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Earlier today the REAL organisation and the Local Voices organisation joined forces to hold one of the most effective meetings in order to support the lives of the disabled living in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

Over the years I have attended many meetings of many organisations and groups who have tried to get the balance right to help ease the lives of disabled people. Some fail because they are too formal, others because of lack of planning, and yet others fail because they couldn’t reach the local disabled to let them have a fair say.

Today’s meeting was held at their head office, Jack Dash House, on the Isle of Dogs. As well as Real and Local Voices being represented, there were several of their partner organisations showing how they want to help.

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Following a last minute, but successful, change of plans, the formalities were short and sweet. Rob Johnson of Local Voices did the usual housekeeping information with his usual poise. The C.E.O. Mike Smith gave a ten minute rundown explaining what projects Real and Local Voices have been involved in over the last year, and what is hoped for the coming year.

Then they awarded some of the many voluntary workers (myself included, but I am only one small cog in a very big wheel!) with certificates of thanks, which was a nice touch, seeing that most of the long term volunteers are disabled themselves.

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The afternoon was then allowed to flow. There was plenty of food and drink for everyone, suitable to most dietary requirements.

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Then there was a chance for guests to chat with any of the supporting advisers and service providers in their own time.

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Things started to wind down after 3.30pm after what I believe was one of the most successful meetings of its kind. It was a benchmark for future meetings.


Horrors ATOS and CAPITA renew Assessment contract – because they own the IT for the job.

This article is from the Disabled Go Website

Atos and Capita win PIP contract extension ‘because DWP is chained to a corpse’

The government’s decision to extend the contracts of two discredited companies that carry out disability benefit assessments has been branded “appalling”, “shocking” and “a complete con”.

The move has also been criticised by the Scottish government.

Sarah Newton, the minister for disabled people, told MPs in a written statement this week that she planned to extend the assessment contracts for the two companies that carry out the personal independence payment (PIP) assessments – Atos and Capita – by a further two years.

The contracts had been due to end in the middle of 2019.

Newton also announced that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was developing its own IT system that would allow it to “enable more providers to deliver PIP”.

Some commentators – including Frank Field, chair of the Commons work and pensions committee – took this to mean that Newton was threatening that DWP would carry out PIP assessments itself if Atos and Capita did not improve their performance over the next two years.

But one disabled people’s organisation, Buckinghamshire Disability Service (BuDS), said on its Facebook page that the reason for the two-year contract extension was that Atos “owns the IT system that DWP rely on for PIP claims, and they can’t sack them until DWP has developed its own IT system”.

BuDS said: “What a shocking way to run a public service – DWP is effectively chained to a corpse.”

Atos has refused to comment on whether it owns the current PIP IT system.

Asked whether Newton’s announcement meant the government was considering bringing PIP assessments in-house, a DWP spokeswoman said: “Our focus is the outcomes achieved rather than who delivers them.

“The department will continue to keep the most appropriate method of delivery under review.

“The department will always consider the quality of assessments and the claimant experience as well as the value for money offered when considering whether to contract out a service.”

She declined to say whether DWP’s new IT system would also be used for the work capability assessment (WCA), which tests eligibility for the out-of-work disability benefit employment and support allowance (ESA).

Those assessments are currently run by the US firm Maximus, which itself has a lengthy history of incompetence, discrimination and alleged fraud.

If the new IT system was also used for the WCA, it would put a question-mark over whether that contract could also be brought in-house and delivered by DWP.

In February, a report by Field’s committee found that the PIP and ESA assessment systems were being undermined by a “pervasive culture of mistrust”, fuelled by widespread claims that assessors from Atos, Capita and Maximus were deliberately trying to prevent disabled people receiving the support they were entitled to.

Evidence submitted to the committee by thousands of claimants had substantiated a major investigation by Disability News Service (DNS) into the dishonesty of PIP assessors employed by Atos and Capita.

Last October, DNS revealed that complaints about the PIP assessment process had risen by nearly 900 per cent in just one year, also apparently corroborating the results of the investigation.

