Fighting Iain Duncan Smith and Our Stats Campaign


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Personal Update


A couple of articles that caught my eye


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


Successful E-Petition on benefits heads to parliament

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”


    Bottom half cold, top half hot!


    Why is it important for us to know what causes Fibromyalgia?

    Why I decided to write this article

    I would like to explain to people why I think the question “What causes Fibromyalgia?” is such an important one to ask. I also feel it is very hard for people who do not have Fibromyalgia to understand why this question is so important to people with Fibromyalgia. I would also like to think this article could help bridge those gaps and help Fibromyalgia patients to explain why this question is so important to them.

    Background

    This is a question I have been considering for some time, on and off. Today I had a conversation with a Fibromyalgia patient in her twenties who I could really identify with, as I was also diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in my twenties. This conversation got me thinking about the question again, why is it important for us to know what causes Fibromyalgia?

    As you can probably imagine, the answer isn’t straightforward, there is no one “all encompassing” reason but rather a number of, no less legitimate, reasons.

    Human Nature

    It is in our very nature to be curious, no matter what you believe about the creation of human kind you soon realise that our curiosity is very important to us, humans. I also do not believe this is entirely accidental, yes some more than others need to find the answers to everything, but rarely do you come across a person who has never asked the question “why?” in their lifetime. I am, by nature, an analytical thinker. In psychology this element is often measured alongside other characteristics to analyse our personalities. It is not simply a question of “are you a thinker or not?” But rather where are you along the scale: Do you think a little? Do you think a lot? The very fact this element is on a scale rather than a simple, yes, or no, shows us we all have this element in our personality and is part of what we consider to be human nature.

    So why is it an important part of Human Nature?

    As humans we have had a very successful dominance on our planet, we can often be considered to be at the top of the food chain, or at the least threat of extinction. No matter what you believe about our creation, selection or evolution we are sure to agree that as humans we are survivors. I don’t want to lose people here thinking this is a post about psychology but it won’t be the only time I refer to psychology in this article.

    As survivors we need to recognise patterns, quite simply, if I do A it harms me, if I do B it benefits me. We are programmed to recognise this and to B not A. This very basic concept has ensured our survival as a species so far. When it comes to our health it is very important to know what is good for us and what is bad for us, as the potential penalty is so high. It is only recently that we have developed medicine and we are starting to leave the more complex analysis of health issues to a group of people we hold in high regard, doctors. For most of our time on the planet however this analysis has been very individual and how well be think, could be a matter of life or death. Quite simply we are programmed to try and work out what is healthy and what is unhealthy. That way we can make an informed choice about what we do, if the penalty health wise is low, we might do it a little but if the penalty is high then you will probably find we don’t do it a lot, if at all.

    As this is hard wired into human nature we are unsettled if we don’t know what causes something. Fibromyalgia as a concept is very difficult to work out. Sometimes if we walk 1km we feel fine, sometimes if we walk 10 metres we become ill. Naturally we want to understand this to be in the best of health so we can live happy and fulfilled lives, without undue concern about our health. Unfortunately Fibromyalgia is very complicated indeed. But we are programmed to want to understand it.

    To understand something we need to gain knowledge about a given subject. When it comes to health “what causes” something is a huge part of this knowledge. In the history of humanity, our very survival has been based on solving “what causes X?”, what causes the plague, cancer, AIDS? We have also learnt that we can only prevent things happening after we have understood what makes them happen in the first place. Our medical understanding of Fibromyalgia/CFS/ME is very limited indeed, not just as individuals but as a species. At the moment we can not treat Fibromyalgia with much success and we can not cure Fibromyalgia at all! This is the first reason why “understanding what causes Fibromyalgia?” is so important.

    Our Private information

    Fortunately Fibromyalgia does not appear to be contagious, but other than that we don’t really know that much about it. Yet we can all agree that having Fibromyalgia is detrimental and not having Fibromyalgia is beneficial. Therefore it is important for us to know we can not give it to others. Throughout history medical conditions have either been contagious or non contagious. The way a condition is passed to another person has become very “socially” important to us because often it says something about our actions or our life choices. Disease can be passed through being “unhygienic” or “unclean”, it can be passed through our genies and it can be seen a “defect” or the ultimate social taboo is passing something through sexual contact. This sexual contact can also, on occasion reveal our sexual preferences, sexual boundaries and even who we may have had sexual contact with.

    So here “what causes” a health condition can say so much about us socially, it can reveal our lack of personal hygiene, our genetic differences or how or who we have has sex with. These or often considered very private matters, so it is important for us to understand what causes a health condition so we understand if it reveals something about us we would rather keep private. We are also aware that these statements about us are not always accurate, sometimes our understanding of transition type has been wrong, however it can not simply be corrected as these things have developed into social stigma, social prejudice and social stereotypes. For example during the AIDS epidemic initially some people believed you could only catch it through homosexual practices, so if you had AIDS then you have obviously had homosexual sex? That was the belief for quite sometime and remains a social stigma today even though we know AIDS develops from HIV, which can be contracted through sexual contact with ANY sex, through blood products/transfer and possibly poor hygiene in medical procedures (needle sharing etc). So if we have a condition where its cause is unknown, what could it say about our private lives in future? No matter how accurate they may be. This is one reason why we want to know what Fibromyalgia says about us.

