ellen

May 012019
 

In response to our protest outside Facebook last week, their product policy team have offered us a meeting to discuss examples where we think blocking may have been down to disabilist bias within their systems. If you have examples you would like brought to FB’s attention please let us know by contacting us at: mail@dpac.uk.net.

Thanks to model and actor @TheLadyFuchsia for sharing with us the below photos. The top image – if her in a wheelchair – always gets blocked. The below – without a wheelchair – never does.

Apr 252019
 

Front cover of "Independent Living for the Future" documentDownload report here: NILSS_final

The Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance, a network of  disabled people and our organisations in England, is asking for support for a bold new vision for independent living* for the future. (* The phrase ‘independent living’ is not about disabled people doing things on our own, it means having choice and control over our own lives, being included in the community and having the same chances to take part as other people.)

The social care and mental health systems are currently in crisis and as a result disabled people’s rights to an adequate standard of living, to dignity and inclusion and to equal participation in society are being taken backwards.

In its present state, the system is not fit to respond to current needs, let alone predicted greater needs in the future. Disabled people’s experiences of support are subject to a post code lottery and differ considerably depending upon impairment.

Disabled people and our organisations are calling for a better system guaranteeing consistent levels of adequate support. This will not only benefit us and our families but will strengthen wider society, save costs in other areas and produce social and economic benefits.

Our vision of a national independent living support system is set out in the position paper “Independent Living for the Future” which you can download above or below for the easy read version.

Please sign up in support using the form at the end of this page and help us reclaim disabled people’s futures by making our vision a reality.

Picture of front cover of easy read version

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NILSS_easyread

 Posted by at 15:17
Apr 172019
 

Meet: 4pm 25 April 2019, outside Facebook HQ, 1 Rathbone Square, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1FB. See the Event page

Join Disabled People Against Cuts, loud and proud, outside Facebook’s London HQ on 25 April to protest discriminatory treatment of disability-related pages. Last week, Facebook (FB) told Access Ability, in a recorded phone call that their site set up to empower disabled people had been blocked from inviting ‘likes’ by FB algorithms which block anything “that could be disturbing”. When challenged on this the FB employee stated that “some people find it disturbing to see pictures of disabled people”. She also said she had never before come across “a page that promotes disability” and seemed surprised at the idea.

DPAC spokesperson Bob Ellard said: “Facebook may have 21st century tech but they have shown themselves to have 19th century attitudes. The company makes billions in profits yet clearly lacks even basic anti-discrimination training for staff. Technology can change disabled people’s lives, with social media having played an important role in the development of disabled people led campaigns over recent years, but equal access doesn’t just need progressive technology, it needs progressive attitudes too. An algorithm is only as good as the people programming it.”

The protest is being supported by Models of Diversity, an organisation set up to promote equality and diversity in the fashion, beauty and media industries.

Founder, Angel Sinclair, says: “Models of Diversity are saddened by the disgusting treatment of Ability Access by Facebook last week. It is distressing to us that images of those with disability are considered ‘disturbing’ yet videos of ISIS murders and page 3 style nudity is acceptable. As a global organisation it is Facebook’s responsibility to educate its staff and make a stand against this kind of discrimination.”

Since the incident FB has explained the page was blocked because of an image showing a disabled woman who is disrobed. Whatever the reasons in this particular case, what was said by the employee in the telephone call was simply unacceptable. Moreover, other disabled campaigners from around the world have spoken out on twitter about similar difficulties with Facebook.

@Dominickevans, a Polish-American film-maker and activist commented: “They’ve been preventing me from inviting people to disability themed events I plan. Most people rely on me inviting them to know about the events happening, and it’s made me less likely to post events on Facebook.”

Disabled people and our allies want reassurances from FB that adequate steps will now be taken to protect disabled FB users from discrimination, including re-programming of algorithms as required to enable disability-related FB pages to promote their content, and that staff at all levels of the company will receive user led disability equality training.

If you are unable to join us but would like to send a message to Facebook for us to hand in please email mail@dpac.uk.net.

Support the protest on social media using the hashtag #DisabilityNotDisturbing

Apr 172019
 

The Future of Independent Living for Disabled People
Committee room 10, Houses of Parliament
1 – 2pm, Thursday 25 April 2019.

Hosted by Marsha De Cordova, Shadow Minister for Disabled People, in partnership with the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and the TUC Disabled Workers’ Committee

This meeting will launch of the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance position statement on the future of independent living for Disabled people and findings from DPAC’s research into the social care postcode lottery.

Independent Living is of central importance to Disabled people’s lives, encompassing the meeting of our most basic human needs as well as the chance to take part in society the same as everyone else. It is often misunderstood and thought to be about doing things without support, but as Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities sets out, it is about having choice and control over our lives and the chance to be fully included in the community.

For independent living to be a reality for Disabled people, we need a system that provides the right type, amount, quality and range of support options. The current social care system is not up to the task and Disabled people’s experiences of independent living are going backwards while being subject to a dramatic post code lottery. This is not inevitable. Investment in independent living could create savings in other areas while supporting Disabled people to be active citizens. DPAC research into differences in social care provision and charging cross local authorities in England highlights the reasons why Disabled people need a national independent living system free at the point of delivery capable of meeting need in a way that is credible for the 21st century.

Please join us to hear from Disabled people and our organisations what the problems are with the current system but also our solutions for the future.

For more information or to book a place please email: mail@dpac.uk.net.

Mar 252019
 

So this woman who I have huge respect for asked me to write about my experience of Universal Credit. I said yes because I’m a people pleaser but my immediate thought afterwards was shit, I’m going to have to admit to being a workshy layabout, possibly bring down the wrath of the DWP and try to be politically correct which isn’t my strong suit. I apologise in advance for any words or thoughts that aren’t in keeping with polite society. And there will probably be some.

Oh and I’m not going to do any research whatsoever this is just my experience but as I already mentioned I’m a workshy layabout so that’s hardly a shock.

Apologies and disclaimers over here we go.

Universal Credit – what a shower of shit. Fortunately I know someone who can keep me calm and knows benefits inside out which most people don’t have because advice services have been torn apart since 2010 in the Tories ideological war on the poor and disabled people. Or austerity as the press like to call it, which apparently is over. It’s not, wake up and smell the Tory beans – if you can afford beans. Our government are proud of foodbanks because they show that ‘Dunkirk spirit’. For some reason Dunkirk is seen as a great British victory but it was a massive running away and foodbanks are not a thing to celebrate.

Anyway back to the plot. You have to apply online which lots of people can’t do for many different reasons none of which are rocket science to understand as barriers. For instance not being able to read or write, dyslexia, not having internet access, not having English as a first language (although there is an option for Welsh). BEING BLIND. I’LL SAY THAT AGAIN: BEING BLIND. Their advice to blind people is to get a sighted person to help but you can only get that advice if you can read the fucking screen because there’s no one to phone. There is a well established phenomenon called brown envelope syndrome when people are too anxious or scared to open brown envelopes so they fall into debt and have legal problems they didn’t see coming. The DWP I believe make their letters unnecessarily complex on purpose. You can get four letters a day which contradict each other – Universal Credit takes that to a whole new level – and as Americans like to say ‘that’s your tax dollars at work’. Millions and millions and millions of your tax dollars that could be much better used providing a safety net for people.

So you fill in the online form online, if you have capacity to, which gives you no space to explain your situation and then a few weeks later you get a work coach. Mine is called Ronaldo at Walthamstow job centre but outside of appointments it’s Gary Lineker in Basildon (names changed to protect the guilty).

So you go to see your work coach after being warned if you don’t turn up on time you’ll be sanctioned, then they keep you waiting for an hour because your work coach is at lunch but still booking appointments during his lunchtime. Some work coach and he’s getting me a job? And then he’s more interested in training another member of staff who is grinning and nodding like one of those car ornaments that were popular on the back shelves of 1980’s Ford Cortinas than speaking to me. I’m sat there while he talks to the car ornament and the computer screen. Car ornament, computer screen, car ornament, computer screen and I end up wondering if I should wave ‘oh hi just my life you’re discussing while you’re teaching someone to press enter when you want to send something’. AND IT’S A COMPUTER BASED ONLINE SYSTEM. Good luck I hope she goes onto great things at job centre plus (what is the plus about, are there job centres non plus?)

So eventually he notices I’m there and I’ve got every piece of ID I have, far more than requested, but my statement about rent was wrong by 4p because my tenancy agreement is apparently out of date so I have to go back the next week.

Next week the car ornament has gone but my work coach is still on his lunch break so I wait for him to dine again.
Note about work coach: I’ve worked most of my life when I haven’t been unwell, I’ve run my own business, successfully. I broke several child laws working for my mum who put me down on tax returns as a variety of Disney characters and wouldn’t be able to deny I was 12 because she was my mum. I know how to fill in a CV or job application and have done many times. What’s he going to coach me on?

I present the same paperwork as before and this week it’s fine so I now have a journal and a to do list. Before I get home I’m getting emails to enter my journal for agreeing to stuff. I didn’t sign anything and one of my things is seeing my counsellor and GP which I kind of thought were secret and confidential unless I chose to disclose. My GP, Ray Clemence, can give me medication and sicknotes and is a really nice understanding guy but my counsellor, George Graham, who is also a really nice understanding guy can’t really do anything except listen to me bleat on.

So then I start getting messages to read my journal and it’s telling me my Universal Credit will be affected because I’m on ESA. No I’m not, I was previously six months ago but I’ve had a job since then. There’s nowhere to reply to this claim so you have to phone ESA which is a whole other level of hell. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons anyone? Someone earned a lot of money deciding that classical music would be calming but after 40 minutes of listening to the same segment, not even the whole piece, it’s anything but calming. Then I got to speak to someone and I explain the situation patiently and finally she goes dunno why not phone universal credit? Err because you can’t phone universal credit. Oh that’s odd she says. Can you contact them I say? No it’s a different system so I can’t contact them on your behalf. Hang up the phone totally frustrated and two minutes later my phone pings to tell me to read my journal. Surprise surprise it’s telling me I’m on ESA.

Fortunately I’ve got my pet benefit advisor to talk me down from the hills of anxiety when all I’m trying to do is the right things. I won’t give her a football pseudonym because she hates football but she said this happens all the time. All I want is my rent paid and a roof over my head and my landlord’s agent to stop sending threatening letters. I’ve been homeless and obviously survived, but I was much younger then and don’t want to do it again. And I’d have nowhere to charge my iPod or Kindle and I’m easily bored – I need music and trashy crime novels to stop my mind racing especially since I’m on the dole and have nothing better to do with my time.

Where was I? Oh yeah endless claims that I’m on ESA when my bank statement and DWP letters say I’m not and I know I’m not because I wouldn’t have applied for universal credit if I was. I’d most definitely rather be employed which isn’t an option at the moment because my last boss was a nightmare and screwed up my mental health and my self esteem is at zero. Imagine going to work scared for the rest of your life, which was my life, but universal credit is worse.

So Ronaldo my work coach promises my rent will be paid on February 5th , I’m still panicking and my landlord is still in a strop so I phone up my landlord again and again. No payment. 6th 7th 8th go by and I’m starting to stockpile weapons by the front door to fight off bailiffs. People are telling me to calm down which is easier said than done. Long story short this goes on and on. My life. Remember that. But I had support which other people don’t have but still my reaction is to put on the loudest punk music, make death threats and smash my head against the wall (none of which impress my neighbours at 4am).

Finally the rent is paid and I’ve been given some money. My landlord is still in a strop and there’s no explanation of what I’ve been paid or how long it’s for so my mental health is still screwed up and there’s still no one to get clarification from and if payments will continue.

