Aug 282011
 

Cross posted from benefitclaimantsfightback

The Carer Watch forums forced offline by Atos Origin are still not back despite Atos claiming to be willing to negotiate. It now appears that Atos are refusing to even state which posts on the site, a volunteer-run online meeting place for disabled people and their carers, they have deemed to be ‘libellous’.

This is the third website run by disabled activists and supporters which has been closed down by legal threats from IT company Atos Origin, despite no evidence that they have ever sought any redress via a court order.  In previous cases Atos have objected to parodies of their company logo (legal in many countries and a grey area in UK law) as well as the phrase ‘atos kills’ and the name of the Atos Register of Shame website (now back!).

In this latest development Atos have closed Carer Watch without even specifying which content they found libellous.  This is a worrying precedent and should concern all who use the internet as an alternative source of news.  It now seems as if any website even vaguely critical of Atos can face having their site taken offline after legal threats to their server/hosting company.

This vicious attack is an attempt to silence disabled people from talking about their experiences of Atos’ disability assessments, which have led to thousands of sick and disabled people being wrongly stripped of vital benefits.  This is all happening against the backdrop of a major Atos Corporation rebrand.  Atos have a new logo, revamped website, new facebook pages and appear to have adopted a more aggressive approach to promoting themselves online.  As they ironically will be managing IT systems for the paralympic games it is little wonder they want to hide the true face of their company – an organisation that has harrassed and bullied disabled people into suicide.

How to help

Since Atos seem so precious about their logo then online activists have been helping with their rebranding by suggesting a more honest corporate identity (see pics attached).  If you have a blog, website or facebook page please republish the images, or come up with your own, in solidarity with the websites already closed.  It is vital that every time Atos try to silence us we shout louder.  The internet is good at that kind of thing.

Atos’ new facebook page can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/Atos?sk=wall comments aren’t staying up long, but there is a list of alternative Atos facebook pages to join on the left.

Please tweet and retweet about this story, using the hashtags #atos #atoskills #atosblog

Atos can be contacted on 020 7830 4444, ask for James Loughrey.

Finally please support and promote the next National Day of Action Against Atos on the 30th September.  Organise locally or join us in London outside the BMJ Recruitment Fair at the Business Design Centre in Islington.

 Posted by at 17:54
Aug 272011
 

Cameron is handing over sacks of money to a frenchman wearing a black beret and with a string of onions arounds his neck. On the wall behind the frenchman is a large sign that says ‘Atos’. Cameron is saying: “So to speed up the process, we’ll get you to do the appeals as well!”

From Crippens blog

Aug 262011
 

Cross posted from benefitclaimantsfightback

The Carer Watch forums forced offline by Atos Origin are still not back despite Atos claiming to be willing to negotiate. It now appears that Atos are refusing to even state which posts on the site, a volunteer-run online meeting place for disabled people and their carers, they have deemed to be ‘libellous’.

This is the third website run by disabled activists and supporters which has been closed down by legal threats from IT company Atos Origin, despite no evidence that they have ever sought any redress via a court order.  In previous cases Atos have objected to parodies of their company logo (legal in many countries and a grey area in UK law) as well as the phrase ‘atos kills’ and the name of the Atos Register of Shame website (now back!).

In this latest development Atos have closed Carer Watch without even specifying which content they found libellous.  This is a worrying precedent and should concern all who use the internet as an alternative source of news.  It now seems as if any website even vaguely critical of Atos can face having their site taken offline after legal threats to their server/hosting company.

This vicious attack is an attempt to silence disabled people from talking about their experiences of Atos’ disability assessments, which have led to thousands of sick and disabled people being wrongly stripped of vital benefits.  This is all happening against the backdrop of a major Atos Corporation rebrand.  Atos have a new logo, revamped website, new facebook pages and appear to have adopted a more aggressive approach to promoting themselves online.  As they ironically will be managing IT systems for the paralympic games it is little wonder they want to hide the true face of their company – an organisation that has harrassed and bullied disabled people into suicide.

How to help

Since Atos seem so precious about their logo then online activists have been helping with their rebranding by suggesting a more honest corporate identity (see pics attached).  If you have a blog, website or facebook page please republish the images, or come up with your own, in solidarity with the websites already closed.  It is vital that every time Atos try to silence us we shout louder.  The internet is good at that kind of thing.

Atos’ new facebook page can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/Atos?sk=wall comments aren’t staying up long, but there is a list of alternative Atos facebook pages to join on the left.

Please tweet and retweet about this story, using the hashtags #atos #atoskills #atosblog

Atos can be contacted on 020 7830 4444, ask for James Loughrey.

Finally please support and promote the next National Day of Action Against Atos on the 30th September.  Organise locally or join us in London outside the BMJ Recruitment Fair at the Business Design Centre in Islington.

Aug 232011
 

Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said: “The Government has made great play of keeping concessionary passes. Yet thousands who use them as their only means of going on holiday or seeing relatives will have this option taken away.

“Ministers don’t seem to get that coaches are a vital link for pensioners and disabled people and that losing their concessionary travel could greatly reduce their quality of life.”

She accused the Government of cutting too far, too fast and pointed out that funds for local buses had seen an overall reduction of £572million. She added: “Many pensioners with free bus passes will no longer have a bus to use them on.”

Andrew Cleaves, managing director of National Express coaches, said the move “appeared to run counter” to David Cameron’s pre-election promises.

On the hustings last year the Tory PM insisted: “Labour are trying to frighten old people by saying we’ll take away bus passes, or winter fuel payments. Well I can tell you we’re going to keep those things.”

Read more at The Mirror

DPAC was also sent this letter from Andrew Cleaves to a supporter:

As somebody who has used the Government’s half price coach ticket scheme, we want to give you some important information.

The scheme currently provides up to half price travel for over 60 year olds and disabled people through Government funding.

The Government has announced that this funding will end on 31 October 2011 as part of its spending cuts programme.

While we are looking to introduce a replacement scheme, without the government funding it is not possible to make discounts as high and the cost of travel will increase for you.

We have written to the Government to ask that they reconsider this decision. We have also written to a number of MPs to raise our concerns. Many MPs have told us they agree and have written to ministers at the Department for Transport to ask them whether they have considered the potential impact on eligible passengers’ ability to travel.

From your letters and emails, we know that many of you rely on the half price fares. Some have also expressed concern that without it, they may not be able to travel. If you share these concerns, perhaps you could write to, or email, your local MP to encourage them to raise your concern with the Department for Transport.

If you wish to write to your local MP we have included a letter template that you may want to use, simply add your details, print and send.

Download Letter Here >>>

We will be in touch soon with more information on how you can take advantage of the half price travel scheme before it ends.

