Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


Letters: Disability benefits

Forcing sick and disabled on to the job market

Yesterday, I was forced to say, in front of my son, that his problems originate from brain damage at birth and that there is no cure for brain damage. I was accompanying my 38-year-old son, who has learning difficulties, to a medical assessment. At five years old he was "statemented" as in need of special care. Since then, the state has always accepted his need. Nothing in his circumstances has changed over 32 years. Until now.

Suddenly he is being looked at closely to see whether he can get a job such as stacking shelves in Tesco. We know why: to save the Government money, so they can withdraw his disability living allowance.

For this, he would have to travel an hour and 40 minutes and put himself at risk in a large town because of his vulnerabilities. Never mind that he grows organic food to help feed the community in which he lives and enjoys a fulfilled life. No, let him stack shelves and risk his safety daily.

Those who benefit from the market economy and who have marched us to the brink should be frogmarched themselves to visit such communities and other vulnerable people to see who pays for their greed.

Gabriel Parlour

Stroud, Gloucestershire


In theory, anybody who can bat an eyelid to convey information can work ("Workers on long-term sick leave face tougher assessment tests", 19 November). But it would not be cost-effective, let alone humane, to support the very disabled in employment. The precedent of job-seekers' agreements for the unemployed suggests that large-scale assessment of the long-term sick would in practice bully vulnerable people to apply for jobs they have no hope of getting.

The Government already needs to find employment for over a million jobless young people, who are potentially more productive than disabled people.

Frederic Stansfield



This Government's steps to save money seem increasingly desperate. Oliver Wright's article of 19 November suggests that the Government have decided that GPs are no longer capable of assessing whether someone is fit to work or not, although they are, apparently, capable of running the NHS.

Where are the jobs for the long-term sick to do? As usual the Government are picking on the weakest in society and trying to demonise them as scroungers.

Gerald J Brown

Warbstow, Cornwall


These are curious times indeed. On the one hand, a "work and health" initiative report apparently aims to get sick people back to work by creating a new independent agency. On the other hand, there have been swingeing cuts of the government agency responsible for promoting health and safety at work and protecting employees from falling ill because of unhealthy work.

On the one hand, people are to be "encouraged" to get back to work. On the other hand government announces record unemployment figures, and in those places where most of the sick who can apparently return to work are located, there are often no jobs available at all.

Regulating bankers and stimulating growth make a lot more sense than penalising the most vulnerable in our communities.

Professor Andrew Watterson

Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group,

University of Stirling


Public sector is no utopia

Public sector workers will not recognise the utopia Christina Patterson (16 November) claims they work in. Back in our real world, people with degrees in the public sector earn 5.7 per cent less than people similarly well qualified in the private sector.

The people Ms Patterson suggests public sector workers will hurt by taking industrial action are the same people that nurses, paramedics, care assistants, teaching assistants, social workers etc care for every day – so they don't take strike action lightly. But plans drastically to worsen their pension rights – on top of pay freezes at a time of high inflation, and heavy job cuts – are pushing them too far.

Public sector workers are not doggedly trying to protect the status quo. Our schemes had major reforms just four years ago – and are affordable and financially sustainable. The so-called pensions crisis is propaganda, whipped up to allow the Government to raid pensions, because we believe every penny will go towards paying down the deficit.

It is in no one's interest to see workers in the public or private sector living in poverty and relying on state benefits when they retire – that is just storing up more trouble for the future.

Dave Prentis

General Secretary, UNISON

London NW


Not all public servants want to strike. Not all of us regard it as unreasonable to take reduced pay or to contribute more to our pension pot if the alternative is unemployment – the kind of unemployment faced by thousands of private business employees up and down the country. I can't help but wonder why, if our cause is so just, the public don't support us more.

As a teacher, while I'm not enamoured with the prospect of being made to stand in front of a class well into my 60s, I do think that many of us would happily continue to contribute in other ways.

If, in order to avoid the kind of national insolvency experienced by Greece, we must endure a pay freeze or even a pay cut, I'll happily do it regardless of whether my better-paid banking brothers are prepared to or not. Surely that's how to take the moral high ground.

F Elder

Preston, Lancashire


Christina Patterson is correct to say that I am paying the salaries of public-sector workers. But my private-sector job depends upon retail trade, so reduced pay for anyone other than the rich can only harm my future prospects.

And public sector pay sets a gold standard, forcing the often surprisingly rich people running private businesses to pay workers like me at least a half-decent wage.

David Woods

Hull, East Yorkshire


Blatter's naive reaction to racism

Sepp Blatter's ingenious solution to tackling racism on the football pitch defies belief. In the 1970s and 1980s we saw so-called football fans throwing bananas at black players. While incidents of that kind are far less prevalent nowadays thanks to the hard work of many anti-racism organisations and individuals of goodwill, there is still more to be done, especially on the international field.

Our organisation has had nothing but co-operation in our mission to challenge prejudice both on and off the pitch from the clubs we have worked with, in particular Arsenal, Celtic, Glasgow Rangers and Blackburn Rovers. But I wonder how Mr Blatter would react to being the target of irrational and regular prejudice and abuse?

At the least he should apologise for his incomprehensible naivety, but even better to take the honourable course and bow out.

Gillian Walnes

Executive Director, Anne Frank Trust UK, London NW5


Neil Warnock (19 November) laughably suggests that the world's black players should boycott the next round of international fixtures to force Sepp Blatter out of Fifa. Why not the white players too? Or perhaps Warnock feels that black players should sacrifice themselves, and ignore their national sides and fans, so English football can get its own back on Blatter? A night of all-white football then.

Will Goble

Rayleigh, Essex


Tide of healthy Olympic drinks

I was disappointed to read Diane Abbott's gloomy indictment of the London 2012 Olympic Games (17 November). As one of the longest continuous sponsors of the Olympic Movement, we are excited that we are helping to bring the magic of the Games to London next year.

Rather than London 2012 being "washed away in a tide of fizzy drinks", we will be refreshing the millions of spectators that attend the Games with a wide range of drinks, and we expect three quarters of the drinks sold at Olympic venues to be water, juice or sugar-free.

Jon Woods

Country Manager, Coca-Cola Great Britain and Ireland, London SE1


Diane Abbott is not being fair in saying that the Olympic Delivery Authority was "never serious" about giving opportunities to local people to work on the construction of the London 2012 Olympic Park.

More than 44,000 people got work at a time of rising unemployment – close to a fifth of them (not less than 10 per cent, as claimed) were residents of the five host boroughs, beating our target of 15 per cent.

We have worked with local councils on job brokerage services specifically for their residents, given them priority access to new jobs and provided training.

Dennis Hone

Chief Executive, Olympic Delivery Authority, London E14


Anti-German spite masks envy

The infantilism shown in public reactions to Germany (leading article, 19 November) reveals more than the daily media diet and the compulsory school curriculum about Hitler and the Holocaust.

The English and the Germans are more like each other than any other peoples in Europe, as most visitors and some historians will confirm, except that the Germans are the more industrious and better organised. I remember Harold Wilson's "argument" for staying in the Common Market because our own welfare payments would benefit from post-Wirtschaftswunder prosperity.

Underlying the silly spite is self-hating envy.

Jason Robertson

Sheringham, Norfolk


Afraid of the vampire squid?

Thank you to Stephen Foley for an excellent article on the "vampire squid" (18 November). Perhaps it would be timely to look at those who have defaulted in the recent past. Has it been a disaster? Try Iceland and Argentina for a start. As for taking on Goldman Sachs in the name of ourselves and future generations, that would take politicians worthy of the electorate

Clive Peaple

Dalton, Cumbria


Sing along in Gaelic

The headline "A music event you won't be singing along with" (19 November) implies the assumption that all Independent readers are arrant monoglots. I read The Independent, but – mirabile dictu – might just sing along to the song in Irish Gaelic, as I speak that language. And "obscure" languages? Are Irish and Scottish Gaelic obscure in the UK?

Terry Walsh

Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk


Finances in poor health

The fact that Greece and Italy have poor financial policies and also the highest rates of antibiotic usage in the EU ("Antibiotic-resistant infections spread through Europe", 18 November) justifies the need for enforceable policies in both areas. High use of these drugs inevitably brings antibiotic resistance. We all know what poor financial probity leads to.

Professor Richard Wise

Breinton, Herefordshire