Jun 272019
 

Theresa May’s disability announcements ‘are just cynical leftovers’

Disabled people’s organisations have reacted with suspicion and some hostility to the outgoing prime minister’s attempt to shore up her “legacy” with a series of disability-related announcements.

Although some of the measures announced by Theresa May were welcomed, many user-led organisations questioned why she had left it until the last days of her time in office to launch what she said was a “new drive to tackle barriers faced by disabled people”.

In last October’s speech of more than 7,000 words to her party’s annual conference, May failed to make a single mention of disability or disabled people.

But this week, as she prepared to be replaced as prime minister by Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt later this summer, she announced a “new approach to disability”.

She failed to point out that the government has issued no updates or progress reports on its discredited Fulfilling Potential disability strategy since November 2015, eight months before she became prime minister.

Her “new approach” includes a pledge to publish new figures on “outcomes” for disabled people, but she failed to mention that the government has not published any updates to previous outcome figures since a Fulfilling Potential progress report in 2015.

That report revealed that the proportion of disabled people who said they frequently had choice and control over their lives plunged from 77 per cent in 2010 to just 66 per cent in 2013.

There was tentative approval this week from disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) to the announcement that the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) would move in November from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to the Cabinet Office, as part of a new “equalities hub at the heart of government”.

But there were still concerns that this could see the government’s focus on disability equality further weakened.

May also announced that there would be another work and pensions green paper, focusing on disability benefits, as well as new rights for disabled employees to request workplace adjustments, and reform of statutory sick pay.

And there was a pledge from Justin Tomlinson, the minister for disabled people, that the government was now “committed to strengthening the evidence base on disability and to improve engagement with disabled people and disabled people’s organisations”.

In February, in a meeting with his predecessor, Sarah Newton, DPOs repeated their concerns at the government’s continuing failure to understand the principles around engagement with disabled people and DPOs, as laid out in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

Tomlinson also said the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy would “improve consumer outcomes for disabled people” by developing a measure of how well different companies “deliver for disabled customers in essential markets”.

One widely welcomed announcement this week was that the government could finally tighten mandatory accessibility standards on new housing, although this will still be subject to a consultation.

This is likely to mean changes to building regulations so that the optional M4(2) accessibility standard – a series of design criteria intended to make homes more easily adaptable for lifetime use – becomes instead a mandatory minimum standard for all new housing.

Only last October, housing secretary James Brokenshire ignored the crisis in accessible housing in his speech to the Tory party’s annual conference in Birmingham.

May also ignored the issue in her own conference speech, making no mention of the need to build homes to inclusive design standards, despite devoting a significant chunk of her speech to housing.

Brokenshire’s department had been criticised two months earlier by disabled campaigners and the equality watchdog after his new social housing green paper failed to include a single mention of the accessible housing crisis.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) warned last year that more than 350,000 disabled people in England had unmet housing needs.

Number 10 had failed by noon today (Thursday) to say whether there will still be a separate disability unit as part of the hub.

It also failed to explain why the prime minister waited until shortly before leaving office to try to address the barriers facing disabled people.

The response from DPOs this week to May’s announcements was mixed, with some frustrated and even hostile over her attempts to secure a legacy with a series of last-minute pledges on disability that she herself will not be able to follow through on.

Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said many of the announcements were “the re-starting of work the government should be doing but made a political decision to stop doing years ago, like the collection of data on disabled people’s outcomes”.

She welcomed the decision to move ODI away from DWP, but she said May failed to mention the need to develop a new disability equality strategy.

She said: “At a time when the UN found this government to be systematically violating disabled people’s human rights, when hundreds of thousands of us lost our independence and became prisoners in our homes because of devastating cuts to social care, when our community are amongst the most affected by the punitive welfare reform and when we continue to face discrimination on a daily basis and are unable to challenge it, we need much more than this.”

Professor Peter Beresford, co-chair of Shaping Our Lives, said May was trying to invent a legacy when she had been a “massive failure” as prime minister.

He said: “It’s good to see now that at her leaving, when she has no power, she has suddenly discovered a raft of policies that could benefit disabled people and reduce the exclusions and discrimination we face, which her government helped make worse.

Now we positively know you just did nothing, despite knowing better. 

As it’s down to her successor to shape policy, we can imagine that her left-overs will carry little weight.”

Paula Peters, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts, said May’s announcement “smacks of total hypocrisy”.

She said: “May talks about the injustices disabled people face. The Tory government have caused the hostile environment disabled people are subjected to on a daily basis.

This government are guilty of violating our human rights under UNCRPD and causing a human catastrophe in disabled people’s lives.  

This announcement is a huge insult to disabled people who are living in poverty due to this government and have become further marginalised in society.”

Kamran Mallick, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said there was “much to be welcomed” in May’s statement, particularly the new “cross governmental approach to disability”.

But he said this “has to lead to real change in disabled people’s day to day experience.

Too often we see fanfare announcements with very limited effect; they seem to wither into inconsequentiality when they are scrutinised for impact.”

He welcomed the housing, work and engagement announcements, but added: “Warm words around supporting disabled people to be part of our society cannot, do not and will not replace benefits and social care packages which have been slashed because of a paucity of resources.”

Brian Hilton, digital campaigns officer for Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP), said: “Whilst GMCDP welcomes any measures that improve opportunities for disabled people, we are yet to be convinced that these announcements will amount to any real positive changes.

The more cynical amongst us might argue that this is a desperate attempt by a government in its final throes trying to paper over more than a decade of harsh and vindictive cuts rained down upon disabled people.”

He added: “GMCDP would be overjoyed if there was any real evidence of a commitment from central government to improving housing for disabled people, but sadly there is not.

The government says it will consult on new measures, but the evidence is already available as to what is needed and that is action, not kicking the problem into the long grass of consultation and industry prevarication and extended implementation periods. 

What we need are ambitious targets that redress the current imbalance and significant fines for developers that fail to deliver.”

Hilton said GMCDP would engage with the government’s new equalities hub but, he said, “if they want to draw upon our skills, knowledge and experience we will insist on being reimbursed for our time”.

Disability Labour said the announcement was “a cynical ploy pretending to improve disabled people’s lives without looking at the root causes for our exclusion and increased death rate”.

Fran Springfield, Disability Labour’s co-chair, said: “What is needed is a reform of the benefits systems and the scrapping of universal credit so disabled people are not sanctioned or denied the right to benefits whilst they challenge the target driven refusal of their claim.

The new ‘equalities hub’ sounds good on paper, but will it have enforcement powers?

Will DPOs and disabled people really be involved and have their expertise respected and included in all decision making?

There needs to be disability impact assessments, with implementation criteria in every government department for every government policy or initiative.”

She added: “Will any of these policies actually be followed through by her successor or will they be quietly forgotten?

Neither of the Tory candidates to be prime minister has a record of disability equality and inclusion.”

The Spinal Injuries Association welcomed the “new drive to tackle barriers faced by disabled people”, particularly through the plans for higher access standards for new housing, but a spokesperson said the proposals must be “backed up with appropriate resources”.

Among the areas not addressed by the prime minister, he said, were the problems caused by benefit cuts, “shortfalls in health and social care funding” and restrictions on Access to Work funding.

27 June 2019

 

 

SEN court case is due to ‘shocking’ and ‘shameful’ austerity impact, say campaigners

Disabled campaigners have spoken outside the high court of the “shocking” and “shameful” impact of the government’s austerity policies on the education of disabled children, as they supported a high-profile legal action.

Three families with disabled children are this week asking the high court to declare that the government has acted unlawfully by failing to provide enough funding for local authorities to meet their legal obligations to educate children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The families – supported by the SEND Action campaign network – want chancellor Philip Hammond and education secretary Damian Hinds to increase funding to local councils.

All three of the families have been unable to secure the support their disabled child needs with their education.

It is believed to be the first time the government has been taken to court over the level of SEND funding.

Before the first of the two days of hearings yesterday (Wednesday), parents, charities and disabled people and their user-led organisations – including The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) and Inclusion London – spoke of how disabled children were being failed by the government.

Among them was the disabled academic Professor Tom Shakespeare, who told campaigners: “We are the people your children will grow up to be.

Our parents have fought for us to have an education as disabled people.

We want your children to have those same chances.”

He spoke of the widespread – and illegal – practice of “off-rolling”, in which mainstream schools force pupils off their rolls to boost their academic results, which means that “thousands of disabled children are denied the education that is their human right”.

He said: “It can be done differently. Go to Finland. Modern countries do well by disabled children and respect their SEN teachers and include [disabled] children in the mainstream.

It’s not much. It’s human rights.”

He told Disability News Service (DNS) later that parents of disabled children were “doing the right thing” and “standing up for their children” and were “organising in all parts of the country”.

He said of the problems facing disabled children in securing their education: “I feel very emotional about it. It’s a shocking thing.”

He said that if disabled children do not receive the education they need “they are not going to be able to end up as adults who can stand up for their rights and be included in society”.

He added: “It’s shocking, hidden, insidious, and it’s destroying our children’s future.”

Michelle Daley, ALLFIE’s interim director, told DNS that she and her colleagues were outside the court to show their solidarity with the three families and highlight both the cuts to SEND funding and also how resources were being taken from mainstream schools and invested instead in segregated special schools.

She said the government’s actions were “putting a price tag on disabled children’s right to go to school” and were ignoring their right to be in local, mainstream schools alongside their neighbours, friends and family.

Daley said the legal case was, for ALLFIE, also about the need to recognise that the government was breaching its duties under article 24 (on inclusive education) of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

Two years ago, the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities raised concerns about the increasing number of disabled children being educated in segregated settings and said the UK education system was “not equipped to respond to the requirements for high-quality inclusive education”.

Daley said: “I am hopeful that, regardless of the outcome, the fact that people are here and families and disabled children have managed to get it to the high court demonstrates that people are not happy and people want the right for their children to access mainstream education.”

She told campaigners later: “It is disgusting that disabled children are having to take the government to court just for the right to have access to education.

What’s disgusting for ALLFIE is that when I was going to school, our parents had to fight for the same rights as our disabled children are having to fight for today.

This is wrong, this is against disabled children’s human rights.”

She said it was an “embarrassment and shame” for the government that it was being taken to court by parents “to fight for things that are a right”.

More than 40,000 people have signed an ALLFIE petition calling on the government not to shut disabled people out of mainstream education, and to increase SEND funding.

Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, told DNS: “This government is failing our disabled children, creating a lost and invisible generation of disabled children who have been shut out of education or left in schools deprived of the support they need.

It is a scandal in the fifth richest country in the world.

This is one of the more shameful examples of the disproportionate impact of austerity on disabled people.

This government has to acknowledge the damage it is doing to our country and start working with us to get our equality and inclusion back on track.

They could start by committing to article 24 of UNCRPD.”

Only two days earlier, Labour’s shadow housing minister Sarah Jones had told MPs that a survey of headteachers in Croydon had shown that 85 per cent of them had been forced to cut their SEN provision.

Labour’s Debbie Abrahams added: “The £1.2 billion shortfall in SEND funding means that children with an education, health and care plan may be refused a local place because schools cannot afford to provide the support that these children need.”

Children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi told MPs: “There are clearly funding pressures on the system, which is why we have announced £250 million in additional funding to take the funding to £6.3 billion.

We are in the middle of a spending review and I will be putting my best foot forward to make sure that we get the funding in place.

A Department for Education spokesperson added yesterday, in response to the court case: “The government’s ambition for children with special educational needs and disabilities is no different to any other child – we want them to enjoy school and achieve to their full potential. 

This is why we are investing significant funding into supporting those with more complex special educational needs – high needs funding totaling £6.3 billion this year.

It would be inappropriate to comment further until the judicial process has concluded.”

27 June 2019

 

 

DWP broke law by destroying safeguarding report, says information commissioner

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) broke the law by destroying a damaging internal report about its failure to ensure the safety of benefit claimants in jobcentres, the information commissioner has ruled.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has issued a decision notice in which it concludes – following a complaint from Disability News Service (DNS) – that DWP breached the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) by failing to release the report.

Instead, the report was destroyed, but the commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, said she was unable to prove that this was done deliberately to prevent its release and so has not recommended a criminal prosecution.

The report into safeguarding failures in south London jobcentres was written by two or three disabled people recruited under its Community Partners initiative, which was set up to build bridges between jobcentres and the local community.

They had written the document soon after taking up their posts, after becoming increasingly alarmed by the failure of the 18 jobcentres they were working with to take basic actions to protect people claiming benefits such as universal credit, employment and support allowance and jobseeker’s allowance.

They recommended that urgent steps should be taken to ensure jobcentre staff were properly trained in safeguarding.

One of the report’s authors said this week that she believed DWP had destroyed the “damning” document because it did not want to see it published.

She said: “The fact that they destroyed it is worrying because it puts people further at risk.”

The report is believed to have been written in August or September 2017, and DNS learned of its existence the following spring, about eight months later.

To avoid identifying its source, DNS submitted a freedom of information request asking DWP to release all reports written by Community Partners while working for DWP in London in 2017 and 2018.

But DWP continually delayed answering the request.

Last August, a civil servant in DWP’s freedom of information team told DNS that she had repeatedly attempted to secure a response from the jobcentre operations team and had warned them they had breached their legal duties under the act, adding: “I have tried. I don’t know why they are digging their heels. I am sorry.”

DWP eventually answered the request by claiming that it held no such reports, but after DNS complained to the information commissioner, DWP released several documents in January this year, although they did not include the safeguarding report.

DWP later admitted the report did exist, and that the document “raised concerns about the DWP safe guarding procedures”.

It told ICO that it had only managed to speak to one of the Community Partners mentioned by DNS, and they confirmed that they had helped “pull together a document about safeguarding procedures in South London”, but could not find this document as old emails had now been deleted and could not be retrieved.

DWP said the report was destroyed 12 months after it was written because the department’s “Information Management policy only requires us to keep a corporate document of an internal briefing for a period of 12 months”.

But that 12 months period ended at least four months after DNS first asked for this and other Community Partner reports to be released, suggesting that DWP could have destroyed the safeguarding report to prevent it being released to DNS.

DWP told ICO that it made a mistake when it originally told DNS that Community Partners “were not required to write reports” and by the time it realised its mistake and carried out a reinvestigation in November/December 2018 “the document would have already been destroyed”.

The information commissioner therefore concluded that “on the balance of probabilities” the report was destroyed before DWP reconsidered the DNS request to see the report.

DWP also told ICO that it “retains only those documents and data which support business objectives”, even though the subject of the document was the safety of benefit claimants.

The ICO has now ruled, in response to DNS’s complaint: “The Commissioner’s decision is that the Department for Work and Pensions held requested information at the time of the request but one requested report was latterly routinely destroyed, in accordance with its Information Management Policy.

The Commissioner finds that the Council breached section 10(1) of the FOIA by failing to disclose the information which was held within the statutory time for compliance.”

But although the ICO has now ruled that DWP broke the law, Denham said she had carried out “extensive enquiries” and had failed to find any evidence that the report was “intentionally destroyed” by DWP “with the intention to prevent its disclosure”.

For that reason, she will not recommend a criminal prosecution of DWP under FoIA.

A DWP spokesperson declined to comment “beyond the position DWP has outlined in the decision notice”.

But the ruling that DWP acted unlawfully still adds to mounting evidence that DWP as a department is not fit for purpose and that it needs to make urgent changes to ensure the safety of all benefit claimants is a priority, as demanded by the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition*.

For years, DNS has been reporting on the alleged failure of DWP jobcentres to safeguard disabled people left in vulnerable situations because of flaws in the benefits system.

Many of these failings have led to the deaths of benefit claimants and will have subsequently been reported on in secret DWP peer reviews (now renamed internal process reviews).

The deaths of disabled people such as Lawrence BondDavid Clapson and Alan McArdle – and many others – have been linked to alleged failings of policy or practice within jobcentres.

Many other disturbing cases have focused on safeguarding failures in other parts of DWP.

This year, DNS has reported on the Independent Case Examiner report into the death of Jodey Whiting in February 2017, which concluded that DWP failed five times to follow its own safeguarding rules in the weeks leading up to her suicide.

And only last week, the Liverpool Echo reported that work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd had admitted that an internal review into the death of Stephen Smith, from Liverpool, had found the department missed “crucial safeguarding opportunities” and had “identified areas where we need to change our policy” to protect claimants in vulnerable situations.

Smith died in April, months after he was found fit for work by DWP, despite being in hospital with such severe health problems that his weight had fallen to six stone.

The Liverpool Echo had revealed that DWP ignored two separate doctors’ letters about Smith’s serious health problems.

*Sign the Jodey Whiting petition here. If you sign the petition, please note you will need to confirm your signature by clicking on an email you will be sent automatically by the House of Commons petitions committee

27 June 2019

 

 

DWP figures show PIP complaints against Atos and Capita continue to rise

The performance of the two companies carrying out disability benefit assessments on behalf of the government is continuing to deteriorate, according to new figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The DWP figures, released to Disability News Service (DNS) under the Freedom of Information Act, show that the proportion of personal independence payment (PIP) assessments carried out by outsourcing giant Capita that lead to a complaint has risen significantly in the last three years.

And the proportion of PIP assessments carried out by fellow outsourcing company Atos that lead to a complaint has increased sharply in the last two years.

The figures suggest that the likelihood of claimants experiencing sub-standard PIP assessments at the hands of the two companies has dramatically increased, despite public expressions of regret to MPs by Capita and Atos in February 2016 and December 2017 about their performance.

