Search Results : metro

Jul 052019
 

Last week the DWP advertorials returned to the Metro.

Until we can be sure they have stopped we are calling on supporters to make every day a #DumpMetroDWPLies day and ramp up the pressure to stop this waste of public money on misleading propaganda.

Please do what you can and encourage others to get involved.

Thanks to all unions who he campaign or taking their own action against Universal Credit including BFAWU, the NUJ, PCS and Unite Community.

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
May 302019
 

[From Sheffield DPAC, with thanks]

This is a call out to all members and supporters regarding the DWP universal credit uncovered advertorials that are running in the Metro newspaper currently.

It has been confirmed by guardian journalist Aditya chakrabortty that the wrap-around advert will have cost at least £250,000 of public money. Yes that’s right you’re paying to be lied to by the department of work and pensions.
Mark Serwotka of the PCS Union has condemned the advertorials as government propaganda and we commend him for doing so. we share the National Union of journalists concerns that these advertorials are deliberately misleading and presented to appear as pieces of journalism we maintain that these articles reach advertising standards as they do not bear recognised branding from the department of work and pensions.

The first advertorial was a wrap around advert as well as a double page spread inside the Metro on 22nd May, our friends in the RMT/Unite and TSSA Unions gave us the heads up about the advert had appeared in the newspapers and our activists set to work.
With just a small number of people at widespread locations nationally, we emptied newspaper stands at train stations on buses and on trams in several towns and cities.
The second universal credit and covered advert appeared in the Metro newspaper on Wednesday the 29th of May.
We preempted that it would appear on the Wednesday and several activists went to the local train stations and bus stations as early as 6:30 or 7am and emptied the newspaper stands. 
Some people had to make several trips with their mobility scooters emptying the stands using rucksacks and panniers bags to carry the papers. 
Other people used sack trolleys to remove huge stacks of papers, and some used wheeled suitcases packed full of the metro and taken away while others grabbed armfuls and walked off with them.
We estimate that on the 29th of May our activists removed around 1% of papers from circulation this doesn’t sound a lot but when you look at that it equals in between 10 to 15000 copies it really is impactful; especially to other advertisers who will be losing money as a result.
There is a post on the DPAC Sheffield page that lists the companies who advertised in the Metro newspaper on the 29th of May alerting them that their adverts were seen by thousands less people than who would have if the Metro weren’t running the DWP universal credit adverts.
We are asking people to think twice before advertising in the Metro newspaper whilst they are running the DWP universal credit uncovered advertorials.
These advertorials are going to be running for a further 7-8 weeks in the Metro newspaper.
We are calling on people to join our campaign to dump Metro DWP lies on any day of the week
Yes, it’s important that we get the DWP lies off the shelves… but decreasing the circulation of the Metro newspaper 5 days a week rather than just one will make a bigger impact on as to whether the Metro does anything like this again!
If the Metro was a paid-for paper we would call for a boycott but it’s a free paper so let’s just dent them wherever we can.
Investigations have revealed that other newspapers were allegedly approached to run this advertorial and declined; which says a lot about the Metro!
Whether you remove 10 copies or 100 it all makes a difference.
With just a small number of people taking part in each town and city it soon adds up to big numbers and these numbers will make a difference when we act collectively!
Currently, as the first and second advertorials we run on a Wednesday, we are assuming that the ads will come out each Wednesday…But that doesn’t mean they’ll continue to be released on that schedule.
So we’re calling on our members and supporters keep an eye out on the early morning commute each day and alert as early as possible if you see a universal credit advertorial in the Metro.
Disabled people against cuts has an online network of tens of thousands of activists and supporters we can very quickly let people know and jump into action!
Take pictures of videos of removing the Metro newspaper from the stands and send them to DPAC by email on mail@dpac.uk.net or Twitter using the hashtag
#DumpMetroDWPlies
 Posted by at 16:31
May 142019
 

A memo leaked to us shows that DWP are planning to tell lots and lots of fairytales about how well Universal Credit is working. This is not our experience or the experience of anyone we have contact with. 

On Friday May 31st DWP are launching a misleading advertising campaign with a wrap around on the Metro free paper.  

This is costing quarter of a million pounds of our money meanwhile they have robbed millions from women pensioners, disabled people, women and children all of whom have been pushed deeper and deeper into poverty, and despair. Many have been forced to resort to prostitution and crime in order to survive. 

DWP must be stopped from using the media to spread their lies so we’re calling on all of those affected and those who care about the truth to do what we’ve done with the Mail and Sun before and go to your nearest train and tube station or any other locations where the Metro is given out free and remove or otherwise prevent as many as possible to be read. 

This is nothing short of a propaganda war which we must win. Please ask friends and family to help with this task and share this request on social media. 

We are preparing a dossier to complain to the advertising standards authority but let’s make sure the Metro never want another DWP advert again.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/14/universal-credit-department-work-pensions-pr

 

 Posted by at 21:47
Jul 182019
 

DWP ‘lies again’ about impact of benefits freeze on disabled people

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been accused of a “brazen repetition of a known lie” about the impact on disabled people of one of the government’s major spending cuts, following the publication of a damning new report.

The report by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) found that social security reforms over the last decade – mostly under successive Tory-led governments – had hit disabled adults four times harder than non-disabled adults.

It found that disabled people had lost out by an average of about £1,200 a year, compared to an average of about £300 for non-disabled people.

The report, Has Welfare Become Unfair?, shows that the higher a person’s support needs, the more they have lost out, with someone with six or more impairments losing over £2,100 a year on average, compared to someone with one impairment losing about £700 each year.

But when DWP was asked to comment on the report’s conclusions, it claimed that “disability benefits are exempt from the benefit freeze”.

This is not true, which has been repeatedly pointed out to ministers and DWP press officers over the last three years.

In March, the minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, failed to apologise after telling the Commons work and pensions committee that “disability benefits were exempt from the benefits freeze”.

In June 2018, his predecessor, Sarah Newton, made the same claim in a Commons debate.

This apparently deliberate attempt to mislead the public about the working-age benefits freeze dates to its introduction in 2016 by the then chancellor, George Osborne.

Disability living allowance, personal independence payment and the employment and support allowance (ESA) support group top-up are all exempt from the benefits freeze, which has frozen most working-age benefits at the level they were at in 2015.

But there is no exemption for the main component of ESA or the top-up paid to those in the ESA work-related activity group (WRAG), which continue to be frozen.

This means that every disabled person receiving ESA, the main out-of-work disability benefit – and its equivalent under universal credit – has been and will continue to be hit financially by the freeze, including by its impact on non-disability-related benefits.

Although DWP could argue that the main ESA component is set at the same level as the mainstream jobseeker’s allowance, the WRAG top-up is only available to people with impairments that affect their ability to work.

Bob Ellard, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “The DWP’s brazen repetition of a known lie shows they believe they are immune from being held to account.

I urge everyone reading this to sign the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition for an independent inquiry into the DWP, not just for the people who have died but for all who have suffered hardship and distress in dealing with the DWP. Let’s hold them to account.”

The petition* calls for an independent inquiry into links between DWP and the deaths of benefit claimants, and was launched following the death in February 2017 of Jodey Whiting, 15 days after she had her out-of-work disability benefits mistakenly stopped for missing a work capability assessment.

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

The DBC report says the benefit freeze “has been a major factor in reducing the incomes of disabled people and pushing them into poverty”.

And comments this week by both contenders for the Tory party leadership, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, suggest the freeze might not end next year as previously planned.

Asked to comment on the department’s comment about the benefits freeze, a DWP spokesperson said: “On the DBC report, you have our statement and of course you are free to write up the story as you see fit.”

The government has previously suggested that the main ESA element and the WRAG top-up** are included in the benefits freeze because they are “a work-related benefit”, rather than a disability benefit, even though they are benefits paid to disabled people.

There was further misleading information in the DWP response to the DBC report, with the department claiming that “in many cases our reforms mean people will receive more money on average, with one million households gaining an average of £100 more on Universal Credit”.

The department’s own equality impact assessment and the Office for Budget Responsibility have both made it clear that there would be both winners and losers from universal credit.

But the DWP spokesperson claimed that – even though it had provided figures for those gaining from UC – the department did not publish figures showing how many million households would lose out through UC and by how much on average.

The report by DBC – whose members include Inclusion London, Disability Rights UK and Transport for All – warns that when disabled people move onto universal credit there will be “dramatic increases in the levels of poverty among people who are already at a crisis point”.

The report says this is a “disaster waiting to happen”.

The report, funded by The Three Guineas Trust, concludes that changes to the social security system since 2010 have had a “devastating impact” on disabled people’s wellbeing and right to independent living.

The report, which makes 22 recommendations for government action, concludes that people claiming disability benefits “are leading precarious lives characterised by financial insecurity, with immediate and enduring worries over money, bills and what the future may hold”.

*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

**New claimants placed in the WRAG after starting their claim from April 2017 onwards no longer receive the top-up

18 July 2019

 

 

Rail regulator’s access recommendations welcomed, ‘but do not go far enough’

Accessible transport campaigners have broadly welcomed a series of recommendations for improvements to the accessibility of the rail system.

Among the 17 recommendations made by the regulator, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), is a call for a drastic reduction in the notice that disabled passengers need to provide to book assistance for a rail journey.

If ORR’s recommendations are accepted, the current maximum of 24 hours’ notice will be cut by April next year to 10pm the day before travel, with further reductions introduced until only two hours’ notice will be needed by April 2022.

ORR also wants to see the government review funding for accessibility improvements, currently delivered through the Access for All fund, warning that current levels of investment “may fall short of the improvements to accessibility in rail aspired to in the government’s Inclusive Transport Strategy”.

And it wants to see, within the next six years, a review of the standards for accessibility of rail vehicles.

ORR is also calling for significant improvements to the reliability of assistance, and to staff training, as well as a requirement that compensation is paid to disabled passengers when their booked assistance fails because of a train or station operator’s actions.

Only last week, Disability News Service reported that two-thirds of disabled passengers experience at least one problem when travelling by rail, according to research commissioned by the government.

The ORR report says that only three-quarters (76 per cent) of users received all the assistance they booked in advance in 2018-19, while one in 10 (11 per cent) received none of it.

ORR also wants to see the same branding for assistance introduced across the network of rail companies, and improvements to the quality of access information provided to disabled passengers.

In the longer term, ORR wants to see a new system that will allow passengers to buy tickets and book assistance at the same time, and a “coherent national strategy” to promote assisted travel.

ORR made the recommendations as part of its submission to the Williams Rail Review, a “root and branch review” of Britain’s railway system.

The review’s findings and recommendations will be published in a government white paper in the autumn.

Alan Benson, chair of Transport for All, the user-led charity which campaigns on accessible transport in London, “broadly” welcomed the ORR’s recommendations.

He said: “Everyone, including government and the industry, agrees that the current situation on Britain’s railway is simply not good enough.

For decades, disabled people have been pushing for change. This response to the Williams review shows that the ORR has been listening and it should be broadly welcomed.

There are many common-sense steps, such as compensation for failed assistance and better training, which could really overhaul the service that we receive.

Being able to buy tickets and arrange assistance at the same time has the potential to really make a difference, providing the process is easy and convenient.”

But Benson said TfA believed the recommendations did not go far enough.

He said: “Putting consistent branding on an assistance service won’t prevent the let downs that are all too common and the ORR is still not advocating our right to turn up and travel just like everyone else.

Even the reduction in notice from 24 hours to two hours is not proposed until 2022. This is simply not good enough.

The direction of travel in this report is good, but the industry needs to show even more aspiration.

We hope that the Williams review will be bold in its recommendations and lead to disabled people having truly equal access when using the UK rail network.”

Accessible transport campaigner Doug Paulley also broadly welcomed ORR’s recommendations.

He said he particularly welcomed ORR’s “new” and “important” challenge to the government’s “miserly and woefully inadequate funding” for improving access.

But he said he did not believe that the shortened timescales for pre-booking assistance would have much impact because making such bookings often failed to produce the assistance requested, while it “misses the point that we should be able to ‘turn up and go’ like anybody else”.

He said much of the ORR report was “rehashed” from what the industry or ORR had already made clear, adding: “We know access information is lamentably inaccurate and the database for administering it is utterly broken.

We know that assisted travel reliability is poor and must be improved.

We know that a national framework for promoting Passenger Assist should be in place, but only once they’ve got a reliable system that works, otherwise they’re setting new disabled travellers up for a fall.”

Paulley said ORR’s recommendations for the review were important, but its delayed new guidance for train operating companies, expected in the autumn following a consultation, “will have a much more direct impact on disabled passengers’ experience than their input into the Williams review, though of course it is positive that they have responded to the review as well”.

The ORR proposals were welcomed by Keith Williams, the review’s chair and a former chief executive of British Airways.

18 July 2019

 

 

DWP decision to block DNS jobcentre invite is ‘extension of hostile environment’

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been accused of an “appalling” attack on press freedom and disabled people’s rights after blocking a request by Disability News Service (DNS) to interview staff in one of its jobcentres.

A leaked memo in May revealed that DWP was inviting journalists from across the country into jobcentres to try to persuade them to paint a more positive picture of its new universal credit (UC) benefit system.

The memo revealed the department’s “frustration” at the negative media portrayal of its work, particularly around coverage of UC, as well as its plans to run a series of misleading adverts in the Metro free newspaper that would “myth-bust the common inaccuracies reported on UC”.

The memo spoke of “negativity and scaremongering” by journalists and said that work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd had written to “a wide range of journalists at regional and national publications, asking them to come and see for themselves the great work we do”.

Many of the articles that resulted, particularly those that have appeared in local newspapers owned by Reach, the largest national and regional news publisher in the UK, were criticised by disabled activists for allowing jobcentre staff to praise the local impact of universal credit and to either dismiss or ignore its well-publicised flaws.

Following the release of the memo, and the string of positive articles that followed, DNS asked DWP’s press office to arrange a visit to a local jobcentre.

This would have allowed DNS to interview frontline civil servants about UC, as well as the much-criticised work capability assessment, links between DWP failings and the deaths of benefit claimants*, and efforts by jobcentre staff to support disabled people into work.

But now, more than a month after the request was submitted, DWP has turned down the DNS request.

A spokesperson said: “Unfortunately we won’t be able to accommodate your request for a jobcentre visit at this stage.

Visits from journalists are time intensive for our jobcentre staff and we’ve therefore focused on hosting visits for newspapers only at this time.

We hope to open up jobcentre visits to online only outlets** in the future.”

Natasha Hirst, the disabled members’ representative on the national executive council of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ)***, said DWP’s decision risked “compounding the lack of trust in their ‘mythbuster’ PR campaign if they obstruct access to journalists who have been critical of their policies in the past.

NUJ members abide by a code of conduct to report ethically and accurately and it is vital to a well-functioning democracy that journalists are able to scrutinise the workings of government institutions.”

She added: “If the DWP are confident enough that their policies and practices are improving people’s lives, then providing access to DNS would lend an opportunity to showcase good work and reach directly to their target audience.

Otherwise, this looks like an effort to impede press freedom.”

A spokesperson for Sheffield Disabled People Against Cuts, the grassroots group which obtained the leaked memo, said: “Once again the DWP are moving the goalposts in order to spin their lies and keep disabled people in the dark about what is happening with universal credit; this time it’s journalists on the receiving end.

Disabled people very often have difficulty getting access to print editions of newspapers so rely on online news sources such as DNS for reports about universal credit that we have a right to access.

We think that the DWP may once again be breaching the rights of disabled people by denying DNS and other similar platforms access to jobcentres.

This is quite simply an extension of the hostile environment towards disabled people.”

A spokesperson for Disabled People Against Cuts added: “To say that we were shocked that DNS were denied access would be a lie – it’s exactly what we would expect from an organisation that distorts the truth so routinely that they were never likely to allow a disabled journalist anywhere where they might ask inconvenient questions of jobcentre staff.”

One well-known disabled activist, who tweets as @imajsaclaimant, said it was an “appalling” decision from DWP, which clearly only wanted to allow journalists to visit its jobcentres if they were “from publications that will give them an article that paints DWP in a positive light”.

He said DWP was “attempting to very tightly control the narrative” and the refusal to allow DNS to question jobcentre staff “reinforces what we’ve always known about DWP, that they are a terrible organisation that treats everyone with contempt.

By denying journalists who are critical they are preventing accountability, which is what this government has avoided again and again.”

DWP is already facing an investigation by the Advertising Standards Authority into what critics say are the misleading adverts about UC that are appearing in the Metro.

Disabled activists have repeatedly warned about the impact on disabled people of UC – which combines six income-related benefits into one – and say it is “toxic” and “rotten to the core”, with “soaring” rates of foodbank use.

Earlier this month, DNS revealed that DWP had admitted an “extraordinary” failure over nearly a decade to carry out any detailed calculations on how UC would affect different groups of disabled people.

Meanwhile, the DWP spokesperson also appeared to admit this week that its press office had been making a deliberate decision not to send press releases to DNS.

When asked why DWP had stopped sending its releases to DNS, she said the press office usually sends them to journalists “on a case-by-case basis”.

She said DWP press releases can also be found on the government website, but she added: “I have noted your request to receive our press releases, and I will send on those that we think you will find of interest.”

**Sign the Jodey Whiting petition here if you would like to see a debate in the House of Commons on calls for an independent inquiry into links between DWP and the deaths of benefit claimants. 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

**DNS is a news agency, not an “online only outlet”

***John Pring, editor of DNS, is an NUJ member

18 July 2019

 

 

More than half of disabled passengers still find air travel difficult, says regulator

More than half of passengers who describe themselves as having an impairment that limits their day-today activity find travelling by air difficult, according to a regulator’s annual report on access at the UK’s major airports.

The Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) annual report on disability access contains mixed findings on provision for disabled travellers at the UK’s largest 31 airports.

Although no airports were rated as “poor” in the regulator’s fourth annual report – the first time this has happened – the number of those rated as “very good” on access fell from 16 last year to 14 in 2018-19.

Of the 31 airports assessed by CAA, 16 were categorized as “good”, an increase of six on 2017-18, and only one was said to need improvement.

During 2018-19, there were 3.7 million requests for assistance at UK airports, a rise of over 80 per cent since 2010. 

But CAA’s latest aviation consumer survey found nearly a quarter of respondents who requested assistance said they did so because the airport environment was becoming more difficult to get around.

And more than half of disabled people surveyed said they found travelling by air difficult, with concerns about poor customer service, long waiting times and a lack of awareness of disabled people’s needs.

It is the second report this month to highlight the continuing barriers faced by disabled travellers.

Last week, Disability News Service reported research commissioned by the government which found two-thirds of disabled passengers said they experienced at least one problem when travelling by rail.

Disabled passengers are entitled to free assistance when travelling by air under European Union regulations, and CAA is the regulatory body that monitors the quality of this assistance.

A key CAA concern is that airports are not increasing staffing levels enough at peak times, causing increased delays for those disabled passengers who need assistance.

The report also says that only two airports with more than nine million passengers a year – Glasgow and Edinburgh – have been rated as “very good” on access.

The others – London Stansted, London Luton, London Heathrow and London Gatwick – are all rated as “good”.

But the report warns that Heathrow could be at risk of losing its “good” rating, if it does not do more to increase staffing levels, particularly for assistance for passengers on flights arriving at the airport.

The report also stresses the importance of ongoing consultation with local disabled people’s groups, and it warns that new CAA guidance “will require airports to hold regular disability forums” and that airports “who do not have these in place may receive a poor rating in future reports”.

This new guidance will mean airports will now be assessed using stricter targets

The report also says CAA has continuing concerns over the services and facilities provided by Manchester Airport, which is nearly two-thirds owned by Greater Manchester’s 10 local authorities.

Although the airport improved on its rating of “poor” last year, the CAA report says it still “needs improvement” and warns that events since the end of 2018-19 have “stalled” its progress.

In April, Manchester Airport began using a new provider of assistance services, and the report says: “Data from April, May and June 2019 has shown performance was poor, with high numbers of passengers waiting for unacceptable lengths of time to receive assistance when arriving on inbound flights.”

Meanwhile, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has launched a consultation on new plans that it hopes will help people with long-term conditions who struggle to find affordable travel insurance.

It wants to introduce a new “signposting” rule, which would force insurance firms in certain circumstances to provide consumers with a pre-existing medical condition (PEMC) details of travel insurance firms that “have the appetite and capability” to provide them with cover. 

FCA said that “nearly all consumers with a PEMC can get cover if they are able to find the right provider”.

An estimated 14 million travellers with a PEMC try to find travel insurance every year.

Of these, about 0.7 per cent are declined cover and 11 per cent buy a policy that excludes cover for their condition.

Christopher Woolard, FCA’s executive director of strategy and competition, said: “We want to reduce the numbers of consumers who are currently faced with a choice of not travelling or travelling without insurance, and running the risk of incurring significant costs, including medical bills abroad.

The changes proposed today will be an important step in helping people to navigate the market more easily and also in reducing the number of customers who are over-paying significantly for travel insurance.”

18 July 2019

 

Second charity backs Justice for Jodey following snub by 12 disability organisations

A second national disability charity has joined Mind in backing a petition that calls for an independent inquiry into links between Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) failings and the deaths of disabled benefit claimants.

Disability Rights UK (DR UK) and Mind are the only two major charities to have supported the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition*, in contrast with others such as RNIB, Leonard Cheshire, Sense and Scope, which have refused to back its demands.

The petition calls for an inquiry and for any evidence of criminal misconduct by civil servants and ministers to be passed to police.

It also calls on MPs to brand DWP institutionally disablist and not fit for purpose, and for the department to take urgent steps to make the safety of benefit claimants a priority.

Earlier this month, 12 disability charities – none of which are led and controlled by disabled people – rejected a request from Disability News Service (DNS) to back the petition.

Only Mind agreed to back the petition and its four demands.

But now DR UK, which is run and controlled by disabled people and works with many of the charities as a member of the Disability Benefits Consortium, has said it supports the petition and all its demands.

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.

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

Kamran Mallick, DR UK’s chief executive, said DWP’s failure to follow its own procedures in the case of Jodey Whiting “highlights the need of a root and branch change to our system of social protection for disabled people in this country”.

He said this system should “meet the needs of disabled people and provide safety and support in the way it is administrated”.

Mallick said an independent inquiry into deaths linked to DWP’s actions “would create the opportunity to gather robust evidence on the way the benefits system is administrated and how it impacts on people who need to use it”.

He said: “It could also be used to make recommendations for structural changes to the way the system operates now.”

And he said that any evidence of misconduct that led to serious harm or death “should be examined by the police to see if a criminal prosecution is appropriate”.

He added: “There’s a growing evidence base that the DWP is struggling to provide the services required.

It’s been the subject of a series of very critical reports from select committees, for example, as well as other independent organisations such as Demos.

There have been well documented problems with employment and support allowance, the changeover from disability living allowance to personal independence payments and of course universal credit.

Transferring current responsibilities to different organisations, whether statutory or otherwise, could help solve the problem.

But we must make sure there is a fundamental change in approach – without that, disabled people’s experiences are unlikely to improve much.”  

*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

18 July 2019

 

 

New ‘radical history’ of disabled people’s movement ‘has lessons for today’

A new “radical history” of the disabled people’s movement is set to throw new light on the contribution made by one of its most influential figures.

The launch of No Limits: The Disabled People’s Movement, A Radical History, took place last Friday (12 July), and was attended by its author, Judy Hunt, on the 40th anniversary of the death of her husband, Paul.

It was Paul Hunt’s letter to the Guardian in 1972 which led to the formation of the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS), which itself was to play a crucial role in the development of the movement and what was later known as the social model of disability.

Hunt had originally lived in the Leonard Cheshire residential home Le Court, in Hampshire, where he and other residents rebelled repeatedly against the regime, before he left to marry Judy in 1970.

In the Guardian letter, he wrote of how disabled people with high support needs were forced into “isolated unsuitable institutions where their views are ignored and they are subject to authoritarian and often cruel regimes”.

He proposed a new “consumer group” that would “put forward nationally the views of actual and potential residents of these successors to the Workhouse”.

No Limits tells how a series of “historic conflicts” between disabled people – including Paul Hunt – and service-providers in the 1960s laid “important groundwork for the emergence of a widespread social movement to end the segregation and second class citizenship of disabled people”.

It describes how the development of a social model of disability – including the key roles played by Hunt and fellow UPIAS founder Vic Finkelstein – led to a “heightened determination by disabled people to achieve emancipation from the oppressive social conditions in the UK”.

The book also describes how institutions began to be replaced with independent living settings, and it follows the evolution of the disabled people’s movement from the 1950s to the present day.

It also aims to “contribute to the ongoing struggle disabled people now face to maintain some control of their lives” after years of austerity have “battered many of the gains made through past campaigns”.

At the launch event in London last week, Judy Hunt said: “I hope the book will show how in the beginning when people were very oppressed, very cut off from society, that despite that, some people managed to find a way to struggle back, and they developed something powerful through the power of collective action which was terribly important.

I’m hoping that by drawing on the lessons of before it may still provide some hope for people, some ideas they can build on.”

She said that her husband had been “an amazing and a lovely person” who was “looked to by many for his very caring support and his guidance” and had “worked tirelessly and like there was no tomorrow, literally”.

She said: “He had been given a very short life expectancy when he was young. He lived that life of urgency all his life.”

She spoke of how her husband edited a book of essays by disabled people – Stigma: The Experience Of Disability – which was published in 1966, but is now out of print.

In his contribution to Stigma, he wrote about how disabled people were an oppressed minority, which she said was “the first time really that that word was used in the context of disability”.

She said: “It was like he lobbed a very weighty stone into the pond and it set off ripples which kept getting bigger and bigger.”

An archive of UPIAS material has been deposited by Judy Hunt in Manchester Central Library, alongside other historic documents that cast light on the birth, growth and impact of the movement, which have been collated by Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP).

Sian Vasey, a member of UPIAS in the 1970s, told the launch event that Judy Hunt’s book was “very important”, with its discussion of the “extraordinary revolution” of viewing disabled people as an oppressed minority.

She said that disabled people were still oppressed today, for example through the “really scary” dismantling of support systems, such as the cuts to care packages.

The disabled crossbench peer and independent living campaigner Baroness [Jane] Campbell told the launch that disabled people still faced oppression today, nearly 50 years after the formation of UPIAS.

Asked whether disabled people were still oppressed, she said: “Yes, I think we are, as women are, as black people are. I don’t see any difference.”

She spoke of how reading Paul Hunt’s letter to the Guardian, years later, as a young disabled woman, led her to contact the Spinal Injuries Association and then to attend the second annual meeting of the British Council of Organisations of Disabled People (BCODP).

It was at this conference in the early 1980s that she heard disabled activists Mike Oliver and Ken Davis talk about the social model of disability and the concept of independent living.

She remembers “feeling goose bumps all over my body” as “suddenly everything just fell into place”.

She told last week’s launch event: “If I hadn’t read that letter and I hadn’t phoned the Spinal Injuries Association, I would probably not have gone down the road that I did.

That is why today is so, so important to me.

Paul, even though I never knew him, was probably one of the most important men in my life, which is a very strange thing to say about someone you never knew.”

She told DNS afterwards that disabled people are still an oppressed group, but that she “would never say we are more oppressed than other groups that have had very similar struggles to stay alive and be treated equally”.

She said: “Becoming liberated through understanding the nature of their oppression is one of the most important things a disabled person can do.”

She said she had struggled more trying to be “normal” and fit in to a “normal world” than she ever did after she was liberated.

She added: “It is a huge relief to understand the true nature of my oppression and to understand the way to fight against it, and eventually abandon it.”

Free copies of the book in pdf format are available through the GMCDP website, with other formats available soon. To order a paperback version at £19.99, email: huntlimits40@gmail.com

18 July 2019

 

 

Hancock confronted over hospital parking charges for disabled patients

The health secretary has been confronted by a campaigner after government figures revealed the number of hospitals charging disabled people to use their carparks rose by 12 per cent in just a year.

Kush Kanodia, a disabled ambassador for Disability Rights UK (DR UK), said NHS trusts that charged disabled patients to use their carparks were guilty of direct discrimination under the Equality Act.

He asked Hancock: “What are we to do when the people we trust to deliver our healthcare fail to show compassion or inclusion?”

But he said neither Hancock nor NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens responded to his request for support for his campaign to end the charges at hospitals in England, which he launched last week with support from DR UK.

Devolved governments in both Scotland and Wales have scrapped all hospital parking charges, not just those for disabled patients.

Kanodia raised his concerns at The King’s Fund’s annual leadership and management summit.

He launched the campaign last week after accusing executives of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – where he is a patient governor – of “disgraceful” behaviour by deciding to introduce parking charges for patients with blue badges at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) this week declined to condemn those trusts that have introduced charges, saying only that it believed NHS trusts should offer “concessions” to disabled people using their carparks.

NHS Digital figures show that the number of hospitals that charge disabled people to park rose from 132 in 2014-15 to 155 in 2017-18, an increase of 17 per cent in just three years.

The largest increase came in the last year, with an increase of 12 per cent from 139 hospitals in 2016-17 to 155 in 2017-18.

Hancock’s predecessor, Tory leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt, had pledged to tackle the problem in August 2014.

Hunt said then that concessions should be available for disabled people.

But in a post on his own website, Hunt says the government is “firmly committed to reducing central interference in matters that can only be understood locally, and setting car parking charges falls into this category”.

A DHSC spokesperson declined to say if the department was in favour of scrapping all parking charges for disabled people, or if Hancock was concerned about the rising number of trusts that impose such charges.

But he said in a statement: “Patients and their families should not have to deal with the extra stress of complex or unfair parking charges.

Our guidelines make clear that concessions should be offered, including for disabled parking, and we expect trusts to be following these. 

We will continue to work with the NHS to ensure these principles are applied consistently to end variation and put the interests of patients first.”

A spokesperson for Chelsea and Westminster Hospital said its charges would be capped at £3 per vehicle and no decision had yet been made on when they would be introduced.

She said: “This still represents a significant concession compared to all other users of the car park. Where there is evidence of poverty then there will be no charge.

This was a very difficult decision to make in a challenging financial climate.

We intend to use the income generated to reinvest in facilities and clinical resources for our disabled patients, including plans to increase the number of disabled parking spaces.

If we don’t make any charge for disabled parking we will have to find an additional £200,000 every year.”

She denied that the trust would be breaching the Equality Act by introducing the new charge.

18 July 2019

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 Posted by at 15:14
Jul 112019
 

 

Secret PIP files show one in three assessments by Capita had significant flaws

More than a third of disability assessment reports completed by a government contractor have been found to be significantly flawed, according to secret government files.

The proportion of substandard personal independence payment (PIP) reports completed by outsourcing giant Capita has risen to 37 per cent in the two years since 2016, when nearly 33 per cent of reports were found to be defective.

The figures, secured from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) under the Freedom of Information Act by campaigner John Slater, are likely to add fuel to concerns about Capita’s performance in delivering the contract.

And they are also likely to strengthen calls for DWP to be declared “not fit for purpose” and institutionally disablist, as demanded by the Justice for Jodey Whiting parliamentary petition*.

The figures show the results of government audits of nearly 6,000 assessment reports carried out by Capita during 2018.

They show that nearly four per cent of the reports (3.92 per cent) were of such poor quality that they were categorised as “unacceptable”.

With another 17 per cent of assessments, DWP concluded the report was so flawed that there was “learning required” by the healthcare professional who wrote it, although the report was of an “acceptable” standard.

And in a further 16 per cent of cases, the report needed to be amended because of even more serious flaws, although again the report was still said to be of an “acceptable” standard.

In all, nearly 37 per cent of assessment reports audited during 2018 were found to be of an unacceptable standard, to need changes, or demonstrated that the assessor had failed to carry out their role properly.

The newly-released data provides details of the “management information” (MI) that Capita and fellow outsourcing giant Atos are contractually obliged to provide every month to DWP, so it can check on their performance and take action when they need to improve.

It was obtained as part of Slater’s continuing efforts to secure information from DWP that he believes will expose the widespread failings of Capita and Atos, and DWP’s failure to manage the contracts properly.

He is still appealing against DWP’s failure to release data showing the results of audits of Atos assessment reports.

The data that was released raises continuing and multiple concerns about the way the two private sector companies are carrying out their contractual duties.

It also shows that the many reports of dishonest and distressing assessment experiences by individual disabled people are not isolated occurrences.

One of the concerns highlighted by the data is the proportion of assessments cleared by Capita within 40 days, which nearly fell as low as 50 per cent at one stage during 2018.

Another concern is over the number of Atos and Capita healthcare professionals who have been the subject of multiple complaints within a three-month period.

Last year, DNS revealed that 161 assessors working for Atos and 19 Capita assessors had had at least four complaints made against them in a three-month period in 2016.

But the figures for 2018 show that, although the number of Atos assessors who faced multiple complaints fell from 161 to 129, the number of Capita assessors who were subjected to at least four complaints in just three months leapt from 19 to 84 between 2016 and 2018.

Capita carried out about 220,000 face-to-face assessments in 2018, compared with more than 730,000 by Atos.

Another key concern is that Capita is still requesting vital further evidence from GPs and social workers in less than 30 per cent of assessments.

This is an improvement on the figures from 2016, when at one stage, in June and July 2016, Capita was seeking further information from GPs, consultants or social workers in fewer than one in every 50 PIP claims (less than two per cent of cases).

But DWP documents drawn up in May 2012, before the award of the contracts to deliver PIP assessments, show the department expected its contractors would need to request further evidence (also known as further medical evidence) in about half of all cases (50 per cent).

A Capita spokesperson refused to say if the data obtained by Slater showed there were still serious concerns about its performance, and that this was deteriorating.

She also refused to comment on the audit results, or explain why they had worsened in the last two years.

And she refused to explain why so many assessors had been subjected to multiple complaints within a three-month period, and why that number had increased so sharply in the last two years.

But she said in a statement: “Capita is the first PIP provider to consistently meet the ambitious quality targets set by the DWP and we are committed to continually delivering against this target. On average, cases are completed within 38 days.

We are focused on delivering the best service to individuals coming through the assessment process.

This is evidenced in our independent monthly satisfaction rating from customers, which in 2018 was more than 95 per cent.”

An Atos** spokesperson refused to comment on the number of its assessors subject to multiple complaints.

But he said in a statement: “As part of our commitment to provide a high quality service we have invested in our continuous professional development training for all health professionals.”

A DWP spokesperson refused to say if the figures showed there were still serious concerns about its management of the PIP contracts and the performance of the two companies.

She also refused to say if DWP was concerned by the Capita audit results and the number of Atos and Capita assessors subjected to multiple complaints within three-month periods.

She refused to say why DWP had not released the Atos audit results to John Slater.

And she refused to say if DWP had taken any action to address these concerns.

But she said in a statement: “We are committed to ensuring that the PIP assessment providers give our claimants the highest quality service.

That’s why we set the providers challenging targets and monitor their performance closely, and the latest figures show that complaints make up just one per cent of all the assessments carried out.”

Meanwhile, work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd today (Thursday) announced an in-depth review of how terminally-ill people and those with “severe conditions” are treated by the benefits system.

The announcement came days after a report compiled by the charity Marie Curie and published by the all party parliamentary group for terminal illness saw people with terminal illness calling on ministers to end the “arbitrary and outdated” rules that force many of them through a “demeaning” and “insensitive” benefit assessment process.

*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

**Atos delivers its PIP assessment contracts through Independent Assessment Services, a trading name of Atos IT Services UK

11 July 2019

 

 

New EU figures demolish government claims of ‘world-leading generosity’ on disability

New figures obtained by Disability News Service (DNS) have demolished ministerial claims that the UK is one of the most generous countries in the world in its support for disabled people.

Rather than being one of the most generous, the UK’s spending on disability is actually below average for the 28 member states in the European Union (EU).

The figures also show that the proportion of the UK’s economic activity (GDP) spent by the UK government on disabled people fell from 2.6 per cent in 2015 to 2.5 per cent in 2016 and 2017.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and its ministers have repeatedly defended themselves against criticisms of government cuts to disabled people’s support over the last decade by attempting to argue that the UK’s spending levels compare favourably with other countries.

When the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities told the UK government in 2017 that its cuts to social security and other support for disabled people had caused “a human catastrophe” – and recommended more than 80 improvements to how its laws and policies affected disability rights – it responded by stressing how much it spent supporting disabled people and how well that compared with other major economies.

But the new figures show the UK is only the 12th most generous country in the EU, when its disability spending is taken as a proportion of GDP.

Last month, DNS reported figures for 2015 which showed the UK’s spending was only 23rd highest of the 36 major world economies in the OECD* as a proportion of GDP.

But DNS has now obtained figures for 2016 and 2017 from Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office, which bases its statistics on data provided by the UK and other EU governments, and which is the organisation that OECD uses to produce its figures for EU countries.

The Eurostat figures show the UK was only the 12th most generous spender in the EU in 2015, 2016 and 2017, behind Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Germany, France, Luxembourg and even Lithuania, Slovakia and Hungary, if disability spending is taken as a proportion of a country’s GDP.

The figures show spending on sickness and disability, which for the UK includes benefits like personal independence payment and employment and support allowance, as well as spending on social care and other social protection for disabled people.

The claim that the UK is one of the world’s most generous countries when it comes to disability has been used repeatedly by work and pensions ministers such as Iain Duncan Smith, who claimed in 2014 that “[we] probably spend more than almost any other country in the developed world” and “nearly double what Germany spends”.

Esther McVey made similar claims when she was minister for disabled people, and again last month when she was running – unsuccessfully – to be the next prime minister.

Ministers have also repeatedly claimed that the UK spends more on disability than France, one of the seven major economies that make up the G7, and DWP repeated that claim yesterday (Wednesday).

The Eurostat figures also demolish those claims, as they show that Frances spends about 2.9 per cent of its GDP on sickness and disability, compared to 2.5 per cent in the UK.

A DWP spokesperson refused to say if the minister for disabled people now accepted that the UK spends below the average for the 28 EU countries on disability and is not even one of the most generous countries in the EU, let alone the world.

Instead she said in a statement: “We’re spending £55 billion this year on benefits to support disabled people and those with health conditions, more than ever before.

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

*OECD is an organisation of 36 countries, all of which are major world economies

**The Eurostat figures show the UK also spends less than France

11 July 2019

 

 

Ministerial group on disability met just three times in a year, DWP admits

A cross-government group of ministers set up to drive forward action to tackle the barriers faced by disabled people has met just three times in more than a year, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has admitted.

The group of 11 ministers, chaired by work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd, was set up in May 2018.

It was set up following a period of nearly four years when there was no cross-departmental group of ministers working to improve the lives of disabled people.

But now a response from DWP to a freedom of information request by Disability News Service (DNS) has revealed that the new Inter-Ministerial Group on Disability and Society met just three times between May 2018 and June 2019.

The group of ministers met first on 7 July 2018, and again on 31 October 2018, and then did not meet again until 25 March this year, nearly five months later.

Only last month, prime minister Theresa May – supported by non-user-led charities like Scope and Sense – announced what she said were “new measures to break down barriers faced by disabled people, whether in employment, housing or elsewhere”.

Rudd said at the time that disabled people “encounter too many challenges in life” and the government wanted to “change the landscape for disabled people and to make sure there is always a level playing field for them”.

But many user-led organisations questioned why May 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”.

The admission that the inter-ministerial group set up by May’s government last year, under Rudd’s leadership, has met just three times in more than a year will cast further doubt on what the prime minister claimed was her “determination to identify and tackle injustices”.

DWP has so far refused to say which ministers attended each meeting, even though similar information was eventually released following a complaint to the information commissioner about the actions of the previous inter-ministerial group, which met just three times in 2014 before it was scrapped.

A DWP spokesperson declined to say why the inter-ministerial group had only met three times in more than a year.

But she said in a statement: “Empowering disabled people in all aspects of their lives has always been and will continue to be a priority for this government.

That is why the Office for Disability Issues continues to drive forward work to increase disabled people’s participation in society, including through the Inter-Ministerial Group on Disability and Society, which is just one of the many ways in which we’re driving progress on the issues that matter to disabled people.”

