Crippen hears how severely ill patient ordered to leave hospital to attend Job Centre

A coroner has called on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to make urgent policy changes after it ordered a disabled patient to leave hospital to visit a Job Centre, despite being severely ill with a condition that later killed him.

Terence Talbot was being treated for drug hypersensitivity syndrome, while also being detained under the Mental Health Act, because of a rare reaction to medication that had been prescribed for his mental illness. Staff at the hospital told Disability News Service (DNS) that the severe allergic reaction had left him “very vulnerable to infection”, but DWP refused to allow him to submit a claim for benefits electronically.  Instead, he was told to leave the hospital and attend his local Job Centre in person.

He later died in Maidstone Hospital aged 58, from multi-organ failure caused by the lung conditions pneumonia and empyema, which themselves were caused by drug hypersensitivity syndrome (also known as DRESS syndrome).

Sonia Hayes, assistant coroner for Mid Kent and Medway, wrote to work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey to warn her that other claimants could die if she did not make urgent changes to how DWP deals with such cases.

Coffey has to respond to the coroner’s report by 28 January.

A DWP spokesperson told Disability News Service: “Our condolences are with Mr Talbot’s family. We are considering the report and will respond in due course.”

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

The grim reaper, along with his trademark scythe is standing alongside of Therese Coffey. He is taking phone calls and DWP helpline is printed on the side of his black hooded cloak. Coffey is saying to a man in a grey suit who is standing alongside her: “I thought that we could cut out the middleman!”

Crippen applauds disabled protesters who are prepared to face prison

Disabled activists Dolly Sen and Ellen Clifford have stated that they are prepared to break the law, and even go to prison, if the government succeeds in bringing in new legislation that will see the criminalisation of protest.

Criminalisation of Protest

They were both speaking at the online launch of Dolly’s new documentary, Broken Hearts for the DWP, which exposes the role of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in countless deaths of benefit claimants over the last decade.

Dolly told those at the launch that she was “expecting to go to jail” for her fight against injustice, due to changes being introduced by the government through the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill that she said would have a worrying impact on the right to protest.

Ellen Clifford, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), said the bill was one of the ways the government was using to shut down disabled people’s attempts to protest its actions. The bill also included attacks on the use of judicial reviews, a lawful process that has been a successful means of challenging wrongful government decisions by disabled people over the past 10 years.

She added:

“We know from history that the only way to achieve fundamental change is from the grassroots up, when we all collectivise and we forcefully demand the change that we want to see. Unfortunately, there aren’t any easy or comfortable ways to do that, and I just think we absolutely cannot be afraid of criminalisation. We have to take it on as our next battle.”

Speaking to Disability News Service (DNS) after the launch, Ellen said: “Disabled activists have to not be afraid to risk prison, we have to protest and go to prison to get our voices heard. We can’t look for ways around it – softer options that might be more comfortable and convenient for us, but which will fail to get our message across or to raise awareness sufficiently, and most importantly present a challenge to those in power.

“There are people [in the disability sector] who think that the way that you engage and influence the government is to be reasonable. But you don’t. First of all, if they don’t want to listen, they are not going to listen however you put across your evidence. This government is unreasonable, they are violent, they create injustice, and they have created a system that is deliberately designed to push disabled people into poverty because our lives are worth less to them than other people’s. It’s right that we meet them with a level of anger that is completely justified.”

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Boris Johnson is standing alongside of a police officer who is holding a card with ‘police, crime, sentencing and courts bill’ printed upon it. Behind Johnson is a crowd of disabled activists protesting about inaccessible transport, the DWP and those disabled people who have died during benefit assessments. Several recognisable faces are amongst the protesters including Sue Elsegood, Dolly Sen, Ellen Clifford, and Bob Williams-Findlay. Johnson is pointing at the card with a quizzical expression on his face. The police officer is saying to him: “We can’t arrest them Sir – none of our jails are accessible!”

Crippen sums up another year under Tory misrule.

