Nov 152018
 

The CWU’s fight to save our nation’s cherished Post Office network, which has been recently launched by the union in response to the bombshell announcement that 74 Crown offices are to be franchised (privatised) to high-street retailer WH Smith – a move which will impact some 800 jobs and drastically cut services to communities.

CWU is fighting back, with a range of high-profile local and national campaign activities being planned over the next couple of months – particularly in the run-up to Christmas.

We’ve created dedicated campaign website – www.saveourpostoffice.co.uk – which has all the essential facts, aims and demands and also features a quick and easy ‘write to your MP’ guide.

From the main page of the site, simply click to find your own MP and then click again for a model letter to her or him – or write to the Government Minister responsible for the Post Office, Greg Clarke, urging him to stop the wrecking of our Post Office.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward says: “At a time when the government is claiming to be on the side of workers, it is an outrage that it is allowing well rewarded jobs to go from a public service, handing them straight to a second-rate employer like WHSmith – recently rated as the worst retailer on the high street who will undoubtedly provide a significantly inferior service.”

And he’s asking all CWU members to “please visit the campaign site, write to your MP and watch out for upcoming Save Our Post Office activities in your local area.”

Can you help? Here’s what you can do…

  1. Go towww.saveourpostoffice.co.uk
  2. Enter your address
  3. Your MP’s name will appear
  4. Write your message
  5. Share with colleagues, friends, family etc
  6. Thank you

Dave Ward says:

“Together, united, we can stop this attack and save this cherished Great British institution.”

December 1st protests are planned for Aberdeen, Crawley, Nottingham, Chester, Basingstoke, York, and Bristol – with further events in other localities being discussed and organised as well.

We need YOU – December 1st Day of Action

“Come and get involved in the big nationwide Campaign Day to Save Our Post Office,” is today’s message from our general secretary Dave Ward.

Since the launch event last Thursday, enthusiasm is growing around the country, with protests, petitioning and lobbying gathering pace – and Dave is urging reps to “please remember to take these petitions around your unit.

“We’ve got around 190,000 members of this union, so between now and the Big Day, let’s get as many of our own people signed up as we possibly can,” he urges.

“And while you’re asking people to sign, please flag up the nearest December 1st event to them and boost the attendance on the day.”

Saturday December 1st will see protests in cities and towns in every region of the UK, in our defiant response to Post Office bosses’ announcement of the ‘franchising’ of 74 Crown offices to retailer WH Smith, impacting on some 7-800 jobs – marking a change in their strategy from managed decline to terminal decline.

“And that’s what we’re facing unless we can force a change of direction,” says our general secretary, who is also pushing forward the union’s vision for a positive future for our post office network – as the real hubs of our communities.

 Posted by at 18:38
Nov 152018
 

Our first day of action for Disabled Equality in Education will see meetings and events in colleges and universities, as well as schools where SEND cuts are destroying integrated education and will culminate in a meeting in parliament where we will bring forward demands for change.

 

Parliamentary meeting Wednesday November 21st House of Commons, Committee Room 10  from 5.30pm – 7pm. Some tickets are available for this event and we want as many disabled people as possible to attend:

please email DPAC or elaneheffernan@btinternet.com for tickets

 

Briefing Document from ALLFIE can be read here https://www.allfie.org.uk/

Cambridge

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) now has a Cambridgeshire and Essex branch! Come and join us for this protest about disability equality in work. We will be highlighting the government’s persecution of disabled people, reading the names of people who have died because of the horrific cuts and sanctions regime of the DWP, and agitating for real equality of access to work.

We are in solidarity with the UCU Day of Action for disability equality in education, for which events are taking place all day at the Cambridge University Students Union. If you’re going to one of the UCU events, come and join us at 2:30 in Market Square to take the message to the public.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018 from 14:30-16:30,

Market Square Cambridge

Cambridge.

https://www.facebook.com/events/304326216958523/?notif_t=plan_user_invited&notif_id=1542299943763655

Liverpool 

Support Wed 21st national UCU Day of action for disability equality in education at Liverpool University

Come and join us

12.00 Rally University Square (Brownlow Hill)

We will be leafleting:

10.45  502 Teaching Block  (Mount Pleasant next to Student Guild)

11.45 502 Teaching Block  (Mount Pleasant next to Student Guild)

The UCU is taking action  to challenge disability discrimination on campus and barriers faced by disabled people in education.

Our union branch recently passed a motion expressing concern about the disability discrimination on campus which is heavily impacting staff and students and demanding that the University complies with the Equality Act 2010 in relation to disability. The issues on campus were also reported in the media.
https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/union-backs-claims-of-widespread-discrimination-by-hostile-university/

Please come and show your support.

Please contact UCU equalities officer if you can help.  Kirsteen.paton@liv.ac.uk

https://www.ucu.org.uk/disabilityequality?utm_source=lyr-ucu-members&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=members&utm_term=all&utm_content=Day+of+action+for+disability+equality+in+education:+21+November+2018

 

There will be a disabled member of staff speaking, Kirsten (our UCU equalities officer at Liverpool) and a message of solidarity from DPAC would be great.

 

We are leafleting the 502 teaching block because access is none existent or very difficult.

 

 

 Posted by at 18:30
Nov 152018
 

 

Utterly disgraceful’ Public Health England refuses to warn councils of ESA suicide risk

The government’s public health agency has refused to warn local NHS and council bodies that claimants of out-of-work disability benefits are at a hugely-increased risk of attempting to take their own lives.

Last week, Public Health England (PHE) published the latest update of its Suicide Prevention Profile (SPP), which includes detailed data that helps public bodies draw up their own local suicide prevention plans.

The aim of the profile is to develop “an intelligence driven approach to suicide prevention” by providing figures that show the prevalence of suicide among different age groups and in different areas, and how different risk factors vary across those areas.

PHE says its SPP aims to support local areas in developing and monitoring their suicide prevention action plans, helping them to “understand suicide and the risk and service-related factors that may have a causal relationship”.

The profile includes 25 risk factors for suicide, including the prevalence of depression, alcohol-related hospital admissions and how many people live alone, and shows how these indicators vary in every county and unitary authority area in England.

This allows the experts who draw up local suicide prevention plans to see which risk factors are particularly high in their area, so they can pay attention to them and try to produce strategies to prevent people dying through suicide.

But PHE has ignored the proportion of the population in local areas that claims employment and support allowance (ESA) as one of those risk factors, even though it is aware of NHS figures that show nearly half of ESA claimants have attempted suicide at some point in their lives.

NHS Digital’s Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey showed in September 2016 that more than 43 per cent of ESA claimants had said (when asked in 2014) that they had attempted suicide.

John McArdle, co-founder of Black Triangle Campaign, said PHE’s failure was “utterly disgraceful” and “beyond belief”.

He said this “negligence” made PHE “complicit” in the continuing suicides among sick and disabled people that were being caused by the government’s welfare reforms, and the further “catastrophic harm” caused to those who do not take their own lives.

Dr Jay Watts, the activist and consultant clinical psychologist who first highlighted the figures, said there was “clear and undeniable evidence of the exceptionally high rate of attempted suicide by ESA claimants from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, the most comprehensive and widely respected measure of the nation’s mental health.

This data has been triangulated by other evidences including that from senior health professionals, the police, activist groups and those volunteering on national suicide helplines, all of which concur that the benefits system triggers risk of death by suicide.

Despite this, Public Health England has chosen to omit this from their new guidance, drawing the focus of local suicide prevention strategies away from an extremely high-risk group where help and care could make a real difference in mitigating risk.”

She added: “It is interesting that the ‘there are always multiple factors’ arguments is used to bat off mentioning evidence where the current government is implicated, yet somehow this rhetoric doesn’t get applied to other more politically neutral factors such as gender and loneliness.

Given this peculiarity, it is difficult to read Public Health England’s decision to omit the mentioning of ESA claimants as anything but an indefensible politically motivated decision.”

PHE admitted that it had been aware of the NHS Digital ESA statistics.

But a PHE spokeswoman said that, because the 43 per cent figure was a measure of how many ESA claimants had attempted suicide during their lifetime, the timing of suicide attempts and claiming ESA “may not necessarily have occurred at the same time, which has to be considered when looking at the data”.

She also appeared to claim that the reason the national ESA figures could not be included in the profile was because they were based on too small a sample, so producing local figures for the SPP could potentially identify individuals.

This appeared to be a clear and basic misunderstanding of the statistics that would be used in the profile, as Department for Work and Pensions figures show there are many hundreds, and usually thousands, of ESA claimants in each local authority area in England.

And if PHE included ESA as a risk factor in its SPP, it would only produce figures showing the proportion of the local working-age population who claimed ESA, posing absolutely no risk of identifying any individual.

The PHE spokeswoman refused to reconsider her response, despite being asked to explain the apparent flaws and inconsistencies in her statement*.

She also claimed that PHE made clear in its local suicide prevention planning guidance that local areas should “also look at other sources to inform their prevention plans”.

But this planning guidance makes no mention of the ESA figures or any other benefits in the relevant section (section 3) or throughout the document.

Lily Makurah, national public mental health lead at PHE, said: “There are many reasons that can sadly drive someone to take their life by suicide.

Our data helps to provide the basis for local authorities and partners to develop suicide prevention plans that best meet the needs of their communities.”

But McArdle said: “Judging from their reaction, it would appear that PHE have not properly examined the empirical evidence before us because had they done so it would be impossible for a reasonable person to reach the conclusion that they have.”

The Department of Health has repeatedly refused to explain why it fails to mention the figures or to highlight ESA claimants as a high-risk group in its own suicide prevention strategy for England.

Jackie Doyle-Price, the new “suicide prevention” minister, has refused to pledge to take the simple steps of highlighting that ESA claimants are a high-risk group in that strategy, and of alerting local agencies to the figures.

And this week her department failed to comment on PHE’s failure to mention the figures in its SPP.

The PHE spokeswoman did make it clear, though, that Doyle-Price had not been asked to approve the latest list of risk factors.

Samaritans can be contacted free, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by calling 116 123 or emailing jo@samaritans.org

*The PHE spokeswoman also admitted that figures showing the proportion of ESA claimants with mental health conditions in the local working-age populations in areas across England were included in PHE’s mental health and wellbeing joint strategic needs assessment, which is designed to “help planners understand needs within the local population and assess local services”. But she failed to explain why similar figures for all ESA claimants in an area could not therefore be used in the Suicide Prevention Profile

15 November 2018

 

 

DWP ‘plans to move more benefits onto troubled universal credit IT platform’

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been planning for years to move more benefits onto the hugely-troubled IT platform that hosts universal credit, documents released through freedom of information requests appear to show.

DWP deposited a substantial number of internal documents relating to universal credit in the House of Commons library this month, following the latest in a series of freedom of information requests by campaigner John Slater.

The documents include a series of “programme decision logs”, providing details of decisions taken between 2015 and 2017 by the universal credit programme board, which reviews progress on implementing the system and whose members are mostly senior DWP civil servants.

