Jul 282011
 

Oxford protestors

Marches against the cuts have become a regular sight in Oxford, as in most other towns and cities in the UK. But Saturday’s march was different. Instead of being led by campaigners or trade unions it was headed up by people with learning disabilities, who also ran a speakers’ corner at the end of the march.

More videos at http://oxfordsos.org.uk/

The event was the brainchild of Paul Scarrott, a member of My Life My Choice, a local self-advocacy organisation for people with learning disabilities. Inspired by the “Hardest Hit” march in London in May, he and Jackie Scarrot, who has also been campaigning against the NHS reforms, worked with Oxford Save our Services to organise a “March of the Uninvisible People.” There was a great atmosphere, and the noisy procession drew lots of attention in central Oxford with many people stopping to listen to the speeches in Bonn Square.

In the words of one of the speakers at the rally, the march was intended to show the County Council and the government that disabled people refuse to be “swept under the carpet” of society.

The political victimisation of disabled people is already leading to a worsening of discrimination and bullying. The speakers’ corner that followed the march was opened and compered by members of My Life My Choice, and all speakers sent a strong message that our community doesn’t want to go back to the bad old days of isolation and neglect. People with learning disabilities spoke first, and were followed by campaigners, local politicians, and anyone else who wanted to take the megaphone. The message was the same from all speakers: we’re not going to let you do this. We’re going to fight the social care and benefit cuts in the courts, in council meetings, in the media and on the streets.

Liam, one of the first speakers, talked about his aspirations: support and a job. He explained how the government was failing him. But, like the other speakers, he wasn’t just bemoaning his fate. He had a message for Cameron: “People power starts now!” With a march of hundreds against benefit cuts in Brighton on the same day, also led by people with disabilities, and with increasingly frequent protests against the first signs of the inhumane impacts of cuts in care on people like Elaine McDonald and the private companies who stand to make a profit, along with the growing voice of grassroots groups like Disabled People Against Cuts and Broken of Britain, it looks like he’s right.

Cross posted and with thanks to http://oxfordsos.org.uk/

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Jul 282011
 

DPAC welcomes the legal action taken against Lancashire County Council to challenge their cuts to social services. Two disabled older women who rely on Council funding for support to live in their own homes took a case to the high court where a judicial review was concluded last week. It will unfortunately be at least a month before the judgement is delivered.

The Council have now admitted that a decision to only provide support to meet personal care needs was unlawful but the lawyers for the women taking the case have called upon the judge to make clear that adopting such policies is illegal.

Lancashire County Council wants to raise the eligibility threshold for support from “moderate” to “substantial”, and cut spending on personal budgets and home care. Lawyers for the two women, who have backing from Disabled People’s Organisation Disability Equality North West, argued that the Council broke the Disability Discrimination Act by failing to take into account the impact of its proposed cuts on the lives of disabled people. In fact the Council agreed a new budget that incorporated social care savings before the consultation on the proposed cuts had even ended.

Lancashire County Council should be forced to look again at its plans to cut services and increase charges and to find other budget areas where savings can be more safely made.

http://www.disabilitylib.org.uk/component/content/article/1-latest-news/600-disabled-women-ask-court-to-force-council-to-think-again-over-cuts

News source: John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

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Jul 282011
 

DPAC notes with interest the news reported by John Pring that disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) are to boycott a review, set up by Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD) and Mencap,  into one of the most controversial parts of the government’s welfare reform bill.

The two big disability charities, announced this week that they were launching a new “independent review” into how the mobility needs of people living in residential care are met and funded.

The bill currently gives the government powers to stop paying the mobility element of the new personal independence payment – which is set to replace disability living allowance – to people in state-funded residential homes.

Given that the review will be led by  “crossbench peer Lord [Colin] Low, former chair of RNIB and now its vice-president and also president of Disability Alliance with other members of the review’s “steering group” include a  disabled resident of a Leonard Cheshire residential home, the governor of a special school, a local government expert, the director of a think-tank, and an expert in care provision”, it is not surprising that DPOs should raise concerns about the independence of the charities’ new review.

The question is posed as to why no user-led organisations were told about it or asked to take part.

Jaspal Dhani, CEO of UKDPC  said he was concerned that the review could be used to promote the need for residential services rather than disabled people’s right to live in the community.

Mark Harrison, chief executive of Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People, said he was “angry” with the decision to set up the review, which he said was “typical behaviour from two disability charities that are for disabled people, not of disabled people”.

He said the two charities had yet again “violated” the disability movement’s principle of “nothing about us without us”.

Sue Bott, director of the National Centre for Independent Living (NCIL), said NCIL would also not be taking part, while she was “struggling to see what this independent review will achieve other than to try and raise the profile of the two organisations involved”.

DPAC would like to point out although we understood the need for disabled people to march with the big charities at the Hardest Hit rally, we had grave reservations about their (big charities’)  motives for organising the event, it looks like we might be confirmed in our suspicions.

Source: http://www.disabilitylib.org.uk/component/content/article/1-latest-news/597-dpos-boycott-charities-independent-review-of-mobility-needs

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Jul 272011
 
Photo of today's papers - Headlines claim that just 1 in 14 are unfit for work. Photo by @opinion8ed_dyke

Photo of today's papers - Headlines claim that just 1 in 14 are unfit for work. Photo by @opinion8ed_dyke

By Steven Sumpter

The headlines today are screaming that a mere 7% of ESA claimants aren’t fit for work. The Daily Mail says that “Benefits Britain marches on: Just one in 14 disability handout applicants are too ill to work” while the BBC claim “Tests claim few benefit claimants unfit to work” These figures are grossly misleading. They actually come from a Department of Work and Pensions press release, 26 July 2011 – Work Programme provides tailored support as latest figures show people are being found fit for work. The news stories haven’t actually mislead about the contents of the press release too much, the propaganda comes from the DWP.

Lets start with the figures from the DWP.

For all new ESA claims from 27th October 2008 to 30th November 2010, the result of the initial WCA is as follows

  • Support Group – 7%
  • Work Related Activity Group – 17%
  • Fit for Work – 39%
  • Claim closed before assessment complete – 36%
  • Assessment still in progress – 1%

These figures are true, but lie by omission. First of all, the figures given are for ALL that start a claim for ESA. As stated, 36% of people that start a claim drop out before they even get to their Work Capability Assessment. Some of these people will drop out because they perhaps shouldn’t have applied in the first place. Some might even have been trying it on and then realised that they would be caught. Some recover enough to find work, some find work that fits around their disabilities. Some, however, drop out because they are so ill that they cannot face the application and testing process. We don’t know, as no records are kept of reasons for dropping out, but I contend that many more than we know drop out because they are too ill to finish the process. Given that 36% of claimants are not tested, we cannot include them in the ‘fit for work’ category. That 7% of claimants is actually 11% of claimants who complete the process.

11% is still a very small number. That still casts 89% of claimants as cheats, doesn’t it? Well no. No it doesn’t. Not unless you are a tabloid writer. You see, 17% of total claimantss – or 26.6% of claimants that finish the process – are put in the Work Related Activity Group. Being put in this group DOES NOT mean that the claimant is fit for work! It means that there may be some job, as yet unknown, that the claimant could possibly manage to do, if they push themselves hard enough,possibly at high cost to their health, IF they receive the right support in terms of information, equipment, services and grants. People in this group must attend six interviews at the Job Centre over the course of a few months to try and determine just what this possible job could be, and the support that would be needed to do it. People in this group STILL RECEIVE ESA.

Adding those two together and leaving out the people that dropped out, that means that 37.5% of people tested were not fit for work. That still leaves 61% that were receiving ESA who were found fit for work. Are they all cheats? No. Here’s why.

