Please find below a letter written by Inclusion London, DPAC and allies to publically state our support for the Remploy workers in their opposition to the government’s decision to make them unemployed. If you would like to add your name or the name of your organisation to the letter please reply to firstname.lastname@example.org.
30 April 2012
We 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. 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 scrapheap 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. Of the Remploy workers made redundant through the first round of factory closures in 2008 only 6% went on to find alternative employment.
Disabled people face systemic discrimination in the workplace even when the economy is at its strongest. In the current recession in areas where Remploy factories are located there are now on average 30 to 40 people chasing every job. The stark reality is that these disabled workers currently have little chance of finding alternative work, at a time when we are hearing about increasing numbers of disabled people who are taking their own lives in despair after loss of benefits.
The government argues that the factories are inefficient and unsustainable. They fail to mention the top-heavy non-disabled Remploy board and senior management strata; or the £1.8 million handed out in bonuses to Remploy bosses last year which could have been reinvested in the business. Remploy workers have been let down by non-disabled management who have run down their factories to ease the way for the closures.
The government says it is committed to inclusion and equality for disabled people but the facts suggest otherwise. Its disregard for inclusion is evident from its education policy which promotes a return to segregated education. Its welfare policy represents an unprecedented and savage attack on disability equality that will make it more difficult for disabled people to contribute to society.
Disabled people are predicted to lose at the very least £9 billion in benefit entitlements over this Parliament. The Department for Work and Pensions’ own statistics put disability benefit fraud at no more than 0.5%. Proposals for reform of Disability Living Allowance will see 500,000 disabled people losing an essential benefit. 57% of disabled people in waged work on DLA have said in this situation they would be forced to give up work.
Likewise, the Access to Work programme for support for disabled people in mainstream employment has been shown to more than cover its costs in revenue gained by tax, paid by disabled people now in work, who couldn’t remain in their jobs without this support. Yet the reality is that disabled workers’ jobs are being threatened by Access to Work support being cut and restricted.
We reject the view that the way to respond to discrimination and exclusion in the workplace is through segregated employment, but we also reject the view that if we are against segregation we must go along with these job cuts and closures. We say no to any cuts that will push even more disabled people into poverty and isolation.
Equality and inclusion for disabled people will be achieved through commitment and investment in tackling discrimination in the workplace, and wider society, and by investing in the provision of support that enables disabled people to gain choice, control, and independence in our lives.
We the undersigned call for true equality and inclusion through:
The 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 so that it genuinely meets the needs of both disabled volunteers and workers. This extra funding must not come from the cuts to Remploy jobs.
Investment in high-quality employment support services that enable disabled people to find employment and stay in employment—not the free labour workfare schemes currently provided.
The right to inclusive education and accessible training and apprenticeships for all disabled people that will increase our chances of gaining and retaining meaningful employment.
Commitment to tackle discrimination in the workplace through better understanding and enforcement of Equality Act duties.
On 3rd May, representatives of corporate energy and politics will be meeting in London at the UK energy summit.
They want to keep on profiteering from fuel poverty, climate change, and trashing on the planet.
We can’t let them.
Come and take the power back.
Your day of action and your initial meeting place will be shaped by the bloc you join. Assemble at your bloc’s meeting point at 11am. Sign up to a bloc on the website to receive SMS text updates about action plans:
Dirty Energy Bloc
Dirty energy, dirty basslines and dirty business. Get down and dirty with us as we trash the planet in style!
Meet outside City Thameslink station (Ludgate Hill exit) at 11am.
For warm homes and community control. Join this bloc if you want to turn up the heat in your homes and turn up the heat on the greedy energy companies…
Meet outside Cannon Hill station at 11am.
Robin Hood Bloc
Join our merry band as we take the power from the Big Six Energy Barons and give it back to the people.
Meet outside St Paul’s tube station, 11am.
Fossil-Free Future Bloc
A family friendly bloc for a future free from fossil fuels. As climate change threatens life on earth join this bloc if you think that the Big Six Dinosaurs are the ones that ought to face extinction. Come and demonstrate for fair democratic, fair and clean alternatives to the prehistoric energy companies fuels and thinking…
Meet outside Tate Modern at 11am.
