Jul 052018
 

Meme - caption - Esther (look you in the eye and lie) McVey - Sack Esther McVey for misleading Parliament

We don’t normally do petitions – but if there is a chance of getting McVey sacked – even a slim chance – we’ll take it – so here goes

Please sign, share on social media, your email address book, with your friends, family, neighbours, ex-partners, loose acquaintances, in the post office, round the railway station, the bowls club, with next doors cat, anywhere – just share, share, share, share

We need to get this going big time and we need a big effort from everyone who sees this post

So here it is (just click “Read More” to go to the petition page, or click this link) …..

Plus here’s a catchy tune to play while you are doing all that sharing

Sack Esther McVey, by Alun Parry

 Posted by at 21:58
Jun 302018
 

Join past tense for
“Disturbance of the Publick Peace”

a FREE past tense radical history walk…

around Holborn & Bloomsbury

Sunday 8th July 2018

Meet 4.15pm, outside Conway Hall,
25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL

a wander through some of the riotous and radical history of Central
London: Gordon Rioters, anti-fascists, suffragettes, Chartist
plotters… and spycops, lots of spycops…

For more info email: pasttense@riseup.net

Part of the
50 Years of Resistance events
7th-8th July
Commemorating campaigns that continue to fight for social change,
despite being targeted by undercover police units  since 1968.

http://campaignopposingpolicesurveillance.com/50-years-resistance/

 Posted by at 15:26
Jun 282018
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jun 272018
 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 Posted by at 22:46
Jun 232018
 

Kamil Ahmad, a disabled man, fled his home in Kurdistan, having been tortured and imprisoned. He arrived in Bristol, in 2012, hoping to find peace and safety. Instead, his application for asylum was refused, and on 7th July 2016 he was murdered.

There has been a murder trial and a safeguarding review. Of course those responsible need to be held to account and lessons need to be learned. However, it is important to recognise that Kamil was failed long before this period.

In this short film, Kamil speaks of his experiences four years before he was murdered. Some of his experiences may have been the result of oversights (which is bad enough) but others are the result of deliberate policy. The hostile environment is designed to be hostile.

We can, and should, blame the government for many things, but until now the government has known that removing rights from asylum seekers, and particularly disabled asylum seekers, will not cause protests. That is our collective responsibility and that is in our power to change.

On 29th June, an event will be held in Bristol, in honour of Kamil, Bijan and other disabled asylum seekers and refugees who have been failed by the system. The event is supported by disabled peoples organisations, the asylum sector, trade unions, mosques, and many allies. At a time of such sadness and anger there is also determination to build a broader movement of real solidarity, to begin to address the systemic change which is needed.

Rebecca Yeo

Bristol DPAC: Honouring Kamil: Exploring Disability and Migration Fri 29 June 2018, 14:30 – 20:00 BST

 Posted by at 14:55
Jun 212018
 

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

 

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Worldwide UBI pilots

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

Limitations of examples used to support UBI    

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

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

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

The Neoliberal Danger of UBI                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

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

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

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

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

UBI as “unworkable” policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

UBI and Disability benefits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The illusion of a progressive UBI

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

Mitigating the impacts of automation

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

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

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

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

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

Insecure jobs

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

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

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

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

 

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jun 162018
 
Vigil 12:30 – 2:30 Tuesday 19 June
Home Office, 2 Marsham St, London SW1P 4DF

Two organisations with impressive, longstanding track records providing support and succour to people seeking asylum and other immigrants, are joining forces during Refugee Week to call for an end to the government’s hostile immigration environment.

London Catholic Worker hold a prayerful vigil at the Home Office every third Tuesday of the month in remembrance of all who have been killed trying to cross borders. Women Against Rape’s Refuge from Rape and Destitution campaign has been highlighting the horrific price women and children pay in rape and other violence as a result of being made destitute when asylum claims are closed (see 13 June letter in the Guardian).

Windrush has made visible the horrors of a callous, racist and unjust immigration system. These two organisations are joining forces to protest the war and theft of resources and people by Western governments and multinationals which drives people to flee; cruel legislation denying the right to safe passage and forcing many thousands of people into dangerous and sometimes lethal journeys to escape; that deprives some of the most vulnerable among us from housing, money and healthcare, undermining everyone’s entitlement to the basics of life.

Those with first-hand experience will be speaking at the vigil and available for interview there or afterwards. We will read the names of migrants and refugees who have died and remember them with photographs, music, prayer and silence.

Becky Titah from Women Against Rape’s  Refuge from Rape & Destitution campaign says, “We are glad to come together to make our voices heard at the Home Office. Asylum-seekers have suffered similarly with Windrush people. The hostile environment has forced women like me into exploitation to avoid destitution: we are forced to rely on working for free as “domestics” or sex with men offering a bed for the night.”

Nora Ziegler from London Catholic Worker says “Jesus said blessed are those who mourn. The Home Office sees migrants as nameless and faceless. That is why they are so easy to refuse and deport, their deaths so easy to ignore. We are holding this vigil to bring the names, faces and the demands for justice of all migrants and refugees to the Home Office”.

Our demands:

·       Stop destitution, deportations and detention.

·       The right to work, housing and benefits.

·       Abolition of laws that recruit landlords, employers, banks, etc. to report on migrants.

·       No collaboration by charities and NGOs with deportations, including “voluntary return”.

·       Reinstate legal aid – lives are at stake.

·       Abolish fees for Family Reunion etc. – stop the government making money out misery.

·       Safe passage for refugees – no more deaths – every life matters.

·       Stop arms sales, proxy wars and the continuing theft of resources causing wars and environmental devastation that force people to flee.

·       Stop privatisation of asylum services.

Background:

From the 792 deaths of migrants in the Mediterranean in 2018 so far [1], to Lillian Oluk and her two-year-old daughter who starved to death in Kent in 2014 after their Home Office application was rejected [2], to Dexter Bristol, a Windrush victim, who died after losing his job and having his benefits taken away [3], the government must not be permitted to “carve us up” [4] – we are all victims of the same immigration system. This vigil aims to bring people together on this premise that we all have the right to be here and that no one should be subjected to a hostile and punitive environment based on their immigration status.

[1] https://missingmigrants.iom.int/region/mediterranean

[2] https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/mum-toddler-who-starved-death-8797797

[3] https://inews.co.uk/news/uk/child-of-the-windrush-generation-died-while-trying-to-prove-he-was-british/

[4] https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/article/meeting-sets-agenda-confronting-%E2%80%98hostile-environment%E2%80%99

 

Contacts:

londoncatholicworker@yahoo.co.uk 07923697218

asylumfromrape@womenagainstrape.net  020 7482 2496

 

 

 

 Posted by at 15:51
Jun 142018
 

Update: The Government have been refused permission to appeal this decision

[From Leigh Day Solicitors with permission]

The first legal challenge against Universal Credit has found that the Government discriminated against two men with severe disabilities who were required to claim the new benefit after moving into new local authority areas

14 June 2018

In a landmark judgment handed down today at the High Court in London, Mr Justice Lewis ruled that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (SSWP) unlawfully discriminated against two severely disabled men who both saw their benefits dramatically reduced when they moved Local Authority and were required to claim Universal Credit.
 
