life,” Melanie told Vox Political. “I was a carer for my son and, a few decades later, my father. I have worked most of my life too, raising three children.

“Only recently, while studying fine art at University I found my health…

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Messed Around By The Benefits System And Made To Feel Like A ‘Scrounger’

Hello, I thought I would let you know about various issues we have been having with the benefit system.

I am a 48-year-old who is very unwell. I suffer from Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy. It’s a cross between M.E and M.S and causes terrible pain all over my body. My mobility is very poor and I have had several operations on [my] stomach due to severe problems. I also suffer from I.B.S and have seizures.

Things have become so bad that my husband has had to give up work to care for me, because I cannot be left on my own for any length of time. I need help in doing most things.

 I first started having problems with the benefit system when I gave up work and tried to claim benefits. I got turned down and had to take it to an appeal to get anything. This was bad enough, but it was nothing like we have faced over the last few years.

I was called in for a medical [assessment] three years ago, which was cancelled twice as they did not have the staff. Once we were not told it was cancelled until we had got there. I got my Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), but then about eighteen months ago I was called in for yet another assessment.

I went to the Luton office as instructed to do so. On arrival, I was then told I would have to go as I was in my wheelchair and that if there was a fire I would not be able to get out of the building. The medical [assessment] office was on the top floor. When I was asked what I should do, and could they put something in writing to say I had attended, I was ‘tutted’ at and told to wait.

In all I was kept waiting for twenty minutes, to which I pointed out [that] they could have done some of my assessment in that time. I was advised to go home [and that] it had been noted I had attended, even though they would not give me anything there and then in writing. I would be sent another appointment and advice on what to do next.

Three days later a letter arrived giving me another appointment, but again is was for the same place. I called and explained [what had happened previously] and was told this was an error and not to go – another appointment would be sent.

Another letter arrived, but again stating to go back to the Luton office. It was a nightmare and caused a lot of upset and stress. In the end, a month later, I was sent an appointment to go to another office twenty miles away. I am pleased to say my claim was upheld.

But, I am sorry to say, that was not the last issue we have had. Last year I got another form to fill in for my ESA. My husband and I eventually [completed] the form and sent it off by recorded post (I have learnt not to send anything that cannot be traced). After two months I had [still] not heard anything, so I called them to find out what was going on. I was told they had received all my paperwork on July 18th 2013 and [that] I would hear back within the next two months. Again I waited [but] by end of October [I had still not] heard anything, so I called [them] again to be told they could not find anything. I was very upset, and yes angry, about this and pointed out that I had already been told it had been received on July 18th, All of a sudden it was found. I was told should hear [something] by the new year. [To date] I have had nothing back from them and as I am still getting my ESA I have [decided] not to rock the boat. I just hope no news is good news and [that] I carry on getting my benefits.

I was advised whilst all this was ongoing, that my husband was entitled to a little bit of Income Support. We applied, received a letter saying he would get about £8 a week paid monthly and advised to check to see if he was entitled to any back-pay. We did this and wish we had not. It led to a number of phone calls from the manager of Luton Jobcentre asking why we had passed things on to my MP. I told her I had done this as I was not getting anywhere in getting the money paid to my husband, which we had been told he was entitled too.

After a couple of days Alan [received] a payment but was told that there was no back pay. Again, I questioned this. Another very nasty call from Luton Job Centre, the manager again told us that we had caused a problem, to which I asked why, and got no proper answer.

She then said she was going to stop the income support that was going to Alan. I asked why and could she do that? To which she said she could, and would do it, and if we wanted to do anything about it we would have to stop our ESA claim and put in a joint claim for Income support, but it could take up to sixteen weeks and whilst it was being looked in to we would get no money. Well,.. of course we cannot do that, so we are losing out on the small amount of income support we should and did get for a short time. This seems very unfair. If we are entitled then we should get it, surely?

I dread a brown envelope coming through the door and am desperate and very worried about the changeover from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payments (PIP). It’s already causing worry, stress and sleepless nights.
I do not know what we will do if it is stopped for any reason as I cannot go to work. I did not choose this, the [medical[ conditions chose me. I had a good job in a company I loved working for and I did not want to go on benefits.

Like many people, I am made to feel unworthy and nothing but a scrounger.

