Thursday, 26 January 2012

Positive About Disability OR Positive About PR

Any disabled person in the UK looking for work would probably have heard of the Positive About Disability Scheme run by the DWP. It is also referred to as the "2 Ticks" scheme. Basically, any disabled person applying for a position advertised by a member of this scheme is "Guaranteed" an interview if they meet the minimum job requirements.

Sounds Great?

Yes, but it has no standing in Law so can't be enforced. There is also the possibility it could be exploited by companies for PR purposes - Look we're Positive About Disability!

But surely the DWP keep an eye on it?

You'd think so. Readers of my Blog will know about LOCOG and their failure twice to operate the scheme properly. Luckily, TRH Maria Miller MP has written to me personally and whilst she will not strip LOCOG of the right to use the disability symbol she is keeping a close eye on them.

Well that's good then.

Hold on! Union Carbide (now owned by Dow Chemicals) killed and maimed a lot of people at Bhopal in India didn't they. Rather than help the disabled they added to our numbers. Don't they sponsor LOCOG and isn't their name associated with the London Olympics? Hold on. What am I worried about? The well known lawyer, disability campaigner and Human Rights Activist Lord Coe has said that Dow are blameless so that's OK then, isn't it?

But surely LOCOG is the only bad apple relating to Positive About Disability. No other company would be so ignorant.

Step forward Livability, a UK Charity trying to help the Disabled achieve all that they can, I believe. I have applied for a Finance Director role with them twice.
The first time they completely overlooked my application but kindly called me in for an interview with them after the event and then decided not to appoint to the position.
The second time, the agency they had appointed to head-hunt for them approached me and asked me to apply. Great, perhaps I've got a chance.

I waited.

I waited

So I phoned the agency. "When is my interview?" I asked politely. "Sorry, but you didn't meet the minimum job requirements" was the reply even though they had approached me and we had discussed those prior to my submission.

So, I picked up the advert and went through it with the Agent. We agreed that I did meet all of the criteria they advertised for.

But there were super secret special criteria that were not advertised.

I tailor my cv for all jobs I apply for. How do you tailor a cv for secret position requirements? (The super secret criteria they were looking for, I HAD, but didn't know it had to be on my cv (and as my standard 15 page cv is often frowned upon by recruiters I keep it to 2 pages!)).

Livability's Chairwoman has written to me:

I will keep you informed.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

You slam the door in my face, I'll get in through the Sewers!

I have just spoken to the lady that organised the Seminar at the TUC on Monday to try to build bridges. She understands why I was upset that a seminar titled "A Positive Agenda for Disability and Employment" didn't consider how disabled people could be helped into employment. She conceded that the seminar may have been incorrectly titled!!

"But it was free to get into."
(But not free on the train, or for child care or at the car park!)

I then suggested that perhaps they might consider running another seminar along the lines of the one I felt had been advertised and we had a quick discussion about whose job it might be to organise that.

I am very very lucky. Yes I nearly killed myself whilst at work doing what my management had told me to do, had a life changing event and damaged my head and body, but, I have been able to return to my job, excel in my job (as well as make some mistakes!!), and go from junior management before the accident to senior management of a Blue Chip in Abu Dhabi (Acting CFO). I had to go overseas to progress up the chain because my speech and behaviour is impaired in a way that seems to make me appear to be weird to native English speakers but normal to others.

The Medical Profession still tells me I am unable to work but what do they know? My prognosis post Trauma as relayed to my parents, progressed through: "Your son is likely to die"; "Your son is likely to be in his coma for years"; "Your son is likely to need round the clock care for the rest of his life"; to "Your son will never work again".

My understanding of the Disability Discrimination Act is that the interviewing employer has to make reasonable adjustments to give you the same opportunity at interview as all other candidates. However, as the job gets more senior it becomes less about what you have done and can do and more about does he fit in. I fit in better at work than I do at interview!

I have done some voluntary work in the last 4 years and in the course of helping  a company in the care industry I asked a Social Worker, who had just had a meeting with me, how I came across. The response was very positive. The only thing was, there was just something about the way I spoke and the way I looked while thinking of what to say. However, he couldn't put his finger on it but there was something there.

As mentioned my speech is impaired and also my memory recall bottom 5% of the population (as measured by the tests they use), so I have done amazingly well to get where I have.

