Saturday 30 November 2013


Thrilled to be able to say that WOW Petition just hit the 100K signature mark to qualify for a  debate in parliament.

It was in the Daily Mirror just moments later. I'll let them tell you......

100,000 sign War On Welfare petition asking for assessment of cuts to the sick and disabled

30 Nov 2013 20:35

The achievement means the issue must be considered for debate in the House of Commons

A hundred thousand people have signed a petition calling on the Department for Work and Pensions to look again at all cuts affecting sick and disabled people.

Led by comedian and campaigner Fracesca Martinez, the War On Welfare or WOW e-petition asks the government to carry out a Cumulative Impact Assessment looking at the overall effect of cuts to sick and disabled people, as well and their families and carers.

It also asks for MPs to be given a free vote on the repeal of the Welfare Reform Act.

Campaigners are demanding an end to the Work Capability Assessment, and an independent inquiry into issues including charges for care homes, ATOS, and the closure of Remploy factories.

They also want to put a stop to "forced work under threat of sanctions for people on disability benefits".

The petition has achieved its target of 100,000 signatures with 12 days to spare before it closed.

Celebrities including Stephen Fry, Russell Brand, Yoko Ono and Bianco Jagger have endorsed the campaign.

This means is now must be considered for a debate in the House of Commons.......

You can read the full article here

Please continue to sign Wow petition here :

Friday 29 November 2013

Mandatory Reconsideration - A Little Hope?

Apologies, someone emailed this news report and I don't know who to credit it to, but felt the information was worth sharing with you all.

It's not much, but at least a little "softening" from Esther McVey

Straightforward ESA mandatory reconsiderations expected to take ‘around 14 days’, says Esther McVey

Employment Minister also confirms that claim for JSA during reconsideration period will have no bearing on outcome

26 November, 2013

The DWP would expect a straightforward employment and support (ESA) mandatory reconsideration to take 'around 14 days', according to Employment Minister Esther McVey.

Responding to questions on mandatory reconsideration of ESA decisions in parliament yesterday, Ms McVey said -

'If no further information is needed and the case is straightforward, the mandatory reconsideration process for employment and support allowance could be completed relatively quickly. We would usually expect this to take around 14 days, but it could take longer. For example, if further information is needed, the law states that DWP have to give people one month to provide it and this may be extended further at the decision maker's discretion, so cases like this may take longer.'

In addition, in response to a question on whether a claim for jobseeker's allowance (JSA) during the mandatory reconsideration period would prejudice or influence its outcome, Ms McVey said -

'The DWP decision maker’s decision at the mandatory reconsideration stage for employment and support allowance is intended to be an independent step in the process, therefore, whether the claimant has claimed jobseeker's allowance or not in the intervening period, this will have no bearing on the mandatory reconsideration decision. Work Capability Assessment decisions are binding—a jobseeker's allowance decision maker cannot decide that a claimant is too ill to work if this contradicts the ESA decision maker's decision. However, the claimant must agree to the jobseeker's agreement/claimant commitment to be eligible.'

Ms McVey's written answers are available from Hansard.

Thursday 28 November 2013

WOW Petition - Nearly there

On 12th December last year, sick and disabled activists came together online to access democracy. They launched the WOW petition in order that sick and disabled people might be heard.

The DWP refuse to engage with us or the charities that represent many of our conditions.

They treat parliamentary questions with contempt and regularly lie in their answers. This is supposed to be against parliamentary rules. But no-one stops them or reprimands them .

They refuse to come on mainstream media programmes any longer to debate with us and when they are asked, they try to tell the particular show how they must report the issues or refuse to appear. This is supposed to be part of our democratic process, but no-one makes them engage.

They treat opposition day debates like partisan circuses, shaming their office and those who fight so hard to be heard.

They ignore consultations and Lords amendments that tell them their reforms are bound to fail.

They change the law retrospectively seemingly at will when the courts find that they have acted unlawfully. Or simply ignore the court's decisions.

Perhaps if their "reforms" were achieving their stated aims, no-one would care, but Universal credit is in crisis, PIP (reform of disability benefits) has been repeatedly delayed, ESA has all but ground to a halt with backlogs, Atos are under audit and pulling out of the old disability assessments, the bedroom tax gets more horrific by the day.

