Dec 232014
 

Daily Mail Article - Thousands in rush to avoid the new benefit testDM Article 75% if benefit claimants fit for workDaily Mail Article - Disabled Benefit - just fill in a form

Remember these? Time and time again, the Daily Mail has published stories about disability benefit claimants who supposedly did not deserve their benefits because they were either fit for work, or because it was too easy to claim benefits.
Time and time again, the Work and Pensions Committee and/or the UK Statistics Authority which has investigated complaints about the media treatment of disability benefit claimants, have found DWP guilty of giving ‘direct quotations from Ministers [which] can give undue credence to inaccurate or misleading reports’ and they recommended that DWP ‘ensure that significant statistical releases are accompanied by a press release setting out the context and providing background explanatory notes’.
To which DWP responded that it ‘takes great care’ when publishing statistics to ensure that the information is used in an appropriate manner but it also stated that ‘The Committee and Government need to be mindful of the widespread public unease about the number of people claiming incapacity benefits and it is therefore unsurprising that this is reflected in the media. […] However, it is important to stress that it is not the Department’s role to dictate what can appear in stories in the media’. [Underlined by the author]
Not only have DWP or Iain Duncan Smith been found guilty of providing to some media selective information which were not supported by statistics or were not evidence based, but also  that ‘the statistics do not comply fully with the principles of the Code of Practice… and that they were shared with the media in advance of their publication’.
Added to this, Iain Duncan Smith had ‘the belief’ that the benefit cap is driving benefit claimants into work, although no causal link has ever been established. The latest DWP press release on the benefit cap titled People are moving into work as a result of the benefit cap and the supporting document show that there is an increase in the percentage of capped claimants moving into work compared with the percentage of uncapped claimants, although the number is very small, but do not take into consideration the fact that potential capped claimants were also receiving additional support from Job Centres. Which means it is impossible to disaggregate the impact from the benefit cap from the impact of this additional support or to know whether the benefit cap has any impact at all.

In August 2014, the Daily Mail published the following article:

Daily Mail - Benefit Fruadster Excuses

This gave rise to a very interesting Freedom of Information request (for which S.Banks deserves credit) which DWP took over 2 months to respond to:
After getting the clarification he was looking for on whether there was a DWP press release about the Worst excuses used by benefit fraudsters, he asked the question:
Dear DWP CAXTON HOUSE Communications,
Thank you. In regards to your last point; to answer my query specifically can you please confirm that the dwp initiated contact with the Mail in this particular instance?
To which DWP responded:

Dear S Banks
The answer to your query below is yes, DWP initiated contact with the Mail in this particular instance.
Kind regards
Communications FOI Focal Point

Remembering what was quoted above: ‘However, it is important to stress that it is not the Department’s role to dictate what can appear in stories in the media’, it seems that DWP knows that it can rely on the Daily Mail to publish stories which are derogatory to disability benefit claimants, paving the way for more cuts. The Daily Mail did not publish the latest statistics showing that 90% of reassessed Incapacity Benefit claimants were entitled to their benefits or any article to re-establish some kind of balance in its treatment of disability benefit claimants.
But ultimately, the responsibility lies with DWP, the largest employer in the Civil Service, which has forgotten its duty of impartiality and have been using selected media and especially the Daily Mail to demonise disabled people, to turn the general public against them and make cuts to disability benefits more acceptable, also leading to an increase in hate crimes against them. DWP employees should hang their heads in shame.

 

 Posted by at 22:35
Dec 222014
 

Please sign and share this petition (text of the petition is copied below): https://www.change.org/p/newham-council-halt-the-eviction-of-the-clarke-family


We call on Newham Council to halt the eviction of the Clarke family with immediate effect. Claudine, a single mum, cares for her 3 children: Deno, aged 18; Shanice, aged 16, and Malachi, aged 5. The family have special medical and learning needs and are reliant on their family who live locally, and social and community support. Deno, who is severely autistic, has settled happily at Newham Sixth Form College where he receives tremendous support from a dedicated staff team; he has established close friendships with his classmates. Shanice also studies at a local college.
Newham are insisting the family uproot to Birmingham where they have no network of friends, family or connection. This would have huge consequences on the health and well-being of the Clarke family and is a dereliction of responsibility on the part of Newham Council. The Council’s obligations under law appear to have been disregarded.
We call on Newham Council to: 1) Rescind the eviction order against the Clarke family with immediate effect; 2) Provide secure accommodation for the family in the Borough of Newham (a secure tenancy and rent could easily be provided on the Carpenters’ estate where there are a number of empty, refurbished properties suitable for the Clarke family).


 Posted by at 14:27
Dec 192014
 

#StopChanges2ATW welcome the findings of the Work and Pensions select committee inquiry into Access To Work (ATW) published today.

The 31 recommendations reflect the considerable difficulties Deaf and disabled people have experienced with the scheme since changes were introduced by the Department of Work and Pensions over the past year to what was previously a very effective programme of disability related employment support.

The report says ATW “has the potential to be an extremely effective model, helping to address the substantial gap between the employment rate for disabled people and that of the rest of the population. Where it works well, it transforms the lives of disabled people, many of whom would be unable to work without it.”

Over recent months ATW customers have been driven to crisis through the combination of a disastrous restructure, which they were never consulted over, and the introduction of targets to increase numbers using the scheme without significantly increasing its budget.

As a result an overwhelming number of Deaf and disabled people have been pushed to despair fearing for their futures, with many out of pocket or owing thousands of pounds that they simply don’t have.

#StopChanges2ATW, named this week on Limping Chicken by respected blogger Jen Dodds as campaign of the year, was set up to draw attention to the scale of what was happening. Working with DeafATW and the National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters (NUBSLI) we sought justice for Deaf and disabled people adversely impacted and a reversal of all negative changes.

Although the Work and Pensions inquiry into ATW was originally intended to focus on mental health and learning difficulties, we were delighted that the Select Committee listened to our calls to widen its scope and ensure the inquiry process was made accessible for Deaf BSL users.

We now welcome the findings of the inquiry which support the key concerns from our campaign. The report highlights the DWP’s failure to provide “a satisfactory explanation of how the money saved from the closure or sale of Remploy factories has been used”. It finds that as a result of trying to increase the ATW caseload within an only marginally increased budget, that the DWP is “bearing down on the awards of current service users who happen to require relatively high cost support, to the detriment of meeting their needs effectively.” The report also criticises the “remarkably little published information on Access to Work”, commenting that much of the information needed for the inquirt has had to be pieced together from DWP’s answers to Parliamentary Questions and Freedom of Information requests.

The Committee makes a number of specific recommendations to improve the ATW programme. These include that the DWP be clearer about how its makes decisions, makes its processes more accessible introducing a Video Relay System to allow Deaf BSL users to make contact and improves its disability awareness training for staff.

Dame Anne Begg MP, Chair of the Committee, has called for the DWP to urgently address the impact of the “30 hour rule” and to make a strong case to the HM Treasury for substantial additional funding.

The report also acknowledges NUBSLI, which was set up only this year in response to the  attacks on BSL interpreters’ pay and condition affected through the changes to Access to Work, recommending “that DWP consult the BSL interpreting professions through the Association of Sign Language Interpreters and the National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters.”

#StopChanges2ATW co-founder Geraldine O’Halloran said “The report is promising and is a good result for our campaign. We are delighted the Committee understood the impact of the 30 hour rule and cuts to resources for Deaf BSL users as well as the need for properly qualified and skilled interpreters. ”

Tracey Lazard, CEO of Inclusion London, said: “#StopChanges2ATW and all the campaigners working together to oppose the damaging impact of the changes to Access to Work should be congratulated on getting the Work and Pensions Committee to listen to their concerns. The recommendations from the inquiry strongly reflect the measures that Deaf and disabled people have been calling for.”

