Kripped Up Kittehs

7/28/2010 02:59:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 1 Comments

Remember Charley? The gorgeous cat with better motor skills than yours truly, first in the BSS tradition of kripped up kittehs. 

Then came Oscar Puss-torius....

And now meet Amazing Grace, the kitten with just 2 legs ....


'Second Skin' suit gives new lease of life to toddler

7/27/2010 05:02:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 10 Comments

'Second skin' suit gives new lease of life to toddler whose joints dislocated every time she played

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 11:46 AM on 27th July 2010
Olivia Court (pictured) could barely walk without her knees or hips dislocating, but the toddler can now run and play thanks to a 'second skin' suit
Olivia Court (pictured) could barely walk without her knees or hips dislocating, but the toddler can now run and play thanks to a 'second skin' suit
A toddler born with a rare condition that means her knees and hips dislocate every time she tries to play or even walk is now jumping for joy thanks to an amazing SECOND SKIN.
Little Olivia Court suffers from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a rare condition which causes extreme hypermobility, meaning her joints regularly bend in each and every direction and often dislocate.
The three-year-old's condition was so extreme by the age of one she could not sit up or crawl and her parents were told she would never be able to walk.
But now thanks to a revolutionary lycra suit, that acts as a 'second skin', Olivia can run around and play with other children her age - a dream come true for the energetic toddler.
The suit literally works by holding Olivia in place and stopping the movements of her joints which lead to the painful dislocations.
The specially designed £2,500 body suit - which must be worn eight hours a day, five days a week - helps Olivia's muscles become strong enough to keep her joints in place.
Doctors have been amazed by the results and Olivia will get a new suit each year in the hope she will develop enough strength to combat her condition herself.
Olivia's parents had hoped their local NHS Trust would pay for the suit, but they turned down funding because they said there was a lack of medical evidence the suit actually worked.
It was paid for instead by their local community group Barwell and Earl Shilton Lions Club, who raised the money.
Olivia is now enjoying a much more normal life with parents Lena, 36, and Adrian, 41, a secuirty engineer, in Earl Shilton, Leicestershire.
Mother Lena said: 'Before the suit Olivia would fall over constantly, her joints would dislocate and she would just topple over. It was heart-breaking.
'She was always covered in bruises and would regularly miss nursery because she would suffer from chronic fatigue.
'But the suit has made the world of difference, she can't stop running around now and her hips haven't dislocated since. She can play as a little girl should be able to.
'The suit not only keeps her joints in place but it supports her spine and her core muscles and since wearing it, her hips haven't dislocated once.
'It really has given her a new lease of life, she loves wearing it because she knows it means she can play with her friends for longer.
'A year-ago she couldn't even stand up unaided and now she is running around everywhere. It really has changed her life.'
Olivia has one of the most extreme cases of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, she was born without hip sockets meaning her hips were constantly dislocated.
Olivia aged 17 months after her first hip operation. She suffers from an extreme case of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a rare condition which causes extreme hypermobility
Olivia aged 17 months after her first hip operation. She suffers from an extreme case of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a rare condition which causes extreme hypermobility
Lena, 36, said the first she knew something was wrong, was when she noticed Olivia wasn't crawling or walking like other babies.
She said: 'Olivia would try to crawl and her legs would completely give way beneath her.
'The doctor said Olivia had one of the most extreme cases of EDS she had ever seen.'
Olivia underwent two operations to realign her hips, in the hope bones would form to help keep her hips in place. But the operations failed.

Lena said: 'Olivia had a plaster cast from her chest to her knees for eleven months and even then her hips would still dislocate.
'After the operations did not work we were told Olivia would never learn to walk. But as parents we refused to accept this and so we went to see a specialist at Great Ormond Street Hospital.'
Olivia was put through a two-week intensive physiotherapy session to help build her muscles and teach her to walk.
Lena said: 'It was an awful two weeks, she would scream and cry in pain and couldn't sleep for muscle spasms and cramps but she came home with a walking frame, so it was worth it.
Now at three-year's-old Olivia took her first steps, walking unaided for the first time in her life.
The revolutionary suit was almost Olivia's last chance to be able to play like a normal little girl, it was recommended to Lena by surgeons.


Axe Falls On NHS Services

7/25/2010 11:41:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 1 Comments

By Laura Donnelly, Health Correspondent (Telegraph) Published: 9:19PM BST 24 Jul 2010
Some of the most common operations — including hip replacements and cataract surgery — will be rationed as part of attempts to save billions of pounds, despite government promises that front-line services would be protected.
Patients’ groups have described the measures as “astonishingly brutal”.

An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has uncovered widespread cuts planned across the NHS, many of which have already been agreed by senior health service officials. They include:

* Restrictions on some of the most basic and common operations, including hip and knee replacements, cataract surgery and orthodontic procedures.
* Plans to cut hundreds of thousands of pounds from budgets for the terminally ill, with dying cancer patients to be told to manage their own symptoms if their condition worsens at evenings or weekends.
* The closure of nursing homes for the elderly.
* A reduction in acute hospital beds, including those for the mentally ill, with targets to discourage GPs from sending patients to hospitals and reduce the number of people using accident and emergency departments.
* Tighter rationing of NHS funding for IVF treatment, and for surgery for obesity.
* Thousands of job losses at NHS hospitals, including 500 staff to go at a trust where cancer patients recently suffered delays in diagnosis and treatment because of staff shortages. 
* Cost-cutting programmes in paediatric and maternity services, care of the elderly and services that provide respite breaks to long-term carers.

