Sunday, 31 March 2013

Where have all the emails gone?

There was a time, oh way back when, when emails never existed.

Some of you wont remember that.

But as they are here, they are VERY useful to brief feelings and info to people you may not get to have other access old school style.

That is the beauty of the email. The invitation to share.

Where there was no share before.

Am i being histrionic in my favouring email as a focus in this blog?

I dont think so.

Theres a govt introduced system called E-Petition...... which is VERY VALID.

I do remember the time before that when ONE email could change a whole process by its relevancy.
I do remember emails QUOTED in parliamentary debates i watched.

The age of the e-petition is welcomed.

But there is a personal briefing to anyone you want to talk to getting rapidly forgotten, before people realised how important it could be.

Now remember, the GOVT introduced e-petitions. As people were waking to the power of briefing people via email. And thats nrather fallen back as a tool, but has been observed, and advised to me, as probably the most effective method of communicating feeling, objection etc.

Oh yes, you get the STANDARD email back . Thats been said to me many times.

It takes one email to hit a spot, as opposed to 100k sigs on a petition to then be considered for debate.

I remind people here emails are not the dodo you think they may be.

However, I do support ONE e-petition at the moment. As it is taking a multilayered approach.

I wish, with this post that you see the link above, click and sign that e-petition.

But where have all the emails gone?

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Govt Wait and See attitude not good enough.

If understanding the umbrella and cascade of effects is possible then implementers of policy teams SHOULD be able to produce assessment reports, no matter how complex they state, its a hive, a set of complexities - with a combined framework. I do not believe an impact assessment based on Wowpetion request is unachievable.

My view of knock- ons rather than individual impacts included here:

The side people dont really think about with taking an existing welfare payments system away: The multiplier from welfare injection (payment) is beneficial- welfare is an investment return being re-invested (spent) by recipients into the circular flow of economic activity, and mostly prepaid by recipients anyway through contributions (which are syphoned, invested and used by the govt as a provision for that safety net). (Theory at least- the basic premise of National Insurance in the uK) Take that investment (payment/ income) away from high propensity to spend recipients, multiplier (circular flow benefit to economy) is gone and economy suffers exponentially.
The closed mind of fiscal only economics does not mitigate for this and can have catastrophic effect on localities, regions and indeed a nation.
So "within a tiny box" thinking... is NOT a socially valid concept.
ignoring circular flow modelling is one of the worst closed mind ideologies in economics in my own humble view.

I hope you dont mind the thought. I see it as real.

The Govt Response here to WowPetition ...

As this e-petition has received more than 10 000 signatures, the relevant Government department have provided the following response:
Cumulative impact analysis is not being withheld – it is very difficult to do accurately and external organisations have not produced this either. (Edit:*see note below)
The Government is limited in what cumulative analysis is possible because of the complexity of the modelling required and the amount of detailed information on individuals and families that is required to estimate the interactions of a number of different policy changes. In addition, the Government's programme of welfare reform will not be fully implemented until 2017/18 and many policy details are still to be worked through. Equality Impact Assessments are however carried out for individual policies where there is a requirement.
No other organisation produces this analysis in a robust way. The Treasury does publish some cumulative analysis with each Budget but this is a broad brush assessment of all tax, benefit and expenditure changes since 2010 across households. Because the Budget cumulative analysis is so complex, it is not robust enough to break down by family type – so impacts on disabled people cannot be shown separately.
The IFS also produces some cumulative analysis but also do not feel the results are reliable enough to disaggregate for the disabled.
This e-petition will remain open to signatures until the published closing date and will be considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee should it pass the 100 000 signature threshold.

*Note :  Scope/Demos HAVE done their view of a cumulative assessment. 

Friday, 22 March 2013

Anon writer Questions Is WCA at home thorough enough ?

The writer below is waiting for decision. Hope its not like the cartoon above. 

Explaining an invisible illness to someone isn't easy at the best of times. When you suffer from a mental health condition, it can be difficult and traumatic to translate the troublesome thoughts and feelings running through your head into words. People tend to be alarmed by behaviour and ideas that they can't relate to themselves and you soon learn that it's probably better to keep your personal horrors hidden from your friends and family and make up more acceptable excuses for yourself when you don't feel well. Mental health professionals generally know that people feel stigmatised and frightened to open up. That they're scared of speaking out because it can be confusing and upsetting and there are no simple solutions. They tread carefully at first on tip-toes around you. Little by little they build a professional relationship based upon the solid foundations of your trust. A good therapist offers a sensitive ear to your troubles and waits patiently until you feel stable, comfortable and ready to share your inner depths. They listen and put you at your ease....

