John Longden’s submission to MPs- the full text.
Originally posted on Ipswich Unemployed Action.:
From written Parliamentary Evidence just out (Hat tip NB).
John Longden –Personal Adviser
A Statement on events witnessed by me at Salford Jobcentre Plus and Rochdale Jobcentre Plus between 2011 and 2013
1.0 Managers at both district level and in the local office created a culture which encouraged staff to view the customer (benefit claimant) as an obstacle to performance. The Jobcentre operations became wholly performance led. Sanctions of customers were encouraged by managers daily, with staff being told to look at every engagement with the customer as an opportunity to take sanction action. I was personally told by a manager to “agitate” and “Inconvenience” customers in order to get them to leave the register. The staff performance management system was used inappropriately in order to increase submissions to the Decision Maker and therefore to increase sanctions on customers. Senior HR managers condoned this behaviour by refusing to issue…
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Christie Newport, 33, is virtually housebound after bullies taunted her with the nickname “rubber dingy lips”, leaving her contemplating suicide.
She now hopes to raise £12,000 to pay for new specialist treatment in Califirnia.
Christie’s lips, stomach, arms and legs have gradually bloated due to Melkersson Rosenthal syndrome. But a range of procedures and medicines in the UK, including plastic surgery on her lips, all failed.
The US treatment costs a minimum of £12,000, but its arrival has left Christie determined to beat the condition.
She said: “I have one of the worst cases there is and I just don’t feel like I have a life any more.
“It’s like it has been stolen by my illness. I’m prepared to do anything to get the treatment because I can’t live like this. If I could avoid living like this I would do it tomorrow.”
Christie, from Ashton-on-Ribble, Lancs, was diagnosed with the condition at the age of 18, despite dealing with symptoms since childhood.
Her health has worsened to the point her airways swell and she has problems with her lungs and extreme pain and now has type two steroid induced diabetes and a paralysed right diaphragm. She is also infertile.
She said: “It’s spread through my body now and I am lucky if I can get a couple of hours out of bed in the day. It has made me realise how limited my life has become.”
The treatment could reduce inflammation and combat her over-active immune system.
Wife Amy, 25, gave up her job in a call centre to care for Christie.
Amy added: “It is very hard. When we first got together we were always out. Now our excitement is going to her mum’s for a brew.
“She will be in bed for most of the day. To people thinking about donating I would say ‘do it, it would be amazing’.”
A GRANDAD was passed fit to work a month after a stroke left him unable to hold a pen.
David Waite, 60, suffers from a string of health problems including brain damage and depression.
He was referred to a stroke clinic after taking ill in November, just weeks before he was assessed by Atos.
But he was left shocked when examiners told him his benefits were being axed because he was fit for work.
His family say David suffers tremors and shakes and is having more tests to establish his underlying condition. He also suffers from neck pain and diabetes.
Despite his poor health, he was told his Employment and Support Allowance was being stopped and he’d need to get a job or sign on for Jobseeker’s Allowance.
The decision prompted his wife Norah to write to Prime Minister David Cameron.
Norah, 56, said: “David won’t be signing on – he can’t sign anything.
“We wrote to the Prime Minister as we felt it was so unjust. Someone wrote back saying they’d pass the matter on to the DWP.”
David, a former steel erector, and Norah have two children and nine grandchildren. The couple, who fostered 20 youngsters over a 28-year period, used to run a hardware shop in their home town of Dalry, Ayrshire.
Problems with David’s health first surfaced in early 2013 when he went to A&E for a sore ear and headaches and ended up being kept in for 10 days.
Norah added: “His condition has steadily deteriorated. We’re not sure what’s wrong.
“He can’t even get in or out of the bath by himself. He has developed a bad tremor and his hand does not stop shaking. I have to write his name for him.
“He has difficulty swallowing so he struggles to take his pills – 20 each day.
“The stress of the assessment process has just made things worse. We feel they’re targeting the ill. We’re just exhausted.”
The Department for Work and Pensions said: “If Mr Waite’s health has deteriorated, we would ask him to provide medical evidence and we’ll look at his claim again.”
Atos said: “A person can have significant health issues and still be deemed fit to work as the assessment looks at what you can do rather than what you can’t.”
Sharing this in order to spread the word. Please contact DPAC if you can help at the email below. Please share.
