Nov 292011
 

64 people attended in person or fed their views in.

5 people sent apologies

1)    Welcome and introduction to the day

Messages were read out from people who could not be with us.

Ann Begg, Chair of the Select Committee looking into Work Capability Assessments and MP for South Aberdeen, said:  “I am sorry I can’t be with you today but I have a number of events in my constituency in Aberdeen this weekend.  It is important that disabled people come together to discuss and debate the issues which affect them.  It is only by joining together that your voice will be heard, and people who are not disabled will hear of the attacks on your income and your ability to live a full and independent life.  Good luck for a successful conference.”

Maria Miller, Minister for Disabled People had been invited to come and speak at the conference. She gave apologies for not being able to attend but said that she was working with a number of disability organisations including Scope, Leonard Cheshire Disability, Mencap, RNIB and Mind. She also said she was working with user led organisations “like Radar.”

Sam Brackenbury, one of the co-founders of DPAC, sent a message to the conference to say that even though he could not be with us, we need to stay strong because we make history and because “our sunlight and spirit are NOT for sale”. He encouraged Trade Unions to remember that one out of every four people will become disabled in some way during their lifetime and stressed the importance of fighting the lie that if you are disabled and unemployed you must be a scrounging cheat.

2)    Disabled People Against Cuts – background and achievements –  Debbie Jolly

Debbie explained that DPAC started with a disabled people’s protest at the Tory party conference on 3rd October 2010. The co-ordinators of that protest went on to set up DPAC as a national campaign to fight back against the government attacks on disabled people. DPAC follows the social model of disability and is based on a rights not charity approach.  Since then DPAC has worked with the Trade Unions to make sure disabled people have been included in national protests including the March for the Alternative on 26th March 2011. DPAC introduced virtual ways for disabled people to take part in protests and has a website to share information and opinions about government policy and its effect on disabled people.

3)    Right to Work  – Paul Brandon

Paul is the elected National Secretary of the Right to Work campaign. The campaign brings together different groups including Trade Unions and anti-cuts groups like DPAC to fight together to stand up for the rights of people who are suffering because of a financial crisis we did not create. The campaign uses direct actions, sit-ins and strikes to get its messages across. It supports all sections of people who are affected and encourages them to work together and support each other, for example student actions and disabled people’s protests against ATOS.

4)    Why We Need DPAC – Mike Higgins

DPAC member Mike Higgins spoke about why we need this campaign. He said it is not about charities keeping their funding, because disabled people have no common cause with those who beg on our behalf; it is a campaign led by and for disabled people demanding our rights to equality.

5)    Members’ feedback

The following point were made by members:

  • We are all in it together to fight the government
  • A few people had difficulty accessing the website to join as members and book to come to the conference-DPAC is working with web designer to improve access
  • There is a need to set up a Liverpool DPAC
  • Croydon ATOS assessment centre is not accessible to wheelchair users and people are being forced to travel for miles to get to an accessible centre
  • The campaign against changes to taxi card is on-going
  • We need to use real life stories to get attention to our campaign
  • Employment Support Allowance is a big issue
  • We need to talk about positives and what we want instead of current policy, not just focus on what we don’t want
  • We need to take legal challenges
  • We need to demand more funding for Disabled People’s Organisations
  • Winvisible and other groups have had a letter printed in the Guardian accusing the BBC of bias against disabled people for repeatedly showing programmes about benefit fraud without any perspective on how infrequently benefit fraud actually happens

 

6)    Black Triangle – John McArdle

John founded Black Triangle, an anti-defamation campaign in defence of disabled people on June 28th 2010 in response to the suicide of friend Paul Reekie, also from Edinburgh. Black Triangle is campaigning to boycott the Paralympics in opposition to its sponsorship by ATOS. John said we need to really put a focus on putting medical professionals on the spot and campaign to scrap the idea of Personal Independence Payments. He spoke about how 15,000 had joined in a protest in Edinburgh.

7)    Going forward: proposal for constituting and structuring DPAC – Linda Burnip

Linda talked about how important it is to make sure there is an on-going disabled people’s campaigning voice. For DPAC to carry on and get stronger the DPAC co-founders agreed there needed to be an elected steering group to take it forwards as well as working groups for each campaign area.

Questions and comments on the proposal:

–         Steering group elections are tokenistic and create power relationships – why not just have an enlarged group of volunteers

–         The social model is too theoretical and puts people off

–         DPAC was set up to campaign from a basis of the social model and should continue to do so

–         We should support any protest marches whoever organises them

Members voted that everyone should be on the steering group who wants to be. These are:

Andy Greene

Ellen Clifford

Linda Burnip

Patrick Lynch

Richard Rieser

Rob Murthwaite

Roger Lewis

Sarah Mingay

Stephen Hodgkins

Thomas Butler

Members also agreed there should be a wider list of people who want to be consulted and take an active part in running the campaign. In addition to the steering group members, the following people put their names down to be on this list:

–         Eleanor Lisney

–         Lani Parker

–         Svetlana Kotovotsa

–         Paul Mitler

–         Richard Currie

–         Jill Goble

–         Phillipa Watts

–         Jan Pollock

–         Simone Aspis

–         Stephen Aselford

–         Faryal Velmi

–         Sedley Bryden

–         Deborah Sowerby

–         Adam Lotun

8)    Afternoon Speakers

Including and mobilising disabled young people – Gerry Hart

This session looked at ways we can involve disabled young people in our campaigns. The point was made that informed young people make informed decisions. Ideas for how to engage young people included going to schools and to young people’s groups to let them know about DPAC, finding out and promoting the issues that young people are interested in, linking the Facebook page to other anti-cuts groups which might be visited by young people, linking our website with No One Likes a Tory.

The role of DDPO’s in the fight against the cuts – Tracey Lazard

Tracey talked about how a close, supportive relationship between campaigns and local disabled people’s organisations is critical to sustainable, effective and inclusive campaigns. She said that all the barriers that restrict disabled people from taking part in everyday life prevent disabled people from taking part in the democratic process and from campaigning. Another challenge is that there is so much to focus on at the moment that we do not know where to start. She talked about the support and resources that disabled people’s organisation can contribute to campaigns such as putting together facts and figures to support our arguments. 

Taking a legal challenge in Lancashire – Melanie Close

Melanie talked about the experience of taking a legal challenge against Lancashire County Council. It was a very difficult experience and they did not win but it was the right thing to do. There was a discussion about the interpretation of the law and the judiciary’s understanding of disability equality.

Including people with learning difficulties in the fight – Andrew Lee

Andrew talked about how cuts are putting people with learning difficulties at risk. Changes in housing benefit will force people from their homes but the media is not portraying things from our point of view. With the right support people with learning difficulties can have the same chances as other people but that support needs to be funded. Cutbacks will damage the life chances of people with learning difficulties. It is important we make known the impact of cuts. Andrew encouraged members to target their MP and ask them what they have done about disability.

Including the BME community in the fight – Eleanor Lisney

Julia Charles sent her apologies that she was not able to attend. Eleanor led a discussion about the importance of making sure the voices of disabled people from Black and Minority Ethnic Communities are included in the fight against the cuts.

The fight for inclusive education – Simone Aspis

Simone talked about the range of threats to inclusive education being posed by this government through the standards agenda, promoting Academies, doing away with laws on the right to inclusive education, cutbacks to learning support, removing cheaper course fees and spending more money on segregated education. She encouraged everyone to lobby their MP to sign the early day motion on inclusive education.

 

9)    DPAC Wish-list

Members created their wish-list of demands. The full list is at the end of these notes. Below are the demands raised by Inclusion London:

–         Access to Work to extend its support to people before they get a job and to volunteer placements

–         Stop Welfare reforms including:

  • the target to get 20% of people off DLA
  • Work Capability Assessment process
  • Housing Benefit changes
  • Ending the contract with ATOS

–         Free personal care and re-opening the Independent Living Fund

–         Ring fenced funding for Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations in each local area including funding for independent user led advocacy and advice services for Deaf and disabled people

–         Equalities Act to be strengthened by re-instating the duty to involve Deaf and disabled people,  setting a requirement to have at least one equality objective on disability and strengthening the duty to carry out equality impact assessments

–         Commitment to carrying out step free plans on the tube system and to keeping freedom pass and taxi card in their present forms

–         Resources and training to be dedicated to tackling disability hate crime

–         Right to an inclusive education

–         That the Government correct outrageous levels of misinformation about disability benefit fraud in the media and produce information to promote the benefits of support such as motorbility and Access to Work

–         Robin Hood tax

–         Fairer distribution of income through the tax system

10)                      The challenge ahead – Mik Scarlet

Mik talked about the craziness of the bank bail outs and how disabled people are having to pay for them. He talked about how the Thatcher years could, by comparison to what is happening now, be seen as a golden age for disabled people, about how disabled people are seen as over privileged and resented for benefits and support that should be our right and about his own experiences with accessible parking bays being used by non-disabled people and Blue Badges being stolen. Mik suggested we use our own stories about how the cuts are impacting on disabled people to get the media’s attention. He said this will encourage the portrayal of disabled people as tragic and in that way will have a negative impact on the way disabled people are seen but we need to do something to supersede the portrayal of disabled people as benefit scroungers which is currently how the media is showing us.

11)                      The fight ahead – John McDonnell MP

John talked about his experiences as an MP seeing people in his constituency who have been on benefits for years now having them taken away and being left helpless. He said that New Labour laid the ground for the current government’s approach to welfare reform but cutbacks to wages and benefits was inevitably only going to lead to further recession. John encouraged us to challenge the government and resist in unity with other groups that are affected.

12)                      Close

The co-founders were thanked for all their hard work in getting DPAC to where it is today. There is much to be done and everyone looked forward to working together to move things on.

For a version of these notes with pictures click here: Disabled People Against Cuts national conference write up

Presentations from some of the speakers are available separately from the DPAC website.

 Posted by at 22:22
Nov 292011
 

MPs debating disability hate crime in Parliament last week pointed to the culpability of the Condem government in inciting hostility against disabled people.

Kate Green, MP for Stretford and Urmston secured a debate on disability hate crime which took place on 23rd November 2011. Green explained in her opening that she had been motivated by a presentation to a joint meeting of the all-party groups on disability and learning disability by writer and journalist Katherine Quarmby in which she commented that she had been unable to find much evidence that disability hate crime had been debated in either House in Parliament.

Green acknowledged the Lord Chancellor’s commitment to align the sentence for murder where disability is a motivating or aggravating feature with that for race, religion and sexuality. She said that sentencing for murder is “just the tip of a deeply disturbing and significant problem” as shown by the recent EHRC report “Hidden in plain sight”. She said that more was needed for a satisfactory response to the harassment of disabled people and “the commission of crimes against them”. Green hoped that the debate would give the Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller, the chance to explain what actions the Government is taking to address disability hate crime and when disabled people, their families and campaigners could hope to see the hate crime action plan promised by the Government.