For any access needs send an SMS text or leave a message on 07432031610.
Food and drink
Music, samba rhythms, and sound systems
People not profit
We want to end the stranglehold that the Big Six Energy Companies have on this country. Corporate control of energy is unfair, insane and short sighted and always puts profits ahead of the needs of people and our environment: the Big Six’s profiteering is killing thousands each winter through fuel poverty and millions across the world through climate change.
The Big Six energy companies, hand in hand with the government, and pushed by the mentality of growth capitalism, are destroying the climate and the lives of millions of people around the world. Climate justice means that those who have caused climate change should take responsibility for stopping it.
Disabled people and Climate Change
Disabled people are at particular risk of fuel poverty. Government figures published last year showed that 2.75 million households living in fuel poverty were classed as “vulnerable” under a definition of vulnerable which could include an older person, a child or a disabled person within the household. Fuel poverty disproportionately affects disabled people: disabled people spend a greater proportion of their income on fuel because they are less likely to be employed and they also face additional costs of services, such as social care or mobility aids; through having less opportunities to be in employment disabled people spend a greater proportion of their time at home whilst cold environments can aggravate impairments, exacerbate respiratory problems and increase stress. The double suicide in November last year of disabled couple Mark and Helen Mullins was linked to fuel poverty as without income for heating the pair were forced to live in just one room of their home under increasingly worsening conditions. Fuel poverty affects the poorest; often the poorer you are the higher the fuel prices people tend to be as a result of unscrupulous landlords hiking up meter prices for personal profit.
Climate change can, and does, have a massive impact on disabled people across the world. The world’s poorest communities are most at risk from the violent weather conditions caused by climate change and disabled people make up a large percentage of those communities yet are least likely to have the resources to protect themselves. Problems experienced by disabled people on a day to day basis are magnified when there’s a natural disaster. Moreover natural disasters often leave more people disabled than they kill.
Jenny Morris is known for pushing forward disability equality and the right to independent living through her work as an independent policy analyst and disability researcher over many years. She advised the government on the Improving Life Chances of Disabled People Report (2005) and the Independent Living Strategic Review. Jenny is now retired and describes herself as now mainly spending her time gardening. She also writes a blog on current disability issues and authored the paper ‘Rethinking Disability Policy’ published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on November 2011 which challenges the disability movement to rethink our approaches and engage in wider economic and social debates in order to address the serious threat to disability rights we are currently facing.
Jenny, on your blog profile you have written “I used to spend my time using research and evidence to influence disability policy. I stopped doing that the week before the 2010 general election”. Was the timing co-incidence or by design?
The timing was by design but had both political and personal motivations. I was working with the Office for Disability Issues, on the Right to Control, and I didn’t relish the thought of what would happen when Labour lost the election. But mainly it was because I was going to be 60 a few months after the election and I wasn’t well. I was in fact diagnosed with cancer a couple of months after I stopped work – so it was a good thing that I had stopped. My blog is just a way of having a ‘rant in retirement’ and I am certainly spending more time gardening than anything else – because that’s what makes me happiest.
What in your view does the passage of the Welfare Reform Bill mean for disabled people?
The Welfare Reform Bill is a disaster for disabled people. It ratchets up still further the message – conveyed also by the previous Labour government – that people who can’t sell their labour are to be divided into the ‘deserving’ and the ‘undeserving’ and disabled people into the ‘vulnerable’ and those who aren’t ‘really disabled’. Things are particularly bad for people with impairments or illnesses which are not visible (such as mental illness) or not easily measured (particularly those accompanied by incapacitating levels of pain). The Work Capability Assessment is based on assumptions that people’s own accounts of the restrictions they experience are not to be trusted and that the main barrier to getting employment is lack of ‘motivation’ and ‘welfare dependency’. Conditionality and sanctions are based on the assumption that these are needed to ‘motivate’ people, when in fact the barriers to employment are primarily discrimination, lack of support and adjustments, and – most importantly – a lack of jobs. The whole system is predicated on the idea that the problem is the individual who needs to be ‘fixed’ rather than a dysfunctional economy and widespread discrimination.
