Nov 302016
 

Tell the world what is happening to
disabled people in the UK.

on International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Saturday 3rd December – all day

 – and all night if you want to reach people in different timezones

Hashtags: #UK #IDPD #IDPD2016

Tweet your own messages or use our pre-prepared tweetlist

Tell the world what is happening to disabled people in the UK.Join Disabled People Against Cuts to protest against the grave and systematic violations of disabled peoples rights by the UK government through welfare reform, as evidenced in the United Nations inquiry findings published last week.

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/InquiryProcedure.aspx

For DPACs response see: https://dpac.uk.net/2016/11/dpacs-rebuttal-of-damian-greens-denials-about-the-un-report/

I Daniel Blake is in cinemas across the country and a UN inquiry, has found reliable evidence of grave and systematic violations of disabled peoples rights by the UK government due to welfare reform.

However we still have welfare reform and things are worse now than they were when the UN conducted their enquiry and set to get even worse; we still have the WCA, the bedroom tax, changes to Access to Work and a social care support system in crisis but everyday more disabled people are losing essential income through PIP assessments, the benefit cap is about to be lowered and the introduction of Universal Credit will make thousands of households with disabled members worse off.

With people from all over the globe tweeting and looking at the hashtag #IDPD2016, this is our chance to tell the whole world what is happening in the UK – this is our chance to embarrass and shame the government over the atrocities they have perpetrated against us

 

 Posted by at 22:52
Nov 302016
 

Statement from the British Psychological Society


 

British Psychological Society signs statement opposing welfare sanctions

30 November 2016

The report published yesterday by the National Audit Office confirming that there is no clear evidence welfare sanctions work confirms key concerns of the main psychological therapy organisations.

A statement signed by representatives of the five organisations says:

The sanctions process may be detrimental to people’s mental health and wellbeing.  Whilst the utility of the sanctions process rests on the assumption that job centre clients are insufficiently motivated to seek work; an estimated 86-90% of people with mental health conditions that are not in employment want to work.  The links between the sanctions regime and the mental health and wellbeing of individuals should be subject to an independent review.

International evidence indicates that benefit sanctions substantially raise exits from benefits, and may increase short-term job entry; but there are unfavourable longer-term outcomes for earnings, job quality and employment retention.

Not only are we concerned that the sanctions process is undermining mental health and wellbeing – there is no clear evidence of pay-off in terms of increased employment and no commitment from the Government to investigate how the jobcentre systems and requirements may themselves be exacerbating mental health problems.  We continue to call on the Government to address these concerns and suspend the use of sanctions subject to the outcomes of an independent review.

The five organisations backing the statement are the UK Council for Psychotherapy, the British Psychoanalytic Council, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, the British Association for Behavioural and Cogntive Psychotherapies and the British Psychological Society.

 Posted by at 22:31
Nov 302016
 

An important report on Benefit Sanctions has been published today by the National Audit Office. It is available at  https://www.nao.org.uk/report/benefit-sanctions/

There is also a technical appendix on the methodology of the NAO’s own sanctions studies at https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Benefit-sanctions-detailed-methodology.pdf

A summary of some key points is below.

The Public Accounts Committee is holding a public hearing on the report on Monday 12 December and has invited written evidence submissions. They must be with the Committee by midday next Tuesday, 6 December. More details are at http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/public-accounts-committee/inquiries/parliament-2015/benefit-sanctions-16-17/

KEY POINTS

  •  The report is generally critical. It uses a ‘traffic light’ scoring system. On sanctions, DWP scores: red 2, red/amber 1, amber 3, amber/green 3, green 0. (Figure 1, p.11, Figure 8 p.21 and Figure 20, p.38)
  • A recurring theme is the lack of evidence to support the sanctions regime, and the DWP’s unwillingness to make use of its own data to evaluate it or to collaborate with outside researchers. The report is particularly critical of the DWP’s reliance on ‘international evidence suggesting that broadly some form of sanction has an effect’. (para.23) It repeats the call for a wide review of sanctions made repeatedly by the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee. (para.24)
  •  Using Work Programme data, the NAO did its own analysis of sanctions’ employment effects. This found that JSA sanctions had a large effect in getting claimants off benefit, but they were as likely not to find work as they were to find it. There was no positive effect on earnings for those who found work.
  • The report finds that ESA sanctions actually reduced claimants’ likelihood of working. This bears out the findings of the important report by Catherine Hale, Fulfilling Potential? ESA and the fate of the Work-Related Activity Group (2014).
  • The report finds that the rise and fall in referrals over the period 2010 to 2016 cannot be explained by changes in claimant behaviour. (para.13, p.8) This supports the conclusions of my analysis published at www.cpag.org.uk/david-webster, although in other respects the conclusions are different.
  • The report comments that sanctions are not rare. It finds that of all people who claimed JSA at any point between 2010 and 2015, 24% were sanctioned, before challenges. (Figure 5, p.16) The only previous published figure of this type (in FoI response 2014-4972) showed that 22.3% of the 8,232,560 individuals who claimed JSA over the five year period 2009/10 to 2013/14 inclusive, were sanctioned, after challenges. After allowing for the pre-/post- challenge difference, these figures are similar (about 10% of sanctions were overturned over these periods). DWP ministers and officials have deliberately and persistently misled politicians and the public by quoting the monthly sanctions rate of around 5% as if it meant that only 5% of claimants are ever sanctioned.
  • The NAO report explains why the DWP hasn’t been publishing statistics on Universal Credit sanctions: it hasn’t been collecting them. Only from Sept 2016 has the DWP been recording whether UC decisions relate to sanctions or to other matters. (Note 4, Figure 2 p.13)
  • The NAO report does not give statistics on Universal Credit sanctions, but it does show that the sanction referral rate for UC, at 11.7% of claimants per month, is approaching twice what it is for JSA (6.5%) (Figure 2, p.13) This implies that the UC sanction rate is also likely to be double that for JSA. The report also says that decision making for UC sanctions is understaffed, with 42% of UC sanction decisions in August 2016 taking more than 4 weeks while 90% of sanction referrals for other benefits are decided within 5 working days.
  • In August 2015 the UK Statistics Authority made recommendations to DWP for improvement of its sanctions statistics and removal of misleading aspects including the misrepresentation of the proportion of JSA claimants who are sanctioned. Very little has happened since and the NAO report urges DWP to get on with implementing the UKSA’s 5 recommendations, which are listed in para.3.5.
  • The NAO finds that some Work Programme providers make more than twice as many sanction referrals as other providers within the same geographical area, even though claimants are randomly allocated so that the caseload characteristics are identical for each provider. (para.2.12) It finds that where providers referred more people for sanctions, they had a worse employment performance. On average, the best provider in an area achieved 6% more employment outcomes and its participants received 20% fewer sanctions. (Figure 22, p.42)
  • A particularly embarrassing finding for DWP is that it applies sanctions to a similar proportion of referrals from every Work Programme provider, whether they have a high or a low referral rate – in other words, while some providers are making an assessment of whether they should make a referral, DWP is not making genuine assessments of whether claimants should be sanctioned. (para.2.12 and Figure 13, p.29) Not surprisingly therefore, the report also finds that 26% of Work Programme sanctions are overturned compared to 11% of those imposed directly by Jobcentres.
  • The NAO estimates that the amount of money not paid to claimants as a result of sanctions (sanction value minus hardship payments made) was about £97m in 2015. On the basis of a straightforward pro rata calculation, this supports the estimate of £332m which I previously made for 2013/14. The difference is due to the big fall in sanctions between 2013/14 and 2015.
  • DWP has made no overall assessment of the costs and benefits of the sanctions regime including on other public services and should do so. (para. 3.20)

Dr David Webster

Honorary Senior Research Fellow
Urban Studies
School of Social and Political Sciences
University of Glasgow
Webpage: http://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/socialpolitical/staff/davidwebster/

 Posted by at 22:20
Nov 292016
 

Have your say on fewer buses and the need for more changes in central london

https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/buses/west-end-bus-changes/

Transport for London are currently consulting on reducing the frequency of buses in Central London and changing the route, and terminus of others. This is bad news for disabled people due to the lack of alternative accessible transport options in the city.

Many journeys across London already require disabled people to change buses, however adjustments to the line of route, and shortening of the routes will make bus changes, and lengthy waits in the dark, cold and rain far more likely. Routes like 73 from Stoke Newington to Victoria and 390 Archway to Victoria are examples of routes that would be affected by these changes.

In particular, getting from Euston and Kings Cross to parts of London where there is no accessible tube service is a major issue and in zones 1 and 2 – much more difficult.

Transport for London are justifying this planned change as they claim more people are using the tube. This is not an option for disabled people as only 15% of Central London tube stations have step-free access and often not to all lines/directions. Central London stations which still do not have step-free access include numerous major hubs such as Bond Street, Oxford Circus, Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Tottenham Court Road, Vauxhall, Victoria, Euston, and Charring Cross.

Further, despite promises from TfL and the Mayor of London, that the closure of ticket offices would improve services for disabled travellers up to October 2016 the number of lifts being out of service due to staff shortages increased by a massive 118% compared to the previous year. In some cases lifts were closed for 20 hours.

TFL state in their consultation that the opening of the Elizabeth line (Crossrail) will reduce the need for buses. However, given the issues with acceptable levels of staffing at existing stations to provide lifts, and the fact that Crossrail will not be level from the platform to the train, requiring a bridging ramp, can disabled people trust that they will be able to access the new line’s services?

On top of all of that there are often planned closures of lifts for maintenance work lasting months and with no alternative usable tube stations nearby.

In most areas of central London Blue Badges cannot be used so disabled drivers are unable to park there. For those in work with a Motability vehicle who might need to travel into central London for work by taxi due to the lack of parking available this too is no longer an option as Access to Work will no longer provide taxis for those who have a Motability vehicle – not even so they can work.

At peak time, buses are often delayed due to traffic, or are so full that drivers refuse to allow wheelchair users onboard, meaning commutes are harder, longer and more arduous for disabled people.

These proposals risk causing disabled people more difficulties accessing the community, their places of work, and will reduce their ability to undertake leisure activities.

 

 

 Posted by at 20:32
Nov 292016
 

Benefit sanctions – Disabled people’s experiences

Have you experienced a benefit sanction? If so I would be very grateful if you could let me know what happened to you by sending your experiences to Henrietta.doyle@inclusionlondon.org.uk  by 6 December.

I’m sending in evidence to a select committee inquiry and you experience will help inform our response.

Information about the benefit sanction inquiry is at:

https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/public-accounts-committee/inquiries/parliament-2015/benefit-sanctions-16-17/

 Posted by at 10:21
Nov 282016
 

DPAC wish to thank John Slater for this article


Some claimants placed in the WRAG find that their medical condition has worsened, possibly because of the Work Related Activities (WRA) they must undertake, but when they notify the DWP to tell them, even if they have supporting medical evidence from their GP or consultant, the DWP work advisor or coach disregards the evidence and still insist for the claimant to undertake WRA because they are in the WRAG.

What follows is an explanation of why the DWP advisor/coach may be acting unlawfully, and of what claimants might be able do in this situation.

Why the DWP advisor/coach may be acting unlawfully

  1. The Welfare Reform Act 2012 describes the purpose of work-related activity (“WRA”) as:

making it more likely in the opinion of the Secretary of State that the claimant will obtain paid work (or more paid work or better-paid work).”