 The debate looked at the need for a wider, whole system change, requiring public bodies and the professionals who work in them treat all manifestations of disability-related harassment and hate crime with the utmost seriousness. MPs urged the Government to take on board the Law Commission proposals to extend the definition of harm to include exploitation. It was pointed out that although the Government have also announced that they will reform section 146 of the 2003 Act, which imposes sentence uplifts for crimes aggravated by protected characteristics such as disability, another issue that must be addressed is the power of the Attorney-General to review sentences deemed unduly lenient as at present that power does not extend to sentences for disability-motivated offences. Scotland was given as an example of good practice as the first country in Europe to have specific disability hate crime legislation on its statute book.

 Although it was encouraging to see an issue serious to disabled people being taken seriously and being discussed in earnestness in Parliament, it was unfortunate that some MPs saw segregation as the solution to disabled people’s bad treatment in the community. Paul Maynard, MP for North Blackpool and Cleveleys, called for the Government to support the continuation of day centres, saying that “For many people with a learning disability, particularly those of an older generation, a day care setting offers the very support network that so many of them crave, and in pursuit of which they often put themselves at risk from so-called friends”, thus failing to understand that disability hate crime is a product of a perception of disabled people as “other” which the existence of day centres perpetuates.

 The comments of other MPs were more encouraging. Gregory Campbell, MP for East Londonderry, stressed the need to move beyond schedule 21 (in aligning the sentence for murder where disability is a motivating or aggravating feature with that for race, religion and sexuality). He said that, “as a society, we should ensure that we do not seem to treat disabled people as a people apart, almost saying that different attitudes, legislation and approaches are required”. Robert Buckland, MP for South Swindon and himself a Barrister, emphasised the need to “stop asking these dangerous questions: why do they come out into the mainstream and why do they put themselves in those positions?” Instead he urged: “Let us focus on the offender. Let us focus on the offending. With that approach, we can achieve real results in the field of disability hate crime.”

 One issue highlighted in the “Hidden in Plain Sight” report but notable from its omission in the debate was the subject of inclusive education. In his foreword to the report Mike Smith cites this as a cause of disability-related harassment and although MPs mentioned the importance of teaching school children about the wrongs of treating disabled people unfairly, no one mentioned the essential role that an inclusive society from childhood onwards has to play in ensuring fair and equal treatment for all members of the community.

The debate raised issues around tackling wider public attitudes about disabled people and the pervasiveness of an image of disabled people as “benefit scroungers”.  Cases such as that of Fiona and Francecca Pilkington were put into the context of a rising hostility to disabled people, which fuels abusive behaviour and leads to an increase in the harassment of them. A study published last month by the Glasgow Media Group was cited, which analysed how the media are reporting disability in the context of Government spending cuts and revealed a major shift in how disabled people are portrayed with a negative impact both on public attitudes and on disabled people themselves. Researchers observed an increase in articles portraying disabled people as a “burden” on the economy, with some articles even blaming the recession on incapacity benefits claimants.

 MPs pressed the Minister for Disabled People to acknowledge the derogatory and damaging language that has surrounded too much of the Welfare Reform debate. Ann McGuire described how “the daily feeding to the media of press releases and distortion of figures [by the Department for Work and Pensions], and the calling into question whether people really are disabled, has changed the landscape for disabled people.” She called on the Minister for Disabled People to “challenge some of the more outrageous and outlandish comments by some of her senior colleagues, because they are creating an atmosphere that is to the greater disadvantage of disabled people, and that causes fear and uncertainty in their lives.”

 Whilst acknowledging that “disability hate crime is a scar on the conscience of the criminal justice system”, Maria Miller remained tight-lipped about the involvement of the Department for Work and Pensions in inciting disability hostility. She briefly announced a major new piece of work to look at how to change attitudes towards disability, and concluded by saying as way of response to McGuire’s comments about the portrayal of disabled people in the media, that “She and I are as one on this.” Miller never herself referred to the role of the Department for Work and Pensions in shaping the media portrayal and or gave any indication of a change in direction. She seemed to think the Government were already doing plenty on this despite the continued absence of a hate crime action plan or any admission of the sinister role the Government have played and continue to play in turning society against disabled people.

To read a full transcript of the debate: Disability Hate Crime – full transcript

 Posted by at 20:34
Nov 292011
 

Government figures have revealed a significant drop in the numbers of disabled people being accepted and continuing to receive Access to Work support, the Government Programme to support disabled people in employment.

The Government is keen to refer to Access to Work in the rhetoric they use to justify their approach to disability. At the Disability Capital conference in October the Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller, said that whilst the government was “reforming” the benefits system they were also supporting disabled people into employment through investing in Access to Work. The Sayce Report in June 2011 recommended using savings from closing Remploy services to invest in Access to Work. The report gave the figure that for every £1 spent on Access to Work, the State recoups £1.48. Spending on Access to Work makes a profit for the State.  At a time of austerity it would seem logical to think that the Government would be making an effort to support and promote Access to Work.

Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) reveal a different picture. Figures show that just 2,320 ‘new customers’ were helped by the Access to Work (AtW) scheme in the first quarter of 2011-12, an average of 773 disabled people receiving new support every month. In the first half of last year, the government was helping about 1,283 new customers a month. This fell to 980 a month in the third quarter of 2010-11, and then again to an average of just 867 a month from January to March 2011.  The new figures also show that the number of existing AtW ‘customers’ – those continuing to receive support – has dropped by almost 4,000, to just 18,570.

While the rhetoric sounds good, the figures confirm what many of us have long suspected: that the government has no intention of following up its empty words and investing further in Access to Work. Access to Work staff are clear that they have been given a direction of travel to limit resources and taper off support wherever they

can. This fits with the government’s ideology of reducing state “dependency”. Whereas the government may talk about getting disabled people into employment, they are not prepared to use state-funded support to get us there. This ideology is already costing disabled people jobs, it is denying us equality and moreover is costing the state profits it can ill-afford to turn its nose up at.

The DWP’s Access to Work official statistics are available at: http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/workingage/atw/atw1011.pdf

Sources for this article include Disability News Service www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 18:37
Nov 292011
 

 

 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.

 It stresses that the reduction will be because of strict rules on claiming the new employment and support allowance (ESA), and “does not mean that there is currently widespread fraud, or that the health problems and disabilities are anything less than real”.

 It also concludes that nearly 600,000 claimants will be pushed out of the benefits system completely, while another 300,000 will be forced to claim the mainstream jobseeker’s allowance – which is paid at a lower rate than ESA.

 The report also warns that the effects of the reforms will be concentrated in the older industrial areas of the north, Scotland and Wales, while they will impact “barely at all on the most prosperous parts of southern England”.

 It points out that the proportion of working-age adults claiming incapacity benefits in Merthyr Tydfil was 14.5per cent in February 2011, but in the area of Hart District Council, in Hampshire, it was just 2.1per cent.

 Some of the reforms – a tough new work capability test, new requirements for many disabled claimants to engage in work-related activity, and the re-testing of all existing claimants of old-style incapacity benefit – were introduced or proposed by the Labour government.

 But the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition has accelerated the pace of reform and controversially plans to time-limit the contributory form of ESA to just one year for those found able to carry out some work-related activity.

 The report says Labour’s reforms were “always set to trigger much distress for very little reward” but the coalition’s time-limiting of entitlement to ESA will “merely crank up the levels of distress”.

 Professor Steve Fothergill, co-author of the report, said: “In terms of the numbers affected and the scale and severity of the impact, the reforms to incapacity benefits that are underway are probably the most far-reaching changes to the benefits system for at least a generation.

 “They will impoverish vast numbers of households, and cause untold distress in countless more.”

 Although the report says that some former claimants will find work, it says there is “little reason to suppose that the big fall in claimant numbers will lead to significant increases in employment”.

 It 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.”

The full report is available at: http://www.shu.ac.uk/_assets/pdf/cresr-final-incapacity-benefit-reform.pdf

Based on a news story provided by John Pring at http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/

 Posted by at 18:31
Nov 292011
 

Inclusion London commissioned the Glasgow Media Group and the Strathclyde Centre for Disability Research to carry out a study to analyse changes in the way the media are reporting disability and how it has impacted on public attitudes towards disabled people.  In carrying out the study they compared and contrasted media coverage of disability in five papers in 2010-11 with a similar period in 2004-5 and ran a series of focus groups.  The study found:

  •  There has been a significant increase in the reporting of disability in the print media with 713 disability related articles in 2004-5 compared to 1015 in a comparable period in 2010-11.   This increase has been accompanied by a shift in the way that disability is being reported and there is now increased politicisation of media coverage of disability in 2010-11 compared to 2004-5;
  •  There has been a reduction in the proportion of articles which describe disabled people in sympathetic and deserving terms, and stories that document the ‘real life’ experiences of living as a disabled person have also decreased. Some impairment groups are particularly less likely to receive sympathetic treatment: people with mental health conditions and other ‘hidden’ impairments were more likely to be presented as ‘undeserving’.
  •  Articles focusing on disability benefit and fraud increased from 2.8% in 2005/5 to 6.1% in 2010/11.  When the focus groups were asked to describe a typical story in the newspapers on disability benefit fraud was the most popular theme mentioned.
  •  These articles are impacting on people’s views and perceptions of disability related benefits.  The focus groups all claimed that levels of fraud were much higher than they are in reality, with some suggesting that up to 70% of claimants were fraudulent.  Participants justified these claims by reference to articles they had read in newspapers.
  •  This strength of fraud as a tabloid theme conflicts with the reality of levels of incapacity benefit fraud and focuses public perceptions of responsibility for Incapacity Benefit levels on claimants rather than problems in lack of labour market demand, economic policies or discrimination.
  • There has been an increase in the number of articles documenting the claimed ‘burden’ that disabled people are alleged to place on the economy –  with some articles even blaming the recession itself on incapacity benefit claimants;
  • Articles that explore the political and socioeconomic context of disability are rare as are articles that explore the impact that the proposed cuts will have on disabled people. There was a decrease in references to discrimination against disabled people or other contextualising issues;
  • There has been a significantly increased use of pejorative language to describe disabled people, including suggestions that life on incapacity benefit had become a ‘Lifestyle Choice’.  The use of terms such as ‘scrounger’, ‘cheat’ and ‘skiver’ was found in 18% of tabloid articles in 2010/11 compared to 12% in 2004/5. There were 54 occurrences of these words in 2004/5 compared to 142 in 2010/11. These changes reinforced the idea of disabled claimants as ‘undeserving’.
  •  Disabled people are feeling threatened by the changes in the way disability is being reported and by the proposed changes to the their benefits and their benefit entitlements.  These two are combining and reinforcing each other.

