Saturday, September 24, 2011

US Satellite warning

"some things that have re-entered have sharp edges, so don't try to pick them up," said Mark Matney, an orbital debris scientist from Nasa's Johnson Space Center.

Let me tell you something Mister Matney, if a US Satellite the size of a fcuking bus has just landed on my house and fcuking vapourized it, getting a cut finger is the least of my troubles YOU TWAT!

Pear tarte tatin

Pear tarte tatin

If you have an ovenproof frying pan (or one with a removable handle), you can use it both to caramelise the pears and to cook the tart, though a heavy, fixed-bottomed baking tin will do. Makes a 20cm tart.

1 packet ready-roll all-butter puff pastry
4-5 pears, ripe but still firm
80g unsalted butter
80g caster sugar
Juice of half a lemon

Heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Roll out the pastry and, using a plate as a template, cut out a disc around 23cm in diameter (or 1cm larger than your pan or tin). Prick a few times with a fork, and refrigerate.

Peel, halve and core the pears, then cut into thick wedges or fat chunks. Melt the butter with the sugar in a deep, heavy-based frying pan (of about 22cm in diameter, if you are using an ovenproof pan in which to bake the tart). Add the lemon juice and pears, and cook on medium-high heat, turning the pears from time to time and taking care not to break them. Cook until golden and tender, and the caramel is reduced to a thick sauce that just coats the fruit, about 20-25 minutes.

Arrange the pears cut-side up in the pan (or baking tin or tarte tatin dish, in which case scrape in all the caramel, too), cramming them together, and set aside until cool.

Drape the pastry over the pears, tuck it in around the sides of the pan to enclose the fruit, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Leave to cool for five minutes, run a knife around the sides and carefully invert the tart on to a plate. Let it stand for five minutes more, then serve on its own, or with cream, clotted cream or ice-cream.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lansley's statement is dishonest

Headlines in todays papers saying that the NHS is writing off a £12 billion IT contract are totally misleading and an attempt to rubbish the Labour Party.
Here's the truth. The system is NOT being scrapped. The NHS is keeping "Spine" – which stores patients' care records, NHS email – the secure email system for the entire NHS, "Choose and Book", the appointment booking service, and Picture Archiving and Communications Service – which allows for the transfer of X-ray pictures. These were all developed as part of this IT contract.

Lansley's statement is dishonest

Friday, September 09, 2011

EU Madness

A nurse from Eastern Europe who has not worked for 20 years by law HAS to be allowed to work in the UK even though their knowledge is totally out of date and therefore of considerable danger to patients.

However a UK nurse who has not worked for THREE years is legally required to attend and pass a Return to Practice Course/update before they can be re-registered and allowed back on a ward.

WHO do you want to nurse you?

Sunday, September 04, 2011


From the archive. Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My car doesn’t have the multimillion pound technology that enables the pilot of a fighter jet to see its target many miles away in pitch darkness. Neither, I’d hazard a guess, do white vans and many other vehicles on my daily journey to work in the dark. Furthermore, not being a Super Hero, I don’t have X-Ray vision, (or the ability to pat my head and stroke my stomach in clockwise circles simultaneously.)

I’d always thought that street lights were a remarkably sensible invention as they would (surprisingly) illuminate the streets when it’s dark. Regrettably my local council differs. They need to save money (no doubt the “fact-finding” tours to exotic Caribbean islands are a much higher priority). Of course switching off the lights isn’t publicised as a way of containing their budget, it’s proclaimed as a “Green Initiative” by the expensively hired marketing consultants.

Consequently pedestrians and unlit cyclists manage to disappear in the gloom and deep shadows of the early morning, when most sensible people are still in bed.

The great thing about headlights on cars is that the cost of switching them on is almost negligible, unlike domestic electricity bills which often equal the size of a City banker’s annual bonus. They enable me to see the cyclists and pedestrians before I run them over and upset my boss by being late arriving at work.

So, can someone explain to me why it’s apparently cool to drive with only sidelights on in the pitch dark?

Put Your Lights On!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Just How Arrogant Can You Be?

News Corp. said that while "the proposed acquisition of BSkyB by News Corporation would benefit both companies ... it has become clear that it is too difficult to progress in this climate."

Yes it’s bloody difficult when you withhold evidence from the police, and employ people to dig the dirt on any copper who dares challenge you.

Let’s not indulge in weasel words Murdoch. Your entire organisation is morally corrupt and you think that you are more important than the Law.
You are going to find that the Law wins.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Toothless PCC

I formally complained about an article in "The Independent" that was prejudicial to the forthcoming case concerning PC Simon Harwood.

