Questioning the sanity of this benefit system

• It is time to question the sanity of running a benefit system which gives money with one hand and then takes it back with four more in the bedroom tax, the housing benefit cap, the £500 overall benefit cap and the council tax. It imposes homelessness because benefit claimants cannot pay the rent (Bedroom tax ‘will force tens of thousands on to the streets’, 27 May) and hunger because they run out of money and food banks cannot meet demand (Food banks struggle to meet demand, 28 May). 

When creating the monster with five hands the government knew there were not enough single-bedroom properties to accommodate people forced into downsizing. Lord Freud, minister for welfare reform, told peers: “I recognise that there is not the sufficient range of stock in many areas that would enable landlords always to suitably house people according to the size of their household.” (Hansard HL 14 December 2011. Welfare reform bill: column 1306.)

Meanwhile, the Treasury cut the funding of the council tax benefit by 10% and the secretary of state for communities and local government forced local authorities to charge benefits, already reduced by the bedroom tax and other imposts, between 8.5% to 30% of the council tax, knowing many cannot pay. Disabled people suffer from both taxed benefits and cut services.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty

The Guardian, letters, 30th May 2013

Liverpool Housing Association calls in the Samaritans as suicide risk rockets.

The Samaritans have been drafted in by Liverpool’s Riverside Housing Association to help deal with desperate tenants on the brink of suicide because of the bedroom tax.

Staff at Riverside Housing Association’s head office in Speke are being trained by phone counsellors from the Samaritans as workers struggle to cope with the high volume of calls from tenants at risk of suicide.

And South Liverpool Homes (SLH) said in early May a tenant attempted suicide over the bedroom tax and earlier this year a resident committed suicide over issues believed to be related to financial hardship.

Head of business excellence at SLH Claire Ryan said: “People have become overwhelmed, they’re just engulfed by the financial situation.

“We were able to respond to the attempted suicide and support that person.

“We moved them to a smaller property which removed the impact of the bedroom tax.”

Ronnie Clawson, Riverside’s group corporate services director,  said staff first noticed a high level of distressed callers about six months ago.

He said: “It started with night staff who cover the out of hours service who had said they were picking up more calls from people who were in a distressed state and in some cases were saying they had had enough.

“Then advisors working other shifts said they were seeing similar issues.”

The social landlord contacted Samaritans to ask for training.

Mr Clawson said: “Since we started the training we have been contacted by a couple of other housing associations who have had similar issues.”

He said he thought the problems were the result of a number of welfare reforms, with bedroom tax having a big impact.

He said: “It’s a range of different issues and bedroom tax is one which affects six and a half thousand of our tenants so it’s clearly a significant factor.

“I think what we’re experiencing is the cumulative effect of the austerity measures.”

From the Liverpool Echo 31st May 2013

I battle on but I’m utterly exhausted

At the moment I do get carers and Income supplementS (tho they cut the IS as I got CA – genius. Didn’t need that extra £30 nooooo). However, at some point fairly soon at this rate I will have to make the heartbreaking decision to have him (autistic son) out into care. He is having huge physically violent meltdowns and is destroying my already stuffed spine. He is going to out me in a wheelchair. I have a 5 year old who isn’t autistic but bless him is having to deal with his brother, and then caring for me when I can’t get my clothes on properly. When my eldest goes that’s it. We will loose everything. I’ll have no income, we will loose our home. I am utterly terrified at what lays ahead. Aside from my Disastrous unstable spine, in in permeant pain, now up to MST on the pain killers list. I’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I now have a prolapsed disc (my 4th) in my neck which means my hands no longer work properly And life has become really difficult. I also have endometriosis which anyone who has it will know that it’s utter agony and totally debilitating.
Physically I’m done. My neuro function is screwed up by the fibromyalgia.
But let’s guess what ATOS would say.
Oh and I’ve been turned down for DLA before. You really couldn’t make this up. I shall be applying for this PIP nonsense. And I’m going to try and fight them this time. But I also have the same dichotomy – I care for my eldest because there is no one else. But in in pieces. As recent as last Sunday I was back in A&E having had a huge fall.
I am becoming desperate tbh. Social devices are next to useless quite honestly. But that’s mostly because the government has cut all help for children like my son. It’s a total nightmare and I’ve been clinging on by my fingernails for quite some time.
I battle on but I’m utterly exhausted. I worked my backside off, wrote policies that are still in place in the NHS, have saved many lives, helped thousands of others. And now – I’m v much on my own barely getting through the day.
But hey. I’m one of those feckless scrounging lazy bastards aren’t I?