...which is far from the reality of the work capability assessment. The face-to-face assessment has all the sensitivity of a blunt lump hammer bashed against your skull to knock the answers they demand right out of you with thumping great whacks. No moment is given to recover from your upset here my friends. Your time is their money.

The face-to-face assessment was scheduled to be done at my home because of the nature of my illness. It was a huge relief that they had accepted and believed my difficulties demanded it. My last assessment was just twelve months ago and despite having a long-term history of chronic anxiety conditions, more therapy than Ruby Wax (not possible) and a poor prognosis, following a fit to work decision and a battle, I was placed in the work related activity group. Thank the Holy Lord and mother nature herself that no one from the jobcentre has ever contacted me. I could not have coped if they had.

The Atos health care professional was not the person named on the letter. When he arrived my heart sank. It was the same man as last time. The same man who twisted and manipulated my answers and wrote a work of fiction about me on his report. I hadn't been expecting a fair or reasonable assessment however. At least this time I knew not to trust. I had been dreading it. Effectively two months had been wiped from my life with worry and stress. I couldn't think of anything else. The apprehension grabs you by the guts and twists them until you're curled up in a quivering foetal ball. I could barely function for fear of what was going to happen next. Suffice to say the night before sleep had eluded me. By the time he arrived in the morning I was ragged and a little bit delirious.

Ten whole minutes of rapid fire questions followed. Barely time to catch my breath, yet alone my composure, which crumbled when he asked me to describe a panic attack. Despite enduring possibly thousands of panic attacks, right there and then under this pressure my mind was a blank vacuum of emptiness. I just couldn't think and hot tears swelled in my eyes so I had to cover my face with my hands. My thoughts dried up, my throat constricted, my voice cracked and words would not come. He was perched on the end of the settee tapping his pen. I noticed him turn his wrist to look at his watch.

"Did I take medication?" I shook my head and told him, no. His scribbled with his pen and I hastily added that I didn't take medication because the side effects had been intolerable and in the past had made my condition significantly worse. I noticed that the pen didn't write this clarification down on paper.

"Did I ring the doctors myself?" I had to think for a moment, "sometimes" I said. I'm familiar with my GPs surgery and it's probably the one place on this earth that I'm not too afraid to ring. Had he asked if I rang the hairdressers, or the dentists, or the DWP, I would have said no, never, because I am too anxious.

"Do I go there by myself?" I do yes, because it's literally around the corner, takes less than a minute to reach by car and you can park right outside the door. "So you walk to the doctors yourself?" he enquired and started to write the answer down before I had started to speak. "No! I am taken there!" because I can't walk that far without panicking. Once again, his pen lay still in his hand.

Two sheets of A4 paper were completed, and with that he opened his briefcase, placed the forms inside and clipped it shut. He said that I didn't need to see him out, and with that, he was through the door and gone, leaving me huddled on the chair feeling stunned and bewildered, as if I'd just been violated in some way. It was over so quickly I didn't really know what to feel. Certainly I was relieved that it was done and dusted, but if that was a credible and fair assessment to reflect a fifteen year history of a crippling mental health condition, I am very worried. I have no idea if he's read my detailed forms and the assessment was a mere formality, or if he's made up his mind already to find me fit to work.

Once the dreaded (white) envelope of doom arrives, you have exactly four weeks from the date it was issued to complete and return the ESA50 forms contained inside. What these forms fail to mention is that for each question you complete, you will awarded a set amount of points from zero to fifteen. You need at least 15 to "pass". However which way you finally get to the stage where you're given the benefit you are legally entitled to, be that as a direct result of the assessment, by a reconsideration of a fit to work decision, or at an independent tribunal, it is extremely disconcerting to feel that you have succeeded in "passing the exam" because someone with no medical training acknowledged the severity of your illness. It really does feel as if your illness is on trial.