One disappointment is that the Committee’s recommendation on employment support for people with mental health support needs does not go far enough. The report acknowledges that whereas “People with physical and sensory impairments have an element of choice in how their Access to Work support is provided; there is currently a lack of choice in Access to Work mental health support”. The recommendation is given that “DWP develop a range of mental health provision” but does not explicitly state that customers with mental health support needs should have a parity of choice with other customers, enabling individuals to identify the support we need to achieve our employment outcomes instead of being restricted to choosing from a pre-designated, albeit longer, menu of set support options.

It also remains to be seen how far if at all the Department for Work and Pensions will follow the report’s recommendations. The key recommendation of the Work and Pensions report on Employment and Support Allowance and the Work Capability Assessment, that “a fundamental redesign of the ESA end-to-end process” was needed, was ignored in the government’s response.

Meanwhile we continue to hear on a daily basis of lives being ruined as ATW packages are driven down, support essential for Deaf and disabled people to stay in their jobs is denied and ATW communication failings persist.

Roger Lewis of Disabled People Against Cuts said”The reality is that Deaf and disabled people are being squeezed from above and below. On the one hand they are stripping away the social security system and labelling us as benefit scroungers, on the other they are pushing us out of the labour market and eroding disability employment support. Lord Freud’s comments about whether disabled people are worth £2 an hour aren’t an anomaly, they represent what this government really thinks about us. ”

One thing we do know is that #StopChanges2ATW will carry on campaigning to hold the government to account for its erosion of ATW and to fight not only for a reversal of the damage done over recent months but beyond that for improvements to the scheme that will widen its reach and enable many more Deaf and disabled people to access their right to employment.

Work and Pensions press release
Download full report here
Reaction from NUBSL
Limping Chicken:

Look out for #StopChanges2ATW on news features throughout the day.

Dec 172014
 

Many thanks to all of you who signed up to our letter to Ed Miliband asking Labour to commit to keeping the ILF open –at least until something better could be found to allow disabled people to live independently in the community. In less than a week we collected 21 x A4 size pages of signatures, more people are also asking to sign up. This shows how important this issue is to us – as disabled voters.

 

Sadly we have to tell you all that in spite of one of our steering group members trying to organise handing over that letter through a supportive Labour MP Ed Miliband has turned his back on disabled people, once again, and refused to accept the letter from us.

 

At the Labour party event for International Day of Disabled People Ed was asking how he could get disabled people to vote for him. Well we have a very loud and clear message for Mr. Miliband: it is not by  refusing to engage with us when requested, and it is not by ignoring the rights that disabled people have to live independently in the community.

 

Our Christmas message to Ed is that he needs to take on board the reality of the voting power of the 12.2 million disabled people and their families in this country if Labour are serious about being elected.

 

We’d also like to ask all of you, but especially those who signed up to our letter to send your own letter or email direct to Ed from January 5th onwards.

Contact Information:

Email: ed.miliband.mp@parliament.uk

Post: House of Commons, London, SW1 0AA
Twitter: @ed_miliband

Template Letter:

I/We disabled people/ family/ friends/ supporters and allies, are asking for your help. We are asking you to pledge to keep the Independent Living Fund open to existing applicants, pending a review of Independent Living for all disabled people.
As you may know, on the 8th of December at the High Court, a ruling was given against our challenge to the closure of the ILF [1], and we were not given leave to appeal.
The closure of the ILF effectively signals the end of the right to independent living for disabled people in the UK. Whilst never perfect the ILF represents a model of support that has enabled thousands of disabled people to enjoy meaningfully lives and to contribute to society as equal citizens. 
Since the closure of the Fund to new applicants in December 2010 we have seen disabled people left with their most basic needs unmet and unable to seek employment, to volunteer or go into education or simply even to leave the house.
But we have vowed to fight on against the ILF closure,  disabled people will not be pushed back into the margins of society, we will not go back into the institutions, our place is in the community alongside our family and friends and neighbours and we are fighting to stay.
We ask you to imagine what it will be like, for people who have been enabled  to live a full life, be with friends and family, go out, work, study and enjoy recreation, to have all that taken away, and find themselves trapped inside, all day, every day, with choices over what they do, when and how, removed.
To severely disabled people the Independent Living Fund represents the difference between having an existence, and having a life.
 
If you want our vote then keep the Independent Living Fund.
 Posted by at 23:56
Dec 152014
 
My name is Terry. I’m 48 years old. I live in Staffordshire and I’ve been disabled since birth. I’ve required some level of care all my life and I’ve had my present level of hourly care for over 10 years. Part funded by my Local Authority (L.A.) and part funded by the Independent Living Fund (I.L.F.)  Although I have been asked by my care provider to have a ‘Care Diary’ I’ve always declined. This has never been a problem. My care provider has never insisted I have this, the I.L.F. have never insisted I have this and the L.A. have never insisted that I have this…Until now. In August 2014 my L.A. contacted my care provider requesting copies of my care diary plus a few other details about my care package, threatening them that if this was not done that they would be reported to the Care Quality Commission (C.Q.C.), the governing body for all care providers. I gave my care provider the requested details and advised them to tell the L.A that there were no copies of my care diary as I’d never kept one. My care provider told me (right or wrong) that there was a legal clause that allowed me to decline the use of a care diary. My L.A. was duly notified of this.
I totally understand the position of accepting a care diary to use as evidence of what your care needs are. For some people who are not capable of managing their care needs themselves a care diary is an essential part of their daily lives. It protects them and the carers who care for them. I accept that. However, I do feel that some people have become indoctrinated into believing that a care diary is needed when perhaps it is not.
 
I have two issues with a care diary, the first is: How much information on what is done for you is enough? Or not enough? Or too much? By providing your L.A. with a complete list of what care is done for you. including times, are you giving them the evidence they need to reduce your care? For example: If you take 30 minutes to get out of bed in the morning and you like to be up for 9 am then your carer/carers would need to arrive at your home at around 8:30, maybe sooner. But if on a Sunday for example, you like to stay in bed for a while longer and get up at 10 am instead of 9 am, but you don’t do this every Sunday (it depends on how bad the hangover is from the night before maybe) and this information is recorded in your diary, are you leaving an opportunity for your LA to say that your carer can come in 1 hour later on a Sunday? Even though this is not a regular thing. Another example: You go out from your home most, but not every Tuesdays and Thursdays for about 3 hours each time. This is recorded in your care diary. Will your L.A. decide that if these are your usual days for going out and for this average amount of time, then that’s what we’ll give you in funding – 3 hours for every Tuesday and Thursday. You cannot change your ‘going out’ day. You cannot change the length of time you go out for. No flexibility, that’s it.
 
We are all worried and concerned about what the future holds for our care and if L.A’s. gain total control over our funding, will they use the data that you give them to determine the amount of care you get. L.A’s. have a different remit for calculating your care, we know this. ‘Clean and feed’, or when I had my first care assessment it was called ‘needs and wants’. Meaning they would provide care for what is considered as a ‘need’ but not for the things you ‘want’ to do in life. Everyone creates routines in their lives, we do this so the things we do will run smoothly and more efficiently saving time so we can do more things. Of course these routines don’t always go to plan, there are many reasons why our plans change: Because of how we feel physically; because we get a phone call from a friend just as we’re about to go out the front door; the weather and many more things. As John Lennon said, “Life is something that happens whilst making other plans”. Life is random and constantly changing and we change and adapt to those changes as best we can. If your L.A. uses the data in your care diary to determine how much funding you need for the care you need for you to do the things you’ve said you do, you could find your choices being very limited. This is institutionalisation.
 
