Mar 012013
 

In the count-down to the ILF court case on 13th March we will be publishing on a daily basis individual stories from disabled people affected by the closure of this essential source of independent living support.

This follows the powerful testimonies recorded by journalist Kate Belgrave and published by the Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/27/closing-independent-living-fund-disabled-care

Please circulate the links to the stories and use the tools in the campaigns pack to promote the Independent Living Fund campaign as widely as possible.

Our first story is from Mary Laver.

Olympic Torch Relay 041My love affair with the Independent Living Fund (ILF) started over 25 years ago, – I was just 40 and I am now 65, – when it came into my life, a life that I was existing not living.

Within 12 months of becoming crippled with Rheumatoid Arthritis at the age of 40 I was unable to leave my bed and this remained the case for the next 2 years.

I found myself in a position where I could not bear weight on my legs or feet, and my arms very quickly bent making it impossible to get out of my bed and into my powered wheelchair.  My care from social services was very basic at 2 hours per day. All but 2 of my friends deserted me.  I watched the seasons change by the reflection in a picture I had on the wall opposite my bed, which by this time, was now in my lounge.

Life was very grim until my social worker told me about the ILF; my love affair was to begin.

Being introduced to the ILF was not easy, my social worker had to fill in a long and complicated form and then we just had to wait for the verdict, yes or no to me getting the ILF, which was a long time coming. Meanwhile I decided to sell my house and buy a bungalow, which I did from my bed, and by the time the ILF was confirmed, the sale had gone through and I was on the move to my new home and my new life with my ILF.

I will not bore you with all the life changes over the past 25 years thanks to the ILF, but I will jump straight to 15th June 2012 at 5.03 pm Newbridge Street, Newcastle and a crowed eagerly awaiting the Olympic Torch to approach because that was the date, time and place that I was to have the greatest honor of my whole life, I was to carry the Olympic Torch in recognition of my charity work.  The list is long and you can Google me to find out more, but highlights are I drove my power chair from Lands End to John O’Groats making it into the Guinness Book of Records, which I did for the Royal British Legion, I have spent for the past 22 years, two weeks each year selling poppies, I have been pushed in my manual chair to raise monies for various charities in 16 Great North Runs. The list goes on and none of this would have happened without ILF.

My life does not all revolve around good works. My ILF also enables me to go out for long walks with my two much loved Jack Russell’s, Jack and Molly. My ILF enables me to visit places of interest, to have the freedom to do what I want, when I want, with whom I want.  I also use the ILF time for my carer to take me to my hospital and doctor’s appointments.

In all to sum up I would say I lead a life full of challenges and wonderful experiences mixed up with the odd boring moments.

But if I am divorced from my ILF I will be living a life of hell in my beautiful bungalow. My beloved dogs will have to find a new home. My social life will disappear.

How do I know this?

I know because I have seen what my care package would look like without the ILF contribution. Per day, I would receive support for a carer to sleepover, then 1 hour support for lunch, and 1 hour for tea. Per week would be added 7 hours for social activities, 90 minutes for shopping, 45 minutes for housework and 20 minutes ironing, plus 2 support slots of 15 minutes each for showering.

With nothing but a Local Authority care package I  would have a future of nothing more than sitting in my wheelchair from quarter to eight in the morning until half past ten at night with only two breaks, at lunch time and at tea time.  Without support to go to the toilet between visits from a care assistant I would be wet, so when the care assistant did come for the hour lunch time and tea time would need to be taken to clean me. I would also get a sandwich, a hot drink and be toileted. At tea time instead of a sandwich I would get a warmed up meal, which would have to be a microwave meal because no time would be allowed in my support package for cooking.

By the time the night staff came on at ten, I would be wet again and need to be washed and changed as well as been given a hot drink and put to bed at half past ten.

Being left wet for so many hours every day would lead to open pressure sores which would need to be treated by a nurse on a regular basis.

My day would be nothing more than me sitting in a wet pad, just being fed and watered, no Jack and Molly to keep me company, and above all no freedom to do anything I wish. My home will be my prison.

Oh except for my 7 hours of social care per week. Well with that I could use it to have one day out of the house per week or I could add 1 hour per day to my lunch or tea time call to make it less rushed.

Being very dramatic, there is a pond at the bottom of my garden and if I were to finally mentally snap, unable to take any more of this appalling care, it would only take a few minutes and all my problems, and that of the government, will be sorted… Or I could get someone to leave my gate open- I cannot do that myself- and a short metro ride would see me on a short pier where I could take a long walk…

The other alternative would be a care home.  Would the people who are taking my ILF away care to live in a care home? The pond seems more inviting.

So there you have it, my love affair with the ILF.  I will fight with every breath in my body to keep this affair going on.

 

 

 

Jan 312012
 

Housing Emergency Time for an Alternative
Tenants’ security, rents and benefits, and the principles of non-market housing for rent are under an all-out assault.

