Tag Archives: access

As police get access to #trackandtrace data, the public swaps stories about #ToryLiars

A load of bull: how many people believe the childish chatter the Tories give us every day in place of facts?

Public patience with the lies of Boris Johnson’s Conservative government is running out.

The latest revelation of their duplicity – that supposedly confidential information provided by people who use the Tories’ silly ‘contact tracing’ app is being passed to the police – has triggered a wave of social media posts under the hashtag #ToryLiars.

Here’s the story that triggered it:

It states that there is a legal requirement for contacts of people who’ve had a positive Covid-19 test to self-isolate for 14 days, but fewer than 11 per cent are actually doing so.

Police are being given their identity details in order to chase up enforcement.

Reasons given for breaking self-isolation include believing there was no point isolating from strangers if you cannot properly distance from those in your household; not developing symptoms; or visiting shops or a pharmacy.

Obviously the second excuse is made by idiots; we’ve already been told symptoms may develop over a period of up to 14 days, so failure to see them before the full period is over is no excuse for ending self-isolation.

But the point about not isolating from strangers if you can’t isolate from other members of your household who don’t have to self-isolate under Tory government rules is a good one. I have said before that, if symptoms develop, then the housemates may have spent many days merrily spreading the virus.

And my own knowledge of friends and family who were told to “shield” from the virus by isolating themselves while healthy is enough for me to understand why people have been forced to give up self-isolation to buy food and/or seek medication.

It isn’t a failure of intelligence because it was easy to see these problems coming and while I do believe our government ministers are stupid, I don’t believe they were not warned. I think they chose to ignore those warnings and left people to struggle – and spread the virus.

You see, a partial lockdown is as useless as no lockdown at all, when you’re trying to contain a disease.

So the Tories have created a situation where their own failure to create proper conditions for self-isolation has created a need for police enforcement that should not be there.

The public know this and resent it. Hence the charge that the Tories have lied about the app’s confidentiality.

I know some have pointed out that no information on the app itself is being shared – just registration details – but of course people hand those details over in order to use the app so it is a very flimsy excuse.

The claim that this is a lie has led to further comments on other recent Tory lies. And there have been a lot of them:

Undoubtedly the list is lengthening as I type this.

Look up the #ToryLiars hashtag on Twitter and learn something.

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Why are people with disabilities being refused access to Covid-19 test centres?

Cartoonist Andrzej Krauze’s view of government sickness and disability assessments, from years ago. Now it seems we can apply it to Covid-19 test centres, which are inaccessible to many people with disabilities.

Remember when This Site was publishing articles showing how people with disabilities were being refused benefits because their assessments were in inaccessible places so if they made it to the test, they were seen not to have disabilities, and if they didn’t, then their application was binned because they couldn’t be bothered to attend?

Well, now it seems the government is using the same wheeze at Covid-19 test centres:

Back in the day, Tony Blair (I think) passed a law called the Disability Discrimination Act, in which it became illegal for buildings that were supposed to be publicly-accessible not to have facilities for people with disabilities.

What happened to that? Is it still on the statute book? If so, why the hell isn’t it being enforced?

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Kexit: for the UK to leave the EU, it seems Kent must leave the UK. Spot the hypocrisy?

The UK’s new border: and the Tories can’t say it’s being imposed on us by anybody but them.

It’s all gone horribly wrong for Boris Johnson’s Brexit.

The government that decided to break international law – and threaten the peace in Northern Ireland – by overruling the Brexit plan to put an internal customs border – within the UK – in the Irish Sea…

… is self-imposing an internal border within the UK – where Kent meets Surrey.

That’s one example of Tory hypocrisy. Let’s see how many more we can find.

Here’s one: the new border means the party that said it would rid the UK of unwanted ‘red tape’ is burying itself under a new mountain of the stuff; Michael Gove is desperately trying to recruit a staggering 50,000 “customs agents” to help business prepare for it.

The measures are deemed necessary to prevent the creation of 7,000-long lorry queues and two-day waits to cross the Channel after the full force of Brexit hits us on January 1, 2021.

So:

Police will patrol the Kent border to turn away lorries without an “access permit”.

