Tag Archives: Smith

With all the cocaine washing around Parliament, why AREN’T ministers subject to random drug tests?

The Palace of Westminster, home to both Houses of Parliament. Who knows how many drugs are holding up the elected and unelected representatives inside? Well… we won’t, because Downing Street is refusing to allow random testing.

This is almost poetic, although there’s no justice involved.

Iain Duncan Smith tweeted a link to a Sun story claiming that drug tests should be carried out randomly at people’s places of work, to catch users.

This Writer only discovered he had done so because a twitter friend then added her own spin to the story, thus:

It’s a good point. This Site has covered the prevalence of cocaine washing around Parliamentary… washrooms in the past.

The situation had become so bad that even the Daily Mail had dubbed the Palace of Westminster “corridors of powder”.

And yet what should be the next item to catch my eye on Twitter?

The Independent had picked up on the original story – Tory London Mayoral candidate (and himself a disgrace to politics) Shaun Bailey saying he’d demand random drug tests on all firms with more than 250 employees if elected mayor – and asked the same question as MaiaB, above.

The response from a Downing Street spokesperson does no credit to the Conservative government at all and can only boost fears that they not only consider themselves to be, but have actually put themselves, above the law:

“We expect the highest levels of professionalism from everybody in government. That remains the case, but there are no plans for that.”

What a crock!

If the last six months of Covid-19 cock-ups have demonstrated anything, it’s that there isn’t an ounce of professionalism in Boris Johnson’s rabble. It is, quite simply, the worst excuse for a government the United Kingdom has ever had to suffer. And that’s amid stiff competition!

The latest evasion shows that the Tories can’t even be trusted not to be dosing themselves full of recreational substances when they’re supposed to be – and bear these words in mind – serving the nation.

Because if they weren’t, they’d have no objection to the tests, would they?

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 says there’s no need to review its safeguarding procedures. The late Stephen Smith might disagree

Remember the Department for Work and Pensions’ rejection of a petition demanding an independent review of its safeguarding procedures, after the death of Jodey Whiting?

The department had ignored its own safeguarding procedures no less than five times before Ms Whiting committed suicide in February 2017.

But the DWP said it had no plans for an inquiry into its treatment of claimants – and destroyed a report on other safeguarding failures – in only 18 London job centres – rather than allow it to become public after a Freedom of Information request was submitted for its release.

Only days after this became public knowledge, we learned that Stephen Smith – the man who was reduced to a state similar to concentration camp victims due to starvation caused by deprivation of benefits – had died.

He had succumbed to pneumonia which he had contracted as a result of DWP sanctions.

Now we find that the DWP had ignored the advice in not just one, but two letters from Mr Smith’s doctors, in its determination to find him fit for work in the fact of the evidence that he was not.

This is what one GP wrote in October 2017, after listing the serious health issues suffered by Mr Smith, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cervical spondylosis, osteoarthritis and the fact he had been fitted with a urinary catheter because of ongoing urinary issues:

“These medical conditions adversely impact upon his mobility and upon the activities used to assess eligibility for ESA and PIP. The nature of these chronic problems is such that they will worsen over time and mean that his mobility and functionality is impaired on a daily basis.

“Mr Smith will be in pain on standing and at the commencement of walking. Whilst on the balance of probability, he would be able to walk 20 metres, in my opinion, he could not mobilise a distance of twenty metres repeatedly without needing to stop due to pain and breathlessness.

“It is my opinion that not only could Mr Smith not walk 20 metres without pain or exhaustion, he coult not do it repeatedly or within a reasonable time period.

“In terms of cooking, his very limited respiratory tolerance, and his difficulties with lifting means that in practical term anything other than straightforward microwave cooking is likely to be beyond his physical capabilities.

“The need to monitor and change his catheter requires medical input and it would therefore be reasonable to describe Mr Smith as requiring assistance with toilet needs.

“The identified restrictions affecting Mr Smith’s mobility and daily living activities have been present for more than three months and, given the nature of his medical complaints, are likely to remain beyond the next nine months.”

