If you want to add anything from your own local group please email us. Real and systematic change can only be achieved if we organise and fight togetherbut Disabled People deserve rights and to live without the gripping fear many have felt for the last 8 years.
Following our protests in town and outside Cardigan job centre opposing the roll out of Universal Credit, more people got in contact to ask for support and advice regarding their benefits. Working with our local MP Ben Lake, the food bank and Croeso housing, we had a UC drop in advice surgery in Aberystwyth, which will be repeated next year in Cardigan. Three of us went to meet Leanne Wood when she came to Cardigan and raised our concerns about the roll out of UC. We have been regularly handing out flyers around town and engaging with people to raise awareness of the rollout of UC and putting More people got in contact with us, for advice on PIP claims, and im pleased to say, that all those we helped this year were successful with their claims or appeals. Through the sales of the Welsh Grannies, we have funds available now to go towards organising our future campaigns, and helping others in our community during sanctions, waiting times and late payments etc. We have had regular social meet ups, and hope to have many more in the future. Lets keep fighting the system best we can, lets be there to support each other along the way and keep hold of the friendships we have made through DPAC. Its going to be a tough year ahead with UC and Brexit affecting us all. Lets continue to help each other through this in solidarity. Thank you all for your contributions this year. To CPA people for travelling so far to campaign together, to Jon Plumpton for those amazing lollipops and posters you printed for all the demos, for those who turned up on cold mornings to stand outside the job centres, to all those helping us with translations so that we can have bi-lingual protests, and most importantly our strong bond of friendship that keep this group running.
Our main activism in 2018 centred around Reading Borough Council’s proposal to scrap concessionary bus passes. We eventually won in relation to passes for disabled people and for companion passes too. There were many elements to the win apart from our successful demos in town and media coverage: having information coming out from council sources as to what had been stated in their budget; support from the local Trades Council who bolstered our demos and helped spread the word and also support from Reading and District Labour Party, which voted to instruct the council to ditch the proposal. But this has been a long process and still continues, as their latest move has been to go back to a consultation on cancelling passes for pensioners and also charging for Readibus rides, which were previously free.
We also began to try to gather information about the local hospital for patients diagnosed with mental health problems as the reports coming out of there are awful.
March – National Day of Action – protest to stop and scrap universal credit outside Norwich City Council.
May – DPAC Norfolk participated in protest against cuts to mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk at Norwich City Football Club
September – DPAC Norfolk part of forming Norfolk Against Universal Credit (NAUC) a campaigning coalition of organisations to stop and scrap
October – 7 members participated in the action at the Tory Party conference in Birmingham
October – protest at Norwich job centre to mark the first day of the rollout of Universal Credit – over 50 people attended
October – DPAC Norfolk organised a rally and march to Stop and Scrap Universal Credit. Over 150 people marched around Norwich city centre.
December – Public Meeting to Stop and Scrap Universal Credit – over 50 people attended the meeting at Norwich City Hall
here is a brief account accompanied by pictures of what has been a hectic year (I can’t promise chronological acuracy😀) for DPAC GLASGOW.
The backbone of our work has and continues to be resisting government attacks on the rights and dignitary of disabled people through changes in the benefit system we have held monthly pickets outside maximums offices against work capability assessments.
We have also been proud to support other campaigns ie the struggle for equal pay for working women of Glasgow city council. I was privileged to be the only man allowed to speak at one of their lobbies.
We also stood in solidarity with the get Glasgow moving campaign when they handed in their petition to Glasgow city council in July.
One of the highlight was when 3 of our members went down to Birmingham to tell Theresa May and the Tory conference what we think of them.
My personal highlight was our participation in the national day of action against universal credit we organised an excellent street stall in Argyll St and got a great response. we also made a couple of trips through to Edinburgh to the Scottish parliament on the first occasion to hear the evil Esther Mcvey answer questions before one of the parliamentary committees and on another occasion to meet Shirley Anne Sommerville.
Like everyone else we expect to be even busier this year.
I’d like to finish this somewhat potted annual report by paying tribute to Marion Nisbet co founder and stalwart of DPAC GLASGOW for a number of years who has decided to move on to other things a huge THANK YOU Marion
Northants Disabled People Against Cuts
2018 has been a very difficult year for Northants dpac I’m pleased though we have managed to ensure Disabled Peoples anger towards the cuts and continuous attacks has not waned, A number of our members have had health issues which has impacted on our work. Individual people have continued to support people with pip, esa and other problems. Through our media work we have developed good media relationships with Northampton chronicle, echo, and Nene Enquirer .
We supported save Northants services rally on the 17th FEB 2018. As Northamptonshire County Council has been in financial trouble due to national govt cuts, we have been able to get national media coverage of Disabled Peoples experience of Cuts.
We have built up a good relationship with IWW branch locally We are actively involved in Save Northants Services umbrella organisation. We are involved with Northants Direct Action on actions and campaigns.
We supported tories out of Brum conference protest/action. We are building distant links with Labour Party locally for future work.
We joined a noisy picket of Northants Tories Gala Dinner with the guest of dishonour Savid Javid home secretary. We continue to be an irritant in the fight against cuts in Northants.
At last we have a belated annual round up setting out just a few of the things we supported and organised in 2018. DPAC was always set up so that if one person was ill or unable to take part in the day-to-day running of things it would still function but 2018 threw up more problems health and family wise for most of us than anyone could have envisaged. And although not all our problems are now solved we’re all still here and functioning – if a little slower than usual.
Once again we want to thank our many supporters and allies for their help in many ways from attending physical and on-line events, producing memes for our use, donating to help us remain completely independent and help others to attend protests and meetings and a myriad of other things. Thanks once again to Paula, Louise and Keith for helping with stalls at a variety of events these not only raise money for DPAC but also promote us as an organisation.
We’re very grateful to the disabled people who travelled so far to attend our Festival of Resistance during the summer and it was great to meet activists from around the world.
As usual last year we were involved supporting a wide range of events and protests organised by ourselves and others where the impact would have a direct and negative effect on disabled people. This included working with BASW and the Anti Austerity Action Group, RMT, Transport for All and ABC Commuters around transport issues especially driver only operated trains, Fuel Poverty Action Group, Winvisible, No More Deaths on Our Streets, Alliance for Counselling and Pyschtherapy,against IAPT therapies, Supporting NHS marches and anti-racists marches to name but a few.
Members of the steering group have continued to speak at a wide range of events on various topics throughout the year. We’re grateful to them for giving their time and energy to do so and are proud to have them represent us at such times. Paula in particular seems to have been very prolific last year speaking at about 10 major events.
We’ve continued our work with the media and tried to highlight the ongoing injustices and problems that disabled people face in the UK today.
We also had a voter registration drive for the mayoral and council elections because it is so important that disabled people do use their vote to seek change at all levels of the political spectrum.
Our initial planned Day of Action to Stop and Scrap Universal Credit had to be postponed due to the awful weather we had last March and was re-organised to take place in April when nationally we had a day out to parliament – again. You can watch the video at this link
We organised High Court vigils with Winvisible and Inclusion London for the Universal Credit case against the loss of Severe and Enhanced Disability Premiums in UC. Fortunately the case was won although of course the government tried and failed to wriggle out of paying disabled people more.
Most protests were supported by on-line actions and we also had an on-line protest against the Spring Budget. Sadly twitter has now stopped people using tweet lists and repeating others tweets en mass so we have been forced to change the way we can use it for protesting.
Some of our supporters from Bromley DPAC went to Calais in March where they were confronted by the harrowing living conditions for refugees
We once again took part in the Lush Summit in London where Paula did a workshop on Universal Credit and Mary Ellen had her fantastic new art piece ‘UC – A Grave Condition’
We’ve produced several important papers last year as well as helping collect evidence for several consultation responses put together by Inclusion London.
Papers include – an alternative solution to the UK independent living crisis? Independent Living Support for the Future.
UBI: Solution or illusion? The implications of Universal Basic Income for disabled people in Britain. Our hard copy pamphlet on UBI will shortly be available to purchase at cost price of £1 although the report remains available on the website.
And as well as providing supporting evidence for UK consultations Ellen collated Consultation responses: – Latest report to UN Disability Committee launched in Parliament on 25 October (submitted by UK DDPOs) which included evidence of continuing attrocities disabled people had experienced and which we had collated for this report. The UK is not only the first country to be investigated by the UN Disability Committee it is also the only country to be annually monitored. If only the Tories felt any shame…..
And Submission to UN Extreme Poverty rapporteur (submitted from ROFA).
Paula was able to go to give evidence when the UN rapporteur met in East London and people from some of our local groups were able to attend local meetings with him especially Martin in Clacton.
In July the Department for International Development headed by ex- Minister for Disabled People, Penny Morduant, tried to pretend that the UK government cares about disabled people’s human rights and to pretend through hosting a Global Summit that they were good at this.
Naturally we felt the need to host our own events and held a Festival of Resistance to highlight the opposite truth and show those from foreign NGOs who attended what the abysmal reality is. It says much about the DfiD and their support for human rights that their co-hosts of this event were Kenya whose record on LGBT rights is so appalling.
Amongst our guests were Rose Achayo, Feliza ali Ramos and Alex Marcelo Vazqiez Bracamonte from Bolivia, Antonios Rellas from Greece, John Clarke from OCAP and of course John McDonnell and we were joined by Skype by Naiaty Yaacob from Malaysia.
It is also worth remembering the disgraceful way in which Disability Rights UK (DRUK) betrayed the disabled people’s movement toadying up to government at this sham summit.
While work for this summit was the main piece of activism last year DPAC’s work to fight for disabled people’s human rights goes on daily both nationally and amongst our many active local groups.
We were delighted that also in July at Unite’s policy conference one of our supporters, Ellen Morrison, gave a rousing and compelling speech in her capacity as a Unite delegateto ask conference to support Stop and Scrap Universal Credit which was carried. We continue our work to get this position formally adopted by Labour instead of the whimpish Pause and Fix stance the party currently continues to hold.
Ellen’s superb and emotive speech can be viewed here.
We’ve worked with Potent Whisper several times to support his rhyming guide to austerity and later last year on some video work with him that Paul and Keith helped with.
Conference season again saw us busy with meetings and speaking at events at the Labour Party Conference and lobbying Margaret Greenwood, who seems to be largely silent on the hostile environment disabled people face which is unacceptable and must change, followed by our bi-annual trip to the Tory Party Conference in Birmingham.
People from many of our local groups from around the country joined us there and it was particularly good to meet up with them all.
We were also able to part sponsor an important disability art exhibition ‘I Protest’ in Norwich something a little out of the ordinary for us but which was a successful event and another way in which to spread information to the public.
I Protest art show https://www.facebook.com/IProtestNorwich/?modal=admin_todo_tour
Also last year we undertook a major piece of research into the postcode lottery of social care and charging funded by a grant from Network for Social Change and we have asked Barbara Keeley the Labour Party shadow minister for mental health and social care to provide a room in parliament for the launch of both this research and our work on the future of social care. So far she has not responded however we hope to have a reply shortly.
We’re still collating information on a few things mainly tell your story and on care charging and it would be helpful if anyone who hasn’t could fill in details on the website forms. This information is used for research, evidence, and media information so is vital to us all.
As well as our previous post about a vigil at 1.30 pm concerning two UC cases this weektThe Alliance For Inclusive Education supports a human rights legal challenge around the provision of support for Disabled pupils with visual impairments within mainstream schooling.
On the 23rd January in the High Court a severely visually impaired pupil will claim that the local authority is breaching her rights in the way it arranges specialist teaching assistant support in mainstream schools.
The local authority has decided to give individual schools the responsibility for the recruitment and employment of Teaching Assistants for their Disabled pupils. This means there is no central pool of specialist support staff (specialist teaching assistants) available when a Disabled child wants to join a particular school.
The court is being asked to make a decision on whether the local authority’s policy to delegate responsibility to schools for the recruitment and employment of TAs is lawful under the Equality Act 2010 Public Sector Equality Duty, European Convention on Human Rights and UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities around promoting Disabled pupils’ right to participate in mainstream education free from disability discrimination.
Currently, there is a presumption of mainstream education for Disabled pupils under the Children and Families Act. However, there is no requirement in law that local authorities should arrange SEND provision that will maximise parental choice of mainstream schools or promote Disabled pupils’ full participation in the curriculum.
“This is a very important case because for too many Disabled pupils, failure in mainstream schools arises when local authorities do not arrange SEND provision in a timely manner and in a way that guarantees high quality support to enable Disabled pupils to follow the entire school curriculum at all times, ie without any gaps. This leaves Disabled pupils being treated in a discriminatory way, as they are denied full participation in the school curriculum and all aspects of school life because they are Disabled and require assistance. We therefore want the court to issue guidance and rule that leaving Disabled pupils without appropriate assistance to engage in mainstream education is disability discrimination and a breach of Disabled pupils’ human rights,” says the Alliance for Inclusive Education’s Policy and Campaigns Coordinator Simone Aspis.
Anthony Gold Solicitors are representing the client and Steve Broach of Monckton Chambers is instructed counsel.
