Apr 162014
 

DPAC Press Release: Top Corrie stars Support Save ILF Campaign

For immediate release: 16 April 2014

Coronation Street stars support the ‘Save the Independent Living Fund’ Postcard Campaign.

Stars of Britain’s longest running soap joined disabled people in their campaign to Save the ILF(1).  The fund which provides support funding to almost 20 000 disabled people is to close in June next year the Government announced last month(2). See Facebook campaign page

save ILF LM
Stars such as Bev Callard, who plays Liz McDonald, former Red Dwarf actor Craig Charles who plays Lloyd Mullaney and Jack P Shepard who plays David Platt ans several other stars posed with oversized postcards produced by campaign organisers who include DPAC(3)  (Disabled People Against Cuts), GMCDP (4)(Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People), Inlusion London(5), Equal Lives(6) and others.

Despite having their original decision to close the fund over-turned at the Court of Appeal late last year(7), the Government has re-announced the closure following a new Equalities Analysis(8) – where officials admit levels of support cannot be maintained and some users may end up having to move into Residential Homes to have their support needs met. Funding will be devolved to Local Authorities for 1 year until 2016(9), but not ring fenced, meaning there is no guarantee the money will be spent providing support for users, or indeed any disability services at all.

DPAC member Paddy Murphy said ‘At an annual cost of just over £350m, this isn’t a hugely expensive fund to run. Users receive an average of just £337 a week to maintain their independence. The Government have admitted some will be forced to move into Residential homes, and others won’t get the level of support they receive now – some none at all. Local Authorities are seeing their budgets decimated, and their largest expenditure is on Adult Social Care, they simply won’t be able to afford to meet people’s needs. Disabled People will once again be forced to pay the highest price to fund the bailouts and rescue plans for the banks, which is the underlying justification for the cuts to public services.’

Editors Notes & contact details here mail@dpac.uk.net

END

1.Http://dpac.uk.net/2014/04/save-the-independent-living-fund-postcard-campaign-saveilf/

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

3. http://dpac.uk.net/

4.http://gmcdp.com/

5.http://www.inclusionlondon.co.uk/

6.http://www.equallives.org.uk/

7.http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/news/2013/november/commission-welcomes-court-of-appeal-decision-overturning-the-abolition-of-the-independent-living-fun/

8.https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/closure-of-the-independent-living-fund-equality-analysis

9.http://hadag.org.uk/second-closure-of-independent-living-fund-and-our-analysis-of-the-equality-analysis-by-dwp/

Nov 282013
 

It’s been a busy few days for DPAC gathering evidence on the cumulative impact of cuts on disabled people, and on the crisis in independent living.  On the 25th we heard moving and powerful testimonies of how the Government are ruining lives through their austerity regime. Disabled people are faced with a range of cuts and so called ‘reforms’ which are contravening our basic human rights. We are faced with stark choices between eating or heating while having our dignity stripped by a range of psychological attacks at the same time as having support removed.

 Testimonies will be sent to the UN rapporteur on disability-thanks to everybody who came to London to tell their stories and to those that submitted their experiences through email. This event was originally arranged by Just Fair, however due to the rapporteur being unable to come to the UK due to illness DPAC and Inclusion London stepped in to run this at the last minute, so we could get these important stories out to the UN.

On the 26th the morning saw a hugely successful protest on fuel poverty organised by DPAC, Fuel Poverty Action, the Greater London Pensioners and UKUncut: ‘Bring down the Big Six – Fuel Poverty Kills!’ against the increase in fuel poverty deaths and increasing profits and prices of the big 6. Supporting groups included No Dash for Gas, Campaign Against Climate Change, Climate Revolution, Young Friends of the Earth, Frack Off London, Power for the People, Barnet Alliance for Public Services, Lewes Against the Cuts, SOAS Energy & Climate Change Society and Southwest Against Nuclear. There were also protests in Oxford, Lewes and Bristol.

In the afternoon of the 26th the Emergency meeting on the crisis in independent living took place at parliament hosted by DPAC and Inclusion London.  An event originally planned by Just Fair to launch their report to the UN rapporteur which DPAC and Inclusion London stepped in to run with a new focus on the crisis in independent living.  This was in response to the successful appeal outcome at the courts on the Independent Living Fund-and the continuing awareness of the crisis for ILF users, those trying to access local authority support and the Government’s apparent non-compliance with article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The afternoon launched DPAC’s report on the crisis in independent living and cumulative impacts of the cuts, one of many that DPAC is working on, as well as the film by Mary Laver an ILF user. The afternoon was complimented by speeches from John Evans and reflection on the past battles for independent living.  We heard from the brilliant Louise Whitfield (one of the solicitors in the ILF case) and were treated to an excellent DPAC theatre performance which brought to life the reality of impacts on disabled people and the different barriers we face.

Despite extremely short notice the event was well attended by MPs and those from the Lords. Kate Green , Hywell Williams, Katy Clarke, Anne Begg, John McDonnell, Jim Shannon, Andy Slaughter, Baroness  Campbell, Baroness Wilkins  and a host of others including Mary Laver’s MP.  Apologies were sent from Anne McGuire, Caroline Lucas, Lucy Powell, Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa Pierce

Mike Penning ‘our’ new minister for disability was invited but did not respond or send apologies!

Many thanks to all that attended, supported and worked so hard towards the afternoon-especially the many DPAC members and supporters that wrote to their MPs and publicised this. Some may ask why English national formal disability organisations with much more money and resources than us aren’t putting their energies into these types of activities all the time- we don’t have any answers or understanding on that.

We will have a more detailed report on the Emergency meeting on the Crisis in Independent Living event in Parliament with film and photos soon

Download DPAC report Crisis in Disabled People’s Independent Living 

See Mary Laver’s film on ILF View the movie

kljxr

Jul 162013
 

DPAC Logo 3 amendment 1 (Small)Our rights are being stripped away day by day by the neo-liberal policies being imposed on us all by the Condems leaving us without any hope for our futures or our children’s futures.

 

DPAC say this is not fair, not acceptable and we must fight back against the continuing attacks. We will be having a week of actions nationally and virtually from August 29th and culminating on September 4th with  mass events and actions in London.

 

Thursday 29th August – launch on anniversary of coffin delivery to Atos, make Crossrail fully accessible protest, plus more….

 

Friday 30th August – local protests –go to local MPs, Atos offices, schools and colleges that are creating barriers to inclusion..plus more…

 

Saturday 31st August – disability, art and protest exhibition and gig

 

Sunday 1st September –
The Social Model In The 21st Century – Why Is It Still relevant?

 

Monday 2nd September – Media direct actions, picking up the pace as we come to the end of the week of action, despite everything we do it is getting more and more difficult to get media space to present the facts whereas there is plenty of space given to misrepresentation of stats and government lies

 

Tuesday 3rd September – ‘I Dare’ day – to reinforce that we want Rights not Charity and a society where we are able to operate on our own terms as disabled people.

Approximate time 1pm -2.30pm

 

Wednesday 4th September – Grand Finale events in London and public launch of the Manifesto ‘Reclaiming our Futures’

noon- 4pm followed by lobby of parliament 5-6pm

 

We want to get disabled people from around the UK out resisting, based on their experiences, creating disabled people’s space, raising awareness of what we are all about. But there is plenty of social media stuff too- everyone can be an ‘extremist’!

