May 292013
 

“The government have managed to get away with causing misery…and there hasn’t been an outcry because they’ve wrapped it up in all this language of reform”

Ahead of the national day of protest against welfare reforms this Saturday, we caught up with Ellen Clifford – one of the organisers of the Benefit Justice Campaign. In this first part of the interview, we talk about the Campaign, divisive tactics and the need for unity.

Ellen Clifford - Benefit Justice Campaign/DPAC

Ellen Clifford – Benefit Justice Campaign/DPAC

For those that don’t know, could you tell us a bit more about the Benefit Justice Campaign, how it came about and why now? 

The Benefit Justice Campaign was set up by three campaigns, DPAC – Disabled People Against Cuts, Defend Council Housing and the Right To Work Campaign. We came together in January of this year because the people that we represent were being hit on all sides by cut after cut after cut from this government and we wanted to unite together to form a campaign. So rather than disabled people campaigning on our own, we want to be with council house tenants who were going to be hit by the bedroom tax, and with unemployed workers, and we also wanted to unite with workers through the trade unions because the government has been using a lot of divisive rhetoric about benefit scroungers and the difference between strivers and skivers, and we wanted to come together and overcome a lot of those myths, that a lot of people who are being hit by the benefit cuts are actually in work. And what the government is doing affects people in work and out of work – so to provide a combined campaign to oppose it.

Why have the government been pushing this striver vs. skiver debate? 

Well it was very effective and it has been very effective over the last couple of years. People have actually thought we really need to reform the welfare state. A lot of people talk about the need to stop all these people having a lifestyle on benefits. So actually the government rhetoric has been really effective, and what they’ve managed to do is they’ve managed to get away with causing misery and pushing many, many thousands of disabled people – the poorest members of society, into poverty. That’s what they’ve been effectively doing, but they’ve got away with it and there hasn’t been an outcry because they’ve wrapped it up in all this language of reform and saying that these people are taking all the taxpayers’ money, and trying to point the finger at people that don’t really exist. There aren’t people choosing to live a lifestyle on benefits because it’s ‘such a wonderful life’.

A lot of people would say we’ve got this national debt, so there has to be cuts. ‘Everyones feeling the pinch’, so what would you say to them?

Yeah, not everyone’s feeling the pinch. There’s a certain section of society that really isn’t being affected by it. Meanwhile, there are sections of society that are being hit over and over again. So research that came out recently from the Campaign For a Fair Society, showed that the poorest members of society are being hit harder than anyone else. But they also showed that disabled people with the highest level of support needs, people with complex and severe disabilities, are being hit 19 times harder than the average person so there’s no way ‘we’re all in it together’. There are some sections of society who are being deliberately targeted harder than anyone else.

“Austerity is lining the pockets of certain sections of society.”

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times Rich List in April showed that the 1000 wealthiest UK residents increased their wealth by £35bn last year. So some people are getting richer out of this actually. Austerity is lining the pockets of certain sections of society.

So why aren’t we attacking rich people more?

I think some sections of the population are, but we mainly do that through social media, through our own blogs, or through the left wing media maybe. Certain elements of the right wing media certainly have fallen in with the government and they will reproduce the government statistics which are shown to be misrepresented most of the time.

A Previous Defend Council Housing Protest in London Image: demotix.com

A Previous Defend Council Housing Protest in London Image: demotix.com

You already have a lot of support for the campaign, but how do you get to the people who are a little more shut off? There must be people who would maybe stand with you and support you, but they aren’t aware of what is going on. How do you get to them, and how do you get them to act?  

And it’s the isolated people who are more likely to be in trouble because they’ve got no support so it’s about reaching those people. I think through social media DPAC has got quite an online presence. We’re very involved in Facebook and Twitter and social media, and people find us through that because people are looking because they don’t know where else they can turn to. So that’s one way, but of course people don’t all have access to social media and the internet, and what we’re seeing increasing is local campaigns being set up and just going around, like I was doing on Sunday, just knocking on doors in estates where people are affected – so actually meeting people in person.

At the Benefit Justice Summit a couple of weeks ago in Westminster, you had many organisations coming together for different struggles – around 37 from around the country including DPAC, Hands Off Our Homes, Manchester vs. Bedroom Tax and so on. There was a lot of talk about unity, and coming together – why is that such a strong message right now?

I think people are feeling that because we’ve been attacked for the last couple of years and we haven’t managed to change it yet. The government have done some small U-turns – for example the bedroom tax exempting children with severe disabilities. But, we’ve never got them reverse the direction of welfare reform so I think people want to come together en masse to try and mobilise, to try and fight against the bigger things that are happening – essentially to get the government out and that’s only going to happen if everyone campaigns together.

Find out more about the Benefit Justice Campaign here.

Join us for the second part of the interview on Thursday.

Follow us on Twitter/Like us on Facebook

With thanks to Real Fare please follow this excellent blog

http://realfare.wordpress.com/

 

 

May 292013
 

The chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Andrew Dilnot, has responded to a complaint from Sheila Gilmore MP regarding an article published in the Daily Telegraph which implied that 900,000 people who had been in receipt of Incapacity Benefit had dropped their claims rather than undergo a face-to-face assessment for the replacement benefit, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). The article quoted Rt Hon. Grant Shapps MP, in his capacity as Conservative Party Chairman, as saying “This is a new figure, nearly a million people have come off incapacity benefit…before going for the test. They take themselves off.”

After investigation, Mr Dilnot concluded that these statements were misleading, although he formulates his response more diplomatically, as the 900,000 persons quoted did not appear to be claiming Incapacity Benefits, but represented the cumulative total of 878,300 new ESA claims which were closed before undergoing assessessment in the period from October 2008 to May 2012. Which means these people closed their claims before receiving benefits, and this happened over a period of four years. And according to research undertaken by DWP, an important reason why ESA claims in this sample were withdrawn or closed before they were fully assessed was because the person recovered and either returned to work, or claimed a benefit more appropriate to their situation.

Regarding claimants on Incapacity Benefits, a total of 603,600 recipients were referred for reassessment as part of the migration across to ESA between March 2011 and May 2012. Of these, 19,700 claims were closed prior to a work capability assessment in the period to May 2012.

Again, the right wing press and the Conservative Party have been caught red handed manipulating the figures. This is an exercise that DWP and IDS have also mastered over the past 3 years, by repeatedly using the number of new ESA claims to boost the number of people found fit for work, and distorting the real picture. The real picture for those who can remember the media headlines fed by DWP ” 70% of Britons on ‘incapacity benefits’ found to be fit to work”, is that with a much more stringent test, over 70% of people previously on incapacity benefits are still entitled to them.

Link to PDF copy of  letter HERE

May 292013
 

some ILF users have had letters asking for permission for their details to be passed onto their local authorities. This seems to be some group 2 users as well as group 1 users although who has had these letters seems rather random.

This is a draft reply that has been sent in response to the request which you might also want to use.

This is I suspect more relevant to those of us who are Group 1 users i.e. those with ILF packages that have no LA contribution.
I replied, today. My response is below and that is the line I am taking.
Thank you for your letter of 1st May 2013 requesting my consent for my details to be shared with my local authority. As you see from the attached form, I have declined this request for now. 

As you know, a judicial review of the legality of the consultation about the future of the ILF was held in March. Whilst the judge ruled that the consultation had not been unlawful, an appeal is being prepared and is likely to be heard. Hence, I do not feel it would be appropriate to accelerate the transfer process to local authorities until the future of the ILF has been decided in the courts. 

Furthermore, in the event the ILF does close and myself and other clients need to seek funding from a Local Authority, I’m really quite capable of approaching them myself and sharing my details with them at a time and situation that I judge to be appropriate. To this end, I may ask for my details to be passed on to my Local Authority at a later date but not now.

