Linda

Aug 182018
 

As usual Disability News Service exposes shocking information and continues to be a thorn in the side of DWP and others.

Disability charity’s appointment of Unum boss as new chair ‘is truly disgraceful’

A disability charity’s decision to choose as its new chair the head of a company closely linked with the government’s hated “fitness for work” test has been branded “a betrayal” of disabled people and “a truly disgraceful appointment”.

United Response, which provides a range of support services to about 3,000 disabled people across England and Wales, this week announced the appointment of management consultant Malcolm McCaig.

McCaig has been a non-executive director of Unum UK since July 2009 and was appointed to chair the company’s board last year.

But Unum has spent decades attempting to influence UK government policy on welfare reform and is blamed by many disabled researchers and activists for pushing successive governments to make the process of applying for out-of-work disability benefits harsher and more stressful.

Those policies have been closely linked to the deaths of countless benefit claimants and with causing significant harm to the physical and mental health of many others.

Campaigners argue that Unum has spent years trying to undermine the social security system to boost the market for its own income protection insurance (IPI) policies.

In 2011, Unum launched a major UK marketing campaign to promote the need for IPI policies, just as the coalition began its three-year programme to reassess about 1.5 million existing claimants of old-style incapacity benefit through the new work capability assessment (WCA).

United Response this week celebrated the appointment of its new chair, describing him as “a strong advocate of diversity and inclusion” who would be “a major asset to the organisation”.

But Mo Stewart, the disabled researcher who has done most to raise concerns about Unum’s influence on welfare reform*, described McCaig’s appointment as “an insult to the chronically ill and disabled people being coerced and intimidated by the DWP, who used Unum as advisers for welfare reforms that have caused death, despair and destitution for those in greatest need in the UK”.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) described the appointment as “a betrayal of all the disabled people and their families who have suffered under the work capability assessment”.

A DPAC spokesperson added: “More than that, though, we consider it active collusion in Unum’s interest in replacing the UK social security net with an insurance system from which they will profit and disabled people will be harmed.

“Given Unum’s history in the US of denying disability in order to avoid pay-outs this is a truly disgraceful appointment.”

Rick Burgess, another leading disabled activist, said: “Given Unum’s reputation in being a ‘disability denial factory’ and its role in abusive disability welfare changes, this appointment is completely inappropriate, unless of course United Response plans on replicating Unum’s approach to disabled people.”

It is also not the first time Unum has courted links with the disability sector.

Two years ago, the Mental Health Foundation was heavily criticised for launching a partnership with Unum that aimed to tackle the stigma of mental health in the workplace and encourage employers to safeguard the mental health of their employees.

Unum’s links with the UK government date back to the 1990s, when Peter Lilley, social security secretary in John Major’s Conservative government, hired senior Unum executive John LoCascio to offer advice on how to cut the number of claimants of long-term sickness benefits.

A detailed memo submitted to the Commons work and pensions committee in 2002 by a director of Unum – then known as UnumProvident – called on the Labour government to “ensure both that work always pays more than benefits, and more importantly that it is clearly seen to do so”.

And in 2005, Unum bragged in a document that it had “always been at the leading edge of disability assessment and management”, and that government policy was now “moving in the same direction” as “our views and understanding” and was “to a large extent being driven by our thinking and that of our close associates”.

Three years later, in 2008, the Labour government introduced the WCA.

Stewart said McCaig’s appointment “disregards the history of this American corporate giant, the fact that they were official government advisers from 1992 regarding ‘welfare claims management’ which influenced the introduction of employment and support allowance and the notorious WCA”.

She also pointed out that Unum was accused of operating a “disability denial” agenda by a professor at Yale Law School and was identified by the American Association for Justice as being the second worst insurance company in America.

In 2005, California’s insurance commissioner, John Garamendi, described Unum Provident as “an outlaw company” that had “engaged in a strategy to increase its bottom line at the expense of its customers”.

The company has previously admitted widespread criticism of its past actions in the US, mainly over its refusal to pay out on large numbers of genuine insurance claims by disabled people, a record also mentioned five years ago in a Commons debate on the WCA.

Unum also sponsored Cardiff University’s Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research for four years.

That research, said Stewart, led to the fatally flawed biopsychosocial (BPS) model of assessment on which the WCA is based.

Unum has repeatedly dismissed claims that it pushed the government to introduce the WCA system, and two years ago even claimed that it “never has lobbied on the topic of welfare reform or related matters”.

United Response failed to respond to the concerns about Unum.

But Tim Cooper, the charity’s chief executive, said: “Malcolm is an outstanding individual whose background and vast experience will prove invaluable in leading United Response and helping it achieve its vision.

“We undertook an extensive recruitment process resulting in an incredibly strong shortlist of candidates, and Malcolm’s skill set and demonstrable understanding of the charity led to his appointment.”

*Stewart’s book, Cash Not Care, details Unum’s influence over successive UK governments, and how it led to the introduction of the WCA

16 August 2018

 

 

Union backs claims of widespread discrimination by ‘hostile’ university

A “Disability Confident” university is facing claims that it forced a disabled member of staff to scour the campus for accessible rooms in which she could deliver her lectures.

The University of Liverpool also told Dr Kay Inckle that it might be considered “reasonable” for her to go down stairs on her bottom in some circumstances rather than be timetabled into ground floor or fully accessible rooms.

And it told the wheelchair-user that she would have to wait in the wings for the end of the annual procession of academic staff through the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall before she was allowed to join them on stage at the end-of year conferment ceremony in which students receive their degrees.

After she protested about her treatment, she says, she was eventually allowed to join the procession.

The university has even claimed that it cannot afford to pay for an access consultant to ensure plans for a £30 million refurbishment of the building where the school of law and social justice and her office will be located are accessible.

Instead of paying for a professional consultant, the university has asked Inckle, and possibly other disabled staff, to offer advice on access requirements for the refurbished building.

The university will also not commit to putting a fire evacuation lift in the building to ensure that disabled people can escape in an emergency, says Inckle.

And one of the two lifts in the main student union building has been out of action for nearly a year, which means that wheelchair-users have not been able to reach the upper floors.

Despite the claims, the university is one of about 7,000 employers that have signed up to the government’s discredited Disability Confident employment scheme.

It claims to be a Disability Confident Employer – the second of the scheme’s three levels – as an organisation that is “recognised as going the extra mile to make sure disabled people get a fair chance”.

Critics have previously argued that it is easy for employers to sign up to the Disability Confident scheme and then continue to discriminate against disabled people.

Inckle, a sociology lecturer who specialises in work on disability, self-harm and mental distress, told Disability News Service that she has been treated with “absolute contempt” by the university.

And she said it was “sickening and laughable” that the university saw itself as a Disability Confident employer.

Now the local branch of her union, the University and College Union, has passed a motion condemning the university’s treatment of her and other disabled staff and students, and is calling for support from disability rights groups.

Its motion says: “The branch is concerned with how the University is discriminating against disabled staff and students in a variety of direct ways from failing to provide accessible rooms and hold accurate information of the accessibility of rooms, to ensuring new buildings are fully compliant with the Equality Act 2010.

“There are also frequent failures to make reasonable adjustments in an effective and timely manner and a hostile and obstructive response towards those who request such adjustments.”

It adds: “A request for an accessible room is not discretionary; it is a legally binding, non-optional and reasonable adjustment.”

The union branch has concluded that the university is breaching the Equality Act 2010 and that its discriminatory actions are “heavily impacting staff and students”.

Inckle described how she has repeatedly been allocated rooms for her lectures that were accessible for disabled students but inaccessible for her because the lecturer’s area could only be reached via steps.

When she complained, she was told to search the campus herself for accessible rooms that would be suitable for her to lecture in.

She has even been allocated rooms that she would not be able to evacuate from in the event of a fire, and she says it took 10 months for the university to provide an accessible toilet for her to use in her own department.

She said: “I was told by one member of university staff that the university might think it was reasonable for me to go down stairs on my bum in some situations rather than provide me with fully accessible rooms.”

On another occasion, a member of university staff demanded that she demonstrate to him how she could be evacuated down stairs in her wheelchair before he would give her permission to use the fire evacuation lift.

Her pleas to address the shortage of accessible parking spaces near her office have also been dismissed.

She said: “As a disabled woman, I am seen as useless and worthless and as an annoyance.

“I am treated with absolute contempt. They see me as a nuisance who needs to shut up and go away.”

A University of Liverpool spokeswoman said: “The University of Liverpool is committed to fulfilling its obligations under the Equality Act and to supporting students and staff with disabilities to flourish.

“Colleagues at the University and College Union have recently raised a number of points with the university regarding the experiences of disabled staff and students and we are actively looking into these.

“We are eager to work with the trade unions and have agreed to meet with them to discuss this further as soon as possible.”

16 August 2018

 

 

DWP repeatedly breaches FoI laws ‘in bid to hide secret jobcentre reports’

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has repeatedly breached freedom of information laws in an apparent attempt to prevent the release of secret reports written by disabled people recruited to work within its jobcentres.

Two years ago, DWP published a work, health and disability green paper, Improving Lives, in which it revealed plans to recruit about 200 new “community partners”.

Ministers said these community partners would have “personal and professional experience of disability” and would support work coaches in jobcentres.

The aim was for them to “provide valuable first-hand insight” into the issues faced by disabled people in “securing and sustaining employment”, with work coaches able to draw on their local knowledge.

The community partners, many of whom were to be seconded from disability organisations, would also help map local provision of peer support and service-user groups.

But Disability News Service (DNS) has since learned that these community partners submit regular reports on their work, often based on their experiences of visiting jobcentres.

For years, DNS has been reporting on the alleged failure of DWP jobcentres to safeguard disabled people left in vulnerable situations because of flaws in the benefits system.

Many of these failings have led to the deaths of benefit claimants and have subsequently been reported on in secret DWP peer reviews (now renamed internal process reviews).

The deaths of disabled people such as Lawrence Bond, David Clapson and Alan McArdle – and many others – have been linked to alleged failings of policy or practice within jobcentres.

DNS therefore submitted a freedom of information request to DWP in May, asking to see any of the reports written by community partners working in London Jobcentre Plus districts in 2017 and 2018, in case any of them included concerns raised by Community Partners about such failings.

Such requests are supposed to be answered within 20 working days, but there has so far been no written response from the department’s freedom of information department.

On 5 July, DNS emailed DWP’s freedom of information team to ask why it had failed to respond to the request, and followed that up with another email on 19 July, warning that the failure to respond was a clear breach of the Freedom of Information Act.

DNS has since spoken to a civil servant in DWP’s freedom of information team, who promised to try to find out why no response had been sent.

She told DNS this week that she had repeatedly attempted to secure a response from the jobcentre operations team and had warned them that they had breached their legal duties under the act.

She said she did not know why they had failed to respond to the request.

She told DNS: “I chased it again this morning and I don’t know why it has taken so long. I have reminded them of their duty to reply in time and that is where I am with it.

“You have every right to go to the Information Commissioner’s Office [to lodge a complaint].

“I have tried. I don’t know why they are digging their heels. I am sorry.”

A DWP spokeswoman refused to explain the reason for the repeated breach of the Freedom of Information Act.

But she said in a statement: “Any issues relating to FOI requests can be dealt with by writing to freedom-of-information-request@dwp.gsi.gov.uk.

“If you are unhappy with the handling of an FOI request please contact the Information Commissioner’s Office.

“The latest statistics show that DWP answered 95 per cent of FOI requests within 20 working days, exceeding the information commissioner’s compliance threshold of 90 per cent.

“As you know, DWP spokesperson statements must come from the DWP press office, and we regularly provide you with statements, as we are doing so in this instance.

“Please can you therefore use the above wording in your story instead of quoting from phone calls with DWP employees.”

16 August 2018

 

 

Deaths and hospital admissions follow short-notice closure of Leonard Cheshire home

At least two disabled people have died while others have been admitted to hospital following the short-notice closure of a residential home by a disability charity.

Leonard Cheshire faced allegations of “insensitive and abusive” behaviour in May over the way its executives told disabled residents that they were about to close their care home because they could not afford to keep it open.

About 20 residents and other service-users were given less than three months’ notice of the charity’s plans to close Greathouse, near Chippenham, Wiltshire.

Leonard Cheshire blamed staffing problems, a drop in the demand for places and the cost of repairs for its decision to close the home on 27 July.

But the charity confirmed this week that two former residents of Greathouse have died soon after being forced to leave the home.

One had been a resident for 15 years and died soon after moving out, while the other had moved to Greathouse more recently and was said to have had a stroke after having trouble settling at his new home.

A third former service-user, a disabled woman who used the home’s respite service and was said to have been deeply upset at not being able to visit Greathouse, is also believed to have died, and other former residents have had to be admitted for hospital treatment.

Anne Keat, whose son Richard was a resident at Greathouse and has now been moved to another home nearby, said she and other relatives were convinced that the deaths and other health problems were connected to the closure.

In addition to the deaths, she said, as many as five or six former Greathouse residents had been hospitalised, including Richard.

He lost more than 20 kilogrammes – more than a quarter of his bodyweight – after learning of the closure and had to be admitted to hospital for three days.

She said: “He literally disappeared before our eyes. It was a pure grieving process, it was horrible to see.”

She said the Greathouse chef had commented several times on how much less food he was cooking in the weeks leading up to the closure, because residents had lost their appetites.

She said: “Leonard Cheshire have a lot to answer for. I just think they have behaved appallingly.”

Earlier this month, Leonard Cheshire was also criticised over its decision to sell 17 residential homes to other care providers and was accused of making “a complete mockery” of its supposed commitment to service-user involvement.

Disability News Service has heard from three separate sources that three former Greathouse residents have now moved to Leonard Cheshire homes that are among the 17 listed for sale next year and so are likely to go through a further period of uncertainty and upheaval.

