Social Security Proposes Dropping ‘Mental Retardation

Reposted from a story by Michelle Diament January 29, 2013

The Social Security Administration has signaled its intention to start using the term “intellectual disability” in place of “mental retardation.”

More than two years after Congress required the language switch in all federal health, education and labor policy under Rosa’s Law, Social Security officials said they want to follow the lawmakers’ lead even though the agency does not have any mandate to do so.

“Advocates for individuals with intellectual disability have rightfully asserted that the term ‘mental retardation’ has negative connotations, has become offensive to many people, and often results in misunderstandings about the nature of the disorder and those who have it,” the Social Security Administration said in a proposed rule published in the Federal Register on Monday.

“Consistent with the concerns expressed by Congress when it enacted Rosa’s Law, and in response to numerous inquiries from advocate organizations, we propose to revise our rules to use the term ‘intellectual disability’ in the name of our current listings and in our other regulations,” reads the notice.

The proposal’s publication this week triggers a 30-day public comment period before any official change can take place.

If Social Security officials move forward with the terminology update, all references to “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded children” would be replaced with “intellectual disability” and “children with intellectual disability” within Social Security’s Listing of Impairments and other rules.

The agency is not looking to alter the way claims are evaluated for those with the developmental disability.

“Changing how we talk about people with disabilities is a critical step in promoting and protecting their basic civil and human rights,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc. “This is an important moment for people with disabilities because Social Security is a lifeline to so many.”

This is not the first time the Social Security Administration has considered moving toward the term “intellectual disability.” In 2010, the agency issued a proposed rule calling for updates to eligibility criteria for those with mental disorders. Within the proposal, Social Security officials indicated an intention to replace references to “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability/mental retardation.” However, no further action was taken on the 2010 proposal, with the agency continuing to consider public comments on the possible changes

Australian Disabled forced to sue to get funding

Reposted from a story from Australia from the Network Syndicated News




The federal government is set to part fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme by requiring those whose disability is acquired through an injury to sue for compensation. Source: HWT Image Library

Legislation underpinning the NDIS introduced into parliament last week says the government will then require any compensation a person is awarded for care and support be handed back to cover the cost of any NDIS services.

If a person refuses the direction to take the legal action their care and support under the NDIS will be “suspended”, the legislation says.

The measure has been described as “disconcerting” and against the fundamental no-fault principle of the NDIS by former AMA president Dr Andrew Pesce, who advised the Productivity Commission which drafted the NDIS, and now advises the government on aspects of the scheme.

“Everyone was working on the idea that with an NDIS we were moving from having to sue to a statutory no-fault scheme,” he said.


“This is a very unexpected development and if it goes through it will be a fundamental change to what people were talking about,” he said.

Greens Senator and disability spokeswoman Rachel Siewert said the clauses are “potentially quite contentious” and she will be having the concept closely examined as part of a Senate inquiry into the legislation.

“The way it is worded at the moment I think could leave open a loophole in the future to forcing people into expensive, destructive drawn out legal cases,” she said.

“This is stressful for the individual and the family,” she said.

Opposition disability spokesman Senator Mitch Fifield said he had “serious reservations” about a government agency having the capacity to compel an individual to take legal action.

“It may be appropriate for the individual to be able assign to the NDIS agency their right to take legal action on their behalf, but it is a big step for there to be a requirement that a vulnerable individual take legal action,” he said.

He too wants the issue examined closely by a Senate inquiry.

A spokeswoman for Disability Reform Minister Jenny Macklin said the legislation ensures that people with disability don’t miss out on opportunities to claim compensation where reasonable.

“We don’t want to create an incentive for employers, for example, to soften their approach to workplace safety because they will no longer have to pick up the bill for any injuries or disabilities caused at work,” she said.

“This is not an either or. It’s about giving people access to the scheme and any compensation they are entitled to and people can still be covered by the scheme while pursuing compensation.”

It is expected a person will only be asked to pursue compensation where there is a reasonable prospect that a claim would be successful and where taking that action would not cause an unreasonable financial burden.

National Disability Services chief Dr Ken Baker said the clauses are intended to make sure someone who is entitled to funding for their disability outside the NDIS gets that money.

“It’s so that other systems don’t transfer their costs and obligations onto the NDIS,” he said.

However he says the legislation would have to ensure that people who could not afford legal action were not forced into it and the stress and hardship a legal case would have on a persons disability should also be considered.