Get the full report here: bad news for disabled people

 Posted by at 00:30
Nov 272011
 

placard

On Wednesday over 3 million public sector employees will take strike action together but the only legal reason unions can strike on November 30th is over planned changes to their pensions. We know that for the vast majority of public sector employees the coming strike is really about much wider issues. It is a strike to save our services from privatisation and ultimately destruction by the millionaire government who currently hold power.

The patterns of welfare abolition we are now seeing in the UK follow those seen in theUS,Canada,Australia, and other parts of northern Europe. The first targets of these abolition programmes being uninsured benefits, such as Income Support and income-related IB and ESA, followed closely by the abolition of entitlement to contributory benefits which people are entitled to through paying national insurance contributions. The final target of welfare abolition is pensions, both those of public sector workers and state pensions which are disgustingly already amongst the lowest in Europe.

Even though state pensions are amongst the lowest in Europe this government have moved to further reduce the amount people have to live on in later life by changing pensions indexation from RPI to CPI knocking 15% off the value of pension in average retirement. This too will be the case with benefit up-ratings in the future and we already know that Osborne is planning to renege on benefit uprating next year arbitrarily changing the link between benefit rates and inflation rates.

DPAC are asking anyone who can to support their local strikes on Wednesday and for anyone who can’t to contact David Cameron and Nick Clegg to say they support the strike.

You can contact David on facebook http://www.facebook.com/DavidCameron

Or log onto send him an email at hhtp:// email.number10,gov.uk

Or you can telephone David on 020 72193475

Nick Clegg can be found on facebook http://www.facebook.com/nickclegg

Or you can email him at nick.clegg.mp@parliament.uk
Tell them why you want to help get rid of them and what their policies are doing to your life.
In London disabled people will be at Triton Square on the morning of the November 30th from 8.30am where we’ll be joining the PCS picket line outside Euston Towerand will no doubt be paying Atos a visit.  Keep an eye on the website or facebook page for more details:http://www.facebook.com/events/122853381158514/
And for post-strike excitement the following day on December 1st
We have Ian Duncan Smith, butcher of benefits venturing out to meet protesters
1st December – 5.30pm-6.30pm
LSE Campus, Aldwych

WREXHAM; Assemble Queen’s Square 11.30am, march to rally at Little Theatre
12.30 pm.

Protest at Iain Duncan Smith’s LSE Talk.  Millionaire Iain Duncan Smith wants you to join his army of unpaid workers. Come and expose his doublespeak!

Nov 272011
 

The following is a letter of complaint to BBC led by Mad Pride and supported by the other signatories

We are writing to complain about a lack of balance in the BBC’s coverage and programming in relation to the government’s proposals for welfare reforms and benefits, and their implications.

Disabled people, unwaged carers, trade unions, low-paid workers and unemployed people have raised serious concerns about ‘mandatory work’ programmes that force people on benefits to work without pay. These pose a direct threat to the basic minimum wage, restrictions on working hours  and rules on unfair dismissal, and therefore to the pay and conditions of people in paid work. These implications have not even been mentioned, let alone been properly aired.

Instead we have a torrent of programmes aimed at stigmatising and demonising benefit claimants by highlighting benefit fraud, especially for incapacity benefit (“Britain on the Fiddle”, Panorama 3 November) and the ‘feckless’ who supposedly don’t want to work.  An impact of this wholly disproportionate misrepresentation of claimants as frauds and scroungers by some sections of the media has been cited as a direct cause of a reported increase in assaults and other abuse on disabled people, and to appearances parallel The Department of Work and Pensions own  propensity for distortion, itself criticised for the way it has released misleading figures and statistics that have been used to feed this biased propaganda.

Reality here is for the best part skewed by the BBC. Rates of fraud for disability benefits are the lowest – 0.3% to 1.9% — and are insignificant compared to the low amounts people are expected to live on, and the billions in underclaimed benefits.  People who can work should be entitled to a reasonable living wage and decent and safe working conditions.
http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd2/fem/fem_oct09_sep10.pdf

Many disabled people are not able to work. Many fear they will be wrongly ruled ‘fit for work’ by the revised ‘work capability assessment’ that has been much criticised. And for the many made unemployed through no fault of their own by the effects of the economic downturn – or passed over to unemployment benefit via assessment! –  they now face being forced into ‘mandatory’ work with no pay.

Our very real and legitimate concerns are not being aired. We have not been given an opportunity to make ourselves heard and understood.

Is it right that the BBC is part of this propaganda? Should a publicly-funded body engage in what is tantamount to the promotion of hate crime?

The BBC’s charter says it must show proper balance in its reporting and programming and should not be politically biased. It seems to us that there has been no proper balance and that the programmes aired show a political bias to promote and defend the government’s welfare reform, while hiding the views of those who will be directly affected by them.

We insist on our right to have our concerns properly heard and we demand the right to a full and effective ‘right to reply’ to help to counter the weight of the prejudicial propaganda put out by the BBC.

Disabled benefit claimants, unwaged carers and unemployed people are also licence payers, and we have as much right as people who are in paid employment to have a say in the content and conduct of the BBC.

We look forward to a response to start a process by which BBC Directors and programme makers can redress this current bias as soon as possible. This is a matter of urgent concern for thousands of people who have been barely managing to survive and are now faced with destitution or worse.

Claire Glasman- WinVisible
Ellen Cifford – Disabled People Against the Cuts
Joanna Long – Boycott Workfare
Dave Skull -Mad Pride
Johnny Void -Benefit Claimants Fight Back
Andy Greene – Islington Disabled People Against the Cuts
Paul Smith – Atos Vic tims Group
Richard Rieser- Co-ordinator UK Disability History Month
Warren Clarke – Boycott Workfare

The response received from the BBC goes as follows –

We have received a wide range of feedback about this programme and feel it is worth highlighting that considerable correspondence to us has been generated by online lobby activity. Bearing in mind the pressure on resources, the response below strives to address the majority of concerns raised but we apologise in advance if not all of the specific points you have mentioned have been answered in the manner you prefer. Please be assured we have raised your concerns with the programme and have done our best to issue a substantive response.

Panorama’s ‘Britain on the Fiddle’ looked at a number of issues surrounding public sector fraud, including benefit fraud, the nature and extent of the unlawful subletting of council properties, the issue of identity fraud and the misuse of blue badges. The programme also followed the work of some local authority fraud investigators and by doing so revealed how time consuming and costly inquiries into suspected fraud can be.

The programme made it clear that fraud effectively takes money from all of us, especially those in genuine need. On benefit fraud, including incapacity benefit specifically, the programme stressed that most people on benefits really need them and don’t cheat the system.

Far from concentrating on the economically deprived, the programme featured, for example, the case of a man claiming benefits to pay for a council flat whilst owning and running a pub business many miles away – travelling between both destinations in a luxury car.

Furthermore, the film featured fraud investigators tackling the misuse of blue badges. Many people have since written to Panorama to express their gratitude to the programme for highlighting the problem which causes them distress and much inconvenience.

We don’t agree that the cases featured in our film were extreme or were not broadly indicative of instances of benefit fraud. That is not the experience of the local authority fraud investigators who were kind enough to allow us to film their work. Dr Mark Button, from the Centre for Counter Fraud Studies said in the programme:

“I think a lot of organisations are not realistic about the levels of fraud that they face because in any organisation there are large levels of fraud that are undetected. So if they rely on detected levels of fraud they are not getting the picture of the levels of fraud within their organisation.”

Emphasising this, it is important to note that just recently the Audit Commission released its most up to date figures for detected fraud against local government which explains that these figures are only the tip of a very large iceberg.

We believe the programme explored a subject which is clearly in the public interest and did so in a fair and impartial manner.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.
Kind Regards
BBC Complaints

Nov 262011
 

22nd November : A  poignant, funny , political evening in Mander Hall launches UK Disability History Month 2011.

Nina Franklin, NUT President, told the meeting of 60 disabled people and their allies that she identified as a disabled person, how important UKDHM was to raise awareness, to support the  struggle for equality disabled people face and to remind us of the abuses of the past,  which are unfortunately still continuing. Nina told of how privileged she had been to take part in a school trip to Auschwitz where the Nazi killing programme of disabled people was symbolised by the Black Triangle. This has been reclaimed by the UKDHM Logo.

Ellen Goodey, a 29 year actor/poet, musician, trainer and office worker  with Down’s Syndrome told the meeting about her life and said ‘it was only possible because she had attended mainstream nursery, primary, secondary, college and university and been included’.

Richard Rieser (UKDHM Coordinator) told the meeting that we must learn the lessons of the struggles of the past by disabled people, which have led to the current improved position and mobilise to defend what we have got with our allies, now that we are subject to attacks in our livelihood and ideologically in the press and by Government.  More than 50 events and exhibitions were taking place throughout the UK in the month. Barbara Lisicki recounted how the Direct Action Network won struggle for accessible busses.

Maresa Mackeith,  a-non verbal, English graduate, presented her inspiration by C18th disabled women poets like Mary Lepour, Mary Chandler, Marry Scott and Ann Lesley and how she and a group of 9 other non-verbal young people have set up Quiet Revolution to get equality for non-verbal young people.

Ruth Bashall, a lesbian and disability rights activist, talked of the increase in hate crime both domestic and in the street to disabled people highlighted by the recent EHRC Report Hidden in Plain Sight, which clearly was a result of the economic policies leading to a minority of people scapegoating disabled people.

Lucy Mason, who has brittle bones contrasted her  life to her mother who has the same condition. Her mother had not gone to school in 1950’s/1960’s, until she was 14, and then was sent to residential boarding school where she got an education but was not equipped to deal with life. Lucy had gone although inclusive school and was now a youth activist empowerment trainer working all round the world.

Tony Crosby from Heritage Lottery Fund said they had already given grants of £4.5million for groups of disabled people to discover their history and called for more applications.

A letter was read out from Penny Beschizza of British Deaf Association committing the BDA to support UKDHM from 2012.

The evening was rounded up by Laurence Clarke– a ‘stand up’ comedian who operates from his wheelchair who told the audience if they can’t understand him ‘that’s tough’ as he has cerebral palsy. Laurence talked about the embarrassment and ignorance he and his disabled wife had in the NHS as they prepare for their first and now second child and had us in stitches over the ridiculous attitudes that some medical professionals HAVE.  rlrieser@gmail.com www.ukdisabiliotyhistorymonth.com

Report by Richard Rieser

Nov 262011
 

As part of December’s month of festive action against Atos and the benefit cuts, disabled people, benefit claimants and supporters will be demonstrating outside the Paralympic Goal Ball test event being held at the Olympic Park in Stratford on Saturday 3rd December from 2pm.

Atos are the French IT firm responsible for carrying out the government’s Work Capability Assessment which has led to tens of thousands of sick and disabled people being forced into poverty after being stripped of essential benefits.  Despite the process being dubbed unfit for purpose and an increasing number of suicides due to the stressful and vicious health testing regime, this form of assessment is to be extended to everyone on some form of disability or health related benefit.

