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Social Welfare Union: Letter To Charities Asking For Support Against Welfare Propaganda

November 2, 2012 1 comment

http://socialwelfareunion.org/archives/2823

Letter To Charities Asking For Support Against Welfare Propaganda

Dear Sir/Madam

I am writing this letter in the hope you will publish, and add your charities name to this statement as a rebuttal to the ongoing misleading statements issued by the Media and the coalition Government. Under new Welfare cuts many are suffering unprecedented distress through draconian measures designed to alleviate a struggling economy they did not create.

Many myths surrounding the need for these cuts, believed by the general public as being justified, are in fact totally unjustifiable.

According to the campaign group Right to Work many people are facing brutal conditions on work experience placements offered through the work programme, and awful treatment under new jobseeker’s agreements. We acknowledge that people who can work should work, and be supported in doing so, but in too many cases the alleged treatment experienced by those on the work programme would, in paid employment, be seen as potentially illegal.

Osbourne Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQYfPhtWpy8&sns=fb

http://righttowork.org.uk/2012/09/majority-of-new-jobs-either-part-time-or-self-employed/

http://righttowork.org.uk/2012/10/new-sanctions-regime-will-punish-the-poorest/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/nov/23/employment-law-changes-mean-workplace

As Labour’s Dame Anne Begg, who chairs the Work and Pensions Select Committee pointed out, this is not just an attack on those out of work, but also a “double whammy” for the many workers whom claim in-work benefits because of low incomes which are failing to keep up with the cost of living.

Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, told the Guardian:

”Breaking the link between benefits and living standards would be breaking the link with decency…With the economy back in recession, unemployment is predicted to rise again, meaning cuts in the real-term level of benefits would punish people working and paying their national insurance today who lose their work tomorrow…The poorest families and children are already bearing the brunt of the government’s austerity agenda. It is beyond belief that the richest get a top-rate tax cut while the poorest are being forced into deepening destitution.”

http://righttowork.org.uk/2012/09/tory-benefit-freeze-plan-will-hammer-poorest/

http://socialwelfareunion.org/archives/2542#.UGGh54LNUms.facebook

The Flat Screen TV scenario is a falsehood as TV’s sold today in shops are all flat screens which adorn many households around the UK, working or otherwise. The Gavin and Stacy image attached to the working class and the ‘underclass’ in society by the chattering middle classes and the elite in society is not only offensive, but also prevents those on the bottom rungs of the ladder moving up the social ladder to a decent standard of living. No one mentions those who also work hard and pay into the system which is the majority. What failed the system is the incompetence of governmental policies to catch those few individuals guilty of fraudulent claims, and now we find the majority of honest claimants are paying a terrible price for the fraudulent behavior of a few. This new ‘task force’ is now outsourced to a private company who will work seven days and week. This will cost the taxpayer a small fortune . Benefit claimants are taxpayers too in many various forms. The majority paid into the system before finding themselves without a job, or disabled etc. People forget the tax products which everyone has to pay. £71 a week in benefit is virtually impossible to live on and many, not on benefits spend more than that on a weekly shop. The young are getting even less.

http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/benefitrates2012.pdf

Counter Fraud Champions to help crackdown on fraud

27 January 2011

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude has launched a new network of Counter Fraud Champions, based in all major government departments, to help strengthen the fight against the massive amount of fraud and error in the public sector

http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/news/counter-fraud-champions-help-crackdown-fraud

The following link provides a table in figure one

http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/sites/default/files/resources/eliminating-public-sector-fraud-final.pdf

You will see the Government actually had higher rates of fraud in other areas although we do not condone the figures in the above link relating to benefits. Much error was actually Government failure than benefit fraud.

