Tag Archives: specialist

Six days left! Pledge your support for Mike’s libel defence fund now!


Thanks to everyone who donated in the last 24 hours – we are now more than £400 closer to our goal!

I still have not heard anything from solicitors representing the complainants. I consider this to be a good thing,

But as I stated yesterday, it is entirely possible that they are waiting to see if I manage to raise a significant amount – so let’s raise the largest amount possible!

Many of you will know what follows. It is the only way I know to make this appeal succeed.

If you haven’t done so already, please email five of your friends, asking them to pledge to this case.

You could also post a link to Facebook, asking your friends to pledge. The address is https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/

If you’re on Twitter, you could tweet in support, quoting the address of the appeal.

Please donate.

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

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


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Mike’s libel case can be won – IF you support him

Vox Political’s Mike Sivier with the correction he secured from the last organisation to publish falsehoods about him.

This is a very quick update: My solicitors have received expert advice saying that I can win the libel case brought against me by Rachel Riley and Tracy Ann Oberman.

This favourable advice from expert counsel is welcome news, but it comes with a caution: I can’t do it if I don’t have the funds.

Litigation – especially in cases like this – is notoriously expensive and this appeal certainly has not raised enough money yet.

Hundreds of people have donated already – but thousands have visited the page. If you haven’t donated yet, please don’t leave it until it is too late.

This has always been a fight between wealth and justice; the people attacking me are extremely rich and believe their money means they can say anything they like and silence the facts with the threat of court action.

Do you believe that justice should be more important? If so, please donate to the fund. If you leave it to somebody else, I won’t be able to continue.

And please promote this appeal to your friends and colleagues.

You can do this several ways:

  1. Email five friends who may be sympathetic, and encourage them to donate.
  2. Share the campaign on Facebook: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/
  3. Tweet the campaign link to your followers.

Please help.

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

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


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Tory government is failing incurable breast cancer patients – because they see no profit in them?

Laughter: I was going to use an image of a patient with a nurse – but then it seemed more appropriate to show how Mrs May might have reacted to a suggestion that the Tories would honour their promise to help people who are never likely to provide a profit for Tory bosses.

Here’s a classic example of Tory priorities.

They promised to provide a designated nurse for all cancer patients three years ago, and no doubt got a lot of good publicity for it.

Three years later, having shown little interest in actually making good on that promise, they’re probably hoping everybody has forgotten it – or died.

Don’t expect the Tories to have a shred of decency because you will always be disappointed.

To me, it makes perfect sense that the Tories haven’t bothered to help people whose illness is not going to be cured.

As far as they see it, these patients are never going to make a profit for a Tory – so why would they bother to help?

They wouldn’t.

And, let’s face it, they haven’t.

A shortage of specialist nurses is leaving patients with incurable breast cancer feeling “abandoned” without critical care, according to a charity.

Breast Cancer Care said thousands of patients continued to be denied crucial care three years after the government promised access to a designated nurse for all cancer patients.

A Freedom of Information request to NHS providers across England, Scotland and Wales [resulted in] figures [that] reveal that 72% of NHS trusts and health boards do not provide a dedicated nurse for people living with incurable breast cancer.

There has been only a 7% increase in the trusts and boards providing nursing support in the two years since the charity’s last research, which it said indicated a “worrying lack of NHS investment in care to help people live well for longer”.

Source: Specialist nurse shortage ‘failing’ incurable breast cancer patients | News | Nursing Times

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Are Labour’s work capability assessment changes really ‘crucial’?

WCAcartoon

This cartoon was created to highlight the difficulties created by the Conservatives for people attending a work capability assessment. But would Labour’s proposed changes make any difference?

According to Benefits and Work, the Labour Party has been emailing people with proposals for three “crucial changes” it is proposing for the way the work capability assessment works for disability/incapacity benefit claimants.

The three problems are:

  • That the WCA is ‘not integrated with employment support’ and so is not helping claimants back into work;
  • That the WCA ‘lacks credibility with disabled people, causing anxiety and stress’; and
  • That the system is ‘riven with poor decision making’, leading to a ‘staggering 45 per cent of appeals against the test’ being upheld last year.

