Despairing NHS – Video and Lyrics

Despairing NHS – Video and Lyrics (to the tune of Clementine)

nhsIn the darkness, six feet under,
Bevan turning in his grave
Sixty-five years of free healing,
The NHS he cannot save.

Oh our caring, oh our sharing, now despairing NHS,
Thou art lost and gone for profit,
Privatised to serve the rich.

All the doctors, and the nurses,
Cleaners, porters do their best,
But their efforts no longer valued
In the growing profits quest.

Drug companies pay for research
And they promise us a cure
But all they want is to take their profit
And to hell with the sick and poor.

Oh our caring, oh our sharing, now despairing NHS,
Thou art lost and gone for profit,
Privatised to serve the rich.

Clegg and Cameron keen to finish
Dismantling done by Brown and Blair,
PFI debts, target culture.
Reorganised for millionaires.

Shipman, Saville, Stafford hospital,
Just how bad can scandals get,
Whistle-blowers, enquiries ignored,
But you ain’t seen nothing yet!

Lyrics by Oliver Swingler & Making Waves choir, Cullercoats
Original Oh my darling Clementine: traditional
Version 2 May 2013

How To Deal With Benefits Medical Examinations

welfare-wrongs

Never Face Them Alone

This article describes how claimants for disability benefits can deal with the medical examinations by medical professionals, which for many claimants are central in deciding whether or not you are entitled to disability benefits.

Before The Examination

The examinations are run by Medical Services (MS) which is operated by the private profit making company ATOS on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Before a MS examination your own GP sends info to the DWP. It is important that this info is as full as possible and states clearly whether or not in their medical opinion you are fit for work at that time and in the foreseeable future (at least 6 months ahead).

It is frequently the case that people with a long-term illness gradually minimise in their own minds the effect of their illness on their everyday lives and develop survival strategies to cope on a daily basis in an attempt to lead as normal a life as possible.

This can cause a problem as this habit when taken into a medical examination does not present a true picture of the illness and could be misleading. It might be helpful to discuss the reality of your illness and the limitations it imposes on your life with someone who knows both the illness and yourself well. The reality of your illness is what must be presented to the MS medical professional and to the DWP.

If you have a Medical Services examination, either at the MS office or at your home, always have someone accompany you. This is your right. We have often done this. They cannot refuse you this right – if they try then just insist you need someone with you.

To obtain benefits you are legally required to attend this examination, and the information obtained at the examination is used, within a legal framework, to decide on your benefit entitlement – it is therefore vital to make sure your legal rights are protected.

If the date for the examination is not suitable, eg your accompanying person cannot make it on that date, you can get the date changed. If you are unable to travel to the examination you can ask for a home visit instead. If you change the arrangements over the phone write to confirm the changes. You have the right to be seen by a medical professional of the same sex.

Meet the accompanying person beforehand to discuss what’s going to happen. Before the examination you should be clear that:

  • The examination can be halted to allow you to go to the toilet, have a glass of water, take a pill, or if you feel faint or ill.
  • The examination should only proceed if you feel happy to continue.
  • You should refuse to do anything that hurts or distresses you.
  • The person accompanying you should take a pen and paper and also a watch.
  • If possible, take a tape recorder. Take your medicines, and any aids you use, such as a walking stick or crutches.
  • You can claim travel expenses for going to the examination – but if you need to take a taxi you must contact the MS beforehand.

At The Examination

You should be aware that the examination begins on entry to the examination centre and does not end until you leave the centre. An evaluation of your medical condition does not only take place when you are in front of the examining doctor, but also potentially on your way into the building, in the waiting room, and on your way out. They could note the length of time you can sit without apparent discomfort, how you pick up your bag, etc..

At the examination the medical professional should:

  • Be courteous and considerate.
  • Spend some time explaining the purpose of the examination.
  • Ask if you are willing to be examined.
  • Ask you and give you time to explain YOUR OWN VIEW of how you are affected by your condition, including how it affects your ability to do day to day tasks like shopping, cooking, cleaning and so on.

