Mar 232013
 

In the court case taken by five disabled people against the proposed closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) , and supported by a campaign led by DPAC and Inclusion London certain documents were used. These documents are mainly correspondence between civil servants at the Government’s Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) and the minister for disabled people: Esther McVey.

These documents were released and declassified after the court case because they had been mentioned in the case. This is a summary of those documents.

Early analysis of responses to the consultation on ILF Closure (undated)

This document gives a breakdown of responses and several points for McVey to take into account. First, the consultation asked:

Question 1Do you agree with the Government’s proposal that the care and support needs of current ILF users should be met within the mainstream care and support system, with funding devolved to local government in England and the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales?[1] This would mean the closure of the ILF in 2015.

 

Question 2What are the key challenges that ILF users would face in moving from joint ILF/Local Authority to sole Local Authority funding of their care and support needs? How can any impacts be mitigated?

 

Question 3What impact would the closure of the ILF have on Local Authorities and the provision of care and support services more widely? How could any impacts be mitigated?

 As we see never were questions asked on extending the ILF or keeping it open. In fact question 1 is what is called a ‘leading question’

In the documents DWP tell McVey:

       ‘As we expected with the current challenges facing the care and support system, the majority of ILF users are opposed to closure of the fund, with many doing so on the basis that there could be no guarantee that their current level of funding would be protected in the future’

and….

           ‘A range of smaller national and local disability groups expressed similar concerns with our proposal. Some have been able to support the closures in principle but usually conditional on current user awards being protected as part of ring-fenced funding. The most vocal group has been the relatively new Disabled People against Cuts, DPAC. This group has taken a very strong critical position on a range of DWP policies’.

Yes we have and both Miller (our old mister for disabled people) and McVey refused to meet us and ILF users several times-in fact they didn’t even bother to respond to these requests!

We were very surprised to see this section advising McVey:

           ‘The consultation exercise has been immensely useful and we have been satisfied that we have listened to a collection of views that is representative of all those individuals or organisations that have an interest in or may be impacted by closure and devolution and have considered whether to modify the preferred position set out in the consultation in light of those views’ (emphasis added)

Amazing! Because if most said : keep it open, and if most said people would lose support or enter institutions, including responses from local authorities: what exactly did they listen to?

The documents recognize that ILF users will see a drop in support with some not being eligible for support at all

             ‘We do recognise that upon reassessment by LA’s most users are likely to see some reduction in the current funding levels, and there are a group of users with low care needs that may not be eligible for local authority support under current needs thresholds in most LA’s.’

The cost of closure will be £39 million! One document states that some of this has been achieved by the savings from closing ILF to new users in 2010. But closure cannot be publically defined as value for money-indeed!

        ‘The transfer costs mean that this proposal will cost rather than save money and therefore it cannot be defined as value for money. However the transfer costs are fully affordable’.

Not to ILF users they aren’t!

And wouldn’t £39 million, plus transfer cost be better put into ILF? Of course that’s not what they want to do, in spite of a consultation exercise where the majority appeared to say a resounding NO to closure.

Why did the DWP think it would Easy to Close the ILF?

One of the reasons given that the DWP found it so easy to close the ILF to new users in 2010 was the lack of any objections from the ‘big disability organisations’ which DWP call ‘Major Departmental Stakeholder Responses’ whatever that is.

In terms of the announcement of proposed closure in 2015 it was noted that none of these ‘stakeholders’ had requested a meeting with ministers from Westminster. Basically most had kept quiet, and hadn’t seen the closure of ILF as any big deal. Great support guys!

On this basis the DWP tell McVey in another document around the potential announcement of the closure in 2015

         ‘on the basis of attention shown so far, we do not think this will   receive  significant attention on its own…’

Guess they forgot about that vocal group DPAC and Deaf and Disabled Peoples’ Organisation: Inclusion London, because the closure of the ILF has now received significant attention in the UK and in Europe, at European Parliamentary level through MEPs and at UN level and we’ll make sure this continues.

Neither DPAC nor Inclusion London has the millions for campaigning that the big disability charities have, nor dedicated media, press and campaign teams. But we do have passion, and we do care about what happens to us all as disabled people, and we care what happens to independent living. ILF users taking the case and supporting the case have appeared on TV, on radio and in newspapers to get the message across that ILF is important and this will continue too.

Any journalists that want to know more or run stories can contact: mail@dpac.uk.net

So what did these so called ‘stakeholders’ say in response to the consultation? According to the DWP, there was not enough resistance at all.

