Monday, 2 January 2012

Open Comment to Liam Byrne

I just posted this in response to Liam Byrne's article in the Guardian. 

"And what do you propose Liam? When you disappear off into your think tanks and focus groups?

For over a year, you have avoided meeting with me. You promised, but you haven't discussed your plans with sick and disabled people.

You talk of "unearned support" Liam, but this is the Guardian! Here, on these comment threads, we all know the details of ESA, DLA, contributory time limiting and independent living funds very well - almost certainly much, much better than you do Liam. We know about the hundreds of thousands terrified about what happens to those who CANNOT earn support. Until recently, we believed you gave it freely.

You have the audacity to attack an erosion of ESA?(time limiting) When it was your government who introduced this terrible failure? Your government who wrote the descriptors making it simply impossible for many conditions to qualify?  "like employment and support allowance that working people have actually paid in for."

Then, you dare to criticise the appeals system for the failure of ESA? When you have ignored me and Kaliya Franklin and all others who have been trying to warn you for years? When we warned you repeatedly? when we tried everything, some risking their lives to engage with you?   "current chaos in the assessment of those on disability benefits, with spiralling appeal times and poor back-to-work support, deeply troubling."

You let Ed loose in the Daily Mail then think you can throw us a bone with a few tag on lines about ESA and disability? We already know this is a pattern! Give the scroungers a good kicking then say something nice and fluffy about sick and disabled people in the Guardian.


I strongly recommend you stop dreaming up ways in which the welfare state can be auctioned off to the highest private bidder - even planning the very systems in partnership with those very same businesses and insurers.

I suggest you :

Listen to the suggestions and alternatives of disabled people.
Look at our ideas and policy suggestions
Stop designing policy based on a complete disregard for the evidence
IMMEDIATELY stop reinforcing the scrounger narrative - it makes a Labour Party look utterly ridiculous and confirms dangerous stereotypes.

We will win the public Liam. I promise you. By 2015, we will have made this the "NHS 1997" issue.

So stop casting around for spurious, tough-talk soundbites, that conveniently stuff a few billion more in private pockets and get a real strategy on disability.

I suggest you do it very quickly indeed. Those prepared to apologise for these failures may retain some credibility.

The arrogant will simply be exposed as those who oversaw the biggest abuse of sickness and disability rights and protections since the welfare state was introduced."


  1. Sadly there is no point in appealing to his/their better nature or conscience. It needs a legal challenge around the principle of a DWP administrator ("Decision Maker") taking on responsibility for health and well-being when countermanding a GP.

  2. PS. The Government is very strong on "evidence based" decisions and can always quote sources to support what it is doing. However, when you look closely, the evidence is not actually there and in some reports they have even included a disclaimer. Extensive consultation does not necessarily mean whole-hearted support!

  3. Brynes and Purnell were a disaster for the sick and disabled and there not standing up for what is right is an outrage. How can the sick hope to fight the over bearing politics of popular phrases that seem to be encouraged. I am afraid Bryne's and Purnell lowered the tone of politics for the sick and the disabled for the Tories to only pick up with unequalled passion

  4. There are many newspaper reports of people being found fit for work by the ESA assessment and when they try to claim JSA they are turned away because they are still under a sick note from their doctors and hospital consultants. They are left without incomes.

    Many of us ARE struggling daily with illness and yet have been told we should be seeking work. After waiting months and months again for some help and treatment, finally I am getting a limited course of therapy. At the same time the DWP say I'm perfectly fine to go out without support even though the professionals see fit to provide treatment for this. God help us! It's not the appeals that are failing it's the assessment and the decision making. It's a scandal.

    Am I a scrounger? The DWP thinks so!

    Where are the jobs for these poor peasants stuck on long term benefits now that the country has lost it's industries? Mining gone, steel work gone, ship building gone, manufacturing of all descriptions has disappeared from towns and cities. These used to be the bread and butter for entire families. The son followed the father's profession and people had pride in their work and communuties were strong and proud too. When they disappeared there was nothing to replace them. What does this country actually do? What does it make? What careers? Other than shifting money from one fund to the next? Really, I don't know?

