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.

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

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.


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


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 can be read at:

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:

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

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.

Personal Budgets Focus Group

We are interested in your experiences of using your Personal Budget

We would like to invite you to take part in our research study by taking part in a 45 minute focus group discussion on your experiences of using a personal budget. We hope our findings will help improve services by deepening understanding of people’s experiences and the barriers people face in gaining personal budgets. Our focus on personal budgets is part of a wider research project on user involvement in England.

Flyer here: Personal budgets Advert poster_PB

NB this is a paid opportunity.

Lewisham mental health & wellbeing stakeholders day – December 7th 2012: reminder

Hello everyone,

Please could you  remind  people about this annual event.

Lewisham event poster

There will be workshops about:

  • Peer support
  • Housing
  • The experience of being an inpatient
  • Changes to the benefits system
  • Sleep
  • Medication and side effects
  • Working collaboratively with family & carers
  • changes to services
  • what GPs need to know

There will be speakers talking about:

  • changes in the NHS,
  • how to keep well during periods of change,
  • equality & diversity

There will be a packed information and wellbeing room, an art workshop and lunch is provided!!!

There is no charge to attend the event but booking is essential

For more information or to book a place please contact Joan Laronde:

Tel: 020 3228 0950


With best wishes,

Alice Glover

Mind crisis care survey and evaluation

A mental health crisis is frightening and can be life-threatening. Yet the quality of help you’ll get will depend on where you live. We found:

  • You might not be able to get help immediately. Only one-third of people who used NHS crisis care services were assessed within four hours.
  • If you do manage to get help, there may not be enough staff to care for you or keep you safe. 4 in 10 mental health trusts have staffing levels well below established benchmarks.
  • And you may not be offered any choice in the treatment you get. Only 23 per cent of people in crisis were given a choice of treatment.

Under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, we asked mental health trusts in England and health boards in Wales to tell us about the services they provide for people when they’ve hit rock bottom and are in crisis.

SLaM’s data is here: South_London_and_Maudsley crisis care data

You can check out other Trusts via the Mind site:

Bad Day?

Job Vacancies: Mental Health Carers Support Service Manager, Young Carers Manager, Volunteer Manager, Information Management Intern

Job vacancies with South Thames Crossroads:

  • Mental Health Carers Support Service Manager, Carers Hub Lambeth.
  • Young Carers Project Manager, Lambeth
  • Volunteer Manager
  • Information Management Intern

Closing date for all posts is 14th December 2012.

The vacancies are advertised on the Guardian Jobs Website and on

PSUIG service user involvement award 2012

TWIG Ops (The Trustwide Involvement Group: Operations) was delighted to be invited for a second year to consider applications for PSUIG’s annual psychology service user involvement award.

Read our report here: PSUIG 2012 report


Hi D

This is from a blog by Emma.  She suffers from anorexia and also works in a mental health team.  She says ” I’m comfortable talking about mental health: the strength it takes to recover, the resourcefulness and courage which many of my clients have in abundance, the stigma, the hope.”

Emma challenges family, friends and the public when she hears ignorant and judgemental comments.  Despite this she finds it difficult to admit that she has anorexia, a mental illness, for fear of being judged.  She feels that speaking honestly and openly about her own issues and experiences is a real challenge – but one that she is trying to rise to.

I thought the article might be of interest to people who find it hard to be open about their mental illness – basically if someone working in the field finds it hard then it is no wonder that it is so difficult.

Best wishes


Tantalising evidence that intestinal bacteria can influence mood

Bacteria and behaviour

Gut instinct

Tantalising evidence that intestinal bacteria can influence mood

A GOOD way to make yourself unpopular at dinner parties is to point out that a typical person is, from a microbiologist’s perspective, a walking, talking Petri dish. An extraordinary profusion of microscopic critters inhabit every crack and crevice of the typical human, so many that they probably outnumber the cells of the body upon and within which they dwell.

Happily, these microbes are mostly harmless. Some of them, particularly those that live in the gut, are positively beneficial, helping with digestion and keeping the intestines in good working order. That is no surprise—bacteria as much as people have an interest in keeping their homes in sound condition. What is surprising is the small but growing body of evidence which suggests that bacteria dwelling in the gut can affect the brain, too, and thereby influence an individual’s mood and behaviour. The most recent paper on the topic, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reports (like much of the research in this field) on results in mice.

The researchers, led by Javier Bravo of University College, Cork, split their rodent subjects into two groups. One lot were fed a special broth containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus, a gut-dwelling bacterium often found in yogurt and other dairy products. The others were fed an ordinary diet, not fortified with microbes.

The team then subjected the mice to a battery of tests that are used routinely to measure the emotional states of rodents. Most (though not all) of these tests showed significant differences between the two groups of animals.

One test featured a maze that had both enclosed and open tunnels. The researchers found that the bacterially boosted mice ventured out into the open twice as often as the control mice, which they interpreted to mean that these rodents were more confident and less anxious than those not fed Lactobacillus.

In another test the animals were made to swim in a container from which they could not escape. Bacteria-fed mice attempted to swim for longer than the others before they gave up and had to be rescued. Such persistence is usually interpreted by students of rodent behaviour as evidence of a more positive mood.

Direct measurements of the animals’ brains supported the behavioural results. Levels of corticosterone, a stress hormone, were markedly lower in the bacteria-fed mice than they were in the control group when both groups were exposed to stressful situations. The number of receptors for gamma-aminobutyric acid, a natural chemical messenger that helps dampen the activity of certain nerve cells, varied in statistically significant ways between the brains of the two groups, with more in some parts of the treated animals’ brains and fewer in others. Most intriguing of all, when Dr Bravo cut the animals’ vagus nerves—which transmit signals between the gut and the brain—the differences between the groups vanished.

The idea that gut-dwelling microbes can affect an animal’s state of mind may strike some people as outlandish, and there are certainly loose ends still to be tied up. Beyond their evidence that the vagus nerve is crucial to the relationship, for example, Dr Bravo and his colleagues do not yet know the precise mechanisms at work. There is also an obvious follow-up question: whether a similar thing is going on in people. A few previous studies have hinted at the possibility. For example, bacterial treatments may help with the mental symptoms of illnesses such as irritable-bowel syndrome.

All this is forcing a reassessment of people’s relationship with the bacteria that live on and in them, which have long been regarded mainly as a potential source of infections. An editorial in this week’s Nature raises the possibility that the widespread prescription of antibiotics—which kill useful bacteria as effectively as hostile ones—might be one factor behind rising rates of asthma, diabetes and irritable-bowel syndrome. If Dr Bravo’s results apply to people, too, then mood disorders may end up being added to this list.

#RT via Bridget from