Universal credit was designed to incorporate six income-related benefits into one, including income-related employment and support allowance (ESA), housing benefit and income support.

But the IT system that supports universal credit claims – as well as the application of sanctions when they breach strict conditions and the online journal that claimants must keep updated – has been repeatedly criticised for being flawed and error-ridden, while critics have warned that the online system is not accessible for many disabled people.

The department is already preparing to transfer millions of people on existing income-related benefits onto universal credit by 2023, with the public accounts committee warning last month that delivery of universal credit was “causing unacceptable hardship and difficulties for many of the claimants it was designed to help” and of “a culture of indifference” within the department to those problems.

Now it appears that DWP is planning to load hundreds of thousands more claimants onto the IT system that supports universal credit, although it is not clear when it intends to begin this process.

The decision logs unearthed by Slater include repeated references to contributory benefits – out-of-work benefits paid to those who have built up sufficient national insurance contributions, such as the contributory form of ESA.

In January 2017, for example, the universal credit programme board “discussed the short, medium and long term approach to Contributory Benefits in UC, progress to date and next steps”.

It also “noted progress made on the development of the contributory benefit strategic business case”.

And it warned that “some senior input might be necessary to drive the business case forward”.

In May 2016, the programme board had “noted progress on Contributory Benefits design proposal for UC Full Service”, while the previous year the board had stated the need to “engage Ministers on the long term plans for contributory benefits and seek a decision by Spring 2016 in order that we can plan any legislative and policy changes”.

But despite these and many other references to contributory benefits by the universal credit programme board, a DWP spokeswoman said: “DWP has no plans to merge contributory benefits into Universal Credit. They will continue to be claimed separately.”

When asked why there were so many mentions of contributory benefits by the programme board and to confirm that the department planned to migrate them onto the universal credit IT platform, she refused to comment further.

Slater, himself a programme manager, said that migrating contributory benefits onto the universal credit IT platform “would appear to place all the DWP eggs into a single basket”.

He said: “Given the problems the UC IT currently experiences (outages, running slow etc), I can’t see it going well if contributory benefits are added to the workload.” 

Slater is also concerned that DWP may intend eventually to move disability benefits such as personal independence payment and disability living allowance onto the IT platform developed for universal credit.

He said the potential problems this could cause were “huge”, and he added: “We’re getting a taste of this already under universal credit, with people claiming income-related ESA or just not having the basic IT skills to cope with the UC IT system being sanctioned on a regular basis, which is leaving them destitute.”

Disabled activists have repeatedly warned that universal credit is “rotten to the core” with “soaring” rates of sanctions and foodbank use in areas where it has been introduced.

In June, a report by the National Audit Office said DWP was failing to support “vulnerable” claimants and was unable to monitor how they were being treated under universal credit.

And last week, Disability News Service reported how a man with learning difficulties died a month after attempting to take his own life, following a move onto the “chaotic” universal credit system that left him hundreds of pounds in debt.

15 November 2018

 

 

UN expert tells of disabled people’s ‘horrendous’ evidence on poverty

The UN expert investigating the government’s record on eradicating poverty has described how he has heard “pretty horrendous” evidence from disabled people while conducting a 12-day factfinding visit to the UK.

Professor Philip Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, also told Disability News Service (DNS) that the government had not made the progress he would have expected in securing “real equality” for disabled people.

And he made it clear, after speaking at an event in London on Tuesday evening, that the impact of universal credit on the poverty experienced by disabled people and other groups would play an important part in his report.

He said: “I don’t think I could avoid it as a big issue.”

He said that disabled people had made up a “significant proportion” of the community and other groups he had met, and those he had met had told him “stories which are pretty troubling to hear.

They paint a picture of a system which doesn’t respond to their particular challenges and problems in the way that it should.”

He said that that did not surprise him on one level because disabled people faced discrimination all over the world.

But he added: “On the other hand there is a formal commitment [in the UK, through the Equality Act] to treat them with full respect and care.

One would have hoped there would have been more progress in terms of real equality for people with disabilities.”

Alston had made it clear earlier that, because of the strict rules of the UN process he was undertaking, he could not yet speak “in a very direct way” about his findings.

In response to a question from DNS during the event, he told the audience that he had met many disabled people during his visit who had described their experiences of poverty, particularly in relation to universal credit and the disability benefit assessment process.

He said: “I have to say that I have heard some pretty horrendous stories.”

He added: “One of the issues that I’m conscious of, and it’s an easy reply if government wants to make it, is that of course my audience is self-selecting.

In other words, people who feel that the system is working really well, who have had a good deal, who really love their work coach, are not going to come along to a meeting with me nor send me a letter saying the system is great, mate.

So I naturally tend to get people who are deeply discontented but it has to be said that I have had probably more than my expected share of people with disabilities who have had pretty awful experiences.”

He also told the meeting that the UK government had delivered a “relatively dismissive” response to last year’s report by the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, in which the committee had told the government to make more than 80 improvements to how its laws and policies affect disabled people’s human rights. 

But Alston also told the event – organised by the UK human rights consortium Just Fair and the Human Rights Lawyers Association – that he had been told earlier that day by the government that there had been no austerity.

Although he later declined to identify to DNS which minister or civil servant had made the comment, he had just described having meetings that day with work and pensions secretary Esther McVey (who resigned from the cabinet this morning), as well as an unnamed work and pensions minister and a junior Treasury minister.

He said: “I was told today that there isn’t austerity. That government expenditure in almost all areas has gone up steadily in the last 10 years.

So I asked what Philip Hammond and Theresa May were talking about [when they talk about an end to austerity]. I didn’t get a particularly good answer to that.”

Alston also said that he had received “very surprising” answers from the government when he had asked about the use of foodbanks, although he declined to expand on what ministers told him.

He said: “The impact of these policies on communities is going to be an important element in my final report.”

He was asked by an audience member whether he had been examining whether government austerity measures, including benefit sanctions, might amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Alston said there were problems with the sanctions statistics that the Department for Work and Pensions places on its website, with “a lot of data that is not made available”.

He added: “The challenge to me is to be able to describe accurately what is really going on, but I think I will be able to do that.

Whether I would categorise it as cruel and inhuman, I will see how I feel on Thursday night when I’m finishing writing my statement.

There is a whole book that has that title, which I’ve read and I am well aware that many of the people who have experienced these sort of sanctions would categorise them in that way.”

Alston told the meeting that although he had “no power” and could not order the UK government to take any action, he hoped his report would be strong enough to “resonate with people” so that it would “have legs” and would “continue to be discussed”.

He said he knew the UK government would not welcome his report and would not agree to implement it, but he hoped to be able to “shine a light on some issues that could do with added attention”.

He also pointed to the role that tabloid newspapers and others – including those owned by his fellow Australian Rupert Murdoch (now a US citizen) – had played in stigmatising and distorting human rights “so we all know that human rights are only for drug dealers and terrorists”.

He said this had “highlighted for many of us in the human rights community the need to start rehabilitating the notion of human rights”, and to emphasise that human rights “are for the average person and not just for the particularly vulnerable groups”.

He said: “If people aren’t getting enough food to eat I think there should be reasonable outrage and I think it would be useful to see that from a rights perspective, but I think that’s going to take time.

I think that’s what many of us in the field need to start working on.”

Alston also said that the international system of human rights provided a way to hold governments accountable for their actions.

He said: “What has to be recognised is that being in poverty is a grave threat to your civil and political rights.

Most of the people [in the world] who are tortured, most of the people who are killed, most of the people who are abused in prisons or elsewhere are poor. They are abused in part because they are poor.

They are easy victims, they don’t have recourse, they don’t have people to defend them, they can’t afford lawyers.

Attacking the poor is easy, and they as a result suffer highly disproportionately in terms of their civil and political rights.”

Alston and his team carried out months of detailed research in advance of their 12-day visit, which saw them visit Belfast, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Essex, Glasgow, Jaywick, London, and Newcastle.

He is set to issue a preliminary 10-page statement tomorrow (Friday) before publishing his final report in June.

15 October 2018

 

 

Regulator sets out ideas for better assisted rail travel

The rail regulator has revealed a series of draft measures designed to force the industry to improve the assistance it provides to disabled passengers.

Many of the proposals suggested by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) yesterday (Wednesday) aim to address key concerns that have been highlighted publicly by disabled campaigners.

They include measures to make it less likely that users of mobility scooters will be prevented from boarding trains, improvements to information on whether on-board accessible toilets are out-of-order, better training for staff – with disabled people involved in its delivery – and measures aimed at ensuring that more rail replacement services are wheelchair-accessible.

There is also the possibility of a significant reduction in the standard notice required from disabled passengers seeking to book assistance before they travel, which could be reduced to two hours from the 24 hours notice often required, although other options are also included.

ORR says it wants all rail operators to introduce schemes offering compensation to passengers if they fail to receive the assistance they booked in advance.

And it says it wants the industry to introduce text relay services that would allow passengers with hearing or speech impairments to book assistance using text-to speech translation services.

The ORR consultation will eventually lead to the first changes to the rules governing how Network Rail and train operating companies ensure their services are accessible to disabled people – through their Disabled People’s Protection Policies (DPPPs) – since 2009.

The DPPPs are important because every train and station operator must have one and they have a legal obligation to comply with them.

Other suggested ORR changes include improving and standardising information on assistance and making improvements to the process of booking that assistance.

There are also plans to introduce a formal procedure for communication between staff at different stations to ensure that passengers who have asked for help “consistently receive assistance to alight the train”.

ORR also wants to ensure that wheelchair-users are told when buying a first-class ticket if there are no spaces for wheelchair-users in the first-class carriage.

The suggested changes have come following months of consultations with disabled people’s organisations, passenger bodies and the rail industry.

Few disabled campaigners have yet had a chance to read the 116-page report, but initial reactions suggest many of the measures will be welcomed, although further improvements to the document will be needed.

Doug Paulley, who has raised publicly at least two of the key issues raised by the report, said his initial impression was that the report included some positive recommendations, but that there would need to be improvements through the consultation process.

He particularly highlighted the section on rail replacement services, an issue he has raised, and said the ORR needed to strengthen the new guidance in that area.

He said DPPPs were “important”, and he added: “It’s the key document that sets out in detail what each train operating company is legally required to do to make its services accessible for disabled people.”

The crossbench disabled peer Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, who has repeatedly highlighted cases of discrimination against herself and other disabled passengers on public transport – and last month suggested she would write to the Department for Transport every time she heard of a disabled person having an access problem on a train – said she would welcome anything that made rail transport easier for disabled people.

She said: “The number of complaints I am receiving is unacceptable.”

She said she would send ORR a full response to its consultation.

Stephen Brookes, the government’s rail sector champion and an ambassador for Disability Rights UK, welcomed the ORR report.

He said: “I am particularly pleased to see that the consultation will examine new arrangements to strengthen communication between stations and measures to introduce greater accountability for assistance provision.

This all too frequent failure has been a regular criticism shared with me by disabled people in my work.”