Officers will use automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras and “other means” to block drivers.

So it seems any trucker without these new travel passports will be arrested in what hauliers say is an attempt to shift blame for the looming disruption onto them (Tory hypocrisy number three).

The social media wits have really gone to town on this one (which is more than permit-less hauliers will be allowed to do) – using the new regulation to ridicule the attitudes of many jingoistic (Brexiteer) Brits:

Singled out for mockery is arch-Brexiteer Nigel Farage:

They point out that the policy move is an insult to Scotland:

Speculation has been rife about the EU’s response:

It is, after all, particularly ironic:

But at least there is an oven-ready excuse for this additional border: Kent already has a Deal.

Source: Brexit: Police to stop lorries without permits entering Kent in new ‘internal border’ | The Independent

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Is this Tory scheme ‘to help disabled people work from home’ actually any good?

The Department for Work and Pensions is offering people with disabilities – who are able to work – financial help so they can do it at home.

This Writer hates to say it about the Tory DWP but it actually seems to be a good idea!

Please let me know if it doesn’t behave in the best interests of the people it is supposed to be helping (I can’t find out myself because I’m not disabled and Mrs Mike – who is – doesn’t work).

The blurb on gov.co.uk – sorry, gov.uk – says the Access to Work scheme is being extended due to the Covid crisis. It says:

“You can get grant funding if you’re disabled and need support to work from home because of Covid-19, which can help pay for special equipment such as a screen reader or video remote interpreting or support worker services.

“This funding can also be fast-tracked if you’re in the clinically extremely vulnerable group.

“If you’re travelling into the office and due to your health condition public transport isn’t a safe option for you at the moment, you can also apply for financial support with things like taxi fares.

“If you are anxious about returning to work and need support, you can also get mental health support through Access to Work with a tailored package of support for up to nine months.”

Apparently “applying for funding is easy” you can do it online at: gov.uk/access-to-work or over the phone on 0800 121 7479. “Following a short assessment, you can start getting support.”

I want to know if that’s accurate. Let me know your experiences.

Source: New help on offer for disabled people working from home during the pandemic – GOV.UK

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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DWP crashes to another court defeat over sickness benefits

The High Court – also known as the Royal Courts of Justice – in London.

The High Court has just ruled that a rule allowing the Department for Work and Pensions to force some benefit claimants to wait – unpaid – for a mandatory reconsideration before they can appeal against refusal is unlawful.

The system previously demanded that, if a claim for income-related Employment and Support Allowance was refused, claimants would have to wait for a “mandatory reconsideration” of their case to take place before they could appeal.

This could take weeks, and has often taken months, in which the claimant – who is claiming because of serious illness, remember – has no income on which to survive.

Mr Justice Swift ruled that the demand that a mandatory reconsideration must take place before a claimant can appeal is a “disproportionate interference with the right of access to court” – in some cases.

This case was brought by law graduate Michael Conner, with crowdfunded aid from the website Benefits and Work – and represents a considerable victory for the claimant, the website, and crowdfunded legal proceedings in general.

Mr Connor had been forced to wait 18 weeks while the DWP carried out a mandatory reconsideration of his ESA decision. During this time he had no right to claim ESA.

If he had been able to lodge an appeal, he would have been paid ESA on a probationary rate, dependent on the provision of medical evidence by his doctor.

The judge said that after his benefit was cancelled on October 18, 2018, Mr Connor applied for a mandatory reconsideration.

But, in an “error” of the kind that benefit claimants have come to expect from the DWP, he said “no action was taken in response… The request for revision was incorrectly entered onto the Secretary of State’s electronic document management system.

“The document was not recognised or recorded as a request for reconsideration, and instead was classified as ‘unstructured whitemail'” and “it was not until 6 March 2019 – 4 months after Mr Connor’s request had been received – that it was identified as a request for revision.”

Mr Connor had managed to claim Income Support and Carer’s Allowance in the meantime, so he decided not to appeal the decision. Instead, he informed the DWP that he intended to challenge the legality of the rule making him unable to appeal until a mandatory reconsideration had happened.