 

The Anti Atos message last year was very clear and very successful. This year we want the messaging to be broader and to be about what we want and expect from any future government including all aspects of inclusion.

 

At the Rethinking Disability Policy event last September a network of Disabled People’s Organisations agreed to develop a manifesto of demands. The manifesto is nearly ready for consultation and sign up. Let us know if you’d like a copy.

 

The Reclaiming Our Futures week will launch the manifesto and say what we want to protect our futures.

 

Last year’s ATOS GAMES protests had at least 33 separate local protests in different locations in England, Scotland and Wales over the course of the week.

 

While the Atos Games focused on demonstrating and closing things down, this year’s week of action will retain that anger and include direct action but it will also be a celebration of disability pride.

 

DPAC has some funding for the week of action and we have worked out what we have the capacity to do. We are asking other groups to think about what they can put on and contribute to the week. This needs all of us!

 

We are asking people around the UK to do things as well – debates, forums, art exhibitions, protests, to link in with this. Let us know what you’re planning and we’ll publicise it!

 

If you need help with funding to get to London (4th Sept) email us at mail@dpac.uk.net with details. DPAC members will get first priority but we’re hoping to be able to contribute to all that want to come along. If you are unable to come but would like your picture carried send us a photo or message. Please get in touch with any other queries as well and we’ll try to help.

more to come…….

Mar 232013
 

In the court case taken by five disabled people against the proposed closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) , and supported by a campaign led by DPAC and Inclusion London certain documents were used. These documents are mainly correspondence between civil servants at the Government’s Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) and the minister for disabled people: Esther McVey.

These documents were released and declassified after the court case because they had been mentioned in the case. This is a summary of those documents.

Early analysis of responses to the consultation on ILF Closure (undated)

This document gives a breakdown of responses and several points for McVey to take into account. First, the consultation asked:

Question 1Do you agree with the Government’s proposal that the care and support needs of current ILF users should be met within the mainstream care and support system, with funding devolved to local government in England and the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales?[1] This would mean the closure of the ILF in 2015.

 

Question 2What are the key challenges that ILF users would face in moving from joint ILF/Local Authority to sole Local Authority funding of their care and support needs? How can any impacts be mitigated?

 

Question 3What impact would the closure of the ILF have on Local Authorities and the provision of care and support services more widely? How could any impacts be mitigated?

 As we see never were questions asked on extending the ILF or keeping it open. In fact question 1 is what is called a ‘leading question’

In the documents DWP tell McVey:

       ‘As we expected with the current challenges facing the care and support system, the majority of ILF users are opposed to closure of the fund, with many doing so on the basis that there could be no guarantee that their current level of funding would be protected in the future’

and….

           ‘A range of smaller national and local disability groups expressed similar concerns with our proposal. Some have been able to support the closures in principle but usually conditional on current user awards being protected as part of ring-fenced funding. The most vocal group has been the relatively new Disabled People against Cuts, DPAC. This group has taken a very strong critical position on a range of DWP policies’.

Yes we have and both Miller (our old mister for disabled people) and McVey refused to meet us and ILF users several times-in fact they didn’t even bother to respond to these requests!

We were very surprised to see this section advising McVey:

           ‘The consultation exercise has been immensely useful and we have been satisfied that we have listened to a collection of views that is representative of all those individuals or organisations that have an interest in or may be impacted by closure and devolution and have considered whether to modify the preferred position set out in the consultation in light of those views’ (emphasis added)

Amazing! Because if most said : keep it open, and if most said people would lose support or enter institutions, including responses from local authorities: what exactly did they listen to?

The documents recognize that ILF users will see a drop in support with some not being eligible for support at all

             ‘We do recognise that upon reassessment by LA’s most users are likely to see some reduction in the current funding levels, and there are a group of users with low care needs that may not be eligible for local authority support under current needs thresholds in most LA’s.’

The cost of closure will be £39 million! One document states that some of this has been achieved by the savings from closing ILF to new users in 2010. But closure cannot be publically defined as value for money-indeed!

        ‘The transfer costs mean that this proposal will cost rather than save money and therefore it cannot be defined as value for money. However the transfer costs are fully affordable’.

Not to ILF users they aren’t!

And wouldn’t £39 million, plus transfer cost be better put into ILF? Of course that’s not what they want to do, in spite of a consultation exercise where the majority appeared to say a resounding NO to closure.

Why did the DWP think it would Easy to Close the ILF?

One of the reasons given that the DWP found it so easy to close the ILF to new users in 2010 was the lack of any objections from the ‘big disability organisations’ which DWP call ‘Major Departmental Stakeholder Responses’ whatever that is.

In terms of the announcement of proposed closure in 2015 it was noted that none of these ‘stakeholders’ had requested a meeting with ministers from Westminster. Basically most had kept quiet, and hadn’t seen the closure of ILF as any big deal. Great support guys!

On this basis the DWP tell McVey in another document around the potential announcement of the closure in 2015

         ‘on the basis of attention shown so far, we do not think this will   receive  significant attention on its own…’

Guess they forgot about that vocal group DPAC and Deaf and Disabled Peoples’ Organisation: Inclusion London, because the closure of the ILF has now received significant attention in the UK and in Europe, at European Parliamentary level through MEPs and at UN level and we’ll make sure this continues.

Neither DPAC nor Inclusion London has the millions for campaigning that the big disability charities have, nor dedicated media, press and campaign teams. But we do have passion, and we do care about what happens to us all as disabled people, and we care what happens to independent living. ILF users taking the case and supporting the case have appeared on TV, on radio and in newspapers to get the message across that ILF is important and this will continue too.

Any journalists that want to know more or run stories can contact: mail@dpac.uk.net

So what did these so called ‘stakeholders’ say in response to the consultation? According to the DWP, there was not enough resistance at all.

In the early analysis document those who the DWP define as key stakeholders are broken down and their responses analysed. Below is what DWP said of their ‘Major Departmental Stakeholder Responses’ in the exact words of the DWP to McVey

 Carers UK-Weakly Disagree

-User packages would be reduced placing extra demand on unpaid care

Disability Rights UK-Concerned

-Lack of choice and flexibility under Local Authorities (Las)

-User packages will be reduced

-Poor perception and past support of Las

-Difficult for ILF users to transition easily

 Disability Wales- Strongly Disagree

-users packages would be reduced which could make it impossible to support ILF users in a family environment

-since the 2010 closure of the fund to applicants disabled people have had to start entering residential care.