He said he also welcomed the plan to produce “a more concise passenger leaflet focused on what to expect before travelling, at the station, on the train and if things go wrong.

The publicity currently available is not consistent and nor is the on-the-ground implementation, so any simplification has to be a real and significant win.”

John Larkinson, ORR’s chief executive, says in the report: “We know from our previous research and consultation that more needs to be done: to raise awareness of what assistance is available and how to get it; to improve the reliability of this service; and to provide staff with the information, skills and confidence to give the best customer service possible – including to those with hidden disabilities.

We are encouraged by the good practice we have found, but we have been clear with train operators and Network Rail that they must consider what more they can do in these areas.”

ORR will consider the responses to its consultation – which ends on 18 January – and then publish its final revised guidance in spring 2019.

15 November 2018

 

 

Petition raising fears over ‘freedom deprivation bill’ tops 100,000 signatures

More than 100,000 people have signed a petition demanding the government makes major changes to a bill that campaigners say would make it easier for many disabled people to be deprived of their freedom.

The Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) only launched the petition at the end of last month, but within about two weeks 100,000 people had added their names.

That petition and other campaigning and lobbying efforts appear to have had some impact, with ministers due to announce some amendments to the mental capacity (amendment) bill today (Thursday), although it is unlikely that they will meet all ROFA’s demands.

ROFA’s petition raises grave concerns about the bill – which is set for its report stage in the House of Lords on Wednesday (21 November) – and the powers it will grant care home managers, local authorities and NHS organisations.

The bill will affect an estimated 300,000 people in England and Wales with impairments including dementia, learning difficulties and brain injuries.

It will introduce a new system, Liberty Protection Safeguards (LPS), to replace the crisis-ridden Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS), for service-users who are said to need to be deprived of their liberty as part of their care but are considered to lack the mental capacity to consent to those arrangements.

The bill is based on recommendations by the Law Commission but critics say it is “significantly different” from the commission’s own draft bill and omits most of its most progressive elements.

The petition warns that the bill as it stands “will make it easier to deprive someone of their liberty if they are judged unable to make decisions for themselves” and could mean disabled people being “forced to live in care homes because it’s cheaper and easier for the local council even though it’s not what they want or need”.

ROFA – backed by members including People First (Self Advocacy), Inclusion London, and the consultancy Changing Perspectives – believes the bill will significantly weaken protections.

Decisions on deprivation of liberty are currently taken with the help of an independent assessment that “considers the opinions and wishes of the person and makes sure the care that is provided is what the person needs”, says ROFA.

But the petition says the bill would scrap most of these independent assessments and would often give decision-making power instead to care home managers, “who have an interest in keeping people in their care homes”.

An independent assessor will only be asked to carry out a review if the service-user is believed to be objecting to the deprivation of their liberty, and it will be up to the care home manager to decide if that person is objecting.

Similar powers would be given to managers in local authorities, hospitals or NHS clinical commissioning groups when considering LPS for disabled people in other care settings.

Andrew Lee, director of policy and campaigns for People First, said he hoped the number of people responding to the petition would raise awareness with the general public and “put pressure on the government and MPs to change and improve the bill”.

Among his key concerns with the bill are the lack of an automatic right to independent advocacy; the conflict of interest created by a care home manager having responsibility for arranging assessments, as it would “give them permission to put their financial gain over someone’s wishes to live independently”; and the lack of a duty to promote liberty.

He also said there was “a lack of a right to accessible information” about the LPS process, which “is vital if a person is going to be a part of what is happening”.

Lee said the bill had been “rushed through and rather than look at any of the main issues with the Mental Capacity Act and get it right, rights and safeguards have been stripped away. 

Real research needs to be done around the definition of deprivation of liberty, when it is applied and what it covers. 

For now, this bill has just made it easier for people to be deprived of their liberty by taking away their rights.”

He said the bill “gives people who already have power, more power over the decisions in a person’s life”, and he warned that if it was passed in its current state it would “send the rights of disabled people back around 40 years”.

He said he feared a worst case scenario with nothing to stop a care home manager “locking up a person for the rest of their lives, just through the simple fact that they are the ones making the decisions about whether a person has any say about where they live, whether a person has an assessment and whether they get an advocate”.

He added: “For me, this law will lead to further institutionalisation of people with learning difficulties and it is unacceptable that in this day in age, after fighting so hard to be treated as equal under the law, that this bill can come along and treat us like objects.”

Simone Aspis, director of Changing Perspectives, said the response to the petition was “fabulous” in such a short period of time.

She said the legislation “starts from the wrong place” and needed to begin instead with “the promotion of people’s liberty” rather than its current starting-point of creating a legal framework to allow care homes and local authorities to deprive someone of their freedom.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said the bill would “reform a broken system and reduce the number of vulnerable people waiting for access to essential protections by simplifying the process and making it less burdensome.

We agree safeguards must be protected. That is why the proposed model has all authorisations decided by a responsible body, and independent oversight from approved mental capacity professionals.

We are also considering changes to strengthen safeguards, such as the explicit exclusion of care home staff from conducting assessments.”

15 November 2018

 

 

Care charges are driving disabled people into debt, says report

Charging disabled people for their care and support is driving many of them into debt and forcing them to cut their spending on food or heating, according to new research by a network of disabled people’s organisations and their allies.

The study by the Independent Living Strategy Group (ILSG) found that four in 10 (41 per cent) of those responding to a survey had experienced a substantial increase in charges over the last couple of years.

Nearly half (43 per cent) had had to cut back on their spending on food to pay for care.

And two-fifths of respondents (40 per cent) said they had had to cut back on heating costs to pay for care and support.

The study concludes that charging for the support disabled people need to go about their daily lives is “unfair, counterproductive and undermines the primary purpose of the care and support system”.

The effect of charging, it says, is often to “drive disabled people into care poverty, and to create confusion, stress and complexity in an already overly burdened bureaucratic system” through what is effectively “an unhelpful and unnecessary tax on disability and old age”.

The study analysed the results of an online survey of more than 600 disabled people who had received a community care assessment, and freedom of information responses from all 152 English local authorities with social care responsibilities.

All but one of the local authorities – Hammersmith and Fulham – impose charges on some of their service-users.

The study heard from one disabled person who benefited from Hammersmith and Fulham’s no-charging policy, who said: “Social care is a human right. It’s an essential service like education or the NHS.

It’s not ethical to charge for it, in effect it’s an extra tax.”

Charging for care, says the study, only raises “modest” sums of money – about 12 per cent of spending on care and support – but has a “profound impact on the individual”, with an average charge per year of more than £2,000 (£2,243).

Baroness [Jane] Campbell, who chairs ILSG, said: “Support provided under the Care Act is meant to improve the wellbeing and independence of disabled people.

By charging many for that support, the system is making a mockery of the spirit of the legislation and causing worry, stress and poverty.

Charging raises a relatively small sum of money which is pushing up costs elsewhere.

The financial impact of personal care neglect such as pressure sores, kidney infections or falls, as well as stress related illnesses, means finding extra resources for the NHS.”

The group called on the government to scrap all charges.

But if it refused to do that, ILSG said, it should introduce other measures to “mitigate” against the “worst effects” of charging.

These should include monitoring the number of people who decline or decide to stop receiving council-funded support after a charge is imposed or increased.

Only 17 of the 152 councils said they knew how many people had declined or abandoned social care packages they had been assessed as needing once they were told how much they would have to pay.

All councils should also carry out an equality impact assessment of their charging policies, said the group.

And it said that all councils should introduce an “early warning” system to identify people getting into charges-related debt, introduce a “breathing space” before any debt collection action is taken, and provide access to support to manage such debts.

Sue Bott, deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK, one of ILSG’s members, said: “If councils are to persist in this iniquitous tax on disability, they must at least reintroduce some consistency and clarity to their approach.

The many councils that have failed to conduct an equality impact assessment – and to monitor the numbers of disabled people driven out of the care system by charging – must also get their act together.”

The government is expected to publish its long-awaited green paper on adult social care funding within weeks.

The Independent Living Strategy Group has been working on protecting and promoting disabled people’s rights to independent living in England since 2013.

Its members include disabled people who were part of the independent living movement during the 1970s and in later years, as well as younger activists, other individuals and organisations concerned with independent living.

15 November 2018

 

 

High court go-ahead for challenge to government’s ‘failure to ensure secret vote’

A disabled woman is challenging the government’s failure to ensure that she can vote secretly and independently in elections.

The high court has granted permission for the case being brought against the Cabinet Office by Rachael Andrews to proceed to a full hearing, after the court decided that her case was “arguable”.

Andrews, from Norwich, who is blind, said she had repeatedly been left distressed and upset by a system that either left her unsure whether she had voted for the right candidate, or relying on an election official to tell her whether she had marked the correct box on the ballot paper.

She said: “It is the fact that it is not secret that distresses me so much. As a disabled person I am fairly used to asking for people’s help.

But the fact that I have to ask somebody to do something that is so simple, and it still isn’t private, it just distresses and upsets me more than I can explain.

I feel like I am 12 years old, like I am not a confident, whole person.”

Andrews has already secured one legal victory, over her local authority, Broadland council, following its failure to enable her to vote independently and secretly at the 2015 election.

Since then she has cast her vote in the 2016 European Union referendum and at the 2017 general election, but on both occasions – despite the council’s best efforts – she has still been unable to vote independently and in secret.

She blames the government, because she says the tactile voting device (TVD) – a plastic template placed over the ballot paper that is supposed to allow blind people to vote in secret – is not fit for purpose.

She is challenging the government’s decision to designate the TVD as a suitable device to allow blind people to vote without any need for assistance under the Representation of the People Act 1983.

But she is also arguing for her right to a secret ballot under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Andrews successfully settled her claim against Broadland council for failing to have a TVD available for the 2015 general election.

But although she said its council officers have since done “everything they can within the law” to help her at subsequent elections, the system is still failing her.

In 2016, when voting in the referendum, she was not sure if she had placed her cross in the correct box and had to ask the presiding officer to tell her.

And last year, at the general election, she tried to use a postal vote, and was assisted by a member of council staff, but still had to use a TVD.

She said: “To this day I do not know if I put the cross in the place that I intended to vote.

He read everything out to me and I am assuming he also saw my vote as well because he was literally sat right next to me.”

Andrews, who is represented by human rights lawyers Leigh Day, said that other countries had introduced systems that allow blind voters to vote more easily, including introducing “audio voting booths” and telephone voting.

Graham Kirwan, who was forced to take legal action against his own local council over its failure to make the process of registering to vote and voting accessible to him as a visually-impaired person, said: “I fully appreciate the frustrating difficulties Rachael repeatedly faces having, like many other visually-impaired voters, faced them myself.”

He pointed to devices such as audio and magnification aids which could assist independent and secret voting, and said the government was “simply kicking accessible voting into the long grass”.

He added: “I 100 per cent support Rachael’s legal challenge and wish her all the best with her action.”

The government has argued in correspondence with Andrews’ lawyers that the legal challenge is unnecessary because it is already addressing the issue.

