Debbie

Feb 252015
 

Reposted from the brilliant Kate Belgrave http://www.katebelgrave.com/ with thanks

Readers of this site will remember that a couple of weeks ago, I posted questions about people’s right to record and film face-to-face assessments as they go through the work capability assessments that are to be run by Maximus.

I wanted to know if Maximus will allow people to record their face-to-face assessments on their phones or any recording gear that they have – from the pointwhen Maximus takes over the grisly WCA process. I also had other questions, which I put to Maximus last week. I’ve listed these questions below, along with the answers (perhaps I should say “answers”) I got back (had to lean on Maximus’ US office for a response in the first instance, but got one of sorts in the end).

Needless to say, the entire exercise was a complete waste of time. You’ll see below that the responses give us five-eighths of fuck all as far as concrete information, timelines and/or actual process detail is concerned. No surprise there, of course – but I thought I’d post the responses anyway, because I think there is merit in highlighting the PR guff and detail-free twattery that Maximus has decided to specialise in when it comes to this contract. There’s also a dismissive aspect to a lot of the language, which you might find illuminating – a sort of “we’ll do things at our pace and you lot can wait” – air which nettled me badly. It should get on your nerves, too.

This sort of thing, for example:

Change cannot occur overnight”

[We] will take forward this and other ideas to the Department for their consideration”

I am unable to comment on such speculation,” when I raised a perfectly valid point about Maximus’ view of the future of the ESA Support Group.

Sue Marsh actually got in touch with me after the press office did to say that I could speak with her, because my questions “come under her job,” but that attempt at overture got right up my nose, as well. For one thing – if Sue Marsh is the person who is best placed to answer questions in the sort of details required, then the Maximus press office should go to her for those answers before responding to whoever asked them. It’s not my job to sweep together Maximus’ various outputs on its own assessment processes as and when those outputs drop out of different holes, or to wait around for the responses that Maximus feels it has best finessed. For another thing – I can’t see myself responding well to any aspect of the many-pronged charm offensive that Maximus has launched in its sorry and very costly attempt to sculpt and polish the WCA turd. Let’s face it – any company that comes out with a phrase like “more touch, more communication,” apparently in all seriousness, should not be encouraged to contribute further to any dialogue on any topic, or to remain involved in any process where people require something better than bullshit. It’s my view that in a general sense, any company that speaks lines like “more touch, more communication,” needs a smack in the soft parts right there.

Anyway.

Here are the sorts of responses you get if you ask Maximus questions about recording face-to-face assessments, or about support for people with mental health conditions as they go through WCAs, or whether or not Maximus would bid for contracts to “provide” work-focused activity for people in the ESA support groupif people in SG are ever pushed into such activity. I just want to give you a feel for the sort of Jog On contempt that those who ask for actual details about processes are treated with.

Opening response from Maximus:

We are firmly focussed on managing a stable transition for next week. Naturally when we are up and running we will want to introduce innovative changes to the customer experience but they have to be done with DWP consent and change cannot occur overnight.”

Well – that’s a Fuck Off if I ever heard one (and I’ve heard plenty of them). I think it’s the “Naturally” that makes me want to punch the screen when I re-read that effort. May I say that I’ve had enough of the phrase “Customer experience” as well. People who must go through the work capability assessment are not “customers.” They’re not wafting around a pick and mix display, or selecting iphones from a catalogue. They’re sick and disabled people who must endure an outsourced assessment process at the hands of voracious private companies that are in turn hired by governments which are absolutely intent on selling the idea that everyone on a benefit is a scrounger. There’s no customer choice or shopping around going on here. The government is the customer – not the people who the assessment process is inflicted on.

Ho hum. Here are the questions and answers, then. Short and not particularly sweet, etc:

Recording face-to-face assessments:

My question:

Re: the recording and filming of WCA face-to-face assessments. Will Maximus permit the audio recording and filming of WCA face-to-face assessments? If so, how will assessment recordings operate? Will people be able to record and film their assessments using their own recorders and cameras? This is an important point for people going through WCAs – without a recorded file of their assessment, there is little transparency of the face to face aspect of the process in particular. The DWP and Atos were challenged by lawyers on this point and forced to change protocol.”

Maximus response:

In respect of recordings we are studying this and will take forward this and other ideas to the Department for their consideration. We agree there are merits to this change, but there are other considerations as well, including the potential for the customer to be potentially constrained because some people are shy when being recorded. We want to ensure customers feel as comfortable through this process as possible, so all of these factors must be considered.”

Right. As it happens, a simple Yes or No would have sufficed here. Maximus could instruct its assessors that from of the start of the contract, people can record and film their assessments on their own recording gear if they want to, or bring someone along to do that (as I’ve said before, I’ll do it anyway. The hell with it). When Atos was in charge of this shambles, people had to ask for a change of appointment until they could get one with an assessor who was prepared to be recorded and where the dual recorders that Atos and the DWP insisted on were available. As for “the potential for the customer to be potentially constrained because some people are shy when being recorded” – I would have thought the answer to that one was simple. People – sorry, “Customers” – don’t have to record their assessments if they don’t want their assessments recorded. Naturally.

I can’t believe we’re still talking about this after all these years. Surely there is a limit to the number of times that the DWP and its providers can arse about on this subject? I’m also unclear on the basics here. Can people still ask for a recording to be made on official equipment? Does Maximus have enough equipment to meet demand?

Next up was:

My question: assessments for mental health claimants:

I asked: “What protocols and guidance will Maximus have in place for assessments for people with mental health conditions? Atos came in for considerable criticism regarding its failure to accurately assess ESA claimants with mental health conditions. Could we discuss the structures that Maximus will have in place and the training that assessors who conduct assessments for mental health claimants will have?”

Maximus response:

With regard to assessing claimants with MH conditions we have established a Customer Representative Group with MH charities on this. One of the group activities will be to review training materials so that they better reflect MH issues. We are also review the use and numbers of MH champions in the business as well as employing OTs who often have extensive experience at supporting people with MH issues in work and life.”

You can understand why I found this underwhelming – ie barely worth reading. I suppose that I was hoping for something a little more robust and detailed than plans for reviews, and more chat and roundtables with, presumably, the usual charities. I wrote extensively on Atos’ evasiveness on the work and effectiveness of these so-called Mental Function Champions (and found at the time that Atos didn’t report to the DWP on the performance or otherwise of those “champions.”) Just a little history on the sorts of shenanigans you can get on this topic: In 2012, Mark Hoban told parliament that “we have introduced a mental health champion in every single assessment centre throughout the country.” Actually, he hadn’t. The DWP told me that 60 mental function champions were in place and that they largely worked a phone advice line. A group of us had to work for months to get Atos and the DWP to agree to a meeting about the WCA and these “champions” with charity workers from a couple of small, independent mental health charities – ie the kind of organisations that weren’t generally invited to roundtables or to share their views on the DWP and Atos with the DWP and Atos. The whole thing was a total pile and to this day I speak with people who have mental health conditions and talk about suicide when discussing their next WCA. Why people can’t simply be assessed by their own GPs and support teams is beyond me (and that goes for all sick and disabled people who need benefits. The WCA isn’t required at all – unless, of course, your aim is to push the idea that work for all is great and that people who receive benefits shouldn’t).

Moving on:

My question: the future of the ESA Support Group:

I asked: “There have been reports of people placed in the ESA Support Groupreceiving letters from jobcentres calling them to work-focused interviews. Would Maximus consider bidding for any contract to provide welfare-to-work or work programme-type schemes if the government decides that people in the Support Group should engage in work-focused activity?”

Maximus response:

The company simply said that it was unable to comment on such speculation.

To which I say – Bollocks. I asked a perfectly legitimate question about Maximus’ view of the future of the Support Group. As Benefits and Work explains: “the ESA support group is for claimants who the DWP consider to have such severe health problems that there is no current prospect of their being able to undertake work or work-related activities.” So. Either Maximus respects the idea of the integrity of a support group which exists for people who are exempt from work and work-focused activity, or it doesn’t. If it does respect that idea, it won’t consider bidding for any future contracts for work-focused activity for people in the Support Group, if that is a line that the government decides to pursue. Which the government will. It already has. The DWP already sends letters to people in the support group asking them to attended work-focused interviews. Simple as that really.

Anyway – that’s Maximus. Not a lot of joy there. Perhaps I will try putting these questions to them again during next week’s day of #scrapWCA action. Details of activities here.

Follow Kate on twitter : @hangbitch

Feb 172015
 

We know that IDS’ Universal Credit has been a disaster in wasted costs and scrapped IT. The hallowed tax payer ( i.e poor people not the wealthy who have a set of schemes to avoid tax) have footed the bill for this.

We know that lives have been destroyed, people left without cash, mounting rent arrears, and have lost their homes too- the system is not fit for purpose.

Channel 4 are now doing a program on Universal Credit and how it has affected those it was supposed to help. Please let them know your experiences to give this destructive folly and its impacts a public airing.

