BBC NEWS: Disability tests opposed by dean of St Paul’s Cathedral 29/09/2013


Wheelchair user in an office
The tests assess entitlement to employment and support allowance
A letter urging Prime Minister David Cameron to get rid of work assessments for the disabled has been signed by the dean of St Paul’s Cathedral.

The Very Rev Dr David Ison was among campaigners to claim the tests could “cut short” disabled people’s lives.

The letter also called on ministers to address the “shameful offences” of austerity measures.

The government said the assessments had been improved and could help disabled people get into employment.

‘Heaviest burden’

The letter, titled The Downing Street Demand, called for an end to work capability assessments (WCA) which “demean and distress” disabled people.

It stated that government policies forced some of the most deprived members of society to “shoulder the heaviest burden of national debt created by the super-rich”.

Very Rev Dr David IsonDr Ison says disabled people need to be helped to live with dignity and security


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Trials and tribulations of recruiting from the Job Centre

With an unsurprising lack of joined up thinking, nobody amongst the powers that be seem to have considered what effect the government’s crackdown on the unemployed would have on potential employers attempting to use the jobcentre to look for workers. Here’s a report from one such, copied from a page on the website Real Business –

Jan Cavelle shares her trials and tribulations of recruiting from the Job Centre

For those of you who haven’t attempting to recruit from the Job Centre in recent years, you may be unaware that it has been absorbed. The name is now misleading as the department covers national insurance numbers and benefits rather more than jobs.

There is a website heading “finding a job” but rather surprisingly the first section offered on this is how to complain about the job centre. Conversely, to advertise your position, you will have to delve into the sections headed elsewhere on Gov UK and look for help for recruiters. And help you will undoubtedly need.

Should you persevere and advertise your position – perhaps an admin assistant with good typing skills based in Hemel Hempstead – you will then be amazed to find your area of the site awash with CVs of assorted skills, few who type, most of whom live from John O’Groats to Lands End and firmly confirm they will not locate. 

If you persevere and make contact with the best, you will find some you have selected carefully have no contact details for you to use, while others sound panicked by the mere suggestion of interviews and you will undoubtedly never hear from them again.

You may notice a similarity to some of the CVs. This is due to the advice from the job centres themselves on how to write them, which has resulted in you receiving a multitude with the same cliché ridden enthusiasms on the excellence of their team-playing skills and goal orientation.

If you have been brave enough to advertise your direct email, you will have receive a selection showing the classic blunders. The largest group are usually the ones where the covering email professes to be particularly selecting your company as one they want to work for – yet shows the emails of every local company under the sun in the CC addresses. 

However passionate they are about the possibility of a career with you, many also stop short of any tailoring to the job advertised.

You may also blanch at the email addresses that are suddenly descending on your inbox – or are not the most appealing propositions.

I was cheered to see somewhere recently that my time allocation of a minute per CV to make a first round decision is about average. The length of some are simply stunning. I have seen them list several pages of jobs – and this is not the in depth descriptions but simply positions and dates. 

I had one recently that took a good three pages to describe in some detail how the applicant had been unappreciated and mistreated in all their previous positions and intended taking the last employer to tribunal as soon as possible – all the more amazing in a small town where local companies tend to know each other.

The reason for all this excruciating time wasting of the recruiter is of course the tightening up of the benefit system, resulting in a wide variety of people who have no intention of working being enforced to send off their CV ad hoc, with no likelihood or intent of success.

All that said, some of the Job Centre CVs have brightened my days over the last year – perhaps my favourite ended his covering letter:

Yours sinisterly

I am saving him for Halloween.

Posted in ‘real business’ 27th September 2013

Fuck The Courts, We Are The Law Says DWP In Bedroom Tax Diktat

the void

Iain-Duncan-Smith-workfareIn yet another astonishing outburst from the DWP, tin-pot dictator Iain Duncan Smith is treating the laws of the land with utter contempt and demanding that local authorities ignore a recent Bedroom Tax court decision.