 Posted by at 21:51
May 282013
 

When I received the initial phone call, from the DWP, I was hopeful that my health would be assessed fairly. I knew nothing of Atos.

I was told that during the process, I would lose no money. That was the first inaccuracy of many to come.

I returned the completed health questionnaire and waited.

Soon after I was summoned to attend a medical assessment at Wolverhampton, to be conducted by a ‘health care professional’ (HCP). This turned out to be the strangest medical I’ve ever gone through. I was asked to squeeze the HCPs fingers; I was asked to squat, and was told that I could use the wall as balance if necessary.

What possible relevance could these exercises hold?

The HCP spent more time looking at the computer monitor than she did in eye to eye contact.

The assessment eventually ended and I left, with a feeling of impending doom.

When I received the decision from the DWP, I was a little shocked, I must be honest. I knew that I could not carry out constant functions over a period of hours. I knew how my symptoms displayed themselves.

I sought help at my local CAB centre and almost at once I felt a sense of relief that I was not on my own.

The CAB advisor spent over twice the time the HCP had done and she came up with a report which clearly explained how my health affected my ability to carry out day to day functions.

There was nothing so profound in the DWP report.

My first appeal, to the DWP, failed as was expected, and I was advised to appeal to the first tier tribunal.

I also contacted my MP, Valerie VAZ, who wrote to the DWP, arguing that the assessment had failed to consider the degenerative nature of my condition, and was therefore flawed.

Soon after I received a phone call from a Decision Maker (DM) at the DWP who, after running through the assessment findings, offered another assessment.

Subsequent I received a new date with Atos.

This was in June 2012.

Between then and May 2013 I attended a handful of appointments, all of which were either cancelled by Atos due to my falling poorly during an assessment or for some administrative reason, such as computer problems.

On one occasion I was conveyed from the assessment centre to the local AE dept., when my BP & Pulse Rate were exceedingly high, and I was experiencing chest pains.

I spent the rest of that day hooked up to a variety of machines in the hospital.

Days later I received another Atos appt., this time for 0900…there was no chance I could make an appt. so early in the morning.

They should have been aware of this. It’s mentioned in my medical notes.

These frequent journeys were taking their toll on my health. My GP was so concerned that he wrote to Atos, explaining and sharing these concerns.

The Atos response was to change my AC venue from Wolverhampton to Birmingham, which is further to travel, and to approve a taxi, for collection and drop off at the attendance centre (AC). I already had a lift too the AC. travel was NOT the issue.

Atos had, for whatever reason, misread or misunderstood the nature of the letter from my GP.

The next appt. was the first taxi journey to the new venue, Birmingham, and my appt. was for 1:15pm.

I rang Atos at 12:30 just to confirm the taxi was booked, and was told it was.

13:15 came and went with no taxi.

The taxi arrived at about 13:25, which meant I was already late.

I arrived at 1355. Almost 45 minutes late.

To add insult to injury, I had pre-arranged to meet my welfare advice rep. at Birmingham. He was not happy either.

Understandable really.

More complaints were submitted to Atos.

This time they responded, eventually, with the offer of a home assessment.

Great news? No!

By the time if my tribunal I had still received no appt. for the Atos doctor to attend my home for the assessment.

My appeal was heard by the First Tier Tribunal and I was successful.

As good as this news is, it must not be seen as a way out for Atos. They caused considerable stress and aggravated my medical conditions for over a year with the catalogue of errors conducted by their staff. Pure and simple.

This would not be tolerated in any walk of life, so why should Atos be permitted to behave in this manner?

Something needs to be done.

I am hopeful that someone reading this will be in a position to offer some advice and support.

I am very sorry for those who are still fighting Atos.

I understand how they feel and I hope that something can be done to help them.

Thank you for reading this.

If any journalists would like to follow up this story please contact mail@dpac.uk.net

May 282013
 

Many disabled people feel that none of the main political parties represent us: while the Condems are inflicting an unprecedented level of attack on disabled people’s rights and entitlements, we remember that it was New Labour who introduced Atos and the Work Capability Assessment and, much as Labour now tries to distance itself from the Blair and Brown years, they won’t even commit to scrapping the bedroom tax while failing to take a stand in defence of the welfare state.  

As things become ever more desperate for disabled people pushed into poverty and destitution, with independent living under greater and greater threat, people are searching for a way to escape the onslaught. One thing that is certain in these uncertain times is that UKIP is not the answer.

UKIP have undeniably rattled and inflicted defeats on the government. They have also succeeded in capturing the imagination of substantial sections of the electorate, pulling support away from the Tories. They are however nothing but bad news for disabled people.

UKIP has clearly been linked to racist, homophobic and disabilist attitudes. In December a UKIP county council candidate was investigated for advocating compulsory abortion of foetuses with spina bifida and Down’s Syndrome. Examples of racist attitudes displayed by UKIP members are too widespread to be disregarded as anomalies. The rise of a party linked so clearly to anti-equalities and intolerance of diversity is not something disabled people can afford to celebrate even when it does weaken the Tories.  

There does appear to have been a concerted effort by UKIP to reach out to disabled people’s groups to offer support and thereby contribute to building its own base. This does not mean that UKIP supports the principles of disability equality and independent living. Its policies are reactive, opportunistic and bigoted. Its focus on immigration is divisive, having the effect of shifting all the main political parties to the right, while diverting attention from the real issues, from the dismantling of the welfare state, the privatisation of the NHS and the attack on workers’ rights. They might succeed in blocking votes for the Condems but they are also holding back the development of a wider political consciousness that would actively fight for disabled people’s rights.

After the raft of benefit changes and cuts brought in from 1st April we saw real media attention focusing on welfare and a growing awareness among members of the public not yet personally affected by the cuts about the impact on disabled people – in spite of the lies and misrepresentations from Iain Duncan Smith. The rise of UKIP and their success in the elections has distracted the focus away from government attacks on the poorest and disabled members of society. Increasingly the problems caused by austerity are being blamed on government being soft on immigration instead of holding all political parties to account for the consequences of neoliberalism. 

UKIP is never going to protect the rights of disabled people but they are going to widen divisions in society and block the kind of collective mobilisation we need to effect the fundamental social changes necessary for achieving disability equality.

May 272013
 

On Wednesday 22nd May the Judge Upper Tribunal handed down a historic judgement which officially confirms what survivors and disabled people have been saying for years now, that the hated ATOS tests are unfair. Individual survivors brought the case supported by the Public Law Project, the Mental Health Resistance Network, MIND, Rethink and the National Austic Society.

Survivors, mental health service users, the mental health voluntary sector and the wider Disabled People’s movement are celebrating a famous victory in the Courts. This is at a time following the Banking and Corporation Tax Crisis, when everything seems stacked against them and the odds seemed insurmountable.

MHRN Press Release

Mental Health Resistance Network Facebook Page

Huffington Post Article

Guardian Piece by Amelia Gentleman

BBC Piece

 

 

May 272013
 

Mad Pride poster

Yes folks, Mad Pride Midsummer Madness is on Friday 7th of June 2013 – 8pm till late.

The Family of Cats collective are a very tuneful and accessible combo who play a varied set from slow moody lilting ballads to rousing jazzy, Latin, Lounge and “psychedelic funk”.

They can sing! I mean really sing – and the musicianship is what I think they would call “sophisticated”. Fronted by songsmith’s Josh and Sarah, and backed by harmonium among others, Mad Pride is pleased and proud to have them come down.

Do check them out on Reverbnation http://www.reverbnation.com/thefamilyofcats

For those who missed Bad Moth at a recent Mad Pride soiree, this unique duo are back. Stanley Bad and St Moth will be delivering their astounding blend of opera, gypsy jazz, East End music hall and Zappaesque Byzantine tunes. They will be nothing if not unpredictable. Prepare to gawp open-mouthed.

