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Please ask your local Borough and County Councillors and others to sign up to Save ILF Statement:
Here is a template letter to use (and the statement is below it):
I am/we are writing to ask you to support disabled people and their families by signing up the attached statement and confirming your opposition to the closure of the Independent living Fund.
The Independent Living Fund was established in 1988 to provide funding to help disabled people with high support needs live an independent life in the community rather than in residential care.
Under current government proposals the ILF will close and full responsibility for meeting the social care support needs of disabled people in receipt of ILF will transfer to Local Authorities. However, The government have allocated some transition funding to LAs in 2015-16. However, this is not ring-fenced and there is no indication whatsoever that there will be any additional funding given to LA’s to enable them to maintain the levels of support ILF users currently receive.
Given the huge cuts to LAs and social care, the lack of specific funding from the government to maintain ILF levels of support will in all likelihood mean significant cuts in this essential support to disabled people with the highest support needs.
The government’s original decision to close the ILF was quashed by the Court of Appeal in November 2013. However, in March the Minister for Disabled People, Mike Penning, announced that the government have retaken their decision to close the Fund from June 2015.
Research has shown that disabled people with the highest level of support need are being hit by cutbacks 19 times harder than the average person in the UK. The closure of the ILF is part of this disproportionate targeting of disabled people.
The end of the ILF effectively means an end to the right to independent living for disabled people. Most people don’t want to see disabled people sent back to the institutions and the return of segregation.
We are calling on everyone who wants to live in a diverse and inclusive society where disabled people have the opportunity for equal participation to give their support to our campaign to save the ILF.
Please confirm if you are happy to sign up to the attached statement.
I look forward to your response.
Save the Independent Living Fund Statement
The planned closure in June 2015 of the Independent Living Fund is an unjustified attack on those disabled people with the highest support needs, which if unchallenged will result in disabled people becoming prisoners in their own homes or forced into residential care against their wishes. The Independent Living Fund is a model of support that works, giving disabled people choice and control over their own lives, enabling them to enjoy fulfilling lives and contribute to their communities while running on relatively low overheads and providing employment.
At a time of increasing pressure on and crisis in social care the government should be expanding not closing the ILF. Disabled people and their families need a clear and vocal message of support from our elected leaders on this matter.
We support the demands of the Save the ILF campaign that:
1. The ILF should not only be retained for existing recipients but re-opened to new applicants as the Scottish government have committed to.
2. That an independent living task force should be set up co-produced with ILF users, to review independent living and specifically the ILF to identify how to best develop independent living support, building on the successful and cost effective model of ILF provision.
3.. At the very minimum the ILF funding should be ring-fenced for the care and support of those with the highest needs when funding is transferred to Local Authorities and devolved administrations.”
From the Independent newspaper 9th April 1995 with thanks to Steve G- A lot has changed and a lot has stayed the same:
Disabled people aren’t going to take it any more: for today’s new militants, patient progress is not enough. They chain wheelchairs to buses, court arrest, scorn their gradualist brethren as “Tiny Tims” – and “piss on pity”
On a freezing morning two weeks ago, 20 or 30 disabled people met outside Parliament to protest. One man was blind, most of the others used wheelchairs. They spoke to Japanese television reporters and were photographed by teenage tourists from France and Germany. And they explained their unswerving opposition to the Government’s Disability Discrimination Bill – which was that day starting its Report Stage in the House of Commons. With the wind rushing across Westminster Bridge, the protesters made their way from Parliament Square to Downing Street, where the ambition was to present John Major with the means to provide a ramp to his residence: cement, a cement mixer, a shovel. Or rather, the ambition was to have these items photographed by the press. A demonstration organiser – a wheelchair user – kept in touch with his office and with the media by mobile telephone, but also kept up the cry: “What do we want? Civil rights! When do we want them? Now!”
Stuck into the cement mixer was a life-size, floppy model of John Major. And on its lapel was a badge that might have been taken wrongly by the shivering spectators – it might have been thought a satirical prcis of Mr Major’s position on disability. But the badge carried one of the rallying cries of the organisation that had set up this demonstration: the badge said, “Piss On Pity”.
Things are happening in the world of disability that never used to happen. There used to be charities called the Royal this and the Royal that, and there used to be Jimmy Savile, and bring-and-buys, and hard-won concessions from British Rail or Parliament – a ramp here, a statute there. Now, although the old system is still partly in place, and still bringing improvements to people’s lives, it has to seek an accommodation with a new, modern, radical politics: press stunts, mobile telephones, Piss On Pity badges, anger. (If you want to check the radicals’ progress against other liberation movements, it is useful to note that the word “crip” – like “nigger” and “queer” before it – is already being put to work by at least some of those once oppressed by it.)
But any accommodation – between the old and the new, between the organisations “for” disabled people, and those clearly “of” – has not yet been made, which leaves room for conflict. Today, inside the politics of disabled people (not – it is generally agreed – “the disabled”, not “people with disabilities”, not “the differently-abled”) there are bitter interdenominational battles, there are left and right wings, vanguards and rear-guards. Today, a conversation with a person who works at the political end of disability issues is likely to feature quick and robust abuse of a man or woman in the same business – someone is an “Uncle Tom” – or, better, a “Tiny Tim” – or “a sound bite expert” – or just “an arsehole”. Disabled politics are in something of a heightened state, and this is because the question has not yet been settled: which will work best – patience or impatience?
ALAN HOLDSWORTH, who is impatient, is a leading light – if not exactly the leader – of the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network (DAN). DAN is the most radical, visible, publicity-accruing part of Britain’s disability movement, and it was DAN that was responsible for the event at Westminster.
Holdsworth lives in a comfortable, cluttered suburban house in Wood Green, north London. Although he uses a wheelchair over longer distances and during demonstrations, he walks to open his own door: a big, muscly, long- haired, youngish man. He unclicks a leg brace after he has sat down. He will not tell me the nature of his disability – the cause of his impairment – because, he says, that would then get stuck to his name in my article: and that would be no less unsound, he says, than attaching a woman’s name to the colour of her hair. “So no comment. We’re trying to move the press off that. It would be `Alan Holdsworth, polio victim’. They’d know that before they knew anything else.”
Holdsworth speaks with the well-practised passion – turbo-charged, now and then, with hyperbole – of any other single-issue campaigner. (“What’s the difference between the treatment of disabled people in Britain, and apartheid?” he asks me. He sees none.) His slogans are “Piss On Pity”, and “We Will Ride” and “Rights Not Charity”; Jimmy Savile is a “patronising old git”. Other campaigns will follow, but DAN’s immediate stated ambition is to end the discrimination represented by inaccessible transport – DAN has a banner that reads: “To boldly go where all others have gone before”. If you ask Holdsworth what he wants, he says: “All new buses accessible by law by a certain date, all buses under 15 years old accessible by the next refit, all national coaches and buses accessible within seven years … the Tube within 15 years…” Critics have alleged that the “disabled lobby” is in an impossible hurry. But even Alan Holdsworth is not absurdly unrealistic: he is impatient to see change, but he seems more impatient to see change started; for this is he would be willing to go to prison.
And here disability politics divides. Holdsworth has no time for the old “for” organisations that have seemed willing to wait. Indeed, Holdsworth sells a T-shirt that is specifically scornful of the long-established and relatively conservative umbrella group Radar (the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation). The T-shirt reads “Rights Not Radar”. Holdsworth says: “I got a letter from Bert Massie [director of Radar], saying, `I thought we were working together, is this thing really helpful?’ I haven’t written back, it’s not a priority for me, but when I do I’ll say, `Dear Bert, it sold 40 shirts; and that means that two people can get to one of our actions. If he wants to put `Fuck Alan Holdsworth’ on a T-shirt and it gets two people to an action, I don’t mind.”
In his living-room, Holdsworth gently interrupts his young daughter’s Pingu video to play a compilation tape of news coverage of DAN actions: the demonstrations at Parliament, the chainings to buses, the giant letter delivered to Downing Street last summer – the gestures that have suddenly become a part of the British political landscape. Now and then he corrects the screen – “Victoria Scott wasn’t a `protest leader’!” – or he remembers: “That was a slick demo, that was great fun…” Holdsworth’s daughter echoes the marchers on the tape. “What do we want?” she says. “Civil rights! When do we want them? Now!” Then her concentration wanders: “What do we want?” she says, “Pingu!”
It depends a little on definitions, but it seems that the history of disabled direct action goes back no further than the late Eighties. There were demonstrations before then, but no concerted efforts to break the law – and none of today’s focused, flamboyant, therapeutic, photogenic gestures. In 1989, Holdsworth and others protested in Chesterfield against the decision to pedestrianise the town centre without making allowance for cars with disabled orange badges. In that action, disabled people parked, were given tickets, and refused to pay the fines. Either this event, or one of the actions carried out at around the same time by the Campaign for Accessible Transport (CAT) can probably be regarded as the start of disabled direct action in this country.
In 1990, Holdsworth and colleagues targeted the ITV Telethon, by then a decade old. “It was showing disabled people leading horrible lives,” he says, “very tragic – `Isn’t it a shame?’, all that – getting the public to pity us rather than feel angry, with us, for the situation we were in.” Holdsworth started ringing disabled friends, proposing some sort of demonstration, and he was taken aback by the vehemence of the response. “I thought, well, this is going to work, people are so angry about it. That was the explosion in direct action terms.” Five hundred people turned up to demonstrate at the LWT studios on the South Bank. “That was the Great Leap Forward,” says another disabled man on the demonstration, Michael Oliver. “It was a street party, but we won all the arguments.” The next Telethon, which drew 2,000 demonstrators, was the last.
The direct action movement now had momentum. DAN was officially formed, and, since then, has made its presence felt at the Christchurch by-election in 1993, at the Tate Gallery in London, at Kenneth Clarke’s surgery, at Harrods… Last spring, DAN held an action at Leeds City railway station. “The local authority had spent £40,000 on disabled people. But what they’d done is build a garden at the end of the platform, which was being opened by Jimmy Savile, who is one of the most hated figures in the movement. A hated figure. He drew at least half the people to the demo – because it was him who was opening the garden. So we all went down there, a little farty garden. We camped on it. We just covered it with wheelchair-users.”
In his office in his front room, Holdsworth laughs, and flicks a cigarette butt out of the window. His daughter comes in with a small globe and asks where we are.
DISABLED direct action – and “Piss on Pity” – are part of a broader British disability “movement” that has still not come of age. It is a movement whose history is written differently depending on what position you take in the current debate – the debate between “ofs” and “fors”; most ofs would not regard the fors as any part of their history. Michael Oliver, quoted above, is a radical, the Professor of Disability Studies at Greenwich University; he passes over the histories of the grand old “for” institutions, “the dead hand of charity”, and concentrates instead on such milestones as members of the National League of the Blind and Disabled taking their place in the Jarrow March.
But, as Oliver acknowledges, much of this history is unwritten, unclaimed. The modern disability movement is too young to have done what other liberation movements have done – restore lost heroes, find Mary Wollstonecrafts and Nat Turners. And besides its youth, the movement has a problem those other movements never had: “Not that long ago,” says one activist, “if you had spina bifida you died two hours after birth; it’s hard to get much of a reputation in two hours.”
In Oliver’s view, the modern disability movement grew out the prosperity of the Sixties, and the failure of disabled people, among other disadvantaged groups, to share in that prosperity. In the Seventies and Eighties, as feminism, anti-racism, gay rights, animal rights began to find a place in national politics, disabled people started to understand their plight in political terms. Disabled people began to “come out”: this is a metaphor used fairly commonly in the movement. Oliver’s own experience is a useful guide: son of working-class parents, he broke his neck in a holiday camp swimming-pool as a teenager; he spent a year at Stoke Mandeville. In 1972, now a wheelchair user, he started a sociology degree at the University of Kent. “I became involved in student politics and other radical left organisations. But I hadn’t become part of disability politics. I thought the Socialist revolution was going to solve everybody’s problems.”
As a postgraduate, Oliver started to consider how hopelessly flawed most thinking and writing on disability was – it was produced by able-bodied academics working on the assumption that illness and disability were the same thing. Oliver “came out” academically. It dawned on him that there was a sociology of disability to be constructed; he could study himself. Twenty years on, Oliver can take much credit for setting the academic agenda. His great contribution to disability studies has been in getting the “social model” of disability understood as a serious challenge to the medical model. That is to say: in the medical model, a man in a wheelchair cannot get where he wants to get because his body is not up to it. The social model acknowledges that the man has an “impairment”, but sees the obstacle as the cause of disablement. “The fact that I have polio,” one disabled man told me, in classic social model fashion, “is nothing to do with the fact that there are 17 steps to the Town Hall. It’s the 17 steps to the Town Hall that I see as the problem.” This does not mean – except, perhaps, in the minds of those who are stratospherically extreme – that Ben Nevis should be wheelchair-accessible, but it does aim to put the ball back in the court of those whose job it is to organise the world – and its buildings and its transport.
It was against this background – and the examples of other single-issue political movements and of America’s disability politics – that the disability movement began to take shape in Britain. Institutions were established; individuals came out.
For example: Adam Thomas is a young man – dark glasses and headscarf, a former interior designer – who has to use a wheelchair following a motorcycle accident 15 years ago. Right up until last year, he was in a state that might be called denial. “I denied that I was being segregated. I blocked the fact that I couldn’t get into certain buildings.” The turning point was the kindness of his best friend, who told Thomas that, obviously, he wouldn’t move into anything but a ground-floor flat. Thomas, while touched, was struck for the first time how other friends had not done the same. And last year, for the first time, Thomas became aware of the “movement”. As soon as he was aware of it, he became a part of it. This is now his life.
Another example: Eddy Hardy is 29, a Liverpool-born artist with a fashion- beard. He uses a wheelchair, and is now active in DAN. “I’ve had my impairment from birth. It was only about six years ago that I came to accept my identity as a disabled person. I didn’t particularly like disabled people. But one day I was watching the TV news, and it was these militant crips in the road in the USA. I thought, yeah, I can have some of that.”
A DECADE ahead of DAN’s direct action, the first real institutional sign of the disability movement’s arrival in Britain was the setting up of an umbrella organisation – the British Council of Organisations of Disabled People (BCODP) – in 1981. It was democratic, it was run by disabled people, it subscribed to the social model. It started with six affiliate members, and it is a sign of widespread individual comings out that it now has more than 100 affiliates – mostly local coalitions of disabled people. BCODP regards itself as having very little in common with, say, Radar, Mind, Mencap, RNIB, Cheshire Homes. “There is a degree of antagonism,” says Richard Wood, Executive Director of BCODP. “There is bound to be, isn’t there? Because traditional power bases are now being threatened by disabled people.”
To some in the old guard, BCODP unfairly underestimates the changes that are now taking place and that have already taken place in the traditional organisations. (The RNID has just appointed its first-ever deaf chief executive, for example, and the Spastics Society, under pressure from disabled people, has changed its name to Scope.) And more conservative disabled campaigners argue that the radical position unfairly underplays those institutions and techniques that – in a process that may now look painfully gradual – have so improved the lives of disabled people since the Sixties. “Improved by 100 per cent – improved attitudes, awareness,” says Sir Peter Large, an influential disabled man of an earlier generation, who has sat on many committees, helped draft legislation, argued with MPs. He talks of mobility allowance, attendance allowance: “These have benefited millions… BCODP have done very little in practical terms.” According to Sir Peter, the radicals are wrong to neglect the significance of, say, Alf Morris’s Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act of 1970: “He put disabled people on the map. He really started the whole move to improve things.” Piss on Pity? “I know exactly what they mean, but if you go up to an MP with that on I don’t think he’s or she’s likely to be warm to you – if they’re not already interested. But I know exactly what they mean.”
