Tag Archives: change.org

Joan Ryan should be removed from Twitter for supporting a libellous petition

Collaborators: Joan Ryan MP was recorded meeting then-Israeli embassy officer Shai Masot. He offered her £1 million to procure support for Israel from Labour MPs. Was this tactic successful?

Former Labour – now Change UK – MP Joan Ryan is a zealot, according to the dictionary definition of the term.

She is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of her political ideals – principally her support for the apartheid government of Israel.

She was recorded being offered more than £1 million by an Israeli embassy representative to recruit more support among Labour MPs for the apartheid government of Israel.

She left the Labour Party after she found herself unable to remove Jeremy Corbyn, who supports peace between Israel and Palestine rather than apartheid and genocide, from the leadership of that organisation.

But, like all zealots, she has not given up trying to get him out.

So she has signed the libellous Change.org petition vilifying the MP who has most strongly opposed the victimisation of Jews as an anti-Semite – and she has publicised the fact on Twitter.

If she thought that would encourage others to join her in signing the petition – or sway people into believing her nonsense claim about Mr Corbyn – she was wrong.

You see, Twitter now provides the ability to report other users for publishing targeted harassment. It’s very easy – you just click on the arrow pointing down at the top right of the tweet, click “Report Tweet”, on the next menu you click “It’s abusive or harmful”, and on the next menu click “Includes targeted harassment”.

If enough people do this, Ms Ryan could find her Twitter account suspended or even removed altogether. Here’s hoping, eh?

Many opinion-formers have already done so:

And don’t forget that you can report the petition to Change.org as a policy violation, as pointed out here:

And there’s more:

There’s a lot more, in fact.

And if you add your response – and report – there will be more still. Please do that.

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.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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Rachel Riley thought her support would boost a libellous petition against Jeremy Corbyn. Big mistake!

That well-known self-proclaimed campaigner against racism and inequality, Princess Countdown (also sometimes known as Rachel Riley) has trumpeted her support for a libellous petition condemning Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn as an anti-Semite.

She wrote:

In so doing, she has very clearly libelled Mr Corbyn. He is not an anti-Semite – or indeed any kind of racist – and is certainly not unfit to hold public office. She may feel safe in this act as Mr Corbyn is unlikely to respond. He seems to believe that doing so would lend credibility to the lies, although I’m open to other opinions and evidence.

The petition she is supporting was put on the Change.org website eight months ago by a little-known right-wing fringe group and fake charity calling itself the Campaign Against Antisemitism.

I wrote about it at the time, pointing out that objectors could call for the petition to be removed by clicking on a link marked “Report a policy violation. Unfortunately Change.org, in its wisdom, has only added a line saying, “We have received flags from our users that the facts in this petition may be contested. You should consider researching this issue before signing or sharing.”

One may also report the Campaign Against Antisemitism to the Charity Commission for violating the requirement that charities must be non-political, by clicking this link.

Meanwhile, Ms Riley’s libellous tweet has attracted a considerable number of responses – in opposition. The first response was from Gracie Samuels:

“This is a vile tweet it is also encouraging hate towards an individual and I am reporting you to Twitter and I hope you are sued, you horrible woman.”

She continued: “You are obsessed and this is becoming clearer by the day. Corbyn probably won’t sue you he probably pities you your childish arrogance and ignorance. You have made a libellous tweet imo you have gone too far and everyone should report it. You really are obsessed Rachel.”

Continuing the same theme, Starry Night tweeted: “Hopefully Jeremy sues you for libel. Might be able to put your maths skills to some use and work out how much you owe him in damages.”

From the threat of legal action, Twitter users moved on to discuss Princess Countdown’s personal qualities. Here‘s Dianne, giving her opinion:

“He is neither an antisemite nor unfit to hold office. You however are a particularly toxic individual, who from a position of privilege is intent on haranguing one of the only few politicians who have spent decades dedending human rights for all, not the few.”

That’s reasonable, given the evidence. As is this, from NO TO #MAYHEM: “I fail to understand how you can get away with publishing outright lies against an honest man.. What a disgraceful person you are.”