The Benefits and Work report addes that “critics may point out that not only did Labour devise and introduce the WCA, but also that the level of appeal success under Labour was very similar to what it is now” – all valid criticisms, as long as it is also noted that Labour has accepted those criticisms and is trying to do something about them.

Unfortunately – well, see for yourself. Here are the “crucial changes” being proposed:

“Labour will ‘start by transforming the way the WCA is designed to make it more effective at helping disabled people into work’.” Benefits and Work says “there are no details of what this transformation will involve, except that ‘disabled people would receive a copy of the assessor’s report of how their health condition may affect their ability to work, and information about the support that is available in their local area to help them’.”

What about disabled people with progressive degenerative conditions, who cannot, under any circumstances, be put back to work? This “change” makes no allowance for them whatsoever – it is as if they do not exist.

“Labour will also ‘continue to produce an independent review of the WCA’. In addition, they will ‘ask the Office for Disability Issues to support an independent scrutiny group of disabled people to work together with the independent reviewer to assess whether the test is being conducted in a fair and transparent way’.” Benefits and Work tells us “Labour says it will only ‘commit to responding to the recommendations of this report’; there is no undertaking to actually act on them.”

How is the promise of a paper exercise with no commitment to act at the end supposed to reassure anybody?

“Labour will introduce ‘penalties for poor performance by assessors, measured both on the number of times decisions are overturned by DWP decision makers, and the number of times they are overturned on appeal.’” Benefits and Work suggests that these penalties “undoubtedly” would be “hidden behind a cloak of ‘commercial confidentiality’” and “will offer no reassurance whatsoever” – but this is unfair, in the light of Labour’s promise to make commercial firms working in the public sector subject to public sector Freedom of Information laws. Any punishment meted out to these firms would be a matter of public knowledge under a Labour government.

If the information provided to Benefits and Work is correct, then this plan is, at best, weak. At worst, it’s catastrophic.

This blog has been arguing that the work capability assessment should be abolished altogether – and Vox Political stands by that.

Decisions about whether a patient should be granted disability or incapacity benefits should be made by their doctor, in conjunction with the specialists who would naturally be consulted to confirm the nature and extent of the patient’s medical condition.

What – you think doctors are going to be unduly influenced by the fact that they know the patient? That is precisely why their opinion is the most important.

It seems strange. We know some people believe doctors need to be bribed by the government into sending sick people back to work before they are better. They don’t get any extra financial reward for signing patients off-work, though.

Doesn’t this suggest that they are more likely to be honest when signing the sicknote?

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How can the government’s new ESA specialist claim he knows nothing about all the deaths?

Dr Paul Litchfield, here pictured giving evidence at another committee meeting, so it's probably another load of tripe.

Dr Paul Litchfield, here pictured giving evidence at another committee meeting – so it’s probably another load of tripe.

An evidence session on Employment and Support Allowance and Work Capability Assessments was held by the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee on Wednesday – and was notable for the fact that the ‘expert’ hired to review the system claimed to know nothing about the thousands of deaths taking place because of the current system.

Dr Paul Litchfield OBE was hired to take over from Professor Malcolm Harrington to carry out the fourth annual independent review of the assessment process. It seems Prof Harrington was replaced amicably, but evidence has come to light that he was not happy with political decisions that ran against his findings.

A claim that the government was taking “appropriate steps” in areas singled out for improvement by Prof Harrington was disproved when it was revealed that almost two-thirds of the 25 recommendations he made in his year one review were not fully and successfully implemented.

The government also claimed, repeatedly, that Prof Harrington had supported the migration of Incapacity Benefit claimants to ESA. When fellow blogger Sue Marsh contacted him for confirmation, he responded: “I NEVER—repeat–NEVER agreed to the IB migration. I would have preferred that it be delayed but by the time I said that, the political die had been cast. I then said that I would review progress of that during my reviews. The decision was political. I could not influence it. IS THAT CRYSTAL CLEAR?”

The vehemence of his response suggests some friction with his former employers at the very least – and over “political” decisions.

