Oct 312016
 

If you are in receipt of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit and have to use readymade meals cooked in a microwave because a lack of lack of social care and support or personal assistance please let me know by emailing me on Henrietta.doyle@inclusionlondon.org.uk.  If your children also have to eat the readymade meals please highlight this.

Inclusion London is intending to write Frank Field MP to alert him that Disabled people are not given enough support to prepare and cook fresh food. We are doing this because Frank Field has sponsored a ‘Housing Standards’ private members Bill, available at:  http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2016-17/housingstandardspreparationandstorageoffoodbytenantsinreceiptofuniversalcreditorhousingbenefit.html

Frank Field says:  ‘For some families, regardless of whether they rent privately or through a housing association, the only cooking facility available at home is a microwave. It is nigh on impossible to feed a hungry family in those circumstances. My bill therefore seeks to equip every household in the country with the basic equipment they need to prepare meals.’ Read more at: http://www.frankfield.co.uk/latest-news/press-releases/news.aspx?p=1021354 

Frank Field also chair an All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger, information is available at: http://www.frankfield.com/campaigns/feeding-britain-appg-hunger.aspx

We wish to inform Frank Field that it is not only the lack of equipment that prevents access to freshly prepared cooked food. We wish to highlight that a lack of social care and support or personal assistance can force Disabled people and their children to be dependent on microwaved readymade meals.

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 Posted by at 21:31
Oct 312016
 

Wanted - Damien Green - For Crimes Against Disabled PeopleToday Damien Green announced a consultation into the Work Capability Assessment a toxic and lethal test of disabled peoples’ ability to work. DPAC have consistently called for this to be completely scrapped as in spite of numerous attempts to reform the tick box computer tests they are still not fit for purpose. How many times do you keep trying to fix the unfixable?

It comes as no surprise either that Disability Charities welcome the changes which are being consulted on – why wouldn’t they after all there’s likely to be lots of financial pickings for them from the further misery of disabled claimants. Already Tom Pollard previously Campaign and Policy Manager for MIND has taken his thirty pieces of silver and moved to work for the DWP.

Overview and what these changes might mean

Now like Lord Freud the banker who wrote the guidelines for welfare reform for New Labour in 3 weeks and without any previous experience of our social security system Damien Green today has said “In the long run there is nothing more expensive than saying to someone, ‘Here’s a benefit you can have for the rest of your life…” Not that I’m sure what he means by that since this does not happen and disabled people face continuous repeat assessments to ensure they haven’t grown back any limbs or had a miraculous cure.

The consultation announced today places an emphasis on getting all disabled people back into work as fast as possible on the false assumption that working in a zero hours or low paid dead end jobs may somehow improve people’s health outcomes. Green seems to particularly single out forcing people with Mental Health and Musculoskeletal conditions back into work as fast as possible for as long as possible. Musculoskeletal conditions include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.

This is against a background of massive cuts to MH services to help those with a MH condition receive the support they need. Added to which there are caps to the Access to Work budget , social care funding has been slashed, to access train services in many cases disabled people have to book 24 or 48 hours in advance, Disabled Students’ Allowance has been cut making it more difficult if not impossible for young disabled people to gain qualifications, and people are being forced to give up work as they lose entitlement to PIP and their Motability vehicles are taken away.

Further between 2011 and 2015 the number of Jobcentres employing a full-time advisor to help disabled people navigate the support system and find employment fell by over 60 per cent from 226 to just 90, with reductions in every recorded year.

Does Damien really not understand that without the right support services in place disabled people even if they want to cannot work? Is it really too complex for politicians to grasp that support services must be available to allow disabled people to work if they want to and feel able to. Do they really not understand that for some disabled people working is not and never will be an option?

And what of employers?  of course they’re queuing up to retain and employ disabled people and all workplaces are accessible as we all know. The much lauded Disability Confident campaign resulted in a whopping 40 private firms signing up in 3 years.

But not just Damien also Jeremy Hunt, the much trusted health secretary also suggests getting people back to work had major health benefits. He is reported to say that as it cost £7bn a year to treat long-term health conditions that kept people out of work, and employment could be a part of recovery.

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, said “People in work generally have better health.” Something that I would have thought is obvious as people not in work often have long term health conditions or impairments which prevent them from working. Thus an utterly meaningless statement if ever I’ve heard one.

One particularly worrying statement is “No one wants a system where people are written off and forced to spend long periods of time on benefits when, actually, with the right support they could be getting back into work.” Which we feel means they plan to scrap the Support group.

This would certainly fit in with the announcement on October 1st when Damien Green announced there would be an end to repeat WCA assessments for people with permanent or progressive conditions. There was little detail on the announcement with more questions being raised that answers given (such as which conditions would be excluded from repeat assessments) The DWP promised to release guidelines to clarify exactly what this change means – to date no such clarification has appeared.

My Challenge to Damien Green and why these proposals are a crock of  ****

Dear Damien find an employer for this person. I know having to work as well as survive will help her wellbeing. Please note Damien at the moment she has no money to feed herself or her family due to the barbaric and flawed WCA assessment.

“I am writing this email as I feel desperate and alone after I had a phone call today saying I scored 0 points on my esa assessment. I don’t know where to turn or what to do.

