Annie

May 192019
 

A new play coming on next week, inspired by a disabled women\’s fight to avoid been institutionalised by the government and to get back to her flat. Just use this link – just £10 or £5! http://buytickets.at/backtohackney Event: Theatre production – ‘Back to Hackney’ Venue: Theatro Technis, 26 Crowndale Road, Mornington Crescent, London, NW1 1TP Transport: Nearest tube – Mornington Crescent 7 mins walk, Camden Town 10 mins walk. Buses 46 & 214 stop in Crowndale Road near the theatre.Buses 24, 27, 29, 88,134, 168 & 253 all stop nearby in Camden High Street Running time: 90 minutes with an interval Dates of run: 22 May – 1 June 2019 Time: 7:30pm   \’\’Inspired by real life events and the recent drastic cuts to adult social care in the UK, this heart-warming drama set in a spinal rehabilitation ward, explores one disabled woman’s journey to avoid being institutionalised by the authorities and her desperate fight to get back to her flat in Hackney!\’\’ Writer/Director: Panayiota Panteli www.backtohackney.com Recently selected for the BFI Writers Lab and is an alumni of the Talent Campus at London Screenwriters Festival. This work launches Theatro Technis initiative to champion women’s voices in the arena of new writing.   Cast includes: Teresa Zaylor https://www.spotlight.com/3578-7862-0832   Kathryn Perkins  https://www.spotlight.com//2792-4537- 7778  Panos Savvides  Spotlight: PANOS SAVVIDES   Lucy Christy Spotlight: LUCY CHRISTY Anna Antoniades Spotlight: ANNA ANTONIADES

 

 Posted by at 18:24
May 192019
 

European Disability Forum | nothing about us without us

We would like to ask for your help with the European Elections. They are approaching and EDF needs your help to assure that the next EU Parliament includes a strong group of MEPs that can help us advance our rights. For this we need your help on 3 things:

 

  • Send the Disability Rights pledge to candidates for the EU Parliament.. The pledge is a written commitment that candidates will support disability rights and join the Disability Intergroup in the Parliament.  Unfortunately no MEP from Ireland signed yet We would need your help in contacting candidates of your country. You can find in attachment the pledge, a model letter and an excel list with the email addresses of some of the candidates for your country (not exhaustive). The list was a joint effort with other civil society organisations – please don’t share it outside your members.  These is the list of candidates who already signed.

 

  • Tell us about candidates with disabilities. We are building an internal list of candidates with disabilities for the EU Parliament. If you know some, please let us know.

 

  • Promote the vote of persons with disabilities. To do so we have a short article on 10 reasons to vote (in attach), and a full report on the rights of persons with disabilities in the EU. Feel free to translate and share as you see fit.

 

Could you let us know if you can help us with these requests and any additional actions for the EP elections? After the 10th of May, we may contact missing candidates to ensure a broad support across the EU.

 

 

Documents attached:

Documents attached:

Persons with disabilities: 10 reasons to vote in the European elections https://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/1U1Ac0zsTOaDpTNCR1Ch2ftvF1SgdfTNA

Model letter to MEPs https://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/1U1Ac0zsTOaDpTNCR1Ch2ftvF1SgdfTNA

European elections. List of UK candidates.

https://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/1U1Ac0zsTOaDpTNCR1Ch2ftvF1SgdfTNA

 

 

 Posted by at 17:53
May 132019
 

One article from The News in Portsmouth has alerted families on benefits of a scam linked to Universal Credit. https://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/crime/warning-as-fraudsters-dressed-in-suits-con-people-into-taking-out-universal-credit-in-new-scam-1-8923710

But it is happening in other places too, and Hillingdon Citizen Advice Bureau published the same warning, and advice about conmen going door to door, pretending to be DWP staff. Read their release below:

Release from Hillingdon Citizen Advice Bureau
Smartly-dressed scammers in the local area have been offering people interest-free loans or quick cash, in return for a fee. Sometimes they refer to it as a “government loan”
Some have been going door-to-door, pretending they are DWP staff calling to help with claims for Universal Credit.
Others have approached people in pubs, offering them money in return for proof of identity and their bank account details.
They may target people in your neighbourhood!
Having all your details, they set up a Universal Credit claim in your name and get you a benefit advance, but take a share of this – often hundreds of pounds.
They don’t tell you this stops your other benefits and tax credits, that you can’t go back to these once you are on Universal Credit and that you could get less money on UC.
You also have to pay back all of the loan from your benefits, including the money the scammer takes from you.
If someone tries to scam you, call the police. DWP and Citizens Advice staff NEVER COLD CALL to make benefit claims.

 Posted by at 08:05
Apr 022019
 

Your experience of the UC claimant commitment  

The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) would like to hear from anyone who has experience and evidence of the claimant commitment under Universal Credit (UC) .

Inclusion London will be submitting evidence to the SSAC and would like to hear about your experience of the Universal Credit claimant commitment to inform our evidence. Please see some questions below to indicate areas we are interested in:

  • Was the impact of your impairment or health condition fully considered by the staff member setting your claimant commitment?  Please give details.
  • Was your claimant commitment adjusted or changed by JobCentre Plus staff because of the impact of your impairment or health condition? Please give details.
  • Have you received a sanction?  If the answer is yes, did you received a sanction because you were unable fulfill the claimant commitment due to the impact of your health condition or impairment? Please give details.
  • When was your sanction and how long did it last?
  • What was the impact of the sanction on you and your daily life?

Please send your experience to Henrietta.Doyle@inclusionlondon.org.uk by 15 April 2019

 If you are interested in providing evidence directly to the SSAC please see the information at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/claimant-commitment/call-for-evidence-on-the-claimant-commitment

 

 Posted by at 15:34
Feb 222019
 

 

Jodey Whiting: DWP ignored five ‘safeguarding’ chances before WCA suicide

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) failed five times to follow its own safeguarding rules in the weeks leading up to the suicide of a disabled woman with a long history of mental distress, an independent investigation has found.

The Independent Case Examiner (ICE) 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 (WCA), and took her own life just 15 days later.

The report is the latest evidence of the institutional failure of DWP to guarantee the safety of disabled people – and particularly those with a history of mental distress – within the “fitness for work” system.

DWP has accepted the report’s findings.

Whiting’s mother, Joy Dove, has now called for DWP and those staff responsible to face a criminal investigation for the failures that led to the death of her much-loved daughter, who she described as a “lovely, caring, thoughtful” person who adored her children and grandchildren.

She said her daughter had died a “martyr” and that campaigners were right to say that the Tory government had created a “hostile environment for disabled people”.

The 42-year-old had been taking 23 tablets a day at the time she died, for conditions including scoliosis and bipolar disorder, and had been taking morphine twice daily.

She had been a long-time claimant of incapacity benefit, and then employment and support allowance (ESA), and DWP and its assessors had previously noted the severity of her mental health condition, and the risk that would be posed if she was found fit for work.

When she was approached again for another assessment in the autumn of 2016, she told DWP about her suicidal thoughts and requested a home assessment as she said she rarely left the house.

But even though a “flag” was placed on DWP’s ESA system to alert staff that she was a “vulnerable” claimant because of her mental health condition, DWP failed to refer her request for a home visit to Maximus, the company that carries out WCAs on its behalf.

Maximus also failed to act on her request, even though it had been included in the ESA50 form she had filled out.

But this was just the first of five serious failings by DWP in the weeks leading up to her death, the ICE report has concluded.

Whiting, from Stockton, Teesside, failed to open a letter asking her to attend a face-to-face assessment on 16 January 2017, and so missed the WCA.

She had been ill with pneumonia and receiving hospital treatment for a cyst on the brain and had been taking painkillers which affected her ability to cope with correspondence.

DWP’s safeguarding procedures say the department should contact vulnerable claimants by telephone if they miss their assessment, but the ICE investigation found no evidence that this had been done.

It should also consider a safeguarding visit to the claimant’s home, but again there was no evidence this was done, the ICE report says.

After receiving a letter asking her to explain her failure to attend the WCA, Whiting told DWP that she had not received the letter about the assessment and explained about her pneumonia and hospital treatment.

She said her GP wanted the department to write to the surgery so the doctor could provide detailed information about her health.

But DWP failed to write to the GP, its fourth failure to protect Jodey Whiting from serious harm.

On 6 February, a DWP decision-maker wrote to Whiting to say that she had provided no proof of the pneumonia and failing to receive the letter about the assessment and so her ESA would be stopped.

But the decision-maker appears to have failed to consider her mental health history in making that decision, says ICE.

This was DWP’s fifth separate failure to follow its own safeguarding guidance.

Whiting phoned DWP to protest the decision to stop her ESA and then an adviser from Citizen’s Advice wrote to DWP on her behalf on 15 February to explain the situation and request another assessment, and explained that she had been given a foodbank voucher.

DWP claims it never received this letter.

Six days later, on 21 February 2017 – two years ago today – Jodey Whiting took her own life. Her body was discovered by her mother.

The report by the Independent Case Examiner, Joanna Wallace, says: “In total there have been five opportunities for DWP processes to prompt particular consideration of Jodey’s mental health status and give careful consideration to her case because of it – none of those were taken.”

She concludes that there were “multiple failings in the handling of Jodey’s case prior to her suicide”.

Wallace’s report, addressed to Jodey Whiting’s mother, adds: “I find it extremely disappointing that in investigating the complaints you have raised, we have seen that DWP have either failed to investigate, or failed to acknowledge, the extent of events in Jodey’s case.

“As such the facts of the case have not been made clear to you and no appropriate apology has been made.”

DWP has agreed to the ICE recommendation that it should pay £10,000 to the family as a “consolatory” payment for its “repeated failures to follow their safeguarding procedures” and other failings that took place after her death (see separate story).

Joy Dove, who has campaigned for justice – including through her Justice for Jodey petition – said her daughter had “died a martyr”.

She said: “I hope she has not died in vain.”

She said the way DWP had treated her daughter showed that campaigners have been right to accuse the Tory government of creating a “hostile environment for disabled people”.

She said she cried when she read the ICE report because she believes it vindicates her belief that DWP was responsible for her daughter’s death.

Now she wants to see DWP itself and the staff responsible for her daughter’s death face a criminal investigation.

She said: “What they have done is criminal. They had all the information in front of them. Five times they failed.

“I would like to see them charged, all of them who had anything to do with Jodey’s case.

“I’m not frightened of them. They can do what they want.”

She said she was grateful to ICE for its report exposing DWP’s serious failings, and now wants to see changes by DWP to prevent another death like her daughter’s.

She said her own health had suffered because of what happened to her daughter – she herself is an ESA claimant – and the struggle to secure justice for her, and that she had fallen into debt because of her efforts to provide a fitting funeral for her daughter in 2017.

Despite those financial struggles, part of her sees the £10,000 as “blood money” and wants it to go to charity.

Jodey’s nine children are now aged between 18 and 27. She had six grandchildren at the time she died. Another four have been born since she died.

She said: “They have been denied their grandmother. She loved her grandchildren and she never met four of them.”

She thanked Citizen’s Advice in Stockton, whose staff have worked on the case for two years.

She also thanked all those who have supported the family over the last two years, including strangers who have contacted her through social media and shared their own experiences of other cases in which DWP’s policies and procedures have led to the deaths of disabled benefit claimants.

A DWP spokesperson refused to say if the department accepted that its own safeguarding failings had helped cause Jodey Whiting’s death.

And she refused to say if the five separate failings in just one case showed it was time for DWP to accept that it had a serious institutional problem around the safeguarding of vulnerable benefit claimants.

But she said in a statement: “We apologise to Ms Whiting’s family for the failings in how we handled her case and the distress this caused them.

“Our thoughts are with them at this difficult time and we are providing compensation.

“We fully accept the Independent Case Examiner’s findings and are reviewing our procedures to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

A Maximus spokesperson said: “We offer our sincere sympathies to the family of Ms Whiting at this difficult time.

“[Maximus] will examine the ICE report in detail to understand what lessons can be learnt.

“We always review the capability for work questionnaire and any accompanying medical evidence to establish if a face-to-face assessment is required.

“This includes consideration of whether an individual is able to attend an assessment centre by public transport or taxi.”

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

21 February 2019

 

 

Jodey Whiting: DWP continued to phone woman who took her own life, inquiry finds

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) continued to phone and write to a disabled woman who had taken her own life after having her benefits stopped, an independent investigation has found.

The report by the Independent Case Examiner (ICE), Joanna Wallace, concluded that the DWP has no system that immediately alerts all the relevant staff that a claimant of employment and support allowance (ESA) has died.

Because of that failure, DWP continued to phone mum-of-nine Jodey Whiting, and leave voice messages for her, and also wrote to her, after she had taken her own life in February 2017.

DWP had failed five times to follow its own safeguarding rules in the months leading up to Whiting’s suicide, the investigation also found (see separate story).

The ICE report concludes that DWP was guilty of “multiple” and “significant” failings in handling the case of Jodey Whiting, who took her own life after DWP stopped her ESA payments for missing a work capability assessment, despite her long, recorded history of serious mental distress and suicidal thoughts.

The ICE report highlights the failure of the cross-government Tell Us Once system, which is supposed to ensure that bereaved relatives only need to make one call to the government when a family member has died, with that information passed on to more than 20 services, including those run by DWP.