I’m going to finish with a random snoring analogy. Several of my previous partners have said I snore and I always denied it with no proof to back myself up because I was asleep when the alleged snoring happened. But eventually I had to except I probably snore. Everyone is telling the government that universal credit is deeply flawed, and they have evidence, and the government are still saying it’s not. I sleep on my own so snoring is no longer a problem but I haven’t solved the problem. The government are doing similar by having a committee looking into it, the results of which are very probably pre-decided, but they haven’t solved the problem.

To paraphrase the words of the band Killdren: get the Tories out before they kill you.

By Peter Rogers.

Mar 192019
 

DPAC sends solidarity to ME campaigners subject to recent attacks from researchers whose work they have fairly criticised and journalists repeating accusations with no interest in the real story.
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A story run by Reuters and picked up by the Daily Mail and Rod Liddle writing for The Times claimed that researchers are leaving the study of treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome because of abuse and harassment from campaigners. There was no mention of the harm that their so-called “treatment” trials had caused or the significant scientific flaws in their research, as covered in an entire special issue of the Journal of Health Psychology. (Available at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1359105317722370).

ME activist Catherine Hale explains: “It’s the usual pattern: a spurious story about CFS researchers getting online harassment and having to quit their ‘vital’ research. In reality Professor Sharpe is quitting because so many other scientists have trashed his work and exposed PACE as bogus. Professor Wessely’s hand in this is as always because he controls the Science Media Centre which puts out these high profile press releases and all the usual suspects among health journalists lap it up. Rod Liddle spews his usual hate and contempt for people with ME as he does for other oppressed groups. It’s a regular pattern they use to deflect from negative news about PACE or the parliamentary debate that happened for example. We have no pundits in the mainstream media to tell our side of the story. All the public ever hears about is the “ME militant standing in the way of science” narrative.”

The battle that people with ME have to go through to be taken seriously and to receive the support they need is an injustice. It is also part of a wider issue of disability denial that affects all disabled people. The bogus research into CFS “treatment” was central to the development of a model of disability denial behind the design of benefit assessments for ESA and PIP.

The media accusations represent an attack against speaking out by patients against mistreatment. They are an attempt to silence those already suffering oppression and a massive imbalance of power. But they also show that the campaigning is working. Power never cedes graciously and we can’t expect that those losing it will give in without a fight. It is important we show solidarity to those campaigners who are currently under attack and to congratulate them for how far they have come in exposing and challenging injustice.

Messages of solidarity can be sent using the hashtags #millionsmissing #pwme #PACEgate.

For more information on the issues:
ME Action UK have written this letter to the editor of Reuters: https://www.meaction.net/2019/03/14/fighting-for-rigorous-science-and-accurate-reporting/
Articles on why the media are waging war on people with chronic illness by Steve Topple: https://mrtopple.com/2019/03/18/the-twisted-reason-the-media-have-waged-war-on-chronically-ill-and-disabled-people/
Campaigner Nathalie Wright’s article on the struggle to be taken seriously by doctors: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/why-patients-me-demanding-justice-millions-missing-chronic-fatigue-illness-disease-a8133616.html
A condensed briefing about the PACE trial: https://www.s4me.info/threads/science-for-me-pace-briefing-document.3140/
The links between the PACE trial and “welfare reform” by Simon Duffy: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-simon-duffy/the-misleading-research-a_b_9726490.html

 Posted by at 15:33
Feb 182019
 

Disabled People Against Cuts and our allies in the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance are campaigning for a National Independent Living Support Service capable of upholding disabled people’s rights to independent living and building on what was so effective about the Independent Living Fund before it was closed in spite of enormous opposition in June 2015.

Please call on your union branches and CLPs to pass motions supporting the campaign. Thanks to Sean McGovern for the wording of a suggested motion as below. If you would like someone to speak at your branch meeting please send details to mail@dpac.uk.net.

For information about our vision of a National Independent Living Support Service, download this document: NILS-summary-doc-2

 

National Independent Living Support Service Motion

There is no doubt that social care is in crisis. A crisis brought about by years of Conservative governments’ ideological austerity policies. Today we have a failing system unable to meet current need; and certainly, unfit to respond to predicted future growth.

Bringing social care under a struggling NHS umbrella is not the answer. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of disabled people with social care packages do not receive healthcare interventions through support packages. No, healthcare and social care serve very different kinds of need.

Therefore, this Conference calls upon a newly elected Labour government to establish a National Independent Living Support Service (NILSS). A Service:

  • that gives new universal right to independent living
  • enshrined in law and delivered through a new national independent living service co-created between government and Disabled people,
  • funded through general taxation and managed by central government,
  • led by Disabled people and delivered locally in co-production with Disabled people.

Marrying social care to the NHS further medicalises disability in addition to denying the very things that disabled people are crying for…Independence, Choice and Control – things only deliverable by the establishment of a National Independent Living Support Service.

Word Count 197

 Posted by at 15:40
Feb 152019
 

On 1 Feb a letter from Sarah Newton, Minister against Disabled People, was published in the Guardian. In it she cites figures to show spending on disability benefits is increasing and makes other claims to suggest the government are successfully “ensuring that whatever a disabled person’s circumstances, they are able to access personalised, tailored support”.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/feb/01/spending-on-benefits-for-disabled-people-is-increasing

The Guardian chose not to publish either the DPAC or Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance responses but you can read them here.

 

From DPAC:

“Minister for Disabled People, Sarah Newton’s, letter published on 1 February attempts to deflect from criticisms of the Government’s disgraceful record on disability by repeating amounts spent on social security payments. Out of context these figures tell us virtually nothing. That inflation exists and spending rises is hardly news. They are certainly no indication of how far spending meets need, of which evidence proves it to be well short in education as well as disability.

The Government failed to achieve George Osborne’s target of slashing the Disability Living Allowance by 20% in replacing it with Personal Independence Payment – a target based on a serious miscalculation of how many disabled people there are and how society would react to robbing us of essential support. That is to be welcomed but the hundreds of thousands who have been denied access to the new benefit since its roll out in 2013 is nevertheless shameful.

There is now overwhelming evidence of the adverse impacts of policies that target cuts on the most disadvantaged members of society. The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s cumulative impact assessment of welfare and tax changes since 2010 finds that the more disabled a household is, the harder it has been hit: for households with at least one disabled adult and a disabled child, average annual cash losses are just over £6,500 – over 13% of average net income.

Since taking office as Minister for Disabled People, Newton’s tactic has been to paint accusations of harm caused by welfare reform as unreasonable. The problem she has is that literally millions of the population have now experienced the degradation and senselessness of the benefits system since 2010, whether as claimants, family or friends to someone suffering under the punitive system or professionals within swamped support services. This means a huge base of lived experience that can’t be fooled by misuse of statistics, lies and spin. The further the disconnect between her statements and what people know to be true, the more people are waking up to the realities of a government that puts profit before people and the interests of an elite few above those of the many.”

 

From ROFA:

“In her letter of 1 Feb – Minister against Disabled People Sarah Newton opines that the spending on disabled people is “more than either on the police, defence or schools”. If she is so concerned for spending in these areas one wonders why she has voted consistently to slash spending on them since first being elected to Parliament in 2010.

Any ‘Minister for Disabled People’ worth having should be questioning the impact that her own government’s cuts to schools (down by 8% per pupil since 2010) has had on access to education for disabled people. Instead she cynically implies that disabled people should be grateful for what we’ve got because according to some amateur accounting it is higher than a selection of other areas which have been hit with Tory cuts. Disabled People’s need for support is not responsible for the impact of the choices of Conservative governments to cut spending while cutting taxes for the wealthiest.

We are aware the minister includes housing benefit in her figure for spending on disabled people. This seems a little discriminatory as non-disabled people also claim housing benefit when they are unable to meet the costs of housing. Would the minister, for example, imply that school cuts are a result of non-disabled people’s unwillingness to be homeless? It would be unfair and disrespectful of the barriers we face to expect us to cease our demands for an end to a system that leaves many without the support needed to live in dignity and fearful of the next letter from the DWP, based on a figure including the amount the government transfers to the pockets of private landlords in housing benefit (one of the largest components of the spending figure she quotes). Any rise in the amount spent on housing benefit for disabled people is not a result of our need for support but of the government’s disastrous housing policy which has seen rents skyrocket.”

 Posted by at 22:33
Jan 312019
 

Picture showing the front cover of the report with the title "UBI: Solution or Illusion? The implications of Universal Basic Income for Disabled People in Britain", the DPAC logo and a pile of money including a £5 note and some change.

Universal Basic Income (UBI) – a regular cash payment made to individuals without means testing or conditionality – has been described as an idea whose time has come, supported across the political divide from free market libertarians to left wingers attracted to the idea of emancipating the working classes from wage labour. With disabled people as one of the groups at the sharp end of “welfare reform”, DPAC are less convinced that UBI can deliver the solution so desperately needed to fix the social security system and fear that the introduction of UBI could further disadvantage those who have suffered the most since 2010. Today we are launching our report “Universal Basic Income: Solution or Illusion” based on a longer paper we published on the same subject last year.

Download the report here: UBI – Solution or Illusion

 

A basic income will not cover the extra costs of disability and therefore a system of disability benefits will still be needed alongside a UBI. Disabled people are concerned that the need to finance universal basic income payments could lead to even more pressure to save money by restricting eligibility than under the current system. With the crisis in social care having taken disabled people’s quality of life dramatically backwards, there are also concerns that the introduction of a UBI will prevent a reversal of cuts that are leaving increasing numbers trapped in their own homes without access to food, water or the toilet for hours at a time, day and night.

The report comes at a time when there is growing support for the idea that Universal credit cannot be fixed but must be scrapped. That leaves us with the question of with what to replace it. The idea of a UBI – with no means testing or conditionality – sounds attractive but the reality would be very different. A central principle underpinning any social security policy development must be meaningful engagement with the lived experience of those affected. The “test and learn” approach of Universal Credit has, as identified at the end of last year by the United Nations’ special rapporteur on extreme poverty, made guinea pigs of the most disadvantaged members of society. The disastrous impacts of UC were entirely predictable but ignored. Transformation of the social security system won’t succeed through top down policy making: it has to be designed to meet need and to do that you need to listen to those at the grassroots.

Disabled people have experienced to our detriment through UC and the personalisation of social care how what can be presented as progressive ideas can in practice affect widespread harm. We must not repeat this mistake through UBI.

 

 Posted by at 14:29
Jun 282018
 

https://bristolsafeguarding.org/adults/safeguarding-adult-reviews/bristol-sars/kamil-ahmad-and-mr-x-june-2018/

We are organisers of an event in honour of Kamil Ahmad and other disabled asylum seekers and refugees. Some of us knew Kamil, some of us did not know him but have been motivated to attempt to address the root causes of Kamil’s tragic experiences. We would like to respond to the Safeguarding Review for Kamil Ahmad.
We are pleased that the safeguarding review has recognised that Kamil faced ongoing racism, that he was failed by many agencies and that his search for justice was impeded by (perhaps unconscious) disregard for the rights of refused asylum seekers.

However, beyond that we are disappointed by this review and response by the Bristol safeguarding board. This was a chance to expose the catalogue of injustice that Kamil experienced and to provide a sense that action is being taken to address the racism and ableism which Kamil experienced.