    Why don't they tackle unemployment with education? Give kids hope, inspiration and ambition. My school was a conveyor belt churning us out through the system. Few aspired to university, and now with tution fees to consider on top of the cost of simply living I wonder if few kids from areas of high unemployment will really believe they can afford to go.

    By the way, I never did understand how it is that someone on JSA can go to college for free but you can't if you are on a sickness benefit. For someone with anxiety and social phobia, a mental illness or disability, don't they think it might be progressive, therapeutic and useful to allow us access to education to help towards a career in future or to actually re-engage with society after being out of the loop for so long? They want us to sit at home rocking back and forth out of sight and mind, then expect us to 'throw down our crutches' and walk straight into employment unsupported!

    I just find it very depressing. Government has failed to create jobs, to meet housing needs, to educate our children and it blames those who have fallen on hard times labelling them as scroungers. Cutting benefits will simply make people more impoverished and hurt the poorest, the sick and the vulnerable so hard that life will be intolerable.

    Sorry for the rant. I may be way off the mark but I am furious. I am miserable and isolated and bewlidered. We need some hope, something concrete. All I see at present is cuts and persecution.

  5. Your rant is right on the mark Coffeecup. The game is being rigged against genuine claimants by govt, to save money and shrink the state, by labelling them as scroungers and no-gooders. You have ATOS doing medicals for private companies, finding ppl unable to continue their employment at that company. Curiously, as soon as said person tries to claim ESA as being unfit for work, that very same ATOS then find the person fit for work again. There is no comeback on the decision, apart from endless mind numbing appeals. A process designed from the ground up to fail you and force you to quit the chase.

    What ATOS says is taken as gospel by DWP, even though ATOS medicals are not fit for purpose and the 'healthcare professionals' are no more than paid off pen-pushers in suits. If the appeal decision is correct in law, then your case is done and dusted. Of course it will be correct in law, when the law is being moulded to fit govt policy!

    I could conduct the same examination if all I needed to do was ask a set of loaded questions from a PC screen, questions designed to illicit responses to find everyone fit for work by default. You are forced to attend the medical, if you dont you lose benefit. If you attend as ordered to, that attendance is interpreted as proof of mobility, again you lose benefit. Talk about a no win situation! The whole concept of 'forced labour' being a breach of human rights is being washed away with some clever political spin and an agenda to turn people against their neighbour by making all benefit claimants, even terminally ill and disabled, look like freeloaders who could work if they choose to.

    This isn't the country I was born in. It is becoming a scarier, more hostile ... more uncaring place in 2012. A country with a moral ethic you would struggle to call democratic nor fair (Dave loves that word heh?) in most senses of the words.

    How can you call the UK a democracy when every political party seems content to screw the poor and disadvantaged? What party do they vote for? Scary answer, there IS no party that caters for them. You find a job, even though there are not enough to go around, or you die. Nice.

  6. IRejectFPTP sadly you're right. Britain feels scary and hostile indeed. Suspicion, hatred, venom against poor and vulnerable people. Now a benefit cheats hotline. Mainly malicious calls. It's terrifying. You don't know how to behave without someone yelling scrounger at you! I read comparisons to fascism and how the Nazi's treated sick and disabled people. Can you believe this language? I'm scared for so many reasons.

    I am a scrounger. I scrounge off my Mum and Dad. I'm 38 years old and have been living in an attic bedroom at my Dad's house for the last six years unable to get out, not for one night in all those years because of having agoraphobia. I claimed IB and nothing else. At least I felt secure. Now I have no income unless I apply for JSA and of course I can't do that because agoraphobia is debilitating. I've been overlooked and left to rot, yes, I actually welcomed the proposal for support back to work. I stupidly assumed that they would help to find voluntary work or something suited to someone with a brain cell. Instead they propose workfare. Shelf stacking in Tescos. So what you get is no state assistance whatsoever. Your contribution is nill because they have removed access to all areas. My parents, one of whom is also sick and a pensioner, are left to support me.


