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Ian Mulholland- Sanctioned, Starved, Jailed

October 24, 2014

The story of Ian Mulholland, who is now in jail for stealing food, is a sad indictment of Tory Britain.

Yesterday’s news that Ian Mulholland, a 47 year old recovering drug addict, received a custodial sentence for stealing food after he had been sanctioned by the DWP should have been front-page news throughout the nation.  The sad fact that it isn’t tells us how far the media has been normalised to the harshess of Westminster, neo-liberal politics.

Mr Mulholland, who is facing leg amputation, was sanctioned for 9-weeks by his local jobcentre for missing an appointment.  Mr Mulholland missed this appointment after his ulcerated legs left him unable to get to the jobcentre.

Hunger, lack of funds and his inability to get to a local foodbank forced Mr Mulholland to take drastic action. He stole three packets of casserole steak, worth £12.50, from his local Sainsbury’s store.

This is a prime example of folk being forced into crime due to the draconian benefit sanctions that are used by the DWP. Maybe it is too much to ask for empathy in this day and age but, sadly instead of empathy, Mr Mulholland faced the full wrath of the English judiciary system and was sentenced to a 6 week jail-term for theft but due to previous convictions Mr Mulholland will face 14 weeks behind bars.

Full article at A Working Class Man.

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Could Amputees Regrow Lost Limbs?

October 24, 2014

Amputees could one day re-grow their missing limbs, according to researchers at Imperial College London.

The 25-year, £60m programme, aims to explore the possibility of regenerating human tissue and eventually remove the need for prosthetic arms and legs.

Former England footballer Sir Bobby Charlton is the key fundraiser behind the project, as Tim Muffett reports.

Mum Shoplifted To Feed Family After ESA Stopped

October 24, 2014

BENEFIT sanctions have been dubbed as “pure evil” after a woman had to steal food and groceries to feed her family when her money was stopped.

Lucy Hill, of Westcott Road, Kidderminster, was caught taking chicken and washing powder from a Spar store on October 1, after first stealing more meat two days earlier.

The 35-year-old’s Employment Support Allowance had been sanctioned after she missed an appointment at the Job Centre and her defence solicitor, John Rogers, said it was “necessary that she committed this offence” for the good of her partner and their 18-month-old baby.

And now the public have rallied behind her agreeing they would have to steal as well in her position, with Kate Bennett from the Wyre Forest Citizen’s Advice Bureau saying sanctions are doing more harm than good.

“The whole idea of sanctions is to stop people from taking the Mickey, and that’s fine, but this is starting to get too much now and to be a punishment,” she said. “You can get a four-week sanction for a silly mistake or for being late and it might not be your fault, and they are sometimes counter productive, as you can see that some people shoplift as they haven’t got enough money to live on.”

ESA claimants in the work-related activity group, where an adviser assists them with training and skills, like Hill who was convicted of two counts of theft which she said was a result of the suspended payment at Kidderminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, October 16, are subject to sanctions. These are handed out for failing to attend a mandatory interview or failing to take part in a work-related activity.

In the district in the last 12 months, there has been a 30 per cent increase in the amount of people getting their benefits sanctioned.

“People who have tax payers’ money should do all they can and have to to get it but we should be helping people like this woman,” Ms Bennett said.

“It’s not just the job seekers that suffer from being sanctioned, it’s the families.”

On The Shuttle’s Facebook page, members of the public shared the same view.

Sue Longley said: “Sanctions are pure evil and should be outlawed completely.”

Sy Hawkes said he would do the same as Hill.

“I am in full support of anyone who needs to steal food because the Government has essentially taken away their right to live.

“How can they reasonably expect people to help themselves and be respected in society both by other people or employers when they are made to suffer. It’s no easy ride even when you do get benefits, but when they sanction those benefits it leaves people with no choice at all. You either have to beg, steal or borrow to stay alive or you commit crime after crime to put food in your belly.”

Another victim of a sanction was Bonnie Bullen who said she was sanctioned for two months after being five minutes late for an appointment, despite having to support three children.

