Category: Labour

House of Commons Debate: Health: Lightning Process

House of Commons Debate: Oral Answers to Questions, Health: Lightning Process


Reports are coming in that NHS GPs and CFS service therapists are already recommending the untrialled and unregulated Lightning Process to patients. If your GP, hospital consultant or CFS clinic staff have recommended the Lightning Process to you or to a child or young person with ME or CFS I would be pleased to hear from you. 

Contact ME agenda via the Contact Form or E-mail Suzy Chapman in confidence.

On 10 February 2009, Ms Celia Barlow, former MP for Hove (Labour), asked the Minister of State, Department of Health (Phil Hope) what guidance the Department of Health has issued to NHS trusts on the use of the Lightning Process in the treatment of people diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome:


10 Feb 2009 : Column 1235

House of Commons
Tuesday 10 February 2009

The House met at half-past Two o’clock

[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Business before Questions


Oral Answers to Questions
The Secretary of State was asked—

10 Feb 2009 : Column 1243

Lightning Process

8. Ms Celia Barlow (Hove) (Lab): What guidance his Department has issued to NHS trusts on the use of the lightning process in the treatment of people diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. [255402]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Phil Hope): The Department has issued no guidance on this process, because we expect decisions on clinical interventions, whether they involve complementary or alternative treatments, to be made by front-line clinicians. In making such decisions, clinicians will take into account evidence for the safety and clinical and cost-effectiveness of the treatment concerned.

Ms Barlow: I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Sussex ME and Chronic Fatigue Society works tirelessly to assist the 6,000 adults and children across the county who suffer from the disease, and several of those people have been contacted about the success of the lightning treatment. Will he assess that treatment, in conjunction with the bodies that he has mentioned, and monitor how successful it is?

Phil Hope: It is not for the Department to undertake that activity. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, the independent body, issues guidance on the use of such treatments, and that guidance is the subject of a judicial review this week. It is to that independent body that those patients and organisations should make their representations, so that it can make the appropriate recommendations on the use of such treatments.

Mr. Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): I agree with the Minister that treatments such as these should not be performed on the NHS until independent

10 Feb 2009 : Column 1249

medical evidence has been obtained to show their efficacy. Will he tell the House how much is spent by the NHS on chronic fatigue syndrome?

Phil Hope: I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s support for a way of working in the national health service that has widespread support on both sides of the House and throughout the country. I do not have the figures that he requests to hand, but I will write to him in due course.


National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)

Chronic fatigue syndrome / Myalgic encephalomyelitis (or encephalopathy); diagnosis and management  (CG53)

Issued: August 2007   Expected review date: August 2010

For background to this issue see ME agenda 5 July report:

Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) Adjudication: Withinspiration (Lightning Process)

For joint ME charity statement and press release see:

Joint Press Release and statement: ME Association and The Young ME Sufferers Trust

Benefits and Work: Huge new ESA guide plus Your future under the coalition

Benefits and Work: Huge new ESA guide plus Your future under the coalition


From Steve Donnison Benefits and Work

14 May 2010

Dear Subscriber,

This is the first ever Benefits and Work newsletter written without a Labour government in power.

In our blog we take a first look at the new secretary of state for work and pensions, Iain Duncan Smith: What future for claimants under coalition rule?

Unlike most of his predecessors in the job, IDS already knows a lot about benefits and has some radical ideas about how the system should be changed – unfortunately, these include the abolition of DLA. Whether he manages to persuade the coalition that his personal preferences should become government policy remains to be seen.

We’ve also taken a look at the first joint statement on benefits by the Tories and LibDems which concentrates, unsurprisingly, on getting claimants into paid employment: Coalition publishes first benefits statement

In the members area, we’ve published a major new employment and support allowance resource to add to the detailed, step-by-step guides already available on the site: Major new ESA resource to download

The 100+ page guide has been provided by Mark Perlic, freelance trainer and Senior Welfare Rights Officer at Wolverhampton City Council’s Welfare Rights Service. Members will be aware of the excellent guide to DLA caselaw which Mark provided us with back in February of this year.

The new guide is an extremely comprehensive training pack Mark has been using for ESA training days. It covers many of the areas that we don’t, such as:

national insurance contribution conditions;
calculating ESA awards;
ESA in youth;
ESA and other benefits;
case law relating to substantial risk

We’ve also updated all our own ESA guides and published the most recent copy of the ESA Handbook produced by the DWP. We’re leaving the old version on the site so that people can compare the two. If you spot any material changes please email us, preferably with page references.

As well as the ESA Handbook, we’ve also obtained copies of the confidential monthly DLA Decision Makers Exchanges from July to December 2009: Confidential decision makers DLA documents published

The editions cover a wide range of issues, including:

whether claiming carers allowance for another person may sometimes be incompatible with a person’s claim for DLA or AA;

why it is never appropriate for decision makers to refer to a “simple” main meal when considering the lower rate of the care component of DLA.

At the moment we have many unanswered questions about what life for claimants will be like under the coalition.

Will further compulsion be aimed at ESA claimants as well as JSA claimants?

Will the harsher ESA test approved by Yvette Cooper also get the go-ahead from her successor?

Will the first steps towards scrapping the entire benefits system and starting afresh be taken, as Iain Duncan Smith hopes?

Whatever the answers, you can count on discovering the truth, rather than spin, here at Benefits and Work.

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

(c) 2010 Steve Donnison. You are welcome to reproduce this newsletter on your website or blog, provided you do so in full.

and from 17 May:

Apologies – we are now back online

17 May 2010

Dear Subscriber,

Unfortunately, when we sent the newsletter out on Friday, the site crashed beneath the weight of people all trying to download our new employment and support allowance guide at once.

We finally got the site up and running only to have it crash again for different reasons.

However, we think – hope – we’ve fixed it now. And because we received so many emails from people saying they couldn’t get any of the links to work, we decided the best solution was to reissue Friday’s newsletter, which you’ll find below.

For those of you who did, finally, manage to get the links in the last newsletter to function, we’ve got three new items for you to read.

The first is the news that a doctors union has warned GPs that they should not try to prevent patients from recording consultations, if they so wish: GPs can’t stop patients recording consultations

The second is the claim that the Youreable forum, which closed before Christmas, is set to reopen: Youreable to rise from the dead

And, finally, we have some cheery feedback from members, like this:

“I have subscribed to Benefits and work for the last 18 months and have just been awarded higher rate mobility and higher rate care. This is beyond my wildest dreams and is all down to the information you provide on your website. It is the best money that I have ever spent.”