If the I.L.F. closes down, I’m positive that disabled people will not be put back into care homes. It simply costs too much. We could however, end up being institutionalised in our own homes.
 
I’m a “glass half empty” kind of guy so it’s very possible that what I’m suggesting will never happen and L.A.’s would not be so underhanded but when money starts to get tight in government as it is now, there’s a lot of pressure on department to save cash and reduce costs, by any means.
 
The second issue I have is privacy. This is my primary reason for refusing a care diary. I’m a private person and I don’t want others reading when I eat, get out of bed, have the house vacuumed, the laundry done or when I go to the toilet! By monitoring my activities every day it makes me feel as if I’m asking permission from a parent or teacher to do these things. Quite frankly I find it humiliating. I would feel I’m being treated like a child. I’ve spent some time thinking about other groups of people living in UK society that have such personal information recorded about them and the reasons why this may be done. A patient in hospital for example, will be monitored to make sure their health is improving and that the treatment they are receiving is correct and safe. People with mental health issues are likewise monitored often for the excuse this is for their own safety, for the safety of others and for their health. School children are monitored, again for their safety and that of others and to check that they are learning. I fail to understand why my L.A. needs to know what time of day I had a shi….err shower. The information that’s being recorded serves no purpose. It does not benefit me, as I already know the last time I had a shower. This data only serves the purposes of my L.A. saying that it evidence of my care needs. I’m challenging this level of information recording. Is it really necessary for a mentally competent adult to be monitored so deeply? I believe that my care plan and other monitoring checks and assessments that my care provider uses are sufficient to show what my care needs are. Also, who will be reading this highly detailed diary of my care? Will this highly private information on my very personal care be safely and securely stored so it doesn’t get read by people who should not be privy to it? I have a huge issue with this very personal part of my private life being written down for some unknown person to read. I feel it is a huge invasion of my privacy that will not benefit me, and may indeed be used against me in time.
 
At the end of November my L.A. repeatedly contacted my care provider insisting that I have a form of care diary. Not surprisingly, as before, I refused. Currently my care provider’s legal department is trying to determine if they are breaking CQC regulations. They have asked the CQC if their current record keeping is sufficient or not. The CQC’s response is you must comply with what is written in the “Essential standards of quality and safety” page 172.
 
“(a) an accurate record in respect of each service user which shall include appropriate information and documents in relation to the care and treatment provided to each service user”
 
It’s quite vague and opaque.
 
The last communication I had with my care providers was the legal department still don’t know if they’re breaking CQC regulations. ‘Can of worms’ anyone?
 
Finally, if it is decided that a care diary must be placed in my home by my care provider and I still refuse to accept it. What happens then?
 
If you also live in Staffordshire and are concerned about being forced to keep a detailed care diary and want to mount a group challenge against this then please email us at mail@dpac.uk.net
 Posted by at 23:13
Dec 152014
 

By George Berger (  )

On 3 October 2014 NHS England (henceforth, E) published an online document that purports to describe its 2015/16 plans for prioritising ‘Prescribed Specialised Services’ [1]. E’s stated goal is to meet ‘the central challenge of improving patient outcomes whilst constraining levels of spend to match available resources’ (p.5). As we are never told what  ‘improve patient outcomes’ means, the document is imprecise, for there are no ordered priority lists, and crucial services are incompletely described. Indeed, it’s not about prioritising anything; it concerns three ways of delegating responsibility for providing some or all services that are now (2014) prescribed by E in one unordered package. Readers familiar with ‘new public management,’ the NHS pricing schemes within HRG (healthcare resource groups) [2] and a bit of medical science might well notice these defects. Is this a medically acceptable way to publicly announce a scheme for a near-future NHS?  If so, why were we underinformed? If not, why was it put online? Surely, more explanation should have been added.

 

The package is to be split into three parts. It is claimed that this will enable ‘investment and disinvestment’ (p.5) of money, where a disinvestment is an unannounced privatising cut, a devolution of financial responsibility to Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG). In the near future then, E might well simply take your money and distribute some or all it to the CCGs, which will finance care within their own service and provision limits, priorities and whims, hence at least partially ending prescription [3].

 

First, some wheelchair services and outpatient nervous system referrals ‘should no longer be commissioned by NHS England and should be reflected in CCGs contracts from April 2015.’ Second, E will handle, e.g., ‘some adult oesophageal procedures’ from April 2015. Third, E  ‘has recommended’ [my italics] that some renal dialysis procedures and all surgery for morbid obesity be disinvested (all on p. 7).  We have then, a desire, a decision and a suggestion.  These are parts of a ‘[s]trategic direction’ for change. Details will appear in ‘a Five Year Forward View in the autumn [2014]’ (p. 6). They will let E ‘work with a smaller number of leading hospitals,’ as ‘long term partners’, given ‘the medium term financial context within which the whole NHS is having to operate’ (p. 6). Other changes should be driven by clinical developments in this period, for example, the use of ‘a reduced number of fractions’ in ‘Radiotherapy for Prostate Cancer’ (p. 21).

 

One source of imprecision is the use of  ‘some.’ Some wheelchair services suggests that either the planners have not yet decided which such services to disinvest, or that they do not wish to tell us which wheelchair services they have decided to disinvest. Perhaps there are other reasons. We should be told, so that one can prepare for the financial change in time. This criticism also holds for some renal dialysis procedures. The dialysis announcement scared many. Shouldn’t the responsible authority have been more precise? Why weren’t they? Why is this disinvestment recommended, i.e. suggested quite strongly? Again, some adult oesophageal procedures is imprecise and in fact potentially dangerous. Acid reflux (a.k.a. heartburn) can cause a cellular windpipe change called Barrett’s oesophagus. It is precancerous, can become malignant and is often deadly. Why was this opportunity to inform us missed?

 

My final textual critique is that a reduced number of fractions has frightened many, owing to its medical incompleteness. Will men with prostate cancer diagnosed next year be short-changed? Won’t this increase the number of deaths from this illness, starting next year? Not necessarily. Each case of prostate cancer is assigned to one of four or five ‘risk strata,’ from very low to very high risk. A fraction is one session of radiotherapy, usually an exposure to a directed stream of photons whose intensity and duration partly depends on the risk stratum and type of apparatus. The most effective immediate outcome depends on these factors and the number of fractions needed to expose the patient to a clinically adequate total dose. This dose lies within a small, well-known, range. Thus, a radiation oncologist can reduce the number of fractions used in one case, if he/she decides, for example, to increase the intensity of all or some fractions (I omit some details for clarity, without loss of accuracy). On the other hand, since radiotherapy devices are becoming ever more expensive, the planners might wish to cut costs by indeed short-changing some men. Would they admit that? I doubt it and am worried, as I know that radiotherapy is big business throughout the USA and the UK, at least. Is male health less important to the planners than the profits dished out to medical equipment giants like General Electric and Lockheed Martin? Will Virgin have a hand in this? Do they now?

 

In my opinion a public medical document should have an appendix that explains details such as these, preferably with references. These basics are not rocket science. As I do not know why clarification is lacking, I cannot answer the title question. Perhaps E wants to test public opinion by provoking reactions. These might well be used to write actual policy, by judging which sorts and degrees of disinvestment and prioritisation E can get away with.  The you can trust me facial expression of the woman on the document’s cover elicits my extreme suspicion. What is the purpose of the photograph? Why give an NHS Intranet address for Commissioning Intentions posted on the Internet? [4].