I will start from the beginning. From being young I have had hip disabilities and went through many many operations between the ages of 12 and 19. In my early twenties I broke my left hip 4 times. Also in my early 20’s my spine started to deteriorate and to date I have had 3 emergency operations to try to correct this. During one operation I was left with that much damage and scar tissue I have loss of feeling and severe foot drop in my left foot.

Due to my hip problems I have arthritis in both hips and I am awaiting hip replacements in both hips. Due to my left femur being broken 4 times it is no longer straight meaning the hip replacement surgery will be very difficult which is why my surgeon is trying to leave it as long as possible as the surgery could end very badly.

I have suffered with chronic pain all my life but have always worked until earlier this year when I had my contract ended by work as I was no longer fit to do my job due to my disabilities. This is when I started claiming ESA.

Recently I have had major changes to my health leaving me doubly incontinent. I have to self catheterise twice daily. I am experiencing that much pain I am taking copious amounts of medication including morphine every 3 hours. My mobility is very restricted and my partner has had to give up work to care for me. I can’t cook, clean, go to the shop. My emotional and mental health is suffering terribly and I am on anti depressant medication.

I attended my ESA assessment last week and the decision maker telephoned me today telling me that I had not scored any points at all during the assessment and my benefits have been stopped.

Because my partner has come out of work our tax credits claim was ended and we have had to re apply meaning we are not receiving any money from tax credits at the moment. The only money we had support us and our two children was the ESA payments of £72 per week and £36 per week child benefit.

When the advisor phoned me with the news today I broke down in the phone. I feel as though I am on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I can not go to work as I am too unwell. I spend a lot of my time feeling sleepy and not with it due to my medication, I can not control my bowels, I am in constant severe pain, my mobility is limited, my bladder does not empty itself so I have to self catheterise, I have short term memory loss and confusion due to medication, the list is endless. As the rent is now not being paid and with our previous arrears which I was paying off before this I am terrified my kids are going to lose their home. I can’t put food in the cupboards, gas and electric on. I feel hopeless and desperate.

I don’t know how this works. I have always worked I am not trying to get anything under false pretences. If I could work I would. I have lost my independence and I feel that the DWP are taking away my dignity along with it by making me beg to be able to live.

I am unsure why I have sent you this email but I don’t know where to turn. I am so sorry if this makes no sense. ”
What you can do

Write or email Damien to let him know what you think

ministers@dwp.gsi.gov.uk or Caxton House, 12, Tothill Street, London,SW1H

also please respond to the consulation

Full consultation here

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/work-health-and-disability-improving-lives

take part in consultation here

https://consultations.dh.gov.uk/workandhealth/consult/

 

 

 

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 Posted by at 18:51
Oct 282016
 

We didn’t get invited to this event a Scope’s HQ. We’re not ones to sulk at DPAC, but when we got sent a copy of this from a kind supporter we did feel a little excluded.

But it does clearly show yet another of the big corporate charities selling out the people they claim to represent and sucking up to a government that in the words of Ken Loach has perpetrated “conscious cruelty” on disabled people. And here is another recent example a corporate charity, Mind, selling out people in mental distress.


From: Minister for Disabled People <MINISTER.DISABLEDPEOPLE@DWP.GSI.GOV.UK>

Subject: Invitation: Green Paper Launch Event

Date: 28 October 2016 at 15:42:53 BST

To: Minister for Disabled People <MINISTER.DISABLEDPEOPLE@DWP.GSI.GOV.UK>

Dear Colleague,

We would like to invite you to an event marking the launch of Improving Lives: the Work, Health and Disability Green Paper to be held at Scope, 6 Market Road, London, N7 9PW on Tuesday 1 November at 10:00 am.

This government is determined to build a country that works for everyone. A disability or health condition should not dictate the path a person is able to take in life – or in the workplace. Yet, the employment rate of disabled people, at 48% is much lower than the employment rate of non-disabled people at 80%. This ‘disability employment gap’ sits at an unacceptable 32% – a level that we’re committed to halve.

Our ambition is for individuals to be able to access the right services, at the right time, personalised to their circumstances, enabling them to play a full part in employment, which enables them to progress and supports their health and wellbeing; and where the value of work as a key enabler of good health is fully recognised and applied across the health system.

Through the Green Paper, we will be launching a new conversation with disabled people and people with health conditions, their representatives, healthcare professionals and employers to identify the best ways to do this.

The Work, Health and Disability Green Paper launch event on Tuesday will start the consultation period, which will run until 17 February 2017. There will be presentations setting out our vision and the context for the Work and Health discussion. There will also be an opportunity for you to network with other guests, discuss the content of the Green Paper, and take away the consultation document with details of how to respond. We know the importance of the voluntary sector through the significant services, advice, and support that they deliver and are pleased to host this event alongside Scope, one of the many charities who have contributed to the development of the Green Paper.

Please confirm whether or not you will attend by 5pm, Monday 31 October, by replying to: <redacted>.  Due to the size of the room, we kindly request each organisation only send one representative who will be required to provide photo ID on arrival. The venue is fully accessible and a BSL interpreter will be in attendance but please do let us know if you need further assistance.

