‘I was a citizen, now I’m nothing’: disabled readers on life under austerity

Lying on the floor for hours awaiting help, unable to afford both incontinence pants and food … This is the reality of disability cuts for Stephen, Alex and Elli

When Theresa May was challenged by a disabled voter over cuts to her disability benefits and social care last month, it shone a light on the way Conservative policies post-2010 have disproportionately targeted disabled people. Recent years have seen the introduction of many cuts and changes – from the rollout of “fit to work” tests to the abolition of disability living allowance – as well as a lack of action on existing inequalities, such as inaccessible housing. It all amounts to an unprecedented assault on disabled people’s rights and living standards in Britain.

In a series of interviews over several months, the Guardian has followed three disabled readers – Stephen, Alex, and Elli – as they experience the reality of life since austerity.

read their stories here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/30/disabled-readers-austerity-disability-cuts

 

Cardiac patient declared ‘fit to work’ by benefits assessors suffers third heart attack THREE HOURS into new job

Michael Bispham, 44, was told he was well enough to work again, despite 11 letters from consultants and other medics saying he wasn’t

A cardiac patient who was declared fit for work by benefits assessors suffered a third heart attack just three hours into a new job. Michael Bispham, 44, was told he was well enough to work again, despite 11 letters from consultants and other medics saying he wasn’t.

He was refused ESA (employment support allowance) after scoring zero points.

Michael had already suffered two heart attacks, and he collapsed with a third on the day he started work as a delivery driver in Barrow, Cumbria. His plight has echoes of the Ken Loach film ‘I Daniel Blake’, in which a heart patient battles the benefits system.

Michael, of Dalton, Cumbria, was fitted with a cardiac shock device before he started work on February 13.

To add insult to injury, news that his employment and support allowance assessment was being reversed on appeal arrived as he lay in a ward at Furness General Hospital, awaiting transfer to the region’s cardiac centre at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.

Now, his wife Emily has spoken of the double trauma of helping Michael in his recovery while fighting the “horrendous and unfair” benefits system she claims is designed to make honest people feel “worthless”.

Emily, 38, said: “My husband scored zero points when he was assessed for employment support allowance. He’d already had two heart attacks. That should have been it. We knew he was too poorly, we submitted 11 letters about his condition from consultants and the hospital, but they declared him fit to work”

“It nearly killed him. I’m so angry about it. Just when we needed help and support, we had to navigate the system with pages of forms. They stopped any money because he was no longer able to job seek and we were told to start from the beginning and apply again for the ESA he’d been turned down for in the first place.”

“We had nothing for three weeks at what was the worst time of our lives. It was so difficult.”

read more here: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/cardiac-patient-declared-fit-work-10522261#ICID

Activists ‘horrified’ by universal credit rules forcing sick claimants into work activity

“Very dangerous” rules are forcing severely-ill people applying for the government’s new universal credit to look for jobs and take part in training, even though their GPs have said they are not fit for work, “horrified” disabled activists have warned.

The rules – which have never been announced or publicised by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – apply to new universal credit claimants who are waiting for an assessment of their “fitness for work”.

read more here: http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/activists-horrified-by-universal-credit-rules-forcing-sick-claimants-into-work-activity/

People are dying as a result of austerity

As we move towards the general election, we are paralyzed by what is probably the biggest single issue affecting ordinary people in the country: austerity. We are unable to fully understand both the economic madness of austerity and the true scale of the human cost and death toll that ‘fiscal discipline’ has unleashed.

Since coming into power as Prime Minister, Theresa May has made a strategic decision not to use the word ‘austerity’. Instead she has adopted a more palatable language in a vain attempt to distance herself from the Cameron governments before her: “you call it austerity; I call it living within our means.”

The experience of countless thousands of people is precisely the opposite: people are actively prevented from living within their means and are cut off from their most basic entitlement to: housing, food, health care, social care and general protection from hardship. And people are dying as a result of these austerity effects. In February, Jeremy Corbyn made precisely this point when he observed the conclusions of one report that 30,000 people were dying unnecessarily every year because of the cuts to NHS and to local authority social care budgets.

But this is really only the tip of the iceberg. The scale of disruption felt by people at the sharp end of these benefit reforms is enormous.  Countless thousands of others have died prematurely following work capability assessments: approximately 10,000 according the government’s own figures. People are dying as a result of benefit sanction which has fatal impacts on existing health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Austerity is about dismantling social protection. The crisis we face in social care is precipitated by cuts to local authority funding.  In the first 5 years of austerity, local authority budgets were cut by 40%, amounting to an estimated £18bn in care provision.

