Jan 162014
 

A blog article published yesterday http://blog.cix.co.uk/gmorgan/2014/01/14/sneaky-sneaky-sneaky/shows that DWP has been quietly sneaking amendments to the benefit cap with the introduction of Universal Credit, cutting it effectively from £26,000 to £18,000 for couples without children, without almost anybody noticing.

When the benefit cap was introduced for Housing Benefit, it was as followed:

  • £500 a week if you’re a couple – with or without dependent children
  • £500 a week if you’re a lone parent with dependent children
  • £350 a week if you’re a single person without children.

http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/england/benefits_e/benefits_the_benefit_cap_e/the_benefit_cap_what_you_need_to_know.htm

But the new benefit cap under Universal credit which has been announced by DWP in December 2013 moves quietly and softly the couples without children from the £500 cap to the £350 cap, effectively cutting their benefit award from £26,000 to £18,000, as shown here by Steve Webb statement in the Commons

Webb: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201314/ldhansrd/text/131209-wms0001.htm and DWP website: https://www.gov.uk/benefit-cap

Although the exact number of couples affected by this change is currently unknown, many of them will include disabled people and disabled people with partners as carers, who will be hit by the cap on top of other benefit cuts.

 Posted by at 12:46
Jan 142014
 

Thanks go to Liz Kendall who argued for independent living and choice to be included in the Care Bill when Independent living and Choice was debated in the Care Bill Committee on Thurs 9 January  – Norman Lamb argued against.   Liz Kendall used the wording suggested by Inclusion London and supported by DPAC re the definition for independent living,  see below.  Norman Lamb said the definition of independent living was unclear.

Please tweet your thanks to Liz Kendall MP in recognition of her efforts

Unfortunately the vote narrowly went against the amendments 10 to 12, so the amendments will not be recommended by the Committee, but the fight goes on as other MPs can recommend amendments when the Bill returns to the House of Commons….    It also now goes back to the Lords so you may wish to contact some lords about this as well.

Please write to your MPs to urge them to propose the independent living amendment and others that are vital for disabled people. See the template letter prepared by Inclusion London attached. 

Here’s a piece from Liz Kendall’s speech:  The debate available at:http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmpublic/care/140109/pm/140109s01.htm

Liz Kendall: The Bill is an important opportunity to ensure that our legislation fully addresses the needs, aspirations and rights of disabled people. Disability organisations have rightly welcomed the new duties that the Bill will put on local authorities to promote well-being and prevention. However, many organisations, such as Inclusion London, Scope and Mencap, have argued that a duty to promote independent living is also essential. That is not a minor or technical point, but a point of principle. Independent living is crucial to ensuring that disabled people have the same rights, choices and chances as any other citizen in this country. Independent living is essential to getting a good education, finding a job, building a career and taking part in community and public life. It is about ensuring that people can live in their own home with whoever they choose to live with and have the opportunity to have a family life. It is about ensuring that they are able to get out and about, meet up with friends and participate in the cultural life of the community and the country. In other words, independent living for me, and more importantly for disabled people and the organisations that work with and represent them, is about being able to participate in, contribute to and be included in society, as the rest of us usually take for granted. 

Disability organisations say that disabled people’s rights to independent living are being undermined by the Government’s policies in social care and the welfare system. The Government’s decision to reduce local council budgets by a third, the biggest reduction in any part of government, is having a real effect on services that are essential to helping with the basics of daily life, such as getting up, washed, dressed and fed. We do that every day, which is essential to getting on with the rest of our lives, but for disabled people— 

Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab ….. I recall that, in our discussions with Swedish parliamentarians, who have a sort of Standing Committee on Health, we were told that if any responsibilities were placed on local government, it is a legal requirement for the necessary resources to be made available for the councils to carry out those services and delegate the functions.

Liz Kendall:  My hon. Friend makes an important point about the needs of adults with disabilities and about the importance of having a right to the basics of daily life, which are essential. The recent joint inquiry by the all-party groups on local government and on disability showed the real problems with the services in the current system: four in 10 disabled adults are now failing to have their basic social care needs met; and nearly half of all disabled adults say that services are not supporting them to get out and about in their local community. The same erosion of independence and opportunities is happening in the social security system through the closure of the independent living fund; problems with the Work programme; how the personal independent payment is being implemented; and the bad bedroom tax. 

 

 

 Template letter to MPs

Dear   Add the name of your MP,

I am writing to you regarding the Care Bill which is in currently being discussed by MPs.

The Care Bill has been described as a once in a life time opportunity to tackle the social care crisis which is impacting on my life. I am asking for your support to propose the amendments to the Care Bill below, to ensure that I am given the support I need for my independent living. 

Independent living for disabled people

As a disabled person I have the right to the same opportunities, choices and rights as other citizens. I want to get a job, build a career and have an education and to take part in community and public life.  I wish to decide when I go bed, what I eat and to live in my home with people I choose to live with, I also want to be able to leave my home to go out and about – go shopping, go to see a band. I would like the opportunity to be a parent and friend, have a family and social life. All these elements are included in independent living for disabled people.  Independent living is being able to contribute, participate and be included.

Funding

Social care is in crisis resulting in more and more disabled people going without the essential support they need. This situation is likely to continue because the Care Bill does not tackle the fundamental issue of funding for social care. I have not got large savings and do not own my house, so I will not benefit from the Government’s funding reforms.  I would like care and support to be funded so it supports me to lead an independent life of participation, inclusion, dignity and equality. To achieve this I believe it should be funded out of National Insurance contributions/general taxation and free at the point of need like the NHS, this would ensure I get the care I need for independent living in the future.

Amendments to Care Bill

I would be grateful if you could put forward the amendments below to the Scrutiny Committee or to the House of Commons when the Bill reaches Report stage, to try and ensure that independent living for disabled people becomes a reality. All the amendments are highlighted in bold: 

 

1. Amendment to: Clause 1 ‘Promoting individual well-being’ 

Can you please propose the following amendments to the definition of ‘well-being’ and to the General responsibilities of local authorities:

1 Promoting individual well-being and independent living

(1) The general duty of a local authority, in exercising a function under this Part in the case of an individual, is to promote that individual’s well-being, independence and inclusion as equal and valued citizens and members of the community.

(a) That duties under independent living promote the wider definition of independent living as expressed in the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

2. Advocacy

It is very important that disabled people are provided with independent advocacy right through the process of obtaining and maintaining care and support.

It is important because independent advocacy enables disabled people to participate in the assessment and review process but also enable disabled people to give direct feedback about the quality of services, which will help prevent on-going abuse of disabled people in the future. Therefore we ask you to put forward the following amendments to three clauses, (see wording in bold)

Clause 5.Promoting diversity and quality in provision of service:

A local authority must have regard to —

(c)      the need to offer and provide an independent advocate to enable service user feedback to improve the quality of services  

Clause 9.  Assessment of adults need for care and support:

A local authority, in carrying out a needs assessment, has

(d)     A duty to offer and provide an independent advocate to the adult to enable full participation in all needs assessments and reviews

Clause 42.   Enquiry by local authority:

(2)The local authority must-

(a)     Offer and provide an independent advocate to an adult who is experiencing, or at risk of, abuse or neglect to enable them to give evidence and participate fully in the enquiry. 

3. Amendment to Clause 9 ‘Assessment of an adult’s needs for care and support’

The assessment is the key gateway to care and support so it is important that disabled people, who are expert in their own needs, should be at the core of the assessment process. Can you please propose the following that:

  • All care assessments reflect the rights to independent living and choice encompassed in the UNCRDP.  Also that all care and support assessments should be a person centred process. 

 

4. Amendment to Clause 13 ‘The eligibility criteria’

The government has announced that the national eligibility threshold is to be set at ‘Substantial’. This means support will only be provided at a very late stage when disabled people’s health, wellbeing and independence has deteriorated badly. Can you please propose an amendment so that:

  • The eligibility threshold for care is set at ‘moderate’ to ensure that disabled people are able to receive the support needed to maintain and sustain health, wellbeing and independence

 

5. Independent Living Fund (no existing clause)

The impact on the independent living of disabled people with high support needs if the Independent Living Fund (ILF) closes in 2015 will be devastating. I would be grateful if you can propose a new clause to ensure there is:

  • A duty on local authorities to provide equivalent support as provided by the ILF that ensures independent living in the community on an on-going basis.  
  • Set up an Independent living task force, co-produced with ILF users, to review independent living and specifically the Independent Living Fund in order to identify how best to improve, develop and extend independent living support building on the successful model of ILF provision. 

