Jun 302018
 

Join past tense for
“Disturbance of the Publick Peace”

a FREE past tense radical history walk…

around Holborn & Bloomsbury

Sunday 8th July 2018

Meet 4.15pm, outside Conway Hall,
25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL

a wander through some of the riotous and radical history of Central
London: Gordon Rioters, anti-fascists, suffragettes, Chartist
plotters… and spycops, lots of spycops…

For more info email: pasttense@riseup.net

Part of the
50 Years of Resistance events
7th-8th July
Commemorating campaigns that continue to fight for social change,
despite being targeted by undercover police units  since 1968.

http://campaignopposingpolicesurveillance.com/50-years-resistance/

 Posted by at 15:26
Jun 282018
 

https://bristolsafeguarding.org/adults/safeguarding-adult-reviews/bristol-sars/kamil-ahmad-and-mr-x-june-2018/

We are organisers of an event in honour of Kamil Ahmad and other disabled asylum seekers and refugees. Some of us knew Kamil, some of us did not know him but have been motivated to attempt to address the root causes of Kamil’s tragic experiences. We would like to respond to the Safeguarding Review for Kamil Ahmad.
We are pleased that the safeguarding review has recognised that Kamil faced ongoing racism, that he was failed by many agencies and that his search for justice was impeded by (perhaps unconscious) disregard for the rights of refused asylum seekers.

However, beyond that we are disappointed by this review and response by the Bristol safeguarding board. This was a chance to expose the catalogue of injustice that Kamil experienced and to provide a sense that action is being taken to address the racism and ableism which Kamil experienced.

We are puzzled by the repeated references to the lack of interpreters as if this were an excuse rather a fundamental failing on the part of the agencies concerned. If a person is reporting a crime and does not speak English, then it is the police responsibility to provide interpreters. We are aware of at least one occasion when Kamil organised his own interpreter but the police officer did not appear and did not ring to rearrange. We are aware that the police have suggested that Kamil’s interpreter cancelled the appointment. We ask for any plausible explanation as to why he would have done this, given that he and Kamil were waiting. We also ask why it was necessary for Kamil to rely on voluntary support of interpreters. We are disappointed in the lack of attention paid to the police failure to turn up, pay for interpreters or to press charges.

The assertion that Kamil did not wish to make a statement to the police in April 2016 does not convince us. Might this apparent ‘misunderstanding’ have been the result of the numerous times when no interpreter was provided or the failure of police to turn up for the appointment when Kamil had arranged his own interpreter?

There could have been deeper investigation into potentially racist attitudes towards Kamil as an asylum seeker by services that should have been providing support – this is implied where it talks about attitudes towards people with “failed” applications but is not explored in any meaningful depth. We ask what prevented the ‘attempts’ to contact Kamil and to warn him about the increased risk posed to him (paragraph 10.11). We assume that action is being taken to prevent this in future.

The report stresses that Kamil is not blamed, yet there is constant referencing to “dynamics” and “tensions” between the two men. This implies that the men were co-protagonists rather than that Kamil was the victim. We suggest that the structures and attitudes of a system that disempowers service users are so ingrained that even now, the report authors are not able to recognise the ways in which Kamil was failed. It appears that as a service user and as a refused asylum seeker, Kamil’s rights to live free from abuse, harassment and fear, were denied. Kamil had a strong sense of justice and because he did not passively submit to having his rights denied, he is referred to as if he were a co-protagonist. References to Kamil’s knife are hugely exaggerated. Given the repeated threats that he was receiving, it seems that the paper knife which he owned is rather minimal self-defence, yet it is referenced as if it were a sign of potential aggression.

We are surprised that agencies did not realise it would be traumatic when Kamil was threatened with eviction, given that this meant he would have been street homeless (paragraph 9.8). We are also puzzled at the manner in which the report refers to voluntary organisations. If Kamil had been evicted from the property, he would have lost his right to support from social services and would have had no support whatsoever, as is deliberate policy for refused asylum seekers.

It is deeply disappointing to see this safeguarding review used as an opportunity to promote the outsourcing of statuary responsibilities to the voluntary and charity sector. It is also It is insulting to the goodwill of volunteers to suggest that they could have taken up where statutory authorities failed. The reason that Kamil had originally been given an Care Act assessment was because of lobbying by the volunteers who had been supporting him. They were unable to support his mental health needs. And it is not their job. It is a misrepresentation, and indeed irresponsible, to suggest that volunteers can supply the level of mental health support that Kamil needed. The decision making, that led to a Disabled man with high support needs being assessed as ineligible for support from the local authority, is barely referred to, let alone questioned. The re-traumatising impact it had on Kamil as a person, and the potential breach of his human rights, is also further indication that the Care Act, and it’s implementation, is failing Disabled people and Disabled asylum seekers.

Frequent reference to Kamil cancelling appointments brings the implication that this was his failing. It should be noted that he never cancelled an appointment with the Trauma Foundation and his interpreter. Those agencies with whom he cancelled appointments need to ask themselves why he did so.

We are concerned at evidence in the report of the impact of the crisis in social care and mental health services, bed shortages and out-sourcing to private hospitals. We are aware that it is not uncommon for people to be sent many miles away from family and friends to private sector hospitals, such as Cygnet, owned by US giant Universal Health Services, and the added stress that this places on their mental health.

The repeated communication failures between the NHS, voluntary and private sector services which also contributed to Kamil’s murder are simply not a matter of ‘learning lessons’ or designing new ‘pathways.’ We believe these are a direct consequence of drastic funding cuts, unaccountable commissioning and the impact of service fragmentation on front-line staff.

We consider it wholly inappropriate that as part of the response from the safeguarding board, there is reference to the need for interpreters, refugees and asylum seekers to be trained. Kamil and his interpreter did all they possibly could have done to seek justice and to alert the authorities as to the danger that he was in. We ask what this training would include – the need to inform the police? Mental health services? Housing provider? All of which Kamil and his interpreter did on multiple occasions. Of course some people may need support in order to be as assertive as Kamil was but it is not him or his interpreter who needed training. Those who need training most urgently are those who did not listen to their pleas for action and those who have, what the report refers to as, ‘unconscious’ bias.

Despite reference to systemic issues, the report still attempts to shift the blame from the agencies to the individual. The report contains 15 references to Kamil and other disabled people as ‘vulnerable’. ALL humans are vulnerable. People become more vulnerable if barriers are faced getting their rights met. Kamil was failed by multiple agencies. He died because insufficient action was taken to prevent someone intent on killing him. This is not a sign of Kamil’s ‘vulnerability’ but of agency failures.

The response from the Bristol Safeguarding Adults Board also refers to their intention to attend the event that we are organising designed to build a broader movement of solidarity. We welcome anybody who would like to play their part in building such a movement, however we stress this event is not designed for ‘professionals’ to share their ideas of best practice.

In other responses to the review, Kamil is referred to as a ‘vulnerable’ or a ‘tragic case’. To different people Kamil was a brother, a cousin, an uncle, a son, a friend. He was a human with rights and needs just like any other human. Those people from agencies who still consider humans as ‘vulnerable cases’ are not only doing an injustice to those people, but you are also missing out. Kamil was a wonderful, intelligent, funny, kind and articulate human being who was failed, and, judging from this review, continues to be failed.

We are aware that Kamil’s family have waited two years for apologies from all those who failed Kamil. We would like to see evidence that the lessons are being learned.

Jun 272018
 

 

The Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) – an alliance of Deaf and Disabled people and our organisations in England – notes the global disability summit being held in London at the end of July, co-hosted by the UK government and Kenya. We are strongly in favour of international support that improves the lives of Deaf and Disabled people across the world and welcome co-operation between States that lead to stronger human rights laws and protections. We particularly support the building of international solidarity and links directly between Deaf and Disabled People, our organisations and campaigns.

Regarding the July summit, we have a number of concerns:
• The role of the UK government in co-hosting the event. The UK government has been found responsible for grave and systematic violations of Disabled people’s rights due to welfare reform and continues to dismiss the findings and expertise of the UN disability committee. Their involvement undermines any aims of the summit linked to strengthening Deaf and Disabled people’s rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UN CRPD) and provides a platform for them to showcase to other States how it is possible to get away with ignoring those rights when it comes to your own citizens.
• The UK government has used international work to cynically deflect from criticisms of their disability record in the UK. On a number of occasions when government ministers have been criticised for implementing policies with an adverse impact on Deaf and Disabled people, they have cited the poorer conditions of Disabled people in other countries. This represents a misunderstanding of the UN CRPD which is about the progressive realisation of rights. The UN disability committee have such concern about the situation in the UK because it represents a serious and dramatic retrogression of rights, described by the Chair as a ‘human catastrophe’. In deflecting attention from their record in the UK, the Government clearly intend to more easily continue their punitive policies targeted at Disabled people and the poorest members of society. There is now overwhelming evidence, evidence which the UN disability committee considered, that prove the brutal impacts of these policies. It would be a betrayal to all those suffering under them not to raise concerns about attempts such as use of the global summit to divert attention and opposition to those policies.

