Tuesday 13 December 2011

Now it's Real. First Cancer Patients, Now Government slash benefits for Disabled Children

Last night, the House of Lords failed to support an amendment put down by Tanni Grey-Thompson, the most successful paralympian of all time, to protect the benefits of disabled children once Universal Credit is introduced.

You can read more here http://www.family-action.org.uk/section.aspx?id=14225 but effectively, under universal credit, all but the most profoundly disabled children will only get half as much support. Child Tax Credit additions for disabled children will fall from £52.21 per week to £25.95 per week - a loss of £1366 per year, or £20,000 over the course of a childhood.

You might wonder what possible argument a government who promised to "protect the most vulnerable" could possibly make for this change. I myself was fascinated to see how on earth they had justified throwing disabled children to the wolves.

Ready? OK, if they didn't betray disabled children, it would just have to be disabled adults. After all, disabled children have parents to look after them. What's more, if they didn't cut money used to buy wheelchairs and incontinence pads for disabled children, they wouldn't be able to afford to address the hideous failures of ESA (Employment and Support Allowance or sickness benefit) and ensure that all those who qualify for long term support, get it.

Could there be a more disgusting example of divide and conquer? Each man for himself. The image of a Victorian gent throwing a handful of pennies on the floor and leaving the cripples to fight it out amongst themselves comes to mind.

And remember, this is no longer theory.

I've been writing about these issues for 18 months now, sadly my blogs have often contained doom and gloom predictions of horrors to come. Well last night they started to come in a first blaze of in-glory. The Welfare Reform Bill is now at Report Stage in the Lords. These votes will almost certainly decide what becomes law and what doesn't. For disabled children, now it's too late.

Shame on us.

There is one more session before Xmas. Then 4 sessions after Xmas, then the final no-going-back vote to pass the bill. There is still time to lobby peers. There is still time to stop the time limiting of ESA. http://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.com/2011/12/time-limiting-esa-template-letter-to.html There is still time to oppose PiP and abolishing Disability Allowance. http://onemonthbeforeheartbreak.blogspot.com/ There is still time to fight Clause 52 http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/dec/08/conservative-compassion-disabled-sick and housing benefit changes that will leave thousands of sick and disabled people at risk of homelessness.

In a week where the government suggested all cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy ought to be assessed to see if they can work or not, I can only wonder where this will all lead. I can only hope history is no guide the future

If I can find any tiny silver lining, it is that we only lost by 2 votes. That is the closest vote I have seen so far.

2 votes. 2 Lords. 2 letters, 2 emails, 2 tweets.

There is still all to play for, but sadly disabled children just fought the last stage of their fight. And lost.

Saturday 10 December 2011

Time Limiting ESA - Template Letter to Lords

Yesterday, I asked you all to write to a Lib Dem peer and plead with them to vote against time limiting ESA to just one year.

Today, I've written a template letter for you to use. Template letters are certainly less effective - many parliamentarians won't open more than one or two of them. However, they are better than not writing at all. For every peer who receives 5, 10, 50 template letters, at least they get to see the strength of feeling people have over an issue.

If you don't have the confidence to write your own, please use this one. Peers might also remember that I write for disabled people. Many cannot write a letter themselves. Due to physical or mental disabilities, I have often had comments from those so very grateful that a template letter I have provided allowed them to engage democratically.

"Dear .........................

I am writing to you in the hope that you will vote against time limiting ESA to just one year in the coming welfare reform bill Report Stage and Third Reading.

-700,000 people with serious illnesses and impairments will be affected by this policy, many losing any right to an independent income. http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/esa-time-limit-wr2011-ia.pdf

-The means test is set at just £7,500 per year, meaning that a partner must support an unwell or disabled loved one if they earn more than this.

-Families already overwhelmingly living in poverty will lose £4661 per year. This is three times as much as higher rate taxpayers will lose in child benefit.

-This policy only affects working families and savers as it only applies to those who have contributed NI or have savings over £6000.

