Sep 272018
 
DPAC Logo

Direct Action Against the Tories, October 3rd from 11.30 am meeting outside Birmingham Council House, Victoria Square then moving elsewhere.

 

Fed Up of Conference speeches and MPs lying?

Join Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) for some targeted resistance and direct action in Birmingham- see our fantastic new and very, very large banner and listen to the very loud strains of our Big Band which will create a wall of noise to drown out the drivel from May.

 

See our death shrouds hot from their art show viewing in Norwich.

 

The very first DPAC protest against the cruelty of Tory austerity took place 8 years ago when we warned of the dire impact Tory cuts would have on the lives of disabled people.

 

Meme with the text "Tory Cuts Kill" showing a bloody meat cleaver We spoke then of a country resembling a third world state but even we could never have imagined just how bad things would be. The UN has found the Tories guilty of the grave and systematic violation of disabled people’s human rights and has described our treatment at the mercy of the Tories as “a human catastrophe.” In spite of this we fight on and will continue to highlight the plight of disabled people and the treachery and cruelty of the Tories whenever we can.

 

A DPAC spokesperson says “ after years of enduring many thousands of disabled people being driven to their deaths prematurely by the hostile environment the Tories have created we know we must still fight back or be crushed.”

 

Ends

Notes to editor

DPAC storming parliament –again https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jun/24/disability-campaigners-clash-with-police-inside-commons-over-benefit-cuts

DPAC was formed by a group of disabled people from the West Midlands after the 3rd October 2010 mass protests against cuts in Birmingham. The 3rd October saw the first mass protest against the austerity cuts and their impact on disabled people-It was led by disabled people under the name of The Disabled Peoples’ Protest.

DPAC is for everyone who believes that disabled people should have full human rights and equality. It is for everyone that refuses to accept that any country can destroy the lives of people just because they are or become disabled or have chronic health issues.

www.dpac.uk.net

@dis_ppl_protest

Disabled people have borne the brunt of cuts both to their living standards and to the right to live independently in the community following savage cuts to social care budgets and the closure of the Independent Living Fund.

1 million older disabled people are missing out on social care funding and figures from the annual ADASS survey suggest that by the end of 2018/19 cuts to social care funding will total £7 billion since 2010. Councils are facing bankruptcy.

Employment and Support Allowance assessments have caused the deaths of many thousands of people through the hostile environment approach to benefit claimants. Coroners have warned the government that is happening and yet they continue with this atrocious policy.

A study by the National Audit Office (NAO) found that the Department for Work and Pensions is handing over £1.6bn over the next three years to private contractor, Maximus who carry out the controversial health and disability assessments

700 disabled people a week have lost Personal Independence Payments and had their cars removed leaving them trapped at home or unable to work. Some have also had wheelchairs and mobility scooters repossessed.

The total payout for Atos and Capita who carry out these assessments saw a 19% increase on 2016’s figures, as the DWP spent its highest amount on PIP since its launch in 2013.The figures came after The Press Association revealed in 2017 that Atos and Capita were set to be paid more than £700 million for their five-year contracts –against an original estimate of £512 million – prompting accusations that the DWP were “rewarding failure.”

Disabled people receiving state benefits have been hit with 1 million sanctions in less than a decade, while a comprehensive analysis of the treatment of unemployed disabled claimants shows they are up to 53% more likely to be sanctioned than claimant who are not disabled.

 Posted by at 21:55
Sep 272018
 

Labour conference: Right-wing journalist faces ban call after ‘safe space’ video

Disabled party members are calling on Labour to ban a prominent right-wing journalist from future events after she posted a video on social media mocking the provision of a “safe space” used by disabled people at this week’s party conference.

The party has told Disability News Service (DNS) that the behaviour of Julia Hartley-Brewer “caused considerable distress” to people at the conference, including disabled party members with autism and anxiety conditions.

Hartley-Brewer had been filmed sitting in the safe space – which is put aside for disabled people and others who need a quiet area for impairment-related and other reasons – and then saying “boo” as a colleague with a camera entered the room.

Alongside the video, Hartley-Brewer – who was presenting her breakfast show live from the main conference venue – wrote on Twitter: “Comrades, if you’re feeling triggered at the Labour Party conference, don’t worry, we’ve found the official #SafeSpace…”

She later tweeted in response to criticism: “Ooh, I’ve committed one of those hate non-crimes we’ve heard so much about.”

Hartley-Brewer, who has about 120,000 Twitter followers, continued to refer to the incident dismissively, including yesterday (Wednesday), when she tweeted: “Nah, I’m sitting through the [Jeremy Corbyn] speech in my #SafeSpace. On a train heading home.”

One autistic party member, Rebecca*, told DNS this afternoon (Thursday) how she had seen Hartley-Brewer’s video on Twitter.

She had already used the conference safe space as she had been experiencing panic attacks because she had been finding the noise and crowds at the conference “overwhelming”.

She said: “I used it to chill out. It really helped.”

But she then saw Hartley-Brewer’s Twitter message, which she said left her feeling “humiliated and violated”.

She was supported by Disability Labour, which represents disabled party members, after turning up in distress at its conference stand.

She said she came across the stand and “just burst into tears, shaking with anger and rage”.

She praised the support she was given by Disability Labour and said she was now set to report the incident to the police as a potential disability hate crime.

A second disabled member also told Disability Labour that he believed the room was no longer a “safe space” because of Hartley-Brewer’s actions.

Hartley-Brewer has refused to apologise, although she tweeted: “I’m told that this ‘safe space’ at Labour conference is meant for people with autism and other disabilities. The sign doesn’t say that.

For the avoidance of doubt, there was no intention to upset disabled people, but every intention to upset snowflakes. Hope that clarifies.”

A sign on the door, which either Hartley-Brewer or her colleague photographed, refers to “urgent medical treatment”, the party’s “safeguarding unit” and “safety or welfare” concerns, while information about the safe space was included in the accessibility information pages for disabled people of the main conference guide, sent out to all journalists attending the event.

A spokesman for talkRADIO has refused to comment or to say if the station plans any disciplinary action against Hartley-Brewer.

But Dave Townsend, a vice-chair of Disability Labour, said Hartley-Brewer had “violated” the safe space.

He said Rebecca had been “very distressed. It took a good hour to get her to calm down.”

And he said he was concerned that Hartley-Brewer’s actions could encourage similar behaviour from her supporters in other venues and at other conferences.

He said Disability Labour executives had told the party’s conference arrangements committee during a lengthy meeting yesterday morning that they wanted to see Hartley-Brewer expelled from the conference and banned from future Labour events.

Despite the row, Hartley-Brewer hosted her morning show on talkRADIO live from the conference on Wednesday morning.

A Labour spokeswoman told DNS in a statement: “During conference, the Labour party received a number of complaints about talkRADIO presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer’s behaviour during conference, which we looked into immediately.

It became apparent that she had caused considerable distress to vulnerable groups, including to delegates with conditions including Asperger’s, autism and anxiety disorders.

Representations were made to talkRADIO and to Julia Hartley-Brewer directly.

A clarification was made by the presenter, but material considered offensive remains on social media and neither the party nor those affected have received an apology.

The party is taking this incident up further with talkRADIO.”

She added: “The Labour party prides itself in high standards of inclusivity and we do not tolerate abuse or discrimination.

We have made improvements in our support for disabled delegates to ensure our conference and events are as inclusive and accessible as possible, which this year included accessibility stewards in the conference hall and the usual provision of a safe space, among other things.”

Townsend said that Hartley-Brewer had been “mocking the idea of vulnerable people needing a safe room”.

He said: “I was absolutely apoplectically angry that somebody could violate a place put there specifically for someone having a vulnerable moment or some quiet away from the crowds.

We think it was signed well enough for her to know it was a room for safeguarding vulnerable people.

It is nothing less than a hate crime against disabled people in vulnerable situations, especially those who are neuro-diverse or have mental health issues.

Everybody in the party is sickened that this happened. It is beyond belief that she thought this was a reasonable thing to do.”

*Not her real name

27 September 2018

 

 

Labour conference: De Cordova calls for a ‘Labour alternative’ to universal credit

Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people has called on her party to come up with its own alternative to the government’s flawed universal credit benefit system.

Marsha de Cordova moved further this week than any of her shadow frontbench colleagues at Labour’s annual conference in Liverpool towards the idea of scrapping universal credit completely.

She told Disability News Service (DNS): “I believe Labour needs to come up with its own alternative.

The party are not quite as close [as I am] to saying stop and scrap but you know what, if something isn’t working maybe there is no value in tinkering at the edges.”

She said that Labour’s policy – to “pause” the rollout of universal credit and fix its flaws – was set last year, before the country had seen a “hollowing out” of the new system that had caused “so much pain and misery to the people I represent and disabled people”.

She was speaking after her boss, shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood, was criticised by disabled activists for a “lacklustre” conference speech in which she called on the government to “stop the rollout of universal credit and fix its many flaws”.

Activists, led by the grassroots group Disabled People Against Cuts, have been calling for Labour to change its position and promise to scrap universal credit (see separate story).

De Cordova said the “massive cliff edge” caused by the imminent “managed migration” process – which will begin next year and will eventually see hundreds of thousands of disabled people forced to end their existing employment and support allowance (ESA) claims and apply instead for universal credit – had to be a campaigning priority for her party.

Greenwood also announced this week a lengthy review of the party’s social security policy, which de Cordova said was “quite a brave and bold move”.

She said: “It is saying the system is broken, let’s not tinker, let’s have a real free think about what it should look like.”

In a fringe meeting earlier in the week, she had told Labour supporters that the social security system “should be viewed in the same light as the NHS. That’s how important it is.”

She also said that she wanted Labour to mark in some way the 10th anniversary of the introduction of ESA and the hated work capability assessment (WCA), which will take place on 27 October.

She told DNS that ESA/WCA had not been perfect when the New Labour government had introduced it in 2008, but the Conservative-led coalition had sought from 2010 to turn it into “something that was a cruel and inhuman process that disabled people had to endure”, while the government had tried to “demonise” claimants, creating “a hostile environment for disabled people”.

She had earlier told a Disability Labour fringe meeting: “Like many of you here, we know that that assessment regime has caused pain, has caused suffering and more importantly has taken people’s lives and we cannot let that day go past without marking it in some way.

But also we cannot let it go past without calling out and shaming this cruel, evil Tory government for what they have done with that work capability assessment.”

De Cordova appeared to go further than last year’s general election disability manifesto on the question of benefit sanctions.

The party’s policy is to replace the government’s “punitive” sanctions regime but not to scrap all sanctions.

But de Cordova told DNS: “There’s no evidence out there that suggests sanctions work for disabled people.

With that evidence before you, therefore, you should respond and act accordingly.”

When DNS asked whether that meant she was suggesting there should be no sanctions for people claiming ESA or any equivalent benefit, she said: “That’s something I would like to see happen, personally, absolutely.”

De Cordova had also been outspoken in a meeting held as part of The World Transformed, the festival organised by the left-wing group Momentum on the edges of the Labour conference.

She had told the meeting that the government should feel ashamed for creating a “hostile environment” for disabled people and that it had been “hell bent on demonising disabled people for the last eight years”.

But she then said that she blamed “the last Labour leadership” for the government’s lack of shame over its actions.

De Cordova said: “I blame the last Labour leadership for that because they chose not to be the voice for the voiceless.

That’s why I sit here and say I will do my very best to be your voice.

Three years ago, the Labour leadership voted against preventing cuts to social security for disabled people.

It’s shocking that that happened but believe me, I was there, it did happen.”

