ellen

Jun 082017
 

…via Skype.

This week we lost the beautiful, talented and ever brilliant Sophie Partridge, aka Ruby Pixie on twitter. Words can’t express how much she will be missed or how greatly the loss will be felt in both the art world and in the disabled people’s campaigning community.

So we are simply sharing Soph at her best, carrying on the fight for independent living and getting Russell Brand in on the campaign.

 

 

 Posted by at 01:20
Jun 052017
 

DPAC has today launched a series of short films for the final week of the #GE2017 election campaign. The films, generously produced for us by Tough and Rumble media production company, aim to expose the reality of so-called welfare reform and why this election matters so much to Deaf and Disabled People.

The series of four films have been published on the #DPAC Facebook page – please watch and share far and wide.

Here are the four films, please watch then and then share them far and wide:

David’s Story

Jenny Sealey’s Story


Andria’s Story

Jenny Hurst’s Story

You can also watch footage from the film preview Q & A with film-maker Anthony Swords and discussion with disability campaigner Jenny Hurst and DPAC’s Paula Peters which was held last night in the marginal constituency of Croydon Central.

 

May 012017
 

It’s doubtful that anyone reading the DPAC blog will be in any doubt that Deaf and Disabled people in the UK cannot afford the Tories to get re-elected in June. Since 2010 the Tories have relentlessly attacked Disabled people, hitting the same group of people again and again with cut after cut.

While inequality and poverty increased for Disabled people and the poorest in society, the rich have got richer. Since 2010 when the Tories took power the richest 100 people in Britain have increased their wealth by £55.5 billion. Meanwhile nearly half of the poverty in the UK is now directly associated with disability.

Despite the UK becoming the first country in the world to be found guilty of grave and systematic violations of Disabled people’s rights, the Tories are determined to push through their planned welfare savings and ideological dismantling of state support whatever the cost to us.

Already, just this year, changes to PIP brought in through emergency legislation to avoid Parliamentary scrutiny have taken essential support away from 164,000 people predominantly with mental health support needs, Employment and Support Allowance has been cut by a third for people in the Work Related Activity Group and in April the Government sneaked through three more hidden cuts affecting Disabled people.

At the same time, social care packages are being cut to the bone leaving Disabled people trapped indoors without choice, control, dignity or freedom. Over the Summer, the Department for Work and Pensions will be rolling out the new “Health and Work Conversation” to create an added barrier before Disabled claimants even reach the notorious Work Capability Assessment.

It is wrong to assume however that because the Tories have been getting away with this for so long that this is what the majority of the public wants. Most people are shocked and horrified when they find out what has taken place, incredulous that this can happen in the UK in the twenty first century and angry that anyone would and could pursue policies of, in Ken Loach’s words, such “conscious cruelty”. As I argued in a previous post, the majority of people would rather live in a fair and just society that values diversity and works for the benefit of the many rather than the few.

What we have at the moment is a system when power and wealth are in the hands of the elite and that includes control of the mainstream media and the ability to communicate misleading information and to distract from the real problems in society. Thus we find people blaming migrants and benefit scroungers instead of challenging the real enemies who are those who choose to put profit before people.

Precisely because we are the many and they are the few, the obstacles to achieving a fairer society are not insurmountable. Jeremy Corbyn’s two elections as leader of the Labour party in spite of everything the right wing of the party and the media threw at him, the second time with an increased mandate, show that united we can win.

But social justice and a fairer society are not things that will ever be handed to us on a plate, they have to be fought for.

With a General Election called and the prospect of another five years of Tory rule bringing with it insurance based systems to replace benefits and the NHS, now is one of those times when we have to step up and fight even harder because of the very real human cost that a loss will entail.

We all have a part to play in the coming weeks.

It is up to us all to do what we can to make sure the real information gets out there about what a Tory election will mean for Disabled people.

On 2nd May DPAC will be officially kicking off our election campaign to #TrashTheTories with our #NotTheFuckingTories protest: https://www.facebook.com/events/247652075641387.


We would like as many of you to join us as possible on the day but what is even more important is that members get out on the streets and your keyboards in the coming weeks to get that information out there to make anyone thinking of voting Tory or voting in a way that would help the Tories get in, think again.

The voices of Disabled people can and does make a difference. In the 2014 local elections the Disabled campaign group Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition Against Cuts ran street stalls to engage with the public and hand out information about how the cuts were impacting on local Disabled people and what the different local political parties were saying on disability issues. Unexpectedly, Labour unseated the Tory Council and followed through on honouring significant pledges they had made to Disabled voters before the election on issues such as abolishing home care charging.

We are asking all our members to think about what you can do and how you can help and encourage you to target marginal seats. There are some resources you may find useful at the end of this post. The media are often keen to cover stories about access to voting for Disabled people so do use this angle to get local attention.

Can you:

         Make sure your friends, neighbours and colleagues are registered to vote before the deadline on 22 May and plan to use their vote?

         Leaflet on street stalls or door to door with information about how important this election is to Deaf and Disabled people?

         Circulate information about what the different parties are saying on disability issues?

         Hold a local screening of I Daniel Blake with a Q and A after?

         Organise a local Deaf and disability hustings event?

DPAC has some funding for leaflets, stickers and posters which we can post to you if you have an event organised. Please keep us informed with how you are getting on.

Love and solidarity.

 

 

Resources

Leaflet: Why this General Election matters to Deaf and Disabled people

List of marginal seats: marginal constituencies 2017

Polling station access guide: ODV-Access-Guide_3_sm

 

Mar 302017
 

Have you used food banks or community kitchens, or found it difficult to feed yourself or your family?

Would you like to share your story?

I am a trainee psychologist carrying out research into the impact on people’s lives of not having secure access to food.

I’m looking for participants who are willing to tell their stories confidentially, including how experiences of the benefits system and/or disability have had an impact on the availability of food.

If you are interested in taking part then please email me on rtwcza@essex.ac.uk

I will then get in touch to arrange to meet you at a convenient time and location.

Interviews will take between 45 and 90 minutes and a £10 voucher will be given in return for your time.

Many thanks,

Ryan Wczasek

University of Essex

 

Jan 152017
 

A specialist women’s mental health service attributed with saving lives is facing threat of closure under proposals currently being agreed by Croydon CCG. The 8-bedded facility providing holistic treatment in a supportive peer environment is highly valued by women who have used its services and their families. However, the CCG claim it is too expensive to run and the money cannot be justified for the number of women admitted each year. Women and their families say this is effectively putting a price on women’s lives.

Bromley and Croydon DPAC is asking for support to challenge the closure.

How you can help:

           Tweet at @NHSCroydonCCG calling on them to #SaveFoxleySaveWomen on Tuesday 17th January from 1pm.

          Sign the petition to stop closure. The consultation period has now ended but the campaign to save Foxley Lane is not done yet: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-foxley-lane-women-s-service

          If you are a Croydon resident please write to your local GP (who are members of the CCG) and to your MP. You can find template letters under this post. 

           If you have used Foxley Lane services in the past and are happy, anonymously or otherwise, to share your story about how this service has helped you and why it is important that it stays open please contact: ellen.clifford@inclusionlondon.org.uk.

          Join DPAC members at the CCG governing body meeting where they are considering the proposal for closure.  The meeting is taking place 1 – 4pm on Tuesday 17th January 2017 Conference Room, Croydon College, College Road, Croydon, CR9 1DX. If you can come along and want more information contact norwichpete@hotmail.co.uk​

 

For more information about the closure you can read these articles in Inside Croydon:

https://insidecroydon.com/2016/11/25/hundreds-sign-up-to-petition-to-save-foxley-lane/

https://insidecroydon.com/2016/11/25/please-dont-close-foxley-lane-it-saves-womens-lives/

To read our consultation response scroll down to below the template letters.

 

Letter to Croydon GP – please insert any relevant personal experiences of Foxley Lane

Dear

I am writing to you as my GP practice to ask for your support in opposing proposals by Croydon CCG to close Foxley Lane women’s mental health service.

Foxley Lane provides a highly effective and specialised service unavailable in neighbouring boroughs and to the benefit of women in Croydon. Just as this service has saved many lives, its closure will undoubtedly cost lives.

At a time when Government has recognised, in the words of Prime Minister Theresa May, the “burning injustice” of how society treats mental ill health, Foxley Lane is a model of provision that should be celebrated and promoted to improve women’s mental health services elsewhere.