The Sick & Disabled are being forced to endure the brunt of savage cuts to welfare spending, many have to face the dreaded work capability assessment by ATOS which causes untold stress and anxiety and has been declared ‘Not-Fit-For-Purpose’ by doctors, campaigners, politicians and others. Many are recycled through the system on a frequent basis only to be denied benefit and forced to appeal a decision which should have been ‘right first time’. Appeal success rates remain high despite alleged improvements. Too many people are still being wrongfully denied benefit by an assessment which is so heavily flawed many believe it to be beyond repair and should be scrapped.

The majority of welfare spending is used to fund decent pensions so that our older citizens can rightfully live later life with a modicum of financial security and basic comfort. Benefits paid to the sick and disabled, and other vulnerable sections of society, remain small in comparison and increases can be explained by a number of different factors, including population increase and the rise in the number of recognised disabilities and medical complaints, amongst others.

Nearly 11,000 people, according to DWP own statistics, have died whilst going through the process of claiming incapacity related benefits. Whilst it is impossible to prove whether this is as a direct result of the benefit claim process, it is perhaps fair to say that the health of these people is certainly not helped due to the stress and anxiety of having to prove their illness and/or disability, and in many cases then having an appeal a negative decision.http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/adhoc_analysis/2012/incap_decd_recips_0712.pdf.

How this can be acceptable in the 21st Century? How can society stand by and allow this to happen in our name? We should not turn a blind eye to this! The UK claims to be a caring and compassionate society, but the way we treat our vulnerable individuals would suggest otherwise. Sick and disabled people are being denied their right to be treated as human beings by a government which puts money before people. By turning a blind eye to what’s going on society is giving the government a green light to continue the vilification of these groups of people. This cannot be allowed to continue and so we ask you to help us in putting an end to this injustice.

The whole implementation of these medicals is another part of the chaos wreaked upon the vulnerable by the government. Not only is it shocking, but it’s barbaric.

Disabled blogger Helen http://welfarenewsservice.co.uk/archives/519

When many have to live with their illnesses and disabilities daily only to be forced to endure the shame and embarrassment in proving their medical problems to a society which has been led to believe those on welfare are all ‘lazy scroungers’. Many of those lucky enough to be awarded benefits as a result of reduced work capability face extra living costs due to their disabilities which low benefit levels fail to cover. Those awarded benefit find themselves being assessed again as little as six months later – forced to endure the whole process again. Appeals against incorrect decisions are costing far more than they should; this is totally unacceptable waste of taxpayers’ money. Those most susceptible are those with mental health issues. I also believe disabled people should have further entitlement to Winter Fuel Allowance’s.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9436969/Disability-tests-sending-sick-and-disabled-back-to-work.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9618849/20000-back-to-work-assessments-on-benefits-claimants-substandard-audit-finds.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/9165926/Twice-as-many-judges-needed-to-handle-benefits-appeals.html

http://www.update.org.uk/news-detail.php?page=189

Women and children are caught up in this mess, whom in some cases are fleeing domestic violence as a result of an aggressive relationship. Of course women are not alone in this and it is something which could happen to both men as well as women. Lone parents are being attacked scathingly in the press, when the truth is many are responsible parents who are finding themselves in difficult circumstances. We have seen a rise in recent years of young mum’s who choose to bring a child up alone for a variety of reasons, while the government fail to get to grips with teenage pregnancy through early age education programmes. The myth that they are baby machines pumping out kids on a grand scale to get council homes and benefits is not only false but insulting. There will always be a minority of those who see kids as a passport to welfare payments but contrary to what we read in the press and wider media this IS a tiny minority group.

Gingerbread works to tackle the stigma around single parents by dispelling myths and labels.