She was referring to a crucial Commons vote on the government’s welfare reform and work bill, in which 48 Labour MPs – including Jeremy Corbyn (now the Labour leader), John McDonnell (now shadow chancellor) and Greenwood – all defied the party whip and voted against the bill, when interim leader Harriet Harman had ordered them to abstain.

Two months later, Corbyn was elected Labour leader.

A key element of last year’s disability manifesto was Labour’s pledge to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) into UK law.

This would mean providing a legal right to independent living, and a commitment to move towards a fully inclusive education system and the closure of all special schools, as well as many other policy commitments, such as significant reform of discriminatory laws on detaining people with mental health conditions against their will.

But De Cordova told DNS that it was unrealistic to put a time limit on how long all of this would take to incorporate into UK law, and she accepted that it would be a “long-term project” and an “aspiration”.

She said: “If we are talking about creating a fully inclusive society for the many and not the few, then that has to be the aspiration.”

On the need for a right to independent living, DNS told her of the case of Laki Kaur, a young disabled woman who has spent more than 100 days in an east London hospital since being told she was well enough to be released after treatment for blood poisoning, because of the lack of suitable wheelchair-accessible housing.

De Cordova said: “Imagine that in our society, under a Tory government.

That is what is happening to disabled people every day across the country. It’s a shame, it’s a disgrace, it’s a scandal.”

She had earlier told the Momentum fringe meeting: “There is a light at the end of that tunnel because Labour in government will ensure that we incorporate the UNCRPD into domestic legislation so that we can travel and use public transport, so that we can access the social security system, so that we can go into work and stay in work, and we will aim to remove those barriers to discrimination when in work.”

She told DNS that she wanted to see a change in employer attitudes to disabled people.

One of her hopes is that a Labour government will ensure that all employers with more than 250 employees will have to report on how many disabled people they employ.

Labour has already said that it wants to see an expansion of the Access to Work (AtW) scheme, extending it to cover those in self-employment and volunteers, she said.

And she reminded a fringe meeting this week that a Labour government would have to look at removing the “arbitrary” AtW cap, which led to the government being challenged in the high court under the Equality Act.

Asked if there had been too much carrot and not enough stick from the government when it came to pushing employers to improve their policies on employing disabled people, she told DNS: “All the focus from governments, the Tories especially, is always on the individual. Not much effort has gone on employers.”

She pointed to the government’s “shoddy” Disability Confident jobs scheme, which allows employers to sign up to the programme without employing a single disabled person.

DNS reported in July how nearly 7,000 employers that signed up to the scheme had promised to provide just 4,500 new jobs for disabled people between them.

The scheme has three levels – Disability Confident Committed (the entry level), Disability Confident Employer and Disability Confident Leader (level three) – but it is only at level three that employers’ pledges and claims on employing disabled people are assessed independently.

De Cordova suggested that Labour would replace Disability Confident, or at least overhaul it.

She said: “Any initiative that Labour would have would have to have good independent evaluation as part of it, there has got to be some good quality assurance, it’s got to be of good quality, and actually it’s got to be something that disabled people and employers feel confident about, and actually have some teeth.”

27 September 2018

 

 

Labour conference: Anger at party’s failure to pledge to scrap universal credit

Labour is facing mounting anger from disabled anti-cuts activists over its refusal to call for the government’s universal credit benefit system to be scrapped.

Much of the anger has been directed at shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood, who instead of pledging to scrap universal credit – at Labour’s annual conference in Liverpool this week – announced a lengthy review of social security policy.

It comes little more than a year after a disability equality roadshow – led by her predecessor Debbie Abrahams – covered many of the same issues and asked disabled people across the country what they would like to see from a new social security system.

But anger has also been directed at the unions.

Earlier this month, trade unions voted at the annual TUC Congress to call on the Labour party to shift its policy stance and promise to scrap universal credit.

But this week, two unions appeared to retreat from that pledge by putting their names to a motion to the Labour conference that called instead for a “fundamental overhaul” of universal credit.

The motion was moved by USDAW and seconded by GMB.

Paula Peters, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), said DPAC would “hold Labour to account” and “if need be we will take the fight to them”.

She said: “The anger is building and it is palpable.

The mantra ‘for the many, not the few’ is ringing a bit hollow at the moment. I don’t think it applies to people who are unemployed or disabled people.”

She said the actions of the unions in moving and seconding a motion that called for university to be paused and fixed – just weeks after voting for it to be scrapped – was “a massive slap in the face”.

As a result of Greenwood’s “lacklustre” speech, which Peters said was “another fudge”, DPAC is calling on campaigners to write to the MP – and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, shadow chancellor John McDonnell and shadow minister for disabled people Marsha de Cordova – “about how they feel about Labour not stopping and scrapping universal credit and what they felt about her speech”.

Greenwood explicitly called in her speech (watch from 2 mins 15 secs) for the government to “stop the rollout of universal credit and fix its many flaws” rather than for it to be scrapped.

Senior figures in the party, including McDonnell, de Cordova, and Greenwood, all suggested to varying degrees during the week that the party was moving closer to calling for universal credit to be scrapped, but none of them said that explicitly.

Greenwood told the Mirror that scrapping universal credit was “something we’re sort of in the process of looking into” and that the party was not ruling it out.

But De Cordova, who was the most outspoken of the three, told DNS (see separate story): “I believe Labour needs to come up with its own alternative.

The party are not quite as close [as I am] to saying stop and scrap but you know what, if something isn’t working maybe there is no value in tinkering at the edges.”

McDonnell told a fringe event hosted by the PCS union: “There are discussions about what we do about universal credit, do we scrap it or reform it or whatever.

Some of this is semantics. It needs transformation in a way that enables people to operate an effective and efficient system, both from the staff point of view and the claimants’ point of view, but also we’ve got to find the resources that lift people out of poverty.

Part of that will be the introduction of the real living wage, £10 an hour, part of it will be the restoration of trade union rights, so people will be properly represented, part of it will be the restoration of collective bargaining… but there will also be the need for a social security net to protect people.

So our job now in the coming months, and all of you will be engaged with this, is how do we redesign the system so the net is effectively lifting people out of poverty and is effective in ensuring no-one falls through that net. That’s the challenge that we have got.”

McDonnell said later in the fringe, in answer to a question about universal credit: “All the messages we are getting at the moment is that this is a system that just doesn’t work, won’t work, and therefore not only needs reform but needs replacing.

That is the debate that we will have as we go forward.”

But Peters told Disability News Service that disabled people and others were going to get “walloped” by the migration of existing claimants – including those on employment and support allowance – onto universal credit from next year.

She said: “They have missed a really good opportunity to announce they are scrapping universal credit.”

In response to the announcement of a review of social security policy, she said: “We have sat down at so many round-table events and talked and talked and talked and talked to Labour for quite a few years.

We don’t need words from Labour, we need action. We are fed up with meetings and talking and little from it. Words are meaningless, we want action, not words.”

27 September 2018

 

 

WCA tragedy woman’s mum vows to fight on for justice despite No 10 letter snub

A disabled woman whose daughter took her own life after being wrongly found “fit for work” has vowed to continue her fight for justice, despite the prime minister’s office brushing off her request for a meeting.

Joy Dove wrote in July to ask for a meeting with Theresa May to discuss the tragic death of her daughter Jodey Whiting in February 2017, and the thousands of other disabled victims of the government’s “wrong decisions”.

But the prime minister’s correspondence team dismissed her letter and replied just days later to say that a meeting would not be possible because of “the tremendous pressures of her diary”.

The letter failed to even mention Jodey Whiting or her death or express any condolences.

Her mother said the response from Number 10 had been “inadequate”.

She said: “She didn’t even acknowledge anything I said. Obviously, she’s not bothered. They are just ignoring it all, to a point where there should be an uprising.

I want them to admit that they were wrong and that she would still be alive [if they had not made their mistakes].”

She is continuing with her campaign for justice, which includes an online petition calling for changes to the law.

Her daughter took her own life on 21 February 2017, after being told by a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decision-maker that she had been found fit for work.

She had missed a work capability assessment (WCA) appointment the previous month because she was in hospital being treated for a brain cyst.

A letter telling her about the WCA appointment had been waiting for her at home, unopened.

When DWP asked why she had not attended the WCA, she wrote back with evidence, explaining that she had been in hospital being treated for pneumonia and a cyst on her brain.

Instead of arranging another WCA, she was found fit for work, and when she asked for the decision to be reconsidered, it was rubber-stamped instead by another DWP decision-maker.

Dove said that her daughter, who had nine grown-up children and six grand-children and was a “lovely, caring, thoughtful” person, had been taking 23 tablets a day, for conditions including scoliosis and bipolar disorder, and had been taking morphine twice daily.

She said she was clearly not well enough to work.

Whiting was told she would receive her last fortnight’s employment and support allowance (ESA) payment on 17 February.

She visited Citizens Advice, and an advisor wrote to DWP on 15 February 2017 to ask for another WCA appointment, but she took her own life six days later, just four days after her final ESA payment.

Her body was found by her mother and two of her children.

Dove said: “She was on 23 tablets a day, but two decision-makers decided without even seeing her face that she was fit for work.

That’s all wrong. She had all the evidence. It’s all wrong. It’s horrible.”

The decision to find her fit for work was overturned by DWP within a couple of weeks of her death.

Asked by Disability News Service why there had been no mention of Jodey Whiting and the circumstances of her death in the letter, and why no condolences were expressed, and whether this suggested the prime minister did not care about her death, a Number 10 spokesman refused to comment.

27 September 2018

 

 

Labour conference: Members call on party to ‘stop and scrap’ universal credit

Disabled Labour members have used the annual conference to demand that their party calls on the government to scrap its “toxic” universal credit benefit system.

Labour’s position has been to call on the government to stop the rollout of universal credit – which merges six working-age benefits into one – and to “fix” it.

But disabled activists have pressured the party to promise instead that it will scrap universal credit completely if it comes to power.

In her main speech to the party’s annual conference in Liverpool, Margaret Greenwood, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, promised a “complete change of direction” on social security and an end to the “hostile environment” created by the government.

She announced a lengthy review of social security policy that would lead to proposals for a new system based on “compassion and respect rather than distrust and stigma” and on the principles of “supporting people rather than policing them, and alleviating poverty rather than exacerbating it”.

But disabled party members and other delegates made it clear that the party’s position was not strong enough and that Labour needed to campaign to scrap universal credit completely.

Disabled town councillor Tyler Bennetts, from Liskeard, in Cornwall, said his town council had been worried about the imminent arrival of universal credit and so put money aside to help prepare for its arrival and train people to deal with its impact.

But he described how the local Tory MP – Sheryll Murray – had attempted to persuade the town council not to act and instead accused councillors of “meddling in things that were nothing to do with us”.

He told the conference: “I know people who have made the choice between eating and heating.

Universal credit needs to be stopped dead in the water and scrapped. It needs to be thrown into the dustbin of history.”

Another disabled delegate, Kirsten Hearn, a councillor in Hornsey and Wood Green, in north London, said: “Fraudsters, liars, lazy parasites, scroungers, undeserving benefit cheats, workshy burdens on the taxpayer: negative attitudes to people who have to use benefits to make ends meet abound.”

She thanked the personal assistants who have supported her and other disabled people across the country “to live independent lives” and apologised to them that government policy meant they could not be paid as much as they deserved.

She added: “The desperation of constituents coming to my surgery who are in work but are low-paid workers and whose circumstances have changed is shocking.

It’s terrible that I have to issue foodbank stamps to them and I think in this day and age and in the rather leafy constituency of Hornsey and Wood Green this is shocking, but it is shocking everywhere and we have not yet got universal credit, though it’s coming very soon.