Beyond my wildest dreams

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

Invest in ME: Letter to UK Secretary of State for Health (Blood donation)

Invest in ME: Letter to UK Secretary of State for Health (Blood donation)


Update @ 19 March 2010

House of Commons Written Answers: 16 March 2010

Hansard transcript

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Research

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated any research on a relationship between myalgic encephalomyelitis and blood-related disorders. [322011]

Gillian Merron: The Department has, to date, not commissioned or evaluated any research. However, others, such as the Medical Research Council, the Health Protection Agency and the UK Blood Services, are currently considering these issues. I refer the hon. Member to the written answer I gave him on 27 January 2010, Official Report, column 942W.

House of Commons Written Answers: 27 January 2010

Hansard transcript

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent representations he has received on making myalgic encephalomyelitis a notifiable illness for the purposes of blood donation. [313595]

27 Jan 2010 : Column 942W

Ann Keen: The Department has received 31 representations on making myalgic encephalomyelitis a notifiable illness in the last six months. There have also been a number of representations on this subject received by the Chief Medical Officer.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether his Department plans to (a) commission and (b) evaluate research on the possible health effects of receiving blood donated by a person with myalgic encephalomyelitis. [313596]

Ann Keen: The Department has no current plans to directly commission research on this issue. However, the Medical research Council has designated myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome a priority research area, and will fund proposals of sufficient quality. The UK Blood Services together with the Health Protection Agency are undertaking a study of the prevalence of a rodent virus recently linked to myalgic encephomyelitis, which will be used to inform a risk assessment.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether his Department plans to test patients for xenotropic murine leukaemia virus-related illnesses. [313607]

Ann Keen: There are currently no plans to test patients for xenotropic murine leukaemia virus-related virus.

House of Commons Written Answers: 10 March 2010

Hansard transcript

10 Mar 2010 : Column 350W

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Blood

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health for what reasons people with myalgic encephalomyelitis may not donate blood. [321320]

Ann Keen: People with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), also known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), are not able to donate blood until they have fully recovered. The reasons for this are: first, blood donors need to be in good health, and people with ME/CFS often experience a range of symptoms which could be made worse by donating blood; and second, as the causes of ME/CFS are not currently fully understood, people with the condition are deferred from donating blood as a precautionary measure to protect the safety of the blood supply for patients.

In response , Invest in ME has written to Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP, Secretary of State for Health:

Invest in ME

Letter to UK Secretary of State for Health

Recently Mrs Ann Keen, Under-Secretary of State for Health, commented that people with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis were not able to donate blood. Invest in ME have written the following letter to the Secretary of State for Health, Mr Andy Burnham.

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Blood Donations

Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP

Secretary of State for Health

Department of Health

Richmond House

79 Whitehall

London SW1A 2NS

cc: Mrs Ann Keen MP

14th March 2010

Dear Mr. Burnham,

Recently Mrs Ann Keen (in her capacity as Under-Secretary of State for Health) made the following comments in relation to Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and blood donations –

“People with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), also known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), are not able to donate blood until they have fully recovered.

The reasons for this are: first, blood donors need to be in good health, and people with ME/CFS often experience a range of symptoms which could be made worse by donating blood; and second, as the causes of ME/CFS are not currently fully understood, people with the condition are deferred from donating blood as a precautionary measure to protect the safety of the blood supply for patients.”

Mrs Keen’s comments are, we assume, representative of the government and your department.

Firstly it is good that your government recognises that people with ME are in poor health. This implies that all people with ME are therefore in need of proper healthcare provision which treats the disease properly.

Secondly it is good that you and your government recognise, by the implication from your statement, that blood supplies may be compromised by accepting people with ME as donors due to the organic nature of this disease.

Thirdly it follows that an embargo on people with ME donating blood would mean that there is an infectious agent at work which could be passed on via blood.

There follows several questions which lead on from this.

It seems to be crucial to use the most stringent diagnostic criteria available for diagnosing ME (which even NICE acknowledge as being the Canadian Consensus Criteria). Yet your department, NICE and the MRC do not standardise on this internationally accepted standard for diagnosis of ME.

When you state that people with ME are not able to donate blood are you employing the NICE guidelines for defining patients as having ME? If so then why does NICE proscribe serological testing unless there is an indicative history of infection? If no initial indication of infection is present then no further blood tests are performed and a patient may receive a diagnosis of ME based on ongoing fatigue and one other symptom such as sleep disturbance. Why then would those patients be excluded from donating blood?

As your government officially accepts ME as a neurological illness, as described by the World Health Organisation ICD-10 G93.3 code, and as the issue of blood contamination from an infectious agent demands the utmost care and attention, is it not of absolute necessity for your government to demand that a consistent set of up-to-date diagnostic criteria are used as standard by all organisations?

Your department often states that the Medical Research Council is an independent body. Yet as it is apparent that the MRC only funds psychiatric studies which presume that ME is a behavioural illness why does your department refuse to comment on the MRC’s usage of the Oxford criteria for research into ME which expressly excludes people with a neurological illness?

Why does your department not criticise the MRC for funding purely psychiatric research into ME if you fully recognise that ME is a disease of organic and infectious nature? Since when did a psychiatric illness prevent blood donations? Does this not clearly show the MRC policy of research into ME for the last generation to be completely flawed and a waste of precious funding and patients’ lives?

When you state that people with ME are not able to donate until fully recovered please can you define what “fully recovered” means?

Could you also provide a description of how a person with ME is defined as no longer having ME?

What biomedical tests are available to determine that a person with ME is “fully recovered”?

Could you inform of how and when clinicians perform such tests in order to ensure that a person is “fully recovered” from ME?

Bearing in mind the seriousness of a possible contamination of blood supplies from people with ME please could you indicate what measures are in place to ensure that doctors do enforce testing to ensure that people with ME are “fully recovered” and will not therefore donate blood?

If such a test exists then presumably people with ME who are not recovered are entitled to appropriate benefits due to incapacity and/or disability?

As relapses are common with people with ME please could you explain if there is any minimum period which a person with ME needs to be “recovered” to be able to donate blood?

Could you also provide information which your government has on the number of people with ME in this country, the proportion of patients who have had ME for longer than five years and how many people with ME have “fully recovered”?

With regard to your statement that “the causes of ME/CFS are not currently fully understood” is it not inherent on the Chief Medical officer of the UK to attend the 5th Invest in ME International ME/CFS Conference 2010 on 24th May in Westminster, as guest of Invest in ME?