The benefits sanctions system is set to be overhauled by the Department for Work and Pensions as it was revealed suspended payments have gone up 64 per cent across the country, and some claimants will be able to apply for hardship payments in place of sanctioned benefits.

Anyone experiencing sanctions should visit a local CAB or foodbank for help.

Business Disability Forum associates and members named on inaugural list of influential disabled people

October 24, 2014

A press release:

A number of Business Disability Forum (BDF) Associates and individuals from BDF Member and Partner organisations were recently named on the inaugural 2015 Power 100 List of Britain’s most influential people with a disability or impairment. The first of its kind to be published in Britain, the list includes 100 of the most powerful, influential and inspiring disabled people in Britain.

Phil Friend OBE, BDF Associate and CEO of Phil and Friends Ltd, was recognised for his work on disability and diversity projects across the globe, and his efforts in promoting disability awareness in the business sector.

Alice Maynard, Founding MD Future Inclusion Ltd and Chair of Scope, was mentioned for her work with major institutions to change society for the better. Her work within the rail industry contributed to making rail travel much easier for disabled people.

Dawn Milman-Hurst, CEO at Equal Approach, was recognised for using her HR background and expertise to set up the unique, inclusive recruitment agency Equal Approach.

Simon Minty, Director of Sminty, was ackowledged for establishing his disability and diversity training company through which he has consulted and trained numerous well-known and respected organisations.

Remploy CEO, Beth Carruthers, was commended for her work within the UK’s leading supplier of specialist recruitment services. Her work abroad was also mentioned, specifically her willingness to exchange disability employment knowledge through foreign visits.

Stephen Duckworth, Director of Disability Assessment Services at Capita, was recognised for his work in this role and as founder of research company Disability Matters.

Crossbench peer and disability rights campaigner, Baroness Jane Campbell, has gained recognition for her many years of parliamentary lobbying for disabled civil and human rights.

Under the Arts, Fashion & Design category, Dr David Bonnett is noted for pioneering many aspects of accessible design, advising on the implementation of Access standards and a design guide on the subject.

In the Media & Publishing sector, Geoff Adams-Spink is mentioned for his work as former Age and Disability Correspondent for the BBC. More recently Geoff’s own company, Adams-Spink Ltd, has been very active in the area of technological solutions for disabled people.

Vincent Neate, Partner at KPMG, was also acknowledged for his years of work with senior leaders in the private and public sector, where he has challenged thoughts around responsibility, resilience and longevity.

Mark Harper MP, Minister of State for Disabled People, commended the Power 100 List for acknowledging “an extraordinary range of disabled people and their achievements in all aspects of life, from education, politics and law through to sport and media”.

Susan Scott-Parker, Chief Executive and Founder of Business Disability Forum said:

“It’s wonderful to see so many Business Disability Forum associates and employees of member organisations represented on this list. This indicates the high level of thought leadership that can be found within our membership and among our associates and strategic alliances. Congratulations to all 100 people named on the list for their various contributions to business and society.”

 

Disability Hate Crime Convictions Drop, Finds CPS

October 23, 2014

Prosecutors have pledged to do more to tackle disability hate crime after a drop in the number of convictions.

The total number of hate crime convictions rose by over 1,000 in 2013/14, according a report by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

But convictions for hate crimes against disabled people dropped, prompting the CPS to pledge fresh action.

Director of public prosecutions Alison Saunders acknowledged there was “more to do” to combat such crimes.

A hate crime is a crime committed against someone because of their disability, gender-identity, race, religion or belief, or their sexual orientation.

The overall hate crime conviction rate is part of an ongoing upward trend over the last six years, and almost 85% of hate crime prosecutions now result in a conviction.

Successful convictions for disability hate crime cases during 2013/14 increased from 77.2% to 81.9% – but the number of convictions fell over the year, from 494 to 470.

