Annie

Oct 072017
 

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

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

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

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

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

FAQs on WCA severe conditions

DWP WCA Guidance on severe conditions

Severe conditions guidance

 

 

 Posted by at 14:12
Oct 032017
 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 09:24
Sep 142017
 

by Jenny Tsiropoulou

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

 

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

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

 

Lechaina center, 2015.

An ongoing crime is being disclosed

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

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

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

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

 

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

Zero Tolerance activists at Lechaina center, November 2015.

 

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

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

Andrew Kouzelis into the cage, November 2015.

 

In Lechaina

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

Lechaina center.

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

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

Activists with Lechaina residents playing outdoors for the first time.

 

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

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

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

People as objects in the trashcan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Institutions as Barracks

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Battle against Institutionalization – Zero political action?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asylum and Society

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 Posted by at 21:20
Sep 122017
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 Posted by at 18:22
Aug 312017
 

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

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

 

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

 Posted by at 15:13
Aug 212017
 

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

Photo: ROFA Delegates in Geneva earlier this year

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

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

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

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

Not going to Geneva? You can still get involved!

 Posted by at 14:54
Aug 122017
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Posted by at 13:59
Aug 062017
 

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

 Posted by at 21:08
Jul 242017
 

Please watch the video:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Photo credit: Paula Peters.

 Posted by at 21:36
Jul 192017
 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Again no time limit

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Read Frank Zola Blog below;

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

 Posted by at 18:31
Jul 192017
 

Today, DPAC went to Parliament to lobby MPs about the funding of social care and independent living as part of their Week of Action

The funding crisis in social care is having a very real and detrimental impact on Disabled people’s ability to live and take part in the community and the gap between the life chances of Disabled and non-Disabled people is widening. Read more about it here

The police was not initially allowing DPAC members into Parliament and they were held for a while in a gated area before making their way to the lobby area

While there, they decided to occupy the area, as they did a few years ago, and they received the support of MPs like Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Caroline Lucas and Bartley among others.

The event was well covered by the media, and you can see below some photos of the event

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/demonstrators-house-commons-pmqs-disability-cuts-protest-wheelchairs-parliament-entrance-block-a7848876.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/disabled-protesters-block-entrance-to-house-of-commons-in-campaign-against-cuts_uk_596f4e34e4b0a03aba864e5d?ncid=engmodushpmg00000004

http://metro.co.uk/2017/07/19/people-in-wheelchairs-block-mps-entrance-to-house-of-commons-to-protest-against-cuts-6791049/?ito=twitter

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/blog/live/2017/jul/19/pmqs-theresa-may-jeremy-corbyn-brexit-eu-wants-to-make-brexit-a-catastrophe-for-uk-says-senior-german-mep-politics-live?CMP=twt_gu

http://news.sky.com/story/protesters-in-wheelchairs-block-mps-entrance-to-the-commons-10953908

https://www.thecanary.co/2017/07/19/corbyn-mays-final-pmqs-summer-nearly-shut-today-wont-see-bbc-video/

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/furious-protesters-wheelchairs-block-house-10829364

 

 Posted by at 18:07
Jul 182017
 

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

 

The funding crisis in social is having a very real and detrimental impact on Disabled people’s ability to live and take part in the community and the gap between the life chances of Disabled and non-Disabled people is widening. The most basic choices such as when to get up go to bed or use the toilet, when and what to eat, and the choice to leave the house are no longer in the hands of Disabled people but subject to Local Authority budget allocations which are becoming ever more restricted.

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

– upholding disabled people’s right to independent living,

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

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

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

 

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

How to get involved:

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

 

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

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

 

 

Template letter to MP

 

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

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

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

The funding crisis in social is having a very real and detrimental impact on Disabled people’s ability to live and take part in the community and the gap between the life chances of Disabled and non-Disabled people is widening. The most basic choices such as when to get up go to bed or use the toilet, when and what to eat, and the choice to leave the house are no longer in the hands of Disabled people but subject to Local Authority budget allocations which are becoming ever more restricted.

[Insert person situation]

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

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

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

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

 

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

Tweet Lorna Reith, Labour councillor

Tweet Claire Kober ‏Leader of the council

Tweet Joe Goldberg, Labour councillor

Tweet Joseph Ejiofor, Labour councillor

Tweet to Vincent Carroll, Labour councillor

Tweet to Tim Gallagher, Labour councillor

Tweet to Peray Ahmet, Labour councillor

 Posted by at 14:34
Jul 122017
 
Thursday 20th July – Turn Up and Go protest
Driver Only Operated trains, the removal of guards from trains and rail staff from stations threaten Disabled people’s freedom to travel. On 10th July DPAC campaigners will be joining RMT staff on their picket lines as they take industrial action to defend our right to access public transport.
On 20th July we are inviting Disabled people to travel together en masse to the Department for Transport’s headquarters in London to deliver a petition demanding out right to ride.
Assemble outside the Department for Transport at 2pm. Department for Transport 
Great Minster House ,33 Horseferry Road ,London,W1P 4DR
 Posted by at 22:07
Jul 122017
 
I would very much appreciate it if you could sign and share the following petition that I have created to  ask the Welsh Government to reconsider their decision to close the Welsh Independent Living Grant and transfer all responsibility for care and support to hapless local authorities.
Click here  to sign the petition
Anyone can sign the petition and they DO NOT have to be resident in Wales. This petition runs until September 1st when the Assembly return from their summer break.
We need to reach 50 signatures to force a debate in the Welsh Assembly. I am hoping to surpass that number many times to show the strength of feeling about this issue. The petition total currently stands at 90. Disabled people throughout Wales – and indeed beyond – deserve the support of an independent body to help regulate their care and support without increasing the dependency on local authorities.
Many thanks for your time and support.

I am a recipient of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) and a disability activist who intends on asking Welsh Government to reconsider their decision to close WILG as of April 2019.

The WILG was introduced to help people who previously claimed from the UK government’s Independent Living Fund (ILF), which closed in 2015. More than 1,500 people are helped by the scheme across Wales. Recipients all have high degree of care and support needs. 

It was due to run until the end of March 2017, but Social Services Minister Rebecca Evans said in November that funding would continue for another year.

 

The annual £27m fund will then transfer directly to local authorities during 2018-19 so they can meet the support needs of all former ILF recipients by 31 March 2019.

Why we oppose this decision:

The Welsh Government said the decision was taken on stakeholder advice. The majority of representatives on the stakeholder group were third sector or citizens. But they didn’t want WILG scrapped and the key point is that our advice was not accepted.

