Annie

Dec 082017
 
Work & Pensions Committee hears from specialist disability groups on the PIP and ESA assessments on Monday
One of the big concerns the Committee has heard about DWP’s contracted PIP and ESA assessors is how their staff are qualified to assess the impact of multiple, serious and complex physical and mental health conditions on people’s lives, and how those conditions can affect the assessment process itself. Mencap’s evidence to this inquiry includes instances like a claimant being asked what medication he was on for Down’s Syndrome and learning disability – displaying deep ignorance of the condition, its effects and how it is dealt with.
In the video below from our in evidence this week, Committee Member Alex Burghart asks what specialist measures these companies have in place when they are working with someone with a serious mental health condition like schizophrenia: the answer was, effectively, none. All three companies insisted that no specialist medical knowledge is required to perform the “functional” assessments they carry out.
On Monday at 15:45 in Wilson Room we’re asking the specialist disability advocacy groups asking Scope, Sense, the Disability Benefits Consortium,  Citizen’s Advice and Mencap if they agree. You can also watch online. /ENDS

 Posted by at 18:48
Nov 302017
 

Difficulties accessing Universal Credit?

Please let Al at Inclusion London know any difficulties you have had with accessing Universal Credit.  We will pass this information to the DWP who are now interested in making the application process for Universal Credit (UC) more accessible.

Difficulties with accessing UC could include:

  • A lack of accessible information about UC itself, or about Advance Payments or any other aspect of UC.
  • Communications that are not accessible, such as phone calls that are not accessible to Deaf people, or lack of Easy Read.
  • Accessing/problems with the online application process.
  • Venues for assessments that are not accessible.

Please send your experience to Al by 3 January 2018 onellen.morrison@inclusionlondon.org.uk

 Posted by at 20:04
Nov 182017
 

Thanks to Nick Dilworth who wrote this template letter

You can follow him @Mylegalforum http://ilegal.org.uk/

 

[Your Address]

 

The Customer Complaints Manager

[Address of your Employment & Support Allowance Office]

*shown on your most recent correspondence from them

 

Date

 

Dear Sir / Madam,

National Insurance No:

Arrears of Employment & Support Allowance which may be owed to me through your official error

My attention has been drawn to some recent media coverage by the BBC entitled ‘Mistakes in benefits claims could cost up to £500m’ (dated the 17th November 2017).  As a result of this I am making an official complaint, I believe I may be affected and entitled to arrears of Employment & Support Allowance.The media coverage states:

“The errors identified by the Department for Work and Pensions affect the main sickness benefit, the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).  The BBC understands that assessors wrongly calculated the income of around 75,000 claimants.  Ministers say that they are aware of the problem and that repayments have begun to be made.  The department, which says it discovered the mistakes last December, is understood to have contacted about 1,000 people so far.  It says it is still trying to understand the scale of the problems with ESA, which is paid to about 2.5 million people, and will contact anyone affected.”

 

Having made some enquiries, I understand that I may be an affected individual because I underwent a ‘conversion’ assessment from older Incapacity Benefits / Income Support paid on the grounds of incapacity for work / Severe Disablement Allowance.  My recollection is that this was subject to a decision made by you on or about the [insert date].

The conversion process should have been carried out in accordance with the Employment and Support Allowance (Transitional Provisions, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit) (Existing Awards) (No.2) Regulations 2010 and it is my understanding that in confirming your decision you should:

(a) have ensured I was entitled to the correct amount of ‘transitionally protected’ benefit at a rate whereby my converted Employment & Support Allowance award was equal to what I received before conversion and should have continued to be protected on a ‘mark time’ basis until the level of Employment & Support Allowance either caught up with my transitionally protected amount or until the 5th April 2020.

(b) As part of the conversion decision making and notification process you should also have checked any existing contributory award to see if I may qualify for an income based amount on the converted Employment & Support Allowance award as confirmed by the Upper Tribunal in [2015] UKUT 342 (AAC) where it was held [In considering Regulation 8 of Employment and Support Allowance (Transitional Provisions, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit) (Existing Awards) (No.2) Regulations 2010]:

 

“Given the unified nature of ESA as described in paragraph 25 above, the determination by the Secretary of State of the amount of ESA to which a person would be entitled on conversion under regulation 8(1) in my judgment must encompass consideration of both the contributory amount and the income-related amount.”

 

I am therefore asking you to confirm that neither of the above omissions (a) or (b) occurred as a result of any official error on my claim.  If official error has occurred and I have been underpaid in consequence of that error, please ensure that you pay me any amounts owing to as a matter of urgency and without unacceptable delay.

Please note that this request is an official one which you must treat by way of an anytime review or supersession request.

I must further point out that this request applies to a retrospective decision and therefore applies in cases where there may have been a subsequent successful appeal against any initial decision to refuse or otherwise restrict the Employment & Support Allowance award made.  Likewise, the fact that I have since stopped claiming Employment & Support Allowance or taken up another claim to other benefits does not prevent me from making this request.

So that I can check the accuracy of your records please treat this letter as a Subject Access Request and supply me with copies of my pre – conversion awards and all claim details pertaining to my Employment & Support Allowance claim from the point of conversion of my claim.

Please also consider this as a complaint of potential maladministration on my claim and consider issuing me with an appropriate compensatory or special payment.

On a final point, please make me aware of the effect which this may have upon any other benefits such as Housing and or Council Tax Benefit paid at the point of conversion.

I look forward to hearing from you and trust that you will look in to and act on this request as a matter of urgency.

Yours faithfully

 

 

[Name]

 Posted by at 20:38
Nov 062017
 

Dear friends and colleagues

I am writing to invite you to the launch of the Austerity Campaign Action Pack, being developed by the Austerity Action Group formed by BASW following the Boot Out Austerity walk, with the support of the Social Workers Union.

The flyer for the event is attached and I would be grateful if you could share this widely. It is taking place on the evening of Thursday 30th November, at the University of Salford. It is a free, UK-wide event at which we will be hearing of anti-austerit activity in Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England. We are delighted that Rebecca Long-Bailey, a member of the Shadow Cabinet, will be speaking, alongside other notable speakers; and there will also be music, songs, poems, readings and film, in true Boot Out Austerity style. See the flyer for more details.

Food and refreshments will also be served.

You are receiving this email because of the interest you expressed in Boot Out Austerity. If you’d rather not receive future emails regarding BASW’s austerity campaigning, let me know by email, and I will remove your details from the mailing list.

Best wishes

Guy

Guy Shennan

BASW Chair

07841 529798

Visit our website at basw.co.uk

Wellesley House, 37 Waterloo Street, Birmingham, B2 5PP. Tel 0121 622 3911

The British Association of Social Workers is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England No. 982041.

 Posted by at 19:49
Nov 032017
 

DPAC received this letter a while ago. At first, it did not make sense. What was Swanee? Then, looking around, we started to make connections with words associated with swans and babies’s swans.

UP THE SWANEE:

Hello, you have reached the SWAN,

kontroller of many Sicknets.

Fancy a stay in one of our private mental health hospitals?

Don’t fret about the cost! The NHS pay us approx £12,000 – £32,000  per week (all dividends boosting a USA owned company).

Long stays are assured.

Correct treatments not guaranteed.

All our staff are lovely (in our opinion), we are talking textbooks enjoying our very rewarding jobs patronising clients, dodging real issues, & creating drug addicts.

On average, we will force you to take 24 pills every 12 hours – so we can stay in our offices, & keep you feeling unwell.

If you don’t swallow, law says it’s OK for you to be thrown to the floor, held down & forcibly injected.

