Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The Magic Mr Potter

I have some wonderful news!

Earlier in the week, a Mr George Potter, Lib Dem, left a comment on my blog asking if I would help with a motion he had tabled for the Lib Dem conference in the Autumn. Here it is :

Policy Motion on Employment Support Allowance and Work Capability Assessments  
Conference notes:
a) That the Government has stated an aim to move people off Employment SupportAllowance (ESA) and into work.
b) Work Capability Assessments determining eligibility for ESA are carried out by the private company Atos Healthcare who are paid on a target based system for every claimant assessed fit to be removed from claiming ESA and back into work.
c) 70% of case rejection decisions by Atos assessments which go to appeal are subsequently overturned.
d) The appeal success rate is much higher for claimants with representation than those without.
e) The way in which work capability assessments are conducted has been regularly criticised by Parliamentary Inquiries and by the Tribunal Judiciary.

Conference believes that:
a) It is the duty of a compassionate society and the Government to provide the necessary support for those who are unable to support themselves.
b) The new Assessment procedure is "not fit for purpose".
c) The Work Capability Assessment is inaccurate.
d) Any medical assessments should be carried out by trained medical professionals.
e) Whilst recognising the understandable need to remove false claimants from the system, it is wrong to have a system where the primary focus is on keeping people from claiming the benefit and treating every claimant as a potential fraudster, rather than a focus on ensuring that the most vulnerable get the support they need.
f) A system where 70% of decisions are overturned at appeal is not cost effective due to the high cost of holding appeal tribunals and the associated administration costs.
g) The new Assessment procedure, whereby claimants are assessed by the use of a computer-generated questionnaire in which the Assessor uses a "tick box" technique, does not take into account the claimant's medical history as provided by their GP and/or Consultant.

Conference calls for:
a) All medical components of Work Capability Assessments to be undertaken by trained professionals.
b) An overhaul of the assessment process moving the focus to ensuring greater accuracy in assessment, a less stressful assessment process and that the disabled get the support they need.
c) Any new or revised assessment process to take into account the claimant's medical history as provided by their GP and/or Consultant.
d) The replacement of the arbitrary time limit on the length claimants can claim ESA if they are put into the work related activity group with the introduction of a time limit dependent on individual circumstances.
e) The assessment criteria to be made clearer so that claimants and society in general understand what constitutes an illness which is so debilitating as to warrant ESA being paid.
f) The appeal process to be sped up and for all claimants going to appeal to be given access to adequate representation.

I've spoken to George who is as concerned as we are about ESA and the changes due to come into place under the welfare reform bill. We will be working together to raise as much support for the motion as we can and to, hopefully, ensure that the motion passes.

The debate is scheduled for the Sunday of the Lib Dem conference (18th September) and I urge any and all of you with Lib Dem MPs to contact them about this and ask if they would like any further information on the issues surrounding ESA reform.

Today, an article on Lib Dem Voice supports the arguments raised by George and I'm delighted to see this issue gaining momentum amongst their party.

I'll be posting more on this and the steps we can take to support George, but for now, I just wanted to share the great news with you all.


  1. Will he want any stories of what people have gone through at the hands of ATOS/DWP. I'd be only too happy to help?

  2. Hmm....better not tell Alexander then!!He used to stand up for us but not now he toes the party line. I do hope we have some support from the Libs but excuse me if I dont hold my breath.
    Been let down too many times and don't know how long I can hold on..:((

  3. Excellent piece in the Guardian, but this is even better. Huge thanks and well done, Sue x

  4. Would it be asking too much to reassess all those who have been wrongly assessed by Atos? Many genuinely disabled people have been either: thrown off benefits due to incorrect assessment, or given up, or failed to appeal because their mental health condition mean they did not have the wherewithal to fight?

  5. Let me know what I could do to help.

    Being visually impaired the DWP has treated me atrociously. Ignored my please be free to drop me a line

  6. @Anonymous1 et al

    Any anecdotes you have would be extremely useful - Liberal Youth are the ones sponsoring this motion so we should expect to have at least a few people from LY speaking in favour of it and it will be extremely helpful if they have some anecdotes they could use to make the situation really hit home to conference.

    Another thing which would be really helpful is if you can comment on the Lib Dem Voice article about the motion so that LDV readers become aware just how bad the situation is.

    But we're determined to get the motion through and I'm quietly optimistic that we'll succeed.

  7. ManicSleepTeacher27 July 2011 at 18:00

    This has been a welcome read on the day that the crisis team have told me that I have to allow myself to be unwell. How can I do that in the knowledge that the safety net is being cut from underneath me?

    If you can work some magic Mr Potter you will have found yourself a lifelong supporter and incredibly grateful spoonie.