• The Department for International Development (DFID) is commissioning a £27m Disability Inclusive Development (DID) Programme which has excluded UK Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPOs) from the design and delivery. UK DDPOs have been excluded from disability and development cooperation since our Government signed and ratified the UN CRPD in spite of articles 3 and 32. DFID instead favours working with charities FOR Disabled people and International Non-Government Organisations (INGOs) which have all failed to mainstream disability in their own organisations or cooperate with UK DDPOs in their work.

We call on Deaf and Disabled people and our allies to:
• challenge these disablist policies and practices that disproportionately and negatively impact on Deaf and Disabled people and that dehumanise and erase our different human identities
• stand in solidarity with Deaf and Disabled people in the UK who are on the receiving end of the grave and systematic violations of our rights and promote stronger rights and protections for Deaf and Disabled people globally
• celebrate and build international links of solidarity between our struggles – we are demanding UK DDPOs and DDPOs from the South receive support from DFID to collaborate to create disability equality, justice and human rights globally

To this end we are planning the following activities in which we hope you will join us:
• International Deaf and Disabled People’s Solidarity Summit – for Deaf and Disabled people and our allies to explore issues relating to our struggles against oppression and co-ordinating our resistance. International DDPO representatives in London for the government hosted summit are invited to join us at this event. For more information see: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/international-deaf-and-disabled-peoples-solidarity-summit-tickets-47524826034
• Online and social media activities to be announced.

 Posted by at 22:46
Jun 232018
 

Info here about regional actions for the stop trump day of action

Three asks for Stop Trump

Last year we – as Stop Trump Coalition members – committed to making the resistance against Trump and everything he stands for one of the biggest and most visible demonstrations in British history. With Trump’s visit just three weeks away we need you to help make that happen by using your power and influence to mobilise on and offline.

Do these three things:

ONE: Populate and share the carnival of resistance map which is now LIVE.
Actions happening regionally and coaches to the London march and rally are being plotted on the carnival of resistance map. Add yours and encourage your followers to do the same. Share the map as widely as you can.

https://stoptrump.us15.list-manage.com/track/click…

TWO: Let people know why you’re joining the carnival
Record a one-minute clip like these:
Send them to us (mail to: info@stoptrump.org.uk ) or post them on your own social media using #CarnivalofResistance #Resist #StopTrumpism

THREE: Follow and engage with us on social media
Follow and share the Stop Trump Coalition on social media – we’re posting daily on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so stay up to date on the latest and help get more people involved. Use #carnivalofresistance #resist #stoptrumpism as often as you can!

More soon.

Stop Trump Coalition

#carnivalofresistance #resist #stoptrumpism

Image may contain: sky, cloud, night, text and outdoor
 Posted by at 21:13
Jun 232018
 

Kamil Ahmad, a disabled man, fled his home in Kurdistan, having been tortured and imprisoned. He arrived in Bristol, in 2012, hoping to find peace and safety. Instead, his application for asylum was refused, and on 7th July 2016 he was murdered.

There has been a murder trial and a safeguarding review. Of course those responsible need to be held to account and lessons need to be learned. However, it is important to recognise that Kamil was failed long before this period.

In this short film, Kamil speaks of his experiences four years before he was murdered. Some of his experiences may have been the result of oversights (which is bad enough) but others are the result of deliberate policy. The hostile environment is designed to be hostile.

We can, and should, blame the government for many things, but until now the government has known that removing rights from asylum seekers, and particularly disabled asylum seekers, will not cause protests. That is our collective responsibility and that is in our power to change.

On 29th June, an event will be held in Bristol, in honour of Kamil, Bijan and other disabled asylum seekers and refugees who have been failed by the system. The event is supported by disabled peoples organisations, the asylum sector, trade unions, mosques, and many allies. At a time of such sadness and anger there is also determination to build a broader movement of real solidarity, to begin to address the systemic change which is needed.

Rebecca Yeo

Bristol DPAC: Honouring Kamil: Exploring Disability and Migration Fri 29 June 2018, 14:30 – 20:00 BST

 Posted by at 14:55
Jun 212018
 

(For a word version of this article with references, click this link and then click on the document icon: DPAC-UBI )

 

Introduction

If disabled campaigners weren’t previously worried about growing support for the idea of a Universal Basic Income, then following the publication of the World Bank’s draft annual report for 2019 (2019 WDR), they should be now. This document clearly articulates the link between intensification of the neoliberal agenda and provision of a basic income, putting forward a policy programme of extensive labour deregulation including lower minimum wages, flexible dismissal procedures and zero-hours contracts , compensated in part by a basic income “modest in size” so as to “be complementary to work” and financed largely by regressive consumption taxes (i.e. increasing VAT). The study warns that care must be taken in scrapping existing benefits, but these proposals are a far cry from the urgent demands for greater security of income and of employment for those who can and want to work being made by those currently suffering under the dismantling of the welfare state. The approach taken by WDR 2019 in affirming “the importance of work as a complement to healthcare and education in the production of human capital” has worrying echoes of the mantra that “work is good for you” reinforced throughout Tory welfare reform policies that have caused avoidable harm to millions of disabled people.

Universal Basic Income – the idea of replacing complex social security systems with a single non-means-tested, unconditional flat payment to everyone regardless of employment status – is an idea that has steadily been gaining traction internationally on both sides of the political divide over the past few years. While right wing libertarians see UBI as a means to eradicating the entire welfare state including free healthcare, proponents on the left argue it has the potential to free the working class from wage labour and foster individual creativity and fulfilment. In Scotland, four Councils have bid for funds to pilot UBI schemes with support from Labour, SNP, Green and, in one case, Conservative councillors. Within the UK, UBI is being presented as a solution to a number of modern economic and political problems including the need to find an alternative to the considerable and well-evidenced failings of the current benefit system. Given the prominence of that line of reasoning within burgeoning comment and analysis, it is then notable how little attention has been given to the specific implications of UBI for disabled people .

UBI is not a new idea but over recent years has gained significant global currency becoming the focus of numerous studies and worldwide trials. Few of these manifest every characteristic of a basic income and to date there is no precedent for what it would mean to replace an existing complex social security system such as we have in Britain with a UBI . The 2019 WDR states that “For the moment, a true UBI is largely a theoretical proposition.” In Scotland even before the pilots began, Nicola Sturgeon publicly questioned the feasibility of the idea . Pilots in other developed countries are focused primarily on incentivising employment and have been met with opposition from anti-austerity campaigners: the version of UBI being trialled by Finland’s right-wing government has been described as a “UBI-as-workhouse nightmare” while opponents to Ontario’s guaranteed minimum income pilot have stated that “BI [basic income] is being developed as a measure of neoliberal attack that should be opposed” and “The hope that there is any realistic chance of ensuring a truly adequate, universal payment, that isn’t financed by undermining other vital elements of social provision, is misplaced” .

In Britain, as Labour prepares for the possibility of a Corbyn-led government, UBI has emerged as a key component within efforts to develop an alternative vision for social security. A 2016 paper from the think-tank Compass entitled “Universal Basic Income: an idea whose time has come?” called for a pilot in Britain. John McDonnell is supportive of UBI with both the TUC and Unite, Britain’s largest trade union, passing motions endorsing basic income in 2016 . By contrast, the Conservative party remains heavily opposed to the idea, fervently sticking to their commitment to dismantle the welfare state through increasing rather than removing conditionality. Conditionality – the idea that social security claimants must commit to “doing” in return for state-funded support with deemed non-compliance resulting in the sanctioning of payments, often reducing an individual’s income to zero – has been further and further intensified the longer the Tories have been in power . This trajectory is set to continue with the roll out of Universal Credit, extending the reach of benefit sanctions to those in part time work not deemed to be looking hard enough for additional work, and the introduction of the Health and Work Conversation as a new stage within the application process for Employment and Support Allowance which has now extended mandatory activity to all disabled people including those with high support needs and terminal illness, with very few exemptions.

