Nov 282012
 

December 7th

11am – 12pm

St Mary’s House, Duke St, Norwich,

NR3 1QA

If you would like your chance to show how you feel about Atos and the benefit cuts

 feel free to come along and

demonstrate with us

Bring your placards, whistles and horns to help raise awareness of how the Work Capability Assessment system and Atos are affecting peoples lives

Protest the cuts to vital services for EVERYONE

ATOS PROTEST (download as Word doc)

Nov 262012
 

George Osborne

  •  An action organised by Fuel Poverty Action, Disabled People Against Cuts and the Greater London Pensioners’ Association. Other organisations taking part include Single Mothers’ Self-Defence, Southwark Pensioners’ Action Group and WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities).
  • Meet Thursday 29th November at 11am outside the main entrance to the Treasury on Horse Guards Road, SW1A 2HQ, opposite St James’s Park (nearest accessible tube station, Westminster).
  • Speak out against cold homes, mammoth fuel bills and winter deaths! Demand that George Osborne lets us into The Toasty Treasury to keep warm!  
  • Bring placards, banners, blankets, flasks and hot water bottles! 

 

This week, the government will publish its controversial Energy Bill. What it’s hoping we won’t notice is that, on Thursday November 29th – the likely date of the Bill’s first reading – the human cost of its destructive energy policies will be revealed as figures on last year’s winter deaths are announced. Disabled people, as well as pensioners, mothers, children and others in low-income households will be among the worst affected.
Fuel poverty disproportionately affects disabled people, who are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people. Disabled people need to spend more on energy as they are more likely to spend time indoors with fewer opportunities to go out and access community facilities to keep warm. Some impairments are aggravated by cold, requiring homes to be heated at higher temperatures to avoid illness and hospital admissions.

Join Fuel Poverty Action, the Greater London Pensioners’ Association, Disabled People Against Cuts and others in fighting back. Over the past week, we’ve asked people across the country which Cold Homes Killer they want to target. The votes are now in and we can reveal that the target of our winter deaths action will be…THE TREASURY, home to George Osborne. We can’t afford to heat our homes, so we’ll be demanding that George Osborne lets us into The Toasty Treasury to keep warm.
We’re targeting George Osborne and The Treasury because they are directly responsible for deaths from cold homes. This is due, firstly, to their cuts to crucial lifelines like benefits, council housing and the Winter Fuel Allowance.
George Osborne and The Treasury are also responsible for winter deaths because of their role in secret Tory plots to lock us into decades of dependence on dirty and expensive gas power. While the Tories and media blame green energy, in fact, two-thirds of last year’s energy bill increases were due to the rising cost of gas. Meanwhile, the cost of renewable energy is quickly coming down.
We need to invest rapidly in renewable energy to bring down bills and avert the dangers of climate change, which is also a killer. Why is the government allowing the Big Six energy companies – British Gas (Centrica), EDF, E.ON, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE –  to push the cost of investment in new energy onto our energy bills, while their profits soar to record highs? The answer: the government are in bed with the energy companies and are prioritising their profits over our lives.
Join us in demanding no more cuts, no more dirty and expensive gas, no more mammoth fuel bills and no more winter deaths. Our alternative: let’s reclaim power through community-controlled renewable energy, distributed on the basis of need not private profit.  
Spread the word on Facebook, event here.
We are attempting to secure funds to subsidise people’s travel to the event. If you are in need of subsidised travel, please let us know in advance via the contact details below and we will try our best to help you.
If your group would like to publically support this event, please let us know.
Contact us:
Tel: 07586 482 157


Nov 252012
 

People’s Question Time – Stratford- you need to get tickets in advance.

12 DECEMBER 2012 19:00

Start Date:
12 December 2012
End Date:
12 December, 2012 – 21:00
Location:
Stratford Old Town Hall, E15 4BQ

On Wednesday 12 December, from 19.00 – 21.00 the Mayor and London Assembly will be in Stratford to answer your questions about London and their current plans, priorities and policies for the city.

Register now to get your free tickets or call             020 7983 4762      .

Please note you will only be able to register for a maximum of two tickets.

Further details about the event are provided below.

Location and topics 

People’s Question Time will take place at Stratford Old Town Hall, E15 4BQ.View map.

Topics to be discussed include:
•    Growing London’s economy and housing
•    Olympic and Paralympic legacy
•    Transport and environment
•    Policing and community safety
•    Other topics

Assembly Member John Biggs will chair the event.

Event format

People’s Question Time is a twice yearly Q&A event where members of the public can meet and question the Mayor and London Assembly. If chosen by the chair you will have the chance to ask the panel a question, to which one or more of the panellists will respond.

We ask that those wishing to put a question forward do so during the relevant topic session and respect the chair’s direction. Please keep all questions as brief and to the point as possible.

Due to the length of the event we regret that not all questions can be asked. If you don’t get to ask your question at the event, please write it on the available feedback form and you will receive a response within 21 days.

On the night 

Please remember to print out and bring your ticket with you. Each ticket has a unique reference number that is required for entry to the venue.

Ticketholders are advised to come early to ensure entry. Admission is on a first come first served basis and a ticket does not guarantee a seat.

18:00 – Doors open
19:00 – Event begins
21:00 – Event close

From 18:45 – 19.00 doors will open to those who have not registered in advance. Entry will depend on space and priority will be given to those with tickets.

Accessibility

People’s Question Time will have the following access provisions. Please specify your requirements when registering.

•    BSL interpretation
•    Hearing loop
•    Speech to text on large screen (palantype)
•    Wheelchair access
•    Braille programme

 Posted by at 21:09
Nov 252012
 

At DPAC we receive regular emails from people who have lost loved ones and attribute this to the process of the WCA, indeed with recent evidence of 73 deaths and suicides per week we are seeing these emails increasing.  December 3rd is being marked as a day of remembrance for all Atos victims. Disability activist Samuel Miller from Canada is taking this outrage against human rights as far as he possibly can in an effort to secure justice.

Samuel has made many efforts at the United Nations level on behalf of disabled people in the UK and the constant attacks they face under the Tory regime. We all owe him a debt of gratitude. He is looking for evidence of linked Atos deaths. DPAC supports this and want to help in any way we can –below we repost the blog from Vox Political with permission from Mike from Wales.

Please help if you can by publicising and also subscribe to Vox Political at: http://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/ids-off-the-hook-with-icc-so-evidence-needed-of-atos-deaths/

IDS off the hook with ICC – so evidence needed of Atos deaths

 Brian McArdle. On the BBC’s Question Time last Thursday, Iain Duncan Smith flew into a rage when Owen Jones challenged him about what happened to Mr McArdle, “57 years old, paralysed down one side, blind in one eye; he couldn’t speak. He died one day after being found ‘fit for work’ by Atos.”

People whose family members have died while going through the DWP/Atos work capability assessment are being urged to contact a disability specialist – who has been seeking international legal action against the austerity-enforced injustice.

Vox Political reported back in September that Samuel Miller had contacted the International Criminal Court in The Hague, intending to file a complaint against Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling and Maria Miller, the ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions, considered most responsible for “draconian welfare reforms and the resultant deaths of their society’s most vulnerable”.

Mr Miller got in touch over the weekend, but said that the result had been disappointing: “They stated that the International Criminal Court has a very limited jurisdiction. The Court may only address the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes as defined by Articles 6 to 8 of the Rome Statute.”

The Rome Statute is the document under which the ICC was established. Article 7, which covers crimes against humanity, states: “For the purpose of this Statute, “crime against humanity” means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack:

“(k) Inhumane acts … intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.”

I thought this – Article 7 (k) – was a perfect description of what the DWP and its ministers are trying to achieve, and Mr Miller agreed. But he said: “Clearly the ICC is striving to discourage the filing of austerity complaints.”

There is a way forward. He added: “On a welcome note, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights recently acknowledged that austerity measures may violate human rights — which certainly is a step in the right direction.”

He’s right. The chair of the UN committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Ariranga Govindasamy Pillay said on October 23 that, although member states face tough decisions when dealing with rising public deficits, austerity measures are potentially violations of their legal obligations to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

“All States Parties should avoid at all times taking decisions which lead to the denial or infringement of economic, social and cultural rights,” Pillay said, citing an open letter to States Parties from the committee earlier this year that clarified the committee’s position on austerity measures.

By ratifying the Covenant, member states like the UK have a legally binding obligation to progressively improve, without retrogression, universal access to goods and services such as healthcare, education, housing and social security and to ensure just and favourable conditions of work, without discrimination, in accordance with established international standards. These rights must be achieved by using the maximum of available resources.

Pillay pointed out that austerity measures are also a disincentive to economic growth and thereby hamper progressive realization of economic and social rights.

The committee had pointed out that social insecurity and political instability, as seen in parts of Europe today, were also potential effects of the denial or infringement of economic, social and cultural rights.

The poor, women, children, persons with disabilities, older persons, people with HIV/AIDS, indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities, migrants and refugees were particularly at risk, the committee had noted.

Having identified the possibility, we come to the burden of proof. Mr Miller said: “My best hope lies in procuring coroner’s reports where the cause of death is found to be destitution and/or suicide.”

Inevitably, there is a problem. The UK Coronial system does not involve the collating of such information, nor does it look for national trends. The role of the Coroner is case specific, so wider information is not available. This is because the system of inquests into deaths was never intended to investigate whether those deaths were being caused by insane decisions of the government itself.

The law in relation to death certification may be amended in 2014 to provide for Medical Examiners whose role will be to examine such matters – but that is two years from now, and the DWP/Atos system could pile up another 7,600 bodies in that time (using the generally-accepted average of 73 deaths per week).

Mr Miller has written to the DWP, seeking a change of coroners’ duties to allow proper and robust reporting of trends such as stress-related deaths, suicides and/or destitution deaths of welfare recipients and recipients who perished shortly after being stripped of their benefits can be reported to both the DWP and the Ministry of Justice.

But I think we all know there is little chance of success there. This government is hardly going to hand over the tools by which its own ministers might end up in an international court. They’re insane, but they’re not stupid!

So people are going to have to do it themselves. We know about high-profile cases in which deaths have been blamed on Atos. Information about the others needs to be available now.

This is why I want to appeal for anyone who has lost a loved one because of the DWP/Atos work capability assessment system to get in touch with Mr Miller. He needs to know the verdict that was reached at the inquests into their deaths.

His email address is disabilityinliterature@gmail.com

I would strongly urge that anyone writing to Mr Miller keeps their correspondence to the point. It is to be hoped that he will receive a strong response, but this entails a large amount of work. It is therefore important to make that work as easy as possible, perhaps by putting the deceased’s name, address and the verdict at the top of your email.