A Citizens Advice adviser had informed DWP of Whiting’s death on 23 February, two days after she died at her home in Stockton, Teesside.

But two days later, on 25 February, DWP sent Jodey Whiting a letter to tell her that a mandatory reconsideration of the decision to stop her ESA – the internal DWP appeal stage – had confirmed that decision.

The ESA computer system was not updated to show she had died until 1 March.

But even then, other parts of DWP were not notified of her death.

The ICE said in her report, addressed to Whiting’s mother, Joy Dove: “I can only imagine how distressing it must have been to receive that letter at such a sad time.

“I have considered the responses that were provided to both you and your representative after you raised this matter with DWP, and I found their explanation of the process to be insensitive, in that they showed no apparent appreciation of the impact this would have had on you.”

DWP also continued to call Jodey Whiting and leave voicemail messages for her for another two months, says the ICE report.

Wallace said it was “critical that next of kin who have been told that bereavement information to ‘Tell Us Once’ would be dealt with as a priority, should be confident that no further correspondence will be sent to the deceased claimant”.

But the ICE investigation was told by DWP that there is no process to deal with Tell Us Once notifications immediately and no target timescale for them to be processed.

And the investigation also found that DWP had no standard process in place to tell its decision-makers and dispute resolution team that a claimant has died.

Wallace told Dove that she did not believe that DWP “have recognised the apparent administrative failures that allowed [the letter to be sent on 25 February], nor have they fully recognised the impact this has had on you”.

She added: “It is regrettable that it has taken this very sad case to show that there is not a robust process in place to ensure that death notifications are dealt with as a priority, and that all potentially relevant teams are informed.”

Wallace said she would be “raising these matters with DWP”.

Dove, who has campaigned for justice – including through her Justice for Jodey petition – said she was grateful to ICE for its report exposing DWP’s serious failings, and also thanked Citizen’s Advice in Stockton, whose staff have worked on the case for two years.

She also thanked all those who have supported the family over the last two years, including strangers who have contacted her through social media and shared their own experiences of cases in which DWP’s policies and procedures have led to the deaths of disabled benefit claimants.

DWP has agreed to ICE’s recommendation that it should pay £10,000 to the family as a “consolatory” payment for its “repeated failures to follow their safeguarding procedures” and the other failings that took place after Jodey Whiting’s death.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We apologise to Ms Whiting’s family for the failings in how we handled her case and the distress this caused them.

“Our thoughts are with them at this difficult time and we are providing compensation.

“We fully accept the Independent Case Examiner’s findings and are reviewing our procedures to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

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

21 February 2019

 

 

DWP ‘refused reasonable adjustments for community recruits’

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) repeatedly failed to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people who were recruited to build bridges between jobcentres and the local community, it has been claimed.

But the department also appears to be set to discard all the disabled people they recruited from outside the Civil Service when their fixed-term contracts end.

It is feared that none of the scores of Community Partners taken on by DWP to build relationships between jobcentres and local organisations will secure permanent roles when their contracts end at the end of next month.

It is just the latest example of apparent hypocrisy from the government department responsible for the derided Disability Confident scheme, and which itself has been given the accolade of being a “Disability Confident Leader” under its own programme.

Some Community Partners were originally recruited from within DWP and it is believed that it is only these staff members who will continue to work for the department after next month.

The Community Partner role was devised by ministers as a way to “help shape the support disabled people and those with health conditions receive, develop a national mentoring network and build relationships with specialist organisations in your area”.

The former minister for disabled people, Penny Mordaunt, said two years ago that Community Partners would “develop a more comprehensive package of employment support and strengthen work coach understanding of disability”.

But instead, many Community Partners spent months “fighting tooth and nail” to secure the reasonable adjustments they needed to do their job, leading to a string of grievances and resignations.

Phil Samphire, who worked as a Community Partner in Manchester for a year, has told Disability News Service (DNS) that none of his colleagues who had been recruited externally had secured permanent jobs with DWP at the end of their contracts.

Samphire, who has cerebral palsy and dyslexia, said he had requested a note-taker and administrative support, but that had been refused.

Instead, he was promised speech-to-text and dyslexia software, but by the time he left the post after 12 months he was still waiting for them to be available to use.

And because he can only use one hand, he says he was forced to travel an hour across Manchester by bus to another office so a manager could fill in his time sheets and expenses.

Despite being forced to use public transport – because he does not drive – he was given no extra time to reach appointments.

Samphire said his mental health deteriorated because of the pressure of having to cope with the inaccessible workplace, including IT equipment that required keyboard skills he did not have as a result of his impairment.

He said: “It was causing me massive stress because the system was inaccessible to me.”

Every time he wanted to send an email, he had to dictate the message into his own iPad, then email that to his work email address, log in to a work computer, and then forward the email to the work colleague.

Samphire said the only Community Partners who managed to secure the reasonable adjustments they needed were those who were on secondment from other employers and so were able to take advantage of the government’s Access to Work scheme.

He said: “I would never work in the Civil Service again.”

Another disabled former Community Partner has told DNS how DWP failed to provide her with the reasonable adjustments she needed during the six months she worked there.

Rachel*, who is dyslexic, had requested speech-to-text software, a specialist mouse and keyboard and a laptop, so she could work across different offices, but they had not arrived by the time she left six months later.

She was eventually given an ergonomic chair after working in pain for more than three months.

She was also given a yellow plastic overlay sheet, which can be placed over a piece of writing to help with dyslexia, but that was no use to her because DWP uses only grey – instead of white – paper, and even this took three months to arrive.

She said: “You don’t feel confident. It’s OK writing an email to people who know you when you’re dyslexic, but you don’t really want to be writing emails to people who don’t know you, especially in that environment.”

She said the delays were particularly stressful because her contract was only for 12 months.

Rachel said: “I think an awful lot of people who have done the job have put up and shut up because it is so hard for disabled people to get work.

“They treat their staff the way they treat their clients. It gives their staff even more reason to treat people badly.

“They just see it as normality, and I think that’s quite scary.”

She eventually complained about the failure to provide the adjustments she needed but was fired shortly afterwards when DWP discovered she had retweeted a social media post criticising Iain Duncan Smith.

She was told she had brought the department into disrepute, even though she believes the tweet was sent before she started working for DWP, and that nobody who followed her on Twitter had known she was working for DWP.

DNS has been told by a third Community Partner, Louise*, of colleagues being denied flexible working, ergonomic equipment and screen-reading software.

She heard from colleagues of a Deaf Community Partner in another part of the country who resigned after being told she could only have a British Sign Language interpreter for two out of five days every week.

Community Partners were first mentioned publicly in the October 2016 green paper Improving Lives.

The posts were funded by some of the savings made by cutting nearly £30 a week to payments to new claimants of employment and support allowance placed in the work-related activity group, a measure introduced in April 2017.

But ministers appear to have now decided it is too expensive to extend the contracts of any of the externally-recruited Community Partners.

Louise’s understanding is that not one of these Community Partner have been offered a permanent job.

Instead, DWP will ask work coaches and disability employment advisers to take responsibility for the contacts developed with disabled people and local organisations over the last two years.

Louise said she and her colleagues felt as though they had been used and then abandoned by DWP.

Many of the Community Partners built close relationships with local disabled people’s and community organisations, she said.

She added: “Apparently a review has found that we have not made enough of an impact but some of us have only been in the role for little more than a year because of the difficulty of recruiting in some areas.

“Our roles will now be taken on by disability employment advisers, who will not have the lived experience of disability that we have.

“The changes we have made will now be abandoned, and our suggestions for improvements will not be implemented.

“The green paper was meant to help people back into work, but they are now getting rid of [up to] 200 disabled people and people with lived experience of disability.”

Rachel said it would not surprise her if none of the Community Partners recruited externally secured permanent jobs.

She said: “I don’t think they were ever proper jobs.”

She was asked to prepare a presentation on the social model of disability but when it returned after she had sent it off to a manager to be approved it had been rewritten.

She said: “They weren’t really prepared to let us teach anyone about the social model because their social model of disability and my social model of disability are actually quite different.”

Louise said she believed ministers expected Community Partners to come in and tell jobcentres what a fantastic job they were doing, but instead “we have shown them where their flaws are, and yet they don’t address those flaws”.

She added: “Because they are Disability Confident Leaders, they thought we would say everything was great.”

Louise said: “We have led community groups on. We have told them we are trying to make better contacts between them and DWP and trying to change the face of DWP and make it more friendly.

“Now we have done that [DWP] are saying, ‘We don’t need you anymore.’”

A DWP spokesperson said in a statement: “We value the work of the Community Partners and the contribution that they have made.

“It is not true that the Community Partner roles are ending for financial reasons. We were transparent from the outset in relation to the length of the appointments.

“We are committed to continually improving the employment support we offer disabled people, and will ensure valuable learning from the Community Partners is built into the ongoing support we provide through our jobcentres.

“Reasonable adjustments for Community Partners were delivered according to the Equality Act.

“Many Community Partners are likely to remain in the Civil Service, and in some cases will have the opportunity to move into similar roles with Jobcentre Plus.

“We are committed to providing full support to Community Partners as they move into the next stage of their career.”

But she refused to say how many externally-recruited Community Partners would be given permanent roles by DWP when the fixed-term contracts end next month; how many Community Partners were recruited externally; and how many of those recruited were disabled people.

*Not their real names

21 February 2019

 

 

Call for urgent probe into police passing DWP information about protesters

There are growing concerns and calls for an urgent investigation into admissions by two police forces that they have shared information about protesters with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Both Lancashire and Greater Manchester police forces have now admitted passing on information to DWP about people taking part in protests.

The admissions originally came following claims reported by Disability News Service (DNS) that police forces had been targeting disabled people 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.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) then told DNS that it had passed DWP information – but not video footage – relating to 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.

There is now growing confusion over how many forces are involved, what information they are handing DWP, in what circumstances they hand it over and on what legal grounds, and whether this exchange of information is based on any written agreements.

Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, Marsha de Cordova, called last night (Wednesday) for an investigation into the extent of information sharing between police forces and DWP.

Last week, GMP admitted having a “sharing agreement” with DWP, even though the department explicitly stated two months ago – and repeated this week – that it had no such “formal arrangement” with GMP or any other force.

But GMP has now backtracked from this admission, claiming there is no “specific formal agreement or policy in place” after all, and stating that the sharing of information that takes place between the two organisations is carried out under the Data Protection Act.

It has denied trying to cover up its relationship with DWP.

Labour’s deputy mayor for policing for Greater Manchester, Baroness [Bev] Hughes, backed her force’s decision to share information with DWP.

She said the force had “a duty to act if they judge that individuals may be breaking, or have broken, the law”.

She said: “I have consulted with senior officers within GMP who have assured me that there is no formal ‘sharing agreement’ in place, and that the police act on a case by case basis, sharing information in accordance with the Data Protection Act.

“Protestors in Greater Manchester should never be deterred from exercising their right to protest.

“Should they do so in accordance with the law, GMP will continue to do as it always does and facilitate such protests.”

But de Cordova said the sharing of information with DWP by police forces was “a violation of trust”.

She said: “This is yet further proof of the hostile environment that this Conservative government has created for disabled people.

“This violation of trust is not only shocking but also could threaten disabled people’s access to vital social security.

“There must be an urgent further investigation into the extent of information sharing and action must be taken to end this harmful practice.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “As we have reiterated previously, there is no formal arrangement with the police for this scenario.

“The department does not request referrals from the police and there is no obligation on either the police or members of the public to provide referrals.

“In the event we receive information from the police, we consider it on its merits.

“As is the case with any responsible government department, we stand ready to assist the police in the event they request information from us for the purposes of crime prevention or detection.

“This service is provided under the Data Protection Act for the purposes of preventing and detecting crime.”

Meanwhile, GMP said this week that it had not shared any information with DWP about disabled activists who took part in the anti-austerity protests that took place outside the Conservative party conferences in Manchester in 2015 and 2017.

The Conservative party is returning to Manchester for its annual conference in October.

21 February 2019

 

 

Long-awaited Newton meeting confirms confusion over DPO engagement

Disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) have raised ongoing concerns about the government’s failure to comply with basic principles of the UN disability convention at a long-awaited meeting with the minister for disabled people.

Representatives of six of the UK’s leading DPOs met with minister for disabled people Sarah Newton and senior civil servants last week to discuss the government’s track record on engaging with disabled people and their user-led organisations.

It was the first time that Newton had met with the group of DPOs – members of the UK CRPD Monitoring Coalition of Disabled People’s Organisations – since she took up her post in late 2017.

Representatives from coalition members Inclusion London (which was also there on behalf of the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance), Disability Wales, Inclusion Scotland, Disability Action (Northern Ireland), the National Survivor User Network and Equalities National Council attended the meeting.

The coalition also used the meeting to share its ideas for monitoring the UK’s implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

The meeting follows a series of failings by the government which appear to demonstrate its reluctance to accept key rights and principles laid out in the convention.

They include plans to allow non-disabled people and organisations not led and controlled by disabled people to be part of Newton’s new Regional Stakeholder Network – which aims to “provide a channel for disabled people and their organisations to share their views and experiences about policies and services that affect them” – and Newton’s reluctance to pay those people taking on roles in the network for their time.

There was also frustration at the decision of the Cabinet Office to host a workshop on the barriers facing disabled people without inviting any DPOs to take part.