We are puzzled by the repeated references to the lack of interpreters as if this were an excuse rather a fundamental failing on the part of the agencies concerned. If a person is reporting a crime and does not speak English, then it is the police responsibility to provide interpreters. We are aware of at least one occasion when Kamil organised his own interpreter but the police officer did not appear and did not ring to rearrange. We are aware that the police have suggested that Kamil’s interpreter cancelled the appointment. We ask for any plausible explanation as to why he would have done this, given that he and Kamil were waiting. We also ask why it was necessary for Kamil to rely on voluntary support of interpreters. We are disappointed in the lack of attention paid to the police failure to turn up, pay for interpreters or to press charges.

The assertion that Kamil did not wish to make a statement to the police in April 2016 does not convince us. Might this apparent ‘misunderstanding’ have been the result of the numerous times when no interpreter was provided or the failure of police to turn up for the appointment when Kamil had arranged his own interpreter?

There could have been deeper investigation into potentially racist attitudes towards Kamil as an asylum seeker by services that should have been providing support – this is implied where it talks about attitudes towards people with “failed” applications but is not explored in any meaningful depth. We ask what prevented the ‘attempts’ to contact Kamil and to warn him about the increased risk posed to him (paragraph 10.11). We assume that action is being taken to prevent this in future.

The report stresses that Kamil is not blamed, yet there is constant referencing to “dynamics” and “tensions” between the two men. This implies that the men were co-protagonists rather than that Kamil was the victim. We suggest that the structures and attitudes of a system that disempowers service users are so ingrained that even now, the report authors are not able to recognise the ways in which Kamil was failed. It appears that as a service user and as a refused asylum seeker, Kamil’s rights to live free from abuse, harassment and fear, were denied. Kamil had a strong sense of justice and because he did not passively submit to having his rights denied, he is referred to as if he were a co-protagonist. References to Kamil’s knife are hugely exaggerated. Given the repeated threats that he was receiving, it seems that the paper knife which he owned is rather minimal self-defence, yet it is referenced as if it were a sign of potential aggression.

We are surprised that agencies did not realise it would be traumatic when Kamil was threatened with eviction, given that this meant he would have been street homeless (paragraph 9.8). We are also puzzled at the manner in which the report refers to voluntary organisations. If Kamil had been evicted from the property, he would have lost his right to support from social services and would have had no support whatsoever, as is deliberate policy for refused asylum seekers.

It is deeply disappointing to see this safeguarding review used as an opportunity to promote the outsourcing of statuary responsibilities to the voluntary and charity sector. It is also It is insulting to the goodwill of volunteers to suggest that they could have taken up where statutory authorities failed. The reason that Kamil had originally been given an Care Act assessment was because of lobbying by the volunteers who had been supporting him. They were unable to support his mental health needs. And it is not their job. It is a misrepresentation, and indeed irresponsible, to suggest that volunteers can supply the level of mental health support that Kamil needed. The decision making, that led to a Disabled man with high support needs being assessed as ineligible for support from the local authority, is barely referred to, let alone questioned. The re-traumatising impact it had on Kamil as a person, and the potential breach of his human rights, is also further indication that the Care Act, and it’s implementation, is failing Disabled people and Disabled asylum seekers.

Frequent reference to Kamil cancelling appointments brings the implication that this was his failing. It should be noted that he never cancelled an appointment with the Trauma Foundation and his interpreter. Those agencies with whom he cancelled appointments need to ask themselves why he did so.

We are concerned at evidence in the report of the impact of the crisis in social care and mental health services, bed shortages and out-sourcing to private hospitals. We are aware that it is not uncommon for people to be sent many miles away from family and friends to private sector hospitals, such as Cygnet, owned by US giant Universal Health Services, and the added stress that this places on their mental health.

The repeated communication failures between the NHS, voluntary and private sector services which also contributed to Kamil’s murder are simply not a matter of ‘learning lessons’ or designing new ‘pathways.’ We believe these are a direct consequence of drastic funding cuts, unaccountable commissioning and the impact of service fragmentation on front-line staff.

We consider it wholly inappropriate that as part of the response from the safeguarding board, there is reference to the need for interpreters, refugees and asylum seekers to be trained. Kamil and his interpreter did all they possibly could have done to seek justice and to alert the authorities as to the danger that he was in. We ask what this training would include – the need to inform the police? Mental health services? Housing provider? All of which Kamil and his interpreter did on multiple occasions. Of course some people may need support in order to be as assertive as Kamil was but it is not him or his interpreter who needed training. Those who need training most urgently are those who did not listen to their pleas for action and those who have, what the report refers to as, ‘unconscious’ bias.

Despite reference to systemic issues, the report still attempts to shift the blame from the agencies to the individual. The report contains 15 references to Kamil and other disabled people as ‘vulnerable’. ALL humans are vulnerable. People become more vulnerable if barriers are faced getting their rights met. Kamil was failed by multiple agencies. He died because insufficient action was taken to prevent someone intent on killing him. This is not a sign of Kamil’s ‘vulnerability’ but of agency failures.

The response from the Bristol Safeguarding Adults Board also refers to their intention to attend the event that we are organising designed to build a broader movement of solidarity. We welcome anybody who would like to play their part in building such a movement, however we stress this event is not designed for ‘professionals’ to share their ideas of best practice.

In other responses to the review, Kamil is referred to as a ‘vulnerable’ or a ‘tragic case’. To different people Kamil was a brother, a cousin, an uncle, a son, a friend. He was a human with rights and needs just like any other human. Those people from agencies who still consider humans as ‘vulnerable cases’ are not only doing an injustice to those people, but you are also missing out. Kamil was a wonderful, intelligent, funny, kind and articulate human being who was failed, and, judging from this review, continues to be failed.

We are aware that Kamil’s family have waited two years for apologies from all those who failed Kamil. We would like to see evidence that the lessons are being learned.

Jun 272018
 

 

The Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) – an alliance of Deaf and Disabled people and our organisations in England – notes the global disability summit being held in London at the end of July, co-hosted by the UK government and Kenya. We are strongly in favour of international support that improves the lives of Deaf and Disabled people across the world and welcome co-operation between States that lead to stronger human rights laws and protections. We particularly support the building of international solidarity and links directly between Deaf and Disabled People, our organisations and campaigns.

Regarding the July summit, we have a number of concerns:
• The role of the UK government in co-hosting the event. The UK government has been found responsible for grave and systematic violations of Disabled people’s rights due to welfare reform and continues to dismiss the findings and expertise of the UN disability committee. Their involvement undermines any aims of the summit linked to strengthening Deaf and Disabled people’s rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UN CRPD) and provides a platform for them to showcase to other States how it is possible to get away with ignoring those rights when it comes to your own citizens.
• The UK government has used international work to cynically deflect from criticisms of their disability record in the UK. On a number of occasions when government ministers have been criticised for implementing policies with an adverse impact on Deaf and Disabled people, they have cited the poorer conditions of Disabled people in other countries. This represents a misunderstanding of the UN CRPD which is about the progressive realisation of rights. The UN disability committee have such concern about the situation in the UK because it represents a serious and dramatic retrogression of rights, described by the Chair as a ‘human catastrophe’. In deflecting attention from their record in the UK, the Government clearly intend to more easily continue their punitive policies targeted at Disabled people and the poorest members of society. There is now overwhelming evidence, evidence which the UN disability committee considered, that prove the brutal impacts of these policies. It would be a betrayal to all those suffering under them not to raise concerns about attempts such as use of the global summit to divert attention and opposition to those policies.

• The Department for International Development (DFID) is commissioning a £27m Disability Inclusive Development (DID) Programme which has excluded UK Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPOs) from the design and delivery. UK DDPOs have been excluded from disability and development cooperation since our Government signed and ratified the UN CRPD in spite of articles 3 and 32. DFID instead favours working with charities FOR Disabled people and International Non-Government Organisations (INGOs) which have all failed to mainstream disability in their own organisations or cooperate with UK DDPOs in their work.

We call on Deaf and Disabled people and our allies to:
• challenge these disablist policies and practices that disproportionately and negatively impact on Deaf and Disabled people and that dehumanise and erase our different human identities
• stand in solidarity with Deaf and Disabled people in the UK who are on the receiving end of the grave and systematic violations of our rights and promote stronger rights and protections for Deaf and Disabled people globally
• celebrate and build international links of solidarity between our struggles – we are demanding UK DDPOs and DDPOs from the South receive support from DFID to collaborate to create disability equality, justice and human rights globally

To this end we are planning the following activities in which we hope you will join us:
• International Deaf and Disabled People’s Solidarity Summit – for Deaf and Disabled people and our allies to explore issues relating to our struggles against oppression and co-ordinating our resistance. International DDPO representatives in London for the government hosted summit are invited to join us at this event. For more information see: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/international-deaf-and-disabled-peoples-solidarity-summit-tickets-47524826034
• Online and social media activities to be announced.

 Posted by at 22:46
Jun 212018
 

(For a word version of this article with references, click this link and then click on the document icon: DPAC-UBI )

 

Introduction

If disabled campaigners weren’t previously worried about growing support for the idea of a Universal Basic Income, then following the publication of the World Bank’s draft annual report for 2019 (2019 WDR), they should be now. This document clearly articulates the link between intensification of the neoliberal agenda and provision of a basic income, putting forward a policy programme of extensive labour deregulation including lower minimum wages, flexible dismissal procedures and zero-hours contracts , compensated in part by a basic income “modest in size” so as to “be complementary to work” and financed largely by regressive consumption taxes (i.e. increasing VAT). The study warns that care must be taken in scrapping existing benefits, but these proposals are a far cry from the urgent demands for greater security of income and of employment for those who can and want to work being made by those currently suffering under the dismantling of the welfare state. The approach taken by WDR 2019 in affirming “the importance of work as a complement to healthcare and education in the production of human capital” has worrying echoes of the mantra that “work is good for you” reinforced throughout Tory welfare reform policies that have caused avoidable harm to millions of disabled people.

Universal Basic Income – the idea of replacing complex social security systems with a single non-means-tested, unconditional flat payment to everyone regardless of employment status – is an idea that has steadily been gaining traction internationally on both sides of the political divide over the past few years. While right wing libertarians see UBI as a means to eradicating the entire welfare state including free healthcare, proponents on the left argue it has the potential to free the working class from wage labour and foster individual creativity and fulfilment. In Scotland, four Councils have bid for funds to pilot UBI schemes with support from Labour, SNP, Green and, in one case, Conservative councillors. Within the UK, UBI is being presented as a solution to a number of modern economic and political problems including the need to find an alternative to the considerable and well-evidenced failings of the current benefit system. Given the prominence of that line of reasoning within burgeoning comment and analysis, it is then notable how little attention has been given to the specific implications of UBI for disabled people .

UBI is not a new idea but over recent years has gained significant global currency becoming the focus of numerous studies and worldwide trials. Few of these manifest every characteristic of a basic income and to date there is no precedent for what it would mean to replace an existing complex social security system such as we have in Britain with a UBI . The 2019 WDR states that “For the moment, a true UBI is largely a theoretical proposition.” In Scotland even before the pilots began, Nicola Sturgeon publicly questioned the feasibility of the idea . Pilots in other developed countries are focused primarily on incentivising employment and have been met with opposition from anti-austerity campaigners: the version of UBI being trialled by Finland’s right-wing government has been described as a “UBI-as-workhouse nightmare” while opponents to Ontario’s guaranteed minimum income pilot have stated that “BI [basic income] is being developed as a measure of neoliberal attack that should be opposed” and “The hope that there is any realistic chance of ensuring a truly adequate, universal payment, that isn’t financed by undermining other vital elements of social provision, is misplaced” .