Bert Massie, who runs Radar, and is a wheelchair user, is a bte noir of the radicals. You get the impression of a man who accepted a job as a charity worker but who has found himself, suddenly, a politician. “In the past,” he says, “there was a greater acceptance of an incremental approach. People never rowed about disability.” The effect of the “fundamentalists”, he accepts, has been partly good. “I don’t know,” he says, “how Radar would have evolved if there hadn’t been fundamentalist pressure…” But he says that Radar cannot run too far ahead of its constituents. While the stereotype of a disabled person is probably a middle-aged man in a wheelchair, the most representative type, in truth, would be a elderly woman with arthritis, who might feel – along with many other of Britain’s 6.5 million disabled people – that she has little in common with, say, the members of DAN. There are disabled people, says Massie, who don’t regard themselves as disabled; there are disabled people who are Conservatives: “I’ve had people in here saying, wouldn’t it be better if you abolished social security, and had disabled people sponsored by private companies.”
Thanks to his position at the head of a fairly well-funded “for” organisation, and thanks to his support for incremental methods, and thanks to his recent claim to see some (flawed) virtue in the Government’s Disability Discrimination Bill, Massie is regarded with great hostility by many “fundamentalists”. Rachel Hurst, a radical with a sharp political sense, says, “Our voice has been shut out by the established charities. Some staff at Radar I’ve got more time for than I can say. [But] I wouldn’t mind shooting the man at the top. He is an Uncle Tom, Mr Massie… He actually doesn’t care a toss about the rights of disabled people.”
THIS, today, is the kind of observation one disability worker tends to make of another. But in this newly complex and sometimes hostile world of disabled politics, there is a miraculous and rather precarious piece of common ground – it’s a coalition called Rights Now! At Rights Now!, weapons are left at the door, and most of the important disabled organisations – both “of” and “for” – meet to promote civil rights legislation. Last year – another Great Leap Forward – the civil rights argument was won. At some point, legislation may follow.
The battle has been for legislation that, like its racial and sexual equivalents, would outlaw discrimination against disabled people (in employment, education, transport). The cost of implementing such a law has always been at the heart of resistance to it, but the Government’s figure of £17bn over five years has been widely disputed, and it has been shown how similar legislation in the USA has not, in fact, been as alarming to small businesses as was feared. The conversion of disabled people into employees and into more promiscuous consumers has had its economic benefits.
In May 1994, however, a private member’s bill, the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, was killed messily by the Government, and the minister for disabled people, Nicholas Scott, eventually had to resign. But before his resignation in July, it became known that Scott had a daughter called Victoria Scott – young, non-disabled – who works for Radar. And, to the delight of the media, she was happy to give interviews on the subject of her father’s political shortcomings. To a great extent, it was due to this well-reported Antigone sub-plot that discrimination against disabled people became something of a hot media issue last year – the subject, for example, of a supportive Sun editorial. And because the press was now interested, demonstrations held by disabled people were widely reported. “I’d been trying get some coverage,” says one campaigner, “I was ringing the TV – the Big Breakfast, whatever – they weren’t interested. When the Vicky Scott story broke, they were ringing us.”
The penny seemed to drop. “People saw it,” says Rachel Hurst, “as a civil rights movement. Not just those poor sods can’t get on the bus.” Thanks to the failure of a bill about civil rights, the idea of disabled civil rights seemed to take hold. You could feel an earlier model of pity and passivity slipping away. MPs began to get many more letters and have disabled issues raised more frequently at surgeries. Consciousnesses were raised, not only among able-bodied people (“people with abilities” as one disabled radical has mockingly put it) but among sceptical disabled people who had remained politically “in” ; demonstrations swelled in numbers; individual (rather than institutional) membership of Rights Now! increased eight- fold in one year. And it was a mark of what had happened that articles scornful of “the disabled lobby” started to appear in national newspapers and magazines: as most campaigners would want it, sympathy – pity – had been removed from the equation.
THE FRIDAY night before last, DAN’s “Piss on Pity” mugs were selling fast in a rather overlit bar in the centre of Cardiff. After two days of a three-day series of actions in the city, DAN members had hired a room to have a drink, to contemplate the previous days’ events (an action each day, six arrests, the first ever actual charges, some fairly thorough TV coverage), and to consider the Big Action the next day, when they were hitting the bus station.
By 9pm the bar was filled with disabled people, full of solidarity and good humour and Carling Black Label. Inevitably, perhaps, DAN members are disproportionately young, articulate, mobile; although one regular protester, Sharon Mace, lies on a kind of horizontal wheelchair. (It is one of the brakes on the direct action movement that many people cannot get to actions, and once there, they cannot just sleep on someone’s floor – as they would have done, say, on a CND demonstration; the accessible hotel in a town is likely to be the most expensive.) In the bar, there was talk of “hip crips” and “crips with chips”. There were several radical- left cropped hair cuts (worn with the standard, tipped-back wool hats), there were copies of Militant on the tables (DAN’s treasurer, among others, is a Militant member). People who had never met before this week were testing new friendships by the use of exaggerated abuse, or hands left on shoulders. There was something of a chair-jam at the bar. A woman who imports the handcuffs that DAN members use to attach themselves to buses and trains was describing the problems she has with HM Customs and Excise. This is disabled politics at its most uncompromising, its most underground and – although this is not quite the point – at its grooviest.
As much as anger, the bar in Cardiff seemed full of people’s extraordinary sense of their own place at the start of a political process; people seemed light-headed not only with lager, but with the thought of making history. A DAN action – there have been about 60 – has an effect on several levels: it draws press attention to a particular, local issue; it keeps disabled civil rights on the agenda; it projects, through the media, images of disabled people looking rather less than pitiful or vulnerable; and for those on the action, it can be an experience of almost overwhelming personal empowerment. “There are disabled people,” says Eddy Hardy, “who watch us on TV and think [with disapproval]: `Oh God.’ But for every five or six of them, there’s one going, `Yes!’, thinking about it for the first time, coming out.” Once out, once on the street, “The feeling of pride and power is unbelievable. We’re told we’re weak; but today we stopped the traffic. We had an effect. It’s amazing… Today, I was lifted by the police, and everybody, all the others, were waiting for me. And cheering. And for a moment you’re a hero of the movement.” He checks himself. “But we’re all heroes. All heroes.”
In the bar in Cardiff, there was a lot of talk about pride (“We have our own culture”), a commodity which has been at the heart of other liberation movements, but you might have thought it was less accessible to disabled people. How far can you take the idea of disability pride if you would not wish your child, say, to have the same impairment as yourself? In more conservative disabled circles, people tend to say that a disabled child “would be no tragedy at all”. But in DAN, there are those who go the whole way: “If I have any kids,” says Hardy, “I hope they’re disabled. Then they’ll be militant bastards like me. If they’re crips, they’re going to learn what handcuffs are…”
The next day, shortly before he was arrested for his part in blocking Cardiff’s bus station, and inconveniencing its many passengers, Eddy Hardy joined the chant of 100 disabled people: “We’re DAN, you’re trapped, get used to it.” !
Bert Massey previously chair of the Disability Rights Committee, most recently chair of Labour’s Disability Taskforce commissioned by Liam Byrne MP. The taskforce also included Roger Berry, Neil Crowther, Agnes Fletcher, Kaliya Franklin and Ian Greaves
BCODP became UKDPC
Disability Discrimination Act replaced by the Equality Act (2010) became more diluted when the Condems removed Economic and Social impacts. Condems failed to have it removed as what they called ‘red tape’
Mind, Mencap, RNIB, Cheshire Homes and SCOPE still going and still speaking for us
We have seen some of reports, both on twitter and in the media about disabled people who where not able to vote or discouraged from voting because they are disabled in last Thursdays Council and Euro elections.
We are concerned about this and we want to gauge the extent of this issue before deciding on what action to take.
We will be launching a campaign to encourage disabled people to vote in the run up to the 2015 general election.
We want MPs and political parties to know that disabled people will use their vote, but to do this we need to know we can vote first!
So please, if you have had any difficulty with access to your polling station, voting itself, or you have been discouraged from voting because you are disabled please let us know, either by emailing us at email@example.com by adding a comment below this post.
Or if you see any reports in your local media about disabled people who have been denied the chance to vote and you can send us a link to the story, that would also be good evidence for us to collect.
If we do get a large number of responses to his call-out we may combine the comments into a report to use as evidence. If we do this we will remove any names or personally identifiable information.
His concern is the influence Policy Exchange has on the right of British politics, (having for instance fathered the JSA ‘claimant commitment’ currently being rolled out) and that the report, if left unchallenged, might affect policy.
The report is flawed in many ways:
It splits sanctioned claimants into 2 groups: deserving claimants who are sanctioned for the first time for a lower level ‘offence’ and the others, the repeat ‘offenders’. The flaw is that repeat ‘offenders’ are just as likely as first-timers to be wrongly sanctioned, and there is no statistical or factual basis for the report to establish such a distinction. In fact the reconsideration/appeal success rate for ‘higher level’ sanctions is much higher than for ‘lower level’sanctions.
The lack of reference to the difficulties of sanctioned claimants highlighted in British literature dealing with sanctions, whichshows considerable objections to the proposed more ‘compassionate’ penalties recommended by the report for ‘deserving claimants’, and also that claimants with repeated ‘failures’ are likely to be people with difficulties that make them unable to cope with the system.
The report is open about its belief in ‘punishment’ which seems to be desirable in itself. The report builds on the language of criminalisation of sanctioned claimants introduced by the Coalition, although most sanctions challenged in court or through reconsideration have been found to be wrongly applied.
The scale of financial sanctions is breathtaking: the maximum penalty for jobseekers is £11,185.20, while the fines normally applied to all offenders by mainstream Courts range from £200 (Level 1) to £5,000 (Level 5).
It is imperative to challenge this report which relies on the system’s complexity and the use of selective figures and statistics to obfuscate the fact that most sanctions are wrongly applied, that 9 out of 10 challenged sanctions are overturned and that ‘offenders’ are mainly people who have done nothing wrong and who are facing specific difficulties. Ultimately, David Webster calls for an end to sanctions. It is an objective which must be supported.
Read also the Hit The Donkey blog for a good summary and analysis of David Webster’s comments
NOT SO SMART!
Comments on the Policy Exchange report
‘Smarter Sanctions: Sorting out the system’ by Guy Miscampbell, published 3 March 2014
Dr David Webster
Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Urban Studies, University of Glasgow
24 March 2014
The Policy Exchange report Smarter Sanctions: Sorting out the system (March 2014) aims to address two issues in the current UK regime of sanctions for JSA and ESA claimants: hardship suffered by claimants who subsequently win their appeals, and the existence of some 30,000 claimants per year (around 5% of the total number of people sanctioned in a year) who are repeatedly sanctioned. Its proposals are misconceived and would be counterproductive. The problems of hardship, including resort to food banks, and of wrongly applied sanctions, can affect any of the people receiving the almost 900,000 sanctions handed out per year, not just the around 300,000 first-time ‘lower level’ ‘offenders’ per year who the Policy Exchange proposes should receive what it claims is more ‘compassionate’ treatment. There is no logic to the identification of this group. The proposals would do nothing to reduce wrongly applied sanctions, and while potentially reducing hardship for some, would increase it for others and leave it unrelieved in the case of most sanctions. The proposal for a shaming ‘yellow card’ instead of loss of benefit is destructive and for many claimants would reduce rather than increase engagement. Daily signing-on would also be impracticable and counterproductive for many. The Policy Exchange proposes that these penalties should be applied to people who have done nothing wrong at all. Its claim that harsher sanctions for repeat ‘offenders’ would be more effective in producing compliance is contradicted by the available evidence. Addressing the problems of destitution caused by sanctions, and of wrongly applied sanctions, would require much more drastic reform including ensuring a decent minimum income for all sanctioned claimants, and proper protections against abuse in what is a gravely defective system of administrative justice. More fundamentally, in so far as the state has valid reasons for attempting to promote particular behaviours – and the reasons are often not valid – there are better ways of doing it than taking money away from already poor and/or crisis-stricken people. Sanctions should be abolished.
Comments on the Policy Exchange report
‘Smarter Sanctions: Sorting out the system’
This Policy Exchange report has secured wide publicity. The Policy Exchange has influence on the right of British politics (having for instance fathered the JSA ‘claimant commitment’ currently being rolled out) and, if left unchallenged, the report might affect policy. The purpose of these comments is to point out where it is wrong.i
The Coalition has changed the official language used in referring to sanctions in such a way as to imply that sanctioned claimants are in effect a type of criminal, particularly through the drafting of the October 2012 Regulations and their Explanatory Memorandum.ii Thus we read of ‘offences’, ‘failures’, transgressions’, ‘serial and deliberate breach’, ‘failure to meet their responsibilities’, and the like. The Policy Exchange report adopts this language uncritically, and adds to it, with phrases such as ‘flout the system’ (p.6), ‘defying the conditionality regime’ (p.7), ‘separate levels of punishment depending on the offence’ (p.29), ‘prevent the system from being gamed by those who have no intention of being compliant’ (p.36), ‘abuse the leniency in the “first” sanction’ (p.36), ‘the most troublesome cases’ (p.37) ‘more extensive punishment for those who consistently abuse this system’ (p.37). But it should be remembered that even when a sanction is lawful (which is often not the case), the claimant has frequently done nothing deserving of any criticism from either a moral or a practical point of view. Very often they have simply taken a different view from the state about the most constructive way forward. Or they are exercising a fundamental right, such as the right to give up a job at any time on whatever grounds they see fit, subject only to their employment contract. Moreover, the fact that a sanction may go unchallenged does not mean that it is reasonable or lawful, since we know from the research evidence that most claimants find the process of challenge too difficult to undertake.
In what follows it has not been possible to avoid using the language of ‘offence’ and ‘punishment’ in reporting what the Policy Exchange has said, but it is important to bear the above points in mind.
In order to understand the report it is necessary to be aware that sanctioned claimants lose their benefit immediately and even if they successfully ask for reconsideration or appeal, the money lost is only refunded months later. The financial position for JSA and ESA claimants while under sanction is as follows:
JSA: Since the Jobseekers Act 1995 (implemented October 1996), sanctioned claimants lose all their JSA for the varying period of weeks. They may apply for hardship payments of 60% of JSA (80% for those in a ‘vulnerable’ group) but these are discretionary and are assessed according to a special set of rules designed to ensure that the claimant has no other resources left and has exhausted any possible assistance from family and friends. Claimants not in a ‘vulnerable’ group are not allowed even to apply for hardship payments for the first two weeks. There is no assessment of ‘vulnerability’. ‘Vulnerable’ groups are arbitrarily defined and are mainly people looking after children.