ESA Regulations state that any WRA “must be reasonable in the view of the Secretary of State, having regard to the person’s circumstances”. They also permit the Secretary of State (“SoS”) to determine that a requirement as to the time at or by which WRA is to be undertaken is not to apply. Put simply this means the SoS can decide that a claimant doesn’t have to complete the previously specified WRA.

Therefore it can be argued that anyone imposing or compelling a claimant to undertake WRA that is likely to result in physical harm to the claimant is not having due regard to the person’s circumstances and in doing so is actually making it less likely that the claimant would obtain paid work. This means any work coach/advisor would be likely to be acting outside of their prescribed powers (i.e. unlawfully) and thus leaving themselves personally open to civil and/or criminal action (e.g. harassment as per the Prevention of Harassment Act 1997).

There is also the matter of the DWP own decision makers guides. Chapter 4 states:

  • 04000 Supersession means changing a decision of a DM, a FtT or a UT and replacing it, from a later date than the original decision. Certain conditions have to be satisfied before a decision can be superseded. There is no time limit for making an application for supersession.”
  • What type of decisions can be superseded

04001 The following decisions may be superseded by a decision made by the Secretary of State

1. a decision on any claim for a relevant benefit

2. any decision of the Secretary of State that falls to be made under relevant Acts

3. any decision described in 1. & 2. as revised

but this is subject to regulations.”

  • 04004 A decision (referred to below as the “original decision”) can be superseded either when an application has been made by the claimant or on the DM’s own initiative where

1. there has been a relevant change of circumstances since the original decision

1.1 had effect or

1.2 in the case of an advance award, was made

This suggests that any work coach/advisor made aware of a change of circumstances by a claimant (e.g. WRA is no longer possible due to worsening health) should either treat it an application for supersession or as a minimum explain the process that the claimant must follow to apply for a supersession.

  1. DWP work coach/advisor, work-related activity, new medical evidence and reconsideration

The fluctuation of medical conditions is not something that should come as a surprise to anyone at the DWP who deals with people claiming ESA. If someone’s health deteriorates who is assigned to the WRAG it is entirely reasonable that they would seek medical advice, notify the DWP of the change and that they are no longer able to carry out WRA. Ideally the claimant would obtain a letter or ‘sick note’ from their doctor to support their position. Such documentation is known as medical evidence.

The ESA Regulations 2008 defines medical evidence as:

(a) evidence from a health care professional approved by the Secretary of State; and

(b) evidence (if any) from any health care professional or a hospital or similar institution,

or such part of such evidence as constitutes the most reliable evidence available in the circumstances;”

By notifying the DWP that their health has deteriorated and that they can no longer carry out WRA the claimant can be regarded as asking for a reconsideration of their WRA or a supersession of the decision to place them in the WRAG (as explained earler). The ESA (Work-Related Activity) Regulations 2011 states:

Reconsideration of action plans

7.—(1) A person may request reconsideration of an action plan.

(2) On receipt of a request the Secretary of State must reconsider the action plan.

(3) A decision of the Secretary of State following a request must be in writing and given to the person.”

Therefore a letter/sick note from a GP is medical evidence and as such should trigger an appropriate assessment of or reconsideration of the claimant’s particular circumstances (given that WRA must be tailored to the claimant’s specific circumstances and capabilities).

A work coach/advisor cannot be an appropriate person to make that assessment if it involves medical evidence as they are not medically qualified. Under Primary and Secondary legislation for ESA, healthcare professionals are the people that assess medical evidence provided by a GP or Consultant (or other health care specialist treating the claimant) and then make recommendations to the Secretary of State.

So what a DWP advisor/coach should do is to seek advice from a HCP without delay. The service to provide this advice is built into the contract between the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and the Centre for Health and Disability Assessment Ltd (Maximus).

Section 8 Referrals specifies the following service requirement:

  • 8.1. The Supplier will receive referrals from the Authority for Claimants who are at various stages in the claim. Referrals sent clerically will use the Authority’s courier service. For the WCA, referrals will also be made electronically, as described in Part J. Referrals will include, but are not restricted to, new claims, re-referrals, reassessment cases, and advice. The Supplier’s actions in processing these cases will be the same unless otherwise defined in this document.

Section 13 of the contract reconsideration/advice to the authority specifies that:

  • 13.1. The Supplier must provide any advice and/or clarification that the Authority requires. It is anticipated that this advice will be provided by telephone, in writing, or via the referral system. However, the Authority would like to explore digital methods for this service during the Agreement.”

The outcome of that reconsideration or supersession might be any of the follow:

  • a new WCA to determine if the claimant should now be placed in the Support Group,
  • the claimant is placed into the Support Group by the Decision Maker, or
  • changing/suspending the WRA for a period of time to allow the claimant’s health to improve.
  • No change.
  • No longer entitled to ESA (this shouldn’t happen without a WCA).

These are compatible with the law as it currently stands. ESA Regulations permit the SoS to determine afresh a person’s eligibility for ESA and also that a requirement as to the time at or by which WRA is to be undertaken is not to apply. Such powers must be exercised fairly and reasonably, and the DWP advisor/coach is not competent to exercise such powers on behalf of the SoS where it involves medical evidence.

  1. Change in circumstances

Regulation 32 of the Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations 1987 and regulation 38(4) of The Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment Support Allowance (Claims and Payments) Regulations 2013 require claimants to notify the SoS of any change in circumstances that might reasonably affect their entitlement to benefit.

Whilst people usually think about this in respect of no longer being entitled to benefit, it should also be used to signal significant deterioration that could or would result in someone moving from WRAG to SG. As said before, ESA Regulations permit the SoS to determine afresh whether the claimant has or is to be treated as having limited capability for work-related activity. If a claimant has notified the SoS of a change in circumstances, a DWP coach/advisor is not competent to simply dismiss it out of hand and may be acting unlawfully by doing so.

  1. What can be done?

Only claimants can do something about their situation. You will find below a template you might be able to use to challenge the DWP advisor/coach inaction if it applies to your particular circumstances. This letter is requesting that any WRA be stopped and that you be reassessed to see if you now qualify for the Support Group. People need to be aware that the outcome of a new WCA could result in a Decision Maker finding you are no longer eligible for ESA.

Complete the template or modify it to suit your particular circumstances. Then hand a copy to the DWP coach/advisor (with only a copy of the sick note or other documentation included) and also send another copy of the letter with the original sick note or other documentation (having kept a copy for your records) to the appropriate DWP District Manager at the DWP district office. The list of district offices can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/latest-list-of-jcp-district-offices-in-local-authority-areas-britain

You should explain that you have done this as you do not feel that you have any other option because of the DWP work coach/advisor inaction.

You should also contact your local MP and send them a copy of the letter sent to the DWP (along with a copy of the sick note or other documentation). You do not have to send the letters by recorded delivery but you should obtain free proof of postage from your Post Office. If you contact your MP, mention it in the letter sent to DWP.

Disclaimer

Please be aware that neither the author nor DPAC are qualified lawyers or welfare experts. The article is based on the author’s understanding of the welfare system but no warranty can be offered for its accuracy. The purpose of the article is to explain the possible options that might be available to people who are in the WRAG if their health deteriorates. Due to the complexity of the welfare system it is isn’t possible to produce a definitive step by step list of instructions that will apply to everyone. If people are going to use any of the information contained in the article and the template letter they must make sure it suits their specific circumstances. If you are unsure you should always seek professional advice.


Template for letter to the DWP DISTRICT OFFICE

Dear Sirs,

<INSERT NAME> National Insurance No <INSERT NI NUMBER>

Regulation 32 of the Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations 1987 and regulation 38(4) of The Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment Support Allowance (Claims and Payments) Regulations 2013 require me to notify the Secretary of State any change in circumstances that might reasonably affect my entitlement to benefit.

The ESA (Work-Related Activity) Regulations 2011 states that the Secretary of State must, upon request, carry out a reconsideration of an action plan and provide a written response.

The Social Security Act 1998 Section 10 states and decision made by the Secretary of State:

may be superseded by a decision made by the Secretary of State, either on an application made for the purpose or on his own initiative.”

Therefore please regard this letter as formal notification that there has been a significant change in my circumstances. My health has deteriorated markedly to the point my GP*, Consultant*, Nurse* [*delete as appropriate.] has provided written medical evidence (original enclosed) that continuing with work-related activity at this time would be harmful to my health.

This evidence and my application for my case to be looked at again has been inappropriately ignored by my work coach. Therefore I feel I have been left with no option but to write to the DWP district office and also seek help from my Member of Parliament.

The deterioration of my health has left me severely restricted in respect of all daily activities and thus makes my continued allocation to the ESA Work-Related Activity Group inappropriate and in reality psychologically* / physically* dangerous [*delete as appropriate]. I have summarised the changes to my health below:

[ADD A LIST OF WHAT HAS CHANGED AND WHY WORK-RELATED ACTIVITY IS NOW HARMFUL. ALSO EXPLAIN WHAT YOUR GP OR CONSULTANT HAS SAID AND STATE THAT YOU HAVE INCLUDED A COPY OF THE SICK NOTE AND ANY OTHER CORRESPONDENCE FROM YOUR GP/CONSULTANT/NURSE ETC]

The Welfare Reform Act 2012 describes the purpose of work-related activity as:

making it more likely in the opinion of the Secretary of State that the claimant will obtain paid work (or more paid work or better-paid work).”

ESA Regulations state that any work-related activity “must be reasonable in the view of the Secretary of State, having regard to the person’s circumstances”. They also permit the Secretary of State to determine that a requirement as to the time at or by which work-related activity is to be undertaken is not to apply.

Therefore anyone imposing or compelling a claimant to undertake work-related activity that is likely to result in harm to the claimant is not having due regard to the person’s circumstances and is making it less likely that the claimant would obtain paid work. This means they would be acting outside of their prescribed powers and potentially leaving themselves personally open to civil and/or criminal action (e.g. harassment as per the Prevention of Harassment Act 1997).

I suggest that given the changes in my health outlined above it is neither reasonable nor safe to impose any further work-related activity on me until a fresh determination is made as to whether I should now be assigned to the ESA Support Group.

ESA Regulations permit the Secretary of State to determine afresh any WRA requirements and whether the claimant has or is to be treated as having limited capability for work-related activity. I request that this be completed at the earliest possible date by an appropriately qualified medical professional. Please note that I have retained a copy of this correspondence and proof of postage.

Yours sincerely

<INSERT NAME>

 Posted by at 21:34
Nov 252016
 

This is the latest update on David’s case, sadly they have rejected David’s inquest and Gill has started a new campaign with Crowd Justice to take this to the High Court.

We ask you, if you can afford it, to support Gill’s appeal for funds for the case at CrowdJustice: https://www.crowdjustice.co.uk/case/david-clapson

Even if you can’t afford to donate, please help by sharing this post

Here is the Solicitors Press Release, which explains in more detail about the case and is reproduced below.

Sister of ex-soldier who died following benefit sanction vows to fight decision not to hold inquest

15 November 2016

The sister of an ex-soldier who died in 2013 after being left ‘destitute’ following benefit sanctions imposed by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) have vowed to challenge the decision of the Coroner not to hold an inquest into his death.

David Clapson, a Type 1 diabetic, died in 2013 aged 59. His sister Gill Thompson claims that following the sanction by the DWP he was left without money for his electricity meter, unable to chill his insulin in the height of Summer, unable to buy sufficient food and that these factors all contributed to his death from fatal diabetic ketoacidosis.

