Feb 112012
 

Vigil & Lobby of Parliament re Welfare reform 1-3pm Tues 14 Feb

Vigil & Lobby of Parliament

As the Welfare Reform Bill returns to the House of Lords.

1-3pm Tues 14 Feb

Old Palace Yard, Abingdon St SW1.

When the Bill ping-pongs back to the Commons on Wed 15 Feb we will also be there from 1-3pm.

Single Mothers’ Self-Defence smsd@allwomencount.net 
WinVisible win@winvisible.org 
Tel: 020 7482 2496

Feb 052012
 

Many thanks to Darkest Angel 32 for letting us repost this blog

As the deadline for the Government to haul the Welfare Reform Bill through parliament draws dangerously close and its implementation looms large I want to make sure that YOU know how it might affect your life.

It is a government and media peddled myth that this bill is about the unemployed. It’s not. This bill will affect millions of employed people as well as millions of disabled adults and children. This bill is not designed to solve the problems of worklessness and benefit dependency as I will explain. this is about money, money for the treasury that none of YOU will see a penny of.

The Welfare Reform Bill will pave the way for Universal Credit which will replace the following benefits (of which some of YOU will be in receipt of)

 

 

Income Based JobSeekers Allowance

Income Support

Income Based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

Housing Benefit

Child Tax Credit

Working Tax Credit

Disability Living Allowance DLA will be replaced with PIP (Personal Independence Payments)

If your household has a higher rate tax payer you will no longer be entitled to Child Benefit.

Council Tax Benefit will be the responsibility of your local authority who will be required to save 10% of the budget annually, therefore reducing the amount of people who claim that particular benefit. Pensioners are protected.

The Social Fund will be abolished. Funds for this kind of financial help will be the responsibility of local authorities. The funding will not be ringfenced so councils are free to use it in any other area. Currently anyone can apply for a crisis loan, even YOU.

So, if you use any of the above the government are after YOU!

It’s you they want to move out of the area, it’s your children they want to go to another school, its your shopping money, rent money, bill money they want to take away, not just mine.

Don’t forget the benefit cap. £26,000 a year, that’s £500 a week and £18,200 or £350 a week for a single person without children. (read the equality impact assessment) I can hear you screaming now, regurgitating that rubbish ‘hard-working families don’t earn that much!’. You are absolutely right because if you were earning £26,000 a year you would also be receiving child tax credits if you have children, working tax credit, perhaps housing and council tax benefit as well and of course child benefit, so in reality your income would be a lot higher than £26,000 and your child benefit can’t be taken away if you naughty people dare to receive more than £500 a week. Get the calculator out and work out how much YOU get or should get in benefits!

I’d like you to remember that when thousands of families are forced out of other areas into yours you will have real problems finding cheap accommodation because there will be more people and less available houses. There will be more children in the schools, more strain on local services including the NHS. When you scream that those ‘scroungers’ should move out of London, remember, they’re coming to your town or city sweetheart. It’s also worth noting that many people who currently live in rural areas will suffer and have to move as well. You’re local authority will also be paying for the cost of temporary housing and the other costs that come with homelessness if anyone in your area is evicted because of these changes. It’s far cheaper to just scrap the cap. Housing benefit was capped a little while ago anyway. at a maximum of £400 a week for a 4 bed property, £250 a week for a 2 bed property. Single people under 35 only qualify for the shared room rate, which previously applied to under 25′s. That has already seen people evicted from their homes. The ‘family friendly’ Tory party have also made it a lot harder for non resident parents to have overnight access to their children by reducing the housing benefit available to single under 35′s. A far better solution would be to cap private rents, that would save the government a fortune in benefits but some of them are landlords so maybe not.

God help you if you or your relative is disabled or ill. The Government don’t like you. They don’t like your disabled friends or neighbours either. If you are unfortunate enough to get cancer the government have decided that you have 12 months to be cured, otherwise, if your partner earns the enormous sum of £7,500 a year they’ll cut your ESA completely. (That applies to anyone claiming it by the way but we hoped cancer patients might at least be exempt from this nasty condition)

They will replace DLA with PIP which most people wont be eligible for even though they have serious illnesses and/or disabilities. Those people will be told they’re simply not ill or disabled enough and will be left either appealing, which is a very long distressing process, or left without. Just in case you read the daily mail I can tell you, hospital visits, additional aids to manage with illness and disability and day to day living requires extra financial help for many people in that position. I know from experience with disabled and seriously ill relatives that these things cost money many simply don’t have. Also the ‘free cars’ you have read about aren’t free, they’re paid for with the mobility component of DLA so people are actually paying for them with the money they get to help them. I’d say that’s fair, wouldn’t you? It’s worth bearing in mind that DLA is not means tested.

The Government also decided it would be a lovely idea to cut the disabled element of tax credits (Universal Credit when it switches) in half for disabled children who receive the lower rate of DLA. Delightful. That means people like one friend I have won’t be able to afford the petrol for her car. Her son can’t use public transport for various reasons, her car means she can take him out instead of staying in all day. It means she can safely take him to school and the family can lead a normal life. No petrol means an extremely difficult time doing the everyday things YOU take for granted.

On the subject of disabled children, the Government have decided it’s a good idea to prevent young people who have never worked due to disability from being able to claim contributory ESA. Currently they can.

There will now be a penalty for ‘under-occupation’. If you have a spare room and you receive housing benefit you will now be penalised for it, even if it’s for your kids who stay at the weekend, or to store any equipment you need to help you live a full life, such as a wheelchair or a commode. You’re going to be charged for that even if you’d like to downsize but can’t because there are no available properties in your area.