Also we welcome the Australian poet Cathy Flower, comedy stylings of Luke Gretton, Broken Biro and an acoustic set from folk songstress HeartsSong. Also added is Jazzman John Clarke!

Another feast from Tottenham Chances, the friendliest and cheapest venue in North London.

Mad Pride Event Facebook page is here: http://www.facebook.com/events/154231091415639/?ref=ts&fref=ts

Mad Pride gigs are now on the FIRST Friday of the month at Tottenham Chances up until November.

Hope to see you there.
madpride mark

8pm till Midnight – Friday June 7th 2013
£5/ £2 concessions
Tottenham Chances
399 Tottenham High Road
Tottenham, N17 6QN

Tottenham Chances is close to both Tottenham Hale & Seven Sisters tube a BR railway stations – a short bus ride or walk from both – opposite Tottenham Police Station
Buses 73, 76, 123, 149, 243, 259, 275, 312, 476

Poster and attached – Higher quailty pdf can be downloaded here: http://madpride.org.uk/forum/download/file.php?id=24

May 252013
 

Any campaign from this Government which claims to support disabled people should be viewed with suspicion and the latest offering from the DWP is no exception.

The department yesterday put out a press release boasting: “Celebrities have joined forces with the government to help launch a campaign aiming to promote positive role models for disabled people.”

This campaign features a youtube channel where 50 videos have been posted which have “been produced with a focus on overcoming barriers”.  Many of these videos are unsurprisingly about disabled people who have high flying careers, such as Dame Anne Begg, or are stories of disabled entrepreneurs.

The accompanying press release includes a gushing quote from Emmerdale actor Kitty McGeever explaining how after becoming disabled it ‘took some time to get back into work’ but she managed it with the help of the Government’s Access To Work scheme.

This scheme provides funding for workplace adaptations, travel or some care needs for disabled people in employment.  The number of people benefiting from Access To Work has plummeted by over a third since this Government weren’t elected showing the true situation for disabled people currently seeking employment.

Whilst this campaign may be a cheap attempt to improve those figures, it comes against a background of savage cuts to benefits, services and housing for disabled people.  It is a campaign run by a government which is declaring hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled people to be ‘fit for work’ with the aim of stopping their benefits.  A government which has been only too happy to force sick and disabled claimants onto workfare as part of the Work Programme –  with no public scrutiny of where they are being sent or for how long.  A government that is set to force potentially hundreds of thousands of disabled people from their homes due to the bedroom tax, benefit cap and other measures.

And when Personal Independence Payments (PIP) fully replace Disability Living Allowance, this is a Government which will have slashed completely a vital benefit for 20% of disabled people.

This move alone is likely to mean that over 50% of disabled people are forced to leave work as funding for specialist equipment, care and transport disappears*.

Vast numbers of disabled people are set to be plunged into poverty by these measures, and it is this which reveals the true intentions of this latest DWP run project.  One of the charities involved in the campaign is quoted as saying that the “project is about showing what disabled people can do – not what they can’t”.

This is eerily similar to David Cameron’s line when interviewed shortly after the opening of the Paralympic games when he said: “It’s about the inspiration and it will change people’s minds and that’s what matters. It’ll teach people about what they can do, rather than what they can’t do.”

It is also the line used to justify the benefit-stripping Work Capability Assessment which according to the DWP focuses on “what an individual can do despite their health condition, rather than simply what they can’t.”

Minister for Murdering Disabled People, Esther Mcvey also pops up in this week’s press release, and whilst not quite so explicit, her underlying message is the same:  “young disabled people tell me they want to see more inspiring role models to show where disabled people have achieved their ambitions despite the odds being stacked against them”

For young disabled people the odds are stacked against them like never before due to this Government and in this context the true nature of the DWP’s latest campaign becomes clear.  This is not about providing role models for young disabled people or helping people fulfil their potential or even changing perceptions of disabled people as is claimed.  This Government doesn’t care about any of that.  This campaign is yet more insidious DWP propaganda attempting to give the impression that those plunged into poverty due to the ruthless cuts to disability benefits will only have themselves to blame.  If only they’d learnt to play wheelchair rugby, or been a fucking Dame, then they could afford to put the heating on.

The campaign also has a facebook page which might be a good place to share experiences of what people can no longer do due to the vicious cuts to benefits: https://www.facebook.com/Rolemodelsinspire

Dawn Willis writes well about this kind of narrative: ‘I’m not Stephen Fry, how damaging is that?’ from Dawn

*this figure comes from a survey carried out by Disability Rights UK (DRUK) which reported that 56% of those asked said they would have to leave work if they lost their DLA.  DRUK are notoriously in the pockets of the DWP, with Chief Executive Liz Sayce writing a report which recommended the closure of the Remploy factories.  The survey relating to the number of people likely to leave work due to PIP seems to have disappeared from DRUK’s website, for which there is surely an entirely innocent explanation.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

With massive thanks to the brilliant Johnny Void for letting us re-post

See more from Johnny at http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2013/05/25/achieve-your-potential-or-starve/

 

May 222013
 

In response to the bedroom tax, have you received a letter telling you this is your “final demand” or mentioning impending “eviction”? I’d like to share the stories of people – particularly those who have disabled people or children in their family – who have received such letters because of the bedroom tax. Please get in touch on

frances.ryan18@btinternet.com

 Many thanks.

May 222013
 

DPAC Logo 3 amendment 1 (Small)On the day of the success of the ruling against the WCA-Activists from DPAC and disabled workers attending the TUC Disabled Workers Conference have blocked Tottenham Court Road in an unprecedented act of solidarity.

 This Government has repeatedly used the language of division, trying to divide workers and claimants, public and private sectors workers, non-disabled and disabled people. Today we strike back as one, united voice.

 The Cuts imposed by the ConDem Government under the cloak of ‘Austerity’ impact on disabled people in every area of life. The scrapping of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and the Independent Living Fund (ILF) will tens of thousands of disabled workers, and will force many of them out of their jobs. Hundreds of thousands of disabled people both receive and deliver public services as workers in Public Service Departments, Local Authorities and the Voluntary Sector. ILF and DLA play critical roles in maintaining people in these jobs. The 1% uplift limit on Benefits, Universal Credit and the Bedroom Tax will impact on many disabled people both in and out of work.

 The removal of many of our basic rights affect not just disabled people, but all of us. For example, the removal of Legal Aid for medical negligence claims comes at the same time as every single contract within the Health Service is open to tender by private companies. This has serious and significant implications for each and every one of us who make up the 99%.

 But not everyone is being hit by austerity. While multi-nationals like Atos and Capita make fortunes, tax avoidance and evasion to the tune of tens of billions goes uncollected. The wealthiest 1000 UK residents increased their wealth by some 35 billion last year while disabled people and the poorest members of society were pushed into poverty and despair as the targets of brutal cuts.

 Disabled activists have led the fightback against this Government since the beginning, and today disabled activists and workers lead the way again in the first joint, co-ordinated direct action by campaigners and unions on the streets of the U.K.

 Shabnam O Saughnessy from DPAC said: “We are delighted to be joined on the streets today by our union comrades. This represents the first steps towards uniting resistance from communities and workplaces. It dispels the myth of disabled people as scroungers and workshy. We are not some separate group of others, we are your friends and neighbours, we work alongside you. Many millions of disabled people are being affected by cuts, and today is about getting our voices heard.”

 Sean McGovern, co-chair of the TUC disabled workers committee said: “Trade unionists would like to send a clear message to this government that trade unions, workers and grass roots disabled groups stand together against the onslaught of vicious cuts rained down upon us by the Condems.”