The Work Capability Assessment takes place at the end of the assessment phase of the claim. That means the test can take place up to 14 weeks after the person started to claim ESA. 14 weeks is a long time, and it should also be noted that people are often sick for a long time before they even apply for ESA, either on Statutory Sick Pay for 28 weeks, or just unaware that they can claim. Those people could easily have been sick for 9 months before being tested. 9 months is long enough for people to recover or start recovering from many health issues, and so these people would have been correctly being given ESA while unable to work. Health issues change, and finding these people fit for work now would be correct, but does not invalidate their claim in the previous months. I think if the WCA correctly finds someone capable of work after many months of illness but heading towards recovery, this is usually a good thing.

Assuming that changes in health conditions account for a chunk of that 61%, let’s say a third, that still leaves the rest. Here’s the thing. The accuracy of the testing process has been found to be wrong, broken, inadequate, however you want to put it, by MPs, a house of commons select committee, many disability rights charities, and many many individuals and activists.Even a person involved in designing the test has said that it is not fit for purpose.

33% of people found fit for work between October 2008 and August 2009 appealed against that decision. 40% of those overturned that decision and were awarded ESA. That’s 27,500 people who were provably found fit for work when they were not. Many more people did not appeal, for many of the same reasons that may have caused people to drop out of the claims process.

Today the Commons Select Committee on the Migration from Incapacity Benefits to Employment Support Allowance released its 6th Report – The Role Of Incapacity Benefit Reassessment In Helping Claimants Into Employment. Among other things, that report criticised media coverage and stated that government had a duty to take more care when engaging with media.

5.  Sections of the media routinely use pejorative language, such as “work-shy” or “scrounger”, when referring to incapacity benefit claimants. We strongly deprecate this and believe that it is irresponsible and inaccurate. The duty on the state to provide adequate support through the benefits system for people who are unable to work because of a serious health condition or illness is a fundamental principle of British society. Portraying the reassessment of incapacity benefit claimants as some sort of scheme to “weed out benefit cheats” shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the Government’s objectives. (Paragraph 40)

6.  Whilst fully accepting that the Government, and this Committee, have no role in determining the nature and content of media coverage, we believe thatmore care is needed in the way the Government engages with the media and in particular the way in which it releases and provides its commentary on official statistics on the IB reassessment. In the end, the media will choose its own angle, but the Government should take great care with the language it itself uses and take all possible steps to ensure that context is provided when information about IB claimants found fit for work is released, so that unhelpful and inaccurate stories can be shown to have no basis. (Paragraph 41)

I disagree with part of this in that I think that consciously or not, Conservative ministers have an ideological motive to move people off of benefits, portraying them as cheats if necessary, with the help of special advisors. (SPADS.) I believe that ministers and SPADS have been feeding selected information to the press to create a national view that is biased against sick and disabled people that claim benefits, and the press have been only too happy to amplify this.

Related Links

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Jul 252011
 

Two invitations from 2 new regional/local DPACS:  Chester and Cornwall.


WEDNESDAY 27TH JULY, 6PM

DIAL HOUSE, HAMILTON PLACE, CHESTER

ALL DISABLED PEOPLE IN AND AROUND CHESTER ARE WELCOME TO COME AND HELP SET UP THE CAMPAIGN!

Too many disabled people are living in fear of coalition government cuts which threaten our independence, our care and our benefits.

Government proposals will mean:

  • the abolition of non-means tested benefits like Incapacity Benefit from April 2012
  • the abolition of Disability Living Allowance from 2013
  • strict policing of all benefit claims by privatised medical services (ATOS) who view all disabled people as potential criminals
  • cuts to support services from local authorities
  • cuts to housing provision
  • privatisation of the NHS.

And all this is accompanied by a wave of attacks in the media. Government ministers try to smear disabled people claiming their rights as welfare cheats or drug addicts.

It is time for disabled people themselves to make their voices heard in opposition to the cuts. There will be a meeting in Chester to start a campaign of protest here:

and
DPAC for Cornwall
DPAC Cornwall: Austerity Cuts affect one and all!

Where: The Railway Club, Truro, next to Truro Railway Station
When : Wednesday 27/07/11
Time   : 18.30
Contact: cantical@gmx.co.uk

Welcome everyone to the Inaugural meeting of DPAC Cornwall held at the Railway Club, Truro Railway Station, start time is 18.30 and we look forward to meeting new faces, as well as those we already know.

This group is for disabled people, their families, friends and carers that are affected in any way whatsoever by the government’s austerity cuts.
If you would like a chance to show support for the disabled community and discover how the cuts will affect some of the more vulnerable members of society, then please come and say hello, and help our voice to be heard.

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Jul 242011
 

protestors on march

Brighton Disabled People Against the Cuts and Brighton Benefits Campaign organise a demonstration against benefit cuts and in particular cuts to disability benefits. They held an  extremely successful demonstration, led by two people in wheelchairs.

The march began with speeches at The Level. Kevin Dale from PCS, Andy Richards from UNISON, Shona from Youth Fight for Jobs, Pip Tindall from Brighton Benefits Campaign and Tony Greenstein from Brighton Unemployed Centre all spoke and messages of support were read from the local MP Caroline Lucas and Rob Jarrett, a Green councillor.

Marching to The Steine and then turning right up to the main shopping square, we were greeted with applause, honking and massive support. A young woman in a wheelchair came out of nowhere to join the other 2 disabled people leading the march. Finally Steph Powell, another Green Party councillor gave a rousing send-off at Churchill Square before people dispersed, mainly to a local mobile phone shop at the corner of Churchill Square and Western Road which has been squatted, for coffee and cake!

A more detailed and personal account from Tony Greenstein’s blog. Photo is with thanks from the blog.

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Jul 232011
 

The findings of a new research study were presented by PIRU (the Public Interest Research Unit) at the British Universities Industrial Relations Association conference on Friday 8th July 2011. The research was undertaken by Rupert Harwood, chair of the Public Interest Research Unit.

The general picture revealed by the study is as below:
• There appeared to be a quite strong commitment to disability equality across the interview organisations; and the reasonable adjustments duty (now under the Equality Act 2010) (note 1) appeared to have had a major positive impact on the experience of disabled employees in the work place. Adjustments included, for example, working from home, phased return to work, time off for chemotherapy, redeployment, improved wheel chair access, and modifications to equipment.
• However, in most cases, HR policies and procedures appeared to greatly understate what the reasonable adjustments duty requires. Policies, for example, set out a requirement to ‘consider’ adjustments without indicating that there will also sometimes be a legal requirement to make them.
• Employees often had to fight to get adjustments; while some, including on account of health problems, were unable to.
• Breaching the Disability Equality Duty (now incorporated into the Single Equality Duty) appeared to be standard. In particular, either HR policies were not impact assessed; or (with one or two possible exceptions) the assessments appeared to be a meaningless exercise, in which the ‘assessor’ (for no apparent good reason) just ticked the ‘no negative impact’ (or equivalent) box.