There is an urgent need to speak to people who were at the Westminster Abbey action on 28th June last year, and did any of the following:
- Took notes on the day (particularly if they cover both before police came, and afterwards);
- Were asked to give any kind of formal statement (this could include any stop and search, or being required to give details such as name and address) by police;
- Have still or video images of the event (again, particularly if these cover both before and after police came);
- If you were refused passage through the police cordon (particularly what reasons were given for this by police).
If any of these apply to you, please get in touch by emailing – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks in advance for your support.
THE only NHS hospital in Britain that specialises in learning disabilities is to be shut down after inspectors found “serious deficiencies” in the quality of care.
In a move intended to help to transform the way people with autism and learning disabilities are cared for, the Department of Health is preparing to close Calderstones hospital in Lancashire. The 200 autistic and mentally disabled residents who live on its hospital wards will be moved into community care or smaller local institutions.
A senior Whitehall figure said: “We know what we have to do, and that is close Calderstones. Its staff can be retrained to care for people in the community.”
The closure of Calderstones and other in-patient facilities run by Calderstones Partnership NHS Foundation Trust will be signalled this week in a report by the NHS on learning disabilities. The report, Transforming Care — Next Steps, will state: “Too many people with learning disabilities are admitted to hospital . . . too many remain in hospital too long and instances of poor care remain too common.”
Calderstones, a former asylum, was criticised in an official report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) last month. Inspectors found dirty wards and seclusion rooms, and discovered patients were often pinned face-down on the floor, a form of restraint that the NHS has said is unsafe and should not to be used.
Norman Lamb, the care and support minister, said he was “horrified” by the findings and wanted to send a “clear signal” to the trust that it must improve its treatment of patients.
Among those who have called for Calderstones to be closed is Lynne McCarrick, the mother of Chris McCarrick, 23, who was among the patients repeatedly restrained. His brother witnessed him being pinned down by seven members of staff, and a report found that he had suffered abuse at the institution.
Calderstones says it used restraint only as a last resort and for “the shortest time possible”. It pointed out that the CQC report found that “the great majority of people” at Calderstones were treated “kindly and respectfully”.
Talks about closing Calderstones have been going on at the health department for several weeks. They follow an NHS-commissioned report by Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, which called for a closures of institutions with patients suffering from learning disabilities.
In its response to the Bubb report, leaked to The Sunday Times, the NHS says Calderstones will be the first step in such a process. It says the north of England will be “a vanguard region”, where the way people with learning disabilities are cared for will be transformed “at pace”.
Whitehall sources said a disproportionate number of people with learning disabilities were being admitted to hospitals.
Two churches have launched a blistering attack on the Government for using hunger as a punishment for people claiming unemployment benefit, warning that using benefit sanctions to reprimand claimants who miss meetings or fail to look for jobs amounts to a policy of “deliberate destitution”.
In a joint written submission to MPs, the Methodist and Unitarian churches say the Government is presiding over a benefits system that places a harsher punishment on people who have the misfortune to be unemployed than those found guilty of committing a crime. The maximum penalty possible – removal of living expenses excluding housing benefit for three years – represents a loss of £11,000, while the largest fine imposed by the criminal justice system is £5,000.
In evidence to the work and pensions select committee published this week, they state: “The use of hunger as a penalty is simply unacceptable. It is extraordinary that the state would choose to punish lateness to appointments or sub-optimal job searching in such a way. The criminal justice system, when [it] fines or imprisons, ensures a person’s basic needs are met – there can be no argument, moral or utilitarian, that justifies a policy of deliberate destitution.”
The churches claim sanctions have left some people unable to buy food for more than a week, and have led to shoplifting, isolation and physical and mental health conditions. “The human cost of the sanctions system is extremely high,” the submission says. “One group we spoke with contained people who had received long (six-month plus) sanctions and who had considered taking their own lives.”
Sanctions can also have a devastating impact on claimants’ ability to look for work, as “the horizons of people who have received a sanction dramatically shrink to focus on the immediate problems of finding the next meal”.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said yesterday that only a very small percentage of benefit claimants were sanctioned. But churches warn that large numbers of those who are sanctioned go on to face long-term stoppage of their benefits. The churches say original government estimates were that fewer than 1,000 people a year would be sanctioned for a month, yet last year more than 800,000 claimants were sanctioned for a month or longer.
Benefits are often withheld for spurious reasons. In December the food bank charity the Trussell Trust told MPs on the committee it had supported people who had had their benefits docked for failing to attend a course they had actually turned up to. Others said they were sanctioned for attending the funeral of a close friend rather than going to a routine Jobcentre meeting.
