Category: Campaign

Campaigners organise ‘First Do No Harm lobby’, aimed at preventing further social security related deaths

this ESA round

Disabled campaigners, researchers and organisations who have played a key role in exposing the discrimination and harm caused by the government’s social security reforms have been travelling to Westminster to attend round table discussions with five Labour shadow ministers. The meetings are chaired by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. I was invited to attend by John McDonnell’s office in September, because of my own ongoing campaign work.

The meetings are also the launch of a series of campaigning efforts and consultation between the Labour party, disabled activists, researchers and allied organisations. Labour MPs also hope to secure support from members of other political parties in the longer term.

We will be continuing to challenge the government’s persistent denial of a ‘causal link’ between their draconian social security policies and the distress, systematic human rights violations, serious harm and deaths of disabled people that have arisen in correlation with those policies.

Unless the government undertakes a cumulative impact assessment of the harm and  injustices that have followed in the wake of their welfare reform acts, they cannot provide evidence to support their own claims and flat denials that their policies are causing hardship, harm and distress. 

Public health experts from the Universities of Liverpool and Oxford have also produced a research report titled First, do no harm’: are disability assessments associated with adverse trends in mental health? A longitudinal ecological study. It highlights that the process of reassessing people on incapacity benefit for the new employment and support allowance (ESA) from 2010 to 2013 was “associated with” an extra 590 suicides, 279,000 additional cases of self-reported mental health problems, and the prescribing of a further 725,000 anti-depressants.

Speaking to the Huffington Post last year, the shadow chancellor said that he became furious during a Parliamentary debate when he demanded a comprehensive assessment of the cumulative impact of welfare reforms on disabled people and the government refused. He praised the website Calum’s List, which details the cases of at least 60 deaths linked to welfare cuts.

He added:  “We said to the Government we know now from Calum’s List, listing people from reports in the press and elsewhere of people committing suicide as a result of Government cuts.

We knew the Government were monitoring some coroners’ reports and we wanted them published, but [then DWP minister Esther] McVey wouldn’t and I got really angry.”

“Next week, what we are doing is getting a group of campaigning organisations and a group of experts together to talk about the way in which Work Capability Assessments are still having an impact, to try to get to the bottom in terms of mental health and suicide.”

McDonnell added that Labour’s first Queen’s Speech include legislation “making sure we have a welfare and benefit system that lifts people out of poverty”.

He said that his Hayes and Harlington constituency casework now operates an open-door system four days a week due to demand from people hit by government cuts. 

He added: “Helen who runs my office said the casework now is on a scale and a depth of suffering that we’ve never seen before. And this in a constituency with the [Heathrow] airport, high levels of employment but wages not matching the housing costs and the pressure on people working all hours just to keep a roof over their heads.

“If anything goes wrong they fall out of the system. Last month we were dealing with two families living in cars. We also have the ‘beds in sheds’ phenomenon, families living in a shed or garage rented out to them, it’s staggering really.

“Before this last eight years, those sort of horrendous situations would be infrequent but you wouldn’t have someone so heavily sanctioned. The sanctions often impact on people with mental health conditions hardest.”

The Labour party’s track record of inclusion and democratic consultation with disabled citizens and their communities contrasts starkly with the Conservative’s exclusionary ‘we know better than you’ approach to disability policies. The government have imposed cuts on disabled people, acting upon them as if they are objects of policy rather than being citizens within a democracy.  

Government policies are expressed political intentions regarding how our society is organised and governed. They have calculated social and economic aims and consequences. In democratic societies, citizens’ accounts of the impacts of policies ought to matter.

However, in the UK, the way that welfare policies are justified is being increasingly detached from their aims and consequences, partly because democratic processes and basic human rights are being disassembled or side-stepped, and partly because the government employs the widespread use of linguistic strategies and techniques of persuasion to intentionally divert us from their aims and the consequences of their ideologically (rather than rationally) driven policies. Furthermore, policies have more generally become increasingly detached from public interests and needs.

The Labour party listen to citizens’ accounts, and have always acknowledged our concerns. John McDonnell was involved in the setting up of Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC). After a nationwide round of consultations with disabled people about policies which enshrine the Equality and Human Rights acts, led by Debbie Abrahams, the Labour party wrote an additional manifesto, outlining policies for disabled people, called Nothing about you without you, which many of us have contributed to.

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Alex Cunningham, me, Debbie Abrahams and Gail Ward after the Disability Equality Roadshow and consultation in December, 2016.

The First Do No Harm lobby on 13 February aims to expose the continued harm caused to disabled people by government social security reforms, and to seek safeguarding changes to the social security system. It follows many years of growing concerns about the controversial Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and the failure of Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) ministers to make the necessary changes to make the assessment process safe.

Disability rights campaigners and MPs will focus on the repeated failure of the DWP to ensure that the “further medical evidence” needed to demonstrate a disabled person’s eligibility for out-of-work disability benefits is always collected, particularly for claimants with mental health conditions.

The three key asks of the lobby are:

1. To incorporate the principle of “First Do No Harm” into the assessment process for disabled people in the welfare system.
2. To call for the publication of a cumulative impact assessment of social security changes to disabled people.
3. To implement an assessment framework that treats disabled people with dignity and respect.

The lobby has been facilitated by Labour’s Treasury and work and pensions teams, through shadow chancellor John McDonnell and shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood. Both Labour MPs and activists hope that MPs from all parties will attend. 

Shadow chancellor, John McDonnell has previously said that he believed the ongoing meetings with disability rights campaigners and allied organisations could herald the start of “a significant movement to expose the brutality of the system” and secure “permanent change”.

He told Disability News Service: “Disabled people have had enough of the continuing austerity, attacks and discrimination.

“The lobby will brief on the plight of disabled people and lobby for reform to protect against this harm.” The aim is to push for the principle of “First Do No Harm” to be included in the benefits assessment process, through a framework that “treats disabled people with dignity and respect”.

The lobby also aims to push the government to acknowledge years of raised concerns by our community to carry out a cumulative assessment of the impact of its social security cuts and reforms on disabled people. 

Campaigners will also call for an end to the government’s punitive sanctions and conditionality regime.

The First Do No Harm lobby is the first organised action arising from the ongoing meetings between disabled activists and allies and Labour shadow ministers, including John McDonnell, Margaret Greenwood and shadow minister for disabled people Marsha de Cordova.

Both Margaret Greenwood and Marsha de Cordova are to speak at the briefing as part of the lobby on 13 February.

A mass lobby is one way of using your right to turn up to the House of Commons and request a meeting with your MP as one of his or her constituents. An MP’s role is to represent a constituent’s interests – even if he or she does not entirely agree with them. As each MP may have up to 90,000 constituents to look after, it is best to be as brief, clear and courteous as possible when you meet your MP.   

Disabled people or allies who want their MP to attend the lobby should write to their MP – you can find MP’s email addresses here: WriteToThem – to inform them you wish to seek an appointment on the day of the lobby. 

The lobby is due to take place on Wednesday 13 February between 1pm and 6pm, with the briefing from 2-3.30pm, in the Palace of Westminster’s committee room 15. The committee room can be used for one-to-one meetings with MPs or further discussions on the issue from 1pm-2pm and then from 3.30pm-6pm 

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The most recent meeting at Portcullis House, Westminster.

 

Related

John McDonnell attacks Tory disability cuts and vows to address suicides linked to welfare reforms

Lobby aims to persuade MPs that DWP must First Do No Harm on assessments

Labour’s Disability Equality Roadshow comes to Newcastle

Nothing about you without you – the Labour party manifesto for disabled people

I very much wanted to attend this very important mass lobby and contacted my MP in respect of this. However, unfortunately I am currently not well enough to travel down to Westminster. I will, however, be working hard promoting the event on social media. 


 

I don’t make any money from my work. But you can make a donation if you wish and help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others going through disability claims, assessments, mandatory reviews and appeals. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

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Director of medical research says rise in cases of sepsis is because of NHS funding cuts and overcrowding in hospitals

Deaths from sepsis recorded in England’s hospitals have risen by more than a third in two years, according to data collected by a leading safety expert. 