Tom, here, took a more sympathetic view – although he was scathing in other respects: “Rachel Riley is a pawn for the far right. But don’t hate on her, she genuinely hasn’t a clue and sincerely believes she her cause is justified. She may be good with numbers , but sucks at independent thinking.”

Other Tweople concentrated on the political aspect. Here‘s Christopher Johnston: “The desperation is clearly growing, petitions don’t work, but nice try. Perhaps call out May & the Tories for islamaphobia, 120,000 Austerity deaths, 3.7 mil kids in poverty, and 320,000 homeless, let’s have some balance.”

Janice Barnes tweeted this infographic, which gets to the heart of the matter:

And Mathias responded with a personal opinion on what Ms Riley was trying to do:

Finally, some people resorted to a very simple, emotional response – which may or may not be based on the evidence of Mr Corbyn’s behaviour over the last 30-odd years in Parliament.

I’m referring to people like Pauline, who tweeted, simply, “I like him.”

Sadly, we know from experience that Princess Countdown is unlikely to take this criticism lying down. She is notoriously litigious and may decide to pursue her critics for libel. She doesn’t like it when we make her look bad, it seems.

Fortunately we all have an ironclad defence. The facts are self-evident and we are all entitled to our opinions. Furthermore, it is in the public interest to let as many people as possible know what this public figure supports and endorses.

To Princess Countdown, I can only add the following:

Matt Damon Apples GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY


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Release the Death Statistics on Benefit Cuts to Show Their Full Impact | Maggie Zolobajluk

Please follow the link to the Huffington Post article by Maggie Zolobajluk (with a little assistance from This Writer).

Undoubtedly most – if not all – of you have already signed the petition on Change.org (and if not, why not?) but the tribunal on the DWP’s appeal against providing the benefit-related death statistics is unlikely to take place until late September or early October and it is important to keep this issue in the public eye until then.

Following last week’s budget announcement of £12billion in benefit cuts, how many people will die as a result? Dramatic as it may sound, there is already solid evidence that deaths directly correlate to the harsh family benefits caps like those the government plans to introduce. But that evidence is being hushed up. And you can help it become public by signing the petition I’ve set up on Change.org, which appeals for its release.

I’m asking Iain Duncan Smith to stop blocking the publication of these death statistics from the past four years, which reveal how many people have died within six weeks of their benefits being stopped.

Source: Release the Death Statistics on Benefit Cuts to Show Their Full Impact | Maggie Zolobajluk

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Challenged to defend their record of persecution against the disabled, Tories have nothing to say

Debbie Abrahams in the House of Commons.

Debbie Abrahams in the House of Commons.

How pleasant to hear this said in a Parliamentary debate, with not a single word of denial from the Conservative Government:

“Last week there was an amazing sequence of events. On Monday, the Secretary of State told me that he could not publish … data because they were not kept, and told me to stop scaremongering; on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said that they would be published; and this was swiftly followed by the Government saying that they were appealing against the Information Commissioner’s ruling, stating that publishing these data would lead to ‘probable misinterpretations’ and ‘was too emotive…and wasn’t in the public interest’. What an absolute shambles!”

This was part of the speech by Debbie Abrahams, Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, in a debate on ‘welfare reform and people with disabilities’, called by her to set the scene for any measures against the disabled that George Osborne is considering for his July budget. As the Government prepares to cut £12 billion from the annual social security budget next week, there are real concerns that – in addition to potentially slashing tax credits for the working poor – they will cut further support for working-age people with disabilities.

She was referring, of course, to the government’s increasingly confused response to This Writer’s request for an honest answer to the question, ‘How many people have died while claiming Employment and Support Allowance between November 2011 and May 2014 (the date of my request)?” But wait! She continued:

“I could not disagree more. This is definitely in the public interest. As a former public health academic, I am more than aware of the strict criteria for establishing causality, but there are no grounds for not publishing numbers of actual deaths as well as the Government-proposed standardised mortality ratios, including those who died within six weeks of being found fit for work. Will the Minister now confirm when these data will be published?

Dear reader, it falls to This Writer to report that not one word came back from the Government benches – not even when the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Justin Tomlinson (who?) got onto his hind legs to give the Government’s response to the debate.

You can sign the petition demanding that the Government end its appeal against the order to publish the statistics, and provide the figures to the public, on the Change.org website.

