Thursday, December 1, 2022

Myles’s Blog: Putting JDP to the test

Blog by Myles Cook

A FEW weeks ago, a mental health organisation called Rethink Mental Health asked people to invite their local MP to attend a learning exercise on what it is like for a welfare claimant with mental health issues to attend a Work Capability Assessment (WCA), an assessment that has been repeatedly been proved to be not fit for purpose for that group of people.

The mock WCA for MPs was called, in somewhat tongue-in-cheek way, a MP Capability Assessment (MPCA) and was, to all intents and purposes, exactly the same process that a person with mental health issues would have to go through at their WCA with certain minor changes to make it applicable to MPs.

I, as a person with mental health issues, a concerned citizen and opponent of the way mental health is treated within these assessments, wrote to my beloved local MP, Jackie Doyle-Price, asking her to attend the appointment I had arranged for her. The letter she received is as close to the type of letter a claimant would receive as it is possible to get although, of course, there would be no sanctions against her for non-attendance. Below is the conversation, in full, I have had with Ms Doyle-Price regarding the MPCA and includes a side conversation with her assistant, Emily Clifton.

The Original Letter

Dear Ms Doyle-Price,

Your MP Capability Assessment

As your constituent it is important to me that you understand what it is like to undergo a Work Capability Assessment (WCA), which thousands of your constituents go through every year.

A recent Judicial Review came to the conclusion that people with mental health problems are substantially disadvantaged by the way they are being assessed by the Department of Work & Pensions through the WCA. I would like you to understand what this experience is like for many of the people you represent.

I have arranged an interview for you to undertake an MP Capability Assessment (MPCA) with Rethink Mental Illness. This assessment mimics the WCA process, asking you to produce evidence of your fitness to be a Member of Parliament. Like the WCA, it is essential that you make yourself available as to not do so may affect the decision about your ability to be an MP.

Please attend Room N, Portcullis House, SW1A 2LW on Wednesday 11 September between the hours of 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. If you cannot keep this appointment then you must make contact as soon as possible to make alternative arrangements.

Things the MP Capability Assessor will need to see on the day of your interview:

Proof of your identity
Any relevant information or evidence demonstrating your ability to work as an MP

An MP Capability Assessor will conduct the interview and the results of the assessment will be made available to you and your constituents shortly afterwards.

To confirm that you will attend please email campaigns@rethink.org

Yours sincerely,

Myles Cook

The Conversation with Emily Clifton

Dear Mr Cook,

Thank you for your email to Jackie Doyle-Price MP.

I’m afraid she will be at Public Accounts Committee all afternoon on Wednesday 11th September. You will be pleased to hear, however, that she has, along with other MPs, already had the opportunity to undergo such an assessment.

Yours sincerely,

Emily Clifton | Office of Jackie Doyle-Price MP

Ms Clifton stated that Ms Doyle-Price was unable to attend due to a prior commitment which is fine but the appointment letter clearly states that she should have made alternative arrangements for the MPCA. The question is – did JD-P arrange another date? If not, why did she not make other arrangements?

Ms Clifton stated that all MPs already had the opportunity to undertake such an assessment. This second claim is worth bearing in mind for later on (but do not worry, dear reader, it will not be too long before that piece of information is required).

Dear Ms Clifton,

Please could you supply me with the details of when Ms Doyle-Price had her MPCA and the outcome as I have no knowledge of her attending any such assessment.

I will then use the information you supply me to check with Rethink as to the veracity of your claim.

Regards,

Myles Cook

Dear Mr Cook,

When I spoke to her about it originally, Jackie said that Chris Grayling, the Minister, had given the opportunity for all MPs to attend a mock Work Capability Assessment (WCA). I don’t think it was via Rethink though, so I assume it was not an ‘MPCA’.

In any case, I have now seen that she has written to you on the issue.

Yours sincerely,

Emily Clifton

Dear Ms Clifton,

Whatever arrangements Mr Grayling made with MPs is beside the point, as Ms Doyle-Price’s constituent, I have arranged for her to attend an MPCA through Rethink. As is her duty as my representative, Ms Doyle-Price should attend the appointment or set an alternative date as was mentioned in the letter she received.
Please advise me of the new date for Ms Doyle-Price’s MPCA so that I may be fully informed of her compliance/non-compliance.

Regards,

Myles Cook

Please note: I have received no more communications from Emily Clifton.
Ms Clifton claims that Chris Grayling gave all MPs the chance to attend a mock WCA but she does not state whether Ms Doyle-Price attended that assessment so there does not seem to be much reason for bringing it up. However, bear that claim in mind for a few moments as we approach JD-P’s reply.

Jackie Doyle-Price’s Reply

Here is the scanned copy of JD-P’s reply.

And so, dear reader, at least one of our questions is answered – Ms Doyle-Price did not bother to arrange another appointment time and for the most pathetic of reasons because she believes that the changes put in place are sufficient. Basically, she believes her party without bothering to critically assess their claims for herself because did she know what the process was before the changes, what those changes are and how they have made the WCA more fit-for-purpose for claimants with mental health issues? These are not the actions of a proper representative of the people, in my humble opinion.

We must also now re-examine the claims made by Emily Clifton on Ms Doyle-Price’s behalf because if, as she claimed, all MPs were given the chance to undertake a mock WCA by Chris Grayling then why was there no mention of this in Ms Doyle-Price’s letter? Is this because it is a fallacious claim or because Ms Doyle-Price simply did not go to that one either?

I think my reply to Ms Doyle-Price’s letter covers some interesting points too.

My Reply

Dear Ms Doyle-Price,

With regards to your reply of 30 August concerning your refusal to attend the MPCA assessment learning exercise, I was wondering why you spoke at length about the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) but did not actually mention the MPCA to which my letter referred.

I was also wondering if you worked very closely with Mr Metcalfe, MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock, as your replies were almost completely identical which in some way implies that it is a letter written by Conservative Central Office and tweaked by individual MPs. I understand that most of the letters you get from me are generic, pre-generated ones but I am not a very good letter writer and I believe that, as long as the concern is registered with yourself, the standard letter will suffice. I do believe though, that any reply should be a personal one that reflects one’s own opinions and reasons and not just state the ‘Party line’ because people do not need to write to you to get the Government’s views on any matter.

I also believe that the letter you sent ended rather abruptly and begged for a short concluding paragraph, in my humble opinion.

