The Day Britain Changes Forever.

1 Apr

1st April 2013 is the day so much changes.  The next round of benefit changes and the changes to the NHS.  I do not know about anyone else, but my head is spinning with it all, so much campaigning and so many meetings, am exhausted, and so much more to do.

This government is relentless, and will not listen, and on a one track course, cut, cut, cut, and at the expense of the people who need the help the most, the sick, disabled, the young, the unemployed, the low paid, students, and the elderly.

I wonder if Bevan were alive today what he would be thinking as the NHS slowly dies, CCG’s operational, GP’s given the NHS budget, many services like ambulances, out of hours, even night services at A and E’s outsourced and privatised.  Some campaigns have done amazing things to bring to the public conscience what is happening to our NHS, the Lewisham campaign, and I was on both marches in November 2012 and January 2013, the thousands that marched, and just recently,  the Whittington campaign, which had over 5,000 out on the street for its first demo, and Ealing as well, but, even with these demos with thousands out waving their placards and voicing their anger, still there are people who are unaware that things are about to change within the NHS, what CCG’s are and what it means for us the people who use the NHS and the GP’s who will have a bigger responsibility in the way the services will now be shaped and what treatment you will now receive.

People need to get to CCG meetings, read documents, and ask questions.  Challenge what you have been told and read between the lines, do not take things said to you at face value, join your local patient groups and challenge your GP, because from 1st April in England,  each GP practice has a rep sit on the CCG boards and for us in England, healthcare will not be the same again.

I have had to fight for my treatment recently, and I know a few months from now I will have to apply to the CCG for funding for my medication, in a “please sir, I need this medication to keep me alive, ” I have had many a sleepless night worrying about my treatment, what if the CCG says no to me and where this leaves me, how many of us through this country have had their request for treatment denied, treatment that can make a difference between life and death, and quality of life, and make a beneficial difference to that person’s life?  I honestly thought a doctor was supposed to do no harm, where is it that they now play GOD as they do with the care pathway and decide who lives and who dies without the patient’s awareness and the doctors will not resusitate these patients without the family’s permission, and that Jeremy Hunt thinks that the care pathway is a “good idea” tell that to the 60,000 patients in Liverpool Mr Hunt, who are on this programme without their knowledge, and to be honest its killing people on a mass scale.  I bet you think it’s a good idea because well this government are thinking the more people who die the less they will be a drain on the state, and we save money, we are not stock Mr “blood on your hands” Cameron, we are human beings, life is precious, but, it’s not to you or to this government is it?

Today the welfare state swings the axe again, and on its “make work pay rhoetric” in comes into force the under occupancy rules, “the horrible bedroom tax”.  My borough of Bromley is a pathway council, which has said it will rigorously chase down every penny that it is owed,  it is one of the several councils in London to increase the council tax on 1st April by 1.9 per cent, it has over £60M in reserves but will not spend it, but would rather cut, cut, cut, at the expense of the people in the community who need the support the most.  In Bromley, we have just lost £80,000 off Mind day care funding, £500,000 from elderly day care funding, the council charges the person using day care on average £10 a day and £5 on top for a lift there and back, and lunch charges on top of that.  A friend of mine  whose relative needs specialist dementia services, is charged for dementia services £47.00 a day for their relative to use the day care services, and £7.00 for lunch, and twice a week which they get no support for, they are working to pay for that,  no wonder we live in one of the richest boroughs, Bromley are coining it in.

Two weeks ago, I was at Personal Independent Payment Training.  At the end of the training which I need a degree to understand, and need to read the paperwork a million times before I get it, the JCP manager stood up, and explained about the welfare fund which replaces crisis loans, and grants.  This pot of money is tiny, and is not ring fenced, and will run out before the year is out they duly informed us.  They also told us that the council had, of course, outsourced it to a private company called Northgate, but could not provide the telephone number as there wasn’t one to hand.  The applications will be done over the phone, and without a phone number how on earth are people supposed to do that?  For that, they had no answer.

The applications will be limited to one a year, yes one a year, and the criteria will be stiff, so if you do not meet the criteria, you will not get a penny.  I sat there filled with dread, and could see quite clearly the people desperate, needed the support and simply will not get it, and these are the most needy, the most vulnerable in society who will not get the help.  This covers people affected by the horrendous bedroom tax, and there are 1900 people in my area affected by that.  So when the pot runs dry as it will within months, there will be no help, nothing.