In its blueprint for the NDIS the Productivity Commission was critical of using the common law to pursue compensation, showing that up to 70 per cent of the payout often ended up covering legal costs.

Many accident victims had to wait between 4 and 23 years to get their compensation, it found.

Over 20,000 Australians currently suffer from a catastrophic injury and another 1000 are injured each year.

Almost half these injuries are due to motor vehicle accidents, eight per cent are work related, 11 per cent arise from medical incidents and the remaining 32 per cent are due to sporting injuries, criminal assault or accidents in the home.

While four states – NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and the Northern Territory – have no fault motor vehicle accident schemes that could provide compensation without an ugly legal battle, other states do not.

The government is still examining the Productivity Commission’s call for a national no fault National Injury Insurance Scheme that would cover these types of injury funded from insurance premiums

English man recieves letter cancelling benefits saying he is fit for work while in intensive care only hours after surgery

Double heart bypass patient in post-operative intensive care is sent Government letter ordering him back to work

  • Danny Shurmer, 60, was recovering in Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital
  • Had benefits withdrawn and didn’t win an appeal until nine months later
  • Controversial Work Capability Assessment carried out by ATOS

By William Cook

PUBLISHED: 12:48 EST, 8 November 2012 | UPDATED: 16:18 EST, 8 November 2012

// A heart patient was told he was fit for work – just a day after a double heart bypass operation.

Danny Shurmer, 60, received the letter from a healthcare firm working on behalf of the Government as he recovered in the intensive care unit of Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital.

His is one of a number of cases in which sick and disabled people have been ordered back to work under the Government’s controversial Work Capability Assessment.

Danny Shurmer was recovering from a double heart bypass when he got a letter declaring him 'fit to work'Danny Shurmer was recovering from a double heart bypass when he got a letter declaring him ‘fit to work’

The former welder, from Gaerwen on Anglesey, is among more than 2,000 people on sickness and disability benefits in North Wales who have been ordered back to work after their cases were re-assessed.

Mr Shurmer said: ‘I was in intensive care when my daughter came in with the letter. I was shocked. Even the consultant could not believe it.’



 Mr Shurmer’s employment and support allowance (ESA) – a benefit which has replaced incapacity benefit – was later stopped. It was only restarted after he went to a tribunal.

He was given the ‘fit for work’ bombshell weeks after a medical examination by doctors from French healthcare firm ATOS, which carries out the Work Capability Assessment on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions.

Optimistic? Mr Shurmer won an appeal against the withdrawal of his benefitsOptimistic? Mr Shurmer won an appeal against the withdrawal of his benefits

Mr Shurmer, who didn’t win his tribunal until nine months after the withdrawal of benefit, had three more bypasses in July this year at the same hospital.

He was examined again last week by an ATOS doctor and is awaiting a decision.

Asked whether he is optimistic or not, he replied ‘God knows’.

The Government ordered fresh assessments on thousands of people claiming incapacity benefits back in 2010.

Charities have voiced concern that the the Work Capability Assessment is unfair.

Richard Hawkes, chief executive of disability charity Scope said: ‘The latest figures released showing the number of people found ‘fit for work’ need to be taken with a large pinch of salt. There remains an alarming dossier of evidence that the Work Capability Assessment is a deeply flawed test.

But DWP statistics show 41% of claimants have appealed against decisions on their benefits after the tests, with 38% having previous decisions overturned. Factoring in these successful appeals would significantly lower the number of people found ‘fit for work’.

A DWP spokesperson said:‬‪ ‘A decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken following a thorough face to face assessment and after consideration of all the supporting medical evidence provided by the claimant at the time.

‘We encourage people to provide as much medical evidence as possible when they apply for ESA. There will inevitably be a period of time between someone’s assessment and them receiving their letter.‬‬ ‪‬‪‪

‘Since 2010 we have considerably improved the Work Capability Assessment process, giving people a more tailored and personal service. If someone disagrees with the outcome of their work capability assessment, they have the right to submit new evidence and appeal.’

Mr Shurmer¿s daughter brought the letter into the intensive care unit at Liverpool Heart and Chest HospitalMr Shurmer¿s daughter brought the letter into the intensive care unit at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital

Commonwealth bank of Australia steals from the disabled and blames the computers

Back in Australia when I was in kindergarten the Commonwealth bank used to come once a week and your mum or dad would give you 50 cents or 1 dollar, and they would come into the classroom and teach you how to fill out deposit slips and you had your first bank account. The relationship with the Commonwealth started that way for me so that means I have been a customer for 50 years.

