Saturday 12 February 2011

3-a-day to stop DLA reform

As of yesterday evening, 53 MPs have signed EDM 1332, noting concerns about the consultation on Disability Living Allowance reform. Given that the consultation has been extended by four days, it would be nice to get this figure up to 65 so that 10% of the House of Commons have noted their concerns about DLA reform. As such, writing and/or sending a Valentine's e-card to your MP is still of the utmost importance.

We need 12 more signatures on EDM 1332 to reach 65 signatures - 3 signatures every day for the 4 extra days of the consultation. You can find your MP here.Some MPs may be more responsive than others, so here is a list of "potentials" - if you live in their constituency, an e-mail to them may be key:

Abbott, Diane (Lab) Hackney North and Stoke Newington
Abrahams, Debbie (Lab) Oldham East and Saddleworth
Alexander, Heidi (Lab) Lewisham East
Blunkett, David (Lab) Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough
Creasy, Stella (Lab/Co-op) Walthamstow
Doyle, Gemma (Lab/Co-op) West Dunbartonshire
Evans, Chris (Lab/Co-op) Islwyn
Field, Frank (Lab) Birkenhead
Fovargue, Yvonne (Lab) Makerfield
Godsiff, Roger (Lab) Birmingham, Hall Green
Hosie, Stewart (SNP) Dundee East
McGovern, Alison (Lab) Wirral South
MacNeil, Angus (SNP) Na h-Eileanan an Iar
Nandy, Lisa (Lab) Wigan
Nash, Pamela (Lab) Airdrie and Shotts
Pearce, Teresa (Lab) Erith and Thamesmead
Weir, Mike (SNP) Angus
Whiteford, Eilidh (SNP) Banff and Buchan
Wishart, Pete (SNP) Perth and North Perthshire
Williams, Mark (LD) Ceredigion
Willott, Jenny (LD) Cardiff Central

12 of these 21 'potentials' are all we need, so get writing!

Thursday 10 February 2011

A DWP Plot to Derail #ProjV at The Broken of Britain?

This afternoon, the consultation on DLA reform was quietly extended to the 18th of February? This is slightly incovenient for us at The Broken of Britain, as our cur Project V efforts - twitter hashtag campaigns, cards to MPs - and last month's One Month Before Heartbreak blogswarm were based on the consultation closing on the 14th of February, Valentine's Day. Is Maria Miller so shaken by her massive failure yesterday that she has decided to derail The Broken of Britain by extending the consultation to a less symbolic closing date?

Of course, there is probably a better, but more mundane, story behind it all. Such as the fact that the electronic submission tool has not worked properly, and people are now being asked to e-mail , or some other equally boring explanation. Whatever the reason, we now have 4 more dayss of the DLA Reform consultation so let us use it well. Write, e,mail, and send a Valentine to your MPs, MSPs and AMs, asking them to oppose DLA reform, tweet your story at #ProjV, and use the extra time well!

Chris Grayling's Webchat

In other news, Chris Grayling, Minister of Employment, took part in a webchat on the Rethink Talk site this morning. Whilst not a complete disaster compared to his colleague's miserable Live Q&A attempt yesterday, with some coherent answers, the webchat saw Mr. Grayling full of noise and fury, and yet signifying nothing, with nothing "new" on the agenda, only spin and empty words.

Maria Miller's Q&A Failure

Dear Ms. Miller,

RE: Live Q&A on DLA Reform

Thank you for participating in the highly informative Live Q&A session on the Money Guardian site yesterday afternoon (

Writing on behalf of disability rights campaigners The Broken of Britain, I can confirm that your participation in this event demonstrated the lengths to which Ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions will go to avoid the unambiguous answering of searching questions.

309 comments were made on the thread, with around 250 being questions directed at you, and 140 of these having been posted 5up to 5 days in advance of the chat. You answered 6 questions, leaving 11 comments in total on the thread ( In a few evidence you cited evidence that you did not reference. Other answers were made to questions that had not been asked but appeared to fit in with your own agenda. In-between comments number 7 and 8 there was a massive 16 minute gap in which you appeared to be trying to avoid answering the understandable barrage of questions.
Your first substantial comment was a brief one-sentence ‘review’ of the history of DLA. Nobody had asked for this, and it seemed to be a stock answer. You ended your comment by noting the amount spent on aid and adaptations, and saying: “All of this needs to be better taken into account in the way this important disability benefit works. The new Personal Independence Payment gives us the opportunity to bring DLA into the 21st century.” You did not attempt to give justification as to why and in what way aids and adaptations need to be taken into account, nor dud you explain what it means to bring DLA into the 21st century.
The second substantial comment you made regarded pensioners and DLA reform. Many questions were placed regarding whether pensioners would be reassessed as part of the new PIP. You answered that: “at the moment the changes we are looking at apply to people of working age (16-64) so pensioners aren't affected - the reforms won't affect Attendance Allowance.” This is a complete failure to answer the questions, which did not touch upon Attendance Allowance as it was already well-known that this benefit was not included in the proposed reforms. As you know, people of working age claiming DLA can continue to claim DLA after the age of 65. Your answer does not clarify matters for these individuals.

