Jun 052017
 

DPAC has today launched a series of short films for the final week of the #GE2017 election campaign. The films, generously produced for us by Tough and Rumble media production company, aim to expose the reality of so-called welfare reform and why this election matters so much to Deaf and Disabled People.

The series of four films have been published on the #DPAC Facebook page – please watch and share far and wide.

Here are the four films, please watch then and then share them far and wide:

David’s Story

Jenny Sealey’s Story


Andria’s Story

Jenny Hurst’s Story

You can also watch footage from the film preview Q & A with film-maker Anthony Swords and discussion with disability campaigner Jenny Hurst and DPAC’s Paula Peters which was held last night in the marginal constituency of Croydon Central.

 

May 162013
 

Organising in our communities, struggling for change
A practical day working towards mass grass roots resistance and beyond

Loads of us are involved in a wide range of struggles and campaigns, but we tend to do our own thing and generally don’t link up with others who live or work near us. Many others hate the present system but don’t know where to start to change things. So what do we do?

In order to create an alternative and to build the kind of society we want to see we need to start from the grassroots. One of many things we need to do is to organise in our streets, estates, workplaces and communities.

We need to link existing campaigns that are geographically and issue wise near to each other. We need to try to develop local groups throughout the country – although for this event we are only looking at London.

So, on June 8th we want to get anybody who is or wants to organise locally in London together to discuss how we can move things forward. Everyone has something to contribute and skills to share, whether you’re actively involved with struggles in your community or workplace or you’re just looking for somewhere to start.

Sat June 8th 10 am – 5 pm Resource for London, 356 Holloway Road, London N7 6PA (Map and directions at www.resourceforlondon.org )

For more information about the event or to get involved in organising it contact us at: event@radicallondon.net

Apr 042013
 

With austerity Armageddon about to hit, the Tories have been on a calculated and cynical media offensive that confirms just how nasty these millionaire scumbags really are.

Sadly the range of vile attacks on disabled people that Monday ushered in were no April Fool. Over the past few years of ConDem assault on our rights and entitlements we have suffered the notorious Work Capability Assessment, cruelly designed and brutally run by private company Atos with the aim of pushing disabled people off benefits and the income they need to survive. Disabled people found fit for work related activity have been pushed into workfare and then sanctioned when they have been unable meet the conditions of their placements. To add insult to injury the harassment and destitution of disabled people has been justified by a narrative repeated and enflamed with relish by the right wing media that paints benefit claimants as scroungers and has led to a rise in hostilities towards disabled people and an increase in disability hate crime.

Now a whole host of new benefit changes and cutbacks are about to hit including:

–          The bedroom tax (or ‘under-occupation penalty’)

–          The end of Council tax support

–          The benefit cap

–          The scrapping of Disability Living Allowance and reassessment for Personal Independence Payments

–          The introduction of Universal Credit

–          The closure of the Independent Living Fund

Meanwhile benefits have only been uprated by 1% which is far below the rate of inflation.

Meanwhile legal aid for welfare cases has ceased which will leave many claimants unable to access representation to appeal decisions.

Before this government came into power disabled people were twice as likely as non-disabled people to live in poverty. Discrimination and prejudice against disabled people was rife in every aspect of live from unequal access to healthcare to discrimination in the workplace to prevalence of abuse and all too frequent occurrences of disability related murders.

This is the group of people the Tories have taken on and deliberately targeted to bear the brunt of the cuts. By 2015 over just five years disabled people will have lost more than 28 billion pounds in welfare while the poorest 21% of the population are carrying 39% of the cuts. For disabled people with the highest level of support need they are being hit 19 times harder than the average person in this country. After the new range of cuts hit even more people will be left with 0 or even minus income, dependent on food banks they cannot get to, facing eviction from their homes.

All of this is far from fair or decent.

The Tories therefore have to make a special effort to justify what they are doing and over Easter weekend we have had to endure the most sickening display of Tories at their worst. The frontbench, and Esther McVey, have been paraded one by one through the media pulling out their usual range of dirty tricks but with an audacity that, despite all we have been through, is yet able to shock.

On Saturday Esther McVey, Minister for Disabled People, denied people are disabled. On Sunday Grant Schapps pulled out Employment and Support Allowance figures as evidence of the success of welfare reform, celebrating how few claimants had been found eligible for the full benefit while endlessly repeating the mantra that people are being freed from a life trapped on benefits (freed by being pushed to their deaths?). On Monday Iain Duncan Smith assured everyone he could live on £53 a week if he had to. Then today George Osbourne talked at low paid workers in an attempt to stir up hatred against benefit claimants (while at the same time his government is looking to reduce the minimum wage).

The lowest point came with the release of the Daily Mail’s front page for 3rd April which cites the conviction of benefit claimant Mick Philpott for the manslaughter of his children as proof that the welfare system in the UK is broken (‘Vileproduct of Welfare UK’). As if everyone who claims child benefit turns into a murderer. It’s also not just disabled people and unemployed people who claim benefits, an increasing number of low paid workers are reliant on benefits as rents and costs rise while wages are drive down by schemes like workfare.

The timing of the Philpott court case and judgment that led to this story breaking is no coincidence. We know that the government uses the right wing to its advantage feeding in misrepresented statistics on ESA and DLA, but to use the tragic deaths of six children at the hands of an abusive father to score political points is just truly nasty.

It also shows that the Tories are scared.

We cannot let them dominate the news with misrepresented figures and statistics, stirring up hatred against disabled people and division between workers and claimants.

We must fight back.

Evict a Millionnaire – 13th April 2013 www.ukuncut.org.uk

Benefit Justice Summit 2 – 11th May, Westminster Central Hall, 11am  benefitjustice@gmail.com

To make a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission cite the demonisation and outright harrasment of benefit claimants as apparently taste and decency are not sufficient grounds for a complaint: http://www.pcc.org.uk/complaints/makingacomplaint.html

 

Oct 032012
 

1. The issue of how we support and enable citizens with independent living /social care needs is one of the key domestic issues of the 21 century. As such we call on all political parties to give this issue the attention and urgency it deserves.

 2. The aims, outcomes and actions detailed in the ‘Improving life chances for disabled people[1]’ and the ‘Independent living strategy[2]’ remain the best way of achieving equality for disabled people. As such we call on all political parties to re-iterate their agreement and obligations under these strategies, in particular:

a)To achieving full equality for disabled people by 2025

b)Each locality to have a user led organisation modelled on Centres for Independent Living.

c)Supporting independent living work towards a new approach that delivers support, equipment and/or adaptations according to need.

d)More coherent and explicit standards to be developed bringing legislation and other rights into a coherent framework for improving the life chances of disabled people.

e)The need to identify the benefits of delivering Independent Living to wider society including the economic case for investment in Independent Living support.

 3.Adequate funding, from general taxation and national insurance contributions should be allocated and ring fenced for independent living / social care support. This funding must be recognised as key to upholding the rights of disabled peoples’ inclusion. Support for disabled people should be free at the point of delivery.

4.DPAC completely oppose the abolition of the Independent Living Fund (ILF). The ILF should be developed to become a national, strategic centre of excellence for independent living based on the needs, interests and human rights of disabled people. The Centre would deliver independent living support to disabled people of all ages and all impairments and be co-produced with ILF users,  disabled people and their organisations 

5.   The ILF model helps the government meet its obligations to uphold disabled people’s rights under UNCRDP especially the obligations under article 19[3].

6.   The ILF works! It has a proven track record in delivering independent living support at a cost far lower than that of Local Authorities (2% overhead costs[4] compared to 16% for Local Authorities)

 7.DPAC calls for this current flawed and inaccessible consultation on the ILF to be halted and the government instead to set up an independent ILF task force made of ILF users, ILF themselves with significant representation from disabled peoples organisations. The task force must be operated independently of the ODI, DWP with a resourced remit to carry out needs led review of ILF within the wider framework of independent living and social care support.

 8.DPAC will only support changes to the current system which benefit disabled people’s right to live independently such as changes to the ILF trust dead, extension of ILF to new applicants, and the removal of charging for support from the Extension Fund. DPAC will continue to highlight the negative aspects of DILNOT recommendations.

 

Supporting independent living and value for money

 9.The £250 million currently spent on supporting 20,000 disabled people with the highest support needs is just 0.004% of GDP[5]. (This equates to an average per person of £241.00 per week or £35 per day).  This funding should be viewed with pride as both an indicator of the success of the ILF but also as an investment that:

 

a)   enables disabled people with the highest support needs to have real choice and control over their lives and in doing so contribute to, and take part in, society.

b)   is key to disabled people maintaining independence, social networks, health and well-being. Without this funding disabled people’s needs will escalate resulting in higher cost crisis health and residential interventions ‘further down the line’

c)   creates jobs – there are many thousands of personal assistance jobs created by the ILF

10. DPAC opposes the abolition of the ILF and the transfer of its functions to L.A’s on the following grounds:

11. The ILF is a proven and cost effective mechanism for providing support to disabled people with the highest support needs. It has running and overheads costs of just 2%[6] compared to 16% for L.A. social care services.

12. ILF has many of the characteristics of an excellent          independent living support service that L.A’s lack including:

a)   a needs- led independent approach to support unlike L.A’s social care services which increasingly operate first and foremost as gate keeping systems that ration and limit access to social care

b)   an in-depth expertise on independent living issues particularly in relation to supporting disabled people with high support needs

c)   a key aim of providing monies for personal assistants to enable independent living and the full inclusion of disabled people with the highest support needs

d)   portability of support packages – enabling disabled people to move easily like non disabled people without fear of losing support

e)   minimum overheads and bureaucracy that is valued by disabled people using the ILF users which results in running/overhead costs of just 3%

f)    a national eligibility criteria that is the basis for a consistent and equitable service.

The potential impact of the transfer of ILF functions to Local Authorities:

13. There is evidence to show  that without additional or replacement ring fenced funding to maintain ILF support packages the impact on mainstream LA social care funding will mean: 

a)   L.A’s will have little choice but to limit social care support to those with critical needs thereby denying the vast majority of disabled people the support they need to maintain decent, healthy and active lives.

 b)   Local Authorities are increasingly focussed upon essential basic care, not upon full independent living for their service users. Care is, often confined to meeting only critical needs, other than when engaged in a joint package with the ILF. So for disabled people with high support needs , ring fenced funding, external leverage and a dedicated programme are needed, which is impossible to operate within Local Authorities. 

14. The vast majority of disabled people who get ILF support are likely to see their support packages dramatically cut on transfer to the L.A resulting in less choice and control than they currently experience.

15. It will also mean an increase in non-voluntarily moves to residential care with all the attendant risks of abuse, neglect and removal of rights that this entails. Many disabled people will then be at further risk as they attempt to remain at home with inadequate support.

The reasons cited by the government for transferring ILF functions to LA’s simply do not stand up to scrutiny

16. The transformation of L.A social care into a system of    personalised support cited by the government as a key    justification for transferring functions to L.A’s is simply not the        experience of disabled people accessing or trying to access    L.A social care support.

 17. Our experience backed up by research shows a very     different picture:

a)   L.A social care services are increasingly operating first and foremost as gate keeping systems that seek at all stages to ration and limit access to social care. This is further exacerbated by the postcode lottery.

b)   access to social care is increasingly only given to meet very basic personal care needs and these needs are met by increasingly prescribed and rationed services, for example the now notorious 15 minute ‘home care’ visits, that are removing all choice and control from disabled people.  

c)   that the aims and outcomes envisaged by the development and piloting of personal budgets have simply not been achieved . Around 47%[7] of disabled and older people are still without a personal budget and while numbers recorded by LAs to be on personal budgets grows, numbers in receipt of Direct Payments has stalled[8]. The freedoms envisaged by personal budgets have not materialised. L.A’s have in the main retained the control (and the 16% overhead costs) that were meant to be transferred to the disabled person. 

d)   The investment in local user led disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) which were seen as a key mechanism for delivering personalised support, has not taken place. Funding for DPOs and independent Direct Payment and personal budget support has been disproportionately cut. Research by Inclusion London in 2011 found that 1 in 5 DDPOs in London expected to close by end of 2013.[9] 

e)   Current government proposals are completely unacceptable. Without  any replacement or additional funding to maintain the support packages of disabled people currently supported by the ILF the vast majority of ILF users will be stripped of their basic rights, independence, quality of life and dignity,  forced to either go into residential care or go without essential support . This spectre is causing untold stress and anxiety to ILF users.

 f)DPAC condemns the failure of this government to commit or   explain in the current consultation how it intends to secure to  fund the cost of ILF support packages after the planned    closure of ILF in April 2015.

