This week Theresa May announced yet another Tory U-turn scrapping their fixed term parliaments to call a surprise General Election. This couldn’t possibly be because the CPS is likely to charge 30 of the corrupt bastards with fraud I suppose?
Like most other people I’ve probably had enough elections in the past couple of years to last almost a lifetime but it does give us all an opportunity to show how powerful disabled voters are and to get rid of the Tory vermin once and for all. And we need to do that for all of those previously driven to their deaths and for others still being harassed and vilified simply for being disabled.
For the past 7 years disabled people have been treated as scapegoats for the rancid and vile Osborne austerity agenda. As a group of people we have endured cuts which have impacted on us 9 times more than others and for those with the highest support needs 19 times more. The UN has found the UK Tory government guilty of the grave and systematic violation of disabled people’s human rights thanks to the efforts of DPAC and our supporters who presented evidence to the inquiry carried out in October 2015. So we have indisputable evidence from an internationally respected organisation about the atrocities people have been forced to endure.
It is vital that disabled people and their friends and families are registered to vote on June 8th and that they do vote to get rid of the Tories.
The deadline to register to vote is Monday 22nd May. If millions of people register in the next two weeks, then we’ll have already won.
If you’re not sure where you’ll be on 8th June, make sure you register for a postal vote. Just fill out this form and post or email it to your Electoral Registration Office. It must reach them by 5pm on 23rd May, so make sure to send it this week.
If you want a postal proxy you must apply by Tuesday 23 May.
If you want a different type of proxy vote (someone to vote for you), you must apply by Wednesday 31 May.
For an emergency proxy vote, for example if you end up in hospital, it’s 5pm on the day of the election.
2. Get everyone you know to register
If every single one of us gets five people to register, we’ll win this election. Do your bit, make sure your friends and family are all registered to vote by 22nd May.
Share this video on your Facebook and forward this email to five people telling them to register to make their mark on this historic election.
While real change is unlikely to happen without a leftist Labour party in power our first battle must be against the Tories and ridding ourselves of them. In the 2015 general election Ed Miliband effectively threw away the bulk of the Labour vote in Scotland by refusing to run on an anti-austerity agenda and this will be problematic this time round but not impossible to combat.
What if you have a Labour MP who you don’t think it’s worth voting for? I’ve already seen people in Southwark saying they would never vote for the Labour MP there and then there’s Birmingham Yardley’s MP, Edgbaston’s MP and others. Worse could you/should you vote Lib Dem aka the little yellow Tories with a seemingly homophobic leader if they offer the opportunity to trash the Tories? Tactical voting to eradicate one scourge on mankind or voting from the heart might be the choice only you can make.
You’re all adults so in spite of requests we have no intention of telling you how you should vote but will be presenting various facts, figures and policies for you to consider over the next few weeks plus organising some fun activities on and off-line for you to take part in.
Graphic Images to download and share (all made by the ever-brilliant Brian Hilton)
The UNCRPD and our human and civil rights must be fully implemented, promoted and enforced.
Disabled people are affected by the cuts 9 times more than everybody else. The most severely disabled people are affected by the cuts 19 times more than everybody else. This discrimination against disabled people must end.
Disabled people are affected by the cuts 9 times more than everybody else. The most severely disabled people are affected by the cuts 19 times more than everybody else. This discrimination against disabled people must end.
Manifesto Pledges we are seeking from Parties
A Legal Right to Independent Living and Self-Determination:
The creation of a specific independent living law: a legal right that fully enacts and enforces, as domestic law, the UNCRPD incorporating the 12 pillars of independent living as its key goals and ensures provision of independent living support is free at the point of need and paid from general taxation.
There should be a single nationally transportable social care system and an end to localism and the current postcode lottery that exists. Funding for care should return to a 4 tier rather then a 2 tier system with low and moderate needs being met for all as well as substantial and critical.
Stop the closure of the cost effective Independent Living Fund (ILF) and 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.
Legislation to end 15 minute home care visits and any move to replace face-to-face visits with telecare options.
An end to zero hour contracts for home care staff.
Serious changes should be made to how family carers are better supported both financially and practically.
Access to Health and Support Services: NHS funding must be protected and all forms of privatisation of our NHS should end with immediate effect.
Funding for mental health services including crisis teams should be protected and where necessary increased to former and safer levels. There should be an end of rationing of primary MH care services and treatment tailored to needs.
More funding investment is needed for children’s adolescent mental health services.
GP and nurse training should include compulsory training on mental health conditions and treatment.
There must be changes made to the Mental Capacity Act which is failing people it is supposed to protect. The Best Interests concept means that substitute decision making has become the default position rather than supporting people who are disabled or have Learning Difficulties to make their own decisions.
Welfare Support : There must be a publicly run welfare system and an end to paying private firms massive amounts of public money to carry out disability assessments badly. Instead that money should be invested into providing decent, liveable benefit levels.
An end to the Work Capability Assessment which is too flawed to amend.
An immediate end to benefit sanctions which have led to deaths and increasing poverty. Ensure that there is no conditionality of JSA or ESA WRAG on seeking treatments and no linkage with treatment and receipt of benefits.
Engagement with any back to work services must be optional for all claimants.
An end to replacing Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payments which even now is in complete chaos.
A total rethink on any move to Universal Credit and instead serious consideration to be given working with disabled people and DPOs to a move to a single system of welfare support based on the concept of a disabled person’s citizens income.
Policy recognition that there will always be disabled people who are unable or too ill to work. These individuals must be supported by a publically funded system.
Housing: A strategic and sustained programme of building social housing to the standards of universal design and accessibility is carried out.
An end to bedroom tax and the Benefit Cap.
Until there are adequate levels of social housing available an increase in LHA rates to fully reflect the real costs of housing to meet the needs of disabled people and disabled children.
Access, Inclusion and taking part in society: The creation of legal status for British Sign Language, and disabled people’s access on an equal basis with others to the physical environment, to transportation, justice, family life, the arts, to accessible information and all forms of information technology.
Enact and maintain a fully accessible public transport system with free transport available for disabled people.
Fully Inclusive Education: Education is the key to creating an inclusive society. This can only be achieved by having one fully inclusive mainstream education system, funded by the state. Without inclusive education you will not get an inclusive society
Planned cuts to Disabled Students’ Allowance should be reversed
All Disabled People have a right to Work and get a Job:
A comprehensive plan of action is developed with disabled people and our organisations to tackle the discrimination and exclusion disabled people face in work and employment.
Access to Work (AtW) must be extended to include unpaid voluntary positions and recent changes that limit and reduce the support provided through AtW should be reversed.
The recently introduced (August 2013) fees for taking an employer to Employment Tribunal must be repealed.
Ensure that all government contracts, at a national, regional and local level, are only awarded to companies that are fulfilling measurable targets for the employment of disabled people.
Access to Justice: All legal aid changes must be repealed and disabled people’s rights to access justice must be restored.
Disability Hate Crime laws and sentencing must be strengthened.
Reversal of the watering down of disabled people’s rights with the move from DDA to the Equality Act.
Restoration of funding for advice advocacy services such as CABs.
Legislation to prevent assisted dying.
Local Authority Statutory Services: There must be no redefining of Local Authority Statutory Services to reduce their obligations even further.
Real and Effective Co-Production with user-led Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations across the UK: Ensure meaningful, well-resourced and accessible co-production with disabled people and their organisations at local, regional and national levels on all issues affecting us.
The current situation now is that England will be the only UK nation which no longer has an ILF as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have pledged to open replacement ILF funds so this will lead to what can only be described as the biggest postcode lottery ever. If you are fortunate enough to live in a devolved nation then you will still be eligible for this additional funding but if you are unfortunate enough to live in England then you won’t be.
Obviously it may seem to those who have no real experience of the way the care system operates that it makes sense to devolve all funding to local authorities even if it will not be ring-fenced either to current recipients or even to the adult social care budget however ILF funding covers essential support for independent living which local authority care will not. (even with the introduction of the new care Act from April this year).
Labour says it strongly agrees that independent living is crucial to ensuring that disabled people have the same rights, choices and chances as any other citizen. They tabled an amendment during the Committee Stage of the Care Bill which would have enshrined in law the right of disabled people to live independently. Unsurprisingly the government chose to vote against and defeat this amendment. Ed Miliband has said recently Labour also opposed the government’s plans for closure of the Independent Living Fund in the absence of a comprehensive strategy for a system of social care that protects people’s ability to live independently. Yet in spite of this if Labour is elected in May it will be a Labour government that allows the ILF to close.
Kate Green/Youhave said “it’s not Labour’s position to retain the ILF “
We have asked Labour to commit to keeping the ILF open for current recipients even if only in the short term until something better can replace it so that a generation of disabled people do not lose the right to continue to live independently in the community.