600,000 people will lose disability support. Up to a million will be told they must work with cancer, kidney failure, Parkinson's and any other condition you can imagine. 660,000 people are affected by the bedroom tax, 700,000 lose everything as sickness benefits are limited to just one year in many cases. Nearly a million people were sanctioned (lost benefits) through the Work Programme this year and tax credits for disabled children have been halved.

Many of those cuts will hit the same people over and over again. 

Today, WOW petition stands at 96,268 signatures with just 14 days to go. Just 3,732 signatures short of the 100,000 required to force our own debate in parliament. The government do not have to accept the will of the people, but they look even more shockingly arrogant if they don't

Please, if you haven't already, sign the petition here
If you think you've already signed, please check. 
If you signed, also check you verified the email sent automatically to your inbox - your signature won't count until yu click on the link they send. 

Democracy is only as good as the structures and conventions that hold it in place. For sick and disabled people, those structures and conventions lie in tatters. 

Help us to be heard. Stand with us. Sign WOW Petition

Sunday 24 November 2013

Open letter to Andrew Marr

Dear Andrew Marr

On the Marr show this morning you said you had "a greater understanding of disability" since your stroke. Yet when the story was mentioned that Ian Duncan Smith is thinking of getting rid of the Work Related Activity Group of ESA, the group that is supposed to help people back into work when they get instantly and terrifyingly sick, just as you did, you barely flickered a benevolent eyebrow.

What you actually meant was that you have a greater understanding of disability for wealthy people.

I wonder, has anyone talked you through what would have happened if you had been poor? Had you not enjoyed the great good fortune and success that you have? Immediately, I imagine a part of you just bridled - "Good fortune? My success is down to hard work and determination." But refuse collectors work hard, nurses are determined.

Just for a moment, humour me and imagine you were working for minimum wage in the local factory. You worked there for years. But you have no official contract and hours can be patchy over winter. Your wife works too, but between you, you don't earn enough to pay the bills. You get tax credits and a little housing benefit to make up the shortfall. You're still 54.

That morning you woke up on the floor would have been just as terrifying. The precious candle flame of immortality would have blown and guttered, just the same. The look on your wife's face would have been just as frozen with fear and the dazzling blue lights just as disorientating.

When you got to the hospital, the care would have been the same. Thanks to our wonderful NHS, worry and fear would have been contained in the instant. Will they make me better? Will I live? Will I walk again? Will I work again?

But you would fear for your family - how will they eat if I can't work? Will there be a job if I do recover? How will I pay the rent?

For those first few insecure days those fears would have hovered in the background, pushed aside by the fight for simple, vital life. But soon, as the days wore on, the luxury of self absorbed terror would have lifted. Practicality would start to matter just as much as survival.

And so, your wife would have arrived at the hospital one morning with a clutch of forms. Endless, confusing, demanding forms. 20, 30, 40 pages long. Forms for employment and support allowance. Forms for housing assistance. Forms for care. Between you, through clouds of fear, you would have started to fill them in, agonisingly, nervously, a sense of guilt and failure hanging heavy in the room.

After days of wondering which words they want to hear, what magic keys might unlock a door to security and support, together, you would have sent off the forms and waited an anxious wait. Much as you would have been hoping you would be Andrew Marr again, more, you would have wondered if your wife and children would get through this crisis without hiding the gas bills from you and eating simple, joyless meals in the kitchen while you sat in bed oblivious with the best they could give you, praying a little nutrition would speed you back to join them.

The claim comes back and they tell you they will consider it. They will pay you £71.70 per week - not nearly enough to cover the bills. You worry even more. But months pass. You spend them gritting your teeth, just as I'm sure you did, fighting with every last ounce of will to be the Andrew you left in bed that fateful night before your world turned upside down.

Time drags on and on and still you hear nothing. Your wife sells the car, then cashes in a little savings scheme you had set up for your funerals. But it's never enough. The bills keep flooding in and the money keeps flooding out and you still can't walk across the room or speak clearly. There are days of anger, fury that after all the years you worked, now you are left to pick up the pieces of your life alone.