Here are the facts about single parents

  • Just over a quarter (26 per cent) of households with dependent children are single parent families (1), and there are 2 million single parents in Britain today. (2) This figure has remained consistent since the mid-1990’s
  • Less than 2 per cent of single parents are teenagers (3)

http://www.gingerbread.org.uk/content.aspx?CategoryID=365

Children are finding themselves in severe poverty through no fault of their own, yet they are being punished by this government through cuts to welfare benefits. It has been long proven that welfare can pay a fundamental role in lifting families out of poverty and hardship. Many children attend school without breakfast as parents struggle to feed their young and pay their bills.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/jun/19/breadline-britain-hungry-schoolchildren-breakfast

Many are now being told to find work when their child reaches 5yrs old (which is set to fall further in future years) whilst the cost of childcare facilities continues to grow and outstrip incomes.

Now on top of all this the government is planning charging for CSA payments to those who are already on the cliff edge or who have been victims of assault and domestic violence by aggressive partners.

“Gingerbread fought hard to stop the Government’s plans to charge parents to use its future new child maintenance scheme, starting from 2013.

With your help, the Government made a concession following our campaigning work on charging – reducing the application fee from a proposed £100 to £20. However, despite much support from single parents, MPs and Peers, the Government says it will not budge on the principle of charging both parents to use the collection service within its future new ‘Child Maintenance Service”

http://www.gingerbread.org.uk/content.aspx?CategoryID=925

Add to this the two child cap being proposed by the coalition government.

http://www.gingerbread.org.uk/news/174/benefit-cap

FOOD BANKS The Trussell Trust have reported a rise in the need for food banks and that it is actually not those on benefits who are asking for help but those who work but are on a low income. Those on benefits are not asking for help when they should, due to the stigma associated with handouts which has been around for decades, which this government is perpetuating with misleading press statements. 100,000 people in six months have been fed by this charity according to their press statement.13 million people are in food poverty and 1 in 3 children live below the poverty line according to the Trussell Trust. see link below

The rising cost of food and fuel combined with static (or in some cases falling) incomes, high unemployment and changes to benefits, have seen increasing numbers of people turn to food banks over the last eighteen months. Having already fed record-breaking numbers since April this year, news that food prices are likely to rise again, and that energy firms are set to increase fuel bills by almost 10%, worries The Trussell Trust’s 270 strong food bank networks.

http://www.trusselltrust.org/resources/documents/Press/Foodbanks-feed-100,000-in-6-months.pdf

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jobcentres-to-send-poor-and-hungry-to-charity-food-banks-2356578.html

The government is even proposing an Australian type Smart Card, where a claimant pays for everything they need on a pre-loaded payment card (pre-loaded with that persons benefit payments), which to many including myself is yet another step in labeling those on welfare, and something which would no doubt cause great embarrassment to vulnerable people and further alienate them from the rest of society. It even risks increasing the number of hate crimes against vulnerable people. This ‘big stick’ approach to tackling so called ‘problem families’ is likely to result in those people becoming ever greater disillusioned about the society they live in and risks a repeat of violence seen in riots last year.

Disability Hate Crime has risen at an alarming rate according to statistics. This has risen by a third and is unacceptable in today’s society. The Huffington Post reported:

“Many campaigners have argued that cuts are creating a negative attitude towards disabled people, casting them as “benefit scroungers.”

Sue Marsh, who suffers from severe Crohn’s disease and writes the blog ‘Diary of A Benefit Scrounger’ has defended the right of disability benefits, insisting that many Paralympic athletes in this years games wouldn’t have got where they are today without government support.

United Response, a charity that supports people with disabilities, told Huffington Post UK the statistics were a “shocking” example of the level of misunderstanding around disability.

“They illustrate the sad reality that many people with learning disabilities face harassment and bullying in public” they added.

The charity explained how their busy drop-in centre’s suddenly empty around 3pm every day.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/09/13/hate-crimes-against-disabled-people-acpo-police_n_1880733.html

http://www.disabledgo.com/blog/2012/09/national-newspapers-%E2%80%98add-fuel-to-the-hate-crime-fire%E2%80%99/

Disabled people have reported being attacked or abused when going back to their cars, which many of the public believe to be free gratis. This is not the case as the motability component of DLA pays for this, which under the governments new proposals to change DLA to PIP (Personal Independence Payment), many who at present are able to have a vehicle face having that taken from them, unless they get enhanced rate in the new benefit. This is part of additional needs requirements, some able-bodied people fail to grasp. This allows many disabled people who can work means of transport to get to their workplace.