11 July 2019

 

 

DWP’s ‘universal credit Metro lies’ backfire by sparking new campaign network

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) advertising campaign that is now being investigated by a watchdog has backfired by helping to create a national network of campaigners opposed to its new universal credit benefit system, say disabled activists.

The advertising watchdog this week launched an investigation into what critics say are “misleading” DWP adverts that have attempted to “whitewash” the truth about universal credit (UC).

Disabled activists have repeatedly warned that UC – which combines six income-related benefits into one – is “toxic” and “rotten to the core”, with “soaring” rates of foodbank use, and repeated warnings about its impact on disabled people.

The Sheffield branch of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) said it was “encouraged” to hear that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) had confirmed it was investigating concerns about the DWP adverts, which appear every week in the Metro free newspaper.

But Sheffield DPAC said there were now hundreds of activists around the country who were “actively dumping the Metro newspaper”, and praised a Labour city councillor in Sheffield, Francyne Johnson, who supported the campaign yesterday (Wednesday).

Sheffield DPAC claimed that hundreds of thousands of copies of the free newspaper have been removed from distribution points around the country and sent for recycling.

It was Sheffield DPAC which first raised the alarm about DWP’s plans to launch a nine-week series of advertising features in the Metro.

Senior DWP civil servants had said in an internal memo, first leaked to the Guardian and then to Disability News Service (DNS), that the adverts would “myth-bust the common inaccuracies reported on UC” and “explain what UC is and how it works in reality”.

A Sheffield DPAC spokesperson said transport workers were now alerting activists to let them know when and where Metros were being delivered so they could be removed and recycled.

She said: “The campaign has grown from a small protest in Sheffield to a well coordinated and incredibly effective national campaign that has seen hundreds of thousands of copies of the Metro now removed from stands and sent for recycling in just a matter of weeks. 

Initially we were removing them by hand, which was exhausting. Now we’ve got hired vans and large numbers of people removing huge amounts relatively effortlessly. 

Although we’re obviously very angry and upset that these ads are still appearing (they were in Metro today) we’re confident that we can now achieve more and reach farther than ever before as we have such excellent communication between a huge number of unions and groups now, thanks to this campaign. 

The DWP, through releasing this propaganda, have unwittingly created a huge national anti universal credit campaign network. That backfired a bit, didn’t it!”

The latest advertorials appeared in the Metro yesterday, even though ASA announced this week that it has launched a formal investigation into the DWP adverts.

ASA said it has received more than 40 complaints about the adverts.

One of the concerns it will investigate is whether some of the adverts were “obviously identifiable as ads”, rather than being disguised as an investigation carried out by the Metro.

Last month, DNS sent ASA an image of the Metro website’s home page which showed a series of images and claims about universal credit which failed to state that they were actually DWP adverts.

The leaked DWP documents revealed that these adverts were always designed to be misleading and not to “look or feel like DWP or UC”.

ASA will also investigate whether three key claims made in the adverts were misleading and if they could be substantiated by DWP.

These claims relate to criticisms of UC that have been made by welfare rights experts, claimants and activists, based on years of evidence, but which DWP has branded as “myths” in its adverts.

A DWP spokesperson claimed that all the advertising contains the words “Advertising Feature from the Department for Work and Pensions”, even though DNS pointed out that the adverts on the Metro website home page had not done so.

She confirmed that ASA had been in touch with the department and that DWP was “working with them to respond to the points raised”.

She said: “It is important people know about the benefits available to them, and we regularly advertise universal credit.”

She added: “We have consulted the Advertising Standards Authority throughout the partnership and our advertorials reflect their advice.”

11 July 2019

 

 

Protests force council climbdown over inaccessible Peterloo memorial

Disabled activists and their allies have forced a council into a significant climbdown over its “discriminatory” plans for a memorial to victims of the Peterloo massacre.

Manchester City Council (MCC) said this week that it had asked artist Jeremy Deller to examine how the memorial he designed can now be made “fully accessible”.

The council-funded memorial was set to be completely inaccessible to many disabled people, even though Deller wanted it to be used as a platform for speakers and demonstrators, mirroring those who spoke during the protest in 1819 that led to the massacre*.

The council had previously told Disability News Service (DNS) that it was unlikely that any “fundamental changes” would be made to the memorial, which is due to be unveiled to the public on 16 August, the 200th anniversary of the massacre.

But there has now been an apparent climbdown following weeks of protests led by disabled activists.

The council’s announcement follows a meeting between city councillors Luthfur Rahman (executive member for skills, culture and leisure) and Tracey Rawlins (lead member for disabled people), and representatives of disabled people’s groups.

Mark Todd, a disabled access expert who started a Facebook page to protest at the design of the memorial – and has called it “a monument to discrimination” – said he was “really pleased” at the council’s apparent change of approach.

He said that the “breadth and determination” of the campaign and the willingness to work with the council appeared to have paid off.

And he said the campaign had built an “amazing coalition” that included disabled people, artists, celebrities, and citizens of Manchester “who all want a Peterloo Memorial that is accessible to everyone”.

Among those who have supported the campaign are the musician and activist Billy Bragg, who said: “Surely something that symbolises the struggle for universal rights should be accessible to all.”

Disabled comedian and activist Francesca Martinez said it was “extraordinary” that the memorial design had not been inclusive, while there has also been criticism from disabled actor-campaigners Cherylee Houston and Ali Briggs.

Briggs said: “We all want a memorial, yes that’s true. We just don’t want one like this, that we can’t be proud of.”

Todd said this week that he was “cautiously optimistic” following the council’s statement, but until there was a “fitting and accessible Peterloo Memorial”, the campaign and a weekly vigil near the site would continue.

He said: “We are not ready to put away our placards just yet.”

Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP), which has played a key role in the protests, also welcomed the announcement.

But it warned that the council had not yet met its three demands – to stop work on the memorial while it was still low enough to include a ramp; to ensure the memorial was accessible; and to make sure there was no repeat of the council’s failure with future projects – and pointed out that building work on the inaccessible memorial was now nearly finished.

Campaigners will meet next week with the council, Deller and the architect working on the project, and will then decide whether to review their demands.

A GMCDP spokesperson said: “MCC’s decision to build the memorial to its full height and then explore access solutions afterwards, limits considerably what can be done to make it a platform everyone can use.

We do not know what MCC have in mind, if anything, and we acknowledge that a perfect solution may not be arrived at immediately. 

What is needed most at this stage is the commitment to find a genuine accessible long-term solution, properly considered, fully consulted on and backed up with some teeth and a budget.”

The council has faced weeks of anger from disabled people and allies that a memorial designed to remember those who marched for liberty and equality in the 19th century should apparently have been “designed and built with discrimination and inequality at its heart”.

Now the council has said that it regrets that the design of the memorial “did not give enough consideration to access issues”.

Cllr Rahman said: “Manchester City Council has a long and proud record around access issues, something which disabled access campaigners have acknowledged. 

However, we recognise that the interpretation of the brief for the Peterloo Memorial, with an imaginative design involving a more interactive element than originally envisaged for a public artwork, did not give enough consideration to access issues and we regret this.

We recently met with representatives of disabled people’s groups to further discuss this issue and we have asked the artist and architect to look at how the monument in its current form can be modified to make it fully accessible.

We will share more details about where we are up to and the proposed way forward as soon as we are in a position to do so.

We are listening and doing all we can to resolve this satisfactorily.”

Deller told DNS last night (Wednesday) that he was optimistic that a solution could be found to make the memorial accessible.

*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, in what became known as the Peterloo Massacre

11 July 2019

 

 

UN rapporteur hears of disabled asylum-seekers evicted by social services

A UN human rights expert has been told that disabled asylum-seekers in Bristol have been evicted by social services, and have even been told that being made “street homeless” will make them more independent.

Professor Felipe González, the UN’s special rapporteur for the human rights of migrants, was told that disabled asylum-seekers are routinely denied access to services and support in the UK.

He was in Bristol last week for an unofficial visit organised by the University of Bristol’s Migration Mobilities Bristol research centre.

The centre wanted to tell him about the challenges faced by the UK and Bristol – such as the government’s “hostile environment” for immigrants and the impact of Brexit – and about the centre’s research, and to hear about his UN role.

Among those presenting González with evidence was Rebecca Yeo, a disabled academic, and herself the daughter of a refugee.

She was speaking on behalf of Janet Karanja, a disabled asylum-seeker, who had explained that she was too “pressed down” by the system to give evidence herself.

Yeo told González: “She had planned to talk about her struggle to survive, how at times she’s relied on friends for basic food, how her operation was cancelled just before entering the operating theatre when the hospital had a call from the Home Office.

How she can make no plans because she doesn’t know when or whether, as she puts it, ‘the Home Office will come for you’.

These struggles are common to asylum seekers and have a heavy toll on people’s physical and mental health.”

Karanja had told Yeo that the asylum system “makes you feel you are worthless… like garbage”, she said.

Yeo told the rapporteur that there was now greater recognition of the existence of disabled people in the asylum system, but the “systematic denial” of the rights and needs of all asylum-seekers has increased, which means “the asylum system itself is disabling”.

Yeo also told González that local and national government were breaching the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in their treatment of disabled asylum-seekers, in Bristol and across the country.

She said: “I’m aware of disabled asylum seekers being evicted by social services, made street homeless, with no support, being told that this would make them more independent.”

She also told González that Bristol City Council had excluded disabled people from a task group set up to examine the barriers to accessing social care faced by asylum-seekers, with one councillor explaining: “People with lived experience know about their own lives, but don’t know about how the system works.”

The task group’s members are instead from the council and council-funded organisations.

The group was only set up by the council after a meeting organised by disabled people, including disabled asylum-seekers.

They had called for the meeting with the council and local charities and MPs following protests held last year in the wake of the deaths of two disabled refugees, and showed them a film in which disabled asylum-seekers spoke of the barriers they faced in accessing social care.

Yeo told González that excluding disabled people and their organisations from the task group breached the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and “cuts out a source of expertise”.

The rapporteur was visiting Bristol almost exactly a year after disabled asylum-seekers and activists came together to seek fundamental changes to systems and agencies after the brutal murders of the two disabled refugees.

Both Kamil Ahmad (in July 2016) and Bijan Ebrahimi (in July 2013) were murdered by racist neighbours after being failed by official agencies in the city.

The council was warned there would be a third death in the city unless there was urgent action to address the breaches of disabled asylum-seekers’ rights.

The council has failed so far to provide disabled activists with any information about what the task group has achieved or any minutes from its meetings, despite promising to do so by January this year.

A brief update on the task group’s progress was finally provided to Yeo yesterday (Wednesday), 24 hours after DNS had asked the council to comment on her evidence to the special rapporteur.

A Bristol City Council spokesperson said this morning in a statement: “As a City of Sanctuary our priority is to make Bristol a safe place for all people seeking sanctuary and to create an environment in which they can feel welcomed.

Following the meeting with campaigners last year, a task group of key stakeholders that work with disabled asylum seekers was established to look at how their experience can be improved.

The group is looking at a number of areas including a full audit of asylum related cases, improving education about completing a Care Act Assessment and arranging training sessions for operational staff to hear from disabled asylum seekers about their lived experiences.”

11 July 2019

 

 

Two-thirds of disabled passengers face at least one problem when travelling by rail

Two-thirds of disabled passengers experience at least one problem when travelling by rail, according to research commissioned by the government.

The research was carried out in 2017 but was only published this week when the Department for Transport (DfT) marked a year since the launch of its Inclusive Transport Strategy.

The research, commissioned for DfT by the Transport Focus watchdog, also showed that more than one in five disabled passengers find rail travel difficult.

Many of the more than 1,500 disabled passengers interviewed for the research said they had to plan their journeys in “meticulous detail” to ensure a successful trip.

And not one of the 50 disabled people who took part in in-depth interviews for the research said they were aware that they could use passenger assistance services without booking in advance – if staff are available – through the so-called “turn up and go” service.

Those who used the “passenger assist” service reported frequent failures, including being left on a train at a terminal; not being met at a station when they needed to exit the train; not being met at their departure station; and experiencing “rude and discriminatory” behaviour from staff.

Nearly a third of those surveyed (31 per cent) said they had experienced anti-social or discriminatory behaviour from other passengers.

This week, DfT invited the rail industry to nominate stations across Britain to benefit from a £20 million fund that will pay for small-scale access improvements such as tactile paving, handrails and Harrington Humps, which increase platform heights so passengers with mobility impairments can board trains more easily.

The £20 million was first announced by DfT in April and is part of the £300 million government funding to be spent on access improvements under the Access for All programme between 2019-20 and the end of March 2024.

Nusrat Ghani, the accessibility minister, said: “While many take for granted the ability to travel easily from A to B, access for the fifth of people who identify as disabled can be far from straightforward.

We want disabled people to travel easily, confidently and without extra cost, which is why it is fantastic to be opening this fund today.

I look forward to seeing what ideas the industry has for accessibility improvements as we work towards a more inclusive rail network.”

John Welsman, a guide dog owner and policy lead for travel and mobility at the charity Guide Dogs, said: “Guide Dogs welcomes the additional funding as independent train travel is a real challenge for people living with sight loss.

Elements like tactile paving on platform edges and steps, better signage, improved lighting and colour contrast, will make stations easier to negotiate confidently and more safely.

However, train travel is still a very complex environment for people with sight loss and we will continue to work to find solutions so that no one with sight loss is left out of life.”

The announcement in July 2018 that the government would spend £300 million over five years followed years of funding cuts to Access for All, originally introduced by the last Labour government in 2006.

Disability News Service secured figures last July through a freedom of information request that showed that spending on Access for All had fallen from as much as £81.1 million in 2013-14 to just £14.6 million in 2017-18.

Spending in 2009-10, the last year of the Labour government, was £53.9 million, with £41.2 million in 2010-11, £50.7 million in 2011-12, £39.7 million in 2012-13, and £81.1 million in 2013-14.

But spending then plunged over the next four years – in the first five-year planning period to begin under the coalition – with just £22.9 million in 2014-15, £24.6 million in 2015-16, £32.1 million in 2016-17 and only £14.6 million in 2017-18.

Although it is not yet clear how much was spent in 2018-19, the government is planning to spend £300 million over the next five years on Access for All, including £50 million that had been deferred from the last five years.

11 July 2019

 

 

Disabled governor’s anger over hospital’s parking charges sparks new campaign

A disabled governor of a leading London hospital has accused its executives of arrogance and a “disgraceful” lack of compassion after they decided to start charging holders of blue badges to use their carpark.

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust agreed at a meeting last week that holders of blue badges would no longer be allowed free parking at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

Kush Kanodia, a patient governor of the trust, has been trying to persuade the trust for the last year not to introduce parking charges for patients with blue badges.

He is so frustrated at the decision that he is now planning to lead a campaign, alongside Disability Rights UK, to scrap all such charges at hospitals across England.

Kanodia, a social entrepreneur who advises organisations such as the Global Disability Innovation Hub and the Museum of Happiness on disability issues, and who was this week appointed as a DR UK ambassador, said it was a “disgraceful decision”.

He persuaded the trust’s council of governors last year to “strongly oppose” charging disabled patients to use the hospital’s carpark – arguing that there was a close correlation between disability and poverty – and he managed to fend off the plans until last week.

He said: “It’s a disgraceful decision. I’m shocked. It shows a complete lack of compassion.

The truth is, they can’t be trusted to show compassion.”

He said it was accepted that 10 years of austerity had had a disproportionate impact on disabled people.

He added: “The rights of disabled people have been ebbing away for the last 10 years. If we don’t make a stand and say enough is enough it’s just going to go on and on.”

He said the trust’s take-over in 2015 of West Middlesex University Hospital Trust – which already charged disabled patients to use its carparks – may have had an impact on the decision to introduce charging at Chelsea and Westminster.

Kanodia said that denying disabled people access to basic healthcare would affect their access to employment and education and their ability to be full participants in society.

He said the trust’s decision had persuaded him to campaign for all hospitals in England to be banned from charging disabled patients to use their carparks.

He said: “We want to abolish all parking charges for disabled people for all NHS hospitals in England.”

He believes the trust should be making reasonable adjustments for disabled patients under the Equality Act.

And he pointed out that devolved governments in both Scotland and Wales have scrapped all hospital parking charges, not just those for disabled patients.

Kanodia also questioned whether the trust had carried out an assessment of the impact of the introduction of the charges on disabled people, which would have provided evidence on whether it was breaching its public sector equality duty under the Equality Act.

The trust had failed to comment by 11am today (Thursday).

11 July 2019

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 Posted by at 14:37
Jul 032019
 

[This piece was originally published in Labour Briefing and copied with permission of the author, Mark Harrison]

WHEN I WROTE ON UNIVERSAL CREDIT (UC) in the November 2017 issue of Labour Briefing with Julie Kemmy, the early effects of this radical change to benefits were only just beginning to be felt by claimants and disabled people. Twenty months on the picture is becoming clearer.

What has been revealed is that UC is at least as big a threat to those in work as it is to claimants. We can see the much larger and scarier implications of the restructuring of the economy as well as the benefits system under the Tories. Trade unions need to wise up quickly as it is their members who will be hardest hit as UC goes mainstream.

UC is an attack on the organised trade union movement as it is designed to control and sanction millions of workers and claimants. It is designed to facilitate low pay and insecure work and to leave people indebted and fearful. They will then be forced to work on zero-hours contracts for a minimum or below minimum wage for employers who are often the same companies avoiding paying their taxes.

Blair and Brown set up the system of working tax credits to support those in work but in low pay sectors. This was to ensure a sufficient level of income to support them and their families.

Effectively this was a subsidy on low wages and drove incomes and wage levels down. The minimum wage (now misnamed the National Living Wage) is exactly that, although unscrupulous employers always try to find ways to avoid paying even this amount. This is especially true in the gig economy and in sectors such as social care where travel time between appointments in the community is not paid.

Essentially UC is restructuring the labour market and forcing workers to be monitored and controlled by DWP work coaches. Job Centres are now acting as ‘pimps’ for the private sector by forcing people as part of their claimant commitment to work in companies which offer three hour a week contracts and don’t pay the minimum wage. They are also coercing people to become self-employed when they are working exclusively for one company who are determining when they work, for how long and where.

A claimant in Norwich outlines this process.

“After being made redundant I was put onto UC as a job seeker. I applied for over 170 jobs unsuccessfully. Eventually I was offered a job, and although it was a role different to anything I’d done before it was a job ‘I could do’ so I was obliged to take it under pain of sanction. The job was ‘self-employed’ and as such paid below the national minimum wage. My work coach said that this was ‘illegal’ yet still made undertaking it part of my claimant commitment, which I would have to comply with in order to continue to receive UC. “Because the work is so poorly paid, continuing to receive UC is essential in order for me to survive, yet to receive UC I have keep doing the job, bearing in mind it costs me over £100 a month in fares simply to get to it. If the ‘employer’ is acting illegally, as my work coach considered, then is not the DWP abetting a crime by compelling me to do the work? Now I am sure that the ‘employer’ – a large, well known UK firm – has probably checked all the loopholes to make sure that they are not acting illegally by ‘employing’ me as an agent on a self-employed basis even though I have to work at the company premises using the company’s equipment”.

So claimants are forced into self-employment, under threat of sanction, by DWP/UC staff. Self-employed UC claimants are now responsible for their own national insurance and tax and are not able to receive sick or holiday pay while being paid minimum or below minimum wage rates of pay. Workers on low pay and zero-hours, or near zero hours, contracts are being sucked into the UC vortex. Pay is so low in the DWP itself, the department responsible for designing and delivering UC, that the PCS union estimates that around 40% of DWP employees will have to claim UC and therefore potentially be subject to the sanctioning regime. You would then have the bizarre situation of DWP staff sanctioning colleagues in their own organisation.

The rollout of UC has been hit by the crisis in the government and the Tory Party. In October 2018, the then DWP secretary Esther McVey had to get a vote through Parliament to extend the rollout of UC across the country.

This was not going to be won as the surgeries of Tory MPs were full of UC claimants left destitute by the six week (sometimes ten weeks or longer) delay in receiving payments, the dysfunctional loans process and the extra-judicial, pernicious sanctioning processes. So the government pulled the vote but UC is still being rolled out by stealth.

The problem is that claimants are being transferred onto UC through ‘change of circumstances’. This means that people are losing their legacy benefits when their old claims and enhancements are cancelled and the UC claim is treated as a new claim. This leaves claimants thousands of pounds a year worse off.

McVey was forced to admit this could reach £2,400 a year for some people. However, this suits the Treasury as they are saving billions a year while claimants and their children are forced to use food banks. In this crisis they were forced to reduce the wait for money down to five weeks but food bank use continues to rise as the numbers pushed onto UC continues to suck in more new and existing claimants.

Latest DWP secretary Amber Rudd has been robust in defence of UC and is determined to proceed with the managed migration/rollout despite the overwhelming evidence from her own department and government statistics of the harm being caused. In a desperate attempt to detoxify the brand she has shamelessly bought a series of advertorials in the free Metro newspaper at a cost of over £250,000 to the taxpayer, spinning propaganda and lies about the positive effects of UC as journalism.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) have launched a campaign to dump the Metro DWP lies, with activists up and down the country binning thousands of copies every Wednesday when the advertorials appear.

Evidence has emerged of women being forced into prostitution as a result of the five week delay and low levels of payments for single parents. So-called survival sex was revealed by the Guardian and the Work and Pensions select committee is taking evidence on this.

Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty singled out UC as a major contributing factor in his report on the UK. He said that draconian sanctions and long payment delays are driving claimants into hardship, depression and despair; that the benefit was “fast falling into universal discredit”; and compared the Tories’ welfare policies to the creation of the 19th century workhouses. He said that unless austerity is ended the poorest in the UK faced lives that are “solitary, poor nasty, brutish and short”. He accused ministers of being in a state of denial about the impact of policies, including the rollout of UC, since 2010.

His report highlights the shocking rise in the use of food banks, and rough sleeping, falling life expectancy for some, the decimation of legal aid, the denial of benefits to severely disabled people and the impoverishment of single mothers and people in mental distress.

A landmark study published in November 2017 in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Open estimated that 120,000 deaths were directly attributable to austerity cuts. The calculation was made that there were 45,000 more deaths in the first four years of austerity 2010-2014. The research calculated that this could rise to 200,000 by the end of 2020 if austerity is not reversed. The researchers from UCL and Cambridge University labelled this as “economic murder”.

UC is also violating women’s rights. According to evidence collected by the Trussell Trust the five week wait can increase the severe financial barriers women face when leaving abusive relationships. Over 50% of survivors said they couldn’t afford to leave as they had restricted access to funds. The single household payment puts women at further risk and vulnerability. Many survivors in women’s refuges face double the wait if they have escaped an abusive relationship without ID and documents needed to make the claim.

Latest figures show half of people receiving UC have had their payments cut by 20% by the government to repay a debt, including advances.

So what now? The Tories are immune to criticism and evidence as seen in their dismissal of the UN report. In my original article I questioned whether UC was May’s Poll Tax. I concluded that it would only be so if Labour and the trade unions mobilised a mass movement to defeat it. This has not happened.

While Corbyn and McDonnell have said a future Labour government would scrap UC, the shadow DWP minister Margaret Greenwood continues to sit on the fence. The TUC has passed a motion to stop and scrap UC, as has the PCS union. However, they have failed to mobilise any extra-parliamentary action, leaving protest at the level of exposing the horrors while failing to hold government to account.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Unite Community are organising actions to stop and scrap UC and we are building a national social movement in the Scrap UC Alliance (www.suca.org.uk), encouraging activists to set up local groups.

The next stage of the battle needs to move beyond moral outrage to effective direct action to stop the deaths and poverty crisis caused by austerity and UC.

  • Mark Harrison is chair of Norfolk Against Universal Credit and a member of DPAC. He is director of Social Action Solutions.

 

 Posted by at 20:50
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
 

 

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 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
May 302019
 

 

Call for help to design a social security system of dignity, respect and trust

Disabled people and others with personal experience of claiming benefits are leading a ground-breaking project to devise a new social security system, in which claimants would be treated with dignity, trust and respect.

The Commission on Social Security, led by Experts by Experience, will seek ideas from other claimants, organisations and academics, before drawing up their own white paper and putting it out for consultation.

They will then launch a campaign to seek public and political approval for their final ideas.

Every one of the commissioners who will produce the white paper has been or is on benefits, and all of them represent grassroots, user-led organisations that fight for the rights of benefit claimants and disabled people.

In a disturbing sign of the current system’s flaws, some of the commissioners have asked not to be publicly named through fear of Department for Work and Pensions reprisals.

They hope that other benefit claimants, thinktanks, academics and civil society organisations will now share their own ideas for how to reform the system after the commission launched a call for evidence, with a deadline of 31 July.

The commissioners have drawn up a list of five key principles on which they believe any new social security system should be based.

They say all claimants should have enough money to live on; should be treated with dignity, respect and trust; should have rights and entitlements; and should have access to free advice and support.

They also say that the system should be clear, simple, user-friendly and accessible, with people with lived experience involved in creating and running it.

Ellen Clifford, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), and one of the commission’s two co-chairs, told its launch event in London yesterday (Wednesday) that its grassroots, user-led approach could avoid the “mistakes, the harm and the waste that top-down policy-making has led to in recent history”.

She said there was no question that changes to the social security system since 2010 had failed benefit claimants and disproportionately impacted on disabled people.

She said: “The pace of changes to social security that have been brought in, each with their own specific calamitous consequences, has left claimants, disabled people, and the organisations that represent us, fighting a largely rear-guard action as we attempt to mitigate the worst impacts and try what we can to ward off further avoidable harm.

As a consequence, we can easily come across as anti-everything and as having lost the forward vision that used to characterise the disabled people’s movement.”

She said the combination of complex policy changes and user-led groups losing funding and capacity had led the movement to focus on “what is, rather than what could be”.

She said this was why she and fellow campaigners from Inclusion London and London Unemployed Strategies – a group formed by unemployed people and allies in trade unions and the voluntary sector – were so pleased when the original idea for a grassroots, user-led project on the future of social security was first suggested by Dr Michael Orton, from the University of Warwick’s Warwick Institute for Employment Research.

One disabled activist, who was representing the Unite Community union, and is well-known on Twitter as @imajsaclaimant, told the launch event that he shared stories on social media every day showing “how wrong austerity and the welfare system is”.

He said: “It shows that every day there is something new that has been discovered that shows something wrong with the benefit system.

The stories we read each week should shame this country… but the longer it goes on, the more it feels like this cruelty is intentional.”

He described how his own experience of the sanctions regime had led to a suicide attempt and left him with enduring mental and physical health problems.

He said: “The safety net we once had is quickly being taken away, and for much of the time I have felt impotent to change the direction this country is heading in.

This is why I fully endorse this new project today to create a white paper, because it allows us to do more than just moan about what is wrong. It gives us the opportunity to provide solutions.”

He added: “When I go into a jobcentre I start to physically shake. People also tell me that they are scared to go into these places because of the treatment they have received before.

More and more I am hearing from people who say they are unwilling to claim benefits because of this issue. That is simply wrong.

Jobcentres ought to be like valued community hubs… people who lose their jobs need to be supported and treated with respect, not treated with disdain and contempt, as happens so often now.”

George Tahta, from Survivors’ Poetry, told the commission’s launch event that walking into a jobcentre turns him from an “articulate and intelligent” person to “a gibbering effing wreck, and that’s what they do to me and that’s what they do to a lot of people”.

He said staff in jobcentres treat claimants “like dirt”, unless they have a supporter or advocate with them, and even then they “go away and stab you in the back” afterwards with a DWP letter.

The commissioners will be supported by Orton and three other academics and researchers: Dr Rosa Morris, who has personal experience of the work capability assessment and last year completed a PhD examining the assessment process and disability benefits; Dr Kate Summers, from the London School of Economics; and Austin Taylor-Laybourn, from Trust for London.

The commission is funded by Trust for London, which provides about £8 million in grants every year for work that aims to reduce poverty and inequality.

The other co-chair of the commission is Nick Phillips, from LUS, who said: “The commission is a great breakthrough for claimants’ rights to have a say in the shaping of a benefits system that affects their lives profoundly.

We would like as many of those affected as possible to contribute to our call for solutions. This is their opportunity to have a voice and make a difference.”

Bharat Mehta, Trust for London’s chief executive, said: “We’re incredibly excited to be supporting this pioneering project which puts people with experience of the benefits system at the heart of redesigning it.

The system we currently have is not working for far too many people. This project aims to create a consensus around what a new system that works for our society and the individuals in it, would look like.”

30 May 2019

 

 

Inaccessible Peterloo massacre memorial causes protest storm

Disabled activists have criticised a council for pushing ahead with “discriminatory” plans for a memorial to victims of the Peterloo massacre – who died 200 years ago in the cause of equality – that will be completely inaccessible to many disabled people.

The new memorial is set to be unveiled on 16 August, the 200th anniversary of the attack by paramilitary and military forces on more than 60,000 peaceful, pro-democracy and anti-poverty protesters in Manchester, which led to 18 deaths and nearly 700 serious injuries.

The memorial will be positioned near what was known in 1819 as St Peter’s Fields, the site of the massacre, and will be outside the current Manchester Central Convention Centre, which just a few weeks after the unveiling will host the Conservative party’s annual conference.

It has been designed by artist Jeremy Deller as a series of concentric circles, with members of the public encouraged to climb the steps to a flat top.

But the memorial, which has been funded by Manchester City Council, will be completely inaccessible to many disabled people, even though it has been designed to allow it to be used as a platform for speakers and demonstrators, mirroring those who spoke during the protest in 1819.

Now a string of disabled activists from Manchester have attacked the council’s refusal to ensure that the memorial is accessible.

Brian Hilton, digital campaigns officer for Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP), said: “Manchester City Council (MCC) is failing to deliver a fitting memorial.

Their chosen stepped design purposefully excludes disabled people.”

In March, the designs were approved by Manchester City Council’s planning department, despite objections from GMCDP and others during the consultation and planning process and meetings with council leader Sir Richard Leese.

Hilton said: “Manchester has a reputation of pulling together and lining up shoulder to shoulder in defiance of injustice, ignorance and segregation.

We are certain that once the campaign message is more widely heard the public will be as outraged as disabled people are and the council will be forced to listen and make the necessary changes.”

Mark Todd, a former city council access officer, who started a Facebook page to protest at the design of the memorial – and who calls it “a monument to discrimination” – said the group was “angry and shocked” that it was going ahead “despite it being inaccessible to disabled people and others who cannot climb steps”.

They believe this is “an act of exclusion that denies disabled people a voice, a blatant act of discrimination”, with the memorial “set to become a glaring metaphor for inequality and segregation with disabled people at the bottom of the memorial, literally being talked down to”.

The group has called for a “major reworking” of the memorial by Manchester City Council (MCC), to make it accessible to those unable to climb steps, with options “explored in a full, open, transparent and public manner”.

The group said that anything less would be a “breathtaking act of hypocrisy” and “an abandonment of the ideals of liberty and equality which moved those citizens to gather in St Peter’s Fields on 16th August 1819”.

Dennis Queen, from Manchester Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “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.”

Flick Harris, chair of Manchester Disabled People’s Access Group, said she and her colleagues were “shocked” that the council had approved the “newly designed inaccessible and unsafe Peterloo monument”.

She said: “Any new designs and projects should be accessible for everyone or no-one.”

Alan Holdsworth, a former Manchester resident who now lives in the US, where he is a member of the ADAPT grassroots disability rights organisation, said: “As a former Mancunian on behalf of ADAPT we are appalled that in 2019 we still have to fight against segregation and exclusion from the Peterloo massacre memorial.”

Holdsworth, who founded the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network (DAN) in the UK, said: “What makes us more angry is that although disabled people were part of the consultation process their voices, ideas and reservations were ignored.

We call on the council to halt the process and include disabled people and accessibility in the design.”

Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), said: “While DPAC realise that the new Peterloo memorial is to celebrate the martyrdom of 19th century activists it remains totally unacceptable in what is now the 21st century for any sector of our society – in this case disabled people – to be deliberately excluded from access to that memorial.

We are appalled that disabled people’s concerns have been repeatedly ignored by Manchester City Council and call for an immediate redesign of this structure, together with disabled people, so that all citizens are able to access it equally.”

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.

But the council made it clear to DNS yesterday (Wednesday) that it was unlikely that any further major changes would now be made, stating: “We are happy to continue dialogue and explore whether anything further can be done to address concerns but it is unlikely there could be any fundamental changes.”

A council spokesperson said earlier: “We have engaged, and will continue to engage, with people who are disabled in order to make this memorial accessible while recognising that this is not a building or similar structure but a piece of public art.

Significant changes to the original design were made in response to this dialogue throughout the design’s development including the incorporation of a ramp and handrail and the replacement of tiles covering the memorial with stone to reduce slip hazards.

The specific design elements which provide information about Peterloo are all accessible.

We have taken these considerations seriously. While we respect the fact that some people feel that these changes still do not go far enough, we believe we have done the best we realistically can allowing for the constraints of the site, and this is the only feasible site in the original Peter’s Fields area.

Further mooted changes to the approved and already amended design would require new planning approvals and mean the project couldn’t be completed in time for the 200th anniversary commemorations.

Deller, whose work often focuses on political and social themes, expressed sympathy with the position of disabled campaigners and told Disability News Service: “I take responsibility for not considering enough the needs of people in wheelchairs.”

He said further changes were suggested to improve access after the memorial secured planning permission, but he said the council had decided they were “so substantial it would have meant total redesign” and so were “not practical” because work had already begun.

He said he still hoped that “once the memorial is built there might be a way to adapt it for wheelchairs”, but he had not responded by noon today (Thursday) to the council’s position that it was probably too late for further major changes.

A spokesperson for the Peterloo Memorial Campaign, which campaigned for years for a memorial to be built, said disabled people were “right to be frustrated and angry about the lack of access to the monument”.

He said: “In addition to commemorating the massacre, the memorial has been designed as a platform for speakers and demonstrators, but people using wheelchairs or unable to climb steps cannot use it fully.”

He added: “We accept our share of responsibility for not immediately spotting this issue when the design was unveiled.

We have worked with the council, the artist and disabled people involved in or supportive of the Peterloo Memorial Campaign to try and find a ‘retrofit’ solution.

We are disappointed to be informed by the council that no solution is viable in the limited time left available.”

The names of those who died, and the villages and towns of the protesters, will be engraved on the memorial, while those visiting will be shown the direction of other parts of the world where significant protests have taken place, such as Tiananmen Square, Cairo’s Tahrir Square and Gdansk in Poland.

A smaller circle at ground-floor level will reproduce the information so that those who cannot climb the steps will be able to read it.

30 May 2019

 

 

McVey failed to respond to letter about benefit deaths cover-up, DWP admits

A Tory leadership contender left her job as work and pensions secretary without answering key questions from an MP about links between her department and the deaths of benefit claimants, her former department has confirmed.

Esther McVey resigned her position last November in protest at the prime minister’s Brexit deal.

But she left more than three months after receiving a letter from Stephen Lloyd, then a Liberal Democrat and now an independent MP, about claims of a possible cover-up by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

He had written to her after Disability News Service (DNS) reported how DWP was refusing to say if it showed key documents linking the deaths of claimants with the work capability assessment (WCA) to Dr Paul Litchfield, the independent expert the government hired to review the test in 2013 and 2014.

He carried out the fourth and fifth reviews of the WCA but has refused to say if he was shown two letters written by coroners and a number of secret DWP “peer reviews”.

Litchfield, who was recognised by the prime minister with a CBE in last June’s birthday honours, published his two reviews in December 2013 and November 2014, but neither of his reports mentioned the documents, which all link the WCA with the deaths of claimants.

In his letter to McVey, Lloyd said he found it “astonishing” that Litchfield appeared not to have been shown the documents.

He added: “In light of Dr Litchfield being awarded a CBE, could you please confirm whether or not he was shown the documents linking the government’s WCA program with the deaths of benefit claimants?”

Weeks later, having failed to receive a reply, the MP wrote a follow-up letter to McVey.

He never received a reply.

This week, DWP claimed it could not comment because McVey was no longer with the department, while McVey’s office claimed it was for DWP to answer any questions about the failure to reply.

A DWP spokesperson said: “As his letter was sent to Esther McVey I can’t say why a response wasn’t sent.”

But a spokesperson for McVey said: “Although the letter was addressed to Esther, the ministerial correspondence team will have forwarded it to the correct person to respond.

In this case, it would not have been the secretary of state.

I am sorry I am not able to provide further information, it would be a matter for the Department for Work and Pensions to address.”

Lloyd said this week: “It’s absolutely deplorable that Esther McVey, when she was secretary of state at the DWP, simply didn’t bother to respond to my letter which was first sent on the 2nd of August last year.

My office even followed her up twice, but still nothing.

This showed a total reluctance by her and the DWP to engage on what were and are shocking allegations.

To think that she’s now trying to become the new Conservative leader and even, god help us, prime minister, beggars belief.”

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

The admission that McVey failed to respond to Lloyd’s letter adds weight to calls in the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition* 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.

It also calls for MPs to recognise that DWP is institutionally disablist and not fit for purpose, and for DWP to “urgently change its policies and administration of social security benefits to make the safety of all claimants a priority”.

The cover-up over the benefit deaths documents appeared to be confirmed earlier this month when DNS revealed how DWP had finally admitted failing to send Litchfield’s review team the coroners’ letters and the internal reviews.

The admission came in DWP’s response to a complaint lodged by DNS with the Information Commissioner’s Office about the department’s failure to confirm if it passed the information to Litchfield.

A senior ICO case officer told DNS: “Consultation with the ex-review team elicited statements that no such information was received from DWP nor were any physical files sent to stores.”

The coroner’s letters followed the deaths of two men with mental health conditions in 2010 and 2013; they were sent to DWP in the spring of 2010 and early 2014, each warning of further such deaths if changes were not made to the WCA.

Peer reviews – now known as internal process reviews – must be carried out by DWP civil servants into every death “where suicide is associated with DWP activity”, as well as other deaths and serious and complex cases that have been linked to DWP activity.

DWP has admitted that at least seven peer reviews written in 2012 mentioned the WCA, and there are almost certainly more that were written by the time Litchfield wrote his final report in late 2014.

One of the aims of a peer review is to “determine whether local and national standards have been followed or need to be revised/improved”, so DWP would find it hard to explain why they would not have been shown to Litchfield, whose job it was to review how the WCA was working.

But neither of Litchfield’s reviews mentioned either the peer reviews or the coroners’ letters, although the second coroner’s letter was not written until he had begun work on his second review.

Professor Malcolm Harrington, who carried out the first three WCA reviews in 2010, 2011 and 2012, has told DNS that he believes he was shown neither the first coroner’s letter nor any WCA-related peer reviews.

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

30 May 2019

 

 

Activists begin direct action over universal credit newspaper ads

Disabled activists across the country have removed thousands of copies of a national newspaper from their public distribution points after it began publishing a series of advertising features that will air-brush concerns about universal credit.

Members of Sheffield Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) are now promising to “step up the campaign” against the Metro free newspaper.

They have even offered a prize of a DPAC tee-shirt for the most creative way in which an activist can recycle or reuse a copy of the Metro, and so prevent the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) advertising features being read.

Photographs show all the copies of the Metro at Sheffield train station being removed in a suitcase – while a similar action took place in Ipswich – with Sheffield DPAC encouraging people to “get to your local Metro newspaper stands and help us by removing the Metros from the shelves”.

It adds: “Re-use them, recycle them, just don’t leave these LIES on the stands.”

And it warns: “This nonsense is going to be going on for nine weeks from this week and each week we will be stepping up this campaign […] we are absolutely not giving up […] if anything it just makes us angrier and more determined.”

Sheffield DPAC has also warned all the companies advertising in Metro that thousands of potential readers would not see the adverts they had paid for because DPAC activists “have removed thousands of copies of the newspaper” from stations, buses, trains and trams around the UK.

A spokesperson for Metro – which is run by the company that owns the Daily Mail – said: “Metro is a non-partisan newspaper, which carries advertisements for a range of clients, including government departments and unions.