As the foremost experts on ME in the world are presenting at the conference, along with the Whittemore-Peterson Institute – who have recently been involved in the discovery of the XMRV retro-virus which has possibly huge considerations for the blood supply of this country – would it not be sensible for anyone who is involved in healthcare and particularly in the treatment of people with ME to attend this event?

Should not the government of this country also be sending a representative to the conference given that contamination of the blood supply by people with ME may be occurring and that education about the disease needs to be a pre-requisite for anyone involved in healthcare provision for people with ME?

We would request that you provide a full and complete answer to every single one of the questions which we have asked in this letter and we look forward to your reply,

Yours Sincerely,

The Chairman and Trustees of Invest in ME

Invest in ME

Registered UK Charity Nr. 1114035

PO BOX 561, Eastleigh SO50 0GQ

Support ME Awareness – Invest in ME

Related material:

Donations and transfusions: Safety of the UK blood supply  13 February 2010

Action for M.E. Election manifesto

Action for M.E. Election manifesto


Note: This site operates independently of any patient organisation. The publishing of material on this site does not imply endorsement or recommendation.

Action for M.E. News

Election manifesto video launch
23 February 2010

M.E. manifesto video goes live

Today Sir Peter Spencer, Chief Executive, Action for M.E., launches a video urging people with M.E. and their family and friends to use our Election Manifesto for M.E. to lobby local Parliamentary candidates.

Tristana Rodriguez, our Policy Officer, is keen to hear from anyone who forwards the manifesto to their MP, or potential MP, and receives a response.

The manifesto has been produced in partnership with the Association of Young People with M.E. (AYME) and in consultation with people who have the illness.

Initial responses to the document have already been received from the three main political parties. Action for M.E. has written back, calling for greater commitment to the issues which matter to people with M.E.


Parties respond to M.E. manifesto
19 February 2010

All three main political parties have answered calls by Action for M.E. and the Association of Young People with M.E. (AYME) to outline their election pledges for people with M.E.

Responses to our Election manifesto for M.E. have now been received from Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

Labour has focused on health and welfare, increasing Access to Work and reassessing Incapacity Benefit or Income Support claimants to move them on to Employment and Support Allowance.

The Tories lead on speeding up drugs appraisal procedures, before moving on to single health and social care assessments and the introduction of a single integrated back-to-work programme for everyone on out-of-work benefits.

The Liberal Democrats, who are still working on their election manifesto, concentrate on investing in support for children, especially in terms of education.

Commenting on the responses, Action for M.E.’s CEO, Sir Peter Spencer says:

“I would like to thank the three parties for providing their responses to the manifesto for M.E. but I am very disappointed to see that they have each failed to address many of the key issues.

“We understand that certain policies may still be in development which may explain why our manifesto priorities have not been given the explicit emphasis we would expect. Perhaps these omissions will be resolved as the party policies develop.

“To this end, we will continue to lobby at a national level, and we would urge supporters of the manifesto to do the same with their local Parliamentary candidates. We want to see the next Parliament make a genuine and powerful commitment to tackle the huge problems faced by people with M.E. and their families and to remove the inequalities which have been overlooked for far too long.”

Mary-Jane Willows, CEO of AYME, comments:

“Whilst I am pleased that the responses were made they are all sadly lacking in content and substance. They still fail to acknowledge the huge shift in awareness and services required if the needs of children and young people with M.E. are going to be fully met.

“Individuals with M.E., their carers, parents and partners now need to take the manifesto to lobby all their Parliamentary candidates who then can’t fail to realise the scale of the issues this marginalised patient population is faced with in health, education, social care, benefits and employment.

“Ignoring this significant patient population must end now and be replaced with a clear and robust strategy that will increase awareness and support across the board.”

The charities are calling on local support groups, individuals with M.E., their carers, friends and others to join us in lobbying parliamentary candidates to sign up to the pledges in our election manifesto for M.E.

For free copies of the manifesto to send to your MP or local Parliamentary candidate – plus a sample campaign letter, please contact our Policy Officer, Tristana Rodriguez tel: 0117 9301325 or Katie James, from AYME, tel: 01908 379737, stating how many copies you need.


Election Manifesto
Sample Campaign Letter

Responses from three main political parties

Labour Response
Conservative Response
Liberal Democrat Response

Report of Meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on ME by John Sayer


Update: A second report, in the form of a YouTube video, has also been published:

Dr Charles Shepherd’s unofficial summary of the 2 December APPG on ME meeting, published on behalf of the ME Association on 4 December, can be read here:

Summary of meeting of APPG on ME 2 December 2009:


Video Report on the UK Parliament All Party Group, APPG, on ME meeting of the 2nd of December

The APPG on ME met on the second of December this year to conclude the Inquiry the APPG has been conducting into publicly funded UK NHS health services for people with ME. APPGs are low level parliamentary committees made up of members of the elected House of Commons and the unelected second or upper tier of Parliament.

However, APPGs are not part of the structure of the UK Government and neither are they part of the official parliamentary committee structure for the scrutiny of government legislation or government departments like the Health Select Committee which scrutinises the Secretary of State for Health and their junior ministerial colleges in order to have parliamentary oversight of the Department of Health.

The main purpose of the APPG on ME’s Inquiry was to interest the Health Select Committee in setting up a similar and more powerful and well resourced Inquiry into NHS services for people with ME. This appears to be a very unlikely outcome given the way the APPG’s Inquiry was conducted and the way in which the Inquiry was concluded.

The meeting of the APPG held on 2/12/09 has proved to be a particularly controversial one and there have been a number of rumours running around the Internet about what took place. The first of a series of three videos gives a factual account of what took place at this meeting with comment and analysis. The remaining videos set out the background to the Inquiry from its inception through to the way in which the Inquiry was carried out.

I would therefore recommend that anyone who has seen the various accounts of the proceedings of the 2nd of December meeting on the Internet might like to watch these videos in order to place the events of the 2nd of December meeting in wider context of the APPG Inquiry as a whole, and then judge matters accordingly.

The report on the meeting of the 2nd of December APPG meeting can be viewed on the You Tube Channel action4change4me at :-

The background to the APPG Inquiry can be found from a previous video report of the 1st of April 2009 APPG meeting which deals with the setting up and launching of the Inquiry which can be viewed through the You Tube Channel action4change4me at :-

There is another video report on the APPG on ME meeting of the 8th of October 2008 at which the APPG first decides to initiate the Inquiry, which can be viewed on the You Tube Channel GBC One here :-

Ciaran Farrell

15 December 2009


Meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on M.E.
12 December 2009

Report by John Sayer (Chair M.E. Support-Norfolk)

This was the first APPGME meeting I’d ever been able to attend (thanks to Dan, of M.E. Support-Norfolk, driving us down to London) and I’ve now seen for myself how the APPGME operates.