One source, who has friends among ex-staff and relatives of former residents, said the deaths were “so distressing”, and added: “This is a scandal, but no-one cares.”

Doug Paulley, who lives in a Leonard Cheshire home in Wetherby and has publicly criticised the way the charity is run, said the deaths were “very sad” but predictable.

He said: “Leonard Cheshire knows that people die if they are forced to move from their care homes, but they did it anyway.

“These actions that devastate disabled people who live in their homes – it is disgusting.

“It is difficult to prove but I have no doubt that people being moved forcibly against their will when they have severe impairments has caused deaths.”

He said the charity had given the residents of Greathouse the minimum possible notice – three months – of its intention to close the home.

Although it is impossible to prove that the deaths and health problems were caused by the sudden closure of Greathouse and residents being forced to move to new homes, some research has suggested a link between involuntary relocation from residential homes and a negative impact on residents’ health.

A Leonard Cheshire spokeswoman said: “We are aware that two former residents of Greathouse have sadly passed away.

“Our heartfelt thoughts are with the families at this difficult time.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further at this point until the facts are established.

“Care was taken in supporting all residents of Greathouse with their individual moves, including health checks and the transfer of records around complex conditions so that continuity of care was properly managed.

“Continuity and quality of support, and the welfare of all residents is our top priority during the coming months as we look to secure a new provider for the services that we have taken the difficult decision to sell.

“Any sale is unlikely to occur before the end of March 2019 and could take longer. We will support residents and their families throughout this process.”

She said the charity was not aware of the death of the woman who used the respite service.

She added: “With regard to the other residents you refer to we will not comment on the health of individual residents beyond our statement.

“If residents have transferred to other providers, any queries about the care and wellbeing of residents who transferred to other providers need to be addressed to them.”

She declined to comment further.

16 August 2018

 

 

Concerns over green paper’s ‘chilling’ failure to address accessible housing crisis

The government has been criticised by disabled campaigners and the equality watchdog after its new social housing green paper failed to include a single mention of the accessible housing crisis.

Only three months ago, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) warned that more than 350,000 disabled people in England had unmet housing needs, with one-third of those in private rented accommodation and one-fifth of those in social housing living in unsuitable properties.

EHRC called in its report for the government to draw up a national strategy to ensure an adequate supply of new homes built to inclusive design standards.

But this week’s social housing green paper, described by communities secretary James Brokenshire as a “new deal” for social housing residents – those who pay rent at below market levels – does not mention accessible housing once.

The word “accessible” only appears in the 78-page document four times, on each occasion relating to the need for accessible information or complaints procedures.

The green paper does refer to supported housing, which it explains has a “key role to play” in supporting minority groups including people with mental ill-health, learning difficulties and other disabled people.

But there are no proposals to improve supported housing, other than referring to a U-turn announced last week, in which ministers said that it would continue to be funded through the social security system rather than being devolved to local authorities as originally planned.

The green paper also mentions an ongoing review of the disabled facilities grant (DFG), which provides funding to make disabled people’s homes more accessible, for example by widening doorways or installing ramps, and which will see spending increase from £220 million in 2015-16 to £505 million in 2019-20.

But there are no new proposals for increasing the supply of accessible housing, or even requests for ideas on how the accessible housing crisis could be addressed.

Ellen Clifford, campaigns and policy manager for Inclusion London, said that reading the green paper and realising its failure to mention the crisis in accessible housing – despite the conclusions reached in the EHRC report – had been a “chilling” experience.

She said: “Despite the fact that disabled people are twice as likely as non-disabled people to live in social housing, that over half of all households in the social housing sector have disabled members and that according to the EHRC report there are around 365,000 disabled people in England with unmet housing needs, with one in five disabled people in social housing living in unsuitable accommodation, the new green paper on social housing fails to mention the crisis in accessible housing at all or offer any solutions to it.”

She added: “The paper refers a number of times to the Grenfell tragedy but fails to mention the numbers of disabled tenants housed there, a number on upper floors who were unable to escape, due to the chronic lack of accessible housing that is a problem across Britain.

“The chilling part is that the only mention of meeting disabled people’s housing needs or of accessibility comes through the government’s commitment to invest in supported housing.

“The recent government announcement on increased funding for supported housing states that a unit within such housing will ‘have its own front door’, as if to detract from what this represents, which is ghetto-isation and re-segregation of disabled people.”

EHRC told Disability News Service that it was concerned and disappointed by the green paper’s failure to address the “chronic shortage” of accessible housing.

An EHRC spokeswoman said in a statement: “Almost half of social housing is occupied by disabled tenants or those with a long-term illness and their needs must be specifically reflected in the green paper.

“The ambition to empower tenants is welcome, but we are disappointed that specific initiatives for disabled people and the need to address the chronic shortage of accessible housing are not mentioned.

“We will be responding to the consultation and discussing the proposals directly with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to raise our concerns.”

The green paper offers five “core principles”: a “safe and decent home”; “swift and effective resolution” of concerns about the safety or standard of a home; “empowering residents” and ensuring landlords are held to account; tackling the stigma of living in social housing; and “building the social homes that we need and ensure that those homes can act as a springboard to home ownership”.

But although prime minister Theresa May says in a foreword that the government is “committed to getting more of the right homes built in the right places, sold or rented at prices local people can afford”, the green paper provides few if any firm proposals.

Instead, it includes a series of questions to be answered through a public consultation – which closes on 6 November – although none of them relate to accessible housing.

Although it was not mentioned in the green paper, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced this week that it was extending funding for its Care and Support Specialised Housing Fund (CSSHF) for another three years.

CSSHF received £315 million in its first five years (£63 million a year) and produced about 3,300 accessible “supported or specialised” properties suitable for disabled and older people.

Funding will now rise to £76 million a year for the next three years, with DHSC expecting “thousands” more homes to be built.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) failed to explain the failure to mention accessible housing in the green paper.

Instead, she pointed to the reference to the DFG review, and added: “We realise many disabled people face challenges in their daily lives, but we’re clear that their homes should not cause them problems.

“Our green paper sets out our plan to tackle stigma and ensure social housing can be a stable base that supports people when they need it.

“Our new planning rulebook also makes clear that councils must take the needs of the elderly and disabled people into account when planning new properties.”

MHCLG also said that as design of homes was at the heart of the green paper, that would include making sure properties were suitably accessible.

And it said that disabled people were among nearly 1,000 residents who took part in 14 engagement events around the country leading up to the green paper.

16 August 2018

 

 

User-led alliance set to raise concerns for second time with Mental Health Act Review

User-led groups and service-users are set to raise grave concerns about the work of the team reviewing mental health laws on behalf of the government, including its refusal to take a “full human rights-based approach” to reform.

An alliance of user-led organisations, mental health service-users and survivors, and their allies, are to write for a second time to the Mental Health Act Review (MHAR), which is examining the Mental Health Act 1983, which covers England and Wales.

More than 120 organisations and individuals – led by the National Survivor User Network (NSUN) – wrote to the review in May raising alarm about its reluctance to recommend full rights that comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

The letter called on the review to address the concerns raised by the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, after it investigated the UK’s implementation of the UN disability convention last year.

The UN committee said in the “concluding observations” to its examination of the UK that the government should “repeal legislation and practices that authorise non-consensual involuntary, compulsory treatment” and the detention of disabled people “on the basis of actual or perceived impairment”.

Two NSUN representatives met the review team last month to discuss their letter, but they said they did not think their concerns were taken seriously, while the response from the review’s chair – Professor Sir Simon Wessely – and his three vice-chairs “fell well short of what we might have hoped”.

Wessely made it clear that he and his vice-chairs would not recommend full implementation of the UN convention.

Now NSUN is set to write to the review for a second time next month, in response to the views expressed by Wessely and his vice-chairs at the meeting.

The follow-up letter is likely to stress again the importance of a human rights-based approach to reform which gives mental health service-users the same rights as everyone else, and express strong dissatisfaction with the review’s dismissal of the concerns.

The letter is again expected to secure significant support from user-led organisations, mental health service-users and survivors, and allies.

Among the other concerns raised by the NSUN alliance in the first letter are that service-users, survivors and user-led organisations have been outnumbered in key parts of the review structure, leading to a “tokenistic” approach.

And they say the review has been “incredibly rushed”, with the review brief being to produce recommendations this autumn, ahead of NHS England’s 10-year funding plan, which is expected later this year.

This has caused “significant barriers to service user and carer involvement” in the review.

And they want to see a greater effort to reach those with lived experience of detention and compulsory treatment, with an adequate focus on those from particularly disadvantaged groups, including those from black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, people from disadvantaged socio-economic groups, people with learning difficulties and people with physical impairments.

They also want the review to place more of a focus on social models of mental distress, and to examine alternatives to clinical services and provision of resources for these alternatives.

They also have major concerns about the quality of the interim review report, which was published in May, because of the reporting and reliability of the data it used, and the lack of clarity on the evidence for its findings.

Dorothy Gould, freelance researcher, trainer and consultant for NSUN, said: “It is utterly wrong that the 21st century has been reached without people with mental health diagnoses/in mental distress having the same human rights as everyone else – and now, to compound this, the review chair and vice chairs are not willing to recommend that we do even now.”

Sarah Yiannoullou, NSUN’s managing director, said the review team had made it “quite clear” that that they were not going to recommend any move towards mental health legislation which was fully compliant with UNCRPD.

Yiannoullou said the review was incredibly important because it was likely to be the basis for the last major reform for the next decade.

She said: “Whatever recommendations there are, that’s it for the next 10 years.”

A Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokeswoman declined to answer questions about the key points made by NSUN, as the review was ongoing, but said in a statement: “We’re determined to ensure the Mental Health Act works better for patients and their families, which is why we commissioned a review of the act and will be considering the final recommendations of the review when it reports later this year.”

But DHSC also said that a service users’ and carers’ group was embedded in the governance of the review, and that every working group established by the review had at least one service-user or carer as a full member.

DHSC said that more than 2,000 people and organisations had provided views for the review through a call-for-evidence, a survey and face-to-face meetings.

The department also said that 30 small focus groups had been held with service-users and carers, with participants including those with experience of low, medium, high security and forensic services, autistic people and those with learning difficulties, and those from BAME communities.

A further two workshops with service-users, carers and professionals have just been held, while at least 15 more focus groups will be re-run in early autumn to test the review’s thinking.

For more information about NSUN’s campaign, or to offer support, contact Dorothy Gould (gould.dorothy@gmail.com), NSUN’s lead on the review, or Sarah Yiannoullou (sarah.yiannoullou@nsun.org.uk)

16 August 2018

 

 

Legal ruling secures new protection for autistic pupils

Thousands of disabled children have won new protection from being unfairly excluded from school after a judge ruled that the government’s equality laws were unlawful.

The upper tribunal ruled last week that a 13-year-old pupil, known as “L” for legal reasons, should not have been excluded from his school because his behaviour was linked to his autism.

Now campaigners are calling on the education secretary to change the law to take account of the appeal victory.

L had originally been excluded from school for one-and-a-half days, when he was 11, because of his aggressive behaviour.

The way that Equality Act regulations have been interpreted has meant that children like L who were defined as having “a tendency to physical abuse” were often not treated as “disabled” and were therefore not protected by the Equality Act.

This lack of protection meant schools did not have to justify how a decision to exclude a disabled child in these circumstances was proportionate or explain how they had made reasonable adjustments to support the pupil so the behaviour could be prevented or reduced.

But Judge Rowley, sitting in the upper tribunal, has now found that this rule comes “nowhere near striking a fair balance between the rights of children such as L on the one side and the interests of the community on the other” and was a breach of the Human Rights Act.

He said that “aggressive behaviour is not a choice for children with autism” and that the education secretary had “failed to justify maintaining in force a provision which excludes from the ambit of the protection of the Equality Act children whose behaviour in school is a manifestation of the very condition which calls for special education provision to be made for them”.

He added: “In that context, to my mind it is repugnant to define as ‘criminal or anti-social’ the effect of the behaviour of children whose condition (through no fault of their own) manifests itself in particular ways so as to justify treating them differently from children whose condition has other manifestations.”

He said he believed that his decision was “in harmony with” both the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Statistics show that almost half of all school exclusions involve children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), who are almost seven times more likely to be permanently excluded than other pupils.

L’s parents said in a statement: “We have always believed passionately that our son and other children in his position should have equal rights to be able to go to school and receive the support they need to achieve the best possible outcomes.

“School should be somewhere he can go without fear of discrimination or exclusion for actions which he has no control over.

“Knowing that one of the key rules that prevented that has now been found to be unlawful is of great comfort to us, and we hope, many other families.”

Michelle Daley, interim director of The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE), said: “ALLFIE has continuously expressed our deep concerns about the increase in the level of exclusion of disabled children and children with SEND and also the increase in the number of children in segregated provision.

“All credit to L and his parents for pursuing the case and in helping to bring about this ruling to get the state to recognise the human rights of disabled children.

“This is an encouraging move forward, ensuring that children will be protected under the law.

“We now hope that further changes will be made to properly implement article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to end segregated education.”

Polly Sweeney, human rights partner at lawyers Irwin Mitchell, who represented L’s family, said: “We are delighted with this outcome and pleased that the upper tribunal has recognised in strong terms that the profound and severe discriminatory impact that these rules have on vulnerable children such as L when accessing education is unlawful.

“As has been made clear in the judgment, this decision does not mean that schools are prevented from excluding children where it is necessary and proportionate to do so.

“However, it will ensure all disabled children are afforded the same safeguards, protections and rights under the law regardless of whether their disability gives rise to challenging behaviour.”

Barrister Steve Broach, who argued L’s case at the tribunal, said on Twitter that the successful appeal “shows the power of the Human Rights Act”, as rules made under the Equality Act were found to have breached L’s human rights.