When not bullying disabled people Atos are also the official IT partners of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  Join us to ensure that Atos do not receive one ounce of positive publicity from this role, as they champion their support for disabled athletes with one hand whilst destroying the lives of of disabled and sick benefit claimants with the other.

On December 3rd, International Disabled People’s Day, protesters will be gathering outside the entrance of the Olympic Park in Stratford at the Paralympic Goalball test event.  Join us from 2pm and let’s show the world what Atos really think about disabled people.

Bring banners, placards, noise!

Travel to Stratford station (DLR, Central/Jubilee Lines, London Overground) and then follow the indications to the Olympic Park entrance via Westfield Stratford City shopping centre. The route from the station to the entrance of the Olympic Park is approximately 600 metres.

A Real Victorian Christmas Party and Picnic at Triton Square

Friday 16th December – 2pm
Triton Square , London NW1

Join us at the home of poverty pimps Atos for a Christmas Party to celebrate the continuing struggle against disability deniers Atos.

As part of the month of festive action against Atos and the benefit cuts, disabled people, benefit claimants and supporters will be visiting French IT company Atos’ gleaming corporate headquarters to celebrate the real Victorian Christmas being inflicted on hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled people this Christmas.

As Atos CEO Keith Wilman tucks into his organic tax-payer funded Christmas turkey, hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled will be spending Christmas terrified a letter from his company may land on their doorstep demanding that they attend one of Atos’ notorious ‘Work Capability Assessments’.  These flawed tests have led to tens of thousands of sick and disabled people being forced into poverty after being stripped of essential benefits.

Despite the process being dubbed unfit for purpose and an increasing number of suicides, due to the stressful and vicious health testing regime, this form of assessment is to be extended to everyone on some form of disability or health related benefit.

Join us on Friday 16th December at 2pm as we continue the struggle against the unending war on benefit claimants and disabled people.  We will not pay for their crisis.

Bring scabies, TB, rickets, begging bowls and child labour*.  Peelers not invited.

*Also banners, placards, food to share, leaflets, noise.

Atos are based at Triton Square , less than five minutes walk from Warren Street and Great Portland Street tube stations and less than ten minutes from Euston.

Main Month of Action event page: http://www.facebook.com/events/122853381158514/

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

—————————————————————

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

Part 2

Part 3


Link to Report from Disability Alliance

Nov 242011
 

As you may know Motability have announced this week that anyone insured as another driver for a Motability vehicle must live within 5 miles of the disabled driver/owner of that vehicle.

This followed on very quickly from the odious article produced by Richard Littlejohn in the Daily Mail.

Many people who have Motability cars have family and PAs who live further than 5 miles away and we are asking everyone, even if you aren’t affected by this change to write and complain to Motability about how it will make life even more difficult for disabled people and their families. It will particularly affect anyone living in rural areas where public transport is very poor anyhow.

Some examples of what disabled people have said about these changes are

“my daughter’s PAs are 3,4,6 and 9 miles away and we looked long and hard to find appropriate people that close”

“Both my PAs will be affected as they live 6 and eight miles away, as will my family and friends who drive me from time to time. RSA indicated that this new 5 mile ruling was adversely affecting many people. “

Royal Sun Alliance who have a dedicated phone line to answer the insurance elements of the change the Motability Regulations strongly urge people to write to Motability to complain, at the following address:

Motability Operations
Crossgate House
Sothwark Bridge Road
London SE19HB

Download a template letter you can use here: Motability template letter

Nov 212011
 

 SUMMARY

Disabled People demand Rights not Charity and we reject all cuts to our services and benefits.

 All rights enshrined in the UNCRPD which has been ratified byUKgovernment should become a reality for disabled people within the foreseeable future and by the very latest by 2025.

 HATE CRIME

Current increases in hate crime are unacceptable and disablism must be made illegal as is racism and homophobia. More must be done by government to effectively combat hate crimes.

 To support this Office for Disability Issues should be relocated from DWP to the Department of Justice along with other equality strands.

 INDEPENDENT LIVING

Disabled people must have the right to live independently in society with the necessary levels of support to take a full and inclusive part in everyday activities their non-disabled peers take for granted.

 To ensure this can happen disabled people must have full entitlement to free care and support services of their own choice with complete transparency in scoring and resource allocation for social care funding.

 Care and support services must be fully transportable between local authorities ending the current postcode lottery.

 To continue to provide care and support for those with the most complex needs the Independent Living Fund must be retained and reopened to new applicants with adequate funding for this. It should not be restricted to those in employment.

 There should also be an immediate end to the use of child carers whose parents should be provided with the care and support they need to live independently.

 There should be no means-testing for aids and adaptations needed to enhance independent living, including for disabled children.

 No-one should be forced through lack of accessible housing or care and support services to live in residential care homes or nursing homes, and at a time when SHELTER estimate people are becoming homeless at the rate of one person every two minutes there should be a commitment that no disabled person will be made homeless.

 The inadequate supply of accessible housing to meet people’s needs to live independently must be urgently addressed and money made available to increase the available stock of accessible housing and to provide adaptations to already existing properties. In considering accessibility the needs of those with neuro-diverse and mental health conditions must also be taken into account as well as the needs of those with visible physical impairments. Disabled people should not be removed from society through the use of extra-care housing schemes.

 Until there is an adequate supply of social housing there should be aUKwide accessible property register which includes access information for all impairments.

 Social Housing tenures for disabled people should be granted permanently and Housing Benefit levels must meet people’s real housing needs regardless of whether they rent in the social or private rented sectors. Mortgage payments for those in receipt of benefits must be high enough to prevent homelessness.

 While the supply of accessible and affordable housing remains inadequate squatting should not be made illegal as many of those who are or who are likely to become homeless are disabled people. If they are imprisoned for squatting the prison system would be unable to meet their needs.

 INCOME

There should be a guaranteed entitlement to a rate of living benefits and wages including an increase in the money disabled people living in residential homes have for ‘pocket money.’ The mobility component of Disability Living Allowance must be retained for those living in residential care homes, colleges and schools.

 Disability Living Allowance should be kept in its current form as a payment to help meet the additional costs of being disabled. Personal Independence Payments should not be introduced and 20% of disabled people should not be arbitrarily removed from entitlement to this benefit.

 Repeated, expensive and totally unnecessary re-testing of disabled people’s needs for PIP entitlement as is being suggested must be stopped. This will just be another example of public money being wasted.

 The Work Capability Assessment should be abolished and whether disabled people are fit to work should once more be a decision that is reached between themselves, their GPs and their consultants. The hugely expensive contract with ATOS healthcare must be ended immediately, not only because the tests have been totally discredited but because this is double-funding, where GPs and consultants and ATOS are both paid to assess patients and therefore a waste of tax-payers money.

 Disabled people placed in the Work Related Activity Group of ESA or those wrongly thrown off ESA must not face sanctions to their benefits if they are unable to meet the work requirements placed on them due to their impairments or due to any access issues related to any work place that does not take account of disabling barriers constituting any form of disability discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. Disabled people who do not manage to jump through the right hoops must not be left with no other means of financial support.

 ESA for those in the Work Related Activity Group must not be stopped after 12 months. This makes no sense as people are not magically going to become fit to work nor are they going to experience miracle cures.

 Neither must disabled people must be forced to work for their benefits through the Workfare programmes and Mandatory Work Programmes. Compulsory labour for those who are disabled and ill is unacceptable.

Rather than penalising disabled people for being unable to work, there should be a concerted effort to knock down barriers to employment to assist those, who with improved access could hold down a paid job. Such barriers are both physical (eg lack of wheelchair access, unsuitable seating and lighting, inaccessible transport to work), organisational (eg lack of provision for flexible or reduced hours) and attitudinal (eg towards Mental Health service users) .

Too many disabled people remain afraid to admit to employers that they are disabled, since discrimination against disabled people in the labour market remains rife. For example, a recent survey showed over 90% of employers would refuse to employ anyone who had been on Incapacity Benefit. Penalties for such discrimination must be strengthened.

For those disabled people who are able to work and can find suitable employment Access to Work funding should be extended and more easily available. Recent cuts to AtW funding make it very unlikely that smaller firms could afford to hire disabled people. Disabled people should be able to find out what  AtW support they will get beforehand as was previously the case.

 AtW funding should also be extended to help disabled people work in a voluntary capacity.

 SERVICES FOR THE DEAF COMMUNITY

British Sign Language is the language used by Deaf people, who increasingly describe themselves as a cultural and linguistic minority. There are around 80-100,000 native British Sign Language (BSL) users. This number has increased substantially in recent years and has become more reflective of the wider community welcoming other sign language users from around the world. 

The Deaf community, its organisations and hearing allies have campaigned long and hard for the recognition of British Sign Language, winning official recognition as a language (but not legal protection) in 2003 after marches of over 11,000 Deaf people.

One of our biggest issues is that many deaf children are still prevented from learning BSL as children, or have not access to education via skilled BSL.  This is the predominant ideology declaring that if deaf children learn BSL, they will never learn to speak “properly”.  The irony is we have parents of hearing babies encouraged to learn “babysign” to help them with their child’s development, while parents of deaf children are told not to use BSL on the basis it will harm their child’s language development.  The end result is many deaf children grow up with little or no language.

The issues facing the Deaf community today are much the same as that facing disabled people; the lack of access to services, education and employment plus the effect of the financial cuts.  The main campaigning issues for both Deaf children and Deaf adults are access to qualified BSL interpreting whether for education, work or health services.  In some areas of the UK Education Departments are reducing or cutting support for Deaf children entirely, this means not only will their education suffer but access to social opportunities and their right to be involved their school community will be severely limited.

Campaigns currently within the Deaf community are:  Legal protection for BSL;  teachers and other education professionals working with deaf children to be more highly skilled in BSL; lobbying Ofcom for provision of Video Relay Service (VRS) which provides equal access to telephony services; the demand that Access to Work provide full interpreting support  to Deaf people both at interviews and in the work place.

ENVIRONMENT

All forms of transport should be fully accessible with reasonable adjustments for all impairments available.

 Access to all services and facilities should be generic to include those with hidden impairments such as neuro-diverse impairments who have environmental access needs.

All information should be made available in suitable formats to meet all people’s needs.

 There should be better access to a full range of toilet facilities including more Changing Places toilets for adults.

 EDUCATION

The current bias towards segregated education must end and there must be a genuine commitment to work towards a fully inclusive education system. All disabled  children should have a right to mainstream education with proper levels of support available Ito them in all schools including academies, free schools and private schools.

 HEALTH CARE

All people should be entitled to free health care with no restrictions on availability of drugs and treatments due to costs. Services should be fully accessible for people with all impairments.

 Prescriptions should be free for anyone with a long term medical condition for which they need constant medication.