Earlier in the month a first-tier benefit tribunal judgement ruled that a room of less than 70 square feet should not be considered a bedroom for the purpose of the Bedroom Tax.  This important judgement against Fife Council led the local authority to call the bedroom tax ‘unworkable’ and demand it should be scrapped.

This ruling was immediately seized upon by campaigners who rightly demanded that their own local councils introduce Bedroom Tax  policies in line with the ruling.

Yet not for the first time, the DWP have decided they are above the law and have this week sent out an ‘Urgent Bulletin’ to Housing Benefit staff (PDF) across the UK ordering them to ignore…

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Tenant sues council after being hit by bedroom tax after they built him an extra room

Chris Burton, of Gunson Street, Miles Platting, has been racking up debt ever since the benefits shake-up and is now more than £200 in arrears

Chris Burton, of Gunson Street, Miles Platting , has been racking up debt ever since the benefits shake-up and is now more than £200 in arrears.

He says he never wanted the ‘useless’ second room and reckons 35 other tenants will have lost out after their homes were upgraded in 2009.

Now he is appealing to a tribunal judge to rule that his benefits should be based his original tenancy agreement, which says he has only bedroom.

Mr Burton, who suffers with mobility problems and is registered disabled, said he believed the case could be a landmark for thousands of others in his situation.

He said: “It is unjust that I’m having to pay as if I have a two rooms, when my tenancy says that I have one. The extra room has been of absolutely no benefit to me.”

Mr Burton’s flat is run by social housing group Adactus on behalf of the council.

The bedroom tax – which the government calls the ‘spare room subsidy’ – means tenants lose up to 25 per cent of their housing benefit if they have unoccupied bedrooms.

Manchester council are responsible for administering the deduction but say they have no power to re-interpret the strict government guidelines.

However, housing bosses say they sympathise with the situation and have promised to cover the arrears until a solution is found. But Mr Burton, 41, says the council was wrong for lumping him in with those liable for the deduction and is also suing the council for £1,500 for the ‘stress and inconvenience’.

He added: “There are other people out there in the same situation and hopefully this will set a precedent. It could have far-reaching implications.”

The hearing will take place at the Manchester Civil Justice Centre on October 21.

A council spokesperson said: “Mr Burton has submitted an appeal against his housing benefit after his claim was reassessed due the introduction of the government’s spare room subsidy.

“We felt the circumstances that found Mr Burton at the brunt of the bedroom tax were out of his control and unfair – and we remain committed to absorbing the shortfall in his housing benefit regardless of the outcome of his appeal.”

By Yakub Qureshi in the ‘Manchester Evening News’ 26th September 2013

Retired blind man is ‘fit for work’

 FIT FOR WORK Richard Alcock, who is aged 62 and blind

A BLIND man who was forced to take early retirement 12 years ago was left in shock when he was told he is now fit to return to work. Richard Alcock, of Craven Street, Bury, attended an assessment which ruled he was no longer entitled to employment support allowance.

The 62-year-old has been registered blind from being 18-months-old, and is originally from the West Midlands, moving to Bury two and a half years ago. Mr Alcock lives with his wife Rachel, aged 64, who is also blind.

He said: “I had to wait for a support worker to come and read the letter out to me. I can read braille so, as far as they are concerned, I can read.”

After working in local government for 30 years, Mr Alcock was forced to take early retirement when he could not adapt to the increased use of computers in the workplace, and was not provided with the appropriate equipment to enable him to continue his work. Mr Alcock has received incapacity benefit for the past 10 years, but faces the prospect of this being removed unless an appeal is successful.

He said: “The most important thing is we have support workers who come to the house twice a week, we have to pay for them, and we might have to stop if we lose this money. They deal with our correspondence, go shopping with us and help with cleaning, and that would be a drastic change if we lose them.”

Mr Alcock attended an assessment in Bolton on September 3, but did not score enough points to qualify for Employment Support Allowance, and says he intends to appeal. He added: “The stupid thing I was told I could apply for Jobseekers Allowance, but I would have to get to the Job Centre in Bury to see what jobs are available which would be very difficult.”

