May 192018
 

Monday 21st May 2018 marks the first day of the new Govia Thameslink (GTR) timetable.

Buying a ticket means you have entered into a contract with the GTR. That contract is the same contract for all those who purchase a ticket. Your chosen train will deliver you to your chosen destination at the time agreed upon. The GTR however deems that it has the right to refuse access, remove passengers or alter their mode of transport provided these passengers are of reduced mobility. PRMs according to the GTR, Disabled people according to the rest of humanity. Not because the individual is obnoxious. Not because the individual is dangerous. But because the GTR holds Speed, Efficiency and Shareholder’s Profits supreme.

Wheelchair using passengers can be dumped at will on the altar of Speed and Efficiency. People who become ill during a journey have the right to be taken to the nearest safe stop and not just to the next stop on the journey. Leaving a wheelchair using passenger on an unmanned station is not professional.

If you are disabled your journey can be disrupted for no more reason then that the GTR cannot ensure a decent level of staffing and is committed to the Driver Only Operations (DOO) of the train. No second member of staff is assured on any journey since the introduction of DOO. This is a logistical nightmare that they are trying to cover up by offering up the freedom to travel of disabled people. Disabled people are individuals who purchase tickets just like any other traveller, not objects to be transported at will.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and the Association of British Commuters (ABC) are taking the lead in protest against this highly discriminatory time table. The first protest will be held at London Bridge Station on 21st May at 5pm

 Posted by at 14:46
May 192018
 

Co hosted by the Association of British Commuters

The full story behind the RMT story yesterday is even more shocking than the newspapers made out, and has created a huge wave of anger within the disabled community. With the Thameslink timetable launching on Monday the press will be out in force and there is a small window of opportunity to own the headlines again on this issue.

We’ll be meeting at the Shard entrance outside London Bridge at 5pm to form a People’s Picket and would greatly appreciate the attendance of as many of our friends and allies as possible.

Over the weekend and during the day on Monday, we’ll also be trying to secure the attendance of MPs at the protest – if you are able to help at all with this on Monday, it would be greatly appreciated.

We’d be very grateful if you could spread the word through your networks.

Please notify the Facebook Event page if you are going so we can estimate numbers

Our demand: Keep The Guard On The Train
The GTR staff training guide that the RMT released on Friday was even more shocking than we feared. It also showed that the company has now begun a ‘call ahead’ policy when boarding passengers, which has led to members of our groups being refused boarding even though the train was sitting right in front of them at the station.

The removal of a guaranteed guard from the train creates a loophole that we believe will only lead to further, institutionalised breaches of the Equality Act. With the ‘call ahead’ policy, it is now clear that this will have an equivalent effect on pre-booked and ‘turn up and go’ passengers, so the myth that pre-booking will be a solution under DOO is disproven.

Removing a wheelchair user from their chosen form of transport because of the company’s inability to staff the network adequately is blatant discrimination. We do not consider taxis a reasonable adjustment, especially with the extended waiting times at unstaffed/rural stations. It is only a matter of time before this Equality Act breach is confronted in court – and that’s not our opinion, but the verdict of a 2-year buried Rail Delivery Group report on the matter.

  • We believe the current industrial dispute could be solved easily with the simple guarantee of a second member of staff. This is clearly the precedent on which all future staffing plans will be based, and the easiest way to ensure the principles of the Equality Act are met. There can be no justification for an endless taxpayer-funded dispute that aims to break a trade union at the expense of disabled people’s rights.
  • We have no faith in current consultations involving the DfT and the RDG, who have shown themselves to be deliberately evading this issue. There is no sense in professing to take disabled access seriously when on the other hand, you are trying to remove an important staffing precedent for workers and passengers alike.