5. Amendment to ‘Continuity of care and support when an adult moves’ – Clause 37 ‘Notification, assessment etc

I believe I should have the same freedom to move home as non-disabled people i.e. without the fear that my care package will be removed or reduced. I urge you to propose and amendment so there is a duty to:

  • Ensure the new care package provided by the receiving authority must be equivalent to the existing care package, provided by the first authority.  

Together these amendments will help make the Care Bill better for disabled people and help make independent living a reality for me and other disabled people.

Can you please let me know what action you will take and what amendments you will be proposing and supporting.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 21:37
Dec 112013
 

For the past few months we at Disabled People Against Cuts have been receiving emails daily from disabled people and disabled parents with children who are being left without any food or any money for heating. They have had their benefits sanctioned and all money taken away from them for a period of between 2 weeks and 3 months. Disabled people who have never committed any crimes in their lives are being forced into shoplifting simply to be able to eat themselves or to feed their children.

The reasons they are being sanctioned are pathetic, looking for too many jobs, being late to sign on because they were at an interview for a job, having to help a pregnant partner before coming out and being 5 minutes late. Imagine being left utterly destitute in this way by a gang of uncaring, heartless millionaire politicians who think being starved will ‘encourage’ you to find one of the non-existent jobs. It is hard to believe that in a country which is still one of the richest in the world people are being deliberately and callously left to starve and freeze.

Surely democracy, if it exists, depends on government of the people by consensus rather than by the use of force or fear which is tyranny. Yet this week’s appearances by government ministers in front of the DWP select committee only highlights that no such consensus exists in the UK today.

And what of our own minister for disabled people – Mike Penning aka Machine Gun Mike and that DWP henchman Iain Duncan Smith. When the mere thought of being in the same room as a small group of disabled people exercising their democratic right to attend a select committee hearing drives DWP ministers to resort to mass protection by police guards heavily armed with machine guns pointed towards disabled spectators while they waited in the corridor to go into the rooms and after they came out of the meeting I think it is fair for all citizens to ask just what has this government become. Certainly they really cannot be viewed as democratic or legitimate in any way. Neither can they use the excuse that such ‘vulnerable’ people as us are in any way a threat to them – or are we? We are large in numbers and most of us are allowed to vote in elections.

One disabled woman who was there said

“we are being treated like terrorists because we are disabled people –  disgusting!”

and another said

“ A very disturbing sight to se an MP having guns pointed at 3 unarmed people in wheelchairs and about 8 other disabled people and carers who came peacefully to exercise their democratic right to sit in on a hearing.”

As if being threatened with a machine gun was not enough disabled people legitimately attending meetings in the House of Commons are now regularly being subjected to more and more ridiculous security checks. Yesterday when I attended the BIHR charter launch I was forced to remove not only my watch but the quite ordinary belt from my trousers so it could be scanned. What exactly could be hidden in a belt I have no idea and can only assume this was done to cause me to be humiliated. Needless to say I wasn’t I was simply left wondering how disabled people being treated in such ways could possibly equate to the UK government being viewed as ‘good’ on upholding human rights in other parts of the world.

However I won’t dwell further on that as the subject is fraught with problems if we start to remember the Blair years, Guatanamo, and other abuses carried out in the name of democracy.

I simply want to reiterate that the very fact that DWP ministers felt the need to be protected from us and to be hidden away behind machinegun carrying police in this way simply illustrates how successful we have been with our campaigning so far. Shame on them all.

See also this FOI request to DWP about the incident on Monday which was made by someone not known to DPAC.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/work_pensions_committee_machine

11 December 2013

Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

My questions refer to security processes surrounding the Work &
Pensions meeting held on 9th December 2013 at 16:30 in the Wilson
room.

According to multiple witnesses (members of the public, mainly
physically or mentally disabled) who arrived to observe the above
meeting, they were initially met by standard airport and court type
security, metal detectors, belongings checked, they were frisked –
all pretty much what I would expect.

The public area was off camera (although some public members did
appear in view of the camera to find their seats and I did witness
one electric wheelchair user briefly on camera.

However the witnesses stated something rather disturbing which
wasn’t seen on camera which could explain their unusual silence
throughout the proceedings. There were several policemen or
security guards with machine guns, not pointed down, instead
pointing TOWARDS the public area throughout this meeting.

My questions are as follows:

1. Who from the DWP asked for these guards with machine guns to be
present?

2. Who from the DWP asked for these guards to keep their machine
guns pointed toward the public area?

3. Please provide the report which deemed it necessary to have
guards with machine guns pointed toward the public during this
meeting.

My fourth question is only for if you’re unable to answer any one
of the above questions.

4. Please specify the Government department I should send this FoI
request to if you don’t hold the above information on any question
I ask above.

(For public reference, the meeting can be watched here although the
public area and the guards with machine guns are off camera:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqJoGMKI… )

Yours faithfully,

 

 

 Posted by at 19:37
Dec 092013
 

Frances Ryan, a journalist for The Guardian and New Statesman, is looking fo disabled people and those with a long term health condition willing to share their experiences of food poverty: both how we’re being affected by it and ways you’re dealing with it.  

Due to being a disabled person, have you had difficulty accessing out-of-home help like food banks? 

Have you been unable to buy food due to benefit changes? 

Have you had to rely on other ways to find food when you couldn’t afford to buy it? e.g. scavenging, skipping etc.

Has your impairment/long term illness worsened due to malnutrition?
Any experiences you think are relevant and you’d be willing to share, please get in touch on frances.ryan18@btinternet.com. Thank you. (Please email rather than write in the comments below as I wouldn’t want to miss your input.)
We think that it is important for people who have no idea what is happening to some of us to hear the truth so if you are willing to share your details with Frances we hope this will help let people know how disabled people, young children and others who have been sanctioned for bizarre reasons such as looking for too many jobs are being left to starve in the UK today due to the policies of the Condem government.

 

 Posted by at 20:31
Dec 022013
 

Last Saturday was the founding conference of Left Unity attended by many DPAC activists and other disabled people. There were access glitches galore, yes…but it was a historic moment for a political party to be kicked off with so many disabled people in attendance as members and a couple speaking too. 

What went right was that the website asked people signing up to let us know if they had any access needs. Very few did, but we responded to them, providing documents on a memory stick for example – and in some cases went above and beyond, providing many large print copies of the conference documents.  The venue was basically wheelchair accessible and had a hearing loop and over 1,900 people viewed the livestreaming at some point during the day. We know this was important to disabled members who simply couldn’t travel. Organisers ensured that the chair and speakers were at floor level so that disabled people could speak. Posters around the venue showed disabled people, including a Disabled People Against Cuts demo.

So it’s true that lots went wrong! I’m not going to list it all here (others have already done so). I had failed to get the start time put back, though I did try. But the whole point of having a registration desk dedicated to disabled people was so that if they arrived with just a few minutes to go to 10 o’clock, or even after, their registration could be speeded through.

Some people ignored reserved seat notices and there were no announcements to the effect that those who needed the hearing loop needed to be in the first few rows…mainly because those of us who could have done that were still tied up on registration desks. Worst of all, a number of factors meant there were no access breaks although they’d been promised in writing and that was dire, there’s no getting round it.

But having been there from the beginning, I have seen the tremendous amount of work that went into making it as good as we could (at breakneck speed) and the genuine determination of everyone involved to keep getting better.  I have seen that we have managed to keep at bay those who would have wrecked the whole project so that they could empire build.

We have an immensely strong group of disabled people already (I believe it may be the largest of all the caucuses so far) so it CAN only get better.  It is a very difficult process. Most of us have never been able to be involved in mainstream politics before and so find it difficult to take the right initiative at the right time. And of course most non-disabled people have an equal mountain to climb in terms of understanding the social model and supporting us. But it has started and it will continue.