This refers to pledges in its much-criticised response to a consultation on how to make voting more accessible.

The government talked in its response in September about promoting guidance, improving training, and the possibility of allowing disabled voters to try out practice ballots in advance of elections.

And it said it would consider what improvements could be made for voters with sight loss “and look to make the necessary legislative changes when a suitable opportunity arises”.

But Andrews’ lawyers point out that the government’s response did not say what these improvements would be, or when it would change the law.

The Cabinet Office said it could not comment on ongoing legal cases.

But a Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: “We consult with disabled individuals, and organisations that represent them such as RNIB regularly, to hear about their experiences of voting and recommendations on how government can make elections more accessible.

Every voice matters and this government is committed to building a democracy that works for all.”

The government’s accessibility of elections working group is set to meet in January, and will discuss again the improvements that could be made to the support provided to visually-impaired voters in polling stations.

But Andrews said: “I have always voted in general elections. I see it as a very important civic duty and feel very strongly that I should simply be afforded the same right to vote independently and in secret as everyone else. 

Sadly, I believe that many blind voters are currently put off voting because of the difficulties they face.

I am disappointed that it has been necessary to commence legal proceedings but am keen that the government stops dragging its feet and takes action to allow me to vote independently and secretly in time for the next general election.” 

Sean Humber, head of Leigh Day’s human rights department, said: “The provisions made for blind voters by the government are quite simply not fit for purpose.

The right to vote freely, independently and in secret is fundamental to any democracy.

We hope that the courts will hear our client’s challenge and order the government to reconsider the assistance they provide for blind voters.”

15 November 2018

 

 

Disabled activist calls for evidence of blue badge delays

An activist whose local authority warns disabled people that it could take up to 12 weeks to renew their blue parking badges is calling for disabled people in other parts of the country to pass on their experiences of problems and delays in the system.

It took Bob Williams-Findlay, a former chair of the British Council of Disabled People, more than six weeks to receive his new badge from Wolverhampton council, although he had been warned that it could take even longer.

He believes such delays are “unacceptable” and are not restricted to his local authority, and that other applicants face even longer delays.

Now he wants to hear from disabled people in other areas who have had similar problems*.

Wolverhampton council admitted this week that it warns disabled people to expect it to take up to 12 weeks for their applications to be dealt with.

Williams-Findlay pointed to a Disability News Service news story written nearly four years ago which described delays of up to 12 weeks in dealing with applications, and he said this showed little had changed around the country since then.

The system was introduced by the coalition government in 2011 and saw councils told to carry out more independent mobility assessments, while the government introduced a national database of blue badges.

The new electronic badges are sent out by a private contractor, Northgate Public Services, part of the Japanese IT multinational NEC Corporation.

But councils kept responsibility for dealing with badge applications and had to source occupational therapists or other health professionals to carry out the assessments.

Williams-Findlay said the current system was “oppressive, stressful and discriminatory” and the weeks he had been left without a badge had made his life “more disabling” because he had been deprived of “being able to park and participate within society”.

He said the delays curtailed the rights of disabled people under article 19 (on independent living) of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Williams-Findlay said the Department for Transport (DfT) was guilty of institutional discrimination and that the centralised part of the system was “not fit for practice”, while the delays were “unacceptable”.

He left it too late to renew his badge and only applied to renew it a day or two before it expired, but he filled in the application form online on 28 September, taking written evidence to the council in person the same day.

On 25 October, he received a letter – dated 18 October – which said his application had been successful, and that once he paid the £10 fee the council would order a new badge, which would take up to 21 days to arrive. His badge eventually arrived on 8 November.

A DfT spokeswoman said the delays were “primarily a matter for local authorities, who are responsible for processing applications, and timescales do vary”.

She added: “The department has not been made aware of any significant problems.”

But she said the department was currently developing “an improved online application process”.

She said: “There have been no problems with the private contractor, whose performance is monitored regularly.”

A Wolverhampton council spokeswoman said: “Our advertised timescales are 12 weeks (from the time of receiving all relevant supporting documentation) for processing.”

And she said the council website advises applicants to apply 10 weeks before their badge is due to expire.

She said she understood that the badges were “very important” because “having a blue badge can significantly change a person’s independence, which motivates us to continue to improve our service by reviewing our processes and listening to feedback received from our customers”.

She said the council had “recently updated its webpage to be clearer on the process and pre-requisites”, and that the government was updating the blue badge application form after consulting with users.

Asked whether she believed delays were a national problem, she said: “Each council has a statutory duty to administer Blue Badges on behalf of the central government.

We are unable to comment on other councils.”

Another disabled activist, Barbara Lisicki, a trainer and writer, has told Williams-Findlay that the renewal process in her London council area was “shoddy, unclear and utterly useless”.

She said the centralised online system was “not fit for purpose, especially as it is misleading and gives incomplete, poorly phrased instructions”.

If a local councillor had not intervened on her behalf to speed up the process, she would have been left unable to park in the accessible bay outside her house, she said.

A third disabled activist has told Williams-Findlay that she was told by her local authority in the south of England to expect a 12-week wait for her blue badge.

*Any disabled people with reports of problems or delays with renewing or applying for a blue badge can email Bob Williams-Findlay at baggiebob1@icloud.com

15 November 2018

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 15:09
Nov 112018
 

[This post is a copy of a post (with permission) from the Mental Health Resistance Network, that we have publish in support of their campaign.]

Front page graphic, reading 'Now that

Mental Health Resistance Network

Our Agenda, not your agenda

We Demand …

 

We reject the medical model of mental distress

Psychiatry decontextualises our distress. There is little evidence that the cause is biological and overwhelming evidence that it is caused by trauma and social injustices. Medication may act as a painkiller but cannot “cure” our distress.

We demand:

  1. A public inquiry into the harm caused by psychiatric drugs and ECT.

  2. Research and manufacture of drugs to be nationalised to remove the profit motive.

  3. Provision of treatment where medication is refused, and an end to forced treatment.

  4. An inquiry into violence and abuse of patients in psychiatric wards and in the community.

  5. An end to control and restraint in psychiatric wards and community settings.

  6. A public inquiry into institutional racism, sexism, classism and LGBT discrimination in psychiatry and all services.

  7. Culturally appropriate services to be provided to members of the BAME communities which recognise that racism is a causative factor in mental distress.

  8. A fully funded, national 24 hour suicide prevention and support service.

  9. The provision of alternative treatments such as Open Dialogue, Hearing Voices Networks and holistic therapies.

  10. CAMHS waiting lists to be investigated and all Cygnet Hospitals in the UK to be shut down forthwith.

  11. Long term specialist mental health care if needed – no discharge from services to save money.

  12. Fully funded mental health and social care. An end to payment by results – results are subjective.

  13. Crisis houses be made available to anyone who needs them and to be staffed with fully qualified therapists and mental health nurses instead of poorly qualified support workers with little or no training.

  14. Talking therapies that are trauma informed to be freely available.

  15. Services to be user led including a review of the Mental Health Act.

  16. User involvement in statutory services to be free from service provider control.

  17. An end to the increasing medicalisation of children and adolescents.

  18. Our physical healthcare must not be dismissed as being ‘all in our minds.’

  19. An independent body to oversee the CMHTs to ensure good practice and adherence to NICE guidelines.

We reject the neoliberal model that decontextualises our distress

Like the medical model, the neoliberal model of mental distress locates the cause of distress/madness within the individual and not in society; our thinking and attitudes are blamed without reference to social context. This model uses CBT, Mindfulness, positive psychology and the recovery approach as putative treatments. We reject the recovery approach outright with its insinuation that our continued distress is due to our lack of effort. Any measuring of the quality of our mental health will be done by us and will be measured against our values, not based on how useful we are to rich employers. We consider short term CBT and Mindfulness to have limited value. Positive psychology is not a substitute for proper housing, a secure income, free healthcare and a more equal society.

This model, like the medical model, absolves society from any responsibility for both the causes and treatment of mental distress.

We deplore the use of treatment as a Trojan horse to smuggle into our psyches the beliefs and values that benefit the rich. All mental health care should be for the sole purpose of alleviating our distress and enabling us to fulfil our goals in life. Any other motive is brainwashing and abuse.

The medical and neoliberal models are not social models.

We demand a social model of mental distress

The social model locates the cause and remedy of mental distress within the social, economic, political and cultural context in which it occurs; it takes account of personal trauma along with our material circumstances, societal inequality and discrimination.

When large numbers of people become unwell, we need to look beyond biology and consider what is happening at the societal level.” Danny Dorling, Professor in the School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford.

We demand that you acknowledge that our material conditions affect our mental health and prioritise making these adequate. All people who live with mental distress, including those with addictions, must have secure housing and income. Failure to meet this demand is uncivilized and consciously cruel.

We demand:

  1. An end to the abusive practices of the DWP: the degrading and stressful assessments for benefits (the Work Capability Assessment and PIP assessments), unrealistic conditionality and all sanctions.

  2. Universal Credit to be stopped and scrapped immediately.

  3. A public inquiry into benefit deaths with legal action taken against any parliamentarian implicated in these deaths.

  4. Legal action to be taken against health professionals and benefits assessors who cause harm by colluding with the removal of social security.

  5. GPs to be mandated to provide supporting letters for benefit claims for free.

  6. Free and independent social security advice for everyone claiming benefits.

  7. That the DWP take full responsibility for obtaining further medical evidence from claimants’ own healthcare professionals.

  8. Our financial and housing security be treated as a priority by all health workers.

  9. Private companies to be removed from carrying out benefits assessments.

  10. People held in prisons to be given proper access to mental health care while detained and thereafter.

  11. An immediate end to the lie that work can cure mental distress.

  12. That adjustments to be made to the workplace are based on a social model. CBT, resilience training and the Recovery approach are not adjustments to the workplace, they are adjustments to the worker.

  13. Access to a free, specialist, independent mental health advocacy service for people both in and out of work.

  14. The opportunity to pursue education and employment of our choice and at our own pace.

  15. The admission that unemployment is structural and is not the fault of the individual.

  16. Practical help to be made available to everyone in mental distress who needs it (for example material help for parents to care for a child, provision of personal assistants, greater support for carers and so on).

  17. The abolition of the Work and Health Programme and the merging of health services with the DWP including the removal of all work coaches from NHS settings.

  18. An end to the unethical use of psychology to force conformity to a political ideology.

  19. Removal of the Behavioural Insights Team from the lives of people in mental distress.

  20. Immediate steps to be taken to end the material inequality that is driving our mental health crisis.

  21. An end to the privatisation of the NHS and reversal of privatisation already in place.

  22. The resignation of Sir Simon Stevens who is overseeing the dismantling of the NHS.

  23. The resignation of Sir Simon Wessely who is unfit to Chair the review of the Mental Health Act because of his involvement with the discredited PACE Trials and his participation in the “Malingering and Illness Deception Conference” and book of the same name.

  24. Urgent action to be taken to undo the damage caused by the ‘scrounger’narrative used to prime the public to accept the abuse of disabled people.

