Category Archives: disabilty and health news

What next? Here’s a bit of a catch up blog post for August 2020

Here’s a bit of a catch up blog post for August 2020


  • Delta Ladies,

    It’s proved very difficult to try and keep the act going. So much of it was created by the personalities of those involved as much as anything else. Whilst I had tried to keep the band going there has not really been anyone that so far was the right fit. Not for peoples lack of trying I hasten to add. Often simply because of we had always been a “let’s see what happens on the night” sort of band with a lot of freedom in what we played. Often Vicky would chuck in a number we had not played for months at random and not always in the same key that we had played it in before.  On another occasion Vicky came up with a tune on the dulcimer that was sort of Scottish sounding slow air and we played it at a gig having not heard it before that evening. Sadly we did not even have a demo recording of it so its lost to the world That’s not in everybody’s comfort zone which is quite understandable. Its not just about playing or performing ability, it’s about practical issues. Being in the right place and having the time to be involved without it clashing too much with other commitments. I had hoped to restart this year when of course Covid -19 and lockdown hit.  That was a real blow as I had just got myself back up off the floor after Vicky’s death and was beginning to feel a little more confidence again.

    I am still plowing on with the other music I make and record in various forms as much as possible, but that’s a rather solitary pursuit in the main at present. I am lucky that I have what I need to create. It’s useful to be able to play the range of instruments that I do. I released two albums of some of my most recent material which you can find here.

  • 2020 Vision
    Not So Sure
    Released on August 7
    These are also available on Itunes and the other usual suspectsI am doing some remote collaborations from time to time to as fortunately current technology allows this fairly easily. Very different from the old days of posting cassettes to each other for collaborations.
  • Health and other stuff.

    I have had a lot of bother with my back and related conditions which I am working on improving but it’s been a bit up hill. I have also got quite depressed primarily because of lack of face to face contact with people I know are quite a distance away from where I live so I don’t tend to be able to meet people casually.

    I don’t regret moving from London as the countryside here is wonderful and only a mere 5 minute stroll from my front door. Our next door neighbor even has ducks in his back garden. I haven’t really got properly integrated locally for all sorts of reasons and Covid-19 has not helped much either with that.
    Being a somewhat introvert depressive makes life a bit uphill too.



The reality of austerity Disability Roulette

I am re-posting this from a blog by Sue Marsh as I feel it deserves the widest possible audience.