The legal action was brought by our two claimants, known only as TP and AR.
 
TP is a former Cambridge graduate who worked in the financial sector in the City and around the world. In 2016 he was diagnosed with a terminal illness; Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and Castleman’s disease.
 
In October 2016 when he became sick he moved temporarily from London to his parents’ in Dorset but after a few months he returned to Hammersmith and Fulham, a Universal Credit full service area, on the advice of his treating clinicians in order to access specialist healthcare.
 
AR is 36 and suffers from severe mental health issues. In 2017, he moved from Middlesbrough to Hartlepool, a Universal Credit full service area, as he could no longer afford the property he was living in due to the imposition of the bedroom tax.
 
Prior to moving, both TP and AR were in receipt of the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) and Enhanced Disability Premium (EDP), which were specifically aimed at meeting the additional care needs of severely disabled people living alone with no carer.
 
Recently released figures from the DWP suggest that 500,000 individuals are in receipt of the SDP . Both the SDP and EDP have been axed and are not available under Universal Credit.
 
When they moved both TP and AR were required to make a claim for Universal Credit as they moved into local authorities where the controversial new benefit was being rolled out. According to both the men, they were advised by DWP staff that their benefit entitlement would not change.
 
Despite repeated assurances from the government that “no one will experience a reduction in the benefit they are receiving at the point of migration to Universal Credit where circumstances remain the same” both claimants saw an immediate drop in their income of around £178 a month when they were moved onto Universal Credit.   
 
When they asked for top up payments they were told that Government policy was that no such payments would be paid until July 2019 when managed migration would begin.
 
As both claimants testified to the court, the sudden drop of income had a devastating impact on them, both physically and psychologically.
 
TP has been struggling to address his care needs and AR has been unable to afford basic necessities.(see paragraphs 8 and 9 of the judgment)
 
According to their lawyer Tessa Gregory from the human rights team at Leigh Day: “Nothing about either of the claimants’ disability or care needs changed, they were simply unfortunate enough to need to move local authorities into a Universal Credit full service area.”
 
Late last year Leigh Day issued judicial review proceedings on the Claimants’ behalf arguing that what had happened was unlawful on three grounds:
 

  1. The SSWP has breached the Equality Act 2010 in failing to have due regard to the impact of removing the premiums on severely disabled people
  2. The 2013 regulations discriminate against the severely disabled living alone with no carer, as compared to other severely disabled people, contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights
  3. The implementation of Universal Credit and the absence of any ‘top up’ payments for this vulnerable group as compared to others constitutes discrimination contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights

 
A four-day hearing took place on 1 -4 May 2018 during which the Equality and Human Rights Commission intervened in support of the Claimants’ case.
 
Today the judge found in the Claimants’ favour on ground 3, noting in the judgment:
 
“The impact on the individuals is clear. They were in receipt of certain cash payments (the basic allowance and SDP and EDP). They are now in receipt of cash payments which, overall, are significantly lower than the amount previously received. They are a potentially vulnerable group of persons as the Government in its own material recognises. On the material before me, there appears to have been no consideration of the desirability or justification for requiring the individual to assume the entirety of the difference between income related benefits under the former system and universal credit when their housing circumstances change and it is an appropriate moment to transfer them to universal credit. That is all the more striking given the Government’s own statements over a number of years that such persons may need assistance and that there was a need to define with precision the circumstances in which they would not receive such assistance. In all the circumstances of this case, the operation of the implementation arrangements in the way they do is manifestly without reasonable foundation and fails to strike a fair balance”. [para 88]
 
The judge concludes: “The implementing arrangements do at present give rise to unlawful discrimination contrary to Article 14 ECHR read with Article 1 of the First Protocol to the ECHR….A declaration will be granted that there is unlawful discrimination. The defendant will then be able to determine how to rectify the unlawful discrimination.” [para 114]
 
Following months of litigation, on Thursday of last week Esther McVey the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, carried out a policy U-Turn and committed the Government to ensuring that no severely disabled person in receipt of the SDP will be made to move onto Universal Credit until transitional protection is in place and committing to compensating those like the claimants who have lost out. 
 
Despite this, following hand down of today’s judgment the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has sought permission to appeal, maintaining that there was nothing unlawful with the way the claimants were treated.
 
Commenting on the case, Tessa Gregory a partner at Leigh Day, who represented both claimants, said:
 
“This is the first legal test of the roll out of Universal Credit and the system has been found to be unlawfully discriminating against some of society’s most vulnerable.
 
“Whilst we welcome the Government’s commitment to ensuring that no one in our client’s position will now be moved onto Universal Credit until top up payments are in place, it comes too late as it cannot make up for the months of suffering and grinding poverty our clients and many others like them have already had to endure.
 
“We call upon Esther McVey to compensate our clients and all those affected without any further delay, and urge her to focus on fixing Universal Credit rather than wasting more public funds appealing this court decision.
 
“Today’s decision shows again that Universal Credit is not delivering what was promised at the outset. It is not working. It’s not working for the disabled, it’s not working for parents, it’s not working for low-income and part-time employees and it’s not working for the self-employed.
 
“The government needs to halt the rollout and completely overhaul the system to meet peoples’ needs, not condemn them to destitution. If this doesn’t happen further legal challenges will inevitably follow.”
 
TP, the first Claimant stated
 
“In my 51st year my life was completely and suddenly thrown upside down with the diagnosis of a life changing end stage non-Hodgkin Lymphoma cancer. Having had a successful career I became reliant on financial support from the welfare system. To add to the stress of being seriously ill and undergoing very arduous treatments that have left me unable to work, I have had to take time off convalescing to fight in the Courts for subsistence level benefits. In being compelled to migrate to Universal Credit where I lost the Severe Disability Premium I was deprived of a key mainstay of support for a disabled person living alone with no carer. The financial strain from the cutting of the SDP has made it so much harder for me to cope as it has been an additional daily stress. It has been detrimental to my health.”
 
“I always believed that I had been treated unfairly and in a discriminatory manner by the DWP, having lost out in this move into Universal Credit. I am delighted that the Courts have concurred that I have been unlawfully discriminated against. I feel vindicated in bringing this important Judicial Review of the DWP’s stance towards me, which also affects numerous others of the most vulnerable people in our society. I am pleased to have been able to have brought this case to the public’s attention, which casts a dark shadow on the fairness of the Universal Credit system.”
 
AR, the second claimant added
 
“I know a lot of people have been awaiting the outcome of this hearing as so many people have been badly affected by the roll out of Universal Credit. I know it is a time of austerity but I do not understand why the Government are trying to penny-pinch with what is a relatively small and very vulnerable group, namely, severely disabled people without a carer. I thought we lived in a society where as a vulnerable group we would be protected not unlawfully discriminated against.”