She also asked when the Government will publish redacted information on the circumstances of the deaths of claimants who died while sanctioned, and what changes the DWP instigated in the light of reviews of these deaths – and whether the significant surge in suicide rates for both men and women since 2010— particularly for working-age men—is being analysed by the DWP. No response.

The Government doesn’t have anything to say to the sick, disabled or vulnerable, and even less to say about them.

Ms Abrahams began her speech by pointing out, “It is poignant that this debate falls on the very day that the Independent Living Fund closes. A further £1.2 billion is being cut from support for people with disabilities. Such cuts were a hallmark of the Tory-led coalition, and many are concerned that not only will this increase but the cuts will get worse under this Government.

“I … want to draw attention to the punitive and dehumanising culture that has been part of the delivery of these welfare reforms, which set the tone for the leadership within the Department for Work and Pensions and the Government’s wider tone on social security.”

Here’s a quick precis of the facts: She said that, by 2018, £23.8 billion of support would have been taken from 3.7 million people with disabilities, according to Demos. The measures include:

  • Indexation of social security payments was changed from the higher retail prices index to the lower consumer prices index
  • There was also a 1% cap on the uprating of certain working-age benefits.
  • People on incapacity benefit were reassessed.
  • The time that disabled people in the work-related activity group are able to receive the employment and support allowance was limited.
  • Disabled people in receipt of disability living allowance are being reassessed to determine whether they are eligible for the personal independence payment.
  • Disability benefits are approximately 15% of average earnings. With the recent changes—the 1% uprating and the indexation to the consumer prices index—they will fall even further below those in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Luxembourg, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
  • People with disabilities are twice as likely to live in persistent poverty as non-disabled people: 80% of disability-related poverty is caused by extra costs. This has implications for disabled people’s families – a third of all families living in poverty include one disabled family member.
  • Since the Government’s new sanctions regime, the rate of sanctioning of people on IB and ESA has doubled.

She said part of the Government’s strategy has been the “invidious” spreading of a culture of blame and fear.

“In the 1980s we saw the unions being targeted; today the focus is on the poor and the vulnerable.

“The narrative associated with the so-called welfare reforms has been one of divide and rule, deliberately attempting to vilify people who receive social security as the new undeserving poor.

“The Government have spread a culture of pejorative language, such as “shirkers” and “scroungers”. They have intentionally attempted to demonise social security recipients, including disabled people.

“The innuendo that people with a disability or illness might be faking it or are feckless is, quite frankly, grotesque… Unfortunately, the regular misuse of statistics is another way that the Government are trying to harden the public’s attitude.

“The facts are that, in an ageing population, the largest proportion of social security recipients are pensioners and not, as is often implied, the workshy.”

The whole debate can be found here.

Additional: It has been pointed out to me that Mr Tomlinson stated: “We will be publishing them [sic] the mortality stats—I know the hon. Lady is keen to see them soon; we would all like to see them as soon as possible.” Since he did not define the form those statistics would take, nor did he provide a firm date on which they would be published, it seems clear that what he did say was as near to nothing as makes no odds.

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Join the fight to stop budget cuts to the disabled #voiceoftheignored

OnlineMilitantDisabledMovement

Will you be part of positive action to protect disabled people from further government cuts?

A new petition has been launched to stop the government from cutting the budgets of people with disabilities – and a Facebook and Twitter ‘storm’ at 5pm today (Sunday) is intended to amplify the “voice of the ignored”.

On the petition site at Change.org, Labour councillor Joshua Brandwood, writing for the Online Militant Disabled Movement, explained: “We are about giving a voice to disabled people through the usage of social media.

“Central government have planned to localise the Independent Living Fund (ILF), which leaves many unsure and sceptical about how they are going to live independently.

“Mainstream media claim that this won’t impact ILF claimants. However, after consulting with many disabled individuals, it has definitely become apparent that the impact is very real and something needs to be done.

“This petition aims to stop further budgetary reductions to society’s most vulnerable. We should be focusing on looking after one another.”

He added that signatories’ political views are irrelevant: “We are uniting to fight for our human rights.”

The social media ‘storm’ will begin at 5pm today (Sunday) using the hashtag #voiceoftheignored.

