Benefits Green Paper

22 10 2009

The recent Government Green Paper on Care Services in the UK is still causing concern to many people who are worried that this will mean the end of their entitlement to Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

There are only a few weeks left before the consultation period on the green paper ends – so See Hear are hoping to organise a question and answer session at the House of Commons next week, with an MP who will try their best to answer your questions.

If YOU are concerned about your future benefit entitlement, or want to find out more about what the green paper may mean for you, please email See Hear‘s forward planning producer: cynthia.charles @ with details of your name, address, age and background, along with a few words on why you’d like to take part in the question and answer session.

Save DLA and AA – the first crucial task

11 08 2009

This post is an email sent from Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd.

Persuading disability charities to speak out against the threat to disability benefits is absolutely crucial. Unless leading agencies like Mind, Arthritis Care and the MS Society are prepared to openly oppose these proposals it will be very difficult to halt them. The government will be able to argue that they consulted with ‘stakeholder’ organisations and they supported the green paper.

So whether charities are swayed by the strength of your arguments or alarmed by the prospect of losing members who feel abandoned by them, it’s vital that they commit themselves to defending AA and DLA. So far only RNIB has been courageous enough to risk the wrath of six secretaries of state rather than desert its members.

So what we’re going to suggest you do today is to get in touch with a local or national disability organisation, preferably one that deals with a condition that affects you or someone you care for.

Even if all you can manage is a quick email saying:

‘What are you doing about the green paper plans to abolish some disability benefits?’

that will be enough to make them realise people are aware of, and concerned about, the issue.

But if you feel able to write in more detail, below are some of the points you may want to make. We haven’t written a standard letter or email for people to copy because we think that they may quickly be dismissed as just a sort of spam.

1 Explain very briefly that you are concerned about the proposals in the Shaping the Future of Care Together green paper to integrate some disability benefits into a new funding stream for a National Care Service

2 Explain why DLA care component or AA is important to you.

3 Point out that it’s vital that their organisation work with other disability charities to fight with you on this issue, because the government will find it hard to ignore a wide coalition of disability organisations.

4 Point out that RNIB have put a statement on their website saying they will oppose the scrapping of AA and other disability benefits and that if such a reputable organisation is prepared to do this then there’s no reason why every disability organisation can’t do the same.

5 You might want to explain that at the moment the campaign against abolishing disability benefits is being led by a private sector company and that you think this is highly inappropriate, it ought to be a coalition of charities leading the way.

6 You may also want to suggest that if charities look the other way as their members are deprived of a vital part of their income then it may result in charities getting a great deal less support, fewer members and fewer donations in the future.

7 Most important of all: ask for a reply. And if you don’t get one, keep going back until you do. And when you do, send us a copy and we’ll publish at least some of them. Or if you’re a Benefits and Work member, post the reply in the forum.

If you’d like to contact more than one charity, then members of the Disability Benefits Consortium are worth considering. This is a coalition of charities which “aims to lobby and campaign on welfare benefits as they relate to disabled people.” Clearly they are the people who should be running this campaign, rather than Benefits and Work.

You can find the email contact details for all these organisations on this page.

Another possibility is the members of the green paper stakeholder panel. There’s a list of the members here, though we haven’t had time to research email addresses – volunteers to do so would be very welcome.

If you want to be getting on with other things rather than waiting for next weeks’ email, then there’s a few suggestions here.

Thank you again for signing up to the No More Benefits Cuts campaign. At the time of writing you are one of an astonishing 13,815 people who have done so in less than a week.

Please feel free to forward or publish this.

(Steve Donnison)

No More Benefits Cut campaign update

6 08 2009

Emailed to me today:

Many thanks for joining the No More Benefits Cuts campaign.

We had an astonishing 5,245 people sign up in the first 24 hours of the campaign. I confess this has taken us rather by surprise: we thought it would take most of August just to get 1,000.

What happens next?

Over the coming months we’ll be sending out an email each week asking you to do one thing in relation to the campaign. It might be writing to your MP, submitting a response to the green paper, contacting a local disability group and so on.

The emails will be sent out each Tuesday morning with the first one being sent on Tuesday 11 August.

As new people sign up to the campaign they will receive the same emails in the same order that you received them. Once the 100 days are up the emails will stop.