Well, there we have it boys and girls. Another year in which the government has continued to erode our rights and smuggle yet more discriminatory legislation under the radar. You wonder how they do it, what with all of the partying allegedly going on!

The Lord of MisRule

In the old days, the Yule celebrations involved appointing someone as the Lord of misrule. They were put in charge of Yule revelries and instigated much drinking and wild partying. I’m beginning to think that Boris was appointed Lord of Misrule at some time, but just didn’t stop after the festivities ended.

How about this next year we all shout “enough!” and take to the streets again to protest. Oh, but wait. He’s currently pushing through legislation that will make it illegal to protest (who didn’t see that one coming?!).

Do try and have yourself a lovely festive holiday, regardless of all the crap that’s flying around, and I’ll see you all again in the New Year.

Bah Humbug Boris!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Several prominent Tory ministers, including Johnson, Rees-Mogg, Duncan Smith, and Coffey are all partying at No. 10. A large sign reads ‘Tory Xmas Party … shhhh, we’re not really here!’ Johnson has a sign around his neck that reads ‘Lord of Misrule’. In the background are many more people surrounded by Christmas decorations, balloons, and a large Christmas tree. In front of the tree is a small figure wearing ragged clothes and sitting in a self-propelled wheelchair. They are holding up a bowl with ‘Rights’ written on the side. The disabled person is saying to Johnson: “Please sir – can we have some more?!”

Crippen hears that Government’s PIP reviewer disagrees with Coffey’s ‘no duty of care’ claim

So, have you got it?! When Boris say that there wasn’t a party at number ten, he means that there might have been a party, but one which nobody attended. And when work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey says that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) does not have a ‘duty of care’ to benefit claimants, she actually means that she’ll stick to that version as long as nobody leaks information that contradicts her!

Duty of Care ©

This is why I was particularly delighted when our friend at Disability News Service (DNS), John Pring published an article revealing that Paul Gray, a civil servant commissioned by the DWP to review disability benefit assessments and who was recently giving evidence to the Common’s work and pensions committee, told them:

“Yes, of course there is a ‘duty of care’ in any process of this sort to treat people fairly, appropriately and empathetically.”

He said: “Those are all things that I think it is entirely appropriate for the department to undertake and my sense is the department is aware of that sense of duty.”

And to compound the situation DNS has also reported how two earlier DWP documents show civil servants discussing the department’s ‘duty of care’. One recommended that the department should carry out a review of its “ongoing Duty of Care”. Whilst a second document, written to assist DWP staff in dealing with claimants who need support in using its services, stated:

“Where the claimant has a known background of mental illness there are minimum requirements that Jobcentre Plus should be adopting to ensure that we are not found to be neglectful in our ‘duty of care’ towards these claimants.” 

So there we are, or are we? Who knows? (gently bangs his head against the wall!).

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Therese Coffey is standing opposite a man in a grey suit who is holding a DWP press release. On the wall behind them is a sign that reads ‘DWP press office’. Coffey is saying to him: “So, we don’t have a duty of care but if we did then it isn’t the one that we might not have … got it?!” The man, looking bewildered responds with: “ …er?!”

Crippen eavesdrops on a DWP training session

It’s good to see that the DWP are continuing along in their fantasy world, oblivious to the real world that exists outside of their ivory towers.

One of my regular DWP whistle blowers has told me of an exercise that they participated in recently based upon so called feedback from disabled claimants.

Statements like “The DWP have been shown to really care about disabled claimants” and “We are continuing to build trust between front line staff and disabled claimants” are just a couple of the claims made by the DWP. Oh, and my favourite one: “The majority of people are satisfied with the disability assessment process.” You just couldn’t make this up could you?!

So the real problem as I see it, is that they don’t see that there’s a problem. Or they do, and this is just a way of brainwashing their staff into believing that they are doing a great job and should keep dishing out the same shitty treatment to disabled claimants … cause we’re apparently lapping it up.

This is just another example of the work that the DWP propaganda division (they surely must have one?!) are doing to twist facts and provide an image of themselves that is far from the truth. A bit like their response to the recent  National Disability Survey where they cherry picked a couple of positive comments and ignored the many negative responses that they received.

