Tag Archives: problem

Coronavirus test and trace programme hit by further disasters on only its second day

This is going well, isn’t it?

Let me put it another way: it isn’t.

There are serious IT problems which mean contact tracers can’t use the dedicated “test and trace” website.

There isn’t enough work yet, meaning contact tracers are being paid for nothing – although they are being made to wait for it; payments have been unreasonably delayed or were for the wrong amount.

And they don’t even have dedicated team leaders to help them sort out these problems.

NHS workers in the scheme reported being unable to log into the new website, with staff saying they received a message saying a “critical incident” has been reported.

[Also:] “They’ve recruited all these people and there’s not enough work… launching this early was purely to try and dominate the news.

The tracer said she can see there are hundreds of contact tracer shifts available, commenting that, given there are no cases assigned to her, “I could book every day if I was that inclined and get money for sitting painting my nails!”

Another issue that contact tracers have told Sky News about is delayed pay.

One area of progress is that she now has been provided a number to talk to the team leaders but still has not been assigned a specific one for her.

Source: Coronavirus: Test and trace programme ‘hit by more problems’ on day two | UK News | Sky News

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Suspend benefit cap to protect disabled people in coronavirus crisis? It’ll never happen under Tories!

She’ll never support it: Therese Coffey’s record suggests she is not sympathetic to disabled benefit claimants.

It’s a good, solid, practical suggestion: with disabled people most at risk of financial loss during the coronavirus crisis, the government should suspend the penalties it has imposed on them in the last 10 years.

These include the benefit cap and the “two-child policy” for benefits relating to children.

Also suggested by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) is conversion of the Universal Credit advance loan into a non-repayable grant.

In fact, the DBC requests the suspension of all debt repayment deductions from UC.

And the organisation calls on the government to suspend work-related conditionality and associated sanctions for those receiving benefits.

Other proposals include a call to give higher priority to resolving technical and capacity issues in the benefits system, as well as providing clear guidance for making both a digital and non-digital claim for UC. This is practical as the Department for Work and Pensions has been swamped with claims after the coronavirus lockdown began.

And there is absolutely no hope that the government will grant – or even seriously consider – any of these requests.

The Tories have turned the benefit system into a very efficient device with which to persecute people with disabilities.

They seem to see the coronavirus as a handy aid to this cause, with hospitals already being told to ration ventilators to those with a better chance of surviving – which is prejudicial against the disabled.

In fact it would be easy to see the crisis as providing the Tories with an opportunity simply to continue their hate campaign by other means.

When the final figures are summed up, it will be interesting to see what proportion of the dead happen to be disabled.

Source: Coronavirus: Suspend the benefit cap during crisis to protect disabled people, charities ask – Mirror Online

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MS sufferer nails problems with PIP – and delivers petition to put them right

As seen on Twitter: there’s many a truth told in jest.

Ashley Arundale understands the Personal Independence Payment better than most ministers at the DWP, it seems.

Not only has the multiple sclerosis sufferer delivered a letter to Downing Street demanding changes to the administration of PIP, but she has written an article explaining exactly what is wrong with it.

She describes the claim process as an “indignity I never expected”:

Firstly, the form itself is incredibly complex – not ideal for anyone with cognitive issues, experienced by up to 60 per cent of us living with MS. And you don’t really get advice on how to fill it in.

But an even bigger – and very common – worry is the lack of knowledge from assessors. My assessor did not seem to understand MS at all, and gave me no chance to explain it. In fact when I suggested it would be helpful for me to give some information about my condition, she seemed to get pretty annoyed.

The assessor’s total lack of knowledge was alarming.

Worse still is the fact that the assessment report that comes back is more likely to be a work of fiction than a medical record:

It was full of contradictions and inaccurate information. For example it claimed my condition could improve with specialist input – but treatment does not make MS better, it just tries to stop it getting worse.

The report also said I was observed walking with no difficulties and a normal gait. But the assessor never observed me walking, and I definitely don’t have a normal gait!

The DWP refuses to acknowledge fluctuating conditions, in which the symptoms are sometimes worse than normal, either. And what did it mean?

These informal observations were used to determine my financial future.

Anything that was inconvenient to the DWP’s version of me was either ignored or rewritten.