Melanie Field, executive director at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which funded the case, said: “We are delighted with this judgment which will require schools to make reasonable adjustments to try to prevent or manage challenging behaviour and justify that any exclusion in these circumstances is proportionate.

“This is a positive step towards ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to reach their potential through education and increasing the inclusion of disabled children in mainstream education.”

A DfE spokeswoman said: “The government is fully committed to protecting the rights of children with disabilities, as well as making sure schools are safe environments for all pupils.

“We will be carefully considering the judgment and its implications before deciding the next steps.”

The government launched a review of exclusions earlier this year, led by former Tory education minister Edward Timpson, which is examining how schools use exclusions and why some groups are disproportionately excluded.

16 August 2018

 

 

Retailers back UK’s first ‘accessible shopping day’

Major retailers have backed the launch of the UK’s first “accessible shopping day”, which will see businesses promise to introduce new measures to benefit their disabled customers.

Purple Tuesday, to be held on 13 November, is being led by Purple, the social enterprise formerly known as Essex Coalition of Disabled People.

It has secured backing from businesses and organisations including Asda, Barclays, Argos, Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s, The Crown Estate, the British Retail Consortium, and Hammerson, which owns Birmingham’s Bullring shopping centre, and has been endorsed by the government.

As well as endorsing and promoting Purple Tuesday, every organisation that signs up must make at least one long-term commitment aimed at improving the experience for their disabled customers, such as introducing regular “quiet hours” for neurodiverse shoppers.

Purple will provide retailers that sign up with a training kit to help staff feel confident in assisting disabled shoppers.

It believes there are a “vast array” of adjustments that can be made by retailers that will have a “significant impact”, and many – like the training kit – can be introduced quickly.

Any business or organisation that interacts with disabled customers can sign up to Purple Tuesday, which will also promote the need for accessible retail websites.

Mike Adams, chief executive of Purple, said: “Less than 10 per cent of companies have a dedicated strategy for targeting disabled customers.

“Fundamentally, Purple Tuesday isn’t about a single day in the year but encouraging lasting change that creates a virtuous circle between businesses and disabled consumers.”

Earlier this year, a report co-authored by Adams, Leading From The Front, found the estimated value of the “purple pound” – the collective spending power of disabled people in the UK and their families – to be £249 billion a year.

The report said that three-quarters of disabled people had walked away from a business because of poor disability awareness – costing businesses £420 million a week – while inaccessible websites and apps cost £11.75 billion in lost revenue in the UK in 2016.

It also pointed out that fewer than one in 10 businesses have a defined strategy for targeting disabled consumers.

Purple Tuesday has evolved from a campaign launched by Purple last year, Help Me Spend My Money, which encouraged retail and hospitality businesses to provide disability equality training to their in-store staff and take other measures such as providing an accessible website.

Sarah Newton, the minister for disabled people, said: “Shopping should be a pleasant experience, but for many disabled people it can often be the cause of distress and frustration.

“By failing to cater to their disabled customers, many businesses are missing out on billions of pounds and denying disabled people the opportunity to enjoy something which many people take for granted.

“I look forward to working alongside Purple and members of my Disability Retail Forum on this hugely important agenda, highlighting examples of best practice in the retail sector and encouraging others to make small changes which can make a massive difference to their customers.”

16 August 2018

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 Posted by at 21:02
Aug 182018
 

Call for evidence: Pre-paid cards for social care

Pre-paid cards (or payment cards) are increasingly being used by local councils as a way of making direct payments for social care. Instead of funds being paid into a Disabled person’s people’s bank accounts, funding is ‘loaded’ or paid into a card account. This means that councils can monitor in detail all transactions as they happen, and potentially may suspend an account, if they do not approve of how Disabled people are using the cards.

Across the country, Disabled people have been told by councils that they ‘have to’ use a prepaid card, even if they have been managing their own funding for many years (2).  We also know of a case in the South West where someone was threatened to a cut to their social care funding, unless they accepted a pre-paid card.

As payments usually have to be made online, or over the phone, using a card may also be inaccessible for some Disabled people.

This system has been promoted to local authorities by National Prepaid Cards Network (1) as a way of ‘clawing-back’ money and controlling the way Disabled people use direct payments. Advice to councils has included; ‘The prepaid card remains the use of the council which allows a wider range of sanctions to be applied tactically where required’

In 2017 the Independent Living Strategy Group (3) conducted research that showed:

  • Over a million pounds a year is spent on fees and operating the cards.
  • Just two card companies were providing services to most local councils using payment cards.
  • The way that councils use pre-paid cards varies widely across the country, with some using cards as way of restricting the way that direct payments can be used.

The ILSG also found that some councils are imposing pre-paid cards on Disabled people, contrary to the governments own guidance:

Whilst the use of such cards can be a useful step from managed services to direct payments, they should not be provided as the only option to take a direct payment The offer of a ‘traditional’ direct payment paid into a bank account should always be available if this is what the person requests and this is appropriate to meet needs.’ 4

(Or, as a Disabled activist pointed out recently; ‘If you are offered a pre-paid card for direct payments, you have a choice. You don’t have to have it!’)

However, despite this research and recommendations made by the ILSG to councils, there still seems to be widespread concern about pressure on Disabled people to accept a card and misinformation about their use.

If you have been offered a pre-paid card as the only ‘choice’, or been pressured to accept a card by your council, the Independent Living Strategy Group would like to hear from you.

  • Please note that they cannot, unfortunately, offer any support in any difficulty that you have with your Council but they will be raising concerns about prepaid cards with the Association of Directors of Social Services at a meeting in September. Any information you provide will not be used in any way which could identify you.

Please e-mail jennymorris.net@gmail.com

 (Article by Bristol and South West Disabled People Against Cuts)

 

References

1 https://prepaidnetwork.org.uk/guidance-resource/

2 http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2017/10/13/councils-use-prepayment-cards-risks-contravening-care-act-study-claims/

3 https://www.inclusionlondon.org.uk/campaigns-and-policy/comment-and-media/payment-cards-must-support-not-restrict-choice-control-users-direct-payments/

4 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/care-act-statutory-guidance/care-and-support-statutory-guidance

 Posted by at 20:48
Aug 182018
 

Norwich Art Show Announced

Vince Laws & DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) have teamed up to ensure there is a Norfolk Disability Pride Art Show. The show falls under 3 headings:

1) ‘I Protest!’ 

Protest Art by Vince Laws & DPAC Artists

including the DEAD PEOPLE DON’T CLAIM banner

and the DWP DEATHS MAKE ME SICK shrouds.

Supported by Disabled People Against Cuts

dpac.uk.net

2) A Very Queer Nazi Faust – Props, Photos, Poetry & More!

Highlighting the plight of disabled people under the current Tory government.

(Following the live art performance at Norwich Arts Centre on Weds 12 Sept at 8pm, tickets £6.66.)

Commissioned and supported by Unlimited, celebrating the work of disabled artists with funding from the Spirit of 2012. Supported by Norwich Arts Centre. Supported by Norfolk County Council.

avqnf.co.uk

3) Norfolk Disability Pride Art Show supported by DPAC

At St Margaret’s Church of Art,

St Benedict’s Street, Norwich, NR2 4AQ

Sunday 16 – Saturday 29 September 2018.

Accepting and hanging work Sunday 16 Sept 11am-5pm.

LAUNCH PARTY Sunday 16 Sept 5-10pm, (after the Norfolk Disability Pride event at the Forum earlier the same day, 11am-4pm.)

Performance evening Saturday 22 Sept, details TBC.

A Very Queer Nazi Faust end of show Party open to everyone on Friday 28 Sept from 5-10pm.

Take down Saturday 29 Sept. All work must be collected by 5pm.

Call to Artists

You don’t have to show protest art.

Work needs to be relevant to Norfolk Disability Pride, but you don’t have to be disabled to take part.

Work can be for sale or display only. Donate what you can afford to take part, all money goes to DPAC.

To enter work contact vincelaws@gmail.com

Volunteers Welcome

Help Vince hang work on Sunday 16 Sept 11am-5pm.

Help host the Launch Party on Sunday 16 Sept 5-10pm.

Help welcome visitors 17-29 Sept, open daily 10am-5pm. (Early shift 10am-1.30pm. Later shift 1.30-5pm)

Entry to the art show is FREE throughout, however donations to DPAC welcome. I hope to pay them back the venue hire & costs.

What: ‘I Protest!’ Art Show, with A Very Queer Nazi Faust props and photos, and Norfolk Disability Pride Art Show.

Where: St Margaret’s Church of Art, St Benedict’s Street, Norwich, NR2 4AQ.

When: Sunday 16 to Saturday 29 September 2018.

When: Launch Party: on Sunday 16 Sept from 5-10pm, then open daily 10am-5pm.

Why: Part of Norfolk Disability Pride 2018. Fighting for disabled peoples’ human rights.

Who: Vince Laws, DPAC, Art of Norwich, Unlimited, Spirit of 2012, Norwich Arts Centre, Norfolk County Council.

Contact: vincelaws@gmail.com

Norfolk Disability Pride contact: penny.parker@equallives.org.uk

Tickets for A Very Queer Nazi Faust: https://norwichartscentre.co.uk/events/vince-laws-queer-nazi-faust/?spektrix_bounce=true

Poster shows 3 images:

Top photo by Ruski: Shows Tory MP for Norwich North, Chloe Smith, speaking on the steps of Norwich City Hall at Norwich LGBT+ Pride, while Vince Laws stands silently beside her holding a sign which reads ’Tories Guilty of grave and systematic abuse of disabled people – United Nations’.

Middle photo by Vince Laws shows part of A Very Queer Nazi Faust sign, and 2 of The Naked Abseilers.

Bottom photo by Vince Laws shows an oil painting of some sunflowers.

 Posted by at 20:39
Aug 152018
 

TUESDAY 11 SEPTEMBER 6-8pm
House of Commons, Westminster, room tbc   All welcome

DO NO HARM

A seminar to gather evidence of the significant harm caused to children by separating them from their mothers and families, and which families are targeted for child removal and forced adoption.

Hosted by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP

Organised by Legal Action for Women

Speakers so far:

Andy Bilson, Emeritus Professor of Social Work, University of Central Lancashire – new research into rising levels of investigation of families by social services and of children taken ‘into care’

Victoria Childs, Psychotherapy and Counsellors Union – the (lifelong) impact of separation from birth families

Emma Lewell-Buck MP, Shadow Minister for Children & Families

Lisa Longstaff, Women Against Rape – separation can be worse than witnessing domestic violence: a New York court ruling

Anne Neale, Legal Action for Women, Suffer the Little Children & their Mothers – updated findings from the past year’s self-help case work

SHODA RACKAL, Breastfeeding Peer Supporter – protecting the bond between mother and child

Jean Robinson, Association for Improvement in the Maternity Services – the threat of having children taken stops mothers accessing services

A mother who kept her child, a mother who got her child back, and a grandmother whose grandchild was forcibly adopted.

Contact: law@allwomencount.net   020 7482 2496

 Posted by at 15:57
Aug 092018
 

DWP figures provide fresh evidence to explain PIP claim rejections

New figures show that Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) civil servants are questioning only a tiny proportion of the benefit assessment reports written by discredited government contractors Atos and Capita.

Campaigners have been trying for months to secure evidence that would explain why such a high proportion of personal independence payment (PIP) claims that are taken to appeal are successful.

Figures from social security tribunals show the proportion of claimants who won their PIP appeals rose by seven percentage points in a year, from 64 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016-17 to 71 per cent in the same period of 2017-18.

The new figures, secured by Disability News Service (DNS) through a freedom of information request, may help to explain why so many appeals are successful.

Some researchers have suggested that DWP decision-makers are accepting too many PIP assessment reports prepared by Atos and Capita without subjecting them to proper scrutiny, despite increasing evidence of incompetence and dishonesty by the Atos and Capita healthcare professionals who write them.

DNS has previously spoken to a DWP civil servant working on the PIP “frontline”, who has said that DWP case managers have strict targets for the number of PIP claims they need to process every day and are quizzed by their superiors if they miss their weekly targets.

He has said they are “instructed to act on the assessor’s report, given that they are the medical experts”.

The new figures, provided by DWP following the DNS freedom of information request, appear to confirm concerns that DWP decision-makers are letting many substandard and misleading reports slip through the net.

DNS had asked DWP how many of its decisions on PIP eligibility were made without any attempt to seek further advice or clarification from Atos and Capita, discuss or resolve problems with them, or even return the report to be completely rewritten.

DWP initially said it would be too expensive to produce such figures, but DNS then asked it to test a random sample of 100 assessment reports from Capita and 100 from Atos.

This week, DWP produced those figures, which show that of a random sample of 100 Capita reports, 94 PIP decisions were made without any further contact at all with the company.

And of 100 Atos reports, 97 decisions were made without any further contact with the company once DWP had received the assessment report.

Campaigner John Slater, whose freedom of information work has previously produced crucial data about the DWP’s disability benefit assessment contracts, said the latest figures raised serious concerns about the actions of DWP decision-makers.

Figures he secured from DWP earlier this year showed that an audit of more than 4,000 Capita assessment reports – between April and December 2016 – found about 7.5 per cent were so poor as to be deemed “unacceptable”.

In all, 33 per cent of the audited Capita reports were found to be of an unacceptable standard, to need changes, or demonstrated that the assessor had failed to carry out their role properly.

But this week’s DWP response suggests that its decision-makers are making further checks on just six per cent of Capita assessment reports.

Slater said: “The DWP figures do not reflect the audit management information data it disclosed for 2016.

“Even when you take into account the age of the 2016 data, I would have thought that the number for Capita PIP reports might have been closer to 80 out of the 100 reports sampled.

“This suggests that decision-makers are not looking at the reports critically and are assuming they are accurate.

“I can’t offer anything specific on the Atos data as the DWP still hasn’t disclosed the audit data and the information commissioner is still pursuing the case.