He pointed out that:

  • The rule creates an open-ended deferral of the right to appeal that could leave claimants without income for an unlimited period – as evidenced by his own case.
  • Its effect is anomalous as ESA is payable before a decision is made and while an appeal is taking place, but not while the DWP is going through the mandatory reconsideration process [or, more likely, forgetting about it – in the opinion of This Writer].
  • If an appeal is started, there is no provision for back payment of ESA to cover the period of the revision decision while an appeal is ongoing.
  • So the interference is disproportionate because “it places benefits claimants, such as him, who are vulnerable, in a position of ‘legal and financial limbo, distress and destitution’ for the duration of the revision process that must be pursued before an appeal can be commenced” – and there is “no limit on the time permitted to the Secretary of State to determine an application for revision.”

In his ruling, Mr Justice Swift said: “It is anomalous that the payment pending appeal arrangements for ESA … do not extend to ESA claimants who are required … to request the Secretary of State to revise a decision and await her decision on that request before initiating an appeal.

“At the hearing of this case I gave the Secretary of State the opportunity to … explain why no provision exists to pay ESA to claimants… None of this further information provides the answer.

“My conclusion is that [the regulation in question] is a disproportionate interference with the right of access to court, so far as it applies to claimants to ESA who, once an appeal is initiated, meet the conditions for payment pending appeal.

“The advantage permitted to the Secretary of State by [the] regulation … comes at a cost to ESA claimants. There is no explanation for that.

“There is no evidence to support a conclusion that the objective pursued by [the] regulation … would to any extent be compromised if payments like the payments pending appeal made to ESA claimants who are pursuing appeals to the Tribunal, were made to them while they waited on the Secretary of State’s revision decision.

“In the absence of payment equivalent to payment pending appeal, the application of [the] regulation … to ESA claimants does not strike the required fair balance, and for that reason is an unjustified impediment to the right of access to court guaranteed by ECHR Article 6.”

Benefits and Work has stated: “Sadly, the ruling does not apply to other benefits such as PIP or DLA.

Nonetheless, it is an important victory and it means that ESA claimants, who are often faced with the prospect of many weeks without funds if they wish to appeal, are now in a much better position when challenging a decision.”

It will be interesting to see what will happen now.

The ruling is that the current situation is unlawful but no further remedy has been put in place beyond a statement to that effect.

What will happen to ESA claimants who must go through the mandatory reconsideration process now? Will they be paid while their case is reviewed?

That seems the logical course.

But I fear the DWP may find a way to duck out of it.

Source: Connor, R (On the Application Of) v The Secretary of State for Work And Pensions [2020] EWHC 1999 (Admin) (24 July 2020)

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Coronavirus: ‘Don’t call us’ say DWP as Universal Credit Claim line is overwhelmed

This is what happens when you create a system to stop people claiming benefits – and then need to pay them to millions of people.

The Tory government could just switch to a Universal Basic Income system that is straightforward and cheaper – but for some reason it doesn’t seem to want to do that.

I wonder why not?

Instead – well, read about the shambles for yourself:

From Thursday, a new frontline team will be in place to proactively call customers where additional information is required.

Customers applying for universal credit are being advised to sign-up online, where they can share details such as salary and national insurance information for the DWP to assess.

It said claims will then be reviewed, and where additional details are needed, it will get in touch with you over the phone or via your online portal.

The move, it said, is designed to take some of the worry and frustration out of submitting a claim, while speeding it up by putting an end to long call wait times.

More than 1.2 million people have applied for Universal Credit in the past three weeks, and in the past seven days more than 5.8 million calls have been made to its helpline, equivalent to three times the average per day.

That’s an awful lot of people signing up to wait five weeks before they get any money.

And they’ve overloaded the system.

On April 8, the DWP admitted access to its phone lines had to be “controlled” in order to stop critical services like NHS 111 collapsing.

Now, it is asking people to avoid its phone lines altogether.

That is not the statement of an organisation that wants to help.

It is an organisation that only wants to help itself.

Source: Universal Credit claimants sent urgent message by DWP as millions more sign up – Mirror Online

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With so many others closing, why not hairdressers? Because they haven’t been told to

I was talking to an acquaintance the other day – a person of senior years who fits into several of the coronavirus “at risk” categories.