As disabled people suffer under the impacts of welfare reform and a social security system designed to deny eligibility and punish rather than support claimants, there is an obvious attraction to the idea of UBI as an automatic payment administered without assessments. Supporters argue that with everyone, regardless of income status or disability, in receipt of a universal payment, this could lead to the de-stigmatisation of social security, ending the scapegoating of benefit claimants and associated hostility towards disabled people. However, if we look beyond the basic concept of UBI at what the detail of implementation would mean for disabled people, we see a more complicated and potentially regressive picture. The Citizens’ Income Trust, one of the major supporters of a basic (or “citizens” income) in the UK, now advocate that both disability and housing benefits would need to remain outside a model of UBI, which would mean continuing assessments and potentially conditionality for disabled people. Concerns have also been raised in a number of articles that funding a UBI would entail cuts to benefits and services that “vulnerable” groups including disabled people now receive.

Neoliberal versions of UBI promoted by right-wing economists and politicians offer a stark warning about the dangers of UBI. Paying each person a minimum basic income rather than investing in a living wage and social protection is seen as a way of ‘saving money’, reducing the size of the state and public services. Sam Bowman, executive director of the Adam Smith Institute, wrote in 2013: “The British government spends more on welfare than it does on anything else apart from healthcare…The ideal welfare system is a basic income, replacing the existing anti-poverty programmes the government carries out.” In the US, Charles Murray has proposed an annual unconditional grant of $10,000 for every adult while scrapping the rest of the welfare state, including Social Security and Medicare. Similarly, Milton Friedman advocated a similar system called Negative Income Tax where those who earned below a certain income threshold would receive money back from the government instead of paying any income taxes but also where all other existing welfare programmes would be abolished. The implications of such proposals on those with the greatest needs including disabled people would be devastating and, as pernicious as our social security system has become, would affect an even more serious and dramatic regression of living standards.

With over three million disabled people currently receiving social security payments in the UK today, DPAC would argue that disabled people need to involve ourselves in the debate on UBI, both in gaining an understanding of the wider economic implications of UBI and in identifying and voicing the implications for disabled people. The aim of this article is thus both to present an over-view of the wider arguments for and against UBI and to focus more specifically on the question of what UBI might mean for disability benefits and disabled people in Britain. UBI has been credited with achieving all sorts of radical and progressive changes in society such as balancing the economy, replacing incomes lost through automation and leading us towards a workless future, but, as DPAC’s Canadian allies Ontario Coalition Against Poverty warn, placing a welcome mat for the introduction of a basic income legitimises the neoliberal agenda of undermining social provision, increasing the rate of exploitation and disregarding the needs of disabled people.

 

Worldwide UBI pilots

Although the last few years have seen UBI pilots announced across the globe, such that Basic Income Earth Network founder Guy Standing dubbed 2016 “the year of the pilot” , there is to date no precedent for a UBI replacing a complex social security system such as we have in Britain. Examples cited by UBI supporters including pilots in Madya Pradesh and, historically, Manitoba province in Canada, and partial schemes operated in Alaska and Iran, are limited in their applicability and tell us little more than that giving money to people is popular and that decreasing poverty produces positive outcomes. More significantly, trials in Finland and Canada demonstrate how UBI can be used to fulfil a neoliberal agenda focused on pushing unemployed workers into poorly paid and insecure work. Models linked to the forthcoming Scottish pilots indicate that disability benefits will be retained alongside a basic income while Nicola Sturgeon’s advisors have warned that public money would be better spent on those most in need.

Limitations of examples used to support UBI    

Two pilots in Madya Pradesh in India launched in 2010 produced positive social and economic outcomes for the recipients with disabled people benefiting more than others through greater access to food, medical assistance and autonomy as well as enabling some to become economically active . This is hardly surprising given that many of those benefiting had received no previous support: only a minority of low-income households in all 20 of the villages where pilots took place had a BPL (Below Poverty Line) or Antyodaya Card and some of the poorest households had no poverty card at all. Unconditional payments enabled disabled recipients to move from dependency upon family members to being able to meet their own basic needs. Giving something to people who previously had nothing is very different to what would happen with the introduction of a UBI in Britain to replace existing social security payments.

A pilot conducted in Manitoba province in Canada in the 1970s was credited with eliminating poverty from the trial saturation site which was the small town of Dauphin. Here, in a programme known as “Mincome”, a guaranteed income was provided to those who had fallen out of work with 50% of every C$1 earned on returning to work clawed back. It stood out from similar American projects at the time because it didn’t exclude older people or disabled people from eligibility. The aim was to test whether giving unconditional payments to top up the incomes of the working poor would dis-incentivise paid employment. The finding was that working hours did not significantly decrease, although it can be argued that these drops may be artificially low because participants knew the guaranteed income was temporary. The Conservative government that took power provincially in 1977 – and federally in 1979 – had no intention of rolling the programme out more widely and shut the project down. No final report was ever compiled. A recent survey of the data as it related to other services in Dauphin found a significant reduction in hospitalization, especially for admissions related to mental health and to accidents and injuries, relative to the matched comparison group. It is again unsurprising that increasing the incomes of the poor leads to improved health outcomes and again the findings are too limited as an evidence base to justify the replacement of existing social security systems with a UBI. They do support the idea that ensuring the population has an adequate income will produce cost savings in areas such as healthcare.

There are two global examples of partial UBI schemes where citizens receive unconditional cash payments that are often cited by basic income supporters but which have limited relevance to Britain where taxation would be the most likely source of funding. In Alaska, citizens each get a variable amount each year – averaging around $1,100 (about £700) between 2010 and 2012. This money comes from taxed oil windfalls via the Alaska Permanent Fund and is paid as an annual dividend. Iran similarly uses oil revenues to subsidise a cash payment of about $33 a month given unconditionally to most of the population. The payment has partially replaced heavy subsidies to basic commodities such as bread and fuel including petrol. Neither example goes anywhere near providing a living for their recipients and are not a replacement for safety net support.

The Neoliberal Danger of UBI                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Basic Income (BI) pilots being taken forward by neoliberal governments in Finland and Canada exemplify how UBI supports negative employment trends such as low pay and insecure employment and can facilitate exploitation. In Ontario, 70% of those tested in the pilot will be low waged workers and earned income will be deducted at a rate of 50%. (This is technically an example of Negative Income Tax rather than UBI). The amount paid under the pilots are insufficient to live on and act as top ups to low paying employers, subsiding business from general tax revenues and making it easier for employers to lower minimum wages. Participants will be subject to fewer conditions in return for BI payments but will lose support and services they currently rely on. A whole range of additional entitlements benefiting disabled people will also be lost including the Special Diet that provides additional income on the recommendation of medical providers, medical transportation assistance and mobility aids. Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) points out that if the Ontario government were genuinely concerned about poverty and disability, they would urgently reverse the 22% welfare benefit cuts made by the Mike Harris government in 1995 and “Raise the Rates”, rather than spend years consulting and testing a basic income.

While the Finnish experiment has received positive press in Britain, focused in particular on the removal of bureaucratic intrusion and conditionality on job-seekers , left wing commentators in Finland are critical of its impacts. The trial involves 2000 mandatory participants randomly selected from unemployment rolls and paid €560 (£500) per month. This effectively replaces the payments from the existing Finnish basic unemployment allowance and labour market subsidy , but participants continue to receive the payments if they find work.

For the Finnish government, UBI is about increasing employment , which was a key Centre Party manifesto commitment in the 2015 election, encouraging workers to take bad jobs with low pay. Low-paid workers or adults out of the labour force for reasons other than unemployment were deliberately excluded from the pilot. Alongside trialling UBI, Centre has set out to achieve its policy goals by other measures including reducing the country’s unit labour costs and increasing the retirement age. Its version of UBI is a way to replace social protections with minimum payments while dismantling the welfare state through accelerated privatisation of health and social care. This represents a direct attack on Finnish trade unions whose collective bargaining power has remained higher than in the UK , and if rolled out has the potential to reduce the income security of unemployed workers while reducing the strength of organized labour.

Left wing commentators in Finland have described this as “a cautionary tale for basic income proponents on the Left”, evidencing how support for UBI on the basis that it will deliver progressive outcomes opens the door for the introduction of a scheme “forcing unemployed workers into bad jobs while undermining organized labour, earnings equality, and the welfare state.” As John Clarke of OCAP argues “The neoliberal attack is taking up Basic Income as a weapon. We need to fight it instead of laying down a welcome mat.”
In the UK we must not be fooled into seeing the Finnish experiment as offering a solution to the devastation that welfare reform has caused. Aside from the regressive realities of the Finnish scheme, there are considerable differences between the two countries that make it inappropriate to transpose any progressive benefits of the current experiment to the UK. Writing in The Guardian, Ellie Mae O’Hagan warns against a UBI “simply parachuted into a political economy that has been pursuing punitive welfare policies for the last 30 years.”