You have written about the need for the welfare state to uphold disabled people’s rights. How do you think the campaign for choice and control over our own lives has undermined the welfare state and how can we redress this?
The independent living movement was clear that ‘independence’ means having choice and control over the support needed to go about your daily life – a defining part of autonomy and self-determination. At the same time, we were clear that the provision of support required adequate levels of funding, funding which could only come from redistribution of resources through taxation. However, direct payments were supported by the Conservative government in the mid-1990s because they fitted in with the idea of a minimalist state, with purchasing power being the route to a good quality of life, and with a reduction in services delivered by public bodies. It’s no accident that the local authorities that were the slowest to adopt direct payments were those where Labour councillors and trade unions were concerned to protect the jobs of homecare workers, and who saw direct payments as a form of privatisation.
It’s undoubtedly true that the development of direct payments and now individual/personal budgets is part and parcel of the marketisation of support services – as is the current piloting of personal health budgets. But this doesn’t mean we should abandon the idea of choice and control rather that we have to, at the same time, be clear that having choice and control also depends on the level of resources available and that we have to therefore argue for a level of funding, and the kind of welfare state, which creates a level playing field for disabled people.
However, as I said in my JRF Viewpoint, in order to make the case for this we have to move beyond a focus on disability policy and address the dysfunctional ways in which our economy is currently configured and what kind of taxation system would support a strong welfare state. We also need to promote democratically accountable ways of developing and delivering benefits and services.
You were involved in writing the 2005 Government report, ‘ Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People’ while working for the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit which aimed at achieving full equality for disabled people. Any regrets?
No I don’t have any regrets about my involvement with the Life Chances report – though of course it didn’t go far enough and a lot of the progress which was made is now being rolled back. However, it was the first time the government formally adopted the social model of disability and the chapter on independent living set out some important principles and commitments – even if they didn’t go as far as I would have liked. The report prompted the setting up the Office for Disability Issues, which has a remit to ‘champion equality for disabled people’ across government. It also prompted the Life Opportunities Survey, a longitudinal survey which will be used to measure progress towards full citizenship for disabled people. And it resulted in the Independent Living Strategy published in 2008, which I also worked on, and which was followed by the Right to Control. As with the Life Chances report, the ILS established some commitments which might prove useful to the disability movement – for example a commitment to review the need for legislation on a right to independent living if significant progress has not been made by 2013.
What threat does the closure of the Independent Living Fund present for disabled people?
The closure of the ILF means that people who previously could have hoped to have the type and level of support they need to have the kind of life non-disabled people take for granted, will no longer have this. It’s highly unlikely that local authorities will make up the shortfall. It’s true that the ILF was an anachronism – in that it was a national system which met needs which were otherwise, for people with lower levels of need, met through locally funded social services. When we were working on Life Chances, we tried imagining a system which would deliver independent living and it became obvious that the ILF was closer to doing that than the current set-up with local social services. The closure of the ILF is therefore not only a disaster for those individuals who won’t now get access to it, it’s also a significant step backwards in terms of developing a funding system which could really deliver choice and control for disabled people.
You have shown how government has misappropriated the language of disabled people’s rights to push through their own measures. I cannot count how many times I have heard Maria Miller (mis-) spouting the social model of disability in speeches recently. Is it a deliberate subversion of the social model and the radical societal change it calls for or an opportunistic exploitation of popular ideology?
It’s both isn’t it? This government has colonised our language to promote their policy that paid work is the only route to being a full citizen. Like many, I find politicians’ use of social model language deeply offensive. Our identification of disabling barriers and campaigns against discrimination have been distorted by a government which is primarily motivated by a desire to cut public expenditure and to bring about a fundamental reduction in the welfare state. When disabled people said that they wanted the right to work, we meant that we wanted the right not to be discriminated against and to the support and adjustments required to make employment possible. We didn’t mean that we wanted a society where it’s literally survival of the fittest, where people’s accounts of the restrictions they face are assumed to be at best exaggerated and at worst downright lies.