The Labour front bench have said they will allow the ILF to close because there is a real opportunity to develop a sustainable model of provision for the most severely disabled people within the integrated health and social care landscape that Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall have been articulating rather than continuing with a standalone fund. These proposals are based on a report by the Oldham Commission which clearly states that it will take the 5 years of a new parliament and an extra £10 billion of funding to achieve these changes. In the meantime there will be no protection for disabled people in England who need their needs funding now and not at some date far into the future. For them any new integrated care system will simply be too late to help. Moreover, as respected experts in the field such as Professor Pat Thane have pointed out, the current system is simply not functioning at the necessary level. Relying on the integration of health and social care as a solution to the crisis in social care is thus an irresponsible gamble to take with people’s lives.
In the original ILF consultation over 50% of local authorities said that the loss of ILF was likely to lead to disabled people having to move from the community back into Care homes, something that is not only morally wrong but which will cost Local Authorities, who by 2015 will have had social care budgets cut by £8 billion, or by about 33%, considerably more.
Already since 2008 over 90,000 disabled people or 1 in 6 have lost their care and support for independent living.
While it is true that the fund is now being wound down, and staff numbers are already reducing it is not true that it is too late for Labour to commit to keeping the ILF open in England as well as will be the case in other parts of the UK. PCS and a former manager at ILF have both given the Labour front bench detailed reasons of why this is the case.
As the devolved funding will not be ring-fenced in any way to either individuals or adult social care budgets Ed Miliband has said that Labour will put in place guidance for Local Authorities to encourage them to meet the needs of severely disabled people in their areas but this will not be mandatory and we have no reason to believe that cash strapped councils will have either the political will nor the financial ability to implement such guidance. They are very aware of the dangers of setting precedents for providing levels and types of social care support to some individuals and not for others. A Local Authority could easily consider itself to have more to risk by following than not following the guidelines. In order to ensure equity between all adult service users they may well feel they have no choice but to level down..
As emerged from formerly undisclosed documents from DWP during one of the court cases the devolved funding for ILF recipients is only in place until April 2016 and no additional funding was requested beyond that date by DWP. What will happen to the real people stuck in the middle of this chaos then has not been addressed by any political party.
Further Labour also cite “inconsistencies” in delivery as a reason to remove the right to live independently from severely disabled people but these are the result of unequal take up between different local authorities and is symptomatic of the failings of local authority administered social care support. As a national model of service delivery the ILF is far more successful and cost effective than local authority administered social care. The latest ILF annual report records a user satisfaction rating of 97%. Overheads for the ILF come in at just 2 % of the budget in comparison with an average of 16% for local authorities. It is in fact a model of service delivery that should be built upon rather than shut down. We understand that provisions in the Care Act are aimed at reducing inconsistencies between local authorities, nevertheless the inconsistencies Labour cite as a problem of the ILF are many times worse in the current system upon which ILF users will now be solely reliant as a result of the closure.
Since the closure to new applicants in December 2010 disabled people who missed out on the ILF have suffered dramatically worse outcomes than existing ILF recipients with equivalent support needs. We have provided Kate Green with a number of case studies showing the reality of independent living for disabled people who would have been eligible for ILF but are now only receiving LA social care support. We are not just talking about disabled people no longer being able to go to work, or ever have a holiday or go to university, we are talking about people unable to leave their homes, left without access to food or water, unable to go to the toilet and unable to wash more than a couple of times per week. We know there is also an urgent need to address this inequity, so do not believe that the right answer is to level everyone down to the lowest levels of support.
In the short term we are asking that the ILF be retained as the only way to realistically guarantee protection for existing recipients. Disabled people are aware that this is not a big ask: the ILF represents a relatively small amount of money – only £32 million and the ILF will not be wound down beyond easy repair before May 2015.
Moving on from these moral aspects of retaining the ILF the political situation now is that the Labour Party is the only main opposition party unwilling to commit to keeping the ILF open if elected. We find it very difficult to understand why Labour continues to take this position and not avail themselves of the support of the 12million plus disabled voters,and their families and friends
Mental health charity Mind excludes election candidate, mental health service user and disability campaigner, Mick Hardy, from its mental health election panel.
Mind, the largest mental health charity in England, has excluded Mick Hardy, a mental health service user and disability campaigner, from its General Election Panel Event at The Curve, The Forum, Norwich NR2 1TF on Friday 13th March, 2015 between 1300 and 1600.
Mind claims that the event, chaired by national Mind’s Chief Executive, Paul Farmer, is “to give people with lived experience of mental health problems, their carers and support workers, volunteers and Mind staff an opportunity to ask the questions which matter to them and to hear what our parliamentary candidates from the north and south of Norwich have to say about the future of the services they use.” Yet Mind seeks to exclude Mick Hardy, disability rights campaigner and Dandy Party candidate in Norwich North from its event.
Mick Hardy said:
“I couldn’t believe it when Mind refused to have me, a prospective parliamentary candidate in Norwich North and mental health service user, on their panel. I believe this is due to my criticism of the failure of the local Norfolk Mind organisation to speak out against the massive cuts to mental health services at Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) which included the closure of the assertive outreach and homeless teams. Indeed, the local Mind has sought as a ‘service provider’ to profit from the cuts and privatisation of services at NSFT. The Mind volunteers and donors will find this shocking.”
“Mind receives more funding from Norman Lamb’s Department of Health than it receives in public donations. This reliance on government funding means that Mind is compromised when it comes to speaking out in defence of mental health service users. Nothing demonstrates this more than Mind’s attempt to exclude a mental health service user candidate from their panel in Norwich. This breaches Mind’s obligation as a charity to be apolitical.”
“I encourage all those concerned about the crisis in mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk, which has seen our local trust NSFT rated inadequate by the CQC and put into special measures by health regulator Monitor, to lobby outside the Forum on Friday both before (1230-1300) and afterwards (1600-1630). It is a shame that those holding such views have been excluded from Mind’s event.”
“Mind claims to campaign for social inclusion but seeks to exclude me.”
Notes to editors:
Mind received £3.697m in public donations in 2014. Mind received £5.26m in government grants over the same period, with £4.651m from the Department of Health including £100,000 for the crisis care concordat and £4.262m for Time to Change.
Amanda Hedley, Chief Executive of Norwich Mind has written “As part of the Redesign Process we have tried to play a constructive role in helping to suggest good alternatives provided in the third sector which would provide support for people at a lower cost but achieve similar outcomes…..’ She
also told the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee of Norfolk County Council “…MIND could even deliver some of the services currently delivered through the Trust…”
DPAC Response to ‘How Labour would Reform the Work Capability Assessment ( Published April 18th 2014)
We read with interest the piece in the Independent by Rachel Reeves and Kate Green regarding Labour’s response to the Work Capability Assessment 
Labour should realise that disabled people are deeply distrustful of any Labour reform of a Work Capability Assessment system, which Labour introduced in the Welfare Act of 2007 with the stated aim of removing 1 million claimants from the benefit system .
Our position has been and will be that the Work Capability Assessment is deeply flawed in its basic concept, not just in terms of the details of its delivery, and inclusion in the workplace for disabled people cannot simply be achieved by a ‘back to work’ test.
In the Reclaiming Our Futures, Disabled People’s Manifesto , we state that a priority demand from government is that:
A comprehensive and strategic plan of action is developed with disabled people and our organisations to tackle the discrimination and exclusion disabled people face in work and employment including: increasing quality and range of personalised support available to disabled people, strengthening disabled employees rights and tackling employer discrimination and poor practice
Other key demands include that:
Economic productivity must not be the only measure of people’s worth and value, volunteering offers as much value to society as paid employment. While we recognise that volunteering can offer additional skills, it should not be the default option for disabled people because of our exclusion from paid work
There must be policy and media recognition that there will always be disabled people who are unable or too ill to work. These individuals must be supported by a publically funded system. They should not be penalised or demonised as they are currently.
For true inclusion in the workplace for disabled people a wider approach is necessary including but not limited to:
• Will Labour commit to the restoration of Disabled Student’s Allowance,
• Will Labour commit to the restoration of the Independent Living Fund,
• Will Labour commit to the extension of Access to Work (AtW) to include unpaid voluntary positions,
• Will Labour commit to the reversal of the reduction of people who currently receive DLA, but will not receive PIP and also lose their Motability access,
• Will Labour commit to the reinstatement of the requirement for councils to produce equality schemes on employment and access
• Will Labour commit to the provision of accessible transport.
• Will Labour commit to the reinstatement of “day one” protection from unfair dismissal in employment law
• Will Labour commit to the provision of Employment Tribunals enforcing mandatory organisation-wide measures on preventing disability discrimination
• Will Labour commit to the provision that all government contracts, at a national, regional and local level, are only awarded to companies that are fulfilling measurable equality targets for the employment of disabled people
(for further points see reference 2)
These currently are some of the barriers to inclusion in the workplace for disabled people, and they will not be fixed by simply amending the WCA. The issue must be seen within the context of the wider interconnected system of barriers in place. It must be seen in terms of what a large majority of disabled people have already identified as key problems.