On 15th April in my area, we are one of the four boroughs trialling the benefits cap before it is rolled out nationally in the summer.  Basically if you are a single person you will get £350 a week to live on and if a couple or single parent with children living with you £500, sounds a lot, but it’s not, not when you get housing benefit, council tax benefit, and in work benefits, carer’s allowance and the like, it’s not much at all, and people will be going without food and heating to make sure they keep a roof over their heads.  We were duly told by the DWP that if you go over your allowance the money comes off your housing benefit. So they whop you again with your rent.  I pointed out many more would be made homeless this way, to be told yes they will.  One family in Bromley with the benefits cap will lose £300 a week from 1st April housing benefit, rents are high here, they will be moved out of borough, lives disrupted and moved far from friends and family, how many will be saying this over the summer?

The JCP Manager said tersely we are working with these families to get them into work and make sure it pays, we have helped 67 people get into work and we will get many more into work.  What by the work programme?  By bullying them?  By sanctions?  How many more will you push over the edge with the stick DWP?  Slave labour and huge profits for the companies like Tesco’s “every little helps” stores who use work fare throughout their stores and where you can be kept on permanent placements with no hope of a job at the end of it.  How many has the work programme actually helped stay in a job for more than 6 months of its existence, what 96?  What a failure this programme has become.  What got me listening to this manager and her business like attitude is she believed with her whole heart the rhetoric that was coming out of her mouth, for us listening to her, we did not.  We worried about the lives who will be devastated when these changes come in and will have serious consequences, and many dire consequences for the hundreds of thousands of people affected. I watched three people wipe their eyes, most people in that room bowed their heads and greeted the manger’s words with stunned silence.

They talked about the schemes they are scrapping that would help people into work, the job grant, the in work credits, and, under the benefits cap, supported permitted work that made a huge difference to disabled and ill people to ease their way back into working would be scraped under the benefits cap and universal credit.  In Bromley that puts a work and rehabilitation scheme for mental health impairments under threat as they use the transitional employment placements and permitted work is geared for this…a project that helped many over 20 years is now in serious doubt.  They want people to work, but they scrap the schemes that could and were supporting….nothing makes much sense.

Just recently, I have been on a couple of bedroom tax protests, one in Croydon a few weeks ago, and one a few days ago in London.  On 1st April 660,000 people in social housing in the UK if have a spare bedroom will lose 14 per cent of their housing benefit, and if more than an extra bedroom 25 per cent, two-thirds of disabled people will get affected by this draconian tax.  I know of a single mother in my area, in the support group of ESA, two children, a daughter of 10 and a son of 4 who is affected by this, she has Bipolar, and has to pay £35 a week, got hit by the council tax because of working age so has to find 8.5 per cent of that, and has been hit by the benefit cap on top of that.  All of this did one thing to her.  It put her in hospital, and her children are at present in care.  This is one story.  How many millions more will there be like this?

What about the disabled people who need a spare bedroom for their carer, for their medical equipment and treatment, who will face the stark choice between moving far from friends and family, from the health care professionals treating them, whose care packages are not transferable to another local authority, and face that choice do we move out to another part of the country, or do we stay where we are, can’t pay the money, and face the possibility of eviction?  Now 12 councils have said they will not evict tenants and will protect them, let’s hope that happens.  In London 80,000 families stand to be affected by this measure and face being forced to move out of London and to places like Wales and North of England.

On 7th March 2013, I challenged Boris Johnson at People’s question time at Catford to come and support one of our bedroom tax protests and help us abolish this draconian tax.  I pointed out to him that in his 2008 manifesto he was against the social and ethnic cleansing of social tenants in London and would do what he could to stop it.  He has done nothing.  He has stood by and not defended the people of London whopped by these measures and more and instead moaned about the bankers and their bonuses being capped.

We all saw the real Boris Johnson in that room when I challenged him, angry, and rude and obnoxious and did not like being challenged on something like this that will have devastating consequences for so many, well as I said to him that day I will follow him around London and challenge him with hard-hitting question after hard-hitting question, he needs to be challenged and so does his Greater London Assembly, so do the local councillors in each authority where ever you are, and each MP.

My MP who shall remain nameless for now, wrote back to me a few weeks ago when I challenged him about the welfare payment cards, and the issues around this.  He said, the government had no current plans to introduce them in, but, the ministers WERE looking at the legality and feasibility of them.  How about the local councils who will be issuing them for people who need food, and will get these instead?  One council has said they will only issue these to people if they are of good behaviour and do not get into trouble, you will not be allowed to drink, gamble, or smoke with them, and you can imagine the family or single person walking into a shop  with this card and being humiliated and spoken to like a piece of shit because they have one of these cards, a divide and rule tactic by this government if ever there was one.  These are coming in by the back door, what else is the government going to spring on us in the months to come?  They are not done on welfare cuts, my gut instinct has kicked in….wait to the summer Osborne wants each department to report back to him by June 26th to see where more savings can be made, and Teresa May and the defence secretary have pointed to the cuts coming off the welfare budget, more than £3bn or more, and disability looks like it will get hit again.

