Tag Archives: Sonia Poulton

First Mail/Miliband, now Mail/Mehdi – don’t they know two wrongs won’t make them right?

131004mailmehdiIt was a virtuoso performance, and one that earned Mehdi Hasan congratulations from Vox Political, just as soon as I could get to a keyboard.

For those who missed it, the panel on BBC Question Time was discussing the Daily Mail‘s veiled attack on Ed Miliband, which cast suspicion on the Labour leader’s motives by questioning those of his late father. It’s about the lowest kind of attack a newspaper could possibly launch – the kind that one might have expected from the News of the World in its latter days.

The piece in question was headlined The man who hated Britain and referred to Ralph Miliband’s “evil legacy”.

Mehdi Hasan, political editor of the Huffington Post‘s UK edition, tussled with Quentin Letts, a political sketch-writer for the Mail – winning the argument (and thunderous applause) with the following:

“Let me ask you a question,” he said. “When you talk about ‘Who hates Britain’ or ‘Who has an evil legacy’, who do you think has an evil legacy? A man who sucked up to the Nazis, who made friends with Joseph Goebbels and praised Hitler in the run-up to World War II – the owner and founder of the Daily Mail, Lord Rothermere – or a man who served in the Royal Navy, risked his life for his adopted homeland – Ralph Miliband. Who do you think hated Britain more?

“And this isn’t just about Ralph Miliband actually, because this has actually opened up a whole debate about the Daily Mail – if you want to talk about who hates Britain.

“This is a paper that, in recent years, said that there was nothing natural about the death of the gay pop star Stephen Gately, who said that the French people should vote for Marine Le Pen and the National Front, who attacked Danny Boyle for having a mixed race couple in his Olympics opening ceremony, who called Mo Farah “a plastic Brit”.

“So let’s have the debate about ‘Who hates Britain more’, because it isn’t a dead Jewish refugee from Belgium who served in the Royal Navy, it’s the immigrant-bashing, woman-hating, Muslim-smearing, NHS-undermining, gay-baiting Daily Mail.”

It did my heart a lot of good, typing that up – not just because of the Mail-bashing at its centre but because it was a speech that brings a few other groups together. Here was a Muslim praising the character of a Jew (for all those out there who think that adherents of Islam have nothing but hate to offer the rest of the world). He was also speaking up for homosexuals, mixed race couples, immigrants, women, the health service and anyone who opposes political extremism – especially of the right-wing variety.

Apart from the very last group, none of these include yr obdt srvt in their number, but I don’t think I’m alone in believing that anyone who agrees it is right to fight prejudice would support Mehdi’s opinion.

It seems the powers-that-be at the newspaper in question were listening carefully, and were keen to enter the next stage of the debate about the Daily Mail – by demonstrating just how much further they were prepared to debase themselves, just to smear the reputation of anybody who dared to stand up to them.

It seems clear that somebody in a high-ranking position at the Daily Mail went to their files and dug out a letter Mehdi had written in 2010, applying to become a writer for the newspaper. That letter then mysteriously made its way to those in charge of the Guido Fawkes blog, where it was published in full. It seems the intention was to prove that Mehdi was a hypocrite – how could this man apply for work at the Mail at one point, and then attack it so viciously only a few short years later?

Silly, silly mistake.

It seems that they didn’t read the letter very well at all.

“I am on the left of the political spectrum, and disagree with the Mail’s editorial line on a range of issues,” Mehdi2010 wrote.

“I could be a fresh and passionate, not to mention polemical and contrarian, voice on the comment and feature pages.”

In case the editors and proprietors of the Daily Mail are reading this: You seem to have mislaid your lexicons. A polemic is a passionate argument, against an established viewpoint (such as, perhaps, that put forward by yourselves) – and a contrarian is a person who always takes an opposing side.

Mehdi’s application letter was saying that he did not agree with the Daily Mail‘s opinions but he admired the forthright way it stood behind them and believed the paper would be strengthened by contributions from a writer with a different point of view to put forward.

This practice is not alien to the Daily Mail. One of the very earliest Vox Political articles praised the Mail for printing a piece by a columnist called Sonia Poulton, attacking the Coalition government’s treatment of the disabled in direct opposition to the paper’s established skivers/scroungers/shirkers rhetoric.

So it seems that, by ensuring that all journalists working in the UK now know that their confidential correspondence is likely to become public property the instant they upset the Mail‘s proprietors, by overreacting to fair, balanced and reasonable criticism of an extremely unreasonable article published in that newspaper, and by doing all this in defence of a piece intended to undermine support for one of Britain’s largest political parties – in line with its support for the most right-wing government in recent UK history, the Daily Mail has managed to destroy its own credibility (such as it was), render itself a no-go area for reputable journalists, and tarnish its readership by guilt-through-association.