In terms of inclusion we also need from Labour, a recognition that for many disabled people to be able to work there has to be a nationally transportable social care system with a guarantee that people would keep the same levels of funding wherever they needed to move to work.
We need recognition that there is an onus on government and employers to fully accept the spirit of the Equality Act 2010  with its requirement to the opening of work opportunity to disabled people. Without this, no “fit for work test” aimed at cutting disability benefits will make any impact whatsoever on the numbers of disabled people who can attain and sustain employment.
We also need from Labour a stronger recognition that there are many disabled people who cannot enter the work place and should not have to live in fear of being pressured into doing so.
There is much that the article leaves out and that leaves us with a number of serious concerns and questions.
While we are not yet prepared to endorse in any way Labour’s new approach to the Work Capability Assessment, we do see the article by Rachel Reeves and Kate Green as a helpful starting point for discussions on the future of inclusion of disabled people, who want and are able to work, in the workplace and we would welcome an opportunity to meet with them and discuss this further. We would like meet with Kate Green and Rachel Reeves to ask the following questions:
1. Will Labour commit to stop spending public money on private
contractors and return any assessments of disabled people back to GPs
with medical evidence taken into account as well as give a commitment to
look at the barriers to work for disabled people who can and want to
work (in line with the social model of disability)?
2. Will Labour commit to a time and date to talk with DPAC, My Legal,
the Mental Health Resistance Network, Black Triangle, Deaf activists,
those with learning difficulties ( with an outreach of ½ a million
disabled people) to listen to the views of the largest network of grass
roots disabled people on the WCA and ESA?
3. If Labour are committed to scrapping the WCA when will Deaf and
disabled people, and those with mental health issues have sight of the
detail of any alternative Labour is proposing?
4. If Labour accepts the harm, devastation and premature deaths that have
been an outcome of the WCA why have they chosen to suspend their
prospective parliamentary candidate for St Austell and Newquay, Deborah
Hopkins for speaking out in public about the harm caused by the WCA.
5. Will Labour address the disproportionate harm that the WCA and
sanctions on ESA and JSA are causing to all disabled people, in
particular those with mental health issues and learning difficulties?
6. We along with many others insisted that a centralised Independent Living Fund
for Scotland be established and it has been done. They have also promised to re-open ILF to new users, with a commitment of additional funds and recognition of its importance to independent living and obligations to article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Why has the Labour
Party not promised to re-establish it south of the border?
Many of the Statements included in this response are taken from the UK Disabled Peoples’ Reclaiming our Futures Manifesto and are endorsed by a UK network of disabled people and Deaf and Disabled Peoples Organisations, including: ALLFIE, Inclusion London, Equal Lives, DPAC, Inclusion Scotland, Disability Wales and the TUC Disabled Workers Committee , who between them reach several million disabled voters. References
1. How Labour would reform the Work Capability Assessment http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/how-labour-would-reform-the-work-capability-assessment-9265479.html
2. The Reclaiming Our Futures, Disabled People’s Manifesto http://disability-studies.leeds.ac.uk/files/library/UK-Disabled-People-s-Manifesto-Reclaiming-Our-Futures.pdf
3. The Green Paper: The new deal for welfare: Empowering people to work. 2006 http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://dwp.gov.uk/docs/a-new-deal-for-welfare-empowering-people-to-work-full-document.pdf
4. Equality Act 2010 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents
Our Response to Labour’s WCA Proposal ( again) ( published Nov 14th 2014)
It is a summary of previously announced proposals but we thought we would take this opportunity to restate, perhaps in even more strident terms our position with respect to Labour’s WCA Proposals.
We have done this many times of course, both on the blog and in direct communication with Labour but nothing ever seems to sink in.
Labours proposals are:
1. We will start by transforming the way the WCA is designed to make it more effective at helping disabled people into work. With Labour, disabled people would receive a copy of the assessor’s report of how their health condition may affect their ability to work, and information about the support that is available in their local area to help them – a first vital step towards a more integrated system of support.
2. Secondly, we would continue to produce an independent review of the WCA, and ask the Office for Disability Issues to support an independent scrutiny group of disabled people to work together with the independent reviewer to assess whether the test is being conducted in a fair and transparent way. We will commit to responding to the recommendations of this report.
3. Finally, a Labour government will go further in ensuring that the assessments get it right first time. We would make sure that in the new system there would be clear penalties for poor performance by assessors, measured both on the number of times decisions are overturned by DWP decision makers, and the number of times they are overturned on appeal.
These changes are falling very short of being crucial.
First they are very vague, and do not address the very high number of ESA overturned decisions by tribunals or even by DWP own reconsideration process (before mandatory reconsiderations were introduced).
The reviews that Labour is committed to produce have been discredited. Professor Harrington, by deciding to talk about his misgivings about moving IB claimants onto ESA only, after he lost his lucrative job for DWP when he could have spoken up before, Dr Litchfield because he devised the Mental health descriptors and was very unlikely to challenge them later in his review.
What disabled people have been waiting for, is a sign from Labour frontbench that disabled people have been unfairly targeted by cuts, but also mistreated, bullied, abused and driven to suicide.
They are still waiting.
One Labour backbencher suggested that one way to improve things very quickly was to pause the reassessments. This suggestion from Sheila Gilmore is welcome and it is surprising that it was not followed up by Rachel Reeves or Kate Green.
The focus on disabled people working, contributing to the economy shows that Labour, like the Tories only see people as economical variables, not people who deserve to live a decent life.
Lastly, if you still have some illusions, sanctioning disabled people wasn’t introduced by the Tories, it began under the last Labour Government.
These WCA Proposals from Labour are “figleaf policies”, intended only to do the barest minimum needed to avoid embarrassment for Labour. It hasn’t worked.
So here it is again, our response to Labour on WCA (maybe this time it will sink in):-
Are you taking the Piss?
The WCA DOESN’T WORK
The WCA is a cause of stress and hardship to disabled people, it is inaccurate, causes harm, and it DOESN’T EVEN GET DISABLED PEOPLE INTO WORK.
The WCA has caused people to commit suicide and your WCA will continue to cause people to commit suicide.
You are still planning to use LIMA, a computer program to MAKE CATASTROPHICALLY WRONG DECISIONS, TIME AND TIME AND TIME AGAIN.
You are still planning to bully people who CAN NOT WORK with repeat assessments.
Will you stop mandatory consideration? If so how are you going to handle the flood of appeals from wrong decisions? If not, you are no better than the Tories.
More “Harrington” Reviews of the WCA? Don’t make us laugh.
YOU ARE STILL INTENDING TO USE PRIVATE CONTRACTORS WHO DON’T CARE ABOUT DISABLED PEOPLE BUT DO CARE ABOUT PROFITS
and after all that, after the fear, the misery, the anxiety, the hardship and the suicides, your WCA won’t get disabled people into work because THERE ARE NO JOBS AVAILABLE for us.
EMPLOYERS CAN’T BE BOTHERED WITH US, DONT YOU GET THAT?
And when a job is available, we can’t get there because WE DON’T HAVE ACCESS TO TRANSPORT,
DPAC’s response to Labour’s WCA proposals in a nutshell:
SCRAP THE WCA & ESA and Scrap Sanctions for all.
Then come up with something much much better that addresses our real needs, not Daily Mail headlines.
Has it sunk in yet?
And again from 2014
As part of DPAC’s Who 2 Vote 4 campaign Anita Bellows delves in to the history files, to examine who made the decision to move Incapacity Benefit Claimants onto ESA and the warnings that were made about that at the time.
Even before the full reassessment of Incapacity Benefits claimants was in full swing, academics predicted a disaster with 600,000 claimants forced off Incapacity Benefits, particularly for those living in regions of high unemployment.
But the CRESR was not the first, and certainly not the only opponent to the IB migration, and to raise doubts about IB reassessment, the Work Capability Assessment, and the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) regime.
As early as May 2010, the Social Security Advisory Committee, the House of Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee, and the House of Lords all separately warned first the Labour government and then the Coalition government of the potential negative impacts on disability benefit claimants if the IB reassessments went ahead, especially with a tougher test and a standard of assessment which was “not always good enough, especially for people with mental health and cognitive difficulties”.
Both governments decided to ignore these warnings and to go ahead, even before knowing the findings and recommendations of the first review of the WCA.
Background to the reassessment of existing Incapacity Benefit claimants
Employment and Support Allowance did not initially affect existing claimants of incapacity benefits, but the Labour Government made it clear from the outset that existing claimants would be reassessed for ESA.
Budget 2008 [para 4.5] announced that all existing Incapacity Benefit claimants would be required to take the Work Capability Assessment from April 2013.