If you dare to raise a little finger to defend yourself, we accuse you of assault, police come, you are blamed.

No, whilst in our “care” you will not be allowed to leave, or go outside. You stay inside, with no fresh air, activities or access to education.

There’s no point us providing that as patients are too drugged to do anything.

Yes, our slick, well oiled sales pitch, aimed at maximising numbers of customers, does give onlookers the impression we provide HOTEL like facilities – a gym for example.

We have an Occupational Therapist. I’m not sure why – in this heat nobody has much motivation…

But our brand new buildings –  quickly put up constructions similar to MacDonalds, are a facade.

Seems like patients are on holiday!

There’s even a chef to cook your meals.

Admittedly it’s not homely. It is like living in a glass office 24/7 with approx 30 complete strangers – some of whom are dangerous – full of fear – desperate to go out / escape.

So you’re watched by staff & cameras 24/7.

Staff control everything! What you can read, you are not allowed to write (a pen is a potential weapon). But if you want to cut yourself with razor blades, that’s OK, we  can’t watch you all the time! Ha ha. (Even though we are paid to safeguard you).

When you realise you are suffering from EXTREME boredom caused by not doing anything month after month, year after year – you may develop some nasty new habits like trying to gauge your eyeballs out.

It is upsetting for staff. But these side effects are all due to your illness, and part of your recovery. It is a sign of progress! Due to your condition getting worse.

No! None of what you are feeling / suffering is attributable to your environment, or fact you are being tortured by us.

This is new-style USA medical kidnapping, in the UK, with the image all sorted out so it seems palatable to less discerning eyes.

Oh, we don’t worry about inspections, inquests, complaints, or cuts in NHS funding!

Who do you think our shareholders are?

Anyone can invest in our multi-Billion $ business – the funders of NHS Commissioning groups do, MH Trusts… acquire shares – it’s a fast growing industry – very attractive to most (& not repulsive enough to cause disternation amongst those who might see through the sham. Or should I say scam?)

(It suits Conservatives – they cause the conditions that drive folk to distraction – the stressful conditions Tories like to inflict on lower income groups beneath them, increases illnesses – if it’s cogs that go, all drives ’em to our door, so it’s win win for us!

It’s not a revolving door! We let ’em in a door we then keep shut.

That’s all we need to do really – herd ’em in like cattle.

Of course we don’t like deaths! That’s a loss of approx at least £300,000 a year per expired patient.

Quickly replaced by another dying to get in, yes. But we would prefer to get that £300 grand plus  get another £300 grand.

Never mind.  Our insurance covers us against dead losses.

Luckily for us (on the dark side) nobody has scrutinised deaths caused. Nobody in authority wants to link them!

Each death is explained away by a coroner scattered someplace in the UK, if we get told off a bit for not providing the best care, we promise to improve, and jackpot!

We’ve perfected our operation – our branding – everything – so disgruntled relatives can’t even leave negative comments on our websites. We churn out photos to promote us… I particularly like  awards put in our reception areas –  so  assuring to our customers & clients, reminding them what we do is very rewarding.

Our complaints procedure has become increasingly obscure.

We say one thing, do another. 99% we get away with it. We hire a pretty youngling to listen pseudo sympathetically, then write saying you have got it wrong, the hospital is right. Works like a charm! Complaints fade away like patients

No, we don’t allow 2nd opinions when it’s claimed a patient is misdiagnosed, or put on a wrong ward.

Yes, we do get annoying Nearest Relatives to either put up & shut up, or get lost.

What’s it to us if a patient is 100’s of miles from home with no-one to check on their welfare?

Do we help alleviate the mental health of patients?

A few compliant types – 1 or 2 are released.  We love it when the grateful sing our praises – that’s good PR.

If discharged into the community – you still have to take all the drugs, or you are sent back on a Section.

So, we create the illusion we do, but we don’t.

If you say you have a mental health problem, I’ll give it a name, I’ll tie you in knots – you haven’t got a degree in psychobabble, but I have – I get paid to confuse you, throw the weight of the establishment on you and they will back me, not you…because… I am omnipotent… so big & powerful…

What’s the point in making patients better?

That is counter productive for us. You do see that, don’t you?

Ethics? What’s that got to do with us? We are not in the business of selling ethics! We’re here (to exploit and) make money. From drug sales…

Yes, we are fundamentally (excuse the pun) very different from the founding NHS principles. The NHS aim to get you better double quick.

We do not need a heart, soul, or conscience to make huge profits. We only care about acceptably fixing figures so attractive sums end up in offshore accounts.

I should care about tricking people, destroying quality of lives, futures?

No thanks, the money does me. Their mental health has gone to pot. My pot!

So, when are you signing up to join us?

You can trust in me, I’m a professional.

 

 

 

 Posted by at 21:51
Oct 282017
 

To confirm attendance please email
ellen.morrison@inclusionlondon.org.uk 

And with any information about any dietary and access requirements. There is parking outside and the nearest tube is Brixton. For more information about the venue see:

http://www.weare336.org.uk/

There will be more detailed information including programme for the day, workshops and speakers list to follow after the National Disabled People’s Summit is out of the way

Please share this information across your social media platforms

 Posted by at 20:56
Oct 282017
 
By the kilburn Unemployed Workers GrouK
The government has already closed 24 jobcentres since August this year. They plan to close a further 78 Jobcentres by April of 2018.
16 of these Jobcentres are in London.
Poor people and people facing the biggest challenges need local jobcentres, not some superhub that they have to walk miles to reach.
Benefit money is too little to cover regular trips on public transport. People will have to walk. And don’t be late or too ill to walk over a mile each way whenever the jobcentre demands it-– you’ll be up for a sanction!
The Torys say that much of the jobcentres work is now done online, but 5.3 million people in Britain have never used the internet, and 10 million lack the basic digital skills. And millions of these people will be in receipt of benefits.
You can’t use the internet if you can’t afford a computer or a mobile phone contract or or the fee for using library or internet cafe
You can’t use the internet if you are illiterate (and six to eight million Britons are borderline or fully illiterate)
Our local Jobcentres, Kilburn and Neasden, serve one of the most deprived areas in the country. If they are closed then over half of the borough of Camden and around two thirds of Brent will be more than half a mile from the nearest jobcentre, i.e. more than a mile round trip. These areas contain heavily populated areas: a lot of people are going to be affected.
In amongst the people who can’t use the internet are hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their disability benefit because they aren’t disabled enough for the Tories. They may be able to walk just 200 meters, or sometimes panic when out and get lost, or nor be able to plan a journey to places they dont know, or have epilepsy. They may be seriously depressed or suffering from brain fog brought on by medication or illnesses like Fibromyalgia. They may be recovering from Cancer or waiting for a heart operation. They may have variable conditions that mean that they can’t guarantee being able to go out at all on any particular day.
Let’s meet outside the DWP’s headquarters at Caxton House and let them know what we think about this. Save our Jobcentres!
The 16 London jobcentres that are closing are:
Highgate, – 24 November 2017
Eltham, – 1 December 2017
Edgware,  – 8 December 2017
Finchley,  12 January 2018
Dagenham, – 19 January 2018
Southall,  January 2018
Kingston,  February 2018
Brixton,  9 February 2018
Neasden Chancel House,  16 February 2018
Clapham Maritime House, – 23 February 2018
Kilburn,  2 March 2018
Hammersmith 9 March 2018
Croydon, – 16 March 2018
Wandsworth,  23 March 2018
Leytonstone, 30 March 2018
Hounslow, 1 – 6 April 2018
 Posted by at 19:15
Oct 282017
 
It’s been reported http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/disabled-people-interned-care-homes-nhs-cost-cutting-a8019906.html that across the country disabled people are receiving threats from their local NHS service that they may have to be moved from living in their own homes to a residential setting due to newly capped funding.
 