Yours sincerely,

Penny Mordaunt signature                                                             Nicola Blackwood Signature

Penny Mordaunt MP                                                                                                     Nicola Blackwood MP

Minister of State for Disabled People, Health & Work                                          Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for

Public Health & Innovation

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If you are not the intended recipient any disclosure, copying, distribution

or other action taken in reliance of the information contained in this email is strictly prohibited.

Any views expressed by the sender of this message are not necessarily those of the Department

for Work and Pensions.

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what you have received.

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 Posted by at 23:07
Oct 262016
 

[Reproduced from the Benefits and Work Newsletter with permission and thanks]

The adverts were published this week.

86 new presenting officers are being recruited around the country to help the DWP try to reduce claimants’ success rates at PIP and ESA appeals.

But perhaps even worse than that, they are also going to be identifying cases which can be appealed to the upper tribunal.

This means that, for many hundreds of claimants, the months of stress will not end when they win their appeal. Instead they will then have to face the misery of more months of uncertainty whilst they wait for an appeal to the upper tribunal to be heard.

If the DWP’s further appeal is upheld then, at the very least, that will mean a return to another first-tier tribunal to try to argue their case again. In some cases, they won’t even be given the chance to do that.

We know that every presenting officer will have to meet key performance indicators. One of these is likely to be a minimum number of cases that they recommend should be taken to the upper tribunal.

If every presenting officer averages just one further appeal a month, this will still add up to over 1,000 PIP and ESA claimants a year affected.

Here at Benefits and Work, we are now starting work on a guide to defending your award at the upper tribunal.

We can’t prevent the presenting officers doing their worst. But we can ensure that our members have a clear guide through the procedure that they are forced to take part in – and a better chance of success as a result.

DWP PROTECT THEIR OWN
It probably won’t come as news to most of our readers.

But the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) has found that the DWP protects its staff by failing to properly investigate complaints against them, or even investigate them at all. This is in spite of the fact that managers have clear guidance that they should follow on how to deal with complaints, including collecting witness statements.

As a result, staff can treat claimants unfairly, rudely and even aggressively with little fear of any repercussions.

Cases cited by ICE include:

A member of staff at a Jobcentre made a threatening remark loudly to a claimant in the presence of other people, the DWP failed to gather any witness statements or investigate in any way.

A Complaints Resolution Manager for Jobcentre Plus failed to give the claimant information they asked for and hung up the telephone on them. When the claimant complained about the Complaints Resolution Manager, instead of investigating the DWP simply passed the complaint back to the same Complaints Resolution Manager.

A claimant alleged that he had experienced “threatening and inappropriate behaviour” from Jobcentre Plus staff and that they had failed to make adjustments for his mobility issues and delayed his appointment. When he complained about this, Jobcentre Plus apologised for the delay but ignored his other complaints entirely.

In each of these cases ICE upheld the complaint and the claimants received ‘consolatory’ payments ranging from £50 to £150.

But in none of these cases is there any mention of disciplinary action being taken against the staff involved.

Indeed, in the first case above, ICE went so far as to say that as it was now a year since the incident there was no point in even trying to collect witness statements.

At Jobcentre Plus, it seems, frontline staff are free to threaten claimants whilst managers can safely ignore complaints about such behaviour. The worst that will happen is that the taxpayer will have to foot the bill for a derisory ‘consolatory’ payment.

 

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 Posted by at 21:13
Oct 252016
 

The Sustainability and Transformation Plans

Reblogged from National Health Action Party with thanks.

Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) – the biggest threat to the NHS since the Coalition’s Health & Social Care Act (2012)

The STP programme was launched in December 2015.

It splits England into 44 areas called ‘Footprints’ which will be the basis for how the NHS will be run in future. They are taking the ‘N’ out of the NHS.

This is designed to drive forward the 5 Year Forward View. It takes as its central point that there will never be funding for the NHS at any point in the future sufficient to fund it to current levels of service. On this basis the NHS will be reduced. Jeremy Hunt has said it will be on a ’10 year diet’.

This dismantling emphasises ‘out of hospital care’ using technology to replace face-to-face contact and moving people out of hospitals into community care. But funding for social care and public health have both been savagely cut.

Among other things the STPs rely on reducing the number of A&Es, selling ‘surplus’ land and assets to fund the STPs themselves and changing the skills mix of NHS staff. This means that people will no longer see doctors as a matter of course. The new system is based around patients using vouchers and personal health budgets, a form of ‘self-pay’.

In 2013 we had 140 full A&E hospitals in England. When the STPs are complete there will only be between 40 and 70 left.

According to the STPs, to make the NHS affordable and sustainable we, the public, must get used to longer ambulance journeys for emergency care, longer waiting times for treatment and the possibility of paying extra to be seen by a doctor. And we must learn to look after ourselves. This was planned in 2013, but shelved until after the 2015 election as being ‘politically sensitive’. In other words, the Tories knew they would have lost the election. THE PLANS SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN PLACE BY JUNE 30th 2016., but were delayed as so few of the ‘footprints’ could achieve it.

To sign a petition and find out what else you can do to stop this destruction of our NHS visit  http://nhap.org/the-biggest-attack-on-the-nhs/

Or sign the petition here https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-the-plans-to-dismantle-our-nhs

 

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 Posted by at 16:18
Oct 242016
 

I’m Martyn and I sit on the NUS (National Union of Students) Disabled Students Committee.