There are a few other gems in the Welfare Reform Bill that haven’t been very widely publicised. Yes, I’m a geek, I read the entire bill, twice actually.

When your youngest child reaches 5 years old you will have to get a job. You will no longer just attend a work focused interview, you will sign on and get a fortnightly interrogation, so if you have a full time job, hang onto to it dear.

Such things as work focused interviews will look like a fairytale compared to the conditionality in store for you under the Welfare Reform Bills proposals.

Being in work is not a safeguard against DWP intrusion. There will be in work conditionality as well.

If you do not work enough hours or earn enough money DWP will be well within their rights to haul you into the jobcentre and tell you to increase your hours, get a second job or beg your boss for a pay rise. Yes really! If you do not comply you can be sanctioned (I’ll get to sanctions in a minute). So be afraid, be very afraid.

Now, sanctions. For a first sanctionable offence you can have your benefits stopped completely for a month (4 weeks). You can ask for a hardship payment but you will have to pay that back, it’s not free and won’t be as much as what you would normally receive. For a worse offence you starve for three months, for a serious offence you lose everything for three years. Yes, that’s right, three years! You should also be aware that DWP staff on the frontline are given a quota of how many people they have to refer for a sanction currently, whether those people have committed an offence or not, so you could be completely innocent and still lose out for a month, three months, or three years. Sanctions don’t actually work anyway. There has been much discussion in the commons. Chris Grayling says the Government plan to exclude child and housing costs from any sanctions but still, three years is a long time.

Conditionality does not stop there either. You can be required to improve your personal appearance. Quite what that could entail I do not know. It could be anything from have a bath, washing your clothes or remove your piercings, cut your hair etc. There are no specific details in the bill:

6C Work preparation requirement
(1) In this Act a “work preparation requirement” is a requirement that a
claimant take particular action specified by the Secretary of State for the
purpose of making it more likely in the opinion of the Secretary of State
that the claimant will obtain paid work (or more paid work or betterpaid
work).
(2) The Secretary of State may under subsection (1) specify the time to be
devoted to any particular action.
(3) Action which may be specified under subsection (1) includes in
particular—
(a) attending a skills assessment;
(b) improving personal presentation;
(c) participating in training;
(d) participating in an employment programme;
(e) undertaking work experience or a work placement;
(f) developing a business plan;
(g) any action prescribed for the purpose in subsection (1).

The section above also states you can be forced to undertake work experience/placement. That, I assume, means the work programme. Working for your benefit, essentially for free. (If there’s enough work available for the work programme there’s enough work for a proper job).

There is a clause in the bill which states:

Vouchers
6 (1) This paragraph applies in relation to an award of universal credit where the
calculation of the amount of the award includes, by virtue of any provision
of this Part, an amount in respect of particular costs which a claimant may
incur.
(2) Regulations may provide for liability to pay all or part of the award to be
discharged by means of provision of a voucher.
(3) But the amount paid by means of a voucher may not in any case exceed the
total of the amounts referred to in sub-paragraph (1) which are included in
the calculation of the amount of the award.
(4) For these purposes a voucher is a means other than cash by which a claimant
may to any extent meet costs referred to in sub-paragraph (1) of a particular
description.
(5) A voucher may for these purposes—
(a) be limited as regards the person or persons who will accept it;
(b) be valid only for a limited time.

So ladies and gentlemen, if you are awarded Universal Credit DWP are well within their rights to pay you in vouchers for ‘particular costs which a claimant may incur’. Someone else may know better but as far as I know that could be food, clothing and rent. I had no idea I lived in America. I don’t know if this only applies to special circumstances.

We should not forget changes to the way the CSA works. This applies to those of you who may become a single parent in the future or who have a precarious personal arrangement with a non resident parent (NRP), whether you work or not. The Government originally wanted to charge you £100 up front to access the service (£50 if you’re on benefits). They ‘promised’ to change that to £20. They also want to take between 7% and 12% off every single payment destined for your child(ren) from the NRP. So if your child receives £100 a month from your ex, they will, in reality, only get between £93 and £88 a month instead. The Government will be pocketing the rest. No one knows what’s round the corner, any of you could find yourself bringing up children alone.

Also, if you make a claim while in a couple, an error is made and repayment is required, any claim you make either alone or jointly with someone else will be liable for the repayment if it has not already been repaid.

Being part of a couple does not exempt either of you from conditionality, in work or not. You will both be required to conform to the same rules or face sanctions when your child(ren) are a certain age and when your youngest is 12 you will both be required to work full time, there will be no option for one of you to have part time hours. Welcome to the end of one of you staying at home to care for the children, or being there when they leave for school or return home, there will be no designated care giver, you both have to go to work now. Of course your long hours and lack of family time will be blamed for the ‘feral youth’ but only after lone parents have received a good dose of demonisation first.

No one is sure how childcare will work. Currently working families can claim a childcare element of working tax credit which allows for up to 70% of your childcare costs. The details of future arrangements are not clear.

Personally, I’m bricking it. My plan was to try and work part time when my youngest started school (providing there’s an actual job to have!) but part time is out of the question now to avoid the in work conditionality. I have a 2 choices, pay for childcare (providing I have sociable shifts, I don’t know any childminders who start at 5am!), or I make my oldest child sacrifice her own future to become a substitute parent to her younger brother and sister. That’s the girl who wants to go to college and university and really make something of herself. I could ask her to stop all that and please Mr Iain Duncan Smith by being my unpaid childcare. Or`I could find a rich man willing to take on me and the kids, sell my soul for money. That might please the Government. Decisions, decisions.