The Citizens Advice Bureau, are under immense pressure to deal with all the welfare advice needed by people flocking to their doors. The removal of Legal Aid for many now poses a real threat to people getting justice like the rest of society.

“Demand for our services is through the roof in this period of recession and public service reform.”

http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/pressoffice/press_index/press_20120704.htm

http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/pressoffice/press_index/press_20120711.htm

http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/pressoffice/press_index/press_20120817.htm

This is due to get much worse with coming changes to ESA & DLA in Oct 2013 and also the introduction of housing benefit and council tax changes as well as the much criticised ‘Bedroom Tax’ in April 2013.

Bedroom Tax is a new reform bought in when the government localism bill was passed in the welfare reform bill.

This is a second Poll Tax according to many, forcing them to move out of homes they have been in for years, removing them from local communities where they have become accustomed to live and where other family members and close friends may also be residing. Critics have called this a form of ‘Social Cleansing’.

http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/need-to-know/briefings/going-spare/6520519.article

http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/home/blogs/tax-on-tenants/6522093.blog

http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/tenancies/hilary-benn-council-tax-benefit-reform-like-poll-tax/6523129.article

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/10/22/housing-benefit-working-people-national-housing-federation-david-orr_n_1999000.html

This is primarily aimed at social housing tenants to bring them in line with the private rented sector. This is a punitive tax on people who are already the poorest in society, including those on low income who get benefit top up’s to their low incomes

Followed by the ever increases in energy prices, food and heating, many are going to find themselves facing life on the streets as they fail to keep up with payments. Social landlords may be forced to take action against those who fall behind in rent payments as a result of changes to the way housing benefit and council tax benefit will be paid. Many will be families with young children.

http://www.centrepoint.org.uk/the-issue

Cuts to the ILF (Independent Living Fund) and care packages for the sick and disabled will only pile on the pressure to those considered to be at the bottom of society.

This will in turn create further pressures on many local services, and also on the NHS which is struggling in the face of austerity and where private health firms wait like vultures to take over.

“NHS staff are struggling under the burden of increased workloads and stress, with a third very seriously considering leaving their job.”

http://www.rcn.org.uk/newsevents/news/article/uk/nhs_staff_struggling_with_workloads_and_stress,_report_warns

http://www.rcn.org.uk/newsevents/news/article/uk/members_protest_against_cuts_and_local_pay

http://www.rcn.org.uk/newsevents/news/article/uk/rcn_nhs_heading_for_crisis_point_as_job_losses_mount

http://www.rcn.org.uk/newsevents/news/article/uk/rcn_cutting_jobs_damages_patient_care

The likes of Richard Branson’s Virgin Care and Serco gobbling large chunks of the NHS in the privatisation of our NHS is totally unacceptable. We only have to look at the recent scandal of a privatised hospitals in Kent being put into administration to see this is a break up of our NHS, but also a Train Crash waiting to happen and could lead to patients having to pay for private health insurance. We are going down the American route of private healthcare provision and this needs to prevented at all costs.