“However, 97 out of 100 still seems unrealistically high.”

Disabled People Against Cuts researcher Anita Bellows, who has also carried out crucial work examining the assessment contracts, also raised serious concerns about DWP decision-makers apparently rubber-stamping more than 95 per cent of all Atos and Capita assessment reports.

She said: “Considering the number of successful appeals against a PIP decision, it is obvious the DWP has not addressed the issue of assessors’ reports and dishonesty.”

She said the figures on successful appeals showed that “very simple errors or untruths” are not picked up by DWP’s decision-makers when making the initial decisions, and then again at the “mandatory reconsideration” internal review stage.

Bellows said: “The figure of 71 per cent of successful PIP appeals is just incredible.

“It means that the DWP made a wrong decision in 71 per cent of cases, not only once but twice.

“There is no better illustration that the system is not working for claimants.”

A DWP spokeswoman refused to answer questions about the new figures, including whether they suggested that one of the reasons for the high rate of successful PIP appeals was that the department’s decision-makers do not have enough time to check assessment reports with Atos and Capita and are not encouraged to do so.

But she said in a statement: “We’re committed to ensuring that people get accurate high-quality assessments and the right decision, first time round.

“A relatively small number of all PIP decisions are overturned at appeal – four per cent.

“Our assessment providers have developed an audit programme with us which we also monitor.

“In addition, the department itself audits a robust random sample of all cases, applying a rigorous set of quality measures to assure that the standards expected by the department are being delivered across the full network.

“Where healthcare professionals fall below the required high standards and do not improve, processes are in place to revoke their approval to carry out assessments.”

The new figures follow years of mounting anger about the way PIP has been designed and run, since it was launched five years ago as a replacement for working-age disability living allowance.

They also follow a lengthy DNS investigation which found claims of widespread dishonesty by PIP assessors – from both Atos and Capita – with hundreds of claimants saying that their PIP assessment reports contained clear lies.

9 August 2018

 

 

DWP refuses to pay £125 to discover number of disabled people in full-time jobs

Ministers are refusing to commission work that would cost just £125 and would show how many disabled people are in full-time paid employment, and how that number has changed under successive Tory-led governments.

Ministers, including the current work and pensions secretary Esther McVey, have repeatedly boasted of how their policies have led to an increase of hundreds of thousands of disabled people in work, including a rise of nearly 600,000 between April 2013 and June 2017.

But those claims are based on figures provided by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which includes in its measure of “employment” people who are in part-time work, are self-employed, and those in government-supported training and employment programmes.

This means there are no published government figures that show how many disabled people are in full-time paid employment, and how that number has risen or fallen under successive governments since 2010.

To try to find those statistics, Disability News Service (DNS) submitted a freedom of information request to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), asking for figures for each of the last 10 years for how many disabled people were in full-time, paid jobs.

DWP replied that “this information is not held by the department” and suggested that DNS approach ONS instead.

ONS also said that it did not have that information but explained that it would probably take its experts less than half a day to produce them from existing sets of data, and that it would charge £125 (plus VAT) to do so.

When passed this response and asked why Sarah Newton, the minister for disabled people, had so far shown no interest in producing these figures – and whether she would now commission the necessary work from ONS – a DWP spokeswoman declined to answer.

Instead, she sent a lengthy statement which explained the role of ONS and praised its independence.

In the statement, she said the ONS definition of employment was “in line with internationally agreed principles of what constitutes employment, and which allow comparisons of the UK with other countries”.

She added: “This definition of employment includes not just people employed in full-time employee jobs; but reflects other forms of work that exist in our economy, including part-time employment; self-employment; and people on government training schemes and employment programmes.”

Asked again if Newton could explain why she appeared to have no interest in asking for these figures to be produced, when they would show how many disabled people were in full-time paid employment, the DWP spokeswoman refused to add to her statement, and said: “That’s our response to your query.”

9 August 2018

 

 

Legal action threat over wheelchair service’s ‘bullying, delays and poor service’

Wheelchair-users in Kent are threatening to take legal action over growing concerns about delays, poor service and even bullying and harassment by the company running the NHS wheelchair services contract in the county.

Four disability groups – Kent’s Physical Disability Forum (PDF), the Kent charity Freedom for Wheels, Kent’s Wheelchair Users Group (WUG) and the Centre for Independent Living Kent (CILK) – have written an open letter to the area’s eight clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) raising “grave concerns” about the performance of Millbrook Healthcare.

The letter, which is also supported by some members of the Medway Physical Disability Partnership Board, has been copied to every one of Kent’s MPs.

The groups say in their letter that they “no longer have any confidence in Millbrook to provide the wheelchair service across Kent” and do not believe that Thanet CCG – which negotiated the wheelchair services contract on behalf of the eight CCGs in Kent and Medway – is “a fit and proper organisation to oversee that contract”.

Thanet CCG was one of four east Kent CCGs placed into special measures this week by NHS England, partly because of “issues with the quality of services they commission”.

Millbrook has this week strongly denied allegations of bullying, harassment and unsafe behaviour by its staff, while Thanet CCG has denied seeing any evidence of harassment and bullying.

Professor Mike Oliver, the disabled academic who first defined the “social model of disability” and a long-standing WUG member, is playing a key role in the campaign to expose the failings in the wheelchair services contract.

He has been a user of wheelchair services in the county for more than 50 years, and he believes the service – which currently provides manual and powered wheelchairs to almost 20,000 adults and children – is worse now than it has ever been throughout that time.

The four groups have been unable to secure detailed figures on delays, waiting-lists and other aspects of Millbrook’s performance, but Oliver said the anecdotal reports they had received from disabled people were deeply concerning.

In one case, a man who repeatedly asked for proper foot-plates to be fitted to his wheelchair now faces the possibility of having his foot amputated because of a pressure sore he believes was caused by the unsuitable wheelchair.

A disabled child was reportedly told by a member of Millbrook staff that if he did not sit still he would have his wheelchair taken away, while another wheelchair-user had their arms and legs forced into position in a wheelchair.

Another case saw a woman take delivery of a wheelchair from Millbrook, only to find it was filthy, with the cushion smelling of urine.

Oliver gave evidence to Kent County Council’s health overview and scrutiny committee last month about the concerns and told them: “The service now is the worst it has ever been.”

And he said the four groups were unanimous in believing the contract had to be removed from Millbrook.

He said there had been “harassment, bullying” and examples of “possible assaults, of threatening behaviour of children, and we know there is at least one serious incident being investigated by the police”.

He added: “The situation in our view has reached a critical stage.”

In a report to the committee, Thanet CCG admitted that the number of children on the waiting-list had risen from 210 to 443, and the number of adults from 1,046 to 1,971, since Millbrook took on the contract.

Of these, 251 children and 999 adults had been waiting for more than the 18-week target, while 62 children and 272 adults had been on the waiting-list inherited from the previous provider and so had been waiting longer than a year.

The report said the CCGs were treating the situation “very seriously” and that the delays in resolving the issues were “very regrettable”.

Thanet CCG also said it was in discussions about providing further funding for Millbrook because the caseload it inherited when it took over “included both a backlog of long waiters and a much higher complexity case-mix” than had been expected, and that Millbrook was drawing up an improvement plan.

But Oliver told the meeting that he and his fellow campaigners did not accept the CCG report and had told Thanet CCG that providing Millbrook with more funding would be a mistake.

Despite his comments, Thanet CCG is currently seeking approval from the other CCGs to provide extra funding to Millbrook to clear the backlog.

The Millbrook contract is already worth £5.1 million a year, which includes the costs of staff, wheelchairs and spare parts.

The committee was also shown a report listing concerns raised by PDF, which included a string of complaints about delays, poor service and Millbrook incompetence.

Oliver and fellow campaigners have been raising concerns about the service since a meeting last November, more than six months after Millbrook took on the contract in April 2017.

But Oliver told Disability News Service (DNS) that Millbrook “pooh-poohed our concerns”, blamed backlogs inherited from the previous contractor and promised “immediate improvements” by the beginning of 2018, which it failed to deliver.

He himself has been waiting for a replacement arm-rest for his wheelchair since January.

The four groups are now considering seeking legal advice for a possible court action against Thanet CCG.

Oliver said he believed that the state of wheelchair services was worsening across the country and was in a “very bleak” state.

Millbrook Healthcare told DNS this week that it had “not been presented with any evidence that suggest service users and their families are being harassed, bullied or threatened by our staff” and that there had been “no incidents or safeguarding concerns involving our staff reported to us, or our partners in the CCGs”.

A Millbrook spokeswoman said: “In a response to Professor Oliver, we and the CCGs have requested that if there is specific evidence to support these claims, then these need to be provided so that we can conduct a full investigation and take the necessary actions.”

She said Millbrook staff had drawn up their own “impact statement”, in which they claimed that the “blanket slur has caused anxiety and offence” and that they had themselves “suffered verbal abuse whilst carrying out their roles”, which often left them “feeling distressed and vulnerable”.

She said: “Our teams pride themselves on their continuing professionalism, consideration and standard of care to service users.”

She said that all loaned wheelchairs were “subject to our full infection control and decontamination process” and were thoroughly refurbished – according to the manufacturers’ guidelines – and inspected before being handed over to service-users.

She said that poor quality data handed over by the previous provider of wheelchair services meant the level of backlogs was unclear at the start of the contract, and it had “taken time to build an accurate picture of the service”.

The Millbrook spokeswoman said: “We appreciate that some service users have had to wait longer than anticipated for their wheelchairs, for which we again apologise, but now we know the extent of the issue, we can assure service users that the CCGs and ourselves are putting all our efforts into improving the situation and moving service users through the service as quickly as possible.”

She claimed that Millbrook was meeting the 18-week target for all children referred to the service to receive their wheelchairs, even though current average waiting-times for children referred to the service were still 17.1 weeks for urgent referrals for a powerchair, and 15.7 weeks for a manual wheelchair.

For adults, the average waiting-times for urgent referrals were 17.3 weeks for powerchairs and 11.7 weeks for manual wheelchairs.

Millbrook had not clarified by noon today (Thursday) how it could be meeting those targets if average waiting-times were so close to 18 weeks, or confirmed that it accepted the waiting-list figures provided to the council by Thanet CCG.

A spokeswoman for Thanet CCG said the CCGs had written to Professor Oliver, urging the forum to share evidence for its claims “so we can investigate them urgently and thoroughly”.

She said: “Checks that we have carried out to date have not uncovered evidence of harassment, bullying or threats by Millbrook Healthcare staff.

“There have not been any serious incidents or safeguarding alerts raised against Millbrook Healthcare.”

But she added: “We are very sorry that the service people have been receiving has fallen short of what we would hope to provide.

“The recent quality visit conducted by NHS Thanet CCG found that Millbrook Healthcare had a process in place to triage and prioritise patients with the highest need on the waiting list, minimising the risk of patients coming to harm.

“Whilst this provides the CCG with assurance that patient safety is being managed, it is clear that pressure on the service due to a growing caseload is severely affecting patient experience and we repeat our apology for this.”

She said Thanet CCG did not accept that it was not an appropriate organisation to lead on the contract.

She said the CCG had concluded that terminating the contract would “lead to an increased risk around retention of the existing provider’s skilled and competent staff”, with Millbrook already losing nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of its employees between June 2017 and June 2018.

She said this was partly “due to pressures on the service associated with the inherited backlog and patient complaints” and that “clinical staff with specialist expertise in wheelchair assessment are not easy to replace”.

She said Thanet CCG had therefore concluded it was “in the best interest of patients to work with the current provider to resolve contract challenges rather than to re-procure which may increase risk to patients”.

She said that providing Millbrook with extra funding to address the “issues associated with the inherited caseload” would enable the company to “deliver an ongoing and sustainable service for patients”.

But Cllr Sue Chandler, chair of the county council’s health overview and scrutiny committee, said in a statement: “The committee expressed grave concerns about the wheelchair services contract and its management by NHS Thanet CCG and I have written to all Kent CCGs to express these concerns.

“The committee has also requested a written response from Thanet CCG, within two weeks, as to whether it is considering terminating Millbrook Healthcare’s contract and the reasons for that choice; and to provide an action plan detailing how the issues will be resolved in the interim.

“The committee will be considering this issue in September, either at an additional or existing meeting of the committee.”

9 August 2018

 

 

Train company faces calls to rip up scooter policy after latest ‘shameful’ episode

A rail company is facing calls to change its “reprehensible and unsupportable” attitude to disabled passengers, after one of its guards threatened to throw a woman off a train because she was using a mobility scooter.

Sara Harvey was on the way to a wedding with her husband Liam and had boarded a Northern Rail service to Bolton in her scooter – with the assistance of station staff – when a guard told her she would have to leave the train because the company did not allow any scooters on its services.

The company’s policy is that it does not allow mobility scooters on its trains – in contrast with many other companies, which do allow some scooters – unless they are “folded down before you board, and carried on like luggage”.

Harvey, who is autistic and has a physical impairment, and campaigns as Agony Autie, filmed the altercation with the guard and live-streamed it on Facebook.

She told the guard that she had booked assistance, and had already travelled by train from Chester to Manchester Oxford Road, and had been clear when buying her ticket that she uses a scooter.

She has previously travelled problem-free with her scooter with Arriva Trains Wales and Virgin.

She was eventually allowed to continue with her journey, after support from fellow passengers, some of whom threatened to leave the train with her if she was thrown off.

Harvey told Disability News Service today (Thursday) that the Northern executives responsible for drawing up the company’s scooter policy had “done nothing but cause harm and pain” and that it “emboldens their staff to be hostile”.

She said: “I was told by the guard to ‘get off, get off, get off, you’ve broken the rules. This train goes nowhere with you on it.’ I was treated like a criminal.”

She is now set to meet Northern to discuss what happened but says she has not been told yet how to make a formal complaint and fears that she is “being manipulated” by the company.