Impact of the cuts
• In some organisations, redundancies appeared to be starting to have a disproportionate impact on those with disabilities and/ or health problems; and, in particular, on those with mental health conditions. It appeared that many disabled employees were going from being the hardest hit in the work place to (with cuts to disability benefits) the hardest hit out of work.
• Few redundancy procedures appeared to have been impact assessed, raising speculative questions about the lawfulness of the redundancy process so far across the entire public sector.
• It appeared that some organisations, in making redundancies, may well have been acting in breach of the reasonable adjustments duty. For example, a disabled council employee, who had severe problems lifting, was only offered redeployment interviews for care assistant posts (for which heavy lifting was an essential requirement). Since he could not get close to doing these jobs, he was made redundant.
• It appeared (again in possible breach of the reasonable adjustments duty) that in some organisations, employees were made redundant because their organisation was unwilling to make reasonable adjustments to posts to which they might otherwise have been redeployed. It appeared, for example, that one interviewee was qualified to do an alternative post but was not able to take it up because the council was not prepared to transfer the reasonable adjustments (including time off for medical treatment) which were in place for her at risk post to this new post.
• Some interviewees indicated that government cuts had lead to fewer adjustments being made, which had, in some instances, resulted in the disabled employee being unable to do their job and thus being dismissed; to delays in adjustments while, according to one interviewee, “everybody and his brother get consulted on where the budget is going to come from”; or to having to fight harder for adjustments which were granted.
• It was suggested in a number of interviews that there were fears, arising from the cuts, around taking sick leave and/ or asking for adjustments. On interviewee, for example, said – “There was a bit of culture of fear … about having time off”. It also seemed possible that, at least in some cases, not taking short term absence (when it was needed) had led to a dramatic deterioration in conditions (including in particular serious mental illnesses) and to a consequent increase in long term absences.
• It seemed possible in at least one council that capability and sickness absence procedures were being used to unlawfully to get rid of employees with disabilities or health problems, without needing to make redundancies. In the words of the interviewee, “they’ve been looking to weed out people that are easy to get out”. An interviewee, from another council, said that employees with mental health problems are “being targeted for absence”.
• It appears possible that under the combined pressure of the cuts, a government nod and a wink towards side-stepping ‘regulations’, and the portrayal of the disabled in the media as fakes and fraudsters (some of which appears to have spilled over into how disabled employees are treated), disability equality practice in the public sector could be starting to slip backwards. If the unthinkable happens, and the Equality Act is savaged as a result of the Red Tape Challenge, it appears that this deterioration in the position of disabled employees could well happen with alarming speed.

Read the full conference paper here: conferencepaperrh

For more information contact Rupert Harwood at: r.b.harwood@greenwich.ac.uk

or see:    www.piru.org.uk

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Jul 212011
 

Poster at Kensington and Chelsea council

Lobby Kensington & Chelsea Council’s Cabinet Meeting

The Town Hall, Hornton Street, London W8 7NX

Defend Elaine McDonald & Disability Rights
All photos courtesy of Svetlana Kotova. 

Protestors

Protestors with poster on Chelsea and Kensington's social services

Protestors in the civic reception

Protestors with their banners and posters

http://www.flickr.com/photos/disabledpeopleprotest/

More photos to be found at http://www.demotiximages.com/news/763583/protest-kensington-elaine-mcdonalds-disability-rights

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Jul 212011
 
Panel of Speakers

photo: from Birmingham Against the Cuts

SWAN (Social Work Action Network), DPAC, Unison, Right to Work and Birmingham Against the Cuts held a joint public meeting this evening, examining the cuts to social & care services being brought in by the local ConDem coalition.

The meeting was chaired by Caroline Johnson from Birmingham Against the Cuts and Unison.

Linda Burnip from Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) talked about the 4,500 people facing the loss of their support services.

Having substantial needs means that you need help to get up, to get out of the house and to go anywhere. The biggest worry is that people will become unable to leave their house. I know people who would like to have attended the meeting tonight, but simply don’t have enough hours of support allocated to them to allow them to do it.

She then told us of a woman, Elaine McDonald,  in Kensington and Chelsea, who is 62 and has worked all her life. She had a stroke, and now has to go to the toilet every 2-3 hours. Kensington and Chelsea council have decided to withdraw nighttime care, and instead give her incontinence pads. She is not incontinent, but simply needs help to get up out of bed and get to the toilet in order to use it. The supreme court decided that it is acceptable for someone to be put into bed at 8:30pm and left there until 8:30am the next day. There is rightly concern that other councils will see this ruling and also remove night time care.
In the discussion after the meeting there was a call to take this to the European Courts, or even to the UN and to contact NGOs like Amnesty International to raise awareness of the effect that cuts to care and support services are having, and what we can do about it.

Linda mentioned some alternatives, including ending tax avoidance and evasion, and talked about upcoming events that disabled people could get involved in. There is a protest tomorrow in Kensington and Chelsea about the decision to remove care. They are intending to setup a Birmingham DPAC group which will be active in the city. At the Lib Dem conference in September, they are going to target Maria Miller, the “so-called minister for disabled people”. So there is action coming up that around the UK to defend people who need these services.

Other DPAC supporters were also there. Bob Findlay-Williams spoke about the question of accepting the ideological framework that these cuts are framed in, that he wants to smash the concept of community care because it is a concept built on capitalist ideology. Not everyone needs care, they might need support or equipment but the mainstream wraps that up in the word care which reinforces ideas of dependency.
Sam Brackenbury called for direct action, referring to the Iraq War marches of 2003, he asked whether it might have succeeded if the people decided they weren’t going to leave. Marching has it’s place, but once you’ve gone from A to B you’ve got to think about what’s next. He said that he is honestly worried about cuts to support services and benefits and how it might affect him.

For a detailed report go to Birmingham Against the Cuts

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Jul 192011
 

With the publication of the White Paper on the future of public services, come timely arguments from the National Coalition for Independent Action (NCIA) presenting evidence about the dangers of commissioning, localism and ‘big society,’ all part of the government’s privatisation agenda.

Privatisation is not about delivering new or needed services but about making profit out of existing services, where they cannot be abolished entirely. Some voluntary sector organisations have helped to further this agenda by entering into competitions to deliver services on their local authority’s terms. They fail to recognise that, although they themselves are not the private sector, they are still conspiring with a practice which turns community provision into a market place. As a result of taking on contracts, many of these organisations have surrendered their autonomy, sacrificed the authenticity of their relationships with their staff and their users and blunted their campaigning role.”

The evidence, and NCIA analysis, is for those who wish to argue the case for good public services and resist the privatisation of voluntary action. You can download these papers here:

[Four page leaflet: ‘privatisation’] http://www.independentaction.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/privatisation-web.pdf

[Four page leaflet: ‘big society’] http://www.independentaction.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/big-society-web.pdf

[Full policy paper] http://www.independentaction.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/NCIAprivatisation-paper2011.pdf

[Ten page summary paper] http://www.independentaction.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/NCIAprivatisation-10page.pdf

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Jul 192011
 

A fundraiser for the campaign against benefit cuts-

THE GROSVENOR

17 Sidney Rd SW9 OTP

SATURDAY 30TH JULY

8 until LATE

£5 /£2 Concessions

VALERIE & HER WEEK OF WONDERS- Featuring JOWE HEAD / SON OF PSYCHO YOGI / ONE TRUE DOG / DAVE RUSSELL / CATHY FLOWER / ANAKZEUS /

Campaigning organisation Mad Pride is staging another in it’s recent series of events to help raise public awareness and much needed funds for campaigning activity –in relation to the changes being made to and cuts being made in the welfare benefits system and the implications of this for people with mental health difficulties –

Acts are performing without fees in support of this important cause, which is a cause of real concern to those affected – takings will be used to support more events in the future and donated to various disability and mental health campaigning organisations that are actively campaigning about these changes and cuts.

Featured acts are

VALERIE & HER WEEK OF WONDERS an eclectic collective of London based musicians – who take their name from the title of Viteslav Nezval’s 1935 surrealist novel performing their unique brand of ‘twisted folk and ‘melancholic pop’. Fronted by the celestial voice of songwriter Catherine Gerbrands. this band incorporates about as many instruments as you can think of – strings and electric guitar intertwine, musical saw and bowed glass murmur and ring while fire extinguishers clang, through it all Catherine’s eerie yet sugar- sweet voice spins out dark, urban fairy- tales to the twisted menagerie of all the people she’s ever known. Also featuring former ‘Swell Maps’, ‘T.V.Personalities’ and ‘Angel Racing Food’  member – and highly regarded in his own right JOWE HEAD-  The cold and beautiful pastoral gothic of VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS will certainly NOT provide the ‘soundtrack to your summer’ but guarantees to score your most disquieting crepuscular reveries.

