The next phase in the government’s assault on services for disabled people is the withdrawal of the Independent Living Fund. This needs to be at the centre of campaigning around dignity for disabled people, argues Linda Burnip from Disabled People Against Cuts. Part of our series of short contributions from prominent writers and activists looking to the year ahead.
You can read the rest of this excellent piece at the New Left Project HERE
A successful conference held in London on the 27th September called for a new UK network to challenge the attacks on disability rights in the UK. The conference supported by DPAC, Inclusion London, ALLFIE, Norfolk Coalition of Disabled people and the Joseph Rowntree Trust brought together leading Disabled Peoples Organisations and leading disability activists.
Key speaker Jenny Morris said that the ‘disability movement’ was more vibrant than ever, and that this Government had launched a number of attacks on disabled people and their rights. However others suggested that there may not be a disability movement anymore, but pockets of activity. What was clear was that challenges by disabled people and disabled peoples’ organisations (DPOs) must increase. Speakers also raised issues of how ‘the movement’ could be more inclusive in the speakers ‘from the frontline’ slots.
DPAC was there to add commentary and information on what was happening to disabled people under the regime of Atos and the ESA processes as well as the everyday crisis disabled people were facing under this Government. The whole day was brilliantly co-chaired by Tracey Lazard ( CEO of Inclusion London ) and Tara Flood ( director of the Alliance of Inclusive Education) . Speakers included Jenny Morris, Andrew Lee, Eleanor Lisney, Chris Edwards, Debbie Jolly, Linda Burnip and Geraldine O’Halloran, yet, there was also plenty of time for discussion.
Catch up on conference and presentations with the livestream (with BSL)
Another option to keep up with what’s happening and have a chance to dicuss your views is to tune into Make Yourself Heard on Tuesdays 2-4p.m with Merry Cross www.Reading4u.co.uk
Join up to the new UK network: be part of the increasing outcry on our injustices!
Send an email to email@example.com with subject line ‘UK Network’ to be kept in the loop on this exciting and much needed new network of DPOs and activists.
We can also put you in touch with any local DPAC groups in your area or help you set up your own local DPAC group. We now have 26 DPACs across the UK and along with our sister organisation Black Triangle in Scotland we have made sure that disabled peoples’ issues are vibrant and will continue to be-never again must we allow our ‘movement’ to get sleepy- join the challenge!
Experts Say Landmark Judgement Will Stop Benefit System Discriminating Against Disabled
Leading Lawyer Says Court of Appeal Ruling Confirms Government Has to Give Special Provision To Disabled People So That Human Rights Are Not Breached
Experts at Irwin Mitchell have welcomed a landmark judgement handed down at the Court of Appeal today which they say sets out clear guidance to ensure that disabled people are not discriminated against by the Government’s benefit system.
Three families challenged the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (DWP) which stated that local authorities could not provide housing benefit for extra bedrooms needed by four young disabled people who were living in private rented accommodation.
Public law experts at Irwin Mitchell, representing the lead case, said DWP breached the British Human Rights law by not allowing their housing benefit claims to be treated differently to those of non-disabled people, which would have given them the extra provision needed.
And their view was backed by the Court, who ruled that “without the benefit of the extra room rate, Ian Burnip would be left in a worse position than an able bodied person living alone”.
Polly Sweeney, Solicitor for Ian Burnip at Irwin Mitchell said, “This Judgment has widespread implications for policy-making and is crucial to promoting equality for disabled people and assisting them to live independently. Whenever the Government introduces new policies, or reviews existing policies, they now face a duty to ensure that appropriate provision is made for disabled people to ensure that discrimination does not occur.“
The Court recognised that the object of Ian Burnip’s claim was not to give him some form of preferential treatment, but merely to ensure that housing benefit can fulfil its intended function for those who are so severely disabled that they need 24 hour care.
Lord Justice Maurice Kay, Vice President of the Court of Appeal, Civil Division, said in his Judgment that:
“Disability can be expensive. It can give rise to needs which do not attach to the able-bodied and Ian Burnip and the late Lucy Trengove provide stark examples”.
