Thursday, 29 November 2012

ESA WRAG Claimants To Be Mandated On The Work Programme

I have just seen a copy of the memo that the government have produced regarding new and worrying developments for those in the ESA WRAG group.  This was first leaked in The Guardian back in September and I have alerted my MP about it (to no avail - she is a Tory and complicit). But seeing the memo is quite chilling. It is entitled:

Work Programme Provider Live Running Memo

Here are some quotes from it:

"The purpose of this memo is to inform you that an amendment will be made to
Chapter 3c – work experience on a voluntary basis and community benefit work

"Currently, community benefit work placements are not available to Employment and
Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group (ESA WRAG) participants. It has
now been agreed Work Programme providers will be able to use mandatory work
placements as another measure through which to help ESA WRAG participants
move closer to the labour market."

Decoded this means that because the Work Programme has failed in other respects, ESA WRAG claimants are now going to be used as guinea pigs and bullied. They are worth more to the providers don’t forget – a provider can get £14,000 pounds for every person they get off benefits. 

"Evidence also suggests that work can have a positive impact on the long term health of people with disabilities and health conditions."

Actually, this is only part of the picture. The right sort of work at the right sort of pay is good for some people some of the time. Mandating (bullying) people onto a Work programme is likely to be counterproductive. Let us not forget that for many people the wrong sort of work at the wrong time is actually bad for their health and can be disastrous.

And get this: 

"The opportunity for ESA WRAG participants to take part in mandatory community benefit work placements will be introduced from the 3rd December 2012."

This is confirmation that sick people may be left with just £28 to live on as a result of increased sanctions. When I wrote to my MP she said that sick and disabled people would be protected but those who could work would ‘be made to work’. Note also the creepy language – couched as an ‘opportunity’ followed by the sinister word ‘mandatory’.  So, what - they seriously think sick people are going to say ‘oh thank you for the opportunity to force me onto the Work Programme’?!

The last paragraph almost looks like a disclaimer:

"It is worth noting that there is a greater emphasis throughout guidance is on ensuring
that the activity identified is appropriate for the participants health condition or
disability and being aware of their barriers to work, including  ill health/disability and
any reasonable adjustment requirements when organising an activity with an

So please – could someone tell me in what situation a sick or disabled person will be forced onto the Work Programme?  If they volunteer that's all well and good but I can’t think of any reason to mandate a sick or disabled person in this way.  It is barbaric.  Simple as.

For a copy of the memo please follow the link below.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Dear Philip Lee, MP for Bracknell...

I saw your video link where you were talking about the cost of prescriptions that people get for free for conditions such as Hypertension and Type II Diabetes which you say are ‘predominantly to do with lifestyle’. I beg your pardon?  Ah, so people choose to have Diabetes and Hypertension, thanks for telling us, Mr Lee.  I had hypertension at the young of age eighteen and of course that must have been ‘a lifestyle choice’ - silly me.  Can you also tell me why you all bandy these mantras about?  I'm hearing so much about this 'lifestyle choice', it sounds so sweet and innocuous, as if we're choosing between a relaxing life in the sun or perhaps a world cruise.  Make it sound like a choice and you can then get away with blaming the individual for their obesity, addiction, and now – increasingly – other conditions.  Isn't that the real reason behind such a phrase, Mr Lee?  Isn't it just a euphemism for saying it's all your fault? And I heard you describe these debilitating illnesses - Hypertension and Type II Diabetes - and by association the people who suffer from them - as ‘an increasing burden on the National Health Service’. (The 'burden’ word again – the same rhetoric that was used in pre-war Germany, let us remember).  You go on to talk about 'moving the locus of that responsibility for health care from the state to the individual'. What you really mean is making people with these conditions pay for their drugs. By doing that you would, in your words, be ‘attaching a consequence to lifestyle choice’. (You couldn't resist that phrase again, could you?) But you didn't finish it there - you went on to talk about the  ‘differences in generations in their attitude towards arthritic pain’.  You praise the wartime generation – as if somehow they have no need for the NHS and its services.  But you give away your real agenda which is that when the ‘incredibly stoic… wartime generation have passed on…with their attitude towards their lives, their pain, their suffering that appears to be significantly different to their children’ the shit will really hit the fan.  Your real fear is when ‘that huge number’ of  baby-boomer children – that group born between 1945 and 1955 hit their 70s and 80s between 2015 and 2030. ‘Their expectations, their demands upon the system are going to be immense,’ you say.  Excuse me?  Well, I don’t quite fit into that Baby Boomer group, not by your definition at any rate, Mr Lee, but watch out, matey. There are all those of us born in the late 50s, 60s and 70s who expect good health and longevity, and what, pray, is wrong with that?  You seem to be bemoaning the fact that the NHS has been successful in achieving greater longevity and alleviation of pain, rather than celebrating its achievements.  And for your information, Mr Lee, my parents are both of that wartime generation. My late father had Type II Diabetes and was certainly glad of the NHS for his treatments.  My mother too, is of that generation, and certainly she is stoic, but does that mean she shouldn’t be relieved of any pain and suffering?  That she should put up and shut up?  She is actually furious about what is happening to the NHS.  
I find your tone and implications extremely worrying.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Genuine Word

Last week's Question Time, Thursday November 8th, included Jane Moore of The Sun who at one point talked about 'helping the genuinely vulnerable and disabled'.  Now coming from one of The Sun's mouthpieces, it was a small step forward, that the vulnerable in society even got a mention.
She immediately killed it dead with that one word 'genuinely'. That one word speaks volumes and we're hearing it more and more.  By inserting that word before the 'sick and disabled' (where it is usually inserted) these media and government spokespeople are causing untold damage.  They know exactly what they're doing, of course. They don't have to spell it out because the inference is deafening: there are a whole lot of ungenuine sick and disabled people out there who are, in more popular parlance, 'faking it' or 'scrounging off the state'.  Such use of language is dangerous and brutal. The rise in disability hate crime has coincided with this vile propaganda.
Jane Moore, then trotted out another of those sloppy platitudes. 'Those who can work, should work'. Again, what are the implications here?  That some are 'choosing not to work' or 'choosing a lifestyle on benefits'? I am sick of hearing these hollow and brutal phrases that fail to address the fact that in order to have choice, there has to be an alternative.  But with its aggressive pursuit of austerity, this government has taken away the alternatives of meaningful work with a decent income.
Who would choose to live on £71 a week (or even less if you're under 25),  with threats of sanctions at every turn and cuts to housing benefits, not enough to eat, to keep warm or clothe themselves?
It's high time that the government and the media that they own took responsibility for their choice of words.