DPAC and disabled workers from the TUC conference block Tottenham Court Road 22nd May

Notes

1)    Disabled People Against Cuts is a national campaign led by disabled people to oppose the attacks on disabled people being carried out under austerity. www.dpac.co.uk

 

2)    The 2013 TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference takes place on 22-23 May. The TUC Disabled Workers committee recently rejected an invitation to join the government’s new Disability Action Alliance on the grounds that involvement would restrict the TUC’s ability to campaign against government policies that are affecting disabled people.

 For more information contact Ellen Clifford on 07505144371 or ellenrclifford@btinternet.com

For updates see twitter: @Dis_PPL_Protest

and Disabled People against Cuts Face book Group

We previously incorrectly attributed a quote to  Mandy Hudson that was said by Sean McGovern. This has now been corrected after we were alerted to this by Sean (26th May)

May 222013
 

Three judges today confirmed what DPAC and other campaigners have been saying since 2010– the benefits test used to decide whether people are fit for work, actively discriminates against disabled people and those with mental health issues

 Mental health Resistance network (MHRN) have won the judicial review case against the DWP on the clear inadequacy of the Work Capability Assessments. They supported two users who took a case against the DWP for the harm these tests do to those with mental health issues. The WCA has been severely criticised since the Condems took over the reins from the New Labour WCA inception, making the tests more and more difficult and more and more humiliating for all concerned.

 Last week Dr Greg Wood resigned claiming the tests were biased, there have been a number of high profile resignations from nurses resigning and claiming that not only were the tests unfair they were degrading. This is a subject disabled people know all too well, from the millions lavished on Atos for tests and the millions for appeals.

 The  judicial review focussed on specific issues for those with mental health issues – that of gathering supporting evidence. Under the current system, individuals are responsible for gathering their own medical evidence and sending it to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). If anyone fails to do this, it simply won’t be looked at, and in many cases if you do do this your papers will be brushed aside (see DPACs survey responses on the WCA HERE).

Reporting the victory DPAC’s sister group,  Black Triangle Campaign wrote:

“The judgment that the DWP is in breach of the Equality Act is a huge victory for everyone affected by severe mental illness, but it’s sad that it took a court case to force the DWP to take action”.

DPAC wants to congratulate the two people that took the case, MHRN and all others that supported this. We hope this is another step towards outlawing these tests and stopping them for the damage they are causing all disabled people as called for by the BMA and the RCN.

We note that the big Disability charities have , as usual, chosen to take the credit for this success and we say again that this success is due to MHRN a small group that chose to do something. It is due to the two people that took the case and the solicitors involved. This case was not initiated by any of the big disability charities-despite them joining in later to save face.

 The charities sat back and did nothing, but they are fast to take the credit for something that they didn’t even contribute too. We hope that the success of the MHRN actions leads to an end to this inhuman process for all and we congratulate them for their tenacity and their actions in getting someone done- to the charities we say: we know the difference between the real heroes and those that try to bask in reflected glory-if you had made the move that MHRN had or acted more vigorously we might applaud you, as it is we are, once more unimpressed by your actions.

 see also:

http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/05/esa-regulations-25-and-31-campaign-black-triangle-to-meet-with-scottish-parliament-welfare-reform-committee-chief-this-thursday/

http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/05/where-are-the-mental-function-champions-at-atos-and-other-atos-type-things/

http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/01/dpac-press-release-wca-descriptors-fail-dwp-fails-atos-fails/

http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2012/10/joint-statement-on-work-capability-assessment-wca-by-dpac-and-black-triangle/

http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2012/11/dpac-survey-responses-on-wca-what-harrington-didnt-ask/

 

 

 

 

May 222013
 

On the 22 May the Mental Health Resistance Network won their Judicial Review case against the Atos tests (WCA) and the impact on those with mental health issues. We congratulate them, the two people that took the case and the solicitors for the work they have done in exposing the WCA for the nightmare that it is for those with mental health issues and all disabled people. The DWP say they will appeal the ruling: we hope this is the beginning of the end for the WCA and the horrors that it is putting people through. However, this success would not have been possible without legal aid, and is tempered with further fears of the legal aid cuts.

 The Condems have already pushed through some of their wealth charter on justice and legal rights through their punitive cuts to legal aid for those facing benefit problems. Its not over yet-they now want to re-examine the process of Judicial reviews. However, the cuts so far are already affecting the process of judicial reviews because the new rules mean that those solicitors who take cases are less likely to be paid with the Condem cuts. We do not see all the work that goes into cases nor the effect that the cuts are having on those solicitors and legal firms who believe that justice has no class basis and is not restricted to those with wealth. But the Condems have cut funds to solicitors and CABs which means we have fewer allies to fight our cases. The Condems are doing a great job of removing every element of human rights, welfare and social justice from the British people. We cannot continue to let them get away with it without doing more and more about it.

 The proposals cover a range of aspects of legal aid including criminal work, prison law and judicial review and it can be difficult to get across what it means.

 In judicial review, for example, it’s hard to explain the impact of the proposal to prevent solicitors getting paid for all the work they do on cases if they don’t end up getting permission to go to a full hearing. So many cases succeed before that by just spelling out what the public body is doing wrong so they realise they have to sort it out. But there can be loads of work involved in getting to that stage and it would be really hard if lawyers can’t get paid for that at all. Judicial review lawyers and other legal aid lawyers will try everything they can to keep trying to help people but it just gets harder and harder to survive and already that means it’s hard to find someone skilled enough who can take cases on.

 What is clear is that disabled people will be disproportionately affected within each of the areas that is proposed to be cut – including disabled prisoners and others in the criminal justice system but also in areas like public law/judicial review which disabled people need help with more than ever now because of the effects of other cuts.

 We are trying to encourage as many people as possible to come forward with stories that illustrate the real types of problems they face that legal aid is vital to help with. There is a brilliant website set up by someone from Young Legal Aid Lawyers http://savelegalaid.wordpress.com/

 People can submit stories of how legal aid has helped them (or hasn’t been able to help them because of the effect of the cuts already – eg in many areas there are ‘advice deserts’ where you simply can’t get hold of a lawyer with the right expertise). There are several about disabled people unable to fight injustice because of cuts already in place in many areas including the criminal justice system.

 We need to see more experiences good and bad – the issues and what can be done to sort them out are so invisible to most people. There aren’t many examples of disabled people tackling problems with social services cuts etc.

 The website makes it really simple to give the examples. It’s so important to show people that it’s not about lawyers, it’s about people who need advice, and it’s a false economy to deny them that, in so many ways not least undermining the rule of law because people have no real access to justice unless they are wealthy.

 Please help and give your stories http://savelegalaid.wordpress.com/

Tweet share on Face Book and pass this on- its up to us!

Please complete the consultation closing date June 4th HERE

More info on Consultation and what is happening HERE

May 202013
 

IN JUNE THE INDEPENDENT LIVING FUND IS 25 YEARS OLD. 

The ILF has been invaluable to enable disabled people to live independently now without even any vote in parliament or any discussion the Butchers of Benefits have announced it will close from 2015 with no replacement funding for more than 12 months maximum. Many local authorities have said this will result in disabled people being forced back into institutions or left to rot in their own homes without adequate levels of support.

On June 10th we’re going to have a birthday celebration with some others including hopefully a magician, street theatre, and cake plus lots of birthday cards to go to our DWP ministers.

We’re all meeting up between 1.30 pm and 2pm at Deans Yard, SW1P 3PA which is at the back of Westminster Abbey (ie the side that isn’t opposite House of Commons).