-believes the government is targeting the disabled for cuts

-LAs could not cope with the additional workload

-Lack of choice, flexibility and dignity for ILF users under LAs

-Do not believe transitional protection will be offered

 Inclusion Scotland-Strongly Disagree

-The proposal would create a postcode lottery of support

-User packages would be reduced

-LA support is budget led rather than needs led

-ILF expertise would be lost

-Lack of choice and flexibility under LAs

 MENCAP-Pragmatic Agreement

-If reforms go ahead they should be about finding a better system, not cutting costs

-Funding should be allocated to LAs as a separate ring fenced funding stream based on current ILF regional spending patterns in which current users enjoy time-limited protection

-need for Government to provide advice and information to all parties

 MS Society- Concerned Agreement

-Consolidation of funding streams would simplify the care system

-The proposal should not be enacted until the impact of current welfare reform is understood

-Lack of choice, flexibility and dignity for ILF users under LAs needs to be addressed

-LAs need as far as possible, to replicate the personalised expertise of ILF

-Representative groups need to be closely involved in the transition design

 RNIB-Weak Concern

-Concerned that closure might lead to a breach of article 19 on UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

-Representative groups must be closely involved in transition design

-Current levels of support must be maintained

 SCOPE-Concerned Weak Agreement

 -Consolidation of funding streams would simplify the care system

-The proposal should not be enacted during current funding constraints

-The mainstream care and support system needs more experience and commitment to independent living to be able to undertake the responsibilities of the ILF

 Spinal Injuries Association-Disagree

 -Funding is likely to disappear into wider LA budgets on transfer

-ILF is more efficient than LAs

 

‘Rights not Charity’ seems very apt as the major charities for disabled people appeared to agree with the closure, after all more institutionalisation of disabled people might benefit them mightn’t it?  Disability Rights UK (DRUK) a so called user-led organisation incorporating, but clearly forgetting the principles of National Centre for Independent Living, did not offer more than ‘concern’.  The Spinal Injuries Association ‘disagreed’ but what this needed was for all to come out and say ‘Strongly Disagree’ as Disability Wales and Inclusion Scotland did.

 Remember that when the charities ask you for money, remember that when those groups that didn’t come out fully against the closure of the ILF say they are on the side of disabled people or are working for disabled people: we believe they can no longer justify either of those statements.

 The DWP told McVey that ‘stakeholders’ (SCOPE, DRUK etc)

‘..have traditionally found it hard to defend the ILF model of funding care..’

‘none of the largest national disability organisations requested ministerial meetings and many did not submit responses to the consultation. While we have had an increasing number of letters from MPs on users’ behalf, the proposal to close the fund has received almost no attention in the mainstream media’ (correspondence to McVey 7th November 2012)

We will work through more of the documents looking at issues on transition, and the DWP’s media strategy which is unsurprisingly at odds with any issues raised by disabled people-you know the stuff Closure of ILF will give ‘choice and control’ , ‘committed to supporting disabled people’ blah, blah, blah.

The big difference here is that it is clear from the documents  that the DWP are perfectly aware that ILF users will lose funding and that their needs won’t be adequately met through the local authority system.

Cuts versus Reform

Finally, the DWP were keen to try and put the message out that the closure of the ILF was not about ‘cuts’ but about ‘reform’ –what’s the difference? They do appear to believe that if they say reform we all think this is a good thing, rather than identifying that everything that comes under the heading of reform is actually another cut.

The documents cannot be clearer: this is a cut

A cut to the dignity, life chances and lives of disabled people-not just those who are currently supported to lead independent lives through ILF , but also those who would have qualified before closure to new applicants in 2010 and all who could benefit from the ILF system in the future

Support ILF users now; support a better future-say no to the closure of the ILF!

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Funding for ILF users in Northern Ireland is currently the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Department for Social Development, not the Department for Work and Pensions.

Dec 212012
 

Disabled people with the highest support needs have been left in fear and distress as they face the prospect of being denied the right to have Christmas in their own homes following a government decision announced this week to abolish a key source of independent living support.

The government decision to close the Independent Living Fund and instead devolve responsibility to local authorities follows a consultation that disabled people claim is unlawful and on which an urgent hearing has been scheduled by the High Court to go ahead on 13/14 March 2013.

Kevin Caulfield Chair Hammersmith & Fulham Coalition against Community Care Cuts said, “The announcement of the closure of the ILF is yet another nail in the coffin of the increasing numbers of disabled people being discarded into isolation, social exclusion, deteriorating health and premature death. This is more evidence that we are so far from being all in this together.”

Whereas support received through the ILF has transformed thousands of lives, local authorities are not able to provide the same level or range of support through their current systems. With central funding to local authorities being cut this can only get worse.

Current ILF recipient Jenny Hurst said she “can’t bear to think of a return to life” without the opportunities the ILF has given her. “Before I was referred for funding from the ILF I received a package of 4 hours a day, one hour for getting me up/showered and breakfasted, one hour for house work and lunch, one hour for supper and an hour to do the “put to bed”. In between times I couldn’t get a drink or use the toilet- let alone do anything meaningful with my life.” With support funded by the ILF she was able to go to university, get a full time job and become a Trustee of a charity.

ILF recipient Anne Novis who received an MBE for services to the community, said ”I employ five PA’s, their jobs will be at risk as I know and have been told I will receive less funds … from my local authority”. She added “I definitely will not be able to contribute to society, have my grandchildren over to stay, or even have a life worth living.”

The government’s decision to push ahead with their plans comes in spite of overwhelming opposition from disabled people and their families. Local Authorities have widely expressed concerns that without ring fencing there will be a loss of support for existing ILF users and for some individuals no option but to go into residential care. Given the current surge of abuse revelations concerning people placed in institutional settings such as those associated with the Winterbourne View case, it is distressing that the government is nevertheless abandoning the right for disabled people who require round the clock support to live in the community in a home of their own and with choice and control over their lives.

Notes to Editors

1)  Inclusion London is a pan-impairment organisation promoting equality for London’s Deaf and disabled people.
2)  Disabled People against Cuts is a national campaign led by disabled people to oppose the attacks on disabled people’s human rights and independent living being carried out under the guise of the austerity agenda.
3)  The Independent Living Fund (ILF) was set up in 1988 to provide the additional funding disabled people needed to live at home when the alternative was residential care.

4)   The Fund which was permanently closed to new applicants in December 2010 will be shut down completely from 31 March 2015.5)   The action by the Westminster government contravenes article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled People on independent living and goes against the principle of the Convention as well as against the European Convention on Human Rights
 
For more information:
Ellen Clifford,
Campaigns and Communications Officer
Inclusion London                   Tel: 07505 144371
 
Contact:
ILF recipients:
Kevin Caulfield: 07899 752877; info@hafcac.org.uk
Jenny Hurst: jennyahurst@yahoo.com
 
Solicitors representing the claimants involved in the legal challenge:
Scott-Moncrieff &Associates (Diane Astin/Kate Whittaker)
Office 7, 19 Greenwodd Place
London NW5 1LB   Tel: 020 7485 5588/07792 700825
 
Deighton Pierce Glynn (Louise Whitfield)
8 Union Street
London SE1 1SZ     Tel: 020 7407 0007

 

Oct 062012
 

A successful conference held in London on the 27th September called for a new UK network to challenge the attacks on disability rights in the UK. The conference supported by DPAC, Inclusion London, ALLFIE, Norfolk Coalition of Disabled people and the Joseph Rowntree Trust brought together leading Disabled Peoples Organisations and leading disability activists.

Key speaker Jenny Morris said that the ‘disability movement’ was more vibrant than ever, and that this Government had launched a number of attacks on disabled people and their rights. However others suggested that there may not be a disability movement anymore, but pockets of activity. What was clear was that challenges by disabled people and disabled peoples’ organisations (DPOs) must increase. Speakers also raised issues of how ‘the movement’ could be more inclusive in the speakers ‘from the frontline’ slots.