Hardly believe the level of destitution

Until you visit Harpurhey Community Church, Manchester on a Tuesday, you would hardly believe the level of destitution we are witnessing in this country. There are over ninety (90) families and individuals attending the drop-in service every Tuesday to receive food parcels. Frail and elderly people have to walk long distances to receive the food parcels, and have hot soup, tea, coffee and biscuits before they head back home. Five years ago if anyone had told me that this would happen in this country I would have questioned their sanity.


Comment on the Guardian article on foodbanks, 30th May 2013

Half a million Britons now using food banks.

Half a million Britons using food banks. What kind of country is this becoming?

Let’s not mess about: a skyrocketing number of people simply cannot afford to eat, thanks to deliberate government policy

Let no one say we didn’t see it coming. Half a million people are now accustomed to using food banks, and according to a report by Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty, the UK is now facing “destitution, hardship and hunger on a large scale”………………………………………

According the Trussell Trust, the UK’s single biggest organiser of food banks, in 2011-12, the number of people who received at least three days’ emergency food was around 130,000. Their own informational material says that in 2012-13, “food banks fed 346,992 people nationwide”, and of those who received help, “126,889 were children”. Now comes this latest report, and the skyrocketing numbers speak for themselves – as does the mess of factors behind them, and the responsibility of the coalition for pushing up the demand – no, need – for food banks so drastically. While we’re here, it may also be worth cutting through the kind of officialspeak used to deal with such things: even the term “food bank” occasionally seems designed to obscure what’s actually afoot, which is simple enough. So, let’s not mess about: a skyrocketing number of people simply cannot afford to eat, and they have been put in that predicament thanks to deliberate government policy.

By John Harris in the Guardian 30th May 2012.

Full story here

I’m to live on £30 per month.

So here it is………the nittygritty
Im now to pay £110 pr mth re b/tax…£38 pr mth re c/tax. add to that £65 gas, £40 electric,£40 water,£37 tv licence………Out of £360 per mth. AND….i await news from ATOS re my esa. so. im to live on £30 per mth.
go figure……any obesity problems will be sorted anyways.

Will your arm grow back soon?


A ONE-ARMED man trying to claim disability benefits said staff asked if he thought his limb might grow back.

Gary Swift, whose right limb is missing from below the elbow, says he faced the question while being medically assessed.

He had applied for an employment and support allowance — paid to people who can’t work through disability — and went to the meeting with his carer mum Tracey Perkins.

They say the interviewer asked: “Do you expect your condition to improve? Do you expect your arm to grow back within the next two years.”

Gary, 30, of Chesterfield, Derbys, said: “I replied, ‘Well it’s not grown back in the last 30 years, so I can’t see it happening over the next two’.”

ATOS Healthcare, who assessed Gary for the Department for Work and Pensions, said last night: “That question would never be asked. Staff carrying out the assessment are trained doctors, nurses and physiotherapists.”

Gary said he was later sent on a job seekers’ gardening course — and handed a spade.

He said: “If it wasn’t so ridiculous it would be laughable.”

From ‘The Sun’ 30th May 2013

Brain damaged amputee ‘fit for work’, says ATOS

An amputee who cannot walk, struggles to talk and is brain damaged has been passed “fit for work” and had his benefits cut under government reforms.