You worked with government for many years. What are the key challenges for disabled people in the years ahead and how do you think we can best protect our rights against this current onslaught?
As with all engagement with government policy, it’s often a case of inching forward in terms of making progress and sometimes that progress is then rolled back. I think it’s important that we remain clear that tackling disabling barriers and promoting choice and control are the key things to equal citizenship for disabled people. And that people with impairments and/or long-term health problems have additional support needs which have to be met in order to access their human and civil rights. I also think we shouldn’t be colluding in the identification of who is ‘vulnerable’ and therefore deserving of state support (in the form of benefits and services). The concept of vulnerability is part of the ideology which says that only those who are most ‘dependent’ have a legitimate claim on public resources. It undermines the idea that ‘independence’ is about having choice and control over the support you need to go about your daily life, and instead promotes the idea that to be ‘independent’ you have to not rely on the state or other people for support.
I do remember someone saying, during the campaigns for anti-discrimination legislation 30 years ago, that we should be careful what we wished for – that disabled people might experience a backlash. The argument was that, although disabled people experienced discrimination and segregation they also experienced generally ‘benevolent’ attitudes and that, if disability was seen as a rights issue, people might take a less ‘caring’ attitude towards us. While I think that was a spurious argument (as spurious as when we were told that feminists should wait until the revolution before expecting gender equality!), I do think that our success in defining disability as a human and civil rights issue has at the same time lifted the lid off the prejudice that is very deeply embedded in social attitudes towards impairment and difference. But it’s really important we don’t respond to the current situation by emphasising how ‘vulnerable’ disabled people are, but instead keep putting the case for disability to be seen as a human and civil rights issue – and continue campaigning for the kind of society which promotes the human and civil rights of all its citizens.
My point about needing to move out of just focussing on disability policy and instead also address wider issues relating to the economy and the welfare state, means that the disability movement needs to engage with and build alliances with other campaigns and groups. Unfortunately, many other politically active people, and writers and academics, do not understand the social model of disability and its implications. And yet I think our analysis, experiences and struggles are so relevant to other issues of inequality and injustice. While things seem very bleak at the moment, this is largely because of the current economic crisis – and the one thing this illustrates is that the way our economy, and the global economy, is currently configured is unsustainable. Disabled people were not part of the decision-making processes which went into developing our current welfare state; we need to ensure we are at the heart of the development of progressive alternatives to the current crisis. That is the only way that we will ever have a society which protects and promotes our human and civil rights.
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)
SAVE REMPLOY – PUBLIC MEETING
THURSDAY 26TH APRIL 6.30 – 8.30 PM
48-51 Old Gloucester Street
London, WC1N 3AE
(Opposite Unite’s Holborn Office car park)
As a result of the damning Sayce Report on funding for disabled workers last year Remploy has announced the closure of 36 of its 54 factories. The first closures are imminent; and the remaining 18 will be forced to shut by the end of 2013 if they cannot reduce the subsidy for per disabled factory worker.
THERE WILL NOT BE ANY ‘BIG’ NAMES ON THE TOP TABLE THIS MEETING IS LED BY REMPLOY WORKERS PRESENT AND PAST WE’VE LISTENED TO WHAT THE GOVERNMENT HAS TO SAY ON THE CLOSURES…
NOW COME AND HEAR WHAT THE REMPLOY WORKERS HAVE TO SAY!
It’s vital funding which we need to help thousands of people with their benefit appeals
DPAC wants to thank Nick @Mylegalforum once more for letting us post this to DPAC
What we need people to do is contact their local or representative peer in the House of Lords by Monday April 23rd when the legal aid (LASPO) bill goes back to the House of Lords. It’s also worth contacting your MP as they can speak with Peers.
It’s really easy via the ‘write to them’ link, just enter in your area (Town or County) and it will locate you a ‘peer’ in the House of Lords.
We need as many Peers as possible to be contacted by Monday. Don’t worry too much about the legal aid bill not being their specialist area or which political party they represent (some ‘cross bench’ peers belong to no particular party).
The aim is to contact them to show how much it matters to you.
