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A refreshing change seems to be sweeping through local news media here in the UK, with stories starting to appear about people who are fighting unjust behaviour by the government.
The rest of us should support this.
For example: Workington woman Jeanette Johnston, 29, had a job until recently but has been forced to give it up due to congenital health problems which mean she has already had a kidney removed and will need a heart and lung transplant in the future.
She had been receiving Disability Living Allowance but this was stopped last August after aids including bed ladders were fitted at her home, following recommendations from an occupational health expert.
DWP advisors told her that the benefits would stop until she was reassessed for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – and she has now spent half a year waiting for that appointment.
Jeanette’s tale raises several questions. Why does it take so long for anyone to have the now-legally-demanded medical assessment of their disabilities? Could it be because benefits are stopped until those assessments take place, and it is a chance for the government to claim benefit savings? This seems extremely likely.
Also, Jeanette’s benefit was stopped after living aids were installed in her home on the advice of an occupational health expert. The government has just announced a plan to let employers send occupational health experts to advise workers who are off sick for more than four weeks. Does this signify an intention to deprive people of sickness benefits?
Finally, we should note that Jeanette’s condition is serious, involving a heart condition – and it is entirely possible that the stress of trying to make ends meet could worsen her health enough to hospitalise her or even end her life. Is this the government’s intention? If so, then we should all be asking questions about criminal intent.
Elsewhere – in Oxford – a local doctor is defying plans to collect patients’ confidential information and sell it to businesses.
Vox Political has reported on the plan many times in the past, focusing on patients’ right to ‘opt out’ of the scheme, called variously the Health and Social Care Information Centre, the General Patient Extraction Service or simply care.data by the government.
The records are said to be ‘pseudonymised’ by the government – an attempt at hiding patients’ identities that, in fact, allows anyone buying the information to work out the personal details of everybody on the list if they so choose.
Oxford GP Dr Gordon Gancz said: “It removes my right to protect my patients’ confidential information.” He has vowed to take the government to court if it takes action against him.
Both of these stories have been reported in the local press, where the online versions have ‘comment’ columns to which readers can post opinions. It seems likely that the papers involved will also have letters pages.
If you believe that the delays caused by the government disability assessment system are dangerous, you can say so – directly, to the newspaper. If you believe that Dr Gancz is right to protect his patients, you can say so – directly, to the newspaper.
I’m not going to urge you to go and do it because – as we all know – the Department for Work and Pensions took a previous comment of this kind as evidence that I was co-ordinating a campaign of harassment against it (new readers: this is not a joke!) and a future such incident would not help anyone.
But it seems likely that a few words of support for these people, in the pages of their local paper, might help rouse other readers into declaring their own opinions.
It is easy to keep people quiet about controversial changes when they think they are the only ones who are concerned; it’s not so easy when people have evidence that others feel the same way.
What are you going to do?
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