Sorry this is all a bit long-winded, but I feel [like] I wanted to get as much information down as possible. I know there are plenty [of] others that are in a worse situation because of benefits being withdrawn. My heart really goes out to them.

If, like us, you are deemed to have a spare room, that is another worry, upset and obstacle to cope with.

This government will not be happy until we have all starved, frozen to death or back in the workhouses of the Victorian era.

We have also had to go cap in hand twice to a food bank, and I often just have soup and 2 slices of toast in a day. I try to do my best, but things are so expensive and it is very hard. I feel terrible that my illness has such a negative knock-on effect on my husband and son, as many others do. I wonder if my family would be better off with out me?

Thank you very much for taking the time to read all of this.

Alyson Fletcher

Source – Welfare News Service,  17 May 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/letters-messed-around-benefits-system-made-feel-like-scrounger/

Disabled Benefit Claimants Live In Fear Of The Sound Of The Letterbox

By Helen Sims

As I write this I am recovering from what we campaigners call ‘Brown Envelope Disorder’ – or ‘White Envelope Disorder’ (since it applies in equal measures now). It is what happens to a disabled or ill [benefit claimant] when a brown or white envelope appears on the doormat, particularly those marked ‘DWP’ –Department for Work and Pensions.

I was upstairs, waiting for my painkillers to kick in, when the letterbox went. For an ‘everyday’ person, it is normality. It is part of life. However, if you are disabled or an ill benefit claimant, living under the constant threat of an ATOS assessment or benefit sanction, [the sound of the letterbox] immediately causes the blood pressure to rise, and panic to kick in.

I’m sat on the bottom of the stairs, shaking and looked at the brown envelope (marked DWP) on the mat. Even though I know (rationally) that ATOS assessment envelopes are usually white, and that I am not due to be assessed for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – the government’s replacement for Disability Living Allowance – for at least a year, the effect on me (and so many other ill and disabled people) is a reaction of pure fear. I sat there, unable to move, almost as if I was frozen to the spot. Rationality doesn’t come into it anymore. They play games, change dates, change criteria; so even if you think you know what’s what, (and when), for me (and so many others) the fear is still there. My heart begins to pound so loudly that I can hear it in my ears, and my palms begin to sweat. The rational part of me says ‘pick it up and open it. It’ll be fine’. The vulnerable, anxiety prone, part of me knows it is coming.

If I want to keep my life the way it is, I will have to go through a Disability Assessment for PIP, which is stacked against me. I will have to justify my right to the small amount of support I get. I will have to justify myself, my existence, my attempt at as normal a life as I can. I will have to sit there while someone judges me, and asks me leading, (unfair) questions, that are designed to deprive me of support and the things that able-bodied people take for granted.

I was born with Cerebral Palsy, and cannot walk or stand unaided. I suffer more or less constant pain, anxiety and depression – not to mention a few other things. The anxiety and depression have been made worse by this government and the media’s portrayal of disabled people as ‘scroungers’ and fakers. They have deliberately misled the public on the levels of benefit fraud, and we are paying the price.

I continued to sit on the bottom of the stairs, with all this going through my head. I feel worthless, and I know that I will be stripped of my Disability Living Allowance by the transition to Personal Independence Payment. I know that I am luckier than some. I have my husband (and his Pension Credit) to help us live, but for me it’s about independence. It’s about being able to behave like a ‘normal’ wife.

As things stand, I can help my husband pay the bills, I can take myself to the doctors or hospital appointments, I can go out (when I feel well enough), and see friends. I can feel like a ‘normal’ person. If they take my DLA, they take all that too – and I have spent years fighting to keep self-esteem and independence and to build a life for myself. I can’t lose it!

At this point, I am beginning to hyperventilate. ‘Be rational,’ I try to tell myself – ‘be RATIONAL!’ I fear the assessment itself even more than the consequences of it. Sitting on the stairs, I’m imagining all sorts of things. The assessor’s eyes look at me, and judging me. She looks tidy, she looks together, she tells herself. Yes I can, and I’m so lucky. What isn’t so lucky, is that I can’t sleep due to pain and anxiety….even though I’m so very tired.