March 2010 regulations
Regulations laid before Parliament by the Labour Government on 29 March 2010 provided for the “migration” of the remaining incapacity benefits claimants customers to ESA between October 2010 and March 2014, provided they satisfied the Work Capability Assessment.
The draft regulations were subject to full scrutiny by the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC), who published its report in March 2010 with the response of the government.
March 2010 Social Security Advisory Committee’s report
The Committee believed that the migration arrangements in the draft regulations could not be implemented without the risk of “operational stress and adverse impacts on significant numbers of vulnerable people” before adding: “In our view, the Department should not embark upon the proposed migration until the well-documented problems with current ESA processes and procedures (including those with the WCA) have been resolved, any changes to the Pathways programme have been implemented and bedded-in, and improvements have been made to the support available for JSA claimants with a health condition or disability”.
The Committee raised also several concerns:
Lack of a solid evidence base for the decision to migrate or the proposed migration arrangements.
Underestimation by DWP of the support required by this group of claimants, in terms of both their participation in a more active benefit regime and the support required to move them closer to the labour market.
ESA evaluation for new claimants is not planned to be completed until 2011, by which time the proposed migration arrangements will have commenced.
And the Committee recommended that the migration to ESA did not proceed to the current timetable but waits until:
a stronger evidence base on what works and whether ESA is achieving its aims is available
the new regime for claimants with a health condition or disability (as an outcome of the Pathways review) has bedded down
DWP’s review of the WCA is complete, recommendations have been considered and any necessary changes have been made
demand-side approaches to stimulating the labour market have begun to have a positive impact on local demand for labour, particularly in areas with a high concentration of IB claimants.
And in case the migration did proceed as planned the Committee made several recommendations, notably that the quality of the WCA should be improved, particularly for claimants with mental health problems and cognitive and learning difficulties, and that Incapacity benefits claimants currently exempt from the PCA should be automatically treated as meeting the conditions for the ESA Support Group.
March 2010 Government’s response
In its response in the same document, Point 141, the Labour Government rejected the Committee’s call to alter the timetable for migration, but took on board some of the Committee’s concerns and undertook to continue to engage with “stakeholders” as the migration proceeded, stating:
“The Government has carefully considered the Committee’s concerns in relation to the ESA transitional Regulations and their wider concerns about the migration programme. However, for the reasons outlined in this response it does not accept the Committee’s recommendation that migration should not continue to the current timetable. The Government considers the migration of existing incapacity benefits customers to be a key element of welfare reform and one that will greatly benefit customers at a time when support to get back to work is urgently needed. The Government does not believe it would be right or fair to delay this support for customers who have been without it for too long already”.
June 2010 House of Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee’s report
In June 2010, after the General election, the House of Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee published a reportwhich echoed the concerns voiced by the SSAC about whether there would be sufficient support for these groups of claimants, and the lack of evidence on how ESA was working for new claimants, notably that the Committee, from the limited evidence they have seen thought that a
“major project with a potential impact on the lives of some of the most vulnerable in the community is being conducted in a rather ad hoc fashion. The second phase is being rolled out before the first has been evaluated and although better information will be sought on the outcomes, the Department’s intended course of action, and evidence to support it, all seem rather vague”
It voices also concerns about the capacity of only 20 Benefit centres to absorb and process the transition of 10,000 cases per week, the arrangements put into place by DWP for Job centres, as “many of the customers will have special needs”, and the quality of the Work Capability Assessment.
The Committee also asked DWP what percentage of those ESA claimants sent down the JSA route obtained work, and what happened to the 30% who moved off benefits, to which DWP replied that the Department did not hold the information centrally, but that it intended “to carry out a qualitative piece of in-depth research on unsuccessful ESA claimants who do not qualify for ESA, have their claim closed, or withdraw their claim”.
The House of Lords then debated a motion to take note of the Merits Committee’s report on 20 July 2010 which criticised the reassessment of existing IB claimants, the WCA and the ESA regime and which quoted Professor Gregg, the architect of the sanctions regime in the two most recent Welfare Reform Acts as saying: “To start moving people who may have been on incapacity benefit for years straight onto jobseeker’s allowance is ridiculous. Before wading into the stock, the system has to be right“.
To which Lord Freud answered by providing reassurance that everything was fine and under control, and that even this year in March (2010), “a DWP-led review of the work capability assessment found that generally it is accurately identifying individuals for the right support”.
The General Election is one year away and the choice is likely to be between the two main parties.
Both of them were alerted in 2010 to the risks people claiming incapacity benefits could be exposed to, if IB reassessments went ahead.
Both parties knew there was a real capacity gap in Job centres and Benefit centres to deal with the number estimated by DWP to be found fit for work.
Both parties were warned about the issues already plaguing the Work Capability Assessment.
Both parties chose to ignore these warnings and to proceed with a flawed reassessment process.
While the Conservative party, through Iain Duncan Smith, and the various Ministers for Disabled People has shown itself to be indifferent to the plight of people who need support because they cannot work, the Labour party should not be let off the hook.
Would Labour have done things differently? Maybe, but the fact is we don’t know, and while they were in power, they did not show any willingness to protect these groups of people from harm.
Before being trusted again, the Labour party has to acknowledge its errors of the past and make concrete proposals to put things right.
and any Google search will show that DPAC has been consistent in calling for the WCA to be scrapped
In September last year Mark Harper, Minister for Disabled People launched the Accessible Britain Challenge. He did this 4 months after his Department had committed to closing the inaccessible disability assessment centre in Norwich and re-locating to suitable premises. That centre is still open, still inaccessible and is still turning away disabled people 8 months after the decision to close it was made.
The Department for Work and Pensions publicity states:
The Accessible Britain Challenge encourages communities to be inclusive and accessible. That means working with disabled people to remove the barriers that stop them participating fully in their community.
Far from working with disabled people Mr Harper has ignored us and refused to enter into a dialogue or even answer our letters.
The cheery, welcoming sight that enhances the customer experience of visitors to Maximus’ inaccessible disability assessment centre in Norwich.
What makes it more perverse is that a new provider Maximus, an American outsourcing firm takes over the multi million pound Work Capability Assessment (WCA) contract from Atos next Monday and will continue to operate from St Mary’s House, 3 years after the DWP was made aware of the access issues.
Disabled campaigners and our supporters will be demonstrating between 12.30 – 1.30pm on Monday 2nd March outside St Mary’s House against this injustice.
Mark Harrison, CEO of Equal Lives said “This shows that the Accessible Britain Challenge is just a publicity stunt. We have been campaigning for 3 years outside St Mary’s House. They are even presenting awards in conjunction with the British Institute for Facilities Management and one of the categories is ‘innovative use of buildings, spaces and places’. The winners are to be announced on 15 March. I am sure the irony of this is not lost on the thousands of disabled people who have been forced to travel hundreds of miles for their assessments because the DWP won’t lease suitable premises.”
“It also demonstrates the contempt this Government has for disabled people. How can you appoint a new provider for the hated assessments and force them to use an inaccessible building which the DWP leases through another private sector provider Telereal Trillium? This clearly demonstrated that we are not all in this together. There is one rule for disabled people and another for the private sector, bankers and Ministers who see themselves as being unaccountable and above the law”.
About Equal Lives
Equal Lives is a user-led human rights organisation supporting all disabled people in Norfolk. It was formed in 1996 by groups of disabled people in Norfolk. The organisation is led by a Board of Trustees all of whom are disabled people and elected by and from its membership.
The Save the ILF Campaign was successful in all parts of the UK except England, where the Labour Party repeatedly refused to save it. Then Shadow Minister for Disabled People Kate Green said “I do need to start by being clear that it’s not Labour’s position to retain the ILF”.
September 2015: The Legacy of the First 100 Days of a Labour government elected with a majority. Disabled people throughout the devolved nations of the UK are celebrating the continuing existence of their own Independent Living Funds. Yet in England those with the same support needs have little to cheer about as Labour themselves abandoned disabled people in England and continued forcing through the closure of the ILF, refusing disabled people the right to have the support they need to continue to live independently in the community.
Labour kept its pre-election promises on cuddly animals, and unfortunately kept to it’s pre-election policies for disabled people as well
But resilient as ever disabled people are cheering the fact that under Labour there are a significant number of improved rights for animals. After all we accept that not being pretty and fluffy and not enjoying being patted on the head by people passing us on the street- we were never likely to get the same sort of attention as cute little animals.Besides which, after 5 years of Condem austerity measures we’ve come to accept that the main political parties view us as stock with no human rights.
One of the first acts of the new Labour Government was to pass legislation to improve the lives of dogs and cats-they must now all be fed daily, be allowed out to go to the toilet regularly and have a daily walk. Not so for disabled people who have lost their care and support funding and who can only watch wistfully the new freedoms that pets have- imprisoned as they now are inside the walls of their homes unable to leave and take any active part in society. Many social services have introduced toileting regimes allowing disabled people to go to the toilet only at set times, or replaced human support with incontinence pads and catheters.