We’ve lauched an open statement and on 21st Feb 6.30 House of Commons Ken Loach, Owen Jones (author, Chavs), Stephen Battersby, Councillor Catherine West, Austin Mitchell MP, tenants, unions and others will launch our Time for an Alternative.
Meetings are being organised around the country to galvanise action, including: 25 Feb Leeds, 16 March 7pm Cambridge, 29 March Harlow. Get involved – meet up 6pm 7th Feb at Camden Town Hall (see below).

We agreed on 15 November to unite with other groups, organise meetings and get out publicity on the streets, combine campaigning with other action as needed against evictions.

What you can do now
1. sign the Housing Emergency statement – download the statement here or see below. Ask your tenant, union, community and political group(s) to sign it. Send confirmation to this email or to mitchellav@parliament.uk
2. come to an organising meeting at Camden Town Hall Judd St WC1 9JE
3. Publicise and get others along to the launch meeting 21 Feb 6.30pm meeting at House of Commons with Ken Loach, Owen Jones and others – see leaflet here
4. Organise a local meeting – get in touch if you want help with leaflets, speakers etc

Housing Emergency – Time for an Alternative

Government is fuelling a housing emergency, with an all-out attack on tenants and council housing.

With house building collapsing, mortgages unaffordable, and private rents rising, Government is forcing up rents, attacking secure tenancies, and drastically cutting housing benefit.

Homeless applications and rough sleeping are already rising, and there are 4.5 million people on housing waiting lists. 1.3 million private tenants face homelessness or debt (Chartered Institute of Housing), and 7 million report using credit to pay for their home last year (Shelter).

Government’s housing measures do not have an electoral mandate. They will create more evictions, homelessness and fear, but will not curb high rents. They do nothing to create secure, affordable homes for rent desperately needed for all those who are priced out by the housing market. They will create exclusion zones driving out the low-paid, the sick and the poor, and their families.

We call on Councillors, MPs, tenant and trade union organisations, housing, disability and poverty campaigners and all who want sustainable, mixed communities across the UK to join in a campaign around these Action points:

1. Resist and campaign against cuts in housing benefit: we call on Councillors and other landlords not to evict tenants who fall behind with their rent as a result of the new cuts in housing benefit.

2. Reject huge council rent rises driven by government debt and inflation formula.

3. Oppose the use of so-called “Affordable Rent”, in fact unaffordable and insecure, with near-market rents and time-limited tenancies.

4. No scapegoating: The shortage of housing is a result of underinvestment and failure to build. It is not caused by existing or would-be tenants in work or not, of whatever race or religion.

5. Defend security of tenure for existing and future tenants.

6. Regulation to control private sector rents.

7. A programme of investment in new and improved council and other house building at genuinely-affordable rents.

 

It’s time to stand together, in a united, determined campaign to stop these attacks and demand investment in the homes we need: secure, accountable and genuinely affordable.

 

Add your name to this statement, and get your tenant group, trade union, campaign or community group to sign it. To sign send your name and organisation to Housing Emergency Alternative eileenshort@hotmail.com; mitchellav@parliament.uk or info@defendcouncilhousing.org.uk

 

Dec 232011
 

This is an important and urgent message from the Mental Health Resistance Network.

As you all know, members of the Mental Health Resistance Network have been working with a solicitor towards making a claim for a Judicial Review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) which is the assessment used to determine whether we will be granted Employment Support Allowance or sent back to work (if there is any work to be found!). We are just focussing on people who claim on mental health grounds.    

We are now at a critical stage in this process as we are very close to being able to make the claim for Judicial Review. However, before we can do this, it would help if we could find stories that will show the court what sort of problems the WCA causes. So we are looking for people who have been through the process and would be able to tell us about their experience. If people wish, we can present their cases anonymously when we use their evidence. Although it would be very good if people were prepared for us to give their names to the DWP so that the DWP could check their stories, it is not essential.

There are two types of experience that we are particularly interested in (in the solicitor’s words):

 (i)  Cases where a person claims ESA without producing any medical evidence and is refused benefit, but then wins on appeal when medical evidence is obtained.

(ii)  Cases where a person claims ESA without producing any medical evidence, is refused benefit, does not appeal (perhaps because they can’t face it), and then bad things happen (for example they go into work and become ill, or have a problem, or can’t get work, or whatever). Ideally, the case is recognised down the line as a problem because a CAB or law centre makes a new application with medical evidence and benefit is awarded.

In other words: 

1) you have you claimed and been turned down for ESA but were successful on appeal when you produced additional medical evidence 

 or 

2) were you turned down for ESA and did not appeal but reapplied with medical evidence, and were successful. 

 You can send your stories to: mentalhealthresistancenetwork@gmail.com

 Or you can write to the solicitor whose address is below. 

 This affects us all so please pass on everyone you know who may be able to help. One last point, we need these stories urgently so if you can help, please contact us as quickly as possible.

Ravi Low-Beer

Solicitor

Public Law Project

150 Caledonian Road

London N1 9RD

 Tel: 0845 543 5944

Fax: 0845 345 9254

 

 

Dec 192011
 

DPAC are learning that a rising number of disabled people are losing their entitlement to DLA and are being refused DLA. This is before the coalitions promised cut of 20% of DLA cases and before the change from DLA to Personal Independence Payments (PIP). At the DPAC conference many suggested that DPAC used more personal stories in lobbying.