I’m looking to speak to disabled people in this situation to raise awareness of the issue. Please note, it isn’t necessary that you’ve actually been moved to a care home but that you’ve been directly told this is a possibility. 
 
Please get in touch on: frances.ryan.freelance@guardian.co.uk 
 Posted by at 19:05
Oct 272017
 

BBC Sunday Politics South East is making a news piece about the closure of Jobcentres. From next March people in the Whitstable and Herne Bay areas will have to travel to Canterbury, which can take up to an hour on public transport and cost up to £6.70. The BBC are looking for an individual or family who will be affected by these changes who would be happy to appear on TV and are available for filming on WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 1. Filming will take around an hour. If you can help please contact the South East team on 0207 407 9292. Many thanks. 

 Posted by at 16:12
Oct 272017
 
Please send your experience of the ESA or PIP assessment or your experience of waiting for an assessment to Henrietta.Doyle@inclusionlondon.org.uk by the 8 November.   Suggestions to improve the assessment process are also welcome.
Inclusion London will be sending written evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into PIP and ESA assessments and your evidence will be used to inform our evidence.
 Posted by at 13:22
Oct 252017
 

We know that Universal credit is a mess, but what about HMRC’s Real Time Information system ? The following contribution from Stephen Timms based on a Freedom of Information request is very interesting. It seems that over 5% of payments to individuals by HMRC were reported being paid late.  HMRC does not monitor the missing or incorrect payments, but we know that Universal Credit is being underpaid. So not only claimants have to contend with long waiting times, but when they are paid via RTI, over 5% are paid late, and an unknown number of claimants don’t receive anything, or an incorrect payment, mostly at their disadvantage. What experts are saying, is that 5,7% is an unacceptably high rate of late payments.  The number of late, missing and incorrect payments should be well lower than 1% if UC is going to work

Stephen Timms’ contribution comes from yesterday debate on UC

.

“Under universal credit, everybody’s monthly pay is automatically sent to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs through the pay-as-you-earn RTI—real-time information—system, and HMRC then sends that to the DWP so that it can do the universal credit calculation. There have been rumours for some time that the RTI system does not work very well. I have tabled questions about that, but the Minister has flatly denied that there is a problem.

It emerged last month, through a freedom of information request submitted by a member of the public, Mr John Slater, that there is a thing called the “Late, Missing and Incorrect RTI Project”. If RTI is late, missing or incorrect, we have a problem, because it is not possible to do the required universal credit calculation. I therefore tabled a question for the Minister:

“To ask…what the remit and activities of the Late, Missing and Incorrect RTI Project are.”

The Minister sent back an answer telling me that it did not exist and that there was no such thing. Fortunately, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs was more forthcoming on this point. I got a written answer last week from the Treasury, dated 16 October, to my written question 107309, which stated that:

“The vast majority of Real Time Information submissions are accurate and on time. However, a very small number of data quality issues create discrepancies and these can have an effect on an individual’s tax and benefits position.”

Indeed they can, because if the information is wrong, people’s benefit calculations will also be wrong.

The following day, 17 October, also from the more helpful of these two departments, the Treasury answer to my question 107475 stated that:

“during the 2016/17 tax year approximately 590m payments to individuals were reported via RTI. 5.7% of these were reported late. HMRC does not hold the information in respect of missing and incorrect reports.”

If over 5% of them were just late, never mind the ones that were missing or incorrect, we do have a serious problem.

Looking through all the submissions we received, briefing us ahead of this debate, I was struck by the one from the Child Poverty Action Group, referring to,

“difficulty making claims for universal credit, with many online claims seeming to ‘disappear’.

Universal credit being underpaid because ‘real time information’ provided by HMRC regarding income is not always reliable or accurate.

Claimants being paid the wrong amount of universal credit for no apparent reason.”

What is happening is that the IT is not doing what it is supposed to do.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury) referred to the anonymous report in The Independent a couple of weeks ago by someone working in a jobcentre, who talked about the grim reality of administering universal credit, rather by contrast with the enthusiasm with which Tory Members have told us that people are working on this. That writer made the point that when there is a discrepancy between what people were paid and what HMRC says they were paid—in other words, an RTI problem—it takes ages to sort that problem out. Members representing constituencies where universal credit has been fully rolled out report endless mistakes, delays and errors, which take weeks and weeks to resolve.

Another reason why this project’s roll-out should be paused and then fixed is to stop these problems being inflicted on tens of thousands more.

 Posted by at 15:54
Oct 072017
 

The DWP has published the long awaited guidance on Reassessments for claimants with the most severe and lifelong conditions, with the applicable criteria. This will only apply to claimants in the Support Group or under UC who have been found to have Limited Work Related Activity capability.  As with any decision which is discretionary, there will be no right of appeal.  Developed in conjunction with some disability charities such as DRUK, the criteria are not related to specific conditions, but to broader categories which will apply to specific conditions but will also encompass others, when all the criteria are met.

As with everything related to DWP, the implementation will be key, but there are already some questions:

Will it be a limit within a range to the number of people found to meet the criteria? A FOI request has already been made about this: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/wca_management_information_sever

What if a disability assessor and a claimant’s GP or consultant disagree about the realistic prospect of recovery?  Could a disability assessor who is neither a GP nor a consultant overrule a GP or a consultant in that regard?

There will be more questions. Meanwhile the guidance and the criteria are here:

FAQs on WCA severe conditions

DWP WCA Guidance on severe conditions

Severe conditions guidance

 

 

 Posted by at 14:12
Oct 032017
 

You can tweet these pictures during the Tory conference. The conference hashtag is included and you can add your own text.  The burning issue right now is Universal Credit, but we all know the problems encountered with the Work Capability Assessment, PIP, sanctions, social care, the bedroom tax etc. The list is too long to list them all.  You may want to mention the UN inquiry and the UN report, but ultimately, what you want to say to the Tory party, is that their welfare reforms did not save any money, did not simplify the benefit system, did not make work pay, but that they have hurt people, they made them poorer, even destitute and that they drove some people to an early death.  That will be the legacy of the past seven years for the Tory party.

 

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 09:24
Sep 142017
 

by Jenny Tsiropoulou

A petite boy called Diogenes has both of his hands tied with belts to his bed. Mary is 12 years old and has spent her entire life locked up in an empty room without ever seeing the sunlight. Others play inside cages; 2m-long bed-cages with wooden bars. They have never left this prison. They wear diapers 24/7 and are bottle-fed. Some of these residents are already 30 years old. They are on medication; they swallow up to 30 pills a day without being able to articulate a single word, a result of the chemical suppression. The terrible smell of incarceration and bodily waste does not emanate from the video that I am watching.

 

These images were recorded at the Child’s Care Center of Lechaina, a state-run home in the Peloponnese, Greece, in November 2015 by the disabled director and activist Antonis Rellas. He shows them to me today, two years after the recordings, as he completes his documentary titled From Asylum to Society. This material motivated me to travel with him to Lechaina in July 2017.

The residents are the victims of the state’s “Welfare” program and institutionalization scheme concerning mental health patients and disabled individuals in Greece. As newborns, most of them were abandoned forever by their parents, either because their families could not fulfill the needs of a disabled child or because these children, like Hephaestus, were not “normal” babies, and so were thrown out of their homes and into the sea of institutionalized life.

 

Lechaina center, 2015.