Feb 012012
 

Debate was heated today as the House of Commons debated the Lords amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill with Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck, pointing to the similarity between the Tory party and the Nazis. Opposition MPs supported the Lords amendments while conceding the sad reality that the ConDems would likely carry the day. ConDem contributions to the debate exposed ignorance and failure to understand the day-to-day lives of disabled people and the barriers we face.

The Lords amendments rejected the 12-month limit for ESA claimants who are judged capable of working at some stage in the future, Peers voted down plans that would have meant some cancer patients receiving contributory ESA would have been means tested for the benefit after 12 months and they rejected moves to stop disabled young people who have never worked, due to illness or disability, from receiving contributory ESA. The Government was nevertheless determined to push these measures through.

There was much discussion about the arbitrary nature of the 12 month limit and Stephen Timms, Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions, reminded Libdem MPs that their party conference had voted against time-limiting ESA. ConDems defended their position by citing that a 2 year time limit was equally arbitrary. For every example given of individual circumstances where a person in need would potentially be thrown into poverty by the Government’s proposed measures, ConDems explained that such an individual would be placed in the support group of ESA and was therefore irrelevant to the debate on time-limiting for the work related group. Jenny Willott, MP for Cardiff Central, said that assessments were important for getting people into the right ESA groups. When Opposition MPs raised the issue of the notorious inaccuracy of the Work Capability Assessments, the Government Front Bench blamed the WCA system on New Labour, saying that the impact of the changes to the WCA following the Harrington review is not yet measurable and that the accuracy of the current WCA cannot be commented upon.

However we know that the aim of the time-limiting is to get people off benefits. We know that the application of a policy with such an aim is that people are found fit for work when they are not. For the Government to make the savings it wants there will continue to be cases of individuals who are in need and who are denied access to the ESA support group. Stephen Timms quoted figures to show that although 90% of people on contributory Job Seekers Allowance find work within 6 months, only 6% of those on ESA find work within 12 months. Inevitably therefore time-limiting will mean people being denied an income when their inability to find work is due to disability or ill health.

The question of the need to set the 12 month time limit in statute by an Act of Parliament was also questioned. Willott weakly defended this explaining that benefit claimants would welcome the stability to the benefits system that such an Act would ensure. In reality benefit claimants would be better reassured by such an arbitrary and unfair time-limit not being set in stone in legislation in this way. Willott did seek assurances from her front bench colleagues that those affected by the change to ESA would be among the first to be moved onto a universal credit system which aclnowledged that these measures will have a serious detrimental impact on high numbers of disabled people.

Anne Begg expressed exasperation at the inability of the ConDem benches to understand the fundamental difference between being out of work due to being unemployed and due to long term disability or ill health. As a Tory back-bencher cited his own past circumstance of being made redundant with no access to benefits to help him out, Begg explained that there is a clear difference when a person has no prospect of improving their financial circumstances themselves.  She went on to have to explain to Jenny Willott what different benefits payments are for after the MP for Cardiff Central commented that an individual denied ESA would still have access to non means-tested benefits: Begg explained that housing benefit pays for rent, DLA pays for the extra costs that arise from being disabled and that still leaves no income, nothing for clothes or heating or the everyday things we take for granted. The Tories continued to fail to understand the barriers that disabled people face as David Nuttall got close to describing disabled people as benefit scroungers when he commented that his constituents are sick and tired of people making a lifestyle choice of being on benefits.

David Winnick, MP for Walsall North was vehement in his opposition to the Government proposals. He said: “This is indeed a grubby and obnoxious measure” and called on LibDem MPs to vote against the Government, as he would have done had his Government ever tried to introduce such a thing. Winnick quoted the Prime Minister, who said: “People who are sick, who are vulnerable, I want you to know we will always look after you. That is a sign of a civilised society. That is what I believe in”. The Welfare Reform Bill exposes this as a lie.

-Ellen Clifford

Jan 292012
 

Disabled activists from as far away as Edinburgh and Cornwall descended on central London yesterday afternoon determined to make a space for their voices and concerns to be heard.
With the utmost ease 20 wheelchair users were chained up across the road near Oxford Circus bringing the traffic in Regent Street to a total halt. The wheelchair users were supported by many more disabled activists with invisible impairments and supporters from UKUNCUT and Right to Work.
A coach driver who was trying to take passengers to the theatre said he stopped at the traffic lights and then suddenly the coach was trapped and unable to move anywhere. Busses were backed up all along Regent Street for over 2 hours.
It remains wrong that when tax evasion by the wealthy runs at £25 billion and neither the government or opposition parties make any attempt to collect this money disabled people, single parents and unemployed people are being made the scapegoats for the Condems savage and unnecessary austerity cuts.
Disabled people heartened by the success of  yesterday’s actions say this is only the beginning of renewed efforts on their part to have the Welfare Reform Bill overturned, and that even if this is passed their battle against it will continue.
Maria a DPAC supporter said ” we’ve shown today that we aren’t invisible and it’s now time that politicians stop viewing us as vulnerable. We’re not vulnerable and together we can wreak havoc to the streets of London”
More links to press coverage are at https://www.facebook.com/groups/DPAC2011/ and www.dpac.uk.net

 

What needs to be done NOW

More information about the Welfare Reform Bill and how it will push many people including those working on low incomes into destitution and further poverty can be found on DPAC’s website together with a template letter which we are asking people to send to their MPs now asking them to vote against the Welfare Reform Bill in its current form.
On Wednesday February 1st Condem MPs are planning to overturn democracy and vote to ignore amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill passed in the Lords. Please tell your MP this is wrong.
Jan 202012
 

A big thank you to Harpy Marx to let us repost her account of the lobby on here

I attended the vigil and lobby outside Parliament regarding the Welfare Reform Bill and the ongoing attacks on welfare benefits.

