Croydon Vigil in Remembrance of Atos Victims to be held on International Day of Disabled People 3rd December 2012

Assemble outside Atos Assessment Centre, Stephenson House, 2 Cherry Orchard Road, Croydon, CR0 6BA at 12.30pm for a Minute’s Silence to be held at 12.45pm

Speakers:  Janet Richards, Chair of Croydon Disability Forum and Ellen Clifford, Disabled People Against Cuts

A vigil will be held outside the Atos assessment centre in Croydon on 3rd December in remembrance of disabled and ill people who have suffered as a result of the punitive regime of assessments carried out by Atos Healthcare to test Incapacity Benefit/Employment and Support Allowance claimants. Croydon and Bromley Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) are organising the event in response to John McDonnell MP’s call for International Day of Disabled People which falls on the 3rd to be held this year to remember all Atos victims.

73 disabled people found ‘fit for work’ through Atos Healthcare’s notorious Work Capability Assessments die every week. Some die of the conditions Atos have assessed them on, others take their own lives in sheer desperation at the hopelessness of their situation.

The British Medical Association voted overwhelmingly that these Assessments are unethical and should be stopped with immediate effect yet the misery continues with disabled people terrified of the day the brown envelope calling them up to assessment comes through.

Suffering is not limited to the thousands of disabled people undergoing the distress of continual assessments, removal of benefits before they are even informed of any decisions and the stress of appeals, it also affects the families, friends and carers of disabled people.

The 13 year old son of Brian McArdle wrote to Atos to tell them they are ‘killing genuinely disabled people like my Dad’ after his Dad died from a heart attack the day after his benefits were stopped. Mr McArdle, having suffered a blood clot on his brain, was left paralysed on one side, unable to speak properly and blind in one eye and yet was summoned to an Atos work capacity assessment, before which he suffered a further stroke.

This is just one of thousands of similar cases across the country. People with terminal illnesses are routinely found fit for work alongside soldiers returning from Afghanistan with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, people with severe physical impairments, people with learning disabilities and mental health survivors.

Atos enjoys a one hundred million pound contract with the Department for Work and Pensions and last year their Chief Executive pocketed a cool one million pound bonus for running a company linked to bullying of staff and failing to pay workers a living wage.

Meanwhile the tax-payer picks up an extra fifty million bill for the cost of appeals against judgements made through the Atos WCA process.

Atos carries out its contract with the Department for Work and Pensions with callous disregard for the welfare of disabled people. The General Medical Council are investigating numerous healthcare staff employed by Atos for professional misconduct while the assessment centre in Croydon is not even accessible to wheelchair users, leaving them having to travel miles away to an alternative centre.

The vigil is being called by members of Croydon and Bromley Disabled People Against Cuts but we invite everyone who believes in social justice and the rights of disabled people to join us.

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Statement from Mind on mandatory unpaid work placements for people on ESA

Posted Thursday 29 November 2012

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive at Mind, said:

“Mind does not believe that people who have been found unfit for work should be forced to undertake mandatory unpaid work placements. We recognise the value that volunteering and work experience may play in someone’s journey back to work and their recovery from a mental health problem. However, for people on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) such placements should be a choice, not something they are pushed into doing under the threat of sanctions.

“Our opposition to mandatory unpaid work placements for people on ESA applies to the whole of the Mind network, including our shops and local Minds.

“We believe that the Government needs to rethink its approach to helping people with mental health problems back to work. There is currently too much reliance on conditionality and sanctions, based on the false assumption that people with mental health problems don’t want to work, rather than focusing on creating a supportive and enabling environment and addressing the many external barriers faced by people with mental health problems in looking for suitable employment.”

#RT via Bridget


A Guide to Carers’ Rights and Benefits 2012/13

It’s Carers’ rights day today and Carers UK have produced a new booklet “A Guide to Carers’ rights and benefits 2012/13”.  Ordering info and download link http://www.carersuk.org/professionals/order-publications/item/2855-looking-after-someone-a-guide-to-carers-rights-and-benefits-2012/13-uk9033


Letter to people in the WRAG group of ESA

Dear all,

If you are in the WRAG group of ESA you will (probably) receive this letter from the DWP soon.

esa-changes-factsheet

If you are subsequently asked to do anything that you feel unable to by the DWP, please contact Sian Evans (SLaM Benefits Advisor) on 3228 2942.


The Government’s Workfare Schemes: 10 Facts

PIL acts for a number of individuals, including Cait Reilly, who are challenging the Government’s “Back to Work” schemes in the High Court.  Intensive press coverage and the Government’s attempts to salvage this programme from its current crisis have led to a skewing of the facts.  The following may therefore be helpful.