Despite this expert advice, the DWP’s pen-pushers decided they knew better and found him fit for work, so in January 2018 another GP wrote to them again, as follows:

“Following a recent Work Capability Assessment this patient, in contradiction of my own knowledge of the patient over time, clinical assesment and medical certification, was found fit for work related activity.

“Because of my patient’s health condition there would be a substantial risk to my patient’s health if he were found not to have limited capability for work related activity.”

(Source: Revealed: Warnings about dying Stephen Smith that were cruelly ignored by the DWP – Liverpool Echo)

There was indeed a substantial risk to Mr Smith’s health. It was called the Department for Work and Pensions, and it led to his eventual death.

It’s a clear case of corporate manslaughter but nobody is facing any recriminations over it at all. The DWP says it is an “operational matter” and refuses to comment on it in any way other than that “lessons will be learned”, or some such blather.

Will any lessons be learned? We may find out the answer sooner than the DWP would like – ironically, from a man with almost the same name as the deceased.

Steve Smith had a stroke 11 years ago which left him paralysed from head to toe down the left side of his body.

The life-threatening condition struck while he was on holiday in Turkey. He also had a brain haemorrhage and spent six weeks in hospital abroad where surgeons had to cut away his skull and operate on his brain.

After flying back to England, he was given a year to recuperate by his employers but after his condition failed to improve he lost his job.

After years in receipt of Disability Living Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance – and with no sign of improvement in his condition – it seems the DWP has arbitrarily decided he is fit for work and shut down his ESA claim.

You can read about his ordeal here.

Will he be the next victim of a government department that seems free to condemn people at will, and with impunity? And what can be done to get justice for people like Jodey Whiting and Stephen Smith?

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MPs: Terminate the deadly Atos assessment regime before anyone else dies

Sick and disabled people in the UK can justifiably feel they are lining up for a death sentence as they prepare to take the dreaded Work Capability Assessment – the test devised by the Department of Work and Pensions and run (badly) by the French company Atos.

It leads – directly or indirectly – to an average of 32 deaths every week.

But there may be a ray of hope for them in the fact that the Labour Party has secured a Parliamentary debate on Atos and the WCA, to take place on September 4 – next Tuesday.

It is to be hoped that this will be the debate when Labour leader Ed Miliband finally gets off the fence and puts his weight – and that of his party – fully against the murderous system imposed by Chris Grayling and his master Iain Duncan Smith, both of whom are on record as stating that their version of the system is preferable, and less harsh, than that carried out under the previous Labour government.

The Daily Mail columnist Sonia Poulton has written two open letters to Mr Miliband, calling on him to break cover and declare his opposition to the scheme, and it seems bizarre that he has left people wondering for so long whether he actually supports a scheme that kills society’s most vulnerable.

The signs are hopeful that Mr Miliband will support change. In a letter to Sonia Poulton, he wrote: “Disabled people need support and compassion, and the Labour Party believes in a welfare state that fulfils this principle… I share some of the concerns that have been expressed about the test by you, along with many charities, disability groups and healthcare professionals. These concerns… have shown that the test must be improved. The Government needs to listen. We have also forced a vote in Parliament on the need to reduce the human cost of the wrong decisions that result from the WCA in its current form.”

Let’s remind ourselves why it’s important. There’s a petition online at the moment, calling for the restoration of benefits to an Afghanistan war hero who lost his leg in the line of duty. Sapper Karl Boon lost his left leg in a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade attack in Afghanistan in 2010 and has been stripped of his benefits by the Department for Work and Pensions and ATOS.

In signing the petition, I wrote: “More penny-pinching from the poor by the government that doesn’t have the guts to tax the rich. Here’s a man who has risked his life and lost a limb in the service of his country, and all his country’s leaders can think of doing in return is taking away his financial support – aided by a foreign company. We have witnessed many stories like that of Sapper Karl Boon over the last two years and it seems to me that there is no depth to which the current government will not sink. To those in government, I say: Prove me wrong. Give this man the respect he deserves and pay him what you owe him.” Too harsh? Think on this: At least Karl Boon is currently still alive.

