Apr 182014
 

We read with interest the piece in the Independent by Rachel Reeves and Kate Green regarding Labour’s response to the Work Capability Assessment [1]

Labour should realise that disabled people are deeply distrustful of any Labour reform of a Work Capability Assessment system, which Labour introduced in the Welfare Act of 2007 with the stated aim of removing 1 million claimants from the benefit system [3].

Our position has been and will be that the Work Capability Assessment is deeply flawed in its basic concept, not just in terms of the details of its delivery, and inclusion in the workplace for disabled people cannot simply be achieved by a ‘back to work’ test.

manifesto

In the Reclaiming Our Futures, Disabled People’s Manifesto [4], we state that a priority demand from government is that:

A comprehensive and strategic plan of action is developed with disabled people and our organisations to tackle the discrimination and exclusion disabled people face in work and employment including: increasing quality and range of personalised support available to disabled people, strengthening disabled employees rights and tackling employer discrimination and poor practice

Other key demands include that:

Economic productivity must not be the only measure of people’s worth and value, volunteering offers as much value to society as paid employment. While we recognise that volunteering can offer additional skills, it should not be the default option for disabled people because of our exclusion from paid work

There must be policy and media recognition that there will always be disabled people who are unable or too ill to work. These individuals must be supported by a publically funded system. They should not be penalised or demonised as they are currently.

For true inclusion in the workplace for disabled people a wider approach is necessary including but not limited to:

• Will Labour commit to the restoration of Disabled Student’s Allowance,
• Will Labour commit to the restoration of the Independent Living Fund,
• Will Labour commit to the extension of Access to Work (AtW) to include unpaid voluntary positions,
• Will Labour commit to the reversal of the reduction of people who currently receive DLA, but will not receive PIP and also lose their Motability access,
• Will Labour commit to the reinstatement of the requirement for councils to produce equality schemes on employment and access
• Will Labour commit to the provision of accessible transport.
• Will Labour commit to the reinstatement of “day one” protection from unfair dismissal in employment law
• Will Labour commit to the provision of Employment Tribunals enforcing mandatory organisation-wide measures on preventing disability discrimination
• Will Labour commit to the provision that all government contracts, at a national, regional and local level, are only awarded to companies that are fulfilling measurable equality targets for the employment of disabled people

(for further points see reference 2)

These currently are some of the barriers to inclusion in the workplace for disabled people, and they will not be fixed by simply amending the WCA. The issue must be seen within the context of the wider interconnected system of barriers in place. It must be seen in terms of what a large majority of disabled people have already identified as key problems.

In terms of inclusion we also need from Labour, a recognition that for many disabled people to be able to work there has to be a nationally transportable social care system with a guarantee that people would keep the same levels of funding wherever they needed to move to work.

We need recognition that there is an onus on government and employers to fully accept the spirit of the Equality Act 2010 [4] with its requirement to the opening of work opportunity to disabled people. Without this, no “fit for work test” aimed at cutting disability benefits will make any impact whatsoever on the numbers of disabled people who can attain and sustain employment.

We also need from Labour a stronger recognition that there are many disabled people who cannot enter the work place and should not have to live in fear of being pressured into doing so.

There is much that the article leaves out and that leaves us with a number of serious concerns and questions.

While we are not yet prepared to endorse in any way Labour’s new approach to the Work Capability Assessment, we do see the article by Rachel Reeves and Kate Green as a helpful starting point for discussions on the future of inclusion of disabled people, who want and are able to work, in the workplace and we would welcome an opportunity to meet with them and discuss this further. We would like meet with Kate Green and Rachel Reeves to ask the following questions:

1. Will Labour commit to stop spending public money on private
contractors and return any assessments of disabled people back to GPs
with medical evidence taken into account as well as give a commitment to
look at the barriers to work for disabled people who can and want to
work (in line with the social model of disability)?

2. Will Labour commit to a time and date to talk with DPAC, My Legal,
the Mental Health Resistance Network, Black Triangle, Deaf activists,
those with learning difficulties ( with an outreach of ½ a million
disabled people) to listen to the views of the largest network of grass
roots disabled people on the WCA and ESA?

3. If Labour are committed to scrapping the WCA when will Deaf and
disabled people, and those with mental health issues have sight of the
detail of any alternative Labour is proposing?

4. If Labour accepts the harm, devastation and premature deaths that have
been an outcome of the WCA why have they chosen to suspend their
prospective parliamentary candidate for St Austell and Newquay, Deborah
Hopkins for speaking out in public about the harm caused by the WCA.