SON OF PSYCHO YOGI – an acoustic solo set from Chris Yogi – the founder and songwriter of the musically diverse and eclectic band, known for their rejection of any one musical form- PSYCHO YOGI –who have played numerous gigs in prestige venues and at many festivals and have over time released a number of albums and who featured on the MAD PRIDE fundraiser for the ‘Holocaust Day’ at the Montague Arms in New X in February.

Long established SE London wordsmith ZOLAN QUOBBLE will appear as one third of the astounding ONE TRUE DOG trio – which also features well known SE London face, the promoter of the regular ‘Shopping Trolley’ events at the Montague Arms in New X and one half of cult legends ‘The Bert Shaft Orchestra’ Elwell on driving psychedelic bass and Mr Pete Karcut who will carve surreal sonic landscapes with his trusty laptop.

Brilliantly original and quirky ‘survivor’ singer songwriter DAVE RUSSELL – will also be making an appearance with his own brand of angular ‘punk folk’- a much respected veteran of the poetry and small gig circuit and the MAD PRIDE stage over many years (check out his stoking’ version of ‘Pretty Vacant’ on the now rare original MAD PRIDE ‘Nutters With Attitude’ CD) – always value for money- Look out in particular to his paean to the ‘Burglars of Britain’ (the salt of old Albion’s Land) and the hugely appropriate ‘Crackdown Tribunal.’

Award winning Eccentric Australian Poet CATHY FLOWER – is another highly respected figure on the performance poetry ‘scene’ known for her many gigs and frequent performances on Resonance FM – She has recently published a new booklet of poems which will be available on the night – Another veteran of MAD PRIDE events and the BONKERSFEST we are always pleased to invite CATHY back to grace our stage.

ANAKZEUS – the band fronted by poet / singer CAM TAN the dynamic force behind the RAW Poetry organisation – highlighted in this years London Fringe Festival – well known for her regular events in North and East London and on the small gig scene around London – We are pleased to invite CAM for her first appearance on a MAD PRIDE platform – here with her recently formed band who recently performed their debut in a North London Church. A fusion of sonic weaponry, touching (or hitting) the core of the heart- a feeling in the gut and under the skin, it’s about story telling and will leave you trembling with good vibrations. ANAKZEUS bring dimension, dream and drama- through the medium of one hypnotic snare, an underworld / underwater resounding bass, two explosive guitars and chanting vocals ranging from throat singing to humming bird arias.

We are very grateful to the venue management for the free use of the venue and it’s facilities with the sound engineer also provided for free – This and the fact the artists are performing for nothing allows us to maximise the income takings that will be used to donate toward campaigning activity against the changes and cuts to welfare benefits and towards the costs of staging other such fundraising events-

It promises to be another night of the usual high quality and originality for a vital cause –

THE GROSVENOR is located nearby to Brixton and Stockwell tube stations and Brixton BR station –

And is close by to many bus routes including night buses –

For more information on Mad Pride and other disability and mental health organisations campaigning and raising issues about welfare benefit cuts and changes contact –

www.madpride.org.uk –  or contact 077 577 15035

For more information on the venue contact –

http://thegrosvenorsw9.co.uk

http://www.facebook.com/thegrosvenorsw9

http://www.myspace.com/thegrosvenorsw9

For more info on the artists check out

VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS

www.valerieandherweekofwonders.com

www.myspace.com/valeriesweekofwonders

www.topplers.net/valerie/index.html

SON OF PSYCHO YOGI

www.psychoyogi.com

GOOGLE

One True Dog

RAW Poetry

Dave Russell

Cathy Flower

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Jul 172011
 

The Government has been forced to delay the 2nd Reading of the flagship Bill in the Lords due to peers’ concerns over the people affected.

Department of Work and Pensions is suggesting other business has blocked progress but the surprise postponement till September from Tuesday will also give the Government time to lobby peers and answer the queries raised in Disability Alliance’s legal challenge.
from http://www.disabilityalliance.org/welreform5.htm

Also at http://www.24dash.com/news/housing/2011-07-15-Governments-Welfare-Reform-Bill-delayed#.

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Jul 132011
 

DPAC logoLobby Kensington & Chelsea Council’s Cabinet Meeting

The Town Hall, Hornton Street, London W8 7NX

at 5.30pm on Thursday 21 July 2011

The Supreme Court has ruled in support of Kensington and Chelsea council’s withdrawal of overnight care to Elaine McDonald to save money. This will mean she will have no choice but to wear pads, although this is undignified and against her express wishes. Male judges are undermining a woman’s right to choose how she is helped with personal care.

The ruling has accepted that reviewing care plans can be treated as a reassessment of need. Therefore any contact with social services, even a phone call, could lead to detrimental changes to a disabled person’s care package.

The idea that privacy and independence can best be facilitated by dispensing with personal assistants or care workers at night was also supported by the Supreme Court. This is contrary to the government’s Independent Living Strategy, and undermines everything we have fought for as a disabled people’s movement for the last forty years. Personal assistance is vital to many disabled people’s independence and safety. Disabled people with complex health and social care needs who cannot move unaided should never be left alone at night in case of a fire or a sudden deterioration in their condition.

Disabled people, family carers, personal assistants, women, pensioners, community activists and trade unionists should come to the lobby to support Elaine and oppose this disgraceful ruling. Elaine’s overnight care should be restored immediately. A defeat for Elaine is a defeat for us all.

Contact ADKC on 0208 960 8888 or at pbsupport@adkc.org.uk

Contact HAFCAC on 07899 752 877 or at hafcac@hotmail.co.uk

Contact DPAC at mail@dpac.uk.net or visit our web site at www.dpac.uk.net

Contact WinVisible on 0207 482 2496 (voice & minicom) or at win@winvisible.org

adkc logo winvisible logo

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Jul 092011
 

Published letter by The Scotsman on the Elaine McDonald case

We are writing to express our concern about the implications for Scottish disabled people of the UK Supreme Court decision in the case of Ms Elaine McDonald (the retired Scottish Ballet dancer) v Kensington & Chelsea Council (your report, 7 July).In reaching their decision the judges on the UK Supreme Court have done a grave disservice both to the concept of human rights for disabled people and the reputation of the British judiciary.

The local authority had re-assessed Ms McDonald’s needs in a blatant attempt to save money. After having a stroke, Ms McDonald had acquired an impairment which meant she needed to go to the toilet two or three times each night. She did this through using a commode with the assistance of a personal care assistant paid for by the local authority. The local authority, in re-assessing her, decided that, instead of being assisted to her commode, she would be put in incontinence pads overnight. Ms McDonald, though she had a need to go to the toilet, was not incontinent and asserted that this amounted to cruel and inhumane treatment that robbed her of her dignity and thus breached her rights under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

No-one should need reminding that their Lord Justices had previously decided that prisoners in Scotland had been robbed of their human rights by being required to do the toilet in front of other prisoners and then slop out. Yet they chose to set aside Ms McDonald’s immense distress and emotional horror at being required to lie in her own faeces and urine for up to ten hours at a time and substituted their own view that being put in incontinence pads preserved her dignity and privacy! If the law believes that, the law is an ass.

As Lady Hale pointed out in her dissenting opinion a local authority could, on the authority of this decision, not only take away night-time support to assist elderly and disabled people in going to the toilet but could also withdraw day support for toilet needs. The “bean counters” in local authorities and within government must be rubbing their hands in glee, for they have been given the green light to reduce services to inhumane levels with no thought given to the human rights of disabled people.