DPAC was there to add commentary and information on what was happening to disabled people under the regime of Atos and the ESA processes as well as the everyday crisis disabled people were facing under this Government. The whole day was brilliantly co-chaired by Tracey Lazard ( CEO of Inclusion London ) and Tara Flood ( director of the Alliance of Inclusive Education) . Speakers included Jenny Morris, Andrew Lee, Eleanor Lisney, Chris Edwards, Debbie Jolly, Linda Burnip and Geraldine O’Halloran, yet, there was also plenty of time for discussion.

Catch up on conference and presentations with the livestream (with BSL)

Catch up on all presentations and discussions through live stream and see Stephen Lee Hodgkin’s brilliant time-line at http://www.inclusionlondon.co.uk/

Read the excellent John Pring’s ( Disability News Service) account of the day at

 http://www.thefedonline.org.uk/federation-news/item/1828-new-network-aims-to-unite-disability-movement.html

Another option to keep up with what’s happening and have a chance to dicuss your views is to tune into Make Yourself Heard on Tuesdays 2-4p.m with Merry Cross  www.Reading4u.co.uk 

Join up to the new UK network: be part of the increasing outcry on our injustices!

Send an email to mail@dpac.uk.net with subject line ‘UK Network’ to be kept in the loop on this exciting and much needed new network of DPOs and activists.

We can also put you in touch with any local DPAC groups in your area or help you set up your own local DPAC group. We now have 26 DPACs across the UK and along with our sister organisation Black Triangle in Scotland we have made sure that disabled peoples’ issues are vibrant and will continue to be-never again must we allow our ‘movement’ to get sleepy- join the challenge!

 

Jun 202012
 

DPAC and Transport for All would like to thank all activists, campaign groups, MPs & DPOs who took part in the Right to Ride lobby and demonstration.

The day was a fantastic success, and that was 100% down to those who turned up to make their contribution.

We asked DPAC/TFA members to attend a meeting with MPs at the Houses of Parliament, and request that their MP then join us on a short bus-ride from there to the Confederation of Passenger Transport to present a letter.

We commend MPs Lisa Nandy, Maria Eagle, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell who responded to constituents and came to the meeting.

The strong message from across their speeches was that we have what we have by campaigning, and to keep up the good work. We welcomed the very supportive comments of MPs John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn in particular who have consistently supported DPAC and their campaigns.

We would also like to thank Inclusion London, and their CEO Tracey Lazard for their contribution and support on the day and their ongoing commitment to this and other campaigns.

We began the day by moving the MP meeting to a larger (though not more accessible) room- such was the turnout, and we still couldn’t fit everyone in! Following on from speeches by MPs and DPOs, lots of activists spoke about their (wholly negative) experience of using public transport. The anger and disappointment in the room was almost tangible.

As activists left H.O.P to go to Abingdon St bus stop, more and more people gathered from all around the country. Eventually hundreds of disabled activists and their campaigners were lined up, queuing for the number 87 bus. Again we heard from more activists, and more political support came in the form of London Assembly Member Navin Shah, and MP Julian Hubbard, who both addressed the gathering.

Once the speeches were done it was time for action! And in DPAC terms action means ACTION. The first ‘lucky’ 87 to come along made the fatal mistake of (illegally) denying disabled people access to the bus. So, if you can’t get on a bus – get in front of it. No doubt empowered by recent high profile Central London DPAC actions activists from Disabled Peoples Direct Action network and DPAC blocked and occupied 2 buses outside H.O.P. for almost an hour.

Activists held court, gave interviews and basically turned the bus lane into a wheelchair/scooter lane for the afternoon.

Once again, those on the sharp end of the action and those supporting agreed to end the action and leave together in solidarity.

After all that contingent from DPAC – TFA actually did make it to CPT to deliver our letter.

This action demonstrated once again, the power disabled people have they mobilise and take action together. We have never backed down as a movement – and we don’t intend to start now. We said after the Oxford Street action that we could continue to create spaces for disabled people to come and have their voices heard.

We especially give a big ‘thumbs up’ to the ‘Old School’ DAN members who led the charge. We welcome their return to the arena and look forward to working together of over the coming months.

A special mention and HUGE thanks to the volunteers from other campaigns (ye know who ye are), who turned up to provide support for those disabled activists that were supposed to travel on the buses. We appreciate their strong ongoing support and hope ye will turn out again.

Thanks to the volunteers from UK Uncut, Occupy London, Right to Work, TUSC, Drop Dow Now, Hands Off Our Public Services, Climate Justice Campaign, Fuel Poverty Action.

Video from Channel 4 -

 

Please read as well  Report from TFA on the action and photos
Community channel report

Report from Johnny void 

c opy of our letter to CPT

 

 

 

 

14th June 2012

Dear Mr Posner

 

Today, disabled people have travelled to your offices from throughout the country. We have come here today because we have had enough of being denied access to buses in the UK; of being treated like second class citizens.

 

The sad truth is that almost every disabled person who has used buses has a story of a journey that was exhausting or difficult because of poor service by the bus company. Almost every wheelchair user has a story of being denied access to a bus, of waiting in the rain as bus after bus drives past. Of broken ramps or of bus drivers refusing to enforce wheelchair priority in the wheelchair space.

 

Almost every blind or visually impaired passenger has a story of non-existent or broken bus audio visual systems, of buses stopping metres away from the stop, too far away to ask what bus number it is.

 

Almost every ambulant disabled person has experienced buses pulling up leaving a chasm to leap between kerb and bus; or almost been thrown off their feet when buses pull away from the stop without time to sit down.

 

A 2009 survey by Trailblazers, End of the Line, found on more than half of all journeys on buses there were problems with the accessible facilities at the station or bus stop, on the bus or a poor service from members of staff. In one in three of the journeys made by Trailblazers, the survey respondent was unable to board the first relevant bus to arrive at their stop. This was a consequence of the access ramp being unavailable, the accessible space being unavailable or the driver failing to stop at a location which was accessible to the passenger.

 

This isn’t just about access to buses. We rely on transport to see friends and family; to get to work; to volunteer and enjoy sport and culture. When inaccessible buses stop us from getting out and about, we are excluded from public life. At worst, we become housebound. We become invisible.

Transport for All and Disabled People Against Cuts recognise that there have been improvements to accessibility in the bus industry. We welcome the commitment to meet the 2020 PSVAR regulations. And the introduction of wheelchair ramps to more and more buses around the country has transformed independent travel for thousands of wheelchair users.

And amongst the horror stories of disabled people denied access to buses, there are some examples of good practice. In London, TfL recently held the first ever training session for bus drivers which involved disabled and older people. In Brighton, buses are so spacious they can accommodate wheelchair users, those with shopper trolleys, buggies and guidedogs.

We would like to work with the CPT to ensure that accessibility is put at the heart of the bus industry. Ideally, we’d like to see a staff lead working exclusively on equality and inclusion – just as ATOC (the Association of Train Operating Companies) has a Head of Disability and Inclusion.

We also welcome CPT’s interest to meet and discuss this further and look forward to speaking to you.

Regards

Lianna Etkind                          Linda Burnip

Transport for All                     Disabled People Against the Cuts

 

 

 

Jun 082012
 

The closure of the Remploy factories has ignited a wealth of media attention and strong feeling as well as differences of opinion between disabled people, and Disabled Peoples’ Organisations (DPOs) on the position of disabled Remploy factory workers. The now infamous Sayce report called for closure of the factories in the ironically titled: ‘Getting in, staying in and getting on: disability employment support fit for the future’. This was followed by a consultation exercise in July 2011 to which DPAC responded outlining the impact of the closure of the factories and urging that they remain open.