Specialists at the firm say today’s judgement will have a huge impact on discrimination in the benefits system, and will ensure that the Government now ensures there is a appropriate provision when considering disabled people’s needs.
In the lead case, Ian Burnip, represented by Irwin Mitchell, was told by Birmingham City Council that he could not claim local housing allowance (LHA) to cover an extra bedroom he needed for an overnight care worker.
A second case involved Rebecca Trengove whose daughter Lucy, who has since sadly passed away, was unable to secure the LHA she needed for an extra room for an overnight care worker from Walsall Council.
During the course of the Appeal process, the local housing allowance rules on extra bedrooms were changed by the Government and, since April 2011, extra LHA is now given to disabled people who need a bedroom for an overnight care worker.
However, a third case heard by the Court of Appeal was not affected by the coalition’s new rules. Richard Gorry, the father of two disabled children, one who has a physical impairment and the other who has autism, wanted Wiltshire County Council to provide enough LHA for his children to have separate bedrooms. This ruling will now ensure that he is awarded a rate of housing benefit which reflects his daughters’ accepted needs to sleep in separate rooms and ensure that they can afford to live in adequate and suitable housing.
The Court of Appeal found that discrimination had occurred in all three cases and that their human rights had been breached even though the appropriate provisions being sought for the disabled people required additional public expenditure.
Ian Burnip’s mother Linda, who set up the Local Housing Allowance Reform Group to campaign for changes in the system, said: “Winning this case reinforces disabled people’s right to not be discriminated against within the benefits system and also affirms their rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We hope that the case will help other disabled people who feel that they have been discriminated by government policies and law”.
Irwin Mitchell Press Office: 01142744666
Irwin Mitchell celebrates its centenary this year and is one of the largest law firms in the UK. The firm employs more than 2100 staff and has more than 150 Partners helping over 200,000 clients a year. There are offices in Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Bristol and Sheffield as well as a consulting office in Leicester and two offices in Spain. For more information visit www.irwinmitchell.com
The firm won an award for its innovative corporate strategy and was also named in the Industry Pioneers category at the annual ‘FT Innovative Lawyers’ awards in 2011. It was ranked in the Top 50 litigators in the world by The Lawyer magazine and in 2010 was named as one of the leading companies in the country for commitment to local communities in the prestigious Business in the Community’s (BITC) annual Corporate Responsibility Index.
Recognised in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 for a unique client-focused approach, Irwin Mitchell won the acclaimed Claimant Solicitor of the Year award (Rehabilitation Awards).
Other accolades include being listed among the top five Most Diverse Law firms in the UK by the Black Solicitors Network. The Legal Sector Alliance also found Irwin Mitchell to have the 2nd Lowest Carbon Footprint of any UK law firm.
First report from Louise Whittle @HarpyMarx, many thanks for letting us repost.
Mike Higgins, Linda Burnip, Debbie Jolly, John McArdle (morning speakers)
I attended the DPAC first conference yesterday. Here are some pictures and video to give a flavour of the day. Workshops were held to discuss the priorities for DPAC work and this will be written up put on the website. My favourite demand was, “Get rid of capitalism” as it makes people ill. Too true!
There were speakers, I just about caught the end of Mike Higgins talk (I was late to conference). John McArdle’s (Black Triangle) talk I videoed. I enjoyed Mik Scarlet’s talk about the challenges ahead, lots of humour added and especially his anecdote about a certain presenter of a certain dance show parking his Rolls Royce in a disabled only space and claiming he had every right to park there as he’s a “star”…….
John McArdle (Black Triangle)
Finally, John McDonnell MP was the final speaker (I videoed his talk too). Overall, the day was about, for me, hearing about the experiences of disabled people being constantly demonised and vilified by this government and previously, NL. Individuals spoke about their terrible experiences at the hands of Atos and the dreaded assessments. As one speaker correctly said, “If you have a pulse you are fit for work as far as Atos is concerned”.
Patrick Lynch (in white teeshirt) and Andy Greene (seated next to him)
There were discussion about demands and the way forward. One area is dispelling the lies and myths circulated by the ConDems and Ed Miliband aided and abetted by a media who is only too happy print to reiterate the rubbish. Example, Panorama has a programme coming up about benefit scoungers.