Back in those days if you had a mortgage or a credit card (when they started in the 70’s) if you couldn’t make the date they wanted you rang the bank manager, you knew him he was a pillar of the community and you told him you would be a couple of days late he said no worries mate get in when you can.

These days everything is blamed on a computer, when I went back to Australia in 2010 I opened a credit card and the bank manager Jodi told me “pay it when you get paid mate” so I got in the habit of twice a month paying what I could as long as it was more than the minimum some months I would get a pension on the 1st the 15th and the 29th so they would get three payments most months I cleared it back to zero. When I returned to the states they slashed my pension by 2/3 so I would pay $25 every pension check.

All of a sudden over $150 I late fees disappeared from my account, so I sat up till it was daylight in Australia and rang their excuse was even though in several months the required payment was only $25 I paid over $100 but they still fined me because the computer only recognizes it as an official payment if it is payed on the day they want? I rang and was told they were sorry it was their fault and they refunded the money, and they told me to pay on the 7th so I set it up. Then the fines started again I rang and they said well this month it wasn’t due on the 7th it was due on the 10th, so I payed they apologized they said go use the card so we did it was declined very embarrassingly at our favorite brunch spot.

I tried to transfer funds to my Atm account I was blocked, so I rang they said it was blocked until they received a payment? I told them you got one yesterday and another two days before.

He said I was being troublesome and he was busy and I was playing the poor disabled card? No I was playing the customer who could do basic math but out of $560 a month pension I was paying $100 then they were stealing $50 and blaming the computer. He raved on that he had more to do than talk to people who couldn’t manage an account, then finished with “is there anything else I can help you with”

Well commonwealth this aussie is cancelling her credit card and transferring her pension to an American bank ,so the answer is no there’s nothing any more you can do ever.

OUR FORGOTTEN AUSSIES: A direct plea from families living with disability to our politicians

Reposted from a story by: By David Penberthy  From: <A.COM.AU href=””> September 06, 2012 12:00AM

Chrissoula Vitale

Chrissoula Vitale with her children Lexie, Chris and John. Source:

The plan has been hijacked by political squabbling and funding disputes and is only 5 per cent operational, meaning thousands of families are being forced to wait as it proceeds on a piecemeal fashion for just a handful of participants around the nation. 

The NDIS would operate in a similar way to any other insurance scheme, creating a pool of money which could be drawn on by families on the basis of their children’s needs.

You can read more about it at and sign on as a supporter of the campaign.

The people who are best placed to make the case for its immediate introduction are the families and carers themselves, hundreds of whom have contacted us in response to our recent coverage.


With their consent we publish their stories today and invite other families to get involved. We will be presenting this story board to every State Government and the Commonwealth asking that the issue be put back on the table as the number-one item of importance at the next COAG meeting.

These are just some of their stories.

Jill Bowles, WA: Our daughter Hannah is 12 and intellectually disabled with a chromosomal abnormality. I often worry what would happen if Hannah became lost.

Jill Bowles

Jill Bowles

Jill Bowles with daughters Hannah (left) and Jessica, husband David and son Luke. Source:


Should we have our mobile number tattooed on her somewhere? She won’t wear the medic alert bracelet we bought. And the heartache I feel about when my husband and I aren’t here any more.

Who will love her the way we do? Then the blame scenarios…when Hannah ran on to my 10 year old son’s footy match on Friday night I was thinking why isn’t her dad watching her? Thankfully we are not in the 70 per cent divorce stats.

Oh the guilt. I think I spent far too much time feeling sorry for myself over the career that I am not living. The siblings. Poor things. Older sister, younger brother. Their compromises. The therapy. A lifetime of it.

Karen Taylor, NSW: I am a mother of four children and my six-year-old has autism.

Karen Taylor and family

Karen Taylor and family

Karen Taylor with Barry, Chad, Annie, Sam, Karen and Holly. Source:


Everyday I wonder what I can do to make things better for her, what I can do to improve her quality of life, every argument with my husband results from the tremendous stress of everyday life, what will happen to her when we are gone, what her future will be.

She is the last thing I think about every night and the first every morning. Life has just got even harder at school for her as the little funding she had for support has been taken away by government funding this term.