There is wide opposition to the closure with a petition having now reached over 850 signatures and rising.

The recent consultation undertaken by Croydon CCG was inadequate and flawed. 54% of respondents to the consultation survey stated that they did not understand the proposals.

Information in the consultation document is misleading. It suggests that numbers of admissions to Foxley Lane have been falling due to declining need for the service. However, the reason for fewer admissions in 2015/2016 was due to longer stays which is indicative of growing rather than decreasing need.

The consultation document claims that home treatment can better meet the mental health needs of women in Croydon, but this is not a view shared by mental health service users, their organisations or staff. For many women the home environment is a dominant factor behind their need to access the Foxley Lane facility and the effectiveness of the support it provides is due to factors that cannot be replicated by home treatment including peer support and group therapy, 24-hour support and consistency of staffing from long-standing and experienced staff members.

A report for Croydon CCG’s January governing body meeting acknowledges that home treatment will not be able to meet the needs of all women impacted by the Foxley Lane closure and announces plans for a new 14-bedded women-only ward on the Bethlem. Acute wards in a hospital setting are not able to provide the same quality of environment as Foxley Lane and are therefore less effective. Moreover, the consultation proposals did not include this information.

The financial value of closing Foxley Lane does not appear to be as clear as the consultation makes out. Beds on acute wards at the Bethlem are more expensive than Foxley Lane and direct admissions to Foxley Lane prevent more expensive detentions under the Mental Health Act. The effectiveness of the support women receive in this service as a step down facility can also prevent readmissions.

Some of the things women who have used Foxley Lane and their families say:

“It is criminal to close such a unique centre. I owe my life and my road to recovery to the amazing staff and all services provided at Foxley Lane. It would be a great shame for other women to lose out on a place at the centre. A human life and mental stability should not have a price-tag.”

“When I was treated at Foxley Lane it was not tenable for me to remain in my home and receive treatment from a community team yet based on previous experiences, staying on a psychiatric ward can be very difficult and distressing for someone in an already vulnerable state. I am very concerned that if (when) I fall ill again in the future, the Foxley Lane service will not be available to me, and my recovery will take longer, at much greater cost to my family and to the NHS.”

“My own circumstances were unique to me but I was so grateful to be able to go to Foxley. I do feel it saved my life too. There is nowhere like this in the UK certainly not in Croydon and the health service should be using this as a model to copy. The other services in Croydon are not adequate and would have been unsuitable for me and many other women.”

“The service offered at Foxley lane is a showcase of best practice in the tortuous process of rehabilitation into the community for sufferers of severe mental illness. My own personal experience on several occasions with my daughter has seen long periods of difficult isolation at home followed by lengthy hospitalisation only for real and rapid recovery occurring at the Foxley lane facility. The peaceful calm environment and the amazing caring and professional staff combine with the result of a step change in speed of recovery.”

I hope that you would agree that Croydon CCG needs to at least rethink its proposal to close such a vital and effective service and look forward to your response.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Letter to Croydon MP – please insert any relevant personal experiences of Foxley Lane

Dear

I am writing to you as my constituency MP to ask for your support in opposing proposals by Croydon CCG to close Foxley Lane women’s mental health service.

Foxley Lane provides a highly effective and specialised service unavailable in neighbouring boroughs and to the benefit of women in Croydon. Just as this service has saved many lives, its closure will undoubtedly cost lives.

At a time when Government has recognised, in the words of Prime Minister Theresa May, the “burning injustice” of how society treats mental ill health, Foxley Lane is a model of provision that should be celebrated and promoted to improve women’s mental health services elsewhere.

There is wide opposition to the closure with a petition having now reached over 850 signatures and rising.

The recent consultation undertaken by Croydon CCG was inadequate and flawed. 54% of respondents to the consultation survey stated that they did not understand the proposals.

Information in the consultation document is misleading. It suggests that numbers of admissions to Foxley Lane have been falling due to declining need for the service. However, the reason for fewer admissions in 2015/2016 was due to longer stays which is indicative of growing rather than decreasing need.

The consultation document claims that home treatment can better meet the mental health needs of women in Croydon, but this is not a view shared by mental health service users, their organisations or staff. For many women the home environment is a dominant factor behind their need to access the Foxley Lane facility and the effectiveness of the support it provides is due to factors that cannot be replicated by home treatment including peer support and group therapy, 24-hour support and consistency of staffing from long-standing and experienced staff members.

A report for Croydon CCG’s January governing body meeting acknowledges that home treatment will not be able to meet the needs of all women impacted by the Foxley Lane closure and announces plans for a new 14-bedded women-only ward on the Bethlem. Acute wards in a hospital setting are not able to provide the same quality of environment as Foxley Lane and are therefore less effective. Moreover, the consultation proposals did not include this information.

The financial value of closing Foxley Lane does not appear to be as clear as the consultation makes out. Beds on acute wards at the Bethlem are more expensive than Foxley Lane and direct admissions to Foxley Lane prevent more expensive detentions under the Mental Health Act. The effectiveness of the support women receive in this service as a step down facility can also prevent readmissions.

Finally, there is also a clear conflict between the closure and with national government policy on mental health. The green paper “Improving Lives: disability, health and work” makes clear the Government’s ambition that health services should fit holistically around individuals, tailored to meet individual need in order to better facilitate all Disabled people into employment with no one left behind. Women who have used Foxley in the past have recovered sufficiently to either return to or take up employment as a result of the high quality individualised support available. In line with government aims to address mental health injustice and to support more people with mental health support needs into work, services such as Foxley Lane should be promoted as best practice.

Some of the things women who have used Foxley Lane and their families say:

“It is criminal to close such a unique centre. I owe my life and my road to recovery to the amazing staff and all services provided at Foxley Lane. It would be a great shame for other women to lose out on a place at the centre. A human life and mental stability should not have a price-tag.”

“When I was treated at Foxley Lane it was not tenable for me to remain in my home and receive treatment from a community team yet based on previous experiences, staying on a psychiatric ward can be very difficult and distressing for someone in an already vulnerable state. I am very concerned that if (when) I fall ill again in the future, the Foxley Lane service will not be available to me, and my recovery will take longer, at much greater cost to my family and to the NHS.”

“My own circumstances were unique to me but I was so grateful to be able to go to Foxley. I do feel it saved my life too. There is nowhere like this in the UK certainly not in Croydon and the health service should be using this as a model to copy. The other services in Croydon are not adequate and would have been unsuitable for me and many other women.”

“The service offered at Foxley lane is a showcase of best practice in the tortuous process of rehabilitation into the community for sufferers of severe mental illness. My own personal experience on several occasions with my daughter has seen long periods of difficult isolation at home followed by lengthy hospitalisation only for real and rapid recovery occurring at the Foxley lane facility. The peaceful calm environment and the amazing caring and professional staff combine with the result of a step change in speed of recovery.”

I hope that you would agree that Croydon CCG needs to at least rethink its proposal to close such a vital and effective service and look forward to your response.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Response to consultation on closure of Foxley Lane women’s mental health service

 

We are deeply concerned by and opposed to proposals by Croydon CCG to close Foxley Lane women’s mental health service. Foxley Lane provides a highly effective and specialised service unavailable in neighbouring boroughs and to the benefit of women in Croydon. At a time when Government has recognised, in the words of Prime Minister Theresa May, the “burning injustice” of how society treats mental ill health, it is a model of provision that should be promoted and built upon to improve women’s mental health services elsewhere. Just as Foxley Lane has saved many lives, its closure will undoubtedly cost lives.

The following response sets out our main points of concern regarding the planned closure.

 

Summary of main points

·         Flawed and inadequate consultation process

·         Disproportionate equalities impact

·         Inappropriateness of home treatment as an alternative

·         Conflict with national government disability policy and negative impact on employment outcomes

·         Questionable value for money

 

Flawed and inadequate consultation process

The engagement document published by Croydon CCG setting out its plans concerning Foxley Lane presented closure as the only option available and feedback from local residents unhappy with the proposals indicates they saw the closure as “a done deal” that they had no power to stop happening.  We believe that this had the effect of limiting the response to the consultation.