And in November, the Department of Health and Social Care wrongly insisted that it had been complying with the UN convention by only consulting on its mental capacity (amendment) bill with non-user-led charities like Mencap and Sense.

Last week’s meeting came after the coalition was forced to write to Newton last August after she refused to meet them to discuss the UK’s failure to implement the UN convention.

But the long-awaited meeting ended last week without easing concerns among DPOs at the apparent ongoing confusion among senior civil servants in the Office for Disability Issues (ODI), and Newton herself, about the convention’s principles around engagement.

A meeting earlier in the day between three members of the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (RoFA) – which is part of the coalition – and two senior civil servants from the Office for Disability Issues was also marked by frustration at the government’s apparent ignorance of the UN convention.

Mark Harrison, from RoFA, said they had hoped to come out of their meeting with a strategy for how the government would engage with DPOs and resource them in that work, but left disappointed.

He said Newton’s regional network was set to be a “disability free-for-all”, with disability charities and other organisations “all in the tent on an equal footing” with disabled people and DPOs.

He said he had asked the civil servants why they did not understand the principles on engaging with disabled people and DPOs that had been clearly laid out by the UN.

He said the core of the issue was the failure by repeated governments – including the last Labour government – to provide infrastructure funding for DPOs to do this work, which he said was “absolutely shameful”.

Tara Flood, director of The Alliance for Inclusive Education, who was also at this meeting, said the civil servants became “very, very uncomfortable” when she and her two colleagues made it clear they thought the new regional network was “a joke”.

She said there was “no understanding of the difference between DPOs and disability charities. Shame on the ODI for not understanding that.”

It is now hoped Newton will agree to three key requests: for both the regional network and any similar UK-wide engagement to be restricted to representatives of DPOs; for there to be funding for DPOs to take part in that engagement; and for those networks to work with the government on implementing the recommendations made 18 months ago by the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities.

Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, who was present at both meetings, said there appeared to be ongoing confusion within the government about the difference between DPOs and non-user-led charities.

She said: “We put forward what we think are key minimum asks in order to have meaningful engagement going forward.

“We will now see whether the government has listened to us and taken the opportunity to clarify, improve and extend engagement with us so it reflects and promotes the principles and practice of the UNCRPD and general comment number seven*.”

She added: “It is slightly dismaying having to reiterate principles of engagement with disabled people and DPOs that were recognised and acted upon 10 years ago, and having to re-argue them as if they were radical new ideas descended from another planet.”

*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”, a definition which the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities included in its general comment number seven, which was adopted in September.

21 February 2019

 

 

Watchdogs’ comments boost hopes for rail access improvements

Powerful warnings from two watchdogs about the barriers faced by disabled passengers have been welcomed as a “wonderful step in re-instating access to rail for all” by a leading accessible transport expert.

One of the two watchdogs, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), warned the government and train operating companies that two major elements of the rail system could be discriminating against disabled passengers.

In a letter to MPs on the Commons transport select committee, EHRC chair David Isaac says the commission is concerned about the impact of “ongoing transport policies”, particularly the move towards running more trains without a member of customer services staff on board – driver-only operated (DOO) trains – and an increase in unstaffed stations.

EHRC also says that the need for many disabled rail passengers to book assistance up to 24 hours before their journeys means they cannot “turn up and go” like non-disabled people.

Both of these could be a breach of the Equality Act, he says.

Isaac says in the letter that EHRC is so concerned by these and other barriers to public transport that face disabled people that it is likely to include access to transport as one of its priorities in its new strategic plan.

He adds: “If, as seems likely, that priority is taken forward, we will be looking at a range of activities to clarify, enhance and further the protections available for disabled people across all transport modes, including utilising our unique enforcement powers to drive change.”

His letter was a response to questions from Lilian Greenwood, the Labour chair of the committee, who had also raised similar concerns with the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

ORR’s chair, Declan Collier, said in his response to Greenwood that it was clear that train and station operators “could do more to improve accessibility of the rail network”.

He said they needed to do more to “consider the normal operating conditions across their network and to assess where passengers are most likely to not be able to receive the required assistance”.

He added: “They need to have clear measures in place to ensure that passengers who have not booked assistance in advance can still receive it.”

He said ORR had set up an advisory group, including industry, government and disability groups, to help improve rail passenger assistance.

The two letters have been welcomed by transport campaigners.

Ann Bates, a leading transport access consultant and former rail chair of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC), said the comments by EHRC and ORR followed years of campaigning by her and others, including the Association of British Commuters, on the risks posed by DOO.

She said: “ABC and myself have continued to lobby with the ORR and EHRC and others over the years for a confirmation of our sincerely held belief that no DOO trains should call at unstaffed stations, thus denying safe travel to anyone who requires assistance in and out of the train.

“We have since discovered that DPTAC, the government’s statutory advisers on the transport needs of disabled people, have also been lobbying within the department and seemingly being ignored.

“Following the enquiry from the transport select committee and its chair about the subject, the two replies dated 5 February (EHRC) and 6 February (ORR) both contain many of the points that we have been lobbying with, such as reference to the Equality Act, the decrease in staffed stations, the failures and restrictions of the Passenger Assist scheme, etc.”

She said she was “particularly heartened” by the change in tone on the need for disabled passengers to have the right to “turn up and go” and enjoy “spontaneous travel”.

She added: “This is a wonderful step in re-instating access to rail for all, and thus building back confidence in travel for both business and pleasure in the larger population.”

21 February 2019

 

 

Disabled residents play ground-breaking co-production role in major development

Disabled people have played a “ground-breaking” role in co-producing a major new redevelopment scheme.

The role played by disabled people in the planning application to redevelop Hammersmith town hall and the surrounding area in London is the first major product of a pioneering agreement to embed a genuine culture of co-production within Hammersmith and Fulham council.

A report last year by the Hammersmith and Fulham Disabled People’s Commission was accepted in full by the council and hailed as a blueprint for disabled people’s organisations across the country to push for change from their own local authorities.

Now disabled campaigners are welcoming the submission – and approval – of the planning application for the redevelopment of grade two-listed Hammersmith town hall, a new town square, and four new buildings, including 204 new homes, offices and a cinema, as proof that the council has been true to its word.

The application was partly presented to the council’s planning committee last week by one of the disabled residents who have worked in co-production on the plans.

Tracey Proudlock, founder of the leading access consultancy Proudlock Associates, which has been working as inclusive design consultants with architects Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners, said she believed the level of co-production on the scheme was “ground-breaking” and had come about as a result of the disabled people’s commission.

She said there had been regular meetings with the team of disabled residents – who were paid for their work – and “everybody was giving feedback and opinions” and “nothing could be kicked into the long grass”.

At the beginning of the co-production work, Proudlock Associates ran a training day for the disabled residents in technical issues such as reading architectural plans, interpreting drawings and symbols, and how the planning process works, as well as on inclusive design.

Proudlock said the level of co-production on the scheme helped convince English Heritage to allow significant changes to improve access to the main council chamber.

She said: “Disabled people were part of the planning. Their opinions were written into the planning application.”

Among the development’s features are wheelchair-accessible homes spread across the residential blocks; a Changing Places toilet; a managed toilet area for assistance dogs near the town hall entrance; as well as many other inclusive design features.

Jane Wilmot, one of the team of disabled residents who worked on the scheme alongside the architects and Proudlock Associates, said: “Barriers faced by disabled people in using buildings and open spaces were raised early before plans were submitted rather than left to detailed design at a later stage.

“This way of working together allowed robust solutions to be found early as well as saving time and money for the developer.

“This is most unusual and should be adopted in all major development projects.”

She said this would not have happened without the council’s commitment and strategy of co-production.

Cllr Stephen Cowan, leader of the Labour-run council, said in a statement: “We are determined to make our borough the most inclusive in the UK.

“[This] is why we asked the borough’s independent Disabled Residents Team to work with our architects from the beginning to make our new civic campus one of the most accessible buildings in the country.

“The end result speaks for itself and demonstrates how the principles of co-production can be applied to a wide range of areas – from designing buildings, to designing services, and to dismantling all the barriers that disable disabled people.

“We’re very proud of all the advice and hard work Hammersmith and Fulham’s independent Disabled Residents Team has given and know that by delivering changes – such as those typified with this beautiful, accessible new civic campus – that they’ll not only help us change our borough to be the best place for disabled people, but will set the mark that helps change our country.”

Tara Flood, who chaired the commission, said the co-production work was a significant achievement and should act as a blueprint for other local authorities to follow in engaging with disabled people.

She said it had not been “perfect co-production” because the disabled residents were not involved from the start of the design and development process.

But she said: “Once disabled residents were involved, they were treated with the utmost respect and treated very seriously.

“It would not have happened had the commission not existed.

“This process fundamentally shifted in the right direction once disabled people were involved.

“There is no doubt that Tracey and Liam Proudlock were instrumental in making that happen and provided some really excellent support to the disabled residents who got involved in that process.”

21 February 2019

 

 

Council told to improve disability equality training after councillor’s ‘ignorant’ attack

A disabled politician has described the equality training given to fellow councillors as “a joke” after a Liberal Democrat rival was forced to apologise for posting a message on social media that accused him of using his impairment for political purposes.

The comments by Lib Dem Joe Naitta were targeted last June at fellow Derby city councillor Amo Raju, who is a Labour party member and also chief executive of the user-led organisation Disability Direct.

Naitta said in a Facebook post to his supporters: “This one uses his disability, get rid of labour in Blagreaves ward.”

Raju is the only Labour councillor in the ward. The other two are Liberal Democrats.

Naitta later deleted the post.

The comment was reported to the council by Disability Direct trustees, after they told Raju they were “totally outraged” by the comment and its possible impact on disabled people who want to stand for election.

Now a council investigation has led to Naitta being forced to apologise in writing to Raju, and post an apology on Facebook for the comment which he said “suggested that another councillor used his disability for political purposes”.

Naitta added: “I fully accept that this comment was wrong and I should not have made it.

“It was made in haste and was withdrawn soon afterwards but I know people did view it.”

Raju said he believed that such targeted comments could deter other disabled people from entering politics, and he has called for the council to improve the disability equality training offered to councillors.

He said: “Equality training is just sitting in front of a computer and doing some e-learning, which I think is a joke. I have done it and it’s a joke.”

He added: “There is a principle here that we should be encouraging more disabled people to stand for election. These kinds of comments deter disabled people.”

He described Naitta’s comment as “an ignorant and opportunistic attack on my character”.

He said: “I have been a councillor for just under four years, CEO of Disability Direct over 20 years and have had cerebral palsy all my life.

“Yet not in any instance have I taken advantage of the latter.”

Raju said he stood for office because he believed there should be more disabled people in politics, according to the principle of “nothing about us without us”.

An Equality and Human Rights Commission spokesperson said: “It is essential to a healthy democracy that everyone has the right to participate fully in all aspects of political life.

“We know that disabled people often face prejudice and experience humiliating or intimidating treatment in elected office.

“We all have a responsibility to treat people with dignity and respect, and political parties and governments need to ensure that our elected representatives are protected from abuse so that our political system truly reflects the diversity of our society.”

A Derby City Council spokesperson said: “A complaint was received last year, and handled by the council’s monitoring officer at the time.

“Subsequently, the complaint was brought to the standards committee, who reviewed the case at their meeting in February.

“This item was exempt from the press and public, and remains so.

“The complaint was resolved internally, however if Cllr Raju wishes to take this further, he can do so with the relevant authority.

“Our training for colleagues and members, which is delivered online, is regularly reviewed and updated based on current legislation and best practice.

“We won’t tolerate any form of discrimination at Derby City Council, and encourage our colleagues and members to report any such instances.”

Naitta had failed to comment on his apology by noon today (Thursday).

21 February 2019

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 

 Posted by at 19:33
Feb 152019
 

A basic principle of social security in Germany is cutting benefits if claimants miss an appointment, or fail to finish a training course, or refuse to sign an “integration agreement” (the equivalent of the DWP Claimant Commitment) in which they pledge to do all they can to find a job.

Sound familiar?

One organisation in Germany is really fighting the sanction regime and is doing an amazing thing. The Sanktionsfrei (“sanction-free”) organisation says sanctions do not work, and to prove this point, the organisation launched a study to find out what effect sanction-free support has on people. [i]

Starting in February 2019 and for the next three years, 250 randomly chosen recipients of Hartz IV financial assistance — the system of German long-term unemployment benefits or welfare support — will get any sanctions immediately reimbursed by the organisation, no questions asked.

The scheme is called HartzPlus. This study is expanding on a study undertaken by this organisation with 25 Hartz IV recipients who benefited of full sanctions compensation.  Although only five of the 25 people were actually sanctioned in that time, at a total cost to the organization of €2,400, there was a psychological benefit to all the participants.

“All of them said they have a better feeling, that they sleep better, that they’re more motivated to find a job, and that they’re less scared when they go for appointments at the job centre. In other words, sanctions have an effect before they’re imposed” explained the organization’s leader Helena Steinhaus.

The issue of sanctions in Germany has split the SPD and led to the building of a consensus in the party that sanctions should be scrapped.  According to Sven Lehmann, the German Greens’ labour spokesman: Hartz IV It (the sanction regime) has been in force for 15 years, and we know that poverty has grown, the low-wage sector has grown, and the middle classes are scared of falling into that system and then won’t be able to decide what they want to do. Removing sanctions, and thus removing fear, can only help the economy.