ESA: Sanctions were introduced for long-term sick or disabled claimants in the ESA Work Related Activity Group in October 2008. Up to 3 December 2012, sanctioned ESA claimants lost half of their ‘work related activity component’ (£28.45 per week) for the first 4 weeks and all of it thereafter. Since December 2012, they have lost all of their main payment (the ‘personal allowance’, the equivalent of JSA) but retain the smaller ‘work related activity component’. Sanctioned ESA claimants can apply for hardship payments immediately.
These sanctions are in effect fines. For claimants over 25, and disregarding open-ended loss of benefit for some types of ‘failure’ pending ‘compliance’, they range from £286.80 up to £11,185.20 for JSA, and from £71.70 to £286.80 for ESA. Under -25 benefit rates are lower, so the amounts lost through sanctions are also lower. ‘Hardship payments’ may reduce the amounts lost. About a quarter of sanctioned JSA claimants get hardship payments, but only around 1 per cent get them at the ‘vulnerable’ rate. Table 1 shows the net amounts lost by the various types of claimant, on the assumptions shown.
For comparison, the fines normally available to the mainstream Courts range from £200 (Level 1) to £5,000 (Level 5).
The impact of these sanctions varies according to the circumstances of the claimant. Those with significant financial resources and/or support from relatives or friends may be relatively little affected, especially if they quickly get a job. Those who are already without resources, especially where they do not have support from relatives or friends, and have barriers to employment such as age, literacy/numeracy problems, sickness etc., are driven into total destitution and frequently actual hunger. To its credit, this Policy Exchange report gives short shrift to Ministers’ claims that there is ‘no robust evidence’ to link the increase in food bank usage to welfare changes, including the increase in sanctions. It accepts the obvious, namely that sanctions drive people to food banks.
Table 1: Minimum and maximum financial amounts of sanctions
Age under 25
JSA, no hardship payment
JSA, hardship payment, non-vulnerable
JSA, hardship payment, vulnerable
ESA, no hardship payment
ESA, hardship payment
Notes: These amounts do not include open-ended sanctions for some types of ‘failure’ pending ‘compliance’. It is assumed that application for hardship payments is made as soon as permitted and is immediately successful, and that hardship payments are paid throughout the period of the sanction at maximum rate. These assumptions will probably not often be correct. Benefit rates are as at 2013-14.
Source: Author’s calculations.
SUMMARY OF THE POLICY EXCHANGE REPORT’S ARGUMENT AND PROPOSALS
The report argues that the current sanctions system is too harsh on some people and too lenient on others.
It argues that it is too harsh to an estimated 68,000 people per yeariii who receive a 4-week sanction which is subsequently overturned by reconsideration or appeal, for a first-time ‘offence’ which is defined as ‘lower level’ by the October 2012 Regulations. Therefore a policy should be piloted whereby lower level first-time ‘offenders’ should receive either or both of the following penalties (argued to be more ‘compassionate’):
Upon ‘re-engagement’ with Jobcentre Plus, the claimant would have their benefits paid via a ‘yellow card’, usable only at designated shops and, technology permitting, only for designated goods. This substitute penalty should be imposed for a longer period of 8 weeks.
The claimant should have to sign on daily.
The most effective permutation of these penalties (one or other or both) would be established by the pilots.
These first-time ‘offenders’ (but not other ‘offenders’) should also automatically receive assistance with applying for reconsideration or appeal.
The proposed measures would have to be applied to all first-time lower level ‘offenders’ since the outcome of reconsideration/appeal is not known until too late. The report estimates that about 19,000 people a month would be subject to them, but it does not attempt a full-year estimate. At current levels, this would be of the order of 300,000.iv This is somewhat over half the total number of individual JSA claimants sanctioned during a year, which is over 528,000, but only one third of the total number of JSA sanctions (874,850).v
The report argues that the current system is too lenient to people who incur repeated JSA sanctions defined as ‘lower level’ by the October 2012 Regulations. At present a second or subsequent lower level ‘failure’ within the same year incurs a 13 week sanction. The report proposes to add further progression, namely 26 weeks for a third ‘failure’, 39 weeks for a third, and in general 13(n-1) weeks where n is the number of ‘failures’, with a maximum of 156 weeks (which would be reached upon the 13th ‘offence’).vi This proposal would raise the maximum sanction for this group from £932.10 (under-25s £738.40) to £11,185.20 (under-25s £8,860.80). The report does not offer an estimate of the number of people who would be affected by this proposal but the DWP statistics indicate that it would be somewhat over 30,000 per year, around 5% of the total number of people sanctioned during a year.
The report also considers that treatment is too lenient for people with repeated ESA sanctions. At present, the sanction is open-ended until re-engagement and is then followed by a 1-week sanction for a first ‘failure’, 2 weeks for a second, and 4 weeks for a third or subsequent ‘failure’. The report proposes to add further unlimited progression, to 8 weeks for a fourth ‘failure’, 12 weeks for a fifth, and in general 4(n-2) weeks where n is the number of ‘failures’. The present maximum sanction for this group of £286.80 (under-25s £227.20) would be raised to a level limited only by the time to retirement.
This proposal seems scarcely worth making since the DWP statistics show that there are under 1,200 ESA claimants who have ever had more than three sanctions. The algebraic formula is certainly wasted since once beyond six sanctions the numbers are down to double figures in the whole of Great Britain.
The report does not comment at all on the treatment of people sanctioned for JSA ‘offences’ defined as ‘intermediate’ or ‘higher’ level by the October 2012 Regulations. It does not make any attempt to cost its proposals or make any kind of impact assessment.
In considering the weaknesses of the report, these comments deal separately with the ‘too harsh’ and the ‘too lenient’ aspects.
CRITICISMS OF THE REPORT: ‘TOO HARSH’
Identification of claimants who should be treated less harshly
The identification of first-time ‘lower level’ ‘offenders’ as the only claimants who should be treated less harshly is odd. It leaves the following categories of sanctioned claimants who would not be treated less harshly:
– second and subsequent time lower level ‘offenders’, whether successfully appealing or not
– all intermediate and higher level ‘offenders’, whether first-time or not and whether successfully appealing or not.
There is no justification for the Policy Exchange proposal to treat these groups less favourably.
Discrimination by first-time/repeat
Repeat ‘offenders’ are just as likely as first-timers to be wrongly sanctioned. Wrongly sanctioned people with a previous ‘offence’ should not be treated less favourably than wrongly sanctioned first timers. The report does not attempt to justify this discrimination, which presumably arises from an implicit assumption that an ‘offence’ renders a claimant ‘undeserving’ and that as a result they should forfeit their right to justice.
Such discrimination would be counterproductive. Consider the hypothetical case of a claimant who ‘offends’ on one occasion, is sanctioned, and who then ‘reforms’ only to find that they are then subjected to a further sanction which is wrongfully imposed, and they are told that because of their previous offence, they are not entitled to fair treatment. This would promptly undermine the supposed effectiveness of the system.
Discrimination by ‘level’
As the report itself acknowledges (p.20), the reconsideration/appeal success rate for ‘higher level’ sanctions is much higher than for ‘lower’: 31.8% compared to 19.9%.vii So there are actually more wrongly sanctioned claimants in this group, and this is even more serious as the sanctions are of much longer duration. Reconsideration/appeal success rates are also significant for ‘intermediate’ sanctions, at 12.3%. Therefore if the objective is to reduce the suffering of wrongly sanctioned claimants, the report’s proposal will not achieve it.
The report does not offer any justification for treating ‘higher’ and ‘intermediate’ ‘offenders’ less favourably than ‘lower’ offenders. It appears simply to have accepted these distinctions uncritically at face value. But this categorization did not exist until October 2012. The Explanatory Memorandum to the October 2012 Regulations did not offer any justification for the categorization, simply claiming without explanation that ‘under the existing regime some sanctions are not proportionate to the failure’. The designation of some ‘failures’ as more serious than others is shot through with unwarranted assumptions.
Intermediate level – Until October 2012 these were not treated as offences at all. They all relate to cases where the claimant does not meet the entitlement conditions for JSA because they are not available for work, not actively seeking work, have not signed on or have not completed a Jobseeker’s Agreement, or are unemployed because of a relevant trade dispute. Such claimants were simply ‘disentitled’, and a new claim showing that the claimant now met the conditions resulted in immediate restoration of JSA, apart from a few ‘waiting days’. The Coalition decided to turn these matters into ‘offences’ and by adding a fixed 4-week sanction to the disentitlement arbitrarily promoted their seriousness above that of ‘lower level’ offences.
Higher level – These ‘failures’ all relate to cases where it is argued that the claimant’s conduct has actually caused their unemployment, i.e. their unemployment is ‘voluntary’ (a claim which is obviously unsustainable in relation to almost all the reasons why claimants are currently sanctioned). This is the rationale for treating them as more serious. In the case of the new offence of ‘failing to participate in Mandatory Work Activity’, this claim is dishonest, since the claimant is not getting a job, but only ‘workfare’ – having to work for their benefits. MWA is ‘intended to help claimants move closer to the labour market, enabling them to establish the discipline and habits of working life, such as attending on time regularly, carrying out specific tasks and working under supervision while delivering a contribution to the community’.viii MWA should be classified as a ‘lower level’ failure, like the other training activities with which it belongs.
But the severity of the penalty for the other ‘higher level’ ‘failures’ has also long been challenged. For 75 years until 1986, the maximum penalty for ‘voluntary unemployment’ was 6 weeks’ loss of benefit. At that time, there were almost no sanctions or disqualifications except for voluntarily leaving a job or losing it through misconduct. During the Thatcher/Howe recession from 1979 on, job leaving was suppressed because people are more careful to hold on to a job when it is more difficult to get another. As recovery proceeded, job mobility rose – as indeed economic efficiency required – and disqualifications for ‘voluntary leaving’ and ‘misconduct’ rose with it, since many of them are imposed on people who simply miscalculate about how easy it will be to get another job. Conservative ministers of the day did not understand this and thought the penalties needed to be increased, to up to 26 weeks in 1988. The Department of Social Security itself subsequently pointed out: ‘Changes in the economic climate …play an important part in people’s attitude to job leaving and job search…Thus it is not surprising that the length of disqualification appears to have little effect on voluntary leaving’ (DSS 1989, p.5). The relatively trivial ‘offences’ introduced or made more common by the Jobseekers Act 1995 could not credibly be penalised at the level of these ‘voluntary unemployment’ disqualifications and this then left it open to the 2012 Regulations to designate the latter as ‘higher level’.
Lower level – Inclusion of missing an interview as a sanctionable ‘offence’ at all is a recent innovation, in April 2010. Before then, it was regarded as an entitlement issue, permitting a resumption of benefit after only the ‘waiting days’. The logic was that if the claimant does not attend interviews, their availability for work is put into question and their claim cannot be progressed. It was the previous Labour government which decided to turn it into a sanctionable ‘offence’.
Discrimination in relation to assistance with reconsideration/appeal
Given that wrongly sanctioned claimants can be found in any group, there is a lack of logic in the proposal that only first-time lower level ‘offenders’ should receive assistance with their appeal. The research evidence (e.g. Peters & Joyce 2006), and the low levels of both reconsiderations and appeals, show that most claimants find the process of challenging decisions too difficult – which is not surprising given the multiplicity of other difficulties which they will be attempting to cope with at the same time.
The proposed more ‘compassionate’ penalties
It is striking that the Policy Exchange report makes very little reference to the British literature on the difficulties of sanctioned claimants.ix Instead, references are mainly to US literature on ‘workfare’, revealing the Policy Exchange’s political preferences and connections.x A reading of the British literature would show that there are considerable objections to both of the proposed more ‘compassionate’ penalties.
‘Yellow card’ – This proposal is modelled on the ‘Azure card’ issued to asylum seekers denied leave to remain.xi The British Red Cross is calling for this to be abolished, a fact of which the Policy Exchange appears unaware.xii The implied withdrawal of full citizenship recalls the overt removal of citizenship rights introduced for workhouse inmates by the 1834 Poor Law. The report itself states (pp.6, 33, 36) that the card would work partly through ‘social pressure’, in other words sanctioned claimants would be publicly shamed, even when they are subsequently found to have done nothing wrong at all. Shaming is undesirable, whether claimants are wrongly sanctioned or not, for all the reasons considered by Walker et al. (2013), Ellis (2010) and Citizens for Sanctuary (2010). The report also proposes (pp.6, 32-33) that the card should have to be picked up from the Jobcentre, ‘fostering renewed contact with the sanctioned individual. If they did not re-engage then they would be unable to pick up the card and access benefits’. Given the shame involved in using the card, it seems likely that only claimants in dire need of money would opt to pick it up, and for many, there would thus be a reduced incentive to ‘re-engage’. The report itself (p.10, note 17) references a case where a teacher was wrongfully sanctioned for attending a job interview which took place at the same time as her signing-in time. An offer of a ‘yellow card’ would not only make such a person justifiably very angry; it would also most likely be rejected.
Another problem is that sanctioned claimants often have multiple urgent calls on any funds that come in, e.g. repaying informal debts, feeding a coin electricity meter, buying a child’s birthday present. Many of these would continue to require cash, so denying it would be likely to cause serious crises. The need to find and travel to stores accepting the card would impose further financial costs and waste of time. Indeed it might become impossible for some claimants even to get to the Jobcentre, unless the card was accepted on public transport – an issue on which the Policy Exchange is silent (Reynolds 2010).
The Policy Exchange proposal is that all of these problems should be imposed on people who are completely blameless.
Daily signing-on The main practical objections to this are the time and cost of travel, and the difficulties created for any kind of carer (bearing in mind that large numbers of people have some caring roles even when not classified as ‘carers’, and that there are some 140,000 lone parents with children under 12 on JSA as a result of the ‘lone parent obligation’). Daily sign-on is simply unrealistic for many claimants. It would also run counter to the Policy Exchange-inspired Claimant Commitment, since for many claimants so much time would be taken up in travel that there would be little left for job search. Because of the extremely large differences in the travel times and costs involved, especially between rural and urban claimants, this penalty would bear very unequally on different claimants. It also has a strong resemblance to the oakum-picking of the nineteenth-century workhouse – a deliberately purposeless activity, designed to depress and humiliate. It would be an abuse of the principle of signing on, whose purpose is simply to ensure that the claimant demonstrates their availability for work by their physical presence, and affirms by their signature that they meet the entitlement conditions for unemployment benefit during the relevant payment period. Again, the Policy Exchange proposes that this penalty should be applied to people who are blameless.
CRITICISMS OF THE REPORT: ‘TOO LENIENT’
The report does not cite any empirical evidence in support of its proposal to add further progression of penalties beyond 13 weeks for a third or subsequent lower level ‘failure’. It says (pp. 10-11) that ‘more needs to be done to prevent this group of individuals’ – a ‘hard core of claimants’ – ‘consistently wasting time and resources’. Sanctions should be ‘more punitive for those who are repeatedly attempting to avoid the conditionality regime’ (p.7). The harsher progression ‘would increasingly shift the most troublesome cases onto more punitive sanctions’ and ‘should help provide a more extensive punishment for those who consistently abuse this system’ (p.37). This implies beliefs that (a) claimants are deliberately not meeting requirements, (b) harsher penalties will have greater effects in producing compliance, (c) claimants waste the time of Jobcentre staff but Jobcentre staff do not waste the time of claimants and (d) punishment is desirable in itself.