She said Northern was only paying attention to the issue now because of the media coverage of the incident.

She said: “It happens all the time on their trains. The difference is that this went viral and hit the mainstream media.

“They put people in distress every day. With this, the difference is the public could see my distress. If my distress wasn’t filmed, they wouldn’t care.

“I told them: you have treated me like the scum of the earth because I am differently abled to you.

“I want to make sure it never happens again. These people don’t care about the customers.”

Harvey said Northern needed to “inject a good deal of common sense” into their policies and practices as well as “empathy and compassion training”.

She said: “At the moment they see us as slow, we take up too much of their time.

“They see it as we make their jobs difficult, but these are our lives and every time they see us as slow and every time they think we make their jobs difficult, they need to be taught that those feelings are ableist.

“People need to be self-aware that you can’t hate on someone who is differently abled from you because they are slower or you see them as a burden.

“I want staff attitudes completely changing and all the way to the top. If platform staff are getting this training, the CEO is getting this training because the CEO and the policy-makers don’t have a clue either.”

Harvey said she had a “full-blown meltdown” the day after the incident, once she had returned home.

She said: “I beat myself in the head about 20 times. It was all because of Northern Rail. They have made me ill.”

The incident, which caused widespread anger and frustration among disabled campaigners, came only weeks after comedian Tanyalee Davis was reduced to tears after being publicly “shamed” by a train guard with another company who forced her to move her mobility scooter to make way for a mother with a baby buggy.

Accessible transport campaigner Doug Paulley has been calling on the regulator, the Office of Road and Rail (ORR), to act on Northern’s blanket ban on mobility scooters for more than seven months.

Northern launched a pilot scheme last September, allowing some scooters to use services on a limited part of its network.

Paulley said ORR had raised the issue of the Northern ban on scooters in a June 2017 letter approving the company’s Disabled People’s Protection Policy (DPPP).

The letter noted the pilot scheme but warned that ORR remained “concerned that your policy for travel on the rest of your network remains more restrictive than that of other operators”.

Paulley – a member of the Northern/TransPennine/Hull Trains combined inclusivity forum of disabled lobbyists, although not speaking on their behalf – said there had been no sign of Northern extending this pilot scheme.

He said: “I think Northern’s attitude is reprehensible and unsupportable.”

He said the company used the same trains as other companies which had “less restrictive scooter policies” and added: “They are out of step with the industry and the regulator.

“It’s shameful and yet another example of how Northern are failing passengers – and in respect of this policy, disabled people in particular.”

Northern had failed to answer questions about its scooter policy by noon today but issued the following statement: “We are truly sorry to the customer for her unacceptable experience travelling with Northern and the distress it caused.

“We are currently investigating the incident and have spoken directly with the customer and organising to meet in person to discuss her experience and see how we can learn and improve and help staff to be more autistic and disabled aware.”

An ORR spokesman said it was encouraging Northern to extend its pilot scheme across its network.

He said: “ORR is committed to improving accessibility of the rail network and to promoting the rights of passengers requiring assistance and the services available to them, and we were sorry to hear about the experience of Ms Harvey on her train journey last week.”

He said that some train companies face “challenges” with carrying scooters, such as the size of carriages and the width of platforms, and “foremost consideration must be the safety of both the passenger and staff assisting them”.

But he added: “We have been in regular contact with Northern about its scooter pilot and scooter card scheme since we approved its DPPP last year.

“Although the geographical area of the pilot is limited, we understand that it has enabled some passengers to now travel on their network who previously were unable to do so.

“Northern is continuing to work to enable passengers with mobility scooters to travel as much as possible on their network, within the constraints mentioned above.

“We are encouraging Northern to continue to expand this approach as far as it is safely and operationally possible.”

He said ORR was also reviewing its guidance on writing DPPPs and would consult on proposals to update it later this year, including whether there should be any changes to requirements on carrying mobility scooters and other mobility aids.

He added: “We are also focused on improving staff training, including staff awareness and understanding of differing disabilities as customer service and staff attitude can play a significant part in how comfortable and confident passengers with disabilities feel when making their train journey.”

The Department for Transport (DfT) declined to say what action it was taking to address the uncertainty and distress caused to scooter-users by the range of policies operated by different rail companies.

But a DfT spokeswoman said in a statement: “It is vital that all passengers, including disabled passengers, can feel confident when using public transport.

“This is why the department has published an Inclusive Transport Strategy that will make the entire network more accessible by 2030.

“It is right that the operator has apologised for the way this passenger was treated.

“We expect all train companies to do everything possible to provide the same access and make travel easy for disabled people.”

9 August 2018

 

 

UN’s ‘human catastrophe’ rights expert to deliver high-profile UK lecture

The UN expert who told the government that its cuts to disabled people’s support had caused a “human catastrophe” is to visit the UK this autumn to deliver a high-profile lecture on disability rights.

Theresia Degener, the professor of law and disability studies who chairs the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, will deliver the first Caroline Gooding Memorial Lecture at the University of Leeds in October.

Last August, Degener told the UK government’s delegation – during a public examination of its progress on implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) – that its cuts to social security and other support for disabled people had caused “a human catastrophe” which was “totally neglecting the vulnerable situation people with disabilities find themselves in”.

She later gave an interview with the BBC – which was not broadcast – in which she warned that the portrayal of disabled people by the UK government and media as “parasites” who live on benefits could put them at risk of violence, and even “killings and euthanasia”.

The annual lecture was set up as a memorial to the equality consultant and author Caroline Gooding, who played a leading role in securing improvements to disability rights legislation as a member of the Disability Rights Taskforce.

Gooding was later director of legislative change at the Disability Rights Commission throughout its eight years. She died in July 2014.

The lecture will be hosted by the university’s renowned Centre for Disability Studies (CDS) and its Centre for Law and Social Justice, and will take place on 3 October.

Professor Anna Lawson, director of CDS and co-ordinator of the university’s Disability Law Hub, said she and fellow organisers were “delighted” that Degener was able to accept the invitation to deliver the lecture.

She said: “She is a disabled woman who, like Caroline, has made it her life’s work to push for disability equality and inclusion using the law.

“As chair of the CRPD committee, she occupies what is one of the most influential positions in disability rights globally.

“The fact that her committee has recently reviewed and made recommendations to the UK on its implementation of the CRPD makes the timing particularly good.

“Theresia also knew and admired Caroline and her work.”

She said the lecture would not be focused specifically on the UK but would be “relevant to all countries that have ratified the CRPD, including the UK”.

Lawson said there would be questions and discussion after the lecture, while there are hopes that the event will be live-streamed.

Degener will lecture on “inclusive equality”, a concept introduced by the UN committee through a “general comment” in March and which it hopes can be used to help implement CRPD.

Inclusive equality, the general comment says, argues for redistribution to address socioeconomic disadvantage, and attempts to combat “stigma, stereotyping, prejudice and violence” and recognize the “dignity of human beings and their intersectionality”.

It also recognises the importance of including different social groups in society, but also the need to “make space for difference as a matter of human dignity”.

In the general comment on article five of the convention – on equality and non-discrimination – the committee warns that countries are still approaching disability through charity and medical models, which fail to fully acknowledge disabled people’s rights.

It also warns that the laws and policies of many countries “perpetuate the exclusion and isolation of and discrimination and violence” against disabled people, and that they are often “imperfect and incomplete or ineffective” or “reflect an inadequate understanding of the human rights model of disability”.

In the BBC interview, Degener explained that, compared to other countries with “less economic power” and less advanced equality and discrimination legislation, the UK’s austerity policy was “less human rights oriented”, so that “UK appears to be a strong country when it comes to equal rights but a very, very weak country with relation to economic, social and culture rights”.

She also said the UK’s record on disability rights was “going backwards in a pace and to an amount that it worries us a lot” and that the evidence in front of the committee was “overwhelming”.

The general comment also says that disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) must “play a central role in the development of legal and policy reforms”, including the response to the prejudice faced by disabled people seen as being “a burden on society”.

The committee’s concluding observations, which followed its public examination of the UK’s progress in implementing the convention last August, called on the government to do more to include DPOs in planning and implementing polices affecting disabled people.

Degener was not available this week to comment on her plans for the lecture.

9 August 2018

 

 

MPs win praise for online abuse proposals

MPs have won praise after calling on the government to ensure disabled people finally secure equality in the protection they are offered by hate crime laws.

Members of the Commons petitions committee said in a new report that it was not right that it was a crime to incite hatred on the grounds of religion or race, but not disability.

The petitions committee was publishing draft recommendations following an inquiry into the online abuse of disabled people, and said it hoped its work would be “a wakeup call” to the government.

It has now launched a consultation on its recommendations before it publishes its final report – the first time a Commons committee has taken such a step – so that disabled people and their allies can respond to its draft proposals.

Among those recommendations is for the government to introduce a new law that would make it a crime to incite hatred against disabled people, a long-standing demand of disability hate crime campaigners.

Anne Novis, a leading disability hate crime campaigner and chair of Inclusion London, said: “I am thrilled to see the recommendation from this inquiry, which include most of the recommendations we submitted in writing and I gave verbally at the inquiry meeting, and other Deaf and disabled people gave via a testimonies session which Inclusion London helped to organise.”

She said the government had repeatedly failed to listen or respond to “repeated evidence and requests for equity in law on hate crime”.

Novis welcomed the recommendation that disability should be included within hate crime incitement laws, and that there would be “a full and inclusive consultation” on the committee’s draft proposals.

She added: “I hope we will see an appropriate and timely response from this government that does not ignore us, or defer responding, as it has done re disability hate crime for many years.”

In its report, the committee attacked the government’s “shocking” failure to consult disabled people in drawing up its online safety strategy, and warned social media companies that they had been “neglecting the needs of their disabled users for far too long”.

Helen Jones, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, said: “It is deeply disappointing that social companies don’t engage fully with their disabled users.

“With their vast financial resources, there’s no excuse for their failure to make their platforms as safe for disabled people as they are for other users.”

She said the inquiry showed that social media was “rife with vile, degrading and dehumanising comments” about disabled people.

The committee called for mandatory teaching in schools on disability hate crime, and for the government to develop an action plan to address the exploitation of people with learning difficulties, both online and offline.

The committee said: “In our inquiry, we have come across some examples of good practice in attempting to meet the needs of disabled people and their families.

“More often, though, we found that disabled people were not being consulted or even considered.

“This was particularly apparent in the very disappointing evidence we received from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and heard from social media companies.

“We do not intend to make the mistake of ignoring disabled people here.”

The inquiry was launched in response to a petition set up by former model Katie Price, which was signed by more than 220,000 people and followed years of disablist and racist abuse targeted at her teenage son, Harvey.

The committee rejected Price’s call for a register of offenders, similar to the sex offenders register, but said the government should look at other ways of making it easier for employers to find out if someone has been convicted of online abuse.

Jones said: “We’ve listened to disabled people to come up with our recommendations to tackle online abuse of disabled people and we will spend the summer listening to them again.

“By launching this consultation, we want to make it clear that the voices of disabled people must be heard.”

She added: “It should be normal practice for select committees to consult on their recommendations, so I’m pleased that the petitions committee is taking this step.”

9 August 2018

 

 

MPs launch inquiry into care discrimination faced by LGBT service-users

Disabled activists have given a guarded welcome to the launch of a new inquiry by MPs into the discrimination faced in accessing health and social care services by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities.

The Commons women and equalities committee, which has launched the inquiry, said that the results of a government survey, published last month, showed the discrimination faced by many LGBT people in accessing healthcare.

It said the survey showed that almost a quarter (23 per cent) of respondents who had been in a care home said that being open about their LGBT status had had a negative effect on their care.

The committee said its inquiry would “consider whether provision is adequate, whether discrimination is still occurring, and what more needs to be done to improve access to health and social care”.

The LGBTQI+ disabled people’s organisation Regard welcomed the decision to launch the inquiry but raised concerns that its focus appeared to be on access to healthcare rather than social care.

Dr Ju Gosling, co-chair of Regard, said the committee also appeared to be confused about the distinction between healthcare and social care.

She said: “While the evidence is clear that LGBTQI+ people face discrimination in health care, it also shows it is more extreme in social care.

“LGBTQI+ people are also much more dependent on social care than other disabled and older people, due to the reduced availability of support from family and friends.”

Gosling also raised concerns that the committee appeared to have excluded non-binary and intersex people from its new inquiry, “when we know they face specific barriers in accessing health care”.

She said Regard would submit evidence to the committee’s inquiry.

Last October, ground-breaking research co-produced by Regard found that more than a third of LGBTQI+ disabled people have experienced discrimination or received poor treatment from their personal assistants because of their sexual or gender identity.

Almost a third said they felt they had been discriminated against by their local authority on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

And more than 90 per cent said their needs as an LGBTQI+ disabled person were either not considered or were only given some consideration, when they were assessed or reviewed by their council.

Among the questions the committee is asking are: in which areas of healthcare do LGBT people experience worse outcomes than the general population? How effectively do health and social care providers take the needs of LGBT people into account? And what does the evidence show about levels of discrimination against LGBT people in accessing health and social care?

Maria Miller, the committee’s chair, said in a statement to launch the inquiry: “Evidence suggests that the healthcare needs of LGBT people are not currently being met effectively, some report that they still face discrimination in health and social care, and there are inequalities in outcomes between LGBT groups and the wider population.

“We welcome the government’s recently announced action plan and its commitment to ensuring that LGBT people’s needs are at the heart of the NHS.

“This is therefore a crucial time for us to look at how services can best be provided and improved for LGBT patients.

“We want to hear from organisations, individuals, researchers and service providers about what can be done to make health and social services more effective for LGBT people.”

The deadline for written evidence to the inquiry is 5 October 2018.