 

NOTES

 

  1. http://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/comms-intents-2015-16.pdf.
  2. http://www.hscic.gov.uk/casemix/costing
  3. https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/devon-canary-in-nhs-coalmine is important. See its reference to Mark Britnell.
  4. I learned about the DRG system from the excellent and disturbing Swedish book by Maciej Zaremba, Patientens Pris: ett reportage om den svenska sjukvården (Weyler Förlag, 2013).

This translates as The Patient’s Price: a report on Swedish healthcare. Its first four chapters are here, from the daily that published them: http://www.dn.se/kultur-noje/hur-mycket-ar-en-patient-vard/. The Five Year Forward document is here: http://www.england.nhs.uk/ourwork/futurenhs/.

 Posted by at 13:21
Dec 142014
 

This video has been made by Logical Change with the accompanying text:


For anyone that says getting active achieves nothing show them this. This is a brief glimpse of the amazing protests and demos we have covered in the last year. We have so much more planned for 2015.

Please get involved in these fantastic campaigns:
Talk Fracking – http://talkfracking.org/
Frack Off – http://frack-off.org.uk/
Climate Revolution – http://climaterevolution.co.uk/wp/

The People’s Assembly – http://www.thepeoplesassembly.org.uk/
The Student Assembly Against Austerity –http://www.thestudentassembly.org.uk/

National Union of Teachers – https://www.teachers.org.uk/

Britain Needs a PayRise – http://britainneedsapayrise.org/
MayDay Organisation – http://www.londonmayday.org/home.php

Occupy London – http://occupylondon.org.uk/
UK Uncut – http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/

National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts – http://anticuts.com/
Young Greens – http://www.younggreens.org.uk/

Stop the War Coalition – http://www.stopwar.org.uk/

Fuel Poverty Action – http://www.fuelpovertyaction.org.uk/

E15 Mums – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Focus-…
NewEra Estate 4 All – http://newera4all.org/

Disabled People Against Cuts – http://dpac.uk.net/

Finally us:
logicalchange.org
TWITTER – http://www.twitter.com/logicalchangeHQ
FACEBOOK – https://www.facebook.com/Logicalchange/
EMAIL – HQ@logicalchange.org

 

 

 Posted by at 22:35
Dec 142014
 
Who to vote for (who2vote4) logoCongratulations to Esther McVey for a well deserved award  for her tireless work forcing unwaged people onto zero-hours contracts and for business creation, especially the food banks

posted by Peter Lazenby in Britain

Trade unionists in Merseyside awarded the area’s only Tory MP “Scrooge of the Year” yesterday for her implementation of benefit sanctions.

Esther McVey, Conservative MP for Wirral West, is the Tory minister responsible for employment who has overseen the imposition of punitive benefit sanctions on Britain’s worst-off and cuts which have thrown over a million families into dire poverty.

 

Desperately needed benefits are being axed because a victim is minutes late for an appointment or other spurious reasons.

Wirral Trades Union Council conducted a survey among local people and trades unionists on who should be named “Scrooge of the Year” and Ms McVey easily topped the poll.

The award was made “for her tireless work forcing unwaged people onto zero-hours contracts.

“She is also the Tory minister who developed the benefit sanction regime to such an extent that almost 1,282,497 families have had their benefits totally cut.”

In second place was Sports Direct, a company which has over 80 per cent of its staff on zero-hours contracts.

Wirral TUC secretary Alec McFadden said: “This award is of course nothing to be proud of.

“Benefit sanctions are one of the main reasons that over a million families have been forced to rely on foodbanks in 2014.

“Ms McVey however claimed earlier this year that ‘only 60,000 people were likely to use foodbanks’.”

Merseyside County TUC held a Christmas March and rally last night where the award was announced.

Wirral trades unionists are running a campaign to have Ms McVey ousted at May’s general election.

 Posted by at 17:50
Dec 132014
 

The following article is reblogged from: The poor side of life  (link at the end of the article).

Next Thursday, there will be a vigil in front of Ashton Under Lyne Job Centre, Old Street, from 1:30 and 2:45 to remember the victims of sanctions. We are asking people to support this vigil, either by attending, bringing some flowers, saying some prayers or contributing towards buying the wreath, and by this to show their opposition to the inhuman and degrading regime of sanctions. People can also support this by following @charlotteh71 who has been protesting every week in front of Ashton Job Centre and documenting the terrible impact of sanctions on unemployed or disabled people.

Pregnant and sanctioned just in time for Christmas… Sanctioned and frozen to death….The latest news from Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre.

Today was our usual demonstration day. The wind was howling and the rain and hail was pouring down. We were cold but we turn up every week. We will not let the victims of the Job centre down. Whilst handing leaflets out a lady that had said hello to us on previous occasions came running out of the Job Centre. She was upset, crying, she screamed “Why does this place treat you like this?” She is pregnant and has been put on the terrible universal credit scheme. A scheme which really knows how to make anyone suffer. She had fulfilled all her job search requirements. But when she turned up at the Job Centre to sign on they said that she hadn’t turned up for an interview that she never received a letter for. They couldn’t or most likely wouldn’t show her a copy of this letter… that’s if it even existed in the first place. They refused to give her a hardship form which they are legally obliged to do. She had spent all of her phone credit on phoning for jobs which she didn’t have a chance of getting because she is pregnant. The police happened to turn up for our demonstration… they turn up every week…. they are on our side… they went into the Job Centre to get her a hardship form… and they refused them as well. Ashton Under Lyne Job Centre really do think that they are not answerable to anyone. We hope to see her next week.

After talking to this lady I was stopped by a homeless chap who wanted to congratulate us on our hard work. He said that he hated this Job Centre. His friend who lived on the streets with him had been sanctioned after being taken off the sickness benefits that he was on and was put on Job seekers Allowance. He had severe mental health and addiction problems. He was sanctioned, and without warm clothes and very little food he fell asleep on the streets and never woke up. He died of hypothermia. People had passed him and thought that he was asleep. He didn’t stand a chance. And what do the Job Centre staff say? “We are only following orders.” Most don’t feel any guilt or remorse. And we know that this government doesn’t either.

We are holding a memorial service outside Ashton Under Lyne Job Centre next Thursday. We will be laying a wreath and we are desperately in need of funds to do so. We ill be doing this in memory of every person that has died as a result of this governments war against the poor. We wont forget them. Please come, bring a flower, bring some words to say but more importantly bring yourself.

 

http://thepoorsideoflife.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/pregnant-and-sanctioned-just-in-time-for-christmas-sanctioned-and-frozen-to-death-the-latest-news-from-ashton-under-lyne-jobcentre/

 Posted by at 14:34
Dec 132014
 

From Cuts to Resistance is a testament to the Disabled People’s fightback against the brutal idealogical austerity of the ConDem Coalition Government that has targeted us the most.

This document has been produced by Disabled People Against Cuts and Inclusion London who are part of the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance

It was published to coincide with the Launch of “Operation Disabled Vote” in November 2014

That day,we received a message from the Private Eye Cartoonist David Ziggy Green, it was such  a powerful message of support, it is copied below:

Sorry I couldn’t make it tonight.I’m pretty terrible with words but I just wanted to say that I have attended quiet a few DPAC action now. From the Oxford Circus hijack to the Atos Games opening ceremony to the Westminster Abbey occupation attempt.At each event and action, your determination and willpower is always so impressive and inspiring.
Believe me, there are people out there that care. They just need that constant pushing to get them to pull their fingers out and help.
So keep fighting and the numbers will swell and the message will get out and change will happen.
Good luck all & see you at the next battle ground.David.

Please feel free to read, download, print and share “From Cuts to Resistance“.

To download just click the pop out button pop out button go to the popout window and select the download button Screenshot from 2014-12-07 16:55:08

 Posted by at 14:33
Dec 122014
 

Here it is, the 2015 DPAC Downloadable Calendar!