The figures also show that Capita is continuing to attract a much higher rate of complaints than Atos, while Capita is also about twice as likely to uphold a complaint as Atos.

In 2015, there were more than 1,800 complaints about Capita, with 1.1 per cent of assessments leading to a complaint.

But that rose to 1.42 per cent in 2016, to 1.44 per cent in 2017 and 1.57 per cent last year, with 3,490 complaints about Capita assessments in 2018.

In 2015, 0.52 per cent of Atos assessments led to a complaint, falling slightly to 0.49 per cent in 2016, before rising to 0.69 per cent in 2017 and 0.8 per cent in 2018.

Last year, Capita upheld 34 per cent of all PIP complaints, while Atos upheld only three per cent of “admin” complaints and 15 per cent of “clinical” PIP complaints.

DWP refused to say if it was concerned by the rise in complaints, by Capita attracting more complaints than Atos, and by Capita upholding more of those complaints.

It also refused to say if the figures showed that the performance of Atos and Capita was worsening year by year, and it refused to say what action it would take to address these concerns.

Instead, a DWP spokesperson said in a statement: “We want the PIP assessment process to work well for everyone and have made significant improvements, including testing the video recording of assessments.

The number of complaints about PIP assessments represents less than one per cent of the total number of individuals assessed.”

Capita refused to say why it appeared to be attracting so many more complaints than Atos; why it was drawing more complaints every year; why it was upholding so many of those complaints; and whether it believed the figures showed its performance was worsening year by year.

A Capita spokesperson said: “We are committed to delivering a high quality and empathetic service for people applying for PIP.

All our people are focused on delivering the best service to individuals coming through the PIP assessment process – their passion is evidenced in our monthly independent customer satisfaction results, which in 2018 was over 95 per cent.”

Atos refused to say why it thought it was attracting more complaints every year, and whether the figures showed that its performance was worsening year by year.

It also refused to say why it was upholding so few complaints, and fewer than Capita.

But an Atos spokesperson said: “While complaints represent on average less than one per cent of all assessments, we strive to ensure every claimant experience is positive, which is why our focus has consistently been on providing a professional and compassionate assessment service.”

Last year, the then minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton, announced that the government was extending the Atos and Capita PIP contracts by a further two years, to 2021.

Since the introduction of PIP in 2013, the two companies have earned hundreds of millions of pounds from their assessment contracts.

DNS spent months investigating allegations of dishonesty by PIP assessors in late 2016 and throughout 2017, hearing eventually from more than 250 disabled people in less than a year about how they had been unfairly deprived of their benefits.

It continues to receive such reports today, more than two-and-a-half years after the investigation began.

27 June 2019

 

 

DWP refuses to release secret benefit death report to mother of Jodey Whiting

A senior civil servant has refused to allow the mother of a woman who took her own life – after being repeatedly failed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – to see a secret report into her daughter’s death.

Jodey Whiting died in February 2017, 15 days after she had her out-of-work disability benefits mistakenly stopped for missing a work capability assessment (WCA).

But Emma Haddad, DWP’s director general for service excellence, has now told Joy Dove, Whiting’s mother, that she cannot see a secret internal review that was carried out into her daughter’s death.

She told her in a letter: “We do not share Internal Process Reviews due to the personal customer data they contain.”

But only last week, work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd revealed key details from another internal process review (IPR) to MP Frank Field, the chair of the Commons work and pensions committee.

That review was carried out following the death of Stephen Smith, who died in April, months after he was found fit for work by DWP despite being in hospital with such severe health problems that his weight had fallen to six stone.

There appears to be no legal reason why an IPR cannot be released to the next-of-kin in full, if the work and pensions secretary gives her or his permission for it to be released.

This week, a DWP spokesperson said the letter to Field was simply “outlining the outcome of the Internal Process Review into Stephen Smith’s case rather than a full copy of the report”.

She added: “We do not share Internal Process Reviews due to the personal customer data they contain.”

John McArdle, co-founder of Black Triangle, said today (Thursday): “It is morally reprehensible that the DWP is attempting to hide behind a cloak of secrecy.

Joy has an absolute right to know the contents and conclusions drawn from the DWP internal review into her daughter Jodey’s death.

This denial only strengthens our case for a full independent judicial inquiry into Jodey’s case.

We would like to add our voices to Joy’s in demanding full disclosure of the entire review immediately, no ifs, no buts.”

The letter from Haddad contained written answers to questions put to her by Dove – and prepared with the help of Disability News Service (DNS) – during a face-to-face meeting that took place earlier this month.

In the letter, Haddad also refused to tell her whether any DWP civil servant had been disciplined for the failings that led to her daughter’s death.

The Independent Case Examiner (ICE) concluded earlier this year that DWP was guilty of “multiple” and “significant” failings in handling the case.

But a DWP spokesperson said this week: “We discussed with Mrs Dove the actions taken as a result of Jodey’s case, including corrective actions, but we cannot discuss any specific actions taken in relation to individual members of staff.”

Haddad also refused to say if she believed that it was ministers or civil servants who were responsible for Jodey Whiting’s death, stating only that ICE “provided a thorough and in-depth review of how we dealt with Jodey’s case and what failings had taken place”.

A DWP spokesperson added: “The Independent Case Examiner did not find any evidence of misconduct by Civil Servants or Ministers.”

*Sign the Jodey Whiting petition here. If you sign the petition, please note you will need to confirm your signature by clicking on an email you will be sent automatically by the House of Commons petitions committee

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

27 June 2019

 

 

Government agrees to examine ‘troubling’ case of cost-cutting care home council

The government has agreed to examine the “troubling” example of a Tory-run council that plans to undermine the rights of disabled people to live independently by forcing them into residential homes as a cost-cutting measure.

Barnet council’s policy was challenged in the House of Lords this week by the crossbench disabled peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell.

She had asked what “crisis prevention measures” the government had put in place to “address the difficulties of those working-age disabled adults who have lost the support needed to live independently in the community”.

When the government whip Baroness Barran said that councils had a duty to “provide or arrange services, resources and facilities that maximise independence for those who have or are developing care needs”, Baroness Campbell said research showed that her words “simply do not match the experience of disabled people on the ground”.

She pointed to Barnet council’s new policy, that it will “no longer prioritise offering community-based care and will instead adopt an assumption that disabled people are placed in cheaper accommodation settings”.

She questioned whether this breached the government’s Care Act.

Baroness Barran promised to take the “troubling example” of Barnet council to care minister Caroline Dinenage.

Barnet’s plans caused outrage among disabled people when they were revealed by Disability News Service earlier this year, and have been described by the disabled people’s organisation Inclusion Barnet as a “misconceived” policy that breaches the UN disability convention.

Earlier this month, disabled people and allies staged a protest at a Barnet council meeting at which the plans were being discussed by holding up signs saying: “Disabled People Have A #Right2LiveIndependently”.

Jenny Morris, a member of the Independent Living Strategy Group*, which Baroness Campbell chairs, said this week: “This is only one example of the ever widening gap between what the Care Act was intended to achieve and what disabled people are actually experiencing.”

The north London council wants to save more than £400,000 in 2019-20 by creating more “cost effective support plans”, such as using residential care rather than funding support packages that allow disabled people to live in the community.

It plans to consider “the full range of care options to meet eligible needs (eg residential care), rather than offering community-based placements (eg supported living) by default”, with a new “assumption” that “new clients are placed in cheaper accommodation settings where appropriate”.

The council’s own equality impact assessment of the new policy concluded that it was “possible that not having the option of a council-funded community placement will be seen as negative”, but it claimed that this negative impact on “some equality strands” would be “minimal”.

Paul Baldwin, chair of Inclusion Barnet, said yesterday (Wednesday): “We have been concerned about this policy since it was first proposed.

We are not so far satisfied by the assurances provided by Barnet, as it is clear that financial considerations can still trump individual preferences. 

Therefore, Baroness Campbell’s intervention in the House of Lords this week was a vital challenge to a policy that means that disabled people’s right to live independently is being undermined. 

Inclusion Barnet will also continue to advocate for the council to change direction in our ongoing dialogue with the borough.”

Councillor Sachin Rajput, chair of the council’s adults and safeguarding committee, said: “We remain firmly committed to delivering high standards of care and support for those in need across Barnet, particularly our most vulnerable residents.

We will carefully consider the range of accommodation options available to meet the particular needs of our residents, whilst also considering the limited resources that will be available to us as a council.

Every person will be assessed individually, with their views and the impact on their wellbeing carefully considered.

For the small number of people that will be offered a residential care placement, satisfaction levels and outcomes will be carefully monitored.

Barnet Council will continue to comply with all of its duties under the Care Act (2014).”

Meanwhile, the annual budget survey by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) has found that only one third (35 per cent) of directors are “fully confident” that their budgets will be enough to meet all their statutory duties in 2019-20.

Since 2010, councils across England have had to make a “staggering” £7 billion in savings, and now need to find another £700 million in 2019-20, “just as demand and needs are rising”, said ADASS.

The Care Quality Commission said the survey “once again highlights the mounting pressure on adult social care budgets and provides a stark reminder of the fragility of our social care services”.

And it said the ADASS report “helps to show the human consequences of such under-resourcing and highlights the urgent need for a long term sustainable funding solution for adult social care”.

Nick Ville, director of membership and policy at the NHS Confederation, said the report showed that “while the government fails to act, the problems facing councils have got worse and the crisis for people needing care is escalating”.

*The Independent Living Strategy Group works to protect and promote disabled people’s rights to independent living in England. 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.

27 June 2019

 

 

Disabled students act over university’s ‘immoral and amoral’ discrimination

Disabled students are taking legal action against their university over claims of disability discrimination, claiming the way they have been treated is “immoral and amoral”.

They have also launched a petition, which has been signed by more than 200 supporters.

The claims centre on the failure of London South Bank University to provide the support needed by students with learning difficulties such as dyslexia.

They say that about 20 disabled London South Bank (LSBU) students are supporting the petition, which says the university is treating them “very poorly” by failing to comply with the Equality Act and its own Disability and Dyslexia Support service guidelines.

The disabled student behind the petition, Venesha Rose, is studying for a degree in housing policy and practice.

In a letter to the university, Rose said in February: “The entire experience has been a complete nightmare especially that I am a disabled student with dyslexia, dyspraxia, cognitive delays and complex mobility and I am blind in my right eye so it is a struggle for me to learn in a chaotic environment.”

She write in the letter that she considered the university had breached its contract to her by failing to provide an “excellent quality service” in return for her tuition fees of £9,250 a year.

In a second letter, written earlier this month, she said she considered that she and other black disabled female students had been treated in an “inferior” way to white students and had been “treated badly, ignored and victimised”.

She added: “More importantly, the issues that are being raised are not being taken as seriously because we are black females, who you all appear to look down on as powerless which is reflective in poor service given.”

She said that she and other disabled students had contacted their MPs about the discrimination claims.

Rose told Disability News Service (DNS): “We have all been disadvantaged. It has affected our studies. I went from someone who was getting a first to someone who was being failed.

Why should we leave this establishment with over £70,000 worth of debt, stressed out, after not being given a good service? This is financial injustice.”

She said she and others had tried to take their concerns through the university’s complaints system, without success.

She added: “I feel I have been treated appallingly. As soon as they knew we weren’t just willing to make the complaint and go away they just closed ranks.”

Rose said that five disabled students from her course have written to the universities and science minister, Chris Skidmore, but they have been told by civil servants that “the government cannot become involved in individual disputes between English universities and their students”.

Another black disabled student on the course, Donna Heinz, who is also taking legal action against the university, told DNS: “We have written various letters to the [university] which have been ignored, and they have started to penalise us [through our grades]. It is educational discrimination.”

Like Rose, she says the university is failing to provide the support disabled students are legally entitled to, particularly around support for those with specific learning difficulties.

Heinz, who is 53 and had practically no formal schooling after the age of 11, having spent much of her childhood in care, said: “They are holding us back. I think it’s immoral and amoral.

We are not asking them for anything we are not entitled to, we are just asking them to stick to the guidelines.

They just treat everybody the same [rather than making reasonable adjustments for disabled students]. There is a culture of saying they are diverse, but they are not.

All I am thinking about is future students coming here experiencing the discrimination I am experiencing.”

A third black female disabled student, who has asked not to be named, has also told DNS about the university’s failure to support her after she asked for reasonable adjustments.

When she asked what support the university could offer her as a disabled student, she said she was told to quit her course or take a gap year.

She said: “I regret studying at the establishment and what is happening needs to be stopped.

I do feel that LSBU have not supported me through some of the most difficult times in my life and this type of discrimination could well be due to the colour of my skin.”

All three of the disabled students say they have asked the university to help with their impairment-related support needs, but their requests have been rejected.

A London South Bank University spokesperson said: “We are committed to ensuring that students with a disability or learning difficulty are fully supported and we strive to provide accessible learning opportunities for all.

We take any complaints by students very seriously; we have clear ways in which they can be raised, and thorough processes for investigating them.

However, we cannot comment on individual cases.”

She added: “We are aware of the petition. We listen to all students and their feedback is valued and carefully considered.

We encourage students to voice any concerns they may have and work with us on solutions.”

27 June 2019

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 Posted by at 15:02
Jun 252019
 


RMT Message of support for our #DumpMetroDWPLies campaign:

“The Metro newspaper is carrying government adverts promoting Universal Credit, the new welfare benefit responsible for driving claimants – including disabled people – even further into poverty and insecurity.

Understandably, disability campaigners are removing this vile propaganda from its distribution points, which include many stations and other transport premises.

As transport workers, our job is to ensure the safe running of the service. It is not our job to prevent the safe removal of newspapers.

Janine Booth, Chair, RMT Disabled Members’ Advisory Committee”

This campaign was initiated by our Sheffield DPAC Group

 Posted by at 22:25
Jun 212019
 

 

Important Information from DAI about Patrick Lynch (RIP)

For those of you who have not seen previous notifications on our website, our Management Committee member and long time volunteer Patrick Lynch, died suddenly on the 2nd June 2019.

This has come as a tremendous shock to his family, friends and all of us here at DAI. He will be sorely missed by all of us who knew him.

His funeral mass will take place on:

Tuesday 25th June 2019

At 10am

St John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church

39 Duncan Terrace

Islington

N1 8AL

This church is fully Wheelchair Accessible including accessible toilet

A Cremation Service will take place at 12pm at the:

Hendon Cemetery & Crematorium

Holders Hill Road

London

NW7 1NB

Friends are invited to join the family:

At 2pm

The Alwyne Castle

83 St Pauls Rd

Islington

N1 2LY

This venue is fully wheelchair accessible including accessible toilet

If you require any further information, please contact us by email at: info@daii.org

Please note that the Disability Action in Islington office will be closed all day on Tuesday 25th June.

Andy Greene

Manager

Disability Action in Islington

you can read a tribute to Patrick in the local paper http://islingtontribune.com/article/disability-rights-campaigner-patrick-took-on-the-government

 

 Posted by at 14:42
Jun 202019
 

Guards lock activists inside DWP HQ during universal credit ‘whitewash’ action

Disabled activists were locked inside the Department for Work and Pensions’ headquarters by security guards as they delivered thousands of copies of a newspaper that feature “deliberately misleading” DWP adverts which “whitewash” the truth about universal credit.

Protesters from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) were unable to leave Caxton House in Westminster for several minutes yesterday (Wednesday) when security guards locked the building’s front doors behind them after they entered the main lobby.

They had entered the building to deliver a letter to work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd, in which they asked her to explain why she had spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on an advertising campaign in the free Metro newspaper that features “one-sided adverts whitewashing the disastrous Universal Credit policy”.

They also delivered about 10 boxes of copies of yesterday’s Metro, which features the latest Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) advertising feature on universal credit (UC), and which activists had removed from distribution points at train stations and on buses across the capital.

Soon after their arrival, DWP security guards locked the front entrance and threatened to call the police, even though the action had been peaceful and focused only on delivering the newspapers and the letter to Rudd.

The doors were eventually unlocked several minutes later after one of the activists had a panic attack.

The letter to Rudd was finally accepted, and although DWP initially refused to accept the boxes of newspapers, they were later taken inside after being left outside the department’s front entrance.

In the letter, DPAC and allies from Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group asked Rudd “why, when Universal Credit is causing so much suffering and distress, your department chose to throw money at this shameless exercise”.

They added: “We hope that the enclosed materials will provide food for thought as you prepare your response to claimants staring into empty cupboards trying to work out how they can feed themselves and their children, and all those who are wondering why the taxes we pay for collective provision of services are being used in such an inappropriate attempt to rewrite the story of this disastrous policy.”

Paula Peters, a member of DPAC’s national steering group, who took part in the action, said: “They are discrediting people’s real testimonies of going through universal credit.

I have been outside jobcentres and have spoken to claimants who have been driven to prostitution, destitution and homelessness by universal credit.”

She added: “We will continue to expose their lies and total fabrications and we have to get the truth out there with thorough research and with people’s personal testimonies.”

Yesterday’s action, including the hire of a van to deliver the newspapers, was paid for through a crowdfunding effort launched by Sheffield DPAC, which is set to pay for further such actions.

As DPAC was delivering its copies of the Metro to DWP in London, disabled activists and allies in other parts of the country, including Sheffield and Bristol, posted photographs of copies of the Metro being removed from their distribution points, as part of the ongoing #DumpMetroDWPLies campaign.

A spokesperson for Sheffield DPAC – which has played a significant role in the national campaign – said anger about the Metro adverts was growing, and she thanked those who had donated to the fund.