9 August 2018

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 Posted by at 20:32
Aug 092018
 

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/social-care-funding-uk-government-local-councils-proposals-local-government-association-lga-a8470361.html

https://www.local.gov.uk/about/news/lga-launches-own-green-paper-adult-social-care-reaches-breaking-point

 

Have your say on the future of adult social care – respond to the Local Government Association’s (LGA’s) survey.

The consultation, which is the largest ever launched by the LGA, will last for eight weeks and will shape the LGA’s demands ahead of the Budget, due in the autumn.

Izzi Seccombe, chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “People have a right to live the life they want to lead and high quality adult social care and support plays an essential role in this. It is also vital to society. It strengthens communities, reduces pressures on the NHS, supports around 1.5 million jobs and contributes as much as £46bn to the UK economy.

“But work to find a long-term funding solution for adult social care and support has been kicked into the long grass by successive governments for the past two decades and has brought these services to breaking point.

“It has created a deeply uncertain and worrying future outlook for people who use adult social care services now and the growing number of people who will need them in the future.”

The LGA has produced their own ‘green paper’ and would like your views on it. Things you might want to consider are -:

  • should care be free at the point of delivery,
  • should it be funded through taxation,
  • should it be delivered by local government or should alternatives be considered,
  • should the postcode lottery be ended and a national system of social care be put in place working in a similar way to which the ILF did.

You may not want to answer all of the questions in this consultation or feel they are all relevant to you but please answer those that you can and ask others to as well. Do also give examples of how the current system is failing to meet your needs either due to charging policies, refusal to provide help with specific tasks or unmet needs you have.

To complete the consultation, please read the LGA’s green paper and then submit your views via the online form, which is available at:

https://futureofadultsocialcare.co.uk/the-green-paper/have-your-say/

 Posted by at 20:10
Aug 092018
 

Sano Physiotherapy markets itself as a professional service offering sports massage and rehabilitation but has a murky side business renting out its rooms to controversial disability assessor ATOS. 

 

ATOS has recently changed the name of its benefits assessment arm to ‘Independent Assessment Services’ with the words “delivered by ATOS” written in tiny letters underneath. You will not see ATOS branded in big letters across any of Sano Physiotherapy commercial premises despite renting spaces to the much discredited benefits assessor in Pudsey and Castleford.

 

You will find a picture of Tory MP, Stuart Andrew shaking hands with Matthew Taylor, clinical lead for Sano Physiotherapy LTD outside the companies new premises in Pudsey. Stuart often promotes himself as a community champion in Pudsey with photoshoots like these whilst voting for welfare cuts and benefit changes in parliament that affect his constituents.

 

The Independent newspaper recently put in a freedom of information request which found the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) paid Independent Assessment Services and Capita nearly £255m last year to perform Personal Independent Payment assessments. How much has Sano Physiotherapy LTD made from this windfall whilst local residents are having to use foodbanks?

 

Sano Physiotherapy LTD is facilitating controversial disability assessments which potential private customers need to be made aware about so they can choose a more ethical physiotherapist firm that doesn’t have a murky side-line in profiteering from the suffering of benefit claimants.

Please let us know of any other firms involved in aiding Atos or Capita with details of who and where they are. You can email us at amil@dpac.uk.net

 

 

 

 Posted by at 19:11
Jul 242018
 

The vigil is cancelled as we are informed the hearing is likely not to go ahead due to developments. More news to follow as we get it.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/297358631005655/

 

The cruel DWP is forcing two disabled claimants (who won a legal challenge against losing benefit when they moved to a Universal Credit area), back to court. One is terminally ill, the other has mental distress. After the judgement in June, the DWP refused to settle out of court for what they suffered — from losing around £180 per month. This means they have to give statements again, and despite winning the case, are still under attack, as the DWP has sought permission from the Court of Appeal to appeal against the judgement we won. https://www.leighday.co.uk/News/News-2018/June-2018/First-legal-challenge-against-Universal-Credit-fin

This is a shocking and disgraceful waste of tax-payers money and a purely vindictive move by DWP.

WinVisible, Disabled People Against Cuts and others are holding a vigil at lunchtime on Jult 30th at the Royal Courts of Justice, WC2R 1 to support full compensation for the claimants and resist government moves to claw back what we win. The court case starts at 10.30, please come to court in the morning if you can, to show our support in the public gallery. Find the court listing here, case of TP v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/court-lists/list-rcj
Case may continue Tuesday 31 July, please check listings before setting out.

 Posted by at 20:44
Jul 212018
 

 

Our Festival of  Resistance highlighting the hypocricy of the UK and Kenyan governments hosting a Global Disability Summit kicks off in ernest today/Saturday as our overseas activists arrive in the UK to join in with our fun.

On Sunday we are holding our own global summit which is very over subscribed with guest speakers including -:

Rose Achayo from the National Union of Women with Disabilities of Uganda (who will be talking about the particular barriers disabled women in Uganda face, the work of her organisation including its work with disabled refugees)

John Clarke from Ontario Coalition against Poverty (who shares DPAC’s concerns over universal basic income as a proposed solution to the future of social security)

Antonios Rellas from a disabled campaign group called Zero Tolerance in Greece (who campaigns against institutionalisation of disabled people and recently testified against Golden Dawn). https://dpac.uk.net/2016/09/greeces-shocking-secretthe-work-of-zero-tolerance/

Bolivian campaigners who were involved in this: https://www.theguardian. com/news/2017/may/05/the- fight-disability-rights- protestors-in-bolivia-on-the- barricades

And successfully forced their government to introduce disability payments for people. Although not yet at a high enough rate to enable an adequate standard of living.

We will be live streaming this conference using our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/disabledpeopleagainstcuts/

And tweeting with the hashtag #Disability&Resistance

Unlike the summit arranged by DfID we will not be having anyone from any large corporations hyping expensive equipment which is beyond the reach of many disabled people to fund.

On Monday and Tuesday follow us on twitter @dis_ppl_protest and please use  hashtags #NowIsTheTime and #disability summit

Tweet to any or all of the following saying why the UK government is unfit to host a disability summit.

@DFID_UK

@IDA_Forum_CRPD  gate keepers for who was allowed to come to the summit, to be kind possibly due to ignorance of the UK violation of disabled people’s rights.

Speakers at Tuesday’s summit event

@SophMorgan a disabled model

@Lenin  Lenin Moreno (president of Ecuador)

@gabimichetti  (vice president of Argentina)

More to follow shortly re-tweets.

And remember watch out for any surprise events happening in the very near future after all no-one ever knows quite where and when DPAC will pop up unexpectedly.

 Posted by at 12:55
Jul 202018
 

To:

Lenin Moreno, President of Ecuador

Gabriela Michetti, Vice President of Argentina

Sophie Morgan

20 July 2018

We are writing this open letter to you on behalf of Deaf and Disabled people across the UK concerning your involvement in the global disability summit being co-hosted by the UK government in London on 23 and 24 July.

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.

However, we have the following concerns regarding the July summit:

  • The role of the UK government in co-hosting the event. Following an unprecedented investigation carried out by the UN disability committee under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), the UK was found responsible for grave and systematic violations of Disabled people’s rights due to welfare reform. The findings of their investigation, published in November 2016, were and continue to be entirely dismissed by the UK government. In August 2017 the UK government was routinely examined under the UN CRPD and again the UN disability committee expressed their deep concerns regarding the UK government’s failure to understand the Convention, the impact of their policies and failure to recognise them. Again the UK government said they disagreed with the findings of the Committee. The involvement of the UK government in co-hosting the summit therefore undermines any aims of the summit linked to strengthening Deaf and Disabled people’s rights under the UN CRPD. Instead it 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’s use of its 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 suitability of the Government of Kenya as co-hosts given their abuse of the rights of LGBTQI+ people, many of whom develop lifelong impairments as a result. LGBTQI+ people in Kenya are routinely banished from their families, denied work and accommodation, imprisoned and persecuted. They face severe barriers to forming and maintaining relationships and to living as a couple, the ‘Right to Family Life’ that every human is promised. This results in widespread damage to their mental and physical health, creating impairments where none previously existed. This is reflected in the high level of asylum applications to the UK from LGBTQI+ asylum seekers from African countries. Despite their experiences, the majority are then refused asylum in the UK and forcibly returned home, where many disappear or are murdered. Just this April, President Kenyatta said that LGBT rights are “not acceptable” and not “an issue of human rights”. The Kenyan Government has also claimed this is a non-issue for Kenyans, and no doubt would argue that it has nothing to do with the Summit. However, if you are Kenyan or Ugandan and are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer or intersex, it is an issue that completely dominates and dictates your life. For many Disabled people from Kenya, it is the reason they developed an impairment in the first place. Under the UN CRPD, the Kenyan government also has an obligation to protect the rights of disabled people who are LGBTQI+.

We appreciate that you may not have had this information when you agreed to involvement in the summit and would be happy to meet to discuss our concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or for further information.

 

Yours sincerely,

Disabled People Against Cuts

Sisters of Frida

Alliance for Inclusive Education

Inclusion London

Mental Health Resistance Network

Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance

Recovery in the Bin

 

 

 

 Posted by at 20:12
Jul 192018
 

 

A minister has been asked why the benefits of hundreds of sick and disabled claimants are apparently being sanctioned, even though they should not have to meet any of the strict conditions imposed by the government’s new universal credit system.

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures show that more than 1,100 claimants of universal credit were being sanctioned in February this year (1,108), even though they had been moved into the “working enough” or “no work-related requirement” group.

They have usually been moved into these groups because they have been found not “fit for work” or are not expected to look for jobs.

The figures also show a striking increase in the number of claimants in these two groups who were being sanctioned from January 2017 (649) to February 2017 (1,109).

The concerns have been raised by the Commons work and pensions committee, after it was sent the figures by employment minister Alok Sharma.

In a letter to Sharma, the committee’s chair, Frank Field, says: “What is the point of applying sanctions to people who cannot work and are not expected to look for jobs?

“The DWP have yet to make the case that benefit sanctions work to get people into employment and it’s difficult to see how they can have that affect for people who are ‘working enough’ or cannot work.

“Benefit sanctions are the only major welfare reform this decade to have never been evaluated, and the picture DWP paints of the policy doesn’t match the troubling stories we’ve heard.”

The committee also raised concerns with Sharma that DWP’s figures “consistently understate” the number of benefit claimants being sanctioned, particularly those on the out-of-work disability benefit employment and support allowance (ESA), where there is a high rate of successful appeals.

In Field’s letter, he says that DWP removes a sanction decision from its statistics if it is overturned at an appeal.

This had been pointed out by Dr David Webster, a leading researcher on unemployment and sanctions at the University of Glasgow, when he gave evidence in May to the committee’s inquiry into the benefit sanctions regime.

Webster had told the committee that the only reason DWP had not abandoned ESA sanctions when the National Audit Office reported in November 2016 that their use led to a fall in the time claimants spent in work was because of “embarrassment”.

Field asks Sharma in his letter to publish pre-appeal sanction figures so that “the true picture can be understood”.

In one month, in December 2016, the pre-appeal figures would have been 57 per cent higher (1,173) than the figures published by DWP (749).

By January 2018, the pre-appeal figures were still 30 per cent higher (544 rather than 420).

Asked to respond to the points raised by Field in his letter to Sharma, a DWP spokeswoman declined to explain why disabled people were apparently being sanctioned when there were no conditions attached to their universal credit.

She did not dispute the universal credit sanction figures but said that “where someone’s situation changes and they have different conditionality, we can adjust an ongoing sanction amount”.

And she claimed that “only a small proportion of sanction decisions are appealed and in the cases where they are overturned, the claimant’s payments are backdated”.

19 July 2018

 

 

McVey’s U-turn means DWP will pay at least £100 million more to disabled claimants

Disabled people will be paid more than £100 million extra in backdated benefits owed by the government, after a U-turn by work and pensions secretary Esther McVey on the eve of a court hearing.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had previously only agreed to offer a partial backpayment to an estimated 70,000 disabled people who for years did not receive the correct level of out-of-work disability benefits.

The underpayments were caused by the botched migration of former claimants of incapacity benefit and other benefits to the new employment and support allowance (ESA) from 2011 onwards.

The department failed to realise that many of the claimants were entitled to income-related ESA – and therefore to associated disability premiums – rather than just the contributory form of ESA.

Although DWP had previously agreed to pay back as much as £340 million to those affected – with average payments likely to be about £5,000 – it had said it would only backdate arrears to 21 October 2014, the point at which the upper tribunal ruled that DWP should have assessed claimants for both income-related and contribution-based ESA when deciding their entitlement.

DWP had been refusing to pay back another £100 million to £150 million in arrears that dated from before 21 October 2014.

But yesterday (Wednesday), McVey announced that claimants would receive arrears backdated to the date they moved onto ESA, with some claimants now likely to receive up to £10,000 more in arrears.

It is just one in a series of major errors by DWP senior civil servants relating to disability benefits, with the department now believed to be carrying out six separate trawls through the records of disabled people unfairly deprived of benefits.

In a written statement to MPs, McVey said that individuals contacted about their backpayments could expect to receive the “appropriate payment” within 12 weeks after the “relevant information” has been gathered.

Those who have already received arrears payments from 21 October 2014 will have their cases looked at again, with additional arrears paid dating back to the date they were moved onto ESA.

The announcement came as DWP was about to face a court hearing in a judicial review case taken by the Child Poverty Action Group on behalf of a claimant who was underpaid from 2012.

Meg Hillier, chair of the Commons public accounts committee, welcomed McVey’s announcement, which came hours after a report by her committee had attacked DWP’s “culture of indifference”, which saw it take six years to start to address its ESA error.

She said: “I was appalled by the department’s apparent indifference to correcting its mistakes.

“Today’s statement, coming so soon after publication of our report, indicates DWP finally intends to treat this problem with the seriousness it deserves.”