It should also be remembered that closure of WILG is not inevitable as is proved through the formation and success of the Scottish Independent Living Fund; which also works to support the Northern Ireland ILF.

Furthermore, the hugely popular Labour Party Manifesto outlined plans to set up a national care system to exist independently of local authorities.

This is exactly the time that the Labour Party should be united on such issues against the Tories. We must question why Welsh Labour are not playing their part in the changing political landscape?

Indeed, eventually it should be our aim to set up an Independent Living Fund for Wales so that no disabled person should have to suffer the same uncertainty and isolation as WILG recipients are now experiencing. We can only begin to believe that true social justice and equality for all is possible if Welsh Labour revisit their WILG decision.

Welsh Labour will no doubt argue that we should give the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act a chance to succeed.However, this idealistic act needs hefty investment and resources to ensure it is a success – with no sign of any of the necessary improvements to our infrastructure that the success of the Act depends on. This may indeed be the time for a revolutionary change in the way social care is delivered, but such a transformation could take a decade or more and WILG recipients do not deserve to be treated like guinea pigs when their high care and support needs require long-term stability and structure.

Thank you very much to Brian Hilton for producing the memes



 

 

 Posted by at 08:23
Jul 092017
 

MEDIA RELEASE Rev Paul Nicolson 0208 3765455 — 07961177889

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE in solidarity with everyone in UK suffering mental or physical ill-health due to inadequate incomes and debt.

Rents and council tax enforcement are burning up the lowest incomes needed for food, fuel, clothes and transport  

I have been summoned to appear at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court, 51 Holloway Road, London N7 8JA at 13.30 on Thursday 13th July. There will be a demonstration outside the courts from 12-1.30.

I am refusing to pay my council tax to Haringey Council , as an act of civil disobedience, in solidarity with everyone in the UK suffering mental or physical ill-health due to grossly inadequate incomes and debt in work, self employment, unemployment or zero hours contracts, which are taxed by local authorities, particularly those who have been forced by national and local government to go to a food bank.

 
National and local government heaping coal onto the housing fires that burn the minimum incomes needed for food, fuel, transport and other necessities and for the well-being of the poorest tenants.  
 
This is a cry for the prevention of ill health among the poorest people in the UK created by the damagingly low level of their lowest incomes shredded by national government since 2010 and taxed by local government since 2013. 
 
How many more infant deaths of the poorest mothers, and how much more diminished life expectancy, do there have to be before national and local governments can hear the overwhelming and undeniable evidence that low incomes impact on mental and physical health.  An unprecedented 52,400 more deaths were reported by the ONS to have occurred in the year to June 2015 as compared to the same period a year before.
 
 
The government has cut the lowest incomes and allowed the UK housing market to increase rents. Housing has become the cash cow for landlords, land owners and national and intentional developers. Rents have increased both with the market and also because housing benefit is cut by the benefit cap and the bedroom tax. . 
 
Therefore the capacity of the lowest shredded incomes needed to buy food, water, fuel, clothes and other necessities, in order to maintain good health, is further reduced by ever increasing rents in the UK’s corrupt housing market. 
 
For decades land owners have bent their financial viability assessments to reduce the number of  truly affordable homes for rent to be able to sell more new homes on the open market. So much so that the Financial Times was able to report on the 6th July that “Regeneration of 50 council estates led to a net loss of 8,000 rented homes for poorer residents” (page 3). And the Daily Telegraph to report on the 11th July that “One in three homes with planning permission aren’t being built”. 
UK land, with the encouragement of UK government, is treated as a commodity in an international free market by the rich and powerful for private profit – they grab the land therefore landless tenants have fewer an fewer homes to live in. 
Local Councillors’ ignorance of the workings of the UK land and housing market has led them to team up with international property predators Lend Lease. A majority of Haringey Councillors have therefore given the trend against landless tenants’ chances of a finding truly affordable  home a very substantial boost to the  detriment of their own councils’ tenants. The Council is trying to solve the national housing crisis by giving land to kind of international predator that is causing the crisis and so hurting their council tenants, disrupting their children’s education and destroying their communities.
 
The forgotten ethical principle reads as follows.  “Land is a gift of nature which exists to provide shelter, food, fuel and clothes for all”.  It has also been forgotten by the Church of England, a substantial land owner, for whom it is rephrased to begin “Land is a gift of a loving and generous God…”

​​​​

THE MAGISTRATES COURT 

 BDO LLP55 Baker Street

​, ​

London W1U 7EU

​ asking them

  1. to audit the £102 summons costs plus £13 for the liability order​
  2. an​d​ queried the sense in enforcing the tax against people who cannot pay so failing to collect over £2 million a year

I will be asking the Highbury Corner Magistrates when and how they checked the costs of £115 they award this year against, mostly impoverished, council tax defaulters, 27,270 times in 2016/17.

​The bailiffs were dispatched by Haringey council to the doorsteps of Haringey residents 11,492 times in 2016/17​

There is a comprehensive description of how  £73.10 single adult unemployment benefit has been reducing in value since 1979 on the TAP website.  Its increases were frozen in 201I. It cannot afford 20% of the council tax, let alone court costs (£115) ​and bailiffs fees(up to £400)​ introduced in 2013.  It also has to pay rent dues to the bedroom tax and the benefit cap..
HARINGEY COUNCIL TAXES BENEFIT INCOMES OF ITS 
POOREST RESIDENTS OF UK’S MOST DEPRIVED WARDS WITH 
LOW LIFE EXPECTANCY AND HIGH RISK OF LOW BIRTH-WEIGHT.
 
from the Reverend Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
No citizen without an affordable home and an 
adequate income in work or unemployment.
93 Campbell Road, Tottenham, London N17 0BF, 0208 3765455, 07961 177889, 
 Posted by at 21:11
Jul 032017
 

Thank you to Gail Ward for this article.

