Re: scrapping of equality impact assessments and fair consultation arrangements
I am writing to express in the strongest terms our objection to the plans announced by the Prime Minister to scrap equality impact assessments and fair consultation arrangements.
The Coalition Government has unleashed the most disproportionate and discriminatory attack on disability rights and the resources on which disabled people depend in a civilised community.
Equality impact assessments when carried out thoroughly provide an indication of the impact of proposals on disabled people and reveal factors that may significantly reduce the ability of disabled people to contribute to the community and economy.
Government’s proposal to scrap this mechanism will not lead to growth, but to a widening of the fast growing gaps into which many disabled people are falling to the detriment of the economy and cohesion in our communities.
Your Government has refused to carry out a cumulative impact assessment of all the measures that are being introduced which affect disabled people. Our own research shows that disabled people will have their living standards reduced by 20% over the four years of the austerity programme. Contrast this with the richest 20% of the population who are only seeing a 7.5% reduction – clearly we are not all in this together.
Mr Cameron is trying to cover it up by scrapping the instruments that prove it.
“The cuts to disability benefits are estimated to total £9 billion over the four years, about a third of all cash benefits paid to disabled people in 2009-10. These cuts mean that the poorest fifth of the 2.7 million households receiving disability benefits will lose 16% of their cash income plus benefits-in-kind over the four years. This percentage loss is four times as big as the loss for the richest fifth of all households but even this 16% is probably an understatement because of the difficulty of analysing how hard disabled people will be hit by the cuts in Departmental Expenditure (Local Government, Health, Education, etc)”
The Austerity War and the impoverishment of disabled people, Chris Edwards, September, 2012
What concerns me most is that you have no democratic mandate to carry out these attacks as neither the Conservative or Lib Dem manifestos put these plans before the public.
Fair consultation on Government plans and Equality Impact Assessments are the only means by which Government can claim the democratic process has been satisfied.
I urge you to take all possible action to reverse the decision to scrap Equality Impact Assessments, and to restore fair consultation with disabled people throughout Government.
For the record we will itemise the regressive measures that your Government is carrying out that negatively affect the life chances and rights of disabled people:
- Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and replace it with the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which aims to reduce the budget by 20%, removing support from half a million people. Increase the take up ofDLA so that disabled people and people with long term conditions can live independently in the community. DLA – like child benefit – is recognition that some groups of people face additional costs and that society wishes to collectively make provision to cover some of these costs. The principle of making ‘reasonable adjustments’ – whether it takes the form of money or support – should be applied to both disability and out of work benefits, and to employment support.
- Employment and Support Allowance and ‘medical model’ Work Capability Assessments, which reduces eligibility, increases means-testing and imposes conditions and sanctions. This approach sees us and our behaviour as the problem. Instead it needs to recognise the additional needs that come with impairment and/or ill health and the barriers and discrimination in the labour market. This would mean a welfare system which compensated for loss of income and for additional costs associated with impairment and ill health, while at the same time tackling disabling barriers to employment. Crucially, this system must recognise the impact of ill health and not confuse it with functional impairment.
A recent article in The Church Times recently highlighted the issues:
“…those who fail the Government’s new Work Capability Assessment. This includes 73 people each week who usually die as a result of the illnesses and conditions for which they had previously received welfare payments, after they were certified “fit for work”. Some commit suicide. In one case, Freedom of Information requests revealed, someone died while filling out an assessment form. Relatives of the deceased have suggested that the stress of the assessment itself also contributes to death.
The arbitrary nature of such categorisation is also highlighted by the 400,000 disabled and sick people who have been initially declared fit, and who then have to undergo a lengthy, expensive, and exhausting appeals process to establish that they were deserving after all.
The categorisation of “deserving” and “undeserving” hardly makes financial sense, either. The total expected savings from putting 2.5 million disabled people through work tests will be just £2.2 million over three years – and that is if the targets are met.”