An autopsy found he had no food in his stomach when he died. The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on 2 November 2016 raised the death of Mr Clapson in Prime Minister’s Questions.

Whilst addressing the issue of benefits sanctions to the Prime Minister, Theresa May, Mr Corbyn said: “But I will tell the Prime Minister what is monstrously unfair: ex-servicemen like David Clapson dying without food in his home due to the Government’s sanctions regime. It is time that we ended this institutionalised barbarity against often very vulnerable people.”

Last month the Hertfordshire Coroner received submissions from law firm Leigh Day arguing that a fresh investigation should be opened into Mr Clapson’s death on the basis that he died an unnatural death due to the imposition and effects of the benefit sanction imposed on him shortly before, and in force, at the time of his death.

The submissions from the human rights team at Leigh Day set out that the benefit sanction arguably played a contributing or causative factor in the death of Mr Clapson and that therefore an Inquest must be held.

However, in a letter received on 4 November 2016 the Senior Coroner for Hertfordshire, Geoffrey Sullivan, explained that he does not propose a fresh investigation into the death of Mr Clapson.

In the letter Mr Sullivan states: “…the evidence does not support either a direct or contributory causal link between the imposition of the benefit sanction and Mr Clapson’s death. In addition… there is no evidence as to whether the benefit sanction was imposed properly or not.”

Lawyers from Leigh Day are now considering a judicial review of the Coroner’s decision not to hold an inquest. Merry Varney from the law firm Leigh Day, who is representing Ms Thompson, said:

“We believe there is huge public interest in an investigation into the role played by the imposition of a benefit sanction in Mr. Clapson’s death.

“We are grossly concerned by the fact David, despite his vulnerability arising from having Type 1 diabetes, was not entitled to an immediate hardship payment while under sanction and that the DWP guidance on Diabetes does not in our view properly recognise the importance of food and access to chilled insulin for people like David. Despite our client’s best efforts there has been no open and through investigation of this matter at all.

“There is an urgent need to assess the risks posed by benefit sanctions to those who receive them, and the decision-making of DWP staff when imposing benefit sanctions on vulnerable and at-risk individuals. The UN have expressed concerns and we will now ask the High Court to consider our client’s request.”

David Clapson was a Lance Corporal in the Royal Signals serving in Belfast at the height of the troubles before leaving the army to work for BT. After working for the telecommunications firm for 16 years and a further 8 years for other companies, he then became a carer for his sick mother.

According to his sister, David was a proud and private man who found asking for help very difficult. David also suffered Type 1 Diabetes and relied on regular insulin shots to survive.

He died in July 2013 from fatal diabetic ketoacidosis which occurs when a severe lack of insulin means the body cannot use glucose for energy, and the body starts to break down other body tissue as an alternative energy source.

The Department for Work and Pensions had sanctioned him for a month, leaving him unable to afford to top up his electricity key and unable to afford food having stopped his £71.70 Job Seekers Allowance after he failed to attend an appointment.

Ms Thompson has now set up a page on Crowdjustice webpage, the UK’s crowd funding platform for legal costs, to help raise the money needed to take the legal action to the High Court to seek an inquest into her brother’s death.

A previous crowd sourcing page received over 200,000 signatures which helped to secure a Parliamentary Select Committee Inquiry in March 2015, which came up with 26 recommendations.

However, the Government rejected the Select Committee recommendation that the number of peer reviews into deaths of persons subject to a sanction be made public.

The Government also rejected Ms Thompson’s calls for an Independent Review into David’s death and the deaths of others in similar circumstances and of an independent body to conduct more reviews into the deaths of those in receipt of ‘working-age’ benefits: Government response here.

Gill Thompson said: “Although this cannot change things for David, I will continue the campaign to help prevent further deaths and suffering on the vulnerable and sick in our society by the use of unjust sanctions.”

 
 
 Posted by at 15:01
Nov 252016
 
For the Response from Iain McNichol, scroll down to the end of the page:

DPAC LogoMental Health Resistance Network Logo


Mr Iain McNicholl
General Secretary of the Labour Party
Southside 105 Victoria Street
London
SW1E 6QT

Dear Iain McNicholl,

We are writing to you from Disabled People Against Cuts and Mental Health Resistance Network. We are asking the Labour Party Compliance Unit to urgently investigate about the use of the term “nutter” by Tony Blair as was reported yesterday in several newspapers.

We demand that the Labour Party take action against Tony Blair and make the action taken public. We also expect a public apology to be made to disabled people by Tony Blair.

This unacceptable use of pejorative language follows on shortly after the equally offensive use of the term “lunatic”  during the leadership election campaign by Owen Smith.

It is totally unacceptable to disabled people and our campaigns that such a derogatory term is used to describe people with mental health support needs, use of the word “nutter” in this context to malign a political opponent is considered deeply offensive and shows a frightening level of ignorance.

The Labour Campaign for Mental Health, set up to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination, has supported criticism of the former Labour PM on twitter on Monday (see below). 

Nearly nine out of ten people with mental health support needs say that stigma and discrimination have a negative effect on their lives. Language is very powerful and people in public roles have a responsibility not to encourage prejudice. One in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives and what is needed is greater understanding and awareness, not cheap insults promoting social stigma.

The use of such derogatory terms has contributed to fuelling increasing hate crime against disabled people and anyone representing the party who uses such terms should be immediately suspended pending an investigation.

The use of such a pejorative and stigmatising term by senior members of the Labour Party, brings the whole party into disrepute and we ask that you give this matter the serious attention that it deserves

We await your response with interest

Signed

Roy Bard, Mental Health Resistance Network

Anita Bellows, Disabled People Against Cuts

Linda Burnip, Disabled People Against Cuts

Bob Ellard, Disabled People Against Cuts

Andy Greene, Disabled People Against Cuts

Roger Lewis, Disabled People Against Cuts

Denise McKenna, Mental Health Resistance Network

Paula Peters, Disabled People Against Cuts

Reference:  http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tony-blair-returning-to-politics-comeback-jeremy-corbyn-nutter-theresa-may-lightweight-a7427676.html



And here is the response:

Dear all Thank you for your letter regarding the reports of Tony Blair's language. As you know, the Labour Party is an inclusive organisation with zero tolerance for abusive and offensive language. As a Party we have campaigned vigorously against mental health stigma and discrimination. In the last couple of days, it has since been made clear that the reports of this instance of offensive language use were incorrect. Yours sincerely Iain

 Posted by at 14:11
Nov 252016
 

[Reblogged from Mental Health Resistance Network blog, with thanks]

Now is the time to change YOUR Mind

Dear Local Mind CEO,

You are no doubt aware that welfare benefits to mental health service users/survivors are seriously compromised by the government’s program of reducing the welfare state. The Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) believes that the government’s ultimate goal is to abolish the welfare state altogether, presumably to move towards private income and health insurance for those who can afford it and destitution for those who can’t.

At MHRN we are overwhelmed by cries for help from people who are distressed, many are suicidal, over the financial insecurity they face. Since charities are set to benefit from the privatisation of services and the program of disability denial, many are happy to collude with the government. Genuine mental health services are being replaced with bogus services that have the sole purpose of pushing people who are not fit to work off of benefits and onto a never ending job search carousel. Government contracts are being made available to charities before, one might guess, being offered to for profit companies a few years down the line. Charities like Mind are willing to cash in on these contracts, albeit that this may only be a temporary arrangement before they are opened out to the profit making market. Service users/survivors have nowhere else to turn than to campaigns like MHRN as we are trying to resist these attacks on them, they no longer trust Mind to speak out against the decimation of the benefits system.

Now that the benefit scrounger narrative has worn thin, the government is selling the idea of stripping people of benefits whilst bullying them into work by promoting the idea of a ‘work cure’. The assertion that employment is a health outcome for service users/survivors is a lie that was ratified by the Mental Health Taskforce with Paul Farmer as Chair. The theory that work is good for people with mental health issues originates in research carried out by the DWP along with the US insurance industry, most notably Unum from their base at the Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University which they funded. Unum designed the Work Capability Assessment for the DWP but not before earning notoriety in America for the manner in which they were assessing disabled people in order to deny Income Protection insurance claims. The work cure theory, therefore, does not originate in independent research.

http://mh.bmj.com/content/41/1/40.full

https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/9616/dr-sarah-glynn-why-we-must-resist-work-cure

The term psychocompulsion has emerged at the same time as mental health services are starting to be delivered in Jobcentres. https://vimeo.com/157125824

The misuse of psychology to further Tory ideology is being resisted by some psychologists and therapists who say it is unethical. They do not want to be used as tools to push such Tory ideology.

At a recent protest by MHRN, Paul Farmer lied to protesters when he said that Mind was not interested in future government contracts. We now know that to be untrue. http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/mind-boss-lies-to-protesters-over-dwp-contracts/

It would seem that National Mind is interested in obtaining contracts for local Mind Associations to deliver ‘back to work’ services. Although some people who live with mental distress want to find employment; others do not feel that it would be helpful for them as they could not cope with it. That should be their choice. Bullying us to seek work, sometimes to the point of driving people to kill themselves, is persecution of a shocking nature and this national scandal is currently being played out in Britain. http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/damning-research-on-wca-deaths-is-timely-reminder-of-governments-shame/

Any mental health charity that participates in pushing people off of benefits or leads us to fear the loss of our benefits does not represent people in mental distress. We urge you to act by disaffiliating from National Mind and joining us in resisting pressure to submit to government policies that are driving people to despair and suicide. Please raise these issues with your board of trustees. In years to come people will look back on the current persecution of disabled people as a time of great shame in British history. Please don’t allow yourself to be part of it; we will never forget.

MHRN has vowed to fight Mind all the way as Mind seeks contracts that will harm us. We will protest, organise boycotts, educate and inform service users/survivors and speak out in public and to the press.

As you meet in Milton Keynes on 29th November, you may well discuss the lie of the work cure even though we tell you that work will not set us free. At this time, Tom Pollard, a senior manager at National Mind, is working with the DWP to fine tune how Mind can benefit from the persecution of people in mental distress while at the same time appearing to be helping us, claiming Mind can mitigate the worst of the persecution. Persecution is persecution; there is no less bad persecution, you should be speaking up against it, not colluding with it. We will not be fooled and we will do all we can to ensure that our fellow service users/survivors will not be fooled either.

Please consider what you, as a local Mind Association, can do to participate in the resistance rather than benefit from the persecution. Frankly, it would be better that Mind did not exist at all than be party to the harassment of anyone in mental distress.

 

Yours sincerely and, we hope, in solidarity,

Denise McKenna

MHRN

 

 Posted by at 13:45
Nov 242016
 
Debbie the Sunflower, one of a series of 100 Sunflower paintings by Artist/Activist Vince Laws

Debbie the Sunflower, one of a series of 100 Sunflower paintings by Artist/Activist Vince Laws

Artist Vince Laws is oil painting a series of 100 named Sunflowers. While working on this, he heard the sad news that Debbie Jolly, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts (DCAP) had died. Debbie’s family and friends have asked that donations be made to DPAC in Debbie’s memory, so they can carry on fighting.

I’ve been protesting cuts and the treatment of disabled people for 6 years myself,” said Vince, “I know how hard it is to keep going, so it really hurts when one of our champions leaves the battlefield. Debbie was largely responsible for the recent UN report damning the Government’s abuse of disabled people. I’ve painted Debbie the Sunflower. It came to me as I was painting that I would offer this to help raise funds for DPAC.