UBI as “unworkable” policy

In September 2017 while launching the SNP’s “Programme for Government” Nicola Sturgeon announced plans for the Scottish government to fund local authorities to conduct experiments into a “Citizens’ Basic Income” (CBI). This is in line with the official position of the Scottish National Party who at their 2016 conference passed a motion in support of the principle of a universal basic income. The motion stated: “conference believes that a basic or universal income can potentially provide a foundation to eradicate poverty, make work pay and ensure all our citizens can live in dignity”. The motion called for more research into the impact of the policy. Sturgeon’s announcement was welcomed by the think-tank Reform Scotland who in 2016 published a report making the case for UBI heavily influenced by Green Party policy .

The four Councils who are set to run the pilot schemes with the support of a £250,000 grant from the Scottish government (Fife, North Ayrshire, Glasgow and Edinburgh) were identified by the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) whose 2015 report ‘Creative Citizen, Creative State: the principled and pragmatic case for a Universal Basic Income’ made a call for local experiments . The models to be adopted by each of the pilot areas have yet to be announced but will likely require a two year lead in and last for around two years, following principles for UBI pilots outlined by Guy Standing in his book “Basic Income and how we can make it happen” . These include the principle that pilots be conducted on a saturation basis involving all residents. This will provide a more universal test of the impacts of UBI than either the Finnish or Ontario trials which have selected groups of particular groups of people to test.

Another key principle promoted by Standing is that people should be no worse off than if they were in receipt of means-tested benefits. Based on the detail of models promoted by UBI proponents involved in the pilots as discussed below, it is unclear how this can be achieved. A research paper prepared for Fife councillors concerning plans for their local pilot explains that most models set the level of basic income at £73.10 for working age adults. There is no detail on what benefits will be replaced but the paper is clear that “Housing and Disability Benefits payments would need to remain and be kept separate” and that “Means-testing of benefits would continue, but the amount received by each household or individual would be recalculated to account for the amount of basic income”. The paper presents the possibility of enabling people to choose not to work as a positive feature of CBI but this is unlikely on a weekly income of under £75. As one Fife People’s Panel member commented “£73.10 per week + benefits is not enough to live on”.

Glasgow Council has commissioned the RSA to develop its proposals for a Basic Income Pilot. The RSA Basic Income Model proposes £71 per week for working age adults which appears to replace ESA. Although housing and non-means tested disability benefits including Personal Independence Payment will be retained this nevertheless represents a loss for disabled people in the ESA support group. Modelling of the RSA scheme undertaken by the Housing and Social Justice Directorate for the First Minister estimates that over 10% of households in the lowest decile in Scotland would experience negative financial impacts, over 30% in the second lowest and just under 50% in decile 3. Most households would be losing in the region of 20% of their income.

The RSA report makes strong comments on the importance of doing away with the devastating impacts of conditionality and sanctioning, however it is also clear in its primary intention of incentivising employment and making work pay. They propose to pay no more than a “basic” income in order to ensure that those who are “fit and able to work…would have a very strong incentive to do so.” The report states that “It is Basic Income and Basic Income alone that sends out absolutely clear yet non-coercive signals about the incentive to work.” It also suggests design features such as a public “contribution contract” for 18 – 25 years olds to sign up to committing themselves to learning, working or entrepreneurship in return for their payments , and the supplementation of BI payments with offers of sub minimum wage employment in “publicly useful” roles such as “day centre staffing” .
The report by Reform Scotland “A Basic Income Guarantee” has a more singular focus on the role of UBI in incentivising work. It states that “Any system which actively discourages work, as the current system does, is in urgent need of an overhaul” and stresses the need for “a ‘safety trampoline’ to encourage more people to rejoin the workforce or set up new businesses”; it says that “the system in place at present actively discourages many to return to work or increase hours” and that “This inherent and long-standing problem with the current system is the principal reason for the Basic Income Guarantee”.

Using proposals from the Scottish Greens as the basis for their financial workings, Reform Scotland suggests a Basic Income could be set at £5,200 per year for adults and £2,600 for children which would replace the personal allowance, tax credits and a number of benefits. Under this model, Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, Carers Allowance and Personal Independence Payments are all retained. The cost of this model would be £20.4 billion. Reform Scotland proposes raising all levels of income tax by 8% but their calculations for affording the model are still short by some £2 billion. This is substantially more expensive than the RSA model which the First Minister has already suggested is unfeasible.

In October Nicola Sturgeon, while continuing to support the trials, publicly raised the possibility that CBI might prove unworkable as a policy. Speaking during the Inclusive Growth Conference, she said: “I should stress our work on this is at a very early stage. It might turn out not to be the answer, it might turn out not to be feasible”. Her comments followed publication of a briefing for the First Minister obtained by the Scottish Tories via a Freedom of Information Response. Attention from right wing media focused on figures within the briefing taken from RSA’s Basic Income model costing implementation at £12.3 billion with a £3.6 billion shortfall raising the prospect of cuts elsewhere. The briefing also highlighted work by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which found CBI would need a tax rate on all earned income of about 40 per cent if housing benefit was not included, rising to over 50 per cent if it was.

The briefing is strongly critical of CBI citing potential negative impacts on disabled people and “vulnerable” groups, pointing out how “most governments will not be able to afford both CBI and a generous welfare state.” It states “The higher the CBI the more likely it is to lift people out of poverty, but the higher the public finance cost to fund it and the harder it would be for government to fund other supportive social policies.” Concerns are raised about the potential of CBI to further entrench inequalities and increased stigmatization of benefits which will be claimed by a smaller group of the population. The briefing concludes that “significant modelling effort would be required to establish levels which did not impact negatively on vulnerable groups”.

Concerns in the briefing echo the view of Joseph Stiglitz, who has served as an economic advisor to the Scottish Government since 2012, that pursuing a basic income would represent misaligned priorities in light of Scotland’s fiscal constraints. In an interview for Sunday Politics Scotland in October 2017 he said: “If you don’t have a lot of resources, isn’t it better to try to target the limited resources you have at those who really, really need it, the people who are disabled, the people who are elderly without other sources of income, a variety of people who are seriously disadvantaged. The problem with the universal basic income is that you give a flat amount to a large amount of people, and that means, because you have so many people, you can’t give as much as you would to help those who most need it.” Instead he has urged the government to prioritize benefits targeted to those who need them most, job creation to ensure a job to all who want one, and a livable income for all who work full-time.

 

UBI and Disability benefits

Disabled people have been disproportionately hit by austerity measures and welfare reforms through a deliberate agenda to cut back the various different inter-related social security payments and public services that we depend upon . The situation is so serious that the UN disability committee found the threshold has been met for evidence of “grave and systematic violations” of disabled people’s rights . Nevertheless, and despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the Tories publicly maintain they are continuing to support “those most in need”. The suffering and avoidable harm that disabled people have gone through over the past eight years demonstrate the devastating impacts that an overhaul of the welfare system can cause unless the interests of the poorest and disabled members of society are properly understood and protected. Into this context, the introduction of UBI, replacing a targeted system with universal coverage, is likely to entrench growing inequality and the struggle to survive.

Simulations for “full” UBI schemes that would entirely replace the existing social security system in Britain show big losses for disabled people among other groups. This was the conclusion drawn from a series of simulations undertaken for the think-tank Compass . The three full UBI schemes that were examined were simulated on the basis of abolishing all means-tested benefits including Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), also the Severe Disablement Premium and Discretionary Housing Payments with only means-tested Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support retained. Although all three schemes also retained Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Carer’s Allowance as additional to a universal payment, the proposed rate for the UBI of £73.10 per week, equivalent to Job-Seekers Allowance (JSA) would be insufficient to compensate people who are out of work long term. JSA is set at a level only able to offer adequate social protection for short periods of time. Disabled people are more likely to be out of work for much longer periods: 10% of unemployed disabled people have been out of work for 5 years or more, compared with just 3 per cent of the non-disabled population, and people in the ESA WRAG are likely to spend around two years out of work.

Disabled people would not be the only losers. The Compass paper concludes that the three full UBI schemes simulated are not feasible due to severe negative impacts on the poorest households. The proportion of households losing more than a fifth of their income in the bottom decile stands at 18.2%, 16.7% and 23.0% respectively for the three schemes. Although there are no separate figures for the impact of poverty on disabled people, all the schemes lead to sharp rises in relative child poverty alongside modest increases in working-age adult poverty and increases in pensioner poverty.