Follow mike on twitter :@MidWalesMike

 

Nov 232012
 

It is with regret that we post this notice. We have been saddened by comments of a group of activists in Wales who have publically rejected the work, aims and objectives of the DPAC steering group, of DPAC’s members, supporters and co-founders as set out in the DPAC constitution. The issue began several months ago, with a more recent set of unacceptable actions which came about due to a joint statement between DPAC, PCS and Black Triangle (our sister group in Scotland). The joint statement has been rejected by the Welsh based group, as have the methods of DPAC working, the DPAC constitution and our long term aims and objectives in our fight against the cuts and the impacts on disabled people. DPAC campaigns from a social model perspective and in line with non-racist, non-sexist and non-homophobic principles. DPAC has an agreed set of aims and objectives within a constituted way of working to achieve our objectives and to achieve the rights set out in the DPAC Charter of Rights.

 As most of you know DPAC began in 2010. The steering group have worked tirelessly, along with other local DPAC groups, supporters and members in unity in successful direct actions and events, whilst co-working with a growing number of anti-cuts groups and other allies. DPAC’s actions have succeeded in raising the profile of the attacks against disabled people and have created a strong collective voice against the injustices we face. The steering group put in many hours after their various jobs and other commitments to help make this happen, and we will continue to do so. We will continue to build our already extensive DPAC networks to challenge the impacts of this Government on disabled people and others. We believe as we hope you do, that unity is vital in strengthening DPAC campaigns. The recent event with Inclusion London, ALLFIE, NCODP and DPAC in September raised the prospect of a UK Network working with unions, active user-led disabled peoples’ organisations, activists and academics. We all agree that we are stronger together by being united in our aims and methods. There is no place for fragmentation, or disunity, this does not mean there is no room for disagreement or respectful discussion, without which we agree we become weakened and risk becoming ineffectual.However, endless disregard for efforts on DPAC’s part are also ineffectual because they take time away from the wider aims of the work of DPAC and disabled people as a whole

 We have attempted to discuss disagreements and differences in the DPAC constitution agreed aims with some of the activists in Wales. It is regrettable that these discussions have floundered. It is the opinion of the elected steering group that we can progress no further. Some may be aware of the facebook posts which were critical of the DPAC steering group, members, local DPAC groups’ methods and DPAC co-founders. We have to add, that requests to the Welsh activists on an issue relating to talks with unions were ignored, damaging relationships and prospective DPAC campaigns.

 This week DPAC agreed to liaise with a third party who put themselves forward on DPAC Caerdydd’s behalf- a stance that was agreed by them and by the DPAC steering group.  The agreement was that we would create a space to discuss issues and would hold back from all public comment to try and achieve a mutual outcome so that we could work together. However, before this was underway the Welsh activists posted a press statement on their facebook page, again, stating their disagreement with the aims of DPAC , the elected steering group and the DPAC constitution. They announced the set up of  a DPAC Cymru, and  demanded that a revised joint DPAC, PCS, Black Triangle statement be issued owing to their ongoing belief that DPAC should target a particular set of low paid workers, many of whom are against the cuts and their impacts.

 It is our opinion that to characterise every trade union member or individual worker in specific sectors as the enemy is unhelpful and can only make the task of building unity amongst all those with an interest in opposing austerity policies more difficult. The DPAC steering group is talking to unions with the aim of joint working to aid this unity. As a result we have been accused of ‘giving in’ by the Welsh activists. This is far from the truth. However, we do believe in adopting the best strategy for the best outcomes. This cannot be done overnight.

 We are pleased that the group in Wales have had a meeting with Mark Serwotka that they felt was productive. However, we have been told that some people in that group were prepared to use tactics that would offer the Tory press an opportunity to issue statements which would have been incredibly damaging to the fight of disabled people. DPAC is no stranger to pushing the boundaries, but the tactics that were going to be employed would have endangered the very status of DPAC as a legal organisation, and put all the previous hard work of DPAC groups in doubt. We are grateful that this tactic was prevented.

 To clarify, the outcomes of the DPAC meeting in 2011: individual members and any local DPAC groups use the DPAC name under the terms of the agreed DPAC constitution. The elected steering group encourage self-organisation, and we have seen a growing number of local DPAC groups. We will not however agree with such groups or individuals using repeated verbal attacks or using inappropriate language directed towards any other DPAC members, supporters, allies or Steering Group members. We do not agree with our supporters and allies being referred to as “Marxist scum” or “murdering collaborators”

 We cannot accept that those who have repeatedly refused to work with the elected DPAC steering group when asked can continue to call themselves DPAC or use our logo which was produced under license and is copyrighted to DPAC co-founders and the elected steering group.

 Nor will the DPAC steering group be associated in any way with reckless and dangerous acts by any activists who would even consider using unreasonable tactics as part of a direct action against any prominent union leader.

 We do not accept that this is appropriate behaviour for anyone linked in any way to our name to even consider. This potentially unacceptable behaviour has brought DPAC Caerdydd/DPAC Cymru into total disrepute amongst both disability campaigners and mainstream anti-cuts groups.

 DPAC was founded upon the basis of opposing all forms of oppression and inequality and therefore the use of language and other actions which undermine DPAC’s stance and use the name of DPAC can only be regarded as completely unacceptable.

It has also been clear for some time that DPAC Caerdydd/DPAC Cymru neither share our values or concerns, appear unable to resolve issues in anything approaching shared responsibility or respectful discussion, nor do they appear to agree with the criteria under which the DPAC steering group and others are bound by the DPAC constitution. One final attempt was put to them again, this week to cease the use of the DPAC name without reference to the constitution. This was met with further contempt towards the co-founder who was attempting to ease the situation.

Regrettably, the steering group can see no reason why the Cardiff based activists would want to continue using our name other than to damage the cause that full members, local DPAC groups and our allies are in agreement with and share through the DPAC constitution and under the ownership of the DPAC name.

The DPAC steering group can no longer find any shared purpose in the group continuing to be part of the DPAC structure, using its name, publicity, or attempting to capitalise on the goodwill DPAC has taken time to build up with allies. As in the steering group’s remit and as stated in the DPAC constitution we renounce any association with DPAC Caerdydd/DPAC Cymru.

We advise in the strongest of terms that they set up a group that does not use the well known name of DPAC nor use the DPAC logo. We wish them success in their potential campaigns, while we continue with the important work of furthering effective DPAC campaigns, legal challenges, our work within the UK and Europe in continuing to bring the impacts on the rights of disabled people and the growing number of deaths and suicides resulting from this Governments complete disregard for disabled people lives, we will do this with proven allies.

All matters for DPAC local groups and members are set out on the DPAC web site under ‘about’ at www.dpac.uk.net

 

Nov 212012
 

As you may know John McDonnell is trying to get a private members bill introduced into parliament this week which would allow job-sharing for MPs. This would be advantageous not just for disabled people, but mothers, and carers who are currently excluded from standing as MPs due to being unable to work full-time.

Last week marked a historic occasion in the House of Lords when Jane Campbell was allowed to have someone else make a speech for her.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20326111

However no such reasonable adjustments to encourage more disabled people to be MPs have ever been made.

Would anyone people who would like to stand as a job share MP but who is unable to work full time contact  info@disabilitypolitics.org.uk

If people want to read the EHRC legal advice on job sharing for MPs, it is here: http://www.disabilitypolitics.org.uk/pdfs/jobshare.pdf

Also please sign the new e-petition http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/38829 and email your MPs in support of the Bill.

 

Representation of the People (Members’ Job Share)

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

2.12 pm

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to enable representation of a constituency by two persons sharing membership of the House of Commons; and for connected purposes.

The Bill would introduce job sharing for Members of Parliament. At the outset, let me thank all those who have helped to shape the proposal, particularly Debbi King from Disability Politics UK, the QCs Karon Monaghan and Gordon Nardell and, of course, our House of Commons Clerks for their advice.

The motivation behind the Bill is to contribute to fulfilling the objective so eloquently set out in the report of the Speaker’s Conference on parliamentary representation in 2010. It stated:

“Justice requires that there should be a place within the House of Commons for individuals from all sections of society. If anyone is prevented from standing for Parliament by reason of their gender, background, sexual orientation or perceived disability, this is an injustice…While justice is the primary case for widening Parliamentary representation, there would also be real benefits for both Parliament and wider society if the House of Commons were to be more fully representative…We believe that a more representative House of Commons would be a more effective and legitimate legislature.”

The stark reality is that this House is certainly not fully representative of our society: more than 500 of the 650 MPs are male, so women are seriously under-represented; and there are only a handful of disabled MPs in the House, but there would need to be at least 65 if it was to be representative of disabled people in the population.

In recent years discussion has taken place about what changes could be made to remove barriers to people who want to become MPs and serve their country in that way. A number of organisations representing people with disabilities have expressed the view that there are some people whose particular conditions means that, although they wish to serve as MPs, they physically would be unable to do so on a full-time basis. Others representing carers and women’s organisations have explained that, although they might wish to serve as MPs, they did not want to give up their caring role and so wanted to combine the two jobs. That included not only parents with young children, but carers of elderly or sick family members. The reality is that the vast majority of carers in our society are still women, so not being able to combine more flexibly caring responsibilities and the role of an MP was seen as an issue that needs to be addressed if we are to secure greater representation of women in Parliament.

Over the past two decades, Members from both sides of his House and several civil society bodies representing people with disabilities and women have advocated the introduction of job sharing for MPs in order to assist more people with disabilities and more women to become MPs. I recall my right hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Margaret Hodge) raising the call in the 1990s. The new generation of Members has taken up the

20 Nov 2012 : Column 473

cause; my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra) and the hon. Members forBrighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) and for Brentford and Isleworth (Mary Macleod) have all advocated change. The hon. Member for Devizes (Claire Perry) summed up the issue eloquently in a recent debate when she said:

“I have always thought that job shares—potentially having a Cabinet position as a job share—would send a powerful signal, allow women to achieve their best and also recognise the complexity of many of our lives.”—[Official Report, 22 March 2011; Vol. 525, c. 185WH.]

Many organisations across the political spectrum have urged consideration of job sharing, ranging from the Fabian Women’s Network to Women Liberal Democrats and the Fawcett Society. Two of the major charities that represent people with disabilities in our country, Radar and Rethink, included a call for job sharing in their submissions to the Government’s consultation, “Access to elected office for disabled people.”

Individuals have tried to stand for election to this Parliament and the Scottish Parliament on a job-share basis but have been barred on the grounds that the current law does not allow it. However, recent legal advice obtained by the Equality and Human Rights Commission has shown that that bar might be open to legal challenge on the grounds of discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 and various international conventions. In law, public bodies have a legal responsibility to make any reasonable adjustments to their operation to overcome such a bar. Job sharing could be construed as just such a reasonable adjustment.

Many Members have suggested that job sharing might be fine in principle but that there are real practical problems with its implementation. Let me deal with the practical questions. The Bill would be an enabling Bill establishing the principle of job sharing for MPs and dealing with the key questions of election, voting rights and the death or disqualification of a Member. That would leave further detail of implementation to secondary legislation that would be subject to the approval of the House.

The Bill proposes that the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 be amended to allow two people who have agreed to a sharing arrangement to stand for election in a constituency on the basis that, if elected, they would share the representation of the constituency between them and serve in Parliament on that basis. Each of the two Members elected for a constituency would be able to cast a half vote in votes of the House. If the two Members agreed and informed Mr Speaker or the person presiding during a vote, one of them would be able to cast a single vote. Not all the detail about the operation of the process are suitable to be addressed in primary legislation and would usually be the subject of secondary legislation or changes to the Standing Orders of the House.