Information in the engagement document is misleading. It suggests that falling numbers of admissions to Foxley Lane from a comparison of the 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 figures are evidence that need for a service of this type is decreasing. However, the reason for the lower numbers is that length of stays were longer in 2015/16. This is consistent with the wider picture of growing demands on mental health services and does not prove declining need due to improved community services. The engagement document also fails to explain how the referral procedure for Foxley Lane has changed which has restricted access through direct admissions.

The Croydon CCG “Case for Change” report recommending closure of Foxley Lane includes information about a planned 14 bed women only ward at the Bethlem as a mitigating factor in the impact of the closure of Foxley and as additional alternative provision. There is no mention of plans for this new facility in the engagement document which informed the consultation process. The document makes clear that the primary arguments for closure are cost savings and an emphasis on home treatment. However, replacement of some of the service provided by Foxley Lane with new acute inpatient provision represents both additional cost and a move further away from home and community treatment. Costs per bed for acute wards are higher than the costs per bed at Foxley Lane. None of the additional costs associated with alternative provision on an acute wards are included in the proposals outlined in the engagement document.

The consultation survey was publicised predominantly online and may not have reached or been available in a format appropriate to responses from local mental health service users and survivors. Furthermore, the survey questions were both limited and confusing. Despite good attendance at open meetings and over 700 signatures to a petition opposing the closure, only 57 consultation survey responses were received.  54% of respondents said they did not understand the CCG proposals.

Some of the groups and organisations supporting this submission, whose members include women who have used Foxley Lane and their families, only learned about the planned closure shortly before Christmas. A request for an extension to the deadline was denied.

 

Disproportionate equalities impact

We are concerned that the proposals do not put forward adequate measures to mitigate the disproportionate impact that the closure will have in regards to gender, disability and ethnicity.

In Croydon a similar facility for men, Ashton, was closed and replaced by home treatment as an alternative service. Firstly, we would ask what the measured impact of this closure has been. Secondly we would point to differential factors which need to be taken into account when considering the needs of women for both direct admissions to Foxley Lane and for the step-down facility it provides. These include situations including domestic violence and caring responsibilities which are more likely to affect women.  

 

Inappropriateness of home treatment as an alternative

We question the evidence base on which the claim is made that home treatment can deliver more effective outcomes than a stay at Foxley Lane. For many women the home environment is a dominant factor behind their need to access the Foxley Lane facility and the effectiveness of the support it provides is due to factors that cannot be replicated by home treatment including:

          Refuge away from the home environment

          Peer support and group therapy

          Consistency of staffing from long-standing and experienced staff members

          24 hour staff presence

The proposal document claims that home treatment will be a better option as women who use Foxley Lane predominantly come from north of the borough whereas the service is based in South Croydon. We agree that it is detrimental for women to be sent for inpatient treatment many miles from home but do not consider that the distance between the North and the South of the borough presents the same issue. Foxley Lane is well served by Purley transport links and close to local amenities whilst occupying a peaceful environment conducive to restoring well-being. The suggested alternative of an additional ward on the Bethlem would place women in a location with fewer transport links and in an institutionalised setting away from the local community.

There is also evidence that the home treatment service provided in Croydon is currently unable to satisfactorily meet the needs of its existing service users. For example:

           Lack of consistent staffing. Women accessing the home treatment service have described having to go through the same information again and again to new staff.

          Limited visits at set times rather than support being available as and when required.

 

Conflict with national government disability policy and negative impact on employment outcomes

The green paper “Improving Lives: disability, health and work” makes clear the Government’s ambition that health services should fit holistically around individuals, tailored to meet individual need in order to better facilitate all Disabled people into employment with no one left behind.

By closing the Foxley Lane service, Croydon CCG will be restricting the types of service that are available to meet the different needs of women in the borough. The service provided by Foxley Lane has successfully supported women to return to employment following a mental health crisis. We are concerned that replacement of Foxley Lane with less effective treatment options will negatively impact on the employment outcomes of Disabled women in Croydon.

 

Questionable Value for Money

The consultation document makes clear that the intention behind the closure of Foxley Lane is to save money. Foxley Lane provides a service that is different from anything else on offer and just as it has saved the lives of many women, its closure will cost lives. To deem the service too expensive to continue to run is to in effect put a price on a woman’s life. It also ignores the social returns from enabling a woman to continue in her role within her family and as a member of her community.

As a purely financial exercise the proposal is however also questionable. The cost per bed at Foxley Lane is cheaper than per bed on a ward at the Bethlem. The current context is one where detainment under the Mental Health Act is rapidly increasing as low level and preventative services are cut. The resulting chronic bed shortage is leading to patients being sent many miles away to available places in acute settings. Acute wards provide a very different environment to the one on offer at Foxley Lane where chaos and disturbances can exacerbate and prolong mental distress. There is a likelihood that the closure of Foxley will result in:

·         a rise in more expensive admissions to acute wards

·         increased stays on more expensive acute wards due to a lack of step down facility

·         increased pressure on inpatient beds through readmissions due to the lack of availability of more effective holistic support as provided at Foxley Lane

 

Some of the things women who have used Foxley Lane and their families have told us:

“It is criminal to close such a unique centre. I owe my life and my road to recovery to the amazing staff and all services provided at Foxley Lane. It would be a great shame for other women to lose out on a place at the centre. A human life and mental stability should not have a price-tag.”

“When I was treated at Foxley Lane it was not tenable for me to remain in my home and receive treatment from a community team yet based on previous experiences, staying on a psychiatric ward can be very difficult and distressing for someone in an already vulnerable state. I am very concerned that if (when) I fall ill again in the future, the Foxley Lane service will not be available to me, and my recovery will take longer, at much greater cost to my family and to the NHS.”

“My own circumstances were unique to me but I was so grateful to be able to go to Foxley. I do feel it saved my life too. There is nowhere like this in the UK certainly not in Croydon and the health service should be using this as a model to copy. The other services in Croydon are not adequate and would have been unsuitable for me and many other women.”

“The service offered at Foxley lane is a showcase of best practice in the tortuous process of rehabilitation into the community for sufferers of severe mental illness. My own personal experience on several occasions with my daughter has seen long periods of difficult isolation at home followed by lengthy hospitalisation only for real and rapid recovery occurring at the Foxley lane facility. The peaceful calm environment and the amazing caring and professional staff combine with the result of a step change in speed of recovery.”

 

 

 

Nov 102016
 

Date: Wednesday 16th November

Time: 5.30pm

Place: Gather at Old Palace Yard, Westminster

Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/195617644226019/


Join Disabled People Against Cuts and Black Triangle to protest against the grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights by the UK government through welfare reform, as evidenced in the United Nations inquiry findings published this week.

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/InquiryProcedure.aspx

For DPAC’s response see: https://dpac.uk.net/2016/11/dpacs-rebuttal-of-damian-greens-denials-about-the-un-report/

The protest will also be in honour of DPAC co-founder Debbie Jolly who tragically passed away this week. Back in 2010 a small group of activists including Debbie and Linda started to campaign against the Work Capability Assessment. At that time very few people other than those personally suffering as a result of the brutal assessment process had heard of the WCA or Atos. Debbie and others put up a tireless struggle for the past six years to expose what was happening and fight for justice.

Now I Daniel Blake is in cinemas across the country and a UN inquiry, which Debbie put years’ of work into making happen, has found reliable evidence of grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights by the UK government due to welfare reform.

However we still have welfare reform and things are worse now than they were when the UN conducted their enquiry and set to get even worse; we still have the WCA, the bedroom tax, changes to Access to Work and a social care support system in crisis but everyday more disabled people are losing essential income through PIP assessments, the benefit cap is about to be lowered and the introduction of Universal Credit will make thousands of households with disabled members worse off. On Thursday MPs will debate the cut to Employment and Support Allowance which was voted through earlier this year in the Welfare Reform and Work bill.

We must act now to put an end to this conscious cruelty.

We ask that everyone who can come to Parliament on Wednesday joins us and those who can’t show their solidarity through social media with the hashtag #EndWelfareReform.

 

 Posted by at 18:18
Dec 312015
 

Independent Living Fighting Fund – donations needed now to support Disabled people hit by the closure of the ILF fight cuts to vital day to day support

DPAC is asking for donations for an Independent Living Fighting Fund to support individual Disabled people to challenge cuts to their social care support packages following closure of the ILF. The ILF campaigners fought fiercely against the closure, taking their protest right to the doors of the House of Commons chamber, exposing to the world the disgraceful way the UK government is treating its Disabled citizens. The Fund finally closed on 30 June but the fight is far from over. Disabled people hit by the closure need solidarity now more than ever as the cuts we all fought so hard to prevent start to kick in.