  25. The reinstatement of day centres.

  26. Access to all areas of social and personal life to be ensured by making reasonable adjustments to our social and physical environment, with Survivors leading the process to identify what adjustments we need.

  27. Iain Duncan Smith, Esther McVey and Lord David Freud be brought to justice for their wilful cruelty towards people in mental distress.

  28. The recommendations made by the UNCRPD following its investigation into violations of the rights of disabled people in the UK must be implemented in full and as a matter of urgency.

  29. The plan to “make efficiency savings” i.e. cuts, of £1 billion to mental health services by 2020 announced by Lord Carter of Coles* must be dropped. * Independent Report for the Department of Health 2016 called “Operational Productivity and Performance in English NHS Acute Hospitals: Warranted Variations.”

  30. That public events and online information, especially from governmental bodies, MUST be available on BSL (British Sign Language) and easy read all the time.

  31. That helplines be accessible for people with speech and hearing issues, i.e. live chat and video chat with the option of the help of BSL (British Sign Language) interpreting.

We reject large charities that claim to advocate for us, for example National Mind. Those with DWP and NHS contracts have a conflict of interest. They are no different from the huge corporations that are only concerned with profit margins. We speak for ourselves, Mental Health charities do not represent us.

We reject the Westminster Health Forum Keynote Seminar on “The Next Steps for Mental Health Services.” It is not concerned with our best interests and is therefore illegitimate.

We declare that the speakers at this forum are seeking to profit financially from our mental distress; are causing our mental distress; do not care about people in mental distress; and are implicated in the deaths of benefit claimants for failing to demand an end to DWP abuse.

If you are not with us in resisting austerity, inequality, victim blaming and the culture of profiteering from our mental distress, then you are the cause of our distress.

*We understand the term “Survivor” to mean a self-identification for all Survivors of the mental health system and people with addictions, autism, psychosocial disabilities and neurodiversity.

Dedicated to the memory of Robert Dellar mental health campaigner and writer

1964 – 2016

 Posted by at 22:23
Nov 072018
 

Dear DPAC member

We would love to see you at our forthcoming Together! 2018 Disability History Month Festival events in East London, celebrating Disability Art, Culture and Human Rights. Everything is free and inclusive and everyone is welcome. This is the only national Disability Arts event led by a Disabled People’s Organisation. Further programme details are on our website at http://www.together2012.org.uk/activities-programme/together-2018-disability-history-month-festival/

Regards and all best wishes
 
Ju
 
Dr Ju Gosling FRSA
Artistic Director

Together! 2012 C.I.C.
Disability Arts, Culture and Human Rights
ju@together2012.org.uk / 07973 252751
www.together2012.org.uk
Facebook: together2012cic
Twitter: @ukdpctogether
Registered office: 90A Tudor Road, London E6 1DR.
Community Interest Company No 8443767.
Vat No 257 6833 66.


TOGETHER! 2018 FESTIVAL CALENDAR
Full venue details are at the end of the calendar

Friday 23 November 2018 7-9pm: World Premiere of ‘When You See Me’ & Festival Opening This new drama (pictured), commissioned by us from our associate company Act Up! Newham, and written and directed by Trevor Lloyd, is inspired by the Circus 250 anniversary. Stratford Circus 1.

Sunday 25 November 2018 1-2pm: Paracarnival Parade Fresh from winning the Judges Choice award at Hackney Carnival, Paracarnival comes to Newham with a procession of locally based Disabled artists and friends. Gallion’s Reach Shopping Park Beckton.

Saturday 1 December 2018 2-5pm: ‘VIBE: The Art of Transatlantic Inclusion’ A simultaneous symposium and exhibition about our two-year tactile sound project with Concordia University, Vibrafusion Lab Ontario and Disabled artists in Montréal. Vicarage Lane Community Centre Stratford.

Monday 3 December 2018 11am-1pm: Reading for Human Rights On International Day of Disabled People, join us to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights by reading from this and the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People at Beckton Globe Library. Easy Read, BSL and different languages texts available. The event will be live-streamed.

Friday 7 (6-8pm), Saturday 8 (12-8pm) & Sunday 9 December 2018 (12-8pm): Together! 2018 Disability Film Festival Our international film festival brings together films of all budgets and genres, by Disabled filmmakers or featuring a central Disabled character. Old Town Hall Stratford. We also offer a two-day workshop for emerging Disabled filmmakers on 6 & 7 December – email info@together2012.org.uk for further details.

Tuesday 11 December 2018 11am-2pm: Newham Disabled Reps Forum host a musical celebration of Disability History Month, including lunch and a raffle. Speakers include Disability History Month director Richard Rieser. Vicarage Lane Community Centre Stratford.

Friday 14 December 7-9pm: Together! Music Club and end-of-festival party Celebrate this year’s Disability History Month theme of music with an Open Mike night featuring Together! 2012 artists and friends, compered by Ju Gosling aka ju90. Vicarage Lane Community Centre Stratford.

Plus the Together! 2018 Open Exhibition, bringing together amateur, community, emerging and mid-career Disabled artists with a local connection. Vicarage Lane Community Centre Stratford. Dates tbc.

We aim to be as inclusive as possible of audience members as well as artists. All venues have step-free access and limited Blue Badge parking. Live audio-description is available on demand; productions are amplified with induction loops. BSL interpretation is provided for performances where speech is the main communication form. No need to book unless you wish to reserve seats (advised for groups of 5+). To reserve seats and find out more, email info@together2012.org.uk

FESTIVAL VENUES

For specific details, see Disabled Go.com 

Beckton Globe Library 1 Kingsford Way, London E6 5JQ. Nearest station (accessible): Beckton (DLR). 020 3373 0853. Bus routes include: 101, 173, 262, 300, 366, 376, 474.

Gallions Reach Shopping Park, 3 Armada Way, Beckton, London E6 7ER. Nearest station: Gallions Reach DLR (fully accessible). Bus routes include: 366, 262 & 101. Large free carpark. Click here for further details.

Old Town Hall, 29 The Broadway, Stratford, London E15 4BQ. 020 3373 7033 /07791 291 685. Nearest tube, overground and DLR stations: Stratford (fully accessible). Bus routes include 25, 69, 86, D8, 104, 108, 158, 238, 241, 257, 262, 276, 308, 425, 473, N8, N86, 010, A9, 741 & UL1. Blue Badge holders can prebook parking; others are advised to use the (old) Stratford shopping centre carpark.

Stratford Circus, Theatre Square, Stratford, London E15 1BX. 020 8279 1001. Nearest tube, overground and DLR stations: Stratford (fully accessible). Bus routes 257, 69  and 308 stop outside Stratford Circus in Great Eastern Road; 25, 86, 104, 108, 158, 238, 241, 262, 276, 425, 473, D8 alight at station. Very limited Blue Badge parking nearby; otherwise use the (old) Stratford shopping centre carpark.

Vicarage Lane Community Centre, Govier Close, E15 4HW. Nearest tube, overground and DLR stations: Stratford (fully accessible). Bus routes include: 101, 104, 300, 474. Street parking.

 Posted by at 16:20
Nov 042018
 

We’re looking into the possibility of setting up a DPAC choir to sing at various events. If you would be interested in joining this please email us at mail@dpac.uk.net

There would be no regular commitment needed although if possible people might want to attend one or more rehearsals. Please also let us know if you have a (polite) name for a DPAC choir.

 

 

DPAC Protesters blocking Birmingham's tram routes

DPAC Protesters blocking Birmingham’s tram routes

 

 Posted by at 21:01
Nov 042018
 

Monthly demonstration against Universal Credit outside DWP headquarters, Caxton House. Tothill Street. London. SW1H 9DA (near the Houses of Parliament)

Meet 12 PM – 1pm on the 1st Friday of each month including December and January.

Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group used to demonstrate regularly outside their local jobcentres. But they’ve closed both of the local jobcentres. It is now easier for many  to get to the DWPs National Headquarters in Westminster than to get to their nearest remaining jobcentres.

KUWG cordially invite other Londoners, and allies to come and join them.

To contact KUWG please message them via their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/kilburn.unemployed

 Posted by at 20:54
Nov 022018
 

DPAC Submission to Permanent Peoples Tribunal on migration, London, 2018.

It is of course extremely important to challenge the exploitation of migrants and refugees in all contexts. However, using evidence from work with disabled asylum seekers, we suggest that campaigns for the ‘right to work’ need to be treated with caution for a number of reasons:

  1. Campaigns for the ‘right’ to work should not ignore the barriers to finding and being offered work which is achievable, non-exploitative and worthwhile. We need only look at the experiences of Disabled citizens and people on benefits, to predict that the ‘right’ would soon become an obligation irrespective of the barriers that are faced.
  2. To build effective resistance to the injustice faced by asylum seekers, refugees and migrant workers, we must recognise that this does not exist in isolation from the injustice faced by the wider population. In the context of citizens’ efforts to resist systematic pressure to find paid work, whatever the cost to themselves and those they care for, we suggest focussing on the ‘right’ to work may hinder chances to build a broader movement.
  3. Calling for the ‘right’ to work risks buying into capitalist definitions of ‘work’ as paid employment, obscuring the unpaid material and emotional work associated with survival which is inherent in the search for asylum. If what we are really calling for is a stable income sufficient to pay for living costs, respect, ability to make worthwhile contributions … then that is what we should be calling for. Those attributes are not automatically associated with paid employment.

Before continuing, it is important to stress that reservations about campaigning for the right to work must be tempered by awareness that for refused asylum seekers, denied all support, the ‘right’ to work, even for a few hours, could enable a person to eat without risking a criminal record which could hasten deportation. In that context, people’s immediate survival needs must be prioritised over objectives for longer term justice. Similarly, it is unnecessarily frustrating for people who have skills, capacity and energy, to be prevented from finding paid employment. We are not therefore arguing against campaigns for the right to paid employment as a short-term measure. We are suggesting such campaigns are no long-term solution, and the risks to the wider movement need to be recognised.


An asylum seeker support worker writes:

I have recently been working with an asylum seeker who experiences serious mental distress, has no support and is living on the street. I am referring to this individual because I know him, but the situation is of course not uncommon. Removing rights from those whose asylum claims are refused is one of the deliberate consequences of the hostile environment, but this problem goes much wider. There are increasing numbers of citizens living on the streets in similar circumstances.

The individual I am referring to is articulate, intelligent and resourceful, however he cannot focus on any one conversation because he is also listening to ongoing conversations with voices audible only to himself. He is clearly distressed in ways that are painfully visible to observers. This person spends his days searching for food, somewhere to sleep, wash, and ways to find some form of support and security. None of this could be classed as leisure. It is the unpaid work of survival.

This person talks about how the only paid work available to him is illegal, exploitative and low paid. He is aware that if he were to take such work, he risks getting a criminal record and so further reducing his chance of ever getting leave to remain. He says his priority is to get the right to work. However, on further discussion, he elaborates that what he actually wants is somewhere safe to live, a steady source of income, security, support, community and something constructive to do. I suggest it is unlikely that these needs would be met with the forms of work that would be open to him, with or without the legal right. It should not be assumed that the work currently open to him would suddenly be available with a living wage, if he were to get the legal right to work. Furthermore, we can see from the wider population how easily the ‘right’ to work becomes an unrealisable obligation. The last thing this person, or anyone else, needs is to be further vilified for not having paid employment.