Let me deal with some of the main questions that have been asked by Members about the practicalities of the proposal. Would the two job sharers have to be from the same party? It is proposed that that would be the case, and that would be covered in secondary legislation. What would happen if the job sharers disagreed on an issue and wished to vote accordingly? As the job sharers entered into a sharing arrangement before the election and were from the same party, one would expect them not always to agree on votes—I admit that finding a job

20 Nov 2012 : Column 474

share might be difficult at times. However, where there is a difference, they can each exercise their right to use their half vote. Frankly, single Members are often in two minds about something and end up abstaining.

What would happen if one of the job sharers left the party under whose banner he or she was elected? At present, there is no provision for forcing a by-election when a Member crosses the Floor of the House, but that is something Members might want to examine. It is not proposed in this Bill, but it would need to be taken into account by electors at a subsequent election. What would happen if one of the job sharers resigned, died or was disqualified? Because the job sharers were elected on the basis of a job-share arrangement, both would be treated as having ceased to be MPs.

Another question is what would happen in situations where electors were happy with the performance of one of the job sharers but not with the other and therefore would not want to vote. The job sharers would be standing as a team; that would be the job-sharing arrangement. The elector would still have one vote and be unable to split it, but would have to decide, in casting that vote, whether, on the basis of his or her overall judgment of their performance, the job-sharing team worked and whether he or she would vote for that arrangement in future. To be frank, there is very little difference between that and what happens at the moment, because electors will often take the view that because the person has stood for a party while, at times, not necessarily supporting the party line, they want to vote for the individual rather than the party.

What would happen if one of the job sharers became a Minister and were covered by collective responsibility? A job sharer would be able to fulfil a ministerial role to the extent of the time that they had to devote to the role on a job-share basis, and in appointing Ministers the Prime Minister would take that into account. This could, and eventually would, lead to job sharing for Ministers. With regard to collective responsibility, the job sharer assuming ministerial responsibilities would naturally cast his or her half vote in line with that requirement.

Would it be more expensive to have two Members per constituency? No, because the job sharers would share offices, facilities and staff. The parliamentary expenses of job-sharing MPs would be managed by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority IPSA under the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 in exactly the same way as for a single MP.

Right the way across our society, in virtually every walk of life, in the public and private sectors and in most professions, job sharing is now a reality, and it has proved to be successful for the organisations and individuals concerned. In fact, there is substantial evidence that job-sharing arrangements are more productive than the employment of individuals. This House should not be the last bastion standing against a measure that could increase access for women and, in particular, for carers and people with disabilities in being able to stand as Members of Parliament. We in this House should explore every opportunity we can to assist in promoting greater access for people who would like to serve as MPs. This would not be positive discrimination but simply the introduction of a practical administrative change to facilitate wider participation.

20 Nov 2012 : Column 475

As I said, the main thrust of this proposal has come from organisations that represent carers and people with disabilities. It is a minor, modernising reform that could improve the representativeness of the House of Commons. If it allowed just one more person with disabilities, one more woman or one more carer to have the opportunity to serve their country in this House, it would be a beneficial move.

2.22 pm

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): Every so often I hear a proposal that is so outrageous and unusual that I have to pinch myself to check whether I have heard it correctly, and I found this to be one such. There are many reasons why I believe that the idea is unworkable—so many that I fear that the 10-minutes rule will not provide sufficient time for me to do justice to them in this debate. I will therefore keep my remarks very brief.

This Bill is supposedly about increasing diversity. I do not accept that as a middle-aged white male I am unable to represent others who do not fit that description, be they female, from an ethnic minority, gay or disabled. It is nonsense to suggest that the composition of this House must exactly mirror the composition of theUnited Kingdom. I very much doubt that someone such as Winston Churchill would have ticked many boxes for diversity, and yet few would dispute that he spoke for the whole of our nation at the most difficult of times. We do not increase true representation simply by having people who look like others.

Nothing that I have heard today suggests that this idea, even if it could ever be made into a practical possibility, would produce the desired result. The plan to have a Parliament made up of Tweedledees and Tweedledums would open up a constitutional can of worms—and for what? For example, what if two heterosexual white middle-aged barristers decided that it would be quite a nice idea if they both shared the job of being an MP while continuing their practice at the Bar? How would that help to increase the diversity of this House? We hear much criticism of politicians who have jobs outside Parliament, yet this Bill would cement the practice into law and make it the norm.

If the Bill is supposed to be a measure to help disabled people, I fear that it is simplistic and, indeed, patronising to many current and former Members who have performed and continue to perform their duties with such distinction. Are the advocates of the Bill really suggesting that just because someone is female, black or disabled they are capable of doing only half the job on a part-time basis?

We have heard that Members would have half a vote each or a joint vote if there were agreement, but what if there were no agreement? What if both MPs took a different view and cancelled each other out, leaving their constituents unrepresented? But of course, as Members on both sides of the House will appreciate, our role is about much more than just voting. Who would constituents contact with a problem—one of them or both of them? What would happen with this dual approach as regards Select Committee membership? Would one half of the job-sharing duo hear some of the evidence and then the other half hear the rest, so that we finished up with

20 Nov 2012 : Column 476

neither of them having heard it all? Indeed, how would it be decided who was elected to serve on the Committee in the first place?

Next, what about debates in this House? Would both Members be entitled to be called? Would both be entitled to table questions? Would every constituency in the country be required to have two Members? If it applied only to some constituencies, then surely those with two Members would have an advantage over those with a single Member. As everyone will be aware, with 650 Members there is already insufficient space in this Chamber for them all to have a seat. How on earth would we cope with double that number?

As some Members may be aware, I think that it is particularly important that private Members’ Bills are properly scrutinised. Therefore, if I were to represent a constituency as one half of a job-sharing duo with someone else who shared my concern that private Members’ Bills should be properly scrutinised, we could together, on behalf of just one constituency, debate one Bill for a very long time.

Would those sharing the same role have to be from the same party? What would happen if two people from the same party were elected and then one of them decided to change parties? How would that work? Would there have to be some form of electoral pre-nuptial agreement? Would that become the norm? What would happen if the agreement were breached? Who would adjudicate in the event of a dispute?

I am not convinced by the “two for the price of one” argument. It is hard to see how two people would not, at some point, need extra staff or office space. They would need a bigger taxpayer-funded residence in the capital or even require two separate residences inLondonif they represented a constituency some way away fromWestminster. At the very least, there would be two sets of travel expenses.

I think that most people want to see fewer politicians, not more. This proposal runs the risk of being the thin end of the wedge. I dread to think what would happen if the number of Members of the European Parliament were doubled, and how long would it be before we had double the number of councillors, elected mayors or, indeed, police and crime commissioners?

So far, despite considerable media attention, this proposal does not appear to have attracted much public support. Despite a letter to The Guardian in September, signed by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) and more than 40 other influential people, urging people to sign an e-petition on this very subject, when I last checked it had only 403 signatories. Perhaps after today’s debate others will be tempted to sign it and, if it reaches the 100,000 barrier, who knows what will happen? We may return to debate this whole issue again.

The proposal starts off as a politically correct attempt to increase diversity, but ends up as a potentially dangerous attempt at constitutional meddling that would break the historical link between an MP and their constituency. I do not propose to divide the House on whether the hon. Gentleman should have leave to introduce the Bill, because, in view of the importance of these matters, I think that the House should have the time and the opportunity—ideally over several Friday sittings—to debate them at great length, so that the concerns that I have outlined can be expanded on.

20 Nov 2012 : Column 477

Question put and agreed to.

Ordered,

That John McDonnell, Dame Anne Begg, Robert Halfon, Lorely Burt, Caroline Lucas, Sheila Gilmore, Mr Virendra Sharma, Meg Hillier, Jeremy Corbyn, Jon Cruddas, Mr Frank Field and Mr Tom Clarke present the Bill.

John McDonnell accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Tuesday 27 November, and to be printed (Bill 91).

 

 Posted by at 14:58
Nov 212012
 

CONSTITUTION

A          NAME 

The group’s name is Disabled People Against Cuts 

B           THE AIMS AND OBJECTS OF THE GROUP ARE :-

–          To campaign as Disabled People Against Cuts on all issues which undermine our disability rights according to the UNCRPD

–          To provide disabled people and the wider public information about disability rights and the impact of government cuts.

–          To campaign with other communities which are also affected by cuts such as trade unions and other grassroots groups so as to pool resources for solidarity while maintaining a distinct voice for disabled people

–          To facilitate the setting up of local DPAC groups which may only call themselves and be considered to be a DPAC group if they adopt the same aims and objectives as DPAC nationally.

–          All  work will be underpinned by the social model of disability and the principle of  ‘Rights not Charity.’

C          POWERS

In order to carry out the objects, the Steering Group has the power to : –

(1)               raise funds, receive grants and donations

(2)               buy or sell property, take on leases and employ staff

(3)               co-operate with and support other groups with similar purposes

(4)               do anything else which is necessary to achieve the aims and objectives of the group.

D      LOCAL DPACs 

Local DPACs shall abide by the aims, policies and objectives of DPAC

They shall operate in a way that is transparent and accountable by

1)     Sharing local minutes of meetings

2)     Advising the steering group of potential actions so that they may be publicised on the DPAC web site 

3)      Making it clear that they operate on a local level in all documentation by stating the name of their local group 

4)     Being responsible for their own fundraising for local meetings, access needs, campaigns in a manner approved by the DPAC steering group

5)     The steering group has the right to remove the title ‘DPAC’ from any local group that in its majority decision has contravened the aims and objectives of DPAC.

6)     The steering group are in no way responsible for any acts which members may commit at any time or in any place, although they can rescind an individual or group’s membership of DPAC as outlined below if this is deemed appropriate by a majority of the steering group. 

E            MEMBERSHIP 

1)      Any disabled person, group, local DPAC,Union, or DPO who supports the purposes and aims of the group can join DPAC. Only disabled people will have full membership and voting rights. Groups, DPOs, Unions’ Disabled members sections, and Local DPACs will have one vote each dependent on them having at least 75% disabled people at decision making levels.

2)     Non-disabled allies will be granted associate membership without voting rights.

3) The maximum financial liability of any member will be £1.

F           ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING – AGM

1)     Providing adequate funding is available the AGM must be held every year, with 28 days notice given to all members telling them what is on the agenda.

2)     There must be at least 5 members present at the AGM.

3)     The Steering Group shall present the annual report and accounts.

4)     At the AGM members shall elect up to 8 steering group members who will serve for a minimum period of 12 months.

5)     Other members will be consulted about agenda items as appropriate using electronic means. This is by way of a reasonable adjustment to be as inclusive as possible.

6)      Every member has one vote. Each DPO, DPAC, and other groups entitled to vote shall also have one vote only although their individual members can also vote themselves.

G        STEERING GROUP 

1)     Only disabled people fully committed to the social model of disability, aims and values of DPAC may stand for election to the steering group.