Fresh food has become a distant memory as more and more 3 minute short visits are all that is available to humans. Along with the wild animals which Labour is protecting by banning them from being used in circuses some of us are also being relocated to new ‘homes’. Sadly for disabled people this means we’re being removed totally from society and pushed out of sight and mind since the closure of the ILF in England.
Ed Miliband and Ed Balls back in 2006 when every disabled child mattered
Many young disabled people have now been sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in old people’s homes which provide the only residential care available for them. Meanwhile the search for suitable re-homing of our circus animals is being supported by a new independent and well-funded task force set up by Ed Balls. Equitably the re-homing of disabled people by Local Authorities is being done following a set of non-compulsory guidelines drawn up by the new minister of disabled people Dick Ensien.
When asked why he has abandoned the previous legacy of the last labour Governments Every Disabled Child Matters Campaign which he spear-headed Ed replied “ Although I find some disabled children cute I can’t stand them once they reach adulthood and besides which having had 'a hand up' while children the Labour party now no longer need to do anything more for them. They’ve already had equality of opportunity as outlined in Tony’s Third Way ideology and should just be jolly grateful for that.”
Thankfully, as well, we’re delighted that the hunting ban has been confirmed to continue, and all culling of badgers has been stopped however the culling of disabled people through the new Work Capability Assessments carried out by Maximus – Same Circus, Different Clowns - continues unabated. The DWP as usual have refused to release figures of how many disabled people have died as a result of this process since the Labour government came to power. Disabled people also continue to be disproportionately sanctioned for failing to meet the conditionality in the WRAG as well as those flung onto JSA. Unqualified Job centre staff are free to decide which disabled people can be left to starve and for how long. But we are all so pleased dogs and cats now have a right to at least one meal a day. Tesco’s should also be applauded for continuing to collect food for us in their shops next to their baskets collecting cat and dog food. We do love being passive recipients of charity and being made to feel so thankful for any scraps thrown our way.
David Freud has now also returned to the Labour fold as a Labour Lord advising on benefit reform.
Of course David Freud has now also returned to the Labour fold as a Labour Lord advising on benefits reform. He has recommended to a Labour government bent on imposing further and harsher austerity measures that any disabled person in work should only be paid a maximum rate of £2 per hour since we are worth so much less to employers than non-disabled people. Since the alternative to this for many of us is unpaid work placements we are of course willing to accept this meagre rate if it allows us to be more employable.
While Labour profess to support fully the right to live independently for disabled people we are now in a situation following plans to close the Independent Living Fund where England is left as the only UK country which will not have it’s own form of a fund to continue to support the additional funding requirements of those who have high support needs.
For any political party to say they want disabled people to have the same rights, choices and chances as any other citizen rings hollow without a commitment to keep in place even if on a temporary basis the funding necessary for this to happen.
The Labour Party’s official response to many people who have contacted them with regard to supporting keeping the ILF open has outlined a number of points which we would like to address.
1) The “inconsistencies” in delivery which you mention were the result of unequal take up between different local authorities and was symptomatic of the failings of local authority administered social care support. As a national model of service delivery the ILF is far more successful and cost effective than local authority administered social care. The latest ILF annual report records a user satisfaction rating of 97%. Overheads for the ILF come in at just 2 % of the budget in comparison with an average of 16% for local authorities. It is in fact a model of service delivery that should be built upon rather than shut down. We understand that provisions in the Care Act are aimed at reducing inconsistencies between local authorities, nevertheless the inconsistencies you cite as a problem of the ILF are many times worse in the current system upon which ILF users will now be solely reliant as a result of the closure.
2) You also state that ‘ we understand the Fund is already being wound down, and staff numbers are already reducing’. This maybe correct but it is equally the case that there is very little being done in terms of winding down the ILF that could not very quickly be undone, even after actual closure of the ILF. This information has been provided by ILF staff and a former strategic director at ILF and has been shared with Labour’s shadow DWP team by PCS union and others. This means that if a Labour government were to be elected in May 2015 it will very much be Labour’s decision to go ahead with closure in June.
3) In turn that brings us onto the fact that should Labour be elected to government next May it is they who will be in power and responsible for the UK’s failure to protect disabled people’s human rights under the UNCRPD, and it is they who will be deemed responsible for the continuing grave and systematic violation of those rights when the UN investigation into the UK takes place after the election. We believe this would cause unnecessary and easily avoidable embarrassment to a newly elected labour government with international repercussions.
Whilst we welcome Labour’s goal of trying to ensure in the longer term that those currently supported by the Independent Living Fund can realise rights to live independently and with dignity, the ‘whole person care’ through which Labour intends to deliver on this goal is at this stage only a proposal and any benefits resulting from it are a long way off. Moreover, as respected experts in the field such as Professor Pat Thane have pointed out, the current system is simply not functioning at the necessary level. Relying on the integration of health and social care as a solution to the crisis in social care is thus an irresponsible gamble to take with people’s lives.
Since the closure to new applicants in December 2010 disabled people who missed out on the ILF have suffered dramatically worse outcomes than existing ILF recipients with equivalent support needs. We have provided Kate Green with a number of case studies showing the reality of independent living for disabled people who would have been eligible for ILF but are now only receiving LA social care support. We are not just talking about disabled people no longer being able to go to work, or ever have a holiday or go to university, we are talking about people unable to leave their homes, left without access to food or water, unable to wash more than a couple of times per week.
Whilst the intention of issuing guidelines to local authorities is well meaning, it is unrealistic within the current climate to see these securing the futures of existing ILF recipients. Cash strapped local authorities are very aware of the dangers of setting precedents for providing levels and types of social care support to some individuals and not for others. An LA could easily consider itself to have more to risk by following than not following the guidelines. In order to ensure equity between all adult service users they may well feel they have no choice but to level down.
In the short term we are asking that the ILF be retained as the only way to realistically guarantee protection for existing recipients. Disabled people are aware that this is not a big ask: the ILF represents a relatively small amount of money; the ILF will not be wound down beyond easy repair before May 2015.
The alternative is that disabled people’s right to independent living will be wiped out, potentially for generations. Once a people lose choice and control over their lives, disempowerment sets in and rights that have been smashed aside over-night can only be won back over a long and hard road.
As it stands, if Labour are elected in May 2015, the final nail in the coffin of disabled people’s right to independent living as it currently exists will be hammered in under a Labour government. It does not have to be like this. The Labour Party has a golden opportunity to make a principled stand in support of disabled people and our rights to equality, inclusion and equality by supporting the continuation of ILF. Disabled people are mobilizing and campaigning across the UK, through initiatives like Operation Disabled Vote. A principled stand by Labour on the ILF ahead of the General Election would be welcomed by the 12.2 million disabled people in the UK, our families, friends and supporters.
What you can do to help
We’re therefore asking people to email or tweet to Labour to say that England must not be the only UK country without an Independent Living Fund and that we know and have shown them the evidence that it is not too late to keep an ILF in England as well as in other UK countries. If Labour want disabled people’s votes then they must give an assurance that in the short term at least they will keep the ILF open until such time as something better can be put in place.
Different forms of Government Propaganda began and ended the year. We saw delays, backlogs, more cuts, more campaigns and direct actions. We reproduce some of the DPAC actions, research and call outs from 2014. Highlights included the Westminster Abbey Occupation against the closure of ILF as part of the #saveilf campaign, lowlights included the court case that arrived at the decision that Penning had taken appropriate process into account by saying that ILF users could be entitled to less under local authorities. Chaos with the DWP, PIP, ESA was compounded by misinformation, dodgy stats , backlogs and increasing sanctions. The brilliant Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition against Cuts achieved the abolition of ‘care’ charges by their local authority-proving it can be done. Esther McVey was awarded Scrooge of the year. DPAC was threatened with legal action for our support of the Anthony Kletzander campaign -in response we increased the campaign, and the relationship in the propaganda against disabled people between the DWP and the Mail was finally exposed
News that the UNCRPD Committee had initiated its first ever inquiry into grave and systematic violations of the UN Convention against the UK identified how far our disability rights and independent living had been eroded by the Coalition-although the Mail didnt seem to like it much
Our constant court cases against the DWP continued, and we have more lined up for this year too- yes, we could be talking to you Motability!
Here’s to a better year in 2015 with thanks to all our members and supporters. Keep up with news in 2015 by subscribing to posts through our website www.dpac.uk.net or follow us on twitter @Dis_ppl_protest
Some selected actions of DPAC in 2014
January saw the posting of a call for those who were waiting for PIP due to backlogs. This post has received over 40,000 views,shares and many comments. The situation has now been described as a backlog that , at the current rate , could take 42 years to clear. For those claiming ‘reforms’ are working have a look to see that they are not: https://dpac.uk.net/2014/01/have-you-waited-months-for-a-pip-assessment/ and let’s not forget the backlog in ESA either-in short complete chaos for disabled people.