For more information please contact Simone Aspis:
Phone: 0207 737 6030 / mobile: 07856 213 837
- Hosted by WinVisible – women with visible & invisible disabilities, DPAC and MHRN
- Wednesday January 23rd, 13.30-13.45pm at Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, WC2A 2LL
Supporting legal challenge against Universal Credit by the single mum of a disabled daughter, and a man who was on ESA. Mum and daughter are £140/month worse off under UC than Income Support. Man has lost severe disability premiums.
PHOTOCALL outside court at 1.30pm.
Go into court from 10/10.30 onwards. Court room list here, case of TD and AD https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/court-lists/list-rcj
Case continues Thursday 24 January.
More info: https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/dwp-facing-court-over-claimants-universal-credit-fit-for-work-injustice/
Haringey Against Universal Credit Public Meeting
The Eventbrite page for the meeting is http://bit.ly/ucevent
Catherine West, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green (chair)
Cllr Kaushika Amin, Haringey Council Cabinet Member for Civic Services (including rollout of support for Universal Credit)
Miriam Bindman, disability rights activist (Disabled People Against Cuts: DPAC)
Chris Baugh, Assistant General Secretary, PCS union
Linda Grant, employment and poverty researcher and Sheffield Heeley Constituency Labour Party executive member
Additional speakers to be confirmed
Local advice groups will have stalls at the meeting Organised by Stop and Scrap Universal Credit Haringey
We are a broad-based group of mainly Labour Party members and Unite Community members that came together to campaign against this cruel benefit system and support people receiving it.
5 minutes walk from 144 and 41 Wightman Road bus stops. Nearest tube station: Turnpike Lane (Piccadilly Line)
The austerity programme was initiated in 2010 by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government. It has brought in its wake the destruction of many social support systems for all of us but for disabled people it has meant a severe decrease in our ability to engage in life. The demise of the Independent Living Fund, reductions in social care, the unwillingness to consider medical evidence, the restriction on support … the list goes on.
Whether you accept the concept of equality or not, the fact remains that our world is essentially constructed for bipedal creatures with a given capacity for sight, hearing and mobility. The world is eminently suited for all those who can climb stairs, read basic instructions, have a basic understanding of language and its usage and can perform a given set of functions on command. Fail in any of those and you are considered disabled.
In relatively primitive societies when babies were born with the clear indication that they would never attain the full physical capacity they were exposed on hill sides and left to the elements. One society we know of was Sparta. Plutarch, aka Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus, gives us the Greek story that ancient Spartans threw their stunted and sickly babies off a cliff. Whether this story is true, or a myth, is at this moment immaterial. The fact is that the belief that this was true has fed into social movement such as the Hitler Youth. In the early 1920s, the Nazi party had established a youth movement to train them to become Stormtroopers.
The idealisation of perfect people with the full capacity of bipedal motion reading basic instructions, having a basic understanding of language and its usage and capable of performing a given set of functions on command was the underpinning of much of the Nazi Party ideology. They of course took it one step further still in that they also held that the Aryan was the only perfect exemplar of these perfect people. But that is by the by. What is relative to this article is that the Nazi ideology led to Aktion T4. Starting as a euthanasia program that eliminated disabled infants and children deemed unfit to live and expanding in time to cover disabled adults and the elderly.
Aktion T4 was a direct result of a new bureaucracy with a mandate to kill anyone considered to have a “life unworthy of living”. The Nazis themselves referred to the victims of Aktion T4 as “burdensome lives” and “useless eaters”.Criteria for inclusion into the programme was not exclusively medical or genetic. People were assigned to the programme largely on ‘Economic Productivity’.
Aktion T4 killed 70,000 people during its first two years of operation. Initially by starvation and lethal injection. Later, efficiency led to the development of asphyxiation by poison gas. The program officially ended in 1941 amid a welter of protests from many quarters of German society. It however did go on more covertly. The total number of victims are estimated to have reached 200,000 plus. Furthermore, it was the lessons the Nazis learned from Aktion T4 that helped them later on in their ‘final solution’.
We have all heard about the Yellow Star that Jews were required to wear under the Nazi Regime. This was but one of the classification symbols Nazis employed. Notion that the star is but two triangles, one inverted on the other, was employed to classify people depending on their origin, their sexual orientation, their political affiliations, their religion and their overall productivity towards the Nazi war effort. Disabled people, those considered unfit for ‘economic productivity’ and eventually all others who were deemed ‘anti-social’ by the regime were accorded a Black Triangle. Which, incidently, is why the DPAC logo contains a black triangle at it’s centre.
Coming forward to the present day, prior to the Austerity programme, there were still many matters lacking for the ability of disabled people to fully engage in public life. But things were improving slowly, admittedly, but surely. We were gradually getting the notion of the Social Model of disability accepted. The notion was become accepted that people were disabled not by their impairment but rather by the society they were living in. All that went to the wall with the Austerity programme. We are currently facing the basic notion that impairment is a personal fault that society does not have to make room for, make concessions to or accept responsibility for. Unlike Aktion T4, the Austerity programme has not quite taken an active hand in killing disabled people. But disabled people are still dying as a result of austerity.
Many disabled people do view the assault on their ability to engage in public life by the myriad of cuts, both in personal support and in social support, as akin to the intent of Aktion T4. I posit that this view is far from irrational. In fact, it is the only logical way to see the impact of the Austerity programme which is essentially a means of minimising Governmental responsibility for those it governs.
Governments are there to set the stage on which we live our daily lives. If it makes it more difficult, or rather impossible for some of us the traverse that stage then government policy is wholly responsible for our inability to live full lives.
Austerity is responsible for killing each and every person who has found it impossible to live up to the expectations of economic activity as set by the governments that have initiated, and followed, the precepts of Austerity. Further, call a rose by any other name, and it still has thorns. Saying that Austerity is over has not meant that the impact of Austerity is no longer there. As long as disabled people are forced, through the actions and lack of action, by this or any other government, to live restricted lives, through lack of social support, we will, quite rightly, continue to see their actions, or lack thereof, in the same light as Aktion T4.
I am a longstanding DPAC supporter and now also Disability Officer for my local Labour Party (Berwick upon Tweed). I would like to make contact with any other DPAC supporters in Northumberland to discuss campaigning against the Tories ‘hostile environment ‘ & how we can promote justice for all disabled people. Please contact me, Sarah, on email@example.com
Ofsted, the schools inspection service have been concerned in recent months at data suggesting some pupils have been moved off the school register and removed from their school. Disabled pupils and those described as having special educational needs, are more likely to be subject to this practice, called “ off-rolled” This happened to one young person Pat (not the real name) who was recently off- rolled from a, state funded, secondary school in Greater Manchester. Pat is 14, has a diagnosis of Autism, also has the protection of an EHCP. Pat had three years of 100% attendance at the school and although Pat did not find the school met all support needs, Pat accepted responsibility and gave a commitment to hard work. This was reflected in Pat’s academic achievements, test results clearly indicated academic progress, year on year. An incident occurred when Pat was allocated a new support worker. The support person had been in post 5 days, no formal training to work with neuro – diverse pupils. The support worker did not know Pat, it was the lack of a meaningful relationship with Pat that triggered Pat’s “melt down” Pat will not be the first neuro-diverse person to have a melt down in school and Pat will almost certainly not be the last person to have a melt down. A melt down is likely when the school does not anticipate the triggers for a particular pupil and has not put appropriate support in place. This resulted in Pat being suspended from school for two days. Pat was utterly devastated, uncertain what had happened.
Pat’s mother attended the school to discuss what had happened, she was confronted by the headteacher and the head of SEN services from the local authority. There was no discussion, Pat’s mother was told to remove Pat to a “ autism school” 35 miles from their home or have Pat “homed schooled” This “choice” was imposed upon Pat’s mother by the head of SEN, supported by the headteacher without any consultation. This illegal action from two senior professionals is now being challenged. It is however, expected that both professionals will deny their actions and re- present their arguments as “ considered advice” in the “ best interests” of the young person. What is disturbing is that if the two senior professionals were confident in their judgments were in Pat’s best interest – why did they not follow the appropriate procedures and engage in the formal process of an EHCP review, with representatives from health and social care ? Why did the SEN local authority lead professional not take into consideration Pat’s views ? in fact he has never met Pat. Why have Pat’s teachers, health and care professionals not taken action to protect Pat from this abuse of Pat’s rights and a total disregard of the EHCP ? What is unforgivable is that the “professionals” surrounding Pat have allowed Pat to be presented as “the problem” and for Pat to take responsibility for the abuse of the professionals. Pat is not the only young person being subject to this despicable and systematic professional abuse, but is one of a growing number, identified by Ofsted.
This practice is a consequence of a wider concerted devaluation of disabled people in the UK, by this government, which has given licence to such malpractice against disabled people. What disabled child is safe from the malpractice of such senior professionals In schools and colleges ? What parent can say with Confidence their child is safe from being off-rolled by their school ? As a starting point we should encourage every such incident to be reported to Ofsted and Governors of the school.
What’s your experience of the welfare safety net?
The Work and Pensions Select Committee has opened an inquiry into the current state of the UK’s welfare safety net, prompted by the evidence of debt, hunger and homelessness it has heard across several recent inquiries. The inquiry will look at how effectively our welfare system works to protect against hardship and chronic deprivation.
The UK’s welfare system is currently undergoing fundamental reform – the transition to Universal Credit alongside other major and largely untested reforms like Benefit sanctions and the Benefit cap, also there is the freeze on benefits.
Have you experienced hardship because of changes in you benefits? Your experience will inform Inclusion London’s evidence to the inquiry. Please send to Henrietta.Doyle@inclusionlondon.org.uk by 12 December.
You are welcome to send evidence direct to the Select Committee, information about doing this is available at: https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/inquiry12/
The deadline is 14 December 2018
Actions against Universal Credit:
Single mums challenge UC
Tues 27 & Wed 28 November 2018
High Court, Strand, London WC2A 2LL
Single mums are in court to challenge the government over the Universal Credit payment system which is inflexible and doesn’t reflect reality. The rigid ‘assessment period’ causes wildly fluctuating benefit and debt. Part-time dinner lady Danielle Johnson from Keighley, West Yorkshire, is paid on the last working day of the month. But her monthly UC assessment periods are rigid – running from the last day of each month, meaning that if she is paid before the last day of the month, because payment falls on a weekend or non-banking day, she is assessed as having been paid twice that month, and not at all the next month (so she could be subject to the benefit cap). Claimants are unable to change their assessment period. Ms Johnson also argues that the system is discriminatory because it disproportionately affects mainly single mothers. Child Poverty Action Group and Leigh Day solicitors have joined together. See Leigh Day’s press release. The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights recently condemned UC as ‘misogynist’.
10.30am: Court case starts in Court 1. Go into court to support the claimants. Continues Wednesday, check court listing here
Read “Universal Credit: a hostile environment for women”, by Selma James, Solveig Francis
Saturday 1 December 2018
National day of action to STOP Universal Credit
London-wide 2pm: In the shadow of Grenfell Tower, meet at Ladbroke Grove tube, London W10 6HJ
The CWU’s fight to save our nation’s cherished Post Office network, which has been recently launched by the union in response to the bombshell announcement that 74 Crown offices are to be franchised (privatised) to high-street retailer WH Smith – a move which will impact some 800 jobs and drastically cut services to communities.
CWU is fighting back, with a range of high-profile local and national campaign activities being planned over the next couple of months – particularly in the run-up to Christmas.
We’ve created dedicated campaign website – www.saveourpostoffice.co.uk – which has all the essential facts, aims and demands and also features a quick and easy ‘write to your MP’ guide.
From the main page of the site, simply click to find your own MP and then click again for a model letter to her or him – or write to the Government Minister responsible for the Post Office, Greg Clarke, urging him to stop the wrecking of our Post Office.
CWU general secretary Dave Ward says: “At a time when the government is claiming to be on the side of workers, it is an outrage that it is allowing well rewarded jobs to go from a public service, handing them straight to a second-rate employer like WHSmith – recently rated as the worst retailer on the high street who will undoubtedly provide a significantly inferior service.”
And he’s asking all CWU members to “please visit the campaign site, write to your MP and watch out for upcoming Save Our Post Office activities in your local area.”
Can you help? Here’s what you can do…
- Go towww.saveourpostoffice.co.uk
- Enter your address
- Your MP’s name will appear
- Write your message
- Share with colleagues, friends, family etc
- Thank you
Dave Ward says:
“Together, united, we can stop this attack and save this cherished Great British institution.”
December 1st protests are planned for Aberdeen, Crawley, Nottingham, Chester, Basingstoke, York, and Bristol – with further events in other localities being discussed and organised as well.
We need YOU – December 1st Day of Action
“Come and get involved in the big nationwide Campaign Day to Save Our Post Office,” is today’s message from our general secretary Dave Ward.
Since the launch event last Thursday, enthusiasm is growing around the country, with protests, petitioning and lobbying gathering pace – and Dave is urging reps to “please remember to take these petitions around your unit.
“We’ve got around 190,000 members of this union, so between now and the Big Day, let’s get as many of our own people signed up as we possibly can,” he urges.