Metro takes advertising standards seriously and requires our advertisers to comply with all laws and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) code.

The Department for Work and Pensions has informed us that the advertising was reviewed by the ASA’s copy advice team prior to publication.

Metro is happy with this process.”

The protests come as DPAC is set to release a report detailing “the reality of universal credit”, with links to hundreds of newspaper stories from across the UK that have reported on the real damage caused by UC, and were published over a period of just 16 weeks between 20 January and 12 May 2019.

The report contains “harrowing stories of people forced into debt, rent arrears, homelessness, crime, prostitution, hunger, people unable to afford fares to get to food banks, parents unable to get essentials for their babies, child poverty, worsening mental health, ex-service people considering suicide and even cases of actual suicide”.

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

The Government Communication Service’s “branding guidelines” make it clear that “all government campaigns and comms should be government branded to ensure transparency and accountability”. 

The guidelines also say: “It is important that the public is easily able to recognise the work of government, departments, their agencies and Arms Length Bodies.”

But the first of DWP’s universal credit advertorials published by the Metro newspaper last week included no government logos.

The second advertisement feature, which appeared yesterday (Wednesday) in the Metro, also failed to include a government logo.

The only reference to the source of the advertorials is a line – which is even less obvious on the Metro website – that states: “ADVERTISEMENT FEATURE FROM THE DEPARTMENT FOR WORK AND PENSIONS.”

A leaked DWP memo, signed by three senior servants – including Neil Couling, director general of the universal credit programme – proves the failure to include a government logo on the advertorials was intentional.

The memo admitted that the nine-week series of advertorials in the Metro were designed to be misleading.

It said: “The features won’t look or feel like DWP or UC – you won’t see our branding, and this is deliberate.”

The Metro advertorials are part of a nationwide DWP campaign to “myth-bust the common inaccuracies reported on UC”.

They will cost DWP hundreds of thousands of pounds, and have already led to complaints being lodged with ASA.

A spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, which is responsible for overseeing the guidelines, said they were “at the end of the day guidelines and this is a DWP campaign”.

She said the Cabinet Office was “content that the materials clearly stated that it was an advertising feature from DWP”.

She pointed to information provided to DNS last week by DWP, which stated that advertising features “are generally developed to give the same look and feel as the publication they are being placed in – while clearly stating who produced the material”.

DWP also said last week that its first advertorial “clearly stated that it was an advertising feature from the Department for Work and Pensions”.

But Natasha Hirst, chair of the equalities council of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), who also has the disabled members’ seat on NUJ’s national executive council, said: “There appears to be a breach of the government’s own guidelines on communications, as raised by the NUJ last week.

The advertorials are shockingly poor practice but are not the only problem.

We are concerned that the integrity of journalism could be called into question by biased and uncritical features in publications.

It is vital that journalism remains independent of political interference.

The erosion of trust created by orchestrated visits to jobcentres and government-placed advertorials that dismiss people’s harsh experiences of universal credit is something we must all fight.

It is incredibly poor judgement for the Cabinet Office to show no willingness to criticise misleading communications from the DWP.”

Linda Burnip, a member of DPAC’s national steering group, said the “disgraceful and fabricated” Metro ad campaign “shows just how much UC is a total failure” and how concerned DWP is about its roll out and consequences.

She added: “However, even for Rudd and her DWP minions this is beyond contempt.”

30 May 2019

 

 

Second newspaper group could be targeted over universal credit articles

A second national newspaper group is facing a boycott and possible direct action protests over a Department for Work and Pensions campaign that aims to improve the reputation of its “toxic” universal credit benefit system.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) is calling for a boycott of Reach, the largest national and regional news publisher in the UK, while other disabled activists have called for direct action aimed at the publisher.

A campaign of direct action is already underway against the publisher of the Metro free newspaper, which is being paid hundreds of thousands of pounds by DWP to publish a series of advertorials praising UC (see separate story).

Now Reach, the newspaper group which publishes titles such as the Manchester Evening News, Birmingham Mail and Bristol Post, but also the national Daily Mirror, Daily Express, Sunday People, Daily Record and Daily Star, is also facing the possibility of a boycott and direct action protests.

Last week, Disability News Service (DNS) reported how regional Reach newspapers were criticised for running at least three positive and misleading articles about universal credit, which all focus on local DWP staff praising the impact it has had locally and either dismissing or ignoring its well-publicised flaws.

Two of the articles were re-published by other newspapers in the same group, with one of them published by at least 15 other newspapers.

Now another article published by a regional Reach newspaper has emerged, which gives a glowing account of the efforts of DWP staff to support disabled people who have been found fit for work, and the impact of universal credit (UC).

In the wake of the articles, Bob Ellard, a member of DPAC’s national steering group, said: “DPAC has seen the succession of articles, which are little more than advertisement pieces for universal credit, copied across local titles owned by Reach. 

People need to be informed that this is a campaign of propaganda rather than news and we suggest that people do not buy Reach titles.”

And Sheffield DPAC, which has led the campaign against the Metro, said it would also like to see action taken against Reach publications.

Another leading disabled activist, who tweets at @imajsaclaimant, also called for direct action protests targeted at Reach publications.

He said: “I am so angry about it. The thing is that Reach seem to have got away with it [compared with the Metro].

I see what Sheffield DPAC have been doing [with the Metro]. We should be doing the same [with Reach publications].

They should not be able to get away with it.”

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has made it clear that it will not support calls for boycotts of newspapers because they may affect the livelihoods of fellow journalists, including disabled journalists.

But Natasha Hirst, chair of NUJ’s equalities council, who also has the disabled members’ seat on the union’s national executive council, said: “We are concerned that the integrity of journalism could be called into question by biased and uncritical features in publications.

It is vital that journalism remains independent of political interference.

The erosion of trust created by orchestrated visits to jobcentres and government-placed advertorials that dismiss people’s harsh experiences of universal credit is something we must all fight.”

The concerns about the Reach articles come as DPAC is set to release a report detailing “the reality of universal credit”, with links to hundreds of newspaper articles from across the UK that have reported on the real damage caused by UC, and were published over a period of just 16 weeks between 20 January and 12 May 2019.

The report contains “harrowing stories of people forced into debt, rent arrears, homelessness, crime, prostitution, hunger, people unable to afford fares to get to food banks, parents unable to get essentials for their babies, child poverty, worsening mental health, ex-service people considering suicide and even cases of actual suicide”.

The Newcastle Chronicle article – which was also published by the Bristol Live website, with minor amendments – is headlined: “What happens when the DWP deems a disabled person fit for work – according to Jobcentre worker.”

It says the government has “come under fire for deeming people who are living with disabilities fit for work”, while the paper has “reported numerous stories about North East residents being faced with the daunting prospect of returning after being declared fit for work” by DWP.

It then says: “As more people are put onto Universal Credit, we met with staff at Newcastle Jobcentre to find out what happens when a person with a disability is deemed fit?” [sic]

The rest of the article is a series of comments by a DWP disability employment advisor, with no attempt to put them into context, or secure comments from welfare rights experts or campaigners who have spent years highlighting the flaws and dangers of universal credit.

The advisor even suggests in the article that, rather than disabled people found fit for work being forced unfairly into employment, they are often just asked to attend “pie and socialising” clubs or walking groups.

She insists that DWP “have to go with what people are telling us they feel able to do”.

The reporter who wrote the article, Kali Lindsay, told DNS she had written numerous articles over the last four or five months that were critical of DWP and UC – including one just three weeks ago about a man with a chronic lung condition who had his benefits cut after being found fit for work.

She said DWP had invited her paper to send a reporter to speak to jobcentre staff, which had allowed her to “find out what they were saying and put to them what people’s criticisms were of the service” and “explain how they felt about it”.

She said that DWP had a “right of reply” to the previous stories that had been written by her newspaper.

Lindsay said she did not believe there had been any pressure placed on her paper by DWP to run the articles, which were part of a series being published by the Chronicle on various aspects of the jobcentre’s work, and that her paper had seen it as a “good opportunity to go inside the jobcentre and find out more details”.

But she insisted that she was personally angry with how DWP treated people, and will “fight their corner”, and that she had put questions from stories she had covered over the last two years to the advisor when she spoke to her, with the advisor’s answers appearing in the article.

Lindsay said she had not yet seen a leaked DWP memo which revealed that the department was engaged in a “front-footed strategy” to fight back against what it called “negativity and scaremongering” by the media and “tackle misconceptions and improve the reputation of UC”.

The memo said this included writing to journalists like those at the Chronicle to “come and see for themselves the great work we do”.

Reach refused to comment on its latest article, but said it stood by last week’s comments, in which it defended its decision to run one article, and said the company frequently syndicated articles of interest, while it had published more than 1,100 articles in the last 12 months on UC, most of them “critical”.

But it has still refused to respond to questions about the DWP memo, and suggestions that the company has become caught up in DWP’s “myth-busting” campaign, and it still insists that there has been no “undue pressure, financial or otherwise” to publish any of the stories.

The positive account given by the disability employment advisor the Chronicle spoke to about DWP’s fit-for-work processes contrasts with years of evidence linking the deaths of disabled people with DWP decisions to find them fit for work.

In 2015, government-funded research by public health experts from the Universities of Liverpool and Oxford concluded that the programme to reassess people on incapacity benefit through the WCA was linked to 590 suicides in just three years.

Only three months ago, the Independent Case Examiner concluded that DWP was guilty of “multiple” and “significant” failings in handling the case of mother-of-nine Jodey Whiting*, who had her out-of-work disability benefits stopped for missing a work capability assessment, and took her own life just 15 days later.

DNS has reported on many other such cases, including that of Alan McArdle, who had been placed in the work-related activity group of employment and support allowance and had a fatal heart attack an hour after being told DWP was threatening to stop his benefits.

Then there was Luke Alexander Loy, who died just three months after being found fit for work and then having his benefits sanctioned, despite his doctor explaining that he was not currently well enough to work.

Other deaths linked to DWP’s fitness for work process include that of Moira Drury, reported by the Guardian in 2015; Sheila Holt, whose death was reported by the Daily Mirror – part of the Reach group – in March 2015; Karen Sherlock, who died in 2012 after fighting for two years against the injustice of the WCA regime; and Mark Wood, who starved to death in 2013 after he was found fit for work through the WCA system, and lost his out-of-work disability benefits.

DNS also reported last month how DWP destroyed a damaging internal report about its failure to ensure the safety of benefit claimants in jobcentres, preventing it being released under freedom of information laws.

*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

30 May 2019

 

 

Activists call for closure of all long-stay hospitals after Whorlton Hall scandal

Disabled people from across Europe have called for the closure of long-stay institutions, after the latest in a long series of abuse scandals was uncovered by the BBC.

Four European disability organisations – including the umbrella organisation representing 80 million disabled people across the continent – have joined UK disabled activists in calling for action to end institutionalisation and forced treatment.

A Panorama documentary, which included undercover footage shot at the private Whorlton Hall hospital for people with learning difficulties and autistic people in County Durham, caused outrage after it was broadcast last week.

Seven men and three women – all members of staff – have been arrested by Durham police and are being questioned about offences relating to abuse and neglect, while the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the health and care watchdog, was criticised for failing to spot and halt the abuse.

Now disabled people and their user-led organisations have called again for the government to take action and close all such long-stay institutions.

Disabled activist Simone Aspis, director of the consultancy Changing Perspectives, who campaigns to free disabled people from institutions, said: “There is something very fundamentally wrong about these institutions and they have to close down.”

She added: “We can’t make a fundamentally flawed system work better by simply having a better ratio of staffing, more resources put in, or more training, or better recruitment practices.

A system that compels people into treatment they don’t want and denies them their fundamental human rights cannot train people to deprive people of their human rights in a positive way.

What we need is the transferring of resources into support that people need to be part of their communities.

It is an absolute disgrace that in this country we are allowed to have such barbaric torture and practices going on.”

She said there was no “political will” to find a solution and no urgency from the NHS to remove people from institutions.

Instead of “thinking creatively” about new placements, she said, NHS commissioners “just want to shove people in wherever there is a bloody bed, not thinking creatively about how we can support these people to live in the community”.

Aspis also said she was “very disappointed” with the failure of CQC and the Children’s Commissioner to recommend the closure of such institutions in their latest reports earlier this month.

People First (Self Advocacy), which is run and controlled by people with learning difficulties, said it was horrified to learn of the new abuse scandal.

It pointed out that promises were made after a previous scandal at Winterbourne View in 2011 to close all such institutions, and that the government had failed to live up to its promises or meet targets set by NHS England after Winterbourne View.

It is calling on the government to introduce a legal right to independent living for disabled people, by incorporating article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into UK law.

People First’s #CloseATUs campaign is calling for the closure of all assessment and treatment centres and for people to have the advocacy and support they need in their local communities, as well as for the government to draw up a national action plan for all ATUs to be closed within two years.

Andrew Lee, director of People First (Self Advocacy), said: “As with Winterbourne, the news of Whorlton Hall brought tears, upset and anger to me and many other people I know.

Our thoughts go to all of the people who experienced this abuse. We need to make sure this does not happen again.

Moving people to other closed institutions like Whorlton Hall is obviously not the answer.

People are being sent far away from friends and family at great cost to the authorities and at even greater and more tragic cost to people with learning difficulties and their loved ones.”

Kat Humble, communications officer for Autistic UK, which is run by and for autistic people, said the latest revelations were “horrifying, though unsurprising”.

She said: “Whether it’s Winterbourne View, Whorlton Hall or who knows how many others, there is a level of contempt that we face as autistic people and people with intellectual disabilities when it comes to our long-term health that is shortening our lifespans and damaging the lives that we live.

There is a very good reason why the suicide rate amongst autistic people is nine times higher than the national average.”

She called for “ground up” reform of CQC, which she said was “ineffective” and had “no protective instinct”.

In a joint statement, the European Disability Forum – an umbrella organisation of disabled people’s organisations – and three European disability organisations (Inclusion Europe, Autism Europe and European Down Syndrome Association), also called for the closure of such institutions.

They said: “This kind of treatment and abuse is widespread in institutions.

Too many times, we have heard and seen footage like this. Too many times we have witnessed attacks on the most basic human rights of persons with disabilities. Too many times we have witnessed governments failing to act.

Institutionalisation has to end. Forced treatment has to end. These flagrant abuses of the most basic human rights have to end.”

But Whorlton Hall is only the latest in a long line of such scandals that stretches back to the 1940s.

Calls to address the scandal of people with learning difficulties living “inappropriately” in long-stay institutions date back more than 70 years to when the National Council for Civil Liberties launched a campaign against eugenicist laws that led at their peak to the institutionalisation of more than 50,000 people in long-stay hospitals.

A series of scandals through the late 1960s and 1970s highlighted concerns similar to those uncovered by Panorama and other more recent scandals, with inquiries reporting cruel ill-treatment, inhumane and threatening behaviour towards patients (at Ely Hospital), the “harmful over-use of drugs” (Farleigh Hospital) and the use of tranquilisers and “side-rooms” – or solitary confinement facilities – at South Ockendon Hospital.

They were followed by the Longcare abuse scandal, uncovered by the media in 1994, and others including allegations of neglect at Fieldhead Hospital in Wakefield in 2004, and of abuse at the Solar Centre in Doncaster in 2010, Cornwall Partnership NHS Trust in 2006, Winterbourne View near Bristol in 2011, Mendip House in Somerset in 2016 and Atlas Project Team in 2017.

Cygnet Health Care said in a statement that it was “shocked and deeply saddened by the allegations made against members of staff at Whorlton Hall, part of the Danshell Group, which Cygnet recently acquired.

We take these allegations extremely seriously, have suspended all members of staff involved, and informed all relevant authorities including the police, who have instigated an inquiry, and we are cooperating fully with their investigation.

We have a zero tolerance of this behaviour. This appalling behaviour is entirely inconsistent with our values and high standards, and we have transferred all the patients to other services.

Until the conclusion of the police investigation, we are unable to comment further.”

30 May 2019

 

 

Should DRC rise again? Sir Bert asks in posthumous autobiography

An autobiography by one of the most influential disabled people of the last 50 years – published posthumously – could ignite calls for the return of the Disability Rights Commission (DRC), 12 years after it was merged into a new equality watchdog.

In A Life Without Limits*, Sir Bert Massie – who was DRC’s chair throughout its seven years – writes in depth about his time leading the equality body and then as a commissioner on its successor, the multi-strand Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

He suggests EHRC has failed to protect disabled people and that many disabled people believe responsibility for disability rights should be taken away from the organisation, with a new DRC set up alongside EHRC.

Sir Bert, who died in October 2017, is highly critical of EHRC’s first chair, Trevor Phillips, who he says was “not a team player” and “made policy on the hoof” while other commissioners were “supposed to step into line”.

He concludes: “I have sat on many boards larger than that at EHRC, but none so badly chaired.”

Although a staunch and long-standing Labour party member himself, Sir Bert is also critical of the number of commissioners with strong Labour party links who were appointed to EHRC’s board under the last Labour government.

In the book, Sir Bert is critical of the Labour peer Baroness [Margaret] Prosser, EHRC’s vice-chair at the time, who became a “very loyal supporter” of Phillips.

He writes at length on the concerns of himself and other board members about Phillips’s conduct and leadership at EHRC, which contributed to six commissioners resigning in 2009.

Sir Bert is also critical in his book of the lack of resources given to EHRC’s disability committee, which led to disabled people receiving “a much inferior service” than they had received from DRC.

He reveals that he had been “unenthusiastic” about merging DRC with other equality bodies to create EHRC in 2007, but that other DRC commissioners who were in favour of the decision “might well have been right” and that an independent DRC could have been abolished under the coalition government elected in 2010.

But he also points to the attack on disability rights under successive Conservative-led governments since 2010, and to a 2016 Lords committee report that concluded that EHRC was failing to protect disabled people.

He adds: “Perhaps in the future we do need a debate on whether disability issues should be removed from the mandate of the EHRC and [given] to a commission with a single focus.

That is what many disabled people want.”

Kaliya Franklin, who worked with Sir Bert on the commission on disability and poverty he chaired for the Labour party, supported his call for a debate on whether there needed to be a new vehicle for ensuring disabled people’s rights were upheld.

She told Disability News Service: “Disability rights are part of a wider human rights issue, but without the specialist knowledge and peer support provided by a body like the DRC, the risk is that the barriers to achieve those rights are too significant for disabled people to surmount alone.

Last week we saw further evidence that in the Britain of 2019, thousands of disabled children and adults have their freedom, right to family life and privacy removed by the state at an enormous financial cost to taxpayers.

All too often those disabled people are then subjected to physical and mental torture by those employed to ‘care’ for them.

This abuse is not new, yet every time there is a new expose of such human rights violations, the same tired excuses of vulnerability, risks and costs are trotted out by the charity, medical and public sectors with a vested interest in continuing the status quo.

The immoral trade in disabled people continues unabated.

A dedicated disability rights enforcement body with the specialist rights-based knowledge and lived experience to support people and their families is one important way in which this ongoing abuse, and many other forms of disability discrimination, could be more successfully challenged.”

Sir Bert’s book also describes his childhood in Liverpool, how he caught polio in the late 1940s and spent time in Alder Hey children’s hospital and experienced “perpetual violence, or a nagging expectation of it” at the hands of staff at the Greenbank residential special school.

There are detailed descriptions of his experience of education, further and higher education, and employment as a disabled child, teenager and young mans in the 1960s, and his first experiences of disability activism with the Disablement Income Group, Liverpool Association for the Disabled, and the Disabled Drivers’ Association.

He writes about his work at RADAR, which he led before heading the new DRC, and he defends RADAR from criticisms made at the time by the British Council of Organisations of Disabled People (BCODP) that it was not a legitimate representative of the disabled people’s movement.

In the final pages he was able to complete before his death in 2017 – the book was completed by Bob Niven and Ann Frye, two of his former colleagues, who describe him as one of the leading post-war social reformers – he suggests that privatisation of the NHS is “to some extent inevitable” if the Conservatives remain in power, while he predicts there will be further cuts to social care.

Disabled people,” he says, “will need to develop mechanisms to either defend current systems or create new ones.”

But he adds: “Many of the major structural changes achieved in recent decades are probably sufficiently embedded to survive.”

But he warns that these changes could still be weakened, as has happened with accessible housing standards.

*A Life Without Limits, by Sir Bert Massie, is published by Mereo Books

30 May 2019

 

 

Inclusive education campaigners back SEND crisis march

Inclusive education campaigners are supporting parents and their disabled children today (Thursday) as they take part in marches around the country to highlight the special educational needs and disability (SEND) funding crisis.

Parents are calling for reform of the SEND system, increased funding, and improved accountability and assessment, as well as an end to a culture which “encourages the blaming, shaming and dismissal of parents of young people with SEND”.

Marches are set to take place across England and Wales, in more than 25 locations including Liverpool, Yorkshire, Sussex, Birmingham, Derby, Reading and Widnes, with one leading to the handover of a petition in Downing Street.

The SEND National Crisis campaign has been set up by two parents of disabled children, and it has been backed by The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE), which said disabled pupils had been increasingly excluded from schools and pushed out of mainstream education.

Simone Aspis, ALLFIE’s policy and campaigns coordinator, said: “The funding cuts are creating rife disablism and disability-related discrimination in our mainstream education system.

For the first time in history, more disabled pupils with [education, health and care plans] are being educated in special schools than in mainstream ones.

This needs to stop right now – this government has a duty to promote inclusive education among disabled pupils.”

Nadia Turki, one of the founders of SEND National Crisis, said: “We have decided to act instead of repeatedly say the words ‘we need to do something’.

I’ve been saying this for almost two years now and nothing has changed to the effect of making a positive difference to education provisions and access for disabled children and young people.

We believe that now is the time to stand together and let our voices and the voices of our young people be heard.”

She added: “This crisis is leaving thousands of individuals emotionally and physically exhausted due to the direct failings of our local authorities and the discrimination faced when trying to access their fundamental right to an education.

There are so many of us struggling and battling an unfair system for our children or the people we care for and it is an exhausting process that hammers us into the ground daily.”

Next month, ALLFIE is also supporting a judicial review case being taken at the high court by three families with disabled children.

The families believe inadequate government funding is not allowing councils to fulfil their legal obligations to support disabled pupils.

ALLFIE wants the court to make “an explicit declaration” that the government’s level of funding of SEND is unlawful because it fails to provide the support that disabled pupils need to “flourish within mainstream education on a par with their non-disabled peers”.

It also wants new guidance that will make it clear that the government has to ensure sufficient funding for schools and councils to fulfil their legal duties to “promote the presumption of mainstream education free from disability-related discrimination”.

In response to plans for the march, children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “Our ambition is for every child, no matter the challenges they face, to have access to a world class education that sets them up for life.

Funding for the high needs budget is a priority for this government and we know that councils and schools are facing pressures – that’s why in December, we provided an extra £250 million up to 2020 to help manage these costs.

This takes the total amount that we have allocated for high needs funding to £6.3 billion this year, compared to £5 billion in 2013.

At the same time, the education secretary has been clear that we are working closely with the sector as we approach the spending review, we have launched a call for evidence to make sure the funding system is getting money to the right places at the right time and we are revising the SEND code of practice to improve ways to identify and meet special educational needs.”

His department said it also planned to spend £31.6 million to train more educational psychologists, who play an important role in identifying special educational needs and contributing to education, health and care needs assessments.

30 May 2019

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 Posted by at 16:08
May 292019
 

join the monthly protest at Caxton House, Tothill Street, London organised by Kilburn Unemployed Workers’ Group (KUWG)  which this month will include their views on the outrageous lies being told by DWP with their false adverts for Universal Credit in the scum Mail partner paper the Metro.

Please continue to remove as many Metros as possible every Wednesday for the next 7 weeks from venues where they are available.

 Posted by at 18:46
May 232019
 

Disabled people ‘driven to breaking point’ by cuts, says UN expert

Many disabled people’s families have been “driven to breaking point” by cuts to social care, while other disabled people have been denied benefits and forced by the government into unsuitable work, a UN human rights expert has concluded.

Professor Philip Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said in his final report on the UK that disabled people were “some of the hardest hit by austerity measures”.

Alston said that cuts to public spending, and “highly regressive” changes to taxes and benefits since 2010 – combined with the government’s “stubborn” refusal to carry out an assessment of the impact of its austerity cuts and reforms on disabled people and other groups – suggested that the UK government’s policies breached the “principle of non-discrimination enshrined in international law”.

The report quotes Equality and Human Rights Commission research that found that some disabled people are set to lose £11,000 on average by 2021–2022, more than 30 per cent of their annual net income.

And it says the UK government’s reforms have often denied benefits to disabled people with high support needs and “pushed them into unsuitable work”, while care for people with mental distress has “deteriorated dramatically”.

The report describes how disabled people told Alston repeatedly when he visited the UK last November about “benefits assessments that were superficial, dismissive, and contradicted the advice of their doctor”.

It adds: “Those with disabilities are also highly vulnerable to cuts in local government services, particularly within social care, which has left them shouldering more of the costs of their care.

This has driven many families with a person with a disability to breaking point.”

Alston said he had reviewed “seemingly endless evidence” that showed the “harsh and arbitrary nature” of some benefit sanctions, and the “devastating effects of losing access to benefits for weeks or months at a time”.

His report adds: “Many detailed studies give substance to the dire consequences for vulnerable claimants who are sanctioned.”

Disabled people are among the groups disadvantaged by the introduction of universal credit, he said, which has “built a digital barrier that obstructs access to benefits”.

He said he had heard “countless stories of severe hardships suffered under UC”, reports that were “corroborated by an increasing body of research that suggests UC is being implemented in ways that negatively impact claimants’ mental health, finances and work prospects”.

The report points out that work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd admitted in February that food bank use has increased in areas where UC has fully rolled out.

Alston said the government had remained in a “state of denial” about the impact of its policies, while it might appear that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) “has been tasked with designing a digital and sanitized version of the nineteenth century workhouse, made infamous by Charles Dickens”.

He accused the government of pursuing an agenda “to reduce benefits by every means available, including constant reductions in benefit levels, ever-more-demanding conditions, harsher penalties, depersonalization, stigmatization, and virtually eliminating the option of using the legal system to vindicate rights”.

But he also said he had witnessed “tremendous resilience, strength and generosity, and heard stories of deeply compassionate work coaches, local officials and volunteers; neighbours supporting one another; councils seeking creative solutions; and charities stepping in to fill holes in government services”.

Alston’s findings were contained in the final report on his visit to the UK last November, which was published yesterday (Wednesday) and will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council on 27 June, when the UK government will formally respond.

But DWP dismissed his conclusions, as it had done when he released his initial findings last year.

A DWP spokesperson insisted that UN data showed the UK was “one of the happiest places in the world to live” and the report was “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”.

The DWP spokesperson said: “We take tackling poverty extremely seriously which is why we spend £95 billion a year on welfare and maintain a state pension system that supports people into retirement.

All the evidence shows that full-time work is the best way to boost your income and quality of life, which is why our welfare reforms are focused on supporting people into employment and we introduced the national living wage, so people earn more in work.”

But Alston accused ministers of seeking to “distract from the troubling findings of this report by misrepresenting the process behind it”.

He said his report was based on months of preparation, more than 100 consultations, an analysis of over 300 submissions, and more than 100 citations of the government’s own data and that of “renowned UK institutions”.

He added in a statement: “I traveled the country meeting with people in poverty, prominent researchers, and frontline staff at foodbanks and advice centers, many of whom said they wished the government would do the same.

The government had an opportunity to review the report ahead of publication, yet made only eight minor changes.

The UK is happy to use human rights to criticize other countries, but it must also reckon with its own human rights problems.”

23 May 2019

 

 

User-led groups discuss how to turn back the tide of closures

User-led groups met this week to discuss how to turn back the tide of closures of organisations run and controlled by disabled people and service-users.

Research shows the number of user-led groups continuing to fall, due to austerity cuts and other trends affecting their funding.

The closures mean user-led organisations have a “diminishing” voice in opposing oppressive policies, according to a briefing released ahead of the meeting.

The closures are leading to a loss of a collective voice for disabled people, and the knowledge, peer support and advocacy that user-led organisations provide, the briefing said.

The meeting was organised by two national networks of user-led groups, the National Survivor User Network (NSUN) and Shaping Our Lives (SOL).

Professor Peter Beresford, SOL’s co-chair and one of the organisers of the meeting, said: “What was powerful was the strength of feeling at the meeting, which drew together a very diverse range of disabled people and service-users, with very clear messages.

The allocation of funding must be changed to stop discriminating against user-led organisations and to secure their future; they are crucial as the most direct voice for people increasingly marginalised under our politics.

Most shocking of all, participants made clear that nobody would fund a black organisation led by white people, a women’s organisation led by men or an LGBTQ organisation led by heterosexuals, yet the king-size portion of money in our field goes to organisations which are the absolute equivalent – dominated by non-disabled people and their agendas.

It must change and soon, before it’s too late.”

Both NSUN and SOL have produced research showing the number of members falling sharply in the last three years.

Initial findings from NSUN’s latest survey show that user-led organisations are often “overstretched” and forced to rely on the goodwill of volunteers and unpaid staff. 

The user-led organisations that took part said securing funding was “increasingly difficult”, with small user-led organisations increasingly losing out on contracts to large, non-user-led charities.

NSUN was also told that austerity, funding cuts and “the nonsense of the benefits system” were having a devastating impact on the lives of individual disabled people. 

The briefing paper for this week’s meeting said that the “diminishing voice” of user-led organisations meant there was less opposition locally and nationally to “oppressive policies”.

It said that many user-led organisations were suffering from “severe” cuts to local government funding, which had affected grants from local authorities.

This problem had been “intensified” by the trend of awarding large contracts to national private sector organisations to manage smaller contracts, with user-led organisations often then being asked to deliver the same service for a “much reduced budget”.

Those user-led organisations that do still receive funding from local authorities often feel pressured not to speak out about damaging cuts to services because of their fear of losing contracts.

Grants that are available from trusts and foundations often focus on project funding, leaving user-led organisations struggling to finance their core running costs.

But the briefing paper also warned that the individuals involved in setting up and growing user-led organisations were themselves experiencing “some of the worst deprivation, poverty and life chances in our communities”.

It added: “Their resilience and ability to struggle both personally and on behalf of others is now greatly diminished.”

23 May 2019

 

 

TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference: Anger over DWP’s universal credit ad campaign

Disabled union activists have condemned the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and media managers for pressuring jobcentre workers and reporters to take part in an “unethical and misleading” campaign aimed at air-brushing the impact of universal credit.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ)* spoke out this week after it emerged that DWP was paying hundreds of thousands of pounds for an advertising campaign in the Metro free newspaper series as part of a nationwide campaign to “myth-bust the common inaccuracies reported on UC”.

A leaked memo – seen by Disability News Service – says the series of Metro advertising features will be part of a wider campaign “to tackle misconceptions and improve the reputation of UC” by persuading newspapers and other media to run more positive news stories and features about universal credit (see separate story).

The Metro campaign launched yesterday (Wednesday) after it was brought forward following the publication of extracts from the leaked memo.

But it was launched on the same day that the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights published a report that was deeply critical of UC (see separate story), which he said had caused severe hardship and had “built a digital barrier that obstructs access to benefits”.

The DWP memo admitted that the department would deliberately not be using its branding on the features in order to disguise their origin and make them look like genuine news articles, which could breach advertising guidelines.

The first advertorials do include a line stating that they are an “advertisement feature from the Department for Work and Pensions”, but apparently include no DWP logos.

An emergency motion proposed by the NUJ*, and passed by the annual TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference this week, called for the TUC to condemn DWP for using taxpayers’ money to “defend this unworkable policy”.

It also backed journalists on regional and national newspapers who resist pressure from editors and managers to produce “unethical” stories about universal credit, in line with NUJ’s code of conduct.

NUJ delegate Natasha Hirst told the conference in Bournemouth that journalists feared losing their jobs if they resisted that pressure.

She also called for support for DWP press officers who wanted to obey the NUJ code of conduct by resisting pressure to “disseminate false or misleading information” about universal credit.

A proposed BBC documentary about universal credit – which is receiving enthusiastic co-operation from DWP – also “compromises” NUJ members who work in the BBC and members of the PCS union who work in jobcentres and do not want to be involved with the filming, she said.

Hirst said the DWP public relations campaign contravenes government guidelines on communications, which state that they should be “objective and explanatory, not biased or polemical”.

But the NUJ stopped short of backing calls by Disabled People Against Cuts to target the Metro by dumping copies of the free newspaper once it started printing the DWP adverts, as this could put the livelihoods of fellow journalists at risk, including disabled journalists.

Hirst said afterwards that NUJ opposed all boycotts of publications, and its target instead was the DWP and “those in the decision-making roles”.

She told delegates that universal credit was “responsible for worsening the mental and physical health of disabled people, pushed people into poverty and ultimately has cost some people their lives”.

And she said that what DWP described as “negativity and scaremongering” about universal credit was “actually people’s real stories, this is their truth about what has been happening to them.

It is a gross injustice and an insult to those disabled people who shared those stories and the journalists who have ethically reported on them for the DWP to dismiss and misrepresent the appalling impact that the damage that universal credit is having on people.”

Unite’s Andy Thompson, backing the motion, said: “We have to support this campaign, we have to support our sister union the NUJ in stopping the lies that this government are going to spend taxpayers’ money in promoting.

Why should they be able to use our hard-earned money, tax-payers’ money, to lie and deceive the people of this country?”

He said he understood why NUJ could not back a boycott of Metro but suggested that people could take “bundles of the Metro off the free distribution points and put them in skips”.

To calls of “hear, hear” from fellow delegates, he said: “We could get Metro off the shelves like we did the Sun off the shelves in Liverpool.

Let’s make sure the government are held to account for what they are actually doing.”

Austin Harney, from the PCS union, seconded the motion, and said: “PCS has had serious concerns from the outset on the development, implementation and effect of the government’s universal credit programme.

Our members on the frontline are now suffering as a result of the government’s chaotic welfare reforms, staff cuts and office closure programme.

Our members see first-hand the devastating effect government policies have on the most vulnerable in society.”

GMB’s Paul Kempton said he was concerned about DWP’s plan to remove its branding from its adverts.

He said: “DWP is supposed to be accountable, it is supposed to be transparent. Our concern is about the deceitful nature of how they are going about this.”

And Equity’s Rona Topaz told delegates: “It is pure biased propaganda by this government and I strongly urge you to support this motion.”

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has already received complaints about the adverts.

An ASA spokesperson said: “We’re carefully assessing the complaints and the ad campaign to establish if there are grounds for further action.

At this stage, no decision has been made as to whether we will launch an investigation.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “It is important people know about the benefits available to them, and we regularly advertise universal credit.

All our advertising abides by the strict guidelines set by the Advertising Standards Authority.”

She said DWP was “happy” that the adverts did not breach the government’s own communications rules.

*DNS editor John Pring is an NUJ member

23 May 2019

 

 

Newspaper ignores concerns over DWP’s universal credit ads

A national newspaper has ignored concerns about a series of “misleading” Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) adverts that are set to air-brush its “toxic” universal credit (UC) benefit system.

The Metro newspaper – run by the company that owns the Daily Mail – sparked outrage last week over its decision to take hundreds of thousands of pounds from DWP in exchange for a major nine-week series of advertising features.

It led to activists from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) promising to target the newspaper with a direct action campaign aimed at preventing copies of the Metro from being read when the advertising campaign began.

Following the concerns raised about the campaign, Metro and DWP brought forward the publication date and launched it yesterday (Wednesday).

It was launched on the same day that the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights published a report that was deeply critical of UC (see separate story), which he said had caused severe hardship and had “built a digital barrier that obstructs access to benefits”.

The Metro adverts are part of a nationwide DWP campaign to “myth-bust the common inaccuracies reported on UC”.

Disabled activists have repeatedly warned that UC – which combines six income-related benefits into one – is “toxic” and “rotten to the core”, with “soaring” rates of sanctions and foodbank use in areas where it has been introduced, and repeated warnings about its impact on disabled people.

But a leaked memo – seen by Disability News Service – says a series of Metro advertising features will be part of a wider campaign “to tackle misconceptions and improve the reputation of UC” by persuading newspapers and other media to run more positive stories about it.

It also admitted that DWP will deliberately not be using its logos on the advertising features, intentionally disguising their origin, which appears to be a breach of advertising guidelines.

The first advertorials do include a line stating that they are an “advertisement feature from the Department for Work and Pensions”, but apparently include no DWP or government logos.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has already received complaints about the adverts.

An ASA spokesperson said: “We’re carefully assessing the complaints and the ad campaign to establish if there are grounds for further action.

At this stage, no decision has been made as to whether we will launch an investigation.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “It is important people know about the benefits available to them, and we regularly advertise universal credit.

All our advertising abides by the strict guidelines set by the Advertising Standards Authority.”

A separate document, from the PCS union, has expressed concerns about a new three-part BBC documentary, which DWP said in its staff memo would provide “a fantastic opportunity” as part of its new campaign.

The PCS document warns of potential penalties that might be imposed on staff who are critical of DWP when interviewed by the BBC.

After being asked about disabled people’s concerns about the adverts, a Metro spokesperson said: “Metro takes advertising standards seriously. We are looking into the matters you’ve raised.

Metro is a non-partisan newspaper which carries advertisements for a range of clients, including government departments and unions.”

But just two days later, her newspaper ran the first of the DWP advertorial features.

She had not responded to further questions by noon today (Thursday).

Meanwhile, a second newspaper group has also been forced to defend its role in the DWP campaign.

Reach, which publishes national newspapers like the Daily Mirror and a string of local papers, has been criticised for running at least three positive articles about universal credit, which all focus on local DWP staff praising the impact it has had locally and either dismissing or ignoring its well-publicised flaws.

One of the articles was headlined, “I Think Universal Credit is Great – Here’s Why”, and another “18 months ago I was unemployed and skint – going to the Job Centre changed my life”, both published by the Leicester Mercury.

A third article, published by the Plymouth Herald, was headlined “The truth about Universal Credit: DWP staff at the Plymouth Jobcentre reveal all”.

Two of the articles have been re-published by other newspapers in the same group, with the “I think Universal Credit is Great” article published by at least 15 other papers.

DNS tried this week to put questions about the articles and the DWP memo to Reach, but it only commented in depth on one of the Leicester stories, which was widely shared with other newspapers in the group.

The Mercury’s editor also published a lengthy rebuttal of criticism of his newspaper by the Guardian, which first reported on the leaked memo.

David Higgerson, who was described as both Reach’s chief audience officer and its digital editorial director, said of the “I think Universal Credit is Great” article: “This article reported on a different view on an issue various Reach titles have been reporting on since 2013, and also contained context about the severe challenges universal credit has caused many people.

We have found no evidence that the sources quoted in this piece were forced to provide positive comments about their experiences working for the DWP.”

He added: “We regularly choose to syndicate articles when we believe the story will be of interest to other readers, as was the case here and with many other stories.

Furthermore, in the last 12 months we have published more than 1,100 articles on Universal Credit across the Reach group, including national and local titles, the majority of which have been critical.

The government regularly advertises with us and other news brands, however this is not something that would be made to bear on a journalist’s reporting.

There was no undue pressure, financial or otherwise, to publish this story or the others raised here.”

Higgerson declined to respond to questions about the DWP memo, and suggestions that his company had become caught up in DWP’s “myth-busting” campaign.

23 May 2019

 

 

TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference: Unions back plans for national support service

Disabled trade unionists have backed plans drawn up by disabled people’s organisations that would solve the social care crisis by introducing a national independent living support service (NILSS).

The backing from the TUC’s annual Disabled Workers’ Conference provides fresh impetus for the plans, which have been drawn up by the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) of disabled people’s organisations.

ROFA set out its plans at a parliamentary meeting last month, while they were also presented to campaigners attending a parliamentary event last week that was organised by the Reclaim Social Care campaign.

A series of speakers at this week’s conference in Bournemouth told fellow delegates that there was no doubt that the current social care system was in crisis.