Hillier had said earlier, in publishing her committee’s report, that DWP “simply didn’t listen to what claimants, experts, support organisations and its own staff were saying.

“Its sluggishness in correcting underpayments, years after it accepted responsibility for the error, points to weaknesses at the highest levels of management.

“Indifference has no place in the delivery of vital public services. It must be rooted out wherever it is found.”

19 July 2018 by John Pring, Disability News Service

 

 

 Posted by at 21:19
Jul 192018
 

A regulator has been told there are “issues of concern” about the way it deals with complaints against health and care professionals, including those who write dishonest benefit assessment reports.

The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) agreed in January to look at concerns about the way regulators deal with complaints about nurses, physiotherapists and paramedics who carry out personal independence payment (PIP) assessments for the outsourcing giants Capita and Atos.

It agreed to act after being contacted last year by disabled activist Mark Lucas, who has twice appealed successfully against the results of what he believes were dishonest PIP assessments.

Hundreds of disabled people have come forward over the last 18 months to tell Disability News Service (DNS) how assessors working for Atos and Capita wrote dishonest PIP assessment reports on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.

Many also raised concerns about the apparent refusal of the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to take their complaints about these assessments seriously.

Only this week, Lucas received an email from HCPC, explaining that it would not take any further action over his complaint about an occupational therapist who had assessed him for PIP.

He believes the assessor deliberately downplayed the seriousness and frequency of his seizures, but HCPC told him it did not believe this had happened and even if it had, “it would be considered a minor error, which would not be capable of amounting to an allegation of impaired fitness to practice”.

Lucas has twice been found ineligible for PIP following assessments, but on both occasions was later awarded eligibility for the PIP standard daily living rate after appealing to a tribunal.

Frustrated at HCPC’s failure to take another complaint about a PIP assessor seriously, he contacted PSA – which reviews the work of the regulators of health and care professionals – last year.

PSA incorporated Lucas’s concerns into its annual review of HCPC, which found this month that the regulator was meeting only four of the 10 required standards for the way it deals with complaints against healthcare professionals, including those who carry out PIP assessments.

Last year, before Lucas contacted the regulator, PSA had reviewed 100 complaints made to HCPC, including a small number relating to PIP assessments.

David Martin, PSA’s concerns and appointments officer, said the 2017-18 review “concluded that there were issues of concern about the HCPC’s process across all of its activity”, in relation to fitness to practise.

These concerns include the way it deals with the initial stages of the fitness to practise process, and how it determines if there is a “case to answer” against a health and care professional.

Among PSA’s concerns are that HCPC makes it too difficult for complaints about a healthcare professional to be accepted into the fitness to practise process, while other cases are closed at the initial stage instead of being referred to an investigating committee panel.

Martin said HCPC had confirmed that PIP assessment work “should be considered in the same way as any other professional activity of its registrants” and that its procedures “require it to fully consider the concerns it receives about PIP assessors”.

He said: “The HCPC was clear that it considers registrants, acting as PIP assessors, are exercising their professional judgement.

“It therefore considers that allegations of misconduct or lack of competence when carrying out PIP assessments could constitute a fitness to practise concern to be investigated in accordance with its usual process.”

He said HCPC was now “undertaking an action plan” to address the concerns PSA has raised about its fitness to practise processes, and that PSA would probably review further HCPC cases in detail over the next couple of years.

A similar annual review by PSA of NMC is due to be published later this year.

An HCPC spokesman said: “The PSA audited a sample of 100 of our cases as part of their review of our yearly performance review in 2016-17.

“While a small number of these cases related to PIP, the audit was not specifically looking at HCPC’s handling of PIP cases.

“HCPC registrants who are employed in assessor roles are recruited because of their skills and experience as registered health professionals. Therefore, their work and conduct needs to comply with our standards.

“If in the course of conducting a PIP assessment a concern is raised regarding a registrant’s fitness to practise, ie lack of competence or misconduct, then this will be investigated following the same robust and thorough processes and applying the same tests as concerns raised in relation to any other area of a registrant’s practice.

“We have also provided input into the PSA’s review into how regulators approach fitness to practise concerns in relation to PIP assessments and have confirmed our view that the PIP assessment process requires the registrant to employ their professional competencies.

“This year we continued to meet the majority of the PSA’s Standards for Good Regulation.

“Although we did not meet all the standards relating to fitness to practise, the PSA has acknowledged our on-going work to improve our performance in this area and stated that we have made ‘significant progress during this review period’.

“We continue our programme of improvement work to address the issues that were previously identified.”

But Lucas was heavily critical of PSA’s efforts to address his concerns.

He said PSA was “a joke” and a “toothless quango”.

He said: “I am not happy with the way PSA have treated me and it is behaviour that I have been subjected to on many occasions over the last few years.”

Lucas said that complaints processes are “designed to abuse” disabled people because they first “promise the earth”, then “forget” the complaint, and finally “communicate the result from the complaint in a letter with preapproved techniques of neutralisation and consolatory phrases like ‘we realise you will be disappointed’”.

He said: “This experience of the last few years has given me anxiety over making complaints.

“I have spent much time and written many letters, but it is all for nothing because organisations like the PSA are just for show.”

19 July 2018 by John Pring Disability News Service

 

 Posted by at 21:15
Jul 192018
 

 

 

Four opposition parties demand DWP answers over WCA deaths ‘cover-up’

Two opposition parties are writing urgent letters to work and pensions secretary Esther McVey – while a third is demanding an investigation – about a possible cover-up over documents linking the “fitness for work” test with the deaths of benefit claimants.

Senior figures from both Labour and the Liberal Democrats said this week that they were writing urgently to McVey to ask whether the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had shown the documents to the independent expert the government commissioned to review the work capability assessment (WCA) in 2013 and 2014.

The Green party’s co-leader, Jonathan Bartley, said the failure to be clear about what happened with the documents had “all the hallmarks of a deliberate cover-up”. He has called for an independent investigation.

The SNP also said it would be seeking answers from DWP.

Dr Paul Litchfield was commissioned by DWP to carry out the fourth and fifth reviews of the WCA but has so far refused to say if he was shown letters written by two coroners and a number of secret DWP internal “peer reviews” into deaths linked to the WCA regime.

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

A spokesman for Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, said she would be writing to McVey “as a matter of urgency”.

Stephen Lloyd, the Liberal Democrat shadow work and pensions spokesman, said: “I will be writing directly to the secretary of state, Esther McVey, to seek clarification whether or not her department, the DWP, ever showed [Litchfield] the documents linking the WCA to the deaths of benefit claimants.

“The public has a right to know, particularly now he’s been awarded a gong.”

Neil Gray, the SNP’s social justice spokesman at Westminster, added: “This issue has thrown up a number of questions for the DWP and we need a clear and definitive statement on what people knew and when. We will be seeking those answers.”

Even though DWP possessed all the coroner’s letters and peer reviews, it has claimed in a freedom of information response that it holds no information in its records on whether they were shown to Litchfield while he was reviewing the WCA.

Since Disability News Service (DNS) revealed the existence of the documents in the years after Litchfield’s final report was published, concerns have grown that DWP and its ministers deliberately covered-up evidence of the fatal impact of the assessment on sick and disabled people.

The coroner’s letters followed the deaths of two men with mental health conditions in 2010 and 2013 and each warned of further such deaths if changes were not made to the WCA.

The call for evidence for Litchfield’s second review was issued on 10 June 2014, five months after coroner Mary Hassell had written to DWP following an inquest into the death of Michael O’Sullivan, who had had significant, long-term mental health problems.

Hassell had told DWP that the trigger for O’Sullivan’s suicide had been the conclusion by civil servants that he was fit for work, but she said that neither DWP nor the Atos doctor who had assessed him through the WCA process had asked his GP, psychologist or psychiatrist for information about his mental health.

Hassell told DWP that it needed to take action “to prevent further deaths” like Michael O’Sullivan’s.

But despite that urgent call, Litchfield’s second review failed to mention Hassell’s letter or a similar letter sent to DWP by another coroner in 2010 following the suicide of Stephen Carré.

Litchfield’s two reviews also failed to mention the peer reviews.

Peer reviews – now known as internal process reviews – must be carried out by civil servants into every death “where suicide is associated with DWP activity”.

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

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

Litchfield has so far refused to comment about the documents.

But Professor Malcolm Harrington, the independent expert who carried out the first three reviews of the WCA in 2010, 2011 and 2012, has already told DNS that he believes he was shown neither the first coroner’s letter (the second letter had not yet been written by the time he completed his third review) nor any WCA-related peer reviews.

Bartley said this week: “If the Department for Work and Pensions failed to show Dr Litchfield vital documents linking the work capability assessment with the deaths of benefit claimants, DWP are clearly implicated in a cover-up.

“If he was shown them but didn’t mention them in his reports, then so was he.

“This has all the hallmarks of a deliberate cover-up over the fatal impact of the assessment on sick and disabled people.

“There is no justification for secrecy, it is clearly in the public interest for the truth to be told and there should be an independent investigation of what happened.”

A DWP spokeswoman said: “As we’ve previously said, this was an independent review, and DWP provided information alongside other stakeholders – on request.

“Any evidence used was referenced in the review.”

19 July 2018 story by John Pring Disability News Service

 

 Posted by at 21:10
Jul 192018
 

Next week DfID will be jointly hosting a Disability Summit with the Kenyan government. While we fully support all and any initiaitives to improve the lives and circumstances of disabled people in other countries we can only say that the UK government’s choice of partner for this summit seems shameful and inapprpriate. Of course there is nothing new in that and no-one who has endured the never ending attacks against disabled people’s human rights in the UK will be surprised.

You can see more about the summit

https://www.gov.uk/government/ news/uk-government-to-host-its -first-ever-global-disability- summit [NB this announcement came out the same day as they snuck out the much criticised and long awaited command paper “Improving Lives” through which conditionality was extended to all groups of disabled people]

And here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/ topical-events/global-disabili ty-summit-2018

So what of their partner country Kenya?

The Government of Kenya criminalises and persecutes LGBTQI+ Disabled people

It is hard to imagine a less suitable partner to co-host a Global Disability Summit than the Government of Kenya — apart from its neighbor, Uganda. It is illegal to be gay in both countries, and as a result many LGBTQI+ people develop lifelong impairments.

LGBTQI+ people in Kenya are routinely banished from their families, denied work and accommodation, imprisoned and persecuted. They face severe barriers to forming and maintaining relationships and to living as a couple, the ‘Right to Family Life’ that every human is promised. This results in widespread damage to their mental and physical health, creating impairments where none previously existed.

This is reflected in the high level of asylum applications to the UK from LGBTQI+ asylum seekers from African countries. Despite their experiences, the majority are then refused asylum in the UK and forcibly returned home, where many disappear or are murdered.

Just this April, President Kenyatta said that LGBT rights are “not acceptable” and not “an issue of human rights”. The Kenyan Government has also claimed this is a non-issue for Kenyans, and no doubt would argue that it has nothing to do with the Summit.

However, if you are Kenyan or Ugandan and are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer or intersex, it is an issue that completely dominates and dictates your life. For many Disabled people from Kenya, it is the reason they developed an impairment in the first place.

Regard, the UK’s LGBTQI+ Disabled People’s Organisation, says: “The involvement of the Government of Kenya discredits any debate that takes place at the Summit. Whatever the political reasons for involving Kenya in co-hosting the Summit, the rights and welfare of Disabled people seem to have had very little to do with it.”

 

 Posted by at 18:54
Jul 172018
 

Edge Fund is recruiting for the post of Regional Organiser and Administrator. If you are committed to activism, systemic change and creating a world free of injustice and inequality, we want you to apply. If you’re unsure, feel free to contact us on jobs@edgefund.org.uk

The Edge Fund is a grant-making body with a difference. We support efforts to achieve social, economic and environmental justice and to end imbalances in wealth and power – and give those we aim to support a say in how money is distributed. For more information visit www.edgefund.org.uk

We are a membership based organisation, run through a non-hierarchical structure, with a Facilitating Group overseeing the strategic running of the organisation. The day to day runnings are overseen by the two Regional Organisers who work closely together. We already have someone in post for the Regional Organiser and Communications post, who is based in London. We are looking to recruit a Regional Organiser and Administrator who will preferably be based in North England or Scotland and we welcome applications from people based in Ireland or Northern Ireland.

Key information:

  • Flexible location
  • 3 days per week (21 hours)
  • Salary £25,750 pro rata

We would like to encourage applications by people from minoritised and racialised communities, people underrepresented in similar roles and people without university degrees. Deadline for applications has been extended to 5pm, Friday 20th July.

 

 Posted by at 13:17
Jun 232018
 

Info here about regional actions for the stop trump day of action

Three asks for Stop Trump

Last year we – as Stop Trump Coalition members – committed to making the resistance against Trump and everything he stands for one of the biggest and most visible demonstrations in British history. With Trump’s visit just three weeks away we need you to help make that happen by using your power and influence to mobilise on and offline.

Do these three things:

ONE: Populate and share the carnival of resistance map which is now LIVE.
Actions happening regionally and coaches to the London march and rally are being plotted on the carnival of resistance map. Add yours and encourage your followers to do the same. Share the map as widely as you can.

https://stoptrump.us15.list-manage.com/track/click…

TWO: Let people know why you’re joining the carnival
Record a one-minute clip like these:
Send them to us (mail to: info@stoptrump.org.uk ) or post them on your own social media using #CarnivalofResistance #Resist #StopTrumpism

THREE: Follow and engage with us on social media
Follow and share the Stop Trump Coalition on social media – we’re posting daily on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so stay up to date on the latest and help get more people involved. Use #carnivalofresistance #resist #stoptrumpism as often as you can!

More soon.