Nearest accessible tube is Westminster and for other travel information contact Transport for All http://www.transportforall.org.uk/

Hope to see you all there. Feel free to drop us a line at mail@dpac.uk.net if you can come to this. Bring friends, banners, and noise plus cakes if you can.

 Posted by at 21:20
May 192013
 

By John McArdle Black Triangle Campaign
Sunday 19th May 2013

As our members and supporters know, Black Triangle has been at the forefront of lobbying members of the medical profession to help us bring an end to the DWP-Atos Work Capability Assessment régime at the earliest possible time.
We began locally when our campaign member and Medical Adviser Dr Stephen Carty submitted a motion through the Lothian Local Medical Committee (LMC) to the Scottish Conference of LMCs (Scottish GPs associations) at Clydebank last year.
The motion calling for the WCA to end “with immediate effect” was carried almost unanimously. We quickly submitted it to the UK LMCs conference in Liverpool, where it gained the overwhelming support of UK GPs before making its way to the British Medical Association’s Annual Representative Meeting where doctors from every discipline carried it almost unanimously on 24th June.
Sadly, as John Pring of Disability News Service has reported, the BMA’s leadership have so far failed to give any meaningful effect to the motion.
In November we launched our ESA ‘Substantial Risk’ Regulations 25 and 31 Campaign asking GPs to apply the law to discharge their ethical duty of care to act where policies and systems are causing avoidable harm to patients.
Where GPs have done this the campaign has been a great success.
We have distributed the information throughout the NHS locally in Scotland and 26 magnificent doctors from Scotland and the rest of the UK at the coalface of have joined with us in lobbying the BMA leadership to disseminate knowledge of the Regulations to GP practices everywhere.
The Scottish media has done its bit with coverage in The Scotsman, The Herald and the Edinburgh Evening News. We are deeply grateful to them for this act of socially aware and responsible journalism. However, we have been completely stonewalled by the UK London-based national media such as the BBC and sadly, even by ‘friendly’ publications such as The Guardian who, shocklngly (and not for the first time) do not seem to have found our campaign work meritorious enough to warrant a mention in their esteemed title.
As the environmental movement say: ‘Think Globally, Act Locally’.
This has been our tactic from the outset and in that spirit we have arranged to meet with the Convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee, Michael MacMahon MSP, this coming Thursday to present our case to him advocating that the Scottish Parliament now intervene on our behalf in support of our ESA Regulations Campaign.
As Sir Nicky Winton whose 104th birthday it is today has said:
“I think there is nothing that can’t be done if it is fundamentally reasonable.”
We are confident that our ESA Regulations campaign is fundamentally reasonable in every respect.
Further still, we are confident that once it receives the close attention it truly merits, it will prove to be the single most effective weapon we have as a civil and civilised society in fighting back to protect all our sick and/or disabled citizens from the most wicked, unconscionable and ruthless attack on the civil rights of disabled people in living memory.
If we in Scotland are successful in enjoining the support and backing of the Scottish Parliament in ensuring that all Scottish GPs know how to apply the regulations, we are confident that GPs in England and Wales will also rapidly follow suit.
Wish us luck and when we go there, we go there for you.
All of you.
It’s all we can do.
Solidarity!

reposted with thanks from

http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2013/05/19/esa-regulations-25-and-31-campaign-black-triangle-to-meet-with-scottish-parliament-welfare-reform-committee-chief-this-thursday/

 

May 182013
 
“Crisis loansCrisis loans came to an end in March 2013. But if you’ve run out of money and can’t afford to eat or pay your rent, there are still financial hardship payments available from job centres and local councils.Local councils are now responsible for helping you if you’ve been hit by a disaster like a fire or flood and you’re suddenly homeless or can’t afford food or necessities.

The type of help varies council to council.

If you are on benefits there’s other money available, depending on your situation. The job centre won’t necessarily tell you about this, so arm yourself with knowledge.

1) Hardship payments

If your money from Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit has been stopped for some reason – for example you’ve been sanctioned because you haven’t applied for enough jobs – you might be able to get a hardship payment.

Apply by talking to your JSA advisor. We strongly advise speaking to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau first – getting hardship payments can be tricky and they’ll help you.

2) Short-term Advances

If you’re waiting for a benefit claim to be processed and you need money right now you might be able to get a Short-term Advance from the Job Centre.

How do I apply?

Talk to the job centre.

Who gets a Short-term Advance?

They’re available in all parts of the UK. You’ll have to prove that you’ll be in dire need if you don’t get any money – for example you don’t have any savings.

Do I have to pay back a Short-term Advance?

You’ll have to pay the advance back in three months (six months in exceptional circumstances).

3) Budgeting Loans (soon changing to Budgeting Advances)

Budgeting Advances help you with big one-off payments like rent, clothes and furniture. You must have been claiming benefit for six months to get one. If you haven’t been on benefit long, you can still claim a Budgeting Advance if the money would help you get a job i.e. with transport costs.

Who can get a budgeting advance?

People from all over the UK including Northern Ireland can get Budgeting Advances.

How do I apply?

Download the SF500 budgeting loan form from the GOV.UK website.

When do I have to pay back a budgeting advance?

They normally have to be paid back within 18 months.

How much can I borrow?

The minimum you can borrow is £100. The maximum number of loans you have at one time can’t be more than £1500.

Help – my claim has been refused

If you get refused for financial hardship help, you can ask the job centre to review the decision. You have to do this in writing, stating the reasons why you want the decision to be looked at again. You then send this to your local job centre who will forward it to the reviewing team. Once they’ve considered your case a reviewing officer will contact you.

Find out more about appealing a decision about benefits.

If that review is unsuccessful, you can send a complaint to the Independent Case Examiner who deals with all complaints against job centres.

If you don’t comply with your Jobseeker’s agreement, you may have your JSA sanctioned for a number of weeks. Your local Job Centre should ideally tell you if you’re losing your benefit and explain why, but you may find the money just doesn’t come into your account. 

If you find your JSA money has not come into your bank account, do the following:
Contact the Job Centre straight away to find our why it has not been paid.
If a sanction has been applied, ask why, and ask for information in writing.
Visit a local advice centre such as Citizens Advice Bureau as soon as possible.
If a sanction has been applied incorrectly, challenge it (your advice centre will help you).
If a sanction has been applied correctly, you local advice centre may still be able to help you access funds, food, and stop any further sanctions being applied to other benefits like Housing or Council Tax. They may be able to get the length of the sanction reduced.
You can also apply for a hardship payment if you can demonstrate you’re suffering from hardship as a result of the sanctions.”

Reply to this email to comment on this p
 Posted by at 20:59
May 172013
 

Government plans to permanently shut the Independent Living Fund are a concern for all disabled people and to everyone who cares about inclusion and social justice in the UK. The ILF was set up to support disabled people with the highest level of support need to live independently in the community regardless of their level of support need and when the alternative was residential care. The end of the ILF without adequate alternative support provision signals the end of the right to independent living for disabled people and a breach of Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled People.

The ILF has been shut to new applicants since December 2010 and thousands of disabled people must therefore have missed out on support needed to enjoy full and meaningful lives. At both central and local government levels no information has been recorded to monitor the impact of this and to measure any potential breach of Article 19.

Inclusion London and Disabled People Against Cuts are asking for individual disabled people to come forward if you think you would have been eligible to apply to the ILF before it was shut at the end of 2010. It is important that information is recorded from the UK about any threat to disabled people’s fundamental rights and freedoms and will give disabled people in the UK the chance to invoke international protection of our rights.

If you are happy to share your story, information the support you get (or don’t get) and the impact this has on your life then please contact ellen.clifford@inclusionlondon.co.uk or phone 020 7036 6032.

 

May 172013
 

Atos and the Department for Work and Pensions’ much criticised work capability assessments for Employment Support Allowance continue to present a never ending saga of misery, disbelief and despair.