 Posted by at 12:56
Jun 072018
 

We are looking to make contact with families who currently have their Disabled (including SEN) children in mainstream school but are being pressurised into accepting a special school placement by the London Borough of Hackney. We are looking into SEN budgets cuts, which are having a negative impact upon Disabled pupils’ right to mainstream education, and whether the cuts can be challenged.

We are supporting local groups campaigning against SEN budget cuts and their impact upon Disabled children’s education. We are specifically concerned about the implications of the budget cuts upon Disabled pupils’ inclusion in mainstream education. We need to act now – contact Simone Aspis (Policy and Campaigns Coordinator) on 0207 737 6030 or by email.

For more information about the Hackney Crisis in SEN campaign and our support for their campaign work please see our campaigns briefing.


www.allfie.org.uk

Twitter: @allfieuk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ALLFIEUK

 Posted by at 16:14
May 312018
 

STARTS ON SUNDAY 3rd JUNE NORWICH- PARTICIPANTS WANTED!

A Very Queer Nazi Faust Awarded Unlimited Funding!

Jan McLachlan as Lucifer and Vince Laws as John Faust, photo by Ann Nicholls.A Very Queer Nazi Faust is an experimental participatory performance created by Norfolk-based poet, artist, and disability rights campaigner, Vince Laws. Funded on a shoestring, starring 13 local legends and the DEAD PEOPLE DON”T CLAIM banner, the piece was performed at Norwich LGBT+ Pride in 2017 to great acclaim. Now, with support from Unlimited, there will be participatory workshops at Silver Road Community Centre in central Norwich during summer 2018.

 

Poet John Faust is suicidal. His benefits have been stopped without warning, the bailiffs are due to evict him, his dog is in the vets dying, his car needs a new clutch, and he can’t finish his poetic masterpiece while the voices inside his head torment him. In despair, John throws himself off Beeston Bump, Norfolk’s highest peak, clutching ‘The Tragic True Life & Deserved Death of a Benefit Scrounger by Himself’, but Lucifer won’t let him drown because she loves his book and wants a bigger part.

 

A Very Queer Nazi Faust highlights the plight of disabled people under the current government, described as ‘economic murder’ in the British Medical Journal, and as ‘a human catastrophe’ by the United Nations. The performance contains adult themes and language, suicidal thoughts, Lucifer, The Naked Abseilers and poetry, but no Nazis. Unlimited support will enable text projections by Andrew Day for greater accessibility, and a soundscape created by Dandelion Snowley.

 

I deal with fluctuating health due to HIV, depression, and anxiety, and I know how much creative activity helps me,” said Vince. “You don’t need to be queer or disabled to take part, but people with disabilities are encouraged to get involved. Workshops / rehearsals take place every Sunday afternoon / evening from June, culminating in a performance at Norwich Arts Centre in September, as the official launch party of Norfolk Disability Pride & Independent Living Event 2018. Bravo!”

The workshops and performance may be photographed, filmed and live-streamed.

Commissioned and supported by Unlimited, celebrating the work of disabled artists, with funding from Spirit of 2012. If you need help to take part, let Vince know, he’ll do his best to make it happen.

Contact vincelaws@gmail.com for more details.

3 QUOTES:

An artist with something to say, and fearless in saying it.”

Marcus Dickey Horley, Curator, Tate Modern

“…at turns well-written, beautifully choreographed and utterly hilarious.”

Colin Hambrook, Disability Arts Online, Editor

Anarchic.’

The Norwich Radical

FOR PUBLICATION: Contact vincelaws@gmail.com for more details.

Norwich Arts Centre performance on Weds 12 Sept 2018.

Tickets: £6.66

https://norwichartscentre.co.uk/events/vince-laws-queer-nazi-faust/?spektrix_bounce=true

Review:

The Norwich Radical magazine.

https://thenorwichradical.com/2017/08/06/review-a-very-queer-nazi-faust-at-norwich-pride-2017/

Image:

Jan McLachlan as Lucifer and Vince Laws as John Faust, photo by Ann Nicholls.

Who: Vince Laws and Unlimited

What: Experimental Participatory Workshops & Performance

Why: To highlight the plight of disabled people under the current government

When: Sundays June-September. Afternoons & evenings.

Where: Silver Road Community Centre, 34 Silver Rd, Norwich NR3 4TA

 Posted by at 15:23
May 192018
 

Monday 21st May 2018 marks the first day of the new Govia Thameslink (GTR) timetable.

Buying a ticket means you have entered into a contract with the GTR. That contract is the same contract for all those who purchase a ticket. Your chosen train will deliver you to your chosen destination at the time agreed upon. The GTR however deems that it has the right to refuse access, remove passengers or alter their mode of transport provided these passengers are of reduced mobility. PRMs according to the GTR, Disabled people according to the rest of humanity. Not because the individual is obnoxious. Not because the individual is dangerous. But because the GTR holds Speed, Efficiency and Shareholder’s Profits supreme.

Wheelchair using passengers can be dumped at will on the altar of Speed and Efficiency. People who become ill during a journey have the right to be taken to the nearest safe stop and not just to the next stop on the journey. Leaving a wheelchair using passenger on an unmanned station is not professional.

If you are disabled your journey can be disrupted for no more reason then that the GTR cannot ensure a decent level of staffing and is committed to the Driver Only Operations (DOO) of the train. No second member of staff is assured on any journey since the introduction of DOO. This is a logistical nightmare that they are trying to cover up by offering up the freedom to travel of disabled people. Disabled people are individuals who purchase tickets just like any other traveller, not objects to be transported at will.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and the Association of British Commuters (ABC) are taking the lead in protest against this highly discriminatory time table. The first protest will be held at London Bridge Station on 21st May at 5pm

 Posted by at 14:46
May 192018
 

Co hosted by the Association of British Commuters

The full story behind the RMT story yesterday is even more shocking than the newspapers made out, and has created a huge wave of anger within the disabled community. With the Thameslink timetable launching on Monday the press will be out in force and there is a small window of opportunity to own the headlines again on this issue.

We’ll be meeting at the Shard entrance outside London Bridge at 5pm to form a People’s Picket and would greatly appreciate the attendance of as many of our friends and allies as possible.

Over the weekend and during the day on Monday, we’ll also be trying to secure the attendance of MPs at the protest – if you are able to help at all with this on Monday, it would be greatly appreciated.

We’d be very grateful if you could spread the word through your networks.

Please notify the Facebook Event page if you are going so we can estimate numbers

Our demand: Keep The Guard On The Train
The GTR staff training guide that the RMT released on Friday was even more shocking than we feared. It also showed that the company has now begun a ‘call ahead’ policy when boarding passengers, which has led to members of our groups being refused boarding even though the train was sitting right in front of them at the station.

