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Motability Calls Police When Disabled Woman Fails To Return Car After PIP Reassessment

June 18, 2018


ATOS Assessor Told Gay Man He Needed To Be Cured By God

June 18, 2018

Government Pilot Project To Video Record PIP Assessments

June 18, 2018

With many thanks to Benefits And Work.

In a statement made earlier this month the government announced that it was extending the contracts for Capita and Atos to carry out PIP assessments for a further two years, in spite of widespread anger at the standard of those assessments. As a concession to the level of disquiet the government also announced a pilot project to video record PIP assessments.

In her statement, Sarah Newton, Minister of State for Disabled People, said:

“A key part of our efforts to improve the assessment process will be making video recording of the PIP assessment a standard part of the process. We will be piloting videoing the assessment with a view to then rolling this out across Great Britain.”

However, until now recording of benefits assessments has always been audio only.

Video recordings may have some advantages over audio in terms of evidence. For example, it might make it clearer whether claimants were able to carry out any movements that the assessor asked them to.

However, some people may feel considerable disquiet at being video-taped whilst taking part in what can be a very intrusive process.

They may also have concerns about how secure those videos may be and how long they will be kept by the DWP.

Frida Kahlo- Making Her Self Up

June 18, 2018

If you’re anything like me, I bet I know what you do with those few fleeting moments of spare time you have (between watching episodes of Love Island or World Cup matches).

You reach deep into your bookcase and pull out your much-thumbed 1990 edition of The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art & Artists. Because why wouldn’t you?

It’s a terrific read, packed with expertly abridged biographies of Old Masters and pithy explanations for arcane techniques like encaustic painting (a favourite of Jasper Johns).

No wonder we keep going back to it.

But, like all things, it is not faultless. There is one surprising and glaring omission. Open it up at page 239, look under K, and you will discover there is no entry for Frida Kahlo beyond the words: “see RIVERA, DIEGO”.

Rivera, who was Kahlo’s husband, is afforded a lengthy entry in which he is described as a …most celebrated figure” and “leading artist”, who made art “glorifying the history and people of the country [Mexico]…”.

It is not until you reach the bits-and-pieces information right at the end that we learn, “He had numerous love affairs and was three times married, his second wife being a painter, Frida Kahlo (1907-54).”

Not “the” painter, or “fellow artist”, but simply a glib dismissal as “painter“.

Given Kahlo’s current status as one of the most famous and revered artists of the 20th Century, it seems like the most extraordinary oversight. And so it is, but it is also instructive. We learn at least three things about the art establishment from the omission:

  • The tendency by (predominately male) art historians to erase female artists from the accepted canon.
  • Frida Kahlo has only relatively recently been anointed by establishment curators in Europe.
  • The art world’s limitless talent for post-hoc myth making.

The idea that any reputable art history directory would omit Frida Kahlo today is laughable.

Indeed, the current edition of The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art & Artists boasts a reasonably lengthy entry under her name. But, once again, it is revealing.

The Rivera entry begins with his art credentials: “Mexican painter, the most celebrated figure in…fresco painting that is Mexico’s most distinctive contribution to modern art.”

Whereas Kahlo’s entry begins: “Mexican painter. In 1929, when she was still at school, she suffered appalling injuries in a traffic accident, leaving her a permanent semi-invalid, often in severe pain.”

It is her personal story, the bolstering of her myth that is deemed the most important thing to say about her, not the nature or style of the paintings she produced, which is surely the reason for the entry in the first place.

So, here we are, more than 60 years after her death aged 47, totally fixated by the cult of Kahlo: a packaged personality that all but obscures what we should really care about, which is her work.

The exhibition at the V&A is a typical case in point. To their credit, the curators are not trying to hide the fact that they are selling a show based on the artist’s iconic image rather than her paintings, by giving it the title: Frida Kahlo, Making Herself Up.

To be honest, my heart sank when I was told the premise of the show was to look at how she constructed her personality and why. Here we go again, yet more myth making. Couldn’t we examine how she made her work and why instead? Wouldn’t that be more interesting?

But as I walked around the show, the vast majority of which is made up of objects that were locked away in the bathroom of her house in Mexico for half a century (more myth making), it became increasingly apparent that in Kahlo’s case there is no separation between art and artist: they are one and the same.