Hopefully some organisations, universities, think tanks etc. will be able to undertake the same kind of study in the UK where the sanction regime has been the harshest in the world, with deadly consequences. If not, this organisation https://sanktionsfrei.de/ @sanktionsfrei and their study will give us the evidence we need to show that sanctions are not only making no difference in terms of ‘motivating’ unemployed people (and in the UK this includes disabled people) into work, but that their absence is a motivating and positive factor to look for work, and to do so without fear of consequences.

Please retweet this to any organisation, university etc. which could potentially fund this study. It is our chance to bury forever the myth that sanctions incentivise people to look for and to find a job. Worse, as shown by the W&P committee[ii], the government is not prepared to look at the impact of sanctions on the financial situation and wellbeing of claimants.  This study has the potential to show that sanctions are ineffective in terms of ‘helping’ claimants into work, but also that the absence of sanctions has a better chance to attain this objective.

[i] https://www.dw.com/en/germanys-welfare-experiment-sanction-free-basic-security/a-46629933

[ii]  https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/news-parliament-2017/benefit-sanctions-government-response-report-publication-17-19/

 

 Posted by at 11:23
Jan 152019
 

Reblogued from @SpeyeJoe’s blog: No job? Kids? Then you’re homeless is Tory policy. Why don’t Shelter know this? https://speyejoe2.wordpress.com/2019/01/13/no-job-kids-then-youre-homeless-is-tory-policy-why-dont-shelter-know-this/

The Overall Benefit Cap policy which limits a household to £20,000 per year in ‘welfare’ and £384.62 per week will mean that in 2027 the two parent three child household will not get a penny in housing benefit.

Is it irony for the Shelter Commission report this week investigating social housing for the next 20 years has a picture of a mother and child on its cover and a lone parent with one child in 20 years will not be able to afford the cheapest council housing Shelter demand is needed due to the Tories Overall Benefit Cap policy?

This week the DWP announced that tax credits will be paid for the 3rd child (if born before 2017) and that welfare benefits will rise and be unfrozen and I assume they will rise by the CPI rate of inflation.

2p3c

The quick table above shows that in 2019 the two parent three child household (2P3C) gets £323.45 in ‘welfare’ plus a maximum of £61.17 in housing benefit.  The table then increases the £323.45 other welfare figure by 2.2%, the current CPI rate of inflation, each year and by 2027 this reaches the Overall Benefit Cap limit of £384.62 meaning the 2 parent 3 child household will not get a penny in housing benefit.

Where will they live?

Council and housing association landlords will not house them as they cannot pay the rent, they cannot afford the rent and what we have is the cheapest rented housing that will call social housing will see social landlords operating a blanket NO DSS policy as private landlords have done for decades.

Using the same method of welfare increasing by CPI in 2034 the lone parent with 3 child household will not get a penny in housing benefit and in 2038 the two parent 2 child household will not get a penny in housing benefit.

The Overall Benefit Cap (OBC) policy kills off the 1948 Welfare State housing safety net and directly creates ever-increasing homelessness with its systemic flaw that I first mentioned in 2012 of its cap or limit remaining a constant while ‘welfare’ and rents both increase.

The OBC means the social landlord model is dead as the proverbial Dodo as councils and HAs will not house those in housing need as they simply cannot afford to.  I cautioned social landlords at their euphoria over the return of inflation-busting rents from 2020 (CPI inflation plus a further 1%) that will also lead to NO DSS for their 400,000 social housing lets they have each year and of course for the mass eviction of existing tenants that the combination of welfare and rent rises will create as an unambiguous inevitability.

NO JOB NO HOME as well as NO DSS becomes the norm for council and housing association landlords

Look at the following table for the lone parent 2 child household which uses the same method of welfare rises of (2.2%) CPI inflation and social housing rent rises of 3.2% and CPI plus 1%

1p2c

By 2027 the lone parent with 2 children will get a maximum housing benefit of £129.33 and the rent will be £131.99 and a shortfall arises of £2.66 per week.  Yet 2 years after that in 2029 this housing benefit shortfall has increased to £22.60 per week and in a further two years by 2031 doubles to £43.60 per week … which means that councils and housing associations in the cheapest rent areas of the UK cannot afford the ‘benefit tenant’ with 2 children. It means the eviction of existing lone parent two child households and denies the allocation of social housing to them (NO DSS)

It further means that council and housing association landlords can ONLY house those in work for the near 40% of all social housing that is 3 bedrooms or larger.  The benefit tenant ghetto is what council and housing association housing becomes. It also means any household with two children cannot live anywhere if they have no job. It means NO JOB NO HOME.

This past week has also seen the Shelter Commission Report that calls for 3.1 million social housing properties to be built over the next 20 years or 155,000 new houses described as ‘genuinely affordable’ and meaning houses are social rent.  Yet what is the point if none of those allegedly ‘genuinely affordable’ houses will not be allocated to the benefit households or those most in housing need due to the OBC and inflation-busting social rent rises?

The OBC policy means NO JOB NO HOME and means NO DSS in even the cheapest rented properties of council and housing association landlords.

The Shelter Commission report claims to look at housing until 2039 yet by that time the lone parent with 1 child household will have a housing benefit shortfall of £35.63 per week in the cheapest form of social housing.  Hence by 2039 at the latest council and housing association landlords will not house any benefit tenant household who has children!!

Remarkably the OBC policy has an approval rating of over 70% and just as offensively the last Labour Party general election manifesto called for a reduction in the OBC limit – both of which show that the electorate and all politicians don’t have a clue about the OBC policy and what it inevitably means which is I remind again NO JOB NO HOME and NO DSS being the norm and the eradication of the 1948 Welfare State.

The Tory OBC policy not only has the cap as a constant figure and with it the systemic flaw but in 2017 the Tories reduced the cap by 23% from £26,000 per household per year to £20,000 per household per year (and to £23k pa in London.)

The Shelter Commission did not mention the OBC policy and did not consider it in their report despite the fact it will systemic create ever-increasing homelessness and NO DSS in the cheapest rented housing that we misname social housing.  Excuse me reader but isn’t Shelter’s rationale to fight homelessness and yet they do not even see the inevitable OBC impact of mass homelessness and mass social housing NO DSS!!

Note well that figures unlike politicians, lobby groups and social landlords DON’T LIE and when the creation of those figures is THE most basic of basic spreadsheets that a 7 year-old can do then why the hell can’t politicians, landlords and the likes of the Shelter Commission take 2 minutes to create such as simple spreadsheet?

All of these actors claim to care about homelessness yet they do not know their arse from their elbow when it comes to the systemic creation of ever-increasing homelessness do they?

 Posted by at 22:54
Aug 282018
 

Mental Health in the Social Security System
Credit to John Grahl at https://peg.primeeconomics.org/policybriefs/mental-health-in-the-social-security-system

August 2018
As the number of unemployed social security claimants has declined, the government’s drive for reductions in the benefits bill has focussed increasingly on the chronic sick and the disabled. The government’s aim is not to improve the well-being of these claimants but rather to classify as many of them as possible as fit for work and to push them into whatever jobs are available by cutting their benefits and, very frequently, imposing sanctions upon them. This strategy is backed up by a simplistic account of the mental health problems which, today, account for most sickness claims.
The key problem today is that mentally distressed claimants are being offered simplistic and ineffective remedies and are being pressurised by the social security system to seek employment of any kind, including in poor quality jobs which can aggravate their mental health conditions.
How should a progressive government respond to the plight of mentally distressed social security claimants?
Analysis
Over the last two decades mental health problems have become a key issue in social security policy. This is because, first, straightforward unemployment is much lower and state-provided unemployment indemnities are now a very small fraction of social security expenditures so that long-term illness and incapacity, which affect many more people, dominate in terms both of case-loads and spending. Second, long-term illness itself now predominantly takes the form of mental distress, with anxiety and depression more frequent than the physiological problems, such as back pain, which used to account for most sickness-related social security claims.
In Britain and in many other advanced economies social security claims related to illness increased rapidly in the wake of the deindustrialisation of the 1980s. One can trace these increases to labour market conditions and interpret them as a form of disguised unemployment in that they would not have been as severe if labour markets for industrial workers had remained buoyant. The geography of sickness benefits confirms the interpretation: For example, Merthyr Tydfil, devastated by the decline in Welsh heavy industry, was a notorious sickness benefit black spot.
In the 1980s policy-makers tended to accept the increased sickness benefit bill as the lesser of two evils, as preferable to much higher levels of open unemployment and as providing a certain compensation to some of the most vulnerable victims of structural change. However, as high numbers of sickness claims persisted and began to affect more recent generations governments became less passive and started to search for ways to limit the problem. One sign of this switch
was a reformulation of labour market objectives: an increase in employment rates was seen as a better target than a reduction in unemployment as such in that high rates of inactivity (either through sickness or for other reasons) were now seen as in general undesirable. Women were adversely affected by this shift because, in the drive to maximise employment, social security systems became much less supportive of women claimants who were full-time mothers and housewives. From the 1990s on, governments also started to make less use of early retirement as a palliative for long-term unemployment.
These changes should not disguise the continuity both in labour market conditions and in the nature of incapacity. There is certainly an alarming rise in mental health problems across western countries but the musculoskeletal disorders which prevailed in the past were not necessarily a completely distinct phenomenon: in an economy where most jobs were manual they could act as a sickness-induced disqualification from employment in general; in today’s service-dominated economy psychological malfunctions can, in a similar way, indicate an inability to meet the typical constraints of existing labour market conditions.
Thus the changing forms of sickness in no way undermine the notion of “disguised unemployment” or, in less tendentious terms, adverse labour market conditions, as a principal source of incapacity. Recent British policy, however, completely inverts this widely accepted causal relationship: current policy is based on the view that the labour market is not the cause of, but rather the remedy for, sickness-related inactivity. This view has led to the imposition of policies towards claimants which needlessly aggravate their distress while leaving untouched the labour market structures and practices which actually disqualify so many people from employment.
Two main developments have led to the policy impasse: the degeneration of the universal credit (UC) social security reforms and the drive within the NHS to address mental health problems through “Improved Access to Psychiatric Therapies” (IAPT).
The original objectives of the UC reforms were to simplify the benefit system, by bringing together six of the most important benefits under a single means-test, and consequently to strengthen employment incentives by reducing the rate at which benefits were withdrawn as claimants re-entered employment or took on more hours of paid work. Because these goals were seen as moving social security in the right direction, UC was widely welcomed by both researchers and organisations concerned with poverty, such as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Child Poverty Action Group.
Gradually the welcome gave way to critical concern. After the election of 2015 the Conservative government stated its intention to reduce expenditures on working-age social security benefits by £12 billion, more than 10%, that is, to claw back some £12 billion per annum from the three largest claimant groups, the unemployed, the chronic sick and the low-paid. It is an indication of social attitudes towards social security claimants, even though many are in employment, that the Labour opposition did not at that time condemn these cuts but decided to abstain when they were debated in Parliament, though some, including many now in leadership positions in Labour, did vote against them.
While positive incentives to seek and retain employment were reduced, an increasingly harsh and oppressive treatment of claimants was substituted. The conditions for benefit payments were tightened continually, while breaches of these conditions were increasingly met with frequent and severe sanctions. Claimants with health problems were subjected to repeated
assessments of their capacity to work – often crudely administered by unqualified staff in the service of revenue-hungry corporations. It was clearly intended to re-designate as many sickness-related claimants as possible as actually or potentially fit for work.
Unemployed claimants had to sign contracts committing them to often futile hours of job search and to participation in often badly-designed “work experience” and training schemes – both of these outsourced to corporations more concerned with profit than either high quality services or accurate reporting of their own performance. The explosion in the numbers resorting to food banks and the arbitrary benefit reductions following from the “bedroom tax” (the so-called “spare room subsidy” removal) can both stand as emblems of the increased pressures on claimants.
Meanwhile, actual conditions on the labour markets towards which claimants were being impelled continued to deteriorate in terms of both wage rates and job security. Indeed the increasingly harsh regime imposed on those without employment may be leading people to accept worse pay and conditions rather than become claimants. The roll-out of UC in place of previous benefits became in itself a source of concern as new and renewed claims now attracted substantially lower levels of benefit.
Now the epidemic of mental distress became ever more central to the drive for social security spending cuts since, with falling rates of open unemployment, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the corresponding sickness-related benefits under UC became a key item in social security spending and, at the same time, mental health problems increasingly predominated in these claims. The resulting policy difficulties could seem complex and intractable; they also called into question the punitive treatment of claimants which had in practice emerged from the UC reforms. If claimants are suffering from anxiety and/or depression it is hard to see how suspending their benefits can improve their situation and growing awareness of the severe consequences of sanctions – including suicides – may well have been a factor behind the unannounced but rapid and clearly policy-driven reduction in the use of sanctions after the peak they reached in 2014.
In this conjuncture the programme “Improving Access to Psychiatric Therapies” (IAPT) seemed to offer a silver bullet. Mental health problems could be easily overcome because:
1. They were individual and not socio-economic in origin (after all, there are lots of people who cope);
2. Thus the undeniable correlation between mental distress and socio-economic disadvantage should be interpreted as showing that mental health problems lead to disadvantage and not the other way round (the social security agenda does not require structural change in the sphere of employment);
3. Most psychological problems can be easily dealt with by brief “talking therapies”;
4. The essence of such “behavioural therapy” is not to improve the socio-economic situation of the sufferer but simply to alter their patterns of thought so that they cease to dwell on alarming or depressing features of their experience and so that they become – such is the hope – more likely to seek or retain employment;
5. No great level of skill or knowledge is required to administer such therapy;
6. Thus it can be provided cheaply;
7. There will be a big pay-off in terms of employment and fewer claims for benefit since employment as such promotes psychological well-being and mental health.
One sign that this approach was completely unrealistic has been the failure to deal with many cases of depression and anxiety among claimants at the level of the least qualified mental health workers – the only group of workers in the field who have seen recruitment increase. Nor has the rolling out of IAPT led to any fall in the incidence of mental illness nor any slowdown in the increasing prescription of psychotropic drugs in response to it.
Policy Framework
There is mounting evidence that current policies are aggravating the material and mental problems of many of the most vulnerable social security claimants. Social security reforms in the future must take fully into account their impact on mental health.
A complete refocus of policy on the well-being of the long-term sick and disabled is needed in the context of strategies which address the socio-economic determinants of poor mental health. Meanwhile, resources could be released by curtailing the frequently dysfunctional “assessments” and “work preparation” programmes to which mentally disturbed claimants are subjected, and by ceasing to contest large numbers of perfectly valid claims for sickness benefits.
John Grahl is Emeritus Professor of European Economics at Middlesex University.

