Tag: esa

Yvette Cooper: Imaginary wheelchair woman

By Daniel Margrain

Yvette Cooper (5257912357).jpg

Those who were paying attention during Yvetcte Cooper’s challenge for the Labour leadership would have been aware of the undisclosed £75,000 businessman Dan Jarvis contributed to the New Labour enthusiasts campaign.

The mainstream media didn’t pay much attention to that scandal at the time. Over a year later on September 24, following what columnist Fraser Nelson described tellingly as “the terrifying victory of Jeremy Corbyn’s mass movement” at staving off the coup attempt against him, the Corbyn critic and New Labour MP for Normanton, Ponefract, Castleford and Nottingley tweeted the following:

Congratulations re-elected today. Now the work starts to hold everyone together, build support across country & take Tories on

Clearly, a day is a long time for liars to avoid tripping over their own pronouncements. Less than 48 hours after her insincere message on Twitter, the Blairite MP engaged in a media publicity stunt intended to draw a deeper wedge between the PLP and the membership.

Cooper’s crude ‘politics of identity’ strategy was to infer that shadow chancellor John McDonnell was a misogynist for his use of emotionally charged language in defending the “appalling” treatment of disabled people by the last government.

The context in which McDonnell made his remark is set against a backdrop in which former secretary of state for work and pensions, Esther McVey, planned to cut the benefits of more than 300,000 disabled people. That Cooper rushed to the defence of a Tory who presided over some of the most wicked policies of arguably the most reactionary and brutal right-wing government in living memory, is extremely revealing.

What was also revealing was the media’s obvious double-standards. A few days prior to their reporting of McDonnell’s comment, Guardian journalist Nicholas Lezard called for the crowdfunded assassination of Corbyn. Needless to say, there was no media outrage at this suggestion.

Selective outrage is what many of us have come to expect from a partisan anti-Corbyn media. In May last year, independent journalist, Mike Sivier reported on Yvette “imaginary wheelchairs” Cooper’s criticism of those “using stigmatising language about benefit claimants”.

But as an article from April 13, 2010 below illustrates, while in office as Labour’s secretary of state for work and pensions, Cooper had drawn up plans that would almost certainly have met with the approval of Iain Duncan Smith.

Indeed, the policy plans outlined by Cooper were subsequently adopted by the Coalition government under the tutelage of Esther McVey. In policy terms, it would thus appear Cooper has more in common with McVey than she does with McDonnell. This, and her disdain towards both Corbyn and McDonnell and the mass membership they represent, explains her outburst. She was not motivated by sisterly love.

This is the relevant part of the 2010 article implicating Cooper’s policy outlook with that of the Tories she supposedly despises:

“Tens of thousands of claimants facing losing their benefit on review, or on being transferred from incapacity benefit, as plans to make the employment and support allowance (ESA) medical much harder to pass are approved by the secretary of state for work and pensions, Yvette Cooper.

The shock plans for ‘simplifying’ the work capability assessment, drawn up by a DWP working group, include docking points from amputees who can lift and carry with their stumps.  Claimants with speech problems who can write a sign saying, for example, ‘The office is on fire!’ will score no points for speech and deaf claimants who can read the sign will lose all their points for hearing.

Meanwhile, for ‘health and safety reasons’ all points scored for problems with bending and kneeling are to be abolished and claimants who have difficulty walking can be assessed using imaginary wheelchairs.

Claimants who have difficulty standing for any length of time will, under the plans, also have to show they have equal difficulty sitting, and vice versa, in order to score any points.  And no matter how bad their problems with standing and sitting, they will not score enough points to be awarded ESA.

In addition, almost half of the 41 mental health descriptors for which points can be scored are being removed from the new ‘simpler’ test, greatly reducing the chances of being found incapable of work due to such things as poor memory, confusion, depression and anxiety.

There are some improvements to the test under the plans, including exemptions for people likely to be starting chemotherapy and more mental health grounds for being admitted to the support group.  But the changes are overwhelmingly about pushing tens of thousands more people onto JSA.

If all this sounds like a sick and rather belated April Fools joke to you, we’re not surprised.  But the proposals are genuine and have already been officially agreed by Yvette Cooper, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.  They have not yet been passed into law, but given that both Labour and the Conservatives seem intent on driving as many people as possible off incapacity related benefits, they are likely to be pursued by whichever party wins the election…..”

