Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was ‘a very bad move’

Cable admitted that the charges are deterring women from seeking compensation for unfair treatment in the workplace

The number of workers taking cases to employment tribunals has dropped dramatically since the Government introduced fees of up to £1,200 two years ago.

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, admitted the Coalition made a mistake and that the charges are deterring low paid women from seeking compensation for unfair treatment in the workplace.  He said the Conservative-inspired move was an example of the Tories being the “nasty party” as  they tried to “chisel away” at the rights of workers and trade unions.

In an interview with The Independent, Mr Cable disclosed that a review by his Business Department officials found that the total number of claims at employment tribunals fell by almost 70 per cent – down from 340,000 in the first three months of the 2013-14 financial year to just over 110,000 in the third quarter of  2014-15. He said sex discrimination claims were down  82 per cent from  21,000  to 3,500 over the same period, while the number of equal pay cases dropped by 72 per cent from almost 27,000 to 7,500.

read the rest of this article here:

Maximus Deny Refusing To Allow Up-To-Date ESA Evidence

Same Difference

Maximus deny refusing to allow up-to-date evidence to be submitted, but members tell us it’s been happening.

Benefits and Work members continue to report problems with ESA50 forms, used as part of the work capability assessment (WCA) process.

Initially we were hearing from claimants who said they had never received an ESA50. The big issue now, members tell us, is Maximus using ESA50s that are over two years old and refusing to allow new ones to be submitted.

Two year old forms
Last month, Maximus told us that everyone being assessed or reassessed for ESA should receive an ESA50 and that it was not their policy to refuse anyone the opportunity to complete one.

Since then, however, we have heard from a number of members who have been asked to a face-to-face assessment even though they have not completed an ESA50 since 2013…

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Worst 5 years for living standards in 50 years

New analysis shows that the Tory-led, pro-austerity coalition has presided over the worst 5-year period for living standards in over half a century

The latest economic figures published today also show that far from experiencing a strong recovery the UK is now experiencing the slowest rate – just 0.3% – of quarterly growth since the end of 2012.

The TUC says 2010-2014 is unique in seeing a drop in real household disposable incomes, which combine wages, benefits, taxes and inflation.

It is the worst 5-year period for living standards for at least half a century (directly comparable records begin in 1960).

RHDI – a yardstick of living standards that takes account of incomes, benefits, taxes and inflation – was 0.6% lower in the half-decade ending in 2014 than in the 5 years ending in 2009, when it rose by 6.9%.

Austerity to blame

The TUC says this provides further evidence that the government’s austerity programme, which began in 2010, is more to blame for the loss of living standards than the financial crisis that preceded it. The government’s deep and rapid cuts killed off the recovery, causing growth to flat-line and wages to remain in decline for years longer than official forecasts.
read the rest of this article from the PCS here:

Foodbank set up at Newcastle hospital after financial burden facing parents of premature children worsens


Worried parents of premature children fighting for their lives are facing crippling financial costs running into thousands of pounds.

A special North East foodbank has now been set up to help some mums and dads who would otherwise go hungry just so they can afford to visit their poorly children in hospital.

Research has found that parents with a baby in neonatal care in the region spend on average £280 a week.

With the average stay being eight weeks, this results in a total of £2,240. But a significant number of babies will spend considerably longer, up to six months.

Now, a regional charity is funding a paediatric social worker to provide emotional support to parents, advise them on financial issues and helps access funding.

Tiny Lives, the charity which supports the work of the Special Care Baby Unit at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary is supporting Fiona Ewing

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How Benefit Sanctions Have Driven Brits to Suicide

An excellent article in today’s Vice magazine (of all places) about benefit sanctions and suicide.

I’m including an extract here but this article is well worth spreading around, it states things very well. The link to the original article is at the bottom of this post.

“………..Sam Clement, 42, also reached the point of wanting to take his own life after his benefits were cut. Fortunately, he survived. “It might make no sense to you, but I was sanctioned for attending a self-employment training course with my housing association,” he explains. “Although my advisor told me this was fine, when I got back another advisor said it wasn’t an approved training course so she’d have to sanction me, and that was that. My money stopped coming through.”

Clement went into the Job Centre every day to find out what was going on. It took a month and a half for them to tell him he would be sanctioned for a month in December of 2013, meaning all money was cut off. “The situation rapidly deteriorated. I only had five pounds, so I very quickly ran out of food,” he recalls. “And after two or three days of not eating, I got diarrhoea, but by that time I’d run out of toilet roll. I was too stressed and hungry to sleep, and if I did sleep I made a mess.”