In Britain, as Labour prepares for the possibility of a Corbyn-led government, UBI has emerged as a key component within efforts to develop an alternative vision for social security. A 2016 paper from the think-tank Compass entitled “Universal Basic Income: an idea whose time has come?” called for a pilot in Britain. John McDonnell is supportive of UBI with both the TUC and Unite, Britain’s largest trade union, passing motions endorsing basic income in 2016 . By contrast, the Conservative party remains heavily opposed to the idea, fervently sticking to their commitment to dismantle the welfare state through increasing rather than removing conditionality. Conditionality – the idea that social security claimants must commit to “doing” in return for state-funded support with deemed non-compliance resulting in the sanctioning of payments, often reducing an individual’s income to zero – has been further and further intensified the longer the Tories have been in power . This trajectory is set to continue with the roll out of Universal Credit, extending the reach of benefit sanctions to those in part time work not deemed to be looking hard enough for additional work, and the introduction of the Health and Work Conversation as a new stage within the application process for Employment and Support Allowance which has now extended mandatory activity to all disabled people including those with high support needs and terminal illness, with very few exemptions.

As disabled people suffer under the impacts of welfare reform and a social security system designed to deny eligibility and punish rather than support claimants, there is an obvious attraction to the idea of UBI as an automatic payment administered without assessments. Supporters argue that with everyone, regardless of income status or disability, in receipt of a universal payment, this could lead to the de-stigmatisation of social security, ending the scapegoating of benefit claimants and associated hostility towards disabled people. However, if we look beyond the basic concept of UBI at what the detail of implementation would mean for disabled people, we see a more complicated and potentially regressive picture. The Citizens’ Income Trust, one of the major supporters of a basic (or “citizens” income) in the UK, now advocate that both disability and housing benefits would need to remain outside a model of UBI, which would mean continuing assessments and potentially conditionality for disabled people. Concerns have also been raised in a number of articles that funding a UBI would entail cuts to benefits and services that “vulnerable” groups including disabled people now receive.

Neoliberal versions of UBI promoted by right-wing economists and politicians offer a stark warning about the dangers of UBI. Paying each person a minimum basic income rather than investing in a living wage and social protection is seen as a way of ‘saving money’, reducing the size of the state and public services. Sam Bowman, executive director of the Adam Smith Institute, wrote in 2013: “The British government spends more on welfare than it does on anything else apart from healthcare…The ideal welfare system is a basic income, replacing the existing anti-poverty programmes the government carries out.” In the US, Charles Murray has proposed an annual unconditional grant of $10,000 for every adult while scrapping the rest of the welfare state, including Social Security and Medicare. Similarly, Milton Friedman advocated a similar system called Negative Income Tax where those who earned below a certain income threshold would receive money back from the government instead of paying any income taxes but also where all other existing welfare programmes would be abolished. The implications of such proposals on those with the greatest needs including disabled people would be devastating and, as pernicious as our social security system has become, would affect an even more serious and dramatic regression of living standards.

With over three million disabled people currently receiving social security payments in the UK today, DPAC would argue that disabled people need to involve ourselves in the debate on UBI, both in gaining an understanding of the wider economic implications of UBI and in identifying and voicing the implications for disabled people. The aim of this article is thus both to present an over-view of the wider arguments for and against UBI and to focus more specifically on the question of what UBI might mean for disability benefits and disabled people in Britain. UBI has been credited with achieving all sorts of radical and progressive changes in society such as balancing the economy, replacing incomes lost through automation and leading us towards a workless future, but, as DPAC’s Canadian allies Ontario Coalition Against Poverty warn, placing a welcome mat for the introduction of a basic income legitimises the neoliberal agenda of undermining social provision, increasing the rate of exploitation and disregarding the needs of disabled people.

 

Worldwide UBI pilots

Although the last few years have seen UBI pilots announced across the globe, such that Basic Income Earth Network founder Guy Standing dubbed 2016 “the year of the pilot” , there is to date no precedent for a UBI replacing a complex social security system such as we have in Britain. Examples cited by UBI supporters including pilots in Madya Pradesh and, historically, Manitoba province in Canada, and partial schemes operated in Alaska and Iran, are limited in their applicability and tell us little more than that giving money to people is popular and that decreasing poverty produces positive outcomes. More significantly, trials in Finland and Canada demonstrate how UBI can be used to fulfil a neoliberal agenda focused on pushing unemployed workers into poorly paid and insecure work. Models linked to the forthcoming Scottish pilots indicate that disability benefits will be retained alongside a basic income while Nicola Sturgeon’s advisors have warned that public money would be better spent on those most in need.

Limitations of examples used to support UBI    

Two pilots in Madya Pradesh in India launched in 2010 produced positive social and economic outcomes for the recipients with disabled people benefiting more than others through greater access to food, medical assistance and autonomy as well as enabling some to become economically active . This is hardly surprising given that many of those benefiting had received no previous support: only a minority of low-income households in all 20 of the villages where pilots took place had a BPL (Below Poverty Line) or Antyodaya Card and some of the poorest households had no poverty card at all. Unconditional payments enabled disabled recipients to move from dependency upon family members to being able to meet their own basic needs. Giving something to people who previously had nothing is very different to what would happen with the introduction of a UBI in Britain to replace existing social security payments.

A pilot conducted in Manitoba province in Canada in the 1970s was credited with eliminating poverty from the trial saturation site which was the small town of Dauphin. Here, in a programme known as “Mincome”, a guaranteed income was provided to those who had fallen out of work with 50% of every C$1 earned on returning to work clawed back. It stood out from similar American projects at the time because it didn’t exclude older people or disabled people from eligibility. The aim was to test whether giving unconditional payments to top up the incomes of the working poor would dis-incentivise paid employment. The finding was that working hours did not significantly decrease, although it can be argued that these drops may be artificially low because participants knew the guaranteed income was temporary. The Conservative government that took power provincially in 1977 – and federally in 1979 – had no intention of rolling the programme out more widely and shut the project down. No final report was ever compiled. A recent survey of the data as it related to other services in Dauphin found a significant reduction in hospitalization, especially for admissions related to mental health and to accidents and injuries, relative to the matched comparison group. It is again unsurprising that increasing the incomes of the poor leads to improved health outcomes and again the findings are too limited as an evidence base to justify the replacement of existing social security systems with a UBI. They do support the idea that ensuring the population has an adequate income will produce cost savings in areas such as healthcare.

There are two global examples of partial UBI schemes where citizens receive unconditional cash payments that are often cited by basic income supporters but which have limited relevance to Britain where taxation would be the most likely source of funding. In Alaska, citizens each get a variable amount each year – averaging around $1,100 (about £700) between 2010 and 2012. This money comes from taxed oil windfalls via the Alaska Permanent Fund and is paid as an annual dividend. Iran similarly uses oil revenues to subsidise a cash payment of about $33 a month given unconditionally to most of the population. The payment has partially replaced heavy subsidies to basic commodities such as bread and fuel including petrol. Neither example goes anywhere near providing a living for their recipients and are not a replacement for safety net support.

The Neoliberal Danger of UBI                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Basic Income (BI) pilots being taken forward by neoliberal governments in Finland and Canada exemplify how UBI supports negative employment trends such as low pay and insecure employment and can facilitate exploitation. In Ontario, 70% of those tested in the pilot will be low waged workers and earned income will be deducted at a rate of 50%. (This is technically an example of Negative Income Tax rather than UBI). The amount paid under the pilots are insufficient to live on and act as top ups to low paying employers, subsiding business from general tax revenues and making it easier for employers to lower minimum wages. Participants will be subject to fewer conditions in return for BI payments but will lose support and services they currently rely on. A whole range of additional entitlements benefiting disabled people will also be lost including the Special Diet that provides additional income on the recommendation of medical providers, medical transportation assistance and mobility aids. Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) points out that if the Ontario government were genuinely concerned about poverty and disability, they would urgently reverse the 22% welfare benefit cuts made by the Mike Harris government in 1995 and “Raise the Rates”, rather than spend years consulting and testing a basic income.

While the Finnish experiment has received positive press in Britain, focused in particular on the removal of bureaucratic intrusion and conditionality on job-seekers , left wing commentators in Finland are critical of its impacts. The trial involves 2000 mandatory participants randomly selected from unemployment rolls and paid €560 (£500) per month. This effectively replaces the payments from the existing Finnish basic unemployment allowance and labour market subsidy , but participants continue to receive the payments if they find work.

For the Finnish government, UBI is about increasing employment , which was a key Centre Party manifesto commitment in the 2015 election, encouraging workers to take bad jobs with low pay. Low-paid workers or adults out of the labour force for reasons other than unemployment were deliberately excluded from the pilot. Alongside trialling UBI, Centre has set out to achieve its policy goals by other measures including reducing the country’s unit labour costs and increasing the retirement age. Its version of UBI is a way to replace social protections with minimum payments while dismantling the welfare state through accelerated privatisation of health and social care. This represents a direct attack on Finnish trade unions whose collective bargaining power has remained higher than in the UK , and if rolled out has the potential to reduce the income security of unemployed workers while reducing the strength of organized labour.

Left wing commentators in Finland have described this as “a cautionary tale for basic income proponents on the Left”, evidencing how support for UBI on the basis that it will deliver progressive outcomes opens the door for the introduction of a scheme “forcing unemployed workers into bad jobs while undermining organized labour, earnings equality, and the welfare state.” As John Clarke of OCAP argues “The neoliberal attack is taking up Basic Income as a weapon. We need to fight it instead of laying down a welcome mat.”
In the UK we must not be fooled into seeing the Finnish experiment as offering a solution to the devastation that welfare reform has caused. Aside from the regressive realities of the Finnish scheme, there are considerable differences between the two countries that make it inappropriate to transpose any progressive benefits of the current experiment to the UK. Writing in The Guardian, Ellie Mae O’Hagan warns against a UBI “simply parachuted into a political economy that has been pursuing punitive welfare policies for the last 30 years.”

UBI as “unworkable” policy

In September 2017 while launching the SNP’s “Programme for Government” Nicola Sturgeon announced plans for the Scottish government to fund local authorities to conduct experiments into a “Citizens’ Basic Income” (CBI). This is in line with the official position of the Scottish National Party who at their 2016 conference passed a motion in support of the principle of a universal basic income. The motion stated: “conference believes that a basic or universal income can potentially provide a foundation to eradicate poverty, make work pay and ensure all our citizens can live in dignity”. The motion called for more research into the impact of the policy. Sturgeon’s announcement was welcomed by the think-tank Reform Scotland who in 2016 published a report making the case for UBI heavily influenced by Green Party policy .

The four Councils who are set to run the pilot schemes with the support of a £250,000 grant from the Scottish government (Fife, North Ayrshire, Glasgow and Edinburgh) were identified by the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) whose 2015 report ‘Creative Citizen, Creative State: the principled and pragmatic case for a Universal Basic Income’ made a call for local experiments . The models to be adopted by each of the pilot areas have yet to be announced but will likely require a two year lead in and last for around two years, following principles for UBI pilots outlined by Guy Standing in his book “Basic Income and how we can make it happen” . These include the principle that pilots be conducted on a saturation basis involving all residents. This will provide a more universal test of the impacts of UBI than either the Finnish or Ontario trials which have selected groups of particular groups of people to test.

Another key principle promoted by Standing is that people should be no worse off than if they were in receipt of means-tested benefits. Based on the detail of models promoted by UBI proponents involved in the pilots as discussed below, it is unclear how this can be achieved. A research paper prepared for Fife councillors concerning plans for their local pilot explains that most models set the level of basic income at £73.10 for working age adults. There is no detail on what benefits will be replaced but the paper is clear that “Housing and Disability Benefits payments would need to remain and be kept separate” and that “Means-testing of benefits would continue, but the amount received by each household or individual would be recalculated to account for the amount of basic income”. The paper presents the possibility of enabling people to choose not to work as a positive feature of CBI but this is unlikely on a weekly income of under £75. As one Fife People’s Panel member commented “£73.10 per week + benefits is not enough to live on”.