The motion, proposed by the Unite union, blamed the austerity cuts of successive Conservative-led governments, which had produced a “failing system unable to meet current need”.

Unite’s Mark Dunk said an NILSS would include a legal right to independent living, with support free for those in need, funded by general taxation and managed by central government.

The service would be led by disabled people and delivered locally in co-production with disabled people.

Although there was some opposition from delegates from two unions to the plans, the motion was overwhelmingly passed.

GMB’s John Grant described how his disabled mother-in-law had fallen over in her home but had been unable to call for help because she could not afford the £8-a-week cost of a personal alarm.

She was forced to stay jammed between the freezer and a wall in her kitchen for more than 17 hours until her daughter found her the next morning.

Grant said the social care crisis, which meant disabled people could not afford the support they needed, was “a disgrace” and “absolutely shocking”.

Dunk said there was no doubt that social care was in crisis, with a postcode lottery of support.

He said: “It’s a lottery where no-one wins, it’s just a case of how badly you lose.

Rising levels of charging are pushing people out of getting the care that they need.

The system needs a radical overhaul before the situation for disabled people is allowed to sink to even more barbaric lows than it has already.

Doing nothing is not an option. We need a national independent living support service.”

The National Education Union’s Mandy Hudson said that disabled people had a right to independent living.

She said: “It’s our right and we need to reassert that right and continue to fight for it.”

She said local authorities had lost 65 per cent of their funding because of the government’s austerity measures.

She said: “That’s why it needs to be a core provision from the state. In order to enjoy the fullness of our lives, our personal and professional lives, we need to enjoy that right to independent living.”

Wendy Willis, from USDAW, criticised the government’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund in 2015, which she said was “a cost-cutting measure with no consideration for the needs of disabled people” and had left disabled people “at the mercy of the postcode lottery of care”.

She said: “This motion is about defending our rights to live independent lives and control our own futures.”

Another delegate to support the Unite motion, Brian Aylward, from the Musicians’ Union, who lives in Northern Ireland, employs a personal assistant using direct payments.

He said: “Six hours a week means the difference between having a life and having an existence. If I didn’t have that support, I would only have an existence.”

He said the ILF closure was “an absolute scandal” and showed “the fundamental attack this disgraceful government has made on our community right from the word go”.

But two unions expressed concerns about the plans.

Cath McGuinness, from UNISON, whose members work in both the NHS and social care, said she had reservations about the motion.

She said a national service “sounds good in principle” but she questioned how it would fit in with the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which all have responsibility for social care.

She also questioned how such plans would fit in with her union’s support for Labour policy on seeking to integrate health and social care.

And she said UNISON would need reassurance that the “discredited” system of commissioning social care services – “where private sector companies all too often deliver a bargain basement service and exploit our workers” – would not be replicated under the new system, which would instead be “delivered and not just managed or commissioned by the public sector”.

She also said UNISON would need to know how any changes would affect members who work in the private sector.

She said: “We would battle for them to be brought back in-house by local councils.”

She told the conference: “So we support the motion but look forward to further detailed discussion on how it might be implemented in practice across the four nations of the UK.”

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) opposed the motion.

CWU’s Jonathan Bellshaw also pointed to the devolution issue, and said he believed any new system should be funded by taxes on companies like Amazon and Google, rather than general taxation.

But he also said any campaign for a new system should not wait for a Labour government, telling delegates: “Let’s take the fight to the Tories… and demand to have this now.”

The day after the motion was carried, the conference held a panel discussion on independent living.

Sean McGovern, who chaired the discussion, and chairs the TUC’s disabled workers’ committee, said social care was facing a “perfect storm”, with care packages “cut to ribbons” and disabled people receiving the “barest minimum of care” and being “imprisoned in their own homes”.

Mark Harrison, from ROFA, said the system was “broken beyond repair” and the NILSS proposals provided a “bold vision for a different way of doing things” that was “based on the lived experience of disabled people”.

He said the devolved nations would be able to decide which parts of the proposals they wanted to introduce, and that the burden of funding the new system would fall mostly on those who could afford to pay, through the UK’s progressive income tax system, as with the NHS.

Ellen Clifford, from Disabled People Against Cuts, said the NILSS plans were still being developed, but were based on “a consensus that has been building in the disabled persons’ movement for the last seven years” and “built on what was so successful about the ILF”.

23 May 2019

 

 

TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference: ‘Rail industry must be forced to act on access’

The rail industry is breaching its duties under the Equality Act by failing to ensure that vital buttons and other fixtures and fittings on different trains are always positioned in the same location, say disabled trade unionists.

Union members called on the Department for Transport (DfT) to ensure that rail companies standardise the positioning of key features on their trains, such as buttons and levers on external and internal doors and door-locking levers on toilet doors.

Their failing design policies are acting as a “major barrier” to promoting independent travel for disabled passengers, they said.

Delegates at the TUC’s annual Disabled Workers’ Conference in Bournemouth said DfT needed to ensure that its procurement policies led to a standard approach to design across the whole rail network.

They also expressed their “disgust” that Great Western Railway (GWR) had been allowed to introduce inaccessible new class 800 intercity express carriages built by Hitachi.

Delegates also backed an amendment from the RMT union that supported the need for a guard on every train, and adequately staffed stations.

John Haynes, from the TSSA transport union, said standardisation would “give people confidence” to know where to find buttons, levers and how to open doors.

He said: “Accessibility is not just about getting on and off, it’s about having the confidence to travel, to take away the barriers, to give people the right to independence.”

He said the new GWR trains only had two accessible toilets, one of them in first class, with the other in a standard class carriage that had no spaces for wheelchair-users.

He said: “That is disgraceful in this day and age. Questions need to be asked: how did that design come about?

This motion condemns those people who allowed that train to come into service.”

He said this was “a step back 40 years” and was “a disgrace” because wheelchair-users would be forced to travel in the vestibule at the end of the carriage if they wanted access to the accessible toilet.

Andy Worth, from Unite, also called for standardised access on all trains, both new and old.

He said: “For too many years, the trains we use have had different provision and facilities.

This makes it very difficult and confusing for disabled passengers to have a comfortable journey.

We have been campaigning for standardised access for a long time.

Disabled passengers can get on a train with buttons on the right-hand side and get on another one with buttons on the left-hand side.

We need to continue to make this demand for standardised access across all trains and across all stations.

We need to campaign to make sure DfT makes it a mandatory requirement that all rail stock and stations have standardised access provisions and facilities, including all fixtures and fittings.”

Emily Brothers, from the GMB union, said the rail industry had successfully lobbied in the 1990s for a lengthy implementation period for rail access regulations, as part of the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act.

She said: “Twenty-odd years later they are still procrastinating and not bringing in carriages, rolling stock that are standardised or accessible, as we have seen with Great Western and Hitachi. That is not acceptable.

It is time for disabled people to be able to freely travel when they need to, to have the support of guards on all trains, to have a way in which they can find access on the train but also to get off the train on any station and get onto another or access the local environment.”

23 May 2019

 

 

New mental capacity legislation ‘is still flawed and fails on protection’

The government’s new mental capacity act – which has now become law – is still flawed and is a prime example of how not to design disability-related policy, according to a leading disabled people’s organisation.

The Mental Capacity (Amendment) Act became law last Thursday (16 May) when it received royal assent.

It will introduce a new system, Liberty Protection Safeguards, which will replace the crisis-ridden Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards and will apply to service-users who are said to need to have restrictions placed on their liberty as part of their care but are considered to be unable to consent to those arrangements.

At one stage, Inclusion London and People First (Self Advocacy) described the bill as “potentially dangerous” as it was passing through parliament, with concerns that it would weaken disabled people’s rights.

Although some concessions were made after repeated flaws in the bill were highlighted, there are still concerns that the act fails to offer enough protection to disabled people.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the safeguards would have “vulnerable people at their heart, and will streamline existing care planning processes to reform a backlogged and bureaucratic system”.

It will now consult on a “comprehensive” code of practice, and said it was working with “a wide range of organisations to ensure these reforms truly promote and protect vulnerable people’s liberty”.

DHSC was repeatedly criticised throughout the bill’s process through parliament for its failure to consult with disabled people and their organisations over its contents.

It previously admitted in a freedom of information response to Inclusion London that it failed to consult any organisations led by disabled people while drawing up the bill.

Instead, it resorted to discussions with big charities like Mencap and Sense, which are run and controlled by non-disabled people, a clear breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Svetlana Kotova, coordinator of Inclusion London’s Disability Justice Project, said: “This act is an example of how the government should not design its policy.

It was developed with very little consultation with disabled people and DDPOs [Deaf and disabled people’s organisations], despite the clear requirement in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The act was rushed through parliament, allowing very little engagement and scrutiny by those who will be affected by it. 

Although the government was under pressure and at the end had to concede on many important issues, we are still concerned that the system introduced by the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Act does not offer sufficient protection of disabled people’s right to liberty. 

There is no duty to promote liberty and make sure support is put in place in the community [to prevent people being stuck in, or forced into, institutions].  

There is still limited access to independent reviews and not enough support to challenge deprivation of liberty decisions.”   

She added: “The government has left too many important issues to be clarified in the code of practice and we are very disappointed that so far the DHSC has not set up an accessible mechanism to engage people with learning difficulties and DDPOs [on the code of practice].” 

23 May 2019

 

 

TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference: Urgent action call on deaths of autistic people

Disabled trade unionists have called for urgent action to address the tragic inadequacies that have led to the deaths of scores of autistic and other disabled people in care settings.

This week’s annual TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference in Bournemouth backed an emergency motion that criticised the government for failing to act on flaws identified by investigations into the deaths.

It came as a new BBC Panorama documentary revealed alleged abuse at a private sector care facility for autistic people and people with learning difficulties, this time at Whorlton Hall, in County Durham.

The allegations have led to the launch of a police investigation and the suspension of 16 members of staff, as well as a CQC apology for its failure to spot the abuse.

This week’s motion, proposed by autistic rights campaigner Janine Booth, a member of the TUC disabled workers’ committee, focused on the death of Colette McCulloch, who was struck and killed by a lorry after wandering onto the A1 near Bedford in July 2016.

An inquest in March this year found there had been inadequacies in her care that contributed to her death, and that she had been failed by a lack of a mental health assessment and an inadequate regime of care, although no individual or organisation had been directly at fault.

She had been living in a residential care home near Bedford, after being placed there by Sussex Partnership NHS Trust, while requests for a Mental Health Act assessment had been rejected by the local joint mental health service.

The motion backed by the conference called on the TUC to demand government action to create “an adequately-funded, publicly-run, accountable and effective care service for those who need it”.

Booth also told this week’s conference about some of the many other autistic people who have died prematurely in care settings.

They included Connor Sparrowhawk, who was left unsupervised in a bath and had a seizure and drowned.

Elric Eiffert also drowned in a bath in a private mental health facility after a seizure, while his family were not told of his death for 17 days.

Stephanie Bincliffe, died in an assessment and treatment unit after staff allowed her weight to increase to 25 stone. She had spent years alone in a padded room and died from complications associated with her weight gain.

And Michael Bennett died while in the care of a disability charity. An inquest found there had been shortcomings in his care, although the care home itself was not at fault for his death.

Booth, an RMT delegate, said more than 40 autistic people and people with learning difficulties had died in secure hospitals in three years, nine of them under the age of 35.

She said: “They are all tragic cases, but they are not tragic in the sense of being unavoidable or accidental.

They are entirely preventable and they are the product of the under-funding in the care system, the involvement of private companies which will always prioritise profit, and a system which still sees disabled people as a burden rather than as human beings with rights.”

She called for “justice for those people we have lost and an end to the under-funding, the privatisation and the reactionary attitudes that left unchallenged will cause this to happen again”.

Austin Harney, the first autistic member of the national executive of the PCS union, told delegates that the Colette McCulloch case showed that “we do live in an institutionalised, prejudiced society towards autistic and neurodivergent people”, which he said was “outrageous”.

23 May 2019

 

 

Government agrees to review every care segregation case, after CQC report

Scores of disabled people who have been held in long-term segregation in NHS and private sector health settings will have their cases independently reviewed, the government has agreed, after a report by the health and care watchdog.

The Care Quality Commission’s interim report found more than 70 disabled children and adults – all of them autistic or with learning difficulties or mental health conditions – in long-term segregation in facilities across England.

It came as disabled trade union activists called at their annual meeting for urgent action to address the “tragic inadequacies” that have led to the deaths of scores of autistic and other disabled people in care settings (see separate story).

And a new BBC Panorama documentary has revealed alleged abuse at a private sector care facility for autistic people and people with learning difficulties, this time at Whorlton Hall, in County Durham.

The allegations have led to the launch of a police investigation and the suspension of 16 members of staff, as well as a Care Quality Commission (CQC) apology for its failure to spot the abuse.

The CQC report said one autistic man had been in segregation for nearly 10 years, while one autistic child had been segregated for more than two years, while 16 people had been in segregation for more than a year.

The CQC report concluded: “People will continue to be hospitalised and placed in segregation, and become ‘stuck’, unless a different and better system of care is put in place.”

It added: “If a period of hospital care is in the person’s interests, this must be provided close to home and last only as long as it remains in the person’s interests.

The report includes the experiences of an autistic boy called Adam, who was admitted to a hospital at the age of 10 and was still there 15 months later, living in a segregated “seclusion room” with padded walls.

Staff sit in the corridor behind a locked door, watching him, and shout at him through a window when they want to communicate with him.

His education consists of a book held up to a window for him to read.

Staff have still not completed a sensory assessment that might help them understand how to support Adam with his sensory issues, and most of them have only received basic online training in autism, says the report.

Of the 39 people in segregation who CQC has visited so far, 31 of them are autistic.

One in three of the 39 had faced longer in segregation than originally planned because of “delayed discharges” caused by a lack of a suitable package of care in the community.

Some of the hospitals provided their staff with little or no training in autism, with any training often no more than a short module at induction or basic e-learning.

About half of the people in segregation were in wards managed by the independent sector and half were in the NHS.

The report says: “We have concluded that many of the people we have visited have been let down by health, care and education services, often over the course of many years.”

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock this week ordered an independent review of the care of every autistic person and person with learning difficulties in long-term segregation or seclusion.

He has also agreed to set up a new group of experts to find a better system of care.

But there are already concerns about his plans after a Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesperson said the working group would be made up of “experts, clinicians, parents and carers”, apparently ignoring autistic and other disabled people.

CQC had called for the group to include “people with lived experience” of the care system.

Asked why the group did not appear to include any disabled people, a DHSC spokesperson declined to comment further as he said the panel had not yet been appointed.

CQC has also concluded that it needs to improve its own method of monitoring hospitals that use segregation.

The second phase of the CQC inquiry will now look at a wider group of settings, including low secure and rehabilitation mental health wards and adult social care services, and will also look at the use of restraint.

Hancock said: “I have been deeply moved and appalled by the distressing stories of some autistic people and people with learning disabilities spending years detained in mental health units.

These vulnerable people are too often left alone, away from their families, friends and communities.  

At its best, the health and care system provides excellent support to people, backed by a dedicated workforce.

But a small proportion of some of the most vulnerable in society are being failed by a broken system that doesn’t work for them.

I commissioned the Care Quality Commission to review the use of segregation in health and care settings to tackle this issue head on.

Today I have accepted their recommendations in full. I hope this is a turning point so everyone receives the care they need.

I will not let these people down – they deserve better.”

DNS reported last November how Hancock announced the CQC review more than 70 years after similar concerns were first raised by civil rights campaigners, and following a series of media investigations into conditions in privately-run assessment and treatment units.

In a second report released this week, the children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, said too many children were being admitted to secure hospitals unnecessarily.

She said some were spending years in institutions, rather than living in the community.

NHS Digital figures show that autistic children and those with learning difficulties had spent an average of eight months in inpatient care, while about one in seven had spent at least a year in their current hospital spell with their current provider.

The figures show 95 children were staying in a ward known to be more than 31 miles from home.

Longfield said there were about 250 such children living in mental health wards in England. 

At least 75 of them had been restrained in one month – December 2018 – with a total of 820 restraints in just that month between them.

Longfield said the quality of care was “highly variable”, with one family saying their son had not been washed for six months, while about one in four children did not appear to have had a formal review of their care plan within the last 26 weeks.

23 May 2019

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 15:33
May 162019
 

Direct action pledge after DWP pays tabloid to air-brush universal credit

Disabled activists are to target a tabloid newspaper with direct action after it signed an advertising deal with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to promote its “toxic” universal credit benefit system.

A leaked DWP document – seen by Disability News Service (DNS) – shows the department has signed an agreement with the Metro free newspaper series to publish a nine-week series of advertising features on universal credit (UC).

The adverts will, says the DWP memo, “myth-bust the common inaccuracies reported on UC” and “explain what UC is and how it works in reality”, as part of a series of measures being taken by the department across the country to promote UC.

It is believed the Metro – part of the same company as the Daily Mail – will begin running the advertising campaign on Friday 31 May.

The memo is thought to have been published on the DWP intranet on 2 May, and later passed to the Sheffield branch of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC).

Jennifer Jones, a founding member of Sheffield DPAC, said: “Obviously we were shocked upon reading it.

It is irrefutable proof that there is a coordinated campaign to spread fake newspaper articles and pro-UC propaganda, despite the level of misery that people are suffering.

Not only that, but the British public are being charged for the privilege.

It is insulting but it is also unbelievably cruel to anybody who is suffering as a result of universal credit.”

She said the memo had arrived at a time when she and fellow activists had begun to notice posts praising UC suddenly appearing on Facebook pages set up to support claimants – among all the usual “misery and desperation” – while a string of flattering articles about UC began to appear in local newspapers.

DPAC’s national steering group said it was appalled at the idea of what will be a “misleading advertising campaign”.

It said UC had “robbed millions from women pensioners, disabled people, women and children all of whom have been pushed deeper and deeper into poverty, and despair”, with many “forced to resort to prostitution and crime in order to survive”. 

DPAC has now called on its supporters to visit locations where the free paper is given away – such as train and tube stations – and “remove or otherwise prevent as many as possible” from being read from 31 May.

DPAC is also preparing a dossier of evidence about the DWP-Metro deal to pass to the advertising watchdog, and pledges to “make sure the Metro never want another DWP advert again”.

Jones said: “We refuse to be force-fed government propaganda, so we will put a stop to it ourselves.

If they want us to be militant, we will be militant. We are not taking it anymore.”

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

Last month, DNS reported how DWP had destroyed a damaging internal report about its failure to ensure the safety of claimants of UC and other benefits in jobcentres, preventing it being released under freedom of information laws.

Last November, DNS revealed how DWP had been forced to soften the “threatening” tone of the agreement that claimants of universal credit are forced to sign to receive their benefits, following a secret review into the death of a claimant.

The same month, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston, warned that universal credit could “wreak havoc” and had created a “digital barrier” that prevented many disabled people and other disadvantaged groups from accessing the support they were entitled to.

Earlier that month, Alston was told how a man with learning difficulties died a month after attempting to take his own life, following a move onto the “chaotic” universal credit system that left him hundreds of pounds in debt.

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

This month’s leaked DWP memo was written by three senior civil servants, including Neil Couling, director general of the universal credit programme.

It complains about media “negativity and scaremongering” about UC – even though much of the most significant criticism has come from respected organisations such as the UN and the NAO – and brags about the “great work we do to transform the lives of millions of people for the better”.

The Metro coverage will begin with a “wraparound” advertising feature – which will likely include a fake front page praising UC – of four pages, written by DWP, that compare the “myths” with “the truth” about UC.

The Guardian, which broke the story of the campaign earlier this week, also revealed that a Metro national “cover wrap” costs £250,000 (PDF), although the full advertising campaign will cost many tens of thousands of pounds more.

The memo even admits that DWP will deliberately not be using its branding on the features, intentionally disguising their origin, which appears to be a breach of advertising guidelines.

The memo says the Metro advertising features will be part of a wider campaign “to tackle misconceptions and improve the reputation of UC”, which has already included work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd writing to every MP, and to journalists, asking them to “come and see for themselves the great work we do”.

The memo also mentions a new three-part BBC documentary, in which it says the broadcaster will “intelligently explore” UC by “spending time with our people who are instrumental in implementing it”.

The memo says the documentary, which will air this autumn, will be “a fantastic opportunity for us”.

But a separate document from the PCS union expresses concerns about the documentary and warns of potential penalties that might be imposed on staff who are critical of DWP when interviewed by the BBC.

A BBC press release on the documentary said it would “take a fresh look” at UC and “unearth the strengths and limitations of the new system to understand the impact and reality of Universal Credit today”.

It will include interviews with work coaches, Rudd, senior civil servants, claimants, local authorities, advice agencies and charities.

Asked about the memo and the Metro advertising campaign, DWP said it did not comment on leaked documents, but a spokesperson said: “It’s important people know about the benefits available to them, and we regularly advertise universal credit.

All our advertising abides by the strict guidelines set by the Advertising Standards Authority.”

Metro had not responded to requests for a comment by noon today (Thursday).

16 May 2019

 

 

Commons civil servants block DNS over DWP benefit deaths cover-up

House of Commons civil servants have blocked attempts to confirm that an influential MP is opposing efforts to highlight a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) cover-up of deaths linked to its social security reforms.

Disability News Service (DNS) has been trying since last week to secure a response from Frank Field, who chairs the Commons work and pensions select committee, to the cover-up by DWP ministers and senior civil servants.

A spokesperson for the committee has said that “we cannot – and will not” comment, but she has since refused to confirm whether the questions about the cover-up had been passed to Field, or whether the refusal to comment had been made solely by civil servants.

DNS has attempted to contact senior figures within the House of Commons communications department but has encountered further obstruction.

By noon today (Thursday), it was still not clear whether Field himself was refusing to comment on the cover-up, or whether Commons civil servants were simply refusing to put questions from DNS to the independent MP.

DNS has previously run news stories critical of Field and his committee, including – in December 2017 – its refusal to ask the new minister for disabled people about figures that showed attempted suicides among people claiming out-of-work disability benefits doubled between 2007 and 2014.

Another news story, in September 2017, saw disabled activists express outrage after Field suggested that employers should be allowed to pay some disabled people less than the minimum wage.

Field was asked last Friday for a response to proof that DWP failed to send its own independent reviewer crucial documents about the work capability assessment.

But Field – or his civil servants – have so far shown no interest in examining the evidence and have refused to comment on the DWP cover-up, even though Labour’s Debbie Abrahams has written to work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd demanding an explanation.

Although Field left DWP years before the cover-up took place, he himself was a work and pensions minister in the early years of the last Labour government, between 1997 and 1998.

DNS asked Field if he believed there should be an inquiry into links between the deaths of claimants and the actions of ministers or civil servants, and if he believed that any evidence of misconduct in public office by ministers or civil servants should be passed to police for a possible criminal investigation, both of which are key demands of the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition*.

MPs are slowly beginning to call for a criminal investigation, despite the resistance of influential figures like Field.

Last week, independent MP Stephen Lloyd spoke out in support of the idea of a criminal investigation into alleged misconduct, and he was joined this week by Labour’s former shadow work and pensions secretary, Debbie Abrahams.

Abrahams has written to work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd seeking answers and expressing “grave concerns” about the reported cover-up, and also raised the issue in the House of Commons (see separate story).

Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, Marsha de Cordova, has also raised concerns about DWP’s actions.

She said this week: “It is unacceptable that the DWP has failed to share this vital information with an independent investigator, exposing the tragic consequences of the flawed work capability assessment.  

Instead, the government has consistently defended the cruel and callous WCA, which has been linked with preventable harm and suicide.   

It is vital that any evidence of criminal misconduct in public office by civil servants or ministers is passed to police. 

Labour supports the demands for justice for Jodey Whiting and those like her.

It is time for an urgent independent inquiry into deaths associated with the work capability assessment so that disabled people and their families are given the answers that they deserve.” 

DNS revealed last week that, following intervention from the Information Commissioner’s Office, DWP had finally admitted that two letters written by coroners, and a series of secret “peer reviews” into the deaths of claimants, were hidden from the team set up to review the work capability assessment (WCA), under Dr Paul Litchfield.

DWP has this week finally responded to DNS questions about the ICO evidence.

A spokesperson said: “DWP co-operated fully with the Litchfield reviews, and shared all relevant information which was requested by Dr Litchfield and his team.

DWP was not asked by Dr Litchfield or his review for information on the specific cases you refer to.

The issues investigated and evidence sought is at the discretion of the independent reviewer, and according to the terms of reference of their review.”

But she 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.

The existence of the letters and links between peer reviews and the WCA were not revealed by DNS until after the final Litchfield report was published.

The DWP spokesperson also refused to say if DWP believed the cover-up showed there needed to be an independent inquiry, and that any evidence suggesting criminal misconduct in public office should be passed to the police.

*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

16 May 2019

 

 

Senior MP calls on Rudd to act over DWP’s WCA deaths cover-up

A Labour MP has written to the work and pensions secretary to call for an inquiry into deaths linked to government social security reforms, and for evidence of criminal misconduct by ministers or civil servants to be passed to police.

Debbie Abrahams made the demands – key elements of the Justice for Jodey Whiting petitionin a letter to Amber Rudd, in which she expressed “grave concerns” about the government’s failure to pass documents linking its reforms with the deaths of disabled people to its own independent reviewer.

Abrahams, a former shadow work and pensions secretary, had been told by Disability News Service (DNS) that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had finally admitted failing to send key letters and secret reviews to the team reviewing the work capability assessment (WCA).

In her letter, Abrahams demanded urgent answers to “these very serious questions”.

She told Rudd: “I am concerned that under your predecessors, two letters written by coroners, and a series of ‘peer reviews’ into the deaths of claimants, were not sent to Dr Paul Litchfield, the independent expert ministers hired to review the Work Capability Assessment in 2013 and 2014.

I would be grateful if you would confirm that these reports are correct and outline what steps you have taken to ensure such an omission could not recur.”

Abrahams also raised the issue during work and pensions questions in the House of Commons on Monday.

But the minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, failed to answer her questions, insisting instead that the government had “accepted and implemented” more than 100 recommendations made by the WCA reviews and would “continue to do all that we can to improve the process for claimants”.

Abrahams told DNS afterwards: “His response, or lack of, speaks for itself.”

In her letter to Rudd, she said there needed to be an independent inquiry into all deaths linked to the government’s social security reforms, with any evidence of criminal misconduct in public office by ministers or civil servants to be passed to police.

DNS revealed last week how ministers failed to send the review team two letters from coroners and a series of internal reviews, even though they knew the documents linked the WCA with the deaths of disabled people.

The admission came in DWP’s response to a complaint lodged by DNS with the Information Commissioner’s Office about the department’s failure to confirm if it passed the information to Dr Paul Litchfield, the independent expert ministers hired to review the WCA in 2013 and 2014.

A senior ICO case officer told DNS: “Consultation with the ex-review team elicited statements that no such information was received from DWP nor were any physical files sent to stores.”

DWP has this week finally responded to DNS questions about the ICO evidence.

A spokesperson said: “DWP co-operated fully with the Litchfield reviews, and shared all relevant information which was requested by Dr Litchfield and his team.

DWP was not asked by Dr Litchfield or his review for information on the specific cases you refer to.

The issues investigated and evidence sought is at the discretion of the independent reviewer, and according to the terms of reference of their review.”

But she 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.

The existence of the letters and the links between peer reviews and the WCA were not revealed by DNS until after the final Litchfield report was published.

She also refused to say if DWP believed the cover-up showed there needed to be an independent inquiry, and that any evidence suggesting criminal misconduct in public office should be passed to the police.

*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

16 May 2019

 

 

Disabled peer calls for radical changes to ensure ‘wraparound’ support

A disabled crossbench peer has called on the government to introduce a “comprehensive” scheme that would provide the kind of “wraparound” support that would allow disabled people to live an independent life.

Baroness [Jane] Campbell called for a radical and comprehensive “access to living scheme” to replace the current system of support that divides disabled people into “unwieldy boxes of social care, continuing healthcare, housing or employment support”.

She told fellow peers that in the 13 years since a Labour government committed to a policy of promoting independent living and integrated support, progress had “ground nearly to a halt”, and in some areas was “regressing rapidly”.

She pointed to a combination of austerity measures, the closure of the Independent Living Fund, the introduction of personal independence payment, and “a lack of progress in the realisation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”.

Baroness Campbell told peers of proposals developed by the Independent Living Strategy Group (ILSG)*, which she chairs, which include incorporating article 19 of the UN convention – on independent living – into UK law.

Such a move would provide a legal right to independent living for the first time.

ILSG wants to see a national access to living fund, bringing together the various sources of support into one pot, with the government reinvesting in user-led regional organisations such as centres for independent living, and helping to fund new co-operatives, social enterprises, community businesses and other charities.

Baroness Campbell said: “This would enable a hundred flowers to blossom, making for a strong access to living culture, and enabling all disabled people – all, no matter what their medical condition – to maximise their life chances.

An access to living investment would foster the transformative social capital we have yet failed to realise under current outdated systems, which, in social care support alone, now offer only the top-down, survival safety-net services.”

Responding to the debate on behalf of the government, the Tory peer Baroness Barran said she would be “absolutely delighted” to meet the ILSG.

They were taking part in a Lords debate secured by the Tory peer Lord Borwick on the issues facing disabled people and the “potential for improved treatment and outcomes in the next 50 years”.

Another crossbench disabled peer, Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, spoke of the continuing problems she faced with the inaccessible rail system, including “getting on and off trains”, the booking system and the frequent lack of accessible toilets.

She also highlighted the failure of the new Caledonian Sleeper – which has received more than £100 million in public funding from the UK and Scottish governments – to include any accessible showers, as reported last week by Disability News Service.

She told peers: “I am looking forward to a time when I book such a journey and push through the station in my pyjamas looking for an accessible shower that may or may not be in the station. I am not sure that anyone is ready for that.”

And she criticised the rail industry’s failure to consult with disabled people, describing it as a “travesty”, and called on the government to look again at rail regulations so that disabled people “can have the same miserable experience as everybody else”.

Baroness Barran said she would raise the points made by Baroness Grey-Thompson with the Department for Transport, “particularly regarding design regulations and co-production”.

The disabled Liberal Democrat peer Baroness [Celia] Thomas said it was “shocking” that the government had still not published its adult social care green paper, and she said that “far more attention” needed to be paid to the provision of accessible, adaptable and wheelchair-accessible homes.

She also said she wanted to see more accessible restaurants, cafes, shops and hotels, and “far more disabled people not just in employment but in positions of power and influence as local councillors, school governors, mayors, CEOs, MPs, peers, judges and, yes, government ministers”.

She said: “In 50 years’ time, life may well be better for all disabled people, but only if those in positions of leadership always involve disabled people themselves in what they really need and what really works for them.”

Lord Borwick suggested that campaigners were “winning the argument” for all new homes to be built to the Lifetime Homes standard.

Baroness Thornton, for Labour, said there had almost been a “perfect storm” of failed public policy on disability, including £7 billion taken out of adult social care budgets because of reduced funding since 2010, four-fifths of local authorities saying there was not enough provision of social care services, and a social care system that was “in crisis”.

Baroness Barran accepted that key indicators still showed “multiple disadvantages for disabled people, from poverty to educational outcomes, employment, discrimination, isolation and a lack of opportunity”.

But she said the government was “committed to addressing this across a range of key policy areas including, to name but three, employment, healthcare and transport”.

*ILSG has been working on protecting and promoting disabled people’s rights to independent living in England since 2013. Its members include disabled people who were part of the independent living movement during the 1970s and in later years, as well as younger activists, other individuals and organisations concerned with independent living.

16 May 2019

 

 

Panel seeks DPOs for pioneering partnership with mayor

Disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) across Greater Manchester have been given the chance to take part in a pioneering new partnership with local government.

Andy Burnham, the Greater Manchester mayor, is funding a new Disabled People’s Panel (DPP) that will work with him and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) he chairs.

The authority – whose other 10 members are the leaders of Greater Manchester’s 10 borough councils – has commissioned Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP) to set up the panel.

The panel will aim to shape, challenge and influence policy affecting disabled people across Greater Manchester, by advising and consulting with GMCA.

The panel’s members will be local disability organisations drawn from across Greater Manchester’s 10 boroughs, with most of them likely to be DPOs committed to the social model of disability, with strong engagement with their local community, and successful representation of diverse groups, including LGBT and black and minority ethnic communities.

Those taking part will receive an involvement fee from the mayor’s office, while two GMCDP staff are being paid to set up the panel, keep it running and help it liaise with local authorities across Greater Manchester.

Manchester has become the first city region in the UK to introduce a disabled people’s panel that will be involved in such a senior level of strategic policy-making.

It is a significant success for GMCDP, which said before Burnham’s election as Greater Manchester’s first elected mayor in 2017 that it hoped to persuade the successful mayoral candidate to make the region a trailblazer for disability rights in England and “develop ground-breaking initiatives to tackle disability”.

Rick Burgess, the newly-appointed outreach and panel development worker at GMCDP, said: “It’s an experiment and it’s an adventure because it’s never been done before, and it’s always worth trying a new way of interfacing with power to make things better for disabled people.

The long-term aim is to have an ongoing engagement between disabled people across Manchester and the organisations that make policy across Manchester.

Because of devolution, there are opportunities to do things differently from Westminster.

Central government in Westminster has been condemned by the UN for how they treat disabled people. In Greater Manchester we can certainly do better than that.

Some of what we can do is mitigation or harm reduction when there are bad policies nationally.

I would hope we can find ways to lessen their harmful impact on people.”

The mayor’s office has agreed that the organisations appointed to the panel will receive an involvement fee and training, in contrast to the unpaid chairs and members of the Regional Stakeholder Network being set up by the government’s Office for Disability Issues.

Burgess said: “Fair play to Andy Burnham and the combined authority. They have thought to themselves: we don’t know everything, maybe we need to listen to the people who are experts in their own lives on how we make policy and stuff.

It is democracy in action. We are looking to gather up the views of disabled people throughout Greater Manchester and affect policy-making at the highest level.”

Although some of the panel members may not be organisations led and controlled by disabled people, Burgess hopes and expects that most of them will be.

He said: “This is for disabled people to change the policies that affect them, so it is primarily about disabled people forming the panel.”

He stressed that the panel would decide its own priorities, but issues that are consistently coming up in discussion with disabled people in Greater Manchester are transport, housing, social care and benefits, and then accessibility and employment, he said.

As well as a panel of probably between 15 and 20 members, organisations will also be able to ask to be associate members, so they can contribute and be kept informed of its work.

Burgess said GMCDP was keen to spread the idea of the DPP to other parts of the country if it is successful, providing an “incredibly representative engagement between power and disabled people so eventually power becomes less ableist and more inclusive and removes those barriers we are always talking about”.

The deadline for applications to join the panel is 28 May.

16 May 2019

 

 

Disabled activist tells parliamentary meeting of need for ‘new approach’ to social care

A leading disabled activist has told a parliamentary meeting of the need for a “new approach” to supporting disabled people that focuses on the promotion of independent living.

Bob Williams-Findlay, a former chair of the British Council of Disabled People and a director of Being the Boss, a user-led organisation which supports disabled people who employ PAs, told the meeting that the system of social support for disabled people “has not ever been fit for purpose”.

He said a new approach to supporting disabled people should draw upon both the last Labour government’s Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People strategy and demands by the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) for a new national independent living support service that would eliminate the postcode lottery in support.

ROFA wants a legal right to independent living, and a national independent living service funded by general taxation and delivered locally in co-production with disabled people.

The meeting was organised by the Reclaim Social Care (RSC) campaign, which itself was born from Health Campaigns Together, a coalition that brings together organisations fighting to defend the NHS.

RSC aims to develop a parallel campaign to Health Campaigns Together, for a “properly funded and publicly accountable” social care system.

RSC wants a universal social care service, free at the point of use to all who need it, fully funded through progressive taxation, and locally provided, locally accountable and designed as far as possible by service-users.

But Williams-Findlay told the meeting that managing the RSC campaign would not be easy because there were groups and individuals who viewed the social care crisis from different perspectives or felt the need to champion specific groups.

It is believed that only two MPs attended the meeting – Labour’s Eleanor Smith and Rachael Maskell – and Williams-Findlay said afterwards that engaging MPs on the subject was “proving difficult”.

He told Disability News Service that ROFA’s plans were not about reshaping the “existing monster” but “a complete transformation” that would end the “neoliberal market-facing services and commodification of service-users”.

He said: “It’s hard to sense the support from mainstream campaigners for the kind of approach we are suggesting because of the diversity of opinion.

Supporting the Reclaim Social Care campaign is challenging as many of the campaigners are from traditional health backgrounds or are carers; therefore, they are not coming from the perspective we advocate.”

He said the RSC campaign needed to “acknowledge that the majority of the public have no idea what ‘social care’ is and accept stereotyped views”.

He said the campaign should “try and educate everyone about the different reasons people have for requiring social support” and “how this shapes the type of service delivery that needs to be offered and the consequences involved”.

And he warned that simply “reclaiming or reinventing” social care was not good enough because “the current crisis means we’ve gone beyond seeking urgent reform, and therefore a full transformation of the system is required”.

16 May 2019

 

 

Government finally acts on Changing Places call

New large public buildings such as shopping centres, sports stadiums and cinema complexes will soon have to include a Changing Places accessible toilet, according to government proposals.

The government has announced a consultation on the plans – which will also affect existing large public buildings that undergo significant alterations – more than two years after the idea was recommended by the Commons women and equalities committee.

That was followed last year by a petition calling for Changing Places to be provided in all large public buildings as they are built, redeveloped or refurbished, which secured more than 57,000 signatures.

Now the government has finally agreed to act by making changes to building regulations.

Its proposals would affect public buildings such as new theatres with at least 500 seats, museums and art galleries that expect to receive more than 300,000 visitors a year, cinema complexes with at least five screens, and hospitals and primary care centres.

It should mean more than 150 new Changing Places toilets – facilities with extra space and equipment such as hoists and changing benches for disabled people who cannot use standard accessible toilets – every year.

But it will not affect existing buildings unless they seek planning permission for significant alterations.

There are currently more than 1,300 Changing Place toilets across the UK.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government had announced it was considering a change to building regulations on 24 December.

Now it has confirmed that it wants to go ahead with the plans and is seeking views on its proposals through a 10-week consultation, which closes on 21 July.

Last month, the Department for Transport, in partnership with the charity Muscular Dystrophy UK (MDUK), launched a £2 million fund for Changing Places toilets to be installed in existing motorway service stations.

The Department of Health and Social Care will also soon launch its own £2 million fund for NHS Trusts to install new Changing Places in more than 100 hospitals across England.

Fiona Anderson, from Bolton, a member of MDUK’s Trailblazers network of young disabled campaigners, and herself a user of Changing Places toilets, said: “A lack of Changing Places toilets has led to me deciding to have surgery, which will give me more freedom to go to the toilet.

If these facilities were in every large public building, I would no longer have to endure the pain of postponing going to the toilet all day and the ever-present dark cloud of sepsis occurring would be lifted.

Ultimately, I also wouldn’t need to have a catheter fitted, which would mean the world to me. I’m not incontinent – I simply can’t transfer to a toilet without a hoist.

Changing Places toilets are a much-needed lifeline. But with so few of them available, people like me are forced to sacrifice our dignity and independence.”

Rishi Sunak, the local government minister, said: “Everyone should have the freedom to enjoy days out in dignity and comfort.

For severely disabled people, this is made very difficult because there are not enough Changing Places toilets.

We’ve made some progress, but I’m determined to increase the number of these life-enhancing facilities, so people are given the dignity they deserve.

I’m pleased so many people will be helped by this major change.”

16 May 2019

 

 

New access fund helps nearly 20 disabled politicians win council seats

A new fund to support disabled candidates who want to stand for elected office helped 19 disabled people win seats on local councils at this month’s elections.

The EnAble Fund for Elected Office only went live in January, handing out 42 grants to help disabled candidates in England with the disability-related expenses of standing for elected office.

The fund, administered by Disability Rights UK (DR UK) on behalf of the Local Government Association (LGA), is only a temporary replacement for the Access to Elected Office Fund, which was frozen by the government in 2015 after just three years.