According to Sir Brian Jarman, the director of the Dr Foster research unit at Imperial College London, the number of recorded deaths where the primary cause was sepsis was 11,328 in 2014-15. By 2016-17 there were 15,722 deaths in hospital or within 30 days of discharge where sepsis was the leading cause, an increase of 38.8%.

Jarman, whose unit sends real-time alerts to hospitals that fall behind the expected mortality rate, blamed the increase partially on the consequences of real-terms funding cuts.

“The biggest thing that’s important seems to be the number of staff – doctors per bed,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in August. “One of the secondary important things is the overcrowding of hospitals. The level of overcrowding shouldn’t be more than 85% [bed occupancy], and it’s been going over 90% in recent years.”

Jarman, a former president of the British Medical Association, said the number of beds available had halved and the number of admissions had roughly doubled over the past 30 years – an “amazing change of provision of healthcare”.

In 2015, an inquiry found that 40% of patients with sepsis who arrived in A&E had not been reviewed by senior doctors quickly enough. There were also avoidable delays in giving patients intravenous antibiotics in nearly a third of cases (29%).

Every death from sepsis is a tragedy, yet too often the warning signs are missed – there is a need to get far better at spotting sepsis across the NHS and this advice shows how vital it is for clinicians to treat life-threatening symptoms as soon as possible.

Last year, Jeremy Hunt, then the health secretary, told a private memorial service for a one-year-old boy who died from sepsis that the child was let down by the NHS and the government.

Speaking at the service in Cornwall, Hunt said he had “come here to say sorry” to the family of William Mead, who died after the emergency services failed to diagnose a fatal case of sepsis. Hunt told those gathered at Truro Cathedral: “I as health secretary, the government, and the NHS, let down William.

“I’ve come here to say sorry. This weekend William should have been enjoying beautiful Cornish sunshine with his parents.

“We didn’t spot his sepsis before it was too late.”

William’s motherMelissa Mead, has become a prominent campaigner for better diagnostics of sepsis, saying that the NHS system was “broken”.

She has also described her son’s final hours, his symptoms and her repeated pleas to health services in painstaking detail on her blog site.

In February 2017, I developed sepsis, which is caused by an overly aggressive immune response to an infection. In my case, it happened because I had developed pneumonia while I had ‘flu. In sepsis (sometimes called septicaemia) the immune response causes widespread and severe inflammation and a drop in blood pressure (‘shock’), which leads to organ damage and other life threatening complications. The problem is that people often feel unwell when they have an infection, and sepsis is insidious. It can advance  very rapidly. I developed pneumonia and sepsis within four days of starting with influenza symptoms, by the fourth evening, my symptoms had become life threatening. 

I thought my symptoms were simply because I had a severe strain of influenza, and hadn’t realised I had developed pneumonia. My sons had both been very poorly the week before, while they had the ‘flu, too. By the time I knew something was very wrong, I was already in septic shock, and despite having an almost overwhelming urge to crawl back to my warm bed and just sleep, a sudden weird sense of impending doom kept me from doing so. Had I gone back to bed, I would never have woken again. 

Although Jarman believes that staff shortages and overcrowding on wards are partly to blame for the rise in sepsis, NHS England have said more conditions were being classed as sepsis than before, and a spokesperson added that efforts had also been made to improve diagnosis. However, it’s not quite true that more deaths from sepsis are being recorded as being caused by sepsis.

Dr Ron Daniels, chief executive of the UK Sepsis Trust and an intensive care consultant, said sepsis was one of the most common causes of death in the UK, it’s responsible for killing up to 44,000 people a year – in hospital and in the community.

He said that hospital records made it almost impossible to keep track of the true number of deaths through sepsis, because, he added: “It’s very common that if someone dies of sepsis that it’s coded or reported as simply being the underlying infection.

“So they might die of sepsis in an intensive care unit with multiple organ failure – but they’re recorded as a death from pneumonia. We need to fix that problem before we can truly understand the scale of sepsis.

The best way for us to do that is to develop a prospective data system like a registry that exists for other conditions, so that we can really get a national picture of what’s going on.”

He added: “The treatment for sepsis, if it’s caught early enough, involves very basic interventions – looking for the source of the infection, giving antibiotics.

“For every hour we delay in giving antibiotics, the patient’s risk of dying increases by a few per cent, so it’s essential that we spot it early and deliver the basics of care quickly.”

Jarman hopes his research data can be used to improve the survival chances of hospital patients who developed sepsis, via alerts that he sends to hospitals that are falling behind.

He said “Some of those hospitals with a lower death rate have got particular ways of reducing mortality from septicaemia, which the others we hope might learn from, and also we hope that by giving them this alert, within a month or two of the actual happening, they can actually get in there and do something quickly.”

There has been more of a focus on screening for sepsis in the NHS in recent years, led by the UK Sepsis Trust, which was formed by a group of clinicians at the Good Hope Hospital near Birmingham.

However, the fact that deaths from sepsis are commonly recorded as being caused by an underlying infection, rather than abnormal immune response to it – sepsis – means that gathering mortality data about hospital practices in diagnosis and management of sepsis is likely to lead to inaccurate results and cannot be relied on to improve recognition and diagnostic practices, or treatment.

Some reasons why sepsis is increasing

Vulnerability to sepsis is becoming more widespread. This is thought to be for a number of reasons:

  • More opportunities for infections to become complicated – more people are having invasive procedures and organ transplants, and more of us are taking immunosuppressive drugs and chemotherapies
  • Rising antibiotic resistance – microbes are becoming immune to drugs that would otherwise control infections

People more likely to get sepsis include:

  • Those with underlying lung disease, such as COPD and asthma
  • Those with illnesses that affect their immune response, such as HIV, leukaemia, chronic illness such as diabetes, lupus, and some other connective tissue /autoimmune diseases
  • Those taking immunosuppressant therapies, such as people who have had organ transplants, those with autoimmune illnesses, those with cancer having chemotherapy, or those on long-term steroid treatment 
  • Those who have had their spleen removed

Other predictors of higher severe sepsis incidence rates include socioeconomic status (those in poverty and destitution are at greater risk), and urbanicity.

In a context of austerity and cuts to basic social security and the NHS, it seems almost inevitable that cases of sepsis will increase.  

Any infection can trigger sepsis, including minor accidental cuts and insect bites that have become infected, but the following types of infections are more likely to cause sepsis:

  • Pneumonia
  • Meningitis
  • Abdominal infection 
  • Kidney/ urinary tract infection
  • Appendicitis
  • Infection of the gallbladder
  • Some cases of ‘flu

Symptoms of sepsis include:

  • Fever above 101ºF or a temperature below 96.8ºF (above 38.3º Celsius or below 36º C)
  • Heart rate higher than 90 beats per minute (tachycardia)
  • Fast, shallow breathing – rate higher than 20 breaths per minute (tachypnea)
  • Infection.

Other symptoms may be:

  • Dizziness or feelings of faintness
  • Confusion or a drop in alertness, or any other unusual change in mental state, including a feeling of doom or a real fear of death
  • Slurred speech
  • Diarrhoea, nausea, or vomiting
  • Severe muscle pain and extreme general discomfort
  • Difficulty breathing – shortness of breath
  • Low urine output (not needing to urinate for a whole day, for example)
  • Skin that is cold, clammy, and pale, blue, discolored or mottled
  • Skin that is cool and pale at the extremities, signaling poor blood supply (poor perfusion)
  • Loss of consciousness

It’s crucial to seek immediate medical attention if someone has more than one or two those symptoms, though loss of consciousness and severe breathing difficulty always need urgent medical attention.

The earlier you seek treatment, the greater are the chances of survival.

Sepsis medical criteria

There are two tools or sets of criteria that doctors use to determine the severity of your condition. One is the systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS). SIRS is defined when you meet two or more of the following criteria:

  • Fever of more than 38°C (100.4°F) or less than 36°C (96.8°F), often with chills and shivering
  • Heart rate of more than 90 beats per minute (tachycardia)
  • Respiratory rate of more than 20 breaths per minute or arterial carbon dioxide tension (PaCO 2) of less than 32 mm Hg
  • Abnormal white blood cell count

Another tool is the “quick sequential organ failure assessment” (qSOFA). It uses the results of three criteria:

  • Low blood pressure
  • High respiratory rate (greater than 22 breaths per minute)
  • Glasgow coma scale score of less than 15. (This scale is used to determine your level of consciousness.)