We’ve already been contacted by literally hundreds of people about the campaign and in truth it’s already started without us. Lots of you have been posting on forums, contacting your MPs, writing to papers, emailing TV and radio programmes and generally making an enormous fuss.

Thanks again. And, until next Tuesday, please keep up the good work – you don’t really need us at all.

Best regards,

Steve Donnison
Keep up to date with the no more cuts campaign.


– Actually, I wish the captioned telephony campaign would take off like this, with more and more deaf people clamouring for our rights….. come on, join that one too! All you have to do is write to your MP and tell them how much it would benefit you, and ask them to sign the EDM currently tabled in Parliament. And tell everyone about it!

100 days to save DLA & AA from the axe

5 08 2009

Claimants have just 100 days to prevent their DLA (Disability Living Allowance) and AA (Attendance Allowance) being abolished.

A government green paper has revealed proposals to stop paying ‘disability benefits, for example, attendance allowance’’ and hand the cash over to social services instead.

Under the plan, current claimants would have their disability benefits converted to a ‘personal budget’ administered by local authorities and used to pay for services – not to spend as they wish.

Once the green paper consultation period ends in 100 days time, if an almighty row has not been raised, it is likely that both major political parties will see the lack of outrage as a green light to end both DLA and AA.

We’re looking for a minimum of 1,000 claimants, carers and support workers to join our campaign to save these benefits from being abolished.

Find out how you can take part from THIS LINK.

We know that many people will take false comfort from the fact that, unlike AA, DLA is not specifically named as being for the axe. But if the government was planning only to abolish AA it is extremely unlikely that they would refer constantly throughout the green paper to ‘disability benefits’, a term which includes not just AA but also DLA.

Others will dismiss this as just another idle discussion document and our concerns as scare mongering.

But it’s much more than that.

36 meetings have already been organised around the country for people working in government and the caring professions to meet to be told about the setting up of a new National Care Service which would oversee the system. In addition, a stakeholders panel of more than 50 voluntary sector organisations, trades unions and academics has been established to offer advice to the government.

Some organisations and individuals, such as RNIB and welfare rights worker Neil Bateman writing for Community Care magazine, have already voiced their alarm.

But not every disability organisation is opposed to the proposals and some even agree with them.

In a press release, Disability Alliance has welcomed the publication of the green paper and said that it ‘looks forward to working alongside Government and all the other stakeholders in bringing these plans into fruition.’ They have even said that they agree that there is a case for ‘integrating disability benefits such as attendance allowance’ into the new system.

One thing everyone does seem to agree on is that huge cuts in public spending will have to take place in the next few years as a result of the credit crunch and global recession.

Political parties are desperately looking for the softest targets to be the victims of these cuts. Dismissing the green paper’s proposals as hot air and not worth worrying about could be the costliest mistake you ever make.

Find out more about the proposed abolition of DLA and AA and how you can join our campaign to fight back HERE.

Source: Benefits and Work
(c) 2009 Steve Donnison


Free energy saving products worth £54.98

14 07 2009

If you receive Disability Living Allowance you can get a free standby saver (£19.99) and electricity monitor (£34.99) from British Gas. Simply enter the code EF3 and you will need your benefits reference number (this could be your national insurance number).

Source: HotUKDeals
Thanks to Alison Bryan for the link.

Audiology’s freedom pass to be rude and inefficient

15 03 2008

My Freedom Pass expires on 31 March and my local council kindly sent me a renewal form in January. A Freedom Pass means I can travel around London for free, subject to some restrictions. I went to my local hospital on 30 January and my audiologist Mirza took my renewal forms and accompanying evidence (copy of passport and TV Licence) from me, saying he would send them to the council with the required documentation (my audiogram and a letter stating my hearing loss from the hospital). I made it clear the deadline was 31 March and the forms needed to be sent as soon as possible. No problem. Or so I was told.

In the middle of February, I asked my colleague Amanda to contact my local council and check on the progress of my renewal. They hadn’t received anything. She called the hospital. They gave her the run-around between different departments and eventually she was put through to the right person, after about 30 minutes. This person said there is no application form in my file and that they don’t post out forms for patients anyway. So where is my personal information??? Binned, shredded, mailed, or what?! Does someone now possess a copy of my TV licence and passport?!!!