Meanwhile, it has already boosted public support for Labour and the leader it hoped to harm and, if there is any justice, the current attack on Mehdi Hasan should bolster his career considerably as well.

That’s what happens when people who think a little too much of themselves overreact to criticism.

Daily Mail? It might as well be called the Daily Flail.

Nobody’s fooled – but for Tories, the child abuse cover-up may still succeed

The text states: “Don’t be an accomplice. Denounce child abuse.” It doesn’t say “… unless you think it’s being done by a Conservative”.

The British public are not as stupid as some of our so-called ‘leaders’ would like to think.

Despite the best efforts of people like David Mellor, the editors and writers at the Mail on Sunday, and I’ll even include David Cameron (because I find it suspicious how quickly attempts were made to discredit the allegations after his This Morning interview), it seems most people have rejected their claims that child abuse victim Steve Messham is a lone crank.

We believe him. Somebody sexually abused him, and he had reason to believe it was a particular person with Conservative connections.

But the attempt to cover up his case may still succeed, because child abuse is now toxic to the BBC, and other reporters will hesitate to report it for fear they’ll get the same treatment as the Corporation.

Possible abusers from other walks of life and other political parties are still fair game, I notice, leading to the possibility that followers of the news will get an unbalanced view that the other parties are full of abusers and the Conservatives are not. That, I think, is dangerous, especially when it comes to elections.

There is no doubt that the BBC has been seriously harmed by the Newsnight child abuse story – even though it never named any suspects and Mr Messham’s claim that a person with Conservative connections was involved may yet prove accurate. But the most harmful aspect of this is that attention has been diverted away from an investigation into child abuse. And we all know it.

On Twitter, ‘Mrs VB’ pointed out that it was “utterly depressing to see the BBC headlines all about the bloody BBC rather than the widescale abuse of children in the care system.”

Columnist Owen Jones agreed: “Newsnight screwed up, but children who were raped have been forgotten. It is a disgrace.”

It IS a disgrace. But not one that has gone unnoticed. The ‘Comment’ column attached to the Mail on Sunday‘s smear job against Mr Messham showed clearly that the public are not going to put up with this nonsense.

‘Loraine’ wrote: “If I was asked to talk about tiny details of a long time ago, my memory would not be so accurate either. If there was only one victim claiming all kinds of things, then so be it. BUT there isn’t, IS THERE!!! A deeply horrible thing happened to this man when he was a vulnerable child; I’m not at all suprised if there may be residual issues. And your attempt to darken his character by claiming criminal allegations against him, [of] which by the way he was acquitted, as mentioned in this article, beggars belief.”

‘Belinda’ added: “No wonder abuse and rape victims dont come forward – they are all terrified this is what will happen to them; they will be called liars. You should be ashamed, Daily Mail; you are contributing to helping his abusers avoid justice.”

‘Null’ commented: “Stephen Messham has NOTHING to apologise for; it is truly shocking the way this poor man is being vilified and yet again unable to defend himself. He never mentioned Lord McAlpine. Newsnight never mentioned Lord McAlpine. This is a predictable cover up.”

And someone calling themselves ‘p2244a’ summed the situation up ver well: “Journalists need to stop playing with this person’s mind. Heartless cowards who will not listen to anyone who was abused because it is too ‘dirty’ to talk about.

“Mistaken identity of the photo caused the problem when the person, holding the photo for Mr Messham to see, wrongly named the man! Mr Messham thought the person who abused him was DEAD!”

This is exactly right, as the following transcript from the Waterhouse Tribunal (at which Mr Messham had previously given evidence on his abuse and abusers) reveals (courtesy of http://blog.albionalliance.org.uk/2012/11/how-the-daily-mail-set-up-messham-mi5-implicated/):

Gerard Elias QC: “Does the name McAlpine mean anything to you.”

Steven Messham: “Yes, sir.”

Elias: “In what context?”

Messham: “I was also abused by him sexually.”

Sir Ronald Waterhouse: “Is the person you referred to alive or dead?”

Messham: “I believe he is dead.”

This article also suggests that the ‘David Rose’ who co-wrote the Mail on Sunday smear piece is a former MI5 agent. The plot thickens…

It adds: “The Waterhouse report contains Steven Messham’s statement to the police. In it, Steven testified that his abuser ‘had several cars and a chauffeur.’