John McDonnell is correct when he said we need to make alliances and work together in challenging and fighting against the lies about disabled people but also uniting with others makes up stronger.
Lianna Etkind of Transport for All
Finally, I would like to say thanks and solidarity to committed activist Eleanor Lisney, who I first saw at a Women Against the Cuts at an International Women’s Day event, and met her in cyberspace via Twitter when I came across DPAC. She is standing down from DPAC National Steering Committee.
Disabled lead Protestors at March in Birmingham Oct3 2010
DPAC demands the right for disabled people to protest and march with Right to Work as we did last year! Please download, use and return the filled petition
In a deja vu moment the West Midlands police and the home office have again denied people the right to march in Birmingham – this time past the Lib Dem Party conference on Sunday 18th September.
In 2010 the Tories and the West Midlands police prevented Right to Work’s march going past the Tory party conference in the city. Right to Work again initiated this years march but the TUC will act as event organiser and build on the ‘March for the Alternative‘ theme.
Paul Brandon National Secretary of Right to Work said, ” I sat in the meeting with the TUC and was dumbstruck on hearing the news. I can only echo the view in the meeting of the TUC that this represents an outrageous decision. This is a direct attack on the right to protest in a so called free and democratic society. There now needs to be a massive demonstration in Birmingham on the 18th September to reassert working peoples hard won freedoms as we face attacks on pensions, savage cuts to public services and an attack on the NHS to pay for a financial crisis we didn’t create. There is still time for the police and the home office to rethink their decision, and I urge them to do so. ‘
Linda Burnip, of Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “These are our elected politicians and they are accountable to us as voters. It is unacceptable that they can be hidden away from us in this way.”
As in 2010 marchers will be denied access to the part of Broad Street in Birmingham city centre which goes past the conference centre. Police will seal off the area round the conference with fixed barriers
We are asking everybody to sign the following statement:
“For the second year West Midlands Police have confirmed their intention to bar protesters from marching past a major political conference in Birmingham . The police are erecting a “Ring of steel” around the International Convention Centre during the Liberal Democrat Party conference. In 2010 the Con-Dem council and West Midlands police prevented the 7,000 strong Right to Work’s march going past the Tory party conference.
The TUC, which represents millions of trade union members, is now organising the protest, initiated by the Right to Work Campaign, at the Lib-Dem conference on 18 September. On 26th March the TUC organised a peaceful demonstration of over 500,000 through Central London .
West Midlands Police claim restrictions on the right to protest are about the security of conference delegates. Yet no such restrictions are being placed on the similar demonstration Right to Work has initiated and the TUC are now organising at the Tory Party conference in Manchester .
We feel the actions of West Midlands police are a violation of our right to protest peacefully against government policies. Peaceful protest has a central place in any democratic society and people have taken their opposition to government actions to their conferences for decades. The decision of the West Midlands Police takes that right away.
We are concerned that West Midlands Police is attempting to make political decisions about how visible protests against the cuts can be.
We believe that West Midlands Police should permit the demonstrators to march past the Liberal Democrats conference on Sunday 18th September.”
We will be putting the statement on our website asap so that people can sign up. You can download the attached petition to use in your workplace, college, etc. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org directly to get your name, organisation, etc added.
Please download, use and return the filled petition to:
West Midlands Right To Work, C/O CWU Office, 46-48 Summer Lane, Birmingham, B19 3TH
About 60-70 people both disabled and non-disabled gathered once again for over 2 hours in Triton Square, London outside the head office of ATOS orgin who were attempting to hold a recruitment fair.
We were accompanied by a camera crew from one of the main French TV channels who are making a documentary about cuts faced by disabled people, workers, and others which will be based mainly on the cuts being faced by people in Birmingham
I don’t know about anyone else but I definitely wouldn’t want to work for a firm where I had to be sneaked in and out of back doors to gain entry to the recruitment fair being held and where there was a police cordon and a crowd of angry and very vocal protesters standing around the main entrance to the offices. We saw very few people going into the recruitment fair and many passes which had obviously been prepared beforehand were left untouched at the main reception area.
