Yeovil insulin-dependant diabetic ‘struggling to make ends’ after five-month wait for Government’s new aid Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

AN insulin-dependant diabetic who can no longer work because of her condition claims she is struggling to make ends meet after a five-month wait for Government aid.

Nicola Holden, 52, of Yeovil, has had diabetes for 40 years.  She takes insulin twice a day and last year she was diagnosed with Charcot foot – a condition prevalent in diabetics which means bones fracture and rarely heal entirely.  Ms Holden had to retire from her job at Boots in Yeovil as she was unable to walk and her foot is in a cast indefinitely.

Struggling to make ends meet on around £280 a month from her Employment and Support Allowance, Ms Holden applied for a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) in September but has so far heard nothing.

The benefit is replacing the Disability Living Allowance and since June new claimants were required to apply for PIP instead.  Occupational health service provider Atos Healthcare conducts some PIP assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Ms Holden said: “When I contacted Atos in October I was told they could not possibly tell me the status of my application as they were swamped. “When I heard nothing this month I contacted David Laws. I’m very annoyed and unhappy about it.”

Ms Holden said she fears her age and condition will make it difficult for her to tie down another job.  She said: “I can only walk or stand for one or two minutes at a time. “I’m struggling to make ends meet and I need to know, if anything, what I might receive, so I can make the right financial decisions.”

Ms Holden said she has found the process an emotional ordeal.  She said: “I’m constantly worrying, I’m suffering from severe depression and I’ve had enough. I just want it resolved.”

On Monday Yeovil MP David Laws said long delays processing benefit claims were “unacceptable” and said he is raising the matter with the DWP.

A department spokeswoman said: “PIP is a completely new benefit to better reflect today’s understanding of disability.

“We have introduced a new face-to-face assessment and regular reviews. In some cases this process is taking longer than the DLA system, which relied on a self-assessment form.

“We are working with providers to ensure all the steps in the process are as smooth as they can be. The benefit is back-dated to the day the claim was received if there are delays.”

An Atos Healthcare spokewoman said a letter was on its way to Ms Holden with a consultation date and apologised for the delay.

She said: “The assessment is a key part of a person’s claim and it’s important each person is given the time they need to explain how their condition affects them. We are looking at various ways in which we can keep our customers better informed, including direct letters and more information on our website.”

Heart-attack victim in cash-axe shock

A MAN forced to give up work with heart problems had his benefits axed for failing to complete a capability assessment… after suffering a heart attack during the examination.

The man, who received employment support allowance, was required to attend a work-capability assessment to assess his suitability for work.

During the appointment he was told he was having a heart attack, forcing the nurse to stop the assessment.

Two weeks later he got a letter from Jobcentre Plus saying he had withdrawn from the assessment and was being sanctioned. The man took his case to Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Debbie Abrahams.

A spokesman for the MP said: “It is meeting constituents with terrible stories like this that spurred Debbie on to publicly question Iain Duncan Smith and make the Government face the consequences of benefit sanctions policies.

“No-one’s saying people on benefits shouldn’t have to look for work when appropriate. But this government is going beyond the pale in using underhand tactics to force vulnerable people off benefits to massage the unemployment data.”

The man is one of a string of people who have spoken to the MP, whose campaigning has forced a Work and Pensions Committee review into the matter.

An anonymous woman was sanctioned after missing an appointment despite phoning on the morning of her assessment to explain her difficulty in attending due to widespread arthritis and the need for two knee replacements. The DWP wrote to say they “doubt the reasons she provided”.

Another man began claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance in November 2012 after living off a redundancy payment. He received a letter from Jobcentre Plus in Preston saying his allowance was stopped on May 15 2013 because he had failed to attend an interview the day before. In fact he HAD attended and saw an adviser — just not the one he was scheduled to see, because he was unavailable.

Despite the Jobcentre’s mistake the man was told his only course is to appeal or submit a new claim — which put him overdrawn at the bank. The MP’s spokesman added: “I am very concerned about the rising number of cases coming to me of increased use of sanctions. The knock-on effect of unfair sanctions is financial hardship and poverty for people already living on low incomes.”