And what did we achieve? Well, the UK has a new broad left party truly there to represent working class people, not just owning classes and the ridiculously wealthy.  We will have at least 50% women on all national and regional bodies. We will be fighting capitalism (no I’m not sure how yet!) and campaigning alongside working class people in general and trades unions in particular, for a much more inclusive and just society, which respects our environment too.

If you are a member of Left Unity, do join us at ludisabledpeople@lists.riseup.net

 Posted by at 13:18
Nov 252013
 

Independent Living Rights News (25/11/2013)

 

 

IMPORTANT NEWS FROM ITALY:

 

Significant Independent Living Rights Victory In Face Of Harsh Austerity

 

On 21 November, the ‘Comitato 16 Novembre Onlus’, which is led by severely disabled people, finally secured a long-term commitment from the Italian government that more than 300 million Euros will be invested annually in personal assistance support for disabled people living in the community following a campaign of direct action.

 

  • Interview in Italian with Mariangela Lamanna, the Comitato’s Vice President, immediately after their victory:

 

http://tv.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2013/11/21/malati-sla-letta-ripristinati-i-fondi-comitato-16-novembre-e-stata-durissima/254670/#disqus_thread

 

  • Protest held in Rome on 20 November 2013:

 

http://tv.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2013/11/20/sit-in-malati-di-sla-manifestante-si-stacca-il-respiratore-non-mi-importa-di-morire/254489/

 

 

1. Pam Duncan

 

Disability rights and anti-bedroom tax campaigner Pam Duncan, who is also an Independent Living Fund user, continues to campaign for the Labour Party’s nomination for the forthcoming Falkirk by-election. The selection meeting is on 8 December.

 

The Disability News Service has published an interview with Pam at:

 

http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2013/11/disabled-activist-could-become-first-mp-to-use-independent-living-fund/

 

And you can see videos of Pam speaking at the Scottish Labour Conference in April and talking about her life as a disabled person and personal assistance user at:

 

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EAonqvZt5oA&feature=c4-feed-u

 

http://www.iriss.org.uk/resources/pam-duncans-story-so-far

 

More info at:

 

http://pamduncan.com

 

 

2. Leading Labour Politician Comments On The Independent Living Fund

 

Leading Labour politician Margaret Beckett MP has pointed to the ‘extra burdens’ the closure of the ILF would place on local authorities.

 

In the Derby Telegraph (15/11/13) she wrote: “Just a year after we all applauded the brilliant sportsmen and women who competed in the Paralympics, many more people with disabilities….will be affected if the Government closes the Independent Living Fund.”

 

“That fund was set up when the Tory Government, under Margaret Thatcher, was cutting benefits for people with the most serious disabilities. The Independent Living Fund was set up in part to compensate for the withdrawal of those other benefits.”

 

“Today, Margaret Thatcher’s successors, working hand-in-hand with the Liberal Democrats, are trying to remove it. The Coalition claims that councils should then fund the services and support the Independent Living Fund used to provide. This would place substantial extra burdens on councils, already facing massive cuts.”

 

 

3. Independent Living Rights Appeal Court Victory

 

Independent Living Fund users who successfully challenged the government’s decision to close the Fund and the Save the ILF Campaign still do not know if Disabled People’s Minister Mike Penning will meet with them.

 

Gabriel Pepper, one of the ILF Five involved in the legal challenge who is from Waltham Forest in North London, has previously been helped by Ian Duncan Smith to secure vital health treatment when in 2001 he made representations to the Labour health minister Alan Milburn on Gabriel’s behalf.

 

http://www.yellowad.co.uk/News.cfm?id=39423&headline=GABRIEL%20IS%20DISABLED%20FUNDING%20SAVIOUR

 

Below are links to the full Appeal Court judgement in the ILF Five legal case, and the solicitors Press Release and Briefing Note:

 

http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2013/1345.html&query=bracking&method=boolean

 

http://www.scomo.com/documents/ILF_press_release-final.pdf

 

http://www.scomo.com/documents/ILF_BRIEFING_NOTE-06.11.13.pdf

 

A ‘Legal briefing on the decision in the ILF appeal’ has been produced by Louise Whitfield of Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors who acted for three of the claimants. This contains important legal advice about the Court of Appeal judgement and the legal issues the Department for Work and Pensions and Ministers must now confront.

 

http://www.deightonpierceglynn.co.uk/news/news_docs/536648%20ILF%20appeal%20legal%20briefing%20note%20LW%20Nov%202013.pdf

 

 

4. Facebook

 

As well as following the Facebook group of Disabled People Against Cuts, some disabled people active in the ILF campaign that supported the ILF legal case share information through the “Because We R Worth It!” Independent Living Facebook group.

 

 

5. Interesting Articles

 

  • Sunil Peck’s report in ‘Disability Now’ of the upbeat meeting of 120 disabled activists and allies in London on 19 November that was held to celebrate the launch of Disability History Month. This year’s theme is ‘Celebrating our Struggle for Independent Living: No Return to Institutions or Isolation’:

 

http://www.disabilitynow.org.uk/article/independence-key-disability-history-month

 

  • An article about the ILF Five’s Appeal Court victory by Rachel Salmon for the ‘Women’s Views On News’ site which features an interview with leading activist Sue Elsegood:

 

http://www.womensviewsonnews.org/2013/11/living-not-just-surviving/

 

  • An article by Mark Wilson of ProMove commenting on the calls for Esther McVey to resign:

 

http://www.promove.uk.com/blog/esther-mcvey-resignation-calls-will-do-little-to-help-disabled-people/

 

 

6. All-Party Parliamentary Disability Group (APPDG)

 

The next meeting of the APPDG is on 9 December, and Disabled People’s Minister Mike Penning will be attending. In its report ‘Promoting Independence, Preventing Crisis’ that was published jointly with the Local Government All-Party Parliamentary Group in May 2013, the APPDG adopted the following position towards the proposed closure of the Independent Living Fund:

 

“The Government should acknowledge disabled people’s concerns about the closure of the Independent Living Fund and work more closely with them to manage the closure for the 20,000 affected.”

 

The Appeal Court’s decision to quash Esther McVey’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund provides an opportunity for the APPDG to reflect on its position towards the ILF and decide whether or not to call for a long-term future for the Fund.

 

 

7. Disabled People’s Minister Mike Penning’s Comments On The ILF

 

Last week, Welsh MP Hywel Williams of Plaid Cymru tabled an ‘oral question’ on 18 November for Mike Penning about the future of the Independent Living Fund. The text below is from Hansard:

 

 

Hansard

 

“Hywel Williams (Arfon) (PC): What plans he has for the future of the independent living fund.

 

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Mike Penning): We will consider the Court of Appeal judgment carefully and will announce plans in due course.

 

Hywel Williams: I declare an interest, in that my brother is enabled to live independently in his own community by the ILF, and I am extremely grateful that that opportunity is afforded to him. Will the Minister assure the House that when the Government come to consider their future plans, there will be full consultation this time with disabled people and disability groups in Wales, the regions of England, and Scotland, and specifically with the Welsh Government?

 

Mike Penning: I greatly respect the hon. Gentleman, but the conclusions of the Court of Appeal were nothing to do with consultation. It was a process issue, in that the Court felt that the Minister had not been given enough information, based on the information that was put in writing. The Court went on to say that there was evidence that the Minister [Esther McVey] ‘consulted personally with many affected groups’ and it had ‘no doubt that evidence of hard cases would have been forcefully drawn to her attention.’ That is what the Court ruled. It had nothing to do with consultation.”

 

 

Comment:

 

Hywel Williams is the brother of an ILF user, therefore any comments he makes as an MP on this issue have the added force of being from an advocate for the interests and needs of his brother and other disabled people. By raising the veracity of the consultation, he is reflecting the disquiet among disability organisations within Wales about the initial consultation process. This disquiet is also shared in both Scotland and Northern Ireland. While the government can argue the Appeal Court ruling means the process followed during the ILF consultation was lawful, ILF users and disabled people’s organisations still have significant concerns about how it was run. Among these is the failure to publish an equality impact assessment before the consultation started, and the inability of disabled people and family carers to bring important issues and the potentially detrimental implications of the ILF’s closure to the surface.

 

In his response, Mike Penning emphasised strongly in his tone that Esther McVey’s decision to close the ILF was based on insufficient written information. This could be a reference to the DWP’s limited written interim analysis of the consultation responses that was completed on the Wednesday following the consultation deadline at midnight on Friday 12 October 2012.