 Posted by at 21:12
Aug 142018
 

The Social Market Foundation is currently undertaking a major research project looking at benefit sanctions in the United Kingdom, updating and expanding the Independent Review of Sanctions that they undertook for Government in 2014. More information on the project is available at:http://www.smf.co.uk/making-sense-of-sanctions/

As part of this they want to ensure we gather the full range of views, perspectives, and evidence on sanctioning and the sanctions system. They have opened a call for evidence into these issues, which are available at: http://www.smf.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Call-for-evidence-questions.pdf

 Posted by at 17:42
Aug 082018
 

Campaign Bootcamp has recently opened applications for its October residential campaign training, which supports new activists to develop the confidence, tools and community they need to run effective campaigns that challenge injustice. The six-day training is a space where activists from across the UK, across identities, ages and experiences, come together to learn from each other, strategise, gain new skills and find new allies. Campaign Bootcamp offers many scholarships that cover up to the full cost of the training, including scholarships for policing and criminal justice activists, environmental activists, disabled activists, migrants, activists tacking systemic issues such as housing and health, BME activists and more. You can get more information here: https://campaignbootcamp.org/bootcamps/bootcamp-14/
Key information:

  • Campaign Bootcamp is a year-long programme designed to give campaigners the skills, confidence and community they need to succeed

  • The year starts with a six-day residential training at an accessible venue, Gilwell Park (Epping Forest) just outside London
  • You’ll learn about strategy, tactics, messaging, working with the media, creating persuasive social media content, building allies and much more
  • Dates for the training are Sunday 7th October – Friday 12th October 2018

  • Applications are now open now and will close at 9am on Tuesday 21st August

  • Apply online here: www.campaignbootcamp.org/apply
  • There’s a lot of scholarships available, which cover up to the full cost of the programme. Learn more and apply for one here: https://campaignbootcamp.org/bootcamps/bootcamp-14/

—-

Campaign Bootcamp is a trading name of Campaign Academy Ltd, a charitable company limited by guarantee. We are registered in England and Wales under charity number 1169639 and company number 08390873. Our registered office is 115 Mare St, London E8 4RU, United Kingdom. The Campaign Bootcamp name and logo are registered trademarks.

 Posted by at 17:36
Jul 312018
 

Inclusion London is sending written evidence to the Social Security Advisory Committee’s consultation on proposals to move all people claiming working age income-related benefits to Universal Credit (UC).

Please send us your experience to inform our evidence.  For instance let us know:

  • How you found applying for Universal Credit, including whether you found the process accessible or not.
  • How long you had to wait for the first payment of UC and whether you could manage financially while you waited.
  • Are you receiving the same amount of money or not?
  • Let us know any problems that occurred and also if UC has any advantages for you over the old system.

Please send your information to  Henrietta.Doyle@inclusionlondon.org.uk preferably by 6 August but by 15 August at the latest.

You may wish to respond to the consultation directly to the inquiry. The deadline is 10am on Monday 20 August.

More information about inquiry is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-proposal-to-move-claimants-on-legacy-benefits-to-universal-credit-consultation-announced

 Posted by at 12:10
Jul 292018
 

Representatives of national disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) in Bolivia, Greece, Malaysia and Uganda have described to UK activists how they have fought oppression and discrimination in their own countries.

They were speaking at an International Deaf and Disabled People’s Solidarity Summit in east London, organised by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) to highlight the hypocrisy of the UK government’s decision to co-host a major “global disability summit” on the Olympic Park in east London this week.

Feliza Ali Ramos and Alex Marcelo Vazquez Bracamonte, both wheelchair-users, from the Bolivian DPO New Hope, described how – two years ago – they and fellow disabled activists marched 300 miles through the Andes to the capital La Paz to confront president Evo Morales about the conditions facing disabled people in Bolivia and to seek an increase in disability benefits.

Conditions facing disabled people in Bolivia were harsh, they told the summit.

Many were dying from treatable conditions, some because doctors refused to give them oxygen, with families often welcoming their early deaths “because they were suffering anyway”.

Many disabled people were excluded from education, despite the government’s insistence that disabled people had access to education and to healthcare, the summit heard.

Local campaigns had called for the monthly disability benefit payment to rise from about £10 to about £50 a month, which led to the march on La Paz.

Ramos said: “We sent letter after letter to the president, but the president never received us.”

They marched through the mountains for 35 days and often had nowhere to sleep, while their only food was what they were given by people from the towns they passed through.

When they arrived in the capital, they found the government had put up metal barriers to prevent them reaching the central square where the government offices were located.

The square was guarded by police with water cannons and riot shields, and they were sprayed with pepper spray and water cannons, beaten and pushed out of their wheelchairs.

Refused a meeting with the president, they pitched tents and took part in a vigil that lasted more than three months.

The government tried to infiltrate the movement, and threatened activists with 10 years in prison.

Morales eventually backed down and agreed to some of their demands.

Ramos told fellow activists at Sunday’s summit how they lost two of their colleagues in a traffic accident during the march while another four had died because their health deteriorated during the protest.

She cried as she told the summit: “Because these comrades had given their lives we fought on and we too were prepared to give our lives.

“We remember what we went through and every day it moves me.

“All of a sudden we have made ourselves visible in Bolivia and have got coverage in its media.”

Last week, she said, there was national media coverage of a case in which a young man with cerebral palsy was found severely malnourished.

She said: “Before, it would have been ignored. Now it is a national scandal because of what we did.

“We have shown the whole of society we are strong and are not prepared to shut up and do whatever the government tells us to do.”

New Hope was founded in 1999 to fight for an independent life for all disabled people in Bolivia, and its members try to empower disabled people with physical impairments through their Independent Life programme.

Antonios Rellas, from the Greek DPO Zero Tolerance, told Sunday’s summit how he was the only disabled activist who gave evidence in the long-running trial of MPs and members of the extreme-right Golden Dawn party.

He said: “As disabled activists, we know very well the story behind the fascist danger.

“Golden Dawn followed exactly what Hitler and the Third Reich believed. Some of the first victims of the Third Reich were disabled people who were killed, 275,00 of them, as unworthy to live.”

He also described his organisation’s ongoing fight against the institutionalisation of disabled people in Greece, which saw Zero Tolerance fight for the freedom of disabled residents who were being over-medicated and chained to cages in a state-run institution in Lechaina.

He has directed a documentary which exposes the conditions, with Rellas and other disabled activists occupying the institution for four days and demanding that they were released.

Now those disabled people who have been released from Lechaina have been found homes “in places where they can lead regular lives”, he said.

But he said that more than 900 disabled people were still living in similar conditions in state-run institutions in Greece.

He said: “The institutions that we are talking about are public institutions. We don’t know what is happening in private and church facilities.

“This has nothing to do with the financial crisis that Greece is under. This was happening before this happened and if we are not there to resist and provoke it will stay like this forever.”

Naziaty Yaacob, from Harapan OKU (Hope for Persons with Disabilities), speaking via Skype, told of her organisation’s battle to fight systematic discrimination against disabled people in her country following the election in May of the first new government in Malaysia in 60 years.

They wrote an open letter to the new prime minister, with support from more than 100 charities, telling him that disabled people were “still struggling to achieve independence” and were “still facing barriers and discrimination”, with disabled people the most marginalised group in society.

They highlighted the “toothless” nature of the existing disability discrimination act and the need for a new act and an independent commission to deal with grievances and systemic discrimination.

Rose Achayo, from the National Union of Women with Disabilities of Uganda, described the wide-ranging discrimination faced by disabled women and girls in her country.

She told the summit that her organisation had formed in 1999 to be a voice for disabled women and girls and to push for “a society where girls and women with disabilities lead a dignified life”.

She pointed to barriers faced by disabled women in Uganda, such as violence in the home and in the community, the abuse inflicted on disabled people with high support needs who are placed in isolated settings, the lack of access to reproductive health, and the lack of access to justice.

She also pointed to the stigma and “invisibility” faced by disabled women and girls in mainstream society, and their lack of access to the main source of income: land.

But she said that, unlike the UK government, the Ugandan government had acknowledged issues raised by the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities and had come up with a plan for how they could be addressed.

The committee examined Uganda’s progress in 2016, a process her organisation took part in.

26 July 2018 by John Pring, Disability News Service

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 20:46
Jul 292018
 

International development secretary Penny Mordaunt has defended the decision to co-host a major international summit on disability rights with Kenya, a country where it is illegal to be gay.

The UK government was co-hosting the Global Disability Summit in east London this week with Kenya and the International Disability Alliance, with Ukur Yatani Kanacho, the Kenyan government’s cabinet secretary for labour and social protection addressing the event.

Although the intersectional discrimination facing disabled women and girls and the barriers faced by disabled young people were both covered extensively by the summit, the double discrimination faced by disabled lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people appears to have been almost completely ignored during the summit.

Regard, a national organisation of disabled lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender and queer people (LGBTQ), said it was “hard to imagine a less suitable partner” to co-host the summit than Kenya, apart from its neighbour, Uganda.

In a statement, Regard said: “LGBTQI+ people in Kenya are routinely banished from their families, denied work and accommodation, imprisoned and persecuted.”

The barriers they face to forming and maintaining relationships “results in widespread damage to their mental and physical health, creating impairments where none previously existed.”

Regard said this was reflected in the high level of asylum applications from LGBTQI+ asylum-seekers from African countries, and added: “Despite their experiences, the majority are then refused asylum in the UK and forcibly returned home, where many disappear or are murdered.

“The involvement of the government of Kenya discredits any debate that takes place at the summit.

“Whatever the political reasons for involving Kenya in co-hosting the summit, the rights and welfare of disabled people seem to have had very little to do with it.”

In April, Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta said in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that LGBT rights were “not important” to him.

He said: “I won’t engage in a subject that is of no importance to the people of Kenya.

“This is not an issue of human rights, this is an issue of our own base as a culture, as a people regardless of which community you come from.”

Disabled People Against Cuts has supported Regard’s concerns, and included them in an open letter to some of the most high-profile participants in the summit.

But when asked by Disability News Service how the UK government justified asking Kenya to co-host the summit, Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, defended the move.

She said: “We work with many organisations that don’t have the same values as we do. In part, that’s why we work with them.”

She said the UK government chose Kenya as a co-host because of its legislative record on disability; its early signing of the UN disability convention; and “thirdly and perhaps most importantly they are one of the best nations for their relationship and strength of civil society disabled people’s organisations”.

When asked whether the UK government also recognised Kenya’s appalling record on LGBT rights, she said: “We don’t work with perfect nations. That’s why we work with them.”

26 July 2018 by John Pring, Disability News Service

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 20:43
Jul 292018
 

The disabled president of Ecuador has given a stirring speech in praise of the social model of disability, at a summit co-hosted in east London by the UK government.

President Lenin Moreno was one of the key-note speakers at the conference on the Olympic Park, which was hosted by the UK government, the International Disability Alliance and the Kenyan government.

Although he was described as the world’s only head of state with a disability – which is highly unlikely – Moreno is thought to be the only one who uses a wheelchair.

The former UN special envoy told the Global Disability Summit in east London that he saw disability as “obstacles created by the environment” and coming from “structures and social conditioning”, and said it was “essential to place disability within the discourse of rights”.

Moreno became disabled after being shot in a robbery in 1998 and was elected president of Ecuador last year.

He told the summit how, after he became vice-president of Ecuador in 2007, he led on a sweeping series of policies – Ecuador Without Barriers – that aimed to transform life for disabled people in Ecuador.

This included the Solidarity Mission Manuela Espejo, an 18-month project to identify every disabled person in Ecuador – they found nearly 300,000 people with significant impairments and high support needs – and assess their needs.

They went, he said, “to the fullest reaches of the forest, the highest points of the mountains and the furthest points of the islands of Ecuador” to carry out the survey.

The government reportedly increased the country’s spending on disability from about $100,000 a year to $65 million (another report described the increase as $2 million to $150 million) and reserved four per cent of jobs with significant employers for disabled people.