Was Alex Salmond right that lawyers and judges have lost contact with the values we wish to see embodied in our justice system? Do they really hold that disabled people should have fewer human rights than murderers and rapists? Their lordships have brought the Supreme Court into total disrepute.

Bill Scott, Inclusion Scotland;

Jim Elder-Woodward, Independent Living in Scotland Project;

Keith Robertson, Scottish Disability Equality Forum;

Etienne D’Aboville, Glasgow Centre for Inclusive Living;

Tressa Burke, Glasgow Disability Alliance;

Florence Garabedian, Lothian Centre for Inclusive Living

Published by The Scotsman

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Jul 082011
 

Video from protest on the 29th June 2011.

Video by Redweather Productions

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Jul 082011
 

By Steven Sumpter

In two weeks I have to undergo a Work Capability Assessment which will determine whether or not I will continue to receive Employment and Support Allowance while I am ill. I will be placed into one of two groups: the Support Group, who are judged sick enough to be left alone to receive ESA, or the Work Related Activity Group, who are thought able to attend several Work Focused Interviews and eventually to be able to work if pushed enough. If by some miracle I am suddenly cured, I could be declared fit to work and moved on to Job Seekers Allowance and classed as unemployed.

That all sounds OK, you might think. It sounds reasonable, we have to make sure that sick and disabled people receive support, and the the work shy are sent back to work. But there’s a problem. It isn’t my GP that will carrying out this assessment. Nor is it any hospital specialist. It’s not even the Department of Work and Pensions that will carry out this test, even though they requested it. No, instead of any of these, it is a French IT company called ATOS that will decide if I am fit to work or not. Specifically, a division of ATOS called ATOS Healthcare that has been contracted by the DWP to carry out these assessments and provide “medical advice” at a cost of £100 million a year. “That’s absurd!” you may say. What does an IT company know about health? Well, that doesn’t matter, according to ATOS. They have developed a computer system called LiMA that records the patients answers given in an interview, and makes the decision based on points. It’s all very straightforward. What could possibly go wrong?

Well obviously something has, because ATOS is the subject of strong protest. On twitter and on blogs anger against ATOS has been obvious, cropping up again and again. In the physical world campaigners have held extensive protests outside ATOS buildings, with signs and slogans like “ATOS kills” and “ATOS don’t give a toss.” ATOS recruitment fares have been targetted too. When sick and disabled people are scared and angry enough to picket a company, wheelchairs and crutches and all, there might just be something wrong. A commons select committee has been investigating the Migration from Incapacity Benefits to Employment Support Allowance, and while questioning senior executives from ATOS healthcare MP Stephen Lloyd said that Atos was “feared and loathed probably in equal terms” by the families and friends of disabled people. Lisa Coleman, a senior manager at ATOS, said that “fear and misunderstanding” could be blamed on claimants “not really understanding the role that Atos plays”.

So what is the problem with ATOS? Well, for a start, the computer can only work with what it is told. And what it is told is keywords. The examiner asks questions about things such as walking, reaching, communicating and controlling the bowels. The answers don’t really matter much, because the examiner stares fixedly at the computer screen and picks keywords and numbers from a list as they are mentioned and the computer assembles them into a sentence and fills in the gaps. This has often resulted in some absurd and misleading statements. Some genuine examples include “usually can do light gardening for 1 minutes” and “The client’s Amputation of Upper Limb is mild. They have seen a specialist for this problem.” Another claimant stated that she pottered about all day; it was recorded as “Customer does pottery all day.” After the questioning is complete there is usually a very short physical examination. The claimant may poked and prodded and instructed to stand up, raise their arms, pick something up, or make other movements. It is all very rushed and does not leave time or scope for much useful data to be gathered. In addition the examiner records observations about the patients ability to walk and talk while at the assessment.

This assessment is flawed for several reasons. Firstly, the data gathering process is inaccurate and rushed. Staff carrying out the assessment have strict targets and are expected to get through five assessments in a morning or afternoon session, which allows about 45 minutes per assessment at most. People that have been through the process complain that the examiner spent their time looking at the computer rather than paying attention to them.

Once the examination is over the examiner produces a report that may bear little resemblance to the patient’s actual condition. The reports often fail to take into account the variable nature of many illnesses. What the patient can do on one day is by no means representative of what they can do the next, and for someone who is chronically sick or disabled, each task in itself may be achievable but exhaustion and pain can often prevent repetition or moving on to the next task.

An ATOS examiner might note that a person can sit at a computer, walk to the shops, cook a meal, and wash themselves. What they fail to note is that it might well only be possible to do one of those things on any given day! Being fit to work in an office, for example, involves a series of tasks – washing, dressing, commuting, sitting, talking, thinking, typing, holding the telephone, holding a pen, making decisions, defending those decisions, and much more. I could do any of those things, sometimes, maybe, but I could not do them all together, and I certainly could not make any guarantees about when I could do them or how long it would take, or even guarantee to do them at all. ATOS cares not. If you say that you can ever manage a task, it is assumed that you can do all of the tasks all of the time. They may well assume that because I could write and record this article, I could write for a living. They don’t see that it took me several days to write including many hours of frustration as my body left me in too much pain or fatigue to think or type.

Another flaw is that the ATOS assessment process can often be harmful in itself. For example, I could usually raise my arm above my head when asked. It would result in pain and fatigue which the examiner would not see. It would also be harder to do a second time, and after a few goes I would be unable to do it at all. The ATOS examiner would simply note that I could manage it the first time and would take no account of whether or not I could do it again or what price I paid for doing it.

More problems occur because at least a fifth of ATOS medical centres are not wheelchair accessible. Only one third of the centres have onsite parking, while visitors are required to walk from car parks several minutes away for other centres, and just one has a parking space for disabled people. 30 of the centres are not on the ground floor some don’t even have lifts! Considering that people only visit these buildings when they are sick or disabled and a huge number of them will be using walking sticks or wheelchairs, this is ridiculous.

For many people, just getting to the ATOS medical examination centre can be a major challenge. In a letter sent out to notify me of my impending assessment I was helpfully sent a suggested journey plan. It included bus, train and 17 minutes of walking. I do understand that the journey plan is a standard item sent out to all claimants, and this is why they have suggested that I walk despite them being fully aware that I cannot stay on my feet for more than a couple of minutes.  But I can’t be the only one that would have trouble with that journey. In fact, I would suggest that a majority of  people that claim ESA would find it difficult. Whether that be through inability to stand or walk, or pain, or fatigue, or because of a lack of accessible buses, or through mental health problems that get worse when around other people or attempting a task such as travelling. The problem is that many people will attempt and complete the journey at great cost to their own health, purely because they feel that they have to. Again, ATOS would merely note that the journey had been completed, and not what it cost in terms of pain, fatigue and recovery time.

It is not just the people subject to the tests that are unhappy with the situation. As I mentioned above, a commons select committee has been investigating the Migration from Incapacity Benefits to Employment Support Allowance.  In February, Dr Margaret McCartney attended a recruitment evening with ATOS Healthcare and reported back in the British Medical Journal. She noted that apart from doctors, ATOS also recruit nurses and physiotherapists for the same role, and that patients often would not be examined by anyone with knowledge of their health conditions. She reported that ATOS said “You are not in a typical caring role. This isn’t about diagnosing.” and “We don’t call them patients . . . We call them claimants.” She said that “Throughput is a clear focus” and that “from the recruitment evening it was clear that the medical examination consisted of a computerised form to be filled in by choosing drop down statements and justifying them. For example, you could say “able to walk with ease” if you witnessed this or the patient told you this.” Even Professor Paul Gregg, who was involved in designing the test has said “The test is badly malfunctioning. The current assessment is a complete mess.