-It is a disincentive to work and will only encourage families to break down http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/esa-time-limit-wr2011-ia.pdf

-The only justification ministers have given for this policy is that "We can't afford it"
Sick and disabled people with limited capability for work are conflated with jobseekers as ministers claim ESA must be brought into line with JSA

-Ministers admit that 94% of those affected will not have found work by the end of the year. They also insist that it is irrelevant whether or not they have recovered. http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/esa-time-limit-wr2011-ia.pdf

-People with serious, lifelong, and degenerative conditions will all be affected by this. People with MS, Cancer, Parkinsons, Bowel Disease, Kidney Failure, Heart Disease, Lung Disease, Schizophrenia, Bi-Polar and many many more conditions will lose benefits, left in limbo until they are judged unable to do any kind of work at all,. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmworpen/1015/1015vw44.htm

At your annual conference this year, Liberal Democrat members voted overwhelmingly to oppose an "arbitrary time limit" on ESA. http://carons-musings.blogspot.com/2011/09/please-support-glasgow-norths-brilliant.html Please, please, stand by the wishes of your grassroots and of your party and oppose this cruellest of measures.

We are relying on you to help us. Only Liberal Democrat peers can provide a majority and ensure that a one year time limit on sickness benefits is not made law. Please, you promised to protect the most vulnerable and if ever a policy hit the most vulnerable the hardest, then it is time limiting ESA.

Many thanks



Here is a link to Lib Dem Peers. Simply click on it, pick a letter of the alphabet at random, and copy and paste in the letter. http://www.libdems.org.uk/peers.aspx
The more you can do, the more we can persuade. Thank you.

Finally, please keep up the pressure and RT, share on Facbook, email to friends and feel free to cross post this.

Friday 9 December 2011

Time Limiting ESA - We MUST stop it.

It seems that the Conservatives are simply not willing to give an inch on Time Limiting ESA.

Just to be clear, this means that if you have worked and paid national insurance contributions you will face an assessment. If that assessment finds that you are indeed unwell, but may be able to do some work at some point, you will only qualify for support for a year.

At the end of that year, no matter how ill you remain, if you have a partner who earns just £7,500 or more, or limited savings, you will lose all ESA. All of it.

Those with long term, serious illnesses, mental health conditions and learning disabilities are likely to be the worst affected. Sickness benefits as we know them will become a thing of the past. Just 6% of new claimants will qualify for long term support, the rest will have just one year.

I have written about time limiting extensively here (click for article)

The government accept that 94% will not have found work at the end of that year. They accept that they will not have recovered. They simply say "We can't afford it"

The only way we can now stop the government from going ahead with this most horrifying of policies is for Lib Dem Lords to vote against it.

Earlier this year, Lib Dem grasroots members voted for a motion and amendment at their conference opposing an arbitrary time limit for ESA. The vote was overwhelmingly in favour.

Here is the amendment in full :

After C. (line 25), insert:
D. That vulnerable cases like this, where a welfare recipient’s income is threatened ,should qualify
for free legal representation.

Delete 2 (line 35) and insert:

2. Liberal Democrats in Government to oppose an arbitrary time limit on how long claimants can
claim contributory ESA.

In 3. (line 36), after ‘representation’ insert: ‘and expert advice, and for Government to reconsider
the exclusion of welfare benefits casework such as this from the scope of legal aid.

After 3. (line 36), add:
4. A presumption that ESA claimants with serious and uncontrollable life-threatening conditions
should be allocated to the support group rather than the work related activity group.

5 A review of ATOS performance in delivering the Medical Services Agreement contract with
DWP in respect of the quality of medical assessments.

6. Effective contract compliance for contractors carrying out ESA eligibility assessments to avoid
poor performance, and a presumption that in future ESA eligibility will be carried out by the
public sector or non-profit organisations.

Once this vote was carried, opposing the time limiting of ESA became Liberal Democrat policy.

Today, I'm asking all of you - Liberal Democrat or not - to write to a Lib Dem peer and beg them to oppose the one year time limit. Here is a list of Lib Dem peers http://www.libdems.org.uk/peers.aspx

Simply click on a letter at random, pick one and write to them. Beg them. Explain it to them. Feel free to send them my articles. Remind them about their conference pledge.