The examining medical professional should not attempt to ‘manipulate’ parts of your body.

During the examination you should:

  • Make sure the medical professional realises the full extent of your illness/ disability, including any other conditions/ illnesses you may have. Remember, unlike your GP, this medical professional does not know your medical history.
  • Describe how you feel on a “bad day”, rather than on a “good day”.

If you are accompanying the claimant you should:

  • Write down the name of the medical professional, the place of examination, the time of starting and finishing the examination.
  • Take notes on everything the medical professional and the claimant say, what the Doctor asks the claimant to do and what happens. Especially note any aggressive attitude or manner adopted by the medical professional. Note the exact words spoken.
  • Intervene and ask for the examination to be halted if the claimant becomes unwell or distressed. The claimant should have a break until they feel well enough to continue.
  • Object to and stop any attempt by the medical professional to have the claimant do exercises which could injure or distress them.
  • You should have the examination stopped if the claimant is becoming ill or distressed for any reason. If the claimant is not fit to continue then the examination should be postponed until another day.
  • If the claimant’s distress is due to mistreatment by the medical professional, stop the interview, then say that you will be making a complaint with a request for an examination at a future date with a different medical professional.
  • Time the length of the examination and any breaks taken (some medical professionals have been known to exaggerate the length of time of the examination to make it appear more thorough than it was).
  • At the end of the examination ask the medical professional to read back their notes, to check that they have made an accurate record. If the medical professional refuses, then note that together with the reason given for refusing. If there seem to be any inaccuracies in the medical professional’s notes, check with the claimant, then if necessary ask the medical professional to change their notes. If they refuse then make a note of that, writing down exactly what they said.

After The Examination

If the medical professional did anything wrong, then as soon as possible afterwards write a letter of complaint to DWP – don’t wait for the decision to come through. The letter should be signed by both the claimant and the accompanying person.

How You Can Be Found Incapable Of Work Even If You Don’t Score Enough Points

Even if you don’t score enough points under the personal capability assessment – the medical test to decide if you’re incapable of work – you may still have a chance of being found incapable of work either at claim or appeal stage. This is because of the little known ‘exceptional circumstances’ rules.

There are a number of these, but probably the most important is regulation 27(b), which states that you will be found incapable of work if:

  • “There would be a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of any person if he or she were found capable of work’’

This regulation could apply to you on physical health or on mental health grounds.

For example, if you experience severe anxiety attacks and might harm yourself or somebody else if placed in a situation you find threatening, then this might be grounds for applying regulation 27(b).

Or you may have a lung condition which is made much worse by stress and, in the past, such situations have led to a serious deterioration in your health and perhaps hospitalisation. If you would find being found capable of work, having to sign on for Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) and take part in training or work experience very stressful, then that may be grounds for declaring you incapable of work under the exceptional circumstances regulations.

However, neither doctors nor decision makers are quick to identify people who might be covered by these clauses. And very few claimants even know they exist.

ATOS And The Bigger Picture

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ATOS are currently recruiting more staff to help meet Government targets to force more people off disability benefits to reduce the public debt problem caused by banks gambling in the financial markets. The process is driven by cost cutting not objective medical opinion. The most vulnerable in society are being made to pay for the greed of others and the inevitable booms and busts of capitalist economics.

Medical professionals, including physiotherapists, with no experience of mental health problems, for example, are only given a matter of days training before making assessments of claimants. They are paid substantially more than NHS doctors and nurses for leaving their ethical concerns at the door. ATOS claim that they do not make the decision as to whether someone can work and have their benefits reduced, but that the decision is made by the DWP from their report and that performance targets are based simply on the number of claimants seen in a day. However they admit that if a medical professional passes all claimants for disability benefits it will not go unnoticed.

This information has been reproduced from The Crutch Collective formerly Anti Benefit Cuts Glasgow

Please contact BPACC if you require any further information, support or advice. We are not experts in this field but will always show solidarity and try to help in whatever way we can.