MPs have also been shown evidence that young men are more likely to face the punishment than other job seekers. Statistics from the New Policy Institute (NPI) think-tank show that more than one in three claims made by men are sanctioned, but less than one in four of those made by women. Half of claims made by those aged under 25 and referred to the sanctions system result in a sanction being imposed.
Tom MacInnes, of the NPI, said if young people or their friends were sanctioned before they had ever had a job it could prevent them reaching out for support, leaving them unemployed for longer.
“Your essential first experiences with the Jobcentre are likely to be negative … and more adversarial. What you’re going to have is a generation of people who are going through this system and are having a completely different experience than others and [they] might go elsewhere for support and advice.”
Kirsty McHugh, of the Employment Related Services Association, which represents welfare-to-work providers, agreed. “You’re far more likely to get somebody into work if you have got a good relationship with them,” she said. “Once somebody gets to the point of self-belief that they can work, that they want to work, it’s almost job done. You really have to build up the confidence and determination. The threat of a sanction is really going to stop that happening. It can be counterproductive.”
She said employment advisers should be given more discretion to decide when to suspend payments.
“There are some people who are sanctioned again and again, and there doesn’t seem to be a process where they examine what’s going on. Is that person working, and therefore they don’t really care enough? Is there a mental health condition or are they living a chaotic life? If they’re sanctioned repeatedly and it’s not having an effect that needs to be investigated,” she said.
A DWP spokesman said: “These [sanction] decisions aren’t taken lightly, and anyone who disagrees with the decision has the right to appeal… We have a well-established hardship payment fund for people who need it.”
A tech-savvy mum bugged her disabled son’s clothing to catch out teachers she thought were using ‘abusive’ language towards him.
Christine Anne Mayor suspected staff at Ysgol Hen Felin school in Ystrad, Rhondda, were verbally attacking her severely autistic son, Kyle Thomas, when he starting slapping his relatives at home.
So single mum Christine, who has twice recovered from cervical cancer, decided to take matters into her own hands and plant a recording device in her 16-year-old son’s shorts.
Following an investigation by South Wales Police and Rhondda Cynon Taf council, who listened back to several recordings, staff were reminded to use ‘appropriate methods of communication and interaction’ with pupils at the school.
But there is no indication that any members of staff were disciplined after the incident.
She told Wales Online: “Kyle cannot tell me how his day has gone. The only thing he can do is repeat words he’s heard.
“He was showing signs that he wasn’t himself. He began slapping me constantly and he wouldn’t get out of bed to go to school.
“I could see by his body language that he was distressed, and he kept on shouting ‘smack you’ repeatedly.
“I knew he was getting it from somewhere, and I would never smack my children, so just before the summer break last year I put a recording device in his shorts to see what I could find.”
Christine, who lives in the Cynon Valley, said she was ‘disgusted’ when she allegedly heard a member of staff at the Welsh school shout to Kyle: “You knew full well then I was going to smack you back then. That’s why you moved.”
Christine added: “I was appalled by it. These are meant to be professional people who are meant to protect disabled children.
“I now struggle to trust people who look after him.”
Teenager Kyle was taken out of the school following the ordeal and is now studying at a different school in Ynysybwl.
It was not the first time the mother was concerned about her son’s treatment.
In 2013, four staff at the Nantgwyn centre were disciplined for using inappropriate language in front of the vulnerable teen when Christine stuffed a small recording device in Kyle’s Waybuloo cuddly toy.
In a letter sent by Rhondda Cynon Taf council to the concerned mum following the investigation, it stated: “A report was sent to the chair of governors in order for them to determine whether any formal action was necessary under the school disciplinary procedure.
“I can confirm that there were conduct issues that were dealt with and this process has now been concluded.
“I can also confirm that the headteacher has arranged to remind all staff of appropriate methods of communication and interaction with pupils at the school.”
A spokeswoman for Rhondda Cynon Taf council said: “RCT Council can confirm a thorough investigation has taken place in relation to allegations made in this case.
“The investigation was undertaken on behalf of the governing body in line with the strict policies and procedures of the school and the local education authority.
“The council is not in a position to give any further details about this case, but can confirm that the parent has been informed that the case is now concluded.”
Christine said the council’s response was ‘vague’ and did not give any indication that staff members had been disciplined.