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.

Feb 182012
 
Many thanks to Johnny Void for this repost

Several major UK charities now found themselves being in the unfortunate position of being less ethical organisations than corporate bastards Tesco due to their continued participation in the government’s workfare schemes.

Hot on the heels of Tesco announcing they  “will not be taking part in any mandatory (workfare) scheme set by the Government”, Oxfam and Marie Curie have also said they will no longer use workfare workers.  Housing charity Shelter confirmed that they stopped using the scheme last year after concerns that it was not in the interests of potential volunteers.

However several major UK charities, including Age UK, Cancer Research, the British Heart Foundation (BHF), Barnados and the PDSA have so far remained quiet on their use of forced labour.  Chef Executive of the BHF, Peter Hollins, earned a whopping £153,000 in 2008, and the average salary of the top 100 charities Chef Execs is now over £166,000.  These vast sums don’t appear to have trickled down though and the chances are that the person serving you in a British Heart Foundation shop is a workfare slave, paid nothing other than the pittance available on Job Seekers Allowance.

Charities have always used volunteers, and no-one has objected to that.  What the hundreds, if not thousands of people, who have contacted Tesco this work are concerned about is the punitive measures now being used to recruit these so called ‘volunteers’.  Workfare staff, as well as being unpaid, have no workplace rights.  If they are dismissed for any reason they face having their benefits sanctioned, leaving them destitute and possibly homeless.  Increasingly people who are sick and disabled are being bullied onto workfare schemes, and plans revealed in the Guardian show that they could be forced into permanent unpaid positions with charities and businesses alike.

Many workfare workers have complained of no longer having the time to look for paid work properly due to workfare schemes.  Some, like Cait Reilly, who is currently taking legal action after being forced to work in Poundland, were already volunteering and on the way to gaining a career.  Benefit levels are so low that many workfare staff go without lunch.

This isn’t a few hours a week doing good deeds or helping organise a local church fete.  Charities are using workfare staff full time, in what were often previously paid positions. As many charities now have gained contracts to carry out public services, something Cameron claims to want more of, then this could depress wages across the public sector.

And whilst charities are feeling the pinch just as much as every else, with Chief Execs living lives of luxury, then any justification charities need to use slave labour to survive ring somewhat hollow.

Unfortunately, for some charities, their involvement with this scheme goes even deeper than merely exploiting workfare staff.  Over 300 voluntary organisations have been listed as sub-contracters to administer the government’s Work Programme scheme including household names such as Mencap and the Prince’s Trust.  Many of them, some who already use workfare staff themselves, will be some of the key organisations responsible for helping to implement the scheme.  In other words they may be directly responsible for pushing vulnerable people into workfare whilst the DWP hovers in the background threatening benefit sanctions for non-compliance.  Under Work Programme claimants can be forced to work 30 hours a week with no pay for up to six months, something far more draconian than the Tesco workfare position which caused public outrage.  Astonishingly these charities have signed contracts which gag them from even being critical of the DWP and the workfare scheme.

So far it hasn’t quite been plain sailing however and many charities are already raising concerns that workfare isn’t turning out to be quite the gravy train they hoped for.

That charities should be quite happy to be actively involved in press-ganging vulnerable people into forced labour, and only really raise concerns that they aren’t making enough money out of it, reveals an astonishing gulf between charity bosses and the people they claim to be there to help.

At the forefront of this has been the Disability Works Consortium, an alliance of charities working together to maximise income from workfare,  and which includes MIND, SCOPE (who’s shops are riddled with workfare staff), The Leonard Chesire  Foundation, Action for Blind People and Mencap.

It’s not that these organisations have been unaware of the problems of the workfare schemes and the distress they have brought to some people’s live.  Disabled People’s Organisations, claimants groups, and perhaps most importantly their own users, have told them time and time again that workfare is exploitative, demeaning and damaging to wages and conditions for everyone.  But these charities have chosen not to listen, instead jumping through ever more complex moral and intellectual hoops in order to justify the hundreds of thousands of pounds they’ve been raking in.  Just like free market ideologues and bankers, charities have taken the position that what ever makes them the most cash just happens to also be the morally correct thing to do.