Follow her on twitter here

Read her blog on the link below

Disability Roulette

 Imagine you work for a big national company. They don’t pay very much and you struggle to make ends meet.
One day, the manager comes into the office and announces that the company needs to save money and with immediate effect, they will no longer be paying 20% of their staff.
He says that unfortunately, you are one of the people who will no longer work for money.
Certain that your boss has gone quite mad, you ask -with justifiable outrage  what on earth you will do?? How will you buy food or pay the rent??
He says it’s OK. The company have been very careful to only select workers who have a husband or wife with a job. You shout that your wife only earns £8,000 a year working part time as a cashier! He says that will be enough.
Angrily, you tell him he can stuff the job right up his arse, you’re leaving! No-one can work for free! What he is doing is against the law. In fact it breaks more laws than Jeremy Hunt at a Murdoch garden party. You will take him to court.
He explains that the government changed the law at midnight. From now on, anyone migrated” onto Nominal salary contract cannot ever leave their jobs. You must stay with the company, working for free, until you retire in 38 years  (An aide whispers something in your boss) No, wait, scrap that bit, you must stay with the company until you die says your boss carelessly, as though he just told you the stationary cupboard needs re-stocking.
As though stumbling through a terrible nightmare, you realise theres nothing for it, you will have to get a second job. Your boss points out clause 8, subsection C :
No employee on a nominal salary contract (NSC) can attempt any other work for any other company or do any kind of paid work beyond the contractual obligations of the NSC  at all. Any money earned by employees on an NSC will be confiscated and donated to the Treasury in the national interest.
As you stumble blindly away from him, your boss adds a bizarrely random parting shot Oh, and weâre confiscating your car and you can never have a bath or shower again.
Suddenly it feels like you’ve been plunged into a Hollywood movie. The script is so unbelievable, so surreal that youre sure once people hear whats going on, they wont allow it. There will  be an outcry. Maybe you’re actually dreaming. You phone journalists, MPs, lawyers, you desperately beg your friends to help you, but as though they all been brainwashed overnight, no-one but you and the other people who must work for free see anything wrong with it at all. Or perhaps they do and they’re just glad it isnt them¦.
As the months go by you plead for help. Once a week, you must beg for free food in a long dispirited queue, but when you try to tell people, they say youre just being dramatic. You beg someone to help you to keep your home, but they assure you people arent losing their homes at all. You smell because you cant have a bath and you cant get to work without your car.
Now imagine your “job” is cancer.
A Dr has just told you that you have terminal cancer. It won’t kill you immediately, but you probably only have 5 years or so and there’s nothing you can do. As the tumour grows inside your skull, you will slowly lose your memory, your speech, your ability to move or swallow until you are fed through a tube, breathing through a ventilator and shitting into a bag.
Suddenly you “work” at staying alive -taking endless medications, keeping appointments with doctors and surgeons and radiologists.
But randomly, this government have announced that 25% of people with a serious long term illness or disability – including terminal cancer, heart failure and transplant patients –  will lose their incomes. All of it. Just like that, overnight.  If they have a partner who earns just £7,500 or more a year, they will lose everything, becoming totally dependent on someone else’s goodwill to survive.
I’m talking about people who can genuinely never work again, and I’m not talking about a few understandable mistakes here and there, I’m talking about a thousand people every WEEK who are being wrongly stripped of their entire incomes in exactly the way the employee in my little story above was, only to have them re-instated after a year, even 18 months of fighting and appeals. Some have died before the appeals could be heard. In fact 72 people a WEEK are dying having been found fit for work by this government.
They can’t get another job so they must accept whatever the government decide to do with their lives. Their totally trapped.
Next year, half a million MORE seriously ill or disabled people will lose their DLA. Again, almost entirely randomly; again, purely to save money – the government admit this quite freely. This benefit was awarded whether you worked or not and was designed to help disabled people with the extra costs of transport and getting washed and dressed. Many disabled people won’t be able to get to work any more and the government have changed the criteria to define “bathing” as washing above the waist with a flannel. (I am not a joking.) If your disability means that you can’t get out of the house or maintain a basic level of personal hygiene you are very unlikely to keep a job or find a new one anyway.
Even if someone who suffers from Parkinson’s, or motor neurone disease or is paralysed tries to earn anything, they simply get it taxed or taken off any replacement benefits at levels close to 100%
And just like the Hollywood movie, no-one wants to listen. It’s so farfetched, so horrible, that you all think it can’t possibly be happening.
“Not here in the UK. Not right in front of our noses. We don’t let our cancer patients and paraplegics die in poverty, here, thank you very much. I mean I know Cameron’s bad, but even he wouldn’t take every penny from people who were actually really disabled. Not 4,000 of them every month? Don’t be silly! ”
So I’ll leave you with a quote from Joseph Goebbels :
“When one lies, one should lie big and stick to it. People will eventually come to believe it.”
And one from David Cameron :
“We will always protect the most vulnerable”

Benefits and Work community October 2nd news letter

2 October Newsletter

Benefits May Stop For Claimants Who Appeal Plus New 3 Year Sanctions

In this edition we have confirmation that the DWP is actively considering axeing employment and support allowance (ESA) payments for claimants who challenge a decision that they are fit for work.  Instead, claimants will have to try to sign on for jobseeker’s allowance, where they will face a harsh new regime which, from later this month, will include potential benefit sanctions of up to three years.

Plus, we learn how many ESA claimants who get found fit for work are left with no income at all and discover the outrage amongst disability charities at a secret deal done between Disabilty Rights UK and the DWP.