She said the Metro adverts were “propaganda” and “a deliberate attempt to manipulate public perception” of universal credit.

She said: “I implore people, whether they are claimants or not, to support the #DumpMetroDWPLies campaign against the DWP advertorials.

People have to be aware that once the government have done targeting us that they will move on to someone else.

We need to act, we need to stand up, we need to stop this, and we absolutely must do it together.”

Meanwhile, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has confirmed that it is investigating the way the DWP advertising features have been published by the Metro.

Disability News Service (DNS) confirmed last month that DWP breached Civil Service guidelines when it decided to launch the nine-week series of “unethical and misleading” Metro advertorials without including a government logo.

And this week DNS passed a screen shot to ASA showing the home page of the Metro’s website, which featured several UC adverts designed to look like a newspaper investigation and which disguise their DWP origin.

None of the adverts on the website mentioned they were designed and paid for by DWP, which appears to be a breach of ASA rules.

Leaked DWP documents have revealed that the adverts were always designed to be misleading and not to “look or feel like DWP or UC”.

An ASA spokesperson said: “We’re currently assessing a number of complaints relating to these ads, including complaints that challenge whether the ads are obviously identifiable as marketing communications.

We will establish whether there are grounds for further action in due course.”

Meanwhile, the Disability Benefits Consortium of charities has written to ASA to complain about the “deliberately misleading” advertising features.

The letter dismantles several of the claims made in the adverts, including the claim that it is a “myth” that “Universal Credit doesn’t work”, telling ASA: “These statements omit the thousands of claimants universal credit does not ‘work for’ but instead has driven them into debt, rent arrears, foodbanks, and homelessness.”

A DWP spokesperson told DNS: “Our position is that all our advertising is factual and designed to increase understanding of Universal Credit.

We consulted the Advertising Standards Authority prior to launching the partnership and have reflected their advice.

We’ve not got anything further to add.”

On the DPAC action at Caxton House, she said: “You can understand that we’re in a government building, so a group of non-staff members quickly entering the building with large parcels is an obvious security concern.

Security dealt with the incident quickly and the activists were able to leave the parcels outside the front door, without the need for further action.”

She had already declined to comment when asked what DWP planned to do with the thousands of Metros delivered to Rudd.

20 June 2019

 

 

Motability customers ‘will benefit from hundreds of millions of pounds in new funding’

Disabled people and families with disabled children will benefit from hundreds of millions of pounds in new funding released by the company that runs the Motability car scheme.

Motability Operations announced on Friday that it would release £370 million from its financial reserves to support disabled people and their families, and not all of them will be Motability customers.

The move follows repeated criticism from MPs on the Treasury and work and pensions select committees about high levels of financial reserves held by Motability Operations – which reached more than £2.6 billion in March 2018 – as well as issues such as high rates of executive pay at the company, a lack of transparency, and a critical report from the National Audit Office (NAO).

The company now plans to spend £100 million of the funds it is releasing from its reserves on supporting customers, while the other £270 million – as well as all this year’s profits – will be handed to Motability*, the charity which oversees its work.

This could amount to tens of millions of pounds more than £270 million, as Motability Operations made more than £100 million in profits last year in addition to a £400 million donation to the charity.

The charity has decided to use the extra funds to set up a new endowment fund that will act as a “long-term insurance policy” and allow it to expand its “charitable horizons”.

The two organisations have confirmed to Disability News Service (DNS) some of the ways in which they plan to use the extra funds to support disabled people.

One of the most eye-catching initiatives for the Motability charity is a plan to expand the number of grants it makes to disabled people with high support needs to allow them to lease adapted vehicles.

Such a move would be a success for disabled campaigners who have long called for Motability to use more of its substantial resources to fund expensive, heavily-adapted vehicles for disabled people who would otherwise be unable to engage with their local community.

The charity is also considering providing more funds to pay for driving lessons for disabled people, while it is hoping to help more people with disabled children under three years old with high support needs, building on a pilot scheme it has been running with the Family Fund.

Some of the funds could also be used to help disabled people who are not Motability customers with their transport needs, for example with research projects exploring the use of new technology.

Only disabled people receiving the higher mobility rates of disability living allowance (DLA) or personal independence payment (PIP) – or similar payments for former members of the armed services – are eligible to join the Motability scheme.

In a written “rationale” for setting up the endowment fund, Lord Sterling, the charity’s chair, said that Motability was also in “very active discussions” with the Department for Work and Pensions in “areas of particular interest to them, where we can help disabled people with both expertise and money”.

This will include extending the period in which customers can keep their Motability vehicle while waiting for their appeal to be heard, if they lose entitlement in the move from DLA to PIP, as has happened to tens of thousands of customers since the introduction of PIP by the coalition government in 2013.

A Motability spokesperson said: “We recognised that there was an issue with customers returning their car before the completion of the appeal process, so in April 2017, we introduced the option for customers who were eligible for our transition support payment [for customers who joined the scheme before 2014] to receive a lower payment in return for retaining the vehicle for up to 26 weeks. 

At the time we believed that this would be sufficient for any customer to complete their appeal. 

As the volume of people pursuing an appeal has increased, the time taken to complete an appeal has also increased. 

If a customer has chosen to pursue an appeal and this has not been completed within the 26 weeks then, provided we are satisfied that the appeal is actively being pursued, we will provide a further discretionary extension to the retention period so the appeal can be completed.”

Motability Operations said the bulk of the £100 million it will be spending itself will go on direct payments to customers, with most of it to be spent on the good condition bonus that customers receive if they return their car in good shape at the end of their three or five-year lease.

The chairs of the two Commons committees that have held the organisations to account with their inquiries and public evidence sessions welcomed the new funding but said that Motability Operations still had more to do.

Nicky Morgan, the Conservative chair of the Treasury committee, said: “As our committees have concluded recently, Motability Operations’ significant financial reserves are difficult to square with the honourable objectives of the scheme. 

Last week’s announcement by Motability Operations – that it will release £370 million from its reserves to support customers and disabled people with mobility needs – is good news for members of the scheme. 

Motability Operations must now ensure that its customers will benefit from this either in the form of lower prices or more generous vehicular adaptations.”

Frank Field, chair of the work and pensions committee, said: “At long last and after months of chivvying by our committees and the NAO, Motability Operations has begun to accept that it can’t just sit there on piles of reserves built up thanks to the taxpayer’s unique support.

That’s most welcome, but is only a first step. There is still a way to go before we are satisfied that Motability is even beginning to make the best use of its vast funds and privileged position, to provide the best possible service for disabled people.”

*The charity Motability is a DNS subscriber

20 June 2019

 

 

Police and CPS face hate crime questions over disabled teen’s two-year ordeal

Police and prosecutors are facing questions over why they failed to treat the ordeal of a disabled teenager – who was kept as a slave for more than two years and subjected to brutal daily beatings – as a disability hate crime.

It is just the latest in a lengthy line of cases in which police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have faced accusations of failing to secure recognition of disability hate crime through the courts.

This week, both South Wales police (SWP) – one of six forces criticised last year for their “unacceptable” performance on disability hate crime – and CPS repeatedly refused to say what steps they took to confirm whether the teenager’s horrific ordeal should be treated as a hate crime.

SWP has described the injuries experienced by the young disabled man during the forced, unpaid labour as “horrendous” and said he was left without a single uninjured part of his body when he was finally rescued.

The young man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is autistic and has ADHD, and was fed just one meal a day, often just a tin of soup or baked beans.

He was regularly beaten by Anthony Baker and his son Harvey with a metal pole and was forced to work in their scrapyard in Jersey Marine, near Swansea, and to live “in squalor” in a small caravan.

Reports of the trial say that when he was discovered by police in January – following a tip-off from a member of the public – he had a series of horrific injuries, including open wounds, was dirty and malnourished, and found it difficult to speak because of injuries to his jaw, which had been broken on multiple occasions.

Wales Online said the judge described the way the young disabled man was treated as “brutal and savagely inhuman” and said he had been subjected to a regime of “immense brutality” and “sadistic behaviour”.

The Bakers deliberately broke one of his fingers, bit his nose and “treated him as a human punchbag”.

Neither of the men has shown any remorse for what happened, said SWP.

The Bakers were jailed at Swansea Crown Court on Friday (14 June) for a total of 16 years after admitting assault, grievous bodily harm and unlawful wounding, while Anthony Baker also admitted a modern slavery offence*.

But because police and prosecutors apparently failed to consider or treat these offences as possible disability hate crimes at any stage of their investigations and preparation for the trial, the judge was not asked to increase the sentences under section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act.

It is just the latest case to highlight how the criminal justice system is failing victims of disability hate crime.

Last October, West Midlands police and CPS faced similar questions over their failure to treat an “utterly barbaric” campaign of violence and abuse directed at a disabled mum and daughter as disability hate crime.

The following month, Suffolk police was criticised for failing to treat an attack on a disabled woman – who was spat at and left covered with flour by a group of teenagers as she sat on a park bench – as a disability hate crime.

That case had come just days after the CPS annual hate crime report showed the number of disability hate crime cases referred to prosecutors by police forces in England and Wales plunged in the previous year by nearly a quarter.

The number of disability hate crime convictions also slumped, from 800 in 2016-17 to 564 in 2017-18 (a drop of 29.5 per cent).

Earlier that month, a report by two watchdogs found that the work of police officers on more than half of the disability hate crime investigations examined across six sample forces – including South Wales police – had been found to be “unacceptable”.

Disability News Service has been reporting on the criminal justice system’s failings in dealing with disability hate crime since 2009.

This week, a South Wales police spokesperson repeatedly refused to say if his force took active steps to investigate whether disability-related hostility was a motive for the Bakers’ crimes.

Instead, he said in a statement: “At no stage of the investigation was there any evidence that the victim was abused due to a disability.

If there was evidence of this nature then it would have been presented to the CPS.”

A CPS spokesperson refused to say what steps were taken by prosecutors in relation to considering disability hate crime as a possible motive for the Bakers’ crimes.

Instead, he said in a statement: “The crimes of Anthony and Harvey Baker were despicable and their prison sentences reflect the harm they did.

The victim was subjected to verbal abuse but this was related to their perceived lifestyle and work. The motivation for the assaults was the work the victim did.

The law gives prosecutors the power to request that judges increase the sentence when there is evidence the offender demonstrated hostility or was motivated by hostility based on a person’s disability.

Where it exists, we won’t hesitate to put this evidence before the court.”

He added later: “For an offence to be prosecuted by the CPS as a disability hate crime and therefore get a sentence uplift there has to be evidence that the offenders demonstrated hostility or were motivated by hostility based on a disability.

That evidence was not there in his case.”

David Wilkin, a coordinator of the Disability Hate Crime Network, said: “The inconsistencies inherent in the prosecution of hate crime are underpinned by much evidence from many victims.”

He suggested there was now a need for an “operational stipulation” that forces police officers to “process hate crime with the seriousness that it deserves”.

He pointed to the ongoing Law Commission consultation on current hate crime legislation, which could – if it produces new laws – enable prosecutors to treat hate crime “with the gravity it deserves”, and provide judges with “the clarity that will enable them to make proportional sentencing decisions”.

*Anthony Baker, aged 49, had previously pleaded guilty to requiring a person to perform forced or compulsory labour, four counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, unlawful wounding, and inflicting grievous bodily harm, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison and another five years on licence.

Harvey Baker, aged 19, had previously pleaded guilty to six counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, three of inflicting grievous bodily harm, and one of unlawful wounding, and was sentenced to six years in a young offender institution.

20 June 2019

 

 

Disabled woman describes her long-stay hospital abuse ordeal

A young disabled woman has described the abuse she experienced in a charity-run mental health hospital, and has called for more to be done to close such long-stay institutions.

Abigail Donohoe spent more than six years in mental health hospitals in her late teens and early 20s, including more than two years at a brain injury service run by the St Andrew’s Healthcare charity in Northampton.

Although the charity’s brain injury service was rated good (PDF) when last inspected by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in 2016, the regulator this month placed the adolescents service on the same site into special measures (PDF).

The adolescents service for young disabled people attracted media attention last year when it was revealed that one autistic teenager called Bethany had been kept in seclusion for nearly two years and was often fed through a hatch.

The same service had already been exposed the previous year by Channel 4’s Dispatches, which featured a visit by former Liberal Democrat social care minister Norman Lamb, who described his horror at the use of segregation he found there.

Now a CQC inspection has placed the service in special measures, giving it six months to make urgent improvements, after raising serious concerns about safety, and warning that staff “did not always treat patients with kindness, dignity, compassion and respect”.

Donohoe is not autistic herself, but she says she can display “challenging behaviour with autistic traits”, which was why she was admitted to the neuropsychiatry unit.

She was originally admitted to St Andrew’s as a voluntary patient in 2013, but she was later sectioned.

She arrived during a period of crisis, having been led to believe that she would receive a thorough, six-week assessment followed by recommendations for a continuing programme of treatment.

But she did not leave for more than two years, and then spent another two years at Milton Park Therapeutic Campus, in Bedford, firstly on section for a year and then as a voluntary patient for another year because there were no community-based placements available.

Milton Park, now renamed Lakeside, was rated as “requires improvement” earlier this year by CQC, and remains in “special measures” after previously being rated “inadequate”.

This week, Donohoe described to Disability News Service how she was kept in seclusion for hours at a time at St Andrew’s.

While some staff were supportive and caring, others taunted or threatened her, and physical restraint was common and could last up to 30 minutes, including techniques such as bending her wrists, lying on top of her, or injecting her with powerful sedatives against her will.

She believes the kind of abuse she experienced is widespread in many institutions.

Donohoe, who is currently living with her family with outreach support while she tries to find a suitable supported living setting where she can live independently in the community, has now written to MPs and peers on the joint committee on human rights (JCHR) to push for wide-ranging reform.

Since leaving “high-pressure institutional settings”, she has been “so much calmer”, she said.

She said the failure to release patients from long-stay institutions is partly connected to the profits such services can make for the organisations running them because of the huge fees they are able to charge.

And they often justify the failure to release patients like her by recording every single offensive or aggressive word as a separate incident – which happened at St Andrew’s – allowing them to exaggerate how often a patient has been offensive or aggressive and demonstrate why they cannot be released.

She said: “That makes me look like an abusive monster. I can be very challenging, but not 200 separate incidents, and often it will have been caused by goading from the staff.”

The goading at St Andrew’s involved threatening her with powerful medication or telling her she will be “here forever” if she does not “shut up”.

They do that to make it look as if you need to be in hospital,” she said.

She has spoken of her hope to speak out on behalf of fellow patients to help in the push for reform.

She contrasts the treatment of people with conditions such as diabetes and schizophrenia, who receive crisis inpatient healthcare and then receive ongoing community-based care, with the care often handed out to autistic people, and those with learning difficulties and impairments like hers, who are often “warehoused” for years on end in long-stay hospital units.

She said: “The system is completely ineffective, and it is about locking people away. It needs a complete overhaul.”

She believes that the six-week timeframe she was told to expect is the only one acceptable for someone in her position to be detained in such a setting.

After that period expires, she says, and the recommendations have been made, support should be provided in an inclusive community setting.

She points to the case of Jade Hutchings, an autistic woman and a pen pal of hers, whose own case was written about in the mainstream media last year when it emerged that she had been locked in an assessment and treatment unit for more than 13 years.

Donohoe said there needed to be more effort to hear from service-users like her, although she accepts that many patients cannot speak for themselves because of their impairments and the fear of services taking revenge on them if they do speak out.

She said: “I am extremely frustrated that it is not changing despite all the scandals.”

Only last week, she watched two senior CQC figures giving evidence to the JCHR about the regulator’s failure to halt the abuse at Whorlton Hall, later exposed by an undercover reporter working for BBC’s Panorama.

Donohoe said the whole care system was failing and CQC itself needed to do more to “take ownership” of the problems.

She said she did not trust the CQC’s ratings, and added: “There’s not a lot of point in having them if you can’t trust the ratings.”

A spokesperson for St Andrew’s said: “We support vulnerable people and have a duty of care which we take very seriously. 

An important part of this is respecting patients’ confidentiality. For this reason we never comment on whether someone is or has been a patient at St Andrew’s Healthcare.”

But she added: “Seclusion is used for the shortest possible time and only ever when other less restrictive methods have failed.

A person is only restrained – and then only for the shortest possible time – when they have become a risk or danger to themselves, other patients or staff, and only when all other de-escalation methods have failed.

The CQC have recently recognised the reduction in the use of restrictive practices within our services, such as prone restraint and rapid tranquilisation.

For those patients who are referred to our hospital environments at a time when they are at their most vulnerable, our role is to provide care as best we can and proactively advocate on their behalf when we believe it is right for them to move on.”

But Donohoe said St Andrew’s had not advocated for its patients from her experience.

She said: “They are encouraging people to be kept there longer by exaggerating incidents in the way they are reported.”

She said she could not say what St Andrew’s was like now, but when she was there she was often kept in seclusion for hours, with staff making no effort to de-escalate the situation by engaging with her.

She weighs about eight-and-a-half stone and would often be physically restrained by “six big guys”.

She said the thought of what she went through while being restrained still makes her angry.

She added: “Occasionally I did get seriously hurt during the course of restraint.

It was quite damaging to every sort of recovery. That was why I had to go to Milton Park, to recover from St Andrew’s.”

20 June 2019

 

 

Praise for cake shop chain that admitted access faults, and put them right

A chain of cake shops has thanked a disabled campaigner for drawing its attention to access failures that prevented wheelchair-users entering three of its stores.