 

Mike Penning’s reference to Esther McVey’s meetings with disability organisations, where it is assumed examples of ‘hard cases’ would have been raised with her in the run-up to her closure decision, is possibly an attempt to argue that at the time of the decision McVey was actually fully aware of the consequences of closure. This could be a response to some of the points made in the Appeal Court ruling and might mean a possible approach by the DWP and government would be to argue all that is needed to get back on course is a review of the ‘documentary evidence’.

 

An alternative reading might be the government is trying to put distance between McVey and the DWP’s consultation analysis to find a way of back-tracking politically. Given that the Appeal Court ruled the consultation process was lawful, this would be difficult to achieve as it would mean acknowledging the DWP’s approach to ILF users and their families during the consultation was wrong.

 Posted by at 20:37
Nov 122013
 

Add your voice to DPAC’s survey–what needs to change? What are the key issues for disabled people under this Government? We know most of them-but what about specific barriers: education, transport, building more accessible housing-are they getting worse or better?…Tell us…so it’s not just us arguing for change…

 https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WYZVQXV

Nov 112013
 

Are you a Disability Living Allowance (DLA) user that has been forced into a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment? We are looking for stories of those that have been forced into a PIP assessment through a third party. For example, if you have had an ESA assessment, failed and then details have been passed on to the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) and  triggered a PIP assessment.  Also if you think you have been reported to any agency for a change of circumstances and this has forced a PIP assessment.

This does not apply if you have reported a change of circumstances, but in any other case where you have been told that you must be assessed for PIP due to a change in your circumstances.

Please send any stories to mail@dpac.uk.net  

All details will remain confidential.

Nov 042013
 

17. ATOS AND THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES 2014 That this Conference notes that sponsors of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow include Atos. Atos has been the object of sustained campaigning by disability rights activists, for its conduct of Work Capability Assessment on behalf of the Con-Dem Coalition, with goal of driving people with disabilities off benefits. Conference believes Atos should not be allowed to exploit the Commonwealth Games as a source of publicity. Conference continue to condemn the attacks on the most vulnerable in our society by the Coalition Government and their assessment provider, Atos Healthcare. Conference accepts that over 40 per cent of the assessments carried out on disability benefit claimants by the back to work assessor Atos are flawed and unacceptable. Conference welcomes the efforts of the Black Triangle Campaign, Disabled People Against Cuts ( DPAC ) and other campaigning organisations, to highlight the effects of the attacks on Scottish people and deplores that, despite Govmt claims to the contrary, the Work Capabilty and Personal Independence Payment Assessment is clearly target driven. Conference calls on the STUC Disabled Workers Committee to: lobby the Scottish Govmt to ensure that health boards resources are not being used to deliver draconian DWP assessment contracts further lobby the Scottish Government to ensure that all the assessment’ contracts have to be taken back inside the DWP write to the Board and Executive Team of Glasgow 2014, calling on them to cancel Atos sponsorship of the Games write to Glasgow City Labour Group urging them to support that Atos should not be accepted as a sponsor of the Games and support campaigning by disability rights groups against Atos sponsorship of the Games. Moved by Unite the Union. Passed Unanimously.

 Posted by at 14:41
Nov 012013
 

We have just heard that the judgement on the ILF case will be made on Wednesday morning (6 November) at 9.45 am in court 63.  We will not know the decision until then

Our ILF solicitors are advising people that it would be good to be at the Royal courts of Justice on Wednesday for the judgement .  They are contacting the press and will be putting together a press release to hand out on Wednesday morning.  The hearing will only last a couple of minutes as there will be no legal submissions, just the court staff handing over the written judgment and someone reading out the court order.

We appreciate this is really short notice and that many of you will not be able to get to court but if you can that will be great!

We will be giving more info out on Monday.

 Posted by at 17:36
Nov 012013
 

The Collapse of Access To Work Continues Leaving Nowhere To Go For Sacked Remploy Workers

mike_penningThe slump in the Government’s Access To Work scheme has continued with around a third less people benefiting from the fund, which aims to help disabled people find and stay in employment, than during its peak in 2009/10.

Access To Work provides money for support workers, transport costs or other expenses for disabled workers.  The scheme began to collapse shortly after this Government weren’t elected with the number of new starts at an all time low – standing at 9,760 individuals beginning on Access To Work  in 2011/12 compared to 16,230 just two years earlier in 2009/10.

Since then the DWP has tried furiously to plug the scheme, broadening the criteria under which people can qualify to include Work Experience along with running high profile promotional campaigns. Despite all of this, Access To Work remains a disaster under the current Government – although that hasn’t stoppedDWP big wigs boasting in the national press about how proud they are of their utter failure.

Access To Work is also available for people who are self-employed, leadingsome to speculate how many of those on the scheme have been bullied into precarious self-employment by shady Work Programme companies.  Even if this is the case, it has barely made an ounce of difference.

Just 10,390 people started receiving support in 2012/13 and this week’s figures for the first quarter of 2013/14 reveal things have barely got any better since then.  Should the dire performance continue throughout the year then less than 11,000 people are likely to start on Access To Work this year.

That’s 11,000 out of around 7 million working age disabled people in the UK.

Astonishingly the new Minister for Murdering Disabled People, Mike Penning (pictured) has hailed the latest dismal figures as a real success, claiming that a meagre 10% rise of those using the scheme over the last year is a ‘boost’ for disabled people.  Pennning doesn’t seem to have realised that 10% more of fuck all is still fuck all.  Perhaps most troubling of all, is that the accompanying gushing press release appears to tell a bare faced lie about the success of Access To Work stating that: “the recent set of statistics show the highest level of new claims since 2007 – with 10,390 new applications.”

As can be seen from the table below, the statistical release shows a very different story.

access-to-workAnd even this does not tell the full story of this Government’s abandonment of disabled workers.  Also this week came the news that two thirds of the sacked Remploy workers are still unemployed.  1,800 disabled workers at the Remploy factories have been laid off over the last couple of years with the promise that the Access To Work scheme would help them all back into the workplace.  According to The Mirror, just 535 of them have found jobs.  Further closures of most of the remaining Remploy factories are soon to take place.

The dreadful performance of Access To Work suggests two things.  Firstly that the DWP are inept and have bungled the promotion of the scheme.  Secondly that no matter how much the Government manufacture falling unemployment, for many of those who face barriers to employment, there are still no fucking jobs.

On the plus side, at least the DWP have stopped referring to disabled workers as ‘stock’ in the latest statistical release.

The latest Access To Work figures are available at:https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/access-to-work-official-statistics-october-2013

http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2013/10/26/collapse-of-access-to-work-continues7267/

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

 

 Posted by at 10:22
Nov 012013
 

Justice Alliance joined by former Liberal Democrats urging Nick Clegg to comply with the party’s wishes to halt devastating legal aid cuts

Philippe Sands, who publicly resigned his membership from the Lib Dems this year, joins representatives of the Justice Alliance outside the Lib Dem HQ in London at 10.00 am today demanding that Nick Clegg halts the government proposals to slash legal aid, in accordance with his party’s vote at conference this year. The move is supported by other high profile resigners, including Dinah Rose QC and Jo Shaw. 

Over 100 charities and organisations, including Liberty, The Children’s Society and the Howard League for Penal Reform, will join disabled ex-prisoner Daniel Roque Hall and Harriet Wistrich, lawyer for two women sexually abused by guards at Yarl’s Wood detention centre, to hand deliver a signed letter calling for an immediate halt to the legal aid cuts following the unanimous vote at conference. 

If the proposals are implemented:

  •  Unlawful government actions including those of the police and social services will go unchallenged;
  •  Vulnerable individuals, including victims of trafficking and violent offences, to be unable to access vital advice;
  • There will be serious implications for access to justice and fair trial rights;
  • Poor and unfair decisions of the state to go unchallenged;
  • It will diminish quality criminal representation.

Dinah Rose QC, former Liberal Democrat member “The protection of the right of access to justice ought to be fundamental to a party which values civil liberties. It is put in jeopardy by the Government’s proposals to implement yet more cuts on legal aid. There is no point in participating in Government unless the leadership uses the power that it undoubtedly has to prevent serious damage being done to our legal system, and to the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society.”