 OTHER PUBLIC SERVICES

Our public services should remain as public services to provide us with services and not services run to make money for the shareholders of private firms.

 ACCESS TO JUSTICE AND SUPPORT SERVICES

There should be Disabled People’s Organisations in every town and these should be adequately funded with ring fenced funding. These should include free legal and welfare rights advice and advocacy available for all.

 All cuts to Legal Aid should be reversed and funding re-instated.

 The Equalities Act must be strengthened to include a duty to consult with disabled people and there should be a fully independent body set up with strong enforcement powers able to impose penalties for non-compliance of equality duties. This body should also have the power to force fair and truthful media coverage of disability issues and powers to prevent distorted media coverage of disability issues.

 Meaningful, rather then simply tokenistic, disability equality impact assessments must be carried out BEFORE any policy or legal change.

 ASYLUM SEEKERS

Asylum seekers should be entitled to an adequate rate of benefits on which to live and there must be no deportation of disabled asylum seekers back to countries where they will not be able to access the health care services they need and are likely to die.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nov 182011
 
Right to Work are compiling a list of all the protests / rallies and demonstrations on November 30. You can check what’s happening in your areas at the link below
Please send your event details to reports@righttowork.org.uk
So far there are marches and protests almost everywhere in the country and more and more unions have balloted members and are joining this protest which will be the biggest general strike ever seen in the UK. Over 3 million trade union members are going to be on strike, including disabled members. This is not just about public sector pensions although that is the only thing unions can legally take strike action about: it is a fight to save the welfare state that we all need, to stop the Condems destroying our NHS, and our lives.
Although you may feel this doesn’t involve you if you’re not a union member or aren’t working it is all very much part of our continuing fight for justice for our community so we would urge anyone who can to take part in these events on November 30th.
John Mc Donnell said at our conference that it would be great to have a disabled person on every picket line in the country. We agree and we need to be seen to be part of this so that we and our fight keep being visible to non-disabled people and trade union leaders.

If you have any pictures and words from the day and would like them put on the website send them to mail@dpac.uk.net
Aberdeen – March from St Nicholas Churchyard to a Rally in the Castlegait. Times TBC Contact: aberdeentradesunion@tiscali.co.uk
Barnet Hospital protest 12 – 2pm
Barnsley – 10am, demonstration in Churchfield road, S70 2JT. 10.30am, rally at YMCA, Blucher Street, S70 1AP.
Bathgate – 10am-2pm rally at Fairway Hotel, EH48 1BA.
Bedford – 10am, The Salvation Army, Bedford Congress Hall, Commercial Road, Bedford, MK40 1QS
Belfast – noon, four feeder marches assemble at: Central Railway Station, Bridge Street, BT1 3PB; Mater Hospital, Crumlin Road, BT14 7AB; Royal Victoria Hospital, Grosvenor Road, BT12 6BA; City Hospital, Lisburn Rd, Belfast, County Antrim BT9 7ER. They will march to a rally at 1pm at Belfast City Hall, Donegall Square, BT1 5GS.
Birmingham – Assemble 11.30am Lionel St, B3 1AT to march to TUC Rally Birmingham Indoor Arena
Blackburn – 11.30am Assemble King William Street, outside old Town Hall
Blackpool – Assemble opposite St John’s Church in the town centre 1.15pm – Rally in the Ruskin Hotel, Albert Road, Blackpool
Bolton – 11.30am, rally at Victoria Square, BL1 1RU. 12.30pm march to Derby Ward Labour Club, Deane Road, BL3 5AH, for rally at 1pm.
Bournemouth – 12noon assemble Central Library, The Triange, 12.30pm March thro town 1.30pm Rally at Royal Bath Hotel, Bath Road
Bradford – 11am, rally at Centenary Square, BD1 1HY.
Brighton – 11.30am, assemble at Victoria Gardens, BN2 1UG. March to The Level, BN1 4SB, for rally at 1pm.
Bristol – 11am, assemble at College Green, BS1 5TA. March to Castle Park, Castle Street, BS1 3XD.
Cambridge – noon, Parkers Piece, CB2 1AA
Cardiff – noon, assemble at Cathays Park, CF10 3AT, for march to a rally at 1pm at the SWALEC stadium, Sophia Gardens, CF11 9XR.
Chester – noon, assemble at Castle Drive, CH1 1SL for march to Guildhall, Watergate Street, CH1 2LA, stopping at the Chester Cross junction, CH1 1PD, at 1pm for a protest.
Chesterfield – Assemble 11.00 am Rykneld Square (By Crooked Spire) S40 1SB.March to Rally at Club Chesterfield, Chester Street ( Formerly Chesterfield Miners Welfare) at 12.30.S40 1DL
Croydon Hospital Protest 12 – 2pm
Derby – Silk Mill 11.15am march to Market Place for rally at noon.
Dumphries – Rally Cairndale Hotel 10.45 – 12 noon Contact:Dumfries@eis.org.uk
Dundee -March & Rally Dudhope Park West gate from 12noon. March off 12:30pm to City Square for Rally Contact: dundeetuc@ymail.com
Ealing – 10.30am, Ealing Town Hall W5 2BY
Edinburgh – 11.30am, assemble outside Usher Hall, Lothian Road, EH1 2EA
Falkirk – Rally 12 noon at St Martha’s Hall, Hope Street, Falkirk. Contact: duncanmac@blueyonder.co.uk
Glasgow – Assemble 12 noon Shuttle Street (near High St station) March to Barrowlands Ballroom for 1.15pm Contact: triciagtuc@hotmail.co.uk
Glenrothes – 10.30am, rally outside Fife House, North Street, KY7 9TB
Halifax – 10am, assemble at Town Hall, Crossley Street, HX1 1UJ
Hastings – 11.30am, assemble at Hastings Pier, 34 White Rock, TN34 1JY, before marching to the Town centre. Rally, to take place after the march, in Robertson Street, TN34 1H; between Debenhams and the Havelock public house.
Hertford – Hartham Common, Hartham Lane, Hertford, at 11.30am March to County Hall rally about 1.30pm
Huddersfield – 10.30am, assemble at St George’s Square, HD1 1JA, march around the town centre followed by a rally.
Hull – 11am, rally at the Queen’s Gardens, Paragon Street, HU1 3NA
Inverness – 12 noon, short march and rally at Mercure Hotel, Church Street, IV1 1QY
Ipswich – 11.30am Russell Rd. March thru town centre. Rally Ipswich Cornhill 12.45pm
Kingston Hospital protest 12 – 2pm
Lancaster – 11.00am – Assemble at Dalton Square, 12.30pm – Rally at Market Square
Leeds – Assemble 10.30 Woodhouse Moor to march down to the rally, noon,  outside the Art Gallery, The Headrow, LS1 5RG
Leicester – 12.30pm, rally at The Athena, Queen Street, LE1 1QD
Liverpool – 11.30am, assemble outside St George’s Hall, St George’s Place, L1 1JJ. March to a rally at Castle Street, L2 0NA
London
12 noon, Lincolns Inn Fields march to rally on Victoria Embankment
GLA protest 12 noon
Hackney Town Hall protest 12 noon
Haringey Civic Centre protest 12 noon
Islington Green Protest 12 noon
Lambeth Protest 12 noon, Windrush Square
Tower Hamlets protest 12 noon, Town Hall, Cable Street
London Hospitals
Lewisham Hospital protest 12 – 2pm
Northwick Park Hospital protest 12 – 2pm
Queen Elizabeth Hospital protest 12 – 2pm
Queens Hospital protest 12 – 2pm
St Thomas’ Hospital protest – 12 – 2pm
St Mary’s Hospital 12 – 2pm
St Georges Hospital Protest 12 – 2pm
UCLH protest 12 – 2pm
Luton – Assemble 11am Manor Park, Manor Rd, Luton. March to markey Hill for rally and speeches
Maidstone – 1pm, rally at County Hall, ME14 1XD
Manchester – March & Rally 11am Liverpool Rd off Deansgate March departs 11.30am Rally Whitworth Park 12.30pm
Chorlton House – 8am – Rally at Chorlton House, Manchester Rd. Chorlton
Chorlton Library – 9am outside Chorlton Library, Manchester Rd. M21 9PN
Milton Keynes – noon, assemble at Campbell Park, MK9 3FZ
Motherwell – noon, rally at North Lanarkshire council building, Windmillhill Street, ML1 1AB.
Newcastle – Gateshead Civic Centre 10.30am march to rally 12 noon Spillers Wharf Newcastle
Norwich – Assemble 11am city college. March from 11.30 into city hall. Rally 12.30
Nottingham – 12.30pm, rally at The Albert Hall, North Circus Street, NG1 5AA.
Oldham – 12.00pm – Assemble on Albion Street (close to Iceland shop)
Oxford – Main march assembly 2pm Cowley Plain OX4 1DZ: Feeder march assemblies to go to Cowley Plain; Education workers and students, 1.30 pm Harburton Mead, Off Marston Road; Healthworkers 1.30 pm Corner Gipsy Lane/ London Rd; Council workers and civil servants 1.30 pm Manzil Way, Cowley Rd; Disabled assembly Carfax Tower 2.30 pm to join main march; Rally Broad St 3.30 pm
Preston – 11.00am – Assemble at Avenham Park, 12 noon rally at Flag Market
Reading – March assembles Queens walk 12.15 for 12.30 start. March to Forbury Gardens for Rally
Rotherham – 10am, assemble at Rotherham Town Hall, Moorgate Street, S60 2RB. 10.30am, march to rally in All Saints Square, S60 1QX
Salford – 11.30am, assemble at Bexley Square to march to rally in Manchester. M3 6BZ.
Sandwell – 10.30am outside Sandwell Council House, Oldbury.
Sheffield – 11am, rally at the Peace Gardens, Pinstone Street,S1 2HH
N30 @ Plug, Matilda Street, Sheffield 6pm – 10pm https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=282859655080195
Telford – 12.30pm, rally at Cordingley Hall, Wellington Road, TF2 8JS
Warrington – 11.30am – Assemble at GMB Office on Town Hill, Warrington. march to Warrington Town Hall for 12.30pm
Wigan– 12.00 – March to Wigan Town Centre, from Whelley Labour Club 1.00pm – Town Centre Rally in Market Place, Wigan
York – noon at Tower Gardens, opposite Clifford’s Tower, march to York Minster for 1pm rally with union and service user speakers.

Picket Line Support Centre, 7am to 11am at St Lawrence’s Church Hall, York

Nov 162011
 

Join us (DPAC, Benefit Claimants Fightback, and many others) in December for a month of protests, actions and demonstrations against poverty pimps Atos and the Condem government’s Welfare Reform Bill.

With thousands to face homelessness in the New Year due to housing benefit cuts, the harassment and further impoverishment of hundreds of thousands of disabled people due to punitive ‘assessments’, the continued persecution of people on sickness benefits, soaring unemployment and forced labour in the name of Workfare, a truly Victorian Christmas is on the cards for millions of us.