Yours Sincerely,
Andrew Cleaves
Managing Director – National Express, Coach

Do write as we feel that public transport should be kept viable for older and disabled people who would be even more isolated and unable to get out of their homes.

Aug 222011
 

Atos are the French IT outsourcing company who’s Atos Healthcare arm have been running Work Capability Assessment for the Department of Work and Pensions.

Lots of people are unhappy about Employment Support Allowance, about the assessments, and about the way that Atos run them. There have been protests outside Atos offices using slogans such as “ATOS kills” to express their feelings. Lots of people have explained why they are unhappy with Atos in blogs, on social networks, and in support forums.

It seems that Atos don’t like this. They have started issuing legal threats, and they have succeeded in shutting down some of their opposition. Various websites and forums have spoken out against ATOS and collected personal stories about them. After ATOS first received a take down request in May 2011. Atos lawyers recently threatened legal action against Paul Smith who runs the “Atos Register of Shame” website, accusing him of libel and claiming that “This is a direct attack on Atos and the name of the website in and of itself is implying that Atos carries on its business in a manner which is shameful.” You can see a take-down letter from Atos here.  http://issuu.com/atosvictims/docs/legal_letter_from_atos?mode=a_p

They have also shut down a support forum for carers, CarerWatch, by contacting their server host directly and having it taken down. This has removed a vital support network from many carers, presumably because of private discussions about Atos in members only parts of the forum. Apparently people are not even allowed to talk about Atos now, despite needing to do so to support each other when going through tests administered by Atos.

Following this action against them, CarerWatch have published their reply to Atos, which I reproduce here. (I hope they won’t mind.)

21st Aug 2011

FAO  – ATOS Legal Department

CarerWatch is an internet forum for sick and disabled people and their unpaid family carers. This is a private forum and only members are allowed to make/read posts.

We understand from the organisation that hosts our forum that they received a letter from your solicitors threatening to sue us for libel. The provider immediately closed our site down.

We have many members who are very fragile and the sudden disappearance of a support group has caused a lot of distress and fear. Some are ringing us in tears. We cannot get in contact with all of them though as we have lost their contact details through the closure.

All this distress could have been avoided if you had had the courtesy to contact us first and tell us what had been posted on our site that you considered libellous. Obviously if any post was possibly libellous we would have removed it and all this distress could have been avoided.

We imagine this distress is unintended and hope you will work with us in looking at the problem and finding a solution.

Please note that this letter, and any reply received from yourselves, will be posted on our website. It is the only means left to us to reach some members and keep them updated.

It is vital we have our forum up and running again to reach those that are isolated.

Frances

On behalf of CarerWatch members

Obviously, I don’t want my website taken down. I have been careful to state only known facts here. These are the facts that I know.

  • Atos Healthcare carries out Work Capability Assessments for the DWP.
  • The contract is worth approximately £100 million per year.
  • There has been a sharp rise in people found fit for work
  • There has been a sharp rise in people appealing that decision
  • 40% of those that appeal, win, rising to 70% with legal representation.
  • Although the decision over “fit to work” lies with the DWP,a government review found that the DWP are institutionally incapable of overriding the Atos Health Care Professionals. The Atos recommendation is, in effect, the decision.
  • Atos employ Health Care Professionals to carry out the assessments. HCPs are a mix of doctors, physiotherapists and nurses. Only people with certain problems will definitely see doctors.
  • Atos use their own Lima computer system to record the patient’s answers. Lima has been widely criticised.
  • The HCP fills in Lima by choosing keywords and statements from a list and then justifying them.
  • An Atos recruiter said “We don’t call them patients . . . We call them claimants.”
  • Twelve Atos doctors are under investigation by the GMC over allegations of improper conduct.
  • Two Atos employees are under investigation after referring to patients as “parasites” and “down and outs”.
In the end, although there is much to criticise with the way that Atos carry out ESA WCAs, they may really only be doing what the government expects of them. The descriptors that are used to make the decision of whether a person is fit for work or not are set out in the by the government. (See The Employment and Support Allowance (Limited Capability for Work and Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity) (Amendment) Regulations 2011) I personally question whether Atos accurately records if a patient fits the descriptors or not, and their ability to do so given the way that Lima Works or the staff that are used. Even if they do make an accurate record in line with the government’s descriptors, it is questionable whether the descriptors are an accurate description of being fit for work or not. Even then, it seems that decision makers at the DWP are “institutionally incapable” of taking into account all of the relevant information for the case as they are supposed to, instead simply rubber stamping the recommendation made by Atos. It would seem that the appeals tribunals are making a fairer judgement on this issue than Atos or the DWP.
Cross posted from Tentacles of Doom.
Aug 162011
 

DPAC were pleased to read that twelve doctors employed by Atos Healthcare are under investigation by the General Medical Council over allegations concerning failure to put the care of patients first when carrying out “work capability assessments”.

Atos have ruthlessly gone about getting disabled people off benefits regardless of the consequences for individuals unable to otherwise financially support themselves. Common Atos practice involves serious inaccuracies in medical reports, assessments conducted by medical professionals with specialisms irrelevant to the condition of the person being assessed, and doctors not even registered to practice in Britain.

The high numbers of decisions overturned on appeal reflect a system wholly focused on targets at the expense of the welfare of the poorest and most oppressed members of our society. This is the truth covered by persistent government and media propaganda which contends that the majority of claimants for Employment and Support Allowance are actually fit for work and therefore fraudulently applying. The fact that medical professionals have allegedly been complicit in upholding this lie and committing injustice is saddening.

Read the article at:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/aug/13/atos-doctors-improper-conduct-disability

—-Ellen Clifford

Aug 162011
 

Iain Duncan Smith was reported today at The Broken of Britain blog as having used the accessible loo at a Covent Garden studio causing a disabled person to have to wait in some pain. While that was undoubtedly an embarrassing moment for him it looks  that he was not overly welcomed when he was down under either.

Iain Duncan Smith photo supplied

Simon Collins from NZ Herald called him “UK hatchet man:

Iain Duncan Smith, a former Tory leader and now a Cabinet minister, is speaking at the Maxim Institute’s annual Sir John Graham Lecture at the Heritage Hotel.

Ms Bradford, a former Green MP, said Mr Duncan Smith’s “horrendously damaging” welfare reforms in Britain, which include cutting housing benefits for thousands of low-income families, inspired many of the proposals by economist Paula Rebstock’s Welfare Working Group in NZ. Government decisions on the Rebstock report are expected before this year’s election.