I was not impressed.

Worst of all was the appallingly unprofessional and unhelpful behaviour of the Chairman, Des Turner MP** and the Secretary, the Countess of Mar, right at the start of the meeting: Paul Davis (RiME) had tried to make a point to Turner as he started his opening remarks, and instead of the latter asking him to wait till he’d finished so he could take comments and/or questions (which would be the professional, polite and normal thing for someone chairing a meeting to do), he shouted at Davis for interrupting – like an angry teacher in a classroom – and continued remonstrating, subsequently also turning on attendee Ciaran Farrell, when he politely tried to calm the situation.

There must have been some background history of tension here, since there was no justification for Turner’s over-the-top outburst, and in the middle of his continuing rant Mar suddenly demanded that Davis and Farrell be ejected, otherwise she herself would leave. But without waiting for any response, and with attendees looking stunned and/or bemused, she grabbed her things, said she was leaving anyway, and promptly walked out.

Turner continued with his diatribe, and with belligerent looks and gestures, widened the target of his rebukes to apparently include the whole row of us who were seated together, at one point jabbing a finger in our direction and threatening to have anyone who interrupted him escorted out of the building by the police!

It was an apparent case of Turner, having lost his temper, further getting carried away with his emotions, because he then threatened to leave the meeting as well, actually getting to his feet and gathering up his papers. (Other attendees seated opposite us implored him to stay, which he did.)

This entire episode was completely ridiculous, and I suspect it was a case of Turner and Mar having anticipated trouble for some reason and behaving accordingly, but with no actual cause to do so. It was farcical.

As for the rest of the meeting, we ‘peasants’ were generally treated with what I can only describe as disdain. I would have been open-minded about anyone else’s account if I hadn’t experienced it for myself. It was a disgrace, in my view, and as far as I’m concerned we can do without ‘champions’ like these. What the motivation is for being involved, I don’t know, but I suspect it might have something to do with seeking to maintain control of ‘the movement’ through whatever channels available, the APPGME being just one of them.

My suspicions that this episode was artificially engineered were given strength by the subsequent address by Mike O’Brien MP**, Minister of State for Health Services, who – describing M.E. as “a set of conditions” (!) – appeared to labour the point that one of the obstacles to progress was the lack of unity and agreement amongst patient groups. (Where have we heard that one before?) How coincidental and convenient that the meeting began so ‘controversially’ and demonstrated what a bunch of ungrateful, bolshy irritants we M.E. patients are!

The overwhelming impression I got from this meeting (and not in isolation, as I’ve been following accounts of previous APPGMEs) is that the whole enterprise is becoming a sham. Having dragged myself down to London (at a cost that doesn’t need explaining here), I was well and truly hacked off at the Secretary walking out before the meeting had even got going, being treated like a pariah by a Chairman threatening to end the meeting and having chronically ill patients removed by the police, and being patronised by a Minister whose address was the epitome of political spin. O’Brien seemed to believe that having M.E. meant some days feeling poorly and some days feeling well – well enough to have a part-time job, in fact. So we know where he’s coming from: apparently the same place as Yvette Cooper MP** (guest speaker at the previous APPGME meeting), Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, who ‘had M.E’ some years ago but is now ‘fully recovered’…

In the meantime, Dr Charles Shepherd of the Myalgic Encephalopathy Association (MEA), has put his own account of the meeting on the MEA web site here


“Unfortunately, the meeting got off to an extremely regrettable start – all due to a very small section of the audience making repeated and sometimes very aggressive interruptions about various administrative matters. As a result of this gross discourtesy to the Minister, the time available for the ministerial response was being steadily eroded. Despite several polite requests from the Chairman, the interruptions continued. As a result, the Countess of Mar terminated her involvement with the meeting. The Chairman then stated that he would either terminate the meeting or arrange for those involved to be removed from the committee room by the House of Commons police if their interruptions continued. Shortly after, those involved calmed down and we managed to start dealing with the real business of the APPG report.

“On a personal note I am very much in favour of public attendance/contribution at these meetings. However, it needs to be said that if people with ME/CFS want to alienate parliamentary opinion about this illness, and not even have an APPG to put forward their case to ministers etc, then behaving in an aggressive and unpleasant manner is a very good method for achieving this aim. We already have a situation whereby some MPs are unwilling or reluctant to attend APPG meetings – all because of the obsessive and often unpleasant interruptions about administrative matters. And it could well be that after the Election, when the APPG will have to be reformed, it will be very difficult to find enough parliamentarians who are willing to take on an active APPG role. We just cannot afford to risk losing the support of distinguished parliamentarians like the Countess of Mar. It also needs to be said that the vast majority of people with ME/CFS who were present on Wednesday, or were being represented, had come to hear about the report, listen to the Minister, and then ask difficult questions about NHS services – they did not want to take up valuable time listening to complaints about the minutes and APPG administration. This could (and should) have waited till after the Minister had left.”

I’m afraid to say that this version of events at the start of the meeting is so inaccurate as to be justifiably called false. It is not just a distortion of the facts, it is blatantly wrong and I’m now ready to believe that this shameful episode really was deliberately engineered, in order to cast certain individuals – or ‘the M.E. community’ in general – in as bad a light as possible, presumably for the benefit of the Minister of State for Health Services and/or the TV production crew apparently, according to Shepherd’s notes, in attendance.

The “audience” as Shepherd calls us here, did not behave “in an aggressive and unpleasant manner”. Yes, technically speaking and in line with protocol, Davis should perhaps have waited for Turner to finish speaking before seeking to make a point to the Chair, but this was hardly the Crime of the Century and was certainly not a “very aggressive interruption”, as Shepherd would have it.

Neither did Turner make “several polite requests”; he was rude and abusive, to the point of verbal assault. That’s the simple truth. He behaved like an angry, out of control teacher trying to silence a pupil. It was a disgrace and an embarrassment and completely uncalled for. The ‘continued interruptions’ Shepherd refers to were actually contributions from those trying to calm Turner down – including, as I recall, Sir Peter Spencer, CEO of Action for ME!