    What it says about our lifestyle and our choices to others

    We have also learnt that having a health condition can say so much about us beyond the things that we like to keep socially private. Our medical understanding has been a recent revolution and for the first time in history generations of people now know certain lifestyles or certain choices can cause health conditions or make them worse. For example we know being overweight increases our chance of diabetes, smoking increases our chance of cancers and heart disease. We also understand that people who are physically fitter, generally have better overall health and suffer less medical complaints that those who are unfit. So what does Fibromyalgia say about us? The fact is we don’t yet know, it is unknown, we have clues but no concrete answers. Could our choices prevent Fibromyalgia or not? Does it mean we are more likely to lead an unhealthy lifestyle, make poor choices, or be lazy people? We do not actually know. As times goes by we “slowly” have more information but we are years, if not generations away from any definitive answers.

    Can other people get Fibromyalgia because I have it?

    This isn’t quite the question “Can someone catch it from me?” But it encompasses it. As mentioned earlier we look at any condition and categorise it, for example. Is it viral? is it bacterial? is it fungal? Is it genetic? Is it because of my personality or lifestyle? Am I sure I can not pass it on to anyone?

    At first glance we know most of the answers are “no” but can we actually be sure:

    Looking at all the different theories out there makes you wonder. Often the onset of Fibromyalgia is linked to a severe illness like the Flu, so does it somehow ride in with a virus or bacterium? Often theories involve an undiscovered transmission from plants or animals like Lyme disease, so could I have caught it from a person? An animal? A plant? At a specific place? Often theories cite a genetic weakness so did I get it from my parents? Did I have a genetic weakness that activated because I did something or caught something? Often theories cite a psychological cycle so do I have a psychological problem?

    All of these questions have implications, their answers could mean that we could either pass Fibromyalgia on or help stop Fibromyalgia developing in others if we knew the answer. If we (people with Fibromyalgia) found out for certain we could do something to reduce the risk of others getting Fibromyalgia I’m almost certain most people would make that their number one priority in life. Especially if “others” were your children, your partner, your family, your friends or your neighbours. While most indications point to us not being able to take evasive action we are still going to think about it. The implications are just so large for it not to be a concern to some of us. We know this condition well and for most of us it has a severe impact on our lives and everything we do, so its only natural to try and stop others experiencing the same.

    I have often heard the phrase “I wouldn’t wish this on my enemy” used in discussions between Fibromyalgia patients and I think it is a very telling phrase when it comes to considering what we would do if we could stop people from getting the condition.

    How to manage our condition

    We have also learnt as a species that certain conditions can be controlled better than others. However we also realise that this knowledge is often gained after we learn what causes the condition in the first place. Due to the fact we don’t understand what causes Fibromyalgia we don’t have definitive answers about what makes it worse and what makes it better. We know that while the cause remains unknown the best we can hope for is collective trial and error. We rely on others with our condition finding ways to ease it and we rely on them telling everyone else too. Yet we know as Fibromyalgia patients, what works for others does not always work for us, but how can we understand why this is without first understanding what causes Fibromyalgia in the first place?

    How It makes us vulnerable

    As a species we have also learnt that were there are questions, there are opportunities. We know that generally one person in 7 billion is likely to know “the answer” (What causes Fibromyalgia?) first. Then from that they share this knowledge, this carries on, until we know the answer as well. We know at some point the answer will probably be found so we need to remain open but how do we know when the answer in genuine or not? How do we, with limited medical knowledge, test and verify any persons claim to know “the answer.” As we have this question some people could take advantage of this opportunity to deceive.

    We understand that “the answer” could be the key that unlocks to door to a normal life, but so do others, perhaps they know how desperate we need “the answer” or what we would do to get “the answer.” This is when we realise we are vulnerable, we know that scams, fraud and deception are rife among human kind, we have all been a victim of deception or know a victim of deception so we see that victims become victims because they desire “something” and “someone” can take advantage of that.

    Victims of scams often only need to desire something little to get caught out and we know this. Often people are conned out of a few pounds due to a slight desire to make a few pounds. However we also understand we could be conned out of our life savings if we desire something strongly enough. So we actually realise how vulnerable we are, as patients with Fibromyalgia we know we would probably give a limb, or a huge sum of money to know “What causes Fibromyalgia?” and we understand this makes us very vulnerable indeed. However this quickly becomes a “catch 22” situation because if we knew “What causes Fibromyalgia” we would suddenly become far less vulnerable and susceptible to the scams. Some of us may know Fibromyalgia patients who have been conned out of cash over the Internet for the “Big Fibromyalgia cure in a tablet” only for them to find it didn’t help in the slightest.