Konditor said it was “ashamed” of its previous access failings and has apologised to “anyone who has visited [our] shops in the past and been unable to gain access”.

It has now pledged to make a financial donation to a London disabled people’s organisation (DPO) after admitting it was previously unaware of its duties under the Equality Act.

The access failings were spotted by Esther Leighton, co-founder of the disabled-led campaigning organisation Reasonable Access, after she was unable to enter three of its six London stores.

After she raised her concerns, with support from Reasonable Access members, Konditor agreed to improve access at the three stores, providing each of them with low-cost portable ramps that allow wheelchair-users to cope with single steps at their entrances.

Now Konditor is backing Inclusion London’s Disability Justice Project, which supports London DPOs to use the law to make disabled people’s rights to independent living and access to goods and services a reality.

Konditor will donate 20p to the project every time it sells one of its most popular cakes over the next six months.

Leighton said she had asked Konditor repeatedly to buy ramps for its inaccessible stores.

In similar situations, she has taken the service-provider to court, but once the problem reached the company’s head office, she said, “Konditor turned the situation around”.

She said: “They fixed the problem, made amends including by selling cakes for the Disability Justice Project, which is a cause close to my heart, and so I look forward to being a loyal customer for many years to come.”

Leighton said: “I have an ongoing frustration with high street shops without step-free access, particularly when this can often be fixed with a simple ramp available online for as little as £50.

I am unable to get up even small steps, so this is a barrier which unnecessarily limits me.

Despite the Equality Act 2010 duty being very clear that shops should have ramps, many do not do so.”

She added: “I find being denied access to businesses, particularly luxury ones like this, utterly demoralising; it makes me feel like a second-class citizen and it makes me frustrated that 24 years after the law said that ‘reasonable adjustments’ (like a ramp) should be made, that they are not.

I find trying to enforce my rights very difficult, too.

Sometimes I need to go all the way to court (as it’s usually impossible to get lawyers for such cases) and this is costly in time and money, as well as upsetting.

However, it’s often the only way to get this change made, so there isn’t an alternative to ensure I and other disabled people are treated better.

In Konditor’s case, I am really delighted that they made the situation right and this wasn’t necessary.

They’re also keen to share with other businesses the many positives of making changes that ensure a welcome for all people, which makes me happy as it’s improving the world for everyone.” 

She encouraged other disabled people who are angry at not being able to access a service, even after asking for improvements, to use the law to help bring about change.

She said: “You don’t need to be a lawyer to do this, though you do need to have time and be able to deal with sometimes complex paperwork.”

Leighton encouraged disabled people to contact Reasonable Access – which supports disabled people who are using the law, particularly the Equality Act 2010, to advance disability rights – if they want to speak to others who are taking such action, and also to contact their local MP.

But she said they should also campaign for a more effective enforcement mechanism, and she added: “Changes this basic could be enforced by the local council, for instance, rather than requiring individuals to do it.

That would be better for businesses and disabled people.”

Svetlana Kotova, Inclusion London’s Disability Justice Project co-ordinator, said: “Konditor admitted their mistake and took this opportunity to make their shops more accessible. 

If other providers of goods and services had similar attitude, everyday experience of many disabled people would be very different.

However, it is important to remember that Konditor took those steps because Esther Leighton explained to them what is required by the duty to make reasonable adjustments.

This shows how much work still needs to be done to ensure providers of goods and services, including small businesses, understand their duties under the Equality Act and comply with it.   

We know access is good for everyone and we hope this example will encourage many more businesses to adopt a similar approach.”

Paul Cons, Konditor’s chief executive, said: “Until Esther bought this issue to our attention, I’m ashamed to say we had simply not fully considered the needs of our disabled customers or realised what was required of us by law.

This has been a welcome wake-up call for us and we’re glad to have addressed this issue in the business. 

Thanks to a passionate campaigner like Esther, we’ve made the changes, but feel she shouldn’t have had to bring it to our attention in the first place.”

20 June 2019

 

 

Welcome for new blue badge rules, but concerns remain

Disabled campaigners have welcomed new rules that will make it easier for autistic people and others with invisible impairments to secure blue parking badges, but they have also raised concerns about how they will work in practice.

The new government rules for councils are likely to lead to a significant increase in the number of disabled people eligible for blue badges across England.

Disabled people with blue badges in many parts of the country already find it almost impossible at peak times to find a parking space.

But the government has also announced a new taskforce aimed at clamping down on fraud and misuse of blue badges, which it hopes will ease the pressure on spaces.

The government was forced into making the changes to blue badge guidance because of its previous decision in 2014 to tighten the rules, which led to a judicial review legal case taken on behalf of an autistic man with learning difficulties.

That led to the Department for Transport (DfT) agreeing to review the guidance, and eventually introduce the new rules for local authorities in England, which will come into force on 30 August.

Justin Tomlinson, the minister for disabled people, said: “It’s unacceptable that people with hidden disabilities still face discrimination when using disabled facilities like parking spaces.  

Extending the Blue Badge scheme is a watershed moment in ensuring those with hidden disabilities are able to travel with greater ease and live more independent lives.” 

Under the new rules, a disabled person should be automatically eligible for a blue badge if they receive eight points or more under the “moving around” activity of the mobility component of personal independence payment (PIP), or they receive the PIP mobility component and also score at least 10 points under the “planning and following journeys” activity because making a journey causes them “overwhelming psychological distress”.

Others who do not qualify automatically could still be eligible for a badge if they pass an assessment to decide if they cannot walk or undertake a journey without creating a risk of serious harm, causing “very considerable psychological distress”, or experiencing very considerable difficulty when walking.

Helen Dolphin, co-founder of the People’s Parking scheme and a blue badge expert, welcomed the extension of the scheme as long as there were also efforts made to “sort out the fraud and misuse” in the current system.

She said the new guidance and the anti-fraud taskforce “have to go hand in hand”.

Dolphin, herself a badge-holder, said: “Blue badges are being misused by friends and family quite a lot of the time, and they are also being used fraudulently.”

She has heard from an industry expert that fake blue badges have been sold door-to-door in London for £100 each.

Kat Humble, communications officer for Autistic UK, which is run by and for autistic people, said the new rules would certainly “be a great relief to many” but Autistic UK was “sceptical” that the change would be effective because there were not even enough accessible parking bays to meet the demands of current badge holders.

She said: “Increasing the number of badge holders without also ensuring that local councils have the funds to increase available parking bays will simply mean that all badge holders will receive a poorer service and experience a reduction in their ability to access services.”

She also warned of problems with the crackdown on fraud and misuse, including the risk of a “backlash” against people with invisible impairments, who “face a different kind of discrimination, that of people not believing that they are disabled”.

But she said: “Obviously, there is a lot of room for improvement and a crackdown, properly executed, would be very welcome.”

Autistic UK also wants to see a crackdown on misuse of accessible bays by non-disabled people, along with a requirement on landowners to enforce proper use of the bays on private land.

She said: “A combination of these measures would go a very long way towards ensuring that disabled bays were only used by badge holders, which would mean a great many more bays were available to serve the influx of new people in the scheme.”

The National Autistic Society (NAS) said the changes would be “life-changing” for many autistic people.

Jane Harris, NAS director of external affairs, said: “The old rules were too focused on people’s physical ability to walk, and changes to government guidance in 2014 meant that many autistic people couldn’t get a badge.”

Authorities in Scotland and Wales have already made changes aimed at addressing the problems with the 2014 guidance.

DfT has previous predicted that its new rules will see a six per cent increase in blue badge applications (53,000) in the first year, and an “initial surge” of 44,000 new badges (a five per cent increase).

It will provide councils with £1.7 million in the first year of the new guidance to help with the expected increase in applications.

Last year, the Local Government Association estimated that the theft of blue badges had risen by 45 per cent in 12 months and was six times higher than in 2013.  

The taskforce will look at ensuring badges are used correctly and improving public understanding of the scheme.

20 June 2019

 

 

Author backs Justice for Jodey and calls for urgent DWP deaths inquiry

The disabled author of an acclaimed new investigation into the impact of austerity on disabled people has backed calls for an independent inquiry into links between the government’s policies and the deaths of benefit claimants.

Frances Ryan said there was an “urgent” need for an inquiry to investigate the failings of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and its links to the deaths of disabled people claiming benefits.

She has become the latest high-profile figure to back the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition*, which calls for an inquiry into such deaths, and for any evidence of criminal misconduct by ministers or senior civil servants to be passed to police.

The petition also calls for a recognition that DWP is institutionally disablist and not fit for purpose, and for DWP to change its policies and practices urgently to make the safety of all benefit claimants a priority.

Ryan’s new book, Crippled: Austerity and the Demonization of Disabled People**, argues that those in power have turned on disabled people, who have become objects of “suspicion, demonization and contempt” since 2010.

Ryan told Disability News Service: “In Crippled, I look at multiple cases of people who have died after having their benefits removed.

Some were found ‘fit for work’ but due to the inaccuracy of the assessment system, were so ill they died shortly after.

Some were starved, frozen, or had lethal health conditions triggered because they had no money for food, electric, or heating.

Others like Jodey were left in desperate states and sadly took their own lives.”

She added: “Coroners have repeatedly pointed to ‘fit-for-work’ tests as a contributory factor in a number of disabled people’s deaths.

Suicide is deeply complex and it’s vital to report on these cases responsibly, but it isn’t hard to see how people are becoming vulnerable.

Remove social security from a disabled person too disabled or ill to work and it’s like pushing someone off a cliff and feigning surprise when they hit the beach.”

Her book brings together much of the research that has exposed the impact of austerity on disabled people in the last decade, but it also hears the stories of individuals whose lives have been blighted by cuts to their support.

It is, she says, “a rallying cry against the shrinking of the welfare state and the hardship the austerity agenda is causing disabled people”.

Her book has been praised by high-profile figures such as film director Ken Loach, and shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who has said: “This devastating book should shake our political system to its foundations.”

Ryan concludes in the book that disabled people “have been routinely driven into destitution, pushed from the workplace and stripped of the right to live in their own homes”, while the benefit system is in chaos, with disabled people “forced through a system defined by hostility and humiliation”.

And she says society has now reached the point at which “a cocktail of austerity and long-standing prejudice towards disabled people is leading to the sort of large-scale negligence that at its extremes is tantamount to abuse”.

*To sign the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition, click on this link. If you sign the petition, please note that you will need to confirm your signature by clicking on an email you will be sent automatically by the House of Commons petitions committee

**Crippled: Austerity and the Demonization of Disabled People, by Frances Ryan, is published by Verso Books

20 June 2019

 

 

MPs hear of barriers facing LGBT disabled people who need social care

A disabled activist has told MPs of the discrimination and other barriers faced by LGBT disabled people who need to access social care.

Dr Ju Gosling, co-chair of the LGBTQI+* disabled people’s organisation Regard, told a Commons committee that members of her community were much less likely to be able to rely on family and friends for support with their care needs.

And when they accessed support from the care industry, they often faced discrimination from personal assistants (PAs), care workers and their local authority.

She was giving evidence to the women and equalities committee as part of its inquiry into health and social care and LGBT communities.

Gosling pointed to research co-produced by Regard, the University of Bristol, the Social Care Institute for Excellence and the LGBT charity Stonewall, which was published two years ago.

More than half of those surveyed for the research said they never or only sometimes disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity to their PAs.

And more than a third said they had experienced discrimination or received poor treatment from their PAs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, with one man having been sexually assaulted after he told his PA he was gay.

Gosling told the MPs she believed the necessary protections were included in the Equality Act and the Care Act, so the key problem was with implementation of the legislation.

She said the research had also found that more than 90 per cent of those surveyed said their needs as an LGBTQI+ disabled person were either not considered or were only given some consideration when they were assessed or reviewed by their local authority.

Almost a third felt they had been discriminated against by their local authority on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Gosling said there were often problems recruiting PAs to provide paid support at home, with PAs often not wanting to be identified as a frequent visitor to a gay person’s home in case they were exposed to harassment.

She said that LGBT people were much more likely to need social care because they were “much more likely to move away from where we grew up, so we don’t have lifetime friends, our contact with our biological family is at best polite, is seldom close and is often non-existent [and] we’re much less likely to have children”.

For the same reasons, LGBT people are less likely to have access to advocacy from friends and family, she said.

She told the committee: “We would very strongly argue for the return of the policy that there should be a centre for independent living (CIL), led by disabled people, in every local authority area because peer support is not only the cheapest but also the most effective way to provide monitoring [of the support being provided].

Generally speaking, if you’re isolated at home you’ve got nobody to tell, [but] if you’ve got peer support meetings once a month for direct payment users you’ve got someone to tell, you’ve got staff, you’ve got workers.”

But she said many disabled-led CILs were being closed or the services they had provided had been taken on by “generic support agencies that aren’t run by disabled people” and that “don’t really know what the issues are and of course they don’t know how to tackle them”.

*People who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex or who hold identities such as non-binary

20 June 2019

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 Posted by at 15:07
Jun 132019
 

Crippled: Austerity and the Demonization of Disabled People | Frances Ryan

In this video, Frances Ryan explores the devastating reality of austerity on disability benefits – providing a damning indictment of a safety net gone wrong. She is the author of Crippled: Austerity and the Demonization of Disabled People.

To order a copy at discount price go to: https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/4346-crippled-austerity-and-the-demonization-of-disabled-people-frances-ryan

Verso has also given DPAC the chance to give a free copy away to one lucky member. Email mail@dpac.uk.net with “Crippled” in the subject line before mid-day on Tuesday 18 July to be in with a chance of winning.

Also, few places still left for London book launch supported by DOAC, Unite the Union and the People’s Assembly Against Austerity: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/crippled-austerity-and-the-demonization-of-disabled-people-launch-for-frances-ryans-new-book-tickets-62955660074

Jun 132019
 

 

Confusion – again – after Labour backtracks on Corbyn pledge to scrap universal credit

Labour’s policy on universal credit has again become mired in confusion after its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, promised to scrap the government’s “catastrophic” and “iniquitous” benefit system if his party wins the next general election.

Such a move would be seen as a significant victory for disabled activists and allies who have pushed the party to promise to scrap universal credit, instead of pledging only to halt the rollout of the system and fix its many flaws.

Interviewed after the party’s success in last week’s Peterborough by-election, Corbyn told Channel 4 News: “We are ready for a general election, and that general election will deliver a Labour government.”

He added: “If you voted Remain in 2016, and you’re on universal credit, if you voted Leave in 2016 on universal credit, you actually want to get rid of universal credit. That’s what Labour offers.”

Despite Corbyn’s comments, what seemed to be a significant change in policy appeared not to have been noticed by any mainstream media.

And the party’s press office today (Thursday) issued a statement that conflicted with what Corbyn said, merely stating again that a Labour government would pause the rollout of UC and try to make it fit for purpose.

A party spokesperson said: “Universal credit isn’t working and cannot continue in its current form.

Labour will stop the roll-out, and ensure our social security system genuinely protects people from poverty.”

Disabled activists, particularly Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), have campaigned for the government – and any future Labour government – to “stop and scrap” universal credit (UC).

Only last week, DPAC released new research which detailed media articles on UC published between January and May this year, which it said was “a damning record of UC systemic and catastrophic failures”.

It said that UC had reached a point where it was “unable to adapt to claimants’ complex circumstances, and is forcing people with the least resources into further poverty, homelessness, and hunger”. 

DPAC said it was calling for UC to be scrapped because it had become a social security system “which not only does not offer security, but actively undermined people’s ability to cope with the hazards of life”.

A DPAC spokesperson said last night (Wednesday), in response to Corbyn’s comments, but before the party had released its statement: “We welcome it as it’s the only credible position that Labour or any other party can take given UC’s well-evidenced fundamental failings, enormous waste and terrible harm but we remain unsure of Labour’s position until there is a firm public commitment.”

It is not the first time that Labour has appeared to call for UC to be scrapped and then retreated from that position.

Last October, the party had to back-track after deputy leader John McDonnell said in a television interview that UC was a “shambles” and “iniquitous” and added: “I think we are moving to a position now where it is just not sustainable. It will have to go.”

But the party’s press office later stressed that Labour’s position was that “universal credit in its current form simply isn’t working”.

Labour’s work and pensions secretary, Margaret Greenwood, was also heavily-criticised by disabled activists after telling the party’s annual conference in Liverpool last September that the government must “stop the rollout of universal credit and fix its many flaws”, rather than calling for it to be scrapped.

13 June 2019

 

 

OECD figures expose DWP claims of disability spending ‘generosity’

Repeated claims by the government that the UK is one of the most generous major economies in the world when it comes to spending on disabled people have been exposed as highly misleading by official figures.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and its ministers have repeatedly defended themselves against criticisms of cuts to disabled people’s support by comparing their record with other countries.

But that defence has now been exposed as deeply misleading, with official figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showing the UK has one of the worst records among major world economies on supporting disabled people.

This week, Disability News Service (DNS) was forced to lodge a complaint with DWP after a press officer refused to say if the department accepted the OECD figures.

The statistics emerged after Esther McVey, the former work and pensions secretary standing to be the new Tory party leader and prime minister, defended her own record in government by claiming – during a BBC interview – that the UK was “one of the most generous countries in our support for disabled people”.

DWP subsequently told Channel 4 News Fact Check, when it tried to confirm that claim, that “as a share of GDP, the UK’s public spending on disability and incapacity is higher than all other G7 countries bar Germany”.

This claim was based on data provided by the OECD group of major world economies, which show that of the G7 countries – Japan, the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and the UK – the UK does spend the second-highest amount as a proportion of GDP.

