Bob

Jun 132019
 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 June 2019

 

 

OECD figures expose DWP claims of disability spending ‘generosity’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 June 2019

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 June 2019

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This second team did not include an expert by experience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 June 2019

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 June 2019

 

 

Union backs DPAC campaign to dump newspapers over universal credit adverts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 June 2019

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 June 2019

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 June 2019

 

 

Bus company’s ‘indefensible’ failure over wheelchair spaces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 June 2019

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 Posted by at 15:56
Jun 112019
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Posted by at 21:36
Jun 062019
 

 

Abrahams asks watchdog to investigate DWP benefit deaths cover-up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 June 2019

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 June 2019

 

 

Inquiry encourages Deaf survivors to share childhood sexual abuse experiences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Not their real names

6 June 2019

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Following intervention from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), DWP has admitted that two letters written by coroners – and a series of secret “peer reviews” into the deaths of claimants who went through the assessment – were hidden from the team set up to review the WCA in 2013 and 2014.

Dove’s legal team are also planning to push for a second inquest, which they hope would force a public examination of the DWP failings that contributed to Jodey Whiting taking her own life in February 2017.

None of these failings were discussed at the original inquest, although the Independent Case Examiner later concluded that DWP was guilty of “multiple” and “significant” failings in handling her case, and failed five times to follow its own safeguarding rules in the weeks leading to her suicide.

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

6 June 2019

 

 

Manchester council leader snubs Peterloo memorial protesters

The leader of Manchester City Council (MCC) has been bombarded with emails from disabled people and their allies over his plans to push ahead with a “discriminatory” memorial to victims of the Peterloo massacre.

Many of them told Labour’s Sir Richard Leese that they were “angry and shocked” that a memorial designed to remember those who marched for liberty and equality should be “designed and built with discrimination and inequality at its heart”.

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

But in a further sign of Leese’s dismissal of the concerns, he has refused to comment personally on the emails, and has even refused to provide an estimate of how many he has received.

Meanwhile, disabled people and their allies are set to protest this evening (Thursday) at the site of the memorial, outside the Manchester Central Convention Centre.

The council-funded memorial will be a series of concentric circles, with members of the public encouraged to climb the steps to a flat top.

It will be completely inaccessible to many disabled people, even though it has been designed by artist Jeremy Deller to allow it to be used as a platform for speakers and demonstrators, mirroring those who spoke during the protest in 1819.

On 16 August 1819, paramilitary and military forces attacked more than 60,000 peaceful, pro-democracy and anti-poverty protesters in Manchester, which led to 18 deaths and an estimated 700 serious injuries.

Deller himself has said he wants people “to be able to sit on it and have their lunch”, while the council’s own access statement said: “The artist’s intention is that the memorial will become the meeting point for the annual gathering of the Peterloo Memorial Campaign, as well as for other events related to the issue of human rights around the world.

At these events, people will stand on it and around it.”

Deller said last week that he hoped that “once the memorial is built there might be a way to adapt it for wheelchairs”, but by noon today (Thursday) he had failed to comment on the council’s position that it was probably too late for further major changes.

Although some changes have been made as a result of concerns about access, including the addition of a handrail, it appears that wheelchair-users will still only be able to reach the height of the lowest of the circles via a ramp.

The Peterloo Memorial Campaign, which campaigned for years for a memorial to be built, has said that disabled people are “right to be frustrated and angry about the lack of access to the monument”, which “has been designed as a platform for speakers and demonstrators”.

Among those who sent letters to Leese was the disabled artist-activist Liz Crow, who told him she was “heartbroken” at his council’s decision to continue with its plans despite knowing that the memorial would be inaccessible to many residents and visitors.

She told him: “I am so shocked that this could ever have been allowed to get to this point, but to find that – even now you are fully aware of the discrimination inherent in these plans – you are going ahead regardless beggars belief.”

She called on him to halt the project immediately and “re-work the proposal to ensure that it is a memorial to democracy and not to MCC’s ineptitude and hypocrisy”.

Tony Baldwinson, who worked for the council for more than 10 years from 1991, appealed to Leese to admit he had made a mistake, and told him: “It is totally designed to be ascended, and disabled people would be excluded from a monument to democracy.”

Many of the others who wrote to Leese told him the memorial was “a fine example of inequality and discrimination embedded in design” and was set to be “a glaring metaphor for inequality and segregation” and an “act of exclusion that denies disabled people a voice, a blatant act of discrimination”.

One campaigner, Jane Angel, asked Leese in her email: “How did this happen in this day and age?  

A brand new memorial, in development for years, and we are building something that is not accessible to people to whom steps are a barrier.”

Another, Joan Rutherford, who campaigns for an inclusive built environment, told Leese in her email: “Manchester has waited 200 years for a fitting memorial to this appalling massacre. 

The requirements for the memorial were that it should be Respectful, Informative and Permanent (RIP).

In my view this design is not inclusive and therefore is not respectful.

If the monument is built as designed it will be an opportunity lost to celebrate and truly promote the aspiration for which people gave their lives… Equality.”

A council spokesperson said Leese had been “made aware” of questions from DNS about the emails.

The spokesperson said in a statement on behalf of the council, rather than Leese himself: “Our position remains that we have made significant changes to the original design of this public artwork to improve accessibility and that, while the memorial is not intended to be viewed exclusively from the top, the elements which provide information about Peterloo are all accessible. 

It is a misunderstanding of this memorial artwork to suggest that its sole or even primary purposes involves ascending it and that it cannot be properly viewed, appreciated or engaged with otherwise.

While we totally respect the views of those who disagree and we are keen to continue constructive dialogue with them, it should be remembered that this is a memorial piece of art rather than a building or similar structure and is being created both in time for the 200th anniversary of Peterloo this summer and within the limitations of the site, the only one available within the St Peter’s Field area where the tragic events of 1819 took place.”

6 June 2019

 

 

DWP defends first Work and Health Programme job figures

Only about one in five of the disabled and other unemployed people receiving support from the government’s new work programme have so far secured a “job outcome”, according to official statistics.

It is the first time the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has released figures showing how successful its new Work and Health Programme (WHP) has been in securing paid jobs for disabled people and others seeking work.

But the figures show that, for the 1,360 people who began to receive support through the programme in January 2018, after 13 months only 270 of them (or 19.9 per cent) had secured a job outcome (defined in most areas as 16 hours per week for 26 weeks at minimum wage, or six months in self-employment).

Of the 2,840 people who started in February 2018, 470 have a job outcome after 12 months’ support (16.6 per cent).

Despite the release of the “job outcome” statistics, the publication does not show how many disabled people have secured work through the programme.

Under the Work and Health Programme, people are referred by jobcentres to receive support from organisations from the public, private and voluntary sectors, which are paid extra when that person achieves a job outcome.

About four-fifths of those receiving support through the programme have been disabled people, since its roll-out across England and Wales began in November 2017.

The other groups receiving support are those who are long-term unemployed – the only participants whose involvement is mandatory – and those DWP calls the “early access” group, which includes care leavers, carers, refugees, homeless people, survivors of domestic violence and ex-members of the armed services.

In all, there have been 51,490 starts on the programme, with 3,140 job outcomes (a proportion of just 6.1 per cent), although this will rise as many participants have not been on the programme long enough to qualify as a successful employment outcome.

Ken Butler, welfare rights and policy adviser for Disability Rights UK, said the job outcome rate did not appear to be “a notable success”.

He added: “Given that the WHP is only accessible by three groups of claimants – the ‘disability group’, the ‘long-term unemployed group’ and the ‘early access group’ – it would seem daft for the DWP not to monitor how many from each group achieve job outcomes.

How else will it be able to see how well the WHP is performing for any or all of these groups?”

The Work and Health Programme is part of the government’s Improving Lives work, health and disability strategy, which has been criticised for its “cruel and disastrous” emphasis on “work as a cure”, the placement of employment advisers in health services, and the continued use of benefit sanctions to “punish” disabled claimants.

A DWP spokesperson said: “Our Work and Health Programme is part of our wider commitment to ensuring every disabled person who wants to work can do so.

The Work and Health Programme is targeted at individuals who face significant barriers to gaining employment – and need longer-term support – and therefore it is not surprising that at this stage in the programme the numbers achieving a job outcome are low. 

Those starting the Work and Health Programme more recently have had a shorter time to achieve a job outcome and therefore it is not meaningful to divide job outcomes by the number of starts.

For example, the cohort of starts from December 2017 have only completed 14 of a possible 21 months of the programme.

As we investigate and quality assure our data we will release further breakdowns of our statistics where possible.”

6 June 2019

 

 

Appeal to hundreds across Wales to seek independent assessments of support needs

A disabled campaigner is encouraging hundreds of recipients of support through the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) scheme to consider taking up the government’s offer of an independent re-assessment of their care package.

The Welsh government announced in February that it was pausing the closure of the WILG scheme – and its replacement with a system of council-funded support – following a campaign by disabled activists and allies.

Julie Morgan, the Welsh government’s deputy minister for health and social services, then wrote last month to all WILG recipients to tell them they could ask for a reassessment of their care package if they were unhappy with the outcome of their local authority’s assessment of their post-WILG needs or if that assessment had not yet taken place.

And she assured them that the Welsh government would pay for the independent assessment and any extra care and support they might need as a result.

Morgan has now written to Nathan Lee Davies, the WILG recipient who led the campaign to halt the closure of the scheme, updating him on the government’s progress.

She told him that only 26 WILG recipients had so far requested a re-assessment, across 10 local authorities.

Morgan said in her letter: “It is important that those people who wish to have an independent assessment are able to access it, but this is also in the context of the large number of people who we know are content with their new arrangements.”

Davies believes about 1,300 disabled people are eligible for a re-assessment, and fears that many WILG recipients are being held back from requesting a re-assessment.

He is now calling on all those WILG recipients who are not happy with their care and support package to ask for an independent assessment.

Davies, who has himself requested an independent assessment, said: “I started this campaign four years ago, after a social worker warned me that without the WILG my hours of support would be reduced from 86.5 hours a week to just 31 hours per week.

I would be unable to maintain any quality of life without a substantial increase in my support and any reduction would leave me struggling to exist rather than living the life that I choose. 

The use of an independent social worker allows me to be assessed purely on my physical and mental needs.

I feel that social workers from local authorities are under pressure from their managers to reduce costs, whatever the consequences.

Assessments are therefore skewed from the outset and I fear that a number of WILG recipients are not receiving the support they deserve. 

Let’s not forget that all WILG recipients are disabled people with high support needs.

This means that many of us need a strong network of people around them to give them the confidence to press for improvements.

The fact that only 26 people have asked for a reassessment suggests that many WILG recipients are being held back by a combination of inertia, lack of support and advice and a sense of ‘better the devil you know’. 

I feel that an independent service will provide people with disabilities with greater security for the future.”

He added: “The government have listened to campaigners, reviewed the evidence and acted accordingly to ensure people get the support they deserve to live independently within their local communities.

WILG recipients and their families need to investigate the opportunity that is in front of them to help ensure they have piece of mind for the long term future.”

WILG was set up – with UK government funding – as an interim scheme following the UK government’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund in June 2015.

The Welsh government is now closing WILG for good and transferring the funding to local councils, and by April the 22 local authorities were due to be solely responsible for meeting the support needs of all former ILF-recipients in Wales.

But Morgan announced the “change in direction” in February because a government review had shown a significant variation in how support packages were being cut by different councils.

6 June 2019

 

 

EHRC has become ‘more muscular’ on Equality Act enforcement, says chair

The equality watchdog has improved its performance in enforcing anti-discrimination laws and has become a “more muscular” regulator, it has told MPs.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said yesterday (Wednesday) that it had doubled the use of its formal legal powers over the last three years, despite a “backdrop of cuts”.

But it was also forced to defend its own performance as an employer, after one Conservative MP criticised its “lamentable record” on workplace discrimination.

EHRC’s chief executive, chair and legal director were giving evidence to the Commons women and equalities committee as part of its inquiry into EHRC and the enforcement of the Equality Act.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, EHRC’s chief executive, highlighted last year’s Supreme Court victory for Gary Smith, a disabled man who won the right to protection under the Equality Act for himself and many others working in the “gig economy” after taking a high-profile case – funded by the commission – against Pimlico Plumbers.

She said EHRC was successful in 83 per cent of “strategic” cases that were taken by EHRC through the court of appeal and Supreme Court, and that it also had two investigations and three inquiries underway, most of which would be completed by the end of the year.

But she said: “We completely acknowledge that we haven’t been as effective in the past as we are now.”

David Isaac, EHRC’s chair, told the committee that the watchdog was doing more “pre-enforcement” work, such as sending “threatening” letters to organisations it believed were breaching the Equality Act.

He said: “We’ve made huge progress in using our legal powers but actually we’ll be using them even more and I think you’ll see even more change and even more impact.”

Asked why the commission had not made more use of its formal enforcement powers, Isaac said later: “We’re not yet as muscular as I would like us to be but I think we’re more muscular than we were… enforcement is a major part of what we do but it’s not the only part.”

He said EHRC could do more work to enforce the Equality Act if it was given more resources through the government’s forthcoming spending review.

He added: “Like other regulators, we use the stick and the carrot, but I think we’re using the stick more than ever.”

But Tory MP Philip Davies said EHRC’s own record on workplace discrimination was “lamentable”.

He pointed to information sent to the committee by the commission which detailed cases of discrimination against EHRC staff since 2010 that had been settled, upheld or partially upheld, several of which had involved disability discrimination, although he accepted some of these were before Isaac became chair and Hilsenrath became chief executive.

He said: “That’s not making it as easy as possible for people to pursue their complaint, is it, forcing them to go to an employment tribunal, before you acknowledge that something went wrong and settle the case?”

He suggested this was not the kind of behaviour expected of a “best practice organisation” that was regulating other employers.

Isaac said recent cases were brought as a result of two EHRC reorganisations and that he was “confident we treated those people well” and “didn’t make it difficult for them to bring those claims”.

He told Davies: “Many of the matters you’ve referred to are very historical.

On our watch, there were two reorganisations introduced as a result of cuts and us endeavouring to streamline the organisation to be more impactful.

We can’t legislate for how our staff respond to those particular situations and they do unfortunately make assertions, and have made assertions, as part of the claims that they have brought.

I’m not saying they weren’t valid… I’m confident that we have raised our game and that those are historical matters.”

6 June 2019

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 Posted by at 15:18
Jun 052019
 

In the light of recent increased publicity for asylum seekers to have the ‘right to work’ #lifttheban we are reposting this.

The ‘Right to work’ in the context of #’DWPcrimes

Campaigns for the ‘right to work’ must be treated with caution in the context of #dwpcrimes. A recent letter posted on twitter by #corecities calling for asylum seekers to have the ‘right to work’, argued it would be ‘good for the Treasury, saving money on welfare payments to people who could earn their way’. Surely this cannot be a campaign goal.

Of course the ‘right to work’ would be great for any asylum seekers currently prevented from taking non-exploitative jobs. However, we cannot forget that citizens with the ‘right to work’ are dying when the right becomes an obligation and benefits are stopped #dwpcrimes. This is particularly the case for disabled people. Do we really think asylum seekers would be treated better?


[The following was originally posted on this website as “DPAC Submission to Permanent Peoples Tribunal on migration, London, 2018.“]

It is of course extremely important to challenge the exploitation of migrants and refugees in all contexts. However, using evidence from work with disabled asylum seekers, we suggest that campaigns for the ‘right to work’ need to be treated with caution for a number of reasons:

  1. Campaigns for the ‘right’ to work should not ignore the barriers to finding and being offered work which is achievable, non-exploitative and worthwhile. We need only look at the experiences of Disabled citizens and people on benefits, to predict that the ‘right’ would soon become an obligation irrespective of the barriers that are faced.
  2. To build effective resistance to the injustice faced by asylum seekers, refugees and migrant workers, we must recognise that this does not exist in isolation from the injustice faced by the wider population. In the context of citizens’ efforts to resist systematic pressure to find paid work, whatever the cost to themselves and those they care for, we suggest focussing on the ‘right’ to work may hinder chances to build a broader movement.
  3. Calling for the ‘right’ to work risks buying into capitalist definitions of ‘work’ as paid employment, obscuring the unpaid material and emotional work associated with survival which is inherent in the search for asylum. If what we are really calling for is a stable income sufficient to pay for living costs, respect, ability to make worthwhile contributions … then that is what we should be calling for. Those attributes are not automatically associated with paid employment.

Before continuing, it is important to stress that reservations about campaigning for the right to work must be tempered by awareness that for refused asylum seekers, denied all support, the ‘right’ to work, even for a few hours, could enable a person to eat without risking a criminal record which could hasten deportation. In that context, people’s immediate survival needs must be prioritised over objectives for longer term justice. Similarly, it is unnecessarily frustrating for people who have skills, capacity and energy, to be prevented from finding paid employment. We are not therefore arguing against campaigns for the right to paid employment as a short-term measure. We are suggesting such campaigns are no long-term solution, and the risks to the wider movement need to be recognised.


An asylum seeker support worker writes:

I have recently been working with an asylum seeker who experiences serious mental distress, has no support and is living on the street. I am referring to this individual because I know him, but the situation is of course not uncommon. Removing rights from those whose asylum claims are refused is one of the deliberate consequences of the hostile environment, but this problem goes much wider. There are increasing numbers of citizens living on the streets in similar circumstances.

The individual I am referring to is articulate, intelligent and resourceful, however he cannot focus on any one conversation because he is also listening to ongoing conversations with voices audible only to himself. He is clearly distressed in ways that are painfully visible to observers. This person spends his days searching for food, somewhere to sleep, wash, and ways to find some form of support and security. None of this could be classed as leisure. It is the unpaid work of survival.

This person talks about how the only paid work available to him is illegal, exploitative and low paid. He is aware that if he were to take such work, he risks getting a criminal record and so further reducing his chance of ever getting leave to remain. He says his priority is to get the right to work. However, on further discussion, he elaborates that what he actually wants is somewhere safe to live, a steady source of income, security, support, community and something constructive to do. I suggest it is unlikely that these needs would be met with the forms of work that would be open to him, with or without the legal right. It should not be assumed that the work currently open to him would suddenly be available with a living wage, if he were to get the legal right to work. Furthermore, we can see from the wider population how easily the ‘right’ to work becomes an unrealisable obligation. The last thing this person, or anyone else, needs is to be further vilified for not having paid employment.

