Raymondo’s Work Capability Assessment Survival Tips

Support Allowance are gauged as qualifying for Employment and Support Allowance or ‘fit for work’.
“The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) has three stages. Firstly, the Limited Capability for Work Test determines whether or not you remain on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), secondly, the Limited Capability for Work Related Activity Test determines whether you join the ‘support group’ of claimants or the ‘work-related activity group’ and thirdly, the Work Focused Health Related Assessment provides a report that can be used in any work-focused interviews that you may be required to attend later on.” (i) 

WCA Survival Tips

(Some of these tips are repetitions or further defining of others. This is to add emphasis.)

1)    Never answer a question without understanding what it means. (ii) 

2)    Wise up on the ESA eligibility ‘descriptors’. (iii)

3)    From the moment you first apply for Employment & Support Allowance, consider
I. who will be best suited to accompany you to the ‘medical’ interview and
2. who to approach for evidence to back your case.
The person to accompany you will be your McKenzie Friend.(iv)

4)    Realise that shame and embarrassment in relation to your condition may be the biggest barriers to your successful form completion. In the world of claiming ESA what was previously regarded as a ‘mark of shame’ often becomes a ‘badge of honour’.

5)    Picture yourself on a really bad day, because otherwise the inconsistency of ‘it varies’ answers will too easily be interpreted as, “This descriptor is insignificant to this claimant’s eligibility.” Beware also of the inconsistent ordering of some of the answers in the ESA50, and recognise the relevance of minimum 24 hour working week realities to what makes your condition worse.

6)    Realise that the ESA50 form content sets the scene for how you will be assessed.

7)    Consider the possibility of a relevant helping professional completing the ESA50 on your behalf, but be the final arbiter on this. A relevant helping professional’s authoritative input may be especially helpful if yours is an invisibile disability or mental health condition, but if they take a rushed approach to your form’s completion while you may be inclined to attempt to avoid embarrassment in stating how bad your condition really is/can be, their input may well weaken your case..

8)    Never attend the Work Capability Assessment ‘medical’ alone. This is something you must factor in when completing the ESA50.

9)    Make optimum use of the ‘lead time’ from receiving the ESA50 application form to the deadline for form completion and return, bearing in mind that the ESA50 will be redirected to a different address than that given on the reply envelope before it reaches the Atos team who will be conducting your individual assessment.

10)    Quote any documented evidence as much as possible in the body of the form, rather than relying on a covering letter and/or other attachments that are all too commonly ‘lost in the post’.

11)    Keep copies of all your form content and documentation. Electronic copies of your form content can make editing form content easier for repeated testing situations.

12)    Check out the building accessibility of the ‘Medical Examination Centre’ (MEC), realising that elevator access may not be operating at the times that the adjoining jobcentre closes. (Some MECs are open on Sundays, and when jobcentre staff go home at 4:30pm, elevator access may be denied.)

13)    Realise that the ‘suggested route’ details/advice that Atos Healthcare admin issue of how to get from your home to the MEC may be unnecessarily complicated in order for you to be intimidated out of attending.

14)    Don’t allow yourself to be bullied and intimidated by the inflexibility of ‘we’re only following orders’ Atos call-centre staff. In the event of your not being able to attend the MEC as a consequence of any ‘last-minute emergencies’, say, arising from the weather denying your McKenzie friend access to a car ride from home to the MEC, realise that a call to the relevant Disability Benefit Centre can trump such inflexibility. Remember, without someone to attend the medical, it will be assumed not only that you have no trouble getting to appointments alone, but also that you will be a less reliable witness than someone who can corroborate your version of what happened or did not happen at the medical.

15)    Consider the ‘medical’ as more of an observation activity with you as the one being observed from the time you enter the waiting room, rather than an exhaustive and thorough medical examination.

16)    Seek out, join, or form a support group for benefit claimants. This will help make your life feel more relevant between WCAs and help to counter the isolating influences of the reassessment process.

17)    Keep abreast of changes to the law as it relates to your ESA entitlement.