The Government Equalities Office has provided funding of £250,000 for the temporary fund, covering expenses such as British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters, assistive technology, personal assistants and taxi fares, but it is not clear what will happen after it closes in March 2020.

Disabled politicians have previously warned that the temporary fund was only a “first step” and was a “drop in the ocean” of what was required to provide a long-term solution to allow disabled politicians to compete on a level playing-field with non-disabled candidates.

The Scottish government has set up its own fund for disabled candidates for local and Scottish parliament elections, delivered by Inclusion Scotland.

Anna Denham, DR UK’s project manager for the EnAble fund, said: “Feedback from participants, including from several who were not elected, is that the fund enabled them to participate equally, which both they – and DR UK – view as a success.

We would of course like to see funding continue beyond March 2020 and be available to candidates standing in any (local) government election in England.

We therefore recognise the EnAble fund as a first stepping-stone towards that goal.

Being a UK-based charity, we would also like to see similar programmes launched in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Above all, we would like to see disabled candidates and councillors receive better reasonable adjustments at all stages, from pre-selection through to serving in elected office.

However, we acknowledge that these goals are long-term and not within the remit of the current EnAble Fund.”

DR UK was unable to say whether there have been any applications for funding for this month’s European elections, which are only taking place because of parliament’s Brexit crisis, or how much funding has been allocated so far.

It has also been unable to say if parliamentary candidates will be able to apply for funding if a general election is called before March 2020.

But disabled candidates for next May’s police and crime commissioner elections can apply for support from the fund.

Cllr Peter Fleming, chair of LGA’s improvement and innovation board, said: “It is vital that the make-up of councils reflects their communities and their experience.

The LGA has been constantly working with councils towards increasing diversity and inclusion, including running our Be a Councillor campaign.”

He added: “Councils want to see more disabled people, parents and carers stand for election and to step up to leadership roles in local government to create a working environment which is attractive and supportive for people from all groups and backgrounds.”

16 May 2019

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 Posted by at 15:52
Feb 142019
 

 

Tory conference police force admits sharing information on protesters with DWP

Disabled activists have demanded an inquiry after a police force that has patrolled four Conservative party conferences since 2010 admitted sharing information about protesters with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) has now become the second police force to admit sharing information about people taking part in protests with DWP, following a similar admission by Lancashire police.

But GMP has also admitted having a “sharing agreement” with DWP, even though the department explicitly stated two months ago that it had no such arrangements with any police force.

The admissions have followed claims reported by Disability News Service (DNS) that police forces have been targeting disabled protesters taking part in peaceful anti-fracking protests across England.

Lancashire police then admitted in December that it had shared both information and video footage of disabled anti-fracking protesters with DWP, in an apparent attempt to have their disability benefits removed.

Last month, DWP refused to say – in response to a DNS freedom of information request – which police forces had passed it information about claimants of disability benefits who have taken part in anti-fracking and anti-austerity protests.

But Greater Manchester Police has now told DNS that it passed DWP information – but not video footage – about protesters taking part in the anti-fracking protests at Barton Moss, Salford.

Those protests took place in 2013 and 2014, but the force also confirmed that it has shared information with DWP from protests not connected with fracking.

This raises concerns that it has passed information to DWP about disabled people who protested in Manchester about the government’s austerity-related social security reforms, particularly high-profile actions in 2015 and 2017.

In 2017, disabled activists from the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network (DAN) and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) criticised “heavy-handed” police tactics at a direct action protest that blocked tram lines outside the conference.

The Tory party is due to return to Manchester in September for this year’s annual party conference.

Andy Greene, a member of DPAC’s national steering group, said: “Using the cover of suspected benefit fraud as a shroud for the targeting of disabled activists is outrageous.

These are public services and should be deploying every resource they have to support disabled people to be active and engaged citizens.

Yet, what we see is the use of those resources deployed against disabled people as if we are enemies of the state.

Violence, the weaponisation of hunger, the ‘grave and systemic violations of disabled people’s human rights’ – this is what we are experiencing at the hands of the police, the DWP and other public services every day.”

He added: “There needs to be an inquiry into what’s gone on; and where wrong has been done, people have to be held to account. 

Who made the decisions within these services to share this information, when, how were these decisions justified? 

Disabled people need to be shown – not words – that they are safe to take part in protests, demonstrations, campaigning and activism without the threat of police violence or having their benefits and services taken away. 

The policing of disabled people by the very services designed to empower and enable us is a dangerous road to go down.”

Dennis Queen, who lives in Manchester and was arrested at the 2017 protest for public disorder but was later found not guilty, also backed calls for an inquiry.

She said she did not understand how the police could lawfully know who was claiming disability benefits.

She said: “In the same vein I don’t understand what business it is of the DWP if a person decides to attend a protest.

As far as I am aware there are no questions in benefit claims about attending protests.

There is no rule that claimants may not attend protests for us to be breaking. If there is then we ought to have a right to know about it.

I can only assume this is being done to cause a chilling effect and make disabled people afraid to protest. As such, it’s an informal ban on protesting against disabled people.”

Three other police forces that have been involved in policing anti-fracking protests over the last six years – Sussex, Surrey and North Yorkshire – have told DNS that they have not passed on information about protesters to DWP.

A Greater Manchester Police spokesperson said in a statement: “As part of a sharing agreement, information about protestors has been passed to DWP but only in the event where concerns have been raised.

During the course of our duties, whether this is at protests or not, if any concerns are identified, we are duty-bound to pass these onto the relevant partner agencies in any policing operation. 

No-one is deterred from taking part in protests or exercising their right to free speech.

As with any operation, a strategy is put in place in order for us to facilitate peaceful protests with as little disruption to the local area as possible.

The sharing of information is a useful tool for both us and our partners, helping us to build greater intelligence pictures, identify areas of concerns and work better with the communities we serve.”

A force spokesperson later added: “Information was passed to DWP in relation to the Barton Moss protests.”

She said that the raising of concerns that lead to information being passed to DWP are those “identified from intelligence gathering before all protests, reports made by the public and information passed on by police officers on the ground”.

The spokesperson also confirmed that information had been passed to DWP about both anti-fracking and non-fracking-related protests.

It is not yet clear which other protests have led to information being passed to DWP by Greater Manchester Police.

A DWP spokesperson said: “There is no formal arrangement in place between DWP and any police force for this or other similar scenarios.”

She had not said by noon today (Thursday) whether this meant her department was accusing Greater Manchester Police of lying about its “sharing agreement” with DWP.

She also refused to say if the minister for disabled people accepted that this exchange of information with GMP risked creating a more hostile environment for disabled people who receive benefits.

She also refused to say if Newton accepted that there would be grave concerns over the possible sharing of information with DWP by GMP from anti-austerity protests that were critical of DWP and its policies at Tory party conferences in Manchester.

14 February 2019

 

 

Ministers block release of ‘no deal Brexit’ social care recruitment plans

Ministers are refusing to release information that would show what extra plans – if any – the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has put in place to deal with an adult social care recruitment crisis in the event of a “no deal Brexit”.

With just 43 days until Britain faces the possibility of leaving the European Union without a deal in place, DHSC claimed that “premature” release of the information could put at risk “effective policy formulation and development regarding our exit from the EU”.

Instead of releasing its records, it has pointed to “high level” plans published just before Christmas, but they suggest that ministers have no plans in place to deal with an adult social care recruitment crisis.

Disabled people who use personal assistants (PAs) have warned repeatedly of the risk that any form of Brexit could mean their access to PAs from EU countries could dry up, with a no-deal Brexit making this even more likely.

Inclusion London said in December that the impact of Brexit on social care recruitment was “potentially disastrous”.

The refusal by DHSC to release the information came in response to a freedom of information request from Disability News Service (DNS).

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has already laid out some plans, including a national recruitment campaign to “raise the image and profile” of the adult social care sector, which was launched this week, but these will go ahead regardless of the Brexit outcome.

The adult social care green paper – which has been postponed yet again because of the government’s Brexit struggles – is also set to look at how to “recruit and retain a valued workforce”, says DHSC.

But DNS has been trying since November to discover from DHSC whether Hancock has put any specific plans in place to deal with a possible recruitment crisis in adult social care if Britain tumbles into a no deal Brexit.

Evidence Hancock gave to the Commons health and social care committee in November suggested he had no such plans, but his department subsequently refused to confirm that this was the case.

Following Hancock’s evidence, DNS asked through a freedom of information request what recorded information the department possessed on preparations it had made for dealing with recruitment into the social care sector in the event of a no deal Brexit.

DHSC says in its response that it does hold information “relevant to your request” but is relying on an exemption under section 35(1) of the Freedom of Information Act, which allows it to refuse to release information “relating to the formulation and development of government policy”.

Guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office makes it clear that a government department can only rely on this exemption “if the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure”.

DHSC says in its response that “premature” disclosure of the information – just a few weeks before Brexit – “could prejudice effective policy formulation and development regarding our exit from the EU”.

It adds: “We feel that the public interest would be better served by protecting effective policy making as we continue to negotiate our exit from the EU/prepare for all EU exit scenarios.”

But the disabled peer Baroness [Celia] Thomas, disability spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, said the DHSC refusal “suggests that there is no plan if there is a ‘no deal Brexit’”.

She said: “This just confirms our worst fears that, in the event of no deal Brexit, there will simply not be enough personal assistants to help disabled people live their lives properly if those from Europe stop coming, or those that are here go home.

This is a shocking state of affairs, which the government must face up to. It is not good enough just to hope for the best. They must take urgent action.”

The DHSC response does direct DNS to its “high-level plans”, which were published four days before Christmas and include letters to adult social care providers and commissioners about the government’s plans in the event of a no deal Brexit.

They also include the department’s “Brexit operational readiness guidance for the health and care system in England”, which again deals with action that should be taken in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

But the letters and guidance suggest that while DHSC has put into place a series of contingency plans for the NHS, some of which would also support the adult social care sector in the event of a no deal Brexit, it has done nothing to prepare for a possible social care recruitment crisis.

In a letter to adult social care providers, Sir Chris Wormald, DHSC’s permanent secretary, says: “To ensure you are as prepared as possible, we encourage all social care providers to have fully up to date and robust contingency plans for the possible implications for a ‘no deal’ EU Exit.”

But on workforce issues, his letter merely points providers to the government’s EU settlement scheme, which protects the rights of EU citizens already living in the UK, and which will apply whether there is a deal or not.

He also encourages providers to provide data on their workforce to a national scheme more regularly than they would usually do, as this “provides an important source for our national workforce risk assessments and we will be drawing data from it on a regular basis throughout the first six months of [2019]”.

In his letter to local authority chief executives and directors of adult social care, Sir Chris encourages them “to work closely with your adult social care providers… to assure yourself that any impact on providers can be managed locally”.

And he reminds them of “the importance of having robust contingency plans in place so that the duty to ensure continuity of services can be met”.

He adds: “I know that Local Authorities’ contingency plans will take into account the potential effects from a ‘no deal’ EU Exit scenario and you will be considering the impact on vulnerable people who use adult social care services.”

He says DHSC will “work closely” with the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services to support councils in this work and “ensure that activity is co-ordinated nationally across the health and care system”.

But he provides no suggestions for what steps DHSC has taken or will take to deal with the impact of a no deal Brexit on adult social care recruitment.

DHSC’s Brexit operational readiness guidance, also published on 21 December, focuses heavily on health and the NHS.

In the workforce section, it merely says: “The current expectation is that there will not be a significant degree of health and care staff leaving around exit day.

Organisations can escalate concerns through existing reporting mechanisms to ensure there is regional and national oversight.”

Despite this optimism, in an annex laying out suggested actions for NHS providers, the guidance warns them to “consider the implications of further staff shortages caused by EU Exit across the health and care system, such as in adult social care, and the impact that would have on your organisation”.

A DHSC spokesperson refused again to say what extra plans – if any – DHSC has put in place to deal with a possible adult social care recruitment crisis in the event of a no deal Brexit.

He suggested that DNS could ask for an internal review of the department’s freedom of information response. DNS has already asked for such a review.

14 February 2019

 

 

MPs hear of ways to save benefit claimants from harm… or even death

Disabled activists and shadow ministers at a parliamentary meeting have been told of ways they could help to reduce the appalling damage caused by the government’s hated “fitness for work” assessment and other social security cuts and reforms.

Academics, researchers, politicians and campaigners spoke at yesterday’s (Thursday’s) meeting, which was hosted and organised by Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell as part of a lobby of parliament.

The First Do No Harm lobby focused on the continuing refusal of ministers to ensure that sufficient medical evidence is gathered before decisions are made on claims for out-of-work disability benefits, particularly for people with mental distress.

Years of research has shown that deaths of claimants have been closely linked to the failure to ensure this further medical evidence is obtained.

A series of speakers described the continuing harm – including deaths – caused to disabled people by the work capability assessment (WCA) process and the sanctioning of claimants.

Labour shadow ministers said they would shortly be launching a consultation on designing a new social security system that has “respect at its core and treats people with dignity”.

This will include scrapping the WCA and the personal independence payment assessment and replacing them with a personalised assessment process and putting an end to the privatisation of the assessment process through companies like Atos, Maximus and Capita.

But two speakers also suggested that there was crucial short-term action that could be taken to save the lives of disabled people before any change of government.

John McArdle, co-founder of Black Triangle, delivered a presentation on behalf of Edinburgh GP Dr Stephen Carty, the campaign’s medical adviser.

Dr Carty said he often includes a written warning at the bottom of the Med 3 form that GPs must fill out when someone is not well enough to work – known as the fit note – that the patient would be “at substantial risk of a deterioration in their physical and/or mental health” if found fit for work or work-related activity after a WCA.

He said he adds: “If a decision is made not to award this claimant benefits and there is a significant adverse outcome I will report the medical decision maker to the General Medical Council.”

He has to take this step because there is no other system in place to do so, he said.

He added: “I have lost count of the numbers of evictions [and] drug and alcohol relapses whilst in recovery and medical catastrophes related to adverse benefit decisions.”

Dr Carty said that both the Med 3 form and the claim form for out-of-work disability benefits should be amended to ask the claimant’s GP directly – in every case involving a sick or disabled claimant – if there would be a substantial risk of harm if the claimant was found fit for work or to be able to carry out some work-related activity.

McArdle told the meeting that this was a human rights issue that “ought in a civilised society to transcend all forms of party politics” and that MPs needed to work on a cross-party basis to introduce such a change.

He hopes this change could now come through pressure from an early day motion and a private member’s bill.

He told the meeting: “I don’t think anybody reasonably can deny the direct link between the WCA and people dying in destitution and from suicide.

We need to work together to get more than half of these MPs to say enough is enough. This must happen.”

Rick Burgess, of Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People and Recovery in the Bin, detailed four ways in which campaigners could immediately save lives and reduce some of the harm being caused to disabled benefit claimants by taking action at local level.

The first, he said, was to talk to local Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and jobcentre area managers, and MPs, councillors and council officers, about sanctions that have been imposed and “see what wiggle room there might be” to reduce or remove them.

He said: “The product of most of those conversations has been not a big reduction but a reduction.” Every one of these conversations could result in a life saved, he said.

Secondly, campaigners can put pressure on local councils not to cut their welfare assistance schemes – if they still exist – and can raise awareness of such schemes.

A third measure, he said, was to provide and raise awareness about advice and advocacy, help people to record their benefit assessments, and accompany them to their assessments and appeals.

He said that recording benefit assessments, where possible, was the “single best thing to improve the quality of the assessment” because the assessors then “feel less free to defraud you”.

He said: “The tip of the spear of the DWP assault on us is the assessments.

If you get people helped at the assessment stage you may be saving them from a lot more trouble down the line.”

And, he said, as a result of council tax benefit cuts there now needed to be more joined-up work on “how to deal with the council tax you can’t pay”.

Burgess also said there was no assessment phase under the new universal credit benefit system, so people who were not able to work were now being sanctioned while waiting for their WCA, or their claims were being closed.

He said: “In Manchester, we have had examples of people in a psychotic crisis expected to attend work interviews.”

They fail to attend, are sanctioned, lose their flat and end up living on the street, he said.

He added: “It gets cold, they are dead on the street. 50 dead bodies this winter*. 50! That’s happening.”

Again, he said, jobcentres can be approached to use their discretion to waive universal credit sanctions as a harm reduction measure.

Gill Thompson told the meeting how her brother David Clapson had died in July 2013 from an acute lack of insulin, three weeks after having his jobseeker’s allowance sanctioned.

Because he had no money, he couldn’t afford to pay for electricity that would have kept the fridge where he kept his insulin working, in the height of summer, and he had also run out of food. He had just £3.44 left in his bank account when he died.

She told those at the meeting, some of whom were close to tears: “David should not have been sanctioned. They say that sanctions are a last resort, but he missed two meetings and he died.

What upsets me more is that people are still dying.”

Thompson said: “He was struggling and he turned to the state for help and he didn’t get any.

I just don’t understand how this can happen. Sanctions should not be allowed.

I do feel that if he hadn’t been sanctioned, he might still be here. I don’t know, but he might still be here.”

Denise McKenna, from the Mental Health Resistance Network and Disabled People Against Cuts, said there were a “whole host of reasons” why self-reporting your own medical evidence as part of the WCA process was difficult for people with mental health problems.

But she also pointed out that mental health care itself was “a shambles”, with the idea of work as a cure now “deeply embedded in the psychiatric system” and the trust between mental health service-users and the psychiatric profession “almost completely collapsed”.

She said society was now seeing a similar abuse of psychiatry to the gay conversion therapies practised in the 1960s and 70s.

McKenna said: “All of the treatments that are available are based on the idea that you are responsible for your mental distress and if you behave well enough and you try hard enough you can get better.

It’s just as damaging as what happened to those gay men in the 60s and 70s. It’s despicable.

We cannot have people who are both terrorised by the DWP and the psychiatric system.”

Catherine Hale, lead researcher and project manager of the Chronic Illness Inclusion Project (CIIP), and a member of the Spartacus Network, told the meeting that the hostile environment that had led to disabled people being viewed as “objects of hostility and distrust” was not accidental.

She highlighted how its origins lay in the writings of Gordon Waddell and Mansel Aylward, who advised insurance companies and governments on ways to cut pay-outs to sick and disabled people, as she said had been demonstrated by another disabled researcher, Mo Stewart.

Hale said: “According to them, the only way to get us out of our self-imposed ill-health is through compulsion and punishment, also known as sanctions.

The first thing we need to do to overturn the hostile environment is to call out and reject these theories.

We no longer allow scientists to say that homosexuality is a psychiatric condition or that some races are less intelligent than others, so let’s root out this so-called science that says that disabled people are liars and cheats.

Stop designing assessments that treat us as guilty until proven innocent.”

She added: “We should not be assessing work capability. We should be assessing structural disadvantage in the labour market.”

And she told the meeting: “Let’s move away from the mantra that says that paid work is the only valid route to being a good citizen in our society.”

Mark Harrison, from the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance, said that disabled people needed to be “in the lead” in co-producing Labour’s new policies ahead of a Labour government.

But he said each policy needed to be assessed on whether it complied with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), in a process that should be led by disabled people.

He said: “If we don’t have that we are going to end up in problems because if we can’t scrutinise the plans of spending departments, as disabled people we are the only ones who know whether it is CRPD compliant, we are the only ones who know whether it’s based on the social model.”

Dr David Webster, an expert on benefit sanctions from the University of Glasgow, delivered a briefing on his work, which argues against sanctions and conditionality for sick and disabled benefit claimants.

He said that Waddell and Aylward’s work had been “quite clearly intended to soften up opinion so as to prepare the ground for the introduction of ESA**-type provision”.

He added: “The campaign since 2008 to drive sick and disabled people into work through conditionality [such as sanctions] has failed but it has caused a lot of collateral damage.

It never had any proper evidence base.”

McDonnell called for a rolling programme of lobbying MPs in their own constituencies about the harm being caused to disabled people to ensure that “we are not allowing MPs not to become aware of what is happening within their area”.

He said some MPs only began to appreciate the impact of the government’s reforms once they were confronted with the reality of what was happening in their own constituency and perhaps being introduced to someone who had been sanctioned.

He said the impact of universal credit on all MPs’ constituencies was “brutal”, while the ESA process was “pushing people to the edge”.

He said: “The sanctions regime is still there and people being hardest hit are disabled people and particularly those with mental health issues.”

But McDonnell said he thought people were finally waking up to “the scale of the suffering that’s gone on”, and he said that the work of disabled researchers and campaigners like Hale, Stewart and McArdle was “academically and intellectually unchallengeable now”.

Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, told the event: “Nine years of austerity has led to the hostile environment that has been created for [disabled people].”

She said the current assessment regime was “cruel” and “not fit for purpose”, and she added: “People should view the social security system in the same vein as they view the NHS because the welfare state was introduced as a safety net.”

Margaret Greenwood, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said there needed to be a “sea change in the way in which disabled people are treated and we want a social security system that has respect at its core and treats people with dignity.”

*Office for National Statistics figures show at least 50 homeless people died in Greater Manchester in 2017

**The out-of-work disability benefit employment and support allowance

14 February 2019

 

 

User-led sector ‘faces threat of extinction’

User-led organisations across the country are continuing to close, with the sector even facing a “real threat of extinction”, leading networks have warned this week.

Those user-led organisations that have found a way to survive are increasingly being side-lined from government consultations and government-funded projects, they said.

The National Survivor User Network (NSUN) estimates that about 50 more user-led organisations that were previously NSUN members have been forced to close in the last year.

This follows a net loss of more than 150 member groups in the previous year.

NSUN, which represents groups and people in England with experience of mental distress, has now warned its members: “This is having a deep impact on collectives of oppressed and marginalised people who have been campaigning to have a voice, lobbying for legislative changes and self-organising to make things better.”

It is so concerned about the continuing attack on the value of user-led groups that it is to focus its campaigning this year on this issue.

Shaping Our Lives, a national network of disabled people and service-users, was even more stark in its warning about the sector’s future.

Its latest estimates are that it has lost about a sixth of its user-led member organisations in the last couple of years, and it believes that this rate of closure is accelerating.

Professor Peter Beresford, SOL’s co-chair, said successive governments had argued for a wider range of providers of public services, but in practice this had led to a “big shift to privatisation and the dominance of big metropolitan-based charities, which are run like big businesses”. 

He said: “The great, much-valued innovation of the age has been small, local, accountable user-led organisations (ULOs) and disabled people’s user-led organisations (DPULOs), run by the groups – disabled people, mental health service-users, people with learning difficulties – they are meant to serve.”

But he said the “rising tension in service provision in the context of austerity cuts” had led to the marginalisation of these ULOs, which were now “facing serious crisis” and “a real threat of extinction”.

He called for a “radical review of both government and funding policy” in order to avert this “tragedy”.

Sarah Yiannoullou, NSUN’s managing director, said that user-led groups and networks needed to work more closely together, share their common concerns and experiences and look at collective solutions to ensure their survival.

She said the network’s members and other user-led organisations and networks had faced similar problems over the last five years.

She said: “We are finding there are very similar and common issues, with groups closing, whether it is due to lack of resources or burn-out of the leaders of our groups, there is less and less opportunity for that independent, collective and direct voice.

So what we were campaigning about 20 years ago and feeling like we were making some progress on, now it feels as though – particularly over the last couple of years – that we are regressing.”

NSUN is now seeking funding for joint research to examine how many user-led organisations are being lost, and how well understood user-led groups are and why they are so valuable.

This week, NSUN launched a survey* that it hopes will provide evidence from user-led organisations of the challenges they are facing, the work they do, the impact they have, and the policy changes they believe are needed to support user-led groups.

NSUN also hopes the research will look at the growing use of language that “blurs the lines” between user-led and non-user-led organisations.

Yiannoullou said: “The space that user-led groups have worked hard to carve out for themselves around advocacy, peer support, involvement, participation and recovery, has become an area of income generation for other [non-user-led] organisations.”

As well as large charities, private sector and statutory bodies like NHS trusts are now involved in this work, further crowding out user-led groups and often changing the kind of work taking place in areas like peer support “beyond recognition”, she said.

Government departments, for example, will use phrases like “user groups” to describe the voluntary sector groups and organisations they have been consulting with, and don’t necessarily differentiate between user-led and non-user-led organisations, said Yiannoullou.

Such groups may have access to service-users who can take part in consultations on disability-related issues, but they are usually not run and controlled by service-users, which means the government is repeatedly breaching the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and “general comment number seven”, which was agreed last autumn by the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities.

The UNCRPD makes it clear that, when developing laws and policies relating to disabled people, governments “must closely consult with and actively involve persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities, through their representative organizations”.

It defines “representative organizations” as those that are “led, directed and governed by persons with disabilities”.

Yiannoullou said: “We want to reassert and raise awareness of what the distinction is between user-led groups and user groups.

We also want to get a sense of whether it’s just us (user-led groups) that think this is important.”

NSUN fears that the importance of user-led groups is being lost in the clamour for contracts and increasing competitive tendering.

Yiannoullou said: “It’s a real concern that user-led groups are reporting that their contributions are not being recognised and are having less and less impact.

The smaller groups, which tend to be the user-led groups, find it really hard to compete. There’s no level playing-field.

We need to have some high-level conversations about the value of user-led groups, what makes them different and what needs to happen to help them survive the current climate.”

Becki Meakin, SOL’s general manager, said: “The growing pressure on voluntary and community sector organisations to secure funding is evolving into a fight for survival.

Tactics previously only used by the most aggressive profit-making companies are now becoming common place in the voluntary sector.

Funders and commissioners need to realise that different types of voluntary and community sector organisations have different skills and strengths.

One funding model and approach does not work for everyone.”

She added: “Recent government policy is now looking to the community to meet the gaps in provision.

With the declining number of local user-led groups, where is the knowledge and capacity going to come from?

It is not just the user-led movement that is stretched to its limits, but it is also the people with lived experience who have committed their time and energy, often for little reward, to providing peer support and advocacy.

Austerity policies and service cuts have also devastatingly impacted the capacity of individuals to fight for others.”

*User-led organisations that would like to provide their own experiences and concerns can contact NSUN by email at info@nsun.org.uk or fill in the online survey

14 February 2019

 

 

Launch of Neurodivergent Labour ‘could be milestone in fight for rights and equality’

The launch of a new user-led political organisation is set to be a “landmark event” for neurodivergent people in the Labour party.

After three years of lobbying, discussions and consultation, disabled party members launched Neurodivergent Labour in central London on Saturday.

Janine Booth, co-chair of the TUC disabled workers’ committee, who played a key role in its formation, told the launch event it would be “a milestone in the fight for acceptance, rights and equality for autistic, dyslexic, dyspraxic and otherwise neurodivergent people through the Labour party”.

More than 50 neurodivergent party members backed the new organisation’s aim to campaign against discrimination, exclusion, oppression and injustice and for equality for neurodivergent people”.

The new organisation, which will hold its founding annual general meeting later this year, will also work to make the Labour party itself more accessible to its neurodivergent members.

Booth said: “We all know that there are some parts of how the party operates that are not easy for us to navigate, whether it is big long word documents, whether it is unpleasant atmospheres at meetings, whether it is things not being explained properly, whether it is a top-down bureaucratic approach that is hard for us to get involved in.

So we want to fight to make our party more accessible.”

Those present at the launch also endorsed a draft Labour party autism/neurodiversity manifesto, which Booth and others have been developing for nearly three years.

The manifesto is based on the social model of disability, and an understanding that neurodiversity should be accepted and not suppressed or cured, and comes from an anti-austerity perspective that also sets out to challenge “the deep social routes of discrimination against neurodivergent people”.

It addresses issues around the lack of diagnostic services, the impact of Tory social security cuts and reforms, including neurodivergent people driven to suicide by benefit sanctions, and the crises in social care and housing.

It also highlights a level of hate crime that has “increased with the demonisation of people who are disabled and/or different in pursuit of the Tories’ austerity agenda”.

It calls for legislation to outlaw “quack” cures, such as the “false and dangerous” sale of products that “exploit the fears of neurodivergent people and their families”.

Campaigner Emma Dalmayne told the launch event that she welcomed the inclusion of this measure in the draft manifesto.

She said: “I’ve been campaigning against autistic mistreatment with abusive quack cures for the last five years here in the UK.

I have literally felt alone for so long. I’ve had so many threats, I’ve had rape threats, death threats, and threats against my family, so I just wanted to say thank you.”

The manifesto also calls for action to make the built environment “less distressing and more accessible”, and for a campaign to raise public awareness of neurodiversity.

And it says there should be a review of the accessibility of the justice system, and action taken to ensure that “non-harmful unusual behaviours are not criminalised, and that people receive support rather than punishment if an intolerable environment causes disruptive behaviour”.

Other policies include neurodiversity training for all teachers and teaching assistants as part of their “core training”; support for neurodivergent students; smaller class sizes; and neurodiversity to be included in the school curriculum.

It also calls for the work capability assessment to be scrapped; for neurodiversity training for all public service staff*; and for a new legal requirement on employers to make workplaces and working conditions “more equal and accessible and less hostile”.

Booth said there had been input into the draft manifesto from thousands of people from within the party, trade unions and the neurodiversity movement, under the guidance of a steering group composed entirely of neurodivergent party members.

She said the draft manifesto had “a set of radical, progressive policies that would significantly improve the lives of neurodivergent people”, and when it was formally adopted by the Labour party “we need to go and tell neurodivergent people that, and say, this is what you will get if you elect a Labour government”.

She said: “We want this organisation to be not just a talking shop, not just to have conferences each year, but to actually go out on the streets and campaign.”

The idea of a Labour neurodiversity and autism manifesto was first suggested by Booth to John McDonnell nearly three years ago, and the shadow chancellor was at the launch event.

McDonnell said it had previously been “pretty bleak” for neurodivergent people within the party who needed support, advice or wanted to push for legislative change.

He said it had been crucial that the new organisation was led by neurodivergent people.

And he promised again that disabled people would be involved in implementing policy when Labour won power.

He said: “As I keep repeating, this is not about electing a group of MPs who will go off and do it for us. That will never work, it never has and never will.

This is about when we go into government, we all go into government, so we draft our manifesto, we secure commitments from the bulk of the Labour party through the normal policy-making process and then when we go into government, we all work on the detail of the implementation itself.”

McDonnell said his shadow Treasury team would be starting a new exercise next month in which they will recost key policies, in preparation for a possible general election.

He said he wanted the party to insert the issues raised in the draft autism/neurodiversity manifesto into that discussion.

He said: “If we could do that it would be absolutely ground-breaking. We would be the first party to look at this in this overall comprehensive way, and we would be the first government to do it as well, so this is revolutionary, to be honest.

I think if we can get the debate going early… we can go into government with the implementation plans there, the draft legislation in place, and the funding resources available too.

You can see how we could transform people’s lives.”

Helen Whitehead, who stood unsuccessfully to be Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC) in South Thanet last year, said she believed the idea of setting up Neurodivergent Labour was already working.

She said: “I stood for PPC in South Thanet last year and I did so as an autistic woman, because I was aware that nationally we were becoming more aware of what our abilities are, that we are welcomed by the party, that we are more than capable.

I did this because I was aware of everything that was happening, so I would just like to thank everybody and point out that you are already doing what we are setting out to put forward today and I think it is absolutely incredible.”

*The Department of Health and Social Care announced a consultation this week on plans for health and social care staff who regularly have contact with patients or service-users to be legally required to undergo training on learning difficulties and autism

14 February 2019

 

 

MP speaks of pride at being dyspraxic at launch of Neurodivergent Labour

A disabled MP has spoken of her pride at being able to speak openly about being dyspraxic, after having to hide her diagnosis from employers for years before she entered parliament.

Emma Lewell-Buck was previously a social worker but was “acutely aware that if there were any job cuts that would come around, it would be used against me and I would be the first one in the dole queue”.

She said she used to take work home with her at weekends, work late into the evening and start early in the morning because, like many other disabled people, she felt she had to “go the extra mile” and “work that little bit harder to prove yourself or keep up”.

She was speaking at the launch event of Neurodivergent Labour (see separate story), a political campaign group that will fight for the rights of people with neurological differences such as autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia, both within the party and in wider society.

Lewell-Buck, the shadow minister for children and families – who later confirmed to Disability News Service that she is happy to be described as a disabled MP – said that being dyspraxic affected her every day in her work.

She said: “Every single thing I do I need to prep for meticulously, down to the tiniest detail.

But I’m one of the lucky ones because I am in a job where I can openly speak about my disability and I can use my profile to raise awareness.”

The MP for South Shields said she was only diagnosed at the age of 27, after being assessed by an educational psychologist on the advice of a lecturer while she was studying for a masters degree.

She said: “My whole life clicked into place. I suddenly realised why, when I was growing up, I always felt different to other kids and always used to isolate myself.

I realised why I put my shoes on the wrong feet, why I couldn’t tie my laces properly, button my coat up, why I was always spilling my drinks and why the whole family always referred to me as ‘our clumsy Emma’.

I was always so frustrated that things that used to come so easily to other kids were so, so hard for me.”

This caused “tremendous low self-esteem and self-confidence” as a child, she said.

But she said she now saw her dyspraxia as an advantage.

She said: “I just see it as I’m a little bit different to some of those around me. I’ve embraced it.

It doesn’t define me, it’s just part of me. I’ve been forced to adapt and face those challenges, and come up with solutions, and I certainly don’t feel disadvantaged.”

She thanked those neurodivergent party members who had developed the idea of the new organisation, as well as shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who has supported the idea over the last three years and spoke at Saturday’s launch event.

She said: “It is thanks to you that people like me have the confidence to talk about and embrace who we are and thanks to all of you that the fabulously neurodivergent people have been given this platform to help us on the way to that much-needed societal and cultural shift.”

Lewell-Buck said that she, McDonnell and other Labour colleagues were “determined to change the culture of our society and how neurodivergent people and people with disabilities are treated.

Our approach is a clear move away from the dehumanising and debilitating hostile environment we have seen under the Tories to one where people will be treated with dignity and respect.”

She said it was “the neurodivergent people in this world who have always been the big thinkers, and creators and innovators.

We are the ones who always have the ability to think outside the box and come up with solutions to some of the world’s greatest problems.”

Among the decisions agreed by the launch event was to endorse a draft Labour autism and neurodiversity manifesto that neurodivergent party members have spent three years developing.

Included in the manifesto are calls for neurodiversity training for all teachers and teaching assistants as part of their “core training”, support for neurodivergent students, smaller class sizes, and neurodiversity to be included in the school curriculum.

Lewell-Buck, who is leading on Labour’s special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) reforms, said the proposals in the draft manifesto were “an exact fit to those that I have been arguing for behind the scenes in my team meetings”, because she was committed to making SEND “an embedded and intrinsic part of our overall education system”.

She said that a good education “can make the difference between where you begin in life and where you end up.

I am living proof of that: a dyspraxic, dyslexic, shy working-class girl, growing up on the estate where I did, and never destined to be a member of parliament.

So good education can absolutely make the impossible happen. I am proud to be a Labour MP and I am very proud to be dyspraxic.”

She added: “You have all stopped me feeling different and I have found my home and for that alone you are always going to have my help and support, and I look forward to working with you all.”

14 February 2019

 

 

Disability Confident’ Arts Council England’s job stats shame

The Arts Council has admitted that only two per cent of its directors – and just three per cent of its managers – are disabled people, despite having achieved “Disability Confident Employer” status under the government’s discredited disability employment scheme.

Arts Council England (ACE) has now become the latest employer to achieve the top two levels of the Disability Confident scheme – including government departments such as the Department for Work and Pensions – despite their own troubling records on disability employment.

The figures came in ACE’s fourth annual diversity report, which showed figures for 2017-18.

ACE, the government’s national development agency for art and culture, produced a stream of figures in its report which revealed almost no progress in increasing the representation of disabled people among staff, managers and directors in larger organisations funded by ACE.

But its own results were just as bad, and often worse, with disabled people making up just six per cent of its overall workforce in 2017-18, the same as the previous year.

And just two per cent of its directors (down from three per cent in 2016-17) and three per cent of its managers (the same as 2016-17) were disabled people.

Abid Hussain, ACE’s director of diversity, admitted that ACE had “as much if not more work to do than the sector”.

He said: “It’s really, really key for the Arts Council to be seen as an employer that disabled people want to work for.

We need to be removing any barriers that people are facing.

If we can have disabled people informing our policy-making, informing the way our funding is distributed, but also having a very honest conversation about the things we can do better, then I think we’ll see a shift in our culture and our ability to see the progress we want to see.”

There were also troubling results from its survey of major ACE-funded museums, with the proportion of disabled directors falling from four per cent to just two per cent.

And two major arts organisations – Bristol Old Vic and The University of Warwick – both admitted that they still do not employ a single disabled person, three years on from ACE figures that showed that disabled people made up zero per cent of their workforces.

Other arts organisations – all of which have more than 50 permanent staff – who admitted that disabled people made up zero per cent of their employees included The Customs House, in South Shields, Hull City Council, and Midlands Arts Centre in Birmingham.

Across the whole of ACE’s national portfolio of funded organisations, the percentage of disabled workers rose from four to five per cent and remained at four per cent for its major funded museums.

Sir Nicholas Serota, ACE’s chair, said: “Progress has been too slow, there’s no question about it.”

ACE said its report showed that fewer people were now responding to questions about their own status with “prefer not to say”, but many organisations were still returning a high level of “unknown” responses.

This could mean that there were more disabled people working in organisations than the report suggested.

It plans to put more pressure on organisations which consistently report high levels of “unknown” data, “reminding them of their obligations under their funding agreements”.

14 February 2019

 

 

Delight’ over breakthrough on Welsh independent living scheme closure

Disabled campaigners have welcomed measures that aim to address concerns over the imminent closure of the Welsh government’s independent living grant scheme.

Julie Morgan, the deputy minister for health and social services, has written to council leaders to ask for an immediate “pause” in the closure programme and its replacement with a system of council-funded support.

There will now be new independent assessments for any former recipients of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) scheme who are unhappy with the new support packages allocated by their local authority.

The new measures came just two weeks after Nathan Lee Davies, who has led the campaign to save the WILG scheme, sent an 80-page dossier of evidence about the closure to Welsh Labour’s new leader and first minister, Mark Drakeford.

Davies told Drakeford in an open letter accompanying the dossier that closing WILG would leave disabled people with high support needs, like him, “at the mercy of cash-strapped Local Authorities who seem intent on cutting vital support packages across the board with no guarantee that further cuts will not follow”.

He sent his letter with just two months to go until the interim WILG scheme was due to close.

Now Morgan has announced a pause in the transition to the new system.

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 in a written statement to assembly members, Morgan said she had considered the evidence and decided there needed to be a “change in direction” because her government’s own review had shown a significant variation in how support packages were being cut by different councils.

Morgan said that all WILG recipients who were unhappy with their new care and support package and would like a second opinion would now be offered an independent assessment.

These assessments will be funded by the Welsh government, which will also pay for any resulting additional hours of support.

The government said that the new assessments would “acknowledge the historical entitlement of former ILF recipients”, while Morgan told assembly members in a written statement that there would be “no financial barrier [so] no-one need have less favourable care and support than they had under ILF”.

Morgan, who praised Davies and his fellow campaigners, said: “It is paramount that people’s ability to live independently is not compromised by changes to the care and support provided for people previously in receipt of the Welsh Independent Living Grant.

These changes will ensure that is the case and deliver a consistent level of care and support across Wales.

While the majority of former ILF recipients are receiving the same or more care as they were previously, a significant number have experienced a reduction in hours of support.

There is also considerable variation in the reductions in support.

I have therefore written to local government leaders to request a pause of the transition with immediate effect in order to bring in the revised arrangements.

This is a significant change of approach that ensures that the needs of former WILG recipients will be fully met, and that resources are no barrier to a full package of care and support.”

Davies, who was celebrating his birthday on the day of the announcement, said it was “the perfect 42nd birthday gift”.

He said later in a statement: “I would like to place on record my delight at the breakthrough we have made.”

He added: “It is a pleasure to be working with our new first minister Mark Drakeford and his revamped cabinet that differs substantially from the previous regime.