Her blog:  https://blueannoyed.wordpress.com/2017/07/03/universal-credit-the-conversation-nobody-is-talking-about/

Twitter: @blueannoyed 

Universal Credit (UC) is slowly being rolled out across the UK for some claimants , mainly single claimants and to be continued for couples. The legacy benefits that people are currently getting will eventually become Universal Credit,which runs a live programme (with gateway conditions) and a full rollout programme (no gateway conditions)alongside each other. Advisors will need to determine which is operating in their area and inform clients and explain in full their rights and eligibility. The fact that some will get hit hard  is just the scratch on surface to the vile and brutal conditions of the health & work programme which is incorporated within it. ESA Claimants in WRAG (Work Related Activity Group) will lose the £30 a week inline with JSA for new claims while others migrating will get transitional protection until they have a change circumstances,or appeal, then they will lose it. If you have a change of circumstances at present on ESA  in a UC area  you will be put on UC and stay on it you wont be able to go back to your legacy benefit. For those on ESA it you will continue be assessed via WCA (Work Capability Assessment ) as you are now, but support group will be required to engage with claimant commitment to continue to receive payment according to UC documents. The specialist employment programmes are likely to be part of this commitment if the work coach feels the claimant could move closer to labour market. This will be done via Health & Work Conversation with a Work Coach.

 

Framework The claimant is supported in this regime by use of their Commitment. The claimant agrees their Commitment and is required to alert Universal Credit to any upcoming unemployment and changes of circumstance. The claimant can be sign posted to relevant support depending on their circumstances.

Claimants in this regime may still need or require some support in helping them to move closer to the labour market. If this applies, flexibility exists to sign post claimants to non-funded voluntary support. Consider existing voluntary options in the local area.

 

Support groups claimants will also be hit by losing SDP (Severe Disability Premium) which is currently £62.45 a week for single people and £124.90 for couples unless someone gets Carers Allowance to help you then the single rate will continue,providing you get middle or high rate care needs. Carers too will be affected if they care for a disabled person

 

If other benefits are received, this may impact on the Universal Credit award. Some benefits are ignored whereas other benefits have a pound for pound impact on the Universal Credit award.

Other benefits Universal Credit should not be paid to claimants with enough income available from other sources to support themselves. Exceptions are where payments are received in respect of additional costs which the claimant has, for example disability benefits.

Claimants who receive other benefits in addition to Universal Credit are subject to the relevant Universal Credit Labour Market regime based on their relevant Universal Credit legal conditionality group.
Other benefits taken fully into account The following benefits are taken fully into account when calculating Universal Credit payments:  Bereavement Allowance  Carer’s Allowance  New style Employment and Support Allowance (contribution-based)  Incapacity Benefit  Severe Disablement Allowance  Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit  New style Jobseeker’s Allowance (contribution-based)  Maternity Allowance  State Pension  Widowed Mother’s Allowance  Widowed Parent’s Allowance  Widow’s Pension

This means for each £1 received from these benefits, the Universal Credit payment is reduced by £1.

Any benefit, allowance or payment from a country outside the United Kingdom could also be taken fully into account, depending on the circumstances.

Pension Credit Universal Credit offers a signposting service for State Pension Credit (SPC).Claimants can find further information about SPC on Gov.UK. A benefit unit cannot be in receipt of both Pension Credit and Universal Credit. One of the basic conditions for getting Universal Credit is that a claimant must not be over the qualifying age for SPC.

This is called the Upper Age Limit.
Joint claim The Upper Age Limit doesn’t apply if the person over State Pension age is in a joint claim and their partner has not reached that age. Both adults are eligible for Universal Credit providing all other conditions of entitlement are met. The person over the SPC qualifying age is exempt from work conditionality and will be placed in the no work related requirements regime. Example: One adult in a couple is 57 and the other is 75. Both are able to claim Universal Credit together as a joint claim in the normal way.

Once Universal Credit Full Service is live nationally for all new claims, couples with only one person over the Pension Credit qualifying age will no longer be eligible for Pension Credit. This will ensure that the younger member of the couple has access to support to find work, if appropriate.

The person over the SPC qualifying age is exempt from work conditionality and will be placed in the no work related requirements regime.

So even some pensioners will be targeted as the above example illustrates. Also targeted are single parents .

 

This combined with the benefit cap now  and the family cap (2 child Rule) from 2018, will also face cuts to housing benefits via LHA being reduced with those in private accommodation hit by a new Bedroom Tax and Supported Mortgage Interest being turned into a loan will hit virtually impacting on everyone especially those who are in work too and off sick. The latter will now face 4 wks fit note and then a assessment to determine eligibility to top up benefits to SSP, and subjected to claimant commitment conditions. Those in exceptional circumstances such as Domestic Violence, etc will get the opportunity to ask for alternative payments arrangements so they are not left penniless by abusive partners. Nobody will be deemed exempt it seems, from the vile clutches of this ‘monster’ created by the government and these things need to be urgently addressed and with Brexit around the corner and prices rising already the poorest will most likely be affected the most. There are even two regimes to get people into labour market depending on your given  perceived status. one is Light Touch and the other is Intensive regimes. It is impossible to upload all documents which are many, but main ones are listed below as now is the time to plan ahead to help people understand how Universal Credit can affect you and your families understand the system to make sure you can understand what is expected of them.

One the many hideous things hidden in the Health and Work Programme is IAPT (CBT therapy) which will become compulsory as well as Troubled Families roll out, and targets to enforce therapy regimes on those who are obese, drink,drugs,smokers. Refusing to  take part in this mandatory requirement you will cease to be entitled to Universal Credit.Those considered in debt  and financially vulnerable will also be put forward to personal budgeting support advice where they will be judged and no doubt blamed for buying services that the nanny state deem expensive/unnecessary given the amount they have to live on. Health and Work Blog is linked below.

This Government has excelled itself in brutality towards claimants of social security,while convincing the populace of the UK that demonising the poorest is the acceptable norm and that they are fair game to be abused and they are not worthy as they are unable to contribute in same way a fit able bodied person , leading to further division. While this is not in depth Blog I have included relevant documents for download and uploaded a powerpoint to help people understand how they will be affected.

Anyone needing further advice can use the calculator link below to find out how they will be affected or seek proper advice locally and this blogger would urge people to check how you will be affected to prevent distress and income depravation.

http://www.entitledto.co.uk/benefits-calculator/startcalc.aspx

 

https://www.scribd.com/document/349604179/Housing-Costs-Private-Rented-Sector-v4-0

https://www.scribd.com/document/349604161/Housing-Mortgages-Previously-MQPs-v3-0

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

https://www.scribd.com/document/349526820/hwc-claimant-booklet

https://www.scribd.com/document/349520880/Customers-With-Additional-Needs

https://www.scribd.com/document/352763377/Carers-V4-0

https://www.scribd.com/document/352763488/Universal-Credit-and-APAs

https://www.scribd.com/document/352764924/Personal-Budgeting-Support-Guidance

https://www.scribd.com/document/352765382/Labour-Market-Regimes-V4-0

https://www.scribd.com/document/352833624/Appointees-v4-0

https://www.scribd.com/document/352833674/Benefit-Cap-v3-0

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

https://www.scribd.com/document/352833773/Child-Maintenance-V1-0

https://www.scribd.com/document/352833815/childcare-costs-at-a-glance-v2-0

https://www.scribd.com/document/352833897/Health-Conditions-and-Disabilities-v5-0

https://www.scribd.com/document/352834778/Students-v5-0

https://www.scribd.com/document/352834943/UC-Monthly-Rates-v5-0

 

 

 

https://blueannoyed.wordpress.com/2017/02/10/the-health-work-programme-is-work-really-a-health-outcome/

 

 

UPDATES : More documents have been uploaded including the powerpoint below, Please also check out my blog on Dementia Tax , Cuts that will cut Deep blog also.