An ongoing crime is being disclosed

The Child’s Care Center in Lechaina was founded 27 years ago. This story is not news; on the contrary it is the epitome of an ongoing problem in Greece. In 2009 European volunteers who spent several months in the Center filed the first accusations. Following an investigation, in 2010 the Citizen’s Advocate drew up a report of findings of blatant violations of fundamental human rights at the Center. 2011 was the first time that reporters entered the Center with a TV camera and the situation was described as reminiscent of “medieval times”. Finally, in 2014 world-wide outrage grew after a shocking BBC report that showed children locked up in cages like wild animals in Greece, at the dawn of the 21st century.

After the BBC report, Catherine Papakosta (of the New Democracy party), under-secretary of the Ministry of Health visited the Center. Activists and medical staff reported that “the result was to install an interior surveillance system, completely useless and now out of order”.

Director Antonis Rellas is a member of the Greek Emancipation Movement for the Disabled Zero Tolerance, a group of activists who peacefully occupied the Center for four days, in November 4 in 2015, in order to take action.

Mary, 12, locked up in an empty room, 2015.

 

“The issues concerning the situation in institutions were very well known to us before we decided to take action. The Center in Lechaina happens to be the most representative example of the institutionalization of marginalized, [an example] of which we are not proud at all. Disabled individuals survive in conditions of terror and torture, cut off from the world, tied up in cages, living an inhuman life. It is no coincidence that the majority of the 70 state-run institutions across the country are located outside city limits, so that no one remembers their existence. The fundamental human rights of disabled individuals have been declared by the UN Convention which is also state law, but a crime has been committed for 27 years now by each and every government: it seems as if time were frozen.
Politicians limit their efforts to declaring their sensitivity for these “special” children, without making any substantial form of intervention in order to terminate institutionalization. For these reasons we decided to occupy the Center and demand the termination of the exclusion and the torture of our fellow-disabled” according to Antonis Rellas.

Zero Tolerance activists at Lechaina center, November 2015.

 

Apart from the fact that this is a political and human rights matter, for some activists it has also been personal:

“I went into the cage, lay down and cried. My whole life appeared before my eyes in those seconds. I realized that it was only by luck that I was not one of them. I am on the outside by mistake. If Vaso, my mother, back in 1973 in the city of Patras, a few miles away from here,had not cursed and kicked out her brother-in-law, who had recommended that I be placed in an institution he knew of nearby so that she wouldn’t suffer, I would be one of them. Why am I crying? Why do I get angry? Why am I ready to fall apart as I wait for the photo shoot? The answer is simple. Because when I left this place I left a piece of me in that cage, a cage that will follow me” Andrew Kouzelis,writer, sociologist and activist with spastic quadriplegia, wrote in November 8.

Andrew Kouzelis into the cage, November 2015.

 

In Lechaina

The next day, after a three-hour trip, we arrived from Athens to Lechaina. It was a three-story pink building, a few meters away from the Electricity Substation and far from city limits, with a dome and a Christian cross at the top. There were a few swings in the yard with no children on them, an ambulance parked off to the side and some olive trees. We were told that when a resident dies they plant an olive tree.

Lechaina center.

It is clear that, after the occupation and the pressure the activists of Zero Tolerance, significant changes had been made, such as open bed-cages, reduced medication and minimized mechanical restriction. Residents seem to have come out of sedation, like dolls suddenly infused with life. Some articulate their first words and smile while others eat and drink by themselves during lunchtime. Some had never moved their limbs before the activists’ intervention. There is also air-conditioning, since it gets very hot during the summer, and central heating in wintertime,another result of the activists’ demands.

The staff has been informed of our visit so every space is neat and there are evensome decorations. When we arrive, some residents, or “beneficiaries”, as they are called, spend their morning rest time in the playroom filled with air-mattresses and a TV set. There are seven or eight residents per room and they keep no personal objects. Only a girl named Canella, whose legs are tied up, has a few paintings and teddy bears. “Some of them receive visits from family members,” Antonis Rellas says while he guides me around the building.

Activists with Lechaina residents playing outdoors for the first time.

 

Most of them are forgotten by their families, as if they never existed. While we make our way around I see that the room where 12-year-old Mary was locked up is now the physiotherapy room. Mary has now been transferred to an institution for minors.

A man named Prodromos is 34 years old. He was abandoned as a baby in a small basket and lived in an institution for minors until the age of eight. At the time he fell off the 4th floor of the building and as a TBI patient (Traumatic Brain Injury) he was transferred to Lechaina. He smiles and asks for “sea”, “closet” and “nightstand”. One of his wishes is granted as, that afternoon, we take him for a walk by the sea, which might be a first for him –who knows…

The place is a far cry from the hellhole activists encountered with when they first occupied the building two years ago. But anyone who cannot swallow the idea that these people are not really people, and who reflectsthat every such institution is called home by those who live in it, will realize that the place is still a clinic that belongs more to the Dark Ages, or a scene out ofa dystopic movie.

People as objects in the trashcan

George Tsiakalos, professor of Pedagogy at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, has said that residents of Lechaina “could talk, laugh and go to school” if they did not suffer that tremendous damage of institutionalization. George Nikolaides, director of Mental Health and Social Welfare office at Child’s Health Institute, is the psychiatrist who has been officially in charge of the intervention program in Lechaina since 2016. I asked him how these individuals would be today if they had not lived through medication and mechanical restriction, and also if this really is a case of torture.

“Of course, totally. How does it look for a person to live for 365 days constantly in a cage or have their limbs tied up? What would you call that? This is clearly a violation of basic human rights and, in a sense, a crime for which Greece has been arraigned in all national fora by the United Nations, the Commissioner of Human Rights of the European Council, pertinent bureaus of the European Committee and so on. What happens in Greece is that we pretend to conform to rules and regulations, but things never really change. The first organized protest took place in the late ’90s, coordinated by a group of professionals and activists. The Government and the Administration of the Center managed to scatter the group and some protesters were even arrested. The only thing gained by the protest at the time was the replacement of metal cages with wooden ones,” Dr Nikolaides recalls.

He goes on to explain that “These individuals were treated by the system as if they were objects, with no expectations or individual characteristics. They were objects. What strikes me about my experience working with these people is seeing the moment they awake and become subjects who express their preferences, and take initiatives as simple as reaching out for a specific person to touch and connect with by choice,or talk for the first time in years. What Mr.Tsiakalos had said about education is true, and in fact two of the minors go to a special education primary school.”

“The Lechaina Center has been the trashcan of the Welfare system from all around Greece; every lost case was sent here. Of course there are some clinical cases that are quite severe, with multiple mental, cognitive and motor issues; on the other hand years of institutionalization, mechanical restriction and chemical suppression and years hinders language acquisition and cognitive development. Just think that, when we first intervened, there was a young man who had been tied up for 21 years. Everyone was so isolated and deprived of basic human touch thatwith just a little concern, care and communicative engagement there has been significant improvement.”

I asked for a specific example and he continues: “There is a teenager with an oversized skull, limb hypertrophy and a metabolic disorder that makes his bones brittle and which results in multiple fractures and an inability to hold up his neck. After he suffered a fracture, the courts accused the staffof negligence. So the decision was made to have him constantly tied up so that he would be safer. As we speak, he is no longer restricted in a cage, but free to touch, feel and express his emotions. The solution was a specific moon-shaped pillow that helps him stay steady. I sometimes watch him tidying his things.”

Diogenes with both his hands tied with belts to his bed, 2015.

Inevitably, I ask Dr. Nikolaides if there are members in the Greek scientific community who still recommend mechanical restriction and strong medication. “Yes” he answers “But individually and not in terms of a broad scientific discussion. There is a misleading notion about these institutions that they are some sort of hospital, especially among medical stuff. On the contrary, th residents see these centers as home. Ifa professional thinks he works in a hospital, a proper response to a resident walking around is “What are you doing? Why aren’t you in bed?”