Let’s have a policy of making work pay and giving access to all, a fair benefit system which does not reduce the rights to benefits and [does not] put conditions on that are hard to meet.

Stop and scrap universal credit.”

Martha Foulds, from Sheffield, said she was “disappointed” that the “in-work poverty” motion being voted on – which called for a “fundamental overhaul” of universal credit and for an “immediate halt” to its roll-out – did not go far enough, and she called for universal credit to be “stopped and scrapped”.

She said: “Universal credit is unequivocally a disability rights issue and one that should not exist.

A benefit that can only be claimed online is a disability rights issue.”

She said that half of people living in poverty were disabled themselves or living with a disabled person.

She said: “If you’re in poverty you’re less likely to have access to a computer, a smartphone, to the internet.”

And she said it was “deplorable” that universal credit would see an end to the premiums paid to disabled people with support needs.

She added: “I support [the motion] but let’s not pretend that it goes far enough. Let’s not pretend that universal credit can be paused and fixed.”

Amy Allen, from Hertfordshire, who is autistic, said she wanted to “represent women on the spectrum” because “there are far more of us than you think”.

She told the conference that she wanted to express her “disgust” at years of government austerity.

She added: “There are many people out there who will understand what it is like to have to use a foodbank as you walk home with bags of heavy shopping that you have had to collect because you can’t afford to do a shop and you are hoping that your autistic child is going to actually eat the food that you’re bringing home, because that’s all there is.”

She said universal credit would be rolling out to her town later this year, and there would be many people who would not be ready and did not yet realise how seriously it would affect them.

James Colwell, from north-west Durham, called for an ethical social security system that could support people both in and out of work.

He said: “Unfortunately, universal credit is far from that. It has created a hostile environment and it has forced individuals to walk a tightrope between poverty and destitution among a hostile environment of sanctions, suspicion and constant re-assessment.”

He welcomed the motion, which was later passed by delegates, but he said: “Universal credit doesn’t just need to be reformed, conference, but in my opinion it needs to be scrapped.

We need to replace it with a radical, ethical alternative that is built from listening to claimants and advice agencies.”

Calls for universal credit to be scrapped continued at a fringe event the following day, hosted by the PCS union, which represents many Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff, and was attended by Greenwood and McDonnell.

Jane Aitchison, who told the event that she had worked for DWP for 26 years and had now been selected by Labour to fight the Yorkshire seat of Pudsey at the next general election, said that most of her colleagues now hated their jobs because of the cuts to disability benefits and the “hostile environment and the way we have to treat the customer”.

Aitchison, who was the first Labour politician to be backed by Disabled People Against Cuts when seeking to be selected to fight a parliamentary seat, said: “We don’t want to continue rolling out universal credit. It’s a toxic brand and causes untold pain and misery to people.

They don’t want it to be fixed. They want it to be scrapped. It’s urgent.”

One member of Disability Labour, which represents disabled party members and is affiliated to Labour, had a blunt message for McDonnell.

She told him: “John, you said, ‘What do we do about universal credit?’ Scrap it.”

27 September 2018

 

 

DWP ‘dispute with contractor’ led to ‘months of delays’ with alternative format letters

Disabled people who need to receive letters from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in alternative formats have been facing lengthy delays with their benefit claims, apparently because of a dispute between DWP and private sector contractors.

It has been claimed that a dispute between DWP and the US print services giant Xerox, and potentially other contractors as well, has led to disabled people experiencing delays receiving vital letters about their benefit claims in formats such as large print and – for people with dyslexia – on yellow paper.

Claimants across the country are believed to have been experiencing delays for at least 18 months.

Xerox may now have become the latest in a string of outsourcing giants – such as Atos, Capita and Maximus – to face allegations of incompetence over DWP benefit-related contracts.

Xerox originally claimed this week that it was not involved in the alternative formats contract.

But after being shown a link to a press release from 2007 announcing how it led a consortium that won a contract to provide DWP with “print and associated services”, a Xerox spokeswoman changed her position to say that Xerox “no longer is involved in that contract”.

She repeatedly refused to say when Xerox stopped providing these services to DWP.

A DWP spokeswoman said she believed that Xerox did still have a contract with Xerox. She had not been able to clarify the position by 1pm today (Thursday).

One disabled claimant, Michael Owen, from South Yorkshire, has had repeated problems obtaining DWP letters on yellow paper relating to his claims for employment and support allowance (ESA) and personal independence payment, and the repayment of loans under the old Social Fund.

He has experienced delays of up to 13 weeks in receiving DWP letters from the alternative format team (AFT).

As a result of the delays, the former youth and community worker has missed appointments for face-to-face work capability assessments, which have led to his ESA being suspended.

He told a senior DWP manager in an email in July: “The constant stress and strain I am having to endure, not only has further impacted on my mental health, it has also rendered me feeling physically sick even when dialling the PIP and ESA numbers and no one should feel like that.”

In an email he received from a senior DWP manager in July, in response to his complaint, Owen was told: “These delays clearly fall below an acceptable level of customer service and I am sincerely sorry that you have been experiencing difficulties in receiving mail within an acceptable timescale.

The AFT have provided an assurance that they will endeavour to process your future correspondence within 48 hours.”

Although DWP is now aware of the delays with his paperwork, he is concerned that his ESA will again be suspended – he is currently in the work-related activity group – if he fails to receive the ESA 50 form he needs on yellow paper by the deadline next month.

Owen told Disability News Service: “I can’t keep to any of their timescales because I don’t see any of their paperwork in the correct timeframe.”

He has previously been told that the problems were the fault of Royal Mail for losing the relevant letters, but he says he has now been told by a DWP manager that the delays were caused by a dispute with Xerox over its performance on the contract.

His complaint is being investigated by the independent case examiner (ICE).

A DWP spokeswoman said: “DWP has its own staff who provide letters in alternative formats, to ensure these are handled as swiftly as possible.

Once we are aware that someone needs this service, all their letters are managed by DWP directly.  

We have apologised to [Mr Owen] for the delays he experienced, and our staff now manage his post in alternative format.”

Asked when DWP began to provide this work itself, rather than contracting it out, and why it apparently decided to bring the work in-house, and when and why Xerox seems to have ended its involvement in providing these services, she failed to respond by 1pm today, and also failed to explain what had been causing the delays.

27 September 2018

 

 

Labour conference: Anger as party awards unions half of votes for disability elections

Disabled members of the Labour party are angry that new plans to elect a disabled representative to a key party body will see half of the votes in the election given to unions.

Members of the executive of Disability Labour, which is affiliated to the party, want to see elections for the new seat for a disabled member on Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) conducted on the basis of “one member one vote”, with only disabled party members allowed to vote.

But the party agreed at its annual conference in Liverpool this week that 50 per cent of the votes would be given to trade unions.

The same rules will apply to elections for a new seat for a disabled member on the party’s influential conference arrangements committee, which manages the annual conference every year.

Fran Springfield, Disability Labour’s new co-chair, told Disability News Service: “We want one member one vote.”

Wayne Blackburn, her fellow co-chair, added: “When it comes to something as critical for disabled members, it should be one member one vote for disabled members of the party.”

He said Disability Labour would be lobbying the party over the next year to change the rules.

Kathy Bole, a co-vice-chair of Disability Labour, said she was concerned that the rules could see a union-backed activist elected to the NEC rather than one backed by disabled party members.

The Labour party had not responded by noon today (Thursday) to a request for a comment on the decision to give unions half of the voting rights.

The Labour party also voted this week to set up for the first time an association of disabled members within the official party structure.

The new association – which will join groups already set up for women, LGBT and black and minority ethnic members – is set to be launched in 2020.

It could replace Disability Labour, although some disabled activists believe that Disability Labour should continue in a parallel role as an affiliated group, outside the main party structures, rather than being merged with the new association.

New members of the Disability Labour executive, who were elected earlier this month to provide a fresh start for the much-criticised organisation, had different views this week on whether they would like to see Disability Labour continue after the new association launches in 2020.

Springfield said: “Disability Labour will vote on whether members want to become part of the new association or whether they want to stay as a socialist society.

I want them to become part of the main movement because then they will get the chance to contribute [to the party].”

Bole said it was an important decision to create an association for disabled members within the main party structure.

She said: “The biggest way we are going to be able to make changes is within the party.

I think we will be taken slightly more seriously if we are within the Labour party rather than an organisation that functions outside.”

But Blackburn said: “Disability Labour has a really important position to have as a critical friend for Labour.

Whether a disability association will be able to do the same I have some concerns.

I think the association is really important because it can have important influence, but from my point of view I think there is still a place for Disability Labour, even if it is a small part.”

Meanwhile, efforts to make it easier for disabled party members to be heard during debates on the main conference platform appear to have been successful.

Concerns had been raised about party figures chairing debates in previous years being influenced in deciding who to call to speak by delegates jumping out of their seats and waving their arms in the air – or sometimes holding up inflatables or umbrellas – to catch the eye of the chair.

But efforts to change the way delegates were chosen to speak appeared to have been successful this week, particularly in Monday’s debate on education and social security.

Dave Allan, chair of the national disabled members’ committee of Unite the Union, had reminded Labour MP Shabana Mahmood – who was chairing the debate – of a ruling by a chair the previous day who had said that delegates who stood up and waved things in the air would not be called to speak.

Mahmood then called a series of disabled delegates to speak during the debate, including several for whom a conference assistant had raised an arm on their behalf.

27 September 2018

 

 

Labour conference: Party forced to reconsider approach to inclusive education

Labour will be forced to think again about its approach to inclusive education, after concerns raised by a prominent disabled activist received resounding backing from party members.

Richard Rieser told the party’s annual conference in Liverpool that part of a key policy document should not be approved because it did not commit Labour to a fully inclusive education policy if it won power.

He said that, despite his involvement in discussions with the party’s National Policy Forum, at the invitation of Jeremy Corbyn, there was no such clear commitment in its annual report.

Rieser, a prominent campaigner and consultant on inclusive education, proposed a call for the part of the document referring to children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to be “referenced back” to the policy forum.

He told the conference that the party’s 2017 general election manifesto had committed a Labour government to “a national inclusive education system”.

He said: “Surely the point of a policy review is to take policy backwards, not forwards.

I know Jeremy supports this and Angela [Rayner, the shadow education secretary] supports this and many of the unions support it.”

Rieser said the manifesto had also committed a Labour government to full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which commits governments that have signed up to the convention – including the UK – to work towards “an inclusive education system at all levels”.

He told the conference later that despite the number of secondary school pupils rising by nearly 55,000 from 2014 to 2018, the number of teaching assistants – many of whom support disabled pupils in the classroom – had been cut by more than 6,000.

Rieser’s proposal for the SEND section of the report to be referenced back to the forum received overwhelming approval from delegates.

In her speech to conference later that day, shadow education secretary Angela Rayner appeared to suggest that a Labour government would demand a fully inclusive education system.

Rayner said that children with SEND were often those who suffered most from staff shortages, so the National Education Service “charter” produced under a Labour government would guarantee that the service would be “truly inclusive”.

She added: “That is why our shadow children’s minister Emma Lewell-Buck will lead plans to stop those with SEND from falling out of the school system.

And we would back it up with a record investment in modernising school buildings to make sure they are accessible to all who would learn in them.”

The party had not responded to attempts to clarify by noon today (Thursday) what Rayner meant by a “truly inclusive” education system.

Rayner also promised to bring all publicly-funded schools – including academies and free schools – back “into the mainstream public sector” and under the control of local authorities.

27 September 2018

 

 

Labour conference: Fringes hear call for ideas on how to resist years of oppression

Disabled Labour supporters have described some of the ways in which left-wing activists could push back against years of government austerity, oppression and attacks on inclusion.