They're our only hope. If they support the Conservatives on this, despite the wishes of their members, 700,000 people will be affected. People with Parkinson's, Bowel Disease, MS, Cancer, Heart Failure, Kidney Failure, Lung disease, Schizophrenia, Bi-Polar and any other condition you can think of.

Please, write today. Then write again. Pick another peer and then another and keep writing until after Xmas.

Very early in the New Year, Lords will vote on this issue for the final time. It is only this vote now that stands between time limiting ESA becoming policy.

Please, if you've ever sent one of my letters, every RTd an article because I asked, every written to your MP, every written a blog post or an article, please, do this. Keep doing it until the day of the vote. Tell everyone and ask them to write too.

The welfare reform bill is almost law now. We don't have very many opportunities to make a difference. Let's make a difference over this.

**Feel free to re-post, share, RT and generally make sure that everyone knows, thanks.

The following articles may help:





Monday 5 December 2011

A Cripmas Lunch And Spoonie Secret Santa

Christmas can be a difficult time for many people, especially those who are disabled whether that be through a long term sickness, a fluctuating condition, a mental health issue, learning disability or the traditional image of a wheelchair or white stick. For many of us on low incomes buying gifts or travelling to be with loved ones can be impossible, or just practically too exhausting.

Anyone in receipt of benefits will be receiving their annual Christmas bonus soon. Before anyone not in receipt of benefits gets too excited about us 'scrounging types' getting a free, state funded Christmas party this bonus is a one off payment of £10 which has not been increased since it was first introduced. From an initial joke on twitter between @zoesmith, @gentlechaos @Imogen_May @techiebabe and myself the idea of a Cripmas Lunch was born. 

We'd like to make sure that for anyone who's alone this Christmas or who needs to spend time with other people in a similar situation that there is an online meeting point where it's easy to gather together to find company, support and hopefully a few laughs. The old BBC Ouch message boards were always busy over Christmas and in recent years other sites disabled people could congregate such as 'yourable' have disappeared leaving a bit of a gap for people to try and find each other. We'll bring you the meeting details as we get more organised but for now there will be a #cripmaslunch tag on twitter so you can search on that and find others. We'll also direct people to particular facebook pages and hopefully a forum venue. People can chat, share music, jokes, find support, whatever they want and we're all looking forward to a fantastic cripmas tale written by @creativecrip

The fantastic Flash Bristow has volunteered to run a Spoonie Secret Santa and all the details are on her blog page here. We're particularly keen for anyone who's isolated to join in, so everyone can receive at least one gift this Christmas and know that someone cares, but it's open to all Spoonies, which means anyone with any kind of sickness, disability, learning disability or mental health problem.

Time is short to participate in the Spoonie Secret Santa because of the last posting dates, but we've set the budget at £5 per gift to try and ensure as many people as possible can afford to take part. Flash needs your details by midnight on Sunday 12th of December so she can assign Secret Santas and people have time to post their gifts.

So, don't be lonely this Christmas - come and join everyone in our Spoonie Secret Santa and Cripmas Lunch!

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Pat Says "Our Voices Will Be Heard"

Since its launch in early November, Pat’s petition  has reached out to thousands of disabled people, carers and friends. Magnificent backing has come from all walks of life including charitable organisations, voluntary groups and my own MP! 

Far and wide it finds members of the public who care enough and want to help. It is going from strength to strength as more hear about it and want to sign. The offers of support from MIND, Disability Alliance, RNIB, RADAR and so many more, has been truly amazing. Their newsletters will be heard and seen by tens of thousands.

To my small band of ‘warriors’…..disabled or carers themselves, who have all been invaluable friends…….I thank you. You have all made this possible so keep spreading the petition.
Determination to succeed grows ever stronger. Money is, apparently, ‘needed’ elsewhere which the government deems ‘more important.’ The first to get hit, yet again, are those who can least afford it. So where do they get that money from? Of course there is no problem. They move our goal posts ever further apart and steal from those who can least afford it. Sorry – I don’t accept this – I say NO

I need YOUR  help to reach my target of 100,000, so take Pat’s petition and tell everyone.
Together……. ‘I’ becomes ‘we’ and our voices

Please sign and share this link with as many individuals, groups, charities and organisations that you can, and ask them to share it in newsletters.
Any questions can be sent to 
Pat Onions c/o admin@carerwatch.com

Tuesday 8 November 2011

We'll Be Back Soon!