Claimants deliberately not meeting requirements The Scottish Government (2013) concluded that ‘Research shows that claimants who face sanction are often unable to comply with conditions rather than unwilling. The reasons why claimants receive sanctions are complex and include: lack of awareness, knowledge and understanding of the sanction process; practical barriers and personal barriers’. The evidence shows that the great majority of claimants are doing their best to find work, and that Jobcentres contribute little of value to their search.xiii For them, what the sanctions system often does is to enforce contrived and pointless actions which bring no actual benefit to anyone.
Harsher penalties to produce greater effect At present JSA claimants ‘committing’ a third lower level ‘failure’ receive a sanction of £932.10 (under-25s £738.40), on top of what will have been a total of £1,218.90 (under-25s £965.60) for the first and second ‘failures’, bringing the total penalty to £2,151.00 (under-25s £1,897.70). These sums are already so large for an unemployed person that there is a lack of credibility in the Policy Exchange’s claim that a further increase to a grand total of £3,083.10 (under-25s £2,442.40) upon the third ‘failure’, with yet further subsequent increases of £932.10 (under-25s £738.40) for each subsequent ‘failure’, would succeed where the earlier penalties failed. However, what certainly would happen is that many claimants would spend much longer on the vicious ‘hardship payments’ regime, thus reducing them, and their friends or families, further towards destitution (if they are not there already), and making recovery of their lives much more difficult. ESA claimants currently face much smaller sanctions for repeated ‘failures’ than do JSA claimants, but nearly all of them will be in a weak financial position due to a weak employment record; as in the case of JSA, non-means-tested ESA now lasts only a year, so that very few sanctioned ESA claimants will have income or capital above the qualifying levels.
Claimants waste the time of Jobcentre staff but not the other way round It is clear from the abundant evidence from advice agencies and claimants themselves that most of the waste of time in the JSA system is of claimants’ time by Jobcentre staff, not the other way round. Not only are there the absurd requirements for multiple token applications for jobs the claimant has no chance of getting; there is also the chasing after undelivered letters, the attempts to get phone calls efficiently dealt with and changes of circumstances properly recorded, the referrals to inappropriate courses, the struggle to find a web terminal allowing access to ‘Universal Jobmatch’ followed by the need to screen out the fraudulentxiv vacancies recorded in it, etc., etc.xv
Punishment desirable in itself The report is quite open about its belief in punishment: sanctions’ ‘purpose is twofold; attempting to ensure compliance with the conditionality regime, and’ (emphasis added) ‘punishing noncompliant behaviour’ (p.6). This position is clearly different from that of more moderate advocates of sanctions, such as Gregg (2008), whose report does not mention the words ‘punishment’ or ‘punish’ at all.
The British literature indicates that claimants with repeated ‘failures’ are likely to be people with difficulties that make them unable to cope with the system, like 19-year old ‘Sally’ with learning difficulties mentioned by Broadway & St Mungo’s (2014, p.6). They simply do not fit the image of the deliberately ‘serially noncompliant’ claimant which the Policy Exchange has imagined (p.39). Oxfam (2014) comments ‘The experiences of our projects and partners suggest that someone who is sanctioned for four weeks is more likely to be sanctioned again. Many of these same people are the most vulnerable members of our society.’
A Freedom of Information disclosure by DWP (2013-1075, 18 April 2013) showed that in 2012 (to 21 October), the type of ‘failure’ with by far the highest proportion of sanctions which were repeats (33.4%, relating to 27,570 individuals) was non-participation in the Work Programme.xvi Given the many reports of unsatisfactory services delivered by Work Programme contractors, this is at least as likely to indicate their failure to meet claimants’ needs as fault on the part of claimants. This is borne out by a recent Work Programme evaluation commissioned by the DWP (Meager et al. 2013), which reported a survey of Work Programme providers as revealing that 25.4 per cent thought the Programme ‘very ineffective’ and 22.5 per cent ‘somewhat ineffective’. The same report also stated that there is ‘no conclusive evidence that sanctions were changing job search behaviour or increasing job entry rates.’
There is not much systematic empirical evidence on the effects of escalating sanctions for repeat ‘failures’. An exception is Saunders et al. (2001). Most of their findings about escalating sanctions (2, 4, 26 weeks for 1st, 2nd and 3rd ‘offences’) in the New Deal for Young People were decidedly unfavourable. Many people received 26-week sanctions because the New Deal did not meet their needs, or because of misunderstandings, and many had significant obstacles to employment. They had mainly been allocated to the most unpopular of the four New Deal ‘Options’ and had had little choice. It was felt that once a client had reached the 26 week stage they were unlikely to return to the Option which they had been sanctioned for not attending. Some claimants talked about losing their confidence in relation to job interviews. In general, jobseekers disengaged from ‘the system’ after being sanctioned, particularly those with 26 week sanctions. Many wanted to sign off and have nothing to do with claiming benefits if it meant remaining on the New Deal. Concerns were also expressed over sanctioned clients who had serious personal difficulties that really needed intensive help.
While there is some evidence that sanctions do get some people off benefits faster, and sometimes even into work, all of it appears to relate to sanctions which are much milder than the present UK regime, let alone that proposed by the Policy Exchange. The Netherlands sanctions studied by Abbring et al. (2005) ranged from around 5% of the previous wage for 4 weeks, to 25 or 30% for 13 weeks. Those studied by Van den Berg et al. (2004) were a maximum 20% reduction in benefits for one or two months. Both of these articles were cited by Gregg (2008) to support his advocacy of sanctions. There appears to be no evidence that heavy sanctions are more efficacious than mild ones.
ALTERNATIVE PROPOSALS WHICH WOULD BETTER ADDRESS THE PROBLEMS IDENTIFIED
The Policy Exchange report correctly recognises that two of the biggest problems of the current sanctions regime are the reduction of poor claimants to destitution, and the high proportion of claimants who are wrongly sanctioned. But it is evident from the above discussion that its proposals, far from making sanctions ‘smarter’, would be ineffective and largely counterproductive in addressing these problems. Much more effective solutions are available.
Destitution The report recognises that many sanctioned claimants are made destitute, but proposes to relieve the destitution only of a minority. No one should be made destitute by sanctions, and prior to the Jobseekers Act 1995, no one was. Disallowed or sanctioned claimants were entitled to a reduced rate of Income Support or Supplementary Benefit as of right from the start, assessed on the normal rules. The present vindictive provisions were introduced by the populist right-winger Peter Lilley. Although the Labour Party voted against them, and a Conservative MP crossed the floor of the House in protest, nothing has since been done to reform the system. Gregg (2008), in his review commissioned by the Labour government, side-stepped the issue. He declared (pp.14, 69, 70, 71) that ‘an effective sanctions regime is one that drives behaviour to increase the chances of finding work, and penalises non-compliance without creating excessive hardship’ (emphasis added), but he did not make any recommendations for the avoidance of hardship or even ask how the JSA regime actually impacts on the poor.
Reducing claimants to destitution does not help them to find work and is simply counterproductive (Homeless Watch 2013). Led by the churches,xvii increasing numbers of people are recognising that the creation of destitution by the state, most strikingly revealed by the growth of food banks, is unacceptable. Restoration of a decent income for poor JSA and ESA claimants, whatever they are alleged to have done or not done, is an urgent priority, demanding legislation without delay.
Wrongful sanctions If people are being wrongly sanctioned on a huge scale, as the report admits, then the obvious solution is not the report’s proposal to treat wrongly sanctioned people supposedly less harshly, but to ensure that sanctions are not wrongly applied in the first place. The report avoids this issue by arguing (p.29) that ‘It seems reasonable to conclude that sensible steps are being taken to resolve process issues.’ Presumably this is a reference to the current government-commissioned review of some JSA sanctions by Matthew Oakley, a Policy Exchange alumnus. But Oakley’s terms of reference limit him to communications and process, excluding the issue of wrongful sanctions. Although the current Employment Minister has declared her intention to hold a wider review, she has committed herself to neither the scope nor the timescale of such a review.xviii
Adler (2013), on the basis of evidence running to 2010, has pointed out how few are the protections for claimants in the JSA/ESA sanctions regime and its grave defects as a system of administrative justice. Under the Coalition, matters have become very much worse. Added to the pre-existing problems, there is now a deliberate policy on the part of ministers to drive up the level of sanctions to previously unheard-of levels through managerial pressure on Jobcentre staff. In evidence to the Oakley review (Webster 2014), I have spelled out many of the individual changes which would be required to provide a proper level of protection.
However, these reforms will not address the many other fundamental objections to sanctions. In so far as the state has valid reasons for attempting to promote particular behaviours – and the reasons are often not valid – there are better ways of doing it than taking money away from already poor and/or crisis-stricken people. Sanctions should simply be abolished (Webster 2013).
Abbring, Jaap H., van den Berg, Gerard J. and van Ours,Jan C. (2005) ‘The Effect of Unemployment Insurance Sanctions on the Transition Rate from Unemployment to Employment’, Economic Journal, 115 (July), 602–630
Adler, Michael (2013) ‘Conditionality, Sanctions, and the Weakness of Redress Mechanisms in the British “New Deal”’, in Evelyn Z. Brodkin and Gregory Marston, eds, Work and the Welfare State: Street-Level Organizations and Workfare Politics, Georgetown University Press
Van den Berg G. J., Van der Klaauw B., van Ours, J. C. (2004) ‘Punitive sanctions and the transition rate from welfare to work’, Journal of Labor Economics, 22(1), 211-41
Broadway & St Mungo’s (2014) Joint Response to the Independent Review of Jobseeker’s Allowance Sanctions, at
Citizens for Sanctuary (2010) ‘This new system is breaking my spirit’: A Glasgow Citizen Monitoring Report on the Introduction of the Azure Payment Card, September, at http://www.justiceandpeacescotland.org.uk/Portals/0/Resources/azurecardreportglasgowcitiz.pdf
Department of Social Security (1989) An Analysis of Voluntary Unemployed Claimants, Analytical Services Division, November
Ellis, Jonathan (2010) ‘Time to cash in the Azure card’, Guardian, 6 November 2010, at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/nov/06/asylum-seekers-azure-card
Gregg, Paul (2008) Realising Potential: A Vision for Personalised Conditionality and Support. An independent report to the Department for Work and Pensions
Homeless Watch (2013) A High Cost to Pay: The impact of benefit sanctions on homeless people, September, available at
Manchester CAB Service (2013) Punishing Poverty? A review of benefit sanctions and their impacts on clients and claimants, October, available at http://www.manchestercab.org/news_more.asp?news_id=19¤t_id=1
Meager, Nigel, Newton, Becci, Foley, Beth, Sainsbury, Roy, Corden, Anne, Irving, Annie, Lane, Pippa, Weston, Catherine (2013), Work Programme Evaluation: Interim meta-report, September. According to Channel 4 News, this report has been suppressed by Coalition ministers and the points from it cited here are as reported in the blog of Gary Gibbon, Channel 4 political correspondent, 12 March 2014, at http://blogs.channel4.com/gary-gibbon-on-politics/work-programme-work/27769
Oxfam (2014) Independent review of Jobseeker’s Allowance sanctions:
Response to call for evidence, available at http://www.cpag.org.uk/content/oakley-sanctions-review-responses-other-organisations
Peters, Mark and Joyce, Lucy (2006) A review of the JSA sanctions regime: Summary findings, DWP Research Report No. 313
Reynolds, Sile (2010) Your inflexible friend: The cost of living without cash, Asylum Support Partnership, October, available at http://www.scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk/what_you_can_do/campaign/azure_card
Saunders, Tanya, Stone, Vanessa, and Candy, Sara (2001) The impact of the 26 week sanctioning regime, BMRB Qualitative, April
Scottish Government (2013) The potential impacts of benefit sanctions on individuals and
households: Welfare Analysis, December, available at
Walker, R., Kyomuhendo, G. B., Chase, E., Choudhry, S., Gubrium, E. K., Nicola, J. Y., Lødemel, I., Mathew L., Mwiine, A., Pellissery, S. and Ming, Yan C (2013) ‘Poverty in Global Perspective: Is Shame a Common Denominator?’, Journal of Social Policy, 42 (2), 215–233
Webster, D. (2013) ‘JSA Sanctions and Disallowances’, evidence submitted to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee Inquiry into The Role of Jobcentre Plus in the Reformed Welfare System, 22 May 2013, revised and corrected 8 August 2013, available at
Webster, D. (2014) Evidence submitted to the Independent review of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) sanctions for claimants failing to take part in back to work schemes, 10 January, revised 13 January, available at
i Some technical issues about the report are not discussed here. One of these is the question of the reasons for the recent rise in ‘reserved’ and ‘cancelled’ sanctions decisions, on which the report quotes my own work. My up-to-date view on this is set out in the briefing at http://paulspicker.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/sanctions-stats-briefing-d-webster-19-feb-2014-1.pdf
ii Explanatory Memorandum to the Jobseeker’s Allowance (Sanctions) (Amendment) Regulations
2012, 2012 No. 2568
iii The figure of 68,000 is actually an overestimate of the group as defined by the Policy Exchange report. It refers to claimants with a first ‘failure’ falling within the period 22 October 2012 to 30 September 2013. The number of claimants within this group failing for the first time ever – which is the group apparently talked about by the Policy Exchange report – will be smaller than this but cannot be found from the DWP’s published statistics. The 68,000 figure was incorrectly reported in the media as referring to all people wrongly sanctioned. This is actually a much larger number, at least 140,000 per year, and would be larger still if more people asked for reconsideration or appeal. Dissemination of the inaccurate figure resulted from misreporting by the Policy Exchange itself, on its website and in its press release.
iv An accurate estimate of the number of people receiving a lower level sanction for the first time in a given year cannot be obtained from the published DWP statistics. These show that 295,897 people received at least one adverse low level sanction decision in the 49 weeks from 22 October 2012 to 30 September 2013, but this is after removal of those whose adverse decision was reversed on reconsideration or appeal. Inclusion of these people would raise the number. On the other hand, definition of the group as those with a ‘first time ever’ sanction – apparently the Policy Exchange’s intention – would lower the number.
v See the author’s briefing at http://paulspicker.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/sanctions-stats-briefing-d-webster-19-feb-2014-1.pdf
vi The algebraic formulae are as used in the Policy Exchange report.
vii These are the report’s calculations, not the present author’s.
viii DWP, Mandatory Work Activity Provider Guidance – Incorporating Universal Credit (UC) Guidance
(January 2014), para.1.7, at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/mandatory-work-activity-dwp-provider-guidance
xiii Almost all the organizations submitting written evidence to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee Inquiry into The Role of Jobcentre Plus in the reformed welfare system who commented on the services provided by Jobcentre Plus were highly critical, accusing Jobcentre Plus of failing to assess claimants’ needs properly and of making inappropriate referrals. See http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmworpen/479/479vw.pdf
xvi Non-participation in Community Action had a higher proportion of repeat sanctions than the Work Programme but there were so few repeatedly sanctioned individuals (190) that this has been ignored. The next highest proportions were for refusal of employment (16.95%), not actively seeking employment (15.80%), and missing an adviser interview (13.36%). For all other reasons, repeats were under 5%.
xvii See the comments of Cardinal Nichols on 14 February 2014 at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-26200157, and the letter by 43 Anglican bishops and other clergy on 19 February 2014 at http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/27-bishops-slam-david-camerons-3164033
xviii Esther McVey MP, letter to Debbie Abrahams MP, 1 February 2014, available at http://refuted.org.uk/2014/02/21/newsanctionsreview/
Disabled people have long been oppressed by professionals saying they’re acting in our ‘best interests’ as an excuse to maintain their own interests. One of the latest is their ‘take’ on facilitated communication, used by many across the world to express their voice if they do not have speech. FC is the use of a keyboard on which the user types what they want to say see the great piece written by the brilliant Quiet Riot
communication board in hand doing ordinary things like buying an ice cream. This does not require a “transition plan” or “a service delivery audit” Or a specialist training programme to create a team of ” Whippy Therapist”
Some claim FC is incorrect and shouldn’t be used. DPAC fundamentally disagrees and fully supports FC. But, of course keeping people voiceless is much more profitable for ‘professionals’, charities and other groups whose livelihoods and/or donations often depend on our oppression and on keeping us powerless and silent. This has been evident throughout disabled peoples’ history.