Kate, Victoria: Our beautiful boy has autism, but it doesn’t define who he is: his heart does. In addition to the NDIS, we desperately need state governments to invest more into integration aides.

Our boy was rejected based on a score which on the day, meant he could answer a couple of questions correctly. This is despite being ranked on the 99th percentile of students across Victoria, meaning only 1 per cent are “worse” than him re: ability/disability.

Without an aide, life is so much more difficult for him, his teacher and class mates and the flow-on effect hits our family hard, with two-hour meltdowns after school, regression, high anxiety and sometimes violence.

We have two other children and it can be full-on to juggle everything during these hard times, which have become more frequent.

Chrissoula Vitale, NSW (photo above):

We have three children – the two youngest have autism, to a significant degree. Our oldest is 19 and in his first year at uni. He will ultimately have the responsibility for the ongoing care of his autistic brother and sister.

He may never reach great heights in his chosen career because of the inevitable responsibilities and restrictions that will come with being a carer. Autism cruelly restricts the potential of the entire family, not just the family member with the disorder.

Susan Fernance, NSW:

Susan Fernance and family

Susan Fernance and family

Susan Fernance with husband Carl and sons Michael, Scott and Richard. Source:


I know first hand as my husband and myself (and our family) have experienced over the past 48 challenging years at having to look after our severely physically disabled son Richard, who was brain injured at birth resulting in him having Cerebral Palsy.

He has very limited hand control and has never been able to walk so he is very limited in what he can do without help and support. In saying that, Richard has never complained and always kept his sense of humour. 

We would love to see other parents in a similar situation that we have experienced have a much less stressful life in the future if the NDIS is introduced. I would like to be able to say to a politician: “Try living for just one day in a wheelchair, not having any use of your hands and then imagine how you would cope in society every day of your life”.

I think they would then realize their life would be a desperate struggle without help… Of course this is only one of many different situations parents contend with every day as you already know so we need to keep pursuing this important issue and never give up.

Rex, Melbourne: As a young boy with Cerebral Palsy in the 30s, I saw how my mother had to struggle to raise me. In those days there was little by way of support for kids like me, and as I was refused entry to primary school, Mum had to teach me the best she could.

Later I got employed delivering newspapers and then washing glassware in a path lab until I woke up to myself and undertook several degrees of educational catch-up. Later, I was able to see just how much people with a disability or two could go when given a leg-up into the community.  The NDIS will be another important step.

Wendy and David, SA: On more than one occasion despite our constant high vigilance our son has gotten away from us. I have called out to people as I frantically ran after him to please grab him and watched them just turn away. 

We have searched frantically with all the horror stories of autistic children going missing with poor outcomes playing over in your head.  We have had to call the police for help. I’ve also been abused many, many times by the ignorant when my child doesn’t behave as would be expected (he is now 10 years old). I’ve struggled with the shopping, juggling the needs of our other two children, work etc.

Our house is no longer a home but a prison every door and window are locked, every cupboard too, even the fridge, but still we find our boy eating things that weren’t meant to be eaten, and him getting out of the house.

We love all our children dearly. We just need a little help. Our boy is now as tall and strong as me. We don’t know what the future holds but it is not getting any easier.

Robyn, carer, NSW:  I work for a small disability service in a low socio-economic area. There are 40 clients, who access different programs. They are brought to the service on small commuter buses each day. Some of our clients have very elderly parents, with grave concerns for their children’s well being when they die.

The parents have endured years of difficulties and hardships, raising a child with an intellectual disability. They are weary.

Henry, Victoria: My daughter – now 23 – has Aspergers syndrome.

Henry Pinskier

Henry Pinskier

Henry Pinskier with daughters Rebecca and Marcia. Source:

Today she is doing really well in many areas of life but the burden on the child and the family is profound, was profound and remains substantial. 

As someone who understood the system from a health service delivery point of view, who understood the system at the political point of view, it was clear that to get outcomes for families without means was impossible, let alone for us who are of means and who could negotiate/wind our way through the political process.

At the Federal level the child was able to access federal funds but her greatest need was educational assistance at the State level – unattainable in reality.

At the end of the day the 20 per cent of all people have a connection directly or indirectly with people with some form of disability and this is a society that is wealth beyond its dreams which can easily afford an NDIS despite the cost. It takes will power to drive these things through.