Cooper’s deeds and words are yet another illustration as to the extent to which the ideological consensus between the New Labour hierarchy as represented by the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) on the one hand, and the ruling Tory establishment on the other, is structurally embedded within a dysfunctional system of state power that is no longer fit for purpose.

 

Iain Duncan Smith Is A Sociopath

Stuart Chester has Down's syndrome, epilepsy and autism

Stuart Chester has Down’s syndrome, epilepsy and autism
WHO CAN NOW CLAIM WITH A SERIOUS FACE THAT WE LIVE IN A CIVILIZED SOCIETY?
WORDS LITERALLY FAIL ME. 

A SEVERELY disabled young man who is unable to talk, read or write and needs round-the-clock care from his mother is the latest target in Iain Duncan Smith’s campaign against Scotland’s most vulnerable.

Stuart Chester, who has Down’s syndrome, epilepsy and autism and is unable to feed or wash himself, is being told by officers in the Tory minister’s Department for Work and Pensions to prove he is unfit for work.

The 25-year-old has been sent a controversial 20-page work capability assessment form to fill in that will investigate his fitness for work and whether he deserves his Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) benefits.

Last night Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil described Stuart’s case as “absolutely outrageous” and “shameful”.

Stuart has been given a deadline of September 18 to complete the complicated and detailed document and return it to the DWP.

His mother Deborah McKenzie, 51, said receiving the form had caused her “undue stress” and said Duncan Smith’s plan to deliberately target the sick and disabled was tantamount to “genocide”, after shocking DWP figures were released last week showing more than 80 people were dying each month following work capability assessments.

She said: “Stuart gets the high-rate DLA and he was supposed to get that for life because his condition will never change. He also received ESA benefits.

“I cannot understand why he was sent this capability for work questionnaire because he cannot talk, read or write or do anything for himself. There is no way he could work and this is just causing a lot of undue stress and anxiety.

“I was really upset when the form came through the door. I called up the DWP and asked them why they would send it out to someone like my son when he is supposed to to get DLA for life and they told me it was tough luck, that it’s just the way it is and I would just need to fill out the form for him just like everyone else.

“I know other disabled people in wheelchairs with conditions like cerebral palsy, also people like Stuart who cannot do anything for them, are being harassed by the DWP to fill in fit for work forms when there is absolutely no way they could work.

“I used to have to fill in a form for my son every three years but eventually we were told he had the DLA for life because his circumstances were not going to change and he I no longer had to fill in an application for benefits for him.

“I am his full-time carer and there is no way my son could work, no chance. He needs 24/7 care and cannot feed or wash himself and he has a lot of accidents toilet-wise. I have to do everything for him.”

Neil called for the “cruel” assessments on the sick and disabled to be scrapped, and demanded that David Cameron hand over the rights to decide on benefits to the Scottish Government.

He said: “This is absolutely outrageous and these are the kind of cases which highlight that the Tories are out of control and they must hand over running of our benefits system to the Scottish Government.

“It bad enough the DWP sends out these forms to people like Stuart but they don’t seem to understand the stress and worry this causes families in Scotland.

“If someone is clearly unable to work and has a lifelong condition they should not be hounded like this and they should be left alone, not put through the hell of being assessed for work and worrying about whether or not they will get their benefits when they are quite clearly entitled to them.

“It is nothing but bullying, harassment, intimidation and a breach of human rights of the most vulnerable in our society and it has got to stop.

“They have crossed the line and if we had control over these benefits, the first thing we would put an end to this kind of harassment and treat these people with respect and dignity they deserve.”

Last week, disability campaigners spoke to The National and warned more people would die because of work capability assessments unless they were scrapped.

The claim followed the release of figures that revealed 2,380 claimants died between December 2011 and February 2014 shortly after being told to get back to work and that their benefits were being stopped.

In the same period, 50,580 people who received ESA died within two weeks of their benefit claim ending.

Stephen Cruickshank, director of the Scottish Disability Equality Forum, who has spinal neuropathy, said the work capability assessments were unfit for purpose.

Mother-of-two Deborah, of Glasgow, said Duncan Smith had “a lot to answer for” and described him as “the lowest of the low” for targeting disabled people.

She said: “I don’t know how Iain Duncan Smith can sleep at night or live with himself targeting the disabled and most vulnerable in our society like this.

“It is beyond belief and absolutely disgusting considering many of the people being sent these forms were awarded with DLA for life which we had to fight for.”

Deborah said coping with everyday life caring for Stuart was “hard and challenging” and even though she knows that he cannot work, it is the uncertainty of having to fill in the complicated form that is putting her under even more stress.