Hilary Stace asked :

Why is he visiting and why should New Zealanders to be vigilant about his message? The answer is that the New Zealand government is about to drive through similar welfare ‘reforms’, otherwise known as cuts, following the work of its Welfare Working Group which was appointed in 2010. The WWG reported on 22 February 2011, an hour before the destructive Christchurch earthquake. The signs weren’t good.

Many of us have been watching with horror as the welfare ‘reforms’ have been rolled out in Britain. The  justification is that there is something evil called ‘welfare dependency’ that many poor and disabled people and single parents suffer from, and which can only be cured by paid work, preferably fulltime.

Mr Duncan Smith expressed his underlying assumption for this policy – that welfare dependency leads to ‘worklessness’ (not the other way around). But I suggest there are two basic things missing in this equation: the role of the government to create jobs; and the role of the state in ensuring the dignity of all its citizens. He did not apologise for, or even acknowledge, the role of neoliberal policies under Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher which destroyed industries and millions of jobs. Yet he claimed that one million people will be lifted out of poverty by these reforms.

These assumptions are underpinned by an absolute belief in the moral good of paid work and the lack of value of any other kind of work including voluntary work or child rearing. The Tory minister said that it is very important for the child of a single mother to see his/her mother go off to paid work every day as that would normalise ‘work’ for the child. The only unresolved question, he suggested, is what age that should happen. In New Zealand proposals the child could be as young as 14 months. In Britain it is five years old.

When a member of the audience asked about creating work he replied with a sigh that he thought we had moved beyond that question. He said it is the private sector’s job to make jobs and the state’s only role is to make things easy for the private sector to do that. He claimed that the private sector had created half a million jobs in the last year but – wait for it – British people didn’t want them so they had gone to ‘immigrants’. So if the hundreds of thousands of unemployed British people are ungrateful and lazy, what does that say about disabled people?

For disabled people in Britain currently on welfare the first step out of ‘dependency’ is an assessment for ‘workfitness’ (a term that harks back to eugenics). To assess the ‘workfitness’ of disabled people, a private multinational company, Atos,  has been contracted to do a tick box computerised assessment without any contextual information such as mental health or disability history.  Depending on what an individual scores they can be placed in three categories: work fit and ineligible for even basic employment support, work fit with employment support, and not work fit (ie unfit).  It is easy to imagine how aspects of a condition such as autism are overlooked by medical questionnaires which ask questions such as can you walk, or dress yourself. There are incentives such as rewards of additional contracts for the company to push people off the welfare system, and its profits are currently at record levels.  But it seems there have been so many challenges to the insensitive and inaccurate assessments that the system can’t cope.

As well as workfit tests, there are also cuts to other aspects of the welfare system such as allowances for housing, programmes, and disability support including such things as continence supplies. There have been reported suicides, and regular reports of disabled people suffering because, for example, they can’t afford adequate housing and families unable to get supplies for their disabled children.

Mr Duncan Smith has also distorted the concept of social justice, with its implications of equity, inclusion and bottom up social policy, by using it for the name for his own right wing think tank, the Centre for Social Justice, whose purpose appears to be championing policies to inflict social injustice on the poor and powerless.

It is rare for us here to have the chance to get up so close with someone so powerful, so I listened carefully. After all, there is the equivalent of the population of NZ on welfare in Britain, out of a population of 62 million. He is a very smooth and persuasive talker, obviously clever, and had the look of someone who has been well nurtured with a comfortable life; I suppose you don’t get to be head of the Conservative Party without these attributes. So how can he justify the misery and pain his policies are so clearly causing? He is not evil and is clearly genuine concerned. One of my interests is ethical public policy*; I think that the only way powerful people can inflict such policies on other people is by seeing them as ‘other’ not fully human, or objects of scorn or laziness. Interestingly, in Britain the opponents of these policies have adopted the black triangle  – the Nazi symbol used to classify the  ’workshy’, one of their ‘othering’ labels – as their campaign symbol.

So at question time I asked Mr Duncan Smith whether it worried him that his policies might be hurting real people. He initially didn’t agree, blaming misinformation campaigns and claiming disability groups had asked for these changes, but it clearly needled him. I think this is the way to challenge those whose policies risk hurting and harming other people – as human to human. And we need to keep doing it otherwise inequality and suffering will only increase.

Alternatively,  we can always hope that politicians will actually ask real people for input into policy, and listen to the wisdom that comes from their  lived experience. But not much sign of that happening.

From: http://humans.org.nz/2011/08/02/politician-does-it-worry-you-that-your-policies-hurt-real-people/

We send this to New Zealand campaigners in support of their protest:

Disabled People Against Cuts stands in solidarity with New Zealand campaigners against poverty. As British Government Secretary for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith prepares to speak, disabled people in Britain want you to know the dangers of following a British approach to welfare reform and the threat that it represents to your equality, human and civil rights.

The Coalition government which came into power in Britain in May 2010 made rapid and sweeping changes under a welfare to work programme that targets the poorest and the most oppressed in British society. This programme is underpinned by a deliberate ideological policy of removing support from those in the greatest need. Meanwhile so-called austerity measures are disproportionately affecting disabled people. At the same time that local governments are removing support from disabled people, central government is re-assessing the benefits disabled people rely on to survive while imposing arbitrary targets set to reduce the numbers of claimants.

The Condem’s Welfare to Work vision has already costs lives. In June 2010 Paul Reekie, the Scottish author, took his own life. Laid out on the table next to him were 2 letters, one telling him his housing benefit had been stopped and the other telling him his incapacity benefit had been stopped. This is just one example of what is becoming an all too common issue. Senior government officials have acknowledged that the welfare reform programme will cost lives but they see it as an unavoidable consequence of a direction they are determined to pursue. In 2005 the previous government set a target of 2025 by which time disabled people should have equality. Without income, without housing, without support to leave the house or even to use the toilet, this target is completely unreachable. Moreover, government propaganda that paints all benefit claimants as scroungers contributes to existing discrimination against disabled people at a time when hate crime against disabled people is an extremely serious issue and the names and numbers of those killed through prejudice mount up.

Duncan Smith’s Welfare to Work programme does not represent value for money and cannot be excused as a necessary austerity measure. At the same time as a recent report commissioned by the government, found that the Access to Work programme makes a profit for the government of 48p for every £1 spent, the Department for Work and Pensions which runs the programme continued its policy of cutting resources to Access to Work, with the effect of denying support to disabled people trying to get in and stay in mainstream employment. The proposals for removing Disability Living Allowance and replacing it with a system which requires continual review for people with lifelong impairments will require investment at a level which can only be sustained by removing benefits from genuine claimants.