Helen, Victoria:
My husband and I are parents of a disabled 26 year old  (deaf, visually impaired and with mild Aspergers Syndrome).  Now in our 60s we are becoming increasingly worried about our son’s future when we are no longer here. 

We have an older son living interstate and although he cares about his brother greatly, we do not want him to care FOR his brother, which is the sentiment of most parents in our situation. We can afford to give our son his own home, but bricks and mortar will not ensure his well being in a the future on his own.

After about eight years of training and trying, our son has a full time job and also a driver’s licence and though our circumstances are different. I have seen and heard of so many parents whose daily life is a battle. It is only those who have been there, or even half-way there, who truly understand what life is like living with children with severe disabilities.

Lynda, WA: “My son Taylor has a lot of problems that we deal with day to day. Some days are good but some are just plain awful and you ask the question why us? But why not us, no one is immune to having a disabled child and the government needs to acknowledge this. It is not our fault and families should not be penalised.

The main problem as I see it is the “lottery” for funding. It seems if you can write a pretty grant application you are more liable to get funding. One mother I know says she is no longer going to go through the funding process because it takes up too much of her valuable time with her child. I know that I could spend a great portion of my time on funding applications only to be knocked back.

I would like to meet the faceless people who have to power over my life and let them look after Taylor for a day. Families like ours are often too busy just surviving to have time to jump through the hoops of government funding, and so many slip through the system. I know of families who have gone for years without any financial or practical support because they are unable to or cannot access services.

There needs to be a scheme that everyone is entitled to the same amount of financial, practical and emotional support and not just for the ones that have the ability to access. In some ways we are almost lucky because Taylor is so disabled and requires so much work as we do get quite good support and have had the same therapists etc all his life.

My husband has quite a well-paying job, but having put one child through university and having Taylor, we had struggled at times when there have been unexpected expenses.

If for example Taylor gets sick and most times this means a flight to Perth, we have the expense of finding accommodation and just living away from home. I could go on and on and I’m sure many families have expressed to you the difficulties of having a disabled child. While Taylor has many problems he has enhanced our lives tenfold and he only has to give a little laugh or smile and say I’m Taylor and the world seems a brighter place.

Julia, retired carer, Qld: As a now 84-year-old with considerable life experience and community involvement as a long time volunteer with support groups in general I want to add a little to the subject.

One point which no-one seems to click on is that paid services and their paid support workers are there doing their best but then they go home to their own life, and the families of the disabled get the bad hours – the night times, the early mornings, the tantrums, the constant stress of “what will happen if”, the love-hate relationship that is hidden from view but produces a feeling of guilt. 

And so it goes on and on. Other siblings suffer from less attention and also can be taunted by school associates.  I know a mother who used to lock herself in her bedroom for safety from her adult son who constantly threatened her. 

Not enough support hours and funds to go around.  If funds are reduced the paid people don’t take less in wages, the working hours are cut and the patients bear the brunt of this.

Helen, Victoria: I am the mother of three autistic boys aged seven and under. The only point in your coverage that didn’t strike a chord with me was talking about the kids while in bed at night, my husband and I are so exhausted that by the time our heads hit the pillow all we want to do is grab a few precious hours of sleep (invariably interrupted by wandering, wakeful children) until we have to get up and do it all again.

We must keep prodding those pollies consciences, if there is such a thing, and putting a human face to this very important issue.  Most of us spend our days constantly fighting and advocating for our kids, and by the time we’ve dealt with the Education Department (there’s an entire story just there), Centrelink, and pretty much most other government department we have very little left.

Patrick, Qld: As the parent and principal carer of a 15-year-old boy with autism and intellectual impairment, I can agree with, sympathize with and, most of all, empathize with this issue.

Small (and narrow) minded politicians, especially Mr. “Can’t Do” Newman, love to “talk the talk” by saying how much they “understand” the predicament of the disabled and their carers. I have yet to hear of, let alone actually see these people come out of their ivory towers and experience the lives we have to lead 24/7, 365 days a year.

Until they do, their condescending pats on the head for the good job we are doing as carers will continue to be taken with a grain of salt.

I issue an open invitation to any and all of these politicians to come and walk in my shoes for a day or two so that they can see first hand the emotional and psychological stresses faced in trying to reason with and/or rationalize with a 15-year-old “toddler” who is incapable of reasoning or acting rationally. My wife and I are still waiting for a response from the Queensland Minister for Disabilities to a letter written two months ago.