This is the reply received.

“The complainant was concerned that the article contravened a notice from the Department of Public Prosecution requesting that nothing was published that would prejudice PC Simon Harwood’s trial.
The Commission made clear that columnists are entitled to express their views, provided that they are clearly distinguished from fact. While it acknowledged the complainant’s concern that the article was in contravention of the notice issued the DPP, it was not for the Commission to enforce the terms of such a notice or to establish what information would be likely to prejudice the trial. Rather, the Commission was required to enforce the terms of the Editors’ Code of Practice. Given that the complainant had not specified any inaccuracies in the article, the Commission could not establish a breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code.”

In other words, the PCC acknowledges the contravention but can do nothing because of its terms of reference.

This surely establishes the need for greater regulation of the press. Until recently I would have battled against further controls. However the press’s gross abuse of its “light touch” regulation means that it is time for formal controls enforceable in law.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Shifty and Untrustworthy

So News International is having another internal investigation, another opportunity for them to hide more evidence.

The Police should be investigating, not a bunch of people trying to protect their own interests.

At last we are beginning to understand why Andy Coulson resigned....twice.

But the hacking of Milly Dowler's voicemail happened whilst Rebekah Brooks was editor.

Whether she knew about this at the time or not, she was the boss.

She now has no alternative other than do the honourable thing and resign.

For the benefit of News International employees:

honourable US, honorable adj
1. possessing or characterized by high principles honourable intentions
2. worthy of or entitled to honour or esteem
3. consistent with or bestowing honour

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Chav Scum

Kelsey Donkin

Chav scum gets away with sick behaviour. Courts show they are gutless as usual.
22 years old, 3 kids, on benefits. Vile piece of lowlife.

Ms Donkin shouted 'bang, bang' at the police officer and made a gesture like she was using a shot gun towards PC Rathband, reportedly in an effort to impress her friends.
The mother of three has now apologised to PC Rathband in a letter and said she was pleased to have avoided a jail sentence. No doubt her solicitor advised her to write the letter, hardly a spontaneous gesture or true sign of remorse

Monday, February 21, 2011

F1 News

Bernie: "Have you got the cash stashed in the bags as I requested?"

Crown Prince: "Yes Bernie it's all here ready to be picked up" (rat ta ta ta tat in the background)

Bernie: "Hey what's that? machine guns?"

Crown Prince: "Nah it's my wife having tap dancing lessons"

Berni: "Ok no problem be there as normal, please make sure the credit slips are made out in German, the Zurich gnomes like it that way"

Sunday, February 20, 2011

So, what do you do for the Big Society?

So, what do you do for the Big Society?
Sod all as far as most ministers are concerned.
Andrew Lansley's answer qualifies as the most pathetic.

The PM wants hard-pressed families to volunteer more. We asked government ministers if they walked the walk... (From The Independent 20th Feb 2011)

David Cameron

Prime Minister

I am saving my local pub and church hall.

Nick Clegg

Deputy Prime Minister

Can't say, won't say

William Hague

Foreign Secretary

Can't say, won't say

George Osborne

Chancellor of the Exchequer

I have volunteered for a number of charities in my constituency.

Kenneth Clarke

Justice Secretary

I am voluntarily putting in place policies which mean that charities are subcontracted to deliver rehabilitation programmes for ex-offenders.

Theresa May

Home Secretary

Can't say, won't say

Liam Fox

Defence Secretary

I support the Strawberry Line Café. Patron of North Somerset Mencap, Children's Hospice SW, Clevedon Pier & Heritage Trust, Portishead Lifeboat Trust.

Vince Cable

Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

I am patron of Shooting Stars Children's Hospice, Ndoro Children's Charity, PKD and Richmond Mencap.

Iain Duncan Smith

Work and Pensions Secretary

I am president/patron/trustee of 15 causes, including Chapel End Savoy Players, 27F Squadron, Motability, Prostate Cancer Charity.

Chris Huhne

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Can't say, won't say

Andrew Lansley

Health Secretary

I ran a Sunday school once for the local church. Now I tend to do things in the constituency, like the WRVS at the local hospital. (The Daily Politics, BBC2)

Michael Gove

Education Secretary

I help out in the crèche at St Mary Abbots Church. I am a supporter/patron/ fundraiser of seven groups, including Frimley Park baby unit, Help for Heroes.

