Alan Wheatley, Green Party of England & Wales Spokesperson on Disability and Social Care Services

Carer Watch have permission to share an email we received from Alan.

Brighton Benefits Campaign   Public Meeting warms to Carers’ Issues

Pip Tindall of Brighton Benefits Campaign  wrote me on Friday 24 September:  

“Thank you so much for coming all that way to join us, and for contributing so much to the meeting, especially on the subject of unpaid carers who are the forgotten people in all this. I hope the journey back wasn’t too arduous.  “We thought the meeting went quite well, & it was great that there were many people who were there as claimants not activists….”

In my Green Party of England & Wales Spokesperson on Disability and Social Care Services guise — with a bit of the ESA claimant thrown in — I attended a Brighton Benefits Campaign [BBC] public meeting on Thursday 23 September and spoke from the floor outlining carers’ issues.

The platform speakers included Caroline Lucas MP and a local UNISON speaker, along with Pip Tindall of the BBC. I outlined the issues re exploitation of carers — juxtaposing the £87bn estimated saving  unpaid carers impact on the NHS with the pittance that is Carers Allowance. I spoke of Carer Watch  and how our CW-Green Party constructive concord had helped lead me to extend the title of Green Party Disability Spokesperson on my watch to encompass Social Care Services too. I ended with directly quoting your Carers once again ignored    blog posting and the dangers posed by ATOS ‘doctors’ to Carers Allowance claimants and cared-for with the prospect of DLA re-assessment by ATOS.

By that time in that safe and understanding environment, I discovered tears welling up in my eyes against the backdrop of my own ‘obligation’ to re-apply for ESA by a 12 October deadline — almost ten months after my 16 December 2009 ESA tribunal victory against ATOS/DWP. (The given lead-time for form completion is six weeks, meaning that I have had less than nine months ‘grace’ from assessment stress. That the payment of back-money was to 12 July 2009 suggests that Atos/DWP  believe the claimant may be miraculously cured 15 months after ESA was first payable from. But against a backdrop of only seventeen months cumulative waged employment since October 1977  I note that I have been a disabled person all my life and was diagnosed at age six-and-a-half, in 1960, as ‘born with mild cerebral palsy with some oedema!)

The tears made the acts of reading and speaking difficult, but the audience warmed to what I had to say. It was not prejudiced against claimants — far from it!

I concluded that if ‘welfare reformist’ government is sincere about its desire to protect the most vulnerable claimants, ESA ‘key decision maker’ need to be made far more accountable when they have been found to be wrong. If fraudulent claimants are punished, so too should ATOS staff who fabricate medical examination data and generally play loaded dice with the lives of poor people.[1] And should not politicians who assume omnipotence and omniscience with their calculations of how much ATOS staff proclamations of  ‘fit for waged work’  be made accountable too?

I also said that channelling our rage constructively helps transform us from ‘victim’ to ‘survivor’ status.

Tony Greenstein, who was chairing, said that he had a lot of respect for unpaid carers — having been one himself. The meeting helped people including claimants channel feelings and emotions constructively, rather than descend into despair.

There were many other contributions from the floor that night. The one that ‘spoke’ to me most was from a woman who said that she had applied for ESA on grounds of grief and had been turned down. She had also been deeply hurt that the tribunal had turned down her appeal, with no explanations despite her request for such information. Yet she said that her attendance at that meeting had helped pull her out of misery and into a state of determination that she should work on convincing her currently better off contacts that the war on benefits claimants is a war against current wage-earners too.

I wonder how common such a state of affairs is among bereft carers? I would probably feel ‘wiped out’ if the family member or friend I had been caring for had died.

Building on this link in Brighton

I believe it would be productive for you to help link your Brighton & Hove contacts with Brighton Benefits Campaign, and am thus copying Pip into this message for confirmation.

Your colleague

Alan Wheatley
Green Party of England & Wales Spokesperson on Disability and Social Care Services

PS: As I have previously notified you, I shall be standing down from the above spokespersonship roles in October. I have now decided that my actual stand-down date will be 28 October. I’ll be 57 on 29 October.

[1] Incidentally, my colleague Anne Gray, in her notes about the 21st Century Welfare consultation points out that the heaviest financial costs of administering JSA and ESA are the payments DWP makes to Atos and scheme providers in policing all the ‘conditionality’ attached. Anne also points out that the claimants involved find the treatment they are subjected to by scheme providers — such as useless activities that don’t further employability but serve as arbitrary measures of ‘activity’. It was my own experience of A4e Holloway that led me to ‘call time’ on my subservience to JSA ‘conditionality’ and claim ESA.

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One Response to “Alan Wheatley, Green Party of England & Wales Spokesperson on Disability and Social Care Services”

  1. Tweets that mention Alan Wheatley, Green Party of England & Wales Spokesperson on Disability and Social Care Services « Carer Watch's Blog -- Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Camden Green Party, Rosemary. Rosemary said: Alan Wheatley, Green Party of England & Wales Spokesperson on Disability and Social Care Services: […]

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