John, Victoria: Our eldest son is a very, very mild Asperger – unless one really knows what they’re looking for, they would never know – however, our youngest is profoundly Asperger and bordering High-Functioning Autistic.

Our lad has improved in the past five years going from basically illiterate at 13 to working towards a modified Year 12, which is a triumph. Frankly, I couldn’t care less if he fails miserably (he won’t); our pride is in the fact that he tried.

My wife, myself and my boy’s siblings will work to make sure his life proceeds with as little disruption as possible. But our biggest fear will never be allayed – what happens when we are no more? We know his brothers and sister love him and will defend him and protect him with absolute ferocity; but they’re not us and they will have their concerns which may leave him floundering until they are able to help. 

We know he will be cared for, but will it be enough? These are the fears and worries that accompany us in our quiet moments and they never go away.

Faye, NSW: We are parents of an intellectually and physically disabled 20-year-old son. We have been on a emotional and financial rollercoaster for these 20 years.

The bad news is the rollercoaster does NOT improve as our children get older and we, their full time carers, start to age. We found when our son turned 18 years old that he was now referred to as an adult, even though the intellect was still of a two-year-old. Funding for his occasional recreation/respite for us was cut.

Our children with special needs have the right to mix in the community, supervised by a carer, independently from their family, as other young people do. Up until our son turned 18 he attended a Special Developmental School.

We then needed to do research on a day placement for him to attend, as he was unable to attend a work shop. That was so depressing, to our horror the clients at most services were 18 to 65-year-olds.

We found that we as parents in our 50s were actually younger than the clients our 18-year-old would have to associate with. We also felt as if we were in an environment like a nursing home, that we would have been looking for our elderly parents.

Our daily concern is what will happen to our loved ones when we can no longer look after them or we die. The sad truth is that most of us parents, feel at this stage in our lives we will have to take our children with us when we die, at least we know then they will be safe

The Paralympics will show us just how much disabled people can achieve, and shame benefits cheats

PUBLISHED: 07:06 EST, 31 July 2012 | UPDATED: 07:08 EST, 31 July 2012

Do you remember Tina Attanasio? The name may not ring a bell but if you watched a clip of her whizzing down a water slide into a shimmering swimming pool in the South of France, you might well recall exactly why she hit the headlines last year.

Attanasio was jailed when a court saw footage of her walking normally despite her contention she was dependent on crutches. The 51-year old from Cardiff had successfully managed to claim the highest level of benefits, intended for the most severely incapacitated people, for more than five years, skimming off more than £25,000.

What a sorry contrast Attanasio presents to the genuinely disabled athletes we are about to see accomplishing super-human feats at the upcoming London Paralympic Games. I have already been blubbing watching the able-bodied athletes push the boundaries of effort and achievement. I will be a gibbering wreck once the Paralympics start.

Inspirational: Athletes from the Olympic and Paraolympic teams pose in Trafalgar Square Inspirational: Athletes from the Olympic and Paraolympic teams pose in Trafalgar Square

Pte Derek Derenalagi who lost he his legs to a bomb whilst on duty, at Woodside Stadium in Watford, where he trains as a hopeful for the London 2012 ParaOlympic GamesPte Derek Derenalagi who lost he his legs to a bomb whilst on duty, at Woodside Stadium in Watford, where he trains as a hopeful for the London 2012 ParaOlympic Games

Sadly, it is flagrant cases of abuse such as Attanasio’s which always hit the headlines and which, quite rightly, inflame the tax-payers whose hard-earned contributions go to make up the £13 billion chunk of welfare which is gobbled up by disability benefits.

According to disability charity Scope, the genuinely disabled are increasingly frustrated at this media coverage of benefit cheats which they feel unfairly lumps them all together into some general category of bludgers, liggers and indolent parasites. 

With disability set to be centre-stage at the Paralympics and a brace of documentaries on the subject, from both the BBC’s Panorama and Channel 4’s Dispatches aired this week, the incapacity benefit system is very much in the spotlight. Is there any surprise that Scope also found most disabled people reporting a significant rise in negative attitudes towards them?

Incriminating: Disability benefit claimant Tina Attanasio enjoying an action-packed holidayIncriminating: Disability benefit claimant Tina Attanasio enjoying an action-packed holiday

In the mode of successive governments, the coalition has pledged to tackle the spiralling disability benefits bill. The prime minister himself has been particularly outspoken on the need for tough love to end the sick note culture which burgeoned under Labour, allowing thousands to take up a relatively straightforward option to slide into benefit dependency.