The barriers to asylum seekers, and particularly disabled asylum seekers, finding non-exploitative employment go well beyond the legal right. I am aware of people with refugee status, including those selected for the Vulnerable Person’s Relocation Scheme who have the right to work, but who complain of the additional stress and pressure caused by having to look for work, when there are so many barriers to finding, and being offered, anything suitable.

It would be interesting to find out from asylum and refugee support organisations, what proportion of employees with the legal right to work, have lived experience of forced migration, destitution and disability, including serious mental distress. If personal observations are correct that the proportion is not high, even where lived experience is highly relevant, then it would suggest that the barriers to paid work go far beyond legal entitlement. If such organisations could lead the way by respecting the knowledge gained by lived experience, and providing paid employment with a living wage, they could then also support others in reducing the barriers.

Most importantly, the asylum sector should not be seen in isolation. It is not as if there is a ready supply of rewarding, worthwhile work available to citizens in similar positions of destitution and mental distress. While the asylum sector is campaigning for the right to work, there are wider campaigns for the right not to work. A search of #dwp crimes reveals evidence of the suffering and many lives that are being lost when support is removed from citizens who are unable to exercise the supposed ‘right’ to work.

In this context, perhaps a more constructive focus of campaigns would be on building a broader movement, and working together for the rights to a regular income, support, housing, respect, contribution, community, security…. Together, we should challenge the idea that there is anything intrinsically positive about the right to work in a capitalist economy.

Rebecca Yeo

 Posted by at 15:28
Jun 032019
 

In response to the DWP’s lies trying to minimise the negative impact of Universal Credit (UC), by commissioning unbranded BBC documentaries and media articles highlighting UC success stories, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) has compiled a damning record of UC systemic and catastrophic failures. 

This record draws on local and national press and media articles, government and research reports.   While the DWP bleat that UC is unfairly vilified the reality is that UC had always been a disaster for claimants and has already wasted millions of pounds.

It has now reached a point where it is unable to adapt to claimants’ complex circumstances, and is forcing people with the least resources into further poverty, homelessness, and hunger.  These failures are driven by ideology. Making claimants wait for their first payment on the pretext that this mirrors the circumstances of working people is another DWP fairytale.

Experts who have looked at UC have also identified design, management and IT issues which cannot be solved by tweaking the system. 

This is why DPAC is calling for UC to be scrapped. It has become a social security system, which not only does not offer security, but actively undermined people’s ability to cope with the hazards of life. 

So far DPAC activists have already removed many thousands of copies of the Metro and will continue to do so whenever a lie about UC is printed. RMT and UNITE members are monitoring each days’ delivery of Metros to help us with this.

We are also calling for a boycott of Reach newspapers which have also in many cases published and republished one case study of one Job Centre manager saying UC works well. Reach’s Director, Helen Stevenson, is coincidentally a former non-executive director of DWP.

Download the Report:

DPAC Report – Hunger Debt Homelessness Crime Prostitution and Suicide – Universal Credit Media Articles – May 2019

Notes for Editors

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) are a campaign group fighting for the rights of disabled people www.dpac.uk.net @dis_ppl_protest

https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/second-newspaper-group-could-be-targeted-over-universal-credit-articles/

Intergenerational worklessness is a lie.

https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/are-cultures-worklessness-passed-down-generations

 

The same DWP propagandist Reach Media articles –over and over again

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/uk-news/universal-credit-why-actually-great-16279017

https://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/universal-credit-good-thing-helps-2866016

https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/world-news/universal-credit-why-actually-great-16279017

https://twnews.co.uk/gb-news/why-universal-credit-is-actually-a-great-idea

https://www.latest-news-headlines.eu/local/leicester

https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/why-universal-credit-actually-great-2870686

https://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/universal-credit-why-actually-great-16279017

https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/uk-news/universal-credit-why-actually-great-16279017

https://www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/why-universal-credit-actually-great-2870686

https://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/universal-credit-why-actually-great-16279017

https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/universal-credit-why-actually-great-16279017

https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/uk-news/universal-credit-why-actually-great-16279017

https://www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/why-universal-credit-actually-great-2870686

https://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/why-universal-credit-actually-great-2870686

https://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/uk-world-news/universal-credit-why-actually-great-16279017

https://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/why-universal-credit-actually-great-2870686

https://www.belfastlive.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/universal-credit-why-actually-great-16279017

https://www.lincolnshirelive.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/why-universal-credit-actually-great-2870686

https://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/why-universal-credit-actually-great-2870686 

https://www.getreading.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/universal-credit-why-actually-great-16279017

https://www.kentlive.news/news/uk-world-news/why-universal-credit-actually-great-2870686

https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/universal-credit-why-actually-great-16279017

https://www.leeds-live.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/universal-credit-why-actually-great-16279017

 Posted by at 14:24
Jun 022019
 

[Text from The Peterloo Memorial: A Monument to Discrimination with thanks]

If you think the Peterloo Memorial should be accessible and inclusive to all, we are asking everyone to email r.leese@manchester.gov.uk tonight, although any time today would be massively appreciated…

See below this post for a template you can use (it also explains the issue).

If you use facebook, open the event page, click “going” so we can count the contributors

Follow @PeterLo06715997 on twitter

Email subject line:

the Peterloo memorial: a monument to discrimination

Email template, you can if you wish amend and add your own thoughts

Dear Councillor Leese

I’m writing to say that I am angry and shocked that Manchester City Council are proceeding to erect the inaccessible Jeremy Deller designed Peterloo Memorial. A Memorial dedicated to those who marched for liberty and equality for all, should not be designed and built with discrimination and inequality at its heart.

Jeremy Deller describes his Peterloo Memorial as “a monument that’s for the public to inhabit – to be one to hang around on and assemble at. It is not something to be looked at and not touched – it is something to be on.”

That is all very well if you can climb steps… As currently designed, this Memorial is a fine example of inequality and discrimination embedded in design.

This Memorial is set to be a glaring metaphor for inequality and segregation with disabled people at the bottom of the monument, literally being talked down to. An act of exclusion that denies disabled people a voice, a blatant act of discrimination.

I and many others demand that a major reworking of the proposed Peterloo memorial is undertaken immediately by Manchester City Council, to make our memorial accessible to those unable to ascend steps, and that options are explored and conducted in a full, open, transparent and public manner.

Anything less will be a breathtaking act of hypocrisy on the part of Manchester City Council and the artist and an abandonment of the ideals of liberty and equality which moved those citizens to gather in St Peters Fields on 16th August 1819.”

If you continue to build this Monument To Discrimination you should hang your head in shame.

Yours etc

 Posted by at 13:53
Jun 012019
 

Come and join Disabled People and their allies from 5pm – 7pm on Thur 6th June outside Manchester Central Exhibition Complex. Make our presence known in our campaign for inclusive and accessible memorial to Peterloo

For more info

Twitter follow @PeterLo06715997 and

Facebook: Event Link and group page – The Peterloo Memorial: A Monument to Discrimination

"We think MCC choosing to deliberately create a platform inaccessible for all speakers - or signers - sends a clear message against democracy for all in Manchester - the exact opposite of the aims of the memorial." - Dennis Queen (Manchester Disabled People Against Cuts)

 Posted by at 21:39
May 302019
 

[From Sheffield DPAC, with thanks]

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

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

The first advertorial was a wrap around advert as well as a double page spread inside the Metro on 22nd May, our friends in the RMT/Unite and TSSA Unions gave us the heads up about the advert had appeared in the newspapers and our activists set to work.
With just a small number of people at widespread locations nationally, we emptied newspaper stands at train stations on buses and on trams in several towns and cities.
The second universal credit and covered advert appeared in the Metro newspaper on Wednesday the 29th of May.
We preempted that it would appear on the Wednesday and several activists went to the local train stations and bus stations as early as 6:30 or 7am and emptied the newspaper stands. 
Some people had to make several trips with their mobility scooters emptying the stands using rucksacks and panniers bags to carry the papers. 
Other people used sack trolleys to remove huge stacks of papers, and some used wheeled suitcases packed full of the metro and taken away while others grabbed armfuls and walked off with them.
We estimate that on the 29th of May our activists removed around 1% of papers from circulation this doesn’t sound a lot but when you look at that it equals in between 10 to 15000 copies it really is impactful; especially to other advertisers who will be losing money as a result.
There is a post on the DPAC Sheffield page that lists the companies who advertised in the Metro newspaper on the 29th of May alerting them that their adverts were seen by thousands less people than who would have if the Metro weren’t running the DWP universal credit adverts.
We are asking people to think twice before advertising in the Metro newspaper whilst they are running the DWP universal credit uncovered advertorials.
These advertorials are going to be running for a further 7-8 weeks in the Metro newspaper.
We are calling on people to join our campaign to dump Metro DWP lies on any day of the week
Yes, it’s important that we get the DWP lies off the shelves… but decreasing the circulation of the Metro newspaper 5 days a week rather than just one will make a bigger impact on as to whether the Metro does anything like this again!
If the Metro was a paid-for paper we would call for a boycott but it’s a free paper so let’s just dent them wherever we can.
Investigations have revealed that other newspapers were allegedly approached to run this advertorial and declined; which says a lot about the Metro!
Whether you remove 10 copies or 100 it all makes a difference.
With just a small number of people taking part in each town and city it soon adds up to big numbers and these numbers will make a difference when we act collectively!
Currently, as the first and second advertorials we run on a Wednesday, we are assuming that the ads will come out each Wednesday…But that doesn’t mean they’ll continue to be released on that schedule.
So we’re calling on our members and supporters keep an eye out on the early morning commute each day and alert as early as possible if you see a universal credit advertorial in the Metro.
Disabled people against cuts has an online network of tens of thousands of activists and supporters we can very quickly let people know and jump into action!
Take pictures of videos of removing the Metro newspaper from the stands and send them to DPAC by email on mail@dpac.uk.net or Twitter using the hashtag
#DumpMetroDWPlies
 Posted by at 16:31
May 302019
 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 May 2019

 

 

Inaccessible Peterloo massacre memorial causes protest storm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their chosen stepped design purposefully excludes disabled people.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dennis Queen, from Manchester Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “We think MCC choosing to deliberately create a platform inaccessible for all speakers – or signers – sends a clear message against democracy for all in Manchester – the exact opposite of the aims of the memorial.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Although some changes have been made as a result of concerns about access, including the addition of a handrail, it appears that wheelchair-users will still only be able to reach the height of the lowest of the circles via a ramp.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 May 2019

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He never received a reply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The admission that McVey failed to respond to Lloyd’s letter adds weight to calls in the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition* for an independent inquiry into deaths linked to DWP failings, and for evidence of criminal misconduct by civil servants or government ministers to be passed to the police.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 May 2019

 

 

Activists begin direct action over universal credit newspaper ads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Metro is happy with this process.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is vital that journalism remains independent of political interference.

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

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

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

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

30 May 2019

 

 

Second newspaper group could be targeted over universal credit articles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is vital that journalism remains independent of political interference.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 May 2019

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 May 2019

 

 

Should DRC rise again? Sir Bert asks in posthumous autobiography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is what many disabled people want.”

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

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

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

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

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

The immoral trade in disabled people continues unabated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 May 2019

 

 

Inclusive education campaigners back SEND crisis march

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 May 2019

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 Posted by at 16:08
May 232019
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A DWP spokesperson insisted that UN data showed the UK was “one of the happiest places in the world to live” and the report was “a barely believable documentation of Britain, based on a tiny period of time spent here” that “paints a completely inaccurate picture of our approach to tackling poverty”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

23 May 2019

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

23 May 2019

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*DNS editor John Pring is an NUJ member

23 May 2019

 

 

Newspaper ignores concerns over DWP’s universal credit ads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of the articles was headlined, “I Think Universal Credit is Great – Here’s Why”, and another “18 months ago I was unemployed and skint – going to the Job Centre changed my life”, both published by the Leicester Mercury.

A third article, published by the Plymouth Herald, was headlined “The truth about Universal Credit: DWP staff at the Plymouth Jobcentre reveal all”.

Two of the articles have been re-published by other newspapers in the same group, with the “I think Universal Credit is Great” article published by at least 15 other papers.

DNS tried this week to put questions about the articles and the DWP memo to Reach, but it only commented in depth on one of the Leicester stories, which was widely shared with other newspapers in the group.

The Mercury’s editor also published a lengthy rebuttal of criticism of his newspaper by the Guardian, which first reported on the leaked memo.

David Higgerson, who was described as both Reach’s chief audience officer and its digital editorial director, said of the “I think Universal Credit is Great” article: “This article reported on a different view on an issue various Reach titles have been reporting on since 2013, and also contained context about the severe challenges universal credit has caused many people.

We have found no evidence that the sources quoted in this piece were forced to provide positive comments about their experiences working for the DWP.”

He added: “We regularly choose to syndicate articles when we believe the story will be of interest to other readers, as was the case here and with many other stories.

Furthermore, in the last 12 months we have published more than 1,100 articles on Universal Credit across the Reach group, including national and local titles, the majority of which have been critical.

The government regularly advertises with us and other news brands, however this is not something that would be made to bear on a journalist’s reporting.

There was no undue pressure, financial or otherwise, to publish this story or the others raised here.”

Higgerson declined to respond to questions about the DWP memo, and suggestions that his company had become caught up in DWP’s “myth-busting” campaign.

23 May 2019

 

 

TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference: Unions back plans for national support service

Disabled trade unionists have backed plans drawn up by disabled people’s organisations that would solve the social care crisis by introducing a national independent living support service (NILSS).

The backing from the TUC’s annual Disabled Workers’ Conference provides fresh impetus for the plans, which have been drawn up by the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) of disabled people’s organisations.

ROFA set out its plans at a parliamentary meeting last month, while they were also presented to campaigners attending a parliamentary event last week that was organised by the Reclaim Social Care campaign.

A series of speakers at this week’s conference in Bournemouth told fellow delegates that there was no doubt that the current social care system was in crisis.

The motion, proposed by the Unite union, blamed the austerity cuts of successive Conservative-led governments, which had produced a “failing system unable to meet current need”.

Unite’s Mark Dunk said an NILSS would include a legal right to independent living, with support free for those in need, funded by general taxation and managed by central government.

The service would be led by disabled people and delivered locally in co-production with disabled people.

Although there was some opposition from delegates from two unions to the plans, the motion was overwhelmingly passed.

GMB’s John Grant described how his disabled mother-in-law had fallen over in her home but had been unable to call for help because she could not afford the £8-a-week cost of a personal alarm.

She was forced to stay jammed between the freezer and a wall in her kitchen for more than 17 hours until her daughter found her the next morning.

Grant said the social care crisis, which meant disabled people could not afford the support they needed, was “a disgrace” and “absolutely shocking”.

Dunk said there was no doubt that social care was in crisis, with a postcode lottery of support.

He said: “It’s a lottery where no-one wins, it’s just a case of how badly you lose.

Rising levels of charging are pushing people out of getting the care that they need.

The system needs a radical overhaul before the situation for disabled people is allowed to sink to even more barbaric lows than it has already.

Doing nothing is not an option. We need a national independent living support service.”

The National Education Union’s Mandy Hudson said that disabled people had a right to independent living.

She said: “It’s our right and we need to reassert that right and continue to fight for it.”

She said local authorities had lost 65 per cent of their funding because of the government’s austerity measures.

She said: “That’s why it needs to be a core provision from the state. In order to enjoy the fullness of our lives, our personal and professional lives, we need to enjoy that right to independent living.”

Wendy Willis, from USDAW, criticised the government’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund in 2015, which she said was “a cost-cutting measure with no consideration for the needs of disabled people” and had left disabled people “at the mercy of the postcode lottery of care”.

She said: “This motion is about defending our rights to live independent lives and control our own futures.”

Another delegate to support the Unite motion, Brian Aylward, from the Musicians’ Union, who lives in Northern Ireland, employs a personal assistant using direct payments.

He said: “Six hours a week means the difference between having a life and having an existence. If I didn’t have that support, I would only have an existence.”

He said the ILF closure was “an absolute scandal” and showed “the fundamental attack this disgraceful government has made on our community right from the word go”.

But two unions expressed concerns about the plans.

Cath McGuinness, from UNISON, whose members work in both the NHS and social care, said she had reservations about the motion.

She said a national service “sounds good in principle” but she questioned how it would fit in with the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which all have responsibility for social care.

She also questioned how such plans would fit in with her union’s support for Labour policy on seeking to integrate health and social care.

And she said UNISON would need reassurance that the “discredited” system of commissioning social care services – “where private sector companies all too often deliver a bargain basement service and exploit our workers” – would not be replicated under the new system, which would instead be “delivered and not just managed or commissioned by the public sector”.

She also said UNISON would need to know how any changes would affect members who work in the private sector.

She said: “We would battle for them to be brought back in-house by local councils.”

She told the conference: “So we support the motion but look forward to further detailed discussion on how it might be implemented in practice across the four nations of the UK.”

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) opposed the motion.

CWU’s Jonathan Bellshaw also pointed to the devolution issue, and said he believed any new system should be funded by taxes on companies like Amazon and Google, rather than general taxation.

But he also said any campaign for a new system should not wait for a Labour government, telling delegates: “Let’s take the fight to the Tories… and demand to have this now.”

The day after the motion was carried, the conference held a panel discussion on independent living.

Sean McGovern, who chaired the discussion, and chairs the TUC’s disabled workers’ committee, said social care was facing a “perfect storm”, with care packages “cut to ribbons” and disabled people receiving the “barest minimum of care” and being “imprisoned in their own homes”.

Mark Harrison, from ROFA, said the system was “broken beyond repair” and the NILSS proposals provided a “bold vision for a different way of doing things” that was “based on the lived experience of disabled people”.

He said the devolved nations would be able to decide which parts of the proposals they wanted to introduce, and that the burden of funding the new system would fall mostly on those who could afford to pay, through the UK’s progressive income tax system, as with the NHS.

Ellen Clifford, from Disabled People Against Cuts, said the NILSS plans were still being developed, but were based on “a consensus that has been building in the disabled persons’ movement for the last seven years” and “built on what was so successful about the ILF”.

23 May 2019

 

 

TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference: ‘Rail industry must be forced to act on access’

The rail industry is breaching its duties under the Equality Act by failing to ensure that vital buttons and other fixtures and fittings on different trains are always positioned in the same location, say disabled trade unionists.