Imagine the loss of contracts, work they get to psycho – analyse us. The lesser need for speech therapists, researchers, psychologists, service providers and academics,and the drop in donations to pay top salaries to their charity directors if we develop our own challenging voices-of course its in their interests to deny any method that empowers our voice if it renders them obsolete!
All those denying our voices through which ever means we chose to express them are violating our human rights as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons (UNCRPD) which argues we have a right to use any method we chose for communication including FC and that this should be respected and accepted. But in the so called disability business (i.e those who make money from us and from maintaining our oppression) profit speaks louder than human rights.
Please see below to find out how this can happen when the vested interests of ‘professional power attempts to overturn human rights…….
The ISAAC attack on the Communication used by Increasing numbers of Disabled People.
The International Society of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC) released a “Position Statement” on facilitated communication (FC) on 23rd April 2014 to its international membership.
Along with theposition statement on FC, ISAAC finally issued the identities of the ad hoc committee, who were selected to deliver the statement. The majority of the committee had publicly condemned FC prior to joining the committee. Therefore, the condemnation of FC following their deliberations was the expected outcome.
The ISAAC ad hoc committee used flawed methodologies, collected biased data to support an unexplained hypothesis and cited highly selective references to create a spurious position statement on FC.
However, most significantly the committee refused to consult with disabled people who use FC. ISAAC had identified just one disabled person who was a member of this committee but this person did not use FC.
The remainder of the committee were Speech Therapists, Researchers, Psychologists, and Academics. There was no representation of people using the communication they were writing a “position statement” on. Such oppressive practice has no place in an organisation established supposedly to support a persons right to communication.
Rosemary Crossley (the founder of FC) alongside many disabled people using FC, had made many, well received presentations to large audiences at ISAAC events. Now following the work of the ad hoc committee FC, as a method of communication for increasing numbers of disabled people, has been dismissed as invalid.
This outcome appears to have been contrived to protect the power of professionals and academics whilst ignoring the rights of communication for disabled people using FC .
ISAAC have not established committees to create position statements on other alternative means of communication accepted within ISAAC ; Picture Exchange Communication System.(PECS), Rapid Prompt Method (RPM). This is another indication of the deliberate attempt to isolate and devalue FC by a group of professionals and academics whose status and “expertise” is seriously challenged by the authentic voice of disabled people.
Such an approach by ISAAC management requires the subjugation and acquiescence of disabled people and is an abuse of professional power.
This abuse of power and from professionals is being seriously challenged by large numbers of disabled people and their allies. Similar resistance to protect academic vested interests was used to stop the introduction of sign language and Braille and it took major struggle from Deaf and Blind people with their allies to overcome such oppressive practice.
ISAAC and it’s associated chapters state that:
“The International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC) works to improve the lives of children and adults who use AAC. (Augmentative and Alternative Communication). ISAAC’s vision is that AAC will be ! recognized, valued and used throughout the world. ISAAC’s mission is to promote the best possible communication for people with complex communication needs.”
By dismissing a valued means of communication ISAAC management are devaluing hundreds of their members and in doing so fundamentally undermine the ISAAC mission statement.
This position statement has given a licence to “hate speech” about FC which cannot go unchallenged. The ISAAC committee have excluded a section of their own membership because they use FC. I invite members of ISAAC to demonstrate their protest at such an abuse of power and an abuse of thousands of disabled people around the world.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing” Edmund Burke.
If you’ve been following this on twitter and face book, you’ll know what a great success the first international #dpactour has been. The excellent Ellen Clifford of DPAC travelled to Canada at the invitation of John Clarke of Ontario Coalition against Poverty (OCAP).
John and OCAP have been great allies to DPAC, supporting us since 2012 ATOS Games protests, and DPAC was happy to return that support. We want to thank all for inviting us to share the knowledge of #dpac campaigns and actions, and the history of the unelected coalition Government’s appalling treatment and stripping of rights from disabled people.
The terrifying model of the coalition is spreading with punitive, harmful and potentially murderous regimes being taken up by other Tories at international and European levels. Canada have an election coming up and already plans similar to those carried out in Britain are starting to take shape. The Canadian people wanted to hear from #dpac on how they could increase campaigns and what was happening here to disabled people. Ellen and John did a tour letting people know what could be done, what has been done and how to fight it.
Remember: #internationalsolidarity, ‘fight to win’, ‘austerity is global so is our resistance’
With thanks to everyone involved we reproduce below some pictures from the #dpactour- more on the #dpactour to come..so watch this space
Work Capability Assessment Judicial Review for Mental Health Claimants Substantial Hearing 7, 8 and 9th July 2014, Royal Courts of Justice, London.
The Mental Health Resistance Network, supported by Disabled People Against Cuts, are holding a vigil at the front entrance of the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday, 8th July 2014 at 12 noon to 2 pm to highlight the important issues around this case.
May 2013 Ruling in favour of MHRN
Two people who claim benefits on mental health grounds initiated a judicial review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), supported by the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN). In May 2013, the judges presiding over the case ruled that the WCA places mental health claimants at a “substantial disadvantage” and that the DWP should make “reasonable adjustments” to alleviate this.
Often mental health claimants struggle to provide further medical evidence to support their claim for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and may not be able to accurately self report how their mental health conditions affect them, either when completing forms or at face to face assessments. Many claimants are wrongly found fit for work and subjected to the stress of appealing the decision.
The claimants who brought the case, DM and MM, asked the court to rule that the DWP should be responsible for obtaining further medical evidence at every stage of the process to improve the chances of a more accurate decision being reached about whether a person is able to work or to start preparing for work and to avoid the need for a face to face assessment in cases where this would be especially distressing for the claimant. In addition, claimants who are at risk of suicide or self harm would be more likely to be identified. In such cases, regulations 29/35 would apply. These regulations are intended to reduce risk of harm but the DWP often fail to identify who they apply to.
The DWP Appeal Fails
The Department of Work and Pensions appealed the judgement. Their appeal arguments were mainly concerned with legal technicalities but in December 2013 the judges issued a ruling that upheld the original judgement in May. The DWP did not launch a second appeal.
Reasonable Adjustments to WCA
Under the Equalities Act of 2010, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is required to make “reasonable adjustments” to mitigate any disadvantages experienced by disabled people. The forthcoming hearing will be concerned with establishing what adjustments the DWP should make to the WCA process. We already know from the original hearing that they plan to run a pilot study to assess the “reasonableness” of obtaining further medical evidence. We want to ensure that any study will be fair, honest and approached with an open mind. Unfortunately we find it hard to trust that this will happen.
In his witness statement of July 2013 Dr Gunnyeon, Chief Medical Advisor and Director for Health and Well-Being at the DWP wrote, “ESA was designed to be a different benefit from Incapacity Benefit (IB), being a functional assessment rather than a diagnostic one. The face-to-face assessment is a key part of this process as the only truly independent part of the process. Moving away from this would, I believe, be a retrograde step which would seriously undermine the way in which the assessment process has been conceived and designed. It would represent a return to the position in Incapacity Benefit (IB), where claimants were “written off” on the basis of their diagnosis”.
Most people would be amazed to learn that the DWP are fighting tooth and nail against having to consider a person’s actual problems when assessing them for benefits!
Come and Support the Vigil at the Royal Courts of Justice
From 12-2 pm, on the second day of the court case, Tuesday 8th July, 2014, at the front entrance of the Royal Courts of Justice, a vigil will take place to highlight the important issues around this case.
The address is Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London WC2A 2LL.
Buses 4,11,15,23,26,76,172 and 341 all stop at the front of the Royal Courts of Justice, 171, 188, 243, 521 and X68 stop at Kingsway and Aldwych Junction nearby.
Nearest underground station is Temple (District Line), Holborn (Central and Piccadilly Line) and Chancery Lane, (Central Line)
Please come and share your stories of how you have been affected by the Work Capability Assessment and support DM and MM, in the fight for justice.
If you can’t make the vigil, show your support on twitter and facebook
If you are unable to make it to the vigil in person, you can show your support on twitter and social media, #wcamentalhealth
Watch out for further announcements about how you can show support on social media
The MHRN have been low key about publicising this case. We have been too cautious about declaring that we have been vindicated. As a result, few people know that the WCA has been found by a court of law, involving rulings by a number of senior judges, to be failing mental health claimants so badly.
We believe that it is vital that people do know about this victory. After all, outrageous lies about disabled benefit claimants have been shouted from the rooftops in much of the national press. Yet where have the front page headlines about this victory been? Nowhere! We now want to rectify this by making as much noise as possible about the truth: that the WCA does not fairly assess people with mental health problems and there has been terrible suffering as a result.
Please spread the word about the MHRN/DPAC vigil, and about the court case, far and wide.
Inspiration for everyone From The Guardian. “Power to the people: a happy ending to peaceful protest in South Yorkshire
When transport chiefs in South Yorkshire decided to axe free rail travel for elderly and disabled passengers on 1 April, angry passengers decided to fight back – by turning up en masse for busy services and trying to board trains without paying. Declan Lloyd reports.”
You can use this picture as your twitter or Facebook logo to show your support.
“I got up this morning, brushed my teeth, showered, ate breakfast, got dressed, checked my e mails, went to work, had lunch with colleagues, met with friends on the way home from work, popped in on my mum to see she was alright before coming home to do a couple of hours work on my open university degree before bed. I was able to do all this because of the money from the Independent Living Fund that helps pay my Personal Assistant to support me to do the things I can’t manage to do directly because I have a condition that means my hands do not work and I get around using a wheelchair” – ILF recipient.
Print this picture, take a selfie with it and post to the ILF Postcard campaign page on facebook to support #SaveILF
The money from the independent living fund helps pay for a personal assistant, and enables disabled people who need support to have a quality of life to do the same things everyone else can do. Live.
The government says “ILF recipients will be reassessed by their local authority, and will be funded by the local authority” The money given to the local authority to meet a disabled person’s support needs will not be ring fenced. The local authority can spend that money meant for disabled people and their support needs on other resources. Disabled people who need the support fear less or no support at all and then being placed into residential care, far from friends and family.
Imagine this; your local authority has cut your support needs. You would have to rely on the local pop in service from carers you do not know, to keep you clean, warm up a meal in the microwave, and convenient at the time for the carer but not a convenient time for you. If you need night care, you would then be forced to wear incontinence pads or even worse cathertised.
You would then be only able to shower once a week, have no social life, have to perhaps use a hoist and then excluded from every day activities outside, forced to give up your pet if you had one, no garden, forced into isolation, having to sack the personal assistant you relied on for many years with no redundancy for them.
Now you are thinking you do not want to go on anymore. Its how do I go on like this with little support? Due to the lack of support you are now isolated at home cut off from society and from friends and family and as the lack of support means no independence, no social life, can’t work, no quality of life, it would make anyone feel down, and even depressed. It’s awful to contemplate isn’t it?
Disabled people want rights. Rights to live independently in the community, to have our support needs met, so we can have a quality of life, and do the same things as everyone else does. Live.
Society forgets that we are human beings, people, we are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends, neighbours, colleagues, but society sees the impairment, not the person we happen to be. We are judged, discriminated against, and called a drain to society. Well, we are not!
People can be born with an impairment, or at some point in their lives can even be struck down with a devastating illness, hit by a car, lose your mobility need to use a wheelchair to get around, have a breakdown, could lose your job and need to claim benefits to live. The social security system was put in place to protect those who needed the support, who may be too ill to work. You need the support every day to carry out the simplest of tasks. Life is unexpected, it’s cruel and its tough, it can change in a flicker of an eye lash, and it can happen to YOU.
Life is really hard living as a disabled person every day. Trying to manage life with all the same worries as non disabled people. Money, keeping a job, family life, health issues, how to get around using public transport. It’s bloody tough.
“The independent living fund gave people with severe impairments the support needed to live life as we chose, so we could work, go shopping, feel part of society, a human being. A non disabled person is not used to thinking about how they would go to the toilet, get in and out of their home, get to work but we need to plan all those things in advance and ensure we have the support to do them.” -ILF recipient.
Our demand is to keep the independent living fund open, open it up to new claimants and open up independent living to all disabled people so we can keep our independence, and with support, have a quality of life and live.
All I ask of you is for your help. Help us save the independent living fund from closing on 30th June 2015. As disabled people, we want rights to live independently as possible, having a quality of life despite what we battle with every day with our disabilities and illnesses.
Why? Because we’re worth it! We are human beings and we want to be treated as such, not the stock the government and great swathes of society think we are. We are worth it! Help us keep the independent living fund open and help us in the fight for our rights so we can have a quality of life living in society as best as we can.
What the Closure of the #ILF means to disabled people -Mary’s story http://campaigndpac.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/what-the-closure-of-the-independent-living-fund-means-to-disabled-people-mars-story-2/ #SaveILF #ILF
What the Closure of the #ILF means to disabled people – Justine’s story http://campaigndpac.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/what-the-closure-of-the-independent-living-fund-means-to-disabled-people-justines-story/ #SaveILF #ILF
What the Closure of the #ILF means to disabled people – John, Paul and Evonne’s story http://campaigndpac.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/what-the-closure-of-the-independent-living-fund-means-to-disabled-people-john-paul-and-evonnes-story/ #SaveILF #ILF
What the Closure of the #ILF means to disabled people – Roxy’s story http://campaigndpac.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/what-the-closure-of-the-independent-living-fund-means-to-disabled-people-oxys-story/ #SaveILF #ILF
What the Closure of the #ILF means to disabled people – Kathy’s story http://campaigndpac.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/what-the-closure-of-the-independent-living-fund-means-to-disabled-people-kathys-story/ #SaveILF #ILF
Announcing the first annual New Economics Summer School: an intensive introduction to economics in the UK for those campaigning for a just and sustainable economy
Date: Monday 16 – Thursday 19 June 2014
Location: London Metropolitan University Business School
Apply now: http://goo.gl/rxShik
A destructive strand of free market economics has dominated the political discourse over the past thirty years in the UK. It helped drive the financial crash, provides cover for austerity and renders us unable to tackle climate change or the gross inequalities burdening our society.
This summer school is for campaigners, activists and those working in policy who want the knowledge, skills and practical tools needed to unpick this economics and offer the foundations of a credible alternative based on social justice. The programme will be delivered by an expert team of economists and guest lecturers includingProfessor Victoria Chick, UCL; Aditya Chakrabortty, the Guardian; Lydia Prieg, Oxfam; and Faiza Shaheen, Senior Researcher at NEF, with more speakers to be confirmed.