This Wednesday (26th October) from 1pm, we will be launching a new campaign where we will be fighting the high prescription costs that the NHS has been charging over the last few years. While this area of work will mainly be focusing on students, we will also be looking at the impact that these prescription costs have on the general public as well as fighting the charges to either have them scrapped or heavily reduced.

The current cost of an NHS prescription is £8.40; and in the last five years alone medication costs have increased over £1. When you are on no or a limited income, this is a charge that is not needed and can result in an even greater financial pressure for us to just maintain a basic level of health. Furthermore it is bad enough when you have to pay this once, but when you have to pay this every month for several items the cost soon mounts up. Add on other costs such as optical and dental charges and this annual total can be too much for people on a decent income to afford, let alone disabled people.

Even though there are some financial options for saving money such as pre-payment certificates, this is still not enough. Similarly a few of us are lucky to be exempt from these charges for a variety of reasons, however the majority of us don’t qualify for this. With the increasing cuts that the government are placing on us, this is becoming even harder to get.

As such, we are launching and running the cut prescription costs campaign and it will be great if as many of you can support us as much as you can. From 1pm this Wednesday, it would be amazing if you could take to social media using the hashtag #freeprescriptions to both promote the campaign and share your experiences of prescription costs and having an impairment. There will also be further information coming shortly on the different things that we will be doing and working on in order to fight the prescription charges and have them cut. This will also be an indirect fight at the cuts that the government have been imposing on people like us who are disabled. Again, it will be great if you could support us and get involved with it. The more people there are, the stronger we can be and the more likely it is that we will win.

Furthermore, on November 19th, NUS and UCU will be marching through London against many different issues that we are facing. Disabled people’s issues such as these will be at the forefront of the demo. For further information, see NUS National Demo on Facebook or Google search it.

If anyone has any questions, wants more information or wants to be kept in the loop with what we are doing, feel free to drop me an email at: M.Brown18@uni.brighton.ac.uk

Our website is http://www.prescriptionchargescoalition.org.uk/

I will be keeping DPAC notified of everything that we are doing so that you don’t miss out on this campaign including any information and so that you can get involved with what we are doing.

I hope that many of you can get involved in some way. It will be amazing if you can take to social media from Wednesday at 1pm of promote our campaign AND share your experiences!

 

 

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 Posted by at 18:28
Oct 212016
 

Reblogged from Mental Health Resistance Network with thanks

NATIONAL MIND ARE JOINING FORCES WITH THE DREADED DWP!

Mind’s policy officer Tom Pollard sarts a secondment as senior policy officer at the DWP the day after this halloween demo.

This halloween we invite all those worried about how mental health users are harassed by the dole, who stop our money and try to hassle us into non-existent work that we wouldn’t be able to do anyway, and now NATIONAL MIND, who are supposed to represent us, are encouraging this to further their own profit and power.

31 October at 15:30–17:00
15 Broadway, London, E15 4, United Kingdom
Map to 15 Broadway, London, E15 4, United Kingdom

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 Posted by at 23:18
Oct 212016
 

As some of you will know there were changes in Blue Badge entitlement as a result of the introduction of PIP which meant that anyone who could walk regardless of other impairments such as Autism, MH or visual impairment were no longer able to qualify for a Blue Badge.

This change affected one of our supporters whose son had previously been entitled to a Blue Badge for around 30 years and the Local Authority involved refused to renew their badge when it ran out earlier this year. The result of that has been that the person became virtually housebound as he frequently had meltdowns and his PAs needed to be able to get him into the car quickly.

We referred this person to one of the solicitors we often work with Louise Whitfield of Deighton Pierce Glynn and we are delighted to report a very successful outcome.

Not only have the Local Authority backed down and renewed the Blue Badge but even without the case having to go to court The Department for Transport have agreed to carry out a review of the entire Blue Badge policy and its approach towards people with “non-physical disabilities.

The DfT have said: “I can confirm that the review process has now begun internally. The Department’s Blue Badge policy team is undertaking the review. They intend to involve the Department for Work & Pensions, Department for Health, lawyers, local authorities, DPTAC, disability organisations and mental health experts.  

They will look at how the scheme works for people with non-physical disabilities, with a view to ensuring that equalities issues are addressed and that the scheme continues to be sustainable for disabled people. Following the initial work, a public consultation is likely. Local authorities are also likely to need fresh guidance. It is not possible to give timescales at this stage but further information on the review will be provided in due course.”

 

 

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 Posted by at 20:38
Oct 202016
 

It was tough competition but we’ve finally whittled it down to our top 5 most appalling sanctions – see them in the video below

You can see DPAC’s Youtube channel for more videos from us here at DPAC’s Youtube Channel

A sanction is when the job centre stops you from claiming social security. Sanctions have existed since social security was first introduced in 1911.However they were considerably harshened by Peter Lilley (Secretary of State for Social Security 1992-1997) when he introduced the Job Seekers Act in 1995. People claiming the new Job Seekers Allowance, could be sanctioned for up to 26 weeks. Hardship payments were available during the sanction period. Hardship payments were a reduced level of benefit.

Sanctions continued under his successors (in particular skyrocketing under John Hutton). Hutton also laid the ground work for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) to replace Incapacity Benefit. ESA is divided into two groups; the unconditional Support Group and the conditional Work-Related Activity Group. Consequently for the first time, job centres were able to sanction people who are too ill to work.