There were programmes to provide healthcare, assistive technology such as wheelchairs, canes, prosthetic limbs and hearings aids, and funding for local authorities to improve access to public buildings.

He spoke when he was vice-president of how on his visits around the country he had seen disabled people being hidden from view by their families in chicken coops and sheds.

He told the summit this week that disabled people had “been waiting for too long and they should not keep waiting, suffering abandonment, mistreatment and being hidden” and that Ecuador had needed a “cultural change” in the way it treated disabled people.

Moreno left government in 2013 at the end of his term as vice-president and was appointed as the special envoy on disability and accessibility by the UN’s secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, with the UN describing him then as “a globally acclaimed advocate for persons with disabilities and inclusive society”.

He told the summit that he had tried as the special envoy “to be a voice for millions of persons with disabilities” and to persuade every country to ratify – and then implement – the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

When he returned to government last year, he said, he found that much of his previous work on disability as vice-president “had been forgotten” and “all the things we had been fighting for and had built had been dismantled, forgotten or changed”.

This meant he had had to start again “nearly from scratch” after he was elected president.

Some opponents in Ecuador have accused him of turning his back on his socialist roots since his election.

In April, the Financial Times reported how Moreno had “announced a package of economic measures that aims to pare back the country’s bloated state apparatus and promote private enterprise, in a further departure from his socialist roots” and that he had “promised significant cuts to central government”.

A small group of protesters were outside the summit in east London to protest at his appearance at the summit.

One of the protesters, Mayra Crean, said Moreno had changed his policies since his election and was now applying a “neoliberal agenda”, cutting taxes for the rich and cutting spending.

She said: “He is cutting the budget for everybody – health, education, social care.”

And she said it was “an embarrassment” and “ironic” that he was appearing at the summit as a representative of disabled people.

The right to employment for disabled people is still central, Moreno told the summit, as most disabled people in his country live in poverty, do not have their own homes and do not work.

He said: “Our objective now is all persons with disabilities who can and want to work should be able to do it. They have the right to work.”

He added: “Our objective is to become a society promoting full inclusion of persons with disabilities, where they can train, study, work, enjoy life, have fun.”

But he also pledged his commitment to working with disabled people on policies affecting them, telling the summit: “The historic model of those who drafted the [UN] convention, ‘nothing about us without us’, is at the heart of the principles of my government.”

And he reaffirmed his commitment to the social model of disability, telling the summit that his government’s objective was a “human rights-based policy and not medical based”.

26 July 2018 by John Pring, Disability News Service

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 20:40
Jul 292018
 

Labour’s shadow chancellor has described the UK government’s decision to co-host a Global Disability Summit – less than a year after its record on disability rights was dismantled by the United Nations – as “the height of hypocrisy”.

John McDonnell, a long-standing supporter of the disabled people’s anti-cuts movement, was speaking to Disability News Service (DNS) after addressing a rival grassroots summit organised by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) in Stratford, east London.

He said the government’s summit was an attempt to show that they were world leaders in disability rights “when they are clearly not”, but also “trying to argue that they could somehow influence or teach other countries how to treat fairly and equally disabled people”, which was “just outrageous.”

McDonnell said disabled people and their allies had worked hard to ensure that the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities had “the fullest information to be able to assess the government’s performance on its policies towards disabled people”.

The result, last September, was “an outright condemnation of the role that the government has played”.

He added: “It was the height of hypocrisy then for them to host this event.”

He said the summit could have been so much more successful if there had been an “honest discussion about what’s happened to disabled people across the globe but also learning the lessons of what’s gone wrong in this country, and the lessons of what’s gone wrong are that disabled people have born the brunt of austerity”.

He added: “If what came out of this summit was the admission by the UK government of their mistakes, at least something would come out of it. I doubt that that would happen.”

He also said – as he has stressed previously – that he wants DPAC and other disabled people’s groups “to set the agenda for Labour when we go into power”.

He told DPAC’s International Deaf and Disabled People’s Solidarity Summit that a Labour government’s policies would be based on the motto of the disabled people’s movement: “nothing about us without us”.

He said: “This is not just an open door. It is a solid invitation: when we go into government, you all go into government.”

The DPAC summit had heard from representatives of disabled people’s organisations in four countries – Bolivia, Greece, Malaysia and Uganda – each of whom described how they had fought oppression and discrimination (see separate story).

26 July 2018 by John Pring, Disability News Service

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 20:38
Jul 292018
 

A leading disabled activist has exposed the UK’s record on disability rights in front of an audience of disabled people from across the global south who had been invited to take part in the government’s Global Disability Summit.

Simone Aspis drew repeated loud applause from the audience at the Civil Society Forum as she highlighted the attacks on disabled people’s rights by the “arrogant” UK government.

She underlined the “hypocrisy” of the UK asking other countries to sign up to a new Charter for Change, which calls for governments to be held to account for their progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

She said: “Today the UK government is asking other countries to sign up to a charter which talks about the importance of holding governments to account under the CRPD and yet our government stands in breach of it. Hypocrisy.”

Last autumn, the chair of the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities said the government’s cuts to disabled people’s support had caused “a human catastrophe”.

Aspis, policy and campaigns coordinator for The Alliance for Inclusive Education, a member of the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance, said the committee had made more than 80 recommendations for improvements and that it had never been as concerned about a country as it was about the UK.

She also highlighted how the same committee had found the UK government guilty of “grave and systematic violations” of the convention in 2016 because its austerity cuts had been “fundamentally breaching disabled people’s human rights to independent living and a decent standard of living and work”.

But she said the government had dismissed the findings of both CRPD reports.

Aspis was speaking at the Civil Society Forum, a sister event to the Global Disability Summit, headed by the International Disability Alliance and intended to “amplify” the voice of disabled people from across the global south the day before the summit was held in the same venue on the Olympic Park.

Aspis told the forum that UK disabled people’s organisations “absolutely welcome the giving of aid and support to our disabled brothers and sisters in other countries but we must also not let the UK government get away with its deliberate dismissal of its obligations under the [UN convention], because if one government should get away with it then others can follow.”

She said ROFA was calling for the government to implement CRPD’s recommendations, including the need for a cumulative assessment of the impact of its welfare and tax reforms; to reverse its welfare reforms; to introduce a national independent living support service; to reverse the reinstitutionalisation of disabled people; and to fully implement disabled people’s right to inclusive education.

26 July 2018 by John Pring, Disability News Service

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 20:33
Jul 292018
 

Disabled people and their organisations from the global south have called for a “new beginning” in the way that the UN disability convention is implemented and monitored.

They were speaking at the Global Disability Summit, a major international disability rights conference co-hosted by the UK government in east London this week.

Speaking at the Civil Society Forum, an event held alongside the summit to “amplify the voice and participation” of disabled people, Dr Samuel Kabue, chair of the Kenya Disability Caucus, said that ratification by countries of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) by governments was not enough in itself.

Kabue, a member of the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD), said that the participation of disabled people’s organisations was “crucial” in the implementation of the convention.

He said: “‘This summit is telling us that we need to have a new beginning where persons with disabilities are given the opportunity, the right and the capacity to work with the government in many places.”

Laura Kanushu, executive director of Legal Action for Persons with Disabilities Uganda, told the forum that taking “strategic” legal cases was “a big strategy” in creating awareness of the convention.

She said: “In implementing [UNCRPD] effectively we need [legal] precedents on different issues in our different countries.”

Another CRPD member, Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame, from Ghana, said disabled people and their organisations “have a great contribution to give” if there is to be “full meaning” of the implementation of UNCRPD because of their “authentic experience and relevant information of the situation of persons with disabilities”.

She said disabled people and their organisations were not consulted when decisions were made on their behalf.

She said: “We have to demand accountability at all levels and ensure and demand that persons with disabilities and their organisations are actively involved in the development and implementation of legislation and policies.”

Ana Lucia Arellano, chair of the International Disability Alliance, which co-hosted the summit, said the event was “an opportunity for meaningful change”.

She said there was an “urgent” need to “move from principals to procedures, from words to action”.

More than 600 representatives of disabled people’s organisations (DPOs), charities, governments and private sector organisations who attended the forum agreed a “collaborative” statement, which calls for “measurable, ambitious and lasting commitments” to implementing UNCRPD and the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The statement, which was presented the next day to the Global Disability Summit by Arellano, says: “It is time to implement the [UNCRPD] in every corner of the world: in every city, in every train station, in every village, in every mountain and valley, in every refugee camp and in every school.”

Among its calls is for increased investment in DPOs and support for the disability rights movement “to grow from the grassroots” and for the introduction of “CRPD compliant policies and legislation” and an increase in the “meaningful consultation and involvement” of disabled people and their organisations.

The forum and summit also saw concerns about a new 10-point Charter for Change, which laid out 10 commitments to achieve full inclusion for disabled people, with the UK government apparently its driving force.

The charter includes pledges on inclusive education (see separate story), to promote the leadership of disabled people, to eliminate discrimination, and to “revolutionise the availability and affordability of appropriate assistive technology”.

By the end of the summit, more than 300 governments, disability organisations, international agencies and private sector companies had signed up to it.

But Simone Aspis, from The Alliance for Inclusive Education, told the Civil Society Forum: “We must all make sure that the charter we introduce at the summit does not become a substitute for proper implementation of the [UNCRPD] and a way to water down our rights and ability to hold our governments to account.”

Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, said the UK was itself violating eight of the 10 commitments in the charter (see separate story).

And Sally Witcher, chief executive of Inclusion Scotland, said: “Rather than urging others to sign a Charter for Change, they might like to consider implementing UNCRPD and accept the verdict of the UN committee on their woeful performance.

“The UK government should stop lecturing to the world and start sorting out its own backyard. Its credibility on disabled people’s human rights is non-existent.”

The European Disability Forum (EDF) endorsed the charter but also warned that it could not be a “substitute” for the UN convention.

Nadia Hadad, an EDF board member, said: “We hope the outcomes of the Global Disability Summit will also provide a strong push at the national level towards full implementation of the [UNCRPD].

“This push is needed everywhere: not only in low and middle-income countries, but also in OECD countries.”

EDF pointed out that the UK government was heavily criticised last autumn by the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities for “failing to uphold the rights of persons with disabilities, including through a string of austerity policies which disproportionately affected persons with disabilities”.

The UK government reported a string of pledges from other governments, international agencies and other organisations by the end of the Global Disability Summit.

It said that nine national governments had promised to pass or draw up new or revised laws to give disabled people greater rights; 18 governments and other organisations said they were producing new action plans on disability inclusion; and 33 governments and other organisations had pledged to support more disabled people affected by humanitarian crises.

Seven UN agencies that attended the summit committed to change the way they include disabled people in their work, including UNICEF, which pledged to help an extra 30 million disabled children gain a high-quality education by 2030 through programmes in more than 140 countries.

It was not clear, though, how many of the commitments and promises were simply policies that governments and organisations had already been planning and would have been introduced without the Global Disability Summit.

26 July 2018 by John Pring, Disability News Service

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 20:25
Jul 292018
 

Disabled activists have held a “festival of resistance” outside an international disability rights event to highlight the “hypocrisy” of it being co-hosted by the UK government.

Members of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and allies were outside the Here East centre on the Olympic Park in the east London borough of Newham, as hundreds of delegates from across the UK and the global south took part in the Global Disability Summit.

Among those speaking at DPAC’s protest were disabled activists from Greece, Bolivia and Uganda, and an anti-poverty activist from Canada, who had all spoken at DPAC’s own International Deaf and Disabled People’s Solidarity Summit in nearby Stratford two days earlier.

Paula Peters, a member of DPAC’s national steering group, said: “It is important to be outside the Global Disability Summit to show the true nature of what the UK government are doing to disabled people with their austerity agenda.”

She pointed to the two reports from the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD), in 2016 and 2017, which had exposed the impact of the cuts on disabled people.

The first of the reports, in November 2016, found the government had committed “grave and systematic violations” of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities through its policies on independent living, social security and employment.

The second, last autumn, assessed the government’s overall record on implementing the convention, produced an unprecedented number of recommendations for improvements, and led the committee’s chair to tell the UK government that its cuts to disabled people’s support had caused “a human catastrophe”.

Ellen Clifford, who helped organise DPAC’s International Deaf and Disabled People’s Solidarity Summit, which took place two days before the government’s summit (see separate stories), had said that holding the Global Disability Summit so soon after the UN report was like the UK government “sticking two fingers up to the UN”.

But she said she welcomed anything positive that came out of the summit and was “particularly in favour of deaf and disabled people and our organisations making direct links internationally to support each other in our shared struggles.”

She said this could only be done “from the grassroots up”, which was why DPAC had hosted its own summit.

Clifford said that the Department for International Development, which had co-hosted the summit, had said DPAC activists could come inside the summit but would only be allowed in “if you don’t mention the UK government”.

DPAC rejected the invitation, and instead, the International Disability Alliance (IDA), an alliance of disabled people’s organisations which co-hosted the summit, supported DPAC in ensuring that its leaflets were distributed inside the summit.

The leaflets told delegates that the UK government had shown “contempt” for disabled people and the UN convention, had driven its “disabled citizens into degrading and inhumane conditions” and that it appeared to be “attempting to use this event to whitewash its appalling record on disability at home”.