Throughout the protest we gave out over 400 leaflets mainly to other staff who work in the same building as ATOS. They seemed very interested in finding out more about their neighbour’s activities.
We’d also like to say thank you to the police who were very helpful, and even agreed to get ATOS staff to clear away the left over and unwanted placards and posters from the protest that we left outside ATOS’s front entrance. This was a welcome change from our first protest in January when we were all kettled behind metal barriers.
DPAC co founder, Linda Burnip, is featured in this project.
Linda Burnip photo taken by @Tony Bryne
6-7 pm Tu 24 May 2011 (Official time in Look 11 brochure but likely to run longer)
1 Jalons Bridewell
Campbell Square Off Duke Street
0151 707 8003
The official launch of the project takes place in The Bridewell, in Liverpool next Tuesday. Everyone is very welcome. There will be some live activist related music and there would also be an option to do a presentation.
West Midlands anti cuts co-ordinating meeting press release.
At West Bromwich Town Hall on Tuesday 10 May, anti-cuts groups from across the West Midlands met to plan and coordinate opposition to the ConDem Government’s assault on the Public Sector and Welfare System.
Groups from Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Shropshire and Walsall and DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) called upon anyone opposed to the cuts to join them in supporting the Trade Unions currently in dispute or balloting their members over the vicious attacks on pensions, and to take part in rallies and demonstrations on 30 June when nearly a million workers could take the first step in the industrial action needed to defeat the Government’s plans.
On Thursday 12th May Right to Work, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Social Work Action Network (SWAN ) hosted a meeting at Unison headquarters in Birmingham about ConDems attacks on the disabled and cuts to benefits. It posed two questions – Who are they targeting and How can we stop them?
Linda Burnip from DPAC outlined the detail and depth of the attacks on disabled people. Linda highlighted the savage cuts to housing, disability, sickness and welfare benefits, with disabled people likely to see a drastic drop in disposable income with many slipping below the poverty line.
Polly Sweeney, a solicitor from Irwin Mitchell spoke about how discrimination law can be used to stop the cuts to disabled people and gave us a report on a case she’s just won preventing Birmingham City Council changing eligibility criteria for care funding.
Nicki Ward and Barbara Marshall from SWAN pointed out British social welfare policy under the Coalition Government is undergoing a breathtaking upheaval. Profit and care are not compatible. SWAN are urging those involved in social work to make a stand against the social violence being unleashed by the ConDem coalition: to speak out, campaign and join the movements of resistance.
Paul Brandon National Secretary of Right to Work urged everyone to remember this is a bankers created crisis and we should not be made to pay for it. He urged everyone to support coordinated strike action on the 30th June and to build for massive demonstrations outside the Lib Dem conference on the 18 Sep in Birmingham and the Tory party conference on the 2nd October with them ultimate aim of bringing the ConDem coalition down.
A successful week of actions called by various disabled and claimants groups and supported by Right to Work protesting against ATOS the private firm milking millions of tax payers money from the testing of disabled people through their tick box computer Work Capability Assessments occurred all around the country. Over 50 anti- cuts groups also supported the week of action.
Several events took place in London supported on Monday by PCS members who share the hatred disabled people feel towards ATOS since they also make profits from testing civil servants who have been off work sick. In Northern Ireland NIPSA, the largest public sector union, whose members are losing their jobs next month to ATOS expressed support for the protests.
On Thursday the Islington event picketing both ATOS and A4e was supported by RMT staff whose jobs are being replaced by the use of unemployed people through workfare programmes. This is something we feel union members will start noticing much more of in the near future as these schemes continue to be rolled out nationwide.
Other major protests took place in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Truro, Nottingham, Hastings, Cardiff, York, Chatham, Plymouth and Bristol plus on 2 days in Brighton, and on 2 days in Birmingham. In Birmingham protesters performed Brighton Benefits Campaign play ‘The Computer says NO’ with RtW’s Simon Furze playing the part of the wicked computer. In Cambridge there was an occupation of the ATOS office.
Medway anti cuts campaigners protest over disability benefits
Campaigners from Medway Against the Cuts protested outside a Medical Testing Centre in Batchelor St Chatham on Friday against ATOS Origin the private company that run the centre.