But what the same figures also show is that, when it comes to public spending on incapacity (including sickness and disability benefits, and social care services), the UK’s spending is only 23rd highest of the 36 OECD members as a proportion of the country’s economic activity (GDP).

They even show the UK is below the OECD average of 1.9 per cent of GDP spent on incapacity.

The OECD figures also show the UK’s performance has worsened since 2010, when a Tory-led coalition took power.

In 2010, the UK was 22nd highest of OECD members, with 2.0 per cent of its GDP spent on incapacity, but had slipped by 2015 to 23rd, with just 1.852 per cent.

And when it comes to European Union members of the OECD, UK spending on incapacity is only 18th highest out of 23.

But when DNS asked if DWP accepted these OECD figures, a spokesperson said: “We’re spending £55 billion this year on benefits to support disabled people and those with health conditions – more than ever before.

As a share of GDP, the UK’s public spending on disability and incapacity is higher than all other G7 countries bar Germany.”

She refused to say whether DWP accepted the other OECD figures.

DWP has frequently compared its spending on disability with other members of the G7.

In February 2018, DWP responded to the latest criticisms of its record on implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by saying: “The UK is a recognised world leader in disabled rights and equality and as a share of GDP, our public spending on disability and incapacity is higher than all other G7 countries bar Germany.”

It made a similar point in September 2017, in response to criticisms by the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, and also in June 2017, again in connection with breaches of the UN convention.

13 June 2019

 

 

Civil servants fail to answer key DWP deaths questions after meeting grieving parents

Senior Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) civil servants have failed to answer key questions about links between the government’s policies and the deaths of disabled benefit claimants, during a face-to-face meeting with grieving parents.

Emma Haddad, DWP’s director general for service excellence, and Colin Stewart, its work and health director for the north of England, spent more than an hour in Monday’s meeting with Joy Dove and Eric Whiting, the parents of Jodey Whiting.

The Independent Case Examiner (ICE) concluded earlier this year that DWP was guilty of “multiple” and “significant” failings in handling the case of the mother-of-nine, who had her out-of-work disability benefits stopped for missing a work capability assessment (WCA), and took her own life just 15 days later.

During the meeting, Dove asked 13 key questions that had been drafted for her by Disability News Service (DNS), based on her daughter’s case and the wider scandal of deaths linked to the actions of DWP ministers and senior civil servants.

But Haddad refused to answer many of the questions for legal reasons.

Among the questions about her daughter’s case, Dove asked how DWP could have made so many serious safeguarding failings.

Her ex-husband asked whether anyone had been disciplined or lost their job over their daughter’s death.

Dove asked Haddad why she should believe that DWP had fixed the system when it had made similar promises after so many other deaths.

And she asked why DWP kept making mistakes that led to the deaths of disabled people when it had carried out so many secret reviews into deaths linked to DWP actions.

Crucially, she also asked about the alleged cover-up which saw DWP fail to show the independent expert ministers had appointed to review the WCA a series of secret reviews into benefit-related deaths and letters written by coroners linked to the assessment process.

And Dove asked if she could see the secret review that would have been carried out by DWP after her daughter’s death.

Haddad promised Dove that she would provide written answers to all the questions.

The meeting took place in the offices of Labour’s Dr Paul Williams, Dove’s MP, in Thornaby-on-Tees.

Dove said that Haddad insisted in the meeting that ministers had not ordered her and Stewart to apologise in person, but that they had instead “got together and decided we needed to come here and say sorry”.

Dove told DNS she was glad the meeting had taken place, but she warned DWP that this would not be the end of her campaigning, although her legal team would now take the lead in seeking justice for her daughter.

She said: “It hasn’t really changed things because she’s dead and she’s not coming back.

I told them that five minutes away from here, my daughter is in that cemetery.”

Dove believes Haddad was on the verge of tears when she heard her speak about Jodey and showed her pictures of her daughter.

She said: “I thought she had a tear in her eye when I got upset and showed her letters from Jodey saying she was in debt and which said, ‘Please, mam, look after my babies.’

I could see a tear in her eye but at the same time she had to hold it back.”

But she said Haddad also told her: “I am a mother of two. I know how you would have felt.”

Dove said Haddad and her colleague were left speechless when she told them that campaigners were calling DWP “murderers”.

After the meeting, a DWP spokesperson said: “Senior officials have met with Mrs Dove today, to apologise again for the failings in handling her daughter’s case and discuss the lessons learnt.

We fully accepted the Independent Case Examiner’s findings earlier this year and have since reviewed and strengthened our procedures to ensure all vulnerable claimants are safeguarded.”

The number of people signing a petition in Jodey Whiting’s name, calling for an independent inquiry into deaths linked to DWP failings, and for evidence of criminal misconduct by civil servants or government ministers to be passed to the police, has now passed 42,000.

But that is less than halfway to the target of 100,000 needed to secure a House of Commons debate on the petition.

To sign the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition, click on this link. If you sign the petition, please note that you will need to confirm your signature by clicking on an email you will be sent automatically by the House of Commons petitions committee

13 June 2019

 

 

Care regulator faces ‘whitewash’ allegation by MPs and peers over abuse scandal

The care regulator has faced accusations from a committee of MPs and peers that it ordered a “whitewash” of abuse allegations at a private hospital for disabled people that was later exposed by a BBC documentary.

Two senior figures in the Care Quality Commission (CQC) were asked yesterday (Wednesday) to explain why their organisation failed to act over abuse at Whorlton Hall in County Durham four years before an abusive regime was exposed by an undercover BBC reporter.

Harriet Harman, the Labour chair of the joint committee on human rights, asked Dr Paul Lelliott, CQC’s deputy chief inspector of hospitals and its mental health lead, and Ian Trenholm, its chief executive, why their organisation had “suppressed” a critical inspection report about Whorlton Hall, written in 2015, which was never published.

Harman said she did not understand why Lelliott had appeared so surprised at allegations passed to him in the Panorama documentary when a draft report written by CQC’s own inspectors in 2015 had included allegations of bullying and “inappropriate behaviour” by staff at Whorlton Hall.

The 2015 report said patients in the hospital “did not know how they could protect themselves from abuse”.

The evidence session was part of the committee’s inquiry into the detention and inhuman and degrading treatment experienced by young autistic people and people with learning difficulties in assessment and treatment units and other institutions.

The committee heard that the CQC team sent to inspect Whorlton Hall in 2015 included a person with learning difficulties, as part of the regulator’s experts by experience programme, which sends service-users to assist on inspections of care homes, hospitals and care agencies across England.

But the 2015 report was never published, which led its lead inspector, Stanley Wilkinson, to lodge a complaint with his CQC superiors.

The CQC executive who considered his complaint said it should be published, and Lelliott said it would be, Harman revealed.

But instead of publishing it, CQC sent a smaller, less experienced team of just three members to carry out a second inspection, which failed to mention any allegations of bullying or abuse in its report, concluding instead that standards at Whorlton Hall were “good”.

This second team did not include an expert by experience.

Harman said: “It looks like there was a diligent inspection in 2015, it looks like they discovered what we then saw to our horror on Panorama on our televisions, it looks like CQC didn’t publish that 2015 report, it was suppressed.

There was a row about it, and a strong complaint from the lead inspector, and then the report was supressed despite a commitment to publish it and then a new team was sent in and they produced a report which was a whitewash and said Whorlton Hall was good.”

After Lelliott claimed that the “key findings” of the first report were included in the second report, Harman said: “They were not, because the abuse and bullying had vanished.”

She said Wilkinson had told CQC that this refusal to publish his report “fails in our duty to protect people” and “compromised the safety, care and welfare of patients”, and that the culture within CQC was “toxic”.

Wilkinson had added: “I am raising these issues because I believe something serious could happen which could put CQC under the spotlight.”

Harman told Trenholm and Lelliott: “He was right, wasn’t he?”

Trenholm said he and his colleagues had still not got “to the bottom of what happened during that period” and so had launched an independent review.

And he said that if Wilkinson had thought there was any significant abuse at Whorlton Hall, he would have recommended an “inadequate” rating – instead of “requires improvement” – and CQC would have acted immediately and called police, which would have led to the hospital being forced to close.

Lelliott said that what he saw in the Panorama programme had been “horrifying and sickening”.

But he said the 2015 report had not concluded that abuse was taking place at Whorlton Hall, and he added: “I had no idea that abuse of that type was happening.”

And he insisted that CQC had “a track record of taking decisive action when we have evidence of abuse or malpractice or poor care”, although Whorlton Hall was “a wake-up call for us and for the whole system”.

13 June 2019

 

 

DWP civil servant praises UN poverty report ministers dismissed as ‘barely believable’

A senior Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) official has told MPs that a highly-critical UN report on poverty in the UK was “factually correct” and “made a lot of good points”, despite ministers repeatedly attacking its accuracy.

Donna Ward, DWP’s policy director for children, families and disadvantage, told the work and pensions select committee yesterday (Wednesday) that the report by Professor Philip Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, made “really good points” on issues such as austerity and cuts to local government spending.

Ministers have consistently dismissed Alston’s report, with minister for disabled people Sarah Newton, who has since resigned, claiming last November – following the publication of his preliminary report – that he had made “factual errors”.

And in May, after Alston published his final report, DWP described it as “a barely believable documentation of Britain, based on a tiny period of time spent here” that “paints a completely inaccurate picture of our approach to tackling poverty”.

Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, reportedly claimed that Alston had not carried out enough research and apparently threatened to lodge a formal complaint with the UN.

But Ward has now told MPs on the committee – during an evidence session on the impact of universal credit – that DWP has carried out a “fact check” on the report and has concluded that Alston “made a lot of good points” and that his report was “factually correct”.

She said: “I think where the secretary of state took issue with it and where I as a civil servant can’t be involved was the political interpretation of a lot of what’s happened.

But in terms of the facts, in terms of austerity, and cuts to local government funding, in terms of the reliance that we have on the labour market and the risk that we have if there was a recession, all of those things were really good points that we have taken on board, we should take on board.”

SNP’s Chris Stephens said Ward’s comments were “quite revealing” because the rapporteur’s report was “very often pooh-poohed” by ministers and some Tory backbenchers.

Will Quince, the junior minister for family support, housing and child maintenance, said he took such reports “incredibly seriously”.

He said: “I’m not going to say I don’t regret the quite inflammatory language and in some cases quite overtly political tone of the report but there are areas in there that of course I recognise and I know that we need to do a considerable amount of work on and any report of that nature is always going to highlight areas.”

Alston said in his preliminary and final reports that government policies such as cuts to public spending and “highly regressive” changes to taxes and benefits suggested that the UK government had breached the “principle of non-discrimination enshrined in international law”.

He also said that figures from the Social Metrics Commission showed that 14 million people, a fifth of the population, were living in poverty and nearly half of them were from families in which someone was disabled.

And he said that many disabled people’s families had been “driven to breaking point” by cuts to social care.

13 June 2019

 

 

Union backs DPAC campaign to dump newspapers over universal credit adverts

A trade union has backed disabled activists who are removing thousands of copies of a newspaper every week from their public distribution points over its publication of government advertising features that are air-brushing concerns about universal credit (UC).

The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) voted unanimously at its annual conference on Tuesday (11 June) to support the campaign against the Metro free newspaper, which is being led by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC).

Members of Sheffield DPAC have been leading the Metro campaign, which has seen photographs and videos posted on social media showing activists removing scores of copies of the Metro so they can be recycled.

In one post this week, Sheffield DPAC said thousands of Metro copies had been taken out of circulation by hundreds of activists across Britain, adding: “We will not leave these lies on the shelves. Universal credit is ruining people’s lives.”

The Metro advertorials are part of a nationwide Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) campaign that it claims will “myth-bust the common inaccuracies” reported on universal credit.

But Ian Hodson, BFAWU’s president, told Disability News Service (DNS): “We don’t agree with it. Tax-payers’ money being used for adverts about something that’s untrue.

It’s a lie and we know it’s a lie. What they are trying to do is propaganda and it’s unfair.

We agree with dumping them, burning them, whatever, just taking them out of the public domain and getting a public apology actually for the waste of taxpayers’ money.”

He added: “If they want to do that, what they should do is have two versions: the government version and then a version given by people who are impacted by it, for some balance, and they should fund that as well.”

He said so many benefit claimants were taking their own lives, having their benefits cut, struggling financially and losing their homes, and yet the government “mislead and lie to people over the reality of it”.

He said DWP’s Metro advertising campaign was about “stopping people from being able to speak out and telling what the reality of being under this regime is”.

DNS confirmed last month that DWP had breached Civil Service guidelines when it decided to launch the nine-week series of “unethical and misleading” Metro advertising features without including a government logo.

This week, employment minister Alok Sharma said in a written parliamentary answer that the Metro campaign would run for another six weeks, and DWP would announce how much it had cost after it ended.

Only last week, DPAC released new research which detailed media reports on universal credit published between January and May this year, which it said was “a damning record of UC systemic and catastrophic failures”.

It said then that UC had reached a point where it was “unable to adapt to claimants’ complex circumstances, and is forcing people with the least resources into further poverty, homelessness, and hunger”. 

DPAC said it was calling for UC to be scrapped because it had become a social security system “which not only does not offer security, but actively undermined people’s ability to cope with the hazards of life”.

Neil Couling, director general of the universal credit programme, told MPs on the work and pensions select committee yesterday (Wednesday) that he could not introduce vital improvements to UC immediately because the system would not be able to cope.

The maximum rate at which deductions can be made from UC payments to repay an advance will be reduced from 40 per cent to 30 per cent of the standard allowance, but only from October.

And the period over which UC advance payments can be recovered by DWP will be extended from 12 to 16 months, but only from October 2021.

Labour’s Ruth George told Couling and Will Quince, the junior minister for family support, housing and child maintenance: “If these are things that need doing, surely they need doing now for the 840,000 households that are suffering deductions at this moment now and the further 1.5 million that are likely to be suffering them by this time next year.”

Couling and Quince had been called to answer questions about evidence taken by the committee on the link between UC and an increase in “survival sex”, or sex in exchange for money to help meet claimants’ most basic needs.

Couling said the number of people receiving UC was now growing by 130,000 a month so the only way he could introduce changes would be by scheduling them “carefully”.

Quince added: “There’s not another week goes by that I don’t ask [Couling] for another change to UC and you see his head goes into his hands as I ask for another request.”

He added: “The system can only accommodate so many changes at one time.”

But George said: “Do you not understand that the actual claimants are the people whose heads are in their hands because they don’t see a way out of the situation?

I’m sorry, but that answer is not good enough.”

Couling replied: “Our absolute priority has to be the maintenance of the system.

There are currently now two million people on it and they depend on payments every month from that and I’m not prepared to take steps that will jeopardise that despite the fact that I would like to introduce these changes quicker than we can.”

13 June 2019

 

 

Archive launch will shine spotlight on impact of disabled people’s movement

The largest single archive of material detailing the birth, growth and impact of the disabled people’s movement in the UK over the last half-century will be launched in Manchester next week.

The GMCDP Archive consists of about 160 boxes of documents, books, photographs, posters, badges, magazines, newspaper cuttings, postcards, reports and even tee-shirts, some dating back to the late 1960s.

The project began 14 years ago when Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP) conducted a feasibility study on setting up a national archive of documents and artefacts connected with the disabled people’s movement.

This led to “spontaneous” donations of material, both by disabled people and disabled people’s organisations (DPOs), a flow of items which continues today.

That material has now found a home in Archives+, a purpose-built centre for archives and family history set within Manchester Central Library.

Most of it will gradually become open to the public, although permission from GMCDP will be needed to view some of the papers, while a few will remain confidential.

An archive of material from the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS) – which played a hugely-significant role in the birth of the movement – will also be deposited with Archives+, alongside the GMCDP archive.

GMCDP said the UPIAS archive would be deposited due to the hard work and dedication of Tony Baldwinson, a long-time ally of the disabled people’s movement and husband of the late Lorraine Gradwell, a GMCDP co-founder.

As well as offering a permanent home for the artefacts, Archives+ has provided support with cataloguing and preserving the archive, working alongside Linda Marsh, GMCDP’s archive development worker.

But only a small part of the archive has been catalogued, and GMCDP is hoping to secure funding for further work.

Archives+ has estimated it will take a full-time worker 18 months to catalogue the entire archive.

Marsh said they had only “scratched the surface” of what was in the archive, with about 20 of 160 boxes of material summarised so far.

She said: “Even if it’s with unpaid volunteers, it will continue. The commitment is within GMCDP and Archives+ to push this forward.”

Part of the reason for the launch is to highlight the importance of archiving important material about the movement.

Marsh said: “It’s just making people aware that we need to preserve this history.

It’s so important. Every time somebody dies, we lose what’s in their head.

And quite often we lose the artefacts that they had as well. It’s not just papers, it’s the badges, tee-shirts, postcards, books. Anything that shows our history is really important.”

She added: “It’s important because, as disabled people, we have made such a significant impact on society in the last 30 years.

We recognise it ourselves in the movement, but it’s not as recognised in the mainstream as some other aspects of social change.

It’s just so important to preserve this for our own knowledge and our ability to see our own identity and where we have come from, particularly for disabled people in the future.”

She said the documents she has been most excited to uncover were hand-written planning notes for a rally in Manchester of the Disability Benefits Consortium in 1991, along with the parking permit for the van that was carrying the stage for the event.

She said: “It’s all well and good having photographs and postcards, they look really good, but what the archive has is the background detail.”