2)     Any member may put themselves forward for election as a Steering Group member at least 2 weeks before the AGM.

3) To ensure that the Steering Group has an adequate range of people   with different Impairments, and skills needed by DPAC applicants must first be accepted by a majority of the current Steering Group.

4) To ensure the Steering Group is fully representative no more than 2 members from any single organisation, group or political party shall be entitled to be a member. The Steering Group will also try to ensure that there is an adequate geographical spread of members represented on the steering group.

5) The Steering group shall hold at least 3 meetings each year.  Decisions can be made by the Steering Group members if at least 3   are present at such a meeting or by internet consultation of Steering Group members.

7)     During the year, the Steering group may appoint up to 4 extra members on to the Steering Group.

8)     Where a decision needs to be made immediately the Steering Group have devolved such power to make decisions to 2 available members of the Steering group . Any such decisions should reflect the views of the majority of the steering group. Other than in these exceptional circumstances the majority decisions made by the Steering Group should be upheld by all of its members. 

9)      The Steering group may make reasonable additional rules for the proper conduct and management of the group.

10)  All Steering Group meetings can be attended by any member.

11)  A steering group member shall cease to hold office if he or she:

–          Stops being a member of the group

–          Resigns as a Steering Group member by notice to the group (but only if at least three members will remain in office when the notice is to take effect).

–          Subject to appeal is found guilty of breaking the constitution or seriously violating the agreed policy, aims and values of DPAC. 

H          MONEY

!) A bank account will be set up for DPAC.

2) All cheques must be signed by 2 steering group members.

3) Funds cannot be used to pay steering group members except to refund legitimate expenses. 

I           SPECIAL GENERAL MEETINGS 

1)      Special General Meetings may be called by the steering group for the following reasons.  All members must be given 14 days notice and told what change is proposed.

–          Changing the Constitution – The constitution may be changed by a two -thirds majority of members present and voting at a Special General Meeting.

–          Emergency Special General Meetings – to allow the members to decide on important issues , such as withholding a membership.

–          Winding up – the group may be wound up by a two- thirds majority of members present and voting at a Special General Meeting.  Any money or property remaining after payment of debts must be given to a group with similar purposes. 

J           SETTING UP THE GROUP

 

This constitution was adopted on  28/10/2011 at DPAC’s national conference.

                                               

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 13:28
Nov 192012
 

Philip who has been driven to attempt suicide by the way he’s been treated by ATOS will be briefly telling his story tomorrow on World at One on Radio 4 and would like as many people to listen as possible in solidarity with him.

 Posted by at 19:51
Nov 182012
 

ESA appeals are up by 40% and 425,000 are awaiting ‘assessments’. This coupled with the news that 76% of people going through this horrendus ‘assessment’ are entitled to ESA after appeal figures are computed shows yet again , that the system must be scrapped-its a black hole for tax payers money and something much, much worse for disabled people going through this system. see also the DPAC, Black Triangle, SWU report on survey responses on the WCA.

The appeals figures were provided by Nick at Mylegal who has been doing some fantastic work on the DWP figures to develop the numbers that they dont feed to the newspapers. Once again DPAC is grateful to Nick for letting us repost.

 

           Are we about to burst the DWP’s

 
hidden bubble?
 
[image]
424,170 claimants in the
‘assessment phase’
Don’t take my word for it, check it with the DWP using the following link:
DWP statistics February 2012The DWP & Ministry of Justice throughout the pre-enactment stages of both the welfare reform and legal aid, sentencing & punishment of offender’s bill (LASBO) consistently reported that the number of appeals for Employment & Support Allowance was falling; I have to confess I never believed a word of it. Yes it’s true that the numbers of appeals received at the HMCTS Tribunals had fallen from a record high of 197,400 in 2010/2011 to 181,100 but these are only receipts of those which the DWP has dispatched to the Tribunal.They’re not so keen to tell you that now the dust has settled on the welfare and legal aid reforms, the floodgates are once again open with appeals on the rise; this time by a massive 40% according to HMCTS for the first quarters of 2012/2013.

You can refer to an article on Mylegal where I reported on the appeal statistical ‘spin’ by the MOJ at the time. From which you may note no less than 194,200 cases were ‘outstanding’ in 2010/2011 which had reduced to 145,200 by 2011/2012. HMCTS has increased the number of judicial sitting days from 47,900 in 2008/2009 to 88,700 in 2011/2012 to cope with the escalating number of appeals. The accent at HMCTS was on disposing of the cases which had built up rather than dealing with even more new ‘receipts’.

Employment & Support Allowance is the first benefit of its kind to have an ‘assessment phase’. The numbers ‘awaiting assessment’ have been consistently under – quoted by ministers who continually refer to limited data sets relating to far from the overall number of claimants who have been subject to DWP and Atos assessment. On Mylegal a full report into incapacity benefits & Employment & Support Allowance has been prepared which deals with all the complexities of the DWP assessing 1.5 million claimants a year with 740,000 Atos assessments per year. You can refer to the evidence given to Parliament by Permanent Secretary Robert Devereux which backs up these figures.

With thousands upon thousands of assessments being conducted by both the DWP and Atos it’s plainly obvious that there is a danger of the numbers of claimants awaiting assessments getting out of control and that is what I contend has clearly happened here. What’s more we could be looking at more than the 424,170 assessment phase claimants recorded in February 2012. A Parliamentary note which you can access using the link here shows the figure was 401,100 in November 2011 so we know it’s not falling.

The figure could be over half a million; here’s how..

In the course of preparing a batch of appeal cases which I’m working on I picked out six of the six Employment & Support Allowance cases which are coming up for hearing in the near future. Take a look at the time they’ve taken to come up for appeal but also note the important differences between the IB to ESA conversion cases and the new ESA claim cases, note in particular how the commencement of the ‘assessment phase’ is very different in the 4 conversion cases than it is to the 2 new claim cases:

6 real life appeal cases

4 IB to ESA Conversion cases

(1) Mrs O

Sent conversion notice -19/10/2011
Examined by ATOS – 06/03/2012
DWP make conversion decision – 15/03/2012 – placed in to ‘Assessment phase’
HMCTS Tribunal hearing listed for hearing – 21/11/2012
Total waiting time – 13 months +

(2) Mr J

Sent conversion notice – 22/11/2011
Examined by ATOS – 28/03/2012
DWP make conversion decision – 17/04/2012 – placed in to ‘Assessment phase’
HMCTS Tribunal hearing listed for hearing – 26/11/2012
Total waiting time – 12 months +

(3) Mr H

Sent conversion notice – 22/11/2011
Examined by ATOS – 23/03/2012
DWP make conversion decision – 23/04/2012 – placed in to ‘Assessment phase’
HMCTS Tribunal hearing listed for hearing – 28/11/2012
Total waiting time – 12 months +

(4) Mr D

Sent conversion notice – 10/11/2011
Examined by ATOS – 23/02/2012
DWP make conversion decision – 08/03/2012 – placed in to ‘Assessment phase’
HMCTS Tribunal hearing listed for hearing – 26/11/2012
Total waiting time – 12 months +

2 ESA New claim cases

(5) Mrs N

First applied – 11/01/2012 – placed in to ‘Assessment phase’
Examined by ATOS – 11/05/2012
DWP make decision – 26/05/2012
HMCTS Tribunal hearing listed for hearing – 07/12/2012
Total waiting time – 11 months +

(6) Mr W

First applied – 01/09/2011 – placed in to ‘Assessment phase’
Examined by ATOS – 27/04/2012
DWP make decision – 10/05/2012
HMCTS Tribunal hearing listed for hearing – 07/12/2011
Total waiting time – 15 months +

From the above six cases you will see how five cases have been waiting for a whole year before coming up for an appeal hearing – one case taking longer than 15 months! In the conversion cases you will see how in say Mr O’s case he first entered the conversion phase on the 19/10/2011, was then examined by Atos on the 06/03/2012 before a ‘conversion decision’ was eventually made on the 15/03/2012. Thus in his case he has spent almost five months in the conversion phase and only enters his ‘assessment phase’ on the 15th March 2012 with a further wait of over 8 months before his appeal comes up – it’s an absolute outrage that people are being kept waiting so long.

Let’s take a look at how these conversion cases go missing from the mainstream publication of reassessment statistics:

Missing data
 
[image]

Which you won’t find using this
DWP link
.
Which is surprising because this is the statistical data set which relates to claimants undergoing reassessment from their incapacity benefits over to Employment and Support Allowance. By clicking the link you will see the figure of 424,170 relating to the overall number of assessments live as of February 2012; you will also see how it is broken down:


  • 370,470 claimants who are ‘non incapacity benefit reassessment’And
  • 53,700 ‘incapacity benefit reassessment’ cases.


This completely backs up my point over how thousands of incapacity benefit reassessments are not being tracked in the figures available on the DWP data sets. The 53,700 figure for ‘incapacity benefit reassessments’ only refers to those who have appealed. It will not for instance include any of the 4 conversion cases which I have cited from when the four claimants were sent their conversion notice.

The four claimants which I have cited will not appear as an ‘assessment phase’ statistic until such times as they they get their conversion decision and appeal against it. Thus in Mr O’s case all the time he spends in the conversion phase from the 19/10/2011 to the 15/03/2012 is not counted as assessment despite him being assessed by Atos during what is quite obviously part of the overall assessment process.

The statistical guidance confirms this:

“IB reassessed claims shown on ESA in the Assessment phase are those found fit for work and are under appeal.”

With the DWP proudly proclaiming how it’s assessing incapacity benefit claimants at an incredible rate of 11,000 per week (about 47,000 per calendar month) since March 2011; a figure of 53,700 in the assessment phase just doesn’t stack up especially when you compare it against the 370,470 in the ‘non – incapacity’ groups. There must be literally thousands who are in the conversion phase who are not appearing in the Employment & Support Allowance reassessment statistics. They are not identifiable within the following claimant count but they form part of the incapacity benefits & Severe Disablement Allowance (February 2012) statistics (just click to view):

Thousands of IB to ESA conversions
won’t be found here.
Which is shocking because they should be readily identifiable; they are within the statistics but none of the thousands of incapacity benefits claimants going through the DWP’s conversion phase will be recognisable within the above statistics despite them being subject to the rigours of form ESA filling and thousands of Atos assessments which fill them with absolute fear. They appear merely because the DWP has to track the claimants they pay; they seemingly don’t keep tabs on the true status of their claim within the reassessment programme.

But it gets worse, much worse.

Read more: http://mylegal.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=frontline&thread=805&page=1#2352#ixzz2Cbmm8Dw6

Nov 182012
 

98.4% said that they would prefer the WCA to be recorded

Almost 70% were not aware that they could ask for a recording. The lack of any mention of recording of the WCA in the Atos literature helped the ‘lack of demand’ issue.

For those that had asked for a recording but were refused one almost half 40% were not given a reason for the refusal of the remainder: nearly a quarter (24.5%) were simply told they were not allowed a recording, 20% were told the machines were broken and the remainder were told Atos staff did not like recordings.