Contact: Sarah Hay

email: sarah.hey@ninelivesmedia.co.uk

Tel: 0161 832 2007 or mobile 07976 413 823

Feb 142015
 

Those considered obese, and with drug and alcohol dependency are to face sanctions if they refuse treatment for their ‘life style choices’ announces Cameron. A review has been carried out by Dame Carol Black, well known as one of the architects of the Bio-psycho-social model on which the punitive work capability assessment is based- now an advisor to the Department of Health. The announcement today claims that particular groups will face sanctions if they dont get help. Yet Cameron’s unelected Government have consistently slashed front line support. Cameron’s announcement has been described as ‘a stupid stunt’ and ‘embarressing’ by Alastair Campbell

But our own Ellen Clifford said it best:

The cheap election trick by the Tories to threaten to stop benefits to those who with drug and alcohol dependency issues and obesity who “refuse” treatment is obscene and some might say a convenient distraction from the issue of Cameron’s tax avoiding friends. Affecting only 100,000 out of 2.5 million sickness benefit claimants such measures won’t even dent the welfare budget but it will further demonise the poorest and most disadvantaged in society. People in these situations have often experienced terrible trauma and may never be able to work, not as a life style choice but as the result of complex and enduring conditions and the multiple barriers they face, including a disproportionate number of ex service personnel. No one treatment option works for everyone. With the savage cuts to frontline services those treatment options that are available are steadily decreasing. Benefit sanctions will not work and will only punish those who have suffered enough. If the government really cared about obesity and substance dependency they would be providing real support to people not taking away their lifeline. This shouldn’t be happening in the seventh wealthiest nation in the world.”

see: http://news.sky.com/story/1427279/obese-could-lose-benefits-unless-they-diet

There are 1780 ESA/IB claimants with obesity as primary condition out of 2,501.480 claimants, 56,000 with alcohol misuse, plus 33,650 with drug misuse, so we are talking about 3,6% of the total caseload. But these numbers do not refer to those refusing any treatment.There are, as far as we are aware, no figures for this.

Feb 052015
 

In view of the Labour Party at last confirming they will not keep the ILF open in England, although there will be funds in Scotland, Northern Ireland and also probably Wales we’re now asking for as many DDPOs and individuals to sign up to an eaction to send an email directly to their MP

http://www.pcs.org.uk/savetheilf

and also a petition to Ed Miliband and Ed Balls

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-the-independent-living-fund-1

Jan 262015
 

Please share this this post widely to help us get wide coverage of #saveilf on facebook and twitter

Ed Miliband's comments on the ILF on 26th Jan still leave us none the wiser as to what Labour intend to do about the ILF

Ed Miliband’s comments on the ILF on 26th Jan still leave us none the wiser as to what Labour intend to do about the ILF


update

We’re waiting for confirmation from a VERY silent Labour  party after tweets by  2 Labour party candidates stating not
once, but in the case of Trudie McGuiness 3 times  that she heard Ed  promised to save ILF.
Meanwhile we have the transcript of what he said and we still can’t manage to decide if he said he’d save ILF or that he wouldn’t. Your guess is as good as ours but do let us know what you think?

Possibly at some time in the near future the Labour party will be able to enlighten us all.

Ed transcript:

“First of all we said to the government they should not get rid of the independent living fund in the way they are doing. What they are doing is getting rid of it and passing it down to the local authorities, passing that money down to the local authorities.

So, firstly they should not be getting rid of the Independent living fund. And we’ve said that if it does go to the local authorities that budget has got to be protected.

We’ve got to find ways of protecting that money for some of the most vulnerable disabled people, some of whom I’ve met and who are saying “this is a terrible situation what’s happening to the independent living fund”.

Secondly, we’ve got to stop the assault on disabled people in relation to the medical tests that are going on and have fair and proper medical tests when it comes to the medical system.

{audience member – inaudible] Well you are right sir. We’ve got to sort out the way that these medical tests work. And we’ve said we are going to reform what is called the work capability assessment so that it gives a proper deal to disabled people.

Last thing I’ll say to you is this. We’ve got to actually enforce the law when it comes to disabled people. Because there are lots and lots of disabled people who want to work, want to actually go out and be part of the working population and can’t because they are not getting the help to do it.”

Jan 132015
 

NDY graphic

Press Release: 12th January 2015 @ 13:00
__________________________________________________

“NOT IN OUR NAME”
Terminally ill and disabled people speak out against the Assisted Dying Bill ahead of their protest outside the House of Lords on Friday, 16th January 2015.

NYD posters

Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill will be debated in the House of Lords on Friday, 16th January 2015. Members of Not Dead Yet UK and others, will protest against the Bill outside the Houses of Parliament. They will carry pictures and statements from 80 terminally ill and disabled individuals whose conditions prevent them from travelling to London or sitting outside in cold weather.

Celebrity supporters of the Bill are well known already but politicians need to hear and value the opinions of people living with terminal illnesses and severe disabilities. We oppose any change in the law on assisted suicide because we fear it will put lives at risk. We do not accept that safeguards proposed in the Bill are adequate.

Not Dead Yet UK firmly believes that terminally ill and disabled people need the full protection of the law, especially at times when they, their families and friends may be fearful of the future. That is why we oppose the Assisted Dying Bill.

Sian Vasey, a Not Dead Yet UK member, said, “When people ask to be assisted to die, this is often in isolation and before everything possible has been done to alleviate their situation in terms of medical, social and emotional support. Fears for the future are the most common reasons for a person to request assisted suicide”.

Photo opportunity

Date: Friday, 16th January 2015

Time: 10:00AM – 1:00 PM

Venue: Old Palace Yard (opposite the House of Lords)

Sign up to the Thunderclap on twitter or facebook  https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/21181-opposing-an-assisted-dying-law

Notes to Editors:

  1. Not Dead Yet UK is a campaigning network of disabled people founded in 2006 to oppose legislation on assisted dying for disabled and terminally ill people.

  2. NDY UK is an international ally to Not Dead Yet, USA http://www.notdeadyet.org/

  3. Not Dead Yet UK promotes equality for disabled people in a secular context; it is not faith centred or allied to any organised religion. Its supporters come from all sections of the community. Its guiding principles are to value the lives of terminally ill and disabled people and oppose assisted suicide.

Jan 032015
 

Different forms of Government Propaganda began and ended the year. We saw delays, backlogs, more cuts, more campaigns and direct actions. We reproduce some of the DPAC actions, research and call outs from 2014. Highlights included the Westminster Abbey Occupation against the closure of ILF as part of the #saveilf campaign, lowlights included the court case that arrived at the decision that Penning had taken appropriate process into account by saying that ILF users could be entitled to less under local authorities. Chaos with the DWP, PIP, ESA was compounded by misinformation, dodgy stats , backlogs and increasing sanctions. The brilliant Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition against Cuts achieved the abolition of ‘care’ charges by their local authority-proving it can be done. Esther McVey was awarded Scrooge of the year. DPAC was threatened with legal action for our support of the Anthony Kletzander campaign -in response we increased the campaign, and the relationship in the propaganda against disabled people between the DWP and the Mail was finally exposed

News that the UNCRPD Committee had initiated its first ever inquiry into grave and systematic violations of the UN Convention against the UK identified how far our disability rights and independent living had been eroded by the Coalition-although the Mail didnt seem to like it much

Our constant court cases against the DWP continued, and we have more lined up for this year too- yes, we could be talking to you Motability!

We look forward to 2015 and a change in the regime that has seen the poor grow poorer, while the richest grew richer. A year in which we launch Who2vote4? and the DPAC revenge tour. We will continue to fight for #saveilf with an event on 6th Jan at the House of Commons and an online twitter event.

For an excellent review of the fight against cuts from 2010-2014 please download From Cuts to Resistance and if you want a count down to the election , then the DPAC downloadable calender can help

Here’s to a better year in 2015 with thanks to all our members and supporters. Keep up with news in 2015 by subscribing to posts through our website www.dpac.uk.net or follow us on twitter @Dis_ppl_protest

Some selected actions of DPAC in 2014

January saw the posting of a call for those who were waiting for PIP due to backlogs. This post has received over 40,000 views,shares and many comments. The situation has now been described as a backlog that , at the current rate , could take 42 years to clear. For those claiming ‘reforms’ are working have a look to see that they are not: http://dpac.uk.net/2014/01/have-you-waited-months-for-a-pip-assessment/ and let’s not forget the backlog in ESA either-in short complete chaos for disabled people.

In ‘Austerity Street: the real impacts’ we reproduced some of the stories we had received from those left without cash and homes via sanctions, delays and backlogs. This was in response to Love Production’s poverty porn , Benefits Street, part of the media’s continued demonization regime -the campaign incorporated a twitter fest against the format of biased programming. We supported our partners in Canada Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty (SCAP) and Ontario Coalition Aginst Poverty (OCAP). In an international campaign against increasing homelessness. Austerity is global. We supported Boycott workfare against CAPITA cashing in on poverty.

Through the excellent work of Nick Dilworth we exposed more BBC media double dealing and the fact that they weren’t publicizing the 88% success rates of those claiming ESA and asked ‘Are the DWP failing apart at every level? When a freedom of information response incorrectly claimed that PIP was subjected to sanctions. In another they claimed that the cap would be cut for those without children, both were incorrect. With Inclusion London we campaigned against the Care Act’s exclusion of ‘independent living’ and DPAC also  joined Hands off London Transport against ticket office closures, as well as regional Rail protests

February We joined  the many direct actions against the removal of legal aid. Raquel Rolnik ‘s report on the bedroom tax is published and recommends immediate suspension of the bedroom tax. The Government’s response is to accuse her of giving sacrifices to Marx and telling her to ‘sort out her own country’. We republish the excellent ‘Why the rise of UKIP is dangerous for disabled people’ and receive the usual abuse from Kippers proving the point. DPAC, Black Triangle and Wow publish a joint statement on Atos exit strategy , calling again for an end to the WCA. We expose how 9 out of 10 sanctions are dismissed when challenged

March More direct actions against proposed cuts in legal aid for judicial review.We publish ‘Punching Holes in Austerity’ an insightful analysis of DPAC and direct actions. DPAC supports #stopchanges2A2W against punitive changes in Access to Work. We publish an update on Anthony Kletzander and questions for HSE in Ireland with ENIL , a story of human rights abuse in Dublin, Ireland, a stand that we would later find invoked a threat of legal action against one of our co-founders.

DPAC joins protests against DWP and ATOS country wide. Protests that were reminiscent of the very first DPAC protests against Atos carried out by DPAC from 2011 onwards, culminating in the 2012 DPAC Atos games that saw Atos tarnished forever. DPAC leads direct actions and online protests against the despised disability Con-fident, leading to the highest number of tweets and retweets ever, exposing the scheme as no more than a Government gloss while they were cutting access to work and removing the means for disabled people to work. We produce a critical analysis of Pennings impact assessment regarding ILF. We reproduce the piece by John Pring asking ‘Where was your MP during the Wow Debate’

April The brilliant Ellen Clifford travels to Canada to embark on a successful speaking tour with raise the rates. We hold a well attended DPAC Grassroots Fightback conference. DPAC, Inclusion London, Equal Lives and the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People promote the #saveilf postcard campaignTop Corrie stars support the postcard campaign to #saveilf.  DPAC supports Lifeworks and protests against cuts to mental health support. DPAC gives its response to Labour on reform of WCA

 May DPAC releases its research documents for download. DPAC and ILF users block the DWP in protest. We learn that disabled students allowances are now under threat of cuts. DPAC publishes a powerful piece by one of our readers that sums up many peoples’ feelings: ‘I’ll never forgive or forget what this Government has done to me and thousands of others‘. We pay homage to the strength of Quiet Riot, celebrate the #dpactour and the success of the Freedom Riders.

June The Independent Living Fund’s Birthday protest happens in June with lots of action outside the DWP. We see JSA benefit sanctions sky rocket under the coalition Government. More actions happen to fight the bedroom tax.

We publish a piece by Angela 28 on how ‘care’ support has been threatened and why that threatens independent living and rights- legal representation was found for many people, but we were aware that this was happening to many more people through emails to dpac mail. Unlike some organisations we attempt to challenge these instances and reject the rhetoric that there is more ‘choice and control’ for disabled people.

At the end of June DPAC with UKUNCUT, and Occupy carry out a daring occupation of Westminster Abbey , after months of planning to highlight the #saveilf campaign. There were 3 police to every protester , and while we had no support from the dear old church , messages of support and publicity poured in

 July We publish a joint statement in response to the Work and Pensions Committee on the WCA from DPAC, Black Triangle, the Mental Health Resistance Network, Pats petition, Wow and New Approach in which we again say the WCA should be scrapped.

An ILF user makes a plea to Disability Rights UK (DRUK) on ILF after he was denied the right to speak at their independent living conference. DRUK did not feel the need to offer any response.  In Disability Rights UK : independent Living or new visions in Neo-Liberalism we ask why the DRUK ‘independent living ‘ conference was sponsored by an organisation running institutions, segregated schooling and ‘hospitals for those with mental health issues. We also launched a highly successful twitter campaign asking the same questions, again DRUK did not feel they owed disabled people any response to this outrage.

DPAC highlights more chaos at the DWP on appeals and sanctions. John McDonnell launches an Early Day Motion to #saveilf. Positive updates and actions on the WCA court case regarding mental health claimants by the Mental Health Resistance Network. We ask that people write to IDS to raise issues happening regarding mental health.

August Rethink calls people with mental health issues a ‘disease burden’ Mental Health Resistance Network respond to the outrage. We call for a stop to discrimination for those transferring from DLA to PIP who do not get backdated paymentsDPAC continues to support anti-fracking protests with Reclaim the power.

We republish the excellent Nick Dilworth’s piece on how the media are ignoring what’s happening to disabled people http://dpac.uk.net/2014/08/a-national-scandal-4-million-people-face-chaos-in-this-country-and-are-ignored-by-the-media/

ILF user John Kelly speaks to BBC on the impacts of the potential loss of ILF. We ask what happens when ILF funds are not ring fenced to local authorities

September sees a national day of Protest against sanctions, bedroom tax and benefit caps.

The fantastic Brian Hilton produces a set of pics for party conference season on #saveilf. DPAC crash the Tory Party Conference via a successful tweet attack and in person. We do the same to Labour.

We publish The Great Farago: UKIP sleight of hand and receive more abuse from Kippers, Richard Howitt Labour MEP quotes the piece and receives even more abuse.

New short film launched with the Daily Mirror on ILF.

The first inkling that the DWP are wrongly asking those in the ESA support group to attend work focused interviews comes to our notice.

DPAC is threatened with legal action for supporting Anthony Kletzander and publicising the abuse of his human rights in Ireland, our response is to publish an interview with Anthony’s parents  on the injustice Anthony and his family have endured.

October We reblog the excellent Johnny Void piece on the boss of Maximus http://dpac.uk.net/2014/10/meet-richard-a-montoni-the-five-million-dollar-maximus-boss-here-to-fleece-the-uks-benefits-system/.

We publish an open letter to Freud who declared that disabled people can work for less than minimum wage. DPAC and Occupy pay another visit to the DWP Caxton House building for ‘Freud must go!’ protest

In Secrets and Lies :maximus the new leader of the inhumans we ask why Disability Rights UK have agreed to a) be part of the Maximus testing process on the WCA and b) why they’ve teamed up with Unum and other insurance companies to develop a TV program showing how much better off disabled people will be if they take out private insurance- with user-led disability organisations like these we dont need enemies.

ILF users return to court to challenge the DWP on ILF. A successful #saveilf vigil happens with road blocks, many messages of support and some great pics.

Welfare assistance fund is next under threat of closure. Campaign to save it is launched.

November The Final Litchfield Review shows that the WCA should be scrapped.

One of our favourite reports of the year : IDS is chased around a building to drown out shouts of murderer at Ipswich- congratulations to the local dpac group for that one!

We ask people to come forward to launch a legal challenge on cuts to the disabled student allowance

£86 million goes missing from Pudsley’s children in need account BBC to blame for mislaying -complainants are actually advised to write to Pudsley via his BBC email

DWP increase attacks on disabled benefit recipients with claims they can harress them off benefits. We put out an urgent call-out http://dpac.uk.net/2014/11/urgent-people-awaiting-wca-assessments-particularly-in-birmingham-please-read/

Work Providers A4E are exposed again in relation to ESA and workfare. The Rev Paul Nicolson wins in court against council tax. Class War’s continuing protests against ‘poor doors’ get to the authorities who make arrests- and Boris is burnt. Meanwhile DPAC discovers Motability’s sneaky backdoor changes to individuals needing to be in work to qualify for support http://dpac.uk.net/2014/11/motability-and-the-deserving-and-undeserving-charity-not-rights/

December ILF users lose court case on ILF but its not over.

DPAC launches an Open letter to Ed, Kate and Rachel on ILF- we’re still waiting for a response

Hammersmith and Fulham abolish home ‘care’ charges, showing it can be done. Congratulations for a great campaign to the excellent Kevin Caulfield and Debbie Domb and all at Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition against Cuts

Esther McVey is named scrooge of the year, which we though was a little too kind to the creature

Unsurprisingly the Work and Pensions report slammed the Government ‘mismanagament of Access to Work – the stop the changes to Access to Work campaign continues.

Questions are asked on the Government costs in fighting against disabled peoples’equality

The link between the DWP and the Mail propaganda is finally nailed and exposed as the DWP is caught out http://dpac.uk.net/2014/12/dwp-caught-giving-disability-propaganda-to-daily-mail/

Jan 012015
 

who2vote4
Below will be the basis of our demands from political parties for inclusion in their manifestos. We welcome feedback from members and supporters to add to this.
Our Who 2 Vote 4 campaign will be running in conjunction with Operation Disabled Vote and we have to make sure all politicians know that they will not automatically get the votes of the UK’s 12.2  million disabled people, their families and friends without meeting these demands.

After all as politicians are keen to keep telling us this is no longer a something for nothing country and our votes must also be won by those who are willing to uphold our rights and equality. For those politicians who are not prepared to promise this we say you will not get our votes.

We will be updating everyone as and when we get responses from candidates and please send the final version of these demands to your PPCs and let us know their responses so they can be published.

Further news of our exciting countrywide Revenge Tour coming soon

Demands

The UNCRDP and our human and civil rights must be fully implemented, promoted and enforced.

Disabled people are affected by the cuts 9 times more than everybody else. People with the most severe disabilities are affected by the cuts 19 times more than everybody else. This discrimination against disabled people must end.

Manifesto Pledges we are seeking from Parties

A Legal Right to Independent Living and Self-Determination:

The creation of a specific independent living law: a legal right that fully enacts and enforces, as domestic law, the UNCRPD incorporating the 12 pillars of independent living as its key goals and ensures provision of independent living support is free at the point of need and paid from general taxation.

There should be a single nationally transportable social care system and an end to localism and the current postcode lottery that exists. Funding for care should return to a 4 tier rather then a 2 tier system with low and moderate needs being met for all as well as substantial and critical.

Stop the closure of the cost effective Independent Living Fund (ILF) and set up an Independent living task force, co-produced with ILF users, to review independent living and specifically the Independent Living Fund in order to identify how best to improve, develop and extend independent living support building on the successful model of ILF provision.

Legislation to end 15 minute home care visits and any move to replace face-to-face visits with telecare options.

An end to zero hour contracts for home care staff.

Serious changes should be made to how family carers are better supported both financially and practically.

Access to Health and Support Services: NHS funding must be protected and all forms of privatisation of our NHS should end with immediate effect.

Funding for mental health services including crisis teams should be protected and where necessary increased to former and safer levels. There should be an end of rationing of primary MH care services and treatment tailored to needs.

More funding investment is needed for children’s adolescent mental health services.

GP and nurse training should include compulsory training on mental health conditions and treatment.

There must be changes made to the Mental Capacity Act which is failing people it is supposed to protect. The Best Interests concept means that substitute decision making has become the default position rather than supporting people who are disabled or have Learning Difficulties to make their own decisions.

Welfare Support : There must be a publicly run welfare system and an end to paying private firms massive amounts of public money to carry out disability assessments badly. Instead that money should be invested into providing decent, liveable benefit levels.

An end to the Work Capability Assessment which is too flawed to amend.

An immediate end to benefit sanctions which have led to deaths and increasing poverty. Ensure that there is no conditionality of JSA or ESA WRAG on seeking treatments and no linkage with treatment and receipt of benefits.

Engagement with any back to work services must be optional for all claimants.

An end to replacing Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payments which even now is in complete chaos.

A total rethink on any move to Universal Credit and instead serious consideration to be given working with disabled people and DPOs to a move to a single system of welfare support based on the concept of a disabled person’s citizens income.

Policy recognition that there will always be disabled people who are unable or too ill to work. These individuals must be supported by a publically funded system.

Housing: A strategic and sustained programme of building social housing to the standards of universal design and accessibility is carried out.

An end to bedroom tax and the Benefit Cap.

Until there are adequate levels of social housing available an increase in LHA rates to fully reflect the real costs of housing to meet the needs of disabled people and disabled children.

Access, Inclusion and taking part in society: The creation of legal status for British Sign Language, and disabled people’s access on an equal basis with others to the physical environment, to transportation, justice, family life, the arts, to accessible information and all forms of information technology.

Enact and maintain a fully accessible public transport system with free transport available for disabled people.

Fully Inclusive Education: Education is the key to creating an inclusive society. This can only be achieved by having one fully inclusive mainstream education system, funded by the state. Without inclusive education you will not get an inclusive society

Planned cuts to Disabled Students’ Allowance should be reversed

All Disabled People have a right to Work and get a Job:

A comprehensive plan of action is developed with disabled people and our organisations to tackle the discrimination and exclusion disabled people face in work and employment.

Access to Work (AtW) must be extended to include unpaid voluntary positions and recent changes that limit and reduce the support provided through AtW should be reversed.

The recently introduced (August 2013) fees for taking an employer to Employment Tribunal must be repealed.

Ensure that all government contracts, at a national, regional and local level, are only awarded to companies that are fulfilling measurable targets for the employment of disabled people.

Access to Justice: All legal aid changes must be repealed and disabled people’s rights to access justice must be restored.

Disability Hate Crime laws and sentencing must be strengthened.

Reversal of the watering down of disabled people’s rights with the move from DDA to the Equality Act.

Restoration of funding for advice advocacy services such as CABs.

Legislation to prevent assisted dying.

Local Authority Statutory Services: There must be no redefining of Local Authority Statutory Services to reduce their obligations even further.

Real and Effective Co-Production with user-led Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations across the UK: Ensure meaningful, well-resourced and accessible co-production with disabled people and their organisations at local, regional and national levels on all issues affecting us.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)

www.dpac.uk.net

mail@dpac.uk.net

@dis_ppl_protest

Please also see The UK Disabled Peoples’ Manifesto

 

Dec 192014
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 102014
 

Please Help Us. Save Our Independent Living Fund

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

to sign as an organisation or individual please go to 

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

or email: mail@dpac.uk.net

deadline for all signatures is 12pm Tues 16th Jan

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

Dec 092014
 

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

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

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

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

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

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


8 Dec 2014 : Column 632

We want to thank John Healey MP for raising these questions

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

Watch this space……

Dec 082014
 

Press release from Solicitors involved

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Contact: Solicitors representing the Claimants:

Deighton Pierce Glynn (Louise Whitfield)

Scott-Moncrieff & Associates (Kate Whittaker)

8 Union Street, London SE1 1SZ

Tel: 020 7407 0007

Office 7, 19 Greenwood Place, London NW5 1LB

Tel: 020 7485 5588/ 07954 289595

Notes

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

Dec 082014
 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Notes for editors

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

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

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

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

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

 

Nov 262014
 

The Slow Progress On Disabled Peoples’ Rights

by Dominic McDevitt

There has been much said about the issue of Civil Rights for disabled people. Some from the current Coalition Administration between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have sought to infer that the Conservatives were somehow liberators of disabled people and that the Conservative Administration between 1992 and 1997 led the way on disability issues.

The reality is that the Campaign for full and enforceable Civil Rights for Disabled people has a long and turbulent history with many setbacks and disappointments and injustices done along the way. There is much evidence to demonstrate how disabled people have found ourselves “pushed to the back of the queue” when the equalities agenda has been addressed.

In many respects disabled people have at best been treated as an afterthought. The social stigmas around disability and disabled people in society have been deeply engrained and remain stubbornly present to this day.

The law has often been slow to react to issues in society and that is certainly the case when considering disability issues. The “low priority” afforded to disabled people can be seen from the weak and poorly enforced legislation that took the form of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Acts of 1944 and 1958. Following these Statues there was a voluntary register for Disabled People and a quota system established. This quota system was supposed to require employers of 20 or more people to employ a workforce of disabled people to the proportion of 3% of the total workforce.1This legislation lacked an effective enforcement mechanism, and the prejudice and hostility to disabled people in the workplace set the tone for many years and as a result was effectively rendered worthless .

It would seem that the attitude that disabled people were a ‘burden’ and a section of society to be addressed as a ‘problem’, rather than as a section of society with something to offer, and part of the community to be engaged with, was the prevailing one. The patronising and paternalistic attitude has unfortunately been a longstanding undercurrent in the UK and does seem to be resurgent since the arrival of austerity politics.

It is interesting to note that there were several attempts to introduce equality legislation for Disabled People but all of these were prevented from successfully completing the necessary Parliamentary stages to become law. Edwin Shorts and Claire de Than observe in their Book2

Between 1982 and 1994 there were seventeen attempts to reform the law in this area by introducing Bills most of which had cross party support, yet none of them became law. It was only in 1994 that the campaign reached such heights of popularity and publicity that legislation seemed inevitable, with Disabled people mounting protests such as sit ins… ….In 1994 the Government defeated the last of the attempts to legislate by Private Members’ Bill…and introduced a consultation document…”

It would be erroneous to contend that somehow the United Kingdom Government led the way in the field of Disability Rights Law, The United States of America acted considerably sooner and in fact it was their legislation which sought to open up a new frontier and value the contribution made by disabled citizens. The Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) was championed by Senator Edward M Kennedy3 and Senator Tom Harkin4 The Americans With Disabilities Act which was passed by the Senate towards the end of 1989 and signed into Law by the Republican President, George H.W Bush In July of 1990 built on America’s pervious Civil Rights legislation from the 1960’s . Senator Kennedy stated5

Today’s Action by the Senate marks an historic step in the long journey to complete the unfinished business of America and bring full civil rights and fair opportunity to all our citizens. In a sense this legislation is an emancipation proclamation……and America will be a better, fairer, and stronger nation because of it. 43 Million disabled men, women and children will benefit from our action. For too long, they have been invisible…denied opportunity, victimised by prejudice, excluded from everyday activities of society…….Mindless physical barriers and outdated social attitudes have made them second class citizens for too long. Now with this legislation, they will have a fair chance to participate in the Mainstream of American life. This is a proud day in the history of civil rights. It is difficult to believe that this Congress will enact a more far-reaching or more important bill.”

It could be contended that the American legislation embarrassed the Government of the day in the UK into action, after all it should not be forgotten that there had been other Equalities legislation passed in the United Kingdom, to address Race and Gender issues in the 1970’s onwards yet, it was not until the mid-nineties that disability was taken seriously. It is perhaps more accurate to describe the steps taken which led to the passage of the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) as grudgingly done.

Where the Americans blazed the trail the Political establishment in the UK merely followed. A clear example of this can be seen from the fact that the American Law introduced the notion of “Reasonable accommodation”, this is something we can see borrowed in the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) (DDA). The American law was considerably more comprehensive with a far bigger reach than the UK token measure, which had many glaring omissions.

The Disability Discrimination Act contained some massive omissions, such as failing to apply to education. It is worth observing that if a person is denied access to a good quality education, it will be significantly more difficult for that individual to succeed and progress in society. Regrettably it took until 2001 for Education to be properly included in Disability Discrimination legislation, this took the form of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Rights in Education Act (2001).

While there are those who would seek to portray the 1995 Act as being an adequate response to the needs and legitimate concerns of disabled people, this is far from the case, in reality it could even be contended that this legislation merely underscored the second-class citizenship imposed on disabled people. It was a weak piece of legislation that bore the hallmarks of tokenism rather than being a herald of new social change, valuing the contribution of disabled people. This legislation could perhaps be described as a rather half-hearted effort. This was because of the ‘built in’ weaknesses at the very heart of the Act some of these were as follows:-

  • The Act only applied to employers that employed 20 or more people. The key point here is that as has been observed above, the law merely required an employer to make “Reasonable adjustment”, why should any employer of any size need an exemption from Acting reasonably?6
  • The Disability Discrimination Act only addressed direct discrimination and created a situation where indirect discrimination could be justified
  • The Act established the “National Disability Council”, which was merely a talking shop, with no enforcement powers apparently based on the flawed contention that attitudinal changes to the deeply engrained prejudice and bigotry towards disabled people could be brought about merely by education of non-disabled people without the need to give disabled people a commission to assist in ensuring the law was taken seriously.

A key area where the 1995 legislation passed by the then Conservative Administration led by John Major, denied parity to disabled people as compared to other groups with Equality legislation on the Statute Book was the failure to provide for an adequate enforcement Commission like the ones which had been created to enforce laws on Race and Gender Discrimination. It is worth noting that the Legislation covering both Race and Gender had been in operation for around 20 years at the time of the Disability Discrimination Act (1995), this in itself serves as a demonstration of how far Disabled people had been left behind, the failure to include an enforcement Commission was a serious setback and one which was bitterly resented by many disabled people. The establishment of the Disability Rights Commission was a key achievement of the Blair Administration.7

In the Debate on the Disability Rights Commission Bill it was clear that there was a great degree of resentment about the fact that the previous Conservative Government had ignored the need for an enforcement mechanism.

Roger Berry, the then MP for Kingswood,8who himself had been a key Sponsor of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons’) Bill, a Private Members’ Bill ‘talked out’ by the Government in 19949 observed10

One cannot forget entirely the fact that the previous Government were forced to introduce the Disability Discrimination Act in 1995 after years of doing everything imaginable-and even things that I thought were unimaginable to block that legislation… … The then Government established the National Disability Council……… The National Disability Council is the only Government agency that I can recall that campaigned for its own abolition almost from day one. It recognised that we needed a commission….Let no one pretend that we would today be debating the Third Reading of the Disability Rights Commission Bill without a Labour victory at the last general election. We are debating the Bill also because the Government have moved with great speed: they found the legislative time to introduce this legislation within…two years of taking office…”

The long awaited Disability Rights Commission opened to begin the serious task of its enforcement duties in April 2000.

The establishment of an enforcement Commission was far from the only area which needed urgent action one of the steps that was taken in December 1997 was the Establishment of a Disability Rights Taskforce. This body had the task of examining the gaps in protection of the rights of disabled people and making recommendations to the Government relating to changes in the law. 11 The Specific terms of reference in which the Taskforce operated were to:-

Consider how best to secure, comprehensive, enforceable civil rights for disabled people within the context of our wider society and to make recommendations on the role and functions of a Disability Rights Commission… … The Task Force will take full account of the costs as well as the benefits of any proposals, so far as quantifiable and practicable, and in particular ensure that its recommendations for a Disability Rights Commission achieve value for money for the taxpayer”12

The Taskforce was made up of a wide variety of representatives, some of whom were disabled people as well as representatives of Organisations with links to different types of impairment together with Employers organisations and those with links to the Trade Union Movement, representing Employees. The Taskforce final report entitled From Exclusion to Inclusion13 made over 150 recommendations for changes in almost all aspects of life the report made recommendations concerning:-

  • The definition of disability
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Access to Goods, Services and Premises
  • Travel
  • The Environment and Housing
  • Participation in Public Life
  • Local Government, Health and Social Services

It is incorrect to contend that the situation facing disabled people was adequately addressed by the weak legislation passed in 1995, as we have already seen, it lacked an effective enforcement mechanism, and in many areas of life in modern society, left disabled people with little or no protection. We must not forget these were in basic areas where others could take basic rights for granted. Indeed it could be contended that the slow pace of change was in itself an indication of the second-class status afforded to disabled people.

Another factor to bear in mind when considering these issues is the fact that the changes were often phased in so that Employers, Providers of goods and services etc, got time to ‘get used’ to the new obligations placed on them. While it could be contended that this was done so as not to “put off” those who would be affected, it could be contended that the negative ramification of the phased slow approach was the loss of impetus and perhaps, to some degree an inference that disabled people should apologise for seeking to assert their legitimate right to equality which may have sent out a mixed message, that somehow disabled people “didn’t want to put anyone to any trouble” or be a “nuisance” .

It was a flawed argument in the mid 1990’s to contend that the situation could be improved for disabled people simply by education alone with a minimal reliance on law. This seemed to be the view of those who opposed disabled people’s Civil Rights laws14. The danger resulting from such an approach is that the serious nature of the issues at stake can become portrayed as mere “political correctness” and this can do damage which resonates long into the future.

The other great barrier for disabled people has and is, the attitudinal one which holds disabled people back as a result of deeply ingrained prejudice and bigotry that has tainted the approach to disabled people and the issues affecting us for generations. Too often there is a culture of low expectation where disabled people are concerned and a lack of political will to address disability issues because disabled people have and to a large extent continue to be seen as needing a paternalistic and patronising approach where everything done to us, is for our own good . regrettably there has been a failure to acknowledge effectively that the attitudinal barriers weaken the effects of any legal change and alongside this, the simple, yet basic fact that disabled people have the same aspirations as anyone else, has been and still is too easily ignored.

Law alone will not soften the hard bigoted attitudes that often confront disabled people as we seek to assert our rightful place in society as equal citizens. Disabled Peoples Rights needed then, and still need now to be looked at from this perspective also This was an aspect which was not lost on the Disability Rights Taskforce there they observe15 that:-

We welcome the Government’s recognition of the weaknesses in the DDA and its…commitment to comprehensive and enforceable civil rights for disabled people……we felt it was essential attitudes towards disabled people were also changed if we are to make real progress. Changing attitudes should not be left to disability organisations or Government alone. It is a task all in society must share from teachers educating children about the value of diversity to businesses changing the attitudes of employees and customers…”

The then Government issued a formal response to the final report in a document entitled Towards inclusion – Civil Rights for Disabled people Government response to the Disability Rights Taskforce16 This document provided significant progress and eventually led to the Disability Discrimination Act (2005) getting to this point was a little drawn out as it was subject to a draft Bill, the explanation for such a move being the desire to get things right.

From this though, it is clear to see that the vast majority of the improvements in the recognition and enforcement of the Rights of Disabled people happened from the late 1990’s onwards and a significant piece of legislation to close the chasms in the 1995 Act came into effect 10 years after that Act.

Things moved on a stage further when there was recognition that people were encountering discrimination on more than one ground. Firstly there was the establishment of a single Equality commission and then the Equality Act (2010) which sought to codify all the Equality legislation into One Act.

It is also important not to underestimate the impact of the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (2007) while this does not seek to grant new rights it did however seek to make a statement about the basic Rights that Disabled people should have access to. The Handbook for Parliamentarians on the Convention17 states18

…The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is the response

of the international community to the long history of discrimination, exclusion

and dehumanization of persons with disabilities. It is historic and

groundbreaking in many ways, being the fastest negotiated human rights treaty

ever and the first of the twenty-first century. The Convention is the result

of three years of negotiations involving civil society, Governments, national

human rights institutions and international organizations. After adopting

the Convention in the United Nations General Assembly in December 2006,

a record number of countries demonstrated their commitment to respecting

the rights of persons with disabilities by signing the Convention and Optional

Protocol when they opened for signature in March 2007.

The Convention ensures that the world’s largest minority enjoys the same

rights and opportunities as everyone else. It covers the many areas where

persons with disabilities have been discriminated against including access to

justice; participation in political and public life; education; employment; freedom

from torture, exploitation and violence, as well as freedom of movement.

Under the Optional Protocol, individuals of States parties to the Protocol who

allege violations of their rights, and who have exhausted national remedies,

can seek redress from an independent international body.

The Convention is long overdue. It is over 25 years since the 1981

International Year of Disabled Persons brought global attention to the issues

affecting persons with disabilities. …”

It was unfortunate that when the UK Government ratified the Convention in 2009, they made reservation from Article 24 with regard to maintaining segregation in education in certain circumstances, the Reservation stated

 Education – Convention Article 24 Clause 2 (a) and 2 (b)
The United Kingdom reserves the right for disabled children to be educated outside their local community where more appropriate education provision is available elsewhere. Nevertheless, parents of disabled children have the same opportunity as other parents to state a preference for the school at which they wish their child to be educated”
19.

Despite the Reservations made by the UK Government in relation to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (2007), its ratification did send out an important message about the progress that was and had been made in relation to the rights of disabled people. It is fair to say that in the UK, disabled people’s Rights advanced significantly during the period 1997-2010 before the Current Coalition took office. By contrast, since the Coalition took office, we have seen a situation develop where it is more difficult for disabled people to access their rights. While it is not the purpose of this document to set out the litany of attacks on the rights of disabled people, it is hoped that the reader will have gained an appreciation of the fact that Disabled people’s Rights made significant and steady progress which has now been significantly halted and worryingly, perhaps even dismantled.

Disabled People should not have to accept second-class citizenship. The simple reality is that disabled people have the same aspirations as anyone else. No Government, of whatever persuasion should ignore this fact or have difficulty accepting it. Regrettably however, history shows us that they have . What is needed is a commitment and the political will to ensure we do not get returned to the dark days of the past where the negative attitudes to disabled people set the agenda.

What we have seen is that Disabled People have always had a significant battle on our hands for the Rights others can take for granted. It is important that we fight to protect the gains that were slowly and painstakingly made and continue the fight to ensure that disabled people can take our rightful place as full equals in society.

October 2014

1 Often disabled People found themselves pushed into low skilled work and stereotypical roles left to disabled people might be something like Car-Park or Public Toilet Attendant Invariably low skilled or repetitive tasks.

2 Civil Liberties Legal Principles of individual freedom Published by Sweet and Maxwell ( London) (1998) 1st (edition) at p574

3 The then Senior Senator for Massachusetts who held a senior position on very significant United States Senate Committees, as the Youngest Brother of President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General, and later, Senator, Robert F Kennedy, He was a personality who carried significant weight in view of the legacy of the 1960’s and the historic significance of his late Brothers’ Administration (Senator Kennedy held the seat that had been held by his elder Brother who vacated it when he won the 1960 presidential Election and he served for 47 years until his death in August 2009)

4 Senator from Iowa

5 In a Press statement from his Senate Office Dated September 7th 1989.

6 This exemption was dropped gradually by the Labour Government from 20 first to 15 and then eventually abolished

7 The Disability Rights Commission Act was passed in 1999 and became operational in April 2000

8 Mr Berry served as MP for the Constituency of Kingswood between 1992 – 2010

9 Friday March 11th 1994

10 At Column 385 of House of Commons Official Report Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) Vol. 334 No.114 Disability Rights Commission Bill [Lords] (Wednesday 30th June 1999) (Published by HM Stationary Office)

11 The Disability Rights Taskforce was established in December 1997

12 At Paragraph 2 on pps 4-5 of Towards Inclusion the final Report of the Disability Rights Taskforce Published by the Department for Education and Employment London (December 1999)

13 Published by the Department for Education and Employment London (December 1999)

14 The author has in his possession, correspondence from a Conservative MP, for Leicestershire NW in 1994 that seeks to contend that the Bill for Civil Rights for Disabled People, while having noble intentions, would place to much of a cost on the economy and that the measures proposed in the alternative are a step forward.

15 At Paragraph 2 on p4 of Towards Inclusion the final Report of the Disability Rights Taskforce Published by the Department for Education and Employment London (December 1999)

16 Published by the Department for Education and Employment (London) (March 2001)

17 From Exclusion to Equality Realising the Rights of Persons With Disabilities Handbook for Parliamentarians on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its optional Protocol Published by the United Nations (Geneva) (2007)

18 At page III of the forward

Oct 312014
 

Below are ALLFIE’s (Alliance for Inclusive Education) crucial principles for inclusive education. We all agree that education is a fundamental part of life, as such these principles are crucial for disabled children and adults and for their right to be educated in an inclusive enviroment.
DPAC fully supports ALLFIE’s principles and calls for ‘Education not segregation’ for all Deaf and disabled learners.

The principles are:

Diversity enriches and strengthens all communities;

·       All learner’s different learning styles and achievements are equally valued, respected and celebrated by society;
·       All learners to be enabled to fulfil their potential by taking into account individual requirements and needs;
·       Support to be guaranteed and fully resourced across the whole learning experience;
·       All learners need friendship and support from people of their own age.
·       All children and young people to be educated together as equals in their local communities;
·       Inclusive Education is incompatible with segregated provision both within and outside mainstream education;

Education not Segregation

Oct 312014
 

Apology notwithstanding, your recent comments vis-à-vis disabled people reveal that, apart from bigotry, yours and your cronies’ attitudes towards disabled people are – surprise, surprise – based on a one-size-fits all world view. To suggest that our labour is worth less than that of a non-disabled person is despicable in the extreme.

Anyone with an ethical or empathetic bone in their body would realise that – as with non-disabled people – we are, despite some similarities, individuals, with individual problems and needs. To illustrate this, allow me to compare myself and my oldest living friend who I met when we were both mature undergraduates (I was 40). We had both taken this path because we had no wish to be consigned to a life of workless, isolated poverty.

At that time, our impairments were ostensibly the same: spinal injuries and osteo-arthritis. However, the individual effects were markedly different which made us complementary, strangely enough. I am 6’ 4” and her head does not reach my chin. As law students, much of our time was spent in the library which alone would have been problematic as I could not reach lower shelves without a great deal of discomfort and difficulty, if at all. She on the other hand struggled to reach higher shelves that, even with her short stature, she would have reached without difficulty had she been non disabled. In addition, we both experienced problems with mobility and fatigue.

Since that time however, our paths, disability-wise, have diverged markedly as both our then-existing disabilities and newer medical problems have taken their toll. She now holds the post of Senior Lecturer, is obliged to arrive at work by 07.30 if she wants a suitable disabled parking space, and despite her physical/medical issues, more work than any two non disabled colleagues. She is often so fatigued when reaching home never less than twelve hours later, that she falls asleep over marking. To suggest that such a person is worth roughly half the salary of a non disabled person is both despicable and delusional.

I, on the other hand, after a brief teaching career during which, at times, I was performing almost the teaching of three full-time colleagues, became so ill that I could no longer work. After several years (while volunteering with a local C.A.B.) of steadily building myself back to the stage where I felt I may be able to take at least a part-time position, I was to undertake a Masters Degree, which took me an extra year due to a near death experience with pneumonia and pneumo-thorax. Since then, my general condition, while it could be defined as stable is by no means work-fit. I keep myself occupied by searching out relevant research resources. However, it is impossible to set deadlines as I cannot say from one day to the next what I would be capable of.

It is long past time when you and people like you realised that we are living on planet Earth in the 21st Century – not some esoteric alternative universe that only you and your cronies have access to where us plebs can be assumed to be clones of one another.

John

Oct 302014
 

So finally released is the official news that Maximus take over from the toxic brand of Atos for £500 million. Already there are comparisons with Russell Crow characters, but there’s also an overlooked Maximus who might be more fitting as a parody or comparison. This Maximus comes from the U.S Marvel comics

Maximus was briefly the leader of the Inhumans while his brother, Black Bolt, went into exile, daring not to use his dangerous voice. Maximus believed that the Inhumans were the greater form of life on Earth and he set out to rule them and to destroy humankind to retake the planet.
More on Marvel.com: http://marvel.com/universe/Maximus#ixzz3Hd6bb9Bl

Leader of the inhumans seems much more fitting than the hero reduced to slavery and seeking revenge- can we compare Black Bolt to Atos going into exile too? No, not really, as Maximus are using Atos staff and equipment to continue with the inhuman Work Capability Assessments (WCA), and of course Atos have a whole host of other multi-million Government contracts including PIP-yet another planned disaster, shared with Capita, leaving disabled people stuck on a waiting list for up to a year without any financial support whatsoever. In June 2014 MacMillan identified that those diagnosed with cancer were waiting at least six months for the initial assessment rather than being fast tracked properly, as was the case under the Disability living Allowance.

We can be sure that this didn’t and doesn’t just apply to those with cancer,but those with other terminal illness’ too. The Work and Pensions Committee rightly condemned this, but then we hear nothing more than empty silence. New Labour say it will take 42 years to clear the PIP backlog. But they don’t tell us what they will do about it, which with an election year fast approaching is yet another lost opportunity for the rusty New Labour machinery.

From one toxic brand to another?

Its worth a quick recap on Atos and the WCA contracts. The Atos process contributed to deaths, the Atos process contributed to worsening mental health, Atos’ so called ‘healthcare professionals were ‘trained’ over a period of days, Atos got reports wrong frequently, Atos were subject to TV exposures, the Atos process was condemned internationally, Atos were closely linked Unum insurance sharing the same CEO, Atos declared people fit for work when they were in comas or days before they died. Atos pulled out of their contract saying that those nasty disabled people were being nasty to their staff- a claim which , true to form, they could provide no evidence for.

Atos became a toxic brand long before the hyped ‘pull-out’. Atos were targeted from 2011 onwards by DPAC with protests outside their shiny London headquarters and elsewhere. Atos tried to shut down web sites that said ‘bad’ things about them. In 2012 their sponsorship of the Olympic games ( along with a set of other dubious multi-nationals) led to a 7 day protest by DPAC, a protest that saw angry protesters outside Atos centres across the UK. It was then that national media, often silenced by their owners vested interests broke through. We saw from the first time a trickle of freelancers with a social conscience edge in the Atos issue under the Olympics rubric. We saw the beginnings of a snow ball affect which Atos’ public image never recovered from. Atos were known not as the IT company, but the company that carried out those bogus Work Capability Assessments.

From bad to worse
So what changes with Maximus? First let Maximus be in no doubt that they will get the same treatment as Atos did-disabled people will continue protest and civil disobedience- a name change doesn’t mean a thing. This company knew exactly what they were taking on-but money talks louder than conscience . As already mentioned Maximus take the infrastructure of Atos, its staff , its IT , its tick box assessments. Atos are still gaining. Second, Maximus take private contracts ( paid with public money) to help dismantle what’s left of our ( or anyone else’s) welfare state to force those ‘that can’ on to private insurance scams that may or may not pay out-Unum and co are also laughing all the way to their bankster friends. .

What’s different? Well, Maximus seem worse than Atos- yes you read that correctly. They have a string of law suits in their homeland the good old US of A. In 2014 they said

“We expect that demand for our core health and human services offerings will continue to increase over the next few years, driven by new legislation, austerity measures and increasing caseloads, as governments strive to deliver more services with fewer resources. Legislation, such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the United States as well as other health and welfare reform initiatives abroad, has created increased demand for our services, a trend we expect to continue over the next several years.”

‘Core health and human services offerings':?. It seems these ‘offerings’ have proved a bit of an expensive minefield. But these days such things are written off to risk if the profits out weigh the pay-offs companies will do what the hell they like. In 2007 Maximus settled a Medicaide card fraud with the Federal Government paying $30.5 million. In 2012 they paid $50,000 in a disability discrimination case. In 2013 it was reported that Maximus has been engaging in ‘improper billing advice’ concerning $3.5 million cost to tax payers (sounds familiar-except here our state dont appear to do much about such things).There’s more, but you get the picture. Final add is that Maximus also like to give lots of money to right wing politicians-ah it gets even clearer.

Looks like we should expect the worst and looks like our unelected Government have managed to surpass themselves, again. The drain on the so-called public purse- that’s tax payers money- is set to rocket again. But beyond financial concerns are what happens now with the WCA? What happens to the backlog? And what happens to disabled people- the news doesn’t look good, as many commentators on social media have already pointed out. However, several things have been missed on social media

All in it together?
While Disability Rights UK (DRUK) were one of the first to get the notice of Maximus taking over from Atos out on their website, they failed to mention how they will be ‘helping’ Maximus. This information is not on their web site. It can be found elsewhere on the Department of Work and Pensions website :

“On top of recruiting additional healthcare professionals, MAXIMUS also plans to make further improvements to people’s experience of an assessment and will seek to continually improve the service they offer. It will increase the number of specialists who conduct assessments, including experts in mental health. They will also spend more time with people before their assessment to fully explain the process and provide Disability Awareness training for all staff through Disability Rights UK”.

Didn’t Atos claim similar things too? There are some who might say DRUK is what is needed. We should ask those people how a so-called user-led disabled peoples’ organisation can, with any integrity, involve themselves in this at all. Its no secret that like Maximus themselves, DRUK would know about the WCA, the Government lies that surround it, the misery caused by it, and why it all chimes together to remove welfare/state support from disabled people-It marks a purposeful intention to further open -up the market for private insurers – is this a mistake on the DWP’s own Government site?

Sadly, we think not. In the latest release DRUK say that they’ve been in discussions with Maximus and no work has yet been agreed- shouldn’t they be categorically denying the association outright?

Yet, DRUK are already ‘in bed’ with big corporations and private insurance companies. After their prior foray with Capita, DRUK now appear to have joined the game of pushing private disability insurance too. They are partnering with 17 big insurance companies to show the difference insurance would make, instead of fighting for the rights of disabled people. That is disabled people who by DRUK’s own admission occupy one of the largest groups in poverty, a poverty level that has been systematically widened and worsened because of this Government’s pursuit of removing welfare.

A few months ago DRUK publicised a new television program calling for disabled volunteers: Seven Families. Seven families will take the same number of families and show the benefits of purchasing private disability insurance. Its not about pushing products says the Income Protection Task Force (?) blurb-its about raising awareness-not since the Guardian published the much criticised info ads for Unum have we seen this sort of ‘stupid public’ approach. Once again , you wont find this on the DRUK web-site it’s been removed. But DRUK’s strap-line of breaking the link between poverty and disability just took on a new meaning

More importantly, under the WCA contract Atos were paid per assessment. Under the PIP contract Atos and Capita are paid a lump sum not depending on the number of assessments- the planned backlog becomes clearer. But what of the Maximus contract -are they paid by assessment or paid a lump sum? What is obvious is that the rounds of assessments and reassessments will continue to persecute disabled people. At intervals they might get a pittance of support, they might need to wait longer for a mandatory reconsideration ( brought in in Oct 2013 to make the process even more difficult and knock people out of the system). The best bet is to forget that you’ve paid state national insurance for all of your working life and go see Unum- and if 99% of disabled people cant afford it tough, because even your own so called disability organisations are telling you this is now the only way.

We want answers and we call on New Labour’s Rachael Reeves and Kate Green to provide them-what will they do with Maximus? What will they do with mandatory reconsideration? What will they do for disabled people? Oh and why should we a) trust them b) vote for them?

For now as The Void suggests: ‘Maximus are the new Atos: destroy Maximus’ and everyone and every organisation involved in or supporting this inhuman regime of the corrupt WCA, until its scrapped completely!

Oct 272014
 

The Government is proposing that their funding for the Welfare Assistance Fund ceases in May 2015.

The Local Government Association has said that if this proposal goes ahead support through the scheme will ‘have to be scaled back or scrapped completely in almost three-quarters of council areas’.

 

Inclusion London believes it is vital that funding for the scheme to continue, so as many organisations as possible need to respond to the consultation.

 

Sign our response or use IL’s as a template

I have drafted a consultation response, which you can welcome to use as a template. If you have examples of  members or services users have been supported by the Welfare Assistance Fund this will strengthen your response.

See draft response HERE

Alternatively you wish can sign up in support of Inclusion London’s response by emailing me saying

I support the response to henrietta.doyle@inclusionlondon.co.uk

 I would also welcome examples of your members/services users that have been supported by the fund to inform our response, all examples will be anonymised

 

Oct 262014
 

 

New Putney Debates

Disabled Women’s right to Occupy!

Feminism, disability and activism

Interviews with Ruth Bashall (Stay Safe East), long-time activist and front line work on disability hate crime and violence against women, and others to be confirmed. Chaired by Eleanor Lisney, founding member of Sisters of Frida.
With Michelle Daley & Martine Miel (Sisters of Frida) and Janet Price (DaDaFest).

Questions on feminist perspectives on issues of sexuality, disability, and social justice – disability and sexuality, queer crip politics, race, violence against women, the right for disabled women to occupy a safe space on their intersectional issues

Please let us know your access needs.

Venue: Friend’s House, 173-177 Euston Rd, London NW1 2BJ
31st Oct , 7 – 9.30 pm
(https://www.eventbrite.com/e/disabled-womens-right-to-occupy-tickets-13856072887)

There will be a stall from the Feminist Library

sof logo       sure safelogo


 

Oct 222014
 

Today was the first day of two days of a second court case against the DWP against the closure of the Independent Living Fund. Messages of support poured in. Many people turned out to support the vigil. The Strand was later blocked , as Kate Belgrave said : blocking roads is not extreme, cutting care is. There was wide support from Inclusion London, Norfolk and Suffolk DPAC local DPACs, the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, Transport for All, Winvisable, PCS Union, the TUC, Ros Wyne Jones Real Lives at the Daily Mirror, OCAP  and from as far as Toronto Canada where a simultaneous vigil was held. John McDonnell MP a great supporter of DPAC also came to speak.

Many messages of support came through some of which are below.

“@Dis_PPL_Protest good luck today! Amazing work being done in the face of such powerful opposition :)”
“Let’s hope justice prevails to counter rabidly cruel government”
“Best of luck and so many thanks to all at #ILF court case”
“many thanks for time and effort to all involved”
“Sending support from Toronto to London today. Disabled lives are worth it. #SaveILF @Dis_PPL_Protest pic.twitter.com/90YJEt7bL4″
“vigil at the RCJ supporting the campaign to #SaveILF”
“Good luck. You are courageous. The world is watching”.
“Good to see the likes of @Dis_PPL_Protest taking up the incentive to challenge the Govt on the ILF, much needed support lacking from orgs.”
.”@johnmcdonnellMP speaking in solidarity at #saveilf vigil today at Royal Courts of Justice”
“Shoutout to the awesome campaigners the #saveilf campaign, outside the Royal Courts of Justice today”
“Grateful thanks to @Dis_PPL_Protest & all who are fighting so hard to #SaveILF, ILF support for the disabled means having a life to LIVE”
“The TUC general council sends its solidarity and support for the Group fighting against the closure of the ILF in the High Court. Sean”
“All best wishes from WinVisible for ILF case – sorry we can’t make it but thinking of you all there. Claire”

Also check out some great media pieces
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/20/disabled-lord-freud-austerity
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/tory-bid-cut-lifeline-profoundly-4477839

Thanks to everyone for making this such a success on the streets and on social media! We’re back at court tomorrow -maybe we’ll see Freud joining us too

(left to right) - Mark from PCS Union who is equalities officer London. John McDonnell MP Andrew Lee, People First.

(left to right) – Mark from PCS Union who is equalities officer, London.
John McDonnell MP
Andrew Lee, People First.

Andrew Lee, People first.

Andrew Lee, People first.

John McDonnell MP Linda Burnip, co founder of DPAC

John McDonnell MP
Linda Burnip, co founder of DPAC

(left to right) - Linda Jack liberal left, Liberial Democrats.  John McDonnell MP Andrew Lee, People First.

(left to right) -
Linda Jack liberal left, Liberial Democrats.
John McDonnell MP
Andrew Lee, People First.

Natasha  Burgess, Campaign and policy officer PCS Union, London.  John McDonnell MP Linda Burnip, DPAC Mark, eqaulities rep PCS London.

Natasha Burgess, Campaign and policy officer PCS Union, London.
John McDonnell MP
Linda Burnip, DPAC
Mark, eqaulities rep PCS London.


DPAC protestors showing solidarity and support with ILF activists with Linda Jack and John McDonnell MP

DPAC protestors showing solidarity and support with ILF activists with Linda Jack and John McDonnell MP

DPAC protestors showing solidarity and support with ILF activists with Linda Jack and John McDonnell MP

DPAC protestors showing solidarity and support with ILF activists with Linda Jack and John McDonnell MP

DPAC protestors showing solidarity and support with ILF activists with Linda Jack and John McDonnell MP

DPAC protestors showing solidarity and support with ILF activists with Linda Jack and John McDonnell MP

DPAC protestors showing solidarity and support with ILF activists with Linda Jack and John McDonnell MP

DPAC protestors showing solidarity and support with ILF activists with Linda Jack and John McDonnell MP

John Kelly outside royal courts of justice London.

John Kelly outside royal courts of justice London.

(Left to Right) Jenny Hurst.  Paula Peters DPAC

(Left to Right)
Jenny Hurst.
Paula Peters DPAC

Jenny Hurst with save ILF campaign postcard

Jenny Hurst with save ILF campaign postcard

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Oct 212014
 

Independent Living Fund (ILF) users and DPAC have led the campaign to #save ILF since 2011. In 2010 the ILF was closed to new applicants. DPAC tried to get some people to challenge this through the courts. We didn’t succeed. We were just starting up then-no other disability organisation made a move, in fact there were odd noises coming from some of them that seemed to suggest that ILF had had its day, in line with the Government rhetoric. Even today few organisations with the exception of Inclusion London have been consistent in supporting ILF users with the message that the loss of ILF will affect everyone.