I did, however, like the way that you included a kiss at the bottom next to your signature which made me feel all nice and warm inside.

Regards,

Myles Cook

Please note: I have not yet had a reply to this letter but it was only sent a short time ago so I do not expect an answer yet.

The pre-generated reply Ms Doyle-Price sent me seems to show how little she really cares about discussing matters with the poor people who live in her constituency and goes on at length about the WCA and gives no real coverage of her personal reasons for not attending the MPCA nor the learning exercise on its own merits.

I also sent her a letter including the full text of a Huffington Post blog covering the MPCA event. Below is the letter minus the Huffington Post article.

Dear Ms Doyle-Price,

I am writing to you to share this blog posting from The Huffington Post website regarding the MPCA learning exercise I invited you to attend. As you can see from the piece by Alan Cairns that I have reproduced below, it seems that the learning exercise opened the eyes of a number of the MPs who had the compassion to take part.

[MPs Undergo Work Capability Assessments, Huffington Post (Posted: 12/09/2013 14:40)]

You were one of 616 MPs who decided that you would not attend or schedule another date for your MPCA due to your ‘work’ commitments on the date set for your assessment. As such, you have not only robbed yourself of a vote winning publicity stunt but you have also shown that you do not wish to put yourself in the place of one of the people being victimised by the Government of which you are a minor part for even a few minutes to see how their lives are being affected by a discriminatory policy.

Of course, you are in good company with so many others sharing your disdain for the people you are supposed to represent in Parliament and your attitude to those people will not go unnoticed in the run-up to the next General Election.

Just out of interest, I would like you to answer this question – how can you possibly consider yourself a representative of the people of your Thurrock constituency when you seem to possess absolutely no interest in wanting to represent any views other than that of your party?

As always, I look forward to your reply.

Regards,

Myles Cook

Now, due to copyright laws, it would be wrong to have reproduced the full article from the Huffington Post; however, I can include the following extract:

“The assessments were designed to be as close as possible to the real thing, so MPs could get a tangible appreciation of what many of their constituents’ experience. MP Kate Green, who underwent the assessment, said:

“The MPs’ WCA was an eye-opener – I felt powerless, rushed and confused. It brought home to me how it must feel to those going through it for real. Of course it’s right we should do all we can to enable those with mental health problems to contribute fully in the workplace and to have a proper test in place to assess if they’re able to. But this test is fundamentally broken and DWP should go back to the drawing board.””

As mentioned in my last letter to Ms Doyle-Price, very few MPs attended the MPCAs nor did they reschedule their appointment so, although I have singled out Ms Doyle-Price, I do not hold her singularly in contempt but I did single her out because she is supposed to represent me in Parliament and has shown herself not fit to be that representative.

To be a representative of the people, an MP should put themselves in the position of the people they represent once in a while, to learn what it is like for the people who live outside an MP’s ivory tower. If an MP does not do that simple thing, then how can they say that they truly represent their constituents?

All the MPCA learning exercise will have cost Ms Doyle-Price is a few minutes of her time to gain some understanding of the problems faced by her constituents who suffer with mental health issues; on the other hand, failure to attend such an assessment can lead to a person losing their only source of income, the pittance that most of them are on in benefit payments (despite the widely held view that they are all on a fortune).

Ms Doyle-Price has had a lot of e-mails from me over the last few days including one on the Bedroom Tax in which I pointed out that her majority at the last General Election was less than the amount of people being currently affected by the Bedroom Tax. I would add to that point that some of those people with mental health issues affected by the unfair WCA process are also still entitled to vote and that some of them are not affected by the Bedroom Tax. Ms Doyle-Price’s majority does not look so safe now, does it?

So, in conclusion, if you are reading this Ms Doyle-Price, you had better start engaging more with the people you represent if you wish to hold your seat after the next General Election. Public opinion is already turning against the harsh treatment of people on benefits because people have finally realised that, when there is no more you can do to the sick, disabled and disadvantaged, your party will turn their sights on them and not even the pensioners will get away with being targeted.

You can read my other letters and opinions at http://valen1971.blogspot.com

52 COMMENTS

  1. I think there is some merit in what Myles is trying to do here.

    It would be good for all MPs to have to have to go through such tests, as an when they can, however I would imagine that most MPs have a number of things that they have to do so to commit to something like this would be pretty low down the list.

    Mental Health is a key issue but at times of economic uncertainty, shortage of housing, extremely high immigration and interference from Europe things like MH get sidelined. I feel this is very much the case.

  2. As much as I love the whimsical nature if the MPCA as a concept, I feel duty bound to object.

    If 60,000 of Jackie’s constituents all attempted to force her to go on a 90 minute event, she’d have to spend 10 years non stop meeting their requests, without sleeping or, y’know, doing the day job.

  3. the low number of MP’s who went on theMP capability Test. shows how many MP’s were worried about being stigmatised as a hard working MP. 🙂

    I am stilll planning to ruin her election by funding UKIP to stand against her. JDP has drove away local Tories to UKIP.

  4. Descamisados – The MPCA was not a whimsical exercise, it was a learning exercise. The actual assessment takes 15 minutes and the 90 minutes you refer to is the window in which that 15 minute assessment takes place.

    Doyle-Price has supported the despicable WCA without learning anything about it for herself. The MPCA was her chance to learn, she refused.

    You may believe the MPCA exercise to be whimsical but it’s not whimsical for the people affected by the real WCA that can end up losing what little income they get from welfare if they fail to attend. It’s not whimsical that the person who is supposed to represent her constituents whether they voted for her or not, whether she likes them or not, whether she agrees with them or not. She cannot represent someone without some knowledge of what is facing them.

    And finally, JD-P was NOT FORCED, she was asked. Genuine claimants ARE forced into attending WCAs, an assessment process that has been declared unfit-for-purpose for people with mental health issues.

    All your comment has done is show you to be as ignorant of the subject as Doyle-Price is. I don’t know whether you are being ironic, moronic or just obtuse but I hope whichever it is, it is unintentional because otherwise I really worry about you having the ability to vote because you’ll probably vote for Doyle-Price again.

  5. “what little income they get from welfare”

    This is not income, its a benefit. An income is earned through some sort of work.