The report also found that:

  • There was an increase in the rate of decisions to charge for disability hate crime, from 72.4% to 80%
  • Of the 11,818 racially aggravated cases prosecuted last year, 85.2% resulted in convictions and 75.9% of those convictions led to guilty pleas
  • Some 550 cases involving religiously-aggravated hostility in 2013/14 were prosecuted and 84.2% resulted in a conviction
  • The conviction rate for homophobic and transphobic hate crime stood at 80.7% – the proportion of cases resulting in a guilty plea increased from 71.6% to 72.3% in 2013/2014, and there was an increase in the number of guilty pleas over the year from 785 to 819

This year, the Transgender Equality Management Guidance was issued to police along with specific guidance on flagging transphobic hate crime.

Ms Saunders said: “While I’m delighted to see a record high conviction rate and that the rate of cases we are charging is up to 80% from 72.4% last year, we will be working hard with the police to encourage more disability hate crime cases to be referred to us, and we will be really focusing on our handling of these cases through the court system.

“Hate crimes can be particularly devastating to victims who have been targeted simply because of their race, their religion, their sexuality, gender, disability or age.

“These crimes display an ugly element of our society and one which it is very important that police and prosecutors feel empowered to tackle so they can bring offenders to justice.”

‘Shocking’

Stephen Brookes, of the Disability Hate Crime Network, said action on the issue was “still miles away from where we should be” and that there had been a failure “at all levels” to give disabled people confidence in the judicial system.

“There is a new working party needed to look in some detail at aspects of reporting, charging and sentencing of disability hate crime, at a time when we have a wake up call to the whole criminal justice system to step up the need to increase the number of prosecutions to reflect the seriousness of attacking all disabled people.”

James Taylor, head of policy at charity Stonewall, said there was still “much work to do” on hate crimes.

“In the last three years alone 630,000 lesbian, gay and bisexual people have been the victim of a homophobic hate crime or incident.

“It’s shocking that in 2014, lesbian, gay and bisexual people still face violence and intimidation simply for who they are on our streets, in our communities and on our sports fields.”

Thousands With Degenerative Conditions Being Found Fit For Work

October 23, 2014

More than a third of people with degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis are having their benefits slashed because the Department for Work and Pensions deems they will recover enough to look for work.

Thousands of those with diseases that only worsen with time – and who have become too ill to work – are being denied full Employment Support Allowance. Instead they are assessed as suitable for work-related activity which is designed for people likely to recover to the point where they can seek employment.

People in The Work-Related Activity Group receive less money and the threat of sanctions if they do not attend regular sessions. Many also have this benefit removed after a year as an added “incentive” to find employment.

Steve Ford, Chief Executive at Parkinson’s UK, said: “These latest figures are an utter disgrace and serve to underline just how little the Government cares for those with progressive conditions like Parkinson’s. To set up a system which tells people who’ve had to give up work because of a debilitating, progressive condition that they’ll recover, is humiliating and nothing short of a farce.

“These nonsensical decisions are a prime example of how benefits assessors lack even the most basic levels of understanding of the conditions they are looking at.”

When people with illnesses and disabilities are assessed for ESA they are either paid full support, told they are fit to work or, if they are deemed likely to recover, put into a third Work-Related Activity Group to apply for jobs and prepare for the workplace.

Almost 8,000 people suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Parkinson’s Disease, Cystic Fibrosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis have been put on this third, lesser benefit. Of these, 5,000 were put into the category despite assessors explicitly recognising on reports that their prospect of working is “unlikely in the longer term”.

The figures were released by the Government following a Freedom of Information request from a coalition of charities working with people with degenerative and progressive conditions.

Experts say the new data highlights just how poorly those living with progressive conditions are understood by benefits assessors. Atos healthcare has come under staunch criticism for the way it conducts the assessments and has pulled out early of a DWP contract to provide the service.

Over the last five years seven out of 10 new claimants with a progressive condition have been reassessed two or more times on the same claim, which health experts say causes unnecessary stress and anxiety for people who are already unwell.