Testing times for Raymondo
Raymondo recently underwent his third Work Capability Assessment. When he first applied for ESA he had been awarded 0 eligibility points at the medical three months after the ESA50 form completion. That 0 eligibility points score was turned into 21 eligibility points at the tribunal that he later attended with an advocate from a local disability charity, and the tribunal panel also placed him in the Support Group, ensuring no ‘back to work’ sanctions and such bullying, but not exempting him from the stressful experience of being systematically retested. It took the Disability Benefits Centre’s Assessments & Appeals Section of Department for Work & Pensions two months to wade through the ‘sandbags’ of correspondence to get to his tribunal outcome and pay the back money he was owed, and yet just six months after getting the back money, he was summonsed to re-apply for ESA, with six weeks before the deadline for receipt of the ESA50 application form. Diligent devotion to getting the form content as strongly in his favour as possible, and attending with a McKenzie Friend that he had become well-acquainted with in the intervening period helped ensure that he secured Support Group status for the second time. But his third WCA was conducted under a revised ‘simplified’ test that allowed fewer point scoring options toward the eligibility threshold of 15 points awarded him by the tribunal.

The newer test had been proposed by the last Labour DWP Secretary Yvette Cooper as more and more people won their tribunals in order to get what was rightfully theirs. (v) So the then DWP Secretary who is now Labour’s Equalities Spokesperson decided that the law needed to be changed. (Atos and its staff seem to be above the law, but tribunal panels have to abide by it.) The ESA tribunal panel consisting of judge and doctor had awarded Raymondo 15 of his eligibility points on account of the time it takes him to execute tasks. The ‘simplified’ WCA has completely removed that relevant descriptor which has been a major bugbear of Raymondo’s ‘working life’. So how did he manage to overcome that difficulty?

“All of the above tips have helped me since I won my tribunal,” says Raymondo. “This most recent time though, there was the additional factor of the destruction of a mainstay descriptor and the potentially additionally isolating factor of stigmatisation.” But Raymondo’s preparation this time around was increased.

With enhanced relationship with a legally qualified advocate and disability rights activist who he first contacted as a friend of a friend, he felt less embarrassed about ‘telling it like it is’ than he did when originally going through the form in an interview with a vocational support adviser with whom he lacked a true rapport and who was too blasé and ignorant about the nuances of ESA compared to Incapacity Benefit. Getting it out as an electronic document in his own time helped enormously for shaping the document to text boxes for copying and pasting onto the actual form. And his anticipation of the changes brought in by the revised test cued him to take a real diagnostic battery of tests with Camden Learning Disability Services before undergoing his third WCA. The report from that test helped explain and outline how, say, slow mental processing speed made him more inclined to experience ‘information overload’ and accident proneness in real world work situations. He also emphasised that as a genuine jobseeker from November 1977 till early 2009 he only acuired only 17 MONTHS total waged employment, 11 months of which had been for less than ten hours per week.

Now a member of Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group that meets 40 minutes bus ride away, Raymondo realises that while he is still very poor and has extremely limited career prospects in his 59th year, he has much to contribute to helping make the world a fairer place, and has been helped to feel more human through being a member of that group. “Those like Liz Sayce of Radar who talk of ‘integration of disabled people into the workforce’ as they smash Remploy communities with factory closures get paid for giving government-for-market-forces-by-market-forces what it wants. ‘State-subsidised’ Remploy factories are more sustainable and sustaining than transporting sweat shop produce around the globe from China where 600,000 die per year from intolerable working conditions that operate under the name of ‘competitiveness’.

“I might not get paid as much for helping people to the truth, but being a member of Kilburn Unemployment Workers Group and Social Work Action Network London activist gives me a greater sense of purpose while making new friends.”



(i) http://www.tameside.gov.uk/esa/wca

(ii) Dorothy Leeds (1998) Secrets of Successful Interviews. The fact that the vast majority of ESA claimants who win their tribunals do so with advocacy support indicates that those without advocacy are not sufficiently resourced with the relevant information and interpretative guidance.