When that brown envelope finally falls through the door, it tells you that your claim has been "successful". You have been placed in the Work Related Activity Group. Letters explain that you are expected to work again at some point, and as such, you will receive £100.15 per week, but you will be expected to attend "Work focussed interviews". The letter is stark. If you don't attend, you could lose your benefits. If you don't do all you can to get better, you will lose your benefits. If you don't return forms on time or jump through whichever hoops the agency feel are appropriate you will lose your benefits.

You want to scream. You want to shake someone until their teeth rattle. "I HAD A STROKE" you want to shout. My life was turned upside down! I'm doing all I can to be Andrew again. If I could turn back the clock to that night, not do so much exercise, not eat so much of that rich sauce, not drink that strong coffee. But I can't. I didn't ask for this to happen, I've never been off work in my life. Why is it all so hard? Why do I feel such a failure? But most of all, don't they realise of course I'm doing all I can to get better? Of course I want to walk again and talk again and play with my children?

It's six months now since you woke up on the floor, helpless and confused. You can walk a little, slowly. You can make yourself understood. But your wife has lost weight. You can see it every day as she cares for you, lifting and dressing and washing, as she cares for the children all alone, as she rushes from one job to the next, desperate to keep the family together.

You call your old boss. "Can I come back?" But he says you're just not ready. His insurance won't cover you. He can't afford you there if you can't do the job.

The work related activity begins. The letter says you must attend a centre right across town. It takes 40 minutes on the bus. You can't get there. You certainly can't afford a taxi and your wife sold the car weeks ago. You phone them to explain, but they say rules are rules. Whatever the rules, you can't get there. The next letter explains that you have been sanctioned. You will lose all of your support for two weeks. Again, you want to scream "BUT I HAD A STROKE!! I CAN'T WALK!

Your wife sells the x-box and the kid's bikes. You can hear them downstairs, angry and resentful, they don't understand why they have to suffer because Daddy got ill. You cry quietly upstairs terrified someone will come in the room, but unable to hide away.

After 7 months, exhausted and ashamed, you go back to work. You're not ready. The doctors say you shouldn't go back, the physio says you need more time. But there is no more time. Time has run out. If you don't go back to work you'll be evicted and you simply can't let that happen.

This is the reality of life in the UK today if you happen to be poor and random life throws you into crisis. Still you might not believe me. You might say I'm exaggerating, that no system could possibly work the way I just explained in a developed democracy. A part of you might allow yourself to think you tried harder, you're stroke was worse. You didn't and it wasn't

You simply had the cushion of a comfortable life propping you up. Without that cushion, you would have been astonished, appalled by how you were treated. Your view of being disabled in the UK today would have been very, very different.

Finally, just in case I made you think, even a bit, imagine there was no wife. There were no children. No family or friends close by. Who would have washed you and fed you and encouraged you then? Who would have filled in the forms and kept things afloat while you dribbled and hobbled your way back to health?

If you think the answer is the state, think again. And if you think you know what the vast majority of sick and disabled people go through, think again.

All you had to do was concentrate on getting better.

I thank God that you are and for the care and support you had to get there. But perhaps, now and then, you could read the odd article about how it might have been very, very different. Stroke survivors struggle to make ends meet on ESA Derbyshire stroke victim wins victory in benefits protest. .... "following a severe stroke, Jan Morgan was shocked at how she was treated by the benefits system....

Update : When a post goes viral, you think of the one thing you should have said. 

I had a stroke. Luckily, it turned out to be a TIA - a trasnsient ischaemic attack. A stroke that fades away with little effect. I have the most imperceptible left sided weakness from it. If you look at a picture of me, you'll see my smile lifts a little less on the left than the right. 

But for 30 minutes, I went totally blind, lost the power of speech, became totally paralysed down one side and I had no idea if it would last or pass. I was locked away in myself for 15 of those 30 minutes, absolutely knowing that I was having a stroke. Mentally, functioning exactly as always, but unable to express myself in any way. It was without doubt the scariest 30 minutes in an otherwise fairly grade A scary life.

Please with just a few days to go, would you all sign the WOW petition and share it amongst your friends and family

Monday 18 November 2013

IDS to face tough questions in Parliament TODAY!

Did you ever read the "Where's Wally" picture books as a child?

You know, the ones where you had to search for a tiny, tiny wee cartoon man in enormous crowds?