5. Will Labour address the disproportionate harm that the WCA and
sanctions on ESA and JSA are causing to all disabled people, in
particular those with mental health issues and learning difficulties?

6. We along with many others insisted that a centralised Independent Living Fund
for Scotland be established and it has been done. They have also promised to re-open ILF to new users, with a commitment of additional funds and recognition of its importance to independent living and obligations to article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Why has the Labour
Party not promised to re-establish it south of the border?

Many of the Statements included in this response are taken from the UK Disabled Peoples’ Reclaiming our Futures Manifesto and are endorsed by a UK network of disabled people and Deaf and Disabled Peoples Organisations, including: ALLFIE, Inclusion London, Equal Lives, DPAC, Inclusion Scotland, Disability Wales and the TUC Disabled Workers Committee [2], who between them reach several million disabled voters.
References
1. How Labour would reform the Work Capability Assessment http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/how-labour-would-reform-the-work-capability-assessment-9265479.html
2. The Reclaiming Our Futures, Disabled People’s Manifesto http://disability-studies.leeds.ac.uk/files/library/UK-Disabled-People-s-Manifesto-Reclaiming-Our-Futures.pdf
3. The Green Paper: The new deal for welfare: Empowering people to work. 2006 http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://dwp.gov.uk/docs/a-new-deal-for-welfare-empowering-people-to-work-full-document.pdf
4. Equality Act 2010 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents

 

Nov 282013
 

It’s been a busy few days for DPAC gathering evidence on the cumulative impact of cuts on disabled people, and on the crisis in independent living.  On the 25th we heard moving and powerful testimonies of how the Government are ruining lives through their austerity regime. Disabled people are faced with a range of cuts and so called ‘reforms’ which are contravening our basic human rights. We are faced with stark choices between eating or heating while having our dignity stripped by a range of psychological attacks at the same time as having support removed.

 Testimonies will be sent to the UN rapporteur on disability-thanks to everybody who came to London to tell their stories and to those that submitted their experiences through email. This event was originally arranged by Just Fair, however due to the rapporteur being unable to come to the UK due to illness DPAC and Inclusion London stepped in to run this at the last minute, so we could get these important stories out to the UN.

On the 26th the morning saw a hugely successful protest on fuel poverty organised by DPAC, Fuel Poverty Action, the Greater London Pensioners and UKUncut: ‘Bring down the Big Six – Fuel Poverty Kills!’ against the increase in fuel poverty deaths and increasing profits and prices of the big 6. Supporting groups included No Dash for Gas, Campaign Against Climate Change, Climate Revolution, Young Friends of the Earth, Frack Off London, Power for the People, Barnet Alliance for Public Services, Lewes Against the Cuts, SOAS Energy & Climate Change Society and Southwest Against Nuclear. There were also protests in Oxford, Lewes and Bristol.

In the afternoon of the 26th the Emergency meeting on the crisis in independent living took place at parliament hosted by DPAC and Inclusion London.  An event originally planned by Just Fair to launch their report to the UN rapporteur which DPAC and Inclusion London stepped in to run with a new focus on the crisis in independent living.  This was in response to the successful appeal outcome at the courts on the Independent Living Fund-and the continuing awareness of the crisis for ILF users, those trying to access local authority support and the Government’s apparent non-compliance with article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The afternoon launched DPAC’s report on the crisis in independent living and cumulative impacts of the cuts, one of many that DPAC is working on, as well as the film by Mary Laver an ILF user. The afternoon was complimented by speeches from John Evans and reflection on the past battles for independent living.  We heard from the brilliant Louise Whitfield (one of the solicitors in the ILF case) and were treated to an excellent DPAC theatre performance which brought to life the reality of impacts on disabled people and the different barriers we face.

Despite extremely short notice the event was well attended by MPs and those from the Lords. Kate Green , Hywell Williams, Katy Clarke, Anne Begg, John McDonnell, Jim Shannon, Andy Slaughter, Baroness  Campbell, Baroness Wilkins  and a host of others including Mary Laver’s MP.  Apologies were sent from Anne McGuire, Caroline Lucas, Lucy Powell, Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa Pierce

Mike Penning ‘our’ new minister for disability was invited but did not respond or send apologies!

Many thanks to all that attended, supported and worked so hard towards the afternoon-especially the many DPAC members and supporters that wrote to their MPs and publicised this. Some may ask why English national formal disability organisations with much more money and resources than us aren’t putting their energies into these types of activities all the time- we don’t have any answers or understanding on that.