My friend Karen called the council yesterday and asked them to send another renewal form. They said there is a yellow part which my doctor can fill in. What yellow part? Why a different form, and why am I now told my doctor can complete it rather than my audiologist? The doctor would have been a lot easier, quicker, and let’s face it, honest. The council said they would send out the form immediately, by first class mail. Kudos to them.

I walked to the hospital yesterday with Karen and oh boy, was Karen’s back up (she’s brilliant). I had written a letter of complaint explaining the situation, and gave it to the receptionist. It was addressed to Bob, the head audiologist, and asked what had happened to my personal information. The receptionist is one of the rudest people I have ever met, abrupt and condescending don’t even come close. She treated us as if we were the dirt on the bottom of her shoes. She took the letter and took it to Mirza, who then came into reception and started flapping about. He had my file and pulled out my renewal form from the council.

– I will do this letter for you now.

He went to the printer in the receptionist’s office, I could see him flapping about, panicking, then he snapped imperiously at the receptionist,

– This letter is address to Bob. He can deal with this.

And he stormed off.

The receptionist went off with the letter and came back,

– Bob’s busy, you’ll have to come back another day.

Karen said,

– No. We are staying put. We’re not leaving until we get that letter. We’re staying here all night if we have to. We’re not leaving without that letter.

The look on the receptionist’s face was absolutely priceless. She couldn’t believe that someone had actually stood up to her.

She swanned off. In the meantime, Mirza came back into reception with a patient, a young man, who was picking up his earmoulds. Karen was visibly shocked at how rude Mirza was to him, I could tell he was over-exaggerating his speech and being very loud and condescending towards him.

The receptionist came back with Bob. Bob explained, very nicely and calmly, that he’s in the middle of a procedure at the moment and so can’t reply to the letter right now. Karen explained the situation and Bob listened. She said we’ve walked a mile and a half in the pouring rain to get here. She said I’ve waited two months for Mirza to send the information. She said now I have missed the deadline as the council also need four weeks to process the renewal. And we’ve walked a mile and a half in the pouring rain. She said I’ve been lied to on the phone. She said Mirza had agreed to write the letter then changed his mind and stormed off. She said she was disgusted by Mirza’s rudeness. And we’ve walked a mile and a half in the pouring rain. And we want an apology from Mirza.

Bob apologised, and said he would write the letter himself on his laptop on the way home. He asked if I had another appointment booked or needed anything done. I said no, but that I would like to change to another audiologist. Bob said I am welcome to see anyone I like, including him. I’ve seen Bob before and he’s super-duper professional. He explained he’s hard of hearing himself. His attitude was a world apart from Mirza’s and the receptionist’s. Calm, professional, respectful, polite.

I’m now wondering, what gives hearing people the idea that they have a right to be condescending and arrogant towards deaf people?

Or is it that because the NHS provides free hearing aids, the NHS staff think they can be disrespectful towards its’ patients? I know that NHS doctors can be very condescending towards nurses and some patients. Treatment like this in the private sector is unheard of. It’s unthinkable.

Are we now reduced to paying for respect??

Karen’s parting shot,

– Your rude staff need sorting out, they need some management training!

I got up at the crack of dawn this morning and went to visit my doctor’s surgery, and asked if they would sign the form. They said sorry, there should be a yellow part. I’m hoping tomorrow’s post will bring either the form with it’s yellow part or the letter from the hospital.

Sigh. Tomorrow’s a new day. Oh boy.

Score : NHS 0 – Private sector 1

(And no, lucky me, I don’t live in Lewisham!)

Thumbs up! Victoria & Albert museum

5 12 2007

I went to see a fashion exhibition at the V&A museum in South Kensington. This glamorous exhibition focuses on Parisian and British couture between 1947-1957, a decade that Christian Dior described as the ‘Golden Age’ of fashion. On display are stunning gowns and exquisite tailoring from designers such as Balenciaga, Norman Hartnell, Balmain and Givenchy, and Dior.

Dior’s launch of the ‘New Look’ for his first collection in 1947 shocked and delighted the fashion world, creating a new style that symbolised femininity. The full skirts and hour-glass silhouettes were considered highly decadent, synonymous with luxury, opulence and prosperity, following the austerity of the war years.