ATOS Healthcare carries out disability assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and those who are claiming benefits as a result of a disability or injury may have to attend an assessment.

A DWP spokesperson said: “It is important that we don’t simply write people off. There is strong evidence that working can be beneficial for many people who have a health condition. But we also want to ensure those who need it get the right support, which is why a decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken after consideration of all the supporting medical evidence provided by the claimant.

“Anyone can appeal against a decision. Before the appeal is heard we review all decisions, taking into account further information provided.

By Andrew Bardsley in the ‘Bury Times’  26th September 2013:

Bedroom Tax: Disabled win right to appeal against “unjust” benefits law

Critics say new housing benefit regulations are unjustified and unlawfully discriminate against the weak and vulnerable
Disabled people have won the right to appeal against the controversial new “bedroom tax.” An appeal judge has ruled ten test cases should be heard, as they raise issues of public importance.

The cases are said to illustrate the serious impact of the regulations on disabled people living in social housing across Britain.

The appeal is against a High Court decision in July upholding the legality of new housing benefit regulations critics say are unjustified and unlawfully discriminate against the weak and vulnerable in society.

The regulations, introduced on April 1, led to reductions in benefit payments to tenants assessed to be under-occupying their accommodation. Under new “size criteria”, tenants with one spare bedroom have had a payment reduction of 14% and those deemed to have two or more spare, a reduction of 25%.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) rejects the “bedroom tax” tag and says the reality is that “a spare room subsidy” has been removed from social sector tenants.

It says local councils are being given discretionary housing payment funding so that they can help vulnerable residents with all the welfare housing reforms. It says this includes disabled people affected by the removal of the spare-room subsidy.

DWP lawyers contend reduction of rising housing benefit expenditure is a legitimate and “integral aspect” of the Government’s deficit reduction programme. The change in regulations is expected to produce savings of £500m a year.

But Ugo Hayter, a lawyer from legal firm Leigh Day, who is representing two cases of adults with disabilities said: “We are extremely pleased to be able to take our fight to the Court of Appeal. We remain confident that this unfair – and we believe unlawful – bedroom tax will be repealed.”

by Sam Adams in ‘The Mirror’, 26th September 2013:

Starving unemployed man sets fire to job centre to get meal in police cells

Bee O’Brien, 49, flew into a rage after a row over his benefits payments and set fire to the customer telephones at Moss Side job centre after he hadn’t eaten for three days

An unemployed man who hadn’t eaten for three days tried to set fire to the job centre – so he could have a meal in police custody.

Bee O’Brien, 49, flew into a rage after a row over his benefits payments and set fire to the customer telephones at Moss Side job centre. O’Brien had not eaten for three days after his benefits had been stopped.

He told police: “I will commit a crime and get arrested. I need some food.”

O’Brien, of Camelford Close, Hulme, admitted criminal damage, attempted arson, and using threatening words and behaviour when he appeared before Manchester magistrates.

 Gina Clayton, defending, said: “His benefits had been stopped for some reason and he hadn’t eaten for three days. He was simply desperate for some food. He went to the job centre to get his payments and lost his temper. He was aware that if he was arrested he would have been given food at the police station.”

Helen Veitch, prosecuting, told the court: “A member of staff at the job centre noticed he was arguing on the customer services advice telephone. He was noted to be aggressive and abusive.

by Pete Brainbridge in the ‘Manchester Evening News’, 26th September 2013:

“He was asked to leave the job centre, and was told the staff would phone police. She said the member of staff then ‘heard a clicking noise’ and saw O’Brien with a cigarette lighter.

She said: “He tried to set fire to the phone cable, then went to another phone and repeated the action. He said – ‘Yes, I’m setting fire to this to get arrested’. When police arrived he said: “If you don’t get my money I will commit a crime and get arrested. I need some food.”