Welfare Reform protest

Welfare Reform protesters

Welfare Reform protesters

Welfare Reform protesters

Welfare Reform protesters

Welfare Reform protesters

Welfare Reform protesters - Linda Burnip

Reform Benefit Protestors

Reform Benefit Protestors

First posted at Harpy Marx’s blog

Watch the Guardian video on the previous Welfare Reform protest 12th Jan

As the House of Lords debates amendments to the welfare reform bill, protesters from a range of welfare activist groups such as Single Mothers’ Self Defence, Mad Pride and Right to Work gathered outside to lobby members. They were joined by Labour MP John McDonnell, who called for ‘much more severe and serious opposition’ from the Labour party, in the hope that parts of the bill could be defeated if it comes back to the Commons

Dec 282011
 

JOIN US TO PROTEST AGAINST CUTS TO DISABLED PEOPLE’S BENEFITS AND SERVICES AND THE DESTRUCTION OF OUR NHS ON WHICH ALL OF US WHO ARE NOT MILLIONAIRE POLITICIANS RELY.

 SAY “NO” TO THE WELFARE REFORM BILL,THE DESTRUCTION OF OUR WELFARE STATE AND “NO” TO WORKFARE

What Cuts do Disabled People Face?

▼Closure of the Independent Living Fund supporting those with high support needs, proving that the government’s rhetoric of supporting disabled people is as empty as their souls

▼Movement from Incapacity Benefit to Employment Support Allowance through punitive and unfair compulsory Work Capability Assessments carried out by Atos, a private for-profit company who are declaring those who need 24-hour support and those with terminal cancer ‘fit for work’ in order to meet government targets and reduce disabled peoples’ income drastically

▼VAT increases and benefit rates linked to CPI not RPI which is likely to cost disabled people an extra £800 per annum.

▼Cuts to social care budgets, cuts to housing support, cuts to Access to Work programme (helping disabled people with any equipment they might need to compete on an equal basis with non disabled employees), constant attacks on disabled peoples’ integrity by the Tories and others suggesting we’re not really disabled but ‘just pretending’ to get meagre benefits which they’re going to abolish anyway

Where – LEAMINGTON SPA, WARWICKSHIRE

 

At CHRIS WHITE, MP’s office, 43a CLEMENS STREET, OLD TOWN,  CV31 2DP, not far from railway station.

 

When – Friday, JANUARY 20th, meet outside constituency office at 1pm.

 

www.dpac.uk.net,   mail@dpac.uk.net, http://twitter.com/Dis_PPL_Protest

Dec 132011
 

A contribution to the debate on campaigning by a Socialist Party member active in the disabled Peoples’ movement

Following The Hardest Hit campaign’s dozen regional marches and rallies on 22 October where more than 5,000 disabled people, family carers and supporters demonstrated against the Con-Dem’s Welfare Reform Bill, its next ‘action’ on Tuesday 13 December is to send a giant Christmas card to David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

The card has been illustrated by Gerald Scarfe, partner of Jane Asher who as president of Arthritis Care was prominent on The Hardest Hit’s London demo on 11 May.

About 20,000 signatures or messages will be included in the card, double the original target.

The card reads:

Dear David Cameron and Nick Clegg, While we don’t expect gifts this Christmas, we do want our basic rights protected and the support to enable us to live independently and with dignity.

             Please make the New Year something disabled people can look forward to by:

  • Not bringing in an arbitrary time-limit on Employment and Support Allowance for those who’ve paid into the system and still need support.
  • Making sure that those who rely on Disability Living Allowance continue to receive the financial support they need through Personal Independence Payment.

Those disabled people who have signed the card physically or online did so because they support its message, but what is noticeable is both the limited demands and ambition of the charity directors and disabled activists running this campaign.

The Welfare Reform Bill is a continuation of neoliberal policies that have been promoted by successive Tory and New Labour governments since the 1980s, only the scope of this one is much broader as Cameron, Clegg and Osborne attempt to do what Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown never dared and cut the welfare budget by £18 billion.

If passed in its present form, the bill will:

  • Introduce Universal Credit which on paper promises a simpler benefits system but will witness caps on housing benefit and other payments. 133,000 households in London will soon be unable to afford their rent, many of whom will be disabled people or carers.
  • Introduce a much stricter sanctions regime with the loss of benefits for up to 3 years, a risk particularly to people with learning disabilities or mental health needs who find it difficult to cope with the demands of looking for work at the same time as having little prospect of finding employment.
  • Replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) with the explicit aim of cutting entitlement by 20%.
  • Time limit contributions-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) to one year, therefore from April 2012 people who were assessed even by the brutal Work Capability Assessment (WCA) as being unfit for work could find themselves on Jobseekers Allowance.
  • Abolish the discretionary Social Fund, Community Care grants and most crisis loans, with responsibility being placed on local authorities to provide alternative support.

Combined with the current programme to abolish incapacity benefit for 1.5 million, cuts in housing, social care and health services, the closure of the Independent Living Fund and huge increases in the cost of utility bills and essentials, the future for disabled people and their families looks bleak if the Welfare Reform Bill becomes law.

Limited Demands

The Hardest Hit campaign has for some months called upon the coalition government to: improve the WCA run by Atos Origin; abandon the plans to time-limit ESA; ensure Universal Credit recognises the additional costs of living with an impairment or disability; and make sure no disabled person loses his or her independence when PIPs are introduced.

It also confusingly combines these with a list of four things it wants to achieve: no cuts to services vital to disabled people; and the government to ensure that changes to DLA do not make disabled people worse off, that ESA works by improving the assessment process, and for the welfare system to support people with the additional costs of living with a disability.