Dear all,

We at The Broken of Britain HQ are having a break for a while.  At the moment, we don't know how long we will be away for, but it will, most probably, be around a month.

Usually, we have someone manning (womanning!) the fort whilst others take a break, but at the moment, we all need some time away.

Various things, be they physical, mental, emotional, or life events, have left us rather frazzled, and we just cannot keep up with everything that we need to to run TBofB properly.

What we write about is so important to so many people, that we would rather not do it, than provide false or erroneous information.

Some of us will still be using Twitter and Facebook, or writing on our blogs, but there is no pressure on us to keep up with the pace on our own our personal accounts, as there is on The Broken of Britain's.

We very much hope you understand, and will still be supporting our cause when we get back.

All very best wishes,

Kali, Rhydian, Lisa, Sue and Melissa xx

Monday 7 November 2011

Pat's Petition

Pat Onions has submitted an e-petition to the government website. Pat is blind and Pat is also a carer. When we asked her why she submitted this petition she said -
We were determined to attend the Hardest Hit rally in Edinburgh. Determined, in spite of disability, to stand with the others who had made the long and difficult journey. Determined to show we were united as one voice against the vicious cuts we are all enduring. We knew there were many thousands who couldn’t make it. Disability, ill health or cost would prevent them coming. We made it.
To the many there and those who came in spirit……….this petition is for us all.
Pat’s petition reads –

Stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families.

You can see the full petition on the Government website here 

The Broken of Britain are supporting Pat’s petition.  If Pat gets 100,000 signatures it could generate a debate in Parliament.

There is massive concern over the huge extent of both the welfare reforms and the cuts. Too often when people speak up, their voice is fragmented and discounted. This is an opportunity to get everyone together to speak with one voice, and to register in one place, how many people are asking the government to listen.

Firstly – obviously – we ask you to sign this petition and persuade all your family and friends to do the same. The name of the game is numbers ; so please ask friends, family and any organisations you belong to to sign and get others to sign.

When you sign the petition you will see buttons for twitter and facebook; so please share it with others on Twitter and Facebook.  Let Pat know she has your support by leaving a comment here too.
The first signatures will be the hardest to get, while we get this juggernaut rolling, so please help now and make sure that this petition really takes off.

This petition will only succeed if everyone joins together to support it and TBofB are delighted that  organisations are joining our ranks and offering support.

Organisations on board so far that have agreed to help raise awareness of Pat’s Petition are :

Disability Alliance
The Broken of Britain
Benefits and Work

Friday 4 November 2011

Letter To Maria Miller About Media Misrepresentation

Dear Maria Miller,
In your role as Minister for Disabled People you head the Office for Disability Issues, leading the government in matters that affect disabled people.

I would like to know what you do when:

- Your fellow ministers go on national radio sharing inaccurate information about disability benefits (Ian Duncan Smith recently went on Radio 4’s Today programme and talked about DLA as though it were an out of work benefit, and has spoken about non-means tested benefits as though they were means-tested.)

- National media reports on disability related matters using completely inaccurate statistics.

- National media reports on people claiming disability benefits using inaccurate examples and misleading statistics.
As someone that daily tries to work toward disabled people’s equality – I am disabled myself, I work for an organisation that works with disabled actors and artists, I have disabled family members and friends – I see the effects of public perceptions of disabled people as lead swingers and scroungers, and media misrepresentation encourages this.
As you are in a position to challenge this view on a country-wide scale, as compared to my very local levels of impact, I would expect you to be doing everything in your power to ensure disabled people are not repeatedly misrepresented by my fellow colleagues, or by national media.

I look forward to your response,
Yours sincerely

With thanks to MillerWatch for sharing this here 

The future of disability rights is in our hands, so what are you going to do about it?