Please feel free to enjoy, download, print and share it.

To download just click the pop out button pop out button go to the popout window and select the download button Screenshot from 2014-12-07 16:55:08

You can use and share the Calendar for free, but if you would like to make a donation to DPAC, please use the “Donate” button on the right hand side of this page. All funds we receive go directly to campaigning.

 Posted by at 13:23
Dec 112014
 

Urgent Call out for mass action to #SaveILF
Tuesday, January 6th 1.30pm for 2pm start.
House of Commons, SWIA 0AA

Following the loss of our court case against the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) we need as many disabled people and their supporters to join us for a mass visit to parliament.
At  the moment only the Green Party have said they will keep the ILF open, Labour have shockingly refused to commit to do this. That is in spite of them paying lip service to the ideal of independent living when in reality all they offer is empty rhetoric.
We must stop disabled people being pushed back into the margins of society, we will not go back into the institutions, our place is in the community alongside our family and friends and neighbours and we are fighting to stay.

Join us for a DPAC- style lobby of parliament on January 6th 2015. Let’s kick of next year’s Revenge Tour campaigning by making sure we let politicians know we are still here and are neither going away nor allowing ourselves to become prisoners in institutions or our own homes.

We will meet in the central hall just through security and suggest people arrive for 1.30pm to allow time to get through security. Contact us on mail@dpac.uk.net if you want to meet up beforehand, have any specific access needs or need help towards travel costs.

‘Cos we’re not taking no for an answer

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 Posted by at 21:56
Dec 102014
 

Please Help Us. Save Our Independent Living Fund

We, disabled people, family, friends, supporters and allies, are asking for your help. We are asking you to pledge to keep the Independent Living Fund open to existing applicants, pending a review of Independent Living for all disabled people.

As you may know, on the 8th of December at the High Court, a ruling was given against our challenge to the closure of the ILF [1], and we were not given leave to appeal.

The closure of the ILF effectively signals the end of the right to independent living for disabled people in the UK. Whilst never perfect the ILF represents a model of support that has enabled thousands of disabled people to enjoy meaningfully lives and to contribute to society as equal citizens. 

Since the closure of the Fund to new applicants in December 2010 we have seen disabled people left with their most basic needs unmet and unable to seek employment, to volunteer or go into education or simply even to leave the house.

But we have vowed to fight on against the ILF closure,  disabled people will not be pushed back into the margins of society, we will not go back into the institutions, our place is in the community alongside our family and friends and neighbours and we are fighting to stay.

We ask you to imagine what it will be like, for people who have been enabled  to live a full life, be with friends and family, go out, work, study and enjoy recreation, to have all that taken away, and find themselves trapped inside, all day, every day, with choices over what they do, when and how, removed.

To severely disabled people the Independent Living Fund represents the difference between having an existence, and having a life.

Please Ed, keep our Independent Living Fund open. Keep Our Lives Open. It means the world to us.

References

[1] http://dpac.uk.net/2014/12/disabled-people-vow-to-continue-the-fight-to-save-

to sign as an organisation or individual please go to 

https://docs.google.com/document/d/11ZpbvcgSdYeOciEj9NZtnHFaI-3gGzMvRKLX4RblGTs/edit

or email: mail@dpac.uk.net

deadline for all signatures is 12pm Tues 16th Jan

Background: The Government won a case in the Royal Courts of Justice on Monday 8th December, which made their decision to close the ILF – Independent Living Fund – lawful; and this closure will now go ahead on 30th June next year.
Unless, of course the families, friends, supporters and others stand in solidarity with ILF Users campaign to Save the ILF, and together apply the sort of political power which changes minds and policy. You can do that today by signing the Open Letter to Ed Miliband (full text below), asking him, that should he become Prime Minister in May’s General Election, to keep the Fund open while ordering an independent review into the benefits of a model such as the ILF.
We know that many disabled people will lose some or all of their support, isolating people in their homes – at best. For many more, being institutionalised in residential homes is once again a grim reality. To save on average just over £300 per person. Don’t let this happen. Stand in support with ILF Users in this action, and the many more on-going & to come

Dec 092014
 

John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab): What legal costs his Department has incurred in legal proceedings involving disabled people relating to the under-occupancy penalty and the closure of the independent living fund. [906481]

The Minister for Disabled People (Mr Mark Harper): The Government have robustly defended their policies in relation to the closure of the independent living fund and the removal of the spare room subsidy. The total known legal costs to date, in respect of both policies where disability formed part of the grounds of the claim, are £415,000: £236,000 for the ILF and £178,000 for the removal of the spare room subsidy.

John Healey: That is a part answer to a very direct question about the cost to the taxpayers of Government lawyers defending the indefensible—axing the ILF and introducing the hated bedroom tax. Will the Minister not recognise that many severely disabled people flourish with the fund but are now frightened of losing their independence when he shuts it down next year? He might have won the legal case this year, but he has lost the moral and policy arguments, so even at this 11th hour will he rethink the protection available to ILF users?

Mr Harper: No, I will not. I have talked to disability organisations about this matter, and they agree with the Government. More than 1 million people get social care through the mainstream social care system. The Government are not making any savings by moving the ILF to local authorities and devolved Administrations, and we are working closely with each local authority to ensure that the amount of money being transferred at the point of closure next year will be exactly what is needed and what is being spent by the ILF, meaning that disabled people will be protected.

Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab): Some £4.3 billion has been taken out of adult social care budgets over the past four years because of the Government’s cuts. If that funding transfers across, as is planned, it will plug only a very small part of the gap. If they will not rethink this policy, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey) just suggested, will Ministers require that the funding be ring-fenced to ensure that 70 people in Salford and 18,000 people across the country with disabilities can look forward to keeping their independence and to this continuing support?

Mr Harper: Of course local government has had to play its part in the savings, but local authorities can make choices. My local authority in Gloucestershire has protected the value of social care because it thinks that protecting older people—[Interruption.] No, my local authority has faced cuts, like all local authorities, but it has chosen to—[Interruption.] If Opposition Members want me to answer their hon. Friend’s question, they should stop yelling. My local authority has prioritised funding for older people and people of working age. Clearly, the hon. Lady’s local authority has made different decisions. If those on her local authority want to ring-fence the money transferred from the ILF, they are absolutely free to do so, so I suggest she take that up with them.


8 Dec 2014 : Column 632

We want to thank John Healey MP for raising these questions

But other questions arise: which disability organisations did Harper speak to and why did they agree with the Government that closing ILF was a good thing for disabled people with high support needs and their employees? Did Harper speak to ILF users?

Watch this space……

Dec 082014
 

 

Berkshire DPAC will be entering into the Christmas spirit on 12th of December and giving ATOS offices in Reading their very own carol concert. Now isn’t’ that nice of them.Here are the songs they will be performing. If you want to join them contact them for more information berksdpac@gmail.com or call: 0787 6311961

Or if you can’t make it to Reading on the 12th why not have your own sing a long outside your nearest ATOS office, DWP office or Jobcentre? If you do, let us know on mail@dpac.uk.net and we’ll publicise it.

Pictures by Brian Hilton, Words by Merry Cross.

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Oh little mouth of Iain Duncan Smith
How much we hear you lie
You say whatever comes into your head
It makes us jeer and cry.
But for all our anger and suffering
We know the truth will shine
One day your cruelty will end
And that will be divine!

All I want for Christmas is to save the ILF
SaveILF Christmas 6

SILENT NIGHT

Silent night
No-one in sight
Heating’s off
So’s the light

Round the streets people begging for food
Yet Tory toffs are in such a good mood
Tucking into their turkeys
Knowing that we are all screwed.