The site helps you draft your email (you could use my template in next post) or you can write your own. When its ready just copy (by pressing ‘CTRL’ and ‘C’ on your keyboard) then paste into the dialogue box on the ‘write to them’ site’ (by pressing ‘CTRL’ and ‘V’).
You can find out the full list of peers who voted ‘yes’ or ‘no’ via the links here (it was then listed as amendment 11)
For the last 12 years many CAB and law centres have been funded by legal aid and some are very reliant on it because they specialise in areas of law like welfare benefits. The Government has voted to axe this funding which means around 135,000 people per year will no longer be able to get specialist help from paid professionals who win around 75% of their cases. For each case their organisation gets paid a fixed fee of just �150 regardless of how long it takes to complete.
The Tribunals judiciary has predicted that the welfare reforms will result in over 2.5 million people appealing for their benefits between 2010 and 2015; the current figures are seeing a huge increase in appeals – the highest ever. Many people do not realise how vital this funding is to people, especially the disabled. Government has chosen to make savings of �16 million at a time when the need of this help could not be greater, they expect people to fight their cases on their own without help. The Lords have already voted heavily to keep this funding but government says no, they have asked the Lords’ to agree with them – you could make all the difference by persuading them to say ‘NO’.
Read more: http://mylegal.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=frontline&thread=654&page=1#1530#ixzz1smPFP5sQ
Politicians of all parties have rightly paid tribute to Jack Ashley after his death on 20th April aged 89. Not one of them mentioned the fact that he tirelessly pushed for an Independent Living Bill. These very same politicians blocked, delayed and ran out of time on dates at which this bill was to go through readings. The Independent Living Bill set out the basics that disabled people should be entitled to, to ensure real independent living. When I spoke to him in 2008 on behalf of the European Network on Independent Living he said:
My Bill on independent living is designed to sweep away the scandalously inadequate system of services for disabled people and to replace it with one which is based on freedom, choice, control and participation. At present, independent living is a mirage. Consequently, the present system means there are very few rights to services. For example, the very notion that the right to merely being washed and fed provides independence is bizarre. These conditions mean that disabled people have to fight for every concession rather than have services provided as of right.
Today, disabled people have no rights in their choice of where they live and who they live with, no legal entitlement to advocacy, no right to communication support and equipment, no right to portable support. They are trapped in a system which is slow, cumbersome and inflexible.
The Bill sets out clear principles for the delivery of support to disabled people and their families. For the first time social care, health and housing support will have a clear purpose set out in law. This would guarantee disabled people the services they are deprived of today.
Every disabled person would be guaranteed minimum outcomes which would focus on delivering the means to live an ordinary life, rather than the current “feed and clean” only culture.
Disabled people would be supported to define their own needs through self-assessment which would save time and money. Disabled people would have new rights to communication support and equipment, to independent advocacy, to support mental health needs and to palliative care and rehabilitation. This is merely the flavour of the Bill and there are many detailed proposals, all of which combine to present a very different picture of independent living from todays. This Bill has the potential to transform the lives of millions of disabled people in Britain. They are entitled to it and it is up to us, working together, to provide it.”
He also said
Throughout my Parliamentary career, I have fought for all disabled people to have the same choice, dignity, freedom and control as every other citizen. These are the central principles of ‘Independent Living’.
Disabled people came from different parts of the country and assembled at Leicester Square and moved off towards Trafalgar Square. It started raining intermittently. Police accompanied us and were not happy that we were on the road. They tried to get information and we heard them asking what were our plans but none of us spoke to them.
Arriving at Trafalgar Square, 2 groups of wheelchair users split up and block up two junctions. Police tried to get us off the street while activists chanted and voiced their protests.
In the pouring rain the activists stayed put inspite of the police trying to move us on and the drummers kept spirits up while we chatted and handed out post cards to passer bys.
the Scottish contingent
Time went by very quicky and we decided to finish at 4pm and ended then. Thank you everybody for making it such a success! Rights not Charity!
with many thanks to nick @Mylegalforum for letting us repost see Mylegalforum for more
Here’s how Clarke’s proposals will affect many lives if the Government gets its way this Tuesday – you can kiss goodbye to legal aid for all this..