ATOS, a profit-making healthcare company, has been given a 300 million pound contract by the government to carry out work capability assessments on disabled people to review their eligibility for employment and support allowance (previously called incapacity benefit). ATOS works to a target of finding disabled people fit for work and ineligible for the benefit. In order to meet their targets they disregard information from medical professionals, GP’s, consultants and psychiatrists. The advisors look for any reason to remove support. In one example a man with a mobility impairment lived in a flat which was too small for his wheelchair. When at home he uses furniture to get himself around. His ATOS assessment used this as proof that he could manage without a wheelchair. ATOS assessments are notoriously inaccurate. 40% are overturned on appeal and, with representation, that level raises to 70%. In other examples soldiers returning from Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder and people with terminal cancer have been declared fit for work.

Money is being spent paying private companies to find ways to declare people fit for work when they are not and to take away benefits from the poorest and most powerless members of society. Rather than being an effective use of money, this is ideological, it is about pushing those people already on the margins of society even further into poverty and obscurity.

In Britain disabled people have not stood by and let this happen. We have mobilised and protested to defend our rights to the support we need to live an equal life. We urge campaigners in New Zealand to resist any attempt by their government to erode fairness and social justice the way ours has.

–Ellen Clifford

Aug 152011
 

Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC) were shocked to learn of the events of 28th July in Sofia, Bulgaria in which members of the Sofia Centre for Independent Living (CIL) were abused by another group of disabled people while protesting against  reductions in the PA scheme for disabled people. Disabled people in Sofia were told by the government that it was ‘not fair’ to allow the same disabled people use the limited funds for employing personal assistants to live independently.

Provision for Personal Assistance Reduced

Unfortunately the system of Personal Assistance (P.A.) Provision in Sofia is not promoting independent living and a better quality of life. An inquiry among PA users proved that most of them ‘improved their social contacts’, ‘INCREASED THE FAMILY INCOME’ and only 3. 7% found a job. In Sofia the PA salaries are most likely to go to family members while the situation of disabled people remains unchanged. The PA scheme budget has doubled over the last 4 years whereas the number of users has grown by a factor of four.  As a result people are receiving fewer and fewer hours to allow for more users.

Disabled people get their PAs for one year and have to be assessed on yearly basis regardless of their situation. The new assessment system involves two stages: a) points based on the individual situation, which determine access to funds; and b) transfer of points into hours (by a panel of experts who will not see the applicant at all), which determine the size of individual funding.

Reductions in PA lead to Confrontation

The issue of reduced support for disabled people to live independently is, sadly, no longer news: it is something that is happening all over Europe. It is no surprise that there have been protests all over Europe by disabled people. What is a surprise is when those protesting for their rights are confronted and mistreated by another disabled peoples’ group.

In this case CIL – Sofia, an organisation highly respected throughout the European Independent Living Movement were confronted by other disabled people from the National Disability Council: an umbrella organisation of well subsidised Disabled Peoples’ Groups.

On one of the hottest days of the year supporters of CIL – Sofia were left reeling from the opposition demonstrated by the National Disability Council (NDC) members against them.

In addition, Sofia CIL were left waiting outside the government building from 9:00am to 5:00pm in intense heat while the NCD were invited inside by the local government officials to see the results of the Metropolitan Council voting.

Kapka Panayotova, the founder and CEO of CIL – Sofia, said

“Police officers who were providing the security measures for our protest were shocked… They couldn’t believe it was happening!”

NCD supported the key notion of the local politicians in Sofia: each year different disabled people should enjoy PA support; access to the scheme with the number of hours awarded dependent on the employment/schooling status of the applicant for PA not on the daily needs alone. In fact, the PA scheme in Sofia will become a tool for employment, not for better quality of life or independent living.

A couple of weeks before the action a monitoring report on the performance of the National Council on the Integration of Disabled People (NCIDP) dominated by national Groups was made public. It was conducted by a consortium of advocacy NGOs – Institute for Modern Politics (IMP), Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) and Bulgarian Centre for Non-Profit Law (BCNL), it showed that:

(1)  The NCIDP does not operate in line with the ‘good governance’ principles;

(2)  Six out of its nine functions are not performed at all; the remaining 3 are partially performed;

(3)  The NCIDP and its member groups are being subsidised in a non-transparent and unaccountable way, which takes them away from the status of ‘independent’ organisations;

(4)  Despite the consultative process between the government and NCIDP, Bulgarian policies are not inclusive and far behind European human rights standards.

NDC the umbrella of the impairment based Groups and the European Disability Forum

This is not the kind of group most would want representing their interests. It seems that they may not be representing the interests of disabled people at all, but those of the government in agreeing with cuts in return for continued subsidies.

What is even more shocking is that NDC are the spokespeople for Bulgaria at the European Disability Forum (EDF): a large organisation set up to be ‘The Representative Organisation of Persons with Disabilities in Europe’ and ‘the frontrunners for Disability Rights’. We are not sure if EDF are aware of the behaviour of their member organisation or their activities, but would like to draw it to their attention and ask them if they agree with it.

DPAC condemns all cuts to funds to help disabled people live independently according to the framework of the European Convention of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

DPAC also condemns disabled peoples’ groups that abuse other disabled people fighting for independent living and disabled peoples’ rights.

We welcome comments from both NDC and the EDF on this issue. We urge all to help them and Sofia Metropolitan Council understand that independent living rights extend beyond education and employment to day to day living as recognised by article 19 in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Call for Action

Contact the Sofia Metropolitan Council on why the PA scheme should be used as a tool for independent living rather than exclusively supporting employment and study and on their behaviour towards Sofia CIL

http://sofiacouncil.bg/ (Bulgarian only) or debbie@dpac.uk.net

Contact EDF to register your thoughts on the actions of the Bulgarian NDC at

Face book http://www.facebook.com/EuropeanDisabilityForumEDF

Twitter @MyEDF

Email info@edf-feph.org

——-Debbie Jolly

Aug 142011
 

The Dilnot report on the Future of Social Care was released in early July. The Dilnot report is the outcome of the Dilnot Commissions’ inquiry into the future of social care: a system that many of us agree needs urgent change to address the flaws in a system that increasingly looks as if it doesn’t care at all.

A factor highlighted by issues that have been raised recently. For example the case of Elaine McDonald and the withdrawal of night time assistance by Kensington and Chelsea council; the cuts in funding for adult social care of up to 40% in some areas, and the loss of key local services; all are just the tip of the iceberg in the coalition’s titanic austerity measures. In addition we had the closure of the Independent Living Fund to new applicants, no clear direction for existing claimants and a host of other cuts to support for disabled people. The much repeated mantra of Miller on ‘supporting those in the greatest need’ is constantly being proved false and no more than a euphemism for a serious of ideologically driven ‘cuts’ by a government intent on removing the fabric of a post-war welfare state.