In ‘Austerity Street: the real impacts’ we reproduced some of the stories we had received from those left without cash and homes via sanctions, delays and backlogs. This was in response to Love Production’s poverty porn , Benefits Street, part of the media’s continued demonization regime -the campaign incorporated a twitter fest against the format of biased programming. We supported our partners in Canada Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty (SCAP)and Ontario Coalition Aginst Poverty (OCAP). In an international campaign against increasing homelessness. Austerity is global. We supported Boycott workfare against CAPITA cashing in on poverty.
DPAC joins protests against DWP and ATOS country wide. Protests that were reminiscent of the very first DPAC protests against Atos carried out by DPAC from 2011 onwards, culminating in the 2012 DPAC Atos games that saw Atos tarnished forever. DPAC leads direct actions and online protests against the despised disability Con-fident, leading to the highest number of tweets and retweets ever, exposing the scheme as no more than a Government gloss while they were cutting access to work and removing the means for disabled people to work. We produce a critical analysis of Pennings impact assessment regarding ILF. We reproduce the piece by John Pring asking ‘Where was your MP during the Wow Debate’
At the end of June DPAC with UKUNCUT, and Occupy carry out a daring occupation of Westminster Abbey , after months of planning to highlight the #saveilf campaign. There were 3 police to every protester , and while we had no support from the dear old church , messages of support and publicity poured in
In Secrets and Lies :maximus the new leader of the inhumans we ask why Disability Rights UK have agreed to a) be part of the Maximus testing process on the WCA and b) why they’ve teamed up with Unum and other insurance companies to develop a TV program showing how much better off disabled people will be if they take out private insurance- with user-led disability organisations like these we dont need enemies.
We, disabled people, family, friends, supporters and allies, are asking for your help. We are asking you to pledge to keep the Independent Living Fund open to existing applicants, pending a review of Independent Living for all disabled people.
As you may know, on the 8th of December at the High Court, a ruling was given against our challenge to the closure of the ILF , and we were not given leave to appeal.
The closure of the ILF effectively signals the end of the right to independent living for disabled people in the UK. Whilst never perfect the ILF represents a model of support that has enabled thousands of disabled people to enjoy meaningfully lives and to contribute to society as equal citizens.
Since the closure of the Fund to new applicants in December 2010 we have seen disabled people left with their most basic needs unmet and unable to seek employment, to volunteer or go into education or simply even to leave the house.
But we have vowed to fight on against the ILF closure, disabled people will not be pushed back into the margins of society, we will not go back into the institutions, our place is in the community alongside our family and friends and neighbours and we are fighting to stay.
We ask you to imagine what it will be like, for people who have been enabled to live a full life, be with friends and family, go out, work, study and enjoy recreation, to have all that taken away, and find themselves trapped inside, all day, every day, with choices over what they do, when and how, removed.
To severely disabled people the Independent Living Fund represents the difference between having an existence, and having a life.
Please Ed, keep our Independent Living Fund open. Keep Our Lives Open. It means the world to us.
Background: The Government won a case in the Royal Courts of Justice on Monday 8th December, which made their decision to close the ILF – Independent Living Fund – lawful; and this closure will now go ahead on 30th June next year.
Unless, of course the families, friends, supporters and others stand in solidarity with ILF Users campaign to Save the ILF, and together apply the sort of political power which changes minds and policy. You can do that today by signing the Open Letter to Ed Miliband (full text below), asking him, that should he become Prime Minister in May’s General Election, to keep the Fund open while ordering an independent review into the benefits of a model such as the ILF.
We know that many disabled people will lose some or all of their support, isolating people in their homes – at best. For many more, being institutionalised in residential homes is once again a grim reality. To save on average just over £300 per person. Don’t let this happen. Stand in support with ILF Users in this action, and the many more on-going & to come
In May 2015 there will be a general election in the UK.
Where we are now
Since 2010 the UK has been governed by an unelected Conservative party who were only able to form a government by allying themselves with the Liberal Democrats. The policies that have been put in place by this coalition which are wiping out disabled people’s human rights on a daily basis and which have led to massive increases in hate crime against disabled people were never part of either party’s election manifesto and so were never voted on by the UK electorate.
We start from already having some of the lowest benefit rates in Europe both for those of working age and pensioners. 1
Spending cuts have been so severe over the past 4 years with more to come that on some estimates the UK will by 2017 have the lowest share of public spending among leading capitalist economies, including the US.
Professor Taylor-Goody says there is no realistic prospect of that fundamentally changing, irrespective of the outcome of the general election.2
This report says there must be speculation about why the 7th richest country, which experiences no difficulties in borrowing over long terms at low interest rates, should choose to adopt such unusual economic policies, particularly since such policies are now agreed by most commentators to be damaging to the national interest. Welfare for the poor is being cut back sharply. 3
A recent UNICEF report found that millions ‘have fallen prey to the dangers of austerity’ during the recession years and said Britain should ‘review’ its economic policies as a ‘priority’ and raise working tax credit, increase benefits in line with inflation, and push up the minimum wage for under 21s.4
The Resolution Foundation shows how job insecurity is increasing and wages stagnating, particularly at the bottom end.5 This obviously has an additional impact on disabled people.
Poverty has risen dramatically and food bank usage has increased both for those in and out of work. In April 2013 over 900,000 people had been forced to use Trussell foodbanks an increase of 163% over the previous 12 months. 6
Malnutrition is becoming a public health emergency with hospital admissions for this doubling between 2008 and 2012-13 (latest available figures).7
SanctionsWhich result in the removalof all benefit payments from 4 -26 weeks and in some cases for 3 years
For disabled people on ESA the numbers sanctioned between March 2013 and March 2014 increased from 1,356 to 6,1495 almost trebling. 65% of those sanctioned have Mental health conditions.
This figure does not include disabled people who have been wrongly found fit for work and forced to claim Job Seekers Allowance.8
The latest data for England shows that there were 118,002 JSA claimants that received an adverse sanction decision in the last month for which data is available.9
We have already evidenced how the Coalition austerity measures have impacted on disabled people and led to increasing levels of poverty, destitution and despair. They are causing and continue to cause grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s human rights enshrined in UNCRPD. Even when court cases can be brought (legal aid has now been restricted) the courts do not always help eg. although bedroom tax has been found to be a disability discrimination issue the court has ruled that this is justifiable.
The cumulative impact of the loss of disabled people’s human rights has not been measured in any way by the government although this has been called for by the Joint Committee on Human Rights.
Prospects for the general election and after
UKIP – this is a relatively newly formed political party which is opposed to the EU, immigration and appears to be attracting disillusioned voters of the right and left. Currently they are shown by polls to have 16% share of the vote. UKIP are unlikely to have enough elected MPs to be able to form a government but as a particularly right wing party could be espeacially dangerous if they were to become part of any coalition government or hold the balance of power in any way. They are forcing everything to the right and pulling Conservatives and Labour further from policies that are consistent with equalities as they compete for who can be toughest on migrants (and there are disabled migrants of course) and especially migrants claiming benefits which is fuelling the demonisation of benefit claimants.
Liberal Democrats – currently in a coalition with the Conservatives. Viewed as generally untrustworthy as they have abandoned most if not all of their principles to secure a share of power. Share of vote in polls 6%
Green Party – a minority party which has effectively been excluded from taking part in party political debates by the state controlled BBC. Share of vote in polls also 6%.
Others-SNP, Plaid Cymru, UDP,SDLP and Sinn Fein in the devolved regions may all also have a small number of MPs elected to parliament.
On an equal footing from polls with approximately 34% of the vote each are the 2 main political parties –Labour and Conservatives.
What is already apparent from the Coalition propaganda is that this election and the run up to it will be about further castigating and scapegoating disabled people as a financial drain on the economy which is unsustainable and driving further the agenda of disabled people as being undeserving.
Further cuts the Conservatives have said they will impose if elected
Implement a further £12billion cut from the welfare bill, a quarter of this to come from freezing benefit levels for 2 years in spite of fuel costs rising 73% and food prices by 40% since 2006. 10
Pull Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights
Scrap the Human Rights Act
Reduce funding to Equalities and Human Rights Commission11
End the need for Equality Impact Assessments to be carried out to monitor the impact of policies on disabled people.
A further reduction of the overall benefit cap from £26,000 per annum to £23,000 per annum.
Loss of welfare assistance funding from May 2015. These are emergency payments now made by local authorities to people in dire need.
Reduction of ESA rates for disabled people in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) to 50p above the Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) rates. This would mean a reduction in weekly benefits of £30 per week. 12
The discredited Work Capability Assessments will be taken over by Maximus another corporation which has been found guilty in several legal challenges in the US. They will be paid £500 million over 3 and a half years to continue the tick box assessments that have led to so many deaths and suicides of disabled people.