Matt Foot, solicitor and founder of Justice Alliance, said: “Who has stood up and supported these proposals? No-one. Time and again everyone has criticised Grayling’s proposals. Even he would not attend the debate in Parliament to defend these proposals. The truth is the government has no idea whether the proposals will work or whether it will cause total chaos. MP’s from across the political spectrum have expressed their concern at government plans which will make it hard for ordinary people to challenge the state. The recent success of the Lewisham hospital campaigners demonstrates it is vital that the government should not be permitted to act with impunity.”

Anne Hall, mother of Daniel Roque Hall, added: “’Legal aid cuts are life threatening. My severely disabled and very ill son was sent to Wormwood Scrubs despite medical concerns about his likely survival there. The prison failed, the prison complaints system was utterly ineffective and Daniel ended up unnecessarily in intensive care and hospitalised for six months. It was only through legal aid he was not sent back to Wormwood Scrubs and he was able to come home where he could be cared for safely. Legal aid saved his life.’


Leroy Skeete, writer and ex-prisoner, said: “From the age of 10 I was in and out of children’s homes. The one thing I learnt is that abuses are carried out in the dark. Legal aid shines a light and people are less likely to abuse if there is a possibility they will be exposed.”

James Welch, Liberty’s Legal Director, said: “Legal protections are meaningless if people can’t access effective legal representation.  The current proposals put justice beyond reach for the most vulnerable and put the fairness of our criminal justice system in serious jeopardy.  The Lib Dem membership have spoken out against these unjust attacks – it’s time for the leadership to listen.” 

Julene, mother of two young children “Before I had a legal aid solicitor helping me, social services would ignore me. I have two young children and we were facing eviction. I was struggling with the rent and I had no idea what to do. When I went to court they gave me a list of legal aid solicitors and told me I needed one. My solicitor sorted things out and it was only through her that we could get social services to listen. Without legal aid me and my children would be homeless. I am very worried for people like me who would be excluded from help because of the residence test.

‘Jennie’ (anonymised) young person
“I am currently destitute and struggling to support myself. Before I got legal aid I couldn’t see a way ahead. Now I have got a solicitor and she is helping me to contact social services so that I can put a roof over my head and so that I can get proper food and support. The government plans to take away the only lifeline that exists for people like me and it makes me very worried for those in my position in the future.”

According to the Justice Alliance, knock on costs of the legal aid proposals could be up to £47 million. The impact of the legal aid cuts of April this year is already being felt by the vulnerable – victims of domestic violence and trafficking are being turned away by law firms who are at breaking point.  The new proposals will make the situation far worse and severely undermine the ability of individuals including victims of torture, victims of police abuse and victims of sexual grooming to hold the state to account.

The call coincides with the end of the government consultation on its current proposals to cut legal aid and access to judicial review.  The Justice Alliance will continue to protest against the proposals and show the strength of feeling of charities and ordinary people against the proposals. 

Notes to Editors:
The Justice Alliance will deliver the signed letter at 10.00 am on Friday 1November 2013 at Lib Dem HQ, 8-10 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AE. To arrange an interview with a member of the Justice Alliance email milliegw@gmail.com07967534670 <tel:07967534670>

The Justice Alliance is an alliance of legal organisations, charities, community groups, grass roots and other campaigning groups, trade unions and individuals who are united in our opposition to the government’s proposed attack on legal aid and the criminal justice system. These legal aid proposals are part of the larger assault on essential parts of the welfare state. Visit: http://www.savelegalaid.co.uk/justicealliance #nomandatenocuts 

Figures for knock-on costs are from Nick Armstrong cost figures of legal aid proposals found herehttp://legalaidchanges.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/jchr-sub-130925.pdf 

Media contact For more information contact milliegw@gmail.com 07967534670 <tel:07967534670>  

 Posted by at 10:17
Oct 292013
 

Before you can appeal to a benefit tribunal, you’ll need to try and resolve your dispute with the DWP. 

Introduction – What is changing 

The appeals process is changing in 2013 so that more disputes against DWP
decisions can be resolved without the need for referral to Her Majesty’s Courts and
Tribunals Service (HMCTS). DWP is committed to preventing disputes, reducing the
escalation of disputes, resolving disputes and learning from disputes. From April
2013 DWP began to introduce changes which were part of the Welfare Reform Act
2012.

What are the changes? 

DWP will reconsider all decisions before an appeal. This change will mean that if
someone disputes a decision, they will need to ask DWP to reconsider the decision
before they can appeal to HMCTS. This is known as “mandatory reconsideration”.
The change aims to encourage people to provide additional evidence earlier in the
process. Resolving disputes without the need for an appeal should also help ensure
that people receive the right decision earlier in the process.

There is no time limit to how long this can take and no payments while it happens.

Appeals to be made directly to HMCTS. This change will mean that, after DWP has
reconsidered a decision, if someone still disputes the decision and wishes to appeal,
they must send their appeal directly to HMCTS. This is known as “direct
lodgement”. It will bring the process for Social Security and child maintenance
appeals into line with other major tribunal jurisdictions handled by HMCTS.

Time limits for DWP to return responses to HMCTS. DWP has agreed with the
Tribunal Procedure Committee to introduce time limits to stipulate how long DWP has
to respond to an individual appeal. Their introduction will mean that DWP will have 28
calendar days to provide an appeal response in benefits cases, and 42 calendar
days in child maintenance cases.

When will these changes be introduced? 

DWP introduced all three changes for Personal Independence Payment and
Universal Credit in April 2013.

The changes will be introduced for all other DWP-administered benefits and child
maintenance cases from 28 Octobhttp://images.proboards.com/v5/images/bbcode/bold.pnger 2013, and DWP will begin to report against the
time limits from October 2014.

More information about Appeals Reform is available at www.gov.uk.

Background – The case for change 

Why is mandatory reconsideration being introduced? 

DWP say the main reasons for introducing mandatory reconsideration are to:

• resolve disputes as early as possible;
• reduce unnecessary demand on HMCTS by resolving more disputes internally;
• consider revising a decision where appropriate;
• provide a full explanation of the decision; and
• encourage claimants to identify and provide any additional evidence that may affect
the decision, so that they receive a correct decision at the earliest opportunity.

Mandatory reconsideration allows them to look again at their decisions again.

The mandatory reconsideration process will involve an outbound call from decision
makers, to talk through disputed decisions with claimants and invite them to provide
any additional evidence at the earliest opportunity. Then, where appropriate, they can
change their decision at the earliest possible point rather than having to go through a
long and costly appeals process.

Why is direct lodgement being introduced? 

The main reasons for introducing direct lodgement are to:

• align the appeals process for Social Security and child maintenance appeals with
other major jurisdictions handled by HMCTS;
• make sure that DWP is no longer involved in the administration of appeals, and can
focus on its key role as a party to appeals; and
• speed up and clarify the appeals process.

The current process, where people submit their appeal to DWP and it then transfers
to HMCTS, can cause delays in arranging tribunals, and confusion for people who
may not realise which organisation is responsible for their appeal at any given point.

Why are time limits being introduced? 

The aim of time limits is to improve customer service by giving people a timeframe
within which they can expect DWP to provide the response to an individual appeal.

In addition, the change will bring DWP into line with other departments that are
already subject to time limits when submitting appeal responses to HMCTS.

 

 

 Posted by at 19:31
Oct 282013
 

 I am writing to you from a BAFTA award winning independent TV production company called Nine Lives Media and we are currently making a documentary for television broadcast about mobility scooters.  We are working with a company called Parkgate Mobility who have mobility shops based in South Yorkshire, Chesterfield and Derbyshire and are currently filming with some of their staff members and customers to reveal the stories of those who depend on their scooters to be able to lead an independent life.

One of the stories we would like to cover in the documentary is the changes in Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payments.  Our aim is to follow some people who use their benefit payments in order to lease a mobility scooter and are due to be reassessed under the new PIP criteria, but are worried that if their payments are decreased they may lose their scooter.  We would like to show how these changes affect those who rely on their benefits and their scooters to be able to get around by following them through the whole process.  I believe that from October current claimants whose fixed term DLA is coming to an end will start to be reassessed.  I was wondering whether DPAC might be interested in helping us find some people who would like to tell their story on camera and are due to be reassessed for the PIP payments?