“And while you’re asking people to sign, please flag up the nearest December 1st event to them and boost the attendance on the day.”
Saturday December 1st will see protests in cities and towns in every region of the UK, in our defiant response to Post Office bosses’ announcement of the ‘franchising’ of 74 Crown offices to retailer WH Smith, impacting on some 7-800 jobs – marking a change in their strategy from managed decline to terminal decline.
“And that’s what we’re facing unless we can force a change of direction,” says our general secretary, who is also pushing forward the union’s vision for a positive future for our post office network – as the real hubs of our communities.
Our first day of action for Disabled Equality in Education will see meetings and events in colleges and universities, as well as schools where SEND cuts are destroying integrated education and will culminate in a meeting in parliament where we will bring forward demands for change.
Parliamentary meeting Wednesday November 21st House of Commons, Committee Room 10 from 5.30pm – 7pm. Some tickets are available for this event and we want as many disabled people as possible to attend:
please email DPAC or firstname.lastname@example.org for tickets
Briefing Document from ALLFIE can be read here https://www.allfie.org.uk/
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) now has a Cambridgeshire and Essex branch! Come and join us for this protest about disability equality in work. We will be highlighting the government’s persecution of disabled people, reading the names of people who have died because of the horrific cuts and sanctions regime of the DWP, and agitating for real equality of access to work.
We are in solidarity with the UCU Day of Action for disability equality in education, for which events are taking place all day at the Cambridge University Students Union. If you’re going to one of the UCU events, come and join us at 2:30 in Market Square to take the message to the public.
Wednesday, 21 November 2018 from 14:30-16:30,
Support Wed 21st national UCU Day of action for disability equality in education at Liverpool University
Come and join us
12.00 Rally University Square (Brownlow Hill)
We will be leafleting:
10.45 502 Teaching Block (Mount Pleasant next to Student Guild)
11.45 502 Teaching Block (Mount Pleasant next to Student Guild)
The UCU is taking action to challenge disability discrimination on campus and barriers faced by disabled people in education.
Our union branch recently passed a motion expressing concern about the disability discrimination on campus which is heavily impacting staff and students and demanding that the University complies with the Equality Act 2010 in relation to disability. The issues on campus were also reported in the media.
Please come and show your support.
Please contact UCU equalities officer if you can help. Kirsteen.email@example.com
There will be a disabled member of staff speaking, Kirsten (our UCU equalities officer at Liverpool) and a message of solidarity from DPAC would be great.
We are leafleting the 502 teaching block because access is none existent or very difficult.
Dear DPAC member
We would love to see you at our forthcoming Together! 2018 Disability History Month Festival events in East London, celebrating Disability Art, Culture and Human Rights. Everything is free and inclusive and everyone is welcome. This is the only national Disability Arts event led by a Disabled People’s Organisation. Further programme details are on our website at http://www.together2012.org.uk/activities-programme/together-2018-disability-history-month-festival/
TOGETHER! 2018 FESTIVAL CALENDAR
Full venue details are at the end of the calendar
Friday 23 November 2018 7-9pm: World Premiere of ‘When You See Me’ & Festival Opening This new drama (pictured), commissioned by us from our associate company Act Up! Newham, and written and directed by Trevor Lloyd, is inspired by the Circus 250 anniversary. Stratford Circus 1.
Sunday 25 November 2018 1-2pm: Paracarnival Parade Fresh from winning the Judges Choice award at Hackney Carnival, Paracarnival comes to Newham with a procession of locally based Disabled artists and friends. Gallion’s Reach Shopping Park Beckton.
Saturday 1 December 2018 2-5pm: ‘VIBE: The Art of Transatlantic Inclusion’ A simultaneous symposium and exhibition about our two-year tactile sound project with Concordia University, Vibrafusion Lab Ontario and Disabled artists in Montréal. Vicarage Lane Community Centre Stratford.
Monday 3 December 2018 11am-1pm: Reading for Human Rights On International Day of Disabled People, join us to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights by reading from this and the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People at Beckton Globe Library. Easy Read, BSL and different languages texts available. The event will be live-streamed.
Friday 7 (6-8pm), Saturday 8 (12-8pm) & Sunday 9 December 2018 (12-8pm): Together! 2018 Disability Film Festival Our international film festival brings together films of all budgets and genres, by Disabled filmmakers or featuring a central Disabled character. Old Town Hall Stratford. We also offer a two-day workshop for emerging Disabled filmmakers on 6 & 7 December – email firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
Tuesday 11 December 2018 11am-2pm: Newham Disabled Reps Forum host a musical celebration of Disability History Month, including lunch and a raffle. Speakers include Disability History Month director Richard Rieser. Vicarage Lane Community Centre Stratford.
Friday 14 December 7-9pm: Together! Music Club and end-of-festival party Celebrate this year’s Disability History Month theme of music with an Open Mike night featuring Together! 2012 artists and friends, compered by Ju Gosling aka ju90. Vicarage Lane Community Centre Stratford.
Plus the Together! 2018 Open Exhibition, bringing together amateur, community, emerging and mid-career Disabled artists with a local connection. Vicarage Lane Community Centre Stratford. Dates tbc.
We aim to be as inclusive as possible of audience members as well as artists. All venues have step-free access and limited Blue Badge parking. Live audio-description is available on demand; productions are amplified with induction loops. BSL interpretation is provided for performances where speech is the main communication form. No need to book unless you wish to reserve seats (advised for groups of 5+). To reserve seats and find out more, email email@example.com
For specific details, see Disabled Go.com
Beckton Globe Library 1 Kingsford Way, London E6 5JQ. Nearest station (accessible): Beckton (DLR). 020 3373 0853. Bus routes include: 101, 173, 262, 300, 366, 376, 474.
Gallions Reach Shopping Park, 3 Armada Way, Beckton, London E6 7ER. Nearest station: Gallions Reach DLR (fully accessible). Bus routes include: 366, 262 & 101. Large free carpark. Click here for further details.
Old Town Hall, 29 The Broadway, Stratford, London E15 4BQ. 020 3373 7033 /07791 291 685. Nearest tube, overground and DLR stations: Stratford (fully accessible). Bus routes include 25, 69, 86, D8, 104, 108, 158, 238, 241, 257, 262, 276, 308, 425, 473, N8, N86, 010, A9, 741 & UL1. Blue Badge holders can prebook parking; others are advised to use the (old) Stratford shopping centre carpark.
Stratford Circus, Theatre Square, Stratford, London E15 1BX. 020 8279 1001. Nearest tube, overground and DLR stations: Stratford (fully accessible). Bus routes 257, 69 and 308 stop outside Stratford Circus in Great Eastern Road; 25, 86, 104, 108, 158, 238, 241, 262, 276, 425, 473, D8 alight at station. Very limited Blue Badge parking nearby; otherwise use the (old) Stratford shopping centre carpark.
Vicarage Lane Community Centre, Govier Close, E15 4HW. Nearest tube, overground and DLR stations: Stratford (fully accessible). Bus routes include: 101, 104, 300, 474. Street parking.
We’re looking into the possibility of setting up a DPAC choir to sing at various events. If you would be interested in joining this please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
There would be no regular commitment needed although if possible people might want to attend one or more rehearsals. Please also let us know if you have a (polite) name for a DPAC choir.
Monthly demonstration against Universal Credit outside DWP headquarters, Caxton House. Tothill Street. London. SW1H 9DA (near the Houses of Parliament)
Meet 12 PM – 1pm on the 1st Friday of each month including December and January.
Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group used to demonstrate regularly outside their local jobcentres. But they’ve closed both of the local jobcentres. It is now easier for many to get to the DWPs National Headquarters in Westminster than to get to their nearest remaining jobcentres.
KUWG cordially invite other Londoners, and allies to come and join them.
To contact KUWG please message them via their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/kilburn.unemployed
Day of Action on the 17th October for Safe Cladding and Insulation Now! Schedule, updates, and victories
- 0 am Solidarity demonstration outside UK Embassy, Brussels
- 45 for 1.0 pm Demonstrate outside Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, 2 Marsham St, London SW1P 4DF, deliver Open Letter (have you signed?)
- 0 pm event in House of Commons, Committee Room 18, hosted by Emma Dent Coad, MP tickets (free; please register to ensure a space).
- 30 for 7 pm Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations public meeting, Crypt of St Peters Church, SE17 2HH tickets (free)
For months, after the horror of Grenfell, it seemed that residents of other tower blocks would be left indefinitely in buildings that could, any minute, go up in flames.
Since then, with steady pressure from Grenfell survivors, residents of the blocks, housing campaigners, Fuel Poverty Action, and social housing providers pressing central government, things have begun to change.
Thousands are still left in danger of fire and cold.
It is now essential to keep up the pressure and ensure that UK homes are safe, warm and that residents organisations are listened to — not ignored and increasingly de-resourced and disempowered.
Plans are well advanced for delivering our Open Letter to the MHCLG. There is still a little time for organisations, MPs, councillors etc, to sign it – here.
- It will be delivered with a demonstration including residents – coming from as far away as Salford and Manchester, members of the Grenfell community, a speaker from Fire Brigades Union, representatives of pensioners and disabled people – both more at risk from both fire and cold, housing organisations, and many others. To start the event, poet Potent Whisper will perform. Please try to arrive by 12.45 so we can start on time! And if you’re going on to the second event, you might want to bring a hot drink and a sandwich.
- We will then walk to the House of Commons where we’ll have more time to compare experience and discuss ways forward. It’s important to get MPs to this event — please be sure to urge yours to come – and to sign the Open Letter. Please be sure to get a ticket in case space is tight. And if you’re coming from elsewhere, remember to allow at least 15 minutes to get through security.
- Finally, we will move on to the public meeting called by Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations focusing on how residents’ organisations are being bypassed, starved of resources and disempowered, even as everyone acknowledges that residents’ voices are key to keeping buildings safe.
Support has been pouring in for this Day of Action and for the demands on the Open Letter. Trade Unions are taking up the call, in particular the FBU, PCS, BFAWU, NEU, Unite Community, and many branches and officers of Unite and Unison.
A great addition to the Day of Action is a solidarity event outside the UK embassy in Brussels, organised by Right to Energy Coalition. Their slogan: No more fire, no more cold: End Energy Poverty! Avenue d’Auderghem 10, 040 Bruxelles, Belgium
Please do what you can in this last week to rally others, contact your MP, use social media. Please see and promote the links below.
And please, if you are in London, join us on Sunday 14 October for the Silent Walk in memory of those who lost their lives at Grenfell Tower. Let us know if you can come. https://www.fuelpovertyaction.org.uk/
What’s been won so far:
- 11 months on from the fire, the government finally promised to fund recladding of social housing tower blocks, at an estimated £400 million.
- As of 20 September 2018, out of of 364 high residential buildings 22 have now had this work completed, plus 2 private sector blocks. 99 social and 12 private blocks have had work started.
- Many councils and housing associations have looked again at all sorts of safety issues and have acted to improve fire doors, lighting, windows, and more.
- The government have announced a ban on combustible cladding (precision) for buildings from now on
Still to be won:
- The rest of the 364 have not begun replacement, and many private blocks and student residences don’t even have works planned.
- The ban is limited in its nature and is not retrospective. Many landlords/freeholders of leasehold buildings may try to wriggle out of making their buildings safe.
- In Salford residents of 9 tower blocks were told that government money was not available because theirs was a PFI scheme, despite the fact that they were social housing tenants. Now Pendleton Together finally say they have found the money to begin the work, but residents worry: when will it happen? How cold will they be, before replacement of cladding in buildings with extremely expensive heating systems, and whatever the source of the money, will they end up paying for it?
- In response to a question prompted by Fuel Poverty Action, some housing associations in London have undertaken to cover the costs of extra heating while cladding is stripped off (it can take months or years to replace it).
- The government funding will not cover private tower blocks, schools, hospitals or workplaces, blocks under 18M high or forms of combustible cladding other than ACM.
- Nor will it help those who had no insulation to begin with – eg in Camden’s Chalcots estate, many ground floor flats never had the cladding and insulation that was installed elsewhere.
- Round the country, tenants and residents associations are being dissolved or disempowered, replaced with unelected, hand-picked “representatives”, deprived of resources and even denied use of communal rooms in their estates.
Hope to see you on October 17th!
Our mailing address is:
Fuel Poverty Action
Unit 5E Punderson Gardens
London, Greater LondonE2 9QG
DWP’s secret benefit deaths reviews: Investigations into deaths doubles in two years
The number of secret reviews carried out by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) into deaths linked to benefit claims appears to have doubled in the last two years, according to figures the information watchdog has forced the government to release.
The figures relate to the number of internal process reviews (IPRs), investigations conducted by the department into deaths and other serious and complex cases that have been linked to DWP activity.
They show that, from April 2016 to June 2018, DWP panels carried out 50 IPRs, including 33 involving the death of a benefit claimant, or roughly 1.27 death-related IPRs a month.
DWP figures previously obtained by Disability News Service (DNS) show that, between October 2014 and January 2016, there were nine IPRs involving a death, or about 0.6 a month.