In the early analysis document those who the DWP define as key stakeholders are broken down and their responses analysed. Below is what DWP said of their ‘Major Departmental Stakeholder Responses’ in the exact words of the DWP to McVey

 Carers UK-Weakly Disagree

-User packages would be reduced placing extra demand on unpaid care

Disability Rights UK-Concerned

-Lack of choice and flexibility under Local Authorities (Las)

-User packages will be reduced

-Poor perception and past support of Las

-Difficult for ILF users to transition easily

 Disability Wales- Strongly Disagree

-users packages would be reduced which could make it impossible to support ILF users in a family environment

-since the 2010 closure of the fund to applicants disabled people have had to start entering residential care.

-believes the government is targeting the disabled for cuts

-LAs could not cope with the additional workload

-Lack of choice, flexibility and dignity for ILF users under LAs

-Do not believe transitional protection will be offered

 Inclusion Scotland-Strongly Disagree

-The proposal would create a postcode lottery of support

-User packages would be reduced

-LA support is budget led rather than needs led

-ILF expertise would be lost

-Lack of choice and flexibility under LAs

 MENCAP-Pragmatic Agreement

-If reforms go ahead they should be about finding a better system, not cutting costs

-Funding should be allocated to LAs as a separate ring fenced funding stream based on current ILF regional spending patterns in which current users enjoy time-limited protection

-need for Government to provide advice and information to all parties

 MS Society- Concerned Agreement

-Consolidation of funding streams would simplify the care system

-The proposal should not be enacted until the impact of current welfare reform is understood

-Lack of choice, flexibility and dignity for ILF users under LAs needs to be addressed

-LAs need as far as possible, to replicate the personalised expertise of ILF

-Representative groups need to be closely involved in the transition design

 RNIB-Weak Concern

-Concerned that closure might lead to a breach of article 19 on UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

-Representative groups must be closely involved in transition design

-Current levels of support must be maintained

 SCOPE-Concerned Weak Agreement

 -Consolidation of funding streams would simplify the care system

-The proposal should not be enacted during current funding constraints

-The mainstream care and support system needs more experience and commitment to independent living to be able to undertake the responsibilities of the ILF

 Spinal Injuries Association-Disagree

 -Funding is likely to disappear into wider LA budgets on transfer

-ILF is more efficient than LAs

 

‘Rights not Charity’ seems very apt as the major charities for disabled people appeared to agree with the closure, after all more institutionalisation of disabled people might benefit them mightn’t it?  Disability Rights UK (DRUK) a so called user-led organisation incorporating, but clearly forgetting the principles of National Centre for Independent Living, did not offer more than ‘concern’.  The Spinal Injuries Association ‘disagreed’ but what this needed was for all to come out and say ‘Strongly Disagree’ as Disability Wales and Inclusion Scotland did.

 Remember that when the charities ask you for money, remember that when those groups that didn’t come out fully against the closure of the ILF say they are on the side of disabled people or are working for disabled people: we believe they can no longer justify either of those statements.

 The DWP told McVey that ‘stakeholders’ (SCOPE, DRUK etc)

‘..have traditionally found it hard to defend the ILF model of funding care..’

‘none of the largest national disability organisations requested ministerial meetings and many did not submit responses to the consultation. While we have had an increasing number of letters from MPs on users’ behalf, the proposal to close the fund has received almost no attention in the mainstream media’ (correspondence to McVey 7th November 2012)

We will work through more of the documents looking at issues on transition, and the DWP’s media strategy which is unsurprisingly at odds with any issues raised by disabled people-you know the stuff Closure of ILF will give ‘choice and control’ , ‘committed to supporting disabled people’ blah, blah, blah.

The big difference here is that it is clear from the documents  that the DWP are perfectly aware that ILF users will lose funding and that their needs won’t be adequately met through the local authority system.

Cuts versus Reform

Finally, the DWP were keen to try and put the message out that the closure of the ILF was not about ‘cuts’ but about ‘reform’ –what’s the difference? They do appear to believe that if they say reform we all think this is a good thing, rather than identifying that everything that comes under the heading of reform is actually another cut.

The documents cannot be clearer: this is a cut

A cut to the dignity, life chances and lives of disabled people-not just those who are currently supported to lead independent lives through ILF , but also those who would have qualified before closure to new applicants in 2010 and all who could benefit from the ILF system in the future

Support ILF users now; support a better future-say no to the closure of the ILF!

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Funding for ILF users in Northern Ireland is currently the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Department for Social Development, not the Department for Work and Pensions.