All provide the reality and misery of a system in crisis, a system that constantly denies individuals and families the support and investment that a relatively wealthy country is capable of providing. A crisis matched by the erosion of disability rights and supports fought for by disabled people over the past 20 years in a regime  that is severely impacting on the lives of disabled people now, and that will impact negatively on  generations in the future.

Cameron argued in 2010 that ‘those with the broadest shoulders should bear the greatest load’ who’d have thought our shoulders were so broad?

Key proposals in the Dilnot Report include:

●At age 65 people will pay a proposed £35,000 for their ‘care’ costs

●Private insurance is being mooted as the solution for individuals to pay for their ‘social care’ in later years

●A national eligibility framework is proposed starting at ‘substantial’

●Portability of assessments rather than ‘care packages’ from one local authority to another

●Means testing remains but the threshold is set to increase to £100, 000

●Extra payments from those entering residential care of up to £10,000 per year proposed

●Deferred payments encouraged but local authorities to charge interest

1. Private insurance and a £35,000 payment for ‘social’ care.

At the age of 65 the individual pays a sum of money for their ‘care’ until they reach the ‘cap’ of £35,000. The ‘cap’ is a suggested amount by the Dilnot commission. This is where the suggestion of a partnership with private insurance companies comes in- those of us on low incomes can apparently protect ourselves through paying an insurance company, and unsurprisingly some were involved in discussions with the Dilnot commission, so Dilnot and co may be able to provide us with a list.

Once the ‘cap’ is reached the state takes over and pays any additional costs. So in brief the suggestion is that individuals will pay the first £35,000 of their care costs. But….

a) The ‘cap’ may be £35,000 at this stage, but as we know governments could increase this on a regular basis. The figure of £35,000 was arrived at on calculations of the cost of care for a 65 year old person and the costs over an average further 20 year life span; eighty-five is the predicted life expectancy. The Dilnot report has suggested a figure at which they hope we will pay our own costs and then die, allowing the state to appear overtly helpful, but avoid any cost-More a solution for government than disabled people or those with long term health issues.

b) Am I alone in wondering why throughout our working lives we pay a chunk of our salaries out in National Insurance set up to provide all those things beloved of what used to be the welfare state?

Other questions are raised: What happens if an individual who hasn’t opted for private insurance becomes disabled or encounters long term health issues before the age of 65? What happens to those of us already disabled or with long term health problems?

2. Increased Poverty of Disabled People and the Dilnot Solution

As we know becoming disabled impacts negatively on ongoing income levels, with disabled people experiencing significantly greater levels of poverty compared to their non-disabled counterparts.

Figures show that 75% of disabled women and 70% of disabled men are already at the bottom end of Britain’s income distribution scale living in poverty, the median level of total wealth for households headed by an employee is £217,500 compared to only £21,100 for households headed by someone who is sick or disabled [i], the average gross hourly pay for disabled employees is £11.08 compared to £12.30 for non disabled employees[ii]. In addition, the Demos report found that

  • 170,830 families where both parents care for a disabled child will lose £520m
  • 516,450 disabled adults whose partner is a full time carer will lose £1.258bn
  • 98,170 single disabled people will lose £127m

By 2015, this does not include losses due to the downgrading of incapacity Support to Employment Support Allowance or Job Seekers Allowance, nor the change from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payments which the coalition claims is set to knock at least  20% of current recipients off the system. So what’s the Dilnot solution?

3. Prove Eligible need and get no Cost support

The Dilnot report proposes that those who are disabled or encounter long term health issues before or at the age of forty will be entitled to no cost support. This appears promising and a recognition of the limitations on building up savings and assets.

Yet this will require proof of ‘eligible need’. So it will be on the basis of what different local authorities identify as ‘eligible need’ an increasing difficult thing to reach. As we know this is currently framed by a postcode lottery based on where you happen to live rather than need.

As the majority of authorities have now raised their eligibility criteria to ‘substantial’ and ‘critical’ then what counts as disabled may be something very different to current common-sense views of what it really means to be disabled . It is flawed and promotes greater inequalities rather than promoting a solution.

The proposal is that after the age a forty a sliding scale of cost will be applied rising to the full proposed £35,000 at age 65.

The Dilnot report offers a solution to the postcode eligibility issue in the form of a national eligibility framework but this is set at ‘substantial’ following from this it becomes clearer that qualifying for ‘no cost’ support may become increasingly difficult if not impossible for most.

4. National Eligibility Framework

The Dilnot report proposes that all authorities should be offering exactly the same eligibility levels to avoid the postcode lottery, something that the strangely titled Fair Access to Care or FACs was set up to address and clearly failed to do.

The report suggests starting the national eligibility level for assessments at ‘substantial’ ensuring that those rare local authorities with eligibility starting at ‘moderate’ join the majority of authorities to set the level at ‘substantial’ and ‘critical’ only.

There is some optimism that the option of ‘portability of care packages’ has appeared in the report, unfortunately this a play on words and doesn’t mean what we want it to mean: which is that if a person moves house to another local authority area they keep their ‘care package’ avoid waiting times and reassessment in the new local authority area.

  1. 5. Portability

The Dilnot report does not suggest the ‘portability of care packages’ from one location to another called for by many disability groups. Instead, it suggests the portability of assessments which is something entirely different.

The most likely outcome is that an individual presents their assessment and is reassessed by their new local authority. It is not clear to me how this can be considered an advance on the present system. It is no surprise that ‘means testing’ will remain.

  1. 6. Proposal to Increase Means Testing Threshold

The increase threshold of imposing means testing to those with assets of £100,000 instead of the current £23,250 appears at first glance an improvement; however, this may also point to home owners having their assets counted for services other than just for residential care, as at present. This would mean that home owners may in future be financially assessed not only on their savings but also on the value of their homes and be forced to release equity to pay for any local services they might need.

  1. 7. Residential Care: extra Costs Proposed

Those in residential care would be expected to pay what the Dilnot report implies is a ‘hotel charge’ (clearly they have not been to many residential homes). The extra charge will be for accommodation and food. This is slightly confusing as I wonder what those currently in residential homes are paying for through either the sale of their own homes or their family’s sale of their homes to pay costs.

  1. 8. Loans with interest to pay for ‘care’

Local authorities should offer loans to pay for care to those who could later sell their homes to pay the costs with interest to the local authority. What happens to those without homes to sell is unclear.

All the proposals set out in the Dilnot report are just that: proposals. Proposals can be rejected, amended or accepted by the government.

It is clear that the crisis in ‘social care’ needs addressing as a matter of urgency. Yet the government have suggested that they will not respond to the crisis or the proposals until mid April 2012 at the earliest.