The barriers to asylum seekers, and particularly disabled asylum seekers, finding non-exploitative employment go well beyond the legal right. I am aware of people with refugee status, including those selected for the Vulnerable Person’s Relocation Scheme who have the right to work, but who complain of the additional stress and pressure caused by having to look for work, when there are so many barriers to finding, and being offered, anything suitable.

It would be interesting to find out from asylum and refugee support organisations, what proportion of employees with the legal right to work, have lived experience of forced migration, destitution and disability, including serious mental distress. If personal observations are correct that the proportion is not high, even where lived experience is highly relevant, then it would suggest that the barriers to paid work go far beyond legal entitlement. If such organisations could lead the way by respecting the knowledge gained by lived experience, and providing paid employment with a living wage, they could then also support others in reducing the barriers.

Most importantly, the asylum sector should not be seen in isolation. It is not as if there is a ready supply of rewarding, worthwhile work available to citizens in similar positions of destitution and mental distress. While the asylum sector is campaigning for the right to work, there are wider campaigns for the right not to work. A search of #dwp crimes reveals evidence of the suffering and many lives that are being lost when support is removed from citizens who are unable to exercise the supposed ‘right’ to work.

In this context, perhaps a more constructive focus of campaigns would be on building a broader movement, and working together for the rights to a regular income, support, housing, respect, contribution, community, security…. Together, we should challenge the idea that there is anything intrinsically positive about the right to work in a capitalist economy.

Rebecca Yeo


The hearing is a public event, click this link if you wish to attend

Date and Time

Sat, 3 Nov 2018, 09:30 –

Sun, 4 Nov 2018, 16:00 GMT

Location

Friends House

173-177 Euston Road

London

NW1 2BJ

 Posted by at 16:10
Nov 012018
 

DWP refuses to say if it followed death review advice on ‘threatening’ universal credit

Ministers are refusing to say if they acted on the recommendations of a secret review that linked the death of a benefit claimant with the “threatening” conditions they were forced to accept when signing up to universal credit.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has breached freedom of information laws by failing to say whether it followed the recommendation by one of its own internal process reviews to make universal credit’s so-called “claimant commitment” less threatening following the death.

DWP’s failure came as the chancellor, Philip Hammond, attempted in this week’s budget to calm concerns about the rollout of the troubled new system by announcing extra funding of £1 billion over five-and-a-half years that he said would help the migration of claimants of other benefits onto universal credit from next year.

He also announced £1.7 billion a year to increase universal credit work allowances.

But critics have said the extra money will do little to address growing concerns that flaws at the heart of the universal credit system are exposing disabled people and other claimants to strict conditions and sanctions, resulting in severe mental distress and extreme poverty.

Only last week, Disability News Service (DNS) reported how an autistic woman said she had been left without vital financial support for nearly two years because she could not cope with the face-to-face interview she had to undergo to complete her universal credit claim.

Now DWP is facing questions over why it is refusing to say if it followed the recommendations of its own internal review to make the claimant commitment less threatening, following the death of a universal credit claimant.

Only the barest details of the death are available, describing only the recommendations made by the review.

But those details show that a panel of reviewers who examined the circumstances around the death concluded that it seemed “excessive” for DWP to include eight references to benefit sanctions and how much money a claimant would lose if they breached their claimant commitment.

The claimant commitment sets out the “responsibilities” that a claimant has to accept in return for receiving universal credit, and “the consequences of not meeting them”.

An examination of guidance on the claimant commitment on DWP’s website suggests – although it does not prove – that the department has ignored the panel’s recommendation, as it has not been updated since April 2016. 

The claimant commitment review was carried out at some point between April 2016 and June 2018.

Following a freedom of information request submitted by DNS, DWP had 20 working days to say whether it had followed the panel’s recommendation to “reconsider the wording of the Claimant Commitment”, along with recommendations made in 11 other internal process reviews, all of which were carried out between April 2016 and June 2018, and all but three of which examined circumstances that led to the death of a benefit claimant.

But DWP’s freedom of information department failed to respond to the request submitted by DNS on 28 September, breaching its Freedom of Information Act duties.

DWP’s press office refused to comment on the failure to respond to the request, other than to say that its freedom of information team would “be in touch”.

A DWP spokeswoman refused to say why the team had failed to respond to the request.

Disabled activists have repeatedly warned that universal credit – which combines six income-related benefits into one – is “rotten to the core” with “soaring” rates of sanctions and foodbank use in areas where it has been introduced.

In June, a report by the National Audit Office said DWP was failing to support “vulnerable” claimants and was unable to monitor how they were being treated under universal credit.

And in July, employment minister Alok Sharma was asked by MPs on the Commons work and pensions committee why the benefits of hundreds of sick and disabled universal credit claimants were apparently being sanctioned, even though they should not have had to meet any of the strict conditions imposed by the system.

In the same month, further concerns were raised by the committee about disabled people with high support needs who have to claim universal credit and face the possibility of strict conditions – such as being forced to carry out hours of job searches every week – as they wait for a work capability assessment.

1 November 2018

 

 

Concerns over industry’s repeated objections to councils’ accessible homes plans

Representatives of the home-building industry are engaged in a countrywide campaign to defeat attempts by councils to ensure more accessible homes are built in their areas, research by Disability News Service (DNS) has shown.

Home Builders Federation (HBF) has lodged “worrying” objections to plans for accessible housing drafted by at least 15 local authorities in England since March.

The objections to councils’ draft local plans concern their proposed targets for the proportion of new homes that should be built to accessible housing standards.

HBF has repeatedly objected to targets describing the proportion of new homes that should be built to the basic M4(2)* accessible housing standard and also to those for new homes built to the stricter M4(3) standard for wheelchair-accessible properties.

Both the government standards are currently optional, but the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) called last week for them to become mandatory, in its major report on equality and human rights across Britain.

DNS has found HBF objections raised since March to draft local plans drawn up by more than 15 local authorities, including Liverpool City Council, Sevenoaks District Council, Reading Borough Council, East Cambridgeshire District Council, Kettering Borough Council, Darlington Borough Council, Sunderland City Council and Middlesbrough Council.

Each of the objections is critical of the council’s attempts to impose targets for local housing developments that would see a certain proportion of new homes built to M4(2) and M4(3) standards.

HBF describes itself as “the principal representative body of the house-building industry in England and Wales”.

Its membership includes “multi-national PLCs, regional developers and small, local builders” and its members account for more than four-fifths of all new housing built for sale in England and Wales at market prices and “a large proportion of newly built affordable housing”.

In response to Liverpool’s draft plans, HBF says: “The HBF does not consider that this policy is required, it is considered that local needs can be met without the introduction of the optional housing standards.”

It calls for the policy to be “deleted in its entirety” or, if the council retained the targets, “ensure they have the appropriate evidence to support this policy”.

In the objection to the Sevenoaks plan, it says: “It cannot be sufficient to state that there is an ageing population who are more likely to require such homes.

Our aging population is a national concern and one faced by all areas. If this were sufficient justification then the Government would have made the standard mandatory.

Therefore we do not consider the Council to have provided the evidence required by national policy to justify all new homes being built to the optional standard M4(2).”

HBF even objected to Sunderland’s proposal to require just 10 per cent of larger new developments to be built to the M4(2) standard, which it says was “not considered to be sound as it is not justified or consistent with national policy”.

DNS was first alerted to HBF’s frequent objections to local accessible housing plans by Cllr Pam Thomas, a wheelchair-user and a prominent Labour member of Liverpool City Council.

She was not available to comment this week, but she told a fringe meeting at Labour’s annual conference in Liverpool in September: “The law doesn’t help us at the moment.

We want to [ensure more accessible housing] through our local plan but some developers and the Home Builders Federation in particular objected, as they do everywhere.”

She told the meeting that HBF objected to such plans at every opportunity.

An EHRC spokeswoman said this week: “Inappropriate or inaccessible housing is increasingly leaving disabled people trapped and isolated within their own homes.

This is unacceptable in a modern society. The objections from Home Builders Federation are worrying and demonstrate the concerning attitudes that we raised in our recent housing inquiry.

Local authorities told us about their frustration at the system which pitches them against developers who challenge the viability of proposals for accessible housing.

The situation would be greatly improved if building regulations were amended to ensure that all new houses were built to a good minimum standard of accessibility and adaptability.”

Baroness [Sal] Brinton, president of the Liberal Democrats and a wheelchair-user, who spoke about the accessible housing crisis in a House of Lords debate last week, told DNS that it was “concerning that local councils are trying to do the right thing but are being pushed back by developers”.

She said that M4(2) homes were “designed to be inclusive and flexible for a whole range of households”, and that the government should amend building regulations to ensure that they become the “mandatory minimum” for all new homes, “especially given the very small extra building cost per housing unit and the reduction in costs of adaptations at a later stage”. 

She added: “This saving is much more stark when health and social care costs such as domiciliary care, residential care [and] hospital stays are added into the picture.”

Baroness Brinton called on the government to act immediately on advice from parliamentary committees, including the Equality Act 2010 and disability committee, which she was a member of, and organisations such as the accessible housing charity Habinteg, and “amend the building regulations to ensure category M4(2) becomes the mandatory minimum”.

An HBF spokesman said in a statement: “Planning policy provides the opportunity for local authorities to set figures in local plans for houses to be built to M4 standards.

If they choose to do so, the planning system requires local authorities to provide evidence of the need in their area.

If they abide by this requirement their request will be supported by the local plan inspector and house builders will abide by the adopted policy.

HBF looks to ensure that local authorities are abiding by their responsibilities under the planning system and are planning for the right amount and types of homes in their areas.”

He added: “Housebuilders will adapt new dwellings to meet the purchasers’ specific requirements.

We believe that such an approach is a better way to provide the type and number of accessible homes required in a particular area as opposed to a blanket requirement for such modifications that may not reflect local need.”

HBF says it would only be able to take legal action against a council over its accessible housing policies – through a high court judicial review – if it believed a planning inspector had made an error in deciding on those plans. It has yet to take such action.

*Homes built to the M4(2) standard have 16 accessible or adaptable features, similar to the Lifetime Homes standard developed in the early 1990s to make homes more easily adaptable for lifetime use, while M4(3) homes are those that are supposed to be fully wheelchair-accessible

1 November 2018

 

 

Budget 2018: Chancellor’s billions ‘will not halt universal credit humanitarian crisis’

The chancellor’s decision to pump billions of pounds into universal credit will not halt the “humanitarian crisis” that will be caused by its systemic flaws, disabled activists have warned.

Philip Hammond announced in this week’s budget that he had found £1 billion – spread over five-and-a-half years – to ease the delayed “managed migration” process that will see about three million claimants of “legacy” benefits such as employment and support allowance (ESA) moved across to the new universal credit.