It reminds me of a certain regime in pre-war Germany, and look what they ended up doing!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Boris Johnson is rolling around on the floor laughing as Therese Coffey is indicating towards a black board on which is written such statements as ‘ the majority of disabled people think that the DWP is doing a great job’. Boris is saying, with tears streaming down his face: “Brilliant Therese – have you considered writing comedy sketches?!”

Crippen discovers that the Labour Shadow disability team just aren’t interested

Well, now we have it. The reason why the Labour Party seem incapable of offering any challenge to the fiasco that this government have inflicted upon us Crips is that their Shadow Disability Team aren’t really interested!

Not Interested: Crippen Blog Dec 2021

It appears that they are just not interested in any of the research undertaken that establishes how the deaths of disabled claimants were not only avoidable but seems to have been part of a calculated move to cull the so called ‘useless eaters’ of our society (that’s us folks!).

Encouraged by Labour MP John McDonnell, disabled researcher Mo Stewart has attempted to work with Labour’s shadow disability unit, supporting them with social policy briefings and facts and figures in order that they can provide a strong challenge to the government’s attacks on our NHS and other social care provision.  She has also supplied a submission to the Works and Pension’s Committee’s new call for evidence regarding assessments for health related benefits.

The response from Labour’s Shadow team is that they are NOT interested in research, with one member apparently suggesting that they would only want to see any research at the time of a general election. The Shadow Minister for Disability Vicky Foxcroft actually going so far as to tell Mo that she “isn’t interested” in any research!

So, how does the Shadow team expect to be able to hold the DWP to account when resisting access to all evidence that identifies the mental health crisis created by the Work Capability Assessment (WCA)? The mind boggles!

Looks like we’re well and truly on our own folks!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

The office of Vicky Foxcroft, Shadow Minister for Disabled, who is behind her desk. A grey suited flunky approaches her with a stack of documents. He says to her: “More research Minister proving that the government are to blame!” Foxcroft indicates a large container full of research documents relating to the government selling out NHS to U.S and DWP deaths etc. On the container is a sign that reads ‘documents to be incinerated’. She say to the flunky: “Not to worry – just put it with all the other evidence!”

Crippen hears that government may have to rewrite its National Disability Strategy

We hear that the government may be forced to rewrite its National Disability Strategy if disabled campaigners are successful in their bid to persuade the High Court that the document is unlawful.

In an attempt to sow even more confusion, Therese Coffey the government’s works and pensions secretary, told the court that she did not have a legal duty to consult with disabled people on the cross-government strategy and that she had therefore chosen not to do so.

This is despite stating earlier that the UK Disability Survey (which the government carried out in January and February this year) was intended to be “part of our ongoing consultation” on the national strategy, she now argues that the survey was in fact an “information gathering exercise” designed only to gather data about the lives of disabled people!

Disabled activist Doug Paulley, one of the four campaigners who have taken this before the High Court, whilst rejecting the government’s latest attempt at spinning events to suit themselves (Ed: Surely not!), also highlighted the government’s failure to consult with disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) as part of the process. He claims it was “conspicuously unfair” and argued that the way the survey was carried out breached the government’s public sector equality duty under the Equality Act.

Sarah Hannett QC, representing Coffey, admitted that there was “perhaps some unfortunate language (used) referring to consultation”. She suggested that it had not been appropriate to carry out an overall consultation on such a wide-ranging strategy containing so many proposals, and that consultations would be carried out on some of the individual proposals “in due course”.

But Steve Broach, the barrister for the four disabled claimants said the survey had taken place “in the context of a concrete commitment to publish a strategy and with the express purpose” of obtaining views about what should be in it. He added: “It is crystal clear that this was a consultation, not merely a gathering of information” and that it was “inconceivable” that the government would publish a national strategy about any minority group without carrying out a proper consultation on it.

The judge, Mr Justice Griffiths, said he would deliver his judgment at a future date still to be decided.