Union members called on the Department for Transport (DfT) to ensure that rail companies standardise the positioning of key features on their trains, such as buttons and levers on external and internal doors and door-locking levers on toilet doors.

Their failing design policies are acting as a “major barrier” to promoting independent travel for disabled passengers, they said.

Delegates at the TUC’s annual Disabled Workers’ Conference in Bournemouth said DfT needed to ensure that its procurement policies led to a standard approach to design across the whole rail network.

They also expressed their “disgust” that Great Western Railway (GWR) had been allowed to introduce inaccessible new class 800 intercity express carriages built by Hitachi.

Delegates also backed an amendment from the RMT union that supported the need for a guard on every train, and adequately staffed stations.

John Haynes, from the TSSA transport union, said standardisation would “give people confidence” to know where to find buttons, levers and how to open doors.

He said: “Accessibility is not just about getting on and off, it’s about having the confidence to travel, to take away the barriers, to give people the right to independence.”

He said the new GWR trains only had two accessible toilets, one of them in first class, with the other in a standard class carriage that had no spaces for wheelchair-users.

He said: “That is disgraceful in this day and age. Questions need to be asked: how did that design come about?

This motion condemns those people who allowed that train to come into service.”

He said this was “a step back 40 years” and was “a disgrace” because wheelchair-users would be forced to travel in the vestibule at the end of the carriage if they wanted access to the accessible toilet.

Andy Worth, from Unite, also called for standardised access on all trains, both new and old.

He said: “For too many years, the trains we use have had different provision and facilities.

This makes it very difficult and confusing for disabled passengers to have a comfortable journey.

We have been campaigning for standardised access for a long time.

Disabled passengers can get on a train with buttons on the right-hand side and get on another one with buttons on the left-hand side.

We need to continue to make this demand for standardised access across all trains and across all stations.

We need to campaign to make sure DfT makes it a mandatory requirement that all rail stock and stations have standardised access provisions and facilities, including all fixtures and fittings.”

Emily Brothers, from the GMB union, said the rail industry had successfully lobbied in the 1990s for a lengthy implementation period for rail access regulations, as part of the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act.

She said: “Twenty-odd years later they are still procrastinating and not bringing in carriages, rolling stock that are standardised or accessible, as we have seen with Great Western and Hitachi. That is not acceptable.

It is time for disabled people to be able to freely travel when they need to, to have the support of guards on all trains, to have a way in which they can find access on the train but also to get off the train on any station and get onto another or access the local environment.”

23 May 2019

 

 

New mental capacity legislation ‘is still flawed and fails on protection’

The government’s new mental capacity act – which has now become law – is still flawed and is a prime example of how not to design disability-related policy, according to a leading disabled people’s organisation.

The Mental Capacity (Amendment) Act became law last Thursday (16 May) when it received royal assent.

It will introduce a new system, Liberty Protection Safeguards, which will replace the crisis-ridden Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards and will apply to service-users who are said to need to have restrictions placed on their liberty as part of their care but are considered to be unable to consent to those arrangements.

At one stage, Inclusion London and People First (Self Advocacy) described the bill as “potentially dangerous” as it was passing through parliament, with concerns that it would weaken disabled people’s rights.

Although some concessions were made after repeated flaws in the bill were highlighted, there are still concerns that the act fails to offer enough protection to disabled people.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the safeguards would have “vulnerable people at their heart, and will streamline existing care planning processes to reform a backlogged and bureaucratic system”.

It will now consult on a “comprehensive” code of practice, and said it was working with “a wide range of organisations to ensure these reforms truly promote and protect vulnerable people’s liberty”.

DHSC was repeatedly criticised throughout the bill’s process through parliament for its failure to consult with disabled people and their organisations over its contents.

It previously admitted in a freedom of information response to Inclusion London that it failed to consult any organisations led by disabled people while drawing up the bill.

Instead, it resorted to discussions with big charities like Mencap and Sense, which are run and controlled by non-disabled people, a clear breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Svetlana Kotova, coordinator of Inclusion London’s Disability Justice Project, said: “This act is an example of how the government should not design its policy.

It was developed with very little consultation with disabled people and DDPOs [Deaf and disabled people’s organisations], despite the clear requirement in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The act was rushed through parliament, allowing very little engagement and scrutiny by those who will be affected by it. 

Although the government was under pressure and at the end had to concede on many important issues, we are still concerned that the system introduced by the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Act does not offer sufficient protection of disabled people’s right to liberty. 

There is no duty to promote liberty and make sure support is put in place in the community [to prevent people being stuck in, or forced into, institutions].  

There is still limited access to independent reviews and not enough support to challenge deprivation of liberty decisions.”   

She added: “The government has left too many important issues to be clarified in the code of practice and we are very disappointed that so far the DHSC has not set up an accessible mechanism to engage people with learning difficulties and DDPOs [on the code of practice].” 

23 May 2019

 

 

TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference: Urgent action call on deaths of autistic people

Disabled trade unionists have called for urgent action to address the tragic inadequacies that have led to the deaths of scores of autistic and other disabled people in care settings.

This week’s annual TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference in Bournemouth backed an emergency motion that criticised the government for failing to act on flaws identified by investigations into the deaths.

It came as a new BBC Panorama documentary revealed alleged abuse at a private sector care facility for autistic people and people with learning difficulties, this time at Whorlton Hall, in County Durham.

The allegations have led to the launch of a police investigation and the suspension of 16 members of staff, as well as a CQC apology for its failure to spot the abuse.

This week’s motion, proposed by autistic rights campaigner Janine Booth, a member of the TUC disabled workers’ committee, focused on the death of Colette McCulloch, who was struck and killed by a lorry after wandering onto the A1 near Bedford in July 2016.

An inquest in March this year found there had been inadequacies in her care that contributed to her death, and that she had been failed by a lack of a mental health assessment and an inadequate regime of care, although no individual or organisation had been directly at fault.

She had been living in a residential care home near Bedford, after being placed there by Sussex Partnership NHS Trust, while requests for a Mental Health Act assessment had been rejected by the local joint mental health service.

The motion backed by the conference called on the TUC to demand government action to create “an adequately-funded, publicly-run, accountable and effective care service for those who need it”.

Booth also told this week’s conference about some of the many other autistic people who have died prematurely in care settings.

They included Connor Sparrowhawk, who was left unsupervised in a bath and had a seizure and drowned.

Elric Eiffert also drowned in a bath in a private mental health facility after a seizure, while his family were not told of his death for 17 days.

Stephanie Bincliffe, died in an assessment and treatment unit after staff allowed her weight to increase to 25 stone. She had spent years alone in a padded room and died from complications associated with her weight gain.

And Michael Bennett died while in the care of a disability charity. An inquest found there had been shortcomings in his care, although the care home itself was not at fault for his death.

Booth, an RMT delegate, said more than 40 autistic people and people with learning difficulties had died in secure hospitals in three years, nine of them under the age of 35.

She said: “They are all tragic cases, but they are not tragic in the sense of being unavoidable or accidental.

They are entirely preventable and they are the product of the under-funding in the care system, the involvement of private companies which will always prioritise profit, and a system which still sees disabled people as a burden rather than as human beings with rights.”

She called for “justice for those people we have lost and an end to the under-funding, the privatisation and the reactionary attitudes that left unchallenged will cause this to happen again”.

Austin Harney, the first autistic member of the national executive of the PCS union, told delegates that the Colette McCulloch case showed that “we do live in an institutionalised, prejudiced society towards autistic and neurodivergent people”, which he said was “outrageous”.

23 May 2019

 

 

Government agrees to review every care segregation case, after CQC report

Scores of disabled people who have been held in long-term segregation in NHS and private sector health settings will have their cases independently reviewed, the government has agreed, after a report by the health and care watchdog.

The Care Quality Commission’s interim report found more than 70 disabled children and adults – all of them autistic or with learning difficulties or mental health conditions – in long-term segregation in facilities across England.

It came as disabled trade union activists called at their annual meeting for urgent action to address the “tragic inadequacies” that have led to the deaths of scores of autistic and other disabled people in care settings (see separate story).

And a new BBC Panorama documentary has revealed alleged abuse at a private sector care facility for autistic people and people with learning difficulties, this time at Whorlton Hall, in County Durham.

The allegations have led to the launch of a police investigation and the suspension of 16 members of staff, as well as a Care Quality Commission (CQC) apology for its failure to spot the abuse.

The CQC report said one autistic man had been in segregation for nearly 10 years, while one autistic child had been segregated for more than two years, while 16 people had been in segregation for more than a year.

The CQC report concluded: “People will continue to be hospitalised and placed in segregation, and become ‘stuck’, unless a different and better system of care is put in place.”

It added: “If a period of hospital care is in the person’s interests, this must be provided close to home and last only as long as it remains in the person’s interests.

The report includes the experiences of an autistic boy called Adam, who was admitted to a hospital at the age of 10 and was still there 15 months later, living in a segregated “seclusion room” with padded walls.

Staff sit in the corridor behind a locked door, watching him, and shout at him through a window when they want to communicate with him.

His education consists of a book held up to a window for him to read.

Staff have still not completed a sensory assessment that might help them understand how to support Adam with his sensory issues, and most of them have only received basic online training in autism, says the report.

Of the 39 people in segregation who CQC has visited so far, 31 of them are autistic.

One in three of the 39 had faced longer in segregation than originally planned because of “delayed discharges” caused by a lack of a suitable package of care in the community.

Some of the hospitals provided their staff with little or no training in autism, with any training often no more than a short module at induction or basic e-learning.

About half of the people in segregation were in wards managed by the independent sector and half were in the NHS.

The report says: “We have concluded that many of the people we have visited have been let down by health, care and education services, often over the course of many years.”

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock this week ordered an independent review of the care of every autistic person and person with learning difficulties in long-term segregation or seclusion.

He has also agreed to set up a new group of experts to find a better system of care.

But there are already concerns about his plans after a Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesperson said the working group would be made up of “experts, clinicians, parents and carers”, apparently ignoring autistic and other disabled people.

CQC had called for the group to include “people with lived experience” of the care system.

Asked why the group did not appear to include any disabled people, a DHSC spokesperson declined to comment further as he said the panel had not yet been appointed.

CQC has also concluded that it needs to improve its own method of monitoring hospitals that use segregation.

The second phase of the CQC inquiry will now look at a wider group of settings, including low secure and rehabilitation mental health wards and adult social care services, and will also look at the use of restraint.

Hancock said: “I have been deeply moved and appalled by the distressing stories of some autistic people and people with learning disabilities spending years detained in mental health units.

These vulnerable people are too often left alone, away from their families, friends and communities.  

At its best, the health and care system provides excellent support to people, backed by a dedicated workforce.

But a small proportion of some of the most vulnerable in society are being failed by a broken system that doesn’t work for them.

I commissioned the Care Quality Commission to review the use of segregation in health and care settings to tackle this issue head on.

Today I have accepted their recommendations in full. I hope this is a turning point so everyone receives the care they need.

I will not let these people down – they deserve better.”

DNS reported last November how Hancock announced the CQC review more than 70 years after similar concerns were first raised by civil rights campaigners, and following a series of media investigations into conditions in privately-run assessment and treatment units.

In a second report released this week, the children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, said too many children were being admitted to secure hospitals unnecessarily.

She said some were spending years in institutions, rather than living in the community.

NHS Digital figures show that autistic children and those with learning difficulties had spent an average of eight months in inpatient care, while about one in seven had spent at least a year in their current hospital spell with their current provider.

The figures show 95 children were staying in a ward known to be more than 31 miles from home.

Longfield said there were about 250 such children living in mental health wards in England. 

At least 75 of them had been restrained in one month – December 2018 – with a total of 820 restraints in just that month between them.

Longfield said the quality of care was “highly variable”, with one family saying their son had not been washed for six months, while about one in four children did not appear to have had a formal review of their care plan within the last 26 weeks.

23 May 2019

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 15:33
May 182019
 

[From Leigh Day Solicitors website]

Universal Credit group action

Following recent legal challenges to Universal Credit, we [Leigh Day Solicitors] are bringing compensation claims for people who have migrated to Universal Credit, prior to 16th January 2019, and have lost their disability premiums. A single person who was previously in moved onto Universal Credit around a year ago will have lost just over £4000 in the last year. This figure increases to just under £8,000 for a couple.

The removal of these premiums has been confirmed by the courts to be unlawful and as a result we are bringing claims (on a no win no fee basis) against the Department of Work and Pensions. These claims may be brought on behalf of all of those who have suffered the loss of their premiums as a result of a migration to Universal Credit before 16 January 2019.

If you have previously been claiming legacy benefits, such as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), with a Severe Disability Premium (SDP) or Enhanced Disability Premium (EDP) and have lost these payments following a move to Universal Credit, we would like to hear from you.

If this applies to you or one of your services users, please get in touch by filling out one of our forms, or alternatively you can contact us by email or telephone 0161 804 0760. Please also see our frequently asked questions.

 Posted by at 23:02
May 162019
 

Direct action pledge after DWP pays tabloid to air-brush universal credit

Disabled activists are to target a tabloid newspaper with direct action after it signed an advertising deal with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to promote its “toxic” universal credit benefit system.

A leaked DWP document – seen by Disability News Service (DNS) – shows the department has signed an agreement with the Metro free newspaper series to publish a nine-week series of advertising features on universal credit (UC).

The adverts will, says the DWP memo, “myth-bust the common inaccuracies reported on UC” and “explain what UC is and how it works in reality”, as part of a series of measures being taken by the department across the country to promote UC.

It is believed the Metro – part of the same company as the Daily Mail – will begin running the advertising campaign on Friday 31 May.

The memo is thought to have been published on the DWP intranet on 2 May, and later passed to the Sheffield branch of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC).

Jennifer Jones, a founding member of Sheffield DPAC, said: “Obviously we were shocked upon reading it.

It is irrefutable proof that there is a coordinated campaign to spread fake newspaper articles and pro-UC propaganda, despite the level of misery that people are suffering.

Not only that, but the British public are being charged for the privilege.

It is insulting but it is also unbelievably cruel to anybody who is suffering as a result of universal credit.”

She said the memo had arrived at a time when she and fellow activists had begun to notice posts praising UC suddenly appearing on Facebook pages set up to support claimants – among all the usual “misery and desperation” – while a string of flattering articles about UC began to appear in local newspapers.

DPAC’s national steering group said it was appalled at the idea of what will be a “misleading advertising campaign”.

It said UC had “robbed millions from women pensioners, disabled people, women and children all of whom have been pushed deeper and deeper into poverty, and despair”, with many “forced to resort to prostitution and crime in order to survive”. 

DPAC has now called on its supporters to visit locations where the free paper is given away – such as train and tube stations – and “remove or otherwise prevent as many as possible” from being read from 31 May.

DPAC is also preparing a dossier of evidence about the DWP-Metro deal to pass to the advertising watchdog, and pledges to “make sure the Metro never want another DWP advert again”.

Jones said: “We refuse to be force-fed government propaganda, so we will put a stop to it ourselves.

If they want us to be militant, we will be militant. We are not taking it anymore.”

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

Last month, DNS reported how DWP had destroyed a damaging internal report about its failure to ensure the safety of claimants of UC and other benefits in jobcentres, preventing it being released under freedom of information laws.

Last November, DNS revealed how DWP had been forced to soften the “threatening” tone of the agreement that claimants of universal credit are forced to sign to receive their benefits, following a secret review into the death of a claimant.

The same month, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston, warned that universal credit could “wreak havoc” and had created a “digital barrier” that prevented many disabled people and other disadvantaged groups from accessing the support they were entitled to.

Earlier that month, Alston was told how a man with learning difficulties died a month after attempting to take his own life, following a move onto the “chaotic” universal credit system that left him hundreds of pounds in debt.

And last June, a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) said DWP was failing to support “vulnerable” claimants and was unable to monitor how they were being treated under universal credit.

This month’s leaked DWP memo was written by three senior civil servants, including Neil Couling, director general of the universal credit programme.

It complains about media “negativity and scaremongering” about UC – even though much of the most significant criticism has come from respected organisations such as the UN and the NAO – and brags about the “great work we do to transform the lives of millions of people for the better”.

The Metro coverage will begin with a “wraparound” advertising feature – which will likely include a fake front page praising UC – of four pages, written by DWP, that compare the “myths” with “the truth” about UC.

The Guardian, which broke the story of the campaign earlier this week, also revealed that a Metro national “cover wrap” costs £250,000 (PDF), although the full advertising campaign will cost many tens of thousands of pounds more.

The memo even admits that DWP will deliberately not be using its branding on the features, intentionally disguising their origin, which appears to be a breach of advertising guidelines.

The memo says the Metro advertising features will be part of a wider campaign “to tackle misconceptions and improve the reputation of UC”, which has already included work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd writing to every MP, and to journalists, asking them to “come and see for themselves the great work we do”.

The memo also mentions a new three-part BBC documentary, in which it says the broadcaster will “intelligently explore” UC by “spending time with our people who are instrumental in implementing it”.

The memo says the documentary, which will air this autumn, will be “a fantastic opportunity for us”.

But a separate document from the PCS union expresses concerns about the documentary and warns of potential penalties that might be imposed on staff who are critical of DWP when interviewed by the BBC.

A BBC press release on the documentary said it would “take a fresh look” at UC and “unearth the strengths and limitations of the new system to understand the impact and reality of Universal Credit today”.

It will include interviews with work coaches, Rudd, senior civil servants, claimants, local authorities, advice agencies and charities.

Asked about the memo and the Metro advertising campaign, DWP said it did not comment on leaked documents, but a spokesperson said: “It’s important people know about the benefits available to them, and we regularly advertise universal credit.

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

Metro had not responded to requests for a comment by noon today (Thursday).

16 May 2019

 

 

Commons civil servants block DNS over DWP benefit deaths cover-up

House of Commons civil servants have blocked attempts to confirm that an influential MP is opposing efforts to highlight a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) cover-up of deaths linked to its social security reforms.

Disability News Service (DNS) has been trying since last week to secure a response from Frank Field, who chairs the Commons work and pensions select committee, to the cover-up by DWP ministers and senior civil servants.

A spokesperson for the committee has said that “we cannot – and will not” comment, but she has since refused to confirm whether the questions about the cover-up had been passed to Field, or whether the refusal to comment had been made solely by civil servants.