The plight of the disabled and long-term sick has become a hot topic – initially because of This Blog’s Freedom of Information request, forcing the DWP to admit the number of Employment and Support Allowance claimants who have died since the assessment system was changed by Iain Duncan Smith, and more recently because disabled protesters tried to storm the House of Commons on Wednesday to protest against the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in England.

Campaigners fear that the ILF’s loss will result in severely disabled people becoming prisoners in their own homes, unable to live independently or contribute in their communities.

The attempt to break into Prime Minister’s Questions has been described by Disabled People Against Cuts as a bid to deliver a letter to the Speaker, John Bercow.

The letter points out that the ILF closure was decided by the Coalition government, without a democratic vote in Parliament – and means that, from Tuesday (June 30), the UK will be breaching its commitments to meet the basic human rights of disabled people – as proved by the closure of the fund to new applicants since December 2010, which has placed “intolerable strain on relationships and [denied] disabled people the chance to live an ordinary life.”

The letter continues: “Now, as Local Authorities start to reassess individual support packages and inform disabled people what support we will receive after 30th June 2015, we are fearing for our futures. Currently we pay taxes, we work, we study, we raise our families and make many valuable contributions to society in other ways. The cuts in support that are being handed out to individuals will leave us without dignity, sitting in our own faeces for hours at a time dependent on the kindness of friends, family, neighbours and even strangers just to eat, drink and move.

“We urge the honourable Speaker to ensure that it is our elected Parliament that has a say on whether disabled people in the UK have the right to independent living or whether in the sixth richest nation in the country we are denied the same opportunities to live and to contribute to society.”

This is the choice before the UK’s citizens – able-bodied and disabled – today: Do we sit back like cowards, say “It’s nothing to do with me,” and let others be persecuted until, as Pastor Martin Niemoller stated, they come for us and there’s nobody left to speak in our defence?

Or do we show that we do have a backbone and support the people who need help now – thereby ensuring that none of our supposed public servants ever thinks they can go after anybody else in the same way?

The choice is ours.

Once again: The petition may be found – and signed – here.

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Setting the record straight after the Independent’s error-ridden ‘sanctions’ story

The following article was written together with Maggie Zolobajluk, the creator of the Change.org petition in support of my Freedom of Information request on the subject of the ESA deaths.

Maggie thought this particular version was a little too confrontation for her taste and a toned-down version was sent to the organisation that commissioned it from her. I have no idea whether it was published.

I’m publishing this version in response to The Independent‘s garbled article that mistakenly claims the petition is about people who have been sanctioned off-benefit. As I’ll be saying in a letter/comment to that paper, people who died after sanctions may be included in the overall number but, in isolation, they would only tell part of the story.

It would be wrong to let that pass uncorrected as this would allow the DWP to comment on the mistake, rather than the substantive issue.

Here’s the article, with apologies to Maggie. This is all I have to hand, that I can use:

[Picture: Skwawkbox blog]

[Picture: Skwawkbox blog]

Facts are funny things. These simple statements of information are neither good nor bad in themselves, but the fear of them can drive some individuals – and organisations – to extremes.

Take the fact that, between January and November 2011, 10,600 people died while claiming Employment and Support Allowance. It was published by the Department for Work and Pensions, presumably in the belief that it was harmless; people are expected to die while claiming a sickness benefit.
Well, yes and no.

Analysis shows that 1,300 of those deaths were in the Work-Related Activity Group – people expected to be well enough to return to work within a year. Unless they all died by accident (unlikely), they were misdiagnosed. It is possible the pressures of work-focused tasks pushed them to their graves.

Then there are those in the Support Group, for people with serious conditions including – yes – some likely to die. How much more likely is it, when the government randomly reassesses them, throws them off-benefit, forces them to appeal or re-claim, makes them undergo the painful and humiliating Work Capability Assessment medical and then – if they regain their benefit – hits them with notice of another reassessment soon after?

The government says it does not keep details of the causes of ESA claimant deaths, so it would be unreasonable to assume that none of them were suspicious. It follows that it would be reasonable to consider all of them to be suspicious until evidence to the contrary is provided.