It is not correct to say, “As a result [of the ‘contuinued interruptions’], the Countess of Mar terminated her involvement with the meeting”. She delivered an ultimatum and then left before anyone could even consider it. There was no need for “those involved” to “calm down”, because people were calm – so calmly spoken in contrast to Turner’s agitated outpourings, in fact, that it was a strain to hear what they were trying to say.

As if to reinforce O’Brien’s assertion that it is partly the fault of ‘the M.E community’ that progress is not being made, Shepherd writes, “…it needs to be said that if people with ME/CFS want to alienate parliamentary opinion about this illness, and not even have an APPG to put forward their case to ministers etc, then behaving in an aggressive and unpleasant manner is a very good method for achieving this aim. We already have a situation whereby some MPs are unwilling or reluctant to attend APPG meetings – all because of the obsessive and often unpleasant interruptions about administrative matters.”

No mention here of the APPGME Chairman “behaving in an aggressive and unpleasant manner” (which he did). No, let’s blame M.E. sufferers themselves for the lack of progress. This excuse just won’t wash any more, and in my own opinion, anyone – MP or otherwise – who is reluctant to get involved in our cause because of the justifiable frustration generally of M.E. patients who have had to suffer denigration, neglect and abuse for decade on decade, is quite simply of no use to us in the first place and we could well do without them.

(It is a ruse, in my view, to attempt to lay some of the blame for the lack of progress in our cause at the feet of patients attending these APPGME meetings and to thereby prejudice the understanding of those not privy to the facts. I have now reached the point, after 17 years, where I seriously believe that too many of our ‘supporters’ are not there to help us at all, but to make sure we don’t actually get any help.)

And if they can’t cope with the issues surrounding ill and vulnerable people, how do MPs manage to deal with their constituents, and voters in general? (With the compensation of a life sweetened by the payment of their moat repairs, damp-proofing, fancy dress wigs and porn movies, perhaps?)

This meeting “got off to an extremely regrettable start” , alright – but not because of the M.E. patients present; it was thanks to the Chairman’s and Secretary’s inability to control themselves. But there’s no need to take my (or anyone else’s) word for what happened: the meeting was officially audio-recorded, and the transcript should eventually be made available for all to see.

Little wonder Shepherd refers in his account to “the audience” at this meeting. As far as I could make out, we were an audience, alright – watching a contrived performance.



(From the Daily Telegraph supplement “The Complete Expenses Files”; italicised comments are my own):

Des Turner (salary £64,766) Des Turner is a former teacher [aha!] with a PhD in biochemistry. He claimed mortgage interest payments of up to £450 per month on a flat in London and also claimed up to £400 each month on food… [Note – the MPs’ expenses allowance for food alone is equivalent to Incapacity Benefit payments for those unable to work!]

Mike O’Brien (salary £104,050) Claimed £825 for a Sony television in 2006-7, breaching £750 limit, and repaid money following year so he could move it to other home. Claimed £30 for a DVD player in March 2008, plus £250 a month mortgage interest on his designated second home in Nuneaton and £200 a month for food and more for other bills.

Yvette Cooper (salary £141,866) …At one point, Miss Cooper, the new Work and Pensions Secretary, and Mr Balls [husband], the Children’s Secretary, had their expenses docked, having each submitted two monthly claims for mortgage interest for nearly twice the cost of their actual payments. The couple denied flipping after switching their second home designation three times, saying that they had not sought to maximise their expenses and that, unlike some colleagues, they had paid capital gains tax on selling their home…In total, the couple claimed £24,400 between them on their second home allowance last year…

[And it’s the sick and disabled these people are supposed to help who are branded “benefits scroungers”?]

Benefits cruelty of cancer patients

WordPress Shortlink:

Yahoo! News  |  Benefits cruelty of cancer patients  | 06 December 2009

Seriously ill cancer patients are being forced to undergo “cruel” back-to-work interviews despite the fact they should be exempt, charities have warned.

Those who are terminally ill or undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy are being threatened with benefit cuts if they do not attend the meetings, according to Macmillan Cancer Support and Citizens Advice.

The “fit for work” interviews are for people seeking the employment and support allowance (ESA), which replaced incapacity benefit and income support in October 2008.

The drive behind ESA is to focus on what people can do rather than what they cannot do, as a means of getting them back to work.

However, cancer sufferers undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy or who are terminally ill are automatically exempt from the interviews.

Macmillan and Citizens Advice condemned the ESA process, saying it was “failing seriously ill and disabled people”. Macmillan’s benefits helpline has taken more than 600 calls about the issue since May.

A joint report – Failed by the System – found evidence of cancer patients with just months to live being told they had to undergo medical examinations and be questioned. Others having radiotherapy and people in hospital have also been refused ESA when they should automatically get it, the study found.

It also noted examples of people with cancer being told they are fit for work even when they are suffering from the long-term effects of the disease.

The charities said poor knowledge of ESA rules among Jobcentre Plus and Department for Work and Pensions medical staff is resulting in claims being handled badly. Poor administration systems and a lack of understanding about cancer are fuelling the problem, they said.

Mike Hobday, head of campaigns at Macmillan, said: “It’s cruel and completely unacceptable that people who are terminally ill or going through gruelling treatment are being made to jump through hoops to get money they should receive automatically. The safeguards to protect cancer patients clearly aren’t working, and the ESA system is riddled with problems.”

Jobless to be offered ‘talking treatment’ to help put Britain back to work


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“We run your life, so you don’t have to” courtesy Gordon’s Good Idea


Guardian  |  Allegra Stratton, Political correspondent  |  04 December 2009

Jobless to be offered ‘talking treatment’ to help put Britain back to work

Jobcentres will bypass doctors to refer claimants for cognitive behaviour therapy at up to 300 centres

The government has announced mental health co-ordinators will be based in Jobcentres.

Jobless Britons are to be offered therapy to help them get back into work, under a “talking treatment” programme to be announced by the government over the next few weeks.

On Monday the Department for Work and Pensions will announce that mental health co-ordinators will be based in Jobcentres. The plans, which will make mental health treatment and particularly cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) central to the fight to get Britain back to work after the recession, will eventually see centres providing CBT set up around the country.

In the medium term, Jobcentre Plus will be encouraged to send unemployed people for CBT without the need for a doctor’s referral. Within five years the government wants 250-300 therapy centres set up across the UK.

Sessions of CBT – which encourages people to look for potential solutions rather than the causes of difficulties – are today available to patients referred by their doctor, but the government wants to build on 60 pilot schemes to provide therapy centres in most primary care trusts. Successful pilots have shown that a mix of ages and ethnicity is to be encouraged so centres can offer group therapy with a cross-section of people.