Welsh Labour have now successfully re-branded themselves and are moving forward with a clear vision of creating a society based on 21st century socialist ideas.

There is still some work to be done with Welsh Labour on the new arrangements to support disabled people to live independently.

I am confident that this work will be carried out constructively and add to the ‘clear red water’ that Welsh Labour are once again setting between themselves and Westminster.

The fact that the party that I am proud to be a member of, has listened and acted appropriately is really encouraging and gives me hope for the future.”

Disability Wales praised Davies’s campaigning work and the Welsh government for “listening and responding to the evidence” and added: “This is really welcome news for Welsh disabled people who had lost vital support after the ILF closed.”

14 February 2019

 

 

Parents who home educate disabled children ‘scapegoated’ by commissioner

Families forced into home educating their disabled children because of the lack of support from mainstream schools are among parents who are being “scapegoated” by the children’s commissioner, according to a disabled mum and campaigner.

Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, published a report last week that calls for action to address the lack of knowledge about the standard of education and safety of the tens of thousands of children currently being home educated.

Research by Channel 4’s Dispatches, for a documentary presented by Longfield last week, found that 22 per cent of children withdrawn from school to be home educated in 2017-18 had special educational needs (SEN).

The number of children known by local authorities to be home educated has doubled since 2013-14.

Longfield said there were concerns about whether some of these children were safe and if they were receiving a good quality education.

She wants to see a compulsory register of home educated children, and greater oversight of those arrangements.

But disabled activist Dennis Queen, who home educates her 14-year-old twins Stan and Rosa, who are both disabled, says home educators are being blamed rather than the schools that caused the problems in the first place.

And she is angry that the commissioner is suggesting giving greater powers to the local authorities that are already responsible for failing children who have been forced into home education.

She says the people they need to worry about are parents who have removed their children from school but are not home educating them.

Longfield said: “We need to know who these children are, where they are, whether they are safe and if they are getting the education they need to succeed in life.

There is a clear case for the government to introduce a compulsory register for all home educated children, without delay.”

But Queen said such a register and greater oversight would be “a fundamental change to the law around children and education”, which currently says that it is the legal duty of parents – and not the state – to provide an education for their home educated children.  

She and other campaigners believe such measures would breach the human rights of home educating families, who have rights to privacy and a family life under the Human Rights Act.

Local councils have an obligation to identify children they believe are not receiving a suitable education, but they have no legal duty to monitor those being home educated and do not have the powers to insist on visiting a home unless they have a welfare concern.

Councils are responsible for safeguarding in their area and have the same safeguarding powers in relation to children educated at home as to those educated at school.

But Queen says that most families who home educate – some of whom choose to do so without even trying the school system – are already checked by local authorities, and she and others want those checks to remain voluntary.

She said: “We will comply with whatever they ask us to do, but it is not going to help Anne Longfield find the children who are not getting an education.

I think there is enough oversight already. In general, families comply when they are asked and if they don’t comply and there are concerns, they can be made to comply.

I think any further measures waste energy and money which could be used instead to find children who are not getting any education.”

She added: “Every minute we waste preparing for assessment is another minute not educating our children.

Many kinds of home ed exist and some are vastly different to schooling. Each child has a fully individualised education. They just can’t be measured by systems set up to measure schools.”

Introducing a new assessment system would “ruin it completely”, she added.

She said: “Home ed works partly because of the immense freedom we have to educate in ways which work for our children.”

She says her twins are now studying a wider range of subjects, and they have more friends, than they did when they were at school.

Queen says research shows that home-educated children have better outcomes on average than those who attend school – probably because those children benefit from more individual attention – with those improvements even greater for children from more deprived backgrounds.

Her experiences show how schools are forcing many parents of disabled children into removing them from school and home educating them instead, she said.

She had to remove her autistic son Stan from his mainstream school when the local authority halved his support package, and the school was about to insist that he move to a special school.

If she had not done so, she says, he would have had to attend a special school far from home, travelling an hour each way every day.

Rosa was de-registered about 18 months later, after the school kept punishing her for not sitting still in her chair, even though she was in pain because of her impairment.

Longfield said that many home-educated children have been “off-rolled” by schools, a process where parents are pressured to remove their child because of poor academic results, or because they have support needs the school is unwilling or unable to meet.

She wants to see stronger measures to tackle off-rolling.

Research by the Children’s Commissioner’s Office shows that the number of children moving into home education from academy schools in one London borough increased by 238 per cent between 2016-17 and 2017-18, compared with a rise of 21 per cent in council-run schools in the borough.

Inclusive education campaigners have been warning for years that the spread of academy schools was undermining the inclusion of disabled children in mainstream schools.

Queen agrees that measures should be taken to address off-rolling, and that the spread of academies has worsened the problem.

The school previously attended by Rosa and Stan later became an academy, and has off-rolled other disabled children, says Queen, who has now joined other parents in sharing her experiences with the home education website Suitable Education.

She said: “We can’t let them turn home education into a dumping ground for children with SEN. It has to be a choice.”

Tara Flood, director of The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE), said her organisation had been concerned for years about the impact of academies on inclusive education, and about the practice of off-rolling, in what was a “fundamentally broken” school system.

She said: “We completely understand why parents make what can sometimes be a very difficult decision to pull their young person out of school.”

But she said that as more and more children are withdrawn from the mainstream school system, that lets the school system “off the hook”.

She said: “If you have got a pupil population that is less and less diverse in terms of their learning and access requirements, the pressure becomes less and less to offer creative solutions to your existing pupil population.”

That applied to the government and local authorities as well as education providers, she said, and led to an education system that was “less and less willing to be inclusive”.

Flood said the home educating community was responding to “an increasingly hostile school system” but it was up to the government, the education watchdog Ofsted and education providers “to end that hostility”.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “There are thousands of parents across the country who are doing an excellent job of educating their children at home.

We know, however, that in a very small minority of cases children are not receiving the standard of education they should be or, very rarely, are being put at risk.

That’s why we recently ran a call for evidence on home education asking for views on issues such as registration, monitoring provision and support for home educators.

We have also consulted on revised guidance that will help local authorities and parents better understand safeguarding laws applicable to home education.

We are considering the responses and will respond to both the call for evidence and consultation in due course.”

14 February 2018

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 Posted by at 15:10
Feb 072019
 

Inquiry call after ‘fitness for work’ firm ‘admits it has no safeguarding policy’

The government’s “fitness for work” contractor appears to have no written policy on how to protect the safety of people claiming out-of-work disability benefits, despite years of evidence linking the assessment with deaths and serious harm.

Only last week, it emerged that ministers have omitted the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) from a new cross-government plan aimed at reducing suicides, despite ever-mounting evidence linking such deaths with the work capability assessment (WCA) and social security reforms.

Now a senior executive from Maximus appears to have admitted to a disabled campaigner that the company does not have a safeguarding policy, nearly four years after taking on the WCA contract, although it claims it is in the process of creating one.

The admission came after the latest in a long series of serious safeguarding failures linked to the WCA process.

Shocking pictures emerged of a Liverpool man who was found fit for work by DWP following a WCA carried out by Maximus, even though his serious health problems had seen his weight plummet to just six stone. DWP later apologised for his ordeal.

But there have been years of similar cases, many of which have led to the deaths of claimants.

Among them was Mark Wood, who starved to death in 2013 – before Maximus took on the WCA contract – after being found ineligible for employment and support allowance (ESA) following a WCA, even though he had never been able to cope with the demands of a job and his GP had said he was completely incapable of working.

Among concerns raised about the way Maximus carries out the assessments are that it has frequently asked claimants with mental health conditions who have spoken of having suicidal thoughts why they failed to take their own lives.

This week, both Maximus and DWP did not deny that the company had no safeguarding policy, although DWP insisted that its contractors all had “robust safeguarding processes in place to ensure claimants are not put at risk”.

Maximus, which has a long history of incompetence, discrimination and alleged fraud in the US, would only insist that “any safeguarding issues which arise during an assessment are referred to the customer’s GP or the appropriate authorities”.

The company’s apparent failure was discovered by Mike Owen, from south Yorkshire, when he spoke last week to the company’s national customer service manager and asked to see its safeguarding policy, having grown increasingly concerned about the way Maximus carries out the DWP contract.

Owen, who has himself been through the WCA process with Maximus and currently receives ESA, was told the company did not have a safeguarding policy, although it was “in the process of creating one”.

Owen said he was appalled by Maximus’s failure to have a written safeguarding policy.

And he said he believed there was now an urgent need for an inquiry by the Commons work and pensions committee because it was clear that “Maximus doesn’t have a robust safeguarding policy or process in place”.

He said DWP should have asked Maximus for such a policy during the process of tendering the WCA contract five years ago.

Owen said: “Maximus and the other assessment providers [Atos and Capita, which assess eligibility for personal independence payment] cannot be allowed to continue to supply these services to the DWP without proper regulation any longer.

The regulator should be independent from government and investigate the companies and also – in conjunction with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the General Medical Council and the Health and Care Professions Council – investigate concerns about safe practice and fitness to practice of those working within these organisations.”

John McArdle, co-founder of the grassroots Black Triangle Campaign, said the failure showed that both DWP and Maximus were “playing fast and loose with disabled people’s lives”.

He also said he could not understand why DWP had not insisted on a safeguarding policy during the WCA tendering process.

Maximus took over the contract nearly four years ago, from another discredited outsourcing giant, Atos, and the assessments are now carried out by the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments (CHDA), which is a subsidiary of Maximus.

McArdle said that, even though Atos had run the contract “catastrophically”, he had seen no improvement in performance since Maximus took over, and he said the company should now be “stripped of the contract”.

A Maximus spokesperson refused to tell Disability News Service whether CHDA had a safeguarding policy, and if not, why it had failed to introduce one.

But he said in a statement: “We aim to provide a sensitive, fair and dignified service to everyone we assess.

All our doctors, nurses and physiotherapists go through extensive pre-employment background checks and are trained to identify safeguarding concerns.

Any safeguarding issues which arise during an assessment are referred to the customer’s GP or the appropriate authorities.”

A DWP spokesperson refused four times to say whether Maximus had a safeguarding policy, and if it did not, whether ministers were concerned by this failure.

But she said: “The safety and well-being of claimants is paramount.

We require all our contractors to have robust safeguarding processes in place to ensure claimants are not put at risk – this includes Maximus/CHDA who have processes in place if any safeguarding concerns arise.

CHDA have in place a process agreed with the department to inform a customer’s GP if any safeguarding concerns arise.”

She added later: “To be absolutely clear – safeguarding is in place to ensure claimants are not put at risk.”

And she said: “Extensive checks, including Disclosure and Barring Service checks, are carried out on all clinical staff prior to employment and a significant event and serious complaint procedure is in place.   

All healthcare professionals must meet standards set by their regulatory bodies.”

But Owen said he was “astounded” by the complacency shown by DWP in its response and was also concerned that it suggested that all safeguarding concerns about claimants were passed by Maximus to over-stretched GPs and not to social services.

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

7 February 2019

 

 

Shocking’ PIP death figures ‘show assessment process is unfit for purpose’

About 1,600 working-age disabled people are dying every year after having their claim for disability benefits rejected, the government has been forced to admit.

The Department for Work and Pensions figures (DWP) reveal that 7,990 disabled people who lodged a claim for person independence payment (PIP) in the five years after the new benefit was launched in April 2013 had died within six months of registering their claim, while also having that claim rejected.

These figures mean that more than 130 working-age disabled people a month have been found ineligible for PIP following an initial assessment by government contractors Atos and Capita but were still so unwell that they died soon afterwards*.

Another set of figures released by DWP shows that 3,680 disabled people – or more than 60 a month – died within three months of their initial PIP applications being rejected by DWP.

Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, said: “These shocking figures show that the cruel and callous PIP assessment is unfit for purpose.

That thousands of people die three months after being denied vital social security payments is disgraceful.

Ill and disabled people are being failed [with] the most tragic consequences.

Labour will end the hostile environment in the DWP and replace the PIP assessment framework with a system that treats disabled people with dignity and respect.”

The figures were released to Labour MP Madeleine Moon by Sarah Newton, the minister for disabled people.

It was Moon who secured other figures last month which showed that more than 17,000 PIP claimants – out of a total of more than 3.6 million – had died during the five years while waiting for DWP to make a decision on their claim.

Newton also told her last week that 11,790 of these undecided claims were dealt with under “normal rules” and so had not been fast-tracked because they were terminally-ill.

The Bridgend MP said this week: “These shameful figures reveal how gravely ill people, eligible for benefits, have tragically fallen through the cracks of a failing system as they approach the end of life.

Questions to the DWP have uncovered many cases where terminally ill people have had their PIP applications rejected when applying under normal rules** and have died within six months.

It is disgusting that people who are dying have not been treated with compassion and support and their claim fast tracked.

When you only have a short time left to live you must not be let down by a callous system which is not fit for purpose.”

Moon has introduced a private members’ bill, which would remove the current “arbitrary” time limit which means claimants can only be treated as terminally-ill if they have less than six months left to live.

She said: “My bill will bring the changes needed to ensure we bring dignity and some financial security to the terminally ill and their families.

All terminally ill people should be able to access the special rules for terminal illness (SRTI) process.

The clinical judgement of a healthcare professional should be enough to determine when someone has a terminal condition, without reference to a six months prognosis.

Removing the arbitrary time limit provides medical professionals with greater clarity, and more importantly, ensures the terminally ill receive support with the speed and compassion they deserve.

There are similarities between the new figures secured by Moon and statistics released by DWP in 2015, which showed that about 100 disabled people every month who had applied for employment and support allowance (ESA) were dying soon after being found fit for work.

As with the ESA figures, it is not currently possible to draw clear conclusions about how deeply flawed the PIP assessment process is because of DWP’s failure to release comparable statistics for the general population.

Disabled People Against Cuts researcher Anita Bellows, who has previously carried out widely-praised work examining the PIP contracts awarded to Atos and Capita, said: “Once again, the spotlight is on disability assessment contractors, Atos and Capita, and on the DWP, after the release of figures showing the number of claimants dying after their PIP were disallowed.”

She said the figures should be viewed in the light of around 70 per cent of claimants appealing a PIP decision having the initial decision overturned by a tribunal.

She said: “So it can be said with certitude that some of these people who died were denied the support they were entitled to, or they might have died because of this lack of support. 

DWP, Atos and Capita have shown time and time again that they are not fit for purpose, and neither are the tests supposed to assess disability and fitness for work, which have lost all credibility.

It is time to overhaul the whole system to prevent it doing further harm.”

A DWP spokesperson refused to say whether Newton agreed that the figures showed that the PIP process was failing a substantial number of very ill people.

But she said in a statement: “DWP decision makers take into consideration all the evidence provided, including from their medical professionals, when determining eligibility for PIP.

Meanwhile, we fast-track the claim process for people who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

We are determined that people get the support they need and under PIP 31 per cent of people get the highest possible support, compared with 15 per cent under DLA.

We are also stopping unnecessary reassessment for PIP for people with the most severe and life-long conditions.”

She also said that new SRTI claims currently take an average of six working days to process.

She said: “We are absolutely committed to improving the overall PIP claimant experience as this is what claimants rightly expect and deserve.

Our thoughts are with the friends and family of anyone who has passed away but there is no evidence in this data to suggest someone’s reason for claiming PIP was the cause of their death and it would be misleading to suggest otherwise.

People claim PIP for various reasons, the majority of which are non-life threatening.”

Meanwhile, DWP has published the results of its annual benefits satisfaction survey, which show that the percentage of PIP claimants who had been in contact with DWP in the previous three months and were satisfied with the service they received plunged from 87 per cent in 2016-17 to 82 per cent in 2017-18.

The proportion who said they were dissatisfied rose from 12 to 17 per cent, and the proportion who said they were very dissatisfied almost doubled, increasing from five to nine per cent.

Newton also released figures this week to de Cordova which showed that the number of complaints received by Atos and Capita about the PIP assessment process increased from 8,900 in 2017 to 9,400 in 2018.

Newton said: “Both of these figures equate to less than one per cent of the total number of assessments carried out that year.”

*The cause of death may be unrelated to the condition or impairment for which the claimant was seeking PIP

**Those expected not to live longer than six months, as opposed to those applying under Normal Rules, should receive PIP more quickly

7 February 2019

 

 

Newton forced to apologise after misleading MPs in WOW debate

The minister for disabled people has been forced to apologise to MPs after Disability News Service (DNS) caught her misleading MPs about support for disabled people for the fourth time in less than a year.

The misleading comments by Sarah Newton about disability poverty came in December when she was responding to a House of Commons debate on the impact of eight years of cuts to disability support.

But it was only on Tuesday this week, four days after DNS had drawn the attention of her press officers to her misleading comments, that she sent a letter apologising to MPs.

December’s backbench debate was the result of months of lobbying of cross-party MPs by the disabled-led WOWcampaign, which has been pushing for six years for the government to carry out an assessment of the impact of all its cuts to disabled people’s support.

The government has repeatedly refused to carry out a cumulative impact assessment (CIA), even though the organisations that have called for one include the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, the government’s own social security advice body, and peers on the House of Lords Equality Act 2010 and disability committee.

But in her response to a motion calling on the government to carry out a CIA, Newton told MPs in December that Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures showed that “poverty for people in families with a disabled person has improved since 2010 on three of the four measures, and there was no change in the fourth”.

DNS subsequently submitted a freedom of information request to DWP, asking for the data she relied on in making these claims.

The DWP response, which includes a link to the relevant statistics, has revealed that Newton’s claim was wrong.

Although three measures do show disability poverty has improved between 2009-10 and 2016-17, the fourth measure – showing relative low income after housing costs – shows the proportion of individuals in households with a disabled member who were in poverty rose from 25 per cent to 26 per cent (an increase of four per cent, or 1 percentage point).

A DWP spokesperson said: “Immediately after being made aware she had been provided with incorrect briefing for the debate, the minister sent a letter of apology to MPs that will be published in the House of Commons library.”

In the letter, to Labour’s Debbie Abrahams, who secured the debate, Newton blamed an “inaccurate briefing” for her error.

She said: “I sincerely apologise for the mistake. I will be placing a copy of this letter in the House Library, and making a Ministerial correction to Hansard.

I will also be providing a copy of this letter to Mr Speaker.”

Ian Jones, from WOW, said: “This government have lied when denying that austerity was targeted at disabled people.

This government have lied when they say the WCA and austerity have not killed thousands of disabled people. 

WOWcampaign believe this pattern of lying can be extended to show that this government is also lying when they argue their policies are doing no harm to disabled people.”

Michelle Maher, also from WOW, said the campaign had “fought for the truth” about the impact of multiple cuts on disabled children and adults over the last eight years, to demonstrate how they had hit “one section of society harder than any other group”.

She said: “That mistakes have continuously been made around disability cuts statistics to the House of Commons demonstrates that a formal cumulative impact assessment is needed so all parties and the public know the true impact of austerity… and with the aim that our rights as citizens of the UK be protected.”

Abrahams told DNS: “It is extremely disappointing that the minister for disabled people made such an error on the number of disabled people living in relative poverty (after housing costs). 

These are not just abstract numbers; living in poverty for disabled people means living in isolation, unable to properly heat their homes or feed themselves. 

My debate, at which the minister made this error, was on understanding all the factors contributing to disabled people living in poverty and she should heed our calls for an independent cumulative impact assessment of government cuts to disabled people, their families and carers.”

It is the first time that Newton has apologised for the various misleading statements highlighted by DNS over the last year.

In January 2018, she misled MPs about a court of appeal judgment that was highly critical of her new boss, Esther McVey, just a day after McVey’s appointment as the new work and pensions secretary.

Last June, Newton told MPs that there had been “no freeze in the benefits that disabled people receive”, even though the main component of employment and support allowance (ESA) and the top-up paid to those in the ESA work-related activity group, continue to be frozen.

The following month, Newton misled MPs yet again, this time about the origins of the government’s much-criticised Disability Confident employment scheme.

7 February 2019

 

 

Ill thought out’ bill needs stronger safeguards, minister told after meeting

The government must introduce “stronger and more effective safeguards” to protect the rights of service-users who face having their freedom restricted by health and care providers, disabled campaigners have told a minister.

Inclusion London wrote to care minister Caroline Dinenage yesterday (Wednesday) about the government’s mental capacity (amendment) bill, which is currently awaiting its Commons report stage.

The letter followed a meeting between Dinenage and representatives of Inclusion London and People First (Self Advocacy) this week, and an open letter to Inclusion London published by the minister last week.

The two disabled people’s organisations have headed campaigning efforts aimed at persuading the government to rethink the “potentially dangerous” bill that is set to affect the lives and welfare of hundreds of thousands of disabled people.

The bill will introduce a new system, Liberty Protection Safeguards (LPS), which will replace the crisis-ridden Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) and will apply to service-users who are said to need to have restrictions placed on their liberty as part of their care but are considered to be unable to consent to those arrangements.

In her letter, Dinenage says she believes ministers have addressed Inclusion London’s concerns, by building in protections against conflicts of interest for those making decisions about a person’s deprivation of liberty; ensuring entitlement to independent advocacy; and making sure the necessary information is provided to those subject to the LPS process.

She says the government will also develop a wide-ranging code of practice to “bring the new system to life”, and she invites disabled people’s organisations and self-advocacy groups to work on the code of practice “to ensure that the Bill does promote and protect Disabled people’s liberty”.

But despite her letter and some government concessions in the last few weeks, Inclusion London said yesterday in its own letter to Dinenage that many of its key concerns remained.

Tracey Lazard, Inclusion London’s chief executive, says in the letter: “We recognise there is a need to reform the current DoLS system but this cannot be used to justify pushing through what we still believe is an ill thought out bill that weakens people’s rights and was developed with very little consultation – next to none with Disabled people.

The bill is continuing its rapid passage through Parliament without pause, despite a very broad and strong consensus among professionals, advocates, Disabled people, lawyers and academics that there are serious flaws in the Bill and the proposed system that must be addressed.”

Lazard says in the letter that it is “utterly unacceptable” that “repeated requests for accessible information about the bill were ignored over the last six months”, leading to the conclusion that “people with learning difficulties have simply been disregarded as a valid stakeholder in this process”.

She says that the publication of an easy read summary of the bill on 31 January “can only be viewed as a tokenistic gesture given the very little time remaining to influence the bill and the lack of any detail in the document to enable people to have a meaningful say”.

Lazard’s letter includes some of the “stronger and more effective safeguards” that are needed to ensure the protection of people facing a deprivation of liberty.

They include the need to address conflicts of interest faced by independent hospitals and care home managers; to ensure access to advocacy and the right to accessible information; and to make sure that less restrictive living arrangements that could potentially be put in place are considered as part of the LPS process.

Nearly 200,000 people have now signed a petition drawn up by Inclusion London that calls for major changes to the bill.

7 February 2019

 

 

DPO welcomes ‘ground-breaking partnership’ with elected mayor

A ground-breaking new partnership between disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) and Greater Manchester’s elected mayor could become a “template” for future work with local authorities across the region, according to one leading DPO.

Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP) said this week that it believed that Greater Manchester was the first combined authority in the country to establish a formal partnership between DPOs and the elected mayor.

The authority, led by Labour’s Andy Burnham, is now set to approve funding this month which will ensure that the lead of a new disabled people’s panel will be a paid position.

That will contrast with last month’s announcement by Sarah Newton, the minister for disabled people, who said that the chairs of nine new regional groups that will make up her new Regional Stakeholder Network would not be paid.

GMCDP is now asking disabled people to apply for the new part-time post, which will have a pro rata salary of £31,100 a year.

The successful candidate* will lead on work to set up the disabled people’s panel, which aims to “strengthen the voice of disabled people and their organisations in shaping, challenging and influencing strategic policy issues that are important to disabled people across Greater Manchester”.

Brian Hilton, GMCDP’s digital campaigns officer, said: “We are really pleased to be working with the mayor’s office on this important piece of work.

We hope this can become a template for future work, not only with the mayor’s office but across all Greater Manchester authorities.”

He said the debate around how much disabled people should be paid for their labour, skills and expertise was “not a new phenomenon”.

He said: “The government is not alone in trying to devalue disabled people by paying us peanuts or, in the case of the regional disability network, nothing at all.

The current political climate allows such things to happen.”

He pointed out that MPs from both sides of the House of Commons, including Philip Davies and Frank Field, have in recent years suggested that paying some disabled people less than the minimum wage would be a positive move forward.

He said: “The reality of course would be that it further divides our society into Us and Them.

Often the rationale for paying us less is that we are less productive and that firms are doing us a favour in the first place by employing us and by doing so keeping us occupied.”

But he said that paying disabled people less – or nothing – was “not the answer”.

He said: “The only long-term solution is to remove the barriers that prevent us from gaining employment, retaining our jobs and advancing in our chosen careers.

Not only is it important that disabled people and DPOs are recompensed for their time and expertise, but it’s also important for and benefits the mayor’s office.

Paying for our expertise allows the mayor’s office to make demands on the work we do and the input we provide.

Similarly, we are more focused, invested in the work being undertaken and committed to making the ongoing engagement a success.”

The partnership is likely to be seen as a campaigning success for GMCDP, which said before Burnham’s election as Greater Manchester’s first elected mayor in 2017 that it hoped to persuade the successful candidate to make the region a trailblazer for disability rights in England and “develop ground-breaking initiatives to tackle disability”.

In contrast with the Manchester post, Newton made it clear last month that all those taking part in her new regional stakeholder network – including the nine chairs – would have to work for free, apart from travel expenses and funding for disability-related costs.

Newton also made it clear that non-disabled people and charities and other organisations not run and controlled by disabled people would be invited to join the network, potentially even as some of the regional chairs.

*For details of the post and how to apply, visit the GMCDP website. The closing date is noon on Monday 18 February

7 February 2019

 

 

New charter aims to put dignity and respect at heart of local services

Disabled campaigners have launched a new charter that aims to persuade organisations – and individuals – in their local area to treat people with dignity and respect.

Ken and Tracy McClymont have spent four years working on the Dudley Dignity Charter, which lists 10 key principles for how people should be treated, focusing on areas such as communication, privacy, choice, control, advocacy and fairness.

The McClymonts, both key figures in Dudley Centre for Inclusive Living (Dudley CIL), have worked on the charter with another local disabled people’s organisation, Disability In Action, with support from Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council and Healthwatch Dudley.

The couple have spent years seeking the views of disabled people in Dudley on what should be in the charter, by visiting council-run community forums, day centres, youth clubs for disabled young people, libraries and the local hospital.

They were told how disabled people were being rushed by care workers who had to hurry to their next appointment; how service-providers were failing to listen to what service-users were telling them and not giving them time to explain their needs; and how schools were failing to provide support to their disabled pupils, among many other examples of disabled people not being treated with dignity and respect.

Patterns soon began to emerge from what they were being told, which they worked into the charter’s 10 key principles.

The McClymonts now plan to take the charter “out on the road”, explaining its 10 principles by running stands at local events and locations such as supermarkets and libraries.

They also hope – by setting up a new Dudley Dignity Council – to be able to monitor the implementation of the charter, hold service-users to account, and even award dignity charter marks to organisations that show a commitment to the 10 principles.

Ken McClymont, who chairs Dudley CIL, said: “Dignity is something we all want, along with respect, but it is a very hard thing for people to explain and define.”

He said he was “buoyed up” by the launch event, which was attended by three of the four local MPs, the council’s deputy leader and chief executive, and representatives of the local transport authority, mental health trust and the three emergency services.

He added: “This charter is unique in that it has been created by the local people themselves.

We do hope that many local people, businesses, voluntary groups and others with connections to the borough will sign up to the charter to encourage everyone to make dignity a thing of importance.

We all want to be treated with dignity and respect, and hope that this charter will start a conversation.”

Cllr Judy Foster, deputy leader of Dudley council, said: “It is an honour and a privilege to have joined those at the Dudley Dignity Charter launch event today.

By working together, we can rightly put dignity at the heart of care here in Dudley borough.

The charter has been over four years in the making and it is a testament to the dedication and hard work of everyone at Dudley Centre for Inclusive Living and Disability in Action.”

7 February 2019

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 Posted by at 14:54
Oct 182018
 

DWP faces nearly 60 disability discrimination tribunal cases in 20 months

The Employment Tribunal has dealt with almost 60 claims of disability discrimination taken against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) by its own staff over a 20-month period, new research has shown.

A database on the Employment Tribunal website shows that, since it began publishing its findings in February 2017, it has dealt with 57 cases that include claims of disability discrimination by DWP across England, Scotland and Wales.

The website’s database appears to show that DWP (with an estimated 75,000 staff) has the worst record on disability discrimination of any large government department, with 20 cases against the Home Office (which has about 30,000 staff), 32 against the Ministry of Justice (about 70,000 staff) and 29 against HM Revenue and Customs (about 60,000 staff).

Of the 57 DWP cases published by the Employment Tribunal, about 30 were eventually withdrawn.

But a leading employment discrimination lawyer said that such cases will “almost certainly” have been withdrawn because the two sides had reached a confidential agreement.

It is not possible to produce exact numbers, but of the other cases, at least a dozen appear to be either still ongoing or to have resulted in a finding that DWP had discriminated against a disabled employee, with at least six concerning discrimination against staff with mental health conditions.

The number of well-founded allegations made by its own disabled staff should prove an embarrassment to ministers, particularly because DWP is responsible for the much-criticised Disability Confident scheme, which aims to help employers recruit and retain disabled employees.

DWP claims to be a Disability Confident “Leader”, the highest of the scheme’s three levels.

Dr Minh Alexander, a former consultant psychiatrist and NHS whistleblower, who carried out most of the research, said the figures demonstrated the department’s incompetence and showed that it did not understand disability, particularly mental health.

She decided to check the tribunal database after hearing how DWP was forcing charities delivering services on its behalf to sign contracts preventing them from attracting “adverse publicity” to the department.

She said: “It made sense that if they are were abusing their power in one area, they were abusing their power elsewhere.

I was staggered at the number of claims. Just the sheer number suggests there is likely to be an issue with DWP as an employer. They are not managing their people properly.

It goes to the heart of the agency’s competency. It just implies so much bullying.”

David Gillon, a disabled campaigner and one of the most prominent critics of the Disability Confident scheme, said: “Over and above its Disability Confident Leader status, DWP is the very hub of Disability Confident.

Its performance around disability should be an example to every other employer in the country.

Disabled people as its customers have long known this is not the case, with even DWP ministers admitting it has lost our trust; the data from the tribunal service shows that that failure extends to its own employees.”

He added: “Disability Confident, even at its most basic level, commits an employer to work with a disabled employee to retain them in employment.

A Disability Confident Leader should leave no stone unturned in seeking to keep disabled people in their jobs. Every one of these cases is an instance where DWP failed to do that.”

Gillon also pointed out that the first six months of the cases on the tribunal website were at a time when the government was still charging employees to take cases to tribunal, with fees even higher for discrimination claims.

Those fees were ruled to be unlawful by the Supreme Court in July 2017, and were subsequently scrapped, but the government’s own research had already shown that the introduction of fees in 2013 had seen the number of cases received by the tribunal falling from about 60,000 in the year to June 2013 to about 19,000 in the year to September 2015.

Gillon said this suggested that even more cases against DWP would have been taken to tribunal if it was not for the fees.

Detailed examination of some of the cases in which the tribunal ruled against DWP show at least six of them involved staff members with experience of mental distress.

Only last week, ministers hosted a global summit on mental health, where health and social care secretary Matt Hancock asked the question: “Have we done enough to tackle the stigma, prejudice and discrimination that people with mental health conditions endure?”

Hancock also announced at the summit in central London that the UK had joined Australia and Canada in launching the Alliance of Champions of Mental Health and Wellbeing.

In one case, the tribunal said DWP had produced no “satisfactory evidence” to explain why its Cumbria and Lancashire district had sacked 10 people in 2016 because of “work-related stress”.

The former employee, who described to the tribunal that the way he had been treated by DWP had been “intimidating, demoralising and offensive, degrading, humiliating”, was awarded nearly £50,000 in compensation.

In another “serious case”, a tribunal judge concluded that DWP’s behaviour was “contrary” to its own “mission statements” on supporting disabled employees in the workplace.

A third case in which the tribunal found against DWP involved a work coach with several impairments, including anxiety and depression, who had been working at a Manchester jobcentre.

The panel heard that there had been only eight people in her team when there should have been 12.

Another case saw the tribunal find that DWP had discriminated against a disabled member of staff with long-term mental ill-health, postnatal depression and arthritis, while a fifth case saw a tribunal find DWP had discriminated against a personal independence payment case manager with long-term depression.

A sixth case of disability discrimination involving an employee with a mental health condition saw the tribunal find that DWP had failed to support the staff member “in any meaningful way”, concluding: “She was not given adequate time to recover; her representations about her return to work were not taken into account nor was the point properly medically investigated.”

DWP last night (Wednesday) failed to explain why managers in its Cumbria and Lancashire district had dismissed 10 members of staff as a result of work-related stress during 2016.

But in a statement, a DWP spokeswoman said: “DWP is absolutely committed to ensuring all staff, including those with disabilities or health conditions, get the support they need to thrive.

The department has a duty of care to its employees and aims to lead by example when it comes to the protection of employees from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

It is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of disability and all employers should abide by UK law, including discrimination legislation.”

DWP also said that the number of tribunal cases was proportionately very small, that it provided a range of mental health support, and had pledged to train another 500 mental health first aiders in 2019-20, taking the total to 700.

DWP also claims to have improved the procedures for managing excessive sickness absence by putting employees at the heart of its decision-making, and to have improved its discipline and grievance procedures, while it said it was also working to improve the quality of its internal appeals.

DWP said it only dismissed staff after extended sick leave and its occupational health experts had indicated that a return to good health and work was unlikely within a reasonable time period.

DWP said it had a comprehensive stress policy and procedures, including a stress self-assessment toolkit and a mental wellbeing toolkit that sign-posts staff to a wide range of support.

And it said it provided a comprehensive range of programmes, workshops and e-learning to support wellbeing, mindfulness and resilience in the workplace.

18 October 2018

 

 

Sharp fall in disability hate crime referrals by police

The Home Office has been unable to explain why the number of disability hate crime cases referred to prosecutors by the police plunged last year by nearly a quarter, and why successful prosecutions of such offences fell even more sharply.

In a week when the Home Office published its updated hate crime action plan, and its own figures showed a significant rise in the number of hate crimes recorded by the police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) figures are likely to embarrass home secretary Sajid Javid.

In publishing his refreshed action plan, Javid said that hate crime “goes directly against the long-standing British values of unity, tolerance and mutual respect” and that he was “committed to stamping this sickening behaviour out”.

But his department has been unable to explain this week why the new CPS annual report on hate crime showed the number of disability hate crimes referred by police forces in England and Wales to CPS fell from 988 in 2016-17 to just 754 in 2017-18, a drop of 23.7 per cent.

This is likely to have contributed to a fall in completed prosecutions of disability hate crime cases from 1,009 to 752 last year (an even steeper fall of 25.5 per cent) and a slump in the number of disability hate crime convictions from 800 to 564 (a drop of 29.5 per cent).

Only last week, Disability News Service reported how the work of police officers in more than half of disability hate crime investigations had been found to be “unacceptable”, following a joint inspection by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services and HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI).

The new CPS figures came as the Home Office’s own figures showed the number of disability hate crimes recorded by police forces rose sharply from 5,558 in 2016-17 to 7,226 in 2017-18.

There is continuing debate over whether the latest significant increase in recorded hate crimes is due to more disabled people willing to report such offences to the police or third-party reporting centres; because of an actual increase in disability hate crime; or because of a combination of the two.

As incidents can take several months for the police to investigate, crimes reported in 2017-18 may not have been referred to the CPS in that period, so the Home Office and CPS figures are not directly comparable.

Separate Home Office figures – taken from the Crime Survey of England and Wales, but less statistically significant than those recorded by police forces because of the survey’s sample size – suggest that the number of disability hate crimes may have fallen slightly.

They showed an average of about 52,000 disability hate crimes per year from 2015-16 to 2016-17, compared with an average of about 56,000 a year during the period 2011-12 to 2013-14, and 77,000 per year during the period 2007-08 to 2009-10.

Anne Novis, chair of Inclusion London and the Metropolitan police’s disability hate crime working group, said it was “very disappointing” to see statistics showing such a steep fall in police referrals to CPS and subsequent prosecutions and convictions.

She said possible explanations included the lack of training for police officers and “a lack of senior police emphasising the importance of recording and investigating appropriately”.

But she also blamed government cuts, which she said had hit police forces hard, including their training budgets.

She said: “Hundreds of staff have gone from the police in London, including many senior staff.

It is unrealistic that they could provide a service to all of us, let alone a community that finds it hard to communicate with the police because of the barriers that we have to face.”

Despite the cuts, she said, police forces were still letting disabled people down with their performance on disability hate crime.

A Home Office spokeswoman was unable to explain the fall in police referrals and failed to say if the department was concerned and what action it was going to take.

But she said in a statement: “We expect all incidents of hate crime to be taken seriously and we are committed to making sure that police and prosecutors have the powers they need to bring offenders to justice.

We will continue to work with stakeholders to address what more can be done to tackle disability hate crime, particularly increasing reporting, and how we can support the police response to this vile crime.”

A CPS spokesman said: “The CPS is only able to prosecute cases which are referred to us by the police.

We note the fall in the number of disability hate crime cases prosecuted this year and will continue to work with the police to understand any emerging trends.

The recent HMCPSI report on disability hate crime praised the work of the CPS and particularly our hate crime co-ordinators, so we can be confident the CPS is prosecuting these cases appropriately.”

Two years ago, the then home secretary Amber Rudd was heavily criticised when she published her hate crime action plan for a “totally disrespectful” failure to address problems around disability-related hostility.

The government’s updated hate crime action plan bragged this week of how its efforts since 2016 had “delivered success, including examples of strong police practice in response to hate crime and dealing with perpetrators”.

Among new measures announced this week in the action plan, the Law Commission has been asked to review current hate crime legislation – as the commission recommended four years ago in a heavily-criticised report – following concerns that it does not offer disabled and LGBT people equal protection to that given to other protected groups.

The review is likely to include examining the possible extension of aggravated offences – which have higher sentences and currently can only apply to crimes linked to race and religion – to disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity.

There will also be a national hate crime communications campaign, while the government will work with local groups to raise awareness of disability hate crime and examine how best to promote third party reporting centres, as well as attempting to “increase and broaden our engagement with stakeholders representing disabled people”.

A separate report detailing progress made on the 2016 action plan reveals that a piece of research that aimed to identify the motivation behind disability hate crime had to be “abandoned” because they could not find enough perpetrators willing to work with academics.

Meanwhile, a disabled people’s organisation has welcomed a £373,000 grant from the National Lottery that will further its work in tackling disability hate crime over the next three years.

Disability Equality (nw), which is based in Preston, Lancashire, will use the money to develop disabled-led programmes and partnerships, focusing on the night-time economy, hate crime hot spots and “recruiting more disabled people who have been victims of hate crime to be ambassadors” so they can “spread the word” about how to report disability hate crime.

18 October 2018

 

 

New ‘suicide prevention’ minister evades questions on ESA suicide stats

The new “minister for suicide prevention” has refused to say if she will alert agencies across the country to NHS figures that show the high risk of suicide faced by claimants of out-of-work disability benefits.

Last week, mental health minister Jackie Doyle-Price had “minister for suicide prevention” added to her job title, with prime minister Theresa May claiming she wanted to “prevent the tragedy of suicide taking too many lives”.

Part of Doyle-Price’s new role will be to “ensure every local area has an effective suicide prevention plan in place, and look at how the latest technology can be used to identify those most at risk”.

But Doyle-Price and her Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) have refused to say if she will take the simple step of highlighting claimants of employment and support allowance (ESA) as a high-risk group in the government’s suicide prevention strategy for England.

Disability News Service (DNS) revealed last December how NHS Digital’s Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey showed more than 43 per cent of ESA claimants had said (when asked in 2014) that they had attempted suicide at some point in their lives.