Read more about this in the latest Disability News Service article.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

The scene is set in a court room with a high court judge sitting with a royal crown on the wall behind him. Beneath him are two disabled people, one of whom is holding up a large card with ‘breach of government’s public sector equality duties’. In the witness box is Therese Coffey, works and pension secretary. Alongside of her stands Boris Johnson and the new minister for disabled people, Chloe Smith MP. Coffey is saying out of the side of her mouth: “Psst Boris – any chance of us changing the law retrospectively again?!” Boris replies: “Consider it done Therese!”. Chloe Smith, with a sycophantic look on her face says: “My hero!”.

Crippen hears about the continued lack of support for DPOs

Our friends at Disability News Service have focused our attention once again on the National Disability Strategy and in particular its lack of any real support for disabled people’s organisations (DPOs).

More DPOs are closing as new figures provide further evidence of the “extremely hostile” environment they are facing. The disabled people’s and service-user network Shaping Our Lives (SOL) has revealed that 33 of its member organisations across the UK – nearly one in 10  – have been forced to close in the last two years. Also, the National Survivor User Network raised concerns about the fall in the number of user-led groups, due to austerity cuts and other trends affecting their funding.

These new concerns come after a report by Tracey Lazard, of Inclusion London, and Mark Harrison, of the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA), who warned that DPOs across England were in an “increasingly precarious situation”, with many existing “hand to mouth” with “little ability to carry out long term planning or invest in staff and service development”.

Becki Meakin, SOL’s involvement manager, told Disability News Service that the user-led sector was experiencing “an extremely hostile funding environment” at the same time that the pandemic has seen demand for their services soar.

She added: “The COVID-19 pandemic saw disabled people’s organisations leap to support people in their local communities, providing basic equipment … at a time when many of the people helping were also most at risk of COVID-19. The government was much slower to act, and without the work of disabled people’s organisations, many people would have been totally abandoned.”

Mark Harrison, a member of the ROFA steering group, said there was no recognition in the government’s “so-called strategy” of the plight DPOs were in.

He said: “We have to remember that Justin Tomlinson [the former minister for disabled people] created and then closed down a DPO forum after three meetings. There is no commitment from the government either to engage or co-produce with DPOs or fund DPOs. (Also) because there is no statutory duty around funding DPOs, it is inevitable that many have closed, and many will continue to close over the coming years.”

Read the full story in Disability News Service.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Two white people sit upon sacks of money under a sign that reads: ‘Charities for the disabled – nothing about them without us!’. £100 notes and gold coins are also scattered on the floor by their feet. Opposite them stands Boris Johnson. At his feet are two Disability News Service pages. One reads ‘No money for DPO’s’ and the other ‘More DPO’s close due to lack of funding’. They each have a glass of champagne which they are raising in a toast. Boris is saying: “Here’s to maintaining the Status Quo!”. One of the charity people is saying: “Cheers!”

Crippen discovers that the government have read less than 5% of our contributions!

Only a tiny percentage of the views expressed by the thousands of disabled people who took part in the government’s national disability survey have actually been read by a minister or civil servant. The vast majority were read, coded and analysed by a so-called ‘topic modelling’ machine!

The new information which came as a result of a freedom of information request, has added fresh ammunition for disabled campaigners who believe that the National Disability Strategy – which was “informed” by the survey results and was published in July – has no legitimacy and should be withdrawn.

Most of the questions posed by the UK Disability Survey in January were restricted to multiple choice answers. But four of them allowed “free text” answers, and the Cabinet Office says it received more than 25,000 answers from disabled people to these four questions.

A freedom of information response from the Cabinet Office now says that about 95% of these answers were analysed through so-called “topic modelling”, which the government has described as:

“a method of machine-assisted reading of text data, used to identify topics from free text responses to open format questions”.

A report on the survey responses says that only 1,200 of the 25,000 (4.8%) responses from disabled people were analysed by human researchers through “manual coding”, and even then, only with the aim of producing themes and sub-themes for the machine.