Sanctions exploded following the appointment of Iain Duncan Smith as Work and Pensions Sectetrary in 2010. His draconian Welfare Reform Act (2012) increased the length of sanctions to 156 weeks and converted hardship payments (60% of the usual rate of social security) to repayable loans. The number of sanctions imposed from 2010-2014, was more than double the amount imposed in the previous 13 years.

None of the major parties oppose sanctions in principal. Both Labour and Conservative governments have harshened sanctions. However in recent years they have been imposed for the most trivial and spurious reasons. The successful appeal rate is 58% – therefore an alarmingly high volume of sanctions are imposed illegally.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentis…

The SNP, the Green’s sole MP and various Labour MPs are concerned about the rise of sanctions. This video features testimonies from Lisa Nandy, Caroline Lucas, Anne McLaughlin, Debbie Abraham and Hugh Bayley (who retired in 2015).

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 Posted by at 22:57
Oct 202016
 

Reproduced with permission of the author Miriam Binder of Brighton DPAC

The Author showing support for striking rail workers I’ve hit the RMT picket line outside Brighton Station, last week and then again this week. You may think that as a member of DPAC I’d have better things to do what with the continued pernicious WCA, the ongoing PIP roll out, the various other assaults on the dignity, independence and in some cases the very lives of the sick and disabled in this country by an invidious Government who prefer to make sure that the public purse supports the rich, the multi-nationals and the bankers who continue to rape, pillage and loot public services for private gain. With our NHS on the brink of collapse and doctors forced to work under unsafe working conditions thanks to the enforced introduction of a ludicrous contract putting patients and doctors, as well as other medical staff, in danger.

Yesterday I went to the Travel Centre at Brighton Railway Station and asked for the Station Accessibility Guide. I depend on a power chair to give me independent mobility. I often travel to various places and, like most people, these journeys aren’t always pre-planned. I thought it would be handy to have a leaflet to hand so if I decided that I wanted to go to St Helier to visit a friend I could just look at it to find out whether I can get off the train there … I’ve looked now BTW and for those who are interested, the answer is a resounding No! I can neither get on nor off a train there or any number of other places.
Bless the poor fellow I approached with my request. No, there was no Station Accessibility Guide however he could print one off for me. He pushed a couple of buttons, went to the printer and got me … a nice little print of Brighton Station showing me where the toilets, the benches and the step free entrances were. Thank you but no, that is not what I was after. I wanted to get a Station Accessibility Guide for all the stations on the Southern routes.

You’d have thought there would be a leaflet but it seems that they no longer print them.

In fact the last time one printed was way back in 2012 as far as I know. He went to the back office, came back and told me he could print one off for me. He did. It wasn’t very clear as it was an A4 print of what was essentially an A3 map but the reading of it was even worse than the lack of clarity. The number of Stations that on the 19th of October 2016 are inaccessible for those needing assistance on and off the trains is frightening.

Nope its not satire, this is Southern Rail's actual accessibility map

Nope its not satire, this is Southern Rail’s actual accessibility map

I wasn’t really thinking of making public my reasons for attending Brighton Station, leaving my home at 6am to make my way there to join a load of guards picketing; to stand, or in my case sit, there for a few hours in the cold. But this changed my mind.

People need to know that this is about far more then who closes the doors on the train. This is about the safety and security of passengers and staff which is being sold out for the sake of increased profits for Capitalists who will continue to reap in profits … Southern Rail co-owner, Go-Ahead, reported profits of 100 million according to an article in BBC Business on 2nd September 2016 … while depending on subsidies from the Public Purse. The total subsidy to DfT franchised train operators was 5.7 pence per passenger mile in 2015-16, up from 5.6 pence per passenger mile in 2014-15 for those interested (source: Department for Transport dated 13th October 2016).

A couple of years ago I needed to get to Chester for a course I was to attend. It was quite a lengthy journey from my home in Brighton and so I planned ahead and made sure I contacted Assisted Travel well in advance of my prospective journey. In fact it was about a week or so before. As it happened, trouble started as soon as I arrived in Euston to get on my Chester bound part of the journey. I wasn’t on the list. Never mind, if I cared to wait someone would put me on the train. As an aside, no one saw fit to inform me that there was no refreshment trolley, that the wheelchair space was in full sunlight space with no room to move and that the canteen on the train was not accessible for lone wheelchair using travellers.

When we got to Chester, everyone alighted from the train and I waited for someone to fetch the ramp to get me off the train. The train started filling up with people London bound and I was still waiting. No one had seen fit to inform the driver, the conductor nor the destination station that a wheelchair passenger was on the train. I had to push the alarm to avoid being returned to London.

In January of this year I had an early appointment in London. I was quite ready to take a late train to London and spend the night at Victoria Station to make sure I’d get to my appointment on time. No need I was informed by the helpful staff at the Travel Centre at Brighton Station. There is a train at 6:48am that will get you there in plenty of time. I duly presented myself at Brighton station at 6am. I was assisted on to the train at 6:40am. At 6:50am the train was full to bursting with commuters and we were informed that we would be diverted via Lewes.