They were speaking at two events taking place on the fringes of this week’s Labour conference in Liverpool, both organised by disabled researchers and campaigners Dr Paul Darke and Miro Griffiths.

Griffiths told one of the fringe events that he believed there was a need to “build stronger alliances and bring more disabled people into our activities, our activism”.

He warned that disabled people had “normalised” and “absorbed” the oppression and marginalisation they were experiencing in society and now saw it “as an everyday occurrence”.

He said: “What the government has done very clearly, in its policy and its rhetoric, is to say that if you experience marginalisation then it’s your fault. You take individual responsibility for it.”

Griffiths said activists and campaigners needed to think about how they could “politicise people’s everyday experiences”.

He said that the problem faced by those on the left was the lack of an alternative vision to the one presented by right-wingers, who had “manipulated and taken over the vision and it is one of desperation, it’s one of fighting each other, of equality groups fighting each other for essential resources”.

He said there was a need for more disabled people’s assemblies, more user-led organisations, and political parties to fund and provide resources so activists and campaigners “can have that space to decide what is our vision”.

Pam Thomas, a “radical disabled socialist and activist” who is now a city councillor in Liverpool and the council’s cabinet member for an inclusive and accessible city, said it was “really important for disabled people to become involved in politics”.

As a member of the regional transport committee, she has been able to use her influence to ensure that a new order of trains for the underground service will be a model that she can board and exit “on equal terms with everybody else”.

As a result, the new trains will be the same height as the station platforms, with a sliding ramp coming out from the trains to meet the platform and allow level access for wheelchair-users.

Work is being carried out across the underground network to ensure that platforms will be the right height when the trains are available from 2020.

The system, she said, would be more accessible than London’s and will be “probably the most accessible system in the country”.

She said: “That would not have happened if I had not been on that committee, so it’s really important for disabled people to get involved in politics.”

Thomas said she welcomed the “move to the left” across the country but was “not convinced that things are going to be any easier for us in terms of being included and being taken account of”.

She added: “There are still very many non-disabled people who do not have a clue… they really do not know the kind of barriers we encounter.”

About 100 people attended a second event hosted by Darke and Griffiths, this time as part of The World Transformed, a festival organised on the conference fringes by the left-wing movement Momentum.

Darke told the event that he believed there was a need for a “radical transformation” of an organisation like the BBC, which he said was guilty of “woeful” levels of expenditure, coverage and inclusion of disabled people, and needed a huge increase in the proportion of its staff who identify as disabled people so it becomes “truly representative of the country”.

And although he was opposed to the existence of the House of Lords, he said there needed to be more disabled peers so that “their voice is heard” and disabled people do not have non-disabled politicians speaking for them.

Darke said at the earlier fringe event that he believed that “society hates disabled people”.

He said that “normal people… hate themselves, so the idea that they are going to be progressive towards us is not really going to happen”.

He said their identity was “so fragile” that they “reject and fear difference to such a degree that they flail out with ignorance and hatred, marginalisation and discrimination”.

Darke pointed to the example of Denmark, which is seen as a progressive, liberal society and an ally of Britain but has boasted that it wants to eliminate Down’s syndrome within a generation, a wish, he said, that “Hitler could only have dreamed of”.

He said afterwards that the only hope for opposing the current “neoliberalism and utilitarianism” of the right – which “sees no value in disabled people” – was through the politics of the left.

But he said that even those on the left either do not understand or do not care about disabled people and “don’t allow us our voice”.

Griffiths told the Momentum event that there were frameworks in place through the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that showed “how to realise inclusion of disabled people”, but the “reality on the ground is nowhere near reflecting that”.

He said the government had a “complete disregard for the lives of disabled people”, which it demonstrated in its “dismissal” of the UN’s repeated concerns about the UK’s implementation of the convention.

Much of the current activism, said Griffiths, was “in the here and now”, with disabled activists “trying to prevent the violence, the destruction of life, the further institutionalisation and marginalisation”, and was therefore stuck in “crisis-driven agendas”.

He said: “We don’t have enough of a vision of what we mean by a safer, inclusive, accessible environment and society.

Where is the vision we can offer to everyone to say ‘this is what society should be built like’?

The right continue to fragment us, to take away resources, so we end up fighting each other.

Disabled people’s experiences illustrate how it is so easy to roll back on the advancements that have been gained by activists and groups, because our social justice and human rights are conditional, they are based on whether they meet the economic and political objectives of the state.

So we cannot just rely on rights, we also have to have a vision, a vision that we can offer to other people.”

Disabled campaigner and consultant Richard Rieser said he agreed with Griffiths and said that the “strength of the movement determines what rights we get”.

He said he wanted to see the development of an organisation that could provide “one voice for disabled people” in this country, while there was also a need to build a representative “mass movement” internationally.

He said there was no point the UN saying that access was a fundamental human right – which it does through the disability convention – if disabled people do not have the political strength to implement that right.

He said: “We have to build the strength both here and abroad.

It seems to me that the time has come to have that discussion about how we rebuild our movement.”

Ruth Gould, artistic director of DaDaFest, which is holding its international festival showcasing disability and D/deaf arts from 1 November across Merseyside, told the first fringe event that she was often asked whether holding a “separate” festival risked perpetuating a disability “ghetto” when disabled campaigners were calling for society to be more inclusive.

But she said: “We are a cultural sector that is strong and vibrant. But to me it is not about ‘them and us’, it’s about ‘us’.

We as disabled people have something really strong to say about our lived experience of disability.”

She questioned why disabled people – the “second largest minority group in the country, after men” – did not do more to acknowledge and express our own culture, as other minorities do.

Such artistic expressions “affirm our life experiences”, give disabled people a voice, bring them power and influence, challenge the messages in the media and “allow us to say and express the things others would prefer us to keep hidden.”

*This week, DaDaFest announced its line-up for this year’s international festival, with more than 50 exhibitions, performances, talks and workshops between 1 November and 8 December across the Liverpool city region.

Performers will include comedians Francesca Martinez and Laurence Clark, theatre-maker and comedian Jess Thom, Stop Gap Dance Company, artists Faith Bebbington, Jonathan Griffith, Simon McKeown and Martin O’Brien, and multi-instrumentalist Sarah Fisher.

They will all explore the concepts of ageing, death and disability, and “the changing nature of all our journeys and the legacies we leave”.

The festival will also commemorate the end of the First World War as “a key moment for modern recognition of disability as a social construct”.

27 September 2018

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 Posted by at 15:59
Sep 252018
 
[Text and video by Potent Whisper ()]
As part of the release of the video below, we are inviting people to share their stories of austerity using the hashtag #AusterityAndMe
So… this is my story…
My mum devoted her life to working with people with mental health problems, advocating and championing their human rights. She worked as both a front line mental health nurse and within a management capacity, in all sectors of the community especially at grass roots level. One day she had a near fatal car accident and was left living with a disability. Due to her injuries she was unable to work and was forced to claim disability and other benefits, which she had never claimed before. Being a single parent whose salary alone supported us all, this money was what allowed us to continue to have food on the table and a roof over our head.
One day we got a letter from the DWP saying that they were going to do a “Fit for Work” assessment on my mum. Despite not being able to move properly and living with chronic pain, she was told that she was fit to work and they stopped her benefits. This affected her and our family in ways that words will never be able to explain. The system betrayed us.
The pain and trauma my mum experienced still affects her today, preventing her from even telling this story. When she is ready, she will. For now she has given me permission to share this with you all, in the hope that you will take some comfort from knowing that you aren’t the only one and that it’s not your fault.
Share your story with the hashtag #AusterityAndMe

 

 

 Posted by at 22:05
Sep 252018
 

We received a message from a disabled person, Shirley Naylor, about Margaret Greenwood’s speech yesterday. The message is reproduced below, with Shirley’s permission, because Shirley wants Margaret Greenwood and the Labour Party to get her message.

We are asking our members and supportters to send this message via this blog piece to Margaret Greenwood, Marsha de Cordova, John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn, using the twitter handles @MGreenwoodWW, @johnmcdonnellMP, @jeremycorbyn and @MarshadeCordova

And please use the hashtag #Lab18 when sending this blogpeice

Here is the message Shirley wants them to see:

Hello I was asked to renew my membership of the Labour Party yesterday. The reason I cancelled it is because I didn\’t have enough money in my account-£2.09 -to cover the cost of a months subscription. I had my esa payments stopped 18 months ago and despite having worked continually since then- I am worn out and not in the best of health. Suffer with depression and anxiety and now doctors keep mentioning heart failure, scary stuff. I won\’t bore you with the details, you will know the story all too well. I am very concerned that the issue of welfare reform is not to be debated at the Labour Party Conference. I read an interview with Margaret Greenwood yesterday and it did not convince me that she actually even realises the severity of this situation or that she is committed to dealing with it if in government. She will not even commit to stopping the outsourcing of assessments to corrupt, brutal and incompetent private firms. This is very worrying. I am useless at digital and social media. I have just messaged 38 degrees to ask them how to set up a petition. I don\’t know if you can display this message publicly or not but could you please, through this website, ask any member of the Labour Party to let them know, if they feel as I do, that this issue needs to be a priority? I will let you know if I manage to get a petition up and running on 38 degrees! Thank you. Shirley.

And DPAC’s message to Labour:

Its not good enough. You have to do better by disabled people, you can start by pledging to scrap Universal Credit, removal ALL sanctions and remove the benefit cap, and then there will be more, much much more than disabled people need Labour to do.

 Posted by at 13:57
Sep 232018
 

Call for Participants:

Do you feel your secondary school is inclusive?  Are there Accessibility Plans in place?  Tell us about your experiences.

By law, schools should make Accessibility Plans to enable Disabled children and young people to access school facilities and make the most of their education.

However, there have been no studies to find out if Accessibility Plans help Disabled pupils to feel included and part of their school communities.

ALLFIE (Alliance For Inclusive Education) has received funding from the Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning (DRILL) grants programme to lead a project on the effectiveness of schools’ Accessibility Plans.

In October 2018, we will be holding focus groups in North East England for:

  • Disabled young people and children
  • Parents of Disabled learners
  • Educators and professionals

Further groups will be held in London, Bristol and Manchester at the end of October and in November.

We will use these discussion groups to find out about any gaps between what the law says and people’s real-life experiences in schools.

Dates and times (Leeds):

Parents – Monday 8th October, 11:00-13:00

Disabled children & young people – Wednesday 10th October, 16:00-18:00

Educators and professionals – Friday 12th October, 16:00-18:00

Location:

John Lewis Community Hub meeting room, Leeds City Centre

Victoria Gate, Harewood St, Leeds LS2 7AR

If you would like to be kept informed about further discussion groups to be held in London, Bristol and Manchester, please email me and I will send you up-to-date information.

Even if you don’t feel well-informed about Accessibility Plans, why not get involved and share your experiences with us?  Help us help you to get Accessibility Plans which really work.

If you would like more information about the project, please contact the project researcher, Dr Armineh Soorenian, at: Armineh.Soorenian@allfie.org.uk.

https://www.allfie.org.uk/news/blog/is-your-school-inclusive/

 

Many thanks for considering taking part in our project.

 Posted by at 21:50
Sep 222018
 

Badge saying "STOP & SCRAP Universal credit"A twitterstorm has been organised for #StopAndScrap Universal Credit, 7-9 pm this evening 22nd September. DPAC are supporting this and we’re inviting our supporters to join in too.

We’ve prepared a gallery of memes made by the fantabulous Prim McLordy, and are shown below using our spanking new Gallery feature.