For me, this became clear after I learned that Freedom of Information requests to determine the number of deaths after November 2011 had been refused. I submitted a request of my own in June 2013. The DWP rejected it. The reason? I had asked others to submit similar requests, motivated by a determination to ensure the DWP took it seriously. This was defined as “vexatious” and the request was dismissed by an information tribunal.

But the tribunal did comment that it had “considerable sympathy” for my position and “the request did seem, on its face and in context, to be one which might well have resulted in disclosure of the information requested”.

So I submitted another. This time the DWP claimed it was already working to release the information. I had read this excuse in a response to another requester two years ago, so I appealed.

The government also claimed the request would create an undue burden on its time and resources – but this was nixed by the revelation, in an email from the DWP to the Information Commissioner, that “the Department does hold, and could provide within the cost limit (£600), some of the information requested”.

On April 30, I was told I had won my appeal. The Information Commissioner stated that the DWP “has had reasonable time to prepare for publishing such information and that disclosure was not so novel or unusual given the previous requests and disclosures made”.

The DWP’s response? Appeal to a higher authority to quash the decision. This is where Maggie Zolobajluk came in.

Both of us wanted to do something to about it so, learning of the DWP’s appeal against Mike, she started a petition in my support. Before this we had never heard of each other.

There are two very important issues: The impact of these deaths on the families of those affected and those who have assisted them, and the accountability of government departments and implications for future FOI requests.

Many people have stated that loved ones have died after being incorrectly assessed by the DWP. The government uses the unproven “biopsychosocial” theory to judge whether a person is fit – a method developed by the Unum insurance corporation in America specifically to find reasons not to accept that a person is ill.

In a January 2013 Commons debate, politicians from all parties gave accounts of very sick individuals who had been incorrectly assessed and told to return to work. Some of them later died. The government took no action.

We have a government that works very hard to hide the facts.

It seems unlikely the appeal will be heard by the Information Tribunal before October. The DWP wants a ‘paper’ hearing – all information provided in writing, with nobody appearing in person. I believe this would not be in the interests of justice; the DWP must send a representative to face cross-examination.

There is a strong case for overturning the appeal before it gets to a hearing – as an abuse of process. There must be at least a 50/50 chance of success and this seems unlikely, as the reasons for granting my request corresponded with the Information Commissioner’s own rules.

We need these statistics to be released, so that we can have an informed debate on what they really mean.

But if the DWP wins its appeal, it would become very difficult for any FoI request to succeed in the future – if the government wishes to conceal the information.

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How the DWP plans to hoodwink you over benefit deaths

Denied benefit: This is the late Karen Sherlock. Her illnesses included chronic kidney disease, a heart condition, vitamin B12 deficiency, anaemia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, underactive thyroid, asthma, diabetic autonomic neuropathy, gastropaeresis, and diabetic retinopathy. She died on June 8, 2012, of a suspected heart attack, after the Department for Work and Pensions stopped her Employment and Support Allowance.

Denied benefit: This is the late Karen Sherlock. Her illnesses included chronic kidney disease, a heart condition, vitamin B12 deficiency, anaemia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, underactive thyroid, asthma, diabetic autonomic neuropathy, gastropaeresis, and diabetic retinopathy. She died on June 8, 2012, of a suspected heart attack, after the Department for Work and Pensions stopped her Employment and Support Allowance.

 

News stories are proliferating about the increasing clamour for the Department for Work and Pensions to publish ESA death figures, so you are increasingly likely to read a comment similar to – or the same as – this:

“The Department for Work and Pensions insists it is irresponsible to suggest deaths which follow an assessment that claimants are fit to work were caused by the assessment.

“A spokeswoman said: ‘We have been clear that we intended to publish these statistics – but we need to make sure they meet the high standards expected by the UK Statistics Authority before we do so.'”

The above comment, from the Birmingham Mail, is particularly ironic when one considers the fact that the UK Statistics Authority has reprimanded Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith for playing fast and loose with the facts.

Also, of course, nobody is suggesting that the assessment itself causes deaths – although the medical is extremely stressful and may contribute to a worsening of health (Mrs Mike spent three days in agony on the sofa, hardly able to move, after hers). The deaths come after the DWP decision maker marks people ‘fit for work’ when they should be in the Support Group (for those with serious medical issues), or orders people who should be in the support group to do Work-Related Activity when this is beyond their capabilities.