Clarke is opposing…
(1) A clearer definition of his functions (1)
(2) Access to legal services for domestic violence victims (2)
(3) A better definition of the distinction between him and his director of legal services, but he is putting forward a counter proposal for individual cases which he proposes imposes ‘independence’ (3 & 4 replaced)
(4) Any legal help for welfare benefit work up to first – tier tribunal level (168)
(5) Has made a concession on welfare benefits in the upper tribunal & higher courts which needs to be treated with some degree of caution until its full legal effect is known (169 & 240)
(6) Experts report in clinical negligence cases (170)
(7) Face to face advice – he wants the telephone gateway (24)
(8) Exceptions in respiratory /industrial disease or illness cases (31)
(9) Exceptions in Industrial disease cases where breach of duty by employer (32)
(10) Access to a legal services for a wider number of children (171)
(11) Access to legal services in clinical negligence cases in instances which took place when the victim was a child (172)
Nor is he giving much on domestic violence provisions with the additional opposition of amendments 192 to 196 (excluding 195)
In summary – he’s gone against the Lords on almost everything with some tinkering to suit his government’s aims & a meaningless concession on Upper Tribunal & higher court work in welfare benefit cases which is unlikely to benefit advice agencies given the low number of cases when the bigger problem they face is helping clients with the tsunami of benefits appeals at First Tier level – set to increase to 644,000 appeals per year according to the Tribunal judiciary!
Contact your MP – there are many links to different ways of doing so on the internet. We’ve put one here…
Sian Griffiths is a local Brent resident, firefighter and now candidate for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in the upcoming elections.
Sian was awarded the Queens Fire Service Medal (QFSM) and one of only 2 women to have ever received the award, in Nov 2010 but 2 days later was then suspended for supporting the Fire Brigades Union’s industrial action against the proposed sacking of 5000 firefighters and she was subsequently disciplined and demoted. She is pursuing her case through an Employment (industrial) tribunal next month (May). Sian is a parent and also active within her local community in Willesden and is the Chair of Queens Park Community School (QPCS) Parent, Teachers, Friends Association (PTFA). It is exactly this kind of worker that TUSC wants to see representing ordinary people instead of the usual high polished career politicians.
TUSC is a coalition of unions, activists and like minded people commited to opposing “all cuts” on the basis that money is plentiful at the tops of society and just needs to be shared out. All candidates stand by this pledge. TUSC represents an alternative to the 3 main parties which represent the millionaires instead it stands for the millions. We enjoy the backing of the RMT Union nationally and FBU in London.
7.30pm Tuesday 24th April
Rising Sun, 25 Harlesden Road, NW10 2BY(behind Willesden Green library)
Speakers are TUSC candidates:
Sian Griffiths, Fire Brigades Union
Martin Powell-Davies, National Executive of teachers union NUT
Mick Dooley, construction activist
Gary MacFarlane, Tottenham community activist
It is common knowledge that Government plans to reduce the costs of public services are having a severe impact across society. This austerity plan is having a disproportionate impact on disabled people. It affects benefits, services provided both centrally and from Local Authorities and even basic community amenities that disabled people rely on. It is also affecting access to justice across a range of legal areas.
When you might need Legal Aid
The effect on access to justice will be particularly profound for disabled people. It may seem that it will not affect the vast majority of people, yet legal advisors in solicitors’ firms, citizens advice bureaux and law centres offer assistance to huge numbers of people who have lost out on benefits – including those who are wrongly assessed as able to work. They also help those who have problems at work, with their families or their homes. But this help is under threat if the Government gets its way on a law about to go before MPs. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (also known as the Legal Aid Bill) sets out Government plans to cut free advice for many types of legal problems.