Next is the suggestion of patients having to pay to see their GP. This along with the GP Commissioning Groups and the Health Watch Initiative which will replace our present system. This will supposedly help Gp’s direct and manage their own budgets and help patients get the right care they need. Many are worried this will be another failure.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-39524/Doctors-believe-patients-pay-GPs.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2136999/No-treatment-smokers-obese-Doctors-measures-deny-procedures-unhealthier-lifestyles.html

Then we come to our Elderly Citizens, who after paying for years into a system are now being told because people are living longer they will have to quite literally ‘work till they drop’. We have seen some appalling abuses in elderly care by private providers.

http://www.ageuk.org.uk/latest-news/care-system-in-danger-of-collapse/

http://www.ageuk.org.uk/latest-news/retirement-simply-not-possible-for-some/

http://www.ageuk.org.uk/latest-news/hospitals-providing-inadequate-catering/

http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/354264/OAPs-told-Work-or-lose-pension

http://conservativehome.blogs.com/thetorydiary/2012/08/iain-duncan-smith-prepares-to-cut-winter-fuel-payments-by-temperature-testing-them-why-not-means-tes.html

Society has developed a discriminatory attitude to those who are the poorest and most vulnerable in society. It is alarming that those who are in better position use the blame culture perpetuated by the media and our politicians who have consistently drip fed society with falsehoods and misleading statements. The poorest are being made to pay for a crisis they didn’t create, while those who did take no responsibility for their actions. Tax revenue lost to tax avoidance is far greater than the money lost to benefit fraud and yet successive governments have allowed this culture of greed to continue.

“So Mr Cameron,.. when are the richest in society going to ‘Take Responsibility’ for their actions.”

After all the rest of society do take responsibility for their actions and are paying a very heavy price for doing so.

How can a humane, compassionate society allow this to continue or even justify this?

If you represent a Charity who would like to support this statement please contact the Social Welfare Union at: info@socialwelfareunion.org

http://socialwelfareunion.org/

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Social Welfare Union’s Response To Alleged Government Plans To Sanction Disabled Benefit Claimants

September 6, 2012 Leave a comment

Some of you will have seen the reports about plans to force People declared as unfit for work, by their GPs, and the DWP’s Stooge assessment company into unpaid labour.  Work truly does set you free.

 

The Social Welfare Union’s response has been drafted

http://socialwelfareunion.org/archives/2331

(Social Welfare Union) Employment: When Is Depression A Disability?

September 3, 2012 Leave a comment

Interesting post on the employment and discrimination implications of depression.

 

http://socialwelfareunion.org/archives/2290

 

Mr John Stockley

As most, if not all, employers will know, employees with disabilities are protected in law in terms of their employment.  This has been the case since the introduction of the Disability Discrimination 1995 (DDA) which has since been replaced by the Equality Act 2010 (EqA).  As a result, employers cannot treat a disabled employee less favourably because of their disability or for a reason relating to their disability.  In addition, employers are under a duty to implement what is commonly known as reasonable adjustments to the workplace and/or to the role being undertaken, if the disability in question places the employee at a substantial disadvantage in comparison to their non-disabled colleagues.

Of course, in order to comply with their legal obligations, employers must have an awareness of their employee’s disability. Whilst it might be easy to identify disabled employees if they have a physical impairment such as blindness or a condition which prevents the employee from walking, this task becomes more difficult in circumstances where an employee is suffering from a mental impairment such as depression.

Of course not every type of illness or condition will result in an employee being categorised as disabled.  Whether an employee is protected under the Equality Act 2010 will depend on the extent of the impairment and the effect it has on the employee.  In order to qualify as a disability, the impairment must have a substantial adverse effect on the employee’s ability to carry out day to day activities.  The impact cannot therefore be trivial.  But what are these “day to day activities”?

Under the former regime of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, an impairment was said to affect the ability of the person to carry out normal day-to-day activities only if it affected one of the following:

  • mobility;
  • manual dexterity;
  • physical co-ordination;
  • continence;
  • ability to lift, carry or otherwise move everyday objects;
  • speech, hearing or eyesight;
  • memory or ability to concentrate, learn or understand;
  • perception of the risk of physical danger.

However this list of capacities has not been replicated in the EqA.  There has been a suggestion that this omission might make it easier to establish disability, however the test largely remains the same and there has been very little change in approach by Employment Tribunals.