Whilst Atos CEO and disability denier Keith Wilman tucks into his organic Christmas turkey or multi-millionaire poverty pimp Emma Harrison of A4e hangs tinsel in her tax payer funded stately home, millions of disabled, low paid, unemployed or sick people are facing a future of poverty, worsening health and homelessness.

Parents will be spending Christmas terrified that the new demands of conditionally for benefits, such as forcing single mothers into workfare schemes, will leave them unable to properly care for their children. People will life threatening conditions or mental health problems will be terrified that their upcoming Atos assessment, notoriously flawed as it is, will further strip them of vital and life saving benefits. Tens of thousands of low waged families are about to be socially cleansed from city centres due to housing benefit cuts whilst unemployed people face the prospect of being forced to work full time and still survive on just a few pounds a day.

The Welfare Reform Bill will see millions of disabled people forced into a similar, if not identical, testing regime for the new Personal Independence Payment that has tragically led to suicides amongst people already forced to undertake Atos’ Work Capability Assessments

For the last year disabled people, claimant activists and supporters have been protesting against the inhumane treatment being inflicted on already vulnerable people. Scores of protests have been held outside (and sometimes inside) the offices of Atos ‘Healthcare’, the largest ever march of disabled people and supporters has taken place, protests have been held outside the Daily Mail, A4e offices and other workfare providers and online activity about benefit issues has exploded.

Still the Tory Government pushes ahead, with their Lib Dem lap dogs never far ahead. We need more than ever to increase the pressure and fight these attacks on our most basic needs and very survival. Organise and help spread the word now, please list all local actions, protests at comments on http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/
and we will do our best to help promote and support all events as well as list them here.

Alternatively why not gather up your friends and turn up to spread seasonal cheer at your local Atos unannounced and then tell us about it afterwards. Everyone loves a surprise guest at Christmas!

We will not stop until they kill us.

A list of Atos corporate offices can be found at: http://uk.atos.net/en-uk/about_us/locations/

A PDF of all Atos Assessment Centres is available at: http://www.atoshealthcare.com/UserFiles/File/fact-sheets/2011/Assessment%20Centre%20Location%20List_July%202011.pdf

http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/

Nov 162011
 

DHM logo

UKDHM  22nd November to 22nd December 2011

You are invited to  LAUNCH EVENT  UKDHM 2011

TUESDAY 22nd November  2011,

Mander Hall, NUT, 1, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BD

5.00 refreshments for 5.30 to 7.30 followed by Reception till 8.30 pm

Celebrating Our Struggle for Equality

Chair Nina Franklin, President NUT

Speakers :-

Ruth Bashell Stay Safe – Tackling Hate Crime

Tony Crosby Heritage Lottery Fund -Disability Heritage

Jaspal Dhani CEO UKDPC-Black disabled peoples’ experience

Ellen Goodey – Living an inclusive life

Barbara Lisicki – The history of the Direct Action Network in 1990’s

Maresa Mackeith-Author Taking the Time

Lucy Mason – HEYA The history of disabled young voices

Richard Rieser Coordinator UKDHM  Disability Equality in Schools and colleges.

Rounded up by Laurence Clarke– a comic view of disability equality today.

To book a place RSVP to 0207 359 2855 or email rlrieser@gmail.com

Nov 152011
 

The tragic deaths of a couple found lying side by side at their home in Bedworth have apparently confirmed the worst fears of disability campaigners about the impact of benefit cuts. Police are investigating the deaths of Mark and Helen Mullins which are at this stage being treated as “unexplained” but friends have spoken of the couple’s struggle to access the correct benefits.

Mark and Helen walked a ten mile round trip each week for food hand outs from a Coventry soup kitchen as they tried to cope with living on a very small income. Helen was judged ineligible for jobseekers allowance as she had no literacy or numeracy skills and her benefits were stopped 18 months ago. However without a proper diagnosis she could not access incapacity benefits and her husband, an army veteran, was not entitled to carer’s allowance. Helen’s young daughter had already been taken away from her to live with relatives as she was judged incapable of looking after her yet no support was put in place for her without first having to see a string of specialists to obtain a formal diagnosis.  Meanwhile the couple had to live on Mark’s jobseekers allowance of just £57.50 per week. Without money for heating they were forced to live in just one room of their home and to keep food in plastic bags in the garden as they could not afford a fridge. Things became desperate when they became frightened that instead of receiving the support they needed, Helen would be sectioned and they would be separated.

Whilst it becomes ever harder for disabled people to access benefits, the media and government continue to encourage a perception of widespread benefit fraud and scroungers living off the state. Programmes such as the BBC’s “The Future State of Welfare” call for more stringent benefit testing while failing to mention that incapacity benefit fraud is just 0.3% of spending or the estimated 16 billion of benefits that go unclaimed each year. In a letter from Anne Begg, Chair of the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee to Chris Grayling, Minister for Employment earlier this year, serious concerns were raised about the misuse of benefit claimant statistics and the government’s role in inciting media misrepresentation.

By creating a false impression of a dire need to restrict benefits, attention is focused away from the injustices and the terrible human cost which are the products of so-called welfare reform.  The drastic cuts to social care funding and the loss of independent advocacy services previously provided by Warwickshire and Coventry Council for Disabled People before Warwickshire County Council withdrew their funding no doubt contributed to the tragic deaths of Mark and Helen Mullins. Such are the realities of cutbacks. In honour of those who have been driven to their deaths by oppressive government policy we must speak out and make sure the truth rather than insidious propaganda is heard.

For full story about Mark and Helen Mullins: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2059238/Army-veteran-Mark-Mullins-wife-Helen-driven-suicide-poverty.html;

http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventry-news/2011/11/10/cab-boss-issues-spending-cuts-warning-after-apparent-double-suicide-at-bedworth-92746-29753827/

For more information about reactions to the BBC documentary ‘The Future State of Welfare’: http://www.candocango.com/anger-and-shock-over-bbcs-offensive-welfare-documentary/ News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

For more information on the Select Committee letter:

http://www.dpac.uk.net/2011/08/select-committee-challenges-employment-minister-on-release-of-benefit-claimant-statistics/

 Posted by at 22:45
Nov 152011
 

November 22nd – December 22nd 2011

 

You are warmly invited to the LAUNCH of Disability History Month Scotland

On November 22nd 2011

From 5.30pm – 7.30pm

 at  Moray House School of Education, The University of Edinburgh, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8AQ

RSVP to info@disabilityhistorymonthscotland.org

 ‘Celebrating Our Struggle for Equality’
NATIONAL CONFERENCE
Saturday December 3rd 2011
Moray House School of Education
University of Edinburgh
For more details and to book a place contact us at
www.disabilityhistorymonthscotland.org

 Posted by at 22:40
Nov 152011
 

Coming to the University of Bedford this Friday 18 November is the award-winning international touring exhibition by filmmaker Liz Crow.

Resistance: which way the future? takes as its starting point the Nazi programme of mass-murder which targeted disabled people and became the blueprint for the larger holocaust. What turned doctors and nurses into killers? What stopped ordinary people from speaking out? And what does this history mean for all of us today?
Over ten years in the making, the exhibition recently returned from its run at Washington DCʼs Kennedy Center, where a visitor wrote “One of the most powerful things I have ever experienced. I was so amazed by it, I went back to see it twice more. A month later it is still with me.”

The opening drama follows the story of Elise, a patient who sweeps the institution in which she lives. She watches buses full of patients leave and return empty. When her turn comes, she knows what’s in store. Based on real events, this is the story of one woman’s resistance in the only way she could.

Director Liz Crow says “This is an episode of history that is virtually hidden, yet the values that underpinned it still echo through disabled people’s lives today. We can’t change history, but we can learn how to influence the future. The events of the holocaust came to an end because ordinary people resisted. I want audiences to feel inspired to get involved, be effective and find the courage to be a part of change. Resistance deals in a difficult subject but is infused with a sense of possibility.”

Resistance

opens at the University of Bedford

on Friday 18 November – until Thursday 15 December.

Open weekdays 9.00 to 12.00 and 13.00 to 16.00.

For evening and weekend bookings, please arrange with Natasha Reynolds on natasha.reynolds@beds.ac.uk or 01234 7933834.

Wheelchair access. Subtitles, BSL interpretation, audio description. Suitable for individual and group visits, for aged 11+ to adult. Run time 30 minutes.

More information at www.roaring-girl.com/productions/resistance-on-tour/.

 

 Posted by at 22:27
Nov 112011
 

Two severely disabled adults have won a landmark high court battle over cost-cutting by Isle of Wight local authority when a judge ruled that the council’s plans to reduce its adult social care budget are unlawful.

Mrs Justice Lang, sitting in London, said: “The defendant [council’s] decision on 8 and 23 February 2011 to adopt new community care eligibility criteria are quashed.”

Lawyers from Irwin Mitchell acting for the two claimants,said the ruling sent “a very clear message” to all councils in England and Wales seeking to make similar cuts.  Alex Rooke of Irwin Mitchell said  “If a council seeks to make cuts to its budget for adult social care, it cannot do so by only meeting certain needs designed to keep someone safe, but neglecting their overall quality of life.”

“The judgment also makes it very clear that if a thorough and full consultation process is not carried out when considering proposed cuts to services to disabled adults, the courts will quash the policy.”

The judge ruled that the council had failed to comply with its own internal guidance on its new policy for assessing eligibility for adult social care. A consultation document “provided insufficient information” to enable those consulted on the criteria changes “to give intelligent consideration and an intelligent response”, the judge said.

Council chiefs said there would be no appeal, adding: “We will immediately comply with the judge’s ruling and return to the previous eligibility threshold whilst we consider our next steps.” They described the pressure to make “substantial” budget savings while at the same time protecting the vulnerable.

The council said it was facing a reduction of £21m in central government funding, representing a £33m budget gap taking into account inflation and increased need.

It added that 80% of those savings had to be made by the end of 2012-13. The savings anticipated through changes to the council’s community care eligibility criteria, plus charging, amounted to £2.5m.

In a joint statement, the council leader, David Pugh, and the cabinet member for adult social care, housing and community safety, Roger Mazillius, said: “We are naturally disappointed with this decision, having genuinely sought to undertake a thorough and proper process of consultation.

“The Isle of Wight council was required to make substantial budget savings within a short timeframe, while at the same time protecting those who were most vulnerable and in need of support. We also had to look to the future and position ourselves to face the demographic and financial challenges that the coming years will bring.

“We will now need to spend time reflecting on the implications for both service users and the wider council budget before deciding on our next course of action.

“We accept the judge’s decision that we did not provide sufficient information and that, in our attempts to explain what was a complex decision, we unintentionally breached some elements of the guidance.”