What is striking about the two demands in the Christmas card is they are even more limited than the ambitions above.

Following an independent review by the peer Lord Low that was funded by Mencap and Leonard Cheshire Disability, the government has announced that mobility allowances will not be taken away from those disabled people living in residential care when PIPs are introduced.

But more significantly, following a second review of the WCA by Professor Malcolm Harrington, employment minister Chris Grayling has accepted its recommendations.

These include giving more discretion to Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) officers when making benefit decisions following the WCA ostensibly to reduce the number of successful appeals, ‘improved support’ for people pushed onto Jobseeker’s Allowance, and working with disability groups to help develop guidance for Atos Origin staff and DWP decision-makers.

It is vital the organisations involved in The Hardest Hit campaign distance themselves from any measures that support the continuation of the WCA.

The fear for activists is that the failure to even mention the limited demand of improving the WCA in their Christmas card is because The Hardest Hit campaign believes Harrington’s recommendations satisfy this.

Given that the simplistic, function-based questionnaire that makes up the WCA was introduced by New Labour as part of a policy to drive one million off incapacity benefits, and the WCA process will be used as a model for the reassessment of mobility and care benefits when PIPs are introduced from 2013, any demand short of the scrapping of the WCA would be a betrayal of both the thousands who marched on 22 October and the million plus whose income will be slashed by it.

Missed opportunity

Unfortunately, from the start the Hardest Hit campaign has failed to weld the enormous anger amongst disabled people and family carers against the Tory/Liberal coalition’s programme of benefit and public service cuts into a mass campaign to stop the Welfare Reform Bill.

The thousands who demonstrated in London on 11 May and across Britain on 22 October could and should have been organised into campaign groups in towns and cities across Britain.

The Hardest Hit campaign has been top down and focused on trying to amend the Welfare Reform Bill in the House of Lords rather than calling for it to be thrown out.

We have even witnessed in November the widely-respected independent peer Jane Campell arguing for the term Disability Living Costs Allowance to be used instead of Personal Independence Payments, instead of using her authority to condemn the Tory/Liberal proposals outright.

Whatever name is used won’t change the fact that hundreds of thousands will lose mobility and care benefits to achieve a 20% cut.

In its publicity material for their Christmas card, The Hardest Hit campaign says: ‘The Welfare Reform Bill is now making its way through the final stages in Parliament.

The next month provides us with our last real opportunity as a sector to influence the bill and we need to make our next action BIG and LOUD.’

Whilst some further concessions may be won in the next week, unless a mass campaign is built now to stop the Welfare Reform Bill, what will be introduced from next April will have a profound impact on the lives of disabled people and their families.

If it becomes law, the one thing though that will be BIG and LOUD will be the questions asked by many disabled people and family carers as to why more was not done to oppose such an obscene piece of legislation.

The Hardest Hit campaign

Some left-wing disabled activists have refused to take part in The Hardest Hit demonstrations, primarily because of the involvement of the Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD) charity.

But this position ignores the central role played by the United Kingdom Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC) in The Hardest Hit campaign, with a new generation attending their first demonstrations becoming aware of UKDPC’S existence for the first time.

The opposition to LCD’s involvement stems from its role in developing and maintaining residential homes for disabled adults over the last sixty years.

A small layer of activists in the 1970s and 80s who were influential in the development of the disabled people’s movement in Britain were themselves residents in Leonard Cheshire homes because there were no alternatives in the community for people with complex conditions at the time.

Their long struggle to live independently forged for themselves and the broader movement they influenced a very strong opposition to the segregation of disabled people in social care, education and broader society.

While there are historical roots to the opposition to LCD’s involvement, it was mistake for some disabled activists and their organisations not to participate in The Hardest Hit demonstrations for this reason.

This isolated them from a new layer of disabled people on their first demonstration that they could have influenced with leaflets and other political material.

We do though need to recognise that at a national level the directors and leading trustees of some large disability charities see public sector cuts and the privatisation of services as an opportunity to expand their business side.

However, many thousands of disabled people and family carers who are members of these charities also currently look to them and The Hardest Hit campaign as the best option to defend their benefits and services against cuts.

It is vital the disabled people’s movement builds a bold, energetic campaign against both welfare ‘reform’ and the public sector cuts.

Particularly by developing a programme that articulates the day-to-day concerns and issues facing family carers and disabled of all ages and impairments.

But it is essential that such a campaign explains the neoliberal origins of welfare reform, the privatisation of public services, and attacks on pay, pensions and conditions.

In particular, the way the capitalist class are increasing their wealth at the expense of the working class and middle layers in society, producing contradictions such as 25,700 excess deaths of older people due to cold weather in 2010/11 whilst the top 1% enjoy their rich lifestyles.

Such an approach will help disabled people and family carers to develop the confidence to challenge those in both the impairment based charities and the disability movement who prefer to compromise or openly collaborate with the Tory/Liberal coalition’s agenda rather than face up to the task of building a mass campaign against cuts to services and benefits.

The disabled people’s movement must also be wary of being used by Ed Miliband’s Labour Party and as a minimum it should demand it drops its support for welfare reform and commit itself to opposing all benefit and public sector cuts.

But the natural allies for the disabled people’s movement are the millions of public sector workers who are moving into action to defend public services and their pay and pensions.

If the full resources of the trade union movement had been mobilised in support of The Hardest Hit demonstrations on 22 October they could have been many times larger.

It is also vital for disabled activists to develop links with trade unions at all levels if a movement to stop welfare reform is to be built.