Related links:
How to prepare for a ESA Tribunal Hearing – The Crutch Collective
ESA Internal Handbook via The Crutch Collective (pdf)
How points are awarded in ESA assessments via The Crutch Collective (pdf)
Links to factsheets relating to benefits, debt and mental illness – Rethink
Personal Independence Payment – Our free guide to making a claim – Disability Rights UK

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Bournemouth Council response to open email about Bedroom Tax

BPACC recently sent an open email to Bournemouth Borough Council about the Bedroom Tax following an article in the council’s Spring edition of Home News that stated some people were ‘protected’ and we asked for clarification.

We also expressed our concerns that Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) were not a viable long term solution as they fail to give people with disabilities the assurance that their housing needs are secure and asked the council several questions.

Shown below are BPACC’s questions and the council’s response received this week:

1) Question: Is Bournemouth Borough Council exempting all people stipulated in the Home News article from the ‘Bedroom Tax’?
Council response: No. Unfortunately, the article gave the impression that disabled people are not affected whereas, in fact, they are not exempt from the under-occupation rules.

2) Question: Where it is determined that people are entitled to DHP, will funds be made available for all cases irrespective of whether the money allocated by central government is exhausted?
Council response: The DHP fund is being carefully managed so that funds are available for all cases where it is determined that help should be given. The Council has the option to top up the fund to a “prescribed limit” if the central government funding should become exhausted but cannot go beyond that limit.

3) Question: Will DLA income be taken into account when assessing a family’s income?
Council response: Not for assessing entitlement to Housing Benefit but would be taken into account when deciding whether to award DHP.

4) Question: Where parents or guardians of children receiving DLA no longer live together, will both households will receive DHPs?
Council response: DHP can only be awarded if someone is receiving HB. So if no parent received HB no DHP would be considered. If only one parent received HB, DHP could only be considered for the parent who received HB. However, if both parents received HB each DHP application is judged on its own merits so there might be circumstances where both parents could get a DHP.
The child will normally be taken into consideration in the household where child benefit is payable and that is the household where the DHP would be normally be considered for if a disabled child was the reason for the application.

Following these responses we have asked follow up questions, below are the council’s replies:

1) What steps are Bournemouth Borough Council planning to take to make this clear to residents?
Council response: The under-occupation rules only affect those in local authority properties and housing associations. All affected residents have been written to at least twice by Housing Benefit staff. The Council’s Housing Management Team has been proactive by contacting their tenants to discuss the options open to them. It is understood that housing associations have done the same.

2) What are the criteria for making an application for DHP and determining whether help should be given; and what is the level of the “prescribed limit”?
Council response: Please see the relevant page on the Council’s website. The prescribed limit is 2.5 times the Government contribution which for Bournemouth equates to a limit of £1,256, 630

The Bedroom Tax is a cynical attack on the poorest in our society. Questions have been submitted to both Bournemouth and Poole Councils asking for assurances that no residents will be evicted due to rent arrears accrued through the Bedroom Tax. These assurances were not given click here for Bournemouth’s response and click here for Poole’s response.

The Great Train Robbery

Rail privatisation has failed to deliver for rail users and taxpayers; has brought in little private sector investment and private train companies are heavily dependent upon the public purse to enable them to run services, according to a new TUC- commissioned report, The Great Train Robbery – written by the Centre for Research on Social-Cultural Change (CRESC) at the University of Manchester.

And when train companies do make a profit, barely any of it is re-invested in the railways, says the study. It reveals that those firms receiving the largest state subsidies spend, on average, over 90 per cent of their profits on shareholder dividends.