Since then, DPAC, DPOs, Unions, disabled workers, disabled and non-disabled people have been active on the proposed closures in a number of ways which have been publicised on the DPAC site. DPAC have invited Liz Sayce to comment, but she has not responded to our request.

Most recently the Sayce report has been accused of doing the Governments ‘dirty work’, as elitist and a part of the cuts agenda at the TUC Disabled Peoples’ conference. 

There was overwhelming support at the annual TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference for the campaign to fight the planned closure of the Remploy factories.

The government announced in March that 36 of the 54 remaining Remploy factories across the UK would close by the end of 2012, with the loss of more than 1,500 disabled people’s jobs, while there would be further consultation over the future of the other 18 factories.

The announcement was part of the government’s response to a consultation on last year’s review of employment support by Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK (DR UK).

Sayce called in her report for funds currently used to subsidise the factories to be ploughed into more personalised forms of employment support for disabled people, including the Access to Work (AtW) scheme.

But Mandy Hudson, from the National Union of Teachers, told the conference that the Sayce report had “gone about doing the government’s dirty work”.

And she criticised “the completely cavalier way that Liz Sayce’s report sets adrift a whole set of disabled workers”.

The disabled peer Lord [Colin] Low also criticised Sayce’s report, and said its “highly individualised approach… seems to smack of elitism”.

Read more of the article by John Pring including the Remploy protest outside the offices of DR UK by Remploy workers and UKUncut here  

 Opening up the debate

Since the government announced the closures, some DPOs have backed its plans, arguing that the move was one towards the inclusion of disabled people.

But Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said:

This is a cut. It isn’t about inclusion. We shouldn’t let the government justify this in the name of inclusion.

She accepted that the disability movement has been divided on whether to support the closures, but she said:

What we need is a dialogue. This is us putting an alternative view forward which hopefully will get a debate going. That’s what we need. Read more

Letter to the Guardian

The publication of a letter against Remploy closures was published in both on-online and print versions of the Guardian on May 10. The letter was composed by Inclusion London, DPAC and unions. Many DPOs and disabled people signed in support of the Remploy workers. The letter was shortened and some names and DPOs were reduced due to space restrictions by the Guardian. This link  will take you to the letter with a link to the original letter’s wording. DPAC will be updating the names and DPOs that were left off the printed and online versions shortly. We asked Liz Sayce to comment, but she did not respond.

However, a response article to the letter was issued by DPO Breakthrough UK claiming that while they agreed with many aspects of our letter they could not join other DPOs in signing it and wanted to open up debate on the Remploy issue.

We agree with opening the debate, and provide a link to the thoughtful piece by disabled activist and comedian Laurence Clark published in the Independent: Remploy Closures: right in theory but where does it leave disabled employees?

Sean McGovern a former Remploy factory worker responded directly to the Breakthrough article

and Les Woodward a GMB convener and worker at the Swansea Remploy factory said of the Breakthrough article:

This article, unfortunately is typical of the “Politically Correct” brigades attitude to Supported Employment and the language they use to try and justify their positions…

Another unfortunate slant of this article is that it totally fails to take into account the effect on the workers themselves or indeed other disabled workers who given the present economic climate would give their eye teeth for a job any job. They would sell their soul for a job in Remploy that can provide skilled work, training and other support that employment in Remploy offers.

 I have said it many times and I will say it a lot more. No-one ever forced a gun to my head to work in Remploy, over the 28 years I have been employed by the Company, I have been free to leave at any time I wanted, just like any other worker in any other workplace.

 Of course whether or not I exercise that choice to leave is dependant not least on economic circumstances that I have found myself in and whether or not the alternative employment was viable in terms of remuneration or terms and conditions. No employment opportunities that can match those that I am on in Remploy have presented themselves as yet.

 No one would disagree with the aspirations of a fully inclusive society, and I for one would absolutely love to see the day when Remploy really was old fashioned and there would be no need for Remploy because we would have a fully inclusive society that caters for everyone. Unfortunately we live in a rather different world which is going further and further away from inclusion and equality of opportunity over the last 18 months or so rather than moving more towards inclusion and equal opportunity. The reason for this is that we are now governed by the rich for the rich and of the rich, while we get poorer and poorer.

 The ultimate shame in all this is that organisations such as the one who authored this article are wittingly or unwittingly collaborating with this Government in implementing cuts in the living standards of some of the very people they purport to support.

 Thanks a million to everyone that signed the letter, we really appreciate it and appreciate the support that you give us.

 Les

 We will provide more responses soon….

Previous pieces from DPAC and others

DPAC has always been transparent in its connections, actions and thoughts on the Remploy closures, which have been published on the DPAC web site, some of which we list here. We also include pieces by other groups

Remploy Closures: no segregated employment translates to unemployment for up to 2000 workers

DPAC Remploy Workers meeting London March 20th

Right to Work Pledges Support for Remploy workers

London meeting unites resistance to Remploy Closures

Furious workers hit out at Boss whose report led to Remploy factories getting the Axe

Demo for Remploy workers April 20th

Independent: Betrayed Disabled Workers protest against Remploy Closures

Fight the Remploy Closures

Remploy Public Meeting Thursday 26th April

Government accused of Hijacking Disability Equality Language to Justify Remploy Closures

The closure of Remploy factories is about cuts and cannot be justified by a misguided language of inclusion in a time when disabled people are facing the worse attacks on their inclusion, human rights and equality in UK history. Disabled people and DPOs need to support the Remploy workers rather than engaging in forms of ideological bullying that refuse to take into account the impacts on disabled peoples’ lives. Nor should they be so arrogant as to suggest that these workers shouldn’t have choice in where they chose to work. Less than 5% of Remploy workers in the last set of closures found alternative jobs, with some committing suicide-is this really something that we want to support for up to 2000 more disabled people under a flimsy Tory rhetoric of inclusion?

 

May 112012
 

Please see below for published letter in Guardian put together by Inclusion London, DPAC and allies including unions. The final letter needed to be shortened for publication, as a result we apologise to any signatories who may have missed as the Guardian also insisted on individual names representing each organisation. The text of the original full letter with our recommendations can be seen at: http://www.dpac.uk.net/2012/04/sign-up-to-support-the-remploy-workers/

The strength and number of signatories that were published makes a mockery of the assertion in the Sayce report that 100% of disabled organisations support the closure of Remploy factories- this is simply not true!

DPAC, Inclusion London, listed organisations, unions and individuals will continue to support the Remploy workers against the loss of their jobs and will not be taken in by the spurious ‘disability inclusion’ argument being used to advocate more disabled people losing their jobs in a time of economic disaster for disabled people.

Please help support the Remploy workers by leaving comments to the letter at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/may/10/disabled-works-fight-remploy-jobs

Disabled workers fight to save Remploy factory job

Thursday 10 May 2012 21.00 BST

As a group of disabled people’s organisations, run by and for disabled people, we – together with other individuals and organisations – believe the government’s decision to make 1,518 disabled workers unemployed by August, and a further 1,282 unemployed next year, by closing the Remploy factories is wrong (Report, 12 April). We do not believe these job losses constitute a victory for inclusion in the workplace. We have fought long and hard for an inclusive society where disabled people have the same employment chances, choices and opportunities as everyone else. Our goal and demand for inclusive employment must not be used to justify job cuts that will push these workers into poverty, exclusion and isolation.