Unable to afford electricity or heating, Clement’s Christmas was cold and dark. “I remember sitting in the living room on Christmas day, watching families walking around happily out the window, while I sat hoping for darkness to come so I could go to bed,” he says.

Like most of us, Clement didn’t know what a benefit sanction actually was until he was on the receiving end of one. “I had no idea they could just take your money away like that,” he says. “It shocked me how quickly I fell to pieces. The whole thing destroyed my mental health.”

When his sanction period finally came to an end, Clement returned to the Job Centre. “When I arrived back, my advisor told me that I needed to learn a ‘work ethic’, and that if I didn’t attend an unpaid work programme I would be sanctioned again. Obviously I became extremely anxious.” He pauses as his voice catches in his throat. “As soon as I got home I swallowed every pill I had in the house and tried to overdose. I wasn’t in a good place. I ended up in A&E having my stomach pumped. It was the worst day I’ve ever had.”

After a turbulent seven months of waiting, the doctor finally put Clement in touch with a therapist. Since then he has undergone individual and group therapy, as well as CBT. Nevertheless, the repercussions of his sanction continue to haunt him.

“Before the sanction, my mental health was fine. I certainly wouldn’t have called myself anxious,” he says. “But I am now. I haven’t wanted to leave my flat in 15 months. Home is my safety blanket. I can be perfectly OK inside, but if I walk to the Job Centre my hands start shaking. In the back of my head, my mind is screaming at me to go home.”

Since his sanction, Clement has developed insomnia, as well as a whole raft of stress-induced health problems. “My legs have swollen due to psoriasis and I’ve put on three stone. It’s all down to the anxiety. You can’t plan for a sanction, and it’s always at the back of my mind,” he says…………………………..

From the column ‘The VICE Guide to Mental Health’

Just got kicked off ESA

Someone posted this comment today on the facebook page “The People vs the Government, DWP and Atos”


“I just got kicked off ESA (sickness benefit). My medication has more than doubled since my last assessment and I had letters from my doctor, mental health worker, doctor of psychology, counselor and an in depth assessment from the national association of assessment centres. I know, after going through the mandatory reconsideration and appeals process, I will probably win. I have won on 2 previous occasions when I was not as ill as I am now. But in the meantime, probably 18 months to 2 years, I will suffer extreme hardship trying to meet my rent and other bills as I cannot sign on for JSA (unemployment benefit) as I am not well enough to work. This is what I was told the last 2 times they booted me off. Surely going through this process for the 3rd time in 4 years is out of order??? God I hate this government!

‘Disabled woman’s life at risk’ after DWP harassment

A disabled woman says her life is at risk following a “barrage” of texts and phone calls from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), threatening – unlawfully – to remove her benefits if she failed to attend a work-focused interview.

Stella*, who has type one diabetes, was placed in the support group of people claiming employment and support allowance (ESA), after a tribunal found in her favour and said she should not be assessed again for two years.

The ESA support group is – according to the government’s own rules – for sick or disabled people not expected to carry out any work-related activity in return for out-of-work benefits.

But Stella was forced to lodge a complaint with the police after being “scared witless” by an “unacceptable barrage of communications” about work-focussed interviews and threats to remove her benefits if she failed to attend.


read the rest of this story on the Disabiity News Service here:

New changes to Universal Credit roll out.

The poor side of life

Today I learnt of some new developments in the universal credit roll out. These changes are devastating and they left me lost for words. I’ll explain now but please share.

When universal credit first came out you could not apply for it if you were already claiming housing benefit. There was a glitch in the system and the computer said no. They’ve sorted this so here goes.

They are now transferring people onto universal credit from JSA. There’s no option to say no, they are simply changing their claim. Their existing claim will be shut down, as will their claim for housing benefit. The claimant will also have to go to the local council offices to sort out the council tax payments, if not they will be left with a massive bill.

Why am I so worried? If you are already in debt with your rent due to the bedroom…

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A victim of domestic violence? Don’t worry you will get sanctioned too. 

The poor side of life

Today at our demonstration I was approached by a young woman who had a baby with her. She was clearly distressed and she had a very sore black eye. I asked her what was wrong, she was quite literally a bag of nerves. She went on to tell me that she had just escaped from the clutches of her very violent boyfriend. The police had to rescue her from her home. She left with her baby, his clothes and the pram. She was shaking. She is now staying at the local women’s refuge, a haven for women escaping violence.

She should be able to recover now, you would think. No she couldn’t . She went on to explain that she had previously been attending a Jobcentre in another town, and was supposed to attend an interview at that Jobcentre. She couldn’t attend. Why? Because it’s the town where her ex…

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