A positive qSOFA is determined if two or more of the above measurements are abnormal. Some doctors prefer using qSOFA because unlike the SIRS criteria, qSOFA does not require laboratory tests and so may be used to make a prompt assessment. This means it can also be used by paramedics – as it was in my case. The results of either or both of these assessments will help doctors determine care promptly.

Tests, diagnosis and treatment of sepsis

The first step that doctors and paramedics take in diagnosing sepsis is to observe the symptoms. Sepsis is a major challenge to diagnose, and in Intensive Care Units it’s one of the leading causes of death. It is also a leading cause of people being readmitted to hospital. Sepsis arises unpredictably and can progress very rapidly.

When doctors observe the typical signs and symptoms of sepsis, they will also consider the patient’s medical history and be alerted to possible sepsis if there has been a recent infection, a surgical or catheter procedure, or if the patient is particularly vulnerable to infection – because of compromised immunity, for example.

The main treatment for sepsis and septic shock is antibiotics, as most cases are caused by a bacterial infection, though viral and fungal agents less commonly may also cause sepsis. If someone has severe sepsis and septic shock, antibiotics will be given directly into a vein (intravenously). Often other support is provided, such as oxygen, ventilation, or dialysis, is also given to support organ function, depending on how well a person’s organs are coping. Methods to stabilise blood pressure are often used, along with administered anticoagulants to prevent blood clots.

Ideally, antibiotic treatment should start within an hour of diagnosis to reduce the risk of serious complications or death. Intravenous antibiotics are usually replaced by tablets after two to four days (though sometimes longer). Antibiotics may have to take them for 7 to 10 days or longer, and often for a while after someone leaves hospital, depending on the severity of their condition.

Doctors may have to make a quick “best guess” at the type of infection and, therefore, the type of antibiotics needed, because speed in treating the infection is of the greatest importance; waiting for laboratory sample tests would hold up a potentially lifesaving intervention. Treatment may be adjusted once the causative microbe has been identified.

Antibiotics alone may be sufficient at a very early stage of sepsis, but treatment needs to be given very promptly.

For later stages of sepsis and septic shock, emergency hospital treatment will be needed (often in the intensive care unit); additional to the IV antibiotics, it may include:

  • Intravenous fluids (especially during the first 24 to 48 hours after admission, if you have severe sepsis or septic shock.
  • Vasopressors (to raise blood pressure)
  • Central lines
  • Anticoagulants (to prevent blood clots)
  • Other means of organ support as necessary, such as oxygen therapy, mechanical ventilation or dialysis

Severe sepsis is associated with a drop in blood pressure. Low blood pressure reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients going to the body’s organs. This drop causes damage to the body’s major organs.

Septic shock advances when adequate blood pressure cannot be restored despite treatment with IV fluids. Septic shock may progress very quickly to multiple organ failure and death.

Complications from septic shock may cause symptoms of:

  • Kidney failure
  • Lung failure
  • Heart failure
  • Blood clots
  • Death

Prompt medical attention, diagnosis and treatment are key to surviving sepsis.

Often, paramedics may test for a rise in blood sugar as hyperglycemia is very common in people who are critically ill with sepsis, regardless of whether they have diabetes. Mine had risen despite the fact I had been unable to keep food down for four days. Mine is usually on the low side generally, but it had risen while I was ill. No one really knows why this happens. 

Laboratory tests at the hospital include a blood test to measure C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a substance in the blood that is produced by the liver, and it is used to measure levels of inflammation in the body. It’s used often to test for some types of autoimmune illness flares, too.

A CRP level of more than 10 milligrams per litre (10mg/L) indicates clinically significant inflammation. However, when someone has a severe infection such as pneumonia, it is usually very high – often between 100-200, and sometimes higher. A high CRP is generally linked with infection severity, and a CRP of 200 + is fairly common in sepsis. A CRP above 300 is associated with a poorer prognosis. Mine was 396 by the time I got to hospital. 

CRP tests are very clever science and extremely useful. It’s not possible to make a diagnosis from the test result alone, but used in conjunction with other tests, CRP results can support a diagnosis. And the CRP level may also be used to judge how effective treatments are. The CRP “resolves” – comes down quite quickly, often before a patient starts to feel better – when their treatment, such as antibiotics, is successful. Two or three days into the IV antibiotic treatment, my CRP was down to 193.

Other biochemical tests include blood clotting assessments, a white cell count, measurements of serum lactate, procalcitonin and something called alkaline phosphatase, all of which collectively may helpt to diagnose a severe infection and a severe systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), which is the key feature of sepsis

Testing is usually done to determine which family of bacteria has caused the infection so that antibiotic treatment may be tailored to treat it. 

It’s important that doctors maintain a high suspicion of sepsis  when someone hasan infection and symptoms, which is necessary to help prevent deaths.

In my case, the paramedics were highly suspicious of sepsis because I was tachycardic, my breathing was rapid, and I had an impeding sense of doom. My temperature was very raised and my blood glucose was raised. My blood pressure had plummeted to 70/40. There were no oxygen exchange noises in my lower lungs, so pneumonia was quickly diagnosed. An x ray later confirmed the pneumonia. I was given IV fluids to help raise my blood pressure and an antibiotic in the ambulance. I have no doubt these measures helped save my life.

 

Early suspicion of sepsis helps save lives.

 

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I wrote about my own experience of sepsis here, which includes more detailed information. The most shocking part ofthis experience was the fact I had not realised I was so gravely ill. So I wanted to raise awareness of this insidious and often fatal condition: Surviving sepsis: awareness raising and a case study

 


I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled because of illness and have a very limited income. But you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you. 

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Disability campaigners & organisations meet with Labour ministers to discuss devastating impacts of government’s draconian disability policies

this ESA round

 

The group meeting at Portcullis House, Westminster. 

On Wednesday, many of the disabled campaigners, researchers and organisations that have played a key role in exposing the discrimination and harm caused by the government’s social security reforms travelled to Westminster to attend a meeting with five Labour shadow ministers. The meeting was chaired by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

The original idea for a meeting of politicians, activists and researchers had come from Black Triangle’s John McArdle, who had put the idea to John McDonnell.

The meeting was conducted under the Chatham House rule, so although the contributions made during the meeting may be reported, the names of those who spoke and their organisations cannot, unless they spoke afterwards, specifically adding comment on record. I was permitted to report the names of the five shadow ministers who attended.

Other ministers participating were Margaret Greenwood (Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions), Marsha de Cordova (Shadow Minister for Disabled People); Mike Amesbury, (Shadow Employment Minister) and Lyn Brown, (Shadow Treasury Minister, with responsibility for social mobility).

This initial meeting is to be the launch of a series of campaigning efforts and consultation between the Labour party, disabled activists, researchers and allied organisations. Labour is also hoping to secure support from members of other political parties in the longer term.

A second meeting is set to take place later this autumn.

The discussion was particularly focused on the harm, psychological distress and deaths caused by the controversial work capability assessment (WCA), but concerns were also expressed around the table about the damage caused to disabled people by the government’s roll out of universal credit. Some of us had also submitted work in advance of the meeting and contributed to shaping the agenda.

Other crucial concerns were raised about the ongoing problems with personal independence payment (PIP), the harm caused by the welfare conditionality regime and sanctions, and the cuts to social care support. There was also discussion about the cumulative impact of the government’s reforms on disabled women. 

There was discussion about the importance of putting the government’s reforms into an ideological and historical perspective, which highlighted how successive governments have been strongly influenced by the US insurance industry, which had led to disabled people seeking support  “to be treated as bogus claimants”.

Added to this are criticisms of how the biopsychosocial model of disability, notions of ‘the sick role’ and ‘behavioural medicine’ have provided an underpinning ideology and veneer of political credibility to justify the steady and incremental dismantling of lifeline welfare support for disabled people.

One key commentator on this subject added “The WCA was brought in to destroy public confidence in the welfare state.”

Linked with this was concern raised at the continuing roll-out of the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme, which has led to mental health professionals to “come out with the sort of language we are hearing from the Department for Work and Pensions”. 