Apr 022012
 

In Geneva today (2nd April), Dr Pauline Nolan, Policy Officer for Inclusion Scotland, will submit evidence to a preliminary hearing ahead of a planned review of the human rights record of 14 states, including the UK.

On behalf of the Campaign for A Fair Society – a coalition of more than 70 Scottish charities – Dr Nolan will warn the cumulative impact of welfare reform and cuts to benefits affecting disabled people will mean their ability to live a full life is impaired. In particular, she will argue that welfare changes undermine their right to be included in the community.

The campaign also claims disabled people are being denied access to justice when they try to appeal against these cuts to their benefits.

Dr Nolan said she aimed to equip the UN with a series of recommendations and questions to put to the UK Government when its representatives appear in front of the Human Rights Council in May.

She added: “Disability organisations, disabled people and the Parliament’s own Joint Committee on Human Rights concluded that these cuts will have a devastating cumulative impact on the livelihoods of disabled people.

“Further cuts are taking place to local authority services they receive. Taken together, all these cuts are severely undermining the human rights of disabled people.”

She claims half of the £18 billion of cuts to be made under welfare reform will fall on households containing disabled people, adding: “These cuts will push hundreds of thousands of disabled people and their families into poverty and thousands will be made homeless.”

Jim Elder-Woodward, of the Independent Living in Scotland project, said: “I am really pleased that Dr Nolan is going to Geneva to tell the UN just how this Coalition Government is systematically undermining the rights of disabled people by cutting their benefits and services.

“The combined voices of disabled people have either been silenced or misrepresented by the UK Government in their resolution to make disabled people suffer over 50% of the total £18bn in benefit cuts.”

Norma Curran, of Values Into Action Scotland, added: “These welfare reforms are devastating people’s lives. It’s not acceptable to challenge the human rights of people on the grounds of race, sex, language, or religion, so why does the UK Government think that it is acceptable to breach the human rights of disabled people?”


Stephen Naysmith – Herald Scotland

 

Mar 022012
 

Two leading Scottish disabled people’s organisations have accused the minister for disabled people of lying about their involvement in a UK government consultation on welfare reform.

Three organisations – Inclusion Scotland (IS), Lothian Centre for Inclusive Living (LCIL) and Independent Living in Scotland (ILiS) – were so angry at Maria Miller’s claims that they boycotted a meeting with her that should have taken place last week.

Miller had written in the Guardian: “I have personally met with over 60 disabled people’s organisations in the development of personal independence payment [PIP, the benefit due to replace working-age disability living allowance]and visited disabled people around the country to hear their views.”

A list of 50 of those disability organisations, obtained by Disabled People Against Cuts through a Freedom of Information Act request, included the names of IS, ILiS and LCIL.

But two of them – IS and LCIL – have told Disability News Service that they have never met with Miller.

They are also the latest organisations to express anger at how Miller has “misrepresented” the views of DPOs by implying that the government’s welfare reforms are backed by the disability movement and other disability organisations.

The meeting they boycotted was to take place in Edinburgh last week and was intended to discuss their response to a consultation on the government’s disability strategy.

Inclusion Scotland said it attended two meetings about the development of PIP with Department for Work and Pensions representatives last August, but Miller was not at either of them.

Bill Scott, manager of Inclusion Scotland – a national consortium of DPOs and disabled people – said: “It was a lie and there is no doubt about that. She shouldn’t have said that.

“She then went on to say there was a consensus in favour of welfare reform. There is no such consensus. On welfare reform, we are just implacably opposed to what they are doing.”

Scott added: “We just wanted to make a point last week that we were not going to be misrepresented. We have been very, very vocal opponents of welfare reform.”

He said IS would now have to examine its future involvement with the UK government on a “case by case basis”.

Catherine Garrod, information coordinator for LCIL, also said Miller had lied about meeting personally with her organisation.

She said: “We thought we had been misrepresented by the minister for disabled people. We are strongly opposed to what is happening with the welfare reforms.

“Everybody knows they have consulted, but they have not listened to what the response has been.”

Because of Miller’s actions, she said LCIL would now probably refuse to take part in any future meetings with the minister, although it would continue to provide written responses to UK government consultations.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “The minister for disabled people was not referring to a specific meeting attended by 60 disabled organisations but was intending to make a more general point about the extensive consultation in which she and officials have been engaged since May 2010.”

