Oct 282015
 

DPAC and the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance are gathering evidence on the impact of the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) since it was shut permanently on 30 June 2015. This will be used for a report which we aim to bring out ahead of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement due at the end of November.

The report will publish responses from a latest round of Freedom Of Information requests asking Local Authorities how many reassessments have been carried out and the overall results (percentage pf support packages increased, percentage decreased..etc).

We also want to base our findings on testimonies from individuals and organisations with direct experience of the impact of closure.

Testimonies could be from people who used to receive ILF, people who missed out on ILF when it shut to new applicants, Disabled People’s Organisations, care managers expected to carry out reassessments or Council’s now responsible for meeting the full adult social care needs of Disabled people.

Information it may be useful to include in your testimonies:
– communication about the transfer process
– experience and knowledge of Local Authority staff carrying out assessments
– experiences and outcomes of reassessments

-how the transition process has impacted on you

Please indicate if you want:

– your testimony to be anonymous

– your testimony to be used only for the purposes of the informing the findings of the report or whether you are happy for your experiences to be used as an anonymous illustrative case study

– if you are happy to speak to the media about your experiences. If so please include contact details to reach you on and any communication access needs.

Send testimonies to mail@dpac.uk.net before mid-night 8th November 2015. Please keep testimonies as brief as possible and ideally no more than 4 pages/

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 Posted by at 19:31
Oct 162015
 

Why are the UN investigating the UK Government for potential breaches of disabled peoples human rights?

It has recently been *reported that the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is to visit the United Kingdom in the next few weeks as part of an inquiry into ‘grave and systemic violations of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)’ by the Conservative Party (known as Tories) Government. The UN was asked to intervene by the grass-roots campaign network Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) under a monitoring mechanism known as the Optional Protocol as a response to cuts and reforms introduced by the party during the previous parliament (in Coalition with the Liberal Democrats 2010-15) . This is the first time any government has been investigated for breaches of the Convention; but just what does this actually mean, why has this happened and what are the potential implications for disabled people in the UK and around the world?

The UNCRPD was hard fought for over decades, driven largely by European and Latin American disabled people organisations. The Convention eventually came into being in 2008, and now ratified by over 150 countries (known as State Parties). The purpose of the Convention is defined in Article 1 as:

‘To promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity’.

Lofty intentions indeed. The Convention goes on to afford disabled people a number of rights including for example; the right to recognition before the law (Article 12), the right to live independently (Article 19) the right to work (Article 27). Its based on the Social Model of Disability which asserts that people who have impairments are disabled by the attitudes, institutions and processes societies create rather than those impairments. The Convention was ratified by the UK in 2009. By also signing up to the Optional Protocol, the UK accepted the legitimacy of the UN Committee on the CRPD to investigate potential breaches and report their findings. This Committee is a panel of human rights experts and works with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to ensure its application in states who have signed up. The Committee visits usually include a series of meetings with relevant authorities (in this case most likely they will seek meetings with government ministers and departments), civil society organisations e.g. NGO’s, campaign/community organisations and individuals to hear testimony and gather evidence.

Any claim of potential breaches must be forensically evidenced to a set UN template, with the burden of proof falling heavily on the claimant. In claims made against a government as the State Party, they have a right to reply before the evidence is considered for inquiry level action. In this case, the Committee reviewed the government response and felt there were enough grounds to launch an inquiry.

Why?

On coming to power in 2010, the government implemented their austerity agenda, a series of cuts and reforms which fell mostly on public services , local councils and the voluntary sector.  These measures they said were necessary to address the shortfall in the nations budget, caused by using public money to bail out the UK banking sector following the global financial crisis in 2008.

No matter where you are, as a disabled person living under a capitalist system, you are more likely to face economic disadvantage and dependency on public & local services  and voluntary sector support. This is also true in the UK. Many disabled people understood that their lives as they knew them were about to be turned upside down.  Despite generations of self organised activism, disabled people in the UK were still less likely to be in work or university, to own their own home or car. A significant number lived in poverty and isolation. Yes, there had been relative gains over the years.  But these were mostly in areas covered by access to public buildings, goods and services and also some public transport. Systemic change had never happened. It may have been the 20th century, with surface level cosmetic change, but for many it was simply a matter of now being prisoners in gilded cages. And even that wouldn’t last long.

In one year alone, 2012 almost half a million – 470 000 – disabled people lost their jobs. The total amount of disabled people who’ve found work over the whole parliamentary period comes nowhere near this. Funds which supported disabled people to work such as Access to Work (AtW) were restricted; over 1500 disabled people working in semi-state supported employers Remploy lost their jobs on the promise that the money saved would be ploughed into AtW support for them. Over two thirds are still out of work today.

Cuts to local Councils have had an incredible impact on disabled people. The biggest single cost most Councils have is Adult Social Care (support with everyday tasks such as washing, dressing, cooking etc). During the last parliament, Social Care budgets were slashed by 25%, with that figure set to reach 33% over the course of this parliament. This means that around 4 in 10 disabled people get any form of support at all, never mind adequate support to live independently. The overwhelming majority of Councils now provide support only for those people with ‘substantial or critical need’ – i.e. People with complex support needs. The closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in June this year – a fund to support those with complex support needs – has already seen many Councils cut support packages. Transition funding was devolved to Councils for one year, intended to provide support for former ILF Users. Many Councils have taken the money and not provided the support, as the money wasn’t ring-fenced.