Glasgow Council has commissioned the RSA to develop its proposals for a Basic Income Pilot. The RSA Basic Income Model proposes £71 per week for working age adults which appears to replace ESA. Although housing and non-means tested disability benefits including Personal Independence Payment will be retained this nevertheless represents a loss for disabled people in the ESA support group. Modelling of the RSA scheme undertaken by the Housing and Social Justice Directorate for the First Minister estimates that over 10% of households in the lowest decile in Scotland would experience negative financial impacts, over 30% in the second lowest and just under 50% in decile 3. Most households would be losing in the region of 20% of their income.

The RSA report makes strong comments on the importance of doing away with the devastating impacts of conditionality and sanctioning, however it is also clear in its primary intention of incentivising employment and making work pay. They propose to pay no more than a “basic” income in order to ensure that those who are “fit and able to work…would have a very strong incentive to do so.” The report states that “It is Basic Income and Basic Income alone that sends out absolutely clear yet non-coercive signals about the incentive to work.” It also suggests design features such as a public “contribution contract” for 18 – 25 years olds to sign up to committing themselves to learning, working or entrepreneurship in return for their payments , and the supplementation of BI payments with offers of sub minimum wage employment in “publicly useful” roles such as “day centre staffing” .
The report by Reform Scotland “A Basic Income Guarantee” has a more singular focus on the role of UBI in incentivising work. It states that “Any system which actively discourages work, as the current system does, is in urgent need of an overhaul” and stresses the need for “a ‘safety trampoline’ to encourage more people to rejoin the workforce or set up new businesses”; it says that “the system in place at present actively discourages many to return to work or increase hours” and that “This inherent and long-standing problem with the current system is the principal reason for the Basic Income Guarantee”.

Using proposals from the Scottish Greens as the basis for their financial workings, Reform Scotland suggests a Basic Income could be set at £5,200 per year for adults and £2,600 for children which would replace the personal allowance, tax credits and a number of benefits. Under this model, Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, Carers Allowance and Personal Independence Payments are all retained. The cost of this model would be £20.4 billion. Reform Scotland proposes raising all levels of income tax by 8% but their calculations for affording the model are still short by some £2 billion. This is substantially more expensive than the RSA model which the First Minister has already suggested is unfeasible.

In October Nicola Sturgeon, while continuing to support the trials, publicly raised the possibility that CBI might prove unworkable as a policy. Speaking during the Inclusive Growth Conference, she said: “I should stress our work on this is at a very early stage. It might turn out not to be the answer, it might turn out not to be feasible”. Her comments followed publication of a briefing for the First Minister obtained by the Scottish Tories via a Freedom of Information Response. Attention from right wing media focused on figures within the briefing taken from RSA’s Basic Income model costing implementation at £12.3 billion with a £3.6 billion shortfall raising the prospect of cuts elsewhere. The briefing also highlighted work by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which found CBI would need a tax rate on all earned income of about 40 per cent if housing benefit was not included, rising to over 50 per cent if it was.

The briefing is strongly critical of CBI citing potential negative impacts on disabled people and “vulnerable” groups, pointing out how “most governments will not be able to afford both CBI and a generous welfare state.” It states “The higher the CBI the more likely it is to lift people out of poverty, but the higher the public finance cost to fund it and the harder it would be for government to fund other supportive social policies.” Concerns are raised about the potential of CBI to further entrench inequalities and increased stigmatization of benefits which will be claimed by a smaller group of the population. The briefing concludes that “significant modelling effort would be required to establish levels which did not impact negatively on vulnerable groups”.

Concerns in the briefing echo the view of Joseph Stiglitz, who has served as an economic advisor to the Scottish Government since 2012, that pursuing a basic income would represent misaligned priorities in light of Scotland’s fiscal constraints. In an interview for Sunday Politics Scotland in October 2017 he said: “If you don’t have a lot of resources, isn’t it better to try to target the limited resources you have at those who really, really need it, the people who are disabled, the people who are elderly without other sources of income, a variety of people who are seriously disadvantaged. The problem with the universal basic income is that you give a flat amount to a large amount of people, and that means, because you have so many people, you can’t give as much as you would to help those who most need it.” Instead he has urged the government to prioritize benefits targeted to those who need them most, job creation to ensure a job to all who want one, and a livable income for all who work full-time.

 

UBI and Disability benefits

Disabled people have been disproportionately hit by austerity measures and welfare reforms through a deliberate agenda to cut back the various different inter-related social security payments and public services that we depend upon . The situation is so serious that the UN disability committee found the threshold has been met for evidence of “grave and systematic violations” of disabled people’s rights . Nevertheless, and despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the Tories publicly maintain they are continuing to support “those most in need”. The suffering and avoidable harm that disabled people have gone through over the past eight years demonstrate the devastating impacts that an overhaul of the welfare system can cause unless the interests of the poorest and disabled members of society are properly understood and protected. Into this context, the introduction of UBI, replacing a targeted system with universal coverage, is likely to entrench growing inequality and the struggle to survive.

Simulations for “full” UBI schemes that would entirely replace the existing social security system in Britain show big losses for disabled people among other groups. This was the conclusion drawn from a series of simulations undertaken for the think-tank Compass . The three full UBI schemes that were examined were simulated on the basis of abolishing all means-tested benefits including Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), also the Severe Disablement Premium and Discretionary Housing Payments with only means-tested Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support retained. Although all three schemes also retained Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Carer’s Allowance as additional to a universal payment, the proposed rate for the UBI of £73.10 per week, equivalent to Job-Seekers Allowance (JSA) would be insufficient to compensate people who are out of work long term. JSA is set at a level only able to offer adequate social protection for short periods of time. Disabled people are more likely to be out of work for much longer periods: 10% of unemployed disabled people have been out of work for 5 years or more, compared with just 3 per cent of the non-disabled population, and people in the ESA WRAG are likely to spend around two years out of work.

Disabled people would not be the only losers. The Compass paper concludes that the three full UBI schemes simulated are not feasible due to severe negative impacts on the poorest households. The proportion of households losing more than a fifth of their income in the bottom decile stands at 18.2%, 16.7% and 23.0% respectively for the three schemes. Although there are no separate figures for the impact of poverty on disabled people, all the schemes lead to sharp rises in relative child poverty alongside modest increases in working-age adult poverty and increases in pensioner poverty.

Instead, Compass, who are in favour of UBI, recommend that pilots should be undertaken into modified (or “partial”) UBI schemes where the existing benefits system is retained, both means tested and non-means tested, in addition to a UBI. For the two modified schemes simulated, the number of households losing income in the lowest two income deciles is considerably lower than for their full UBI models, but does still entail negative financial impacts for 2,376,300 households under Scheme 1 and 1,335,000 for Scheme 2. This is a significant number of the poorest people in society. There is also no information about whether ESA would continue at the newly lowered rate for those in Work related Activity Group, a move that was met with widespread opposition, or whether it would be restored to its previous level.

Given findings such as these, prominent supporters of UBI such as the Citizen’s Income Trust now recommend a partial UBI where disability benefits and housing are retained as separate parallel systems. In Annie Miller’s 297 page Basic Income Handbook she includes just one page on “The needs of disabled people” (of which half a page is about carers) where she says “Disability benefits are based on need and are therefore a different system from BIs… Both housing and disability benefits are very much in need of revision but are beyond the scope of this book.” Given the scale of problems with the existing disability benefits system and the proven harm they are causing to disabled people, it is concerning to see the issue of disability benefits side-lined in this way and confirms that UBI offers nothing by way of a solution to the way the social security system is currently failing disabled people.

The implementation of UBI risks detracting attention and resources from the urgent task required to overhaul the disability benefits system and make it fit for purpose. The current assessment regime has been designed to push disabled people off essential benefits and there are high levels of inaccuracy and unacceptable standards in assessments reports leading to thousands of disabled people being wrongly found fit for work. From October 2013 – March 2017, 60% of ESA decisions (32,000) taken to appeal were over-turned. This is in addition to 12% of decisions (31,000) revised at Mandatory Reconsideration stage . The introduction of a partial UBI scheme alongside a parallel system of disability benefits could instead create further problems and pressures to tighten eligibility even further in order to afford both systems. Donald Hirsch in his paper for the Joseph Rowntree Foundations warns of “potentially greater stigma… and perhaps even a political pressure to lower the safety net to the citizen’s income level.” Supporters of a partial scheme where disability benefits are retained assure us that no disabled person will be worse off under UBI. We were told the same thing about Universal Credit and that has proved not to be true .

Alongside an adequate standard of income, disabled people require other support services in order to enjoy full and equal participation in society. The current crisis in social care is increasingly desperate with disabled people routinely denied access to the toilet and to food and water for hours at a time. Meanwhile local authorities are adopting increasingly harsh charging policies that are pushing disabled people out of the social care system altogether due to unaffordability. Disabled campaigners are calling not only for a reversal to social care cuts, but for the introduction of a national independent living support scheme funded from general taxation and free at the point of need which would compete with a UBI for additional government spending. Many of the public finance options currently being considered as ways to address the funding crisis in social care have also been put forward as ways to fund a UBI. There is also a more general concern about pressures on public spending and negative impacts on social programmes as a result of introducing a UBI.

 

The illusion of a progressive UBI

UBI has been credited with the power to achieve radical social and economic impacts such as ending the idea that human worth is tied to a person’s ability to labour and produce profit and freeing humanity to unleash our creative potential. The emancipatory potential of UBI to provide equality and freedom can only be realised by a basic income paid at a sufficiently generous rate to make wage work unnecessary for financial survival. In this instance workers would effectively have at our disposal an unlimited strike fund and the balance of power would be in our hands. Under these conditions, with the freedom to organise society and distribute resources in the interests of the many not the few, it has to be asked whether we would then need a UBI. Meanwhile, until we win a socialist society, and under the current politico-economic conditions of a Long Depression under pro-capitalist governments, it is more likely that models of UBI will be adopted that make savings, and cut public services. A basic income approach also leaves the fundamental inequalities and power structures of society unchecked. As an approach to the changing nature of work it facilitates greater job insecurity and wage reductions.

Mitigating the impacts of automation

The future of work and replacement of jobs with machines is a very current concern that proponents of UBI believe it can address. In December 2017 the IPPR think-tank warned 44% of jobs in the UK economy could feasibly be automated over the next 10 or 20 years, equating to more than 13.7 million people who together earn about £290bn . This follows a study by the Bank of England in 2015 which estimated that 15 million jobs are at risk with administrative, clerical and production tasks were most at threat . Advances in technology would improve productivity growth after years of stagnation since the financial crisis in 2008 . The Government argues that this will lead to wage rises for workers, but this will be of little consolation to those whose jobs are replaced.

Rising automation will result in higher profits for those who own companies at the expense of workers’ jobs. As the UK government is urged to address the sharp growth in inequality that this would cause, there are calls for redistribution of profits from automation through a UBI to ensure that the many rather than the few benefit from technological advances. Jeremy Corbyn used his party conference speech in September 2017 to suggest a Labour government would use the tax system to ensure that the benefits of automation are widely shared across the economy. This idea was quickly dubbed the “robot tax”.