If you click on a meme, you will see it full size, go on to the next meme by clicking the left or right arrows on either side of the page. To use each meme on twitter or facebook, right click on the image and save the file, then at it to your tweet or post. Use the hashtag #StopAndScrap

Or you can download the whole set of memes as a zipfile here UC Memes (Please credit Prim McLordy if you use her work elsewhere)

 Posted by at 16:09
Sep 212018
 

Reading Borough Council is proposing cuts to concessionary fares for disabled people

It would leave 6,000 Access Pass holders in Reading having to pay to board a bus before 9.30 am and after 11pm

Another proposal is scrapping the companion bus pass scheme which allows carers of Access Pass holders to travel free of charge

Access Pass holders will also have to pay to use Readibus services if the proposals are approved.

Contact Berkshire DPAC for information or support at berksdpac@gmail.com

The protest will be outside Reading Borough Council, The Civic Office, Bridge Street, RG1 2LU at 6pm Monday 24 September.

If you can’t get to the protest, you can tweet to Reading Borough Council on @ReadingCouncil to let them know what you think of this.

 Posted by at 22:02
Sep 202018
 

DWP’s secret benefit deaths reviews: Investigations into deaths doubles in two years

The number of secret reviews carried out by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) into deaths linked to benefit claims appears to have doubled in the last two years, according to figures the information watchdog has forced the government to release.

The figures relate to the number of internal process reviews (IPRs), investigations conducted by the department into deaths and other serious and complex cases that have been linked to DWP activity.

They show that, from April 2016 to June 2018, DWP panels carried out 50 IPRs, including 33 involving the death of a benefit claimant, or roughly 1.27 death-related IPRs a month.

DWP figures previously obtained by Disability News Service (DNS) show that, between October 2014 and January 2016, there were nine IPRs involving a death, or about 0.6 a month.

These figures are only approximate, because the information about IPRs (previously known as peer reviews) provided by DWP through freedom of information responses does not provide precise dates for when each of them took place.

But they do appear to show a clear and significant increase since early 2016 in the number of IPRs carried out following deaths linked by DWP to its own activity.

They also appear to show a return to the kind of frequency of reviews related to deaths of claimants that were seen between February 2012 and October 2014, when there were 49 such reviews at a rate of about 1.5 a month, at a time when research and repeated personal testimonies showed the coalition’s social security cuts and reforms were causing severe harm and distress to claimants.

The new figures also show that 19 of the deaths in the last two years involved a claimant viewed as “vulnerable”, while six of the IPRs (and four deaths) related to a claimant of the government’s new and much-criticised universal credit (see separate story).

John McArdle, co-founder of Black Triangle, said ministers “always get up at the despatch box and say they are continually improving the system. This proves that to be false.

“Universal credit should be scrapped, sanctions should be scrapped and the government should call off the dogs, because it is leading to people’s deaths.”

McArdle said that if there was a tragedy involving the deaths of 33 people in a train crash there would be an independent inquiry into what went wrong.

But because these deaths were happening in the social security system, he said, no such public inquiry would take place.

He added: “It just shows a callous disregard for the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable people in society.”

A DWP spokeswoman declined to say whether the figures showed that DWP’s treatment of vulnerable and other benefit claimants had not improved significantly since 2012 and had worsened in the last two years.

She also declined to say if DWP was concerned that there had already been four IPRs following the death of a universal credit claimant, even though only a small number of people are currently claiming UC.

But she said in a statement: “The government is committed to supporting the vulnerable and DWP staff are trained to identify and support people in hardship.

“They can apply special easements to people’s claims and signpost to appropriate local support services.

“IPRs do not seek to identify or apportion blame. They are used as a performance improvement tool that help the department to continually improve how it deals with some of the most complex and challenging cases.”

DWP only released the figures to DNS this week after the Information Commissioner’s Office had reminded the department of its duties under the Freedom of Information Act.

The information was requested on 21 June and should have been provided within 20 working days.

But it was only emailed this week, after ICO wrote to DWP following a complaint lodged by DNS about the department’s failure to respond to the request.

20 September 2018

 

 

DWP’s secret benefit deaths reviews: Universal credit death linked to claimant commitment ‘threats’ 

A secret Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) review into the death of a claimant of universal credit (UC) has criticised the “overtly threatening” nature of the conditions they had to accept when signing up to the new benefit system.

The conclusion by a panel of civil servants relates to just one of 33 deaths, all linked to DWP activity, that have been subject to what are called “internal process reviews” (IPRs) since April 2016.

Brief details of these 33 deaths, and another 17 IPRs carried out into other serious or complex cases involving DWP activity, have been released to Disability News Service by DWP following a freedom of information request.

The panel of reviewers who carried out the IPR into the death linked to universal credit said that it seemed “excessive” for DWP to include eight references to sanctions and how much money a claimant would lose if they breached their “claimant commitment”.

The panel added: “…a better balance could be struck in reminding a client of the consequences of not meeting their obligations and not appearing to be overtly threatening, especially to individuals who are vulnerable.”

DWP has so far refused to say if it altered the claimant commitment – which sets out what conditions a universal credit claimant needs to meet to continue receiving the benefit – as a result of the IPR.

Further details of the circumstances of the death have not been released, as DWP is only obliged to release the recommendations made following each IPR (formerly known as peer reviews), rather than anything that could identify the subject of the review.

Of the 50 IPRs carried out since April 2016, six involved a universal credit claimant, and in four of these cases the claimant had died.

It is also not yet clear whether DWP acted on any of the other recommendations in the IPRs, but the case is likely to raise fresh concerns about the impact of the introduction of universal claimant on disabled people, and others in vulnerable situations.

It will also alarm those who have spent years highlighting concerns about the ongoing impact on disabled people of eight years of benefit cuts and reforms under successive Conservative-led governments.

DWP rules state that the department must carry out an IPR when it is “made aware of the death of a client and it is suggested that it is linked to DWP activity”.

Of all the reviews, four appear to include recommendations for improvements only to local procedures, with another eight (including three IPRs relating to a universal credit claimant) making recommendations for changes to national policy or practice.

One review reminded DWP “customer compliance officers” of the existence of the “six point plan”, which tells staff how to respond if they learn that a benefit claimant suggests they intend to kill themselves or self-harm.

The recommendations that followed another IPR appear to suggest that a “vulnerable” claimant died after DWP failed to carry out a “safeguarding visit” to check on their welfare when they did not return a form explaining why they had missed a work capability assessment (WCA).

Another IPR appears to have investigated a similar death, involving a vulnerable claimant with a mental health condition who failed to turn up for a WCA. That claimant also died.

One case that appears to have led only to recommendations for improvements locally suggests further poor practice by DWP, with the IPR saying that “we should have considered whether [information redacted] was a vulnerable customer and if there were safeguarding issues”.

It adds that DWP’s customer service was “also poor” for apparently telling the vulnerable claimant something before he or she died, although because the end of the sentence has been redacted by DWP it is not clear what was said.

In another case – although this claimant did not die – DWP staff appear to have failed to pick up on references to “suicide” in the online journal that universal credit claimants must keep up-to-date.

One DWP manager told the Independent last October that many universal credit case managers were overwhelmed by their workload and often had dozens of “unseen journal messages they simply don’t have enough time to address”.

The manager also told the website that many colleagues “feel out of their depth with the quantity of claims they manage, resulting in a vast amount of crucial work never being completed until claimants contact us when their payments are inevitably paid incorrectly or not at all”.

In another IPR that followed a claimant’s death, the panel reminded the department that all staff involved in making decisions on benefit claims must be “reminded of the need to make timeous decisions” relating to benefit sanctions.

Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, said: “The connections between the DWP’s actions and the deaths of social security claimants are extremely concerning.

“These figures reveal the devastating impact universal credit is having on disabled people.

“It is shocking that the government is continuing with its roll-out, in spite of this evidence.

“The government must now pause the roll-out and end the hostile environment they have created for disabled people.

“We urgently need an independent investigation into the connections outlined in the internal reviews, before more lives are ruined.”

A spokesperson for Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) said the information released by DWP “highlights failures at many levels”.

DPAC also criticised the IPR panel for suggesting that the key problem with the case involving the universal credit claimant whose death was linked to the “overtly threatening” claimant commitment was with the wording of the document.

The DPAC spokesperson said: “The panel does not address the issue. It is not the wording which needs to be reconsidered, but the fact that claimants deemed vulnerable can be bullied, threatened and intimidated by DWP to a point that their death became the subject of an internal review.

“The concerns about universal credit and its potential for severe harm have now been confirmed.”

The DPAC spokesperson added: “The internal process reviews give a glimpse into the living hell of claimants, where the reckless actions of benefits staff brought grievous harm, extreme distress and fatalities onto benefit claimants.

“And we are already seeing deaths of claimants under universal credit.

“If all the other warnings about universal credit were not enough, this should surely give the government an undeniable indication that they must stop their new hostile environment benefits system.

“To do anything else would mean that the government are knowingly about to bring yet more future deaths of benefit claimants.”

John McArdle, co-founder of Black Triangle, said: “You can see the guidelines regarding vulnerable people are not being followed consistently.

“With the introduction of universal credit, it shows people’s lives are being placed at risk.

“DWP are still playing Russian roulette with people’s lives.

“Universal credit must be stopped in its tracks and it must be scrapped.”

A DWP spokeswoman declined to say how many of the IPR recommendations have been acted on.

She also declined to say whether the universal credit “claimant commitment” recommendations had been acted on, and whether they had been a concern to ministers.

And she declined to say if DWP was concerned that there had been four IPRs following the death of universal credit claimants.

But she said in a statement: “The government is committed to supporting the vulnerable and DWP staff are trained to identify and support people in hardship.

“They can apply special easements to people’s claims and signpost to appropriate local support services.

“IPRs do not seek to identify or apportion blame. They are used as a performance improvement tool that help the department to continually improve how it deals with some of the most complex and challenging cases.”

The latest information about the IPRs was only released by DWP after the Information Commissioner’s Office reminded the department of its duties under the Freedom of Information Act.

The information was requested on 21 June and should have been provided within 20 working days.

But it was only emailed this week, after ICO wrote to DWP following a complaint lodged by DNS about the department’s failure to respond to the request.

20 September 2018

 

 

Ministers quietly drop plans for ‘parallel process’ on working-age social care

Ministers have quietly decided to include the support needs of working-age disabled people in their new social care green paper, scrapping the idea of having a separate “parallel programme of work” as they try to address the social care funding crisis.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) previously said it would focus only on older people’s social care in its much-delayed green paper.

The decision to include working-age people’s support needs is likely to be welcomed by most disabled people’s organisations, but DHSC is still facing questions over why it reversed its decision at such a late stage and why it has apparently failed to make any effort to co-produce its policy with disabled people and their user-led organisations.

There are also still concerns over whether the green paper will side-line the support needs of working-age disabled people when it is eventually published.

As recently as last month, a House of Commons Library briefing paper referred to the government’s “parallel process” of work on social care for working-age adults.

But a DHSC spokeswoman has now told DNS that the green paper will “cover care and support for adults of all ages (rather than there being a separate workstream)”.

When questioned further about this, she said: “We have always planned to consider issues relating to all adults receiving social care.

“This will now be taken forward through a single green paper.”

She declined to comment when asked why the government had made this decision, but said disabled people and their organisations – and other “interested parties” – would be able to feed in their views in a consultation on the green paper, when it is published.

The disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell, who chairs the Independent Living Strategy Group, told Disability News Service (DNS): “It would have been nice to be informed of this decision to scrap the parallel process by my fellow parliamentarians in the House of Lords, especially as I had asked formally on two occasions for any progress on the ‘parallel process’.

“So much for close collaboration with disabled people on matters that concern them directly!”

But she welcomed the decision to integrate working-age people into the green paper, which she hoped would be on an equal basis with older people.