 
 

 

  1. Our clients do not object to work or to work experience.  Cait Reilly was doing voluntary work experience in a museum when she was sent to Poundland.   Our clients, like the vast majority of jobseekers, are desperate to find paid work of any description, including stacking shelves.  The term “job snobs” is therefore a misleading and offensive buzz word being used by the Government to discredit Britain’s 2.6 million unemployed.  What our clients say they need is support from the Government to make the most of their skills and plug their skills gaps, in order to ensure that they not only enter the job market, but stay there. 
  2. The Government is not “paying them… through benefits” to work, as the Deputy Prime Minister has claimed today.  Jobseekers allowance ranges from £53.45 to £67.50 per week.  It is paid for one specific (and obvious) purpose – to support people whilst they seek employment.  It is not remuneration for work, and even if it were it would mean that people on Back to Work schemes would be getting paid as little as £1.78 per hour, often whilst working for some of our biggest retailers.  Many of those retailers are now realising that such a scenario is unacceptable and have either pulled out of the schemes or demanded that the Government thinks again.
  3. People are not being given a choice. Ministers claim that work under these schemes is not forced but voluntary.  This is not correct.  The Community Action Programme, Work Programme and Mandatory Work Activity Scheme (the clue is in the name) are mandatory, and jobseekers will lose their jobseeker’s allowance if they do not participate.  The Government says the sector-based work academy and work experience schemes are voluntarily, but Cait Reilly was told in no uncertain terms that her participation was “mandatory”. 
  4. The schemes do not work. Ministers claim the schemes help people into employment.  Yet, the international research the Government commissioned before introducing them gave it two very clear answers:

There is little evidence that workfare increases the likelihood of finding work.  It can even reduce employment chances by limiting the time available for job search and by failing to provide the skills and experience valued by employers”; and

Workfare is least effective in getting people into jobs in weak labour markets where unemployment is high.”

  1. The schemes do not target benefits scroungers or “the something for nothing generation”:the Government’s internal guidance makes clear that such people who are taking advantage of the system are not eligible for the schemes.  They must receive the appropriate sanction of removal of their jobseeker’s allowance as they are not “jobseeking”. 
  2. These legal challenges are not simply about “human rights”.  What our clients object to is 1) the forced or compulsory nature of the work required, and 2) that Parliament has been by-passed by the Government in creating these schemes.  They argue that this breaches basic democratic and legal requirements.
  3. The Government schemes do not amount to slave labour, as some campaigners have suggested.  The ILO’s Forced Labour Convention of 1930 defines slavery as connoting “ownership” over an individual.  What our clients are arguing is that the Government schemes are “forced or compulsory” labour.  This too is prohibited under UK civil and criminal law.
  4. These schemes are not all aimed at the long-term unemployed.  For example, the sector-based work academy can apply to any jobseeker, even if he or she has only been unemployed for one day.
  5. Press attention has focused on the sector-based work academy, but that is only one of a plethora of complex schemes, many of which are much worse.  The sector-based work academy involves 6-8 weeks of unpaid work.  Other schemes involve six months, and there appears to be nothing to stop those six-month periods from being renewed.  One of our clients was told that his Community Action Programme placement would last six months “to begin with”.
  6. The Government’s sums do not add up.  The Employment Minister has stated that “half” or “something like half” of those on work experience have received permanent jobs.  He has not advanced any evidence to support this, and Tesco has offered only 300 jobs having taken on 1400 unpaid workers. 

 #RT via Bridget via http://www.publicinterestlawyers.co.uk

 


Work Capability Assessment


Sick and Disabled Claimants Now to Be Sent on Workfare (by the same charities who claim to support them)

Sick and disabled claimants face being sent on unlimited workfare from the beginning of next month a memo issued to Work Programme providers has revealed.

Claimants in the WRAG group, who have been judged by the shabby Atos testing regime as possibly able to work at some point in the future, will from next month be mandated to unpaid community work or face losing benefits.

In a new low for the third sector, charities such as Scope, MIND, Mencap, the Salvation Army, RNIB and the Leonard Chesire Foundation will now be able to force disabled people into unpaid work or report them to the DWP for benefit sanctions.

Astonishingly these charities will also be able to use workfare workers in their own businesses, meaning that charity shops could soon be staffed by sick and disabled claimants forced to work without pay under threat of poverty and possible homelessness.

The memo (spotted by the ever vigilant consent.me.uk) can be read at:http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/work-programme-memo-082.pdf

This appears to be a brutally flawed measure to toughen up the Work Programme after yesterday’s disastrous performance figures (more on these later by the way).

Workfare for sick and disabled claimants, some of whom may have cancer, serious disabilities or severe mental health conditions, has long been floated by the DWP as part of the war on welfare claimants.

The work must be ‘community based’, meaning that claimants will be sent to work for charities and voluntary sector organisations.  Under the ‘black box’ approach on the Work Programme, which means providers can mandate participants to whatever they see fit, there is no time limit for workfare on the two year scheme.

Charities will both administer and benefit from this vicious new attack on disabled people and those who are too unwell to find work.  They can also stop it in its tracks.

A new militancy is required and these charities need to know that we will not accept their greedy money grabbing activities on the Work Programme or any other workfare scheme. And they will no longer receive a penny of our money.  If they exploit us we will shut them down.  Start by telling them what you think of their connivance with the Work Programme and join the Boycott Workfare Week of Action Against Workfare Charities beginning on December 8th:http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=1741

Charitable Work Programme sub-contractors include @scope,  @MindCharity, @mencap_charity, @RNIB, @LCDisability, @salvationarmyuk, @AddactionUK

Charities who exploit workfare staff include @thebhf, @barnardos, @age_uk, @CR_UK

If you donate to a charity contact them today and demand a written assurance they will not use workfare staff or carry out government contracts to force anyone into unpaid work or sanction benefits.

#RT via http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com

NB TWIG Ops is urgently considering what we can do to support people in SLaM. We will keep you posted, and welcome suggestions of what we could /should do, and of other campaigns and actions that we can publicise and support.

We are also seeking urgent guidance from SLaM’s Involvement Register Benefits Advisor. We will keep you posted but please can you also send us anything you are aware of.