Let’s also remember that we’re experiencing an enormous rise in hate crime against the sick and disabled, fuelled by government propoganda and a right-wing media that’s primed to support it. ITV’s Tonight programme reported last Thursday (August 23) that more than 65,000 hate crimes against the disabled were reported in the last year. You can read my article on this blog site to find some of the stories.

So why has Miliband sat on the fence for so long?

There are two issues to separate out here.

Firstly, there is nothing wrong with the idea of having regular assessments to judge whether a person on one or both of the disability benefits is able to work, or will be likely to be able to do so in the near future. The only people who can be against that are people who want the easy life, living on benefits and off the hard work of the taxpayers.

But the way the Coalition regime has gone about these assessments, through its private contractor Atos, is totally inappropriate and unfit for purpose. We can see that in the many horror stories that have come out over the last few weeks and months.

Why should those who are permanently disabled be forced to go through reassessment every few months? They’re never going to get better! But we have Atos reports saying an amputee will be fit for work as soon as his arm grows back (for crying out loud)!

Why are doctors’ reports ignored? I know there is an argument that doctors may be persuaded to sign people off work when they aren’t actually unfit but, if the assessments were carried out by properly qualified medical professionals, working in accordance with the standards their qualifications have set for them, those would be found out. Instead, we get unqualified assessors working to a tick-box questionnaire, that isn’t remotely adequate to the job and has been acknowledged (as we saw on both Dispatches and Panorama) to be designed to get people off benefit.

There is no realism to the questions in the assessment, no anticipation of the kind of work that a person will be asked to do. There is no acknowledgement of the ways an employer would have to stretch to accommodate people with particular disabilities. Signing somebody as fit for work because they have one finger able to push a button does not make them attractive to an employer and merely sets them up to fail, possibly on a life-threatening scale because, as we know and I make no apologies for repeating, 32 people are dying every week because of the assessment system.

So what’s the alternative?

A better assessment would refer to the notes made by a patient’s GP, but would also include tests by a medical professional to ascertain the current condition of the disability – that it has been correctly reported.

It would then go on to cover the patients’ ability to carry out the sort of work that they might reasonably be likely to see on offer. Would they be able to manage it with a minimum of bother to an employer? That is the only way we will see sensible assessments coming in.

Atos is not fit to carry out these assessments in any case. The company had a bad reputation in France before it ever got a British contract and does not deserve to be making money from the taxpayer by condemning British people to the death that many of them have suffered.

These are the arguments I would wish to hear aired during the Parliamentary debate on the subject.

What would you like to hear?

Ashamed to be British as prejudice and bigotry stalk the streets

“Too many people in this country wallowing in their own self-pity who will find the slightest reason to avoid doing a day’s work. Get them out to work by force and take their money off them. I dont see why I should work so hard and pay so much tax to pay for the lazy and workshy to sit at home.”

There is so much wrong with this statement that I hardly know where to start. It is a genuine comment, made in response to a BBC news article, and describes the writer’s reaction to a report that the National Audit Office has discovered problems with the contract between the Department for Work and Pensions and Atos, the company hired to carry out work capability assessments on people claiming Employment and Support Allowance. The test works on a points-based system – 0 points means you are ‘fit for work’, while 15 or more mean you must receive benefit.

The report sparked a debate on the suitability of Atos to be running the assessment system, the value of the system itself, and also the honesty of claimants – the last group inspiring the headline at the top of this article.

Let’s recap a few facts: Less than 0.4 per cent of disability benefit claims are fraudulent. The Work Capability Assessment is designed to ensure that 87 per cent of disability benefit claimants are pushed onto Jobseekers Allowance within a year of taking the test (as proved by both Channel 4’s Dispatches and the BBC’s own Panorama). That’s 217.5 times as many claimants as are committing fraud and therefore must include some people who are entitled to the benefit. The Work Capability Assessment is a computer-based ‘tick-box’ assessment that is carried out by people who are not medical professionals; the opinion of a claimant’s own GP is, it seems, ignored.