This contrasts sharply with the East Coast Mainline, which is currently state run and which re-invests all of its profits into improving the service.

great train robbery network rail private investment

The Great Train Robbery looks at many of the key objectives behind the decision of John Major’s government to privatise the railways in 1994. The report questions whether any of these have been achieved:

  • Cost effectiveness – train operating companies are entirely reliant upon public subsidies to run services. The top five recipients alone received almost £3bn in taxpayer support between 2007 and 2011. This allowed them to make operating profits of £504m – over 90 per cent (£466m) of which was paid to shareholders.
  • Extra investment – the report shows how the average age of trains has risen since rail privatisation, from 16 years in 1996 to 18 years old today. Just £1.9bn was spent on rolling stock between 2008 and 2012, compared to £3.2bn between 1989 and 1993 (the four years before privatisation.)
  • Over 90 per cent of new investment in recent years has been financed by Network Rail (the taxpayer funded body responsible for rail infrastructure), and comes mainly from taxpayer funding or government-underwritten borrowing, says the report.
  • Significant upgrades to infrastructure, such as the development of the West Coast Mainline, have been paid for by Network Rail.
  • Passenger comfort – the report says while there has been a 60 per cent increase in passengers since 1994/95, there has only been a 3 per cent increase in new carriages, resulting in serious overcrowding on many routes.
  • Innovation – even where there has been private sector investment in new technology, such as Virgin’s tilting trains, it has been underwritten by the state through subsidies to train operating companies and guarantees to rolling stock leasing companies.
  • Added value – The Great Train Robbery shows how train operating companies paid Network Rail just £1.59bn in track access charges in 2012, compared to £3.18bn paid to its predecessor Railtrack in 1994. This represents an ‘indirect subsidy’ from taxpayers as train companies are getting track access on the cheap. It also means that the full extent of taxpayer subsidy is far greater than is often reported.
  • Investment in infrastructure has largely been funded through borrowing by Network Rail which now has debts of over £30bn, and is spending more on repaying this debt than on railway maintenance, says the report.
  • Competitive fares – the UK has the most expensive rail fares in Europe. Long distance, day return and season tickets are all around twice the price of similar tickets in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, which have publicly-run rail systems. Average train fares in the UK increased at three times the rate of average wages between 2008 and 2012.
  • More passengers – the report dismisses claims that privatisation has helped increase the number of people travelling on the railways.It says that passenger growth has mostly been down to rising GDP and changes in employment patterns rather than because of privatisation.

Great train robbery net profits dividends

Commenting on the report, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘This study explodes the myth that rail firms are bringing added value to our railways. In reality they rely upon taxpayers to turn a profit, virtually all of which ends up in shareholders’ pockets, rather than being used to improve services.

‘Rail privatisation has not brought the improvements its cheerleaders promised – the average age of trains has increased and most new investment is funded by the state.

‘The claim that private train operators are responsible for more people using the railways must also be taken with a huge pinch of salt. Passenger growth has mirrored changes in the wider economy and is not the result of creative marketing drives by companies.

‘The government must accept that the current model is broken. Its determination to impose franchising across the network – even on the East Coast Mainline which is performing well as a nationalised service – shows ministers are ignoring the evidence of 20 years of failure.’

CRESC Director Professor Karel Williams said: ‘The privately owned train operating companies have hijacked the government’s rail reform agenda which is all about ‘getting franchising back on track’.

‘Our research shows how the franchising system allows them to distribute profits at low cost from public subsidy.

‘It would make sense to abolish the train operating companies and it would cost the taxpayer nothing if it were done as the franchises expired.

”Train and track operation could then be integrated under a new publicly-owned National Rail, operating within defined budgets over sustained funding periods.’

The Great Train Robbery says that:

  • Train operating companies should be abolished as a crucial first step. This could be achieved within the next ten years as companies have relatively short leases with contract termination points and there is no requirement for shareholder compensation when the franchises expire.
  • Train and rail infrastructure should be organised by a new not for profit company, National Rail, built around the core of Network Rail.
  • Just as with Crossrail in London, the government should introduce a business levy to raise extra funds for the railways. The report estimates this could generate £21bn a year.

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The People’s Assembly: Draft statement and proposed action plan

The declaration below represents the beginning of a democratic process leading towards a second People’s Assembly in early 2014. This declaration represents the views of all those who initially called for the People’s Assembly. We hope it will be endorsed by the People’s Assembly on 22nd June. It will then be open to the local People’s Assembly’s, union bodies and campaign groups who support the People’s Assembly to suggest amendments, additions, or deletions. These will then all be discussed and decided upon at the recall People’s Assembly in 2014.