The removal of a guaranteed guard from the train creates a loophole that we believe will only lead to further, institutionalised breaches of the Equality Act. With the ‘call ahead’ policy, it is now clear that this will have an equivalent effect on pre-booked and ‘turn up and go’ passengers, so the myth that pre-booking will be a solution under DOO is disproven.

Removing a wheelchair user from their chosen form of transport because of the company’s inability to staff the network adequately is blatant discrimination. We do not consider taxis a reasonable adjustment, especially with the extended waiting times at unstaffed/rural stations. It is only a matter of time before this Equality Act breach is confronted in court – and that’s not our opinion, but the verdict of a 2-year buried Rail Delivery Group report on the matter.

  • We believe the current industrial dispute could be solved easily with the simple guarantee of a second member of staff. This is clearly the precedent on which all future staffing plans will be based, and the easiest way to ensure the principles of the Equality Act are met. There can be no justification for an endless taxpayer-funded dispute that aims to break a trade union at the expense of disabled people’s rights.
  • We have no faith in current consultations involving the DfT and the RDG, who have shown themselves to be deliberately evading this issue. There is no sense in professing to take disabled access seriously when on the other hand, you are trying to remove an important staffing precedent for workers and passengers alike.

To read ABC’s full analysis of the controversial report that hit the press recently, click here: https://abcommuters.wordpress.com/2018/05/18/exclusive-full-copy-of-gtrs-staff-training-document-which-discriminates-against-disabled-passengers/

 Posted by at 14:27
May 162018
 

PRESS COMMENT – Immediate release

Fuelpovertyaction.org.uk

twitter: @fuelpovaction

It is a breakthrough that, after months of refusing to do so, the government has finally agreed to fund the replacement of flammable cladding on social housing tower blocks.  They are offering £400 million for replacement of cladding, and, we presume, insulation. This should significantly speed up the process.   However, it is not nearly enough.  Having conceded the principle, the government should now commit to fully covering the cost of the disaster that has been revealed by the Grenfell fire.  

Inadequate regulation and inspection regimes have led to dangerous buildings across the UK.  Residents must be fully protected from fire – and from cold  –  immediately and until the completion of works.   

Fuel Poverty Action has since January been running a campaign for Safe Cladding and Insulation Now (SCIN) and has gathered support for 10 demands from a very wide range of grassroots organisations, trade unions, and MPs, with more coming in every day.  The demands can be seen here.

The Prime Minister’s statement represents significant progress in that direction.  However,
            1)    Private blocks are not covered.  Leaseholders in these blocks often have trouble meeting even their normal heating bills, and many go cold each winter.  Now they have been asked to fund re-cladding projects, costing tens of thousands each, or continue to live in fire-trap homes.  We are working with them. This crisis was not of their making, and there is no justice in a proposal that penalises some residents.

2)    There is no mention, so far, of student residences, schools, or hospitals clad in the same materials, nor of buildings below the arbitrary 18M height limit.  Will that be in James Brokenshire’s announcement?

3)    Cold, like fire, kills.  Even in a normal year, thousands die each year when they cannot heat their homes.  Residents in many blocks already going through re-cladding know that when cladding is off in the winter, uninsulated flats are places of constant cold, condensation, damp and mould, and astronomical bills.

4)    BBC research in December last year found that the cost of planned post-Grenfell fire safety measures for councils and housing associations alone had already reached at least £600m, a figure said to be likely to be a considerable underestimate.  Meanwhile MHCLG handed back £817 million to the Treasury in unspent cash (originally earmarked for the Starter Homes, affordable homes and estate regeneration).

5)    The other demands of our campaign remain crucially important, including proper consultation with residents, and immediate safe, good permanent housing in the area of their choice for all Grenfell survivors.

6)    Funding alone will not prevent the same thing happening in the future.  Tighter regulations need to be combined with accountability, and with the will and the capacity to monitor and inspect.  New and refurbished homes should be safe and well-insulated in practice, not just in theory.

7)    Crucially, the health and safety of residents must not be sacrificed during the process that the government now promises to fund.  Works have gone on for months; some are scheduled for nearly two years, with housing way below any legal decent homes standards, and families constantly ill.  Some local authorities, more than others, have taken steps to mitigate this nightmare.  Will the government now guarantee that every possible measure will be taken to ensure residents’ safety and health during the process of re-cladding?  Will they fund such a guarantee?  And will they set deadlines for removal – and replacement – of cladding and insulation to ensure there are no further delays?  The time for this work to happen is now – while the weather is warm.

 

This breakthrough is largely the result of pressure from grassroots organisers, beginning with Grenfell survivors who, in the worst conditions, have still included the fate of other tower block residents in their concerns.   

We await James Brokenshire’s statement this week with great interest.

 Posted by at 21:49
May 082018
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please visit our Facebook page for the latest updates.

Programme for Fri June 29th

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

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

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

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

 Posted by at 15:27
May 032018
 

1.8 million disabled people with unmet housing needs

580,000 of whom are of working age

2/3 of single disabled people living alone are in poverty

Disabled people are twice as likely as non disabled people to be social housing tenants

There is a shortage of accessible housing across Britain.

Of the councils in England with a housing plan, fewer than 17% of councils have set out strategies to build disabled-friendly homes

From: Facts and Figures 2018. Disability in the UK. Papworth Trust http://online.flipbuilder.com/afjd/uvad/mobile/index.html#p=1

Thanks to Miriam Binder Brighton DPAC, for this excellent account of the difficulties disabled people face when looking for accessible housing

There is indeed a crisis in Housing and this holds probably truer for disabled people and it must be added, the long-term ill, then any other group. Why this is the case is down to a number of factors. As we all know, or should do by now, the Housing Crisis as it stands at the moment is due to not the rising number in Housing Need as such but rather the inequality that exists within society.

Here in England, Housing has been beset by a number of issues. I will not delve into the complexities surrounding home ownership, initial mortgages and the varying types of mortgage. Not because they are inconsequential but because, for the majority of disabled people and the long-term sick, they are by and large, unobtainable. Whether there is a Disabled Community is questionable as the sheer diversity in Disability and Long-Term Illness is immense. I am mobility impaired and rely on my trusty wheelchair, the Grim Creeper, to get me around. But I can see, provided my spectacles prescription is up to date. My hearing is functional despite what my grandchildren may have to say at times – especially when it comes to them demanding more chocolate or, as is the case with the older ones, more pocket money.

Disability and Long-Term Illness covers a large diversity of impairments. From Mobility through to Cognitive and Mental impairments. In addition, there is the fluctuation of symptoms, when someone is undergoing treatment, which by and large is of concern to the Long-Term Ill however can at times also be an issue for disabled people; regardless of whether this is a life long disability, from birth that is, or an acquired disability, as in my case, where it only became a factor in my middle years. I will refer to us, for the sake of this discussion, as the Disabled Community.