Eric Pickles

Communities and Local Government Secretary

Can't say, won't say

Philip Hammond

Transport Secretary

I am joint president of Weybridge Youth Club, vice-president, Basingstoke Canal Society, patron, White Lodge Trust (for children with cerebral palsy).

Caroline Spelman

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I set up two charities in my constituency: one to help drug users and one to help the victims of domestic violence.

Andrew Mitchell

International Development

I founded the Conservatives' social action project in Rwanda and return each year to teach English. I have a long-standing involvement in charities.

Jeremy Hunt

Culture Secretary

I set up my own charity that helps children with Aids in Africa.

Owen Paterson

Northern Ireland Secretary

Can't say, won't say

Michael Moore

Secretary of State for Scotland

Can't say, won't say

Cheryl Gillan

Secretary of State for Wales

Can't say, won't say

Danny Alexander

Chief Secretary to the Treasury

I back a number of local groups. I am a supporter of the Cairngorms farmers' market. (Daily Mirror)

Baroness Warsi

Conservative Party chairman

Can't say, won't say

Lord Strathclyde

Leader of the House of Lords

Can't say, won't say

Francis Maude

Cabinet Office minister

I do – golly, what do I do? I do a whole load of things. I'm involved in my local church. Um, gosh, that's a really unfair question cold. (PM programme, Radio 4)

Oliver Letwin

Cabinet Office minister

I spend a Sunday morning a month serving at the community shop in my village – which I helped set up. I was a trustee of the Social Mobility Foundation.

(The Independent 20th Feb 2011)

Sunday, February 13, 2011



"Dave is either the most arrogant or stupid politician on the planet.

No citizen anywhere , who is being clobbered by increasingly brutal tax grabs and to a slow death by 1000 cuts to existing community services is going to accept the hypocrisy and and the hidden agendas of Big Society."

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Letter to MP re: DLA Reform

Dear Sir

Re: Disability Living Allowance reform

I am writing to urge you, to press the Minister for Disabled People, to recall the Public Consultation on Disability Living Allowance (DLA) reform , and to cease work on reform of this benefit, due to serious flaws in the consultation paper. As such, the consultation questions are deeply skewed and any answers will be likely to support wholesale reform. This is both unfair and unwise, and will cause hardship for many disabled people. In this letter I will begin by discussing the problem with the case for reform, and then address the consequences of reform.

First, the case for reform. The reasons given for DLA reform are not robust, with little evidence to support the case for reform and, importantly, no independent academic research. My use of the word ‘little’ in this context refers to the two pieces of internal DWP papers used as evidence to build the entire case for reform – a footnote for one reference appears twice on consecutive pages. Thus the case for reform falls apart upon even cursory examination.

The wildest claim to support reform is that ‘evidence suggests that DLA can also act as a barrier to work’. This passage is footnoted, referring to “Disability Living Allowance and work: Exploratory research and evidence review, 2010, DWP Research Report No. 648” (RR No.648). This report also finds that “the main factor affecting the employment rates of disabled people is their disability or health condition” and that “a larger than average proportion of DLA recipients also appears to be affected by the specific types of impairment that carry the greatest employment disadvantage for disabled people” – yet these findings are not reported in the consultation paper, thus skewing discussion.

In fact, though the report claims that there exists a “perception of disability permanently precluding work is prevalent among individuals with disabilities not already in employment”, there is no evidence cited in the report that suggests DLA could be a barrier to work. The section and all references to it in the consultation paper could be interpreted as an attempt to misdirect, and should be removed forthwith. Further, it should be noted that the consultation commits the statistical crime of confusing correlation with causation. Whilst RR No. 648 does provide evidence that low employment is correlated with claiming of DLA, this in no way implies that one causes the other.

It could be suggested that the lack of evidence pointing to a need for reform has meant that misdirection was used in an attempt to convince the public that DLA reform is necessary. In particular, the graphs presented as Figure 1 and 2, on page 8 of the consultation paper, used to show the DLA caseload increasing at an alarming rate, are flawed in many ways, not least in the fact that no baseline is established for when take-up of DLA by people with disabilities plateaued after its introduction in 1992/93. There are further issues regarding the number of Pensioners as the report ignores demographic trends to show that there is a dramatic increase in claims by people over State Pension age. This is particularly questionable since a Pensioners’ eligibility for DLA would usually depend on their receipt of DLA prior to this – otherwise, they would be eligible for Attendance Allowance, as I am certain you are aware.

