Archives for posts with tag: ESA50


Just for the moment, forget policies and even the general election, and let’s look at humanity.

It’s been said many times, ‘elections are not about personalities’, and every time, they are wrong.

If you want to experience a world devoid of personality and humanity and based solely on policy, take a trip to your local Jobcentre and sign on, or face the arrival of an ESA50 form in its hideous brown envelope, fill it out, and await notification and then attend a Work Capability Assessment. If you get lucky, you’ll get an assessor who will engage with you at a human level, but the process is designed for that not to happen. And here’s the important bit, for many, if not most, people, these experiences are traumatising because they are dehumanising by design.

We face an election that mostly revolves around two parties, but that’s just because it is a rotten system of first past the post and is not representative of the voting public, but all of the parties will be campaigning, and the art of campaigning is the art of persuasion, and the majority of people will vote based on a complex mixture of upbringing, social status, whether they are essentially deferential or not, prejudice, personality, media influence, and so on, and tagging along somewhere at the back, there might be a greater or lesser awareness and understanding of policies.

Like it or not, the popular rise and rise of Jeremy Corbyn is about, and because of, Jeremy Corbyn himself. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. And why? Because he relates to people, speaks to the people, is open and behaves in a sincere and honest way to which people can, and do, relate.

If I were to name a few others in a loosely similar vein, I’d say Caroline Lucas, who just strikes me as a thoroughly decent human being, Mhairi Black and good old Dennis Skinner.

We’ve had seven years of Tory misrule and they don’t come anywhere in the humanity stakes. Theresa May, by any sane standard, has nothing going for her, lacking personality and common or garden decency and empathy. She has no people skills and is clearly deeply uncomfortable around ordinary people, lacking any qualities of spontaneity, warmth, personality or humanity. She is ahead simply because she is ‘establishment’, along with royalty, Lords and Ladies, pomp and pomposity, and she appeals to a deeply conservative streak in Britain which views anything remotely challenging to the status quo as tawdry, lower class, suspicious and ‘not the done thing’. She is the perfect ‘upstairs, downstairs’ candidate, and mixing with the lower orders is definitely not her thing.

Who wants a Prime Minister who is at home in Safeway or Lidl? Oh gawd! If Theresa May went into such places, they’d have to clear everyone out and those who remained, to show her a packet of cornflakes, would be carefully chosen and expected be on their best, deferential, grovelling, behaviour. Sound familiar?

Why was Thatcher so popular and even got away with adopting the royal ‘we’ when talking about herself? She was establishment through and through, even though she wrecked all our national industries and put the boot in, literally, to the unions.

It is said that ordinary people voting Conservative is like turkeys voting for Christmas, and it’s absolutely true.

And Corbyn? He is anti-establishment and has no time for cap doffing, he’s trying to head the turkeys off at the polling booth and asking them to think again.

The establishment and their media nearly had a heart attack when Jeremy Corbyn didn’t bow deeply enough at the Cenotaph. What did David Cameron mockingly say during Prime Minister’s Questions? He said his mother would advise the Labour leader to “put on a proper suit, do up your tie and sing the national anthem”. And, god help us, Corbyn has an allotment and grows stuff and gets his hands dirty and that, according to the Tories and the right wing media, makes him unelectable. Really? Yes, really, and in so doing they mock each and every one if us in our ordinariness, in our unprivileged, unpretentious, profoundly and deeply human, lives.

That’s what this election is about. For millions of us, it’s about fighting for our lives and our right to exist, to have somewhere to live, food on the table, heating in our homes, medical treatment when we need it, a decent education for our children, care in the community, help with disabilities, hospitals, fire stations, police to help against crime, doctors and GP surgeries, nurses, junior doctors and specialists, A&E departments, and enough security to live our lives without fear or want.

It’s about humanity.

KOG. 14 May 2017


15_february_2016A letter a day to number 10. No 1,343

Monday 15 February 2016.

Dear Mr Cameron,

I note that some MPs are due a third pay rise on top of the 10% last July and a further 1.3% hike this coming April. Half the eighty MPs who help chair meetings are apparently set to get a £3,700 extra pay rise and the other half a £15,000 pay rise. That ol’ Westminster bubble seems to be keeping you all safe from any concerns about austerity in the privilege and prosperity you are so adept at rewarding yourselves with at our expense.

This is heady stuff for a government that cannot design an IT system that can work out that a man who lost his legs, his spleen and one eye in the 7/7 bombings isn’t going to get better. Dan Biddle had to give up work in 2014, having struggled on working since the bombing, because post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) meant he could not work for long periods of time. Since then he has been in receipt of ESA but has recently received a letter telling him that unless he fills out the ESA50 form, presumably for the second time, he will lose his support. Whilst his PTSD may possibly improve over time, he will be physically disabled for the rest of his life necessitating extra support. Iain Duncan Smith may think work will make him well, but it certainly won’t help him grow new legs, a spleen and an eye. I understand this is challenging for Smith, but then we’ve all been saying the man has no place being in charge of the DWP for years.