One contributor told the meeting: “You can’t divorce what’s happening in DWP with what’s happening in psychiatry.” 

She also added that the approach by IAPT practitioners, who largely draw on the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) model, is tantamount to political gaslighting, since it blames the victims of circumstances that caused at a structural level, and are therefore beyond an individual’s control. The government’s ideological claim that ‘work is a health outcome’ has also been embedded in IAPT practices and aims, despite there being very little evidence that employment is generally beneficial to people with mental health problems. Evidence has emerged that some kinds of employment are in fact further damaging to mental health.

There was also a call for nurses and GPs to be held to account for the way they had compromised their own medical ethics in dealing with requests for evidence to support disability benefit claims and in acting  in the role of assessor for private contractors.

There was a little dispute regarding precisely where the focus should lie concerning the work capability assessment, with some people feeling quite strongly that our aim should be simply to see it abolished. The Labour party are committed to scrapping the highly controversial assessment process, but it was recognised that it’s highly unlikely the current government will do the same. One activist told the meeting that there was a need both for “harm reduction”, to address the immediate problems with the assessment process, and “system change” to secure the eventual abolition of the WCA altogether.

He pointed out: “Saying ‘change the WCA right now’ is not saying ‘keep the WCA’, it is saying ‘stop it killing so many people’.”

Several contributors said that the government had made a deliberate attempt to create a “hostile environment for disabled people”. 

The meeting was broadly welcomed by disabled activists. Shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, added afterwards that he believed the meeting could herald the start of “a significant movement to expose the brutality of the system” and secure “permanent change”.

There were representatives present from many of the disabled-led grassroots organisations who have campaigned for many years against the Conservative’s punitive reforms and the disproportionate targeting of the disabled community with austerity measures. There were also researchers, union representatives and journalists gathered together to add to the discussion and to contribute in planning a response to the government’s persistent denials that there is a correlation between their policies and serious harm. 

McDonnell told journalists after the meeting: “I think this is a breakthrough meeting in terms of getting many of the relevant organisations and individuals together who have their concerns about what is happening to disabled people and their treatment in the welfare system.

I think it is the start of what could be a significant movement to expose the brutality of the system, but more importantly to secure permanent change.”

Marsha de Cordova, the shadow minister for disabled people, said that it was the first time that the various groups had been brought around the same table to talk about different issues – including crucial concerns about the imminent “migration” from benefits such as employment and support allowance onto universal credit – that all fed into the idea that the government had created a “hostile environment towards disabled people”.

She said: “It is good that we are talking about it. It’s great that we are bringing people around the table, and mainly disabled people.”

The meeting has consolidated new momentum and hopefully, a unity to our diverse and ongoing campaigns against the mounting injustices surrounding the welfare reforms, austerity, the fatally flawed Work Capability Assessment, welfare conditionality and sanctions, the targeted cuts embedded in Personal Independent Payment and universal credit. 

We will be challenging the government’s persistent denial of a ‘causal link’ between their draconian welfare policies and the distress, systematic human rights violations, serious harm and deaths of disabled people that have arisen in correlation with those policies. Unless the government permit an independent inquiry into the terrible injustices that have followed in the wake of the welfare reform acts, they cannot provide evidence to support their own claims.

Related

John McDonnell attacks Tory disability cuts and vows to address suicides linked to welfare reforms

Labour’s Disability Equality Roadshow comes to Newcastle

Nothing about you without you – the Labour party manifesto for disabled people

 

 


I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled because of an illness called lupus. If you want to, you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others.

I’m currently working on a very old, borrowed, temperamental and slow laptop as mine has broken. I am trying to raise money to buy a reconditioned one so I can keep working. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

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My response to the Conservative Chairman’s invitation to join the Conservative party

Image result for Tory psychographic profilingAn example of audience segmenting, according to a psychographics methodology. I wonder what category data analysts think that I fit into. Whichever it is, they most definitely got me wrong. Note the dehumanising labels (objectification: “the struggler, “the resigned”) and stereotyping. I struggle on little income, don’t consume junk food or very much alcohol, though I have an occasional glass of red wine with a meal. I’m not aimless, I have academic qualifications, but no physical skills as I am disabled because of an illness. I am certainly someone who fits with “the reformer” description but I am not “at the leading edge of society”.  

Psychology has always been used as a tool for political manipulation, particularly in authoritarian regimes. Psychographics uses ‘personality type’ to predict behaviour. The data is gathered from online activity, surveys and other sources. It is then analysed and segmented. Strategic communications are then tailored to fit with each category. For example, those identified as having traits of anxiety may be targeted with political messages aimed at generating fear. Those with materialistic traits may be targeted with political messages about promised tax cuts, and those with progressive tendencies may get a political message claiming that public services are valued and public sector workers are going to have a pay raise after almost a decade of exploitatively low pay.

It’s not a brand-new concept; in the documentary Century of the Self, Adam Curtis shows how researchers from the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) used psychology to understand personality types and so predict political behaviour of the US public during the 1980s. The SRI sent out a huge survey to build an understanding of personal motivations. Strategic political communications are tailored to fit the profiled ‘audience segments.’ 

What is interesting about this is a friend of mine also had an email asking him to join the Conservative party, but his message was rather more about generating fears regarding a future Labour government. My friend suffers from an anxiety disorder. I think it is highly likely the Conservatives are using psychographics and microtargeting techniques. This would certainly fit with the profiles of companies that the government hire for their election campaigns.

I received the following email from Brandon Lewis, the Conservative Chairman, today. I have set out (and sent) my response below:

Dear Sue,
Today we’ve announced the biggest public sector pay rise in almost a decade, recognising the vital work that teachers, the police, our armed forces, prison officers, doctors and dentists do. 
  • This year an early career teacher will get a pay rise of £800.
  • A typical police constable will see £760 a year more.
  • The average soldier will get a £680 pay increase, plus a one-off payment of £300 this year.
This has only been possible because of our balanced approach to the public finances.
Getting debt falling, while investing in our vital services and keeping taxes low.
Backing businesses to help to grow our economy and pay the taxes which fund our public services.
Agree with our decision to increase pay for our dedicated public-sector workers? Then join the Conservative Party today.
These pay rises couldn’t have happened under a Labour government because they don’t know how to handle the economy.
Labour would mean more debt, higher taxes, fewer jobs – and less money available for our public services.
Yours sincerely,
Brandon Lewis, The Rt. Hon. Brandon Lewis MP
Conservative Party Chairman 

My response:

Dear Brandon, 

It’s not enough to adopt progressive language, as that simply attempts to muddy the waters and target persuasive, nudge type at progressives like me with blatant lies. No matter how you try to dress this appeal, your lies are still are still lies. I am not persuaded by this superficial and glib ‘strategic communication’ from you. Your policies are still draconian and have been for the past seven years. Nothing you say to me, no matter how carefully constructed, will change either your authoritarian policies or the wake of terrible consequences of those harmful and socially damaging policies.

A Labour government would never treat our public sectors so badly. You say that this is the biggest public sector pay rise in almost a decade, and also, that you value our public sector workers’ vital work. This is a contradiction, because if you genuinely recognised and valued that vital work, you would not have waited almost a decade to reward that work. Under your government, we have witnessed hard-working nurses having to rely on food banks. We have seen doctors, nurses and other medical professionals striking in protest of their poor pay and conditions. When a government truly values public sector workers, they don’t have a need to strike and protest.

As for Labour not knowing how to handle an economy, well I must disagree. When you took office, may I remind you that the last Labour government had steered the UK out of the global recession by the last quarter of 2009. Your government put us back in recession in 2011 with your ill-conceived austerity programme, which shrunk the economy and led to those you targeted with the unfairest of burdens of cuts suffering so you could hand out tax cuts to the millionaires.

As of Q1 (the first quarter of) 2018, UK government debt amounted to £1.78 trillion, or 86.58% of total GDP, at which time the annual cost of servicing (paying the interest) the public debt amounted to around £48 billion (which is roughly 4% of GDP or 8% of UK government tax income.