These figures are only approximate, because the information about IPRs (previously known as peer reviews) provided by DWP through freedom of information responses does not provide precise dates for when each of them took place.
But they do appear to show a clear and significant increase since early 2016 in the number of IPRs carried out following deaths linked by DWP to its own activity.
They also appear to show a return to the kind of frequency of reviews related to deaths of claimants that were seen between February 2012 and October 2014, when there were 49 such reviews at a rate of about 1.5 a month, at a time when research and repeated personal testimonies showed the coalition’s social security cuts and reforms were causing severe harm and distress to claimants.
The new figures also show that 19 of the deaths in the last two years involved a claimant viewed as “vulnerable”, while six of the IPRs (and four deaths) related to a claimant of the government’s new and much-criticised universal credit (see separate story).
John McArdle, co-founder of Black Triangle, said ministers “always get up at the despatch box and say they are continually improving the system. This proves that to be false.
“Universal credit should be scrapped, sanctions should be scrapped and the government should call off the dogs, because it is leading to people’s deaths.”
McArdle said that if there was a tragedy involving the deaths of 33 people in a train crash there would be an independent inquiry into what went wrong.
But because these deaths were happening in the social security system, he said, no such public inquiry would take place.
He added: “It just shows a callous disregard for the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable people in society.”
A DWP spokeswoman declined to say whether the figures showed that DWP’s treatment of vulnerable and other benefit claimants had not improved significantly since 2012 and had worsened in the last two years.
She also declined to say if DWP was concerned that there had already been four IPRs following the death of a universal credit claimant, even though only a small number of people are currently claiming UC.
But she said in a statement: “The government is committed to supporting the vulnerable and DWP staff are trained to identify and support people in hardship.
“They can apply special easements to people’s claims and signpost to appropriate local support services.
“IPRs do not seek to identify or apportion blame. They are used as a performance improvement tool that help the department to continually improve how it deals with some of the most complex and challenging cases.”
DWP only released the figures to DNS this week after the Information Commissioner’s Office had reminded the department of its duties under the Freedom of Information Act.
The information was requested on 21 June and should have been provided within 20 working days.
But it was only emailed this week, after ICO wrote to DWP following a complaint lodged by DNS about the department’s failure to respond to the request.
20 September 2018
DWP’s secret benefit deaths reviews: Universal credit death linked to claimant commitment ‘threats’
A secret Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) review into the death of a claimant of universal credit (UC) has criticised the “overtly threatening” nature of the conditions they had to accept when signing up to the new benefit system.
The conclusion by a panel of civil servants relates to just one of 33 deaths, all linked to DWP activity, that have been subject to what are called “internal process reviews” (IPRs) since April 2016.
Brief details of these 33 deaths, and another 17 IPRs carried out into other serious or complex cases involving DWP activity, have been released to Disability News Service by DWP following a freedom of information request.
The panel of reviewers who carried out the IPR into the death linked to universal credit said that it seemed “excessive” for DWP to include eight references to sanctions and how much money a claimant would lose if they breached their “claimant commitment”.
The panel added: “…a better balance could be struck in reminding a client of the consequences of not meeting their obligations and not appearing to be overtly threatening, especially to individuals who are vulnerable.”
DWP has so far refused to say if it altered the claimant commitment – which sets out what conditions a universal credit claimant needs to meet to continue receiving the benefit – as a result of the IPR.
Further details of the circumstances of the death have not been released, as DWP is only obliged to release the recommendations made following each IPR (formerly known as peer reviews), rather than anything that could identify the subject of the review.
Of the 50 IPRs carried out since April 2016, six involved a universal credit claimant, and in four of these cases the claimant had died.
It is also not yet clear whether DWP acted on any of the other recommendations in the IPRs, but the case is likely to raise fresh concerns about the impact of the introduction of universal claimant on disabled people, and others in vulnerable situations.
It will also alarm those who have spent years highlighting concerns about the ongoing impact on disabled people of eight years of benefit cuts and reforms under successive Conservative-led governments.
DWP rules state that the department must carry out an IPR when it is “made aware of the death of a client and it is suggested that it is linked to DWP activity”.
Of all the reviews, four appear to include recommendations for improvements only to local procedures, with another eight (including three IPRs relating to a universal credit claimant) making recommendations for changes to national policy or practice.
One review reminded DWP “customer compliance officers” of the existence of the “six point plan”, which tells staff how to respond if they learn that a benefit claimant suggests they intend to kill themselves or self-harm.
The recommendations that followed another IPR appear to suggest that a “vulnerable” claimant died after DWP failed to carry out a “safeguarding visit” to check on their welfare when they did not return a form explaining why they had missed a work capability assessment (WCA).
Another IPR appears to have investigated a similar death, involving a vulnerable claimant with a mental health condition who failed to turn up for a WCA. That claimant also died.
One case that appears to have led only to recommendations for improvements locally suggests further poor practice by DWP, with the IPR saying that “we should have considered whether [information redacted] was a vulnerable customer and if there were safeguarding issues”.
It adds that DWP’s customer service was “also poor” for apparently telling the vulnerable claimant something before he or she died, although because the end of the sentence has been redacted by DWP it is not clear what was said.
In another case – although this claimant did not die – DWP staff appear to have failed to pick up on references to “suicide” in the online journal that universal credit claimants must keep up-to-date.
One DWP manager told the Independent last October that many universal credit case managers were overwhelmed by their workload and often had dozens of “unseen journal messages they simply don’t have enough time to address”.
The manager also told the website that many colleagues “feel out of their depth with the quantity of claims they manage, resulting in a vast amount of crucial work never being completed until claimants contact us when their payments are inevitably paid incorrectly or not at all”.
In another IPR that followed a claimant’s death, the panel reminded the department that all staff involved in making decisions on benefit claims must be “reminded of the need to make timeous decisions” relating to benefit sanctions.
Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, said: “The connections between the DWP’s actions and the deaths of social security claimants are extremely concerning.
“These figures reveal the devastating impact universal credit is having on disabled people.
“It is shocking that the government is continuing with its roll-out, in spite of this evidence.
“The government must now pause the roll-out and end the hostile environment they have created for disabled people.
“We urgently need an independent investigation into the connections outlined in the internal reviews, before more lives are ruined.”
A spokesperson for Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) said the information released by DWP “highlights failures at many levels”.
DPAC also criticised the IPR panel for suggesting that the key problem with the case involving the universal credit claimant whose death was linked to the “overtly threatening” claimant commitment was with the wording of the document.
The DPAC spokesperson said: “The panel does not address the issue. It is not the wording which needs to be reconsidered, but the fact that claimants deemed vulnerable can be bullied, threatened and intimidated by DWP to a point that their death became the subject of an internal review.
“The concerns about universal credit and its potential for severe harm have now been confirmed.”
The DPAC spokesperson added: “The internal process reviews give a glimpse into the living hell of claimants, where the reckless actions of benefits staff brought grievous harm, extreme distress and fatalities onto benefit claimants.
“And we are already seeing deaths of claimants under universal credit.
“If all the other warnings about universal credit were not enough, this should surely give the government an undeniable indication that they must stop their new hostile environment benefits system.
“To do anything else would mean that the government are knowingly about to bring yet more future deaths of benefit claimants.”
John McArdle, co-founder of Black Triangle, said: “You can see the guidelines regarding vulnerable people are not being followed consistently.
“With the introduction of universal credit, it shows people’s lives are being placed at risk.
“DWP are still playing Russian roulette with people’s lives.
“Universal credit must be stopped in its tracks and it must be scrapped.”
A DWP spokeswoman declined to say how many of the IPR recommendations have been acted on.
She also declined to say whether the universal credit “claimant commitment” recommendations had been acted on, and whether they had been a concern to ministers.
And she declined to say if DWP was concerned that there had been four IPRs following the death of universal credit claimants.
But she said in a statement: “The government is committed to supporting the vulnerable and DWP staff are trained to identify and support people in hardship.
“They can apply special easements to people’s claims and signpost to appropriate local support services.
“IPRs do not seek to identify or apportion blame. They are used as a performance improvement tool that help the department to continually improve how it deals with some of the most complex and challenging cases.”
The latest information about the IPRs was only released by DWP after the Information Commissioner’s Office reminded the department of its duties under the Freedom of Information Act.
The information was requested on 21 June and should have been provided within 20 working days.
But it was only emailed this week, after ICO wrote to DWP following a complaint lodged by DNS about the department’s failure to respond to the request.
20 September 2018
Ministers quietly drop plans for ‘parallel process’ on working-age social care
Ministers have quietly decided to include the support needs of working-age disabled people in their new social care green paper, scrapping the idea of having a separate “parallel programme of work” as they try to address the social care funding crisis.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) previously said it would focus only on older people’s social care in its much-delayed green paper.
The decision to include working-age people’s support needs is likely to be welcomed by most disabled people’s organisations, but DHSC is still facing questions over why it reversed its decision at such a late stage and why it has apparently failed to make any effort to co-produce its policy with disabled people and their user-led organisations.
There are also still concerns over whether the green paper will side-line the support needs of working-age disabled people when it is eventually published.
As recently as last month, a House of Commons Library briefing paper referred to the government’s “parallel process” of work on social care for working-age adults.
But a DHSC spokeswoman has now told DNS that the green paper will “cover care and support for adults of all ages (rather than there being a separate workstream)”.
When questioned further about this, she said: “We have always planned to consider issues relating to all adults receiving social care.
“This will now be taken forward through a single green paper.”
She declined to comment when asked why the government had made this decision, but said disabled people and their organisations – and other “interested parties” – would be able to feed in their views in a consultation on the green paper, when it is published.
The disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell, who chairs the Independent Living Strategy Group, told Disability News Service (DNS): “It would have been nice to be informed of this decision to scrap the parallel process by my fellow parliamentarians in the House of Lords, especially as I had asked formally on two occasions for any progress on the ‘parallel process’.
“So much for close collaboration with disabled people on matters that concern them directly!”
But she welcomed the decision to integrate working-age people into the green paper, which she hoped would be on an equal basis with older people.
She said: “This way, disabled people will not be a tag on, or afterthought, but have full green paper status.
“This is how it should be and something I said most firmly at the first meeting of ‘stakeholders’ with the ministers for disabled people [Sarah Newton], social care [Caroline Dinenage] and local government [Rishi Sunak].”
Baroness Campbell said that this meeting, in February, was the “first and only time” she has been consulted on the government’s social care plans.
She was also highly critical of the plans to simply consult disabled people after the green paper has been published, partly because she has been “highly sceptical of any consultation this government has conducted on pretty much any issue recently”.
She added: “Whatever happened to the progress we made with governments over the last 20 years on co-production, mutuality and equal involvement from the prototype stage?
“Disabled people don’t want to be consulted about policies which will determine the way they live, we want partnerships. Remember: ‘nothing about us, without us!’”
The disabled Liberal Democrat peer Baroness [Celia] Thomas, who speaks for her party on disability in the Lords and is also a member of the Independent Living Strategy Group, said there was continuing “despair” over when the green paper would eventually be published.
She said the news that working-age disabled people would now be included in the green paper “could be good news [but] it could be bad news” as it could either mean a “breath of fresh air” or signify that working-age disabled people will be “an after-thought”.
She added: “Everyone is in the dark.”
The news of the government U-turn emerged following a freedom of information request submitted by DNS, which had asked which committees and working groups had been set up as part of the parallel process, and which organisations were represented on them.
The department said in its response that “no such committees or formal working groups including stakeholders have been set up” as part of its work on working-age social care.
But she said the government had “engaged informally with a number of stake-holders and the insights from this work will inform the social care green paper”.
A DHSC spokeswoman declined to say which organisations it had engaged with, but she said: “We are grateful for the input of stakeholders to the work we have done to date and there will be an opportunity for all interested parties to feed in views through the green paper consultation process.”
DNS reported in March how the government had failed to set up a single committee involving experts from outside the two departments examining the future of working-age social care – DHSC and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government – nearly four months after the parallel programme of work had been announced.
The previous month, ministers had faced criticism after organising a “round table” event on working-age social care without inviting any disabled people’s organisations to attend.
The green paper has always been described by ministers as a document that would lay out the government’s proposals for the future funding of older people’s social care, with a separate programme of work looking at the care needs of working-age disabled people.
But there have been repeated concerns that the government was failing to make any progress on this parallel process and failing to engage with disabled people and their user-led organisations.
The much-delayed green paper is set to be published this autumn.
20 September 2018
New job stats raise questions over ministers’ boasts on disability employment
New figures obtained by a disabled people’s organisation – after ministers refused to commission the work themselves – appear to show how the government relies on the growth in self-employment and part-time jobs to exaggerate its success in increasing disability employment.
Ministers such as work and pensions secretary Esther McVey have repeatedly boasted of how their policies have led to hundreds of thousands more disabled people in work over the last five years.
But those claims have been 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, or are on government training and jobs programmes.
Ministers in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) refused to commission work from ONS – which it told Disability News Service would cost just £125 (plus VAT) – that would show the full, detailed figures.