A recent post on the False Economy blog talks of meetings to try and discover mental function champions (MFCs). These are claimed to exist but so far none have been produced or found that adequately satisfies that burning question of where MFCs are or what exactly they do .

In addition, both the BMA and more recently, the RCN have voted to stop the process of Atos assessments, due to the harm they are causing.

On Thursday the 16th of May, Dr Greg Wood an Atos worker told most of us what we already know: Atos assessments are biased. He decided to resign and go public despite having signed a confidentially agreement with Atos, something they put in place after nurse Joyce Drummond also went public and said of her role at Atos:

‘‘I apologise from the bottom of my heart to all those people I had to assess during my five months in the job but the decisions were out of my hands. Once I realised how manipulative the assessment system was, I got out immediately. The stress of it all made me ill and I have not worked since.”

In January 2013 another nurse who worked with Atos told Atos Victims Group :

“I could not live with the knowledge of what I was doing and the effect this could have on somebody’s life.   Although there are a number of people who are more than capable of work, the majority are genuine, sick people who need our help, not to be demoralised in this way.  I saw so many people who would cry in front of me, because they want to work so much, but couldn’t”. 

Now Greg Wood tells the Guardian, if Atos assessors: “show deviation from the official line they are instructed to change the report. In about a quarter of assessments important documentary evidence such as the claimant’s own GP assessment is missing but the assessments go ahead regardless.”

Atos and the Department for Work and Pensions trot out the same lines in response: can anyone in the UK believe them at all? Apparently, everyone is lying but them.

Not only are these assessments supposed to be joy on earth, they are claimed to be backed by a mysterious force called a mental function champion. False Economy say:

“In 2011, Atos introduced Mental Function Champions into the ESA work capability process to “improve” assessments for people with mental health problems. A group of us have spent six months trying to find out exactly how this MFC role works, if MFCs have “improved” work capability assessments for people with mental health problems and if anyone at Atos or the DWP can prove that the role has had any impact for people who must go through WCAs.

We’ve had very little luck. We did manage to get a meeting with Atos, someone who said he was an MFC and the DWP on the topic, but that was not particularly satisfactory, as you’ll see:

For months now, mental health service users and campaigners from the voluntary sector consortium group Mental Health Northeast (MHNE), Newcastle user-led mental health support group Launchpad and False Economy have been trying find out more about the work done by Atos Mental Function Champions”.

Read more at False Economy http://falseeconomy.org.uk/blog/mental-function-champions

 update: apparently Dr Wood may have been an MFC but as he has now left- if  anyone has had any other sightings or knowledge of an MFC we’d be interested in hearing about it

mail@dpac.uk.net

 

Links

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/nurse-makes-heartfelt-apology-after-1340838

http://atosvictimsgroup.co.uk/2013/01/31/ex-atos-nurse-reveals-the-real-inside-story/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/may/16/atos-doctor-claimants-biased-medical-assessments

 

 

 

May 162013
 

This Code of practice for transition reviews of those in receipt of ILF funding has been drawn up by ILF, ADASS and LGA.  It seems fairly meaningless so there is no surprise there.

Transfer Review Programme Code of practice
Purpose of the code of practice
Following engagement with local authorities in England and disabled people and their organisations, the Independent Living Fund (ILF), the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), and the Local Government Association (LGA) have co-produced this code in order to promote best practice to support the effective transfer of ILF users to sole local authority support from April 2015.
The code aims to maximise the success of the transfer review programme and enhance the customer journey throughout transition by providing key principles to underpin partnership working.
Key principles
1. Commitment to personalisation, inclusion, and choice and control
Throughout the process all parties will seek to demonstrate a commitment to the underlying principles of personalisation. There will be a high level commitment to maintaining choice and control, as well as maintaining users’ independent living outcomes.
All parties will ensure that users and their representatives are fully involved in transitional planning, and will take account of the views and requirements of users and their families/representatives in the preparation and implementation of the transfer of support.
2. Working in partnership
It is essential that the ILF and local authorities collaborate and work in partnership throughout the transfer programme to ensure that the necessary plans and structures are in place to fully support users up to and beyond 2015.
All parties will be committed to working towards and meeting relevant deadlines so as to guarantee that the programme is fully completed by 31 March 2015.
2
3. Open communication
Throughout the programme there needs to be continuous and open communication, providing relevant information that is shared in a timely manner. All parties should ensure that users are kept informed of plans that impact on their future. It is important that users have a clear awareness and understanding of what the transfer will mean for them.
4. Designated support
In order to facilitate the management of the programme, the ILF and local authorities will have place a named point of contact to manage relations between the ILF and each local authority, for both operational and corporate liaison. There should be a clear delineation of responsibility and accountability in running the programme both within the ILF and with local authorities.
5. Commitment to joint reviews
To aid the transfer process the ILF and local authorities will collaborate and participate in the joint transfer review programme, using a person centred assessment to identify how independent living outcomes can continue to be met.
In addition the programme will need to identify and inform users of what they will need to do prior to April 2015 to ensure that their eligible support continues to be met.
To aid in this process the ILF will seek consent prior to the initiation of the transfer review programme from all group 1 users to pass on information to local authorities. This will facilitate the collaboration between the ILF and local authorities and enable full participation in the programme by local authorities.
6. Advice and advocacy
Local authorities should where possible ensure that there is sufficient provision of, and clear signposting towards, independent advocacy and support. The ILF and local authorities will work together to share information on support available for users in order to effectively signpost people to this.
7. Personal budgets
The transfer to local authorities will be an opportunity to promote the take up of personal budgets. ILF users currently receive cash payments directly from the fund to pay for their support and the expectation is that they will continue to be able to exercise choice and control over how their care is provided. Users should be informed of what options and support are available locally.
3
8. Provision from April 2015
Transitional arrangements need to be in place from 1 April 2015 which enable users to plan for and manage any change in their support. The arrangement of a period of phased transition being provided that supports the protection of independent living outcomes is one of the issues for consideration during this transition period.
We believe that it is essential that before the end of the transfer programme all ILF users and their representatives have a clear understanding of how their eligible support needs will be met immediately following the transfer.
Any change to support arrangements made by the local authority should take into account the impact upon care providers making certain that the user is able to meet legal and contractual obligations where provision is reduced or replaced. In particular this includes redundancy payments and notice periods.
9. Data sharing
Any transfer of information needs to ensure that no person who has expressed a wish to receive support after April 2015 is unaccounted for.
The ILF will need to monitor the transfer of information to the relevant authorities. When information is transferred to local authorities there will need to be in place a mechanism to acknowledge the receipt of this information. All parties will ensure that appropriate measures are in place to transfer and protect sensitive information in compliance with data protection legislation.
10.Monitoring and evaluation
The ILF and local authorities will work in conjunction to ensure that there is a system in place to evaluate the effectiveness and progress of the programme. Any evaluation will naturally engage the opinions of users and their representatives.
Each party will have in place a clear process for managing complaints about decisions taken as a result of reviews. In addition the ILF and Local authorities should work in conjunction to resolve any concerns raised and provide a rapid resolution of any issues that arise.
7 May 2013

We also have this equally meaningless response to an FOI request for further information about what funding will be available. To summarise there is NO information which seems to be available to inform people what will happen.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/159619/response/390200/attach/html/2/FOI%202003.response.pdf.html

 Posted by at 18:39
May 162013
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 162013
 

Statement re Collin Brewer remarks

Such views have no place in local government.  These remarks represent the personal views of Councillor Brewer who does not speak for the Council or the people of Cornwall.”