We also have leaked confirmation that Atos will be paid millions in bonuses for getting disability living allowance (DLA) to personal independence payment (PIP) transfer medicals done in a tearing hurry rather than getting them right – and how this may also affect not just DLA but also ESA claimants.

And finally, as well as the money off offer below we also have a free screensaver of stunning images from A Way of Seeing to say thank you for over 5,000 Facebook likes of our Benefits and Work page.


If you’re not already a member, join the Benefits and Work community (open access) before midnight on Thursday and you can get 3.50 off the cost of your annual subscription.  Just type the following code into the coupon box when you pay via PayPal:


to get an annual subscription for 15.95, down from 19.45.

The DWP has now released their response to the ‘consultation’ on a mandatory revision before appeal system.  Under the new system, claimants who wish to challenge most benefits decision will be prevented from lodging an appeal with the Tribunals Service until the DWP have had another look at the decision.  There is no time limit for how long the DWP can spend on this mandatory reconsideration.

This is particularly important for ESA claimants who are found fit for work, as they are legally prevented from continuing to receive the assessment rate of ESA until they have lodged an appeal.

After months of refusing to answer the question, the DWP have now revealed in their response document that they are still undecided as to whether claimants will be allowed to continue to receive ESA during the reconsideration phase.  Worryingly the document does state that “other benefits may be available to claimants where ESA has been disallowed”.

Benefits and Work members can read more and comment here.

You can download the response document from the DWP website

ESA claimants who end up on JSA face an extraordinarily harsh new sanctions from 22 October, when decision makers will have the power to ban claimants from JSA for up to three years for repeated offences of:

leaving a job voluntarily;
losing a job through misconduct;
refusal/failure to apply for, or  accept if offered a suitable job;
refusal/failure to participate in mandatory work activity.

If you can show you had good cause for your actions, then there will, be no sanction.  But with legal aid ending for welfare benefits next year, help to show good cause will be harder to come by.

Claimants may lose out on JSA where decision makers refuse to accept that the they are too ill to undertake mandatory work, for example. Or if an unscrupulous employer unlawfully sacks them because they are disabled, but alleges that dismissal was for misconduct, then they may also face sanctions.

Again, with the ending of legal aid for employment law and the introduction of hefty fees for taking a case to tribunal, it will be much harder for claimants to show they were not at fault.

The three year sanction will apply for a third offence within 52 weeks. The current maximum sanction is 26 weeks.  Claimants may be eligible for hardship payments during the sanction period.

Further details of the new sanctions regime can be found on the DWP website.

The DWP has been forced to reveal what really becomes of ESA claimants who are found fit for work.

The Daily Record reports that, according to a DWP survey carried out in 2009 but only recently uncovered by a Freedom of Information request, 55% of claimants found fit for work were left unemployed and without any income.   A further 30% were in receipt of benefits and only 15% had found employment.

Given the current economic climate, today’s figures may be even more dismal.

You can read the Daily record article here and Benefits and Work members can comment here.

There is outrage amongst disability charities at the news that the DWP has set up a new quango, the Disability Action Alliance, to produce disability policies and then secretly appointed Disability Rights UK (DRUK) to run it.

News came out only after the deal was done and some angry charities are now trying to get questions asked in the House of Commons about what went on behind closed doors.

The new organisation is supposed to help ensure that government policy gets the best possible outcome for disabled people.  But the Alliance is made up of private companies, who may be more concerned about making profits than supporting disabled people,  public sector organisations, who may be more concerned about saving money,  and by charities like DRUK which are heavily and increasingly dependent on government cash to stay afloat.

There is particular disquiet from disability charities such as RNIB and the UK Disabled People’s Council that DRUK was chosen to lead the new body without any consultation or appointment process that would have allowed others to take part.

The appointment includes a fee for DRUK, whose head Liz Sayce wrote a report recommending the closure of Remploy factories which the government is now putting into action.