I decided to get off the train but, due to a lack of ramps, and the fact that the cover to the alarm button was locked, I was unable to contact the guard. To cut a long story short, I spent 2.5 hours being dragged through Lewes, to Haywards Heath to a field half way to Three Bridges where we sat for about 15 minutes before being told that we were being diverted back to Haywards Heath where I finally managed to get off the train. To get a train back to Brighton having totally missed my appointment. It took me a further 2 months to finally get someone in Southern Rail to address my complaint.

What happened was a lack of communications between the various bodies … In the first instance a failure by the Assisted Travel people to communicate with the appropriate station staff and then down the chain of command, for want of a better phrase; in the second instance, failure to communicate with the guard and failure to make the alarm button available to the disabled passenger. And yes in this case I was a disabled passenger and not just a wheelchair using passenger as I was disabled by the lack of access to an alarm button that would have alerted the guard to my existence.

Guards on the train do a lot more than merely ensure that the doors are shut. They are there to ensure that passengers are safe. If a passenger needs assistance to alight a train, if a passenger is harassed by a drunk on the train … what happens if a passenger suddenly gets taken ill or worse, what if the driver suddenly experiences a heart attack? It is the guard who will be able to ensure that the train does not run away with a load of hapless passengers by making it safe and ensuring that the powers that be stop any other trains from shunting into it causing a collision with all the consequences of a high speed collision.

And yes … on a purely personal basis, given the number of inaccessible stations already on the list of possible stops, these inaccessible stations will only increase with the removal of guards.

UPDATE: We’ve been sent a link to a blogpost containing what the accessibility map would looks like under Driver Only Operation (DOO) – UPDATED ACCESSIBILITY MAP TO ACCOUNT FOR EXPANDED DOO AREA FOLLOWING AXING OF GUARD (with thanks to the author for this painstaking work)

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 Posted by at 22:48
Oct 182016
 
Due to a number of unforeseen issues, the DPAC team are very depleted in numbers at the moment and it may take us longer than usual to respond to emails.
We ask people to be patient but if we haven’t replied within 7 days please could you resend your email in case we have missed it.
For anyone with benefit queries could you please check Benefits and Work and FightBack4Justice websites to see whether you can find an answer to your query there. If you can’t then please email us as usual.

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 Posted by at 14:13
Oct 172016
 

Frances Ryan from The Guardian is putting together a feature on what it’s like to be a young disabled person in the UK. The idea is to highlight that – as the media talks about twenty somethings struggling to get into adulthood with poor housing options, low wages and high student debt – for young disabled people, they’re finding it even harder.

To do this, she’s on the hunt for case studies.
  1. a young disabled person who’s struggling in shocking unsuitable housing, anything from accommodation for the elderly (that we know is pretty common) to wildly inaccessible rental to stuck at home with parents into their thirties.
  2. young people who are struggling to get into work because of their disability.
  3. young people whose council has told them that, due to social care cuts, they have to go to bed early in the evening.

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 Posted by at 20:45
Oct 142016
 

Southamton CCG limiting home care packages

You may have seen the article in Disability News Service highlighting limits being imposed on CHC funding in Southampton
http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/care-crisis-anger-over-ccgs-unacceptable-policy-on-residential-care/

The CCG guidance states -:

Home care packages in excess of eight hours per day would indicate a high level of need which would be more appropriately met within a residential placement. These cases would be carefully considered and a full risk assessment undertaken.
Persons who need waking night care might generally be more appropriately cared for in a residential placement. The need for waking night care indicates a high level of supervision day and night.

This also seems to be the case in other areas as well and there are similar policies in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, South Gloucestershire, Hampshire and East Sussex.

Southampton when asked about this policy by DNS replied “The policy is currently undergoing a review which will be completed within the coming months and we understand that a number of CCGs are reviewing their policies to include similar guidance for the future.

To have CCGs trying to restrict support for independent living for people with high support needs in this way is very worrying and having consulted with legal experts we are keen to support a legal challenge against these policies.

If anyone is now or likely to be in the near future affected by limits on CHC funding and would be interested in considering a legal challenge please email us at mail@dpac.uk.net

And now Rochdale Council…..

There is a Rochdale council consultation [pdf] which seeks a £1.4m saving by “transforming” supported living provision and replacing it with a range of residential care and other services – Read more : Clock turned back on rights for people with a learning disability

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 Posted by at 21:01
Oct 082016
 

Watch John McArdle from our allies, Black Triangle Campaign giving evidence to the Social Security Committee – Scottish Parliament: 6th October 2016

Thanks to  Imajsa Claimant for putting this video on Youtube

 

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 Posted by at 13:19
Oct 062016
 


Video by Jason Batchelor

First it was Labour…..

In 2006 John Hutton (the Work and Pensions Secretary) introduced a target to remove 1 million people from incapacity benefit – despite a fraud rate of 0.3% (the equivalent of 7500 claimants).

James Purnell (Work and Pensions Secretary 2008-2009) introduced Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) which (amongst other things) assesses people’s ability to pick up an empty cardboard box (once).

Yvette Cooper (Work and Pensions Secretary 2009-2010), claimed she did not receive a letter from a coroner, warning her that ESA could cause suicides. During her tenure terminally ill people were found for fit for work, and she approved a test that assessed amputees abilities to lift empty cardboard boxes with their stumps, and assessed all mobility problems with an imaginary wheelchair.