  7. To be fair to Byrne I don't think he offered anything 'fluffy' in his Guardian interview. The sub text from start to finish was ' if you are not in work you are a sub-human piece of excrement and a burden to 'real' people'. He even selectively clipped the words of Beveridge to float the idea of 'work centres' for the workless .So when people warn of a return ro work houses it's not fanciful hyperbole, it is exactly what the likes of Byrne have in mind.

  8. Again Sue a fantastic piece of work.
    If Labour think they can win votes by openly singling out sick and disabled then as you said they had better watch out. For me the issue is yes we want to work if possible god knows i want to get back into employment as soon as physically possible ( note the word physically)but i have to be realistic and think what employer would if there were any jobs would employ me, even some of my friends who are in managerial positions would not employ me due to the harm it could possibly cause myself and others, i yearn to earn a wage again to give me back some sort of dignity that has been denied me by my illness's. If Mr Ed want to pursue this line of annihilation of the disabled then he needs to look at the root cause of this issue remembering it was his own party that started the medicals in the first place, i have said before on this blog that if he holds his hands up and says yes there is a need for medicals but we want to make it more transparent than it already is then i would support him and his party again.

  9. coffee cup. the unfortunate thing is that in higher education I am allowed to be a full time student on ESA

    however, due to the way the system is set up it means I still have to attend work focused interviews and 'consider' my return to work.

    Education is simply not valued. I am doing my degree to get myself well, and to enable me to take the next step. But i have to do this against a background of government who actively discourages that and is only pushing work work work.

  10. Been reading the comments on housing benefits and its appaling what is going to happen it could bring down the govt

  11. if you think labour will win the next election think again
    They are as much responsible for the mess were in as the conservatives

    The underlying problem is that the population is to large with sick and disabled people and needs reducing big time and as the conservatives have volunteered to do this dirty work which will take a few years in getting rid this type of person from society it wont be easy but brutal

    labour will not be standing for office at the next election

    Remember i said this first

  12. I agree with all said above,and have been treated horrendously...seriously folks you have no idea!and it scares me that Fourbanks has pinpointed it"there are too many of us sick etc,but they KNEW this was coming it is called demographic changes,I learnt about it when I was an entrepreneur,providing much work and training for many for many years,and the training often,I paid for!and got folks into work,society is not civilised,and we are tudor in approach to the problem...Things Have to change,ANYONE can become ill,when will these MORONS see that,next it could be them,thing is they are all feathering their nests at our expense NOW

  13. to clarify,I mean,they have a ton of support workers"who dont actually support or provide anything...they just tie your words in knots mis report what you said,and get paid for visiting those who really are sick,have tried for self and husband,who has severe mental health issues to get proper support for well over 18mths,and still have none,so schizophrenic carer who is not allowed diazepam by GP,s is worked off his feet,great care in the community...they are trying to kill us all,cant you see it?so a few commit suicide,a few die earlier,those caught up in protests get injured,or locked up...... as I said Tudor" and then some

  14. Go girl! So sorry to read about your rib - hope it wasn't the spare one!

  15. And once again I saw that the BBC are running a new series of that programme that show benefit cheats and its showing on Monday why do you suppose its been placed in the schedule at that particular time? To frighten possible scoungers?

    Why don't they say these stories are rare and fraud is a lot smaller than the impression this this programme gives.

    And most cases really are exceptional and not the normal kind of fraud those who do such things would ever consider...

  16. What really does my head in on these political pieces is how armchair experts can postulate what is Wrong With Britain, Which Party is at Fault, and turn the whole thing into an intellectual debate. But if you actually ARE disabled, try to comment upon the benefits in question and what life is like on those said benefits as, you know, you're actually LIVING it, just not talking about it, the armchair-experts completely ignore you and just keep arguing amongst each other.