 

https://www.scribd.com/presentation/352840015/Universal-Credit

 Posted by at 13:21
Jun 252017
 

 

It is your opportunity to say what you think of him as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

We have created a twittlist to help with this, but there is so much material to choose from that you can keep on going all week and beyond. DPAC created a while ago the IDS files that you can find here

Otherwise you can use the tweetlist here

We will start by using the hashtag #R2Vine, but will adjust as time goes.

 Posted by at 20:25
May 262017
 

This is a follow up of a previous article on the Health and Work Conversation: Claiming ESA under Universal Credit: Nobody is unfit for work anymore. Click here to read the article

During the Health and Work Conversation, claimants will be asked to fill a questionnaire[1].  It is important to know that this questionnaire can be filled at home and not straight away.

This questionnaire asked questions to help claimants to have a better conversation with their work coaches, and to help them find the best support for claimants according to DWP. What follow are the comments of a Consultant clinical psychologist Dr Jay Watts on the unsuitability of this questionnaire for people with mental health conditions:

JW: It is important to read this new demand on claimants with the wider context in mind. This context is one where the DWP is experienced as punitive, willing to sanction claimants at every turn, with little understanding of the nature of mental health problems, and professionals linking the rise of suicides and mental health epidemic with an austerity regime that belittles and scapegoats disabled people. Professionals like me lack confidence in the DWP’s capacity, or interest in, excluding a wide enough proportion of ‘vulnerable adults’ from this process, who may be made suicidal by yet another requirement. This process is to occur before claimants have their WCA and is mandatory. FOIs tell us that the DWP will presume claimants are fit to work before the WCA, though this demand will be damaging to many. It is likely to increase the time claimants are left waiting before their WCA verdict, leaving claimants in a purgatory that is damaging to mental health.

Some thoughts on the form.

This is not a ‘conversation’ because the terms of reference have been predecided.

DWP: “It’s about helping you get into work when you’re able to in the future.”

It should not be ‘when’ it should be ‘if’. To set up a ‘when’ and indeed to insist on this ‘conversation’ is deeply damaging – it sets up failure in comparison to a (newly created neoliberal) norm. There are many people with mental health problems who will never be able to work. This form is yet another method of equating worklessness with worthlessness, and undermining the other ways disabled people contribute to society.

 

DWP: You and your work coach will use simple tools to talk about an action that you want to do, and plan how you can do it.

 

JW: The ‘simple tools’ are not proveably based on positive psychology. But the language of positive psychology runs through every word of this document. One of the core principles of psychology is that intervention should only occur when recipients are able to consent freely. This process is mandatory, and It thus represents a misuse, dare I say it abuse, of power. This is even more problematic in the wider context where many disabled people have been cut off from mental health support and social care. How can it be ethical to deny someone with a history of sexual abuse desperately needed and asked for therapy via the NHS on one hand, whilst insisting they comply with a forced exercise under conditions of extreme stress to return them to work with the other.

 

What if there is no “action” the claimant wants to do, or is capable of. Not dying is a big enough task these days. Work coaches are to have minimal training, with FOIs suggesting courses will run for 1.5 days max. This is inadequate to understand the complex nature of mental health problems.

 

DWP: “There are no right or wrong answers”.

JW: Nonsense. There clearly are. What are the consequences of this? Will a copy of the ‘work conversation’ be shared at JobCentre+? If yes, even if these are explicitly not supposed to be used for sanctioning, not having the ‘right attitude’ during the work conversation will bias people to sanction.

 

DWP:  ‘Do you need to take part? Yes

JW: Why yes to ‘do you need to take part’. For many people work is impossible and the idea they should work can feed in to or trigger mental health deterioration. Having to do this could quite literally produce the conditions that make suicide the only option.

 

DWP: What kinds of things do you like doing in your life and at work?

JW:  The inability to like anything, to enjoy life, to feel pleasure or anything but emptiness, is a core symptom of many mental health problems. This is made worse by people’s material circumstances for example poor housing, and poverty. Shining a light on what people like, or the lack thereof, can therefore be dangerous especially in a context where claimants feel obliged to perform. Claimants tell mental health professionals again and again that they simply do not feel safe enough to complete DWP forms openly. These types of questions situate claimants as performing dogs, a task that can be the final straw for many. Liking anything obviously a distant country when in mental distress/poverty. It is an absurd question and most people will not be able to fill in this form as they actually feel due to being so scared of the DWP taking away means to live. Ditto ‘what are you good at?’

 

DWP: ‘How does your health affect your life and your ability to work?’

JW: This is a very difficult question; people do not have the answer to this easily accessible. Claimants are likely to underestimate the effects of health on life, because guilt fuelled by the ‘striver or skiver’ discourse means people emphasise the good days, leading to inappropriate work plans which will place further pressure on claimants. Work coaches will be under huge pressure to produce encouraging statistics for their supervisors and the DWP, shaping how they ask questions ad hear answers.

 

DWP: ‘What work have you done in the past, if any?

JW: Many mental health and physical disabilities start after a few more functional years of adult life. There has often been a period where activity was possible before breakdown. This question is potentially dangerous in that it asks people to reflect on potentially a lost time that can never be got back, forcing into relief the difference between now and then. This is likely to provoke a mourning, an increased depression, a shame, that causes a deterioration in mental health. It may make claimants feel ‘you are not what you were, you should be, and you are not wanted otherwise’ with devastating effects.

 

DWP: ‘What are some of the things that have made you proud in your life and at work?

JW: It is none of DWP business. Again it could be damaging if nothing comes to mind, or if something special is thought of which then gets connected with the DWP (so basically a good memory and, say, fear get tied together so the good memory gets polluted). This is not a safe conversation for this environment.