At the same time disabled people are facing these threats to their basic incomes there remain 2,700 ex-Remploy factory workers unemployed, cuts to Access to Work Funding and almost 90% of Employment and Support Allowance claimants on the Work programme have not moved into employment.13
There is still no commitment to support independent living as a right and the Care Act coming into place in April 2015 replaces the term independent living with wellbeing something which is far from the former.
Continuing Misuse of Statistics
For the first time UK tax payers will receive a breakdown of where their tax money supposedly goes via a propaganda exercise costing £5 million. Money which even Austerity Britain seems able to find when it wants to.
This however seems to be a total misrepresentation of data and facts and what is shown as welfare spending in fact includes a large number of unrelated items to the real welfare spend of the country. While old age pensions have been separated, no other cost has, meaning the category includes in-work tax credits, money for disabled and sick people, child benefit, winter fuel payments for old people, Plus it seems all pension payments made to those in receipt of public sector pensions are included in the category of welfare spending. This alone accounts for £20 billion of money supposedly spent on welfare provision.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has also shown that the welfare total included £28.5bn of “personal social services” which is normally classified as a health and social care cost and not as a welfare spending.
Using IFS tables to calculate a more conventional figure for total welfare less state pension expenditure shows that these figures used by the government inflate the published welfare spending total by around 40%.14
Another issue the government appears to have misrepresented is rolling together income tax and national insurance despite the fact that these are paid separately, and fund different things. National Insurance is partly an insurance premium to safeguard against unemployment and the sickness and disability that stop you working, so some of the ‘welfare’ money is effectively payouts covered by premiums, and this has been made deliberately unclear by the presentation chosen.
We have already outlined numerous examples where Conservative politicians have been shown to be manipulating and misusing statistics but in relation to the Work Capability Assessments. We believe that the government has started manipulated the figures in view of the General Election, which means that the figures that the government could present to the CRPD Committee have become meaningless.
Disabled people stuck in the WCA assessment phase are included in the claimant count. What this means: 1) the number of ESA claimants is higher than it should be (some of the people in the assessment phase will be eventually found fit for work or will have recovered and ended their claims), which means that Iain Duncan Smith can claim that the WCA is working better.
2) the backlog is now 600,000 people, If you assume that 60% of them go onto ESA according to the latest figures (going back a while) and the rest on JSA, it means that to keep people in the assessment phase is artificially lowering down the number of JSA claimants, therefore the unemployment figure. There are however no recently available statistics to show this trend that have been published.
3) Without a more thorough analysis of the data WCA statistics may look as if they are improving as more assessments are paper based now to clear the ever increasing backlog which means those that are being processed on paper only relate to people viewed as having the most severe disabilities.
The number of appeals has also fallen but this is due to the change to Mandatory Reconsiderations and also the fall in the number of assessments.
It is also 12 months since Mandatory Reconsiderations have been introduced as an alternative to people having a right to appeal against decisions relating to their benefit claims. No information has been published about how these are working or the time taken for them to be processed although during that period claimants cannot receive any income from ESA and many are left with no source of income.
The Labour party are offering little different to the Conservatives and seem unlikely to offer any real alternative. They say they will commit to keeping to Conservative spending levels for the first two years if they are elected which makes it impossible for them to alleviate any of the worst effects of the austerity pogrom that disabled people have endured.
1. They will continue with the Work Capability Assessments and Personal Independence Payment agendas and only pause with regard to the roll out of Universal Credit. Their comments are only that they hope Maximus will get better results than ATOS.
2. They will continue with the sanctions regime that has left thousands of disabled people with no source of income.
3. They say if we win the court case they will keep the Independent Living Fund open for current recipients but will not re-open it to anyone else.
4. If they adhere to current spending limits then local councils will continue to have massive spending cuts imposed on them leaving them without the funding needed to support independent living.
5. The Labour party has allowed their own structures and support for their disabled members to collapse. This has resulted in disabled people having little or no voice in the party.
6. The labour shadow minster for disabled people has said that disabled people will no longer be forced to take part in the work programme unless they have mild impairments. What exactly she means by mild impairments is unknown and we feel this is open to abuse by untrained private sector work programme providers as well as open to interpretation by a whole range of others with no medical qualifications to make such a value judgement. This would particularly be the case if the biopsychsocial model was used to determine what is considered mild.
7. There is still no commitment to support independent living as a right and Labour support the introduction of the Care Act in 2015 which replaces the concept of independent living with that of wellbeing.
8. On a plus note Labour say they will abolish bedroom tax.
To date we have raised £1,700 enough money to visit the constituencies of Maria Miller, Esther McVey, Mike Penning and one other.
There are more MPs on our wish list so we will continue with the DPAC 50p challenge and ask anyone who can spare some money to donate either though paypal or directly to our bank account.
Disabled People Against Cuts sort code 08-92-99 account number 65454743. Please let us know if you prefer to send a cheque.
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So finally released is the official news that Maximus take over from the toxic brand of Atos for £500 million. Already there are comparisons with Russell Crow characters, but there’s also an overlooked Maximus who might be more fitting as a parody or comparison. This Maximus comes from the U.S Marvel comics
Maximus was briefly the leader of the Inhumans while his brother, Black Bolt, went into exile, daring not to use his dangerous voice. Maximus believed that the Inhumans were the greater form of life on Earth and he set out to rule them and to destroy humankind to retake the planet.
More on Marvel.com: http://marvel.com/universe/Maximus#ixzz3Hd6bb9Bl
Leader of the inhumans seems much more fitting than the hero reduced to slavery and seeking revenge- can we compare Black Bolt to Atos going into exile too? No, not really, as Maximus are using Atos staff and equipment to continue with the inhuman Work Capability Assessments (WCA), and of course Atos have a whole host of other multi-million Government contracts including PIP-yet another planned disaster, shared with Capita, leaving disabled people stuck on a waiting list for up to a year without any financial support whatsoever. In June 2014 MacMillan identified that those diagnosed with cancer were waiting at least six months for the initial assessment rather than being fast tracked properly, as was the case under the Disability living Allowance.
We can be sure that this didn’t and doesn’t just apply to those with cancer,but those with other terminal illness’ too. The Work and Pensions Committee rightly condemned this, but then we hear nothing more than empty silence. New Labour say it will take 42 years to clear the PIP backlog. But they don’t tell us what they will do about it, which with an election year fast approaching is yet another lost opportunity for the rusty New Labour machinery.
From one toxic brand to another?
Its worth a quick recap on Atos and the WCA contracts. The Atos process contributed to deaths, the Atos process contributed to worsening mental health, Atos’ so called ‘healthcare professionals were ‘trained’ over a period of days, Atos got reports wrong frequently, Atos were subject to TV exposures, the Atos process was condemned internationally, Atos were closely linked Unum insurance sharing the same CEO, Atos declared people fit for work when they were in comas or days before they died. Atos pulled out of their contract saying that those nasty disabled people were being nasty to their staff- a claim which , true to form, they could provide no evidence for.
Atos became a toxic brand long before the hyped ‘pull-out’. Atos were targeted from 2011 onwards by DPAC with protests outside their shiny London headquarters and elsewhere. Atos tried to shut down web sites that said ‘bad’ things about them. In 2012 their sponsorship of the Olympic games ( along with a set of other dubious multi-nationals) led to a 7 day protest by DPAC, a protest that saw angry protesters outside Atos centres across the UK. It was then that national media, often silenced by their owners vested interests broke through. We saw from the first time a trickle of freelancers with a social conscience edge in the Atos issue under the Olympics rubric. We saw the beginnings of a snow ball affect which Atos’ public image never recovered from. Atos were known not as the IT company, but the company that carried out those bogus Work Capability Assessments.
From bad to worse
So what changes with Maximus? First let Maximus be in no doubt that they will get the same treatment as Atos did-disabled people will continue protest and civil disobedience- a name change doesn’t mean a thing. This company knew exactly what they were taking on-but money talks louder than conscience . As already mentioned Maximus take the infrastructure of Atos, its staff , its IT , its tick box assessments. Atos are still gaining. Second, Maximus take private contracts ( paid with public money) to help dismantle what’s left of our ( or anyone else’s) welfare state to force those ‘that can’ on to private insurance scams that may or may not pay out-Unum and co are also laughing all the way to their bankster friends. .
What’s different? Well, Maximus seem worse than Atos- yes you read that correctly. They have a string of law suits in their homeland the good old US of A. In 2014 they said
“We expect that demand for our core health and human services offerings will continue to increase over the next few years, driven by new legislation, austerity measures and increasing caseloads, as governments strive to deliver more services with fewer resources. Legislation, such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the United States as well as other health and welfare reform initiatives abroad, has created increased demand for our services, a trend we expect to continue over the next several years.”