The government said the closure of the ILF was a transfer not a cut (http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jun/11/impact-of-changes-to-disability-benefits). This was a lie. Some notable Councils such as Hammersmith and Fulham have committed to protecting people’s support packages in the short-term but in other areas serious cuts are already starting to happen as former ILF recipients are re-assessed to determine the level of social care support their Local Authorities will continue to fund. In Waltham Forest for example nearly 90% of former ILF recipients have had their support package cut as a result of the closure of the ILF, with more than a quarter having a cut of 50% or more (http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/independent-living-fund-shocking-drop-in-support-after-ilf-closure/).

Cuts of this level mean robbing Disabled people of independence, dignity and equality. It also places people at risk as tragically evidenced by the case of Amanda Richard (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3266218/Disabled-mother-died-house-fire-24-hour-care-cut.html) who died in a house fire in Coventry after her support hours were cut. Forcing use of incontinence pads on Disabled people who aren’t incontinent is emerging as one common tactic, as is blanket removal of night-time support and increasing expectations on, often elderly, family members and neighbours. One former ILF recipient was told that if she wanted to continue attending her community choir, other members of the choir could assist with her physical needs in place of needing paid support hours. The reassessment of another made a recommendation for behaviour therapy in order to cope with the removal of their night-time support following closure of the ILF.

Disabled campaigners warned that the closure of the ILF signalled the end of independent living for Disabled people. Local Authority administered care and support has proven itself unable to consistently provide Disabled people with adequate support to live, work and study in the community with the same chances as non-Disabled people. The current crisis in social care funding means things are only getting worse as Councils consult on further cuts to community support (http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/council-is-trying-to-push-through-care-cuts-without-proper-scrutiny/), meanwhile investing in the building of new ‘super care homes’ to house Disabled people en masse (http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/threat-to-independent-living-as-council-plots-raid-on-high-cost-care/).

Having lost the legal challenge to quash the decision to close the ILF it is now imperative that support is available for each former ILF recipient at risk of cuts to essential support. There are a number of dedicated solicitors committed to providing legal advice, however changes to legal aid mean that some Disabled people are no longer eligible yet not in a situation where they can fund the legal action they need to challenge what is happening. It is also true that we cannot reach every former ILF recipient affected and we also know that many are too frightened to speak out for fear of losing what support they have got. Legal challenges are an important way of testing out the rights of former ILF recipients under the Care Act 2014 and making examples out of Local Authorities that are not meeting their legal duties.

This is why we need a fighting fund available to support legal challenges by former ILF recipients not eligible for legal aid.

What you can do:

  • Donate to the fighting fund. We have cases that need to be actioned in early January so the sooner you can give the better. To donate go through DPAC’s paypal or contact us via mail@dpac.uk.net for details for a BACS transfer. Include “ILF FF” as the reference.
  • Circulate this post to your friends, family and fellow campaigners asking them to donate too.
  • Donate through gofundme at https://www.gofundme.com/9up7iw
Jun 282015
 

On 30th June, the day the ILF closes, ILF recipients, campaigners and Allies will meet outside Downing Street to hand over petitions calling on the Prime Minister to protect Disabled people’s right to independent living. Over 25,000 signatures have been collected online (supported by the brilliant video made by the stars of Coronation Street) and also during the Graeae Theatre Company’s 2014 UK Tour of The Threepenny Opera.

After laying a wreath for the ILF, Schimmel, the equine star and proud battle horse of the Threepenny Opera will lead a march to the Houses of Parliament to continue the fight for dignity and equality.

But this isn’t theatre… It’s real and it’s our lives.

Join us in person or show your support on social media with the hashtag #SaveILF, to say “Today marks the closure of the ILF. This terrible action is wrong but the battle to protect our right to Independent Living will go on. For disabled people and for everyone who cares about fairness and social justice.”

Meet 11.30am outside Downing Street.

Jun 252015
 

Freedom of Information requests asking the following questions were sent out on 15th April to 151 English Local Authorities:

Q1 Will you be ring fencing the lF money passed to you to: –
A) Individual ILF users
B) Adult Social Care
C) No ring-fence at all

Q2 Have you received the details of how much money you are being allocated and if so how much?

Q3 When will be starting reassessments of ILF users and wjen do you anticipate completing those assessments?

Responses were received from 147.

At the time of responding to the FOIs 12 said a decision had not yet been made as to how they will use the money with 2 if these explaining that they were waiting for confirmation of the amount of monies they will be receiving from central government before they decide.
31 said they will not be ring-fencing at all while 60 have decided to ring-fence to their Adult Social Care budget. 3 LAs will be ring-fencing to individual ILF recipients for a set amount of time (Camden for three months and Enfield and Slough for six months) while 9 said they will ring- fence individual awards until review and reassessment of individual support packages over the course of the nine months.
28 LAs responded that they will be ring-fencing to individual ILF users up until the end of March 2016. Those Local Authorities are Bath, Bedford, Birmingham, City of London, Cornwall, Derbyshire, Greenwich, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hartlepool, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Hounslow, Islington, Kingston, Lambeth, Lewisham, Medway, Merton, Middlesbrough, Richmond, Rutland, Shropshire, South Gloucestershire, Southend, Stockport, Trafford, Wokingham and York.

88 out of the 147 Local Authorities who responded said they had not received details about how much money will be transferred from central government. 41 said they have an indicative amount they are working to based on the amount paid to ILF users now minus the 5% “attrition rate” the government will be top slicing. Only 15 said yes they do know how much they will be getting.

Most LAs (78) are aiming to have completed reassessments of all ILF recipients in their area before 30 June 2015. 30 do not have a timescale for completion while 17 LAs have set a target date later within the next nine months. 12 LAs said reassessments would be completed between July 2015 and March 2016. 7 said they had already completed theirs.

For those LAs who said they had completed their reassessments it was not clear whether all of them were referring to reassessments to calculate the support package ILF recipients will receive from the LA after transfer from the ILF or whether they had answered the question in relation to the joint transfer reviews with ILF assessors which were conducted as part of the transition process.

Some LAs who have committed to ring-fencing such as Stockport, Islington and Kingston have also completed their reassessments. Others such as South Gloucestershire will be reassessing over the next nine months.

For more information about these FOIs and the findings contact mail@dpac.uk.net or ellen.clifford@inclusionlondon.co.uk

Jun 252015
 

Dear Mr Speaker,

On 30th June the Independent Living Fund, providing essential support to disabled people with high support needs with everyday basic tasks such as eating, drinking and going to the toilet, will close. This is the result of a decision taken by the government without a vote in Parliament.

The closure will have a devastating impact on disabled people. In December 2014 the High Court found that as a consequence of the closure of the Fund “independent living might well be put seriously in peril for… Most (or a substantial number of) ILF users”.

Without the ILF the UK is not able to meet the basic human rights of disabled people.

We have seen this since the closure of the ILF to new applicants in December 2010 which has resulted in disabled people left trapped in their own homes or dependent on friends and families, placing intolerable strain on relationships and denying disabled people the chance to live an ordinary life.

Now as Local Authorities start to reassess individual support packages and inform disabled people what support we will receive after 30th June 2015 we are fearing for our futures. Currently we pay taxes, we work, we study, we raise our families and make many valuable contributions to society in other ways. The cuts in support that are being handed out to individuals will leave us without dignity, sitting in our own faeces for hours at a time dependent on the kindness of friends, family, neighbours and even strangers just to eat, drink and move.

We urge the honourable Speaker to ensure that it is our elected Parliament that has a say on whether disabled people in the UK have the right to independent living or whether in the sixth richest nation in the world we are denied the same opportunities to live and to contribute to society.
Yours ever,
Disabled People

May 152015
 

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) are looking for disabled people to speak to a national newspaper about problems they have had with zero hours contracts. If you think you might be willing to speak to the paper please contact Ellen.clifford@inclusionlondon.co.uk.

Even if you don’t want to speak to the paper but have information you are willing to share with DPAC please email.