Institutions as Barracks

Today the Center of Lechaina has 44 residents, the oldest of whom is 48 years old.There arefour minors among them. Most of them were initially placed in this Center or in similar institutions and never came out. These residents have cognitive disabilities, and bodily and motor impairments. Here there also individuals with sensory disabilities, such as impaired vision or even blindness. According to the psychiatrist “it is unacceptable that they live here. They do not belong here, because the Center lacks basic infrastructure for people with sensory disabilities.” Similarly, Dr. Nikolaides continues, “There are clinical cases that God knows how they ended up in here. There are patients with autism, to the extreme of the spectrum, and it is such a shame to have them institutionalized.”

According to the latest research conducted in 2014 by the NPO Rizes (Roots) there are 2,825 children institutionalized in Greece, 883 of whom are disabled.The research showed that disability was the main reason for institutionalization, according to the participants, after negligence and abuse. Ofa total of 85 institutions that undertakecare of children, only 28 are supervised by the State, while the rest are run by NGOs or the Church.

The Lechaina Center has a staff of 60 people, 25 of whom are responsible for the immediate care of the residents.Most are not healthcare professionals of any kind. The rest of the staff consists of administrative employees and technicians. As Dr.Nikolaides says “when we arrived in the Center last year, there was an speech and language therapist among us and the response of the staff to the presence of a professional was “What could an speech and language therapist do here? They don’t even speak!” But the good thing is, and this should be mentioned, is that after a year, at least a part of staff appreciates the changes, and actively participates in the effort.”

We spent the night at the Center as guests. In the room I stayed there is a bed, a basin and a wheelchair. There are some stickers of cartoon heroes on the wall and a drawing saying I Love Love.

In the morning all the residents wake up at the same time, eat the same meals and go to sleep at the same time, in an impersonal environment. “When you live in mass conditions, you inevitably follow a specific and quite strict program. Even if we try to improve the environment, there is always an obstacle because of space limitations,” explained the psychiatrist. He continued: “People should go out. Now they go out only for medical reasons. This is completely wrong, because, for example, there are residents with Down Syndrome who, because of long-term institutionalization and a lack of education and socialization never developed fully. Today individuals with Down Syndrome normally work, drive, get married, have friends, make love.”

Disability issues are left on the sidelines of institutional agendas, but also, unfortunately of activist ones. Stories about disabled individuals are used either to add drama to the evening news or as an oportunity to glorify “everyday heroes”. When faced with the brutal images of institutionalization, we look away and attempt to forget them. But emotion means nothing if it is not followed by steps toward improving the situation.

The Battle against Institutionalization – Zero political action?

“The Ministry is very well informed about the conditions and the problems institutions face. We know that the two most important issues are the lack of medical and special education professionals and infrastructure issues. A general meeting of administrators of all such institutions inthe country has been scheduled for November in order to compile a detailed account concerning these problems. The aim of the strategy of Ministry of Labor, Social Security and Solidarity is to accomplish the de-institutionalization to greatest extent while still providing for those in need of the appropriate medical care, and all future actions are to be based on this decision.”

This statement above was the answer of the Secretary to the activists of Zero Tolerance on November 5 in 2015, the second day of the occupation of the Lechaina Center.

On the one hand, the Ministry is fully informed about the conditions in Lechaina. On the other, however,though the Secretary mentions the key-word de-institutionalization, the solutions that are presented seem abstract and disproportionate to the problems. A neat and tidy hellhole is still a hellhole.

Activists and professionals working in Lechaina both agree that residents must receive personalized intervention and special care in order to be prepared for transition to an open and broad care center. How is it possible to move beyond the present model of institutionalization and isolation? Dr. Nikolaides and his colleagues have recently presented their proposal to the Greek government, the European Committee and relevant entities concerning a full plan for the replacement of the Center with smaller houses, different accommodation and better living.

As Dr. Nikolaides says “The proposal took into account the needs of each and every resident of the Center of Lechaina. We did not consider them as a group, but as individuals with specific needs. Some of them, for example, can be transferred to foster homes. In order for the plan to work, we need to have a transition stage, a smaller center. Unfortunately, regarding the history of mental health reform in Greece shows that a smaller care center could be worse than a bigger one. This is why this proposal includes a process of reeducation of staff and residents, so that eventually the residentscan be reintegrated into society. Also, it is essential to include a prevention program to enable families to have access to the necessary intervention programs in order to avoid more petitions for institutionalization. We have also included a certain budget and a timeframe in order for the program to be possible and we wait. But we cannot wait forever…”

“The program is supported financially by the British Organization Lumos, which is run by the Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. But it is unacceptable for this project to be supported financially by a foreign organization; the Greek State must share responsibility for this. We receive expressions of interest on behalf of the government, but they need to take action toward di-institutionalization process. There is no use in dissolving this center because of negative publicity without aiming to an inclusion policy.

As far as the financial planning is concerned, Dr. Nikolaides says “The exact budget of the Lechaina Centeris presently vague, as it is for each and every state-run care center. This is the case because of the multiple financial resources centers receive. Given the present data, the amount of money the Center receives is up to 1.5 million Euros annually, which amounts to 2,600 Euros per month for every resident. For our proposal the budget is estimated to be as high as 2.2million Euros for relocation and support, with another million Euros added to that to cover intervention and support programs around the country to avoid institutionalization going forward. There must be no center in the future that resembles the Lechaina Center, neither state-run nor private. Needless to say that in addition to the regulated state-run institutions, there are many private care centers to which we have no access,nor do we have information about their form and function.”

“The main priority is the absorption in the new centers of the medical staff who are part of the system already, but there is also a need for hiring professionals such as psychologists and social workerswho are not presently included in the staff of the Lechaina Center, according to Dr. Nikolaides. “We also try to overcome some of the obligations derived from the Memorandum. It is essential for the state to acknowledge the need of staffing with special education scientists, despite the general limitations on hiring in the public sector.”

In July 13, the assembly of the Greek Communist Party George Lamproulis directed a question in Parliament to the Under-Secretary of Ministry of Labor, Social Security and Solidarity concerning another care center similar to Lechaina, the Sanatorium of Chronic Illnesses in Skaramanga. Unfortunately, his statement reveals the ignorance of most of our society. “The building in Skaramanga accommodates 29 residents, while there is room for more. Why don’t you improve the infrastructure and hire personnel in order to put more children in it?” The under-Secretary answered that large care centers belong to the past, while today “There is need forterminating institutionalization, because the solution does not involve the improvement of these institutions,” referring here to the Lechaina Center as well. “De-institutionalization has helped already many children, according to their families. Institutions cannot be seen as lost soul repositories; it is essential to interact with society”. These were the exact words of Theano Fotiou, which raised expectations for action on behalf of the Ministry.

Asylum and Society

According to Antonis Rellas, “There is an ongoing discussion about closing down the Center in Lechaina, but we are not really sure if the Government is actually planning to do so.” Dr. Nikolaides is also not convinced that the State will take action upon this matter “because of the bureaucracy and malfunction of Welfare in Greece” and the failure of neoliberal politics in terminating institutionalization.
As he explains, “In my opinion, there is no Social Welfare Program in Greece and there will never be. There are few nonrecurring support structures and centers across the country, and that’s it. In the beginning of the 20th century, there was this charity network supported by great donors. After the Second World War Queen Frederica founded asylums for child protection, in order to control and prevent the spreading of Communist ideas. As a result, these asylums were promoting nationalism and religion. In the ’80s there was some kind of progress in health care, but social welfare became more and more of a bureaucratic affair. For example, I visited the Center of Lechaina and they told me that an incoming patient had just been approved. So I asked if anybody had assessed the child or talk to the family.They answered “No, but we checked these”, showing me a pile of folders with all the necessary information. In other words, decision making process about placement of a child happens only through paperwork. In the ’90s the NGOs were suddenly thriving and everybody felt safer with the idea that somebody else, and not only the State, would be considering society’s needs. It is shameful that no government has ever made a breakthrough in Welfare.”