This decision will effectively put these disabled workers on the scrap–heap at a time of recession when there is little to no hope of finding alternative employment, when eligibility for benefits is being slashed, and when support services for disabled people are being destroyed.

True equality and inclusion will be achieved through development of a plan of investment and support to transform the Remploy factories into viable social enterprises controlled by disabled employees, rather than their closure; investment to increase and expand the access to work scheme; investment in high-quality employment support services that enable disabled people to find employment and stay in employment; the right to inclusive education and accessible training and apprenticeships for all disabled people; and commitment to tackle discrimination in the workplace through better understanding and enforcement of Equality Act duties.
Deaf and disabled people’s organisations and groups:
Tracey Lazard CEO, Inclusion London, Linda Burnip Disabled People Against Cuts, Bill Scott Manager, Inclusion Scotland, Rahel Geffen Interim CEO, Disability Action in Islington, Lucy Byrne CEO, Richmond AID, Michelle Baharier CEO, Cooltan Arts, Caroline Nelson Director, Choice in Hackney, Roy Benjamin Chair, Merton Centre for Independent Living, Mark Harrison CEO, Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People, Alan Kerr CEO, Artsline, Dr Ju Gosling Chair, Regard, Rosemary Nicholson Visually Impaired in Camden, David Stock CEO, Southwark Disablement Association, Joanne Munn Director, Greenwich Association of Disabled People, Pat Bhabha Director, Disability Action Waltham Forest, Sharon Schaffer London Visual Impairment Forum, Mary Hick deafPLUS, Caroline Jones Chair, Norfolk Association of Disabled LGBT People, Ellen Clifford Bromley Experts by Experience CIC, Gill Goble Brighton DPAC, Andy Greene Islington DPAC, Roger Lewis Lambeth DPAC, John McArdle Black Triangle Anti-Defamation Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights, Kevin James Atos Victims Group

Individuals:
Bill Holmwood, Richard Sturgess , Stephen Lee Hodgkins, Mo Stewart, Dr Stephen Hall, Caroline Richardson, Calum McLean, Pam Tinsley, Valerie Lang, Geoff Dewhirst, Sandra Dooley, Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq, Mik Scarlet, Isabel Ros López, Caroline Jones, Liana Lloyd, Alan Woodward, Diane Lucas, Ralph Pettingill, Alexandra Stein, Brid Fitzpatrick, Sasha Callaghan, Beverley Woodburn, Keith Hodgson, Ben Samuel, Julia Cameron, Ellen Clifford, Elane Heffernan, Vicky Ayech, Teresa Rayner, William Nutthall , Merry Cross, John Collings, Derek Kelter, Kaliya Franklin, Richard Lumb, Derek Stevens, John Newman, Maureen and Martyn Stagg, Stephanie Cadd, Jayne Linney, Liaquat Hussain, Ian Parkhill (a member of Worcester Coalition for Independent Living), Pat Onions, Rosemary O’Neill, Jean Ashlan, Jonathan Toye, David Steele, John McArdle , Paul Smith, Deborah King, Alison Morgan, David Brown, Mark Thomas, Danka Gordon, Les Seavor, Sue Brassey, Maureen Armstrong, Iyiola Olafimihan, Eleanor Firman, Gail Jeynes, Rosemary Iddenden, Dora Kostiuk, Bronwen Williams, Roger Lewis, Rob Murthwaite, Andy Greene, Beverley and Robert Stevens, Paul Farrelly MP, John McDonnell MP, Lisa Nandy MP, Peter Beresford, Karen Wild, Ellen Goodey

 

Other organisations/groups:
Jonathan Bartley Co-director, Ekklesia, Dr Artemi Sakellariadis Director, Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education, Jo Claire CEO, Three Cs Support, Martin Rathfelder Director, Socialist Health Association, Alison Blackwood Head of policy and knowledge, London Voluntary Service Council, Peter Corbett CEO, Thomas Pocklington Trust, Margie Arts Barrow and Furness Pensioners’ Association, Stefania Rulli-Gibbs Communications manager, Brandon Trust, Gordon McFadden Director of policy, Limbcare, Bahir Laattoe Barnet Alliance for Public Services, Marie Lynam The Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group

Unions:
Sean McGovern Unite executive council disability representative, Ivan Hickman Secretary, Stoke-on-Trent NUT, Steve Roberts Chair, Warwickshire Fire Brigade Union, Rob Crowther Unite (UCU branch), Ray Smith Secretary, Newcastle Central Unite 1901, Dr Helen Groom GP, Gateshead Medical Practitioners Union (part of Unite), Gavin Dudley GMB workplace rep, Helen Winterburn Branch chair, Unison Darlington LG branch, Barrow Trades Union Council, Chris Youett NUJ rep on TUC Midlands, David O’Tooe Branch development organiser, UCU Exeter office, Doug Oxer RMT Union, David Lowdon GMB member, SWP member, Martin Bove Unite member, John Lea Unite, Matt Brierley on behalf of PCS Ofsted branch committee, Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, Neil Smith GMB branch secretary

Apr 222012
 

At a meeting called by DPAC on 19th April 2012 to discuss the issues for the disabled people’s movement in opposing the closure of Remploy factories, Tracey Lazard, Chief Executive of Inclusion London, London’s leading Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisation, called on disabled people to unite in opposing the government’s cynical decision to snatch employment from thousands of disabled workers.

Over 30 disabled people and allies attended the meeting held at the University of London Union to build support from the disability people’s community for the national Remploy demonstration which took place on 20th April and the meeting called by Unite for 26th April. The meeting represented the first time the disabled people’s movement has openly discussed the complex and controversial issues which the Remploy dispute touches on and which have led to the stigma which still largely surrounds support for the Remploy workers from within the movement. However, whilst some disabled people are publically quoted as celebrating the closures as a victory for disability equality, DPAC has criticised the closures and the lack of any form of worker/user- led alternative which was proposed in the Sayce report.

Lazard explained Inclusion London’s position in opposing the factory closures and how this is in no way an endorsement of segregated employment. At a time of recession when non-disabled people cannot find jobs and when benefit cuts are pushing genuine disabled claimants off benefits and into poverty, it is irresponsible to remove meaningful employment from thousands of disabled people. The Sayce Report recommended investing money saved from the factory closures in Access to Work, the government programme that funds support for disabled people in mainstream employment, but with continuing cuts and restrictions to Access to Work, it is evident that the closures have nothing to do with building an inclusive society and are nothing more than yet another a cynical attempt to save money by targeting the most disadvantaged members of the community. Rob Murthwaite, DPAC national steering committee, spoke out about the need to nail the lie that this dispute is about disabled people’s equality.

There was debate around the need for segregated workplaces and also about the best way to effectively support the Remploy workers in their dispute. There was unanimous agreement that the Remploy workers have been mismanaged by non-disabled people with senior managers taking home 1.8 million in bonuses in 2011 while the factory floor were under a pay restraint. There was a strong feeling that government should have invested in reforming the factories according to user led models so that the expertise of the workers could be utilised in establishing viable, sustainable enterprises. Questions were raised about figures given out by the government purportedly showing the unsustainability of the factories. There was also consensus that on the core disabled people’s principle of nothing about us without us, the movement needs to listen and respect the voices of the workers. Those voices say no to factory closures so we need to respect that and support the workers in their self-determined struggle.