Now let’s look at some of the comments. All emphases are my own:

“The fact is our benefits system is clogged to the hilt with benefit cheats and people avoiding work.” So 0.4 per cent amounts to being “clogged to the hilt”? I don’t think so.

“Unfortunately the “bad back brigade” who have fleeced the system over the many years have wrecked it for the genuine disabled. Very sad.” This person thinks they know exactly what claimants are saying, despite never having experienced an assessment. I doubt they have even spoken to a person who has taken one.

“The whole problem has been created by the vast majority of malingerers who think they are entitled to something for nothing.” Vast majority – less than one-two-hundredth of claimants is a vast majority in this person’s mind.

“If you’re genuine and unfit for work then the test will show it. Please don’t worry. However, you fraudsters out there who sponge off us hard working taxpayers: It’s not on, that you can sponge like you’ve been doing for so long. Go and get a job or create your own way of earning a living. If it wasn’t for you the country wouldn’t be in such a mess, most of our taxes are given to you lazy sods.” Where do I start with this one? Try this: Less than one per cent of tax money is spent on benefit payments for the sick and disabled (according to the Daily Mail).

“As someone who knows the WCA very well I can easily say that 90 per cent of the so-called disabled people claiming are nothing short of fraudsters. Start giving these fraudsters 10 years for their deception and see how many continue to claim. Those who are disabled and genuinely can’t work have nothing to worry about.” We’ll get to comments from those who are disabled and genuinely can’t work, a little later in this article. Remember the claim, though: They have nothing to worry about.

“I can name a dozen who COULD work but are claiming disability! In fact, I’m begining to wonder if I’m the only bloody one working in my postal code!!!! One scrounger is off of work with some wrist injury, but doesn’t stop him [doing] cash-in-hand jobs or being at pub. I thought Dave “Everyone deserves an holiday” Cameron was going to crack down on this? I see no evidence of it whatsoever…” A classic case of someone seeing only what they want to see?

“There are people out there who abuse the system at our expense. We all know of at least one, maybe more, such case…. I’m no medical expert but I know if someone’s on DLA and out driving a taxi or whatever then he/she’s a fraudster. They should be reported.” For the record, DLA (Disability Living Allowance) is an in-work benefit; it is intended to make it easier for disabled people to manage the extra expenses incurred by their disability and make it possible for them to have a job. This person is completely mistaken.

“So many people use ESA as a means to escape having to look for work. I see it every single day.” Oh! This is a good one. For information, only the support group of ESA claimants get the benefit without having to look for work; the work-related activity group receive the benefit for one year only, during which time they are expected to attend interviews and courses intended to make it possible for them to get a suitable job. After the year is up, they are taken of ESA and put on Jobseekers’ Allowance (which is cheaper for the government as it pays less money). Those in the support group aren’t expected to seek work because of the nature of their disability and the high likelihood that their condition is terminal – between January and August 2011, official figures show that 5,500 people in the support group lost their lives.

All right.

To balance these views, below are some comments from people with genuine experience of the system – claimants or those close to them. Before we get to them, let’s remind ourselves that the UK is experiencing a dramatic increase in violent hate crime against the disabled, as I have reported in a previous blog. Since 2009, these crimes have increased by 60 per cent nationwide; in my own police force area they multiplied fourfold between 2010 and 2011.

My belief is that government propoganda, coupled with hysterical reporting of so-called benefit scroungers in the right-wing press, has served to whip up hatred against this tiny section of society – those who are the most vulnerable and the least able to protect themselves. Divide and conquer has always been the Conservative way. They don’t want people to be angry at them, so they create another bogeyman for folk to hate instead. It’s a strategy that worked very well in Germany during the 1930s.

So how do the disabled react to claims that they are mostly fraudulent, lazy scroungers?

“Absolute rubbish. Do you know the medical records of all these people you claim are fraudulent? Or are you just taking a guess. The media sensationalise the 0.5 per cent of claims that are fraudulent, but what about the stories of the other 99.5 per cent? The propaganda is sickening.”

“Genuinely sick and disabled people are judged as fit for work and demonised by the Govt. Little wonder that fools abuse the sick and disabled folk who are ‘officially’ labelled as scroungers.”