More from RtW website
‘We will be back!’ says ATOS protesters in Manchester
In Manchester thirty protesters rallied outside the assessment offices of ATOS. They marched into the grounds chanting, ‘Benefit Cuts No Way! Make the Greedy Bankers Pay!’
‘These attacks on disabled people are designed to force people into work when they clearly are not fit for work. The process is designed to drive down wages of those who are in work. It is an attack on everyone,’ said Lesley Barrington.
‘A diagnosis of mental health problems can take years to reach. ATOS is putting people under pressure, some become suicidal over these cuts. When they take away benefits from people with mental health problems they do tremendous damage. It is obscene to take away people’s basic rights in the 21st Century.” Paul Reed,Manchester Users Network, a charity that helps users and ex users of mental health facilities in Manchester.
‘Basically I am really scared about being forced into work. A lot of other people are in the same situation. We end up being numbers not people. I am really proud to be here with everyone on this protest.’ Sharon Hooley,Disability Adult Action Network
The Committee invited interested persons and groups to submit evidence on this issue and written submissions was to be given in by Friday 29th April 2011.
This response was submitted by Linda Burnip
Without the right support to live independently in the community disabled people will continue to be excluded from society.
The proposed cuts by the coalition will result in further erosion of disabled people’s human rights to be able to live independently.
The Independent Living Strategy is meaningless when continent disabled people have basic support to go to the toilet withdrawn and are instead given packs of incontinence pads and waterproof sheets. (Kensington and Chelsea council). This is degrading and dehumanising but is justified as a money saving exercise.
Large numbers of disabled people are living in fear of their care packages being re-assessed. We believe that in a civilised society people should not have to live in fear just because they are, or become, disabled
We have been informed by a social worker that disabled people are no longer considered to need access to bathing facilities and that being able to strip wash is now considered adequate. (Birmingham City council)
Further cuts which local government are making to their budgets has resulted in many local authorities tightening their eligibility criteria for social care already leaving an ever increasing number of disabled people isolated in their own homes without the level of support they need to be included in society.
There must be a full commitment to uphold and fund our human rights including provision of fully accessible and affordable housing, inclusive design, new building of social housing, and enough resources to provide adaptations and aids where they are needed.
Disabled people’s access to equality and human rights cannot be held ransom to funding issues alone and there must be a financial commitment made and kept to meet disabled peoples’ human rights under UNCRPD.
Loss of the mobility component of DLA will deny many care home residents of a right to family life as they will no longer be able to afford to travel to see relatives.
Disabled people and user led organisations must be consulted about policy decisions.
The cuts proposed by the coalition government mean the UK will utterly fail to meet the convention rights guaranteed in Article 19 of the UNCRPD.
Disabled People Against Cuts is a pan-impairment user-led disabled people’s campaigning group set up to campaign against the many cuts to benefits and care funding which are now facing disabled people.
We have well over 2,000 supporters and many of their views and experiences, in particular living in fear, are reflected in our submission to the committee. Our recent virtual on-line campaign to coincide with the TUC march on March 26th had more than 250, 000 views over the week of and weekend of the march.
Recommendations we would like to see in the committee’s report
We would welcome the committee recommending that disabled people’s human rights must be upheld by any changes to legislation, and that any legislation that fails to encompass these rights is unlawful.
We would hope that the committee will recommend that the Independent Living Fund will not be abolished in 2015 and that it is reopened to new applicants forthwith, together with an adequate level of funding being made available to support disabled people to live independently.
We would further like to see the committee recommending that local authority social care budgets must be ring-fenced as we feel this is also essential. There should also be no increases in charges for care funding.
A programme of urgently building more, accessible and affordable social housing is a further necessity to enable independent living. This must be accompanied by the reversal of proposed changes to Housing Benefit and Local Housing Allowance until such time as there is an adequate supply of suitable social housing available for disabled people.
Should the right to independent living continue to form the basis for Government policy on disability in the UK?
What do we mean by IL?
Independent Living does not mean that we want to do everything by ourselves and do not need anybody or that we want to live in isolation.