DNS has attempted to contact senior figures within the House of Commons communications department but has encountered further obstruction.

By noon today (Thursday), it was still not clear whether Field himself was refusing to comment on the cover-up, or whether Commons civil servants were simply refusing to put questions from DNS to the independent MP.

DNS has previously run news stories critical of Field and his committee, including – in December 2017 – its refusal to ask the new minister for disabled people about figures that showed attempted suicides among people claiming out-of-work disability benefits doubled between 2007 and 2014.

Another news story, in September 2017, saw disabled activists express outrage after Field suggested that employers should be allowed to pay some disabled people less than the minimum wage.

Field was asked last Friday for a response to proof that DWP failed to send its own independent reviewer crucial documents about the work capability assessment.

But Field – or his civil servants – have so far shown no interest in examining the evidence and have refused to comment on the DWP cover-up, even though Labour’s Debbie Abrahams has written to work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd demanding an explanation.

Although Field left DWP years before the cover-up took place, he himself was a work and pensions minister in the early years of the last Labour government, between 1997 and 1998.

DNS asked Field if he believed there should be an inquiry into links between the deaths of claimants and the actions of ministers or civil servants, and if he believed that any evidence of misconduct in public office by ministers or civil servants should be passed to police for a possible criminal investigation, both of which are key demands of the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition*.

MPs are slowly beginning to call for a criminal investigation, despite the resistance of influential figures like Field.

Last week, independent MP Stephen Lloyd spoke out in support of the idea of a criminal investigation into alleged misconduct, and he was joined this week by Labour’s former shadow work and pensions secretary, Debbie Abrahams.

Abrahams has written to work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd seeking answers and expressing “grave concerns” about the reported cover-up, and also raised the issue in the House of Commons (see separate story).

Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, Marsha de Cordova, has also raised concerns about DWP’s actions.

She said this week: “It is unacceptable that the DWP has failed to share this vital information with an independent investigator, exposing the tragic consequences of the flawed work capability assessment.  

Instead, the government has consistently defended the cruel and callous WCA, which has been linked with preventable harm and suicide.   

It is vital that any evidence of criminal misconduct in public office by civil servants or ministers is passed to police. 

Labour supports the demands for justice for Jodey Whiting and those like her.

It is time for an urgent independent inquiry into deaths associated with the work capability assessment so that disabled people and their families are given the answers that they deserve.” 

DNS revealed last week that, following intervention from the Information Commissioner’s Office, DWP had finally admitted that two letters written by coroners, and a series of secret “peer reviews” into the deaths of claimants, were hidden from the team set up to review the work capability assessment (WCA), under Dr Paul Litchfield.

DWP has this week finally responded to DNS questions about the ICO evidence.

A spokesperson said: “DWP co-operated fully with the Litchfield reviews, and shared all relevant information which was requested by Dr Litchfield and his team.

DWP was not asked by Dr Litchfield or his review for information on the specific cases you refer to.

The issues investigated and evidence sought is at the discretion of the independent reviewer, and according to the terms of reference of their review.”

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

The existence of the letters and links between peer reviews and the WCA were not revealed by DNS until after the final Litchfield report was published.

The DWP spokesperson also refused to say if DWP believed the cover-up showed there needed to be an independent inquiry, and that any evidence suggesting criminal misconduct in public office should be passed to the police.

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

16 May 2019

 

 

Senior MP calls on Rudd to act over DWP’s WCA deaths cover-up

A Labour MP has written to the work and pensions secretary to call for an inquiry into deaths linked to government social security reforms, and for evidence of criminal misconduct by ministers or civil servants to be passed to police.

Debbie Abrahams made the demands – key elements of the Justice for Jodey Whiting petitionin a letter to Amber Rudd, in which she expressed “grave concerns” about the government’s failure to pass documents linking its reforms with the deaths of disabled people to its own independent reviewer.

Abrahams, a former shadow work and pensions secretary, had been told by Disability News Service (DNS) that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had finally admitted failing to send key letters and secret reviews to the team reviewing the work capability assessment (WCA).

In her letter, Abrahams demanded urgent answers to “these very serious questions”.

She told Rudd: “I am concerned that under your predecessors, two letters written by coroners, and a series of ‘peer reviews’ into the deaths of claimants, were not sent to Dr Paul Litchfield, the independent expert ministers hired to review the Work Capability Assessment in 2013 and 2014.

I would be grateful if you would confirm that these reports are correct and outline what steps you have taken to ensure such an omission could not recur.”

Abrahams also raised the issue during work and pensions questions in the House of Commons on Monday.

But the minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, failed to answer her questions, insisting instead that the government had “accepted and implemented” more than 100 recommendations made by the WCA reviews and would “continue to do all that we can to improve the process for claimants”.

Abrahams told DNS afterwards: “His response, or lack of, speaks for itself.”

In her letter to Rudd, she said there needed to be an independent inquiry into all deaths linked to the government’s social security reforms, with any evidence of criminal misconduct in public office by ministers or civil servants to be passed to police.

DNS revealed last week how ministers failed to send the review team two letters from coroners and a series of internal reviews, even though they knew the documents linked the WCA with the deaths of disabled people.

The admission came in DWP’s response to a complaint lodged by DNS with the Information Commissioner’s Office about the department’s failure to confirm if it passed the information to Dr Paul Litchfield, the independent expert ministers hired to review the WCA in 2013 and 2014.

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

DWP has this week finally responded to DNS questions about the ICO evidence.

A spokesperson said: “DWP co-operated fully with the Litchfield reviews, and shared all relevant information which was requested by Dr Litchfield and his team.

DWP was not asked by Dr Litchfield or his review for information on the specific cases you refer to.

The issues investigated and evidence sought is at the discretion of the independent reviewer, and according to the terms of reference of their review.”

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

The existence of the letters and the links between peer reviews and the WCA were not revealed by DNS until after the final Litchfield report was published.

She also refused to say if DWP believed the cover-up showed there needed to be an independent inquiry, and that any evidence suggesting criminal misconduct in public office should be passed to the police.

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

16 May 2019

 

 

Disabled peer calls for radical changes to ensure ‘wraparound’ support

A disabled crossbench peer has called on the government to introduce a “comprehensive” scheme that would provide the kind of “wraparound” support that would allow disabled people to live an independent life.

Baroness [Jane] Campbell called for a radical and comprehensive “access to living scheme” to replace the current system of support that divides disabled people into “unwieldy boxes of social care, continuing healthcare, housing or employment support”.

She told fellow peers that in the 13 years since a Labour government committed to a policy of promoting independent living and integrated support, progress had “ground nearly to a halt”, and in some areas was “regressing rapidly”.

She pointed to a combination of austerity measures, the closure of the Independent Living Fund, the introduction of personal independence payment, and “a lack of progress in the realisation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”.

Baroness Campbell told peers of proposals developed by the Independent Living Strategy Group (ILSG)*, which she chairs, which include incorporating article 19 of the UN convention – on independent living – into UK law.

Such a move would provide a legal right to independent living for the first time.

ILSG wants to see a national access to living fund, bringing together the various sources of support into one pot, with the government reinvesting in user-led regional organisations such as centres for independent living, and helping to fund new co-operatives, social enterprises, community businesses and other charities.

Baroness Campbell said: “This would enable a hundred flowers to blossom, making for a strong access to living culture, and enabling all disabled people – all, no matter what their medical condition – to maximise their life chances.

An access to living investment would foster the transformative social capital we have yet failed to realise under current outdated systems, which, in social care support alone, now offer only the top-down, survival safety-net services.”

Responding to the debate on behalf of the government, the Tory peer Baroness Barran said she would be “absolutely delighted” to meet the ILSG.

They were taking part in a Lords debate secured by the Tory peer Lord Borwick on the issues facing disabled people and the “potential for improved treatment and outcomes in the next 50 years”.

Another crossbench disabled peer, Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, spoke of the continuing problems she faced with the inaccessible rail system, including “getting on and off trains”, the booking system and the frequent lack of accessible toilets.

She also highlighted the failure of the new Caledonian Sleeper – which has received more than £100 million in public funding from the UK and Scottish governments – to include any accessible showers, as reported last week by Disability News Service.

She told peers: “I am looking forward to a time when I book such a journey and push through the station in my pyjamas looking for an accessible shower that may or may not be in the station. I am not sure that anyone is ready for that.”

And she criticised the rail industry’s failure to consult with disabled people, describing it as a “travesty”, and called on the government to look again at rail regulations so that disabled people “can have the same miserable experience as everybody else”.

Baroness Barran said she would raise the points made by Baroness Grey-Thompson with the Department for Transport, “particularly regarding design regulations and co-production”.

The disabled Liberal Democrat peer Baroness [Celia] Thomas said it was “shocking” that the government had still not published its adult social care green paper, and she said that “far more attention” needed to be paid to the provision of accessible, adaptable and wheelchair-accessible homes.

She also said she wanted to see more accessible restaurants, cafes, shops and hotels, and “far more disabled people not just in employment but in positions of power and influence as local councillors, school governors, mayors, CEOs, MPs, peers, judges and, yes, government ministers”.

She said: “In 50 years’ time, life may well be better for all disabled people, but only if those in positions of leadership always involve disabled people themselves in what they really need and what really works for them.”

Lord Borwick suggested that campaigners were “winning the argument” for all new homes to be built to the Lifetime Homes standard.

Baroness Thornton, for Labour, said there had almost been a “perfect storm” of failed public policy on disability, including £7 billion taken out of adult social care budgets because of reduced funding since 2010, four-fifths of local authorities saying there was not enough provision of social care services, and a social care system that was “in crisis”.

Baroness Barran accepted that key indicators still showed “multiple disadvantages for disabled people, from poverty to educational outcomes, employment, discrimination, isolation and a lack of opportunity”.

But she said the government was “committed to addressing this across a range of key policy areas including, to name but three, employment, healthcare and transport”.

*ILSG has been working on protecting and promoting disabled people’s rights to independent living in England since 2013. Its members include disabled people who were part of the independent living movement during the 1970s and in later years, as well as younger activists, other individuals and organisations concerned with independent living.

16 May 2019

 

 

Panel seeks DPOs for pioneering partnership with mayor

Disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) across Greater Manchester have been given the chance to take part in a pioneering new partnership with local government.

Andy Burnham, the Greater Manchester mayor, is funding a new Disabled People’s Panel (DPP) that will work with him and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) he chairs.

The authority – whose other 10 members are the leaders of Greater Manchester’s 10 borough councils – has commissioned Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP) to set up the panel.

The panel will aim to shape, challenge and influence policy affecting disabled people across Greater Manchester, by advising and consulting with GMCA.

The panel’s members will be local disability organisations drawn from across Greater Manchester’s 10 boroughs, with most of them likely to be DPOs committed to the social model of disability, with strong engagement with their local community, and successful representation of diverse groups, including LGBT and black and minority ethnic communities.

Those taking part will receive an involvement fee from the mayor’s office, while two GMCDP staff are being paid to set up the panel, keep it running and help it liaise with local authorities across Greater Manchester.

Manchester has become the first city region in the UK to introduce a disabled people’s panel that will be involved in such a senior level of strategic policy-making.

It is a significant success for GMCDP, which said before Burnham’s election as Greater Manchester’s first elected mayor in 2017 that it hoped to persuade the successful mayoral candidate to make the region a trailblazer for disability rights in England and “develop ground-breaking initiatives to tackle disability”.

Rick Burgess, the newly-appointed outreach and panel development worker at GMCDP, said: “It’s an experiment and it’s an adventure because it’s never been done before, and it’s always worth trying a new way of interfacing with power to make things better for disabled people.

The long-term aim is to have an ongoing engagement between disabled people across Manchester and the organisations that make policy across Manchester.

Because of devolution, there are opportunities to do things differently from Westminster.

Central government in Westminster has been condemned by the UN for how they treat disabled people. In Greater Manchester we can certainly do better than that.

Some of what we can do is mitigation or harm reduction when there are bad policies nationally.

I would hope we can find ways to lessen their harmful impact on people.”

The mayor’s office has agreed that the organisations appointed to the panel will receive an involvement fee and training, in contrast to the unpaid chairs and members of the Regional Stakeholder Network being set up by the government’s Office for Disability Issues.

Burgess said: “Fair play to Andy Burnham and the combined authority. They have thought to themselves: we don’t know everything, maybe we need to listen to the people who are experts in their own lives on how we make policy and stuff.

It is democracy in action. We are looking to gather up the views of disabled people throughout Greater Manchester and affect policy-making at the highest level.”

Although some of the panel members may not be organisations led and controlled by disabled people, Burgess hopes and expects that most of them will be.

He said: “This is for disabled people to change the policies that affect them, so it is primarily about disabled people forming the panel.”

He stressed that the panel would decide its own priorities, but issues that are consistently coming up in discussion with disabled people in Greater Manchester are transport, housing, social care and benefits, and then accessibility and employment, he said.

As well as a panel of probably between 15 and 20 members, organisations will also be able to ask to be associate members, so they can contribute and be kept informed of its work.

Burgess said GMCDP was keen to spread the idea of the DPP to other parts of the country if it is successful, providing an “incredibly representative engagement between power and disabled people so eventually power becomes less ableist and more inclusive and removes those barriers we are always talking about”.

The deadline for applications to join the panel is 28 May.

16 May 2019

 

 

Disabled activist tells parliamentary meeting of need for ‘new approach’ to social care

A leading disabled activist has told a parliamentary meeting of the need for a “new approach” to supporting disabled people that focuses on the promotion of independent living.

Bob Williams-Findlay, a former chair of the British Council of Disabled People and a director of Being the Boss, a user-led organisation which supports disabled people who employ PAs, told the meeting that the system of social support for disabled people “has not ever been fit for purpose”.

He said a new approach to supporting disabled people should draw upon both the last Labour government’s Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People strategy and demands by the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) for a new national independent living support service that would eliminate the postcode lottery in support.

ROFA wants a legal right to independent living, and a national independent living service funded by general taxation and delivered locally in co-production with disabled people.

The meeting was organised by the Reclaim Social Care (RSC) campaign, which itself was born from Health Campaigns Together, a coalition that brings together organisations fighting to defend the NHS.

RSC aims to develop a parallel campaign to Health Campaigns Together, for a “properly funded and publicly accountable” social care system.

RSC wants a universal social care service, free at the point of use to all who need it, fully funded through progressive taxation, and locally provided, locally accountable and designed as far as possible by service-users.

But Williams-Findlay told the meeting that managing the RSC campaign would not be easy because there were groups and individuals who viewed the social care crisis from different perspectives or felt the need to champion specific groups.

It is believed that only two MPs attended the meeting – Labour’s Eleanor Smith and Rachael Maskell – and Williams-Findlay said afterwards that engaging MPs on the subject was “proving difficult”.

He told Disability News Service that ROFA’s plans were not about reshaping the “existing monster” but “a complete transformation” that would end the “neoliberal market-facing services and commodification of service-users”.

He said: “It’s hard to sense the support from mainstream campaigners for the kind of approach we are suggesting because of the diversity of opinion.

Supporting the Reclaim Social Care campaign is challenging as many of the campaigners are from traditional health backgrounds or are carers; therefore, they are not coming from the perspective we advocate.”

He said the RSC campaign needed to “acknowledge that the majority of the public have no idea what ‘social care’ is and accept stereotyped views”.

He said the campaign should “try and educate everyone about the different reasons people have for requiring social support” and “how this shapes the type of service delivery that needs to be offered and the consequences involved”.

And he warned that simply “reclaiming or reinventing” social care was not good enough because “the current crisis means we’ve gone beyond seeking urgent reform, and therefore a full transformation of the system is required”.

16 May 2019

 

 

Government finally acts on Changing Places call

New large public buildings such as shopping centres, sports stadiums and cinema complexes will soon have to include a Changing Places accessible toilet, according to government proposals.

The government has announced a consultation on the plans – which will also affect existing large public buildings that undergo significant alterations – more than two years after the idea was recommended by the Commons women and equalities committee.

That was followed last year by a petition calling for Changing Places to be provided in all large public buildings as they are built, redeveloped or refurbished, which secured more than 57,000 signatures.

Now the government has finally agreed to act by making changes to building regulations.

Its proposals would affect public buildings such as new theatres with at least 500 seats, museums and art galleries that expect to receive more than 300,000 visitors a year, cinema complexes with at least five screens, and hospitals and primary care centres.

It should mean more than 150 new Changing Places toilets – facilities with extra space and equipment such as hoists and changing benches for disabled people who cannot use standard accessible toilets – every year.

But it will not affect existing buildings unless they seek planning permission for significant alterations.

There are currently more than 1,300 Changing Place toilets across the UK.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government had announced it was considering a change to building regulations on 24 December.

Now it has confirmed that it wants to go ahead with the plans and is seeking views on its proposals through a 10-week consultation, which closes on 21 July.

Last month, the Department for Transport, in partnership with the charity Muscular Dystrophy UK (MDUK), launched a £2 million fund for Changing Places toilets to be installed in existing motorway service stations.

The Department of Health and Social Care will also soon launch its own £2 million fund for NHS Trusts to install new Changing Places in more than 100 hospitals across England.

Fiona Anderson, from Bolton, a member of MDUK’s Trailblazers network of young disabled campaigners, and herself a user of Changing Places toilets, said: “A lack of Changing Places toilets has led to me deciding to have surgery, which will give me more freedom to go to the toilet.

If these facilities were in every large public building, I would no longer have to endure the pain of postponing going to the toilet all day and the ever-present dark cloud of sepsis occurring would be lifted.

Ultimately, I also wouldn’t need to have a catheter fitted, which would mean the world to me. I’m not incontinent – I simply can’t transfer to a toilet without a hoist.

Changing Places toilets are a much-needed lifeline. But with so few of them available, people like me are forced to sacrifice our dignity and independence.”

Rishi Sunak, the local government minister, said: “Everyone should have the freedom to enjoy days out in dignity and comfort.

For severely disabled people, this is made very difficult because there are not enough Changing Places toilets.

We’ve made some progress, but I’m determined to increase the number of these life-enhancing facilities, so people are given the dignity they deserve.

I’m pleased so many people will be helped by this major change.”

16 May 2019

 

 

New access fund helps nearly 20 disabled politicians win council seats

A new fund to support disabled candidates who want to stand for elected office helped 19 disabled people win seats on local councils at this month’s elections.