Repeat first 4 lines

ATOS taking our money away
With tick box tests like the WCA
Hopeless as ever with PI-IP
Who cares about the delay?

Repeat first 4 lines

While we’re staying alone in such pain
ATOS bosses all sip their champagne
They forget that tomorrow
Life could dish up this refrain

Silent night
They could get a fright
They could get ill
Lose limbs or sight

Then they may see the whole world anew
Re-a-lise we are all human too, Doing all we can do-oo
Just trying hard to get through. Just trying hard to get through.

IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER

Or A Carol for ATOS and the DWP

In the bleak midwinter
Not so long ago
Heartless politicians
Planned to take our dough.

CHORUS:
They don’t mind how much we hurt
How much pain we’re in
They don’t mind us starving
Or our suffering.

So they talked with ATOS
Said how rich they’d get
Making sure we fail tests
With the targets set.

CHORUS

ATOS rake in millions
Leaving us with nought
As we wait decisions
In their web we’re caught.

CHORUS

Iain Duncan Smith smiles,
Tells his awful lies
As we sit thru’ his trials
Another of us dies.

CHORUS

Iain Duncan Smith, WE
Won’t keep quiet, WE
Will keep fighting until
ALL OF US ARE FREE!
Repeat first 3 lines, ending with
WE END YOUR TYRANNY!

SaveILF Christmas 5
SaveILF Christmas 3

AWAY IN A MANGER

Out there on the cold streets
Ca-ardboard for a bed
Teenagers and elders
Lay down their tired heads,
While MPs and bankers
Pretend they really care
About hard-working parents
Whose cupboards are bare.

With ATOS to help him
Duncan Smith rages on,
Making life even harder
As the public he cons.
The wealthy are protected
As in horror we stare
Wond’ring where help will come from
YET WE MUST NOT DESPAIR

So gather round friends all
Take heart and hold tight
Together we can’t fall
With courage we’ll fight
To challenge bad treatment
Whoever you are
Making human compassion
Our true guiding star.

SaveILF Christmas 1 SaveILF Christmas 2

 

 Posted by at 23:30
Dec 082014
 

To ILF Recipients and Fellow ILF Campaigners :

As you will know by now, we lost the case in court today.

This is not the end. We are carrying on the fight.

It just makes us even more determined to win this.

Watch this blog for more news. This is not over.

Save The Independent Living Fund.

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 Posted by at 19:52
Dec 082014
 

Press release from Solicitors involved

Two severely disabled men who use the Independent Living Fund (ILF) today lost their bid to overturn the Government’s decision to close the ILF in June 2015, as the High Court ruled that former Minister for Disabled People Mike Penning had not breached equality laws in making the closure decision earlier this year. The two men had been granted permission for a judicial review of the process leading to Penning’s closure decision, taken just weeks after the Court of Appeal quashed a previous, almost identical decision as being unlawful.

ILF provides vital support and funding to some 17,000 disabled people in the UK to enable them to live independent and fulfilling lives. To be eligible people must already receive a substantial care package from local authority social services, but ILF funding provides a top-up for those with the highest support needs. The ILF system was set up in 1988 to tackle the barriers to independent living and working faced by the most severely disabled people, which were not adequately addressed by council provision with its focus on meeting basic needs. The claimants, represented by Scott-Moncrieff & Associates and Deighton Pierce Glynn, believe that these problems with council provision remain and are getting worse under Government cuts. They fear that loss of ILF support will threaten their right to live with dignity, and they may be forced into residential care or lose their ability to participate in work and everyday activities on an equal footing with other people.

As in the earlier, successful challenge, the claimants argued that the Minister had not been given adequate information to be able to properly assess the practical effect of closure on the particular needs of ILF users and their ability to live independently, or to consider alternatives. The Court of Appeal ruled that this information about impact was essential for the Minister to comply with the Equality Act, which requires the Government to act to positively advance equality of opportunity for disabled people, including meeting needs, removing disadvantages and increasing their participation in public life.

However, handing down judgment today Mrs Justice Andrews ruled that a crucial difference between the two decision-making processes was that in the first, the Minister (then Esther McVey) was given an over-optimistic ‘Panglossian’ summary of information about how ILF users would be likely to be affected, whereas in the second the Minister was made fully aware of ‘the inevitable and considerable adverse effect’ that closure would have on disabled people. She concluded that the assumption on which Mr Penning based his decision was that ‘independent living might well be put seriously in peril for … most (or a substantial number of) ILF users’. In the judge’s view that meant that the Minister had clear, unambiguous information on which to weigh up the implications for disability equality, regardless of the exact number of people who would be likely to have to go into residential care or lose their ability to work or study.

The judge emphasised that her decision was not about the rights or wrongs of closure, just whether the Minister knew enough about the likely impact to meet the requirements of a lawful decision-making process. The decision itself was up to him. The judge also declined to rule on whether the closure decision may put the UK in breach of its international legal obligations to advance disabled people’s rights to independent living and equality of opportunity under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

However there is a really significant point arising out of the decision. Essentially the legal challenge was to the process of decision-making and specifically the question of what information the Minister had available to him about the likely impact on disabled people so as to be able to properly exercise the public sector equality duty.  What the judgment highlights is that, in the judge’s view, the Minister clearly believed that the impact of closure on disabled people and their ability to live independently will be really severe, and many or most ILF users will be at risk of losing their ability to work, study or live independently in the community as a result

 

For the purpose of the legal challenge, that meant that (in the judge’s view) the Minister had sufficient information to make a lawful decision – and that was end of story as far as the court’s role went.  But in wider terms it really begs the question of why, in that case, the Minister decided what he did:

 

          How can it have been justified if he thought the impact would be so severe?

          What is the benefit of getting rid of this tried and tested system of protection for those people who are most at risk of losing their independence? There has never been any suggestion that it will save money overall – indeed there is evidence that it may cost far more than it saves because of (a) the false economies of people losing good support then getting into crisis and being institutionalised, (b) the ILF system being such good value for money (extremely low running costs as it uses trustees) and (c) the double benefit of the ILF system which not only provides a funding top-up but (crucially) puts leverage on local authorities to put their contribution towards proper independent support packages instead of institutional care.

          How can  this decision to cause such a negative impact on such a large number of the most severely disabled people in the country be squared with the need for the Government to actively advance equality of opportunity for disabled people, including meeting needs better and increasing participation in public life rather than the other way round?

          Similarly how can it be squared with international obligations the UK has signed up to such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which stipulates that contracting states must move forwards not back in realising rights such as that under Article 19 – the right to live independently in the community with choices equal to others.