Physically limiting access
People can currently access legal help in a variety of ways including visiting solicitors’ offices, telephoning a helpline or being referred by advice agencies to specialist services. All of these are designed to assist someone to find a solicitor and calculate whether they are eligible for Legal Aid. The Government has set out proposals to remove the option of face-to-face appointments and require anyone seeking Legal Aid to first contact a telephone advice gateway. The aim would be that this would act as “triage” and filter out those who did not require face-to-face legal advice. Disabled people in particular have seen how many of these contracted-out services are run to the detriment of their users. DPAC have written about the fiasco caused by ATOS carrying out assessments and the issue of benefit cuts.
The Government has now conceded in the face of their own evidence that it would be inappropriate to include Community Care law as part of the initial trial. However, plans remain in place for other areas of Legal Aid law to be accessed through the telephone gateway. The first areas of law to be affected are debt, discrimination and special educational needs. The House of Lords changed the Legal Aid Bill so that the Government would not be able to set-up this mandatory telephone gateway. However, the Government can overturn this amendment when the Legal Aid Bill goes back to the House of Commons on 17 April.
The Government wants to remove all welfare benefits advice from the Legal Aid scheme. The House of Lords took a strong stance against this following the Welfare Reform Bill and the increasing pressure to force people onto work programmes. They have changed the Legal Aid Bill so that Legal Aid will continue to be available for appeals against Department for Work and Pension decisions. However, the House of Commons can overturn this amendment when they debate the Legal Aid Bill again on 17 April.
Other areas of law
The areas of law affected by the Legal Aid Bill are huge. If the Government is able to push the legislation through Parliament, then most people will either have to pay to see a lawyer or go without justice. This is particularly important to anyone who is likely to need a solicitor: whether through problems at home, with family or at work. Most likely to affect disabled people are:
– Clinical Negligence claims: the removal of Legal Aid in gathering reports will mean that before a case is even begun, you will need to fund an expert report.
– Employment: the Government is seeking to prevent someone from even having an initial publicly funded session with a Legal Aid lawyer. This has greater impact for disabled people, because they are most likely to face prejudice and harassment at work and discrimination in even getting in to work.
– Housing: Legal Aid will fund only those who are at risk of losing their homes, even where initial advice and assistance could prevent this from happening. This is particularly important if you are living in a home where adaptations have been made for ease of mobility.
Where to, then?
If the Government proposals go ahead, then those who are no longer eligible for Legal Aid will be seeking access to justice from charities and the not-for-profit sector. However many charities and citizens advice bureaux are facing cuts in funding, not only from a loss of Legal Aid, but also from a reduction in external funding and particularly funds from Local Authorities who are withdrawing their support for services considered non-essential.
It is of particular concern that where advice centres remain they will not necessarily have specialist staff who will be able to deal with specific problems. For disabled people, whose needs are often more complex and intersect a number of different areas, this is worrying.
A recent report from the Young Legal Aid Lawyers (YLAL) has highlighted that faced with these cuts and nowhere else to turn people are likely to turn to their MPs to provide assistance. Of the MPs interviewed by YLAL a third of MPs spend somewhere between 50-75% of their time dealing with the issues of their constituents. To make matters worse, at the moment, MPs can refer these cases on to law firms and legal advice organisations if specialist, expert advice is required. Seventy-one per cent of MPs and caseworkers interviewed by YLAL had referred constituents to a legal adviser in the six months preceding the study.
Act now to save Legal Aid
Having faced some amendments to the Bill, which were largely positive in the House of Lords, the Bill is now returning for final consideration in the House of Commons on 17 April 2012. Now is your final chance to have your say and to lobby your MP to act on your behalf.
If you are concerned about the impact of the legal aid cuts on you, and on wider society, please take time to write to your MP urging them to vote for amendments to the Bill. Send them YLAL’s report (find a copy here) or Justice for All’s report on the challenges facing law centres and Citizens Advice Bureaux (available here). A quick link to a letter to your MP is here. Please spread the word now – we only have a few days left to save legal aid.
Young Legal Aid Lawyers (YLAL) is a group of lawyers who are committed to practising in those areas of law, both criminal and civil, that have traditionally been publicly funded. YLAL members include students, paralegals, trainee solicitors, pupil barristers and qualified junior lawyers based throughout England and Wales. We believe that the provision of good quality publicly funded legal help is essential to protecting the interests of those with least in society and upholding the rule of law.