Of those refused a recording 65% were told they must attend their appointment without recording or be classified as a ‘no show’. While 23% were not aware that a recording would not be carried out until they arrived at the assessment centre where they faced the choice of returning home and risking loss of benefits or staying and going through the assessment without recording.

74% said that it was difficult for them to travel to the assessment centre, we heard from those who were sent for assessments away from their closest centre with complicated travel routes

Almost half (47.5%) were not aware that they could ask for a home assessment, of those that did and asked for a home assessment none believed they received a satisfactory response to the refusal to grant a home assessment

64% of those that said their doctors were told not to provide written support said this was because of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)

Some respondents said that the DWP had written to their doctors to tell them not to issue ‘fit notes’ or written support, others that doctors resented such directives and would supply these based on their expertise and knowledge of the individual.

The survey drew 733 responses. It asks questions that were not asked in the Harrington review, questions on issues of recording, access, doctors input and the apparent increasing influence of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on doctors’.  As such it represents the first evidence based research report on these issues.

The responses contribute to a growing list of criticisms on the experiences of the WCA, welfare reform/cuts and their impacts on the lives of disabled people. It also adds to the growing list of criticism against Atos the company contracted by the Government to carry out assessments, at the cost of 1.10 million pounds per year. Significant concerns are being raised on the financial cost of appeals against Atos WCA decisions, currently running at 60-80 million per year[1], but it is the human cost of suicides and premature deaths rising from 32 per week to 73[ii] a week of those undergoing this process that represents a larger cost. It is a UK outrage that these assessments continue.

The survey responses show the tricks, barriers and bullying tactics used to prevent audio recordings. How difficult home assessments are and how centres, access and travel are made problematic and the ways that doctors input is being ignored and appears to be increasingly directed by the Department for Work and Pensions. The survey is a collection of the ways people are being driven to crisis point, and worse by a system with no clear public accountability. (See also 76% entitled to support after appeal figures and appeals increase by 40%)

DPAC, Black Triangle, and Social Welfare Union, along with the British Medical Association and a growing number of organisations and MPs condemn the WCA and call for its immediate end. We hope the contents of this report will help those who fail to understand why these calls are being made to begin to understand why this is the only justifiable option.

One person said:

If I filled a benefit claim form in and deliberately lied, misled with my answers and omitted information / events relevant to my claim with the view to gain financially – I would have my ass hauled into court on charges of benefit fraud. The DWP and ATOS are doing exactly those things with the farce they call an assessment and are both gaining financially by, dare I say, producing fraudulent reports when assessing peoples eligibility for benefit. I suggest people pool together, write statements describing their experience with ATOS and the assessment, highlight the discrepancies between what was said / happened in the assessment and what was written into the report .. and when enough statements are gathered, hand them to the top cop in the country and demand they launch an investigation into the activities of both ATOS and the DWP on the grounds of fraudulent behaviour.

From the quotes and responses to our survey the comment is entirely valid.

Download the report in WORD by clicking this link: final wca surveydpac

Download the report in PDF by clicking this link: final-wca-surveydpac-1


 

Nov 162012
 

Joint statement on campaigning against welfare cuts

 Public and Commercial Services union, Disabled People Against Cuts and Black Triangle Campaign

 

PCS, DPAC and Black Triangle Campaign are united in opposing the government’s austerity programme, which seeks to force people to pay for the failure of the finance system and of the government to regulate it.

The government is making unprecedented cuts across the public sector and is removing people’s social, economic and civil rights. The welfare state which was established to provide social security to those unable to work is being systematically dismantled through privatisation and £30 billion of cuts announced to date.

This is not about balancing the books. Over the same period, the government has also given away £30 billion in tax breaks to business. This is an ideological assault on the welfare state.

Disabled people are being disproportionately and brutally affected by these cuts, which include to Employment and Support Allowance, and the Disability Living Allowance, the imposition of the Work Capability Assessment (carried out by Atos) and the proposed abolition of the Independent Living Fund.

It is shameful and immoral that private companies are making profit from disabled and unemployed workers but worse, it does not work, the public sector delivers services more effectively, efficiently and less expensively than the private sector.

The cuts are blighting the lives of the least economically secure in society. The government’s approach cannot work: there are already 2.5 million people unemployed, and over 6 million seeking additional work. Pushing disabled people off benefits – without creating jobs or tackling employer discrimination – is simply a means of cutting disabled people’s living standards.

Evidence shows supportive social security systems that treat people with dignity and respect – rather than punitive systems based on conditionality, sanctions and low benefit levels – help individuals, families and communities but also the wider economy. The social, individual and household consequences of these cuts contravene the right to independent living enshrined in the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

To justify this brutal attack on disabled people and those on welfare more generally, the government has engaged in a campaign of vilification to label those on benefits as lazy, as feckless and as scroungers. Much of the news and print media have colluded in this hate campaign – leading to a sharp increase in attacks on disabled workers, including physical assaults. The government’s own figures show benefit fraud accounts for £1.5 billion a year, while £16 billion of benefits and tax credits are left unclaimed.

Tens of thousands of PCS members are involved in the administration of the welfare state and they are committed to providing a service that meets people’s needs. Workers are facing huge cuts in their pay, pensions and rights at work – 40% of those workers who will administer universal credit will also be entitled to it.

PCS members are often on the frontline, facing the anguish and anger of those suffering from government welfare policies. PCS members did not create these policies, the union does not support them and is committed to campaigning against them.

We commit to strengthening our campaigning alliance, which includes peaceful direct action against those politicians who have supported these policies and against those companies that seek to profit from them.

The government is trying to divide people: between those in work and those out of work;, between disabled and non-disabled people, between those in the public sector and those in the private sector. The key to defeating these welfare cuts, and austerity more generally, is unity.

PCS, DPAC, and Black Triangle members have a common cause in defeating these welfare cuts and in building a decent welfare state. We are united.

Nov 152012
 

Dear Committee Members,

 Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is being introduced in April 2013 and Atos Healthcare has been selected by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as one of the delivery partners in the UK.

 DPAC wishes to lodge a formal complaint that its name has been inappropriately used in the PIP Tender Documents submitted by Atos to the DWP as part of the Claimant Representative Groups with which Atos claims to have a successful record of engagement.

 The tender document specifically states “Before designing our PIP solution, Atos engaged with Claimant Representative Groups to take their views into account”.

The other references to CRGs in which DPAC has been identified by name as being included, deal with the future level of engagement that Atos will have with CRGs in order to take the needs and wishes of disabled people into account. Successful engagement with CRGs was an important criterion in this tender, as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) made clear in August when it stated that successful PIP assessment bids had “demonstrated strong evidence… of close working with disabled people’s representative groups”.

 DPAC has been shocked to learn that its name (and the names of other CRGs mentioned in the tender which have also protested) has been used to lend credibility to Atos’ claim of future successful engagement with these organisations, on which depends, according to DWP, the successful implementation of assessments responsive to needs of disabled people.  DPAC has staged protests against Atos, in particular during the Paralympics games, and has repeatedly denounced Atos’ treatment of disabled people and the computer based assessments leading to so many wrong outcomes.  DPAC does not wish to be associated with Atos in any way, shape or form, and DPAC’s brand has been compromised by this false association.

 DPAC believes that if one excludes CRGs named in the tender which have never been consulted by Atos, which have never had and never intended to have any engagement with Atos, and which have expressed their dismay at the possibility of engaging with what they see as a flawed process, Atos’s claim in this area is not only weak, but also mendacious. 

 We feel it is essential for these assessments that those employed using taxpayers money to carry them out are not awarded the contracts based on the use of false information and we would like the Public Accounts Committee to investigate these matters further.

 Linda Burnip

Co-founder DPAC on behalf of all DPAC members.

 

Nov 142012
 

How many times have you heard ‘we have consulted with disabled people and disabled peoples’ organisations’ from Maria Miller and now Esther McVey? How many times have you asked yourself who these people and organisations are? DPAC may have found one of the ways this is done. It does seem to be a bit ‘all smoke and mirrors’.

An advisory group has been set up to discuss a thing called the personal assistance (P.A) framework, but no one has heard of it. A call this afternoon from someone interested in joining the advisory group and giving their expertise drew a strange response as the team at the end of the phone apparently had absolutely no idea what the person was talking about.

DPAC feels that with the potential challenges to close the independent living Fund (ILF) as many people should be on this advisory group as possible, but how can they be if the people arranging this appear to know nothing about it?

It does exist according to the Skills for Care web site. The advisory group is about feeding into a P.A. Framework that sees disabled peoples’ organisations, the job centre, and disabled people working together. This has been in operation since last year and was, apparently, promoted widely in October 2012.  All the P.A. users we spoke to knew nothing about it.

We at DPAC have decided to help, even without any of that Government funding stuff, just from the goodness of our hearts, and to start getting people onto the mysterious advisory group. We think if enough people call the partnership might actually decide that they’d better set an advisory group up or at least become aware that there is supposed to be one.

So we reproduce how this advisory group is supposed to be accessed for you: give them a ring, drop them a line- don’t let another meaningless statement be uttered by a minister for disabled people….well, you know what we mean…..

How to be involved in developing the framework

Skills for Care is the lead delivery partner for this work and is now beginning to start the implementation and realisation of the framework. The steering group is committed to achieving this through strong co-operation from within the sector. Therefore, we would like to welcome volunteers to be part of the “sector advisory group” which will have many roles including informing, directing and advising on how the work should be taken forward.

If you are interested in learning more and/or registering your interest in being part of the sector advisory group please contact us on paframework@skillsforcare.org.uk or 0113 241 1275. There are no limitations on who can be involved and individuals or organisations will be able to determine what aspects they would be willing to get involved in as the group evolves. So if you have a view or any interest in this work, please get in touch as we would very much welcome your thoughts, opinions and involvement.

Good luck!

The blurb around the framework itself claims

About the framework

The Government is committed to personalising social care services and is determined that all those eligible for support will have the opportunity to receive a personal budget by 2013. The employment of personal assistants (PAs) is a critical part of this transformation. To achieve this, a major shift towards supporting PAs, and those who employ them is required.

In order to do this, a framework for supporting personal assistants working in adult social care has been developed. The framework sets out a strategy to enable support for the PA workforce and their employers. It is a starting point for further work. It does not, and cannot, give all the answers, but it does bring together many of the issues in one place for the first time. There are challenges to developing PAs as employees, for their employers, and to promoting personal assistance as a career. This strategy addresses these challenges and presents good practice examples that show how these issues are being managed effectively in different parts of the country, while recognising that actions will be needed locally and must be affordable within existing resources.

The framework has three broad aims:

  • to support future growth of the PA workforce and their employers;
  • to address challenges to the development of PA working; and
  • to share best practice examples of personalised care provision by PAs and of support for employers.

The link for more info on the framework is http://www.skillsforcare.org.uk/paframework/

 

 

 

The organisations involved

The framework has been co-produced by the Department of Health (DH) with national partner organisations, people who use services and their PAs. These include Skills for Care, ADASS, UNISON, the National Centre for Independent Living, user-led organisations, local authorities and the Transforming Adult Social Care Co-Production Group, as well as regional services users groups and individual PAs and PA employers.