 

DWP: ‘Is there anything else in your life that makes it difficult for you to work?’

JW: Claimants could answer: not having treatment for my mental health issues due to NHS cutbacks, unstable housing, being continually threatened with sanctions and having my benefits cut by the DWP, but most people will feel too scared to say it as it is, or won’t have that awareness of quite how much say austerity is a causal factor because of the ongoing governmental agenda to make claimants feel it is they who are failing somehow as work is really a possibility for all.

 

DWP: Tell us how and what you want to do’.

JW: There is no freedom to answer this properly.

 

The stated aims of ‘My 4 steps’are to boost confidence and motivation to work again. This form will not help with this. It is more likely to undermine confidence and worth with potentially devastating consequences.

 

DWP: ‘Step 1 want’.

JW: What people want is often something like being able to leave the flat. This is something that work coaches are simply not qualified to help with. The whole four-step programme is again obviously based on ideas from CBT and Behavioual Therapy though not proveably. These should not be worked on outside a trusting therapeutic relationship, where power dynamics are considered, and when the person feels safe. All these requirements are not possible in a ‘work conversation’ DWP setting.

 

How are these work coaches going to be trained to work with disabled people? What are they going to do when suicidal material comes up? GPs and secondary services no longer have capacity to help when a referral cites suicide risk.

 

How are they going to screen for people who could be made suicidal by this task. Guilt and shame are central to so many mental health problems (and obviously the governmental discourse have made many claimants feel like this). This form will press on those emotions, making live more unbearable and increasing suicide risk. The suggestions in the form that this is not for now will not help. They set up a trajectory of moving to work which is not achievable for many, making people feel they do not have a worth otherwise. This is not only unethical but will end up increasing healthcare costs.

 

Some people want help to return to work. Claimants and professionals have repeatedly told the DWP that this should be made available outside the DWP setting, where informed consent is genuinely possible, and where hindrances can be explored safely. Making these ‘conversations’ mandatory is not only likely to be ineffective and damaging for those for whom work is impossible, but will place additional strain on claimants who already feel persecuted by the increasing number of hoops the DWP demand claimants jump through. Demanding claimants fit adhere with an ideal which is unrealistic for many, and which suggests other ways of living are undesirable and meaningless, will adversely affect the mental health of many claimants, increasing the number of suicides connected with an increasingly brutal governmental regime.

 

 

[1] https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/403431/response/983255/attach/3/1816%20HWC%20Claimant%20Booklet.pdf

 

 Posted by at 13:11
May 252017
 

What you will read may be very distressing for you, but we are looking at the worst-case scenario and identifying measures to help you and other claimants.  It would be good to have some feedback on the Health and Work Conversations from people who have made an ESA claim. More we know about it, and more we can fight this.

What you should not do, is to decide not to claim ESA. That is what DWP wants you to do.

 

Some documents released by the DWP have shown the direction of travel in terms of claiming ESA under UC.

Under the old regime, a person wishing to claim ESA was placed in the ESA assessment phase, attracting the lowest ESA rate (JSA rate), and also no conditionality, and this until a Work Capability Assessment could decide whether the claimant was fit or unfit for work.

The Work and Health Conversation

Under Universal Credit, a person wishing to claim ESA will be first called for a Health and Work Conversation (HWC).  This conversation is basically a Work Focus Interview, and is mandatory, which means that a claimant can be sanctioned for not attending.  Attending does not only mean being physically present at the interview but also fulfilling all the requirements set by DWP for a WFI:

Regulation 57 of the Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2008:

57.—(1) A claimant is regarded as having taken part in a work-focused interview if the claimant—

(a) attends for the interview at the place and at the date and time notified in accordance with  regulation 56;

(b) provides information, if requested by the Secretary of State, about any or all of the  matters set out in paragraph (2);

(c) participates in discussions to the extent the Secretary of State considers necessary, about  any or all of the matters set out in paragraph (3);

(d) assists the Secretary of State in the completion of an action plan.

 

(2) The matters referred to in paragraph (1)(b) are—

(a) the claimant’s educational qualifications and vocational training;

(b) the claimant’s work history;

(c) the claimant’s aspirations for future work;

(d) the claimant’s skills t

hat are relevant to work;

(e) the claimant’s work-related abilities;

(f) the claimant’s caring or

 childcare responsibilities; and

(g) any paid or unpaid work that the claimant is undertaking.

 

(3) The matters referred to in paragraph (1)(c) are—

(a) any activity the claimant is willing to undertake which may make obtaining or remaining  in work more likely;

(b) any such activity that the claimant may have previously undertaken;

(c) any progress the claimant may have made towards remaining in or obtaining work;

(d) any work-focused health-related assessment the claimant may have taken part in; and

(e) the claimant’s opinion as to the extent to which the ability to remain in or obtain work is restricted by the claimant’s physical or mental condition.

 

So the main difference with the previous regime is that people with a fit note from their GP saying they are not fit for work, will be (are being) called for a mandatory WFI.

They also will be asked to fill a questionnaire which is also mandatory and to undertake an optional exercise called My values.  You can read about the questionnaire here

According to the DWP, some ‘vulnerable’ people will be exempted from this conversation. [1]

The DWP defines vulnerability as “an individual who is identified as having complex needs and/or requires additional support to enable them to access DWP benefits and use our services.” but has not yet released the guidance given to Work Coaches on who will be exempted from the HWC.  As these conversations have already started, this guidance exists and should be released immediately by the DWP.

Unfortunately, based on the DWP ghastly track record, it is likely that pressure to attend will be placed on people unable to attend because of their health conditions. DPAC has already encountered a case of a person with mental capacity issues and a life threatening health condition being requested to attend a HWC.

 

After the Health and Work Conversation

Unlike under the previous regime, when ESA claimants with a GP fit note saying they were unfit to work were not expected to fulfil any work related requirements until a WCA said otherwise, ESA claimants under UC will be by default assumed to be fit for work and expected to fulfil all Work Related Requirements  until their  WCA . [2]

Claimants to whom the All Work Related Requirements apply:

  • claimants who have a fit note and are awaiting a WCA
  • claimants who have been found not to have limited capability for work at the WCA and are appealing against this outcome
  • claimants who have some paid work but are earning below conditionality earnings threshold
  • claimants who do not fall into any other group

 

What All Work Related Requirement means:

 

Claimants in this group must be available for full-time work of any type and look for this within 90 minute travelling time from their home. Restrictions can be applied to looking for work, the type of work and hours of work where it is appropriate due to the claimant’s capability and circumstances.