We will have a more detailed report on the Emergency meeting on the Crisis in Independent Living event in Parliament with film and photos soon

Download DPAC report Crisis in Disabled People’s Independent Living 

See Mary Laver’s film on ILF View the movie

kljxr

Oct 152013
 

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is engaging with disabled people and disabled people’s organisations on the key issues under the Disability Convention (UNCRPD).

You can find the questionnaire here http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/human-rights/our-human-rights-work/international-framework/un-convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/the-un-disability-convention-participation-questionnaire/

DPAC is calling on disabled people to tell the EHRC about the impact of this stigmatising government and the concerns we have about the replacement of the social model of disability with the bio psycho social model.

see for more on biopsychosocial model: https://dpac.uk.net/2012/04/a-tale-of-two-models-disabled-people-vs-unum-atos-government-and-disability-charities-debbie-jolly/

 

Jun 032013
 

As more and more people are finding that they go from hours to minutes of support from their local authorities, as ILF users are threatened with being passed into a local authority system that cannot serve the aims of independent living, and as independent living is becoming more of a mirage every day, despite article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons (UNCRPD) – we look at Angela’s story. Angela contacted DPAC several months ago when it was clear that her local authority were carrying out practices that appeared to be against protocol -legal representation was found. However, this could not stop the real threats to the reduction of Angela’s support or to her right to independent living:

Angela’s Story
I’m 28 years old – but if they take away my social care it’ll be the end of my life.

I’m disabled but I want to enjoy life the way any other young woman can.  I have two volunteer jobs.

 Now they’re threatening to take this support away – leaving me isolated at home, forcing me to go to bed at 9.30 every night, not even able to go to the toilet.

I did a degree in psychology and criminal behaviour. It was interesting but nothing like CSI! During one of the seminars, I met a representative from Headway, the spinal brain injury charity and I’ve been volunteering there for the last two and a half years. I won Luton’s Volunteer of the Year Award last year.

I’m constantly looking for paid work. I don’t sit around watching TV, I never have, I don’t believe in that. I would love to get a paid job. I have tried. I’ve been for interviews for customer services and as a support worker. Even though we are supposed to have equal opportunities, people still look at my wheelchair.

I was hit by a car when I was two. I have a spinal brain injury which has affected my left side. I can’t walk because I have no balance, so I use an electric chair.

When I turned 18, Social Services helped me find a place to live and be independent. Social care gave me total freedom to get up, go to bed, go to the toilet and settle into my new home and life. With decent social care I’ve been able to do whatever I want. I can go out and enjoy life the way any other young woman can. I have two volunteer jobs, and I can go shopping and see my friends.

Suddenly, out of the blue recently they’ve tried to cut my care from 20 hours a day down to three. I was shocked, upset and angry. I tried to negotiate with the woman at the Council and was told “life’s not perfect for anyone”.  I don’t expect it to be perfect – I want to have a life like any young woman.

I’d have no freedom. I’d have to be in bed at 9.30pm and get up at 7.30am, with no way to go to the toilet in the night either. My carer wouldn’t have time to cook me fresh food (microwaved horsemeat lasagne here I come!).

Imagine living this life for the next 50 years. If I was stuck with that forever, I would give up and lose my passion for living. I would find a way to end my life.

What I’m asking for isn’t unreasonable. I just want flexibility and freedom and a little support. I’m not asking for the world. But I do want dignity and I do want freedom. If I wasn’t in this wheelchair I would have those things, so why shouldn’t I.

What’s worse is it isn’t just me. It isn’t just about reducing how much support people get. They’re taking away all support for some disabled people. Every disabled person who needs support should get it – this is about the basic dignity and freedom to live our lives.

The government has what they call a spending review coming up – it’s when George Osborne decides: How will he spend our money? What do we care about as a country?

Will you sign the petition I’ve started and send George Osborne a message loud and clear that we want adequate support for disabled people to live independently?    They spent more than a billion pounds just on the Olympics village where the athletes stayed last year, surely they can put at least that much into social support for us? We only have a few weeks!
Angela Murray

Petition: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/george-osborne-save-social-care-let-me-and-all-disabled-people-live-with-freedom-and-dignity

Please sign the petition and write to us at mail@dpac.uk.net with your stories. We are also looking for stories from people who were stopped from applying for Independent Living Fund support in 2010 when the Coalition closed it to new applicants.

This is not just about ‘care’ it is about independent living, the right to independent living and support for all. It is about the UK breaking its own signed commitment to the UNCRPD. It is about the impact on real lives like Angela’s. It is fundamentally wrong!