The Sunday Telegraph found the details of hundreds of cuts buried in obscure appendices to lengthy policy and strategy documents published by trusts. In most cases, local communities appear to be unaware of the plans.
Dr Peter Carter, the head of the Royal College of Nursing, said he was “incredibly worried” about the disclosures.
He urged Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, to “get a grip” on the reality of what was going on in the NHS.
The Government has promised to protect the overall budget of the NHS, which will continue to receive above-inflation increases, but said the service must make “efficiency savings” of up to £20 billion by 2014, which would be diverted back to the front line.
Mr Lansley said last month: “This protection for the NHS is protection for patients – to ensure that the sick do not pay for the debt crisis.”
Dr Carter said: “Andrew Lansley keeps saying that the Government will protect the front line from cuts – but the reality appears to be quite the opposite. We are seeing trusts making job cuts even when they have already admitted to being short staffed.
‘‘The statements he makes may be well intentioned – but we would implore him to get a grip on the reality, because these kinds of cuts are incredibly worrying.”
Katherine Murphy, of the Patients Association, said the cuts were “astonishingly brutal” and expressed particular concern at moves to ration operations such as hip and knee operations.
“These are not unusual procedures, this is a really blatant attempt to save money by leaving people in pain,” she said.
“Looking at these kinds of cuts, which trusts have drawn up in such secrecy, it particularly worries me how far they disadvantage the elderly and the vulnerable.
‘‘We cannot return to the days of people waiting in pain for years for a hip operation or having to pay for operations privately.”
She added that it was “incredibly cruel” to draw up savings plans based on denying care to the dying.
On Thursday, the board of Sutton and Merton primary care trust (PCT) in London agreed more than £50 million of savings in two years. The plan included more than £400,000 to be saved by “reducing length of stay” in hospital for the terminally ill.
As well as sending more patients home to die, the paper said the savings would be made by admitting fewer terminally ill cancer patients to hospital because they were struggling to cope with symptoms such as pain. Instead, more patients would be given advice on “self management” of their condition.
Bill Gillespie, the trust’s chief executive, said patients would stay at home, or be discharged from hospital only if that was their choice, and would be given support in their homes.
This week, Hertfordshire PCT plans to discuss attempts to reduce spending by rationing more than 50 common procedures, including hip and knee replacements, cataract surgery and orthodontic treatment.
Doctors across the county have already been told that their patients can have the operations only if they are given “prior approval” by the PCT, with each authorisation made on a “case by case” basis.
Elsewhere, new restrictions have been introduced to limit funding of IVF.
While many infertile couples living in Yorkshire had previously been allowed two cycles of treatment — still short of national guidance to fund three cycles — all the primary care trusts in the county are now restricting treatment to one cycle per couple.
A “turnaround” plan drawn up by Peterborough PCT intends to make almost £100 million of savings by 2013.
Its cuts include closing nursing and residential homes and services for the mentally ill, sending 500 fewer patients to hospital each month, and cutting £17 million from acute and accident and emergency services.
Two weeks ago, Mid Yorkshire Hospitals trust agreed plans to save £55 million in two years, with £20 million coming from about 500 job losses.
Yet, a month before the decision was taken, senior managers at a board meeting described how staff shortages were already causing delays for patients being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.
Mr Lansley said any trusts that interpreted the Government’s demands for efficiency savings as budget or service cuts were wrong to do so, and were “living in the past”.


Am I bovvered?

7/20/2010 03:19:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 12 Comments

I like the rain, the sounds, the scents, the sensations, I like all of it. My joints, now they're not so keen on the rain but you can't have everything. Although, living in the rainy North West it'd be nice if they could at least come to terms with it as a concept. Back home with hot chocolate to reward myself, though I know my joints are acutely painful, I can't actually feel the pain properly as I'm in such sensory overload from deathwalking in the rain. 

It was amazing out there, me and Joan wobbling our way across the sand, rain coming down too hard to see, soaking me through to the skin. It was so grey I couldn't tell where sea stopped and sky began or care that anyone might see me stumbling along, arms outstretched for balance, eyes closed just feeling the rain on my skin. 

Yesterday a twitter friend emailed to ask what I thought about pain management courses and specifically cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Late last night pain kept me sleepless and clock watching, to rise with scratchy eyes and leaden limbs aching with the rain that's been and is yet to come. Today on the beach, fat raindrops running down the back of my neck and trickling down across my collarbones, all I could feel was the kind of high drugs can help acheive but never truly create.

The knowledge that physical pain will be your constant companion throughout life, more initimately connected to your sense of being than any lover could ever be, well, that's a difficult thing to come to terms with for anyone, but especially so for teenagers and younger adults. Seeing decades stretch ahead of you, knowing full well there will never be any significant improvements in your health, can understandably seem too much for anyone to bear. I remember my inability to shake the unwelcome thoughts that if that was really how it was going to be then being dead might be the most desirable outcome. 

In the end, for me it wasn't a pain managment course, medication, surgery or any alternative therapy that ridded me of those unwelcome thoughts forever, but a moment of understanding. Watching a documentary about how pain is dealt with in societies without access to western medicine, a man with a sword pushed through his tongue as part of a ceremonial ritual was asked how it didn't hurt him. The man looked somewhat bewildered by the question as he explained that of course he could feel the pain, that of course it hurt him, but that he chose not to be bothered by it, that by consciously believing the pain was of no consequence whilst it wouldn't leave him be, he would be able to leave it be and get on with more important things. 

I figured I had nothing to lose, so I gave it a try. Concentrated fiercely on just one thought. "I know it's there, but it doesn't bother me." Over and over. And, much to my amazement, it worked. Only for a split second, but that second was long enough for me to realise I could in fact feel the pain coming from all the usual places in my body, but that it wasn't bothering me, it just was what it was. 

What sounds such a simple thing to do took weeks and months to perfect to the point it became second nature. Now I'm so used to it that as soon as I lose the background concentration I feel myself start to become distressed by how much pain I'm in, but instead of falling into that cycle of pain and stress I stop myself and focus on not being bothered by the pain for as long as it takes to really be not bothered. It's CBT in a simplistic but incredibly effective way that given enough time and patience anyone can learn to do. 

My experience of pain management courses was a frustrating one. I felt patronised and demeaned by medical professionals who had no experience of actually living with pain, but who were determined to tell me how best I should. The whole thing just wound me up to such an extent I ended up in more pain than before I'd started. CBT wasn't in fashion when I spent time on a pain management course but had it been I'm sure I would have dug my heels in even more stubbornly by being 'told' what to do by a pain free therapist! For some people the current model of doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and other allied health professionals delivering pain management courses will work well, but many find it as frustratingly inadequate as I did. 