Nov 122012
 

Fuel Poverty Action has produced some resources copied below to help people keep warm. Please download and share them wherever they can be of use.

If you have stories about how disabled people are being affected by fuel poverty that you are happy to share please or would like to get involved in campaigning against the effects of fuel poverty on disabled people please contact Ellen on 07505 144371 or ellenrclifford@btinternet.com.

 

  • SOME TIPS ON HOW TO BRING DOWN YOUR FUEL BILLS
  • STRUGGLING WITH HIGH FUEL BILLS?
  • TEN THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU WERE ENTITLED TO FROM YOUR ENERGY SUPPLIER….

 

SOME TIPS ON HOW TO BRING DOWN YOUR FUEL BILLS

Produced by Fuel Poverty Action

fuelpovertyaction.org.uk | Twitter: @FuelPovAction | Facebook: Fuel Poverty Action

1.            Switch supplier

Consider switching your energy supplier, or switching your tariff from your current supplier. An easy way to do this is through consumer rights advocates uswitch. You can find the cheapest deal through uswitch online at www.uswitch.com or by telephone on 0808 178 3492.

2.            Warm Homes Discount

This is a discount of £120 off your annual energy bill. People who get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit are the core group that is eligible, receiving the discount from the government automatically. But the energy suppliers also have broader schemes for other people, each with slightly different criteria. Contact your supplier to find out whether you qualify.

3.            Insulation

•             Insulating your home is an important way to save money on your bills. Several of the energy companies offer free insulation schemes. Get in touch with your supplier to find out if you could qualify.

•             The government’s ‘Warm Front’ scheme also offers free grants to people to fund insulation and other home efficiency measures, including loft insulation, draughtproofing, cavity wall insulation and more. The government have just broadened the eligibility criteria for Warm Front- whether or not you’re eligible depends on which benefits you receive. To find out if you qualify, go to http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Environmentandgreenerliving/Energyandwatersaving/DG_10018661, call the Warm Front advice line on 0800 316 2805 or contact your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau. NB the Warm Front scheme expires at the end of October 2012 so apply as soon as possible!

•             You can try out DIY insulation-measures: insulate cold walls on the inside with special insulating wallpaper, available from DIY stores.

 

4.            Draughts

•             Fill the gap between the floor and the bottom of the wall with draught excluder strip (buy this from the DIY store) or, if you can’t get hold of it, strips of rag or rolled newspaper.

•             Fill up gaps in the floorboards with ‘plastic wood’ filler that you can buy from a DIY store or sawdust mixed with glue.

•             Buy an inside letter-box flap from a DIY store to stop draughts getting in through your letter box. Or make your own with a cloth bag fixed around the inside of the letter-box (with a hole in the bottom to retrieve the post!)

•             Fit draught excluder strips round doors and windows.

5.            Don’t overheat your homes

•             If you have gas central heating, use your room thermostat to control the heating so that you have temperatures of 18°C in most areas and 21°C in the living room.

•             Turn your heating off in the summer.

•             Set your central heating timer to switch the heating off half an hour before you leave the house or go to bed (if it’s warm enough to sleep without heating.)

•             Don’t heat rooms that you’re not using – turn the thermostats in these rooms off, and keep the doors closed.

•             Service your boiler every year – this will increase the efficiency of your heating system.

 

6.            Keep doors/windows closed

Keep doors and windows closed when you are heating your home. When you need to ventilate, for example when cooking or bathing and the room gets steamed up, close the kitchen/bathroom door so the rest of the house does not cool down and moisture does not spread and cause condensation.

7.            Think about your curtains!

•             Close your curtains at dusk to stop heat escaping through the windows.

•             Don’t let curtains overhang radiators as this funnels heat out of the room via the glass.

•             Don’t put heavy furniture, such as sofas, in front of radiators as this traps warmth and stops it from circulating round the room.

•             Open your curtains during daylight to get the heat from the sun.

8.            Hot water…

•             Take short showers not baths. Showering uses about two-fifths of the amount of hot water needed for a bath. This saves about £45 per year.

•             Don’t overheat your water. Setting the hot water cylinder thermostat to 60°C is adequate for bathing and washing.

•             Repair dripping taps and make sure taps are turned off properly.

•             Use the plug to save on hot water.

9.            Electical Applicances…

•             Buy energy efficient appliances. An energy label must, by law, be shown for most electrical appliances, with ‘A’ rated appliances the most efficient and ‘G’ rated the least efficient.

•             Turn appliances off at the socket.

10.          Cooking

•             When boiling the kettle, only boil the water that you need to use. This will save you around £25 per year.

•             Cooking with gas or in the microwave is cheaper than an electric cooker.

•             You can save on gas by cooking two or more things at once in the oven and by putting lids on saucepans.

11.          Washing…

•             Washing at 30 degrees means less money spent heating the water in the washing machine.

•             Make sure you wash full loads of clothes if possible.

•             Use the economy setting on your washing machine if you have one.

•             Tumble dryers use a lot of energy. If possible. dry clothes outside or on drying racks.

12.          Lighting…

•             Use low-energy light bulbs.

•             Make sure you turn lights off when they’re not being used.

 

 

STRUGGLING WITH HIGH FUEL BILLS?

A short guide to government schemes that could help you out…

Produced by Fuel Poverty Action.

 

The government offers several schemes that can help you with heating your home and bringing down your bills. This guide has been made to help you work out what you’re entitled to. You can find all the info online at direct.gov.uk. See the end of this guide for a full list of useful contact details.  

 

There are four different government schemes to be aware of:

 

a) Warm Homes Discount Scheme – page 1-2. (Only available for older people)

b) Cold Weather Payments – page 2. (Only available if you live an area that has just experienced seven consecutive days of very cold weather).

c) Winter Fuel Payments – page 3-4. (Only available for older people)

d) Warm Front Scheme – page 4-5. (For those on low-incomes living in homes that are poorly insulated and/or do not have a properly funcitoning heating system).

 

 

WARM HOMES DISCOUNT SCHEME

The Warm Homes Discount Scheme helps some pensioners with their energy bills. In winter 2012/2013, the scheme will give those who qualify a £130 discount from their energy bills.

 

The scheme applies to pensioners who receive pension credit, which is an income-related benefit to top up a state pension. Pension credit is made up of two separate parts: Guarantee Credit and Savings Credit. You might receive just one of these or both. If you’re not sure whether you receive pension credit or which parts you receive, or if you do not already receive it but want to find out if you are entitled, call the pension credit helpline on 0800 99 1234 or visit http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Pensionsandretirementplanning/PensionCredit/

 

If you are under 80 years old, You are entitled to this discount if :

 

a) You receive the Guarantee Credit aspect of Pension Credit

AND

b) You DO NOT receive the Savings Credit aspect of Pension credit.

AND

c) Your name, or your partner’s name is on your electricity bill.

AND

d) You get your electricity from one of the following energy suppliers: Atlantic, British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, Equipower, Equigas, Manweb, M&S Energy, npower, Sainsbury’s Energy, Scottish Gas, Scottish Hydro, ScottishPower, Southern Electric, SSE, Swalec and Utility Warehouse.

 

If you are over 80 years old, you are entitled to this discount if:

 

a) You receive the Guarantee Credit aspect of Pension Credit (if you are over 80, you can receive the discount even if you receive Savings Credit as well)

AND

b) Your name, or your partner’s name is on your electricity bill.

AND

c) You get your electricity from one of the following energy suppliers: Atlantic, British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, Equipower, Equigas, Manweb, M&S Energy, npower, Sainsbury’s Energy, Scottish Gas, Scottish Hydro, ScottishPower, Southern Electric, SSE, Swalec and Utility Warehouse.

 

If you meet the conditions above you do not need to do anything now to get your discount in 2012/2013. The Government will write to all those potentially eligible for the discount in autumn 2012.

 

NB Several energy suppliers offer Warm Homes Discounts to a broader range of people beyond pensioners. To find out whether you could qualify, contact your energy supplier.

 

 

COLD WEATHER PAYMENTS

If there is a period of very cold weather in your area you may be able to get a Cold Weather Payment. A period of very cold weather is classed as when the temperature is an average of zero degrees Celsius or below over seven consecutive days in a row. The value of the payment is £25 for each seven consecutive days of cold weather.

 

You don’t need to apply for a cold weather payment – if you’re entitled, you will automatically receive this.

 

To receive a payment, you have to receive certain benefiits:

 

– If you get Pension Credit, you will usually receive a Cold Weather payment.

 

– If you receive Income Support or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, you will get Cold Weather Payments if you also have any of the following:

a) a disability or pensioner premium included in your benefit

b) a child who is disabled

c) Child Tax Credit that includes a disability or severe disability element

d) a child under five living with you

 

– If you receive income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), you will usually receive Cold Weather Payments if you also have any of the following:

a) the support or work-related component of ESA

b) a severe or enhanced disability premium included in your benefit

c) a pensioner premium included in you rbenefit

d) a child who is disabled

e) Child Tax Credit that includes a disability or severe disability element

f) A child under five living you you

 

If you think you are entitled to a Cold Weather Payment but have not received one within 14 working days of a very cold period, then contact your local pension centre or Jobcentre Plus.

 

 

WINTER FUEL PAYMENTS

The Winter Fuel Payment is paid to all households with an occupant aged over 60. The amount a household is entitled to depends upon  your personal situation, but is between £100 and £300 per winter. The payment is paid regardless of your income and you can get it if you’re still working or claiming a benefit.

 

Your household will receive this payment in winter 2012/2013 if you (or someone else living in your house) were born on or before 5 July 1951 and NONE of the following applies for the week of 17-23 September 2012:

 

– you were in hospital for more than 52 weeks previously, getting free treatment as an inpatient

– you were in custody serving a court sentence

– you were subject to immigration control and did not qualify for help from the Department for Work and Pensions

– you lived in a care home, an independent hospital or Ilford Park Polish Resettlement Home (and had done so for the previous 12 weeks or more) and you were on Pension Credit, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance

– you move to another European Economic Area country or Switzerland and didn’t qualify before you moved.

 

If you are eligible for a Winter Fuel Payment and receive any of the following, then you do not need to claim and will be paid automatically:

 

–             State Pension

–             Employment and Support Allowance

–             Income Support

–             Jobseeker’s Allowance

–             Pension Credit

–             Attendance Allowance

–             Bereavement Benefit

–             Carer’s Allowance

–             Disability Living Allowance

–             Graduated Retirement Benefit

–             Incapacity Benefit

–             Industrial Injuries Benefits

–             Severe Disablement Allowance

–             War Pension

–             Widow’s Benefit

 

If you do not receive any of the above benefits but you are eligible for a Winter Fuel Payment, then you need to claim. You can do this by downloading a claim form online at http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Pensionsandretirementplanning/Benefits/BenefitsInRetirement/DG_198331  or by requesting a claim form by calling 0845 9 15 15. If you need to claim, make sure that you have sent your claim form in to arrive on or before September 21 to get your payment before Christmas.