If there is one document she would like to find, it is something from a black disabled people’s organisation called Spectrum that she remembers from the 1990s.

She said: “There is such a lack of DPOs now that are specifically for black and minority ethnic people, it would be a shame if the knowledge of what went before was to go.”

Marsh is keen for disabled people and DPOs to donate or loan more material from the archive to GMCDP, or to identify an archive in their local area.

And she issued a plea to DPOs to look after their archive material and not throw it away.

She said: “Whatever your organisation is doing, whether it’s a protest or a letter to your MP or organising a lobby of MPs, don’t throw anything away.

If you’re storing it electronically, store it in at least two places, preferably three. Don’t think that things aren’t worth keeping.”

The launch on Wednesday (19 June) will include speeches from Judy Hunt, wife of the late Paul Hunt, UPIAS co-founder in the early 1970s; Martin Pagel, a GMCDP co-founder and former deputy leader of Manchester City Council; and Deaf actor and activist Ali Briggs, best-known for playing Freda in Coronation Street.

For more details of the launch, visit GMCDP’s website.

13 June 2019

 

 

Nursing regulator cleared more than 200 nurses over PIP and WCA complaints

A regulator failed to find a single nurse “not fit to practise” despite more than 220 complaints about face-to-face disability benefit assessments carried out for government contractors, its own figures have revealed.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) figures show it dealt with 224 complaints about the way nurses carried out personal independence payment (PIP) assessments and work capability assessments (WCAs) in 2016 and 2017.

But not one of those complaints led to the regulator concluding the assessor was not fit to continue to work as a nurse.

In 2016, of 88 complaints dealt with, 87 were closed in the initial “screening” process and one nurse was found to have “no case to answer”.

The following year, of 136 complaints, 129 were closed in screening, four nurses were found to have no case to answer, while one led to the conclusion that the nurse’s fitness to practise was not impaired, and two complaints had not been concluded.

Only two months ago, the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) said it had found widespread mishandling by NMC of complaints it had received about the way nurses had carried out PIP assessments.

PSA found a string of failings, including a refusal to consider all the concerns raised by complainants.

It also found that NMC relied on the findings of government PIP contractors Atos and Capita to justify closing cases about their employees, and failed to consider crucial documentary evidence, often ignoring the evidence of the person who had lodged the complaint, and failing to ask them for further information.

NMC also told some complainants that the role of PIP assessor was not relevant to the nurse’s fitness to practise, unless it involved dishonesty.

The new figures suggest NMC’s problems extend to complaints about nurses who have carried out WCAs on behalf of the government contractor Maximus.

Disability News Service (DNS) spent months investigating allegations of dishonesty by PIP assessors in late 2016 and throughout 2017, hearing eventually from more than 250 disabled people in less than a year about how they had been unfairly deprived of their benefits.

It continues to receive such reports today, more than two-and-a-half years after the investigation began.

NMC released the new figures under the Freedom of Information Act to Andrew Hill, from Norfolk, who has himself lodged a complaint with the regulator about the nurse who carried out his face-to-face PIP assessment in 2017 on behalf of Capita.

An appeal tribunal found the nurse had been “unreliable” and that her “incorrect and inaccurate findings” about his mental health condition contributed to him having his benefits cut.

Hill has diabetes, and has had one leg amputated, and has further serious diabetes-related impairments which are “fluctuating and unreliable” and have left him with significant support needs.

He had asked for a reassessment of his PIP because his health had deteriorated and he had lost his partner and carer.

But the nurse’s assessment instead led to him losing his PIP enhanced rate of mobility, as well as points on his daily living component – for which he had previously been granted the standard rate.

A subsequent mandatory reconsideration of its initial decision by the Department for Work and Pensions restored him to the enhanced mobility rate of PIP but left his daily living component unaffected.

An appeal tribunal last July allowed his appeal and confirmed his enhanced rate of mobility as well as awarding him the enhanced rate of PIP daily living for the first time.

Meanwhile, he has lodged a complaint with Capita and the NMC about the nurse who assessed him.

NMC is still investigating his complaint. Capita has not yet ruled on his complaint against the nurse.

Matthew McClelland, NMC’s director of fitness to practise, said: “After the PSA published its report, we acknowledged that our approach to PIP-related cases fell short of what is expected. We didn’t get things right and I am sorry for that.

Since 2018, we have taken action to address these concerns. We have reviewed our processes, improved our quality checks, and enhanced management oversight of cases.”

DNS has now asked for NMC’s 2018 figures through a freedom of information request.

13 June 2019

 

 

Bus company’s ‘indefensible’ failure over wheelchair spaces

A bus and tram company has been criticised for an “indefensible and shocking” failure to comply with a high-profile Supreme Court victory on the rights of wheelchair-users to use buses.

Blackpool Transport has now been forced to back down after being challenged about information on its website that describes the company’s policy on access to the wheelchair spaces on its buses.

In January 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that another bus company had breached its duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people under the Equality Act through its “first come, first served” policy on the use of wheelchair spaces.

It was the first case of disability discrimination in service provision to be heard by the country’s highest court, and the victory followed a five-year legal battle by accessible transport activist Doug Paulley.

But Paulley pointed out last week that Blackpool Transport’s accessibility information page also suggested it had a “first come, first served” policy.

The company says on its website: “Some of our buses have space for only one wheelchair user or one pushchair however much of the new fleet is designed to have space for a wheelchair user and a pushchair.

Neither wheelchair users or pushchair users have priority over the other.”

Paulley said this was “indefensible and shocking” and he was backed up by Chris Fry, of Fry Law, the solicitor who represented him throughout his legal battle, who said on Twitter that “wheelchair users DO have priority over pushchairs” and added: “Drivers should do all possible to remove people from the space apart from throw them off.”

Stephen Brookes, the minister for disabled people’s rail sector champion for disability, a former non-executive director of Blackpool Transport, also criticised the company.

He stressed that he was speaking for himself, as a disabled user of public transport, and not on behalf of the government.

But he said: “The Blackpool Transport website written policy is not appropriate and needs rewriting to take into account wheelchair requirements on buses, which should be in line with national aims, and more importantly in line with the actual operational signage on the company’s buses.

It is sad that the work of several disabled people and groups in face-to-face training and awareness-raising, leading to successful outcomes, has been put at odds by incorrectly written website ‘policy’.” 

Brookes insisted that bus drivers and other staff in Blackpool were “really on the ball” on access issues and that he believed the problem was with the written document on the company’s website and not the situation on the ground.

Jane Cole, managing director of Blackpool Transport, told Disability News Service that the wording of the information on the company’s website would be changed.

But she claimed the current wording was just “misleading” rather than wrong and that the problem was only with “the way it was worded”.

She claimed the company’s policy had always been that wheelchair-users have priority use of the spaces.

She accepted that the website should make it clear that wheelchair spaces are “a priority for wheelchair-users”, and she said that the wording would be changed “quite soon”.

Following the 2017 Supreme Court ruling, the Department for Transport (DfT) set up a group of advisers, who produced recommendations for action.

DfT welcomed the recommendations “in principle” in March 2018 and announced a further consultation with “a view to bringing forward a package of measures” later in 2018.

But 15 months later, it has still not produced those measures.

A DfT spokesperson said more information on the measures would be released “in due course”.

She said: “We want everyone to be able to use our bus network, and expect operators to comply with relevant legislation.”

But she said it would be “inappropriate” for the government to comment on the policies of individual operators.

She said that 98 per cent of buses in Britain now had a wheelchair space, a boarding ramp or lift and other access features, but “we know there is more to do, which is why our Inclusive Transport Strategy sets out plans to make the entire transport network accessible by 2030”.

13 June 2019

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 Posted by at 15:56
Jun 112019
 

Disabled children v Secretary of State for Education and Chancellor of the Exchequer

Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) will be attending this important court case on Wednesday 26th and Thursday 27th June. Put it in your diaries – come and join us from 9am onwards and show your support for disabled children and their families as they fight for proper support.

If you would like an opportunity to speak outside the court case, do join us between 12.00 noon – 1.30 pm on Wednesday or between 9.00 am – 10.30 am on Thursday.

Alternatively you can email or send us a statement that we can read out.

For further information about the court hearing – follow the web-link : https://www.allfie.org.uk/news/blog/disabled-children-v-secretary-of-state-for-education-and-chancellor-of-the-exchequer/

Do let us know Simone Aspis simone.aspis@allfie.org.uk

 Posted by at 21:36
Jun 092019
 

National DPAC fully support the statement below from our Berkshire DPAC Group.

Berkshire DPAC wish to register our strongest condemnation of Mr. Lee Harpin’s articles in the Jewish Chronicle, in which he uses screenshots taken from a private group without the group’s consent from our Facebook page to throw utterly false accusations of anti-semitism at Nada Foster and Helen Caney. BDPAC’s members are fully committed to tackling all forms of oppression wherever it appears.

In DPAC, we do not target criticism at policies or MPs from only selected parties; since ALL disabled people have been horrendously impoverished and isolated by austerity measures, we will criticise anyone who has supported these measures or failed to oppose them. And we will continue to do so.

 Posted by at 15:52
Jun 092019
 

[Text by Fuel Poverty Action, with thanks]

With the second anniversary approaching, two events – the Silent Walk on 14 June and a Solidarity March on 15 June –  will demonstrate that the 72 people who died in the Grenfell fire, and the survivors still fighting for justice, are very far from forgotten.  Please see details at the bottom of this email, and try to be there!

And please sign the petition from Grenfell United, pressing for an effective regulator for social housing, that will hold housing providers to account.  

 

It is time also for an update from SCIN – the Safe Cladding and Insulation Now campaign:

 

The Parliamentary debate on Grenfell  on 6 June was opened by Emma Dent Coad with a powerful indictment of the appalling and often racist treatment faced by the Grenfell community. 128 households are still homeless, and one active member of the community is is now being held in prison over the anniversary, while none of those responsible for the deaths of so many has so far faced arrest.  

 

This debate that followed provides a useful resource for those concerned about the remaining danger to UK residents   

 

It cites an estimate that the homes of 60,000 people are still clad in flammable materials.  Hundreds of blocks are in the ACM cladding that was used on Grenfell Tower, with only a “waking watch” of workers patrolling the floors for signs of fire, intended to alert them to disaster.  Waking watches, moreover, have often been found to be untrained and inadequate, as well as extremely expensive for leaseholders or social landlords.  Residents have told FPA that too often watchmen do not walk the floors, and some whistle-blowing personnel themselves have told us that they cannot offer safety, or that they are not even properly equipped.  In many cases the private firms contracted for this key role have had to be sacked and replaced.

 

The majority of tower blocks still clad in ACM are now in the private sector, where leaseholders organised in UK Cladding Action Group have only just now won a government promise of £200 million for remediation.  Just a year ago, the £400 million for social housing was announced right before the first anniversary, and shortly after we’d launched our Open Letter to the government about it – we had to redraft and recirculate a new version.  Similarly, UKCAG’s Open Letter was immediately made out of date by a government announcement.  Their campaigning has been startlingly effective, but many questions remain about the level of funding and how and when it will be accessed.  In the meantime, Housing Minister Kit Malthouse said in the debate that the government have allocated just £259 million of the £400 million announced for social housing, and they are not anticipating any further claims.

 

While many people think that social housing cladding is sorted now, this is far from being the case.  The Building Safety Programme Monthly Data Release reports good progress, but many tenants have been left behind.  See this shocking account by a resident of one of nine Pendleton Together tower blocks in Salford. Here, tenants who are attempting to organise about dangers that closely mirror those at Grenfell Tower have been subject to threats and intimidation – just as Grenfell residents were.  

 

Moreover, while Grenfell-style ACM cladding has been removed from many blocks, the government has delayed, and delayed again, the necessary tests on other kinds of potentially combustible cladding — results were due in the autumn, then in the spring, and now “by summer”.  It has been estimated that there are 1,600 properties — both social housing and private — on which the material is not ACM, but could be as dangerous.  Yet these homes are not even being identified.

 

The 6th June debate helped highlight this issue but much more pressure is needed.  Equally important is the issue of buildings below 18 M (6 storeys) high, including not only public and private blocks of flats but schools, old people’s homes, and hospitals.  The plight of lower buildings is finally beginning to attract more support. (We are trying to get breakdowns of statistics on this and non-ACM cladding through a Parliamentary Question.)

 

The debate also highlighted the need not only for remediation — and sprinklers, and an end to single-staircase blocks — but wholesale change in the way the construction industry is regulated and monitored.  

 

However, another key question was not mentioned in this debate: the danger residents have from cold and damp when cladding has been removed, but not yet replaced — a situation that can go on for months.  FPA has been highlighting this nightmare for over a year now.  Together with Tower Blocks UK and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) we wrote directly to housing associations and local authorities before Christmas to ask for their policies (See Inside Housing report here or here).  

 

Some have responded with a promise that if cold proves to be a problem, they will compensate residents and ensure that they can keep warm.  Yet few so far seem to have done this.  Camden is one example. Others have provided inadequate amounts eg £15/week in Barnet where the extra costs far exceeded this figure, or have paid compensation into rent accounts, where it can be swallowed up by arrears.  Others, like Westminster, decided there was no need for compensation because residents’ bills did not reflect a major increase when cladding was off — ignoring the fact that many people simply cannot afford to risk keeping the heat on in the hope that their bill will be covered.  Salford residents too have been told they must offer proof. As demanded in our original Open Letter to the Minister, safe heaters should also be provided to residents, so they don’t have to go out and buy the cheapest — and possibly least safe — from the local second hand shop.  

 

Since there are still so many more buildings with combustible cladding — buildings of different purposes and heights and different kinds of materials as well as different tenures — and since progress is painfully, unacceptably slow, this crisis looks like continuing for a long time to come.  Some landlords have delayed the removal of cladding until after the winter — putting residents in a painful Catch 22. The best solution is clearly for cladding to come off and go  on again immediately.  Some social landlords have achieved this, eg in Islington, and two years on from the fire excuses like delays in the supply chain are now wearing thin.  Some, as in Wandsworth, have even taken cladding off and replaced it floor by floor – necessitated in this case because it was attached to the windows.

 

But some tenants wait for months to have cladding replaced, only to have removal scheduled just when it’s getting cold.  And many social landlords did not bother to even reply to our letter. They need reminding that each year nearly 10,000 people in the UK die when they cannot afford to heat their homes.

 

Pressure also needs to be increased to meet residents’ demands on the toxicity found in a wide area around Grenfell Tower — and to ensure that cladding and insulation applied in future is truly safe – which means non-combustible, and non-toxic.  

 

In the meantime, and most urgently, please show your support for the Grenfell survivors and community on 14 and 15 June.  

 

Friday 14 June:

See https://www.facebook.com/pg/GrenfellSilentWalk/posts/You are invited: An evening of remembrance on the 2nd anniversary of the Grenfell Tower Fire. 6.15pm Wreath Laying at the Tower 7pm Multi Faith Vigil 7.45pm Silent Walk To Join us please head to Silchester Road, W11. Wear something green.

—————————

Sat 15 June, 12 noon:

See https://justice4grenfell.org/

 

Assemble: Portland Place, London W1A1AA Oxford Circus

Two years on…Still no justice! Solidarity March

Hosted by Justice4Grenfell and Grenfell Trust

 Posted by at 15:25
Jun 062019
 

 

Abrahams asks watchdog to investigate DWP benefit deaths cover-up

An MP has asked the equality and human rights watchdog to investigate why ministers hid documents from their own independent reviewer when they knew the information would link their “fitness for work” test to the deaths of disabled benefit claimants.

Labour’s Debbie Abrahams, a former shadow work and pensions secretary, has told the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) of her “grave concerns” about how the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) investigates deaths linked to DWP activity.

In a letter sent this week to EHRC’s chief executive, Rebecca Hilsenrath, she explains her concerns that DWP failed to send crucial evidence about deaths linked to the work capability assessment (WCA) to the independent expert ministers had commissioned to review the test.

Disability News Service (DNS) revealed last month that DWP had finally admitted that two letters written by coroners, and a series of secret “peer reviews” into the deaths of claimants who had gone through the WCA process, were hidden from Dr Paul Litchfield.

Since DNS revealed the existence of the documents in the years after Litchfield’s final report was published, concerns have grown that DWP deliberately covered-up evidence showing the fatal impact of the assessment on many disabled people.

In her letter, Abrahams also says she is “extremely concerned” about the lack of official scrutiny of the treatment of disabled people by DWP and its private sector contractors, Maximus, Capita and Atos, which carry out the assessments.

She says: “As you will be aware, there are a large number of social security claimants who have died after being found fit for work or having their PIP [personal independence payment] refused or reduced.”

Abrahams asks Hilsenrath to launch an investigation into deaths linked to the WCA and PIP assessment processes.

She also raises concerns about DWP’s failure to tell her how many secret internal reviews have been carried out into claimant deaths over the last four years, and provide statistics showing how many claimants died shortly after being found fit for work or having their PIP claims refused or their payments reduced.

She tells Hilsenrath: “I am particularly concerned that disabled people are being specifically discriminated against by the Government-commissioned assessments for Employment and Support Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Universal Credit.”

Abrahams, the MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, has previously backed calls for an independent inquiry into deaths linked to the government’s social security reforms, and for any evidence of criminal misconduct in public office by ministers and senior civil servants to be passed to the police, two of the key demands of the Justice for Jodey Whiting parliamentary petition*.

An EHRC spokesperson said: “We have received the letter from Debbie Abrahams and we are assessing it.”