For a government that platformed itself on the idea of economic competence, promising to eliminate the deficit, I have to say the reality does not match your rhetoric. You stated in 2010 that you would eliminate the deficit by the 2015/16, and by 2014, admitted that the structural deficit would not be eliminated until the financial year 2017/18. This forecast was also pushed back to 2018/19 in March 2015, and then again to 2019/20 in July 2015, before the target of a return to surplus at any particular time was finally abandoned by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne in July 2016.

It was a Tory-led government that lost the Moody’s Investors Service triple A grade, despite your pledges to keep it secure. Moody’s credit ratings represent a rank-ordering of creditworthiness, or expected loss. The Fitch credit rating was also downgraded due to increased borrowing by the Tories, who have borrowed more in 8 years than Labour did in 13. In fact it has been said that since 2010, your government has borrowed more than every Labour government combined. Quite an achievement.

The Conservatives have seized an opportunity to dismantle the institutions you have always hated since the post-war social democratic settlement – institutions of health, welfare, education, culture and human rights which should be provided for all citizens. . Offering and inflicting only regressive policies and devastating cuts, the your party lies you dismantle our social democracy, our public services, fundamental rights and the very basis of our basic civilisation.

Furthermore, the Conservatives have a track record of mismanaging the UK economy. Thatcher and Major also caused recessions in the UK, these were not because of global conditions, but because of their policies. 

Tell me, what is the point of a government in an “economically stable”and wealthy first world country that does not ensure that all citizens can meet their basic needs, and that fails to observe and fulfil basic human rights obligations?

Finally I draw your attention to the growing numbers of people living in poverty, with more than half of those people in work. Whatever your notion of a growing economy actually is, we don’t share it, because we expect that citizens actually benefit from a growing economy, rather than propping it up for the wealthy few.

Meanwhile your government have blatantly and systematically violated the human rights of disabled people, among other groups, and now you claim that the economy has grown, you still have yet to remedy the harm and distress caused to those of us on the receiving end of your draconian policies which are founded on traditional Conservative prejudices against historically marginalised groups. 

A growing economy is of no value to ordinary people when its benefits are hoarded by the very wealthiest minority, when public our wealth is transformed into private profit and placed offshore, leaving a large hole in our economy, that your own government attempts to fill by imposing more and more cuts on those with the very least. 

I have over 700 pieces of work that documents your policies and the consequences of those, collated from my own research, other academic research, and importantly, from citizens’ own accounts. Let me know if you want me to present you with this evidence of how your government has seriously mismanaged the economy and public funds, though as a government that claims to be accountable, to date you have shown a remarkable and  woeful disinterest in serious challenges to your neoliberal dogma, with its incompatibility to established human rights frameworks and democracy. Your answer to a failing neoliberal system is to apply even more aggressive neoliberal policies. Those policies are killing people, causing distress and suffering. That is inexcusable.

I am a Labour party member. I support Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party, and will be continuing to campaign for a Labour government, and to vote for the many, not the few.

Very sincerely,
and in considerable restraint,

Sue Jones

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UN extreme poverty and human rights Special Rapporteur to visit UK – call for submissions

 

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The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston, will undertake an official visit to the UK and Northern Ireland from 6 to 16 November 2018. His visit will focus, in accordance with his mandate, on the interconnections between poverty and the realisation of human rights in the UK

The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system, made up of 47 Member States, responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the world. The United Kingdom is a Member of the Council.

Special Rapporteurs are selected on the basis of their expertise and experience in the area of their mandate, personal integrity, independence and impartiality and objectivity. They are not employed by the United Nations and receive no remuneration for their UN work.

Philip Alston is a Professor of Law at New York University, and he works in the field of international law and international human rights law. He has extensive experience as an independent UN human rights expert. He previously chaired the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights for eight years (1991-98) and was United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions (2004-10).

His resume can be found here.

The Special Rapporteur is part of a system of so-called UN Special Procedures, made up of independent experts who regularly undertake country visits around the world to report on human rights issues. The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights has, since 2014, undertaken country visits to Chile, Romania, Mauritania, China, Saudi Arabia, the United States and Ghana.  Every country is different, and each faces its own human rights challenges. The Special Rapporteur thus adapts his approach in accordance with the specific circumstances of each country.

An overview of visits by all UN Special Procedures to the United Kingdom and other countries since 1998 can be found here.

Visits to a country are based on extensive preparations by the Special Rapporteur and his team and are supported by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva. They involve extensive study of topics relevant to the issue of poverty and human rights as well as interviews with civil society organizations, experts and affected individuals before a visit.

The visits usually last for about two weeks and include meetings between the Special Rapporteur and government officials, members of the legislature and judiciary, state institutions, civil society organizations, academics, and individuals who have experienced poverty. During his visit the Special Rapporteur will travel to various parts of the UK, but a final decision on his itinerary will not be made until close to the start of the visit.

Media inquiries

Regular updates about the visit to the United Kingdom in November will be posted on the website of the Special Rapporteur and via his Twitter and Facebook pages.

On the last day of the visit, November 16, 2018, the Special Rapporteur will hold a press conference in London where he will present a statement regarding his initial findings. He will subsequently submit a final report which he will present to the Human Rights Council in Geneva in 2019.

Media inquiries may be directed to Patricia Varela (pvarela@ohchr.org) and Christiaan van Veen (cvv221@nyu.edu).

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Call for written submissions

The Special Rapporteur would like to invite all interested individuals and organizations in the United Kingdom working on issues related to poverty and human rights, including representatives of civil society organizations, experts and academics, to provide input for the preparation of his visit to the United Kingdom in November 2018.

Submissions can be sent to srextremepoverty@ohchr.org until Friday 14 September at 18:00 GMT.

Please note that the Special Rapporteur is also open to receiving input via browser-based encrypted email. Please contact the Special Rapporteur and his team via the email address above about how to further communicate via encrypted email.

Submissions are limited to a maximum of 2,500 words. However, additional reports, academic studies, evidence and other types of background materials can be attached as an annex to the submission.

All input will be treated confidentially by the Special Rapporteur and his team and for the sole purpose of preparing for the country visit. 

If you would like your written submission to be published on the website of the Special Rapporteur, please explicitly indicate this is in your submission.

While all submissions are welcome and the questions below are by no means meant to be exhaustive, it would be greatly appreciated if the submissions can focus on one or more of the following thematic issues:

A. GENERAL

(1) What is the definition of poverty and extreme poverty that your organization employs in the context of the United Kingdom and to what extent do official definitions used by the state adequately encompass poverty in all its dimensions?

(2) What is your view on the current official measurement of poverty by the government, what are the shortcomings of the current measurement and what alternatives would be feasible?

(3) What are the most significant human rights violations that people living in poverty and extreme poverty in the United Kingdom experience? Please exemplify by referring to specific cases and relevant norms of international human rights law.

(4) Could you specify how poverty and extreme poverty in the United Kingdom intersect with civil and political rights issues (such as for example the right to political participation or the right to equality before the law)? Please exemplify by referring to specific cases and relevant norms of international human rights law.

(5) Could you specify how poverty and extreme poverty in the United Kingdom intersect with economic and social rights issues (such as the right to education or the right to health care)? Please exemplify by referring to specific cases and relevant norms of international human rights law.

(6) Which areas of the United Kingdom should the Special Rapporteur visit in light of the poverty and human rights situation in those locations?

(7) Which individuals and organizations should the Special Rapporteur meet with during his country visit to the United Kingdom?

B. AUSTERITY

Since 2010, successive governments have engaged in fiscal consolidation, the process of reducing the amount of fiscal deficit of the United Kingdom. This process is popularly referred to as ‘austerity’ or ‘budget cutting’.

(8) To what extent has austerity been necessary given the fiscal outlook of the United Kingdom in the last decade?

(9) Have austerity measures implemented by the government taken adequate account of the impact on vulnerable groups and reflected efforts to minimize negative effects for those groups and individuals?

(10) What have the effects of austerity been on poverty (and inequality) levels in the United Kingdom in the last decade?

(11) Have the human rights of individuals experiencing poverty been affected by austerity measures?

(12) How have local governments been affected by austerity measures in the last decades? If possible, please specify the impact on public services such as police and fire departments, public libraries, and the administration of the welfare system by local authorities.