Your information might, for example, cover:

– not being granted reasonable adjustments

– the impact of zero hours contracts on your impairment or health

– the impact of being disabled on your ability to meet your zero hours contract

– being dismissed

– ill-treatment in the workplace

– financial problems

– being pressured into a zero hours contract by JCP/DWP

 

Thank you for any help you can give.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mar 152015
 

The Ministerial statement issued this week by Mark Harper, Minister against Disabled People, announced measures which will discriminate against Deaf BSL users and those with higher cost support needs by introducing a cap on Access To Work packages. The statement mentions personal budgets and the idea of giving greater flexibility and choice in how ATW customers use their packages. Deaf and disabled people are under no illusions that this will mean anything but a further driving down of support costs. There is no recognition within the statement about the value of investing in Deaf and disabled people’s employment or the proven economic benefits for the state of Access to Work. Instead there are references to taxpayers money and the implication, consistent with the cultural shift we have seen within ATW over the last year or so, that Deaf and disabled people don’t have a right to aspire to equal life chances due to cost.

Campaigners at this week’s StopChanges2ATS meeting commented that the government may as well just send us all back to the workhouse. Already the changes to ATW have pushed Deaf and disabled people out of professional positions, careers and businesses they have spent decades building. The pressure on employers to “redesign” jobs to reduce support needs is pushing Deaf and disabled people into unskilled, lower paid work.

Harper’s statement also confirms the introduction of a framework agreement which will mean the outsourcing and privatisation of BSL interpreting. A similar framework adopted four years ago in the Ministry of Justice has been a categoric disaster. The framework for translating and interpreting currently being proposed is entirely unworkable, will drive down standards and leave Deaf BSL users without the communication support they need not only day to day but also in life or death situations interacting with for example hospital or social services. In a survey carried out by the National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters, 48% of interpreters surveyed said they are considering leaving the profession.

For more comment see:
https://stopchanges2atw.wordpress.com

To view the statement:
http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-vote-office/March%202015/12%20March%202015/40.DWP-Access-to-work.pdf

Mar 112015
 

Mental health charity Mind excludes election candidate, mental health service user and disability campaigner, Mick Hardy, from its mental health election panel.

Mind, the largest mental health charity in England, has excluded Mick Hardy, a mental health service user and disability campaigner, from its General Election Panel Event at The Curve, The Forum, Norwich NR2 1TF on Friday 13th March, 2015 between 1300 and 1600.

Mind claims that the event, chaired by national Mind’s Chief Executive, Paul Farmer, is “to give people with lived experience of mental health problems, their carers and support workers, volunteers and Mind staff an opportunity to ask the questions which matter to them and to hear what our parliamentary candidates from the north and south of Norwich have to say about the future of the services they use.” Yet Mind seeks to exclude Mick Hardy, disability rights campaigner and Dandy Party candidate in Norwich North from its event.

Mick Hardy said:

“I couldn’t believe it when Mind refused to have me, a prospective parliamentary candidate in Norwich North and mental health service user, on their panel. I believe this is due to my criticism of the failure of the local Norfolk Mind organisation to speak out against the massive cuts to mental health services at Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) which included the closure of the assertive outreach and homeless teams. Indeed, the local Mind has sought as a ‘service provider’ to profit from the cuts and privatisation of services at NSFT. The Mind volunteers and donors will find this shocking.”

“Mind receives more funding from Norman Lamb’s Department of Health than it receives in public donations. This reliance on government funding means that Mind is compromised when it comes to speaking out in defence of mental health service users. Nothing demonstrates this more than Mind’s attempt to exclude a mental health service user candidate from their panel in Norwich. This breaches Mind’s obligation as a charity to be apolitical.”

“I encourage all those concerned about the crisis in mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk, which has seen our local trust NSFT rated inadequate by the CQC and put into special measures by health regulator Monitor, to lobby outside the Forum on Friday both before (1230-1300) and afterwards (1600-1630). It is a shame that those holding such views have been excluded from Mind’s event.”

“Mind claims to campaign for social inclusion but seeks to exclude me.”

Notes to editors:

Mind received £3.697m in public donations in 2014. Mind received £5.26m in government grants over the same period, with £4.651m from the Department of Health including £100,000 for the crisis care concordat and £4.262m for Time to Change.

Amanda Hedley, Chief Executive of Norwich Mind has written “As part of the Redesign Process we have tried to play a constructive role in helping to suggest good alternatives provided in the third sector which would provide support for people at a lower cost but achieve similar outcomes…..’ She

also told the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee of Norfolk County Council “…MIND could even deliver some of the services currently delivered through the Trust…”

 

Jan 182015
 

Calling all disabled people in Lambeth.

Come to an open meeting of the Lambeth Pan Disability Forum on Monday 9 February 2015 from 2 – 4pm at ‘We are 336’, 336 Brixton Road, SW9 7AA.

For more information contact RLewis@Lambeth.gov.uk

 Posted by at 14:34
Jan 182015
 

SUPPORT PEOPLE, HEALTH, JOBS
Scrap Trident and BAN all Nuclear Weapons!

After the 2015 general election a final decision will be made on replacing Trident nuclear weapons systems. We have to send a clear message to M.Ps: Trident must be scrapped not replaced. That is why D.P.A.C. needs to be present at this protest, says DPAC activist Sam Brackenbury.

The government wants to sign contracts for us to be a nuclear power the NEXT 40 YEARS, we have to stop this madness or 100 billion pounds will be waisted… How many disabled people could be helped with this money ???

South Africa used to be a nuclear power, since the end of Aparthied, it has decomissioned its nuclear weapons so it can be done.

Lets oppose Nuclear Power in all its forms!

Oct 272014
 

On Wednesday the DWP select committee is holding its final oral evidence session for its inquiry into Access to Work. Mark Harper, Minister for Disabled People, will be giving evidence.

The StopChanges2ATW campaign will be attending the evidence session as observers and then holding a rally in Old Palace Yard to protest against changes to Access to Work that are driving Deaf and disabled people out of employment and undermining our employability.

Speakers will include Jenny Sealey, artistic director of Graeae Theatre Company, Geraldine O’Halloran, Inclusion London and co-founder of StopChanges2ATW, Nicky Evans, branch secretary of the National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters, David Buxton CEO of the British Deaf Association and Teresa Pearce MP.

For more information contact:

For more information about the changes to Access to Work and how they are impacting on Deaf and disabled people go to:

http://stopchanges2atw.wordpress.com/

https://dpac.uk.net/2014/10/what-the-f-is-going-on-with-access-to-work-join-the-stopchanges2atw-campaign/

http://www.deafatw.com/

http://www.inclusionlondon.co.uk/ATW-ILs-%20and%20stop-changes2atw-respond-to-call-for-evidence

 

Oct 212014
 

More and more people are asking what is happening with Access to Work, the programme that supports Deaf and disabled people to get into and stay in employment, as changes are making it harder and harder to use. Despite the government’s well publicised extra investment in the scheme Access to Work’s clear direction of travel is to cut individual packages, with the result that the employability of Deaf and disabled people is being seriously undermined.

When the Tories closed the Remploy factories in 2011-2012 they said there was no place for segregated workplaces in modern society and the money used to fund the factories would be better spent supporting Deaf and disabled people to get into and stay in mainstream employment through the Access to Work programme.

Over the past year, with the factory closures out of the way, changes introduced to the AtW programme have decreased eligibility, brought considerable distress and uncertainty to customers who had previously and successfully used the programme for many years, pushed Deaf and disabled people out of jobs and left others fearing for their futures.

It is difficult to summarise all the changes: AtW is awarded on a discretionary ‘case by case’ basis and the programme has always denied the existence of any blanket rules for particular impairment groups. What we have seen emerging are some clear patterns around the cutting of packages, lack of information and hostility to AtW customers alongside growing inefficiency and cuts to AtW service delivery.

The first clear pattern emerged with respect to Deaf customers who suddenly found themselves labelled as ‘fraudsters’. Individuals contacting AtW advisers, in some cases advisers they had had for many years were greeted with a completely different and hostile attitude. They were told ‘there are high levels of Access to Work fraud in the Deaf community’. Changes brought in including the notorious ’30 hour rule’, requiring Deaf customers using more than 30 hours of BSL interpreters per week to employ a salaried interpreter, have literally left Deaf people unable to continue in their jobs.  The government has sought to justify what it is doing by pointing the finger at interpreters, blaming them for ‘costing too much’, meanwhile undermining what is a highly skilled and important profession.