Let’s see how Atos treats benefit claimants, shall we?

“Took my neighbour to a tribunal [I think they mean a Work Capability Assessment], member of tribunal helped me almost carry her in. Result…. fit for work! Well done Atos, you’ll get YOUR money.”

“My sister has MS, an auto-immune disease that varies in severity from day to day. On the days she’s mobile enough to attend an assessment, she’s told she’s fit to work, and her benefits get cut. On days she can barely move or see, she simply has her appointment rescheduled to when she is better. It’s a catch-22, and the stress of it has landed her back in hospital on more than one occasion.”

“My daughter-in-law’s father had an Atos medical, he is on morphine for a severe back condition that he has had surgery for, his pain management clinic say he is unemployable, guess what Atos say he is?”

“My brother is severly autistic. He has no speech, can’t read or write, severe learning difficulties, epilepsy, and stays in residential care. My mum got a phonecall demanding a phone interview with my brother to assess his fitness to work. They then sent a completely inappropiate form to fill out (adressed to my brother) asking about his fitness to work. Whole thing was an upsetting disgrace.”

“I have had the same debilitating disease for 29 years, got the full 15 points needed for the benefit at my first medical, then on the second they decided to give me 0. After an 8 month wait a Judge upheld my appeal against the 0 points. And now three months later the government want me to go through the same medical assesment again.”

“Before I’d ever heard of ATOS, I received a phone call from them at home one Friday evening at 8 o’clock. The person demanded that I give them my name, date of birth and National Insurance number. I said I wasn’t prepared to disclose any personal information to someone I didn’t know, whereupon I was told that, unless I did, they would suspend my benefits. I hung up. Shameful, but typical, of them.”

“I was on ESA because I have fibromyalgia, and am often in so much pain, I can hardly walk. I was ‘assessed’ and found to be capable of working. The letter informing me of this decision had been backdated 1 month, making it impossible for me to appeal the decision (within 1 month of the date at the top of the letter). There was no proof I got the letter late, though, so it was no good trying.”

“I have won my case at two tribunals and now I wait for a third. Once I one the first DWP really wanted me hence my third tribunal. Each tribunal takes approx 14months to happen. Life is very difficult during the wait costing me dearly healthwise. I had no income since April 30th this year. Atos always give me 0 points the judge has always given me max.”

The stress caused by the Atos/DWP treatment of claimants means that an average of 32 sick or disabled people are dying every week, while going through the assessment regime or the appeal process after being passed ‘fit for work’.

Now let’s see some genuine accounts of how disabled people are treated on the streets:

“I get abuse nearly every time I go into town because of my disability. It’s not even worth going to the supermarket anymore, I’d rather get somebody else to go for me.”

“Me and my husband have degenerating arthritis and several other medical conditions. I get abused and called ignorant because people don’t look where they are going and expect me to jump out of the way of their trolleys in the supermarket because I walk too slowly.”

“When [X] goes to the supermarket to buy a loaf of bread, he can be subjected to sly comments and in some cases threatening abuse, just because he is youngish and using a walking stick. These same people will go next door to the bank and put on a nice smile for the counter girl. He now goes out when it’s raining when few people are about. I’m ashamed to be British.”

Many have been put off claiming the benefits that the law says they should receive, because of the stigma attached to them – which is, of course, what our Tory-led government wants. The aim of the exercise, as I mentioned above, is to get as many people off benefit as possible. How they live thereafter is of no interest to the government; it just doesn’t want to pay people what they are entitled. And the plan is working. A huge proportion of the population is failing to claim benefits to which it is due. Here’s what some have to say:

“I have had my biggest relapse of a long-term condition in 20 years and have been off sick 5 months. I have not gone on to benefits yet for fear of being penalised as have read the horror stories on many health related blogs.”

“Before I reach retirement age I will not be able to work. I am, frankly, terrified of the world I might live in by then and cannot help feeling that the hope of some is that we die before we reach the wrong side of the balance sheet.”