However, at interview you are selling yourself and being different is hardly ever good.

How can you legislate against that?

Reasonable adjustments I hear you say!

Because I struggle with looking normal whilst recalling eg. answers to competency based interview questions, I asked LOCOG if they would let me have the competency based questions I was to be asked in advance, to allow me to select the best example of what I could do.


Apparently that would disadvantage all of the other candidates with no memory problem. Whilst not on the job description it appeared that a memory that functioned without having to use memory aids and not talk about personal details to strangers in a formal setting was a job requirement. (After negotiation with their Occupational Health Dept. they agreed to give me sight of the interview questions 10 minutes before the interview!). Suffice it to say, I didn't get a second interview. I didn't quite get one of the questions right - I was asked to give an example of a time when I'd had to deliver bad news.They were looking for an answer of when I had to tell a manager he couldn't buy what he wanted to (and I've done that plenty of times) including to my wife!!)). However, my mind went to.....
having to tell a CEO of a company that amongst other concerns I couldn't interpret accounting standards in such a way that would allow him to book a further $20m of profit and was resigning. (He went ahead and booked it that year and reversed it out the following year!). Integrity is obviously not highly valued at LOCOG as the feedback to my interview focused on this.

I was just hoping that the TUC might give me an idea of what else I could do to get a job. Silly me!

I am about to get too old to be an accountant now (mid 40's) and am resigned to a life of Blogging! (you don't have to read this if you don't want to!). However, what I have encountered is wrong and disabled people should be helped, supported and nurtured. All of us are capable and some want to use that in the workplace. The government through the NHS kept me alive. Do I now just get dumped? Do they have no responsibility to me or am I just Benefit Scrounging Scum (with apologies to Sue Marsh for using her Trademark!!).

As well as looking after my family perhaps my purpose in life is to fix this. People talk of glass ceilings for: women; ethnic minorities; but there is also a glass doorstep which keeps disabled people that want to work outside, looking in, especially if they have a mental/ cognitive disability. My balance is too bad to stack shelves up ladders, my behavioural difficulties would lead to me being seen as confrontational to yobs at McDonalds, I would get really bored and frustrated in a call centre which can lead to outbursts in head injured survivors.

Does anybody out there have any suggestions about positive action that I could take?

Monday, 23 January 2012

A Positive Agenda for Disability and Employment

Boy am I angry and pissed off.

I decided to go to the Seminar at the TUC today on "A Positive Agenda for Disability and Employment" which I heard about on Twitter yesterday. Before I vent I MUST say that Bendygirl was one of the speakers and she was FAB.

VVVV Impressed with my leadership.

So "Why, are you pissed off" I hear you say. It is all down to expectation management.

From the Title of the Seminar I was expecting the following:

1. Either the presentation of a Project Action Plan or how one was going to be prepared.
2. An explanation of the present situation facing the disabled trying to get into work.
3. The perception of the Disabled in the work place and what can be done to improve that.
4. Here's what we need to do to make things better.

I thought my expectations were reasonable.

Here's what we got:

1. A brief recap of Disability legislation from 1990 onwards.
2. The view that the successes achieved by the Disability lobby in the 90's were now being used against us by the establishment.
3. What has been happening with the Welfare Reform Bill.
4. BendyGirl speaking about the positive affirmative action take by the Spartacus Report Team and how they took on the establishment and made them take notice which was VVVVV Good.
5. A new title for the seminar: "A Positive Agenda for Disability and Employment (A seminar on the Governments Cuts and Reforms)" To me this new title contains 2 mutually exclusive topics.

Here's what we didn't get:

There was no agenda spoken about.

There was no hint of a compelling plan for the future.
There was no hint of the future. (Here's what we have done; isn't it good; but unfortunately some of it is being used against us now; disabled people are more likely to be out of work)
Whilst the barriers to entry to the workplace for the disabled were mentioned there was nothing mooted about how to minimise these.
The DwP's Positive About Disability ("2 Ticks") Scheme was not mentioned. (In my experience it is a ripe target to embarrass the DWP)
The work of The Shaw trust and others was not mentioned.