Now I'm some years on from being diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and away from the constant distress of being disbelieved, knowledge and understanding of my condition, and how it affects my body are just as much help as my ability to change the way I perceive the pain it causes. The difficulty for many chronic pain patients is that they may never receive a formal diagnosis and it is significantly harder to know and understand a condition no-one can even name for you. Pain management courses and/or CBT will never be a cure for your pain, but if you have reached a place where you are ready to accept things as they are, the skills and information taught there can be invaluable tools for the future. 

Ultimately though, the only thing which can truly alter your experience of chronic pain is yourself and whether you're ready to do so. For some people that point will be reached sooner than others, it's not a situation you can artificially impose a timescale upon, but once it is reached it doesn't really matter where you learn CBT type skills from, you can learn them in whatever way suits you best.



Dear Prime Minister

7/19/2010 04:43:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 4 Comments

  Reproduced with kind permission of the author, A Hermits musings from his hovel.

Dear Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister,

You don't know me, but then, in a country of over 60 million people I guess you can be forgiven not knowing each person, but I am sure that your advisor's and civil servants have neatly carved up the entire population into neat little demographics for you. So who am I?

Am I among the growing army of divorced men who are fighting an uphill battle in the courts to see and be part of our children's lives? Fighting against the adversarial system that pits one parent against another, that costs tax payers a fortune in legal aid, that some solicitors use as a way to guarantee an income stream? A system that fails not only the parents, but most importantly the children? A system that is under resourced in the courts and CAFCASS which causes cases to drag on for years, meaning that children end up loosing touch with the absent parent and all the harm that causes?

Am I a father watching his children being let down by an education system that is forever being tinkered with by politicians and bureaucrats in Whitehall so that schools find it better to push children down to ensure that the schools pass rates remain artificially high, rather than develop each child to their full potential? Do I sit and worry how they will afford to go through higher education and if its worth it, considering the huge amount of debt they will be left with?A father who has a disabled son who is being failed by schooling which assumes that disabled children need only survive not thrive, so he is now 3 years behind able bodies children when he is every bit as smart?

Am I a car owner who is left with ever increasing bills from fuel and road tax, simply because I have no choice but to have a car in order to take my children to school and do the basics in my life such as shopping? The roads I drive on are falling apart from decades of under investment, proper policing has been handed over to dumb speed cameras which catch people who on the whole are law abiding, they have tax, they have insurance, they have an MOT, and they have given their proper details for the penalty notice to drop through their letterboxes, while the ones who flout the law simply carry on regardless and put everyone at risk, and I wonder, how is that right?

Am I the son who worries about his elderly mother who is struggling to cope on her own because the council has no resources to provide home help for her? Am I the one who worries each time his mother goes for a shower because she might fall in the bathroom that social services say is dangerous for her to use, but the council say there is a 2 year waiting list for the modifications needed to fix it?

Am I just another voter who sees politics has become a career choice, and feels that all politicians regardless of their parties are just in it for the power, the money, the prestige. Am I one of the majority who simply wants to be represented?Am I the one who has no party to support because no party supports me?

Am I the one who hears of another death of a soldier and wonders why they were ever there in the first place? Wonders why our boys and girls are fighting a war on the other side of the world, a war that is un-winnable and was never winnable, a war that has made us less secure in this country, and a war that has cost us money that would have been better spent on education and health and pensions as well as costing us  irreplaceable lives and leaving mothers and children mourning their dead?

Am I one of the long term sick who is a "burden" to the state? Did the state consider me a burden when at the age of 17 I started work, and continued in work until I became ill 20 years later through no fault of my own, when I paid taxes and saved for my home, and started a business and created employment? Was I a burden when I was able to help in my community and provide training to young school leavers? Was I wrong to believe that if I paid into the system, that if I should ever fall into dire straits, that the system would be there to look after me? Am I a burden because my body is not physically capable of even sitting or standing for longer than a few minutes because of a mistake that the NHS made? Am I a burden because the painkillers I have to take to stop me screaming in agony make me drowsy and sick? Am I a burden because I also have agoraphobia and depression and simply getting through each day for me is a major accomplishment? Am I the one you said should be made to go out to work, and if not should have my benefits removed? Am I the one who survives on benefits only because my family help me out with buying food and paying bills, but is having to see those meagre benefits reduced even further? Am I the one who receives less in benefits in a week than you will spend on lunch today, but am told I am unhealthy because I can't afford to buy fresh fruit and vegetables to eat?

Am I the one who is a scrounger because I am disabled? Will the DWP outsourced ATOS medicals that are so flawed and skewed suddenly make my spine and back healthy and give me feeling in my feet again, heal my agoraphobia and cure my depression? Will jumping through the DWP medical hoops make my friend who is blind from birth suddenly see? Will driving the mentally ill to suicide achieve the required savings to the welfare budget or simply leave mothers shedding tears at the graveside of a life cut short? 

Am I the friend who listens to a suicidal person at 3am telling me that their life is not worth living because they feel that society thinks that they are not worth supporting or helping? When they tell me that people throw bricks at their door, shout abuse outside their windows simply because they are ill with a disease that has such a cultural stigma attached to it that in the 21st century this still happens, is that the best of being British? Am I the one who fears that one day my friend will succeed and their life will have been just another entry in the suicide statistics?

Am I the one who is told that unless they take a job, they will have their benefits removed, though there are no jobs to be had? Am I wondering how out of touch with reality politicians must be to not have noticed this, politicians who know as much about being jobless as a fish knows how it is to be out of the water?Am I the one who is told by the national tabloids that living on benefits means I have huge televisions and live a life of luxury, or am I the one who has a 10 year old telly, a sofa that was given to me second hand, and that despite not drinking or smoking, I can rarely afford to buy fruit for my children let alone a present for their birthday, Am I the only one who is struggling to make ends meet on benefits that you want to reduce even further? I have nothing, what can I cut out of my life?

Am I the one who sits and wonders why the sick, the disabled, the jobless, the homeless, the low paid, the children, the pensioners, why I am having to make cuts in the meagre amounts we have to live on, for a recession we had no part in causing, a false boom beforehand that we never benefited from, and a future that seemingly has no place for us? Why are the bankers and the speculators and the hedge-funds and the brokers, and all those who brought our great country to its knees now not being made to pay for the mistakes they made?