(iii) Beyond a Yahoo! Search for “ESA descriptor points”, you might consider subscribing to the services provided by Benefits & Work Publishing. A year’s individual person subscription to Benefits & Work Publishing costs currently less than £20 per year and allows you unlimited access to their guides written by legal professionals into how the ESA descriptors might be interpreted.

(iv) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mckenzie_friend

(v) http://benefits.tcell.org.uk/forums/even-harsher-new-esa-medical-approved-benefits-work-13th-april-2010

Statement on social care plans of Worcestershire County Council

This is an abandonment of a crucial right that disabled people have fought for and won: to be socially included rather than ghettoised or institutionalised. Furthermore, if plans are approved, instructing social workers and social care workers to implement such proposals may be asking them to ignore their Code of Practice; the General Social Care Council has made it the principal responsibility of all social care workers to protect the rights of disabled people and other social care service users.

Worcestershire Logo

Under their proposals, Worcestershire County Council identifies five future ‘choices’ for service users with reduced council funding:

Choice 1: to top up and meet the cost of desired care from alternative sources such as personal or family savings. This is an option only available to a comparatively wealthy people. Disabled people and other social care service users are highly unlikely to have such savings when facing huge restrictions and reductions in benefits, while concurrently experiencing entrenched discrimination in the job market. This is at a time of exceptionally high unemployment and when Remploy factories providing (albeit imperfect) employment to disabled people are being closed.

Choice 2: take a direct payment to arrange more flexible care arrangements. This is an example of the good intentions of personalisation being used as a flimsy veil for cuts. The cost of buying services individually in the market means that costs are highly likely to be greater than those purchased by councils via economies of scale; the possibility for people to arrange more effective care costing less than their present packages, is slim.

Choice 3: change the type or volume of care currently received. This is straightforward – for many people this will mean less care or support or poorer quality provision.

Choice 4: access alternative low level community support in addition to council funded care. Like other ‘big society’ rhetoric, this is a dishonest suggestion as funding for the voluntary sector who might provide such support is being decimated or their energies are being consumed by shifting to bureaucratic, divisive tendering processes for short term grants. The general public may be struggling to make ends meet for themselves, rather than possessing the spare time to engage in civic activity or neighbourly support.

Choice 5: is for people to receive their care in a residential or nursing home. This is in stark contrast to the familiar language of aspiration used by local authorities to describe adult social care of ‘choice’, ‘control’ and ‘participation’ – where are these concepts in such a policy? It disregards Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People which states that a) people are not obligated to live in a particular arrangement and b) that segregation should be avoided. Aside from the right to live in the community, service users will be aware of the recent reports such as last year’s investigation into the Castlebeck-owned Winterbourne View care home and understandably be concerned of the treatment they may receive in residential homes, or be anxious about the minimal staffing and support in such institutions because of efficiencies driven by profit.


SWAN believes there is no possible justification for this kind of social care policy which is prepared to sacrifice quality of life and people’s rights at the altar of ‘current financial challenges’.  It is entirely possible for high quality, comprehensive social care to be funded free at the point of use and paid for out of general taxation – we are one of the richest countries in the world and one which established our entire welfare state under similarly challenging economic circumstances. It is a matter of priority and will.

SWAN notes that Jack Ashley, the Labour Peer who campaigned for the rights of disabled people died recently. Among the parliamentary tributes to him were those of Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling, the two Ministers for Work and Pensions.  Their fond comments were staggering in the context of their welfare reforms which are eroding the support for work and independent living from many disabled people and other social care users. The logic of austerity underpinning the thinking of these politicians is same justification being used by the Tory-led administration of Worcestershire County Council to vanish people’s right to independent living. SWAN wonders how such politicians reacted to Jack Ashley’s independent living bill, which proposed to sweep away the ‘feed and clean’ culture – a culture to which Worcestershire now seem to be proposing that we return?

SWAN encourages social workers and social care workers in Worcestershire and across the UK to work with service user led organisations and disabled people’s groups to oppose these plans as inimical to a social care based on human rights. This is one part of wider picture of social care austerity; SWAN supports the call for a cumulative impact assessment on disabled people and social care service users of all the Coalition Government’s relevant social policy, as suggested by the Common’s Joint Committee on Human Rights.