Signed :

Jeremy Rowe
Leader of the Liberal Democrat group

John Wood
Leader of the Independent group

Fiona Ferguson
Leader of the Conservative group

Malcolm Moyle
Leader of the Labour group

Stephanie McWilliam
Leader of UKIP group

Dick Cole
Leader of Mebyon Kernow

 

Following the Government’s abolition of Standards for England in 2012 and changes to the Code of Conduct regime the options available to the Council when a breach of the Code of Conduct is found have been limited.  There is no longer the ability to suspend Councillors.   The Council has never been able to disqualify Councillors in response to Code of Conduct complaints.  In this case the Monitoring Officer found that there had been a breach of the Code of Conduct and determined that the only appropriate and proportionate sanction he could impose was to require Councillor Brewer to issue a formal apology.  Mr Brewer was notified of this in November 2012 and subsequently wrote to the complainant apologising unreservedly for his remarks.

The Council does not have the power to stop anyone standing for election.  Both the qualifications for candidates and the reasons why an individual could be disqualified from standing for election are clearly set out in legislation.  The reasons for disqualification include being employed by the Council or holding a politically restricted post, being declared bankrupt or being sentenced to at least 3 months imprisonment during the previous 5 years.   As none of the criteria for disqualification apply to Mr Brewer he was entitled to stand for election to Cornwall Council and was subsequently chosen by local voters to represent the Wadebridge East electoral division.

The Council is committed to ensuring that all staff and Members receive appropriate training in equality and diversity issues. Equality and diversity training is mandatory for all paid staff and we staged specific workshops for all Members during the first week of their induction programme. Further training, on-going workshops and awareness sessions will also be available throughout the four year life of this Council.

 Posted by at 14:34
May 152013
 

Bromley and Croydon DPAC are holding a benefit Justice  meeting Monday 30th May at 7pm at Acts Ministries, Acts House, 30 Union Road, Croydon, CR0 2XU.

Its another opportunity for people to come together against the cuts affecting us all.

“The Bedroom Tax and the benefits cap, alongside other sweeping changes to the benefits system and the reduction in vital services supporting disabled people and parents, is hitting the poor hard – both those in and out of work,” DPAC’s spokeswoman said.

“The benefits cap on top of the Bedroom Tax will impoverish and stigmatise people who can’t move home, while driving out others to unfamiliar parts of the country, uprooting their lives and their support networks, and leaving London to the better off.”


For more information visit www.benefitjustice.wordpress.com.

Email: benefitjustice@gmail.com or mail@dpac.uk.net

May 152013
 

We have sent the following complaint about what we consider to be the incitement to hatred by Cornish councillor Colin Brewer.

In Wadebridge East, Colin Brewer has been re-elected, despite his earlier remarks about the need to kill disabled children because they cost too much.  It seems voters may have accepted his apology. His comments had already sent shivers down the backs of all disabled people who knew about it – particularly, of course, those of us born with our impairments.

We have to our collective horror, however, now learnt from Disability News Service, whose reporter John Pring interviewed Mr. Brewer extensively, that far from realizing the error of his ways, Mr. Brewer has been emboldened to repeat and elaborate on his murderous and chilling views.  We quote from the article posted on May 10th 2013 (http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2013/05/colin-brewer-there-is-a-good-argument-for-killing-some-disabled-babies/) “In the interview, Brewer repeatedly indicated that he believed there was a good argument for killing some disabled babies with high support needs, because of the cost of providing them with services.”

The contempt with which he views perhaps all human beings is revealed in this quote from the same article “People are not on this earth for very long. My main concern is planning and environmental [issues] and landscape. In that context, people are just transient. I have heard of terrific amounts of money being spent on specific individuals.”  But as far as disabled humans are concerned, Mr. Brewer made it clear that he considers us no better than animals, saying about farmers “If they have a misshapen lamb, they get rid of it. They get rid of it. Bang!”

We could go on; Mr. Brewer certainly did, making it very clear that we were not worth society’s efforts and clearly having no idea whatsoever of the contribution we make to society.

Early on in Nazi Germany, a poster appeared with a disabled man sitting down looking unhappy, and a ‘doctor’ behind him. The poster told the public how much this disabled man was supposed to be costing them. From there, the gas chambers were trialed on disabled people first. http://www.oddee.com/_media/imgs/articles/a55_euthanasia.jpg

We believe Mr. Brewer’s comments reveal that he is not fit to hold any public office whatsoever. How can you be a public servant, whilst advocating exterminating sections of the public who have done no wrong whatsoever?  Our understanding is that public service standards should debar him forthwith and we ask that you rapidly address this.

 

 

 Posted by at 10:22
May 142013
 

DPAC, Black Triangle campaign, Boycott Workfare and Brighton Benefits campaign will all be supporting CSRF members when they protest against the refusal to allow motions to discuss an ending to the benefit sanctions regime at the PCS conference on May 21st.

While we appreciate the legal complexities behind anti-trade union legislation several branches wanted to move motions to at least discuss how the sanctions regime might be legally hampered or ended.

DPAC is not supporting or are in any way involved with a die-in being planned to take place at the same time. Further as those involved with this die-in have said they do not want to be involved with non-disabled people we feel this is a divisive and unproductive attitude.

Demand action on benefit sanctions – PCS conference rally

The Brighton Centre, 12.30-14.30, Tuesday 21 May

Bring flags and banners

 Posted by at 21:33
May 142013
 

The High Court will consider, over 3 days starting tomorrow (Wednesday 15th May), 10 claims being brought against the Government’s ‘Bedroom Tax’, the new housing benefit regulations that came into force on 1st April this year.

These new regulations will reduce housing benefit for tenants in the social sector who have been assessed as under-occupying their accommodation.
The claims are made by a range of people who seek to challenge the new housing benefit regulations on the grounds that they discriminate against persons who require larger accommodation for reasons relating to their disability.
Since 1 April, persons deemed to have 1 spare bedroom have had their housing benefit reduced by 14% and persons deemed to have 2 or more spare bedrooms have had their housing benefit reduced by 25%.
The government claims that they have made financial resources available in recognition of the serious effects on the claimants of these new regulations, through the Discretionary Housing Payment scheme. However, those represented in this action argue that the DHP fund is simply not large enough to come close to meeting the needs of those affected.
3 law firms are representing the Claimants: Hopkin Murray Beskine, Leigh Day and Public Law Solicitors.
Rebekah Carrier of Hopkin Murray Beskine said:
“My clients are disabled children and their families who don’t have a ‘spare’ room. Two of the families I represent have fled serious domestic violence and have only recently been able to settle down in their new, safe homes. One family who were able to move to a suitable home after many years in appalling housing conditions have been told that their son would need to go into residential care if they moved to a smaller home. This would cost the tax payer hundreds of thousands of pounds and would separate a disabled child from his family.
“My clients can’t simply increase their hours of work, because of their children’s needs. They can’t take in lodgers because they don’t have a spare room. There are also obvious safety concerns about taking in a lodger in a family where there are vulnerable children. Many families up and down the country are, like my clients, desperately worried about losing their homes”

Ugo Hayter from the Human Rights team at Leigh Day said:
“We hope that the Court will rule that these Regulations are discriminatory in that they completely fail to make any provision for those who need larger accommodation as a result of their or their family members’ disability.
“We hope that the government will be made to amend these Regulations and reverse the devastating consequences currently being experienced by thousands of people with disabilities around the country.”
Anne McMurdie from Public Law Solicitors said:
“The Government has failed to recognise that many people with disabilities will not be able to make up the shortfall in rent by working or taking in a lodger; and many will not be able to move due to the nature of their disabilities.
“Left unchanged these measures will see disabled people facing eviction and homelessness.”