How Atos will interpret your answers is something of a mystery. The questions are vague and ambiguous and perhaps in the majority of cases, bear no relation to the real life limitations to work your condition poses. People who are mostly housebound and need someone to support them to go outside cannot score enough points on that particular activity to be awarded the benefit. People who are not aggressive or violent every day, but only some days, cannot score enough points to be awarded the benefit. Okay, so there is a clause which states that if work will cause you or others harm there is some discretion in the decision making process. The problem in reality, is proving to them that is the case. In order to try and understand what was actually being asked of me, it took me almost the whole month to complete the few answers I believe might possibly be relevant to my mental health condition. It is a miserable experience, and utterly demoralising and soul destroying to have to go over and over the very worst aspects of your ill health. By the end of the process you're emotionally battered and more unwell than when you started.

Mark Hoban, the minister for Work and Pensions would have you think the reason why at least 40% of fit to work decisions are overturned at appeal is because additional medical evidence was presented to back up the claims. I challenge the minister to obtain his medical history within this narrow time frame and see if he can do it without having to pay. The maximum your GP surgery can charge for copying your medical records is £50, which is precisely the sum that I was charged. I contacted the GP surgery the day I received the forms. I was told to put my request in writing. That letter was delivered to them within hours. It took six weeks to get hold of some of the documents, but they had missed off everything from 2005 to date. That afternoon, I confess, I cried.

I hope that the clerk at the DWP who makes the final decision does read the two inches thick paper documentation to support my claim. Frankly, I couldn't flip a coin one way or the other to tell you what their decision will be. The major problem with the work capability assessment is that the outcome is so completely uncertain. People keep telling me that they have their fingers crossed. Some have their toes crossed for me too. Isn't that the point after all? No one can second guess what the decision will be. It's a test based not on facts, or evidence. It's more a game of chance which gambles with your sanity and your desperate need for support and a subsistence income. I wait anxiously to learn if they pull my ticket out of their tombola machine. Wish me luck?


The Personal Aspects of the ESA50

I tried to write something on the ESA50 stress. 
I wouldve probably talked technical and descriptors and deception, trickery and probably got a bit too tied in my own emotions last time i filled mine out. I'm due another one soon. But Vanessa said she was writing something on the problems with the ESA50 and I said yep, THAT would be the blog piece i was planning... So here it is ,
Thanks to Vanessa Teal for this ... 

Ever felt like this? 

What's the Problem with the ESA50?

If you know anyone with a physical or mental illness or disability you will eventually hear them talking about filling in an ESA50 and how much of a struggle it is. The ESA50 is the first step in claiming or renewing your claim for Employment Support Allowance, the benefit for people too ill or disabled to work.  Its it the first stage in deciding whether someone is 'fit for work'. Everyone who fills this form in finds the experience damaging and people who have never had to fill in a form like this can find this difficult to understand.

Most of us with illnesses and disabilities have our own coping strategies and one of the main ones is mindset. We focus on the positives, on the things we can still do, on the good things in our lives however meagre or simple. Although we're very aware of our limitations we don't spend long periods focusing on them - that's a recipe for despair and hopelessness.

The form entails explaining in intimate detail just how pathetic, inadequate and completely useless you are and how limited, humiliating and basically worthless your life is. (I can hear clamours of disagreement and people rushing to tell me this isn't the case but that's how the form makes you feel.) Its a form which takes days or weeks to fill in completely rather than minutes or hours. If you have problems with writing or typing or if your cognitive ability is impaired it takes even longer.  That's a long time to focus intently on the negatives and even when you're not actually filling it in you're thinking about it, worrying about it, dwelling on it. The stress permeates everything.

Its a process which makes you think about the future and that's a problem in itself. For anyone with an illness or disability in the current climate of austerity the future is frightening and uncertain. We try not to dwell on it too much, taking one day at a time, living life in manageable chunks. This form reminds us that we're not likely to find a job anytime soon (if ever), that we're totally dependent on a benefit system which regards us as cheats and scroungers. It reminds us how precarious our existence is.

As you fill it in you can't help but think about what happens next. The demeaning and humiliating Work Capability Assessment where an 'Atos Healthcare Professional' who may know next to nothing about your condition tries to prove that you're lying. The report which that Healthcare Professional and a tick box computer system prepares - which may be accurate or may be a complete fabrication. The wait for the DWP envelope which contains your fate. The possibility that the money you rely on to live will be cut off at a stroke leaving you to face the nightmare of the appeals process. Or, if you can't face the appeal, to sink or swim on Job Seekers Allowance, facing never-ending financial  sanctions for being too sick to jump through the necessary hoops.

