Benefits, Brexit effects, and a much-criticised knighthood – all thanks to Boris

December’s general election in the UK proved to be a resounding success for the Conservative party. It gained an overall majority of 80 seats, allowing prime minister Boris Johnson to ride roughshod over all opposition.

This is a disaster.

boris johnson

Boris Johnson, UK prime minister.

It presents all kinds of problems for the UK itself, such as government benefits for people with disabilities as well as others in need. Then there’s the risk of tariff barriers that British industries fear, and say that they would likely lead to increased prices in the high street.

Similarly, the European Union, minus the UK, is facing an ongoing battle with Boris Johnson’s team for a trade deal. It also wants various European regulations to remain in place in the UK, but some of these have been rejected by the British government.

Indeed, chancellor of the exchequer Sajid Javid has said there would be no alignment with EU regulations once Britain’s exit from the European Union is made official.

Interviewed by the UK newspaper the Financial Times, he said: “There will not be alignment, we will not be a rule taker, we will not be in the single market and we will not be in the customs union – and we will do this by the end of the year.”

His remarks indicate a significant move away from former PM Theresa May’s deal with the EU. In that, she proposed a close alignment with the EU, to try to reduce trade friction at the border.

Complicated and time consuming

Of course, there are many countries outside the EU – many of which, including the USA, will be targeted for trade deals by the UK. Such deals are complicated and time consuming to negotiate. They present problems to both parties.

Moving to the UK itself, there are continuing issues involving government benefits. Just take a look here:

  • Almost half of DLA (Disabled Living Allowance) claimants have had their benefit stopped or reduced when they transferred to PIP (Personal Independence Payment).
  • Fewer than one in three new PIP claims succeed.
  • Of those that do succeed, most new PIP awards last less than two years.

On the positive side, success rates for ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) and PIP appeals by unsuccessful applicants continue to rise. What’s more, nearly 6 out of 10 new ESA claimants are put in the more advantageous support group.

And, of course, the government is pressing ahead with the rollout of the oft criticised, and some would say discredited, Universal Credit.

iain duncan smth

Iain Duncan Smith MP.

Lastly, many claimants, welfare specialists, and opposition politicians have voiced their disgust that former Department for Work and Pensions secretary of state Iain Duncan Smith is to be knighted.

He oversaw and championed the launch of Universal Credit.

 

 

 

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go fund meTo help me meet the costs of a wheelchair accessible vehicle and the hospital care, I have started a Go Fund Me page. Please help by making a donation, however small, HERE.

Thank you

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Conservative peer calls out McVey for lying to MPs about Motability

Current work and pensions secretary Esther McVey stands accused of lying to fellow MPs about the Motability disability car scheme. In parliamentary-speak, this is called ‘misleading the house’.

And the accusation comes from within her own party!

Lord Sterling, who was a founder of Motability in 1977, told McVey in a letter that the “litany of inaccuracies”, in a House of Commons debate earlier this month, were “deeply troubling”.

motability

Lord Sterling.

His letter revealed that 75,000 Motability customers had to return vehicles following reassessment for which her department (DWP) was responsible. They had previously claimed disability living allowance (DLA) but had been reassessed for personal independence payment (PIP), and lost entitlement.

The February 8 debate followed a claim, in the Daily Mail newspaper, that Motability Operations (MO) had £2.4 billion reserves. A second claim was that Motability chief executive, Mike Betts, had a £1.7 million pay and bonuses package. 

But Lord Sterling’s letter said that the debate had been “deeply flawed and misleading”. He wrote that some errors related to claims that the charity was holding the reserves and running the scheme, and that Betts was employed by the charity. None of those is true.

He pointed out the scheme was delivered by MO under contract to the Motability charity, not by the charity itself.

He told McVey that a separate letter, correcting “many false statements”, was sent to her by Motability Operations.

motability

Esther McVey, work and pensions secretary.

McVey makes serious errors in Commons

He pointed out that McVey herself had made four serious errors:

  • Error 1: She had called for the charity’s trustees to be “held to account” after another MP told how a constituent who had been a lifetime recipient of DLA had been threatened with having her Motability vehicle removed on Boxing Day.

Fact 1: Sterling said this was a result of a PIP reassessment – carried out by the DWP. It was the department that had decided the constituent was no longer eligible for the higher rate of mobility support. This made her no longer eligible to lease a car through the Motability scheme.

  • Error 2: McVey’s claimed in the debate that it had been her intervention, as minister for disabled people in 2013, that led to Motability agreeing to pass £175 million to former DLA claimants who lost their Motability vehicles in the reassessment programme.

Fact 2: Not true said Lord Sterling.  Minutes of the charity’s meetings showed that its own trustees had made this decision themselves the previous year. They “felt a moral obligation to help people at risk of losing cars due to government policy changes”. In fact, they had already decided by December 2012, months before McVey’s intervention, “to provide a package of significant financial support and other assistance”.

Furthermore, he said McVey had suggested in 2013 that this support should only be focused on the initial stage of reassessments, up to 2015-16. However, Motability’s trustees wanted to provide financial support “over the full period of the DWP’s reassessments”.

He added the charity had to face customers who were “confused, distressed and even suicidal, as they worry about losing their mobility”.

No basis to demand money

  • Error 3: McVey told MPs that the DWP would use money regained from Motability to help constituents whose cars had been removed before their PIP appeals had been heard.

In the debate, she said: “When we have got the money back from Motability, we believe we should to support disabled people, that is one of the first things it should be used for.”

Fact 3: Lord Sterling poured cold water on this suggestion.  He said there was “no basis on which the government can demand any money to be handed over”.

  • Error 4: McVey claimed that the charity was piloting a scheme – “after direction from the department” – to help disabled children under the age of three.

Fact 4: Lord Sterling dismissed this, and said the scheme was actually being piloted by MO and there had been “no direction” from DWP.

motabilityA DWP spokeswoman refused to say if McVey would apologise for the “inaccuracies” in her statements to MPs.

Instead, she said: “When PIP was first introduced, the government worked with Motability to design an extensive £175 million transitional support package to support Motability customers who have not been awarded the enhanced mobility component on reassessment from DLA to PIP.

“While the department works closely with Motability, it is an independent charitable organisation and therefore we are not directly involved in determining scheme policy or operational issues.”

Review call rejected

McVey has suffered another setback. She called, in the debate, for the Charity Commission to carry out another review of the financial relationship between the charity and Motability Operations. This would have followed one it carried out last year. In response, the commission declined to do so, and said that it has no new concerns.

motabilityIt issued a statement, saying: “In light of media reporting about the Motability scheme, we reviewed the highlighted issues to see if there was anything we had not investigated as part of our previous regulatory compliance case in Motability… which was under our jurisdiction as regulator of charities in England and Wales.

“Having reviewed the latest information in the media we have concluded that, as set out in our statement on 8 February, there are no new concerns that come under the commission’s jurisdiction.”

As a former client of Motability, I can say I always received excellent service. If I still lived in the UK, I would still be driving one of the schemes cars. Unfortunately, the mobility element of DLA and PIP is not paid to people living overseas – so I bought my own.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

Assessment denies disability benefit to woman with rare disease because she has a degree

NOTE: This post is relevant to all people with disabilities who may wish to claim PIP or ESA benefits. Read on whether your disability is a result of one of many diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s or another illness, or has another cause.

 

PIP assessments, and the people that carry them out, are flawed. We know that, even official papers released by the government show it.

Astoundingly, it now seems that assessors believe that more highly educated you are, the less you need to be paid disability benefit. What an absolutely crazy idea – as if education or a degree can have any effect on how we are affected by our disabilities.

Those of us with disabilities, whether caused by one of a number of illnesses or injury, won’t be surprised. We are used to absurdities of obtaining the appropriate benefits.

Having said that, before you doubt that assessors could be so stupid, one person’s case has already been talked about in the House of Commons. There, UK prime minister Theresa May expressed concern and promised it would be investigated.

degree

Liz McKinnes MP

The case was brought up during prime minister’s questions last week by Liz McInnes, Labour MP for Heywood and Middleton. She spoke of her constituent, Natasha, who has fanconi anemia – a genetic bone marrow condition which carries a very high risk of cancer.

Degree: doesn’t need as much support

Ms McInnes said: “Natasha was on lifetime disability allowance (DLA), which was removed following a PIP assessment.

“When Natasha appealed, she was told that because she had a degree, she doesn’t need as much support.

“Now, I’m sure the PM is aware that disease and cancer are no respecters of qualifications and I’d like to ask the PM what urgent measures she will take to improve the quality and standard of PIP assessments.”

Theresa May, prime minister.

Mrs May admitted the case was concerning and surprising.

She said: “Obviously, the DWP is constantly looking at the standard of PIP assessments that are being made I’m sorry to hear the case that the Honorable Lady has set out.

“I’m sure most people would be concerned at hear that case. I’m very surprised at the judgement that was given in relation to that individual. Can I suggest that she sends in the detail of that case and we’ll make sure that that’s looked into.”

Well, I am sure Natasha’s case will be subject to an investigation, of sorts, but I don’t think it will lead to any major changes that could benefit the rest of us. No, that would be too much to hope from this government.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

 

Motability faces financial allegations but stands strong against its critics

Shock, horror. Motabilty Operations, part of the Motability charity, is facing allegations about its finances.

The UK organisation provides cars for disabled people who receive the highest level of benefit for mobility. It is accused of having enormous cash reserves and is said to pay its chief executive an outrageous six figure salary.

Extraordinary, we must investigate, say ministers and other MPs. BUT, hold on, what are the FACTS? What is the TRUTH?

The Daily Mail first revealed the allegations in a report published this week. In the Mail Online, the story was headlined “Revealed: Boss of car scheme for the disabled is on £1.7million… and YOU pay: MPs question Motability’s lavish salaries and its £2.4billion cash stockpile”.

Today, it returned to the story, quoting the Press Association saying:

A disability charity faces a double investigation after MPs raised concerns over the “grotesque” state of its finances.

Work and pensions secretary Esther McVey said she has asked the National Audit Office (NAO) to consider probing Motability amid reports it has a £2.4 billion surplus and pays its chief executive £1.7 million a year.

Labour’s Frank Field, chairman of the Work and Pensions select committee, also confirmed his panel would be launching its own “urgent inquiry”.

Allegations rebuffed

I am sure you will agree, if the allegations turn out to be true, it would be disgusting. Profiteering on the backs of the disabled. However, there are two sides to every story and Motability has hit back.

It has issued a strongly worded rebuff to the claims made against it. In its statement, Motability said:

motabilityThe Daily Mail claims there is a £2.4bn ‘cash stockpile’ or ‘spare £2.4bn’.

It’s quite clear to us that the Daily Mail has totally misunderstood what this £2.4 billion of reserves represents. It is not held as cash but is used to buy cars for disabled people. This reduces the amount of borrowing required.

It also underpins the scheme’s financial stability, protecting it from the business risks it faces, particularly in relation to used car values. The Charity Commission has today stated “that we consider the level of operating capital held by the company in order to guarantee the scheme to be conservative”.

Moving on to the issue of the salary paid to Mike Betts, the charity said:

The remuneration of Motability Operations directors is decided by the Motability operations board, based on the advice of their remuneration committee.

Successful and effective

Remuneration is reviewed against the market to ensure that it is both competitive over the long term, and to ensure that any rewards are related to performance especially in relation to the quality of service provided to customers.

The current chief executive of Motability Operations, Mike Betts, has been in place since 2003 and has been instrumental in ensuring the company is able to operate successfully and effectively.

So, we have allegations and a complete rebuff. Now, we will have to wait for the inquiries to be completed and all the facts to be established.

Until then, I’ll give Motability the benefit of any doubt. After all, like anyone else, the company should be considered innocent until proven guilty.

•  Having multiple sclerosis£££, I was awarded the top level of both care and mobility elements of Disabled Living Allowance. I chose to use the mobility element to get a Motability car when I lived in Wales. While I still have the same award, the mobility element is not paid outside the UK and so, living in Spain, I don’t receive it. However, if I moved back to Britain, I would be paid it again.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * *

50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

Universal credit benefit reform does not make anticipated savings

Universal credit (UC) is not going to give the UK government its much-desired savings in benefit costs, according to an official report.

An Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) report says that UC will save the government less than 2% of what it would have spent on benefits if UC had not been introduced.

OBR expects universal credit to save the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) just £1 billion by the time it is fully rolled-out. This compares poorly with the £63.2 billion that the benefits replaced by UC would have cost.

universal creditSo, what are the figures involved? Well, the saving in benefits paid out is estimated to be £10.7 billion, but that is not the entire story. The report says additional costs of UC will be a full £9.6 billion.

To me, that means that millions have been been stolen out of the hands of claimants. Instead, they are being used, partially at least, to line the corporate pockets of outside contractors. Disgusting, but I have ceased to be surprised by the actions of this government.

In particular, OBR says low income self-employed claimants will be the hardest hit by UC.

The report goes on to say, rather worryingly; “work coaches in UC have considerably more discretion in the conditions they can impose on both in-work and out-of-work claimants and in the sanctions that they can impose for failure to meet those conditions.”

Universal credit history repeated

As if existing sanctions are not hated enough, it seems UC claimants seem fated to face worse conditions and sanctions.

I was one of the recipients of incapacity benefit(IB) who successfully completed the move to employment and support allowance support group. Many IB claimants were not so fortunate but the government’s aim of slashing benefit costs failed dismally. All it did was to hurt the lives of many thousands of claimants.

Now we see history being repeated with ministers trying to use UC to replace six means-tested benefits. These are income-based jobseeker’s allowance, housing benefit, working tax credit, child tax credit, income-based employment and support allowance, and income support.

At the same time, the gradual introduction of personal independence payment (PIP) to replace disability living allowance (DLA) continues to terrorise those still receiving DLA-

Campaigning and information website benefitsandwork.co.uk says: “It seems clear that an enormous amount of hardship and fear is being caused by yet another failed ‘reform’ to the benefits system in the transfer to UC.

“Will successive governments ever learn from their mistakes?”

Regretfully, it appears not.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

Told you are well enough to work and don’t need disability benefits

Campaigners and activists are concerned that the government’s disability employment strategy seems heavily influenced by the discredited “biopsychosocial” (BPS) model.

Tabitha Jay let out the cat out of the bag. She is the civil servant who heads the UK government’s work and health unit, responsible for the disability employment strategy.

According to the Disability News Service:

Jay told a meeting of the all-party parliamentary group for disability (APPGD) … that the disability employmentsocial model of disability underpinned the strategy, which has an aim of seeing one million more disabled people in work over the next 10 years.

But she also appeared to suggest that the BPS model was “running in parallel” to the social model within the strategy.

Critics  say the BPS model blames individual person with a disability for being unemployed. It says they have negative attitudes towards working.

So, our health problems are just in our heads, right? No, that’s not true. We’d love to work, we just can’t.

Government ministers say they want to reduce the disability employment gap by encouraging people with disabilities to gain employment.

disability employment

Chancellor Philip Hammond MP.

Then, of course, chancellor of the exchequer Phillip Hammond started singing from a different songsheet. He said disabled workers were holding back productivity in the UK economy.

Arrant nonsense of course.

Awarded zero points

It seems that he meant that there is no point employing people with disabilities. Why? Because the adjustments they require cancel out any usefulness they have. More nonsense, but it’s not going to encourage job offers to the disabled.

Turning  to disability benefits, Welfare Weekly says, in just 18 months, upwards of 220,000 people have been awarded zero points when assessed for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

It also says that, during the same period, 180,000 people have been denied PIP after being told to transfer from Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

By awarding zero points, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is telling people that there is nothing wrong with them. Well, not enough to justify them being given disability benefit money to help everyday living.

Journalist Mike Sivier, on voxpoliticalonline.com comments:

That seems to bear out the claim that the BPS model is still being used, and people are still being told their disabilities are all in their minds – and blamed for it, rather than helped.

• Just a thought, why was a civil servant representing the DWP at the meeting? She was filling in for disabilities minister Sarah Newton who had pulled out at short notice. She had originally promised to answer questions about the strategy.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

Good news about WCAs and Scotland BUT Universal Credit to roll out faster

As dust settles following UK prime minister Theresa May’s farcical conference speech, there’s mixed news for people claiming disability benefits. This includes people with MS and other diseases that cause disability.

disability

Theresa May’s distress call at party conference (Pic: Daily Star).

Good news is some Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) recipients will no longer face repeated work capability assessments (WCAs).   

I say ‘some’ as this is only a limited concession. It affects claimants in the ESA support group or any with limited capability for work-related activity for Universal Credit (UC).

There are two further conditions to qualify for exemption from repeat WCAs. Firstly, claimants need to have a severe, lifelong disability, illness, or health condition. Secondly, they must be unlikely to ever be able to move into work.

Department for Work and Pensions secretary David Gauke said this week: “After early tests of this approach, it has now been implemented and I can tell you that around twice as many people are expected to benefit from this reform than were originally thought.”

The government has devolved, to the Scottish parliament at Holyrood, control of some benefits paid to people living in Scotland. These benefits include Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disabled Living Allowance (DLA), and Carer’s Allowance.

Holyrood has decided that Scottish people should get a better deal than anyone elsewhere in the UK.

Disability benefit changes for the Scots

It has decided that, in Scotland:

  • Benefits will rise annually by at least the rate of inflation.
  • Private companies will no longer be allowed to carry out assessments for disability benefits such as PIP, DLA, and Attendance Allowance.
  • Any child in receipt of DLA will be given an automatic award of that DLA to age 18, to allow for continuity for families.
  • Mandatory reconsiderations of claim denials will have to take place within a set time limit or claimants will be able to take their case to a tribunal without needing to wait any longer.

Perhaps, other parts of the UK will follow suit in due course. We can only live in hope – certainly not in expectation.

On the downside, the government has decided to continue to roll out the highly criticized Universal Credit. However, it is now doing so 10 times faster than originally planned. Now, 50 areas a month will transfer to the new benefit, instead of just 5.

Compassionate? DWP secretary David Gauke (Picture: South West Herts Conservatives Association).

The government decided to proceed despite warnings of ‘disaster’ and a ‘human and political catastrophe’ from the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and politicians from all parties, including 12 Conservative MPs

What seems perverse to me is that this government takes pride iin the harshness with which it treats claimants, while always claiming to be compassionate.

In his speech, Gauke also spoke of the government’s vision. He said: “It is a vision of the welfare state that is compassionate, practical and aspirational. It is, in short, a Conservative vision for a modern welfare state.”

Compassionate? No, just some sick joke.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.