UPDATE: 27th July 2013: Iain Duncan Smith not appearing before Work and Pensions Select Committee on 4th September to answer questions about his use of statistics to make political points”

I wanted to make you all aware of some great news on the subject of Disability Benefits, Government E-Petitions and specifically The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith (IDS).

The Petition in question

The Petition in question was an “E-Petition” filed by Jayne Linney from Leicester and her friend Debbie Sayers. They refer to themselves as being disabled as well as being disability activists. To show you what their successful petition was about I will refer you to the description provided by Jayne when she set the petition up:

“We are both disabled as well as being disability activists. We experience pain and suffering ourselves and see it in our friends, families and colleagues. It is one thing to live with the physical challenges of a disability. It is quite another to hear lies and misinformation every day from our own government.

We have watched sick and disabled friends fall foul of the Employment and Support Allowance process and seen people who are genuinely sick and disabled being left with next to nothing to live on. Some are living in fear of the Personal Independence Payments assessments to come. In this climate, which is confusing and intimidating for some of the most vulnerable in our society, those in power should be operating to the highest standards of integrity and accuracy. Recent reports suggest that the Work and Pensions Secretary may have misrepresented Government statistics to make a political point.”

This quite rightly makes the point that Iain Duncan Smith may have misrepresented Government statistics to make a political point. There has been a lot about this anger within the media and various websites have brought stories to readers claiming to have caught IDS out in his misrepresentation of statistics.

Employment & Support Allowance (ESA)

Jayne also mentions benefits like ESA which has always been a controversial benefit since its conception and has been called unfit for purpose and broken by several disability charities. We have even written articles regarding the sheer volume of ESA paperwork for the claimant and how DWP give conflicting advice about whose responsibility and cost it is to obtain medical reports. Controversy often surrounds ATOS Healthcare who conduct Work Capability Assessments on behalf of the DWP under contract so that decision makers can decide if a claimant is eligible for ESA. There has also been equal criticism of ATOS and their medical reports that regularly find people fit for work when they obviously are not. Many readers may know that it took me 3 years to to secure the correct levels of ESA & DLA I was legally entitled to and since then have helped others fight appeals & tribunals. I often say: To claim you are unfit to work you actually need to be fit enough to work full time on your case in order to prove it and receive what you are entitled to be law.

The Governments attack on “Benefit Scroungers”

Since the government commenced their campaign against “benefit scroungers” attacks on the disabled have increased according to the media. What the politicians do not seem to realise is that people who claim benefits by lying also lie to doctors and ATOS medicals and thus generate the evidence for a successful claim. Meanwhile people who are eligible get turned down when they provide “honest” descriptions of their medical problems that are not exsadurated, that are not “singing from the rooftops” and because they try not to waste doctors time often do not have the documentary evidence to back their claims up. Unfortunately they soon get turned down at the first hurdle after an ATOS assessment and once this happens it is the claimants responsibility to provide evidence, prove their medical was not accurate and pay all the necessary cost and charges.

Anyway back to the petition

People obviously feel the same on mass and I’m delighted to say that that Jaynes petition succeeded in getting the 100,000 electronic signatures required on the 12th June 2013 at 0932 as announced on her blog. Unfortunately there did then seem to be a little confusion but from the government side of things and on July 17th Jayne provided readers of her blog with this update:

“After some confusion about when the petition by myself & Debbie Sayers will be submitted to Parliament; and maybe even more importantly if IDS will attend the Work & Pensions Select Committee – I’m really pleased to share an email I received from Dame Anne Begg chair of the Select today

I am thrilled to confirm that our petition with it’s current 100,433 supporters will be formally submitted into Parliament by Liz Kendall MP, after she receives it outside the Palace of Westminster on September 4 2013.

Many Thanks to all of You who signed, shared, tweeted & pushed for this & let’s hope Mr ID Smith is thoroughly held to account”

Email from Dame Anne Begg chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee:

“I can confirm that IDS will be appearing before the Work and Pensions Select Committee on Wednesday 4th September where he will be asked questions about the DWP’s Annual Report and the Department’s use of statistics.

Best wishes
Anne”

My Opinion

The fact this petition got over 100,000 signatures is nothing more than fantastic. I don’t think e-petitions are the most inviting way for people to show their support but nevertheless this only means Jaynes victory is sweeter. These victories are probably far less common than you think and this shows the government when they misrepresent the disabled to score political points the public will not accept their behaviour. It also shows them how much the issues surrounding ESA, PIP & ATOS are on the minds of a substantial number of voters. Putting the specific issue of the petition aside this victory will make them think twice when considering decisions surrounding disability benefits as they have just been told “we’re watching you” by over 100,000 people.

Regarding the issue itself it is one I fully support, for such a long time statistics have been used for political point scoring but I do believe it crosses a line when these politicians do this when they hold in their hands the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in society. Yes there are those who are making fraudulent claims, this is why we have such offences in legislation as some people are committing criminal offences but I believe it is the responsibility of the government to differentiate between the honest claimant from the dishonest criminal claimant whenever possible. If they do not, if they carry on as they are, they are encouraging stereotypes and prejudice within society. Whenever they misrepresent the statistics and deceive the public about the proportions of criminal claimants to honest claimants, real people will believe vulnerable citizens are more likely to be dishonest and disabled than honest and disabled. We all know the lessons of how prejudice views within government can be responsible for some of the worst atrocities of mankind.