He was detained but carried on being abusive in custody and hurled hot chocolate all over his cell.

He was given a 12 month community order and ordered to do 40 hours unpaid work

report reveals shocking rise of in-work poverty in Wales

Not enough jobs, not enough hours, not enough pay: shocking rise of in-work poverty in Wales revealed in new JRF report

More working families in Wales are now living in poverty compared to the number of out of work families, according to a new report published today (19 September) by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

Almost 700,000 people in Wales live in poverty – nearly a quarter of all people in the country, but its starkest finding shows that those who are working and live in poverty now exceeds the number of those who are not in work. 51% of working-age adults and children in poverty are from working families.

The research, by a team at the New Policy Institute (NPI), blames the rise of in-work poverty on underemployment – where people lack the paid work they want – and low pay. 30% of families working part-time live in poverty, compared to 7% for full-time working families. Meanwhile, a quarter of employees earning less than the Living Wage of £7.45 per hour are in poverty, compared to only 3% of those earning more.

The report highlights the regional differences of both in-work and out-of-work poverty across Wales. The West and North West have proportionately high shares of in-work poverty, pointing to greater levels of in-work poverty in rural areas.

The report calls on governments in Wales and Westminster to focus relentlessly on job creation and not just welfare reform, and work with public services and employers towards paying a Living Wage. Policy makers and public services must also ensure poorer families can access essential services – currently, some areas needing the highest levels of medical and social care receive the worst.

Peter Kenway, Director at NPI, said: “This report shows there are not enough jobs, not enough hours and not enough pay for people in Wales. These are families who are going out to work but still have so little they are living below the poverty line and struggling to make ends meet. Low pay and low hours go hand in hand: job creation is a priority, but this must lead to better pay and more hours to tackle in-work poverty.”

DWP to appeal Fife bedroom tax decisions

The DWP has issued an urgent bulletin – HB U6/2013 – announcing its intention to appeal two recent First-tier Tribunal cases held in Fife

These decisions were decided in the claimant’s favour because tribunals attempted to apply their own size definitions. For more on this see

HB U6/2013 says:

“It has recently been reported that two First-tier Tribunal cases resulted in findings that rooms designated by the landlord as bedrooms were not capable of being such for the purposes of the Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy (RSRS) regulations. This is because the judge determined that the rooms did not satisfy the “space standard” as set out in section 326 of the Housing Act 1985 and section 137 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 which is used to assess statutory overcrowding.

The Department for Work and Pensions will seek permission to appeal against the decisions given in these particular cases as space standards do not relate to the Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy, nor should a dining or living room be classified as a bedroom notwithstanding that the relevant Housing Act provisions would class them as such (see paragraph 3 below).”

You can view the Fife rulings on the Inside Housing website.



Blind tenant has ‘spare bedroom’ reclassified by the courts. Follow this link to see the ITV news video, or read the text below to find out more details:

On 20 September 2013 Robinson Wilson Solicitors won a victory in the First Tier tribunal regarding the Housing Benefit under occupancy regulations, commonly known as the ‘bedroom tax’. By way of background, Westminster Council made a decision in  March 2013 that the appellant (represented by Robinson Wilson Solicitors) had one additional bedroom and therefore it must apply the statutory reduction in his housing benefit entitlement.

The appellant and Robinson Wilson Solicitors argued that the room  in question  was not a bedroom and had never been used as such, as it contains necessary equipment to help him with his disability. Further, that his home had been specially adapted for him to meet the needs of his disability.


Judge C Haley-Halinski allowed the appeal. In his decision he stated that the term bedroom is “nowhere defined and I apply the ordinary English meaning. The room in question cannot be so described.”

Although decisions of the First Tier tribunal are only binding on the Secretary of State, in the absence  of a binding precedent this case should be considered favourably, as to our knowledge it is the  second case to succeed in challenging the term “bedroom”. The only other tribunal case on this point to succeed is SC108/13/01318 (held in first tier tribunal Kirkcaldy Scotland)