Black Triangle is horrified by the following story. A few months ago we joined with our sister organisation Disabled People Against Cuts in bringing all traffic from Charing Cross Road into Trafalgar Square to a standstill for three hours.
Sometimes we ask ourselves if the Government have slapped a ‘D’ notice on editors, or if they have collectively decided that welfare ‘reform’ is a good thing and have made a conscious decision not to report the full facts and our side of the argument.
We wonder. Any way you look at it, a conspiracy of silence exists.
The vote last week by the BMA’s Annual Representative Committee making the following motion BMA official policy could not have come a split second sooner.
While the motion was being debated, a disabled man had set himself on fire:
That conference, in respect of work capability assessments (WCA) as performed
by ATOS Healthcare, believes that the:
(i) the inadequate computer based assessments that are used have little regard to the nature or complexity of the needs of long term sick and disabled persons
(ii) calls on the BMA to demand that the WCA should end with immediate effect and be replaced with a rigorous and safe system that does not cause avoidable harm to some of the weakest and most vulnerable in society.
iii) Calls on BMA to work with disability groups and political parties to change public policy
You can watch the debate here from 4mins 10 seconds in continuing to 15 minutes:
In response to Thursday’s tragic event in Birmingham, Black Triangle has written the following letter to The Guardian:
‘We write with regard to Shiv Malik’s and John Domokos’ report (‘Man sets himself on fire outside Birmingham Jobcentre, 29th July) in which a man who was clearly very unwell had been found fit for work following a Work Capability Assessment. He went on to attempt self-immolation and our thoughts go out to him and his friends and family.
The DWP asserts that their ‘internal figures do not suggest a rise in such incidents in recent months’.
There is no official reporting mechanism from either primary or secondary care, social work or the third sector for such events.
Sir Michael Marmot, a world expert in public health epidemiology, last week stated that we are in ‘a public health emergency…if you look across Europe at unemployment rates, a 1% rise in unemployment in a country is associated with a 0.8% rise in suicides.’
According to the Campaign for a Fair Society 25% of the cuts are falling disproportionately on 3% of the population, namely sick and/or disabled people in receipt of state support.
The true figure for self-harm and attempted suicide amongst benefit claimants maybe somewhat higher than the DWP statement would have us believe.
The DWP’s statement lacks any credibility. The WCA is a harmful process and this is why the BMA have demanded that it end with immediate effect. Is is not time that the workforce who administer the WCA adopt a similar position?’
Dr. Stephen Carty, GP, Member and medical Adviser, Black Triangle Campaign
John McArdle, Founding Member, Black Triangle Campaign
Linda Burnip Co-Founder Disabled People Against Cuts
Debbie Jolly Co-Founder Disabled People Against Cuts
Elinor Lisney Co-Founder Disabled People Against Cuts
Bill Scott, CEO Inclusion Scotland
Steven Preece, Social Welfare Union
Helen Martin, Journalist
Ian McDougal, Senior Psychiatric Charge Nurse
No ifs, No Buts. No more!
The mass boycott of the WCA must begin immediately.
A man has set himself on fire outside a Birmingham jobcentre after what reports suggest was an argument over benefit payments.
The 48-year-old unnamed man is understood to have doused himself in flammable liquid and tied himself to railings after a dispute inside the Jobcentre Plus in the Selly Oak area on Thursday.
Police arrived at the scene and extinguished the fire after the jobcentre was evacuated.
The man was later taken to hospital with burns to his legs.
A source with links to staff at the centre told the Guardian the man had been recognised by the staff as vulnerable with outstanding health issues but had recently been found fit to work precipitating a move from one benefit to another. This had caused payment delays.
An unnamed witness who spoke to the Birmingham Mail said: “The guy came into the jobcentre with petrol and made threats, so they evacuated the whole building. I think it was something to do with a payment he had not received.
“He tied himself to the railings and tore open the bottom of his trousers. You could smell the fumes from the liquid he used, but the police arrived by the time he had set himself alight and they managed to put him out quite quickly.
“He would have to have been very desperate to have done something like that. It’s shocking that somebody could have been driven to those depths.”
West Midlands police said the man was undergoing a mental health assessment.
A spokesman for the PCS union, which represents staff at the centre, said: “While we still don’t know the full circumstances, it’s tragic and very sad that anyone could be driven to such a desperate act.”
The incident follows an attempted suicide in a Liverpool benefits office earlier this year.
Earlier this month the Guardian revealed that senior Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) managers had sent a note to all staff warning that they take the “utmost care and sensitivity” when dealing with claimants, as a result of “difficult changes which some of our more vulnerable customers may take some time to accept and adjust to”.
The email added: “Very sadly, only last week a customer of DWP attempted suicide” – which it added was “said to be the result of receiving a letter” informing him that his sickness benefit would be cut off.
Last year disability campaigners warned ministers that flaws in work capability assessments which determine the level of support and benefits people are entitled to, would lead to some mentally ill people taking their own lives.
The Guardian understands that internal DWP figures do not suggest a rise in such incidents in recent months.
The DWP said that it was now a matter being investigated by the police.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010