    Myles – As I have said many times in the past, if someone has to rely on State subsidy for a long period of time then they have to be mindful that changes will occur over time. Money placed into the welfare pot is not ‘free money’. It is taken from those who do go to work and contribute financially. Unfortunately the last government made very many people believe that money would not run out….this has not been the case. The idea of getting those with mental illness into some form of work, if capable, is a good idea. It allows people with the illness a chance to interact with everyone else, can give a sense of purpose, allows one to make friends and can only be a positive thing. However employers need to be flexible and understand that people with a mental illness will have their bad days.

    I have to take Myles word that the way of assessing those with a mental illness should be changed, maybe Myles should write to JDP with an alternative!

  6. I didn’t vote for her the first time as I wasn’t living in Thurrock. I haven’t decided who I will vote for next time, it’ll be whoever is most likely to stop Miliband and Polly. In reality that will be JDP, unless Farage runs, in which case I’d probably vote for him.

    For clarity, even you refer to the name for the MPCA as “somewhat tongue-in-cheek ” and I’m not sure whimsical is too far removed from that. Of course the underlying issue is very serious, but I don’t think an MP has to attend a third-party pressure group stunt in order to have experience of the issue – reading the official reports etc will probably suffice.

    I also need to call you out on stating “She cannot represent someone without some knowledge of what is facing them.” Of course she has some knowledge of the issues, this has been a major issue in the press and Parliament for many months and she is not an ostrich.

  7. Descamisados the problem is you voting for JDP will not do anything to help the Disabled.

    Sadly too many people have the opinion of me myself and I and sod the rest and vote tory. which they only care about the top 5%. I fear people vote for them thinking it will somehow make them rich.

  8. Bernard87 – Seeing as how I have written JD-P about 10 letters in a week and a half I doubt she’d appreciate another one. Then again, I doubt she’d do more than hand them off to her assistant Ms Clifton to slightly tailor the Tory Central Office generic reply on each subject to send back to me. Even if I gave her the absolute answer to solve the problems of the entire world she’d ignore it and do what Tory Central Office tells her to do because she doesn’t think for herself or care about anyone but herself and her despicable Tory colleagues.

  9. Descamisados – Whether you vote for Farage or JD-P, that vote will make you a menace to the poor, sick and disabled in society. I’m not suggesting that Miliband is any better though.

    I referred to the name of the exercise, MPCA, as tongue-in-cheek not the exercise itself. MPCA is a play on the term WCA.

    Rethink is not a pressure group, it’s a mental health organisation that wished to educate MPs on an important issue for people with mental health problems.

    As for you assertion that reading a report would give sufficient knowledge of a subject, I’d have to say “are you kidding me?”. Reading the report would take longer than the time it would have taken to undertake the MPCA if she were to read it in the depth required for adequate knowledge. I have no doubt that the people who attended the MPCA also read the report but they found out more from actually attending. You cannot get the overwhelming sense of dread, fear, anxiety and helplessness from a report. To take an extremely absurd idea, but one that shows the difference in book-learned knowledge and experiential knowledge – one can learn how to perform a heart transplant from a book but that does not necessarily mean they could do it without some practical experience of surgery and I know if I had to have a heart transplant I’d rather have someone with practical experience. To take another, less absurd, example – I have been in the mental health system for a number of years and I haven’t found one psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse or associated worker who actually understands mental health conditions. They may have the book learning but they have no idea what a mental health condition is like apart from the definitions they get in their medical texts that don’t understand the conditions either. I work with the Social Work Faculty of Anglia Ruskin Universitytelling my story to social work students and the feedback I’ve had from each two hour session is that hearing my story from my lips has opened their eyes but that is because they have had gained actual knowledge from a life-changing personal experience of putting themselves in my place for that short time. The MPCA would have given JD-P that same kind of experiential knowledge, something that can only be gained from putting yourself in someone else’s place for a short time.

    Just because something has been an issue in Parliament and in the media does not give someone the necessary level of knowledge needed to represent people. Going through an experience or talking to those who have is the only way to do that and JD-P didn’t even attend the Mental Health debate in Parliament either so she has no basis to claim knowledge of what is good, bad or indifferent regarding the WCA for people with mental health conditions.

    It is attitudes like yours that make fighting for some kind of parity of importance for mental health such an uphill struggle. People don’t understand what mental health conditions are like except through the extremely prejudicial portrayals in soap operas which do nothing but reinforce the negative stereotypes non-sufferers have. This in turn makes it harder for people to talk about their mental health openly which stigmatises them, creates discrimination and pushes mental illness back into the realms of taboo.

    You should take a long hard look at yourself regarding your attitudes to people with mental health issues and ask yourself – Am I showing prejudice towards people with mental ill health? Are my views on mental ill health discriminatory? Do I really know anything about mental ill health? Am I part of the problem facing people with mental health issues?

  10. Descamisados – Well then, you should be a little more sympathetic to people with mental health problems because your earlier remarks show a distinct lack of empathy; in fact, as someone who has supposedly suffered with a mental health condition, your attitude makes you worse than people that haven’t had that experience because you should know better. As one sufferer to a former sufferer, I think you should be extremely ashamed of yourself and your attitude.

  11. As far as I am concerned an income is money given in exchange for work. A benefit, or more appropriately, a handout, is given by the state which takes that money out of the pocket of others.

    I am interested in one thing Myles. If the current government are ‘poor haters’, you don’t seem keen on Labour and Farage is just as bad then who do you think will make this country better? (Farage would probably be my first choice out of 4 vey poor choices)

    I honestly do think if you have a better suggestion for ways of testing those with mental illness then you should write to JDP and IDS explaining your idea. I have no idea on how to test whether those with a mental illness are fit for work so I would say lets stick to this scheme until a better idea emerges. One thing I am clear on is we cannot keep giving out money to everyone.

  12. No Myles, I was just too disgusted at your judgmental and accusatory attitude to respond in depth. There is no point in arguing with someone whose approach is “I have mental health issues, therefore I know best, and anyone who doesn’t agree with me is either ill-informed or unsympathetic”. I have no doubt your mind will not be changed regardless of my refutations and I have no real desire to enter a protracted debate on the subject. We disagree. Such is life.

  13. Bernard87 – As far as you’re concerned – and that’s just it, that’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it – that doesn’t mean you’re right to hold that opinion but it is your right to hold it. Income is any money from whatever source that comes into a household. People on benefits do not take the “money out of the pocket of others” – you confuse people on benefits with the State. The money that the State takes then becomes the State’s money which it is duty bound to protect those who are in need with along with paying for the services and other requirements of State.