Everyone who makes a donation via the ‘Donate’ button on DPAC’s website www.dpac.uk.net between 24 November and 24 December 2016 will be entered into a free draw, and one random donor will win this painting. Those lovely people who make a regular monthly donation to DPAC will automatically be included in the draw.

Vince will be showing Debbie the Sunflower and other work, including 4 DPAC protest paintings, at ‘Art of Norwich 46’, St Margaret’s Church of Art, St Benedict’s Street, Norwich, NR2 4AQ.

The launch is on Sunday 11th Dec from 7.30-9.30pm, everyone welcome, free, lots of other artists on display too, music, poetry, and song.

Then open daily 12-24 December, 10am-5pm, ramps and small thresholds, wheelchair accessible toilet.

You can see more of Vinces’ work here https://art4rightsdpac.wordpress.com/category/vince-laws/

 Posted by at 21:47
Nov 202016
 

Poster of a Zombie with the description "Person with a living disability"

This poster was spotted in the window of electronics chain Cex in Dudley. The disabled person who spotted it, who was with a child at the time, was utterly appalled to see this in a high street shop window. She took a photo of it and sent it in to us at DPAC.

The poster shows a decomposing zombie with an  description of “Person with a living disability”.

We believe that such an image is utterly offensive to disabled people, and anyone whether a disabled person or not who has the slightest sense of decency.

If you agree please contact Cex on twitter @Cex,  on facebook, or email them by the contact page on their website.

And let us know if you see this poster or any other ableist or offensive material in display in your local Cex store. If you can,. please take a photo and email it to us at mail@dpac.uk.net.

 

 

 Posted by at 21:30
Nov 202016
 

On 17th November the House passed a cross party motion to delay and review the proposed implementation of the ESA Cut of £29/week to new claimants of the ESA Work Related Activity Group.

 

Disabled People Against Cuts are campaigning to have this cut cancelled but today we are asking you as MPs to lobby the Chancellor to postpone the proposed ESA cut until we know the details of the support on offer, and whether this support compensates adequately the loss of £29 per week for claimants in the WRAG.

 

Please consider the following points

 

  • The ESA cut is worth £450m per year[i]. The employment support for claimants in the WRAG is only £60 to £100 million a year[ii] while the Work Programme received £500-£600 million each year[iii]. This represents a huge reduction in support for disabled people to gain work.
  • This employment support will not benefit claimants who cannot and will not be able to work who are misplaced into the WRAG. These are people with progressive illnesses (1/3 of these claimants are initially placed in the WRAG)[iv], claimants given a 2 year+ prognosis (defined by DWP as unlikely to work again)[v], or claimants wrongly placed in the WRAG, who after Mandatory Reconsiderations or appeals move onto the Support Group[vi].
  • This same group of claimants will not benefit from the flexible support fund, a discretionary fund, which provides local support for costs, related to getting into work, such as travel to and from training and travel costs when in work, for the reasons mentioned above.
  • Extension of hardship fund to new groups. The hardship fund is notoriously hard to access, because of very strict eligibility rules (claimants have to be almost destitute to be entitled), and the payments are also modest, discretionary, and of a temporary nature. Most importantly, payments will become recoverable under Universal Credit, driving more claimants into debt[vii]. Evidence also shows that these payments are not advertised by jobcentres and that their take-up is very low[viii]
  • Deals with third parties to help with expenditure not directly related to employment: broadband costs, phone charges, energy costs and insurance. That could be the only scheme likely to benefit the type of claimants we mentioned.

The Minister for Disabled People has given assurance that these schemes will fully compensate for the loss of the payments for new claimants[ix], but because of the flaws in the Work Capability Assessment, the claimants in the WRAG who need the most support because they are unable to work, and have no prospect of moving into work ever again will be the most severely penalised.

            We already know that a third of ESA recipients are running a budget deficit[x], and that 49% of disabled people rely on credit cards or loans to pay for everyday items such as food and clothing[xi]. This ESA cut is the last thing they need.

 

[i] https://medium.com/citizens-advice/halving-the-disability-employment-gap-22e3a588487f#.iuymk8dhu

 

[ii] http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-7649/CBP-7649.pdf

 

[iii] http://www.learningandwork.org.uk/our-thinking/news/dwp-employment-programme-funding-set-80-cut

 

[iv] https://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2016-03-21.31811.h&s=speaker%3A24778#g31811.r0

 

[v] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmworpen/302/30206.htm

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/498130/3703-2015.pdf

[vi] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/498130/3703-2015.pdf

 

[vii] https://www.turn2us.org.uk/Benefit-guides/Hardship-Payment/Hardship-Payments-of-Universal-Credit#guide-content

 

[viii] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/256044/jsa-sanctions-independent-review.pdf

 

[ix] https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2016-11-17b.413.0&s=speaker%3A24938#g463.3

 

[x] https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2016-11-17b.413.0&s=speaker%3A24938#g463.3

 

[xi] http://www.scope.org.uk/Scope/media/Documents/Publication%20Directory/Credit-and-Debt.pdf?ext=.pdf

 

 Posted by at 18:19
Nov 202016
 

For an ongoing legal challenge we urgently need to hear from anyone whose direct payment rates haven’t increased for years and who use agency carers and have been told by the agency that they can’t fully meet their needs because the hourly rate is not high enough.

We will need to pass contact details onto the solicitor dealing with this case so please could you add a phone number. You can email us at mail@dpac.uk.net

 

 Posted by at 16:29
Nov 192016
 

This is now closed for new signatures so is for information only.

Secretary General

As U.K. disabled campaigners and civil society organisations we write to you to denounce attempts to delegitimise the UN interim report by UN officials carried out under Article 6 of the Optional Protocol of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities UNCRPD into alleged grave or systematic violations of the fundamental rights of disabled people by the Government of the United Kingdom.

In a report Controversial UN task force slams Britain’s welfare cuts and says disabled people are ‘unfairly bearing the brunt’ of austerity by Glen Owen, Political Correspondent for The Mail on Sunday, 5th November 2016, it was revealed that the UN rapporteurs’ interim report – produced under Article 6 of the UNCRPD Optional Protocol for investigating States parties ‘grave or systematic’ violations of the fundamental human rights of disabled people – had been leaked by government officials to The Mail on Sunday’s correspondent in advance of its official publication on the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities website scheduled for Monday 7th November 2016 at 1600 GMT +1.

This is unacceptable.

We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the contempt for international law, treaty obligations and diplomatic protocols shown by the U.K. Government’s Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Damian Green MP in leaking the report to a ‘friendly’ newspaper for purposes of party political propaganda with the intention of deflecting criticism.

In this and in other matters below, the U.K. Government’s Department of Work and Pensions has precedents: See DWP forced to release reports revealing its secret thoughts on the media  By John Pring, Disability News Service, Thursday October 27th 2016.

The relevant passages contained within The Mail on Sunday article we wish to complain of contain four erroneous arguments as follows, each of which are familiar and have been used by the Conservative Government before.

We will refute each one in turn:

  1. ‘Ministers are planning to fight back by arguing that the findings are out of date, and by questioning the credibility of the authors, one of whom has called for state funding for disabled people to visit prostitutes.’

‘One of the authors, Stig Langvad, has argued that the Danish government should pay for disabled people to visit prostitutes, saying “Sexual frustration can be a major problem for the disabled, and in some cases the last solution is to visit a prostitute.’

‘Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns said last night: “If the UN’s benchmark is spending taxpayers’ cash on prostitutes, no wonder the common-sense policies of the UK fall short.”

Irrespective of the morality and ethical questions of that particular issue, this statement by a member of the ruling party constitutes an ad hominem attack on the integrity of a UN rapporteur carrying out his duties in order to discredit the UN. Sadly, it is not without precedent as U.N. Special Rapporteur Raquel Rolnik discovered in 2013 See:

Raquel Rolnik: A dabbler in witchcraft who offered an animal sacrifice to Marx by Michael Seamark for Mail Online, 12 September 2013

Now the meddling UN sends lawyer to Britain to probe whether benefits reforms ‘violate the human rights of the disabled’ Lawyer Catalina Devandas Aguilar expected to visit UK by  Jason Groves, Deputy Political Editor for The Daily Mail  30 August 2015

Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps Pens Complaint To UN Over Raquel Rolnik’s ‘Politically Biased’ Bedroom Tax Comments by Paul Vale, Front Page Editor, The Huffington Post, 11 September 2013

United Nations: Tabloids Were ‘Xenophobic’ To Brazilian Bedroom Tax Inspector Raquel Rolnik by Tom Moseley, Reporter, Huffington Post UK 30 September 2013

  1. ‘A senior Whitehall source said that they intended to ‘push back hard’ by pointing out that the U.K. spends more on disability welfare than average among developed countries:

“We intend to point out that the UK spends more than £50 billion a year on benefits to support disabled people and people with health conditions, which is over £6 billion more than in 2010.”

The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) report The changing characteristics of UK disability benefit recipients by  James Banks , Richard Blundell and Carl Emmerson, published 21 May 2015 reports that spending on disability benefits at £36 billion – however, this figure includes working age out-of-work sickness benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). ESA  should not strictly be counted as a ‘disability’ benefit. This is because benefits such as DIsability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payments and Attendance Allowance are  intended to compensate for the added costs associated with having a disability whilst ESA is a benefit paid to people who are out of work because of illness or impairment (i.e. many recipients are not “disabled people” but temporarily sick).. Thus, the actual figure for U.K. spending on disability benefits minus the spending on working age out-of-work sickness benefit of £7.908 billion is in reality £28.155 billion.

The IFS study also pointed out that proportionate spending on Disability Living Allowance/Personal Independence Payment was only half what it was in 1995-96. Spending across the U.K. on disability benefits in the period 2014–15 totalled £13.5 billion. At 0.8% of national income, this is half the proportionate level of U.K. government disability benefit spending than during the period 1995–96. Overall, the number of individuals receiving disability benefits has fallen slightly since the mid-1990s yet the underlying demographic changes that have occurred in the U.K. since then would, on the IFS’s empirically-based estimates, have led to any expectation of a considerably elevated level of spending factoring in overall population growth and the ‘baby boomer’ generation now reaching older working ages.

See also Ministers ‘misuse’ figures to show UK ‘is world leader’ on disability spending By John Pring, Disability News Service, Friday 16th August 2013

  1. “This committee has chosen the UK for its first report and we fear they are trying to make a name for themselves.”

The U.N. report states at Paragraph 3

‘In April 2013, the Committee received a formal request from a number of organizations of persons with disabilities alleging that serious and systematic violations of the provisions of the Convention were occurring against persons with disabilities. They requested that the Committee initiate an investigation into the matters raised in the request.’

See also: The disability activist who called in the UN by Mary O’Hara, The Guardian, Wednesday 16 September 2015 and UN’s conclusion that UK violated disability rights is ‘vindication’ for activists By John Pring Disability News Service 10 November 2016

  1. “Their evidence period runs until the end of 2015, so it is already out of date.”

We consider this a preposterous statement with no substance or empirical evidence to back it. The hard truth is that the situation for disabled people continues to deteriorate catastrophically apace.

Disabled People Against Cuts have been sending regular updates to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities up to the present day, ensuring that the factual information they have on developments is both up-to-date and relevant to the current situation ‘in the field’.