DWP insists that it “co-operated fully with the Litchfield reviews, and shared all relevant information which was requested by Dr Litchfield and his team” and has told DNS that it “was not asked by Dr Litchfield or his review for information on the specific cases you refer to”.

But DWP has been unable to explain how Litchfield’s team could have requested information – the secret peer reviews and coroners’ letters – if they did not know they existed.

To sign the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition, click on this link. If you sign the petition, please note that you will need to confirm your signature by clicking on an email you will be sent automatically by the House of Commons petitions committee

6 June 2019

 

 

Two government departments ‘are breaking the law over PIP recording failure’

Two government departments are breaching equality laws and their human rights obligations by failing to ensure that disabled people can record their face-to-face benefit assessments and appeal tribunals, legal researchers have concluded.

They say the delay by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in ensuring that all disabled people can record their assessments for personal independence payment (PIP) is causing them “significant and predictable harm”.

And they say the failure of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to ensure that all PIP appeal tribunals can be recorded is also causing “significant and predictable harm” to disabled people.

MoJ’s failure to assess or even acknowledge the harm caused by the absence of recording equipment at many tribunal venues means its actions are unlawful, say researchers from the International Disability Law Clinic (IDLC) at the University of Leeds.

They say both DWP and MoJ are breaching the Equality Act, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the European Convention on Human Rights.

And they say the government’s policies are unjustified and have an “adverse impact” on disabled people.

An IDLC report says there is “widespread and well-documented evidence of dissatisfaction” with the PIP assessment process.

It points out that many disabled claimants cannot take their own notes at their assessments or appeal tribunals and so – unless the government takes steps to compensate for this – their right to justice is “undermined”.

IDLC’s research has been carried out by undergraduate and postgraduate researchers working with members of the academic team at the university’s School of Law.

PIP assessments can be recorded, but only at the claimant’s expense, using expensive equipment capable of making two identical copies on audio cassette or CD, while the claimant must also sign an agreement about how the recording will be used.

DWP agreed last year to pilot video-recording of PIP assessments, but the report says that, despite this pledge, “the recording of each PIP assessment is still not part of the process”.

The report, For The Record, adds: “The current regime is clearly inappropriate and ineffective: requiring disabled persons to fund their own equipment is impractical and unaffordable for many claimants.”

And it says its researchers have been “unable to identify any evidence that the [DWP and MoJ have] sought to assess the impact of these policies”.

Earlier this year, the law clinic published research based on freedom of information responses that showed that of 161 social security tribunal venues in England, Wales and Scotland, only 91 had recording equipment. 

The cost of installing recording equipment in a single tribunal venue is about £1,000 and the annual maintenance cost is about £15, says the report.

Daniel Burden, head of public affairs for the Spinal Injuries Association, said: “With so many appeals against eligibility decisions for PIP, the ability to record assessments is essential for those people who cannot keep their own accurate notes.

The fact that the two departments concerned in this research have either delayed honouring their commitments or failed to acknowledge the harm that they are causing demonstrates the lack of seriousness with which they are addressing the issue.

Government ministries must face up to both their domestic and international legal obligations to meet the needs of disabled people.”

In response to the report, a DWP spokesperson said: “We take fulfilling our legal obligations seriously and do not consider the current process is unlawful.

Claimants are already able to audio record their assessment if they want to and, as part of our commitment to improving trust in the assessment process, we are undertaking a video recording trial.

There has not been a delay to the video recording trial. We will announce the next steps in due course.”

An HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) spokesperson said: “We already ask disabled users to tell us if they have any particular requirements for the hearing and will consider any request for a reasonable adjustment so that they can participate.

We are looking at increasing the number of tribunals with recording facilities as part of our wider £1 billion reform programme.”

Another HMCTS spokesperson said that “each request for reasonable adjustments will be dealt with individually as is appropriate so we cannot give a blanket answer for what will happen that covers all scenarios”.

But he refused to say why so few tribunal centres had the capacity to record hearings, including none in London; and why no equality impact assessment appears to have been carried out on the failure to provide this equipment.

He also refused to say if HMCTS accepted that it had discriminated against disabled people under the Equality Act and breached the UN disability convention and the European Convention on Human Rights.

6 June 2019

 

 

Inquiry encourages Deaf survivors to share childhood sexual abuse experiences

Deaf survivors of sexual abuse are being encouraged to share their childhood experiences as part of a major independent inquiry.

The Truth Project, one of the three parts of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, this week launched new measures to make it easier for d/Deaf people who were sexually abused as children to come forward and tell their stories.

The project, which allows survivors to share their experiences in writing, on the telephone or in person, has announced a partnership with the charity SignHealth that will make the process more accessible to d/Deaf people.

More than 3,000 people have already taken part in the Truth Project, launched in 2015 as part of the inquiry into how institutions and organisations have failed to protect children in England and Wales from sexual abuse.

Those taking part in The Truth Project “are listened to without judgement or challenge” and their accounts will help the inquiry make its recommendations to government and other organisations on how to improve child protection across England and Wales.

The Truth Project is now partnering with the charity SignHealth, which will provide information and support for d/Deaf survivors through WhatsApp, text messages, video calls and email.

There are also BSL videos and other information on the inquiry’s website.

Those who want to share their experiences of childhood sexual abuse can attend a free private session with Deaf facilitators at any of the inquiry’s offices, with their transport costs paid for.

Jackie Driver, SignHealth’s chair, said: “This new, confidential service offers direct communication and support in British Sign Language on a sensitive subject that can affect anyone, regardless of their background.

As a national charity, with more than 30 years’ experience of improving the mental health of Deaf people, we know that communication barriers and a lack of Deaf awareness often prevent Deaf people from having a voice.

Today, we break down those barriers for any Deaf adult who may have experienced sexual abuse as a child. 

Today, we enable and empower Deaf adults to come forward in a safe and supported environment to tell their Truth.”

Among those who have already come forward is Peter*, who has described how he was sexually abused by a housemaster at a boarding school for d/Deaf children.

The abuse continued for years until another boy told a member of staff what was happening, and the housemaster was arrested, convicted and jailed.

Peter told the Truth Project that he believes the school “brushed the abuse that went on under the carpet”, and he added: “They wouldn’t accept there was anything wrong and the reputation of the school was more important.”

Veronica*, who is Deaf, was placed in a children’s home run by nuns, after her father died and her mother became terminally ill.

No-one in the home could sign, and Veronica was sexually and physically abused by one of the nuns.

Many years later, seeing reports of the Jimmy Savile case caused her to experience flashbacks to her childhood, and she sought help from a psychotherapist, and then reported the abuse to the police.

Eventually they tracked down the nun who had abused her, who was by now in her 90s and insisted that she had never met or known a Deaf child, even though Veronica showed the police a picture of the two of them together. The case was closed.

Although she has now met with representatives of the Catholic diocese’s child protection unit, she was unhappy with how they treated her.

She told the Truth Project that she believes there have been clear failures by the Church, and a cover-up, and she would like someone to apologise for what was done to her and to acknowledge that it was wrong.

She particularly wants to see communication barriers removed for d/Deaf children and adults.

The inquiry has already launched an investigation into residential schools, including residential special schools, with two weeks of public hearings scheduled for September and October.

The chair, Professor Alexis Jay, and her panel have said they “consider it necessary to consider in some detail the residential special school sector”.

The inquiry said last year [PDF]: “Some children with special educational needs are in residential special schools for 52 weeks of the year and have little contact with their families/their community.

Some children are unable to tell people about abuse due to sensory impairments or learning difficulties; others have behavioural problems which can obscure signs of abuse and which can act as a barrier to being believed.”

The inquiry will take evidence from 10 residential special schools across England, although it says that evidence from some of these schools “will focus on the measures they currently have in place for protecting children from child sexual abuse, including peer on peer abuse, rather than evidence of failures to protect children”.

To share your experience with the Truth Project, visit www.iicsa.org.uk/victims-and-survivors/services-deaf-users or email contact@iicsa.org.uk

*Not their real names

6 June 2019

 

 

Jodey Whiting: Mum to demand truth from DWP in face-to-face meeting

The mother of a disabled woman who took her own life after repeated safeguarding failings by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is to demand the truth about her daughter’s death in a meeting with a senior civil servant.

Emma Haddad, DWP’s director general for service excellence, will travel to Teesside on Monday (10 June) to apologise in person to Joy Dove for the government’s failings in the case of her daughter, Jodey Whiting.

The meeting, which will also be attended by Colin Stewart, DWP’s work and health director for the north of England, will take place in the offices of Dove’s MP, Dr Paul Williams.

Haddad said, in a letter confirming the meeting, that they wanted to hear “personally” from Dove and explain “what happened with Jodey’s claim and changes we have put in place as a result of the lessons we have learned”.

Dove said: “They say they want to speak to me, to hear what I think about it all.

It will never bring my daughter back. I don’t want apologies, I just want the truth.

It’s their fault she’s in the ground and they shouldn’t have done that to her.”

She said she hoped the meeting would help “change the system for good”.

The number of people who have signed a petition in her daughter’s name, calling for an independent inquiry into deaths linked to DWP failings, and for evidence of criminal misconduct by civil servants or government ministers to be passed to the police, has passed 41,000.

But that is less than halfway to the target of 100,000 needed to secure a House of Commons debate on the petition.

The petition also calls for recognition that DWP is institutionally disablist and not fit for purpose, and for urgent changes by DWP to make the safety of all social security claimants a priority.

Dove is hoping to ask Haddad at the meeting about DWP’s admission that it failed to pass documents linking the work capability assessment (WCA) with the deaths of benefit claimants from the expert ministers commissioned to review the test (see separate story).

Following intervention from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), DWP has admitted that two letters written by coroners – and a series of secret “peer reviews” into the deaths of claimants who went through the assessment – were hidden from the team set up to review the WCA in 2013 and 2014.

Dove’s legal team are also planning to push for a second inquest, which they hope would force a public examination of the DWP failings that contributed to Jodey Whiting taking her own life in February 2017.

None of these failings were discussed at the original inquest, although the Independent Case Examiner later concluded that DWP was guilty of “multiple” and “significant” failings in handling her case, and failed five times to follow its own safeguarding rules in the weeks leading to her suicide.

To sign the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition, click on this link. If you sign the petition, please note that you will need to confirm your signature by clicking on an email you will be sent automatically by the House of Commons petitions committee

6 June 2019

 

 

Manchester council leader snubs Peterloo memorial protesters

The leader of Manchester City Council (MCC) has been bombarded with emails from disabled people and their allies over his plans to push ahead with a “discriminatory” memorial to victims of the Peterloo massacre.

Many of them told Labour’s Sir Richard Leese that they were “angry and shocked” that a memorial designed to remember those who marched for liberty and equality should be “designed and built with discrimination and inequality at its heart”.

The council has told Disability News Service (DNS) it is unlikely that any “fundamental changes” will be made to the memorial, which is due to be unveiled to the public on 16 August, the 200th anniversary of the massacre.

But in a further sign of Leese’s dismissal of the concerns, he has refused to comment personally on the emails, and has even refused to provide an estimate of how many he has received.

Meanwhile, disabled people and their allies are set to protest this evening (Thursday) at the site of the memorial, outside the Manchester Central Convention Centre.

The council-funded memorial will be a series of concentric circles, with members of the public encouraged to climb the steps to a flat top.

It will be completely inaccessible to many disabled people, even though it has been designed by artist Jeremy Deller to allow it to be used as a platform for speakers and demonstrators, mirroring those who spoke during the protest in 1819.

On 16 August 1819, paramilitary and military forces attacked more than 60,000 peaceful, pro-democracy and anti-poverty protesters in Manchester, which led to 18 deaths and an estimated 700 serious injuries.

Deller himself has said he wants people “to be able to sit on it and have their lunch”, while the council’s own access statement said: “The artist’s intention is that the memorial will become the meeting point for the annual gathering of the Peterloo Memorial Campaign, as well as for other events related to the issue of human rights around the world.

At these events, people will stand on it and around it.”

Deller said last week that he hoped that “once the memorial is built there might be a way to adapt it for wheelchairs”, but by noon today (Thursday) he had failed to comment on the council’s position that it was probably too late for further major changes.

Although some changes have been made as a result of concerns about access, including the addition of a handrail, it appears that wheelchair-users will still only be able to reach the height of the lowest of the circles via a ramp.

The Peterloo Memorial Campaign, which campaigned for years for a memorial to be built, has said that disabled people are “right to be frustrated and angry about the lack of access to the monument”, which “has been designed as a platform for speakers and demonstrators”.

Among those who sent letters to Leese was the disabled artist-activist Liz Crow, who told him she was “heartbroken” at his council’s decision to continue with its plans despite knowing that the memorial would be inaccessible to many residents and visitors.

She told him: “I am so shocked that this could ever have been allowed to get to this point, but to find that – even now you are fully aware of the discrimination inherent in these plans – you are going ahead regardless beggars belief.”

She called on him to halt the project immediately and “re-work the proposal to ensure that it is a memorial to democracy and not to MCC’s ineptitude and hypocrisy”.

Tony Baldwinson, who worked for the council for more than 10 years from 1991, appealed to Leese to admit he had made a mistake, and told him: “It is totally designed to be ascended, and disabled people would be excluded from a monument to democracy.”

Many of the others who wrote to Leese told him the memorial was “a fine example of inequality and discrimination embedded in design” and was set to be “a glaring metaphor for inequality and segregation” and an “act of exclusion that denies disabled people a voice, a blatant act of discrimination”.

One campaigner, Jane Angel, asked Leese in her email: “How did this happen in this day and age?  

A brand new memorial, in development for years, and we are building something that is not accessible to people to whom steps are a barrier.”

Another, Joan Rutherford, who campaigns for an inclusive built environment, told Leese in her email: “Manchester has waited 200 years for a fitting memorial to this appalling massacre. 

The requirements for the memorial were that it should be Respectful, Informative and Permanent (RIP).

In my view this design is not inclusive and therefore is not respectful.

If the monument is built as designed it will be an opportunity lost to celebrate and truly promote the aspiration for which people gave their lives… Equality.”

A council spokesperson said Leese had been “made aware” of questions from DNS about the emails.

The spokesperson said in a statement on behalf of the council, rather than Leese himself: “Our position remains that we have made significant changes to the original design of this public artwork to improve accessibility and that, while the memorial is not intended to be viewed exclusively from the top, the elements which provide information about Peterloo are all accessible. 

It is a misunderstanding of this memorial artwork to suggest that its sole or even primary purposes involves ascending it and that it cannot be properly viewed, appreciated or engaged with otherwise.

While we totally respect the views of those who disagree and we are keen to continue constructive dialogue with them, it should be remembered that this is a memorial piece of art rather than a building or similar structure and is being created both in time for the 200th anniversary of Peterloo this summer and within the limitations of the site, the only one available within the St Peter’s Field area where the tragic events of 1819 took place.”

6 June 2019

 

 

DWP defends first Work and Health Programme job figures

Only about one in five of the disabled and other unemployed people receiving support from the government’s new work programme have so far secured a “job outcome”, according to official statistics.

It is the first time the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has released figures showing how successful its new Work and Health Programme (WHP) has been in securing paid jobs for disabled people and others seeking work.

But the figures show that, for the 1,360 people who began to receive support through the programme in January 2018, after 13 months only 270 of them (or 19.9 per cent) had secured a job outcome (defined in most areas as 16 hours per week for 26 weeks at minimum wage, or six months in self-employment).

Of the 2,840 people who started in February 2018, 470 have a job outcome after 12 months’ support (16.6 per cent).

Despite the release of the “job outcome” statistics, the publication does not show how many disabled people have secured work through the programme.

Under the Work and Health Programme, people are referred by jobcentres to receive support from organisations from the public, private and voluntary sectors, which are paid extra when that person achieves a job outcome.

About four-fifths of those receiving support through the programme have been disabled people, since its roll-out across England and Wales began in November 2017.

The other groups receiving support are those who are long-term unemployed – the only participants whose involvement is mandatory – and those DWP calls the “early access” group, which includes care leavers, carers, refugees, homeless people, survivors of domestic violence and ex-members of the armed services.

In all, there have been 51,490 starts on the programme, with 3,140 job outcomes (a proportion of just 6.1 per cent), although this will rise as many participants have not been on the programme long enough to qualify as a successful employment outcome.

Ken Butler, welfare rights and policy adviser for Disability Rights UK, said the job outcome rate did not appear to be “a notable success”.

He added: “Given that the WHP is only accessible by three groups of claimants – the ‘disability group’, the ‘long-term unemployed group’ and the ‘early access group’ – it would seem daft for the DWP not to monitor how many from each group achieve job outcomes.

How else will it be able to see how well the WHP is performing for any or all of these groups?”

The Work and Health Programme is part of the government’s Improving Lives work, health and disability strategy, which has been criticised for its “cruel and disastrous” emphasis on “work as a cure”, the placement of employment advisers in health services, and the continued use of benefit sanctions to “punish” disabled claimants.

A DWP spokesperson said: “Our Work and Health Programme is part of our wider commitment to ensuring every disabled person who wants to work can do so.

The Work and Health Programme is targeted at individuals who face significant barriers to gaining employment – and need longer-term support – and therefore it is not surprising that at this stage in the programme the numbers achieving a job outcome are low. 

Those starting the Work and Health Programme more recently have had a shorter time to achieve a job outcome and therefore it is not meaningful to divide job outcomes by the number of starts.

For example, the cohort of starts from December 2017 have only completed 14 of a possible 21 months of the programme.