One cannot justify diminishing rights or unacceptable living standards because of financial cost. The true ‘cost’ of making these cuts will be a human one.

Welcome to SWAN Ireland!


SWAN Ireland:

 – see imbalances of power

– see power being held by a minority to the detriment of the majority

 – see services being provided on a shoe-string budget (which are a life-line to those who use them)

 – see long-term sustainable work being carried out and we know that this work is never acknowledged or given the credence it deserves, because it is “unquantifiable”

– in this “evidence-based” and “outcomes” driven world, we see the work that has the most positive impact on people’s lives, the building of and sustaining of relationships and communities, being slashed, cut and trampled on in favour of short-term, reactive, short-sighted “outcome-based”, “quantifiable” services

– see budgets being prioritised over people

– see people being treated as numbers, not people

– see fear; in communities, in workers, in being “the next to go” 

– see oppression

– see managerialism

– see bureaucracy

– see an increasing void between social work and service users. We see a social work that is being used as a scapegoat

– see a social work that cannot currently do “social work”.

However, SWAN Ireland also:

 – see workers going above and beyond the call of duty to work with a community instead of for the controllers of a budget

– see an uprising

– see a revolt

– see a reclaiming of power

– see mobilisation

– see the realisation in people that “we” are the powerful and “they” are the weak

– see social work as a powerful force in reclaiming that power

– see social work as having the potential to align itself openly and without fear to the service user and not the policies, organisations or budgets that currently define, control and silence it

– see social work as reclaiming it’s core values and ethics base and having the courage to put these to the fore, above policies and procedures imposed on it from others who don’t understand or want to understand it.

If you are based in Ireland and want to become active in the group please contact us at: socialworkactionnetworkireland@gmail.com.

We believe that the activity of social work in Ireland has potential and value. It can be relcaimed if we act collectively and in soldarity with service users.


Adult Social Care Campaign

SWAN activists in Liverpool are launching a joint campaign with Liverpool Against The Cuts against the recent cuts to adult social care services across the city. Liverpool City Council are in the process of implementing a total overhaul of adult social care which they describe as a ‘transformation and modernisation’ of services for adults with mental ill health, learning disabilities, those with complex needs and older people.

Part of this ‘transformation’ includes closing 15 specialist day care centres, ‘externalising’ services and removal of service provision for some service users under the councils changes to Fair Access to Care Services (FACS) eligibility.

We are holding a public meeting on the 10th May in Liverpool City Centre and encourage as many people as possible to come along. Please download the attached information flyers below for further details and feel free to distribute the information across your networks!

Social Work and the Struggle for Social Justice in an International Context – The Irish Experience


This presentation is more of an “opinion piece” than an academic one. It is a small observation of one social worker striving for social justice in Ireland within a much larger societal and political context. My background I worked as a social care worker for around seven years in the areas of homelessness and intellectual disability. I qualified as a social worker in 2010 and have experience in the areas of child protection, fostering, medical and community development social work and am currently working as a mental health social worker.

Current context of Irish life

The global recession, the Irish experience of this, austerity measures, IMF “bailout” package, new government continuing to implement old governments plans under pretence of “new thinking”, increasing gap between rich and poor, widening of inequalities in Irish society, retraction of human rights and equality as important issues-free market, capitalist and purely economic issues at the fore-front of governments mind to the detriment of ordinary people’s lives, unemployment continues to be at record high, Ireland officially re-entered recession at the end of last quarter of 2011 (www.cso.ie). Counter discourse – Occupy Dame Street, Occupy University, emergence of “new” leftist political groups – ULA (United Left Alliance), People before Profit, the continuation and strengthening of Socialist Party and SWP, emergence of civil society groups such as The Spectacle of Defiance and Hope, S.P.A.R.K (Single Parents Acting for the Rights of our Kids), Anglo: Not our Debt, Claiming our Future, Unlock Nama, TASC (Independent Think Tank for Social Change), Politico.ie, Campaign against the Household Charge.