Closure of the ILF has resulted in a massive loss of funding for high-needs essential care in England. The reports ‘One Year On – Evaluating the Impact of the Closure of the Independent Living Fund’ by Inclusion London (2016) and ‘The Abuse Disabled People Face from Social Services & Funding Cuts Since ILF Closure’ by Disabled People Against Cuts (2016) set out this reality in heart-rending and forensic detail.

The new Benefit Cap introduced applied from this week affects many families with a disabled member and disabled people are only exempt if they qualify for the highest rates of PIP or DLA and from April 2017 a £30 a week cut in income will be applied to those disabled people on Employment and Support Allowance adjudged ‘capable of some work in the future’ and placed in the Work Related Activity Group. ‘Universal Credit’ is being continually rolled-out with punitive in-work conditionality and attendant sanctions and will affect many more disabled people. We live in dread of the new ‘Health and Work Programme’ now being prepared by the DWP.

Premature, avoidable deaths of disabled people are a direct result of U.K. Government reforms.

The U.N. report states:

  1. The State party initially stated that it did not monitor deaths that occurred after assessments. Evidence gathered during the inquiry indicated that, in 2012 and 2015, such information was released by the Department of Work and Pension following freedom of information requests. Additionally, information originated from official sources indicated that 33 deaths of claimants who died after being assessed were being examined. The State party claims that there is no causal link. The Committee is not aware of any attempts at objective, thorough, open and impartial investigation regarding those deaths by an independent body.

This is correct. However, an allegation that the Scottish common law criminal offence of wilful neglect of duty in public office was submitted to Police Scotland by The Black Triangle Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights on Good Friday, March 25th 2016 naming former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith and his Minister for Employment Chris Grayling as the accused for failing to fulfil their binding lawful duty to respond and act upon Her Majesty’s Coroners Service Prevention of Future Deaths Reports which it is alleged led to the deaths of at least three named individuals and possibly many, many more.

See:  Scottish police assessing possible investigation into IDS and Grayling Friday 5 May 2016;  DWP hides seven secret benefit suicide reviews  Friday August 25 2016; Benefit claimants die as DWP staff keep failing to follow suicide guidelines Friday 8 September 2016 Duncan Smith tells DNS: ‘I’m not going to be accused by you’ over mental health deaths Thursday October 6 2016. The current lack of justiciability referred to in the U.N. reports findings was alluded to by a representative of the Black Triangle Campaign in their evidence to the Scottish Parliament Social Security Committee MSPs hear call for government to ‘speak out more forcefully’ on WCA deaths  October 13, 2016 (All reports by disabled journalist John Pring of Disability News Service).

To conclude:

We’ve been here before

‘The problem with the UN report is that the UK has been here before. As The Canary previously reported, in June another UN committee slammed the government in a separate report. It found the government had, again, systematically abused the human rights of minority and vulnerable groups. All in the name of austerity. The UN said that the violations were so severe, the UK report was comparable with Honduras – a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world, and one which is subject to tourist travel warnings from both the US and the UK.

‘The UN stated the government must reverse all benefit cuts since 2010. But the government has completely ignored those findings, despite May’s claim to want a society that “works for everyone”. And the likelihood is that the latest UN report will go the same way. Sadly, there is an inherent flaw with everything that the UN has stipulated – none of it is legally binding. Essentially, the Conservative government currently has a free pass to ride roughshod over the human rights of anyone it deems less worthy in society. And the only way that will ever change is via the ballot box.

The DWP

‘The DWP specifically came under fire for “disproportionately” applying benefits sanctions. The UN said the DWP benefit sanctions regime had left disabled people to rely on support from family or foodbanks. It said the Work Programme and Jobcentre Plus did almost nothing to help disabled people into work. It also found both of them ignored people’s specific needs.

‘But crucially, the UN said the DWP failed to properly investigate people’s deaths after their benefits were stopped. It noted that they had made no “attempts at objective, thorough, open and impartial investigation(s)” to look at the alleged 90 deaths a month.

‘The UN set out 11 recommendations that the government must consider. Linda Burnip from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) told The Canary:

DPAC are very pleased that the publication of the UN inquiry into the grave and systematic violation of disabled people’s human rights has vindicated our complaints to the UN. The committee’s damning report clearly demonstrates that the Tories were well aware of the negative impact of their actions and policies on disabled people. Yet they went ahead with these attacks, regardless. The actions of this government in relation to conscious cruelty against disabled people is now a matter of international public record.

Source: ‘The UK government has just been slammed for violating human rights, and Theresa May doesn’t care’ by Steve Topple, Journalist, The Canary, Thursday 8 November 2016.

Bill Scott, policy director of Inclusion Scotland, which gave evidence to the inquiry, said: “The UN’s report confirms everything that we have been saying about austerity and welfare reform for the past six years.

“The UK government has completely ignored its international treaty obligations and disabled people’s human rights. In doing so it has systematically deprived disabled people of their dignity and respect and the money that they need to live on via sanctions, mandatory reconsiderations, benefit cuts and unfair assessments.

“The result has seen disabled people losing everything, from their mental wellbeing to their homes and even their lives, with disabled people committing suicide and starving to death after losing their benefits.

“The UK government should be ashamed but it seems it cannot be embarrassed even by the condemnation of the UN because it does not intend to act on a single recommendation made in the report.

“At times like this we feel near despair that no-one seems able to make this government listen and act to protect disabled people’s most fundamental right, their right to live.”

Source: Third Force News UN savages Tory welfare reforms by Graham Martin Third Force News November 8 2016

On the day the report was published, Reuters News Agency reported that the U.N. committee of 18 independent experts visited Britain in October 2015 and that their report was based on more than 200 interviews and some 3,000 pages of documentary evidence British welfare reforms trampled on disabled rights – U.N. inquiry by Tom Miles, Reuters News Agency, Monday Nov 7 2016.

Their work must not be vain.

It is clear from the evidence that the strategy of the British Government is to discredit and delegitimise the report in the court of UK public opinion assisted by our overwhelmingly right-wing press with whose editors and correspondents the ruling party enjoys a close working relationship.

The United Kingdom Government is to be condemned for its behaviour. It has freely entered into international treaty obligations under the UNCRPD only to abrogate its duties under the convention and hurl abuse at individual UN officials tasked with conscientiously and fairly carrying out their work under mutually-agreed States parties’ protocols.

We therefore call upon you as Secretary General to censure the UK Government for this unacceptable behaviour and breach of diplomatic protocol and furthermore to engage seriously with the empirical evidence contained within the report, line by line, so as to remedy the many breaches of the UNCRPD contained therein or refute them, as the case may be.

Finally, but not least, in keeping with the rules of natural justice we call upon the UK Government to publish both the interim report and the final report in full so that the British people may decide upon the legitimacy or otherwise of its findings.

If the government maintains that its behaviour and treatment of chronically ill and/or disabled people is both just and proportionate and it has nothing to hide it will have no difficulty in complying with this request.

Any failure to do so will lead the British general public to form a very different opinion to the one currently being advanced by our current U.K. ruling party and government.

Our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world and the British public in particular must be educated to know and understand, to learn and to teach that fundamental abuses of human rights are not the exclusive preserve of any one country or community but that they occur in every country, city, town, village and community worldwide.

They are happening to our disabled people here in the U.K. today on a scale that is unprecedented in the post-1945 period.

Secretary General, it is your duty to speak out for us now, for our disabled people are losing hope.

Signed (Scroll down)

In memory of Debbie Jolly R.I.P. Co-Founder of Disabled People Against Cuts who has passed away today, Thursday 10th November 2016, without whose hard work, dedication and love this report would never have been published.

IN LOVING MEMORY of our beloved friend and comrade Debbie Jolly who has left our world today. It is because of the love, work and dedication of women like Debbie that the world continues to carry on, so that this generation of disabled people and those yet unborn will have a future and a hope.

“It is not incumbent on you to finish the work, but neither are you entitled to refrain from it” ~ Ethics, Pirkei Avot 2:16

You have done your work, dearest Debbie. This stands as your last will and testament:

UN’s conclusion that UK violated disability rights is ‘vindication’ for activists’ By John Pring Disability News Service Thursday 10th November

‘Disabled activists who persuaded the United Nations (UN) to investigate serious breaches of rights by the UK government say their four-year journey has been vindicated, after a report concluded there had been “grave or systematic violations” of the UN’s disability convention.

‘Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) – led by its co-founder Debbie Jolly – first approached the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD) four years ago, and lodged a formal request to investigate the allegations the following year.’

And now we who you left behind will try in our turn to finish it. May Debbie’s memory be for a blessing and give us all strength. John McArdle Co-Founder Black Triangle Anti-Defamation Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights Edinburgh, Thursday 10th November 2016

‘For A Friend’ by Jimmy Somerville in memory of you, dearest friend and comrade R.I.P. Debbie.

Anyone with the link can view and comment but not edit – so please either sign (one signatory preferably- maximum two per organisation please) by clicking on the the ‘Comments’ button top right of this screen on the left of the blue ‘Share’ button – under the email address.

OR please email: mcardle.john77@gmail.com

Your name and organisation will then be faithfully added to the letter.

Signatories from individuals from supportive civil society, trade union, community groups and organisations welcomed. 

The closing date for this letter has been extended until Friday 18th November 2016 at 17.30    

Please distribute among your networks accordingly.

Thank you for your support.

 

In Solidarity

 

John McArdle

 

LIST OF SIGNATORIES

John McArdle Co-Founder Black Triangle Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights

Dr Stephen Carty, GP, Leith, Member and Medical Adviser Black Triangle Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights

Linda Burnip and Debbie Jolly Co-Founders Disabled People Against Cuts and DPAC Steering Group

Rick Burgess Manchester DPAC / Recovery In The Bin

Gail Ward Cross-Border Alliance and Cradle to Grave Campaign

Paul Laverty, Scriptwriter, ‘I, Daniel Blake’, Associate Director of Sixteen Films Ltd

Mo Stewart, Independent Researcher, Author of ‘Cash Not Care: the planned demolition of the UK welfare state

Catherine Hale Independent Researcher, Member of the Spartacus Network

Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation

Francesca Martinez, Disabled Comedienne, Public Figure, Activist

Nick Dilworth Welfare Rights Advocate Plymouth Advice and My Legal Forum

Denise McKenna Mental Health Resistance Network MHRN

Canon Ruth Gould MBE DL WCMT FRSA Artistic Director, DaDaFest

Lynne Turnbull CEO, Cheshire Centre for Independent Living

Marion Fallon DPAC Norfolk and Unite Community Equalities Officer

Jonathan Toye West Norfolk Disability information Service (WNDiS)

Liz Crow, artist-activist, Roaring Girl Productions

Dr Simon Duffy, Centre for Welfare Reform

Ian Jones, WoW Campaign

Simon Barrow, Director, Ekklesia think-tank

Tommy Sheppard MP Scottish National Party SNP Edinburgh East

Dr Philippa Whitford MP Scottish National Party SNP Central Ayrshire

Kirsteen Oswald MP Scottish National Party SNP East Renfrewshire (SNP Westminster Group Spokesperson on Armed Forces and Veterans
Affairs).