And then the Tories came to power

Iain Duncan Smith (Work and Pensions secretary 2010-2016) accelerated the roll out of ESA and harshened the criteria. A report by Liverpool and Oxford University estimated that this caused 590 suicides and an additional prescribing of 725 000 antidepressant items. http://jech.bmj.com/content/early/2015/10/26/jech-2015-206209.full

ESA is divided into two groups the unconditional support group and the work related activity group (WRAG). The threshold for the support group is very high – consequently a lot of severely disabled (and in some cases terminally ill people) are required to have meetings with the job centre to discuss their return to work. Failure to comply can result in being sanctioned indefinitely.

Following the election of the first Conservative only government for 23 years, Iain Duncan Smith announced that the WRAG component would be cut by £30 a week. This faced considerable opposition from charities and disabled groups and even three Conservative MPs. One of the Tory opponents of the bill Heidi Allen argued: “I do not believe mentoring and support alone will heat the home of someone recovering from chemotherapy”. (She abstained)

After the bill was passed, disabled charities sacked their Tory patrons.

http://dpac.uk.net/2016/03/operation-torydump-lobby-disability-charities-to-reject-esacut-mps-nameandshame/

Find out here how your MP voted: http://dpac.uk.net/2016/02/esa-cut-its-not-over-noesacut/

Autumn 2016

Debbie Abrahams, Labour’s Shadow Minster for Work and Pensions Pledges the Labour Party to scrap the WCA and “Punitive”Sanctions

Thus Labour comes full circle to oppose WCA, joining the Green Party (who called for the WCA to be halted in 2015 ) and the LibDems who have also pledged to (scrap WCA having previously supported it for 5 years in a coalition which enabled the Tory atrocities to happen ) leaving the Conservatives isolated as the only major national party still supporting hated and damaging Work Capability Assessments

Further reading….

National News Coverage:

DPAC Articles

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 Posted by at 14:17
Oct 012016
 

For those who were able to come to our conference on September 10th  I’m sure you all remember the absolutely harrowing video from Greece which was shown of disabled children being bound into cots and beds. For anyone who missed it you can see it again here

http://dpac.uk.net/2016/09/greeces-shocking-secretthe-work-of-zero-tolerance/

In a solidarity action with our OCAP allies in Toronto we plan to deliver a letter to the Greek Embassy in the UK. (below) demanding changes in Greece and human rights for disabled people there.

Meet Wednesday, October 5th at 10.30am outside the embassy at 1A Holland Park, London, W11 3TP

 

For those of you not able to attend in person please join in on twitter #GreeceSolidarity and tweet to @GreeceinUK or email  gremb.lon@mfa.gr using the below as a template.

Dear Mr. : This letter is being hand delivered by a delegation from Disabled People Against Cuts. We are here in solidarity with the Emancipation Movement of People with Disabilities: Zero Tolerance in Greece. In November of last year, they occupied a centre for disabled children and young adults in the town of Lechaina and exposed conditions of neglect and cruelty that clearly constituted an abuse of their human rights. This went to lengths of prolonged confinement in tiny spaces and the tying down of children to their beds round the clock. You may be aware that Human Rights Watch has taken up this matter and spoken in the clearest terms on the enormity of the abuses involved. You may also be aware that the horrors being perpetrated at the Lechaina centre are simply the tip of the iceberg. It is estimated that eighty five such centres are operating throughout Greece and that a huge and appalling abuse of the rights of disabled people is being perpetrated. Your Country is, of course, facing an externally imposed agenda of the most brutal austerity. Regrettably, your Government has decided to accept the logic of this agenda and embrace the infamous notion that ‘there is no alternative.’ With regard to the disgusting treatment of these disabled children, we wish to convey to Mr. Tsipras and his colleagues that an alternative must be found and the obscene warehousing of human beings that has been exposed here must come to an end. DPAC wishes to join with the Emancipation Movement of People with Disabilities: Zero Tolerance, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and with many others internationally in demanding decent, adequate and humane conditions and services for these children and all disabled people in Greece. Thank you for your attention to this matter and we await your response. Yours truly, Ellen Clifford on behalf of the DPAC steering group

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 Posted by at 20:35
Oct 012016
 

CEO and President of Maximus Scramble to Dump Their Shares – Going Fast and Cheap.

Is the May government and Damien Green really going to deliver the promise that they would be different to a Cameron government well no I really don’t think so as both voted through swingeing welfare cuts when part of that government including voting to take away £30 a week from disabled people not fit for work to ‘incentivise’ them to get non-existent jobs. They voted also in favour of the discredited and hugely costly Universal Credit, the Bedroom Tax, the Benefit Cap, and limiting the annual rise in social security payments to 1%. They gleefully voted through the closure of the Independent living Fund a ring-fenced pot of funding to help disabled people to live independently in the community.

They still plan to steam full speed ahead with cuts of £96 billion from tax credits from the working poor and working age social security payments. None of which sound humane to me.