The deaths come after people who fail to meet the requirements of the WRA group are sanctioned off-benefit and cannot afford to support themselves.

The deaths come after people who need to be in the Support Group but have been signed off-benefit, after going through a lengthy and deliberately stressful appeal process to get it back, arrive home to find an envelope on the mat saying they’re to be reassessed and will have to go through the process all over again. That’s how it happens.

Here’s how the DWP intends to fool you this time:

In her appeal to the Information Tribunal, £49,000-a-year Treasury barrister Marie Cayetano wrote: “At the time of Mr Sivier’s request, the DWP was working on a set of statistics on Age Standardised Mortality Rates (‘ASMR’) for publication at a future date which was yet to be determined. That remains the case. The DWP intends to publish those statistics.

“The ASMR statistics will include the categories of information within parts… of Mr Sivier’s request. The published statistical analysis would cover a ten-year period up to February 2014. Mr Sivier’s request was made on 28 May 2014, but it is important to note that, at that time, the DWP only held the data within the scope of his request up to November 2013. The ASMR statistics will therefore cover a longer period than Mr Sivier’s request.”

Age-Standardised mortality rates are the number of deaths, usually expressed per 100,000, that would occur in that area if it had the same age structure as the standard population and the local age-specific rates of the area applied, according to Public Health England.

Ms Cayetano is saying the figures to be published by the DWP would not state the number of deaths which have taken place between November 2011 and May 2014. Instead we would be given a fudged figure showing the number of deaths among ESA claimants when compared with the average number among the population as a whole. That is not what I requested; it is not what anybody wants.

Furthermore, the figures would cover 10 years from February 2004 to February 2014. ESA was not even operating until 2008. Any ESA death figures that are stretched to cover years when that benefit was not even being provided will be distorted.

Finally, it is nonsense to suggest that the ASMR statistics will cover a longer period than my request. If the DWP had figures to November 2013 it should have provided them. This Writer is quite happy to receive the remainder when they become available. As it is now more than a year since the request was made, all the requested statistics should be available now.

So the next time you read a comment from the DWP about the raw figures being misinterpretable, consider how that Department wishes to mislead you when it does finally release its doctored statistics – and ask yourself why ministers first claimed they were putting these – doctored – statistics together in August 2013 and still haven’t published them.

Then visit the petition site on Change.org, sign and say exactly what you think of the evil game they are playing.

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Newcastle MP joins call for DWP to publish death statistics

Thanks are due to Newcastle Labour MP Chi Onwurah, who has supported the petition for the DWP to honour Vox Political‘s Freedom of Information request on ESA deaths.

Mrs Onwurah, who led a Commons debate on the benefits system earlier this year, said: “One of the most powerful and distressing examples in my debate was of a man who had committed suicide.

“If someone dies after being fit to work it doesn’t necessarily mean that being found fit to work had an impact in their death, so I can understand that the Government might fear the figures would be misinterpreted.

“But if the Government has figures then they should share those, and allow people to interpret them fairly.

“This isn’t just a matter of dry statistics. It is about about the health-affecting impact that having been fond fit to work can have on claimants.

“And I know that because I see them in my surgery on a regular basis.

“When bad decisions are made I know they can have a life-destroying impact on vulnerable people. So it makes sense for the Government to share that data.”

In January this year, Mrs Onwurah told MPs that a constituent had committed suicide after being found fit for work.

She said: “My constituent was found hanged in his home by a neighbour. He was well known to Newcastle Welfare Rights, from which he had received considerable support in his dealings with the Department for Work and Pensions.

“He had been in receipt of employment and support allowance, and previously incapacity benefit, and he was engaging well with Newcastle Welfare Rights until November 2013, when he underwent a work capability assessment.”

Source: Newcastle MP demands: Tell us how many died after being found ‘fit for work’ – Chronicle Live

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Petition for DWP to drop appeal against revealing benefit deaths tops 50,000

Mark Wood starved to death four months after a DWP medical assessment found him fit for work. He lived in David Cameron's Witney constituency.

Mark Wood starved to death four months after a DWP medical assessment found him fit for work. He lived in David Cameron’s Witney constituency.