 With thanks to Imogen May the author of this post;

This isn’t going to be a long blog post, winter is setting in and many of The Broken of Britain are struggling as a result. We may be used to dealing with the consequences of the colder climate, but I don’t think any of us were expecting to be shut out in the cold by the Government.

I’ve followed politics since I was in my teens and I’ve always been involved in Grass Roots activism with disability organizations. I’ve felt anxious before, I’ve worPost Optionsried about my friends with fluctuating impairments or mental health impairments, but I’ve genuinely never been terrified.

The truth is, most disabled people honestly don’t realise the true impact of the cuts this Government is planning to make. Currently, information on specific subjects like Housing Benefit or Disability Living Allowance is filtering down through social media sites like Twitter with a handful of people doing their best to bring the stark truth to our attention. But realistically, reaching a few hundred or even a few thousand people online just isn’t going to cut the mustard!

I feel specifically let down by the Disabled Peoples Direct Action Network (DAN), who seem to have been in hiatus for what feels like years. With small demos taking place every few years, it’s about time they lived up to their name! What we need from DAN right now, isn’t just plans for direct actions, but we need that network. We are a community that has constantly had to fight for our rights and that is only going to become more necessary as the coalition slash our entitlement to benefits and make huge cuts to services. We need a network so that disabled people can reach out to one another, actually inform people of what’s to come as well as support them the best we can once this Welfare Reform Bill is passed. 

I was incredibly disappointed that DAN didn’t make use of the recent Hardest Hit marches in October. It would have been the perfect place to not only show they’re still active, but to introduce disabled people who perhaps felt no need to be political previously, into the world of activism. We are in urgent need of absolutely every single angry disabled person to add their voice so that we may actually be heard.

The Government is planning to cut, from 3.5 million disabled people, a total of £9.2 billion by 2015. And that’s just us, the total amount from the Welfare Reform Bill over that same period is something more like £20 billion.
When this bill is finally passed, I want to be able to say that we did everything we possibly could to stop money being taken from the some of the poorest people in our, so-called, Big Society.

The perceived problem with doing something ‘big’ in order to be noticed is the mixed ability within the disability community. Not all of us are able to attend marches or demos, not all of us have the energy to write a blog post and some of us simply don’t have access to the information needed to know where to start. However, I wouldn’t agree that this is a problem at all, in fact I believe that this is the perfect way for us all to take on a role we are capable of managing. We need all the activists, all the bloggers, all the people who can write the most persuasive letters, all the people who can Tweet info right into the smallest corners of the UK and everyone in-between.  I believe that our problem at the moment is that there doesn’t seem to be one group of people attempting to co-ordinate a multi pronged attack. I’m not talking about leaders, or people making decisions without the backing of our community, but people who are willing to spend time contacting people, informing them, giving ideas of where to direct letters or interacting with other grass root organisations to ensure we’re all on the same page.

I know other bloggers and Tweeters who’ve spoken recently about similar things without much response, but we can’t give up! If you want disability rights to be a reality, if you don’t believe the benefit reform threatens your quality of life, if you know your vital care will be slashed, if you’re anyone else who knows that this is vitally important, if you actually want to be part of something powerful and amazing, then you need to be part of this. The ball is in your court now, the future of disability rights is in our hands, so what are you going to do about it?

For more information, e mail Imogen.Jo@Gmail.com & follow Imogen__May on Twitter.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

#NaNoWriMo 2011 (#disability #spoonie #mentalhealth) - by @CreativeCrip / @IconicImagery #TBofB

"This year I hope to finally set a realistic and achievable #NaNoWriMo goal by focusing on writing blogs for thecreativecrip.com #amwriting". Thus read my first social media status update for 1 November 2011. I am feeling "OK" today and unlike many others in the UK, last weekend's time change seems to have helped me a bit with managing Spoonie fatigue, the pain.and brain fog notwithstanding. After a mad round of tweeting I managed to crawl out of bed and get going.

A well-meaning new-found long-lost relative from across the pond decided to comment on the Facebook entry; "truth is I'm strategic..." she wrote. "...the goal is achievable you have to trust yourself to make it happen."