    In your eyes, benefit payments come from your wallet and, therefore, is your money. Let’s look at the absurdity of that position. The money people get paid for their work is actually their employer’s money so does that mean that their employer’s can ask for it back or dictate how their employees spend it? But where do the employers get their money? From banks or from family fortunes they inherit. So, does that mean that the money actually belongs to the banks or the originator of the family fortune? Does that also mean that the banks can dictate what employers do with ‘their’ money or ask for it back? Can the originator of the family fortune do likewise if they are still alive? And if they are dead, can the money, which is theirs, really be passed onto someone else? But where do the banks get their money from? We could go on ad infinitum but let’s cut to the chase – money is nothing but tokens of exchange made from metal, a substance that no-one can truly own because it is a naturally occurring resource that can, in fact, not be owned by anyone under natural law. It is human law that imposes the idea of ownership of metal and resources that are found in the earth and those resources are, in fact, ‘owned’ by the planet. Can the Earth ask for its ‘money’ back or dictate how its ‘money’ is used?

    I have, obviously, taken my argument to an absurd extreme (although I could have taken it much further) but all I was doing is starting out with your absurd notion that benefit claimants are taking your money. Of course, you may say that the argument I have given shoots my argument about the taxpayers funding the lifestyle of the MPs in the foot but you’d be wrong because the money taken in tax revenue becomes the property of the State. The State is not the Government or the MPs that make up Parliament; the State is the country as a whole, not part of the whole.

    Technically, and actually, the poor, sick and disabled are taxpayers. They have actually been called ‘super tax payers’ in an academic paper because compared to the rich and privileged, they pay a greater percentage of their household income on taxable products than the rich and privileged do. They pay more of their limited funds in this country than the rich do because they can’t swan off to another country to buy stuff and they, generally, don’t take as many holidays abroad. The poor, sick and disabled also don’t have off-shore bank accounts with which to avoid paying tax. The disadvantaged pay for their TV license (a tax in all but name). They pay VAT on utilities, clothing, home entertainment, furnishings, appliances, food and other household consumables. Some pay VAT on alcohol and tobacco products. They now pay at least some of their Council Tax and their rent. They pay Fuel Duty. If they have savings, they are taxed on those too. They may not pay as much as the rich if you look at the actual pounds and pence but, as a percentage of their household income, they pay approximately 50% more than a rich person does.

    Your counter-argument will be that “it’s not their money” that they are paying with and I would respectfully point you to my discussion above and say that “it’s not your money either”.

    I have discussed at length my preference for the makeup of the Government in my other blogs so I see no reason to repeat myself except to say that I would prefer a non-partisan group of representatives in Parliament who don’t view the world through outdated and unworkable political ideologies.

    I don’t have to approach JD-P and IDS with the solution because mental health organisations and experts have already done that and they have ignored the recommendations or paid lip service to them giving the impression of having listened. The only way to show them the truth of the inadequacy of the WCA regarding people with mental health issues is for them to undergo the process themselves. The changes being mooted have been examined by mental health organisations and still found to be wanting. JD-P never shows the slightest interest in doing anything other than what Tory Central Office tells her to do and IDS is a bitter, resentful, spiteful, failed party leader who wants to bully people he sees are beneath him to give him the sense of power only leadership of his party has ever shown him and, as such, is beyond all reason.

  14. Descamisados – You’re too disgusted at my judgmental and accusatory attitude?!? Well ha-bloody-ha! Most of my comment was nothing of the sort and was, in fact, nothing but an accurate reflection of the truth regarding the need for experiential knowledge or getting the knowledge from someone who has it. Someone with no legs and uses a wheelchair is the expert in having no legs and using a wheelchair. Someone who’s blind is the expert in having no sight. A deaf person is the expert in living in a world of silence. We’re called Experts-by-Experience in the field of education because educators know that people with a health condition are the experts in living with the condition. Even the so-called ‘experts’ call us Experts-by-Experience.

    The only judgmental part of my comment was the part where I said that your attitude makes you worse than the attitudes of non-sufferers because you should know better – also a true statement. You should know better that only you can truly know what it’s like to have PND. I don’t know what it’s like to have PND either, only a fellow sufferer/former sufferer knows. I claim no expert knowledge of all the mental health conditions but I can have empathy for those who do because I suffer with my own. This society discriminates against us, demonises us, heaps prejudice against us and forces discussion of mental ill health into the dark and unspoken realms of taboo.

    You say that reading a report is knowledge enough and I countered that argument with sufficient force of counter-argument that you can’t refute what I said. To understand the process of the WCA and how it affects someone can only be done by undergoing the process. The people who undertook the MPCA know that because they had the guts to put themselves in the place of the people who are forced to undergo the process under threat of sanctions and they, as the Courts found, that the WCA is discriminatory towards people with mental health conditions. That is also a fact.

    You don’t want to enter into a protracted debate because, dear lady, you can’t back up your attitudes with any facts that strengthen your case. I don’t usually get angry at what people say on here but you have angered me with your attitude because, as a fellow former sufferer, you should know better.

    We can agree on one thing though – we disagree; such is life. I don’t mind people disagreeing with me. I just prefer it when they can back up their attitudes with some real reasons why they hold them – and you haven’t.

  15. What gets to me is people who gladly would see mental health services cut if it meant they would save a few pence on there income tax. They then tend to be the first to complain when something goes wrong.

  16. Catching the Bus – And, of course, cutting mental health services is a false economy because it will just add to the NHS bill for physical health services. They are, however, too stupid or oblivious not realise that.

  17. Myles – Whichever way you want to look at it money is taken from people who are given money in exchange for completing some form of work. If you want to dress it up as ‘The States’ money then thats fine. If everybody took the stance that ‘The State’ can provide for me and gave up work then gradually ‘The State’ would have no money to give out to others.

    I have to admit that whilst I do like debating with you as you always have something interesting to say your views on economics and money is simplistic and scary – almost Robin Hood like at times. I also think you spend too much time moaning about those on the top rate of tax paying little. I have no time for tax dodging people however I know that regardless of how little they pay, it will still beat the amount I pay a fair few times over and it is largely their tax (be that through land tax./Corporation tax/VAT/Inheritance tax/Stamp duty) which pays for those who get paid by the State. However your wider point about the rich paying their fair share is spot on. The same goes for those at the bottom who are able bodied and minded but refuse to get a job, instead choosing a life receiving a ‘state funded income’.