This compared with less than seven per cent of adults who were not claiming ESA and said they had attempted to take their own lives at some point.

The numbers were first highlighted by activist and consultant clinical psychologist Dr Jay Watts.

But the government’s suicide prevention strategy fails to mention these figures or to highlight ESA claimants as a high-risk group, even though it briefly mentions Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) guidance for dealing with claimants of ESA and other benefits who may be at risk of suicide or self-harm, and the department’s processes for learning from DWP-linked suicides.

In the document, health secretary Jeremy Hunt – now foreign secretary – said he wanted to strengthen the national strategy through “better targeting of suicide prevention and help seeking in high risk groups” and by “improving data at national and local level and how this data is used to help take action and target efforts more accurately”.

But the Department of Health (now DHSC) refused to say last December why it had failed to warn NHS bodies and other local services that ESA claimants were at a hugely-increased suicide risk.

And DNS found no evidence earlier this year that DH had attempted to highlight the information with local areas and agencies or to advise them to include ESA claimants as a high-risk group in their own suicide prevention plans.

This week, DHSC has been unable to say if Doyle-Price will finally alert agencies across the country to the high-risk status of ESA claimants.

DNS asked the DHSC press office last Friday if Doyle-Price would promise to publish an updated version of the suicide prevention strategy that mentions the figures and highlights the fact that ESA claimants are at a high risk of suicide, and if she would alert local agencies to the figures and advise them to include ESA claimants as a high-risk group in their own local suicide prevention plans.

But a string of DHSC press officers have failed to provide a response, with one revealing that the delay was because she was “waiting to hear back from the DWP press office”.

No-one from DHSC had commented by noon today (Thursday), nearly six days after DNS asked the questions.

18 October 2018

 

 

Account of sanctions desperation leaves disabled peer in tears at WRAG research launch

A benefit claimant left a disabled peer in tears after describing to a parliamentary meeting how the application of the government’s brutal sanctions regime by a jobcentre adviser had left him so desperate that he attempted to take his own life.

Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson was chairing the meeting, which was held to launch a new report into the government’s “perverse and punitive” regime of benefit sanctions and conditions.

Academics at the University of Essex, in partnership with the disabled people’s organisation Inclusion London, had spent two years investigating the employment and support allowance (ESA) system, and particularly those claimants placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG), for those supposed to move gradually towards paid work.

Their research concluded that the system of sanctions and conditions imposed on disabled people placed in the WRAG – who can see all their benefits cut for weeks if they fail to carry out certain activities to the satisfaction of their jobcentre adviser – has a “significantly detrimental” effect on their mental health.

Researchers told the meeting that this approach was “psychologically toxic”, intellectually “incoherent”, counter-productive and “arbitrary”, and that it “rendered people into a state of almost constant anxiety”.

DWP’s approach is supposed to nudge disabled people in the WRAG towards work.

But the 15 participants in the study – all current or recent ESA WRAG claimants – instead told the researchers how the “perverse and punitive” conditions imposed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) undermined their self-confidence.

The report, Where Your Mental Health Just Disappears Overnight, says the impact of sanctions has been “life-threatening” for some of those in the WRAG.

It adds: “The underlying fear instilled by the threat of sanctions meant that many participants described living in a state of constant anxiety.”

While those taking part in the study wanted to engage in work and vocational activity, their presence in the WRAG forced them into less meaningful tasks, and even to understate their previous achievements on their CVs.

Ellen Clifford, Inclusion London’s campaigns and policy manager and a co-author of the report, told the meeting that she feared the continuing roll-out of the government’s new universal credit benefit system would “further entrench the conditionality approach”.

She said DWP’s “direction of travel is towards more conditionality and more sanctions”, which was “one of the key reasons disabled campaigners feel universal credit needs to be scrapped”.

One of the 15 WRAG claimants who took part in the research, Andy Mitchell, from Somerset, explained to the meeting how DWP had told him he would have his benefits sanctioned if he did not remove his degree from his CV.

But Mitchell also described how the system of unfair sanctions had left him penniless and had driven him to despair and a suicide attempt.

He had been claiming the mainstream jobseeker’s allowance for just four months after a redundancy when a jobcentre adviser arranged for him to attend a business start-up course, paid for by DWP.

But when he returned from the two-week course – with “loads of ideas” for starting a small baking business – a new adviser told him he should have been carrying out job-search activity while he was on the course… and handed him a sanction.

His benefits were stopped immediately, but he was unable to confirm with DWP that he had been sanctioned, and so could not apply for a hardship payment.

When his payments suddenly stopped, and with just £5 left, his pre-payment electricity soon ran out, as did his food, and he soon had to survive by helping himself to free fruit at the job club he attended, visiting the centre every day just so he had something to eat.

His physical and mental health began to deteriorate, he couldn’t even afford toilet paper to clean himself, and as Christmas approached he was no longer well enough to leave the house to carry out the work activities DWP was telling him he needed to complete.

On Christmas Day, he sat in his house all day waiting for it to get dark so he could go to bed, trying to ignore the families he could see through his window enjoying the festivities.

He was only able to switch the electricity back on after Christmas when an aunt sent him £20 as a birthday and Christmas present.

When he returned to the jobcentre after the Christmas break, the same adviser who had sanctioned him told him his sanction had shown her that he did not have a work ethic, even though he had worked all his life from the age of 16 until he had been made redundant.

He left the jobcentre, went home and attempted to take his own life.

Because of the impact of the sanctions regime on his mental health, he was eventually moved into the ESA WRAG.

After he finished speaking, Baroness Grey-Thompson struggled to speak as she wiped tears from her eyes and told him: “More people need to listen and understand the harsh reality.

This is why something needs to change.”

The co-leader of the Green party, Jonathan Bartley, was even more outspoken, telling the meeting that the system of sanctions and conditions imposed on disabled people, and Mitchell’s experience, was “a fucking disgrace”.

He gave his “whole-hearted support” to the report and said his party would be “spreading this report as far and wide as we can”.

He said: “One of the things I love about this report is that it breaks through the noise and tells the stories that need to be told.

Our vision is about a welfare system that liberates, empowers, facilitates, not something to be ashamed of but to be as proud of as we are of the NHS.”

He said his party would scrap sanctions, and pilot a universal basic income system, with top-ups for Deaf and disabled people who needed extra support.

Dr Danny Taggart, a lecturer in clinical psychology and co-author of the report, said the idea that the WRAG regime of sanctions and conditions would help nudge disabled people towards paid work “just isn’t good science”.

Instead, he said, the “perverse and punitive” incentives “rendered people into a state of almost constant anxiety”, with some talking of how the fear of sanctions cast a shadow over every aspect of their lives.

In some cases, he said, the impact of sanctions was life-threatening.

He told the meeting: “A number of participants described a quite rapid deterioration of their mental health as a result of sanctions.”

One of them told the researchers: “I feel as if someone has put a knife through my stomach.”

Taggart said: “More research needs to be undertaken to understand how to best support disabled people into meaningful vocational activity, something that both the government and a majority of disabled people want.

This study adds further evidence to support any future research being undertaken in collaboration with disabled people’s organisations who are better able to understand the needs of disabled people.”

18 October 2018

 

 

DPO’s report uncovers pattern of council failings on social care

A user-led organisation says its research has uncovered a pattern of behaviour by a local authority that has undermined the ability of disabled people in the borough to access the support they need to live independently.

The disabled people’s organisation Merton Centre for Independent Living (MCIL) this week published a 96-page report into the flaws and failings of Merton council’s adult social care provision.

The report says that a growing number of people are resorting to legal action against the council to secure the support they need, in some cases leading to judicial reviews.

It warns that the council appears to be carrying out reassessments and reviews of people’s care packages with the aim of cutting their support.

And it says that some people previously supported by the Independent Living Fund (ILF), which closed in 2015, were seeing their support cut, with most seeing their care charges increase this year.

One service-user told MCIL: “When they stopped the ILF, everything became difficult.”

Another former ILF-recipient said: “My life has changed, I have to worry from day to day. It certainly impacts on my health. I spend hours indoors where I don’t want to be indoors.”

The report also says it has seen examples of the council refusing to carry out assessments of people’s care needs.

It says: “Our overall conclusion is that there is a pattern to the challenges people are experiencing and these are not one-off incidences.

Moreover, the impact on individuals is significant, and must be addressed.”

It says there is “a growing feeling among service users that when re-assessments and reviews take place, they are focused on cutting people’s support packages and do not give full consideration to changes to their circumstances”.

One service-user said: “It feels like a personal attack. There was no explanation why. I was told by the assessor on the phone she didn’t understand why, she said: ‘I have to cut it.’”

Another said: “Now I have to pay extra if I wake up my carer to take me to the toilet in the night.

If I am going out in the evening and having a drink, I have to decide if I should pay more money to get up in the night or if I should wear a [incontinence] pad instead.”

Some service-users even believe they have been targeted for cuts to their support because they have spoken out about their concerns.

The report also warns that the council could be leaving some disabled people at risk of abuse and neglect.

In the first six months of this year, MCIL submitted as many safeguarding alerts to the council (eight) as it did in the whole of last year (2017-18), which itself was a sharp increase on the five it made in 2016-17.

The report says: “A particular feature of the alerts made so far this year is that they are on people who are experiencing issues following a reduction in care, or they are people on whom a previous alert was made and not resolved.”

It says that this is “unprecedented since the organisation first started running advice and advocacy services in 2013”.

The MCIL report, Choice, Control and Independent Living: Putting the Care Act into Practice, raises concerns about the council’s assessment process, its policy on care charges, and its approach to direct payments and safeguarding.

It is based on a detailed review of 45 cases in which Merton CIL has supported disabled people to access services in the borough, as well as eight in-depth interviews, and conversations with union staff and former social workers, as well as meetings, focus groups and evidence from other local organisations.

It says that care charges are having a “major impact” on the lives of service-users in the borough, while the council’s policies on direct payments, including its focus on the use of pre-payment cards, are “limiting choice and control”.

Merton CIL says it decided to write the report after repeatedly attempting to bring the issues to the attention of council officers and councillors.

The report warns: “Social care is one of the front-line prevention services of the welfare state.

When people do not get this practical assistance, it can lead to death, health crisis, hospital admission, institutionalisation, fractured families and police action – all of which is more expensive and less effective than early support to stay strong and independent.”

The report estimates – from NHS figures – that 1,300 users of social care in Merton do not feel they have control over their lives and the services that support them.

The council’s own survey of residents last year found that 28 per cent of disabled people were dissatisfied with “the way the council runs things”, more than double the 13 per cent rate for non-disabled people, although the council failed to ask any questions in the survey about social care.

Among its recommendations, the report calls on the council to work towards scrapping all care charges – as another London council, Hammersmith and Fulham, has done – and to carry out research to provide a stronger evidence base on adult social care services in the borough.

It also calls on the council to monitor care assessments to ensure they comply with the Care Act; to “be clearer that pre-payment cards and bank accounts are both acceptable options for managing direct payments”; and to review and improve its safeguarding policies.

MCIL is due to host a panel discussion on its report next Thursday (25 October) at its agm.

A Merton council spokeswoman said: “As a council we provide grant funding to Merton Centre for Independent Living (Merton CIL) to provide advice and advocacy services to disabled people. 

We were unaware that this report was going to be published and we were not consulted on the report prior to publication. 

It is therefore too early to comment on the contents of the report except to say that it is based on a small number of social care users and cannot therefore be a representative or balanced view of social care provision in Merton as a whole.”

18 October 2018

 

 

Labour resists ‘scrap universal credit’ call, as Tory blames ‘fecklessness’ for food bank use

Labour has failed in a bid to force the government to publish secret papers that would show the true financial impact of universal credit on benefit claimants.

In a debate lasting nearly four hours yesterday (Wednesday), Labour and SNP MPs lined up to highlight the negative impact of the new benefit system on disabled people and other constituents, while many Tory MPs praised the system and accused their opponents of scaremongering.

Few Labour MPs followed the example of shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who did not speak in the debate but told a journalist last week that universal credit should be scrapped.

Most Labour MPs, including shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood, called only for the government to “stop the roll-out of universal credit” and correct its flaws.

But one of those who did call for universal credit to be scrapped was Maria Eagle, a former minister for disabled people, who told MPs: “My constituency is about to experience a tsunami of further hardship and poverty because of the roll-out of universal credit.

It is not enough to slow the roll-out; universal credit must be scrapped. It will never work. It will punish the poor and create more destitution.”

Another was Swansea West Labour and Co-op MP Geraint Davies, who said: “Universal credit combines three massive computer systems – the Inland Revenue system, the jobcentre system and local council systems – and, inevitably, it will not work.

The whole system is a way of cutting corners and cutting benefits for the most vulnerable.

Universal credit should be scrapped, because it simply will not work.

In Swansea and elsewhere it has led to sleepless nights, empty stomachs and shivering families. It is leading to poverty and despair.

I believe it is simply a Trojan horse for further cuts.”

Labour’s Danielle Rowley, the MP for Midlothian, said she had been sent a message from the manager of her local Citizens Advice bureau, saying: “Universal credit’s big impact is on people’s mental health.

We are seeing so many people who cannot deal with UC due to the fragility of their mental health.

It’s making underlying mental health worse. We are aware of clients attempting suicide due to the anxiety of the whole thing.”

Fellow Labour MP Anna Turley said figures from the House of Commons library showed that the full rollout of universal credit in her area would affect about 3,500 households that include disabled people.

She said: “Thousands of vulnerable people in my area are going to be moved on to a benefit that has been beset with payment delays and has seen food-bank use skyrocket by more than 50 per cent in areas of full roll-out.

Yesterday, in response to my question, the minister could not reassure me that my constituents would not be worse off.”

Labour’s Shabana Mahmood, who said her staff spent “most of their time every single day on the phone trying to sort out difficulties arising from universal credit”, was another to highlight the impact on disabled constituents.

She said: “There is a particular difficulty in my constituency relating to constituents with autism and… mental health conditions moving on to universal credit, often because they have failed the assessment – they had previously been in receipt of employment and support allowance (ESA) – having not been supported as they tried to navigate a very complicated online system.”

Labour’s Mike Amesbury, the shadow minister for employment, warned that the universal credit rollout would be “a disaster” for disabled people, with 750,000 set to lose out financially.

But he called on the government to “stop, fund and fix” universal credit rather than scrapping it, although he did suggest that “the policy may well already be beyond fixing”.

The SNP’s Neil Gray said: “The biggest problem with universal credit is that, for years, it has been an all-consuming cash cow for Treasury cuts to social security.”

He said the experience of one constituent receiving mental health crisis care in hospital highlighted how universal credit “completely fails to support people with mental health conditions”.

The young man’s mother was told that unless her son signed his universal credit “claimant commitment” he would have to apply for jobs from his hospital bed if he was to avoid a sanction.

Work and pensions secretary Esther McVey defended universal credit and its “strong merits” but admitted that there were “areas that we need to improve”.

She had said earlier in the week that the so-called “managed migration”, which will see claimants of existing benefits such as ESA moved onto universal credit, would not now begin in January 2019, but “later in the year”, and would only affect about 10,000 people in 2019.

The “slow and measured” rollout would then “increase” from 2020 onwards, she said.

A string of other Conservative MPs lined up to praise universal credit, including St Austell and Newquay’s Steve Double, who claimed that jobcentre staff “love it, and claimants like it” and that “one of the problems is all the scaremongering, primarily from the Labour party”.

But he also admitted that the government needed to “make sure it has the funds it needs to work and achieve the outcomes we all want to see”.

Fellow Tory Alex Burghart, a member of the Commons work and pensions committee, said: “I can say that universal credit was rolled out in my constituency a number of months ago, and it is working extremely well.

We have had nothing but praise for it from the work coaches who administer it, and we have had very high satisfaction rates from people using it in Brentwood and Ongar.”

One of the most shocking interventions in the debate came from Gordon Henderson, the Tory MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey in Kent, who tried to argue that the move to universal credit was not responsible for a significant rise in the use of foodbanks.

He said he had secured information from a local foodbank about claimants who had faced difficulties with universal credit, and he claimed he had discovered that many of them were “living in a local hostel that provides temporary accommodation for homeless adults”.

He said that it “soon became obvious that some of them suffered from underlying problems that affected their ability to manage the transition to UC, and that forced them into using the food bank”, such as “drug addiction, alcoholism, mental health problems, an inability to manage money, or plain fecklessness”.

He said that making universal credit perfect overnight would not “solve their mental health problems” and issues with drugs and alcohol and “would not make them less feckless” and that “they would still have the same problems, whatever benefits system was put in place”.

He said he was glad that such people were “in the minority” and appeared to suggest that those with mental health problems – and seemingly people with learning difficulties – were to blame for their difficulties with universal credit, after adding that there were also “some people who have genuine concerns”.

A vote by Labour to attempt to force the government to publish its evidence on the financial impact of universal credit was lost by 20 votes.

Meanwhile, DWP announced this week that as many as 180,000 ESA claimants will now be entitled to receive backdated benefit payments as a result of the botched migration of former claimants of incapacity benefit and other benefits to the new ESA from 2011 onwards.

The department had failed to realise that many of the claimants were entitled to income-related ESA – and therefore to associated disability premiums – rather than just the contributory form of ESA.

DWP had originally said that about 70,000 disabled people were likely to have been affected by the underpayments.

Previous estimates suggested DWP would have to pay back about £500 million, but this week’s report says the final sum is likely to be about £970 million, with average payments of £5,000.

But future ESA payments at higher levels will push the total bill even higher for several years – by a total of about another £700 million, although this is just an estimate – until all claimants eventually move onto universal credit.

DWP expects to finish the process of reviewing the cases of claimants who could be entitled to a backdated payment by the end of next year.

It is just one in a series of major blunders by DWP senior civil servants relating to disability benefits, with the department now believed to be carrying out six separate trawls through its records to find disabled people unfairly deprived of benefits.

18 October 2018

 

 

Disabled shadow minister calls for government to fund access to all rail stations

A disabled shadow minister has called on the government to do more to improve its “inadequate” record on improving access to rail travel, and to provide enough funding to ensure all train journeys are accessible “from end to end”.

Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people and the MP for Battersea, was speaking three months after Disability News Service revealed that spending on the government’s rail station access improvement programme had been slashed over the last five years.

Those figures, released through a freedom of information request, showed spending on the Access for All scheme fell from as much as £81.1 million in 2013-14 to just £14.6 million last year.

The cuts are set to continue this year and next year, although spending is due to rise to up to £50 million a year over the following five years, with an additional £50 million in deferred funding.

De Cordova, who had secured the debate on step-free access to stations in her constituency, asked transport minister Nusrat Ghani why three of the four stations in Battersea were not accessible to wheelchair-users.

She told the minister that the three stations – Battersea Park, Queenstown Road and Wandsworth Town – had no step-free access, even though they served 7.5 million passengers a year.

Although Clapham Junction, the country’s busiest station in terms of rail traffic, has step-free access to all its platforms, there is still no step-free access onto the trains themselves, she said.

Battersea Park has had Access for All-funded work delayed, while Queenstown Road and Wandsworth Town are both due to have fully-accessible new entrances, even though there will still be no step-free access to the platforms.

De Cordova said: “What is the point of having an accessible step-free entrance, but no step-free access to the actual train platform?”

She added: “Step-free access to stations can mean the difference between the ability to lead a fulfilling and flourishing life seeing friends and family and going to work, and being left isolated at home, unable to travel and excluded from participation, from leading a fulfilling and flourishing ​life, and from the world of work.

That is the reality for far too many disabled people.”

She said progress in making all stations accessible to disabled people through Access for All – founded by the Labour government in 2006 – had been “too slow”, with only one in five stations across the country fully accessible.

She called for the Access for All programme to receive enough funding to ensure that all stations are step-free.

De Cordova said: “Train journeys must be accessible from end to end. That means that someone can get to the station, on to the train, off the train and out of the station at the other end.

I call on the government to put in the investment needed to build an inclusive railway, including accessible stations in Battersea.”

She said the “unreasonable” requirement for disabled people to book assistance in advance “prevents spontaneous travel and removes the ability to turn up and go”, while the removal of guards from trains meant the railway system was becoming more inaccessible.

Ghani said the government’s aim was to ensure disabled people “have the same access to transport as everyone else” by 2030, to “ensure that we come into line with the UN’s ambition to ensure accessibility across all modes of transport”.

She said: “People should have the same access to transport and the same opportunity to travel as everyone else, and this is an important measure to reduce social isolation and create opportunities ​for people to play a more active role in society.”

She said the Access for All funding announcement meant design work would “restart on all deferred projects from April next year, and once the designs are completed, Network Rail will confirm the construction date for Battersea Park”.

Ghani said the rail industry had been asked to nominate stations for new Access for All funding by 16 November, with the money to be allocated “based on annual footfall and weighted by the incidence of disability in the area” and taking into account local factors such as distance to a hospital or availability of third-party funding.

And she said there would be “a fair geographical spread of projects across the country”.

She said that neither Queenstown Road nor Wandsworth Town had previously been nominated for Access for All funding.

And she said the government was pressing the industry to “comply with its legal obligations to ensure that work at stations meets current accessibility standards”, including on major projects such as Crossrail and the redevelopment of Birmingham New Street, and on other work such as ensuring that replacement bridges have lifts or ramps.

18 October 2018

 

 

High streets ‘need to wake up to the need to communicate with disabled people’

Struggling high street businesses need to “wake up” to the need to communicate with disabled people and their potential £200 billion spending power, according to the founder of an accessibility information website.

Dr Gregory Burke told Disability News Service that he still sees many of the same physical access barriers in high streets that he faced as a wheelchair-user when he launched DisabledGo 18 years ago, and that he believes disabled people’s quality of life has probably fallen during that time.

In the two decades since he launched the business, it has grown to the point where it has 60 employees and is used by more than 1.5 million people each year to plan a visit or trip by checking detailed accessibility information on venues such as cafes, hospitals and cinemas throughout the UK.

Burke was speaking this week as DisabledGo launched a new website and mobile phone app and announced that it was changing its name to AccessAble*.

In a survey released to mark the launch, 99 per cent of the disabled people and carers questioned said it was important to know about accessibility before visiting somewhere new, while almost as many (98 per cent) said they would search for accessibility information in advance.

But only 14 per cent of people said they found the access information they were looking for and 80 per cent said they found the information they did track down to be inaccurate.

Burke says he was still shocked by how little attention businesses paid to providing good access information about their services.

He says: “What frustrates me the most is that businesses are resistant to communicating with a market worth £200 billion a year.

With high streets struggling, you would think most businesses would want to tap into that.

Businesses need to wake up. The disability market has always been here, but businesses need to wake up to it.”

Burke started DisabledGo in 2000 after spending several years in hospital, rehabilitation and respite after a severe case of encephalitis as a teenager.

He says it was only when he emerged after his rehabilitation that he realised that he was disabled. “Trying to access anywhere was fraught with difficulty and frustration.

I’m a pretty confident guy but I found that my social ambit was shrinking, was getting smaller and smaller and I wasn’t going out anywhere where I hadn’t been before because I couldn’t trust what the access was like.

If I did try somewhere new and it didn’t work out, which almost invariably it didn’t, that experience would eat in at me and eat at my confidence, and I was becoming more and more a hostage in my own home.”

It was these experiences that motivated him to start DisabledGo.

For the first couple of years, he travelled the country, listening to disabled people as part of a national consultation exercise, “asking why we were not more visible in society and in education and why we weren’t down the pub more.”

What he was told was that society was generally inaccessible, but that there were many places that were accessible to some disabled people, if those disabled people could only find out about them.

Burke says that listening to disabled people in this way has been at the core of DisabledGo’s success, with local steering groups set up whenever it produces an area guide “so local people can feed into what we’re doing all the time”.

Nine years ago, he decided DisabledGo had reached a position where it was “very strong, very robust”, with multi-year contracts with a number of large businesses and organisations and an annual turnover of £2 million, and so he decided “to become a barrister and see if I can help people in a different way”.

After just three years’ training, he was called to the bar and stepped down as chief executive of DisabledGo.

He is now head of employment and discrimination at Seven Bedford Row, a leading barristers’ chambers in London.

If he had one request of government, he says, it would be to set up an inspectorate to ensure businesses comply with the Equality Act.

He says: “The Equality Act is a fantastic piece of legislation – most disabled people don’t realise how powerful it is – but if you have less favourable treatment from a service or a venue you have to bring your own civil claim and that’s exhausting and expensive and time-consuming and can be frightening, although it shouldn’t be frightening at all.

Most people are put off by it, so the government should recognise that just as we have a health and safety inspectorate, hygiene inspectorates and things like that, we should have an access inspectorate too.”

Burke believes that disabled people’s “quality of life index” would “show a downward trend” 18 years on from the launch of DisabledGo, following years of cuts to state support and media reporting of “benefit cheats”, which he believes has had “a hugely detrimental impact on how society views disabled people”.

He says: “To taint disabled people with the brush of a cheat or a scrounger is just plain wrong.”

The AccessAble survey found that less than two-fifths (37 per cent) of the 845 disabled people and carers questioned thought that public attitudes to disability and access had improved in the last five years.

But one thing that has changed disabled people’s lives for the better since 2000 is technology, he says, which had “always been a friend to disabled people”.

He hopes that AccessAble’s new app will help disabled people who find that acquiring an impairment “can often feel like the death of spontaneity”.

The website has always helped disabled people plan their journey before they left home, but the app will tell the user where the nearest accessible venues are when they are already out and about.

Burke, who still owns AccessAble, hopes his team will double its reach to three million users a year by 2020.

We need to commit to changing a situation where disabled people and carers are being excluded from everyday life and recognise that access begins online,” he says.

Everyone’s accessibility needs are different. Providing trusted accessibility information should be seen as an integral part of providing a great customer experience.”

*AccessAble is a DNS subscriber

18 October 2018

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 15:49
Oct 112018
 

[Thanks to John Pring]

Anger and dismay after Labour back-tracks on pledge to scrap universal credit

Labour has infuriated its own disabled members by backtracking on a public pledge by the shadow chancellor that the party would scrap universal credit if it won the next general election.

John McDonnell drew widespread praise when he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday that universal credit 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.”

His comments were widely reported, with Sky itself saying “Labour to ditch universal credit”, the BBC reporting him as saying “universal credit has to go”, the Mirror saying “Labour would scrap ‘unsustainable’ Universal Credit”, and iNews saying that “Labour will scrap ‘shambolic’ Universal Credit system”.

But when Disability News Service (DNS) asked Labour’s press office to confirm that the party’s policy was now to scrap universal credit, a spokeswoman said instead that the benefit system was “clearly failing in its current form”.

Instead of committing to scrapping universal credit, she said that Labour wanted “a root-and-branch review of the social security system”.

This was the much-criticised policy announced by shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood at the party’s annual conference in Liverpool last month, when she called on the government to “stop the rollout of universal credit and fix its many flaws” rather than for it to be scrapped.

When DNS asked for further clarity and confirmation that a Labour government would scrap universal credit, the party’s press office produced another statement, which said that universal credit was “failing in its current form”.

The party later made clear that it was not Labour policy to scrap universal credit, before the press office issued a third statement, which said that “Universal Credit in its current form simply isn’t working” and that “Universal Credit in its current form will not exist under Labour”.

Disability Labour, which represents disabled party members and has campaigned to persuade the party to change its position, had issued a statement earlier in the week, following McDonnell’s Sky interview, to say it was “delighted” by the party’s decision to scrap universal credit.

But after being told the party had back-tracked on McDonnell’s comments and was now saying the system would merely need to be improved, Disability Labour said it was “appalled and dismayed”.

In a statement, it said: “Despite assurances from the shadow chancellor John McDonnell MP earlier this week, Disability Labour has been informed that the party’s position remains to ‘pause and fix’ universal credit.

Disability Labour are clear in our position – universal credit is deeply flawed, harmful to many of its claimants and cannot be fixed.

We believe there is no option other than to stop and scrap universal credit as soon as possible.

Disability Labour’s position as a socialist society is to always be a critical friend to the Labour party.

We will continue to campaign for the Labour party to commit to stopping and scrapping universal credit and call on the party to adopt this policy as a matter of urgency.

We will be seeking an urgent meeting with MPs and party officials to clarify this further.”

Disability Labour’s co-chair Wayne Blackburn had described universal credit earlier this week as “the cruellest of benefits” and said the “built-in long waits that claimants have for their money is disgraceful”.

He said: “That food bank use has increased so much in areas where UC has been introduced is a clear indicator of this government deliberately creating a hostile environment for UC claimants, many of whom are disabled people.”

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), which is also campaigning for universal credit to be scrapped, has said that universal credit has “too many flaws to be simply paused and fixed” and is “rotten to the core”, with foodbank use and rates of claimants being sanctioned “soaring” in areas where it has been introduced.

Linda Burnip, DPAC’s co-founder, said the party’s back-tracking on universal credit did not surprise her because Labour’s attitude was that “we are the party of the workers and the rest are skivers and shirkers and we don’t really care about them”.

She added: “We will just have to redouble our efforts with the Labour party.”

11 October 2018

 

 

Police work on disability hate crime is ‘unacceptable’, say watchdogs

The work of police officers on more than half of their disability hate crime investigations has been found to be “unacceptable”, according to a new report by two watchdogs.

The joint inspection by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) and HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) is the third attempt in five years to look at how the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) handle cases involving disability hate crime.

The report is generally complimentary about the work of CPS, which it concludes has made “significant improvements” in dealing with disability hate crime cases.

But it is highly critical of the work of police forces in England and Wales.

The report says officers are failing to “flag” cases as disability hate crimes on police computer systems and are also failing to refer many cases to the CPS for possible prosecution, while there are delays in the investigation process and a lack of effective supervision.

It also says that police officers are failing to carry out risk assessments on victims of disability hate crime in many of the cases the inspectors sampled, and that they often fail to draw up risk management plans.

HMICFRS looked at 90 sample cases across six police forces: Cheshire, Devon and Cornwall, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, the Metropolitan police, Nottinghamshire, and South Wales.

It found that in 19 (21 per cent) of the cases there were avoidable delays in the investigation, with all reasonable lines of enquiry explored in only 69 of the 90 cases (77 per cent), while an investigation plan was missing from 39 of them (43 per cent).

In 51 of the 90 police cases (57 per cent) examined by HMICFRS, the inspectors considered the case files to be sub-standard, including 24 deemed “inadequate”.

The report concludes that the standard of police investigations into disability hate crime was “unacceptable in many cases”.

The inspectorate also found that in 20 of the 90 cases, the outcome of the investigation had been “inappropriate”, including 14 cases dealt with by community resolution without CPS approval.

Police guidelines state that officers should never offer a community resolution – an alternative way of dealing with less serious crimes that does not involve taking the case to court – to a victim of a hate crime without checking with CPS.

The report also found that in the initial information provided to CPS, in only 16 of 160 cases (10 per cent) did police officers describe the reasonable adjustments that a victim of crime might need to give their evidence effectively.

In contrast, the report says that CPS has made “substantial progress” in dealing with disability hate crime in most areas, and now has “clear” guidance, while decision-making on cases is “excellent”.

But HMCPSI inspectors still said that the quality of more than two-thirds (about 68 per cent) of charging decisions was only fair or poor.

The report says compliance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors in disability hate crime cases was “excellent”.

And it also says there was “much greater awareness” among prosecutors of section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, under which the courts must increase the sentence for any offence where a defendant has demonstrated hostility towards disabled people, or where the offence has been shown to be motivated by hostility.

In the year to December 2017, prosecutors secured a sentence increase in nearly seven in 10 cases (69 per cent) in which they had applied for one from the court, compared to about 34 per cent in 2015-16.

But the report says more still needs to be done by CPS, although there had been “a significant and welcome improvement in some aspects of casework”.

Five years ago, HMCPSI, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and HM Inspectorate of Probation concluded in a joint report that disability hate crime was “the hate crime that has been left behind”.

A follow-up report three years ago accused the police, probation service and CPS of failing to implement their recommendations.

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

It has particularly reported repeatedly on how the criminal justice system has failed to treat cases in which disabled people have been the victims of brutal and degrading assaults – many of them violent killings – as disability hate crimes.

Last year, researchers at the University of Sussex called for a new hate crime act and other key legal reforms to address the “huge justice gap” that affects victims of disability hate crime, following a major two-year study.

11 October 2018

 

 

Government ‘blocked’ involvement of user-led groups in mental health summit

The government has been asked by campaigners from across the world why it blocked the “meaningful” involvement of user-led and survivor organisations in this week’s high-profile global mental health summit in London.

Two open letters have criticised the way the Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit was organised, and the hypocrisy of it being hosted by a UK government that was heavily criticised over its record on disability rights by a UN committee a little over 12 months ago.

One letter, spearheaded by the National Survivor User Network, was signed by more than 100 organisations and individuals, including mental health service-users and survivors, user-led networks, academics and mental health professionals from more than 20 countries, including Argentina, Peru, India, Chile, Columbia, Japan, Kenya, Estonia and Hungary.

The letter says there was little or no involvement of user-led organisations in planning the event, in a blatant breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

It criticises the attempt to position the UK government as a world leader on mental health when the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities had raised such significant concerns about its breaches of disability rights, both last year and in a 2016 inquiry report which found it guilty of “grave and systematic violations” of the convention.

It also points to the discrimination within mental health services faced by black and minority ethnic communities in the UK, including “high levels of misdiagnosis, compulsory treatment, over-medication, community treatment orders and culturally inappropriate treatment”.

And the letter warns that mental health survivor and service-user groups in the global south have objected to attempts – led by the UK – to import “failed western models of mental health care” into their countries.

The letter compares the UK government’s “hypocritical” attempt to take the lead in creating a “global declaration on political leadership in mental health” with the decision by the UK to host its Global Disability Summit in July, which also saw an “intolerant government posing as the upholder of the rights” of disabled people.

Those signing the letter asked the UK government to commit to putting forward any declaration that comes out of this week’s summit for consultation and ratification by a wide range of international user-led organisations and disabled people’s organisations, a request it looks likely to ignore.

And they asked the government to promise to “lead by example” by changing its “discriminatory laws that threaten the lives of mental health service-users”, including social security policies.

The second letter was coordinated by the national service-user network Shaping Our Lives (SOL) and was signed by NSUN and user-led grassroots groups including the Mental Health Resistance Network, Disabled People Against Cuts and Recovery in the Bin, all of which also signed the first letter.

This letter raises concerns that the summit would “seriously misrepresent the issues and problems of mental health and mental health service users globally” because of the “systematic exclusions” of representatives of user-led and survivor organisations.

This exclusion, the letter says, was a clear breach of the UN convention.

It says that the summit’s organisers side-lined attempts by the European Network of (Ex) Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (ENUSP) and the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (WNUSP), both of which signed the letter, to secure invitations for representatives of their organisations.

Disability News Service (DNS) has seen a letter from ENUSP to a Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) civil servant, sent last month, after both ENUSP and WNUSP failed to receive invitations to take part in the summit.

ENUSP suggested a string of elected representatives from member organisations across Europe who could attend the summit and pointed out that it was “the only grassroots, independent representative organisation of mental health service users, ex-users and survivors of psychiatry at a European level since 1990”.

It stressed the importance of having “representative people with lived experience at the Summit”, but the civil servant turned down the offer and said there were only spaces left for representatives to take part in the area of finance and investment at the summit.

This is a specialist area where the ENUSP representatives would not have been able to make a meaningful contribution.

The SOL letter says: “This failure to enable involvement also reflects wide and growing concerns about the inadequacy of and crisis in UK mental health policy and provision and the failure to listen to service users, their families, communities and organisations in both mental health and welfare reform policy, both of which are having catastrophic consequences for many service users, their families and communities.”

Asked to comment on the two letters, a DHSC spokeswoman said: “All dialogue on mental health is key; we have invited a range of people from those with lived experience, to civil society, academics and policy makers who represent more than 65 countries from around the world.

We have ensured that the involvement of people with lived experience ‎has run throughout our work on the summit, with their experiences at the heart of our advisory panel and in every workstream.

Those with personal experience attending were nominated by representative groups of people with lived experience – this group of consultees include the convener of this open letter and the signatories include people who are attending the summit.

We recognise there is further work to do for all countries on mental health which is exactly why this summit is such a vital step.”

She declined to say whether any declaration from the summit would be put forward for consultation and ratification by user-led organisations and DPOs, or whether the UK government would promise to lead by example by changing its discriminatory laws.

Professor Peter Beresford, co-chair of Shaping Our Lives, said: “Consulting people is one thing, but we know that taking any notice of what they say may be another.”

He said this would “explain the strong divergence between the claim to involve service-users and the amazingly broad-based criticism there has been from them and their organisations”.

Jasna Russo, a survivor-researcher from Germany and a member of ENUSP, who helped draft the SOL letter, was invited by the UK government to attend the summit as an individual with lived experience, but after she asked if she could attend as a representatives of ENUSP her request for funding was rejected.

She told DNS: “Regardless of how many countries they come from, there is a big difference between inviting persons with ‘lived experience’ and representatives of international grassroots organisations who are working on the summit’s topic for many years putting forward independent advocacy for users/survivors and people with psychosocial disability.

This gathering was simply not interested in such perspectives. As in many other involvement initiatives – people subscribing to medical model of mental illness are far more attractive partners than those bringing in political and socio-economic issues.

Even though this summit talks about poverty in relation to mental health it seems much more focused on how to make the Western biomedical psychiatry go global.”

11 October 2018

 

 

Watchdogs’ concern over government refusal to act on UN rights reports

Four equality and human rights watchdogs have heavily criticised the government for its failure to address the serious concerns raised in a “damning” UN report on the rights of disabled people across the UK.

A year on from the report by the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, in which it told the UK government to make more than 80 improvements to how its laws and policies affect disabled people’s human rights, the four bodies have concluded that it has taken only “limited steps” to address those concerns.

In a new report, they say they are concerned at the government’s failure to produce a comprehensive strategy to show how it will implement the committee’s recommendations.

And they have criticised the UK government’s “continuing reluctance” to accept the conclusions of a ground-breaking inquiry by the committee that found in late 2016 that it was guilty of “grave and systematic violations” of disabled people’s rights.

This week’s report was put together by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Scottish Human Rights Commission, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, collectively known as the UK Independent Mechanism (UKIM), which is tasked with monitoring progress on implementing the convention in the UK.

The UKIM report says the picture emerging from recent evidence is “deeply concerning”, as disabled people across the UK “continue to face serious regression of many of their rights”.

It concludes: “Social protections have been reduced and disabled people and their families continue to be some of the hardest hit.

More and more disabled people are finding it difficult to live independently and be included, and participate, in their communities on an equal basis.”

The report by the four watchdogs looks at the seven areas in which the UN committee asked the government for a progress report.

On independent living, UKIM says there has been “limited progress”, with evidence that adult social care is at “crisis point”, while the closure of the Independent Living Fund has led to a “postcode lottery for support”.

On social protection, UKIM says the UK government has failed to act on research showing the “disproportionate and significantly adverse effect of welfare reform on disabled people’s rights to independent living and to an adequate standard of living and social security”.

And it says it remains “seriously concerned” at the government’s continuing failure to assess the cumulative impact on disabled people of multiple reforms that have affected living standards and social security.

On employment, the UKIM report praises the “very positive first step” made last year by the government in launching plans to increase the number of disabled people in work by one million in 10 years – despite strong criticism of those plans by disabled people’s organisations – but says that further reform of the work capability assessment process is “urgently needed”.

UKIM says some work has been done to tackle prejudice and negative attitudes towards disabled people, but it warns that nothing appears to have been done to address the committee’s main concerns in this area, with “no steps taken to tackle the negative attitudes towards those claiming social security benefits, and, more broadly, to promote the human rights model of disability”.

The UKIM report also warns of continuing barriers to accessing justice for disabled people in England and Wales, with a “substantial decrease in the number of disabled people being granted legal aid” as a result of reforms introduced through the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.

And it criticises the “continued lack of action” in setting up systems to “ensure that disabled people and their organisations are involved in the design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of legislation, policy or programmes that affect their lives”.