    We understand that our desires make us vulnerable, that the strength of our desires can determine what we are prepared to lose and that our desire to understand what causes Fibromyalgia is huge, making us very vulnerable indeed.

    What does Fibromyalgia say to us about our choices?

    We have discussed about what Fibromyalgia could reveal to others about our choices but what could they reveal to us?

    We know that stress can make Fibromyalgia worse, so did we make choices that were too much stress for us to handle?
    Did we choose a job or career that was too stressful?
    Did we have a relationship with someone that put us under too much stress?
    Did these things make it worse or could they have caused it in the first place?

    These are questions we often ask ourselves. It is a natural part of reflection and we have discussed how thinking and curiosity is programmed into us and how sometimes is can really benefit us. However all of the little questions all come down to one big question; What causes Fibromyalgia?

    It is no surprise to find most of us review our choices in the past and ask what if? The simple fact is no one knows. It does not make the question any less important however we should appreciate that there are an infinite amount of “what if’s” we can ask during out lifetime. One day I would like to know the answer and I really hope I do. It would be interesting to know if I could have avoided some of the pain I have been through and it could really benefit my decision making in the future if I knew the answer.

    Does asking the question “What causes Fibromyalgia?” actually cause Fibromyalgia or make it worse?

    Before you say “What? No,” just humour me for a second. Most of the people I know with Fibromyalgia are the “curious”, “analytical” types. Heck I wouldn’t be writing articles in the early hours of the morning if I didn’t think about Fibromyalgia all the time and have such a drive to want to help others with it. Perhaps these elements of our characters or personalities exasperate our condition?

    On an assessment for a pain management course I was asked about what I do to try and help my condition. My answer involved a little bit about my lifestyle but also a lot about what I do to research the condition, help others with the condition and push for answers about the condition. This took a very long time to explain but at the end of it I was told that I needed to learn to let go of these things and accept I have Fibromyalgia, that I always will have the condition and that it will remain a mystery to me otherwise all my efforts would continue to make my condition worse. This is the first time I had been confronted by the opinion that continually looking for the answers actually makes the condition worse and perhaps causes it in the first place. This took place quite some time ago and after a great deal of consideration I dismissed this theory as incorrect. However to balance this article a little I decided to mention it as this theory is held by a lot of the medical profession and does have some interesting elements to it. I certainly agree that at times our frustration with our search for answers can manifest into physical health problems or perhaps make some symptoms worse. As such I have eased off the gas pedal a little when it comes to research as I acknowledged senses of frustration which can again cause physical problems. I also wanted to mention it as you may come up against this view when you explain why the question “What causes Fibromyalgia” is so important to you to others.

    Conclusion

    I believe we are hard wired as humans to ask “What causes Fibromyalgia?” and the more we are effected by Fibromyalgia the more we will want to ask the question. I do not think its something to be ashamed of by any means and in fact is demonstrates we want to learn to better ourselves, to lead happier and healthier lives. Throughout history this mechanism has contributed to our success as a species on the planet and I personally believe trying to avoid the question would go against what it is to be human. For patients an answer could unlock the doors to so many possibilities and I think we all need to push a little for the question to be answered. I also hope I have managed to explain to people without Fibromyalgia why the question is so important to us and why it has a multitude of implications for us, our friends and families.

    The voice of reason

    I have tried to objectively explain why this question “could” be very important to those with Fibromyalgia and why most other questions actually boil down to this one question after analysis. I have also discussed some of the potential implications of the question remaining unanswered and thus some of the potential implications of the question being answered in the future. However a lot of these implications are very unlikely and although we can not rule these possibilities out completely I should point out the chances and probabilities to put them in perspective. If you remain considered and vigilant you are unlikely to be a victim of deception for example. Also although we don’t know what causes Fibromyalgia the chances of you passing it on to others are remote and if it is genetic you probably could not do anything to limit the chance of it being passed on anyway. In the future there is likely to be far more knowledge about the condition, its causes and how to treat it as history has demonstrated to us about illness in the past. If any of this article causes you significant concern you should discuss it with a medical professional who is far better placed and far more knowledgable about medicine than I am. Things need to be put in perspective and not taken out of context, these are just some of the things that could concern patients and there may be many more I have missed, but its unlikely for a patient to be concerned about them all for most of the time. However if you feel you are concerned about the majority of issues raised most of the time you may really benefit from a medical perspective and various talking therapies available to help you cope with your concerns.

    I also encourage comments and would love to see people’s opinions under this article, have I missed anything? Did you find it useful or not? What are your more significant concerns? Etc etc.


    Researchers found a hidden sensory system in the skin, now it solves the mystery of Fibromyalgia?


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