(13) What alternatives to austerity might have been considered by governments in the last decade?  Could any such alternatives have had a more positive impact on poverty (and inequality) levels in the United Kingdom?

(14) What are the potential implications of Brexit on austerity measures in the coming years?

C. UNIVERSAL CREDIT

Universal Credit, which was first announced in 2010, is a key element of welfare reform in the United Kingdom.  Its stated aims are to simplify and streamline the benefits system for claimants and administrators, to improve work incentives, to tackle poverty and to reduce fraud and error. The Special Rapporteur is interested in learning more about Universal Credit, including its impact on poverty in the United Kingdom and on the human rights of those living in poverty. Below are some of the questions the Special Rapporteur has in that regard:

(15) To what extent has the Universal Credit been able to achieve the goals identified above?

(16) What has the impact of Universal Credit been on poverty and the lives of the poor in the United Kingdom until now? It would be helpful to also distinguish the specific impact of Universal Credit on specific groups, including for example children, persons with disabilities, women and other groups which may be more vulnerable on the basis of their identity and circumstances.

(17) Claimants apply for Universal Credit online. What has been the impact of Universal Credit being a ‘digital-only benefit’ on the ability of potential claimants to apply for this benefit? How does this relate to broadband internet access in the UK and the so-called ‘digital divide’? What is the role of public libraries and Jobcentres in enabling access to broadband internet for those applying for Universal Credit and have these public services been adequate for the purpose?

(18) What has the impact been of various forms of ‘welfare conditionality’ in the context of Universal Credit in terms of ‘incentivizing’ work?

(19) To what extent has the introduction of Universal Credit reduced the incidence of fraud and error in the welfare system?

D. NEW TECHNOLOGIES IN THE WELFARE SYSTEM

The Special Rapporteur is interested in learning more about the impact of new technologies including the use of ‘big data’, artificial intelligence, algorithms and automated decision-making processes on the human rights of those living in poverty in the United Kingdom, especially in terms of the functioning of the welfare system. Below are some of the questions the Special Rapporteur has in that regard:

(20) What use does the national government, as well devolved governments and local governments, make of such new technologies in the context of decision-making in the welfare system? A recent report by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on ‘Algorithms in decision-making’ (May 2018) concluded that the central government does not currently produce, publish or maintain a list of algorithms it uses for public purposes, despite the fact that some of the new technologies that are employed, for example in welfare fraud and error investigations, can may have major negative human rights implications, especially for the poor. The Special Rapporteur is especially interested in learning more about concrete examples of the use of such new technologies by governments in the welfare system.

(21) What is the relevant regulatory framework for the use by government of such new technologies, especially in the context of the welfare system, and are there any shortcomings in the current legal framework?

(22) Which government agencies and departments are responsible for and have oversight over the use of new technologies by governments in the UK, especially in the context of the welfare system? Are their respective responsibilities clearly defined and delineated and are they able to effectively perform their responsibilities?

(23) What are the relevant policies of the central government vis-à-vis the use of these new technologies by the government, including especially in the context of the welfare system, and do these policies take into account the potential impact of the use of these technologies on the human rights of those living in poverty?

(24) What are the potential human rights issues faced by individuals living in poverty as a result of the use of new technologies in the UK welfare system?

E. CHILD POVERTY

(25) What is the extent of child poverty in the United Kingdom, and how has it evolved over the last decade?

(26) What are the implications of child poverty for the rights enumerated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child?

(27) What are the main causes of child poverty in the United Kingdom, what have been the main government responses, and how effective have they been?

F. ‘BREXIT’

(28) What are the potential implications of Brexit for the situation of those living in poverty in the United Kingdom?

(29) What are the potential implications of Brexit in terms of protecting the human rights of low-income groups and of persons living in poverty?

(30) To what extent does government planning for Brexit explicitly address the issues arising under questions 28 and 29 above?

SUBMISSIONS RECEIVED

I shall publish my own submission in due course.

 

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Human rights are universal. That is the point of them.



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Please let’s help Peter to maintain his mobility and independence

Peter Nicholls's Profile Photo, Image may contain: 1 person

This is Peter, I’ve known him for a few years, through our mutual campaigning on Facebook to raise awareness of issues that affect disabled people.

Peter also has multiple health conditions – ME/CFS, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, chronic depression, painful nerve entrapments, and arthritic wear in his neck. These conditions leave him exhausted and debilitated for much of the time. Even doing the most simple tasks can severely exhaust him. Not only is Peter’s mobility substantially restricted at all times, there are many days when he is not even able to leave his bed due to profound fatigue,  a lack of energy and physical strength. He is unable to work, due to my impact of his health conditions.

For seven years, Peter received Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and then Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Under both awards, Peter also qualified for the enhanced mobility component. This meant that he could use this part of his lifefine benefit to lease a mobility car from the Motability scheme.

However, Peter was reassessed in January and despite the fact that Peter’s conditions are chronic, the assessor surprisingly decided that he now needs a lower level of support. This meant that Peter’s income was immediately cut by £50 per week.

Peter has appealed unsuccessfully through the Mandatory Reconsideration process, and is now going appeal the Department for Work and Pension’s decision at a tribunal court. However, the wait for appeals is currently long, and Peter has been told that his won’t likely happen until after Christmas 2018. In the mean time, Motability are taking back his car as they are no longer getting payments from the benefit agency.

The loss of income is becoming a struggle, but Peter tells me that the loss of his mobility car is absolutely devastating. He says: “A car gives someone like me freedom, it is autonomous mobility. I have no idea how I’m going to cope. Getting to and from bus stops is very hard. Buses end up causing me such pain and harm, that I cannot do anything once I’ve been on a journey. Taxis might be ok for one or two trips per week, but the cost soon becomes intolerable, and they restrict getting out of the house to just 2 or 3 times a week.

He added “I am appealing with the support of Disability Solutions West Midlands. They have an excellent record of overturning 90% of decisions on appeal, and on the evidence, they say my case is a good one. Therefore, once I finally get my appeal heard it is very likely I will have everything reinstated.”

Meanwhile, Peter is hoping to use crowd fund support to help him buy a car to help him over the difficulties and barriers he faces over the next six months or so. Without this support, Peter will be effectively housebound and unable to do everyday things, such as shopping, visiting the doctor and hospital, visiting friends, going for coffee or enjoying the outdoors. All of these things are vital his ongoing therapy, and basic inclusion in his community and wider society. 

Thousands of disabled people have already lost their specialist Motability vehicles because of the cruel Conservative cuts to PIP, and sadly, many more are likely to be affected. 

Personal Independence Payment is a non means tested benefit for people with a long-term health condition or impairment, whether physical, sensory, mental, cognitive, intellectual, or any combination of these. It is an essential financial support towards the extra costs that ill and disabled people face, to help them lead as full, active and independent lives as possible.

However, I’ve written at length about how the assessment process is unfit for purpose, and is creating distress and causing harm to disabled people. See for example: Government guidelines for PIP assessment: a political redefinition of the word ‘objective, which discusses how, prior to the introduction of PIP, Esther McVey stated that of the initial 560,000 claimants to be reassessed by October 2015, 330,000 of these are targeted to either lose their benefit altogether or see their payments reduced.

Of course the ever-shrinking category of “those with the greatest need” simply reflects a government that has made a partisan political decision to cut disabled people’s essential income to fund a financial gift to the wealthiest citizens. There is no justification for this decision, nor is it “fair.”

That article also discusses government guidelines for PIP assessors or ‘health care professionals’. The PIP assessment is geared towards looking for “inconsistencies” in “functional limitations”. For example, if you say you can’t sit unaided for half an hour, but then say that you watch soaps on TV, it will be assumed you sit unaided for at least half an hour to watch TV, and that will be classed as a “discrepancy between the reported need and the actual needs of the claimant.”

The whole assessment is set up and designed to look for “inconsistencies.” In other words, the assessor is looking for any excuse to justify a decision that you are not among those in “greatest need” for a PIP award. The entire process happens within a framework of reducing welfare costs, after all. This makes a mockery of the government’s fondness for using the word “objective.”