UKIM also criticises the failure of the UK and devolved governments to make any effort to spread awareness of the committee’s 2016 and 2017 reports, pointing out that neither of them have been published on the UK government’s website.

In response to the UKIM report, a government spokeswoman said in a statement: “We’re committed to building a society which is fully inclusive of disabled people across every area of their lives, from transport and housing to healthcare and employment.

Our response to the UN sets out our progress over the last year, including the creation of a new inter-ministerial group on disability and society, which will drive progress against the implementation of the UN convention.

While we’ve made significant progress, there is always more we can do. We’re determined to continue making progress in creating a society that works for everyone, where all can participate fully, and be included in society.”

She said the government would spend an estimated £54 billion in 2018-19 on benefits to support disabled people and those with long term health conditions, up from £44.7 billion in 2010-11, while nearly 600,000 more disabled people had moved into work in the four years to 2017.

Last month, Disability News Service reported that the UK government – in its own report to the UN committee – appeared to have decided that there was a need for improvements in just six of the 25 areas it was asked to respond on.

Its response to most of the UN committee’s recommendations was to ignore or dismiss the criticisms and defend its existing policies, with Inclusion London describing its report as “deeply unsatisfying”.

11 October 2018

 

 

Anger after minister and BBC undermine ‘silent applause’ reasonable adjustment

A disabled activist has lodged complaints with the government and the BBC after the broadcaster’s flagship current affairs programme Question Time mocked the idea of using “silent applause” to make political events more accessible for autistic people.

BBC Question Time (BBCQT) panellists were asked if they agreed with steps taken by the University of Manchester Students’ Union (MSU) to encourage members attending democratic events to use British Sign Language (BSL) – silent – applause instead of clapping.

David Dimbleby, the veteran journalist who chairs Question Time, twice appeared to make fun of the idea of using BSL applause instead of clapping, including at the end of the programme on 4 October.

Justice secretary David Gauke – a former work and pensions secretary, where he had responsibility for the Office for Disability Issues – said the idea was “silly”, while business executive Claude Littner described it as “absolutely absurd” and “ridiculous”.

But disabled activists are furious that an organisation attempting to make its political events more accessible to autistic people and those with anxiety-related impairments should be mocked and criticised by both the BBC and the justice secretary.

Sam Margrave, a lecturer in business management and entrepreneurship, who is autistic, has complained to both the Cabinet Office and the BBC about Gauke and Dimbleby and the Question Time team.

He said that Gauke had a duty under the Equality Act to advance equality of opportunity and eliminate discrimination but instead had called the idea of making reasonable adjustments for disabled people “silly” and had failed to criticise fellow panellists Isabel Oakeshott, a journalist, and Littner for mocking the idea.

Margrave, a member of the executive of Disability Labour, which represents disabled people who are members of the Labour party, said on Twitter: “I am so angry and upset by the comments. I am not a snowflake and nor are others.

Stop confusing disabled, anxious, autistic, etc as snowflakes.”

He was backed by Disability Labour, which said it viewed Dimbleby’s behaviour with “complete dismay” and said he had been “mocking the use of British Sign Language, which is used by 28,000 people in the UK every day”.

Kathy Bole, co-vice-chair of Disability Labour, said: “We are appalled that David Gauke, a former DWP minister, described the use of the BSL sign as ‘silly’.”

She said his comment was another example of the “hostile environment” created for disabled people by the UK government, and that using BSL as a way of applauding silently was a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act.

Bole said: “BBCQT has condoned the disgraceful denigrating of disabled students. This is not acceptable from a public broadcaster.

Disability Labour believes that the BBC should ensure that all staff involved with Question Time should have disability inclusion training. We would be pleased to advise the BBC in this regard.”

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry had shown some sympathy to the union’s actions, saying: “I think there are people, particularly on the autistic spectrum, who find it very difficult to go to places that are noisy and where there may be something about democracy going on.

They may be excluded. I can see where this is coming from. The difficulty is that it is very deeply engrained in our culture that we clap, so I don’t know.”

But George Mpanga, better known as George the Poet, told Littner: “I’m mindful that people are different and it’s not fair to laugh down difference.

There are people with experiences that make them very sensitive to sounds like clapping and unable to participate in spaces like that. I’m talking about neurodiversity, people that are triggered.”

A BBC spokesman told Disability News Service: “David was not mocking or intending any offence when he demonstrated ‘silent applause’ in relation to a question regarding Manchester Student Union replacing clapping with waving.

Question Time is an inclusive programme and hosts panel and audience members from a range of different backgrounds, including people with disabilities.”

University of Manchester Students’ Union said last week that its new policy only applied to democratic events and was intended to make them more accessible and inclusive.

The union said in last week’s statement: “We have already received many positive responses from disabled students (some of whom are deaf or autistic), who are pleased to feel more included in our democratic process.

Some of them plan to attend upcoming democratic events at the union for the first time, thanks to this policy.”

It added: “The way in which politics is managed and conducted is often hostile – we see that on a national stage every day of the week.

We hope this decision goes some way towards promoting a better way of doing politics so that more people from all walks of life find it easier to participate in decision making that will affect the way their Students’ Union is run.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said it was for the Conservative party to comment on whether Gauke would apologise, as it was a political rather than a departmental issue.

The Conservative party refused to comment.

11 October 2018

 

 

DWP ignores concerns from disabled people who shun activity over benefit fraud fears

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has refused to offer a solution to disabled people who say they are fearful of taking more exercise in case they have their support cut or are branded benefit cheats.

A new report by the disability sports organisation Activity Alliance found that four-fifths (83 per cent) of disabled people they surveyed would like to be more active, but nearly half (47 per cent) feared losing their benefits if they took more exercise.

More than a third (34 per cent) had either had their own benefits sanctioned or removed because of being physically active or knew someone this had happened to.

The survey of more than 200 people who either currently or previously received disability benefits such as employment and support allowance (ESA) and personal independence payment (PIP) – and were involved with disability sports organisations – found almost two-thirds (65 per cent) relied on benefits to be active, so as to pay for travel, specialist equipment or paid-for exercise.

The Activity Trap: Disabled People’s Fear Of Being Active – which was commissioned by the Dwarf Sports Association – says that “ambiguity remains a problem in terms of what level of physical activity is acceptable and what might lead to removal of support”.

One of those surveyed said: “I have a lot of concerns when it comes to benefits and the constant fear of them being taken away or worry of being reassessed.

It then impacts my life and any involvement in sport and physical activity which is none at the moment due to the concerns I have and not wanting my benefits to be taken off me, as DWP are not known for being understanding or nice and will try and find any reason to remove someone’s disability benefits.”

Another said: “The demonisation of disabled people in the media has led to a situation in which many are afraid to participate in sport because they are worried about getting reported for fraud, even if it really isn’t.”

And a third disabled person who took part in the survey described how a friend had lost half her benefits after trying to do more exercise to cope with her pain management.

She was told that to stand any chance of returning to the higher level of benefits “she’d have to give up all but one exercise class and maintain that level for six months”.

Disabled journalist, consultant and broadcaster Mik Scarlet said his fight to receive the level of PIP he needed took a year and caused “a huge emotional toll”.

He said he had begun a well-received video blog on sitting yoga but had been contacted by disabled people “saying they’d be concerned about trying it – in case they were considered fit enough to either work or receive a lower level of financial support.  

The Activity Trap report highlights the desperate situation for far too many disabled people in this country.” 

Activity Alliance also heard from Alan Ringland, chair of the pan-disability Birmingham Ability Accounts League, who said his football league had seen the number of participants drop from 455 to 250 in just three years.

He said: “When you see them again you see that they’ve not been as active as they were, often they have put on weight and over time their health may deteriorate. 

Playing football on a Sunday was one day where they really enjoyed themselves and if they don’t take part anymore they can lose confidence, friendships, and the camaraderie that goes with that.

In many cases, sport is the only regular social activity in their lives, and taking that away can have a massive impact.” 

He told Disability News Service that he believed that 90 per cent of those who had dropped out had done so because they had lost eligibility for PIP and could no longer afford to attend training and regular matches.

Because his two disabled sons played football at international level, Ringland has known for the last 17 years many of the disabled people who currently take part, or previously took part, in the league.

He said former players had lost their travel passes after PIP assessments, while others could no longer afford mobile phones so could not keep in touch with their teams.

Andy Dalby-Welsh, deputy chief executive of Activity Alliance, said: “We want to work with and across government to make active lives for disabled people possible.

We would urge policy makers within national and local government to take on board the calls for action within this report and the spirit with which it was written.”

But a DWP spokeswoman refused to say if the problem of disabled people resisting physical activity because of the fear of losing their benefits was something the department recognised, what action DWP could take to deal with the problem, or even what advice DWP would give to disabled people facing this problem.

Instead, she said in a statement: “We are committed to ensuring disabled people get the support they need and we’re providing £5.4 billion more on the main disability benefits this year than we did in 2010.

PIP is a non-means-tested benefit to help with the costs of someone’s disability or health condition and under it 30 per cent of people get the highest rate of support, compared with 15 per cent under DLA.

Assessments are based on a wide range of evidence to ensure people get the support they need.”

She said Public Health England would shortly publish guidance on fitness for disabled people.

11 October 2018

 

 

British Council tries to dodge Equality Act, after signing up to Disability Confident

The government-funded organisation responsible for promoting the UK’s culture and education abroad is asking an employment tribunal to allow it to dodge its duty – under the Equality Act – not to discriminate against disabled people.

The British Council is attempting to argue that English teacher Emily Frisby is not entitled to protection under the act because she was working for the charity as a teacher in Morocco at the time and was therefore being employed locally.

The charity is trying to use this as a defence even though it has signed up to the government’s much-criticised Disability Confident employment scheme, which aims to help employers recruit and retain disabled people.

Frisby says she experienced months of disability discrimination at the hands of British Council managers, after transferring to Morocco from Vietnam last year.

Now she wants the British Council to ensure that “no one else is subjected to the same disregard and humiliating treatment” she experienced.

She added: “I don’t see how British Council Morocco can continue to advertise itself as Disability Confident.”

After transferring to Morocco, she was denied the reduced hours she had in her previous British Council job, which worsened her health condition, and was forced to take a “protracted and dehumanising” grievance procedure because of the refusal to provide her with the reasonable adjustments she needed.

Managers also refused to provide her with a laptop – which they claimed would have cost just £1,000, before eventually finding a spare computer after she launched her grievance – while one manager made a joke about her hearing aid in a meeting (although he later denied this).

While she was still trying to secure the reasonable adjustments she needed to do her job as an English teacher, she had to attend an equality training session, and watch as two non-disabled teachers were asked to walk around pretending to be blind and deaf.

Frisby said: “I could not fully participate in the meeting about inclusion due to my own hearing loss and difficulty communicating in a noisy environment. 

I was really shocked and upset that I was being lectured to about disability whilst my own personal experience as a disabled person and requests for understanding were simultaneously being ignored.”

Her condition affects her hearing and balance, and symptoms include vertigo, hearing loss and tinnitus, all of which can be triggered by stress.

But, she claims, when she tried to secure the reasonable adjustments she needed on arrival in Morocco, managers had questioned her impairment, bullied and harassed her, and refused to provide the reasonable adjustments she needed.

When managers eventually offered her a reduced hours contract, the proposal “effectively meant working more hours for lower pay”, according to a report by a British Council director.

As a result of her treatment, she was signed off work with stress and anxiety and an exacerbation of the symptoms of her condition.

In a statement submitted to the employment tribunal, she says: “It has been a long, stressful, humiliating, bewildering and as yet unresolved process which has had the opposite of the desired effect of getting support at work and I am now just as concerned about the general culture of bullying and intimidation at work as I am about the original issues around ‘reasonable adjustments’.”

An internal British Council investigation into her allegations upheld her complaint about the failure of managers to provide her with the reasonable adjustments she needed.

But the organisation’s lawyers are now trying to argue that she should not be offered the protection of the Equality Act as she was employed overseas on local terms and conditions and was subject to local laws.

They will put that case to an employment tribunal later this month.

They are arguing that the Equality Act does not apply to the British Council’s actions in Morocco, even though it is a UK charity, receives funding from the UK government, is sponsored by the Foreign Office, and has signed up to Disability Confident.

The British Council’s actions in north Africa come just weeks after international development secretary Penny Mordaunt spent much of a high-profile disability summit in London telling other countries to sign up to a new global charter that would commit them to eliminating discrimination and “challenging harmful attitudes and practices”.

In upholding an internal complaint Frisby made about her treatment, John Mitchell, the British Council’s director in Morocco, concluded that her “grievance regarding reasonable adjustments has been upheld”.  

He added: “I acknowledge that for various reasons, best practice and procedure were not followed as they should have been.

I very much regret this and apologise on behalf of the British Council for our failures in this respect.”

Although he dismissed her complaint of bullying and harassment, he “acknowledged that at times tensions and stress levels ran high, and that British Council values might not have been fully met by all parties at all times”.

This followed a report by another senior British Council executive, Justin Spence, the organisation’s deputy director in Tunisia, who concluded that the refusal “to invest £1k [in a laptop] was both a rejection of [reasonable adjustments] and sent a signal regarding the level of priority management assigned to her request”.

He also concluded that there had been “disturbing elements” to the treatment she received and said in his report that “management may have crossed a red line in terms of intimidation/bullying”, although he concluded that there was “a lack of sufficient hard evidence” to prove bullying or harassment.

A British Council spokeswoman said: “We are aware of this case. However, as the details are part of ongoing legal proceedings, we are unable to comment at this stage.”

11 October 2018

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 15:10
Apr 262018
 

Following this article about DWP interference in the way that GPs treat patients who have been refused ESA, DPAC have initiated a letter to the Royal College of GPs and the BMA GP Section, asking those organisations to get involved in this issue.

The letter to the Royal College of GPs is copied below and the one to the BMA is identical. We will publish on this blog the responses we get from them.


To: Professor Mayur Lakhani, President of the Royal College of General Practice

CC:

Editor Pulse Today

Editor Disability News Service

Second copy to : Chair of the General Practitioners Committee UK Dr Richard Vautrey

Dear Mayur

We write as a group of concerned health professionals and disability campaigners regarding a recent change by the Department of Work and Pensions which we feel will gravely impact on the doctor / patient relationship between GPs and disabled people claiming benefits.

The DWP has issued a new ESA65B, the form used to inform a patient’s GP of their WCA outcome. This form which requests GPs not to send any further fit notes for ESA purposes after a claimant has been found fit for work, unless they appeal had already been at the centre of a controversy.

A claimant, James Harrison died 10 months after being found fit for work and after the jobcentre asked his GP not to issue further fit notes for ESA purposes. James Harrison wanted a fit note because he was too ill to attend the jobcentre appointments, but his GP refused to issue them (Metro), this being just one bleak example of the distress and hardship enacted on people through the current callous benefit regime.

The new ESA65B form which is headed ‘Help us support your patient to return to or start work’ has an added paragraph

In the course of any further consultations with [Title] [First name] [Surname] we hope you will also encourage [select] in [select] efforts to return to, or start, work. (extract from the DWP’s letter to GPs)

It is all in keeping with DWP’s insistence that not only work is good for health, but also should be a ‘health outcome’. This recurring mantra from the DWP is based on the thinnest veneer of evidence, a single study, which was commissioned by the DWP itself in 2006, which does not even fully support the generalised conclusion that “work is good for you”.

The DWP has also not taken into account other, more in-depth research that concludes that unemployment is less harmful for mental health than a poor quality and insecure job..

There are many reasons, from a clinical point of view, why this action of co-opting doctors by the DWP is wrong and Dr Jay Watts, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, lists some of them:

Health professionals across the country will be horrified at this latest interference from the DWP – a move that undermines clinical expertise and threatens the safety of patients. There are a number of problems. First the letter places the expertise of DWP-funded ESA assessors above that of GPs. This is despite the fact GPs are more qualified to assess mental health, and can do so with the benefits of having known the patient for years, often decades (as opposed to in a one-off assessment).

The DWP letter makes clear that they wish claimants to return to work at any cost, even if that means leaving a current occupation – an attack on the core identity of patients likely to have a damaging effect on mental health.

Second, the letter states that “we know most people are better off in work”. This ignores a considerable literature showing that work can be damaging for mental health, with poor work environments a frequent trigger to mental breakdown. Economic evidence shows that rushing people back into work increases the likelihood of long-term illness.

How then can it be right to encourage GPs to coerce patients back to work, a pressure likely to increase the feelings of shame, despair and anxiety at not working that have been exacerbated by the governments relentless and damaging campaign to associate worklessness with worthlessness?

Third, the pressure the DWP is exerting on GPs to ‘encourage’ patients back to work, and desist from providing fit notes, is an attack on clinical expertise and the sanctity of the clinical space and clinical decision-making.

Without a firm denouncement of this letter from Royal College of General Practitioners, we risk a situation where claimants will feel unwilling to make appointments with their GPs, given the level of fear the DWP and the work agenda elicits, with damaging and potentially life-threatening effects on the physical and mental health of claimants.

It is vital that health professionals speak up for claimants rights, and insist that fit notes and therapeutic conversations are dictated by the needs of patients not the DWP.

We the undersigned, both medical professionals and disability campaigners ask that the Royal College of General Practitioners inform its members of the risks to patients from this measure, ask doctors and allied health professionals to use caution and discretion when following DWP instructions.

We will be publishing this letter to you on the Disabled People Against Cuts website, and look forward to publishing your response

Signed:

Dr Jay Watts

Consultant Clinical Psychologist

Anita Bellows

Disabled People Against Cuts

Dr Philippa Whitford

MP, FRCS

Bob Ellard

Disabled People Against Cuts

Dr Louise Irvine

GP, Lewisham, BMA Council Member

Roger Lewis

Disabled People Against Cuts

Dr Stephen Carty

GP Leith Mount Surgery Edinburgh Medical Adviser Black Triangle Campaign

Denise McKenna

Mental Health Resistance Network and Disabled People Against Cuts

Dr Coral Jones

GP in Hackney

Paula Peters

Mental Health Resistance Network and Disabled People Against Cuts

Anna Livingstone FRCGP

Tower Hamlets GP

Linda Burnip

Disabled People Against Cuts

Ben Newton

Community Worker in Glasgow

Ellen Clifford

Disabled People Against Cuts and Inclusion London

Beatrice Millar

on behalf of Psychotherapists & Counsellors for Social Responsibility

Andy Greene

Disabled People Against Cuts

Julia Evans

Lacanian Psychoanalyst

Miriam Binder

Disabled People Against Cuts

Dr Laura Winter

Counselling Psychologist

John Kelly

Disabled People Against Cuts

Emily Shah

Trainee Clinical Psychologist, Camden and Islington NHS Trust

John McArdle

Black Triangle Campaign

Gavin Robinson

Counsellor

Brian Hilton

Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People

Dr Kara Bagnall

Clinical Psychologist

Recovery in the Bin

Lauren Canvin,

Trainee Clinical Psychologist, University of Hertfordshire

Jennifer Jones

DPAC Sheffield

Dr Richard House,

Chartered Psychologist (BPS), Educational Consultant Alliance for Counselling & Psychotherapy

David Cracker

DPAC Sheffield

Andrew Samuels

Professor of Analytical Psychology, University of Essex: Former Chair, UK Council for Psychotherapy

Kevin Deegan

DPAC NORTH Staffordshire East Cheshire

Robert Jenkins

NHS Primary Care Counsellor (Retired)

Henry Foulds

Momentum Sheffield Disability officer

Debbie Porteous

Counsellor MBACP

Jill Goble

Brighton DPAC

Dr David Porteous

GP Fishponds Family Practice, Bristol

Merry Cross

Berkshire DPAC

Denis Postle

ARCA

Rick Burgess

Manchester DPAC

Paul Atkinson

Psychotherapist

Dr Johann McGavin

GP Brighton Health and Wellbeing Centre

Dr Danielle Gaynor

Chartered Clinical Psychologist, NHS.

Clare Slaney MA

BACP Accredited

Linda Gask

Emerita Professor of Primary Care Psychiatry University of Manchester and Honorary FRCGP

Stuart Morgan-Ayrs

Clinical psychotherapist

Dr Gillian Proctor

Clinical psychologist and lecturer.

Dr Rich Moth

Registered social worker/SWAN Psychotherapy & Counselling Union

Dr Donna Oxley

Clinical Psychologist, NHS

Frances Taylor,

Therapeutic Counsellor and Supervisor, Diversity Worker, Substance Misuse Counsellor Practitioner

Dr Jade Weston

Clinical Psychologist

Mandy Coghill

Sensorimotor Psychotherapist

Nicola Saunders

Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist UKCP

Ian Parker

Psychoanalyst, Manchester

Sarah Wolfe

Clinical Psychologist in Children’s Social Care

Richard Bagnall-Oakeley

Integrative Adult & Child Psychotherapist (UKCP Reg. MBACP)

Valeska Matziol

Equalities Research Coordinator

Juliet Lyons

Integrative Child Psychotherapist

Annie Mitchell

Clinical and Community Psychologist; Associate Professor, Plymouth University.

Dr Sohrab Panday

GP and Clinical Lead, Mental Health Commissioning Team Hardwick CCG

Mark Burton

Former Head of Disability Service

Richard Byng

GP and academic, Community and Primary Care Research Group and PenCLAHRC, Plymouth University.

Kim Jackson-Blott

Trainee Clinical Psychologist

Anna Rose

MEd MA  (Psychotherapist)

Dr Lealah Hewitt

Clinical Psychologist, NHS

Dr Safi Afghan

Consultant Psychiatrist & Primary Care Lead RCPsych

Liam Farrell

Former NHS GP

Jen Daffin

Clinical psychologist in training / psychologists for social change

Dr Sheila Cheeroth, FRCGP

Tower Hamlets CCG, London.

Libby Kerr

Psychotherapist UKCP

Dr Jackie Applebee GP

Chair of Tower Hamlets Local Medical Committee.

Dr Stephen Weatherhead

Senior Academic and Clinical Tutor HCPC registered Consultant Clinical Psychologist

Dr Kambiz Boomla,

Senior Lecturer General Practice.

Dr Rachel Barcroft

Clinical Psychologist Royal Preston Hospital

Rosalind Davy,

Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist

Dr Grant Ingrams

GP, Oakmeadow Surgery, Leicester

James Randall-James,

Clinical Psychologist

Pauline Miller

GP St Lawrence road surgery

Dr Danny Taggart,

University of Essex

Dr Chris Manning

MRCGP Mental health activist and retired GP with lived experience of major depression(s).

Jeyda Hammad,

Psychotherapist

Fay Maxted OBE

CEO, The Survivors Trust

Guy Gladstone

Psychotherapist The Open Centre London

Emily Connolly

Trainee Clinical Psychologist

Dr Katherine Macey,

Clinical psychologist working in physical health.

Ron Singer

retired GP and vice president doctors in Unite.

Dr Colm Gallagher,

Clinical Psychologist, Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.

Dr David Shiers

former Gp (Leek, North Staffordshire) and Carer of a family member with a severe mental disorder.

Dr Simon Stuart,

Clinical Psychologist in Adult Mental Health

Dr Carolyn Chew-Graham

GP Principal, The Chorlton Family Practice, Manchester and Professor of General Practice Research, Keele University.

Anne Wagner

Clinical Psychologist Locality Lead Psychologist

Dr Lloyd Baron

GPST2 Health Education West Midlands

Dr Alice Jones

(FY1 Psychiatry)

 Posted by at 11:51
Apr 042018
 

The DWP has issued a new ESA65B, the form used to inform a patient’s GP of their WCA outcome.  This form which requests GPs not to send any further fit notes for ESA purposes after a claimant has been found fit for work, unless they appeal had already been at the centre of a controversy. James Harrison died 10 months after being found fit for work and after the jobcentre asked his GP not to issue further fit notes for ESA purposes. James Harrison wanted a fit note because he was too ill to attend the jobcentre appointments, but his GP refused to issue them. http://metro.co.uk/2016/12/29/jobcentre-secretly-told-dying-mans-gp-to-stop-giving-him-sick-notes-6349168/

The new ESA65B form which is headed ‘Help us support your patient to return to or start work’ has an added paragraph http://data.parliament.uk/DepositedPapers/Files/DEP2018-0290/ESA65B_Letter.pdf

In the course of any further consultations with [Title] [First name] [Surname] we hope you will also encourage [select] in [select] efforts to return to, or start, work.

It is all in keeping with DWP’s mantra that not only work is good for health, but also should be a ‘health outcome’. There are many reasons why this is wrong and DR Jay Watts, Consultant clinical psychologist, lists some of them:

Health professionals across the country will be horrified at this latest interference from the DWP – a move that undermines clinical expertise and threatens the safety of patients. There are a number of problems. First the letter places the expertise of DWP-funded ESA assessors above that of GPs. This is despite the fact GPs are more qualified to assess mental health, and can do so with the benefits of having known the patient for years, often decades (as opposed to in a one-off assessment). The DWP letter makes clear that they wish claimants to return to work at any cost, even if that means leaving a current occupation – an attack on the core identity of patients likely to have a damaging effect on mental health. Second, the letter states that “we know most people are better off in work”. This ignores a considerable literature showing that work can be damaging for mental health, with poor work environments a frequent trigger to mental breakdown. Economic evidence shows that rushing people back into work increases the likelihood of long-term illness. How then can it be right to encourage GPs to coerce patients back to work, a pressure likely to increase the feelings of shame, despair and anxiety at not working that have been exacerbated by the governments relentless and damaging campaign to associate worklessness with worthlessness? Third, the pressure the DWP is exerting on GPs to ‘encourage’ patients back to work, and desist from providing fit notes, is an attack on clinical expertise and the sanctity of the clinical space and clinical decision-making. Without a firm denouncement of this letter from Royal College of General Practitioners, we risk a situation where claimants will feel unwilling to make appointments with their GPs, given the level of fear the DWP and the work agenda elicits, with damaging and potentially life-threatening effects on the physical and mental health of claimants. It is vital that health professionals speak up for claimants rights, and insist that fit notes and therapeutic conversations are dictated by the needs of patients not the DWP.

 

WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT?

You can make sure that your GP does not receive this letter and is not informed of your WCA outcome. This is sensitive personal data and the DWP needs your consent to share it as show  here in this FOI request.  There are several steps you need to take to refuse your consent:

1) You need to refuse to give your consent when you are completing your ESA50. On page 21 of the ESA50 form, under the “Other information” box you will write:

I DO NOT consent/agree to my doctor or any doctor treating me,
being informed about the Secretary of State’s
determination on
– limited capability for work
– limited capability for work-related activity
or being sent a summary of the Limited Capability for Work Assessment.

And you need to remove/strike out the text on the ESA50 form in the Declaration section page 22, that covers allowing the DWP to notify the person’s GP. The ESA50 form used for this is this form

AND

2) Because you cannot be sure that the ESA50 form will be read by DWP, you need to write to the benefit centre which processes your claim, to inform them that you refuse to give your consent to share the WCA outcome with your GP, or any doctor. You will find a proforma letter to do so at the end of this article.

 

If you forgot to amend the ESA50 form in order to refuse your consent, you can still write to the DWP/benefit centre after every ESA50 form submitted and or after every WCA undertaken asking them not to share your WCA outcome with your GP.

This is heavily drawn from Frank Zola’s article on the same subject, which also provides more information and template letters to help you to refuse your consent. https://mrfrankzola.wordpress.com/2017/02/16/do-not-tell-gp-outcome-of-your-work-capability-assessment-wca-donotconsent/ 

And thanks also to John Slater @AmateurFOI for his input

That should stop the DWP interfering in the doctor/patient’s relationship and destroying the trust which exists between them and also stop the DWP from exerting pressures on GPs in a way which can be detrimental for their patients.

 

Template letter

[Your full address]

[The date]

Department for Work and Pensions

[Address of your local JCP office]

[Enter Your National Insurance Number]

Dear Sir or Madam

 

RE: Consent, ESA50 and my Work Capability Assessment (WCA)

 

I write to confirm that I do not consent to my or any doctor being informed of any determination related to:

 

  1. limited capability for work
  2. limited capability for work-related activity

 

I am asserting my rights under the Data Protection Act (1998), as the Department requires my explicit consent to share said determination with my or any Doctor/GP, as it is my sensitive personal data.

 

Please write to me to acknowledge receipt of this letter and confirm that my records have been updated on the appropriate IT systems.

 

On your ESA50 form, a copy of which I have retained, I have removed/ struck-out the part of the declaration section that states:

 

“I agree to my doctor or any doctor treating me, being informed about the Secretary of State’s determination on

– limited capability for work

– limited capability for work-related activity, or

– both”

 

If I change my mind in the future I will write to the Department to advise it. I will not notify the Department of any change via the ESA50 form and should there be any doubt this letter should always take precedent.

 

Yours faithfully

[Signature]

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 20:15
Nov 172017
 

 

 

 

 

Support the Budget Day Sack the Tories protests arranged by the People’s Assembly. Meet Downing Street, November 21st from 6pm- 7.30 pm.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1968486683476948/

#SackTheTories – BUDGET DAY PROTEST
Stop the Universal Credit Crisis – Stop Tax Avoidance – Fund Our NHS
Day of action the night before the Budget

November 21st 6pm – 7:30pm, Opposite Downing Street, Whitehall, London

**Universal Credit
The Government’s plans to overhaul the welfare system by forcing people onto Universal Credit have been widely criticised by MPs, charities, and campaigners all warning that this is likely to cause a rise in homelessness, poverty, and unnecessary debt. It will leave thousands without an income for weeks as they wait to be transferred, many will be left thousands of pounds worse off, and there is reduced support for claimants. The Trussell Trust have said that they expect a 30% increase in foodbank use this winter in areas where Universal Credit is rolled out. Child Poverty Action Group have found that Government welfare reform will push 1 million children below the poverty line.

Disabled People face losing £40.10 per week with the scrapping of Disability Premiums from Universal Credit.

Vicious Conditionality which could force people to seek extra work for up to 48 hours per week will affect everyone regardless of whether they are in or out of work, disabled or non-disabled.

The cost of moving to Universal Credit was originally estimated at £2.2bn, however it is now at a staggering £15.8bn and still rising.

**Paradise Papers
Revelations in the Paradise Papers show how companies, politicians and individuals are avoiding paying billions of pounds in tax using offshore tax havens rather than paying their fair share here. Theresa May said she would clamp down on tax avoidance but loopholes are still in operation.

More people than ever are having to rely on foodbanks to feed their families, our NHS is in a funding crisis, public sector workers are still facing a pay cap below inflation, millions can’t access affordable housing while the richest individuals and biggest companies take money that should be spent on dealing with these problems and squirrel it away for themselves. The Government is doing nothing to stop it.

**NHS
Last winter our NHS was driven into the worst crisis in it’s history. We witnessed patients dying in hospital corridors, staff stretched to breaking point and the Red Cross declaring a ‘humanitarian crisis’ in our NHS. This winter looks set to be worse. Head of NHS England Simon Stephens warned the Government last week that unless billions of pounds is found in the budget for the NHS it won’t be able to cope.

#SackTheTories
The People’s Assembly is calling a nationwide day of action the night before the Chancellors Budget is announced. We’re organising ‘Stop the Universal Credit Crisis – Stop Tax Avoidance’ protests in towns and cities across the country. As part of the protests we’re collecting food which will be donated to local foodbanks so their shelves are stocked to deal with the fallout from Universal Credit and the continuation of austerity policies in the budget.

We want to urge the Government to use the Budget to scrap their plans for Universal Credit, to close tax loopholes and force the tax avoiders to pay their fair share, to end the public sector pay cap with an increase above inflation, and to make sure our public services are properly funded.

We will also be using the thousands of pounds that was raised through sales of Captain Ska’s track ‘Liar Liar’ to buy tonnes of food and deliver it to foodbanks across the country. But before it’s delivered, we’ll be displaying all of it right on the doorstep of Downing Street to show Theresa May and Phillip Hammond the effect their damaging policies are having on ordinary people – this will take place as part of the London wide protest on Tuesday 21 November. Join us at Downing Street or at one of the many protests that will be taking place across the country and don’t forget to bring along food for the foodbank collection.

Local Events

Local Events

JOIN AN EVENT NEAR YOU (more to be confirmed):

 

London

6:00pm – 7:30pm, Tuesday 21 November, Downing Street, London

https://www.facebook.com/events/1968486683476948/

 

Manchester

6:30pm, Tuesday 21 November, GMEX Steps, Windmill Street M2 3GX

https://www.facebook.com/events/296804000806920/

 

Southampton

12pm – 2pm, Tuesday 21 November, ASDA – Southampton Central, Western Esplanade, SO14 7EG

https://www.facebook.com/events/842488905918828/

Hull
4:30 PM – 6 PM, Tuesday 21 November, Outside Hull Paragon Station, Kingston Upon Hull
https://www.facebook.com/events/1352958458166560/

 

Eastbourne

Public Meeting and Collection:

7pm, Tuesday 21 November,Crown and Anchor, 15-16 Marine Parade, BN21 3DX

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sack-the-tories-why-they-have-to-go-tickets-39911046013

 

Swindon

4:00pm – 8:00pm, Tuesday 21 November, Wharf Green Swindon Town Centre SN15 3

https://www.facebook.com/events/201493753726609/

 

Calderdale

6:30pm, Tuesday 21 November, St George’s Square, Hebden Bridge, HX7 8

https://www.facebook.com/events/811335062404833/

 

Hastings

5:30pm, Tuesday 21 November, Outside Lloyd’s Bank, Wellington Place, Hastings, TN34 1NX

 

Merseyside

4:00pm, Tuesday 21 November, Queens Square, Liverpool

 

Milton Keynes

5:00pm, outside Civic offices, Central Milton Keynes

 

Fenland

6.30p.m, TUESDAY 21 NOVEMBER, THOMAS CLARKSON MEMORIAL, WISBECH

Fenland Peoples Assembly

 

Nottingham

12:00pm, Saturday 2 December, Old Market Square, Nottingham, MK18 3

https://www.facebook.com/events/1128093670658916/

 

Derby

Wednesday 22nd November 5.15pm outside… 6pm inside

Demonstration & Lobby re NHS cuts & STP

Derby City Council House, Corporation Street, Derby, DE1 2FS.

saveournhsderby@gmail.com

www.facebook.com/SOSNHSDerbyPage

 

North East

4:45pm – 5:45pm, Tuesday 21 November, Haymarket Metro Station, Haymarket, NE1 7PF

https://www.facebook.com/events/146554449302317/

 

Sheffield

5:30pm, Tuesday 21 November, Sheffield Cathedral

https://www.facebook.com/events/405688823181350/

 

Birmingham

5:00pm, Wednesday 22 November, Waterstones Birmingham

https://www.facebook.com/events/331804610619889/

 

Bristol

6:00pm, Tuesday 21 November, Water Fountains, Bristol City Centre

https://www.facebook.com/events/179907642561572/

 

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 Posted by at 17:47
Jul 192017
 

Today, DPAC went to Parliament to lobby MPs about the funding of social care and independent living as part of their Week of Action

The funding crisis in social care is having a very real and detrimental impact on Disabled people’s ability to live and take part in the community and the gap between the life chances of Disabled and non-Disabled people is widening. Read more about it here

The police was not initially allowing DPAC members into Parliament and they were held for a while in a gated area before making their way to the lobby area

While there, they decided to occupy the area, as they did a few years ago, and they received the support of MPs like Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Caroline Lucas and Bartley among others.

The event was well covered by the media, and you can see below some photos of the event

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/demonstrators-house-commons-pmqs-disability-cuts-protest-wheelchairs-parliament-entrance-block-a7848876.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/disabled-protesters-block-entrance-to-house-of-commons-in-campaign-against-cuts_uk_596f4e34e4b0a03aba864e5d?ncid=engmodushpmg00000004

http://metro.co.uk/2017/07/19/people-in-wheelchairs-block-mps-entrance-to-house-of-commons-to-protest-against-cuts-6791049/?ito=twitter

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/blog/live/2017/jul/19/pmqs-theresa-may-jeremy-corbyn-brexit-eu-wants-to-make-brexit-a-catastrophe-for-uk-says-senior-german-mep-politics-live?CMP=twt_gu

http://news.sky.com/story/protesters-in-wheelchairs-block-mps-entrance-to-the-commons-10953908

https://www.thecanary.co/2017/07/19/corbyn-mays-final-pmqs-summer-nearly-shut-today-wont-see-bbc-video/

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/furious-protesters-wheelchairs-block-house-10829364

 

 Posted by at 18:07
May 272016
 
Not Dead Yet UK "version" of the Me Before You publicity material, branding the film a "Disability Snuff Movie"

Graphic by Brian Hilton

Join the #MeBeforeYou Thunderclap!

The latest blockbuster to come out of Hollywood called ‘Me Before You’ is seen as a gross misrepresentation of the lived experience of most disabled people. The film is based on the best-selling novel of the same name. A young man becomes disabled, he falls in love with his ‘carer’ and they have a fantastic year together but despite her protests, he decides to end his life at Dignitas so she can move on and he is no longer a burden to her.

A critique of the book by Crippled Scholar can be found at http://bit.ly/25bbRf6

Not Dead Yet UK, and DPAC are deeply concerned to see yet another film which casts non-disabled people as disabled people and shows the lives of disabled people as not worth living.

[Text from NDYUK Website]


Activists from Not Dead Yet UK and DPAC protested at the Première of the film in Leicester Square on 26th May. The protest against the movie was covered in the following evening’s Channel 4 News broadcast (see below), and in The Guardian, The IndependentThe Mirror, The Express, Disability News Service, Buzzfeed, Time, Huffington Post and Metro

More video and images from the protest:

Video Credit: Eleanor Lisney

Liz Carr talking to author Jo Jo Moyes about disabled peoples objection to her book and the resulting film, during the premiere of Me Before You

Photo Credit: Mark Dunk

 Posted by at 12:38
Jan 292016
 

Following the winning of two Bedroom Tax cases this week by the grandparents of a young disabled man and the survivor of domestic violence in the Court of Appeal the government announced within hours that it intended to appeal against this decision and has allocated an unlimited amount of our money to defend their totally unjust policies.

You can read the full  so-called justification for this from the so-called minister for disabled people, Justin Torysnake in this link here
Under-occupancy Penalty (28 Jan 2016)
http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2016-01-28a.415.0&s=%22housing+benefit%22#g424.0
“Justin Tomlinson: We are not ignoring the ruling; we are appealing it.
We are doing that because we feel that discretionary housing payment is
the correct way to do it. Reforms take time to come in, as I said
earlier. *Housing benefit* cost £24.4 billion this year. Had we not
brought in reforms, every single one of which was opposed by the Labour
party, it would have cost £26 billion this year.”…..

 

Until this appeal has been heard in the Supreme Court anyone currently appealing against a bedroom tax decision will have their appeal ‘parked’ pending the outcome however in the meantime the government has produced new guidance for anyone affected specifying that their extra costs should be met from a Discretionary Housing Payment.

Bulletin for HB staff HB U1/2016, effective from 28 January 2016

The important point is that this states very clearly that any additional costs incurred in meeting disability related housing needs should be met by a DHP. The bulletin states -:

Court of Appeal judicial review decision concerning the maximum rent (social sector)

  1. Yesterday the judgment of the Court of Appeal was handed down in the joined judicial review cases R v. Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, ex parte Rutherford and R v. Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, ex parte A. The full judgment is available at: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2016/29.html

 

  1. The Court has found that the claimants have suffered discrimination contrary to A14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, the Court of Appeal repeated the finding at first instance that the Secretary of State had complied with the Public Sector Equality Duty.

 

  1. The Court has granted the Secretary of State permission to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, and it is the Secretary of State’s intention to appeal.

 

  1. No action needs to be taken by local authorities following this judgment. It has not changed the applicability of the maximum rent (social sector) provisions and no action should be taken to re-assess the Housing Benefit (HB) of claimants in the appellants’ situation.

 

  1. The Department remains of the view that Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) are the appropriate means of protecting HB claimants in the appellants’ circumstances.

 

  1. Provided below are some Q&A to enable you to respond to any enquiries you might receive.

 

Q&A <