That’s the so-called “Atos [or Maximus] Miracle”, of course – the mythical ability of unqualified assessors to magically cure people of long-term, debilitating and progressive conditions, simply by pretending they don’t exist.

And, of course, such miracle cures can only cause harm in the end – often fatal harm, as we have seen in far too many cases.

At least one in four people with MS have had their PIP reduced or cut altogether – often incorrectly.

Figures from the MS Society revealed 83 per cent of people with MS who appealed their PIP decision after moving from the old benefit, Disability Living Allowance (DLA), won their case at tribunal.

We know this rings true too – and it suggests that people with MS have a better chance than those with other disabilities.

But the problem is getting people to appeal. Ms Arundale didn’t:

I thought about appealing but was afraid of making a fuss and losing the award altogether, which I know has happened to others. Right now I don’t feel supported by the system at all, just scared and exhausted.

The Tories have promised improvements – a minimum reassessment period and the scrapping of unnecessary reviews for pensioners and those with the highest needs. But there have been reports of difficulties.

And talk of the money that’s being spent isn’t encouraging. What’s the point of saying £84 million more is being spent on disability benefits, if it’s not going to the right people?

As Ms Arundale states:

For years the Government has been dragging its heels, with various politicians promising improvements to PIP, and that we will have a benefits process we can trust. But what’s taking them so long? Why are they leaving thousands of people like me struggling to get by?

Because they like it, of course. Because they want fewer disabled people using the public purse to live a decent life.

Because they want fewer disabled people.

I think they call it “culling the stock”.

Source: Living with MS is painful but I’ve never felt indignity like a PIP assessment | inews

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900 deaths a year due to NHS computer problems – caused by unsuitable software?

My understanding is that the software used by the NHS – like that used by many government departments – is bought from large corporations that work on a “one size fits all” basis.

The problem? One size doesn’t fit all.

The simple fact, as it seems to This Writer, is that government – not just the current government, but any government – seems too willing to pay a fortune to huge corporations for off-the-shelf software that doesn’t work.

I mean, who provided the software under criticism in the article quoted below?

A much better policy would be to seek tenders from multiple software writers – including small firms – for bespoke software that actually does the job required of it.

It would be cheaper, it would be better, and above all… it would be safer.

Problems with computers could be blamed for up to 900 deaths in the NHS every year, two academics have claimed.

Computers are embedded across the NHS but many are “bad” and “low quality”, putting lives at risk they say.

From the PC that stores patient records to systems embedded in devices like MRI scanners and dialysis machines, NHS IT is “unnecessarily buggy” and “susceptible to cyber-attack”, according to Harold Thimbleby, professor of computer science at Swansea University.

Source: NHS computer problems could be to blame for ‘up to 900 deaths a year’ – Mirror Online


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After Carillion – Interserve. Will it go under – and if it does, who’s next?

It seems Interserve is about to go the same way as Carillion.

If it does, the Conservative government will force the public to pay the costs again, even though they’re the ones who stupidly employed greedy private contractors who put our money in their bank accounts rather than investing it in the public services they are supposed to be providing (at least, that’s the Carillion model).

I hope that Interserve doesn’t go under, but it occurs to me that any private firm with a contract to provide public services will be in breach of that contract if it ends up in receivership due to poor financial management.

So it should be the government’s responsibility to get our money back from these people, rather than charging the public.

It might be easy to force the poor to cough up for the mistakes of the rich, but it isn’t justice.

Let’s have some justice for a change.

It appears the Tory Government could once again be stretching its pan-palms out to catch the overspill from the potential collapse of another favoured private contractor, Interserve.

Interserve’s debt almost doubled from £274m in 2016 to £513m at the end of 2017. An underestimation of the costs involved in a public-private partnership contract to provide waste-to-energy services, which saw the corporation raise its provision on one such project in Glasgow from £70m to £195m, has badly affected it.

And in further deeply worrying news, the corporation’s share price has plummeted from 717p in 2014 to just 63p in December, leading to serious discussions with its lenders over the firm’s remaining financial options.

Although the corporation issued profit warnings in September and October 2017, it has announced that it reportedly expects that its 2017 performance was in line with expectations. This, along with the partial recovery in its share price might be due to the fact that the corporation’s new chief executive announced cost cutting measures: £15m in 2018 to £50m by 2020.

