Independent Living Rights News (25/11/2013)
IMPORTANT NEWS FROM ITALY:
Significant Independent Living Rights Victory In Face Of Harsh Austerity
On 21 November, the ‘Comitato 16 Novembre Onlus’, which is led by severely disabled people, finally secured a long-term commitment from the Italian government that more than 300 million Euros will be invested annually in personal assistance support for disabled people living in the community following a campaign of direct action.
- Interview in Italian with Mariangela Lamanna, the Comitato’s Vice President, immediately after their victory:
- Protest held in Rome on 20 November 2013:
1. Pam Duncan
Disability rights and anti-bedroom tax campaigner Pam Duncan, who is also an Independent Living Fund user, continues to campaign for the Labour Party’s nomination for the forthcoming Falkirk by-election. The selection meeting is on 8 December.
The Disability News Service has published an interview with Pam at:
And you can see videos of Pam speaking at the Scottish Labour Conference in April and talking about her life as a disabled person and personal assistance user at:
More info at:
2. Leading Labour Politician Comments On The Independent Living Fund
Leading Labour politician Margaret Beckett MP has pointed to the ‘extra burdens’ the closure of the ILF would place on local authorities.
In the Derby Telegraph (15/11/13) she wrote: “Just a year after we all applauded the brilliant sportsmen and women who competed in the Paralympics, many more people with disabilities….will be affected if the Government closes the Independent Living Fund.”
“That fund was set up when the Tory Government, under Margaret Thatcher, was cutting benefits for people with the most serious disabilities. The Independent Living Fund was set up in part to compensate for the withdrawal of those other benefits.”
“Today, Margaret Thatcher’s successors, working hand-in-hand with the Liberal Democrats, are trying to remove it. The Coalition claims that councils should then fund the services and support the Independent Living Fund used to provide. This would place substantial extra burdens on councils, already facing massive cuts.”
3. Independent Living Rights Appeal Court Victory
Independent Living Fund users who successfully challenged the government’s decision to close the Fund and the Save the ILF Campaign still do not know if Disabled People’s Minister Mike Penning will meet with them.
Gabriel Pepper, one of the ILF Five involved in the legal challenge who is from Waltham Forest in North London, has previously been helped by Ian Duncan Smith to secure vital health treatment when in 2001 he made representations to the Labour health minister Alan Milburn on Gabriel’s behalf.
Below are links to the full Appeal Court judgement in the ILF Five legal case, and the solicitors Press Release and Briefing Note:
A ‘Legal briefing on the decision in the ILF appeal’ has been produced by Louise Whitfield of Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors who acted for three of the claimants. This contains important legal advice about the Court of Appeal judgement and the legal issues the Department for Work and Pensions and Ministers must now confront.
As well as following the Facebook group of Disabled People Against Cuts, some disabled people active in the ILF campaign that supported the ILF legal case share information through the “Because We R Worth It!” Independent Living Facebook group.
5. Interesting Articles
- Sunil Peck’s report in ‘Disability Now’ of the upbeat meeting of 120 disabled activists and allies in London on 19 November that was held to celebrate the launch of Disability History Month. This year’s theme is ‘Celebrating our Struggle for Independent Living: No Return to Institutions or Isolation’:
- An article about the ILF Five’s Appeal Court victory by Rachel Salmon for the ‘Women’s Views On News’ site which features an interview with leading activist Sue Elsegood:
- An article by Mark Wilson of ProMove commenting on the calls for Esther McVey to resign:
6. All-Party Parliamentary Disability Group (APPDG)
The next meeting of the APPDG is on 9 December, and Disabled People’s Minister Mike Penning will be attending. In its report ‘Promoting Independence, Preventing Crisis’ that was published jointly with the Local Government All-Party Parliamentary Group in May 2013, the APPDG adopted the following position towards the proposed closure of the Independent Living Fund:
“The Government should acknowledge disabled people’s concerns about the closure of the Independent Living Fund and work more closely with them to manage the closure for the 20,000 affected.”
The Appeal Court’s decision to quash Esther McVey’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund provides an opportunity for the APPDG to reflect on its position towards the ILF and decide whether or not to call for a long-term future for the Fund.
7. Disabled People’s Minister Mike Penning’s Comments On The ILF
Last week, Welsh MP Hywel Williams of Plaid Cymru tabled an ‘oral question’ on 18 November for Mike Penning about the future of the Independent Living Fund. The text below is from Hansard:
“Hywel Williams (Arfon) (PC): What plans he has for the future of the independent living fund.
The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Mike Penning): We will consider the Court of Appeal judgment carefully and will announce plans in due course.
Hywel Williams: I declare an interest, in that my brother is enabled to live independently in his own community by the ILF, and I am extremely grateful that that opportunity is afforded to him. Will the Minister assure the House that when the Government come to consider their future plans, there will be full consultation this time with disabled people and disability groups in Wales, the regions of England, and Scotland, and specifically with the Welsh Government?
Mike Penning: I greatly respect the hon. Gentleman, but the conclusions of the Court of Appeal were nothing to do with consultation. It was a process issue, in that the Court felt that the Minister had not been given enough information, based on the information that was put in writing. The Court went on to say that there was evidence that the Minister [Esther McVey] ‘consulted personally with many affected groups’ and it had ‘no doubt that evidence of hard cases would have been forcefully drawn to her attention.’ That is what the Court ruled. It had nothing to do with consultation.”
Hywel Williams is the brother of an ILF user, therefore any comments he makes as an MP on this issue have the added force of being from an advocate for the interests and needs of his brother and other disabled people. By raising the veracity of the consultation, he is reflecting the disquiet among disability organisations within Wales about the initial consultation process. This disquiet is also shared in both Scotland and Northern Ireland. While the government can argue the Appeal Court ruling means the process followed during the ILF consultation was lawful, ILF users and disabled people’s organisations still have significant concerns about how it was run. Among these is the failure to publish an equality impact assessment before the consultation started, and the inability of disabled people and family carers to bring important issues and the potentially detrimental implications of the ILF’s closure to the surface.
In his response, Mike Penning emphasised strongly in his tone that Esther McVey’s decision to close the ILF was based on insufficient written information. This could be a reference to the DWP’s limited written interim analysis of the consultation responses that was completed on the Wednesday following the consultation deadline at midnight on Friday 12 October 2012.
Mike Penning’s reference to Esther McVey’s meetings with disability organisations, where it is assumed examples of ‘hard cases’ would have been raised with her in the run-up to her closure decision, is possibly an attempt to argue that at the time of the decision McVey was actually fully aware of the consequences of closure. This could be a response to some of the points made in the Appeal Court ruling and might mean a possible approach by the DWP and government would be to argue all that is needed to get back on course is a review of the ‘documentary evidence’.
An alternative reading might be the government is trying to put distance between McVey and the DWP’s consultation analysis to find a way of back-tracking politically. Given that the Appeal Court ruled the consultation process was lawful, this would be difficult to achieve as it would mean acknowledging the DWP’s approach to ILF users and their families during the consultation was wrong.