 DPAC calls for the continuation and expansion of the ILF

 19.The State must act to ensure that disabled people with   complex and high support needs are supported to live         independent lives.

 20. The ILF could provide much needed independent living  expertise to disabled people and social care practitioners as  well as national criteria to improve consistency of take up of   independent living support.

 21.The ILF should be expanded into a model for a national,         strategic centre of excellence for independent living based on the needs, interests and human rights of disabled people          and delivering independent living support to disabled people          of all ages and all impairments.

 22. Disabled people must be involved from the start in          developing this national centre of independent living. The    new model must retain the successful and much valued          aspects of the ILF including:

a)   enable geographical mobility through ‘portability’ of care packages (particularly important for taking up education, training and employment opportunities);

b)   attract committed funds from local authorities;

c)   be effectively delivered with minimal overheads and duplication;

d)   be innovative, exemplary and incentivise best practice;

e)   provide on-going and flexible support to users in a way which builds confidence in independent living;

f)    combines national consistency with support for local innovation.

 23. Extend eligibility to ILF to include:

a)   Disabled people not in employment for 16 hours or more per week

b)   Older people

c)   Residents of long-stay hospitals and campus accommodation and former residents living in the community

d)   People with very high support needs through removal of the joint ceiling cap

e)   Disabled people beyond only those in receipt of higher rate car component of Disability Living Allowance

f)    Disabled people in parenting roles where local authority support should be considered as eligible expenditure

g)   Removal of the requirement to take a partner’s benefits and capital into account in assessing an ILF recipient’s means

h)   Targeted work to increase take up by disabled people from Black and Minority Ethnic groups

i)     Disregard of a Disabled Students Grant and any student loan in calculating an ILF award

j)     Taking account of the costs which disabled parents face if their children are in further or higher education, and assessment of capital should make adequate disregard of savings for this purpose.

k)   Disabled people with a terminal illness and a life expectancy of less than six months

l)     Disregard of occupational pensions from financial assessment for the ILF

m) Bringing capital limits on savings into alignment with those of LAs

n)  ILF users who become eligible for NHS continuing care

 

Ends

 

 



[1]http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_4101751

[2] http://odi.dwp.gov.uk/odi-projects/independent-living-strategy.php

[3] http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=259

[4] http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/caring-for-our-future-response.pdf

[5]Based on World Bank figure for 2011 UK GDP of 1,495,567,800,000.

[6] http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/caring-for-our-future-response.pdf

[7] Figures at March 2012 from ADASS

[8] http://www.adass.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=816:personal-budget-survey&catid=156:press-releases-2012&Itemid=470

[9] www.inclusionlondon.co.uk/a-matter-of-survival

with thanks to all contributors

Sep 162012
 

Will Universal Credit merge all
working age benefits…
In to a ‘single’ streamlined payment?

With thanks to the brilliant Nick fighting for justice and raising issues we should know about: see more at http://mylegal.proboards.com/index.cgi

“Universal Credit will simplify the benefits system by bringing together a range of working-age benefits into a single streamlined payment.” – say DWP

Well let’s just check the DWP’s claim out…..

Take the case of John. He’s 59 and he’s in receipt of Employment & Support Allowance (Support Group] because he has very severe limitations and cannot work, he also receives some Disability Living Allowance. Having paid all his National Insurance contributions he is entitled to the contribution based variant of his Employment & Support Allowance. He lives in his own rented property.

Under the current system John has to claim four separate benefits:

 

  • Employment & Support Allowance (contribution based)
  • Housing Benefit (for his rent)
  • Disability Living Allowance for his severe mobility & personal care needs
  • Council Tax Benefit

So will John’s life be made any easier once he’s been reassessed under the welfare reforms?

Will Universal Credit simplify things for John?

Will John’s four benefits all be merged into one?

Here’s how John’s claim will be affected by welfare reform …. 

 

  • John will carry on claiming his Employment & Support Allowance – because it’s contribution based it won’t be included with his Universal Credit claim.
  • John’s Housing Benefit will be replaced by Universal Credit, but it will no longer be paid by his local Council.
  • John’s Disability Living Allowance may well end up being replaced by Personal Independence Payment but it won’t be included with his Universal Credit claim.
  • John’s Council Tax Benefit will be replaced by a localised benefit for Council Tax but it won’t be included with his Universal Credit claim.

John will still be claiming four separate benefits despite his ‘Universal’ Credit – hardly simplification is it?

Government is spending billions of pounds in a blaze of publicity aimed at convincing us all that the new Universal Credit will integrate working age benefits into one ‘single streamlined payment’. It’s a claim which falls flat on its face when you start to look at the detail.

It’s only Income Based Employment & Support Allowance which will be included in a Universal Credit claim, the contributory based variant John claims stays outside of the system because it is not a means tested benefit. It’s only John’s Housing Benefit which becomes part of his Universal Credit claim. Under the current system John’s Housing & Council Tax Benefit are both paid by the Local Authority but from next April it all changes as Council’s commence the administration of their own ‘localised’ version of Council Tax Benefit. John’s rent payments will be paid directly to him rather than get paid directly to his landlord under the new scheme and what’s more they will be paid from a completely different source to his Council Tax Benefit.

John’s Disability Living Allowance will eventually be transferred (subject to assessment) to the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) which has never been integrated into the plans for merging of payments in with Universal Credit.

So John’s Employment & Support Allowance stays exactly as it is, his Housing Benefit becomes his Universal Credit, his Council Tax merely becomes localised and his new Personal Independence Payments stays outside of the system.

Now will someone tell me, or rather to the point the DWP: how is this ‘simplification’ of the system?

We will take a look at some more comparisons in due course, although this one seems to say it all I think; what do you reckon?

 


Now let’s look at another typical claimant situation involving a family…..

Take the case of Ben and Barbara and their 3 children: aged 9,11 and 14. Barbara is the carer for their 11 year old son who is disabled. Bob goes to work and the family receive Working & Child Tax Credits, they don’t qualify for any help with their mortgage and nor do they get any help with Council Tax.

Under the current system Ben and Barbara have to claim four separate benefits:

 

  • They receive Tax Credits: Working & Child Tax Credits from the HMRC
  • Carer’s Allowance for Barbara who looks after the family’s son.
  • Disability Living Allowance for their son
  • Child Benefit for all 3 children

So will Ben and Barbara’s life be made any easier once they’ve been reassessed under the welfare reforms?

Will Universal Credit simplify things for this family?

Will Ben and Barbara’s four main benefits all be merged into one?

Here’s how Ben and Barbara’s claim will be affected by welfare reform …. 

 

  • Universal Credit replaces their Tax Credit claim (Working Tax Credit & Child Tax Credit)
  • Child Benefit is not included in the Universal Credit
  • Carer’s Allowance is not included in the Universal Credit
  • Disability Living Allowance is not included in the Universal Credit

Ben and Barbara will still have to claim four separate benefits despite their ‘Universal’ Credit – it’s not really simplification is it?

So again we see another example of how this unification doesn’t really merge payments at all. Some may of course argue that their Working Tax Credits and Child Tax Credits are two separate benefits but existing claimants will be aware that both are paid in the existing system by the HMRC; essentially the claim process and award notices for both the working and child related credits are already unified. In this case the two different credits are reclassified as ‘Universal Credit’. The other benefits which Ben and Barbara claim all fall outside of the new Universal Credit because they are non-means tested. How can we claim this to be simplification?

It’s another example which shows how Universal Credit isn’t the ‘single streamlined payment’ claimed by the DWP.


So perhaps it will be easier to claim Universal Credits in the event of Ben losing his job…..

In the previous post we looked at how Ben and Barbara would be affected by Universal Credit if they were in work. Now let’s look at the same family and how they will benefit (or not as the case may be) in the unfortunate event that Bob lost his job.

Under the Universal Credit system with Ben working, the family would still be claiming four separate benefits:
 

 

  • Universal Credit replaces their Tax Credit claim (Working Tax Credit & Child Tax Credit)
  • Child Benefit is not included in their Universal Credit
  • Carer’s Allowance is not included in their Universal Credit
  • Disability Living Allowance is not included in their Universal Credit

So will Ben and Barbara’s life be made any easier with Universal Credit as they move from being in work to unemployed?

Will Universal Credit make it easier to transition from employment to unemployment?

Will Ben and Barbara’s four main benefits become all merged into one?

Here’s how Ben and Barbara’s claim is affected as Ben becomes unemployed….

  • Ben will be entitled to claim contributory based Jobseeker’s Allowance – which is not part of Universal Credit (but see below)
  • The Disability Living Allowance claimed for their son is not part of Universal Credit
  • The Carer’s Allowance claimed for looking after their son is not part of Universal Credit. (but see below)
  • The Child Benefit is not part of Universal Credit.
  • Because Ben and Barbara are now on a low income – they can claim some Council Tax benefit, but it will not be part of their Universal Credit.
  • Their existing Universal Credit claim is altered to take account of how Ben is no longer working but the Children still need to be claimed for. (but see below)

Potentially Ben and Barbara may be seen as still having to claim 5 separate benefits!

This scenario flags up a number of problems, take it from me these are the kind of problems which you always get when merging contributory based benefits with those which are income based. Anyone in this situation will also be affected by the Universal Credit regulations, they are in draft form but are now at an advanced stage and can therefore be relied upon to get an idea where the problems may be. The potential problems in Ben and Barbara’s claim will revolve around the following:

  • Their Carer’s Allowance
  • Their mortgage costs
  • The correct handling of their claim
  • Ben’s contributory based Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The reason these are all problematic is because because Ben and Barbara’s income has fallen so low that they now fall subject to ‘means testing’ of their non – means tested benefits. Bob’s Contribution based Jobseeker’s Allowance and the Carer’s Allowance are both treated as income in a Universal Credit claim. The problem is how many claim handler’s or advisers will recognise this or for that matter how can we be sure it will be picked up by the IT system when a claimant does their claim on-line. Remember claimants will only put in what they consider to be relevant.

This is always a classic point of failure in the benefits system and Universal Credit has merely moved it in to the arena for error. Having been told Carer’s Allowance and Contributory based Jobseeker’s Allowance are not part of Universal Credit, how many claimants are going to think ” I don’t have to put that in then”. It’s no good saying there will be comprehensive instruction or advice on tap – the reality is people don’t understand or always read the instructions and advice is something the government has made it clear they do not want to fund. The scope for error is immense, in fact it’s just waiting to happen.

In practice Universal Credit is composed of elements which offset the income which you have to declare. So for the Carer’s Allowance there is a ‘carer’s element’ and for Ben and Barbara’s mortgage interest costs there is a ‘mortgage element’. It’s more or less exactly the same as it is in existing income based claims. The Universal Credit will make an allowance for both Ben and Barbara by regarding them as a couple. But remember Bob’s Jobseeker’s Allowance isn’t actually part of the Universal Credit claim but it is very much taken in to account as their income for Universal Credit purposes.

Confused?

Yes I expect you are, it’s no different to the confusion which exists already – its just been extended to a newly named benefit. The confusion doesn’t end here because the mortgage interest costs (only the interest is paid) fall to be included as part of Ben and Barbara’s Universal Credit but only after a ‘qualifying period. It’s the point at which all of these elements & allowances apply which marks the point at which the contribution based benefits fall to be assessed as income.

In an ideal world Ben and Barbara’s Universal Credit should include their Carer’s Allowance, housing costs and Bob’s Contribution based Jobseeker’s Allowance but the problem arises in working out when they fall to be assessed and in recognising the alignment of all the different elements and the dates from when they ‘kick in’.

Many of us will remember the chaos caused with the implementation of the tax credits system, it resulted in an epidemic of overpayments. The scope for overpayments is far greater with Universal Credit because it’s being carried out on such a huge scale. What makes it all the more alarming is that if you make a mistake you risk a new £50 fine, the fine could be the least of your worries because there is also a pronounced determination to prosecute those who are deemed to be ‘cheating’ the system. We have all seen examples of a hostile media and a renewed DWP stance to get tough in a desire to name and shame anyone who falls foul.