To read ABC’s full analysis of the controversial report that hit the press recently, click here: https://abcommuters.wordpress.com/2018/05/18/exclusive-full-copy-of-gtrs-staff-training-document-which-discriminates-against-disabled-passengers/

 Posted by at 14:27
May 162018
 

PRESS COMMENT – Immediate release

Fuelpovertyaction.org.uk

twitter: @fuelpovaction

It is a breakthrough that, after months of refusing to do so, the government has finally agreed to fund the replacement of flammable cladding on social housing tower blocks.  They are offering £400 million for replacement of cladding, and, we presume, insulation. This should significantly speed up the process.   However, it is not nearly enough.  Having conceded the principle, the government should now commit to fully covering the cost of the disaster that has been revealed by the Grenfell fire.  

Inadequate regulation and inspection regimes have led to dangerous buildings across the UK.  Residents must be fully protected from fire – and from cold  –  immediately and until the completion of works.   

Fuel Poverty Action has since January been running a campaign for Safe Cladding and Insulation Now (SCIN) and has gathered support for 10 demands from a very wide range of grassroots organisations, trade unions, and MPs, with more coming in every day.  The demands can be seen here.

The Prime Minister’s statement represents significant progress in that direction.  However,
            1)    Private blocks are not covered.  Leaseholders in these blocks often have trouble meeting even their normal heating bills, and many go cold each winter.  Now they have been asked to fund re-cladding projects, costing tens of thousands each, or continue to live in fire-trap homes.  We are working with them. This crisis was not of their making, and there is no justice in a proposal that penalises some residents.

2)    There is no mention, so far, of student residences, schools, or hospitals clad in the same materials, nor of buildings below the arbitrary 18M height limit.  Will that be in James Brokenshire’s announcement?

3)    Cold, like fire, kills.  Even in a normal year, thousands die each year when they cannot heat their homes.  Residents in many blocks already going through re-cladding know that when cladding is off in the winter, uninsulated flats are places of constant cold, condensation, damp and mould, and astronomical bills.

4)    BBC research in December last year found that the cost of planned post-Grenfell fire safety measures for councils and housing associations alone had already reached at least £600m, a figure said to be likely to be a considerable underestimate.  Meanwhile MHCLG handed back £817 million to the Treasury in unspent cash (originally earmarked for the Starter Homes, affordable homes and estate regeneration).

5)    The other demands of our campaign remain crucially important, including proper consultation with residents, and immediate safe, good permanent housing in the area of their choice for all Grenfell survivors.

6)    Funding alone will not prevent the same thing happening in the future.  Tighter regulations need to be combined with accountability, and with the will and the capacity to monitor and inspect.  New and refurbished homes should be safe and well-insulated in practice, not just in theory.

7)    Crucially, the health and safety of residents must not be sacrificed during the process that the government now promises to fund.  Works have gone on for months; some are scheduled for nearly two years, with housing way below any legal decent homes standards, and families constantly ill.  Some local authorities, more than others, have taken steps to mitigate this nightmare.  Will the government now guarantee that every possible measure will be taken to ensure residents’ safety and health during the process of re-cladding?  Will they fund such a guarantee?  And will they set deadlines for removal – and replacement – of cladding and insulation to ensure there are no further delays?  The time for this work to happen is now – while the weather is warm.

 

This breakthrough is largely the result of pressure from grassroots organisers, beginning with Grenfell survivors who, in the worst conditions, have still included the fate of other tower block residents in their concerns.   

We await James Brokenshire’s statement this week with great interest.

 Posted by at 21:49
May 112018
 

Annie has high support needs and was diagnosed with secondary progressive Multiple Sclerosis in  December 2009 and has become increasingly impaired.

After suffering excruciatingly painful spasticity in 2011 she spent 2 ½ months in Rehabilitation and on discharge in February 2012 was assessed by her Local Authority for care and was awarded 23 hours a week.

At the end of 2016 she collapsed and spent months last year in hospital.  They have said she will never walk again, and pain in her right arm since April has left her using a hoist since then.

But when she was reviewed on leaving hospital in May last year, her care package remained at a completely inadequate 23 hours a week and she was told she was lucky.  This despite the fact that in her current condition it scarcely gets her up in the morning.