It turns out the show isn’t a hackneyed hagiography at all, but a revelation.

From the early family photograph in which an androgynous-looking Frida is wearing a three-piece suit, to the image of her sitting on a Manhattan rooftop dressed in her spectacular Mexican clothes and smoking a cigarette, it becomes crystal clear that from her late teens onwards, Frida Kahlo was essentially a performance artist.

The image we have of her, the public image she developed (even when pictured in “private”), the Frida on show here, is as much an artwork by her as one of her paintings.

The traditional Mexican clothes she wore, the indigenous jewellery she collected, the photographs for which she posed, the monobrow, the moustache, her attitude: every detail was meticulously considered and curated by the artist to communicate to us her ideas, ideals, and feelings.

There is clearly also a performative aspect to her paintings; in so much as she is usually the main protagonist acting out the picture’s narrative. The sense of her using her body as a canvas is most explicit in the way she decorated the plaster corsets and prosthetic leg on display in a gallery full of her medicines and medical equipment.

And so the more this exhibition seeks to unmask the ‘real’ Frida the further she disappears behind her defiant façade.

By the time you emerge from the theatrical last room of dresses and shoes, you know for sure that you have absolutely no idea who the real Frida Kahlo was.

You only know what she wanted to show: what pain looks like, what Mexico looks like, what gender looks like; what love looks like.

It is her agenda, not ours.

We can mythologise her all we like, but to do so is to miss the point. As this exhibition makes abundantly clear, maybe not entirely intentionally, Frida Kahlo only ever revealed one thing to us: art – in all her guises.


Disabled Men On Universal Credit Discriminated Against, High Court Rules

June 15, 2018

Two severely disabled men experienced unlawful discrimination when their benefits were significantly reduced after moving on to the government’s controversial universal credit scheme, the high court has declared.

The ruling is a blow to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and its rollout of the new payments system. Both individuals were left unable to meet many of their basic needs, the court had been told.

Delivering the judgment, Mr Justice Lewis said: “There appears to have been no consideration of the desirability or justification for requiring [the men] to assume the entirety of the difference between income-related benefits under the former system and universal credit when their housing circumstances change and it is an appropriate moment to transfer them to universal credit.

“That is all the more striking given the government’s own statements over a number of years that such persons may need assistance and that there was a need to define with precision the circumstances in which they would not receive such assistance.

“The implementing arrangements do at present give rise to unlawful discrimination [contrary to the European convention on human rights].”

The claimants, identified only as TP and AR, had previously been in receipt of the severe disability premium (SDP) and the enhanced disability premium (EDP), which were specifically aimed at meeting the additional care needs of severely disabled people living alone with no carer.

TP is a Cambridge graduate who worked in the financial sector in the City of London and abroad. In 2016 he was diagnosed with a terminal illness, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and Castleman disease.

When he became sick, he moved temporarily from London to his parents’ home in Dorset, but after a few months he returned to the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, a universal credit full-service area, on the advice of his clinicians in order to access specialist healthcare.

AR, who is 36, has severe mental health problems. In 2017 he moved from Middlesbrough to Hartlepool, a universal credit full-service area, because he could no longer afford the property he was living in, owing to the imposition of the bedroom tax.

Both men were required to make a claim for universal credit, as they had moved into local authority areas where the controversial benefit was being rolled out. They said they were advised by DWP staff that their benefit entitlement would not change. However, they experienced a monthly income drop of £178 under universal credit.

Tessa Gregory, a solicitor at the London law firm Leigh Day who represented the men, said: “Nothing about either of the claimants’ disability or care needs changed, they were simply unfortunate enough to need to move local authorities into a universal credit full-service area.

“The government needs to halt the rollout and completely overhaul the system to meet peoples’ needs, not condemn them to destitution. If this doesn’t happen, further legal challenges will inevitably follow.”

Last week Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, committed the government to ensuring that no severely disabled person in receipt of the SDP would be made to move on to universal credit until transitional protection was in place. She also promised compensation.

TP said: “To add to the stress of being seriously ill and undergoing very arduous treatments that have left me unable to work, I have had to take time off convalescing to fight in the courts for subsistence-level benefits. In being compelled to migrate to universal credit, where I lost the severe disability premium, I was deprived of a key mainstay of support for a disabled person living alone with no carer. The financial strain from the cutting of the SDP has made it so much harder for me to cope, as it has been an additional daily stress. It has been detrimental to my health.”

