One Month Before Heartbreak #ombh

A fantastic initiative has been taken which hit the internet with force yesterday. The idea of ‘One Month Before Heartbreak’ which can be followed on their blog and on ‘The Broken of Britain’ blog – is to collate voices and raise voices and awareness about the government’s nefarious targeting of disability benefits in the month before the end of the consultation about changes to the DLA.

The campaign  has also taken off across Twitter – and posts can be found with the #ombh tag.

I’ve written about DLA here. I  have written up some responses to the consultation.

The best summaries of the cuts are listed by Community Care here. Too m any for me to focus on one by one here in brief.

I have seen the difference that DLA and Attendance Allowance (a similar – but, crucially,  lower – benefit for over 65s – cos as the government know, once you hit 65 and aren’t in the work market, your aspirations should decrease and so should the money you receive  but that’s another argument for another day) make.

My concerns are two-fold

– Firstly, that the government have, straight off the bat, explained that they want a decrease in take-up of DLA by 20%. For all their guff about reforming benefit, we know that DLA is not the way to target fraud. There is, in fact, little fraud of DLA claimants and it is not an easy benefit to claim. If anything, the cost of re-assessing everyone by an independent company (ATOS) will obviously have a cost. The aim of this government is to cut costs. It isn’t about making things fairer. It isn’t about reducing fraud. It is an ideological decision by this government to target people who they think won’t have the fight in them and to pander to ‘Daily Mail’ politics of the ‘grumble of the self-righteous taxpayer’.

–  Secondly, the Labour Party have stated that they support some of the government cuts on DLA and ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) . So let’s not assume that the wider fight is only with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in the coalition. This fight must be taken to the Labour Party, who, after all, introduced ATOS into the process of assessment.  (CORRECTION – as pointed out in the comments below – I was wrong about Labour introducing the ATOS link – see ians12’s comment)

As for me, I’d like medical and social care professionals to be trusted to make judgements and assessments of people in their care. I have helped and co-signed many many DLA and AA forms over the years. I would never falsify any of my information and no form that I have assisted in the completion of, over the years, has ever been turned down.

I’ve been phoned by the DWP to ‘check’ I was legitimate and to discuss forms that I had counter-signed. Why isn’t that enough? Why does the government then need to employ a further independent private company to ‘check’ and to become rich in the process.

So I wholeheartedly support the ‘One Month Before Heartbreak’ campaign. I became a social worker to fight social injustice and I can’t do that solely in my office. This is a campaign that needs broad and wide support. So go to the sites, read about the personal experiences of people who rely on these supports and answer the government consultation.


13 thoughts on “One Month Before Heartbreak #ombh

  1. Pingback: One Month Before Heartbreak #ombh - Fighting Monsters - Member blogs - Social Work Blog - Carespace from Community Care

  2. I broadly agree but beg to differ on “Labour introduces Atos” as it was actually under John Major that a company called SEMA took over what was then the B.A.M.S. Medical Services division of the [then] Benefits Agency.

    Since then we know were “creeping privatisation” has taken us, especially with regard to the NHS.

    • Fair enough – I didn’t actually know that and was writing off the top of my head. I assumed that it was a part of the process of changing from Incapacity Benefit to ESA – I will correct when my brain is a bit clearer but in the meantime I hope the comment acts as a correction of sorts and thanks 🙂

        • Not at all, I appreciate you taking the time to look up the information. I haven’t had as much time as I would have liked but the fundamental truth is that we can’t rely on Labour to fight this fight for us – because they seem to be happy to criticise DLA/ESA and throw it to the ATOS lions..

  3. Thanks so much for adding your voice to One Month Before Heartbreak, the more the better and I hope today is another day of bringing on more people in support.