Added to this are the huge swathe of Council services and departments closed, and jobs lost. Local Council funding for voluntary sector has been decimated. Often these were the only provider of frontline/crisis interventions such as Domestic Violence Refuges for women. Many voluntary and community groups existed only through funding from local councils.

But by far, the biggest impact has been felt by those claiming Social Security. Mandatory retesting for every single claimant of all forms of disability benefit.  Divided into those ruled immediately fit to work, fit to do work related activity, or not able to get paid work at all; many saw their incomes slashed overnight. Those found fit to work instantly lost their right to any disability benefits, those who were fit to do work related activity had their benefits for a limited time. Again, only those with the most complex  support needs had ongoing access to disability benefits.

This was compounded for many by what became known as the Bedroom Tax. Disabled people who received a rent subsidy would now be charged for any ‘spare’ bedroom. This means that rooms used to house specialist or medical equipment (often at the request of health professionals) became a financial liability. Reduced income and rising costs meant many thousands of people have left their (often adapted) homes and support networks and communities, moving to smaller homes and having to rebuild their lives. Others have made a different choice – to remain in their homes, pay the charge and skip meals or sit in freezing cold homes rather than face the trauma changing homes, and re-establishing networks and services all over again.

There are of course too many cuts and reforms to note here, but here are 2 facts worth bearing in mind:

Disabled people are paying up to 9 times more through direct and indirect cuts in order to balance the UK’s budget than non-disabled people;

For disabled people with the highest support needs, this figure rises to 19 times more.

In what is still the 6th richest country in the world.

You would think this would make victims of us all. That it would be easier to passively accept this change, and be grateful for whatever meagre support was now on offer.

Then you would be wrong.

Disabled people in the UK have a proud history of self-organised resistance movements. Throughout the last 50 years the UK has seen the anger, defiance and mobilisation of disabled people manifest in political action groups like UPIAS (Union of Physically Impaired And Segregated), DAN (Direct Action Network) and now DPAC.

DPAC has followed in the tradition of using direct action and civil disobedience to mobilise disabled people as agents for change themselves. Born in 2010 at a protest outside the Conservative Party’s first conference in government, and using social media, the network has proved a formidable foe of government policy and corporate profiteers. Their sustained campaign against ATOS began with just a couple of dozen people protesting outside their London HQ, saw a week of action during the London Paralympics in 2012 in response to their sponsorship of the games (including many hundreds of protestors shutting down the HQ) and culminated in protests at over 60 offices nationwide in February 2014. A month later, ATOS withdrew from a £500m contract to carry out the Work Capability Assessments.

The network organised the attempt to build a fully accessible protest camp outside the Houses of Parliament in the grounds of the famous Westminster Abbey. The action took 6 months to prepare, involved over 100 activists in the site-take (supported by Occupy & UK Uncut) and brought 7 tonnes of infrastructure from accessible accommodation and toilets to kitchens. Full plumbing and power circuits. In the end, only the presence of hundreds of police and the intransigence of the Dean of Westminster prevented the occupation which was in protest to the closure of the ILF.

The ILF was also the catalyst for DPAC’s boldest action to date – the attempted storming of the House of Commons floor during Prime Ministers Questions in June this year. Only days before the closure date, dozens of disabled people outwitted police and security to reach the entrance to the commons floor only for police to become over-excited and dragged protestors away.

DPAC has also been effective in mobilising disabled people who want to campaign along more traditional lines also; lobbying MP’s, media campaigns, legal challenges, research and evidence gathering etc. DPAC has also maximised the opportunities brought by social media and the power it has to bring formerly isolated disabled people into the network and Its because of all of these actions, all of these efforts that the disabled peoples movement in the UK is undergoing a resurgence; and reshaping the wider left in the process. Grass-roots activism has responded to disabled people by embracing the ideas of inclusion and accessibility as integral to movement building and not a luxury or add on. And, in doing so often exposed the lip-service and frequently patronising nature of the more established, better resourced and frankly should-know-better institutions such as trade unions, campaigning NGO’s and the revolutionary left.

At the time of writing, DPAC is currently planning to celebrate its 5th birthday at the latest Conservative Party conference in Manchester with two direct actions in three days. With almost 30 local DPAC groups, these kinds of actions seem set to continue for a while yet.

Whatever recommendations come out of the UN visit, the work of disabled activists will continue to set the terms for resistance – fearless and challenging. Fearless in its targeting and tactics, challenging the myth of disabled people as vulnerable objects of pity.

But, it appears the UN visit may also have little impact on the decisions of the government. Already in 2015, the UK has heard from UN Special Rapporteurs for Violence Against Women & Girls – who described the UK  as ‘an old boys club…..doing little to prevent violence against women’; and on the Right to Peaceful Assembly who expressed ‘deep concerns of the high number of undercover police embedded in non-violent campaign groups’. Neither report has cut any ice with the government. Though they did manage to respond to the visit of the Special Rapporteur on Housing recent visit as ‘Marxist diatribe’. Which is at least consistent with their response to every criticism or questioning of heir policy direction. Normally, i would suggest that the biggest fear the Tories have is being shamed in front of the world by this report. But, Tories have no shame.

Once re-elected in May this year, the government have pledged to remove disability benefits altogether for all but those with the highest support needs. Disabled people are seen as undeserving of a safety net, unless you have to be hoisted into it. Hundreds of thousands of people will be left destitute – still with the added costs disability brings, only now without any income to meet those costs. With almost 2m people out of work, and barely half a million jobs in the entire country, working your way out of this poverty trap isn’t an option for most.