The EnAble Fund for Elected Office only went live in January, handing out 42 grants to help disabled candidates in England with the disability-related expenses of standing for elected office.

The fund, administered by Disability Rights UK (DR UK) on behalf of the Local Government Association (LGA), is only a temporary replacement for the Access to Elected Office Fund, which was frozen by the government in 2015 after just three years.

The Government Equalities Office has provided funding of £250,000 for the temporary fund, covering expenses such as British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters, assistive technology, personal assistants and taxi fares, but it is not clear what will happen after it closes in March 2020.

Disabled politicians have previously warned that the temporary fund was only a “first step” and was a “drop in the ocean” of what was required to provide a long-term solution to allow disabled politicians to compete on a level playing-field with non-disabled candidates.

The Scottish government has set up its own fund for disabled candidates for local and Scottish parliament elections, delivered by Inclusion Scotland.

Anna Denham, DR UK’s project manager for the EnAble fund, said: “Feedback from participants, including from several who were not elected, is that the fund enabled them to participate equally, which both they – and DR UK – view as a success.

We would of course like to see funding continue beyond March 2020 and be available to candidates standing in any (local) government election in England.

We therefore recognise the EnAble fund as a first stepping-stone towards that goal.

Being a UK-based charity, we would also like to see similar programmes launched in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Above all, we would like to see disabled candidates and councillors receive better reasonable adjustments at all stages, from pre-selection through to serving in elected office.

However, we acknowledge that these goals are long-term and not within the remit of the current EnAble Fund.”

DR UK was unable to say whether there have been any applications for funding for this month’s European elections, which are only taking place because of parliament’s Brexit crisis, or how much funding has been allocated so far.

It has also been unable to say if parliamentary candidates will be able to apply for funding if a general election is called before March 2020.

But disabled candidates for next May’s police and crime commissioner elections can apply for support from the fund.

Cllr Peter Fleming, chair of LGA’s improvement and innovation board, said: “It is vital that the make-up of councils reflects their communities and their experience.

The LGA has been constantly working with councils towards increasing diversity and inclusion, including running our Be a Councillor campaign.”

He added: “Councils want to see more disabled people, parents and carers stand for election and to step up to leadership roles in local government to create a working environment which is attractive and supportive for people from all groups and backgrounds.”

16 May 2019

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 Posted by at 15:52
May 102019
 
On Monday the 13th of May, Centrica will be hosting their Annual General Meeting.

Join Fuel Poverty Action to put the spotlight on Centrica, a multinational company that owns British Gas – whose investments provide the financial lifeline that allows Cuadrilla to continue its attempts to frack the Lancashire countryside, while driving up fuel prices and pushing people into fuel poverty.

OUR DEMAND IS SIMPLE – DON’T FRACK WITH OUR CASH!

Heating our homes shouldn’t cost the earth. Centrica, who own British Gas – have pumped over £100 million into the fracking industry over the past few years, investing in a dangerous energy source that the British public do not want.

At the same time, their subsidiary British Gas upped the price of their standard variable tariff AGAIN this year – up by £119. At a time when thousands of people die each year from cold homes and an inability to heat their homes, when the urgency of moving away from fossil fuels could not be clearer, when renewables are cheaper than ever before… our demand to Centrica & British Gas is simple – Don’t Frack with our Cash.

CENTRICA? FRACKING? WHAT?

Centrica are a multinational company that are most known to UK residents for their subsidiary – British Gas. But they also invest a large amount of money into Cuadrilla – the only company with an active fracking operation in the UK.

Last year, while British Gas upped their prices by 5.5%, Centrica pumped nearly $16m into Cuadrilla in the desperate hope to keep a flailing fracking industry afloat.

When huge corporations like Centrica fund fracking, they’re not just content with fuelling climate breakdown, they’re backing a fuel source that keeps energy bills high and means more people go cold or don’t eat.

This is demonstrated by the continued price hikes seen by British Gas customers over the past few years. On 1st April this year, the standard tariff rose again by £119, no small amount for the 3 million customers of British Gas, and a move that will do nothing to help the 2.5 million people in Britain living in fuel poverty.

Join us on the 13th May from 11:30 AM to oppose climate breakdown and fuel poverty, and to create a space where we can build a movement to meet the growing demand for democratic community-owned renewable energy.

More info and signup at the Facebook Event Page

Cold homes, fuel poverty, climate change, millions of homes in debt to their energy supplier, huge profits for the Big Six… the energy system isn’t working.
Another energy system is possible! Get behind the Fuel Poverty Action Energy Bill of Rights
 Posted by at 22:43
May 092019
 

A group of grassroots campaigners have taken fellow disabled activists on a tour of the sites of some of their most successful protests, without them needing to leave their own homes.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) worked with German film-maker and artist Hito Steyerl on its Power Tour, which saw DPAC activists revisit the sites of six of their best-known Westminster direct actions.

Four disabled people who were unable to leave their homes to be there in person were able instead to immerse themselves in the event through “proxies” who took part in the tour and communicated with them directly and acted as their eyes and ears, using bespoke equipment and software.

The tour revisited DPAC protests such as the Circus Maximarse action in March 2015 (which targeted the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) contractor Maximus in its first week as the new provider of the work capability assessment), last year’s universal credit “crime scene” protest, DPAC’s occupation of DWP’s Caxton House headquarters in 2012, its direct action protests inside parliament, and the 2014 occupation of the grounds of Westminster Abbey in protest at government plans to close the Independent Living Fund.

The also recreated the time activists hung underwear from a washing-line outside DWP’s headquarters as a reminder of how former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith had claimed for new underpants on parliamentary expenses.

DPAC hopes the experiment is just the latest step in the development of new technology that will allow disabled people to participate in protests remotely, if they cannot attend in person because of impairment-related reasons or a lack of support.

Two activists working with DPAC – who have been praised for their work – had designed a bespoke harness that holds a mobile phone on the chest of the proxy, so it is stable as they move around.

They have also developed software that shows a video link with the protesters, and subtitles, and which will eventually have even more advanced accessibility options.

Bob, one of the disabled people who took part remotely, said: “As someone who has helped to organise DPAC protests but has never been able to take part, being able to take part in the Power Tour was very emotional for me.

“This imaginative use of assistive technology will make it possible for more disabled people to take part in DPAC’s activities and that can only be a good thing.”

Another, Martha, said it had been “so, so lovely, thoughtful and edifying and empowering” to be included.

She said: “I look forward to more accessibility and inclusion in the future.

“It really helped me as I am disabled and have been at the receiving end of the debilitating welfare reforms… and understand what it’s been like for many like myself.”

She said her involvement meant she felt “less isolated and that I had a voice at a time when I am unable to travel and be as mobile as I would like to be.

“It felt like a burden had been lifted off me and I felt less frustrated because of the efficient, and concise, to-the-point subtitles, as I am hard of hearing.”

Marion Michell, another remote participant and an artist herself, said she had been “thrilled” to be involved from her bed.

She said: “Disabled access (to events, conferences, readings, yes, and protests too) tends to focus on those who are physically able to be in the world – remote participation for people who are housebound is rarely considered, as if we didn’t count, had nothing to contribute.

“This was a good test run, even if I had to sign off early.”

Although Michell said there were some technical problems that will need to be resolved, she said the idea of pairing a remote participant with a proxy at the event itself was “inspired”.

She said: “The personal connection made me feel more involved, not just a passive observer.

“It was great to be on the road! I want remote participation to become a default access feature. We are here!”

Paula Peters, a member of DPAC’s national steering group, said: “Going back to the sites where DPAC had its most famous actions was thought-provoking, emotional but also invigorating, seeing the participants’ feelings as we explained each action and why we mounted the campaigns we have in nine years.

“From the occupation of DWP, the washing-line of IDS underpants, the occupation of Westminster Abbey and parliament and the current fight against universal credit, it’s important to highlight the victories we had against the government, but it’s important now more than ever that we give disabled people hope and that we continue the fight for human rights and social justice.

“DPAC has an important part to play in that.”

DPAC is now looking for disabled volunteers to help develop the technology by testing it from their homes.

DPAC’s Power Tour of Westminster was carried out as part of Steyerl’s Actual Reality OS, a digital tool – hosted by London’s Serpentine Gallery – which aims to provide a visual representation of data and personal testimony concerned with power and inequality in the areas surrounding the Serpentine.

The Power Walks part of Steyerl’s project highlighted issues such as social housing and low-wage work, with DPAC’s event one of four guided walks and tours, and another led by a former artist-in-residence for Grenfell Tower that uncovered the histories of resistance and reproductive labour in north Kensington.

Steyerl worked with grassroots groups including DPAC to describe “the hidden and not so hidden inequalities from the point of view of those most affected”.

9 May 2019

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 Posted by at 15:28
May 092019
 

Caxton House cover-up: DWP hid benefit deaths papers from WCA review team

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has admitted failing to send its own independent reviewer documents that ministers knew would have linked their fitness for work test with the deaths of disabled benefit claimants.

Following intervention from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), DWP has finally admitted that two letters written by coroners, and a series of secret “peer reviews” into the deaths of claimants, were hidden from the team set up to review the work capability assessment (WCA).

It is the strongest evidence yet of the need for an independent inquiry into deaths linked to the government’s social security reforms, and for any evidence of criminal misconduct in public office by ministers and senior civil servants to be passed to the police.

The need for an inquiry and for evidence of misconduct to be handed to police are two of the key demands from the Justice for Jodey Whiting parliamentary petition.

Disability News Service (DNS) has been trying since April 2018 to use freedom of information laws to find out if DWP passed the documents to Dr Paul Litchfield, the independent expert ministers hired to review the test in 2013 and 2014.

Litchfield carried out the fourth and fifth reviews of the WCA but has refused to say if he was shown the two coroners’ letters and the peer reviews.

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

DWP has previously claimed in a freedom of information response that it holds no information in its records to show whether the documents were passed to Litchfield while he was reviewing the WCA.

Following that claim, DNS lodged a complaint with ICO about DWP’s refusal to state definitively whether it passed the documents to Litchfield’s team of civil servants.

But ICO has now given DNS a summary of its discussions with DWP, which prove that neither the peer reviews nor the coroners’ letters were sent to Litchfield.

A senior ICO case officer said DWP had contacted those members of Litchfield’s team who were still working for the department and asked them to conduct searches of electronic and paper records.

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

Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, declined to comment on the new evidence this week.

But Stephen Lloyd, the independent MP for Eastbourne, has become the first MP to openly speak out on the need for a criminal investigation since the Jodey Whiting petition was launched in March.

After being shown the evidence by DNS, he said: “It is clear that there is a public demand to ensure the government and the DWP do not sweep this under the carpet.

I support the petition and I also support [its] objective that, if there is evidence of criminal misconduct or cover-ups by civil servants or ministers, necessary criminal proceedings should be brought forward, including in the Litchfield case.

The other question for me is: was there a cover-up by Caxton House, DWP’s HQ? If so, it is only right that there is a police investigation.”

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

The ICO response is now the strongest evidence so far of a deliberate cover-up by DWP, aimed at ensuring that its independent reviewer was not shown evidence linking the WCA with the deaths of claimants.

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

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

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

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

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

Professor Malcolm Harrington, who carried out the first three WCA reviews in 2010, 2011 and 2012, has told DNS he believes he was shown neither the first coroner’s letter (the second letter had not been written by the time he completed his third review) nor any WCA-related peer reviews.

DWP had failed to comment by noon today (Thursday).

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

9 May 2019

 

 

DWP confirms single assessment plans, despite Tomlinson confusion

The government has confirmed that it is pushing ahead with plans to test how it might be able to merge two disability benefit assessments into one, despite comments from a minister that appeared to suggest that no such plans were being discussed.

The plans were originally sketched out by work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd at a high-profile speech in April.

Rudd had said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) would test introducing just one assessment to decide eligibility for both employment and support allowance (ESA) and personal independence payment (PIP).

She said in her speech: “We will therefore explore how a single assessment could improve the experience of those who apply for PIP and ESA/universal credit at the same time.”

Last week, these DWP plans were confirmed by the Tory peer Baroness Buscombe, who had been asked if the government had “opened consultation on merging PIP and ESA assessments”.

Responding on 29 April to the disabled Liberal Democrat peer Baroness [Celia] Thomas, she said DWP was already working on the new test, and that ministers were looking for ways to address concerns about “the feeling of duplication across the current assessment processes”.

She said: “By testing the feasibility of a single assessment for ESA/universal credit (UC) and PIP we can seek to understand if it will improve the assessment process for our customers, and ensure that they still get the right decision.”

But her answer came just five days after the minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, appeared to tell fellow MPs, during a debate to mark 10 years of the work capability assessment (WCA), that there had been “a bit of confusion” about the government’s plans and that there would not be a single assessment after all.

He said: “The view was that it ultimately would be a panacea whereby people would go for one single assessment for PIP and for the work capability assessment.”

Instead, he said, for the “very few people” who apply for both benefits at the same time, the government’s plans would merely see those people having “both of the assessments on the same day instead of having to come in on the Monday and then again on the Wednesday”.

But DWP has now made it clear to Disability News Service that testing of a single assessment will be going ahead.

A DWP spokesperson said: “The minister [Justin Tomlinson] was referring to the integrated service for PIP and work capability assessments, which will be introduced from 2021.

The service will reduce the need to submit information multiple times, and some people may be able to have both their assessments on the same day.

This is not about creating a single assessment. Under the integrated service, customers will still attend separate assessments for ESA/UC and PIP.”

But she added: “Separately, we are undertaking a small-scale test to explore the feasibility of a single assessment for PIP and [ESA/UC] for the small number of people who are applying for both benefits at the same time.”

Many disabled campaigners have warned against merging the assessments for ESA and PIP into one single assessment.

One disabled activist, Lisa Egan, has launched a parliamentary petition – which has nearly 7,000 signatures – calling on ministers to abandon their plans for a joint assessment because PIP and ESA are “different benefits with different purposes” and “have very different eligibility criteria”.

Her petition says: “Merging assessments would cause huge harm, especially for PIP claimants in work or planning to move into work.”

She told Disability News Service: “At the moment, people who are in receipt of both benefits have the slight safety net of still receiving one benefit if they have the other one taken at reassessment and have to wait months for an appeal to get it back.

If both get taken at the same time, that would be an incredibly difficult situation to survive.

If our social safety net was functioning safely, this might not be such a dangerous proposal.

But our social security is not secure, and this plan could cost a lot of lives.

You would have thought they’d learned from universal credit that merging unrelated benefits doesn’t work.”

9 May 2019

More than £100 million in public funding… and no accessible showers

A train company that has received more than £100 million in public subsidies to pay for new carriages for a sleeper service from Scotland to London has failed to provide any accessible on-board showers, even though it is providing such facilities for non-disabled people.

The Scottish government contributed £60 million towards the replacement of the Caledonian Sleeper fleet, while the UK government has provided another £50 million.

Caledonian Sleeper has put the cost of the new fleet at £150 million, while the Scottish government – through its transport agency Transport Scotland – claims it cost £120 million.

But Caledonian Sleeper, which is run by the outsourcing company Serco, has confirmed that while the new fleet includes cabins with ensuite showers and toilets, none of the wheelchair-accessible cabins have such facilities.

And although the carriages include accessible toilets, none of them offer accessible showers either.

This means that any wheelchair-user who wants to take a shower is likely to have to do so in a train station instead.

The new service launched last week between London Euston and Glasgow Central or Edinburgh Waverley, and will be followed later this year with a route between London and Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William.

Accessible transport campaigner Doug Paulley said the failure to provide accessible showers made him “very angry and very sad”.

He said he believed the use of public money on the project meant the UK and Scottish government were breaching their public sector equality duty (PSED) under the Equality Act.

He said: “It strikes me that accessible showers would be considerably more important for disabled people than for non-disabled.

It is a great shame that the vehicles don’t include accessible showers, and retrofitting them seems unlikely.

Perhaps the vehicles will be in use for 40 years, like the old sleepers were.”

The carriages themselves probably meet the technical requirements for rail accessibility, so the company itself is unlikely to be guilty of discrimination under the act, said Paulley.

But he added: “I don’t see how investing £110 million of tax-payers’ money in stock that has facilities for non-disabled people to have showers but not disabled people meets the requirements of the public bodies involved under the PSED.”

Paulley has tried to discover what discussions took place about including accessible showers through a freedom of information request.

He told the Scottish government: “Many disabled people’s impairments, including mine, mean that they need showers more than non-disabled people.

The same impairments mean that it is much more effort to use showers in stations – getting dressed and undressed, and dried and all the rest of it, is a massive effort, logistically and otherwise.

Going direct from bed to a shower then back onto the bed to get dried and undressed cuts out so much of this.”

But he was told the Scottish government holds no information on discussions about whether accessible showers could be installed.

Among other campaigners who have raised concerns about the lack of accessible showers is Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, who said it meant disabled people did not have the same choices as non-disabled people.

And “Jelly Head”, who tweets at @LordOrk, said: “Let’s not forget these new trains will be in service for decades so consequently disabled people will be disadvantaged long into the future which simply isn’t morally reasonable or acceptable.”

Even though the UK government contributed £50 million towards the project, the Department for Transport has refused to answer questions about the lack of accessible showers or its own PSED legal duties.

Transport Scotland has refused to say whether it ever considered the need for accessible showers or had any discussions with Caledonian Sleeper about the possibility, despite investing £60 million into the programme.

It said the decision for leasing and ordering the trains “rests wholly with Serco” but refused – despite repeated requests from Disability News Service – to say whether it ever discussed the issue of accessible showers.

A Transport Scotland spokesperson added: “All accessible rooms are located directly beside the accessible toilets. 

We understand the option to include accessible showers was declined based on safety grounds but we do not hold the details.”

She added: “We don’t believe that Transport Scotland is in a breach of its public sector equality duty.”

A spokesperson for Serco Caledonian Sleeper said the company had not been able to “find a safe or acceptable way” to provide accessible showers on board the train.

Magnus Conn, new trains programme director for Serco Caledonian Sleeper, claimed the company had “worked extensively with accessibility experts to investigate all options and develop an offering that goes above and beyond while complying with relevant legislation” and had “sought to ensure the best experience possible for disabled users”.