    The only way Britain is going to climb out of this mess is by tackling both those at the bottom and those at the top rather than squeezing the majority in the middle.

    I get your point about where does money come from but you could keep going with that theory!

    I have always said, and I said this on the bedroom tax blog as well, that if you do not earn money and have to rely on anyone, be that a partner/children, a payday lender or The State then you have to always have in the back of your mind that the terms of you having that money is subject to change a great deal more than working for an employer.

    I also think its pretty low having a go at Descamisados because she has taken a different view of mental health and dealing with the problems that it causes. We all have different experiences which allows us to form an opinion on such topics. Her opinion does not make her less sympathetic than you or less able to empthasise with people suffering from a mental illness. Her determination to overcome her illness, which it looks like she has done successfully, should be celebrated.

    My own opinion of mental illness is that more needs to be done to deal with it. More research, more work placements for sufferers, better medication, better housing and less stress on sufferers. I would be happy for more money to be spent on anythng to do with healthcare as long as it will benefit patients/sufferers and not go straight into the pockets of consultants and non-managers.

  18. Bernard87 – We have been over this on numerous occasions and this is going to be the last time I address this with you because basically the constant repeating myself with you and Descamisados with her unbelievable attitude to what’s being done to people with mental health conditions is getting extremely wearing on my nerves which is bad for my mental health. Yes, I put myself in the firing line by airing my views but I do so to provoke debate on vital issues and to point out the injustice that is being perpetrated by the Government of the day and I would do so whichever bunch of self-serving morons were in power.

    The claimants who believe that the State owes them a wage for sitting on their big, fat backsides doing nothing except watching TV, increasing the population and drinking in pubs all day long are not only the MINORITY (capitalised for emphasis) of cases, according to the GOVERNMENT’S OWN FIGURES (capitalised for emphasis) but they are also the ones LEAST AFFECTED (capitalised for emphasis) by the welfare reforms.

    The MAJORITY of claimants are in some kind of genuine need who would rather not be on benefits but for reasons of lack of jobs, low pay or some kind of physical or mental illness or disability need that assistance. Those of us who can would gladly come off benefits and go into a job if there were jobs around that catered to the requirements of our conditions; we’re not picky by choice, we’re picky by necessity because we set ourselves up to fail if we enter any old job and then lose it because we can’t maintain the work hours or the environment is injurious to our physical or mental health, pushing us into a crisis. Some of us contribute to society in other ways such as voluntary work, something that I believe all people who are able should do Voluntary work is good for one’s physical and mental well-being and can be of immense value to society; it’s also good value for money considering the work some of us take on compared to the pittance we get from the State and what the State would have to pay if we were employed on a proper basis to do the work.

    Some claimants in genuine need are strivers; they can and do wish to better themselves and are only restricted in doing so by their condition and society’s attitudes. Some claimants want to be strivers but cannot because their condition is so disabling that they have no option but to live off the State. No genuine claimant can be considered a skiver but that’s the way this Government has chosen to label them. Most genuine claimants would rather not be on benefits because they are fed up of people like you and this disgusting Government demonising them.

    And let us not forget the low-paid workers who claim benefits because their income is appallingly low. Where do they fit into your prejudices?

    I never claimed to be an economist. I never claimed to have any answers. It doesn’t, however, take a genius level intellect to see that screwing the genuinely poor, sick and disabled isn’t helping the financial situation of the country, does it? Economics, like politics, has been overcomplicated by people who make their living in those fields. Perhaps it’s time for a little simplistic thinking.

    Tackle the people at the top and the real problem claimants, the less than 1% of claimants, who fraudulently claim benefits and do nothing for them. Leave the genuinely needy and the ones who do voluntary work for therapeutic purposes alone. It’s that simple.

    I was not “having a go at Descamisados because she has taken a different view of mental health and dealing with the problems that it causes”. I was disgusted with her attitude that JD-P can learn all she needs to learn about the way the WCA affects people with mental health conditions from reading a report when the evidence from the people who attended the MPCA and the students and lecturers I work with at Anglia Ruskin University shows that their attitudes change when personally confronted with the situation in question or by someone who has had that experience. I was not disgusted by her attitude because it was different to mine but that she could hold that attitude when she has supposedly had personal experience of mental health issues and it has still not given her any level of empathy with current sufferers.

    I have no argument with the fact that her determination to overcome her condition has led to a successful recovery. I am glad when anyone successfully overcomes their problem. However, some people have conditions that they can never recover from because it is a permanent part of their genetic makeup and can merely hope to cope with their illness. Some people may also be able to recover but the road to that recovery may be extremely long and may still never fully recover no matter how much determination they have. It is those people who are being affected by the unjust WCA process and someone who has been through a mental health crisis should have more empathy than Descamisados shows. I have not lost a limb, I am not blind but that does not stop me from having a certain level of empathy for those so afflicted. I do have a mental health issue and so I know the pain and suffering that they endure and so my level of empathy is higher as I have personal experience of their kind of struggle. I’m sure blind people have a greater empathy for other blind people because of their shared experience. That’s why I am moderately harsh on Descamisados because she really should know better.

    Yes, more needs to be done for mental health and I agree with the more research part. I do have reservations about the work placements because not all conditions or the side effects of mental health medications lend themselves well to set work patterns but helping them back to some kind of gainful activity is a good idea and a necessary therapeutic aid to coping with or recovering from mental ill health.

    I take it from your last couple of lines that you would have supported the proposal I, and a number of other mental health service users, presented to the Mental Health Commissioners for Essex which would have provided a peer support network with voluntary work and paid employment opportunities across Thurrock, Essex and Southend. It only needed some start up capital and would have, if successful, been self-sustaining with a business selling training services and mental health related publications. It would have kept people with mental health conditions out of hospital and gainfully employed in activities that would have benefitted society. A true project for strivers. We got nothing.

    With such a project, we could have kept the local NHS bill down regarding hospital admissions for people with mental ill health or physical health problems due to mental ill health. Instead, the mental health service users of Essex have been demonised, labelled scroungers and put through a WCA process that is not fit-for-purpose for the mentally ill. Is that the action of a Government that understands mental health from reading a report about it?

