Tuesday, June 12, 2012

An Appeal To Sane Folks in London, UK

Seriously, why do bad things happen to good people? Late last night I got to know about the impending misfortune of someone I've known for quite some time. Well, not 'known' known, but this is a much-respected Skeptic blogger based in the UK, whose excellent posts, reasoned, analytical and well-researched essays - on various pseudoscientific modalities (Steelclaws on Snake Oil) as well as on Biblical errancy (A Plague of Mice) - have given me countless hours of thoughtful pleasure.

And now, for reasons fathoming which is beyond my human capabilities, this person is in danger of being rendered homeless; the eviction notice is due to take effect on the 16th instant.

Severe disability with worsening scoliosis had forced this blogger to retire and go on benefits about a year ago. A recent home visit by a doctor from Atos Healthcare deepened the crisis, when the said doctor judged the blogger "fit to work". (Atos Healthcare itself is whole another ball of wax; see in the postscript.) This led to a loss of housing benefits as well as savings, leading to the eviction notice. All these, despite the fact that the said blogger can barely walk and can't sit for more than 15 minutes without severe pain, a testament to the severity of scoliosis.

Citizens Advice Bureau, a UK charity which helps people in dire needs with advice on legal, consumer or monetary matters, is unfortunately backed up and can't move quickly, certainly not quickly enough for the blogger to pay the rent. In addition, apparently the rental agents are of the opinion that the landlord won't want a tenant on benefits in any case.

A fellow Skeptic and blogger, Anarchic Teapot, has already put out a call to action; the blogger lives in London, UK. If someone in and nearby London is in a position to provide substantial assistance, such as temporary shelter or help with travelling to appointments to submit appeals against decisions, please come forward. Anarchic Teapot (through the link above) or I can pass on the information. AT's appeal also contains a link to PayPal in case someone wants to donate to help the blogger tide over the current crisis.

There isn't much I can physically do from across the Big Pond except express solidarity. My friends, readers, well-wishers, please share this with people in and nearby London, and please help if you can. Incidents like this are a blotch of humanity in general; let us try to prevent at least one, if we can.

P.S. In an illuminating feature written for the British Medical Journal, Margaret McCartney, a general practitioner, detailed her experience at an Atos recruitment seminar [McCartney M. (2011) Well enough to work? BMJ, 342:d599]. The system is in shambles. The government, in form of Department of Works and Pensions (DWP), while utilizing assessments by Atos, rambles over semantics of whether the disabled person is a 'patient' or 'claimant', completely disregarding the human equation, the actual disabled person who is in need of support. See this letter to BMJ by Edward S Cooper, a member of a tribunal that decides appeals against benefit decisions by the DWP: Cooper ES (2011) Getting welfare to work - Health professionals’ advice: the ethics. BMJ, 342:d1155.


  1. With regards the housing issue, an option other than Citizens Advice might be Shelter. Their website is here: http://england.shelter.org.uk/

    They specialise in housing issues, and will get involved in individual cases. Also your friend might be a priority for local authority assistance given her medical history. Shelter should be able to advise on that as well.

  2. Thank you. I shall pass it on. This may be a good short-term option.

  3. Have you tried


    Also the council do have discretionary monies available to help with deposits crisis etc BUT they wont tell you about them, you can google and find the information based on the local council, hope this might help xxx

    1. Thank you for your suggestions, Rainbowforests. I shall pass them on.

  4. I'm at a loss to know why any such decision should result in homelessness. First, she should have appealed against it (get a form GL24 from the DWP) and claimed ESA at the assessment rate (about the same as the dole)until the appeal which will easily not happen for many many months. It may well be that she's still able to appeal, best to get the form filled in and sent off but check details first on the CAG forums at http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/forum/ If it's too late to appeal she should reapply for ESA at the basic rate anyway. Second, even if she's got no income she's still perfectly entitled to Housing Benefit so I don't understand why she's not getting any. She'd need to apply to her local council and fill a few forms in. That should have been done straight away. Best to get that done promptly too. Atos work to targets, by the way,so how ill she is is largely irrelevant. Best to get onto the CAG forums pronto and get things sorted.

    1. I am afraid I don't know enough of the specific points that you have raised to give you an answer. I shall request this blogger to come and comment if possible. However, from whatever I have gathered via various sources,

      Atos work to targets, by the way, so how ill she is is largely irrelevant.

      ... is a piss-poor excuse for their reprehensible and unethical business practices. How ill a person is NOT irrelevant, given the specific field of healthcare that Atos has been contracted to work in.