In the last report I saw in June last year, Universal Credit, Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship benefit denial system, was over budget by £3 billion putting the lifetime cost at £15.8 billion. This is a system so useless it cannot even work out my age, having called me in for a Work Capability Assessment on two occasions, once two months before I retired and the second two days before I retired. It required 6 separate phone calls to 6 separate DWP internal departments before someone could acknowledge that the system is an ass. This is way beyond benefit denial into towering incompetence or deliberate obfuscation to dismay, bewilder and frustrate beyond reason. My bet is on the latter, because Smith is that kinda guy.

I see that the commons has voted to protect arrested MPs from disclosure to the house of commons and the public. This is an excellent idea, one that I shall be advising all and sundry to adopt. We are, after all, all MPs and equal before the law, not withstanding some being a whole lot more equal than others. As an MP (Member of the Public) I expect the same privileges and protections due any other MPs. I believe a pay rise is due for all MPs outside the Westminster bubble of 10% back dated to July 2015 and a further 1.3% from April.

14_november_2015A letter a day to number 10. No 1,257

Saturday 14 November 2015.

Dear Mr Cameron,

I really have to wonder how this country is ever going to recover from your brutal and increasingly dysfunctional government. You might not be interested in personal cases but I am going to give you one any way, mine.

A few weeks ago the DWP wrote to me to inform me that in less than three months time, on January 27 2016, I am due to retire and would get in contact nearer that date to sort out my pension.

Imagine my surprise then to receive, a week later, an appointment for a Work Capability Assessment. Despite filling the long and difficult ESA50 assessment form in which I detailed what acute social phobia is like to live with and how it affects my life and requesting a home visit, which I have always had in the past, a home visit was rejected, ‘A home visit could not be authorised (their emphasis) by a Healthcare Professional based on the medical evidence we have received’. I am not sure what kind of Healthcare Professionals Maximus employ at the Bristol Centre for Health and Disability Assessments but it clearly isn’t in human physical or mental health care. In their letter they said they would provide a taxi to and from the assessment. I wrote to them to explain that a taxi makes my situation worse, not better and I also informed them of a recent serious medical condition for which I am due an operation on Friday 20th November and for which treatment will be ongoing for some time.

I heard nothing from them and the taxi duly turned up and I had to inform the driver that I was unable to attend the appointment. After the driver left I was overcome with uncontrollable shaking and in acute distress in the certain knowledge that the outcome from all this is likely to be the loss of all social security support and that is the power of life and death that the DWP have and abuse over our lives.

I have no desire to become just another statistic in the very long list of those who have suffered and died under Iain Duncan Smith’s brutal regime. This is a pointless and senseless attack in the closing weeks to my retirement, just another story of blind belligerence forcing people to jump through hoops when it would be obvious to a stone dinosaur they are neither fit nor capable of work and yet sanctions against people with mental health problems have risen 600% over the last four years. Now there’s a statistic for you that you can’t blame on Labour.

27_september_2015A letter a day to number 10. No 1,213

Sunday 27 September 2015.

Dear Mr Cameron,

Contrary to popular opinion in what are laughing called the minds of Tories, we are not ‘the common herd’, nor are we ‘stock’, nor are we beasts of burden to be forced into any job vacancy that becomes available regardless of what that job is and whether we are fit and able to do it. Back in 2010 Iain Duncan Smith said it was a “sin” that people failed to take up available jobs.

Very recently Smith told parliament that he wanted to get disabled people in work up to the levels of ‘normal, non-disabled people’, meaning proportionate numbers comparable to the general population. Of course in Smith’s twisted mind all illness and disability is thoroughly abnormal and aberrant and will be improved by work and people made well through hard labour. Only the other day my best mate, who is being treated for cancer, told me the DWP had closed his claim for support because he did a few hours work and that if he still needed support he’d have to make a new claim. In one of many phone calls, he managed to talk to a human being instead of a DWP robot in human form, who told him no action should have been taken because printed clearly at the top of his claim was information clearly stating his claim was awaiting a decision maker to, er, make a decision.

Of course it still remains that Smith’s incentive of preference to support and encourage people into work is his despicable sanctions regime. This applies equally to paid work and unpaid Workfare or ‘mandatory voluntary work’ as Lord Hodgson, member of the all-party parliamentary group on civil society and volunteering, put it. It doesn’t say much for the ennobled gentleman that he knows not what an oxymoron is, nor yet that forced labour is illegal under human rights law, but then, to be fair, nor do the police as my visit to them on this very issue revealed when I was told I needed to pursue it as a civil issue.

So profound is Smith’s touching faith in the efficacy and healing properties of work that he even finds people in a coma fit for work and sanctions them for not filling out their ESA50 forms without good cause, a coma clearly not being a good enough reason. I can only wonder whether Smith is himself not in some kind of permanent coma as he seems incapable of any kind of joined up, coherent, thought but wanders through life causing mayhem, death and destruction as if he’s on a holy moral crusade (which he is).

What has become abundantly clear is that it is the Tory view that if you squeeze ordinary people hard enough, deprive them of the means of survival, test them and retest them, ignore all evidence from experts and hound them to the point of death and beyond, we will, like butterflies emerging from chrysalises, suddenly be transformed into ‘hard working people’ who will ‘do the right thing’, for whom low pay, no pay, will be no object to our ability to labour at as many jobs as possible in the vain hope that some one will grant us a crust of bread one day.