What you will learn
This intensive course will:
* Provide you with a framework for understanding the economic crisis, and how future crises could be averted
* Explore how major shifts in the UK political and economic situation have taken place over the last century
* Set out the principles of an economic system which tackles inequality and climate change
This is a practical course – giving you hands on training to help you apply the lessons to debates, media and in your workplace. All sessions will be accompanied by a course pack offering further reading, information and resources to draw on after the week is over. You will also make connections with those across the faith, NGO, trade union and political spectrum interested in progressive change.
Who should attend?
* People interested in bringing about a shift towards a progressive political and economic system (for example, campaigners, policy officers and others wanting to understand economics)
* Requires no previous expertise in economic theory, and supply you with a tailored range of educational materials, designed specifically for this course
* Although you must have an interest in the topics covered
Topics will include: How has finance transformed how we live and work?; Why has inequality grown?; How does the way we do economics exacerbate climate change?; What are the credible economic alternatives – and how can we communicate and implement them?
The subsidised cost for the four days will be:
* £395 if your organisation’s turnover is more than £100,000 per year
* £250 if your organisation’s turnover is less than £100,000 per year
* £208 if you are attending as an individual
* There are a limited number of scholarships available for those who cannot afford these costs
We are pleased to announce that the summer school will be hosted by London Metropolitan Business School, and take place in their recently refurbished suite of rooms at Moorgate.
The course will run from 9am until 5.30pm on Monday 16 June to Thursday 19 June.
More and more terrible evidence is emerging of what is really happening under the guise of Belgium’s euthanasia law. So we are calling on the Belgian Parliament to suspend its law permitting euthanasia and to conduct a full and transparent review of the practices carried out in its name.
If you agree that Belgium should suspend the practice of euthanasia until more information is available about what is really going on please sign our petition to the Belgian Parliament.
Belgium’s euthanasia law has now been extended to children of any age. Children under the age of eight barely have a concept of death and many teenagers especially if they are in a typically ‘rebellious’ frame of mind might not have a real grasp of the consequences of their actions.
Evidence now shows that older people with dementia are being euthanized in Belgium even though there can be no question of someone with dementia giving full and informed consent to their deaths.
There are other illegal practices happening in Belgium such as nurses performing euthanasia – and massive failure to report by doctors carrying out euthanasia (in 47% of cases). The leading euthanasia doctor in Belgium is also the president of the commission which is supposed to regulate the practice of euthanasia. This is a clear conflict of interest. He has had a complaint against him after he euthanized a depressed mother with no other illness.
Belgium saw a five-fold increase from 235 in 2003 (the first full year) to 1,432 in 2012.
The country is increasingly known not just for the steady annual rises in deaths, but also for the increasing proportion of deaths not prompted by terminal illness, including the notable 2013 cases of deaf-blind, transgender and depressed people being euthanized.
We are calling on the Belgian Parliament to suspend its law permitting euthanasia and to conduct a full and transparent review of the practices carried out in its name.
The link to the petition run by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Europe is HERE
Given that the assisted suicide Bill is soon to return for another reading at Westminster we urge all to make your feelings known about the impact of unlawful killing by any name in this country, and in others.
I went to the Work and Pensions Select Committee meeting in Newcastle today at the Newcastle FC in the Bobby Moncur Suite. Access to the building was fine although parking was a fair distance from stadium, but the best they could get. Signers and induction loop were available. I enquired with Sheila Gilmore MP the terms of reference for the meeting.
Dame Anne Begg opened the meeting which was to gather information from people on personal ESA/WCA experiences only. The meeting was well attended by individuals and also charities with case studies which were presented to the committee in report form. The horrors I listened to made me cry openly which is pretty hard I can tell you, as I’m not one for showing my emotions in public or private easily, and those who know me personally know this to be the case. The committee were also struggling to remain composed. The committee had come to Newcastle because it had the highest complaints across the entire system, so decided a one off trip to hear from people was appropriate.
Many cases of failure were given and it was brought up time and again of fabricated reports, people being humiliated by HCP’s which we have known about for years. Many cases of suicide were mentioned , many cases of where the claimant was terminally ill yet denied what they were rightfully entitled to in their time of need and that documentation from GP’s /consultants were being ignored as ‘they know better’.
I mentioned the fear of ‘brown envelope syndrome’ and that disabled peoples’ voices were not felt to be heard and our human rights were being abused on a daily basis. I called the WCA a ‘wicked regime’ which has targets even if they deny so, and is cost cutting exercise and nothing more. I also brought up as did others the fact most people would work if they could but many cannot, as getting through a day by day basis was as much as many could cope with. I also asked where the jobs were for those who wish to work and why those meant to help like Shaw Trust/Action for the Blind were also vilified by claimants for failures when they are supposed to help? Whether they could help as the claimants’ impairments mean that employers wont take them on so they are abandoned to their own devices.
It was mentioned frequently during the meeting about JCP disability advisors being no use and they also, didn’t understand conditions either; often bullying the claimant into jobs they can’t perform, and that education for those who needed to gain skills was being denied .
Decision Makers are trained by ATOS I found out today so that is a conflict of interest which I found disgusting given the level of control they have over peoples’ lives and the cumulative impact on a disabled person’s well being. I mentioned that this model used is flawed and didn’t take into account those with fluctuating conditions and the cost of tribunals and re-assessments of those with long term progressive illnesses , was a waste of taxpayers’ money unless changes had occurred .
I explained how we are demonised and treated as liars and criminals when, in actual fact all we are, is disabled or have a long term health condition. I asked why shouldn’t we be afforded the same rights as non-disabled people such as holidays which we have to save for, or have a pet , or go to the supermarket without the fear of being seen as a potential fraudster, when actual fraud was 0.8% including deptartmental error. I brought it up that many claimants have had support needs, financial and other, refused saying it wasn’t available.
On a lighter note the committee were understanding, listening and attentive and genuinely DO CARE and were encouraged by the turnout and assured us that those who sent in personal stories were not being ignored by them and that they were ploughing through each and every one of them, but they would encourage any further submissions of case studies by groups or individuals.
I have to say I found today harrowing as much as I do daily on facebook the horror stories that people are suffering. It has to stop!
Up to 100 disabled people and supporters held a noisy protest outside the Department of Work and Pensions yesterday which ended in a spontaneous blockade of all four entrances in and out of the building.The protest was held after Minister for Murdering Disabled People Mike Penning said the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) would still go ahead despite a court decision last year. The closure of the fund, which allows the most severely disabled people to lead independent lives, had been halted when the Court of Appeal ruled that the Government had acted unlawfully by not paying ‘due regard’ to the rights of disabled people under the Equality Act.
Campaigners had hoped that this would mean the end of this spiteful and nasty move which will lead to some disabled people having no choice but to live in institutions. Sadly Mike Penning announced last month that the Government intended to press ahead with the closure of the ILF, and this time do it legally.
Yesterday’s demonstration, which was called by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), began with songs and speeches outside the main entrance of the DWP after campaigners ignored the fenced off pen where the police presumably hoped the protest would be held. Many speakers demanded that Mike Penning, or one of his representatives, should come out of the building and face some of the people whose lives will be destroyed by closing the ILF. No-one came, and at one point the DWP even refused to accept a letter of protest showing how much the department really cares about ‘involving disabled people’ in decision making.
As anger grew at this cowardly snub, several disabled people made their way round to the side of the building where DWP officials had been sneaking in and out through a side-door. Bungling G4S security staff were unable to stop protesters blocking this entrance and when they found another way to let people in and out of the building a part of the crowd broke off and gathered outside that door as well.
Acting alongside a small police presence, security staff decided that no-one should leave the building through this exit either . As 5pm came and went, this meant hundreds of DWP employees had some much needed time to reflect on the harsh realities of their nine to five existence. Eventually police re-enforcements arrived and staff were let out of the front door accompanied by songs, shouts and occasional caustic barracking. Not one of the people leaving the building were prepared to admit that they worked for the Office for Disability Issues based inside, or even that they had met Mike Penning – who seems as unpopular at the DWP as he is everywhere else.
Some DWP staff whinged about not being able to go home on time, claiming current policies were nothing to do with them, they just carried them out on behalf of Penning and Iain Duncan Smith. As one protester pointed out however, a few minutes trapped in their office is nothing compared to the lifetime disabled people face being trapped in their homes, or even institutions, due to the scrapping of the Independent Living Fund.
As on many past occasions (Hillsborough, Orgreave) police in South Yorkshire have once again worked against the human rights of UK citizens today (7th May). Over 100 people who were joining the 6th ‘The Freedom Ride’ (1) were prevented from entering Barnsley railway station and exercising their Article 11 human right to peaceful protest, instead being turned away from what is supposed to be a public facility by police and station staff. People from across South Yorkshire have been taking direct action to overturn the decision by South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive to remove the right to free travel for all concession holders on South Yorkshire trains(2); the legality of this decision is currently being challenged in the courts (3).
Action takers from Sheffield and Doncaster later travelled by train, refusing to pay or show their passes in protest at the decision by councillors in South Yorkshire to axe their right to free train travel, and joined the peaceful action outside Barnsley train station.
Although South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive point to a £300,000 budget cut for their narrow vote to remove concessionary travel on South Yorkshire trains, David Kirkham (UKUncut Sheffield) said:
“SYPTE say they can no longer afford concessionary travel for disabled people and older people on South Yorkshire trains. These concessions are a lifeline for people in South Yorkshire, one of the most deprived areas of the country with the lowest average income. People rely on the concessions to get to work, reach medical appointments and to travel to places of education. The claim that concessions are unaffordable on trains in South Yorkshire sits ill with the fact that the chief operator of trains in South Yorkshire, Northern Rail, made £40.1m profit on the back of inflation busting fare rises, according to latest available figures (4) Northern Rail are also part owned by Serco and Dutch national rail operator Abellio; Serco received billions in public subsidy each year (5) for government contracts and have also been accused of defrauding the taxpayer over their prison contracts. A company that already makes huge profits on the back of profiteering from the tax payer and shifting profits out of the country to The Netherlands, which refuses to disclose how much public money goes into the pockets of shareholders and directors has a hard time convincing people it cannot afford to allow people for whom its trains are a vital lifeline to travel on them for free.”
(1) The Freedom Ride 6 https://www.facebook.com/events/284100701751065/?fref=ts
(2) Axe set to fall on free train travel for old folk across South Yorkshire. http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/business/axe-set-to-fall-on-free-train-travel-for-old-folk-across-south-yorkshire-1-6416945
(3) South Yorkshire Legal Challenge to SYPTE http://www.bing.com/search?q=south+yorkshirew++legal+challenge+to+SYPTE&qs=n&form=QBRE&pq=south+yorkshirew+legal+challenge+to+sypte&sc=0-0&sp=-1&sk=&cvid=9de6400f2ca24739a9450b3a6f050e6d
(4) Northern Rail, which this week introduced inflation-busting fare rises for passengers, saw annual profits surge by 34 per cent last year, most recent accounts reveal. http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/business/business-news/northern_rail_puts_profits_up_by_34_per_cent_1_4114849
(5) Sick of Serco? Join the protest with We Own It on 8 May http://falseeconomy.org.uk/blog/sick-of-serco-join-the-protest-with-we-own-it-on-8-may
“An Inclusive Education and a Fulfilling Life” Conference Saturday 7th June 2014 10am until 3.30pm
Accessible Venue Kahawa Café 163 New Union Street
Coventry CV1 2PL
Purpose: This conference sets out to bring together disabled people, the parents of disabled children and those with SEN, and their non-disabled allies to explore common ground, opportunities and choice with regard to independent living and enjoying an education alongside their peers.
The conference will:
• Be respectful and accessible
• Be informative and participatory
• Use cooperative learning approaches
• Give examples of where things are working
• Discuss why life is getting harder for disabled people.
Refreshments: Lunch provided
The charge will be: £2.00 disabled people and family members
£4.00 for allies (professionals etc)
This in a not-for-profit event; all proceeds are to cover the cost of the conference. Please pay on the day but we do need a definite commitment that you are coming so we can make arrangements.
Interested in attending or want more information?
Please book a place: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Organisers: Elaine Hill, Rob Punton, Keith Venables, Caroline & Maresa MacKeith
Advisors: Katie Clarke, Steve Cooper & Tara Flood
Text or call: 0780 587 8729
For more information about ALLFIE: http://www.allfie.org.uk
I received the attached leaflet yesterday and my wife a similar (smaller) one today, both unsolicited. We demand an explanation as to where and from whom you obtained our personal data as I believe that you have mis-used it and may even have obtained it unfairly or unlawfully.
We require this within fourteen days or I shall make a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office. I shall do so in any event, should said explanation not be satisfactory. Furthermore, we require you cease any processing and to delete our personal information – however obtained – and never contact us again.
In any case, given that I regard the Conservative Party as only minimally above the British National and UK Independence Parties in the food chain of malignant bigotry, I find the leaflet to be offensive as well a tissue of lies and misrepresentation.
• You claim to have created or promise to create ‘a stronger economy at home’. For whom exactly? The much-trumpeted job creation schemes have been proven to be riddled with fraud and incompetence – by government and providers – and to have created fewer than 30,000 jobs – most of them of the lowest paid class? You appear bent on creating, effectively, a slave economy in all but name.
• You claim to have created or promise to create ‘renewed respect abroad’? Almost certainly only from governments such as the United States to which you are proven sycophants (see e.g. the reaction to Edward Snowden’s revelations, Russia, Ukraine, et al). The previous administration’s tenure in regard to the so-called ‘special relationship’ can be summed up, somewhat crudely as Bend Over For Bush, but the Conservatives have turned that into a fine art.
• You claim to have wrought or want ‘real change in Europe’. How exactly? You scream like stuck pigs every time a decision or negotiation goes against you and have no apparent clue as to the founding ethos behind the European Union, or European Coal & Steel Community as it originally was. Remind me, who took us into Europe? Might it have been a Conservative government?
• ‘Cut the deficit by a third’? Really? Apparently only by (1) increasing concessions to those who contribute least to the Exchequer (i.e. bankers and tax-dodging businesses) as well as a malignant and persistent attack on justice – overseen by a Minister who knows nothing of the justice system and couldn’t care less. Your party – by way of its odious coalition with the Liberal Democrats – have made access to justice little more than a sick joke. (2) By attacking the most vulnerable in society, among which I count myself.
• ‘Create more jobs’? See above.
• ‘Cut tax’? Again, for whom? Principally for those who do everything they can to avoid paying it at all, presumably.
• ‘Control immigration’? How? Your history – particularly recent history – would suggest that you intend to achieve this by racist attacks, particularly in the press and via equally racist and unlawful publicity as well as racist stop-and-search campaigns instigated by a Minister forced to resign when it was revealed that he himself employed an illegal immigrant!
• ‘Cut the costs of Europe’? The greatest savings could arguably be made by the government/party complying with their legal obligations and not fighting every decision simply because it doesn’t serve Conservative rather than British or European interests. Furthermore, your projected savings in this regard of £8.15bn are also misleading, perhaps fraudulent, given that the Chancellor changed the tax regime for the largest corporations – at a projected cost to the exchequer of between £5bn and £10bn a year over the next six years. The Institute for Public Policy Research also showed that a tax on financial transactions of a mere 0.01% would raise at least £25bn a year. Perhaps that was ignored because that would impact party funding by losing you the support of such people?
