Wednesday, February 16, 2011

An Open Letter To Maria Miller - By Sue Marsh

Dear Maria Miller,

Before I start, I have a small request. When you talk about "The Disabled" could you please add "The Sick" in there sometimes? Only, millions of people with long term illnesses often face the greatest barriers to work but are rarely mentioned, if considered at all.

You see, I first started lobbying ministers about ESA back in 2009 and was surprised to listen to a half hour speech by the then disabilities minister Jonathan Shaw that failed to mention illness once. Obviously with political and business will it is possible to modify workplaces to facilitate the lives of the blind or deaf or immobile in employment. It's just not so easy to modify for exhaustion or pain or vomiting. A few months later I met with Mr Shaw who made it clear that he didn't really know anything at all about the issues faced by those who are suffer from long term variable or degenerative conditions.

It seemed a little that way when you, Maria "answered" questions online at Guardian Money. Of 250 questions, you replied to 6, often with answers that were strangely irrelevant; you didn't seem sure whether the over 65s would be able to continue claiming DLA? You didn't seem to know which research your own department had based its conclusions on? I read your response to our little online chat this morning;

    Miller says she believes that the rising unease will settle once the full details of the proposed changes become clear and is convinced that much of the anger has been triggered by a failure to understand the government's objectives.
    "I often hear concerns that are based on a lack of detailed information of what we are talking about in terms of our reforms. People need to get the facts rather than speculation," she says. "The anxiety can often be based on the fact that we are dealing with very complex benefits. The government is going to reform and simplify the whole system."

Oh dear, dear, dear. This really isn't the way to go at all. I am a fairly moderate (and I like to think reasonable) campaigner, but I can already hear the howls of outrage from every corner of the UK as people read that their brains are now being called into question as well as their disabilities.

You see we don't have much else. We can't get about much, we might live in terrible pain or despair. We may have had to give up our hobbies or our dreams, but we like to think that we can still use our brains. We have little still available to us, but we can analyse, dissect and appraise. Of the campaigners I know, one is a PHD student, two are lawyers, one is the CEO of a major charity and I myself have a degree. We've read the green papers or white papers or CSRs in detail and have an excellent grasp of what changes will mean. We're just not always sure you've done the same.

I'm sorry to shout the next bit but I'm running out of ways to make the next point in a way you might notice :

SICK AND DISABLED PEOPLE ARE NOT AGAINST ALL REFORM - FAR FROM IT.
WE SIMPLY WANT TO ENGAGE WITH YOU TO ENSURE REFORM IS SUCCESSFUL.

We hear very often that you listen to and consult with health and disability groups over your current proposals, but I can find little evidence of this.  These charities have written to you asking to meet, whilst other leading charities wrote to the Times  begging you to listen and engage. You've never contacted myself or other cyber-campaign groups like the Broken of Britain.

If you press ahead with changes to ESA and DLA as they stand, you will find a Poll Tax/Iraq sized albatross hanging around your necks. There are some very damaging proposals in both reforms and it is in no way dramatic to state that they will cause great hardship, poverty, distress and even death. Why not iron things out while it's still not too late? Why not change things in a way that will achieve your supposed objectives? This is an issue that gains enormous support and coverage online - my own blog has gone from nowhere to become the 23rd highest ranked political blog in the UK in just 4 months and it is only a matter of time before stories of destitution and suicide make this a national issue that won't go away.

Many campaigners can only conclude that the entire exercise is a cost cutting measure. Can you blame them when George Osborne announced how much he would save through these measures before a single reassessment had even taken place? The rhetoric used in this debate has often being accusatory and intimidating "Cheats mugging the country" "Skivers and Scroungers" This has often been fuelled by your own press releases and really needs to stop if we are ever to have a reasoned debate on the issue.

All I can do is ask, yet again, that you stop and listen. When something is truly unjust, those who fight it will win in the end. Surely it is better to do it together and with respect than through endless Daily Mail headlines and suffering?


**As ever, I need your help. Maria Miller's contact details are listed below. PLEASE take the time to
1) Share this letter online. Click on the Twitter or Facebook buttons on this site or link to other sites.
2) Use this letter as a template or send your own to the DWP address.
3) Phone or email
4) Blog yourself if you prefer.
5) Maria's constituency is Basingstoke - if you are a constituent, please consider making an appointment for her surgery - we need you most.



Appointments can be made by telephoning 020 7219 5749.

For all constituency correspondence contact Maria at;

        Westminster                                      Basingstoke            
        House of Commons                             The Mount
        London SW1A 0AA                             Bounty Road
        millerm@parliament.uk                        millerm@parliament.uk

For all Ministerial correspondence contact Maria at:

        Department for Work and Pensions
        Caxton House
        Tothill Street
        London SW1H 9DA

        ministers@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

Originally posted by Sue Marsh on Diary Of A Benefit Scrounger 

4 comments:

Dave said...

I agree with every word BG.

I went back to work despite having a compromised immune system. I can manage three days a week but not full time. If it's a busy day I'm ready for bed as soon as I get in.

I did have an assesment a few years ago after an industrial accident, so I know what to expect.

Can I touch my toes? Yes
Can I walk 200 yards? Yes
I can do all the things they ask but they never ask me the important question, which is
What are the consequences of doing these things?
I can work hard in the office doing photocopying, answering the phone, running errands. I can even stand up for twenty minutes.
But tomorrow?
The consequence of doing my job on any given day may mean that I'm unable to do anything the next day. I'm lucky that I can work part time and be flexible, but I won't get another job like this.
Certainly not one that allows me to have a couple of months off to be driven around the country, delivered on to a stage so I can play my bass guitar.
These people have never heard of Spoon Theory

Anonymous said...

maria miller never answers emails, she is the most rude and out of touch mp going and that's saying something. i find her whole attitude and demeanour a bit worrying, she often looks and speaks like a depressed person in the house. the fact that someone like her has so much power over so many vulnerable people is scary, is is incompetent and needs to be held to account for all our sakes...

Carers blog.Simone said...

Many of us have tried to speak up but in fact many ministers know little about disability. Even I as a carer who has known many disabled don't know about everything.. I also tried Bernard Shaw when trying to get my daughter help with Education. He only quoted me what already failed her and it is unfair for her to go down the same route. I also tried the local MP at the time and he also admitted to me he knew little about disabilites or even carers.

You can not have a disabled minister that talks about drunks and drug users because some drunks and drug users have become just that because of lack of employment and circumstances in their lives. There should be rehabilitation on going not forgotten.. Many drunks and drug users are unable to help themselves.

DLA does need reforming but many children and young adults who are genuinely disabled should not have to go through checks and double checks through life. Many should just be awarded DLA for life. However one should make checks but not to target the vulnerable.


It would save on paper work and administration. Especially individuals with a learning disability who can not speak for themselves and many do not have a representative to speak for them on assessments. Also the many other types of disability. That will never change in their lives.

I too have lost faith in Maria Miller........I have just found a debate on the express please look for it and join it. Lets speak up collectively..

Chimera said...

Have shared this on Facebook again given that the Hardest Hit marches are tomorrow. Thank you for your passion and your spirit! Compassion ans sense will one day win out! Tanvir