As far as de-institutionalization planning made by neoliberal governments, a significant case was that of Reagan Presidency (1981-1989) in the U.S.A.:

“They threw residents out of the mental hospitals after packing them with a small amount of pills and a friendly wave goodbye. As a result, most of them died within the first year because they had no support or the capacity to survive by themselves, while the rest lived in the streets. It is not at all difficult to make the wrong move and put groups of people in danger, even in worse circumstances than the one described. Given the fact that our country has also been accused of negligence at the Lechaina Center, if any effort at terminating institutionalization is not planned very carefully, it is likely that politicians like Reagan could come along and make all the wrong decisions involving de-institutionalization in our country. Total disaster…”

For two years, Antonis Rellas has filmed the living situation for residents in Lechaina, ever since the public revelation of the first images that showed the horrible situation in that hellhole. His documentary titled From Asylum to Society will be presented in Greek and international film festivals starting next November and is supported financially by the Emancipation Movement for the Disabled Zero Tolerance and the Greek Movement of Disabled Artists.

In his own words, “Our goal is to getall these images out to the public in order to raise awareness and make people realize that everyone is responsible. We need to motivate individuals who seethis situation as criminal to take action and help toward this effort. If we can transform the Center of Lechaina, then we can transform all the others as well”.

 

https://www.thepressproject.gr/endetails.php?aid=116646

 Posted by at 21:20
Sep 122017
 

3 weeks after the UN described the treatment of disabled people as a ‘human catastrophe’, the UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn has still not made a statement or acknowledged the human cost that disabled people paid since 2010 under the pretext of ‘austerity’.

It is astonishing as Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell always supported in the past the struggles of disabled people and were at countless protests to save the Independent Living Fund.  Debbie Abrahams wrote an article about the UN findings, but what about Labour shadow Minister for disabled people? Her twitter handle does not mention her ministerial role @MarieRimmer, neither is her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/MarieRimmer or her Parliamentary website: http://www.marierimmer.org.uk/

She certainly did not have one word to say about the findings of the United Nations Committee for the rights of people with disability, or hardly anything to say at all about disabled people as show her spoken contributions https://hansard.parliament.uk/search/MemberContributions?memberId=4457

So we are asking you to tweet Jeremy Corbyn and ask him to hold Theresa May to account during Prime Minister Question Time

#HumanCatastrophe for disabled people says the UN @JeremyCorbyn must hold #May to account at #PMQs

#HumanCatastrophe for disabled people says UN @JeremyCorbyn Why no statements from Leader of the opposition #PMQs

 

#HumanCatastrophe for disabled people says the UN @JeremyCorbyn Where is the Shadow Minister for DP@MarieRimmer?

You can read more on the Black Triangle website: https://www.facebook.com/blacktriangle11/posts/1578145695540731:0

 

 Posted by at 18:22
Aug 312017
 

This is really important. When the Remploy factories were closed, the government promised to look after the disabled people who worked there, and a fund was set up for them.

What happened to them? How many were given another job?   You can tell your story to the BBC.  Read below:

 

I’m doing some research for the BBC into what has happened to people who used to work in government-supported Remploy factories. If you worked for Remploy when the factories were closed in 2013, or know somebody who did, please get in touch either by email (sean.clare@bbc.co.uk) or on my mobile (07730575867). There were 2,000 people employed by Remploy factories when state funding was withdrawn. I’m trying to find out what happened next. This is not for reporting at this stage and any information provided will be treated with complete confidence.

 Posted by at 15:13
Aug 212017
 

The UK government will be up in front of the UN Disability Committee next week on the 23 and 24 August answering questions on how far the UK Government is protecting and upholding the rights of Disabled people.

Photo: ROFA Delegates in Geneva earlier this year

Holding this government to account – Inclusion London and Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) members are giving evidence to the UN Disability Committee in Geneva

The UK government will be up in front of the UN Disability Committee next week on the 23 and 24 August answering questions on how far the UK Government is protecting and upholding the rights of Disabled people and implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

This is the first time the UK has been examined under the UNCRPD since the Government signed up to it in 2009. This routine scrutiny was originally due to take place in 2015 but was delayed due to the inquiry triggered by Disabled People Against Cuts and carried out by the UN disability committee which found reliable evidence of grave and systematic violations of Disabled people’s rights by the UK Government due to welfare reform.

Inclusion London and our sister ROFA organisations are part of a UK wide group of DDPOs going to Geneva to give evidence on the on-going retrogression and violation of our rights and the failure to implement the UNCRPD.

Not going to Geneva? You can still get involved!

 Posted by at 14:54
Aug 122017
 

Reblogged from UNITE LIVE http://unitelive.org/appalling-treatment/

If you are appalled at the treatment of the Co-op disabled employees, you can tell them on Twitter at @coopuk

HGV drivers employed by the Co-op at its West Thurrock distribution depot have begun balloting for industrial action over the ‘appalling treatment’ of their disabled colleagues.

The workers, who are members of Unite and who deliver to 600 Co-op stores in London and the south east, are extremely angry that three of their colleagues have been dismissed or are facing dismissal due to their disabilities.

The disabled drivers have for many years been provided with work they have been able to undertake. However this work is no longer available because of outsourcing or internal reorganisation.

Unite has argued that the workers should have been made redundant. The local Co-op management rejected this approach and instead opted to use a capability process which resulted in two of the workers being sacked and the third expecting the same treatment in the near future.

“The Co-op has acted in an appalling manner,” said Unite regional officer Paul Travers. “We have argued that the disabled drivers should have been made redundant because their revised duties were agreed under the Equalities Act as reasonable adjustments. The company knows the drivers are unable to deliver to stores and has been happy for them to undertake other driving roles, when it suited it and now it just wants to discard them.”

Unite are initially undertaking a consultative ballot of the workforce before proceeding to a full industrial action ballot. If the matter is not resolved then Unite anticipates that industrial action will occur in the weeks preceding Halloween and Bonfire night, which will cause widespread disruption. It could also cause problems in the pre-Christmas period.

Paul Travers added, “Unite remain available to resolve this matter; however the Co-op just keep telling us they have acted lawfully — a point that Unite and our members fundamentally disagree with.”

 Posted by at 13:59
Aug 062017
 

If you’ve been sanctioned after being found fit for work, please get in touch with Frances Ryan (@DrFrancesRyan , Guardian journalist), She is looking for a severely disabled person who has been recently (within the last 2 years) found fit for work after having a Work Capability Assessment. and who has been sanctioned. As it is for Frances’s book, all information is confidential and is on ‘First names only’.
You can contact her by email at francesryan.journalism@gmail.com

 Posted by at 21:08
Jul 242017
 

Please watch the video:

DPAC began the fight back against the Tory/DUP minority government after the General Election in June with a week of action called #SummerOfDiscontent on14-21 July 2017 to highlight the impact of the Atos PIP assessments on disabled people’s lives and appalling impact of social care cuts and the lack of accessible transport and to support the RMT dispute to keep guards on trains. DPAC also supported the NUT Demo “carnival of cuts” to highlight the lack of funding for schools and highlight the deepening segregation of disabled students in schools.