Well lately, we have been searching for Iain Duncan-Smith high and low, but he's been nowhere to be seen.

- He lost a court case on "workfare" : Nothing.
- The DWP announce major delays to their flagship disability welfare reform (PIP) : Nothing.
- It's revealed that many more millions have been wasted on Universal Credit IT that doesn't work : Nothing. - A debate in parliament directly involving his department : Still nothing.

Much musing has taken place amongst geeky people like me and the hashtag #WheresIDS has been bobbling about on twitter for months now. Jayne Linney has done tremendous work to find out why, for instance, (via the Freedom of Information system) he STILL hasn't appeared before the Work and Pensions committee.

Thanks to the eagle-eyed @imthenicenurse it would appear that he's s now prepared to appear before parliament today at 2.30pm.

The questions MPs have tabled to ask are excellent and I can't wait for IDS to answer them!

Something is afoot. Possibly several somethings. I can feel it in my twitchy instincts. Have Conservative central office finally realised that IDS is a liability, not an asset? Did they want to reshuffle him, but he refused to go? Are they keeping him out of public view because his image has become so toxic?

Who knows, but either way, he's very quiet, even for a "quiet man".

You can watch the session in parliament this afternoon by clicking HERE

Buy popcorn.

Well done to Jayne and all the others who've kept up the pressure. Anyone who wants to tweet could use #IDSontheSpot

If you'll be live tweeting it, do send me a quick tweet or email to let me know, so that I can direct people who are interested to your timelines. Also, please spread the word amongst your networks so that as many people as possible can watch/listen to/record the session.

And PLEASE sign the WOW petition if you haven't already. We have until just the 12th of December (24 days, gulp!!) to get the remaining 16,616 signatures needed to trigger a debate in parliament. If you do think you've already signed it but can't be sure, could I ask you to try again, just in case somehow the signature wasn't verified or some other bureaucratic glitch failed to record your opinion?  You can sign by clicking HERE

Also, if you will be tweeting or reporting the session on Facebook or other social media, don't forget to use #DWPChaos or #IncompetentIDS here and there too.

Update : @susanas4321 will be live tweeting the debate. I'll update here as others let me know 

Saturday 16 November 2013

Job Envy

I just saw an ad for my dream job. Dream. Job.

And so Job Envy rears its ugly head once more.

In the 40 years I've been on this planet, I've never seen a job I'd be better at or where I could make a bigger difference.

It pays about £33.000 Probably just about enough, as the only way I could even consider working was if Dave could give up his job to be my PA.

But here's the killer line
"will be expected to work very flexibly and to participate in a system of shift working including regular overnight shifts" (In London :(( )
It's full time, and realistically, it would probably be way more hours than that.

Well, that's me out then.

The huge irony is that I'll be doing the job remotely, for free, anyway. Probably at least full time. I'll just be doing it from my beanbag, on my laptop with a vomit bowl nice and close to hand.

Is it really beyond us in the 21st century to trust that if they would only let me do it that way, I'd be the best person they would ever get?

Even more ironically, I can only work very flexibly using a system of shift working including overnight shifts!!! The elephant in the room is that I can't say when that might be. It might be 14 hours a day. Or it might be none.

For the first time I can remember, I'm even considering asking if they might make some fairly unreasonable adjustments.

Then, I remember how ill I feel. All the time. I wake up in the morning ill and in pain. I go to bed ill and in pain. I'm not moaning, that's just how it is. But every time I ever let a dream like this creep in, the sheer scale of the pain and exhaustion I'd feel all the time looms, daunting; enormous.

Every day I do it for myself, I choose. If I just can't do it, I go back to bed. If dangerous levels of relapse loom, I can step back.

The minute I promise to do it for someone else, for money, I have to change the only way I can do this and slowly, I get critically ill.

You couldn't build a better trap.

Friday 15 November 2013

Disabled man risks life to protest DLA changes

If ANYTHING shows how Iain Duncan-Smith's incompetent welfare reforms are targeting the wrong people, it's this story from the Northern Echo.

"Victory for Guisborough man who put his life on the line to protest Government disability allowance changes

A DESPERATE dad refused life-saving medical treatment in protest at being refused disability benefits.