By Robbie Gill for the Oldham Evening Chronicle, 31st Jan 2014:

A disabled man and his wife have won an appeal against the bedroom tax on human rights grounds.

Disabled man wins bedroom tax appeal

The couple live alone in three bedroom Local Authority property. The appeal tribunal accepted that they needed separate bedrooms and that it was discrimination under Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights to fail to treat Housing Benefit Claimants, who need an additional bedroom on account of disability, differently from those who do not need an additional bedroom.

The tribunal also found that the property was only a two bedroom property because the third bedroom measured 7′ 1″ x 9′ 6″ (63.3 square feet) and was too small to be occupied by an adult as a bedroom on a full time basis.

In applying the bedroom tax in this case the Local Authority breached Article 1, Protocol 1, European Convention of Human Rights, which provides a right not be deprived of possessions, and Housing Benefit is a possession for these purposes.

For more on the Human Rights Act see Factsheet F1 – human rights act

As a result of this decision the bedroom tax does not apply.

The DWP has been monitoring bedroom tax appeal decisions and has announced its intention to take two earlier decisions in Fife to the upper tribunal.

Nearly Legal have a regularly updated page of bedroom tax appeal decisions at

For more on the bedroom tax see Factsheet F57 – the bedroom tax.

from Disability Rights UK, 31st Jan 2013:

What councils could do in next month’s budget-setting meetings…

In the next month or so local councils will be deciding their budgets for 2014-2015, the last full financial year before the general election.


There is no dispute that councils face a dire financial situation. Even the Tory chair of the Local Government Association, Sir Merrick Cockell, has warned that the current funding levels for local councils “will not see us through for very much longer”. Such complaints from a Tory politician are hypocritical but they reflect the real crisis facing local council services.


The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) national steering committee discussed at its January meeting what councils could actually do to meet this crisis.


TUSC believes as its starting point that councils should not meekly accept the cuts to local authority funding made by the Con-Dem government. In the first instance councils have the means to avoid making cuts in their 2014-15 budgets by using their reserves and borrowing powers. This would buy them time to build a campaign to force the government – either this one or the next – to properly fund local government. This stance is one of the core policies of TUSC, which will be supported by all our candidates in the May local elections (see ).


But we also believe that councils should use the powers that they have to implement – here and now – policies that would positively improve the position of millions of people struggling to survive in ‘austerity Britain’. That would be the way to turn back the austerity offensive and mobilise support for a campaign for more resources for public services.


What councils can do


Listed below are just some of the policies that councils have the legal powers to implement now. Now – not after a general election, or after new legislation is passed, but immediately, today. And that’s proven by the fact that at least one council somewhere in Britain has implemented at least one of the policies below in some form in the recent period. It’s that which makes the list unique.


But the question is: why couldn’t councils implement all of the policies below? And especially the hundred or so Labour-controlled councils? Wouldn’t implementing policies which actually positively impact on peoples’ lives give a clear example of what difference councils can make – and provide compelling reasons for people to support councillors who were prepared to take a stand in favour of proper funding for local services?


It’s not the case that ‘the money isn’t there’ for decent local services. Government funding of local councils is being cut by £7.6bn between 2011 and 2015 (with a further £2.1bn cut planned for 2015-16). Yet Britain’s top companies have an estimated cash pile of £750bn accumulated profits which they are refusing to invest. Meanwhile the number of billionaires in Britain rose from 77 in 2012 to 88 last year. The question is not ‘is the money there?’ but how can a campaign be won for the money to defend and improve public services.


TUSC has organised a conference on Saturday 1st February to prepare for what we aim will be the biggest left-of-Labour trade unionist and socialist challenge in local council elections for generations (see )


TUSC will fight these elections on a policy of opposition to all cuts to present council services. But we will also highlight what more councils could do. And that councillors can make a difference – if they are prepared to fight.