Further DNS reports in February this year – based on freedom of information data released by DWP to campaigner John Slater – revealed “shocking” failings by Atos and Capita in how they were fulfilling their PIP assessment contracts.

Newton also announced this week that DWP would pilot the video-recording of PIP assessments – a measure which could help prevent dishonest assessment reports – with a plan to roll this out across the country as “a standard part of the process” (see separate story).

But grassroots groups and their allies, disabled people’s organisations, disabled campaigners and politicians have been scathing in their responses to the announcement of the two-year contract extension.

Anita Bellows, a Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) researcher, said the IT measure was “a complete con and it seems Frank Field fell for it, though it is not surprising”.

She said: “IT is the least of the problems with ESA and PIP assessments.

“This move does not address substandard disability assessments and reports, poor performance by disability assessment contractors, high staff turnover, and a raft of other issues.

“That Atos and Capita had their contracts extended in spite of their appalling performance documented by the work and pensions committee, and in the management information released by DWP under duress through the Freedom of Information Act, is nothing short of a scandal and Frank Field should know better.

“This is rewarding failure.”

Ken Butler, welfare benefits adviser at Disability Rights UK, said: “Given their track record of inaccurate assessments, any continuation of PIP contracts to Atos and Capita is unwarranted.

“Over 80 per cent of benefit appeals concern PIP and ESA, arising almost entirely from poor private contractor medical reports.

“Retaining Atos and Capita will only replicate that for another two years

“Rather than developing a DWP IT system as a means of bringing PIP assessments in-house, the aim seems to be to give money-making opportunities to private companies.”

John Slater also criticised the announcement.

He said: “I would be concerned if the DWP sees the solution to the problems with PIP and ESA being new IT development.

“If that is the case then it seems it has learned nothing from universal credit.

“It needs to fix the problems with the PIP and ESA processes and then look at where new IT can help.”

And he said that “bringing assessments in-house and developing new IT” would not “get around the problem of needing high-quality healthcare professionals to carry out the assessments”.

Disabled campaigner Kaliya Franklin, who tweets at @BendyGirl, and was a member of the grassroots Spartacus Network that researches issues on disability and social security, said on Twitter: “Is having the capacity to bring assessments back in house the same thing as bringing assessments back in house, or just another empty (albeit new) promise?”

Stephen Lloyd, the disabled Liberal Democrat shadow work and pensions spokesman, said it was “appalling” that the government “sees fit to reward these companies by extending their contracts despite their shocking performance figures and outcomes”.

And Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, another leading disabled politician, said on Twitter: “Nearly a third of #PIP assessments are not up to scratch. Nearly 70 per cent of PIP appeals are successful. PIP claimants are forced to wait for 11 weeks for decisions.

“And yet the Tories think it’s appropriate to extend Atos and Capita’s contracts. Shocking.”

But Field welcomed the announcement that DWP was developing its own PIP IT capacity.

He said it was “further credit to the thousands of disabled people who sent evidence to us” and that having the capacity to bring assessments back in-house would put DWP “in a far stronger position to turn the screws on its hitherto failing contractors, in the interests of claimants and all taxpayers”.

An Atos spokesman said: “We welcome the statement from the minister and look forward to ongoing discussions with the department to achieve our shared objectives on continuous improvement.”

Capita declined to comment.

The two-year extension for Atos and Capita is unlikely to apply in Scotland because the Scottish government is due to take over responsibility for PIP assessments in 2020 and has promised to end the practice of using private sector organisations to carry them out.

The Scottish government’s social security minister, Jeane Freeman, told DNS: “We have repeatedly called on the UK government to halt the roll-out of PIP in Scotland.

“Given the level of criticism aimed at the current assessment providers, I am concerned that DWP are exploring options to extend these arrangements.

“Legislation to establish a new Scottish social security system – built on dignity and respect – was recently passed by the Scottish parliament.

“Once the social security delivery infrastructure is in place, the Scottish government will start the delivery of these disability benefits during the lifetime of this parliament.”

She added: “We have always been clear that assessments for disability benefits will be ‎designed around the needs of our clients.