The chancellor, Alistair Darling, has signed off the commitment which will cost £550m a year redirected from what the government hopes will be a fall in unemployment. There is no new money involved.

Under the plans, unemployed people would be eligible for eight therapy sessions immediately. Within five years anyone, including people in work, would be allowed to “refer themselves in” for treatment.

One in four people are likely to experience a mental health problem and the effects on the jobs market are acute. Some 6 million adults in the UK have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, many of whom are on incapacity benefit.

The move follows years of lobbying by Tony Blair’s “happiness tsar”, economist Lord Layard. Provision of cognitive behaviour therapy on the NHS was his earlier triumph but Layard has continued to lobby for it to be central to the jobs strategy.

Layard and others were concerned that people with mild depression attributable to unemployment or working difficulties and referred for CBT by doctors were rarely asked to consider work-related issues. Likewise Jobcentres did not prescribe therapy for those for whom varying degrees of depression were a barrier to work. The former work and pensions secretary, James Purnell, said: “Mild depression doesn’t have to be a barrier to work.”

About 40% of long-term sickness benefit claimants have depression. Work is being done on whether some people should have CBT before they go on to employment support allowance, which an official described as “an eight-week period which prevents people even going into long-term disability”.

The official said: “We want a service where everyone who needs it can get access to basic talking treatments. The pilots are proving so successful that, whilst there are short-term costs, we expect the programme to save money in the long-term by helping people back into work, cutting the benefit bill and lowering costs in the NHS.”

Ministers are worried that past recessions have led to huge rises in the numbers of long-term unemployed.

What is CBT?

Cognitive behaviour therapy doesn’t attempt deep psychoanalysis but instead works to recommend to a patient practical steps to overcome the depression that has proved debilitating for them.

Created in the 1960s by the American psychiatrist Aaron Beck, it operates on the assumption that since emotions are based on patterns of thinking, if the patterns of thinking can be changed so too can the emotions. To the end of changing those patterns, patients are given targets and homework to isolate what makes them blue, and then they can set about managing that trigger.

The government’s adviser on these issues, Lord Layard, believes that a short course of CBT delivered by a therapist with only basic training is all that is required to cure a substantial proportion of those out of work because of depression or mental health problems.

He recommends double the figure the government is suggesting – 16 course sessions – which he costed at £750 a head, something he pointed out was about the cost to the state of someone remaining on incapacity benefit.

Critics accuse CBT of being the ultimate quick-fix solution for a quick-fix age, driving real problems that had possibly surfaced for a reason, deeper into someone’s psyche with unknown later effects.


See also:

BBC News  |  07 December 2009

Depression targeted in government policy shift

“10-year strategy expected to call for better identification of those most at risk and wider access to psychological therapies for patients.”


New Statesman

Textual health  | Alyssa McDonald | 26 November 2009


From October 09

On Sunday, the Observer reported on cutbacks faced by Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (Iapt) programme which is failing to meet government tarkets:

The Observer | 4 October 2009

Flagship mental health scheme faces cutbacks

Only 400 therapists have been trained out of the 3,600 needed for the scheme

by Jamie Doward

“A flagship government strategy to train an army of therapists to get the nation off antidepressants and into work could be dramatically scaled back amid claims it is experiencing problems.”

The government claims the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (Iapt) programme will treat 900,000 people and help about half of them to make a full recovery. It also aims to get 25,000 people suffering from anxiety and depression off sick pay and benefits by 2010/11.

But the Observer understands there are now concerns about whether these targets can be met.”

Read full article here


Related material

Tories would force jobless to work  |  Sunday Times  |  4 October 2009

Cameron to slash benefit payouts to 500,000 now deemed ‘unfit to work’  |  Times |  5 October 2009 

Iapt documents:

See also: The Elephant in the Room Series Two: More on MUPS

See also: Lords Debate on CBT

Image and video hosting by TinyPic“They run your life, so you don’t have to” courtesy Gordon’s Good Idea

Benefits and Work: November and December 09 updates

Benefits and Work: November and December 09 updates


From Benefits and Work’s Steve Donninson:

27 November 2009

New DLA form con trick

In this newsletter we warn about the possible dangers of a seductively short new DLA renewal claim form which has the potential to wipe out your entire award in a couple of ticks. Is it just a DWP con trick?

On a cheerier note, we look at how some people manage to get many thousands of pounds from the DWP as compensation for poor and insulting treatment. Persistence, it seems, does sometimes pay.

We also have the bizarre news that within days of us ending our 100 day campaign to save DLA and AA it was taken up by…the Conservative party. It’s true, of course that it was the Tories who introduced DLA in the first place, but somehow we never expected to find ourselves becoming the unofficial Conservative party think tank.

Not entirely unconnected with this news is the fact that the Daily Mail has suddenly begun writing in defence of DLA and AA claimants – so long as they’re over 65, that is.

Elsewhere, Holiday Whitehead, our resident barrister, has been answering some of your queries about employing carers following our article last month about a disabled employer’s shock £35,000 tax bill.

Finally, we have another shot of good news from happy members, including people who have successfully appealed their ESA refusals. We particularly liked the tale of one of our members who was refused help from a CAB with her DLA challenge on the grounds that – thanks to Benefits and Work – she knew more than they did!

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

Tories launch save DLA and AA campaign

 The Conservatives have launched a save DLA and AA campaign within days of the Benefits and Work campaign ending, leading to labour accusations of ‘scaremongering’ and ‘gutter politics’.

I got full mobility and personal care!

More feedback from happy members, including successful ESA claims and appeals and DLA claims.

Tabloid support for DLA and AA campaign

The Daily Mail has today published an article highlighting a ‘rebellion’ by Labour MPs ‘over plans to end benefits for needy pensioners’.

Benefits advice stopped

The Law Gazette is reporting that claimants needing benefits advice under the legal aid scheme are being turned away because legal aid funding has run out.


Not yet a member?
Find out how to join Benefits and Work and get instant access to all our downloadable claims and appeals guides, DWP materials, members news items and more.

How some claimants get thousands of £££ in DWP compensation

Many people are treated with outrageous unfairness by the DWP. Most just endure it, some complain and get nowhere, a tiny number get compensation of up to £10,000. How do they do it?.

Your queries about employing carers answered

Holiday Whitehead, our resident barrister, answers some of your queries about employing carers.

Is new DLA form a con trick?