Independent Living means that we demand the same choices and control in our every-day lives that our non-disabled brothers and sisters, neighbours and friends take for granted. We want to grow up in our families, go to the neighbourhood school, use the same bus as our neighbours, work in jobs that are in line with our education and interests, and start families of our own.
Without the right to live independently in the community like non-disabled people disabled people will continue to be excluded from society, to face gross inequalities and to have their human rights under article 19 of the UNCRPD denied. UNCRPD upholds the principle that disabled people including disabled women and children must be able to exercise human rights on an equal basis to non-disabled people. As the UK has ratified the convention both current and new UK legislation should uphold disabled people’s convention rights. However at the moment disabled people are having their human rights stripped away from them one after another.
The proposed cuts by the coalition will result in further erosion of disabled people’s human rights and rights to live independently. This includes in many cases a drastic reduction in income, negative reforms of the current systems of welfare to cuts to social housing, adaptations, housing benefits, and loss public sector jobs. All of these changes will negatively affect disabled people including disabled children and their families disproportionately.
Do existing policy statements, including the Independent Living Strategy, represent a coherent policy towards the implementation of the obligations in Article 19 of the UN Disability Rights Convention? Could current policy be improved? If so, how?
While the existing policy statements sound coherent as they stand the reality of what is happening in practice is very different and far from what is intended in the substance. In no way are the stated policy objectives being met.
The Independent Living Strategy is meaningless when support for disabled people for personal care as basic as going to the toilet is withdrawn and replaced by packs of incontinence pads and waterproof sheets when the service user in not incontinent (Kensington and Chelsea council). This is degrading and dehumanising but has been justified as a money saving exercise.
In many cases personalisation has not meant an improvement in choice and control over their lives for disabled people but rather a rationalisation of services and a reduction in care funding allocated and/or a huge increase in charges which disabled people have to pay towards the care provided. (Warwickshire and Dudley councils). We have been informed by a social worker that disabled people are no longer considered to need access to bathing facilities and that being able to strip wash is now considered adequate. (Birmingham City council)
Further cuts which local government are making to their budgets has resulted in many local authorities tightening their eligibility criteria for social care which leaves an ever increasing number of disabled people isolated in their own homes without the level of support they need to be included in society.
There is no point therefore in central government putting forward independent living strategies which are meaningless without the necessary financial commitment to implement them at a local level. There must be a full commitment to uphold and fund our human rights including provision of fully accessible and affordable housing, inclusive design, new building of social housing, and enough resources to provide adaptations and aids where they are needed.
There must be as a minimum an adequate level of community support resources to support disabled people not only to live in the community securely and in adequate comfort, but to be fully included in society. At the moment all the legislative changes proposed and cuts to services are resulting in moving further away rather than moving closer to this.
The plans to close the Independent Living Fund from 2015 to save money and not provide anything to replace it with are totally unsatisfactory. Disabled people’s access to equality and human rights cannot be dependent on funding issues alone and there must be a financial commitment made and kept to meet disabled people’s human rights under UNCRPD. Cuts to legal aid funding which will restrict disabled people’s ability to challenge any cuts and human rights abuses further mean that for disabled people to be assured of their convention rights there must be a system of monitoring and sanctions for those who do not adhere to these principles.
What steps, if any, should the coalition Government, the Scottish Government or other public agencies take better to meet the obligations in Article 19 and to secure the right to independent living for all disabled people in the UK?
There is little point in ministers saying they wish to support those in greatest need when their actions prove these words meaningless. Disabled people and the disabled people’s movement have been fighting the same battles for over 30 years, yet rather than independent living being a closer reality it is now being threatened with extinction. There is no commitment on the part of the current government to support or fund this. If the right to independent living is lost then disabled people’s right to equality and human rights will be set back 30 years.
When similar changes were made to independent living funding in Norway the changes led to a large increase in the numbers of disabled people admitted to hospital for a long time and massive increases in costs to the state. Part of the Independent Living Strategy is to provide preventative services to disabled people to prevent this but in reality these too do not exist.