Am I the one, or am I all of them? Mr Prime Minister, demographics might give you lovely statistical information about the generality of the people in this country, but people are more than statistics, and until you put a face to the categories, you will never be able to begin to understand the lives that we lead. Mr Prime Minister, to appreciate the value of your people, the plight of your people, you need to walk in their shoes. I would not want to inflict the pain of my spinal injuries on anyone, nor the paralysis or agoraphobia or depression or the side effects of the drugs I have to take, but come and spend a week with me, or even a day, live on my benefits and see through my eyes, then perhaps you will see another side of this country, and perhaps see me for the person I am, an ordinary Brit, not as a statistic, a burden on this country.

NB: Could anyone who wants to comment on this article please do so at the original blog, thanks!


Disability Benefits Are Under Threat In October (CarerWatch)

7/19/2010 03:25:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 1 Comments



  • Sign to support us
  • Email the disability charities and ask them to support us
  • Pass this message on to others
The coalition government is looking for such fierce cuts in public expenditure in October that all disability benefits are under threat. No benefit is safe. DLA, AA, CA, IB, ESA, IS, HB are all threatened. 

The disability charities have a great role to play here - it's so important that they get together and fight together to protect sick and disabled people and their carers in this crisis. 

Please contact the disability organisations and ask them to take up this fight as actively as they can. 

You can use the outline email below and/or write to organisations that are important to you with your own particular concerns.

Suggested email to charities 

I'm writing to you as a member/someone with X 

I am very concerned that the Coalition government is looking for such fierce cuts in expenditure that all benefits are under threat. 

We are all in this together and I would ask you and all the other disability charities to get together and fight hard together to defend all benefits.

This is going to be a long fight and it's really helpful if you can publish as much of your thinking about this in public on your website as possible.

Have you seen the Carerwatch pledge on defending benefits. Many organisations have already sent messages of support.
It would be great if you could support this pledge.  

E-mail -
Individuals sign here
List of disability organisations

UPDATE 16.17: Comment left by reader of BSS & American citizen LouCeel

Dear People of England,

Do you remember George Bush? Do you remember how he and his fellow Conservatives screwed up our reputation internationally? Do you remember how New Orleans was left for DAYS to fend for themselves because the Government had 'Privatized' the stuff that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) would ordinarily have done? Your conservative Government will take you down similar paths, given the opportunity - they don't believe in spending the common wealth for the common good. No, their philosophy might well be described as 'every man for himself'. Which is fine if you're wealthy and healthy - but absent either, you're screwed.


Follow Friday: Mid-Wife Crisis

7/16/2010 11:33:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 3 Comments

For the people who actually have a lifenon tweeters amongst us, Follow Friday is a fun way of recommending interesting twitter users to a wider audience. There's only so much you can say in 140 characters though, so usually I find the best tweeters to follow also have their own blogs. 

If you've not stumbled across the hilarious insights which comprise Mid-Wife Crisis written by Molly Bennet then I strongly suggest you fall over your own feet in your haste to do so. Molly is 

Molly provides a different perspective into the cuts to housing benefit here.

UPDATE: Thanks to the Anonymous commenter who left a note to warn that Mid-Wife Crisis currently has a virus/malware issue. It seems to be fine if you use Firefox as I do, but a problem on IE. I have alerted Molly to the issue & will update again once it's fixed.  
UPDATE:  FIXED-we hope!


Tingly Tunings

7/14/2010 04:28:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 6 Comments

As my brain is currently set to full blown radio static mode it seems like a good idea to show you how I managed to totally overload my 'at best piss poor' proprioceptive systems.

It's not yet fully understood why the proprioceptive process is so poor in people with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, it's probably a combination of reasons. We tend to have problems perceiving where our bodies are in relation to themselves, let alone where we are in relation to all manner of inanimate objects, hence the frequent, clumsy accidents smashing into perfectly good door frames or tables. Although we can see them visually our brains and bodies can't fully process all that information in sufficient time to avoid collisions.

My physiotherapist J and I are feeling our way through various different types of physiotherapy to discover what works and what doesn't. Traditionally physiotherapy for EDS focuses on core stability exercises, which are vital for hypermobile people, but which also seem to fall a long way short of acheiving the kind of results they should do if improvements to core stability were the only answer. We're using a combination of core stability and the kind of physiotherapy that's used to rehabilitate people who've had neurological injuries like strokes. It seems to be that mixture of techniques which is key to gaining any improvement. 

It's both surprising and impressive. I have basic exercises to do like lying on my back on the floor and rolling a ball so that I can follow it properly with my eyes and head movement. The first time J and I tried the exercise I was completely incapable of doing it, but a few weeks on I can confidently roll the ball and track it - mostly! Moving on from that J wanted me to try some of the shoulder rehab exercises we'd done so many of in the years before I was diagnosed with EDS. The surprise for both of us was not that I couldn't keep my shoulders in their sockets whilst trying to do basic activities like put a teaspoon in a cup, but that if we wrapped a theraband around my body at thoracic spine level my brain suddenly switched on and I could put the teaspoon in a cup without my shoulders popping straight out of their sockets. 
Now we've reached the dizzying heights of bowls of flour and a variety of small objects hidden in there. With a theraband to provide some feedback around my ribs and thoracic spine the point of the exercise is to reach into the bowl of flower and try to figure out what object I'm holding. It's a bit messy, but effective. I've found that I can't identify anything if I have my eyes open, my brain just can't filter out all the additional information about my surroundings, even though I selected the objects to hide in the flour. However, if I shut my eyes I can correctly identify some of the objects. 

This type of exercise causes all manner of unpleasant symptoms for a period of time afterwards, ranging from zappy type pain to itching, numbness, tingling...oh and just for fun, increased clumsiness. However, the next time the exercises are tried there is a definite improvement so we're assuming that the increased symptoms are a sign that the exercises are affecting overall proprioceptive feedback and therefore continuning along the right line.  

Watch this space!