  19. Dear Mr Valen [Myles] Cook. How disappointing it is that, yet again, the subject of your blog has degenerated into a “slanging match” and sad to say you are the main cause. You are intolerant of the opinions of others, especially when they disagree with your own strongly held views, referring to such people as “morons” i.e persons whose intellectual development is arrested. The only contributor you have shown any approval is jmw118 and that, I assume, is because he remarked favourably regarding your blog.

    You seem incapable of responding to the comments of others in a reasonable and polite manner. You are inclined to be personal and insulting to others e.g. your remarks about Descamisados. Your reply to her remark regarding your being” judgemental ” is shameful and to say “she should know better is a fact” demonstrates your arrogance in assuming your OPINIONS are fact. Your accusatory and dismissive attitude toward Descamisados smacks of the same attitude you attribute to Ms Jackie Doyle-Price, of which you have been highly critical, and is equally shameful.

    Mr Cook, contrary to your own belief, you do not have a monopoly on concern for people with mental health problems. I do not doubt the sincerity of your concern but I believe your approach is counter-productive as a consequence of your arrogant, abrasive and insulting attitude. Far from eliciting support and empathy for the cause your attitude is inclined to result in irritation or even outright hostility.

    If you want to rally people to your cause stop insulting them!

  20. MHO he has been more constructive than Thurrock MIND. Don remember what Thurrock MIND position was on any of the big issues facing mental health users.
    Don’t remember Thurrock MIND speaking out at JDP’s voting on the subject.

    Love him or hate him. without the likes of Myles and Novoice this sites dead. Myles blogs always are an interesting read and discussion and the forum tend to liven up more when they are about.

    Keep it up Novoice and Myles.

    So Peter what have you done since your last blog on ATOS to do with mental health?

    So how would Mr Cook go about this?

    I also would point out though I don’t agree with all of MVC posts he is popular and has a lot of support amongst the mental health community hence the committees he has been on
    As I said in a previous post I also suffer from Suicidal Depression.

    He ain’t cuddly but he gets results and drives forward MH in South Essex and Thurrock. Far more than Thurrock MIND IMHO. I am an ex service user of thiers.

  21. Mr Perrin – The debate has not become a slanging match, it has become stale due to me having to repeat myself several times and rather heated but not a slanging match. It was not my opinion on which I actually said that all her “comment has done is show you to be as ignorant of the subject as Doyle-Price is. I don’t know whether you are being ironic, moronic or just obtuse but I hope whichever it is, it is unintentional”; it was her being ignorant of the subject on which she was commenting and, technically, as you can clearly read, I did not call her a moron, I posed options of her state of mind not picking or calling her any one of them.

    I am not intolerant of opposing views but I am honked off when I am forced to repeat myself and when people deliberately use arguments that I have already countered in the hope that I’ll say they’re right.

    There isn’t much I could say to jmw118 other than to thank him because he only left a short comment that could not spark a debate.

    I am eminently reasonable although forthright when replying to people’s comments and I am polite enough to reply to every comment I receive.

    No, Mr Perrin, saying that she should know better is not my opinion, it is a substantiated FACT based on PERSONAL OBSERVATION of hundreds of current and former mental health service users with whom I have worked in the past three or four years, all of whom show great empathy with all types of emotional issues. Increased empathy seems to be the only true positive that comes with mental illness. So I say again – Descamisados should know better.

    I accuse Descamisados of a lack of empathy and, like it or not, her comments display that beautifully. I DO NOT DISMISS HER COMMENTS but I do not agree with them and I say so. You may think I’m being unduly harsh on Descamisados, that’s your opinion. Given her belittling of an important learning exercise to promote an unjust process that can literally kill some people, I think I’ve been extremely reasonable.

    JD-P actually dismisses not only opposing views but the requests of her constituents unless they will win her votes. I don’t like JD-P’s attitude to her duties as a representative of the people of Thurrock. She may be a lovely woman in person but she is seriously lacking in her ability to represent her constituents. You may think that I’m being harsh on JD-P, that’s your opinion. If the scanned copy of JD-P’s letter to me had been uploaded then you would see for yourself. Quite frankly, what I say about her is tame in comparison with what I have heard in public from other JD-P critics.

    You, sir, have just made an assumption and an erroneous comment when you wrote “contrary to your own belief, you do not have a monopoly on concern for people with mental health problems”; I have never made that claim and considering you have made that comment before and I refuted it then, it seems pointless saying it again now.

    I am not here to make friends, Mr Perrin. I am not here to rally people to a cause. I am here to provoke debate and that I do. I am here to VOICE MY OPINION and, in my fully researched articles, PRESENT FACTS – assuming that the articles are posted. I do not get paid to do this blog or the news items I have written for this site (all of which, I may add, are unbiased reports). If I was being paid, I might feel obliged to deal with people with kid-gloves but, until that day, I will continue to forcefully put my views across and provoke debates on the issues I feel are worthy of highlighting or that I’m asked to write.

    No-one is obliged to read my columns. It’s a pity that so many people with mental health problems are obliged to attend WCAs that are unjust and not fit-for-purpose but that’s life, isn’t it?

    Please Note: All fully capitalised words are so written to add emphasis and not to represent anger or shouting because you can embolden text on this part of the site.

  22. Catching the Bus – Thanks for the support.

    I don’t hold any ill feelings towards any of the people who comment on my blogs but it may appear that I do when I condemn things they say and I allow myself to get a little heated. Everyone has the right to their opinions and I have a right to throw back any opinions on what they have said.

    As you so rightly put, I may not be cuddly but I do try to get the message out there. The fact that people ignore the message is out of my control; quite frankly, it wouldn’t matter if I sugar-coated the facts and my opinions based on those facts, some people would still ignore the message because some people are just like that. And that, as they say, is life.

  23. Catching the Bus. I am currently endeavouring to establish what the Labour Party would do regarding Work Capability Assessments should they win the 2015 General Election, I will be asking Ms Polly Billington, the Labour Party prospective Parliamentary candidate, to seek a commitment from the Labour Party to dispense with ATOS and to introduce a scheme that takes account of GPs, Psychiatrists and Carers directly involved with a person suffering with mental health isssues and are best qualified to assess a patients capabilities.

    I do not want to appear churlish but the MPWCA is akin to that of asking MPs to live on benefits for a couple of weeks as a means of experiencing what life is really like on benefits. To suggest that a “mock assessment” is somehow going to persuade MPs to change their attitudes is a mockery in itself. The MPs know at the end of the experiment they are not at risk of any adverse effect on their lifestyle. Both of the “experiences” are pointless, patronising and an insult to those who live on benefits, not just for a few days, but for year after year.