The final cruelty of the ESA50 is that it comes in an innocuous looking white envelope. The form which will render useless your coping strategies, strip away your dignity and hope and put your future life in jeopardy sneaks into your home quietly and unannounced.
 Just like all the best assassins.


Mine, last one, took me a week to fill in. I had a bit of a heads up after helping a few others with theirs. 
Its a severely punishing exercise to complete. 

Friday, 15 March 2013

The MYTH of Luxury on the sick

I post stuff occasionally on twitter with the hashtag #luxuryonthesick BECAUSE IT ISNT. 

Do your benefits provide minimally acceptable standard of living? NO , mine dont

Have a look , its not just my belief, Click and see ... These are figures for 2012 ...

Click this ...
Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Smoking Guns and Kharma

An excellent Blog piece i read from Sue Marsh.

Lies entrenched.

Promises broken.

Solidly, consistently, draconian, blatent.

Personally Sue writes better than me on stuff, so heres the link

                                                Dear Tories...

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Housing Act V Bedroom Tax - UPDATED BLOG

Following the conversation below, I've included it here. The doc from Orbit is misleading and gives false hope.

Conversation between me and a Housing Professional 

Jules, the 1985 hsing act has been overriden by the 2004 
That info is wrong

Okay so Orbit Housing are wrong then?

If your TA says 3 beds, no matter the size you pay for 3
Unless the HA  reclassifies the property it is irrelevant

So the room size thing that says 50sqft under 1yr, 50-70 up to 10 etc ALL gone?

it's a single bedroom as defined by the housing provider.
It can be taken up and challenged legally, but right now it's a false hope


So the guide orbit has circulated is incorrect.

This worth reading and hanging on to

Unless the HA reclassify a 3 bed as a 2 bed, if the 
tenancy agreement states 3 bed, it's a 3 bed for hb purposes

Thought so but the bods at Orbit issued it out to their staff to remove boxroom myth flying on FB

If they ((GOVT)) agreed to the room dimension argument 
HA's would have decades of charged rent to pay back and HB would need to claim it back
.. that wont happen
where's the link? orbit

Hold on... take a couple of minutes...

Theyre on twitter as @orbitheart

I rt'd their thingy earlier extracted their staff guide from their link, Is in my timeline somewhere.
OrbitHeartOfEngland @OrbitHeart
We have produced a staff briefing to help dispel the 'boxroom myth' which has started circulating on Facebook...

There's nothing on their leaflet about boxrooms, and they refer to the room size theory as a 'myth'

Yes and the blog is the copied two page leaflet

There is absolutely nothing about room dimensions making people exempt. The Tenancy agreement signed is whats applicable.

Yes thats what i thought, and I think their guide says how
the BEDROOM tax will be applied?

The TA is the legally binding contract and the info 
provided on it. ... as written by the govt.

I'll edit blog

Best do. The sooner that myth dies a death the better. 
It's giving people false hope.


-----------------------------This is what we were talking about ---------

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Go To The Top - Protect Against Welfare Reform Impact


There is possible a huge amount of fall out with the bedroom tax as it stands at the moment .
A serious campaigner for rights who I admire for his work for the underpriviledged sick and disabled of the Uk has a suggestion that personally, if you think the effects of welfare reform will damage your life, not only on Bedroom Tax, but this specific to it should.... 

Here's an idea: Sick and disabled people in the U.K., facing eviction from their homes due to the BedroomTax, should "register" with the UNCRPD Secretary, Jorge Araya:

Jorge Araya
Secretary of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Groups in Focus Section
Human Rights Treaties Division
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Tel: +41 22 917 9106
Fax: +41 22 917 9008

My suggestion is email your situation to this hugely relevant contact, do not embellish, or be abusive in any way, be truthful and state any concerns you have.
This will make a huge difference should anything happen to you. 
And will highlight your situations to those responsible in top echelons of wellbeing protections. 

An addition is this : 
Sick and disabled people facing eviction registering with the UNCRPD Secretary would impress upon the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) the enormity of the bedroom tax problem. It would also enable the OHCHR to possibly track—and stay in touch with—sick and disabled people who have become homeless.

I don't want Britain's most vulnerable to become "lost" in the system or another nameless statistic in the next release of this report:

The bedroom tax has the potential to become a full-fledged humanitarian crisis.

Thanks to Samuel .