And, we’ve seen their plans or those who resist. The recent moves to restrict campaigning, protest and strikes have shown that they are prepared to go to whatever lengths are required to push through their agenda. We must be as determined in fighting back.

But, this planned visit could open the door for a raft of similar challenges by disabled people around the world. Already we have seen disabled people as part of social movements resisting austerity in Greece and Spain. I’ve no doubt these activists are watching with interest what happens here in the next few weeks. And too in places like Belarus, the only country in Europe refusing to sign up to the UNCRPD. Could a campaign demanding this act an engine driving towards democracy in Europe’s last remaining brutal dictatorship? Bolivia has seen violent confrontations with disabled people using crutches, wheelchair parts and walking sticks to break police lines when trying to deliver their demand for more support to their country’s parliament. Will the pen prove mightier than the foot-plate in breaking the resolve of nations who don’t make equality and independence of disabled people a priority?

Will the UN prove to be white knight or a white elephant?

The truth is, it doesn’t matter. Disabled people taking the responsibility to make change happen ourselves is what matters.

Fighting back is our business, and business is good.

by Andy Greene

An edited version of this piece is published in New Internationalist

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 Posted by at 13:51
Oct 152015
 

The campaign group #StopChanges2ATW are aware that Deaf and Disabled people are still facing barriers when trying to access and use the Access to Work (AtW) disability employment support programme. In order to lobby for improvements we need to be able to evidence what is happening and to show where there are any problems. It is really important we can collect this information so we can show politicians and policy-makers what is going on with the scheme.

We would be very grateful if anyone with any recent experiences of either applying to or using Access to Work could fill in our quick survey and share with others to do the same. Please see our information sheet for more information about the survey and how it will be used.

The survey is in English and BSL. There is also an easy read version of the survey which can be downloaded.

 

#StopChanges2ATW is a Deaf and Disabled people led campaign that was established in November 2013 when the government introduced new rules to the Access to Work scheme. Read more about us here

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 Posted by at 12:46
Oct 102015
 

 Reblogged from Doug Paulley’s Blog, with thanks

Leonard Cheshire have announced that the Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded them £242,250 to “enable the charity to use its archives to raise awareness about the history of disabled people.

Cartoon by the wonderful Crippen / Dave Lupton Cartoons: www crippencartoons.co.uk

Cartoon by the wonderful Crippen / Dave Lupton Cartoons: www crippencartoons.co.uk

For their full, nauseating and uninteresting press release (why do charities write such?),

[Press release included at the end of this piece]

I hope the opening-up of Leonard Cheshire’s archives will be “warts and all” and not an exercise in nauseating saccharine-sweet deification of the organisation, but I suspect they will be true to form. (I also hope that they put the £242,350 to good use: shame they can’t use it to pay carers the living wage. Mind you, it wouldn’t even pay a year’s salary of their two highest earning staff.)

The history of Leonard Cheshire Disability is not insignificant to the development of the disabled peoples’ rights movement, throughout the UK and indeed the world; though probably not in the way that they would really like people to believe. I wonder if their archive will release some of the following history.

It’s ironic that Leonard Cheshire Disability are releasing their archives as a result of a Lottery grant, because Leonard Cheshire Disability had to wrestle their domain name off a disabled ex-trustee, who was using the domain to show LCD were duplicitous in their treatment of disabled people and were allegedly fraudulent in their grant application to the Lottery.

But there’s much more history than that.

The seminal Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation, the founder of the disabled peoples’ movement and the originators of the Social Model, occurred as a result of Paul Hunt‘s reaction to institutionalised care and  segregation in Le Court, the inaugural Leonard Cheshire home.

The residents of Le Court resisted the disabling regime. They did so initially through sending the staff to Coventry in 1956 to 1958. They went on to stage the infamous “pyjama protest” – they instituted a protest of mass defiance of the rule that they had to change into their pyjamas by 6pm. Their protests earned them eviction notices, which Leonard Cheshire served against multiple residents and only rescinded following a direct appeal to Group Captain Leonard Cheshire himself.  “Our Len” said that a Cheshire home was a home for life, words which echo down the ages…

Paul felt that these charities, by focussing on Residential Care, were basically wrong. He saw disabled people’s place as being in the community. In addition Paul felt that these existing long established ‘disability’ organisations did not reflect the interests of disabled people and that disabled people should organise and form their own organisations.

The same clarion call across the decades: Leonard Cheshire would have you believe that they are disabled peoples’ mouthpiece, yet they don’t represent disabled people and they don’t always practice what they preach in their own service provision.

I hope the archive will show documents from when residents challenged Leonard Cheshire after LCD chose to close Le Court in 2002. Leonard Cheshire won by creating the legal precedent that (despite being paid hundreds of millions of pounds in taxpayers money) they are not subject to the Human Rights Act, including the obligation to respect disabled peoples’ right to choice over their homes. As a result, they can – and did – shut Le Court against residents’ wishes, evicting the disabled people living there.

I wonder if the archive will include the two pieces of research (by Peter Beresford and Northumbria University) commissioned by LCD’s Trustees but then quietly hidden as they showed that Leonard Cheshire actively undermined residents’ rights to basic everyday choices and support?