AR said: “I know it is a time of austerity, but I do not understand why the government are trying to penny-pinch with what is a relatively small and very vulnerable group – namely, severely disabled people without a carer. I thought we lived in a society where as a vulnerable group we would be protected, not unlawfully discriminated against.”

The men brought the case against the legality of the benefit cuts on three grounds. First, that the DWP breached the Equality Act 2010 in failing to fully consider the impact of removing premiums on severely disabled people. Second, that the 2013 benefit regulations discriminate against severely disabled people living alone with no carer. Third, that the implementation of universal credit and the absence of “top-up” payments for this vulnerable group in comparison to others constitute discrimination contrary to the European convention on human rights.

They lost the first two claims, but won on their third legal argument.

A DWP spokeswoman said: “We will be applying to appeal on the one point the court found against the department.

“This government is committed to ensuring a strong system of support is in place for vulnerable people who are unable to work.

“Last week, the secretary of state announced that we will be providing greater support for severely disabled people as they move on to universal credit. And we have gone even further, by providing an additional payment to those who have already moved on to the benefit.”

Grenfell One Year On: Mental Health Support

June 14, 2018

The thoughts and best wishes of all at Same Difference are with the survivors and bereaved families of the Grenfell Tower fire on this first anniversary.

In tribute, support and with all our thoughts, we publish this film from the Victoria Derbyshire show.

Mental health support for survivors is expected to take much longer than previously thought.

Ashley-John Baptiste meets one woman who says she is still in shock.

NHS To Hire Job Coaches

June 13, 2018

The NHS is set to roll out mental health employment specialists across the country, as a new analysis of services shows that 2,300 patients have been helped into work in the last year.

As part of patients’ care and support package, employment specialists in NHS Individual Placement and Support (IPS) services, offer advice about finding a job, help them to prepare for an interview and can speak with potential employers about how someone’s condition can be managed so that they can work effectively whilst staying in good health.

The trained specialists also improve the health of people with severe mental illness, reducing the need for urgent hospital admissions and GP appointments. Research shows that type of support can free up as much as £6,000 per patient, which can be invested in other frontline care.

Claire Murdoch, NHS England national mental health director, said: “Helping people with mental ill health to find and keep a job is good for individual wellbeing and good for the health of our economy. Tackling severe mental illness is not just about getting medication and treatment right, but ensuring people can recover to live independently with their condition, including the reward and satisfaction of getting and keeping a job.

“In our 70th year, mental health is one of the NHS’ top priorities, and ensuring services are integrated, so people get whole-person care, means our patients get better outcomes and taxpayers are rewarded as treatment is more efficient. One in seven of us will go through mental ill health whilst at work, so delivering a safety net, to help people back in to work when they fall ill, will minimise harm and make our country’s workforce more productive.”

Nicola Oliver, from Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Employment support linked to mental health means people can live the life they want to lead.

“If you help someone into a job they really like – which means they are inspired to get up in the morning and want to manage their symptoms – they’re likely to say to their clinician ‘This is what I want to do, help me to overcome these barriers.’ In this way, you’re motivating the person to manage their own condition.”

Mental health employment specialists in the IPS service are part of community mental health teams. They currently operate in parts of the country including Sussex, Bradford, Northampton and some London boroughs, which have seen 9,000 people in the past twelve months.

NHS England will be providing £10 million funding to expand access over the next two years, with further investment to follow. By 2021, NHS England anticipates that 20,000 people with severe mental illness will receive tailored care and employment advice via the NHS, suggesting that around 5,000 people with mental ill health avoid unemployment thanks to better health care.

Research by the Mental Health Foundation last year suggested that people’s mental ill health costs UK employers £35 billion. Investment in improving employment prospects via health services like IPS can increase productivity and reduce demand for employment and disability support payments like Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment Support Allowance.

IPS is one of a number of integrated mental health services which are being introduced or expanded across England, as part of NHS England’s Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, a transformation and investment programme to improve care between 2016 and 2021.

In Cambridge, early results of integrating mental health treatments with other services has resulted in a 75 per cent reduction in people with long-term conditions like diabetes requiring emergency hospital admissions.