Figure 2 is also misleading as it could be read carelessly as showing that 8% of the population claim DLA. I am loath to interpret this as intentional misdirection but it is, at the very least, a sloppy drawing of graphs. Another example of sloppiness is the first sentence of paragraph 15 of the first chapter, on page 7 of the consultation paper, reading “In just eight years, the numbers receiving DLA has increased by 30 per cent.” This sentence is utterly meaningless and a misuse of statistics although, once again, I do not wish to interpret this negatively. Yet another example of the spurious use of statistics is Table 1 on Page 9 which presents the “Distribution of current caseload by rate combination”. This table appears between two paragraphs – 16 and 17 – arguing that the current system is too complex and the benefit is not understood. This is an odd, and potentially misleading, place for this data to be displayed.

Beyond misuse of statistics, sloppy presentation of data and lack of evidence, there are further points to be queried. Whilst RR No. 648 does give evidence that DLA is complex and not understood by all claimants, as suggested in paragraph 19 on page 10, this is surely grounds for improving the current system rather than expensively replacing it with an entirely new one. Likewise the assertion, in paragraph 18 of page 9, that there is no system to check that rewards remain correct. The statement that “Two-thirds of people currently on DLA have an indefinite award, which means that their award may continue for life without ever being checked to see if it still reflects their needs” is a rhetorical tautology. Indefinite awards are given to claimants with conditions that will not improve. Whilst it is not unreasonable that medical advances in the treatment of a certain condition should prompt re-evaluation of those cases, this could be achieved by augmenting DLA rather than replacing it.

The core argument of the consultation paper is that DLA is a benefit not fit for purpose. Paragraph 9 on page 6 of the consultation paper states that: “DLA is a benefit that provides a cash contribution towards the extra costs of needs arising from an impairment or health condition.” The arguments presented in paragraphs 14 and 15 of page 8, claiming that the benefit is not fit for purpose, do not touch upon the original purpose of DLA or offer any argument as to why it is failing to meet its original purpose. The information presented is that the DLA caseload and expenditure is a “lot more than was originally expected” and the aforementioned misuse of statistics on the increase in DLA claims. No arguments are presented as to why this means that DLA is not fit for purpose. The only way an argument can be construed is to look at the issue with a preconceived idea that there is an acceptable level of DLA claims prior to evaluating the health and impairment of claimants.

Finally, paragraph 2 betrays this preconception by stating: “We believe that now is the right time to reform DLA”, yet offers no qualification or reasoning for this belief. Paragraph 3 continues by saying that: “We must ensure that our resources are focused on those with the greatest need”, with no qualification or definition of the term “greatest need”. This could be pointed to as a suggestion that those with “lesser needs” will have to struggle unsupported with their impairment, and that the definition of needs is at the whim of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

The arguments above demolish the case for reform presented in the consultation paper, dealing with each point made in the consultation paper. I will now address the second part of the consultation paper, explaining why the reforms intended by the DWP will be harmful to disabled people.

Paragraph 4 of Page 11 begins by stating that: “Central to Personal Independence Payment will be a new, fairer, objective assessment, which will allow us to identify those who face the greatest need, in a more consistent and transparent manner.” The previous section of the paper does not suggest that the current DLA assessment is unfair or that it is not objective, and neither is there evidence that it is inconsistent or lacking in transparency. The current system is assessment by a variety of resources; information from a carer or support worker, the person’s GP, specialist consultant or physiotherapist. Trying to slim down this evidence base to on homogeneous assessment will mean that the impact of disability on the individual is ignored. This is definitely not objective. Paragraph 4 also states that: “We are developing the new assessment in collaboration with a group of independent specialists in health, social care and disability, including disabled people.” What ‘independent’ means is that a private company such as Atos will be contracted to run assessments. This will include meeting with an ‘independent’ healthcare professional – not necessarily qualified as doctors - working for the assessors. The objections to a private company such as ATOS using unqualified staff who know their jobs depend on keeping to strict targets aimed to reduce numbers qualifying for a particular benefit are too many to list.

Paragraph 12 on page 13 of the consultation paper suggests that: “The criteria on which DLA is currently based, on care and mobility needs, are subjective and unclear.” It could be argued that this statement is subjective and unclear as there is no qualification of the statement, and no evidence is offered in support. As suggested in the previous paragraph, the lack of a formalized set of criteria for DLA awards is due to the varying impact of disability, meaning that such a ‘tick-box’ test would not be objective either. The following paragraph in the paper suggests that ‘care’ and ‘mobility’ may not be the best proxies for the additional costs faced by disabled people. The paragraphs also state that “there is currently conflicting evidence on the factors that affect the extra costs that disabled people face in the 21st Century”. The very fact that the only two DWP research reports cited to support offer conflicting evidence raises questions about the DWP’s choice to accept one piece of evidence above the other.