As we investigate and quality assure our data we will release further breakdowns of our statistics where possible.”

6 June 2019

 

 

Appeal to hundreds across Wales to seek independent assessments of support needs

A disabled campaigner is encouraging hundreds of recipients of support through the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) scheme to consider taking up the government’s offer of an independent re-assessment of their care package.

The Welsh government announced in February that it was pausing the closure of the WILG scheme – and its replacement with a system of council-funded support – following a campaign by disabled activists and allies.

Julie Morgan, the Welsh government’s deputy minister for health and social services, then wrote last month to all WILG recipients to tell them they could ask for a reassessment of their care package if they were unhappy with the outcome of their local authority’s assessment of their post-WILG needs or if that assessment had not yet taken place.

And she assured them that the Welsh government would pay for the independent assessment and any extra care and support they might need as a result.

Morgan has now written to Nathan Lee Davies, the WILG recipient who led the campaign to halt the closure of the scheme, updating him on the government’s progress.

She told him that only 26 WILG recipients had so far requested a re-assessment, across 10 local authorities.

Morgan said in her letter: “It is important that those people who wish to have an independent assessment are able to access it, but this is also in the context of the large number of people who we know are content with their new arrangements.”

Davies believes about 1,300 disabled people are eligible for a re-assessment, and fears that many WILG recipients are being held back from requesting a re-assessment.

He is now calling on all those WILG recipients who are not happy with their care and support package to ask for an independent assessment.

Davies, who has himself requested an independent assessment, said: “I started this campaign four years ago, after a social worker warned me that without the WILG my hours of support would be reduced from 86.5 hours a week to just 31 hours per week.

I would be unable to maintain any quality of life without a substantial increase in my support and any reduction would leave me struggling to exist rather than living the life that I choose. 

The use of an independent social worker allows me to be assessed purely on my physical and mental needs.

I feel that social workers from local authorities are under pressure from their managers to reduce costs, whatever the consequences.

Assessments are therefore skewed from the outset and I fear that a number of WILG recipients are not receiving the support they deserve. 

Let’s not forget that all WILG recipients are disabled people with high support needs.

This means that many of us need a strong network of people around them to give them the confidence to press for improvements.

The fact that only 26 people have asked for a reassessment suggests that many WILG recipients are being held back by a combination of inertia, lack of support and advice and a sense of ‘better the devil you know’. 

I feel that an independent service will provide people with disabilities with greater security for the future.”

He added: “The government have listened to campaigners, reviewed the evidence and acted accordingly to ensure people get the support they deserve to live independently within their local communities.

WILG recipients and their families need to investigate the opportunity that is in front of them to help ensure they have piece of mind for the long term future.”

WILG was set up – with UK government funding – as an interim scheme following the UK government’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund in June 2015.

The Welsh government is now closing WILG for good and transferring the funding to local councils, and by April the 22 local authorities were due to be solely responsible for meeting the support needs of all former ILF-recipients in Wales.

But Morgan announced the “change in direction” in February because a government review had shown a significant variation in how support packages were being cut by different councils.

6 June 2019

 

 

EHRC has become ‘more muscular’ on Equality Act enforcement, says chair

The equality watchdog has improved its performance in enforcing anti-discrimination laws and has become a “more muscular” regulator, it has told MPs.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said yesterday (Wednesday) that it had doubled the use of its formal legal powers over the last three years, despite a “backdrop of cuts”.

But it was also forced to defend its own performance as an employer, after one Conservative MP criticised its “lamentable record” on workplace discrimination.

EHRC’s chief executive, chair and legal director were giving evidence to the Commons women and equalities committee as part of its inquiry into EHRC and the enforcement of the Equality Act.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, EHRC’s chief executive, highlighted last year’s Supreme Court victory for Gary Smith, a disabled man who won the right to protection under the Equality Act for himself and many others working in the “gig economy” after taking a high-profile case – funded by the commission – against Pimlico Plumbers.

She said EHRC was successful in 83 per cent of “strategic” cases that were taken by EHRC through the court of appeal and Supreme Court, and that it also had two investigations and three inquiries underway, most of which would be completed by the end of the year.

But she said: “We completely acknowledge that we haven’t been as effective in the past as we are now.”

David Isaac, EHRC’s chair, told the committee that the watchdog was doing more “pre-enforcement” work, such as sending “threatening” letters to organisations it believed were breaching the Equality Act.

He said: “We’ve made huge progress in using our legal powers but actually we’ll be using them even more and I think you’ll see even more change and even more impact.”

Asked why the commission had not made more use of its formal enforcement powers, Isaac said later: “We’re not yet as muscular as I would like us to be but I think we’re more muscular than we were… enforcement is a major part of what we do but it’s not the only part.”

He said EHRC could do more work to enforce the Equality Act if it was given more resources through the government’s forthcoming spending review.

He added: “Like other regulators, we use the stick and the carrot, but I think we’re using the stick more than ever.”

But Tory MP Philip Davies said EHRC’s own record on workplace discrimination was “lamentable”.

He pointed to information sent to the committee by the commission which detailed cases of discrimination against EHRC staff since 2010 that had been settled, upheld or partially upheld, several of which had involved disability discrimination, although he accepted some of these were before Isaac became chair and Hilsenrath became chief executive.

He said: “That’s not making it as easy as possible for people to pursue their complaint, is it, forcing them to go to an employment tribunal, before you acknowledge that something went wrong and settle the case?”

He suggested this was not the kind of behaviour expected of a “best practice organisation” that was regulating other employers.

Isaac said recent cases were brought as a result of two EHRC reorganisations and that he was “confident we treated those people well” and “didn’t make it difficult for them to bring those claims”.

He told Davies: “Many of the matters you’ve referred to are very historical.

On our watch, there were two reorganisations introduced as a result of cuts and us endeavouring to streamline the organisation to be more impactful.

We can’t legislate for how our staff respond to those particular situations and they do unfortunately make assertions, and have made assertions, as part of the claims that they have brought.

I’m not saying they weren’t valid… I’m confident that we have raised our game and that those are historical matters.”

6 June 2019

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 Posted by at 15:18
Jun 052019
 

In the light of recent increased publicity for asylum seekers to have the ‘right to work’ #lifttheban we are reposting this.

The ‘Right to work’ in the context of #’DWPcrimes

Campaigns for the ‘right to work’ must be treated with caution in the context of #dwpcrimes. A recent letter posted on twitter by #corecities calling for asylum seekers to have the ‘right to work’, argued it would be ‘good for the Treasury, saving money on welfare payments to people who could earn their way’. Surely this cannot be a campaign goal.

Of course the ‘right to work’ would be great for any asylum seekers currently prevented from taking non-exploitative jobs. However, we cannot forget that citizens with the ‘right to work’ are dying when the right becomes an obligation and benefits are stopped #dwpcrimes. This is particularly the case for disabled people. Do we really think asylum seekers would be treated better?


[The following was originally posted on this website as “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

 Posted by at 15:28
Jun 052019
 

Saturday 3rd August – for more info and to book a place go to: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/crippled-austerity-and-the-demonization-of-disabled-people-launch-for-frances-ryans-new-book-tickets-62955660074

Frances Ryan discusses her searing exposé of austerity’s impact on disabled people, alongside Guardian columnist Aditya Chakrabortty and Paul Atherton, who is referred to in the Housing Chapter and has been homeless for ten years.

In austerity Britain, disabled people have become the favourite target. From social care to the benefits system, politicians and the media alike have made the case that Britain’s 12 million disabled people are a drain on the public purse. In this event, Frances Ryan exposes the disturbing reality, telling the story of those most affected by this devastating regime. She talks about a paralysed man forced to crawl down the stairs because the council wouldn’t provide accessible housing; a malnourished woman sleeping in her wheelchair; and a young girl with bipolar forced to turn to sex work to survive.

Through these personal stories, Ryan charts how in recent years the public attitude towards disabled people has transformed from compassion to contempt: from society’s ‘most vulnerable’ to benefit cheats. Crippled is a damning indictment of a safety net gone wrong, and a passionate demand for an end to austerity measures hitting those most in need.

Disabled People Against Cuts will be hosting an afternoon with Frances Ryan. Introduced by Guardian columnist Aditya Chakrabortty, Ryan will be joined by a guest panel to discuss her book Crippled.
Please note that Frances Ryan is unable to travel at this time so will be appearing via a live link. There will be copies of the book available to buy and breastplates ready signed by Frances.

Access information: the venue is wheelchair accessible. For those unable to attend in person the event will be filmed with thanks to @imajsaclaimant.

Supported by Disabled People Against Cuts, Unite the Union and the People’s Assembly.

 

Jun 032019
 

In response to the DWP’s lies trying to minimise the negative impact of Universal Credit (UC), by commissioning unbranded BBC documentaries and media articles highlighting UC success stories, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) has compiled a damning record of UC systemic and catastrophic failures. 

This record draws on local and national press and media articles, government and research reports.   While the DWP bleat that UC is unfairly vilified the reality is that UC had always been a disaster for claimants and has already wasted millions of pounds.

It has now reached a point where it is unable to adapt to claimants’ complex circumstances, and is forcing people with the least resources into further poverty, homelessness, and hunger.  These failures are driven by ideology. Making claimants wait for their first payment on the pretext that this mirrors the circumstances of working people is another DWP fairytale.

Experts who have looked at UC have also identified design, management and IT issues which cannot be solved by tweaking the system. 

This is why DPAC is calling for UC to be scrapped. It has become a social security system, which not only does not offer security, but actively undermined people’s ability to cope with the hazards of life. 

So far DPAC activists have already removed many thousands of copies of the Metro and will continue to do so whenever a lie about UC is printed. RMT and UNITE members are monitoring each days’ delivery of Metros to help us with this.

We are also calling for a boycott of Reach newspapers which have also in many cases published and republished one case study of one Job Centre manager saying UC works well. Reach’s Director, Helen Stevenson, is coincidentally a former non-executive director of DWP.

Download the Report:

DPAC Report – Hunger Debt Homelessness Crime Prostitution and Suicide – Universal Credit Media Articles – May 2019

Notes for Editors

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) are a campaign group fighting for the rights of disabled people www.dpac.uk.net @dis_ppl_protest

https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/second-newspaper-group-could-be-targeted-over-universal-credit-articles/

Intergenerational worklessness is a lie.

https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/are-cultures-worklessness-passed-down-generations

 

The same DWP propagandist Reach Media articles –over and over again

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/uk-news/universal-credit-why-actually-great-16279017

https://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/universal-credit-good-thing-helps-2866016

https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/world-news/universal-credit-why-actually-great-16279017

https://twnews.co.uk/gb-news/why-universal-credit-is-actually-a-great-idea

https://www.latest-news-headlines.eu/local/leicester

https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/why-universal-credit-actually-great-2870686

https://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/universal-credit-why-actually-great-16279017

https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/uk-news/universal-credit-why-actually-great-16279017

https://www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/why-universal-credit-actually-great-2870686

https://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/universal-credit-why-actually-great-16279017

https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/universal-credit-why-actually-great-16279017

https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/uk-news/universal-credit-why-actually-great-16279017

https://www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/why-universal-credit-actually-great-2870686

https://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/why-universal-credit-actually-great-2870686

https://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/uk-world-news/universal-credit-why-actually-great-16279017

https://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/why-universal-credit-actually-great-2870686

https://www.belfastlive.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/universal-credit-why-actually-great-16279017

https://www.lincolnshirelive.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/why-universal-credit-actually-great-2870686

https://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/why-universal-credit-actually-great-2870686 

https://www.getreading.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/universal-credit-why-actually-great-16279017

https://www.kentlive.news/news/uk-world-news/why-universal-credit-actually-great-2870686

https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/universal-credit-why-actually-great-16279017

https://www.leeds-live.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/universal-credit-why-actually-great-16279017

 Posted by at 14:24
Jun 022019
 

These regulations don’t apply if you use CAB (help to claim service) you must claim either from home, DWP officers help at home, or JCP office. this means you will get maximum backdating of your claim.

‘Reg10 (1) (b) of the UC C&P regs says that the date of the claim can be the date that the claimant notified DWP of their intention to make the claim provided that the actual claim is made electronically by DWP themselves or by ‘a person providing services to the Secretary of State which is provided for the purpose of enabling that person to make a claim’.

UC reg 10 (1) b

Claimants who seek help from Citizens Advice to make a claim for universal credit (UC) risk losing out because their date of claim will not be protected due to yet another DWP blunder in their contract with CABs.

Many people who claim UC struggle with the process and need support.

Until 31 March this support was provided by local authorities, often through libraries. People who went to their local library for help would have their UC claim dated from the day they first went for support, even if all the necessary information was not provided until a later date.
However, under the contract negotiated between Citizens Advice and the DWP, the claim is only dated from the day it is received by the DWP.
Claimants who are unable to provide all the necessary information on the day can still have their date of claim protected, but only if they make a separate trip to a Jobcentre to do so.

These regulations don’t apply if you use CAB (help to claim service) you must claim either from home, DWP officers help at home, or JCP office. this means you will get maximum backdating of your claim.

‘Reg10 (1) (b) of the UC C&P regs says that the date of the claim can be the date that the claimant notified DWP of their intention to make the claim provided that the actual claim is made electronically by DWP themselves or by ‘a person providing services to the Secretary of State which is provided for the purpose of enabling that person to make a claim’.

UC reg 10 (1) b

The rules (reg 10 of the Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance Claims and Payments Regulations 2013) say:

10.—(1) Where a claim for universal credit is made, the date on which the claim is made is—

(a) subject to sub-paragraph (b), in the case of a claim made by means of an electronic communication in accordance with regulation 8(1), the date on which the claim is received at an appropriate office;

(b) in the case of a claim made by means of an electronic communication in accordance with regulation 8(1), where the claimant receives assistance at home or at an appropriate office from the Secretary of State, or a person providing services to the Secretary of State, which is provided for the purpose of enabling that person to make a claim, the date of first notification of a need for such assistance;

(c) subject to sub-paragraph (d), in the case of a claim made by telephone in accordance with regulation 8(2), the date on which that claim is properly completed in accordance with regulation 8(4); or

(d) where the Secretary of State is unable to accept a claim made by telephone in accordance with regulation 8(2) on the date of first notification of intention to make the claim, the date of first notification, provided a claim properly completed in accordance with regulation 8(4) is made within one month of that date,

or the first day in respect of which the claim is made if later than the above.

Para b is the relevant paragraph, and applies where someone gets assistance 1) at home or 2) in an appropriate office.

2)Appropriate office is defined in reg 2 as

“appropriate office” means—

(a) an office of the Department for Work and Pensions or any other place designated by the Secretary of State in relation to any case or class of case as a place to, or at which, any claim, notice, document, evidence or other information may be sent, delivered or received for the purposes of these Regulations and includes a postal address specified by the Secretary of State for that purpose; or

(b) in the case of a person who is authorized or required by these Regulations to use an electronic communication for any purpose, an address to which such communications may be sent in accordance with Schedule 2;

Therefore unless a CAB office is designated by DWP as an appropriate office, para b cannot apply if the help to claim was provided in the CAB office.

Source Rightsnet

 Posted by at 19:26
Jun 022019
 

[Text from The Peterloo Memorial: A Monument to Discrimination with thanks]

If you think the Peterloo Memorial should be accessible and inclusive to all, we are asking everyone to email r.leese@manchester.gov.uk tonight, although any time today would be massively appreciated…

See below this post for a template you can use (it also explains the issue).

If you use facebook, open the event page, click “going” so we can count the contributors

Follow @PeterLo06715997 on twitter

Email subject line:

the Peterloo memorial: a monument to discrimination

Email template, you can if you wish amend and add your own thoughts

Dear Councillor Leese

I’m writing to say that I am angry and shocked that Manchester City Council are proceeding to erect the inaccessible Jeremy Deller designed Peterloo Memorial. A Memorial dedicated to those who marched for liberty and equality for all, should not be designed and built with discrimination and inequality at its heart.

Jeremy Deller describes his Peterloo Memorial as “a monument that’s for the public to inhabit – to be one to hang around on and assemble at. It is not something to be looked at and not touched – it is something to be on.”

That is all very well if you can climb steps… As currently designed, this Memorial is a fine example of inequality and discrimination embedded in design.

This Memorial is set to be a glaring metaphor for inequality and segregation with disabled people at the bottom of the monument, literally being talked down to. An act of exclusion that denies disabled people a voice, a blatant act of discrimination.

I and many others demand that a major reworking of the proposed Peterloo memorial is undertaken immediately by Manchester City Council, to make our memorial accessible to those unable to ascend steps, and that options are explored and conducted in a full, open, transparent and public manner.

Anything less will be a breathtaking act of hypocrisy on the part of Manchester City Council and the artist and an abandonment of the ideals of liberty and equality which moved those citizens to gather in St Peters Fields on 16th August 1819.”

If you continue to build this Monument To Discrimination you should hang your head in shame.

Yours etc

 Posted by at 13:53
Jun 012019
 

Come and join Disabled People and their allies from 5pm – 7pm on Thur 6th June outside Manchester Central Exhibition Complex. Make our presence known in our campaign for inclusive and accessible memorial to Peterloo

For more info

Twitter follow @PeterLo06715997 and

Facebook: Event Link and group page – The Peterloo Memorial: A Monument to Discrimination

"We think MCC choosing to deliberately create a platform inaccessible for all speakers - or signers - sends a clear message against democracy for all in Manchester - the exact opposite of the aims of the memorial." - Dennis Queen (Manchester Disabled People Against Cuts)

 Posted by at 21:39