Claimants must be engaged in work search and work preparation activities for at least the number of hours they are available for work. Claimants must take all reasonable action to obtain paid work. 

Work Coaches must set work search activities for the claimant to search for work for their expected hours (This is the number of hours that the claimant is available for work or 35 hours, whichever is the lower figure) less deductions from this for the allowable time spent undertaking agreed work-preparation activities , voluntary work and paid work. 

 

Only one restriction for people with health conditions is mentioned in the document: claimants who have a fit note will not be required to take up work that they are not capable of doing until their fit note ends

 

Any other derogation to the All Work Related Requirements will be at the discretion of work coaches.  For most claimants, work coaches will not have more medical information than the fit note (the diagnosis) or in some cases, the WCA outcome when they have not be found to have Limited Capability for Work and Work-Related Activity, and they should not be able to ask claimants for this kind of information without breaching the Data Protection Act.  These work coaches are also not medically trained. Any Work Related Requirement will be based on the diagnosis, and on what the claimant would have told them during the HWC conversation and in the questionnaire.  Also based on that, claimants would have to complete an action plan and sign a claimant commitment.  Failure to do so could result in a sanction.

This is deeply worrying because:

1) an extra step is introduced before the WCA which is already stressful enough

2) all claimants assessed by their GP as unfit for work, will be considered by default fit for work by the DWP.

3) work coaches are medically untrained and unable to comprehend whether a work related requirement can have a detrimental effect on the health of a claimant

4) GPs medical judgement is undermined by medically untrained staff.

5) DWP definition of ‘vulnerable’ may be so restrictive that some claimants with very serious health conditions could be requested to attend a  HWC and sanctioned for failing to do so

[1] https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/398247/response/972681/attach/2/1341%20Reply.pdf

 

[2] https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/301588/response/743734/attach/4/FOI%204794%20part%202.pdf

 Posted by at 20:54
Apr 182017
 

The ESA cut is part of a drive to close the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people, although the target to achieve this in 2020 has been scrapped. Almost everybody assumes that  most people placed in the Work related activity group will eventually get better and move into work. Nobody could have been more convinced of this that all the Tory MPs who voted for the ESA cut.

However, a 2014 Upper Tribunal judgment throws a different light on this. The 3 judge panels did not make a judgement on the suitability of placing some disabled people in the WRAG, but interpreted the law. This is what they said:

Although Mrs L had not put her case in quite this way, it would be fair to state it like this. The tribunal has accepted that I am not able to sustain sufficient activity to be capable of work and my condition is not going to improve, so what is the point of making me undertake activity to prepare me for work of which I will never be capable? The answer is that the law is not structured in that way. There are claimants who are not capable of work and never will be capable of work but whose condition and disabilities are not such that they can satisfy the conditions for the support group. To put it another way, the support group is not for those who will never be capable of work. It is for a narrower category. That may explain why, by Mrs L’s report, her Jobcentre Plus adviser has not asked her to undertake any work-related activity.

You can read the entire judgment here:”[i]

In other terms, claimants are placed in the WRAG not because they may be able to work again at some stage, but because they do not tick the right boxes to be assigned to the Support Group. These people who may have a progressive illness or have a prognosis of 2 years or over, which DWP recognised means unlikely to work again[ii] will suffer from April 2017 a cut of 1/3 of their income in exchange for employment support they do not need or cannot use. We know from a FOI request that 5,000 claimants have been in the WRAG since 2008[iii]. And DWP own figures show that 388,700 claimants (37%) have been placed in the WRAG since 2008 with a prognosis of 2 years or more[iv]. (click on the picture)

As the inherent flaws in the WCA have not been addressed, from April 2017 claimants who  the DWP recognises are unlikely to work again will be still placed in the WRAG. To add insult to injury, non only they would have to survive on very little money, be subjected to sanctions, and have uncovered extra needs due to their disability (only ½ claimants in the WRAG are claiming DLA or PIP), but it is very likely they would have to attend unnecessary Work Related Interviews by the sheer fact of being assigned to the WRAG

It makes a mockery of the Work Capability Assessment, which has nothing to do with assessing work readiness and capability in spite of its name, but whose whole purpose is to arbitrary assigns claimants to some groups, based on criteria that the government can change at will, according to how much money they are willing to spend on disabled people.

If your MP is a conservative who voted for the ESA cut, you should ask their thoughts about what should or will happen to these claimants in the WRAG who from April 2007 have been assessed by DWP as ‘unlikely to ever work again’.

[i] http://administrativeappeals.decisions.tribunals.gov.uk//Aspx/view.aspx?id=4295

 

[ii] https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm140701/text/140701w0001.htm

 

[iii] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/351360/foi-3129-2014.pdf

 

[iv] http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2016-02-19/27486

 

 Posted by at 17:29
Mar 282017
 

The Department for Work and Pensions released some figures about the percentage of PIP claimants with mental health conditions entitled to the enhanced mobility rate.

During the PIP debate yesterday  in the House of Lords,  Baroness Thomas of Winchester stated: The department said that of those with mental health conditions receiving the mobility component of DLA, only 9% had been entitled to the higher rate, whereas 27% of PIP claimants receive the enhanced mobility rate—or 28%, according to the Minister’s letter this morning https://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2017-03-27a.430.8&s=DWP#g441.0

Using DWP Stat-Explore tool, it is easy to see how this percentage was reached.  DWP took the total number of PIP claimants with mental health conditions, (377,398), and the total number of PIP claimants entitled to the enhanced mobility rate (100,159) and calculated the percentage of claimants entitled to the enhanced mobility rate out of the total number of PIP claimants with mental health conditions. While it can be seen that the average percentage of claimants with psychiatric disorders entitled to the enhanced PIP mobility award is almost 27%, these percentages are not weighted. The following table is not very clear, but the figures can be found here:

Sxreen shot of spreadsheet figures

For example, there are 46.67% of claimants with enuresis entitled to the enhanced mobility award, but only 15 claimants with this condition in total. This 46.67% is given as much weight in the calculations as the 12.01% of claimants with psychosis entitled to the enhanced mobility award, although the number of claimants with this condition is 43,129.  Once the percentages are appropriately weighted, the percentage of claimants with psychiatric conditions entitled to the enhanced mobility award is just under 12%.

It will be difficult for DWP to argue that there is parity between physical and mental conditions for PIP.