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP Scottish National Party SNP West Dumbartonshire

Martyn Day MP Scottish National Party SNP Linlithgow and East Falkirk

Maggie Chapman, Rector of the University of Aberdeen, Co-Convenor Scottish Green Party on behalf of The Scottish Greens

Christopher Napier Scottish Disabled Greens Group

Ellie Conway Scottish Disabled Greens Group

Max Wiszniewski on behalf of Common Weal

John Dalrymple, CEO, In Control Scotland

Les Scaife , Chair,  West Lancashire Peer Support

Annie Bishop, Involve North East and Cumbria

Rev Paul Nicolson, Founder, Taxpayers Against Poverty

Liz Jones Carers Solidarity Forum

Hilda Palmer, Hazards Campaign

Charlotte Shaw, Managing Director, Kaleidoscope Brokerage, Bury

Sam Sly, Enough Is Enough Time4Change

Walter Weir time ge

Joe Whittaker Chairperson Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People

Alisdair Cameron, Launchpad, NEt and ReCoCo

Linda Cox – Advocacy volunteer at WNDiS & Secretary of GMB Ability

Pat Onions, Pat’s Petition

Emily Morton, Chief Executive Disability Sheffield

Mark Harrison, Chief Executive, Equal Lives

Dave Dennis GMB K17 Branch Secretary

Cathy Brosnan Parent of a Disabled Adult

Anne Pridmore Chair Being the Boss

Rob Marsh, DAN Cymru

Becki Meakin on behalf of Shaping Our Lives

Gordon Brunning Chair dis [ ability ] – the disability forum

Hazel Quinn, Atos Miracles Support Group

Anita Bellows DPAC

Christine Stringer DPAC

Mike Sivier, Human Rights Campaigning Journalist Vox Political

Rory Fusedale Louth Service Users Group

Tara Flood, Director Alliance for Inclusive Education ALLFIE

Chris Edwards External Research Associate, University of East Anglia, Norwich

Sean McGovern, Chair, Trade Union Congress TUC Disabled Workers Committee

Kathryn Bole, Chair of Trustees Suffolk Coalition of Disabled People

Caroline Richardson, Spartacus Network

Dr Richard House, C.Psychol., Educational Consultant, Stroud, UK

British Psychological Society

Andrew Lee, Director, People First

Mark Harrison, Norfolk DPAC

Joyce Kallevik, Director, Wish

Sue Porter, University of Bristol

Gerry Zarb on behalf of SPECTRUM CIL

 Posted by at 16:56
Nov 192016
 

Tweet from the United Nations about the release of their report into the UK governmentEarlier this month the United Nations published the summary report of their investigation (instigated by DPAC)  into the UK governments maltreatment of disabled people.

That report contained 11 recommendations that the UN said the UK government needed to implement (shown below).

Unfortunately the UN has no power to make the UK government implement these recommendations. And of course our government knows that so they dismissed the report findings and refused to implement the recommendations

So it’s up to us to see that they do.

For starters please sign and share this petition “Force the government to act on the eleven recommendations of the UNCRPD report“. We need to get this up to 100,000 signatures to trigger a debate in Parliament, so we really need you to put time and effort into this, sharing as much as possible and as often as possible, not just for a day or two but for weeks and months – however long it takes to reach the target.

This is certainly not the only action we’ll be doing to get these recommendations implemented, its just a start. Keep an eye on this blog for more announcements to come

The 11 Recommendations

(a) Conduct a cumulative impact assessment of the measures adopted since 2010, referred to in the present report, on the rights to independent living and to be included in the community, social protection and employment of persons with disabilities. The State party should ensure that such assessment is rights-based and meaningfully involves persons with disabilities and their representative organizations;

(b) Ensure that any intended measure of the welfare reform is rights-based, upholds the human rights model of disability and does not disproportionately and/or adversely affect the rights of persons with disabilities to independent living, an adequate standard of living and employment. To prevent adverse consequences, the States party should carry out human rights-based cumulative impact assessments of the whole range of intended measures that would have an impact on the rights of persons with disabilities;

(c) Ensure that: any intended legislation and/or policy measure respects the core elements of the rights analysed in the present report; persons with disabilities retain their autonomy, choice and control over their place of residence and with whom they live; they receive appropriate and individualized support, including through personal assistance, and have access to community-based services on an equal basis with others; they have access to security social schemes that ensure income protection, including in relation to the extra cost of disability, that is compatible with an adequate standard of living and ensure their full inclusion and participation in society; and they have access and are supported in gaining employment in the open labour market on an equal basis with others;

(d) Ensure that public budgets take into account the rights of persons with disabilities, that sufficient budget allocations are made available to cover extra costs associated with living with a disability and that appropriate mitigation measures, with appropriate budget allocations, are in place for persons with disabilities affected by austerity measures;

(e) Introduce all adjustments necessary to make all information, communications, administrative and legal procedures in relation to social security entitlements, independent living schemes and employment/unemployment-related support services fully accessible to all persons with disabilities;

(f) Ensure access to justice, by providing appropriate legal advice and support, including through reasonable and procedural accommodation for persons with disabilities seeking redress and reparation for the alleged violation of their rights, as covered in the present report;

(g) Actively consult and engage with persons with disabilities through their representative organizations and give due consideration to their views in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of any legislation, policy or programme action related to the rights addressed in the present report;

(h) Take appropriate measures to combat any negative and discriminatory stereotypes or prejudice against persons with disabilities in public and the media, including that dependency on benefits is in itself a disincentive of employment; implement broad mass media campaigns, in consultation with organizations representing persons with disabilities, particularly those affected by the welfare reform, to promote them as full rights holders, in accordance with the Convention; and adopt measures to address complaints of harassment and hate crime by persons with disabilities, promptly investigate those allegations, hold the perpetrators accountable and provide fair and appropriate compensation to victims;

(i) Ensure that, in the implementation of legislation, policies and programmes, special attention is paid to persons with disabilities living with a low income or in poverty and persons with disabilities at higher risk of exclusion, such as persons with intellectual, psychosocial or multiple disabilities and women, children and older persons with disabilities. Those measures should be put in place within contributive and non-contributive regimes;

(j) Set up a mechanism and a system of human rights-based indicators to permanently monitor the impact of the different policies and programmes relating to the access and enjoyment by persons with disabilities of the right to social protection and an adequate standard of living, the right to live independently and be included in the community and the right to work, in close consultation with persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in all regions and countries that constitute the State party;

(k) Respond to the present report within the time limit prescribed under the Optional Protocol, widely disseminate the Committee’s findings and recommendations and provide appropriate follow-up to the recommendations of the present report, including during the consideration of the State party’s initial report before the Committee.

 Posted by at 16:42
Nov 182016
 

Please share this appeal as widely as you can. If you run a blog, please reblog it. If you use Facebook, please post it. If you use twitter, please tweet it. Email it to your address book. Please share it as widely as you can.

The Biscuit Fund LogoSince 2013, the Biscuit Fund has been operating, channelling vital money to people in times of dire financial need during these dark days of austerity.

You may never have heard of the Biscuit Fund, that’s because they have operated quietly, largely in the background. The people who run the fund have pledged to remain anonymous and the fund itself hasn’t sought much publicity.

But since 2013, thousands of individual people and families have received help from the Biscuit Fund. The fund has distributed well over £50,000 to people at times of dire need. The fund has helped people to pull through crises in their lives and at the same time managed to spread some hope and crumbs of comfort to people going through desperate times.

But now the people who run the fund can see a challenge bigger than they have ever faced before. It goes by the name of The Benefit Cap.

From 7th November and being rolled out across the UK in stages, new, lower, benefit cap rates will come into affect. While there are exemptions for some disabled people, and other groups, it is anticipated that large numbers of people will suddenly find they have much less to live on each week, it could be up to £115 per week less per family.

This is bad enough, but what makes this so much worse is that this hasn’t been widely publicised. People won’t get a chance to prepare, they won’t know it’s going to hit until they suddenly start to receive much less money. Carefully balanced budgets that people and families are just struggling to cope with suddenly thrown out of the window. There is no reconsideration or appeal to this cap, and no support provision for those who cannot cope.

The people who run the Biscuit Fund are anticipating a massive rise in the number of people who will need help from their fund. And the fact is, the money available just isn’t enough to be able to help the sheer number of people who will need it.

That is why this appeal is going out. In order to help the expected rise in people in dire need, the Biscuit Fund needs donations from people who can afford it.

We stress that if you can’t afford to donate, please do not donate money that you need for yourself.  If you can’t donate you can still help the cause by sharing this appeal across social media.

But if you can afford it, if you do have more than you need, please please consider a donation to the Biscuit Fund.

If you donate, every penny of your donation goes to people in serious need. The fund has no paid staff, everyone who works for the fund donates their time for free, no one claims expenses. The fund has no offices or admin costs, the only costs that the fund has is the money that Paypal takes from donations.

Please donate to the Biscuit Fund

Please Note: The biscuit fund does not accept direct applications for support, they can only consider referrals from health workers or some benefit advisory services.

What is the Biscuit Fund?

The Biscuit Fund is a small group who operate almost solely online, keeping a watchful eye on help forums and pages for people in dire need of financial assistance.  We were first formed in very early 2013 and by 2016 we had managed to raise and distribute over £50,000 to people in poverty, be it fuel poverty, food poverty or any other kind of poverty.  The target we have set ourselves is to raise and distribute over £100,000. A large number of our recipients disabled people who have been declared ‘fit for work’, who have been left with no income and no job prospects or working families, who are simply finding that the money they earn just doesn’t cover the food/heating bills as well as folk who have been victims of crime in the form of muggings or theft.

The Biscuit Fund has three Independent Trustees, an accountant, a Rock Star (well, a musician, but we think they’re a super star) a web master and over 50 volunteers (known as “agents”) who search out those in need by among other things monitoring our local communities, online forums and pages for people in dire need of financial help.

All of our agents are pledged to remain anonymous and keep the names of other agents secret as well. None of the people who work for the fund receives money from the fund. The fund has no offices, no administration costs or any other costs. The only money deducted from donations are Paypal fees which are unavoidable. Otherwise every penny donated goes to people in hardship. Our charity registration number is 1154117 and we are an entirely not-for-profit organisation.

Further reading:

Please share this appeal as widely as you can. If you run a blog, please reblog it. If you use Facebook, please post it. If you use twitter, please tweet it. Email it to your address book. Please share it as widely as you can.

 Posted by at 17:19
Nov 172016
 

The first ever DPAC protest in October 2010 saw campaigners march through Birmingham in the pouring rain. We were drenched, soggy, and our wonderful banner that co-founder Tina Hogg had made was destroyed by the deluge.

DPAC Activists gather to pay tribute to the life of Debbie JollyAnd once again November 16th 2016 we gathered in the pouring rain to pay tribute to the life and work of another co-founder Debbie Jolly and also to demand that the Tories act on the 11 recommendations in the report released last week proving the grave and systematic violation of our human rights by their actions.

Thanks to all who came and stayed in spite of the rain and cold. Thank you also to all those who were unable to but sent good wishes. Thanks also to all of you who have made a donation to DPAC as requested by her family instead of sending cards and flowers. Thanks also to all of you who would but can’t afford to. Part of the things Debbie wanted and fought for were a sustainable income for all disabled people.

Gathering in the pouring rain to commemorate the life of Debbie JollyIn the afternoon Labour had tried to force through a vote against the loss of £30 a week from those in ESA WRAG which failed by a tiny number of votes. John McDonnell also paid tribute to Debbie “On a solemn note, I wish to send my condolences to the family and friends of Debbie Jolly. Some Members may have known Debbie, who was a disability campaigner. Over the years, she provided briefings for many Members of the House of Commons and, through Disabled People Against Cuts, was involved in many of the various lobbies of Parliament. She passed away last week, and I would like to send our condolences to her family and all her friends. We all hoped she would survive long enough at least to see this debate. I pay tribute to her for the work she did.