Falling Short

7/13/2010 02:45:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 2 Comments

Since it's initial trip out my scooter has enjoyed a more varied scenery than the back store room of the charity shop it had been stuck in for so long. Which is all kinds of great. For the people who've been out enjoying my scooter. Several people in fact. Just not me. The whole access issue is proving a nightmare. 

GG came up with an easier, and importantly cheaper way of getting access to the front garden than the proper, have to stick to the legal way of doing things builder did, but even so I'm looking at £500 or so to have the work done. It's alot of money, particularly to spend on a flat that is privately rented, so I'm wondering if moving would be cheaper and more sensible. 

I don't really want to move, it's expensive in both sterling and spoons, but so is trying to figure out all the access stuff. I really, really don't want to move away from my beloved beach which is currently in staggering distance so I'm watching the building works a few houses away with interest. There will be a ground floor flat available to rent in a month or so which wouldn't need any significant work done to make it accessible. The big downside is that it's more expensive than the flat I'm currently renting, crucially above the limit Local Housing Allowance will pay so I'd have to make up a shortfall. It wouldn't be a massive shortfall, about £50 a month, the kind of expense that I would use my DLA for, but my DLA is up for renewal later this year and I'm concerned I may be refused and have to go through a hideous appeals process. If that were to happen I'd also have to deal with the financial consequences of being refused DLA which would also mean the loss of some parts of my Income Support.

My current flat is lovely, but it isn't ideal. In addition to the access problems the biggest issues are that there is no bath and that my bedroom and bathroom are damp. The wall in my bedroom is wet to the touch and despite work my landlord has done since I've moved in it's getting worse. If it were purely down to practicalities I'd move, but it's not, it's about as yet unknown impacts of changes to benefits, the only part of which is certain is that there will be changes. 

Being able to have my scooter at home, and access to a bath are both things which will improve my quality of life, the kind of things that need to happen if I'm ever to stand a chance of working to support myself rather than relying on out of work benefits. One of the biggest justifications for the cuts to Housing Benefit and Local Housing Allowance have been that the current system allows for private landlords to profiteer and price fix. As yet benefit claimants don't know what those cuts will mean in real terms, but the private landlords already have a good idea. It was the landlord of the flats being worked on who told me what the cut will be, and that he'd been told that information rather than working it out for himself. I watched him calculate the amount of LHA I'd receive whilst he was telling me how much the rent for the flat would be.  

There is supposed to be additional Housing Benefit available for those disabled people who need an extra room for their carer to stay in, but I'm not sure if these discretionary payments would cover something as basic as access. It would also be a moot point if I am turned down for DLA as that would mean my being reclassed by the benefits system as not a severely disabled person so therefore not qualifying for any additional Housing Benefit anyway.  

The only thing I'm fairly sure of is that David Cameron cannot have intended these kind of consequences for disabled people, could he?


Bus Driver Refuses To Help Disabled Woman: MEN July 12th 2010

7/12/2010 12:52:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 13 Comments

Bus driver refuses to help disabled woman. MEN July 12th 2010

A bus driver was caught on camera refusing to help a wheelchair-bound woman get off his single-decker.  Renu Duggal, an award-winning disability rights campaigner, has slammed the driver for ignoring her pleas to put a ramp out so she could get off the bus at Piccadilly.
She said the First bus driver said he could not operate the electronically-powered ramp because he had a 'bad back' and argued that it was not his legal duty. 

Her son Arjun, who was with her at the time, filmed the incident on his mobile phone. In the video, the driver can be seen covering his face with a timetable while a voice can be heard suggesting Renu be wheeled off backwards.

Eventually, people at the bus stop helped Arjun, 17, drag the wheelchair off.

Bosses at First have apologised and launched an inquiry.

Renu, 46, said: “I was very upset. It made me so sad. Why would you not attempt to help someone in a wheelchair? I’m fed up with getting treated like this.”  Renu, of Briarfield Road, Timperley, Altrincham, formed the Our Independence group to help disabled people make friends and won the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service for her efforts. 

Renu went to get on the 135 service on Cheetham Hill Road.  The driver made no move to get out of his cabin to operate the ramp, so Arjun did it himself – and was criticised by the driver.
When the bus arrived at Piccadilly, Arjun asked the driver to put the ramp out but again he refused. Arjun said: “I’ve never met anyone so rude. I decided to film it then because otherwise he would’ve just got away with it.”

Department for Transport guidance states bus drivers ‘must, wherever reasonable, assist a wheelchair user or other disabled person if they ask’. It also says drivers ‘must make a boarding device available when a disabled person wants to get on or off’.


Osborne's cap on housing benefits will 'drive poor families into ghettos'

7/12/2010 10:55:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 5 Comments

Osborne's cap on housing benefits will 'drive poor families into ghettos'

Coalition's welfare cuts will combine with joblessness and home repossessions to leave thousands homeless, charities predict
By Sean O'Grady, Economics Editor (Independent Monday 12th July 2010)

Thousands of people will be made homeless as public spending is slashed because of a dangerous combination of higher unemployment, increasing repossessions and cuts to housing benefit, housing experts have warned. The retired, disabled people, carers and working families will be hardest hit and charities predict it will trigger the steepest rise in families living in unsuitable accommodation and individuals sleeping rough since the 1980s. 

Those in London will be the worst affected, forcing an exodus of poorer people from the centre to outer boroughs, and adding to the financial pressures on local authorities, which are obliged to find homes, school places and social care for the newly arrived families.
The homeless charity, Shelter, said that some households in London currently receiving housing benefit will have to find a shortfall of up to £1,548 a month to meet their housing costs. The result, say opposition MPs, will be "social cleansing" of poorer tenants from richer areas. Campbell Robb, the chief executive of Shelter, said: "The consequences have not been thought through by the Government. If this support is ripped out suddenly from under their feet, it will push many households over the edge, triggering a spiral of debt, eviction and homelessness."

There are 4.72 million housing-benefit claimants and 1 million of those receive Local Housing Allowance, the housing benefit for tenants in the private rental sector. In his Budget, the Chancellor imposed caps on housing benefit of £400 a week for a four-bedroom property and £250 a week for a two- bedroom home. Future increases will be linked to retail-price inflation rather than actual rents, which will further erode the value of the benefit. 