Now we have Dr Litchfield, who claims to have no information about the staggering number of people who have died after going through the assessment system he is being paid to review. Doesn’t that seem – at the very least – a little odd?

He could have, at least, looked up the government’s own statistical release ‘Incapacity Benefits – Deaths of Recipients’ from July 2012. It is long out-of-date and pressure on the government for fresh figures has been stonewalled for two years, but it does show that 10,600 people died between January and November 2011 – including an average of 73 people every week, when the system claimed they were still being assessed or should be getting better. These figures are believed to be inaccurate measures as the government does not monitor deaths of people who have been refused the benefit – the vast majority of claimants.

It seems we are dealing with another Tory yes-man, hired not to improve ESA, but to make it and the government look good.

Dr Litchfield’s attitude is revealed on the video record of the meeting, which is available on the Parliament UK website, starting two hours, 11 minutes and 41 seconds into the recording.

Committee member Debbie Abrahams (Labour) had just received a Tweet stating: “Litchfield doesn’t want to come out and say scrap WCA because 10,600 dead or he’ll be out of a job, slime bag.”

Turning to Litchfield, she said: “I’ve just been contacted by someone who is commenting on the number of people that are dying every week as a result of being found fit for work after an assessment. I don’t know if you’d like to comment on that?”

The response – from the man who is supposed to have every scrap of information about ESA, let us remember – was as follows: “I don’t have any information of that type; I haven’t seen numbers on that. Clearly every case would be a tragedy.”

That is infuriating for campaigners – one of whom contacted Vox Political and stated: “The wicked toad said he had no knowledge of the deaths. What a lie, how evil – it’s common knowledge, it’s DWP’s own figure, it’s been brought up many times in House of Commons debates… They should sack him and not believe a word he says… no impartiality whatsoever.”

It seems the tragedy, in this case, is the hiring of Dr Litchfield.

Thanks to Katy Marchant for flagging this up.

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Free schools: More Lib Dem sound and fury with no significance?

Bottom of the class: Conservative dunce Michael Gove simply won't learn the less of the Free Schools disaster. Nick Clegg has - but too late to avoid accusations of political opportunism.

Bottom of the class: Conservative dunce Michael Gove simply won’t learn the less of the Free Schools disaster. Nick Clegg has – but too late to avoid accusations of political opportunism.

It seems hard to believe that the Coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats has suddenly descended into “open warfare” (as the Observer describes it) over Michael Gove’s ‘Free Schools’ programme.

This is a shame, because the idea is fatally flawed – as we have seen over the last week. Would a Free School pupil even be able to discern the origin of the quotation that has been butchered to create today’s headline?

If any parent in the country does not know by now that the Al-Madinah Free School, serving 400 Muslim pupils in Derby, received the lowest marks possible from inspectors – in every category – last week, then they need to be told. Inspectors railed against the fact that teachers were not trained and condemned the school as “dysfunctional”. Which, of course, it was. It was a place run by amateurs according to their ideology, rather than a professional organisation set up to get the best from its pupils.

The trouble is, Michael Gove’s Education Department is run along similar lines.

We now know that two unqualified head teachers have quit after criticism – Annaliese Briggs, 27, who was appointed head teacher of Pimlico Free School in London despite having no qualifications, resigned after only three weeks. And Lindsey Snowdon quit the 60-pupil Discovery school in Crawley after Ofsted said she “lacks the skills and knowledge to improve teaching”.

Nick Clegg is expected to turn against the Free Schools policy in a speech this week, saying unqualified people should not be allowed to teach in state-funded schools and that parents need more reassurance about standards and the curriculum. He will say there must be national standards and controls on which parents can rely.

The Observer expects Clegg to say: “Frankly it makes no sense to me to have qualified teacher status if only a few schools have to employ qualified teachers…  I believe that we should have qualified teachers in all our schools.”

He will also ask: “What is the point of having a national curriculum if only a few schools have to teach it? Let’s teach it in all our schools.”

The BBC expects him to say: “Parents don’t want ideology to get in the way of their children’s education.”

Michael Gove’s idea is that head teachers of academies or Free Schools should have the freedom to employ untrained teachers, in the same way that private schools hire “the great linguists, scientists, engineers and other specialists they know can best teach and inspire their pupils”.