Sadly, there was no simultaneous drive to invest in pro-active schemes, to help those who sincerely want to contribute to return to the workforce in any kind of capacity. The current focus is still on reassessing two million existing claimants over the next few years, with the aim of bringing down numbers by around 500,000.  

The Work Capability Assessment system, which was introduced to sort out the scroungers from the genuinely sick, has also come in for significant criticism; it has been called a simplistic, box ticking enterprise, unfair, flawed, inappropriate and driven wholly by financial targets.


 Much of the criticism has been directed at controversial French IT giant Atos which receives an annual £100 million from the Department of Work and Pensions to carry out up to 10,000 eligibility tests every week.

There have been hundreds of complaints about Atos procedures and about the conduct of individual assessments. Even more worrying is the overall efficacy of the process. Every year, there are more than 175,000 appeals against Atos decisions of which a third are successful, costing us more than £50 million.

A parliamentary joint select committee recently expressed fears that the current reforms to benefits and services risk leaving many disabled people without the support they need to live independently. Even the government appointed trouble shooter, Professor Malcolm Harrington has voiced his concerns about the application of the WCA test.


   Employment minister Chris Grayling continues to insist that the WCA is far from a financial exercise. He maintains it is all about helping people get back to work. “It’s about saving lives, not saving money,” he has claimed.

Nobody, least of all the genuinely incapacitated, would dispute the importance of weeding out fraudsters and illegitimate claimants but don’t we need a rather more broad-minded approach to tackling the iniquities of a convoluted and arcane system which has effectively trapped many of those who are genuinely willing to work in a frustrating spiral of welfare dependency?

There can be no quick fixes to overhaul our unwieldy and long-abused benefits system and a key objective must, of course, be to make sure that the cheats and the fraudsters milking the system for all they can get are exposed and punished.

However, in a civilised society, surely it must be equally important to ensure that everyone who really needs help gets all the support they genuinely deserve? Next month’s Paralympic Games will show the world exactly how much the disabled can achieve with support, encouragement and acceptance. I do hope that Mr Grayling and his DWP colleagues will be watching.

Supreme Court Upholds President Obama’s Health Care Reform

 Reposted from a story by Nancy-Ann DeParle June 28, 2012  01:23 PM EDT
Today, the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act ensures hard-working, middle class families will get the security they deserve and protects every American from the worst insurance company abuses. The Court has issued a clear and final ruling on this law.

For a comprehensive overview of the Affordable Care Act, visit and

Let’s take a look at what today’s ruling means for the middle class:

A major impact of the Court’s decision is the 129 million people with pre-existing conditions and millions of middle class families who will have the security of affordable health coverage. 

We should also remember that under today’s ruling, having health insurance is and will continue to be a choice. If you can’t afford insurance or you’re a small business that wants to provide affordable insurance to your employees, you’ll get tax credits that make coverage affordable. But if you can afford insurance and you choose not to purchase it, the taxpayers will no longer subsidize your care for free.

Given today’s ruling, it’s now time to focus on implementing this law in a smart and non-bureaucratic way that works for the middle class. 

As we’ve said, the Court has issued a clear and final ruling on this law. The last thing Congress should do is refight old political battles and start over on health care by repealing basic protections that provide security for the middle class. The President refuses to go back to the way things were.

Right now, Congress needs to work together to focus on the economy and creating jobs. Right now in congress, what’s at stake is how–at this make or break moment for the middle class–we break through Washington gridlock to move our country forward. Right now in Congress, what’s at stake is our chance to seize this moment to build an economy not from the top-down, but one based on a strong and secure middle class.  We need to create secure middle class jobs and an economy built to last where hard work and responsibility are rewarded, everybody gets a fair shot, pays their fair share, and plays by the same set of rules.

Right now, Congress should act on the President’s concrete plans to create an economy built to last by reducing the deficit in a balanced way and investing in education, clean energy, innovation, and infrastructure. It’s time for folks in Washington to work together on behalf of the American people.

Please check back periodically for additional information on today’s decision. 

Read the President’s full remarks here

President Barack Obama delivers remarks after the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (June 28, 2012)President Barack Obama delivers remarks regarding the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” in the East Room of the White House, June 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)