I’ll start with a bit of background. I am fortunate enough to be a council tenant. I’ve been one now for 38 years. When mobility first became a real issue, I was still the tenant of what was my family home. I lived in a three-bedroom house with the bedrooms and bathroom located upstairs. Nothing fancy but good accommodation for what was at the time, the size of my family. My daughters grew up and, as is the habit of such creatures, left home one by one. I started considering downsizing. However, as my mobility worsened I realised that a high-rise flat was not the most suitable move. I remained in that house, under occupying, for 4 years after my youngest left home. The last two years I rarely made it to the second floor. I slept on the sofa in the front room. I bathed, or what passed as bathed, at the kitchen sink. I was fortunate that the house had a downstairs toilet.

I was bidding … a truly atrocious method of seeking rehousing in the Social Housing sector; not least of which is the requirement of having internet access. I was however also dependant on the ranking I was given by the Council as to whether a bid would be considered acceptable. I ended up refusing to pay any additional charges and the matter eventually ended up in court with the ever-ready threat of eviction looming over me. Being a self-possessed, articulate and relatively educated individual, I got the point across that I need a ground floor property and, with the magistrate siding with me on this issue, I eventually got my current bungalow. I also was in some housing debt but that, given my desperate need for suitable housing, was a minor consideration at the time.

The trouble was, and yes this isn’t the end of the story, my dream home, this one-bedroom bungalow, was not wheelchair accessible. There was a 19cm step entering the house and a 7cm step exiting it. For two years I had to lift a 93-kilo wheelchair across these steps, every time I needed to exit or enter my home. I am now not only disabled because of my lower limbs not functioning properly but also have limitations in my right arm due to a severely torn rotor cuff.

Adaptations however are not that easily obtained. There is a process one has to go through which is rather complex. And even when it has been accepted that the adaptation is necessary, by the appropriate Social Services department, there is the matter of financing said adaptation. This matter falls within the remit of an entirely different department.

To cut a long story relatively short, I ended up having to present a deposition to the Housing Committee to eventually gain the finance necessary to provide my adaptation. Bless the soul of the Adult Social Care assessor that came to the property as she determined that while they were adapting my access into the home, they may as well adapt my bathroom so that I would be able to shower without risking a fall every time. I got a wet room at the same time.

Not that that was the end of the adaptations required to mean I could actually retain independence in my home. It took a total of 5 years to make my home adapted to my needs. Included there also 3 years of not being able to use the kitchen. The only thing that is now worrying me on the home front is if ever I need care. There is no room in my home for anyone to sleep. It has presented some problems when I’ve been to hospital for treatment. I’ll tell no lie but I do lie. I would get one of my daughters to come ‘spring me’ from the hospital, assure the hospital that someone would remain with me at home and then, once released, would go home alone, crawl in to bed and pray there were no post-operative complications.

We live in a society that has many gorgeous houses built over the centuries. Wonderful places with wonderful spaces for people to live and have families. The problem is that few, if any, of these places are adaptable. Those that are adaptable are limited to the extent of adaptation possible. Then there is the fact that the Disabled people and long-term ill are generally speaking amongst the poorer in society. Buying a home is, as a rule, beyond most. We, by and large, depend on renting our residences. That presents a particular problem in that renting in the private sector is problematic. Not just the sheer cost and the short-termism of rental agreements but also the issue of adaptations. Few, if any, private landlords would be willing to have extensive adaptations done to their property just because they have a given tenant for the next 6, 12 or 36 months.

There are other issues. Temporary housing which is far from disabled friendly due to lack of adaptations. Ill suited for people recovering from and between treatments such as chemo- or radiotherapy, dialysis and others. One young man, a tetraplegic wheelchair user, ended up in a 2nd floor attic flat. There was no way of getting his wheelchair to the flat so he had to be bodily hauled up and down to the place. Even if he could have managed to get his wheelchair into the flat, there was no room to move around in the flat with a wheelchair. In addition, treatment to enable him to regain, or at least retain, some movement was denied as, according to the NHS, there was little sense in treating him while his body was being abused daily because of his housing situation.

You see, with disabled people and long-term sick, it is not enough to get a roof over your head. The roof needs to be over a place you can move around in, you can store any equipment you need and you can have an overnight visitor stay for when you need that extra care. This cannot be addressed on an ad hoc basis. Nor can we remain reactive to need but we must become proactive to potential. If you come across someone who has, let us say for argument sake, Peripheral Vascular Disease, today they may walk short distances, enough to hobble around the house but tomorrow, or if not tomorrow at sometime in the future, they will be totally incapable of walking, requiring amputation of at least one if not both, feet or legs.

We must also bear in mind that Disabled people and the long-term ill have families, brothers and sisters and yes, children. We need to ensure that all building programmes, and certainly all social building programmes, build houses with, as standard, wider doorways, level access, wide hallways and rooms we can easily adapt if they require a lift, lower access cupboards and a cooker that can be used while seated. We need these properties in all shapes and sizes. Neither disability, be it from birth or an acquired one, nor long term illness will go away. They are part of humanity and a parcel of life. Let us make sure that any programmes of building we engage in will have at least the facility to adapt, easily and simply and that the groundwork is already done.

 Posted by at 16:33
May 022018
 

May 2nd, 2018

Join us today for the 2nd day of the vigil outside the high court  to support the first judicial review against the Government’s decision to bring in Universal Credit. The case will focus in particular on the removal of the Severe and Enhanced Disability Premiums which will have a devastating impact on Disabled people. When the Government introduced Universal credit they said no one will be worse off, but this simply isn’t true. Research in 2013 estimated that 450,000 households containing a Disabled person would lose essential income.

The case is being taken by Leigh Day solicitors on behalf of a man who is terminally ill and through the removal of SDP and EDP has lost £178 per month.

Vigil called by Disabled People Against Cuts and Winvisible.

 Posted by at 06:36
Apr 302018
 

GREENWICH ADULT COMMUNITY LEARNING based at the Greenwich Park Site, Royal Hill, SE10 8QB. Greenwich is running courses for learners with a specific learning difficulty or disability. I am running Performing Arts 1-3pm every Wednesday. If you would like to come, or know anybody please let them know. It is student led and I do singing, dancing/free movement, sketches, a bit of drama and whatever people would like to do. You can call me, Lynne Chamberlain on 07884080602 or the college 020 8858 2211. Also www.LSEC.ac.uk Best wishes, Lynne, Performing Arts tutor, B.A. (Hons) Cert Ed

 Posted by at 14:24
Apr 302018
 
FAMILY COURT ON TRIAL FOR UNJUSTLY TAKING CHILDREN FROM THEIR MOTHERS

Protest outside family court first Wednesday of every month.

12.30-1.30pm

London court  First Avenue Hse, 42-49 High Holborn, WC1V 6NP

 

Mothers and other carers protest outside Holborn and Brighton family court against the increasing numbers of children taken into care, court secrecy, cuts to legal aid for family cases, forced adoptions, mothers’ and children’s poverty and destitution, sexism, racism and other bias. Join us.