 Posted by at 21:41
Mar 012017
 

Protest against the PIP Changes 7th March 1-3pm Old Palace Yard Westminster and signup to the Thunderclap

Responding to a question from Jeremy Corbyn about the changes to PIP regulations which will deny PIP entitlement to over 160,000 people,  the Prime Minister Theresa May responded that what they are doing is ensuring that ‘the agreement of this parliament is put into practice’.   What this practically means as per DWP press release is that ‘people who cannot carry out a journey because of a visual or cognitive impairment are likely to need more support than someone who experiences psychological distress when they undertake a journey, for example as a result of social phobia or anxiety’.

This is in total contradiction with what Baroness Altman (the then Minister of State for DWP ) written statement on the 2nd of June 2016. [i]

No walking distance was set when Disability Living Allowance (DLA) was introduced. The higher rate mobility component of DLA was always intended to be for those disabled people who were unable to walk or virtually unable to walk. The DLA regulations refer to the ability to walk out of doors being limited by reference to four factors; distance, speed, length of time or manner in which progress can be made without severe discomfort.

The lower rate mobility component was intended for people who are able to walk but need guidance or supervision because of severe mental or physical disability.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which is replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for working age claimants, was developed to provide a more equal recognition of both daily living and mobility needs of those with all disability and impairment types, including physical, mental health, cognitive and sensory.

Click on picture to enlarge or see link:

Baroness Altmann (The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions ), in 2016 stating "Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which is replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for working age claimants, was developed to provide a more equal recognition of both daily living and mobility needs of those with all disability and impairment types, including physical, mental health, cognitive and sensory."

 As highlighted in DPAC briefing for MPs[ii], it is not the Upper Tribunal who have broadened the PIP criteria, but DWP who has tried unsuccessfully to limit them. Baroness Altman’s response shows what was the real intent of Parliament when PIP was introduced.

[i] https://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2016-05-19.HL179.h&s=speaker%3A25445#gHL179.r0

[ii] https://dpac.uk.net/2017/02/briefing-mps-lords-changes-pip-regulations/

 

 Posted by at 13:35
Feb 272017
 

DPAC Press Release on changes to PIP regulations

March 7th 1-3 pm Old Palace Yard Protest Against PIP changes

Facebook event  https://www.facebook.com/events/1778273142492427/

Signup to the Thunderclap

#ToryCutsKill

DWP once more shows their contempt for Our Judiciary.

Disability campaigners across the country have reacted angrily to the latest underhand cuts to Personal Independence Payment regulations announced by Penny Mordaunt, the Minister of Disability, Work and Health which will lead to the ineligibility of a further 160,000 disabled claimants, mainly with mental health conditions[i].

The recent change in the PIP regulations is only the last one of a long series of attacks against Disabled People over the years by the DWP.  It has become increasingly obvious that disability benefit entitlement is no longer based on need, but on how much the government is prepared to pay. Disability tests, whether for ESA or PIP, are fine tuned to give the results the government expect in terms of expenditure, which determines the number of people entitled to disability benefits.

Emma a DPAC supporter who is likely to be affected by the changes said “This would really effect me greatly because I have type 2 diabetes I am insulin and tablet dependent, I have fibromyalgia and depression and anxiety, just going to those assessments is pure stress and duress.”

While the government claims to support disabled people who they deem to be disabled has become more and more restrictive over the years leaving thousands in growing poverty and without financial support.

Their contempt for disabled people, the rule of law, parliament, SSAC and even the UN is demonstrated by the most recent actions of DWP ministers.ii].

She plans now to railroad these changes through by circumventing Social Security Advisory Committee scrutiny by invoking an urgency provision.

The legality of changing the law in such a way needs to be addressed as it is a key pillar of our constitution that Parliament makes the law and the Courts interpret it. Under normal circumstances a government would challenge the legality of the Upper Tribunal decisions through the Appeal and Supreme Courts and the fact that they have chosen not to make any further legal challenge indicates that they know they have no valid legal arguments for these vicious changes.

 

Notes to Editors

Personal Independence Payment is a non means tested benefit for people with a long-term health condition or impairment, whether physical, sensory, mental, cognitive, or intellectual. It is put in place to provide financial support towards the extra costs disabled people face

 

Who we are:

DPAC is a grass roots campaign body. It was formed by a group of disabled people after the first mass protest against the austerity cuts and their impact on disabled people held on the 3rd October in Birmingham 2010, England. It was led by disabled people under the name of The Disabled Peoples’ Protest. DPAC has over 12,000 members and supporters and works with many anti-cuts groups, Universities, Disabled Peoples’ Organizations, and Unions

mail@dpac.uk.net    www.dpac.uk.net    twitter: @Dis_PPL_Protest

 

[i] http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2017-02-23/HCWS495/

 

[ii]  as agreed by the government in its response to the consultation on the Personal Independence Payment assessment criteria and regulations, on the 13 December 2012

https://www.gov.uk/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/181181/pip-assessment-thresholds-and-consultation-repsonse.pdf particularly 6.6, 6.10, 6.13, and 6.14

 

 Posted by at 21:51
Feb 272017
 

 DPAC Briefing on changes in the PIP regulations denying disability benefits to over 160,000 claimants 

 The narrative that Penny Mordaunt has put forward is misleading and does not withstand scrutiny. Since the end of 2014, the DWP has tried to restrict the application of PIP and exclude a certain category of claimants with mental health conditions.

Her statement that “Recent judgments have broadened the way the PIP  criteria should be interpreted, going beyond the original intention.” is extremely similar to the attempted justification that was put forward in March 2016 to justify the controversial cuts to the points for aids and appliances[1].

The timeline below shows the repeated attempts by the government to limit the application of the Following a Journey descriptor to claimants with mental health issues, by the use of a more restricted interpretation of the law in their guidance, which has been definitely put to rest by the MH[2] case. This explains why the government has now changed the law.

Situation with DLA and PIP

 The changes from DLA to PIP which show that the PIP standard (lower) mobility award was always intended for claimants with mental health conditions who could not follow the route of an unfamiliar journey alone, as confirmed by the Upper Tribunal

 

DLA PIP
Lower mobility – was available to someone who needed guidance or supervision to follow an unfamiliar route. This included blindness, some mental health problems such as anxiety, autism, learning difficulty etc.[3] Standard (lower) mobility – 8 points needed. Due to the weighting of the descriptors, these can only be scored by someone who cannot undertake any journey due to distress, or to someone who cannot ‘follow the route of an unfamiliar journey’ alone. Some people who are unable to walk 50 metres who would have received H DLA now also qualify only for standard mobility.
Higher mobility – was available to people unable to walk physically, and some serious cases where people could not go out alone e.g. unsafe behaviour, people who were blind and deaf, and from 2011, people who were blind.[4] Higher mobility – 12 points needed. These are scored from being unable to ‘follow the route of a familiar journey’ alone or being unable to walk 20 metres.