Will it include that they spent hundreds of thousands of pounds changing their brand and their name; in the process failing to tell or consult Leonard Cheshire’s family? Or that BBC presenters suggested that they choose a name that describes what they do, e.g. “jobs for the boys” or “keep us out of sight, out of mind you bastard”?

I hope Dr Laurence Clark‘s research paper, “Leonard Cheshire vs. The Disabled People’s Movement: A Review” is given due prominence:

Oliver (1990, page 39) points outs that the post-war ‘rescuing’ of disabled adults from other unsuitable provision by the Cheshire Foundation may subsequently be reinterpreted as “incarceration” by historians. Although the organisation would argue that in recent years it has changed to an “enabling” approach, the movement maintains that it “continues to appropriate our language as efficiently as it corrupts our image and comodifies our lives to ensure its thriving status as the leading charity provider of services for disabled people in the UK today” (Carr, 2000).

To be fair and comprehensive, it would have to include the many protests by disabled people against the Leonard Cheshire. For example, in 2007 disabled people stopped Leonard Cheshire’s glitzy ball by blockading it and letting off stink-bombs, as a protest against the “prison like regime” in many Leonard Cheshire homes.

gang-and-cops

Perhaps it should include Leonard Cheshire’s tragic failures: incidents where their cost-cutting and incompetence have resulted in people dying. For example, Leonard Cheshire killed one young man because they left an unsupervised voluntary worker who don’t know his care plan, to feed him without supervision, even though the Council paid the home £1,700 per week for his care. (That home eventually shut.)

Leonard Cheshire have repeatedly demonstrated that they are unable to run any new services. For example, Waltham Forrest council abandoned using Leonard Cheshire’s services shortly after appointing them, due to this debacle which caused misery and suffering for many disabled people.

Leonard Cheshire sunk a lot of other people’s money (including mine, from my fees to another care home) into an Acquired Brain Injury unit in Goole. It shut shortly after it opened due to a shortage of clients, because Leonard Cheshire’s regional director annoyed a neurological consultant. Leonard Cheshire had to cut their losses, yet another provider has since opened the same unit. It’s now profitable and providing a decent service.

“Since the closure of the nearly-new 1.5m Leonard Cheshire unit in 2003, people from the Goole area have had to travel to Leeds or York for treatment. But the unit is now reopening in August thanks to a joint venture between the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust (BIRT) and Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Trust (NLAG).” Strange that, I wonder why this Trust could run it but Leonard Cheshire failed…

I hope the published archives include my little comma in the history of the organisation. Leonard Cheshire had the only enforcement notice ever issued against a charity by the Information Commissioner’s Office, after they tried to hide from me that senior managers called me a “git” and a “plonker” and attempted to sabotage funding for a holiday I’d booked, in recompense for me raising issues that residents had been overcharged by hundreds of pounds due to LCD’s failure to follow its own transport procedures.

They then attempted to evict me whilst still going through the façade of mediating with me; resulting in the local safeguarding adults’ board reaching a formal finding that Leonard Cheshire had subjected me to institutional abuse. Leonard Cheshire threatened judicial review, following which the Board re-investigated and concluded that their first conclusion was too light. They unanimously concluded that Leonard Cheshire had subjected me to institutional abuse, and specifically psychological abuse, by a range of senior management over a period of years.

I guess in one respect we should thank Leonard Cheshire for creating such amazing disability activists as John EvansPaul Hunt, Liz Carr and Paul Darke, and prompting them to create the Social Model; much as we should “thank” PW Botha‘s South African apartheid regime for creating Desmond Tutu and Madiba Mandela, and for prompting them to create the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.


From: Selina Mills [mailto:Selina.Mills@leonardcheshire.org] Sent: 09 October 2015 12:54
To: Selina Mills
Subject: FW: LEADING DISABILITY ARCHIVE PROJECT SECURES MAJOR NATIONAL LOTTERY GRANT

PRESS RELEASE
HIGH RES PIX AVAILABLE

  • Leonard Cheshire Disability ‘REWIND’ project secures £242,250 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)
  • Archive will show history of disabled people’s lives over 70 years
  • Project will increase access to archive materials
  • Total amount raised for the project is £305,500

Leading charity Leonard Cheshire Disability is delighted to have been awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of £242,250 which will enable the charity to use its archives to raise awareness about the history of disabled people.

The HLF grant will be used to fund ‘Rewind – seven decades of stories from Leonard Cheshire Disability’ project. It will support vital conservation work, digitise archive material and record new oral history interviews with disabled people. The project will create an accessible website and allow online public access to the collections for the first time.

It comes alongside contributions to the project from the Sobell Foundation and the Brighton and Worthing Charitable Trust. The total amount raised for the project is £305,500.

This project uses archive materials from the home of the founder of the charity, Leonard Cheshire, called ‘Le Court’ which was adapted for its disabled residents. Le Court had a film unit, radio station, publishers, archive and artists group run by disabled people and played a significant role in the beginnings of the disability rights movement.

Stephanie Nield, Leonard Cheshire Disability Archivist, said:
“We have such a rich and diverse archive and as a result, the heritage we hold from Le Court forms a unique part of a rarely documented social and disability history.

“Our founder, Leonard Cheshire, started our charity in 1948 with a single act of kindness when he took disabled veteran Arthur Dykes into his own home to care for him. This is an important step in helping us shape our history to share this dynamic story with the world.”