1 March 2012 – News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 

Mar 022011
 

DPAC is happy that James Elder-Woodward gave us permission to publish his speech given at the Welfare Reform: Who Benefits?  A major conference by Inclusion Scotland – Friday 4th February 2011, Glasgow

Welfare Reform Conference 4th February, 2011
By James Elder-Woodward

James Elder-WoodwardNow listen up – Disabled people are under attack

The forthcoming cuts to our welfare will devastate our quality of life and deny our human rights as never before. For the past twenty years or so, we’ve continually had welfare reforms – but they’ve always meant the same thing; cuts to our quality of life and further restrictions on our equality of life opportunities.

But this will be the biggest and deepest cut of all
By 2015
• The ILF will be no more
• DLA will be no more
• Incapacity Benefit will be no more
• £18b will have been taken out of the welfare system
• 3.5m disabled people will have lost over £9.2b of critical support
• Moving disabled people from Incapacity Benefit onto Job Seekers Allowance will account for half (£4.87 billion) of these losses.
• This represents a loss of £9k for each person moving onto JSA
• Only ‘severe and critical’ need will be meet by local authority social services,
• Which means our right to independent living, to family life and all our other rights under various UN Conventions will be seriously curtailed
• And probably countless other support programmes will have been cut or substantially reduced
• Including, more than likely, our own disabled people’s organisation; be it some social club, educational group, user-led service, or campaigning organisation
Never in the history of welfare reform will the lives of so many in need be so ravaged by so much, to meet the political agenda of so few in power

Because this is motivated by a utilitarian government who say, in order to make people work, you must make their lives hell; make them as poor as the proverbial door-mouse; poorer than the poorest peasant working in the field

Don’t get me wrong – we all accept the need for welfare reform

My God it’s a monstrous beast; complicated; dysfunctional; incomprehensible; illogical – you name it, it’s that.

Don’t get me wrong, either – we all agree it’s been abused

You’ve just got to watch “Still Game” on television to see how Winston abuses the system to get a home help or a disability benefit. Yes it’s comical, but it also mimics the very DNA of many in society that those on benefits are lazy layabout scroungers who need a good kick up the backside to find work

So programmes like “Still Game” don’t do genuine disabled people like us much good because we’re all tarred by the same brush. We’re all made to feel like dirt, not just by society, but by the very system which is supposed to be there to help us. We all have our own stories about how the system treats us. We all have heard the negative attitudes towards us as n’er-do-wells, feckless spendthrifts, and altogether no-gooders.

But isn’t it great how this government is using our social model to do away with our DLA

Yes, by 2013 the DLA will be no more. DLA, the only non-means tested benefit for disabled people designed to meet the extra cost of living with a disability will become the Personal Independence Payment. Like the DLA, PIP will have two parts to it; personal attendance and mobility. Disabled people’s call for independent living will be answered by the PIP, for the PIP will be based on the principles of independent living

But hang on a minute, according to this millionaire government – I call them this, because there’s more multi-millionaires around the Cabinet Table in number 10 Downing Street, than the whole of central Scotland. Anyway, they say by using the principles of independent living, this means if you have a self-propelled wheelchair; you won’t need as much mobility allowance, because you can move around independently.

I say: until I can get onto every bus and train by myself; until I can get into every Indian Restaurant, every butcher, baker and candlestick maker (if there’s any left) on every street – I need every penny of my mobility allowance

What do you say?

It’s reckoned that 360,000 disabled people will be affected by the demise of the DLA. What really gets my goat is taking away the mobility allowance from people in residential care. This will well and truly throw away their key to independence and participation within society, locking them within segregated care homes for good

But, this ploy of saying if you have an aid to daily living you don’t need as much PIP, along with others, like having to be reassessed every couple of years, will reduce the existing DLA budget by 20% – that’s a saving of £1.4b

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’m going to be cured of my cerebral palsy within the next two years – which means that any savings will be offset by expensive and degrading reassessments every two years. Nevertheless, half a million – that’s half a million disabled people will lose their DLA

This public school boy government; they are mostly public school boys anyway, who wouldn’t know a jammie piece if it hit them on the head from a tenement building; they say they want to provide “fair and progressive” reforms in public services, but what is “fair and progressive”; and what about the maintenance of quality of life and human rights.

There’s been a big debate over the need for universal benefits like child benefit and free travel for those over 60. Now I agree with universal benefits, if they are truly universal, not just based on age, like only the young and the elderly – why not disabled people as well?

I am sick and tired of being means-tested – aren’t you?

Why do we need to be the ‘deserving poor’ before society helps to remove the barriers society has created to keep us out in the first place? Why do we need to be means-tested before we can get help with our personal care, or house adaptations and technical aids? Why should only the ‘deserving poor’ be supported to exercise their citizenship? Why can’t we all be supported to exercise our rights of equal citizenship?