Now London’s pan-disability disabled people’s organisation Inclusion London has commissioned the work itself from ONS, at the same price of £125 plus VAT.
The new ONS figures* obtained by Inclusion London show that nearly half of the increase in disability employment in the last four years has been due to disabled people becoming self-employed or taking part-time jobs.
Between 2013-14 and 2017-18, the number of full-time disabled employees rose by about 383,000, while the number of disabled people in part-time jobs, self-employment, government training programmes and employed as unpaid family workers increased by about 366,000.
During this period, the number of disabled people in self-employment increased by more than 22 per cent, when the number of non-disabled people who were self-employed rose by just nine per cent.
The increase in the number of disabled people in part-time self-employment increased even faster, by about 25 per cent.
There was, though, also a sharp increase of about 22.5 per cent in full-time disabled employees over the four years, although the number of part-time disabled employees rose even faster, by about 27.5 per cent.
Ellen Clifford, campaigns and policy manager for Inclusion London, pointed to the high number of disabled people who had become self-employed.
She said: “Research by the New Economics Foundation in 2017 found more than half of all self-employed people don’t make a decent living.
“This is even more of an issue for disabled people, whose outgoings tend to be much higher due to unavoidable impairment-related expenditure.
“Anecdotally we have heard about disabled people feeling pressured by their jobcentre to consider becoming self-employed.”
Clifford also highlighted the high proportion of disabled people who have taken part-time jobs.
She said: “This will include things like zero hours contracts which can again easily fail to provide the security, conditions and income levels that disabled people need.
“Studies have confirmed that unsuitable employment is worse for people’s health than no employment.”
She urged the government to “look at the types of jobs and work that disabled people are moving or potentially being pushed into and to address issues of quality instead of making the aim to get people off out-of-work benefits at any cost”.
Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), said DWP had yet again “botched” its analysis of statistics.
She said: “Disabled people are particularly over-represented amongst the self-employed and as most people are aware, self-employment is often a route to employment taken by those excluded from mainstream labour markets.
“The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) have revealed that self-employed workers [can end up] £3,000 per annum worse off than those in employment with the roll-out of universal credit and are calling on the government, like DPAC, to stop this roll-out.
“They highlight too the instability of income that self-employment creates and the negative impact this has on the wellbeing of those working in this sector.”
A DWP spokeswoman declined to comment about the part-time work figures and whether the government agreed with calls to look at the types and quality of work disabled people are moving into.
But she said: “We welcome recent increases in the disability employment rate, with 600,000 more disabled people in work between 2013 and 2017.
“This analysis shows that employment and self-employment for disabled people both increased by around a fifth between 2013-14 and 2016-17.”
*It is not possible to compare today’s figures with 2009-10, before the Conservative-led coalition came to power, because of a change in in 2013 in how the survey data ONS uses to calculate its figures was collected
20 September 2018
Lib Dem conference: Universal credit migration is set for disaster, warns Lloyd
The impact of the “migration” of hundreds of thousands of disabled people onto universal credit from next year could prove disastrous because of the “hoops” the government will force claimants to leap through, according to a disabled MP.
Stephen Lloyd, work and pensions spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said the migration process was set to be “a disaster” for those disabled people currently claiming employment and support allowance (ESA), including many people with learning difficulties and mental health conditions.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is set to start testing the process of moving hundreds of thousands of existing ESA claimants – its estimates suggest it will eventually need to “migrate” 750,000 – onto universal credit from January, and intends to “increase volumes” by July and complete the process in 2023.
ESA claimants will be among those receiving a letter telling them that their existing benefits are about to stop and that they will need to make a new claim for universal credit.
They will have to fill out an online application, and then make at least one and possibly two, or even three, visits to their local job centre in the space of just one month, to validate their claim.
If they fail to do this, said Lloyd – who was speaking to Disability News Service at his party’s annual conference in Brighton – they will get “kicked out” and be left with no benefits, as their ESA claim will have ended.
A DWP memo, produced in June, said the department would give claimants at least one month to make their claim, although there will be “flexibility for this period to be extended” to up to three months.
But Lloyd said: “What on earth is going to happen? You have got to do all this in a month, otherwise you’re going to be kicked off. That’s going to be catastrophic.
“We have got to stop this, it’s ridiculous. It’s not going to work.”
He has written to work and pensions secretary Esther McVey to seek clarification on what claimants will be asked to do.
Lloyd said: “I have to get the minister to understand you have to give them more time, otherwise there is going to be a car crash.”
His hope is that pressure on McVey through parliamentary questions and an early day motion will force her to back down and ease the conditions imposed on claimants before regulations are laid before parliament in October.
Concerns about the migration have also been raised by the mental health charity Mind, which said: “Many people experiencing mental health problems have told us they are extremely worried about what these proposals will mean for them.
“As people begin to move over to universal credit, we are concerned people will fall through the cracks, and see their benefits stopped entirely.
“It’s appalling to place all the responsibility on unwell people to reapply for a new benefit and risk losing their income in the process.
“The government should change their plans so that no-one faces having their benefits stopped before they move to universal credit.”
A DWP spokeswoman said: “We are working closely with stakeholders and other parties to design the best possible process for the migration of our customers to universal credit.
“Our focus will be on safeguarding claimants and ensuring a smooth transition with uninterrupted support.
“Based on early planning there is no evidence to indicate that claimants would need to come into the jobcentre so frequently and therefore we do not recognise this claim.
“We plan to have a comprehensive and well-supported preparation period for claimants which will include a variety of communication formats, including face-to-face, internet and postal notification, to ensure claimants are aware of the managed migration process.
“There is flexibility to extend that period if necessary; and a process to ensure that, before the existing benefits are stopped, our staff will check for evidence of complex needs or vulnerability or disability and act accordingly to support the claimant.
“Additionally, if a claimant misses their deadline to claim there are provisions in the draft regulations that will allow DWP to back-date their claim.”
Lloyd said he has already tried locally to ensure that the impact of universal credit and other welfare reforms would not be as serious as it has been in other constituencies.
He brought food banks, housing association representatives, Citizen’s Advice and his own staff together in advance of the rollout of universal credit in his Eastbourne constituency last October, which he said helped ensure there was much less of a spike in the use of food banks in the town than in other similar constituencies.
Lloyd also believes that he is the only MP in the country who allocates a member of staff to attend regular benefit appeal tribunals on behalf of constituents.
So far this year, the staff member has attended about 70 tribunals (with a success rate of about 70 per cent).
During Lloyd’s previous stint as an MP, between 2010 and 2015, the same member of staff attended about 150 tribunals in four years.
He said: “As far as I know, no other MP’s office in the country sends one of their staff [so] regularly to tribunals.
“I basically lose him for three-quarters of a day a week, but it is the right thing to do.”
Meanwhile, tributes have been paid to the co-chair of the Liberal Democrat Disability Association (LDDA), Robert Adamson, who died just days before the conference began.
Born in Doncaster, and a retired civil servant, he was a former parliamentary candidate for the party and also stood in European and local elections, and was a former chair of the party’s Yorkshire and Humber region.
Baroness [Sal] Brinton, the party’s president, told the conference: “Robert never let his very disabling condition get in the way of campaigning locally and nationally.”
And Gemma Roulston, previously LDDA co-chair and now the association’s chair, said: “He wanted to improve the lives of people with or without disabilities, and anyone who was impacted by disability.
“He was always there for you, and was a good person to go to for advice and support.
“Conference hasn’t felt the same without him. He made a difference to people.”
20 September 2018
TUC piles pressure on Labour with vote to scrap universal credit
Trade unions have voted at their annual congress to call on the Labour party to shift its stance on universal credit and promise to scrap the controversial benefit system.
The annual TUC Congress approved a motion last week that had already been passed by disabled trade unionists at May’s TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference.
The motion called on TUC’s general council to tell the next Labour government to “stop and scrap” universal credit and carry out “far-reaching social security reform that truly makes work pay” and protects those unable to work.
Labour’s policy is currently to simply “pause and fix” universal credit rather than scrapping it.
The motion said universal credit – which combines six benefits into one – was a “draconian” system that had left many people in “debt, eviction and hunger”.
It pointed out that workers could – for the first time – face “savage sanctions for not demonstrating that they are seeking to improve their paid income”, while “part-time workers could be forced to leave work that suits their disability or family life for a worse paid, full-time job”.
Dave Allan, chair of the national disabled members’ committee of Unite the Union, proposed the motion on behalf of the TUC disabled workers’ committee, and it was seconded by Mandy Hudson, of the National Education Union.
Allan told delegates that the disabled workers’ committee had worked tirelessly to warn of the impact of universal credit and its roll-out, which he said would “fall like a hammer blow upon seven million households – including one million low-paid workers”.
He said there had been an “utter lack of support” for disabled claimants, while the “cruel programme of sanctions” was “landing on claimants like a series of bureaucratic punishment beatings”.
Allan said the “misery” and “destruction” caused by universal credit was no accident.
He said: “This is the cold, calculated and systematic impoverishment of disabled people. This is malice by design.”
He added: “A pause of the roll-out will not do. We are not just calling on the government to simply ‘think again’.
“We are calling for the immediate, unconditional and total ban on universal credit.”
Allan told Disability News Service this week that the TUC vote had been unanimous and that the next step was to persuade the Labour party to commit to scrapping universal credit and include that pledge in its manifesto for the next general election.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady added: “All politicians need to look at the disastrous effects universal credit is having around the UK, at how hard disabled people have been hit and how it is pushing people into rent arrears and poverty, leaving them turning to food banks.
“The roll out of universal credit should be stopped, before it continues to inflict more damage.
“And a fundamental rethink is required of the social security system, and how it can deliver a fair and dignified system for everyone.”
A TUC spokesman stressed afterwards that O’Grady was calling for universal credit to be scrapped and not just to “stop and fix” the system.
He said: “The TUC policy is not stop and fix. Our congress endorsed a policy of stop and scrap.
“The immediate priority has to be to stop the rollout, as that is the immediate danger to disabled people.
“But the current universal credit is not fit for purpose and TUC staff will now pursue the direction set by congress by developing policy for a system to succeed it that better meets the needs of disabled people and others who rely on social security.”
20 September 2018
Lib Dem conference: Members vote for rights-based reform to mental health laws
Liberal Democrats have called for an end to “discriminatory” laws that allow people with mental health conditions or learning difficulties who have capacity to make their own decisions to be detained against their will.
Current mental health legislation means that a person assessed as needing urgent medical treatment and assessment because of a “mental disorder” can be detained in hospital against their will.
But party members argued that detaining people based on whether they have a “mental disorder” was discriminatory, a breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and discouraged people from being open about their mental health.
Party members voted at their annual conference in Brighton this week to demand sweeping reform of the law in England and Wales, despite substantial opposition.
They agreed that people with mental health conditions or learning difficulties should not be forced to have medical treatment unless they do not have the capacity to make a decision about whether they wish to have that treatment.
And they said that people should be able to make advance decisions – as defined in the Mental Capacity Act – to refuse detention or treatment.
They also fended off efforts from some party members to amend the motion so that individuals could be forced to be treated and detained, even if they had capacity, if their refusal would pose a serious risk of harm to themselves or others.
One delegate compared the current legislation to historic witchcraft and slavery laws, and the Spanish Inquisition.
He and others argued that people who have capacity to make their own decisions, but have a mental health condition or learning difficulty, should not face the possibility of being detained against their wishes in hospital.
Henry Jones, who has a degenerative neurological condition, described how he had been held against his will in hospital for six months.
He had spoken at the time of wanting to end his own life because of his condition, and as a result “two large men showed up at my home” and took him into detention in a locked mental health ward.
He told delegates: “Even with my condition I had capacity. They treated me like an animal, they did everything they could to break me.
“It achieved nothing except to make me never ever want to engage with mental health services.”
But, he said, it did “make me want to reform the law before passing on”.
He said that if he had been treated “like a human” by mental health professionals he could have “talked openly about what was happening in my brain… it would have saved me and others around me four years of hell”.
He added: “All I am asking for is for us to have the same basic human dignity that other people have.”
Another party member, Andrew Muir, told the conference how his wife had been sectioned in 2006 after she complained about treatment she had received at a Scottish hospital.
She was forced to take medication while in detention for 51 days – when there was no evidence of mental ill-health – and was physically abused by staff, and then forced to take drugs for another year when she was released on a community order.
He also said that the review of the Mental Health Act 1983 – being led by psychiatrist Professor Sir Simon Wessely – should instead be led by a human rights expert.
Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton also spoke in favour of the motion.
He said: “In Scotland – and I am sure south of the border – we are stripping people of their basic right to be heard.
“People in the grip of mental illness, that’s when their human rights matter most.”
A string of mental health professionals spoke against the motion, including one who accused it of “muddle” and being “full of misconceptions”, and another who said it was “unworkable and not sensible” and would remove protections that were available in the Mental Health Act.
But one psychiatrist, Mohsin Khan, who supported the motion, pointed out that similar laws to those suggested had been introduced in some US states and Northern Ireland.
He said the motion “merely brings mental health in line with what happens with physical health”, and would allow adults “who have consistent, long-term capacity to rationally decide to make decisions for their own body for the future”.