The statement said council staff would be making immediate contact with the 32 service users directly affected by the changes “to offer a reassessment of their needs”.

This is the second major case against cuts to care funding that Irwin Mitchell have won in the past few months, the first case being against Birmingham City Council.

To see this story in its original format go to the Guardian website with its related links on here –  http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/nov/11/social-care-cuts-unlawful-court

Nov 102011
 

ncafc

1. A huge thank you to everyone who showed up and got others to do so. The national demo was a success. We are in the process of proving that students are a serious movement of resistance, capable not only of marching at a specific parliamentary vote but but coming back in a sustainable way. Moreover, the demo has put resistance to the government’s HE white paper firmly on the political and media agendas. We have also ramped up the political atmosphere ahead of strikes and days of action later in November.

The numbers on the march were unpredictable. Given that we filled the street area that we did at the starting point, we estimate that there were just under 10,000 gathered there. Given that we were later joined by various different London groups, striking workers and LSX occupiers, we think that at its height there may have been a turnout of 15,000. The police simultaneously put the numbers at 17,000 (for internal purposes) and 2,000 (for the purposes of trying to make us look stupid in the media). Neither police figure probably represents the truth of the picture.

For an NCAFC report of the demo, visit: http ://anticuts . com/2011/11/09/1 0000-demonstrators-kick-start-st udent-fightback/

2. Media, pictures and videos:

Our media presence throughout the past few days has been extremely successful. Basically every major newspaper – tabloid and broadsheet – has acknowledged our existence, with some making a political feature of it. Click here for the google news search: http ://tinyurl . com/nov9media

Good videos and pictures are at:

http ://t . co/eBOl6q4G

http ://www . time . com/time/photoga llery/0,29307,2099040_2321752,00 . html

http ://www . guardian . co . uk/educat ion/gallery/2011/nov/09/tuition- fees-universityfunding#/?picture =381629333&index=0

– and there are loads more out there

3. A word on the policing. Nov 9 saw one of the biggest police presences that we’ve yet seen, along with the threat of potentially lethal baton rounds (never before used on the British mainland) ahead of the demo.

The threat of using rubber bullets ahead of the demonstration was a cynical attempt to deter protesters from attending – for fear that they might have been shot at or hurt. That’s not good for democracy – and, although turnout was relatively high, there is reason to believe that it may have worked to some extent. These threats were also irresponsible and counterproductive: the last thing you should do if you want a peaceful demo is to ramp up violent threats beforehand.

For what it’s worth, the “total policing” approach taken by the police was far from non-violent or ideal: dogs and horses were both deployed on the day, and police also used snatch squads of undercover officers who violently arrested protesters, sometimes for no apparent reason. This video has been passed around the internet quite a bit:

http ://www . youtube . com/watch?v=V _kCB54oi04

NCAFC

Nov 102011
 

We will challenge Government attacks and demand action to build the homes we need – see leaflet and pass it on!

The Localism Bill, which MPs are now voting through, introduces fixed term tenancies, and powers to reduce succession rights, end homeless access to council housing and remove thousands from housing waiting lists.

Come to Parliament 4pm 15th Nov

bring banners and placards. Arrange to see your MPs to put the case for council housing. We will have a meeting 5pm Committee Room 15 House of Commons, with MPs, councillors, trade unions, tenants and others.

Council consultation on Landlord (Tenancy) policies

Lobby Councils to reject permissive powers, stop fixed term tenancies, up to 80% market rents, and cuts in access to council housing. Organise speakers, meetings and lobbies for a joint tenant, union and councillors’ campaign for investment in the council housing we need – see council resolution.

Get in touch to confirm you can come, if you want more details or to help
thanks

Nov 092011
 

Here is a letter, and the response, we wrote trying to get support from the Labour party, to oppose changes to make squatting illegal. Making squatting illegal, is also likely to result in occupation of any building for any length of time also becoming illegal. The bill is proposing 12 month jail sentences for anyone convicted of squatting.

Dear Mr. Miliband and Mr. Dromey,

As I’m sure you’re both well aware there is both a major shortage of affordable and accessible housing in the country as well as plans for changes to Housing Benefits which will lead to massive increases in homelessness, including amongst disabled people.

Many disabled people are forced to rent in the private rented sector and just the one change from those under 25 to those under 35 only being able to claim a shared room rate of Housing Benefit has been estimated to be likely to result in 11,000 younger disabled people being made homeless.

These are likely to be people with mental health conditions and neuro-diverse impairments as they are also the groups of disabled people who are most likely to lose their eligibility for Disability Living Allowance.

There are already laws in place to deal adequately with squatting which stop short of making it illegal but protect homeowners. We feel that if squatting becomes illegal more and more disabled people (as well as others) will end up sleeping rough on the streets. If squatting becomes criminalised we also query how an already massively overstretched prison system would cope with more and more disabled people being imprisoned for simply trying to keep a roof of some sort over their heads. Disabled prisoners already suffer from a failure of the prison system being unable to meet their needs adequately.

We would therefore like to urge you to get Labour MPs to oppose clause 26 in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment Bill due to be heard shortly.

xxxxxxxxx

xxxxxxxxx


Below is the response from Ed Miliband, no response was received from Jack Dromey (Shadow Minister for Housing)

Dear xxxx

Mr Miliband has asked me to thank you for contacting him recently concerning the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill.

Mr Miliband thinks it is important for homeowners and local authorities to be able to take action against people who are squatting or causing criminal damage and appreciates the frustration that many homeowners have experienced when seeking to evict squatters. He is therefore not opposing the Governments new clause on this.

It is the case, however, that many people who are driven to squatting do so as a last resort and are, as Crisis’s report (The Hidden Truth about Homelessness) shows, among the most vulnerable people in society.

Squatting is often the result of deeper, complex problems including the availability of decent affordable housing and it is vital that the Government seek to address the causes of squatting as well as considering the legal framework concerning squatters.

Mr Miliband is particularly concerned about the recent sharp rises in homelessness (the number of people approaching local authorities for housing help has increased by 23% in the last year) and the Government’s reforms to Housing Benefit, which Shelter estimate will further increase homelessness and lead to over 100,000 people having to move home.

He also appreciates the considerable strain that high rents are putting on household budgets, which are being squeezed by high inflation and the Government’s increase in VAT.

Mr Miliband would like to see the Government temporarily reverse their increase in VAT and to introduce a levy of bankers’ bonuses in order to build 25,000 more affordable homes. Indeed, house building is currently at its lowest level for many years and the Government are planning to build 100,000 fewer additional affordable homes (by 2015) than were built under the previous Government between 2005 and 2010. Increasing the housing supply is vital to addressing rent levels and homelessness and the Government urgently need to take action to ensure that more affordable homes are built.

Thank you once again for writing to Mr Miliband.

Best wishes,
Victoria

Victoria Mitchell

Office of the Leader of the Opposition

Nov 042011
 

Thanks to Pete Riches and Dave Swinnerton for this photographic record of the day.

Here’s the link to the Pete’s photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/peteriches/sets/72157627917116489/

And to Dave’s

http://www.flickr.com/photos/disabledpeopleprotest/sets/72157627898181095/

Video – views from DPAC first National Conference
many thanks to Jon Cheetham of Bellerose Films

Views from DPAC’s national conference 2011 from Jon Cheetham on Vimeo.

 Posted by at 20:35
Nov 042011
 

An independent report posted with kind permission of Mo Stewart

For more information, please see Mo’s website at: www.whywaitforever.com/dwpatosveterans.html, especially the initial report named: ATOS HEALTHCARE OR DISABILITY DENIAL FACTORIES. 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This detailed evidence report is offered to members of the House of Lords as a contribution to the delayed debate on Welfare Reform, now planned for September 13th, and was prepared at the personal invitation of noble members from the House.

As a retired Healthcare Professional I have invested in excess of 12 months of my time, health permitting, to investigate the relationship between the American insurance corporate giant UNUM Insurance, the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) and Atos Healthcare (AH). AH is the private contractor engaged by the DWP to conduct the medical assessments of the chronically sick and long-term disabled population of the UK, who are in receipt of disability benefits, yet this company is not regulated by the Care Quality Commission and so the public have no protection. The parent company, Atos Origin – another foreign corporate giant – have been awarded several significant government contracts, including the very lucrative IT contract for the 2012 Olympic Games, that the government ensured was awarded as part of “fair and open competition.”

It is cause for enormous concern that, when engaged as UK government advisers on welfare reform, in 1994, Unum Insurance were known as Unum Provident Insurance.  This corporate insurance giant dominates the income protection (disability) insurance market, worldwide, with 25 million clients in the US alone.  Unum Provident Insurance have a diabolical reputation, with strong evidence of atrocious tactics, and a resistance to funding the income protection insurance once a client made a claim following the onset of chronic ill health or permanent disability. (A*)

By 2005, following copious numbers of successful legal cases throughout the USA, the California Department of Insurance Commissioner, John Garamendi, stated that “Unum Provident is an outlaw company. It is a company that has operated in an illegal fashion for years…”  By 2007, the American Association for Justice identified Unum Provident as “..the second worst insurance company in the US.”(5)  Therefore, given this company’s proven record of sustained misconduct, one must surely enquire why they were ever permitted to be involved with the welfare of British citizens on a statutory basis.

Following the statement by the American Association for Justice in 2007 Unum Provident Insurance once again changed its name and is now known as Unum Insurance. Unum Insurance deny culpability for the past history of the company and, mysteriously, the majority of the evidence of past wrongdoing by Unum Provident Insurance has disappeared from the public domain, including the transcript of a BBC News report, from 2007, happily rescued from obscurity by researchers who predicted that the UK was at risk of adopting a copy of the American healthcare system, funded by insurance.  With the latest press release from Unum Insurance, announcing that they are about to flood the UK market with mass marketing for income protection insurance, it looks like this is about to become a reality.

EXTRACT FROM BBC REPORT: UNUM PROVIDENT – BBC News 10pm  6th November 2007:

Mark Daly, presenter: But, there are still dozens of bad faith cases and allegations outstanding against the company on both sides of the Atlantic.  Despite all of this Unum had senior executives sitting on key government working groups last year, and has provided detailed memorandum on transforming the benefits system. (The government also awarded grants worth £300,000 to Unum’s research centre in Cardiff.  See page 4.  MS)

Mark Daly, presenter: The BBC has discovered internal documents revealing that Unum believes it is driving Government policy.  The Department for Work and Pensions refused to comment on Unum’s past.

WELFARE REFORM – REDRESS FOR THE DISABLED – THE REPORT 

The government’s devotion to its main priority, which is a dramatic reduction of the welfare budget, has meant that the concerns of respected frontline charities such as Citizens Advice(1), Macmillan(2), Scope(3), and the Disability Alliance(4) are all seemingly ignored.  These welfare organisations, and many others, have collectively expressed serious concerns regarding growing evidence that the disability assessment system, using the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), is flawed and totally unworkable – but the government doesn’t appear to be listening.  On this basis there is a legal challenge now being undertaken by the Disability Alliance, which may lead to a Judicial Review of the government’s welfare reforms.