History of social work in Ireland

A very small amount has been written on the history of social work in Ireland (Kearney and Skehill, 2005). Social work in Ireland is just over 100 years old. The first social work qualification board was only introduced in Ireland in 1997. Before this social work qualifications were validated through the U.K.  Social work in Ireland came about quite late in relation to other countries including Britain. There were parallels between the development of social work in Britain and Ireland but some points were unique to Ireland such as the fact that political struggles to become free of English rule encompassed the time of those who could be called “social reformers” and who otherwise could have turned to social work type reform as was the case in other countries such as the USA. The first social workers in Ireland were called “almoners” and worked in hospitals.  Before social work developed as a profession religious organisations had a monopoly over the running and delivery of services that we would consider social work related e.g. in the fields of education, care of the disabled, lone parents, mental health etc. Specifically, the development of childcare services and services for women in Ireland can be seen to have been directly influenced by the overt hold of religious organisations on such services in the past (Skehill, 2004).

My two case studies – Spectacle and SPARK

As a social worker I instinctively tend to work from a framework of human rights/social justice/social change/critical theory. I consider myself a macro social worker, a radical social worker. I intrinsically believe in working from a community development approach (whatever my “job title” or my boss suggests!). My involvement in the two campaigns I am discussing evolved through my worldview as a social worker and my understanding of the absolute necessity of social workers to engage in macro or social change work.

The Spectacle of Defiance and Hope is a broadly based alliance of Community Organisations from Dublin and beyond. In 2010 a large number of groups came together to protest and challenge the programme of cuts that were imposed on the youth and community sector and draw attention to the savage economic injustices that were taking place in Ireland. The Spectacle is for an Ireland of true equality in the conditions of people’s lives. In December of 2010 the powerful Spectacle of Defiance and Hope event took place, in which community organisations from all over Dublin participated. In 2011 the second protest of creative resistance took place. It was modelled on the French Revolution. People and community groups all over Ireland were asked to contribute “Books of Grievances and Hopes”. Within the last two years large numbers of projects have been cut or closed in areas which experience frightening levels of inequality. The idea behind the Books of Grievances and Hopes was to provide a forum and an accessible format where people could express their grievances at what is happening to ordinary people in some sort of a coherent way. This was a way for ordinary people to express their anxieties, concerns, frustration and anger at the decisions of the last government which are being continued without any great change by the new administration. I was part of the organising committee for the 2011 Spectacle and for my small part, personally mobilised a number of projects in an area of Dublin that is one of the most dis-advantaged in the country. The three projects that I engaged with had never been involved in a civil society group or protest like this before. I was met with a huge amount of resistance by the people from these projects in the beginning as they told me they had never been consulted in any way before, they were mistrustful and were disparaging of how engaging in a process such as this could be of any benefit to them or to their community (which was very understandable and which I openly validated). Through many conversations and long facilitated sessions where the groups physically made their books of grievances and hope, they began to articulate and voice their excitement at realising that they “had a voice” and at “having an outlet and opportunity to voice their anger” at the government, at those who have ignored them and at those who have continued to oppress them. The groups I engaged are the “invisible” in Irish society. They are representative of some of the groups in Irish society who have been marginalised throughout the “Celtic Tiger” years and continue to be marginalised in the current recession.

Alongside this was, for me, the parallel of the current situation of social workers in Ireland. I could clearly see the similarities between the invisibility and oppression of the groups I engaged in the “Book of Grievances and Hopes” process and the invisibility and oppression of social workers as a group in Irish society. I believe that in order to be able to stand in true solidarity with the oppressed one must be critically conscious (see Freire’s work) and cognisant of one’s own disempowerment. I believe that social workers in Ireland are disempowered through many mediums such as managerialism, increasing bureaucracy, the continued shrinking space that we exist in professionally, the increasing individualisation of workers and the increasing distance between social workers and service users through these measures. Being cognisant of these parallels I wanted to try and begin the process of aligning social workers and service users. I am very active in the Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW) – I am the chairperson of a national special interest group for new social workers through the IASW, I am also part of the International Group through the IASW which is aligned to the European region of the IFSW which focuses on issues of equality and human rights. Utilising my connections with the IASW, I contacted all of their members and asked them to contribute to a “Social Work Book of Grievances and Hopes”. I did this through email and asked four basic questions which all social workers could answer anonymously (therefore making it safer for social workers to tell the truth about the reality of their working lives and their service users lives). I collated all of the responses into an actual book (some of the pictures are in the presentation) and invited all IASW social workers to attend the protest in December 2011.  Approximately 500 people turned up to the Spectacle of Defiance and Hope protest in December. Some of the service users from the groups I engaged with and a small number of social workers attended the protest – this I considered an achievement! The plan moving forward is to display the books in a public space in order for all of the people who contributed to know that their grievances and hopes will be seen and heard in a meaningful way. A longer term plan is to figure out the way forward for The “Spectacle” as a concept and how best it can serve it’s purpose as a means of creative resistance to the increasing inequalities in Irish society.