As a company, we regularly make programmes for the BBC, Channel Four and Channel Five.  Our most recent documentary for BBC One was called ‘Pound Shop Wars’, and followed two family run pound store chains as they compete against each other to rule the high streets.  The documentary attracted ratings of 4.5 million making it one of the highest rating new factual programmes of the year.   Another hit documentary, which we made for BBC Three was Small Teen Big World.  The documentary followed a teenager called Jazz who has restricted growth and was so popular that we also made a four part series following Jazz’s life.   The series was rated in BBC Audience Research as the most inspiring, most entertaining, most innovative and most ‘fresh and new’ factual series to be broadcast on BBC Three that year.

We also won a BAFTA for one of our latest documentaries for CBBC called ‘Me, My Dad & His Kidney’ which followed the story of a 9 year old boy called Raphael who developed a one in a million medical condition which left him fighting for his life.  The programme followed his journey as his dad donates his kidney to him and received the biggest audience ratings for the strand, showing we have a track record of making popular and engaging films.

If you can help contact kayleigh.smith@ninelivesmedia.co.uk

cid:image001.png@01CBD1DE.1DD95B80  KAYLEIGH SMITH  I  Assistant Producer

NINE LIVES MEDIA

INVICTA HOUSE, 2-4 ATKINSON STREET

MANCHESTER, M3 3HH

TEL:          +44 (0)161 832 2007

FAX:         +44 (0)161 832 2003

TWITTER:  @NineLivesMedia

www.ninelivesmedia.co.uk

kayleigh.smith@ninelivesmedia.co.uk

 Posted by at 13:32
Oct 282013
 
Have you brought extra medical evidence to your WCA only for the assessor to refuse to look at it? I’m a severely disabled person hoping to write an article about this for Disability Now and would love to hear from you if you’ve had this experience. I’d also be grateful to hear from any Atos employees who have refused evidence for whatever reason. You can contact me, Anoushka,
at  anoushka.alexander@yahoo.co.uk
I won’t use any details you don’t want me to.”

 

 Posted by at 13:26
Oct 262013
 

A new harrowing but unsurprising report by the Citizens Advice Bureau on sanctions found that:

 –60% of those sanctioned had been receiving JSA, but a further 33% were unfit for work and were receiving ESA.

-40% of respondents said they had not received a letter from the Job Centre informing them of the sanction.

 –Almost a quarter of respondents did not know why they had been sanctioned. 29% of respondents said they had been sanctioned because they had not done enough to look for work. However, many people commented that the sanction had been applied unfairly, when they had in fact looked for work or attended an interview as required, because of a very narrow interpretation of the rules or for reasons that were beyond their control.

-More than half the respondents said they had not received any information about how to appeal against the sanction. Nonetheless, three-fifths (62%) of respondents had appealed. One third of these appeals had been successful and a further 23% of those who had appealed were still waiting to hear the outcome. Administrative delays in receiving formal notification of the sanction meant that a number of people had been refused leave to appeal because they were out of time, adding further to the perception that they had been treated unfairly.

-The majority of respondents had been sanctioned for four weeks or less, but almost one third had been sanctioned for 10 weeks or more. The average duration of the sanction was 8 weeks.

-Two-thirds of respondents had been left with no income after the sanction was imposed. Those with children reported they only had child benefit and child tax credits.

-Just under a quarter (23%) of those sanctioned were living in households with children. More than 10% of respondents were lone parents.

-Respondents coped with the loss of income by borrowing money from friends and family (80%), from the bank or on their credit card (8%) or from a pay day loan company (9%).

-They also cut down on food (71%), heating (49%) and travel (47%). Almost a quarter (24%) had applied for a food parcel. Some respondents had been left to scrounge for food from skips or bins, or had had to resort to begging to feed themselves.

 –The sanction had a severe impact on the mental and physical health of many respondents. Existing health conditions were exacerbated because of poor diet and stress, and a number of respondents said they had attempted suicide or that they felt suicidal.

 –There were also serious effects on the wider family, particularly children, because of the loss of income. There were stresses also on adult relationships: one respondent said ‘the strain has quite literally smashed our family to pieces’.

-Many respondents felt they had been unjustly treated because of the Job Centre’s own administrative errors or because a sanction had been imposed unreasonably given their circumstances.

Comments included:

I had no income, and had to borrow from my parents (who are also on benefits and don’t get much income. It has affected me mentally, and I am severely depressed and having anxiety attacks

Starved and lived off what I had. Scrounged food from bins and only left the house after darkness fell. Had no electric or gas. Struggled and went without nothing for 3 days

I’m worried benefit won’t be sorted in time for rent as this could make us all homeless yet again. Last time we were homeless was a result of fleeing domestic violence and me and my children were put in B&B.

Read the full report at https://skydrive.live.com/view.aspx?resid=CB5ED957FE0B849F!350&app=WordPdf&authkey=!AJTbB-gzwsSCayQ

Oct 072013
 

As all of you will no doubt be aware, Black Triangle and our sister organisation Disabled People Against Cuts have assembled a first-class legal team to take forward legal action against Local Medical Committees and individual GPs who have launched a disgraceful ‘Just Say No’ to providing Further Medical Evidence Campaign.

This campaign seeks to persuade GPs to deny sick and/or disabled patients the Further Medical Evidence (FME) required to support their ESA applications and achieve justice before First-Tier Social Security Appeals Tribunals.

We have already identified a number of cases with “standing”.

Our law requires that the party, or parties bringing a case before the courts must demonstrate:

“sufficient interest in the matter to which the application relates”

i.e.

“an individual who is directly affected by a decision or other measure” who will on that basis have a “sufficient interest”.

In our case, this means anyone who has requested FME from their GP to support their case with the DWP and has been refused (Their refusal to provide FME is the matter to which our legal action relates).

We now invite as many of you as possible who have been refused FME under this policy to make contact with us immediately so we can progress our case further, in the most legally watertight manner achievable, without further delay.

Sick and/or disabled people deserve and have an absolute right to expect better than this from our medical professionals.

The LMCs ‘Just Say No’ Campaign is a a disgraceful betrayal of patients by LMCs from across Britain.

It is, quite frankly, mercenary behaviour that is both morally repugnant and, as we shall fully demonstrate, unlawful.

We are going to put a stop to it.

In the initial stage, please text John McArdle at 07778316875 with ‘Refused FME by my GP’ in the line. We will then phone you back to discuss your case and take it from there. Alternatively you can email us at mail@dpac.uk.net

Yours in solidarity

John McArdle

Co-Founder

Black Triangle Campaign

 

 Posted by at 17:59
Oct 062013
 

IDS Has Done It Again

An article published yesterday  in the Express (Saturday 5th October) revealed that 16,500 claimants had found a job after the clamp on benefits.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/434431/16-500-find-jobs-after-clamp-on-benefits

The article refers to people living in benefit-capped households and quotes figures which has been revealed exclusively to the Daily Express, which show that ‘Mr Duncan Smith’s promise to “make work pay” is starting to change a culture where some lifelong layabouts viewed benefits as a limitless cash machine’.

Unfortunately for the Express, Iain Duncan Smith and DWP, these figures were  published on the 3rd of October 2013 and are in the public domain:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/245802/benefit-cap-jcp-activity-sep-13.pdf

What the official figures show is that out of 400,000 households affected by the benefit cap, people in 16,500 of those households had found a job.

16,500 sounds like a large number but it represents only 4% of the households affected by the cap.  Hardly what can be described as a success.

In other words, these statistics show that 16,500 people potentially affected by the benefit cap found a job, but that does not mean that it was the benefit cap that forced these people to find work.

Some people in these capped households would have found work anyway, with or without the cap, so it is impossible to say from the statistics if the benefit cap had any effect.

In fact the official DWP statistics document emphasises this point and warns that The statistics are not intended to show the additional numbers entering work as a direct result of Jobcentre Plus support”.

So what has happened?

Is the Express lying when it claims it has been given exclusive access to these figures?

Or did DWP officials approach the newspaper promising an exclusive which was pure misinformation by manipulating the figures to promote their own agenda.