A DWP spokesman said: “We regularly review people’s conditions to ensure that they are not simply written off and condemned to a life on benefits. That’s why we have improved the work capability assessment since it was introduced in 2008, ensuring that it is fairer and more accurate.

“Decisions are taken following a thorough independent assessment, and consideration of supporting medical evidence provided to us by a claimant’s GP or medical specialist.”

“It’s important that regular assessments are made, as for some people, conditions may improve or worsen.”

Originally posted in The National

Do We Need the U.N To Protect Us From Our Own Government?

Protesters
Protesters demonstrate against benefit cuts in London in 2014. Photograph: Guy Corbishley/Demotix/Corbis

The shocking news that in two years up to February last year some 2,380 disabled claimants died within two weeks of being assessed as fit for work as part of the governments Work Capability Assessment Programme (WCAP), is finally beginning to make the mainstream. I am a regular listener to LBC Radio and the issue is now a regular feature of many phone in shows. How long it will take before it makes peak time BBC television news bulletins is another matter, but at least the topic is making some inroads which has to be encouraging.

Such is the sheer brutality and callousness of Iain Duncan Smith, that the U.N now proposes to act in circumstances where the government resists. At the very least, the potential setting up of a U.N inquiry into Tory welfare reforms on the back of the deaths in the manner of, for example, Goldstone, could theoretically, in the longer term, result in the man responsible for causing untold misery and suffering being brought to justice.

But even if the U.N ultimately proves to be toothless as it was in terms of the misnamed Israel-Gaza conflict, the negative publicity they will generate for the government will be invaluable. Secondly, and even more importantly, the WCAP must be stopped in its tracks irrespective of the U.Ns findings. But short of electing an effective opposition into power worthy of the name, how can this be achieved in the short term?

Currently, as Michael Meacher acknowledged, parliament has no power to instigate an immediate emergency debate, Neither has it the power to force an inquiry into the workings of WCAP. So leaving aside the proposed U.N intervention, the options appear to be extremely limited. Questions have been raised in the House regarding the deaths but these were sidestepped. In any case, it’s telling that the questions were only asked in the first place because of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

The figures only came to light (conveniently) during the recent bank holiday, clearly in the expectation that they would be forgotten about. But it took nearly four months for them to be released and only then after pressure was applied as a result of a ruling by the Information Commissioner. The DWP had appealed against the Information Commissioner’s ruling and only gave up when campaigning blogger Mike Sivier submitted an application for the appeal to be struck out as an abuse of process. As Mike says, the DWP’s response to his FoI request shows three things very clearly

Firstly, that the DWP is very bad at responding to FoI requests – in terms of both timing and content. The response is deliberately written to make it as opaque as possible, and does not include all the information I requested, and this reflects poorly on both the department and its ministers. Therefore I shall be writing to the First-tier Tribunal (information rights), asking that a hearing scheduled for November 10 should still take place because the DWP has not answered my request.

Secondly, that despite the poor quality of the report, it is clear that the work capability assessment is not fit for purpose and the misallocation of people with long term illnesses – either into the work-related activity group or into the jobs market, classified ‘fit for work’ – has certainly led to needless deaths. Iain Duncan Smith said as much last week but it should not save him. Evidence that this was the case has been available since December 2011, when the number of deaths of people on ESA tripled – yes, tripled – in comparison with the average for the previous 11 months. The DWP and its ministers have been hiding this information from us for nearly four years. In the eyes of the law, that is criminal negligence – corporate manslaughter.

Thirdly, that the principles on which Employment and Support Allowance was designed are causing deaths. When Mrs Mike’s Contributory ESA ran out (she used to be in the work-related activity group), her benefit was cut off with no notification or advice about what to do next. How many others have received the same treatment? Many, it seems, according to the DWP’s statistics which show that the number of ‘unknown’ cases (into which these people are thrown as their NI credits are still paid) has dropped while the proportion of deaths in that group has increased hugely, year on year.

The fact that the issues relating to the WCAP are only now beginning to enter the wider public consciousness and, moreover, almost certainly reveal the tip of a much larger ice berg will, in years to come, be regarded as one of the greatest domestic political scandals of recent times.

The fact that the deaths have been brought into the open should be sufficient justification for the scrapping of the WCAP with immediate effect with a view to bringing a prosecution forward for all those responsible for hiding the facts from us for so long. I wonder if Blair and Duncan Smith like the same prison food?