A decade of cuts, when added up, also means that some key agencies that protect us, such as the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency will have been decimated by up to 60% of funding cuts. Scaling back on an already paltry funding in these critical areas of regulation will lead to a rise in pollution related illness and disease and will fail to ensure people are safe at work.

The economic folly is that austerity will cost society more in the long term.  Local authorities are, for example, housing people in very expensive temporary accommodation because the government has disinvested in social housing.  The crisis in homelessness has paradoxically led to a £400 million rise in benefit payments.   The future costs of disinvesting in young people will be seismic.

This is an extract from an article from nakedcapitalism.com. Read the whole article here: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/05/government-austerity-demands-die-within-means.html

Grandfather took his own life because DWP said he’d been overpaid – but wouldn’t reveal the amount

THE grieving family of a former coal miner who took his own life after being investigated by benefit fraud officers believe he would still be here if he had been told him how much money he needed to repay.

James ‘Jimmy’ Ballentine overdosed on prescription drugs on the day of his twin grandsons’ fourth birthday earlier this year – leaving beside him a suicide note to loved ones which read: “Sorry son you will have to bury me…forgive me leaving you with my debt, cannot take it anymore.”

The proud 60-year-old had months earlier learned he had over-claimed benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after receiving a letter from the Fraud Investigation Team.

Son Dale Ballentine, 34, told The Northern Echo that while making a new benefits claim late last year he declared he had savings of £7,000.

The father-of-two, who suffered from depression and other mental health issues including schizophrenia, was told he had been over-claiming for a decade as there was a means-tested £6,000 savings cap.

It is understood Mr Ballentine made efforts to find out how much money he owed but was unable to get an answer.

Dale, 34, said: “This is the whole point of our grievance – is if they told him up front (what he owed) I really believed he would have paid it, that would be the end of it and he would still be here.”

read more here: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/24/grandfather-took-his-own-life-because-dwp-said-hed-been-overpaid-but-wouldnt-reveal-the-amount/

Gran suffered heart attack at job centre meeting – but was too scared to leave as she feared losing benefits

The incident echoes the hit Ken Loach film I, Daniel Blake, where the lead actor suffers a heart attack on the way to a job centre meeting and dies

A gran suffered a heart attack during a job centre employment meeting but said she was too scared to get up and leave – for fear of ­losing her benefits .

The incident echoes the hit Ken Loach film I, Daniel Blake, where the lead actor suffers a heart attack on the way to a job centre meeting and dies.

Grandmother Salena Hannah, 50, claims she had the seizure during a Jobseeker’s Allowance appointment, but was ignored by the “callous” interviewer. Salena said she dreaded falling victim to the Tory sanction scheme, introduced in 2012, which can involve a reduction in benefit – often to zero – and range from one week to three years.

Sanctions are enforced if the Department for Work and Pensions decides a person has not met the requirements for receiving JSA. Salena said the incident happened earlier this month.

She explained: “I had been suffering with chest pains for about two weeks and took a couple of sprays of GTN spray, to help with my angina, before I walked in to meet my interviewer. My job is under 16 hours, so I am forced to attend regular meetings, or my benefits might be stopped.”

“I was feeling some really bad pains in my chest and I told her at least two or three times that I was in agony, but she was just so callous, she just kept ignoring me. I said I needed to go to the NHS walk-in centre immediately, but it fell on deaf ears. I was living in fear of being sanctioned and just felt trapped. I didn’t think I could leave or I would be sanctioned.”

Salena claims she was forced to endure a 40-minute JSA interview, while sweating profusely and suffering cheat pains. As soon as she left the interview, she went to a nearby NHS walk-in centre, where medics immediately called an ambulance and took her to hospital. Blood tests revealed she had suffered a heart attack and surgeons inserted two stents into her arteries.

She was allowed home after three days, only to suffer serious chest pains an hour later and return to hospital, where three more stents were inserted. She is now recovering at home but is struggling to breath and is constantly weak.

She said: “I was just dreading getting sanctioned. I just would not be able to afford to live if that happened, so pain or no pain, I had to endure that meeting. It is unbelievable how cruel the sanction scheme can be to people like me. It is almost like they are trained to be unfeeling. Is that what Britain is coming to these days under a Tory Government?”

Mum-of-four Salena, from Salisbury, Wilts, is bringing up her two grandsons aged 14 and 10 on her own.

read more here: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/gran-suffered-heart-attack-job-10458734