A particularly nasty move has been the introduction of retrospective decision making experienced by both Deaf and disabled people who have had their packages cut with the cuts being backdated after support costs have already been incurred. This situation has been compounded by the fact that has review notices are no longer sent out warning AtW customers when their packages are due for renewal which easily leads to people not realising their packages have ended. Deaf and disabled people have been left owing thousands of pounds and has left interpreters and support workers owed thousands of pounds, causing considerable hardship and distress.

Successful appeals against changes to packages have been made but many people do not realise they have a right to appeal or how they would go about making a complaint. Others are too worried about losing the rest of their package to make a fuss. This is where the website DeafAtW has been invaluable, providing information and support on how to challenge decisions.

There is a growing level of misinformation, confusion and chaos coming from AtW itself as a result of a restructuring that has seen a dramatic reduction in the numbers of contact centres and outsourcing. AtW invoices remain unpaid from months and months ago because the addresses of the payment centres changed but customers weren’t told. Meanwhile application backlogs have amassed. Given that Deaf and disabled people often cannot start a job until their AtW package is in place, yet can only make an application after an employment start date has been confirmed, this has presumably Deaf and disabled people unable to take up job offers.

Money pledged by this government for the Access to Work budget has yet to appear. This was highlighted at the Work and Pension Select Committee oral evidence session when Remploy confirmed that the £80million per year “saved” from the closure of the factories hadn’t materialised in AtW support. There was also an additional £17million that hasn’t appeared. These two amounts would mean the AtW budget should have doubled in the past four years, yet cuts are being made.

For a government that claims its welfare reform measures are all about supporting more people into employment, the changes to Access to Work appear counter-productive.

Moreover, in a time of austerity, changes to the programme represent a cutting back of a scheme that actually makes money for the state: the Sayce report found that for every pound invested in Access to Work, £1.48 is recouped by the Treasury.

But for anyone familiar with Tory welfare policies none of this comes as a surprise. Ill-thought through ideologically driven policies are seeking to reduce ‘dependency’ and dismantle the welfare state, removing social security from those that need it and creating situations that will end up costing more.

While the Tories describe AtW as a ‘benefit’ and a dependency and fail to understand it as an investment, campaigners have beaten back some of the attacks. AtW eventually conceded that it was not realistic to expect employers to contribute the on costs for salaried interpreters under the 30 hour rule. In May the Minster for Disabled People announced a review into the 30 hour rule and the DWP Select Committee Inquiry agreed not only to take evidence on how changes were impacting on Deaf people but also extended the deadline for submissions whereas originally the inquiry had been intended to focus on employment support for people with mental health support needs and learning difficulties. Individual decisions have also been revised in the face of continued campaigning and challenges.

More is needed though. We have yet to hear the outcome of the Minister’s review. Meanwhile we are hearing of cuts to AtW packages impacting ever wider, putting jobs at risk and pushing Deaf and disabled people out of employment. We need to step up our campaign to make sure information is available and accessible and people know what to do if they are impacted by the changes, to fight for the employment rights of Deaf and disabled people and to protect the terms and conditions of BSL interpreters and ensure we are not divided.

StopChanges2ATW campaign open meeting – Thursday 23rd October 2014, 6 – 7.30pm, 336 Brixton Road, London, SW9 7AA.

For more information read StopChanges2ATW and Inclusion London’s submissions to the DWP select committee inquiry: http://www.inclusionlondon.co.uk/ATW-ILs-%20and%20stop-changes2atw-respond-to-call-for-evidence

Oct 162014
 

Speakers: Robert Punton, Disabled People Against Cuts; Tanya Murat, Southwark Benefit Justice Campaign; E15 mother and PCS union speakers tbc

> Despite unmissable evidence and growing public awareness of the detrimental impact on the poorest and disabled members of our communities by punitive measures such as sanctions, benefit assessments and capping, all main political parties are still committed to being ‘tough’ on welfare and sticking to Tory spending plans. Whoever is elected in 2015, things are set to get even worse for communities already struggling under the weight of arrears, debts and falling incomes. The occupation of the Carpenters’ Estate by the Focus E15 mothers in Newham shows that resistance is also growing and developing. This workshop will explore how trade unionists and community groups can work together to expose the truth about welfare reform and to fightback.

The meeting will take place as part of the Unite the Resistance conference. For more information and to book a place go to: http://uniteresist.org/

Oct 162014
 

Saturday 29th November 2014
2 – 3.45pm
82 Tanners Hill, SE8 4PN.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) was set up by disabled people in 2010 to speak up against cutbacks and changes to benefits. The cuts have hit disabled people hard in a way that is not fair. Disabled people have been hit by one cut on top of another, for example:
– cuts to groups and services we use
– scrapping Disability Living Allowance and replacing it with Personal Independence Payments
– Work Capability Assessments run by Atos
– closing the Independent Living Fund
– attacks on inclusive education

Disabled people have been fighting back against what the government is doing. We have forced them to make some changes to their plans.

DPAC is still protesting at a national level. There are also now local DPAC groups set up in different areas across the country.

Disabled people in Lewisham think it would be a good idea to set up a Lewisham DPAC. The group will be led by disabled people but allies are welcome to support and be part of our campaign.

Come along to our launch meeting on 29th November to find out more and have your say about why you think we need a Lewisham DPAC and what we should campaign on.

Please RSVP if you are planning to come letting us know any access requirements.

For more information or to RSVP contact:

Email – ellenrclifford@btinternet.com

Text –  07505144371

Phone – 0207237 3181

Sep 082014
 

Tory welfare reform is in crisis. Last week 70 Conservative MPs ignored a three line whip and stayed away from Westminster for the vote on Andrew George’s bedroom tax bill. Protests have beaten back government attacks on benefits but we need to keep fighting to see off the hated bedroom tax once and for all and to stand up against sanctions, which remain a vicious plank in the government’s punitive policies, whose use is rocketing and which are still supported by Labour in Parliament.

Join protests happening in the areas below or hold your own. Send pictures and updates to benefitjustice@gmail.com and/or mail@dpac.uk.net.

 

Barnet

9.00am: Jobcentre Granta House 1 Western Rd London N22 6UH. Go to Barnet Housing Action Group on facebook for more information.

 

Birmingham

12 noon: Broad Street Job Centre, Centennial House,100 Broad St, B15 1AU.

1.15pm: Centenary Square, Broad Street.

Sandk123456@aol.com

 

Huddersfield

12 noon: Upper Head Row, Huddersfield, HD1 2JL. (near main entrance to bus station) juneholmes@btopenworld.com

 

Leeds

12 – 2pm: Street meeting on benefits and sanctions: Briggate, LS1 6JX (near the Body Shop). ellenrobottom@hotmail.com

 

London

11am Old Palace Yard Westminster SW1P 3JY
and 1pm DWP HQ Tothill St SW1
(Southwark Benefit Justice Campaign will be meeting 10.30am outside Metropolitan Tabernacle opposite Elephant and Castle tube station to go up to Parliament)
Anti-Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Gig: Starring: THE WICKED VENETIANS + PARVA HINTON + SEBASTIAN MELMOTH + MYLAS: New Cross Inn, 323 New Cross Road London SE14 6AS: http://newcrossinn.com/?p=1&m=09&y=2014

Milton Keynes

12 noon – 1pm outside Milton Keynes Jobcentre Plus, Midsummer Blvd, MK9 3BN. E.kate.hunter@googlemail.com

 

FRIDAY 12th SEPTEMBER

 

Brighton

11am: Brighton station forecourt: brightonbenefitscampaign@gmail.com
Witney

Paupers Picnic outside David Cameron’s Witney Conservatives event at Witney Lakes with tax-dodging, expenses-grabbing MP Nadim Zahawi. Coaches leave Oxford at 5.30pm. For more info contact: mail:dpac.uk.net

Aug 262014
 

Thursday 11th September 2014

End Bedroom Tax; No Sanctions for Claimants – No Targets for Staff

On 11th September the Anti-Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Campaign is holding a day of protest: say no to claimant sanctions, bedroom tax and benefit cuts

Government attacks on benefits mean hunger, debt and fear. Ex-soldier David Clapson died hungry and destitute after his benefits were stopped, the latest in a string of deaths and suicides related to sanctions and benefit cuts.  The overwhelming majority of referrals to food banks are due to  claimants being sanctioned.