Paragraph 14 of page 13 offers the example: “‘mobility’ as currently defined concentrates on an individual’s ability to walk, not their ability to get around more generally.” It is true, generally, that people with disabilities are more mobile as aids and access have improved. However, this additional mobility has come with extra financial costs, such as new mobility aids, adapted vehicles, taxis. Moreover, it is crucial to remember that additional mobility does not mean universal mobility. Paragraph 15 of page 13 suggests an intention to refocus the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) at those most impaired in their ability to carry out a range of activities, because: “There is some evidence to suggest that individuals whose impairments have the greatest impact are likely to experience higher costs.” This statement is bizarre, as this is exactly what DLA does. Paragraph 16 on page 14 discusses splitting PIP into a ’mobility’ component and a ‘daily living’ component, with two rates for each component. This suggests that the change from DLA will be a vastly expensive rebranding exercise, as modifying DLA could achieve this.

Paragraphs 17 and 18 on page 14 argue that “The individual must have a long-term disability” in order to claim PIP, so that “an individual’s health condition or impairment must be expected to last a minimum of 12 months”. This will punish those who suffer debilitating short- and medium-term illnesses, but eventually recover their mobility and ability to care for themselves. Whilst people are ill over the short- or medium-term, they will have mobility and/or care needs and face the same extra costs as those with long-term conditions. They may even have to purchase mobility or care aids for their temporary conditions. Yet this consultation paper seems to ignore their needs. Long-term conditions are also targeted as paragraph 19 on page 15 suggests the end of automatic entitlement for certain conditions. The example of renal dialysis automatically entitling on to the medium-rate care component of DLA is given, and it is argued that: “As a result, eligibility for DLA is sometimes based on medical condition rather than the impact of that condition, meaning that support is not always appropriately targeted.” The meaning of this sentence and argument is completely opaque, unless it is to suggest that one should be denied support because they are too ill to use it; a thoroughly distasteful argument which I refuse to believe that the DWP countenanced.

Paragraph 20 on page 15 of the paper confirms that PIP will continue to apply the same presence and residence criteria as DLA, but may consider a habitual residence test. This will impact on workers not born in this country who develop a disability. This seems extremely harsh as, although it will make PIP consistent with other benefits, whatever one’s attitude to immigration, I cannot believe that anyone would argue that a foreign-born individual living in this country should be denied support if unfortunate enough to become disabled.

Paragraph 21 of page 15 argues for the full removal of PIP from individuals in “hospitals or similar institutions or care homes”. As care homes take income and savings into account, this will mean that care home residents no longer have any independent income to pay for short journeys or other ways of retaining independence, and become entirely institutionalized.

Paragraph 24 on page 16 states that: “We remain committed to the social model of disability. The new assessment will not be based solely on the medical model of disability and focused entirely on an individual’s impairment, but will instead focus on the ability of an individual to carry out a range of key activities necessary for everyday life. “ The meaning of this statement is unclear. Paragraph 26 adds little clarification, stating: “Activities we assess could include, for example, planning and making a journey, and understanding and communicating with others. The extent to which an individual could carry out these activities would determine their eligibility for Personal Independence Payment and the level of their award.” As I have argued above, such a tick-box approach to the impact of disability is counter-productive and not objective. A person able to complete the activities in your example may still need the same type of support as another who cannot.

Paragraphs 27 and 28 state that PIP will “take greater account of the successful use of aids and adaptations as part of the Personal Independence Payment assessment”. This means that successful use of aids – including wheelchairs – could mean that claimants are not eligible or eligible for a lower rate of PIP. This is a ridiculous suggestion. For example Tanni Grey-Thompson – one of the most successful athletes of all time – is a 6 times winner of the London marathon. She is obviously ‘successful’ in her navigation of London streets. Yet she will face the additional costs of her mobility needs just like any other person with a disability. The general truth is that successful use of an aid does not negate additional mobility costs.

Now I will turn to my conclusions.