S.P.A.R.K. is a diverse group of single parents living in Ireland who have united together to protect their children from the radical policy changes introduced in Budget 2012. Their aim is to raise awareness of the many challenges one-parent families currently face and to identify the essential supports needed to allow them to have equal participation in society. They assert the rights of their children to be treated equally and demand acknowledgment and recognition of their family status.  They oppose any economic, social, political or legal policies that have a detrimental effect on their children or them as single parents. They are asking for equality for their children regardless of their family circumstances. The main thing that stands out about this campaign is that it is run almost entirely through social media – facebook, twitter and google groups. To me, this represents  a new way of organising compared to the more traditional approaches of meetings and physically bringing people together. The use of social media as an organising tool has allowed a group that could not possibly physically gather together regularly (due to the fact that they are all lone parents and have children to care for!) to mobilize in large numbers and at a rapid pace. The campaign only began in November 2011 and already has succeeded in hosting two protests, coordinated numerous media stunts and has secured a lot of support from most of the opposition TD’s in government through relentless and creative methods. My involvement in this campaign began at the end of 2011 at the time of the budget. The December 2011 budget in Ireland literally attacked a number of vulnerable groups in Irish society – namely young people with disabilities, young people attending schools in disadvantaged areas and single parents. The government hastily reviewed their attacks on young people with disabilities after an immediate and vocal backlash by the general public (http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2011/1208/1224308743063.html). The government were slower to reverse the cuts made to schools in disadvantaged areas but did so recently after continued public anger (http://www.wsm.ie/c/deis-cuts-primary-schools) . However, the one group the government continues to attack is lone parents. I don’t have the space here to go into all of the economic attacks the government has made on lone parents. These can all be found on SPARK’s website (www.sparkcampaign.com). The point I would like to make here is the importance of social workers building alliances with, and supporting campaigns such as this. Technically, I have no direct contact with lone parents in my day to day work as a social worker (as I work with older persons). But that does not stop me from understanding the connection between the framework I work from as a social worker (as I explained above) and the significance of standing in solidarity with SPARK. SPARK is a response to the way Irish society continues to view single mothers (as something to be ashamed of, as a drain on society, as leeches on our social welfare system, as second class citizens, as something to hide away from the “good” people in society (e.g. the Magdelene Laundry’s). SPARK is a response to the way women continue to be subordinated within our society (our constitution, the foundation of all Irish law explicitly states that a woman’s place is within the home, article 41.2.1). SPARK is a response to the continued invisibility of children and children’s rights within Irish society (a children’s rights referendum has been promised to the Irish people since 2006, article 40.1.1 gives all rights to the family with “family” being defined as a heterosexual married couple). SPARK is a response to the continued overt stranglehold the catholic church (or at least the church’s “values”, “morals” and insidious nature) has on the people of Ireland. SPARK stands as a representative for women’s rights, children’s rights and the possibility of one of the most invisible and vulnerable groups in Irish society creating a counter discourse to the pre-dominant catholic/conservative one that has ravaged our country for the past century.  