She said: “This way, disabled people will not be a tag on, or afterthought, but have full green paper status.

“This is how it should be and something I said most firmly at the first meeting of ‘stakeholders’ with the ministers for disabled people [Sarah Newton], social care [Caroline Dinenage] and local government [Rishi Sunak].”

Baroness Campbell said that this meeting, in February, was the “first and only time” she has been consulted on the government’s social care plans.

She was also highly critical of the plans to simply consult disabled people after the green paper has been published, partly because she has been “highly sceptical of any consultation this government has conducted on pretty much any issue recently”.

She added: “Whatever happened to the progress we made with governments over the last 20 years on co-production, mutuality and equal involvement from the prototype stage?

“Disabled people don’t want to be consulted about policies which will determine the way they live, we want partnerships. Remember: ‘nothing about us, without us!’”

The disabled Liberal Democrat peer Baroness [Celia] Thomas, who speaks for her party on disability in the Lords and is also a member of the Independent Living Strategy Group, said there was continuing “despair” over when the green paper would eventually be published.

She said the news that working-age disabled people would now be included in the green paper “could be good news [but] it could be bad news” as it could either mean a “breath of fresh air” or signify that working-age disabled people will be “an after-thought”.

She added: “Everyone is in the dark.”

The news of the government U-turn emerged following a freedom of information request submitted by DNS, which had asked which committees and working groups had been set up as part of the parallel process, and which organisations were represented on them.

The department said in its response that “no such committees or formal working groups including stakeholders have been set up” as part of its work on working-age social care.

But she said the government had “engaged informally with a number of stake-holders and the insights from this work will inform the social care green paper”.

A DHSC spokeswoman declined to say which organisations it had engaged with, but she said: “We are grateful for the input of stakeholders to the work we have done to date and there will be an opportunity for all interested parties to feed in views through the green paper consultation process.”

DNS reported in March how the government had failed to set up a single committee involving experts from outside the two departments examining the future of working-age social care – DHSC and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government – nearly four months after the parallel programme of work had been announced.

The previous month, ministers had faced criticism after organising a “round table” event on working-age social care without inviting any disabled people’s organisations to attend.

The green paper has always been described by ministers as a document that would lay out the government’s proposals for the future funding of older people’s social care, with a separate programme of work looking at the care needs of working-age disabled people.

But there have been repeated concerns that the government was failing to make any progress on this parallel process and failing to engage with disabled people and their user-led organisations.

The much-delayed green paper is set to be published this autumn.

20 September 2018

 

 

New job stats raise questions over ministers’ boasts on disability employment

New figures obtained by a disabled people’s organisation – after ministers refused to commission the work themselves – appear to show how the government relies on the growth in self-employment and part-time jobs to exaggerate its success in increasing disability employment.

Ministers such as work and pensions secretary Esther McVey have repeatedly boasted of how their policies have led to hundreds of thousands more disabled people in work over the last five years.

But those claims have been based on figures provided by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which includes in its measure of “employment” people who are in part-time work, are self-employed, or are on government training and jobs programmes.

Ministers in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) refused to commission work from ONS – which it told Disability News Service would cost just £125 (plus VAT) – that would show the full, detailed figures.

Now London’s pan-disability disabled people’s organisation Inclusion London has commissioned the work itself from ONS, at the same price of £125 plus VAT.

The new ONS figures*  obtained by Inclusion London show that nearly half of the increase in disability employment in the last four years has been due to disabled people becoming self-employed or taking part-time jobs.

Between 2013-14 and 2017-18, the number of full-time disabled employees rose by about 383,000, while the number of disabled people in part-time jobs, self-employment, government training programmes and employed as unpaid family workers increased by about 366,000.

During this period, the number of disabled people in self-employment increased by more than 22 per cent, when the number of non-disabled people who were self-employed rose by just nine per cent.

The increase in the number of disabled people in part-time self-employment increased even faster, by about 25 per cent.

There was, though, also a sharp increase of about 22.5 per cent in full-time disabled employees over the four years, although the number of part-time disabled employees rose even faster, by about 27.5 per cent.

Ellen Clifford, campaigns and policy manager for Inclusion London, pointed to the high number of disabled people who had become self-employed.

She said: “Research by the New Economics Foundation in 2017 found more than half of all self-employed people don’t make a decent living.

“This is even more of an issue for disabled people, whose outgoings tend to be much higher due to unavoidable impairment-related expenditure.

“Anecdotally we have heard about disabled people feeling pressured by their jobcentre to consider becoming self-employed.”

Clifford also highlighted the high proportion of disabled people who have taken part-time jobs.

She said: “This will include things like zero hours contracts which can again easily fail to provide the security, conditions and income levels that disabled people need.

“Studies have confirmed that unsuitable employment is worse for people’s health than no employment.”

She urged the government to “look at the types of jobs and work that disabled people are moving or potentially being pushed into and to address issues of quality instead of making the aim to get people off out-of-work benefits at any cost”.

Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), said DWP had yet again “botched” its analysis of statistics.

She said: “Disabled people are particularly over-represented amongst the self-employed and as most people are aware, self-employment is often a route to employment taken by those excluded from mainstream labour markets.

“The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) have revealed that self-employed workers [can end up] £3,000 per annum worse off than those in employment with the roll-out of universal credit and are calling on the government, like DPAC, to stop this roll-out.

“They highlight too the instability of income that self-employment creates and the negative impact this has on the wellbeing of those working in this sector.”

A DWP spokeswoman declined to comment about the part-time work figures and whether the government agreed with calls to look at the types and quality of work disabled people are moving into.

But she said: “We welcome recent increases in the disability employment rate, with 600,000 more disabled people in work between 2013 and 2017.

“This analysis shows that employment and self-employment for disabled people both increased by around a fifth between 2013-14 and 2016-17.”

*It is not possible to compare today’s figures with 2009-10, before the Conservative-led coalition came to power, because of a change in in 2013 in how the survey data ONS uses to calculate its figures was collected

20 September 2018

 

 

Lib Dem conference: Universal credit migration is set for disaster, warns Lloyd

The impact of the “migration” of hundreds of thousands of disabled people onto universal credit from next year could prove disastrous because of the “hoops” the government will force claimants to leap through, according to a disabled MP.

Stephen Lloyd, work and pensions spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said the migration process was set to be “a disaster” for those disabled people currently claiming employment and support allowance (ESA), including many people with learning difficulties and mental health conditions.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is set to start testing the process of moving hundreds of thousands of existing ESA claimants – its estimates suggest it will eventually need to “migrate” 750,000 – onto universal credit from January, and intends to “increase volumes” by July and complete the process in 2023.

ESA claimants will be among those receiving a letter telling them that their existing benefits are about to stop and that they will need to make a new claim for universal credit.

They will have to fill out an online application, and then make at least one and possibly two, or even three, visits to their local job centre in the space of just one month, to validate their claim.

If they fail to do this, said Lloyd – who was speaking to Disability News Service at his party’s annual conference in Brighton – they will get “kicked out” and be left with no benefits, as their ESA claim will have ended.

A DWP memo, produced in June, said the department would give claimants at least one month to make their claim, although there will be “flexibility for this period to be extended” to up to three months.

But Lloyd said: “What on earth is going to happen? You have got to do all this in a month, otherwise you’re going to be kicked off. That’s going to be catastrophic.

“We have got to stop this, it’s ridiculous. It’s not going to work.”

He has written to work and pensions secretary Esther McVey to seek clarification on what claimants will be asked to do.

Lloyd said: “I have to get the minister to understand you have to give them more time, otherwise there is going to be a car crash.”

His hope is that pressure on McVey through parliamentary questions and an early day motion will force her to back down and ease the conditions imposed on claimants before regulations are laid before parliament in October.

Concerns about the migration have also been raised by the mental health charity Mind, which said: “Many people experiencing mental health problems have told us they are extremely worried about what these proposals will mean for them.

“As people begin to move over to universal credit, we are concerned people will fall through the cracks, and see their benefits stopped entirely.

“It’s appalling to place all the responsibility on unwell people to reapply for a new benefit and risk losing their income in the process.

“The government should change their plans so that no-one faces having their benefits stopped before they move to universal credit.”

A DWP spokeswoman said: “We are working closely with stakeholders and other parties to design the best possible process for the migration of our customers to universal credit.

“Our focus will be on safeguarding claimants and ensuring a smooth transition with uninterrupted support.

“Based on early planning there is no evidence to indicate that claimants would need to come into the jobcentre so frequently and therefore we do not recognise this claim.

“We plan to have a comprehensive and well-supported preparation period for claimants which will include a variety of communication formats, including face-to-face, internet and postal notification, to ensure claimants are aware of the managed migration process.

“There is flexibility to extend that period if necessary; and a process to ensure that, before the existing benefits are stopped, our staff will check for evidence of complex needs or vulnerability or disability and act accordingly to support the claimant.

“Additionally, if a claimant misses their deadline to claim there are provisions in the draft regulations that will allow DWP to back-date their claim.”

Lloyd said he has already tried locally to ensure that the impact of universal credit and other welfare reforms would not be as serious as it has been in other constituencies.

He brought food banks, housing association representatives, Citizen’s Advice and his own staff together in advance of the rollout of universal credit in his Eastbourne constituency last October, which he said helped ensure there was much less of a spike in the use of food banks in the town than in other similar constituencies.

Lloyd also believes that he is the only MP in the country who allocates a member of staff to attend regular benefit appeal tribunals on behalf of constituents.

So far this year, the staff member has attended about 70 tribunals (with a success rate of about 70 per cent).

During Lloyd’s previous stint as an MP, between 2010 and 2015, the same member of staff attended about 150 tribunals in four years.

He said: “As far as I know, no other MP’s office in the country sends one of their staff [so] regularly to tribunals.

“I basically lose him for three-quarters of a day a week, but it is the right thing to do.”

Meanwhile, tributes have been paid to the co-chair of the Liberal Democrat Disability Association (LDDA), Robert Adamson, who died just days before the conference began.

Born in Doncaster, and a retired civil servant, he was a former parliamentary candidate for the party and also stood in European and local elections, and was a former chair of the party’s Yorkshire and Humber region.

Baroness [Sal] Brinton, the party’s president, told the conference: “Robert never let his very disabling condition get in the way of campaigning locally and nationally.”

And Gemma Roulston, previously LDDA co-chair and now the association’s chair, said: “He wanted to improve the lives of people with or without disabilities, and anyone who was impacted by disability.

“He was always there for you, and was a good person to go to for advice and support.

“Conference hasn’t felt the same without him. He made a difference to people.”

20 September 2018

 

 

TUC piles pressure on Labour with vote to scrap universal credit

Trade unions have voted at their annual congress to call on the Labour party to shift its stance on universal credit and promise to scrap the controversial benefit system.

The annual TUC Congress approved a motion last week that had already been passed by disabled trade unionists at May’s TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference.

The motion called on TUC’s general council to tell the next Labour government to “stop and scrap” universal credit and carry out “far-reaching social security reform that truly makes work pay” and protects those unable to work.

Labour’s policy is currently to simply “pause and fix” universal credit rather than scrapping it.

The motion said universal credit – which combines six benefits into one – was a “draconian” system that had left many people in “debt, eviction and hunger”.

It pointed out that workers could – for the first time – face “savage sanctions for not demonstrating that they are seeking to improve their paid income”, while “part-time workers could be forced to leave work that suits their disability or family life for a worse paid, full-time job”.

Dave Allan, chair of the national disabled members’ committee of Unite the Union, proposed the motion on behalf of the TUC disabled workers’ committee, and it was seconded by Mandy Hudson, of the National Education Union.