“We will use existing information where we can, minimising the need for face-to-face assessments.

“We have categorically ruled out the use of the private sector in assessments, and this has been established in the Social Security (Scotland) Act.”

A DWP spokeswoman said her department was “working closely with the Scottish government”.

This article is from the Disabled Go Website

News provided by John Pring at

Roisin Norris

Hi I’m Roisin Norris, Digital Marketing Executive at DisabledGo and I will be uploading blogs and news for you all to read.

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Victoria & Albert Museum 1

Yes – I know that this is becoming repetitive, but all I ask for when I go anywhere is a cup of tea – at a decent price, and a decent standard.

Yesterday I went to the Victoria & Albert Museum.

As usual, in their Cafe I asked for a cup of tea.

On the price list there were many options available, all were clearly listed as “Loose Leaf Tea”, and were priced at £2.80p

I selected the “English Breakfast”.

Seeing this I expected some effort from the caterers to make loose leaf tea of any type, or at least some effort towards making a decent pot of tea.

All I was given was a small cardboard cup with an “English Breakfast” teabag in it.


My Loose Leaf Tea at the V&A yesterday (24/05/18)

On pointing out that this was definitely not the loose leaf tea they had clearly indicated on their price list, I was told that this is how they always serve tea, and they just haven’t changed their price list yet.

I then asked “seeing the tea you are now serving is clearly not loose leaf, will you reduce the price when you print the new price list?” Their joint and firm answer was a clear “No!”

When I finally found somewhere to sit, I opened the cup to find there wasn’t even any milk in it!

It was then that I remembered that I had written this up somewhere before, and I had – on my Guard Dog site three years ago. So I looked it up. I was right. This very same museum held my record for the most expensive cup of tea on:

22nd June 2015, and for the very same reason.

See the original Guard Dog article.

Therefore, they have now been running the exact same con for the last 3 years at least. Not only have they kept this con running, they have updated their price, and it’s price has gone up from the extortionate £2.65 that it was, to the new listed price of £2.80p. On top of that, they had been clearly lying to me in answer to my questions!

Therefore any claim that they haven’t changed the price list is out of the window, as they have a new price list!

Also, any claim that they never knew the difference between loose leaf tea and tea from a tea bag is also out of the window.

They have been knowingly running the came con for at least three years!


A nice Loose Leaf Tea this is!







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Yes, the Loose Leaf Tea con has also reached the cafe in the London Museum. Yet another key location for visitors and tourists has joined in with the tea-bag in a pot being called Loose Leaf tea.

Why must so many monopolized cafe’s cheat their customers? Everybody knows that loose leaf tea means tea which is loose in a tea pot, and must therefore require a tea strainer, which can be built into the pot for convenience.

It does not mean whichever tea you require is selected from boxes of basic normal sized tea bags, and the tea bag is placed into a tiny pot and called Loose Leaf Tea.

The London Museum, like the Cafe at the Maritime Museum in Greenwich, are totally seeing off their customers.

This time they’re charging £2.50 for the use of one standard size English Breakfast tea bag, some hot water and 10p in milk. It is clearly in their price list as Loose Leaf Tea. There is no option for non-loose leaf tea!

How about showing some fair play.

As this has happened in two museums I have been to, I think I’ll visit a few more, and see just how wide-spread this practice is.

I’ll keep you up to date.


In the heart of the East End of London is a cafe

which can teach the rest a lesson.

Inside the Hub Cafe in the east half of Victoria Park, East London

The Hub cafe in the east side of Victoria Park is the cafe I have long been looking for, and it is right on my doorstep (almost).

Those who follow my sites (specially this and my East-End Guard Dog) will know that I hate those cafes in a monopolistic situation that charge exorbitant prices  just because they can, and end out fleecing visitors.

At the Hub Cafe, you can still get a cup of what they call ‘Builders Tea’ for only £1. If you want a more fancy one, you can have that too. This is exactly what I have been suggesting to so many other places.

There is also a full range of childrens menus.

Now here is a lovely totally environmentally friendly place in a lovely park setting which even has a fair price scheme.