Instead, Compass, who are in favour of UBI, recommend that pilots should be undertaken into modified (or “partial”) UBI schemes where the existing benefits system is retained, both means tested and non-means tested, in addition to a UBI. For the two modified schemes simulated, the number of households losing income in the lowest two income deciles is considerably lower than for their full UBI models, but does still entail negative financial impacts for 2,376,300 households under Scheme 1 and 1,335,000 for Scheme 2. This is a significant number of the poorest people in society. There is also no information about whether ESA would continue at the newly lowered rate for those in Work related Activity Group, a move that was met with widespread opposition, or whether it would be restored to its previous level.

Given findings such as these, prominent supporters of UBI such as the Citizen’s Income Trust now recommend a partial UBI where disability benefits and housing are retained as separate parallel systems. In Annie Miller’s 297 page Basic Income Handbook she includes just one page on “The needs of disabled people” (of which half a page is about carers) where she says “Disability benefits are based on need and are therefore a different system from BIs… Both housing and disability benefits are very much in need of revision but are beyond the scope of this book.” Given the scale of problems with the existing disability benefits system and the proven harm they are causing to disabled people, it is concerning to see the issue of disability benefits side-lined in this way and confirms that UBI offers nothing by way of a solution to the way the social security system is currently failing disabled people.

The implementation of UBI risks detracting attention and resources from the urgent task required to overhaul the disability benefits system and make it fit for purpose. The current assessment regime has been designed to push disabled people off essential benefits and there are high levels of inaccuracy and unacceptable standards in assessments reports leading to thousands of disabled people being wrongly found fit for work. From October 2013 – March 2017, 60% of ESA decisions (32,000) taken to appeal were over-turned. This is in addition to 12% of decisions (31,000) revised at Mandatory Reconsideration stage . The introduction of a partial UBI scheme alongside a parallel system of disability benefits could instead create further problems and pressures to tighten eligibility even further in order to afford both systems. Donald Hirsch in his paper for the Joseph Rowntree Foundations warns of “potentially greater stigma… and perhaps even a political pressure to lower the safety net to the citizen’s income level.” Supporters of a partial scheme where disability benefits are retained assure us that no disabled person will be worse off under UBI. We were told the same thing about Universal Credit and that has proved not to be true .

Alongside an adequate standard of income, disabled people require other support services in order to enjoy full and equal participation in society. The current crisis in social care is increasingly desperate with disabled people routinely denied access to the toilet and to food and water for hours at a time. Meanwhile local authorities are adopting increasingly harsh charging policies that are pushing disabled people out of the social care system altogether due to unaffordability. Disabled campaigners are calling not only for a reversal to social care cuts, but for the introduction of a national independent living support scheme funded from general taxation and free at the point of need which would compete with a UBI for additional government spending. Many of the public finance options currently being considered as ways to address the funding crisis in social care have also been put forward as ways to fund a UBI. There is also a more general concern about pressures on public spending and negative impacts on social programmes as a result of introducing a UBI.

 

The illusion of a progressive UBI

UBI has been credited with the power to achieve radical social and economic impacts such as ending the idea that human worth is tied to a person’s ability to labour and produce profit and freeing humanity to unleash our creative potential. The emancipatory potential of UBI to provide equality and freedom can only be realised by a basic income paid at a sufficiently generous rate to make wage work unnecessary for financial survival. In this instance workers would effectively have at our disposal an unlimited strike fund and the balance of power would be in our hands. Under these conditions, with the freedom to organise society and distribute resources in the interests of the many not the few, it has to be asked whether we would then need a UBI. Meanwhile, until we win a socialist society, and under the current politico-economic conditions of a Long Depression under pro-capitalist governments, it is more likely that models of UBI will be adopted that make savings, and cut public services. A basic income approach also leaves the fundamental inequalities and power structures of society unchecked. As an approach to the changing nature of work it facilitates greater job insecurity and wage reductions.

Mitigating the impacts of automation

The future of work and replacement of jobs with machines is a very current concern that proponents of UBI believe it can address. In December 2017 the IPPR think-tank warned 44% of jobs in the UK economy could feasibly be automated over the next 10 or 20 years, equating to more than 13.7 million people who together earn about £290bn . This follows a study by the Bank of England in 2015 which estimated that 15 million jobs are at risk with administrative, clerical and production tasks were most at threat . Advances in technology would improve productivity growth after years of stagnation since the financial crisis in 2008 . The Government argues that this will lead to wage rises for workers, but this will be of little consolation to those whose jobs are replaced.

Rising automation will result in higher profits for those who own companies at the expense of workers’ jobs. As the UK government is urged to address the sharp growth in inequality that this would cause, there are calls for redistribution of profits from automation through a UBI to ensure that the many rather than the few benefit from technological advances. Jeremy Corbyn used his party conference speech in September 2017 to suggest a Labour government would use the tax system to ensure that the benefits of automation are widely shared across the economy. This idea was quickly dubbed the “robot tax”.

The fundamental issue with automation is not the need to replace income for workless humans but the question of the ownership of the technology itself, from which the call for UBI serves as a distraction operating in the interests of the current owners of technology. It is no wonder then that tech entrepreneurs including Mark Zuckerberg (net worth $64.1 billion), Elon Musk (net worth $20.8 billion) and Richard Branson (net worth $5.1 billion) have united in calling for a guaranteed basic income. This has been described by one commentator as “a mechanism to continue to exploit desperate workers earning subsistence wages and whom they can hire and fire at will” . It is also an attempt to guarantee buyers for their products after people have been put out of work by their technologies. While these billionaires profess to care for the less fortunate, they remain against workers’ rights and a living wage.

A basic income only addresses the question of distribution, while ignoring that of production and would not confront the labour market inequalities that would arise from a more automated labour market. It is through common ownership of technology, as opposed to redistribution of profit, that it would be possible to go further, extending free services such as a national health service, education and independent living support while enabling people to work for fewer hours.

The actual level of threat posed to jobs by automation is debatable with the 2019 WDR stating its finding ”that the threat to jobs from technology is exaggerated” , but the problems of worsening working conditions are very real and very now . This is a particular concern for disabled people who are more likely to be in low paid work to start with. Demands for a living wage and workers’ rights need to be at the forefront of what we continue to fight for.

Insecure jobs

One of the arguments put forward in support of UBI is that it is a better fit with current trends in employment than the existing social security system. As a “solution”, this approach seeks to effectively subsidise business, supporting trends towards payment of low wages and lack of job security using public finance to facilitate increased private profit-making and with the potential to further depress wages. This is exactly the proposal put forward by the World Bank who propose UBI as a way of using social assistance to “relax pressure” on “setting the minimum wage and replace “severance pay” , reducing the burdens on employers and enabling labour markets to be “more flexible to facilitate work transitions” . Their response to what they describe as “the changes reshaping work today [that] are fundamental and long-term” is to facilitate greater insecurity and lower wages.

The problem of insecure, low paid work is a very real one. In 2014, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that 1.8 million workers were on contracts that ‘do not guarantee a minimum number of hours’. A 2016 survey found 11% of the population aged 16–75 (the equivalent of nearly 5 million people) working for online platforms, paid by the task. Figures also indicate that a significant percentage of those in self-employment are not earning enough to make a living.

Disabled people engaged in mandatory work related activity are all too familiar with pressure from the DWP pushing them towards self-employment and insecure work in order to move off out of work benefits. A publication by the right-wing think-tank Reform argues that disabled people are missing out through lack of access to employment in the gig economy and that this could solve the poor job outcomes of long-term Employment and Support Allowance claimants. The drive to push disabled people into unsuitable work and self-employment is deeply concerning. Many aspects of the gig economy make it inaccessible and inappropriate for disabled people who may face barriers to online technology or negotiating contracts and who need a guaranteed income through periods of sickness and disability related absence. The British Psychological Society’s response to the government’s “Improving Lives” green paper consultation warned of the negative impacts of unsuitable work in exacerbating existing mental health conditions .

The idea that UBI rather than greater employment regulations are the answer is problematic. Whereas supporters of UBI commonly cite its transformative potential as one of its major advantages, it is being put forward by the World Banks as a way to maintain and facilitate inequality and insecurity. The basic income demand is, as argued by the economist Michael Roberts, just too basic and not radical enough . It accepts current conditions without challenging them, and under socialism would be redundant. As a reform for labour, it is not as good as the demand for a job for all who need it at a living wage; or reducing the working week while maintaining wages; or providing decent pensions; or making full reasonable adjustments for disabled workers including guaranteeing sick pay and disability leave. These are demands that we need to be putting loudly here and now alongside calling for full and unconditional support for those unable to work.