Policies councils could implement tomorrow…


  • Restore full council tax rebates, to be funded from council reserves not council tax rises, and campaign for government to reimburse councils that do so.
  • Bring in free school meals for every primary school pupil.
  • Introduce local replacements for the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) for 16-18 year-olds staying on in education.
  • Reinstate childcare provision in Sure Start centres where this has been cut and re-open the 550 centres closed since 2010.
  • Support parents and teachers who oppose the Con-Dems’ enforced academisation of schools by using councils’ powers to refuse to issue ‘warning notices’ against schools that are working to improve their performance.
  • Use councils’ powers to compulsorily register private landlords and set-up council-run lettings agencies, as the means to tackle repair standards, high rents, over-occupancy, extortionate letting fees etc for private rented homes.
  • Build council homes now. By using councils’ borrowing powers for capital spending to build council homes, while campaigning for the government to divert its subsidy for private developers to finance a mass programme of public housing.
  • Implement the UNISON trade union’s ethical care charter to end ’15-minute maximum’ visiting slots, zero-hour contracts, and unpaid travel time for home care workers.
  • Introduce the Living Wage as the minimum wage for council employees and those working for council contractors.
  • Use councils’ powers to exclude firms that have participated in blacklisting from tendering for public contracts.

From thr ‘Trade Unionist’, 27th Jan 2013:



What you’re not being told about Europe’s verdict on social security

Mike Sivier's blog


“Manifestly inadequate” are words that should ring in Iain Duncan Smith’s ears for some time to come.

They are the Council of Europe’s verdict on the UK’s social security system of payments for jobseekers, pensioners and recipients of both short- and long-term incapacity benefit.

The Council, an international organisation promoting co-operation between all countries of Europe in legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural co-operation, is home to the European Court of Human Rights.

The finding was made in an annual review of the UK’s adherence to the council’s European Social Charter. If the UK’s Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition government takes no action to rectify the situation, then the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers may address a recommendation to the UK, asking it to change the situation in law or in practice. This is clearly a weak way of handling a situation…

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Should ATOS Be Calling You For An Assessment?

Same Difference

Just spotted at ATOS Miracles. Please share widely.

Re: Medical conditions, home visit or assessment centre…This is from the Atos-DWP contract:

Unsuitable for calling to a Medical Examination Centre.
Age >75 years
Age <12 years

Both Blind and Deaf
Registered Blind (needs to be seen in own environment)
Cases accepted under the Special Rules defining Terminal illness.
Amputation of both legs
Autistic Spectrum Disorder / Autism
Cerebral Palsy
Huntingdon’s Chorea
Korsakoffs Psychosis
Macmillan Nurse attending.
Motor Neurone Disease
On oxygen
Renal Dialysis
Severe Mental Impairment
Severe Learning Difficulty
Spastic Diplegia
Total Parenteral Nutrition
Unstable Angina
Wernicke’s Encephalopathy

2. Reference to Medical Advisor required for advice.

Bone Marrow Transplant
Brittle Bone Disease
Cystic Fibrosis
Guillane-Barre Syndrome
Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Liver Failure
Mental Retardation
Mental Subnormality
Multiple Sclerosis
Muscular Dystrophy
Non Hodgkin’s Lmphoma
On Morphine / MST
Osteogenesis Imperfecta

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News: Parliamentary Work & Pensions Committee recalling IDS on Monday for grilling on Universal Credit v3.0


Today it has been announced that the Parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee is recalling IDS on Monday (3rd Feb 2014) to grill him in detail on the money wasted so far on Universal Credit (v1.0 written off and v2.0, the temporary fix) and why the new ‘digital solution’ (a.k.a. v3.0) will succeed when the previous two versions have failed to deliver…


Last year a wrangle between the NAO and the DWP delayed the sign-off of DWP’s accounts by 6 months.  The accounts were finally sent to MPs just a few days before the Work & Pensions committee hearing where the Secretary of State, Iain Duncan Smith, revealed that £303m had been spent on developing the IT, and that £40m will be written off now, with £91m to be written off over the next 3 years with temporary IT used only until 2017.