Overpayments under the new system will not be subject to the same rights of dispute which currently exist so many claimants simply won’t be able to properly contest an unfair decision. When government is asked about the problems all of this creates they stick to script and tell us all how ‘work pays’. The emphasis on work is backed up by an assurance that simplifying the benefits system makes it more possible to transition from welfare to work; the new highway for making the transition is Universal Credit which we are all told is ‘on track’.

Let’s just wait and see whether the government’s new super – highway from welfare to work is all they say it will be. They can make all the claims they like but the one which promotes Universal Credit as a ‘single streamlined payment’ is to say the least a gross distortion of the facts.

To those of you who don’t understand a word of this: welcome to Universal Credit, you’ll need to put all your faith in the DWP and the Ministers who tells us it’s on track. I can see the newspaper headlines which will highlight all this chaos, it won’t be too long before the printing presses start rolling!

And they say there’s no need for benefit specialists, honestly what planet are they on?

It’s yet another example which shows how the DWP’s claim that Universal Credit is a ‘single streamlined payment’ is nothing short of a lie.

Read more: http://mylegal.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=frontline&action=display&thread=758#ixzz26fxEa5g7

 

Aug 032012
 

Appeal court extra room ruling helps disabled People

Burnip v Birmingham City Council & Anor [2012] EWCA Civ 629 (15 May 2012)

 3 August 2012

 In a unanimous ruling, the Court of Appeal has held that the size criteria in the housing benefit regulations discriminate against disabled people, because they do not allow for an additional room to be paid for where a disabled person has a carer, or where two children cannot share a room because of disability.

The decision concerned Ian Burnip and Lucy Trengove who needed 24 hour care, which required carers to work in shifts and Richard Gorry who has two disabled daughters who cannot share a room because of the nature of their disabilities.

 Since the case began, the rules have been amended to cover the circumstances of Ian Burnip and Lucy Trengove, but not to cover the situation of Richard Gorry. This ruling is therefore most important where a room cannot be shared because of disability.

The issues in the case were

 Whether the rules discriminate against the Appellant by comparison with a claimant in the social rented sector with two children who cannot share a room because of disability contrary to Article 14 taken together with Article 1P European Court of Human rights (ECHR). A tenant in the social rented sector would have all of his rent met by housing benefit, since housing benefit the social rented sector is not currently subject to restrictions under the size criteria (The government plans to change this under the Welfare Reform Bill with effect from April 2013).

 Whether the rules discriminate on grounds of disability by comparison with a housing benefit claimant with two children of the same sex who were not disabled, whose HB met their full housing needs, contrary to Article 14 taken together with Article 1P ECHR.

 Whether the rules discriminate on grounds of disability by failing to treat the claimant differently from a housing benefit claimant with two children who were not disabled, by not paying him an additional amount to cover a bedroom for each of them, contrary to Article 14 taken together with Article 1P ECHR.

The ruling states that there is a ‘prima facie’ case of discrimination for purposes of Article 14 of the ECHR, and that the Secretary of State had failed to establish objective and reasonable justification for the discriminatory effect of the statutory criteria.

 You can view the decision on the bailii website.

You can find out more information in press releases produced by Child Poverty Action Group and Irwin Mitchell (solicitors) and Birmingham Law Centre blog.

 Secretary of State’s response

The Secretary of State has applied for permission to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court on the grounds that the use of the size criteria in the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is either not discriminatory or else can be justified. Should the appeal succeed this would affect the decision in relation to Richard Gorry and his two disabled daughters. The DWP has issued guidance, HB/CTB A6/2012, which suggests that lookalike cases should be suspended pending the outcome of the appeal.

 

 

Apr 182012
 

 

Starting at Leicester Sq

 

Disabled people came from different parts of the country and assembled at Leicester Square and moved off towards Trafalgar Square. It started raining intermittently. Police accompanied us and were not happy that we were on the road. They tried to get information and we heard them asking what were our plans but none of us spoke to them.

Arriving at Trafalgar Square, 2 groups of wheelchair users split up and block up two junctions. Police tried to get us off the street while activists chanted and voiced their protests.

 
In the pouring rain the activists stayed put inspite of the police trying to move us on and the drummers kept spirits up while we chatted and handed out post cards to passer bys.

drummers

the Scottish contingent

Time went by very quicky and we decided to finish at 4pm and ended then. Thank you everybody for making it such a success! Rights not Charity!

More photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/disabledpeopleprotest/sets/72157629847654023/with/6945227156/

http://www.demotix.com/news/1162942/disabled-people-against-cuts-demonstration-held-london

More news from the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/apr/18/disability-benefits-cuts-protest-trafalgar-square?CMP=twt_gu

from Harpy Marx http://harpymarx.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/todays-block-the-road/

from Johny Void http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/disabled-protesters-bring-traffic-chaos-to-central-london/

DPAC is on twitter : @dis_ppl_protest

and on Face Book under :DPAC

Apr 082012
 

One of the main advocates of the bio-psychosocial model, Lord Freud (Westminster’s Minister for welfare reform) claims that it is based on evidence. It is not. It is a right wing model led by profit and the market. It incorporates the worst aspects of neo-liberalism. It targets disabled people and ridiculously claims that we can think ourselves out of being disabled. Its underlying theme repeats the mantra that ‘work will set you free’. But this is not about work, despite the endless rhetoric; this model is an ideological cover for attacking disabled people and reducing every single right to financial support that has been achieved. Additional fringe benefits are provided to the insurance market of Unum, to the profits of Atos and to the big Disability Charities who all capitalise on the new notions of risk being imposed on disabled people. We can identify a clear pattern for the construction of the bio-psychosocial model, and its advocates. It features:

●‘Academics’ in the pay of the insurance company Unum

●The genesis of the Work Capability Assessment guided by Unum and Atos,

●Atos’ imposition of mass reassessments

● Successive governments

●Key players in the Department of Work and Pensions

● The big Disability Charities.

We can also identify a clear pattern for the construction and advocates of the social model of disability. The story features disabled activists some of whom  were institutionalised in a Leonard Cheshire home, disabled academics, disabled activists and disabled peoples’ organisations and groups run and controlled by disabled people who led the political challenges to individual models of disability and who continue to do so.  Which model seems better so far?

While successive governments were delivering a stream of white papers apparently dedicated to improving the life chances of disabled people the revenge of the bio-psychosocial model and welfare reform (read welfare destruction) was quietly being prepared behind our backs by the state and their market partners. The following explains why some disability campaigners were and are wrong to abandon the social model of disability and how the rhetoric behind the bio-psychosocial model is one of the keys to understanding the 21st century ideological attacks on disabled peoples’ lives.

Part One

The Social Model of Disability Basics: why it’s nothing to do with the bio-psychosocial model

The social model came into being through a letter to the Guardian from Paul Hunt[1], the early work of UPIAS (Union of Physically Impaired against Segregation) a document written by Vic Finkelstein[2] and other activists. They were institutionalised in a Leonard Cheshire institution. The UPIAS document and its premise were taken forward in the 1980s and 1990s by disabled activists and academics including Mike Oliver[3] and Colin Barnes[4]. Paul Abberley[5] also produced a seminal piece on  ‘The Concept of Oppression and the Development of a Social Theory of Disability’. The social model of disability was also taken forward by activists, campaigners and those who set up some of the first Centres of Independent Living (CILs).

The social model perspective has been used widely in the UK as answer to the sociological theories and common place mis-understandings on issues of disability being designated as entirely medical/individual attributes without reference to the environment, to the barriers that disabled people face, or the rights that they are being denied. Examples include: the American conservative sociologist Talcot Parsons who theorised the ‘Sick Role’ in the 1950s, and the International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps (ICIDH).  Parsons suggested that ‘the sick role’ gave individuals the opportunity to ‘opt out ‘of society, and elicit sympathy from others which brought them certain social benefits. However, this was perceived as a deviant role-according to Parsons the individual was at fault, merely exercising a form of deviance for particular rewards-they could quite easily change their attitude and function within society adequately. In addition, the first classification from the World Health Organisation (WHO) produced The International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps (ICIDH). This concentrated purely on medical factors and ‘handicaps’. It was later remodelled to include supposed interaction with social factors and renamed International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). Yet, it has never fully achieved the explanation of the interaction between impairment and disability.

In contrast, disability activists using the social model perspective argue it is how society treats disabled people that create the main problem. The experience of disability is not exclusively about the individual or the individual’s attitudes. The experience of disability is an interaction with actions of non disabled people, planners, governments, employers and others. People need educating on what it is really like to be disabled and the many barriers that disabled people face in their everyday lives. They need to understand those barriers which prevent disabled people having the same opportunities and life chances as their non disabled peers.

The social model does not focus on disabled people as victims of their physiology, whether physical, cognitive or otherwise, nor as vulnerable, helpless individuals but as people who are disabled by attitudes, the environment, design, working patterns and by those individuals who see disabled people as unworthy. The social model also offers a way to organise politically against the principles of social and economic exclusion, and oppression in a disabilist society.  It gives a critique of all that has gone before based on individualism and the market. It also argues that disabled people must be at the centre of voicing their own experiences. The social model was constructed by disabled people, not medical ‘experts’ , not policy makers, not social workers, not disability charities, not service providers, nor governments, nor private companies profiting from disability[6].

 

The Social Model: misunderstandings, misuse and other detractions

Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC) advocates the social model as do many others. Yet, DPAC has received criticism for insisting on working from the perspective of the social model. For example, the coalition governments’ use of the term social model in consultations regarding the proposed change from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has caused some people to reject the social model: what’s the point of supporting something that is being used to limit our rights-but the coalition government don’t understand, care or really know what the social model is. This was evident to anyone that read through the questions in the first PIP consultation.

The social model has been rejected by some academics as being out dated or not quite fashionable enough: they claim it is better to write of discourse, and embrace the ‘subject’ (individual). From the ‘ivory towers’ it may be, but how can this version ever realistically contribute directly to social policy or to peoples’ lives? The social model is rejected because it is considered masculine, it talks about this thing called society, and it talks about ‘social oppression’-perceived as an outdated Marxist term. The social model is rejected because it talks about impairment, people don’t like to think of themselves as impaired, and anyway, some say: isn’t the social model all about physical impairments? What about mental health? What about learning difficulties? Disabled feminists also criticised the social model for what they suggested was the social model’s exclusion of the body, but it is in the body politic that this model has its greatest power. At times criticisms are academic (in both senses), overall it’s extremely damaging, as the criticisms are often based on misconceptions of the social model and miss what the perspective offers for changing disabled peoples’ lives (see Barnes[7]).

The Coalition and New Labour before them had some very fertile ground to make their attacks on a set of people who were divided on their own histories, who appeared to be against their own founding activists and their own collective political identity. At the same time, as noted, neither new Labour nor the Coalition understood, cared or really knew what the social model really meant. They did know that the social model was used as successful tool to establish rights for disabled people.

This is why recent governments and government departments have used the term without any notion of the motivation, history, or content nor any care for the outcomes. Governments claim they speak with some disabled peoples’ organisations, some disabled activists, but mainly governments’ speak with the multi million pound disability charities. The big disability charities also use the term social model to give the illusion that they understand disabled people and can speak on behalf of disabled people. They never could and they still can’t. It is for disabled people to speak for themselves individually, through their own user-led organisations and through their own grass root groups.

What the Social Model Perspective did for Disabled People

The social model perspective was used very successfully by campaigners, protesters, advocates, activists and Centres for Independent Living (CILs) to move disabled people in the UK to a position that was the envy of many European countries in terms of UK support for disabled people.

Was it this perspective and its promotion that brought us:

● The Independent Living Fund (ILF) –now closed to all new applicants since 2010 by the Coalition, while existing applicants are left wondering what will happen to their support

● Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to pay for the extra costs of being disabled -now being replaced by Personal Independence Payment and rounds of reassessment by the Coalition government

● Incapacity Benefit -now changed to Employment Support Allowance and rounds of reassessment by Atos put in place by New Labour and made more stringent by the Coalition government

● Access to Work to help with extra costs of working and to, in theory, provide extra support to those that needed it –recently we have seen cut-backs on Access to Work with the tightening of criteria and more costs transferred to the employer rather than the government under the Coalition.

● Direct Payments to pay for personal assistants to aid independent living through financial support from local authorities (L.A.s) -now cut back as L.A.s restrict access through more punitive eligibility criteria because of central government cuts of up to 40% to L.A. budgets

●The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) –now we have a diluted replacement including all discriminated groups called the Equality Act (2010) put in place by New Labour and further diluted by the Coalition government.