Stop Trump Coalition

#carnivalofresistance #resist #stoptrumpism

Image may contain: sky, cloud, night, text and outdoor
 Posted by at 21:13
Jun 182018
 

DfID and DPAC Global Summits

In response to the UN disability committee findings and criticism of their record on disability rights, the Tories have been using international comparisons. The previous Minister for Disabled People used her time up in a debate on the UN CRPD that the SNP had tabled talking about how when she was in the navy she had liberated all these poor starving neglected disabled orphans from “the socialist republic of Romania.”

The implication is always that disabled people in the UK are over-privileged and should be grateful for what we get here. This shows a misunderstanding of the UN Convention as a progressive tool for rights implementation.

The same day as a much criticised government strategy on disability, health and work was published, the previous Minister for Disabled People, Penny Morduant, made an announcement in her new role as Minister for International Development that the UK would be holding a global summit on disability at the end of July 2018. This has proved a very popular initiative with international organisations falling over themselves to be involved and the Tories are using it to its maximum to validate their self-proclaimed status as “world leaders in disability”.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-government-to-host-its-first-ever-global-disability-summit

It is also linked to a 27m international disability development support programme and you can see from the announcement about the focus on technology companies (and opening up new markets).

We obviously support better rights for all disabled people regardless of where they live but cannot let the Tories continue to pass themselves off as world leaders in disability rights when they have been found guilty of the grave and systematic violation of those rights and their policies have been called a ‘human catastrophe’ by the UN Disability Committee.

Therefore we will be holding our own summit on Sunday, July 22nd with input from disabled activists from the global South. This will be near the Olympic Park although the venue is still to be confirmed.

On July 24th the actual day of the summit please join us for some on-line activism.

Further details to follow shortly.

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 18:49
Jun 182018
 

ShareAction are running a training on shareholder activism aimed specifically at disabled people. There are SO many companies which could do with a sharp reminder of their access responsibilities – not least some of the big high street names which still lock out disabled people from their premises.

 

Details are below – but please do (a) sign up online if you can make it and (b) forward this email to any other disabled campaigners you know who may be interested.

 

P.S. This training is focused around disability rights, but lots of opportunities to campaign at AGMs around Living Wage, climate change and other issues.

———————————-

Date:

10 July

Time:

6-8pm

Address:

Christian Aid

35-41 Lower Marsh

Lambeth

London

SE1 7RL

 

The venue has stepfree access and accessible toilets and is a short walk from Waterloo station which has stepfree access.

Register attendance here >> https://bit.ly/2sWTE9h

Outline:

AGM activism is a unique campaigning strategy that gets you in a room with the CEO’s of the biggest companies. You ask a question to the board and they take action.

 

It’s a winning tactic. Intertek – a huge global company that tests and certifies products accredited to the Living Wage Foundation in June and said it was the direct result of our AGM questions. Since we started campaigning on the Living Wage at AGMs in 2011, the number of FTSE100 companies paying a fair wage has jumped from 2 to 36! And 3 years ago, bus company National Express changed its unfair wheelchair policy as a result of an AGM question.

Any campaign issue that is geared towards company action can use AGM activism as a tool. Come along to this training for disability rights campaigners to:

 

  • Learn about what AGMs are
  • Learn about what AGM activism is and why it’s so powerful
  • Get trained to be an effective AGM activist
  • To plan using AGM activism at upcoming AGMs for disability rights and access campaigning

Please contact Michael from ShareAction on Michael.kind@shareaction.org to let him know about any access requirements.

In the meantime, check out this short video introducing AGM activism >> https://bit.ly/2JznniS

 

 Posted by at 18:00
Jun 122018
 

Call for Submissions

Are you an artist, sculptor, film maker working around disability issues? 

Would you like your work to play a part in building a Global Resistance Movement of disabled people?  

Then here’s how

In July 2018, DPAC will be holding a public event around building a Global Resistance Movement of disabled people.

We need your creativity and energy to help make this happen.

We want to create an event which celebrates our shared experiences and aspirations; and which connects our struggles and campaigns. As a backdrop to this, we would like those attending on the day and taking part from afar to do so in a space filled with creative expressions of our lives and our politics.

We are calling for contributions, large and small to exhibit at the event. Artists can come and be part of our activities or can simply give us access to their material. We will store and exhibit your material and return it to you after the event.

We are asking for:

  • Imagery such as
  • Pictures
  • Prints
  • Collages
  • Photographs
  • Paintings etc

 

  • Ceramics
  • Carvings
  • Glass work
  • Metal work

 

  • Digital Art
  • Film
  • Animation
  • Video Art

 

If your work has supporting materials such as mounts, plinths, frames, description or requires these materials for exhibition, please let us know.

 

If you would like to find out more or contribute please email. mail@dpac.uk.net

 Posted by at 20:44
Jun 082018
 

https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2018-06-07/HCWS745/

There has been some significant changes announced by the government concerning Universal Credit.  In a parliamentary statement yesterday Esther McVile says that the government intends to make the following changes-

The timetable for managed migration has been extended by 1 year.  It is now due to run from July 2019 – March 2023. Yet another delay on top of the years and many, many millions of pounds it has already taken

And transitional protection and the severe disability premium- some good news ahead of the court verdict which is expected shortly.

The Government has already made a commitment that anyone who is moved to Universal Credit without a change of circumstance will not lose out in cash terms. Transitional protection will be provided to eligible claimants to safeguard their existing benefit entitlement until their circumstances change.

Today I am announcing four additions to these rules to ensure that Universal Credit supports people into work, protects vulnerable claimants and is targeted at those who need it.

“In order to support the transition for those individuals who live alone with substantial care needs and receive the Severe Disability Premium, we are changing the system so that these claimants will not be moved to Universal Credit until they qualify for transitional protection. In addition, we will provide both an on-going payment to claimants who have already lost this Premium as a consequence of moving to Universal Credit and an additional payment to cover the period since they moved.

Second, we will increase the incentives for parents to take short-term or temporary work and increase their earnings by ensuring that the award of, or increase in, support for childcare costs will not erode transitional protection.

Third, we propose to re-award claimants’ transitional protection that has ceased owing to short-term increases in earnings within an assessment period, if they make a new claim to UC within three months of when they received the additional payment.

Finally, individuals with capital in excess of £16,000 are not eligible for Universal Credit. However, for Tax Credit claimants in this situation, we will now disregard any capital in excess of £16,000 for 12 months from the point at which they are moved to Universal Credit. Normal benefit rules apply after this time in order to strike the right balance between keeping incentives for saving and asking people to support themselves.”

The above changes will be brought in by new regulations in the Autumn (Universal Credit Managed Migration and Transitional Protection Regulations).

 Posted by at 21:29
Jun 062018
 

On June 29th help us honour the memories of Kamil Ahmad and others who have been failed by the system. We are holding an event as part of Bristol Refugee Festival to:

  • bring together the disability and the asylum/immigration sectors
  • get the voices of disabled asylum seekers / refugees better heard
  • build awareness of policies and practices that currently divide us
  • challenge divisions and develop solutions

Our event is in honour of Kamil Ahmad a disabled Kurdish man who came to Britain seeking sanctuary, after having been imprisoned and tortured in Iraq. He was murdered in his supported accommodation in Bristol on 7th July 2016.

Kamil never gave up his loving nature and sense of justice, despite the horrific experiences he had been trough. It seems fitting that one of the ways of honouring his memory, together with others who have been failed by the system, is to create a stronger movement for positive change.

All welcome. Help us honour Kamil and build a stronger movement for justice. 

To book go to: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/honouring-kamil-exploring-disability-and-migration-tickets-45856613365

Programme for Fri June 29th

14.30 – City Hall – (College Green, Bristol BS1 5TR)
We will install a copy of the mural which Kamil helped to create in the foyer of City Hall, as a memorial to him and other disabled asylum seekers and refugees who have been failed.
15.30 – Procession from City Hall to We the Curious – please bring banners, musical instruments.
16.00 – We the Curious (Anchor Rd, Harbourside, Bristol BS1 5DB)
Talks, discussion, workshops, film, learning from disabled asylum seekers.
What is the Problem? What needs to change?
Followed by food and music from LARA and others – (musicians include asylum seekers, refugees, disabled and non-disabled)

Please contact mail@dpac.uk.net with any access requirements when booking.

The event is supported by: Bristol City Council, City of Sanctuary, Disabled People Against Cuts, SARI (Stand Against Racism and Inequality), Bristol Defend Asylum Seekers, Bristol Disability Equality Forum, Bristol Hospitality Network, Bristol Refugee Rights, SW Region of the FBU, TUC SW, SW Doctoral Training Partnership, University of Bath, Unison, Bristol West Constituency Labour Party, Bristol National Education Union: NUT section, Aslef.

For more information please contact r.a.yeo@bath.ac.uk

Tickets are free but donations to help cover the costs of the event are welcome. To donate go to:https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/disabilitymigration

Please visit our Facebook page for the latest updates.

 Posted by at 20:45
Jun 032018
 

BEING THE BOSS 

National Information Gathering Survey 

INTRODUCTION – Who we are and why we are doing a survey

“Being the Boss” is a national network of disabled people who employ their own personal assistants (P.A.s)/support workers or carers. Our central role has been to support disabled people who employ their own Personal Assistants by providing peer support and a coherent voice for them in the wider community. The website and Facebook page are for disabled people who employ PAs no matter how they are funded – it is NOT just for disabled people who are receiving Direct Payments or Personal Budgets from the local authority. See: http://beingtheboss.co.uk/

Since 2010 when the Coalition government introduced Austerity measures we have seen many changes in assessment procedures, funding regimes, criteria, the closure of the Independent Living Fund and an overall undermining of Independent Living.

Given the current climate Being the Boss believe it is essential to establish ourselves as the advocate for disabled people who employ their own personal assistants because all forms of living independent lives is under threat. Alongside maintaining Being the Boss’s existing service/role, we want to build on our experience by making our advocacy role more visible and proactive and extend it to other disabled people facing difficulties with benefits and other areas which impact upon their ability to live independent lives.

To be able to play this advocate role we need to fully understand the national picture on the ground and to establish what are the key issues for those who employ their own personal assistants (P.A.s)/support workers or carers and are currently finding it difficult to live independent lives. To this end we have decided to launch a National Information Gathering Survey and are asking you to participate in it.

We can provide the Survey as a download from our website/Facebook page. Please feel free to be as detailed as you believe to be necessary or simply answer as much or as little as you feel able. Thank you for your time and support.

 https://goo.gl/forms/axbdtUnWOiUmL2sH3

 Posted by at 20:09
Jun 032018
 

sadly neither Welsh Labour not the national DPO – Disability Wales whose funding of course comes via Welsh Labour are supporting this vital campaign.

 

Please find below an important Thunderclap that we should all get involved in to help save the Welsh Independent Living Grant, #SaveWILG. 

This grant allows disabled people with high care and support need to live independently and was introduced by the Welsh Government following the closure of the ILF. 

Unfortunately, the Welsh Government have decided to follow England’s lead and pass all responsibility for social care to Local Authorities. This cannot be allowed to happen as we all know the problem this has caused to our friends in England. This fight is important to disable people across the UK as if we manage to win the battle in Wales, it will add strength to the arguments for three tier support in England.

This is a vital and easy way for  people to get involved with the campaign. Please encourage everyone you know, to take part and spread the message that we all want to save WILG, and deserve to have our voices heard.

The more pressure we can put on the Welsh Government, the better. On June 5th, when the thunderclap is activated, I will  be in Cardiff  at the Senedd, meeting with the Petitions Committee, Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care, Huw Irranca-Davies, Mark Drakeford AM and Julie Morgan AM.

We want to flood social media, and hope you will be able to spare one minute to help us achieve this aim. If this action succeeds, there will be future thunderclaps held.

Unfortunately, Thunderclap no longer allows targeted messages to prevent individual accounts being bombarded unfairly.

The message that will be shared across Twitter and Facebook reads as follows:

Welsh Labour need  to listen to their members and Save WILG for those with high care and support needs across Wales.

Anyone wishing to add memes or postcard photos to their social media accounts, can find plenty via my website or by simply contacting me via the contact page or on social media. I can’t make it much easier for you 

Many thanks for your support, and please do not hesitate to click on the following link:

https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/70260-savewilg

***

According to Wikipedia, Thunderclap is a platform that lets individuals and companies rally people together to spread a message. The site uses a model similar to crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter, in that if the campaign does not meet its desired number of supporters in the given time frame, the organizer receives none of the donations. This is referred to as “crowdspeaking”, as Thunderclap and its rival site Daycause use the same terminology. [2][3] Backers are required to copy the original message in tweets or social media posts.[4]

 Posted by at 20:05
May 222018
 

reblogged from an email. For disabled people receiving social security payments this is an important victory. Hopefully the first of many

ACORN is four years old this month and this summer marks ten years since greedy bankers destroyed the global financial system, plunging millions of us into poverty and providing the justification for the destruction of our public services. Of course, the bankers are ok as they got £billions of our money in the bailout.

While researching bank policies that hurt tenants, ACORN member Pete discovered that TSB have a clause in their buy to let mortgage contracts banning landlords from renting to housing benefit claimants, students or asylum seekers. We have members in all those groups and ACORN branches around the country decided to hold a national day of action to demand that TSB drop the clause.

On Saturday we mobilised in Bristol, Brighton, Newcastle and Sheffield and delivered demands to TSB branches that they drop the policy. ACORN members danced, sang, played party games and occupied branches of the bank that back when they were Lloyds TSB were happy to accept the biggest welfare hand-out in history – a cool £21 billion.

We’ve always said that direct action gets the goods and we’ve proved it once again because TSB have confirmed that they’re scrapping the clause banning landlords from renting to benefit claimants.

We’re still negotiating on when the change will be put in place and will be pushing for clarity on the implications for students and asylum seekers but TSB have folded to our main demand.

Last year we forced Santander to drop their infamous ‘rent rise’ mortgage clause. And now we’ve proven once again that there’s power in a union.

 Posted by at 20:04