Everyone agrees that disabled people should have the right to work, and access to  support and training.  No-one disputes that for young people volunteering can be a way to gain valuable experience.  The problem is that consent has been removed from the system and  the threat of starvation and homelessness has been used to bully people into unpaid labour.  It’s really not a difficult concept and now the public have been made fully aware of what’s going on they have rightly shown their contempt for the whole shoddy operation.

Participating charities should hang their heads in shame for colluding in (and profiting from) this abuse of the most vulnerable in society.

The road the charities have taken has given soft cover to some of the most brutal welfare policies in the Western world.  Policies that have failed everywhere they have been implemented.  Policies which are now leading to a situation where someone with terminal cancer could be forced to work night-shifts stacking shelves at Tesco, or day shifts stacking shelves in a charity shop, all for no pay.

These charities are just as vulnerable to commercial pressures as the likes of Tesco, Matalan, Sainsbury’s and TK Maxx who have all now pulled out of mandatory workfare.  A threat to withdraw donations and boycott the  shops of MIND (@mindcharity), SCOPE (@scope), and Mencap (@mencap_charity) may well help focus their minds.  As resistance to workfare spreads, not for the first time, the likes of SCOPE could see angry mobs of disabled people and claimants outside their shops and offices.  It’s time they pull out of these schemes completely, tear up the contracts and issue a clear condemnation of any scheme that uses threats of benefit sanctions to force people to work for no pay.

The collapse of workfare is near complete as the corporate sector runs for the hills in the face of public fury.  All that’s left propping it up now is these charities, who depend so much on the support of the public for their very existence.  We should not be squeamish in holding them to account for their actions every bit as fiercely as we have done to the likes of Tesco and Poundland.

UPDATE!!! SCOPE have just announced on Twitter that they are ending their involvement with workfare with immediate effect.  Whether this just applies to workfare staff in SCOPE’s shops or whether they will be pulling out as workfare sub-contracters remains to be seen.  They say a statement is coming on their website: http://www.scope.org.uk/

Jul 282011
 

DPAC notes with interest the news reported by John Pring that disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) are to boycott a review, set up by Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD) and Mencap,  into one of the most controversial parts of the government’s welfare reform bill.

The two big disability charities, announced this week that they were launching a new “independent review” into how the mobility needs of people living in residential care are met and funded.

The bill currently gives the government powers to stop paying the mobility element of the new personal independence payment – which is set to replace disability living allowance – to people in state-funded residential homes.

Given that the review will be led by  “crossbench peer Lord [Colin] Low, former chair of RNIB and now its vice-president and also president of Disability Alliance with other members of the review’s “steering group” include a  disabled resident of a Leonard Cheshire residential home, the governor of a special school, a local government expert, the director of a think-tank, and an expert in care provision”, it is not surprising that DPOs should raise concerns about the independence of the charities’ new review.

The question is posed as to why no user-led organisations were told about it or asked to take part.

Jaspal Dhani, CEO of UKDPC  said he was concerned that the review could be used to promote the need for residential services rather than disabled people’s right to live in the community.

Mark Harrison, chief executive of Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People, said he was “angry” with the decision to set up the review, which he said was “typical behaviour from two disability charities that are for disabled people, not of disabled people”.

He said the two charities had yet again “violated” the disability movement’s principle of “nothing about us without us”.

Sue Bott, director of the National Centre for Independent Living (NCIL), said NCIL would also not be taking part, while she was “struggling to see what this independent review will achieve other than to try and raise the profile of the two organisations involved”.

DPAC would like to point out although we understood the need for disabled people to march with the big charities at the Hardest Hit rally, we had grave reservations about their (big charities’)  motives for organising the event, it looks like we might be confirmed in our suspicions.

Source: http://www.disabilitylib.org.uk/component/content/article/1-latest-news/597-dpos-boycott-charities-independent-review-of-mobility-needs