“The abusers would wait for Steven Messham at the bottom of a lane near Bryn Estyn children’s home when Steven had a late pass from the home. Messham was then abused in the car in a lay-by, and at the Crest Hotel in Wrexham.

“Local Welsh councillor Keith Gregory has testified that boys from Bryn Estyn would be taken to the homes of two McAlpine family members in the area – Gerwyn Hall and Marchwiel Hall, both a few miles from Wrexham town centre. Gerwyn Hall was occupied by Jimmie McAlpine, who died in 1991. Marchwiel Hall was the home of Jimmie’s sister.

“Jimmie McAlpine’s ID fits to the letter, with his chauffeurs, his massive car collection, the house where he lived, the hotel he frequented, and the golf club membership he shared at the time with the two leaders at Bryn Estyn, both of whom went to jail on multiple charges of buggery.”

So there you are. It is possible that Mr Messham was abused by a now-deceased member of the McAlpine family. I feel comfortable in suggesting this as it is impossible to libel the dead (note the current attack on Cyril Smith).

So why have we been told that he is a crank? That his allegations are the false ramblings of an unhinged mind? That (by implication) there are no paedophiles among the Conservatives and that the party does not need to be investigated?

Sonia Poulton, writing in the Express, tells us she has compiled a list of 132 “utterly shameless” Establishment child abusers, including MPs, lords and local councillors, and that “a similar list” exists for police officers.

“I don’t believe these lists are complete,” she writes. “This is not conjecture or media gossip but people, primarily men, who have been prosecuted for child sex offences throughout the UK.

“Many of these abusers still represent constituents and are ‘serving the public’. At the very least we should know who they are, where they are and if their public decisions are influenced by the greater good or their own twisted perversions.”

Meanwhile, attempts are being made to tranquillise us by making us think that child abuse investigations are still taking place and getting results – so we hear that a former primary school headmaster has been jailed for 15 years after he was convicted of raping and indecently assaulting an under-age girl. Malcolm Ford, 66, committed the offences more than 20 years ago, Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court heard.

Fair enough, but he was not a politician.

And there have been allegations against the late Liberal MP, Cyril Smith. Like Jimmy Savile (and the member of the McAlpine family that Mr Messham accused), he is dead, so it is safe to make the claim publicly.

Fair enough, but he was not a Conservative.

The situation with Mr Messham reminds me of one I underwent with the police a few years ago. I made an allegation and backed it up by quoting the relevant section of the relevant law. The response I got back quoted a completely different section of the same legislation in order to reject what I was saying. Despite my protestations, they stuck to their (erroneous) guns and I was eventually told I would need to seek a judicial review if I wanted to take it any further. I don’t have any money, so that was the end of that.

Here we have a man who made an allegation against another man (now dead) – but opportunists have twisted it to make it seem he was referring to a living man who is (as far as we know) innocent, in order to discredit the claim and the man who made it. And they refuse to countenance any argument other than their own.

The attack on the BBC was just a side-effect which they will, no doubt, believe was very lucky. Look at how badly people like Jeremy Hunt wanted to strengthen Sky – and Rupert Murdoch’s bid to own it – and weaken the Corporation in the past.

Far more serious is the attack on the credibility of anybody making claims that they suffered sex attacks as a child, especially if their claim implicates members of – you guessed it – the Conservative Party.

New e-petition gives you another chance to challenge murderous disability benefit cuts

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6-iTZR8CoI&feature=player_embedded]Campaigners for an end to the unfair cuts that have led to the deaths of 73 disabled people every week have launched a new petition, calling for the government to pause and review this deadly regime.

It comes days after an earlier attempt, known as “Pat’s Petition” failed due to a lack of support by the mainstream media. Even though it was starved of publicity, the petition gained more than 62,000 signatures – but it needed 100,000 to secure a Parliamentary debate.

The petition calls for the government to “Stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families.” It says the Welfare Reform Act (brainchild of Iain Duncan Smith and his Department for Work and Pensions) should be be reviewed and the government should “amend its contents in a fairer and more socially-acceptable format.”

I can already hear cries of disbelief from some of you, as you read this. Don’t tell me – you don’t know anything about this; you thought that the government was cracking down on benefit scroungers, not people who deserved help; you thought the mainstream press had been telling you the facts.

You thought wrong, I’m afraid!

But you’re not alone. I refer you to this comment from Cyril Zeldane, on my previous article about the petition: “I was very upset by this, and by what ATOS, JC+, DWP and the state more broadly has been doing for a while… I was equally angry to hear about it for the first time today, now that it’s too late.”