 

DPAC activists joined the striking southern guards in solidarity on day 33 of the strike action at the RMT picket line at Victoria Station, London on Monday 10th July 2017 as Southern, Northern Arriva and Merseyrail guards went on strike to highlight the cutting of the train guards post on the three rail franchises and  that southern rail has rolled back the turn up and go on 33 of its stations on the southern rail network and the  rolling  back of disabled people’s freedom to ride, plus  highlighting the fact that 70 per cent of safety related incidents happen on 33 per cent of Driver only operated trainsl network.

 

On Friday 14th July 2017 began the DPAC week of action #SummerOfDiscontent which co incided with the opening ceremony of the Para Athletics World Championships at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park at Stratford.  ATOS who carry out the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Contract for the DWP were partner sponsors for the event.  DPAC activists had an alternative opening ceremony outside the stadium to highlight the impact of PIP assessments on disabled people.  Activists handed out leaflets to members of the public to raise awareness of the distress of the PIP process and the impact on disabled people’s lives.

 

On Sunday 16th July 2017 DPAC activists supported NUT members on its demo in Central London called Carnival of Cuts.  DPAC members marched in solidarity with teachers, parents and school children to highlight the cuts to school budgets and to highlight the deepening segregation in schools with cuts to special education budgets and to support Lucy Cox and Tara Flood from ALLFIE who addressed the rally at Parliament Square about the impact of education cuts on disabled children’s lives.

 

Tuesday 18th July 2017 DPAC held a national day of action across the UK to highlight local cuts to services that disabled people use.  Bromley DPAC held a protest outside Bromley Central Library to protest against the sustainability development plans (STPs) for the NHS.  Bromley Health- Watch held a public meeting for residents to ask changes to ask questions about NHS changes in the local area.  Bromley DPAC activists joined with local NHS campaigners and held a protest outside the venue and asked local residents to sign a petition.  There was a question and answer session after the meeting which several Bromley DPAC activists asked questions to the NHS staff.

 

Thursday 20th July 2017 DPAC members were joined by Transport for All, Association for British Commuters and RMT activists and members of the RMT executive and Assistant General Secretary, Steve Hedley outside the Department of Transport to highlight the removal of train guards from Southern Rail and the importance of safety and access on the rail network.  A change.org petition with 4,000 signatures asking Department of Transport to reconsider the position to keep guards on trains was handed in to staff at the Department of Transport.  After speeches  DPAC members blocked the road outside Department of Transport for over 10 minutes asking the department of transport to keep guards on trains and look into the rolling back of turn up and go policy on 33 of its stations on the southern rail network.

 

The week of action ended on Friday 21st July 2017 where a DPAC campaign against ATOS began 5 years ago in 2012, at ATOS HQ, Triton Square, Nr Warren Street.  Activists from Winvisible, Unite Community and Kilburn Unemployed workers group joined DPAC members for the protest outside ATOS HQ.

The protest began with a march with the banner listing the names of disabled people who have died due to the impact of the welfare reforms.  Speeches soon followed, with a picnic and noisemakers.

Activists then marched to Warren Street with their banners and blocked warren street for over 10 minutes to highlight the impact of 7 years of Brutal Tory Austerity on disabled people’s lives.

 

Photos from the week of action: https://www.facebook.com/paula.peters.79/media_set?set=a.1574305842610760.1073742091.100000940783562&type=3

Photo credit: Paula Peters.

 Posted by at 21:36
Jul 192017
 

Thank you to Gail Ward who put this together. You can read her blog here https://blueannoyed.wordpress.com/2017/07/19/the-2-yr-job-rule-for-disabled-on-universal-credit-is-not-true/ and follow her on twitter at @blueannoyed

 

In the last few days it has been widely reported by various bloggers that those disabled claimants claiming Universal Credit are subjected to finding a job within two years or face a 1 year sanction. This is utter fabrication and feeding many claimants fears which could potentially cause harm. So today I called Welfare Rights ,who called DWP while I remained on the phone, they denied that this information was correct and was downright alarmist and dangerous. That doesn’t mean I trust DWP and have submitted a FOI too given 7 years of shenanigans. So you see folks, you can take the fear project and destroy it with Facts!

Those who will be put on Universal Credit (UC) will have to sign the claimant commitment regardless, some will be subjected to full conditionality some will have their conditionality limited depending on the circumstances, and subject to sanctions if they fail to comply with the agreed commitments they agreed with work coach via the Work Plan,My 4 steps,My Values documents.  (Document links provided at bottom of the blog.)

This is the article in question. Responses by DWP staff are in italics, and comments about the response in bold

As promised last night, the SKWAWKBOX has been looking further into conflicting reports from DWP insiders concerning the WRAG (work-related activity group) category into which the government, more or less arbitrarily, places some disability benefit claimants and the possibility of sanctions after a fixed period of two years under the Universal Credit (UC) system if claimants have not found work.

Some activists insisted that this was part of the UC system and this was initially confirmed by long-term DWP employees. Others subsequently disputed it. The only thing all were agreed on was that the rules are ill-conceived and extremely confusing.

The SKWAWKBOX contacted a PCS union official who specialises in UC for clarification and received this response: 

I’ve been looking at the regulations and I can’t find anything that refers specifically to a fixed time limit in which to find employment.

That is right, because no fixed time limit exists in the regulations

 

The ‘disabled’ argument, as I’m sure you are aware, is notorious because ultimately the Department through the provide contractors are essentially able to define who is fit or not for work.

For example, a claimant maybe moved from ESA to UC on the back of a WCA [Work Capability Assessment]. The claimant may disagree with the decision but they are stuck.

If they are adamant they are not fit for work, they could refuse employment in an environment they believe will affect their health.

If they have been found to have no Limited Capability for Work, they cannot refuse employment. The fact that claimants think they are unfit for work has been the main issue with the flawed WCA since 2008

 

This is where the sanction process comes in – a 13wk, 26wk and 156wk sanction could apply (although similar regs existed prior to UC and the 2012 Welfare Reform Act if not as harsh or severe).

In this case you’re looking at failure to apply, not accepting work or leaving on one’s own accord. Their argument is they aren’t fit, the department will still look at sanctions.

The circumstances described here apply to somebody who has not been found to have Limited Capability for Work.

 

The sanction regime is clearly arbitrary, deeply unfair and dangerous – but there is no rule mandating a fixed time-limit for a claimant to find work.

Again no time limit

 

However, another PCS/DWP source warned that while the rules don’t include such a limit, the way they are applied may not be as clear cut:

I can tell you that we have received complaints from WRAG claimants about having their ESA revoked after two years. And now they are treated as JSA claimants because they are ‘fit for work but not necessarily their precious occupation(s)’.

ESA cannot be revoked. It simply cannot be claimed after a claimant has been found fit for work. Previous occupations are not a consideration. That has always been the case.

 

Sanctions have been applied because the claimant has not fulfilled their requirement to find work. The purpose of the WRAG was to enable people to return to work despite being disabled, but this component has now been removed as WRAG claimants are now treated as jobseekers.

WRAG claimants under UC are described as having Limited Capability for Work.. They are not required to search for, be available for and start work, and cannot be sanctioned for not doing so, but they are required to accept work preparation requirements within their commitment and attend WFIs.

 

Other WRAG claimants have been booted off ESA or the sickness element of UC after a period of two years because they failed their WCA – deliberate decision to bully them back to work.

Some claimants will fail their WCA after 2 years. Others after 6 months, 12 months  etc.