And here is the full debate link https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2016-11-16/debates/B8A1178A-8DFD-4609-89C9-80735DE4FC17/AutumnStatementDistributionalAnalysisUniversalCreditAndESA

DPAC Activists gather to pay tribute to the life of Debbie JollySomewhat unbelievably the Tory Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work (Penny Mordaunt) also said “May I associate myself with the sentiments expressed by the shadow Chancellor about the late Debbie Jolly? She was a noted researcher and sociologist, as well as a tireless campaigner. I am sure that our comments will be just two of the many tributes that will be paid to her.” Well what can you say apart from they’ll jump on any bandwagon if they think it’ll benefit them.

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2016-11-16/debates/B8A1178A-8DFD-4609-89C9-80735DE4FC17/AutumnStatementDistributionalAnalysisUniversalCreditAndESA

A moving tribute to Debbie by Disability News Service http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/debbie-jolly-a-force-for-good-and-a-passionate-social-model-advocate/

And a great round up of the protest by Steve Topple

http://www.thecanary.co/2016/11/17/ken-loach-just-slammed-the-tories-for-brutal-attacks-on-the-real-daniel-blakes-videos/

Plus articles from the Morning Star

http://www.morningstaronline. co.uk/a-fb77-Tories-cannot- brush-off-our-human-rights#. WCytr7KLRdg

http://www.morningstaronline. co.uk/a-fb92-Disabled- campaign-keeps-up-pressure#. WC2FwrKLRdg

Please sign and share this petition to try to get a debate in parliament about the UN inquiry and all 11 recommendations to be implemented. It needs 100,000 signatories to be considered.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/172393

Credit for photos goes to Nicola Jeffrey

 

 

 Posted by at 20:42
Nov 172016
 
Benefit sanctions – your experience
Have you received a benefit sanction for Job Seekers Allowance or Employment Support Allowance?  Details, including how the sanction lasted and the impact of the sanction would be very welcome.
Please send your experience to Henrietta.doyle@inclusionlondon.org.uk by Monday 28 November. It will inform our evidence to the select committee inquiry.
The Commons Public Accounts Select Committee has opened an inquiry into benefit sanctions.  The Committee wishes to examine whether the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP),
“is achieving value for money from its administration of benefit sanctions. This includes how benefit sanctions fit with the intended aims and outcomes of DWP’s wider working age employment policy, whether sanctions are being implemented in line with policy and whether use of sanctions is leading to the intended outcomes for claimants.”
 Posted by at 14:08
Nov 152016
 

Lobby Your MP to vote against the ESA Cut

The vote is over now but we still need to keep the pressure up – we can win this and stop the cut but we need you to keep contacting MPs

You can read about what happened in the vote here http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/tory-mps-just-begged-government-9279778

Find your MPs contact details for email and twitter

You can find your MPs  email address and twitter name (if they have one) by going to this link and entering your postcode.

Once you have your MPs contact details we are asking you to

Download and use these Memes to tweet to your MP (especially if they are a Tory)

To download just right-click and select the option to save the image

Conservative MP Caroline Ansell Speaking against the ESA CutConservative MP David Burrowes Speaking against the ESA CutConservative MP Heidi Allen Speaking against the ESA CutConservative MP Jeremy Lefroy Speaking against the ESA CutConservative MP Peter Aldous Speaking against the ESA Cut

(Credit to Jason Batchelor for these memes)

More material that you can Tweet to your MP:

Please tweet the messages below to your MP, and any others that you wish to ask them to vote against the cut

Email your MP

Please email your MP and ask them to vote against the cut. Many MPs say they do not read and respond to standard form emails – so we are not going to create a standard email to send out, but please just send them a few lines, to let them know that this vote is important to you.

Here are some guidelines for sending emails to MPs

  • Tell them you are a constituent of theirs
  • Be respectful and polite
  • Keep it short and clear
  • You can include some of the factual information in the DPAC briefing about the ESA Cut
  • Remember to ask them to vote against the ESA Cut in the vote on Thursday 17th

 


 

 Posted by at 11:12
Nov 152016
 

This is the text of a briefing paper that was emailed to all MPs on Sunday Night to urge them to vote against the #ESACut

1.  MPs were not fully informed during the Welfare Reform Act 2015 Debates on the ESA WRAG Cut

  • Claim: Only 1 in 100 claimants leave the WRAG. This number was cherrypicked from a single months statistics. In fact (as the UK Statistics Authority have confirmed) 55% of claimants in the WRAG have left ESA since 2008. [i]

  • Reinvestment in employment support: The Learning and Work Institute say that the government is reinvesting just £1 in every £5 saved. [ii]

  • Funding for the Work and Health programme will be less than half that spent on supporting disabled people in previous programmes. [iii]

  • 61% of people in the WRAG say they want to work, but only 14% of those same claimants say they are able to work [iv]

  • The cut will only be applied to new claimants from 2017. However when people transfer from ESA to Universal Credit, it will be treated as a new claim. People currently in the WRAG will be subjected to this cut on transferring to Universal Credit.

2. There was no consideration of other cuts that have made it much harder for disabled people to get and stay in work

A number of cuts and other measures have reduced support for disabled people to attain and remain in work:

  • Closed Remploy as a source of employment without providing any alternative employment provision [v]

  • Cut disability employment advisers in job centres by 60% [vi]

  • Cut back on the Access to Work Fund [vii]

  • Closed the Independent Living Fund that supported many disabled people with complex support needs to work [viii]

  • Replaced Disability Living Allowance with the far more restrictive PIP Assessment Criteria and removed Motability Transport from 90,000 disabled people [ix]

See also: Quiet cuts undermine support for disabled people in the workplace

In addition to this public transport is not a viable alternative for many disabled people, especially wheelchair users as trains require booking 24-48 hours in advance and there is only one space per bus for a wheelchair user or pram.

3. The WCA is an unreliable determinant of whether people are fit for work, have limited capability or cannot work

  • Up to September 2013 85,000 claimants were placed in the WRAG and given a prognosis of “2 years or more” – this prognosis the DWP define as “unlikely to find work in the longer term” [x]

  • Cumulative figures published in March 2016 show that 1/3 of claimants with progressive illnesses were placed in the WRAG since 2008 [xi]

4. Disability Discrimination in workplaces is severe and widespread – cutting people’s payments won’t change that.

  • Disabled workers in the UK experience more social injustice than UK workers as a whole, including in relation to employment rates and wage levels. [xii]

  • Since the government introduced fees for employment tribunals, together with legal aid cuts, disabled people have increasingly been unable to have their cases heard [xiii]

5. The Health, Work and Disability Green Paper won’t have any effect on employment rates for disabled people

That is because the green paper does not address:

  • Cuts to state support for disabled people (as described in point 2)

  • There are large numbers of people in the WRAG who cannot work and will not be able to work (as described in point 3)

  • Disability Discrimination in the Workplace (as described in point 4)

  • What the Green Paper describes as “help and support” in reality mean harassment, threat of sanctions and imposition of sanctions (which in some cases have been the cause of avoidable loss of life). This approach has not only failed to deliver results but has caused stress, worsening mental health and harm to disabled people.

  • The Green paper proposes that all people on ESA – including those currently in the Support Group, are subjected to “help and support” to find employment. This is an utterly abhorrent proposal that will mean that people with severe learning difficulties, people in severe mental distress and people with life threatening conditions can be targeted for harassment on the whim of a non-medically trained DWP Decision Maker.

6. A cut of £30 a week will have a devastating effect on claimants, and it more likely to be a disincentive than an incentive to find work

Below are some testimonies collected from disabled people who are currently in the WRAG to describe how the cut of £30/Week would affect them.

This is what they said:

  • It would wreck me. Just the idea of the £30 loss is making me very stressed. I can’t sleep because of it. I have depression because of what the government are doing. My quality of life will be so very much worsened

  • It would cause a great deal more worry, that in turn will aggravate my stress and effect many of my physical conditions. My physical conditions and mental health have already worsened a great since I had my first WCA in 2014. None of this will make me any more “work ready”.

  • If this happens, I can’t see how I will survive. All of this is making my mental health alot worse. I’m already on more medication and I just don’t know if I can take much more.

  • It would completely mess up all my bills and put me in debt

  • It would destroy me. I rely on it to pay for extra heating and help and ready meals for when I’m too ill to look after myself which is most of the time.

  • A £30 cut would mean I cannot afford the public transport I need to get around. It would also mean buying less food to live on, just at a time when the cost of a food shop is going up by 12%.

  • i cannot walk far having to sell my car to make ends meet

  • As it is I can barely afford to pay for basics like food and rent (I’m in a council property and I do not receive housing benefit), I cannot afford to pay my electricity bills at all. A £30 cut is essentially a third of my income, what I’d be left with on ESA would not be enough to keep a roof over my head.

  • My unemployment is not a choice, between my disabilities themselves and the lack of support I simply don’t have the means of getting into work – currently without any references I can’t even get into voluntary work. Cutting my income wouldn’t change my situation or make it easier for me to find work, what it would do is make it harder – I’d struggle to even go into voluntary work without smart clothing, travel expenses, food, etc. (which cannot always be covered by volunteer organizations or met with grants via Job Centre etc. in time for interviews etc.) or even going to meet my employment adviser would be impossible without enough money to spare for travel.

  • As an Autistic person my unemployment has also left me very isolated due to loss of friends as well as loss of work, lower finances also translates to continued isolation, in turn worsening disability too. Without a doubt my disabilities and my mental health would suffer immensely due to a cut to my income like this, I’m already desperately trying to fight suicidal thoughts.

  • It would simply be devastating and push me over the edge.

  • This proposal terrifies me, I don’t think I’d survive.


References :

 Posted by at 11:00
Nov 132016
 
Earlier today I had an email from Debbie’s family about funeral arrangements which is copied below.
We would like to thank everybody for their condolences and tributes to Debbie. We are immensely proud of her and we’re utterly devastated to have lost her, and for disability rights to have lost such an important campaigner. Debbie truly was an incredible human being. 
 
We understand the wide reaching impact which Debbie’s tragic passing has had on so many people. It has been tremendously comforting to read the posts on social media. Naturally there is a loving desire to send cards of condolence or flowers to the family, but we think a far more fitting gesture would be to leave those items in the shops and donate to DPAC to enable them to continue their part in the fight against injustice. That’s what Debbie would have wanted. 
 
The concept of a funeral made little sense to Debbie. She felt that a person could be mourned without the need of such ceremonies. We feel that Debbie would rather have money go towards the cause she dedicated herself so passionately towards and therefore have decided not to have a conventional funeral, but instead we will donate the money saved to DPAC. We hope that people understand that Debbie would have wanted this.
Kind regards,
Oliver
We’re grateful to Debbie’s family for thinking about DPAC at this sad time for us all, but especially for them.
If anyone does want to honour Debbie’s memory then please attend the planned protest this Wednesday, November 16th 5.30 pm – 7.30 pm meet Old Palace Yard, opposite House of Commons if at all possible.
To make a donation
Disabled People Against Cuts
by cheque made payable to Disabled People Against Cuts 17, St. Michaels Road, Claverdon, Warwickshire, CV35 8NT
Alternatively you can donate via paypal on the website
Linda Burnip
 Posted by at 17:27
Nov 112016
 

Youth and Student CND oppose DSA cuts- Join us!