“It’s a scary time to be a disabled/ill person; if the condition doesn’t kill you the government are trying to do it through stress and uncertainty.”

But most are unbowed, and have vowed to fight to the end:

“I started working when I was 13 carried on until my wife’s accident. I have paid in far more than I will ever get out. I object in the strongest possable terms to being called a scrounger and fraudulent,” wrote one.

And another pointed out: “90 per cent of cases are won at appeal if you take a specialist advisor to your appeal. 40 per cent are won if you go alone. Don’t give up.”

As was once declared next to an airbrushed picture of David Cameron, on hoardings across the country, “We can’t go on like this”. But people won’t vote for the most popular alternative – Labour – unless that party vows to put forward a fair and balanced assessment process for the sick and disabled, ending the sick-minded prejudice against the most vulnerable in society.

I say: As soon as Labour promises this, let’s have an election.

Suicide rate is now the strongest indicator of unemployment

Iain Duncan Smith has been crowing about the private sector after the official unemployment figure dropped from 8.2 to 8 per cent of the workforce.

He reckons we should take our hats off to private sector employers for providing the new work. Well he would, wouldn’t he?

His attitude conforms with the narrative the Tories have been trying to build since 2010, that the private sector would rush in to fill the jobs gap left behind after the Coalition cut the public sector to ribbons – providing decent, gainful employment for the masses.

That story went straight into the circular file when the economy flatlined, right after George Osborne took charge – and resurrecting it now seems a desperate act, especially in the light of the facts.

Firstly, the Olympics have distorted the figures. We don’t know how many employers took on extra hands in advance of the games, so we don’t know how many of those jobs will go again, now that the major event is over. We do know that businesses suffered losses during the games because an expected influx of consumers did not materialise; how will that affect future figures?

Second, the number of people working part-time because they cannot find a full-time job hit a record high of 1.42 million – the most since records began in 1992.

Third, the unemployment rate actually rose in around half of the British regions. This supports the claim that the Olympics distorted the figures, and points to a continuing downward trend.

Finally, if Mr Smith wants a more accurate monitor of unemployment, he should look at the suicide rate – according to a new report by the British Medical Journal.

It found that the suicide rate among men rose by 1.4 per cent for every 10 per cent increase in unemployment.   This means that between 2008-2010, 846 more men ended their life than would normally have been expected; the corresponding number for women was an extra 155 suicides.   On average, male unemployment rose by 25.6 per cent in each of those years, while the male suicide rate rose by 3.6 per cent each year. When male employment rates rose briefly in 2010, the suicide rate dropped slightly.

We already know that an average of 32 people per week are dying as a result of Mr Smith’s brutalities against the disabled; now we know that more than 1,000 have been driven to kill themselves because of the government’s unemployment policy.

Meanwhile, among those who do have jobs, we know that average wages now only last 21 days in the month, meaning that workers have to dip into their savings, ask family for funds, or go to loan sharks for help – increasing the national debt problem and creating a trend that could lead to even more suicides.

I notice Iain Duncan Smith, promoter of the private sector, hasn’t got anything to say about that.

Disability hate crime hits record high

Nobody should be surprised by this.

The Guardian reported today (August 14) that hate crime against disabled people has hit its highest level since records began, totalling 1,942 recorded incidents in 2011, an increase of more than 25 per cent – that means it’s up by more than a quarter – on the total for 2010.

The Crown Prosecution Service managed only 523 convictions for disability hate crime during the same period – so only a little more than a quarter of the perpetrators were punished for their crime; the rest got away with it.

The number of recorded incidents has risen by 60 per cent since records began in 2009.

Just to give you an idea of what this means locally, in my own police area, Dyfed Powys, there were three recorded incidents of disability hate crime in 2009. In 2010 there were seven.

In 2011 there were twenty-seven.

This is what your votes condone.

It’s the logical result of the government’s effort to demonise disabled people and those who claim benefits on their behalf, and I think we know where government behaviour of this kind leads.

Picture the scene: A street in a typical British town, with two men walking down it. We’ll call them Iain and Chris.