These things originally opened up independent living for disabled people; social model arguments affected social policy, housing, information, education, transport, design, peer support, advocacy and attitudes towards disabled people. Few would claim that the social model was a panacea for all the problems that disabled people faced, disabled people were still fighting for better rights, improvements on what we had, and better access before the current onslaught from the Coalition. However, to say that the social model and the social model perspective did nothing to change the lives of disabled people is an insult to the generations of disabled activists before us that fought for change. All those that pushed those extra rights forward were social model advocates who wanted more independence for themselves and for disabled people, they wanted to educate on a better understanding of the social and economic oppression that disabled people faced. Yet, New Labour, the Conservatives and a host of other actors were working on removing those gains and more from disabled people and disabled children from as early as 1992.

Those disabled people that now have a public platform and criticise or dismiss the social model are disparaging the very thing that gave them that platform in the first instance. We can identify a clear pattern for the advocates and history of the social model: disabled people, some of whom were institutionalised, disabled academics, disabled activists and disabled peoples’ organisations run and controlled by disabled people.  We can also identify a clear pattern for the bio-psychosocial model rhetoric and its advocates.

Part two

The Bio-psychosocial Model Basics: why it’s nothing to do with the social model

There are a few references explaining where the original version of the bio-psychosocial model came from. Some cite George Engel[8] others claim that it is an outcome of the International Classification of Functioning and Disability (ICF) [9] Gill Thorton[10] describes the model from a medical approach, while clearly identifying the vulgarisation of its later use as a tool in getting disabled people back to work

Briefly put, it is a theory that seeks to broaden the perspective on illness, by taking into account not only the biological, but also psychological and social factors which may have an influence on sickness, and consequently on the course that healing takes. The acknowledged value of this approach, when used for the benefit of the patient, is that it allows for the identification of non-biological influences which may interfere with an individual’s capacity to heal.

However, it seems that Parsons’ ‘sick role’ and of the disabled person as deviant comes closest to the rhetoric of the Coalition government. So rather than identify who or what the original source of the bio-psychosocial model might be, we need to look at its promotion and how it has been used to justify the rhetoric that ‘work makes you well’ and that ‘work is good for you’. A DWP Press release from October 2011[11] shows the ways in which Freud (Minister for welfare reform) justifies the new era of the bio-psychosocial. He is speaking from the perversely titled ‘Health and Well- Being’ conference.

Key speakers at the conference included Dr Catherine Hannaway trained in the U.S. in ‘improvement methodologies’ by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement whose former President and Chief Executive Officer was Donald M. Berwick administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services insurance. Dr Bill Gunnyeon CBE, Director for Health, Work and Wellbeing and Chief Medical Advisor DWP:a regular ‘expert’ in House of Commons groups, and like Freud an apologist for Atos testing and the change from DLA to PIP. Also Samantha Wortley, Health and Safety Advisor at the University of Derby: a university running accredited courses for Atos health practitioners, and Disability Charity RNIB’s Philip Connolly, Employment Campaigns Officer to name just a few.

Freud’s rendition was surely a case of ‘preaching to the converted’ as it was delivered to those connected to insurance, disability accreditation, disability charities (who are still using the language of rehabilitation) and various apologists for the current regime. He also uses academics Waddle and Burton who, like many others supporting this rhetorical model are connected with the Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research directed by Mansel Aylward, (former Chief Medical Officer at the DWP) at the University of Cardiff: a department bankrolled by Unum. Freud happily declares:

Not so long ago employers were frightened of ill health. Good employers were concerned that being in work would cause some harm. Responsible employers acted to protect people, keeping them off work until they were fully recovered. But perversely they may have been doing more harm than good. We now understand that work is not necessarily bad for you.

People with physical or mental health conditions do not need to be protected from work and sometimes maintaining some form of working life can aid recovery. This understanding was first put forward by Aaron Antonovsky. It was expanded upon by Waddell and Burton. And helpfully formed an evidence base upon which I developed my welfare reform report.

Work provides more than just an income. Employment can also give people a sense of purpose, some structure to their lives. It can also be an important part of people’s social lives.

Quite simply good work is good for you.

Quite simply ‘good work’ is in short supply under the Coalition. Their promotion of the deeply unpopular workfair and the limited supply of temporary (including contract work), part-time, precarious jobs, and job insecurity for those in work have all been found to have adverse affects on mental and physical health. In addition, poor quality work can affect mental health in the same way as no work. The growing gap in inequality between the richest and the poorest affects the nation’s health and remains intergenerational.

The Construction and Deconstruction of a model for Private Profit

Aaron Antonovsky, one of the academics mentioned, put forward the idea of the concept of sense of coherence (SOC) in 1979[12]. It is not related to the bio-psychosocial model but ironically identifies one of the reasons why the current coalition regime imposed on disabled people will make them more susceptible to stress, anxiety and individual deterioration.

Collingwood claims[13]: The SOC is defined as: “The extent to which one has a pervasive enduring though a dynamic feeling of confidence that one’s environment is predictable and that things will work out as well as can reasonably be expected.” It has three components – comprehensibility, manageability, and meaningfulness. Comprehensibility is the extent to which events are perceived as making logical sense, that they are ordered, consistent, and structured. Manageability is the extent to which a person feels they can cope. Meaningfulness is how much one feels that life makes sense, and challenges are worthy of commitment. All these things are based on financial security, upbringing, social networks and natural ‘coping’ styles. Unremarkably, those in higher social classes who are more financially secure are deemed to have higher SOC levels, yet it also likely that they have better health outcomes too, as they are more likely to come from financially secure backgrounds.

As Antonovsky died in 1994 he will be unable to sue Freud for what seems to be a complete misinterpretation of SOC. Later we’ll compare the Antonovsky theory to the Waddell and Burton (Unum) scenario which exhibits a ‘blame the individual’ approach developing individualistic themes on illness and disability in which the social is completely erased.

Of course, the Health and Well- Being conference is just one in a long line of such conferences. In 2001 a conference with the charming title of ‘Malingering and Illness Deception’ was held at Woodstock near Oxford. It covered old ground for the insurance industries. Amongst the participants were Malcolm Wicks, then Parliamentary under Secretary of State for Work, and Mansel Aylward: Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and a number of academics like Waddell and Burton who would come to add academic credibility to Unum’s and government protestations on disability and illness.

What linked many of them together, including Aylward, was their association with the giant US insurance company UnumProvident (later Unum), represented at the conference by John Lo Cascio. The goal of the conference was the transformation of the welfare system[14] in particular the reduction of payments to disabled people which was perceived to be a key problem for successive governments. Unum were perfect for such a project as they had a very useful track record of reorganising exactly what health problems were in order to avoid insurance payouts. John Lo Casio was no stranger to such events or to working with Westminster governments. As second Vice chair of Unum he had been brought in by Conservative Peter Lilley (Secretary of State for Social Security 1992-1997) to ‘manage claims’ of incapacity benefit. Both Lo Casio and Alyward joined the government medical advisory group to devise the All Work Test, a forerunner of the Personal Capability Assessment (PCA) and a forerunner to the more recent Work Capability Assessment (WCA) used by Atos. The All Work Test awarded points for different descriptors and ignored GP evidence-Instead a set of adjudication officers who were trained in a theory set out by Mr Lo Cascio were employed to aid the management of claims – sounds familiar doesn’t it? Unum Provident was at the centre of UK welfare reform as early as 1992 under the Thatcher government, but they worked with New Labour too.

Unum Provident continued to build its sphere of power and influence, in 2001 launching: New Beginnings, a public private partnership between charities, including Disability Charities, NGO’s and government ministers with the express intention of furthering the company’s power in policy making. The New Beginnings advisory group included some of the academics from the Woodstock conference as well as major disability charities such as the Shaw Trust, Disability Alliance, and the Employers Forum for Disability[15] Unum went further stretching their tentacles into the university sector with the help of Mansel Alyward formally of the DWP.

Mansel Aylward, began directing the Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University in 2004:a department that Unum Provident paid 1.6 million pounds for. A  department set up to provide an academic credibility and a new political slant to the bio-psychosocial model[16]  allowing Freud to claim that welfare reform for disability benefits was backed up by evidence that ‘work was good for you’. The department included Alyward, Professor Peter Halligan and Gordon Waddell. One year later Alyward and Waddell produced The Scientific & Conceptual Basis of Incapacity Benefits published by the DWP. As Rutherford[17] notes:

In their declarations of interest at the beginning of the text neither man cites their association with UnumProvident. This matters, because the monograph provides the unacknowledged intellectual framework for the 2006 Welfare Reform Bill [originally passed by New Labour]. And the methodology used by Waddell and Aylward is the same one that informs the work of UnumProvident. In a memorandum submitted to the House of Commons Select Committee on Work and Pensions, UnumProvident define their method of working: ‘Our extended experience … has shown us that the correct model to apply when helping people to return to work is a bio-psychosocial one’.

Peter Halligan, and Derek Wade of Oxford University (another Woodstock academic) explained the model in the British Medical Journal as something that needed to make a break from old understandings of the bio-psychosocial. ‘The old biomedical model of illness, which has dominated health care for the past century, cannot fully explain many forms of illness.’ What they really meant was that it was not helping reduce the number of applicants for incapacity benefit.

The old model ‘assumes a causal relation between disease and illness, (?) and fails to take into account how cultural attitudes and psychological and social factors shape illness behaviour. In other words it allows someone to report symptoms of illness, and for society to accept him or her as sick, without their having pathology’-a throwback to Parsons’ ‘sick role’ theory. They add that: ‘Personal choice plays an important part in the genesis or maintenance of illness’.

Alyward and Wadell moved this rhetoric up several gears: Arguing that adopting this new version of the model would lead to a ‘fundamental transformation in the way society deals with sickness and disabilities’ (p123). The goal and outcome of treatment is work: ‘work itself is therapeutic, aids recovery and is the best form of rehabilitation’. Work can set you free, in fact worklessness now transforms into a bizarre serious risk to life. It is announced as:

one of the greatest known risks to public health: the risk is equivalent to smoking 10 packets of cigarettes per day’ (p17).

Halligan and Wade also tap into theories of Talcot Parsons to argue: ‘Our model suggests that illness is a dysfunction of the person in his (or her) physical and social environment’. Like Parsons, they suggest that the ‘sick role’ is no more than an individual deviance: a choice. The solution is to change people’s behaviour by transforming the language and culture of welfare, and by using incentives as a ‘motivational tool’ to prise people out of their sick role (p166). The motivation tools were later renamed sanctions. That is sanctions to those people refusing to work for their benefits on programs such as ‘workfare[18]’, sanctions through which their benefits can be removed from weeks up to three years leaving them without income if they dare indulge in any ‘wrong thinking’.