Government concern expressed for the welfare of the chronically sick and disabled people of this nation can only be considered to be totally insincere when employing the services of Atos Healthcare (AH) to assess them.  Indeed, the assessment of the long term sick and disabled population by a private contractor with no formal accountability structure, using computer software instead of a detailed physical examination, has been identified as unnecessarily traumatic.(1-4,7)  This dangerously flawed medical assessment system uses a computer questionnaire, based on a points system, as recommended by government advisers Unum (Provident). Why does a UK government use a discredited US corporate insurance giant as advisers if not to adopt their system?

Successful government propaganda has the able bodied general public convinced that the majority of people in receipt of Incapacity Benefit(IB) or Disability Living Allowance(DLA) are mainly ‘scroungers.’ This is despite the fact that all evidence supports the fact that, out of the entire DLA budget, less than 0.5% were bogus applications with 1.5% admin error.(1,4)  So why do the other 98% need to suffer other than because the chronically sick and disabled population make very easy targets?  Since when is the opinion of medical experts, namely consultants and specialists in the relevant fields of the claimants’ disability, unacceptable as a level of a patient’s ability to work other than when the DWP need to reduce costs?  This is a very dangerous and medically unacceptable precedent, imported from America, that has administrators without relevant qualifications and an unaccountable medical assessment system deciding the fate of often desperately ill and chronically disabled people.  Many people in receipt of DLA do work as the award of DLA is unrelated to employment, but they work because they are well enough to engage in employment, and not when forced to look for employment by DWP medical tyranny because Job Seekers Allowance is much cheaper to fund than disability benefits.

The DWP’s resistance to employing qualified medical administrators has meant that basic grade administrators, known as “Decision Makers”, who have confirmed that they lack the ability to interpret medical evidence,(7) have betrayed the sick and disabled people the WCA was meant to protect. The actual disability assessment, as reported by the AH contracted healthcare professional (HCP), is simply one extremely limited opinion derived from a dubious computer evaluation programme, as confirmed in the WCA review by Professor Harrington.(7) The main responsibility of the DWP Decision Makers, as identified in the government contract with Atos Origin Healthcare Services, is to correlate all presented medical evidence including the detailed reports of GPs and consultants, who know the claimant and have actually treated them.  Given that the opinions of these medical specialists are accepted in every court in the land, it seems more than reasonable to consider their clinical judgement when deciding if anyone is fit to return to work or to retain disability benefits.

However, the Harrington Review (7) confirmed that Decision Makers routinely failed in their responsibility and exclusively accepted the opinion of the contracted HCP from Atos Healthcare, who enjoy “total immunity from all medical regulation” according to the General Medical Council (GMC) and the Care Quality Commission.(6)  Because of this, large numbers of chronically sick and genuinely disabled people are being forced to appeal the often alarming decisions of under qualified junior civil servants.(1-4)  Welfare agencies now advise that nothing has improved since the Harrington review, hence the challenge by the Disability Alliance.

This deeply flawed medical assessment process was identified for a long time by His Honour Judge Robert Martin as President of the Appeal Tribunals. For over a decade Judge Martin’s consecutive annual reports constantly identified serious problems with the AH medical assessments (8). Indeed, Judge Martin was insistent that “..the same problems and errors are repeated year after year, with no sign that anyone takes any notice of feedbacks from Tribunals” as confirmed in evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee.(9) The evidence confirmed that almost half of the Appeal Tribunals find in favour of the applicant (9) with 70% of claims being upheld for claimants who have representation at the Appeal Tribunal.(10) However, the stress and distress of the need to wait for several months to attend an appeal, in order to retain financial support to which these claimants are morally entitled, is totally ignored. If these were civil cases, generous compensation would be offered as an acknowledgement of the unnecessary distress and suffering caused to the many victims. However, all successful applicants can expect is a reluctant reinstatement of their disability payments, and a back dated award to when they were forced to accept Jobseekers Allowance instead of Incapacity Benefit or, more recently, the new Employment Support Allowance.(ESA) DWP letters to their many victims remain unnecessarily hostile and the enforced disability debt is an ever growing problem. These victims of this AH assessment system loose their disability funding instantly, when they fail to obtain the necessary points at assessment. Yet their DLA payments are already committed to fund their Motability car or to identify the need for essential home care as provided by local authorities.  This is brutal, and these consequences appear to be dimissed by the government.

With plans to rapidly transfer Incapacity Benefit to the new ESA and DLA being renamed and reallocated to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), all reference to incapacity or disability is being systematically removed.   How can a chronically sick and/or disabled person, who will never again be fit enough for paid employment, be allocated a benefit named Employment Support Allowance when employment is not a realistic possibility?  How does this support anyone with a permanent serious illness or profound disability?  What happened to welfare?  The Minister for Welfare Reform happened to welfare… and it is cause for  serious concern that the input of this one unelected official can threaten the welfare provision for millions with care, concern and compassion replaced with a price tag (11).

The Minister made his intentions clear in a press interview (11) in 2008 when he claimed that: “… somebody will see a gap in the market and make their fortune” and the article went on to claim that the Minister’s idea was to eventually put the private sector in charge of the long-term unemployed.  “There will be bonuses for hard cases, and no special treatment of disabled people or lone parents with children at school.”(11) As Minister for Welfare Reform, Lord Freud’s past history in finance demonstrates a dangerous lack of any comprehension that a serious illness or chronic disability can indeed be permanent, hence past awards of DLA offered to recipients who, by definition and especially by diagnosis, are profoundly disabled or very ill. These conditions can be exacerbated by exhaustion that often accompanies chronic ill health and serious disability.  American style medical tyranny can’t make them well, and can’t make these genuine claimants fit for work, but constant threats of losing their financial support can and does cause unnecessary distress.

Now, the most vulnerable people in our society, already faced with a limited quality of life, are being terrorised by the DWP with the threat of an annual review of their DLA financial support, despite their confirmed and permanent illness and/or physical limitations.  Any annual assessment is therefore, by definition, a total waste of limited resources for the vast majority of these people.  The sudden removal of DLA may remove a Motability car, or funding for taxis, and may remove the County Council funded home carers as County Councils will not provide carers unless the client is in receipt of DLA for care at the highest level. Any AH assessment is simply one day in the life of the disabled claimant, and cannot be presumed to identify their permanent state of health.  Government claims that AH assessments are to establish ability, and not to emphasise disability, whilst demonstrating a dangerous lack of concern for identified consequences is offensive to many.

Urgent decisions need to be made to enable justice to be seen to be done.

CONCLUSION:

The DWP should employ qualified Medical Administrators, as real Decision Makers, who will comprehend when a given diagnosis means that the patient is far too ill or profoundly disabled to ever consider paid employment.  They would even comprehend that the majority of chronic disability and ill health are, by their definition, variable conditions, and therefore it is  absurd to expect such people to be fit enough to look for paid employment, only to become too ill to work within a short period of time.  Not only would Medical Administrators be able to remove the totally unnecessary distress faced by the innocent victims of this assessment process, but it would also save a great deal of money by greatly reducing the numbers of people going to these AH assessments and, hence, reduce the numbers of Appeal Tribunals.  Any increases in salary costs will be negated by the very significant savings from the reduced costs of tribunals and appeals, as well as the reduced requirement for continued reassessment in many cases.  It would also remove the distress now faced by this vulnerable community.

The DWP can then either cancel this fatally flawed disability assessment contract with AH, or introduce a generous compensation scheme. There are now many thousands of genuine chronically sick and/or seriously disabled victims of this DWP funded medical tyranny, masquerading as medical assessments, as conducted by Atos Healthcare following guidance by Unum Insurance, formerly known as the totally discredited American corporate giant Unum Provident Insurance.

It is no coincidence that Unum Insurance are about to launch a massive UK media campaign to promote their Income Protection Insurance as, clearly, it has been planned since 1994 as the UK takes another step forward towards the American style health service, funded by insurance. (12)

Costs can’t be the only concern in any civilized society.  Care, concern and compassion must be returned to the UK to arrest  tyranny, using foreign companies, against those least able to find social justice.  5000 disabled people and carers didn’t march in London for no reason, and it’s time someone listened to them.

More detailed information may be found in a book by Ray Bourhis, namely Insult to Injury: Insurance, Fraud and the Big Business of  Bad Faith, published in 2005, and in the published papers at the Yale School of Law: The Unum Provident Scandal. (13)

(A*) New York Attorney General Spitzer’s ruling:  www.insure.com/articles/healthinsurance/unum-settlement.html

(1) Citizens Advice: www.citizensadvice.org.uk/not_working_march_2010_final.pdf

(2) Macmillan: www.macmillan.org.uk/Documents/GetInvolved/Campaigns/Benefits/FailedByTheSystemReport.pdf

(3) Scope: www.Scope.org.uk/sites/default/files/counting_the_cost.pdf

(4) Disability Alliance: www.disabilityalliance.org/dbcpress3.htm

(5)  http://unumclaimsdenial.com/2011/07/unum-ranked-2nd-worst-insurance-company-in-america

(1)  Citizens Advice: www.citizensadvice.org.uk/not_working_march_2010_final.pdf

(2)  Macmillan: www.macmillan.org.uk/Documents/GetInvolved/Campaigns/Benefits/FailedByTheSystemReport.pdf

(3)  Scope: www.Scope.org.uk/sites/default/files/counting_the_cost.pdf

(4)  Disability Alliance: www.disabilityalliance.org/dbcpress3.htm

(5)  http://unumclaimsdenial.com/2011/07/unum-ranked-2nd-worst-insurance-company-in-america

(6)  Care Quality Commission: http://www.cqc.org.uk/aboutcqc.cfm

(7)  The Harrington WCA Review: www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/wca-review-2010.pdf

(8)  HH Judge Robert Martin: President of Appeal Tribunals, Report 2007-08

(9)  Decision making and appeals in the benefit system.  Second Report of Session 2009-10

– the House of Commons Work and Pensions Select committee:

www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmworpen/313/313.pdf

(10)  Citizens Advice Scotland: Unfit for purpose:

www.cas.org.uk/Publications/publications/Evidence+reports/unfit-for-purpose

(11)  Welfare is a mess, says adviser David Freud:

www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/1577313/Welfare-is-a-mess-says-adviser-David-Freud.html

The Daily Telegraph – 2nd February 2008.  David Freud interview with Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson

(12)  http://www.ifaonline.co.uk/cover/news/2083156/unum-unveils-consumer-campaign

(13) http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1483&context=fss_papers&sei-redir=1#search=%22Yale%20Law%20School%3A%20Unum%20Provident%20Scandal%22

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