Sanctions cutting benefits of disabled people on Employment and Support Allowance, rose by nearly 580 percent between March 2013 and March 2014, and total sanctions rose to over a million last year, from 100,000 in 2010 (DWP figures).
PCS union is supporting the 11 September protests.  Research by PCS members working in the DWP revealed that 82% of members felt ‘pressured’ into sanctioning claimants, and 62% said they had made ‘inappropriate’ sanctions decisions.Protests have forced Government to promise changes: see Review report. But sanctions remain a vicious plank of the Government’s punitive welfare reforms, and are still supported by Labour in parliament.

Join us on one of protests below or organise your own.  Demand an end to the Bedroom Tax and link it to the slogan: ‘No sanctions for claimants, No targets for staff’. Build links with local PCS members – contacts for local PCS in DWP and PCS regions.The Bedroom Tax is almost dead – we will demand MPs kill it now  and up the pressure to beat the sanctions regime too. Let us know any actions you are planning so we can promote them.

End Sanctions, Bedroom Tax and benefit cuts11am Old Palace Yard Westminster SW1P 3JY
and 1pm DWP HQ Tothill St SW1

Other protests planned in
Leeds, Sheffield, Oxford, Manchester/Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow


Jul 032014
 

 Hello comrades 

ALLFIE  (the Alliance for Inclusive Education) would like to put together some short and snappy videos on disabled peoples experiences of having Disabled Students Allowance and the impact it has had in helping them benefit from higher education on our lovely website – 

In particular we would like to focus on inclusion and participation whilst recognising that for some disabled students having the DSA means the potential of getting higher grades or getting a qualification whilst studying at university.  Also it be great to hear how DSA has supported disabled students who benefited from higher education even if they have not ‘passed’ their course.  

We would like to interview disabled people (young and old!) who  are thinking twice about going to university as a result of Government’s DSA reforms.

If anyone wants to know more about the DSA reforms please follow the link – http://www.allfie.org.uk/   Please scroll down to ALLIFE’s june briefing. 

If you are going to be around for the ILF tea party on Friday  – please let me know as I will have a small video camera to do the interview with.    I will be wearing an ALLFIE teashirt.     If you want to have a chat please ring me on 0207 737 6030 during Tuesday and Thursday.

 See u there, Simone Aspis.

Mar 252014
 
Behind the promotional gloss of the Department for Work and Pensions’celebrity-backed ‘Disability Confident’ roadshow lies the reality of how current government policy is actively undermining employment opportunities for Deaf and disabled people. Deaf and disabled people will gather outside the conference at London Hilton Canary Wharf from 9am on Tuesday 25th March to protest against the most urgent threats to employment we are facing. For those unable to attend the protest in person there will be a twitter storm.
 
On Tuesday 25th March an event will be held in Canary Wharf which the DWP is describing as “the first ever conference of its kind to showcase the talents of disabled people” and which aims to dispel the myths of the complexities of employing disabled people. The event is being marketed as a chance to boost employment rates for 350,000 disabled people in London without a job.
 
Deaf and disabled campaigners are concerned that the Disability Confident programme is a cynical attempt by government to deflect from the fact that its own policies are undermining the ability of Deaf and disabled people to find and retain employment at a time when benefits and are being cut and life out of employment being made unbearable.
 
The closure of the Remploy factories in 2012 and 2013, pushing 1,800 Deaf and disabled people into unemployment, was justified on the grounds that money saved would be invested in the Access to Work scheme which provides financial help towards the extra costs of employing Deaf and disabled people and which will be promoted through tomorrow’s roadshow. Despite the fact that the scheme has been shown to make a profit of £1.48 for the state from every £1 invested in it[1], increasing caps and restrictions on what the scheme can be used for are severely limiting its usefulness and numbers accessing the scheme have dropped since 2009-2010.
 
Changes to Access to Work are having such a detrimental impact on the employment of Deaf BSL users that a campaign has been started fronted by Jenny Sealey, artistic director of the Paralympic Games opening ceremony whose ability to continue her acclaimed work is directly affected. Jenny says, “Without that provision I couldn’t do my job. It’s fundamental to me being Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Graeae Theatre Company.” Many Deaf people are now finding their employment futures uncertain as the result of changes to the scheme are introducing an expectation on employers to make up the difference between the cost of suitably qualified interpreters and the caps being introduced on what Access to Work will now pay.
 
Meanwhile the closure of the Independent Living Fund, which provides support to disabled people with the highest levels of support to live in the community, is also limiting opportunities for disabled people to participate in employment. Whereas Access to Work will only cover support directly associated with an individual’s job tasks, the ILF currently supports disabled people with areas of personal support essential for being able to work, for example maintaining personal hygiene, using the toilet, getting ready for work. Social care support provided by local authorities is not able to meet the same outcomes and disabled people face futures where they can no longer retain their employment once the ILF transfers to local authorities in 2015.

The employability of disabled people is also being undermined by attacks on disabled people’s access to education. The ILF provides essential support enabling disabled people to participate in further and higher education that is not available through for example the Disability Support Allowance. The growth of free schools and academies alongside the government’s failure to protest a presumption for mainstream education in the newly passed Children and Families Act are restricting disabled pupils’ educational opportunities. When the government shut the Remploy factories they said there was no place for segregation in modern society. If they were really interested in building inclusive workplaces the place to start would be with inclusive education.

According to the DWP press release the majority of employers attending the event other than Southwark Council seem to be in the private sector. With the Access to Work scheme being adapted to increase the level of contribution expected of employers, employers will literally be paying to employ disabled people. The press release makes the argument that investing in disabled employees pays off because we stay in the same job for longer and have lower rates of absenteeism. Many disabled workers do over compensate and have fewer chances of job progression but these are not things to be celebrated or promoted and fall outside any true disability equality agenda. The reality of employing disabled people requires a level of flexibility and added expense that are simply not compatible with a competitive workplace. That’s not because of any inadequacies on our part, and certainly not because, as this rhetoric of overcoming personal challenges in order to be ‘successful’ suggests, because we don’t try hard enough. It’s the faults in the construction of a profit-focused workplace.

 
Ellen Clifford from Disabled People Against Cuts said, “Deaf and disabled people continue to face attitudinal barriers and discrimination which exclude them from the workplace and all attempts to remove stigma and dispel myths are welcome. However a far more urgent threat is currently being posed by the government’s own policies which are undermining the ability of those Deaf and disabled people who are in work to stay in work and which is limiting opportunities to employment more savagely than any initiative like Disability Confident can possibly make up for.”
 
 
For more information or case studies of Deaf and disabled people affected by either the changes to Access to Work, the closure of the Remploy factories or the closure of the Independent Living Fund contact Ellen: 07505144371.
 
Information about the Stop Changes to Acess to Work campaign and for an interview with Jenny Sealey:
http://stopchanges2atw.wordpress.com/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gk0i6vd305o
 
NOTES TO EDITORS:
 
1) The Work Programme is projected to cost £3-5bn over five years, yet is not working for a core group: people living with disability or long-term health conditions. According to data released at the end of last year, more than 93% of disabled people on the Work Programme are failing to find long-term work. Just 6.8% of those referred to the programme in the latest three months have found long-term work.
2) 1,800 disabled workers at the Remploy factories have been laid off over the last couple of years with the promise that the Access To Work scheme would help them all back into the workplace.  According to The Mirror in October 2013 just 535 of them have found jobs.
3) Around 18,600 disabled people with the highest level of support needs are currently supported through the Independent Living Fund. In November 2013 a Court of Appeal judgment pointed to the potentially very grave impact of closing the Fund and quashed the government’s decision to do that. In February 2014 Mike Penning, Minister for Disabled People announced that the government had retaken the decision and that the Fund will now close in June 2015.
 Posted by at 07:35
Mar 122014
 

In 2012 not long after the government passed the welfare reform Act John McDonnell MP warned the House of Commons: ““We now have a disability movement in this country of which we have not seen the equal before: Black Triangle occupied Atos offices in Scotland, DPAC – Disabled People Against Cuts – chained themselves in Trafalgar Square. These people are not going to go away. They will be in our face – and rightly so.” And we have been ever since. With Atos on the run, the bedroom tax on the ropes and the ongoing fight for the Independent Living Fund we are seeing the results of disabled people’s co-ordinated grassroots campaigning.