 Influence and Profit: Unum, ATOS and complicit Disability CharitiesIn July 2007 The Personal Capability Assessment (PCA) was redesigned by two technical working groups, one for ‘physical impairment and another for mental health issues. Representatives from Unum and Atos were present in both groups[19]. The redesign would be one step closer to the hated and much maligned Work Capability Assessment to be delivered by AtosTechnical working groups on the WCA also hosted the views and input of some of the big Disability Charities including: MENCAP, MIND, the National Autistic Society, Parkinson ’s Disease Society, RNIB, RNID and the Disability Benefits Consortium including some of those already mentioned, as well as Leonard Cheshire Disability, Sense, RADAR, SCOPE, Sue Rider and the Papworth Trust[20].No doubt this was good preparation for the Disability Works UK launch in 2011 another charity consortium exercising their muscle as ‘experts in disability employment’ involving SCOPE, MENCAP, MIND, Leonard Cheshire, and Action for Blind People (a part of RNIB) with a healthy turnover value of 654.4 million and a cumulative surplus of 15.6 million[21] All corporate disability charities were more than prepared to take maximum advantage of workfare type schemes recently announced as having unlimited time scales for disabled people[22].We should note that so far we do not see any user-led disabled peoples groups involved in any positions of power or profit in this wholesale transformation of welfare or in partnership with the government. The charities were speaking for us because there were profits to be made from lucrative government contracts designed to get disabled people back to work- they are in the disability business too after all. They continue to ‘help’ by advising on mental health issues and producing publicity against the WCA that they were involved in and publicity against Atos, who they sat at the table with-I guess that’s part of the social model bit they adopted, plus of course their partnership with user-led groups in the Hardest Hit protests which protested against the WCA and welfare reform-oh the irony or is it duplicity?Atos were also on board the welfare transformation gravy train before the WCA.  Atos bought out SchlumbergerSema in 2003 for 1.3 billion Euros. Through this, they gained access to key SchlumbergerSema public sector contracts in the UK, including one with the Metropolitan Police, a deal with the Department for Work and Pensions, and the Government Gateway project[23]. This was a significant move as DWP contracts included the Personal Capability Assessment and the buyout gave Atos (renamed as Atos Origin in 2004) access to the Logical Integrated Medical Assessment (LIMA) and 100 million per year from the DWP for delivering it with the proviso that they speed up claim and processing times. Another Disability Charity: Shaw Trust announced their pleasure at future work in partnership with Atos in 2010. Shaw Trust would also profit through the misery of disabled people by delivering the euphemistically titled ‘work programs’ for disabled people. Sally Burton, CEO[24] at Shaw Trust gushed:

“Shaw Trust is delighted the consortium has qualified to bid for the opportunity to supply seven Lots of the Government’s Work Programme. As the UK’s largest   third sector provider of employment services, our partnership with Atos Origin and Pinnacle People can ensure the charity sector remains at the heart of welfare-to-work.” [My emphasis]

But lets move from income driven Disability Charities to failed bankers (apparently they do exist). In 2006 New Labour chose David Freud, a senior banker at UBS AG to conduct a review of New Labour’s welfare to work policies. Freud later defected to the Conservatives on a promise of a peerage. Invest in ME[25] expose Freud’s mistakes in banking and other areas explaining his own incapacities in some detail:

The “To Banker from Bankies” 2009 report (which was supported and funded by Oxfam) states, in 2007 Freud was appointed as the key Government advisor on welfare reform by Labour’s John Hutton and was commissioned to produce a report “Reducing Dependency, Increasing Opportunity” on the “Welfare to Work” programme.  This was despite the fact that, in his own words, Freud “didn’t know anything about welfare at all” (Daily Telegraph, 4th February 2008). Despite the great complexity of the welfare system, Freud researched and wrote his welfare “shake-up” plan in just three weeks (Daily Telegraph, 1st May 2006). It recommended that the existing role of private firms (such as UNUM and Atos) in the Government’s “Welfare to Work” programme be dramatically increased; he acknowledged that there was no evidence to suggest that private contractors were any better than the Department for Work and Pensions, but he still concluded that it would be “economically rational” to pay them tens of thousands of pounds for every person they removed from benefits.

In his report Freud constantly misquotes studies and uses over 170 references to ‘models’ citing the zsars of the Unum financed Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University consistently. While Freud openly acknowledges a useful partnership between of two of the most hated private companies and their involvement in welfare to work issues, the company’s themselves have been much more unwilling to acknowledge any links between them.

Links between Unum and Atos

In the 2004 Atos report, Atos appears to use the language of Unum and the academics of Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research unreservedly, with sex thrown in for good measure:

Psychosocial factors…are at least as important as physical factors in the onset and maintenance of these conditions.  Patients can make a number of ‘secondary gains’ with these unexplained illnesses, such as…turning a socially unacceptable disability into a more acceptable ‘organic’ disability caused by injury or disease beyond their control. They can blame their failures on the illness; elicit care, sympathy and concern from family and friends; avoid work or even sex; and there are financial rewards associated with disability.

 …if a patient believes their illness was caused by a virus and there’s nothing they can do about it, their prognosis is not likely to be positive.  But if the patient believes…that the symptoms won’t last long and they have control over them, then the prognosis will be better….We need patients to understand their situation, so they are more likely to go back to work

(Except from the powerful letter from Douglas Frazer to the House of Lords reproduced on the Invest in ME web site)

Despite being linked in the chain of the key players at the DWP, successive government ministers, a string of conferences, the Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research and involved together in the PCA and WCA. Atos and Unum continue to deny that they have any links with each other. However, they appear to swop CEOs and often share the same platforms at conferences and on government groups as noted. As DPAC’s sister campaign group Black Triangle posts show: MP Norman Lamb, (special political advisor to Nick Clegg) also seems to have trouble recollecting links with Unum. He denied any knowledge of a company named Unum going as far as to write to our very own minister Maria Miller. Lamb wrote:

xxxx xxxxxxxx informs me that a company called Unum Provident “has been convicted of major fraud and banned from trading in many States in the US” up until 2008. He states that this company has been advising the DWP on welfare reform since the early 1990s. He also states that the current Atos Chief Medical Officer, Mike O’Donnell, had been Chief Medical Officer of Unum from March 2000 to September 2010.  Is all this true?  Can you let me know exactly what the Government knows about the position relating to Unum Provident and its relationship with Atos healthcare?

The post on the Black triangle site continues:

Imagine my surprise and shock then considering the above to discover this morning while doing some research online about connections between Atos & Unum, particularly the relationship between Mike O’Donnell – Chief Medical Officer – Atos Healthcare and Peter O’Donnell – Executive Director, Chief Financial Officer – Unum Insurance, (brothers perhaps? Anybody know?), to find out that good old Norman last Tuesday was a guest speaker at a Unum hosted fringe meeting at the LibDem Conference speaking alongside Peter O’Donnell, the Chief Financial Officer of Unum Insurance –

Speaker/Artist(s) Info: Norman Lamb MP; Teresa Perchard, Director of Public Policy, Citizens Advice; Nick Pearce, Director, IPPR; Peter O’Donnell, Chief Financial Officer, Unum. Chair: Patrick Hennessy, Sunday Telegraph.

Time: Tuesday September 20, 2011 6:15pm – 7:30pm

Venue: Hyatt Regency: Fortissimo2 Bridge Street, BirminghamB1 2JZ

Type: LibDem → Panel

Host Organization(s): IPPR, Unum

It’s also worth recognising the media representation at this too. As noted Unum continue to deny any involvement with Atos and vice versa, yet Unum was providing insurance for Atos workers up until 2009. On Unum’s rather amusing ‘Ask Unum’ site, clearly set up so that they can continue denying what is a matter of record in many instances, they state: “Unum UK currently has no relationship with ATOS Ltd. Until September 2009, it provided Income Protection to ATOS Ltd for ATOS’s staff” .Should they also add that the previous chief medical officer of Unum installed at Atos in 2011 had nothing to do with Unum before that time too?

Additional information on Atos partners has been requested through a Freedom of Information request to the DWP by P. Wilkinson (2011)[26] this asks which third parties Atos works with. The response states:

Atos Healthcare have advised that to release the name of the private company they have appointed to investigate the handling of complaints would affect the basis of the contract between Atos Healthcare and that company and would have contractual and commercial implications for Atos Healthcare.

As part of their preparation for Independent Tier (IT) arrangements under the new Contract, Atos Healthcare proposed and DWP agreed that details of the private company they have appointed to investigate the handling of complaints be withheld to ensure independence. This proposal and agreement took the form of an entry in the contract as follows: “The name of this firm will not be divulged to any third party to ensure continued
independence”.  

Can we guess who it is yet? The phrase ‘all in it together’ comes to mind –maybe this is what Cameron was actually talking about. But, what of Unum’s own useful criminal record to the Coalition?

Disability Denial: an alliance between Unum and the State

When the links between the profiteers in the misery of disabled people and the ideologies of denial are exposed what we are left with? First this is not about getting people into work, whatever the Tories and previous governments claim  they don’t care if you work or not. Media rhetoric[27] on scroungers, workshy and other protestations of undeserving poor were part of the strategy to change public opinion helped along by misleading DWP press releases. This is about denying benefits, denying illness and denying incapacity. It is not about even about ‘thinking yourself well’ or tortured nonsensical models shored up by dubious academics: It’s about something Unum have a successful history of: it’s about denying pay outs and capitalising on fear and risk.

The denial of pay outs may be through Unum’s insurance policies or it may be through denying pay outs after an individual has paid a life-time of national insurance contributions to the state-but is put on time limited Employment and Support Allowance- the outcome will be same. Who better to work with ex-banker Freud and MP’s in denying people their rightful entitlements than a company which has been publically named as: “an outlaw company- It is a company that for years has operated in an illegal fashion[28]” by California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi in 2005, where Unum were charged with more than 25 violations of state law and fined $8 million. Among the charges were:

 ….that the company knowingly applied the wrong legal definition of disability in denying claims or ruling claimants were able to go back to work, targeted high-cost claims for denials to save the firm money, misused claimants’ medical records and even the opinions of in-house medical personnel to deny benefits and wrongly sought to file cases under a federal benefits law that severely limits claimants’ ability to successfully sue their insurers.

Reads like the work theory of Atos doesn’t it? These charges followed a financial settlement in the previous year in which 48 other U.S states raised critical issues on Unum’s working methods.

Rutherford argues:

in the 1980s Unum, and insurance companies Provident and Paul Revere were in trouble in the U. S. They had increased profits by sharing similar policies on disability and sickness insurance and selling to professionals. A combination of falling interest rates and the growth of diagnosed illnesses which were not subject to the insurance sector’s tests appeared to be increasing, affecting the professionals who had taken out policies with the companies, and in turn affecting company profits. These illnesses included: Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Multiple Sclerosis, Lyme disease.

An aggressive ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome plan followed, with claims being managed in a way that continued to maximise profits. The insurance industry called on the academics, Professor Simon Wessely of King’s College and Professor Michael Sharpe of Edinburgh University (both participants in the Woodstock conference) in an attempt to reclassify those conditions that were costing money, and lobby the medical profession on such conditions so they fell outside the remit of ‘pay outs’. It meant that specific illnesses were targeted in order to discredit the legitimacy of claims.

This ‘strategy’ was to prove useful in dealing with the UK’s welfare reform and in overriding the basis of medical opinion on a whole set of conditions. As the state joined in the denial with its set of private companies and supporting academics Unum achieved more market returns while disabled people began to see their own welfare support rapidly diminishing.

Capitalising on Fear: how the denial of state support improves Unum’s profit margin

Unum couldn’t lose, as early as 1997 with the roll out of the All work Test, in which Lo Casio had had played a major part, Unum launched an expensive advertising campaign. One ad ran:

April 13, unlucky for some. Because tomorrow the new rules on state incapacity benefit announced in the 1993 autumn budget come into effect. Which means that if you fall ill and have to rely on state incapacity benefit, you could be in serious trouble[29].

Lo Cascio replied in the negative when Private Eye asked if he was concerned about the conflict of interest involved in his company’s advertising campaign, which sought to gain from benefit cuts that he had helped to initiate. However Unum Chairman Ward E. Graffam did acknowledge the ‘exciting developments’ in Britain. Unum’s influence in government was helping to boost the private insurance market:

The impending changes to the State ill-health benefits system will create unique sales opportunities across the entire disability market and we will be launching a concerted effort to harness the potential in these.’[30]

In 2012 the worst aspects of welfare reform were pushed through by multi-millionaire ex-banker Freud: including over a million disabled people expected to be completely removed from Incapacity benefits and unable to qualify for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) through more stringent testing by Atos, 12 month time limits on ESA to include those with terminal illness, and an additional half a million set to lose Disability Living Allowance and be ineligible for Personal Independence Payments amongst the regime. The fraud of the government rhetoric claiming to be supporting ‘those in most need’ was almost complete with the closure to new applicants for the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in 2010 and ILF’s expected closure in 2015. To celebrate Unum happily launched another set of advertising campaigns in 2012 advising people that the state wouldn’t support them and that they should take out insurance against sickness and disability.

A Tale of two Models: Disabled People vs Unum, Atos, Governments and Disability Charities

The social model and the bio-psychosocial model have each had powerful affects on disabled peoples’ lives. However they are two completely different animals and we must never succumb to the government’s attempts to conflate them. It’s quite clear which model gives most to disabled people and which is being used to take away disabled peoples’ rights and their right to dignity . It is quite clear why we should continue to rage against the current imposition of the market regime of misery. It is quite clear why we should continue to support and use the social model of disability: a model with its rooted in the experiences of those incarcerated in a Leonard Cheshire Disability Charity institution: One of the disability charities that continue to profit from disabled peoples’ misery by sitting at the table with governments, Atos and Unum ‘helping’ the progress of the WCA and gaining from lucrative government contracts for work programs- with their and other charity support disabled people don’t need enemies.

The increases in the recorded suicides of disabled people brought about by the fear and misery imposed on disabled people through the current neo-liberal regime is likely to grow. Yet, the worsening situation of the many being denied support to which they are entitled to through national insurance contributions, through the most basic notion of human rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons, and the European Convention on Human Rights will not affect the income or profits of the private companies or the disability charities involved .

This is not about getting people into work- there are no jobs, much less jobs for disabled people. It is not about even about ‘thinking yourself well’ or tortured nonsensical models shored up by dubious academics in the pay of Unum. This is about denying benefits, denying illness and denying disability: It’s about something Unum have a successful history of:  denying pay outs for disabled people while capitalising on fear and risk. It’s about an ideological regime of misery and austerity in the twelfth richest country in the world.

It amounts to the biggest government benefit fraud in social welfare and human rights in contemporary history.

twitter: @redjolly1

Acknowledgements

With thanks to Ann Whitehurst for sending me Jonathan Rutherford’s excellent piece in Soundings (on which some of this is based) and other pieces explaining how poverty and disability were being remade as an individual attributes rather than a societal failings by the right wing. Thanks to Bob Williams Findlay for his helpful comments. Thanks also to Julia Cameron for her comments, sending numerous links and information and urging that this (or something like this) should be written, and to all those activists past and present who will continue to fight for the rights of disabled people using the social model and who usually also say Rights not Charity! You know who you are…..

For online texts on the social model and disability issues see: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/



[3] Oliver, Mike The Politics of Disablement

 

http://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/archframe.htm

[4] DISABLED PEOPLE IN BRITAIN AND DISCRIMINATION A

Case for Anti-Discrimination Legislation http://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/archframe.htm

 

[5] http://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/Abberley/chapter10.pdf

[6] http://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/Oliver/in%20soc%20dis.pdf

[7] The Social Model of Disability: Myths and Misconceptions http://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/archframe.htm

 

Mar 022012
 

Protests against workfare will be taking place in 35 (and counting) locations tomorrow as part of a National Day of Action called by Boycott Workfare.  For the latest details of protests visit their website at: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=359

Despite Chris Grayling’s humiliating climbdown on workfare this week, the battle is far from over.  The government have not scrapped workfare sanctions. They have removed some sanctions from one of the five schemes.

Just like before, we need to show that companies profiting from forced labour that is not acceptable.  Under the Work Programme claimants can be forced to work in private companies for up to six months or face the poverty and possible homelessness that benefit sanctions bring.

We need to stop this now.  Please contact the companies concerned, flood their facebook pages and twitter feeds, email them and make sure they know that we are just as angry as ever about their used of forced labour.

The government refuses to tell us which companies are profiting from unpaid labour on the Work Programme, and has removed any information from the DWP’s website.  How, due a now ‘disappeared’ Freedom of Information Act request, we know for sure that the companies and charities below have taken on workfare staff under the Work Programme scheme.

Remember to tell them if are are planning to boycott them or withdraw donations unless they pull out of workfare immediately.

ASDA – on twitter @asda and facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/Asda  Their facebook wall is locked down but you can leave comments.  Or you can contact them direct (Freephone no) at: http://your.asda.com/contact-us

Savers – on twitter (but not very active) @saversstore or facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Savers-Health-and-Beauty/102022502083? Contact them direct at: http://www.savers.co.uk/contact-us_19.html

Barnados – on twitter @Barnados  They have said they will not take young people on work experience who face sanctions but have remained silent on the workfare staff in their shops.  On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/barnardos#!/barnardos?sk=wall  Contact page at: http://www.barnardos.org.uk/what_we_do/who_we_are/contact_us.htm

Holiday Inn – on twitter @holidayinn on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/HolidayInnUKIreland#!/HolidayInnUKIreland?sk=wall

Pizza Hut – on twitter @pizzahut  There UK page is @pizzahut_uk but is barely active.  They are busy on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/PizzaHutUK?sk=wall  Contact page at: http://www.pizzahut.co.uk/restaurants/faqs.aspx

Poundstretcher – on twitter @poundstretcher1 (barely active) and not active on facebook email them at: ed@poundstretcher.co.uk – website at: http://www.poundstretcher.co.uk/

British Heart Foundation – on twitter @thebhf on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/bhf   Contact page: http://www.bhf.org.uk/contact-us.aspx

Wilkinson – Barely active on twitter.  On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/WilkinsonPlus#!/WilkinsonPlus?sk=wall  Their wall is locked down but you can leave comments or contact them at: http://www.wilkinsonplus.com/page/contact_index/

99p Stores – Can’t find them on twitter.  On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/99p-Stores/49590173920  or contact them at: http://www.99pstoresltd.com/contactus.asp

Salvation Army – believed to be involved in Mandatory Work Activity and the Work Programme.  On twitter @salvationarmyuk or facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/salvationarmyuk Contact page at: http://www.salvationarmy.org.uk/uki/contactus

Booker Wholesale – on twitter @bookerwholesale and facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/BookerWholesale  Contact page at: https://www.booker.co.uk/help/contactus.aspx

Jamie Oliver – Jamie has been whinging this week that he hasn’t been sent a workfare slave yet even though he signed up to the Work Programme months ago.  Why not tell this multi-millionaire what you think of him using forced labour on twitter @jamieoliver

______________________________________________________________

It is unclear whether the following companies will remain involved in the Work Experience scheme or the far more draconian Work Programme.  Ask them and demand they do not profit from forced labour.

Argos – on twitter @argos_online and facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/argos  Contact page at: http://www.argos.co.uk/static/StaticDisplay/includeName/ContactUs.htm

McDonalds – very busy international page on twitter @mcdonalds  On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/McDonaldsUK  Contact page at: http://www.mcdonalds.co.uk/ukhome/Aboutus/Contact-us.html

Primark – on twitter @primarkjobs Seemingly impossible to get in touch with any other way.  Visit your local store instead!

Holland & Barrett – inactive twitter page @holland_barrett  Contact page at: http://www.hollandandbarrett.com/pages/contactus.asp

Cancer Research UK – on twitter @CR_UK  On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/cancerresearchuk  Contact page at: https://aboutus.cancerresearchuk.org/contact-us/?secure=true

Age UK – on twitter @age_uk   On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/ageuk  Contact page at: http://www.ageuk.org.uk/contact-us/

______________________________________________________________

Many other companies and charities are using workfare.  Very little has changed despite Chris Grayling’s announcement.  According to the trade industry for workfare providers,  only Boots have told them they are pulling out so far.  Oxfam and Shelter have made clear statements distancing themselves from workfare and the Work Programme.  Sainsburys, Tesco and Waterstones have all said they are not involved in the scheme.  Poundland has pulled out of Work Programme but will continue to take work experience placements as long as they are not subject to benefit sanctions.

Please list contact details of all known workfare exploiters in the comments.

The following charities are part sub-contractors for Work Programme as part of the Disability Works consortium.  Several of them have also used workfare in their charity shops.  Contact them and demand they pull out of workfare.  More importantly, with government plans revealed to force sick and disabled people into permanent work for no pay we urgently need a statement from all these charities that will they not play any part in such a crueland abusive scheme.

SCOPE – on twitter at @scope  On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/Scope  Contact page at: http://www.scope.org.uk/contact-us

Mencap – on twitter @mencap_charity  On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/Mencap  Contact page at: http://www.mencap.org.uk/contact-us

MIND – on twitter @mindcharity  On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/mindforbettermentalhealth  Contact page at: http://www.mind.org.uk/contact

Leonard Chesire Disability – on twitter @LCDisability  On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Leonard-Cheshire-Disability/77071765498  Contact page at: http://www.lcdisability.org/?lid=108

Action for Blind People – on twitter @action4blind  On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/actionforblindpeople  Contact page at: http://www.actionforblindpeople.org.uk/other-pages/contact-us/

Advance – not active on twitter or facebook.  Contact page at: http://www.advanceuk.org/index.asp?m=6&t=Contact+Us

Pluss – on twitter  @plussaddtolife  On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Pluss/257795488431  Contact page: http://www.pluss.org.uk/contact

United Response – on twitter @unitedresponce  On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/UnitedResponse?ref=ts  Contact page at: http://www.unitedresponse.org.uk/get-support/contact-us/

And if you’ve still got time after all that then why not give disability deniers Atos a kick, the company responsible for the flawed health and disability benefit eligibility tests testing which have driven some people to suicide.  They’ll only feel left out otherwise.  On twitter @atos  Not allowed on facebook.  Contact page at: http://www.atoshealthcare.com/index.php?option=com_enquiries&Itemid=226

If you ring companies please remember you are probably speaking to a low paid receptionist, and just as importantly that communications can be easily traced.  It is an offence to make malicious or abusive phone calls.

Mar 022012
 

Two leading Scottish disabled people’s organisations have accused the minister for disabled people of lying about their involvement in a UK government consultation on welfare reform.

Three organisations – Inclusion Scotland (IS), Lothian Centre for Inclusive Living (LCIL) and Independent Living in Scotland (ILiS) – were so angry at Maria Miller’s claims that they boycotted a meeting with her that should have taken place last week.

Miller had written in the Guardian: “I have personally met with over 60 disabled people’s organisations in the development of personal independence payment [PIP, the benefit due to replace working-age disability living allowance]and visited disabled people around the country to hear their views.”

A list of 50 of those disability organisations, obtained by Disabled People Against Cuts through a Freedom of Information Act request, included the names of IS, ILiS and LCIL.

But two of them – IS and LCIL – have told Disability News Service that they have never met with Miller.

They are also the latest organisations to express anger at how Miller has “misrepresented” the views of DPOs by implying that the government’s welfare reforms are backed by the disability movement and other disability organisations.

The meeting they boycotted was to take place in Edinburgh last week and was intended to discuss their response to a consultation on the government’s disability strategy.

Inclusion Scotland said it attended two meetings about the development of PIP with Department for Work and Pensions representatives last August, but Miller was not at either of them.

Bill Scott, manager of Inclusion Scotland – a national consortium of DPOs and disabled people – said: “It was a lie and there is no doubt about that. She shouldn’t have said that.

“She then went on to say there was a consensus in favour of welfare reform. There is no such consensus. On welfare reform, we are just implacably opposed to what they are doing.”

Scott added: “We just wanted to make a point last week that we were not going to be misrepresented. We have been very, very vocal opponents of welfare reform.”

He said IS would now have to examine its future involvement with the UK government on a “case by case basis”.

Catherine Garrod, information coordinator for LCIL, also said Miller had lied about meeting personally with her organisation.

She said: “We thought we had been misrepresented by the minister for disabled people. We are strongly opposed to what is happening with the welfare reforms.

“Everybody knows they have consulted, but they have not listened to what the response has been.”

Because of Miller’s actions, she said LCIL would now probably refuse to take part in any future meetings with the minister, although it would continue to provide written responses to UK government consultations.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “The minister for disabled people was not referring to a specific meeting attended by 60 disabled organisations but was intending to make a more general point about the extensive consultation in which she and officials have been engaged since May 2010.”

1 March 2012 – News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 

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/

Jan 212012
 

Welfare Reform Bill — no going back to Dickensian days

Next Vigils & Lobbies: 1pm-3pm, MONDAY 23 JAN, WEDNESDAY 25 JAN, TUESDAY 31 JAN.

* Defend Child Benefit for all * Oppose all benefit caps and sanctions  
*Cap greedy landlords, not low-income people!

 

called by

Single Mothers’ Self-Defence, WinVisible, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust

 

Meet opposite Parliament – Lords’ entrance

Old Palace Yard, Abingdon St SW1 – Westminster tube

All welcome

 

We have had two very successful vigils attended by over 30 people – people with disabilities, single mothers, claimants and other activists. The Royal College of Nursing joined the vigil last Tuesday. Alex Callaghan, who leads their policy work on the social determinants of health, had photos taken for Nursing Times

 

Baroness Hollis and Lord Ramsbotham will raise amendments proposed by Zacchaeus 2000, protecting people forced to repay overpayments made in error, and consideration of claimants’ circumstances before sanctions.

 

  • Wednesday 25 January,  last day of Report stage.

 

  • Tuesday 31st January, 3rd reading of the Bill where it will be passed or not as a whole by Lords.

 

Government defeats so far:

 

  • no cut to Housing Benefit for having a spare room.
  •  to keep benefit entitlement for young people who are severely disabled, so they have financial independence coming into adulthood;
  • increasing to two years the one-year time limit on National Insurance-based sickness benefit for people who are recovering;
  • entitlement for terminally-ill people – the government wanted to force people who have longer than six months to live, to attend work-focussed interviews to get benefit.

Please join us again, and publicise it on Facebook, Twitter and email lists.  If you can’t come, you can ring and write to the Lords (0207 219 3000, fax 020 7219 5979).  More info and email addresses are here.

 

Press coverage:

Morning Star reports from 17 January Vigil

Guardian video and report – watch here.

Guardian blog

 BBC interview with Baroness Meacher explaining the three votes

The Commissioner for Children says the Bill contravenes the UN Convention

The Londonist report
Photos

 

THINGS YOU CAN DO

Come and raise your concerns on the Vigils ♦ Bring placards with your organisation’s name and issues you are concerned about ♦ Lobby the Lords – support amendments to keep Child Benefit out of the benefit cap, extend concessions for women fleeing domestic violence, ensure immediate benefit payments for people coming out of prison, and Zacchaeus 2000 amendments to protect claimants from unliveable benefit repayments, sanctions and bailiffs ♦ Lobby your MP; contact them to make an appointment or write to them about your personal situation – find your MP here. If you are unable to come on the day, ring them or write, for Lords’ addresses see here; and sign the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust e-petition against the benefit caps here.

More info:

smsd@allwomencount.net  0207 482 2496  PaulNicolson@z2k.org  07961177889

win@winvisible.org

 

PRESS NOTICE.                                                                          

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.

 

Rev Paul  Nicolson, Chair, Zacchaeus 2000.

020 83765455

07961 177889

 

Welfare Reform Bill

The Ramsbotham and Hollins amendments.

On Monday the 23rd January Peers will consider two amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill  which are vital to the mental wellbeing of the poorest citizens of the UK because they provide safeguards against the damage done to mental health when debts are enforced against poverty incomes.   The Royal College of Psychiatrists, Mind, the major Christian Churches, CAB and Liberty are among the 20 NGOs supporting;  

  1. Lord Ramsbotham’s amendment 62A, which will ensure that jobcentre and local authority officials do not punish welfare claimants with sanctions and penalties,  nor enforce overpayments made in error by officials, when they know there is good reason not to, by requiring officials to examine the facts and circumstances of each case,  and
  2. Baroness Hollins’s amendment 62ZC, which will retain the current legal prohibition on enforcing overpayments of welfare against claimants which are made in error by officials.

Both amendments were proposed by Zacchaeus 2000, a Christian Trust that works with vulnerable and impoverished debtors.

 

The Rev Paul Nicolson, Chair Zacchaeus 2000, comments.

“The Department of Work and Pensions has been advised by the Royal College of Psychiatrists that poverty is trigger factor for poor mental health, a factor in maintaining poor health and part of the experience of those with poor mental health.

We know from our experience of serving welfare claimants in debt to the State how seriously depressed they are: it hurts their families too.

Welfare incomes are already set at poverty levels to act as an incentive to look for work; but the Welfare Reform Bill,  coupled with cuts and caps on one hand and rising prices of food and fuel on the other, is creating debts without the necessary safeguards for welfare claimants or poor people in work.

The Centre for Mental Health has shown that mental health problems already cost the economy in England £105 billion in 2010/11; the Bill will increase that cost”.

 

Please sign our e-petition on

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/25438

Stop the housing benefit and universal credit caps.

 

Rev Paul Nicolson

Chair, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust

34 Grosvenor Gardens

London SW1

paulnicolson@z2k.org

0207 259 0801

0207 259 0701 fax

0208 376 5455 home

07961 177889 mobile

www.z2k.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dec 302011
 

PCS Left Unity National Committee

DEFEND PENSIONS – ESCALATE ACTION TO DEFEND THE WELFARE STATE

Friends Meeting House

(opp. Euston Station) 7th January 2012 11am – 4pm

Mark Serwotka carrying DPAC banner

Mark Serwotka carrying DPAC banner

Speakers:

Mark Serwotka PCS General Secretary

John McDonnell MP

Kevin Courtney DGS NUT (personal capacity)

Roger Bannister UNISON NEC (personal capacity)

Mark Campbell UCU NEC (personal capacity)

Zita Holbourne BARAC

Kevin Donnelly Unite United Left

For more details click here…

Dec 202011
 

DPAC has been passed an unedited transcript from Work and Pensions Committee in which Maria Miller appears to admit that the changeover from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is set for cuts of £160 million from disabled people. It’s claimed that the department must raise the cash cuts lost in the U-turn on removal of mobility allowance for those in residential institutions. In the full transcript participants also seem to be talking as though DLA to PIP is already passed in law which it isn’t.

Q194 Sheila Gilmore: Some of my colleagues may want to ask whether or not it is just a question of people filling in the form. There is quite a lot of dispute as to whether it is fair to say that is all that goes on here. As to the financial position, a lot of people were very pleased to see the removal of mobility allowance from people in residential homes, which is something people have campaigned on from the time it was proposed. That also had a savings implication because a reduction of some £160 million was in the financial estimates. Is your Department still expecting to find additional savings from the migration from DLA to PIP that now will not be found from removing mobility allowance from people in residential care?

Maria Miller: As you would expect me to say, the Department has very clear commitments to the Treasury in terms of the spending it is able to undertake in the spending review period. The answer to that question is, very firmly, that we will have to find the funding that was associated with the mobility component for people living in residential care, but we will not find it from within the Disability Living Allowance.

Q195 Sheila Gilmore: From within PIP?

Maria Miller: Yes.

DPAC are running a campaign on DLA as already people are losing this in increasing numbers see

DLA tell DPAC your story Campaign and Social model respomse to loss of DLA

See full unedited transcript of meeting of Work and Pensions Committee at link below

Proposal to replace disability living allowance with personal independence payment – uncorrected evidence

Organisation: House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee

Source: House of Commons – Uncorrected Commons Committee Evidence

Date: 18.12.11

The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee has published an uncorrected transcript from its evidence session on December 12 2011 on the proposal to replace disability living allowance with personal independence payment.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmworpen/uc1493-iii/uc149301.htm

Witnesses:

  • Maria Miller MP, minister for disabled people, Department for Work and Pensions
  • Dr James Bolton, deputy chief medical adviser, Department for Work and Pensions
  • Simon Dawson, deputy director of independent living and Office for Disability Issues, Department for Work and Pensions

18 December 2011

 

 

 

Dec 142011
 

In March 2011 I wrote about the ways media portrayed disabled people at a time of punitive cuts to disabled peoples’ social and financial supports.

….a range of false accusations against disabled people and those with long term health conditions are visible in the media. Rather than offering support to disabled people, certain sections of the media prefer to label disabled people as unsustainable, unproductive or immoral members of their communities. The major accusation, however, is that disabled people are not disabled at all, but profiting from fraudulent benefit claims

Eight months on there is a clear escalation of the negative portrayal of disabled people in the UK media. These attacks are no longer confined to screaming newspaper headlines in the Daily Mail and Daily Express declaring that the majority of people on disability benefits are frauds, but a whole host of television programs setting out the Saints and Sinners, even programs with usually good credentials such as Panorama have jumped on to the band wagon of who’s responsible for ‘Broken Britain’. Since March 2011 negative and unbalanced reporting has become worse.

Social and Economic facts versus ideological messages

At the same time unemployment has increased to the highest rates ever recorded for youth and women, and the highest since 1992. On average vacancies have decreased from an average of 2/1 (2005) vacancy rate to a 6/1 (2011) with six people chasing one job according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS). Figures on averages hide local variations which are often much higher.

Yet, still unemployment or any need for state support is consistently identified as a personal failing regardless of personal circumstances or societal limitations: it’s this ideological message, rather than economic and statistical facts that gathers pace and shouts out loud and clear from some sectors of the media, with disabled people most often identified as the group needing to leave welfare and get jobs because they are ‘faking it’.

How the Newspapers are reporting Disability

A recent report commissioned by the organisation Inclusion London and carried out by the Strathclyde Disability Research Group and Glasgow Media Studies group at the University of Glasgow: Bad News for Disabled People: How the Newspapers are reporting Disability, found significant changes in media reporting of disabled people which show a clearly defined increase in stories and views identifying disabled people as ‘undeserving’.

The report identified changes in reporting through comparative content analysis of tabloid newspapers in 2005/6 and 2010/11and through focus groups. The researchers found that incidents of negative language regarding disabled people in print media had more than doubled over the time period, while what they termed ‘sympathetic’ stories had more or less disappeared in the tabloid press. Terms such as ‘burden’, ‘scrounger’, and ‘cheat’ were used repeatedly in 2011with a rapidly decreasing use of articles on disability discrimination. In addition stories outlining the political and economic context were rare. When the focus groups were asked to describe a typical disability story in the newspapers: disability benefit fraud was the top theme.

 The media examined were the Mirror, the Sun, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, and for balance the Guardian. The researchers also carried out a number of focus groups asking what each group thought the level of disability benefit fraud was, there were variations from rates of 50% to 70% of perceived disability fraud from focus groups.

The reality in terms of incapacity benefit it is just 0.03% according to the ONS the report states. The Department of Work and Pensions own figures on Disability Living Allowance are 0.05% both stats also include administrative errors within their figures. The media strategy appears to be working when focus groups state perceived incidents of fraud of up to 70% which is more in line with Daily Mail and Daily Express headlines, than any statistical realities.

The report’s timely commission by Inclusion London, a London wide Deaf and Disabled Peoples’ organisation provides more evidence for further campaigns and for those who doubted that the print media in particular were objective. In addition, there have been several examples of stories usefully backed by a quote or two from Iain Duncan Smith MP welfare and pensions’ secretary. The most stunning in the Sun newspaper in 2011 when he happily implied that disabled people were responsible for the UK deficit, the most recent quoting him as ‘enraged’ and ‘shocked’ based a story that carried false figures regarding mobility cars. He wasn’t shocked by the inaccuracies but by the figures which weren’t checked before publication, but false figures are par for the course, as are false accusations.

The Cuts, Media and ‘real life’ Implications

Sheffield Hallam University have also produced a report outlining the impact of the cuts in incapacity benefit, claiming that almost half of those now receiving incapacity benefits will lose them, not because of fraud, but because of a tightening of the qualifying criteria for the replacement of lower income benefit Employment Support Allowance. The report by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University, estimates that the reforms will cut the number of disabled people on out-of-work disability benefits by nearly one million in just three years. Add to this other reforms set to take away any support from disabled people and those already carried out removing over 9 billion pounds worth of support and we see a very different story from one of fraud. We see a story of ‘cuts’ to a group that the UK public had consistently agreed to be deserving of support in national surveys such as the British Attitudes Survey.

Professor Fothergill author of the report on Incapacity Benefit changes said

The large numbers that will pushed off incapacity benefits over the next two to three years are entirely the result of changes in the benefit rules” and added that this ..’would impoverish vast numbers of households and cause untold distress to countless more. The incapacity numbers need to be brought down, but this is not the way’

He is also clear that this is not about fraud, but about ‘changes in the benefit rules’ see Jolly . He adds: “Incapacity claimants often face multiple obstacles to working again and their concentration in the weakest local economies and most disadvantaged communities means they usually have little chance of finding work.”

Yet, it is the benefit fraud stories that abound despite the 0.03% figure; people believe the figure is much higher. A rise in disability hate crime has been linked to the media strategy on the demonising of disabled people. One example was reported on 4th December, one day after the International Day of People with Disabilities. It tells of Peter Greener’s constant barrage of abuse from his neighbour.

Sometimes, it was eggs thrown at his house, stones thrown at his windows or paint thrown at his fence; more often, it was words hurled in his face: spastic, cripple, scum, scrounger. These assaults went on for months, leaving the former Nissan car-sprayer in floods of tears, feeling suicidal and on antidepressants. He was scared to leave his home in Hebburn in South Tyneside and blamed himself for the upset it caused his wife and two children. “It made our lives hell,” he said.

Like many people with conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Greener’s regressive condition fluctuates. One day, it affects his memory, the next his speech. Sometimes, he uses a wheelchair; at other times, he can haul himself around on crutches. But this only led to more abuse, with angry shouts he was faking his disabilities and exaggerating his problems to get benefits

This is just one story; but the climate of fear is clearly working, there are disabled people who are frightened to leave their homes because of verbal and physical abuse, and accusations of being scroungers and frauds. There are those who refuse to claim their entitlement to support in spite of previously paying years of national insurance when they were in work, because they do not want to be labelled as benefit cheats. In total 16 million pounds worth of entitlements goes unclaimed. There are also those denied entitlement to support through the tougher regimes for claiming any benefit such as the replacement for incapacity benefit through the work capability assessment, carried out by the private company Atos who are being paid 100 million pounds per year by the government. The sums do not add up, but the strategy seems to:

A further report carried out by BT showed that a third of those questioned demonstrated increasingly negative attitudes towards disabled people. Reasons cited for this ranged from disabled people being seen as a burden on society (38%), ill feeling around the perceived extra support given to disabled people (28%), and the personal worries and sensitivities which rise to the fore during a recession (79%).

European Media Strategies

The media attacks on disabled people are not just happening in the UK. In Holland up to 90% is being cut from support for disabled people, similar media demonization is taking place in the popular press identifying perceived ‘undeserving’ cases. In Sweden cuts are being made to assistance to support disabled people with tougher qualifying criteria being put in place, they too have a focus on those who defraud the system highlighting such stories while record numbers of people loose entitlement to support.

The figures for fraud are just 0.05% in Holland. Yet, the magazine Vrij Nederland, a major quality magazine in Holland reproduces outrageous comments from the Secretary of State, responsible for the drastic 90% cuts:

The State Secretary of Health, Marlies van Zanten Veldhuijzen finds it unacceptable that some thirty percent of people with a personal budget (PGB) wrongly receive it. She said in an interview this week: “It can have you on the internet looking for the name of a disease, and then think: look, I can get 2000 Euros per month. With PGB we need to sort the wheat from the chaff.

 She states that 30% receive a budget without having the right to receive it, as if it is a fact. Yet, here is no existing evidence or research confirming or even indicating this. Before receiving a PGB, as in most countries, a strict assessment is carried out. However, here we have a government minister saying that individuals can simply choose a disease at random by searching the internet to gain these funds.

Stories used by media to usher in cuts to disability support appear to converge into strategies by particular populist media to create a media panic around the extra perceived support given to disabled people for the extra costs of disability. This is proving effective , especially when there are examples of ‘undeserving’ cases being presented to shift the traditional view of disabled people as ‘tragic victims of circumstance’ –the  claim of ‘tragic victims’ has always been rejected by many in the disabled peoples’ movement –maybe this will change as the 21st century welfare reform policies and the media strategies in the UK and Europe reinvent millions of disabled people as the tragic victims of the circumstance of recession and easy targets for savings from the state budget.

The political use of media to promote demonization of disabled people is aiding the work of governments’ intent on cutting the support and the human rights of disabled people.  There are rising cases of verbal abuse against disabled people such as that endured by Peter Greener and rising cases of suicide amongst disabled people with one couple entering a suicide pact after surviving for a year by walking 10 miles to receive food parcels which they made last all week.

The Challenges

Ann McGuire Westminster Shadow minister for work and pensions wrote recently:

Disabled people say they are fed up with being labelled as scroungers in the media – and are beginning to point the finger in the direction of the Government. Yesterday at Work and Pensions questions I asked the Minister for Disabled People to assure the House, and disabled people up and down the country, that Ministers are not behind the stories knocking disabled people that seem to be emerging with alarming regularity…

 McGuire called on the minister for disabled people to quell the insidious media attacks, a challenge that was also made directly to Miller at a recent disability conference in London: McGuire said:

The Minister for Disabled People has a responsibility as the champion of disabled people inside government to challenge some of the more outrageous and outlandish comments by some of her senior colleagues and others associated with her government…And I call on her to do so.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Article 8(2c) of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states:

‘Encouraging all organs of the media to portray persons with disabilities in a manner consistent with the purpose of the present Convention’.

This would include any change in reporting over time: it seems that there has been a change in reporting which is clearly not in line with the convention’s principles of promoting, protecting and ensuring the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms nor with promoting respect for disabled peoples’ inherent dignity. In fact the opposite seems to be occurring.

UK Responses

Inclusion London, the pan Deaf and Disabled Peoples’ organisation that commissioned the Glasgow University research into the media have led a response on the Leveson Inquiry. The response: titled ‘Open Season on Disabled People?’ supported by Disabled People against Cuts and others states:

  • The Government must issue a clear and public rebuttal every time the media release inaccurate information citing Government / Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) statistics.
  • That the Government commit to full transparency in their dealings with the press including  keeping a publically available record of all communications between Government officials, Ministers, their aides and special advisors and the media.
  • That there needs to be an independent review of how the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) releases and provides commentary on its statistics to assess how fair and balanced this data is presented and communicated.
  • That the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) must carry out further research on the impact of media coverage on disabled people and the implications this has for disability hate crime, disabled people’s protection under The Equalities Act and the UN Convention on the rights of disabled people.

We call on the Leveson inquiry, Press Complaints Commission, and OFCOM to:

  • Carry out an independent investigation into the media reporting of disabled people. This investigation needs to include the impact this coverage is having on disabled people and the implications this biased and inaccurate reporting has for the culture, practices, ethics and standards of the press. It must also examine the opportunities disabled people should have for effective redress.

 Debbie Jolly

Debbie Jolly is on twitter: @redjolly1

___________________________________________________________________________

An edited version of this paper is published on British Politics and Policy London School of Economics,  entitled: ‘As the government moves to cut the number of disabled people on benefits, the media is increasingly portraying them as ‘undeserving fraudsters’.http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/2011/12/14/disabled-people-media-attacks/

 Acknowledgements: I would like to acknowledge the assistance and kind support of Jamie Bolling Executive Director of the European Network for Independent Living (ENIL) and Peter Lambreghts of ENIL and the Expertise Centre Independent Living

Please see and support: www.enil.eu  and http://www-en.independentliving.be/

 



 
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

 

 

 

Nov 242011
 

First of all, I have to say that I would have expected a conference about tackling disability poverty to have included some claimants who actually experience disability poverty however by charging unwaged people £10 to attend this, in spite of the fact that Disability Alliance got the venue free, claimants were by and large excluded from discussions about how to tackle disability poverty.

There were a number of further access issues for disabled people too no blue badge parking nearby, no accessible tube stations nearby, a start time that was so early people couldn’t use their freedom passes on busses and anyone coming from outside London had to pay peak rate fares.

Several disabled claimants tried to get into the event on the day but were refused entry even though they offered to pay. I was on the list though so was able to get into the conference. Access inside could have been much better too, and there was no dedicated accessible toilets and no space to sit anywhere other than right at the back if you were a wheelchair user.

The vast majority of those present weren’t disabled people but professionals who speak for us. Of those disabled people who were there most expressed grave concerns about the nature and organisation of the new organisation DRUK – Disability Rights UK which will consist of  an amalgamation of NCIL, RADAR and Disability Alliance.

ATOS doctors gave an unconvincing talk about how nice ATOS really are, and then we were treated to a fleeting visit from Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people. There were attempts to stagemanage this part of the programme and Liz Sayce looked decidedly uncomfortable at some of the questions us more ungrateful disabled people asked. Miller spouted the usual Condem rhetoric about how much better off disabled people will be with Universal Credit, with no care and support funding, no ILF and how grateful we should all be for all the extra money the Condems have put into disability related matters.  You can listen to her below if you can bear to.

Click the link here to read John Pring’s article about the conference: http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2011/11/28/miller-and-atos-face-angry-heckling-at-disability-poverty-conference/   News source: www.disabilitynewsservice.com

transcript of Maria Miller’s speech

These videos have now been put up by Disability Alliance has been edited to exclude some disabled claimants calling her a “murderer” as she left and has cut out my response to her claims that disabled people need not be afraid of change when I said it wasn’t change people were afraid of it was being trapped in their own homes with no care funding, and another person saying people were afraid of being pushed further into poverty.

report by Linda Burnip

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Questions to Maria Miller (Part One – with Linda’s question sorry no transcripts provided)

Part 2

Part 3


Link to Report from Disability Alliance

Sep 112011
 

On September 13th the Welfare Reform bill passes to the House of Lords for debate and to be voted on. This bill is based upon the ‘Universal Credit: Welfare that Works’ white paper that puts forward the Condem’s proposals for reforming welfare to work incentives, to simplify the benefit system and to tackle administrative complexity.

In short it seeks to destroy the welfare state as we know it and in many cases slash benefit claims to the point where increased poverty and homelessness will result.

DPAC say that Disabled People and Disabled Children should not pay the price for welfare reform. Please email as many Lords as you can. This needs to be done now or very soon so please take a few moments to do this if at all possible.

A full list of Lords email addresses can be found here or at this blog

Dear Lords,

We are writing to express our concern over numerous aspects of the current Welfare Reform proposals which you are now being asked to consider and vote on. Many of these measures will adversely affect the lives of disabled people and children and will in many cases remove disabled people’s rights supposedly guaranteed under the UN Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities. If passed as they are many of these changes will result in widespread increases in poverty and homelessness.

A number of our concerns include the introduction of Personal Independence Payments to replace Disability Living Allowance with a stated aim of reducing the number of claimants by 20% when the fraud rate for DLA is according to DWP figures only 0.5% and the social security advisory committee have said they can see no reason for the changes. Re-testing of claimants regularly although their conditions will never change will be a further waste of public money and will merely add another test for disabled people to fear.

The proposed removal of the Mobility component of Disability Living Allowance from all residents of care homes, resulting in a fall in their incomes of 66% and leaving them with only £22 a week for all extra expenses will cause genuine distress  for many residents as well as in most cases removing from them a right to family life. Many disabled people living in residential homes use this component to pay for either a mobility aid such as a wheelchair or to pay travel costs to see family and friends. One care home resident tells us that he has to pay his home 65p per mile to travel anywhere although the home is paid over £1,000 per week for his care and the drivers are volunteers. This is typical and without mobility allowance many disabled people will effectively become prisoners.

The proposed abolition of the Independent Living Fund coupled with the reduction of local authority funding will result in massive numbers of disabled people losing their right to live independently in total contradiction to the UNCRPD which was ratified by the UK government. This fund should not be scrapped without an adequate and ring-fenced alternative being put in place. In other countries where similar moves have been made the costs to the state increased as large numbers of disabled people ended up being admitted to hospital for lengthy periods of time. This proposal in particular will be disastrous for disabled people’s rights.

Restricting the amount of Housing Benefit entitlement to social housing tenants whose homes are larger then they are deemed to need is ill thought out as many disabled people have had costly adaptations made to their homes which they would lose if forced to move. There is also a massive lack of accessible properties available anyhow thus making it almost impossible for disabled people to find alternative accommodation. Further for anyone with a visual impairment or a learning disability it is often vital for them to remain in surroundings that they are familiar with and to maintain contact with medical and other professionals who know them well.

Another potential problem with housing is that the bill will link Local Housing Allowance rates to CPI index, which excludes housing costs. Already with the changes to LHA made it is becoming increasingly difficult for disabled people who have additional housing needs eg. to use a wheelchair, or have non-resident carers to find accommodation they can afford in the private rented sector.

Limiting of Employment and Support payments to 12 months for those in the Work Related Activity Group seem particularly illogical as disabled people’s impairments are not likely to go away and may in fact deteriorate. It ignores the effects of chronic, fluctuating conditions such as MS, ME, inflammatory bowel diseases etc.

In addition, the universal credit and welfare reform will bring in ‘a commitment’ for those who fail to ‘apply themselves’ to proper work seeking activities to tougher sanctions. Once again this will not address the complexity of employment related barriers that disabled people face, even if they really are ‘fit for work’. Cuts to Access to Work funding will put in place additional barriers to disabled people in trying to secure employment.

Caps on the total amount of benefit any claimant can get, for both housing needs and living expenses. The suggested total amount is £500 per week regardless of family size, or costs of housing. Ian Duncan Smith says this is to ensure that work pays however it totally ignores the multiple barriers that disabled people face in entering and remaining in the job market, and the fact that many families with disabled children are forced to give up work to care for them due to the lack of adequate alternatives.

Many families with disabled children will face a cut to the financial support they receive. The new system will result in these children losing up to £1400 per year The Government estimates that 100,000 disabled children would lose out under this change.

The reforms suggest that all claims should be processed via the internet which is not accessible for many disabled people. What alternatives are being proposed for those who do not have or cannot access this method of claiming.

We hope that you will ensure these issues are fully addressed before you vote on this bill, the future of disabled people now lies in your hands.

Yours faithfully,

(fill in your name and address)