With plenty of both outdoor and indoor seating, it is also weatherproof.

The Hub Cafe is even fully wheelchair accessible. (You can see the edge of my mobility scooter in the photo above.) If it can take my monster of a mobility scooter, it can handle wheelchairs with ease, and they even have a dedicated wheelchair entrance around the side.

The people running it are friendly, professional and welcoming.

My one and only minor criticism is that tea doesn’t taste it’s best in cardboard cups. Some of you may think that  if they use china cups more, the prices may have to rise. Not necessarily. China cups are used over and over again, and are therefore more financially viable and more environmentally friendly for the same reason.

Pay them a visit when you are in the East End, and you could also try a chilled bottle of their Fentiman’s Ginger Beer. I have always loved the sharp tang of ginger beer, and this one was particularly good and well priced.

9 out of 10 on my must visit places register.

Keep it up, and don’t let anyone change you, Hub Cafe. Not even me.





I today received an e-mail from the office of the Mayor of London.
It wasn’t actually from him. It was from Liz Ashby, his Public Liaison Officer.
It informed me that as the Mayor cannot respond to every letter, my letter has been forwarded to the department concerned, i.e.TfL.
She says in what is obviously her routine stock in hand response that I should hear from them within 10 working days.
Do you know the best thing? There was no mention of being sorry to hear what had happened OR of hoping I am recovering from my injuries.
I can only see this as yet another example of the incompetence of this current Mayor of London.
I can only hope that Thursday’s election will being someone into the job who has some common sense.



Green Park Station 2

Green Park Station

After a serious incident at Green Park Station, I have today sent the following open e-mail letter to Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London and purse-string holder of Transport for London (TfL):


Thursday, 26 April 2018


SADIQ KHAN, Mayor of London

Sent by e-mail.

Re: Dangerous flaws in Disabled Travel Information.


Dear Mr Khan.

Due to multiple points of damage to my spine (plus other problems), I am forced to use a mobility scooter when travelling.

Yesterday (25-4-18)at around 7.15am I undertook a journey from Shoreditch High Street to Kings Cross, which involved changing trains at Canada Water and Green Park stations.

Prior to this journey, as I had not used the Green Park  link before, I had checked with Assisted Travel Services,  staff at Shoreditch High Street station (my starting point), as well as TfL publications  the  Step-free Tube Guide, and the Colour Large Print Tube Map, and the line map on the Jubilee line train. All of these sources confirmed that Green Park interchange between Jubilee line Westbound and Piccadilly Line Northbound was perfectly safe, as it is listed in all sources as wheelchair safe.

As the lifts are still under refurbishment at Canada Water, I arranged for help at both of my interchange points on starting my journey.

All went well until I tried to leave the train at Green Park.

Although I was given a green light from all sources, I had arranged assistance at my interchanges, my train arrived at Green Park.

As there was no sign of the assistance and I had not been expecting any problems, as the other passengers were getting off, and there was every likelihood that the doors were about to close, I reversed my mobility scooter to get off (as I had got on driving forward, and there was no chance to turn my scooter due to the number of other passengers).

As soon as my rear wheels left the train, I found my entire mobility scooter rear up to rest on its back onto the platform, leaving me still in the scooter but now lying on my back, wondering what had happened. Passengers all around and the assistant I had booked all came rushing over to help.

What had happened was that the platform was only wheelchair accessible for the length of one carriage, for which there was a raised platform area (this was where my pre-arranged assistance was expecting me to be). This fact had not been passed to anyone who was in the need to know, especially me.

After a short time, I started doing a systematic mental check of my spine and other joints, and as I could not find any major injury, I slid out of the scooter, and slowly and carefully got myself into a standing position (still expecting the spine to be further damaged), and found that I had somehow escaped without further spinal damage. One of the passengers around me was an off duty doctor, who offered her help.

Once I was clear of the scooter, the surrounding crowd helped lower my scooter to its normal position, and I used its seat to sit on and pull myself together, and assess my situation. Through the adrenalin and the many pain killers that I am already on) which was still running, I could only identify an injured left elbow.

