Thursday 9 June 2011

Sitting Targets For The Government's Welfare Reforms

In today's Society Guardian 

Please read, share and leave a comment. The more popular articles about disability are the more get commissioned, thank you.

Really? This Passes For Parliamentary Research? By Sue Marsh

Well, well, well, look what I've found!!

After weeks of asking and several Freedom Of Information requests, I've finally unearthed the "assessment" the DWP did into Time Limiting ESA!! Clearly I use the word assessment in much the way ATOS do. In other words, pick a policy and then write some stuff that proves what you want to say.

Just in case, in the very unlikely event that you are not an uber-geek like me and you can't stay awake long enough to plough through 16 pages of fairy stories, here's a quick summary :

-It overwhelmingly affects the poorest most. The % impact falls from the highest in the 1st decile of earnings to the lowest in the 10th.
-It estimates that 60% will simply switch to income based ESA and not be affected. This is absolutely ridiculous, pie-in the sky rubbish. I have absolutely no idea how they can make this claim.
- The report concludes that over the term of the parliament 90% of those placed into the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) will be affected.
-ALL groups will lose income on average through this measure.
-It is based on an assumption that 50% of claims will be appealed!!! How are they able to go forward with a system this inaccurate?
-The report itself claims that 700,000 will be affected by the Time Limit - a figure previously hotly debated, ranging from 400,000 to 1 million. It is expected to cut benefits for those not fully fit for work by 1.2 billion per year.
- The report acknowledges, just as I've been warning, that this is a disincentive to work and may push couples into divorce or into giving up on work altogether. However, they admit that they have no idea how significant this will be.

Possibly the most astonishing part is the claim that the Social Impacts did not need to be investigated, neither under the categories of Health and Well-being, Human Rights or the Justice System. (It does go on to say that an equalities assessment was carried out, which I will do my best to unearth)

As far as I can tell, the research is deeply flawed, based on inaccurate assumptions, incomplete and surely, illegal. If you discount the assumption that 60% will simply move to income based ESA, which I believe is just not true, it is a damning look into what passes for parliamentary research in our so called democracy.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Death Of A Message Board

Think of message boards, and most people have a similar idea. Its where
people with similar interests, be that bird watching, or tank driving,
go to discuss and exchange ideas.
A few boards are about people, such as the famous and popular Mumsnet.
Message boards come and go, but why do they come into existance? And,
more importantly, why do they die?
Its usually demand that brings a board into existance, and lack of
interest that causes its death.
So what happens to a message board that is hugely popular, filling a
role that few others can emulate, when the owners decide to kill it off?
This is what is happening to the hugely successful BBC Ouch boards,
described as the largest message board for disability related
discussions in the UK.
Its header declares "Ouch! Its a disability thing" and it very much is.
Unusually for a message board, it is very well mannered, as posters are
aware that other posters may have a disability that makes communication
Additionally there is no heirachy, no playing top trumps of disability,
all are truely welcome. I personally joined with a broken leg that was
stubbornly refusing to mend - hardly a major disability!
Many join looking for people with similar conditions, or experiencing
similar problems. Their first post may be one of desperation, but the
kind words and assistance means they stay and become part of the
And this is one major difference. For many of the posters this is their
only online community. They cannot deal with other sites, where they may
have to interact with people who neither know or care about how
disability can affect people. 
They feel safe and secure on Ouch, after all, the BBC will protect them,
and it does so through user-led moderation, and a pre-moderated phase to
discourage people from targetting disabled people with intent to be
In effect it is almost a secret place, where people can ask for advice,
ask for support, debate all things disability related, and chat and
amuse themselves.
There are many professionals on the boards, available to give advise
about everything, from what to expect from treatments and the NHS,
education, housing, benefits, work to the best disabled sports venues
and which festivals are dis-friendly. This is all voluntary information,
given by disabled people to support other disabled people.
But the greatest strength is the feeling of community, the feeling of
having your very own "Big Society" initiative that was established long
before David Cameron thought it was a good idea.
One poster put it;
"It takes me years to trust someone. It takes me years to get to the
point I am at with Ouch where I can feel able to post and contribute. I
can't just move to another board and carry on."
They then go on to say;
"Over the last few years the sites I have relied on, and trusted have
all gone. Ouch is the only one left. I have no real life friends, no
real life support networks. I only have Ouch."
 For many Ouch is not just a message board, it is a gateway into a world
 that disability may exclude.
It provides a very valuable service.
A poster writes;
"My worlds just collapsed." and it probably has, because for many people
Ouch is all they have, it is an accessible place in a world of
inaccessibility, a place of understanding when so many seem not only to
not understand, but to be actively mis-understanding of disability.
Its seems that this active mis-understanding has extended now to the
BBC, who have decided, along with many other sectors of society, that
instead of equality of outcome, they will simply remove this essential
Visit Ouch before it closes,
and post a comment to the Editor at;
In four weeks we will watch the sad death of a friend, the death of a
community, murdered by policy and the disregard that disabled people are
currently held in.