The price of an accessible room on the service includes the use of accessible showers at the company’s own first class lounges at Dundee, Inverness, Fort William, Leuchars, Perth and Stirling, and to shower facilities run by other rail providers at London Euston, Glasgow Central, Edinburgh Waverley and Aberdeen.

9 May 2019

 

 

Visitors to new wing ‘will feel the power of the disability protest movement’

A new archive and learning zone dedicated to the disability arts movement is set to inspire a new generation of young people to fight for their rights.

The National Disability Arts Collection and Archive (NDACA) facility was launched last week at the High Wycombe campus of Buckinghamshire New University, and features more than 3,500 pieces of artwork, most of which is stored in digital or physical form in the archive.

It is the first study space to be dedicated to learning about the disability arts movement, and it includes both an archive repository and the NDACA learning wing, which features original pieces from the disability arts movement.

The idea behind the learning zone was to create a physical experience that recreates what it was like to be involved in the early years of the disability arts movement in the 1980s and 1990s.

The hope is that it will encourage both disabled and non-disabled people to learn more about the movement’s contribution to the fight for rights and to changing how disabled people are viewed by society.

So there are artefacts such as Tony Heaton’s Shaken Not Stirred sculpture, which has been recreated using the original charity collection cans, and which played a key part in the 1992 Block Telethon protest against ITV’s charity Telethon and its “patronizing position of disabled people as pitiful receivers of charity”.

There are photographs and newspaper cuttings from the direct action protests of the Campaign for Accessible Transport, which helped lead to the first Disability Discrimination Act in 1995.

There are also copies of every edition of Disability Arts in London (DAIL) magazine, which was published by London Disability Arts Forum – set up in 1986 to provide a cultural wing of the disabled people’s movement – and a library of books and other literature.

And visitors can take away free tee-shirts with slogans from the disabled people’s movement, such as Piss On Pity and Proud Angry Strong, and Tear Down The Walls and Not Dead Yet fridge magnets.

There are also hydraulic desks for wheelchair-users; a chill-out room, featuring NDACA cushions; and tactile versions of Heaton’s Shaken Not Stirred and Great Britain from a Wheelchair sculptures.

The archive room includes almost all of Tanya Raabe-Webber’s Who’s WhO collection of portraits of leading disabled figures, tee-shirts donated by activists who took part in disability rights protests, and boxes and boxes of other artefacts, such as magazines, postcards and photographs.

The opening of the learning zone and archive room is just the latest stage in a project that stretches back more than 30 years to conversations between Heaton, NDACA’s founder, and fellow disabled artist Allan Sutherland about the need for a collection and archive that would capture the history of the disability arts movement and ensure that key artefacts were not lost for ever.

A 364-page timeline of the disability arts movement, written by Sutherland, will soon be added to the NDACA website and will be available to download, while there will also be a physical copy of it in the NDACA learning zone.

The close links between the disability arts movement and the wider disabled people’s movement are clear throughout the NDACA wing.

There are exhibits such as a framed copy of Vic Finkelstein’s Fundamental Principles of Disability, and a black and white photograph featuring many of the movements’ leading figures, such as Barbara Lisicki, Colin Barnes, Alan Holdsworth, Vic Finkelstein, Sutherland and Heaton, Mike Oliver, Anne Rae, David Hevey, and Adam Reynolds.

Students and staff at the university will use the facilities for their own learning and teaching, while postgraduate students from other universities are already visiting the collection.

Members of the public will also be able to visit the NDACA learning zone by booking in advance, and can make appointments through the NDACA website.

There are also plans for artefacts from the archive, including some of Raabe’s portraits, to tour the country and hopefully be exhibited internationally.

Hevey, the NDACA project and creative director and chief executive of Shape Arts, which is delivering the project – whose photography features in the archive – said the message of the learning zone was “simple but not simplistic” and about the removal of barriers in society.

The NDACA wing is, he said, “full of character” and “a space in which you can feel the power of the disability protest movement”.

The disability arts movement helped to make disabled people more visible in society, he said, and helped usher in the Disability Discrimination Act in 1995.

He said: “It challenged society, achieved great social change and inspired a remarkable body of creative work.”

Hevey, probably best known for producing and directing BBC’s 1997 ground-breaking history series The Disabled Century, said the success of the disability arts movement was “clearly a message to contemporary disabled people facing barriers and fighting for justice and fighting reactionary positions and austerity”.

He said: “We want people to say, ‘Yes, disabled people are winners and they can change the world.’

If this helps to contribute to the fight against austerity, that’s OK by me.”

He added: “Victories are worth promoting. I think it will inspire a new generation to say, ‘If they can win, we can win.’”

Funding for the project has mainly come from the National Lottery Heritage Fund – which contributed more than £850,000 – with other funding from Arts Council England and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The NDACA project has already seen the launch of its interactive website, which allows visitors to access digital copies of some of the movement’s most significant work, read essays about significant disabled artists, and by the end of this year will also feature about 50 short films.

Heaton said: “The learning wing is the realisation of a dream I had more than 30 years ago – to collect the unique heritage, and demonstrate the power, of the disability arts movement.

One that fought barriers, helped change the law and made great culture about those struggles.”

Alex Cowan, NDACA’s archivist, has worked with significant figures in the disability arts movement over the last three years to identify “standout material” from their personal collections.

He said: “I am proud to have been able to participate in a cultural movement that has shaped British art, society and politics and to have played my part in highlighting disabled people’s long struggle for individual and collective recognition.”

The university’s link with NDACA originally came through the music theatre company Signdance Collective, which was previously the university’s resident theatre company.

The university has other close links with the creative and cultural industries, and three of its film and television production students have worked voluntarily as runners on some of the short films produced as part of the NDACA project.

Professor Nick Braisby, the university’s vice-chancellor, said: “We are proud to host the NDACA wing, which represents the significant importance of the disability arts movement and all that it achieved.

We look forward to welcoming researchers to the university, and giving our students and staff access to the archive which will inform our curriculum and teaching across our course portfolio.”

Stuart Hobley, head of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, London, said NDACA was “a major milestone for disability heritage”, with its “stories of ordinary people who led extraordinary lives and changed the UK’s arts and political landscape”.

He said: “A core aim of all National Lottery funded projects is to make heritage accessible to as many people as possible and this archive and learning wing is a fantastic example of how this can be achieved.”

9 May 2019

 

 

UN’s torture committee probes UK on ‘grim and unacceptable truths’

A UN body has been questioning the UK government this week on the “grim and unacceptable truth” that disabled people and other groups are still being subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment – and even torture – in taxpayer-funded services.

The UK and devolved governments have been scrutinised for two days by the UN’s committee against torture (UNCAT) over their record on torture and ill-treatment in the UK and abroad.

Among the evidence being considered by UNCAT is a report by a coalition of civil society groups and experts, including Disability Rights UK and the National Survivor User Network (NSUN), while NSUN has also submitted its own separate evidence.

In its own submission, NSUN tells the committee of the “destitution” and “inhuman and degrading treatment” caused by the government’s austerity policies, and the “disproportionate and often devastating impact” of those measures on people with mental distress.

NSUN also calls on the UK government to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

And it says the government must invest in services and resources so as to make progress in stopping detentions and forced treatment, particularly by investing in alternative and user-led services, in order to end the “inhumane approach” of current mental health law and the failings of the Mental Health Act (MHA).

In a short oral submission – she and others were given just one minute 10 seconds each to deliver their presentations – NSUN’s Dorothy Gould told the committee in Geneva on Monday: “Following visits from the UNCRPD in 2015 and 2017 and last year’s visit from the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, there cannot be any doubt that levels of destitution in the UK amount to inhumane treatment and that people with mental health diagnoses have been disproportionately affected.”

She added: “Discrimination and hate crime against us are also prevalent, intersectional crime still more so.

It is hard, too, to see current mental health legislation in the UK as anything other than inhumane.

Under this legislation, the use of detention in psychiatric institutions and forced treatment is misinterpreted as care.

These measures are employed at the very times when we are most vulnerable and despite serious challenges to the scientific basis for psychiatric diagnoses and medication.

We are also detained on the basis of potential risks to others, although no-one else is detained on this basis.”

The following day, UNCAT ‎members posed detailed questions to the UK delegation, while yesterday (Wednesday) there were further questions from the committee and responses from government representatives.

Committee members will now consider the evidence they have received before preparing their concluding observations on the UK’s progress in implementing the convention.

Among that evidence is the civil society coalition report, which was compiled by the international human rights organisation REDRESS and was targeted at the UK and Welsh governments, and which raised several key concerns about the treatment of disabled people.

Among them is the rise of more than a third in the number of detentions under MHA since 2010, the disproportionate use of MHA on black and minority ethnic groups, and the number of people with learning difficulties and autistic people detained in long-stay hospitals, as well as the use of tasers in mental health settings.

It also raises concerns about the use of restraint and seclusion on disabled children in schools, including autistic pupils, and calls on the UK to abolish all methods of restraint against children for disciplinary purposes in all institutional settings, including special schools, and to ensure it is used against children only to prevent harm to the child or others and only as a last resort.

Another issue highlighted in the report is neglect and ill-treatment in care homes, and the need for local authorities to have enough funds “to sufficiently investigate and address allegations of abuse”.

The REDRESS report also highlights the level of unreported disability hate crime, and the fall in disability hate crime prosecutions, as well as the failure to make reasonable adjustments for disabled prisoners, including those who are deaf.

Sue Bott, deputy chief executive of DR UK, said: “It’s hard to believe that some disabled people are subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment in services funded by the taxpayer, yet that is the grim and unacceptable truth.

Rigorous training for health and social care staff in the [UN disability convention], and relevant UK legislation including the Mental Capacity Act, would go some way to improving the way disabled people are treated.

It would also help change a culture which persists in providing so-called care services which are woefully inadequate, and does little to help support disabled people to live independently.”

In its own report to UNCAT, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) – which funded REDRESS’s report – calls for action in areas such as the criteria for detaining people under MHA, the use of restraint, the impact of the UK government’s legal aid reforms on access to justice, and hate crime.

It also calls on the UK and Welsh governments to monitor the impact of cuts to adult social care on older and disabled people, including their right to live independently, and calls on them to develop plans to “progressively close gaps in meeting needs”.

David Isaac, EHRC’s chair, said: “Everyone has the right to be free from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment. That is an absolute right.

Failing to adequately protect people from such dangerous and harmful acts is not only a moral failure but breaches our existing international legal obligations.

Improving Britain’s record on preventing ill-treatment in our own country is essential if we want to maintain our long-held reputation as a champion of equality and human rights globally.”

The 10 independent experts who sit on UNCAT are responsible for monitoring how countries including the UK are implementing the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

In his opening statement to the committee this week (PDF), the head of the UK government delegation, Paul Candler, said the UK government “consistently and unreservedly condemns torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” and raises concerns about it “wherever and whenever it occurs”.

He said: “The UK has a longstanding tradition of ensuring rights and liberties are protected domestically, and of fulfilling our international human rights obligations, including through dialogues such as this one.”

He said that the UK’s decision to leave the European Union (EU) would not change its commitment to “protect and respect human rights and liberties”, and he said it had no plans to repeal or reform the Human Rights Act after the UK leaves the EU, and that it had “reaffirmed its commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights”.

9 May 2019

 

 

Action on Hearing Loss defends holding comedy fundraiser in inaccessible venue

A disability charity has refused to apologise for holding a fundraising comedy night in an inaccessible London venue.

Action on Hearing Loss (formerly known as RNID) was raising money as part of its Deaf Awareness Week with an evening of stand-up at The Comedy Store in London.

Performers included Samantha Baines, Angela Barnes, Eshaan Akbar, Ed Gamble, Russell Howard and John Bishop, three of whom have hearing loss themselves.

But the venue chosen by the charity is not accessible to many disabled people, with The Comedy Store warning on its website that it only has a “chair lift” which “cannot bear the weight of a person in a wheelchair”.

This means that any wheelchair-user “must be able to leave their wheelchair, descend via the chairlift, then retake their wheelchair once at the bottom of the stairs”, so “large electric wheelchairs are unable to gain access” to the auditorium.

Alan Benson, a disabled campaigner and activist from London, said: “Funding is a challenge for everyone so events like this are very important, but it’s vital that we get them right.

In a society that routinely discriminates against disabled people we must make sure that we support each other and run fully inclusive events.

I know that those with hearing impairments routinely face barriers to participation so I would have hoped for better.”

Benson, who uses an electric wheelchair himself, added: “London has many great accessible venues so there is no excuse not to use them.

By using venues like The Comedy Store, we validate their inadequate provision.

To justify the event by saying it was accessible to some disabled people is simply not good enough.”

When questioned about the inaccessible venue, Action on Hearing Loss (AHL) refused to apologise or say why the event was held in a venue which was not accessible for many wheelchair-users.

It also refused to say what kind of message that decision sent to wheelchair-users with high support needs, and whether it suggested that raising money and “awareness” of AHL’s work was more important than including people who use electric wheelchairs.

But a spokesperson said in a statement: “At the launch of Deaf Awareness Week, it was important that the charity gave people with deafness and hearing loss the opportunity to attend an iconic comedy venue that has played host to some of the most famous performers in the world.

To achieve this, the show was supported by BSL interpreters, live subtitling and a hearing loop.

But it was not just those with deafness and hearing loss who came to the show, people with various disabilities were also in attendance, including those using wheelchairs.

We are committed to breaking down the barriers that prevent inclusivity for all and we will continue to work with venues to help improve their accessibility.”

9 May 2019

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 Posted by at 15:27
May 072019
 

Call for collaboration – to go out to disabled people’s organizations/networks

Technology often promises to make life easier, but what will the future look like for disabled people with complex care needs? What about when services are managed and monitored using algorithms, and robotic systems start to replace care workers? What if these tools were made to enable rationing and automation of care services? Alternatively, what if these technologies and services were designed by and for disabled people to promote Independent Living and meet their actual social care needs?

A group at Loughborough University wants to ask these kinds of questions and is looking for disabled technology users to collaborate on starting a research project.

If you are interested in getting involved, let us know how to get in touch with you:

Saul Albert

s.b.albert@lboro.ac.uk

07941255210

01509228876

Skype:saulalbert

 Posted by at 23:01
May 072019
 

Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance Logo

One Day Conference on UK Disability and Development Cooperation for Disabled People and Representatives of Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs)

Saturday 1st June 2019

Student Central, University of London Union, Malet St, London, WC1E 7HY

11am – 4pm

Purpose

To discuss:

    • DFID Disability Inclusion strategy – challenges and opportunities for DPOs – members of DfID staff will be presenting their strategy followed by workshops
    • Role of DPOs in international development – history and context (UNCPRD Art 32)
    • International cooperation with DPOs – barriers and facilitators
    • Sharing learning and ideas on how to facilitate international cooperation between UK based DPOs and DPOs in developing countries

To Decide:

  • How UK DPO’s should be represented internationally
  • What structure do we need?
  • Representatives to United Nations CoSP and Relaunch of Commonwealth Disabled People’s Forum
  • Representation to European Disability Forum

 

To book your free place: https://www.inclusionlondon.org.uk/training-and-support/powerup/view/one-day-conference-on-uk-disability-and-international-development/

For more information contact: info@rofa.org.uk

Participation is free for disabled people/DPOs and travel expenses will be covered by DfID/ROFA

 Posted by at 22:58
May 042019
 

DPAC North East London Logo

Are you a disabled person or ally living anywhere in North or East London?

Do you want to get involved in the campaign to defend our rights and build a more inclusive society?

If this sounds like you – Then join our open meeting to launch

North & East London DPAC

Thursday 30th May

Islington Town Hall

7PM

DPAC – Disabled People Against Cuts is a user-led campaign network of disabled people who have over the last decade been at the centre of the anti – austerity movement.

DPAC engages in lobbying, media campaigns & non-violent direct action.

North & East London DPAC will be a coalition of local groups and people from Boroughs in each of these regions of London

This meeting is intended to hear from disabled people from each borough, what the priority issues are in their areas, & how we can support each other to take action around these issues.

You don’t need to have any special skills or experience of campaigning to take part. You don’t need to be part of an existing network or group.

North & East London DPAC would like to be as inclusive and accessible as is possible. Please contact us by email on

nelondondpac@gmail.com

If you have any access requirements

This is an open meeting for all disabled people and allies who want to take collective action.

Islington Town Hall is wheelchair accessible including platform lifts and accessible toilets

Nearest step free station is Kings Cross. If you are coming from the north, Canonbury station is step free. A 30 bus from either station will take you directly to Islington Town Hall.

Buses: 19, 4, 30, 43

 Posted by at 21:29
May 022019
 

Nursing body failed to deal fairly with PIP assessment complaints, says regulator

A regulator has found widespread mishandling by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) of complaints it has received about the way nurses working for government contractors have carried out disability benefit assessments.

In an annual review of the NMC, the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) found that nearly every one of the 28 complaint cases it examined in detail showed potential for undermining public confidence in its work.

It said NMC’s failure to deal fairly with complaints about nurses carrying out personal independence payment (PIP) assessments had “significant implications” for the system that decides whether nurses are “fit to practise”.

And it said these failings had had “a significant impact on the fairness, transparency and focus on public protection” of NMC’s fitness to practise system.

NMC had told the investigators that only two of 83 complaints about nurses carrying out PIP assessments for government contractors Capita and Atos had led to a full investigation in 2017-18.

After receiving those figures, PSA decided to carry out its own audit of PIP assessment complaints made to NMC, looking at one-third of the 83 cases.

It reviewed 28 of them and found that 26 had been closed at the initial screening stage, while another was closed by the case examiners with no further action, and one led to a published warning*.

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

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

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

PSA, which oversees the UK’s nine health and care professional regulatory organisations, concluded that NMC’s failure in at least two cases “might not be sufficient to protect the public”, while it was unable to reach a conclusion on public protection in another nine cases.

And it found that the handling of 24 of the 28 cases “might undermine confidence” in NMC.

PSA acted after hearing concerns from disabled people that NMC was dismissing concerns about nurses, even when claimants were saying there were witnesses to the nurse’s actions or they had taken a recording of their face-to-face PIP assessment.

But PSA also criticised NMC’s failure to tell disabled people who had raised concerns about their assessments that they should ask the Department for Work and Pensions for a mandatory reconsideration of the decision made on their PIP claim.