 

Conclusion

UBI is not the demand we should be making if we want an end to the suffering that welfare reform is causing. We urgently need the abolition of sanctions and conditionality, of benefit assessments designed to deny disability and Universal Credit. The social security system is now one that is intended to create an intolerable environment for benefit claimants. The social security system of the future must be one capable of providing adequate social protection and standard of living for all in need of safety net support. Achieving such a radical transformation is no small task, requiring wholesale scrapping of existing systems and a fundamental redesign. Given the history of disabled people’s exclusion and the marginalisation of our issues it is reasonable for disabled people to fear that attention and resources dedicated to the task of implementing a UBI will be at the expense of effecting the level of change needed to ensure disabled people receive adequate support.

Proponents of UBI tell us that disabled people would not be worse off under UBI but there is a dearth of evidence to support this claim. On the contrary, simulations for the introduction of a UBI to the UK indicate that the only way to ensure this would be through a partial UBI system run in parallel to a continuation of disability benefits. Supporters for such a system are then silent on the detail of how this separate system would work for disabled people, how it would address the many and considerable failings of the current system and how it would be afforded. A recent paper from the University of Bath presents an idea for a UBI with additional disability and severe disability premiums which when micro-simulated produces strong reductions in inequality and poverty but would be very expensive and require significant increases in income tax. The report author concludes: “The unavoidable reality is that such schemes either have unacceptable distributional consequences or they simply cost too much.”

Financing even a modest UBI set at a Guaranteed Minimum Income level in the UK would require high tax rises, as demonstrated by an OECD study . The World Bank report, which promotes the idea of UBI as an international response to the changing nature of work, concludes that when it comes to the UK, “taxing cash benefits and eliminating tax allowances is not enough to cover for the UBI” . This is because the level at which current benefits are paid is so far below a Guaranteed Minimum Income level that it would require the raising of significant additional funds to afford. In the UK a monthly BI amount that would cost the same as existing benefits and tax free allowances would pay £230 yet the poverty line for a single person is £702. The fact that benefit levels in Britain are so far below the poverty line point back to issues with the current social security system that need urgently addressing.

While many disabled people would be in favour of tax rises to fund welfare provision – particularly corporation tax and a progressive rise in the higher rate of income tax – the use of this for a UBI rather than more traditional forms of disability and unemployment support would mean much of the benefit flowing back to employers rather than those in most need. In functioning as a wage subsidy UBI would act to significantly reduce employers NI contributions. It would be hard to make a case that this is a more progressive solution than simply reversing the damage that the Tories have done to current systems. For example measures such as restoring the Independent Living Fund, scrapping conditionality and sanctions, and re-establishing the principle of universal benefits payed for by progressive taxation where the rich pay a greater proportion

The distributional impacts of a UBI mean that there are winners and losers with the poorest households featuring as losers under certain models and simulations . This has the potential to divide against each other groups of people who are currently united in our opposition to the rich elite who we see as responsible for growing inequality and poverty. Maintaining this unity is essential if we are to bring about society that is structured in the interests of the mass of ordinary people before the pursuit of profit by a tiny minority.

Britain is currently home to the biggest socialist movement in Europe where demands for a living wage, for health and social care support services free at the point of need and a social security system that provides an adequate standard of living free from conditionality are all popular. These are what we need to fight for, not opening the door to policies that will be used to maintain existing power inequalities, facilitate greater job insecurity and low wages and risk further public service cuts.

Jun 182018
 

DfID and DPAC Global Summits

In response to the UN disability committee findings and criticism of their record on disability rights, the Tories have been using international comparisons. The previous Minister for Disabled People used her time up in a debate on the UN CRPD that the SNP had tabled talking about how when she was in the navy she had liberated all these poor starving neglected disabled orphans from “the socialist republic of Romania.”

The implication is always that disabled people in the UK are over-privileged and should be grateful for what we get here. This shows a misunderstanding of the UN Convention as a progressive tool for rights implementation.

The same day as a much criticised government strategy on disability, health and work was published, the previous Minister for Disabled People, Penny Morduant, made an announcement in her new role as Minister for International Development that the UK would be holding a global summit on disability at the end of July 2018. This has proved a very popular initiative with international organisations falling over themselves to be involved and the Tories are using it to its maximum to validate their self-proclaimed status as “world leaders in disability”.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-government-to-host-its-first-ever-global-disability-summit

It is also linked to a 27m international disability development support programme and you can see from the announcement about the focus on technology companies (and opening up new markets).

We obviously support better rights for all disabled people regardless of where they live but cannot let the Tories continue to pass themselves off as world leaders in disability rights when they have been found guilty of the grave and systematic violation of those rights and their policies have been called a ‘human catastrophe’ by the UN Disability Committee.

Therefore we will be holding our own summit on Sunday, July 22nd with input from disabled activists from the global South. This will be near the Olympic Park although the venue is still to be confirmed.

On July 24th the actual day of the summit please join us for some on-line activism.

Further details to follow shortly.

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 18:49
Jun 182018
 

ShareAction are running a training on shareholder activism aimed specifically at disabled people. There are SO many companies which could do with a sharp reminder of their access responsibilities – not least some of the big high street names which still lock out disabled people from their premises.

 

Details are below – but please do (a) sign up online if you can make it and (b) forward this email to any other disabled campaigners you know who may be interested.

 

P.S. This training is focused around disability rights, but lots of opportunities to campaign at AGMs around Living Wage, climate change and other issues.

———————————-

Date:

10 July

Time:

6-8pm

Address:

Christian Aid

35-41 Lower Marsh

Lambeth

London

SE1 7RL

 

The venue has stepfree access and accessible toilets and is a short walk from Waterloo station which has stepfree access.

Register attendance here >> https://bit.ly/2sWTE9h

Outline:

AGM activism is a unique campaigning strategy that gets you in a room with the CEO’s of the biggest companies. You ask a question to the board and they take action.

 

It’s a winning tactic. Intertek – a huge global company that tests and certifies products accredited to the Living Wage Foundation in June and said it was the direct result of our AGM questions. Since we started campaigning on the Living Wage at AGMs in 2011, the number of FTSE100 companies paying a fair wage has jumped from 2 to 36! And 3 years ago, bus company National Express changed its unfair wheelchair policy as a result of an AGM question.

Any campaign issue that is geared towards company action can use AGM activism as a tool. Come along to this training for disability rights campaigners to:

 

  • Learn about what AGMs are
  • Learn about what AGM activism is and why it’s so powerful
  • Get trained to be an effective AGM activist
  • To plan using AGM activism at upcoming AGMs for disability rights and access campaigning

Please contact Michael from ShareAction on Michael.kind@shareaction.org to let him know about any access requirements.

In the meantime, check out this short video introducing AGM activism >> https://bit.ly/2JznniS

 

 Posted by at 18:00
Jun 162018
 
Vigil 12:30 – 2:30 Tuesday 19 June
Home Office, 2 Marsham St, London SW1P 4DF

Two organisations with impressive, longstanding track records providing support and succour to people seeking asylum and other immigrants, are joining forces during Refugee Week to call for an end to the government’s hostile immigration environment.

London Catholic Worker hold a prayerful vigil at the Home Office every third Tuesday of the month in remembrance of all who have been killed trying to cross borders. Women Against Rape’s Refuge from Rape and Destitution campaign has been highlighting the horrific price women and children pay in rape and other violence as a result of being made destitute when asylum claims are closed (see 13 June letter in the Guardian).

Windrush has made visible the horrors of a callous, racist and unjust immigration system. These two organisations are joining forces to protest the war and theft of resources and people by Western governments and multinationals which drives people to flee; cruel legislation denying the right to safe passage and forcing many thousands of people into dangerous and sometimes lethal journeys to escape; that deprives some of the most vulnerable among us from housing, money and healthcare, undermining everyone’s entitlement to the basics of life.

Those with first-hand experience will be speaking at the vigil and available for interview there or afterwards. We will read the names of migrants and refugees who have died and remember them with photographs, music, prayer and silence.

Becky Titah from Women Against Rape’s  Refuge from Rape & Destitution campaign says, “We are glad to come together to make our voices heard at the Home Office. Asylum-seekers have suffered similarly with Windrush people. The hostile environment has forced women like me into exploitation to avoid destitution: we are forced to rely on working for free as “domestics” or sex with men offering a bed for the night.”