  8. Wonderful news...
    I'm having one of those days when i'm too ill & overwhelmed to do very much... every minute is taking an hour to pass & people think it's easy to 'lounge' when it's actually very painful in body & mind...
    I thought it had been a quiet day... I was moved by the channel 4 piece last night but hoped for more to follow & then sank very low after bbc did a horrible misleading piece... why oh why couldn't they have at least had someone to counter & explain but they never do anymore...
    I have to believe that if the public get to know the facts many of them will be horrified...
    It is heartening to find ourselves being represented more & now with paul gregg speaking out again & mr potter i feel a little less invisible...
    By the way since paul gregg spoke out saying ESA & WCA aren't working as he intended the powers that be are trying to put him down just as they are with professor malcolm harrington, saying they don't really need their input anymore for various obscure reasons that i can't remember right now....

  9. Now that's what i call good news, thank you so much Mr Potter there will be a lot of people who would like to say thank you im sure.

  10. Brilliant news. Thank you, Mr. Potter for restoring even a tiny bit of my faith in the LibDems.

    I just got back from the neurologist, feeling downhearted in the knowledge that my condition has worsened and I will probably need to be admitted to hospital soon to be on a drip for a few days.

    This, at least, has cheered me up a bit and given us all a bit of hope! Thank you, Sue. Thank you Mr. Potter. It is wonderful to know there are still people, good people, who are willing to stand up with us in solidarity.

  11. I had come to believe that no-one was listening, so to read this came as a pleasant surprise.

    I posted a comment earlier today over at Benefit Scrounging Scum, about the shifting of goalposts in regard to assessment criteria.

    The motion quotes the government's aim to get people off ESA/IB and into work. This is the nub of the issue. The government starts from a position where it believes that claimants should be in work, regardless. Consequently the assessment process has been designed around that belief - to find everyone "fit for work" and those trying to claim are stigmatised.

    Physically disabled but can pick up a spoon? You're fit.
    Mental health problems but can express an opinion? You're fit.

    Add in the "Atos" factor and you have the recipe for harassment and persecution that we are so familiar with. It seems Atos gets paid by results but is never penalised for getting it wrong - a win win situation for them and no incentive for them to get it right. Interesting that they refused to comment at all on yesterday's report. What chance of getting them to appear before a Select Committee?

    The last year has seen my faith in politicians (of all colours) disappear but if you are successful in this motion Mr. Potter, you will have gone some way to restore that faith. Good luck.

  12. I have another worry in which the headline news today in the papers read that the sick and disabled were work shy ? If the public keep reading this bull it will allow those on the extreme right to abuse us as and when they feel like it
    From something basic like getting out of your car in a disabled bay and a member of the public swear at you or at worse come over to you and push you and your chair over saying that your scrounging scum.

    Or it could mean that you get abused in your own home by local yobs or at worst have your car smashed. This is why the government should not allow the continual printing of lies about the sick and disabled and they to should not even speak ill of this group of people as it antagonises the right wing movement and as we have just seen in Norway it only takes one madmen to destroy the vulnerable

    Now some will say that's the governments intention to get everyones back up against us and that may well be but none the less we as a group of people should not have worry about these things when we go out like having to keep looking over your solder of which i have to do constantly as i have been abused many times in the past with people threatening to kill me or wish me dead

  13. Thank you Mr potter, great to hear someone talking sense all we want is a fair and honest system. There is not one of us who would object to a medical test that took our histories and daily struggles into account. I like most people hear already live in fear everytime the post arrives its like waiting for the oncoming storm.

    Its only thanks to sue and broken of britian crew that we all feel like we have somewhere to turn for support.

  14. I've been following your blog for a while now. Thanks for being a voice for those who can't, won't or are too afraid to speak up.

    I do believe reform of the benefits system is essential, but I'm afraid where that might leave us: it seems even this new system is taking no account of real illness and all the mess and unpredictability that brings.

    I have a husband with severe CFS/ME. I have been looking for work for years, with no result. We are struggling financially, and certainly don't benefit from the present system. If they assess my husband on one of his better days - though they are rare - I am afraid of what will happen.

    Most genuine claimants are living in a constant state of fear, and that can't be good for recovery.

    Good luck with your latest attack, and thanks again for all you do.

  15. "conference believes that

    e) ...rather than a focus on ensuring that the most vulnerable get the support they need."

    Putting on my pedant's hat, there's that tricky word MOST again. The one that lets the government claim their reforms are to help the disabled, even as they cut help to those regarded as not disabled or ill enough. ALL the vulnerable should get support they need. Yes those with greater support needs get more support, but don't take away the safety net from the rest

  16. "conference believes that

    e) ...rather than a focus on ensuring that the vulnerable get the support they need."

    I concur. It loses a small element of emotive argument that is better placed in the conference speech supporting the motion.