Having heard the news that Damien Green was promising something more humane for a minority of disabled people and that at long last the Tories seem to have at last grasped what campaigners have been saying for years that retesting people with long term impairments or chronic conditions was a waste of money my suspicions as to why were immediately raised and so I decided to delve a little further into the murky world and finances of the Maximus the American corporation carrying out ESA assessments. A further question of course is why if ending retesting is the humane thing to do then why not also end costly retesting of disabled people for Personal Independence Payments. Many of those people retested for this additional payment to meet the extra costs of being disabled were previously awarded Disability Living Allowance for life as they have conditions that will not improve.

Anyhow back to Maximus who will be paid £1.6 billion over 3 years to carry out these assessments. Way back in September 2015 the share value of Maximus plummeted by 26% as they were failing to keep to their agreed targets to assess disabled people. Between November 2015 and the following January the CEO of Maximus Richard Montoni and the President Bruce Caswell are reputed to have sold between them  £11.4 million worth of shares and a quick google shows that since then most months one or the other has continued to sell off a sizeable number of shares, together with a number of other high level employees. Obviously those on the inside within Maximus can’t wait to offload their shares in the company.

In the meantime between 2014 and 2015 the average staff cost rose from £26,000 to £44,000 per annum and half of those hired never completed their training. Together with a more than 100% increase in the average wage the cost of each assessment rose by £85 each to a staggering £190. At the same time the national Audit Office found that there was a backlog of  280,000 claims with many new claimants waiting over 6 months for assessment and in fact the situation was so bad that all retesting had to be halted as Maximus could not mange to carry out the assessments.

So I think what we need to ask ourselves is whether Green’s announcement is the start of something good for disabled people or just another cover up of the failings of Maximus and cheap political propaganda?

 

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 Posted by at 17:41
Oct 012016
 

This morning Work and Pensions Secretary Damien Green announced that disabled people with permanent or progressive conditions would no longer have to go through repeat assessments.

We need to see the detail before we can welcome this, and we know that DWP are masters of manipulating the detail of complex social security policy to disguise some of their worst misdeeds, so we will be scrutinising very closely when formal announcements are made.

Already people are starting to ask some awkward questions about this announcement. Does it cover PIP as well as WCA? What conditions are covered? Will the atrocious practice of frequent reassessments of people in mental distress continue, which can only be seen as deliberate harassment which can only lead to a worsening in people’s mental health?

But for the people who now will be spared reassessment and uncertainty, of course it will be a huge relief. Potentially it could save tens of thousands of disabled people a lot of stress, fear and uncertainty about their financial security. Plus the announcement contains a public admission by Green that the WCA process is stressful and harmful to claimants.

But we can’t help but wonder how it took the geniuses at the DWP eight sodding years, since the WCA was introduced by Labour, to work out there is no point in reassessing people who cannot get better.

Actually we think that this has more to do with reports from earlier this year that assessments of disabled people are costing more than they save and a need to reduce costs, than any sense of humanity from a DWP that we know and loathe.

When making his announcement Damien Green said “I believe in a welfare state where you have got to be hard-headed, but you shouldn’t be hard-hearted.”.

Perhaps if Green didn’t want to be seen as hard hearted, he shouldn’t have voted in favour of Universal Credit, the Bedroom Tax, the Benefit Cap, limiting the annual rise in benefit payments to 1%, the ESA Wrag £30/week cut, and the closure of the Independent Living Fund (and those are just a few examples of his dark hearted voting record.)

This is of course just pre-conference spin to try to improve the Tories toxic reputation on their shabby treatment of disabled people.

If May and Green want disabled people to see them as anything other than dark hearted thugs in posh clothes, they will have to start by reversing a string of atrocities enacted on disabled people by a government in which both May and Green were cabinet ministers.

But what Green’s announcement does show is that the fightback against the atrocities of austerity is starting to work. The Tories have realised that they now have gained a terrible reputation as persecutors of disabled people and their worst fear of widespread public revulsion of this is actually beginning to happen.

Also this conference season we’ve seen both Labour pledge to scrap WCA and “Punitive Sanctions” (a welcome step in the right direction) and the Liberal Democrats to scrap WCA and more. If you can believe any pledge the LibDems make any more after tuition fees and their enabling of the Tory led Coalition that caused disabled people so much harm.

And from Labour, again we need to see more detail, we need the emphasis to shift from the mantra of getting disabled people into work to a recognition that policy for disabled people must be about full inclusion in all aspects of society not just employment. And a recognition that many disabled people can’t work. And we want from Labour an apology for bringing in the WCA in the first place and a full admission recognising the harm that they have caused.

But at least these policy shifts are sign that all the major parties are beginning to take disabled people’s rights more seriously at long last, but both Labour and the Lib Dems have a long way to go and the Tories have the breadth of continents to travel before DPAC will be able to state that any of the major parties policies are adequate for disabled people.

So while we can take a little time off to celebrate a small victory, now is the time to pile on the pressure.

We call on all of our members, supporters and allies to fight even harder.

Lets force more concessions from May and Green, now that they are realising they are vulnerable to our fightback, and that we can toxify the Tory brand so thoroughly that they will be remembered for ever as the Party that made disabled people’s lives a living hell.

If you can get to Birmingham to oppose the Tory conference – here are the protests that DPAC will be running or tanking part in. Join us there.

But just as importantly, if you can’t get to Brum here are the online activities we have prepared to toxify the Tory Conference online.

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 Posted by at 14:10