A new short DLA renewal form appears to be being used to con claimants into not giving evidence about their condition and then refusing them an award, as a Benefits and Work member recently discovered to their cost. Astonishingly, a letter accompanying the form also advises people to fraudulently allow their current DLA claim to continue, even if they know that they are no longer entitled to any money.

If you have problems accessing the site or logging in, visit the Help with the site page, where you can find possible solutions and contact details for our technical support.

(c) 2009 Steve Donnison. All rights reserved


04 December 2009

Are claimants at risk from assessment rip-off?

We hadn’t intended to bring out another newsletter until next week. But then a confidential letter detailing the new, increased, pay rates for Atos doctors and nurses came sliding from our fax machine and we decided we’d better publish it immediately.

So, in a brief newsletter, we reveal just how much those doctors and nurses are making from the taxpayer for creating ESA, DLA and IB medical reports. From what we’ve learnt, it seems safe to assume that Atos assessors won’t be shopping at Iceland this Christmas.

Harrods, on the other hand, may need to get in a few extra hampers.

In a not unrelated story we look at the problems caused by the DWP carrying out assessments much later than they should be. Are taxpayers being ripped-off and claimants being put at risk?

(The answer is ‘Yes!’ , in case you’re in any doubt).

We also have news of the early day motion in support of DLA and AA put forward by a liberal democrat MP. Do check to see if your MP has signed it and, if they haven’t, please do pursue them with infuriating persistence.

Finally, we have the tale of the claimant whose ESA has been stopped largely, it seems, because of his sad inability to travel back and forth through time at will.

Who’d have thought you’d need a tardis to be a successful ESA claimant?

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

91 MPs sign motion against DLA and AA cuts – has yours?

91 MPs have so far signed an early day motion urging the government to drop proposals to cut disability living allowance and attendance allowance to fund the new National Care Service. Benefits and Work is urging members to put pressure on your own MP to sign, if they have not done so already.

ESA for Time Lords

A Benefits and Work member has had their employment and support allowance suspended, seemingly on the grounds that they are unable to travel through time.

Not yet a member?

Find out how to join Benefits and Work and get instant access to all our downloadable claims and appeals guides, DWP materials, members news items and more.

Are claimants at risk from ESA assessment rip-off?
Taxpayers are unfairly paying out many thousands of pounds, and claimants health may be being put at risk, due to employment and support allowance assessments being carried out scandalously late

Can Atos doctors earn more than Gordon Brown?

Benefits and Work has obtained a copy of a confidential letter which reveals exactly how much Atos medical assessors receive in taxpayers’ cash for carrying out different types of benefits medicals. Astonishingly, some may at times be on a higher rate of pay than the prime minister.

If you have problems accessing the site or logging in, visit the Help with the site page, where you can find possible solutions and contact details for our technical support.

(c) 2009 Steve Donnison. You are welcome to reproduce this newsletter (but not the articles it links to) on your website, forum or blog.


04 December 2009

Apology and BBC Scotland

Just to say sorry, the members only links weren’t working when we sent out the newsletter this morning. We hope we have now fixed them. But if you still have problems, there’s a link to the latest articles in the Members Only news box at the bottom of the home page.

Also, we forgot to mention that BBC Scotland are very keen to talk to ESA claimants about the difficulties of claiming. More details in the forum at:

Alternatively, just in case we’re still having a bad link day, here’s what they’re asking:

Just how difficult is it to get ESA? BBC Scotland wants to know!

BBC Scotland are making a half hour radio documentary about the difficulties people face when trying to claim ESA – in particular with the health assessments carried out as part of the process. The programme aims to highlight problems with the new system and to investigate why people with genuine illnesses and disabilities are being declared fit to work.

If you’ve had a problem claiming ESA and are willing to talk about your experience, then please contact Kathy Long on 0141 422 7277 or Fiona Walker on 0141 422 7863. Or email:  /

All information will be treated in confidence and contributions to the programme may be made anonymously if preferred.

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

If you have problems accessing the site or logging in, visit the Help with the site page, where you can find possible solutions and contact details for our technical support.

(c) 2009 Steve Donnison. You are welcome to reproduce this newsletter (but not the articles it links to) on your website, forum or blog.

Benefits and Work: Final newsletter No More Benefits Cuts Campaign

Update from Benefits and Work’s Steve Donnison


Benefits and Work


This is the final newsletter in the No More Benefits Cuts Campaign. We will be deleting all the email addresses from this list on Friday afternoon.

However, if you want to stay informed about government plans for DLA and AA there are details of how to sign up for our free fortnightly newsletter below.

Also below is an unmissable half-price offer on membership of Benefits and Work, exclusively for subscribers to this newsletter.


Within hours of our announcing our 100 days campaign, news of the danger to DLA and AA spread across the internet on blogs, forums and social networking sites and you began to make your voices heard.

Contributions to the Big Care debate website went from a few hundred to over 4,000, almost all hostile to the plans for disability benefits.

Many disability charities were unaware of, or reluctant to admit, the existence of the threat. But a deluge of emails from you made them realise that they had no choice but to respond to the green paper.

Almost 22,000 people signed a petition protesting against threats to DLA and AA on the No 10 website – the petition remains open until 7th December.

Virtually every MP in the UK received faxes and letters from you expressing your anger and concern.

Motions criticising the attack on disability benefits were laid before the Scottish and Welsh assemblies.

Questions were asked about the future of DLA and AA in debates in the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

Lord Ashley of Stoke warned that “any attempt by the Government to withdraw these benefits, or any benefits at all, will be very strongly resisted by disabled people, by their organisations and by many Members of both Houses of Parliament”

The Conservatives announced that they would oppose plans to incorporate AA into funding for the National Care Service.

Forced into the open by the growing clamour, Health Secretary Andy Burnham announced that he had ‘heard the concerns and worries about disability living allowance’ and “I can state categorically that we have now ruled out any suggestion that DLA for under-65s will be brought into the new National Care Service.”

So, in just one hundred days, and with no support whatsoever from claimant- bashing tabloids, you have forced the government to rule out any hopes it had of snatching DLA for under-65s to fund the National Care Service.

And you’ve also finally forced them to disclose, even if only by omission, that DLA for people aged 65 and over, as well as AA, is still under threat.

All this whilst proposals are still at the green paper stage, when ministers would normally expect only a few professionals and specialist organisations to even notice their existence, let alone express an opinion.


We hope that all the disability charities that took part in the green paper consultation will publish their responses online. Perhaps you could encourage any charity with which you have a connection to do so?