He also promised another £1.7 billion a year to pay for more generous work allowances for universal credit, which combines six income-related benefits into one.

Hammond began his speech on Monday by making it clear that his budget was “unashamedly” intended to help “hard-working families… people who get up early every morning… the strivers, the grafters and the carers”.

Managed migration will begin next year but will affect only about 10,000 people in 2019, before accelerating in 2020.

One of the flaws of universal credit repeatedly raised by critics is the length of time – at least five weeks, usually – that a claimant has to wait before they receive their first payment.

Among the new managed migration measures detailed in the budget documents are that claimants of income-related ESA, jobseeker’s allowance and income support will receive an extra two weeks of those payments during the transition to universal credit, but only from July 2020.

There will also be a cut, from October 2019, in the maximum rate at which universal credit advance payments can be paid back, from 40 per cent of the standard living costs allowance to 30 per cent; and, from October 2021, there will be an increase from 12 to 16 months in the length of time DWP will take to claw back these advance payments.

Budget documents also reveal that the much-delayed rollout might now not be completed until June 2024, rather than the end of 2023, once a “six month contingency” for further possible delays is taken into account.

Hammond also announced that the amount that disabled people and households with children can earn before their universal credit begins to be withdrawn – known as the work allowance – will rise by £1,000 a year from April 2019.

This will mean that those affected will keep up to £630 a year, with the measure eventually costing the government an extra £1.7 billion a year.

Bob Ellard, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts, which is campaigning to scrap universal credit altogether, dismissed any suggestion that the budget signified an end to austerity.

He said: “While tax cuts for the rich took priority, Hammond did at least find some money to appease Tory MPs’ complaints over universal credit.

It will make little real difference to claimants, however, as universal credit will still be the cause of a humanitarian crisis in this country, whatever last-minute tinkering the Tories do.

And the elephant that wasn’t allowed into the room was the extreme poverty that many disabled people are living in, even before being forced to transfer to universal credit.”

Disability Rights UK said that “while these changes may be positive all are subject to delay and overall do not remove universal credit’s delivery and design problems”. 

Dr Victoria Armstrong, chief executive of Disability North, said her organisation witnessed the “devastating impact of the roll out of universal credit on a daily basis”. 

She said: “Whilst in principle the idea to have a universal benefit could be seen as a step forward, we have seen it be used as a vehicle for cutting basic income for disabled people.  

Not only that, the way that it has been administrated is not fit for purpose, for example the unacceptable waits, pushing people further into poverty, the use of food banks. Disability North have so many examples of this.  

Therefore, we broadly welcome the £1 billion to manage the migration process, but much of this should not be thrown at the DWP, or even Citizens Advice, but should be going to local, user-led organisations like ours so that people can be supported to understand and access the system (including digital access) and appeal incorrect decisions.”

Professor Peter Beresford, co-chair of Shaping Our Lives, said: “Pumping big money into a model failing because it is overly-simplistic and over-reliant on technology won’t solve its problems.

Disabled people are among those worst affected by this government’s failing policies and politics.

It’s just hoping that continuing attacks on Labour’s leadership and talking up the end of austerity will keep the punters sweet, long enough.

We just have to hope that UK democracy is not yet so damaged that the Tories will get away with it again at the next election.”

In a blog published the day after the budget, Professor Sir Ian Diamond, the new chair of DWP’s social security advice body, the social security advisory committee, welcomed the “positive steps” on universal credit announced in the budget, but said the managed migration process was still “enormously ambitious”.

He said his committee was concerned that the government’s plans “load an unreasonable level of risk onto the claimant” and added: “We fear that, in too many cases, they may be adversely impacted by the proposals or fall out of the social security system entirely.”

Disabled activists have repeatedly warned that universal credit is “rotten to the core” with “soaring” rates of sanctions and foodbank use in areas where it has been introduced.

In June, a report by the National Audit Office said DWP was failing to support “vulnerable” claimants and was unable to monitor how they were being treated under universal credit.

And in July, employment minister Alok Sharma was asked by MPs on the Commons work and pensions committee why the benefits of hundreds of sick and disabled universal credit claimants were apparently being sanctioned, even though they should not have had to meet any of the strict conditions imposed by the system.

In the same month, further concerns were raised by the committee about disabled people with high support needs who need to claim universal credit and face the possibility of strict conditions – such as being forced to carry out hours of job searches every week – as they wait for a work capability assessment.

*For further details on the universal credit changes in the budget, see this blog by the Child Poverty Action Group’s Josephine Tucker

1 November 2018

 

 

Budget 2018: Chancellor’s ‘end of austerity’ claim ‘rings hollow’ on social care

The chancellor’s claim that the “era of austerity is finally coming to an end” and his announcement of further short-term funding for adult social care will “ring hollow” for many disabled people following years of cuts, say user-led organisations.

In this week’s budget speech, Philip Hammond provided an extra £240 million for adult social care next year, and another £410 million that will be shared with children’s social care.

There was also another £55 million for disabled facilities grants (DFGs) for this year (2018-19), although – in an error described by a Treasury press officer as “a slip of the tongue” – Hammond wrongly announced this as £45 million in his budget speech.

The government had previously agreed to increase funding for DFGs – which pay for access improvements to disabled people’s homes – from £220 million in 2015-16 to £505 million in 2019-20.

The extra funding for social care, described as “a short-term sticking plaster to stave off catastrophic collapse in social care” by Labour’s shadow minister for social care Barbara Keeley, comes ahead of a long-delayed green paper on adult social care, due by the end of the year.

Government figures released last month show the impact of long-term funding cuts.

The figures from NHS Digital show that, in real terms – allowing for inflation – spending on adult social care by English councils has fallen by six per cent since its peak in 2009-2010, from £19.16 billion to £17.93 billion in 2017-18. This figure does not allow for the continuing growth in demand for adult social care over that period.

Dr Rupert Earl, chair of the Spinal Injuries Association, was among those disabled campaigners sceptical of the difference the new social care funding would make.

He said: “The conclusion that ‘the era of austerity is coming to an end’ will ring hollow for many thousands of spinal cord-injured and other disabled people.

Our own evidence shows that the reality is very different; care packages are all too often being cut to unsafe levels, waiting times for hospital admissions and outpatient appointments are getting ever longer and disabled people are more likely to be living in poverty.”

He added: “The crisis in care funding is a reality for many and we wait to see how the modest funding promised will remedy many years of cuts.

Our advice line callers tell us of widespread variation in access and eligibility to care, delays in assessment and arbitrary caps on what is funded.”

The disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell said the new money for adult social care would be “largely swallowed up by the huge local authority deficit experienced up and down the country.

What little money that might be left over will be targeted at providing the same limited care for older people leaving hospital, to clear the NHS beds crisis.

Younger working age disabled adults will not get a look in, as usual.

For those desperate to progress independent living in this country, this budget is a sure sign that their human right to inclusion is not on the government agenda.”

Professor Peter Beresford, co-chair of Shaping Our Lives, said it was a budget “from a government concerned with its survival rather than people’s wellbeing or encouraging a sustainable economy”.

He said: “For social care, it’s yet again a case of sticking plaster – too little, too late – on an inherently defective system.”

Dr Victoria Armstrong, chief executive of Disability North, said: “Any increase is welcomed, but £240 million for adult social care this year [announced last month at the Tory party conference] and £650 million for adult and children’s social care next year still falls short of what is necessary, and if this is just to plug holes in existing systems and services then that’s not going to work.

Our social care system is not fit for purpose; there are huge flaws, many of which are violating the human rights of disabled people on a daily basis, leading to further health problems and, in some cases, death.

And so an investment needs to be made in order to rethink the system, not just throw money at a system unfit for purpose.”

But she said that Disability North had seen some good health and care initiatives in the north-east, including the introduction of personal health budgets and “good use and support of direct payments in Newcastle”.

She said there needed to be “a focus on what the person at the centre of the social care wants, and the outcome or service provision shouldn’t depend upon where you live”.

Meanwhile, Spectrum Centre for Independent Living, which is based in Southampton, has produced a discussion paper aimed at shaping its own vision for social care, ahead of the publication of the government’s green paper later this year.

Spectrum said it was seeking “bold, creative and radical solutions” and wanted to “encourage everyone with an interest in the future of social care to contribute their own ideas so that we can present a new vision for social care that meets everyone’s needs in a sustainable way”.

1 November 2018

 

 

Atos threatens to call police after claimant questions PIP assessor’s mental health training

Staff working for a discredited benefit assessments contractor threatened to call the police after a claimant asked about the mental health qualifications of the nurse who was assessing his eligibility for personal independence payment (PIP).

Atos has now launched an investigation into what happened at the assessment centre in Leeds, which saw the nurse abandon Kris Weston’s assessment after just a couple of minutes.

She did not realise that Weston, a composer and trained sound engineer, had been recording the assessment.

Weston began the assessment last month by telling the nurse that he had stayed up all night because of the extreme anxiety he experiences when he has to deal with institutions.

He had spent three days putting together a 10-page description of his complex mental health problems – and what he says is the “continual failure to even listen to his problems by multiple institutions” – in the hope that the assessor would help him secure the financial and health support he needed.

He explained that he had been unfairly described in the past as “violent” by the NHS after a telephone argument, although she told him that Atos had no record of this.

She appears to have wrongly blamed the decision to refuse him a home assessment on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), when such decisions are taken by the assessment companies, Atos and Capita.

The assessor can then be heard leaving the room after Weston began asking about her experience and qualifications in mental health.

She told Weston that she was “not happy to sit in this room with you” because she said he had questioned her qualifications and was “being difficult for no reason”.

Weston, who did not raise his voice or threaten the assessor at any point in the conversation, told her: “You seem to have had a bit of an attitude from the start, a bit of a blasé attitude.

You didn’t look at me, you didn’t say hello to me, you didn’t treat me like a human.”

Despite the lack of any aggression or threats from Weston, a colleague of the assessor then told him he needed to leave the building “or we’ll call the police”, before repeating: “We’ll call the police if you don’t leave.”

Weston tried to explain to Atos staff that he had “wanted to make sure that somebody understands my illness” and added: “When ill people come in you need to have compassion, not treat them with an attitude.”

A third member of staff then denied that they had threatened to call the police, before a colleague said: “He’s just wanting an argument… just shut the door.”

Weston told Disability News Service (DNS) this week: “It seems like an outrageous scandal that someone in the pits of despair, when they are asking for help, gets treated like this.

I am quite a complex person. I just wanted to make sure the person in front of me was able to deal with it properly and had the correct qualifications.

I was actually trying to get help. I really do want help. Mental illness help should not just be for the polite who stay quiet.”

He said he had felt severely distressed and “isolated” after the assessment, but after posting the recording online he has been flooded with supportive comments on social media.

He said: “The recording represents not just me, but the hundreds of stories I have heard in only a few days since I put this on the internet, all the people that have told me their awful stories that they didn’t record.