Stuart McLeod, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South East, said: “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players we’re able to support Leonard Cheshire Disability’s project that will explore, raise awareness and share the heritage of disabled people over the last 70 years. This is particularly timely as 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act – so it’s the perfect time to uncover this largely hidden part of our history.”

A community engagement programme is also planned and will run in six locations in the Home Counties of Surrey, West Sussex, Essex and Kent with trained volunteers assisting community groups to share memories and experiences. Volunteers will also record the oral histories of people who had contact with and experience of the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability, as well as capturing the experience of disabled people over seventy years.

The project will increase the opportunities for of disabled people to talk about and share their experiences of care and capture a unique part of UK social history.

ENDS

For further information, images and interviews, please contact Selina Mills in the Press Office on 020 3242 0298 or on Selina.Mills@leonardcheshire.org

Notes to editors

The Heritage Lottery Fund
Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk @heritagelottery

Leonard Cheshire Disability is the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of services to disabled people. We support thousands of people with physical and learning disabilities in the UK and we work with Cheshire partner organisations in 54 countries around the world. We campaign for change and provide innovative services that give disabled people the opportunity to live life their way. Visit www.leonardcheshire.org

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 Posted by at 23:02
Oct 102015
 
The IDS Files - The Truth is Out There
Duncan Smith and his hench-ministers have repeatedly said that there are no targets for sanctioning people in Jobcentres.

But are they telling the truth?

Have a read of this testimony from a Jobcentre worker to the Work and Pensions Committee inquiry into sanctions and make up your own mind…….


[Name Removed] –Personal Adviser

A Statement on events witnessed by me at Salford Jobcentre Plus and Rochdale Jobcentre Plus between 2011 and 2013

 Summary

1.0              Managers at both district level and in the local office created a culture which encouraged staff to view the customer (benefit claimant) as an obstacle to performance. The Jobcentre operations became wholly performance led. Sanctions of customers were encouraged by managers daily, with staff being told to look at every engagement with the customer as an opportunity to take sanction action. I was personally told by a manager to “agitate” and “Inconvenience” customers in order to get them to leave the register. The staff performance management system was used inappropriately in order to increase submissions to the Decision Maker and therefore to increase sanctions on customers. Senior HR managers condoned this behaviour by refusing to issue guidelines on appropriate time limits on performance, which encouraged managers to look at short-term targets above staff development, fairness to customers and appropriate behaviour as set out in the departments own values.

Detail

2.0              Managers at Salford Jobcentre, created an environment where every action with a customer could lead to loss of benefits. They made the decision to mandate customers to all job programmes regardless of their suitability. They did this by applying a benefit direction on the customer to make them attend. The purpose was to increase the opportunity to sanction a customer, should they fail any part of the direction. My line manager reporting back from the district managers meeting stated that the message from the District Manager with regard to customers was –“let’s set them up from day 1”. Managers’ actions and words didn’t reflect the values and behaviours set down by department, they set the wrong examples and acted without any accountability.

2.1              There was an unhealthy and unprofessional working environment for staff. Managers created and encouraged a confrontational approach towards the customer and the office manager at Salford set up “DMA hit squads” to target customers for sanction action. Customers dealt with by these squads had their job search scrutinised at an almost forensic level in order to get a suspension of benefit. The Office manager would call the customer record of a job applications a “micky Mouse” job search and customers would often break down and cry or argue because they felt that they were being treated unfairly.

2.2              The office manager and her management team asked advisers to set unreasonable targets for customers to find work as part of their jobseekers agreements. This included asking customers to apply for a minimum of 6 jobs per week, regardless of their skills or experience. The aim was to find an opportunity to make a referral to the decision maker with the possibility of getting the customer sanctioned. It was distressing to see so many customers treated in such a way. The actions of the managers put the safety of staff at risk with arguments and incidents by customers a daily occurrence. Security was called frequently to restore order as were the police. Staff were asked to double the number of daily interviews they conducted in order to achieve targets and inconvenience the customer. This put stress on staff well-being and health.

2.3              Challenging targets for individual performance were used to cover ghost targets for Decision Maker. This led to perverse behaviour, such as making customers attend the jobcentre daily in the hope they would miss an appointment or be late. This would result in benefit being suspended or the claim closed. This was setting customers up to fail in order to reach targets.  Changes in the Personal Development rules gave scope for managers to threaten disciplinary action on staff who failed to make sufficient referrals to Decision Maker, rather than address any real issues about training. The Cluster manager at Rochdale Jobcentre issued office wide Performance Improvement Plans (PiP) to all staff in order to improve monthly performance figures on DMA, Programme referrals and MFA (More Frequent Attendance). I was issued with one of these PiPs to get more MFA referrals despite myself being an excellent performer. In my 23 years I had never had any PiPs or questions about my performance. I felt let down and demoralised as this was an insult to my efforts.  I was required to hit the same level of referrals to a Decision Maker each week – regardless of circumstances, or i would be marked as a poor performer. As an experienced adviser I would expect my referrals to go down over time, not go up, or stay at the same level.

2.4              Staff was told not just to increase referrals to the Decision Maker but also to focus on particular conditionality questions –such as Actively Seeking Employment, and Fail to Attend Adviser appointments as this would cause the maximum discomfort to the customer. I noticed that my own and other adviser appointments that were being booked where the customer was not informed.  These interviews had been booked by the office manager [name deleted] and by her assistant under her instruction, with the intention of closing down the claim and claiming an off-flow performance target or in order to take DMA action against the client. She had indicated clearly in the conversation box that the interview had been booked and the customer notified in person with a letter by hand, even though this could not have been the case. These fake interviews were clearly illegal action and gross misconduct. There were many instances of this happening with other advisers. I informed my line manager, [name deleted] but was accused of lying – even though I presented him with the evidence. No action taken and the bookings continued.