Contact: Solicitors representing the Claimants:

Deighton Pierce Glynn (Louise Whitfield)

Scott-Moncrieff & Associates (Kate Whittaker)

8 Union Street, London SE1 1SZ

Tel: 020 7407 0007

Office 7, 19 Greenwood Place, London NW5 1LB

Tel: 020 7485 5588/ 07954 289595

Notes

  1. The ILF is a body of the Department of Work and Pensions but under the management of independent trustees. Since it was created in 1988 it has helped many thousands of disabled people to live independent lives and be included in the community as full citizens. It has targeted support at the most severely disabled people in the UK who face the greatest barriers to independent living, and has also played a key role in overseeing social services provision from local authorities for this group of people, to ensure that the combined ILF/local authority support packages meet criteria of promoting independence and inclusion and avoid unnecessary escalation of costs through people being institutionalised and cut off from their communities. In 2010 the Fund was closed to new applicants because the Government had reduced the amount of money it gave to the Fund. It is now proposing that the Fund close completely on 30 June 2015, leaving users to rely solely on local authority adult care services.
  1. This is at a time when the funding for local authorities is being dramatically reduced and many authorities are cutting services for disabled people. The Health and Social Care Information Centre states that the total number of people receiving social care services in 2012-13 was 1.3m, down 9% from 2011-12 and down 25% from 2007-08 (HSCIC, Community Care Statistics, Social Services Activity: England 2012-13, Provisional Release, 2013). This is the expected result of the targeting of cuts at local authority funding which will continue until at least 2015-16, suggesting a real-terms cut of nearly 50% in social care provision by that stage.
  1. Following consultation the Scottish government has announced that from 1 July 2015 it will establish a Scottish Independent Living Fund to protect the funding of the 3000+ existing ILF users in Scotland, and will build on the existing system through a £5.5 million investment which will re-open it to new users, ensuring its long-term future: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/scottish-governments-decision-on-a-scottish-independent-living-fund. The Welsh government is currently consulting on options for the future support of ILF users, including setting up a successor body as in Scotland; the consultation is open until 23 December 2014: http://wales.gov.uk/consultations/healthsocialcare/fund/?lang=en.
  1. Further information, including briefing (June 2014) and individuals’ stories, on the campaign against the closure of ILF is available at the Inclusion London website: http://www.inclusionlondon.co.uk/
Dec 082014
 

This morning after weeks of anxious waiting, disabled people and our supporters learned that the high court has found against the latest legal challenge against the government’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund (1). Disabled campaigners vow to continue the fight in every way that we can.

 

The campaign to save the Independent Living Fund has been one of the most high profile among the many battles disabled people are currently fighting against current government policy that is detrimentally impacting on disabled people, with disabled activists occupying Westminster Abbey gardens over the summer (2).

 

In November last year the Court of Appeal quashed the government’s decision to close the ILF with the Court of Appeal judges unanimous in their view that the closure of the fund would have an ‘inevitable and considerable adverse effect which the closure of the fund will have, particularly on those who will as a consequence lose the ability to live independently” (3).

 

On 6th March this year the then Minister for Disabled People Mike Penning retook the decision and announced a new date of June 2015 for permanent closure of the Fund that provides essential support enabling disabled people with the highest support needs to live in the community when the alternative would be residential care (4).

 

In October a second legal challenge was heard in the high court brought by disabled claimants claiming that the Minister had not considered any new information to properly assess the practical effect of closure on the particular needs of ILF users (5). The Department for Work and Pensions mounted a defence based on their assertion that the Minister had adequate information to realise that the independent living of the majority of ILF users will be significantly impacted by the closure of the fund.

 

Tracey Lazard, CEO of Inclusion London said: “The closure of the ILF effectively signals the end of the right to independent living for disabled people in the UK. Whilst never perfect the ILF represents a model of support that has enabled thousands of disabled people to enjoy meaningfully lives and to contribute to society as equal citizens. Since the closure of the Fund to new applicants in December 2010 we have seen disabled people left with their most basic needs unmet and unable to seek employment, to volunteer or go into education or simply even to leave the house.”

Linda Burnip, co-founder of the campaign Disabled people Against Cuts, said: “Regardless of this ruling, disabled people will not be pushed back into the margins of society, we will not go back into the institutions, our place is in the community alongside our family and friends and neighbours and we are fighting to stay”.

 

For more information or to speak to disabled people directly affected by the Independent Living Fund please contact Ellen on 07505144371 or email mail@dpac.uk.net.

 

Notes for editors

1)      For full judgement and press release from solicitors working on the case see: http://www.deightonpierceglynn.co.uk/http://www.scomo.com/

2)      http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jun/28/occupy-westminster-disabled-people-against-cuts

3)      http://dpac.uk.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/522372-ILF-Briefing-Note-06-11-2013.pdf?bb10e9

4)      https://www.gov.uk/government/news/future-of-the-independent-living-fund

5)      http://dpac.uk.net/2014/06/breaking-news-2nd-court-case-to-challenge-ilf-closure-launched/

 

Dec 062014
 

Law firm Leigh Day, is taking legal action against The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, on behalf of the campaign group ‘Stop Changes to Access to Work’ over its lack of guidance and “inconsistent, unlawful and opaque application of its policy” toward the Access to Work scheme (AtW)

According to Ellen Clifford a member of the steering group for Stop Changes to Access to Work, and an AtW user, the scheme provides vital support to disabled people to help them to overcome work-related obstacles ensuring that people with a disability are able to take up work and maintain their position in the workforce.

The scheme is delivered by the Department for Work and Pensions through Jobcentre Plus.

In a letter before action, sent on Friday 21 November, the law firm challenges the DWP to publish a document, running to over 700 paragraphs, detailing the criteria for eligibility and the rules that will be applied to people’s claims, which is purportedly in existence but not publicly available.

Leigh Day claim that the lack of publicly available guidance on the scheme is unlawful.

The letter also describes what it calls the ’30 hour rule’ as an example of the ‘apparently inconsistent, unlawful and opaque’ way in which the scheme has been applied by the Department for Work & Pensions.

In June 2011, the guidance was changed so that where a claimant required a support worker for 30 hours or more a week, AtW would fund that support on the basis of an annual salary, rather than an Agency worker employed on an hourly basis.

A number of end users voiced their concerns about the 30-hour rule. Most significantly deaf users, the specific requirements of a sign-language interpreter render it unworkable to employ them on a full-time annual basis.

On 15 May 2014 the Minister announced that the 30-hour rule was under review. As a result, the so-called ’30 hour rule’ (although it was never clearly communicated or published as such) was suspended.

The suspension was said to be in place for the duration of the review of AtW, announced in the same statement, which was said to be going to last for three months.

Despite this statement, those affected by the 30-hour rule continue to wait for any indication as to the future of this rule.

The letter states that the Department for Work & Pensions is obliged to apply any policy that it has consistently and across the board. As there is no published guidance, and so any updates to it are not made public, the current status of the 30-hour rule is unknown. This, the letter states, is unlawful.

The Government has now got 14 days to respond to the letter before formal legal action is taken in the High Court. It has been asked to publish the current, and any future, guidance (and any other relevant rules or policies) on AtW.

It has also been asked to revisit the AtW grants of all those affected by the ’30 hour rule’ and to reinstate the funding to which they were entitled prior to the imposition of that rule.

Ugo Hayter from law firm Leigh Day who is representing the ‘Stop Changes to Access to Work’ group said:

The failure by the Department of Work & Pensions to publish clear guidance on such a crucial scheme is, we believe, unlawful.

Access to Work users, who depend on the support provided to them by the scheme, are having their support arbitrarily cut or suspended, this is putting their employment and their businesses at serious risk.

The Secretary of State should now ensure his department deals with this matter urgently. It should publish clear AtW guidance and resolve the many outstanding claims.”

Ellen Clifford, on behalf of Stop Changes to Access to Work said:

This scheme is key to safeguarding both the social and financial inclusion of disabled people in society.

The support it provides, such as travel grants, special aids or equipment and support workers, transforms lives and safeguards careers, it cannot continue to be applied so haphazardly and in such an opaque manner.”

 Posted by at 22:18
Dec 062014
 

The announcement this week from Hammersmith and Fulham’s recently elected Labour council that they will honour their manifesto commitment to scrap home care charging for older and disabled people marks the end of a hard won battle fought by local disabled campaigners Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition Against Cuts (hafcac).

The announcement was made at an event celebrating International Day of Disabled People organised in partnership between HF council and local Disabled People’s Organisations including hafcac, Action on Disability and HF Mencap Safetynet People First.  