    I guess therefore I shouldn't be surprised that politicians take the same tack. Apparently, such is Man.

  17. Have to ask the question will the research that has been done be of any use now?

  18. Nothing's changed my friend.

    We still have minds to change, hearts to win, evidence to present.

    I spent most of it today on printing *gulp* scary.
    By Friday we should have boxes and boxes of actual reports!!

  19. what you have to remember that there are those on the inside like myself who knows WHAT goes on in society while most people are just told on what goes on

    There is a programme here in which you can watch on more 4 later tonight for a better insight in to how the top rank view the sick and disabled

    The Queen's hidden cousins: They were banished to an asylum in 1941 and left neglected now an intriguing documentary reveals all

    as i say i know the inside of how the country's run and it's nothing like most people think

    i knew of this scandal as a young boy and nothing has changed 50 years on at the top

    The Queen’s Hidden Cousins, Channel 4, Thursday, 9pm.
    4 plus1 10pm

  20. ESA by it's very nature is designed to get as many people off benefits as possible, it was never designed to actually support people long term like Incapacity benefit was, as the goverment has decided the disabled are no longer worth the effort in supporting.

    What the goverment should of done is introduced a system that takes into account the claimants medical evidence and the opinion of the claimants doctor/person associated with their disability. And at the same time introduced yearly assessments with the claimants actual Doctor, not some keyboard jockey with no experience with the persons disability like they're doing now at Atos.

    The whole system in general is a sham.

    As said above, people should be assessed by actual Doctors qualified to do these assessments once a year to allow for fluctuating conditions, if they are deemed better put them off the benefit, but as most people are actually deserving of the benefit, it would only catch out the cheats.

  21. Here's the initial comment I made on the article

    I really am getting sick of Londis grade politicians invoking Beveridge and then Londis grade journalists trying to write about them. None of them have a clue about the benefits system or its history and particularly seem singularly unaware that Beveridge never succeeded in introducing a purely insurance based system and, as everyone here knows, you never could do without leaving some of the most vulnerable members of society to starve to death.

    On its own the history of the system shouldn't matter, it's what's needed now that we should be concentrating on. But when Beveridge is invoked to support an argument for cuts it's important to be able to challenge that.

    I've got to say I'm also pretty unhappy that I spent half of yesterday arguing with Sunny Hundal on Twitter who was pushing the scrounger rhetoric rather strongly. I see he's moderated his position now to 'ok I know they aren't scroungers really but nobody believes us so we might as well act as if they are' which is just as bad, or worse. Not what I hoped for from the UK's 'leading left of centre blog'.

  22. do not for get new labour is no differant than this lot,Liam and his pals love private companys,i.e.look at our rail & energy companys then the care for the elderly shame on the labour party the tories will be proud of you

  23. The really scary bit is when I researched in depth some popular conspiracy theories I found them to be factually true.

  24. He called on Byrne to urge his Labour peers to abandon their opposition to the welfare bill in the Lords, saying: "To back your words with actions, the Labour party now needs to fully support the welfare reform bill with all the reforms that it will bring.

    From the Guardian this Am IDS has responded to Liam's rant

  25. We are all probably feeling let down by the comments made by Mr Byrne, it just goes to show what all political parties are thinking right now, but the comments made by Mr Byrne have let down countless thousands who were looking for Labour to be a party that were very concerned about the drastic cuts being made. I have been scared now for the last 2 years it brings sleepless nights arguments with spouses, partners. I cannot and will not except why i have breath to draw that i like many thousands will be cast out and left to die basically. I often ponder what more could i / we do well there is no more, a lot of us do not have the strength / courage to carry on there are a few who will battle on until well less said the better. Sue and the other brave fighters i salute you because without you we were just a little voice but with you we are a very big voice

  26. Just wondering if you have seen this today? (Moneybox is doing a programme on benefits and the changes being made this afternoon)
    I'm hoping that enough people have that they will be bombarded by calls and e-mails.