She is now completely reliant on human support to live independently, unable to move, clean, toilet, dress, feed herself – or do anything.  She uses a hospital bed and wheelchair, and needs to be moved with a hoist by two people.

She is in constant pain, has spasms and severe spasticity yet she has been unable to access the extra hours of help she now needs.

She has no money and has had to borrow heavily from friends and family to survive and get some of the extra care she needs. This won’t continue to be possible.

Social services continue to fail to assess her needs, and have not provided her with a proper care plan since 2012. Like many others Annie has been stripped of her entitlement to legal aid due to the changes made by the Tories.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  Any amount you can spare to help us pay for a legal opinion for Annie would help her and possibly others enormously. Any money donated and not used will go to Disabled People Against Cuts. (DPAC).

Please donate via GoFundMe or by paypal on the website. Mark any website donations for Annie.

https://www.gofundme.com/share/link/annie-needs-care-help-her-get-it

 

 

 Posted by at 20:53
May 112018
 

Disability News Service (DNS) has been investigating claims of dishonesty in the personal independence payment (PIP) assessment process for the last 18 months.

Now a leading discrimination lawyer has said he may be able to take legal cases on behalf of PIP claimants who believe that the healthcare professionals who carried out their face-to-face assessments did not honestly report the results of those assessments.

The cases would be taken under the Equality Act, but crucially the assessment must have happened in the last six months, for legal reasons.

If there are any PIP claimants who have had an assessment in the last few months and want to consider legal action, please contact DNS – with some brief details of the dishonesty and when it took place – either by phone or email.

If you’re interested in potentially taking a legal case, contact DNS editor John Pring by phone (weekdays only, please: 01635 228907) or email: john@disabilitynewsservice.com

Read the background here https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/comment-seeking-claimants-to-take-legal-cases-over-pip-dishonesty/

 

 Posted by at 18:15
May 082018
 

Kamil AhmadOn June 29th help us honour the memories of Kamil Ahmad and others who have been failed by the system. We are holding an event as part of Bristol Refugee Festival to:

  • bring together the disability and the asylum/immigration sectors
  • get the voices of disabled asylum seekers / refugees better heard
  • build awareness of policies and practices that currently divide us
  • challenge divisions and develop solutions

Our event is in honour of Kamil Ahmad a disabled Kurdish man who came to Britain seeking sanctuary, after having been imprisoned and tortured in Iraq. He was murdered in his supported accommodation in Bristol on 7th July 2016.

Kamil never gave up his loving nature and sense of justice, despite the horrific experiences he had been through. It seems fitting that one of the ways of honouring his memory, together with others who have been failed by the system, is to create a stronger movement for positive change.

All welcome. Help us honour Kamil and build a stronger movement for justice.

Tickets are free but donations to help cover the costs of the event are welcome. To donate go to: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/disabilitymigration

Please visit our Facebook page for the latest updates.

Programme for Fri June 29th

14.30 – City Hall – (College Green, Bristol BS1 5TR)
We will install a copy of the mural which Kamil helped to create in the foyer of City Hall, as a memorial to him and other disabled asylum seekers and refugees who have been failed.
15.30 – Procession from City Hall to We the Curious – please bring banners, musical instruments.
16.00 – We the Curious (Anchor Rd, Harbourside, Bristol BS1 5DB)
Talks, discussion, workshops, film, learning from disabled asylum seekers.
What is the Problem? What needs to change?
Followed by food and music from LARA and others – (musicians include asylum seekers, refugees, disabled and non-disabled)

Please contact mail@dpac.uk.net with any access requirements when booking.

The event is supported by: Bristol City Council, City of Sanctuary, Disabled People Against Cuts, SARI (Stand Against Racism and Inequality), Bristol Defend Asylum Seekers, Bristol Disability Equality Forum, Bristol Hospitality Network, Bristol Refugee Rights, SW Region of the FBU, TUC SW, SW Doctoral Training Partnership, University of Bath, Unison, Bristol West Constituency Labour Party, Bristol National Education Union: NUT section, Aslef.