Allan told delegates that the disabled workers’ committee had worked tirelessly to warn of the impact of universal credit and its roll-out, which he said would “fall like a hammer blow upon seven million households – including one million low-paid workers”.

He said there had been an “utter lack of support” for disabled claimants, while the “cruel programme of sanctions” was “landing on claimants like a series of bureaucratic punishment beatings”.

Allan said the “misery” and “destruction” caused by universal credit was no accident.

He said: “This is the cold, calculated and systematic impoverishment of disabled people. This is malice by design.”

He added: “A pause of the roll-out will not do. We are not just calling on the government to simply ‘think again’.

“We are calling for the immediate, unconditional and total ban on universal credit.”

Allan told Disability News Service this week that the TUC vote had been unanimous and that the next step was to persuade the Labour party to commit to scrapping universal credit and include that pledge in its manifesto for the next general election.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady added: “All politicians need to look at the disastrous effects universal credit is having around the UK, at how hard disabled people have been hit and how it is pushing people into rent arrears and poverty, leaving them turning to food banks.

“The roll out of universal credit should be stopped, before it continues to inflict more damage.

“And a fundamental rethink is required of the social security system, and how it can deliver a fair and dignified system for everyone.”

A TUC spokesman stressed afterwards that O’Grady was calling for universal credit to be scrapped and not just to “stop and fix” the system.

He said: “The TUC policy is not stop and fix. Our congress endorsed a policy of stop and scrap.

“The immediate priority has to be to stop the rollout, as that is the immediate danger to disabled people.

“But the current universal credit is not fit for purpose and TUC staff will now pursue the direction set by congress by developing policy for a system to succeed it that better meets the needs of disabled people and others who rely on social security.”

20 September 2018

 

 

Lib Dem conference: Members vote for rights-based reform to mental health laws

Liberal Democrats have called for an end to “discriminatory” laws that allow people with mental health conditions or learning difficulties who have capacity to make their own decisions to be detained against their will.

Current mental health legislation means that a person assessed as needing urgent medical treatment and assessment because of a “mental disorder” can be detained in hospital against their will.

But party members argued that detaining people based on whether they have a “mental disorder” was discriminatory, a breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and discouraged people from being open about their mental health.

Party members voted at their annual conference in Brighton this week to demand sweeping reform of the law in England and Wales, despite substantial opposition.

They agreed that people with mental health conditions or learning difficulties should not be forced to have medical treatment unless they do not have the capacity to make a decision about whether they wish to have that treatment.

And they said that people should be able to make advance decisions – as defined in the Mental Capacity Act – to refuse detention or treatment.

They also fended off efforts from some party members to amend the motion so that individuals could be forced to be treated and detained, even if they had capacity, if their refusal would pose a serious risk of harm to themselves or others.

One delegate compared the current legislation to historic witchcraft and slavery laws, and the Spanish Inquisition.

He and others argued that people who have capacity to make their own decisions, but have a mental health condition or learning difficulty, should not face the possibility of being detained against their wishes in hospital.

Henry Jones, who has a degenerative neurological condition, described how he had been held against his will in hospital for six months.

He had spoken at the time of wanting to end his own life because of his condition, and as a result “two large men showed up at my home” and took him into detention in a locked mental health ward.

He told delegates: “Even with my condition I had capacity. They treated me like an animal, they did everything they could to break me.

“It achieved nothing except to make me never ever want to engage with mental health services.”

But, he said, it did “make me want to reform the law before passing on”.

He said that if he had been treated “like a human” by mental health professionals he could have “talked openly about what was happening in my brain… it would have saved me and others around me four years of hell”.

He added: “All I am asking for is for us to have the same basic human dignity that other people have.”

Another party member, Andrew Muir, told the conference how his wife had been sectioned in 2006 after she complained about treatment she had received at a Scottish hospital.

She was forced to take medication while in detention for 51 days – when there was no evidence of mental ill-health – and was physically abused by staff, and then forced to take drugs for another year when she was released on a community order.

He also said that the review of the Mental Health Act 1983 – being led by psychiatrist Professor Sir Simon Wessely – should instead be led by a human rights expert.

Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton also spoke in favour of the motion.

He said: “In Scotland – and I am sure south of the border – we are stripping people of their basic right to be heard.

“People in the grip of mental illness, that’s when their human rights matter most.”

A string of mental health professionals spoke against the motion, including one who accused it of “muddle” and being “full of misconceptions”, and another who said it was “unworkable and not sensible” and would remove protections that were available in the Mental Health Act.

But one psychiatrist, Mohsin Khan, who supported the motion, pointed out that similar laws to those suggested had been introduced in some US states and Northern Ireland.

He said the motion “merely brings mental health in line with what happens with physical health”, and would allow adults “who have consistent, long-term capacity to rationally decide to make decisions for their own body for the future”.

20 September 2018

 

 

Pair of projects set to improve countryside access

User-led organisations have played a key role in two major new projects that aim to improve access for disabled tourists and ramblers.

In Oxfordshire, Natural England has opened the National Land Access Centre (NLAC), which will provide training for landowners, farmers and rights of way officers on how to ensure that gates and other countryside obstructions are accessible to disabled people.

And in Lancashire, Blackpool-based disabled people’s organisation (DPO) Disability First is celebrating a government grant of nearly £1 million for a project that will improve access to the Fylde, Wyre and Blackpool coastline.

NLAC, based at Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve, will offer training courses that show how to use, maintain and install fences, barriers and stiles that meet a new British Standard, which was published in February.

Natural England, the government’s advisers on the natural environment, has worked closely on the plans with the user-led charity Disabled Ramblers, and project partners The British Horse Society, the specialist gate supplier Centrewire and the Pittecroft Trust.

John Cutherbertson, chair of Disabled Ramblers, told Disability News Service (DNS): “There is a huge swathe of the population who cannot clamber over stiles.

“What we found is the main thing that stops people accessing the countryside is the lack of understanding by those people who are putting these gates in.

“Some of them still think that the less able would prefer to stay at home and watch the telly.

“They don’t realise that people want to get out there and need to get out there for their mental health as well as their physical well-being.”

He said Disabled Ramblers was trying to educate these groups, such as farmers, landowners and rights of way officers, about the “least restrictive” way to enclose land, and ideally install gates that disabled people can open and close on their own, without needing someone with them.

He said he hoped that the selection of gates and barriers on show at the centre would grow and would be joined eventually by accessible versions of other equipment, such as bridges and boardwalks.

Disabled Ramblers has provided an off-road mobility scooter to the centre so people who take the courses can use the vehicle to see how difficult it can be to manoeuvre through such obstacles.

Cuthbertson said that Centrewire, which was founded by Tom Bindoff, a non-disabled member of Disabled Ramblers, had been keen to modify its products to make them more accessible.

Bindoff has even designed a “kissing gate” that can be opened by a scooter-user using a RADAR key, he said.

The disabled Tory peer Lord Blencathra, deputy chair of Natural England, said: “Improved access will help to connect more people with their natural environment, giving them a chance to enjoy our countryside, its open space and fascinating wildlife – all key aspects of the government’s 25 year environment plan.”

Meanwhile, funding of £985,000 has been awarded to a consortium led by Disability First through the government’s Coastal Communities Fund.

Alan Reid, chief executive of Disability First, said his organisation was “thrilled and very proud” to be awarded the funding in its 25th year as a charity.

He said he wanted the Fylde, Blackpool and Wyre coast to “strive to become a more truly inclusive resort”.

The Access Fylde Coast project is supported by Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre councils, Blackpool Transport, Marketing Lancashire, Lancaster University, the access information provider DisabledGo, Blackpool’s Coastal Community Team and the area’s local Volunteering Centre.

Reid said the project, which will last nearly two years, was “exciting and unique”.

He told DNS the scheme would improve access for both visitors and residents by offering free access audits and disability awareness training to local shops and businesses.

The project will also develop a culture and heritage mobile phone app, linked to existing apps offered by Blackpool Transport and DisabledGo, and which will include a British Sign Language interpretation service.

He said: “This will support people with a variety of disabilities with tram and bus access once they step off the train station in Blackpool and venues will have details of their particular disabled facilities and heritage information on the app.”

The project also plans to showcase professional disabled performers at Blackpool Opera House theatre and disabled artists in a local art gallery, and improve access at existing events including the Blackpool Illuminations switch-on and Lytham Festival.

He said there was also the possibility that a disabled performer could perform at, or even switch on, the illuminations next year.

On a visit to Lytham Saint Annes, coastal communities minister Jake Berry said: “It’s really exciting to see money from the Coastal Communities Fund help kick-start these shovel-ready projects, which have the potential to unlock the barriers to development and growth in our coastal communities.”

The Coastal Communities Fund was established to support coastal projects in the UK to deliver sustainable growth and jobs.

20 September 2018

 

 

Lib Dem conference: Party anger over DPAC’s ‘don’t vote Lib Dem’ call

Two leading disabled Liberal Democrats have criticised anti-cuts activists over their public call for disabled people not to vote for their party.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) published a high-profile message on social media this week during the party’s annual conference in Brighton, warning that disabled people “won’t forget” and “won’t forgive” its junior role in the coalition government between 2010 and 2015.

But David Buxton, the co-founder of the Liberal Democrat Disability Association, who has worked on campaigns with DPAC, said he would no longer support its work because of the message.

The party’s work and pensions spokesman, Stephen Lloyd, was also critical of DPAC.

But DPAC, which is not aligned with any political party, has defended its position.

It said it held the Liberal Democrats “jointly responsible” for coalition cuts and reforms such as the closure of the Independent Living Fund, damaging policies on the work capability assessment (WCA), the bedroom tax and the introduction of personal independence payment and universal credit.

It also pointed to the coalition’s “hostile environment benefits regime” and the “avoidable deaths and suicides of benefit claimants during the coalition years”.

DPAC added: “Our message to the Liberal Democrats is – you don’t get to walk away from your actions in those years – disabled people will remember.”

But Buxton said he was “very disappointed” by the DPAC message because he had been “very supportive of their work which has been excellent and has been important in stopping further cuts.

“Their job is to stop the cuts and we have been very supportive of that.”

He told Disability News Service at the party’s annual conference in Brighton that the coalition years had been “a very difficult time” and the Liberal Democrats had “tried to stop further cuts and were successful in stopping those cuts, but there were areas where the books had to be balanced”.

He asked why DPAC was not criticising Labour in a similar way.

He said Labour’s last government had rejected pleas from Deaf people for a British Sign Language act and had also been responsible for cutting disability services during its 13 years of office, while many Labour-run councils were now cutting services even though some, like Hammersmith and Fulham, had managed to protect disabled people from cuts.

He said: “Should Deaf people say they never forgive the Labour party? Thankfully, Labour have now changed their mind [on the need for a BSL act].”

He added: “Political parties can change. We have changed as a party. We are no longer in coalition government.

“There has been a change in leadership and we do recognise that we have to find ways of creating new policy that would be fairer and we will demand better for disabled people.”

Lloyd said DPAC’s message was “very disappointing” and ignored the fact that Labour brought in the WCA and awarded the contract to carry out the assessments to the much-criticised contractor Atos.

He said he was “proud” of what his party had achieved in coalition when facing “very challenging issues” with the economy, although there had been “some decisions in DWP that were wrong” and “others that were right”.

But Bob Ellard, a member of DPAC’s national steering group, said: “We are not party political and we will criticise any party as we see fit.

“We will be publicly criticising Labour over their ‘pause and fix’ policy for universal credit during their conference and we’ve been very vocal in criticising Labour in the past.

“We’ve also criticised the Green party over their policy on assisted suicide.

“And we have been very critical of the actions of Labour councils.