Peters said the UK government was not talking about the two UN reports in its summit, and added: “The sun never sets on their hypocrisy. They are abusing our human rights at home.

“They are in there celebrating disabled people and how fantastic disabled are but their policies are harming disabled people, pushing us further into poverty, further marginalising us and excluding us from society.

“The cuts are killing us. We had to be here to show that, to show the truth.”

Marsha de Cordova, the disabled shadow minister for disabled people, also attended the DPAC protest, along with her Labour colleague Kate Osamor, the shadow international development secretary.

De Cordova pointed out that the Global Disability Summit was being hosted by Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, who had been minister for disabled people when CRPD produced its two reports in 2016 and 2017.

She said she was at the DPAC protest because ministers were “portraying themselves as being global leaders on disability rights”.

She said: “We know that is not the case. Their policies have been condemned by the UN.”

She said the government’s policies over the last eight years had “disproportionately hit disabled people, particularly on social security”.

De Cordova also pointed to the Charter for Change, the summit’s “principal legacy document”, which the UK was asking other governments and organisations to sign up to.

She said the UK was violating eight of the charter’s 10 commitments, including the pledge to “gather and use better data and evidence to understand and address the scale, and nature, of challenges faced by persons with disabilities”.

The UK government has persistently refused to carry out a cumulative impact assessment of its social security and tax cuts and reforms since 2010, even though the Equality and Human Rights Commission published its own version in March.

The disabled Kenyan MP Isaac Mwaura also expressed his solidarity with the DPAC protest.

He told them: “If there are any cuts to social welfare, how come they start with the most vulnerable, people with disabilities?”

Mwaura, a former student at the University of Leeds, said that disability was about “rights, respect and dignity”.

He said: “I tell you in solidarity, demand for your rights, let the UK government also implement the recommendations of the UN report for the CRPD.

“That way, the UK government will be providing leadership, the way it is purporting to do together with my government on the conditions of people with disability.

“Disability is about rights, it is about respect, it is about dignity, we will stand in solidarity with you, we refuse to accept the north and south divide, where some countries are seen to be better than others, yet the problems of disabled people are universal and common to all of us.

“We have to stand up and demand our rights: nothing about us without us.”

Dr Ju Gosling, artistic director of Together! 2012, a social enterprise led by Newham-based disabled artists, was one of several disabled artists who performed at the protest.

She said that Newham was the main London 2012 host borough and has one of the highest proportions of disabled residents in the UK, but that the promised “legacy” benefits of London 2012 to disabled people in Newham had yet to appear.

Instead, she said, “we have the highest percentage of homeless residents in the country, the vast majority of whom have an impairment or a long-term health condition, and the lowest level of cultural engagement.

“There is no funded disabled people’s organisation or centre for independent living; in fact, there is almost no advice and support available of any kind.”

Gosling pointed out that the Global Disability Summit organisers did not appear to have invited any local organisation of disabled people to the summit, including Together! 2012.

And she said there had also been no attempt to facilitate meetings between disabled people from the global south visiting the summit and Together! 2012.

She said: “In Newham, we have disabled people from all over the world and they would love to have had a discussion and could have really enriched the understanding of the visitors about what it is like to be disabled in the UK.

“Presumably that’s why we were not invited.”

Representatives of IDA attended the DPAC protest and said they were there “in solidarity”.

An IDA representative said: “IDA agreed to co-host because we wanted DPOs, including UK DPOs, to be a central part of the summit.

“And we have achieved this. DPOs from across the global, and including UK DPOs, have been key to the success of this summit.”

But she added: “We cannot ignore the findings of the CRPD committee.”

She said IDA was hoping to set up a meeting between DPOs including DPAC, the Department for Work and Pensions and Mordaunt’s Department for International Development.

26 July 2018 by John Pring, Disability News Service

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 20:23
Jul 292018
 

A national disabled people’s organisation is facing accusations that it “betrayed” the UK disability movement after its deputy chief executive failed to condemn the government’s record on rights at a major international gathering of disabled people.

Sue Bott was sharing the stage with a senior government civil servant less than a year after the chair of the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD) said the UK government’s cuts to disabled people’s support had caused “a human catastrophe”.

They were appearing at the Civil Society Forum, an event headed by the International Disability Alliance and intended to “amplify” the voice of disabled people the day before the UK government’s sister event, the Global Disability Forum, was held in the same venue on the Olympic Park in east London.

Bott was asked on Monday by the UN’s special rapporteur on the rights of disabled people, Catalina Aguilar, what she would like to ask the UK government to do.

But in front of an audience containing disabled people from organisations across the global south and the UK, Bott failed to criticise the UK government.

Instead, she laughed, and said DR UK wanted to “collaborate” and “learn from disabled people around the world”.

Hours earlier, Simone Aspis, from The Alliance for Inclusive Education, had won loud applause and even one or two cheers from the international audience after delivering a devastating attack on the government’s record on disability rights and its “hypocrisy” in holding the summit (see separate story).

CRPD told the UK government last September to make more than 80 improvements to how its laws and policies affect disabled people’s human rights, the highest number of recommendations it had ever produced in reviewing a country’s progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Aspis had told the forum, which was organised by the UK government, the International Disability Alliance and the government of Kenya: “Today the UK government is asking other countries to sign up to a charter which talks about the importance of holding governments to account under the [UN convention] and yet our government stands in breach of it. Hypocrisy.”

And she said that UK disabled people’s organisations “absolutely welcome the giving of aid and support to our disabled brothers and sisters in other countries but we must also not let the UK government get away with its deliberate dismissal of its obligations under the [UN convention], because if one government should get away with it then others can follow.”

But instead of supporting Aspis by telling disabled delegates from across the world about the UK government’s serious breaches of the UN convention, Bott said: “We do want to work with government.

“As you heard this morning, we have some challenges in the UK but I believe that it’s essential that we keep that dialogue going with government and that we try to influence.”

She then said that DR UK’s request of the UK government was to “listen to us, talk to us, work with us and together if we work together we can create a society that is much better and inclusive for disabled people.

“It is a difficult process and sometimes unfortunately we end up going backwards sometimes but we need to engage and we need to find ways of going forwards and continuously improving our society for the benefit of disabled people.”

DR UK* has been repeatedly criticised for being too close to the government, but it appeared to have reclaimed some credibility with the disabled people’s movement through its part in a delegation of UK DPOs that visited Geneva last year, where its chief executive Kamran Mallick helped brief CRPD members on the UK’s breaches.

Last week, DR UK published a statement on its website criticising the government’s progress on disability rights, which it said had not just stalled but “reversed”, and adding: “We hope the summit will strengthen the ability of civic society in all the participating countries to hold their governments to account against the pledges they make.”

But when Bott took to the stage, sitting two seats down from Gerard Howe, head of inclusive societies in the policy division of the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID), she failed to repeat that criticism.

The next day, Mallick spoke at the summit and also failed to criticise the government, noting only that he wanted the government to “see the UNCRPD report from 2017 as an opportunity to work through the issues raised and for the UK to reclaim its reputation as one of the leaders in disability equality”.

Eleanor Lisney, a leading disabled activist and member of the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance network of disabled people and their organisations, said she was “astounded” by Bott’s speech.

She said: “Given that it was such a strong examination by the CRPD she didn’t mention it at all.

“It is not something that is hearsay. This is the UN.”

She said that one of the UN’s key conclusions last year was that one of the strongest elements in the UK was its disabled activists and disabled people’s organisations (DPOs).

Lisney said: “She didn’t mention that, she didn’t give credit to DPOs in her own country, she said she wants to learn from the countries the UK government is giving help to.

“She’s not there for DR UK, she’s there for DPOs in the UK.

“It’s a betrayal, that’s what I call it.”

There was also strong criticism on social media, with DPAC activist Rick Burgess saying on Twitter: “It is not acceptable for her to make no comment on UN report and to want to work with ongoing human rights abusers. Disgusting.”

Richard Rieser, who was at the forum and heard Bott’s speech, said it was “too weak” and that she had failed to challenge the UK government from the stage.

Rieser, a leading disabled consultant, who has played a key role in representing UK disabled people on international bodies such as the European Disability Forum and at the UN, said it had been “very difficult” to persuade DfID to let anyone from the UK disabled people’s movement to speak at the event.

And he praised Aspis for her speech, which had challenged the government.

He added: “People who were speaking were not just speaking for themselves and their own organisations but the whole UK disability movement and [DR UK] could have done more justice to the case against the British government domestically.”

He said Mallick had failed to explain to delegates what concerns the UN had raised “or in any way embarrass the government”.

Rieser said: “We have to be slightly stronger than that if we want to move them.

“We should really have held them to account more at this event. When you have the chance, you have to.”

Mallick and Bott refused to respond to requests from Disability News Service (DNS) to explain their failure to be more critical of the government from the stage.

Mallick said only in a statement: “Sue and I were asked to contribute to specific topics and questions, these were the basis of what we said.

“The panel that I was on was cut short significantly, due to the previous speech by the president of Ecuador running over time.”

He also referred DNS to a blog he wrote in advance of the summit, which was mildly critical of the government, a link to his speech to the summit, and to last week’s statement.

*DR UK is a Disability News Service subscriber

26 July 2018 by John Pring, Disability News Service

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 20:18
Jul 292018
 

International development secretary Penny Mordaunt has been labelled a hypocrite and an embarrassment after attempting to redefine inclusive education at the international disability summit she was hosting in east London.

Penny Mordaunt’s government was already facing criticism from across the UK disabled people’s movement for its “blatant attempt to divert attention from its own disastrous record on human rights” by co-hosting the Global Disability Summit in east London.

But Mordaunt was then asked during the summit – a major international disability rights conference focused on the global south – what inclusive education meant to her, and she replied: “Inclusive education means that everyone has an education and it is done in a way to reach their full potential.”

The UN has made it clear that inclusive education means that all disabled children and young people are educated in mainstream settings and that the right for disabled students not to be discriminated against “includes the right not to be segregated” into special schools.

The UK government’s opposition to an inclusive education system dates back to the Conservative party’s 2010 election manifesto, in which it said its policy would be to “end the bias towards inclusion of disabled children in mainstream schools”.

Five years later, its general election manifesto boasted of how it had “created 2,200 more special schools places through our free schools programme”.

And last autumn, the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities was highly critical of the UK government’s approach to inclusive education, and the “persistence of a dual education system” that segregates increasing numbers of disabled children in special schools.

It called instead for a “coherent strategy” on “increasing and improving inclusive education”, to include raising awareness of – and support for – inclusive education among parents of disabled children.

The day before Mordaunt’s comments, Laura Kanushu, executive director of Legal Action for Persons with Disabilities Uganda, told the Civil Society Forum – a sister event held the day before the Global Disability Summit, in the same venue – of the “challenges of governments still investing so much in special needs schools”.

She said: “Why don’t you make the mainstream schools inclusive rather than investing in building special needs schools? For us that has been a challenge.”

The UK government’s refusal to support inclusive education – at least in its own country – was always likely to be exposed during the summit after the Department for International Development decided that one of its four main themes would be “inclusion in education”.

The prime minister, Theresa May, in a video played to the summit, even called for “truly inclusive” education as a way of helping disabled people “play a full role in their communities”, although she was apparently only referring to disabled young people living in developing countries.

And in her closing speech, Mordaunt announced a new Inclusive Education Initiative – led by the UK – a “multi-donor partnership to support developing countries realise the promise of truly inclusive schools, teaching and learning”.

Michelle Daley and Simone Aspis, interim director and policy and campaigns coordinator for The Alliance for Inclusive Education, said that Mordaunt’s comments were embarrassing and hypocritical.

Daley and Aspis said in a statement: “It is not just an embarrassment but also an hypocrisy for our government to tell the Global Disability Summit anything about inclusive education, especially when we are terribly failing many of our disabled children.”

They said it was “very concerning” that Mordaunt appeared to have redefined the definition of inclusive education in a way that did not comply with the UN’s definition.

They said: “The convention comes with an obligation to develop and implement an inclusive education system.

“However, our government continues to have a dual education system, refusing to make inclusive education a right, with an increase in the number of children being forced into segregated schools.

“It is time that our government starts to properly implement inclusive education as a human right.”

Richard Rieser, a leading inclusive education and international disability rights expert, who chaired a session at the summit, said the government was “clearly finding this an embarrassment”.

He said: “It is well-established under article 24 [of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities] that inclusion is education in the local school in your community.

“What the minister [Mordaunt] said leaves the door open to segregated special schools.”

He pointed out that the UK maintained a reservation against article 24 of the convention, reserving the right for disabled children to be educated outside their local community, and an “interpretive declaration”*, which explains that the UK believes that the convention allows it to continue to operate both mainstream and special schools.

Only two other countries – Suriname and Mauritius – have placed reservations against article 24.

Rieser said: “This is the problem and the fear about the Department for International Development leading this [event] when they don’t understand the things we are arguing for as a world disability movement.”

*Both the reservation and interpretive declaration were placed by the Labour government in 2009 when it ratified the convention and have been maintained by subsequent coalition and Conservative governments

26 July 2018 by John Pring, Disability News Service

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 20:14
Jul 292018
 

The international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt, has been forced to retreat from her government’s repeated claims that the UK is a “global leader in disability rights”.

Her government has faced anger from the UK disabled people’s movement at its decision to co-host a Global Disability Summit in east London less than a year after the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD) found that its cuts to disabled people’s support had caused “a human catastrophe”.