Since ATOS have taken over the assessments for ESA, both ESA and the contract with ATOS originating from our last government, by the way, the number of people being judged fit for work has risen substantially but high numbers of those go on to appeal with a 40% success rate at overturning the decision. That rises to 70% of cases overturned when representation is provided. This has caused alarm to a great many people with groups such as Citizens Advice Scotland reporting “Our evidence has highlighted the cases of many clients with serious health conditions who have been found fit for work, including those with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer, bipolar disorder, heart failure, strokes, severe depression, and agoraphobia.” In fact there have been several recent cases where people have died soon after being judged fit for work and while waiting for their appeal. In one case the patient died IN the ATOS building after his assessment. On the day of the funeral his family received a letter notifying them that he had been declared fit for work.

Clearly, the Work Capability Assessment needs a rethink. Actually, the whole system by which benefits are controlled needs a rethink. Government insist that GPs can be trusted to take over administration and budgeting of the NHS from Primary Care Trusts, and yet they do not trust GPs and specialists to say whether or not their patient is capable of work or needs to rest at home.  The current arrangement for ATOS to assess patients does not and cannot provide for accurate assessment and proper care.

Related Links

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Jul 072011
 

The Rt Hon Mr Davies claimed that disabled people should be paid less than minimum wage. DPAC had an email from the originators of the petition demanding an apology from Davies which we featured on the DPAC site. On July 7th the petition had 14,000 signatures. Davies is not happy about this and is threatening legal action if the petition is not taken down. They are not going to back down and DPAC supports them.

The petition again is at: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/615/012/975/

Phillip Davies email is philip.davies.mp@parliament.uk

He has received thousands of requests for copies of his speech and asking him to apologise please email him and tweet, and FB the email address so that others can do the same. Below is a selection of some of the emails he has sent today. If you email him, please send us copies of your responses.


From: DAVIES, Philip
To: Sent: Thu, 7 Jul 2011 16:56
Subject: Re: PHILIP DAVIES MP

I am replying to c3000 people’s emails which I received within the space of 9 minutes.

I do not have time to do something which people should have done themselves in the first place

Best wishes
Philip


From: To: DAVIES, Philip
Sent: Thu Jul 07 16:53:38 2011
Subject: RE: PHILIP DAVIES MP

Thank you for your response.

Unfortunately I do not know the date or time of your speech.

Please can you provide that information and preferably a link to the speech.


—-Original Message—–
From: DAVIES, Philip
To: Sent: Thu, 7 Jul 2011 16:39
Subject: RE: PHILIP DAVIES MP

My speech is available on hansard via the Parliament website.

Best wishes

Philip


From: “DAVIES, Philip”
Date: 7 July 2011 20:05:07 GMT+01:00
To: Subject: Re: Speech

I am afraid I don’t have the link nor the time to find it. I am too busy replying to all the people who have contacted me about it.

Best wishes
Philip


From: To: DAVIES, Philip
Sent: Thu Jul 07 19:57:15 2011
Subject: Re: Speech

Thank you can you pass on link please?


On 7 Jul 2011, at 19:52, “DAVIES, Philip” wrote:

I am afraid I don’t have time to send my speech to the thousands of people who have contacted me but it is available on hansard via the parliament website.

Best wishes
Philip


From: To: DAVIES, Philip
Sent: Thu Jul 07 19:45:24 2011
Subject: Speech

I understand you are sending copies of your speech to people. This is the speech in which you declare that disabled people should be paid less than min wage-I would be grateful if you could also forward a copy to me.

With thanks


Sent: 07 July 2011 14:21
To: DAVIES, Philip
Subject: RE: Apologize to Disabled Citizens

Mr. Davies, thankyou for your reply to me but I watched you on television so are you now trying to tell me that you didn’t suggest disabled people should work for less than the minimum wage?

It would be helpful for me just to be able to clarify exactly what you did say so perhaps you could send me a copy of your full speech please.


— On Thu, 7/7/11, DAVIES, Philip wrote:
From: DAVIES, Philip
Subject: RE: Apologize to Disabled Citizens
To: Date: Thursday, 7 July, 2011, 13:35

Thank you for your email, although it is clear from it that neither you nor the American organisation whose petition you signed have actually even bothered to read the speech I made in Parliament.

You may wish to know that the allegations made against me on the Care 2 website are inaccurate and defamatory, and that five national newspapers who published reports similar to the email you have signed up to send to me have had to publish corrections.

I hope that in future you will be more careful before signing up to petitions organised by this American website.

Best wishes
Philip Davies MP


—–Original Message—–
From:
Sent: 05 July 2011 17:14
To: DAVIES, Philip
Subject: Apologize to Disabled Citizens

Mr Philip Davies
MP for Shipley
House of Commons
Dear Mr Davies

I am writing to demand an apology for your ill-informed comments that disabled citizens of the United Kingdom should be paid less than minimum wage. Approximately ten million people in the United Kingdom live with disabilities of some sort. To propose that these people should expect lower wages is both insulting and irresponsible. Disabled people rely on the minimum wage standard for protection from poverty. If you rob them of this, you risk dooming them to permanent second-class citizenry. I urge you to retract your comments and work toward a more sustainable economic solution. ‘They have the right to equal treatment or more favourable treatment to make them equal under UNCRPD which the UK government has ratified but ignores totally.’

Yours sincerely,

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Jul 072011
 

Thank you to Birmingham Against the Cuts for this post

A lobby at the council house was held yesterday, called jointly by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), Social Work Action Network (SWAN), UNISON Birmingham Council Branch, Right to Work and Birmingham Against the Cuts.

The five groups have come together this month to campaign on cuts to social and care services that the ConDem council are seeking to bring in, as part of the £212m council cuts.

The council plans to cut back services to disabled people in particular, with care only being available to those adults judged to have “critical” needs.  This means that adults with only “substantial” needs will no longer have access to care services.  Originally the council said that this would affect 11,000 people, but have more recently said that it will only be 4,500 people who are affected – we, like Graeme Horn from UNISON, are inclined to believe the original figure as the council are likely to have tried to massage the numbers down following an outcry from the people of Birmingham about these horrendous cuts.

Following the announcement of the cuts, a legal case was started which resulted in a judicial review in May that the cuts were unlawful, as the council had not done an equality impact assessment or consulted properly over the cuts.  This review has forced the council to start a new consultation, which begins shortly.  DPAC and SWAN decided to use July to campaign on this because the UN is currently monitoring the convention on the rights of disabled people – so at the same time the government is monitoring the report from the UN, they are cutting services to disabled people.  They then contacted UNISON, Right to Work and Birmingham Against the Cuts to build a united campaign which can be effective in its resistance to these cuts.

Graeme Horn from UNISON Birmingham said:

We need to make sure that during the consultation as many people as possible examine what the council are doing and speak up in defence of vulnerable and disabled people

Rich Moth from SWAN added that

We have chosen to start the campaign now because of the court victory under the Disability Discrimination Act concerning the £33m cuts to care and support services.  What we want to do coming out of that judgement is to build a campaign because Birmingham City Council will come back with proposals that we expect to be more or less the same and we need to build a campaign to fight these discriminatory cuts which kind of show who is really going to suffer – not the bankers who caused the crisis but disabled and vulnerable people.