We don’t know. But one thing is for sure, this isn’t the first time that Duncan Smith and the DWP have been caught doing this.

In May this year, Iain Duncan Smith was strongly criticised by the UK Statistics Authority for making exactly the same misleading claim http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/may/09/iain-duncan-smith-benefits-cap-statistics

Another thing is for sure – Duncan Smith hasn’t heard the last of this.

 

By Annie Howard.

 

 Posted by at 19:16
Sep 292013
 

Dear all,

During DPAC’s recent week of action we were supported by Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) who held a solidarity protest outside the British Consulate in Toronto.

We’ve now been approached for help and messages of support for their week of action staring October 14th as the Ontario government is planning to impose cuts to disability benefits similar to the attacks disabled people are facing in the UK.

John from OCAP says “Unlike the UK, where the Liberal Party lost it place in the front ranks sometime after Lloyd George went to his reward, the Liberals in Canada have remained a dominant party all along.  They are hanging on in Ontario as a minority government and would like to be middle of the road but the austerity agenda won’t let them.  They are preparing at attack on disability benefits but are frantic to make it look kinder and gentler. That’s why comparing them to Cameron’s regime is so important and quite valid. That’s why support statements from the UK and people fighting back there are so incredibly helpful to us.”

Please take a few minutes from what I know are busy days for all of you to send a message of support for their fight back to ocap@tao.ca

Many thanks

Linda and DPAC team 

THREAT TO DISABILITY BENEFITS IN ONTARIO POSED BY MERGER OR OW AND ODSP

   Many people living on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) have strong and

well founded concerns about the possibility of regressive ‘reforms’ to that system.  While the Wynne Government has made no official announcements as yet, the warning signs are very clear that disabled people on social assistance are going to be facing an austerity driven challenge to their rights and incomes.

The first thing to note is that an attack on social benefits for disabled people seems to be a strategic priority for the architects of austerity at the present time.  In the US, media and politicians are claiming that federal disability benefit applications are rising due to unemployed people making bogus claims so as to enjoy higher incomes than could be obtained through jobless benefits.  The newly elected right wing Abbott Government in Australia can also be expected to make an attack on disability benefits a major part of its program.

However, at the present time, it is the Cameron Government in the UK that can perhaps be seen as the cutting edge of a socially regressive drive to attack disabled people and their right of access to social benefit systems.  Cameron, through his Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), has intensified a previously existing Work Capability Assessment under which people who are sick or disabled are interviewed and graded as to their ‘fitness to work’.  The system has been modified so that private companies handle the actual assessment process.  Most notorious of these is the French company, Atos Healthcare.  The nature of this privatised assessment process is quite appalling.  People with terminal illnesses, serious impairments and progressive conditions have been deemed ‘fit to work’ regardless of medical evidence and common decency.  A hidden camera, taken into an Atos training session, shows a supervisor indicating that the standards for ‘manual dexterity’ will be met if someone can use a computer keyboard with one finger.  So extreme and reckless has this whole process been that a staggering 10,000 a year are dying within six weeks of being declared ‘fit to work’.

The nature of what is occurring in the UK leads us to rethink what is meant by an austerity agenda.  It appears to be moving beyond simply restricting or reducing entitlements and taking the form or outright social abandonment regardless of the human cost.  Given this situation, we must consider the implications for right here in Ontario.

The Hudak Tories are quite open about their intention to eliminate ODSP but we should not disregard the danger posed by the less candid Liberals.  The Wynne Government may have maintained the rhetoric of ‘poverty reduction’ but its orientation and actions to date can leave little room to hope that it intends to break with the pattern of regressive austerity as it fashions a version of ‘social assistance reform’ for this Province.  The Commission for the Review of Social Assistance that the Liberals established, proposes that Ontario Works (OW) and ODSP be merged and delivered at the municipal level.  More than this, however, it seeks to redefine the basic nature of providing income support to disabled people.  Under its model, everything would be defined in terms of employability.  The process of reassessing people would be stepped up and ‘employer’s councils’ work to push disabled people into competing for jobs.

While the report is careful to couch everything in the language of ‘disability rights’, it pays scant attention to the context in which it advocates pushing people into employment.  The low wage sector in Ontario has swollen massively in recent years. The minimum wage has been frozen for three years and most poor people in the Province actually subsist on low wages.  A ‘reform’ model that simply assumes that employed poverty is inherently a better option is massively problematic.  To take a whole new population of people and force them to compete for precarious, low paying jobs can only worsen the situation.  Moreover, the example of what is unfolding in the UK and the situation facing injured workers here leads us to conclude that the likelihood is that many would be declared able to work in disregard of their actual ability to obtain employment.  The WSIB in Ontario is already operating along lines very similar to Cameron’s DWP by way of an assessment process for injured workers that routinely ‘deems’ people capable of performing work they have no realistic chance of obtaining.  There seems little reason to expect that a redesigned system of social assistance for the disabled would chart any very different course.

The international austerity agenda is targeting disabled people and their social benefits and that approach is looming before us in Ontario.  We need to be aware of this and organize in our communities to build an effective opposition to all such measures.

 

 

 

 Posted by at 17:41
Sep 272013
 
 Have you experienced the ‘Welfare to Work’ programme and would like to share your story? To time with reports that 93% of disabled people are being failed by the programme, I plan to write a feature on this issue for New Statesman – and having a few case studies is so important to showing the reality. Contributions can of course be anonymous if needed. I’d really appreciate anyone willing to help with this.
Please get in touch on frances.ryan18@btinternet.com (please don’t use the comment form below as I don’t want to miss you!). Thanks very much.’
@frances__ryan
http://differentprinciples.co.uk/about/

 

 Posted by at 13:02
Sep 142013
 

BENEFITS JUSTICE CAMPAIGN 

THREATENED WITH EVICTION ? DON’T PANIC ! DON’T DESPAIR!

 You can only be evicted by a Judge and only if:

“It would be reasonable to leave and .. you will able to suggest to the court that it is not reasonable ..” (Official ‘Notice Seeking Possession’ form that the landlord has to send you) 

LOADS OF DEBTS?  Phone Advice Sheffield for free debt counselling on 205 5055

BEDROOM TAX bill?  COUNCIL TAX bill? CANT PAY?

Apply for the Discretionary Housing Payment and Council Tax Hardship Fund by phoning 273 6983 or visit your local Housing Office. If you are refused you can appeal.

IF YOU ARE SENT A ‘NOTICE SEEKING POSSESSION’

Your landlord (the council or a housing association) must carry out the PRE-COURT ACTION PROTOCOL:

–         check if you are vulnerable because of age, illness, mental or physical condition, communication or language problem

–         check to see if you are getting the Housing Benefit you are entitled to

–         tell you where you can get help and advice

–         consider whether the Equalities Act 2010 applies to you

If they do not do this any case  they take to court could be thrown out

DON’T WAIT: DEFEND YOURSELF NOW!

Write out all the reasons why it would not be reasonable to evict you:

Make a detailed financial statement showing your income and expenditure proving you cant pay the extra rent and/or council tax because of cuts in your benefit. Disability benefits should be excluded.

Send this to your landlord at the address on the letter where they mention possible eviction

Keep copies to show any advisers you speak to.Get legal advice –see below.

                                                       APPLY FOR LEGAL AID

You can get legal aid if you are on low wages or benefits and at risk of losing your home. You will need proof of income e.g. wage slips or benefit letters for IS/JSA/ESA.

Solicitors who do housing cases:

Howells 7 Castle St, Castle Green S3 BLT tel 249 6666

Sheffield Law Centre Waverley House 10 Joiner St, S3 8GW

Norrie Waite & Slater 9-12 East Parade S1 2ET tel 276 6166

Tell them its about Notice Seeking Possession

WARRANTS FOR POSSESSION CAN BE STOPPED ! BAILIFFS CAN BE STOPPED! 

WHEN IS A BEDROOM NOT A BEDROOM?

–     when its too small e.g. less than 70 sq ft of useable space

–         when its used for another purpose eg. storing medical equipment

–         not fit to be used as a bedroom

If you think the council’s Housing Benefits decision to charge you for having ‘too many bedrooms’ is unfair you can still put in a late Appeal due to wholly exceptional circumstances’ – this should be done within 12 months of the original decision. A HB Tribunal in Fife just decided in favour of  a tenant who appealed. Your reasons could be Official Error or Mistake about a Material Fact. You can get help from an advice centre. Tel 205 5055.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE  – GET SUPPORT!