I thought my recording would stand out as abuse but it’s actually just a blip in a sea of negligence that no private company will ever fix because corporations cannot have inherent morals and no amount of legislation is going to stop them from cutting corners for profit.

The staggering scale of the problem is more than I anticipated, to say the least. This is in fact a nationwide scandal affecting our people now.

I’m not that far off being an economic and cultural asset to my country if I could just get a clear run and be understood without being beaten down over and over again and driven to despair.

This applies to a lot of people. We are holding ourselves back by keeping people in complete stress about their food, living space and other basic human needs.

Given the resources they need, people who are suffering from the system itself could actually become an asset.

After all, injecting our resources into a failing private banking system seemed to get them back on their feet.

To think the people charged with running our country could miss this economic no-brainer is breathtaking.”

Asked for an explanation for what happened and whether Atos would apologise, a spokesman for the company said: “We are aware of the recording and an investigation is underway.”

Weston’s experience has added to years of evidence collected by DNS and other journalists, campaigners and politicians of dishonesty, unprofessional behaviour and harsh treatment delivered to benefit claimants by Atos assessors.

In one case, reported in January by DNS, an Atos nurse carrying out a PIP assessment fired questions at a disabled man’s wife while her husband was in the middle of a severe and prolonged series of epileptic seizures just a few feet away.

In February, DNS reported how more than 160 Atos assessors had had at least four complaints about their behaviour, competence and honesty made against them in three-month periods in 2016.

And in June, DNS reported how a doctor working for Atos told a gay disabled man she was assessing that his sexuality meant he was “defective” and that God needed to fix him like a “broken” car.

1 November 2018

 

 

Welsh government’s independent living decision ‘threatens support of hundreds’

The Welsh government’s decision to close its independent living grant scheme and pass the funding to local authorities could see cuts to the support packages of hundreds of disabled people, new research suggests.

Disabled campaigners say that information released by local authorities in Wales has created “extreme cause for concern” about the transition process, which is seeing funding from the interim Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) passed to the 22 councils.

WILG was set up by the Welsh government – with UK government funding – as a short-term measure to support former recipients of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) when ILF was closed in June 2015.

But the Welsh government is now closing WILG and by April next year the 22 councils will be solely responsible for meeting the support needs of all former ILF-recipients in Wales.

The Welsh government’s own estimates, released to Disability News Service (DNS) last night (Wednesday), suggest that about 200 former WILG-recipients will see their support packages cut by next April.

Members of the Save WILG campaign, led by former ILF-recipient Nathan Lee Davies, submitted freedom of information requests to all 22 Welsh councils earlier this year, and they say the responses proved they were right to be concerned that the transition process would lead to many former ILF-users seeing their support packages cut.

Few of the councils were willing to provide detailed information about how the process of re-assessing the needs of the former ILF-recipients in their areas would affect their support packages.

But some of the local authorities admitted that a significant proportion of those currently receiving support through the WILG have already had their support packages cut.

In Wrexham, Davies’ home local authority, the council said it had re-assessed less than a third of former ILF-users but had already cut the support of 18 of them, increasing support for just seven, and leaving one package unchanged.

Monmouthshire council had cut four of 19 packages, Conwy had reduced two of 12 – although the vast majority had still to be assessed – while Caerphilly had reduced four of 29, Merthyr Tydfil had reduced 15 per cent, and both Carmarthenshire and Rhondda councils had cut 10 per cent of support packages.

About a third of the councils – including Pembrokeshire, Gwynedd, Anglesey, Cardiff and Blaenau Gwent – failed to say how many support packages had been cut.

But some local authorities did produce more encouraging answers, with Powys council saying the reassessment process had seen it increase the support packages of 59 of 62 former ILF-users.

Although Port Talbot council had reviewed less than a third of service-users, half had had their packages increased, and the other half had seen them stay at the same level, while Bridgend decided that all but one former ILF-recipient would continue to receive the same support package.

There were also repeated warnings from the local authorities that they could not promise that support packages would not be cut in the future, with Cardiff council warning that “no guarantees as to the future are possible with any funding arrangement”.

Asked if it could guarantee that WILF recipients would have their care packages ring-fenced from all future austerity cuts forced onto local authorities, both Merthyr Tydfil and Port Talbot replied with just one word: “No.”

Huw Irranca-Davies, the Welsh government’s minister for social care, has previously pledged that no former ILF-users would lose out in the transition process.

But a Welsh government spokesman said that its most recent monitoring of the transition had found about 100 of 580 WILG-recipients were having their support “provided in a different manner than previously”*, while 130 were receiving more support.

As about 1,300 people are due to go through the transition, this suggests that about 200 former WILG-users will eventually see their packages cut.

He insisted that the government was committed to ensuring that all disabled people are “fully supported to live independently in their communities”.

And he said that Irranca-Davies had visited both Powys and Wrexham councils this week to “see at first hand the work they have been undertaking” and “will be speaking to other authorities about this over the next few weeks”.

The government spokesman said: “He will also be asking authorities to undertake a deep dive of a sample of cases where there have been significant changes in the type of support people are receiving, to establish the reasons for this and ensure they are receiving the appropriate support they require to live independently.

This is in addition to the ongoing monitoring of the programme, and an additional independent evaluation which has been commissioned by the minister.”

The spokesman claimed that the “feedback from disabled people” on the transition programme had been “positive”.

He said: “Together with our partners in local government and the third sector, we will continue to closely monitor the process and the individual outcomes of the transition from the ILF to the person-centred and co-produced approach to independent living in Wales.”

But Miranda Evans, policy and programmes manager for Disability Wales, said her organisation was “extremely concerned that disabled people with high support requirements are having their hours of care reduced when transferring over to direct payments”. 

She said: “In a number of cases people are losing their ‘socialising’ hours, which is of great concern. 

This vital support enables people to play a part in their community, volunteer with a local group and get involved in political life. 

Without this necessary support disabled people will become isolated, disengaged and unable to leave their home.”

Disability Wales has called for an “urgent review” of the Welsh government’s policy and investigations into the differences between how local authorities are applying it, which she said showed “the further development of a postcode lottery”.

She added: “We remain concerned that funding will be absorbed by social services budgets and not be directed to those who need it: disabled people with high support requirements.”

Davies said the Welsh government’s comments showed that “they simply refuse to see the evidence that is staring them in the face”.

He said: “Yet again the Welsh government seems to think of former ILF recipients as a privileged bunch.

This is not the case at all, as we are disabled people with high care and support needs who were guaranteed a lifetime of adequate support under the old ILF system.

They do not deserve to be made to feel like a hindrance by the Welsh government.”

He said the conclusions that can be drawn from the freedom of information responses were “very worrying indeed” and show “a shocking lack of consistency between local authorities, the development of a ‘postcode lottery’, the lack of an adequate complaints procedure for former ILF recipients and an alarming lack of security, or guarantees, for the future”. 

Davies is determined to persuade the Welsh government to keep the current system, which allows former ILF-recipients some security by receiving funding from three different “pots”: WILG, local authorities and their own personal contributions.

He said: “The responses reflect why we started the campaign three years ago and give weight to our belief that the tripartite system of care needs to be maintained.

Disabled people with high care and support needs simply cannot rely on cash-strapped local authorities to provide the levels of care that they need. 

One of my biggest concerns is that even the local authorities who have increased a majority of care packages cannot guarantee that these packages will remain at the same levels in future years.

It is a concern that these generous increases may only be put in place for a year, while the local authorities sharpen their axes for further cuts once the campaign is over.” 

He added: “The Welsh government now need to listen to the voices that have supported our campaign – assembly members, MPs, Disability Labour, Jeremy Corbyn, shadow chancellor John McDonnell, celebrities such as Ken Loach and most importantly their own members who passed a motion calling on them to #SaveWILG at the Welsh Labour conference in April 2018.” 

*The Welsh government press office was unable to confirm by 1pm today that this means that their support hours have been reduced

1 November 2018

 

 

DaDaFest promises ‘edgy and disruptive’ festival highlighting years of attacks on rights

The artistic director of DaDaFest has promised that the theme for this month’s international disability arts festival will help shine a light on years of attacks on disabled people’s human rights.

Ruth Gould also spoke out this week against the failure of the national media to recognise the biennial festival, which two years ago attracted more than 360,000 visitors, and an arts sector that has grown increasingly safe and “corporate”.

She promised that DaDaFest, believed to be the world’s largest disability and Deaf arts festival, was offering a programme that was “ground-breaking, new and risky… edgy and disruptive”, with a theme – “Passing: What’s your legacy?” – that focuses on “life’s journey”.

Gould said she was “fed up” with the lack of attention given to DaDaFest in the mainstream media and suggested that this reflected wider attitudes to disabled people.

She said: “These attitudes need confronting and the aim for this year’s festival is to help shine a light on issues that affect how disabled people are viewed by others, usually in a negative way, that leads to a misunderstanding of the truth of the lived experience of disability.

We must challenge and highlight the inequalities, especially in the form of draconian assessments such as personal independence payment and the huge amount of funding cuts, and help support disabled people’s independence and value their contributions in society.”

Her anger is fuelled by increasing despair at the impact of years of assaults on disability rights, she said, and listed a string of examples.

Friends of hers are afraid to be admitted to hospital because they fear a “do not resuscitate” order will be placed above their bed.

She remembers a disabled artist and activist who performed at the first DaDaFest in 2001 and who died five years ago as a result of social care cuts and associated lack of care.

Some disabled people have to be assessed to decide if they will be allowed to keep their babies, she said, while many young disabled people never receive the sex education they need because they are “deemed incapable of relationships and desiring of sexual intimacy”.

She said: “I know Deaf people who are too afraid to go out as they are afraid of the abuse and lack of support to help them understand what is being said.

I have witnessed cuts to our adult services, our children’s services and our NHS while many of our user-led disability charities have lost funds and now cease to exist.”

Gould said she despairs that this country – as the NHS in England rolls out a new non-invasive pre-natal test to detect Down’s syndrome – could soon become like Iceland, where there has reportedly not been a baby with Down’s syndrome born for more than six years.

Gould said she was “sceptical, angry and very afraid for our future, indeed our very existence”.

She added: “I am sad that arts funding is pushing our sector into safe, corporate business practices that are all about ticket sales and playing it to ‘one size fits all’ – mediocrity is threatening to rule.”

But she promised that this month’s DaDaFest would show that “arts and social justice together make great art”.

The festival begins today (1 November) and lasts until 8 December across the Liverpool city region.

Artists will explore the concepts of ageing, death and the changing nature of our bodies.

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”.

Among those featuring in this year’s line-up will be comedians Francesca Martinez and Laurence Clark, theatre-maker and comedian Jess Thom – with her performance of Samuel Beckett’s Not I – Stop Gap Dance Company, artists Simon McKeown, Faith Bebbington, Jonathan Griffith and Martin O’Brien, and multi-instrumentalist Sarah Fisher.

The programme includes more than 50 exhibitions, performances, talks, and workshops, featuring established and new talent.

1 November 2018

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 Posted by at 14:25