The closure of the Independent Living Fund to new applicants is denying essential independent living support to many disabled people. The government is saying that support provided by the Independent Living Fund is available through personal budgets and Direct Payments from local authorities but this is simply not true. If you have been adversely affected by the changes to the ILF and would be interested in taking a legal challenge against it please contact Linda on 01926 842253 / 07714927533.
“Policy Exchange is hosting a major full day conference looking at the future of the labour market and welfare and skills policy in the UK. The key theme will be how the employment and skills agendas could be coordinated to ensure that unemployment is reduced and that the labour market meets the needs of business in the future. The day will be a great opportunity to hear the views of expert speakers and for businesses, policy makers, politicians and academics to get together to discuss these vital issues.”
Keynote speakers include Minister for Workfare Chris Grayling.
This is on the day the latest unemployment figures are released. It is estimated that over the summer 100,000 public sector will lose their jobs.
Protest at the Policy Exchange conference
9am, Wednesday 18th April, Microsoft, 80-100 Victoria Street, Westminster, London, SW1E 5JL
Action will be around benefit cuts, care funding and Loss of Remploy jobs.
April 18th meet for 1.30 pm McDonalds Leicester Square.
After previous rounds of closures at Remploy, which provides work for thousands of disabled people, the Tories plan to finish the job. Of the 54 remaining workplaces 36 have already received 90 days notice of closure on Monday 19 March.
GMB and Unite, the unions for Remploy workers, will hold a demonstration in Norwich on Saturday 14th April.
10am to 1pm, Saturday 14th April
Hay Hill, Opposite Primark, 7-9 Haymarket Norwich,Norfolk NR2 1QD
Public Meeting – Fight the Remploy Closures
Thursday 19 April – 7.30pm
The Venue, ULU, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HY
John McDonnell MP – Chair Right to Work campaign; Gail Cartmail – Unite Assistant General Secretary; Les Woodward – GMB National Convenor of Remploy; Rob Murthwaite – Disabled People Against Cuts
Lobby the DWP in Sheffield – The campaign to save Remploy factories continues
Assemble 12.30 for a 1pm start outside the Department of Work and Pensions office in Sheffield (Steel City House) at the junction of West Street, Church Street and Tripit Lane.
Sign the petition to save Remploy factories and send cheques payable to ‘The Remploy Fighting Fund’ to: Phil Davies, Manufacturing Section, GMB National Office, 22-24 Worple Road, Wimbledon, London SW19 4DD
Fighting the threat of catastrophic climate change
The CLIMATE JOBS CARAVAN – backed by a number of national unions and campaign groups – is a 2000 mile campaign tour of towns and cities to promote the ONE MILLION CLIMATE JOBS REPORT and raise public discussion of how jobs lost in your locality can be replaced through the creation of the new industries and services that we need to ensure an environmentally sustainable future.
The Caravan goes on the road on 12 May. It will be greeted by meetings and other public events in dozens of localities where jobs are currently being shed. Join it when it arrives near you.
May 23rd advance warning Lord Freud at National Housing Federation event explaining the need for Welfare abolition.
In view of the welfare reforms that the ConDem’s have forced through parliament, reforms that are forcing many sick and disabled people deep into poverty and misery, it’s time to tell the DWP what we feel, where we think they are driving society, with you being invited to download and complete the DWP Euthanasia Assistance Form below and asked to post it off to –
Euthanasia Assistance Scheme
Department of Works and Pensions
Next Tuesday or Wednesday, (17th/18th April), so that they get deluged with them on Thursday & Friday, perhaps having to work over the weekend to clear the mail backlog – Hopefully get to the attention of the decision makers.
A couple more websites I know are also hosting this campaign, and if you’re seeing it for the first time and have a website, please feel free to copy it. I’ll notify what media contacts I have, if everybody else makes a noise out of it, it may get some much needed publicity for what’s going on.
Also, on the Friday, (21st), perhaps you would like to emulate Stuart on his excellent recording (on social warriors’ web site)
Let’s shout out loud, give them all something to think about over the weekend.