April 5: Update on the election leaflets (well, there’s been one so far) that I’ve received – I got a Labour campaign leaflet from Lewisham Deptford’s Vicky Foxcroft that doesn’t mention this government’s astounding attacks on sick and disabled people as far as I can see. There’s no mention of Atos, Maximus and the work capability assessment, the months-long queues for Personal Independence Payment asessments, or the elimination of the Independent Living Fund. I can’t even see a reference to the bedroom tax. It’s almost as though people who need some sort of income support because of sickness or disability don’t exist or something. No mention of JSA sanctions, either. How about that. “The next election is a straight choice between a recovery that puts working people and the NHS first with Labour, or continuing with a government that is not listening to hardworking people,” Vicky tells us. Great. We can assume that people who can’t work aren’t entitled to representation from this party – ie, that nobody will be listening to them.
The really amazing thing about all of this is the extent to which the people who have taken the worst of the coalition government’s violent social security “reforms” are airbrushed from these mainstream political manifestos. People have died as a result of this government’s smashing of welfare benefits and unfathomable, utterly illogical eligibility testing. Iain Duncan Smith should be doing jail time because of that and Labour should be pushing for a prosecution. Instead, we get more of this utterly meaningless “hardworking” guff. Is anyone even buying the “hardworking” line anymore? What Vicky is really saying here is “work hard now. You’ll get fuck all if the day comes when you can’t.”
I love elections.
Wonder which mainstream political parties plan to stand up for sick and disabled people who the DWP routinely harasses in the way described on this page (answers on a very very small postit thanks):
Here is ANOTHER letter from the DWP calling a person who is in the Employment and Allowance Support Group to a jobcentre interview:
This is the fourth letter that this person has received in three months calling him to one assessment or another to keep his ESA. I personally think that this non-stop correspondence from the DWP and its fitness-for-work assessors is harassment – particularly in the case of this man, who simply can’t deal with a barrage of official letters and contact. He is in the ESA Support Group because he has serious mental health problems. He finds pressure from the DWP very difficult to deal with and certainly sees these endless official letters as potential threats to his meagre income. People who are in the ESA Support Group are judged to have the most severe health problems. They are meant to be excused from all work and work-related activities. Unfortunately, they’re not excused from non-stop badgering by the DWP and its various private-company fit-for-work assessors. Plenty of people are getting these letters – Disabled People Against Cuts has even set up response-letter templates so that people who are harassed by the DWP in this way can write and tell the DWP to back off. There are days when I think that the DWP and the likes of Atos and Maximus are working in a pincer movement, closing in on people in the Support Group from all sides.
Take the guy who received the letters you see on this page. He got one letter telling him to attend at Atos assessment in about January (that appointment was ultimately postponed, presumably while the work capability assessment baton was passed to Maximus). Then in February, he got a letter which called him to a work-focused interview at the jobcentre. (even though people in the Support Group are excused from all work-related interviews and activities). In the last week of March, he received the letter posted at the top of this page which told him to attend a 40-minute jobcentre meeting with a work coach to assess the amount of ESA he receives. Then last week, he got a letter from Maximus – a letter which calls him to a rescheduled work capability assessment at the end of April. On and on it goes.
Each letter has caused this guy an awful lot of panic and required phone calls and further contact with the letter-sender – to confirm appointment times, to ask if assessments could be recorded, or changed, or to cancel appointments where they were not actually compulsory. People in the Support Group, as I say, don’t actually have to attend work-focused interviews. They’re just harassed and hounded into thinking they should. This guy’s wife says that she was told off when she rang the DWP to say that he would never attend a work-focused interview at the jobcentre (his mental health problems are so bad that he can hardly leave the house). She said the DWP told her not to say Never, because the jobcentre might get vindictive. Brilliant.
Anyway. You get my point. ESA Support Group claimants get an awful lot of official correspondence these days, considering that they are people who the DWP is supposed to leave alone. Sure, one of the letters this guy received was about a rescheduled WCA appointment, but that hardly excuses or explain the extra letters from the jobcentre and the calls to meetings in between. And this guy’s story makes me wonder how exactly these things are co-ordinated. If I was the suspicious type, I’d wonder if the DWP actually fires these letters out regularly on purpose, just so that nobody who claims a disability benefit ever feels relaxed about it. I know that the DWP keeps up-to-date records of people’s ESA assessment histories. I’ve attended work-focused interviews at jobcentres where advisers have read very recent ESA assessment decisions from their computers, so there’s no doubt they have that information to hand. That being the case, I wonder why the DWP sprays letters about work-focused interviews and benefit-level assessments at someone who the department a) knows is also being called to work capability assessments by Atos and Maximus and b) knows is very likely to struggle with the pressure of assessment and should otherwise be left alone.
I suppose there are two possibilities here. The first is that the DWP and its medical assessors are very bad at co-ordinating their letter-sendings and just guff out letters calling people to meetings and assessments at random. The second is that the DWP and its medical assessors are actually very good at co-ordinating their letter-sending, and pile the letters and pressure on in an intentional way. Either way, I get the feeling that fending off the DWP is becoming a very time-consuming task for people who are in the ESA Support Group. As I say, Disabled People Against Cuts has already produced template letters for the many people who are on the receiving end of these mailouts.
Can’t wait for the mainstream MP hopefuls who are so desperately scrabbling for office right now to come to rescue of this group of people who can’t work. Am SURE that’s going to happen.