http://www.facebook.com/ClaimingOurFuture?ref=ts&sk=wall, http://www.facebook.com/UnlockNAMA, http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001791734951, http://www.facebook.com/irishsingleparentsfightback, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Occupy-University/156847037760130, http://www.facebook.com/OccupyDameStreet, http://www.facebook.com/pages/United-Left-Alliance/129916530394898, http://www.facebook.com/peopleb4profit, http://www.facebook.com/SWPIreland, www.socialistparty.net, http://www.facebook.com/NotOurDebt, www.tascnet.ie, www.politico.ie, Kearney, N. and C. Skehill, 2005, Social Work in Ireland: Historical Perspectives. Dublin: Institute of Public Administration. www.newsocialworkers.com, http://www.sparkcampaign.com/, http://www.swp.ie/content/cutbacks-child-poverty-and-junkets.

Cite as: Cuskelly, Kerry. “Social Work and the Struggle for Social Justice in an International Context- The Irish Experience”.The Seventh Annual Social Work Action Network Conference (SWAN), Liverpool Hope University, March 2012. Unpublished conference paper. 2012.

Fight Back Teach-In: US

The following movement in the US was noticed and shared with us by Dr Maria Pentaraki of Liverpool Hope University:

“The fight goes on across the Atlantic too. Check the very interesting link of Fight Back USA: http://www.fightbackteachin.org/  One of the founders is Frances Fox Piven, an activist social work academic.  A 1965 paper entitled “Mobilizing the Poor: How It Can Be Done,” introduced Piven and her co-author, Richard Cloward, into an ongoing conversation on the welfare state. She has played  an important role in welfare rights campaigns as well as other anti-poverty activism.  But she is also equally known for her contributions to social theory. In one of her seminal books “Regulating the Poor”, Piven and Cloward argued that any advances the poor have made throughout history depended on their ability to disrupt institutions.”

Greece 2012: Social Work in Austerity Greece 2012: Social Work in Austerity

“The following documentary film describes, by the social workers’ point of view, the situation in Greece.

Three social workers from different agencies -NGO, Semi-Public Agency and State Sector- describe the reality of the users and the one of the social services in the era of crisis, austerity and poverty that domain in Greece the last two years after the entrance of IMF….
It’s an attempt for spreading the “voice” of the “front-line” social workers from Greece but it is also an attempt of revealing the reality of the Greek people as well as the attempts and initiatives for resistance and solidarity”

Chris Jones’ blog on the impact of austerity in Greece

Chris introduces his blog to you here:

These are extraordinary times. Not just here in Greece but in many places from Bradford to Cairo, New York to Damascus and beyond. These are times of great despair for many who are being crushed by a brutalising capitalism intent on rolling back every gain made by working people over the past 100 years. They are also times of great hope as new solidarities are being forged in resistance and survival . In this blog my intent – with the help of close comrades – is to record and give witness to these events as they roll out on the island of Samos, Greece, where I now live. Based on observations and discussions with the people of the island my hope is to convey something of the impact of these extraordinary times on daily lives and well-being and how they are influencing significant shifts in understanding, living, social relationships and politics more generally. I hope that readers of the blog will feel free to use the material in whatever way they want . There is no need to ask for permission. It is yours to use! Any feedback would be much appreciated. Even a single word would suffice as it would be encouraging for me to know that it is not all disappearing into some dark hole. More than ever before we need to fight and fight and struggle doing whatever we can and wherever we stand. We are many. They are few.

Please visit Chris’ blog here.

DPAC solidarity appeal and actions

Wednesday 18th April 2012 (London) – Action around benefit cuts, care funding and Loss of Remploy jobs: meet at 13:30 Leicester Square McDonalds.

Thursday 19th April 2012 (London) – Public meeting – Fight the Remploy Closures: 7.30pm, ULU, Malet Street, London WC1E 7H . Speakers include: John McDonnell MP & Chair Right to Work campaign, Gail Cartmail, Unite Assistant General Secretary, Les Woodward, GMB National Convenor of Remploy; Rob Murthwaite, Disabled People Against the Cuts.

Friday 20th April 2012 (Sheffield) – National Demonstration – Lobby the DWP in Sheffield: Campaign to save Remploy factories
Assemble 12.30 for a 1pm start outside the Department of Work and Pensions office in Sheffield (Steel City House) at the junction of West Street, Church Street and Tripit Lane.