Under close cross-examination by Teresa Pearce MP, he further…

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Local mums oppose eviction and social cleansing in East London


Focus E15 4“Stop making people homeless. Stop making kids miss school. It’s not fair. You guys go home to your nice homes and people are here struggling. People are here crying, stressed, depressed – is that right? Why is this happening to people? Innocent people?” – Tresha Elliott, 21, mother of Kianna

Eighteen months ago the world looked on as the Olympic Games kicked off with a flurry of fireworks in Newham – one of the poorest boroughs in London. Laughably, Danny Boyle announced that the slogan for the games was “this is for everyone” even though Newham council had already been accused of “social cleansing” after its plans to rehouse families from the local area as far away as Hastings, Birmingham and Manchester had emerged.

Many east Londoners are still grappling with the Olympic legacy (although I think I prefer the term ‘consequences’) and some, like the Focus E15 Mums, are…

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European Committee of Social Rights declares levels of benefits in the UK are ‘manifestly inadequate’

January 2014

European Social Charter

European Committee of Social Rights

Conclusions XX

-2 (2013)


17.   Article 12 .Right to social security

Paragraph 1    Existence of a social security system    ……………….

19.     Conclusion

The Committee  concludes that the situation in United Kingdom is not in conformity with Article12§1 of the Charter on the ground that:

the minimum levels of short-term and long-term incapacity benefit is manifestly inadequate;

the minimum level of state pension is manifestly inadequate;

the minimum level of job seeker’s allowance is manifestly inadequate

read the entire report from the European Commission of Social Rights here:

UK ‘has some of the highest and most volatile food prices’, claims Oxfam

Britons face some of the highest and most volatile food prices in Western Europe, according to research published today.

The UK was one of the worst performers in a global food index compiled by Oxfam, coming 13th overall, despite being the world’s sixth richest country. The Government’s austerity measures are exacerbating the situation and leading to the public’s increasing reliance on food banks, the charity said.

Countries were marked according to four criteria and then given an overall ranking. The categories were: levels of undernourishment; affordability and volatility of food prices; quality of food and water and the health outcomes of people’s diet. Overall The Netherlands, followed by France and Switzerland in joint second were the best places for people to eat in the index. Chad came last, just behind Angola and Ethiopia, which came joint second to last.

Oxfam’s chief executive, Mark Goldring, said: “The UK’s failure to make the top table is a shocking indictment for the world’s sixth richest country. With a record number of people turning to food banks, the government must carry out an urgent inquiry into how welfare changes and cuts are exacerbating food poverty and deepening inequality.”  The UK was among the worst performers in Western Europe on whether citizens can afford to eat. With more than half a million people using food banks, Britain shares 20th position with Cyprus, with only Austrians and Icelanders faring worse.

Elizabeth Dowler, professor of food and social policy at the University of Warwick, said she was not surprised by Britain’s low score. “I do know that some of the austerity measures have been much harsher in the UK than in, say, France or Germany,” she said. “Our energy prices are higher too in relation to income [than other countries in Europe]. If you cook food you need energy to cook so they’re connected.”

Professor Dowler, who also sits on the Food Ethics Council and worked on a report into the scale of emergency food aid in Britain that has yet to be published by the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs, said the Government urgently needed to examine these issues. “The simple answer [to the UK’s food problem] is we need some serious attention from Government at a national and local level on these issues.”

Oxfam wants Government action to address growing inequality in Britain, and its underlying problems, such as the impact of welfare reforms, unemployment, low wages and rising food and fuel prices.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “The Government is working to reduce price increases by opening up global markets and promoting competition in our food and farming industry. Already, UK food prices are lower than those in several other European countries including Germany, France and Ireland.”

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Welfare reforms are fixing the broken welfare system and will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities.

”We are ensuring people are better off in work than on benefits and have already seen the number of people in work reach record levels, while Government action to help hard-working people has frozen council tax for five years and seen the typical taxpayer save over £700 by increasing the amount they can earn before paying income tax.”

from the INdependent 29th Jan 2013: