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10 November 2010

After being closed for almost a year, Youreable has finally reopened its benefits forum, but is threatening severe financial and criminal penalties for those who misuse it.

Youreable’s forums were handed over to the Disabled Living Foundation (DLF) last year by private sector disability equipment suppliers Patterson Medical, following Patterson’s buyout of Youreable’s own disability aids shop.

However, in December 2009 the forums were closed following complaints - which are rumoured to have involved the police and the Charity Commission - about the behaviour of moderators and about data protection. 
The benefits forum reopened today.  However, unlike the Benefits and Work forum, there is no pre-moderation, meaning that anyone can post anything they wish and posts are only removed if someone reports them.  DLF staff, who have all had criminal records checks do the post-moderation. It was this lack of pre-moderation which led to many of Youreable’s previous problems.

But the new forum’s policy threatens draconian measures against anyone who is banned from the site for causing trouble and then returns to make more mischief using a different identity.  DLF threatens to:

  • Report offenders to their ISP.
  • Charge offenders for the administrative costs of identifying and removing their posts at the rate of £50 per hour necessarily spent plus any external costs that we incur.
  • Take legal action to recover these costs.
  • Report offenders to the authorities if their actions appear to amount to a breach of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 or any other relevant criminal legislation.

There is an urgent need for a busy, but free, forum for people to discuss benefits issues and get a response in a reasonable time. We wish Youreable well in providing a valuable service whilst avoiding the trolls and flamers. 

Whether threats of sanctions will put off many genuine users whilst leaving determined troublemakers, who are likely to be well aware of how to mask their IP address, unconcerned remains to be seen.