With the corporation employing 80,000 people worldwide – 25,000 in the UK – and when it is responsible for public contracts including cleaning, healthcare, security, probation and construction, one wonders what cost-cutting measures will actually involve and how these might impact the provision of essential public services.

Source: Another major government contractor on the brink after 90% share price collapse and debt doubling | Evolve Politics


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DWP hounded diabetic, mentally ill mother to her death after ‘fit for work’ verdict

150920Urbacz pic copy

Your caring government will say there is no evidence to connect its policies with the deaths of benefit claimants. Does anybody – at all – believe that any more?

This was posted on Facebook today.

Peter Urbacz

My mother Ruby Urbacz age 59 was found dead at her home on the 6th September as a result of a heart attack. She had been admitted to hospital a 01/08/15 for chest pains where they found she had had three minor heart attacks. Even though my mother had poor mobility , type 2 diabetes, very basic numeracy and literacy skills and mental health problems including depression, she was deemed “fit for work” by the DWP. She was put on JSA and hounded to show evidence of looking for a job she struggled to write a shopping list and thus constantly worried about money and if her benefits would be stopped.

Her benefits were stopped without without any investigation as she missed her jsa appointment whilst in hospital, after her discharge she had received no money for five consecutive weeks of the £50 per week she would have normally received she was also paying £20 per week in bedroom tax. On only £30 per week She could not afford to feed herself properly as bills were her main priority, so was living off food bought from poundland which obviously worsened her diabetes.
She was getting carer visits from the red cross.

After her discharge from hospital. On the the 4th September the carers notes say “Ruby is worried about money, still waiting for benefits to be sorted.” She died less than 48hours later.

I’m writing this not because I want sympathy but to make you aware that Iain Duncan Smith’s policies are directly contributing to the deaths of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Please do not comment with sympathetic messages as this will not change anything, instead share this post and make as many people aware of the contemptuous nature of our self serving government who punish the poor and give to the rich.
Thank you for sharing.

Source: His diabetic mother was found dead in her home after being sanctioned for being in hospital with heart problems. | Benefit tales

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People with mental health problems ARE vulnerable and the DWP has lied AGAIN

zDWP-Vulnerable

A claim by the Department for Work and Pensions that jobseekers with mental health problems are not classed as vulnerable and may be sanctioned with impunity is false, documentary evidence has shown.

Welfare Weekly revealed last week that JSA claimants with even the most serious mental health illnesses are not considered vulnerable by DWP. This has a knock-on effect when their Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) is reduced or stopped.

In that circumstance, everyone can apply for a hardship payment totallying up to 60 per cent of their JSA, to help cover the cost of food and bills while they have no other means of support.

Those classed as ‘vulnerable’ can normally claim this vital support immediately, but others may have to wait at least two weeks, and then go through what could be a lengthy application process.

In the case of claimants with mental health problems, that two-week wait could be extremely dangerous.

According to the article: “DWP guidance on hardship payments states: ‘Requests for hardship payments may be made by people who say they have a mental condition. A person will only be a member of a vulnerable group if the condition causes limitation in functional capacity because of a physical impairment.’

The guidance goes on to clarify that mental health problems without physical impairment include: “Affective disorder, Agoraphobia, Anorexia nervosa, Anxiety, Bipolar Affective disorder, Bulimia nervosa, Depression, Dissociative disorders, Nervous Debility, Neurasthenia, Neurosis, Obsessive-compulsive disorder, Panic attacks, Paranoia, Phobias, Phobic anxiety, Psychoneurosis, Psychosis, and Schizophrenia.”

Oh, really?

Vox Political has received information showing that both the Department of Health and the Home Office disagree with this definition – and the DWP has in fact made itself vulnerable to accusations that its own guidance is encouraging decision makers to abuse vulnerable adults.

The Department of Health/Home Office paper No secrets: Guidance on developing and implementing multi-agency policies and procedures to protect vulnerable adults from abuse adopts and confirms a broad definition of a “vulnerable adult” from a 1997 consultation paper entitled ‘Who Decides?’, that had previously been issued by the Lord Chancellor’s Department.