DPAC is continually gathering evidence of the impacts of the cuts, their effects on independent living and quality of life for disabled people and those with long term health issues. Unlike some other organisations we are keen to bring this Government to task through every route we can, including the legal system.

 

 

Mar 012012
 

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) today publishes its Report on the implementation of the right of disabled people to independent living in the context of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which was ratified by the UK in 2009. The Report draws attention to a number of significant human rights issues, including:

 

  • the need for freestanding legislation to protect the right to independent living in UK law,
  • the effect of current reforms to benefits and services on the ability of disabled people to enjoy independent living,
  • the role played by the UNCRPD in policy development and decision making at all levels of government,
  • the use of equality impact assessments,
  • the effects of devolution on implementation of the UNCRPD, and
  • hate crime

 

The right to independent living does not exist as a freestanding right in UK law. Although it is protected and promoted to some extent by a matrix of rights, the Committee believes that this is not enough. It argues that the Government and other interested parties should immediately assess the need for, and feasibility of, legislation to establish independent living as a freestanding right. In addition, the Committee concludes that the UNCRPD is hard law, not soft law, and that the Government should fulfil their obligations under the Convention on that basis, and counter any public perception that it is soft law.

 

The Committee finds that:

 

  • reforms to benefits and services risk leaving disabled people without the support they need to live independently;
  • restrictions in local authority eligibility criteria for social care support, the replacement of the Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payment, the closure of the Independent Living Fund and changes to housing benefit risk interacting in a particularly harmful way for disabled people;
  • some people fear that the cumulative impact of these changes will force them out of their homes and local communities and into residential care.

 

It also finds that:

 

  • the Government had not conducted an assessment of the cumulative impact of current reforms on disabled people. The Report urges them do so, and to report on the extent to which these reforms are enabling them and local authorities to comply with their obligations under the UNCRPD.

 

  • the UNCRPD did not appear to have played a significant role in the development of policy and legislation, as is required by the Convention. The Committee therefore argues that the Government should make a commitment to Parliament that they will give due consideration to the articles of the Convention when making legislation.

 

Further, the Committee deprecates changes to the duties of public authorities in England under the Equality Act 2010, which no longer require the production of equality impact assessments of changes in policy, nor the involvement of disabled people in developing policies which will affect them.

 

The Committee finds variations in the manner in which the devolved administrations have implemented the Convention, and uncertainty as to the role the UK Government should play in ensuring implementation. The Report notes with disappointment the lack of a strategy in Northern Ireland to promote independent living and reminds the UK Government to acknowledge their responsibility to ensure implementation.

 

The Committee also considers a range of other issues relating to independent living. It recommends that the Government should take further action to ensure that assessments for care needs are portable across the country in order to ensure disabled people’s right to choose their place of residence. It also expresses concern over a growing incidence of hate crime against disabled people and urges the Government take action to foster respect for the rights and dignity of disabled people.

 

 

Dr Hywel Francis MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “We are concerned to learn that the right of disabled people to independent living may be at risk through the cumulative impact of current reforms. Even though the UK ratified the UNCPRD in 2009 with cross-party support, the Government is unable to demonstrate that sufficient regard has been paid to the Convention in the development of policy with direct relevance to the lives of disabled people. The right to independent living in UK law may need to be strengthened further, and we call on the Government and other interested organisations to consider the need for a freestanding right to independent living in UK law.”

 

 

The members of the Committee Are:

Rehman Chishti MP (Conservative Gillingham and Rainham) Baroness Berridge (Conservative)
Mike Crockart MP (Liberal Democrat Edinburgh West) Lord Bowness (Conservative)
Dr Hywel Francis MP (Labour Aberavon) (Chair) Baroness Campbell of Surbiton (Cross-Bencher)
Mr Dominic Raab MP (Conservative Esher and Walton) Lord Dubs (Labour)
Mr Virendra Sharma MP (Labour Ealing Southall) Lord Lester of Herne Hill (Liberal Democrat)
Mr Richard Shepherd MP (Conservative Aldridge-Brownhills) Lord Morris of Handsworth (Labour)

Clerks to the Committee:

Mike Hennessy (House of Commons) 020 7219 2797 John Turner (House of Lords) 020 7219 6772

Enquiries: 020 7219 2467        Fax: 020 7219 8393        E-mail: jchr@parliament.uk

Homepage: http://www.parliament.uk/jchr

Media Inquiries:  Liz Parratt: 07917 488978.