“Oh yes,” she assured me. “I’m self-isolating.”

Great!

“I was only telling my hairdresser about it at the salon today.”

What?

I mean, what?

Yeah. She was absolutely staying away from contact with any other people who could possibly pass on Covid-19 to her – apart from any other people who happened to be at the hairdresser’s at the same time as her. And she didn’t think there was anything wrong with that.

And here’s the thing:

Even the National Hair & Beauty Federation (NHBF) – that represents hairdressing salons – knows that people who attend such establishments are putting themselves at risk.

Why haven’t they closed?

Well, some have done so voluntarily.

But most have not – because the government hasn’t told them to do it.

See, without an order from Boris Johnson’s administration, hairdressers can’t get access to the financial help that has been put in place for businesses.

That’s why the NHBF has asked for salons to be put on the list of businesses that must close.

Don’t take my word for it. See for yourself:

The Government issued instructions on Friday 20 March about which businesses must close but made no mention of hair salons, barbershops or beauty salons. The NHBF has urgently contacted a number of key government officials and departments (see details below) to ask for all salons and barbershops to be immediately added to the list of businesses that must close.

This is not a decision we have taken lightly and we fully understand how worried everyone in our industry is at the moment. Our priority is to protect our industry, colleagues, business owners, employees and clients from the further spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Some salons and barbershops have already taken the decision to close, and we believe that this is the right decision. Stylists, therapists and barbers are inevitably in close contact with a wide range of clients which means they cannot follow the government’s social distancing guidelines.

My own experience with my acquaintance tells me that the NHBF is right.

It’s vital that the government puts hairdressing salons on the ‘closed’ list – otherwise people like her will blithely put themselves in danger without a second’s thought.

Source: Coronavirus: NHBF update 22 March 2020 – National Hair & Beauty Federation

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Legal aid decision for Shamima Begum allows the Tories to give free rein to their hypocrisy

Hypocrite: Jeremy Hunt.

I can’t say I’m happy that the UK is likely to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money on legal aid for Shamima Begum’s bid to regain her citizenship.

As you know if you read my previous work on this subject, I subscribe to the belief that Ms Begum knew exactly what she was doing when she left the UK to join a terrorist organisation (Islamic State) that wants to end the way of life enjoyed by citizens of this country, and I think her plea to be returned to the UK – at our expense – was motivated only by the fact that IS appeared about to be wiped off the map.

It’s the prevailing belief across the UK but proved controversial in some parts of the Internet, where critics suggested my view was racist and ignored the grooming (wrong word – they meant radicalisation) of innocent people into supporting terrorism.

It seems to me that there’s only one way to find out who’s right – and that is to have all the relevant information aired in a court of law.

So I reluctantly support the provision of legal aid in this single case.

But I object to the Tory hypocrisy about it.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme (April 15), foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt justified the decision to grant legal aid by saying: “We are a country that believes that people with limited means should have access to the resources of the state if they want to challenge the decisions the state has made about them and, for obvious reasons, those decisions are made independent from politicians.”

That’s two falsehoods in one sentence.

The Conservatives certainly do not believe people with limited means should have access to state resources to challenge state decisions.

And they don’t want those decisions to be made independently.

The Conservative Party has cut legal aid to members of the public by 20 per cent – severely restricting access to justice.

The Tories’ Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act of 2012 cut the legal aid budget by £350 million and ended the right to legal representation in large areas of the law on divorce, child custody, clinical negligence, welfare, employment, immigration, housing, debt, benefit and education.

Amnesty International said the cuts had created a “two-tier” system that denied the poorest people access to justice.

Particularly hard-hit have been people with disabilities; the total number of disabled people granted legal aid in welfare cases has plummeted from 29,801 in 2011-12 to just 308 in 2016-17.

And this is exactly as the Tories wanted it.

Back in 2013, I wrote:

“This vindictive government of millionaires intends to make it impossible for the poorest and most vulnerable in society to seek legal redress against cruel and unwarranted decisions that will withdraw from them the money they use to keep themselves a hairs-breadth away from destitution.