This was my response:
Not being funny but - as someone who has complex health problems (physical disabilities, illness and mental health) all the planning, strategies and jolly hockey sticks cheerleading in the world cannot guarantee a result. That's just #Spoonie reality - we do what we can, when we can ... unfortunately more often than not it means struggling immensely to do not very much at all... I give myself these pep talks and try strategies every year for #NaNoWriMo but don't really care if I actually manage to submit or even finish... its just helping me to focus on my blog and get some things done that I've neglected.

The thing is, I really would like to achieve a National Novel Writing Month win; I've wanted to for the seven years that I've tried. It's only in the past few years that my increasing problems with concentrating, memory and ability had nothing to do with just being lazy and more than a bit to do with the severe clinical depression that went undiagnosed since I was a teenager battling the Bulimia I still struggle with from time-to-time on the cusp of 46. The added struggles with physical disability and invisible illness makes it even more challenging to get started or keep going even if I do. Even a simple post like this has taken hours, with many stops and restarts.

I am blessed for every day that I have to actually wake up and The Great Spirit willing, I will have many many more. Unfortunately (as I explained to the psychiatrist at my last CMHT check), every night I go to bed my head spinning with a few ideas of things to work on the next day. I make notes in my project books and smartphone when I can manage to not forget within a minute or two of having a scathingly brilliant idea. Then the sun rises and sets again without any of those things getting done. Thus is the vicious circle that constitutes my spoonie not #fitforwork life, day-in and day-out.

Unfortunately it is impossible to have a "normal" schedule. For those who would criticise that sentiment and make a "scrounger" comment; review my LinkedIn profile. Even if I hadn't had my previous career on Wall Street and in The City of London, the life I am forced to lead today still wouldn't be a lifestyle choice. I would gladly give up my need to have help from the State in return for good health and mobility.. I need help - in the form of a Careworker who visits a few times weekly so I don't have to go for months on end without being able to have a shower or shampoo my hair; someone who could take me to the supermarket and help with shopping; someone who would be willing to help me keep my flat tidy and make sure I don't ignore the brown letters of doom from the DWP; someone who would be willing to prepare meals that aren't burnt beyond recognition and make sure that I eat them; someone who could actually be a Lovely Carer (tm @BendyGirl) - which would help me immensely.

I have big dreams and small; and yes, a little fame as a writer and campaigner wouldn't unwelcome. But as Lydia Grant used to say in the opening of the Fame television series: "Fame costs, and right here is where you start paying - in sweat". Like the majority of people in my situation or worse - I'm not afraid of hard work and never have been. The relentless onslaught against disabled people from politicians, government bodies, general public and media takes a toll on my health. This, along with the  lack of Care in my daily life and constant worry about my finances, needing business help and having to move house again etc, makes something as "trivial" as trying for a NaNoWriMo win feel like trying to go up an icy hill alone on rollerblades. I may fail again; but in the words of Bob Hoskins in Maid in Manhattan, what defines us is how well we rise after falling.

Lisa J. Ellwood
Disability & Mental Health Campaigner
The Broken of Britain

Cross-posted from The Creative Crip Blog

Disability News Round Up By John Pring - Week Beginning 31/10/2011

  • Disabled activists have ridiculed a union’s claims that its members have been unfairly criticised for the way they test disabled people’s “fitness for work”.
  • Government figures have revealed alarming new evidence of a slump in the number of disabled people granted funds to make their workplaces more accessible.
  • Two disabled people have lost their high court challenge over a council’s decision to slash spending on social care services.
  • The number of disability benefits claimants found “fit for work” by the government has fallen sharply over the last two years, according to new figures.
  • Researchers are seeking volunteers to take part in a project that will trace how the educational experiences of disabled people have changed over the last 100 years.
  • A disabled peer has challenged a minister over whether she is taking account of the views of disabled people in developing new policies.
  • Trials of the assessment for the benefit that will replace disability living allowance (DLA) show the test is worryingly similar to the government’s discredited “fitness for work” assessment, say campaigners.
  • Thousands of disabled people and other campaigners have taken part in a series of anti-cuts protests in more than a dozen towns and cities across the UK.

For links to the full stories, please visit Disability News Service