  24. Mr Perrin – You do appear to be churlish by basically saying that the MPCA did not change people’s attitudes and to be a mockery when those who attended DID have their attitudes changed. The MPCA was to show, through personal experience, the process that people with mental health issues undergoes not to show the long term effects of having to survive on benefits. In that respect, the MPCA worked. It also showed those that attended how hard it is to qualify for the benefits one relies on. In this respect, the MPCA worked. The fact that JD-P and most of the repellent MPs in Parliament decided not to attend just shows how little they care about representing their constituents. In this respect, the MPCA failed but also succeeded in showing MPs for the selfish swines they are.

    The MPCA was not pointless, patronising or an insult to those on benefits (all of which are your opinions of the exercise). The people who attended found it to be most useful. Perhaps people such as yourself should go through the process too so that you might change your opinion of the exercise.

    I applaud your efforts in getting Polly Billington to get Labour to dispense with Atos and what their plans are regarding the WCA. I would, however, point out that Labour has already made noises in that direction anyway and courting Labour does nothing to help those being affected now. The introduction of the ‘experts’ you mentioned is the change that the Tories are talking of bringing in as part of their updating of the WCA process for people with mental health issues and forms part of the report that was mentioned by Descamisados.

    You referred to the MPCA exercise as “pointless”; some people may say the same of your efforts given what I stated in my previous paragraph. You called it “patronising”; some might say the same of your efforts, patronising to the people being affected right now. You called it “an insult to those who live on benefits”; some might say the same of your efforts, especially those who are being or already have been affected by the WCA and have been living on benefits that they are now in the process of losing, have lost or will have reduced. Your efforts are also entirely dependant on Labour gaining power in 2015 and that is by no means a certainty.

    You are a really nice man but you’re having no more positive effect than you say my approach has. At least my approach gets the unjust nature of the WCA on people with mental ill health out into the open where it can be discussed. At least my approach may make the people who don’t comment on the blog think about the issues and vote in such a way that JD-P and her party don’t get into power in 2015.

  25. Mr Perrin – You were also churlish enough to not reply to my comment to you that was posted before Catching the Bus’ comment. Not very polite, sir. Perhaps you should hold off on criticising other’s politeness until you show some yourself.

  26. “Peter Perrin September 26, 2013 – 7:13 pm”

    This is the best comment out of all the rambling posts (mine included)

  27. The ATOS assessments are a joke and the vast majority of those that have been through them have won a reversal on appeal, this shows that the system does not work, why they continue with these is beyond me; however, I have yet to hear any credible statement from the Labour party on how they will address this if they get in.

    Unfortunatley some form of assessment is required as there are a few out there that could get gainful employment and are “swinging the lead” but on the flip side there are others that require long term assistance who could benefit more if the malingerers were taken off the benefits.

    Oh and before I am chastised for not sympathising with those with mental health issues, I am a fellow sufferer due to a chronic debilitating illness, I do hold down a full time job though even though it is difficult…

  28. Lambo is another excellent example of someone who has had a tough time but is still financially and economically contributing to our country regardless of mental health and illness. Both Lambo and Descamisados both come across as the not wallowing type. They don’t beat over your head the fact that they have/had mental illness issues (I would have never known otherwise) and their approach to many topics is very similar to my own. Very commendable people IMO.

  29. Cheers Bernard87, I was bought up not to expect hand-outs and to try and carry on regardless, as i said times can be difficult but I am a proud person who will strive to continue as normal a life as possible and engage with society, yes i know that there are some people for whom this is an impossible task and they are the ones that truly need support and assistance but alas there are too many now who expect the state to support them when they could be supporting themselves.

  30. Dear Mr Valen [Myles Cook, It was not impoliteness on my part. I just felt disinclined to reply to someone who believes that everyone, but himself, is a moron. I will take no lessons from you regarding politeness.

  31. Bernard87 – “This is the best comment out of all the rambling posts (mine included)” – Of course, you say that; it was critical of me, puts the entire blame for any offence squarely on my shoulders and contained factual errors. It was also not terribly well written but Mr Perrin did make a good point or two which is more than your comments have.

  32. Lambo – Thank you for agreeing that the Atos assessments are a joke and pointing out that most decisions have been reversed by the courts. You are right that Labour have hardly shown credible policy decisions on the WCA or Atos although there were rumblings that they would kick Atos to the kerb. How they would do that without incurring massive payoff settlements is, quite frankly, an answer I look forward to hearing.

    I have never stated that some form of assessment is not needed and, if you read my earlier comments, you will see that I also believe that some form of gainful activity for those who can do so is both therapeutic and highly recommended. That gainful activity may not be full-time paid employment but could be part-time work or voluntary work as I also mentioned earlier. Voluntary work may not give the claimant a monetary gain but it does provide a gain for society as it saves money on providing services that can easily be run by volunteers, provided they have the right training with which to carry out their role.

    You were doing so well and then with your last paragraph fall victim to shouldhaveshutupsooner-itis. You had said nothing that showed a lack of empathy with fellow sufferers. In fact, as you can see, I agree with most of your points but you just had to open your trap and assume that you had said something I would have disagreed with and chastised you for. Pre-emptive statements are best not said or written.

    Thank you for playing.

  33. Bernard87 – First of all, I applaud Lambo for his ability to hold down a job with a mental health condition. I, too, held down a job for 10 years before my condition became too serious and affected my ability to be around people due to high levels of anxiety. I was made redundant twice and still managed to keep going despite the odds stacked against me. Since I have been on benefits, I have not been idle either.

    I take it from your statement that both “Lambo and Descamisados both come across as the not wallowing type” that you are painting me to be a “wallowing type”. I am far from being a wallowing type. Such a person would not undertake the amount of voluntary work I do or be looking for work. The fact that I am not “financially and economically contributing to our country” is due to the fact that, despite numerous job interviews, I have been unable to get a job. I’m looking for something part-time so that I do not push myself too hard and cause my condition to deteriorate but something that will allow me to come off benefits.

    I don’t “beat over your head the fact that they have/had mental illness issues” but, in my capacity as a campaigner for mental health awareness, I don’t hide the fact either. It would be interesting to find out why they don’t talk about their mental health issues. I don’t mean to pedantic here but what I think you meant to say was “beat YOU over THE head WITH the fact that they have had mental HEALTH issues”.