2 years is actually a defined prognosis period, meaning a number of people are reassessed at this stage. Unless there is any evidence of a pattern, this period of 2 years is meaningless

 

Thanks too to Anita Bellows who has worked with me on this 🙂

 

So you see folks, you can take the fear project and destroy it with Facts! 

https://www.scribd.com/document/353594773/4c-ESAHWC1

https://www.scribd.com/document/353595852/CC-O18-E15

https://www.scribd.com/document/352833734/CC-Work-Preparation-Activities-v1-0

https://www.scribd.com/document/353603319/1359203507-UJcompanyleafletJCP

https://www.scribd.com/document/354185048/CC-Requirement-to-Accept-a-Claimant-Commitment-v2-0

https://www.scribd.com/document/354185364/cc-commitment-not-accepted-v1-0

https://www.scribd.com/document/354185650/My-4-Steps-Template

https://www.scribd.com/document/354187257/1816-my-values-1-pdf

https://www.scribd.com/document/349517725/UC-Claimant-Committment

https://www.scribd.com/document/349520361/FTS-FTP-in-WFI-and-Failure-to-Undertake-Work-Related-Activity

https://www.scribd.com/document/349517543/Handout-08-01-Commitment-Pack-v7-7

https://www.scribd.com/document/354182466/Dealing-With-Sanctions-Facsheet-4

https://www.scribd.com/document/353627563/HWC-Exemptions

 

Read Frank Zola Blog below;

https://mrfrankzola.wordpress.com/2017/07/18/disability-rights-uk-disrightsuk-questions-why-dwp-esa-health-work-conversation-mandatory-foi/

 Posted by at 18:31
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
Jul 182017
 

Social care was one of the defining issues of the general election but the vast majority of coverage concentrated on funding for elderly care as opposed to independent living for Disabled people.  However, this year for the first time, the needs of disabled young people and people with mental health support needs have been identified as placing the greatest pressures on social care budgets over and above those of older people*. With further cuts planned of £824 million in 2017/18, the cumulative “savings” made to adult social care budgets since 2010 is set to reach £6.3 billion.

 

The funding crisis in social 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. The most basic choices such as when to get up go to bed or use the toilet, when and what to eat, and the choice to leave the house are no longer in the hands of Disabled people but subject to Local Authority budget allocations which are becoming ever more restricted.

 

Leading figures in the disability rights movement have recently warned that the concept of personal assistance has been severely damaged by years of budget savings and policies that have “degraded” the support mechanisms designed to enable independent living.**

 

On an individual level this is devastating for Disabled people, locked away whether in their own homes, supported living or residential care. On a societal level this is a regression of the right to independent living and a return to a segregated society where Disabled people are separated from their communities and invisible to the wider public behind closed doors.

 

 

Disabled people and our allies are calling on government to ensure that the consultation on funding for social care promised by Prime Minister Theresa May for later this year will address the urgent issues of:

– upholding disabled people’s right to independent living,

– protecting our life chances and the futures of disabled younger people

– ensuring that Disabled people are not put at risk by fragile or lacking infrastructure to support personal assistance management

– enabling Local Authorities to fulfil their obligations under the Care Act 2014 including implementation of the well- being duty according to the principles set out in Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (see paragraph 1.19 of the Care Act statutory guidance)

 

With assisted suicide back in the law courts this week, please join us to call on politicians to assist us to live not to die.

How to get involved:

  • Join us in Parliament on Wednesday to lobby our MPs (meet outside 11am)
  • Write to your MP
  • Watch this space for when Parliament returns from its summer recess in September

 

*2017 annual budget survey from ADASS (Association of Directors of Social Services)

** https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/years-of-austerity-have-left-personal-assistance-in-very-fragile-state/

 

 

Template letter to MP

 

I am writing to you as my constituent MP to ask for your support in calling for urgent action on the question of independent living for Disabled people and in ensuring that the consultation on funding for social care promised by Prime Minister Theresa May for later this year addresses the needs of Disabled adults as well as the elderly.

This year for the first time, the needs of disabled young people and people with mental health support needs have been identified as placing the greatest pressures on social care budgets over and above those of older people*. With further cuts planned of £824 million in 2017/18, the cumulative “savings” made to adult social care budgets since 2010 is set to reach £6.3 billion.

“Independent living” does not mean doing everything for ourselves without support but refers to the ability to live and be included in the community with the same choice and control over our own lives as non-Disabled people.

The funding crisis in social 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. The most basic choices such as when to get up go to bed or use the toilet, when and what to eat, and the choice to leave the house are no longer in the hands of Disabled people but subject to Local Authority budget allocations which are becoming ever more restricted.

[Insert person situation]

On an individual level this is devastating for Disabled people, locked away whether in their own homes, supported living or residential care. On a societal level this is a regression of the right to independent living and a return to a segregated society where Disabled people are separated from their communities and invisible to the wider public behind closed doors.

We therefore urge the Government to ensure that the consultation on social care promised by Prime Minister Theresa May for later this year directly addresses the need to:

  • uphold disabled people’s right to independent living,
  • protect the life chances and futures of disabled younger people
  • ensure that Disabled people are not put at risk by fragile or lacking infrastructure to support personal assistance management
  • enable Local Authorities to fulfil their obligations under the Care Act 2014 including implementation of the well- being duty according to the principles set out in Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (see paragraph 1.19 of the Care Act statutory guidance)
 Posted by at 18:43
Jul 142017
 
from the Reverend Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
No citizen without an affordable home and an  adequate income in work or unemployment.
93 Campbell Road, Tottenham, London N17 0BF, 0208 3765455, 07961 177889, 
Yesterday, Highbury Corner Magistrates court, as expected, issued a liability order against me to Haringey Council adding £115 costs. 
 
But far more seriously the magistrate issued liability orders plus costs against 510 Haringey residents by signing a computer printout. That was a small number: sometimes it has been over 2000 at one time by signing a print out. The total number of summons issued by Haringey last year was over 27.000. Nationally there are 3.5 million a year. 
 
The vast majority are issued by computer against local people who can never afford to pay the tax because their benefit incomes have been shredded by central government. 
 
Haringey Councillors ought to be ashamed of themselves for letting such an oppressive law loose on the large number of vulnerable and impoverished residents in the borough. It creates serious hardship.  
 
Great efforts by council staff goes in to collecting the tax from people who cannot pay. No surprise that over £2million is left unpaid every year. 
 
A computer will now send the following threats to residents of the borough, vulnerable or not. It is an inhuman process.
​​

Failure to contact the council on receiving a liability order will result in the council taking one of the following methods of recovery to collect the outstanding Council Tax: 

 

You can tell Haringey Councillors what you think of their treatment of the poorest people in their council by tweeting directly to them

Tweet Lorna Reith, Labour councillor

Tweet Claire Kober ‏Leader of the council

Tweet Joe Goldberg, Labour councillor

Tweet Joseph Ejiofor, Labour councillor

Tweet to Vincent Carroll, Labour councillor

Tweet to Tim Gallagher, Labour councillor

Tweet to Peray Ahmet, Labour councillor

 Posted by at 14:34
Jul 122017
 
Thursday 20th July – Turn Up and Go protest
Driver Only Operated trains, the removal of guards from trains and rail staff from stations threaten Disabled people’s freedom to travel. On 10th July DPAC campaigners will be joining RMT staff on their picket lines as they take industrial action to defend our right to access public transport.
On 20th July we are inviting Disabled people to travel together en masse to the Department for Transport’s headquarters in London to deliver a petition demanding out right to ride.
Assemble outside the Department for Transport at 2pm. Department for Transport 
Great Minster House ,33 Horseferry Road ,London,W1P 4DR
 Posted by at 22:07