‘Core health and human services offerings’:?. It seems these ‘offerings’ have proved a bit of an expensive minefield. But these days such things are written off to risk if the profits out weigh the pay-offs companies will do what the hell they like. In 2007 Maximus settled a Medicaide card fraud with the Federal Government paying $30.5 million. In 2012 they paid $50,000 in a disability discrimination case. In 2013 it was reported that Maximus has been engaging in ‘improper billing advice’ concerning $3.5 million cost to tax payers (sounds familiar-except here our state dont appear to do much about such things).There’s more, but you get the picture. Final add is that Maximus also like to give lots of money to right wing politicians-ah it gets even clearer.
Looks like we should expect the worst and looks like our unelected Government have managed to surpass themselves, again. The drain on the so-called public purse- that’s tax payers money- is set to rocket again. But beyond financial concerns are what happens now with the WCA? What happens to the backlog? And what happens to disabled people- the news doesn’t look good, as many commentators on social media have already pointed out. However, several things have been missed on social media
All in it together?
While Disability Rights UK (DRUK) were one of the first to get the notice of Maximus taking over from Atos out on their website, they failed to mention how they will be ‘helping’ Maximus. This information is not on their web site. It can be found elsewhere on the Department of Work and Pensions website :
“On top of recruiting additional healthcare professionals, MAXIMUS also plans to make further improvements to people’s experience of an assessment and will seek to continually improve the service they offer. It will increase the number of specialists who conduct assessments, including experts in mental health. They will also spend more time with people before their assessment to fully explain the process and provide Disability Awareness training for all staff through Disability Rights UK”.
Didn’t Atos claim similar things too? There are some who might say DRUK is what is needed. We should ask those people how a so-called user-led disabled peoples’ organisation can, with any integrity, involve themselves in this at all. Its no secret that like Maximus themselves, DRUK would know about the WCA, the Government lies that surround it, the misery caused by it, and why it all chimes together to remove welfare/state support from disabled people-It marks a purposeful intention to further open -up the market for private insurers – is this a mistake on the DWP’s own Government site?
Sadly, we think not. In the latest release DRUK say that they’ve been in discussions with Maximus and no work has yet been agreed- shouldn’t they be categorically denying the association outright?
Yet, DRUK are already ‘in bed’ with big corporations and private insurance companies. After their prior foray with Capita, DRUK now appear to have joined the game of pushing private disability insurance too. They are partnering with 17 big insurance companies to show the difference insurance would make, instead of fighting for the rights of disabled people. That is disabled people who by DRUK’s own admission occupy one of the largest groups in poverty, a poverty level that has been systematically widened and worsened because of this Government’s pursuit of removing welfare.
A few months ago DRUK publicised a new television program calling for disabled volunteers: Seven Families. Seven families will take the same number of families and show the benefits of purchasing private disability insurance. Its not about pushing products says the Income Protection Task Force (?) blurb-its about raising awareness-not since the Guardian published the much criticised info ads for Unum have we seen this sort of ‘stupid public’ approach. Once again , you wont find this on the DRUK web-site it’s been removed. But DRUK’s strap-line of breaking the link between poverty and disability just took on a new meaning
More importantly, under the WCA contract Atos were paid per assessment. Under the PIP contract Atos and Capita are paid a lump sum not depending on the number of assessments- the planned backlog becomes clearer. But what of the Maximus contract -are they paid by assessment or paid a lump sum? What is obvious is that the rounds of assessments and reassessments will continue to persecute disabled people. At intervals they might get a pittance of support, they might need to wait longer for a mandatory reconsideration ( brought in in Oct 2013 to make the process even more difficult and knock people out of the system). The best bet is to forget that you’ve paid state national insurance for all of your working life and go see Unum- and if 99% of disabled people cant afford it tough, because even your own so called disability organisations are telling you this is now the only way.
We want answers and we call on New Labour’s Rachael Reeves and Kate Green to provide them-what will they do with Maximus? What will they do with mandatory reconsideration? What will they do for disabled people? Oh and why should we a) trust them b) vote for them?
For now as The Void suggests: ‘Maximus are the new Atos: destroy Maximus’ and everyone and every organisation involved in or supporting this inhuman regime of the corrupt WCA, until its scrapped completely!
We’re all in this together so the Tories say but that is not the case as we all know. Cameron and Osborne were the guests of honour at a lavish £25,000 party – just hours before they unveiled further savage spending cuts. They joined more than 60 senior Tories at one of Britain’s top restaurants for the exclusive event.
Billionaire financier Michael Spencer hosted and paid for the “thank you” bash at the Michelin-starred Simpson’s restaurant in Birmingham on Monday night The total drinks bill for the event for around 65 people came to just under £14,000. The food cost about £5,200 and the service charge was more than £2,000. The total bill came to around £25,000 – the same as a nurse’s salary for a whole year.
Then today in his speech Cameron finally said what we’ve all known all along and admitted he “resents” the poor.
Tory party aides rushed to say that the Eton educated PM didn’t really mean to say that and he just wasn’t able to read his autocue which begs the question is private education really worthwhile. Not only has Eton turned out a chancellor who has not even the remotest clue about basic Economics but a PM who can’t even read – I guess they are what is meant by the term the Eton Mess.
Cameron was apparently trying to claim that the Tories represent people living on council estates perhaps a bit unbelievable since Sam Cam has been reported to have being toting around a bag worth £14,000 this week at conference.
Most sickening of all though was dragging the memory of his son Ivan out to try to bolster his claim to care about the NHS. Anyone who can use the death of their disabled son to try to boost their popularity can only be considered scum.
And as for Osborne his bare-faced lies about the health of the economy are equally difficult to listen to. Public spending is going up and not down and the 6% rise in public borrowing this year could push the deficit up from £99 billion last year to over £105 billion this one. The two million jobs he claims have been created are mostly low or no pay none of which will help improve spending power and boost the economy.
Public sector pay rises will be pegged at 2% until at least 2017, benefit levels will be frozen. All those who are getting something for nothing –Iain Duncan Smith, Osborne and Cameron to name only a few are set to make sure that the rest of us will get continue to get nothing, and that not only increasing poverty but malnutrition, destitution and homelessness will continue to rise.
Shortly before the June budget statement from George Osborne in 2010 myself and others attended a training course on the UNCRPD and how it could be used to advance disabled people’s human rights run by Rachel Hurst from Disability Awareness in Action.
It was a pleasant weekend in a posh hotel with lots of free food but then came the budget announcement and it seemed that more needed to be done to protect disabled people’s human rights then sitting comfortably in a hotel. Disabled People’s Protest was born and we decided that disabled people should lead the march against the Tories at their conference in Birmingham in 2010. The police tried to stop us of course as we are all so vulnerable and they feared for our safety but we mustered complaints from around the world against this and they were forced to allow us to do that.
There were about 150+ disabled people who marched or wheeled at the front of a 7,000 strong protest in the pouring rain plus more taking part in a static protest in Chamberlain Square. Our slogan was Cuts Kill and of course we were accused by some of scaremongering but sadly we have since been proven right. Cuts are continuing to kill disabled people almost on a daily basis, malnutrition is rife in the 7th richest country in the world and diseases related to poverty are returning such as scurvy and rickets. This is an obscene public health emergency yet sanctions and the use of food banks continue to increase and poverty and deprivation worsen.
Over the last 4 years it seems like more and more attacks against disabled people have kept happening, our rights have been systematically stripped away and every aspect of our lives are under threat as the Tory killing machine continues to unfurl more and deeper cuts.
But we have achieved much and most of all we’ve shown that disabled people can fight back and will fight back, we are not the easy push over that Iain Duncan Smith and his party henchmen thought we would be. The much hated ATOS is on its way out and not even the nastiest of alternative corporations seems willing to even bid for the WCA contract to replace them. We’ve successfully made ATOS and Capita such toxic brands that they cannot recruit staff.
We’ve taken and supported court cases both to challenge the WCA and to save the ILF putting legal barriers in the way of this unelected government. We’ve had many street protests and carried out numerous direct actions and lobbied parliament and continued to speak at meetings and educate people about access needs and the consequences of cuts.
This year we’re celebrating our 4th birthday back where we started at the Tory Party conference in Birmingham and the Tories may well get an unexpected surprise at conference this time too
As well as that we’re launching our non-party political (due to the transparency of lobbying bill another aspect of the Tories trying to stifle dissent against themselves as they know there is so much) campaign Who2 Vote4 so you’ll be seeing this logo around a lot from now on.
We will be seeking to influence policies which affect disabled people and to get political parties to commit themselves to reversing the cuts we’ve all faced in the past 4 years.
We want you to let us know what is important to you as well. Please post on the blog or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell us what you think we should be asking of our politicians.
More news about our planned activities in the run up to the General Election coming soon.