ATOS, A4E etc: The privatised delivery of Government assessment, employment and training programmes is failing disabled people and the public purse. It may be good forPLC’s, directors and shareholders but it is not delivering good outcomes for disabled people. The Guardian, Panorama and Dispatches have shown that the real agenda is targets to get people off benefits..
ATOS – 40% of assessments are overturned on appeal and this rises to 70% if representation is present in the appeals process.
The Work Programme – Only 3.4% of people referred to the job programme got and stayed in work 3-6 months (these figures drop to 2.5% if calculated from June – May.
This is an expensive waste of money.
It is gross negligence to close Remploy factories and throw disabled people onto the open job market in the current economic climate. This Government has done nothing to ‘level the playing field’ by addressing the disablism in the training and job market. In the last round of redundancies at Remploy only 3% of the disabled employees were able to get jobs and that was prior to the current triple dip recession. We absolutely agree with the planned closure of sheltered workshops but this approach is crass.
- Changes to housing and housing benefits: Government figures show about 450,000 disabled people will see their incomes cut under one of the changes planned to housing benefit. Our fear is that thousands will be forced from their homes. From April 2013, housing benefit for working age people in social rented homes will be linked to the size of property councils believe they need.
An assessment from the Department for Work and Pensions shows the change will leave 450,000 disabled people an average of £13 a week worse off.
- Independent Living Fund: There are 20,000 existing users of ILF in theUK. The fund was closed to new applicants in 2010 preventing many disabled people from accessing this support to remain independent. The Coalition Government wants to force disabled people to rely on local authorities from 2015 by closing the ILF permanently. Local authorities already face severe cuts and cannot provide adequate support to existing customers. Some local authorities are already saying that residential care homes will be their only option. Without guaranteed levels of funding and ringfencing this is fantasy talk as the funds will disappear through the cuts. This is a major threat to independent living for disabled people.
- Cuts to Local Authorities: disabled people are disproportionately affected to cuts to local authorities as we use public services more than non-disabled members of the community. Any cuts therefore are discriminatory and threaten our right to live independently in the community. Services can be delivered more effectively and in a personalised way and we support reform that gets better outcomes more cost effectively. However the level of cuts is negatively impacting on disabled people’s life chances and will not achieve reform.
- Universality in health and social care: Social care policies have led to the privatisation of care services, and may well support the same trend in the context of health care. This has led to the re-institutionalisation of people with learning disabilities and other groups. This private sector led retrograde step has been colluded with by local authority commissioners who have shunned the community based alternatives leading to disasters such as Winterbourne View. Reverse this move and return to the founding principles of the health service and welfare state – services should be based on need and free at the point of delivery funded through a progressive taxation system, in benefits, services and equipment which aim to create a level playing field for people affected by illness and/or impairment. Work with DPOs to truly personalise services in ways which increase choice and control for disabled people and achieve the best outcomes and value for money, whilst protecting rights and reversing the harmful effects of privatisation. Create real choice and control for us over the resources needed to go about our daily lives.
- Social Care: Can people who need help to go about their daily lives, help which involves intimate care, help that enables someone to access the most basic human rights like communication, rely on the profit motive to deliver this assistance in a way which protects and promotes their human rights? Giving and receiving intimate care is not the same as having your car serviced. To rely on another person in such a way is inevitably associated with a vulnerability to abuse, unless the person providing the care holds and promotes values which in many instances are incompatible with the profit motive. Maximising profit requires holding down wages, increasing productivity by reducing the amount of time spent on each task to a minimum, only investing in training to provide basic competence, and minimising regulation. We don’t believe that the delivery of high quality social care services, which protect and promote people’s human rights, is compatible with the profit motive. This is not to say that services run by public authorities are necessarily any better at delivering our human rights. Over the last twenty years, public services have increasingly had to measure themselves against private sector notions of efficiency – and efficiency is defined in terms of cost, not quality. Personalisation in social care – the current policy – is only tinkering with the adult social care system, which is underfunded, and too reliant on organisations motivated by profit and answerable to their shareholders.