 

Contact: Legal Action for Women

law@allwomencount.net

Single Mothers’ Self-Defence

smsd@allwomencount.net

 JOIN US TO DEMAND:

·         An end to sexist judgements which deny the bond between mother and child, and downgrade the crimes of violent fathers.

·         Fathers who are violent should not have unsupervised contact.

·         An end to the secrecy of the family courts; there must be public scrutiny.

·         Legal aid for all family court matters; no mother should have to represent herself.

·         An end to institutional discrimination on grounds of income, race, nationality, disability, religious affiliation and/or occupation.

·         An end to forced adoptions.

·         Courts and social services must prioritise keeping children with their mother or other primary carer wherever possible. The state must support mothers doing their best for their children.

FACTS

·         80% of UK women are mothers. Women are primary carers in 90% of households.

·         28% of children live in poverty

·         There are more children “in care” now than at any time since 1985

·         Children from poor areas are 10 times more likely to be taken into care than those in rich areas

·         Domestic abuse features in 70-90% of cases in the family courts yet less than 1% of child contact applications are refused – violent fathers who request contact nearly always get it.

·         One in five children are now referred to children’s services yet the proportion of identified cases of abuse by parents has dropped from 24% to under 8%.

·         Adoptions are at their highest point since complete data collection started: 90% of adoptions are without parental consent.

Suffer the little Children & their Mothers: A dossier on the unjust separation of children from their mothers is available athttp://legalactionforwomen.net

 

 Posted by at 13:32
Apr 262018
 

Following this article about DWP interference in the way that GPs treat patients who have been refused ESA, DPAC have initiated a letter to the Royal College of GPs and the BMA GP Section, asking those organisations to get involved in this issue.

The letter to the Royal College of GPs is copied below and the one to the BMA is identical. We will publish on this blog the responses we get from them.


To: Professor Mayur Lakhani, President of the Royal College of General Practice

CC:

Editor Pulse Today

Editor Disability News Service

Second copy to : Chair of the General Practitioners Committee UK Dr Richard Vautrey

Dear Mayur

We write as a group of concerned health professionals and disability campaigners regarding a recent change by the Department of Work and Pensions which we feel will gravely impact on the doctor / patient relationship between GPs and disabled people claiming benefits.

The DWP has issued a new ESA65B, the form used to inform a patient’s GP of their WCA outcome. This form which requests GPs not to send any further fit notes for ESA purposes after a claimant has been found fit for work, unless they appeal had already been at the centre of a controversy.

A claimant, James Harrison died 10 months after being found fit for work and after the jobcentre asked his GP not to issue further fit notes for ESA purposes. James Harrison wanted a fit note because he was too ill to attend the jobcentre appointments, but his GP refused to issue them (Metro), this being just one bleak example of the distress and hardship enacted on people through the current callous benefit regime.

The new ESA65B form which is headed ‘Help us support your patient to return to or start work’ has an added paragraph

In the course of any further consultations with [Title] [First name] [Surname] we hope you will also encourage [select] in [select] efforts to return to, or start, work. (extract from the DWP’s letter to GPs)

It is all in keeping with DWP’s insistence that not only work is good for health, but also should be a ‘health outcome’. This recurring mantra from the DWP is based on the thinnest veneer of evidence, a single study, which was commissioned by the DWP itself in 2006, which does not even fully support the generalised conclusion that “work is good for you”.

The DWP has also not taken into account other, more in-depth research that concludes that unemployment is less harmful for mental health than a poor quality and insecure job..

There are many reasons, from a clinical point of view, why this action of co-opting doctors by the DWP is wrong and Dr Jay Watts, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, lists some of them:

Health professionals across the country will be horrified at this latest interference from the DWP – a move that undermines clinical expertise and threatens the safety of patients. There are a number of problems. First the letter places the expertise of DWP-funded ESA assessors above that of GPs. This is despite the fact GPs are more qualified to assess mental health, and can do so with the benefits of having known the patient for years, often decades (as opposed to in a one-off assessment).

The DWP letter makes clear that they wish claimants to return to work at any cost, even if that means leaving a current occupation – an attack on the core identity of patients likely to have a damaging effect on mental health.

Second, the letter states that “we know most people are better off in work”. This ignores a considerable literature showing that work can be damaging for mental health, with poor work environments a frequent trigger to mental breakdown. Economic evidence shows that rushing people back into work increases the likelihood of long-term illness.

How then can it be right to encourage GPs to coerce patients back to work, a pressure likely to increase the feelings of shame, despair and anxiety at not working that have been exacerbated by the governments relentless and damaging campaign to associate worklessness with worthlessness?

Third, the pressure the DWP is exerting on GPs to ‘encourage’ patients back to work, and desist from providing fit notes, is an attack on clinical expertise and the sanctity of the clinical space and clinical decision-making.

Without a firm denouncement of this letter from Royal College of General Practitioners, we risk a situation where claimants will feel unwilling to make appointments with their GPs, given the level of fear the DWP and the work agenda elicits, with damaging and potentially life-threatening effects on the physical and mental health of claimants.

It is vital that health professionals speak up for claimants rights, and insist that fit notes and therapeutic conversations are dictated by the needs of patients not the DWP.

We the undersigned, both medical professionals and disability campaigners ask that the Royal College of General Practitioners inform its members of the risks to patients from this measure, ask doctors and allied health professionals to use caution and discretion when following DWP instructions.

We will be publishing this letter to you on the Disabled People Against Cuts website, and look forward to publishing your response

Signed:

Dr Jay Watts

Consultant Clinical Psychologist

Anita Bellows

Disabled People Against Cuts

Dr Philippa Whitford

MP, FRCS

Bob Ellard

Disabled People Against Cuts

Dr Louise Irvine

GP, Lewisham, BMA Council Member

Roger Lewis

Disabled People Against Cuts

Dr Stephen Carty

GP Leith Mount Surgery Edinburgh Medical Adviser Black Triangle Campaign

Denise McKenna

Mental Health Resistance Network and Disabled People Against Cuts

Dr Coral Jones

GP in Hackney

Paula Peters

Mental Health Resistance Network and Disabled People Against Cuts

Anna Livingstone FRCGP

Tower Hamlets GP

Linda Burnip

Disabled People Against Cuts

Ben Newton

Community Worker in Glasgow

Ellen Clifford

Disabled People Against Cuts and Inclusion London

Beatrice Millar

on behalf of Psychotherapists & Counsellors for Social Responsibility

Andy Greene

Disabled People Against Cuts

Julia Evans

Lacanian Psychoanalyst

Miriam Binder

Disabled People Against Cuts

Dr Laura Winter

Counselling Psychologist

John Kelly

Disabled People Against Cuts

Emily Shah

Trainee Clinical Psychologist, Camden and Islington NHS Trust

John McArdle

Black Triangle Campaign

Gavin Robinson

Counsellor

Brian Hilton

Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People

Dr Kara Bagnall

Clinical Psychologist

Recovery in the Bin

Lauren Canvin,

Trainee Clinical Psychologist, University of Hertfordshire

Jennifer Jones

DPAC Sheffield

Dr Richard House,

Chartered Psychologist (BPS), Educational Consultant Alliance for Counselling & Psychotherapy