The simple fact is that the mainstream media have been tranquillising the population by burying the facts. I’m talking about the BBC, ITV, national and local radio, the Daily Mail, the Express, the Telegraph, the Sun… the list goes on and on. Some papers like the Independent and the Guardian carry sporadic accounts, and columnists like Sonia Poulton have been slugging it out like gladiators to get the message across.

But most people are as “Jay” describes in his comment to the petition piece: “People still don’t care enough because they still don’t understand what is happening.”

What’s happening is this: People on welfare – the sick, the disabled, the unemployed and the elderly – have been collectively labelled as scroungers. Stories in the right-wing press and on television have reinforced this view, by showing benefit cheats being brought to justice. Of course, benefit fraudsters do exist – but they total 0.4 per cent of the total number of claimants.

Meanwhile, the government’s policy, enacted by Atos assessors through the work capability assessment for Employment and Support Allowance, is to allow just 13 per cent of claimants a secure future, knowing that they will continue to receive benefit for an indefinite period of time – although even then, ESA payments are lower than the Incapacity Benefit that it has replaced.

Of the remaining 87 per cent, most are branded “fit for work” and lose their benefits. Some go on to the ‘work-related activity’ group of ESA recipients, continuing to receive benefit for 365 days (one year), during which time they are expected to take steps to ensure they are fit for work by the time their benefit runs out. This group includes people with progressive conditions who will never get better, but who have been put their because Atos have a quota to meet.

The effect on the health of disabled people who have been through this process is catastrophic. Current figures, which have been made available by the government after a Freedom of Information request, show that on average, 73 people are dying every week due to the strain of losing their benefit.

One such person is Brian McArdle, whose son Kieran told the Daily Record (“The what?” I hear you cry. News blackout in the mainstream press, remember? You’ll only read about it in more independently-minded papers like the Record) that “constant worry about how he would survive without the cash he needed robbed Brian of the will to live”.

It seems the 57-year-old had a stroke on Boxing Day last year which left him paralysed down his left side, unable to speak properly, blind in one eye and barely able to eat or dress, but after a work capability assessment he was found fit for work and his benefits were stopped. He had another stroke days before his appointment, and the heart attack that killed him came the day after his benefits were stopped.

That’s the truth of the Coalition’s disability benefit assessment regime.

Now that you know, please go to the government’s e-petitions site, sign the petition (it’s only a click away via the link in this article) and get your friends to do the same.

And spread the word, because you can’t rely on the mass media to do it for you.

Just when you thought the DWP/Atos death trail couldn’t get worse…

This cartoon was clearly devised before the latest figures came out. They are diabolical and make the punchline here look quaint in its optimism.

According to an FOI (Freedom of Information) response publicised by the journalist Sonia Poulton on October 7, the current weekly average Atos/DWP death toll of people found fit for work after an ESA work capability assessment now stands at 73 people per week.

I don’t know if this is an increase on the 32 per week average that was originally put out for the period January to August 2011, or if it includes that period and runs up to the present. If the latter, then that makes a total of 6,643 deaths in this tiny part of the welfare sector alone, since the beginning of last year.

The horror stories are still coming in. Among the worst I’ve seen is this, from Michael Meacher MP: “Mr. D had diabetes, heart condition, and lymphoedema. The DWP made three appointments for him because he had major walking difficulties. The DWP then agreed that he could complete the ESA form in his car, though he had asked the DWP officer to come out to complete the form, which was refused.

“Mr. D died while completing the form.”

If you’re reading this and thinking how glad you are that they’re not taking your livelihood away, just remember this: They will come for you eventually. The time to take action against this brutality is now.

The great debate – the incapable assessment regime

The most telling moment in today’s (September 4) Westminster Hall debate on Atos and Work Capability Assessments came when Chris Grayling was delivering his speech. A woman shouted, “You’re killing us!” and was immediately told to shut up or the public gallery would be cleared.

It was an act of insensitivity that put into a nutshell the Coalition government’s attitude to public discontent over its Work Capability Assessment regime for claimants of the new Employment and Support Allowance (and soon, the new Personal Independence Payment); it doesn’t care what we say, it will carry on doing what it wants, and it will lie to us about what that is.

I was listening to the debate and watching responses on Twitter. John McDonnell MP tweeted: “Protesters sum up exactly what this debate is all about. The Atos system is causing immense suffering & killing people.”

Mr Grayling did not address these concerns in his speech.

He said the DWP would not be changing the controversial ‘descriptors’, that are used in WCAs by the tick-box assessors, who need them to understand whether any person’s abilities mean they deserve a much-coveted place among the 13 per cent of claimants in the ‘Support Group’ – or whether they should be turfed out into the ‘Work-Related Activities Group’ or market “Fit For Work”.