As someone who went through a PIP assessment last year, I know how harrowing and utterly unfair they can be. I was awarded basic rate. I was one point short of an enhanced level award. In a report concerning the decision, I was told that because I had a degree (I graduated in 1996, Master’s in 2007), because I worked as a social worker (until becoming too ill to work in 2010), and because I had a driving licence in 1993 (I can no longer drive because of flicker induced seizures), I had “no evident cognitive difficulties” caused by my conditions. It seemed inconceivable to the assessor that my illness, which arose after I graduated, has caused cognitive difficulties since 2010. 

Assessors use any irrational and outrageous excuse they can to award the lowest amount possible.

I manage my health care and hospital appointments, shopping and so on because my son and other family members support me by taking me themselves.  I’ve been unable to drive for a few years now.

However, Peter depends on his motability vehicle to get out to appointments, to shop and to meet friends. Without his car he will be trapped in the house, and the loss will cause him hardship and distress. That’s why I thought a crowdfund appeal would be  appropriate. 

The appeal is to raise £1,500 to help replace the loss of PIP payments and replace or keep Peter’s essential mobility car, so he can stay mobile and remain able to leave the house. 

Please add your support for Peter here at Just Giving (Click).

 

 

 

There is NO record on Corbyn – Ministry for State Security of East Germany

The following is an important press statement from the Federal Commissioner of Records of the State Security Service of the former German Democratic Republic, concerning the recent allegations made against Jeremy Corbyn:

Government Site Builder (Link to homepage)

For immediate release

Currently there is a debate in Great Britain about a possible documentation of activities of the Labour politician Jeremy Corbyn in the Stasi records. The Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records (BStU) usually only releases information with connection to a person to journalists and researchers when records document an official or unofficial collaboration with the Ministry of State Security. Otherwise there is no further disclosure. But because speculations have risen because of this policy in the case of Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott, the BStU for this case makes the following statement:

The most recent researches in the written records of the Ministry for State Security of East Germany have not produced any records or any other information on Jeremy Corbyn or Diane Abbott.

Dagmar Hovestädt
press spokeswoman BStU

Photo of BStU-spokesperson Dagmar Hovestädt.

Over the past week the right-wing gutter press have published a series of completely false and ridiculous smears, claiming that Labour politicians are ‘traitors’ and  attempting to link them with Soviet bloc spies. Of course this is part of a broader strategy of tensiondesigned purposefully to create public alarm – to portray the left as a threat to the wellbeing and security of our society – and it has continued to reverberate around the media; used as part of an arsenal of pro-establishment, anti-progressive propaganda to discredit Corbyn and the left.

It’s a long-standing propaganda strategy from the right wing Westminster media bubble. 

On 8 October, 1924, Britain’s first Labour government lost a vote of confidence in the House of Commons. The next day the Foreign Office was evidently sent a copy of a letter, purportedly originally sent from Grigori Zinoviev, the president of Comintern, addressed to the central committee of the Communist Party of Great Britain. The letter urged the party to stir up the British proletariat and the military in preparation for class war.

On 25 October the fake letter appeared in the heavily Conservative-biased Daily Mail just four days before the election. The political and diplomatic repercussions were immense. 

The letter came at a sensitive time in relations between Britain and the Soviet Union, due to the Conservative opposition to the parliamentary ratification of the Anglo-Soviet trade agreement of 8 August 1924.

The publication of the fake letter was severely embarrassing to Prime Minister James Ramsay MacDonald and his Labour party. The chance of a victory was dashed as the manufactured spectre of internal revolution and a government oblivious to the “red peril” dominated the public consciousness, via the media. The Daily Mail published a series of sensationalist headlines, such as:

  • Civil War Plot by Socialists’ Masters
  • Moscow Order to Our Reds
  • Great Plot Disclosed Yesterday
  • Paralyse the Army and Navy
  • Mr. MacDonald Would Lend Russia Our Money

The more things change, the more they stay the same for the pro-establishment media mouthpieces. Of course this is propaganda, not journalism. The letter was confirmed as a forgery as well as a filthy, deceitful propaganda pre-election campaign. However, it was too late, as the damage was done to the Labour Party and affected the General Election outcome in 1924.

Jan Sarkocy, a former Czech spy who worked for the Statni Bezpecnost (StB) secret police during the Cold War, claims he met Jeremy Corbyn a number of times in 1986 and 1987 – including twice in the House of Commons and once in the Islington North MP’s constituency office. 

Svetlana Ptáčníková, who heads the Czech Security Forces Archive – which holds documents relating to StB spies and their contacts, also says the story about Corbyn isn’t true.

Mr. Corbyn was neither registered [by the StB] as a collaborator, nor does this [his alleged collaboration] stem from archive documents,” she told Czech News agency CTK.

 Ptáčníková, who heads the Czech Security Forces Archive that keeps documents of the now defunct StB, said that The Sun’s headline branding Corbyn a communist spy definitely does not correspond to reality.

Mr Corbyn was neither registered [by the StB] as a collaborator, nor does this [his collaboration] stem from archive documents,” Ptacnikova said.

On the contrary, the Czech archive keepers, who are studying the relevant files, have found signs showing that the StB tried hard to prevent Corbyn from uncovering the real identity of the Czechoslovak official he was meeting, Ptáčníková said. Dymic was a secretary at the embassy in London and he was meeting Corbyn in his capacity as a diplomat. He was expelled from Britain in 1989.

In a supreme act of self harm to his credibility, Sarkocy, who now lives in the Slovakian capital Bratislava, went on to claim that he personally organised the Live Aid concern in 1985, which he said was “funded by Czechoslovakia”.

Sarkocy, who operated under the name Jan Dymic, claims there were more than 10 meetings between the two.

He claims that the Labour MP was a “paid informant”, known by the codename Agent Cob (how very original), who passed on information as part of a process of “conscious cooperation”. However, records show there were only 3 meetings.

Czech authorities have also confirmed the meetings, but say that Corbyn was not an informant. There are signs that Czechoslovakian intelligence officials made attempts to hide Sarkocy’s true identity from the Labour MP, they said.

Furthermore, the Czech Prime Minister has described the spy who made the claims as “totally untrustworthy”.

Conservative MPs have ludicrously called on Corbyn to release his Stasi file, compiled by the east German secret police. The German authorities responsible for the Stasi archive confirmed on Tuesday that they had found no documents on Corbyn. (See opening paragraphs) and this included all files that can’t be released publicly for privacy protection reasons, spokesman Matthias Dziomba said.

Sarkocy has also made claims that Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis cooperated with the Czechoslovakian secret police – a charge Babis has long denied and which is the subject of a long running court case.

“Mr Sarkocy is lying,” Mr Babis told Czech tabloid CTK. “He is an absolutely untrustworthy person and I am shocked that Czech media consider him a relevant source of information.”

Sarkocy’s other claims have also remained completely unsubstantiated.

A spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn said: “The claim that he was an agent, asset or informer for any intelligence agency is entirely false and a ridiculous smear.

Like other MPs, Jeremy has met diplomats from many countries. In the 1980s he met a Czech diplomat, who did not go by the name of Jan Dymic, for a cup of tea in the House of Commons.

“Jeremy neither had nor offered any privileged information to this or any other diplomat.

“During the Cold War, intelligence officers notoriously claimed to superiors to have recruited people they had merely met. The existence of these bogus claims does not make them in any way true.”

A Labour Party spokesman dismissed Sarkocy as “a fantasist, whose claims are entirely false and becoming more absurd by the day”.

These ridiculous smears should be given no credence whatsoever,” he added.

Ken Livingstone, also claimed to have been involved in said he had “no recollection of meeting anyone from the Czech embassy” and dismissed the claims as a “tissue of lies”.

John McDonnell, it was claimed had met with a KGB agent also strongly denied this allegation.

He said: “These are ridiculous and false allegations. I have never met any Czechoslovak or Soviet agent, nor visited the Soviet or Russian embassy and have only visited Guildford once in my life, which was last year for a Labour Party public meeting.”

Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, has dismissed the claims. In a strongly worded attack on the newspapers reporting them, he said: “This journalism is not worth the paper it’s printed on. The only thing these articles reveal is just how concerned some tax dodging media barons are about a Labour government.