The fundamental issue with automation is not the need to replace income for workless humans but the question of the ownership of the technology itself, from which the call for UBI serves as a distraction operating in the interests of the current owners of technology. It is no wonder then that tech entrepreneurs including Mark Zuckerberg (net worth $64.1 billion), Elon Musk (net worth $20.8 billion) and Richard Branson (net worth $5.1 billion) have united in calling for a guaranteed basic income. This has been described by one commentator as “a mechanism to continue to exploit desperate workers earning subsistence wages and whom they can hire and fire at will” . It is also an attempt to guarantee buyers for their products after people have been put out of work by their technologies. While these billionaires profess to care for the less fortunate, they remain against workers’ rights and a living wage.

A basic income only addresses the question of distribution, while ignoring that of production and would not confront the labour market inequalities that would arise from a more automated labour market. It is through common ownership of technology, as opposed to redistribution of profit, that it would be possible to go further, extending free services such as a national health service, education and independent living support while enabling people to work for fewer hours.

The actual level of threat posed to jobs by automation is debatable with the 2019 WDR stating its finding ”that the threat to jobs from technology is exaggerated” , but the problems of worsening working conditions are very real and very now . This is a particular concern for disabled people who are more likely to be in low paid work to start with. Demands for a living wage and workers’ rights need to be at the forefront of what we continue to fight for.

Insecure jobs

One of the arguments put forward in support of UBI is that it is a better fit with current trends in employment than the existing social security system. As a “solution”, this approach seeks to effectively subsidise business, supporting trends towards payment of low wages and lack of job security using public finance to facilitate increased private profit-making and with the potential to further depress wages. This is exactly the proposal put forward by the World Bank who propose UBI as a way of using social assistance to “relax pressure” on “setting the minimum wage and replace “severance pay” , reducing the burdens on employers and enabling labour markets to be “more flexible to facilitate work transitions” . Their response to what they describe as “the changes reshaping work today [that] are fundamental and long-term” is to facilitate greater insecurity and lower wages.

The problem of insecure, low paid work is a very real one. In 2014, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that 1.8 million workers were on contracts that ‘do not guarantee a minimum number of hours’. A 2016 survey found 11% of the population aged 16–75 (the equivalent of nearly 5 million people) working for online platforms, paid by the task. Figures also indicate that a significant percentage of those in self-employment are not earning enough to make a living.

Disabled people engaged in mandatory work related activity are all too familiar with pressure from the DWP pushing them towards self-employment and insecure work in order to move off out of work benefits. A publication by the right-wing think-tank Reform argues that disabled people are missing out through lack of access to employment in the gig economy and that this could solve the poor job outcomes of long-term Employment and Support Allowance claimants. The drive to push disabled people into unsuitable work and self-employment is deeply concerning. Many aspects of the gig economy make it inaccessible and inappropriate for disabled people who may face barriers to online technology or negotiating contracts and who need a guaranteed income through periods of sickness and disability related absence. The British Psychological Society’s response to the government’s “Improving Lives” green paper consultation warned of the negative impacts of unsuitable work in exacerbating existing mental health conditions .

The idea that UBI rather than greater employment regulations are the answer is problematic. Whereas supporters of UBI commonly cite its transformative potential as one of its major advantages, it is being put forward by the World Banks as a way to maintain and facilitate inequality and insecurity. The basic income demand is, as argued by the economist Michael Roberts, just too basic and not radical enough . It accepts current conditions without challenging them, and under socialism would be redundant. As a reform for labour, it is not as good as the demand for a job for all who need it at a living wage; or reducing the working week while maintaining wages; or providing decent pensions; or making full reasonable adjustments for disabled workers including guaranteeing sick pay and disability leave. These are demands that we need to be putting loudly here and now alongside calling for full and unconditional support for those unable to work.

 

Conclusion

UBI is not the demand we should be making if we want an end to the suffering that welfare reform is causing. We urgently need the abolition of sanctions and conditionality, of benefit assessments designed to deny disability and Universal Credit. The social security system is now one that is intended to create an intolerable environment for benefit claimants. The social security system of the future must be one capable of providing adequate social protection and standard of living for all in need of safety net support. Achieving such a radical transformation is no small task, requiring wholesale scrapping of existing systems and a fundamental redesign. Given the history of disabled people’s exclusion and the marginalisation of our issues it is reasonable for disabled people to fear that attention and resources dedicated to the task of implementing a UBI will be at the expense of effecting the level of change needed to ensure disabled people receive adequate support.

Proponents of UBI tell us that disabled people would not be worse off under UBI but there is a dearth of evidence to support this claim. On the contrary, simulations for the introduction of a UBI to the UK indicate that the only way to ensure this would be through a partial UBI system run in parallel to a continuation of disability benefits. Supporters for such a system are then silent on the detail of how this separate system would work for disabled people, how it would address the many and considerable failings of the current system and how it would be afforded. A recent paper from the University of Bath presents an idea for a UBI with additional disability and severe disability premiums which when micro-simulated produces strong reductions in inequality and poverty but would be very expensive and require significant increases in income tax. The report author concludes: “The unavoidable reality is that such schemes either have unacceptable distributional consequences or they simply cost too much.”

Financing even a modest UBI set at a Guaranteed Minimum Income level in the UK would require high tax rises, as demonstrated by an OECD study . The World Bank report, which promotes the idea of UBI as an international response to the changing nature of work, concludes that when it comes to the UK, “taxing cash benefits and eliminating tax allowances is not enough to cover for the UBI” . This is because the level at which current benefits are paid is so far below a Guaranteed Minimum Income level that it would require the raising of significant additional funds to afford. In the UK a monthly BI amount that would cost the same as existing benefits and tax free allowances would pay £230 yet the poverty line for a single person is £702. The fact that benefit levels in Britain are so far below the poverty line point back to issues with the current social security system that need urgently addressing.

While many disabled people would be in favour of tax rises to fund welfare provision – particularly corporation tax and a progressive rise in the higher rate of income tax – the use of this for a UBI rather than more traditional forms of disability and unemployment support would mean much of the benefit flowing back to employers rather than those in most need. In functioning as a wage subsidy UBI would act to significantly reduce employers NI contributions. It would be hard to make a case that this is a more progressive solution than simply reversing the damage that the Tories have done to current systems. For example measures such as restoring the Independent Living Fund, scrapping conditionality and sanctions, and re-establishing the principle of universal benefits payed for by progressive taxation where the rich pay a greater proportion

The distributional impacts of a UBI mean that there are winners and losers with the poorest households featuring as losers under certain models and simulations . This has the potential to divide against each other groups of people who are currently united in our opposition to the rich elite who we see as responsible for growing inequality and poverty. Maintaining this unity is essential if we are to bring about society that is structured in the interests of the mass of ordinary people before the pursuit of profit by a tiny minority.

Britain is currently home to the biggest socialist movement in Europe where demands for a living wage, for health and social care support services free at the point of need and a social security system that provides an adequate standard of living free from conditionality are all popular. These are what we need to fight for, not opening the door to policies that will be used to maintain existing power inequalities, facilitate greater job insecurity and low wages and risk further public service cuts.

Mar 132018
 

In November 2017 Disabled People Against Cuts and Disabled People’s Organisations involved in the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance held a national Independent Living Campaign conference. The aim of the day was to take stock of the key barriers to independent living that Disabled people who use adult social care services face and assess how far the situation has deteriorated in the last year but also to explore a shared vision for an independent living support system that can truly uphold our rights.

Below you can find notes and films from the day as well as copies of hand-outs and presentations.

Notes from the conference: Independent living campaign conference notes Nov 2017

Opening plenary:

 

Workshop on assessments and reviews:

Reading by Penny Pepper’s:

Workshop on campaigning for rights to independent living:

 

Closing session:

Presentation slides:
• Opening session – Ellen Clifford presentation: Slides – introduction , Mark Harrison presentation: IL Campaign Conf 25 Nov 2017 (1)
Campaigning for the rights to independent living (2)
Charging and Financial Assessment (1)
Co-operative alternatives for personal assistance

Papers disseminated at the conference:
• NHS Continuing Healthcare Cost-Caps – Where we are with Warehousing – Fleur Perry warehousing update
• Social Care is Broken Beyond Repair – So what should replace it? – Peter Beresford and Mark Harrison examine the problems and potential solutions Harrison and Beresford LB final
• The need to campaign against institutionalisation – Simone Aspis Simone blog

UN disability committee General Comment on Article 19: General Comment on Article19
Inclusion London Briefing on General Comment on Article 19: Briefing on General Comment on Article 19

Mar 012018
 

As we campaign against Universal Credit, it’s important to remember the pitfalls of Universal Basic Income and why this isn’t an alternative vision of social security that we should be fighting for.

DPAC ally John Clarke from Ontario Coalition against Poverty sent this feedback from his recent trip to Vancouver where he was invited to talk about the dangers of support for UBI:

“I got back last night from Vancouver and what I saw and experienced there was quite incredible.  I saw appalling levels of poverty and destitution and inspiring resistance.

I was brought out to BC to give a talk at Simon Fraser University on the folly of left wing support for the neoliberal trap of basic income.  As in the UK, where Scottish pilot projects and interest in the policy by the Labour Party is giving progressive credibility to BI, moves by the NDP Government in BC, with the support of the Greens, poses similar dangers. The video of the session at SFU may be of interest to those who are challenging this neoliberal wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Posted by Institute for the Humanities at Simon Fraser University on Tuesday, 27 February 2018

The homeless shelters in Toronto are bursting at the seams and the misery spills out onto the streets. However, the visible destitution on display in Vancouver is far worse than anything I have seen here or when I was back over in London. Yet, there is resistance. I was given the honour of speaking at a meeting of the residents of a homeless tent city that has been established and maintained for eight whole months. I held discussions on how a coast to coast movement to resist austerity and demand housing can be taken forward. It was truly a great trip that filled me with both anger and hope for the struggles ahead.”

To read DPAC’s position on Universal Basic Income, see: Concerns with UBI [Please note a full article with references will be coming soon.]

 Posted by at 22:41
Jan 272018
 

Tuesday 6th March 2018 at 6.30pm (refreshments from 6pm)

The Hall at St Margarets House, 21 Old Ford Road, Bethnal Green, London , E2 9PL

Join social workers in our fight for social justice and learn about ways of campaigning, big and small, from speakers including:
Jane Tunstill, Emeritus Professor of Social Work
Roger Lewis, Disabled People Against Cuts
Tom Griffiths, People’s Assembly Against Austerity
Social workers from the Boot Out Austerity march
Psychologists For Social Change
And through film, poetry and song.

5 minutes from Bethnal Green Tube station & from Cambridge Heath Overground.

Click here to download instructions to access the venue.

Click here to download flyer.

Social workers, allies and all concerned citizens welcome!

Please contact austerity@basw.co.uk for more information.

 Posted by at 01:02
Dec 152017
 

Closure of the independent living fund and the negative impacts of funding shortfall for maintaining individuals’ care packages has been the centre of disabled peoples independent living campaigns since 2012. Whilst cuts to state-funded assistance have been blamed on austerity, there is one area of care that is rolling in cash, hundreds millions of pounds being thrown into assessment and treatment units and psychiatric hospitals for people with learning difficulties and autism. Research by Mark Brown at Lancaster University’s Centre for Disability found that the Government spent £477m last year on incarcerating 2,500 people with learning difficulties and autism in ATUs ; in cash terms the state is prepared to pay £190,800 per year or £525 per day for institutionalized care for one individual.