But that is the basis of our social welfare system.

The eighteenth century social philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, upon who’s thinking Victorian utilitarian welfare was based, thought that those on poor relief – that is welfare – should receive “less than the lowest peasant in the field”

Well these changes to our welfare benefits certainly make sure that will happen today – give the sick, the disabled, the unemployed less money, then they will be more motivated to go out to earn is their utilitarian way of thinking.

But how do you find work, when there’s no work there? How do you work, when there’s a mountain of discrimination against you in the labour market? How do you work, when there are cuts to the budgets of services and equipment to help you work? How do you work when social services won’t help you to get up out of bed in the morning?

All of this won’t be helped by taking £20 a week from you and putting you on a Job Seekers Allowance, just for one year, before taking it off you altogether. Then what will you do?

I wonder how I would fare today, if I were young and without job experience, as I was in 1970 when I left university. It took me and my careers adviser 546 applications before I got my first job. I’d be well and truly starving in the gutter if I had to find a job within a year. And that’s even if there were 546 job opportunities for me now, which I doubt
But it’s not just the quality of our lives that will be ravaged by these cuts – it’s our human rights as well. Believe it or not, but the UK government has actually signed several conventions on human rights, including the UN Convention of Rights for Disabled People.

This reinforces many of the rights of non-disabled people, including the right of privacy, family life, independent living; and most importantly the freedom from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment.

We have been hearing of people living on sandwiches and tea because they only get 15 minutes a day of home help. We have been hearing of people sitting in soiled nappies all day, because they can only get help to go to the toilet once or twice a day. And I have heard of home helps leaving the service due to work overload and a sense of guilt at not being able to do their job properly. One person had a workload of 40 people (or ‘tuck-ins’ as she called them) to see in a four hour shift – that’s 6 minutes per person, including travelling time. This really is a shocking state of affairs, which will only get worse as the cuts bite deeper and deeper

They say you’re never oppressed until you feel oppressed. Many of my contemporaries felt oppressed. Segregated in their family homes, unable to get out and do the things they wanted; even worse there were those in residential homes. They couldn’t even decide what to eat each day of the week. The gruel was just plonked down in front of them whether they wanted it or not.

Things have changed now, thanks to people like, Paul Hunt, Ken Lumb, Ken Davis, Mike Oliver and many more who saw their poverty of life opportunities, not as a result of their physical conditions, but as a result of the social injustice society was throwing at them. They did many a battle of the minds with many a politician and bureaucrat to win what little freedoms we have today

If not for their sake, at least for your own, join with us in the fight for our freedom movement. Let’s fight for our freedom of family life and privacy; our freedom of movement and community living; and our freedom from inhumane and degrading treatment.

Not all of us can go on a march; nor will many want to clash with police on the streets, like those students did before Christmas. But, like Ken Davis, Vic Finklestein and Mike Oliver, and all our predecessors, we can use our minds to argue, debate, use the new technology of Twitter and Facebook, to get our voices heard and taken note of.

Of course, some of us have and will march with others in protest. Disabled People Against Cuts are a loose connection of disabled people who demonstrated against the cuts in the streets of Birmingham last October. They have a three prong strategy; taking to streets; encouraging people to write to their MPs as well as visiting them in their surgery; and using social media, twitter, facebook, etc

I urge you to look them up on your internet under www.dpac.uk.net

Not everyone could go on their “Cuts will Kill” march last October; but if you look on their website you’ll find some of the many well wishers who posted their comments.
There are other sites on the web which you should take part in including www.benefitscroungingscum.blogspot.com
Hopefully, after this conference we’ll be able to circulate a list of sites to which you can contribute

And don’t forget YouTube
There are some really funny videos, some of which we’ve been able to download and play for you today, like “Liar, Liar”

Finally, we hope to join others on a quiet civilised march in March. “There’s another Way” march will be made in March, but Dave Moxham, General Secretary of the STUC will tell you more about that. I do hope, however, some of you will come along. It’s fun to be with people who feel as you do. The warmth of comradeship and common purpose, but to put it quite bluntly, if you don’t feel the pain – the pain of these cuts – you’ll be dead to the anguish others like you will be feeling

I urge you; feel the pain; feel the anguish; get angry; and react in anyway you can. For it is only by joining together, or by thousands of people doing their own individual thing – like putting your thoughts on paper, Facebook or YouTube – that such anguish suffered by so much oppression by so many can burst like a geyser, drenching this government of millionaires, for millionaires, in basic humanity and common sense.

James Elder Woodward

Vice Convenor of Inclusion Scotland