Nora Ziegler from London Catholic Worker says “Jesus said blessed are those who mourn. The Home Office sees migrants as nameless and faceless. That is why they are so easy to refuse and deport, their deaths so easy to ignore. We are holding this vigil to bring the names, faces and the demands for justice of all migrants and refugees to the Home Office”.

Our demands:

·       Stop destitution, deportations and detention.

·       The right to work, housing and benefits.

·       Abolition of laws that recruit landlords, employers, banks, etc. to report on migrants.

·       No collaboration by charities and NGOs with deportations, including “voluntary return”.

·       Reinstate legal aid – lives are at stake.

·       Abolish fees for Family Reunion etc. – stop the government making money out misery.

·       Safe passage for refugees – no more deaths – every life matters.

·       Stop arms sales, proxy wars and the continuing theft of resources causing wars and environmental devastation that force people to flee.

·       Stop privatisation of asylum services.

Background:

From the 792 deaths of migrants in the Mediterranean in 2018 so far [1], to Lillian Oluk and her two-year-old daughter who starved to death in Kent in 2014 after their Home Office application was rejected [2], to Dexter Bristol, a Windrush victim, who died after losing his job and having his benefits taken away [3], the government must not be permitted to “carve us up” [4] – we are all victims of the same immigration system. This vigil aims to bring people together on this premise that we all have the right to be here and that no one should be subjected to a hostile and punitive environment based on their immigration status.

[1] https://missingmigrants.iom.int/region/mediterranean

[2] https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/mum-toddler-who-starved-death-8797797

[3] https://inews.co.uk/news/uk/child-of-the-windrush-generation-died-while-trying-to-prove-he-was-british/

[4] https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/article/meeting-sets-agenda-confronting-%E2%80%98hostile-environment%E2%80%99

 

Contacts:

londoncatholicworker@yahoo.co.uk 07923697218

asylumfromrape@womenagainstrape.net  020 7482 2496

 

 

 

 Posted by at 15:51
Jun 142018
 

Update: The Government have been refused permission to appeal this decision

[From Leigh Day Solicitors with permission]

The first legal challenge against Universal Credit has found that the Government discriminated against two men with severe disabilities who were required to claim the new benefit after moving into new local authority areas

14 June 2018

In a landmark judgment handed down today at the High Court in London, Mr Justice Lewis ruled that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (SSWP) unlawfully discriminated against two severely disabled men who both saw their benefits dramatically reduced when they moved Local Authority and were required to claim Universal Credit.
 
The legal action was brought by our two claimants, known only as TP and AR.
 
TP is a former Cambridge graduate who worked in the financial sector in the City and around the world. In 2016 he was diagnosed with a terminal illness; Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and Castleman’s disease.
 
In October 2016 when he became sick he moved temporarily from London to his parents’ in Dorset but after a few months he returned to Hammersmith and Fulham, a Universal Credit full service area, on the advice of his treating clinicians in order to access specialist healthcare.
 
AR is 36 and suffers from severe mental health issues. In 2017, he moved from Middlesbrough to Hartlepool, a Universal Credit full service area, as he could no longer afford the property he was living in due to the imposition of the bedroom tax.
 
Prior to moving, both TP and AR were in receipt of the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) and Enhanced Disability Premium (EDP), which were specifically aimed at meeting the additional care needs of severely disabled people living alone with no carer.
 
Recently released figures from the DWP suggest that 500,000 individuals are in receipt of the SDP . Both the SDP and EDP have been axed and are not available under Universal Credit.
 
When they moved both TP and AR were required to make a claim for Universal Credit as they moved into local authorities where the controversial new benefit was being rolled out. According to both the men, they were advised by DWP staff that their benefit entitlement would not change.
 
Despite repeated assurances from the government that “no one will experience a reduction in the benefit they are receiving at the point of migration to Universal Credit where circumstances remain the same” both claimants saw an immediate drop in their income of around £178 a month when they were moved onto Universal Credit.   
 
When they asked for top up payments they were told that Government policy was that no such payments would be paid until July 2019 when managed migration would begin.
 
As both claimants testified to the court, the sudden drop of income had a devastating impact on them, both physically and psychologically.
 
TP has been struggling to address his care needs and AR has been unable to afford basic necessities.(see paragraphs 8 and 9 of the judgment)
 
According to their lawyer Tessa Gregory from the human rights team at Leigh Day: “Nothing about either of the claimants’ disability or care needs changed, they were simply unfortunate enough to need to move local authorities into a Universal Credit full service area.”
 
Late last year Leigh Day issued judicial review proceedings on the Claimants’ behalf arguing that what had happened was unlawful on three grounds:
 

  1. The SSWP has breached the Equality Act 2010 in failing to have due regard to the impact of removing the premiums on severely disabled people
  2. The 2013 regulations discriminate against the severely disabled living alone with no carer, as compared to other severely disabled people, contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights
  3. The implementation of Universal Credit and the absence of any ‘top up’ payments for this vulnerable group as compared to others constitutes discrimination contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights

 
A four-day hearing took place on 1 -4 May 2018 during which the Equality and Human Rights Commission intervened in support of the Claimants’ case.
 
Today the judge found in the Claimants’ favour on ground 3, noting in the judgment:
 
“The impact on the individuals is clear. They were in receipt of certain cash payments (the basic allowance and SDP and EDP). They are now in receipt of cash payments which, overall, are significantly lower than the amount previously received. They are a potentially vulnerable group of persons as the Government in its own material recognises. On the material before me, there appears to have been no consideration of the desirability or justification for requiring the individual to assume the entirety of the difference between income related benefits under the former system and universal credit when their housing circumstances change and it is an appropriate moment to transfer them to universal credit. That is all the more striking given the Government’s own statements over a number of years that such persons may need assistance and that there was a need to define with precision the circumstances in which they would not receive such assistance. In all the circumstances of this case, the operation of the implementation arrangements in the way they do is manifestly without reasonable foundation and fails to strike a fair balance”. [para 88]
 
The judge concludes: “The implementing arrangements do at present give rise to unlawful discrimination contrary to Article 14 ECHR read with Article 1 of the First Protocol to the ECHR….A declaration will be granted that there is unlawful discrimination. The defendant will then be able to determine how to rectify the unlawful discrimination.” [para 114]
 
Following months of litigation, on Thursday of last week Esther McVey the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, carried out a policy U-Turn and committed the Government to ensuring that no severely disabled person in receipt of the SDP will be made to move onto Universal Credit until transitional protection is in place and committing to compensating those like the claimants who have lost out. 
 
Despite this, following hand down of today’s judgment the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has sought permission to appeal, maintaining that there was nothing unlawful with the way the claimants were treated.
 
Commenting on the case, Tessa Gregory a partner at Leigh Day, who represented both claimants, said:
 
“This is the first legal test of the roll out of Universal Credit and the system has been found to be unlawfully discriminating against some of society’s most vulnerable.
 
“Whilst we welcome the Government’s commitment to ensuring that no one in our client’s position will now be moved onto Universal Credit until top up payments are in place, it comes too late as it cannot make up for the months of suffering and grinding poverty our clients and many others like them have already had to endure.
 
“We call upon Esther McVey to compensate our clients and all those affected without any further delay, and urge her to focus on fixing Universal Credit rather than wasting more public funds appealing this court decision.
 
“Today’s decision shows again that Universal Credit is not delivering what was promised at the outset. It is not working. It’s not working for the disabled, it’s not working for parents, it’s not working for low-income and part-time employees and it’s not working for the self-employed.
 
“The government needs to halt the rollout and completely overhaul the system to meet peoples’ needs, not condemn them to destitution. If this doesn’t happen further legal challenges will inevitably follow.”
 
TP, the first Claimant stated
 
“In my 51st year my life was completely and suddenly thrown upside down with the diagnosis of a life changing end stage non-Hodgkin Lymphoma cancer. Having had a successful career I became reliant on financial support from the welfare system. To add to the stress of being seriously ill and undergoing very arduous treatments that have left me unable to work, I have had to take time off convalescing to fight in the Courts for subsistence level benefits. In being compelled to migrate to Universal Credit where I lost the Severe Disability Premium I was deprived of a key mainstay of support for a disabled person living alone with no carer. The financial strain from the cutting of the SDP has made it so much harder for me to cope as it has been an additional daily stress. It has been detrimental to my health.”
 
“I always believed that I had been treated unfairly and in a discriminatory manner by the DWP, having lost out in this move into Universal Credit. I am delighted that the Courts have concurred that I have been unlawfully discriminated against. I feel vindicated in bringing this important Judicial Review of the DWP’s stance towards me, which also affects numerous others of the most vulnerable people in our society. I am pleased to have been able to have brought this case to the public’s attention, which casts a dark shadow on the fairness of the Universal Credit system.”
 