Let’s not be under any illusion, whilst the numbers of disabled people being detained under the Mental Health Act (MHA) has reduced from 3500 to 2150 between 2011 to 2017, the trend for young people is going the other way: in 2011 young people made up 7.6% of the total of disabled people detained under the MHA but by 2017 this had risen to 13%. Many of these are people with learning difficulties or autism who are admitted for short-stays that then become long-stay placements. This is caused by the systematic failures of Local Authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups to adequately fund local education, health and social care services that would facilitate disabled individuals’ participation in their local mainstream education provision whilst living with their families. These figures do not include people with learning difficulties or autism who have restrictions placed on their freedoms whilst living in institutionalised psychiatric and social care settings as a result of deprivation of liberty safeguard order issued under the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

No, this is no longer austerity, it’s now ideological. The Government does not believe that disabled people have a place in society and have developed polices that will turn us back to the era of Victorian asylums. Let’s not kid ourselves – these places are dehumanising and brutal as highlighted by practices exposed by BBC Panorama’s under-cover investigation into Winterbourne View. Since then there has been various investigations into abusive practices that have taken place in a range of ATUs. Disabled people with learning difficulties and autism have been killed in these institutions by toxic medication, neglect and total abuse inflicted by management and staff. Institutionalisation and forced overmedication are grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s human rights.
The psychiatric regime is rooted within the individualised and medical model of disability/mental disorder where its focus is on fixing, mending and curing the disabled person. Anti-psychotic medication infringes a disabled person’s autonomy, and control over their body and mind, altering personality and interfering with personal identity and life-style. When not medicated, inpatients will undertake a whole range of therapeutic activities that place an emphasis on developing individual’s coping strategies and where possible to help the person minimise or reject their disability identity and their sense of being, thinking and feelings; the patient is forced to follow neuro-typical patterns of being, thinking and feeling. Patients are self-obsessed with analysing and reviewing their own performance with no allowance given as to how institution and other powerful forces impact on their wellbeing.

Whilst working as an advocate for ATU inpatients with learning difficulties and autism wanting to get out of these institutions, I am increasingly finding that the Independent Living movement’s priorities are not the radical solutions needed if we are going to advocate for all disabled people rights to independent living, not only those with capacity. We are witnessing a resurgence of institutions for people with learning difficulties and autism – not a week goes by and there is a spanking new facility opening up to lock them up and throw away the key.
We can talk about all the cuts we like to independent living provision and dream about alternative models of care all we want, however this means little if we do not speak out against the millions of pounds being spent on creeping institutionalisation of disabled people. There are some cuts that we should all be advocating for, ones that prevent us from having a full life, on par with our non-disabled peers. Disabled people will always be threatened with institutionalisation and incarceration as long as ATUs and other institutions exist and are permitted under the Care, Mental Health and Mental Capacity legislation.

Disabled people whose capacity is not being questioned by the state cannot be complacent either – with savage cuts to care packages, disabled people are being institutionalised within their own homes or within residential and nursing homes. And as such institutionalisation is on the way back for all disabled people.
The UNCRPD committee review of the United Kingdom’s (UK) progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities observations and recommendations included the tackling of increased state-sanctioned institutionalisation and compulsory treatment of disabled people.

We need to take the lead and act now – change our focus of our campaign work to a big NO to institutionalisation and their oppressive practices together with highlighting how such places have and will continue to violate disabled peoples human rights as set out in the UN Convention Rights for Persons with Disabilities articles. We need to be campaigning against the setting up and continuation of these institutions and the legislation that gives the state power to force disabled people out of their own homes and communities alongside full implementation of the UNCRPD underpinned by the 12 pillars of independent living. Alongside a plan to phrase out ATUs, we need to be strongly advocating for our right to be provided with the support and services (including mental health ones) we need to live fulfilled lives.

By Simone Aspis (Changing Perspectives and Free Our People Now Advocate)
I am a disabled person who is acting as an advocate for detained in-patients with learning difficulties and autism who want to be released from psychiatric hospitals. I have over 20 years experience campaigning for disabled peoples’ human and civil rights, working for People 1st, the United Kingdom’s Disabled Peoples Council and the Alliance for Inclusive Education and Not Dead Yet. Anyone wants to contact me please do so via Ellen Clifford at ellen.clifford@inclusionlondon/org.uk.

Dec 052017
 

Many of the areas identified by the United Nations disability committee where regression of Disabled people’s rights are taking place are socio-economic. Section 1 of the Equality Act 2010 that has never been implemented would place a duty on all public bodies to assess the socio-economic impact of all policy decisions. This would add an important protection against further regression of Disabled people’s rights and is something that Deaf and Disabled people called for in our submissions under the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities this year. The Scottish government has already announced an intention to bring Section 1 into force in Scotland and the human rights consortium Just Fair has launched the #1forEquality campaign to make Section 1 a reality across Britain.

Please write to your MP asking them to sign Early Day Motion 591 in support of a socio-economic duty and send us copies of any responses you receive.

For more information about Just Fair’s #1forEquality campaign see: https://1forequality.com/

Below is some text you may wish to use for your letter:

Dear xxx

As you know, income and wealth inequalities are severe problems in our country. Abundant evidence shows that inequality harms our physical and mental health, self-esteem, happiness, social mobility, trust and civic participation, and puts the enjoyment of human rights at risk.

The Equality Act 2010 was a significant step forward in tackling social inequalities in our society. Chief amongst its instruments was the Socio-economic Duty (Section 1), which would require public bodies ‘when making decisions of a strategic nature about how to exercise [their] functions’ to ‘have due regard to the desirability of exercising them in a way that is designed to reduce the inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage’.

Unfortunately, to this day Section 1 remains one of the few uncommenced clauses of The Equality Act 2010.

The Socio-economic Duty offers a powerful lever for reducing the damaging gaps between us all.

In this regard, we urge you to consider supporting EDM 591 on the commencement and enforcement of the Socio-Economic Duty.

Yours,

 Posted by at 15:54
Nov 212017
 

On November 16 2017, during a  House of Lords debate on Universal Credit, Lord Shinkwin, who is himself disabled, accused MPs from the ‘hard left’ of scaremongering, and exaggerating the problems that Universal Credit is causing.

We know that the problems are already very real, and directly impacting on disabled people.

When Disabled people in high places like Lord Skinkwin downplay what is happening it makes it much more difficult for campaigners to get our voices heard.

So DPAC is encouraging anyone who has a personal story about how Universal Credit is causing you problems to write to him and let him know.

You can write to him at: House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW

Or send an email marked for him in the subject line to: contactholmember@parliament.uk

Please send copies of your letters and any response you receive to us here at: mail@dpac.uk.net

His speech is available on the Hansard website.

 Posted by at 22:16
Nov 162017
 

On the 22nd of November, the statistics of “excess winter deaths” from 2016 will be released.

At the same time, Ofgem are considering details of their “safeguard” cap, which excludes many who need it most – see post about this here: https://dpac.uk.net/tag/vulnerable-customer-safeguard-cap/

Fuel Poverty Action believes next week would be a good opportunity to present Ofgem with a letter in person explaining why it is wrong to exclude disabled people from their proposed safeguard tariff and is asking for help to get the message across.

If you are disabled and can’t afford your energy bills and are happy to speak to the media about how this affects you (anonymously or otherwise) please contact  fuelpovertyaction@gmail.com.

We would also like to invite people to come and join in handing over the letter on Tuesday 21 November, at 11 a.m. at the Ofgem office, 9 Millbank SW1P 3GE. We’re planning on making this loud and colourful outside the building, so banners and placards are encouraged! If you can make it then please let Fuel Poverty Action know.

 

 Posted by at 01:11
Nov 102017
 

Mon 13 November at 9 am is the deadline for responses to a proposed limited cap on energy prices.

You may know that the government has for over a year been promising relief for people who pay the default “standard variable tariff” (SVT) – and who are getting ripped off as a result. Meanwhile prices have soared, and so have suppliers’ profits. A small cap on tariffs has been brought in for people with Prepayment Meters. It’s inadequate, but better than nothing. For people with credit meters, Theresa May promised a cap, then went back on it, then promised it again: u-turn upon u-turn. And she is now reassuring the energy industry that it will take ages, if it comes in at all. But meanwhile, the energy regulator Ofgem, with government support, is proposing a limited “safeguarding” cap, which would apply only to people who receive the Warm Home Discount.

Here the story gets murky. Warm Home Discount – worth £140 a year off your electricity bill — is awarded automatically to pensioners on low incomes. People deemed “vulnerable” for other reasons – particularly disability or illness, or children aged 5 or under, can apply to their energy supplier and may get it, but it is “first come first served” with a limited pot, and all the suppliers have different requirements to say who qualifies, mostly based on what benefits you receive. Some smaller suppliers don’t offer Warm Home Discount at all.

This means that despite being eligible, disabled people and children will often be excluded – not only from the discount itself, but now from the cap, which Ofgem say could save the average user around £120 a year. That is a total of over £260 a year, and much more if you need the heat on a lot or use a lot of power.

Ofgem are consulting on this plan, and Fuel Poverty Action will be telling them that this is particularly shocking. Disabled people often need more heat, for medical reasons or if we’re home a lot, and can suffer much worse effects if we can’t afford to keep warm. And, having been hit hardest by multiple cuts, disabled people are in a worse position to deal with rising fuel prices. The same is true for the parents of babies and young children, with benefit cuts, universal credit and low wages causing a massive increase in child poverty.

There is even a risk that, if the cap is applied to some people, the people who don’t qualify for the cap may see our fuel prices rise by even more, as suppliers try to make up the difference through cross-subsidisation!

An Ofgem press release says they will “Ofgem will work on extending price protection to at least a further 2 million vulnerable households for winter next year once the timing of the Government’s price cap is confirmed”. However, there is nothing about this “work” in the actual consultation papers; instead they repeatedly say that to bring the cap in quickly, they will limit it to people who already get the Warm Home Discount.

Fuel Poverty Action think a cap should apply across the board – no means-testing, no cliff-edge where your bills go up if you get knocked off disability benefits, or get a rise in pay, or get married … The prices are too high for everyone now, thousands of people in all sorts of situations are dying from cold every year, and suppliers are making a killing.
But in the meantime, the Ofgem cap is scheduled to come in this coming February. At the very least, it should apply to everyone who would be eligible for Warm Home Discount, whether or not you actually get it. If you want to help make sure that the cap covers more of the people who need it most urgently, you can send a simple email to:

Jemma Baker at vulnerability@ofgem.gov.uk, by 9am on Monday 13 November

And send us a copy at fuelpovertyaction@gmail.com!

Tell them: warm homes are a right – not a “first-come-first-served” lottery!

Feel free to check out our response for inspiration.

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

 

Sep 172017
 

Please join us at Robertfest 2017, a celebration of the life of Robert Dellar.

When: Sunday 24th September 2017, 12.00 – 0.00

Where: Amersham Arms, 388 New Cross Road, SE14 6TY (very close to New Cross station)

Tickets: Unwaged £5, Waged £10, Full ticket £20

Booking: via Eventbrite Robertfest 2017

The event will include some of Robert’s favourite bands, including ATV, Vic Goddard, The Long Decline, The Astronauts, The Ceramic Hobbs, Dave Kusworth, Jowe Head and the Infernal Contraption, Alan Tyler, Frank Bangay, Melanie Clifford, Salad from Atlantis, Dave Russell, Paul Caton, MC Razz and special guests.

RobertFest 2017 will also host the inaugural Robert Dellar Lecture, an annual lecture building on the life, times and activism of Robert Dellar. The first Robert Dellar Lecture will be given by Prof Esther Leslie at 4.30 pm at the Amersham Arms.

Aug 312017
 

The UK Government’s claim to be a ‘world leader in disability issues’ has today been crushed by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Committee has released damning Concluding Observations on the UK, following its first Review of the government’s compliance with the Convention.