 

The Government’s response to the consultation on the Personal Independence Payment assessment criteria and regulations, 13 December 2012

The December 2012 consultation[5] on the PIP descriptors made it clear that the ‘following’ descriptors applied to a person who needed someone with them for reasons other than not being able to navigate. There was nothing to suggest that the lower mobility component was being removed from people with mental health problems: if there had been, there certainly would have been significant pushback at the time.

For example, from the 2012 Consultation (but see also points 6.6, 6.10, 6.13): Concern was raised that the activity takes insufficient account of the impact of mental health conditions on mobility. We do not consider this the case. Individuals could potentially score in a number of descriptors in the activity if they cannot go outside to commence journeys because of their condition or need prompting or another person to accompany them to make a journey.

 

The government tightened the PIP guidance in order to restrict eligibility

In its guidance released in October 2014[6], the DWP starting asserting its new position that the ‘following’ descriptors were not what they had assured people in that consultation and that the standard rate of mobility was effectively only available to mental health claimants if unable to go out at all. This meant that claimants with mental health conditions were scoring 0 point for the ‘following an unfamiliar route’ descriptor, but these decisions, if appealed, were very often overturned.

There were two years of inconsistent tribunal decisions until the MH[7] case, in front of a three-judge Upper Tribunal clarified the position. They held that, essentially, the ‘following an unfamiliar route’ descriptor applied in similar situations to the DLA Lower Rate, which had been understood by everybody to be the case until 2014. Interestingly however, the Upper Tribunal also held that the ‘familiar route’ descriptor did not apply to people unless they could not navigate. This was something of a compromise between the previously understood position and the DWP’s attempt to limit the application

 

Judicial review of the mobility criteria, October 2015

The physical (walking) aspects of the PIP mobility criteria were challenged in Sumpter[8]. The case was about the selection of 20 metres as the threshold for the higher rate mobility component.

As part of the decision, the High Court and Court of Appeal both reasoned that it was inevitable that the criteria for the walking aspect would be made less generous. This was because part of the reason for the changes in PIP was to ‘re-allocate resources from those with physical impairments to those with non-physical impairments[9]. This argument had been put by the DWP’s counsel.

This cannot have meant to blind claimants, as by 2011 they were already entitled to the higher rate of DLA mobility, as were claimants with severe behavioural difficulties.

This definitively shows that the original intention of the DWP was not to remove PIP mobility from people with anxiety and similar conditions.

 

2016 planned cuts

To get its £30 per week ESA cut through, it appears the government had to drop its PIP cuts in 2016 and guarantee there would not be more. After losing the MH case for their favoured, but disingenuous, interpretation of the mobility criteria they started trying to use in 2014, they could not easily just announce it would be dealt with in a new cut directly.

This is why Ms Mordaunt is keen to give the impression that she wants to ‘restore’ the original intention, when it would be better to say she is trying to restore the DWP’s plans to limit PIP mobility extra-legally that were devised in 2014 without consultation or a proper process. As the Upper Tribunal did not allow this, they now need to pass law, but cannot afford scrutiny. They are pretending that it is the Upper Tribunal who broadened the criteria, when it was actually the DWP who tried unsuccessfully to limit them.

 

Bypassing the Advisory Committee

Ms Mordaunt has invoked an exemption so as to bypass the Social Security Advisory Committee, but this exemption can only be used if the matter be believed urgent[10], which is not the case. They have known since 2014 that they wanted to limit these descriptors beyond what had, in effect, been agreed in the consultations and enactment process.

 

Are the changes in regulations legal?

The power for the Secretary of State to produce PIP regulations can only come from primary legislations such as the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and they must be compatible with what the Act states.  This power is delegated by Parliament.

The Act does not suggest that mental health conditions and physical conditions should be treated differently or that a physical condition is inherently more limiting than a mental health condition in respect of mobility. In addition, any regulations produced must be consistent with both the letter and intent of primary legislation.

What the Upper Tribunals have done is to determine what Parliament original intent in relation to PIP was and their decisions are binding.

As determined by the case Secretary of State for the Home Department v Pakina [2010] EWCA Civ 719 [2010] WLR 1526 at [19] in the judgment by Sedly L.J, the executive “is constitutionally forbidden to make law except with the express authority of Parliament”.  Nevertheless, it is what the Secretary of State has just done with the PIP regulations by changing what the courts have lawfully decided was the intent of Parliament, and in doing so, he is acting outside of his delegated powers.

Only Parliament can make the proposed changes lawfully and the new regulations should be withdrawn.

Even Iain Duncan Smith recognised this as a result of the now famous Poundland case brought by Caitlin Reilly and Daniel Hewstone. He tried to get an emergency bill (Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013) rushed through Parliament that would retrospectively change the law.

 

Briefing prepared with the assistance of Tom Evans @TomEvans80 and John Slater @AmateurFOI

 

Who we are:

DPAC is a grass roots campaign body. It was formed by a group of disabled people after the first mass protest against the austerity cuts and their impact on disabled people held on the 3rd October in Birmingham 2010, England. It was led by disabled people under the name of The Disabled Peoples’ Protest. DPAC has over 12,000 members and supporters and works with many anti-cuts groups, Universities, Disabled Peoples’ Organizations, and Unions

 

mail@dpac.uk.net    www.dpac.uk.net    twitter: @Dis_PPL_Protest

[1]        https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/484217/pip-consultation-on-aids-and-appliances.pdf (para 11-12)

[2]        CPIP/1347/2015, also cited as MH v Secretary of State

[3]        Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 s. 73

[4]        As above

[5]        https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/181181/pip-assessment-thresholds-and-consultation-response.pdf, particularly 6.6, 6.10, 6.13, and 6.14

[6]              https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/547146/pip-assessment-guide.pdf

[7]        CPIP/1347/2015, also cited as MH v Secretary of State

[8]        [2015] EWCA Civ 1033 http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2015/1033.html

[9]        Para 62 of above

[10]      Section 173(1)(a) Social Security Administration Act 1992

 

 Posted by at 21:50
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