2.5              Staff were threatened by the cluster manager that their jobs would be taken by other people if they didn’t do what they were told. Staff were regularly told by managers to “agitate” and “inconvenience” customers. I notified the Whistleblower of these activities on more than one occasion but nothing changed.

2.6              Customers were being deliberately treated inappropriately in order to achieve performance without regard for natural justice and their welfare.  Daily signing was introduced across the board initially to anyone claiming over 6 months but gradually to include new claimants. This was done to inconvenience the customer. One customer was made to attend daily for two months and eventually broke down and wept in the office. Staff were being asked to behave in a manner that was against the departments’ values of integrity and honesty.  An environment was created where staffs’ own safety was at risk, and their respect, and professionalism was diminished.

               A Timeline of some Events

3.0              Apr 2011 – summary of my personal development identified in my personal review states “John to apply DMA appropriately to attain 4% target on ASE, Availability, RE & MFA, to achieve minimum standard of 4% referral rate”.

3.1              06/05/11 – Team meeting was informed by [name deleted] (team Leader) that DMA referral target across the team was now to be 2.4% per month.

3.2              17/06/11 – Team Meeting was informed by [name deleted] that each adviser must do 2 Mandatory Work Activity referrals per month. Staff were asked to mandate customers to training by giving a direction. This was done to increase the prospect of sanctioning customers.

3.3              13/07/11 – attended culture workshop at Regional Office held by the Transformation Team. Issues raised by staff within the District were

•              Staff are expected to play the game and not rock the boat

•              Make sure all boxes are ticked rather than analyse the work we do

•              Good work is not recognised if it is not performance

•              No transparency or consistency in management behaviour

3.4              22/07/11 – managers at Salford office decide to withdraw flexi-credit for medical appointments for staff, in breach of well-being guidelines. Staff are told by Office manager [name deleted] that they are stealing money for time they are not working. This measure was confirmed by cluster manager [name deleted].

3.5              22/07/11 – spoke with my line manager [name deleted] about customer interviews that were being booked where the customer was not informed.  These interviews had been booked by the office manager [name deleted] for the intention of closing down the claim and claiming an off-flow performance target or to take DMA action against the client. She had indicated clearly in the conversation box that the interview had been booked and the customer notified in person with a letter by hand. This was clearly illegal action and gross misconduct. There were many instances of this happening with other advisers. [name deleted] accused me of lying – so showed him the evidence. No action taken and the bookings continued.

3.6              23/07/11 – I challenged the withdrawing of medical flexi-credit by raising the matter with the Senior HR Business Partner. She investigated it and found in my favour. Although she notified the district operations manager that the flexi-credit had to be restored, it was never notified to staff by any of the managers and I had to send an office communication to inform staff.

3.7              26/07/11 – Phoned the whistle-blower hotline to report the inappropriate booking of customer interviews. This action has now been assigned by [name deleted] to a member of staff whose purpose is to look at all adviser interviews across the office and rebook them at short notice for customers to attend on dates which may only be a couple of days after their last attendance – again with the intention of getting a Fail to Attend and closure of claim – to achieve high Off –Flow targets.

3.8              05/08/11 – team meeting [name deleted] reports back from the district managers meeting that DMA is falling behind the 2% target and in regard to our customers that we must “set them up from day one”.

3.9              24/08/11 – Office manager [name deleted] tells staff that any customer who attends late on their signing day is not to be signed but booked to come back in on the next day. This is to punish the customer –regardless of the reason for their late attendance- by delaying their payments sometimes by as much as 3 days

3.10              September 2011 – made aware by a member of staff that they have contacted the Whistle-blower hotline to report [name deleted] for asking staff in her team meeting to make customers sign daily so as to inconvenience them.

3.11              28/10/11 – rang RAD Whistle-blower Hotline to report that inappropriate booking of customer interviews was still continuing. Member of staff at RAD informed me that she didn’t feel that anything would be done about it, as the report went to the line manager of the person I was complaining about. They felt that this way things were able to be hushed up.

3.12              16/12/11- District Operations Manager – [name deleted] attends Salford Jobcentre. I attend a meeting with other staff in which we raised our concerns about being asked to set up customers to fail, the inappropriate booking of interviews and being asked to agitate customers. He got angry with us and said “you are hitting your targets but you don’t seem to care”. I asked how the district was planning on implementing the departments 7 cultural challenges.  [name deleted] said – “what are those?” when I explained them he said –“we do things differently in this district”. I asked him if he was aware of the way we were being told to behave to customers and he said –“I don’t see any complaints on my desk”. When I asked another question – he said “don’t get smart son”. It was one of the most dispiriting experiences I have encountered.

3.13              March 2012 – June 2012 Harassed by my line manager [name deleted] and physically threatened, which was over-heard by another member of staff.

3.14              27 June 2012 – Office Communications meeting attended by [name deleted] and [name deleted]. [name deleted] congratulates the office for their performance, he says “I live in Salford and I see the type of people you are dealing with, I see these people hanging around the precinct and shopping around town, lazy, drinking and taking drugs”. Such a bad example to set as a leader that he judges people by where they live and what they look like. [name deleted] then talks about the new sanction regime and says of the customers –“don’t forget these people are taking your money, you are civil servants, you are paid to do what you are told, if you don’t like it, someone else will take your job”.