Although The Hardest Hit campaign is likely to continue in some form after the Welfare Reform Bill is passed, it is questionable whether it will be more than just publicity stunts or a vain attempt to convince the better nature of MPs of all persuasions that their support for the worst aspects of welfare reform and public sector cuts is wrong.

Disabled people’s movement

However if the Welfare Reform Bill is passed largely in its current form it is likely to lead to a serious debate about the role played by disabled people’s organisations since the government coalition came to power.

Some organisations at a local level such as Inclusion London and the Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People have opposed the Con-Dem’s cuts from the start, and used their resources to both explain in detail the implications for disabled people and mobilise support for The Hardest Hit demonstrations.

The strong opposition of disabled people’s organisations at a local level certainly influenced the decision of the United Kingdom Disabled People’s Council to call the meeting in January that initiated The Hardest Hit campaign.

Unfortunately, while thousands have been mobilised on The Hardest Hit demonstrations, the UKDPC made a serious mistake by allowing this campaign to develop a limited set of demands based on a strategy of amending the welfare reform bill in the House of Lords.

It also maintains a misguided confidence in the role the Human Rights Act can play in defending disabled people’s rights – when in July the retired prima ballerina Elaine McDonald lost her Supreme Court case to defend her need for overnight care arguments in support of her human rights were a very blunt weapon.

The UKDPC is faced with considerable financial pressures and has historically relied on project grants from charitable trusts and government programmes.

Increasingly this kind of funding is linked to support for neoliberal policies and practices, placing considerable pressure on the ability of disabled people’s organisations to maintain principled rights-based work.

But the UKDPC is still seen by a majority of disabled activists as the national representative organisation for the disabled people’s movement.

It is vital though that it develops a programme independent of those charities and disability organisations that are prepared to support the privatisation of public services.

While funding itself and conferences to encourage debate amongst disabled people will always be a challenge, the UKDPC can potentially play a historical role in helping to build mass opposition to the Con-Dem cuts.

But the UKDPC needs to develop stronger links with the trade union movement at all levels and look to its considerable resources for support.

RADAR/Disability Rights UK

Whilst the UKDPC has emerged from The Hardest Hit campaign with increased authority, the opposite is true of RADAR, the Royal Association for Disability Rights.

At the same time as disabled people and family carers were becoming aware of what the Con-Dem cuts would mean for them and marching in their thousands on 11 May, RADAR’s chief executive Liz Sayce was carrying out an ‘independent’ review of supported employment services.

This was commissioned by the Tory/Liberal coalition as part of George Osborne’s Autumn 2010 spending review, and Sayce had the support of a team from the DWP.

When published in June 2011, the Sayce Review disgracefully included proposals to remove government funding from residential training colleges and the closure of the Remploy factories that could lead to more than 2,500 disabled workers being thrown on the dole.

Sayce’s review “is supportive of the direction of travel towards a simplified welfare state and the introduction of a new Universal Credit” and therefore supports a key component of the welfare reform bill.

So when thousands marched on 11 May to oppose this legislation, Sayce and RADAR were already giving it their tacit support. With a friend like Liz who needs enemies?

Sayce is now the chief executive of Disability Rights UK, a recent merger of RADAR, Disability Alliance and the National Centre for Independent Living.

When minister for disabled people Maria Miller announced on 13 December 2010 the closure of the Independent Living Fund on the grounds it was “financially unsustainable” – news to its 21,000 disabled users – she said the government had “consulted informally with disability organisations”.

The fact that representatives of NCIL and Disability Alliance were among these, and met Miller on the day of her statement, doesn’t suggest they will temper RADAR/Disability Rights UK’s cosy relationship with the Con-Dem government.

Disability Rights UK will continue to support Radiate, a network of disabled ‘high-flyers’ set up by RADAR.

While Disability Rights UK will attract support from the 1% of disabled people trying to break through the ‘glass ceiling’, the 99% who are locked in the basement and don’t know what the glass ceiling looks like will develop a deep mistrust of Disability Rights UK or any other organisation for that matter that fails to fight against cuts to benefits and public services.

Disabled People Against Cuts

One positive development in the last year has been the emergence of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and campaign groups such as Black Triangle in Scotland.

While DPAC was mistaken in its decision not to participate in The Hardest Hit campaign, it has been important in the organisation of demonstrations that have successfully highlighted the impact of the brutal WCA run by Atos Origin for both New Labour and the Tory/Liberal governments.

DPAC’s first conference in October was attended by about 65 activists and demonstrates the potential this group has to organise not just dozens but hundreds of disabled people if it can successfully establish local campaigning groups across Britain.

As well as electing a steering committee and establishing a number of working groups, DPAC is developing a Charter of Rights for Disabled People.

This will articulate a broad range of demands that reflect the many issues arising from disabled people’s day-to-day experience of discrimination, exclusion and poverty.

It is vital that this Charter also sets out an explanation as to why neoliberal policies such as welfare ‘reform’, the privatisation of public services and the contraction of social care have been adopted by successive Tory and New Labour governments.

In particular, it needs to argue that the defence of services, benefits and what few rights disabled people have in the ‘age of austerity’ is inextricably linked to the success or failure of the anti-cuts movement – a struggle disabled people and family carers should play a central role in.

Finally, for socialists within both the trade union and disabled people’s movements, a key task in the next period is to link the defence of family carers and disabled people’s services, benefits and rights to the need to fight for a socialist society based on meeting social need rather than creating profit for a greedy minority.