And it said that NMC often failed to tell those who had made complaints to come back to PSA if any concerns about a nurse’s fitness to practise were identified by DWP after it had been asked to look again at their case.

The PIP failings contributed to NMC failing on two of the standards for “good regulation for fitness to practise”.

Andrea Sutcliffe, NMC’s chief executive, said in a statement: “I’m sorry that our approach to a small number of PIP related cases fell short of what is expected.

Our failure to fully address the concerns of some people making complaints and the lack of clarity in our decision making was not good enough.  

Since 2018 we have taken action. This includes additional training for those making and communicating case decisions, as well as a new quality assurance approach to the way we initially review cases.

We are committed to treating everyone who brings concerns to us with dignity and respect and in 2018 established the Public Support Service to strengthen our support for members of the public.

I do not believe that the NMC set out to discriminate against disabled people. While we accept we did not handle some of these cases as well as we could have done, our values are focused on fairness.

Prior to the PSA’s report, we had reviewed the cases in detail and we will now consider the final report and decide whether any further regulatory action is required.”

PSA said it recognised that the NMC “accepts the issues of concern that we have identified and is working to address them” and added: “We support its work and will monitor progress.”

A PSA spokesperson said a copy of the report would be passed to DWP “as a courtesy, as they are mentioned a number of times within the report”, while it would also be shared with the Department of Health and Social Care.

He said he was unable to provide any details about the cases PSA audited.

And he said he could not say whether PSA would also now look at how NMC has dealt with complaints about nurses who have carried out work capability assessments (WCAs), and whether it would take a similarly detailed look at how the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) has dealt with complaints about PIP assessments and WCAs.

Last year, PSA concluded in an annual review of HCPC that there were “issues of concern” with the way it dealt with complaints about physiotherapists and paramedics carrying out PIP assessments.

PSA had agreed to act after being contacted in 2017 by disabled activist Mark Lucas, who had twice appealed successfully against the results of what he believed were dishonest PIP assessments. 

PSA said last year that HCPC was “undertaking an action plan” to address the concerns it had raised about its fitness to practise processes, and that it would probably review further HCPC cases in detail over the next couple of years.

Disability News Service (DNS) spent months investigating allegations of dishonesty at the heart of the PIP assessment system, hearing eventually from more than 250 disabled people in less than a year about how they had been unfairly deprived of PIP.

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

*A published warning is handed out if there is a “real possibility” that NMC’s fitness to practise committee would find a nurse’s fitness to practise impaired but there is “no current need to restrict their practice because [they have] accepted the regulatory concern, shown insight, and… put any problems in their practice right through remediation, where relevant”

2 May 2019

 

DWP and assessors fail to refer claimants at risk of harm to social services, research finds

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and its private sector contractors have been failing for years to alert local authorities to concerns about benefit claimants whose safety was at risk, “shocking” new research has shown.

Years of previous research have shown how government social security reforms have often caused serious harm to disabled people claiming benefits, or even led to their deaths.

But only 25 of 80 council social services departments across England, Scotland and Wales said they had received a single safeguarding alert from DWP over the last three years, freedom of information (FoI) responses have shown.

The record of DWP’s three private sector outsourcing companies was even worse, with Maximus – which carries out work capability assessments (WCAs) on behalf of the department – failing to make a single safeguarding referral to any of the 80 social services departments.

Atos and Capita – which both assess claimants for person independence payment (PIP) – made just two referrals each over three years.

The FoI requests were submitted by disabled campaigner and former safeguarding expert Mike Owen, who has become increasingly concerned about the failure of staff working for DWP and its contractors to alert local social services departments when a benefit claimant’s safety is at risk.

He said he was “deeply shocked” by the figures, which showed “a massive failure” by DWP to support people in vulnerable situations.

Owen said the figures showed yet again the need for an independent inquiry into links between DWP and the deaths of claimants, and for any evidence of criminal misconduct to be passed to the police, as called for by the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition*.

He said: “My research shows the clear need for an inquiry to take place due to the levels of which both the Department for Work and Pensions and its outsourced private assessment providers have ignored serious concerns raised by the claimants and medical professionals about their health and wellbeing.”

He highlighted the case of Stephen Smith, who died last week, months after he was found fit for work by DWP, despite being in hospital with such severe health problems that his weight had fallen to six stone.

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

Owen decided to carry out his research mainly because of the injustice he faced when disclosing to DWP that he was a survivor of child sexual exploitation and was experiencing significant mental health issues because of that trauma.

He said he had been told by DWP that “sensitive” issues like his are not passed on to assessment providers, which he said can mean that the companies are not aware of the need to make certain adjustments to ensure their safety.

One DWP PIP manager even told him: “Safeguarding is not my responsibility.”

But DWP’s own internal guidance says that if a claimant who is at greater than normal risk of abuse or neglect “faces clear and significant risks to their welfare or safety”, such as the risk of injury, ill-treatment, abuse, neglect or exploitation, staff should “take any reasonable steps which [they] feel are necessary in order to address these risks… without any undue delay”.

The guidance adds: “You should volunteer information which is directly relevant to the issue of concern to Social Services, Social Work Department in Scotland or the police, as appropriate, without the customer’s or individual’s consent.”

But of the 80 local authorities that sent Owen figures for the whole three-year period he requested, only 25 said they had received any referrals from DWP between January 2016 and January 2019.

In total, there were just 111 DWP referrals in three years across the 25 councils, with 17 of them being sent to one Scottish local authority – North Ayrshire – 15 to Staffordshire County Council, and 11 to Newcastle City Council.

So far, more than 50 other councils have been unable to comply with Owen’s FoI request in full or in part.

Owen’s research is just the latest evidence of the failure of government ministers to ensure the safety of benefit claimants over the last decade.

In March, the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition* was launched, calling for an independent inquiry into deaths linked to DWP failings, and for the department to “urgently change its policies and administration of social security benefits to make the safety of all claimants a priority”.

The petition has so far secured nearly 38,000 signatures, and needs to reach 100,000 to be considered for a House of Commons debate.

In January, Disability News Service (DNS) revealed how ministers had failed to include DWP in a new cross-government plan aimed at reducing suicides, despite years of evidence linking such deaths with the disability benefits system and social security reforms.

The following month, Owen told DNS how he had been informed by a senior Maximus executive that the company did not have a safeguarding policy, nearly four years after taking on the WCA contract, although it claimed it was in the process of creating one.

In February, the Independent Case Examiner found that DWP had failed five times to follow its own safeguarding rules in the weeks leading up to the suicide of Jodey Whiting, a disabled woman with a long history of mental distress who had had her out-of-work disability benefits stopped for missing a WCA, and took her own life just 15 days later.

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

This week, DWP denied that Owen’s research suggested that it was failing to ensure the safety of the disabled people it assessed for disability benefits or that it needed to take urgent action to guarantee this safety.

But a DWP spokesperson admitted that the department kept no central record of how many safeguarding referrals were made, because they were “made locally by staff on a case by case basis”.

He said the department did not know how or if each council recorded its data and therefore the FoI responses could not be an accurate portrayal of when referrals were made.

He said: “We have clear guidance on making referrals to local authorities for all DWP staff dealing with claimants, to ensure vulnerable claimants get the support they need, however we cannot control how or if local authorities record these.

It would not be accurate therefore to compare responses from councils on the number of recorded referrals, to those actually made by the department.”

Atos refused to say why it had made so few safeguarding referrals to local authorities, and whether the figures suggested the company was failing to ensure the safety of the disabled people it assessed.

But an Atos spokesperson said in a statement: “We take the safety of claimants seriously and follow DWP guidance to alert their GP to any concerns we identify.”

Maximus also refused to answer the questions or say whether its failings were connected with the company’s previous failure to have a written safeguarding policy in relation to the disabled people it assessed for benefits.

A Maximus spokesperson said in a statement: “We have always trained our staff to identify safeguarding issues, and all concerns are referred to the customer’s GP or the appropriate authorities.”

Capita refused to comment.

Owen said he was shocked by these responses, and added: “It is highly inappropriate for the private assessment providers to refer safeguarding concerns to the claimants’ GPs because it could delay any safeguarding needs that need to be urgently met.”

And he said he was pleased DWP had admitted not recording safeguarding referrals centrally because that was one of the measures that needed to be introduced.

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

2 May 2019

 

No 10 access information will remain secret… because of terrorist threat

Documents that could reveal why the government has refused to remove the two iconic – and inaccessible – steps that lead to the front door of 10 Downing Street will not be released, because of a risk that the information could be useful to terrorists.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has told Disability News Service (DNS) that although some information does exist, it does not need to be released by Historic England because doing so could cause “a direct or immediate threat to the UK”.

The information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, even visited Historic England to view the documents because of their “sensitive nature”.

DNS has been trying for more than 18 months – through freedom of information (FoI) requests – to discover what discussions have taken place about the possibility of removing the steps.

Although there is step-free access at the rear of 10 Downing Street, wheelchair-users wishing to use the front door must rely on a portable ramp.

DNS has also tried to obtain information from the Cabinet Office, but it has insisted that the only relevant recorded information was in a draft memo that said that increasing the size of an internal lift had “improved accessibility”.

Despite this claim, Historic England has previously told DNS that the Cabinet Office was “rolling out a programme of improvements to the grade I listed complex to proactively address disabled access” and that an “accessibility audit is still being worked through”.

Now ICO has decided that Historic England – the government-sponsored public body responsible for “championing England’s heritage” – was right not to release relevant documents it holds about access at 10 Downing Street.

It said Historic England was correct to rely on regulation 12 (5) (a) of the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR), which provides an exemption to its usual duty to release such information for reasons relating to “international relations, defence, national security or public safety”.

An ICO senior case officer told DNS: “The withheld information does reveal a greater level of detail about No 10 than is currently publicly available and it cannot be dismissed that this information could be of use to individuals wanting to commit acts of terrorism.”

She said Denham was aware of “the importance of disability access to public buildings and the need to address poor provision” and so “accepts that there is an argument in favour of disclosure of information relating to information concerning such access to No 10 to demonstrate the actions taken for inclusive access to such a significant building”.

But Denham has decided that the public interest in ensuring the safety of No 10, and individuals there and in the surrounding area, “clearly outweighs the public interest” in releasing the information.

A government spokesperson refused to comment on the information commissioner’s ruling, but she said in a statement: “We are committed to improving access to Downing Street and have recently installed a new lift and more accessible toilets as part of work to improve facilities in this historic building.”

An Historic England spokesperson said: “We are aware that the information commissioner has agreed with our decision to withhold information relating to the accessibility audit at Number 10 Downing Street.

We will continue to work closely with Cabinet Office on the important process of improving access to this significant complex of buildings.”

2 May 2019

Hancock appears to rule out sweeping changes to social care funding system

The health and social care secretary appears to have ruled out sweeping changes to the funding system for adult social care.

Matt Hancock, giving evidence about the adult social care funding crisis to a House of Lords committee on Tuesday, told peers that he saw a “series of injustices” in the system but was “more attracted to options that build and directly improve on the system than ripping the whole thing up and starting from scratch”.

He had earlier confirmed to the Lords economic affairs committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the funding of social care in England, that the government’s green paper had been delayed yet again due to the parliamentary Brexit crisis.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) originally promised that the green paper would be published by the end of 2017, and then July last year, before delaying it to the autumn and then the end of 2018.

After missing the December 2018 deadline, it was delayed until “the earliest opportunity” in 2019, before Hancock told MPs it would be published by April.

Now that deadline has been missed as well, and Hancock said he could only promise that it was “coming in due course”.

He added: “I wish that the green paper had been published by now and we are continuing to work on it in the department because this is such an important issue and a longstanding policy problem that needs to be tackled.”

He also ruled out proposals that would change the system to one that was solely funded nationally, with no financing by local authorities, saying: “I don’t agree with that.”

And he suggested that the green paper – when it was finally published – was unlikely to include a definitive plan for how he believed adult social care funding should be reformed.

He said: “What I would like to do is bring forward a green paper that can bring together the debate, because it does have to be cross-party, and bring that debate behind a direction of travel where we can make progress.”

But he did stress to the committee that the funding crisis affected both working-age adults and children, as well as older people, pointing out – as many politicians fail to do – that about 50 per cent of local authority funding in this area is spent on working-age adult social care.

And he also said he wanted to see more funding for home-based support, rather than residential care.

He said: “I think there’s a big difference and a big opportunity to make social care better, better for the individual being cared for and better value for money, by a shift from residential to domiciliary care.

Domiciliary care is cheaper than residential care. People want to stay at home for as long as possible.”

He added: “That sort of thing is much easier to fix than the long-term ‘who’s going to pay for it?’ and that will get a mention in the green paper no doubt.”

He accepted that there was often a financial incentive for councils to place older and disabled people into residential care because it can allow the local authority to take account of a family home as a financial asset when deciding how much the person should pay towards their care, which it cannot do if they remain in their own home.

He told peers: “What we do know is that more people go into residential care than is clinically justified and that domiciliary care is on average… better as well as being better value for money.”

Hancock said that “taxpayer” funding would “inevitably be part of the solution” but that he believed it was “impossible” to put an “exact figure” on how much would be needed, and that he could not confirm that there would be an increase in taxpayer funding for the system because of the government’s forthcoming spending review.

He said the government had put an extra £10 billion into social care over the last three years, while its spending was £3.9 billion higher this year in real terms than in 2015-16, a nine per cent real terms increase.

Two years ago, the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities warned the UK was “going backwards” on independent living, and called on the government to draw up a “comprehensive plan” to address the problem, and to take “urgent action” to ensure disabled people were provided with “adequate support to live independent lives”.

2 May 2019

 

 

MPs must speak out on criminal probe into DWP death links, say activists

MPs have been asked why they are failing to speak out to back calls for a police investigation into alleged criminal misconduct by ministers and civil servants that may have led to the deaths of benefit claimants.

The Justice for Jodey Whiting petition* calls for an independent inquiry into deaths linked to failings by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and for any evidence of criminal misconduct by civil servants or government ministers to be passed to the police.

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

Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens – and now the SNP, although it does not accept that DWP is institutionally disablist – have all backed the petition, but no MP appears to have spoken publicly yet of the need for evidence of criminal misconduct to be passed to police.

The only such comments from a politician appear to have come from Jonathan Bartley, the co-leader of the Greens, who is not an MP, but has made it clear that he believes DWP has “blood on its hands”.

Disabled activists have now questioned why MPs have been so reluctant to mention this key element of the petition, and they have called on them to speak out about the need for justice for those who have died.

Eight families of disabled people whose deaths have been linked to DWP failings have so far backed the petition, and its call for any evidence of criminal misconduct that comes from an inquiry to be passed to police.

Denise McKenna, co-founder of the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), said: “MHRN is determined that there will eventually be a criminal investigation into benefit deaths, however long we have to wait.

There is a huge amount of evidence that many deaths have been a direct result of the actions of the DWP following the policies of this government.

Are those who are implicated in these deaths above the law? Are there people in government and government departments who can do whatever harm they want with impunity?

Disabled people will fight for such an investigation; we will continue to do so even if it takes years to get one.

It seems strange and sad that MPs have not been calling for this to happen now.

Why drag this out for disabled people and the families of those who have lost their loved ones?

MHRN want MPs to act now to make this investigation happen as soon as possible. Why should we have to wait any longer for what is inevitable?”

Bob Ellard, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), said: “Enough MPs know about the harm and death caused by the hostile environment against disabled people perpetrated by this government, but why haven’t they joined the supporters of the Jodey Whiting petition in calling for a criminal investigation?

Disabled people will be watching for MPs to join the call for a criminal investigation, and we’ll be watching who remains silent.”

John McArdle, co-founder of Black Triangle, said: “While MPs busy themselves obsessing with the ludicrous fiasco that is ‘Brexit’ we should like to remind them that sick and disabled people’s lives are being crushed under the weight of systems and policies that are driving disabled people into destitution, hunger, rent arrears, homelessness and, tragically, suicide.

This, too, requires their urgent, immediate, and undivided attention.

We think that it is unconscionable that we should be forced to jump through hoops to obtain the help and support that we have a right to expect from our elected representatives in the face of such a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Laura Stringhetti, of the WOWcampaign, said: “For the past nine years, we have heard of far too many deaths caused by the failings of the DWP.

Each of these deaths has left heartbroken families and friends behind.

Yet nothing has changed; on the contrary, with universal credit things are getting even worse.

The WOW Campaign believes that an independent inquiry into all the deaths linked to the DWP is needed; we must know if there has been any misconduct and we would like to see more MPs speaking out on this matter.

We have the feeling that a potential criminal investigation might sound extreme to some MPs but we strongly believe that we owe it to the victims and their families to find the truth of what happened and if there is a culture of negligence and victimisation in the DWP, this must be addressed now before we have any more unnecessary suffering.” 

The petition is backed by five grassroots groups: Black Triangle, DPAC, MHRN, the WOW Campaign and WinVisible, as well as Disability News Service.

Among the relatives backing the petition is Peter Carré, whose son Stephen took his own life in January 2010 after being found fit for work following a work capability assessment (WCA), with DWP failing to ask his GP or psychiatrist for further medical evidence that would have proved his eligibility.

His son’s death led to a coroner writing to DWP, just before the 2010 general election, warning that the “trigger” for Stephen’s decision to take his own life had been the decision to find him fit for work, and telling DWP to take action to prevent any further such deaths.

The coroner called for a review by DWP of “the decision not to seek medical advice from the claimant’s own GP or psychiatrist” if they have a mental health condition.

But Tory ministers failed to act on the coroner’s letter – or to produce a proper reply, despite their legal duty to do so – and instead pushed ahead with plans to reassess hundreds of thousands of people on old-style incapacity benefit through the WCA.

Research would later show that this use of the WCA to reassess claimants of incapacity benefit was “associated with” hundreds of suicides.

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

2 May 2019

 

One in seven rejected PIP claims is overturned, DWP figures show

One in seven of all government decisions to reject claims for personal independence payment (PIP) is eventually overturned, new figures obtained by Disability News Service (DNS) have revealed.

The figures show that, of all the PIP claims rejected by Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decision-makers in the year to June 2018, 14 per cent were eventually overturned because the decisions were found to have been wrong.

They also show that this rate of overturned rejections has continued to climb every year since 2014-15.

In the year to June 2015, eight per cent of rejected claims in that year were eventually overturned, rising to 12 per cent in the year to June 2016, and then 13 per cent in the year to June 2017.