Perhaps you could also explain why the British Government has thus far failed or refused to ratify the recent European convention on violence against women.
• ‘Defend Britain’s interests’? See earlier comment on the founding ethos of the EU and then read some recent European history!
• ‘Keeping our border controls and cracking down on benefit tourism’. To use an American expression: What a crock! This is pure saloon bar politics, as are previous claims by the Conservatives with regard to so-called ‘health service tourism’ which has been proven to benefit, rather than detract from the national and local economies. Your claims regarding ‘benefit tourism’ are also equally misleading and fraudulent given that several bodies have found UK benefits to be manifestly inadequate in any case.
• ‘Securing more trade but not an ‘ever closer union’ ‘. Fraudulent twaddle, given that the two will ultimately be mutually exclusive where European trade is concerned.
• ‘Getting a better deal for British Taxpayers’. Which taxpayers exactly? Perhaps you might explain why, for example, Rinat Akhmetov pays less Council Tax on two flats in Hyde Park purchased for £136.4m than does the owner of a house in Blackburn, Lancashire valued at £115,939 – on which they probably have a mortgage? By the way, Rinat Akhmetov is an immigrant, but I have yet to read any racist Conservative rhetoric directed against him and his ilk.
Perhaps you might also explain why, while poor people are being forced out of their homes due to government cuts, the government is increasing the subsidy it provides for grouse moors (owned by roughly 1% of the so-called 1%) from £30 per hectare to £56?
• ‘Capping welfare and reducing immigration’? It is typical of the Conservatives to conflate two classes of people in this regard that they continue to denigrate as ‘scroungers’ – both by implication (by repeatedly and fraudulently referring to ‘hard-working people’) and directly. Since the very second it entered office the coalition has mounted a malignant, vicious and discriminatory war on the sick and disabled to the extent that it is directly responsible for hundreds of deaths – led by a Minister who is not only manifestly incompetent, but (repeatedly) a proven liar and failed party leader. Your politician’s continued and blatant lying pronouncements with regard to food banks are also about as despicable as it comes. You might also explain – with regard to the disabled (of whom I am one) – why, despite funding for ‘Access for All’ having been cut by roughly half (or eliminated), the government appears to be allocating what spending there is for rail improvements to predominantly coalition areas?
You might also explain something else: Despite introducing a completely vindictive benefit cap (£26,000) – the rationale for which is, short of the Conservative brand of malignant bigotry – completely evidence-free. The government instigated this while fighting desperately in Europe against a proposed cap of ten times that on the subsidies which agriculture can legally claim. The largest 170-odd landowners in Britain now collectively claim £120m. Who was profligate with the budget there Mr. Mabbutt? It was the coalition – predominantly made up of Conservatives – who fought that cap. Might that be because a significant number of your members are landowners?
The party and government’s pronouncements on immigration are also fraudulent and discriminatory given that a significant proportion of immigrants start businesses which go on to actually employ people! This is a claim that cannot truthfully be made of most government schemes during the current or previous Conservative governments. The Conservatives also either gloss over the contributions that immigrants have made to this country – Sir Alec Issigonis as one example, Dame Doreen Lawrence for another – or ignore them altogether, airbrushing them out of British history.
• ‘Delivering the best schools and skills for young people’. Utter rubbish! Education funding is more under attack now than it ever has been, with overworked teachers, fewer or non-existent resources and attacks on wages and conditions for all staff, let alone teachers. Standards are falling under a clueless Minister and a government interested in political advantage rather than meaningful change. My own granddaughter was also the victim of this fraud. She was following a so-called ‘apprenticeship’ on slave wages of £2.10 per hour and, just prior to the projected end of this modern-day slavery, was the victim of a trumped-up disciplinary offence and dismissed despite having out-performed even most of her supervisors. Thanks to government ‘reforms’ she cannot afford to seek redress through an Employment Tribunal. She also has significant talents in signing for hearing impaired people but cannot obtain employment in that field as she cannot afford to attend university to obtain the requisite qualifications.
Higher education has become increasingly elitist – giving the further lie to your claims regarding education. I was fortunate enough, when I became disabled, to be able to attend university as a mature student (1995-1999 and 2005-2008) via grants, student loans and Disabled Student Awards in an effort to make myself employable. I sincerely doubt that would be possible today – particularly given the cuts to support for disabled students.
This was, however, ultimately futile (other than the education itself) as I went into teaching in Further Education and – thanks to changes wrought in this area by the previous Conservative government(s) – was forced to work via an agency at £5-6 per hour less than my full-time, directly-employed, colleagues. Ultimately, my teaching hours were almost the equivalent of three full-time posts. Consequently I became seriously ill as a result and will almost certainly never work again.
You now class myself and people like me as scroungers to be hounded by your creatures Atos and their ilk, driven even further into poverty and ultimately an early grave.
Information Commissioner’s Office.
Data Controller, Conservative Party.
Disabled People Against Cuts.
DPAC says: we were going to add a picture of the leaflet, but decided to spare everyone
On Monday last week, Tory Universities and Science Minister David Willetts announced plans to ‘modernise’ the Disabled Students’ Allowances [DSAs] for higher education students from England. What he really means is another Tory cut.
DSAs are grants which pay for disability-related support for students. Since their introduction in 1990, DSAs have helped thousands more working class disabled students get to university who would otherwise have been unable to afford it, and to get the extra support they need when there. In 2011-12, DSAs provided over £125 million of additional support for over 53,000 full-time undergraduate higher education students. Individual grants can be for several thousand pounds, including specialist equipment and tutorial support.
The report says that students with specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia & dyspraxia “will continue to receive support through DSAs where their support needs are considered to be more complex”. This means that students judged to have less complex needs will no longer be eligible. The government will “no longer pay for standard specification computers”, using evidence from a report from Endsleigh Insurance conducted by the NUS which claims “almost all students now own or have access to a computer.” But even if this were true, the government’s own website says disabled people are less likely to own an internet-enabled computer or use a public terminal.*
The report says the government wants to “rebalance responsibilities between government funding and institutional support.” This move to make universities pay for the additional support needs of disabled students might seem fair. After all, universities rake in huge amounts from student fees. But it’s unlikely to work out like that. Richer universities can afford to pay (as can richer parents), but the huge squeeze on Higher Education funding means others will try not to. Most students can’t afford to go to court to force them to cough up. So all this will lead to disabled students dropping out of their courses because they can’t get the support they need, and that less disabled students from poorer backgrounds get to university at all.
Willetts says the changes will ensure support is provided “where it is needed the most.” This argument has been used to justify other benefits cuts, and on each occasion it has led in practice to actually removing support from most who need it. That’s why we need to expose and resist DSA changes as cuts helping the Tories to make education something only the rich can afford.
The NUS said dyslexic students needing support for computer equipment to aid their studies would lose out, and warned the costs of specialist accommodation for disabled students may not be met by DSA.
The changes “look to rebalance responsibilities between government funding and institutional support,” Mr Willetts says in his statement.
Times Higher Educationreported last week that the level of support offered to some disabled students varies widely between different universities.
DSA can pay for assistance including specialist equipment such as computer software; non-medical helpers, like a note-taker or reader; or extra travel costs. The maximum funding per student is £5,161 for specialist equipment (for the whole of a course), £20,520 for the non-medical helper allowance (per year) and £1,724 for a general allowance (per year).
Total government funding for DSA, the level of which varies from year to year depending on claims, came to £125 million in 2011-12, covering over 53,000 full-time undergraduates. The government said that in 2008-09, funding came to £91.7 million, covering 40,600 students.
Mr Willetts identifies a number of key changes in his announcement. The government will only pay “for higher specification or higher cost computers where a student needs one solely by virtue of their disability,” he says. The government is “changing our approach to the funding of a number of computer equipment, software and consumable items through DSAs that have become funded as ‘standard’ to most students,” he adds.
Students with specific learning difficulties will continue to receive support through DSAs where their support needs “are considered to be more complex,” Mr Willetts says. The government will only fund “the most specialist Non-Medical Help. The additional costs of specialist accommodation will no longer be met by DSAs, other than in exceptional circumstances.”
And the government will “define disability in relation to the definition provided by the Equality Act 2010, for the purposes of receiving DSAs”.
The changes, which would apply from September 2015, are subject to an Equality Impact Assessment, which assesses policies to make sure they do not unfairly disadvantage minority groups.
Hannah Paterson, NUS Disabled Students’ Officer, said: “The prospect of deeply unfair cuts to support for disabled students should concern us all. It is arrogant and out of touch to assume that disabled students can access ‘basic’ equipment or that universities will accept the new responsibilities ministers are seeking to place on them.”
People who don’t use the spoken word have a great deal to say about communication. People who do use the spoken word have a great deal to learn about communication from people who don’t.
Quiet Riot is a group of young adults who don’t use the spoken word. Quiet Riot had their first meeting four years ago. They meet in Manchester but come from around the UK, with members in Holland and Ireland.
Danian Allen (1984-2005)
The communication used by many members of Quiet Riot is known as Facilitated Communication Training (FCT) a strategy introduced into the UK by Marion Stanton, who is currently lead UK Assessor and trainer:
Marion invited Rosemary Crossley, from Australia to meet with families in the UK almost fifteen years ago, who in turn introduced many of the Quiet Riot members to FCT.
FCT is now used very effectively as a primary means of communication by many people around the UK. Using a key board on which to type, a trusted assistant (facilitator) supports the person to manage their body’s motor movements, which can be impaired as a result of sensory overloads/invasions as well as a wide diversity of other body motor issues.
FCT has fundamentally changed the opportunities for members of Quiet Riot:
” I am a man with no speech. I am a user of the pointing method of communication. I listen well and understand what is said… I am operating a perfectly weird body. I am wonderfully made..”
” I’m wondering if using Facilitated Communication will help to understand me better and give me some respect. I wish more people were given the chance to use facilitated communication it is great to be given a voice”
“Having no voice is not great but at least I can type good things. Being in good company like kids who talk. Talking with me makes me happy.”
“Trust your belief in your child. FC opens doors for those of us whose voices deny us use. People have to listen to our voices in the wilderness of disability. I can do things you elevate your expectation to. Look beneath the surface of appearance and see the qualities that are within”
I think FC is such a part of me that its difficult to think of it as an entity in it’s own right. I feel very lucky to have been surrounded by people who respected my communication giving me a limited experience of negativity around FC. I do however know that there are those who dismiss FC, I see this in their faces and reactions. My concerns are for those young disabled people who, for whatever reason, are affected by such situations.
Too bad I was seen as dumb of mind as well of mouth. Words offer all the possibilities of fine choices switching from a non-being to educated in the eyes of the world. The route to my intellect is now open”
” in the end the funny woman from Australia ( Rosemary Crossley) gave direct explanations, we ran away as slow as could be. Facilitation was a map just to find out about going A.W.O.L. I was not seen as a thinker with reason until I used typing. I type to talk differently. It is very good being able to communicate.”
” I am aware that you don’t realise how I am able to type. I go to university. Perhaps one day I will have a part on T.V. And you will have the opportunity to read my fan’s praises.”
Danian Allen (1984-2005)
“To be able to express myself as full as possible, without the correct method my answers are limited ” and “To be recognised as intelligent enabling me to live an independent life in my own home ”
“(FC ) allows me to communicate ,to have a voice.
Way in which it changed my life
I gave my opinion on my medical treatment
I Am Real
I am Real
Not a malfunctioning person with a confused mind
Just a normal thinking person
Who laughs, complains, shows sadness and happiness.
I am real”
Funding, Quiet Riot and the ODI
Quiet Riot campaigned for three years with no funding. Members financed their own attendance at the meetings in Manchester. They were brought together by a commitment, to talk with each other in a safe place, to plan campaigns and enjoy their Right to Communication: a right for every human being. The long term aims of Quiet Riot are to change the ways in which society welcomes and values people who do not use the spoken word.
Quiet Riot has been hosted and given hospitality by Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP), since the first meeting. ACE North, have also provided a venue for larger gatherings, again free of charge.
In our fourth year the The Edge Fund, a creative and democratic funding body, offered funding to Quiet Riot* which is being used to enable Quiet Riot to develop a customised website where they can reach out to local and global connections giving more people an understanding of FCT and an opportunity for the many people around the world who are needlessly denied their voice.
Funding for groups, at the “cutting edge” in societies, like Quiet Riot, is an important political issue. Given that the very existence of Quiet Riot provides a powerful reflection of people who have been failed within their own society. Quiet Riot has emerged despite statutory organisations who have failed to serve their legitimate support requirements.
The name of Quiet Riot appears to be a challenge for some, which was illustrated when Quiet Riot considered making a funding application to Office for Disability Issues (ODI), a government, established body to orchestrate the voice of disabled people in the UK. Quiet Riot was invited to change the name, to one less controversial ! – perhaps F— O– might be more appropriate! We have no funding from any government agency, which allows a freedom to critically question and challenge government and it’s agents, which has to be an essential feature of any campaigning group.
Quiet Riot members now in their twenties and thirties have each had the powerful support from their families, to have their voice heard, often against significant opposition from schooling authorities. An important lesson for schooling services to learn is that labels attached to any individual cannot convey anything of value about an individual. Such labels lead teachers into a cul-de-sac about an individual, requiring a great deal of time trying to find a way out.
Meaningful appreciations of another person’s skills, contributions and qualities will emerge via a mutual and respectful relationship. Such relationships can start with mutually respectful communication. The early schooling experience for many QR members was in segregated settings and very far from respectful :
“Special education is a cruel solution to educate people like me. I had the label (PMLD ) evil! I asked real people if they are aware of atrocities in school. Ask and ask again was anyone aware how awful it was doing stuff in special school. Emphasise it. The school system was a a vert (lawn) where seeds of alarm flew away. No one sussed what a serious affaire was swept away under the alters of Abraham . I was a walled prisoner in my own world dying slowly. When I returned from school each hour I sat thinking- give me a tool to communicate”
“Special school you think is bad. It is the nondescript way they teach is dull. They only had lots of detritus to share.”
The health service starts the process of diagnosis and categorisation of disabled people by creating labels that the schooling system uses to segregate and devalue disabled people. Authorities engage in convoluted assessments, measuring and testing the “capacity” of individuals. The disabled person is incidental to this process: it is an institutional response to legitimise prejudice and discrimination against a disabled person.
“I have no sex no gender apparently I only have this alleged affliction. reports and labels are the sum of my parts. There was never a label beyond disabled.i am just punk I am just an allocation of resources.”
Paul Thomas Allen
Institutions continue to segregate and devalue the human being as they have done for many decades.
” I have sorrow in my heart for you not learning the proper inclusion of me.”
Segregation at school age will tend to lead to more segregation in adult life – feeding the “services” that exist for the maintenance and protection of the institution and its processes.
Labels of “deficit” are attached to the individual and reflect the approach of an institution. We need to shift these labels away from the individual to the institution. Therefore, the constant need for institutions to measure and categorise people could be described as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Some Schools, Colleges and Universities have Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD) because they have failed to welcome and learn from people they continue to reject and exclude based upon the negative differences the institutions have determined and cultivated. This is particularly true of people who do not use the spoken word for their communication.