John McDonnell MP spoke about the grim prospects for the thousands of disabled Remploy workers set to lose their jobs. In areas with Remploy factories the ratio of people chasing each job is 30-40: 1 which is far higher than average. After losing their income from employment the workers will face serious difficulty in obtaining enough income to survive from welfare benefits as the system is ever tightened and the government moves ahead with proposals to replace DLA with PIP and in so doing remove 20% of claimants. He spoke about work he is involved in joint with PCS to document cases where coroners have directly linked deaths to the loss of benefits.

The meeting agreed actions in support for the Remploy workers to include a letter from DPAC and Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations to the press opposing the factory closures, support for the meeting called by Unite on 26th April and participation in the demonstration on 20th April.

 

SAVE REMPLOY – PUBLIC MEETING THURSDAY 26TH APRIL 6.30 – 8.30 PM AT FARADAY HOUSE 48-51 Old Gloucester Street London , WC1N 3AE (Opposite Unite’s Holborn Office car park)

 

Tracey Lazard’s presentation:Remploy presentation – IL

Apr 022012
 

Boris claimed he was too busy to turn up at a London mayoral ‘hustlings’ organised by user-led organisations Inclusion London and Transport for all (TfA) to listen to disabled people.

However, Boris can find the time to go to another ‘hustlings’ event organised by the big disability charities including RNIB, Leonard Cheshire Disability and MENCAP. The charities have not invited user-led disabled peoples’ organisations to attend. The big charities continue to speak FOR disabled people with no mandate to do so and continue to exclude disabled people from talks with local and national governments as always.

DPAC asks: How much longer will user-led organisations and disabled people continue to be silenced by the multi-million pound charities?  How much longer will people support the big disability charities without realising that they are acting in their own interests? Already Disability Works UK (a consortium of charities  claiming a turn over value of £654.4 million) run workfare for disabled people, risking sanctions and loss of benefit for the very people the charities claim to ‘help’.  They claim they dont do sanctions but this is because they pass on the names of people to DWP so that they can do them.

Boris may be too busy to notice or simply not care- disabled people of London should care and make sure that his arrogance towards disabled peoples’ issues and the real problems we face translates into a ‘no vote’ for Boris in May.

Click on link to read the story of the snub by John Pring:

http://www.disabledgo.com/blog/2012/03/anger-over-boris-snub-for-user-led-question-time/

 

Dec 142011
 

In March 2011 I wrote about the ways media portrayed disabled people at a time of punitive cuts to disabled peoples’ social and financial supports.

….a range of false accusations against disabled people and those with long term health conditions are visible in the media. Rather than offering support to disabled people, certain sections of the media prefer to label disabled people as unsustainable, unproductive or immoral members of their communities. The major accusation, however, is that disabled people are not disabled at all, but profiting from fraudulent benefit claims

Eight months on there is a clear escalation of the negative portrayal of disabled people in the UK media. These attacks are no longer confined to screaming newspaper headlines in the Daily Mail and Daily Express declaring that the majority of people on disability benefits are frauds, but a whole host of television programs setting out the Saints and Sinners, even programs with usually good credentials such as Panorama have jumped on to the band wagon of who’s responsible for ‘Broken Britain’. Since March 2011 negative and unbalanced reporting has become worse.

Social and Economic facts versus ideological messages

At the same time unemployment has increased to the highest rates ever recorded for youth and women, and the highest since 1992. On average vacancies have decreased from an average of 2/1 (2005) vacancy rate to a 6/1 (2011) with six people chasing one job according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS). Figures on averages hide local variations which are often much higher.

Yet, still unemployment or any need for state support is consistently identified as a personal failing regardless of personal circumstances or societal limitations: it’s this ideological message, rather than economic and statistical facts that gathers pace and shouts out loud and clear from some sectors of the media, with disabled people most often identified as the group needing to leave welfare and get jobs because they are ‘faking it’.

How the Newspapers are reporting Disability

A recent report commissioned by the organisation Inclusion London and carried out by the Strathclyde Disability Research Group and Glasgow Media Studies group at the University of Glasgow: Bad News for Disabled People: How the Newspapers are reporting Disability, found significant changes in media reporting of disabled people which show a clearly defined increase in stories and views identifying disabled people as ‘undeserving’.

The report identified changes in reporting through comparative content analysis of tabloid newspapers in 2005/6 and 2010/11and through focus groups. The researchers found that incidents of negative language regarding disabled people in print media had more than doubled over the time period, while what they termed ‘sympathetic’ stories had more or less disappeared in the tabloid press. Terms such as ‘burden’, ‘scrounger’, and ‘cheat’ were used repeatedly in 2011with a rapidly decreasing use of articles on disability discrimination. In addition stories outlining the political and economic context were rare. When the focus groups were asked to describe a typical disability story in the newspapers: disability benefit fraud was the top theme.

 The media examined were the Mirror, the Sun, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, and for balance the Guardian. The researchers also carried out a number of focus groups asking what each group thought the level of disability benefit fraud was, there were variations from rates of 50% to 70% of perceived disability fraud from focus groups.

The reality in terms of incapacity benefit it is just 0.03% according to the ONS the report states. The Department of Work and Pensions own figures on Disability Living Allowance are 0.05% both stats also include administrative errors within their figures. The media strategy appears to be working when focus groups state perceived incidents of fraud of up to 70% which is more in line with Daily Mail and Daily Express headlines, than any statistical realities.

The report’s timely commission by Inclusion London, a London wide Deaf and Disabled Peoples’ organisation provides more evidence for further campaigns and for those who doubted that the print media in particular were objective. In addition, there have been several examples of stories usefully backed by a quote or two from Iain Duncan Smith MP welfare and pensions’ secretary. The most stunning in the Sun newspaper in 2011 when he happily implied that disabled people were responsible for the UK deficit, the most recent quoting him as ‘enraged’ and ‘shocked’ based a story that carried false figures regarding mobility cars. He wasn’t shocked by the inaccuracies but by the figures which weren’t checked before publication, but false figures are par for the course, as are false accusations.

The Cuts, Media and ‘real life’ Implications

Sheffield Hallam University have also produced a report outlining the impact of the cuts in incapacity benefit, claiming that almost half of those now receiving incapacity benefits will lose them, not because of fraud, but because of a tightening of the qualifying criteria for the replacement of lower income benefit Employment Support Allowance. The report by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University, estimates that the reforms will cut the number of disabled people on out-of-work disability benefits by nearly one million in just three years. Add to this other reforms set to take away any support from disabled people and those already carried out removing over 9 billion pounds worth of support and we see a very different story from one of fraud. We see a story of ‘cuts’ to a group that the UK public had consistently agreed to be deserving of support in national surveys such as the British Attitudes Survey.