Article 19 stresses that people should be able to choose where and with whom they live with the support necessary to meet their needs. However much of the proposed legislation is severely eroding this. In particular disabled peoples’ human rights under Article 19 are being seriously undermined through caps on housing benefit in social housing, removal of the security of tenure from social housing, increases in social housing rents, planned removal of housing benefit payment for all rooms in a property from 2013 so that the full rent disabled tenants pay for social housing properties will no longer be covered. This is already the case for those living in the private rented sector.
Changes to Local Housing Allowance for those unable to get social housing and who rent in the private rented sector will further prevent convention rights under Article 19 being met. These changes include limiting the amount of LHA available to the 30th percentile rate will make it much more difficult, if not impossible, for someone who has additional housing needs such as a requirement for a larger property to turn a wheelchair in, or a person who needs extra space for equipment to find anywhere suitable to rent at a price they can afford. Disabled children still have no right to funding for an extra, separate bedroom to meet their needs regardless of the severity of their impairment.
Supported housing schemes are also under threat of being lost due to lack of funding.
The other important aspect of independent living however is the provision of the right level of support which is now in severe danger of ceasing to exist in many cases.
If you consider changes to policies, practices or legislation in the UK are necessary, please explain.
From what has already been said previously I think there is an urgent need for changes to policies, practices, and legislation. Eligibility criteria and access to care funding should be the standardised and provided adequately in all local authorities. Whether or not disabled people can access the homes and care and support funding they need to live independently should not be a postcode lottery.
Impact of funding on the right to independent living
The Committee would particularly welcome evidence on these recent developments:
The decision, announced in the CSR, to remove the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance for all people living in residential care
Changes to the Independent Living Fund
The removal of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance announced in the CSR will impact negatively on the quality of life for those living in residential homes. Those people who currently receive only about £22 a week to meet all non-mobility needs will lose the major part of their income affecting their capacity to purchase mobility aids, and pay for transport to be any part of the community at all. In numerous cases losing the mobility component of DLA will deny such residents a right to family life as they will no longer be able to afford to travel to see relatives.
If mobility allowance is removed from those who are spending their mobility component on mobility aids such as a wheelchair or scooter do we assume these items will be taken away from them when they lose entitlement to mobility allowance. We do not feel the full consequences of this proposed policy change has been properly or sensibly thought through.
The closure of the Independent Living fund is one of the most obvious and vicious attacks by the government in undermining the principles of independent living. While it has been agreed that 23,000 ‘severely disabled’ people will stay on the scheme until 2015 there are no plans after that date for this funding to be replaced in any other way.
We have yet to see how the planned abolition of DLA including the higher rate – a marker for continued entitlement to ILF will affect existing claimants. Further, Adult Social Care in many areas have raised eligibility thresholds while increasing charges, leading to cases already where disabled people although pre-existing ILF claimants now fail to reach the qualifying threshold and therefore have lost their entitlement too.( Nottingham City council, Buckinghamshire council)
Young disabled people are already being denied the opportunity to go to university due to the closure of Independent Living Fund to new applicants and lack of alternative support funding from social services. This will obviously have a very negative effect on their life chances overall.
“the Big Society”Restrictions on local authority funding, social care budgets and benefits reassessments
Many local authorities have raised their charges for care, and some disabled people are now paying for their care( up to £50 per week) for the first time ever. Social workers are saying that disabled people will be lucky if they reach the qualifying criteria. Benefit reassessments are causing the most severe emotional and financial destruction.
The threat of the loss of care funding which would lead to an inability to continue to live independently means that large numbers of disabled people are living in fear of their care packages being re-assessed. We believe that in a civilised society people should not have to live in fear just because they are, or become, disabled.
Increased focus on localisation and its potential impact on care provision, and specifically, on portability of care and mobility for disabled people
Care provision should be the same regardless of where someone lives and in order to be treated on equal terms to non-disabled people it is essential that disabled people should be able to move and take their care package with them.
What impact does funding have on the ability of the UK to secure the right to independent living protected by Article 19 of the UN Disability Rights Convention?
The cuts proposed by the coalition government mean that the UK will utterly and totally fail to meet the convention rights guaranteed in Article 19 of the UNCRPD.
How will recent policy and budgetary decisions impact on the ability of the UK to meet its obligation under Article 19 to protect the right of all persons to independent living?
There will be no right to independent living at all.