  27. ஜ۩۞۩ஜ
    "When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
    When the road you're trudging seems all up hill,
    When the funds are low and the debts are high
    And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
    When care is pressing you down a bit,
    Rest if you must, but don't you quit.
    Life is queer with its twists and turns,
    As every one of us sometimes learns,
    And many a failure turns about
    When he might have won had he stuck it out;
    Don't give up though the pace seems slow--
    You may succeed with another blow,
    Success is failure turned inside out--
    The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
    And you never can tell how close you are,
    It may be near when it seems so far;
    So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit--
    It's when things seem worst that you must not quit."

  28. I was watching saints and scrongers with my carer, they spent ages showing video of women doing a skydive. Now if you pushed me out the plane I too could do a sky dive!! Can't do much else I grant you but sometimes show so much video of lifting or gardening that it must be really difficult if on a good day you can do some things and think people are watching. Luckly or not , I am rubbish all the time so don't have that problem!

  29. who said DISABLED people cant live normal lives.
    if i were working its ok
    if i claim benefits its no ok
    isn't that discrimination

  30. Anonymous That is absolutely definitely the nicest thing that has happened to me all day. Just what I needed to hear.

    Than you for your beautiful pictures too - if you are the same anonymous. 14.30

  31. I would never post this on my own blog, being a wannabe super-villain and all.

    I have just got back from the hospital. Two hours ago I went there at my brother's request because his daughter had suspected Meningitis. It now turns out this was unlikely but she is being kept in overnight for observation. Leaving aside the fact that this was a speedy process that ruled it out initially rather than there being any debate with the doctor over who pays for my niece's stay, eventual diagnosis and treatment, this required me to immediately contact the person who runs my Work Choice session and inform them that I might not be coming in.

    Work Choice runs alongside the Work Programme and is intended for those very difficult cases of disabled people which the Work Programme contractors are not able to adequately work with, as was shown to be the case when I was referred to A4e in 2010. I wrote about my experiences and how they related to government policy in the Guardian here:

    And here:

    My only complaint despite criticism from some within the welfare to work industry that I was 'ranty' was that I wasn't ranty enough.

    Work Choice is a huge improvement, run as it is in my area mainly by The Shaw Trust who actually have experience with a wide range of cognitive and mental disabilities: everyone in the group I attend in fact has either learning difficulties or an Autistic Spectrum Condition although there are only five of us excluding the lady from the Shaw Trust who supervises.

    She is very nice in fact. She covers for our short-comings a lot. I doubt I would have needed to e-mail her at 1 0'clock in the morning where there is very little possibility she will read it before the appointment time except that a contract I'm forced to sign to qualify for JSA(which I claimed voluntarily rather than IB or ESA) means I am obligated to make the earliest possible notice of any change in my personal circumstances.

    I have gone from an Autistic adult with wildly varying strengths and deficits and questionable self-help skills to a person who must look out for his brother with moderate learning difficulties and his eight year old niece in the space of a few hours, for an uncertain period of time extending into the future. This change in circumstances has not and will not bring extra support. Social services will not get involved even though I've had an Occupational Therapist and Connections adviser express concern that they are not yet involved, back in 2007, I will not be referred to counseling, I will not be considered for supported accommodation, I have had no word for four or five months if my support group will even receive the funding they need to keep me there from the Independent Living Fund which has been pretty much frozen and likely to close without being replaced.

    Something has got to give and I can't help but feel that the last thing to give will be me. My attachments will be gone, my coping mechanisms will be gone, even my hopes will be gone. The only thing left of me before this year is even halfway done will be just me myself as I am when those things aren't there: the moment, the stimulus and the reaction with nothing between me and the nearest person but a padded cell.

  32. Mason Dixon Autistic.Useless as I am at a suitable response,all I can say is try to look after yourself and keep us informed if that helps.

  33. Beveridge schmeveridge. Times have changed.

  34. There was a really good letter in the Guardian responding to Byrne.

  35. Byrne has a very big shock in store for him , he's gonna find out what disability means .