David Cracker

DPAC Sheffield

Andrew Samuels

Professor of Analytical Psychology, University of Essex: Former Chair, UK Council for Psychotherapy

Kevin Deegan

DPAC NORTH Staffordshire East Cheshire

Robert Jenkins

NHS Primary Care Counsellor (Retired)

Henry Foulds

Momentum Sheffield Disability officer

Debbie Porteous

Counsellor MBACP

Jill Goble

Brighton DPAC

Dr David Porteous

GP Fishponds Family Practice, Bristol

Merry Cross

Berkshire DPAC

Denis Postle

ARCA

Rick Burgess

Manchester DPAC

Paul Atkinson

Psychotherapist

Dr Johann McGavin

GP Brighton Health and Wellbeing Centre

Dr Danielle Gaynor

Chartered Clinical Psychologist, NHS.

Clare Slaney MA

BACP Accredited

Linda Gask

Emerita Professor of Primary Care Psychiatry University of Manchester and Honorary FRCGP

Stuart Morgan-Ayrs

Clinical psychotherapist

Dr Gillian Proctor

Clinical psychologist and lecturer.

Dr Rich Moth

Registered social worker/SWAN Psychotherapy & Counselling Union

Dr Donna Oxley

Clinical Psychologist, NHS

Frances Taylor,

Therapeutic Counsellor and Supervisor, Diversity Worker, Substance Misuse Counsellor Practitioner

Dr Jade Weston

Clinical Psychologist

Mandy Coghill

Sensorimotor Psychotherapist

Nicola Saunders

Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist UKCP

Ian Parker

Psychoanalyst, Manchester

Sarah Wolfe

Clinical Psychologist in Children’s Social Care

Richard Bagnall-Oakeley

Integrative Adult & Child Psychotherapist (UKCP Reg. MBACP)

Valeska Matziol

Equalities Research Coordinator

Juliet Lyons

Integrative Child Psychotherapist

Annie Mitchell

Clinical and Community Psychologist; Associate Professor, Plymouth University.

Dr Sohrab Panday

GP and Clinical Lead, Mental Health Commissioning Team Hardwick CCG

Mark Burton

Former Head of Disability Service

Richard Byng

GP and academic, Community and Primary Care Research Group and PenCLAHRC, Plymouth University.

Kim Jackson-Blott

Trainee Clinical Psychologist

Anna Rose

MEd MA  (Psychotherapist)

Dr Lealah Hewitt

Clinical Psychologist, NHS

Dr Safi Afghan

Consultant Psychiatrist & Primary Care Lead RCPsych

Liam Farrell

Former NHS GP

Jen Daffin

Clinical psychologist in training / psychologists for social change

Dr Sheila Cheeroth, FRCGP

Tower Hamlets CCG, London.

Libby Kerr

Psychotherapist UKCP

Dr Jackie Applebee GP

Chair of Tower Hamlets Local Medical Committee.

Dr Stephen Weatherhead

Senior Academic and Clinical Tutor HCPC registered Consultant Clinical Psychologist

Dr Kambiz Boomla,

Senior Lecturer General Practice.

Dr Rachel Barcroft

Clinical Psychologist Royal Preston Hospital

Rosalind Davy,

Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist

Dr Grant Ingrams

GP, Oakmeadow Surgery, Leicester

James Randall-James,

Clinical Psychologist

Pauline Miller

GP St Lawrence road surgery

Dr Danny Taggart,

University of Essex

Dr Chris Manning

MRCGP Mental health activist and retired GP with lived experience of major depression(s).

Jeyda Hammad,

Psychotherapist

Fay Maxted OBE

CEO, The Survivors Trust

Guy Gladstone

Psychotherapist The Open Centre London

Emily Connolly

Trainee Clinical Psychologist

Dr Katherine Macey,

Clinical psychologist working in physical health.

Ron Singer

retired GP and vice president doctors in Unite.

Dr Colm Gallagher,

Clinical Psychologist, Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.

Dr David Shiers

former Gp (Leek, North Staffordshire) and Carer of a family member with a severe mental disorder.

Dr Simon Stuart,

Clinical Psychologist in Adult Mental Health

Dr Carolyn Chew-Graham

GP Principal, The Chorlton Family Practice, Manchester and Professor of General Practice Research, Keele University.

Anne Wagner

Clinical Psychologist Locality Lead Psychologist

Dr Lloyd Baron

GPST2 Health Education West Midlands

Dr Alice Jones

(FY1 Psychiatry)

 Posted by at 11:51
Apr 252018
 

https://eu.vocuspr.com/Publish/3367750/vcsPRAsset_3367750_65279_3a748f31-ccdb-42a8-a268-74bfbeff4d97_0.jpg

25th April 2018

Duncan Lewis Solicitors client promised life-saving cancer treatment in high-profile case

On 24 April 2018, the Royal Marsden Hospital finally committed to giving Duncan Lewis’ client Albert Thompson1 the radiotherapy treatment that he requires to treat his prostate cancer; however the NHS Charging Regulations remain unlawful.

 

Mr Thompson was first told that he would be likely to need radiotherapy in November 2016, and the treatment was scheduled to start in January 2018. That was until the recent amendments to the NHS Charging Regulations came into force in October 2017.2 As a result of these regulations, in November Mr Thompson was told that he would have to pay for his treatment in advance or prove that he was ordinarily resident in the UK.

 

Mr Thompson has been a resident in the UK since December 1973. He has National Insurance records, GP records, bank records and benefits records which cover the entire period of his 44 year residence in this country.

 

Jeremy Bloom, Trainee Solicitor within the Harrow Public Law Team, has been working tirelessly to challenge the application of these Regulations, to regularise Mr Thompson’s status and to ensure that he gets the potentially life-saving treatment that he so urgently needs.

 

We submitted evidence of Mr Thompson’s residence to the hospital, but they maintained that under the Regulations, they couldn’t give him the treatment they felt was necessary, unless he could demonstrate that he has Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK.

 

We have since submitted an application to the Home Office to regularise his status, arguing that he should be granted ILR on the basis of his private and family life. The taskforce that has been set up to deal with ‘Windrush’ cases will be interviewing Mr Thompson later this week.

 

The case has also attracted a lot of attention in Parliament and in the media. The Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn MP has asked two Prime Minister’s Questions about the case, and the Prime Minister Theresa May broke the news that Mr Thompson would be receiving treatment in the House of Commons. When the Prime Minister made this announcement, our client had not been informed about this good news, and it took a few days for details of the treatment to become clear. Chuka Umunna MP raised a point of order in relation to the case, and wrote to the Royal Marsden directly. The case has been wide-reported in the Guardian, BBC news, and ITV.