The Socialist Party calls for:

  • No cuts in benefits, jobs and public services.
  • Mobilise now to stop the Welfare Reform Bill through a united campaign involving disabled people and carers’ organisations, trade unions and the anti-cuts movement.
  • Decent benefits, education, training or work for all, without compulsion.
  • No privatisation of services. Take back in-house all privatised services.
  • Sack Atos Origin and scrap the Work Capability Assessment.
  • A living wage and provision of respite services for all family carers.
  • Provide free health and social care services to all who need them.
  • Central government and councils to stop using children and family members as a substitute for professional social services.
  • A national campaign to save the Independent Living Fund.
  • Oppose the closure of the Remploy factories – expand them to create employment for both disabled and non-disabled people.
  • Massive investment in social housing, services and infrastructure to create jobs and meet need
  • A mass movement against all cuts and further coordinated trade union action to oppose cuts in pensions, jobs and pay if needed.
  • For a socialist society that puts the needs of the millions before the profits of the millionaires.

Source: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/13319/09-12-2011/fighting-for-disabled-peoples-rights

 

 

 

Sep 212011
 

The Labour party conference starts in Liverpool on Saturday. As we all know, Labour were the architects of Employment Support Allowance and the ‘not fit for purpose’ Work Capability Assessment which is so stressful and traumatic it was linked to the suicide of claimants whilst Labour were still in power. The Labour party are the official party of opposition, but they are not opposing the Welfare Reform Bill as they should be and seem to have forgotten that the 10 million sick and or disabled people plus carers, friends and family in the UK have the power to vote. It is time for us to remind Labour that they will not get any of our votes if they do not start to oppose the parts of the Welfare Reform Bill set to return sick people, disabled people and carers to a life of desperation, dependency, despair and charity.

We are asking you to help with a mass email to the Labour party to remind them of our voting power. Please include the following details in your email and send it to Ed Miliband, Margaret Curran (shadow minister for disability) and Liam Byrne (shadow minister for DWP). If you have time please also email it to any Labour MP and particularly any members of the shadow cabinet. We have provided a list of email contacts below.

Please aim to send your email at 11am tomorrow (Thursday the 22nd September) If you can’t send the email at 11am, don’t worry, just please try to send it at any time between then and the end of Labour party conference on Wednesday 29th September.

The email subject  should read “Your Silence Is Deafening”

We suggest embedding a link to this youtube video “The Sound of Silence” To embed the video into your email just copy and paste the link below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvsX03LOMhI

Then please copy the following text into your email;

Dear (insert name here)

‘The 10 million disabled people in this country plus their carers, relatives and friends are watching what your party do in relation to disability issues and wondering why you seem uninterested in trying to get their votes by opposing the savage attacks against disabled people being made by the Coalition government. During conference season we wish to remind you, the architects of Employment and Support Allowance to ‘never fall ill, never grow old, never become disabled’ (and never become a carer), for if you do, as we have found, not even Labour will speak up for you.’

If you would like to add a short, personal message explaining to Labour how you feel about their lack of support for sick, disabled people and carers then please include it after the suggested text. You might also like to include a photo of yourself, or perhaps a photo of what disability, sickness or caring means to you. Don’t worry if you don’t want to personalise the email, sending the suggested text is fine.

Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 4778
ed.miliband.mp@parliament.uk

Shadow Secretary of State for Work & Pensions

Liam Byrne

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 6953
Fax: 020 7219 1431
byrnel@parliament.uk

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 8102
Fax: 020 7219 6656
margaret.curran.mp@parliament.uk

Shadow Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities

Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP

coopery@parliament.uk

Shadow Chief Secretary

Angela Eagle

eaglea@parliament.uk

Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills

John Denham

denhamj@parliament.uk

Cabinet Office and Minister for the Olympics

Tessa Jowell

jowellt@parliament.uk

Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Caroline Flint

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 4407
Fax: 020 7219 1277
caroline.flint.mp@parliament.uk

Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport

Ivan Lewis

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 2609
lewisi@parliament.uk

Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Hilary Benn

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 5770
hilary.benn.mp@parliament.uk

Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

Jim Murphy

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 4615
Fax: 020 7219 5657
jimmurphymp@parliament.uk

Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Mary Creagh

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 6984/020 7219 8766
Fax: 020 7219 4257
creaghm@parliament.uk

Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Election Coordinator

Andy Burnham

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 8250
andy.burnham.mp@parliament.uk

Shadow Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Justice

Sadiq Khan

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 6967
Fax: 020 7219 6477
sadiqkhanmp@parliament.uk

Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Meg Hillier

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 5325
Fax: 020 7219 8768
meghilliermp@parliament.uk

Shadow Secretary of State for Health

John Healey

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 6359
Fax: 020 7219 2451
healeyj@parliament.uk

Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Shaun Woodward

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 2680
woodwardsh@parliament.uk

Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

Ann McKechin

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 8239
Fax: 020 7219 1770
ann.mckechin.mp@parliament.uk

Constituency

Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

Maria Eagle

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 4019
Fax: 020 7219 1157
eaglem@parliament.uk

Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

Peter Hain

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 3925
Fax: 020 7219 3816
hainp@parliament.uk

Steven Timms MP

timmss@parliament.uk
stephen@stephentimms.org.uk

Karen Buck MP

buckk@parliament.uk

Sep 172011
 

I recently learned that the Welfare Reform Bill – which is currently being debated in the House of Lords – was having the debate moved to a smaller not so disabled accessible committee room.

Concerned about this I e-mailed the members of the House of Lords (some of whom are themselves disabled) – about getting the debate back in the House of Lords where disabled Lords and disabled members of the public would have access to debating or viewing the proceedings.

Thinking on – it occurred to me that surely the minister for disabled people (Maria Miller mp) would be concerned that disabled people were not being able to access a bill that affects them substantially and directly and also surely it is her job to ensure disabled access – no matter what the bill.