Godfrey Webster from Birmingham Against The Cuts spoke about how it is important to make sure that the narrative of the neccesity of cuts is defeated

The problem is that the majority of people think the cuts are inevitable and there is no alternative.  We need to get the message out that there is an alternative

False Economy is a good website to start with to explore the alternatives to cuts, which broadly speaking encompass ideas such as closing the £120bn tax gap – especially the £25bn of tax avoided each year by wealthy individuals and large corporations; a robin hood and/or bankers bonus tax to ensure that the people and organisations that caused the crisis play their part in helping to get us out of it and investing in the economy (particularly in green manufacturing) to stimulate growth and prevent a double-dip recession which would cause tax revenues to fall, welfare payments to rise and the deficit to increase.

Matt Raine from Right to Work chose to highlight one particular cut

Mobility allowance is being stripped from old people.  This will mean that they are effectively prisoners in their care homes

He talked about the importance of linking up this struggle with the wider struggle against cuts, mentioning the Lib Dem conference in Birmingham in September, and the Tory conference in Manchester in October.

Sam Brackenbury

Finally, DPAC Sam Brackenbury spoke about how disabled people need to be active in this struggle.  He said that he was fighting so that he could have the support that he needed to have an independent life, to not be dependent on other people or have to accept the scraps that fall from the table.  Calling for all disabled people to be proactive in this struggle and to join DPAC in taking action to defend their benefits he said

Don’t cause a fuss, stop a bus

referring to this action that he took with Members of the Greater London Pensioners’ Association took to highlight issues of access and the cutting of mobility allowance, as well as broader cuts to benefits (Sam is one of the activists handcuffed to the back of the bus)

There will be more events from this campaign this month, as well as ongoing work as we seek to prevent the council from cutting vital services.  To steal SWAN’s slogan we want the budget to be based on peoples needs, not private greed.

On Thursday (7th July) Birmingham Trades Council has its monthly meeting, at 7:30pm in the Council House.  Bob Findlay-Williams from DPAC will be speaking.

On the 20th July there will be a public meeting at Transport House on Broad Street (TGWU/UNITE building) with speakers from the groups and services affected by these cuts.  Join the Facebook Event and invite your friends.

Come along to these events and help the campaign to ensure that the consultation that the council are being forced to undertake is not a sham, and that vital services for vulnerable and disabled people are protected.

All photos (c) Geoff Dexter Sherborne Publications – see more photos in his Flickr stream

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Jul 062011
 

Les Woodward wrote this in response to a previous article.

The Sayce Report

(A Treatise in Treachery for Disabled People)

The Sayce Report was launched on June 9th in relative silence. It happened in an upstairs room in a building on Holloway Road London. You would think that a report that has potentially such an impact on the lives of disabled workers employed by Remploy would have been well advertised and the workers would have had a chance to attend, ask questions, maybe? Make comments? Definitely, but you would be wrong on all counts.

No shop floor workers were invited, we had to gatecrash, we had to be disruptive to make our points and we were not at all welcome by the Minister, by Liz Sayce or by senior civil servants of the DWP.

This sets the context for the Sayce Report and why, it actually fails disabled people.

The report is highly anonymous; it is full of quotes that are nameless. The report highlights aspirations but is very light on how those aspirations are to be achieved. The report is very opinionated a subjective in its approach, which is really not surprising as RADAR who employs Liz Sayce as its Chief Executive is a well-known opponent of Supported Employment factories such as Remploy and were also signatories to an open letter to the Guardian Newspaper in May 2007 fully supporting the then proposed closure of Remploy factories.

To understand fully, the implications of the Sayce Report, it must be looked at in the context of the present economic situation in the UK as well as the present political situation in the UK. The Government has embarked on an austerity programme the like of which has not been known in living memory. An outrageous attack on the working class, public sector workers, disabled people, and just about any group in society that does not belong to the millionaire banking set that Cameron, Clegg and Osborne are so fond of.

The Sayce report is weapon in the ConDem armoury, which panders to the politically correct viewpoint that now we have a whole raft of anti-discrimination legislation any disabled person should be employed wherever they like without any fear of discrimination. A very laudable viewpoint and a very laudable aspiration, but we all know that in the real world discrimination and even hate crime against disabled people happens all too frequently, just the same as Women are discriminated against in the workplace, despite decades of the Equal Pay Act being in place and Black and Ethnic Comrades are discriminated against despite decades of the Race Relations Act being in place.

The report calls for either the closure or privatising of Remploy factories. The privatising of the factories could take many shapes, management buy-outs, Social Enterprises, Workers Cooperatives, etc. All of which are fraught with dangerous pitfalls for the workers employed in the factories. Remploy factories have a mix of people with all sorts of health issues and problems. The basic tenet of any factory is that the less able are helped and supported by the more able. Under private ownership the first consideration would be to cut costs, the less able would be viewed as an added cost to be stripped away to save money.

In 2008, 2,500, people lost their jobs in Remploy. In 2009 the GMB surveyed those members who had left and only around 5% had actually found work, of that 5% less than 5% of that number had found a job equal to, or better than, they had in Remploy.

Liz Sayce almost takes pleasure in rubbishing Remploy factories. There are several references to factories being described as ghettoes, as workers having non jobs and not being sustainable.

All of us would have seen images of our troops in Iraq, and Afghanistan wearing nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare suits. These are manufactured by disabled workers in Remploy Leven, very highly skilled workers who produce garments that are designed to save the lives of those who wear them and are therefore very highly specified.

Aston Martin cars are a British icon, the brake assemblies are assembled in the Birmingham factory. One of the workers is totally blind and has for years produced work that is safety critical and has to be right 100% of the time with absolutely no room for error.

Non jobs? Hardly! Neither do we consider ourselves as working in ghettoes. We have lives outside of Remploy, many of us are active in our communities, some of us are active politically, and socially as well. Just as important we are economically active, paying our taxes and national insurance. We spend our money and contribute to our local economy and when we travel we contribute to other local economies. The fact that we choose to work with other disabled people is our choice. We were not forced into Remploy and by golly we will not be forced out. We are proud of our skills, proud of our products and believe it or not we are proud of our Company. A Company that is a great company, a company that could be a lot better granted, but great never the less.

A Company, which has been miss-managed for years, by expensive, overpaid and massively under talented senior managers. A company that has a board of directors that are not capable of running a burger van on the high street at kicking out time on a Saturday. A Company, that governments of all persuasions have allowed to become inefficient and bureaucratic, with layers and layers of costly waste. But that is not a good enough reason to close it, but it is a very good reason to restructure it from the top down and to bring it into the 21st century, in order that new generations of young disabled people can learn all types of skills including life skills and basic skills, learn work ethic, and learn to be valued members of society who contribute positively to that society.

Les Woodward

National Convenor Remploy Trade Union Consortium

Personal Capacity.

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Jul 062011
 

By Stuart Bracking

Disabled People Against Cuts believes the Supreme Court’s majority decision to reject Elaine McDonald’s appeal to keep her overnight personal assistants to help her with regular personal care tasks is a major setback for disabled people of all ages and their families.

This judgment will give a green light to local authorities across England and Wales to reassess care packages to find the cheapest way to meet needs, and allow them to impose solutions that may be against the wishes of disabled people.

By rejecting legal arguments concerning the human rights and disability discrimination acts that favour Elaine’s appeal, the Supreme Court will shatter disabled people’s confidence in the ability of the legal system to protect their rights.

In part of the judgment, Elaine is characterised as being difficult and rigid in her approach to alternatives presented by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea such as a live-in volunteer or sheltered accommodation.

The irony is that if an application to the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in 2007 had succeeded Elaine would have been given the resources to fund the overnight care she needs. This case would never have come to court if Elaine’s council had done its job properly.

While the Supreme Court gives a lot of weight to statements presented by her council that other disabled people who are not incontinent accept the use of pads or sheets to avoid the need for overnight care, they do not question the voracity of some of the council’s evidence, particularly where inaccurate information has been presented.