It defines a ‘vulnerable adult’ as a person “who is or may be in need of community care services* by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness; and who is or may be unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation” [bolding mine].

The paper adopts as a “starting point” for its definition of abuse, that it is “a violation of an individual’s human and civil rights by any other person or persons”.

“Any other person or persons” includes officials working for the Department for Work and Pensions.

It seems the DWP has a huge amount of explaining to do.

Please publicise this widely and pass it on to anybody who is vulnerable due to mental health issues, along with anybody dealing with such people in a professional context (including carers). Everybody needs to know about this.

Of course, anyone with serious mental health problems should be receiving Employment and Support Allowance rather than JSA, but of course the work capability assessment process used by the DWP is hopelessly inadequate at identifying people who need the alternative benefit – it was designed to be that way.

Anyone affected by the DWP’s discrimination against the vulnerable should also consider campaigning against the work capability assessment.

*For the purposes of this guidance ‘community care services’ will be taken to include all care services provided in any setting or context.

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Coalition government condemned over sanctions regime that tortures children

A poster against benefits sanctions in Salford.

Around 100,000 children were affected by benefit sanctions between the beginning of April 2013 and the end of March 2014, according to a new report.

In the same period, nearly seven million weeks’ worth of sanctions were handed out to benefit claimants.

The data, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, will feature in this evening’s episode of Channel 4’s Dispatches, entitled Britain’s Benefits Crackdown.

The report – Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions – is published today by the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Church Action on Poverty, the Church in Wales, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church. It contains new data on the severity and length of sanctions under ‘welfare reform’, and on how sanctions affect vulnerable groups such as children and those with mental health problems.

It features the stories of people like James [not his real name] who have had their benefits sanctioned: “During the first three weeks of my sanction I continued to look for work as I was required to.

“By the fourth week, however, I was exhausted, unwell and no longer had it in me. I was not eating as I had no food and was losing a lot of weight. I told the Jobcentre I was unwell through not eating, but was sanctioned for another three months for not looking for work properly,” he added.

According to The Void, Job Centres are being awarded special 'sheriff stars' for meeting sanction targets (that's right - the sanction targets that the DWP keeps insisting don't exist, even after being presented with the proof). Link: http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/sandra-gives-the-game-away-jobcentres-given-sheriffs-stars-for-hitting-benefit-sanction-targets/

According to The Void, Job Centres are being awarded special ‘sheriff stars’ for meeting sanction targets (that’s right – the sanction targets that the DWP keeps insisting don’t exist, even after being presented with the proof). Link: http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/sandra-gives-the-game-away-jobcentres-given-sheriffs-stars-for-hitting-benefit-sanction-targets/

“Those who already have the most difficult lives are those most likely to be sanctioned,” said Paul Morrison, public issues policy adviser for the Methodist Church and one of the authors of the report. “Sanctions impact disproportionately on young people, care leavers, homeless people, single parents, the mentally ill and those with long term illness. This system causes problems for the very people that most need help.

“But sanctions don’t just have a financial impact. The people we’ve spoken to have told us of the shame, demoralisation and loss of self-worth caused by this system. As Christians we believe that everyone is loved, valued and made in the image of God, and we have a responsibility to challenge any structure or system that undermines that dignity.”

The Churches are calling for a full and independent review of the regime and for urgent reform of the hardship payments system to avoid the deliberate imposition of hunger.

This is worth highlighting – these churches consider the government to be deliberately forcing hunger on people. Doesn’t that run against Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as enshrined in the UK’s Human Rights Act? Human rights campaigning organisation Liberty says this is the case, with this web page quoting a case study that includes “food and drink deprivation”.

In the meantime, they are urging the Government to suspend all sanctions against families with children and those suffering from mental health problems. Most importantly, they say, there needs to be a change of culture, from one of enforcement and punishment to one of assistance and support.

“If you commit a crime, no criminal court in the UK is allowed to make you go hungry as a punishment,” added Niall Cooper, Director of Church Action on Poverty. “But if you’re late for an appointment at the Jobcentre, they can remove all your income and leave you unable to feed yourself or your family for weeks at a time.

Most people in this country would be shocked if they knew that far from providing a safety net, the benefit sanctions policy is currently making thousands of people destitute. This policy must be reviewed urgently.”

