Linda

Mar 092014
 

We told MPs we’d be watching to see who went to the WOW debate in parliament so we’re gratfeul to John Pring for permission to reproduce this article which shows how few MPs were there and outlines various excuses.

News story by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

8 th Mar 2014

MPs’ excuses for missing ‘historic’ debate lack the WOW factor

By john pring

The low turnout by MPs in for the WOW petition will damage efforts to persuade the public to engage with politics and politicians, according to the campaign’s organisers.

Backbench MPs agreed to hold the debate – which focused on the need to assess the overall impact of the government’s welfare reforms on disabled people, and calls to scrap the “fitness for work” test – after more than 100,000 people added their names to an e-petition created by the War On Welfare (WOW) campaign.

It was the first time that disabled people had secured a debate in the main Commons chamber on an agenda they had chosen themselves.

But there was frustration at the low turnout among MPs, particularly on the government benches.

Disability News Service (DNS) tried this week to contact some of the MPs who hold positions on disability-related all-party parliamentary groups to ask why so many of them stayed away from the WOW debate.

A spokesman for Robert Buckland, the Conservative MP and chair of the all-party autism group, said he had attended instead the speech given in parliament by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.

Her speech finished by 12.45pm, while the WOW debate continued until 2.30pm.

Buckland’s spokesman said the MP “then had childcare issues back at home so had to return to the constituency quite early”.

He said: “He has a long-standing interest in disability issues. He had an interest in the topic but unfortunately just because of his diary on the day was unable to attend.”

John Woodcock, the Labour vice-chair of the all-party group on young disabled people, said he had been attending a foreign policy conference in Sussex, but he insisted that he remained “really committed to working closely with disabled people and campaigning organisations on furthering this agenda”.

Paul Burstow, the Liberal Democrat former care services minister, had meetings with ministers about the care bill, and then chaired a meeting of the CentreForum Mental Health Commission.

A spokeswoman for Burstow said he had “a particularly busy day last Thursday, otherwise I am pretty certain he would have gone to that debate. He was literally in and out of meetings.”

Annette Brooke, the Liberal Democrat MP and vice-chair of the autism all-party group, was unable to attend the WOW debate because she was in her Mid Dorset and North Poole constituency, but her spokeswoman said she had been “very active recently in her role on autism”.

She said: “Unfortunately with backbench debates on Thursday, MPs are sometimes not able to participate in debates which they are really keen to speak in as they have to head back to the constituency.”

But the Labour MP Russell Brown, secretary of the autism group, who attended part of the debate but was not able to speak due to other parliamentary commitments, said that party whips will have made clear to MPs that they are supposed to be working in parliament throughout most of Thursdays, at least until mid-afternoon.

He said: “You shouldn’t make arrangements for constituency business when you know… that you should be in parliament.”

He said it was “not a reasonable excuse to say it is a long-standing engagement”, although parliamentary-related business, such as a constituency visit from a government minister, was probably an acceptable excuse.

Sir Malcolm Bruce, the Liberal Democrat chair of the all-party deafness group, was unable to attend the debate because of a ministerial visit to his Gordon constituency in Scotland.

But Charlotte Leslie, treasurer of the autism group and Conservative MP for BristolNorth West, said she had had “back-to-back meetings and then had to make it back to the constituency in the early afternoon for constituency commitments”.

She said: “As I am sure you know, an MP’s diary can get booked up many months in advance.

“We do not get notice of debate dates until a couple of weeks in advance, and it is not always possible to rearrange several hours of meetings, since many people have made huge efforts and re-arranged their own schedules to be able to make the date to see me.”

But she said she had read some of the WOW debate online.

The disabled Conservative MP Paul Maynard was unable to attend the debate because as parliamentary private secretary to the Cabinet Office minister for government policy, Oliver Letwin, he had to attend two sessions of the deregulation bill committee.

Other MPs who hold positions on disability-related all-party groups, and who apparently failed to attend the WOW petition debate, and have so far failed to respond to DNS enquiries, include Conservatives Chris Skidmore, Stephen Phillips, Sir Peter Bottomley and James Morris, Labour MPs Tom Clarke, Rosie Cooper, Jonathan Reynolds and Robert Flello, and the disabled Liberal Democrat Stephen Lloyd.

In all, 21 Labour MPs spoke in the debate (8.2 per cent of the parliamentary party), five Conservative MPs (1.7 per cent), two Liberal Democrats (3.6 per cent), one of the six MPs from the SNP (16.7 per cent), the only Green MP, Caroline Lucas, but none of the three MPs from Plaid Cymru.

Rick Burgess, a co-founder of the WOW campaign, said: “MPs constantly say they want people to engage with politics. We engaged with politics and look how few of them engaged with us!

“We did what they asked. We did the petition, we engaged with them. On the day, it didn’t feel like we were welcome.”

Ian Jones, another co-founder of the WOW campaign, said his MP, Theresa May, had said she could not attend the debate because of her ministerial responsibilities as home secretary.

But he said she and other MPs should have attended the debate because it was “an historical event”, the first time that disabled activists had secured a debate in the main Commons chamber.

He said: “To have any respect for the e-petition system, when people actually get together and get the 100,000 signatures, the MPs should take it seriously and debate it.

“It just seemed to me that the Tories were just paying lip service.”

6 March 2014

 

 Posted by at 15:45
Feb 202014
 

Bedroom tax appeal judgment

Vigil outside Royal Courts of Justice: 9.15am Friday 21 February

Disabled people and supporters will gather outside the Royal Courts of Justice on Friday morning as the Court of Appeal delivers its judgment in the ‘bedroom tax’ legal challenge.

Under new Housing Benefit rules introduced in 1 April 2013, persons deemed to have 1 spare bedroom have had their housing benefit reduced by 14% and persons deemed to have 2, or more, spare bedrooms have had their housing benefit reduced by 25%. This bedroom tax or ‘removal of spare room subsidy’ as the government prefers to call it, has had a devastating impact with two thirds of those households affected containing a disabled person.

Last year 10 claimants represented by 3 law firms, argued the new rules discriminate against disabled people. In July 2013 the High Court accepted that they are discriminatory, however decided that the discrimination was justified and therefore lawful in cases concerning disabled adults, although not in cases of disabled children unable to share a bedroom because of their impairments.

Lawyers for disabled adults went to the Court of Appeal, arguing that the discriminatory impact of the measure on disabled people cannot be justified and is unlawful. Lawyers for disabled children and their families also appealed the earlier ruling because the Government has failed to provide a date by which it will implement the high court judgment meanwhile despite the judgement families with disabled children who cannot share rooms because of their impairments are still subject to the bedroom tax.

Evidence of the injustice of the bedroom tax is widespread with families falling into arrears and at threat of eviction. A report by the Papworth trust found that 1 in 3 disabled people hit by the bedroom tax have been refused the Discretionary Housing Payment so far and of those, 9 in 10 disabled people are cutting back on food or bills. There has been at least one suicide as a direct consequence of the distress caused by the new Housing Benefit regulations.

Grassroots campaigns have presented consistent opposition to the hated tax. In April last year a group of disabled activists and supporters from DPAC and UKUncut travelled to Iain Duncan Smith’s mansion in Buckinghamshire to present an under-occupation eviction notice and enjoy an uninvited picnic in his extensive grounds. There have been a series of legal rulings highlighting the unfairness of this poorly thought out and unworkable measure.

We say that no one should have to move and the answer is to build more social housing. A legal victory against this rotten policy would highlight how unworkable and unfair the government’s so-called welfare reforms really are.

The vigil has been called by the Anti Bedroom Tax Federation and Disabled People Against Cuts.

The judgment is due to be given in court room 72 at 9.55am.

 

 

Notes for editors

1) Two thirds of the people affected by the bedroom tax nationally (around 420,000 out of 660,000) are disabled people

2) The challenge against the government was brought by 10 families through a three day hearing from 15 to 18 May: http://www.leighday.co.uk/News/2013/May-2013/Bedroom-Tax-Challenge-at-the-High-Court-(1)

3) Aragon Housing published a report on the first 100 days of the bedroom tax that evidences the disproportionate impact on disabled people as many other issues that make it unworkable

4)  In December it emerged that a loophole had been identified whereby anyone receiving Housing Benefit continuously since before 1996 should be exempt and in January the government had to publish official guidance acknowledging this. A recent Upper Tribunal ruling that defined the term ‘bedroom’ using the plain dictionary meaning also implications for implementation of the bedroom tax.

http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/regulation/full-details-of-first-bedroom-tax-tribunal-rulings/6528701.article?PageNo=1&PageSize=50

http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/housing_benefit_and_local_housing_allowance/changes_to_housing_benefit/bedroom_tax_loophole

http://www.innertemplelibrary.com/2014/01/upper-tribunal-on-bedrooms-nearlylegal/

5) Disabled People Against Cuts is a national campaign led by disabled people, set up to oppose the government’s attacks being carried out in the name of welfare reform. For more information see http://www.dpac.uk.net

6) The Anti-Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation is a federation of anti bedroom tax and benefit justice campaigns across England and Wales. We were formed in May 2013 shortly after the launch of the Scotland Anti Bedroom Tax Federation. For more information see: http://www.antibedroomtax.org.uk

 

 

 Posted by at 12:34
Feb 182014
 

It was amazing to see so many people at the meeting last night. There was no doubt that everyone there was strongly against introduce these dangerous weapons to a police force we can’t trust.

In case you weren’t there, last night Dietrich Wagner, a German pensioner blinded by a water cannon, visited the official public meeting on water cannon and warned about the life changing dangers they will pose to Londoners.

Dietrich was also able to tell the media his story and everyone from Channel 4, ITV to the BBC shared his warning about water cannon with the UK public. Even the Daily Mail wrote a strongly anti-water cannon article and published his quote that ‘The use of water cannon is akin to the breakdown of the democratic process.’

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2561709/Dont-deploy-water-cannon-blind-victim-urges-police-Pensioner-says-wants-make-people-aware-lethal-controversial-weapon-is.html

There is 10 days left of the “engagement” process before Boris decides whether to push for them so if you haven’t already then tell them what you think at: watercannonengagement@mopac.london.gov.uk

We heard from Jenny Jones that the Met and Boris hell bent on introducing them so the campaign needs to build from here. Please share this image and help build the movement against these deadly weapons.

Other media coverage:
http://notowatercannon.wordpress.com/media-coverage/

We’ve also got a Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/No-Water-Cannon-on-Our-Streets/1438349739735074

Feb 162014
 

The WOW petition debate which has been supported by John McDonnell MP will take place on Thursday 27th February 2014 around 11.30 am at the House of Commons chamber.

Please contact your MP to ask them to attend this important debate. You can find your MP’s email details at www.parliament.uk

You may want to remind your MP that as we are approaching an election in the not too distant future you will be monitoring to see whether they attend or not on your behalf.

Template letter mainly taken from WOW

http://wowpetition.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/draft-letter-to-mps-option-2.html

Dear …..

I am writing as your constituent to ask you to represent my views in Parliament.

I support a government e-petition, the WOW petition, which passed the 100,000 signature mark, and on the 10th December 2013 and was granted a full chamber debate by the Back Bench Business Committee in the New Year. This in itself is a historic event as it is the first time in the history of this country that disabled people have secured a Main Chamber debate.

The petition calls for a cumulative impact assessment of welfare reform as it affects disabled people and those with a long term health condition as well as family carers, and an end to the Work Capability Assessment, as demanded by the British Medical Association.

==================

Please add a personal message here to illustrate how this Government’s Policies are either directly affecting you, your family, people you know or society and why you believe the Government should properly debate their policies, the effect they are having and the hardship they are causing to specifically targeted groups with UK society. 

==================

I know you are very busy, but please allow me to present some evidence to support the need for these measures.

The Welfare Reform Act  was promoted as the biggest shake up in welfare for 60 years, so it was extraordinary that no assessment was carried out on how it would affect disabled people. I believe the government now needs to take stock, and face the fact that disabled people have been caused great distress and hardship by measure such as the Work Capability Assessment, bedroom tax, the twenty per cent cut in the budget for Disability Living Allowance, the closure of the Independent Living Fund to new applicants, and many more measures. The think tank Demos has calculated that disabled people, already more likely to be living in poverty, will lose around £28 billion over five years. This hardly seems to be sharing the burden of austerity fairly.

As for the Work Capability Assessments, these have been a disaster. The British Medical Association last year called for them to be scrapped with immediate effect. Parkinson’s UK’s research found that almost half of people with a progressive illness, when assessed, are told they will get better and placed in the Work Related Activity Group. This means they are required to prepare for work, and if they are unable to do what is required of them can be sanctioned leaving them with no income. Please remember these are people with Parkinsons Disease and other progressive illnesses.

As my representative in Parliament I am requesting that you attend and speak at this debate so that your constituents and I can understand your views on government policy towards disabled people.

I would also like to add that we are quickly approaching national elections and I and your other disabled constituents will be watching how you are willing to support us very closely.

Yours sincerely,

 Posted by at 21:23
Feb 132014
 

Independent living amendment – One more chance to get independent living included in the Care Bill but we have to act now!

Just email the template letter below to you 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/

Encourage your users/members to send the letter too.

If you need more information please don’t hesitate to contact Henrietta.doyle@inclusionlondon.co.uk

Many thanks for your action!

Henrietta

Here’s the template letter:

Dear (Name of your MP)

Please write to the Minister of Care, Norman Lamb to ask him to put forward the Clause below as a Government amendment to the Care Bill 2013 at Commons’ Report Stage:

Clause 1, page 2, after line 1, insert:

“(j) the right to living independently and being included in the community.”

This Clause, which was recommended by Joint Committee on Human Rights, will provide for a free-standing right to independent living that could be directly enforceable by individuals in domestic law.

Why is the amendment needed?

The Government has not included the right to independent living in the Care Bill, believing that the duty to promote Well-being covers this vital right. However, although the current ‘well-being’ definition in the Care Bill 2013 does incorporate some aspects of independent living, it leaves out vital independent living concepts of equality, choice, access, inclusion, rights and equal participation.

This is supported by Law Society’s response to the Care Bill, which points to the limitations of the well-being principle saying that “the failure to reference the right to independent living as central to the provision prevents the necessary approach to the individual and their specific needs”.

The lived experiences of disabled people overwhelmingly support the need for a free-standing, enforceable right to living independently and being included in the community, because support in many areas is being cut to a clean and feed model of care, which prevents participation in the community and an active life. This situation will become even more urgent if the closure of the Independent Living Fund goes ahead: Local Authorities will be responsible for those with highest care and support levels of need, at a time when Council’s support packages are being cut to the bone, with the consequence that disabled people are increasingly denied equal life chances and quality of life.

We need independent living and being included in the community in the Care Bill to ensure the full and equal participation of disabled people as much as the well-being of the individual.

We agree with the Joint Committee that the Care Bill is the most appropriate opportunity for the Government to provide the necessary legislative underpinning of the right to independent living as enshrined in Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

We would also like to highlight that the judgement on the Independent Living Fund (ILF) which raised the need for the Minister to consider the UK’s obligations under Article 19 when making the decision on the closure of the ILF.

I urge you to ask the Government to bring forward the amendment above at Report Stage of the Care Bill 2013.

Regards,
(Your name and organisation)
References:

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/joint-select/human-rights-committee/news/care-bill-substantive/

2http://www.inclusionlondon.co.uk/domains/inclusionlondon.co.uk/local/media/downloads/Bracking_v_DWP_4.5_draft.pdf

3 http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=259

 Posted by at 12:01
Feb 112014
 

https://www.facebook.com/notes/tismes-page/atos-assessments-update/480168792087405

 ATOS assessments in East Anglia are at Critical levels.

Last week, a meeting held at ATOS the CEO told staff there that face-to-face home assessments were now at such level that 80,000 people across the UK are waiting for them alone.  This is JUST home visits – it does not include those people who are waiting for assessments at Assessment Centres.

The DWP are warning people it could be 6 month to a year before you will be seen for ATOS assessments and even longer to get a decision on your benefit application.  The DWP informed me in late October that they were “just starting to process May applications” and when I rang last week they were now “only just starting to process end of May/June” applications – nothing has moved in 4 months!

Yesterday management at ATOS had a CRISIS meeting in the morning which lasted over 3 hours.  ATOS is drafting people to Norwich and Ipswich from all over the country as a matter or urgency.  Yesterday they announced that every one is going to get a home visit.

Figures have emerged that the backlog has reached 40,000 in Norfolk/Suffolk area alone!

ATOS assessors are REQUIRED to now carry out 44 assessments a day in centres and 4 home visits a day per person.  However, it takes 2 hours to do paperwork per person to write report but ATOS staff are only being given 35 minutes to write reports!

Monday morning an email was circulated from “on high” – a new DWP directive was put out.   ‘We are looking at achieving’ a Fail rate 65%!

There are fewer Drs on PIP assessments than for ESA but these Drs and nurses are rebelling and putting their foot down and demanding duty of care protocols are followed!  The UK floods are only adding to the pressure and staff are deeply concerned that disabled people in flood areas are not only being left to cope with the aftermath of flooding with no support but because their benefits are being held up due to this non-assessment situation, there is going to be a MASS Starvation situation unless these benefits are sorted out ASAP.

ATOS is aware of problems but only looking at it from a Business needs perspective and not putting the right training protocols into place.  Staff are only getting 2 days PBR training (should be a week) – and only thinking of getting the queue down but all that is happening is that the queue is being shifted from one area to another.

There is good news though:  ATOS are being inundated with customer service calls.

The more people who ring the more pressure that gets put on ATOS to do assessments.

This then puts pressure on ATOS to pressurise DWP in turn to give more resources to get assessments done.

What you can do:

CALL ATOS today and COMPLAIN if you have been waiting MORE than 3 months for an assessment.  If you contact your GP and get your GP to chase you will get a Home Assessment.  If you have applied for PIP more than 4 months ago, if you ask your GP for a home visit you will be given one within 14 days!

Contact your MP and get them to ring ATOS with your NI and DOB.  This will bring extra impetus on ATOS to get your assessment moving.  Call your MP today tell them how long delay is – this is only way you will be seen before June.  People who are chased up by MPs say they are going to top of list.

PLEASE PLEASE SHARE THIS NOTE!  Get the word out – get people complaining.  This is the only way that people are going to get their assessments.

To apply for PIP 0800 917 2222

PIP Processing Centre no. (To check on PIP Claim progress):  0845 850 3322

ATOS:  0300 3300121

DLA is still 08457 123456

 Posted by at 20:15
Feb 112014
 
bromley DPAC will be presenting the bedroom tax to bromley council on Monday 24th February 2014 at bromley council full budget meeting at 7 pm. This meeting will also announce the next round of cuts that will affect Bromley residents.
Meeting takes place. Bromley Civic Centre
Stockwell close
Bromley, Kent BR1 3UH.
Main council chamber.
nearest train station is Bromley South…(disabled access is availlable for wheelchair users or people with mobililty issues)
Buses 61,208.161, 358, 126 all go to the stop opposite the civic centre..

 

 Posted by at 20:11
Feb 032014
 

BREAKING: 2/3 women, 87% long-term sick or disabled and 1 in 6 carers will be affected by change to Bedroom Tax pre-1996 exemption

An article by Joe Halewood, who has been the most vocal and articulate opponent of the bedroom tax, throws light on what the changes intended by the government following the discovery of  the Bedroom Tax pre 1996 exemption will mean for the people affected. This exemption means that tenants who have been continuously entitled to Housing Benefit since at least 1 January 1996 and who have occupied the same dwelling since that date are exempt from the bedroom tax.

Joe Halewood, a Housing Consultant, has been working with Reclaim, a local grassroot organisation which in December asked pre-1996 tenants to email them with their initials and their post code.

The results for the first 250 or so households which were unlawfully hit with this pre-1996 bedroom tax are as follows:

  • Two-thirds were women
  • 87% were long-term sick or disabled
  • One in six were carers for a family member 

These are the kind of figures IDS would not want you to know and they explain why he is in such a rush to change the law.  These figures are unlikely to change as more data is gathered. Disabled people who had their homes adapted to fit their needs are not likely to move, which explains why 87% of them will be hit by a change to the pre-1996 housing rule.

It is possible to bring pressure to bear on this government and on MPs by alerting public opinion on the impact this change will have for people who are least likely to find a job to offset the cost of the bedroom tax.

Joe Halewood’s article is here:  http://speye.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/cover-your-cock-up-ids-and-no-we-wont-be-on-our-knees/

 

 

 Posted by at 13:42
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
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