The point that most angers me is the focus on DLA as a disincentive to work, which is both false and disingenuous. People who receive DLA do often have lower work expectations as the reform consultation paper suggests, and rightly so as many conditions and impairments make work impossible. Disabled people are often unable to compete equally in the labour market, because of ignorance and fear amongst employers and a lack of willingness to consider making adjustments that may well be relatively cheap and straightforward but are perceived as too onerous. People with high rate awards have the highest levels of impairment and are most likely to be unable to work, regardless of benefits, Those who do work are often only able to do so because of the aids, support or adaptations that DLA or Access to Work allows them to purchase. The focus on moving to work has no place in discussion about DLA other than to make the important clarification that DLA is not work related, and exists to assist with the additional cost incurred when living with an impairment or long-term health condition.

Other problems include the fact that the PIP proposals will see some current recipients of social care losing financial benefits now paid at least in part to the local authorities for receipt of that care. This will force the LAs to make up the shortfall in funding or, more likely, cut care packages. Another aberration in the recommendations made is the impact of these plans on independent living, making that harder to deliver. Removing DLA from those who receive care packages, and especially those in residential care, will not promote independence. Lastly, some people may lose money as the aids and adaptations they use to enable them to live with their impairment or long term health condition will be seen as negating the need for that financial support, ignoring the fact that the DLA Mobility Component may be the only way of paying for adaptations such as wheelchairs or taxis.

Although the caseload may be cut, PIP will still look very much like DLA. The current system allows for automatic entitlement to DLA for certain conditions. The new system will not allow for this, and will re-asses all claimants every few years. This is not only foolish but also costly as automatically entitled conditions are by nature the most severe and incurable. The only things achieved are the extra cost of unnecessary assessment, and hardship for severely ill people. Further waste comes from ignoring the fact that, unfortunately, people will remain disabled and have impairment-related support needs even if they no longer meet the new thresholds under PIP. They will be ignored up to the point they become seriously ill and end up costing the NHS and local authorities more in terms of hospitals and residential care. Further, the proposed reforms don’t take into account the reality that some conditions are severe but acute. Not supporting people with acute illness and disability makes it more likely that this will become a costly long-term problem therefore increasing dependency.

There is a strong feeling amongst people with disabilities that the Coalition Government have declared war on us, with a continual ratcheting of pressure on us since the Emergency Budget in June 2010. Announcements on Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, and Disability Living Allowance have made us feel that the Government is scapegoating us and removing the support on which we depend. E.g. Iain Duncan-Smith’s comments to The Sun newspaper [01/12/2010) suggesting that Incapacity Benefit claimants were partly to blame for a large fiscal deficit caused by a recession, a bail-out of the banks and quantitative easing. The only way that you can convince people with disabilities that you are not hostile towards us is to halt the current process of DLA Reform. Whilst there may be ways to improve DLA, they do not involve replacing it with a new benefit, and neither do they involve removing anyone from the claimant caseload.

I look forward to your reply particularly with reference to the points I have made. I hope that you might be able to ask Parliamentary questions regarding the conduct of the DWP during the compilation of the DLA reform consultation paper

Yours sincerely,

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Diary of a Benefit Scrounger: A Tale of Two Villages

Young people with nowhere to go, tricky home-lives and little educational aspiration will soon be vandalising slides and smashing windows and daubing filth on pristine sheds..................

Friday, January 21, 2011

Diary of a Benefit Scrounger: Introducing Signor Cojones

There's a spring in my step this morning - my kids keep telling me to stop singing Porgy and Bess over the Pink Panther.

The Right Honourable Ed Balls MP, Shadow Chancellor. Has a nice ring to it. A pugilistic, defiant ring.
I can't think of anyone I'd prefer to square up to Osborne - to wipe the snivelling, Dickensian, sneer from his doughy face..........

Saturday, January 15, 2011

One Month Before Heartbreak

Posted on January 15, 2011

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 many 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.

Originally posted here

Friday, January 07, 2011

Chickpeas with tomatoes and spinach

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ finger length piece fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced
½ tsp. turmeric
¾ tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. ground cumin
4 ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp. tomato purée (optional)
400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
200g baby spinach leaves
Rice or naan bread, to serve

1. Heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan and fry the onion very gently over a low heat until softened. Stir in the garlic, ginger and chillies and cook for a further 5 minutes.
2. Add the turmeric, garam masala and cumin, stirring over a low heat for a few secs. Tip in the chopped tomatoes and add the tomato puree, then simmer for 5 mins.
3. Add the chickpeas to the pan with 300ml water or vegetable stock. Simmer for 10 mins before stirring in the spinach to wilt. Season and serve with rice or naan.