    You would admire them for their approach to many topics BECAUSE they’re the same as yours.

    They both have admirable qualities I’m sure and their determination to overcome their mental health issues is unquestionable. That said, however, doesn’t detract from the fact that Descamisados shows a lack of empathy towards fellow sufferers that I find hard to fathom and hard to approve of. It also doesn’t detract from the fact that both of them are lucky to have been able to either recover from or satisfactorily cope with their mental health issues. Determination may be a factor but many sufferers have that in abundance, they just haven’t had the luck to go with it.

  34. Lambo – Very few people are brought up to expect handouts and most sufferers do try to carry on regardless but sometimes carrying on regardless can make the problem worse. I had worked for several years when I finally succumbed to a breakdown at work. I returned to work within a week and carried on regardless. Several years later, my mental health suffered another crisis and that’s what has brought me to this place in my life. I do, however, engage with society by doing my voluntary work and helping to make the next generation of social workers more tolerant of and understanding towards the mentally ill.

    I’m glad you agree that there are some for whom that is an impossibility. I agree that those who can should do some form of gainful activity and that some may be lucky enough to go on to support themselves fully but until they can, the State supposed to be there to support them.

    Some, like me and some of my voluntary work colleagues, have paid into the system during our working lives and are now called “skivers” or “scroungers” for needing assistance from the system that was supposed to ensure our “social security” in times of need. Do you now begrudge us that security?

  35. Mr Perrin – I am not “someone who believes that everyone, but himself, is a moron” but I am someone who is happy to point out when someone is being moronic. There are plenty of people who I don’t believe are moronic so your statement was rather sweeping, wasn’t it?

    “I will take no lessons from you regarding politeness.” I will then afford you the same courtesy and not take lessons from you either.

  36. Dear Mr Valen [Myles] Cook, A polite reply. It is only YOUR opinion that “someone is being moronic” and your opinions are just that and carry no factual weight. I make the point as you are always very keen to stress that all your comments are a matter of fact.

  37. One thing I think JDP could do which would help the situation is to use the likes of the former Remploy as a stepping stone for those who are not yet ready to work as a means to enable them to have a working record and job reference,Also volunteer work is also a positive step for those recovering.

    We do need more employers who are understanding of disability and get the employment rate up via paid work placements and improve the trade skills of those who are unemployed so they fit the skills shortage this nation faces.

    Mr Perrin – I doubt Polly knows what the position of the labour party is and would have to ask Labour head office. plus this also relies on her getting elected and Labour winning power. Which I doubt they will do as a lot of us are voting for UKIP.

  38. Mr Perrin – I thought we had agreed that we weren’t going to take lessons from each other and here you are breaking that agreement.

    People being moronic is my opinion but my comments are filled with facts and evidence.

    The full length reply I gave you with regards to your first comment covers the points you raised in a thoughtful, complete and civil manner; you ignored the arguments because you could not counter them. Even a short reply to say ‘let’s agree to disagree’ on method and content would have been polite but you just ignored it. I may be a sledgehammer but at least I have the politeness and courtesy to reply (unless I’m unable for some reason) so I politely request that you stop lecturing me about politeness and courtesy until you show some yourself.

    Let’s just agree to disagree over style, method and content. You write your blog, I’ll write mine and let’s not bother each other. It’s not as though you’ve got long to wait for me to leave anyway.

  39. Catching the Bus – Really good points that should shut up the people who seem to think that all people on welfare are scroungers.

    The trouble with the Remploy thing is that this Government closed down a number of Remploy sites thus pushing disabled people who had jobs and were contributing financially to the country back on to benefits they then try to reduce or take away from them. But that’s the stupidity of this Government, they see something that’s working and they close it.

    Even the right-wingers on here should be able to see that that is a boneheaded move as they are the ones who are always banging on about getting people who can into some kind of gainful activity. I agree with the idea of disabled people who can having some kind of gainful activity in their lives but my right-wing critics and naysayers don’t pay attention to anything I say that actually agrees with them; all they do is focus on the areas of disagreement and spout the same old tired arguments against those.

    Shame really, the debate would move along much better if they helped to build on the areas of agreement to move it forward rather than stagnating the debate with their tired and already countered arguments.

  40. Valen, you are totally correct about Remploy, this was a farcical move by the government, as you say it has pushed disabled people back onto benefits, I could not understand the logic behind this, as you quiet rightly point out these people were contributing to the economy and also were training to do other tasks, Remploy did a fantastic job.

    With regards to your comment about people on welfare being scroungers, unfortunately there are still those who fit this stereotype, just take a walk through the local town centre and you will see them loitering on the corners with their cans in their hands or gymslip mums pushing the pram with one hand whilst drinking with the other.

    It is a fact of life that whilst there is money to be got for doing nothing then people will grab it, the Social Security system was set up as a safety net when people became financially insecure due to circumstances, but now it is seem as an alternative to work by some

  41. Lambo – I totally agree that there are scroungers who play the system, I even mentioned that in an earlier comment; however, the welfare reforms don’t actually affect most of those people.

    Those disabled people who can work, even if for a few hours a week,should do so and I include voluntary work in that as well because although voluntary work does not contribute financially to society, it does save society money as they are not paying for staff to do those jobs and society still benefits from the work done. Whether the work being done is voluntary or part-time paid work, the individual is being given the time to ease back into work at a rate that doesn’t negatively affect their condition but may well build them up to a point where they can consider full-time paid employment. Doing things in this way sets disabled people who can work up to succeed rather than the current way of doing things which just sets people up to fail. Remploy could have assisted very well in this respect and still could if the Government looked at the consumables they need that could be made by Remploy staff and awarding contracts to Remploy for those items. It would be cheaper than paying other companies to do the job because Remploy would not need as much in the way of profit. It would offer a brilliant back-to-work scheme for disabled people that would be setting them up to succeed, building their employability skills and may well lead them to work in the wider employment market and better things for them personally and for the economy.

  42. I agree with everyones points abour Remploy and agree with everything in Myles’ last post.

    The probelm is that we have a government front bench (and shadow front bench) who seem so far removed from the rest of society that they either do not care about helping disabled people back into work or would rather ‘the market’ do the job of getting these people back into some form of work instead.

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