The plans for action are simply the most obvious rallying points for a national anti-cuts movement for the remainder of 2013. They are not intended to supersede local or sectional action by existing campaigns or trade unions. They are intended to be focus national, collective action by the whole anti-austerity movement.

The People’s Assembly, meeting in Westminster Central Hall, declares:

We face a choice that will shape our society for decades to come. It is a choice faced by ordinary people in every part of the globe.

We can defend education, health and welfare provision funded from general taxation and available to all, or we can surrender the gains that have improved the lives of millions of people for over more than 50 years.

We do not accept that government’s austerity programme is necessary. The banks and the major corporations should be taxed at a rate which can provide the necessary resources. Austerity does not work: it is a failure in its own terms resulting in neither deficit reduction nor growth. It is not just: the government takes money from the pockets of those who did not cause the crisis and rewards those who did. It is immoral: our children face a bleaker future if our services and living standards are devastated. It is undemocratic: at the last election a majority voted against the return of a Tory government. The Con-Dem coalition has delivered us into the grip of the Tories’ whose political project is the destruction of a universal welfare state.

We therefore choose to resist. We refuse to be divided against ourselves by stories of those on ‘golden pensions’, or of ‘scroungers’, or the ‘undeserving poor’. We do not blame our neighbours, whatever race or religion they maybe. We are not joining the race to the bottom. We stand with the movement of resistance across Europe.

We are clear in our minds that our stand will require us to defend the people’s right to protest, and so we support the right of unions and campaigns to organise and take such action as their members democratically decide is necessary.

We stand with all those who have made the case against the government so far: in the student movement, in the unions, in the many campaigns to defend services, the NHS, and in the Coalition of Resistance, the People’s Charter, UK Uncut, the environmental movement and the Occupy movement.

We do not seek to replace any organisations fighting cuts. All are necessary. But we do believe that a single united national movement is required to challenge more effectively a nationally led government austerity programme.

We have a plain and simple goal: to make government abandon its austerity programme. If it will not it must be replaced with one that will.

We will concentrate on action not words. We aim to provide the maximum solidarity for unions and other organisations and others taking action. We support every and all effective forms action and aim to build a united national movement of resistance.

Our case is clear. The government’s austerity programme does not work; it is unjust, immoral and undemocratic. Alternatives exist. Debts can be dropped. Privatisation can be reversed and common ownership embraced. A living wage can begin to combat poverty. Strong trade unions can help redistribute profit. The vast wealth held by corporations and the trillions held by the super rich in tax havens can be tapped. Green technology, alternatives to the arms industries, a rebuilt infrastructure including growth in manufacturing are all desperately needed. We are fighting for an alternative future for this generation and for those that come after us.

Proposed actions:

  • The People’s Assembly will support every genuine movement and action taken against any and all of the cuts. We support all current industrial actions by the unions. We encourage and will help to organise the maximum solidarity action with the PCS and teaching union members taking strike action the week after the People’s Assembly, as well as with other action by unions planned for the autumn.
  • Peoples Assemblies against the cuts should be organised in towns and cities across our nations, bringing all those fighting the cuts together into a broad democratic alliance on a local basis.
  • The national and the local Assemblies, in partnership with Trades Unions, Trades Councils, campaigning and community groups, can unite our movement and strengthen our campaigns. Local Assemblies will help us to organise a recalled National Assembly to review our work in the early spring of 2014.
  • We will work together with leading experts and campaigners both here and abroad, and friendly think tanks, to develop rapidly key policies and an alternative programme for a new anti-austerity government. We will continue to welcome support from all who fight the cuts.
  • We will call a national day of civil disobedience and direct action against austerity.
  • We will call a day of co-ordinated local demonstrations in the early autumn.
  • We will work with the trade unions and others to call a national demonstration in November.