AR, the second claimant added
 
“I know a lot of people have been awaiting the outcome of this hearing as so many people have been badly affected by the roll out of Universal Credit. I know it is a time of austerity but I do not understand why the Government are trying to penny-pinch with what is a relatively small and very vulnerable group, namely, severely disabled people without a carer. I thought we lived in a society where as a vulnerable group we would be protected not unlawfully discriminated against.”

 Posted by at 12:56
Jun 122018
 

Call for Submissions

Are you an artist, sculptor, film maker working around disability issues? 

Would you like your work to play a part in building a Global Resistance Movement of disabled people?  

Then here’s how

In July 2018, DPAC will be holding a public event around building a Global Resistance Movement of disabled people.

We need your creativity and energy to help make this happen.

We want to create an event which celebrates our shared experiences and aspirations; and which connects our struggles and campaigns. As a backdrop to this, we would like those attending on the day and taking part from afar to do so in a space filled with creative expressions of our lives and our politics.

We are calling for contributions, large and small to exhibit at the event. Artists can come and be part of our activities or can simply give us access to their material. We will store and exhibit your material and return it to you after the event.

We are asking for:

  • Imagery such as
  • Pictures
  • Prints
  • Collages
  • Photographs
  • Paintings etc

 

  • Ceramics
  • Carvings
  • Glass work
  • Metal work

 

  • Digital Art
  • Film
  • Animation
  • Video Art

 

If your work has supporting materials such as mounts, plinths, frames, description or requires these materials for exhibition, please let us know.

 

If you would like to find out more or contribute please email. mail@dpac.uk.net

 Posted by at 20:44
Jun 082018
 

https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2018-06-07/HCWS745/

There has been some significant changes announced by the government concerning Universal Credit.  In a parliamentary statement yesterday Esther McVile says that the government intends to make the following changes-

The timetable for managed migration has been extended by 1 year.  It is now due to run from July 2019 – March 2023. Yet another delay on top of the years and many, many millions of pounds it has already taken

And transitional protection and the severe disability premium- some good news ahead of the court verdict which is expected shortly.

The Government has already made a commitment that anyone who is moved to Universal Credit without a change of circumstance will not lose out in cash terms. Transitional protection will be provided to eligible claimants to safeguard their existing benefit entitlement until their circumstances change.

Today I am announcing four additions to these rules to ensure that Universal Credit supports people into work, protects vulnerable claimants and is targeted at those who need it.

“In order to support the transition for those individuals who live alone with substantial care needs and receive the Severe Disability Premium, we are changing the system so that these claimants will not be moved to Universal Credit until they qualify for transitional protection. In addition, we will provide both an on-going payment to claimants who have already lost this Premium as a consequence of moving to Universal Credit and an additional payment to cover the period since they moved.

Second, we will increase the incentives for parents to take short-term or temporary work and increase their earnings by ensuring that the award of, or increase in, support for childcare costs will not erode transitional protection.

Third, we propose to re-award claimants’ transitional protection that has ceased owing to short-term increases in earnings within an assessment period, if they make a new claim to UC within three months of when they received the additional payment.

Finally, individuals with capital in excess of £16,000 are not eligible for Universal Credit. However, for Tax Credit claimants in this situation, we will now disregard any capital in excess of £16,000 for 12 months from the point at which they are moved to Universal Credit. Normal benefit rules apply after this time in order to strike the right balance between keeping incentives for saving and asking people to support themselves.”

The above changes will be brought in by new regulations in the Autumn (Universal Credit Managed Migration and Transitional Protection Regulations).

 Posted by at 21:29
Jun 072018
 

We are looking to make contact with families who currently have their Disabled (including SEN) children in mainstream school but are being pressurised into accepting a special school placement by the London Borough of Hackney. We are looking into SEN budgets cuts, which are having a negative impact upon Disabled pupils’ right to mainstream education, and whether the cuts can be challenged.

We are supporting local groups campaigning against SEN budget cuts and their impact upon Disabled children’s education. We are specifically concerned about the implications of the budget cuts upon Disabled pupils’ inclusion in mainstream education. We need to act now – contact Simone Aspis (Policy and Campaigns Coordinator) on 0207 737 6030 or by email.

For more information about the Hackney Crisis in SEN campaign and our support for their campaign work please see our campaigns briefing.


www.allfie.org.uk

Twitter: @allfieuk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ALLFIEUK

 Posted by at 16:14
Jun 062018
 

On 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 trough. 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. 

To book go to: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/honouring-kamil-exploring-disability-and-migration-tickets-45856613365

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

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.

 Posted by at 20:45
Jun 032018
 

BEING THE BOSS 

National Information Gathering Survey 

INTRODUCTION – Who we are and why we are doing a survey

“Being the Boss” is a national network of disabled people who employ their own personal assistants (P.A.s)/support workers or carers. Our central role has been to support disabled people who employ their own Personal Assistants by providing peer support and a coherent voice for them in the wider community. The website and Facebook page are for disabled people who employ PAs no matter how they are funded – it is NOT just for disabled people who are receiving Direct Payments or Personal Budgets from the local authority. See: http://beingtheboss.co.uk/

Since 2010 when the Coalition government introduced Austerity measures we have seen many changes in assessment procedures, funding regimes, criteria, the closure of the Independent Living Fund and an overall undermining of Independent Living.

Given the current climate Being the Boss believe it is essential to establish ourselves as the advocate for disabled people who employ their own personal assistants because all forms of living independent lives is under threat. Alongside maintaining Being the Boss’s existing service/role, we want to build on our experience by making our advocacy role more visible and proactive and extend it to other disabled people facing difficulties with benefits and other areas which impact upon their ability to live independent lives.

To be able to play this advocate role we need to fully understand the national picture on the ground and to establish what are the key issues for those who employ their own personal assistants (P.A.s)/support workers or carers and are currently finding it difficult to live independent lives. To this end we have decided to launch a National Information Gathering Survey and are asking you to participate in it.

We can provide the Survey as a download from our website/Facebook page. Please feel free to be as detailed as you believe to be necessary or simply answer as much or as little as you feel able. Thank you for your time and support.

 https://goo.gl/forms/axbdtUnWOiUmL2sH3

 Posted by at 20:09
Jun 032018
 

sadly neither Welsh Labour not the national DPO – Disability Wales whose funding of course comes via Welsh Labour are supporting this vital campaign.

 

Please find below an important Thunderclap that we should all get involved in to help save the Welsh Independent Living Grant, #SaveWILG. 

This grant allows disabled people with high care and support need to live independently and was introduced by the Welsh Government following the closure of the ILF. 

Unfortunately, the Welsh Government have decided to follow England’s lead and pass all responsibility for social care to Local Authorities. This cannot be allowed to happen as we all know the problem this has caused to our friends in England. This fight is important to disable people across the UK as if we manage to win the battle in Wales, it will add strength to the arguments for three tier support in England.

This is a vital and easy way for  people to get involved with the campaign. Please encourage everyone you know, to take part and spread the message that we all want to save WILG, and deserve to have our voices heard.

The more pressure we can put on the Welsh Government, the better. On June 5th, when the thunderclap is activated, I will  be in Cardiff  at the Senedd, meeting with the Petitions Committee, Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care, Huw Irranca-Davies, Mark Drakeford AM and Julie Morgan AM.

We want to flood social media, and hope you will be able to spare one minute to help us achieve this aim. If this action succeeds, there will be future thunderclaps held.

Unfortunately, Thunderclap no longer allows targeted messages to prevent individual accounts being bombarded unfairly.

The message that will be shared across Twitter and Facebook reads as follows:

Welsh Labour need  to listen to their members and Save WILG for those with high care and support needs across Wales.

Anyone wishing to add memes or postcard photos to their social media accounts, can find plenty via my website or by simply contacting me via the contact page or on social media. I can’t make it much easier for you 

Many thanks for your support, and please do not hesitate to click on the following link:

https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/70260-savewilg

***

According to Wikipedia, Thunderclap is a platform that lets individuals and companies rally people together to spread a message. The site uses a model similar to crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter, in that if the campaign does not meet its desired number of supporters in the given time frame, the organizer receives none of the donations. This is referred to as “crowdspeaking”, as Thunderclap and its rival site Daycause use the same terminology. [2][3] Backers are required to copy the original message in tweets or social media posts.[4]

 Posted by at 20:05