 

 

WARM FRONT SCHEME

The Warm Front scheme provides heating and insulation improvements to households on certain income-related benefits that are having problem with their house’s insulation and/or heating system. The scheme can provide improvements of up to £6000.

 

NB: The Warm Front Scheme is due to expire at the end of 2012, so apply for a grant as soon as possible!

 

Grants are available for improvements such as:

•             loft insulation

•             draughtproofing

•             cavity wall insulation

•             hot water tank insulation

•             gas, electric, liquid petroleum gas or oil heating

•             glass-fronted fire – the Warm Front scheme can convert your solid-fuel open fire to a glass-fronted fire

You won’t have to pay anything as long as the work doesn’t cost more than the grant available. If the cost of the work is more than the grant available you’ll have to make a contribution to enable work to go ahead. Work will not start without making sure you are willing and able to pay the difference.

 

The first condition of being eligible for a Warm Front grant is that you must live in a property that you own or rent that is poorly insulated and/or without a working central heating system.

 

Secondly, to qualify, you must receive one or more of the following benefits:

 

1. Pension Credit (Guaranteed Credit and/or Savings Credit)

 

2. Income Support or Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance with any of the following:

•             Parental responsibility for a child under 16 who ordinarily resides with that person, or a child that is 16 or over but under 20 and in full time education.

•             Child Tax Credit (which must include a disability or severe disability element for a child or young person)

•             Disabled Child Premium

•             Disability Premium (enhanced disability or severe disability element premium)

•             Pensioner Premium (higher pensioner premium or enhanced pensioner premium)

 

3. Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA IR) that includes a work related activity or support component.

 

4. Child Tax Credit with an income of £15,860 or less.

 

5. Working Tax Credit with an income of £15,860 or less and any of the following:

•             parental responsibility for a child under 16 who ordinarily resides with that person. (16 or over but under 20 and in full time education)

•             disabled worker element

•             severe disability element

•             are aged 60 years or over

 

If you are eligible for a grant, then you need to apply. You can apply online at http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Environmentandgreenerliving/Energyandwatersaving/Energygrants/DG_10018661, or apply over the phone by calling 0800 316 2805.

If your application form is succesful, you will then be visited by a Warm Front surveyor, who will measure the energy efficiency of your home. The surveyor will then make recommendations on which energy efficiency improvements are most appropriate for your home. The surveyor may find that the energy efficiency of your home is above the threshold required to benefit from the scheme. If this is the case you will not be provided with any recommendations and you will be left with details of where else you may be able to get energy advice and help. However, if the surveyor finds that the energy efficiency of your home is below the required threshold, you will receive a grant.

USEFUL CONTACT INFO.

Government advice: www.direct.gov.uk

Home Heat Helpline: useful advice service for people struggling with fuel bills. Find this online at http://www.homeheathelpline.org.uk/  or ring their free advice line on 0800 33 66 99.

Citizens’ Advice Bureau: find advice online and search for your local advice centre at http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/ or call 08444 111 444.

Energy Supplier helplines:

British Gas: 0800 072 8629

EDF: 0800 096 9966

EON: 0345 301 4875

RWEnpower: 0800 073 3000

Scottish and Southern Electricity: 0845 026 0658

Scottish Power: 0845 026 0658

This guide was produced by Fuel Poverty Action. Fuel Poverty Action are a group of people fed up with high fuel bills, rising energy company profits, government cuts, negligent landlords and dirty, polluting forms of energy. We believe that everyone has the right to affordable, clean energy and warm, affordable and secure housing. We aim to support community action to defend these rights. Get in touch with us if you’d like to find out more.                                                                                                                                       

Email: fuelpovertyaction@gmail.com

Website: fuelpovertyaction.org.uk

Twitter: @FuelPovAction

Facebook: Fuel Poverty Action

 TEN THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU WERE ENTITLED TO FROM YOUR ENERGY SUPPLIER….

Produced by Fuel Poverty Action

 1) Get compensation for wasted time

You don’t have to wait in all day for a meter reader or engineer. If your energy firm needs to visit you at home, you are entitled to a two-hour appointment slot – and, should they not turn up, you are entitled to compensation of £22 for a gas or electricity appointment or £44 for both.

 2) Know the backdate limit

If you have had your bills recalculated because of a mistake by the energy provider, there is a limit to how much they can ask you to pay up. If your usage has been underestimated, the supplier can backdate your bills for only up to 12 months. However, to avoid even a year’s worth of charges, get into the habit of providing regular meter readings to ensure you always pay the right amount.

 3) Know your rights with price rises

If your energy provider is putting up its prices, it is required to give you 30 days’ notice and cannot implement the increase if you tell it within 15 working days that you’re leaving. And despite what the name suggests, those on fixed-rate tariffs cannot be charged an exit penalty if they switch within this time.

 4) Payments for power cuts

If consumers lose power, they can claim compensation for power cuts from their energy distributor, rather than the supplier. If your power is out for more than 18 hours you are entitled to £54, and £27 for each additional 12 hours without power. Similarly, those who have four or more power cuts lasting three hours or more in a year should receive £54. To get your refund, contact your energy provider.

 5) Get extra help

Pensioners and people who are disabled or chronically ill can get extra help through their supplier’s Priority Services Register. This includes free quarterly meter readings, bills in large print or Braille or bills sent to a friend or relative, and a free annual gas safety check for those in receipt of means-tested benefits.

 6) Know the switching timetable

If you switch energy supplier in order to ensure that you are on the most competitive tariff, it should take no longer than five weeks from start to finish. This includes the two-week cooling-off period and three weeks for the switch. Keep in mind that suppliers have also committed to make switching hassle-free, so if there are any problems it is their responsibility to sort it out, not the customer’s.

 7) Compensation for being misled

If you have had your energy supply switched to another provider without your permission, you are entitled to compensation of £250. You are also entitled to compensation if you can prove you were deliberately misled by a sales person.

 8) Know where to get help with debt

If you get into debt, your supplier must agree repayments that are affordable for you. Some suppliers, such as British Gas, EDF and npower, also have trust funds that can help you to settle debts or other essential costs.

9) Find free insulation

Loft insulation can save you an average of £120 on your annual energy bill, but costs as much as £300 to install. Many suppliers will offer free loft and cavity wall insulation with cash incentives. For instance, E.On and EDF are offering incentives of £100 and £200 respectively to those on low incomes who register for free insulation. Contact your supplier to find out, or check out the deals that other suppliers are offering…

 10) Remember your cooling-off period

Have you switched your tariff only to have a cheaper one launched just days later? Or maybe you felt pressurised or put on the spot by a telesales agent? Not to worry, it is not too late to change your mind. All consumers who switch energy supplier are entitled to a 14-day cooling-off period during which they can switch back without incurring any charges.

 

 

Nov 122012
 

As energy bills soar, energy companies are increasing their profits at the expense of the poorest households, the elderly and disabled people.

Rising energy bills disproportionately affect disabled people. We are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people, on top of which additional unavoidable expenditure faced by disabled people is on average 25% higher than that for non-disabled people. Disabled people also need to spend more on energy as they are more likely to spend time indoors with fewer opportunities to go out and access community facilities to keep warm. Some impairments are aggravated by cold requiring homes to be heated at higher constant temperatures to avoid illness and hospital admissions.

Meanwhile the ‘Big Six’ who control our energy are increasing their profits at a time when the poorest households are already suffering under austerity. Between 2004 and 2010 average electricity bills increased by 60 per cent and Average gas bills increased by 90 per cent. This year after SSE’s 9% price hike in September, British Gas followed suit in October with a 6% price rise means customers will be facing an extra £100 on their annual fuel bills. British Gas profits increased 23% in the last quarter.

Increasing benefit cuts with rising energy bills is a deadly combination for disabled people.

On 27th October Disabled People Against Cuts joined the Greater London Pensioners Association and Fuel Poverty Action in an occupation of the Westfield Centre in Stratford to protest against rising energy bills:

“Pensioners, disabled people and supporters defy security and police to protest against fuel poverty in Olympic shopping centre

 Today, fifty people gathered in Stratford Westfield shopping centre to keep warm and to protest against fuel poverty. The “Warm Up” protest, organised by the Greater London Pensioners’ Association, saw pensioners join forces with disabled activists from Disabled People Against Cuts and members of direct-action network Fuel Poverty Action.

 The protest came in the wake of EDF Energy becoming the fifth of the ‘Big Six’ energy companies to controversially announce price rises in recent weeks.

 Shopping centre security and police threatened to forcibly evict the protesters, but were defied by pensioners and supporters who refused to leave. Those present accused security and police of attempting to force vulnerable people into the cold.

 Furious at energy companies’ profiteering and government cuts, the GLPA said: ‘If we can’t afford to heat our homes we have a right to go into any warm building and make ourselves at home. We asserted this right today inside the toasty Westfield Stratford shopping centre.’

 Protesters remained inside the shopping centre for an hour, leafleting shoppers and holding banners that said ‘Justice for Pensioners’ and ‘Energy to meet our needs, not for corporate greed’.  A megaphone was confiscated by police after two speeches, before protesters marched outside together chanting ‘No more deaths from fuel poverty.’

Protesters received a warm reception from shoppers, some of whom joined the protest.

 

The event saw the GLPA launch their new petition demanding:

•       That the government reinstate the Winter Fuel Allowance in full [5]

•       That the energy companies reinvest in affordable, cleaner and

safer energy supplies and use their enormous profits to do so, instead

of putting the cost onto the consumer.

•       That the government acknowledge an entitlement of all

including the sick, disabled people, the elderly and families with

young children, to a well insulated, warm place to live in good

repair.

 Betty Cottingham from the GLPA said:

‘The Greater London Pensioners’ Association are extremely concerned at the thousands of preventable deaths in this country which are attributable to the cold and outraged at the continuing weak response of the government. Even at “lower” tariffs, bills are still unaffordable. Traditionally people have gravitated to places which are warm and sheltered – most often shopping centres, buses and libraries – in order to delay putting on the heating at home and this is why we’re here today. The shutting down of day centres and luncheon clubs has left the housebound with no alternative options to stay warm. We’re protesting today and will continue to until someone takes

notice.’

 Elizabeth Ziga of Fuel Poverty Action, one of six protesters who took part in a day-long occupation of British Gas headquarters in January, said:

‘People are fed up with our energy being produced to line the pockets of the Big Six while we’re left to suffer mammoth fuel bills and escalating climate change. The Big Six and the government are blocking the alternative of renewable energy, which would be cheaper and cleaner. We’re getting ripped off and left to freeze. Today’s protest, led by pensioners, will be the first of many. Expect a winter of resistance.’”

 POSTED FROM: http://fuelpovertyaction.org.uk/2012/10/28/pensioners-disabled-people-and-supporters-defy-security-and-police-to-protest-against-fuel-poverty-in-olympic-shopping-centre/

 For photographs of the protest, see: http://www.flickr.com/photos/70150038@N04/

 Video of shopping centre security arguing with protesters here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZzoaNyW6qI&feature=youtube_gdata_player

 

Next Fuel Poverty Action London meeting: Thursday November 15 Crossroads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, Kentish Town, NW5 2DX 7pm-9pm.