  4. Great post thank you so much! I think that disabled people, carer’s and social care professionals/social workers need to join forces as currently the adversarial nature of assessments just plays into the hands of those making policy by pitting us against each other. I’d love to know your thoughts on how we could change that?
    BG Xx

  5. Thanks Oya’s Daughter and BendyGirl

    I agree about the ‘adversarial nature’ and to be honest, I think we, as practitioners need to have more fight in us to challenge this way of working. It really does go against some of the basic ethical keys of social work. Both anonymously and in my own name, I try to emphasise these points to fellow professionals in various trade groups and practices. Actually, I would emphasise the great work SWAN (Social Work Action Network) is doing in fighting the ‘disability cuts’ agenda. SWAN is basically a kind of ‘social workers against cuts’ group but hopefully it will have an increasingly strong voice.
    I think we, as professionals, need to make the move and join the fight far more – people get scared by management and there is a lot of nervousness about employment in the public sector in general. Sometimes it is easy to ‘go native’ but as you so wonderfully wrote, this is EVERYONE’S fight and we owe it because we see the effect that disability and mental distress have on a day to day basis.
    On a personal level, my dad claimed DLA and ILF and a Direct Payment for the years up until his unfortunately premature death. The difference that having a little more financial freedom and choice made to his life as a disabled man could not be underestimated. I really don’t see this as an ‘us and them’ argument as disability affected my family all through my life.

  6. I completely agree with your point about using a private company to medically assess when they have independent professionals putting their names to the application form to vouch for its truthfulness already. I never get called to discuss the client and if they are turned down I have never lost an appeal. I don’t know if the Government think we are going to be supporting applications where the person does not meet the threshold – I would never do so – but I suspect the answer is that they know they can give the private assessing company a number they want taken off the list and it will happen. Because the assessing doctors will misrepresent what is said to them and will take people off benefit who do not have the stamina to fight months of appeal or get the evidence together that they need. You would need to be fit for work to do that.

    • Alas DLA is not about “fit for work” its quite possible that removing DLA from a person removes their independence to keep a job.

      Anyone in any doubt as to the complexity and depth of the tests already involved for getting DLA should have a quick read of the first few paragraphs of this page:-

      …and the tabloids continue to say “its easy to falsely claim DLA”

      But there is a reason its so complex, its because every claimant is different, every illness affects everyone differently. So over years of amassing this case law a truer more detailed picture emerges of what illnesses and disabilities affect people and in what ways.

      Scrapping DLA means scrapping this whole case law and database that has been built over many years and starting again from scratch with PIP.

      This in turn means that many cases will not only go to Tribunal and subsequent appeals to Commissioners, many will be taken to the Court of Appeal and on to the House of Lords or the European Courts.

      Iain Duncan Smith is well aware of this but still seems prepared to press on with what looks likely to be the most destructive move on benefits ever in the UK.

      The sad fact that Labour are not supporting a campaign against welfare cuts tells us something about who Labour are these days.

  7. I agree there will be great injustice but how will these cases even get as far as appeal when there will be no legal aid any more for benefits claimants as is planned? There won’t be any legal aid available on a no-win, no-fee basis either as the government are scrapping that too. I imagine there will be cases that would potentially reach to the stars themselves but unless the legal profession wants to work for free they just won’t happen. The various governments seem to have been planning this for years and they’ve got the angles worked out. I think the only thing that’ll make them pull back is shame, a quality little seen in politicians. The media in this country appear mostly interested in reprinting government press releases but that doesn’t mean that American or other foreign media will feel the same way. Imagine Cameron getting off the plane for a meeting with Obama and being greeted with banner-waving protestors complaining about the treatment of Britain’s disabled. Approach the world’s press, they’ll want to know even if the locals don’t.


    • “there will be no legal aid any more for benefits claimants”

      In practice there never was. Civil legal aid was in theory available for cases going to the Court of Appeal and the Lords but was seldom granted. Most people going to Tribunal either had to pay for lawyers themselves or get a charity etc to pay or get a benefits advisor to go with them or just plain go it alone as in most cases. Even the DWP does not supply lawyers acting on their own behalf very often to Tribunals!

      As for our US “brothers” showing solidarity I doubt it. Speaking to a friend in the US recently they can’t even understand why Incapacity Benefit should be distinct from Disability Living Allowance, they don’t understand either why people get benefits who have never worked here. And on the subject of health care also they can’t understand how getting “free” medical treatment works. To them any “socialist” idea is a “communist” idea and should be strangled at birth! One has only to listen to the baying of “the Tea Party” activists to know that there would be little sympathy for our cause in the US as they have been brought up to believe free enterprise is the best solution to everything, survival of the fittest is the order of the day in America.

  8. really good piece there is so many people both staff and service users who don’t know whats coming or think it won’t affect them

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