3.15              05/07/2012 – new line manager [name deleted] tells me to stop phoning and emailing vacancies to customers and asks me to get them into the office. I ask why and she tells me that I need to “agitate” them. I ask her what she means by agitating and she says – we don’t want people to get comfortable claiming benefit, we want to inconvenience them so that they will sign off.

3.16              Sept 2012 – Start at new office Rochdale Jobcentre. Write a letter to [DWP Permanent Secretary] about the culture at Salford and how I was told to agitate customers.

3.17              Oct 2012 – Receive letter from [DWP Director of Work Services] stating that they are satisfied that there has been no inappropriate behaviour at Salford.

 3.18              Feb 2013 – All but a handful of staff at Rochdale Jobcentre are put on Pre Performance Improvement Plans as a preliminary to disciplinary action. The PiPs are issued in order to hit monthly performance targets on programme referrals, DMA and MFA. The evidence can be checked on RM system. The instruction was made to managers by [name deleted] the cluster manager.

3.19              March 2013 – team meeting in which staff are told to increase the amount of submissions               to the Decision Maker and in particular to do more ASE (Actively Seeking Referrals).


Previously on the IDS Files:

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 Posted by at 17:13
Oct 092015
 

If you were a witness to any of the arrests on that day, the legal team for the defence want to hear from you,

Please contact GBC Legal on 07946 541 511, gbclegal@riseup.net or @GBCLegal

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 Posted by at 17:50
Oct 082015
 

CommonSpace columnist James McEnaney pens a message to Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith

[Reblogged with permission]

HELLO IAIN,

You don’t know me, but I’ve taken a keen interest in your work over the years. I didn’t manage to catch your speech on Tuesday but the reaction on social media suggested that you made some characteristically callous comments about disabled people (presumably to rapturous applause).

I read your speech when I got home and, to be honest, the premise seemed fairly straightforward: you believe that it is not the role of the state to lift, or keep, people out of poverty; the only appropriate tool to ensure a good life is individual hard work.

With that in mind I’d like you to meet Michael, a 27-year-old man with severe autism.


Michael cannot read, write or speak and, although he is capable of communicating with those who know him (at least on a basic level), he spends a great deal of his time frustrated at his inability to express himself.


Michael lives in a residential care centre in Ayrshire, 40 miles away from his family. He has a bedroom with an ensuite, and shares a kitchen and lounge with other service users who also live in the unit (it would be an insult to call it a home).

Though he used to enjoy a range of educational activities which improved his quality of life these have been discontinued due to funding problems rooted in your government’s austerity agenda.

Michael cannot read, write or speak and, although he is capable of communicating with those who know him (at least on a basic level), he spends a great deal of his time frustrated at his inability to express himself.

Sometimes, depending on a range of largely uncontrollable factors, this frustration manifests itself in violent outbursts during which Michael may injure himself or his staff.

In addition to his autism, Michael also suffers from a number of health problems including epilepsy – as a consequence he has little, if any, privacy.

To be clear, no amount of ‘support’ will ever change these simple facts.

Having read your speech on Tuesday I spent much of the evening trying to imagine the sort of job that Michael could do in order to deserve a life free from poverty and its associated consequences (such as an earlier death).


Reduced to a statistic, Michael is simply a problem; to you, it would be better if he didn’t exist at all.


Eventually, just when I was about to give up, it hit me – there is something that Michael could do, a role perfectly suited to both his abilities and his situation.

Michael, it turns out, would make an excellent scapegoat.

In this role Michael could help you to convince the people of Britain that their problems are caused by people who are disabled, low-paid, young or foreign, thus allowing your government to go about its business of protecting those who are actually to blame.

It’s perfect really, and wouldn’t even involve any expensive training or set-up costs – just a bit of casual demonisation from a failing minister looking to build a legacy on a pile of shattered lives.

The thing is, Iain, I get it: in a world – your world – where humans are separated into black and white, scroungers and strivers, Michael is the former. He is a burden on society, an unproductive unit, a red mark on the balance sheet.

Reduced to a statistic, Michael is simply a problem; to you, it would be better if he didn’t exist at all.

But he is not just a statistic, and he does exist.

Michael is my brother.


But he is not just a statistic, and he does exist. Michael is my brother.


So while you have spent the last 23 years ‘serving’ as an MP, enjoying an outrageous salary and taxpayer-funded breakfasts (at £39 a go), I’ve seen my brother’s physical and mental health decline.

While you have been living like a Lord in your father-in-law’s countryside mansion my brother has been trapped in a care setting which – despite the best efforts of his fantastic staff – fails to meet his needs.

While your government has ensured that the richest in society continue to get richer, Michael’s quality of life has steadily declined.

If there is a silver lining it is this: at least Michael does not understand that those running the country simply don’t care about him.

Of course, you will say that your reforms are not intended for people like Michael, that only those who can work but choose not to will be caught up in the maelstrom of shame, bureaucracy, contempt and incompetence which has defined the last five years for vulnerable people up and down this country.

In reality – as you must surely know – the decisions you have made in recent years have brought misery to people who benefitted the least from the pre-recession boom years and who bear no responsibility for the economic crash of 2008.