Background

Law Firm Hopkin Murray Beskine are representing 5 families (names have been changed for anonymity)
The first family consists of a husband and wife and their two children Jack who is 6 and Roza who is 2 who currently live in a two-bedroom property in South London on the third floor of a block of flats, which is unsuitable for Jack’s needs as he is disabled. The husband, Ramzi, has had to adapt his working patterns to help care for Jack, therefore the family need help from housing benefit to pay their rent.The family needs to move for a number of reasons related to Jack’s condition however if they are allocated and accept a home which meets their children’s needs their housing benefit will be cut on the basis that they are ‘under-occupying’ despite the fact that they will only be allocated accommodation appropriate to their needs.
The second family represented by Hopkin Murray Beskine became homeless in 2011 when the then partner of the mother, Holly, assaulted her 6-year-old son Isaac, leaving him traumatised. After her ex-partner was jailed Holly made a homelessness application. The family were assessed as requiring 3-bedroom accommodation because of Isaac’s behavioural and mental health issues. Holly received a letter from her local authority informing her that she was under-occupying and that her housing benefit will be cut by £15.52 a week from 1st April 2013.
Jane and Adam and their two sons have lived in their current home since July 2012. Their home is a three-bedroom bungalow, which they rent from the local authority in North London.Under the local authority’s allocation scheme a family of this size would usually be assessed as requiring a two-bedroom property. Brothers aged 10 and 12 would be expected to share a bedroom. However the family was assessed as requiring an additional bedroom as 10-year-old Thomas is severely autistic with a learning disability associated with significant challenging behaviour. He is described by his psychiatrist a having, “profound emotional, behavioural and learning disabilities” .
Ms T and her husband live in a one bedroom flat with their sons. One son has autism and one son has Downs Syndrome. Their flat is damp and infested with mice. The child with autism sleeps in the bedroom, as he needs his own space. The parents and the child with Downs syndrome sleep on the floor in the living room. Because of the boys conflicting needs they have been assessed as needing three bedrooms by the council, but like Jack and Roza’s family, if they move to suitable accommodation they wont be able to pay for it because of the bedroom tax.
Ms N lives with her son and daughter in London. About three years ago she and the children left the home of her very violent partner. With help from social services they have managed to settle in a new home away from the children’s violent father, who does not know where they live. One of the children is autistic and is violent including towards his sister. He has his own room. He finds change difficult and would be unsettled by having to move. Comfort works as a dinner lady: this fits well with the children’s school hours. Since learning about the bedroom tax she has become anxious with awful memories of the time when she was homeless because of violence. The children are well settled in their local school. She cant work more hours. She can’t take in a lodger: she does not have a spare room and her son’s behaviour would make it very difficult to have a lodger anyway.
Hopkin Murray Beskine website:

http://www.hmbsolicitors.co.uk

Law Firm Leigh Day are representing
Jacqueline Carmichael and Richard Rourke
Jacqueline Carmichael lives with her husband in a two-bedroom housing association flat. She has spina bifida and is severely disabled. Mrs Carmichael’s condition means that she has to sleep in a hospital bed with an electronic pressure mattress and has to sleep in a fixed position. Mr Carmichael cannot sleep in this bed with her as it is not large enough for two people and his movements at night could cause her harm. There is not enough space in her bedroom for a second bed so Mr Carmichael sleeps in a second bedroom.
Since 1 April, the Carmichaels have had their housing benefit reduced by 14%. They have now been granted a Discretionary Housing Payment to cover the shortfall in their rent for six months, but they do not know how they will meet their rent when the period ends. Mr Carmichael considered the option of seeking employment to cover the shortfall in the rent, however if he did this, as full time carer to his wife, Mrs Carmichael would need to go into residential care. This is therefore not a viable option.

Richard Rourke is a widower. He is disabled and uses a wheelchair. He is a council tenant and lives in a three-bedroom bungalow. His stepdaughter is currently a university student and is also disabled with a rare form of muscular dystrophy. She lives in halls of residence during term time but returns home for the full summer vacation, at holiday periods and at weekends when she can.
 Mr Rourke uses the third bedroom, which is a box room measuring 8 x 9 feet, to store his equipment including a hoist for lifting him, his power chair and his shower seat.
Mr Rourke has enquired in the social rented sector about the availability of two bedroom properties, which are suitable for wheelchair use, and there are none. There are also no suitably adapted properties in the private sector.
Since April 2013, Mr Rourke has had his housing benefit reduced by 25%, on the basis that he is under-occupying by two bedrooms. Mr Rourke’s only income is from benefits; he cannot work; and his day-to-day living costs are increased due to his disabilities, he has not been able to pay the shortfall in his rent of £25.38 per week. Mr Rourke made an application for Discretionary Housing Payment in March 2013, however it has not yet been decided. He is currently accruing rent arrears.
Leigh Day website:

www.leighday.co.uk

Law Firm Public Law Solicitors are representing James Daly, Mervyn Drage and JD (whose details have been anonymised)
James Daly has a severely disabled son. He and his ex-partner when his son was approximately eighteen months. Since that time Mr Daly and his ex-partner have shared his son’s care. Mr Daly’s son stays with him every weekend and at least one day during the week. He also lives with Mr Daly for part of the school holidays and whenever his mother is away. Following the separation from his ex-partner Mr Daly moved into housing association rented property. In 2008, following an application for allocation of a two bedroom accessible ground floor property, he was awarded a priority level within the local housing authority’s allocation scheme which recognised that his then accommodation was unsuitable due to his son’s disability, and that Mr Daly had a high priority need to move. Mr Daly was offered his present accommodation three years ago. He occupies a two bedroom flat on the ground floor which has level access throughout and also has access to a garden front and back. Mr Daly’s son can mobilise throughout the property. Under the Housing Benefit rules Mr Daly is deemed to be over-occupying his property by one bedroom (his son’s room).
Mervyn Drage is a single man who lives alone. Mr Drage occupies a three bedroom flat in a high-rise tower block, on the site of a former colliery. The property was initially built to house miners and their families, but the flat was let to him because the local housing authority considered it unsuitable for families. He has lived there for 19 years. He has a number of significant mental health problems (depression, anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD) and various physical problems. These conditions are exacerbated by stress, anxiety and changes to routine. Mr Drage does not sleep in any of his three bedrooms, all of which contain papers, which he has accumulated (as does his bath). He is settled in the flat and the area, feels safe there, and is very anxious about the prospect of having to move and disruption to his routines.
JD
JD lives with her 26-year-old daughter, AD. JD and AD occupy a specially adapted three-bedroom property. They have lived there for about twenty years. AD has a twin brother who previously lived in the house but has now moved out (leaving 1 spare room). AD has severe physical disabilities, learning disabilities and blindness. JD provides full-time care for AD. The property was specially constructed to meet AD’s needs, with input from the family, an occupational therapist and a property development team. AD’s home is extremely important to her in maintaining her psychological security in her surroundings. As a result of her learning disabilities and blindness it would be difficult for her to manage the transition to a new home and there are concerns requiring her to move would have a significant impact on her psychological emotional and behavioural well being.
Public Law Solicitors website:

http://www.publiclawsolicitors.co.uk

-ENDS-
The hearing is due to start at 10:30amon Wednesday 15th May
Court Number: 3

Lawyers for the claimants will be at the Royal Courts of Justice in London from 9:30am and will be available for interview. None of the claimants will be attending.

A number of groups will be organising a vigil tomorrow morning from 9:30am outside the Royal courts of Justice in solidarity with the claimants taking challenges against the bedroom tax – these include Disabled People Against Cuts, Taxpayers Against Poverty, Camden United for Benefit Justice, Single Mothers’ Self-Defence, and WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities).

Contact:
David Standard
Head of Media Relations
Leigh Day

dstandard@leighday.co.uk

0844 800 4981
07540 332717

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