The Dilnot Report can be downloaded in full from

http://www.dilnotcommission.dh.gov.uk/2011/07/04/commission-report/


[i] Data from Family Resources Survey and the National Equalities Panel Research (2010)

[ii] Office for National Statistics Labour Force Survey, Jan – March 2009

——-Debbie Jolly

Aug 142011
 

legs of a wheelchair userLeft Foot Forward reported that:

The Department for Work and Pensions has acknowledged that one of the key statistics it has used to justify radical change to disability benefits ‘gives a distorted picture’.

One of the main ‘stylised facts’ that the DWP has used to make the case for aggressive reform of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) has been that the caseload increased by 30% over the last eight years- a phenomenon which a DWP source described as ‘inexplicable’.

Read the figures at Left Foot Forward

Further on

While it is welcome that the Department now recognises the inadequacies of its earlier statements on DLA caseload growth, the publication of this analysis at this late stage is a matter of concern, for two reasons.

The first is the stress the government has placed on the 30% figure as evidence of major flaws in the system requiring radical reform:  the consultation document on DLA reform stated:

“In just eight years the numbers receiving DLA has [sic] increased by 30%. The complexity and subjectivity of the benefit has led to a wider application than was originally intended.”

With the Welfare Reform Bill having already passed its report stage in the Commons and due to go to the Lords in September, government surely needs to explain how the downward revision from 30% to 16% affects the case for its proposals.

The second reason for disquiet is this: government is engaged in radical cuts and reforms to disability benefits, including a reduction in caseload and expenditure by 20% against projections for 2016 and the abolition of DLA and its replacement with a new system, Personal Independence Payment.

Yet it now appears that prior to deciding on these ambitious projects, DWP failed to carry out the most rudimentary analysis of the changes in DLA caseload which reform was supposed to address.

And finally

The government would appear to have launched itself into a radical programme of change affecting millions of disabled people without troubling to understand the first thing about the benefit it claims to be reforming. One has to ask whether this sort of amateurishness would be tolerated in any other major area of government spending.

We would say very probably not. But at the rate this government is going, we might say that the amateurishness starts at the highest echelon.

Read the full article at Left Foot Forward

Aug 132011
 

The unrest and violence we have seen across England over the past week is upsetting on many levels: there is upset for the innocent victims of criminality and those hurt and traumatised by events, upset over the prevalence of a lack of morality and empathy within our society, and upset that once again the violation of disabled people’s rights has been eclipsed.

In justification of the welfare to work programme, government and right wing media have played up the existence of a benefit scrounging element bent on fraud and deceit without regard for the consequences of their actions on the rest of the community who pick up the bill for their irresponsible lives. Disabled people have argued that so-called welfare reform is actually targeting the powerless and the oppressed in society and denying basic rights and freedoms. Just as we were being listened to, as the Work and Pensions Select Committee issued their report raising concerns over the Work Capability Assessment Process, just as the Lib Dems announced a vote on 10th September on their position over Employment and Support Allowance, a vision of the disaffected and feckless has been hurled into the lives of the nation, bringing to life the worst Daily Mail stereo-types in a fashion more dramatic and immediate than even shows such as Saints and Scroungers, have managed.

It is too early to say how recent events will impact upon the campaign against the government’s disability policies but our ability to protest is likely to be adversely affected. Last Saturday Disabled People Against Cuts stood with the anti cuts campaigners handing out leaflets in Birmingham City Centre publicising the protest against the Lib Dems on 18th September. It was intended to be the beginning of a mobilisation process to build support ahead of the march. To stand in the same spot this Saturday after the violence and murders that have occurred in the city since, would be insensitive and inappropriate. We had been planning how to oppose Birmingham City Council over the restrictions they are placing on the route for the march. We were hopeful there was room to negotiate. The chance to march down the main high street through the commercial area of the city is very slim, even more unlikely now . At the time of the TUC-organised March For the Alternative earlier this year there was some criticism of the demonstration by unsympathetic press and public, accusing protesters of wasting resources and police time. The association between violent disorder and dissent is now firmly etched into the public consciousness and it is reasonable to anticipate greater hostility towards plans for future demonstrations, however peacefully intended.

Without the option of protest, how are we then to raise awareness of the issues faced by an overlooked minority in whom neither the public nor the press nor politicians are interested?  Government cuts are hauling disabled people through fear and distress and robbing them of their dignity and in some cases their lives. The scenes of disorder and violence which the country has witnessed are symptomatic of a bigger picture, a picture where the rich can behave with impunity in the pursuit of material gain, whereas the poor are punished and demonised for the same.   Disabled people are part of that bigger picture but our voices just got smaller as attention is turned to more immediate issues and fears. Moreover there is a danger that government injustices against disabled people will now be justified as unfortunate but unavoidable consequences of necessary measures to deal with the disaffected in society and those dismissed as undeserving.  As emotions run high it is too much to hope that perspective will prevail and it is sadly inevitable that recent events will be exploited to discredit future dissent and protest.

-Ellen Clifford

Many of us have been glued to news listening with disbelief to riot details as they were spelled out in different cities across the country from London to Birmingham to Manchester etc. For disabled people, there is the extra fear of not having access and added stress and anxiety of being unable to get essentials from local shops in the affected areas. The Broken of Britain set out a hastag #disabledriothelp for disabled people in Twitter who felt the need to communicate about worries about the riots .

We joke amongst ourselves as mobility impaired disabled people that our disability gives us an alibi by default because we are not able to loot, break windows and disguise ourselves with hoodies.

It’s too soon to write about the impact of the riots on disabled people and our ability to protest. We can probably assume that the TUC March of the Alternative, Birmingham will definitely not be allowed to march pass the ICC where the Lib Dem annual conference is held this year.  But will the demo be curtailed further? What about peaceful anti protests against Atos – will these be jeopardised given the mood of the police and rhetoric from the Con Dem government?

And for those of us disabled people who use the social media to communicate, politicise, campaign and yes, to rant and vent – we will also be affected by David Cameron’s diatribe against social media. A 14 year old schoolboy in Leamington Spa was arrested by police ‘on suspicion of encouraging or assisting criminal disorder. The mind boggles about the reality of the implications that postings to “ incite criminal activity of any kind will be arrested and dealt with accordingly.” Another report of Jason Ulett ‘s arrest adds to my disquiet that the effect of the riot is to descend into some kind of witch hunt.