In the court of appeal judgment, it states in paragraph 13: ‘As it emerged, however, the ILF application failed, inter alia because Ms McDonald, on turning 65, ceased to be eligible for funding from it.’ Yet an independent review of the Independent Living Fund published in January 2007 by the respected academics Melanie Henwood and Bob Hudson confirms on page 5 that applicants had to ‘Be at least 16 years of age and under 66’. In fact at the time when Elaine left hospital in March 2007 when an application to the ILF had a strict deadline of three months she was 63, about to turn 64.

It saddens us that English and Welsh law that is so detrimental to the interests of disabled people is developed by expert legal minds that do not have a full grasp of the detailed issues before them.

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Jul 042011
 
hand palm with words'hands off'

hands off our services...

Hands Off Our Care and Support Services, Our Benefits, and Our Futures!

Rally of Birmingham City Council Meeting

5.00pm Tuesday 5 July 2011

Outside Council House, Victoria Square

It is becoming increasingly clear that those who will be hardest hit by austerity cuts are those with least money and resources  –disabled people, mental health service users, carers, older people and those on benefits. In Birmingham the council plans to cut £33.2m from support and care services by raising eligibility thresholds. This will mean five thousand people in the city losing vital support. Cuts include the closure of six older people’s residential homes, increased charges for personal care, and the loss of skilled care workers as services become increasingly reliant on lower paid casual staff. A recent Panorama on the abuse of disabled residents at the Castlebeck unit showed the horrific results of providing social care on the cheap through privatised companies. Yet now the council is also proposing to privatise social work services using social enterprises. This will mean social work is turned into a business and workers forced to compete for contracts.

In addition many of those affected by cuts, disabled people and those with severe and terminal medical conditions, are also being forced to undergo  ‘work capability assessments’ and declared fit for work by the hated multinational Atos Origin which will profit from an outsourced £300 million government contract. This system has already led several claimants to commit suicide.

However, care service users and social and care workers are increasingly questioning why they should pay for a crisis caused not by them but by bankers. And so care staff and their unions in Birmingham are joining forces with disabled people to save our services and campaign against these discriminatory cuts.

In May a High Court judge ruled Birmingham council’s plans were unlawful under the Disability Discrimination Act and these cutback plans were put on hold. This is a fantastic victory but will only be the start of the fight back necessary. To build on this campaigners from Disabled People Against Cuts, Birmingham City Unison,  West Midlands Social Work Action Network, Right to Work campaign and Birmingham Against the Cuts have launched a joint campaign.

unison logoThere will be a month of action in July against austerity measures in Birmingham to coincide with the first UK monitoring report of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Activities will include a lobby of the first full council meeting since the election at 5pm on 5th July in Victoria Square and a public meeting on

20th July at the Unite (TGWU) Offices, 211 Broad Street from right to work logo630pm

We invite you to join us in demanding better public services for service users and those working in them not more cuts and marketisation.

Later in July, there will be a public meeting of all five sponsoring organisations (DPAC, SWAN, RtoW, Birmingham UNISON, and BATC). This will take place as follows

Hands Off Our Care and Support Services, Our Benefits and Our Futures Public Meeting

6.00pm Tuesday 20 July 2011
Transport House Broad Street, Birmingham

The five sponsoring groups are preparing a detailed pamphlet setting out the range of threats to services and benefits for disabled people, from council cuts in services, the privatisation of Social Work, to the cuts in benefits and the new medical assessment process. This will be published at the end of July.

Email us on mail@dpac.uk.net if you would like to take an active part in our campaign.

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Jul 032011
 

You are invited to a meeting at

Venue:**Disability Action in Islington**
90-92 Upper Street, London N1 0NP
Date and Time: Saturday 9th July 11.00am to 2pm

There will be BSL interpreters at the meeting. Venue is wheelchair accessible.

London DPAC meeting is open to all disabled and Deaf Londoners who are or want to be involved in anti-cuts work and fighting for human rights which are being eroded by this Con Dem government.

There is a wide variety of disabled and deaf individuals and groups who are struggling against these cuts and the meeting wants to bring together these people

You can be an individual who is interested in getting involved in campaigns, part of campaign group which works on issues around cuts and human rights for deaf and disabled people

It is crucial that we bring together disabled people who are fighting against government policy on a local level, regional level, and national level

This meeting aims to bring together disabled people to talk about:
• What’s been happening
• How we can grow in strength
• If we want to focus on particular campaigns
• If and how we want to be involved in a wider anti-cuts movement
• See if it would be useful to set up a group called London Disabled People against Cuts or not
•How can we use and strengthen the networks we already have?
•Please see invitation and get in touch if you are planning to come

Look forward to seeing you there.

Contact Lani Parker: londondpac@gmail.com or telephone 07876742600

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Jul 032011
 

This presentation from Bob Williams-Findlay was first published on the Collective Resistance website

—–Bob Williams-Findlay

Bob Williams-Findlay

Bob Williams-Findlay

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Jul 012011
 

Steven Sumpter‘s speech for DPAC at the Birmingham rally:

Disabled People Against Cuts stands today in unity with public sector workers and their unions against discriminatory cuts to our education, care and support services.

With such savage, rapid and all-encompassing cutbacks taking place, disabled people’s rights are being pushed back decades.  In education, disabled children will be pushed towards segregated special schools as funding for inclusive education is cut and more Academies set up with their tendency to discriminate against disabled pupils, with the effect that disabled people will not have educational opportunities and will remain marginalised and disempowered. And disabled people also face job losses through cuts to the public sector which employs hundreds of thousands of disabled people across the country.

Here in Birmingham, the Council plans to cut £33.2 million from its care and support budget. 5000 disabled and older people will lose vital services as charges for personal care go up, skilled support workers are made redundant and social work services are privatised. The latest proposal to raise the eligibility threshold still further has been temporarily stopped by a court case but the Council is planning to start its consultation process all over again and to continue to push through changes which will see a further 4000 disabled and older people lose services. Many will have their support provided by the lowest bidder as the Council plans to privatise all jobs in adult care.  Organisations which once defended the rights of disabled people in Birmingham have been reduced –there were once 3 main disabled people’s organisations ,  only one is left with reduced capacity and funding. Cuts to disabled people are felt across the local economy. Cut hours to paid support workers  means wider job cuts and losses to family income.

Birmingham City Council says that its new service offer “is based on the idea that the vast majority of people can use their own resources and skills to care for themselves.”  But independent living is not about disabled people doing things for ourselves, it is about receiving the support we need in order to have the same life chances as other people and to take part in life equally and with dignity. What they are getting at by this “use their own resources”, what they really mean, what they want disabled people to do, is to use our emotional resources to come to accept what they want us to believe is our lot in life, to accept that although there is money for wars and weapons, there is money to make the rich even richer, there is money for chief executive and directors salaries, there is no money for us, no money for as many incontinence pads as we need in a day, no money for personal assistance for us to shower or go out, no money for support to stop us going into crisis; we are meant to accept our lot in life that is to sit in our own piss and shit and dirt for hours and days on end, our lot to stay trapped indoors, isolated and alone, or our lot to lose our homes altogether. It is patronising, offensive and plain wrong to assume that if you take away our support services we will suddenly “make an effort” and find we could have been doing things for ourselves all along.

DPAC will be lobbying the full Council meeting on July 5th at 5pm and having a public meeting on July 20th at the UNITE office on Broad Street to which anyone concerned about cuts to care services is invited.

More photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/disabledpeopleprotest/sets/72157626962085905/
Report and photos at the Birmingham Post http://www.birminghampost.net/news/west-midlands-news/2011/06/30/5-000-striking-public-sector-workers-gather-for-rally-in-birmingham-65233-28973270/

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