Ian Calvert, 57, stopped using his kidney dialysis machine, despite tearful pleas from his wife, Jill, after being told that new Government rules meant he didn’t qualify for support.

Assessors changed their minds on day three of Mr Calvert’s protest and five days after he last used the machine.

The father, from Guisborough, who has worked his whole life and never claimed benefits before, is supposed to use the machine for two-and-a-half hours, five days a week. He has been told by doctors never to go seven days without using it.

Mr Calvert, of Guisborough, who continues to work 12-hour night shifts as a night supervisor at a chemical haulage firm, also has severe arthritis. He can’t bend, walks with difficulty and has problems using steps and getting into cars. Even sitting down is painful for him and he has special pads on his chairs at work. The Government has changed disability allowance to a new scheme called Personal Independent Payments (PIPs) which involves an assessor personally examining claimants........

Wednesday 6 November 2013

BREAKING : Court of Appeal overturn Independent Living Fund decision!

Wonderful news! The Court of Appeal have overturned an earlier ruling that it was lawful to clos the Independent Living Fund. Crucially they concluded that proper consideration had not been made to consultations which may open the way for further challenge of the 20 metre rule for the new Personal Independence Payments.

According to the BBC :

"Five disabled people have succeeded in a legal challenge to the government's decision to abolish the Independent Living Fund.

The £320m ILF currently provides support enabling nearly 19,000 severely disabled people in the UK to live independent lives in the community.

The High Court ruled in April that the closure decision was lawful.

But the five argued the court had gone wrong in law and there had been a lack of proper consultation over changes.........

You can read the full article on the BBC here

Scrap the Bedroom Tax - Vote in Parliament

Rachel Reeves confirmed yesterday that Labour is calling an Opposition Day debate on scrapping the Bedroom Tax on the afternoon of 12th November. That's only eight days away, so if we're going to make any difference to the vote, we need to let our MPs know as soon as possible

She's asked you all if you would consider coming to the Commons on the day. She's booked a wheelchair accessible room in Portcullis House (Boothroyd Room) from 10am-12.30 on the morning of the debate – the idea is to orchestrate a mass lobby from there - and she'll also be able to come and meet as many of you as possible.

We've also been told they'll try and get tickets for as many people as possible to attend the debate in the afternoon over at the Commons.

For those who can't attend in person, we're told there'll be a mass "virtual lobby" at the same time and the Mirror are supporting the last minute calls to MPs.

If anyone would like to attend either event - or has any questions - contact her parliamentary assistant Keir Cozens - - and hopefully see you there…

You can email your MP from here just by entering your postcode.

A short note, outlining why you think the Bedroom tax is unfair and asking them to either meet you at the parliament lobby, or if you can't attend, to vote to scrap the tax.

It's vital we let every MP know on a personal level and particularly to engage in conversation with LibDems. Recently, grassroots members voted overwhelmingly against the Bedroom Tax at this year's conference and since, Clegg has ordered an "independent review" (yawn) to tell him what he already knows.

We must try to persuade Liberal Democrat MPs to vote with the overwhelming wishes of their own grassroots and members rather than the compromised interests of a few at the top of their party.

There are also now countless examples of Conservatives and Tory councils rejecting the tax that you can send to your Conservative MP to show him that they would be representing constituents by opposing this levy on  principle, not as ordered by the whip. Just because this debate was called by the opposition, plead with them not to allow partisan nonsense to turn such an important issue into a democratic farce. They see the same heartbreaking stories at their surgeries as Labour MPs :

Flagship Conservative council of Westminster has just blamed the Council Tax for soaring costs of re-housing tenants.

The UN recently reported that the Bedroom Tax may breach the human rights of those subjected to it

And there have now been legal defeats in both English and Scottish law judging that it discriminates against both disabled adults and children

What more do we need Mr Clegg? Mr Cameron? It discriminates in the eyes of the law, it's inhumane in the opinion of the UN, it will cost more than it saves and 440,000 of the 660,000 affected have a long term illness or disability..

If you google your county or next biggest town, there are almost certainly local stories with the exact number of constituents set to lose out or facing eviction in your local area.

But even if you just ask your MP to vote to scrap the tax, that's good enough and you can click below to

We win one little act of faith at a time, one email at a time, one defeat at a time.