20 September 2018
Pair of projects set to improve countryside access
User-led organisations have played a key role in two major new projects that aim to improve access for disabled tourists and ramblers.
In Oxfordshire, Natural England has opened the National Land Access Centre (NLAC), which will provide training for landowners, farmers and rights of way officers on how to ensure that gates and other countryside obstructions are accessible to disabled people.
And in Lancashire, Blackpool-based disabled people’s organisation (DPO) Disability First is celebrating a government grant of nearly £1 million for a project that will improve access to the Fylde, Wyre and Blackpool coastline.
NLAC, based at Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve, will offer training courses that show how to use, maintain and install fences, barriers and stiles that meet a new British Standard, which was published in February.
Natural England, the government’s advisers on the natural environment, has worked closely on the plans with the user-led charity Disabled Ramblers, and project partners The British Horse Society, the specialist gate supplier Centrewire and the Pittecroft Trust.
John Cutherbertson, chair of Disabled Ramblers, told Disability News Service (DNS): “There is a huge swathe of the population who cannot clamber over stiles.
“What we found is the main thing that stops people accessing the countryside is the lack of understanding by those people who are putting these gates in.
“Some of them still think that the less able would prefer to stay at home and watch the telly.
“They don’t realise that people want to get out there and need to get out there for their mental health as well as their physical well-being.”
He said Disabled Ramblers was trying to educate these groups, such as farmers, landowners and rights of way officers, about the “least restrictive” way to enclose land, and ideally install gates that disabled people can open and close on their own, without needing someone with them.
He said he hoped that the selection of gates and barriers on show at the centre would grow and would be joined eventually by accessible versions of other equipment, such as bridges and boardwalks.
Disabled Ramblers has provided an off-road mobility scooter to the centre so people who take the courses can use the vehicle to see how difficult it can be to manoeuvre through such obstacles.
Cuthbertson said that Centrewire, which was founded by Tom Bindoff, a non-disabled member of Disabled Ramblers, had been keen to modify its products to make them more accessible.
Bindoff has even designed a “kissing gate” that can be opened by a scooter-user using a RADAR key, he said.
The disabled Tory peer Lord Blencathra, deputy chair of Natural England, said: “Improved access will help to connect more people with their natural environment, giving them a chance to enjoy our countryside, its open space and fascinating wildlife – all key aspects of the government’s 25 year environment plan.”
Meanwhile, funding of £985,000 has been awarded to a consortium led by Disability First through the government’s Coastal Communities Fund.
Alan Reid, chief executive of Disability First, said his organisation was “thrilled and very proud” to be awarded the funding in its 25th year as a charity.
He said he wanted the Fylde, Blackpool and Wyre coast to “strive to become a more truly inclusive resort”.
The Access Fylde Coast project is supported by Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre councils, Blackpool Transport, Marketing Lancashire, Lancaster University, the access information provider DisabledGo, Blackpool’s Coastal Community Team and the area’s local Volunteering Centre.
Reid said the project, which will last nearly two years, was “exciting and unique”.
He told DNS the scheme would improve access for both visitors and residents by offering free access audits and disability awareness training to local shops and businesses.
The project will also develop a culture and heritage mobile phone app, linked to existing apps offered by Blackpool Transport and DisabledGo, and which will include a British Sign Language interpretation service.
He said: “This will support people with a variety of disabilities with tram and bus access once they step off the train station in Blackpool and venues will have details of their particular disabled facilities and heritage information on the app.”
The project also plans to showcase professional disabled performers at Blackpool Opera House theatre and disabled artists in a local art gallery, and improve access at existing events including the Blackpool Illuminations switch-on and Lytham Festival.
He said there was also the possibility that a disabled performer could perform at, or even switch on, the illuminations next year.
On a visit to Lytham Saint Annes, coastal communities minister Jake Berry said: “It’s really exciting to see money from the Coastal Communities Fund help kick-start these shovel-ready projects, which have the potential to unlock the barriers to development and growth in our coastal communities.”
The Coastal Communities Fund was established to support coastal projects in the UK to deliver sustainable growth and jobs.
20 September 2018
Lib Dem conference: Party anger over DPAC’s ‘don’t vote Lib Dem’ call
Two leading disabled Liberal Democrats have criticised anti-cuts activists over their public call for disabled people not to vote for their party.
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) published a high-profile message on social media this week during the party’s annual conference in Brighton, warning that disabled people “won’t forget” and “won’t forgive” its junior role in the coalition government between 2010 and 2015.
But David Buxton, the co-founder of the Liberal Democrat Disability Association, who has worked on campaigns with DPAC, said he would no longer support its work because of the message.
The party’s work and pensions spokesman, Stephen Lloyd, was also critical of DPAC.
But DPAC, which is not aligned with any political party, has defended its position.
It said it held the Liberal Democrats “jointly responsible” for coalition cuts and reforms such as the closure of the Independent Living Fund, damaging policies on the work capability assessment (WCA), the bedroom tax and the introduction of personal independence payment and universal credit.
It also pointed to the coalition’s “hostile environment benefits regime” and the “avoidable deaths and suicides of benefit claimants during the coalition years”.
DPAC added: “Our message to the Liberal Democrats is – you don’t get to walk away from your actions in those years – disabled people will remember.”
But Buxton said he was “very disappointed” by the DPAC message because he had been “very supportive of their work which has been excellent and has been important in stopping further cuts.
“Their job is to stop the cuts and we have been very supportive of that.”
He told Disability News Service at the party’s annual conference in Brighton that the coalition years had been “a very difficult time” and the Liberal Democrats had “tried to stop further cuts and were successful in stopping those cuts, but there were areas where the books had to be balanced”.
He asked why DPAC was not criticising Labour in a similar way.
He said Labour’s last government had rejected pleas from Deaf people for a British Sign Language act and had also been responsible for cutting disability services during its 13 years of office, while many Labour-run councils were now cutting services even though some, like Hammersmith and Fulham, had managed to protect disabled people from cuts.
He said: “Should Deaf people say they never forgive the Labour party? Thankfully, Labour have now changed their mind [on the need for a BSL act].”
He added: “Political parties can change. We have changed as a party. We are no longer in coalition government.
“There has been a change in leadership and we do recognise that we have to find ways of creating new policy that would be fairer and we will demand better for disabled people.”
Lloyd said DPAC’s message was “very disappointing” and ignored the fact that Labour brought in the WCA and awarded the contract to carry out the assessments to the much-criticised contractor Atos.
He said he was “proud” of what his party had achieved in coalition when facing “very challenging issues” with the economy, although there had been “some decisions in DWP that were wrong” and “others that were right”.
But Bob Ellard, a member of DPAC’s national steering group, said: “We are not party political and we will criticise any party as we see fit.
“We will be publicly criticising Labour over their ‘pause and fix’ policy for universal credit during their conference and we’ve been very vocal in criticising Labour in the past.
“We’ve also criticised the Green party over their policy on assisted suicide.
“And we have been very critical of the actions of Labour councils.
“The Lib Dems have Vince Cable as leader, who was a cabinet minister in the coalition, and many of their MPs were MPs in the coalition and voted for Tory welfare reform.
“Just as the tweet says, ‘They don’t get to walk away from that.’”
20 September 2018
Lib Dem conference: Lloyd backtracks on support for Duncan Smith
A Liberal Democrat MP who has supported Tory former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has admitted he gave him “more benefit of the doubt” than he should have done during the five years of the coalition government.
Stephen Lloyd, who served on the Commons work and pensions committee while Liberal Democrat ministers were serving in the coalition government between 2010 and 2015, has previously defended Duncan Smith.
And during this week’s annual party conference in Brighton, he told a fringe meeting that Duncan Smith had had some good ideas about the importance of employment in addressing disadvantage but had been undermined by right-wing papers like the Daily Mail publishing stories about benefit “scroungers”.
When asked later about this statement by Disability News Service (DNS), Lloyd said he had challenged Duncan Smith in parliament on his inappropriate language.
But he insisted that DNS was only “half right” in suggesting that Duncan Smith was responsible for whipping up hostility in tabloid papers like the Mail.
DNS then repeated comments Duncan Smith had told The Sun in late 2010 in which he said he had been “appalled” at how easy it has been in the past for people to claim incapacity benefit and cheat the system and said that Sun readers were right to be “upset and angry” when they saw neighbours who do not work.
Duncan Smith also told the Sun that Britain had “managed to create a block of people” who “do not add anything to the greatness of this country” and had “become conditioned to be users of services, not providers of money.
“This is a huge part of the reason we have this massive deficit.
“We don’t want to talk about scroungers in the future, we want to talk about British people being renowned the world over for working hard.”
Lloyd said again that he had challenged Duncan Smith over the language he had used.
But he said he now acknowledged that in his own zeal to see more people in work, he could have overlooked the harm caused by Duncan Smith and his supporters.
He said: “I think I did and I acknowledge that. In recognising that Iain Duncan Smith got the importance of jobs I can see that in coalition there were times when I would have given him more benefit of the doubt than I should have done.”
20 September 2018
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com
Since our first march against Tory austerity cuts in 2010 thousands of disabled people have been killed by the Tory’s policies and mindless cruelty. Thousands more have lost vital funding for independent living support and are either trapped in care homes or their own homes. Continent disabled people have been refused the human support they need to go to the toilet and instead been left with packs of incontinence pads.Others are being charged into further poverty as local authorities hike up their charges for social care.
This year on our 8th anniversary we’re going back to the Tory Party Conference in Birmingham to make sure we are not forgotten and to highlight once more the grave and systematic violations of our human rights which we have endured for 8 long years.
Join us on Wednesday October 3rd in Birmingham.
Meet for 11.30 am outside Birmingham Council House, Victoria Square or if raining heavily in Starbucks on Colmore Row just to the right of it.
Bring things to make noise with and earplugs.Some funding available for travel costs priority will go to full members of DPAC but if you need help email email@example.com
DWP breaks law over secret reports on universal credit deaths
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is refusing to release evidence that would show how many secret reports it has compiled into the deaths of claimants of its new universal credit, in a fresh breach of freedom of information laws.
DWP compiles an internal process review every time a “suicide is associated with DWP activity”, as well as in some other cases involving the deaths of disabled or “vulnerable” benefit claimants.
The last batch of reviews released by DWP were published in heavily redacted form two years ago.
But Disability News Service (DNS) is keen to secure evidence of how many reviews have been carried out since then relating to the introduction of the much-criticised universal credit benefit system.
Repeated concerns have been raised about the introduction of universal credit and its impact on claimants in vulnerable situations.
Disabled activists have warned that universal credit is “rotten to the core” and have warned of “soaring” rates of sanctions and foodbank use in areas where it has been introduced.
In June, a report by the National Audit Office said DWP was failing to support “vulnerable” claimants and was unable to monitor how they were being treated under universal credit.
In July, employment minister Alok Sharma was asked by MPs on the Commons work and pensions committee why the benefits of hundreds of sick and disabled universal credit claimants were apparently being sanctioned, even though they should not have had to meet any of the strict conditions imposed by the system.
In the same month, further concerns were raised by the committee about disabled people with high support needs who claim universal credit and face the possibility of strict conditions – such as being forced to carry out hours of job searches every week – as they wait for a work capability assessment.
And MPs on the public accounts committee heard, also in July, how claimants were facing “considerable hardship and considerable deterioration in their mental health” because of universal credit.
As a result of earlier concerns about universal credit, DNS submitted a freedom of information request to DWP on 21 June, asking how many internal process reviews had been carried out since April 2016; how many involved a claimant who had died; and how many involved a claimant of universal credit.
The request also asked for DWP to release the recommendations made by each review.
But DWP’s freedom of information team has failed to respond to the request, and to a follow-up email on 7 August asking why it had not replied, even though it is legally obliged to respond within 20 working days under the Freedom of Information Act.
A legal case taken by DNS secured the publication of redacted versions of DWP’s secret reports – then known as peer reviews – for the first time in 2016, thanks to the pro bono legal work of barrister Elizabeth Kelsey, from Monckton Chambers.
The information rights tribunal ruled in 2016 that DWP should release recommendations from all the peer reviews it held, although not any information directly related to the people who died.
A further batch of redacted reviews into another nine benefit-related deaths was released by DWP later in 2016, following pressure from the Information Commissioner’s Office, but it is believed that no further reports have been released since then.
Last week, DNS revealed how DWP had refused to release other secret reports connected with its welfare reforms, this time those written by disabled people who had been recruited as “community partners” to work with its jobcentres.
When asked why DWP’s freedom of information team had refused to respond to the internal process review request, a DWP spokeswoman said: “As explained last week, any issues relating to FOI requests can be dealt with by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“If you are unhappy with the handling of an FOI request please contact the Information Commissioner’s Office.”
DNS will be lodging a complaint with the information commissioner about DWP’s failure to release the internal process reviews.
23 August 2018
Minister snubs DPOs – and ‘breaches UN convention’ – by refusing meeting
The minister for disabled people is refusing to meet a coalition of disabled people’s organisations, in an apparent breach of the UN disability convention.