So if it is the case that you have an employee who has confirmed that they are suffering from depression, or whom you suspect is suffering from depression, consider whether their ability to remember, concentrate learn or understand has been affected.  Have they been forgetful? Have they been able to follow instructions?  Have they been taking a longer time to carry out their tasks when compared with their colleagues? Examples quoted in the previous guidance included whether an individual was able to watch and follow a television programme or read a book, clearly day to day activities that a lot of us carry out.  If you think an employee has been finding this sort of activity increasingly difficult, then it is likely that that they have passed the first part of the test.

A guidance document to accompany the EqA has been published by the Government, “Guidance on matters to be taken into account in determining questions relating to the definition of disability.” A link to this document can be found below and this is a useful tool in terms of putting the law in context.  The appendix to the Guidance, with the catchy title of “An illustrative and non-exhaustive list of factors which, if they are experienced by a disabled person, it would be reasonable to regard as having a substantial adverse effect on normal day-to-day activities” sets out a list of potential activities which may be categorised as day to day activities and will help identify whether an impairment has crossed the line into the territory of disability.

It is also important to note at this stage that although day to day activities can encompass activities undertaken at work, specialist activities which are not undertaken by the majority would not be considered as “day to day activities” for the purposes of the EqA.  An example given in the Guidance is “carrying out delicate work with specialised tools may be a normal working activity for a watch repairer, whereas it would not be normal for a person who is employed as a semi-skilled worker. The Act only covers effects which go beyond the normal differences in skill or ability.”

Another very important factor to bear in mind is that analysis of whether an employee’s impairment has a substantial adverse effect on their ability to undertake day to day tasks must be considered as if the employee has not been in receipt of medical treatment.  It may be the case that an employee has been prescribed anti-depressants, however, the effect of the medication must be discounted.  This requirement can often make it even trickier to assess, even for experienced medical practitioners, whether an employee is potentially disabled and can make the whole process seem quite artificial.  In our experience, Employment Tribunals are likely to give employees the benefit of the doubt when assessing whether they are disabled.

The EqA also provides that in order to qualify as a disability, an impairment must be long-lasting.   This means that it must have lasted or be likely to last for 12 months or more.  The nature of depression is such that it may recur and it may be the case that an individual suffers from depression for a few months and then their condition improves, perhaps aided by medication, only for the depression to return at a later stage.  In these circumstances, would they be covered by the EqA?

The EqA states that if an impairment has had a substantial adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities but that effect ceases, the substantial effect is treated as continuing if it is likely to recur beyond a period of 12 months.

The 2010 Guidance provides the following example:-

A young man has bipolar affective disorder, a recurring form of depression. The first episode occurred in months one and two of a 13-month period. The second episode took place in month 13. This man will satisfy the requirements of the definition in respect of the meaning of long-term, because the adverse effects have recurred beyond 12 months after the first occurrence and are therefore treated as having continued for the whole period (in this case, a period of 13 months).”

A further example provided in the 2010 Guidance is:-

A woman has two discrete episodes of depression within a ten-month period. In month one she loses her job and has a period of depression lasting six weeks. In month nine she suffers a bereavement and has a further episode of depression lasting eight weeks. Even though she has experienced two episodes of depression she will not be covered by the Act. This is because, as at this stage, the effects of her impairment have not yet lasted more than 12 months after the first occurrence, and there is no evidence that these episodes are part of an underlying condition of depression which is likely to recur beyond the 12-month period.”

It can therefore be a very difficult exercise to establish whether an employee suffering from depression qualifies as disabled.  When dealing with these questions, employers should proceed with caution.  It is best practice to seek medical advice as questions such as the impact on day to day activities, without the benefit of medication, and whether a condition is likely to recur are difficult questions to answer as a layman and in the event that matters come before an Employment Judge, an employer may be criticised if they have not sought expert medical advice on these often complicated cases.

The Guidance on matters to be taken into account in determining questions relating to the definition of disability can be found here.

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