Benefits and Work members can read more and comment here and also here


A botched Freedom of Information response has revealed that Atos’ contract for carrying out DLA to PIP transfer medicals includes a very hefty profit of £40 million if the company manages to put 15% more people through medicals than expected in Scotland and Northern England.  The “Atos Risk Management Plan” shows that they will make more than £28 million even if they only examine the expected number of claimants.

There is no evidence of a penalty for getting it wrong  in tens of thousands of cases as they currently do with ESA, however.

It is clear that at the moment there is a wide margin of uncertainty about how many current DLA claimants will take part in the PIP transfer and that the DWP and Atos have worked out what the cost and profitability of the contract is likely to be depending on the final number of people assessed.  What this may mean is that, for Atos, there will be a real financial incentive to rush through medicals as quickly as possible without worrying whether they are collecting detailed and accurate evidence.  The profits will be for volume not for accuracy.

This could have a knock on effect for ESA claimants too. It is likely that some of the same staff and same centres that are used for ESA examination will also be used for PIP.  The faster  the current incapacity benefit to ESA transfer can be completed, the sooner staff can be freed up to work on the PIP contract.  Yet more incentive to get things done fast rather than well.

Details of the contract, which the DWP had meant to keep secret, were accidentally disclosed in a   Freedom of Information response.

More details from the Daily Record.

The Benefits and Work Facebook page now has over 5,000 likes.

To say thank you for your support , A way of Seeing – who do graphic work for us as well as running our Facebook page – are giving away a free screensaver slideshow of stunning images from their “On The Water Front” collection.

Not only do A Way of Seeing do a fantastic job on our Facebook page, they also run free photography workshops in schools as well.  They are great supporters and friends of the Benefits and Work community, so please support their work in turn by visiting the A Way of Seeing Facebook page, and clicking on ‘Like’ before downloading the screensaver.

As always, there’s much more news in the members area than we have room for in this newsletter. Many thanks to everyone who has sent in news stories over the last fortnight, including: Beverley Hymers, John Pring, originaldave, bro58,  Jim Allison, papasmurf, Crazydiamond.

Finally, after all the gloom, a few cheery posts from the forum to end on:

ESA decision reconsidered, placed in Support Group until 2015
“thanks for all the advice on your site”

High rate mobility and high rate care DLA awarded indefinitely after third attempt
“Thanks again this will make a huge impact to my life”

ESA decision reconsidered after lodging appeal, moved from WRAG to Support Group
“I am very thankful to this site – for the guides, advice and support that I have received from members and mods alike.”

Decision revised and placed in ESA Support Group after being migrated from IB to ESA WRAG
“Many thanks for the B&W guides, they are invaluable.”

Successful ESA appeal, moved from WRAG to Support Group
“Best wishes to all.”

ESA decision reconsidered after request for appeal, moved from WRAG to Support Group

“would just like to thank this site for their help”

Placed in ESA Support Group without medical
“Many thanks to all on here & to the people who run the site for the guides.”

Transferred from IB to ESA Support Group for 3 years without having medical assessment
“I wish to thank B & W so very much.”

Placed in ESA Support Group
“thanks B&W for your very informative Guides they, in my opinion made all the difference to my claim”

Placed in ESA Support Group without medical assessment
“the info on here is very helpful and has been invaluable so thank you.”

Placed in ESA Support Group after request for review of initial decision to award 0 points

Join the Benefits and Work community now and discover what a difference we can make.

You are welcome to reproduce this newsletter on your blog, website, forum or newsletter provided it is properly attributed to

You can also read this newsletter online (open access).

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd
Company registration No.  5962666

Whats wrong with this picture

OK kiddies, please watch this video and feel free to draw your own conclusions.

Clearly the system is broken, the point is who broke it?

If you find this video disturbing and I find this profoundly disturbing myself , then ask yourself the question how have we sunk so low.


FEAR NOT your enemies,
FEAR NOT your friends,
FEAR ONLY the indifferent,

for they can only kill you.
for they can only betray you.
who permit the killers and betrayers to walk safely on earth.

~ Edward Yashinski, Yiddish poet who survived the Shoah only to die in a Communist prison in Poland.