Statement from DPAC to SWAN:

On April 18th DPAC supported by UKUNCUT and others will be taking action in London once more to highlight the multiple atrocities and human rights abuses being perpetrated against disabled people by the unelected Condem Government. Taken together, the impact of these attacks against disabled people will destroy any possibility of independent living and move disability rights back 30 years or more. Once again disabled people will become trapped in their homes and unable to take an active part in activities that non-disabled people take for granted. They will slowly but surely ‘disappear’ from society.

DPAC will be joined in this protest by Remploy workers from around the country who are also being thrown onto the scrapheap by the Condems who are justifying closing 36 out of the 54 Remploy factories as being advised by the Sayce Review. The remaining factories will be privatised and sold off to the highest bidder. The factories earmarked for closure are being called unprofitable, however, bosses at the factories received £180 million in bonuses last year.

While DPAC obviously believe in the full inclusion of disabled people in society, we think the right place to start is to demand a legal right for disabled children to attend mainstream schools rather than to start by throwing adults who have worked in Remploy factories for many years onto the ever increasing dole queue. The last round of Remploy redundancies under the Labour government left over 90% of those made unemployed without any jobs or hope for their futures.’

Please send solidarity money to enable disabled activists to get to the London demo on Wednesday 18th April here.

Please also sign the petition against the closure of the Remploy Factories here.

Support Amanpreet Kaur! A young asylum seeking woman

SWAN collected a donation in their support on the day, but just as importantly we gave all conference delegates of the conference a copy of the letter to Teresa May which you can download at the bottom of this article. The letter argues for Amanpreet Kaur’s right to remain in the UK.

Please support this campaign and publicise it as widely as possible among your networks, colleagues and friends – we need as many people as possible writing to Teresa May in her defence. 


More on Amanpreet’s situation (taken from Global Women’s Strike website and other sources):

Amanpreet Kaur is a young Lesbian woman from the Sikh community in Punjab, India. After coming out she was subjected to torture, death threats and attempted rape by her father. She and her partner fled to the UK to seek asylum, in fear for there lives and hopefully to join a society where being a lesbian is not a crime.

Unfortunately bad legal advice and severe trauma and a fear of speaking out about their sexuality led to Ms Kaur and her partner being detained by UK immigration and held in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Center.

Here they were subjected to lack of health care, lack of food, abuse (physical, psychological and sexual), rape…. Ms Kaur cut her wrists and wrote a goodbye message to her partner, in blood, on the cell walls.

Ms Kaur was released from the detention center on 8th March but both she and her partner face deportation to India. Where they will suffer abuse, “corrective” rape and honour killing, especially if they do not comply to their arranged marriages. They will never see one another again and Ms Kaur will not receive the mental health support she needs.

Please, download, print, sign and send the letter I’ve attached to Teresa May. Insta-click contact MP internet plugs don’t have the same affect as 1000s of letters heaped on a desk! You can also copy and paste the letter and email it if you’d rather (email address is on the letter).

Please look for more updates about Amanpreet Kaur and Ms D at the Global Women’s Strike website here.

You can also write/phone Yarl’s Wood protesting the homophobic, racist discriminatory treatment by staff. These are just two examples of many: an officer told Ms Kaur: “Don’t think pretending you’re homosexual or going on hunger strike will help you, they will not release you. If they cannot send you alive then they will send your dead body back to India”.  On another occasion when Ms Kaur was banging her head against a wall in desperation, an officer, instead of helping her, sexually assaulted her and an officer standing nearby laughed.  When Ms D tried to report what had happened to the Yarl’s Wood Manager and the psychiatrist, they claimed Ms Kaur had been hallucinating!

UKBA centre manager Fiona Quaynor via: Christopher.harlow2@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk
Tel: 01234 821 300

SERCO centre manager: James Wilkinson james.wilkinson@serco.co.u
Tel: 01234 821 1000

Please send copies of your letters to Queer Strike queerstrike@queerstrike.net and Ms Kaur at friendsofamanpreetandd@gmail.com