Linda

Jan 272014
 

Richard Butchins who we have worked with before is looking for people who have been faced with a very long delay waiting for a PIP assessment or decision or both. This is for a Channel 4 documentary but will not in any way be like the recent Benefits Street.

Richard produced and investigated ATOS medical assessments for an excellent channel 4 documentary. We are entirely certain that Richard’s programme will represent the true facts and not be sensationalised in any way.

Please contact Richard directly if you can help with this

richard.butchins@hardcashproductions.com

 Posted by at 16:12
Jan 172014
 

Remember the massive Solidarity Sunday march during Reclaim the Power in
Balcombe?

How’s about we do it again!.

Sunday 26th January at Barton Moss.

Be there and show Cameron that we see through his bribes and we don’t want
fracking or the dash for gas.

Fracking is Stoppable! Another World is Possible!

Please forward to list and help mobilise people from your area/offer to
help with eg media/publicity etc.

SOLIDARITY SUNDAY @ BARTON MOSS

https://www.facebook.com/events/204357003090823/?ref=5&source=1

26th January 2014,    1:00pm

Barton Moss Road (off A57), Salford, Greater Manchester M30 7RQ

Do you live in the 60% of the UK that has been made available to fracking
companies? Solidarity Sunday is an opportunity to support a community
fighting fracking NOW, but also to highlight the threat to your community
and the resistance taking place where you live!

LETS MAKE THIS BIG.

*Things to Bring*

** BANNERS/SIGNAGE representing your community and the extreme energy
development your resisting
** WARM/WATERPROOF clothes
** Food & Water
** If travelling in a vehicle, anything from the camp’s wish-list:
http://northerngasgala.org.uk/whattobring/

*If You Cant Attend*

If you can’t make it dont worry – this is a nation-wide day of solidarity
and resistance:

** MESSAGES OF SOLIDARITY!: Send photos of your message to
info@northerngasgala.org.uk
** Use the day to get your group together where you are: Run an
info-stall/hold a film screening

See http://northerngasgala.org.uk/solidarity-sunday/ for more details and
directions to Barton Moss Community Protection Camp
etc. Try to avoid bringing alcohol, drugs, anything which could be
construed as a weapon (glass etc.).

Latest News from Barton Moss:
http://frack-off.org.uk/barton-moss-latest-news/
Directions: http://northerngasgala.org.uk/map/
Know Your Rights: http://northerngasgala.org.uk/knowyourrights/
More about Threat to North West:
http://frack-off.org.uk/fracking-threat-in-the-north-west/
New UK fracking licenses confirmed:
http://frack-off.org.uk/new-uk-fracking-licenses-conf

 Posted by at 16:59
Jan 162014
 

Bedroom Tax Appeal

Vigil – Monday 20th January, 9.30am, outside the Royal Courts of Justice

Disabled people and our supporters will hold a vigil outside the high courts to mark the start of a three day appeal hearing looking to overturn the judgment handed down in July 2013 that found the government can lawfully discriminate against disabled people through implementation of the bedroom tax.

Monday’s legal challenge focuses on discrimination against disabled people, who make up two thirds of those affected – exemption for disabled children was recently won. Other challenges brought against the discriminatory nature of the policy, by separated parents with shared care of children, and mothers fleeing domestic violence in housing with security measures, are on hold behind this case and could be affected by the result, so it’s even more important for everyone to show their support.

The bedroom tax is vicious and punitive. All social housing tenants should have a right to a family home for life. The longer people have to suffer the bedroom tax, the longer people are having to go without essentials like food and heating in order to try to make up the shortfall they are left with, the higher the arrears that are mounting up, and the closer we come to evictions. In November the Disability Benefits Consortium reported that 9 out of 10 disabled people and three quarters of carers affected are now having to cut back on food and heating.

Campaigners from the Anti Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation, Camden Association of Street Properties (Camden tenants), Disabled People Against Cuts, Single Mothers’ Self-Defence, Taxpayers Against Poverty and WinVisible are calling the vigil in solidarity with the disabled people taking the appeal and everyone affected. It is also an important opportunity to keep the spotlight on how unfair and unworkable this policy is and to maintain pressure to axe the tax.

We invite everyone who can get to the high courts on Monday to come and show support. The media are keen to hear from disabled people who are directly affected by the bedroom tax and if you are willing to share your story please let us know.

The following Monday 27 January, the appeal against the total Benefit Cap is being heard.  Women Against Rape and Single Mothers’ Self-Defence are calling a protest against the Cap outside the Royal Courts of Justice at 9.30am.  We hope you’ll be able to support that too.

 

 

 Posted by at 18:26
Jan 142014
 

Thanks go to Liz Kendall who argued for independent living and choice to be included in the Care Bill when Independent living and Choice was debated in the Care Bill Committee on Thurs 9 January  - Norman Lamb argued against.   Liz Kendall used the wording suggested by Inclusion London and supported by DPAC re the definition for independent living,  see below.  Norman Lamb said the definition of independent living was unclear.

Please tweet your thanks to Liz Kendall MP in recognition of her efforts

Unfortunately the vote narrowly went against the amendments 10 to 12, so the amendments will not be recommended by the Committee, but the fight goes on as other MPs can recommend amendments when the Bill returns to the House of Commons….    It also now goes back to the Lords so you may wish to contact some lords about this as well.

Please write to your MPs to urge them to propose the independent living amendment and others that are vital for disabled people. See the template letter prepared by Inclusion London attached. 

Here’s a piece from Liz Kendall’s speech:  The debate available at:http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmpublic/care/140109/pm/140109s01.htm

Liz Kendall: The Bill is an important opportunity to ensure that our legislation fully addresses the needs, aspirations and rights of disabled people. Disability organisations have rightly welcomed the new duties that the Bill will put on local authorities to promote well-being and prevention. However, many organisations, such as Inclusion London, Scope and Mencap, have argued that a duty to promote independent living is also essential. That is not a minor or technical point, but a point of principle. Independent living is crucial to ensuring that disabled people have the same rights, choices and chances as any other citizen in this country. Independent living is essential to getting a good education, finding a job, building a career and taking part in community and public life. It is about ensuring that people can live in their own home with whoever they choose to live with and have the opportunity to have a family life. It is about ensuring that they are able to get out and about, meet up with friends and participate in the cultural life of the community and the country. In other words, independent living for me, and more importantly for disabled people and the organisations that work with and represent them, is about being able to participate in, contribute to and be included in society, as the rest of us usually take for granted. 

Disability organisations say that disabled people’s rights to independent living are being undermined by the Government’s policies in social care and the welfare system. The Government’s decision to reduce local council budgets by a third, the biggest reduction in any part of government, is having a real effect on services that are essential to helping with the basics of daily life, such as getting up, washed, dressed and fed. We do that every day, which is essential to getting on with the rest of our lives, but for disabled people— 

Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab ….. I recall that, in our discussions with Swedish parliamentarians, who have a sort of Standing Committee on Health, we were told that if any responsibilities were placed on local government, it is a legal requirement for the necessary resources to be made available for the councils to carry out those services and delegate the functions.

Liz Kendall:  My hon. Friend makes an important point about the needs of adults with disabilities and about the importance of having a right to the basics of daily life, which are essential. The recent joint inquiry by the all-party groups on local government and on disability showed the real problems with the services in the current system: four in 10 disabled adults are now failing to have their basic social care needs met; and nearly half of all disabled adults say that services are not supporting them to get out and about in their local community. The same erosion of independence and opportunities is happening in the social security system through the closure of the independent living fund; problems with the Work programme; how the personal independent payment is being implemented; and the bad bedroom tax. 

 

 

 Template letter to MPs

Dear   Add the name of your MP,

I am writing to you regarding the Care Bill which is in currently being discussed by MPs.

The Care Bill has been described as a once in a life time opportunity to tackle the social care crisis which is impacting on my life. I am asking for your support to propose the amendments to the Care Bill below, to ensure that I am given the support I need for my independent living. 

Independent living for disabled people

As a disabled person I have the right to the same opportunities, choices and rights as other citizens. I want to get a job, build a career and have an education and to take part in community and public life.  I wish to decide when I go bed, what I eat and to live in my home with people I choose to live with, I also want to be able to leave my home to go out and about – go shopping, go to see a band. I would like the opportunity to be a parent and friend, have a family and social life. All these elements are included in independent living for disabled people.  Independent living is being able to contribute, participate and be included.

Funding

Social care is in crisis resulting in more and more disabled people going without the essential support they need. This situation is likely to continue because the Care Bill does not tackle the fundamental issue of funding for social care. I have not got large savings and do not own my house, so I will not benefit from the Government’s funding reforms.  I would like care and support to be funded so it supports me to lead an independent life of participation, inclusion, dignity and equality. To achieve this I believe it should be funded out of National Insurance contributions/general taxation and free at the point of need like the NHS, this would ensure I get the care I need for independent living in the future.

Amendments to Care Bill

I would be grateful if you could put forward the amendments below to the Scrutiny Committee or to the House of Commons when the Bill reaches Report stage, to try and ensure that independent living for disabled people becomes a reality. All the amendments are highlighted in bold: 

 

1. Amendment to: Clause 1 ‘Promoting individual well-being’ 

Can you please propose the following amendments to the definition of ‘well-being’ and to the General responsibilities of local authorities:

1 Promoting individual well-being and independent living

(1) The general duty of a local authority, in exercising a function under this Part in the case of an individual, is to promote that individual’s well-being, independence and inclusion as equal and valued citizens and members of the community.

(a) That duties under independent living promote the wider definition of independent living as expressed in the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

2. Advocacy

It is very important that disabled people are provided with independent advocacy right through the process of obtaining and maintaining care and support.

It is important because independent advocacy enables disabled people to participate in the assessment and review process but also enable disabled people to give direct feedback about the quality of services, which will help prevent on-going abuse of disabled people in the future. Therefore we ask you to put forward the following amendments to three clauses, (see wording in bold)

Clause 5.Promoting diversity and quality in provision of service:

A local authority must have regard to —

(c)      the need to offer and provide an independent advocate to enable service user feedback to improve the quality of services  

Clause 9.  Assessment of adults need for care and support:

A local authority, in carrying out a needs assessment, has

(d)     A duty to offer and provide an independent advocate to the adult to enable full participation in all needs assessments and reviews

Clause 42.   Enquiry by local authority:

(2)The local authority must-

(a)     Offer and provide an independent advocate to an adult who is experiencing, or at risk of, abuse or neglect to enable them to give evidence and participate fully in the enquiry. 

3. Amendment to Clause 9 ‘Assessment of an adult’s needs for care and support’

The assessment is the key gateway to care and support so it is important that disabled people, who are expert in their own needs, should be at the core of the assessment process. Can you please propose the following that:

  • All care assessments reflect the rights to independent living and choice encompassed in the UNCRDP.  Also that all care and support assessments should be a person centred process. 

 

4. Amendment to Clause 13 ‘The eligibility criteria’

The government has announced that the national eligibility threshold is to be set at ‘Substantial’. This means support will only be provided at a very late stage when disabled people’s health, wellbeing and independence has deteriorated badly. Can you please propose an amendment so that:

  • The eligibility threshold for care is set at ‘moderate’ to ensure that disabled people are able to receive the support needed to maintain and sustain health, wellbeing and independence

 

5. Independent Living Fund (no existing clause)

The impact on the independent living of disabled people with high support needs if the Independent Living Fund (ILF) closes in 2015 will be devastating. I would be grateful if you can propose a new clause to ensure there is:

  • A duty on local authorities to provide equivalent support as provided by the ILF that ensures independent living in the community on an on-going basis.  
  • 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. 

5. Amendment to ‘Continuity of care and support when an adult moves’ – Clause 37 ‘Notification, assessment etc

I believe I should have the same freedom to move home as non-disabled people i.e. without the fear that my care package will be removed or reduced. I urge you to propose and amendment so there is a duty to:

  • Ensure the new care package provided by the receiving authority must be equivalent to the existing care package, provided by the first authority.  

Together these amendments will help make the Care Bill better for disabled people and help make independent living a reality for me and other disabled people.

Can you please let me know what action you will take and what amendments you will be proposing and supporting.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 21:37
Jan 072014
 

Independent Living & The Care Bill 2013 – help make this Bill better for disabled people 

The Care Bill going through Parliament this January 2014 will shape social care for years to come yet the Bill currently does not include any mention of independent living and fails to address key concerns like independent advocacy and funding of social care. 

The Care Bill is being discussed by MPs from 9 January till early February, during this time changes can be made to the Bill to improve it. We know you are extremely busy but please take the time to get in contact with your MP to ask them put forward amendments to the Care Bill to ensure independent living is at the heart of this important piece of legislation and also encourage your service users and members to contact their MPs as well.

We have received some great news – Liz Kendall, the Shadow Care Minister has put forward important changes to the Bill suggested by Inclusion London and supported by DPAC regarding choice and independent living, for discussion by the Care Bill’s Scrutiny Committee! Pressure from your MP now will help these amendments to be accepted in the House of Commons.

Detailed below is all the information you need to lobby your MP. It won’t take that long and your input could make all the difference.

How to lobby your MP

  1. 1.   Email or write to your MP. 

Find out who is your local MP at: http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/

Their contact details are available at: http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/

Send the attached letter to your MP, feel free to change the letter to reflect your / their circumstances.

  1. Tweet:
    Service users / members can tweet about any responses to their letters or meetings, which will keep interest in the Care Bill alive. Use your own twitter account or email your tweet to henrietta.doyle@inclusionlondon.co.uk who will tweet it for you.
  1. Attend your MP’s surgery or ask for a home visit.
    Information about your MP’s surgeries times and venues is available at:http://wiki.openrightsgroup.org/wiki/London_MP_Surgeries

Home visits:  If you are not able to attend your MP’s surgery because of your impairment you should ask for a home visit.

  1. DDPOs you can organise a meeting between your MP and your members and users about the Care Bill.

For information on how to contact your MP go to: http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/ 

We know you are extremely busy but please take the time to get in touch with your MP. This is a vitally important piece of legislation that will have a huge impact on disabled people’s lives now and in the future. We can make this Bill better.

Many thanks to Inclusion London for putting together this campaign pack for people to use. Further information on the Care Bill is available to read at   http://www.inclusionlondon.co.uk/ 

Template Letter for individuals

 

Dear   Add the name of your MP,

I am writing to you regarding the Care Bill which is in currently being discussed by MPs.

The Care Bill has been described as a once in a life time opportunity to tackle the social care crisis which is impacting on my life. I am asking for your support to propose the amendments to the Care Bill below, to ensure that I am given the support I need for my independent living. 

Independent living for disabled people

As a disabled person I have the right to the same opportunities, choices and rights as other citizens. I want to get a job, build a career and have an education and to take part in community and public life.  I wish to decide when I go bed, what I eat and to live in my home with people I choose to live with, I also want to be able to leave my home to go out and about – go shopping, go to see a band. I would like the opportunity to be a parent and friend, have a family and social life. All these elements are included in independent living for disabled people.  Independent living is being able to contribute, participate and be included.

Funding

Social care is in crisis resulting in more and more disabled people going without the essential support they need. This situation is likely to continue because the Care Bill does not tackle the fundamental issue of funding for social care. I have not got large savings and do not own my house, so I will not benefit from the Government’s funding reforms.  I would like care and support to be funded so it supports me to lead an independent life of participation, inclusion, dignity and equality. To achieve this I believe it should be funded out of National Insurance contributions/general taxation and free at the point of need like the NHS, this would ensure I get the care I need for independent living in the future.

Amendments to Care Bill

I would be grateful if you could put forward the amendments below to the Scrutiny Committee or to the House of Commons when the Bill reaches Report stage, to try and ensure that independent living for disabled people becomes a reality. All the amendments are highlighted in bold:

1. Amendment to: Clause 1 ‘Promoting individual well-being’ 

Can you please propose the following amendments to the definition of ‘well-being’ and to the General responsibilities of local authorities:

1 Promoting individual well-being and independent living

(1) The general duty of a local authority, in exercising a function under this Part in the case of an individual, is to promote that individual’s well-being, independence and inclusion as equal and valued citizens and members of the community.

(a) That duties under independent living promote the wider definition of independent living as expressed in the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

(See Inclusion London’ paper attached for all the amendments to this clause). 

2. Advocacy

It is very important that disabled people are provided with independent advocacy right through the process of obtaining and maintaining care and support.

It is important because independent advocacy enables disabled people to participate in the assessment and review process but also enable disabled people to give direct feedback about the quality of services, which will help prevent on-going abuse of disabled people in the future. Therefore we ask you to put forward the following amendments to three clauses, (see wording in bold)

Clause 5.Promoting diversity and quality in provision of service:

A local authority must have regard to —

(c)      the need to offer and provide an independent advocate to enable service user feedback to improve the quality of services  

Clause 9.  Assessment of adults need for care and support:

A local authority, in carrying out a needs assessment, has

(d)     A duty to offer and provide an independent advocate to the adult to enable full participation in all needs assessments and reviews

Clause 42.   Enquiry by local authority:

(2)The local authority must-

(a)     Offer and provide an independent advocate to an adult who is experiencing, or at risk of, abuse or neglect to enable them to give evidence and participate fully in the enquiry. 

3. Amendment to Clause 9 ‘Assessment of an adult’s needs for care and support’

The assessment is the key gateway to care and support so it is important that disabled people, who are expert in their own needs, should be at the core of the assessment process. Can you please propose the following that:

  • All care assessments reflect the rights to independent living and choice encompassed in the UNCRDP.  Also that all care and support assessments should be a person centred process. 

4. Amendment to Clause 13 ‘The eligibility criteria’

The government has announced that the national eligibility threshold is to be set at ‘Substantial’. This means support will only be provided at a very late stage when disabled people’s health, wellbeing and independence has deteriorated badly. Can you please propose an amendment so that:

  • The eligibility threshold for care is set at ‘moderate’ to ensure that disabled people are able to receive the support needed to maintain and sustain health, wellbeing and independence

5. Independent Living Fund (no existing clause)

The impact on the independent living of disabled people with high support needs if the Independent Living Fund (ILF) closes in 2015 will be devastating. I would be grateful if you can propose a new clause to ensure there is:

  • A duty on local authorities to provide equivalent support as provided by the ILF that ensures independent living in the community on an on-going basis. 
  • 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. 

5. Amendment to ‘Continuity of care and support when an adult moves’ – Clause 37 ‘Notification, assessment etc

I believe I should have the same freedom to move home as non-disabled people i.e. without the fear that my care package will be removed or reduced. I urge you to propose and amendment so there is a duty to:

  • Ensure the new care package provided by the receiving authority must be equivalent to the existing care package, provided by the first authority.  

Together these amendments will help make the Care Bill better for disabled people and help make independent living a reality for me and other disabled people.

Can you please let me know what action you will take and what amendments you will be proposing and supporting.

Yours sincerely,

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 16:36
Jan 072014
 

We promised to update everyone about the outcome of this case where our ally Citizen Smart was charged and in court for singing anti-Tory songs.

 

http://dpac.uk.net/2014/01/anti-tory-songs-now-illegal/

 

Yesterday was the day of the court case but the case has still not been heard. Our understanding of the events are the court had difficulty trying to video-record proceedings so there wasn’t enough time to hear the case and the trial has been postponed again. We will let people know how this farce is progressing when we get more news.

 Posted by at 15:37
Jan 062014
 

The Mayor of London, who campaigned for election on the promise of keeping ticket offices open, now plans to close them as part of the 12.5% cut in the budget of London Underground (LU) announced on 21st November. This will, at a stroke, reduce safety, reduce service, cause inconvenience to the travelling public and increase the cost of travelling cattle class. The intention of London Underground is to create a self-service, supermarket model, and that means all Ticket Offices are due to close by 2015.

Look at the crowds in busy ticket halls like Euston – long queues for the ticket office, and even longer queues for ticket machines. It appears that more space, more ticket machines and more staff are actually what’s needed. Even in the current insanity that pervades the mayor’s office, the mayor must be aware that the crowds and the queues include millions of tourists – both foreign and domestic – and they are likely to tell their friends and relatives of their under whelming experience on London’s underground.

The news of the savage cuts was given at the same time as announcing the 24 hour running of some tube lines; neatly hiding the cuts from all the headlines. The mainstream media has played along with this scenario, and has also repeated London Underground’s assertion that the Railway Marine and Transport Union, the RMT, is balloting for strike action over the 24 hour running. They are not. They are balloting for strike action over the cuts.

Little prominence has been given to the phasing out of the Oyster card, to be replaced by contact-less bankcards. The Oyster card works fine for the passenger, but LU want to switch to a system that conveniently means that any ticketing problems experienced by passengers are no longer dealt with by LU, but by the passenger’s bank!

More about these cuts here

http://handsofflondontransport.wordpress.com/

The Hands off London Transport campaign is staging a Flash Mob protest this Friday, January 10th 3pm Euston Tube station ticket office for all those who can make it along.

January 16th – public meeting – Conway Hall, 18.30 pm with Bob Crowe, Ciara Doyle and others. More details to follow.

https://twitter.com/HandsOffLT

 

 

 Posted by at 20:59
Dec 112013
 

report back from DPAc member who went along to see what Mike Penning the minister for disabled people had to say to the select parliamentary committee on ILF, PIP and WCA.

Anne Begg, said, can you please tell us what you are going to decide with the future of the ILF, as 22,000 severely disabled people do not know what the future holds for this fund, and the future is so uncertain for them, in light of the appeal that the claimaints won, has the minister made a decision on the future of the fund, if to close it in 2015 or re design it?

Mike Penning said, I have read the decision from the courts and I will not be appealing the decision, I totally accept it.  I have not read the submission report as it has not been delivered to me, therefore i cannot make a decision when I have not have the report delivered to me.  When a decision has been made all 22,000 claimaints in receipt of ILF will be communicated to (his words) and there is the money to let them know what the outcome of my decision will be.

He was told by Anne Begg, you are causing high anxiety and stress to some of the most severely disabled in society, surely you can tell them something to put their minds at rest?  He said no, I cant and I wont as I have not read the report and as there is a court case around this, I do not want another court case on top, when the decision has been made on the ILF, all claimants will be notified.

It then went to PIP, Jason Feeney the operations director for PIP was also present as a witness,  the PIP stats for new claimants will be released tomorrow.  So far, 30,000 new claimants have been through PIP, and 15,000 claims were turned down, 1 in 7 claimants were denied PIP denial rate is at 50 per cent.   He plans to release in Jan/Feb 2014 the next regions to see the roll out of PIP, this will be done in stages.  The mandatory re assessment is set for October 2015 to finish in October 2017.  They plan to assess 155,000 a quarter, will be on budget and on time.

Penning plans to introduce the PIP form in PDF format over time, but is worried about security issues around this at the moment.

With the Atos contract for PIP in the areas where Atos have PIP there are financial clauses in the contract where PIP do not meet there contract targets, He said, Atos are in it to make money “well, we all knew that didnt we?”  The HCP are still receiving training to make sure the system works well, and understand there are delays with claimants, (we are now called “customers”) are experiencing at present, hence the staged roll out as they want to get it right.

Mr Penning, said, if claimants submitted enough supported evidence 17 per cent of people will not need a face to face assessment, and people with visual, hearing, and communication impairments can have an appointee speak on the phone to the PIP office on their behalf.  He said, in regards to the questionnaire where there is a four week turn around to get it back to the assessment centre, it can be extended to four weeks, but, then the claim will end.

In regards terminal conditions, they are working setting up in each region and benefit office a terminal office department so that people who have a terminal illness will have their claims done and completed with in 7 days.

October 2015 for mandatory re assessments stays for current DLA recipients, there will be no more delays.

With regards Dr Paul Litchfield, his fourth wca review will be published tomorrow thursday 12the dec, along with the new claimant pip stats.

There was not the time to discuss the WCA and Mr Penning has been asked to come back to the commitee in the new year, and bring Dr Pritchard along as a witness to discuss the 4th review.

Anne Begg said she would e mail when the date of the call back for the W.C.A is.

The WCA will be heard on 19th feb, so well done to wow.

Martin and me represented dpac for this today, and the two of us faced three armed police at gun point in the corridor outside the committee room, at the end of the meeting Mike Penning was surrounded by armed police and taken up the corridor while we were watched carefully.  Don’t know what they thought we were going to do.

I think we are rattling them big time, and the security level for all buildings has been raised to substantial as well.

 

 

 Posted by at 20:29
Dec 112013
 

For the past few months we at Disabled People Against Cuts have been receiving emails daily from disabled people and disabled parents with children who are being left without any food or any money for heating. They have had their benefits sanctioned and all money taken away from them for a period of between 2 weeks and 3 months. Disabled people who have never committed any crimes in their lives are being forced into shoplifting simply to be able to eat themselves or to feed their children.

The reasons they are being sanctioned are pathetic, looking for too many jobs, being late to sign on because they were at an interview for a job, having to help a pregnant partner before coming out and being 5 minutes late. Imagine being left utterly destitute in this way by a gang of uncaring, heartless millionaire politicians who think being starved will ‘encourage’ you to find one of the non-existent jobs. It is hard to believe that in a country which is still one of the richest in the world people are being deliberately and callously left to starve and freeze.

Surely democracy, if it exists, depends on government of the people by consensus rather than by the use of force or fear which is tyranny. Yet this week’s appearances by government ministers in front of the DWP select committee only highlights that no such consensus exists in the UK today.

And what of our own minister for disabled people – Mike Penning aka Machine Gun Mike and that DWP henchman Iain Duncan Smith. When the mere thought of being in the same room as a small group of disabled people exercising their democratic right to attend a select committee hearing drives DWP ministers to resort to mass protection by police guards heavily armed with machine guns pointed towards disabled spectators while they waited in the corridor to go into the rooms and after they came out of the meeting I think it is fair for all citizens to ask just what has this government become. Certainly they really cannot be viewed as democratic or legitimate in any way. Neither can they use the excuse that such ‘vulnerable’ people as us are in any way a threat to them – or are we? We are large in numbers and most of us are allowed to vote in elections.

One disabled woman who was there said

“we are being treated like terrorists because we are disabled people –  disgusting!”

and another said

“ A very disturbing sight to se an MP having guns pointed at 3 unarmed people in wheelchairs and about 8 other disabled people and carers who came peacefully to exercise their democratic right to sit in on a hearing.”

As if being threatened with a machine gun was not enough disabled people legitimately attending meetings in the House of Commons are now regularly being subjected to more and more ridiculous security checks. Yesterday when I attended the BIHR charter launch I was forced to remove not only my watch but the quite ordinary belt from my trousers so it could be scanned. What exactly could be hidden in a belt I have no idea and can only assume this was done to cause me to be humiliated. Needless to say I wasn’t I was simply left wondering how disabled people being treated in such ways could possibly equate to the UK government being viewed as ‘good’ on upholding human rights in other parts of the world.

However I won’t dwell further on that as the subject is fraught with problems if we start to remember the Blair years, Guatanamo, and other abuses carried out in the name of democracy.

I simply want to reiterate that the very fact that DWP ministers felt the need to be protected from us and to be hidden away behind machinegun carrying police in this way simply illustrates how successful we have been with our campaigning so far. Shame on them all.

See also this FOI request to DWP about the incident on Monday which was made by someone not known to DPAC.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/work_pensions_committee_machine

11 December 2013

Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

My questions refer to security processes surrounding the Work &
Pensions meeting held on 9th December 2013 at 16:30 in the Wilson
room.

According to multiple witnesses (members of the public, mainly
physically or mentally disabled) who arrived to observe the above
meeting, they were initially met by standard airport and court type
security, metal detectors, belongings checked, they were frisked -
all pretty much what I would expect.

The public area was off camera (although some public members did
appear in view of the camera to find their seats and I did witness
one electric wheelchair user briefly on camera.

However the witnesses stated something rather disturbing which
wasn’t seen on camera which could explain their unusual silence
throughout the proceedings. There were several policemen or
security guards with machine guns, not pointed down, instead
pointing TOWARDS the public area throughout this meeting.

My questions are as follows:

1. Who from the DWP asked for these guards with machine guns to be
present?

2. Who from the DWP asked for these guards to keep their machine
guns pointed toward the public area?

3. Please provide the report which deemed it necessary to have
guards with machine guns pointed toward the public during this
meeting.

My fourth question is only for if you’re unable to answer any one
of the above questions.

4. Please specify the Government department I should send this FoI
request to if you don’t hold the above information on any question
I ask above.

(For public reference, the meeting can be watched here although the
public area and the guards with machine guns are off camera:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqJoGMKI… )

Yours faithfully,

 

 

 Posted by at 19:37
Dec 092013
 

Frances Ryan, a journalist for The Guardian and New Statesman, is looking fo disabled people and those with a long term health condition willing to share their experiences of food poverty: both how we’re being affected by it and ways you’re dealing with it.  

Due to being a disabled person, have you had difficulty accessing out-of-home help like food banks? 

Have you been unable to buy food due to benefit changes? 

Have you had to rely on other ways to find food when you couldn’t afford to buy it? e.g. scavenging, skipping etc.

Has your impairment/long term illness worsened due to malnutrition?
Any experiences you think are relevant and you’d be willing to share, please get in touch on frances.ryan18@btinternet.com. Thank you. (Please email rather than write in the comments below as I wouldn’t want to miss your input.)
We think that it is important for people who have no idea what is happening to some of us to hear the truth so if you are willing to share your details with Frances we hope this will help let people know how disabled people, young children and others who have been sanctioned for bizarre reasons such as looking for too many jobs are being left to starve in the UK today due to the policies of the Condem government.

 

 Posted by at 20:31
Dec 082013
 

‘Can you afford Christmas?’

We will be singing anti-austerity carols and asking people to sign a giant Xmas card to Cameron explaining why they can’t afford Xmas. This is an Anti Austerity demonstration open to all groups and individuals.

Saturday 14th December 11am-1pm at the fountain, Canal Walk, Swindon town centre.

All welcome.

 Posted by at 16:48
Dec 022013
 

Last Saturday was the founding conference of Left Unity attended by many DPAC activists and other disabled people. There were access glitches galore, yes…but it was a historic moment for a political party to be kicked off with so many disabled people in attendance as members and a couple speaking too. 

What went right was that the website asked people signing up to let us know if they had any access needs. Very few did, but we responded to them, providing documents on a memory stick for example – and in some cases went above and beyond, providing many large print copies of the conference documents.  The venue was basically wheelchair accessible and had a hearing loop and over 1,900 people viewed the livestreaming at some point during the day. We know this was important to disabled members who simply couldn’t travel. Organisers ensured that the chair and speakers were at floor level so that disabled people could speak. Posters around the venue showed disabled people, including a Disabled People Against Cuts demo.

So it’s true that lots went wrong! I’m not going to list it all here (others have already done so). I had failed to get the start time put back, though I did try. But the whole point of having a registration desk dedicated to disabled people was so that if they arrived with just a few minutes to go to 10 o’clock, or even after, their registration could be speeded through.

Some people ignored reserved seat notices and there were no announcements to the effect that those who needed the hearing loop needed to be in the first few rows…mainly because those of us who could have done that were still tied up on registration desks. Worst of all, a number of factors meant there were no access breaks although they’d been promised in writing and that was dire, there’s no getting round it.

But having been there from the beginning, I have seen the tremendous amount of work that went into making it as good as we could (at breakneck speed) and the genuine determination of everyone involved to keep getting better.  I have seen that we have managed to keep at bay those who would have wrecked the whole project so that they could empire build.

We have an immensely strong group of disabled people already (I believe it may be the largest of all the caucuses so far) so it CAN only get better.  It is a very difficult process. Most of us have never been able to be involved in mainstream politics before and so find it difficult to take the right initiative at the right time. And of course most non-disabled people have an equal mountain to climb in terms of understanding the social model and supporting us. But it has started and it will continue.

And what did we achieve? Well, the UK has a new broad left party truly there to represent working class people, not just owning classes and the ridiculously wealthy.  We will have at least 50% women on all national and regional bodies. We will be fighting capitalism (no I’m not sure how yet!) and campaigning alongside working class people in general and trades unions in particular, for a much more inclusive and just society, which respects our environment too.

If you are a member of Left Unity, do join us at ludisabledpeople@lists.riseup.net

 Posted by at 13:18
Dec 012013
 

It seems that a hate crime is now not defined by the perception of the victim, his or her family or communities, as it should be in law. No matter how many times a victim has reported each and every time they are harassed, abused and attacked due to race and disability, or being perceived as ‘different’.

As has been highlighted by the case of Mr Bijan Ebrahimi, murdered by one man (assisted by one more), following years of abuse and hostility by many others who lived near him in various homes.

Let me list what we know happened to Bijan, a disabled Iranian man with mental health and physical impairments, bear in mind there is much we do not know yet;

Between 2008 and 2011 he reported harassment 14 times to police

Verbally racially abuse

Physically assaulted by people in a shared house

House broken into

Hot water thrown on his chest and feet

Threatened with hostility and death

Property and possessions vandalised

Driven out of his previous home by an arson attack

Mobbed by up to twenty people hurling abuse, threats and calling him names

Arrested when he called police for help

Falsely accused of being a paedophile

Beaten to death

His body doused with white spirit and set alight.

His family believe he was picked on as he lived alone, was disabled, vulnerable, and because “he was different”.

In a statement, the family said in one “callous act of unimaginable hatred” its entire world had been taken. …..we are gravely concerned that the actions of those men may have been made possible by the failures of the police and others to protect Bijan.

So as a disability campaigner and activist on disability hate crime for nearly two decades, knowing how hard myself and others have worked to raise awareness, improve reporting to police, changing the way police and legislation promotes justice for disabled people myself and others expected the Police, Crown Prosecution Service and the courts to recognise this case as hate crime from the outset.

Why? First because the police have already admitted they let this man down by their actions and poor responses to his experiences, the family had made it clear they saw this murder linked to all the other hate crime Bijan had experienced, and lastly because we have evidenced that many disabled men get falsely accused as being paedophiles as part of a campaign of hate and horror against their victims.

As Katharine Quarmby, a journalist, friend and coordinator of the Disability Hate crime Network stated in one of her blogs:

‘In just over one year, in fact, I found five such killings related to false sexual offence charges, including paedophilia. These included that of Sean Miles, who was stripped, stabbed and drowned after being accused of being a paedophile. Steven Hoskin was similarly accused, tortured, targeted and murdered by so-called friends, who dragged him around on a dog leash before pulling him to a railway viaduct and pushing him off. Now Bijan Ebrahimi takes his place on that sad list of murders – a grim pattern of disabled men falsely accused of sexual crimes they didn’t commit, and then killed with overwhelming cruelty by a lynch mob.’ 

Katherine and I had worked together on a groundbreaking report called ‘Getting away with Murder: disabled peoples’ experiences of hate crime’, we had also worked with others, advising the Equality and Human Rights Commission on its inquiry into disability related hostility.

Its report ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’, published in 2011, had stated that the false allegation of pedophilia against disabled people was a clear and present danger to their lives.

I have also produced reports cataloging over 70 murders of disabled people and hundred of attacks as evidence for this inquiry.

Through my own experience, work with victims of disability hate crime, and disabled peoples organisations I know any excuse is used to validate abusing, attacking and murdering a disabled person just because they are perceived as different.

From before birth, the abortion of disabled a foetus up to 40 weeks of pregnancy, to segregated education, euthanasia, assisted suicide, so called ‘Mercy killings’, the killing and segregation of disabled people has been justified for centuries and contributes to the attitudes disabled people face these days in society.

Add to this the current political and media stances about disabled people being a burden on the state, unsustainable, fraudsters and non tax payers we are facing vitriol and scapegoating for all the problems at this time.

In the media and in interviews about the murder of Bijan Ebrahimi interviewers have asked ‘Is it reasonable to expect at this time of financial cuts to be able to support and protect disabled people?’

My answer is absolutely Yes! for if we cannot support those in society who need support and protection what does that say about us as individuals and as a nation?

How much money does it take to do your job properly as a police officer, housing officer, MP, or judge?

No extra money at all for in this case, as in many others, it’s the poor responses to reports of hostility by disabled people to these agencies that can lead to deaths and a life of fear and abuse.

So the term used by the Nazi’s about disabled people having ‘ a life less valid’ echoes down the years as we face yet again the lack of justice for a disabled person who faced years of harassment, abuse and hostility before he was brutally murdered.

As for hate crime, I ask as many must do at this time, if Bijan’s experiences and murder cannot be recognized as a result of hate crime by the CPS and court, what can?

How much more evidence does anyone need to understand the lived experience of victims of hate crimes?

Shame on all the people who let this man down, who abused, harassed and murdered him, shame on the UK justice system for allowing such an injustice to occur and shame on those who try to ‘excuse’ such crimes by stating he was partially at fault due to making so many complaints which is what the prosecution used as a defence and shame on those who think it is unreasonable to expect such a victim to be protected.

So now across the country the question has to be asked: when is a hate crime not a hate crime?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 15:06
Nov 302013
 

DHCN have written to express their concerns about the sentencing in the recent murder case of Bijan Ebrahimi. This is their letter.

Dear Mr Grieve,

As co-ordinators of the Disability Hate Crime Network we would like the Attorney General to review the sentences handed down today to Lee James and Steven Norley in the case of Bijan Ebrahimi, a disabled Iranian man who was falsely accused of paedophila by a mob, and then burnt to death two days later in July 2013.

James pleaded guilty to murder and was given a sentence of 18 years. Norley pleaded guilty to assisting an offender and was given four years.

It is not thought that the police or the Crown Prosecution Service had asked the judge to enhance the sentence because of disability hostility, which would have meant that the judge could enhance Norley’s sentence under sec 146 of the CJA 2005 and James’s sentence under LASPO 2013 (the first of its kind). At any rate, the sentences are perceived by disabled people and other affected groups to be extremely low, given the overwhelming violence and sadism in the murder.

The reason we believe that increasing the sentences is critically important is that Mr Ebrahimi was falsely accused of paedophilia, as have been a number of other disabled murder victims, a trend first highlighted by Katharine Quarmby in her book Scapegoat (2011) and then further identified and stressed in Hidden in Plain Sight, a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, in 2011.

The report stated of the false accusation of paedophilia against disabled people that police should “recognise the high level of risk faced by disabled people who have been labelled as ‘paedophiles’. This was not done by Avon and Somerset Police – if it had been done Mr Ebrahimi would not have been returned to his flat after being threatened by a mob chanting ‘paedophile’. The report further stated that this false accusation was ‘used as a term for targeting a disabled person, sometimes with extreme violence’, as happened in the Ebrahimi case and in at least seven other prominent cases identified by Quarmby and the EHRC. As this is, therefore, a recognised form of disability hate crime we call on the Attorney General to consider enhancing these sentences as hate crimes. This would mean that the murder would be the first one to reach the 30 year starting point under LASPO for a murder motivated by hostility towards a victim’s disability. (The Disability Hate Crime Network worked with Paul Maynard MP and Kate Green MP, the Shadow Disability Minister, to help effect this reform.)

We hope that the Attorney General will urgently review these lamentably light sentences in the light of this evidence.

Yours faithfully,

Co-ordinators, the Disability Hate Crime Network

 

 Posted by at 12:43
Nov 252013
 

Independent Living Rights News (25/11/2013)

 

 

IMPORTANT NEWS FROM ITALY:

 

Significant Independent Living Rights Victory In Face Of Harsh Austerity

 

On 21 November, the ‘Comitato 16 Novembre Onlus’, which is led by severely disabled people, finally secured a long-term commitment from the Italian government that more than 300 million Euros will be invested annually in personal assistance support for disabled people living in the community following a campaign of direct action.

 

  • Interview in Italian with Mariangela Lamanna, the Comitato’s Vice President, immediately after their victory:

 

http://tv.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2013/11/21/malati-sla-letta-ripristinati-i-fondi-comitato-16-novembre-e-stata-durissima/254670/#disqus_thread

 

  • Protest held in Rome on 20 November 2013:

 

http://tv.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2013/11/20/sit-in-malati-di-sla-manifestante-si-stacca-il-respiratore-non-mi-importa-di-morire/254489/

 

 

1. Pam Duncan

 

Disability rights and anti-bedroom tax campaigner Pam Duncan, who is also an Independent Living Fund user, continues to campaign for the Labour Party’s nomination for the forthcoming Falkirk by-election. The selection meeting is on 8 December.

 

The Disability News Service has published an interview with Pam at:

 

http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2013/11/disabled-activist-could-become-first-mp-to-use-independent-living-fund/

 

And you can see videos of Pam speaking at the Scottish Labour Conference in April and talking about her life as a disabled person and personal assistance user at:

 

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EAonqvZt5oA&feature=c4-feed-u

 

http://www.iriss.org.uk/resources/pam-duncans-story-so-far

 

More info at:

 

http://pamduncan.com

 

 

2. Leading Labour Politician Comments On The Independent Living Fund

 

Leading Labour politician Margaret Beckett MP has pointed to the ‘extra burdens’ the closure of the ILF would place on local authorities.

 

In the Derby Telegraph (15/11/13) she wrote: “Just a year after we all applauded the brilliant sportsmen and women who competed in the Paralympics, many more people with disabilities….will be affected if the Government closes the Independent Living Fund.”

 

“That fund was set up when the Tory Government, under Margaret Thatcher, was cutting benefits for people with the most serious disabilities. The Independent Living Fund was set up in part to compensate for the withdrawal of those other benefits.”

 

“Today, Margaret Thatcher’s successors, working hand-in-hand with the Liberal Democrats, are trying to remove it. The Coalition claims that councils should then fund the services and support the Independent Living Fund used to provide. This would place substantial extra burdens on councils, already facing massive cuts.”

 

 

3. Independent Living Rights Appeal Court Victory

 

Independent Living Fund users who successfully challenged the government’s decision to close the Fund and the Save the ILF Campaign still do not know if Disabled People’s Minister Mike Penning will meet with them.

 

Gabriel Pepper, one of the ILF Five involved in the legal challenge who is from Waltham Forest in North London, has previously been helped by Ian Duncan Smith to secure vital health treatment when in 2001 he made representations to the Labour health minister Alan Milburn on Gabriel’s behalf.

 

http://www.yellowad.co.uk/News.cfm?id=39423&headline=GABRIEL%20IS%20DISABLED%20FUNDING%20SAVIOUR

 

Below are links to the full Appeal Court judgement in the ILF Five legal case, and the solicitors Press Release and Briefing Note:

 

http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2013/1345.html&query=bracking&method=boolean

 

http://www.scomo.com/documents/ILF_press_release-final.pdf

 

http://www.scomo.com/documents/ILF_BRIEFING_NOTE-06.11.13.pdf

 

A ‘Legal briefing on the decision in the ILF appeal’ has been produced by Louise Whitfield of Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors who acted for three of the claimants. This contains important legal advice about the Court of Appeal judgement and the legal issues the Department for Work and Pensions and Ministers must now confront.

 

http://www.deightonpierceglynn.co.uk/news/news_docs/536648%20ILF%20appeal%20legal%20briefing%20note%20LW%20Nov%202013.pdf

 

 

4. Facebook

 

As well as following the Facebook group of Disabled People Against Cuts, some disabled people active in the ILF campaign that supported the ILF legal case share information through the “Because We R Worth It!” Independent Living Facebook group.

 

 

5. Interesting Articles

 

  • Sunil Peck’s report in ‘Disability Now’ of the upbeat meeting of 120 disabled activists and allies in London on 19 November that was held to celebrate the launch of Disability History Month. This year’s theme is ‘Celebrating our Struggle for Independent Living: No Return to Institutions or Isolation’:

 

http://www.disabilitynow.org.uk/article/independence-key-disability-history-month

 

  • An article about the ILF Five’s Appeal Court victory by Rachel Salmon for the ‘Women’s Views On News’ site which features an interview with leading activist Sue Elsegood:

 

http://www.womensviewsonnews.org/2013/11/living-not-just-surviving/

 

  • An article by Mark Wilson of ProMove commenting on the calls for Esther McVey to resign:

 

http://www.promove.uk.com/blog/esther-mcvey-resignation-calls-will-do-little-to-help-disabled-people/

 

 

6. All-Party Parliamentary Disability Group (APPDG)

 

The next meeting of the APPDG is on 9 December, and Disabled People’s Minister Mike Penning will be attending. In its report ‘Promoting Independence, Preventing Crisis’ that was published jointly with the Local Government All-Party Parliamentary Group in May 2013, the APPDG adopted the following position towards the proposed closure of the Independent Living Fund:

 

“The Government should acknowledge disabled people’s concerns about the closure of the Independent Living Fund and work more closely with them to manage the closure for the 20,000 affected.”

 

The Appeal Court’s decision to quash Esther McVey’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund provides an opportunity for the APPDG to reflect on its position towards the ILF and decide whether or not to call for a long-term future for the Fund.

 

 

7. Disabled People’s Minister Mike Penning’s Comments On The ILF

 

Last week, Welsh MP Hywel Williams of Plaid Cymru tabled an ‘oral question’ on 18 November for Mike Penning about the future of the Independent Living Fund. The text below is from Hansard:

 

 

Hansard

 

“Hywel Williams (Arfon) (PC): What plans he has for the future of the independent living fund.

 

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Mike Penning): We will consider the Court of Appeal judgment carefully and will announce plans in due course.

 

Hywel Williams: I declare an interest, in that my brother is enabled to live independently in his own community by the ILF, and I am extremely grateful that that opportunity is afforded to him. Will the Minister assure the House that when the Government come to consider their future plans, there will be full consultation this time with disabled people and disability groups in Wales, the regions of England, and Scotland, and specifically with the Welsh Government?

 

Mike Penning: I greatly respect the hon. Gentleman, but the conclusions of the Court of Appeal were nothing to do with consultation. It was a process issue, in that the Court felt that the Minister had not been given enough information, based on the information that was put in writing. The Court went on to say that there was evidence that the Minister [Esther McVey] ‘consulted personally with many affected groups’ and it had ‘no doubt that evidence of hard cases would have been forcefully drawn to her attention.’ That is what the Court ruled. It had nothing to do with consultation.”

 

 

Comment:

 

Hywel Williams is the brother of an ILF user, therefore any comments he makes as an MP on this issue have the added force of being from an advocate for the interests and needs of his brother and other disabled people. By raising the veracity of the consultation, he is reflecting the disquiet among disability organisations within Wales about the initial consultation process. This disquiet is also shared in both Scotland and Northern Ireland. While the government can argue the Appeal Court ruling means the process followed during the ILF consultation was lawful, ILF users and disabled people’s organisations still have significant concerns about how it was run. Among these is the failure to publish an equality impact assessment before the consultation started, and the inability of disabled people and family carers to bring important issues and the potentially detrimental implications of the ILF’s closure to the surface.

 

In his response, Mike Penning emphasised strongly in his tone that Esther McVey’s decision to close the ILF was based on insufficient written information. This could be a reference to the DWP’s limited written interim analysis of the consultation responses that was completed on the Wednesday following the consultation deadline at midnight on Friday 12 October 2012.

 

Mike Penning’s reference to Esther McVey’s meetings with disability organisations, where it is assumed examples of ‘hard cases’ would have been raised with her in the run-up to her closure decision, is possibly an attempt to argue that at the time of the decision McVey was actually fully aware of the consequences of closure. This could be a response to some of the points made in the Appeal Court ruling and might mean a possible approach by the DWP and government would be to argue all that is needed to get back on course is a review of the ‘documentary evidence’.

 

An alternative reading might be the government is trying to put distance between McVey and the DWP’s consultation analysis to find a way of back-tracking politically. Given that the Appeal Court ruled the consultation process was lawful, this would be difficult to achieve as it would mean acknowledging the DWP’s approach to ILF users and their families during the consultation was wrong.

 Posted by at 20:37
Nov 152013
 

Don’t forget to come to the action on November 26th to protest against Fuel Poverty. meet 11.30 am at Liverpool Street station. Also here are Fuel Poverty Action’s tips to help you keep as warm as possible this winter.

Fuel Poverty Top Tips

Fuel Poverty Action has produced some resources copied below to help people keep warm. Please download and share them wherever they can be of use.

If you have stories about how disabled people are being affected by fuel poverty that you are happy to share please or would like to get involved in campaigning against the effects of fuel poverty on disabled people please contact Ellen on 07505 144371 or ellenrclifford@btinternet.com.

 

  • SOME TIPS ON HOW TO BRING DOWN YOUR FUEL BILLS
  • STRUGGLING WITH HIGH FUEL BILLS?
  • TEN THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU WERE ENTITLED TO FROM YOUR ENERGY SUPPLIER….

 

SOME TIPS ON HOW TO BRING DOWN YOUR FUEL BILLS

Produced by Fuel Poverty Action

fuelpovertyaction.org.uk | Twitter: @FuelPovAction | Facebook: Fuel Poverty Action

1.            Switch supplier

Consider switching your energy supplier, or switching your tariff from your current supplier. An easy way to do this is through consumer rights advocates uswitch. You can find the cheapest deal through uswitch online at www.uswitch.com or by telephone on 0808 178 3492.

2.            Warm Homes Discount

This is a discount of £120 off your annual energy bill. People who get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit are the core group that is eligible, receiving the discount from the government automatically. But the energy suppliers also have broader schemes for other people, each with slightly different criteria. Contact your supplier to find out whether you qualify.

3.            Insulation

•             Insulating your home is an important way to save money on your bills. Several of the energy companies offer free insulation schemes. Get in touch with your supplier to find out if you could qualify.

•             The government’s ‘Warm Front’ scheme also offers free grants to people to fund insulation and other home efficiency measures, including loft insulation, draughtproofing, cavity wall insulation and more. The government have just broadened the eligibility criteria for Warm Front- whether or not you’re eligible depends on which benefits you receive. To find out if you qualify, go to http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Environmentandgreenerliving/Energyandwatersaving/DG_10018661, call the Warm Front advice line on 0800 316 2805 or contact your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau. NB the Warm Front scheme expires at the end of October 2012 so apply as soon as possible!

•             You can try out DIY insulation-measures: insulate cold walls on the inside with special insulating wallpaper, available from DIY stores.

 

4.            Draughts

•             Fill the gap between the floor and the bottom of the wall with draught excluder strip (buy this from the DIY store) or, if you can’t get hold of it, strips of rag or rolled newspaper.

•             Fill up gaps in the floorboards with ‘plastic wood’ filler that you can buy from a DIY store or sawdust mixed with glue.

•             Buy an inside letter-box flap from a DIY store to stop draughts getting in through your letter box. Or make your own with a cloth bag fixed around the inside of the letter-box (with a hole in the bottom to retrieve the post!)

•             Fit draught excluder strips round doors and windows.

5.            Don’t overheat your homes

•             If you have gas central heating, use your room thermostat to control the heating so that you have temperatures of 18°C in most areas and 21°C in the living room.

•             Turn your heating off in the summer.

•             Set your central heating timer to switch the heating off half an hour before you leave the house or go to bed (if it’s warm enough to sleep without heating.)

•             Don’t heat rooms that you’re not using – turn the thermostats in these rooms off, and keep the doors closed.

•             Service your boiler every year – this will increase the efficiency of your heating system.

 

6.            Keep doors/windows closed

Keep doors and windows closed when you are heating your home. When you need to ventilate, for example when cooking or bathing and the room gets steamed up, close the kitchen/bathroom door so the rest of the house does not cool down and moisture does not spread and cause condensation.

7.            Think about your curtains!

•             Close your curtains at dusk to stop heat escaping through the windows.

•             Don’t let curtains overhang radiators as this funnels heat out of the room via the glass.

•             Don’t put heavy furniture, such as sofas, in front of radiators as this traps warmth and stops it from circulating round the room.

•             Open your curtains during daylight to get the heat from the sun.

8.            Hot water…

•             Take short showers not baths. Showering uses about two-fifths of the amount of hot water needed for a bath. This saves about £45 per year.

•             Don’t overheat your water. Setting the hot water cylinder thermostat to 60°C is adequate for bathing and washing.

•             Repair dripping taps and make sure taps are turned off properly.

•             Use the plug to save on hot water.

9.            Electical Applicances…

•             Buy energy efficient appliances. An energy label must, by law, be shown for most electrical appliances, with ‘A’ rated appliances the most efficient and ‘G’ rated the least efficient.

•             Turn appliances off at the socket.

10.          Cooking

•             When boiling the kettle, only boil the water that you need to use. This will save you around £25 per year.

•             Cooking with gas or in the microwave is cheaper than an electric cooker.

•             You can save on gas by cooking two or more things at once in the oven and by putting lids on saucepans.

11.          Washing…

•             Washing at 30 degrees means less money spent heating the water in the washing machine.

•             Make sure you wash full loads of clothes if possible.

•             Use the economy setting on your washing machine if you have one.

•             Tumble dryers use a lot of energy. If possible. dry clothes outside or on drying racks.

12.          Lighting…

•             Use low-energy light bulbs.

•             Make sure you turn lights off when they’re not being used.

 

 

STRUGGLING WITH HIGH FUEL BILLS?

A short guide to government schemes that could help you out…

Produced by Fuel Poverty Action.

 

The government offers several schemes that can help you with heating your home and bringing down your bills. This guide has been made to help you work out what you’re entitled to. You can find all the info online at direct.gov.uk. See the end of this guide for a full list of useful contact details.

 

There are four different government schemes to be aware of:

 

a) Warm Homes Discount Scheme – page 1-2. (Only available for older people)

b) Cold Weather Payments – page 2. (Only available if you live an area that has just experienced seven consecutive days of very cold weather).

c) Winter Fuel Payments – page 3-4. (Only available for older people)

d) Warm Front Scheme – page 4-5. (For those on low-incomes living in homes that are poorly insulated and/or do not have a properly funcitoning heating system).

 

 

WARM HOMES DISCOUNT SCHEME

The Warm Homes Discount Scheme helps some pensioners with their energy bills. In winter 2012/2013, the scheme will give those who qualify a £130 discount from their energy bills.

 

The scheme applies to pensioners who receive pension credit, which is an income-related benefit to top up a state pension. Pension credit is made up of two separate parts: Guarantee Credit and Savings Credit. You might receive just one of these or both. If you’re not sure whether you receive pension credit or which parts you receive, or if you do not already receive it but want to find out if you are entitled, call the pension credit helpline on 0800 99 1234 or visit http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Pensionsandretirementplanning/PensionCredit/

 

If you are under 80 years old, You are entitled to this discount if :

 

a) You receive the Guarantee Credit aspect of Pension Credit

AND

b) You DO NOT receive the Savings Credit aspect of Pension credit.

AND

c) Your name, or your partner’s name is on your electricity bill.

AND

d) You get your electricity from one of the following energy suppliers: Atlantic, British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, Equipower, Equigas, Manweb, M&S Energy, npower, Sainsbury’s Energy, Scottish Gas, Scottish Hydro, ScottishPower, Southern Electric, SSE, Swalec and Utility Warehouse.

 

If you are over 80 years old, you are entitled to this discount if:

 

a) You receive the Guarantee Credit aspect of Pension Credit (if you are over 80, you can receive the discount even if you receive Savings Credit as well)

AND

b) Your name, or your partner’s name is on your electricity bill.

AND

c) You get your electricity from one of the following energy suppliers: Atlantic, British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, Equipower, Equigas, Manweb, M&S Energy, npower, Sainsbury’s Energy, Scottish Gas, Scottish Hydro, ScottishPower, Southern Electric, SSE, Swalec and Utility Warehouse.

 

If you meet the conditions above you do not need to do anything now to get your discount in 2012/2013. The Government will write to all those potentially eligible for the discount in autumn 2012.

 

NB Several energy suppliers offer Warm Homes Discounts to a broader range of people beyond pensioners. To find out whether you could qualify, contact your energy supplier.

 

 

COLD WEATHER PAYMENTS

If there is a period of very cold weather in your area you may be able to get a Cold Weather Payment. A period of very cold weather is classed as when the temperature is an average of zero degrees Celsius or below over seven consecutive days in a row. The value of the payment is £25 for each seven consecutive days of cold weather.

 

You don’t need to apply for a cold weather payment – if you’re entitled, you will automatically receive this.

 

To receive a payment, you have to receive certain benefiits:

 

- If you get Pension Credit, you will usually receive a Cold Weather payment.

 

- If you receive Income Support or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, you will get Cold Weather Payments if you also have any of the following:

a) a disability or pensioner premium included in your benefit

b) a child who is disabled

c) Child Tax Credit that includes a disability or severe disability element

d) a child under five living with you

 

- If you receive income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), you will usually receive Cold Weather Payments if you also have any of the following:

a) the support or work-related component of ESA

b) a severe or enhanced disability premium included in your benefit

c) a pensioner premium included in you rbenefit

d) a child who is disabled

e) Child Tax Credit that includes a disability or severe disability element

f) A child under five living you you

 

If you think you are entitled to a Cold Weather Payment but have not received one within 14 working days of a very cold period, then contact your local pension centre or Jobcentre Plus.

 

 

WINTER FUEL PAYMENTS

The Winter Fuel Payment is paid to all households with an occupant aged over 60. The amount a household is entitled to depends upon  your personal situation, but is between £100 and £300 per winter. The payment is paid regardless of your income and you can get it if you’re still working or claiming a benefit.

 

Your household will receive this payment in winter 2012/2013 if you (or someone else living in your house) were born on or before 5 July 1951 and NONE of the following applies for the week of 17-23 September 2012:

 

- you were in hospital for more than 52 weeks previously, getting free treatment as an inpatient

- you were in custody serving a court sentence

- you were subject to immigration control and did not qualify for help from the Department for Work and Pensions

- you lived in a care home, an independent hospital or Ilford Park Polish Resettlement Home (and had done so for the previous 12 weeks or more) and you were on Pension Credit, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance

- you move to another European Economic Area country or Switzerland and didn’t qualify before you moved.

 

If you are eligible for a Winter Fuel Payment and receive any of the following, then you do not need to claim and will be paid automatically:

 

–             State Pension

–             Employment and Support Allowance

–             Income Support

–             Jobseeker’s Allowance

–             Pension Credit

–             Attendance Allowance

–             Bereavement Benefit

–             Carer’s Allowance

–             Disability Living Allowance

–             Graduated Retirement Benefit

–             Incapacity Benefit

–             Industrial Injuries Benefits

–             Severe Disablement Allowance

–             War Pension

–             Widow’s Benefit

 

If you do not receive any of the above benefits but you are eligible for a Winter Fuel Payment, then you need to claim. You can do this by downloading a claim form online at http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Pensionsandretirementplanning/Benefits/BenefitsInRetirement/DG_198331  or by requesting a claim form by calling 0845 9 15 15. If you need to claim, make sure that you have sent your claim form in to arrive on or before September 21 to get your payment before Christmas.

 

 

WARM FRONT SCHEME

The Warm Front scheme provides heating and insulation improvements to households on certain income-related benefits that are having problem with their house’s insulation and/or heating system. The scheme can provide improvements of up to £6000.

 

NB: The Warm Front Scheme is due to expire at the end of 2012, so apply for a grant as soon as possible!

 

Grants are available for improvements such as:

•             loft insulation

•             draughtproofing

•             cavity wall insulation

•             hot water tank insulation

•             gas, electric, liquid petroleum gas or oil heating

•             glass-fronted fire – the Warm Front scheme can convert your solid-fuel open fire to a glass-fronted fire

You won’t have to pay anything as long as the work doesn’t cost more than the grant available. If the cost of the work is more than the grant available you’ll have to make a contribution to enable work to go ahead. Work will not start without making sure you are willing and able to pay the difference.

 

The first condition of being eligible for a Warm Front grant is that you must live in a property that you own or rent that is poorly insulated and/or without a working central heating system.

 

Secondly, to qualify, you must receive one or more of the following benefits:

 

1. Pension Credit (Guaranteed Credit and/or Savings Credit)

 

2. Income Support or Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance with any of the following:

•             Parental responsibility for a child under 16 who ordinarily resides with that person, or a child that is 16 or over but under 20 and in full time education.

•             Child Tax Credit (which must include a disability or severe disability element for a child or young person)

•             Disabled Child Premium

•             Disability Premium (enhanced disability or severe disability element premium)

•             Pensioner Premium (higher pensioner premium or enhanced pensioner premium)

 

3. Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA IR) that includes a work related activity or support component.

 

4. Child Tax Credit with an income of £15,860 or less.

 

5. Working Tax Credit with an income of £15,860 or less and any of the following:

•             parental responsibility for a child under 16 who ordinarily resides with that person. (16 or over but under 20 and in full time education)

•             disabled worker element

•             severe disability element

•             are aged 60 years or over

 

If you are eligible for a grant, then you need to apply. You can apply online at http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Environmentandgreenerliving/Energyandwatersaving/Energygrants/DG_10018661, or apply over the phone by calling 0800 316 2805.

If your application form is succesful, you will then be visited by a Warm Front surveyor, who will measure the energy efficiency of your home. The surveyor will then make recommendations on which energy efficiency improvements are most appropriate for your home. The surveyor may find that the energy efficiency of your home is above the threshold required to benefit from the scheme. If this is the case you will not be provided with any recommendations and you will be left with details of where else you may be able to get energy advice and help. However, if the surveyor finds that the energy efficiency of your home is below the required threshold, you will receive a grant.

USEFUL CONTACT INFO.

Government advice: www.direct.gov.uk

Home Heat Helpline: useful advice service for people struggling with fuel bills. Find this online at http://www.homeheathelpline.org.uk/  or ring their free advice line on 0800 33 66 99.

Citizens’ Advice Bureau: find advice online and search for your local advice centre at http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/ or call 08444 111 444.

Energy Supplier helplines:

British Gas: 0800 072 8629

EDF: 0800 096 9966

EON: 0345 301 4875

RWEnpower: 0800 073 3000

Scottish and Southern Electricity: 0845 026 0658

Scottish Power: 0845 026 0658

This guide was produced by Fuel Poverty Action. Fuel Poverty Action are a group of people fed up with high fuel bills, rising energy company profits, government cuts, negligent landlords and dirty, polluting forms of energy. We believe that everyone has the right to affordable, clean energy and warm, affordable and secure housing. We aim to support community action to defend these rights. Get in touch with us if you’d like to find out more.

Email: fuelpovertyaction@gmail.com

Website: fuelpovertyaction.org.uk

Twitter: @FuelPovAction

Facebook: Fuel Poverty Action

 

 

TEN THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU WERE ENTITLED TO FROM YOUR ENERGY SUPPLIER….

Produced by Fuel Poverty Action

 

1) Get compensation for wasted time

You don’t have to wait in all day for a meter reader or engineer. If your energy firm needs to visit you at home, you are entitled to a two-hour appointment slot – and, should they not turn up, you are entitled to compensation of £22 for a gas or electricity appointment or £44 for both.

 

2) Know the backdate limit

If you have had your bills recalculated because of a mistake by the energy provider, there is a limit to how much they can ask you to pay up. If your usage has been underestimated, the supplier can backdate your bills for only up to 12 months. However, to avoid even a year’s worth of charges, get into the habit of providing regular meter readings to ensure you always pay the right amount.

 

3) Know your rights with price rises

If your energy provider is putting up its prices, it is required to give you 30 days’ notice and cannot implement the increase if you tell it within 15 working days that you’re leaving. And despite what the name suggests, those on fixed-rate tariffs cannot be charged an exit penalty if they switch within this time.

 

4) Payments for power cuts

If consumers lose power, they can claim compensation for power cuts from their energy distributor, rather than the supplier. If your power is out for more than 18 hours you are entitled to £54, and £27 for each additional 12 hours without power. Similarly, those who have four or more power cuts lasting three hours or more in a year should receive £54. To get your refund, contact your energy provider.

 

5) Get extra help

Pensioners and people who are disabled or chronically ill can get extra help through their supplier’s Priority Services Register. This includes free quarterly meter readings, bills in large print or Braille or bills sent to a friend or relative, and a free annual gas safety check for those in receipt of means-tested benefits.

 

6) Know the switching timetable

If you switch energy supplier in order to ensure that you are on the most competitive tariff, it should take no longer than five weeks from start to finish. This includes the two-week cooling-off period and three weeks for the switch. Keep in mind that suppliers have also committed to make switching hassle-free, so if there are any problems it is their responsibility to sort it out, not the customer’s.

 

7) Compensation for being misled

If you have had your energy supply switched to another provider without your permission, you are entitled to compensation of £250. You are also entitled to compensation if you can prove you were deliberately misled by a sales person.

 

8) Know where to get help with debt

If you get into debt, your supplier must agree repayments that are affordable for you. Some suppliers, such as British Gas, EDF and npower, also have trust funds that can help you to settle debts or other essential costs.

9) Find free insulation

Loft insulation can save you an average of £120 on your annual energy bill, but costs as much as £300 to install. Many suppliers will offer free loft and cavity wall insulation with cash incentives. For instance, E.On and EDF are offering incentives of £100 and £200 respectively to those on low incomes who register for free insulation. Contact your supplier to find out, or check out the deals that other suppliers are offering…

 

10) Remember your cooling-off period

Have you switched your tariff only to have a cheaper one launched just days later? Or maybe you felt pressurised or put on the spot by a telesales agent? Not to worry, it is not too late to change your mind. All consumers who switch energy supplier are entitled to a 14-day cooling-off period during which they can switch back without incurring any charges.

 

 

 Posted by at 18:06
Nov 042013
 

17. ATOS AND THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES 2014 That this Conference notes that sponsors of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow include Atos. Atos has been the object of sustained campaigning by disability rights activists, for its conduct of Work Capability Assessment on behalf of the Con-Dem Coalition, with goal of driving people with disabilities off benefits. Conference believes Atos should not be allowed to exploit the Commonwealth Games as a source of publicity. Conference continue to condemn the attacks on the most vulnerable in our society by the Coalition Government and their assessment provider, Atos Healthcare. Conference accepts that over 40 per cent of the assessments carried out on disability benefit claimants by the back to work assessor Atos are flawed and unacceptable. Conference welcomes the efforts of the Black Triangle Campaign, Disabled People Against Cuts ( DPAC ) and other campaigning organisations, to highlight the effects of the attacks on Scottish people and deplores that, despite Govmt claims to the contrary, the Work Capabilty and Personal Independence Payment Assessment is clearly target driven. Conference calls on the STUC Disabled Workers Committee to: lobby the Scottish Govmt to ensure that health boards resources are not being used to deliver draconian DWP assessment contracts further lobby the Scottish Government to ensure that all the assessment’ contracts have to be taken back inside the DWP write to the Board and Executive Team of Glasgow 2014, calling on them to cancel Atos sponsorship of the Games write to Glasgow City Labour Group urging them to support that Atos should not be accepted as a sponsor of the Games and support campaigning by disability rights groups against Atos sponsorship of the Games. Moved by Unite the Union. Passed Unanimously.

 Posted by at 14:41
Nov 012013
 

We have just heard that the judgement on the ILF case will be made on Wednesday morning (6 November) at 9.45 am in court 63.  We will not know the decision until then

Our ILF solicitors are advising people that it would be good to be at the Royal courts of Justice on Wednesday for the judgement .  They are contacting the press and will be putting together a press release to hand out on Wednesday morning.  The hearing will only last a couple of minutes as there will be no legal submissions, just the court staff handing over the written judgment and someone reading out the court order.

We appreciate this is really short notice and that many of you will not be able to get to court but if you can that will be great!

We will be giving more info out on Monday.

 Posted by at 17:36
Nov 012013
 

The Collapse of Access To Work Continues Leaving Nowhere To Go For Sacked Remploy Workers

mike_penningThe slump in the Government’s Access To Work scheme has continued with around a third less people benefiting from the fund, which aims to help disabled people find and stay in employment, than during its peak in 2009/10.

Access To Work provides money for support workers, transport costs or other expenses for disabled workers.  The scheme began to collapse shortly after this Government weren’t elected with the number of new starts at an all time low – standing at 9,760 individuals beginning on Access To Work  in 2011/12 compared to 16,230 just two years earlier in 2009/10.

Since then the DWP has tried furiously to plug the scheme, broadening the criteria under which people can qualify to include Work Experience along with running high profile promotional campaigns. Despite all of this, Access To Work remains a disaster under the current Government – although that hasn’t stoppedDWP big wigs boasting in the national press about how proud they are of their utter failure.

Access To Work is also available for people who are self-employed, leadingsome to speculate how many of those on the scheme have been bullied into precarious self-employment by shady Work Programme companies.  Even if this is the case, it has barely made an ounce of difference.

Just 10,390 people started receiving support in 2012/13 and this week’s figures for the first quarter of 2013/14 reveal things have barely got any better since then.  Should the dire performance continue throughout the year then less than 11,000 people are likely to start on Access To Work this year.

That’s 11,000 out of around 7 million working age disabled people in the UK.

Astonishingly the new Minister for Murdering Disabled People, Mike Penning (pictured) has hailed the latest dismal figures as a real success, claiming that a meagre 10% rise of those using the scheme over the last year is a ‘boost’ for disabled people.  Pennning doesn’t seem to have realised that 10% more of fuck all is still fuck all.  Perhaps most troubling of all, is that the accompanying gushing press release appears to tell a bare faced lie about the success of Access To Work stating that: “the recent set of statistics show the highest level of new claims since 2007 – with 10,390 new applications.”

As can be seen from the table below, the statistical release shows a very different story.

access-to-workAnd even this does not tell the full story of this Government’s abandonment of disabled workers.  Also this week came the news that two thirds of the sacked Remploy workers are still unemployed.  1,800 disabled workers at the Remploy factories have been laid off over the last couple of years with the promise that the Access To Work scheme would help them all back into the workplace.  According to The Mirror, just 535 of them have found jobs.  Further closures of most of the remaining Remploy factories are soon to take place.

The dreadful performance of Access To Work suggests two things.  Firstly that the DWP are inept and have bungled the promotion of the scheme.  Secondly that no matter how much the Government manufacture falling unemployment, for many of those who face barriers to employment, there are still no fucking jobs.

On the plus side, at least the DWP have stopped referring to disabled workers as ‘stock’ in the latest statistical release.

The latest Access To Work figures are available at:https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/access-to-work-official-statistics-october-2013

http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2013/10/26/collapse-of-access-to-work-continues7267/

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

 

 Posted by at 10:22
Nov 012013
 

Justice Alliance joined by former Liberal Democrats urging Nick Clegg to comply with the party’s wishes to halt devastating legal aid cuts

Philippe Sands, who publicly resigned his membership from the Lib Dems this year, joins representatives of the Justice Alliance outside the Lib Dem HQ in London at 10.00 am today demanding that Nick Clegg halts the government proposals to slash legal aid, in accordance with his party’s vote at conference this year. The move is supported by other high profile resigners, including Dinah Rose QC and Jo Shaw. 

Over 100 charities and organisations, including Liberty, The Children’s Society and the Howard League for Penal Reform, will join disabled ex-prisoner Daniel Roque Hall and Harriet Wistrich, lawyer for two women sexually abused by guards at Yarl’s Wood detention centre, to hand deliver a signed letter calling for an immediate halt to the legal aid cuts following the unanimous vote at conference. 

If the proposals are implemented:

  •  Unlawful government actions including those of the police and social services will go unchallenged;
  •  Vulnerable individuals, including victims of trafficking and violent offences, to be unable to access vital advice;
  • There will be serious implications for access to justice and fair trial rights;
  • Poor and unfair decisions of the state to go unchallenged;
  • It will diminish quality criminal representation.

Dinah Rose QC, former Liberal Democrat member “The protection of the right of access to justice ought to be fundamental to a party which values civil liberties. It is put in jeopardy by the Government’s proposals to implement yet more cuts on legal aid. There is no point in participating in Government unless the leadership uses the power that it undoubtedly has to prevent serious damage being done to our legal system, and to the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society.”

Matt Foot, solicitor and founder of Justice Alliance, said: “Who has stood up and supported these proposals? No-one. Time and again everyone has criticised Grayling’s proposals. Even he would not attend the debate in Parliament to defend these proposals. The truth is the government has no idea whether the proposals will work or whether it will cause total chaos. MP’s from across the political spectrum have expressed their concern at government plans which will make it hard for ordinary people to challenge the state. The recent success of the Lewisham hospital campaigners demonstrates it is vital that the government should not be permitted to act with impunity.”

Anne Hall, mother of Daniel Roque Hall, added: “’Legal aid cuts are life threatening. My severely disabled and very ill son was sent to Wormwood Scrubs despite medical concerns about his likely survival there. The prison failed, the prison complaints system was utterly ineffective and Daniel ended up unnecessarily in intensive care and hospitalised for six months. It was only through legal aid he was not sent back to Wormwood Scrubs and he was able to come home where he could be cared for safely. Legal aid saved his life.’


Leroy Skeete, writer and ex-prisoner, said: “From the age of 10 I was in and out of children’s homes. The one thing I learnt is that abuses are carried out in the dark. Legal aid shines a light and people are less likely to abuse if there is a possibility they will be exposed.”

James Welch, Liberty’s Legal Director, said: “Legal protections are meaningless if people can’t access effective legal representation.  The current proposals put justice beyond reach for the most vulnerable and put the fairness of our criminal justice system in serious jeopardy.  The Lib Dem membership have spoken out against these unjust attacks – it’s time for the leadership to listen.” 

Julene, mother of two young children “Before I had a legal aid solicitor helping me, social services would ignore me. I have two young children and we were facing eviction. I was struggling with the rent and I had no idea what to do. When I went to court they gave me a list of legal aid solicitors and told me I needed one. My solicitor sorted things out and it was only through her that we could get social services to listen. Without legal aid me and my children would be homeless. I am very worried for people like me who would be excluded from help because of the residence test.

‘Jennie’ (anonymised) young person
“I am currently destitute and struggling to support myself. Before I got legal aid I couldn’t see a way ahead. Now I have got a solicitor and she is helping me to contact social services so that I can put a roof over my head and so that I can get proper food and support. The government plans to take away the only lifeline that exists for people like me and it makes me very worried for those in my position in the future.”

According to the Justice Alliance, knock on costs of the legal aid proposals could be up to £47 million. The impact of the legal aid cuts of April this year is already being felt by the vulnerable – victims of domestic violence and trafficking are being turned away by law firms who are at breaking point.  The new proposals will make the situation far worse and severely undermine the ability of individuals including victims of torture, victims of police abuse and victims of sexual grooming to hold the state to account.

The call coincides with the end of the government consultation on its current proposals to cut legal aid and access to judicial review.  The Justice Alliance will continue to protest against the proposals and show the strength of feeling of charities and ordinary people against the proposals. 

Notes to Editors:
The Justice Alliance will deliver the signed letter at 10.00 am on Friday 1November 2013 at Lib Dem HQ, 8-10 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AE. To arrange an interview with a member of the Justice Alliance email milliegw@gmail.com07967534670 <tel:07967534670>

The Justice Alliance is an alliance of legal organisations, charities, community groups, grass roots and other campaigning groups, trade unions and individuals who are united in our opposition to the government’s proposed attack on legal aid and the criminal justice system. These legal aid proposals are part of the larger assault on essential parts of the welfare state. Visit: http://www.savelegalaid.co.uk/justicealliance #nomandatenocuts 

Figures for knock-on costs are from Nick Armstrong cost figures of legal aid proposals found herehttp://legalaidchanges.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/jchr-sub-130925.pdf 

Media contact For more information contact milliegw@gmail.com 07967534670 <tel:07967534670>  

 Posted by at 10:17
Oct 292013
 

You are invited to the launch of UK Disability History Month 2013

Celebrating Our Struggle for Independent Living: No Return to the Institution or Isolation.     

Tuesday 19th November 2013

 5.30 (6pm start) – 8pm

Abbey Community Centre, 34 Great Smith Street, London SW1 P3BU

                                                                       Speakers

Christine Blower, General Secretary NUT

                                                          Liz Carr, Comedian

Jackie Downer, CEO The Quality Company

Kirsten Hearn, Chair Inclusion London

Prof.Mike Oliver, Writer

Prof. Jan Walmsley, History of Learning Difficulty

Chair-Richard Rieser, Coordinator UKDHM

Light refreshments will be provided.

Launch Co-sponsored National Union of Teachers

Please RSVP to info@ukdisabilityhistorymonth.com or call 07907346273

 Posted by at 20:48
Oct 292013
 

Before you can appeal to a benefit tribunal, you’ll need to try and resolve your dispute with the DWP. 

Introduction – What is changing 

The appeals process is changing in 2013 so that more disputes against DWP
decisions can be resolved without the need for referral to Her Majesty’s Courts and
Tribunals Service (HMCTS). DWP is committed to preventing disputes, reducing the
escalation of disputes, resolving disputes and learning from disputes. From April
2013 DWP began to introduce changes which were part of the Welfare Reform Act
2012.

What are the changes? 

DWP will reconsider all decisions before an appeal. This change will mean that if
someone disputes a decision, they will need to ask DWP to reconsider the decision
before they can appeal to HMCTS. This is known as “mandatory reconsideration”.
The change aims to encourage people to provide additional evidence earlier in the
process. Resolving disputes without the need for an appeal should also help ensure
that people receive the right decision earlier in the process.

There is no time limit to how long this can take and no payments while it happens.

Appeals to be made directly to HMCTS. This change will mean that, after DWP has
reconsidered a decision, if someone still disputes the decision and wishes to appeal,
they must send their appeal directly to HMCTS. This is known as “direct
lodgement”. It will bring the process for Social Security and child maintenance
appeals into line with other major tribunal jurisdictions handled by HMCTS.

Time limits for DWP to return responses to HMCTS. DWP has agreed with the
Tribunal Procedure Committee to introduce time limits to stipulate how long DWP has
to respond to an individual appeal. Their introduction will mean that DWP will have 28
calendar days to provide an appeal response in benefits cases, and 42 calendar
days in child maintenance cases.

When will these changes be introduced? 

DWP introduced all three changes for Personal Independence Payment and
Universal Credit in April 2013.

The changes will be introduced for all other DWP-administered benefits and child
maintenance cases from 28 Octobhttp://images.proboards.com/v5/images/bbcode/bold.pnger 2013, and DWP will begin to report against the
time limits from October 2014.

More information about Appeals Reform is available at www.gov.uk.

Background – The case for change 

Why is mandatory reconsideration being introduced? 

DWP say the main reasons for introducing mandatory reconsideration are to:

• resolve disputes as early as possible;
• reduce unnecessary demand on HMCTS by resolving more disputes internally;
• consider revising a decision where appropriate;
• provide a full explanation of the decision; and
• encourage claimants to identify and provide any additional evidence that may affect
the decision, so that they receive a correct decision at the earliest opportunity.

Mandatory reconsideration allows them to look again at their decisions again.

The mandatory reconsideration process will involve an outbound call from decision
makers, to talk through disputed decisions with claimants and invite them to provide
any additional evidence at the earliest opportunity. Then, where appropriate, they can
change their decision at the earliest possible point rather than having to go through a
long and costly appeals process.

Why is direct lodgement being introduced? 

The main reasons for introducing direct lodgement are to:

• align the appeals process for Social Security and child maintenance appeals with
other major jurisdictions handled by HMCTS;
• make sure that DWP is no longer involved in the administration of appeals, and can
focus on its key role as a party to appeals; and
• speed up and clarify the appeals process.

The current process, where people submit their appeal to DWP and it then transfers
to HMCTS, can cause delays in arranging tribunals, and confusion for people who
may not realise which organisation is responsible for their appeal at any given point.

Why are time limits being introduced? 

The aim of time limits is to improve customer service by giving people a timeframe
within which they can expect DWP to provide the response to an individual appeal.

In addition, the change will bring DWP into line with other departments that are
already subject to time limits when submitting appeal responses to HMCTS.

 

 

 Posted by at 19:31
Oct 282013
 

 I am writing to you from a BAFTA award winning independent TV production company called Nine Lives Media and we are currently making a documentary for television broadcast about mobility scooters.  We are working with a company called Parkgate Mobility who have mobility shops based in South Yorkshire, Chesterfield and Derbyshire and are currently filming with some of their staff members and customers to reveal the stories of those who depend on their scooters to be able to lead an independent life.

One of the stories we would like to cover in the documentary is the changes in Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payments.  Our aim is to follow some people who use their benefit payments in order to lease a mobility scooter and are due to be reassessed under the new PIP criteria, but are worried that if their payments are decreased they may lose their scooter.  We would like to show how these changes affect those who rely on their benefits and their scooters to be able to get around by following them through the whole process.  I believe that from October current claimants whose fixed term DLA is coming to an end will start to be reassessed.  I was wondering whether DPAC might be interested in helping us find some people who would like to tell their story on camera and are due to be reassessed for the PIP payments?

As a company, we regularly make programmes for the BBC, Channel Four and Channel Five.  Our most recent documentary for BBC One was called ‘Pound Shop Wars’, and followed two family run pound store chains as they compete against each other to rule the high streets.  The documentary attracted ratings of 4.5 million making it one of the highest rating new factual programmes of the year.   Another hit documentary, which we made for BBC Three was Small Teen Big World.  The documentary followed a teenager called Jazz who has restricted growth and was so popular that we also made a four part series following Jazz’s life.   The series was rated in BBC Audience Research as the most inspiring, most entertaining, most innovative and most ‘fresh and new’ factual series to be broadcast on BBC Three that year.

We also won a BAFTA for one of our latest documentaries for CBBC called ‘Me, My Dad & His Kidney’ which followed the story of a 9 year old boy called Raphael who developed a one in a million medical condition which left him fighting for his life.  The programme followed his journey as his dad donates his kidney to him and received the biggest audience ratings for the strand, showing we have a track record of making popular and engaging films.

If you can help contact kayleigh.smith@ninelivesmedia.co.uk

cid:image001.png@01CBD1DE.1DD95B80  KAYLEIGH SMITH  I  Assistant Producer

NINE LIVES MEDIA

INVICTA HOUSE, 2-4 ATKINSON STREET

MANCHESTER, M3 3HH

TEL:          +44 (0)161 832 2007

FAX:         +44 (0)161 832 2003

TWITTER:  @NineLivesMedia

www.ninelivesmedia.co.uk

kayleigh.smith@ninelivesmedia.co.uk

 Posted by at 13:32
15 queries in 3.506 seconds.