 

It still is not clear why the Royal Marsden has decided to treat Mr Thompson given their initial delay and refusal to treat him without proof of residence or advance payment but we are relieved that Mr Thompson will now be receiving his promised radiotherapy treatment.

 

We still consider that the NHS Charging Regulations to be unlawful and grossly unfair. As long as they remain in force, their application will continue to deny people life-saving treatment despite the fact that they have been here for decades and should be entitled to this treatment on the NHS. We will continue to challenge these regulations.

 

If you or someone you know has been unlawfully denied treatment on the NHS, please get in touch with us:

Jeremy Bloom: jeremyb@duncanlewis.com

Toufique Hossain: toufiqueh@duncanlewis.com

 Posted by at 22:28
Apr 242018
 

Open discrimination is freely taking place on high streets up and down the country.

No DSS’ signs are a common sight in letting agent windows and websites. They mean that people who earn housing benefit, struggling with housing costs due to rising rents and shrinking wages, are locked out of many homes. They are being discriminated against as a group in an unjustified manner, and we believe that it is likely to be unlawful too.

We need to expose discrimination, and put an end to practices that unfairly penalise those who are receiving benefits.

If you have been discriminated against by a letting agent due to earning housing benefits, please get in touch with Shelter to discuss next steps.

campaign@shelter.org.uk

 Posted by at 21:25
Apr 182018
 

Today is DPACs National Day of Action on Universal Credit

Here are details about the central London protest and the protests happening round the country

If you can’t get to one of the protests you can still join in online. Tweet or post to facebook on the hashtag #StopAndScrapUniversalCredit

Check with the DPAC Twitter Account @dis_ppl_protest for latest updates on the prostests

We are especially asking people to tweet during PMQs – 12 noon till 1pm – add the hashtag #PMQs to your posts

Some links, images and information about UC have been included below that you can use in your twitter and facebook posts.

And you can still join in by joining DPAC’s campaign to lobby MPs on Universal Credit

Links that you can include in tweets and facebook posts

Images that you can include in tweets and facebook posts

Universal Credit, A Crime Against Claimants

Universal Credit, A Crime Against Claimants, NAtional Day of Action 18th April

Badge saying "STOP & SCRAP Universal credit"

Stop and Scrap Universal Credit Dead People Don't Claim

Information that you can include in your tweets and facebook posts

Universal Credit is the punishing regime due to be more widely imposed on people with low incomes both those in and out of work.

UC has too many flaws to be simply paused and fixed – it must be stopped and scrapped.

Universal Credit is an economic and political disaster bringing further distress and impoverishment to those forced to endure it.  To date at least £15.8 billion has been wasted on its implementation although only £1 billion is likely to be saved by 2020.

Seven million households will be affected, including over one million low paid part-time workers. For the first time ever people in work could face being sanctioned (having their benefits stopped) if they don’t prove to the job centre that they’re searching for better paid work or more hours. Pensioner couples will also be affected if one of them is under pension age.

No civilized Government should impose this on its citizens and no opposition party should want to simply pause and fix it.

Areas already subjected to UC have reported serious hardship with visits to food banks soaring along with rates of people sanctioned and left without any income for 3 months or more.

Just some of the many problems with UC are listed below.

General Problems

  • UC is based entirely on conditionality for those both in and out of work. Failure to meet these conditions can lead to the imposition of cumulative sanctions which could last 3 years.
  • Everyone will have to accept the Claimant Commitment and log in daily to Universal Job match account and complete your to do list and journal. There is harsh conditionality within Universal Credit such as 35 hour per week job searches.
  • Even with the changes brought in at the end of last year claimants face a 5 week wait which in many cases seems to be 3 months or longer for their first payment.
  • Loss of Mortgage interest payments which will now mean people have to take out a second loan if they are buying a home.
  • Hardship Loans are repayable meaning the full amount of money someone is entitled to isn’t paid for months as 40% of their entitlement can be taken away to repay a loan.
  • With UC, housing benefit isn’t paid straight to the landlord but to the claimant who may be in need of money to use in an emergency. In pilot areas this has resulted in up to 60% of claimants going into rent arrears.
  • Letting agents are already refusing to rent to anyone claiming UC.

 

For Disabled People

  • UC is claimed and managed entirely digitally which is difficult or impossible for many disabled people. Any mistakes on the form will likely lead to loss of benefit or a claim being disallowed.
  • Health and Work conversations are mandatory and any failure to attend will lead to your claim being closed.
  • People in part time work could be forced to give up work that suits their Disability or family life in order to take up worse paid full time work or risk sanctions,.
  • UC brings in the loss of Severe and Enhanced Disability Premiums which mean single disabled people lose around £2,000 per annum and a disabled couple over £4,000 per annum.

Coercion of Mental Health claimants.

  • As part of the Health and Work Programme we are seeing the use of the DWP nudge unit and psycho compulsion. This effectively means the introduction of forced treatment through the use of IAPT therapists based in job centres. If claimants don’t take the treatment prescribed they face being sanctioned.

Loss of Womens’ Rights

  • Changes to benefit payments will make women financially dependent on men trapping many in endless domestic violence.
  • The appalling Tax Credit ‘rape clause’ means that women can only get Child Tax Credit payments for their first two children unless they can prove they were raped. This involves filling out a detailed 45 page form about being raped..

For those in work, self-employed or on zero hours contracts

  • Even those in work will be expected to look for more hours up to 48 hours a week so you are not reliant on state support or face Sanctions for failing to comply. Warning- if your earnings exceed qualifying levels in a month they can close your claim and your online history will be erased when they close your claim down without warning. Make copies of all your actions to copy into your Journal or To Do List so you have evidenced back up files. To get this reinstated can take 8 months without money.
  • Going on Holiday? Think Again- If you fail to do your job match account even over Christmas and other bank holidays you will have your money stopped and you must always be available for interviews.
  • For every £1 earned Universal Credit takes away 63p meaning people are working for 37p for every pound earned per hour.
  • Self employed people will have to submit their monthly, instead of annual, income before any UC payment, including for housing costs, will be made for that month causing untold chaos and hardship. If they earn too much in any month their claim will be closed and they’ll have to start all over again.
 Posted by at 11:34
Apr 172018
 

18 April – Join the vigil for justiceVigil for Justice, 18th April 7-8pm, Outside Ministry for Justice
Join the fight to save our justice system at a vigil outside the Ministry of Justice from 7-8pm on 18 April.
Cuts to legal aid mean too many people are being priced out of justice. When legal aid was introduced 8 out of 10 people were entitled to free legal advice. Now fewer than 1 in 10 receive it.
Join the vigil for justice in London, organised by the Justice Alliance and Speak Up For Justice.
Where?
Outside the Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France, London SW1H 9AJ
(near St James tube)
Tweet your support #Time4Justice

 Posted by at 17:00