8th April sees the introduction of personal independent payment for new claimants in the North East, North West of England, Cumbria, Cheshire and Merseyside.  Now from the PIP training I got ( and as one CAB staff member said, the clue is in the word…PIP)  the government want to save £2bn and cut DLA by 20 per cent and 607,000 will not be entitled to it.  Estimates so far have said 100,000 will lose their mobility cars, and 8 in 10 current DLA recipients are worried that the removal of their DLA will socially exclude them from society, and this includes in work disabled people right now who are claiming and may not be entitled under these assessments and will have to stop working as a consequence.

Let’s not forget Atos “Not Fit For Purpose” Health Care who have four out of the five areas to carry out the assessments for PIP, Capita has the remaining area.  We only have to know what has happened with the WCA which the BMA has voted overwhelmingly in favour to be scrapped and that cross party support has called for Atos to lose the contract, 20 per cent of people to lose entitlement, you do the maths, targets anyone?  Of course there is…..

I sat there listening to the DWP who did not talk about how many will lose their benefits once in the four hours they gave their presentation, and did not mention how many will lose their mobility cars, or how many will not qualify at all.  In stead we were told it would be easier to claim, and you can get more points not less.  That the old system was too complicated and complex.  What I saw during the four hours is a completely complex and complicated system full of  fancy words that made no sense and came in two parts.  The first part was 18 page telephone interview, the claimant had to pass that, before the questionnaire would be sent, had 28 days to return it, and the onus is on the claimant to gather medical evidence.  That only 25 per cent of claimants would not be subjected to a face to face assessment, and these assessments would not be audio recorded.  What i saw is pretty much a mirror image of the WCA and that is how it looked to me and many others, we had as much understanding of PIP at the end of the training as we did at the end, and in 2014 they want to bring in on-line applications for PIP.  When i said look, many cannot afford computers, do not have access to one, have no idea how to use one, need carer’S to help them etc, to be told tersely “oh we run computer courses at the job centre that will sort many people out”  really?  Doubt it.  So much for PIP, lack of clarity, confusion and well see what the new claimants experience of this benefit is.

The end of April sees the beginning of the universal Credit, this has been scaled back in the pilot areas, and this will be an on-line system which is untested and no one has any idea how this will work, people have received no training and the DWP are keeping this under wraps, I was told that there would be universal Credit Workshops but they have not said when.  Get a feeling we are doomed to failure on this one DWP, but what people should understand is this, 40 per cent of the staff within the DWP implementing this policy are affected by this themselves and they too will have to put in an application for universal Credit, the JCP in my area said there is a possibility that in October this scheme will be put back, and it looks like 2014 and the spring that this would come into effect…..wait and see on this.

This government is callous, cruel and heartless, we have gone back over a hundred years with so many of their polices, and hate crime against the disabled, and benefit claimants per se has rocketed 40 percent.  Well, anyone can become sick, anyone can become disabled and anyone can lose their job, in this life there are no guarantees, and people need to think about that for a minute because it can happen to anyone.  This government wants people to die to give up and have no future, simply put they do not want people a burden on the welfare state period, for treatment or for any assistance in any benefits, and I am sure I am not alone in thinking this.

As the country changes forever, I am wondering how much longer people are going to sit on their hands and backsides and do nothing.  Everyone in this country uses the NHS why are they not out there raising their voices?  The media blackout has a lot to do with this, the people in this country are ill-informed, fed rubbish in the press which people do not challenge, and well, most people think it will not happen to them, until life changes and it does, or they need the NHS and it will not be there anymore.

The apathy in this country truly worries me, yes we can be polite and we still like to queue, but, at the end of the day, we all use the services, be our local services in the community, our libraries, our hospitals, our school’s our high streets, and may need the support of the welfare state.  We all have something we care about.  It’s time for the people of this country to act, and to act in their millions get out there and do something, before we look back in the years to come and remember the NHS in our history books, and people say “if only”  and what worries me and has for many months, that is exactly what people are now saying….”if only I had of done something”

For all the people who criticise me for standing up for what I believe in, at least I  did something and I got out there and gave it my best shot, and as I am writing this I  know I  won’t stop trying to help others, support others and still fight for the services in the community, many will not stop fighting and my hat is off to all of those brave warriors who fight not just at a protest but on-line as well despite what they battle everyday.

My question is this for the many out there, where are you now when your country needs you?  Where are you when your hospital and the staff who work within it need you and is under the threat of closure, your library, your park, something you care about?  Please, open your eyes people of the UK see what is really going on, and act, because this government will keep going until there is nothing left, we need to put political differences aside, campaign differences aside,  all work together and come up with common aims, common objectives and an alternative to this government and quick……….

I wish everyone luck,

Protestor Poet. xx

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