But a potential new set of descriptors, more appropriate to the conditions suffered by the sick and disabled, is still being considered. Where’s the truth?

He said the assessment regime had “no financial targets”. This was a flat-out lie. We know there are targets because Atos trainers made that perfectly clear in the recent Dispatches and Panorama documentaries on the subject.

“Atos do not take decisions.” Another lie. The DWP decision-makers rubber-stamp Atos recommendations in the vast majority of cases.

He repeatedly told us the process was “not an exact science” before contradicting himself by stating that the government wants to “get it right”.

Before he got up to speak, the criticisms had been mounting up like a tidal wave against him. All to no avail, as he sailed on, oblivious.

“How many people have died between being rejected and their appeal, and how many committed suicide?” This was a question I was hoping to hear, as this blog has been criticised for using the “32 deaths per week” statistic. No response to that one, though! And what about corporate manslaughter? The issue wasn’t even raised, but the government – and Mr Grayling, together with his (now former) boss Iain Duncan Smith – might be guilty of killing thousands.

“Will claimants still get ESA while they ask for a reconsideration?” The current answer is no. Judging from the lack of response in the debate, that will remain the case.

Assessors’ lack of mental health knowledge came up time and time again.

One MP after another got up to speak, making it clear that they had all received multiple accounts of mistreatment at the hands of a company that clearly couldn’t give… well… Atos: “There cannot be an MP that hasn’t heard terrible constituent stories over WCAs.”

Labour MP Stephen Timms made some strong points. He pointed out the fluctuating nature of many claimants’ conditions, and warned that the work capability assessment does not take account of changes. “The WCA must not be a snapshot,” he said, and went on to add that the test needs “radical improvement”.

He admitted that Employment Support Allowance was a Labour initiative – but made it clear that the Coalition rolled it out before trials to ensure it was fit for purpose had been completed.

And Dame Anne Begg MP won praise for listing poor decisions by assessors and the failings at Atos, repeating, like a mantra: “When people feel this persecuted, there is something wrong with the system.”

She called for the contract to be re-written, saying it “can’t be fixed with a few tweaks here and there”.

Tom Greatrex, who opened the debate, said too many people were being found fit for work when they weren’t fit at all. He said the £60 million cost of appeals against assessment findings meant the taxpayer was effectively paying for a system that doesn’t work, then paying again to put it right. He said details of the Atos contract should be made public (a forlorn hope; confidentiality is a large part of many government contracts with private firms, although the Atos contract is particularly vague).

And he pointed out that, although Mr Grayling had said the transfer schedule for moving people off Incapacity Benefit and onto ESA was on-target, it was in fact very far behind, with waiting times up by 85 per cent.

Honourable mention was given to the disability campaigns Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Black Triangle. Dishonourable mention was made of police brutality at last Friday’s protest outside the headquarters of Atos and the DWP in London.

Calls were made to reduce unnecessary assessments (of people whose condition was unlikely to change), anger was expressed that Atos is a sponsor of the Paralympics. The debate heard that applicants find the process of going through the Work Capability Assessment terrifying (I can personally attest to this, having witnessed my girlfriend’s. Terrifying and humiliating) – and that it was felt to take away their dignity as human beings.

Sadly, nobody called for a comprehensive study of the mortality rate.

Not one single Coalition backbencher indicated a desire to speak.

Amid all this, one online wit tweeted: “I do hope Osborne comes in at the end to take the now-traditional booing” – a reference to an incident the day before, which has already become infamous, when the Chancellor appeared at the Paralympics to hand out medals and was booed by the 60,000-strong stadium crowd.

Sonia Poulton, the Daily Mail columnist who became a campaigner against Atos, summed up the event: “W-C-A….SEIZE THE DAY! Yes, Labour started it, we ALL know that now…but Con-Dems butchered like never before. Time to get rid!”

If only we could.

For another perspective on the debate, please see the BBC website’s report at – oh. There isn’t one.

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?

Let’s get Ed on-side

The Daily Mail columnist Sonia Poulton has written a letter to Ed Miliband, in order to secure his opposition to the DWP/Atos work capability assessment regime that is killing 32 disabled people every week. She has invited readers to ‘sign’ her letter by filling in their names and postcodes in the Comments column of her blog. It will be closed to new signatures from midday on Saturday (August 4) so get yours on quick! Here’s the link:

http://ramblingsofafibrofoggedmind.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/open-letter-to-ed-miliband-please-add-name-and-postcode-if-you-agree-with-contents/#comment-1723