The exhibition explores the creation of couture design from the post war era to the global success of the major fashion brands by the late 1950s, at which point fashion began to change, influenced by the ‘youth-quake’ of the early 60s. The skill and craftsmanship of haute couture is show, showing a glimpse of the lost world of the exclusive design houses, and the inspiration behind some of the most famous styles of all time.

I took my Hearing Dog and my friend Jane who’s a fashion designer. Jane is hard of hearing and told the V&A booking office this when purchasing the tickets, adding that she was bringing a friend who is deaf, with a Hearing Dog. They said it was fine to bring the dog (nice to have the reassurance!) and that as we were deaf, we didn’t have to pay the admission fee, saving us £18. Jane was shocked as she has been paying to get into all their exhibitions!

It was a fantastic exhibtion. We weren’t allowed to take photos so I can’t show you any here. The V&A are also running a shoe competition. If you are inspired to create your own shoe design then you can submit your shoe design into a competition judged by Jimmy Choo! The competition closes on 6 January 2008. They also have a competition to win a selection of goodies. You can create a couture inspired dress via this link to a downloadable dress pattern for UK sizes 10 12 and 14.

This was one of my favourite dresses in the exhibition, a chiffon evening dress by Jean Desses. Luckily, I’ve got one just like it! My least favourite dresses were those by John Galliano. Who would want to wear one of those?! Jane explained John Galliano’s skill was in his innovative ideas which refreshed the fashion industry. She used to work for Stephen Jones Millinery, and Stephen (and his milliners) made all the hats in the exhibition including the ones for John Galliano for Dior (which they used to do when she was there too!). Wow. Can I have a freebie hat please, Jane?!

The Golden Age of Couture exhibition runs 22 September 2007 – 6 January 2008 in Exhibition Room 39 and North Court.

We then went into the main exhibition which showed fashion from the 1700s to present day. It was fascinating to be able to compare and contrast the changing scene of British fashion. I took many photos, starting off with cute shoes from the 1700s which are so much smaller and narrower than shoes sold today …

I moved on to the clothes…

This is a wedding dress from 1830-33. In the 18th century most women had coloured wedding dresses which they continued to wear for special occasions. White muslin became fashionable in the 1790s as it was easier to wash than silk, and it became popular for wedding dresses.

This woman’s riding jacket dates from 1750-60, reflecting the influence of the fashionable Rococo style and accentuating the female shape.

This is a sack-back gown from 1774, the fabric hanging free from the shoulders and stacked in multiple deep pleats.

This is a court mantua from 1775, the most formal style of clothing, old fashioned in style with a long train and full petticoat. The mantua was once fashionable daywear, but after the 1740s it was worn only at Court.

This is a man’s Court waistcoat from the same period.

This is a day dress from 1818, recalling the clinging garments found on Greek and Roman statues.

This day dress from 1836 accentuates the slope of the shoulder and the tightness of the wrist.

This wedding dress from 1870 emulated the wedding dress worn by Queen Victoria in 1840.

Now here’s a stunner….

with close up detail….

This 1881 evening dress was created by Charles Frederick Worth, a couturier based in Paris who turned dressmaking into an art.

This opulent tea gown from 1900 has lavishings of embroidery, silk damask and lace. Under gas or candle light the jewelled bodice and skirt would have sparkled with tiny beads of light.

Underwear garments have changed drastically. By the late 19th century, the harmful effects of wearing corsets were now known, and more comfortable designs were produced, such as this ventilated corset from 1890 –

By the 1920s, corsets had given way to slips such as this one –

This day dress from 1924 reflects the boyish look that dominated women’s fashion during the 1920s, drop waisted with simpler shapes, and shorter hemlines exposing more leg.

This day dress comes from 1957, the full skirt epitomising the classic 1950s look.

The last dress shown in the collection is the dress worn by Princess Diana in 1989, an elegant touch to a beautiful collection.

It’s absolutely amazing how fashion has changed over the decades, isn’t it?

On the way out, we admired the modern glass chandelier hanging in the main entrance lobby. It was opulent in it’s own way, but a total contrast to what we had just seen. After wandering back through time, it was a shock to the system. It’s back to the real world!