The coalition wrote to Sarah Newton yesterday (Wednesday) to express its “deep disappointment and concern” about her refusal to meet them to discuss the UK’s failure to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
The letter, signed by 14 prominent disabled leaders, asks Newton: “How can the government improve the lives of disabled people if it is not engaging directly with disabled people?”
The UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities told the UK government last September in its “concluding observations” that it needed to make more than 80 improvements to the ways its laws and policies affect disabled people’s human rights.
In its review of the UK’s implementation of CRPD, the committee raised concerns and made recommendations on all but three of the 33 treaty articles the UK could have breached.
Newton’s letter refusing a meeting was sent on 10 July, two weeks before international development secretary Penny Mordaunt told an international disability rights conference in London: “When disabled people are included, great things happen.”
Mordaunt and her civil servants spent much of the Global Disability Summit last month telling other countries and organisations to sign up to a new Charter for Change.
The charter calls on those signing it to “hold ourselves and others to account for the promises we have made here today” and to “strive for real change” through implementation of CRPD.
CRPD says (in article four) that governments must, in implementing the convention, “closely consult with and actively involve persons with disabilities… through their representative organizations”.
It also says (article 33) that “civil society, in particular persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, shall be involved and participate fully” in monitoring the implementation of the convention in each country.
Newton’s letter appears to breach both article four and article 33 as the coalition has been seeking a ministerial meeting since February.
Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, one of the coalition’s members, says in yesterday’s letter: “We are extremely disappointed that as minister for disabled people you are not able to find the time to meet with the only UK wide coalition of disabled people’s organisations set up to monitor and engage with the UK government on CRPD issues.”
Other members of the UK CRPD Monitoring Coalition of Disabled People’s Organisations include Disability Wales, The Alliance for Inclusive Education, Disabled People Against Cuts, Sisters of Frida, Inclusion Scotland and the Mental Health Resistance Network, several of which are members of the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance.
In her two-paragraph letter to the coalition, Newton says she will not be able to meet with them “due to ongoing diary commitments” but “would be pleased to have my officials do so on my behalf”.
It is not the first time that Newton’s commitment to disability rights has been questioned.
Last December, she refused to explain why she had apparently failed to attend or organise any events – or even post a message of support on social media – on the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD).
The coalition’s letter also reminds Newton that she previously stated that she strongly welcomed a meeting to discuss how the government was implementing CRPD.
In February, the coalition wrote to the prime minister, Theresa May, to question the lack of progress since the UN committee produced its “damning” report and to ask for a meeting to discuss their concerns.
In her response, sent on 25 April, Newton said: “I strongly welcome your proposal of a meeting to discuss how Government is implementing the concluding observations of the Committee for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and planning to work with organisations led by disabled people.
“This closely fits with work I have been leading with the Office for Disability Issues within government.”
DWP had not been able to comment by 1.30pm today (Thursday), after being approached yesterday afternoon.
23 August 2018
Leonard Cheshire facing care regulator questions after third Greathouse death
A disability charity is facing questions from the care regulator after a third former resident of a care home died within a month of its sudden closure.
Last week, Disability News Service (DNS) reported concerns from disabled campaigners, relatives and former staff at Greathouse, near Chippenham, after it emerged that two of its former residents had died soon after being forced to leave the home, which closed on 27 July.
But it has now emerged that a third former resident – who was believed to have been terminally-ill – has also died after being moved to a nearby care home.
Another 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 since the closure, while as many as five or six former residents have had to be admitted for hospital treatment.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has now told DNS that it has asked Leonard Cheshire for information about the deaths.
Debbie Ivanova, CQC’s deputy chief inspector of adult social care, said yesterday (Wednesday): “Any death is a matter of concern – and all providers are obliged to notify us whenever a person has died in their care.
“Exactly how we follow up this information will vary according to the circumstances in each case.
“We are aware of the concerns in this case and we have asked [Leonard Cheshire] to provide us with further information – and we will decide what action we take once we are aware of the full circumstances.”
Last week, 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 serious health problems were connected to the closure.
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.
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.
Three former Greathouse residents are believed to have 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.
Leonard Cheshire faced allegations of “insensitive and abusive” behaviour in May over the way managers from head office told disabled residents of Greathouse that they were about to close the home.
About 20 residents were given just three months’ notice of the charity’s plans to close Greathouse, with Leonard Cheshire blaming staffing problems, a drop in the demand for places and the cost of repairs.
Leonard Cheshire refused to say yesterday (Wednesday) if it was taking any responsibility for the deaths or if it would be investigating what had happened, claiming it would be “inappropriate” to do so.
In response to the death of the third former resident, a spokeswoman said: “We were sorry to hear this news and our thoughts are with [his] family.
“Any unexpected death is always reported and investigated by the relevant regulatory authorities so it is inappropriate to comment further at this point.
“In line with best practice, detailed support and care plans were in place for the former residents of Greathouse prior to their move.
“This included health checks and the transfer of records around complex conditions to the new providers.”
Wiltshire County Council said today (Thursday) that it would be contacting all the local authorities that had funded residents at Greathouse, after it learned of the deaths.
A council spokesman said: “There were 21 people who were residents/received support at Greathouse (of which we fund eight) so we are also making contact with all of the other funding authorities to speak to them about the situation.
“We already have regular direct contact with the people we fund and are not aware of any issues related to their ongoing care.”
He had said earlier, in a statement: “We are very sorry to hear that some former residents of Greathouse have passed away since the home closed, and our thoughts are with the families affected.
“We currently fund the care and support needs of eight people who were previously receiving care services at Greathouse [four residents and four who received respite and day services] and their needs are now being met by other providers.
“Although the closure notice period is out of our control, we always ask for as much notice as possible when homes have to close but this depends on the individual circumstances.
“As soon as we were made aware of the closure, we put processes in place to work with partners to ensure a smooth transition of residents to a new care provision of their choice.
“Our safeguarding team work to protect vulnerable people’s right to live in safety, free from abuse or neglect.
“We are in regular contact with the residents whose care we fund and we have not been made aware of any safeguarding issues related to them.
“We are happy to speak to anyone who has any concerns about the ongoing care of the former residents at Greathouse.”
A CQC spokeswoman said earlier this week that it was “unable to influence a provider’s decision to close a service” and that its priority was to ensure “consistently safe, effective, responsive and high quality care is given to people who use services and we will always take action when we consider it necessary to do so”.
She said CQC had been contacted “by some relatives and people who used the service raising concerns about the closure and the way and manner it was being handled.
“In response to these concerns we maintained regular contact with the provider, [Leonard Cheshire], and received regular updates from them notifying us of how and when people were moved to alternative accommodation.
“Our understanding is that the provider also worked with the various local authorities involved to ensure that suitable alternative accommodation was found and in addition provided support to people and their relatives, including discussing options and facilitating visits to their new homes prior to moving in.”
23 August 2018
Deaf campaigner takes court action over BSL jury ban
A Deaf campaigner has launched a legal action aimed at stopping the government discriminating against users of British Sign Language by preventing them from serving on juries.
David Buxton, chief executive of the London-based disabled people’s organisation Action on Disability, is seeking a judicial review of the government’s failure to allow him to sit on a jury.
He was called up for jury service at Kingston Crown Court earlier this year, but when he told the Jury Central Summoning Bureau he was Deaf, he was informed that he was not required.
A crown court judge later deferred a decision on whether he would be allowed to serve as a juror.
In his claim for judicial review – which is being funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission – Buxton is arguing that justice secretary David Gauke is discriminating against him and breaching the Equality Act’s public sector equality duty, and the Human Rights Act, by not allowing him to serve on a jury with the assistance of an interpreter.
The Ministry of Justice said this week that allowing a non-juror into the jury room during its deliberations breaches common law.
But Buxton’s call is backed by the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, which said last September that the UK government should enable BSL-users “to fully and equally participate as jurors in court proceedings”, under article 13 (access to justice) of the UN disability convention.
The committee, in its concluding observations on the government’s implementation of the convention, said it was concerned that “regulations exclude persons with hearing impairments from participation in jury proceedings, and that personal assistants/interpreters are not deemed to constitute procedural accommodation”.
The refusal to allow BSL-users to take part as jurors is a long-standing source of frustration for many Deaf campaigners.
Jeff McWhinney, at the time the chief executive of the British Deaf Association (BDA), was told by a crown court judge in 1999 that he could not let him serve as a juror because the law prevented him bringing an interpreter – a “13th person” – into the jury room.
The Labour government said it was considering a change in the law at the time, but successive governments have failed to take steps to do so in the last 19 years.
BDA said it had persuaded the Ministry of Justice to look at this and other issues affecting d/Deaf people across prisons, courts and juries, but that the government had yet to take any “meaningful action”.
Now Buxton, himself a former BDA chief executive, has launched another legal bid to force a change in the law.
He spoke out this week as the high court rejected his separate judicial review claim that the government had discriminated against him and other BSL-users by imposing an Access to Work cap that affects those with the highest support needs (see separate story).
Buxton said that ruling showed that the Equality Act “does not sufficiently protect Deaf people using BSL despite ministers and MPs repeatedly saying that it does.
“This judicial review judgment shows how hard it is to protect our rights as Deaf people using BSL as our first or preferred language.
“The government supports the economies of cost over our basic human rights, therefore we have to campaign for the Equality Act to be strengthened, especially as there is no legal status for BSL in this current act.”
He said that one reasonable adjustment that would solve the problem of the “13th person in the jury room” would be for the court to provide an interpreter in another room while he watched a video relay screen in the jury room.
The failure to allow BSL-users to serve on juries is further evidence, Buxton believes, that the Equality Act 2010 does not provide sufficient protection to Deaf people who use BSL, “despite ministers and MPs repeatedly saying that it does”.
A BDA spokeswoman said: “The current UK practice of denying Deaf people the right to sit on a jury is an overt form of institutional discrimination and failure to accord Deaf people their rights as full citizens.
“Justice should not only be received but also dispensed by all sections of the community including Deaf people.”
Louise Whitfield, Buxton’s solicitor, from legal firm Deighton Pierce Glynn, said the jury case would “further test the government to show its commitment to the spirit of the Equality Act or to continue simply ignoring the fact that it is possible for Deaf people to serve as jurors in this modern, inclusive and accessible society without any direct or indirect discrimination”.
A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “It would be inappropriate to comment while legal proceedings are ongoing.”
23 August 2018
Deaf boss forced to appeal for charity support after Access to Work court defeat
A Deaf chief executive is having to appeal to charity to fund the support he needs to do his job, after the high court decided that a cap the government imposed on Access to Work (AtW) payments did not breach the Equality Act.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) set an annual cap of £42,500 on AtW payments in 2015, but later increased it to £57,200 (twice the annual salary) after David Buxton launched a high court challenge, funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Buxton argued that the higher cap on AtW payments – which fund workplace adjustments for disabled people such as support workers and travel costs – still had a disproportionate impact on the job and career prospects of Deaf users of British Sign Language (BSL) and other disabled people with high support needs.
He said this placed them at a disadvantage when trying to get into jobs and develop their careers.
Now Mr Justice Kerr has ruled that the higher cap did not breach the government’s public sector equality duty and was not “indirectly discriminatory”.
He said the cap was not introduced as a cost-cutting measure but “as an intended cost-neutral measure, changing the distribution of available funding but not its overall level”.
And he concluded that the higher cap “strikes a balance” between funding more low-level cost awards and the needs of existing high-cost recipients, who must “forego some of the available funds to provide the money to spend on achieving the government’s aims”.
But Buxton, chief executive of the London-based disabled people’s organisation Action on Disability, said this week that the court’s ruling means he will now have to seek support from charitable trusts or donors to pay for the BSL interpreters he needs to do his job.
Buxton, whose first language is BSL, believes that Deaf people are being “punished” by the government for their high support needs through the “ideologically driven” cap, which was “directly discriminatory towards d/Deaf people”.
The cap means he currently only receives enough support to pay for one BSL interpreter for four days a week.
He said that this forces him to spend large parts of the week re-arranging his schedule to ensure there is an interpreter in the office when he needs one.
He also has to pay for a second interpreter to cover meetings that will last more than an hour, to allow the first interpreter to have the necessary breaks.
Evening meetings are an even greater stretch on his AtW support budget as they are more expensive.
This means he is frequently left with enough interpreter support for just three days a week, or sometimes just two.
And he can never predict when he will receive unexpected phone calls, or if staff will need to see him urgently at short notice.
He said: “This cap has caused me a lot of stress and isolation. Some days I don’t have any funds to pay for interpreters, mainly because I booked co-workers on other days, [and because] evening meetings cost more.
“I had to organise my AtW support nearly every day, planning ahead, making sure that I have enough cover. This is overbearing and unnecessarily creates hours of extra work.”
He added: “DWP did not assess or meet me at all. They simply decided to give me funding at the level of the cap, expecting me to sort myself out by getting less support every day.”
Buxton said he had worked “so hard for many years” to reach his current position, which he achieved because of his skills and experience, not because he was Deaf or a BSL-user.
He said: “The cap has real and lasting effects on my ability to do my job.