Also, you would think that if you were organising a seminar AND disabled people were prepared to travel long distances to present at it AND if you were the TUC and wanted to give the impression of best practice and being prepared YOU would make sure that the meeting room and the IT support were fit for purpose. They weren't and we lost 20 minutes of time that wasn't made up at the end AND we had to do the speakers out of order which is never good.

I had a wasted afternoon and spent more money than I donated to the Spartacus Report cause.

Two key messages were:

Unemployment amongst disabled people tends to increase more during a recession.
Management have a tendency to try to counsel out disabled people in times of hardship.


Friday, 20 January 2012

Letter from Lord Coe explaining why they appointed an American rather than consider a UK Disabled person

Why aren't Disabled People Allowed to get jobs?

Dear TRH Theresa May MP,

Thank you for the response dated 19th January 2012 from Mr Bennett. I have the following queries which I would like my MP to personally respond to.

1/  Please can you confirm Lord Coe's position that he can appoint any nationality into any position at LOCOG. Do workers at LOCOG from outside of the EU not require work permits?

2/ Lord Coe states that the best candidate for the role was appointed into this job. That is at best disingenuous as my application was not considered and I may have been the best candidate.

3/ Why was a work permit issued for this position to a US citizen. If it is so important to the government to get the disabled back to work why is the UK issuing a work permit to a US citizen to do a job that a disabled UK citizen could do.

The government has made clear that its first priority is "to help those UK nationals without work find it" this is a direct quote from Xpert HR - is this no longer Government policy.  Furthermore I understand the successful candidate is in the UK on a Tier 2 Work Permit, in order to be issued with a Tier 2 work permit an individual must posses skills and experience theoretically required by the UK economy, I look forward to your comments on how this element of the work permit was satisfied, as quite clearly there are UK citizens, both disabled and able who would meet the job criteria and LOCOG did not need to look outside of the UK for the skills required.

4/ Can you please confirm the general requirements for a non EU citizen to be employed in a UK company in a job that a UK/ EU resident could do. Lord Coe said that he does not ring fence jobs on the basis of nationality as that would be against the law, which I accept but work permits are only issued under special circumstances.

5/ Do you personally support Lord Coe and LOCOG's recruitment decision in this case.

I should have been given a chance to secure this job. LOCOG call it a guaranteed interview scheme. All I have been given is an apology. I do not feel that is enough. Do you think I should be satisfied with an apology?

Yours sincerely,

Ian M Jones

Thursday, 19 January 2012

My Response to TRH T. May MP

Dear The Right Honourable Theresa,

Thank you for your response to my e-mail of the 13th January. I am disappointed that you have seen fit to send to me what looks to be a "Template" letter which relies very much on statistics shown to be unsafe by the "Spartacus Report". Included in my e-mail to you were items of a personal nature which you have chosen not to comment upon. I assume this is a mistake on your part and look forward to receiving a fuller response in due course.

In respect of the PM's "off the cuff" remark, I took offence and the disabled community took offence. Surely, that should be the test, not whether the PM intended to cause offence. At the very least, by uttering that put down to the Shadow Chancellor he has demonstrated he is unfit to lead this country? Can you explain to me why you do not agree?

Finally, you "assure me that the Government continues to work closely with disabled people and disability organisations...." on PIP. Evidence from "The Spartacus Report" and positions made clear since its publication has made it clear that the disabled community does not accept you are listening to it. Surely it would be desirable to be able to say that the Majority of Stakeholders affected by the Introduction of PIP support this change?

I look forward to meeting with you in the very near future to discuss this and await confirmation of the date of our meeting from your secretary.

With kind regards,

Ian M Jones

Response from TRH Theresa May MP 17Jan12

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

My MP's response to ATOS Data Protection Scandal

Dear Mr Jones,

Thank you for your email to Theresa May regarding the below article by Sue Marsh on Data Protection. I am sure Theresa will appreciate your concerns and please be assured that she does not consider you, "stock".

Please follow the below link which directs you to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, where you will find information about what your Human Rights are and what they mean. Unfortunately, whether or not ATOS has breached these rights, or broken any other law, is a legal matter and one am unable to offer any advice on.