Disabled people have, for example, been worst affected by the bedroom tax, while the introduction of Universal Credit could end up costing families with disabled children £1,400 a year.

On top of this, research by Inclusion Scotland has shown that disabled people and their families are suffering “stress, fear and isolation” as a result of your welfare reforms.


None of this matters to you because disabled people like my brother are the easiest of targets and you are never likely to come face-to-face with the human cost of your political choices.


But, of course, none of this matters to you because disabled people like my brother are the easiest of targets and, in the splendid isolation of your privileged life, you are never likely to come face-to-face with the human cost of your political choices.

So, again, I’d like you to meet Michael. I’d like you to spend a whole day with him, to at least try to understand what life is like for someone in his situation and to see just how hollow the ‘all in it together’ rhetoric really is.

Finally, I’d like you to look me in the eye and tell me that it is not the role of the state to ensure that my brother has a life worth living.

A normal, compassionate human being would never be able to do it; I suspect that you just might.

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 Posted by at 22:28
Oct 072015
 

That’s why we’ve earned the right to call you #ToryScum

You took Labour’s WCA and you made it worse,
You called us fit for work while all knew we weren’t
Put us on your JSA, said we were better off in work
Put us on your work programme then sanctioned those who failed it

And you took the money and you gave it to your mates
Called us scroungers and sneered in our face
While some of us died, some starved, some suicide
That’s why we’ve earned the right to call you #ToryScum

You shut the Remploy factories, that gave our people work
We wrote to your MPs in vain, protested, fought the closures
But you threw our people out of work, in spite of their pleas
You said they would find other jobs, lies tripping out with ease

And you took the money and you gave it to your mates
Called us scroungers and sneered in our face
While more of us died, some starved, some suicide
That’s why we’ve earned the right to call you #ToryScum

You gave us Bedroom Tax, said we should all move
Where to we said?, where shall we go?, there is no where to move
Then pay you said, we’ll take our pound of flesh
Then Stephanie Bottril died, 1st of many Bedroom tax suicides
Others were evicted, after building up arrears, still others when to loansharks, you were oblivious to their tears

And you took the money and you gave it to your mates
Called us scroungers and sneered in our face
While more of us died, some starved, some suicide
That’s why we’ve earned the right to call you #ToryScum

Then you closed our ILF so we took you into court
We won the case, the judge agreed, you appealed, we won again
So you waited a while, then just closed it all again
You said “It’ll be all right, councils will make do”
We knew it was a blatant lie, and now your evil has come true

And you took the money and you gave it to your mates
Called us scroungers and sneered in our face
While more of us died, some starved, some suicide
That’s why we’ve earned the right to call you #ToryScum

You took our DLA away replacing it with PIP
Our people wait a year in queue, some die while waiting too
When finally people are assessed, they find they don’t qualify
Where once DLA paid our extra costs, PIP hangs us out to dry

And you took the money and you gave it to your mates
Called us scroungers and sneered in our face
While more of us died, some starved, some suicide
That’s why we’ve earned the right to call you #ToryScum

Then you try your universal credit, but that’s one saving grace
It doesn’t fucking work you prats, we’ll laugh right in your face
Jobcentre staff working out the numbers by hand, cos your IT is shit, but still you won’t admit it
This time you are up shit creek, your shame for all to see, you carry on wasting money on yet more shit IT

And you took the money and you gave it to your mates
Called us scroungers and sneered in our face
While more of us died, some starved, some suicide
That’s why we’ve earned the right to call you #ToryScum

You cut our Access to Work fund, that pays our extra costs,
You took our Motability fund while grinning all the time
We need these things to get to work, without them we’re at home
Years of hard won rights you take, we’re imprisoned all alone

And you took the money and you gave it to your mates
Called us scroungers and sneered in our face
While more of us died, some starved, some suicide
That’s why we’ve earned the right to call you #ToryScum

You took away our legal aid, you shut our CAB’s
Our lines of defence that we used to appeal
Now you want our human rights, our union rights, our protest rights
You want us with nothing left, what next? You want our lives?

And you took the money and you gave it to your mates
Called us scroungers and sneered in our face
While some of us died, some starved, some suicide
That’s why we’ve earned the right to call you #ToryScum

We’ve organised ourselves, to fight, our cause now well known
You still say you’ll protect us, lies we’ve clearly shown
We’ve called in the UN to investigate your crimes
We’ve taken you to court and won and we will do it again

But you took our money and you gave it to your mates
Called us scroungers and sneered in our face
While more of us died, some starved, some suicide
That’s why we’ve earned the right to call you #ToryScum

We’ve fought you in the streets, online, blockaded your roads
We’ve stormed Parliament’s doors, we’ve occupied the Abbey grounds
We’ve been a right thorn in your arse, and we’ve not finished with you yet
We’ll swear, we’ll scream, we’ll shout, we’ll spit, we’ll do what it takes

And you took our money and you gave it to your mates
Called us scroungers and sneered in our face
While more of us died, some starved, some suicide
That’s why we’ve earned the right to call you #ToryScum

We’ll fight you all the way you turds, we’ll call you what we want
We give not a shit about the offence we cause, we’re fighting for our lives
We’ve had enough of you, we want to see you gone
Till you’re a nasty smear on history, we will carry the fight on

Because you took our money and you gave it to your mates
Called us scroungers and sneered in our face
While more of us died, some starved, some suicide
That’s why disabled people call you #ToryScum

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 Posted by at 12:01