The scooter, an older bulky but robust model survived almost unscathed.

After a few moments of bringing myself together, I continued my journey, as I had to catch a train from Euston.

Once the adrenalin eased off, I found that as well as injuring my left elbow, I had also injured my right thumb and my left knee (which is already a replaced one!).

I consider myself very lucky that this incident did not result in further major damage to my spine, which could very easily have been snapped. The only thing which prevented this was the precautions I take, namely that I keep both armrests in the lowered position, as this kept me in the padded seat, and the fact that in any crowded area I reduce the speed regulator to what I call creep mode, half speed on the lower power option.

Sadly this is not the first time that I have found that misleading information for the disabled traveller has been provided. The first two to come in mind is that you cannot access the Underground from Liverpool Street Station, although the guides say you can, and the other major incident I had was when leaving Baker Street (before I used my scooter, when I was on crutches), where the station was listed as step free to street level, but there is a large flight of stairs to reach street level.

Following yesterday’s incident, I must ask that you carry out a full and thorough review of all stations on an individual level,  which are listed as accessible to those with various disabilities immediately, and update your publications and advice given by the Assisted Travel service.

I believe I was very lucky to have survived this incident with only minor injuries.

The ironic thing was that I was on my way to attend the Naidex Exhibition in Birmingham, to consider buying a new top line scooter, but I couldn’t decide on one which would have survived incidents such as yesterdays.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours Sincerely

Mark W. Mapstone

Do you think I’ll get an answer? Some hopes!




Following recent decisions by the House of Lords with regards Brexit, I felt it was only right to reblog this item, first blogged by me on 8th August 2016.


Palace of Westminster

The Palace of Westminster

It has always been seen as a shining example of democracy to the world, but I fear that the occupants of this democratic palace may bring the meaning of democracy itself to shame when faced with the result of the Brexit referendum.

The problem is quite a simple one really. The British people voted in support of Great Britain leaving the European Union. (Just the EU – not Europe!). This should have been a clear instruction to our Government. But what has happened?

Well we now come to the dilemma. Both of the Houses of Parliament (The House of Commons and the House of Lords) clearly have  majorities within their Houses who wish to stay within the EU.

Therefore, for Great Britain to actually leave the E.U., both of these august chambers must vote against their own wishes. Is this likely to happen? No. Why not? Because too many within these houses have ‘had their snouts in the E.U. trough’ for too long, and one way or another it is not in their personal interests to leave the trough which has rewarded them so well for so long.

So this is the dilemma. Even if the House of Commons is convinced that in order to stay in power, the Government must pass the motion for us to leave the E.U., they can be fairly certain that it’s companion body, the unelected House of Lords, would reject the motion, preventing Government from following the directive given by the public. Just as effective as if the House of Commons had rejected it themselves.

This creates a major precident. The whole Palace of Westminster will find any and every way to delay and stop this motion from ever becoming law.

They have already put into place as new Prime Minister an anti Brexit. The Prime Minister will know that she will have the support of both Houses to stop this motion becoming law. Regardless of who she places in her Cabinet, in key positions, the final outcome will be the same.

The Palace of Westminster is now in direct opposition to the wishes of the people of the nation. This has never before happened in the nation’s history.

So what is the likely outcome?

I believe we will see delay after delay, and every effort to have a second referendum. Then if there is a second referendum, the winners of the first referendum will insist in a third referendum, and so on. Having a second referendum will open the floodgates to eternal delays.

It may come about that the House of Commons approves the motion, and passes it to the next stage, the House Of Lords, who have no electorate to answer to, and who will surely kill the motion stone dead.

It could well be that, seeing the way things are going, the E.U. itself could collapse before we ever get any motion through the Palace of Westminster.

The only other outcome is unthinkable. Clear public outcry for a General Election, and this situation would give powerful ammunition for those who wish for the total disbandment of the House of Lords.

It is quite possible that the outcome of this motion could successfully finish what Guido (Guy) Fawkes started on 4th November 1605. The destruction of the current British democratic Governmental system.


The Gunpowder Plotters, 4th November 1605