Mr Ford said: “There can be no more excuses. Those who are severely unwell should not be subject to the ongoing indignity of repeated assessments. The Government must let common sense prevail and ensure that anyone living with a condition that can only get worse is automatically placed in the Support Group, and given the assistance they desperately need.”

The five charities behind the investigation – The MS Society, Parkinson’s UK, Motor Neurone Disease Association, the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society and The Cystic Fibrosis Trust – are calling for people deemed unlikely to return to work in the longer term to be automatically placed in the support group.

Shadow Minister for Disabled People Kate Green said: “This worrying report suggests too many sick and disabled people aren’t being treated with the dignity and respect they deserve under the Tories. Labour has called for fundamental reform of Work Capability Assessment which isn’t working for thousands of sick and disabled people. We will look carefully at how the system of assessments works for people with degenerative conditions and ensure it treats them fairly.”

Between October 2008 and September last year, 7,800 people with degenerative conditions were put into the work-related activity group. Of these, 3,000 had multiple sclerosis, 800 had Parkinson’s, 3,800 had rheumatoid arthritis, 100 had motor neurone disease and 100 had cystic fibrosis.

Ailsa Bosworth, chief executive of the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, said: “To continue to regularly reassess claimants with progressive conditions, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, is absurd and unnecessary. We know that most people with Rheumatoid Arthritis want to work for as long as they possibly can and will only claim ESA as a last resort.”

An Atos Healthcare spokeswoman said: “Our healthcare professionals are trained in the assessment of chronic and progressive conditions such as Parkinson’s and understand that, sadly, some people’s conditions will only get worse over time. In line with Employment and Support Allowance policy we are required to assess an individual’s level of function at the present time, rather than what may happen in the future.”

A DWP spokesman said: “It’s not fair to write someone off as unable to work if they are at the early stages of a progressive condition – and many people welcome support to prepare for work if they feel able to. If the effects of someone’s condition are considered severe enough based on their application and evidence, they will not be required to attend a face-to-face assessment. Our reforms support people into work where they are able, instead of writing them off.”

Case study

Chris Haigh, 57, from Southport, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2005. His wife Karen, 54, says he was traumatised when he was told to look for work.

“We’d filled out a few forms and we were waiting for Chris to be called for a medical exam. But instead only two weeks after sending the forms off we got a call from DWP to say that Chris would be put in the Work Related Activity Group. I could physically see his whole body slump as the call went on. We were told his current benefit was going to stop in November and he would be reporting to the job centre to apply for work. How can you make a judgement about something that serious without seeing someone?

“Chris stopped working at the end of 2005 having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s earlier in the year. He had been self-employed repairing washing machines and tumble driers and had noticed the symptoms 18 months before he was diagnosed. The loss of dexterity made it impossible. I’ve watched his condition progress. He has mobility problems and can’t walk far and he suffers from a tremor internally as well as externally which makes him exhausted. He also has stiffness which means he sometimes can’t move at all and he’s on an awful lot of medication.”

“The person at Atos who did the assessment was a nurse, not even a doctor, and she claimed on the form to have met him before but she never had. We contacted our local MP and within 48 hours of him contacting DWP the decision was overturned. Someone from DWP even called to apologise for the two weeks he waited he was very unwell because anxiety and stress exacerbates the condition.

MPs To Launch Benefit Sanction Inquiry After 200000 Sign David Clapson Petition

October 23, 2014

MPs are set to hold an inquiry into benefit sanctions after 200,000 people signed a petition in the wake of an ex-soldier’s death.

More than 211,000 people signed a Change.org petition started by Gill Thompson calling for an inquiry into benefit sanctions after diabetic David Clapson, 59, was found dead in his home.

Gill’s three-month campaign called for an independent inquiry into benefit sanctions – which refers to occasions that money is withheld from claimants if they fail to meet the terms agreed.

The Work and Pensions cross-party select committee has now agreed and its inquiry into benefit sanctions is due to start early next year. It is expected to be completed shortly before the General Election in May.

Full story at Vox Political.

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