The turn of the season, but not the turning of the tide

Its been a some what checkered couple of weeks, several gigs, being the usual mix of good bad and indifferent. A little manifestation of mental health problems has also shaken the tree a bit, but I am still rolling abet slightly unsteadily. I am still feeling very tired but getting a bit more physical exercise which is helping a little with the aches and pains. Stretching of various forms seems to really help, perhaps I should get a rack…Some people pay money for that sort of thing don’t they.I am currently much disturbed by the situation with regard to the disability benefits row (ATOS assessments and similar). I have no particular personal axe to grind, but having dug deeper in the news behind the news as it were, I do not see much in the way of good happening. I see a primarily ideologically driven scourge and the demoniseation of many of the weaker
in society with very little justification given.Frequently there is the case that those that are trying to help themselves get out of a hole are having the ladder kicked out from under them. We seem to have been seduced by the devil take the hindmost attitude…




 Response to Alleged Govt’ Plans to Sanction Disabled Benefit Claimants (final)

How it is in the UK right now

I am republishing here the newsletter from the benefits and work community to help give it a wider airing.

12 June Newsletter

If you’re not already a member, join the Benefits and Work community (Open access) before midnight on Thursday and you can get £3.50 off the cost of your annual subscription.  Just type the following code into the coupon box when you pay via PayPal:


to get an annual subscription for £15.95, down from £19.45

Find out how to subscribe now. (Open access)

14 heart attacks and failing kidneys – you’ll soon be fit for work

How sick do you need to be before the DWP will admit that you are probably never going to work again?

Very sick indeed if your kidneys are failing, as two recent decisions show with brutal clarity.

Paul Mickleburgh, one of the world’s longest surviving kidney dialysis patients is hooked up to a dialysis machine for five hours, three days a week.  He’s also had cancer and pneumonia and  suffers from spontaneous internal bleeding, brittle bones a twisted bowel and agonising joint pains as a result of his renal treatment.  He’s had four failed kidney donations.

To top it all off, Paul has had 14 heart attacks in the last five years and believes his last attack was caused in part by the stress of trying to deal with the DWP.  Sadly, patients with chronic kidney disease are actually more likely to die from associated heart disease than from kidney failure itself.

In spite of this, Paul has been placed in the work-related activity group,(external link) meaning that he is someone who is expected to return to the workplace in the reasonably near future.  Paul’s request for this dreadful decision to be looked at again came back with the same result – he should be moving towards a return to work.

We hope that Paul is now appealing . . . and that his heart will stand the stress.

More desperate still is the story of Karen Sherlock, a disability activist connected to the Spartacus campaign, whose kidneys were failing and who was waiting to be put on dialysis.  In spite of her very serious condition, Karen was placed in the work-related activity group, meaning that her benefit would soon stop altogether because of the time limit on contribution-based ESA.

Karen spent many months fighting that decision.  Two weeks ago she finally won her exhausting battle with the DWP and was placed in the support group.

This week she died of a heart attack.

According to a fellow campaigner (external link):

“She was terrified. Beside herself with fear. She lived her last months desperately scared that her family would not survive the onslaught it faced.  . . . The system failed her and she spent her last precious moments in this world fighting. For herself, for her family and for others.

“She was one of us. She was Spartacus. And now she’s dead and she died in fear because the system failed her, because cruel men refused to listen and powerful men refused to act.

“She spent her last months fighting for the “security” of £96 a week and the reassurance that it couldn’t be taken away.”

Last month, in a speech to Work Programme providers at the  Institute of Economic Affairs (external link), Chris Grayling the Employment minister explained why the Work Programme is not making the profits for the private sector that had been hoped for.  His explanation as to why the much prized incapacity benefit to ESA transfer claimants – for whom providers get paid £14,000 when they place them in work – are in short supply, touches directly on the fate of Karen Sherlock and others like her:

“We have more people fit for work, and moving to JSA. We have more people needing long term unconditional support than expected. And those in the middle [work-related activity] group, who would expect before too long to be mandated to the Work Programme, have proved to be sicker and further from the workplace than we expected. So it will take far more time than we predicted for them to be ready to make a return to work.”