Thus I e-mailed Maria Miller at  maria.miller.mp@parliament.uk with this

‘Dear Ms Miller

As minister for disabled I would like for you to ensure that the debate concerning the welfare reform bill remains accessible to the disabled many of whom will be hugely affected by the changes suggested within it.

Please read this blog.

http://thebrokenofbritain.blogspot.com/2011/09/urgent-appeal-for-action-now.html

As a representative of the disabled community I am sure you would want us to have equal access – thank you for your help with this.

Kind Regards’

the reply I received was

‘Maria Miller MP

Basingstoke

Thank you for your email, if you live within the parliamentary constituency of Basingstoke please make sure your message contains

Full name

Address, including Postcode

Day time telephone number

If you are contacting me in my capacity as Minister for Disabled People please resend your email to

ministers@dwp.gsi.gov.uk’

and then later

‘Thank you for your email to Maria Miller MP. As the issues you raise relate to Maria’s responsibilities as Minister at the Department for Work and Pensions, I have forwarded your email to her Ministerial Office for attention. The email address to use for future reference is ministers@dwp.gsi.gov.uk
Kind regards
Anastasia’
I then received a generic response from the dwp!
Now how on earth and why on earth is a minister for disabilities job/post within the dwp? and is it not her job to ensure disabled access for all at the Houses of Parliament?
The reply I got from the dwp, which does not address the point I raised regarding disabled access – but just goes on to wibble about ministers being too busy to reply – that this fits into their remit and a wibble about how all the changes in the WRB are good for the sick and disabled and carers are all great for us!!! lol!! I wish!
The only results I can draw from this correspondence is that the minister for disabled people is not a minister for disabled people at all – but a dwp minister and that there is no minister for disabled people – not even for those disabled people in The House of Lords!!!
Cross posted with thanks from Twisted News
Sep 152011
 

After all the fuss of the Welfare Reform Bill in the house of lords yesterday I wasn’t expecting much for a couple of weeks when it will reach committee stage. However, I woke up today to find that the government had tabled a motion in the lords to send the bill to the grand committee, held in a side room.

This is in fact the normal procedure for legislation moving through parliament. The committee stage is where the bill is examined line-by-line and objections from the debate at the second reading turn into amendments to the bill before it goes back to the house for the report stage and the third reading. Parliament’s own web page states:

Any Bill can be referred to a Committee of the whole House but the procedure is normally reserved for finance Bills and other important, controversial legislation.

So you can see, controversial bills are supposed to be debated by a “committee of the whole house” rather than a “grand committee.” As one lord stated in the debate today, no one can argue that this legislation is not controversial. The peers have stated over and over again during debate that they have been inundated with letters, emails, and phone calls from people concerned about this bill. They show surprise at the scale of concern shown to them. Unfortunately, despite a heated debate this afternoon in the end the lords voted 263 to 211 to pass the motion and move the bill to the Grand Committee. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats voted for the motion, and Labour voted against it. Some of the reasons given were that it would block up the chamber and delay the passage of other bills, and that too many people would want to speak in the debate and it would take too long. (Yes, really! Democracy apparently takes too long.) One lady stated that several of the bills going through parliament are really three bills in one, and that of course it would take longer. (As an aside, I would urge you to look up Shock Doctrine for reasons as to why changes are being made so quickly.)

The difference between the two options for committee stage are quite important, I think. Here’s the official description of the committee stage:

Line by line examination of the Bill

Detailed line by line examination of the separate parts (clauses and schedules) of the Bill takes place during committee stage. Any Member of the Lords can take part.

Committee stage can last for one or two days to eight or more. It usually starts no fewer than two weeks after the second reading.

Before committee stage takes place

The day before committee stage starts, amendments are published in a Marshalled List – in which all the amendments are placed in order.

Amendments on related subjects are grouped together and a list (“groupings of amendments”) is published on the day.

What happens at committee stage?

Every clause of the Bill has to be agreed to and votes on the amendments can take place.

All proposed amendments (proposals for change) can be discussed and there is no time limit – or guillotine – on discussion of amendments.

What happens after committee stage?

If the Bill has been amended it is reprinted with all the agreed amendments.

At the end of committee stage, the Bill moves to report stage for further examination.

Here is the critical part though:

Grand Committee

The proceedings are identical to those in a Committee of the Whole House except that no votes may take place.

As compared to:

Committee of the whole House

In the House of Lords the committee stage of a Bill usually takes place in the Lords Chamber and any Member can take part. The Committee may choose to vote on any amendment and all Members present can vote.

So you can see, apart from being in a less-accessible room, with space for far fewer peers to discuss the bill and no public gallery, sending a bill to the Grand Committee also means that the amendments cannot be voted on individually. I think, on the whole, this can be viewed as a bad thing. Even worse, though; in the Committee Of The Whole Chamber, voting on amendments would enable a majority vote to fix some of the worse points. Instead, the Grand Committee must agree unanimously on an amendment which means that just one person siding with the government can block any attempt to fix this bill.

However, please keep sending your messages to peers. They have noticed our objections, and we can’t let up now. Details are on my blog.

Jul 172011
 

The Government has been forced to delay the 2nd Reading of the flagship Bill in the Lords due to peers’ concerns over the people affected.

Department of Work and Pensions is suggesting other business has blocked progress but the surprise postponement till September from Tuesday will also give the Government time to lobby peers and answer the queries raised in Disability Alliance’s legal challenge.
from http://www.disabilityalliance.org/welreform5.htm

Also at http://www.24dash.com/news/housing/2011-07-15-Governments-Welfare-Reform-Bill-delayed#.