Professor Fothergill author of the report on Incapacity Benefit changes said

The large numbers that will pushed off incapacity benefits over the next two to three years are entirely the result of changes in the benefit rules” and added that this ..’would impoverish vast numbers of households and cause untold distress to countless more. The incapacity numbers need to be brought down, but this is not the way’

He is also clear that this is not about fraud, but about ‘changes in the benefit rules’ see Jolly . He adds: “Incapacity claimants often face multiple obstacles to working again and their concentration in the weakest local economies and most disadvantaged communities means they usually have little chance of finding work.”

Yet, it is the benefit fraud stories that abound despite the 0.03% figure; people believe the figure is much higher. A rise in disability hate crime has been linked to the media strategy on the demonising of disabled people. One example was reported on 4th December, one day after the International Day of People with Disabilities. It tells of Peter Greener’s constant barrage of abuse from his neighbour.

Sometimes, it was eggs thrown at his house, stones thrown at his windows or paint thrown at his fence; more often, it was words hurled in his face: spastic, cripple, scum, scrounger. These assaults went on for months, leaving the former Nissan car-sprayer in floods of tears, feeling suicidal and on antidepressants. He was scared to leave his home in Hebburn in South Tyneside and blamed himself for the upset it caused his wife and two children. “It made our lives hell,” he said.

Like many people with conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Greener’s regressive condition fluctuates. One day, it affects his memory, the next his speech. Sometimes, he uses a wheelchair; at other times, he can haul himself around on crutches. But this only led to more abuse, with angry shouts he was faking his disabilities and exaggerating his problems to get benefits

This is just one story; but the climate of fear is clearly working, there are disabled people who are frightened to leave their homes because of verbal and physical abuse, and accusations of being scroungers and frauds. There are those who refuse to claim their entitlement to support in spite of previously paying years of national insurance when they were in work, because they do not want to be labelled as benefit cheats. In total 16 million pounds worth of entitlements goes unclaimed. There are also those denied entitlement to support through the tougher regimes for claiming any benefit such as the replacement for incapacity benefit through the work capability assessment, carried out by the private company Atos who are being paid 100 million pounds per year by the government. The sums do not add up, but the strategy seems to:

A further report carried out by BT showed that a third of those questioned demonstrated increasingly negative attitudes towards disabled people. Reasons cited for this ranged from disabled people being seen as a burden on society (38%), ill feeling around the perceived extra support given to disabled people (28%), and the personal worries and sensitivities which rise to the fore during a recession (79%).

European Media Strategies

The media attacks on disabled people are not just happening in the UK. In Holland up to 90% is being cut from support for disabled people, similar media demonization is taking place in the popular press identifying perceived ‘undeserving’ cases. In Sweden cuts are being made to assistance to support disabled people with tougher qualifying criteria being put in place, they too have a focus on those who defraud the system highlighting such stories while record numbers of people loose entitlement to support.

The figures for fraud are just 0.05% in Holland. Yet, the magazine Vrij Nederland, a major quality magazine in Holland reproduces outrageous comments from the Secretary of State, responsible for the drastic 90% cuts:

The State Secretary of Health, Marlies van Zanten Veldhuijzen finds it unacceptable that some thirty percent of people with a personal budget (PGB) wrongly receive it. She said in an interview this week: “It can have you on the internet looking for the name of a disease, and then think: look, I can get 2000 Euros per month. With PGB we need to sort the wheat from the chaff.

 She states that 30% receive a budget without having the right to receive it, as if it is a fact. Yet, here is no existing evidence or research confirming or even indicating this. Before receiving a PGB, as in most countries, a strict assessment is carried out. However, here we have a government minister saying that individuals can simply choose a disease at random by searching the internet to gain these funds.

Stories used by media to usher in cuts to disability support appear to converge into strategies by particular populist media to create a media panic around the extra perceived support given to disabled people for the extra costs of disability. This is proving effective , especially when there are examples of ‘undeserving’ cases being presented to shift the traditional view of disabled people as ‘tragic victims of circumstance’ –the  claim of ‘tragic victims’ has always been rejected by many in the disabled peoples’ movement –maybe this will change as the 21st century welfare reform policies and the media strategies in the UK and Europe reinvent millions of disabled people as the tragic victims of the circumstance of recession and easy targets for savings from the state budget.

The political use of media to promote demonization of disabled people is aiding the work of governments’ intent on cutting the support and the human rights of disabled people.  There are rising cases of verbal abuse against disabled people such as that endured by Peter Greener and rising cases of suicide amongst disabled people with one couple entering a suicide pact after surviving for a year by walking 10 miles to receive food parcels which they made last all week.

The Challenges

Ann McGuire Westminster Shadow minister for work and pensions wrote recently:

Disabled people say they are fed up with being labelled as scroungers in the media – and are beginning to point the finger in the direction of the Government. Yesterday at Work and Pensions questions I asked the Minister for Disabled People to assure the House, and disabled people up and down the country, that Ministers are not behind the stories knocking disabled people that seem to be emerging with alarming regularity…

 McGuire called on the minister for disabled people to quell the insidious media attacks, a challenge that was also made directly to Miller at a recent disability conference in London: McGuire said:

The Minister for Disabled People has a responsibility as the champion of disabled people inside government to challenge some of the more outrageous and outlandish comments by some of her senior colleagues and others associated with her government…And I call on her to do so.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Article 8(2c) of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states:

‘Encouraging all organs of the media to portray persons with disabilities in a manner consistent with the purpose of the present Convention’.

This would include any change in reporting over time: it seems that there has been a change in reporting which is clearly not in line with the convention’s principles of promoting, protecting and ensuring the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms nor with promoting respect for disabled peoples’ inherent dignity. In fact the opposite seems to be occurring.

UK Responses

Inclusion London, the pan Deaf and Disabled Peoples’ organisation that commissioned the Glasgow University research into the media have led a response on the Leveson Inquiry. The response: titled ‘Open Season on Disabled People?’ supported by Disabled People against Cuts and others states:

  • The Government must issue a clear and public rebuttal every time the media release inaccurate information citing Government / Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) statistics.
  • That the Government commit to full transparency in their dealings with the press including  keeping a publically available record of all communications between Government officials, Ministers, their aides and special advisors and the media.
  • That there needs to be an independent review of how the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) releases and provides commentary on its statistics to assess how fair and balanced this data is presented and communicated.
  • That the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) must carry out further research on the impact of media coverage on disabled people and the implications this has for disability hate crime, disabled people’s protection under The Equalities Act and the UN Convention on the rights of disabled people.

We call on the Leveson inquiry, Press Complaints Commission, and OFCOM to:

  • Carry out an independent investigation into the media reporting of disabled people. This investigation needs to include the impact this coverage is having on disabled people and the implications this biased and inaccurate reporting has for the culture, practices, ethics and standards of the press. It must also examine the opportunities disabled people should have for effective redress.

 Debbie Jolly

Debbie Jolly is on twitter: @redjolly1

___________________________________________________________________________

An edited version of this paper is published on British Politics and Policy London School of Economics,  entitled: ‘As the government moves to cut the number of disabled people on benefits, the media is increasingly portraying them as ‘undeserving fraudsters’.http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/2011/12/14/disabled-people-media-attacks/

 Acknowledgements: I would like to acknowledge the assistance and kind support of Jamie Bolling Executive Director of the European Network for Independent Living (ENIL) and Peter Lambreghts of ENIL and the Expertise Centre Independent Living

Please see and support: www.enil.eu  and http://www-en.independentliving.be/

 



 

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