We are asking for your personal stories on DLA and on DLA reassessments.

DLA was originally set up to pay for the extra costs of being disabled in society of barriers for disabled people-these barriers still exist. DLA is a social model focused payment which originally recognised the extra costs of being disabled, although the test has always been based on the medical model.

The extra costs of disability come from the barriers that people face or the adaptations they might need because of their impairment or long term illness. For example  needing your own, or a form of accessible transport, extra costs of attending hospital appointments, needing aids to overcome barriers caused by the design of certain products, aids to get around, needing to spend more on shoes because of mobility, needing a special diet, needing someone to help you stay safe and so on.

Please write to your MPs with your stories and copy DPAC in to your emails

We are asking you to send:

Your personal stories, your experiences of being refused DLA and what the extra costs of disability, impairment, long term illness are for you

To find your MP see they work for you and also copy to DPAC mail@dpac.uk.net

Deadline: 12th January

MPs will be back in parliament on the 12th January and will discuss changes from DLA to PIP on 17th January

The stories that you copy to DPAC will be put together for DPAC lobbying and campaigns: on changes to DLA, on the welfare reform Bill and disability benefits overall. We will post updates on progress on the DPAC web www.dpac.uk.net

DPAC has a wide network but it is only by people spreading the word that we can grow stronger together and work to highlight what is happening to disabled people across the UK together.

 see: social model response to loss of DLA

Dec 142011
 
As part of the National Month of Festive Action Against Atos we are calling for a rolling mass telephone complaint to poverty pimps Atos in the run up to Christmas.

Beginning on Monday 12th December and running up until Christmas benefit claimants, disabled people and supporters will be ringing both local and national Atos Offices to complain about their obscene treatment of sick and disabled people.

How To Get Involved

We urgently need as many towns, cities, groups and individuals to commit to a morning or afternoon shift in the upcoming days and get as many people as possible to ring Atos and complain about their involvement in the Work Capability Assessment.

To maximise the protest we will aim to have as many groups as possible calling Atos at different times in the run up to Christmas.  We’ll maintain a list here and on facebook to try and help co-ordinate times/dates and see if we can keep the phonelines buzzing daily in the run up to Christmas.  Please contact us by leaving details in the comments, on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/events/281777128534663/  or emailing us at: notowelfarecuts@yahoo.co.uk

If you aren’t part of a local group, or even if you are, support the other protests by calling Atos along with them.

Either ring your local Atos Offices, or their corporate headquarters, or why not both!  Atos’s main numbers (including a handy freephone number) are:

+44 (0)20 7830 4444 (Tel)
+44 (o)20 7830 4233 (Tel)
+44 (0)800 783 3040 (Freephone)
+44 (0)20 7830 4445 (Fax)

Atos ‘Healthcare’ who run the Work Capability Assessment have a main number at: +44 (0) 113 230 9175

Whilst it’s well worth trying to speak to a manager or senior individual if possible please bear in mind most people taking calls will be low paid receptionist/admin staff so we call on people to be be business-like and non-confrontational.  Be aware that is an offence to make telephone calls which are threatening, indecent or offensive.  Keep it fluffy.  Why not sing them a carol?

Anyone who manages to get through to Atos CEO Keith Wilman will win the customary prize of a free Crisis Loan*

Some calls may be recorded for the purposes of taking the piss.

Brighton DPAC who will be phoning Atos on the mornings of Monday 12th and Monday 19th of December have produced a script/template which can be read out, or emailed/faxed to Atos.  Visit their fb event page (below) for details.

Join in online!

You can also contact Atos via email.  Their Head of PR can be reached at: caroline.crouch@atos.net and general enquiries can be sent to: ukwebenquiries@atos.ne.  Atos ‘Healthcare’ can be reached at: customer-relations@atoshealthcare.com or to ask for a job go to: jobs@sjbmedical.com

Atos have new facebook groups and pages springing up all the time.  Search for Atos on facebook to find them.  You can also tweet using the hashtags #atos, we’ll be monitoring twitter for any other hashtags Atos use.

Action planned so far

Monday 12th and Monday 19th December from 9am

Brighton DPAC:  For details visit: http://www.facebook.com/events/132910660153707/

Please organise and contact us to be added to the list!

If you are planning on braving the cold and holding a protest as part of the month of action please send details asap to: notowelfare@yahoo.co.uk or leave details in the comments.

The main facebook page for the Month of Action can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=122853381158514

Come to the Triton Square Christmas Party and Picnic  outside Atos’ Headquarters on December 16th from 2pm: http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/a-real-victorian-christmas-party-and-picnic-at-triton-square-friday-16th-december/

*actually we still can’t give out Crisis Loans as prizes.  The DWP are bastards like that.

Atos are the French IT firm responsible for carrying out the government’s Work Capability Assessment which has led to tens of thousands of sick and disabled people being forced into poverty after being stripped of essential benefits.  Despite the process being dubbed unfit for purpose and an increasing number of suicides due to the stressful and vicious health testing regime, this form of assessment is to be extended to everyone on some form of disability or health related benefit.