 

The highlights of the press conference held by the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People at this afternoon are:

  • The Committee has made the highest ever number of recommendations to the UK.
  • The UK’s retrogression in ensuring Independent Living is a major concern. There is not adequate funding, resulting in too much institutionalisation.
  • There is a significant problem with Deaf and disabled people’s standard of living. Disabled people continue to be disadvantaged in employment, and are not adequately compensated for disability by the state.

 

The Observations conclude last week’s public examination of the UK Government’s record on delivering disabled people’s rights. The examination was declared by the UK rapporteur Mr Stig Langvad, to be “the most challenging exercise in the history of the Committee”. Mr Langvad raised deep concerns on the UK Government’s failure to implement the rights of disabled people. He also noted the government’s “lack of recognition of the findings and recommendations of the (2016) Inquiry” which found ‘grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s human rights’.

 

Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPOs) were hailed as the genuine “world leaders” for their efforts in bringing to light the injustices and human rights violations inflicted on disabled people in the UK.

 

The UK Delegation of Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations has issued the following joint statement:

 

“Today the UN(CRPD) Committee has, once again, condemned the UK Government’s record on Deaf and Disabled People’s human rights. They have validated the desperation, frustration and outrage experienced by Deaf and Disabled people since austerity and welfare cuts began. It is not acceptable for the UK Government to ignore the strong and united message of the disability community.

 

UK Government representatives committed during the review to rethinking the way they support Deaf and Disabled People to monitor our rights. We welcome this commitment.  However, we are clear that our involvement must be genuine and inclusive and that we cannot accept anything less than progress on delivering the human rights enshrined in the Convention, and denied us for too long.

 

DDPOs have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with following a long campaign of challenging the Government’s blatant disregard for the lives of Deaf and disabled people in the UK. The unity and solidarity demonstrated by the Committee and the UK Independent Mechanism in supporting our calls for justice continue to strengthen us.”

 

Quotes from DPPOs:

Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales said, “It is a relief to see that the UK Government’s appalling treatment of disabled people has been called out by the UN Committee. The Concluding Observations give a clear sense of direction for the UK and devolved Governments. We welcome Welsh Government’s commitment to a strengthened Framework for Action on Independent Living since much of the implementation of the UNCRPD is devolved to Welsh Government.

However, as a devolved nation, it is not possible to entirely mitigate the impact of UK austerity policies and we will continue to join forces with our sister organisations across the UK in our quest to safeguard disabled people’s human rights in Wales.”

 

Tara Flood, Director of the Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) said, “We are delighted that the Committee has highlighted the Government’s shocking disregard for the human rights of Disabled children and young people to be included in mainstream education and we welcome the Committee’s call for a strategy to end the segregation and institutionalisation of children and young people from their families and communities. As the Chair of the Committee, Theresia Degener, stated last week ‘inclusive education is not a choice, it is a human right’. Our work to turn that right into a reality begins today with renewed energy and the force of the world alongside us!”

 

Dr Terry Riley OBE, Chairman of the British Deaf Association said, “We were impressed with the openness of the committee to listen to our evidence and apply their significant legal experience. Therefore we are glad to see that the committee has expressly recommended that the UK government finally legislate to protect language rights of deaf people.

So many of the committee’s remarks related to this, from failings in healthcare and education for deaf people, to the exclusion of deaf jurors. Deaf people have been passed over too long; there can now be no doubt that the government has been taken to task.

Without language rights, we have no human rights.”

 

Kamran Mallick, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “We were proud to give evidence to the committee alongside other deaf and disabled people’s organisations. The UK government should now cut the rhetoric and start delivering on these excellent recommendations.

 

“Along with a host of other issues, the committee rightly voiced concern at the use of compulsory mental health detention and treatment. The seemingly endless rise in the numbers of people with mental health problems being detained or forcibly treated in the community is a daily reminder that human rights violations do take place in the UK. We back the committee’s call for changes to the law in this area.”

 

Tracey Lazard, CEO of Inclusion London, said: “This is a damning verdict by UN disability rights experts on the failure of the UK Government  to protect or uphold Disabled people’s rights. The UN conclusions reflect Deaf and Disabled people’s our own lived experience, in stark contrast to the UK Government position which continues to be one of denial, spin, misinformation and frankly disdain for Disabled people and our organisations and the mountain of evidence that shows things are going terribly wrong, as well as disdain for the UN process itself. We very much hope that these damning concluding observations and recommendations will be the wake-up call the Government needs to begin pro-actively working with us to get the protection and implementation of our rights back on track and begin to restore justice and fairness to UK Government policy.”

 

Ellen Clifford, National Steering Group of Disabled People Against Cuts said: “The Concluding Observations reflect how seriously the UN disability committee are taking the situation in the UK, with the highest number of recommendations ever given by them. In the press conference today members again stated that the UK is going backwards in critical rights such as the right to live in the community with adequate support and the human cost of government austerity measures. They have also been clear in their expectation that the government needs to take on board the findings of their inquiry which found evidence of grave and systematic violations of Disabled people’s rights due to welfare reform. It is utterly shameful that this should be happening in one of the richest nations in the world. We all now need to take a stance that enough is enough and demand that the Government acknowledge reality.”

 

John McArdle and Dr Stephen Carty of the Scottish based Black Triangle Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights said:

‘Black Triangle Campaign has campaigned unrelentingly for the work capability assessment regime to be scrapped and was instrumental through our medical adviser Dr Stephen Carty of Edinburgh in making British Medical Association national policy in 2012 that, in the words of the motion which was passed and remains BMA national policy:

‘The WCA should be scrapped with immediate effect to be replaced with a rigorous and safe assessment regime that does not cause avoidable harm’ to sick and/or disabled people.

Today’s comment from the Chair of the CRPD as reported by Reuters News Agency that the fit for work assessment regime has created a “human catastrophe” for sick and/or disabled people confirms this.

The British government must now halt the assessment regime immediately and replace it working together with DDPOs and the BMA.

Not to do so will ensure that this catastrophic harm continues unabated.’

 

Equal Lives CEO, Mark Harrison said:

“We welcome this condemnation of UK Government policy towards disabled people by the UN. When the Chair of the disability committee described the situation that disabled people face as a ‘human catastrophe’ she was reflecting what Norfolk’s disability community has been experiencing over the last 7 years.  In a very short space of time we have gone from having some of the best rights in the world to a crisis situation where people are dying because of the barriers and discrimination caused by austerity.  Equal Lives is here to support disabled people of all ages to live as equal and active citizens.  We will continue to speak out and campaign for equality and justice until the Government recognises its responsibilities and changes course”.

 

Notes to editors:

  • The OHCHR Press Conference (Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) announcing the Concluding Observations takes place from 13:00 GMT:

https://www.unog.ch/80256EDD006B9C2E/(httpHomepages)/15406DAB6CB569F080256F04006E8812?OpenDocument

  • The Concluding Observations will be published on the Committee’s webpage at 6pm GMT:

http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/SessionDetails1.aspx?SessionID=1158&Lang=en

  • DDPOs across the UK have worked in coproduction to collect evidence and compile the reports through the Review process. The delegation of DDPOs present in Geneva w/c 21st August 2017 included Disability Rights UK, Inclusion Scotland, Disability Wales, Disability Action Northern Ireland, the Reclaiming our Futures Alliance, British Deaf Association, People First Scotland, Alliance for Inclusive Education, Disabled People Against Cuts, Inclusion London, Equal Lives, Black Triangle, Sisters of Frida, Black Mental Health UK.
  • Contributions were also received from Innovations in Dementia, HFT and Intersex NGO Coalition.
  • On 23rd and 24th August the examination of the UK Government took place in Geneva, with the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People. The report of the dialogue can be found here, with links to submission documents: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21993&LangID=E
  • The committee postponed its assessment of the UK (originally due in 2015) to investigate a complaint of the violation of disabled people’s rights as a result of welfare reform. This was brought under the optional protocol of the Convention. The findings expressed concern of grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s human rights. That investigation looked only at a part of the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People – with a particular focus on the impact of austerity measures and welfare reform. The Review looked at a much wider set of issues, including our laws on mental health and mental capacity, policies on employment and education and more.

Inquiry report, 2016: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/InquiryProcedure.aspx

Ellen Clifford on 07505 144371 or ellen.clifford@inclusionlondon.org.uk or Natasha Hirst on 029 2088 7325 / 07825 211775 or Natasha.hirst@disabilitywales.org

For comment on intersex genital mutilation, please contact StopIGM.org, Daniela Truffer and Markus Bauer, at nella@zwischengeschlecht.info or +41 76 398 06 50

Follow progress on social media:

#CRPD17 #DDPOsGeneva17 #DefendOurRights

 

 Posted by at 19:06
Aug 312017
 

Place: Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2A 2LL

Time: 10.30am

Date: Friday 1 September 2017

 

Tomorrow, 1 September, the Court of Appeal will deliver its judgement in the a case of R (on the application of Davey) v Oxfordshire County Council).  This is the first case under the Care Act 2014 to reach the Court of Appeal and is critical in determining how far the legislation supports Disabled people’s well-being, choice and control and independent living. (1)

 

The case was brought by Luke Davey, a Disabled person with high support needs, whose support package has been slashed after the closure of the Independent Living Fund (2).  The Equality and Human Rights Commission and Inclusion London (3) both intervened in the case, which highlights the situation many Disabled people are going through at the moment with care packages being cut to the bone by cash strapped Local Authorities.

 

The judgement will follow Concluding Observations from the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People published today, which raise serious concerns over how the UK is going backwards in upholding Disabled people’s right to live independently and be included in the community. (4)

 

Anne Novis MBE, Chair of Inclusion London said: “Many Disabled people need social care support to do some of the basic things in life that many non-Disabled people take for granted.  Without adequate levels of support more and more Disabled people are existing not living – trapped at home without support, choice or control, excluded from participating in, and contributing to, community life. Although The Care Act and the introduction of the wellbeing principle were meant to transform social care and put us and our wellbeing at the centre of the process, we know it does not happen in practice.   Disabled people tell us their support packages are being cut to the bare minimum and their views don’t matter.  Such cuts leave Disabled people at risk of harm, and cause emotional, physical and mental distress. We hope the judges will hear our concerns.”

 

Disabled people will gather outside the court as the judgment is handed down in solidarity with Luke and the hundreds of thousands of Disabled people affected by the crisis in social care.

 

For more information and to arrange interviews please contact Svetlana Kotova: Svetlana.kotova@inclusionlondon.org.uk 07853246229

 

Notes to Editors

 

  1. The initial decision in the Davey case could be found here http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2017/354.html
  2. The Independent Living Fund was closed in June 2015 with responsibility for meeting the full care and support needs of Disabled people transferred to Local Authorities and the devolved administrations. Evaluations of its closure have revealed a dramatic post code lottery with some English Local Authorities making substantial cuts. Research carried out by Inclusion London looking at the situation for ex-ILF recipients one year after closure points to the lack of enforcement measures in the Care Act 2014 and due to the loss of entitlement to legal aid the difficulty people face in making a legal challenge against cuts:  https://www.inclusionlondon.org.uk/news/ilf-one-year-on/. The government’s own evaluation records serious negative impacts:  https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/584417/independent-living-fund-post-closure-review.pdf
  3. Inclusion London intervention was supported by Deighton Pierce Glynn.  Inclusion London is a London-wide Deaf and Disabled people’s organisation. We promote equality for the capital’s 1.2 million Deaf and Disabled people and provide capacity-building support to London’s Deaf and Disabled people’s organisations. For more information: www.inclusionlondon.org.uk.
  4. See paras 44 and 45 here:  http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/SessionDetails1.aspx?SessionID=1158&Lang=en

 

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 19:04
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.