Tell your neighbours, friends and family to get together to form a support group.

Tell us and we will come to court to support you as well. Join our campaign to kick the Bedroom Tax and all the  benefit cuts into the long grass. Contact sheffieldbenefitjustice@gmail.com. Tel 07928766385 or 248 3937 or sheffieldagainstevictions@gmail.com tel 07579203968. Affiliated to the national campaign

Anti Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation at antibedroomtax.org.uk. Email benefitjustice@gmail.com

    JOIN OUR CAMPAIGN TO DEFEAT THE BEDROOM TAX AND ALL BENEFIT CUTS

many thanks to Shirley in Shefield for this information

 Posted by at 17:09
Sep 122013
 

Last week on 4th September disabled people and our supporters took to the streets of Westminster as the finale to the DPAC week of action: Reclaiming Our Futures.

Download and sign up to the UK Disabled People’s manifesto through www.inclusionlondon.co.uk

You can watch Reel News’ film from the day here:

http://

Sep 012013
 

As our week of action progresses we thought you might all like to think more about the myths of being fit for work and would like to thank Jill from Brighton DPAC for putting some thoughts about this together for us.

I was recently asked if I’d take part in a documentary to say that not
everyone can work due to their impairments? They wanted to talk to
someone who would challenge the notion that “Anyone can work”. To me
this sounded as depressing as filling in the ESA60 questionaire for
the Work Capability Assessment had been. Having to list all the things
that are wrong with me had made me depressed and anxious so much I’d
needed extra tranquillers and other psych meds at the time. But how
else can a person prove they are not fit for work?

It is true I don’t go out anymore because I get out of breath from
lung desease as soon as I do anything and I can’t even sit up in the
wheelchair long enough to go out. Even so I didn’t feel like
discussing on this documentary not being able to work on the grounds
of being too
physically impaired and I’ve also got mental health impairments which
through my life sometimes made it impossible to work (especially when
locked up on secure wards!). But my mental health impairments
sometimes made it easier to work for example not needing much sleep so
I could stay up writing reports and doing research projects in a manic
fashion.

It is the same manic character beneath layers of stabilising
medications that makes me able to write this post. But if I’m not
careful manic can turn to psychotic and noone needs a worker who has
gone mad. The worst time the madness happened I was jointly running a
computer business  and I started getting delusions that I must light a
lot of candles to ward off the evil forces which were taking over my
home. It wasn’t long before I was rushing around and knocked a candle
over and the place caught fire. I lost my dog, home, marriage and
business and was homeless when I came out of the locked ward over a
year later. That was the worst time but I’ve had other psychotic
episodes since I was 22 and madness isn’t rational enough to allow for
work. Madness stops me being able to function because I get determined
plans of action in my head and all thoughts and energy are directed
solely towards these goals to the exclusion of everything else
including eating and sleeping. So I have to be careful and not do
anything stressful which can trigger a psychotic episode and work can
be very stressful indeed. Anyone who becomes a danger to themself
and/or others can be sectioned and placed in detention at any time and
anyone cannot work from inside the locked ward anyway even if they
could.

Then we have to look at people who are fit some of the time and not
others. They may be able to work some of the time with the right
support but what happens when the support is denied? As Ellen Clifford
says:
“It’s also an issue that came up at the ILF film event. Penny is
considered severely disabled and she has a complexity of severe
physical impairments and mental health conditions and may well not be
found fit for work if she went through a Work Capability Assessment.
But actually she does work (as a writer/performer) – only if her
support package is cut once the Independent Living Fund closes then
she won’t be able to work”.
So here we have someone who works but may not be found fit for work.
But this does not prove everyone can work either. As Ellen says
“Whether someone can or cannot work is relative to so many factors. I
have periods of every day when I am too unwell to work and my
condition is completely unpredictable. I am unable to work in a
workplace that isn’t entirely flexible around me.”

Personally I feel the whole “can work/can’t work” discussion is being
presented in a black
and white way by the media who are mainly following the governments
agenda of paying less benefits regardless of need. If the same
government hadn’t changed the rules I’d be retiring anyway as I’m 60
in November but they are now making me wait 5 more years for my
pension so I’m stuck on disability benefits instead. Even ATOS didn’t
say
I’m fit for work and I know I couldn’t even get there let alone last 5
minutes in a modern day workplace without having to lie down. But I
don’t want to tell you or anyone how unfit I am. I want to say I’m
retired and just getting by enjoying seeing the summer flowers in the
garden outside at the moment. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me or
pity me because I nearly died from pneumonia last December and still
can hardly breath upon activity and you wouldn’t if I was retired on
my pension but because this government rules mean I’m stuck on
disability benefits you can poke and pry to check I’m not lying about
my impairments and call me names like scrounger in the media. The
truth is I worked hard for many years and paid taxes and now I seem to
work equally as hard just staying alive and claim those taxes back in
the form of disability benefits now I need them. When I needed the
hospital the NHS and the welfare state were also there to help me
through and I’m shocked and alarmed that people are now being let
down, denied essential benefits and support services whether they can
or can’t work.

The myths behind being fit for work mean we are blaming the
individuals who for whatever reason do not work and also making out
work is some kind of exalted activity regardless of how exploitative
and alienating it may be for those who are being bullied into dead
end, zero hours contracts, minimum wage, not worth having, positions.
I remember when we were allowed to look forward to the weekend and the
holidays and time off work. And to look forward to a future when there
would be more leisure time away from work. But instead that future has
brought slave labour workfare and a government who sanctions benefit
claimants to literally starve rather than pay even subsistance rates
of benefits.

When C Wright Mills wrote “Every day men sell little pieces of
themselves in order to buy them back at night with the coin of fun.”
he was making the exploitative nature of work pretty clear. And when
Karl Marx wrote “Increasing divisions of labour will result in the
alienation of the worker” he was clear people can think of better
things than manual labour to do with their time. People who enjoy
their work are said to be more likely employed in task centred
organisations rather than power centred organisations or
bureaucracies. People also like to have some expert power as is the
case with doctors, teachers, scientists, artists and so on. These
kinds of jobs require studying first so why is education now so
expensive? Why is education not seen to be at least as important as
being bullied into these manual jobs probably on the basis of slave
labour workfare? Why is some voluntary work, in areas people really
want to gain experience in, say a museum for example, also not seen as
important as a stint in Poundland? Because the government want to
bully everyone who is not a compliant worker including everyone who is
not fit for work due to our impairments of various kinds.

Finally, and I hope this hasn’t become too much of a manic rant, the
notion that ‘anyone can work’ doesn’t make sense. It depends on the
person in question whether they can work or not and on the level of
support they are offered and on the sort of ‘work’ they are expected
to do. Or as Einstein once wrote “The answer is yes or no depending on
the interpretation”.

 Posted by at 20:36
Aug 262013
 

Copy and paste below or download from link-your MP can be found at

   http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/ 

Dear MP,

I am writing as one of your constituents to invite you to attend the launch of the UK Disabled People’s Manifesto: Reclaiming Our Futures on 4th September 5 – 6pm in the House of Commons Committee room 9.

Current government policy on disability is in crisis with disabled people collectively feeling under attack from their own government; research shows that disabled people are being disproportionately impacted by the cuts with those with the most complex levels of support need being hit by austerity nineteen times harder than the average person (‘A Fair Society? How the cuts target disabled people’ by Simon Duffy).

With around 1 in 5 of the population being disabled and many more affected by disability as family, friends and carers or simply as citizens who care about social justice, policy and pledges on disability will be a key concern of many voters as we approach the next election.

Disabled people and our organisations have come together across the UK to develop a UK Disabled People’s manifesto setting out the key principles, demands and commitments that are important to Deaf and disabled people and our allies.

I hope you are able to join us on the 4th to explore what is needed to achieve a society where disabled people can live, work and participate as equal citizens. Copies of the manifesto will be available from Inclusion London (www.inclusion.co.uk or contact ellen.clifford@inclusionlondon.co.uk / 02072373181).

Yours sincerely,

Link to download letter in Word Dear MP