I’m tired by life, and I’ve been made even more tired by government lies, and persecution, and the feeling that I have to struggle even more than I do already. Why is this happening to me? Why is this happening to any of us? Haven’t we been through enough? I start to cry. Eventually, mid panic attack, I ring my sister, who tells me to breathe deeply, and reminds me that whatever this government says or does, I am a person…and I am worth something. She tells me that if it is the assessment, I’ll handle it, and that they have no right to make me feel like this…in my own home. I tell her I’ll open the envelope and call her back, which I do.

It turns out, that is just a letter confirming my benefit amount, and my level of claim. I curse myself, knowing that I should have checked with a fellow campaigner before panicking, but like I said rationality doesn’t come into it anymore; and besides, there are so many other people like me (and worse off) that don’t have the campaigners to turn to, and don’t have the information at hand. Who cares about how they feel? This government certainly doesn’t!

As my heavy breathing subsides, I go back upstairs, and I’m physically sick in the toilet bowl. No one should be going through this. It is psychological torture, and I’ve had enough. This government needs to be held to account for its actions. There needs to be a proper impact assessment done on the Welfare Reform policy, because what I went through today is only a small part of it. It is causing pain, suffering, panic, malnutrition, isolation, homelessness, and even suicides. Somebody, somewhere, needs to make it stop… Now!

Helen Sims

Source – Welfare News Service,   22 March 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/disabled-benefit-claimants-live-in-fear-of-the-sound-of-the-letterbox/

Delights – and disgraces – of the Atos day of protest

Mike Sivier's blog

Taking sides: Some of the demonstrators at Newtown, Powys. [Image: Mike Sivier] Taking sides: Some of the demonstrators at Newtown, Powys. [Image: Mike Sivier] Were you one of the many, many people – both able-bodied and with disabilities – who gathered outside Atos assessment centres yesterday to demand an end to the system that continues to cause the deaths of thousands of innocent people every day?

I was.

I attended one of the 144 locations used by Atos to carry out the discredited work capability assessments – in Newtown, Powys – where I was just another face in the crowd that had gathered to remind the public of the atrocity being carried out with their tax money.

The Newtown campaign was undoubtedly small in comparison to others around the country, with a maximum of 15 protesters at its height, but the public response was excellent. The assessment centre is next to a major traffic junction, meaning there were plenty of opportunities to…

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Let’s support people who stand up against bad government

Mike Sivier's blog

A refreshing change seems to be sweeping through local news media here in the UK, with stories starting to appear about people who are fighting unjust behaviour by the government.

The rest of us should support this.

For example: Workington woman Jeanette Johnston, 29, had a job until recently but has been forced to give it up due to congenital health problems which mean she has already had a kidney removed and will need a heart and lung transplant in the future.

She had been receiving Disability Living Allowance but this was stopped last August after aids including bed ladders were fitted at her home, following recommendations from an occupational health expert.

DWP advisors told her that the benefits would stop until she was reassessed for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – and she has now spent half a year waiting for that appointment.

Jeanette’s tale raises several questions. Why does…

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Coalition drags out the pain with promise of many more cuts

Mike Sivier's blog

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The BBC has reported findings by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, showing that the Coalition government will be less than halfway through its planned spending cuts by the end of the current financial year (March 31).

The organisation said 60 per cent of the cuts were still to come.

This raises a few urgent questions. Firstly: This government was formed on the promise that it would balance the books by 2015, which presupposes that its entire plan for doing so would be in place long before then. We know that this ambitious claim was dismissed after years of failure, but part of the reason for this failure was that George Osborne stopped a recovery that was already taking place, and which would have led to economic growth of 20 per cent by now, if it had been allowed to continue (according to Michael Meacher MP). My question, therefore…

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Attending ATOS? WE Can Help – Update

jaynelinney

As many of you are aware from the original post, I am the founding director of Disability Enabling and Empowerment Project (Leic’s) (DEAEP); this project came about from a discussion I had with my daughter and my best friend (both disabled) regarding how we three would manage to get through the ESA/DLA assessments and other such troubling appointments, without the mutual support of each other.

Currently we have written all the paperwork necessary to run a 10 week part time course, and have been desperately trying to find a venue to pilot this in Leicester, thanks to Unite community this is likely to start mid April ; we’re also investigating how we could offer the same as an on-line course. The course will be free for anyone willing to then, pass on the skills by supporting others through the trials of assessment or other similar stressful situations.

Like everything else…

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