The third answer was to one of my own question. You said: “pick directly up on your post requesting more evidence for the need to reform. The Government's research on DLA is generally commissioned from external academic and independent researchers and this is what was used as evidence in the consultation.” You failed to direct me to any of this evidence, and did not refer me to any of DWP’s research reports or working papers. Rather than producing the evidence, you said that: “The assessment process is unwieldy, requiring self assessment - with 50% of people receiving DLA never being required to submit any independent evidence of their need. Significant numbers of people have had no contact with the Department since their awards were made almost 20 years ago and we have no way of knowing if their need of support has increased or not. All of this points to a benefit that is in need of updating to make it more transparent, consistent and fair.” No DWP research report or working paper published supports any of these claims. If evidence exist, I challenge you to publish it.

Your fourth substantial comment was on the Mobility Component of DLA in residential care. The answer you gave did not satisfy any of the questions on this topic, seeming to be a word-for-word copy of every statement made on the issue thus far. Rather than dealing with the effect of this reform on the individual, you simply resorted to empty rhetoric.

The fifth substantial comment was on the assessment of variable and fluctuating conditions. Your answer was devoid of substance, failing to answer any questions on this topic.

Your final contribution was this answer: “You and others are concerned about disabled people being portrayed as dishonest and even fraudulent. I share your concern. Cases of fraud bring the benefit system into disrepute and this is bad for everyone. People with legitimate claims need a benefit system that has robust assessment - treating people fairly and putting integrity back into the support that's available.” This is a clear distortion of the original question to serve your case for reform when DLA fraud is estimated at just 0.5% by the DWP.

I hope that you will request an opportunity to return to the Money Guardian in order to answer each question personally and fully. Please also answer all the questions and arguments I have made in our plentiful correspondence thus far.

Yours sincerely,

Rhydian Fôn James

NB: All are welcome to copy-and-paste. Send to

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Ministers Getting Away With It

Maria Miller attended an online Live Q&A session today, on the Money pages of the Guardian. The resulting debate was pathetic, although we should thank the good people at Money Guardian for giving us a chance to see just how vacuous this Minister really is.

You think me unfair? 305 comments were made on thread, including around 250 questions for Maria Miller. She made 11 comments, including the obligatory greetings. She 'answered' a stunning 7 questions, and none of them satisfactorily. She disappeared for 15 minutes in the middle of the session. She avoided the hard questions. Then, when under pressure to answer some 'real' questions, she pointed to the clock and ran for the hills! Go see for yourself!

I had intended to blog a more detailed analysis of this chat, but time is short so I leave you with an example of another DWP Minister getting away with it. Two weeks ago, The Broken of Britain referred Chris Grayling to the Cabinet Office over his transgression of the Ministerial Code. The Cabinet Office have replied that Chris Grayling is the very model of a modern major general...

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Project V - Twitter Stories Update: Facebook & E-mail

Our good friend Rosemary of sister organisation Carer Watch reminded us today that there are not many family carers who use Twitter, but do use Facebook. We do not want anyone to be left out.

For those who do not use Twitter, your 1-Tweet (140 character) stories can also be posted via the "Twitter Stories" discussion board thread on our Facebook Page.  We also have an Event Notice which can be shared with your network.

For those that prefer e-mail,  I can contacted directly at  (my personal projects account rather than the main TBofB email, which gets inundated).

As Benjamin Franklin said, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are”. Help non-Spoonies get insight into disability, mental health, invisible illness or chronic illness and the  stigma that comes with these conditions.

Lisa J. Ellwood

The Broken of Britain Submission to the Consultation on DLA reform - Final Draft

Well, it is finished! It's been nearly two months in the making, with a lot of hard work from The Broken of Britain and CarerWatch, and dedicated, detailed and moving testimony from all of you. Since the second draft was released, minor changes have been made, with additional testimonies and citations from reports included as 'smoking guns'. You can read the document here.

Before being sent off on Thursday, I would like to include a page listing 'supporters'. If you are willing to support this document, please leave a message here, either you real name or a screen name.

Monday 7 February 2011

ANNOUNCING - Project V, Part II: TBofB Twitter Stories

Project V, Part II: Our Spoonie Lives

The Broken of Britain Twibbon


At the heart of The Broken of Britain campaign is the commitment  to being a transparent non-partisan representative voice for disabled people in the face of welfare reform. Additionally, the ongoing negative coverage of the disabled as ‘scroungers’ in what seems to be a campaign against us has become the driving force fuelling many of our projects. Like many organisations in the Digital Age, we make ample use of social media as a campaigning tool. Because TBofB is an effort organised and run by disabled people in disparate locations around the UK, it can rightly be said that we are Digital Activists. The use of social media allows us make our voices heard and on a global scale – something that would have been far more difficult without the internet.

As with every other aspect of our lives, our attempts to raise awareness about issues important to our survival have to be markedly fluid because of our various health concerns. Indeed; whilst I would liked to have had all aspects of this particular project finalised a few says ago, my body had other ideas. It is this reality which is the basis for our #TalkingTuesday and #ThinkingThursday #TwitterStories campaigns, ongoing since November 2010.