There is a recent addition to Twitter which claims to offer a chance to catch up on relevant information, called “While you were away”, or some such. It seems events have transpired to create a similar effect for This Writer.

Yr Obdt Srvt has been helping Mrs Mike with family business that necessitated a trip to Hereford yesterday. Upon our return, late into the evening, certain developments became clear:

  • A petition on Change.org, launched to support Vox Political‘s demand for the Department for Work and Pensions to publish the number of people who have died while in receipt of incapacity benefits since November 2011, has received nearly 60,000 signatures (at the time of writing); and
  • The Information Commissioner’s Office has sent a notification that any information on the tribunal hearing triggered by the DWP’s appeal against that demand should be requested from the Information Tribunal. This Writer should write to that organisation in order to be “joined as a party to the appeal”.

The Information Tribunal will be contacted by this writer shortly!

The petition had been gathering roughly 1,000 signatures a day since it was launched last week (after a piece on the DWP’s appeal was published in Ros Wynne-Jones’s Real Britain column in the Daily Mirror). This is a very healthy performance in itself, but it has now gone stratospheric after Ros published notification of its existence in this week’s column, and after Change.org decided to promote it heavily. It’s entirely possible that support from one or two celebrities on Twitter might have helped, too…

Maggie Zolobajluk, who started the petition, is a former CAB adviser who has prepared countless presentations re benefits including the changes and their impact of the Coalitions changes to benefit and housing legislation. She now has a blog, Telling it as it is.

She emailed me to say a press officer at the ICO had told her the tribunal hearing has not yet been listed. He said it will probably be a paper hearing and she may be able to submit the petition to the hearing. He estimated that it would be October before the appeal would be heard.

Firstly, the possibility of a paper hearing (in which all submissions are documentary and no evidence is heard from people attending in person) is extremely unwelcome. The DWP requested this in its appeal and This Writer intends to oppose it. We are entitled to an oral hearing, that will provide the opportunity to cross-examine the DWP representative. It is in the interests of justice to have an oral hearing, yet the ICO seems happy to accept one on paper instead.

Secondly, submitting a petition on the day of the hearing seems a little late. Wouldn’t it be better to send it in at a time before the hearing, in order to give the Tribunal a chance to take action?

Readers of this blog may be interested to know that the DWP hired a Treasury barrister, whose salary has been estimated at £49,000 per year, to prepare its appeal. This seems entirely out of proportion, considering it may reject a Freedom of Information request of the cost of responding exceeds £600.

Just how free can government information be, if it is prepared to waste thousands of pounds in preventing its release?

This matter is nowhere near ending yet – and in the meantime the death count lurches ever-higher.

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Petitioners call on DWP to end appeal against publishing benefit death totals

Gesture of defeat: Let's hope public pressure forces Iain Duncan Smith to surrender the death statistics he has been guarding so jealously (not to mention suspiciously).

Gesture of defeat: Let’s hope public pressure forces Iain Duncan Smith to surrender the death statistics he has been guarding so jealously (not to mention suspiciously).

A petition demanding that Iain Duncan Smith withdraw the DWP’s appeal against publishing death statistics relating to disability benefits has been launched, in support of Vox Political‘s efforts to get the information out to the public.

It has been created by Maggie Zolobajluk on the Change.org website, and asks:

“Why does the DWP not want to publish these figures after being told that there is no valid reason why they should not do so?  Mr Ia[I]n Duncan Smith and the DWP are public servants whose salaries are paid for by the taxpayer.  He should publish the figures and stop wasting public money.”

It seems likely that it was created in response to a piece on Ros Wynne Jones’s Real Britain page in the Daily Mirror, in which she reported that the DWP has appealed against the Information Commissioner’s ruling that this blog’s FoI request is reasonable and should receive a full response.

The petition has nothing to do with this blog; Maggie Zolobajluk created it on her own initiative. That being said, This Writer obviously wants it to succeed.

If you support Vox Political‘s demand for the death figures to be published – free of DWP spin – then please visit the Change.org site, sign the petition and share it with your friends, along with a few words explaining why it is important to you.

Let’s make this happen.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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If you have enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!

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Health Warning: Government! is now available
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The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook