Linda

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
Oct 282013
 
Have you brought extra medical evidence to your WCA only for the assessor to refuse to look at it? I’m a severely disabled person hoping to write an article about this for Disability Now and would love to hear from you if you’ve had this experience. I’d also be grateful to hear from any Atos employees who have refused evidence for whatever reason. You can contact me, Anoushka,
at  anoushka.alexander@yahoo.co.uk
I won’t use any details you don’t want me to.”

 

 Posted by at 13:26
Oct 272013
 

Suffolk Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)

10,000 cuts and counting

A day of protest at the Job Centre and ATOS Assessment Centre, St Felix House, Silent Street, Ipswich, IP1 1TF

Tuesday 5th November 2013, 11.30am – 1pm

Suffolk DPAC is demonstrating today to highlight  the deaths of 10,000 sick and disabled people who died during and after taking the Work Capability Assessments carried out by ATOS and the Department for Work and Pensions.

The Assessment is degrading and sets up people to fail – even when they have serious illnesses and major disabilities and it results in people having their benefit stopped.  Most succeed when they challenge the findings but this can take many months and people’s health is damaged by the experience.

The government is trying to turn the clock back to Victorian times by encouraging inaccurate and offensive attitudes towards disabled people.  Labelling us as scroungers while doing nothing to address the real problems like the lack of proper jobs, high housing costs and the reluctance of employers to employ people with a disability.

The Work Capability Assessment is just one of many attacks on people on benefit and which are causing hardship and misery.

We demand the Coalition Government:

·         Scraps the Work Capability Assessment

·         Scraps the wasteful and punitive Work Programme which also pays millions to private companies.

·         Stops unpaid work for benefit claimants – if work needs doing, people should be paid for doing it.  Unpaid work takes away work from workers and undermines wages.

·         Stops unjustified, deliberate sanctioning of benefit claimants.

·         Stops further cuts in benefits.

·         Benefit claimants did not cause the financial crisis or the public spending deficit.

“The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped”.Hubert H Humphrey . Former US Vice President.

Contact : dpacsuffolk@yahoo.com or  suffolkpeoplesassembly@runbox.com

 Posted by at 17:04
Oct 272013
 

Just Fair Consortium Independent Living Event

House of Commons, November 26th 4-6pm.

This event will be attended by the UN special rapporteur for disability Mr. Shuaib Chalklen who will give a keynote address to MPs and Lords.

Plus the new minister for disabled people, Mike Penning and shadow minister Kate Green will be attending.

DPAC will also be involved in supporting this and we hope providing some work through Theatre of the Oppressed plus we hope some film linked to the loss of independent living and ILF. (tbc)

Information about the theatre presentation is in this link.

http://dpac.uk.net/2013/10/dramatic-presentation-at-report-launch-dignity-and-equal-opportunity-securing-the-human-rights-of-disabled-people-in-an-age-of-austerity/

As the UN special rapporteur will be at this event we hope as many of you as possible will come along and also speak out about how your right to independent living whether through closure of ILF, local authority care and support cuts or other aspects of welfare reform are or will affect you. This is your chance to get your voices and fears heard and to help show what the government attacks are doing to disabled people in the UK.

You will need to arrive at the House of Commons around 30 minutes before the start to get through security and if necessary to a committee room although I am assuming the event will be in the Central lobby due to the theatre event.

This is what Jonathan has said about the event to the rapporteur.

On behalf of the Just Fair Consortium, it is my pleasure to invite you to present a keynote address at the launch of the Just Fair Consortium report on “Securing the Right to Independent Living in the Austerity Era” in the Houses of Parliament (Westminster, London) on Tuesday November 26th 2013 at 4pm. (Please see below for further information on the Just Fair Consortium)

The report will focus on the UK’s realisation of the rights contained in the UNCRPD, and will put forth a series of recommendations to the UK government, which will enable them to better protect the UNCRPD in the UK. Following on from the report, the Just Fair Consortium will engage with the upcoming UNCPRD UK review by drafting a civil society parallel report, to be submitted to the UN in 2015.

Disabled people are leading on all elements of the research, including selection of the report theme and sub-issues, submission of real-life case-studies, contribution of statistical analysis and presentation of testimony evidence at the November report launch. The event will enable disabled people’s organisations, MPs, Peers, the media and sick and disabled people to discuss the challenges and opportunities for better securing the right to independent living in the UK.

As the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Disabled People, and the world’s leading expert on equality and the rights of disabled people, particularly the right to independent living, we feel that your keynote address will offer essential and timely guidance for the UK Government, Parliament, members of the media and civil society more generally. In light of this, the Consortium are very keen to work closely you in order to better realise the UNCRPD in the UK.

Please do let us know if you require any further information with regards to the event, and we look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience. Please reply to Jonathan Butterworth (Just Fair Director) at jbutterworth@just-fair.co.uk

 

 

 

 Posted by at 17:01
Oct 222013
 

Save staff on London Transport

The Mayor of London is enthusiastically supporting government cuts to the budget of Transport for London by planning to:
  • Close all ticket offices on London Underground
  • Cut other tube staff
  • Remove guards from London Overground trains

There could also be cuts to tube maintenance and he even supports driverless trains. The Mayor wants an automated London transport system with fewer staff around to help us passengers.

Surveys consistently show that passengers want to see staff on their tubes, trains and stations. This is particularly true for passengers with mobility, access and personal safety and security needs, like disabled passengers, women and older people.

Despite fares rising, Boris Johnson wants to close ticket offices, cut other tube staff and remove guards from London Overground trains, hurting you the passenger and customer.

Help us fight these proposals.

You can email Boris Johnson and Peter Hendy from Transport for London using the link on Action fo Rail website and let them know that you want staff on London transport. http://campaign.actionforrail.org/page/speakout/save-staff-on-london-transport

And show your support by joining us on Wednesday 23 October at the following London Underground stations:

  • Oxford Circus – 8am and 2pm
  • Baker Street – 8am
  • Tottenham Court Road – 8am
  • Leytonstone – 8am
  • Euston – 12noon
  • Finsbury Park – 5pm
  • Stratford – 8am
  • Elephant and Castle - 8am
  • Wembley Park – 3pm
  • Morden – 9am
  • Liverpool Street – 8am
  • Kings Cross -12pm

- See more at: http://actionforrail.org/save-staff-on-london-transport/#sthash.cpLTh4Eg.dpuf

 Posted by at 14:06
Oct 072013
 

As all of you will no doubt be aware, Black Triangle and our sister organisation Disabled People Against Cuts have assembled a first-class legal team to take forward legal action against Local Medical Committees and individual GPs who have launched a disgraceful ‘Just Say No’ to providing Further Medical Evidence Campaign.

This campaign seeks to persuade GPs to deny sick and/or disabled patients the Further Medical Evidence (FME) required to support their ESA applications and achieve justice before First-Tier Social Security Appeals Tribunals.

We have already identified a number of cases with “standing”.

Our law requires that the party, or parties bringing a case before the courts must demonstrate:

“sufficient interest in the matter to which the application relates”

i.e.

“an individual who is directly affected by a decision or other measure” who will on that basis have a “sufficient interest”.

In our case, this means anyone who has requested FME from their GP to support their case with the DWP and has been refused (Their refusal to provide FME is the matter to which our legal action relates).

We now invite as many of you as possible who have been refused FME under this policy to make contact with us immediately so we can progress our case further, in the most legally watertight manner achievable, without further delay.

Sick and/or disabled people deserve and have an absolute right to expect better than this from our medical professionals.

The LMCs ‘Just Say No’ Campaign is a a disgraceful betrayal of patients by LMCs from across Britain.

It is, quite frankly, mercenary behaviour that is both morally repugnant and, as we shall fully demonstrate, unlawful.

We are going to put a stop to it.

In the initial stage, please text John McArdle at 07778316875 with ‘Refused FME by my GP’ in the line. We will then phone you back to discuss your case and take it from there. Alternatively you can email us at mail@dpac.uk.net

Yours in solidarity

John McArdle

Co-Founder

Black Triangle Campaign

 

 Posted by at 17:59
Oct 062013
 

IDS Has Done It Again

An article published yesterday  in the Express (Saturday 5th October) revealed that 16,500 claimants had found a job after the clamp on benefits.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/434431/16-500-find-jobs-after-clamp-on-benefits

The article refers to people living in benefit-capped households and quotes figures which has been revealed exclusively to the Daily Express, which show that ‘Mr Duncan Smith’s promise to “make work pay” is starting to change a culture where some lifelong layabouts viewed benefits as a limitless cash machine’.

Unfortunately for the Express, Iain Duncan Smith and DWP, these figures were  published on the 3rd of October 2013 and are in the public domain:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/245802/benefit-cap-jcp-activity-sep-13.pdf

What the official figures show is that out of 400,000 households affected by the benefit cap, people in 16,500 of those households had found a job.

16,500 sounds like a large number but it represents only 4% of the households affected by the cap.  Hardly what can be described as a success.

In other words, these statistics show that 16,500 people potentially affected by the benefit cap found a job, but that does not mean that it was the benefit cap that forced these people to find work.

Some people in these capped households would have found work anyway, with or without the cap, so it is impossible to say from the statistics if the benefit cap had any effect.

In fact the official DWP statistics document emphasises this point and warns that The statistics are not intended to show the additional numbers entering work as a direct result of Jobcentre Plus support”.

So what has happened?

Is the Express lying when it claims it has been given exclusive access to these figures?

Or did DWP officials approach the newspaper promising an exclusive which was pure misinformation by manipulating the figures to promote their own agenda.

We don’t know. But one thing is for sure, this isn’t the first time that Duncan Smith and the DWP have been caught doing this.

In May this year, Iain Duncan Smith was strongly criticised by the UK Statistics Authority for making exactly the same misleading claim http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/may/09/iain-duncan-smith-benefits-cap-statistics

Another thing is for sure – Duncan Smith hasn’t heard the last of this.

 

By Annie Howard.

 

 Posted by at 19:16
Sep 292013
 

Dear all,

During DPAC’s recent week of action we were supported by Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) who held a solidarity protest outside the British Consulate in Toronto.

We’ve now been approached for help and messages of support for their week of action staring October 14th as the Ontario government is planning to impose cuts to disability benefits similar to the attacks disabled people are facing in the UK.

John from OCAP says “Unlike the UK, where the Liberal Party lost it place in the front ranks sometime after Lloyd George went to his reward, the Liberals in Canada have remained a dominant party all along.  They are hanging on in Ontario as a minority government and would like to be middle of the road but the austerity agenda won’t let them.  They are preparing at attack on disability benefits but are frantic to make it look kinder and gentler. That’s why comparing them to Cameron’s regime is so important and quite valid. That’s why support statements from the UK and people fighting back there are so incredibly helpful to us.”

Please take a few minutes from what I know are busy days for all of you to send a message of support for their fight back to ocap@tao.ca

Many thanks

Linda and DPAC team 

THREAT TO DISABILITY BENEFITS IN ONTARIO POSED BY MERGER OR OW AND ODSP

   Many people living on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) have strong and

well founded concerns about the possibility of regressive ‘reforms’ to that system.  While the Wynne Government has made no official announcements as yet, the warning signs are very clear that disabled people on social assistance are going to be facing an austerity driven challenge to their rights and incomes.

The first thing to note is that an attack on social benefits for disabled people seems to be a strategic priority for the architects of austerity at the present time.  In the US, media and politicians are claiming that federal disability benefit applications are rising due to unemployed people making bogus claims so as to enjoy higher incomes than could be obtained through jobless benefits.  The newly elected right wing Abbott Government in Australia can also be expected to make an attack on disability benefits a major part of its program.

However, at the present time, it is the Cameron Government in the UK that can perhaps be seen as the cutting edge of a socially regressive drive to attack disabled people and their right of access to social benefit systems.  Cameron, through his Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), has intensified a previously existing Work Capability Assessment under which people who are sick or disabled are interviewed and graded as to their ‘fitness to work’.  The system has been modified so that private companies handle the actual assessment process.  Most notorious of these is the French company, Atos Healthcare.  The nature of this privatised assessment process is quite appalling.  People with terminal illnesses, serious impairments and progressive conditions have been deemed ‘fit to work’ regardless of medical evidence and common decency.  A hidden camera, taken into an Atos training session, shows a supervisor indicating that the standards for ‘manual dexterity’ will be met if someone can use a computer keyboard with one finger.  So extreme and reckless has this whole process been that a staggering 10,000 a year are dying within six weeks of being declared ‘fit to work’.

The nature of what is occurring in the UK leads us to rethink what is meant by an austerity agenda.  It appears to be moving beyond simply restricting or reducing entitlements and taking the form or outright social abandonment regardless of the human cost.  Given this situation, we must consider the implications for right here in Ontario.

The Hudak Tories are quite open about their intention to eliminate ODSP but we should not disregard the danger posed by the less candid Liberals.  The Wynne Government may have maintained the rhetoric of ‘poverty reduction’ but its orientation and actions to date can leave little room to hope that it intends to break with the pattern of regressive austerity as it fashions a version of ‘social assistance reform’ for this Province.  The Commission for the Review of Social Assistance that the Liberals established, proposes that Ontario Works (OW) and ODSP be merged and delivered at the municipal level.  More than this, however, it seeks to redefine the basic nature of providing income support to disabled people.  Under its model, everything would be defined in terms of employability.  The process of reassessing people would be stepped up and ‘employer’s councils’ work to push disabled people into competing for jobs.

While the report is careful to couch everything in the language of ‘disability rights’, it pays scant attention to the context in which it advocates pushing people into employment.  The low wage sector in Ontario has swollen massively in recent years. The minimum wage has been frozen for three years and most poor people in the Province actually subsist on low wages.  A ‘reform’ model that simply assumes that employed poverty is inherently a better option is massively problematic.  To take a whole new population of people and force them to compete for precarious, low paying jobs can only worsen the situation.  Moreover, the example of what is unfolding in the UK and the situation facing injured workers here leads us to conclude that the likelihood is that many would be declared able to work in disregard of their actual ability to obtain employment.  The WSIB in Ontario is already operating along lines very similar to Cameron’s DWP by way of an assessment process for injured workers that routinely ‘deems’ people capable of performing work they have no realistic chance of obtaining.  There seems little reason to expect that a redesigned system of social assistance for the disabled would chart any very different course.

The international austerity agenda is targeting disabled people and their social benefits and that approach is looming before us in Ontario.  We need to be aware of this and organize in our communities to build an effective opposition to all such measures.

 

 

 

 Posted by at 17:41
Sep 272013
 
 Have you experienced the ‘Welfare to Work’ programme and would like to share your story? To time with reports that 93% of disabled people are being failed by the programme, I plan to write a feature on this issue for New Statesman – and having a few case studies is so important to showing the reality. Contributions can of course be anonymous if needed. I’d really appreciate anyone willing to help with this.
Please get in touch on frances.ryan18@btinternet.com (please don’t use the comment form below as I don’t want to miss you!). Thanks very much.’
@frances__ryan

http://differentprinciples.co.uk/about/

 

 Posted by at 13:02
Sep 142013
 

BENEFITS JUSTICE CAMPAIGN 

THREATENED WITH EVICTION ? DON’T PANIC ! DON’T DESPAIR!

 You can only be evicted by a Judge and only if:

“It would be reasonable to leave and .. you will able to suggest to the court that it is not reasonable ..” (Official ‘Notice Seeking Possession’ form that the landlord has to send you) 

LOADS OF DEBTS?  Phone Advice Sheffield for free debt counselling on 205 5055

BEDROOM TAX bill?  COUNCIL TAX bill? CANT PAY?

Apply for the Discretionary Housing Payment and Council Tax Hardship Fund by phoning 273 6983 or visit your local Housing Office. If you are refused you can appeal.

IF YOU ARE SENT A ‘NOTICE SEEKING POSSESSION’

Your landlord (the council or a housing association) must carry out the PRE-COURT ACTION PROTOCOL:

-         check if you are vulnerable because of age, illness, mental or physical condition, communication or language problem

-         check to see if you are getting the Housing Benefit you are entitled to

-         tell you where you can get help and advice

-         consider whether the Equalities Act 2010 applies to you

If they do not do this any case  they take to court could be thrown out

DON’T WAIT: DEFEND YOURSELF NOW!

Write out all the reasons why it would not be reasonable to evict you:

Make a detailed financial statement showing your income and expenditure proving you cant pay the extra rent and/or council tax because of cuts in your benefit. Disability benefits should be excluded.

Send this to your landlord at the address on the letter where they mention possible eviction

Keep copies to show any advisers you speak to.Get legal advice –see below.

                                                       APPLY FOR LEGAL AID

You can get legal aid if you are on low wages or benefits and at risk of losing your home. You will need proof of income e.g. wage slips or benefit letters for IS/JSA/ESA.

Solicitors who do housing cases:

Howells 7 Castle St, Castle Green S3 BLT tel 249 6666

Sheffield Law Centre Waverley House 10 Joiner St, S3 8GW

Norrie Waite & Slater 9-12 East Parade S1 2ET tel 276 6166

Tell them its about Notice Seeking Possession

WARRANTS FOR POSSESSION CAN BE STOPPED ! BAILIFFS CAN BE STOPPED! 

WHEN IS A BEDROOM NOT A BEDROOM?

-     when its too small e.g. less than 70 sq ft of useable space

-         when its used for another purpose eg. storing medical equipment

-         not fit to be used as a bedroom

If you think the council’s Housing Benefits decision to charge you for having ‘too many bedrooms’ is unfair you can still put in a late Appeal due to wholly exceptional circumstances’ – this should be done within 12 months of the original decision. A HB Tribunal in Fife just decided in favour of  a tenant who appealed. Your reasons could be Official Error or Mistake about a Material Fact. You can get help from an advice centre. Tel 205 5055.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE  – GET SUPPORT!

Tell your neighbours, friends and family to get together to form a support group.

Tell us and we will come to court to support you as well. Join our campaign to kick the Bedroom Tax and all the  benefit cuts into the long grass. Contact sheffieldbenefitjustice@gmail.com. Tel 07928766385 or 248 3937 or sheffieldagainstevictions@gmail.com tel 07579203968. Affiliated to the national campaign

Anti Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation at antibedroomtax.org.uk. Email benefitjustice@gmail.com

    JOIN OUR CAMPAIGN TO DEFEAT THE BEDROOM TAX AND ALL BENEFIT CUTS

many thanks to Shirley in Shefield for this information

 Posted by at 17:09
Sep 102013
 
Former Tory Oliver Flitcroft is urging disabled people to vote Labour in this Disability Now article.
This is DPAC’s response to his suggestions that they are the least bad option.
Labour must join Disabled People protesting on the streets. Until then, it can not have our support.
In the midst of a crisis, with Disabled people bearing the brunt of all government spending cuts, there have been few if any voices coming out in our support. Where we speak, we are not heard. Where we stand we are not seen. Society has turned its back on us. Instead, it faces the screens of the televisions where daily doses of government propaganda and ‘scrounger rhetoric’ convince all those unaffected directly that ‘the disability problem’ is one that this country would be better off without. And so, among other tactics, we take our protests to the streets.
Disability Now yesterday published an interview with former Tory councillor Ollie Flitcroft appealing for disabled people to vote Labour. An appeal seemingly based on the notion that Labour are the ‘only viable alternative’ to the ConDems. Further claiming that “the tactics used by groups like Disabled People Against Cuts are not sophisticated enough to result in any long-term progress”.
To this, DPAC responds by clearly saying that not being Conservative or Liberal democrat is in no way a strong enough reason to vote for Labour. It suggests that we must settle – settle for the devil we don’t know, because the Devil we do know is so bad, nothing else could be worse. But Flitcroft forgets that we do indeed know of this other beast. We know it was Labour that implemented the Work Capability Assessments that are driving Disabled people to their deaths – the ConDems have simply taken this Labour toy and played with it. We know that, despite all that has unfolded since about the toxic nature of these tests, Labour has refused to stand up, admit their mistake, and apologise to the disabled community for the havoc it has wrought. We know that Miliband has, on several occasions, actively attacked disabled people. We know that he has, famously, met a man with only one arm, and saw fit to use this man as an example to open his speech on welfare reform as an example of someone ‘not taking responsibility’ and ‘shirking their duties’ for not being able to find work in today’s massively competitive and unsupportive job market where one can work with only one arm. We know that, time and time again, the Labour party have not only failed come out in criticism of the huge assault on the rights and very existence of disabled people in this country, but have at key points actively participated in the widespread cultural deamonisation of the disabled. And in response DPAC say that we will NOT settle for the lesser of two evils. Why indeed should we cast our votes for a party that is open in their hatred of us, just a little less hateful than the others?
DPAC, and other allied groups such as Black Triangle, protest from time to time on the streets. Street protests are one of many tools, and sometimes necessary. A street protest forces those who will not hear or see to walk around us. It says ‘We are here. We have an issue. Why are you not listening?’ DPAC also work closely with many other disabled peoples organisations, and together we have drawn up the UK Disabled People’s Manifesto, recently launched in the houses of parliament. This manifesto lays out seven priority demands, which not only clearly demonstrate what we as disabled people stand for but how and why they can be achieved, for the good of all. That spokespersons for the Labour party not only have not signed up to this manifesto, but do not even know of its existence is testament to exactly why we must keep campaigning on the streets as well as elsewhere.
And when the Labour Party join us on the street, join us, stand (or sit) sholder to sholder with us, and sign up to our vision of a truly inclusive society, then, perhaps, we could consider voting Labour. Until then, we must deal with a divided so-called ‘left’ that is mostly indistinguishable from the right. We must look with hopeful anxiety to newly forming parties such as Left Unity for it is clear that the Labour party are not listing.
The UK Disabled People’s Manifesto: Reclaiming our Futures can be downloaded from:  http://dpac.uk.net/2013/09/uk-disabled-peoples-reclaiming-our-futures-manifesto/

 Posted by at 13:03
Sep 012013
 

As our week of action progresses we thought you might all like to think more about the myths of being fit for work and would like to thank Jill from Brighton DPAC for putting some thoughts about this together for us.

I was recently asked if I’d take part in a documentary to say that not
everyone can work due to their impairments? They wanted to talk to
someone who would challenge the notion that “Anyone can work”. To me
this sounded as depressing as filling in the ESA60 questionaire for
the Work Capability Assessment had been. Having to list all the things
that are wrong with me had made me depressed and anxious so much I’d
needed extra tranquillers and other psych meds at the time. But how
else can a person prove they are not fit for work?

It is true I don’t go out anymore because I get out of breath from
lung desease as soon as I do anything and I can’t even sit up in the
wheelchair long enough to go out. Even so I didn’t feel like
discussing on this documentary not being able to work on the grounds
of being too
physically impaired and I’ve also got mental health impairments which
through my life sometimes made it impossible to work (especially when
locked up on secure wards!). But my mental health impairments
sometimes made it easier to work for example not needing much sleep so
I could stay up writing reports and doing research projects in a manic
fashion.

It is the same manic character beneath layers of stabilising
medications that makes me able to write this post. But if I’m not
careful manic can turn to psychotic and noone needs a worker who has
gone mad. The worst time the madness happened I was jointly running a
computer business  and I started getting delusions that I must light a
lot of candles to ward off the evil forces which were taking over my
home. It wasn’t long before I was rushing around and knocked a candle
over and the place caught fire. I lost my dog, home, marriage and
business and was homeless when I came out of the locked ward over a
year later. That was the worst time but I’ve had other psychotic
episodes since I was 22 and madness isn’t rational enough to allow for
work. Madness stops me being able to function because I get determined
plans of action in my head and all thoughts and energy are directed
solely towards these goals to the exclusion of everything else
including eating and sleeping. So I have to be careful and not do
anything stressful which can trigger a psychotic episode and work can
be very stressful indeed. Anyone who becomes a danger to themself
and/or others can be sectioned and placed in detention at any time and
anyone cannot work from inside the locked ward anyway even if they
could.

Then we have to look at people who are fit some of the time and not
others. They may be able to work some of the time with the right
support but what happens when the support is denied? As Ellen Clifford
says:
“It’s also an issue that came up at the ILF film event. Penny is
considered severely disabled and she has a complexity of severe
physical impairments and mental health conditions and may well not be
found fit for work if she went through a Work Capability Assessment.
But actually she does work (as a writer/performer) – only if her
support package is cut once the Independent Living Fund closes then
she won’t be able to work”.
So here we have someone who works but may not be found fit for work.
But this does not prove everyone can work either. As Ellen says
“Whether someone can or cannot work is relative to so many factors. I
have periods of every day when I am too unwell to work and my
condition is completely unpredictable. I am unable to work in a
workplace that isn’t entirely flexible around me.”

Personally I feel the whole “can work/can’t work” discussion is being
presented in a black
and white way by the media who are mainly following the governments
agenda of paying less benefits regardless of need. If the same
government hadn’t changed the rules I’d be retiring anyway as I’m 60
in November but they are now making me wait 5 more years for my
pension so I’m stuck on disability benefits instead. Even ATOS didn’t
say
I’m fit for work and I know I couldn’t even get there let alone last 5
minutes in a modern day workplace without having to lie down. But I
don’t want to tell you or anyone how unfit I am. I want to say I’m
retired and just getting by enjoying seeing the summer flowers in the
garden outside at the moment. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me or
pity me because I nearly died from pneumonia last December and still
can hardly breath upon activity and you wouldn’t if I was retired on
my pension but because this government rules mean I’m stuck on
disability benefits you can poke and pry to check I’m not lying about
my impairments and call me names like scrounger in the media. The
truth is I worked hard for many years and paid taxes and now I seem to
work equally as hard just staying alive and claim those taxes back in
the form of disability benefits now I need them. When I needed the
hospital the NHS and the welfare state were also there to help me
through and I’m shocked and alarmed that people are now being let
down, denied essential benefits and support services whether they can
or can’t work.

The myths behind being fit for work mean we are blaming the
individuals who for whatever reason do not work and also making out
work is some kind of exalted activity regardless of how exploitative
and alienating it may be for those who are being bullied into dead
end, zero hours contracts, minimum wage, not worth having, positions.
I remember when we were allowed to look forward to the weekend and the
holidays and time off work. And to look forward to a future when there
would be more leisure time away from work. But instead that future has
brought slave labour workfare and a government who sanctions benefit
claimants to literally starve rather than pay even subsistance rates
of benefits.

When C Wright Mills wrote “Every day men sell little pieces of
themselves in order to buy them back at night with the coin of fun.”
he was making the exploitative nature of work pretty clear. And when
Karl Marx wrote “Increasing divisions of labour will result in the
alienation of the worker” he was clear people can think of better
things than manual labour to do with their time. People who enjoy
their work are said to be more likely employed in task centred
organisations rather than power centred organisations or
bureaucracies. People also like to have some expert power as is the
case with doctors, teachers, scientists, artists and so on. These
kinds of jobs require studying first so why is education now so
expensive? Why is education not seen to be at least as important as
being bullied into these manual jobs probably on the basis of slave
labour workfare? Why is some voluntary work, in areas people really
want to gain experience in, say a museum for example, also not seen as
important as a stint in Poundland? Because the government want to
bully everyone who is not a compliant worker including everyone who is
not fit for work due to our impairments of various kinds.

Finally, and I hope this hasn’t become too much of a manic rant, the
notion that ‘anyone can work’ doesn’t make sense. It depends on the
person in question whether they can work or not and on the level of
support they are offered and on the sort of ‘work’ they are expected
to do. Or as Einstein once wrote “The answer is yes or no depending on
the interpretation”.

 Posted by at 20:36
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