Those fortunate enough to not have our issues or care for someone who does have no concept of what our lives are like as Spoonies. We have been letting the world know how our lives have changed by chronic illness through our own #disability, #mentalillness, #invisibleillness, or #Carers stories in a single 140-character tweet. This double-barrelled action has been our way to counter the stigma attached to disability and the outrageous presumption-filled hate that comes with it. The majority of tweets received thus far also made their way into our warmly received “One Month Before HeartacheBlogswarm last month.

Project V,  Part II: Our Spoonie Lives

The government are intensifying their efforts in this final week before the Valentine’s Day deadline to respond to the Consultation on the Reform of Disability Living Allowance. This coming Wednesday, 9th February, Minister for Disability Maria Miller is holding a live event via The Guardian where she will answer pre-submitted questions from the public. That same morning, Secretary of State for Work & Pensions Iain Duncan Smith will be attending the next Universal Credit Hearing. No doubt we can also expect even more of the usual from the tabloid media and blogs.

Last week we launched Project V where we asked you to send a Valentine’s message to your MP. Today marks the launch of the second phase of the project: the aim is to expand the existing TBofB Twitter Stories Campaign, allowing our stories to be shared quickly and easily. This is especially helpful for those of us with debilitating conditions that impair their ability to concentrate on standard long-form blog posts.

This is how it works:

  1. We are asking for your 1-Tweet Twitter Stories. You must adhere to the 140-character Twitter limit.
    Tweet @BrokenOfBritain
  2. Tweets must be relevant to Disability, Mental illness, Invisible Illness or Carers.
  3. One Tweet per person please, to start: if you have already participated in #TalkingTuesday and/or #ThinkingThursday, then your existing tweet already posted to our Facebook Page, will be used.
  4. The Twitter hashtags to use are: #ProjV and #TBofB
  5. We have a TBofB Twitter Stories Blog where all tweets will be posted
  6. Tweets will be accepted every day from now until 11pm, 13th February.
  7. On Valentine’s Day – the only tweets from @BrokenOfBritain will be the 1-Tweet Twitter Stories.
  8. I am also donating the feed of my personal account, @IconicImagery, to this project. We are also asking for Supporters to donate their Twitter feed for Valentine’s Day and only tweet these stories.

Whilst it comes as no surprise that forests, libraries and even fish have garnered significant support;  it is nonetheless hugely disappointing that DLA and related issues don’t have the same consideration by the public at large.   In the words of the late, great Benjamin Franklin, “justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are”.  Please take part in this latest TBofB initiative and let’s see if we can change that by getting #ProjV trending on Twitter.

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

Sunday 6 February 2011

Last Chance: Sign to Stop Reform of Disability Living Allowance

This is your last chance to sign the petition to recall the public consultation on DLA reform. There are only a couple of days left until it needs to be submitted, and we need as much support as is possible. This petition is far stronger than any other out there, as it call for a complete halt to reform. Please sign and make sure that everybody you know has done so too.

We, the undersigned, urge the Minister for Disabled People to recall the Public Consultation on Disability Living Allowance (DLA) reform, and to cease work on reform of this benefit, due to serious flaws in the consultation paper. As such, the consultation questions are deeply skewed and any answers will be likely to support wholesale reform. This is both unfair and unwise, and will cause hardship for many disabled people.

The case for reform has been criticized, and then completely demolished, by the various disability rights groups fighting reform. They accuse the DWP of building their argument without sufficient evidence. The claims that DLA can act as a barrier to work, in particular, are robustly questioned. Questions are also raised concerning the accuracy of the representation of supporting data. For example, the claim is made that DLA claims have risen by 30% in eight years - without accounting for population growth of 5% in this period, a pronounced demographic shift, and increased awareness of DLA.

Most devastating to the case for reform is the critique of proposed amendments, leading one to ask whether augmenting DLA might not be a better, cheaper way of improving employment opportunities, rather than launching an entirely new benefit. It would seem that the costs of such rebranding are only justified when savings are made by cutting the DLA caseload by 20%. This figure is, in and of itself, questionable – how is it possible to know that this many people can be removed?

The Personal Independence Payment (PIP) appears to be a case of cuts dressed as positive reform. Disability rights groups and charities have uniformly condemned the proposals, warning of dire consequences. The list of those affected includes: people who are mobile with aids; people with disabilities so severe that they are unable to be very active; care home residents; those who receive local authority care packages. Most other disabled people will suffer through needless reassessments upon the introduction of PIP, and re-testing every few years even when a condition cannot be treated.

There is a strong feeling amongst people with disabilities that the Coalition Government have declared war on us, with a continual ratcheting of pressure on us since the Emergency Budget in June 2010. Announcements on Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, and Disability Living Allowance have made us feel that the Government is scapegoating us and removing the support on which we depend. Iain Duncan-Smith’s comments to The Sun newspaper [01/12/2010) suggesting that Incapacity Benefit claimants were partly to blame for a large fiscal deficit caused by a recession, a bail-out of the banks and quantitative easing. Whilst there may be ways to improve DLA, they do not involve replacing it with a new benefit, and neither do they involve removing anyone from the claimant caseload.