Friends of the Earth have produced this briefing on Gas Prices: http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefings/gas_price_briefing.pdf

Nov 102012
 

Tuesday, 13th November, the London Assembly Transport Committee will be meeting to discuss the transport legacy of the Games.

Access is firmly on the agenda! As you may know, the committee has been investigating the transport legacy of the Games and

Transport for All have been inputting our views as older and disabled transport users.

http://www.london.gov.uk/who-runs-london/the-london-assembly/2012-transport-legacy 

The Committee will put questions to representatives from Transport for London, Network Rail and the Association of Train Operating Companies.

The meeting is at City Hall and begins at 10am. You can view the agenda here: http://www.london.gov.uk/moderngov/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=173&MId=4651

Transport for All will be attending: if you would also like to come, just turn up, no need to book! The building is wheelchair accessible and close by London Bridge station, which is stepfree to train.

If you would like to be met at the station, please email me and let me know you are coming, email Faryal@transportforall.org.uk

If you have any particular access requirements (e.g. palantypist) please email the committee officer dale.langford@london.gov.uk 

If you do intend to come please drop me a line.

See you there!

Faryal Velmi

Director

Transport for All

336 Brixton Road.

London

SW9 7AA

 

Tel:             0207 737 2339

Text:             077938 79643

 

www.transportforall.org.uk

 

 Posted by at 22:03
Nov 102012
 

 

“An Inclusive Education and a Fulfilling Life” Conference

   Saturday 17th November 2012   10.30am until 4.00pm  

                     Email: afulfillinglife2012@gmail.com          

Venue: The Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick, Derbyshire, DE55 1AU

Purpose: This conference sets out to bring together disabled people, the parents of disabled children and those with SEN, and their non-disabled allies to explore common ground, opportunities and choice with regard to independent living and enjoying an education alongside their peers.

The conference will:

  • Be respectful and accessible
  • Be informative and participatory
  • Use cooperative learning approaches
  • Give examples of where things are working
  • Discuss why life is getting harder for disabled people.

 

Refreshments: Lunch provided

 

The charge will be: £5.00 disabled people and family members

£15.00 for allies (education professionals etc)

This in a not-for-profit event; all proceeds are to cover the cost of the conference.  Please pay on the day but we do need a definite commitment that you are coming so we can make arrangements.

Interested in attending or want more information?

Please contact us by emailing:  afulfillinglife2012@gmail.com

 

ALLFIE Contact: Convenor: Keith Venables,

Organisers: Elaine Hill, Caroline & Maresa MacKeith

National Advisors: Katie Clarke, Derek Wilson & Tara Flood

Text or call: 0780 587 8729 Email: afulfillinglife2012@gmail.com

For more information about ALLFIE: http://www.allfie.org.uk

      

             

Nov 102012
 

Seventy- six percent of those going through the WCA were entitled to ESA support after appeal figures were taken into account. This obviously does not include who did not have the energy to go through yet another appeal, or those included in the 73 deaths and suicides per week happening as a result of the WCA regime. We expect the percentage would be even higher without the misery and death surrounding this constantly criticised regime imposed by the Government of millionaires. We ask when the media will start producing the correct after appeal figures and we call on MPs to take these into account and help smash the myths around this process which still leaves disabled people without income, suicidal, dead and on the verge of homelessness. If this was happening in any other country this Government would denounce it and call for an urgent inquiry – why are disabled people in the UK still enduring this process?

The real results!

What the DWP don’t want
you to know

The following percentages reflect the monthly figures for claimants who were awarded their Employment & Support Allowance upon ‘conversion’ from Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance and Incapacity ‘credits’ for incapacity. They are taken from the data table sets released by the DWP on the 6th November 2012 (see above) relating to the first statistical release of figures since the National roll out of the reassessment programme after the Aberdeen & Burnley pilots conducted from October 2010.

These figures are a far cry from the grossly distorted media headlines
depicting ‘75% of incapacity claimants as faking their illnesses’

They also raise concern over claims made by the DWP Press Office yesterday that the numbers being declared entitled to their benefits after reassessment was 64%. Their figure of 64% was arrived at by averaging the 3 months from December 2011 – February 2012, you can see from the figures below that they chose the three months which provided them with the lowest award percentages.

The DWP will of course know how these figures will increase even further once statistical information is added for appeals dealt with by Tribunals which have yet to be confirmed by statistical data releases from Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS). The figures are adjusted to take account of appeals; some of which will be resolved by the DWP at the reconsideration stage whereas others will be subject to appeals to tribunals for which the data has yet to be added.

Below are figures for claimants who previously claimed incapacity benefits but were then placed in either the ‘Work Related Activity’ or ‘Support’ Groups in Employment & Support Allowance once their awards had been converted – they make interesting reading:


* 76% – Mar-11

* 71% – Apr-11

* 67% – May-11

* 66% – Jun-11

* 69% – Jul-11

* 68% – Aug-11

* 67% – Sep-11

* 67% – Oct-11

* 66% – Nov-11

* 64% – Dec-11

* 64% – Jan-12

* 65% – Feb-12

Will the media now apologise for their

“75% faking it” claims?

The figures were compiled by Nick at My Legal. You can read more at

http://mylegal.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=frontline&thread=789&page=1#2325#ixzz2BmJ8ZN2G

 DPAC are once again grateful to Nick for allowing us to share this and urge you to support him at http://mylegal.proboards.com/index.cgi

 

   

 

Nov 102012
 

The consultation on the proposed closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) is the latest in a line of seemingly constant attacks on disabled peoples’ independence and disabled peoples’ rights by this Government.

The Consultation closed on the 12th October, it suggested that funds from the centrally based ILF which supports almost 20,000 disabled people to live independently should go to cash strapped local authorities without ring- fencing. This is after the ILF was closed to all new applicants by this government in 2010.

DPAC believe this would be a disaster and send many disabled people back to living in residential institutions, already we have heard of local authorities that are drawing up policies of putting disabled people back into institutions as they see this as a cheaper option ( in particular Worcester and Wolverhampton, ) and we expect others to follow.

There is a legal challenge in process with several ILF users taking the issue to the courts in order to gain a judicial review. Unfortunately we have heard that one of the group taking this forward may need to drop out.

Please see the piece written by Louise Whitfield at The Justice Gap, Louise is leading on the Judicial Review case and has been incredibly supportive of DPAC issues throughout

DPAC have begun an ILF campaign with many local and national Disabled Peoples’ Organisations throughout the UK and we will shortly be posting a template letter for individuals to send to MPs ,AMs and  Scottish MPs.

In the meantime we have produced a leaflet stating why the closure of the ILF will affect everyone in the UK. This can be found here and should be circulated on social media and put on as many web sites as possible

We will publish more updates as they become available

 

Nov 042012
 

DISABLED PEOPLE AGAINST CUTS (DPAC) CAERDYDD PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE ISSUE
CONTACT – Disabled People Against Cuts Caerdydd, 07855510534
 
STARTS
A disabled person in his 30s will lead a five day hunger strike and vigil outside the ATOS office on St Agnes Road, Gabalfa, Cardiff to protest a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) declaring him fit for work and cutting his benefits.
Christos Palmer, who has both mental and physical health problems, including depression, self-harm and mobility issues, hopes the protest will highlight the suffering of disabled people caused by current government policies.
 
ATOS, the French IT company that carries out the controversial Work Capability Assessments for the DWP has been the subject of widespread condemnation from disability charities and the British Medical Assocation who call for the assesments to be scrapped completely. The firm has been accused of target chasing for cutting the amount of people found eligible for benefits.

Rob Marsh, a protest spokesperson said,
 
“Earlier this year a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary revealed the DWP requires ATOS to reject the benefit claims of 7 out of 8 disabled claimants, resulting in immense suffering, homelessness, or death. The mark of a civilised society is how it addresses the needs of its most vulnerable members. Given what is happening to tens of thousands of disabled people in Britain today, we can no longer claim to be a civilized society.

Our campaign is part of a national campaign that goes by the name “Atos Kills”. This is based on well-documented evidence that approximately 32 disabled people a week died last year after their Atos Work Capability Assessments deemed them “fit to work” and stopped benefits. This year the figure has  risen to 73 deaths per week including suicides”
 
A spokesperson from Disabled People Against Cuts in Cardiff said,

 “While we support the protest aims we are extremely concerned about Christos’s physical and mental wellbeing. He often suffers from extreme fatigue and is housebound on some days. That somebody so unwell has been driven to this shows the desperation that the sick and disabled are being driven to by this government. We are urging him to end his hunger strike”
 
The protest begins on Monday at 8 am and end on Friday afternoon.
ENDS
 
NOTES FOR JOURNALISTS
 
Press are suggested to attend at 12 noon on Monday.
Rob Marsh, Disabled People Against Cuts Caerdydd Spokesperson – 07855510534

The peaceful week long vigil against Atos outside their Gabalfa offices on St. Agnes Road aims to start every day starting at 8am and finishing roughly at 4pm at earliest, from Monday 5 – Friday 9 November, times will vary depending on the weather and other factors. Christos aims to be on hunger strike throughout the protest, supporters are strongly trying to persuade him not to go on hunger strike.
 
Christos Palmer, a former IT technician has been medically diagnosed with both mental and physical health problems, including depression, self-harm and mobility issues.  He has asked that Rob Marsh of Disabled People Against Cuts Caerdydd to be a press spokesperson for the protest
 
According to an FOI (Freedom of Information) response publicised by the Daily Mail journalist Sonia Poulton on October 7, the current weekly average Atos/DWP death toll of people found fit for work after an ESA work capability assessment now stands at 73 people per week.
 
A FOI in April revealed in 2011 an average of 32 dying a week after failing test for new incapacity benefit. More than a thousand ­sickness benefit claimants died last year after being told to get a job.
http://blogs.mirror.co.uk/investigations/2012/04/32-die-a-week-after-failing-in.html
 
There have been numerous horror stories in the media of people with terminal illnesses (in one infamous case even someone in a coma) being declared fit for work by ATOS and having their benefits cut.
 
Recent Stories:
‘A GRIEVING boy of 13 has accused Atos of killing his disabled dad. Kieran McArdle told the Daily Record in a harrowing letter how his father Brian, 57, collapsed and died the day after his disability benefits were stopped. He had been assessed by Atos and deemed “fit for work”’
http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2012/11/01/atos-benefits-bullies-killed-my-sick-dad-says-devastated-kieran-mcardle-13/
 
‘A cancer sufferer, who had her benefits cut by government officials who said she was fit to work, has died’.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-19433535
 
‘I sought this debate in order to raise the case of one of my constituents, Colin Traynor, who was epileptic. He was assessed as fit for work, yet died less than four months later’ (Michael Meacher MP)
http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2012-09-13a.532.0
 
Website documenting many of the deaths caused by government welfare reform
http://calumslist.org/

DPAC want to make it very clear that we do not recommend hunger strikes nor do we agree with them. We respect Christos’ choice and understand his reasons, but would be happier with a different method of protest. However, we support Christos’ aims and those of fellow protesters at the Cardiff Vigil.

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