Mark Evans, from Daubhill in Bolton, said his incapacity benefits were cut by £440 a month and has been left with just £220 to pay his monthly rent, bills and food.

The 50-year-old had received incapacity benefits, now known as employment and support allowances, since 1993 when he had a brain tumour. He also had his left leg amputated below the knee in 2004 after contracting deep vein thrombosis.

His case for benefits was recently reviewed as part of the work capability assessments introduced in 2010 and his employment and support allowance stopped.

He appealed against the decision to cut his monthly payments but was unable to attend a hearing 127 miles away in Workington, Cumbria, which was found against him in his absence. “It’s wrong, they were saying go there, go there, go there, and I couldn’t,” he told the Bolton News.

Denise Lonsdale, a volunteer manager at the Bolton Unemployment Advice Centre, who has been supporting Mr Evans with his case, said it would be three months before he could reapply for benefits.

From The Independent 29th May 2013.

Read more here.

Disabled woman ‘humiliated’ by health assessor

A DISABLED woman suffering from a degenerative disease who lost her benefits after government-appointed assessor Atos ruled she was fit to work has said: “I feel utterly humiliated.”

Sally Stovell has chronic osteoarthritis and relies almost entirely on her wheelchair.
But the 50-year-old, from Nineacres Way in Coulsdon has been told she no longer qualifies for the financial support she uses to pay for food and hot water, after a medical assessment by Atos said her condition had improved.

Ms Stovell, who ran her own recruitment agency in central London until she was diagnosed in 2004, has been forced to go to the council asking for crisis money and vouchers to visit the Purley Foodbank.
“It is utterly humiliating,” she said.

“I am a staunch Tory and support the cuts. However, the government has employed this company, Atos, who are not doing their job properly and taking away support from people who really need it.

“I live alone and if I did not have a few family members to help me my life would probably be in danger.

“Until I was made disabled, I put everything into the system. Now I am in need I am having everything taken away from me.”

When Atos assessed Ms Stovell in October 2011, they rated her ability to work as seven, with 15 meaning the least able.

In May 2012 she was deemed unable to work after her condition deteriorated following major surgery.

However, in February this year, Atos reassessed her as qualifying for zero points.

They ruled she was as able to work as any person without a disability and stripped her of Employment Support Allowance.

“It means I now have nothing apart from £80 a month left to live on,” said Ms Stovell, who was informed of the decision earlier this month.

By Georgie Keate

Read more:

Newham council reconsiders relocation – after threats of legal action.

A London council has agreed to review a decision to move a family of five with a disabled child to Liverpool after being threatened with legal action.

Law firm Miles and Partners’ client was to be moved permanently to a property in Liverpool on 15 May but a High Court judge on that day ordered Newham Council to house them temporarily while the local authority reviewed the case.

Solicitor Rajea Sultana said this is one case that the legal firm has been able to take on from the many calls it has received this year from people who wanted to prevent councils sending them outside London. She said most of the calls had come from Newham, but there had been others from Tower Hamlets and Camden.

In the recent case the firm had lodged a judicial review but this has been withdrawn as the council has agreed to review the case. It has until 2 July to do this.

Ms Sultana said: ‘We are arguing she [the mother] needs to stay in the borough because of the support she has [with her son]. The son does not adapt well to changes. He goes crazy if someone new assesses him.’

The firm argues the son has a behavioural impairment, focal onset epilepsy and suicidal tendencies, which are liable to be triggered when travelling by car. He currently receives a range of specialist help from support workers and psychologists in the local area known to him.

Ms Sultana is requesting the family stay in the borough, or is moved to a neighbouring borough.

The family, which consists of two parents and three children, is currently staying in bed and breakfast accommodation paid for by Newham Council.  

Councils in London say they have been forced to house people outside London because rising rents and cuts to housing benefit have exacerbated the lack of affordable private rented sector accommodation.

Ms Sultana said most of the calls to her company are from people who London councils are intending to move permanently out of their areas into private rented sector accommodation.

from   29th May 2013