“This is not about greed, it is not about having every whim catered to – it is about ensuring that of the many things that I have to think about in my role, that communication and language access are not among them.”
And he questioned whether such a cap would be appropriate for a minister who used BSL as their first language.
He is also concerned that ministers have refused to say how much revenue is returned to the Treasury for every £1 spent on Access to Work, through taxes paid by recipients and their support workers and interpreters and the benefits that ATW-recipients do not need to claim if they are in work.
Previous research has suggested a return of as much as £1.48 for every pound spent on AtW.
A DWP spokeswoman refused to respond to concerns that the cap meant that disabled people – particularly BSL-users – with high support needs would never be able to achieve full equality.
She also refused to say if DWP accepted that the cap was imposing a limit on how far the careers of some Deaf professionals could go, and whether the minister for disabled people would expect a Deaf minister to cope with less than full-time communications support.
She also refused to say if DWP had calculated the financial return to the Treasury for every £1 invested in Access to Work.
But she said in a statement: “We welcome the high court’s judgment.
“We’ve set out a commitment to see one million more disabled people in work by 2027, and Access to Work forms an important part of our plans.
“When making changes to Access to Work we work closely with stakeholders from the deaf community, including the UK Council on Deafness as well as deaf individuals.
“We’ve decided to increase the limit on the amount people can claim under Access to Work by £15,000 to up to £57,200 a year, and last year 25,000 people had their request approved by Access to Work, an increase of eight per cent from 2015-16.
“The award limit was introduced to enable the programme to continue to help as many people as possible, and we’re taking steps to make more people aware of the scheme by working with employers, charities and health professionals.”
But Louise Whitfield, Buxton’s solicitor, from legal firm Deighton Pierce Glynn, said: “Despite the very real gains of the massively increased cap, it is extremely disappointing that the government failed to recognise the significant adverse impact on Deaf people of preventing them from working in roles that need high levels of support.
“We will never see equality for Deaf and disabled people if this remains the government’s position.”
And the Stop Changes To Access To Work campaign praised Buxton for taking the case and said the ruling “highlights the fragility of our rights protections whereby government can decide to implement measures that discriminate and curtail the equalities of Deaf and disabled people so long as they prove they have considered the impacts and cite funding constraints.
“It also fails to give any weight to our concerns about the impact of the glass ceiling that the cap sets for Deaf BSL-users and wider social impacts on inequality.”
The campaign said the judgment showed there was “far more to do in the fight for the rights of Deaf and disabled people to work on an equal basis with others in line with article 27 [on work and employment] of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”.
23 August 2018
Minister condemned for ‘woeful’ response to residential special school review
Inclusive education campaigners have condemned the government’s “woeful” response to a review of the experiences of disabled children and young people in residential special schools.
The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) said the government had again failed to take action that would “turn the tide against increased segregated education” and improve inclusive education in mainstream schools.
Dame Christine Lenehan, director of the Council for Disabled Children, who co-chaired the independent review, said last November that she had found the quality of support in residential special schools “extremely variable”, while there was “far too little focus” on educational outcomes.
Far too often, she said, the disabled children and young people who ended up in residential special schools had been failed by the system.
And she called for a system which enabled disabled children to attend schools in their local communities.
Dame Christine’s review, which was commissioned by the government, concluded that “experiences and outcomes for these children and young people are too often not as good as they should be”.
About 6,000 disabled children and young people are educated in about 330 residential special schools and colleges, in the state, non-maintained and independent sectors, costing about £500 million a year, with each placement costing between £35,000 and £350,000 a year.
In his response to the review, education secretary Damian Hinds said in a letter to Dame Christine this week that he recognised there had been “a steady movement of children with special educational needs out of mainstream schools and into specialist provision, alternative provision and home education”, with increasing rates of school exclusions.
He said it was “right that the presumption in law is for mainstream education” but that he was also “clear that specialist provision can be the right choice for many of those with more complex needs”.
He said he wanted to “equip and incentivise” mainstream schools “to do better” for disabled children and young people, and said the government had begun a review of the national minimum standards for residential special schools.
Hinds also pointed out that the government had put in place a contract with the Whole School SEND Consortium – worth £3.4 million over two years – to “embed SEND [special educational needs and disabilities] within approaches to school improvement in order to equip the workforce to deliver high quality teaching across all types of SEN”.
But ALLFIE said it was “very disappointed by the government’s lack of action to eradicate residential and day special schools and continued failure to turn the tide against increased segregated education, resulting in too little being done to improve inclusive education practice”.
It pointed to the comments of the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities last September – in its “concluding observations” on the UK’s progress in implementing the disability convention – in which it said it was concerned about “the persistence of a dual education system that segregates children with disabilities in special schools”.
The committee called for “a coherent and adequately financed strategy… on increasing and improving inclusive education”.
The UN has separately made it clear that inclusive education means that all disabled children and young people are educated in mainstream settings and that the right for disabled students not to be discriminated against “includes the right not to be segregated” into special schools.
ALLFIE said the contract awarded to the Whole School SEND Consortium was a “distraction” from the findings in Dame Christine’s report that £500 million was spent supporting just 6,000 disabled young people in residential special schools every year – an average of about £80,000 per pupil – while mainstream schools were facing “substantial cuts” to their budgets.
It said that the suggestion by Hinds that parents “actively make a choice” of specialist provision was not based on evidence, with Dame Christine finding that “many of the children and young people currently in residential special schools and colleges could be educated in their local communities if better support was available”.
An ALLFIE spokeswoman added: “We know of families who have been offered residential special school placement in lieu of no suitable provision being made available in their local mainstream schools. It’s not a choice.”
23 August 2018
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com
Members raise concerns over Disability Labour’s ‘consistent failure’
Disabled Labour activists have gone public with their concerns about the “consistent failure” of the organisation set up to build links between the party and the disability movement.
They are set to call for major changes to Disability Labour at its agm next month, including the replacement of two key executives.
Disability Labour is an independent society, affiliated to Labour, and is supposed to work with the party to make its services and meetings accessible, while also campaigning to address disabling barriers in wider society and for full civil rights for disabled people.
But many frustrated members in the Disability Equality Act Labour (DEAL) campaign group say it has repeatedly failed in all its objectives.
Among DEAL’s concerns are Disability Labour’s lack of accountability to its members, its failure to manage its membership list, that its ruling executive meets only four times a year, and its failure to carry out any proper programme of work.
DEAL, which was set up to address Disability Labour’s failings, says its executive promises every year to improve but has repeatedly failed to fulfil that pledge, while there has been “virtually no communication” with members this year.
Among a string of motions it hopes will be passed at the agm are expressions of no confidence in the chair, Dave Allan, and the secretary, Louise Reecejones, who it wants removed from their positions.
Since its launch, DEAL has published a campaigning document that called on the party to improve access for disabled members, and a subsequent handbook aimed at helping the party comply with its duties under the Equality Act.
Sophie Talbot, one of DEAL’s founders, said the group had “begged and pleaded” with Disability Labour to take action.
She said: “The last thing anyone wanted was this horrible conflict. But after years of bending over backwards to try and get the Disability Labour executive to communicate with members and be fit for purpose, this seemed like the only thing we could do.”
Now DEAL has published a series of new web pages with a set of demands they hope will “fix the ailing organisation”.
As part of a 12-point plan, it wants to see free membership for all disabled party members; for Disability Labour to be “a strong campaigning voice”; for it to adopt the DEAL handbook; and for Disability Labour to support and endorse disabled members standing for public office and party positions.
Talbot added: “We set up as a group because of the consistent failure of Disability Labour to work on behalf of its members.
“We were sick and tired of the total lack of communication with members, and what looks like a small group of executive members using Disability Labour to further their own political careers.
“At the 2018 AGM we’ll be there to tell them it’s time to hand over to people that will do the job they’ve never lived up to.”
Emily Brothers, a member of the executive, said she also had concerns about the performance of the chair and secretary and was frustrated at Disability Labour’s failings.
But she was also critical of the “groundswell of negativity” coming from online groups like DEAL, despite some positive work, such as the new handbook.
She said: “There is too much introspection on the internal workings and machinations of things like constitutions [of Disability Labour] as opposed to being positive and looking at issues around policy, and frankly how we can put the Tories on the back foot on issues affecting disabled people.
“There are many things which are not working. We do need change, but we need to work incrementally towards that.
“I think it is quite sad that we are putting so much energy into conflict between disabled people inside the Labour party as opposed to utilising that for our common good to challenge the Tories on welfare rights, employment policy, and the implications of Brexit for disabled people.”
Brothers said there was no need for the string of motions being put forward for the Disability Labour agm by DEAL, while she said the no confidence motions could be better dealt with by voting in new officials in the annual elections to the executive.
She said recommendations made by a democracy review – likely to be approved next month by Labour’s national executive committee – would set up a new disabled members’ section that would sit within the party’s national structure.
This would mean a new role for Disability Labour and potentially a discussion as to whether it would continue to exist in the long-term.
Another member of the executive, Kirsten Hearn, said she was “very frustrated” with how Disability Labour had performed and was “embarrassed” that she had not done more herself to try to reform the organisation.
But she also questioned whether motions of no confidence were the way to change Disability Labour.
She said: “I don’t think the agm should take up time with motions criticising anybody’s leadership, [instead it should] elect a new set of people to get on with things.
“I don’t see the point of punishing or humiliating people for their poor leadership. We should just move on.
“I strongly encourage every single member of Disability Labour to try and be at the meeting.
“What we need to do now is to vote in people with a progressive programme of change and action for disabled people.”
She said Disability Labour needed to support disabled people to stand as candidates for political office and for leadership positions in the party and ensure inclusivity in the party.
And she said it needed to push to ensure “that we are an inclusive party and our policy agenda truly reflects the issues and concerns of disabled people in the areas of struggle we have in our lives, including employment, benefits, health, exclusion, hate crime…”
Neither Allan nor Reecejones had responded to a request to comment by noon today (Thursday).
A spokesman for Marsha de Cordova, co-vice-chair of Disability Labour and the party’s shadow minister for disabled people, said she was on leave this week and so was unable to comment, although she made several comments on other issues on Twitter.
23 August 2018
from Disability News Service
DWP facing court over claimant’s universal credit ‘fit for work injustice’
A disabled man who was unfairly found “fit for work”, and then saw his benefits slashed by almost £180 per month after he was forced onto the government’s new universal credit benefit system, is seeking justice in the high court.
It is the latest in a series of legal cases that have been taken on behalf of disabled benefit claimants against DWP, as a result of a series of welfare reforms introduced under successive Conservative and Conservative-led governments.
The man, known as IM for legal reasons, had been claiming employment and support allowance (ESA), but after undergoing a work capability assessment he was told in March last year that he was no longer eligible for ESA.
His jobcentre advised him to claim universal credit instead, which he did, but he also successfully appealed against the decision to find him fit for work.
Although the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) now accepts that he was unfairly found fit for work and that he has limited capability for work-related activity – the equivalent of being in the ESA support group – he has been treated as a new universal credit claimant.
As a new claimant, he is not entitled to the severe disability premium (SDP) he previously received as a top-up to ESA.
If draft regulations become law, he may be entitled to the partial compensation of £80 a month agreed by work and pensions secretary Esther McVey for those who lost entitlement to SDP when they were forced to move onto universal credit.*
IM’s judicial review case has been taken by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), which has described DWP’s policy as “irrational” and discriminatory.
It has secured permission for a judicial review of the failure to provide IM with transitional protection after his move to universal credit, or, alternatively, the refusal to allow him to return to ESA.
CPAG is taking a similar legal action on behalf of TD, a single mother with a disabled child, which will be heard by the high court alongside IM’s case.
TD gave up her job to become a full-time carer but had her income support terminated when her child’s disability living allowance (DLA) was about to end and before it could be renewed.
She was also told by the jobcentre to claim universal credit, which she did.
Despite DWP eventually admitting that there had been a mistake, TD is now receiving almost £140 a month less under universal credit than she did when receiving income support.
The two cases are expected to be heard together in the high court early next year.
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) welcomed the judicial review and warned that if it was not successful, many other disabled people would be affected in a similar way.
DPAC said DWP was clearly engaged in “another cost-saving exercise”.
A DPAC spokesperson said: “Financially, the incentive for DWP is to find as many claimants as possible fit for work.
“Even if the decision is overturned, DWP is saving money by transferring claimants to universal credit.
“This is clearly just more evidence that universal credit is beyond being fixed.
“People already living on poverty-level social security payments are simply and randomly being thrown even further into destitution.”
Claire Glasman, from the campaigning organisation WinVisible – which supports disabled women – said: “Families are being devastated by abolition of income support, which is some recognition of caring work.
“We are contacted by stressed out mothers at their wits’ end when their children’s DLA and their carer benefits are threatened by the brutal personal independence payment [which is replacing working-age DLA]and universal credit system.”
A DWP spokeswoman said: “We are not able to comment on an ongoing legal case.”
23 August 2018 From Disability News Service
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).
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 email@example.com.
“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 (firstname.lastname@example.org), NSUN’s lead on the review, or Sarah Yiannoullou (email@example.com)
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