So did local authorities manage to cover those potential new applicants who were no longer eligible for ILF. Did they support independent living or so called ‘choice and control’? Of course not! The funds were not matched, and their support continues to be cut because of central Governments 28 billion cuts to local authorities. As Kate Belgrave said in 2012 “This Cheshire woman, who was also in the substantial needs band, had run out of care hours on the day that I visited. I found her alone in her home lying next to a sick bucket. Who honestly thinks that the future holds local authority safety nets?” The latest film below attests that things have become worse, not better

We’re all in it together – aren’t we? from Moore Lavan Films on Vimeo.

DPAC continually receive emails from people who find their care hours slashed or completely removed-they can move from substantial to ineligible in a very short space of time. The cry that ‘choice and control’ will prevail can only be seen as the last vestiges of misguided hope by those who work on this thing called ‘co-production’ with Government departments- surely they cant really believe what they are saying anymore- the carnage is all around us. The fact that the Care Act replaces the term ‘independent living’ with the bizarre term ‘well-being’ (despite the best efforts of Inclusion London to stop it) shows how the notion of co-production has made fools of us all. The fact is that if ILF funds do move to the black hole of local authorities without being ring-fenced on the expected date of full closure of ILF in June 2015-we all lose.

ILF users took the Government to court in 2012/2013 They lost, they appealed and they won. John Pring reported ‘They [the court] ruled that Esther McVey, the former minister for disabled people, breached the Equality Act’s public sector equality duty, which required her to have “due regard” to the need to eliminate discrimination and advance equality of opportunity for disabled people’. There was also a plea from Stuart Brackling ( one of the plaintiffs) that a ILF task force of ILF users be set up to discuss issues with Government- a plea that has also been put to Labour’s shadow disability minister Kate Green by ILF users. But we haven’t seen it materialise. Disability Rights UK (DRUK) suggested something similar, but their task force seemed to be DRUK itself. After DRUK’s Independent Living conference sponsored by Creagmoor where the issue of ILF was raised only by angry delegates amazed that ILF was no where to be seen in the program of an independent living conference-we’re really not sure what to expect anymore.

Of course after the first court case the DWP did an equality impact assessment that said people weren’t guaranteed the same amounts or support, that some may end up with no support, and that it was business as usual.

A new court challenge is being held on 22nd and 23rd October with a vigil on the 22nd at 12.30. If we don’t fight this, then we, our children and their children will continue to be subject to limited levels of support based around a ‘clean and feed’ model, or no support at all-if you don’t want that then please join us. Support the ILF users and support your future too.

We need to show all political parties that they have got this very wrong. As Jenny Morris says ‘Unanswered question(still): What’s your plan for these people whose lives we apparently can’t afford?’

Oct 192014
 

Solidarity to our DPAC members and all in Parliament Square fighting oppression! DPAC fully supports Occupy-go and support them too…
Update: London police torment #OccupyDemocracy protestors on Parliament Square
Overnight in Parliament Square, #OccupyDemocracy protestors aiming to draw attention to the growing democratic deficit in the UK, have been enduring systematic torment from the Metropolitan Police and Heritage Wardens, who have been zealously enforcing new restrictions on the right to protest and assembly in the Square (Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011).
The reaction of the Police and the State to the #OccupyDemocracy protest is in complete juxtaposition to David Cameron’s recent comments regarding the Occupy Central pro-democracy demonstrations in Kong Kong, when he said that “rights and freedoms, including those of person, of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of travel, of movement, and, indeed, of strike … These are important freedoms … which, most of all, we should stand up for.” [1]
Timeline of #OccupyDemocracy
5pm Friday 17 October – Occupation begins on Parliament Square with an overnight vigil to mark the UN Day for the Eradication of Poverty with speakers from groups including War on Want, Fuel Poverty Action and Reverend Dr Keith Hebden (author of Seeking Justice: The Radical Compassion of Jesus). Throughout the night protestors’ right to assemble and protest were contravened – with protestors not being allowed to rest and being forced onto the pavement.
Daytime Saturday 18 October – Protestors support the TUC March.
7-10pm Saturday 18 October – Scuffles instigated by police against protestors as Heritage Wardens instruct that the protestors should be removed. Police kettle the protestors. Two protestors are assaulted, several personal items removed. Banners calling for “Real Democracy Now!” and a small, battery-powered sound system – used by speakers such as Green Party leader Natalie Bennett and Labour MP John McDonnell to address the crowd – were all confiscated by the police. Later witnesses say that journalists and photographers were denied access to the protest by the police and removed from the Square. At around 10pm the police back off.
2am Sunday 19 October – Whilst protestors try to rest police arrest attempts were made with further harassment of the group who were huddled together in the mud. Police also confiscated cardboard that protestors had been using to keep warm. One protestor, a 24 year old woman from Manchester, reported that she was not permitted to lean against her own bag as it was camping equipment. Another woman, 65, has an air mattress literally pulled from under her, casting her to the ground.
7am Sunday 19 October – Things calm until 7am when the police entered the gathered crowd to remove printed materials including banners, hand held signs and a flag displaying a rainbow and the word ‘Peace’. A woman had the occupation’s Safer Spaces sign ripped from her hands as she shouted ‘No’ – this sign set out the ground rules for behaviour to ensure every individual feels safe, comfortable and welcome.
10.30am Sunday 19 October – Another protestor arrested – police allege that he cut a piece of string.
Upcoming – Sundays’ theme is “taming the power of finance” featuring speakers and workshops from UK Uncut, Tax Justice Network, New Economics Foundation and the Robin Hood Tax campaign.
On Monday the focus is on the attacks on our public services including NHS privatisation and cuts in welfare benefits.
Details of planned events for the rest of the week at the #occupydemocracy protest can be found at http://occupydemocracy.org.uk/.
The protest, organised by #OccupyDemocracy – a group that grew out of Occupy London – is demanding reforms to our democratic process so that it serves the public interest, rather than the interests of corporations, banks and a tiny wealthy elite.
Alison Playford from #OccupyDemocracy said: “The way the State has responded to our protest with this political policing just shows how frightened the elite are of a new movement pushing for radical democratic reform.”
Amongst the flurry of support coming in via social media, support includes:
Labour MP John McDonnell who also spoke at the protest said:
“When politicians and parties ignore them, people have no other option but to take direct action. Occupy Democracy is a way people can have their voice heard.”
Donnachadh McCarthy, the whistleblowing former Deputy Chair of the Liberal Democrats and author of The Prostitute State who also spoke yesterday said:
“Our political parties have been hijacked by the corporate lobbying classes, our media perverted by a handful of extreme right-wing billionaires, our tax system plundered by the tax-haven elite and our think-tanks, schools and universities increasingly corporately manipulated. Britain is no longer a democracy but a Prostitute State, which is reflected by the rise of UKIP. We desperately need a 21st Century Great Democratic Reform Act to re-gain our democracy for the sake of social and political justice and the very future of our planet’s ecosystems.”
Notes
1. http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/10/15/uk-hongkong-china-britain-idUKKCN0I41C620141015

Reblogged with thanks to Occupy http://occupydemocracy.org.uk/2014/10/19/update-london-police-torment-occupydemocracy-protestors-on-parliament-square/
Twitter: @OccupyLondon

Oct 142014
 

A very interesting piece of information has come to light, which shows that Capita, which relies in part on contracted staff to deliver the PIP contract, has doubled the incentives offered to their staff, supposedly in order to clear the backlog which has accumulated since the introduction of PIP. As can be seen in the document below, a contracted HP can earn up to £6,300 a month for 21 assessments, after the report is completed. The target does not seem to be stretching it, as it represents 1 assessment per working day. Even if paying this whopping sum, Capita is still bound a make a profit.

see: www.trainedtodo.co.uk/Home

Capita graphic

New Incentive Payment Scheme
To further incentivise performance we have recently launched a NEW performance incentive scheme that runs from 1st August 2014 to 30th September 2014. The rate for completed and closed reports will be doubled for this period.

*New Incentivised Pay Rate for DWP Approved & Unapproved Contract Disability Assessors
Incentive Period 1st Aug 2014 to 30th Sept 2014
1 – 8 assessments        £160 per report
(£80 from 1st Oct 14)

9 – 14 assessments      £200 per report
(£100 from 1st Oct 14)
15 – 20 assessments    £240 per report
(£120 from 1st Oct 14)
21 assessments +        £300 per report
(£150 from 1st Oct 14)
* For DWP ‘Approved’ Disability Assessors
Approved is defined as achieving 4 consecutive Grade A reports following training.
Help where it really matters
Our overriding objective when carrying out each and every PIP assessment is to ensure an informed, fair and equitable decision is reached for the claimant and the DWP. Find out more
Latest jobs
We are currently recruiting Disability Assessors and Clinical Trainers for all areas across Central England and Wales

CONTRACT ROLES: New Incentive Period Pay Rate!

*£160 – £300 per completed and closed report
New Incentive Period 1st Aug 2014 to 30th Sept 2014

Reverting to £80 – £150 per quality completed report from 1st Oct to 30th Nov 2014
PERMANENT ROLES: New Incentive Payment

£300 for each case completed and closed above the monthly volume target. Incentive period is from 1st Aug 2014 to 30th Sept 2014

Reverting to £150 from 1st Oct 2014 to 30th Nov 2014

Salary: £32k plus 23 days holiday, contributory pension scheme and flexible benefits.

 

 

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