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Save Our Royal Mail

Not everything in life should be defined by its monetary value. Royal Mail is part of the fabric of the nation but it is under threat of being ripped apart. If the Royal Mail is sold off:

  • Prices will go up
  • Business will be squeezed
  • The countryside will be isolated
  • Services for the blind will be scrapped
  • Free post for HM Armed Forces will be stopped
  • Heritage will be lost

Save Our Royal Mail are campaigning to persuade politicians that they must act now and guarantee that these vital services do not disappear. They have the support of groups and individuals representing the countryside, the blind and partially sighted, the elderly and small businesses. You can help them by getting involved. Use the social networking tools on their site to promote the campaign and most importantly write to your MP setting out your concerns. As the campaign grows so will their site. So please return to them regularly to keep updated on news and other campaign developments.

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Child Poverty Action Group Monthly News and Views

Shown below is the “News from CPAG – Child Poverty Action Group e-newsletter, a monthly round-up of our news and views”. If you would like to subscribe to CPAG news, please click here.

IFS: major surge in child poverty by 2020

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has predicted that relative child poverty will go up by a staggering 1.1 million children in the current decade, almost entirely due to tax and benefit changes introduced by the coalition government. Our response calling for a complete rethink of government strategy on child poverty was widely quoted by the media including the Daily Mirror, Evening Standard and Guardian.

Alison Garnham has blogged on why we must not abandon the child poverty targets and why making progress on poverty requires us to rethink public spending across the whole of government so that we get the fundamentals right – a fairer society and a stronger economy.

Universal Credit – will it work?

Our *new report published with the TUC looks at whether universal credit can deliver its objectives, and in particular whether it can ‘make work pay’. For a summary of the report findings see Alison Garnham’s blog for Liberal Democrat Voice.

Many thanks to the Orp Foundation for supporting our Universal Credit work programme.

Welfare rights conference 2013: Surviving Welfare Reform

We are now hosting our annual Welfare Rights Conference in both the north and south of the country. We hope this will give more people the opportunity to attend, keeping travel and accommodation costs to a minimum.

  • The Northern Conference in Manchester on Thursday 5 September.
  • The Southern Conference in London on Wednesday 11 September.
  • Further information and booking

Special offer – book your place before 1 July for an early bird discount.

Exhibition space: if you are interested in exhibiting your work, products and services at our conference, contact Naomi Jessop (njessop@cpag.org.uk).

Training note: our Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment courses across the UK are selling fast, book your place now to avoid disappointment! Visit our website to find dates in Norwich, Plymouth, York, Liverpool, Newcastle, Manchester and Cardiff.

Conference: Tackling child poverty in your local authority

On Thursday 18 July, CPAG is hosting a free conference in Birmingham, supported by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, exploring ways local authorities and their partners can creatively work to meet their commitments under the Child Poverty Act despite facing significant financial challenges.

Topics to be addressed on the day have emerged from discussions with local authorities and will include workshops on Universal Credit, Social Fund schemes, and including the voices of children and young people in child poverty strategies.

Further information and booking

A new partnership with the Chartered Institute of Housing

We are delighted to be the chosen charity for CIH’s Presidential Appeal. It’s a welcome opportunity for us to partner with a great organisation with shared goals.

For anyone going to the Housing 2013 conference in June, come and see us on the CPAG exhibition stand!

See a full list of our other upcoming events.

CPAG: the movie

We are the lucky winners of a VoiceOver video donated by politics.co.uk. See their inside view of filming a CPAG campaign video on location. We’ll let you know when the final video is launched!

The latest Understanding Society report indicates that while the public endorses the importance of reducing child poverty, there is also a hardening of attitudes towards the welfare state and benefit claimants. Our new campaign video aims to counter the common stereotypes.

Do you know a great campaigner?

Are you speaking out and taking action on issues that matter? Or does this sound like someone you know? Apply or nominate now for an SMK Campaigner Award, which equips people to become more effective campaigners. It’s free to apply. For more information, or to apply or nominate, please visit: the Sheila McKechnie Foundation. Applications close at 1pm on 10 June 2013.

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