But we would want to question the reaction to the riots, undoubtedly disruptive and hard on those who have lost property and work, in comparison to the carnage wracked on disabled people’s lives as a result the result of the cuts. How many will give (media)attention and mourn for those who gave up in despair and committed suicides (eleven at last count)? Who counts the stress and worry the real cost of the havoc on disabled people’s lives – those who have to submit to Atos assessments? There was some uproar over the abuse handed out to disabled people in care homes after the Panorama programme but people in care homes are still systematically neglected and left unattended for hours in end. Do we see the same type of punitive and swift reaction for the perpetrators? Today (12th August) there was the ‘first’ Battersea riot-related eviction notice served by Wandsworth Council as a result of Monday night’s rioting and looting in St John’s Road and Lavender Hill. In fact we read that David Cameron has said there will be ‘no “phoney human rights concerns” (about publishing CCTV images of suspects involved in rioting) would be allowed to “get in the way of bringing these criminals to justice”. Is it not because of the same disregard of human rights – the shooting of Mark Duggan – that started the whole spiral of violence? Does he care equally about the woman in wheelchair who was stoned in Sittingbourne by ‘yobs’? What about violence against disabled people?

Eleanor Lisney

Aug 132011
 

Don’t Get Mad Get Political!

The new Mental Health Resistance Network is hosting a half day meet for us to get more organized.

The Public Law Project has been supporting the Network in trying to get a Judicial Review of the Work Capability Assessment which is designed to get sick and distressed people off benefits.

The Network’s solicitor, Ravi Low-Beer, will be speaking about Judicial Reviews.

Friday 19th August 2011 from 12.00pm to 4.00pm

at Goldsmiths Student Union(Student Union Bar)Goldsmiths, University of London,

Dixon RoadLondon SE14 6NW

(Near New Cross Gate and New Cross Rail stations)

All Survivors, Disabled People and Allies welcome on:

A Half Day conference

Facing enormous cuts to benefits and services, we mental health Survivors are stressed out bigtime.

We find ourselves demonized by the right wing press (again) and the ConDem government. How stupid and cruel politicians of all parties are being beggars belief. Or do they believe we should all be beggars?

The Mental Health Resistance Network invites you to…
12.00 – 12.30 Tea and Coffee (50p donation appreciated)

12.30Introduction by Denise McKenna History –

What we have been involved in –

Where to now by Stefano Peria

12.45 Judicial Review of a the Government policy on changes to benefits, by Ravi Low-Beer (of the Public Law Project).

Questions.

1.45-2.00pm – Refreshment Break

2.00-3.00 Workshops. Organizing and going to Demos and Direct Action. Campaigning and Lobbying. A new Arts Project themed How We Feel About the Cuts? Networking and Personal Support.

3.15-3.45 – Feedback4.00pm – Close

join the email list at https://lists.aktivix.org/mailman/listinfo/mentalhealthresistanceweb

http://mentalhealthresistance.org

Aug 122011
 

Disabled activist, Georgina Barrett,  has won the right to challenge in the high court Lambeth council’s decision to remove funding from self advocacy organisation People First Lambeth.

Barett’s lawyers will claim the council failed in its public sector equality duty – under the Disability Discrimination Act – to pay due regard to the impact of the cuts on disabled people and the need to promote disability equality, and to consult or engage with members of People First Lambeth, before making the decision.

For full article see: http://www.disabilitylib.org.uk/component/content/article/1-latest-news/633-disabled-activist-wins-right-to-challenge-council-cuts

 Posted by at 14:58
Aug 092011
 

Cross posted in European Network on Independent Living (ENIL ) press release

As the world tries to understand how a tragedy like Norway could happen, speculation on the mental state of Anders Behring Breivik abounds in the international press.  This casual yet pervasive linkage between deviance and a concept of “madness” perpetuates and encourages stigma and prejudice surrounding mental health.  Such speculation is largely misinformed in its understanding of mental health experience, and unfairly fuels ignorance and exclusion.

Press stories about the perpetrator of the Norway massacre frequently refer to Breivik’s “madness” as if relating a proven fact, using descriptions such as “deranged” or “psychopath”. Such coverage stems partly in reaction to the question of whether Breivik will plead insanity to avoid conviction. It also stems from continuation of a popular media theme which associates violence which mental illness and encourages public fear of people with mental health support needs. Mental Health Europe, commenting on the media coverage of the Norwegian killings remarks that “prejudice is only reinforced by equating mental health problems with gruesome acts of violence”.

Sensationalist treatment of mental health exacerbates negative perceptions of what is recognised by the World Health Organisation as one of the most discriminated against groups of disabled people. Studies have shown that whereas there is no connection between the majority of violent crime and mental ill health, people with experience of using mental health services are 2.5 times more likely to be the victims of violent crime than those without. In other areas of life mental health service users face discrimination from families, friends, health professionals and employers leading to social and economic exclusion and a lack of access to healthcare support.

Not only is it damaging to the wider community of people with mental health support needs to publicly and emphatically link Breivik’s crimes with “madness”, it is also inaccurate. From what is known about him, he does not have a history of mental ill health and no diagnosable mental illness.  The label is used by journalists and commentators because they cannot conceive that his actions could have been possible unless he was quite literally out of his mind. Whilst the need to try and make sense of the awful events is understandable, use of the “mad” label is lazy and incorrect.

If we really want to prevent such a terrible incident from happening again it would be more worthwhile to look, not in detail at the individual perpetrator, his background, behaviour and mental state, but at the wider factors which played their part such in the tragedy such as the prevalence, strength and, in some parts, social acceptability of racist ideology. These are things over which society does have some level of control and to which it could more usefully turn its attention.

The recent killings in Norway were borne of prejudice, of racism and islamophobia. It is wrong that press coverage, while abhorring the atrocity that has occurred, should itself perpetuate stigmatisation and discrimination against another group of people who are already poorly understood by wider society. The press should support society to question and understand itself, not to incite fear, hatred and prejudice.

Ellen Clifford

Aug 052011
 

Disabled lead Protestors at March in Birmingham Oct3

Disabled lead Protestors at March in Birmingham Oct3 2010

DPAC demands the right for disabled people to protest and march with Right to Work as we did last year! Please download, use and return the filled petition

In a deja vu moment the West Midlands police and the home office have again denied people the right to march in Birmingham – this time past the Lib Dem Party conference on Sunday 18th September.

In 2010 the Tories and the West Midlands police prevented Right to Work’s march going past the Tory party conference in the city. Right to Work again initiated this years march but the TUC will act as event organiser and build on the ‘March for the Alternative‘ theme.

Paul Brandon National Secretary of Right to Work said, ” I sat in the meeting with the TUC and was dumbstruck on hearing the news. I can only echo the view in the meeting of the TUC that this represents an outrageous decision. This is a direct attack on the right to protest in a so called free and democratic society. There now needs to be a massive demonstration in Birmingham on the 18th September to reassert working peoples hard won freedoms as we face attacks on pensions, savage cuts to public services and an attack on the NHS to pay for a financial crisis we didn’t create. There is still time for the police and the home office to rethink their decision, and I urge them to do so. ‘

Linda Burnip, of Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “These are our elected politicians and they are accountable to us as voters. It is unacceptable that they can be hidden away from us in this way.”

As in 2010 marchers will be denied access to the part of Broad Street in Birmingham city centre which goes past the conference centre. Police will seal off the area round the conference with fixed barriers

We are asking everybody to sign the following statement:

“For the second year West Midlands Police have confirmed their intention to bar protesters from marching past a major political conference in Birmingham . The police are erecting a “Ring of steel” around the International Convention Centre during the Liberal Democrat Party conference. In 2010 the Con-Dem council and West Midlands police prevented the 7,000 strong Right to Work’s march going past the Tory party conference.

The TUC, which represents millions of trade union members, is now organising the protest, initiated by the Right to Work Campaign, at the Lib-Dem conference on 18 September. On 26th March the TUC organised a peaceful demonstration of over 500,000 through Central London .

West Midlands Police claim restrictions on the right to protest are about the security of conference delegates. Yet no such restrictions are being placed on the similar demonstration Right to Work has initiated and the TUC are now organising at the Tory Party conference in Manchester .
We feel the actions of West Midlands police are a violation of our right to protest peacefully against government policies. Peaceful protest has a central place in any democratic society and people have taken their opposition to government actions to their conferences for decades. The decision of the West Midlands Police takes that right away.

We are concerned that West Midlands Police is attempting to make political decisions about how visible protests against the cuts can be.

We believe that West Midlands Police should permit the demonstrators to march past the Liberal Democrats conference on Sunday 18th September.”

We will be putting the statement on our website asap so that people can sign up.  You can download the attached petition to use in your workplace, college, etc. You can also email mail@dpac.uk.net directly to get your name, organisation, etc added.

Please download, use and return the filled petition to:

West Midlands Right To Work, C/O CWU Office, 46-48 Summer Lane, Birmingham, B19 3TH

Thank you for your support.

Aug 042011
 

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) call on disabled people across the country to stand up against the government.

We are working with  the TUC and Right to Work to organise a protest to happen at the same time as the Lib Dem conference in Birmingham on 18th September.

It is important that disabled people speak out and tell the Lib-Dems what we think.

More information including timings, access  information and meeting places to follow.

There will also be an online protest for people who are not able to come in person.

Full easy read information sheet available here:18th sept easy read

 Posted by at 17:33
Aug 032011
 

DPAC welcomes the letter sent by Anne Begg, Chair of the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee to the Minister for Employment Chris Grayling expressing serious concerns at the most recent misrepresentation of DWP statistics on benefit claimants in sections of the media on the same day that the Select Committee published a report which criticising aspects of the government’s involvement in reporting about the incapacity benefit reassessment process.

The report found that: “more care is needed in the way the Government engages with the media and in particular the way in which it releases and provides its commentary on official statistics on the IB reassessment”. The letter comments that “By what I assume was a coincidence, the Department chose to release statistics on new Employment and Support Allowance claims [on the same day as the report]. The coverage of the statistics in some newspapers, notably the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, was a particularly egregious example of the way they can be misused.”

The letter goes on to say “I am sure that you are therefore as shocked as I am by this most recent misrepresentation of DWP statistics on benefit claimants” and ends “I trust that you will be contacting newspaper editors again to urge them to ensure that the reports they carry about ESA claims are factually correct and that they avoid pejorative terms such as “shirkers” and “scroungers” which are irresponsible and inaccurate.”

Of course the release of the statistics on the same day as the publication of the report can have been no coincidence and it displays the arrogance of the government and their determination to pursue a policy direction that targets and attacks disabled people. However we commend the way the Select Committee have taken a stand in this.

For the full letter see: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/news/letter-to-chris-grayling-benefit-payment-statistics/

 Posted by at 19:42
Aug 032011
 

Last week while the country was hooked on the Murdoch affair, the government made moves that signed the death warrant for the NHS, with Andrew Lansley announcing that from next April NHS services in 8 areas worth a total of £1 billion will be opened up to competitive bids from the private sector. This means that in those 8 areas the NHS will effectively cease to exist. The NHS Reform Bill is very different to the NHS white paper which was published last year, yet MPs are voting in favour of the Bill without having read it, assuming it is similar to the white paper and unaware that the Bill focuses almost exclusively on opening up the NHS to private providers.

We have seen with the privatisation of care homes how profit can only work to the detriment of the welfare of service users. Privatisation of the NHS can only lead to poor and selective patient treatment. For those wealthy enough to afford private health care this is no doubt of no concern. Meanwhile regarding those of us who will be affected, the changes are being pushed through behind our backs.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthadvice/maxpemberton/8655242/The-day-they-signed-the-death-warrant-for-the-NHS.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jul/29/david-camerons-nhs-competition?CMP=twt_iph

 Posted by at 19:35
Aug 022011
 

Nottinghamshire in the East Midlands is selling off its twelve care homes so all the care homes in Nottinghamshire will be private. This is the first time so many council-run homes have been sold off at once so other councils up and down the land are watching closely.

The council is keeping secret which private companies are bidding, but are deciding  which bid(s) to accept at a meeting on 14 September. This meeting was originally planned for 27 July so why the change? The County Council aren’t saying. One possibility relates to two of the care homes already in the private sector that were owned by Southern Cross which closed recently. Will these two be added to this atrocious fire sale?

It’s worth remembering at this point why Southern Cross went bust. This large  company owned 752 care homes. Originally the business combined the property assets (land and buildings) with care provision (the 44000 nursing and other staff). In order to raise cash these two elements (property and care) were split and the property sold to landlords who then leased them back to Southern Cross (now just a care operator). But when these landlords put up the rent, and local authority payments went down, Southern Cross went under, leaving the residents facing potential eviction.

The public outcry that followed meant the landlords would never be trusted in business if they evicted the residents. But note there are still 250 homes with no permanent care provider in place

Now back to the Nottinghamshire care homes. Apart from the scale of this sell-off what is truly scandalous is the terms of the deal being offered. They are asking for the homes to be run as conjoined care and property business for only a minimum three years – after this the buildings and land could be sold like Southern Cross, leaving the residents facing eviction.  Unison is campaigning for a minimum of 10 years.

For info on the campaign, check ‘Latest News’ (left navigation panel) on their website.  http://nottsunison.org.uk/

Eleanor Firman

related news: http://www.channel4.com/news/spending-cuts-axe-falls-on-nottinghamshire

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