If they don’t, we will be making freedom of information requests for copies of their submissions.

Aside from that, it’s now largely a question of waiting to see what is in the white paper, if it is indeed published early next year.

We don’t yet know what role – if any – Benefits and Work will have if the white paper poses a serious threat to disability benefits. We’re hoping that disability charities will show real determination and leadership in their opposition to any proposed cuts and that we will be irrelevant.

If not . . . we may be back.


When we began this campaign we were repeatedly accused by individuals and organisations of inventing the threat to DLA in order to make a profit. In truth, as we’ve discovered in the past, campaigning costs us money.

In fact, whilst this campaign was at its height, subscriptions to the site actually fell.

The reason is simple: most individuals and agencies subscribe to the Benefits and Work website when they have a specific benefits problem that needs a solution, not to support a cause. Campaigning takes up a huge amount of time that we would otherwise devote to producing and promoting new material that helps people solve those problems. Less new DLA, IB and ESA material means fewer new subscribers.

So, we offer no apologies whatsoever for making an offer to readers of this newsletter who perhaps haven’t got an urgent benefits problem now, but foresee the possibility arising in the next year and who would like to become part of the Benefits and Work community:

Subscribe by Paypal before 5.00pm on Friday November 20th and get a year’s subscription for £9.25 – less than half the standard price of £18.55.

To take advantage of this offer, register with the site, if you haven’t already. Then log in, click on the New subscription link on the left hand side of the page and type the following code in the coupon box:


If you’re an existing subscriber and want to take advantage of this offer, you can extend your current membership by another year using the same code. But please drop us an email to tell us you have done so, so that we can make sure the software has added the extra year to your subscription.

Visit the Join us page to begin the process:


We’re also offering a reduction to organisations who subscribe to this newsletter.

Purchase your organisational subscription by Paypal before 5.00pm this Friday 20th November and get a year’s professional membership for £60 instead of £93, using the following code:


Existing professional subscribers can extend their current membership by a year using the same method – again please email us to let us know you have done so.

This offer applies only to Paypal payments – which can be made using any credit or debit card – we can’t accept payment by invoice for this offer.

Visit the professionals subscription page to begin the process.


We provide a completely free email newsletter which we now publish every fortnight. It covers all the news relating to incapacity and disability benefits and will keep you up-to-date with what’s happening in relation to the National Care Service. You can sign up for it by typing your first name and email address into the boxes on this page:

And that’s it.

Many thanks for the literally thousands of letters, emails and phone calls offering support and information we’ve received over the last 100 days. It’s been a real privilege to hear from – and campaign with – so many people who aren’t prepared to be pushed around by politicians.

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd
Company registration No. 5962666


Finally, remember that you can post your news in the Benefits and Work forum, if you’re a member, at:

and/or in the free welfare watch forums at:

You can also keep up with news about opposition to the green paper at the Carer Watch campaign blog:

Unfortunately, we’re getting so many emails on this subject that we are unlikely to be able to respond individually. But we do appreciate hearing your news and views and we do encourage you to publish them for others to read on the forums detailed above.

Sunday Times: Health and safety snoops to enter family homes

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“We run your life, so you don’t have to” courtesy Gordon’s Good Idea

Shortlink for this posting:

It was reported, earlier this year, that some local authorities were planning to instruct tradesmen working in the homes of council and housing association tenants to identify and report potential cases of neglect or child abuse.

* NICE Consultation

or open here: PUIC Home Draft Guidance Consultation

Issue date: April 2010

Preventing unintentional injuries in the home among children and young people aged under 15: providing safety equipment and home-risk assessments

From today’s Sunday Times:

Health and safety snoops to enter family homes

Robert Watts  |  15 November 2009

Health and safety inspectors are to be given unprecedented access to family homes to ensure that parents are protecting their children from household accidents.

New guidance drawn up at the request of the Department of Health urges councils and other public sector bodies to “collect data” on properties where children are thought to be at “greatest risk of unintentional injury”.

Council staff will then be tasked with overseeing the installation of safety devices in homes, including smoke alarms, stair gates, hot water temperature restrictors, oven guards and window and door locks.

The draft guidance by a committee at the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice)* has been criticised as intrusive and further evidence of the “creeping nanny state”.

Until now, councils have made only a limited number of home inspections to check on building work and in extreme cases where the state of a house is thought to pose a serious risk to public health.

Nice also recommends the creation of a new government database to allow GPs, midwives and other officials who visit homes to log health and safety concerns they spot.

The guidance aims to “encourage all practitioners who visit families and carers with children and young people aged under 15 to provide home safety advice and, where necessary, conduct a home risk assessment”. It continues: “If possible, they should supply and install home safety equipment.”

The proposals have been put out to consultation and, if approved, will be implemented next year.

Matthew Elliott, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It is a huge intervention into family life which will be counter-productive.

“Good parents will feel the intrusion of the state in their homes and bad parents will now have someone else to blame if they don’t bring up their children in a sensible, safe environment.”

About 100,000 children are admitted to hospital each year for home injuries at a cost of £146m.


See also Daily Mail  |  10 November 2009

Police report pregnant woman to social services over half-decorated home


See also, in today’s Sunday Times:

Think tank: freeing us from the ring of suspicion

Jenni Russsell  |  15 November 2009

“…In his Scott Trust speech, Cameron picked up on the themes that this newspaper has been highlighting: the hidden damage being caused by the government’s vetting and barring regimes. He was unequivocal about the malign effect that the new Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), with its plans to monitor at least a quarter of the adult population, would have on our lives.”

“Many responsible adults would, the Tory leader said, rather abandon volunteering than go through the rigmarole of a vetting procedure. That mass withdrawal would actually reduce the amount of care and love in children’s lives. This is already happening, although no one in government appears willing to recognise it. Ministers are so busy mouthing platitudes, both in public and in private, about “safeguarding children being our most important priority”, that they don’t want to hear or think about what it means for children when grown-ups decide it’s too risky to spend time with them. Ask them about sports or drama groups closing down for fear of breaking regulations, or of teachers deciding it’s too hazardous to organise school trips, and they say blandly that protection must come first.”

“…They don’t want to know about all the quiet and disastrous ways in which society is being reshaped by the constant message that adults can’t be trusted. Evidence has poured into this paper since the issue was raised here two weeks ago. Some came from professionals who cannot afford any misinterpretation of their interaction with children because of what it means for their jobs.”

Read full article here

Image and video hosting by TinyPic“They run your life, so you don’t have to” courtesy Gordon’s Good Idea