I have invited Jayne to write about her cause and/or victory, here on my website, as she is more than welcome. They can be made in a post of her own or as a section in a post of mine. She is however very busy as you can imagine and as we are fairly new and less established than some other websites it may not be the most efficient use of her time. If you would like to hear more from her I would direct you to her twitter account and her blog in the first instance.

Background of Government E-Petitions

Their introduction

In the summer of 2011, the Government introduced a new website for registering e-petitions. The Government announced that any e-petition that reaches 100,000 signatures would be passed to the House of Commons Backbench Business Committee.

The Concept

If an an E-petition gets 100,000 signatures The Leader of the House writes to the http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/backbench-business-committee/e-petitions-/ to notify the Committee that an e-petition has 100,000 signatures. This does not guarantee a debate in the Commons, but triggers consideration by the Committee. This could eventually lead to a debate of the matter in parliament or by the committee.

The Stages

There are a number of stages the petition can go through before a debate, these are:

STAGE 1: Epetition gets 100,000 signatures.
STAGE 2: The e-Petition is presented to the Backbench Business Committee by an MP at a weekly meeting.
STAGE 3: The Committee decides whether to allocate a debate on the subject of the e- petition.
STAGE 4: The Committee decides whether to schedule a debate.
STAGE 5: The Government allocates time to the Committee for debates to be held.
STAGE 6: The debate goes ahead.

Source: E-petitions and the Backbench Business Committee flowchart (.pdf)

The Numbers

There are currently 6,020 open petitions
There are currently 16,225 closed petitions
There have been 19,662 petitions that have been rejected

(at the time of writing)

Topics that have made it do debate

There are only a small number of e-petitions that have made it to a House of Commons debate after reaching the 100,000 signatory threshold, these are:

  • Convicted London rioters should lose all benefits
  • Full disclosure of all government documents relating to 1989 Hillsborough disaster
  • Cheaper petrol and diesel, by Robert Halfon and FairFuel UK
  • Put Babar Ahmad on trial in the UK
  • Make financial education a compulsory part of the school curriculum
  • Give Kevin Williams his inquest under section 13 of the coroners Act, we have all the evidence under this section but keep getting refused
  • Public & Private Pension Increases – change from RPI to CPI
  • Drop the Health Bill
  • Return VAT on Air Ambulance fuel payments
  • No to 70 million
  • Reconsider West Coast Mainline franchise decision
  • Children’s cardiac surgery at the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre at Glenfield, Leicester
  • Stop the badger cull
  • Beer duty escalator
  • The Oliver King Foundation – Sudden Adult Death Syndrome
  • Stop mass immigration from Bulgarian and Romanians in 2014, when EU restrictions on immigration are relaxed
  • Return Shaker Aamer to the UK
  • There have also been Backbench debates on other petitions that exceeded 100,000 signatories here is a list and an explanation of what took place in parliament because of them:

  • National referendum on the European Union
    (Full day in the Chamber on 24 October 2011 in Backbench time – MP Mr David Nuttall)
  • Remploy
    (Half-day in Westminster Hall on 15 December 2011 in Backbench time – MP Ann Clwyd)
  • Appointment of a Minister for Older People
    (Half-day in the Chamber on 28 June 2012 in Backbench time – MP Penny Mordaunt)
  • These figures we last updated by government 26/04/13

    When will Ian Duncan Smith Appear for questioning?

    Currently we believe he will appeal before the committee on 4th September 2013. This may be available to watch live on BBC Parliament but we should know nearer the time. The best way to keep informed is to follow us on Twitter or click this link which will activate a week before 04/09/13 to show what will be shown on the day in question (you are looking for coverage of Work & Pensions Select Committee).

    Links

    External Links

    The original “E-Petition” filed by Jayne Linney & Debbie Sayers
    Jayne Linney announces her and Debbie Sayers petition has reached 100,000 signatures (12/06/13)
    UPDATE – IDS WILL answer for misusing Stats (on Jayne Linney’s website)
    Jayne Linney’s website
    Debbie Sayers website
    Jayne Linney on Twitter
    Debbie Sayers on Twitter
    HM Government “e-petitions” website
    E-Petitions and the Backbench Business Committee
    E-petitions and the Backbench Business Committee flowchart (.pdf)
    List of House of Commons debates on e-petitions which reached the 100,000 signatory threshold
    Article on IDS and his misrepresentation of statistics (Morning Star Online Website
    BBC Parliament
    What will be shown on BBC Parliament on the day in question (04/09/13), this will not work until a week before this date, you are looking for coverage of Work & Pensions Select Committee)

    Internal Links

    ESA
    DLA
    ATOS Healthcare
    About Me
    Appeals & Tribunals Guide
    Article: “DWP issue conflicting advice as everyone is swamped with benefits paperwork”
    Article: “Benefits paperwork overloading claimants”