For more information please contact r.a.yeo@bath.ac.uk

 Posted by at 15:27
May 032018
 

1.8 million disabled people with unmet housing needs

580,000 of whom are of working age

2/3 of single disabled people living alone are in poverty

Disabled people are twice as likely as non disabled people to be social housing tenants

There is a shortage of accessible housing across Britain.

Of the councils in England with a housing plan, fewer than 17% of councils have set out strategies to build disabled-friendly homes

From: Facts and Figures 2018. Disability in the UK. Papworth Trust http://online.flipbuilder.com/afjd/uvad/mobile/index.html#p=1

Thanks to Miriam Binder Brighton DPAC, for this excellent account of the difficulties disabled people face when looking for accessible housing

There is indeed a crisis in Housing and this holds probably truer for disabled people and it must be added, the long-term ill, then any other group. Why this is the case is down to a number of factors. As we all know, or should do by now, the Housing Crisis as it stands at the moment is due to not the rising number in Housing Need as such but rather the inequality that exists within society.

Here in England, Housing has been beset by a number of issues. I will not delve into the complexities surrounding home ownership, initial mortgages and the varying types of mortgage. Not because they are inconsequential but because, for the majority of disabled people and the long-term sick, they are by and large, unobtainable. Whether there is a Disabled Community is questionable as the sheer diversity in Disability and Long-Term Illness is immense. I am mobility impaired and rely on my trusty wheelchair, the Grim Creeper, to get me around. But I can see, provided my spectacles prescription is up to date. My hearing is functional despite what my grandchildren may have to say at times – especially when it comes to them demanding more chocolate or, as is the case with the older ones, more pocket money.

Disability and Long-Term Illness covers a large diversity of impairments. From Mobility through to Cognitive and Mental impairments. In addition, there is the fluctuation of symptoms, when someone is undergoing treatment, which by and large is of concern to the Long-Term Ill however can at times also be an issue for disabled people; regardless of whether this is a life long disability, from birth that is, or an acquired disability, as in my case, where it only became a factor in my middle years. I will refer to us, for the sake of this discussion, as the Disabled Community.

I’ll start with a bit of background. I am fortunate enough to be a council tenant. I’ve been one now for 38 years. When mobility first became a real issue, I was still the tenant of what was my family home. I lived in a three-bedroom house with the bedrooms and bathroom located upstairs. Nothing fancy but good accommodation for what was at the time, the size of my family. My daughters grew up and, as is the habit of such creatures, left home one by one. I started considering downsizing. However, as my mobility worsened I realised that a high-rise flat was not the most suitable move. I remained in that house, under occupying, for 4 years after my youngest left home. The last two years I rarely made it to the second floor. I slept on the sofa in the front room. I bathed, or what passed as bathed, at the kitchen sink. I was fortunate that the house had a downstairs toilet.

I was bidding … a truly atrocious method of seeking rehousing in the Social Housing sector; not least of which is the requirement of having internet access. I was however also dependant on the ranking I was given by the Council as to whether a bid would be considered acceptable. I ended up refusing to pay any additional charges and the matter eventually ended up in court with the ever-ready threat of eviction looming over me. Being a self-possessed, articulate and relatively educated individual, I got the point across that I need a ground floor property and, with the magistrate siding with me on this issue, I eventually got my current bungalow. I also was in some housing debt but that, given my desperate need for suitable housing, was a minor consideration at the time.

The trouble was, and yes this isn’t the end of the story, my dream home, this one-bedroom bungalow, was not wheelchair accessible. There was a 19cm step entering the house and a 7cm step exiting it. For two years I had to lift a 93-kilo wheelchair across these steps, every time I needed to exit or enter my home. I am now not only disabled because of my lower limbs not functioning properly but also have limitations in my right arm due to a severely torn rotor cuff.

Adaptations however are not that easily obtained. There is a process one has to go through which is rather complex. And even when it has been accepted that the adaptation is necessary, by the appropriate Social Services department, there is the matter of financing said adaptation. This matter falls within the remit of an entirely different department.