In an era when the traditional press is fighting for survival newspapers should be upping their journalistic standards not falling onto the wrong side of the fake news divide.

“These irresponsible scurrilous stories do a disservice to the titles they are printed in and undermine the British newspaper industry during a very febrile time. For newspapers to have a brighter future than they look to now, proprietors must focus on ensuring their publication’s long term health and reputation, rather than on cheap political attacks.”

Corbyn is telling the truth

Communist-era files from the intelligence agency of Czechoslovakia provide no evidence whatsoever that Corbyn was ever a spy or agent of influence, say experts and academic researchers who have reviewed the papers on Tuesday.

Radek Schovánek, an analyst with the defence ministry of the Czech Republic – which emerged, along with Slovakia, from the peaceful breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993 – has spent 25 years researching documents filed by the now-defunct spy service. He told the Guardian the suspicions against Corbyn were unfounded, and the claims of Ján Sarkocy, a former intelligence officer expelled from Britain in 1989, to have signed the Labour leader up were false. 

Schovánek said Sarkocy’s assertions were at odds with the security files, which represented the definitive record on agents and contacts, and made no reference to Corbyn as a recruited agent, or to McDonnell or Livingstone.

Asked if he was calling the ex-intelligence officer, now living near the Slovakian capital Bratislava, a liar, Schovánek said: “When you compare the documents which he had written and signed himself with what he is saying today, based on that he is a liar. He signed a list of documents in the UK which said Corbyn was an intelligence contact, not an agent.”

Schovánek, 54, who secretly smuggled banned books from the west into Czechoslovakia during the cold war, said he felt compelled to speak out on Corbyn’s behalf, despite strongly disagreeing with the Labour leader’s left wing politics.

“I personally don’t like Corbyn. I’m Roman Catholic and conservative, but I think we have to defend people against a lie,” he said.

Daniela Richterová, a politics and international studies researcher at the University of Warwick, said the files showed the Labour leader was never a “source”. “We know how the process of arranging a collaboration works,” she said. There was “no evidence” Corbyn was recruited during four meetings with Sarcozy, she added.

These accounts resonate with Darren G Lilleker, associate professor at Bournemouth University and author of the 2004 book Against The Cold War: The History and Political Traditions of Pro-Sovietism in the British Labour Party, 1945-1989.

Lilleker said Corbyn was not among those Labour MPs who were sympathetic to the Soviet Union. “He was against both sides, the US and the Soviet Union, seeing them both as a danger to world peace.”

Conservatives are telling lies

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn has demanded an apology and a donation to charity from a Conservative MP who claimed the Labour leader sold British secrets to “communist spies”. 

Ben Bradley, a Tory party vice-chairman, made the claim in a Twitter message which he subsequently deleted. Corbyn has branded newspaper allegations that he met with a communist spy during the Cold War “increasingly wild and entirely false”. Quite properly so.  

red brad

Lawyers acting for the Labour leader note that while the tweet has been removed, “serious harm has been caused by the libellous statement”.

In a four-page letter to the Mansfield MP, they demand that Mr Bradley:

  •  Confirms in writing that the defamatory statement will not be repeated in any form; 
  •  Tweets an apology and asks followers to retweet it;
  •  Makes a donation to a charity of Mr Corbyn’s choice in lieu of damages;
  •  And pays Mr Corbyn’s legal costs.

In Corbyn’s response to the right wing lies (see video below), he says:

“In the last few days The Sun, The Mail, The Telegraph and The Express have gone a little bit James Bond.”

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing

He goes on to say: We’ve got news for the billionaire, tax exile press barons: Change is coming.”

Quite right. It’s long overdue. It’s time we stopped permitting the one-party gutter press to stage-manage our democracy.

 

Andrew Neil, on the Daily Politics show today, accused the Conservatives  of “outrageous smears” and peddling “outright lies” about Jeremy Corbyn, as he dismantled Tory Brexit minister Steve Baker and handed him his ass over claims the Labour leader was connected to a communist spy. 

The video can be found here on the Huff Post, and it’s well worth watching.

Here is a copy of the letter to Ben Bradley from Corbyn’s solictor:

Dear Mr Bradley

OUR CLIENT: RT HON JEREMY CORBYN MP
DEFAMATORY TWEET

We act for the Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP.

This is a Letter of Claim for the purposes of the Pre-action Protocol for Defamation. The prospective Claimant is our client, the Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP. The prospective Defendant is you, Mr Ben Bradley MP.

Yesterday, 19 February 2018, you published the following tweet on your Twitter account, Ben Bradley MP (@bbradleymp):

“Corbyn sold British secrets to communist spies…get some perspective mate!! Your priorities are a bit awry! # AreYouSerious”

Your statement that our client sold British secrets to communist spies is untrue. The inference that our client, whom you know to be the Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition and the Leader of the Labour Party, had engaged in criminal acts of treachery and spying could not be more seriously harmful of a British citizen, let alone such a prominent politician. As the vice-chairman of the Conservative Party you are fully aware of the serious harm that was caused or was likely to be caused to our client’s reputation by your defamatory statement.

The natural and ordinary meaning of your words is that our client engaged in criminal activity at the most serious level. For example, espionage and serious breaches of the Official Secrets Act 1911; that he acted in a manner which was/is prejudicial to the safety or interests of the United Kingdom; that he colluded with representatives of the secret services of foreign states to the detriment of the national interests of the United Kingdom, putting its citizens and its allies at serious risk of harm by passing confidential secret information to foreign agents/intelligence officers. Furthermore the natural and ordinary meaning of your words is that our client made financial gain for such criminal acts and espionage.

Our client’s reputation has been or is likely to be seriously harmed by your publication of the offending tweet and by re-tweets. Furthermore, your tweet has been quoted in full in the Guardian newspaper, the Mirror newspaper, the Huffington Post, Sky News, the Mail Online and has been paraphrased in other national print newspapers, and online, which is unsurprising given your own high profile within the Conservative Party and your status as an MP.

Our client instructed us yesterday evening and we advised his office to put out an immediate statement notifying you and others of the fact that he had taken legal advice and that the tweet should be deleted from your Twitter account. We note that you have removed the tweet but nevertheless serious harm has been caused by your libellous statement.

Next Steps

Our client requires you to immediately agree to take the following steps:

1. Provide a written undertaking, in terms to be agreed with us, that you will not repeat the defamatory statement identified above in your offending tweet or utter or publish any allegations/statements to similar effect about our client on Twitter or on any other social media platform or in any other form both written and oral.

2. Immediately agree to publish on your Twitter account an apology, in terms to be agreed with us, and with the additional statement that you will ask your followers to retweet your apology.

3. Agree to pay a sum of money direct to a charity of our client’s choice, in lieu of damages payable to our client for the injury you have caused to his reputation and also for the embarrassment and distress caused to him by your defamatory statement. We invite your proposals by return with regard to the amount that you will pay which we would expect to be substantial, as our client’s attitude towards the level of payment will take into account the speed with which you make sensible proposals or not. Our client does not seek any personal financial benefit from this litigation and if you force him to issue proceedings and recover substantial damages through the courts he will donate the damages to a charity of his choice.

4. Pay our client’s legal costs incurred in relation to this matter. If you delay the resolution of this case our client will commence legal proceedings against you in the High Court and our client will seek from you not only his basic legal costs but also a success fee (as our client has agreed a Conditional Fee Agreement which provides for a success fee) and payment of an after the event insurance premium. If proceedings are commenced legal costs payable by you will increase significantly, especially if the matter proceeds to a full trial. Your swift agreement to the matters set out in the numbered paragraphs above will assist you in limiting your exposure to our client’s legal costs. Any failure by you to respond swiftly will undoubtedly mean that our client’s legal costs will increase significantly.

We look forward to your immediate and positive response. If there is any delay our client reserves the right to commence legal proceedings against you for damages and ancillary relief for defamation without further notice. In that event, our client will rely on the terms of this letter and the lack of an adequate response, by drawing your conduct to the attention of the Court.

Please indicate if you intend to nominate solicitors to accept service of proceedings on your behalf, should you seek to defend this claim.

Finally, Jeremy Corbyn was actually in Derbyshire when ex-Czech spy claims they met in London, leader’s records show.


 

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