“In my pupil days at home I learned children whose bodies operated differently were not welcome really anywhere in the high schools in the myopic time we lived in. I thought then real choice was just for those talking people”
“Being alone I feel Dead”
It is soul destroying to continually have your contributions and efforts for participation thwarted by systematic indifference, ignorance and rejection. Such an approach to people is abusive and a total denial of their human rights. There continues to be a disturbing amount of confusion around the language and practice of inclusive education. We cannot give people inclusion, people have to Feel included.
” I invite experts to ask how we feel and our opinions. Autism really offers the world a fine lesson in humanities We require understanding, respect trust and love. In return we test the worlds ability to accept differences that exist between people ”
We know inclusion is working up and down the country in schools, colleges and universities for people with the diversity of impairments. We know people are included when we change the way we offer support in response to an individual’s particular requirements and when there is a welcome of difference and different voices for people to participate and contribute to the learning environment they are an integral part of.
” I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for your accommodating and satisfying subject in question. There was very much calm and confident re-assurance surrounding me when in your real lecture of thought and wisdom. For me acceptance is from within a massive heart. Please have diversity bring you good joy in real life. With very fond and great thoughts for life – To Lesley Groom University Tutor from Heathar Barrett.
Hope and acceptance are a luxury I do enjoy. I feel very immense greatness about the university of my love and life in the making of a good great free future. We are moving forward.
“Taking The Time”
The thought of starting was ecstatic,
I wanted to learn so much.
To me the building was magic,
With life in its crumbling husk.
The thought of being ordinary,
Filled me with a joy I can’t tell.
Still the thought of that building keeps memory,
For me of pure water: a well.
It was because I had ordinary teachers, who recognised that I had skills, that I am where I am now, doing English at university. The special education system did not do that for me; it endlessly measured my incompetence.
However, when a school refuses to change, to welcome and accept different ways of learning, it cannot be overstated just how oppressive it is to be seen as different, when your difference is devalued by the organisation that claims to be a place of learning!
“It should be perpetuated that I have no differences. I just need really cool people to understand my ways. I am in my difference the despoiler of your pattern”
Paul Thomas Allen.
“I’m really tired of being different”
For people who do not use the spoken word there can be a continual and exhausting struggle to have your voice heard. For many people with the label of autism who use FCT, there can be a massive amount of time and energy required to overcome or manage their bodies’ sensory changes in order to type each and every word.
I am finding it very hard to be a free fast user of FC when I am not focused on feeling anxiety free”
communication board in hand doing ordinary things like buying an ice cream. This does not require a “transition plan” or “a service delivery audit” Or a specialist training programme to create a team of ” Whippy Therapist”
Heathar using her communication aide on a walk across the moors.
Again no “specialist service” getting in her path.
“I am an individual with my own wants. Sometimes my neurons do screw up and it takes time to fix them.”
Paul Thomas Allen
” being autistic causes sensory problems like bright lights which makes me feel dizzy and they burn my eyes. I also have problems with loud noises. They really scare me and make me feel really nervous”
“People inspire me all the time. It’s the easy things I envy like people who are pain free”
The only way we can get near to understanding what is required for an individual to type whilst having to manage the permutations of sensory invasions, which could relate to all the senses and more within any given learning environment, is by being respectful and responsive to the individual. Having a mutually respectful communication is essential.
As for what we can do to encourage change in Universities, I think there is a wider issue here. If FC is not accepted as a means of communication during examinations, as it was when I did my GCSE’s and A levels, then the next generation of disabled academics are thwarted in accessing university through such academic routes. The universities are poorer places for not having a fair representation of all students in their Halls and of course where we are never seen we are never easily accepted nor understood
Professionals have a responsibility to shift their lack of understanding or toleration of ignorance about different ways of communication and recognise that the denial of a person’s communication is not simply the denial of a learning experience but the consequences can be life threatening.
Anthony Kletzander from independent living to institutionalization
Anthony Kletzander, one of the founder members of Quiet Riot lived independently in Dublin in his own flat, with his own 24hr support. Because people, uninvited came into his life and chose to deny his FC, he was forced into an institution after he had experienced a full life living independently, with his own support staff. Within days he was given antipsychotic medication against his wishes, this resulted in emergency hospital treatment. Anthony’s voice continues to be denied at the institution.
“Tell them to stop giving me medication. I have no choice it makes my head feel strange”
“I would love to be in independent living. It is much better than residential.”
“Really trying to be accepted into society is very difficult and I am really saddened by this”
This is the clip about university. Nua Health Care in Ireland refuse to accept Anthony’s communication. They have also refused his right to independent living. Anthony was hospitalised twice from this institution over a period of three weeks. Anthony’s struggle continues made more difficult by Nua Health Care continuing to deny Anthony’s voice.
Anthony Kletzander. Typing with Marion Stanton just half hour after meeting with her. Nua Health Care refused her offer of support.
He watches, and you are scared.
Mute and Flalling
If he could talk he would tell.
So you silence him.
Maresa uses facilitated communication on her graduation day at Nottingham Trent University.
People who are prepared to deny a person’s communication when they don’t offer a meaningful alternative are abusing a person’s Human Rights.
It is an abuse of the power and authority of a psychologist or therapist to * deny a person’s means of communication, then have the effrontery to accept, a large fee, to carry out an “assessment” and make judgments and recommendations about the person’s life with whom they insist they cannot communicate!
” I have spent every day since birth when people think my head is bad like my body. Top physicians from all over came to inspect the Allen family, every one of them you imagine a certified genius. They ran me through their tests prosecuting me with steal augers. Pain like real despicable pain. Played with and investigated all facts collated their only conclusion was to find I was guilty. I was dense and better as a doorstop. I inhabited my own head just watching, I had to live the isolated life. I had to wait …. It did not occur to the world I am not retarded and a vicious anger I was cultivating. In my egg I stayed. In my soft manner to wither, it was sometimes insanity”
Paul -Thomas Allen.
I am unable to pronounce what thoughts are in my mind. When I use facilitation I am able to let others know how I feel. This is undoubtedly beneficial for my peace. Past appearances of the disabled are wrong. What people pronounce does not show how clever they are. I think it is because writing allows people to say exactly what they want. People make assumptions
Damian Allen ( 1984-2005)
Quiet Riot, DPAC and challenges powers and practices
Quiet Riot is an organisation that offers a much more powerful future for the person who does not use speech but insists that their voice is heard.
There is also a growing new network of organisations of disabled people in the UK and internationally who are challenging the oppressive practices and asserting the human rights of disabled people. It is co-ordinated by Disabled People against the Cuts (DPAC) This New Democratic and transparent approach is not seeking to justify the participation of disabled people around the UK but fundamentally challenging the powers and practices that seek to prevent their contribution and participation.
Facilitated Communication has enabled members of Quiet Riot to challenge the powers and practices that seek to silence people that do not use the spoken word.
Quiet Riot are engaged in subjects like: Biology, English literature, Creative Writing, Poetry, Philosophy, Jewish Religious Studies, Music, Geology, Ethics and Human Rights at Universities around the UK, Ireland and Holland. Thiandi Grooff a member of Quiet Riot and uses FC is in her final year of undergraduate study at a University in Amsterdam. She has been been engaged in a detailed qualitative study into group identity.
This study shows that a safe place for discussions is very important: the participants are welcomed, without threat by opponents who reject their way of communicating or the State, and every effort is made to overcome barriers to speaking. In this study the benefits of the collective identity for the members of the group ( Quiet Riot) were clear: a more powerful personal identity and self-esteem that led to more courage to speak up and to engage in relations and actions outside the group.”
FCT is used by increasing numbers of people around the world and with whom there is a growing connection via the internet. A powerful collective voice is emerging and demanding their space to be heard. It is a voice to reckoned with
Joe Whittaker April 2014
With many, many thanks to the great guys at Quiet Riot for putting this together and to Joe-DPAC fully support Quiet Riot and FCT.
I’m at rock bottom right now and unable to go through writing it again. I have an appointment to see my MP tomorrow. I have copied and pasted an email I sent to his secretary earlier today. Dear Mary, I was going to write a brief summary of the main issues I’m facing right now and send them to you to save some time tomorrow, but it looks like all my benefits have just been stopped. I was due a DLA payment yesterday (Thursday 27th March) but it’s not been paid into my bank account. I signed on at the Job Centre in Stevenage on Tuesday, but the staff (My Adviser/Coach) doubt that I’m fit for work and think I should be on ESA.
I’ve done everything they’ve asked, searched for work everyday, applied for Jobs, even worked on a business plan to start my own business from home, I don’t know what more I could have done. DWP arranged an appointment for me with PLUSS a few weeks ago and after going there I felt quite optimistic, but when I went to sign on following that, their feedback was that they couldn’t help me because my health problems are too severe. I went to DAS (Depression and Anxiety Service) on 16th March, they can’t help with my Mental Health problems because they are too severe and complex.
Unless I say “I’m going to kill myself” I can’t get any help because local Mental resources are too underfunded and their caseload is too big. I DO NOT WANT TO GO INTO HOSPITAL and I would be extremely uncooperative if I was forced!!! Do you think this is Fair or Just??? What am I supposed to do??? My health problems are hard enough to deal with, without all this!!! I went from mid July last year up until a few weeks ago with nothing other than my £40 a week DLA to live on. I had £500 savings and a good credit rating before then, and a £950 overdraft which I never used until I lost my ESA at Tribunal. I got a statement from my bank this afternoon, I’m £921.12 overdrawn with an available balance of £6.20 (I don’t know how they do their maths?) I have £96 of overdraft charges being taken out of my account on 1st of April. I had come to an arrangement with housing people to pay back the outstanding rent arrears I owed when I started to receive JSA a few weeks ago and had promised a payment of £70 by tomorrow (28th March). DNRS have already tried to send the Bailiffs to my flat to take possessions for outstanding council tax arrears.
I’ve been to CAB numerous times recently. If this is how my life is going to be then what’s the point??? I can’t sleep at night because I’m so stressed out all the time, my health mental and physical are getting worse by the day. Everybody I’ve seen, my Job Centre Coach, CAB, My COPD Nurse and the Doctor I last saw (Dr Roper), PLUSS, DAS and my family ALL SAY I SHOULD BE ON ESA. I have an appointment tomorrow morning with my GP. I need immediate help, no more forms, no more appointments, NO MORE BULLSHIT!!! I refuse to live like this any longer, I can’t take anymore of the daily stress and injustice!!! I SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN IN THIS SITUATION FROM THE START!!! I’ve always been a fighter, I’ve had to survive but I’m totally exhausted now, mentally and physically… I HAVE TAKEN AS MUCH AS I CAN –
My appointment with my MP went well. I was already so angry to begin with made sure I made the most of my 15 minutes. I had written my main issues before hand so that I did not forget anything. To be fair I came away feeling he had listened to me and understood my situation. I was fluent in my arguments and never had any denial from him that what this government are doing to the most vulnerable people in this country is totally wrong. Since then I have applied for ESA again, all done over the phone this time, with help from my local CAB. My MP has also liaised with my GP so that I get to see the same doctor each time.
I have been to my local surgery twice since my meeting and the way I have been treated is 100% better. DWP asked me to get a letter from my GP to inform them of how many hours a week I was capable of working while claiming JSA. My COPD and mental health conditions have worsened considerably over the past few months and my GP signed me off sick saying in his opinion I wasn’t well enough to work, hence the claim for ESA. It’s like a merry go round and so frustrating and stressful it just makes my health and life in general suffer as a result. I stated strongly to my MP that I should never have been in this situation, and far from what Iain Duncan Smith claims to be doing. that he is helping people. My MP agreed.
I am due to receive my first ESA payment this coming Tuesday and looking forward to being able to eat properly again.
If I could give any advice to someone in a situation like mine it would be to get mad, make yourself heard with the right people. I am a fighter but fighting battles everyday to survive is tiring and wears you down. It either that or give in, I wasn’t prepared to give in with the injustices I had to face and wasn’t going to go without a fight.
Update: I received a letter this week from the DWP saying they were investigating my case. We will see what comes of it. I am still angry because of all the debt all this has got me into just trying to survive.
I will never forgive nor forget what this government has done to me and tens of thousands of others.
This is an edited version of a set of emails received by DPAC- all names and places have been changed and the author has given DPAC permission to use this to publicise the inhumane situations many are finding themselves in under the Condem regime
Bring things to make lots of noise. We have asked Mike Penning Minister for disabled people to join us but in case he doesn’t we need to make sure he knows we’re there.
Dear Mike Penning,
We understand that you have stated publicly that you feel closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) will not have any adverse effect on the ability of disabled people to live independently in the community, to be able to access education or to continue to be employed.
Disabled people who are ILF recipients do not agree with your view and are gathering to voice their fears for their futures on May 12th from 3-5pm outside Caxton House.
They would very much appreciate the opportunity to speak to you about their very valid concerns so although we know you must be a very busy person we hope you can join us to hear what disabled people are saying.
In the meantime we are attaching a small selection of case studies for your attention.
On behalf of DPAC ILF recipient support group
————————————————————————————————————————————- What is the Independent Living Fund?
The Independent Living Fund (ILF) is a ring-fenced pot of funding to provide funding to help 18,000 disabled people with high support needs live an independent life in the community rather than in residential care.
Closure of ILF: In March 2014 government decided to close the ILF in June 2015 in spite of a court ruling that said their previous decision to close ILF was in breach of the Equality Act. As usual DWP blatantly ignored the court.
Recommendations: Deaf and disabled people’s organisations and disabled people believe the ILF should be kept open and re-opened to new applicants for two key reasons:
– The ILF is a cost effective model of funding that successfully supports the independent living of those with the highest support needs.
– In stark contrast many Local Authorities only provide funding for basic a clean and feed model of care which ends independent living and inclusion in the community. This will leave many ILF users with a choice between inadequate care at home or an inactive, isolated life in a residential home.
Disabled people in Norwich are being forced to make 88 mile trips for their Atos assessment-why? Because the centre in Norwich is not accessible for wheelchair users.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the taxpayer is footing another additional bill because of private companies and DWP combined inefficiency, yet again.
EDP24 reports: Taxpayers are footing the bill to ferry disabled people on an 88-mile round trip to Ipswich or King’s Lynn by taxi to decide if they are fit to work because the Norwich centre has no wheelchair access.
In an uncompromising letter, welfare minister Mike Penning has told MPs there are no plans to introduce a new assessment centre in Norwich and the inadequate St Mary’s House, on Duke Street, will continue to be used for the work capability assessments. It comes as Norwich MP Simon Wright highlighted the case of a constituent who had been sent to Ipswich by taxi, with other MPs also citing similar stories.
One Norwich woman who is unable to use stairs easily, who did not want to be named, was sent by taxi to King’s Lynn weeks after her appointment was cancelled because of the fire risk.
She said it had made an already stressful situation even more difficult.
It has emerged under a Freedom of Information request that the DWP has no direct control over the lease on St Mary’s House.
It is managed by the private firm Telereal Trillium as part of a 20 year private finance initiative contract, which ends in March 2018.
Telereal Trillium would not provide details of the terms of its leave citing it as “commercially sensitive”.
Mark Harrison, chief executive of Equal Lives, said: “How can this coalition government lease buildings that are not fit for purpose and have no control over the access requirements for disabled customers?”
He said the centre was yet another example of the government putting the needs of private sector companies and their profits before the welfare of its disabled citizens.