The freedom of information response says there is no written evidence to show how many responses were read in full by a civil servant, a minister or a researcher, with the Cabinet Office telling Disability News Service: “No information is held on the number of responses read in full by a Civil Servant, Research [sic], or Minister.”

The much-criticised survey is already being challenged by four disabled people through a high court judicial review.

Doug Paulley, one of the four taking the legal action, said:

“I am unsurprised but dismayed that the government evidently doesn’t care enough about disabled people’s input into their strategy that they didn’t even bother to read most responses. The topics chosen were not directed by disabled people, the mechanism of survey was inaccessible to many disabled people and the restricted range of answers meant that the limited free text responses were for many the only way to put down what is really important to them. I spent time writing mine carefully; doubtless other disabled people did similarly – unless they were put off responding altogether due to the other issues.”

This underlines the claim by the disabled people taking the government to court that the survey was so deeply flawed that the strategy has no legitimacy and should be withdrawn and rewritten with disabled people.

The Disability Unit have declined to say how the government justified having the vast majority of the free text responses “coded” by a machine rather than read by a human being. Although, let’s face it, this government haven’t yet shown that it has anything resembling a ‘human’ approach when dealing with disabled people!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A large grey Dalek is firing its laser gun at a document being held up by a wheelchair user. The document reads ‘feedback from disabled people’ and it is bursting into flames. On the floor around them are several more of these documents with burned edges. The Dalek has a sign upon it that reads ‘disability unit’ and is screeching at the disabled person: “Exterminate, exterminate!”

Crippen supports the call for the end of the WCA

A disabled independent disability studiesresearcher is finding it disturbing that the Disability Benefits Consortium is failing to support the user-led disabled community in its call for an end to the seriously flawed Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

As the research lead for the Preventable Harm Project that she led for ten years, Mo Stewart points to the most recently published evidence that establishes a direct link to the death, despair and preventable harm of many thousands of disabled people who were evaluated using the WCA.

In a letter to Mark Hodgkinson, Chief Executive of Scope (who are active members of the Consortium) Mo expresses serious concern to learn that once again charitable groups like Scope, who claim to represent the disabled community in theDisability Benefits Consortium are lobbying for improvements to the WCA instead of demanding that it should be abolished. She told him:

“This simply demonstrates to the DWP that the Disability Benefits Consortium anticipate that the WCA will continue to be used. Most of us now accept that the WCA is a fatally flawed and totally discredited non-medical functional assessment – not a medical assessment – and is guaranteed to cause preventable harm to those in greatest need. In her letter to Hodgkinson, Mo reiterated that:

“The WCA disregards diagnosis, prognosis, past medical history and prescribed medicines and was influenced by corporate America, who have advised successive UK administrations regarding social policy reforms since 1992.

“In a recently published briefing written in response to the Health and Disability Green Paper, and the latest research paper accepted for publication by the Journal of (In)Justice International it is made clear that the WCA does not need to be improved in any way. It needs to be abolished to stop more chronically ill and disabled people being killed by the state.”

I’ll let you know when (if?!) Mo gets a response. I don’t think she’s holding her breath!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Three giant red letters spelling out WCA are standing on grass against a clear blue sky. The letters are crumbling and cracking and are being repaired by three people. The first, a white male with an ID badge identifying him as being from the charity Mencap is hammering wooden strengtheners onto the letter ‘A’ whilst an Asian woman (from Scope) is wrapping white bandage around the letter ‘C’. The letter ‘W’ has a white male (from Leonard Cheshire) sat on top of it replacing broken pieces. A young wheelchair user is glaring at them whilst holding a banner with ‘scrap the work capability assessment’ printed on it. On the floor are three large pieces of card. On one is written ‘preventable harm project establish WCA directly linked to deaths’, on another is written ‘DPO’s state that WCA not fit for purpose’ and the final piece has written upon it ‘1,000’s die due to WCA process’. The man from Mencap is saying to the wheelchair user: “Just imagine where you’d be without the help of the Disability Benefits Consortium!”