 
A model of campaigning that responds to the direct lived experience of disabled people is not popular with everyone. Too often it rocks the boat in questioning entrenched positions within the disability sector such as the need to close the Remploy factories at the earliest opportunity whatever the cost and the wisdom of local authority administered social care support. Disabled people have looked beyond disabled people’s organisations and disability ‘professionals’ to gain support for grassroots led disabled people’s campaigns, making alliances with the broader anti cuts movement and the various, often conflicted groups within that, from trade unions to UKUncut.

 
The model has proved successful and disabled people’s protest has succeeded in punching holes in austerity, as the Government and private companies like Atos are strongly aware.  DPAC co-founder Linda Burnip remembers: “Our first protest against ATOS was January 2011 in Triton Square and few people had heard of the WCA or ATOS. Our continued national days of action against ATOS from then on helped very much to change that and bring the atrocities being inflicted on disabled people to the forefront of public awareness. After the DPAC actions against ATOS sponsorship of the paralympic games and the spontaneous booing of Osborne by 80,000 disabled spectators our campaign against ATOS gained international attention. Our early intervention in targeting protests at ATOS recruitment fares has eventually paid off and particularly after Joyce Drummond and Dr. Woods spoke out about their experiences of working for ATOS the WCAs and ATOS are now so toxic that they are unable to recruit enough staff to carry out assessments and the whole system is in melt-down. Any firm considering taking over the ATOS contract should be aware that disabled people will do the same to them as they have done to ATOS.”

 

While the bedroom tax is being held aloft as an example of the effectiveness of framing theory we should not forget that co-ordinated community action put the real pressure on. It may not have changed the government’s mind but the audacity of two wheelchair accessible bus-loads of disabled people turning up at Iain Duncan Smith’s mansion to serve an eviction notice and picnic in the lavish grounds last April set the tone for a determined campaign that has placed disabled people at the centre of community action on estates across the country. Disabled campaigner Robert Punton says, “Disabled people have been at the forefront of both this despicable tax and the resulting campaign. A by-product of the campaign has been that we as a disabled people’s pressure group have come into a working relationship with unions and other community campaigns strengthening everyone’s position and resolve.”

 

The campaign to save the independent living fund (ILF) led by ILF recipients and supported by DPAC and Inclusion London among other disabled people led groups has gained real traction despite the consensus among national charities and disability organisations that transfer to local authorities was the way forwards. Without a grassroots material basis from which to develop, theoretical rights will remain forever in the abstract. Disabled people are experiencing ever diminishing packages of support increasingly delivered on a ‘clean and feed’ model, with a rise in administration by in-house local authority services and prepayment cards. Yet, while, through continuation of the ILF, we have a layer of disabled people who regardless of their level of support need are enabled to enjoy a quality of life and level of choice and control that affords an ordinary life, we prevent a full scale roll back and the loss of aspiration for independent living for disabled people. Kevin Caulfield, disabled activist and Chair of Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition Against Cuts says “The campaign has been really important to draw attention to the government’s suffocation of disabled people’s right to independent living and equality. Every disabled person who needs support should have the right resources to live a full life which is why the ILF should be protected and re-opened so that everyone who needs it can apply. The campaign exposed the light touch of the government in relation to enforcing equality legislation and we can see why they are desperate to restrict disabled people’s access to justice by excluding us from legal aid and the right to take judicial review”.

 

It is interesting that the impact of disabled people’s campaigning at this pivotal point in history is so much better recognised outside the disability sector than within. This is for a number of reasons. Mainstream media bias means that most activity is only communicated through social and independent media and to those already linked in. Then there also seems to be a misperception in some quarters that because disabled people are allying ourselves with mainstream movements that it is not disabled people setting the agenda. This misses some really exciting developments where disabled people are influencing a wider understanding and application in practice of disability equality and inclusion. DPAC activists were for example central to last summer’s anti-fracking protest in Balcombe having worked with Reclaim the Power to build an accessible protest camp and a direct action of which disabled activists were at the forefront.

 

The point is not though to gain recognition, the point is to continue to effect concrete social change. Atos may be looking for an exit strategy but disabled people need abolition of the Work Capability Assessment itself, the bedroom tax may have lost all credibility but disabled people and their families are continuing to build arrears and to suffer under its implementation, the Independent Living Fund may have been at least temporarily saved for those existing recipients but the crisis in social care grows ever more desperate. What we have shown over the last few years is that we do have agency when we co-ordinate and campaign. Now there is more to do.

 

For more information about Disabled People Against Cuts national conference on 12th April 2014 contact dpacfightback@yahoo.co.uk. Please note due to limited capacity places are prioritised for signed up members.

Mar 072014
 

photoThe Tory Government’s callous decision to continue with the closure of the Independent Living Fund, announced today by Mike Penning represents a further ideologically driven attack on the quality of life of all but the richest UK citizens.

For those people who rely on the fund for their care and support, the prospect of the devolution of such care to Local Authority adult care provision is harrowing indeed.

One ILF recipient, Mary Laver, made a video about what her life would be like without the ILF. You can see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLPA96k1oaE

What is most illustrative about this video, to me, is not her condition as presented in the video, nor the fact that a woman like Mary could not possibly have been an Olympic Torch Bearer without the help of the fund, but a single sentence she uttered after watching the video of herself in the Houses of Parliament last November. It spoke volumes. She said “I never realized how disabled I am until I saw that.”

Another, perhaps better known ILF recipient is actor and comedian Liz Carr who plays Clarissa Mullery in BBC’s Silent Witness. She says  “The closure of the Independent Living Fund will inevitably lead to the erosion of  independence, inclusion and freedom for disabled people who have high levels of need.  I am one of the 18,000 people in the UK who receive support from the ILF and it is this funding to pay people to do the things I physically can’t do which enables me to get up in the morning, work and have the same kinds of opportunities as everyone else.  I don’t think I’m being overdramatic when I say that today’s news is devastating to those of us whose lives and existence owes a great deal to the Independent Living Fund.  How can already strapped for cash Local authorities take up the slack when the Fund closes in the summer of 2015?  How many of us are going to lose our independence as residential care provides a more cost effective option?  A future without the ILF is terrifying.”

Merry Cross of DPAC and Left Unity says that the decision is “the worst example of the hypocysy asnd lies that Cameron has come out with since he took office in 2010, claiming that he would be protecting ‘the poorest, the most vulnerable, the elderly, the frail’. The intention is to destroy Local Authorities as part of the privatisation agenda. I can’t think of a single reason why any disabled person would be reassured by that statement at the end of the press release that the government “‘want to make sure that disabled people are given the support that allows them to fulfil their potential’” and I can’t think of a single reason why any disabled person would feel anything other than terror and horror. I’d say the governmentt commitment to disabled people is as shallow as its commitment to the pockets of its rich friends is deep.”

That is the truth at the heart of the matter. Withdrawing this lifeline from those of us who need it is sentencing us to a life inside the sterilized walls of a local authority Care Home, or imprisonment within the no less confining walls of our own homes, granted “care” in such meager doses as to deny us the dignity of choosing our own time of rising, sleeping, eating or even the voluntary usage of such necessities as the toilet.

The Court of Appeal found the decision of the Tory Government to close the Independent Living Fund unlawful last November on the grounds that the duty of the government to promote equality had been neglected. The judges found that the DWP had failed to fulfil its duty, under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010, to have “due regard” to the need to promote equality of opportunity between disabled and non-disabled people in its decision to close the fund. It was found that briefings given to then disability minister Esther McVey by officials did not adequately make clear “the potentially very grave impact” the closure of the ILF could have on service users and that whereas responses to the consultation indicated that “independent living might well be put seriously in jeopardy for a large number of people”, this was not conveyed to the minister in clear terms.

To callously strip disabled people of their most basic freedoms cannot by any reasonable person be considered a promotion of equality.

We would thus urge persons of conscience, politicians, and organizations concerned with any and all human rights to join us in the condemnation of this policy and to support the next steps in challenging the manifest sadism of a government bent on imposing destitution and despair on the populace.

Campaigners will continue to fight the closure. DPAC’s Ellen Clifford said, “The fight continues. We are seeing the impact of the closure on 2010 and how local authority support is failing to meet the needs and rights of disabled people under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The strength and resolve of grassroots disabled people got us this far and we are not giving up now. This has never just been about protecting support for existing ILF recipients, however important that certainly is, but it is also about the fundamental right to independent living for all disabled people.”

Article by Conan Doyle

Photo from Rockinpaddy touring with Graeae’s Threepenny Opera