Now they have risen again, to 14 year per cent of rejected claims in the year to June 2018, of which eight per cent were over-ruled at the mandatory reconsideration (MR) stage – where DWP civil servants review decisions, if requested – and another six per cent at tribunal.

The figures, secured through a DNS freedom of information request, could rise further as some appeals have not yet been heard.

And the true proportion of incorrect PIP decisions will be even higher, because many rejected claimants do not challenge those results, with DWP’s own research – published last autumn – showing that hundreds of thousands more claimants would have taken further steps to challenge the results of their claims if the system had been less stressful and more accessible.

As well as casting fresh doubt on the introduction of PIP in 2013 and how it has been managed by ministers over the last six years, the new figures also raise fresh concerns about the performance of outsourcing companies Atos and Capita, which are being paid hundreds of millions of pounds to assess PIP claimants.

The figure of 14 per cent is far higher than the statistics repeatedly used by the government to defend its reforms, with ministers often stating that about nine or 10 per cent of all PIP decisions have been appealed and only four or five per cent have been successfully overturned.

But those figures include the hundreds of thousands of successful claims, where a disabled person has received a fair decision and therefore has had no need to appeal.

When releasing the latest figures, DWP warned that they were “unpublished data”, “should be used with caution” and “may be subject to future revision”.

DWP this week declined to say whether the figures showed that the PIP assessment process was not fit for purpose, why the figures were continuing to rise, and whether it accepted that they provided a more accurate picture of how well the PIP assessment process was working than the figures usually given by ministers.

But a DWP spokesperson said in a statement: “3.9 million PIP decisions have been made and, of these, 10 per cent have been appealed and five per cent have been overturned.

As the secretary of state has said, we recognise that the number of people having their decision overturned is too high.

We will therefore do more to gather the evidence we need to make the right decision earlier, so that fewer claimants have to seek redress through tribunal.”

One of the demands of the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition is that MPs recognise that DWP is not fit for purpose. To sign the petition, click on this link. If you sign it, please note that you will need to confirm your signature by clicking on an email you will be sent automatically by the House of Commons petitions committee

2 May 2019

Commission highlights ‘double disadvantage’ faced by working-class disabled people

Disabled people from working-class backgrounds are three times less likely than non-disabled people from privileged backgrounds to be in higher-paid jobs, according to a new report from the Social Mobility Commission.

Only 21 per cent of disabled people from working-class backgrounds are in professional or managerial jobs, compared to 63 per cent of non-disabled people from a professional or managerial family background, says the report.

The figures are contained in the commission’s sixth state of the nation report, which was published this week and includes extensive analysis of Office for National Statistics data.

The report highlights the “double disadvantage” faced by disabled people from working-class backgrounds, who are half as likely to be in the highest-paying jobs as disabled people from professional and managerial family backgrounds.

It is the first time the commission has examined how class interacts with gender, ethnicity and disability to affect social mobility.

Its report says that women, disabled people and minority ethnic groups from working-class backgrounds “generally experience multiple disadvantages in occupational outcomes”.

But disabled people from more privileged backgrounds “still face a huge disadvantage” and are 30 per cent less likely to enter professional occupations in comparison to their non-disabled peers.

The commission also examined the impact of disability in education.

Its report highlights the practice of “off rolling” – removing children from the school roll – and warned that the incentive for schools to perform well in performance tables meant some headteachers “may off-roll pupils facing disadvantage just before their exam year”.

The report says: “The national proportion of students with special educational needs and disabilities is 13 per cent, whereas 30 per cent of pupils who leave their school between Year 10 and Year 11 (GCSE examination year) have special educational needs.

This is of concern, particularly given the intersection of disability and socio-economic disadvantage.

This indicates that the system may be having the effect of rewarding schools for ineffective and even unethical behaviour.”

The report also highlights concerns about the impact of school funding pressures on disabled pupils, and it warns that the “increasingly fragmented education system” can mean that single academy trusts and maintained schools find it difficult to buy in the support their disabled pupils need.

Although the commission produced no recommendations for how to address the barriers facing disabled people, it is believed to be publishing a report focusing on disability this summer.

The report concludes that social mobility has stagnated over the last four years at “virtually all stages from birth to work”.

It adds: “Being born privileged in Britain means that you are likely to remain privileged.

Being born disadvantaged, however, means that you will have to overcome a series of barriers to ensure that you and your children are not stuck in the same trap.”

The Social Mobility Commission is an advisory, non-departmental public body originally established by Labour’s Child Poverty Act 2010 as the Child Poverty Commission, but subsequently renamed under the Conservative-led coalition.

It has a duty to assess progress in improving social mobility in the UK and to promote social mobility in England.

2 May 2019

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 Posted by at 15:44
May 022019
 

Research shows ‘dramatic postcode lottery’ in independent living support

Disabled people’s support to live independently in England is subject to a “dramatic” postcode lottery, according to new research carried out by disabled activists.

The research by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) – based on freedom of information requests to councils across England – shows huge differences across local authorities in how the number of adults receiving social care support changed between 2010 and 2018.

But it also shows striking differences in the proportion of social care service-users who receive their council-funded support through direct payments, and in the financial contributions they must make to their care packages.

The research also provides further evidence of how many disabled people have had their care packages slashed following the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in June 2015.

Linda Burnip, a DPAC co-founder who helped carry out the research, said it showed “the desperate need for a national care service and care free at the point of delivery”.

She said: “It is not acceptable that the needs for support disabled people have can be met in different ways, or even not met at all, depending solely on where people live.”

Of local authorities that responded, the biggest increase in recipients of social care came in Peterborough, where the number of adults receiving social care rose between 2010 and 2018 by 131 per cent, contrasting with the London borough of Sutton where it fell by 55 per cent.

Nearly all councils that responded said that less than 30 per cent of service-users were receiving direct payments, with the lowest proportion in Bournemouth, with just five per cent, Portsmouth (six per cent) and Wolverhampton (seven per cent).

Of the 57 councils that were able to say how many former ILF-users had seen their care packages cut following the ILF closure, only 12 could calculate proportions and they varied from Wirral council (23 per cent saw a cut to their package) to Hounslow (83 per cent saw a cut).

Of the 57 councils, 10 said no care packages had been reduced, but three local authorities saw between 54 and 110 people have their support cut after the ILF closure.

Five of the councils said some former ILF-users had had their support cut after the closure but others they were responsible for had had their packages increased.

On charging, only one local authority in England – Hammersmith and Fulham – does not charge any service-users for support.

All the others take account of how much the person receives through the care component of disability living allowance or the daily living part of personal independence payment when assessing how much they must pay towards their care.

Only 16 of the 134 local authorities that answered the question said there was a maximum charge for the amount a disabled person could contribute to their care.

The lowest maximum charge was in Newham (£200 per week), while the highest was in Blackpool (£650 a week).

DPAC said the responses showed a postcode lottery “not just in relation to the amount of direct payments provided to meet eligible care and support needs but also in relation to how much people have to pay for any needs to be met”.

Last week, at a parliamentary meeting hosted by Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, Marsha de Cordova, the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) – of which DPAC is a member – set out its demands for a new national independent living support service that would eliminate the postcode lottery in support.

The meeting last Thursday (25 April) was also supported by the TUC disabled workers’ committee and DPAC.

ROFA’s position, first revealed in January, is based on principles laid out in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Article 19 of the convention describes how countries signed up to the treaty – like the UK – must recognise the right of all disabled people “to live in the community, with choices equal to others”.

ROFA wants a new national independent living support service to be free, non-means-tested, “provided on the basis of need, not profit”, and funded through general taxation, with a legal right to independent living, and accompanied by an independent living bill of rights.

And it wants to see a strategy for investment in local user-led services alongside the closure of institutionalised, segregated settings including long-stay hospitals and assessment and treatment units.

Mark Harrison, from ROFA, told the meeting that its vision for the future of independent living had been inspired by former ILF-users, some of whom had become “prisoners in their own homes” since its closure.

He warned about the “dangerous” moves towards the re-institutionalisation of disabled people, particularly in private-run assessment and treatment units.

And he called on Labour to work with disabled people now, ahead of drawing up its next general election manifesto, to co-produce an independent living service.

One disabled service-user who spoke at the meeting, Rob Surrey, said: “Members of the public just assume I get 24/7 support.

I don’t and I wouldn’t want that, but they assume if you are disabled and have high support needs you get all your needs met. That just isn’t true.

Care is like a postcode lottery – depending on where you live, it does depend on how many hours you might get given.

If the care budget was centralised and could be accessed from all over the country this could take away that lottery.”

2 May 2019

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 

 Posted by at 15:40
May 022019
 

MPs must speak out on criminal probe into DWP death links, say activists

MPs have been asked why they are failing to speak out to back calls for a police investigation into alleged criminal misconduct by ministers and civil servants that may have led to the deaths of benefit claimants.

The Justice for Jodey Whiting petition* calls for an independent inquiry into deaths linked to failings by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and for any evidence of criminal misconduct by civil servants or government ministers to be passed to the police.

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

Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens – and now the SNP, although it does not accept that DWP is institutionally disablist – have all backed the petition, but no MP appears to have spoken publicly yet of the need for evidence of criminal misconduct to be passed to police.

The only such comments from a politician appear to have come from Jonathan Bartley, the co-leader of the Greens, who is not an MP, but has made it clear that he believes DWP has “blood on its hands”.

Disabled activists have now questioned why MPs have been so reluctant to mention this key element of the petition, and they have called on them to speak out about the need for justice for those who have died.

Eight families of disabled people whose deaths have been linked to DWP failings have so far backed the petition, and its call for any evidence of criminal misconduct that comes from an inquiry to be passed to police.

Denise McKenna, co-founder of the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), said: “MHRN is determined that there will eventually be a criminal investigation into benefit deaths, however long we have to wait.

There is a huge amount of evidence that many deaths have been a direct result of the actions of the DWP following the policies of this government.

Are those who are implicated in these deaths above the law? Are there people in government and government departments who can do whatever harm they want with impunity?

Disabled people will fight for such an investigation; we will continue to do so even if it takes years to get one.

It seems strange and sad that MPs have not been calling for this to happen now.

Why drag this out for disabled people and the families of those who have lost their loved ones?

MHRN want MPs to act now to make this investigation happen as soon as possible. Why should we have to wait any longer for what is inevitable?”

Bob Ellard, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), said: “Enough MPs know about the harm and death caused by the hostile environment against disabled people perpetrated by this government, but why haven’t they joined the supporters of the Jodey Whiting petition in calling for a criminal investigation?

Disabled people will be watching for MPs to join the call for a criminal investigation, and we’ll be watching who remains silent.”

John McArdle, co-founder of Black Triangle, said: “While MPs busy themselves obsessing with the ludicrous fiasco that is ‘Brexit’ we should like to remind them that sick and disabled people’s lives are being crushed under the weight of systems and policies that are driving disabled people into destitution, hunger, rent arrears, homelessness and, tragically, suicide.

This, too, requires their urgent, immediate, and undivided attention.

We think that it is unconscionable that we should be forced to jump through hoops to obtain the help and support that we have a right to expect from our elected representatives in the face of such a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Laura Stringhetti, of the WOWcampaign, said: “For the past nine years, we have heard of far too many deaths caused by the failings of the DWP.

Each of these deaths has left heartbroken families and friends behind.

Yet nothing has changed; on the contrary, with universal credit things are getting even worse.

The WOW Campaign believes that an independent inquiry into all the deaths linked to the DWP is needed; we must know if there has been any misconduct and we would like to see more MPs speaking out on this matter.

We have the feeling that a potential criminal investigation might sound extreme to some MPs but we strongly believe that we owe it to the victims and their families to find the truth of what happened and if there is a culture of negligence and victimisation in the DWP, this must be addressed now before we have any more unnecessary suffering.” 

The petition is backed by five grassroots groups: Black Triangle, DPAC, MHRN, the WOW Campaign and WinVisible, as well as Disability News Service.

Among the relatives backing the petition is Peter Carré, whose son Stephen took his own life in January 2010 after being found fit for work following a work capability assessment (WCA), with DWP failing to ask his GP or psychiatrist for further medical evidence that would have proved his eligibility.

His son’s death led to a coroner writing to DWP, just before the 2010 general election, warning that the “trigger” for Stephen’s decision to take his own life had been the decision to find him fit for work, and telling DWP to take action to prevent any further such deaths.

The coroner called for a review by DWP of “the decision not to seek medical advice from the claimant’s own GP or psychiatrist” if they have a mental health condition.

But Tory ministers failed to act on the coroner’s letter – or to produce a proper reply, despite their legal duty to do so – and instead pushed ahead with plans to reassess hundreds of thousands of people on old-style incapacity benefit through the WCA.

Research would later show that this use of the WCA to reassess claimants of incapacity benefit was “associated with” hundreds of suicides.

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

2 May 2019

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 Posted by at 15:38
Apr 232019
 

NEWS!

DWP Deaths In Cambridge

Artist and DPAC activist, Vince Laws, has produced a series of ‘DWP Deaths Make Me Sick’ shrouds, many of which will be on display at Cambridge Junction on Friday 26 & Saturday 27 April 2019.

The ‘DWP Deaths Make Me Sick’ shrouds describe the circumstances of death of named people dealing with the DWP, and give more information about the current hostile environment for disabled people.

DWP Deatgs make me Sick Shrouuds by Vince Laws

The ‘DWP Deaths Make Me Sick’ shrouds were the backdrop to a live performance called ‘A Very Queer Nazi Faust’ put on by Laws and 13 Norfolk based disability rights activists at Norwich Arts Centre in September 2018. A Very Queer Nazi Faust was commissioned and supported by Unlimited, celebrating the work of disabled artists, with funding from Spirit of 2012.

In it, poet John Faust is suicidal. His benefits have been stopped without warning, the bailiffs are due to evict him, his dog is in the vets dying, his car needs a new clutch, and he can’t finish his poetic masterpiece while the voices inside his head torment him. In despair, he throws himself off Beeston Bump, Norfolk’s highest peak, clutching ‘The Tragic True Life & Deserved Death of a Benefit Scrounger by Himself’, but Lucifer won’t let John drown because she loves his work and wants a bigger part.

You can listen to the podcast free here: https://soundcloud.com/avqnf/the-tragic-true-life-deserved-death-of-a-benefit-scrounger-by-himself-john-faust-1

There is now a ‘DWP Deaths Make Me Sick’ Facebook page. Images of the 25 shrouds made so far are on the page, with the text printed under them. The shrouds will be on display around the UK in 2019.

The ‘DWP Deaths Make Me Sick’ shrouds describe the circumstances of death of named people dealing with the DWP. The 3 in this photo remember these 3 people: Paul Reekie. Suffered severe depression. Found Fit For Work by Atos. DWP Stopped his benefits. He committed suicide. Mark Wood. Found Fit For Work by Atos, Against his Doctor's Advice, Complex Mental Health, Benefits stopped, starved to death. DWP Deaths Make Me Sick. Just doing my job.' Linda Wooton. Heart & Lung Transplant patient. Died 9 Days After DWP Found her Fit For Work. DWP Deaths Make Me Sick. Just doing my job.

The ‘DWP Deaths Make Me Sick’ shrouds describe the circumstances of death of named people dealing with the DWP. The 3 in this photo remember these 3 people:
Paul Reekie. Suffered severe depression. Found Fit For Work by Atos. DWP Stopped his benefits. He committed suicide.
Mark Wood. Found Fit For Work by Atos, Against his Doctor’s Advice, Complex Mental Health, Benefits stopped, starved to death.
DWP Deaths Make Me Sick. Just doing my job.’
Linda Wooton. Heart & Lung Transplant patient. Died 9 Days After DWP Found her Fit For Work.
DWP Deaths Make Me Sick. Just doing my job.

I want to get them seen,” said Laws. “I feel the need to carry on screaming about the human rights abuses of this current Tory government. The shrouds are actually quite painful to make. I take breaks. They are very sad. But also very powerful because they are the truth.”

DWP Deaths Make Me Sick’ Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/DWPDeaths/

Anyone wishing to display some shrouds, get in touch with Vince Laws direct via vincelaws@gmail.com.

Vince Laws’ DWP Deaths Make Me Sick can be seen at Cambridge Junction on 26th & 27th April as part of I’m Here, Where Are You?, a new arts festival celebrating disabled artists across theatre, comedy, dance and visual art. For more information, please visit the website: https://www.junction.co.uk/im-here-where-are-you?spektrix_bounce=true

 Posted by at 14:40
Apr 182019
 

Following reports that Barnet council is to force disabled people into residential care to cut costs, there is a public meeting on Tuesday 21 May starts 6.30 8.30 Greek Cypriot centre, North Finchley, N12.

The aim is to do the following:

1. Raise the profile of this disgusting attack locally in Barnet
2. Raise awareness that it may be happening in other Councils
3. Agree a plan of what action should be taken at the next Adults and Safeguarding committee on Wednesday 5 June

 Posted by at 15:58
Apr 152019
 
Tuesday 21st May 6.15pm Bromley Civic Centre, Stockwell Close, Bromley Kent, BR1 3UH
nearest station is Bromley south station, station is accessible from platform to street level,
buses opposite the train station, 61, 358, 208. 314, 161, 314, 126 all go to the civic centre.
Protest against Tory Bromley Councillors refusal to support Muslim Community in Bromley in wake of Christchurch New Zealand Attacks or issue a statement on behalf of Bromley Council to condemn the attacks in Christchurch New Lealand, Protest by Bromley and Croydon Unite Community and Bromley DPAC Supported by Bromley Labour Group of Councillors, Bromley TUC, .
facebook event link for the protest:
 Posted by at 15:38
Apr 152019
 
Thursday 9th May 6.30pm Croydon Town Hall, to protest against proposed DWP planned PIP assessment centre.
Sub planning meeting takes place at 7.30 pm at Croydon Town Hall.
Town Hall, St Katherine Street, Croydon, CRO 1NX
nearest train station East Croydon Station, accessible from platform to street level.
Buses 119, go from bromley
from merton: tramlink from wimbledon,
buses:93 and 154 go to croydon town hall.
from wandsworth:270,264, 407
from camberwell: 468
facebook event link for protest: https://www.facebook.com/events/666393323815289/
media link to the reason behind the protest:
 Posted by at 15:35