“The Lib Dems have Vince Cable as leader, who was a cabinet minister in the coalition, and many of their MPs were MPs in the coalition and voted for Tory welfare reform.

“Just as the tweet says, ‘They don’t get to walk away from that.’”

20 September 2018

 

 

Lib Dem conference: Lloyd backtracks on support for Duncan Smith

A Liberal Democrat MP who has supported Tory former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has admitted he gave him “more benefit of the doubt” than he should have done during the five years of the coalition government.

Stephen Lloyd, who served on the Commons work and pensions committee while Liberal Democrat ministers were serving in the coalition government between 2010 and 2015, has previously defended Duncan Smith.

And during this week’s annual party conference in Brighton, he told a fringe meeting that Duncan Smith had had some good ideas about the importance of employment in addressing disadvantage but had been undermined by right-wing papers like the Daily Mail publishing stories about benefit “scroungers”.

When asked later about this statement by Disability News Service (DNS), Lloyd said he had challenged Duncan Smith in parliament on his inappropriate language.

But he insisted that DNS was only “half right” in suggesting that Duncan Smith was responsible for whipping up hostility in tabloid papers like the Mail.

DNS then repeated comments Duncan Smith had told The Sun in late 2010 in which he said he had been “appalled” at how easy it has been in the past for people to claim incapacity benefit and cheat the system and said that Sun readers were right to be “upset and angry” when they saw neighbours who do not work.

Duncan Smith also told the Sun that Britain had “managed to create a block of people” who “do not add anything to the greatness of this country” and had “become conditioned to be users of services, not providers of money.

“This is a huge part of the reason we have this massive deficit.

“We don’t want to talk about scroungers in the future, we want to talk about British people being renowned the world over for working hard.”

Lloyd said again that he had challenged Duncan Smith over the language he had used.

But he said he now acknowledged that in his own zeal to see more people in work, he could have overlooked the harm caused by Duncan Smith and his supporters.

He said: “I think I did and I acknowledge that. In recognising that Iain Duncan Smith got the importance of jobs I can see that in coalition there were times when I would have given him more benefit of the doubt than I should have done.”

20 September 2018

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 Posted by at 20:41
Sep 172018
 

Its Libdem party conference today and tomorrow (17th 18th Sept), lets send them a message over twitter that we haven’t forgotten what they did to disabled people as part of the Tory Libdem coalition that blighted so many disabled people’s lives

Use the hashtag #LDConf2018 and send them your message to say we haven’t forgotten what they did and we haven’t forgiven them

You are welcome to download (right click and save) and send this meme with your tweet

We won’t forget We won’t forgive We won’t forget and we won’t forgive that the Libdems enabled the Tory party’s vicious assault on disabled people in the coalition years 2010 – 2015 We hold the Liberal Democrats jointly responsible with the Tories for: Austerity, Welfare Reform, Remploy Closures, Closure of the Independent Living Fund, the tightening of Employment and Support Allowance rules, the Work Capability Assessment, Bedroom Tax, Personal Independence Payments, Universal Credit, Sanctions, cuts to Legal Aid and the whole hostile environment benefits regime enacted by the coalition, and the avoidable deaths and suicides of benefit claimants during the coalition years. Our message to the Liberal Democrats is – you don’t get to walk away from your actions in those years – disabled people will remember.

 Posted by at 15:29
Sep 062018
 

 http://www.daleymichelle.co.uk/the-white-mans-burden-global-disability-summit-personal-reflection/

The White Man’s Burden – Global Disability Summit personal reflection

The title of this blog is intentional and aims to be provocative. I have borrowed the title from William Easterly’s book, “The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good”​. This is very true of the Global Disability Summit hosted in London.​

This blog is based on my personal experience and observations of the Global Disability Summit and doesn’t reflect anyone else’s opinion.

The continued road to discrimination and exploitation

I can say, without a doubt, that the Global Disability Summit was the ideal platform for our UK Government to embarrass and shame those present ‘developing countries’ for their failings with regard to Disabled People (as depicted in the image above) and their purposeful denial of their own wrongs in relation to Disabled People in the UK. We must remember that colonialism and imperialism do not die. The United Kingdom continues to be revered around the world as a country that is the voice of equality. At the Summit, there was an unequivocal message that the UK Government has an effect on other countries in terms of being a leader in disability equality and has paved the way for innovation. It’s no surprise the Summit was hosted on the site of the Global Disability Innovation Hub.

The UK Government needs you
The UK Government co-hosted “its first ever Global Disability Summit with the International Disability Alliance and the Government of Kenya”.

However, history has taught us about the slippery behaviour of the UK Government. Through the art of sophistication, control and dominance, the UK Government has a way of masking their horrible history, failings and exploitation. With this knowledge, it led me to ask the question as to who is receiving any benefit from this Summit? What was the purpose of the Global Disability Summit and hosting such an elaborate event? The Summit was held in the London Borough of Newham; an area with huge poverty and inequality. The Evening Standard has reported that the London Borough of Newham is one of London’s ten worst areas in terms of homelessness. Therefore, I felt it was key for me to show some of the delegates the true reality of the life of people living in the area. They were in total horror when they were more informed about the large number of people sleeping on London’s streets. One of the delegates commented, “this is so unexpected, not a place of inequality and I did not think people slept on the streets. The stories of these people are not often reported in our home countries.”

The idyllic picture was the reason that had attracted my parents to leave Jamaica for a home in the UK. Then, the UK was portrayed as the, “mother land and paved with gold; a country filled with opportunities”. This was an attractive factor that drew many people to the UK after the Second World War.

However, the truth was, the UK needed people from the colonial countries post-Second World War (1948 – 1957) in order to help address the labour shortage. The Caribbean was one of the countries that the UK received huge help from, particularly with regard to building the NHS.

Thus, it does not come as any surprise that with Brexit fast approaching, the UK Government is desperate to create global opportunities with their colonial countries. The recent news coverage reports that Theresa May, PM, is looking to secure trade deals with Africa after Brexit. Moreover, the “UK seeks to tap into the Kenyan markets as the Brexit deadline approaches” with this country also being the co-host country of the Summit.

However, I’m deeply saddened that the UK Government has ignored the findings of the UN Disability committee. The Disability Committee reported that the UK Government is causing a “human catastrophe” in relation to Disabled People and that they can no longer call themselves leaders of disability provision. As I write this blog, we have Disabled People taking up hospital beds, as in the case of Lakhvinder Kaur because she was evicted from a care home while in intensive care and made homeless.

We are seeing history repeating itself, with the UK masking its failings in order to attract help from other countries, create opportunities, secure their own dominance and obtain power at the expense of others.

The Aliens Act
Colonialism reinforces inequality so it will come as no surprise when I tell you that I’m frequently asked questions about where I come from or where I was born. Not satisfied when I reply in the UK, people normally continue with the question; and your parents? I could discuss this issue further but I will not because it is not the intention of this blog. Anyway, I was repeatedly asked at the Global Disability Summit the same questions about where I am from. It became painfully annoying and frustrating. I believe I was asked this question as the images portrayed of UK Disabled Leaders are mostly White Disabled Men and few Women. What this revealed to me is the level of inequality experienced by Black Disabled Women in the UK and reinforced that our presence in the UK is not recognised or embraced.

This experience drew me to the Aliens Act  (now known as the Immigration Act) which was introduced in the UK to control its borders, immigration and to view non-UK citizens as a threat. A threat is exactly how I was viewed at the Summit. I was totally taken back when I was asked for Identification (ID) at the registration desk. I became vexed instantly. All sorts of thoughts were rushing through my head as I knew assumptions were being made based on my skin colour and the assumption that I was a non-UK citizen. I remained calm and controlled by anger. I asked why ID was needed and why this information was not conveyed during the registration process. My blood was at boiling point because I knew this request was borne out of racism and I knew this system was set up to keep checks on the black oversea delegates to ensure they were at the event and returned to their home countries. So did I provide ID? No, because I knew it was not necessary. And, why were immigration control practices being applied at the Summit, particularly when delegates would have already completed the necessary checks to enter the UK?

Once I gained entrance. I rolled into the event but my frustration continued to rise, as well as my disappointment with the obvious signs of racial inequality within the job roles and the way Disabled People from Asian and African countries were being depicted as inferior. It did not matter that this event was being co-hosted with the Kenyan Government; it was clear who the power-holders were. White privilege and power has the ability to discredit the worth of Black People, segregate and create enormous damage in the way Black People are perceived. My feeling of uncomfortableness was painful as the reality is that the privilege of the power-holders has depicted our Black Disabled Sisters and Brothers as helpless and as the the White Man’s burden.

In fact, this is far from the truth since through my networking, I have learnt that many of the African countries present at the event have more Disabled People in their Government than the UK Government does.

A Change Is Gonna Come

The Global Disability Summit showed no respect for Disabled People globally and no appreciation for our shared experienced. The Summit was used as an attempt to mask “UK failure to uphold disabled people’s rights

The words of Marvin Gaye, “A change is going to come”, expressed the very essence of the International Disabled People movement’s demand for solidarity and unity. This is exactly what Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) did through hosting the rival International Deaf and Disabled People’s Solidarity Summit, which was a great event where Disabled People from around the globe came together to share our experiences. It did not waste resources and require an elaborate setting to bring people together. It was a perfect example to show why we need solidarity for our struggle and the liberation of Disabled People globally.

DPAC also hosted a “festival of resistance” outside the Summit in order to criticise the hypocrisy of co-hosting the Summit. Myself and Nadia Hadad, from the European Network on Independent Living, were prevented from re-entering the summit by security as we had DPAC leaflets (see image below), which were perceived as promoting negative messages about the UK Government. It was through our sister, Sojourner Truth, that I learnt about underground activism. Through her teaching, I managed to slip pass security with the leaflets and shared them with many of the delegates. I also got many Disabled People to leave the Summit and join in the festival, which was a proud moment for me.

Another huge applause must go to Alliance for Inclusive Education, Campaigns and Policy Coordinator, Simone Aspis for publicly calling out the UK Government for their failings with regard to Disabled People.

What’s going on?
When Marvin Gaye sung, “what’s going on”, it couldn’t be more of a poignant question to conclude this blog with.

Angela Davis’ quote perfectly articulates the point of this blog, although her reference relates to America. She says that, “as a black woman, my politics and political affiliation are bound up with and flow from participation in my people’s struggle for liberation, and with the fight of oppressed people all over the world against American imperialism”.

So when we discuss the question of the advantages and disadvantages of the Global Disability Summit, we need to decide if we want to support colonialism and imperialism or not. The other questions we need to ask are; did the Summit promote solidarity and unity between Disabled People globally or did it promote disability liberation or oppression?

Peace and one love

 

 Posted by at 14:34
Sep 022018
 

Since our first march against Tory austerity cuts in 2010 thousands of disabled people have been killed by the Tory’s policies and mindless cruelty. Thousands more have lost vital funding for independent living support and are either trapped in care homes or their own homes. Continent disabled people have been refused the human support they need to go to the toilet and instead been left with packs of incontinence pads.Others are being charged into further poverty as local authorities hike up their charges for social care.

This year on our 8th anniversary we’re going back to the Tory Party Conference in Birmingham to make sure we are not forgotten and to highlight once more the grave and systematic violations of our human rights which we have endured for 8 long years.

Join us on Wednesday October 3rd in Birmingham.

Meet for 11.30 am outside Birmingham Council House, Victoria Square or if raining heavily in Starbucks on Colmore Row just to the right of it.

Bring things to make noise with and earplugs.Some funding available for travel costs priority will go to full members of DPAC but if you need help email mail@dpac.uk.net

https://www.facebook.com/events/1979819842315656/

 Posted by at 18:10