To cut a long story relatively short, I ended up having to present a deposition to the Housing Committee to eventually gain the finance necessary to provide my adaptation. Bless the soul of the Adult Social Care assessor that came to the property as she determined that while they were adapting my access into the home, they may as well adapt my bathroom so that I would be able to shower without risking a fall every time. I got a wet room at the same time.

Not that that was the end of the adaptations required to mean I could actually retain independence in my home. It took a total of 5 years to make my home adapted to my needs. Included there also 3 years of not being able to use the kitchen. The only thing that is now worrying me on the home front is if ever I need care. There is no room in my home for anyone to sleep. It has presented some problems when I’ve been to hospital for treatment. I’ll tell no lie but I do lie. I would get one of my daughters to come ‘spring me’ from the hospital, assure the hospital that someone would remain with me at home and then, once released, would go home alone, crawl in to bed and pray there were no post-operative complications.

We live in a society that has many gorgeous houses built over the centuries. Wonderful places with wonderful spaces for people to live and have families. The problem is that few, if any, of these places are adaptable. Those that are adaptable are limited to the extent of adaptation possible. Then there is the fact that the Disabled people and long-term ill are generally speaking amongst the poorer in society. Buying a home is, as a rule, beyond most. We, by and large, depend on renting our residences. That presents a particular problem in that renting in the private sector is problematic. Not just the sheer cost and the short-termism of rental agreements but also the issue of adaptations. Few, if any, private landlords would be willing to have extensive adaptations done to their property just because they have a given tenant for the next 6, 12 or 36 months.

There are other issues. Temporary housing which is far from disabled friendly due to lack of adaptations. Ill suited for people recovering from and between treatments such as chemo- or radiotherapy, dialysis and others. One young man, a tetraplegic wheelchair user, ended up in a 2nd floor attic flat. There was no way of getting his wheelchair to the flat so he had to be bodily hauled up and down to the place. Even if he could have managed to get his wheelchair into the flat, there was no room to move around in the flat with a wheelchair. In addition, treatment to enable him to regain, or at least retain, some movement was denied as, according to the NHS, there was little sense in treating him while his body was being abused daily because of his housing situation.

You see, with disabled people and long-term sick, it is not enough to get a roof over your head. The roof needs to be over a place you can move around in, you can store any equipment you need and you can have an overnight visitor stay for when you need that extra care. This cannot be addressed on an ad hoc basis. Nor can we remain reactive to need but we must become proactive to potential. If you come across someone who has, let us say for argument sake, Peripheral Vascular Disease, today they may walk short distances, enough to hobble around the house but tomorrow, or if not tomorrow at sometime in the future, they will be totally incapable of walking, requiring amputation of at least one if not both, feet or legs.

We must also bear in mind that Disabled people and the long-term ill have families, brothers and sisters and yes, children. We need to ensure that all building programmes, and certainly all social building programmes, build houses with, as standard, wider doorways, level access, wide hallways and rooms we can easily adapt if they require a lift, lower access cupboards and a cooker that can be used while seated. We need these properties in all shapes and sizes. Neither disability, be it from birth or an acquired one, nor long term illness will go away. They are part of humanity and a parcel of life. Let us make sure that any programmes of building we engage in will have at least the facility to adapt, easily and simply and that the groundwork is already done.

 Posted by at 16:33
May 022018
 

May 2nd, 2018

Join us today for the 2nd day of the vigil outside the high court  to support the first judicial review against the Government’s decision to bring in Universal Credit. The case will focus in particular on the removal of the Severe and Enhanced Disability Premiums which will have a devastating impact on Disabled people. When the Government introduced Universal credit they said no one will be worse off, but this simply isn’t true. Research in 2013 estimated that 450,000 households containing a Disabled person would lose essential income.

The case is being taken by Leigh Day solicitors on behalf of a man who is terminally ill and through the removal of SDP and EDP has lost £178 per month.

Vigil called by Disabled People Against Cuts and Winvisible.

 Posted by at 06:36