I would suggest that, should you wish to take the matter further, you should obtain legal advice.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Bennett
Case Worker
Office of the Rt Hon Theresa May MP

-----Original Message-----
From: Ian Jones []
Sent: 15 January 2012 12:15
To: MAY, Theresa
Cc: Sue Marsh
Subject: Data Protection


My Dear Right Honourable Theresa,

In relation to the evidence contained in the report whose link is above, please can you confirm that my human rights have not been infringed by ATOS and let me know if you consider me "stock" as categorised by a government minister this week.

Please do me the courtesy of a prompt reply,

Yours sincerely

Ian M Jones
RG10 8AU

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Responses from The House of Lords

As part of the Spartacus Report campaign I e-mailed all members of the House of Lords with surnames starting "M to O" who had a publicly published e-mail address (not all of them do!! (They work for me??)) the following e-mail on Friday the 13th January 2012. Responses received (2) so far are posted after it!

Dear Lord/ Baroness ____________

We were delighted with the outcome of the ESA votes - finally some hope that we are being heard. It was, therefore, with great concern that we heard that one of these amendments may have essentially been overturned - especially because of the circumstances surrounding the vote which to an outside observer seemed somewhat underhand. I'm sure that by now you will have seen a copy of Reponsible Reform the 'Spartacus Report' and we would ask you to read it if you haven't already. It outlines a number of concerns surrounding proposed reform to DLA. While we are not opposed to reform of DLA in its own right, we are concerned that the motivation behind these particular reforms are primarily financial. Whilst we understand efforts to eliminate fraudulent claimants, we are worried that the negative effects of these reforms on genuine claimants will significantly outweigh any benefit to the economy. Removal of support for disabled people and carers is also often a false economy, because the costs get shunted to another part of the system (for example to the NHS if reduced support causes health crises). I am disabled but able to work and want to work. However, it seems the workplace does not want me to work. My disabilities primarily cause me problems in interacting with strangers which obviously disadvantages me at interview. I have also experienced bias against my applications and one of your colleagues, Lord Coe, is aware of my case and of the fact that LOCOG testimony at Tribunal can only be interpreted as an admission that they failed to make reasonable adjustments for me at a job interview. Please remember sick and disabled people and carers in the continuing debates and votes - you have our future wellbeing in your hands. Thank-you Ian M Jones


From Baroness McIntosh

Dear Mr Jones,

Thank you for your message. You’re right that we had a good day on Wednesday, but also right that the fight is far from over (not least because of that late-night vote…). You can be sure that all of us in the Labour group will continue to do what we can to overturn the government’s plans, but of course we need the support of crossbenchers and others if we are to succeed.

Best wishes

Genista McIntosh

From Lord MacLennan

To 'Ian Jones'

Thank you.

Robert Maclennan

Friday, 13 January 2012

E-mail to my MP following Sue Marsh on NewsNight

On 13 January 2012 00:32, Ian Jones wrote:
Dear The Right Honourable Theresa May MP,

I am sitting here watching Newsnight listening to Chris Grayling MP making statements which in my experience are completely unreasonable.

He states that the governments core objective is to help Disabled People back into work. Perhaps at our meeting you might like to explain why this aim doesn't apply to me? My DEA has only ever suggested applying to one company -LOCOG!! You may remember my experiences with LOCOG which have taken me to a Job Tribunal previously at which LOCOG gave evidence demonstrating they failed to make reasonable adjustments at my interview. However, LOCOG have again made their view of my worth plain to see by appointing an American into a position I applied for before the closing date for applications had passed. I can understand why our job market is open to EU citizens but in a recession can we not try to give the few jobs out there to the Queens subjects? To head off your question, by comparing my cv to the lucky American's on Linked In it is obvious he has no additional skills or experience over and above mine and I further argue he is less skilled and experienced than me.

Mr Grayling also said that this country has an appallingly low level of people with disabilities in work. I know, as it seems that disabled people are put to the back of any queue for jobs (yes, even behind Americans). I believe my skills and experience should make me very employable but I am obviously disabled which doesn't help at interviews because I am different to the other candidates and at an interview different is rarely good.

Also, not all disabled people are the same. I have a mental handicap and an associated learning difficulty. The disability statistics collected do not analyse whether the type of disability you have makes you more or less employable nor do they analyse the seniority of the job the disabled person is given. I have worked as the CFO of a billion $company and do not believe that a job in a call centre (Centrica only operates a guaranteed interview scheme for low level jobs) is a good use of my intellect, experience or potential, although I can't even get a call centre job! I call on you to be concerned about the level of job routinely offered to disabled people.