November 24th 18.30 – 21.00 at Student Central, Malet Street, WC1E 7HY – ticketed event available through facebook page

Whilst most students are no strangers to debt and cuts enforced by the Conservative’s austerity policy, one group of students is being hit much harder- £30 million harder. Disabled people make up around 10% of students in the UK and a recent survey (‘The Pound in your Pocket’, NUS) found that 59% of disabled respondents agreed that they had worried about not having enough money. 55% had seriously considered leaving their course. 53% felt that they had little control over their financial situation. And this was before the cuts to Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs). This academic year, disabled students will be £30 million poorer than previous years, with recent figures suggesting 70,000 students will be effected.

The importance of the DSAs are obvious- reports have shown that students receiving DSA are more likely to finish their course than students who do not, as well as being more likely to reach a first or upper class second honours degree. For thousands of students, having access to laptops, voice recorders, screen readers and other assistive technologies is essential to their studies. However, students starting university this year will have to face the cuts to DSAs meaning that if they require this technology, these will not be funded. So what options remain for a disabled student? Either spending their student loan, meant for rent and daily life, on essential technology, or do without, at a risk to their studies. Less than one in three disabled students agreed that they were able to concentrate on their studies without worrying about finances, so buying a laptop upfront for many is unimaginable and simply not an option. Even as a non-disabled student, I’m no stranger to worrying about my finances, and I can’t begin to imagine this extra stress on top of the workload of a university degree.

How does the government justify the vicious cuts to vulnerable students? To save £30million, at the detriment of 70,000 individuals and their aspirations. The statement from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skill claims ‘the changes will ensure DSAs provide support where it is needed the most’, by asking universities to foot the bill for other items deemed unessential. With universities fees already rising above £9,250 and most universities being notoriously stingy, its questionable how exactly this will work. Meanwhile, our Prime Minister believes it would be ‘sheer madness’ to not spend £205 billion on our country’s nuclear weapons system…

Proposed cuts have of course been met by fierce backlash from disabled activists and the NUS in the past, with the government delaying proposed cuts in 2014, and this will continue. Youth and Student CND opposes all cuts to DSA, and believes no one should face hurdles to education. We’re happy to have the support of DPAC for our upcoming rally ‘No War! No Austerity!’ this month, featuring John McDonnell, Larry Sanders, Tariq Ali and Kate Hudson, as well as speakers from NUS, Stop the War and Cut the Rent. We’re hoping this will be an opportunity for different campaigns to unite so please do come along!

By Ellie Kinney

No War! No Austerity!: https://www.facebook.com/events/1788763484693004/

YSCND: https://www.facebook.com/yscnd/ and              @youthstudentcnd

 Posted by at 20:27
Nov 112016
 

GMCDP uninvited

On 28th October, Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP) were contacted by the office of Debbie Abrahams, the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and invited to provide a key speaker for the launch of the Labour Party Disability Equality Roadshow on November 11th 2016.

The Labour Party said they wanted

“to ensure that we listen directly to the views of disabled people on a wide range of issues as we begin to develop Labour’s policies for the next election. We hoped to have brief introductory speeches from Jeremy Corbyn, Debbie and yourself, before breaking out into smaller groups to discuss policy themes, drawn from the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

The invitation cited GMCDPs “promotion of a rights-based approach to disability, extensive experience of campaigning to assert the rights of disabled people” and we, of course, were pleased to accept.

Two of the major issues that have been important to disabled people, we said, are Independent Living and Assisted Suicide, and we would like to talk about them. This seemed to worry our contact, who said that Labour had not got a formal policy position on the future funding of the ILF and he was concerned that this might be a difficult issue for Jeremy Corbyn and Debbie Abrahams to respond to if this was brought up. We explained that this was broader than the ILF and we wouldn’t be looking to put anyone on the spot, or expecting any commitment from Labour about this on the day.

Despite such reassurances from ourselves the Office of Debbie Abrahams has now withdrawn its invitation to GMCDP to provide a speaker.  Although we will still attend, we are immensely disappointed.We have been a part of – and are linked into – disabled people’s organisations and networks and have offered to speak on two of the most serious matters facing disabled people today. We are astounded that the Labour Party does not want to hear us. Because of this we have decided to make our views available widely and are posting this message on our website. Please circulate it as widely as possible, so that the Labour Party knows just how important these matters are.

Please see below the speech we intended to deliver. Please circulate it as widely as possible, so that the Labour Party knows just how important these matters are.

1 Introduction:

Firstly I would like to thank Jeremy, Debbie and the Labour Party for inviting GMCDP to speak today at the launch of your Disability Equality Roadshow. Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People have no political affiliations, we have worked with past governments, Labour and Tory alike. We have also protested against both parties.

However, we are now living through an unprecedented period of sustained attacks on disabled people; the services we receive, the support we require and our very right to exist. You will no doubt have read the UN report published on Monday that state austerity policies ‘amount to violations of disabled people’s rights’. I mention this just so you don’t think that disabled people are making all this up.

We face inequality it all aspects of our lives, whether it be transport, housing, education or employment. Employment is a prime example of where we face inequalities at every level, from recruitment, retention, promotion and dismissal. To compound these difficulties the employment support programme Access To Work is being cut. Yes that’s right its being cut!  At a time when we should be investing in support, the government is making cuts to this programme. This is impacting particularly upon Deaf People who require British Sign Language interpreters within the work place. If we want to see Deaf lawyers, Deaf teachers and Deaf members of parliament, cutting support is not the way to go about it!

However, for GMCDP and for disabled people’s organisations in the UK, there are two issues that are of greatest concern, two issues that we want to reach out to Labour on.

2 Independent Living

Firstly, the principals of Independent Living for disabled people are being dismantled. The Independent Living Fund has gone. It was established to support disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently within the community rather than locked away in residential care, and the government scrapped it! Jeremy knows this because unlike the majority of politicians who shrugged their shoulders and walked away, Jeremy stood with us outside the Court of Appeals in the cold and stood up for us in parliament and campaigned for the retention of the ILF.

So what has the closure of the ILF meant for disabled people? It’s meant that some disabled people are having their care support cut in half, some disabled people told to wear incontinence pads at night, despite the fact they are not incontinent. Southampton CCG are saying that anyone needing more than 8 hours care support a day now face the threat of going into residential care. Here in Greater Manchester, Rochdale council is planning cuts to its Learning Disability Services by moving some people who have existing tenancies into residential care.

What we need is a national, needs-led system, independent of local authorities to administer independent living support, free at point of delivery and paid for through taxation. This system should build on the learning from the Independent Living Fund and be a key strategic mechanism for ensuring Disabled people’s rights under the UNCRPD are fully and consistently realised across the country.

3 Assisted Suicide

The other big issue, the scariest issue, the most misunderstood and misreported issue is disabled people’s opposition to the legalisation of Assisted Suicide.

At times it feels to us that we are fighting a pincer movement.

On the one side we have austerity and the narrative that has been spun by successive governments that disabled people have had it too easy for too long, that we are bleeding the county dry and that we are unsustainable and an unacceptable expense (I thought that was the banks, but apparently not). There was the punitive introduction of Workfare, the bedroom tax, cuts to Disabled Students Allowance, cuts disguised as reforms to ESA, DLA which are relentless and ongoing.

On the other side we have repeated attempts to introduce Assisted Suicide legislation. Let us be clear that GMCDP, DPAC, Inclusion London and all the other major UK disabled people’s organisations or disability charities strongly oppose any attempt to introduce any Assisted Suicide legislation. At a time when we are facing massive cuts to services and benefits, we need support to live, not assistance to die.  It is not only disabled people who oppose Assisted Suicide. The British Medical Association and Royal Colleges of Physicians, GPs and Surgeons and The Association for Palliative Medicine are all opposed to changing the law in relation to Assisted Suicide.

Despite this, supporters of Assisted Suicide claim that disabled people’s opposition to Assisted Suicide isn’t relevant as any such legislation would only apply to people who are terminally ill with less than six months to live and that safeguards would be put in place to protect the vulnerable (I think that means people like me). Well our concerns are relevant because we have the evidence from countries like Belgium, Holland and parts of the USA where Assisted Suicide is already lawful. In almost all cases there has been some kind of ‘mission creep’ on the criteria of who is eligible. It’s follows a similar pattern. At first it is limited to those with ‘less than six months to live’, then is extend to those in ‘chronic pain’ and eventually encompasses those found to be experiencing ‘unbearable suffering’. All such criteria is subjective and ultimately divides society into those deemed worthy to live and those deemed not worthy of life. So we vehemently oppose legislation that would give the state the power to end our lives through fear and coercion and then sold to us as ‘choice’.

Conclusion

Imagine the power we could harness if all those, either for or against Assisted Suicide could instead turn their energies to fighting for better palliative care for all. Fight for a better funded NHS and a social care system that enables people to maintain their choice, control and dignity. Not being able to wipe your own bum, or hold a spoon or dress yourself are not reasons to kill people or lock them away in residential care or withdraw their support so they become prisoners in their own homes.

So we are asking the Labour leadership to talk to disabled people’s organisations about Independent Living and about our opposition to Assisted Suicide. Today is a great start but if you want your policies to be the policies that disabled people support, that disabled people endorse and ultimately vote for, then there must be an ongoing dialogue. So here’s our contact details not just GMCDP but our sister organisations, Not Dead Yet UK, the Alliance for Inclusive Education and the other organisations I have already mentioned. Work with us. You provide the tea and coffee and we’ll bring the biscuits.

Thank you.

 Posted by at 13:35
Nov 102016
 

Date: Wednesday 16th November

Time: 5.30pm

Place: Gather at Old Palace Yard, Westminster

Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/195617644226019/


Join Disabled People Against Cuts and Black Triangle to protest against the grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights by the UK government through welfare reform, as evidenced in the United Nations inquiry findings published this week.

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/InquiryProcedure.aspx

For DPAC’s response see: https://dpac.uk.net/2016/11/dpacs-rebuttal-of-damian-greens-denials-about-the-un-report/

The protest will also be in honour of DPAC co-founder Debbie Jolly who tragically passed away this week. Back in 2010 a small group of activists including Debbie and Linda started to campaign against the Work Capability Assessment. At that time very few people other than those personally suffering as a result of the brutal assessment process had heard of the WCA or Atos. Debbie and others put up a tireless struggle for the past six years to expose what was happening and fight for justice.

Now I Daniel Blake is in cinemas across the country and a UN inquiry, which Debbie put years’ of work into making happen, has found reliable evidence of grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights by the UK government due to welfare reform.

However we still have welfare reform and things are worse now than they were when the UN conducted their enquiry and set to get even worse; we still have the WCA, the bedroom tax, changes to Access to Work and a social care support system in crisis but everyday more disabled people are losing essential income through PIP assessments, the benefit cap is about to be lowered and the introduction of Universal Credit will make thousands of households with disabled members worse off. On Thursday MPs will debate the cut to Employment and Support Allowance which was voted through earlier this year in the Welfare Reform and Work bill.

We must act now to put an end to this conscious cruelty.

We ask that everyone who can come to Parliament on Wednesday joins us and those who can’t show their solidarity through social media with the hashtag #EndWelfareReform.

 

 Posted by at 18:18