Council leader Steve Cowan told a room packed full of disabled people and our allies: “The current charge for home care is a tax on disability. There are 1,231 people in H&F who need help with everyday tasks that others take for granted, such as having a bath or doing the shopping. That help is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. In a civilised society, I believe home care is something people shouldn’t have to pay for.

Joining the event to celebrate the victory from the Public Law Project was Ravi Low-Beer who represented members of hafcac when they took a legal challenge against the introduction of home care charging by the previous HF council administration on the grounds that that the equality impact on disabled people, women and BME residents had not been sufficiently considered. The challenge was ultimately lost but placed the issue firmly on the local political agenda leading to the HF Labour group’s manifesto commitment to end charging if elected.

Kevin Caulfield, Chair of Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition against Cuts (HAFAC) said “We have campaigned hard for eight years against this unfair tax on disabled people just for having our needs met. Every other non-disabled HF resident would view it as an absolute violation of their human rights if they had to pay an invoice from the council before they could use the toilet, get washed and engage in day to day activities. We are over the moon to have a Council that now understands that”.

For the HF Council press release please go to: www.lbhf.gov.uk/Directory/News/Tax_on_Disability_to_be_abolished.asp#3

To watch video footage from the event including the minute the announcement was made see below or go to: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1h4TYge0mf0

 

 Posted by at 22:07
Dec 032014
 

Almost a third at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2013 –

and the UK is at the bottom of the league

Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union has released a document on the eve of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities showing the situation of disabled people in the EU in terms of economic and social integrationi. To do so, Eurostat uses the following definition of Disability:

Disability is a complex, evolving and multi-dimensional concept for which various definitions, interpretations and approaches are possible in a particular survey. Disability is here defined as a self-reported limitation in the activities of everyday life.

Around 44 million people aged 15 to 64 in the European Union (EU28) have a reported disability, and on average, against the indicators of the labour market, the education system or social inclusion, the situation of disabled people is less favourable than that of non disabled people.

Graph 1

 

Particularly, regarding the UK:

Employment rate in the EU28 Member States, by disability status, 2011 (people aged 15-64)

The average gap in employment (the difference between the employment rate for persons with no disability and the employment rate for persons with disabilities in the EU 28 is -19.6.

With a gap of -27.8, there are 19 countries out of 28 in the European Union who have a better employment rate for disabled people than the UK.

2

 

Participation rate in education and training in the EU28 Member States, by disability status, 2011

Trends similar to those observed in the labour market can be seen for access to education with significant differences across Member States while the average in terms of gap in participation rate for the EU28 is -2.8.

Again 20 out of 28 countries perform better than the UK which has a 4.5 gap in terms of participation rates of disabled people in training and education

At risk of poverty or social exclusion rate in the EU28 Member States, by disability status, 2013

These figures are the most recent as they were compiled in 2013.

The UK is in the top 5 countries for having disabled people at risk of poverty or social exclusion with 34.8% of disabled persons at risk, compared to 19.8% for non disabled people.

As a whole, the six countries with the lowest activity gap (Germany, Luxembourg, Austria, Slovenia, Italy and France) have well developed quota schemes in favour of people with disabilitiesii. The majority of EU countries have implemented approaches to prevent discrimination in addition to quota systems. However, the UK represents an exception, as it abolished its quota policies with the implementation of anti-discrimination legislation related to disability in the 1990siii.

Although the UK made huge gains in terms of disability rights until the austerity policies put into place by the current government, these gains have not always translated into practical improvements for disabled people in terms of employment, education and social inclusion. Athough quotas which include incentives and sanctions for employers seem to have a marginal effect as such on disabled people’s employment, what seems to be more effective is a multi pronged approach, including quotas, anti-discrimination policies etc. which together would have a greater effect than the sum of its parts.

 Posted by at 22:48
Dec 032014
 

Motability have introduced changes to their grant making conditions discriminate against disabled people with the highest support needs who are unable to work for a minimum of 12hours a week, carry out at least 12 hours voluntary work (which apparently can’t be internet based but has to be outside the home and doesn’t include travelling time), are not in education for at least 12 hours a week and who need specialised adaptations to transfer to drive or drive-from-wheelchair vehicles.

These changes have not been made publicly known or advertised to current customers in any way about who is eligible for a grant and the changes were made without any consultation.

We understand these changes were made from June 1st this year but customers are only being told about them when they enquire about a grant for a replacement vehicle.

The impact of these changes which affects those with the highest and most costly needs are potentially life-changing. It could well prevent people having contact with family (let alone friends) if they live in a rural area with little or no transport, it means anyone who can only travel with equipment like hoists. Oxygen cylinders and other bulky items won’t be able to go anywhere. It also ignores the fact that with other cuts to services people will not be able to ensure they have the physical support from someone else to drive them.

We have sought legal advice to see whether these changes can be challenged as discriminatory and now need to hear from anyone who is or would be affected by these changes in the near future and who would qualify for legal aid.

If you think you might be affected by these changes and are willing to consider taking legal action then please contact us at mail@dpac.uk.net

 

http://linkis.com/disabilitynewsservice.com/fZhn2

 

http://dpac.uk.net/2014/11/motability-and-the-deserving-and-undeserving-charity-not-rights/

 

 

 Posted by at 18:27
Dec 022014
 

The government steals from the poor and lies about it: £60 million of benefits withheld in the first 6 months of 2012 as a result of benefit sanctions

On the 1st of December 2014, Esther McVey was asked how much benefit was withheld from claimants in benefit sanctions in some constituencies and she responded that ‘The Department does not estimate the amount of benefit withheld as a result of benefit sanctions’.

Question to Esther McVey and response

She was asked the same question during the Parliamentary debate of the 2nd of December 2014 about sanctions and gave the same answer. Unfortunately for her, Stephen Timms MP was able to produce evidence that DWP had in fact made an estimation of these figures, which had been given to him by Mark Hoban in 2013.

DWP Reply to question abotu how much benefits have been withheld by Sanctions

 

Considering the increase in the number of sanctions since October 2012 and the fact that ESA sanctions are not included, a figure of £200 million for 2013-2014 is not unrealistic and might even be a very conservative estimate. £200 million is not a huge amount in the scale of things and as part of the UK budget but it was for example the amount of tax evasion by British clients of an HSBC-owned private Swiss bank in 2012, or it is the amount Iain Duncan Smith may have wasted on Universal Credit according to the National Audit Office .

Money Wasted On Universal Credit

As demonstrated during the Parliamentary debate, sanctions are applied indiscriminately, by staff unable to use their moral judgement before making decisions which have cost the lives of some claimants.

People with mental health conditions or learning difficulties who do not understand what is required from them are sanctioned, single parents who cannot juggle the demands from Job Centres and their commitments as parents are sanctioned, sick people who cannot attend a Job Centre interview because of a hospital appointment are sanctioned and many more who have to do without income for a minimum of 4 weeks, unable to put food on the table, or to pay for electricity.

It was mentioned during the debate that the parcels now delivered by foodbanks need to be ‘Cold parcels’ because many people can no longer afford to warm their meals. There are also many restrictions on who can claim hardship payments, but apparently Job Centre staff tell sanctioned claimants they are not entitled to them even when they are.

What was also mentioned were the sanction targets: at least 8 per month for Job Centre staff, and those who don’t sanction enough are put through a ‘performance improvement process’.

Esther McVey did not address in her response the increase in sanctions. She did what she always does, which is to go through the ‘numerous successes’ of her department. But she also lied. She also lied because she knew that this money which had been stolen from the poorest is now given as electoral sweeteners and tax cuts in order for the Conservative party to win the next election.

Remember that when George Osborne delivers his budget on Wednesday.

 Posted by at 22:36