Since 2000, average rents in London have increased by 65 per cent while the CPI has increased by just 17 per cent. There will also be a 10 per cent cut in housing benefit for those unemployed for more than a year, criticised by the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies as a blunt and "punitive" instrument to encourage people to find work. 

Seyi Obakin, the chief executive of Centrepoint said: "The young people Centrepoint supports, who often present complex needs including mental health issues, are already disadvantaged when competing for limited jobs available in the current climate. If these young people have 10 per cent of their housing benefit cut, they will struggle to pay their rent, and could get into arrears and could seriously risk becoming homeless again."
But the pressure on local authorities and the housing-benefit budget could easily intensify if the economy relapses into a double-dip recession. Last week, the IMF radically downgraded its economic forecast for the UK, and the prospect of a weak "jobless recovery" seems certain to push many more families into arrears on their mortgages, or unable to pay the rent. 

Some will also find re-financing their home loans much more difficult if house prices continue to slide, thereby automatically pushing more borrowers into negative equity. The Halifax recently confirmed that house prices fell by 0.6 per cent during June, the third month in a row.

Sue Witherspoon, the head of housing at Havering Council, in outer east London, said several authorities in the capital have no private rents below the cap: "The implication for a borough like Havering is we will have a flood of people moving in because of the lower costs. It will lead to a ghettoisation of benefit claimants.' Simon Harris, the chief executive of Stoke Citizens Advice Bureau in Staffordshire, said that the reduction in allowance for long-term jobseekers will "plunge people further into rent arrears".

Mortgage lenders also fear that a review of support for those in arrears announced by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, will drive repossessions higher and end the culture of "forbearance" by banks and building societies. Tens of thousands of repossessed homeowners would exacerbate the acute pressures already piling on local authorities. Some 47,000 homes were taken back by lenders in 2009. 

Michael Coogan, the director general of the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), said: "While low interest rates, lower unemployment than expected, lender forbearance and state support have so far combined to cushion the number of households unable to keep their homes, it is by no means a given that these relatively benign influences will remain indefinitely.
"There is a risk that the relatively muted scale of difficulties to date will come under significant pressure under a less benign set of economic circumstances," he added.
The withdrawal of £185bn of official support to bank lending via the Bank of England's Special Liquidity Scheme, for example, will add to the banks' problems in funding new mortgages to underpin the market, and in exercising patience with those unable to keep up their repayments. 

Some fear a return to almost Dickensian conditions in London in particular. James Murray, a cabinet member for housing at Islington Council, said: "In Islington we have thousands of families on the waiting list for housing, many living in desperate overcrowding. It is not rare to see seven or eight people in a two-bed flat – with the children often unable to do their homework, unable to have any privacy, and with the whole family suffering under the stress.
"A cap on housing benefit could put a third of Islington's private-sector tenants who are on housing benefit at risk of eviction," he added. "This will only increase the pressure on social housing, and so more than ever we desperately need more investment in social rented homes. "

Karen Buck, MP for Westminster North, said the changes would result in a mass "exodus" of families from districts such as Westminster, Chelsea, Fulham and Islington. "For more than 400 years, central London has been socially mixed and this Government now wants to radically end that," she said. "This would lead to social cleansing on an unprecedented scale, with poorer people shipped out in large numbers to the outskirts. It is as if Dame Shirley Porter had been put in charge of housing policy, but this time on a national level. The massive increase in rough sleeping in the early 1990s was directly linked to changes in entitlement and the inability to get deposits and rent in advance paid through benefits". 

And Colin Glover, the chief executive of The Connection at St Martin's, said: "In central London, there is the real possibility of people having to leave existing accommodation, some may be moved into more expensive bed and breakfast."For single people some may, particularly as a result of the changes to invalidity benefits, be spurred to look for work," he added. "For others, the additional problems may lead to a return to the streets. Like many changes of this sort, the models may work for the majority, but it is the vulnerable minority who can end up suffering most."
Research by Lily Thomas

Terry Lane: 'It would be easier to get housing if I didn't work'
The 49-year-old and his wife, Teresa, are two "ordinary working people" who will lose out under proposed cuts to housing benefit and allowances. The Government's promise to cap housing payments at £250 for a one-bedroom property, £290 for two, £340 for three, and £400 for a four-bedroom property could make many properties unaffordable, especially for people in areas such as Inner London. Rates will also be based on the 30th percentile of rents of the local area, rather than the 50th at present. Campaigners say that this will affect people across the country and result in more families living in sub-standard and overcrowded accommodation.

But Terry and Teresa Lane have already lost their home in Westminster after running up nearly £20,000 in rent arrears because their housing benefit did not cover the full cost of their rent.  The family had waited for seven years for a council house but there were none available. Instead Terry, Teresa, their son Joshua, now 22, and daughter Graciela, now 23, were temporarily housed and spent the last four years in a three-bedroom, ex-council flat owned by a private landlord. They were charged £1,580 a month and received around £900 in housing benefit but struggled to find the rest of the rent from their wages.  Mr Lane earns around £18,500 as a document controller for an architects' firm, his wife earns around £5,000 as a teaching assistant. Joshua is an undergraduate at a London university while Graciela left home because of the stress.
He said: "That is why we ended up in arrears. We just couldn't afford to find that kind of rent from our wages. I have been waiting seven years to get permanently rehoused by Westminster. An estate agent would have said our flat was in St John's Wood, which sounds posh, but it was actually in Lisson Grove in one of the most deprived wards. But private landlords are still charging ludicrous rents. 

"There is going to be a new breed of poverty. It will be people who are working who get caught by the system. If the new limits on housing benefit are not adequate for living in central London, then more people like us are going to be left to struggle to try and make up the difference from their wages.  "These changes will make things more difficult for people who work – if we didn't work I'm sure benefits would cover the lot. There is not enough public housing stock so people are forced into the private sector. The Government needs to invest in public housing before they review housing benefit.  "This has had a terrible effect on my family. My son has been badly affected by the worry of it all. He has lost weight and has dark circles under his eyes. My daughter left home because of it.  "Because we are in rent arrears we have now lost all our rights to be rehoused by the council so will now have to look through the private sector. We'd be looking for a two-bedroom property now my daughter's left home so we'd be affected by the new cap of £290 a week. I think we will struggle to find somewhere at that price. We have looked further out of London but it's a difficult balance – we both work in central Westminster so you have to balance the cost of the fares."