In other words, providers will have to be patient, but eventually those £14,000 a time claimants will be handed over to them . . .  unless, like Karen Sherlock and an increasing number of other seriously sick people, they die before the bounty can be claimed.

Combined with an increasingly brutal benefits regime are cuts in funding to the very agencies who can help claimants fight the worst of these decisions.

In May of this year, the Legal Aid Bill became law. This means that legal aid for most welfare rights, housing, employment and debt issues will be withdrawn completely next year, causing a huge cut in the income of many advice agencies and law centres.

Coupled with ongoing cuts in support to the voluntary sector from local authorities, this means there will be a dramatic fall in the availability of free advice – or indeed advice of any kind – and a considerable increase in the number of advisors who are out of work or working only part-time.

Last October we asked Benefits and Work newsletter readers what they thought of the idea of a website where freelance welfare rights workers could advertise their services.  The response was overwhelmingly positive, but with concerns regarding such things as cost, privacy and the reliability and genuineness of advisors.

After much thought, we’ve now set up a website to take the idea of a freelance service forward.  At the heart of the new site is an Advisors Code of Conduct which we hope will deal with many of the concerns you expressed.

We’d be very grateful if you could take the time to take a look at the Code and let us know your thoughts, by commenting on the Help and Advice Plus blog (external link).

If we do decide to begin the service there will be no charge for at least six months to advisors who use it, whilst we pilot it.

As always, there’s much more news in the members area than we have room for in this newsletter, including:

A protest by disabled workers and a horse outside the offices of Disability Rights UK

GPs at the British Medical Association unanimously call for the work capability assessment to be scrapped

Many thanks to everyone who has sent in news stories over the last fortnight, including: Beverley Hymers, John Pring, Jim Allison, papasmurf, Crazydiamond.

Following new guidance on the use of aids and appliances in relation to the work capability assessment, we’ve updated our guide to claiming ESA on physical health grounds.  We’re also currently working on updating the guides to claiming DLA for children, following the national roll-out of new claim packs.


Finally, as always,  a selection of good news from the forum:

Placed in ESA Support Group with no medical assessment
“Thanks to the great information on this wonderful site i was automatically placed in support group and no medical”

DLA middle rate care and low rate mobility and ESA Support Group

“Thank you all once again the guides were priceless in my case”

Migrated from IS to ESA Support Group without medical assessment
“Thank you all at benefits and work for the excellent guides”

DLA success, high rate mobility and middle rate care
“Many thanks B&W, well worth the subscription”

Placed in ESA Support Group and not called for medical assessment
“just wanted to say thank you to this site & the online guides”

Son’s DLA successfully renewed after reaching age 16

“Have used your fabulous guides and my son’s DLA has been renewed for post 16”

From IB to ESA Support Group for 3 years
“I cannot thank your website enough, I studied your information guides and know that this would not have happened without your help”

Moved from IS to ESA Support Group without medical assessment
“I just wanted to say thanks for the helpful guides you offer.”

Indefinite award of high rate mobility and middle rate care DLA on renewal
“Just proves your guides really do work as all I did was follow the guide to the letter”

Transferred from IB to ESA Support Group
“Thanks Benefits and Work”

Placed in ESA Support Group for 2 years
“Thank you to benefits and work for helping me word the form in the correct way”

After 3 years of “hard struggle” placed in ESA Support Group
“a big thank you to you all for your help and advice”

0 points to Support Group on revision
“I am a bit disappointed if I am honest as I wanted to be in the WRAG group.”

Successful DLA claim for high rate mobility
“I couldn’t have done it without using your guide to claiming DLA. I can’t thank you enough!”

You are welcome to reproduce this newsletter on your blog, website, forum or newsletter provided it is properly attributed to

You can also read this newsletter online. (Open access).

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd
Company registration No.  5962666