Can anyone else see the flaw here? If these great linguists, scientists etc are already teaching in private schools, they won’t be going to the Free Schools as well. There simply aren’t enough “great” professionals to go around, and those who really are great will be working, not teaching. Otherwise the plan will harm the economy, won’t it?

Needless to say, Labour is enjoying the split immensely. This morning the party’s whips tweeted: “FACT CHECK: Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems have supported Free Schools at every stage, first voting through [the] enabling leg. In Academies Act 2010 and in Education Act 2011, where [the local authority] thinks there is a need for new school in [its] area it must seek proposals to open Free School/academy. #twofacedclegg”

Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt, who put his own foot in his mouth over this subject when he said he supported Free Schools last weekend, showed how he has modified his views to bring them into line with the public by saying:  “I’m delighted Nick Clegg has realised the dangers of an ideologically-driven schools policy. We would be happy to work with him to reintroduce accountability, proper standards and qualified teachers in all our schools across the country.”

Bravo. Better late than never.

But his intervention – and the negative response of the Conservatives, who say Clegg is “fundamentally misunderstanding” the Free Schools concept, who blocked his attempts to change the system before it was enshrined in law, and who will continue to block any such plans for the 18 months of Coalition government that remain, may change the Lib Dem leader’s mind.

He can only promise to put his suggested changes into the next Liberal Democrat manifesto, and will face accusations that he is imitating Labour and trying to distance his party from the bad publicity generated by a policy he previously supported.

And let’s all remember that this speech will not be made until Thursday, giving Clegg plenty of time to consider the impact of the parts he has released, and maybe withdraw or alter them. It won’t be the first time a Liberal Democrat has said one thing and then done another!

Whatever happens, it seems clear that the concept of Free Schools is now not so much a political ‘lame duck’ as an albatross. The public will not forget the disasters of the last week, and they will lay the blame firmly on Michael Gove and the Tories – who are sticking to their plans.

Some people never learn.

Disabled people and work: Is this government scheme too good to be true?

Access to work (allegedly): If you are also wondering why a group of people apparently having breakfast symbolises access to work for the disabled, you're well on the way to the right level of scepticism about this scheme.

Access to work (allegedly): If you are also wondering why a group of people apparently having breakfast symbolises access to work for the disabled, you’re well on the way to the right level of scepticism about this scheme.

The government is launching a new scheme for the disabled, saying those on traineeships, supported internships, work trials and work academies are to get “additional help” through the Access to Work programme.

After all the persecution of recent years, is it wrong of me to look askance at this?

Here’s the press release; what do YOU think?

“Disabled people will get more support to gain the skills and experience they need to get a job under changes to the government’s specialist disability employment scheme announced today (16 July 2013).

“Disabled people on traineeships, supported internships, work trials and work academies will for the first time get additional help through the Access to Work scheme – which provides funding towards the extra costs disabled people face in work, such as travel costs, specially adapted equipment or support workers.

“Minister for Disabled People Esther McVey said: ‘Young disabled people tell me how difficult it can be to get a job without experience – and they want the same choice of training opportunities as everyone else to help them into work.

“‘We’re opening up Access to Work to do just that – so that more young disabled people can get a foothold in the jobs market, get their careers on track and achieve their full potential.’

Recent changes also mean that businesses with up to 49 employees will save up to £2,300 per employee who uses the fund by no longer paying a contribution towards the extra costs faced by disabled people in work.

“Disabled jobseekers who want to set up their own business through the New Enterprise Allowance are also eligible for Access to Work funding. Access to Work has previously been called ‘the government’s best kept secret’ so to raise awareness of the changes, the government will continue its marketing campaign – targeted at young disabled people and people with mental health conditions.

“Last year the programme helped 30,000 disabled people keep or get employment. Research also shows that around half (45 per cent) of Access to Work customers would be out of work if they did not receive support through the scheme.”

The last paragraph should be ignored because it is a DWP statistic. Even if it was right when it left the statisticians, we cannot guarantee that there hasn’t been interference for politically-motivated purposes.