The committee told the UK government last September – when Mordaunt herself was minister for disabled people – to make more than 80 improvements to how its laws and policies affect disabled people’s human rights.

It was the highest number of recommendations CRPD had ever produced in reviewing a country’s progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The committee also made it clear to the government that the UK was no longer considered a world leader on disability rights.

But the government has repeatedly disagreed with the UN’s conclusion.

Last November, the new minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton, said that the UK “continues to be a global leader in disability rights”.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said last October – in responding to CRPD’s findings – that the UK was “a recognised world leader in disability rights and equality”.

And last October, Mordaunt herself said the government wanted to “establish the UK as a global leader” in disability and development and that she was “keen to promote what we are doing [on the domestic agenda] because it is a catalyst for change elsewhere in the world”.

But in an interview with Disability News Service (DNS) this week at the summit – a major international disability rights conference focused on the global south – Mordaunt distanced herself from those claims.

When asked if it was hypocritical for her government to hold itself up as a world leader on disability rights while co-hosting the summit, she said: “I think you’re putting words into my mouth, we are not holding ourselves up saying that we’re perfect or we have all the answers and I’ve been very clear in all my communications about this summit that that is the case.

“But I tell you this, we are well placed to help other nations get where we all want to be.”

She added: “This is not about the UK either preaching to other nations or not including ourselves in the list of nations that need to do better.

“We do need to do better. I’ve got a big long list, you’ve got a big long list, the Office for Disability Issues has a big long list of things that it wants to get done.”

She said she wanted the UK to do better on welfare, accessibility, building regulations and disabled people as consumers, and she said: “There is a lot of room for improvement, but there is more to do, but us as a wealthy nation not supporting, encouraging and enabling others to make the progress as well, I think it would be a dereliction of our duty.”

When told that the disabled people’s organisation Inclusion Scotland had described the summit as a “blatant attempt [by the government] to divert attention from its own disastrous record on human rights and the damage its own policies have inflicted on UK disabled people”, Mordaunt said: “Well, if that were the case, holding a Global Disability Summit in the UK would be a pretty poor strategy. It’s not about that.”

This week, Mordaunt and her fellow ministers have been encouraging other countries and organisations to sign up to a new Charter for Change, calling on them to “hold ourselves and others to account for the promises we have made here today” and to “strive for real change through the convention’s implementation”.

But Mordaunt has now criticised the UN for its attempts to do just that.

In 2016, the UN’s CRPD told the UK government that it was guilty of “grave and systematic violations” of disabled people’s rights through its policies on independent living, social security and employment.

There has been anger and disbelief that the UK was asking other countries at the summit to sign up to a new charter that calls for governments to be held to account for their progress in implementing the convention, when it had not accepted the CRPD recommendations last September, or in 2016.

Last year, DWP said it was “disappointed” that the UN report “fails to recognise all the progress we’ve made to empower disabled people in all aspects of their lives”.

And the previous year, DWP said that it “strongly disagrees” with CRPD’s conclusions that it had caused “grave and systematic violations” of disabled people’s rights and that the CRPD report “presents an inaccurate picture of life for disabled people in the UK”.

Mordaunt insisted this week that the government had not dismissed last year’s report on the overall implementation of the convention in the UK, and that Newton was now “working through” the recommendations, with announcements expected nest month.

But when asked four times whether she accepted the 2016 “grave and systematic violations” report, Mordaunt declined to do so.

She eventually said that the government had “issues with some of the aspects of the UN process”.

She said: “We think that we have been in some instances unfairly dealt with, but we will continue to engage in that process and I am confident that you will see progress.”

Mordaunt made a series of announcements at the summit to demonstrate the government’s commitment to supporting disabled people in the developing world, funded through the UK’s continuing legally binding agreement to spend 0.7 per cent of national income a year on foreign aid (about £14 billion in 2017).

She committed the UK government to a new global partnership – AT Scale – to “transform access to and affordability of” assistive technology, such as wheelchairs, prosthetics, hearing aids and glasses, with the aim of reaching 500 million people globally by 2030.

She also announced a new UK Aid Connect programme, led by disability charities Sightsavers and Leonard Cheshire, which will work with organisations within small communities in the developing world to support disabled people into jobs.

There will be a six-year programme to design ways to help 100,000 disabled people to access health services, 10,000 disabled children to access education, and up to 45,000 disabled people to increase their incomes.

And Mordaunt said that her Department for International Development would work with businesses to support disabled people as employers, employees and consumers.

26 July 2018 by John Pring, Disability News Service

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 20:11
May 032018
 

1.8 million disabled people with unmet housing needs

580,000 of whom are of working age

2/3 of single disabled people living alone are in poverty

Disabled people are twice as likely as non disabled people to be social housing tenants

There is a shortage of accessible housing across Britain.

Of the councils in England with a housing plan, fewer than 17% of councils have set out strategies to build disabled-friendly homes

From: Facts and Figures 2018. Disability in the UK. Papworth Trust http://online.flipbuilder.com/afjd/uvad/mobile/index.html#p=1

Thanks to Miriam Binder Brighton DPAC, for this excellent account of the difficulties disabled people face when looking for accessible housing

There is indeed a crisis in Housing and this holds probably truer for disabled people and it must be added, the long-term ill, then any other group. Why this is the case is down to a number of factors. As we all know, or should do by now, the Housing Crisis as it stands at the moment is due to not the rising number in Housing Need as such but rather the inequality that exists within society.

Here in England, Housing has been beset by a number of issues. I will not delve into the complexities surrounding home ownership, initial mortgages and the varying types of mortgage. Not because they are inconsequential but because, for the majority of disabled people and the long-term sick, they are by and large, unobtainable. Whether there is a Disabled Community is questionable as the sheer diversity in Disability and Long-Term Illness is immense. I am mobility impaired and rely on my trusty wheelchair, the Grim Creeper, to get me around. But I can see, provided my spectacles prescription is up to date. My hearing is functional despite what my grandchildren may have to say at times – especially when it comes to them demanding more chocolate or, as is the case with the older ones, more pocket money.

Disability and Long-Term Illness covers a large diversity of impairments. From Mobility through to Cognitive and Mental impairments. In addition, there is the fluctuation of symptoms, when someone is undergoing treatment, which by and large is of concern to the Long-Term Ill however can at times also be an issue for disabled people; regardless of whether this is a life long disability, from birth that is, or an acquired disability, as in my case, where it only became a factor in my middle years. I will refer to us, for the sake of this discussion, as the Disabled Community.

I’ll start with a bit of background. I am fortunate enough to be a council tenant. I’ve been one now for 38 years. When mobility first became a real issue, I was still the tenant of what was my family home. I lived in a three-bedroom house with the bedrooms and bathroom located upstairs. Nothing fancy but good accommodation for what was at the time, the size of my family. My daughters grew up and, as is the habit of such creatures, left home one by one. I started considering downsizing. However, as my mobility worsened I realised that a high-rise flat was not the most suitable move. I remained in that house, under occupying, for 4 years after my youngest left home. The last two years I rarely made it to the second floor. I slept on the sofa in the front room. I bathed, or what passed as bathed, at the kitchen sink. I was fortunate that the house had a downstairs toilet.

I was bidding … a truly atrocious method of seeking rehousing in the Social Housing sector; not least of which is the requirement of having internet access. I was however also dependant on the ranking I was given by the Council as to whether a bid would be considered acceptable. I ended up refusing to pay any additional charges and the matter eventually ended up in court with the ever-ready threat of eviction looming over me. Being a self-possessed, articulate and relatively educated individual, I got the point across that I need a ground floor property and, with the magistrate siding with me on this issue, I eventually got my current bungalow. I also was in some housing debt but that, given my desperate need for suitable housing, was a minor consideration at the time.

The trouble was, and yes this isn’t the end of the story, my dream home, this one-bedroom bungalow, was not wheelchair accessible. There was a 19cm step entering the house and a 7cm step exiting it. For two years I had to lift a 93-kilo wheelchair across these steps, every time I needed to exit or enter my home. I am now not only disabled because of my lower limbs not functioning properly but also have limitations in my right arm due to a severely torn rotor cuff.

Adaptations however are not that easily obtained. There is a process one has to go through which is rather complex. And even when it has been accepted that the adaptation is necessary, by the appropriate Social Services department, there is the matter of financing said adaptation. This matter falls within the remit of an entirely different department.

To cut a long story relatively short, I ended up having to present a deposition to the Housing Committee to eventually gain the finance necessary to provide my adaptation. Bless the soul of the Adult Social Care assessor that came to the property as she determined that while they were adapting my access into the home, they may as well adapt my bathroom so that I would be able to shower without risking a fall every time. I got a wet room at the same time.

Not that that was the end of the adaptations required to mean I could actually retain independence in my home. It took a total of 5 years to make my home adapted to my needs. Included there also 3 years of not being able to use the kitchen. The only thing that is now worrying me on the home front is if ever I need care. There is no room in my home for anyone to sleep. It has presented some problems when I’ve been to hospital for treatment. I’ll tell no lie but I do lie. I would get one of my daughters to come ‘spring me’ from the hospital, assure the hospital that someone would remain with me at home and then, once released, would go home alone, crawl in to bed and pray there were no post-operative complications.

We live in a society that has many gorgeous houses built over the centuries. Wonderful places with wonderful spaces for people to live and have families. The problem is that few, if any, of these places are adaptable. Those that are adaptable are limited to the extent of adaptation possible. Then there is the fact that the Disabled people and long-term ill are generally speaking amongst the poorer in society. Buying a home is, as a rule, beyond most. We, by and large, depend on renting our residences. That presents a particular problem in that renting in the private sector is problematic. Not just the sheer cost and the short-termism of rental agreements but also the issue of adaptations. Few, if any, private landlords would be willing to have extensive adaptations done to their property just because they have a given tenant for the next 6, 12 or 36 months.

There are other issues. Temporary housing which is far from disabled friendly due to lack of adaptations. Ill suited for people recovering from and between treatments such as chemo- or radiotherapy, dialysis and others. One young man, a tetraplegic wheelchair user, ended up in a 2nd floor attic flat. There was no way of getting his wheelchair to the flat so he had to be bodily hauled up and down to the place. Even if he could have managed to get his wheelchair into the flat, there was no room to move around in the flat with a wheelchair. In addition, treatment to enable him to regain, or at least retain, some movement was denied as, according to the NHS, there was little sense in treating him while his body was being abused daily because of his housing situation.

You see, with disabled people and long-term sick, it is not enough to get a roof over your head. The roof needs to be over a place you can move around in, you can store any equipment you need and you can have an overnight visitor stay for when you need that extra care. This cannot be addressed on an ad hoc basis. Nor can we remain reactive to need but we must become proactive to potential. If you come across someone who has, let us say for argument sake, Peripheral Vascular Disease, today they may walk short distances, enough to hobble around the house but tomorrow, or if not tomorrow at sometime in the future, they will be totally incapable of walking, requiring amputation of at least one if not both, feet or legs.

We must also bear in mind that Disabled people and the long-term ill have families, brothers and sisters and yes, children. We need to ensure that all building programmes, and certainly all social building programmes, build houses with, as standard, wider doorways, level access, wide hallways and rooms we can easily adapt if they require a lift, lower access cupboards and a cooker that can be used while seated. We need these properties in all shapes and sizes. Neither disability, be it from birth or an acquired one, nor long term illness will go away. They are part of humanity and a parcel of life. Let us make sure that any programmes of building we engage in will have at least the facility to adapt, easily and simply and that the groundwork is already done.

 Posted by at 16:33
May 022018
 

May 2nd, 2018

Join us today for the 2nd day of the vigil outside the high court  to support the first judicial review against the Government’s decision to bring in Universal Credit. The case will focus in particular on the removal of the Severe and Enhanced Disability Premiums which will have a devastating impact on Disabled people. When the Government introduced Universal credit they said no one will be worse off, but this simply isn’t true. Research in 2013 estimated that 450,000 households containing a Disabled person would lose essential income.

The case is being taken by Leigh Day solicitors on behalf of a man who is terminally ill and through the removal of SDP and EDP has lost £178 per month.

Vigil called by Disabled People Against Cuts and Winvisible.

 Posted by at 06:36
Apr 172018
 

Let Inclusion London know about your experience of welfare benefit sanctions.   The information will be used to inform our evidence to a Select Committee inquiry into sanctions.

Please send your evidence to Henrietta.Doyle@inclusionlondon.org.uk by 17 May

The Work and Pensions Committee recently launched an inquiry into benefit sanctions.  The evidence the Committee is calling for includes: how sanctions operate, recent developments, and whether sanctions ‘help’ people off benefits and into work.

Below are some of the questions the committee is asking:

  • What improvements to sanctions policy could be made to achieve its objectives better?
  • Could a challenge period and/or a system of warnings for a first sanctionable offence be beneficial? If so, how should they be implemented?
  • Are levels of discretion afforded to jobcentre staff appropriate?
  • Are adequate protections in place for vulnerable claimants?
  • What effects does sanctions policy have on other aspects of the benefits system and public services more widely?

If you wish send evidence directly to the committee the deadline for is 25 May 2018.

More information about the inquiry is available at:

https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/news-parliament-2017/benefit-sanctions-launch-17-19/

 Posted by at 13:20