Campbell Robb, the chief executive of Shelter, said: "These cuts are a devastating blow for the most vulnerable people in our society, and will push many over the edge into a spiral of debt, rent arrears, eviction and homelessness.  "The underlying issue which this Budget has failed to address is the critical shortage of affordable housing, which means more and more people are being housed in the private rented sector where rents are almost double those in social housing. If we are to reduce the housing benefit bill in the long term we must continue to build more affordable housing."


Sterilise Claimants Urges Racist Treasury Website

7/12/2010 09:49:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 1 Comments

Benefits and Work

12 July 2010

This is a single issue newsletter asking for your urgent help in getting a government website closed down. The site, set up by the treasury to allow people to suggest ways to cut government spending, is full of hate-filled racist and disablist suggestions, including the sterilisation of benefits claimants, the return of the workhouse and the forced repatriation of asylum seekers and migrants.  Some of the site’s content is so extreme it may even constitute a criminal offence.

The Spending Challenge website was set up on Friday by the coalition government and features an introduction and video on its home page by chancellor George Osborne.

In his video Osborne tells visitors that “Your government needs you, please get in touch” and the introduction assures visitors that:

“A team has been put together right at the heart of government and their job is to make sure that your ideas and comments are taken seriously - and that the best ideas are taken forward as part of the Spending Review.”

Yet these ideas and comments clearly demonstrate how the demonisation of claimants by successive governments has succeeded in promoting open and widespread hatred.  One suggestion is to “Re-open the workhouses” for the unemployed, the elderly and asylum seekers. The poster goes on to suggest that:

“To prevent the problem of generations of poor people, release could be conditional on getting sterilised.”

Another idea entitled “Discouraging those who do not work from starting a family” goes on to say that:

“Where NHS staff have identified that a couple or single mother isn't in a position to support themselves and a child financially, they should be advised to terminate the pregnancy (if very early on), or be recommended to give the child up for adoption.”

Other ideas include:

“Benefits claimants to work in sweatshops” which urges the government to also send the unemployed to Afghanistan as cannon fodder;

“Let The Disabled Community Forge A New Industry” which suggests that disabled claimants should grow and sell cannabis for a living;

“Employ Crocodiles in Benefits Offices” to discourage claims;

the self-explanatory “Stop paying JSA etc to drunks, druggies & wastrels”; and

 “Stop handing out free laptops and internet connections to the unemployed” in which the poster goes on to say that “I worked fifteen years before I could afford to buy myself a laptop, some toerag who's never worked a day in his life gets it courtesy of the State.”

Even where the initial post appears to be an attempt at humour or irony, the baying mob of supportive posters demonstrates that many others take the ideas seriously.

Equally disturbing and possibly criminal are the huge number of racist rants being published by the treasury.

In one suggestion “Move immigrants in council houses out of cities”, the original poster wants the coalition government to “Tell immigrants that they are being moved to less expensive areas. If they don't want to, they can leave the country.”

However, in a subsequent comment, another poster responds with “I'm not sure that I want to see immigrants living in our villages - keep them in the ghetto's until such time as they can all be deported.”

Many of the suggestions target specific groups such as Somalis and the site is littered with the most ugly and examples of ignorance and prejudice, many so extreme that we are not prepared to reproduce them.

The Public Order Act 1986 makes it an offence to publish material which is likely to stir up racial hatred.  Benefits and Work believes that this is exactly the effect that the treasury website will have.  The content may also be in breach of discrimination and harassment legislation.  Whilst we do not have the legal knowledge to pursue this matter further, and don’t want to be accused of a publicity stunt, we hope that there are readers of this newsletter who will have both the knowledge and the sense of outrage to do so and that they will involve the police in investigating this site.

The site has a ‘Report to the moderator’ feature, but appears to be otherwise unmoderated.  To leave the responsibility for policing a government website to members of the public instead of checking each submission before publishing it is, at best, inexcusably negligent and, at worst, criminally irresponsible.  There are, in any case, so many vile sentiments being posted there, that it would be a full-time job to keep reporting them all.

If you are as revolted as we are by the use of taxpayers money to encourage racism and hatred of claimants, please consider doing the following:

Contact your MP today and ask them to tell the chancellor to close down this vile site, clean it up and don’t reopen it until it is properly policed;

Make a complaint to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission


Families with disabled children : Your Views

7/10/2010 05:24:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 0 Comments

Contact a Family surveyed 1,113 people about how they were coping financially and found 23% went without heating and 14% missed meals to make ends meet.

Parents of disabled children share their experiences of financial struggle:

I am a lone parent with a six-year-old disabled child. I care for him full-time with no help. The only income I have is his DLA and my carer's allowance. We have never had a holiday, I go without meals so I can afford the food he eats and the therapy he needs. I fight all the time to continue his quality of care, and I'm sick of it. Society has a duty of care to the sick and vulnerable but this government seems to be targeting them.
Betina, Hove
I know that many people in my area claim for kids with so called disabilities. They get loads of benefits, this needs to be looked at. There is nothing wrong with them, they are just unruly kids getting holidays paid for by the Family Fund.
Jane Davis, West Midlands
I have two disabled children, one of whom I claim benefits for. I used to work full-time but had to give it up when I could not find childcare - the previous and current government promise action on this but so far there is none. My children are 15 and 13 and cannot be left to look after themselves. Last December my daughter's DLA was cut and the carer's allowance I received for her taken away. The disability premium element of the child tax credit was taken too. I cannot claim JSA as the job centre say I am not available for work because I care for two disabled children full-time. The family income has dropped by around £600 per month. No holidays, no treats, no money to go out with her local authority paid carer every Saturday, no money to run the car, no money for clothes or running repairs to the house. No social life for anyone in the family. I do all of this on my own and I feel like I've been forgotten and dumped on from a great height. "Committed to supporting the most vulnerable"? The way things are going, I'll end up being committed!
Jayne, Birmingham
As well as not having information available such as DLA, there are also other benefits such as severe disability enhancements attached to tax credits, the benefit agency only told me after a year of claiming DLA. I had a battle to reclaim £1500 which I did, successfully. Besides this there is the enormous challenge of staying in work when you have a child with complex needs. I have had to take time out of my career and change jobs completely so that we can stay afloat. We would not manage on income support. There has been no respite available in five years and the whole family is affected. Regular respite would also help people to stay in work and keep some dignity and sense of identity.
Fiona, Poole
Financially it only gets worse when your child leaves school as you still have the same or more care to provide. You lose your working tax credits if you are working 16 hours a week. As you then have to work 30 hours a week, you then lose your carers allowance. It's a no win situation.
Hannah, Fife
I'm a mother of an eight-year-old daughter with Angelman Syndrome. I came out of work last year as the stress of looking after a disabled child and working was just too much. I found I had no support. Our debts are rising as we try to make ends meet. We feel we're in a downward circle that we will never be able to get out of.
Elizabeth Healey, Oldham
Our youngest child is autistic and has other physical difficulties. A year or two ago we would try family activities and if we had to leave in just a few minutes because he couldn't cope it didn't matter so much financially. Now we have to forgo trying activities because unless we know they will be value for money we can't risk the cash. I work 10 hours a week, my husband works full-time but it's a constant struggle to be reliable and keep appointments. If our son is ill, which he is often in the winter months with respiratory issues, I have to take unpaid leave. Our other children miss out on a family holiday. It certainly has been harder financially in the last 18 months or so. As if life weren't restrictive enough, no matter how much we love our child.
Jacqueline, UK


Families with disabled children are struggling to pay household bills

7/10/2010 05:20:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 2 Comments

Contact a Family surveyed 1,113 people about how they were coping financially and found 23% went without heating and 14% missed meals to make ends meet. 

The group said the slump has left many parents at "breaking point".  It is calling on the government to protect families in the forthcoming comprehensive spending review. 

Srabani Sen, chief executive of Contact a Family, said: "Many families with disabled children are in financial dire straits.  "Everyone has been hit hard by the recession but families with disabled children were already having to cope with a harsh combination of extra living costs and the difficulty of holding down a job and caring.  "These financial pressures have been worsened by the economic slump and have left many at breaking point." 

Researchers found that 23%, almost one in four, had to turn off their heating to save money and one in seven, 14%, are going without food.  Almost three-quarters, 73%, said they had to forego leisure activities and days out, while 68% are not taking any holidays. 

Bryan Clover of the charity Elizabeth Finn Care warned the situation will get worse when the government switches the measure of inflation its uses to calculate benefit rises, from the Retail Price Index to the Consumer Price Index, which excludes housing costs.  Mr Clover said: "The impact of that is anything that they buy from now on will feel more expensive, its going to cost them more they will have less disposable income to use. Every single thing is going to be more expensive and that means hardship is really going to start biting." 

The Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller, said the coalition government was "committed to supporting the most vulnerable groups in society."  "We're radically reforming and simplifying the welfare system to make sure that families with disabled children get the help they need.  "Families with disabled children can face some of the toughest challenges when trying to get back into work. Our new work programme will help as it will provide a personalised package of support which can address issues around specialist childcare and respite care, regardless of the benefits they claim.  "In addition, from next year Disability Living Allowance will increase in line with the Consumer Price Index, meaning those families facing financial hardship will be better off than if we had stuck with the previous Government's plan to claw back last year's increase".


Ed Balls "Unhappy" About Way Govt Have Introduced DLA Changes

7/09/2010 10:13:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 4 Comments

According to a member of his campaign team, Ed Balls is unhappy about the way the ConDem government have introduced changes to DLA. via Dawn Willis

(Email kindly supplied by a campaigner who has Multiple Sclerosis)
NB: Highlighted emphasis added by BendyGirl. 

“Dear ---------, Thank you very much for writing to Ed Balls. I am a member of his campaign team and he asked me to get back to you on his behalf.

First, can I say how sorry I am about your MS.

In answer to your question – no I don’t think you missed anything about means-testing for DLA in the budget. What the coalition Government has said though is that they intend to change the way they assess people as being eligible for DLA, along the lines of the response you got from DWP, which you copied to us in your email.

This is what the Guardian says about the change announced in the Budget:
“From 2013, those seeking disability living allowance (DLA) will have to go through a strict new medical assessment to help “reduce dependency and promote work”, with many current claimants set to lose out under the new regime.The benefit will not be reduced but the government estimates the move will save £1.4bn by 2015, suggesting many of those seeking support will be turned away.”

The article is accessible at…/tougher-disability-allowance-test-budget <…/tougher-disability-allowance-test-budget>

I can see that this information will be pretty worrying to someone in your position and it is true that a number of charities have expressed concern about this announcement, because they are anxious that this means there is a risk that some people who badly need the extra help DLA provides may not be able to get it in future, once the test is changed

However, I am sure that the charities that advocate for people with MS will be working very hard to make sure the Government understands how important DLA is for you and many others, as they go about resdesigning the process of assessment. I would also like to think that any Government will be sensitive to the needs of people with MS; to be absolutely honest, it is probably people who do not have a diagnosis of a specific medical condition or disease who are most at risk of losing their eligibility for DLA once the new test comes in – and remember that’s not going to happen for three years, so there is time for those charities to kick up a very big fuss.

If you have continuing concerns though why not contact one of the MS charities? I am sure they would be very happy to give you any further information they have.

From a political point of view though I know that Ed is very unhappy about the way this announcement was made and the rather threatening remarks that Ministers have made about their intentions in this area. This was bound to make lots of people worry who have enough difficulties to overcome in their lives already, without the Government adding to them!

Thank you again for contacting Ed and I hope this response is helpful, and provides you with some reassurance.

Yours sincerely,
Caroline Abrahams
Ed Balls campaign team”