“It is a decision to attack the poor for the fun of it.”

So when Jeremy Hunt tells the BBC, in all his hypocrisy, that “we are a country that believes that people with limited means should have access to the resources of the state if they want to challenge the decisions the state has made about them”, then we – the country – know he is excluding his government from that statement.


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How do you remove disabled people’s legitimacy as citizens? Remove their access to politics

Disabled former Labour election candidate Emily Brothers has launched a judicial review against the Conservative government’s decision to freeze the Access to Elected Office fund to create a ‘level playing field’ between able-bodied and non-able-bodied candidates.

Ms Brothers was the 2015 general election Labour candidate for Sutton and Cheam and for the Greater London Assembly in 2016. She serves on the Executive of the Fabian Society, Disability Labour and LGBT Labour.

This Writer has long believed that the Conservatives not only don’t want the non-able-bodied to take part in politics; they want to eliminate people with disabilities from society altogether.

The fact that this fund has been in limbo since 2015 tends to support my claim, wouldn’t you agree?

Here’s what Ms Brothers has to say:

It isn’t our impairments that disable us, but how society fails to include us.

That’s evidentially true in education, employment, transport and so on. Politics is no different from other spheres of life, as the system places barriers that disable us.

That’s why I have commenced judicial review proceedings against the Government.

Working across parties with the More United campaign, we placed this legal challenge to address the Government’s failure to evaluate and restore the Access to Elected Office Fund. The purpose of the £2.6 million Fund was to create a ‘level playing field’ between able-bodied and non-able-bodied candidates. It ran from 2012 to 2015, but was frozen and put under ‘review’.

The scheme provided funding to disabled people like myself, to meet the extra costs incurred by disability. It enabled us to contest selections and elections more fairly. The cost of standing for election is prohibitive for many, but for disabled people standing for election can be significantly higher.

The representation of disabled people in public and political life is woeful. Just five members of parliament openly identify as a disabled person. This falls well short of a representative proportion of the population which would look closer to 120 seats in the House of Commons.

Together with Liberal Democrat claimant, David Buxton, and Green claimant, Simeon Hart, I am calling on the Government to complete and publish the review of the Fund and re-open it without further delay.

Source: The government is removing disabled people’s access to politics by stealth | Left Foot Forward


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Why was this woman forced to CRAWL up stairs to a disability benefit assessment?

Campaigners at disability charity Scope said Ms Quinn’s case highlighted the difficulties disabled people face in trying to attend assessments [Image: Maria Quinn/Facebook].

Isn’t this contrary to the Equality Act 2010?

That Act of Parliament requires ministers of the Crown to, among other things, “have regard to the desirability of reducing socio-economic inequalities…  to prohibit victimisation in certain circumstances; [and] to require the exercise of certain functions to be with regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and other prohibited conduct”.

It is the direct successor of the Disability Discrimination Act and, like that Act, requires service providers to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled people, such as providing extra help or making changes to the way they provide their services, and in relation to the physical features of their premises to overcome physical barriers to access.

I would say that anything requiring a disabled person to crawl into a government building is a “physical barrier to access”, wouldn’t you?

If the Conservative government is requiring people claiming benefits due to disability to carry out tasks which are impossible to them, because of that disability, then it is breaking the law and should be prosecuted accordingly.

Are any lawyers reading? How about it?

Disability campaigners have called on the Government to end “humiliating” benefit assessments after a disabled woman was forced to “crawl” up stairs to attend an appointment.

Maria Quinn, who is partially sighted and walks with the aid of a wheeled frame, described how she was left feeling “mortified and panicked” after finding there was no step-free access for her consultation at a disability benefits centre.

With her solicitor carrying her mobility aid and her sister holding her breathing equipment, Ms Quinn, 32, managed to enter the building on Glasgow’s Cadogan Street by “crawling up the two split-level stairs”.

She said she was refused the portable ramp which can be used to cover the entrance stairs as it was intended for wheelchairs only, and if she had returned to her flat to collect her chair she would have been late and missed the appointment.

“There is no ramp or flat entrance to the disability assessment building…that’s right folks! You read it correctly,” Ms Quinn wrote on Facebook.