Participation and consultation
What steps should the Government take to meet its obligations under the Disability Rights Convention to involve disabled people in policy development and decision-making, including in budget decisions such as the Comprehensive Spending Review?
Governments should include all user led disability organisations. While the current practice is to engage with charities they put forward views FOR disabled people not the views OF disabled people, and only user led organisations and disabled people can do this. In particular the National Centre for Independent Living is a long standing user-led organisation which sees the impacts of the cuts and proposed cuts.
Meetings across the country would also be useful so that the views of a sample of local CILs can be included and they can also be involved with meeting ministers. Responses to written consultations seem to be being ignored and it is not clear how much or how often points raised within them are taken on board.
A government with a commitment to disabled people should accept that disabled peoples’ views represent the expert views on living in a disabling society.
Are the current arrangements for involvement of disabled people in policy development and decision-making working?
No the proposed cuts shows this is not the case. The governments’ misinformation eg. that DLA was a benefit that prevents disabled people from working was a major error repeated by the media. Whether the government still incorrectly believe this is unclear, however it shows they have a serious lack of understanding about disability and disability issues.
There is growing concern that paper consultations are worthless, eg. the implementation of the Universal Credit was announced on the morning that the consultation on this closed. This gives the impression that responding to government consultations is pointless and what is said will be ignored anyhow.
Disabled people resent token consultations and want on-going involvement, to be listened to seriously and to be accepted as the experts on disability, disabling barriers and disabling policies.
One clear example is the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for entitlement to ESA carried out at an additional massive cost to the tax payer by ATOS. Despite the fact that with representation 70% of those refused ESA win at appeal, despite the Harrington report, complaints by DPOs and CABs we are still hearing stories of individuals being declared ‘fit for work’ and placed into the work ready group when they have terminal illness, months to live, severe mental health conditions, and/or need 24 hour support. Nobody is asking the relatives of those who have committed suicide through the loss of benefits, nor those who threaten to why they feel they need to take this action.
Monitoring the effective implementation of the Convention
What steps should Government take to ensure that disabled people’s views are taken into account when drafting their reports to the UN under the UNCRPD?
There are already a range of groups involved in this for England: UKDPC, EHRC, and Disability Rights Watch. Local user-led organisations run and controlled by disabled people should also be encouraged to provide input into this through shadow reports detailing real life examples. Local groups should also be given the support and funding to establish a base-line measurement of where their area is in satisfying the key articles of the convention.
This would be of use in the intervening years until the next monitoring report is due in helping to of identify the impact of the cuts, the impact on independent living, and measurement of those things that may have improved. (although with current policies and practices this latter is unlikely to happen).
Most importantly ministers and others involved in making policy decisions should consult more widely with disabled people themselves. In particular the voices of those who are most disenfranchised and rarely are able to attend public consultations should be listened to. Those individuals who are least likely to get involved in reporting any failures to meet their convention rights should be actively sought out and their views noted and acted upon.
Often what such people experience is outside of the experience of those groups of disabled people such as Equality 2025 who do advise the government at present. Members of Equality 2025 are disabled people who have managed to negotiate the many barriers disabled people face relatively successfully but they often do not represent the views of those who have not.
As part of the national monitoring mechanism, what steps should the EHRC, NIHRC and SHRC take to ensure that the Convention is implemented effectively?
The EHRC, NIHRC, and SHRC should be a completely independent body not responsible to government in any way. It should have much stronger powers to enforce the convention. EHRC is currently viewed as weak in using its enforcement and other powers and this could be further undermined if the proposed cuts to staffing levels goes ahead. Sanctions for breaking the convention should be imposed at both national and local levels.
Millions are set to be affected by savage cuts to housing, disability, sickness and welfare benefits. Disabled people, those with long term illness, the unemployed, single parents, carers the low waged, part time students, volunteers, homeless people and college students are all likely to see a devastating drop in disposable income with many slipping even further below the poverty line.
Thursday 12th May, 7pm
Speakers: the solicitor from Irwin Mitchell who has just won a case preventing Birmingham City Council changing eligibility criteria for care funding, Linda Burnip, Disabled People Against Cuts; Michael Bradley, Right to Work