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said: “The findings of this report are disturbing. It exposes a system that is harsh in the extreme, penalising the most vulnerable of claimants by the withdrawal of benefits for weeks at a time. Most worryingly, it appears from DWP guidance, quoted in the report, that deprivation and hunger are knowingly being used as a punishment for quite trivial breaches of benefit conditions. Employers would not be allowed to stop someone’s wages for a month the first time they were 10 minutes late for an appointment, but this is the kind of sanction that is being imposed on some of the most vulnerable people in our society, including those with mental and physical health problems.

Here is the DWP’s own guidance to Job Centre officials on the subject. Judge for yourself:

150121dmg-sanctions

The Archbishop continued: “We are concerned that the problem may be even worse in Wales, recognising the higher levels of poverty in this country. No Welsh data, however, is included in the report because despite submitting a Freedom of Information request to the DWP three months ago, we are still waiting for a reply. There is supposed to be a 20-day turnaround period for Freedom of Information requests. We are pursuing this.”

It is clear that the DWP is in breach of the Human Rights Act and is subjecting benefit claimants to torture as punishment for late attendance at appointments.

This report by the churches is to be welcomed. Now, what can they do to punish the government for torturing its own citizens?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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NHS warns against ‘loneliness and isolation’ at Christmas

despair

Despair: You don’t have to be elderly or infirm to put extra strain on accident and emergency departments this Christmas. In ‘suicide season’, all you need is depression.

Perhaps NHS bosses have been reading Vox Political because this site put out a similar warning almost three weeks ago.

NHS leaders are urging people to look in on elderly friends and neighbours over the Christmas period to ease pressures on hospital A&E departments, according to the BBC.

They’re saying loneliness and isolation can increase the risk of emergency hospital admissions at a time when accident and emergency departments are already facing their highest-ever demands.

In contrast to the Vox Political message, though, they’re saying people are more likely to report health problems in good time if they have someone to tell.

This blog was warning against the possibility that disabled or depressed people – no matter what their age or physical condition – might decide to take their own life in response to constant pressure from the government.

At a time of year that many consider to be ‘suicide season’, this seems a more pressing concern.

The intention of the NHS announcement is good, though.

It’s just a shame that they’re obscuring the facts that make it necessary.

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Tory Democrats withdraw Bedroom Tax support – too little, too late?

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According to The Guardian, the Liberal Democrat president Tim Farron is set to withdraw his party’s support for the Bedroom Tax today (Wednesday), saying it has caused “huge social problems”.

It is too little, too late from the Party that Likes to Change its Mind – and one must question the timing. The newspaper states that “the Liberal Democrat conference agreed to review the bedroom tax” in September last year, but this is inaccurate; the conference passed a motion that official Liberal Democrat policy must be condemnation of the Bedroom Tax.

According to the newspaper: “In a speech that will distance the Lib Dems from the controversial tax, Farron condemns what he describes as attacks on the poorer members of society. ‘The onslaught of divisive rhetoric that demonises the poor can never help us to create a fairer society,’ he will tell the Centre for Social Justice. ‘The bedroom tax causes huge social problems and distorts the market – we as a party cannot support this.'”

But the Tax has already been in place for a year and the damage has been immense. Hardly a day goes by without a new report of victimisation. Why didn’t Farron make his move sooner?

Could it be more likely that, with elections on the way, it now seems like a good idea to get on the public’s side?

Back in the autumn, Vox Political wrote: “The tax was really brought in for several reasons: It is partly a reaction against the increase in the Housing Benefit bill to accommodate people with jobs whose wages are below their cost of living – this is due to greed on the part of employers; it is partly intended to clear housing – not for people on any waiting list but as a form of social cleansing, getting the riff-raff out of attractive parts of our towns and cities; and it is also another attempt to spite people on sickness, incapacity or disability benefits, who must either face the extra cost and inconvenience of removing special adaptations to their houses and reinstalling them elsewhere if they are able to move, or must lose the company of carers who use spare bedrooms when they have to stay over, or must pay the tax and live without food or heat, thereby risking their health.”

Nothing has changed since then.

Let’s hope the voters see this pathetic display for what it is.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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