Iain: It’s so much better here, now that we don’t have all those disabled people cluttering up the place!

Chris: Absolutely! With the crips gone, we’re not spending all our tax money paying for them. (Taxes haven’t gone down though)

Iain: And so much more peaceful, after we got rid of all the racial minorities.

Chris: Not half! We couldn’t keep them here – they were a threat to our peaceful British way of life.

Iain: And now that we’ve got rid of the trade unionists, we can all get on with our jobs in peace, too!

Chris: Totally! It’s so much better now that our bosses can pay us as little as they like to work in deplorable conditions.

Iain: So where are you going for your holidays this year – somewhere nice?

Chris: Actually, I’m saving up for a trip to the private healthcare specialist instead. I’ve been having trouble with my back ever since the health and safety laws were repealed and-

Iain: Police! Police! Come quick and take this man away! He’s a dangerous radical and probably a socialist! He dared to complain about our glorious New Britain!

A policeman appears. He’s wearing a jacket emblazoned with the letters ‘G4S’.

Do you really want to live in this kind of Britain?

Children targeted in latest government attack on the disabled

Does anybody remember when ‘accountability’ was the buzzword of the times? The public was going to be able to see who was responsible for the decisions affecting us, and would be able to seek recompense from those people when injustice arose.

Did we get it?

Here’s a story that you might have missed in all the Olympic hubbub, that raises the question of accountability again.

On August 2, The Independent reported on a letter that has started appearing on the doormats of parents who claim Disability Living Allowance for their children – the in-work benefit to cover the increased living costs faced by those with disabilities. It seems this document, the BF57B, goes out to every parent or guardian in receipt of DLA when they renew their claim, and the form must be signed before the claim can move forward.

The letter states that the Department for Work and Pensions wishes to review the recipient’s role as a parent. This seems innocent enough, but in fact it is the thin end of a threat to take the child into care, unless the wishes of the writer are followed.

It says the parent must “always act in the best interests of the child”, which is fair enough but exactly what every parent is expected – and hopes – to do, whether the government tells them or not. Then it provides a bullet-point list of what DWP demands this should include. This list includes: “manage and spend any money from Disability Living Allowance in a way that best serves [the child’s] best interests”.

What is this letter saying? That DLA claimants – unless coerced by the heavy hand of Iain Duncan Smith – will spend their cash on cigarettes, alcohol and satellite TV (the suggestions of the Independent columnist), rather than on necessities?

This is an in-work benefit. It is not likely to cover all the costs of looking after a disabled child. It is therefore likely that one or both parents will have a job as well, in order to cover those costs in full. Budgeting that money is their own business, as the people best qualified to care for their own child and manage their own household.

Not according to the DWP, though! Because they have a disabled child, the Department clearly now believes it is entitled to root around every aspect of a family’s life, in search of an excuse to cut off payments.

Beneath the bullet points are the ominous words, “We will review your status as an appointed person if we think that you are not acting in the best interests of the person named above”. In other words, if you do not spend your money exactly as we tell you, then we will remove it – and your child.

The letter might not say it in as many words, but the message is clear: We do not believe you are a fit person to receive money for this child. Our reason for thinking this is the fact that you have claimed this money. We intend to find a reason to take both the child and the money away from you.

The DWP says it is careful about the language it uses, and has re-stated its mantra that the benefits system has “trapped” many people in a “spiral” of welfare dependence.

The latter point is completely irrelevant to parents of disabled children on DLA. I repeat: It is an in-work benefit intended to help cover the extra costs of living with a disability. Depending on their individual conditions, those disabled children may find themselves claiming the benefit – perfectly correctly – throughout their life.

It is absolutely wrong to accuse parents of wrong-doing, simply because they have claimed what the law says they should.

So I want to know who wrote this letter. I want to see that person come out in public and explain precisely what their instructions were, why they chose those particular words, the meaning of the bullet-point list and how the threat to take children into care will be carried out. Then I want to see some good, old-fashioned punishment – not just for the person who wrote the letter but for the people who told them to do it, as well.

And anyway, what will the DWP do with all these disabled kids it wants to take into care?