How is your government going to get me back to work if it is one of your core aims, and how can you be sure that there is no glass ceiling operating for disabled people if you do not even collect the relevant statistics?

Perhaps you might be able to explain something else to me. I paid into the country via NI payments for 24 years. I then got the opportunity to work in Abu Dhabi for nearly 2 years. How can it be fair that I do not qualify for contributory benefits after coming back. I paid in to the system and whilst I was in Abu Dhabi my ill-health Pension (which is not enough to live on (but enough to disqualify me from benefits)) was taxed. However, it is my understanding that a gap in your NI record is frowned upon more than using tax payers money on ornamental ponds at your country retreat. I have contributed more than my fair share (based upon average earnings).

Also, why is an ill-health pension means tested when an old age pension isn't? Why am I being penalised for making provision for my old age and responsibly buying insurance to cover me against the unforeseen?

That suggests age discrimination to me? Can you please comment?

I have paid into this country and not claimed disability benefits I was eligible for whilst in gainful employment. I want to work, I can work but can't find work. Instead of demonising me and the rest of the disabled population are you able to offer me/ us any hope?

Please do not suggest the 2 ticks scheme as a remedy for my problems. LOCOG have routinely failed to live up to the commitments they gave to the scheme but have neither been punished or embarrassed and just this week the Charity Livability have failed for the second time to honour their commitments. Please, please, please either withdraw this scheme or make it fit for purpose.

Yours sincerely

Ian Jones

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Do I Count?

Since my first posting I have been following some interesting people on Twitter- Suey2y and Bendygirl, who are both disability rights campaigners. Their blogs are Diary of a Benefit Scrounger and Benefit Scrounging Scum. The one thing that is becoming more and more clear to me is that disabled can mean many things and some of us disabled do not appear to fit into anybody's model of a disabled person.
I am head injured but have all of my limbs and can walk (which by the way seems to mean that I cannot claim DLA so am unable to join the ranks of the Benefit Scrounging Scum in the UK). I fit into the category of "too able to be disabled, too disabled to be able".
I also paid into a Pension Scheme before my accident which eventually allowed BG to kick me out of my job onto an ill health pension. However, the pension can be stopped if I earn other income and all the other benefits apart from Industrial Injuries Disability Benefit are means tested so I get nothing. Why is the old age pension not means tested in this way?
So what is my problem? I look normal enough but my issues (mildly slurred speech, memory recall problems, occasional spasticity, RHS paralysis and muscle twitches etc) make securing a job at interview slightly less likely than winning a lottery jackpot! When you have hundreds of qualified candidates why take a gamble on one who is different.
Don't assume disabled means unable. Since my accident in 1991 I have had some good jobs (Management Consultant at PwC, Group Financial Controller of a SME in Oxford, Group CFO of a Billion dollar company in Abu Dhabi) but I have only got these jobs because the people that interviewed me saw my potential and overlooked the obvious. I can do these jobs as well as anybody but can't get past the interview stage. Oh dear!
Are Disability Employment Advisers any good? Unfortunately, the first job mine pointed me towards was at LOCOG under the 2 Ticks Positive About Disability Scheme. In brief this led to a Tribunal against LOCOG which I lost but at which their witness admitted failing to make reasonable adjustments (I represented myself, LOCOG had a Top Barrister!!! Nuff said!).
I kept positive and applied for other jobs at LOCOG but the one I was most suited to they appointed an American into the role before the closing date for applications. Ho hum!!
How are the disabled in this country supposed to work if our government will issue Work Permits to foreigners to do jobs that disabled UK citizens can do?
I just wanted to point out that all disabled people are not the same and those of us that are mentally disabled are not a lost cause.

Protecting British Athletes!!

I read today that the Home Secretary (who is also my constituency MP) is moving to protect British Athletes from overseas athletes who are seeking British Nationality in order for them to compete at the London Olympics. Perhaps she might consider protecting disabled UK job seekers from overseas applicants as LOCOG are appointing foreign candidates into jobs they have no unique skills to bring to the party rather than interview disabled UK candidates. I am awaiting an explanation as to why a work permit was granted in this case.